Monday, March 12, 2018

Partial Review: Killing Hope, U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II

Partial Review: Blum, William, Killing Hope, U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Monroe: Common Courage Press, 1995

 I originally purchased this book when it came out in 1995 after having read a previous book by William Blum on the CIA. Recently I re-read the three sections on Iraq.

The first is on the 1950s when the Agency asked Iraq for help to overthrow Gamal Abdel Nasser. Iraq refused to act without England. Eventually the U.S. agreed to work with Iraq, England, Jordan and Lebanon to plot against the Egyptian leader. From July 1957 to October 1958 Nasser announced several failed coup attempts and often mentioned that Baghdad was involved. Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Said saw Nasser as a threat to the monarchy as he had many followers within the Iraqi army that were always planning to overthrow the government. That happened with the 1958 coup with one of its leaders Colonel Abdul Salam Arif being a Nasserite. Washington was worried that Iraq’s new leader General Abd al-Karim Qasim was aligned with the Soviets so it moved to get rid of him. First, the U.S. and Turkey drew up an invasion plan that was called off. The CIA then plotted to incapacitate Qasim with a drugged handkerchief, which failed, leading to the arming of the Kurds that launched a revolt against the government in 1961.

The second part is about the Nixon administration being asked by the Shah of Iran to help him arm the Kurds against the Bakr government. The Kurds demanded an American role because they were suspicious of Tehran’s intentions as they should have been. The Shah was using the Kurds to pressure Baghdad to come to an agreement over the Shatt al-Arab waterway that leads to the Persian Gulf. The U.S. was no better as the CIA wrote a paper that neither Tehran nor Washington wanted the Kurds to have a state of even an autonomous region, but didn’t want their dispute with Bakr resolved either. When Iran finally got its deal with Iraq, both it and the U.S. withdrew their support to the Kurds who were then crushed.

The final section is on the Gulf War and its aftermath. That part is especially poor as Blum seems to almost support the conspiracy theories at the time that the U.S. baited Saddam into attacking Kuwait with its pre-invasion comments.

As far as Iraq-U.S. relations the book provides some interesting anecdotes. What happened in the 1950s is rarely talked about, but the information on arming the Kurds in the 1970s and the Gulf War are covered in plenty of other sources. More importantly it shows that Washington was involved with Iraq for varying reasons. In the 1950s it believed that first Nasser in Egypt and then Qasim in Iraq were pro-Soviet. During the Cold War the U.S. would not allow any developing country connections with the Communists and used covert action liberally to change regimes even though the efforts failed in both countries. In the 1970s, Nixon decided to back the Kurds because he believed that would be a diversion from Israel, which Saddam Hussein believed was its main enemy in the Middle East. Henry Kissinger believed that the effort helped divert Iraqi forces away from the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, so it was a success. Finally, the Gulf War came out of the post-Cold War world where the United States was the only superpower left in the world, and felt like it was the final arbitrator when international crises emerged especially in the Middle East because of its oil wealth.  

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