Persian Gulf War
The Arab Gulf Region has been through two historically devastating wars: one was the prolonged conflict in 1980s between Iran and Iraq, and the other that followed was the war that started when the President of Iraq took the world by surprise and ordered the invasion of Kuwait. More than twenty years have passed since the official proclamation of the end of the Gulf War, but some would say that war continues to affect us every day. Nora Eisenberg recounted what the Executive Director of Gulf War veterans said, that the war not only lingers in the body of veterans who suffer from wartime toxins but the war, literally, never really ended.(Eisenberg) Here is a recount of the war(Persian):
The coalition forces from United States, Britain, France, Germany and Saudi Arabia, among other nations prepared to fight against the troops of Iraq.
The account of the Persian Gulf War portrayed a quick and easy war; as can be seen in books of history, it is a conclusive victory for the coalition forces. However, despite the intention of the coalition leaders for a limited war at minimum cost, Kuwait and Iraq suffered from enormous property lost. Terrible damage on the economy, environment and health was felt in the Gulf area and nearby states. The Gulf crisis has also affected industries worldwide and continues to have a lingering negative impact. Whatever the motive of then Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in initiating the chaos, the Gulf war was never justified.
The effect of the Gulf war on the economy of the countries involved amounted to billions of dollars. For instance, Iraq who with its billions of barrels of oil reserve and abundant cultivable land and water, weakened due to damages cause by the war and the UN sanctions against trade with this country. “The U.S.-led coalition ceased hostilities at the end of February 1991, but the embargo on oil shipments was extended indefinitely (Kanovsky31). The economy
of Iraq is highly dependent on its oils products; making it impossible to recover without trading with other countries. Damages of the war also added up a burden to Iraq’s already weak economy. Losses in the military were estimated at $50 billion and Iraq had found difficulty in restoring the damaged facilities because of the pending arms embargo at that time. After the war, Iraqi officials roughly calculated the costs of restoring the damages caused by the Persian Gulf chaos at 150-200 billion, in addition to 50-64 billion being claimed by Kuwait for reparation (Kanovsky33).
Before the onset of the Persian Gulf War, Kuwait was a large growing investor in developed Western countries. Although it is the smallest Gulf state, the Kuwaitis were successful in acquiring industrial and other assets from other countries, which was evident by the continuous growth of investment income. The damages brought by the war in 1990-91 and the massive destruction of oil wells before the Iraqi’s withdrawal calls for laborious and expensive reconstruction; even the lowest estimate of the expenses had an enormous negative impact on Kuwait’s foreign assets. The aftermath of the war motivates Kuwait to maximize production of their major product which is oil. The Kuwaiti Oil Minister told his colleagues in OPEC their “need of huge amounts of oil to rebuild Kuwait”. The damaged inflicted to this small Gulf state will be endured by its’ people and economy for several years. The country has to utilize its’ full oil production capacity (Kanovsky25); although Kuwait’s oil industry severely suffered a decreased production due to enormous damage to its oil wells. After the invasion of Kuwait, oil dealers were concerned on the apparent intention of Hussein to lead and manipulate oil prices in the Gulf. After the intercession of the United Nations, the oil dealers were reassured not to be threatened by Hussein.
Environmental concerns were also raised during and after the Persian Gulf War. History was not new to deliberate environmental warfare, but it has never seen a situation as horrific as that of what happened in the Persian Gulf. On January 21, 1991 a few days after the coalition forces attacked the air defense of Iraq, the Iraqi soldiers in Kuwait relentlessly released large quantities of crude oil from the Sea Island oil terminal near Kuwait City, into the gulf area. The spill was seen by the Saudi Arabia’s Meteorological and Environmental Protection Agency as the oil moved and accumulated on the north coast of Saudi Arabia. This act of environmental warfare destroyed wildlife habitats and feeding grounds for the aquatic animals, including the multimillion-dollar Saudi fisheries industry (Baumann). Severe harm was also felt in the industrial and populated area surrounding the coast of Saudi Arabia. The spill endangered the industrial facilities that needed the seawater cooling system, aside from making the supply of potable water produced by seawater-fed desalination plants unsafe for consumption (The Environment)
The deliberate spillage of oil by the Iraqi armed forces in Kuwait was also accompanied by burning of several Kuwaiti oil wells in February 1991. As the Iraqi armies were ordered to leave Kuwait after their defeat, Saddam Hussein threatened that “if he had to be evicted from Kuwait, then Kuwait would be burned (Krupa). The report counted about 732 wells that are damaged and some 650 set on fire; as a result massive smoke poisoned the atmosphere while substantial oil fallout from the smoke plumes fell into the land and bodies of water (Baumann). Reports recounted soot from the Kuwait fires reached up to the high mountains of Himalayas and oily rainfall were observed in other states like Oman and Turkey. The environmental effect of the war explosions and warfare will take its toll for many years, sure the Gulf will be at peace after the war but it may take decades for a damaged ecosystem to recover.
The other victims of the Persian Gulf War were the military servicemen and their families. War and its’ effect brings serious psychological trauma. The Persian Gulf War was brief and successful on the part of the coalition forces and the threat of the Iraqi chemical and biological warfare that intended to kill thousands of the American dead; did not come to pass. However, the coalition forces, their families and the nation have to struggle with the pain of injuries and death of its servicemen during that war.
“It is important to note that combat is not the only traumatic stressor inherent in war;
nor are those persons directly affected by combat its only victims. PTSD is only one
of several possible psychological outcomes following trauma. Substance abuse, anxiety,
depression and adjustment disorders are also associated with traumatic exposure. In
the Gulf War, fear of capture, injury, and death was a common concern of those sent
The military men sent to war and the civilian casualties are not the only victims of war. War also affects the families left behind. In a study conducted during the Gulf operation, children of deployed parents were described as sad and tearful and demanded more attention from the parent
left at home. There were also reports in America where children feared terrorist aggression, not knowing that the war was geographically far.
Those who were deployed in the Gulf War, including their families have to bear the burden of separation and the uncertainty of returning. In the Middle East, the soldiers have to adapt with harsh living conditions. The threats of living in the desert included bites from venomous snakes and scorpions; but the largest threat to their health was the environmental hazard brought by too high temperature. There was also the threat of chemical and biological warfare as Iraq was reported to have conducted researches and production of these types of chemical weapons.
After the Persian Gulf War, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs cooperated with the British Ministry of Defense in observing a number of the war veterans. The studies showed an increased symptom of Persian Gulf War Syndrome (GWS) in soldiers who were deployed in the battlefield. GWS is an illness associated with chronic fatigue, loss of muscle control, dizziness and short of breath among other symptoms that are reported by combat veterans in the 1991 gulf war. The studies linked this illness to chemical exposure of the veterans to toxic substance during the war. Oil fires are poisonous as they emit substances that are hazardous to health. The US forces are wearing protective gears and are vaccinated against harmful substances, but no one was sure at that time what the Iraqis’ have in store for them. Another theory that can be related to this illness is the result of the vaccines injected on the armies to develop body resistance against poisonous chemicals.
How has the Persian Gulf War affected America and other western Countries? The Persian war, despite having been described as a short war has a profound impact on the entire world. Its’ effect lingers even after the two decades that has passed. Aside from experiencing financial losses and economic crisis endured by distant countries, the war has also affected peoples’ psychological thinking. Many were shaken to see injured soldiers being embraced by their families; such happenings on the war can shatter a strong soul. After the defeat of the Iraqi troops and the liberation of Kuwait, everyone was just so happy that the war is over.
Why did the armed forces of America and the coalition forces march into the Gulf War? To most people, the answer is simply because every country needs oil; and the Gulf countries are the major sources of oil. But that is an oversimplified answer. For one, Japan who depends largely on imported oil from the Middle East did not send its army to fight while Britain who produces its own oil sends its troops. (Nye)
America fought the war to serve the national interest. The Americans share the same interest as with the rest of the world. Everyone needs the feeling of security. What does security mean? It is the absence of threat in ones well- being. Does the war initiated by Hussein against Kuwait affect countries far from its borders despite the geographical distance? The answer is yes. Almost
every country needs a commodity or service provided by another. The invasion of Kuwait by the Iraqis’ threatened the economic safety worldwide. Along with the economic threat is the growing number of issues regarding international safety. The United States took pride on their preference for freedom, democracy and human rights. The United States would not allow the hostilities of other countries to hurt any country. Some human rights violations are intolerable, that the Americans can’t help but intercede. But can the United States do it alone? The United States remains to be the world’s largest economy, with the highest level of absolute productivity, and an increased production exports. It is an economic and military superpower as proven by defeating the powerful Iraqi forces in the Persian Gulf War; but America is suffering from low savings rate and a government deficit that eats up the savings rate (Nye). America does not need another war. The result of war is painful. The advanced weapons of the United States are not precise enough to know who the enemies and the civilians are.
Eisenberg, N. Happy 20th Anniversary to the End of the 1991 gulf War: The War that Never Actally ended. Retrieved from http://www.alternet.org.
Baumann, P. Environmental Warfare:1991 Persian Gulf War. Retrieved from http://www.oneonta.edu/faculty/baumann/geosat/Environ
Kanovsky, D. Washington Institute for Near East Policy 1992. Economic Consequences of Persian gulf War accelerating Opec’s Demise.
Krupa, M. Environment and Economic Repercussions of the Persian Gulf War on Kuwait. Retrieved from http://www.american.edu/led/ice/kuwait.htm
Nye, J. The Atlantic Online. Why the Gulf never served the National Interest. Retrieved from http://atlantic.com/past/doc/issues/91july/nye.ht
Persian Gulf War. Retrieved from http://www.history.com
Ursano, R. Emotional Aftermath of the Persian Gulf War: Veterans, Families, Communites. Retrieved from http://google books.
The Environment and the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Http://countryside.us/saudi-arabia.htm