For months, April Glaspie had been Washington's mystery woman. Had the U.S. ambassador to
Iraq really raised no objection when Saddam Hussein summoned her last July and threatened to invade his neighbor?Had she told him, a week before the invasion, that the United States had "no opinion on Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait?"
Now she has had her say.
In blunt, crisp and undiplomatic language, she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday that Saddam was a liar and his "so-called transcript" that quoted her conversation with him was "maliciously edited, an example of Iraqi disinformation."
"She did great," White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said Thursday. "The truth will out."
The Iraqis released the transcript in September and the State Department did not disavow it. To some, Glaspie became the scapegoat.
She was kept out of sight, in the belly of the State Department. Said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., "We have an ambassador who, on the instructions of the State Department, virtually gave the green light to Saddam Hussein."
Not so, said Glaspie, 48, the first American female ambassador to an Arab state and an expert on the region.
It was Saddam, not she, who was abject in that July 25 meeting, a week before he sent his troops and tanks across the border, she said.
She said he told her to inform President Bush "that he would not solve his problems with Kuwait by violence."At first, said Glaspie, Saddam thought he could bluff.
But when the United States - against the advice of every Arab ally - stood up to him, warned him of its vital interests, engaged in naval maneuvers with the United Arab Emirates and "acted like a superpower" he backed down, she said.
He was "stymied," she said. "He was flummoxed. He surrendered."
But then Saddam recalculated, and miscalculated badly, the ambassador said. He convinced himself the United States would not respond to an invasion, that Arab states would never allow American troops to be stationed on their soil.
He told Glaspie - according to that disputed transcript - that the United States was not the type of society that was prepared to lose 10,000 troops in a single battle.
She said he was desperate. He needed Kuwait's oil. He had overspent when oil was $20 a barrel, saying he was sure the price would rise. It fell to $14 in July.
But, if Saddam miscalculated, Glaspie said, so did the United States.
"Our mistake was like that of every other government in the world: We did not realize that he was stupid," she said. "He didn't realize that we would defend our vital interests."
Glaspie testified calmly, briskly, prepared for every question. There was nothing defensive in her deportment.
She said the United States may have been lulled by the prevalence of border disputes between Arab countries and the knowledge that other Persian Gulf states were poised to make concessions to Iraq on the disputed Ramallah oil fields and on debts left over from the Iran-Iraq war.
And, she said, the United States was too ready to believe Saddam would be amenable to what it saw as reason and diplomacy.
The ambassador defended a letter she delivered to Tariq Aziz, the Iraqi foreign minister, apologizing for an editorial broadcast by the Voice of America. She said it could be interpreted as inciting the citizens of six Arab countries to overthrow their governments. She said she acted on the instructions of Washington in apologizing.
As for the transcript of her meeting with Saddam, it had been "selectively edited," Glaspie said.
She had said the United States had no interest in the Iraqi-Kuwait border dispute, but she said Saddam left out the rest of her remark: "We would insist on settlements being made in a non-violent manner, not by threat, not by intimidation and certainly not by aggression."
With a smile, Glaspie said it was her word against his.
"I hope my credibility is at least as great as Saddam Hussein," she added.