An example of when this myth blew up in the faces of believers
A fool and his false friend are soon parted. That’s what your enemy’s enemy really is, a false friend. At the very best, your enemy’s enemy is a temporary ally — nothing more.
Naïve leaders with hopeful hearts often try to make it more than that. This is why we must study history because it is overflowing with documented stories of what happens when we foolishly assume the friendship of our enemy’s enemy.
Here’s a quick example. Remember when Stalin and the Soviet Union allied with the United States during the Second World War? How long did that friendship last? Not long. It evolved into a forty-five year Cold War between the two countries that cost millions of lives and billions of dollars.
While there are hundreds of examples to choose from, here is an instance that involved players who all shared common enemies. Not only did they stab one another in the back, but they also did so repeatedly.
The volatile relationship between Iraq and the United States
Over the past forty years or so, the relationship between the United States and Iraq has been both interesting and volatile. It spawned out of a common hatred for Iran. While Iraq has been a long time enemy of Iran, the United States became enemies of Iran after the Shah was overthrown in 1979 and American hostages were taken at the US Embassy in Tehran.
The United States supported Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war. This war began in 1980 when Saddam Hussein sought to take advantage of the chaos from the Iranian revolution.
Because Hussein was waging war against their enemy Iran and also against Soviet-influenced communist parties within Iraq, the United States did the following:
- Removed Iraq from the international terrorist list
- Restored diplomatic relations with Iraq
- Began supplying Boeing Jetliners to Iraq
The first backstab by the United States
The United States began selling arms to Iran in 1985. This occurred when a group of moderate Iranian leaders secretly approached the US. When these Iranians agreed to negotiate with Hezbollah to get American hostages released, the US agreed to sell weapons to Iran, to be used against Iraq.
Iraq deals with two backstabbers who were allies
Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. While this horrific act was sharply denounced by the international community, and rightly so, the general public does not know the full story. They were left completely unaware of how deeply the United States buried the dagger in Iraq’s back, leading up to the invasion.
During the Iran-Iraq war, Kuwait was a close ally to Iraq. As the war pushed on and drained Iraq of its financial resources, Kuwait provided much-needed loans to the Iraqi war effort. When the war was concluded, Iraq asked Kuwait to forgive a portion of its debts since they defended Kuwait’s lands against a common enemy. Kuwait refused.
An overabundance of oil production during the early 1980s had driven oil prices down. Iraq requested the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to decrease oil production in order to raise prices so they could rebuild their country. Kuwait, who is an oil-rich country, directly opposed this request and continued to overproduce — an action that caused Iraq to lose $15 billion annually.
Then there were border disputes between Kuwait and Iraq. In particular, Kuwait was accused of exploiting the Romaila oil fields of Iraq by using slant drilling — which allowed them to siphon off the oil that belonged to Iraq.
The United States turns a blind eye to growing tensions
Reaching the end of its rope, Iraq asked for help from the international community to resolve what it perceived to be unfair treatment from Kuwait. No help was ever rendered. Instead, US Ambassador April Glaspie told Saddam Hussein, “[W]e have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.”
Later in the interview, Ambassador Glaspie added, “I admire your extraordinary efforts to rebuild your country.” Obviously, this didn’t resolve anything.
If that wasn’t bad enough, here’s the most egregious interaction between Saddam Hussein and the United States. Realizing that the United States wasn’t going to mediate any disagreement between Kuwait and Iraq, Hussein floated the idea of invading Kuwait, to which the State Department replied they had “no special defense or security commitments to Kuwait.” While the United States may not have intended to give Hussein the green light to invade Kuwait, that’s virtually what it did.
The US cranks up the lies
The United States began a war propaganda campaign against Iraq to justify military action. President George H.W. Bush first claimed that Iraq’s invasion was ‘an unprovoked attack’ — which was a lie, as the two countries had been bickering for years and Kuwait was stealing Iraq’s oil. When that bogus claim failed to sway public opinion, they sunk even lower.
They had witnesses come forth with a claim that Iraqi soldiers were entering Kuwaiti hospitals, pulling babies from incubators, and throwing them on the floor to die. This lie achieved its goal of outraging the public.
The shame of a US President
There was even bigger hypocrisy lurking beneath the surface. President George H.W. Bush condemned Saddam Hussein for the same thing he had done himself when US forces invaded Panama less than a year earlier.
Bush sent 25,000 troops into Panama on December 20, 1989, to capture former CIA contractor Manuel Noriega. Bombs started dropping around midnight, and flames roared over Panama City, in what was described as a ruthless invasion that caused thousands of deaths, mostly civilians, and gobbled up millions of American tax dollars within three days of brutal violence. Three days where the media was locked out of the city.
Yet, President George H.W. Bush dared to be outraged by Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.
The shame of another US President
As many of us know, the United States still wasn’t quite finished unloading war propaganda on Iraq. To prepare the US public for yet another attack on Iraq, President George W. Bush pushed the claim that Iraq had an arsenal that contained weapons of mass destruction (WMDs)⁶.
Since the 9/11 attacks were fresh on the minds of Americans, many of them were easily persuaded to believe this claim. President Bush relentlessly beat his war drum until he received congressional approval to use military force against Iraq — which he did in March 2003.
The only problem was that congressional approval was based on Bush’s claim that Iraq had WMDs — and none have been found to this day. So the US attack on Iraq was based on lies. The Bush administration desperately tried to link Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda, who attacked the twin towers on 9/11, but there were no links.
Perhaps the most irresponsible aspect of this unwarranted attack was that the Bush administration had no plan at all for rebuilding Iraq afterward. In a blatant lack of forethought and leadership, President Bush left the Iraqi people with no infrastructure and no authority — yet expected them to embrace democracy, one of the most sophisticated forms of government on Earth.
The decision to attack and wage a regime change war on Iraq remains the worst decision made by a modern-day US President. Bush’s actions not only destabilized the world’s most volatile region but also led to the birth of countless radical extremists — all of which hate America.
Reviewing the failure of alliances
In the sequence of events described above, there are countless betrayals of allies. We begin with the obvious one, the alliance between Iraq and the United States. While many of us would agree that Saddam Hussein was not the most trustworthy person in the world, it was the United States that proved to be most unreliable — they were always ready to stab their ally in the back — a fact to which Iraq can attest. And they did it repeatedly.
Next, you may have noticed how the alliance between Kuwait and Iraq was shaky at best. They were fine as long as Iraq was at war with Iran. Yet, when the war ended and Iraq wanted some sort of reparation for the sacrifices they made against a common enemy, Kuwait became uncooperative. It even stabbed them in the back over oil production. Furthermore, Kuwait stole oil from Iraq — all of which prompted the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. So their alliance blew up.
Finally, there was one more alliance that wasn’t mentioned. It could be argued that after the US sold arms to Iran, there was an implied alliance between these two countries. However, the US continued to support Iraq, even though they were selling arms to a moderate wing of Iran.
As we have seen, it cannot be assumed that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Beliefs like these can be deadly.