The holiday season is a time to enjoy all those classic Hollywood movie like: It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, Christmas Story or maybe even Home Alone. However, with US Troops in Saudi Arabia I fear I’ll be force to watch: A Bridge to Far, Apocalypse Now, Pearl Harbor or Lawrence of Arabia.
Recently, the Trump Administration sent letters to the House and Senate informing them that the President is deploying 3,000 additional ground troops to protect Saudi Arabia’s oil fields. Some of those troops are now in “the lands of Islam in the holiest of places.”
If memory serves me correctly, The presence of US Troop in Saudi Arabia is what motivated al-Qaeda‘s 9/11 attacks. Memory, as a forgetful retired teacher or maybe a victim of the Orwellian memory hole, can be fleeting. However, history backs me up.
In 2003, after the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush removed troops from Saudi Arabia for security reasons. Why would he do that? After all, the U.S. stations its military personnel all over the Middle East, so why not in “friendly” Saudi Arabia too? Because even war criminal George Bush recognized that troops on the Arabian Peninsula only put American lives at risk.
Forget all that, they’re rolling back in! This time, troops will deploy because of the existential threat posed by America’s current favorite villain, Russia… I mean Iran. Sorry, It’s hard to keep up with all the villains I’m told to hate.
Let’s take a walk down memory lane. It can be revealing.
In August 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Then, in 1991, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia served as a launch point for the U.S.-led Persian Gulf War to drive the Iraqis from Kuwait. But why did Saddam Hussain invade Kuwait?
Following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the U.S. government backed Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran. After eight years and a million deaths, the Iran-Iraq war ended in a stalemate. Iraq was on the verge of economic disaster. The war had sunk Iraq deep into debt and crippled their oil production, and the declining global price of oil only worsened Iraq’s economic crises.
Kuwait – far from being the innocent victim depicted by the US media – happily financed Saddam’s senseless war with Iran. After the war, Kuwait immediately demanded repayment from Saddam. As Iraq’s economic woes deepened, Saddam accused Kuwait of stealing Iraqi oil with “slant drilling,” and undermining the global oil market.
On July 25, 1990, eight days before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, a meeting took place between Saddam Hussein and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie. After Saddam’s invasion plans were revealed to U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie, the US diplomat made no clear objection. Glaspie said, ”We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary (of State James) Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960’s that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America.”
These events were interpreted by Iraq as a green light from Washington. On August 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein’s army invaded Kuwait. Saddam’s invasion was taken as a threat to Saudi Arabia and the kingdom panicked.
Fearing that their oil fields needed protection, Saudi Arabia was in search of a mercenary force to protect the Kingdom’s wealth. A prodigal son offered to return, raise a new army of jihadis and defend the kingdom against Hussein’s forces.
That prodigal son was Osama Bin Laden (remember him?), full of grandeur, believing that his Arab army had driven the Soviets from Afghanistan (but in reality, it was mostly the native Afghan rebels, backed by American and Gulf States’ military aid, that had pushed the Soviets out).
The Saudis were not convinced of bin Laden’s capabilities. They choose instead to invite the U.S. military into the kingdom. Rebuked by the Saudi king and overshadowed by the massive U.S. military, bin Laden developed a lifelong animus toward both the kingdom and America. So began Iraq War 1, Desert Storm.
After Iraq War 1, the U.S. Military, like all good empires, stuck around in Saudi Arabia. The U.S. military presence near the Islamic holy sites of Mecca and Medina angered bin Laden and an entire generation of Arab jihadists.
In February of 1996, Bin Laden declared on war on the United States:
“For over seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the Peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples.”
Bin Laden, the monster, had a point. His vendetta would prove pivotal, in the following history-altering events:
1996: Nineteen American troops were killed in a terrorist bombing of the Air Force’s Khobar towers barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.
1998: The bombing of two American embassies in Africa
2000: the bombing of the USS Cole at the port of Aden, in Yemen
2001: 4 airplanes hijacked, 4 buildings destroyed, and 3000 Americans civilians killed
Thousands of Americans died in the combined attacks; 18 years ago Bush Jr. started a war that has yet to end. The total cost (so far): 7,000 American troops dead, at least 244,000 foreign civilians killed and over $6.4 trillion (Note: Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University just updated) in U.S. tax dollars wasted.
Remember Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz?
On May 09, 2003, he said about the removal of, “…our forces from Saudi Arabia. Their presence there over the last 12 years has been a source of enormous difficulty for a friendly government. It’s been a huge recruiting device for al Qaeda. In fact if you look at bin Laden, one of his principle grievances was the presence of so-called crusader forces on the holy land, Mecca and Medina.”
Today’s fresh infusion of U.S. troops back into the vicinity of the Islamic holy places is a major event with potentially devastating consequences for the U.S. military—and perhaps even the American homeland. This latest move into Saudi Arabia is all risk and no reward.
One risk may bear a striking resemblance to what unfolded the last time Washington thought it prudent to garrison Saudi Arabia. There is a reason why the majority of the 9/11 terrorist were Saudi citizens. It is a perfect scenario for what author Chalmers Johnson referred to as “blowback.”
The second risk is that U.S. troops in the Saudi Arabia just might allow for a blunder that will put us into another un-necessary, un-winnable, un-ethical war, this time with Iran, a nation of 80 million people. This would further destabilize the Middle East and quite possibly bankrupt the US.
Today’s, open-ended deployments to “protect US interests and enhance force protection in the region against hostile action by Iran and its proxy forces” is Orwellian double talk. Trump’s move can only incite more hostility and make us less safe.
Bring all of our troops home!