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and Gerard Ungerman

The case for war against Iraq is remarkably thin: Iraq is linked to Al Qaeda, we’re told, but without corroboration. Iraq is developing weapons that could threaten the United States, they say, although there’s no real evidence of that, either. Plus, Saddam Hussein is a bad guy—as if that has ever been of concern to American foreign policy. But the antiwar arguments are skimpy, too: The United States will invade Iraq merely for its oil, even though America has other sources of fuel. Or—here’s where watching Hidden Wars of Desert Storm becomes interesting—the planned assault is simply part of a grudge match between Bush Daddy and Hussein, continued today by Bush Baby. Made by the wife-and-husband team of Audrey Brohy and Gerard Ungerman before the current missile-rattling commenced, the 64-minute documentary doesn’t anticipate a second Gulf War. But it does remind us that Hussein has slunk in and out of U.S. favor several times during his reign, and that his government would not have survived Desert Storm if George H.W. Bush had not halted the American advance toward Baghdad and undermined anti-Hussein uprisings. The film recounts the history of Western political manipulation in the region since oil first was pumped in the 1920s, noting that the United States supported the coup that put Hussein’s party in power, turned against Iraq when OPEC jacked crude prices in 1972, and then became friendly again after Iran’s 1979 revolution. Then it shows how the Bush administration winked at Hussein’s plan to take over Kuwait, only to react to the invasion with outrage and dubious claims that Iraq was about to overrun Saudi Arabia. The results: an inconclusive war, an entrenched Hussein, and a permanent American military presence in the Persian Gulf. Finally, the film discusses the aftermath of Bush Sr.’s caper: more than 1 million Iraqis killed for lack of food and medicine, and some 9,500 U.S. and allied Gulf War veterans also dead, many of them perhaps afflicted by radiation poisoning from depleted-uranium weapons. (The effects of depleted uranium are disputed, and the statistics the movie presents are insufficient to prove anything.) Despite including the remarks of an unimpressive State Department spokesperson, Hidden Wars is hardly balanced and certainly not definitive. But it does pose some vital questions, and—in the current climate—suggests one more: Does the planned second Gulf War simply reflect the Bush clan’s decision to relocate the U.S. military’s major Gulf base from Saudi Arabia to Iraq? —Mark Jenkins