After the First Persian Gulf War, the United States government sought to prevent the development of a potentially far graver threat from Saddam Hussein, that of weapons of mass destruction. Saddam’s possession and prior use of chemical and biological weapons, as well as his ongoing nuclear weapons development program, prompted the introduction of United Nations arms inspectors into Iraq following the First Gulf War. Until 1998, when they were expelled, the inspectors worked in Iraq to effectively dismantle Saddam Hussein’s WMD arsenal.
Nevertheless, dramatic as the United States’ decision to liberate Kuwait and subsequently practice active containment against Hussein’s government may have been, the U.S. foreign policy shift was by no means complete in the 1990s. In 1991, rebelling Kurds in Northern Iraq, inspired by American victory in Kuwait, saw an opportunity to unseat their dictator. Yet, having received only half-hearted consultation from a few American military advisors, they were crushed by Saddam’s re-mobilized police forces.
As Saddam continued to remain in power, his iron grip on the fates of his subjects as well as his confidence in the vitality of his regime grew. In 2003, in an interview with CBS’s Dan Rather, Hussein boldly and aggressively stated that he had not been defeated in 1991 and that the Iraqis were still prepared to take “a patriotic stand” against foreign intervention, signaling that his was still a threat to be reckoned with, while suspicions about the restoration of his WMD capacity grew.
A consistent and thorough eradication of the menace posed by the Hussein Regime would be delayed for twelve years after the First Gulf War, and only during the Second Persian Gulf War of 2003 would the United States dethrone Hussein and occupy Iraq to work for its reformation into a peaceful, freedom-respecting society. This is a challenging task that continues to this day, but there is no doubt that the Iraqi people are better off today than they were under the reign of a brutal tyrant.
Among the accomplishments of the Second Persian Gulf War, bringing Saddam Hussein to justice for his massive and repeated crimes against humanity cannot be overlooked. A vile, murderous, sadistic dictator has been removed from power, finally giving his oppressed subjects at least a chance at forming a free society. Yet if the United States had finished the job in 1991, perhaps the Second Gulf War would have been entirely unnecessary, and a whole decade of Saddam’s reign of terror might have been averted.
Norton, Katzman, et. al. A People and a Nation. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1994.
Wikipedia. Gulf War. 16 Apr 2004. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_War.