“We had to do it as a defensive act”

Tariq Aziz was Saddam Hussein’s foreign minister in 1983-91 and deputy prime minister in 1979-2003. In 1996, PBS interviewed Aziz for their Frontline series; the transcripts are available here and here. Speaking of Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait in August 1990, he said this among other things:

Kuwait was never in our plans during all our leadership of this country. . . But we had to do it as a defensive act. Kuwait was conspiring against us…

By the end of June [1990] we started to realize that there is a conspiracy against Iraq, a deliberate conspiracy against Iraq, by Kuwait, organized, devised by the United States…

I have always said that the decision we took in August 1990 was a defensive decision…

There’s more in the same vein:

You will either be hit inside your house and destroyed, economically and militarily. Or you go outside and attack the enemy in one of his bases. We had to do that, we had no choice, we had no other choice.

Iraq was designated by George Bush for destruction, with or without Kuwait. Inside Kuwait or outside Kuwait…

If it sounds familiar, that’s probably because “invasion as defense” is a cornerstone of the Kremlin’s anti-Ukraine propaganda. It’s also a familiar meme of various Putinverstehers, some of whom are still polluting the world’s airwaves.

Of course Hitler also claimed self-defense after invading Poland but Tariq Aziz’s line of reasoning is closer to home both in time and circumstance. Actually, the Iraqi minister’s argument doesn’t fall apart as readily as the Kremlin’s.

Iraq could plausibly claim that Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE had been pumping too much oil and depressing the oil price, pushing Iraq to the brink of bankruptcy in summer 1990. Less plausibly, it could add the United States was behind that overproduction.

Unlike Iraq, Russia was benefiting from high gas and oil prices at the moment it attacked its neighbor. Its economy wasn’t doing great but was nowhere near collapse. It only started moving in that direction, and fast, once massively sanctioned and boycotted.

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