NEW YORK--Take note, dictators considering an alliance with the United States: we'll throw you to the wolves as soon as you cease to be useful.
Saddam Hussein's order to execute 148 men and boys in Dujail, in northern Iraq, in 1982 was his nominal casus morti. Actually, he was the fatal victim of a labor-management dispute.
Anyone who works for a difficult boss can sympathize with Saddam. After unsuccessfully attempting to reach President George H.W. Bush and other top officials (who were on vacation) to ask for permission to invade Kuwait, he finally touched base with Bush's ambassador to Iraq on July 25, 1990. At the time Hussein was a close American ally, receiving billions of dollars in arms shipments and subsidies. Baath Party-ruled Iraq, a U.S. client state, had waged the 1980-88 war against Iran largely at Washington's behest.
Then as now, human rights were not a consideration of U.S. foreign policy.
Tensions with Kuwait, whose territorial legitimacy had not been recognized by any Iraqi leader since the country's founding in 1920, had been rising over alleged "slant drilling" beneath the border into Iraqi oilfields and Kuwait's refusal to reduce oil production to raise prices as requested by the OPEC cartel.
At the fateful meeting, Saddam asked Ambassador April Glapsie: Would the U.S. object to an invasion? "We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait," she replied. "Secretary [of State James] Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960s, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America."