Obviously, I didn't think, and nobody else did, that the Iraqis were going to take all of Kuwait. -- Former Ambassador April Glaspie, in response to accusations that the U.S. invited Saddam Hussein to take Kuwait
, a 1963 graduate of Mills College
, became the first woman ambassador to the Middle East
. She served as the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq during the Persian Gulf War
under President George H. W. Bush
Ambassador Glaspie gained notoriety, and in some circles became the fallgirl, for the U.S.'s failed policy in Iraq. Eight days before Iraq invaded Kuwait - precipitating the Gulf War - Glaspie met with Iraq's leader Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi transcript of the meeting was printed in The New York Times, September 23, 1990. The transcript quotes Glaspie telling Hussein:
I admire your extraordinary efforts to rebuild your country. I know you need funds. We understand that and our opinion is that you should have the opportunity to rebuild your country. But we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.
I was in the American Embassy in Kuwait during the late 60's. The instruction we had during this period was that we should express no opinion on this issue and that the issue is not associated with America. James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction.
s have, understandably, interpreted these statements as giving Iraq
the go ahead to invade Kuwait - that the United States would not intervene. While this may be true, blaming Glaspie makes no sense; she was simply following orders from Washington. Glaspie, six months after the transcript
was published, called the transcript a fabrication - yet at the same time she said it contained a great deal that was true. In the intervening years, State Department cables obtained under the Freedom of Information Act
give no reason to doubt the accuracy of the transcript.
But one need only look at the Bush administration's public pronouncements in the weeks before the Iraqi invasion to verify that Glaspie's words to Hussein were in line with offical administration policy:
We do not have any defense treaties with Kuwait, and there are no special defense or security commitments to Kuwait. - U.S. State Department Spokesperson Margaret Tutweiler, July 1990
Historically, the U.S. has taken no position on the border disputes in the area, nor on matters pertaining to internal OPEC deliberations. We have no defense treaty relationship with any gulf country. That is clear . . . we have not historically taken a position on border disputes. -- Assistant Secretary of State John Kelly before a House foreign affairs subcommittee on July 31, 1990
After this statement, Representative Lee Hamilton
asked Kelly if it would be correct to say that if Iraq invaded Kuwait the United States would not be obligated to commit its military forces in Kuwait's defense. Kelly replied, "That is correct."
So, while Glaspie's private statements on behalf of the administration may have given Saddam Hussein the mistaken belief that he could invade Kuwait with impunity, they were completely consistent with what others in the administration were saying publicly.
April Glaspie has since been retired from the foreign service. She then went to work in the United Nations serving as a policy advisor in Somalia. Glaspie was forced out of her U.N. position when Madeleine Albright took over as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.