U.S. Ambassador Finally Apologizes for George H.W. Bush’s Betrayal of Iraqi Shiites

Friday, November 11, 2011
1991 mass grave in Iraq exhumed in 2003 (photo: Murad Sezer, AP)
Twenty years after its betrayal, the U.S. government has finally apologized to the Shiites of Iraq for abandoning them at the end of the Gulf War.
In 1991, President George H. W. Bush publicly urged Shiites, who constitute a majority of Iraq’s population, to rise up against Saddam Hussein as American forces pushed the Iraqi army out of Kuwait. Speaking on Voice of America, he encouraged Iraqis “to take matters into their own hands and force Saddam Hussein, the dictator, to step aside.” Shiites in the south and Kurds in the north took Bush at his word and launched a rebellion against Saddam. But when the dictator unleashed his security forces on the rebels, President Bush, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, and other administration officials denied that they supported an uprising against Saddam…and tens of thousands of Shiites and Kurds were killed.
U.S. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf had warned Saddam Hussein and his troops, “You fly, you die.” But when Saddam sent helicopter gunships to bomb rebelling Shiites, American troops were ordered to stand by and allow the massacre.
Now, as American troops pull out of Iraq, U.S. Ambassador James Jeffrey has begun reaching out to Shiite leaders to express apologies for American decision-making two decades ago.
Adel Abdul Mahdi, a former vice president of Iraq and a leading Shiite politician, told The New York Times that had the U.S. followed through in 1991, lives would have been spared and the 2003 invasion wouldn’t have been necessary.
“The apology of the U.S. has come too late, and does not change what happened,” said Sheik Ali Najafi, a cleric and spokesman for Ayatollah Bashir al-Najafi, a top Shiite religious leader. “The apology is not going to bring back to the widows their husbands, and bereaved mothers their sons and brothers that they lost in the massacre that followed the uprising.”
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky

Bush Called for 1991 Shiite Rebellion Against Saddam (by Peter Galbraith, Washington Post) 


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