1991 Resistance to the Gulf War in Grand Rapids: Part II

In Part I of this article, we looked at how people in Grand Rapids resisted the US military attack on Iraq in the early part of 1991. In today’s post we will look at the aftermath of that US war and the ongoing resistance to the killing of Iraqis by people in Grand Rapids.

Just weeks after the US military ended the invasion/war on Iraq in February of 1991, it became known that the PR film of Hill & Knowlton had done a great deal to sway public opinion and the US Congress to get their support for war. The Center for Media & Democracy initially published a report on how the PR firm had fabricated information, particularly the story about Iraqi soldiers taking Kuwaiti children out of their incubators and killing them. This PR effort used a Kuwaiti girl, who testified at a Congressional hearing, but was only discovered later that she was the daughter of the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the US. Watch this documentary on the PR industry and at 24:50 you will hear how Hill & Knowlton developed their campaign to demonize Iraq.

Another thing that came out of the war was the brutal air assaults by the US military, particularly on Iraqi troops that were in retreat. In late February of 1991, US fighter pilots dropped bombs on the Iraqi military, which was retreating on highway 80 towards Basara. One of the images that came out of the US military assault was the picture below, of an Iraqi soldier who had been burned alive in the vehicle he was in during the US bombing campaign.

Another incident that received attention later, was the revelation that the US military was putting snow plows on the front of Abrams M1 tanks and burying Iraqi soldiers alive in the desert. The independent media had reported on this earlier, but here is a link from a New York Times article later that year. It was this crime that got the attention of several anti-war activists in Grand Rapids.

In late June of 1991, the Grand Rapids Press announced that George H.W. Bush would be coming to town to celebrate the 4th of July. It was also reported that the same kind of tanks that were used to bury Iraqi soldiers alive in the desert just months earlier, would also be in a parade that Grand Rapids would be having for President Bush.

Three Grand Rapids anti-war activists decided that they would protest not only Bush’s visit, but the tanks that were used to violate international law, which would be in the parade. You can see from a GR Press photo below, that the three activists tried to lay down in front of the tanks, but were quickly stopped by Secret Service and local cops.

The three activists decided to challenge their arrest by using International Law as a defense. The group went to trial in November 1991 and defended themselves. The day before the trial the court change the judge, who would no longer allow them to use International Law as a defense, despite the fact that they had submitted a 40-page brief.

Judge Christensen would not allow them to use an International Law argument, so the three activists just tried to get the jury to hear their side of the story. The three activists were charged with blocking a roadway. However, the jury did not find the three activists guilty, since the cops dragged them out of the way so fast that the parade never missed a beat.

The Grand Rapids City Attorney was so upset, since he was beaten by three young activists who defended themselves. Unfortunately, there was no other resistance to the Gulf War or its aftermath, like the ongoing US bombing of Iraq in the No Fly Zones that took place during the entire 8 years of the Clinton Administration, right through the first two years of the George W. Bush administration, until another war/invasion of Iraq took place in March of 2003.

 

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