I recently did a Political Science Assignment on The Gulf War and I thought I’d share my thoughts with all you lovely people. What follows is a copy of the short essay I produced for the assignment. As always comments and alternative opinions are appreciated.
For the purpose of this paper I will discuss what I believe are the most important consequences of the Persian Gulf War. The three long term consequences that I will examine are 9/11, The Iraq War, and the demonization of Arabs and Islam in the popular discourse. This war, though little discussed in Canadian classrooms, was and is a major event that continues to shape the interactions between Western and Eastern countries on a daily basis.
The first major political consequence that I will be discussing is the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. This attack was seen by the American population as an attack on the country as a whole and a declaration of war. Al-Qaeda, the group supposedly responsible, and their leader, Osama Bin Laden, were painted as insane Muslim terrorists by the media and the United States Government. The general population was lead to believe that this was an unprovoked attack on an innocent nation. This falsified, propaganda fuelled interpretation could not have been more untrue.
Committing a suicide bombing mission and killing hundreds of innocent civilians is a horrible thing to do, it pales in comparison to the horror caused by the American military during the Gulf War or any of their other conflicts. Why do I bring this up? I bring it up because without the Gulf War 9/11 may have never have happened. In taking responsibility for 9/11 Al-Qaeda leaders listed several Gulf War actions as their reasons for committing the attack. One of which was the construction of permanent U.S. Military bases in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in contradiction to America’s previous promise to its Arab allies not to do so. Another factor was the conduct of American soldiers towards retreating Iraqi troops such as in the Highway Of Death incident. If the United States had not engaged in the Gulf War many of the actions that supposedly provoked the 9/11 attacks might never have happened.
This brings me to the next major consequence of the Gulf war, the 2003 American invasion of Iraq colloquially referred to as the Iraq War or The War In Iraq. In respect to the Gulf War there are two ways of seeing this conflict: one, as the continuation of a conflict that never really ended or two, as a sequel to a previous conflict. Regardless of what view one takes it is clear to me that without the Gulf War the Iraq would not have happened or not in the same way. Much like in the Gulf War the United States created a nice sounding reason for why they were going to intervene/invade another country. When they went into the Gulf War it was to supposedly to protect Kuwait’s sovereignty. When they went into the Iraq War it was because Iraq’s supposed possession of weapons of mass destruction threatened their security. It eventually came to light that the U.S. had for the sovereignty of any state except their own and that there were no weapons of mass destruction.
Finally, the result of both these wars and the propaganda that fuelled them has been the demonization of Arabs and Islam in popular culture. While it’s true that Arabs were discriminated against and caricaturized before 9/11 the Western propaganda machine worked overtime in the wake of the attack to ramp up negative stereotypes and hated towards “those Arabs”. Some have argued that when the Cold War ended a new enemy was needed to rally against. Since the enemy could no longer be the Communists or the Russians/Soviets the creation of a new enemy was needed. This brings us to the current trope of “Muslim/Islamist Terrorist” that has helped garner support for wars and endanger the lives of Arabs and Muslims living in Western countries.
In conclusion, the Gulf War is a rarely discussed conflict that has shaped international relations on an immense scale and helped to cause the 9/11 attacks which moved most Western countries to tighten their security to an alarming degree, the Iraq War which in many cases can be as a continuation of a previous conflict, and the demonizing of Arabs and Muslims in popular culture.