In the summer of 1990, a British Airways flight from London to Kuala Lumpur inexplicably landed in Kuwait to refuel just as Saddam Hussein’s forces were invading. What transpired next is a horror story shrouded in mystery as 385 international passengers and crew were taken hostage and many used as “human shields” by Iraqi forces in a high-stakes game of brinkmanship with then-UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The lives of the people who were sexually assaulted and tortured for five months were destroyed in countless ways. And yet to this day, the UK refuses to release the details of the perplexing crisis which has the British and American intelligence agencies’ fingerprints all over it.
Stephen Davis, however, refused to let the story of these hostages and the truth behind their plight go untold. The investigative journalist spent the past three decades uncovering the shocking events that led to the 1990 hostage crisis and are also ultimately behind so much of what has transpired in the Middle East and West since. On this week’s installment of “Scheer Intelligence,” Davis joins Scheer to discuss “Flight 149: Hostage Crisis, a Secret Special Forces Unit, and the Origins of the Gulf War,” a book the author says the British government has tried to keep from being published. Davis recounts the two meetings in Saudi Arabia that changed the course of history, one between Osama bin Laden and the ruling Saudi royal family, and another between the Saudi King Fahd and U.S. officials Dick Cheney and Norman Schwarzkopf, in which they convinced the Saudi ruler that it was highly possible that Hussein would invade his country.
“Dick Clarke, who was one of the leading counterintelligence officials in the United States for many years, worked for the Clinton administration, talks about the consequences of that meeting,” Davis tells Scheer. “And he says, ‘The rise of al Qa’ida in the 1990s, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the second U.S. war with Iraq, the rise of ISIS, all followed that August 1990 decision to deploy large U.S. forces to the Gulf […] This chain of events also contributed to the Arab Spring and the creation of failed states in Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and Syria. Taken together, these events caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands, turned millions of people into refugees, and cost trillions of dollars.’”
Linking the meetings back to the story of the British Airways flight at the heart of his book, Davis explains what he uncovered during his extensive research. It turns out, explains the journalist, that the reason the flight landed in Kuwait on August 2, 1990 on its way to Kuala Lumpur was because the UK had surreptitiously sent a special secret forces unit on the plane with the civilian passengers and crew.
“I established that the secret intelligence team who had arrived on BA 149, whose job was to keep an eye on the deployments of Iraqi forces in Kuwait, were reporting back right from the start that the Iraqis were adopting defensive positions, and had no apparent intent to invade Saudi Arabia. So there’s the intelligence, and there’s Cheney and Schwarzkopf telling King Fahd the opposite, with amazing consequences that have lasted for 30 years.”
Tune in between Davis and Scheer as the two journalists unravel the sinister events at the root of three decades of death and disaster, the cynicism of Thatcher, and the Orwellian power of the British Official Secrets Act
Read the full transcript below.
Natasha Hakimi Zapata
RS: Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of Scheer Intelligence, where longtime listeners know that the intelligence comes from my guests. And in this case it’s Stephen Davis, a well-known international correspondent for the leading newspapers in England and so forth, who has devoted–and that’s a really important word–30 years of his life to unraveling a mystery that, because it was so well covered up, most people, you know, I’ve found on random checking, aren’t even aware of it.
So let me give you the title here. It’s Flight 149: A Hostage Crisis, a Secret Special Forces Unit, and the Origins of the Gulf War. But not just the origins of the original Gulf War, first President Bush–but this book, and I’m going to jump to the end of the book, really is talking about the cover-up of a British Airways plane–and that’s where “Flight 149” comes from–that was inexplicably cleared to go ahead and fly from Heathrow to Kuwait, to the airport, when it was known that Saddam Hussein was planning an invasion. They said oh, well, he won’t succeed for 18 hours or something, go ahead and land. And these people landed just in time to have the airport occupied by Saddam Hussein’s republican troops and others, and they went through the most harrowing experience, being used as shields to prevent the bombing of Iraqi targets, human shields, everything–death, rape, and everything else.
And what it is, however, this book by Stephen Davis, is a compelling mystery story. And the big mystery is, really, how did this happen? Why did British Airways go along with it, why did the control towers go along with it, why did the British government conceal it? Why is Margaret Thatcher involved in all of this? And I just want to read from the last page of this book–and it’s not a long book, mercifully, but it’s a very well-written mystery book. And he says in the next-to-last paragraph:
Saddam is now long dead, and he was never tried for the invasion of Kuwait or the taking of Western hostages and their use as human shields. Iraq and Kuwait have moved on. There have been other wars and other victims, and it is clear that London and Washington no longer have any interest in reexamining the events of August 1990 to February 1991, nor any interest in an inquiry into the misuse of intelligence in one of the most consequential decisions in modern history.
And then you say the biggest mystery–and you say “perhaps”; let me be fair to the British caution here: “And then there is perhaps the biggest lie of all”–and this is the lie that came with the endorsement of the U.S. and British governments and so forth–“…the biggest lie of all–that Saddam was going to invade Saudi Arabia and that the threat justified putting American troops on Saudi soil, foreshadowing the death and destruction of the Middle East during the following three decades.”
And one of the connections here–because this was the first time that U.S. troops had been put in a very prominent role in Saudi Arabia, enraging a number of more purist fundamentalists, among them Osama bin Laden. And maybe we should begin with that. You have a scene in your book where Osama bin Laden was arguing against American troops [coming in], and maybe the whole story of 9/11 and the War on Terror that has proceeded for two decades after, all can be traced to an incident that you describe in your book. Why don’t we just begin this discussion with that, and then you can tell us what the larger story of the book is all about.
SD: Absolutely. Thank you, Robert. Well, the context is, of course, Saddam Hussein has invaded Kuwait; the passengers and crew of 149 and others on the ground have been taken into captivity to be used as human shields; and of course there’s a big worldwide fuss about what to do about Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. And there was a crucial meeting–two crucial meetings, actually. The first is that a very wealthy Saudi called Osama bin Laden goes to the Saudi royals and says, look: I will fix this problem for you. I will raise an army of holy warriors 100,000 strong, and we will kick Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. Bin Laden, of course, hated Saddam and the Iraqi regime because they were secular. The Saudis said they would consider his offer, but it was not likely to be accepted.
The next crucial meeting–the absolute key to understanding what happened subsequently–was Dick Cheney and Norman Schwarzkopf fly to Saudi Arabia and have this meeting with King Fahd and his brothers. In the meeting, Cheney and Schwarzkopf say: Saddam threatened your country. He could invade Saudi Arabia. And we have a solution for this, which is that you allow us to put a military force into Saudi Arabia, and your kingdom will be safe, and you know, it will all be good. Ah, they did not, by the way, at any stage expect this offer to be accepted. King Fahd turned to his brothers and said, what do you think? And all the brothers said, absolutely not; we’re not having American troops on sacred Saudi soil, the land of Mecca and Medina; that would be a disaster.
So Cheney and Schwarzkopf had shown the king various satellite photographs claiming the Iraqis were a threat. So King Fahd, for reasons which are still slightly inexplicable, says: Yes. Bring them. Bring them now. So American troops start to arrive on Saudi soil. Osama bin Laden is absolutely enraged by this, and swears revenge. And of course, carried out his threat, which led to 9/11, which led to Afghanistan.
And a very interesting quote for you, to put this meeting and the significance of this decision in context: Dick Clarke, who was one of the leading counterintelligence officials in the United States for many years, worked for the Clinton administration, talks about the consequences of that meeting. And he says, “The rise of al Qa’ida in the 1990s, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the second U.S. war with Iraq, the rise of ISIS, all followed that August 1990 decision to deploy large U.S. forces to the Gulf.” And he goes on to say, “This chain of events also contributed to the Arab Spring and the creation of failed states in Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and Syria. Taken together, these events caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands, turned millions of people into refugees, and cost trillions of dollars.”
So investigating this story, I was faced with an interesting conflict. I established that the secret intelligence team who had arrived on BA 149, whose job was to keep an eye on the deployments of Iraqi forces in Kuwait, were reporting back right from the start that the Iraqis were adopting defensive positions, and had no apparent intent to invade Saudi Arabia. So there’s the intelligence, and there’s Cheney and Schwarzkopf telling King Fahd the opposite, with amazing consequences that have lasted for 30 years.
RS: Yeah, and let me just say–because as I said, it’s a great mystery, and you’re going to love reading this book; it’s a highly readable mystery. But one of the interesting things at the heart of this whole thing are eight British operatives who have been put on this plane that was only supposed to make, if it did fly, a refueling stop in Kuwait and keep going. But they bought a one-way ticket. They were getting off in Kuwait. And there were eight and their leader, who was going to go flying on, if I got that right; four teams of two.
And what happened was, the plane lands and they’re the first ones off; the rest are kept on and become hostages. And these four manage to somehow–at least two of the teams–manage to provide very important intelligence. And they are clearly working for the British secret operation, which you can even know less about than about the American CIA and NSA, because England has something called the British, the Official Secrets Act. And so one of the individuals who was in the British embassy, who now has come clean for this book, and has said well, this is the true account, or more or less–he has a book of his own. But he can’t publish it, because of the Official Secrets Act; he was a member of government, and you can’t be a whistleblower in England.
But interestingly, one of the braver teams–and you describe their work–they got positioned pretty close to the Saudi border, and they were sending back intelligence. And the intelligence they were sending back is the Iraqis had no intention, evidently, of invading Saudi Arabia; they were digging into defensive positions in case the Saudis came to the aid of the Kuwaitis. So the facts on the ground–the whole reason for having this super-secret team going in–they get this information, which then denies the narrative that the U.S. has to come to the aid of Saudi Arabia. And that information is simply disregarded. Did I tell that story correctly?
SD: Absolutely. I mean, it is to my mind a classic misuse of intelligence. And interestingly enough, it’s one which people in the United States seem to be reluctant to revisit. I mean, Robert, it’s almost seen as a sort of good war, a clean war, a nice little victory, and Saddam Hussein got kicked out of Kuwait, and with not very many consequences. But in fact the consequences, I believe, and I show in Flight 149, have been devastating.
RS: Yeah. By the way, the quote from Clarke, who was really a top national security official in three different administrations, is on page 75 of this book–worth the price of admission, or reading, frankly. I think, obviously, you had 30 years in investigating this to do your homework. And in addition to the compelling stories of the hostages, who were really treated as an irrelevant footnote to all this, because they were inconvenient. After all, Margaret Thatcher of England, someone who has been sort of celebrated as a wonderful leader [unclear], was behind all of this, sending these people in, and then was lying through her teeth about it.
And so nobody wanted to revisit it, and the hostages were–they were also on the plane, all four hundred and some-odd number, but that’s their problem, and nobody really cared about them. They went through the most harrowing experience, because the whole point was, the plane was only allowed to go because it was carrying these intelligence operatives. And then you ignore the information that your operatives send you.
And I really want to make some other points, because this idea that somehow all of the upheaval of the Mideast, maybe, can be–I think arguably and validly–can be traced to this, is the irony is, bin Laden was already somebody who had been recruited by our CIA to go fight in Afghanistan against the Russians, the Soviets. After all, that’s how the Afghan war originally started. So when he goes and pleads with the Saudi leadership not to let the Americans in, he is by then an honored veteran of the fight against the devil–in that case, the Soviet Union, the heathens. And had some authority; he could obviously mobilize people. But, you know, he gets pushed aside, and then he gives us 9/11.
The other interesting thing that comes out of a lot of the discussion in your book is that Saddam Hussein, whatever his major faults, was an enemy of not only Osama bin Laden but of the Saudis and so forth, because he was a secular dictator. And he, you know–and you have an interesting scene where in rebellion against the Iraqis, people in Kuwait start growing beards, because Saddam Hussein was secular, and the beards were associated more with religious rule, whether in Kuwait or Saudi Arabia.
So you have a lot of texture in this that comes from–you’ve interviewed so many of the survivors, and so many of the people involved. And you know, I said I would let you lay out what you think is the significance of the book. But I will say it’s worth reading just to figure out how much madness was unleashed in the Middle East. You know, after all, Saddam Hussein was the U.S. ally in the first Iran-Iraq war; he was our guy, Rumsfeld and all these people supported him in a previous administration. And Saddam Hussein, whatever else he is, you can’t blame him on Sunni fanaticism. And in fact it was the one area in that region where Osama bin Laden couldn’t operate later. I mean–and yet we went to war a second time with Iraq, again without justification. But before I cheat you of the time to talk about your book, why don’t you take it over now, and tell us why you spent 30 years on this story?
SD: I’m glad, though, that you outlined that whole thing about Saddam. Because, again, that’s a forgotten but important part of history. As you said, I mean, the U.S.–he wasn’t bosom pals, but you know, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” and their enemy was Iran. And so Saddam was sort of a bulwark against Iran. And it’s also important for people to remember that this dispute with Kuwait was about one oilfield, which was half in Iraq and half in Kuwait, crossed the border. And it was a dispute about the revenues from it. It was about the money.
And it seemed to me, having researched this extensively, that this could have been solved by diplomatic means. But there was this much talked-about, sort of much-disputed meeting in the lead-up to the war, between April Glaspie, who was the U.S. ambassador, and Saddam. Which, she seems to have given him the impression that the U.S. wasn’t that bothered with what happened between Iraq and Kuwait. And I think early on they weren’t bothered. One of the important things to note is that George Bush Sr. was pushed, I think, into his hardline position by Mrs. Thatcher, who was going on about, you know, it shouldn’t be allowed to stand.
So, yes, 30 years–I mean, what’s driven me on about this, there were, as you said, there were a number of layers. First off, there’s an intelligence operation which is covered up. Secondly, there is the historical consequences of what happened. But what’s really, really pushed me through these years–and past some considerable attempts by the U.K. government, by the way, to stop the book coming out–is the plight of the hostages. Because these people were landed in a war zone, and they were lied to about why they were landed there. And not only that, their very plight, their ordeal, has been covered up. So early on, after the plane landed, the British [unclear] office was sort of briefing–oh, it’s OK, it’s not a problem. Yes, they’re stuck in Kuwait, but they’ll move on soon, and they’re in nice hotels, and they’re probably drinking cocktails by the pools in the sunshine. Which was true for about two days, by the way.
This planeload of people–which by the way, there were 50 nationalities on board, including a lot of Americans–they were eventually among a group dispersed to 70 different sites in Iraq and Kuwait where Saddam thought the allies might bomb, and thereafter were subject to the most appalling conditions and the most appalling psychological torture. So the government, the British government, when it all was finished, commissioned this report, and it was called Operation Sandcastle, and it was interviews done by the world military police. They interviewed a lot of human shields about what had happened to them in captivity. No sooner had this report been commissioned and finished than it was kept secret. And it is still a secret today, even though they said last year under the 30-year rule they might finally release it. So these people are being denied the recognition of the terrible things that happened to them.
And let me give you a few examples. So the report is a horror story of rapes and sexual assaults of both men and women; other physical assaults; near starvation conditions; mock executions. At one camp near Basra, which was run by the Baathists–a few were lucky enough to be in a camp that was run by the Baathists, who were Saddam’s party, the real hardliners–you were particularly badly treated. A group of people there were woken up in the middle of the night and bussed out into the desert with armed men, and made to get out and given shovels and made to dig a trench. And when they finished digging the trench, they were made to crouch in front of the trench. And then the soldiers lined up behind them. And the people, who by this stage of course thought they were about to be killed here, were praying if they prayed, or whatever they did. And suddenly there was a click behind of the weapons being loaded. And then the Baathist men fell about laughing. It was their idea, well, of a joke, but of course it’s psychological torture.
Now, I’ve spoken to many of these people, and a lot of them, their lives were ruined. They lost their homes, they lost their jobs, marriages and relationships broke up; there are a number of them who are still suffering from PTSD 30 years later. I interviewed one of them in a studio in London last month, and he was quite calmly, actually, and remembered all the things that had happened to him. And then halfway through the interview, as so often happened with these people, he started to shake, he started to cry, and the memory became too much. And I’ve had this frequently with these people. An American family called the [name unclear], who suffered terribly. And in the book I describe how they were more or less betrayed by their own embassy, the U.S. embassy in Kuwait. So this suffering, the fact that it was ignored and the fact that as an investigative reporter I don’t like being lied to, is what’s driven me on all these years to tell this story.
RS: Yeah. You know, I think the cynicism–you know, it is a great spy story; it is, and you want to stick with it right through. But then you realize, wait a minute, why have human beings been put through this wringer of horrible torturous experience? And the cynicism that they were just–you know, we talk about collateral damage with the drone attacks–the governments of these respective people just turned their back on them. Particularly Margaret Thatcher, and then the major who came after. They were just an inconvenience.
And I want to reinforce something you said before. This was a war that didn’t have to happen. After all, as you correctly point out, this was an economic dispute, and the argument was that Kuwait was doing some kind of slant drilling, as I recall, and going into the Iraqi portion of this shared pool of oil. And Iraq complained about it, and there were people who thought they had validity [unclear]. And Kuwait got their backs up, and they thought they had the support of the West. But then the U.S. made it very clear they didn’t want to go to war over this, it was too convoluted. And so all of this suffering didn’t have to happen. This was a contractual dispute between, basically, two economic partners, Kuwait and Iraq; it had nothing to do, ultimately, at the beginning, with religious freedom, with democracy, with defeating the enemy, with the War on Terror, or anything else. Totally unnecessary exercise which later gives us 9/11, blowing up the World Trade Center, the attack on the Pentagon, the enormous waste of resources.
And there is something, I want to pay you a high compliment here. It’s understated in your book. But my favorite writer about foreign affairs has always been Graham Greene. And there is a Graham Greene, The Quiet American, Power and the Glory, Our Man in Havana–his books, he was a former foreign service officer, a diplomat. And his books just convey that sense of indifference to human suffering, and cynicism. Playing a game of chess, which is what foreign policy is, to win. Right?
SD: Absolutely. Thanks for the flattering comparison as well, Robert. Yeah, the point about the treatment of governments is particularly worth emphasizing. When these people were in captivity, they lived in daily fear of, you know, apart from the terrible issues they were facing every 24 hours in terms of the basics, just getting food and not being beaten up by the guards and not being shot, they were in daily fear of Mrs. Thatcher and George Bush. Because most of the time they could listen to the World Service–
RS: The first President Bush.
SD: Yes, the first President Bush. Ah, most of the time they could listen to the World Service. So there they are in captivity, and they hear, you know, Mrs. Thatcher asked, well, is the fact that Saddam has these human shields at all these strategic locations going to stop you bombing, going to stop you taking military action? And Thatcher says, oh no, no it isn’t. So if you can imagine effectively these POW camps hearing her, and they think well, even if we survive this, we’re going to be killed by our own side.
At one dam in northern–and by the way, Robert, it’s worth reminding your listeners that this was a time when Saddam actually had weapons of mass destruction programs. There were nuclear facilities, chemical facilities, and so forth that these people were held at. At one dam in northern Iraq, two of the hostages told me they had made plans what to do in the event of a bombing. And it was pretty hopeless to try and attack the guards and escape, so one of them said to me quite calmly that he was simply going to go to the edge of the dam and jump, and probably be killed when he hit the water at the bottom, but that’s all he could think of to do. So they had this kind of constant fear that they lived in.
At another camp, the chief purser of BA 149, Clive Earthy–a very brave man, by the way–they started digging a large trench outside where the human shields were held. And he was friendly with one of the guards, and he said, why are you digging this trench? And the guard said, oh, Mr. Clive, it’s for a latrine. And Clive said no it’s not, we’ve already got latrines. Anyway, he pushed and pushed the guy, and eventually the guard said, well, I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but we’re under instructions that when the invasion starts we’re to shoot you all and dump you in that trench.
So this was the, you know, for week after week, for up to four months, the terrible psychological and physical conditions that these people lived under. And as I said, the fact that this story is unknown, and the fact that the whole thing has been covered up–even if you argue, Robert, that 30 years later they still want to keep the details of the intelligence mission confidential on grounds of national security–well of course that’s nonsensical, because all the people that are involved on the intelligence and soldier side have now retired. Even if you argue that, there’s absolutely no justification for not releasing the report so the world can know the terrible things that happened to the human shields.
RS: Well, you know, we don’t get the–you refer to a “web of lies” in your book, and the web of lies–and remember, we’re talking about self-proclaimed representative governments, democracies, England, you know, the United States. And they just lie with impunity. And you use the phrase “web of lies.” And you know, by the way, one of the things that’s really alarming in your book, in your description of Margaret Thatcher, is that she had actually thought of using nuclear weapons, battlefield nuclear weapons, in this made-up adventure. And she had actually thought of using it against Argentina in the Falklands War. And here is somebody, you know, Meryl Streep played her in a movie, she’s kind of the iron lady, stiff upper lip, virtuous person–no! She was potentially, you know, she was willing to be a mass killer. And she was willing to use these hostages in the most shameful, cynical way. And it’s all protected by the British Official Secrets Act, as many of our laws.
And I’ll point out, for instance, the U.S. has been involved in torture of other people who are held prisoner, and the Senate torture report has never been revealed. We don’t even know if there are still the 14 original copies. We’ve had a redacted version of the introduction. So, you know, it took some brave whistleblowers, and they have a little more legal protection here than they do in England. But it took you 30 years to find out something we should have been told on day one.
SD: Absolutely. RS: Day one.
SD: And we have to pay a tribute, really, to my intelligence and military sources, who’ve really risked their careers to come forward and help me. Indeed, a few years ago, one of them, his assistance to me was discovered by the British government. I still don’t know how; not through me saying anything to anybody. And he was–when special forces leave their jobs they occasionally get, they work in private security companies. But those private security companies can only operate if the British foreign office says it’s OK. So this guy was blackballed for helping me, and basically his career ended, which was a great shame. And of course, as you referred to previously, Tony Pace, the MI6 station chief in Kuwait city, very bravely came forward at a press conference, and in my book–I think this is the first time this has ever happened in the UK–to tell the truth, even though he absolutely, in doing so, breached the Official Secrets Act, the draconian Official Secrets Act, and could be sent to prison.
RS: Well, he had–in the eyes of an almighty, if he believed in one–well, I guess the almighties can find the truth without secular help. But the fact is, he was being blamed for this, right? I mean, they said that, no, our embassy knew, and they approved the plane landing. So actually, if you were a hostage you would have said this guy was terrible, he told the pilot you can land the plane, the Iraqis are not there–in fact, he told them quite the opposite. Quite the opposite.
SD: Absolutely. We mustn’t forget, by the way, the role in this of British Airways, who have lied about this and participated in the cover-up for 30 years. So British Airways have relied on the fact that they had a briefing, and they were told it was safe to fly. The very man who gave that briefing, Tony Pace–who by the way first contacted me, interestingly enough, to complain about my reporting, because I had reported on some affidavits that British Airways gave in a Texas court–
RS: Yeah, you’ve got that in the book. I want to pay tribute to you; you’ve put your critics in the book, you’ve put the eyewitness accounts in your book. So that’s better than a footnote that most of us don’t look up; you actually have the text in there, where he takes issue with something you wrote, yes.
SD: Yeah absolutely. I mean, as a journalist, I’m a passionate and lifelong believer in good journalism; it’s, give people the well-rounded story. And Pace was, in the end, he said well, that’s not what I said; I told them–not only did I not say it was not safe to fly, I gave a specific warning that if they had a flight going through between midnight and 4:00am the next day–and that was the exact time when BA 149 was due to arrive–it was liable to get caught up in the Iraqi invasion. So it’s very important to understand that BA flew that flight and landed that plane–the only plane to land that night; others were turned away–despite being warned. And of course the only reason they did so was because of their very close relationship with the government. Lord King, the chairman of British Airways, was a great friend and supporter of Mrs. Thatcher. And that decision landed all of those people in a terrible situation.
RS: So just to summarize-we’re going to end on this, but the reason to read this book is it’s a true-life mystery story, and you’re going to care about it. Because the people who end up being tortured, and their brains destroyed, and frightened out of their minds–and killed–are people who thought they were flying home to India, to Malaysia, to other places. This was, for most of them, supposed to be a refueling stop. The only ones that you seek to identify who had one-way tickets were the special unit of British intelligence that was using this flight as cover. They didn’t have time to sneak into the country other ways; I guess they could have gone in through Saudi Arabia or something.
And so they used these 450 or whatever it was number of people. And they commandeered a civilian airplane, British Airways. And Margaret Thatcher does it with her influence, and she has the chairman of the company as her buddy. And they use these people–the just use them, and they put them into this incredibly high-risk situation where Saddam Hussein is already at the border, crossing the border into Kuwait. And they say, well, we think we got a chance to get them in and get them out, so they won’t die if it can all be done in six, seven hours. Well, turns out three hours later after they take off, Saddam Hussein has captured the airport. And boom, these people are put through just an incredibly nightmarish experience–a nightmare experience authored by the iron lady, Margaret Thatcher.
I think that’s a good point to end this. I want to pay tribute to you as a fellow journalist. And let me just say, by the way, this book will be taken seriously now, 30 years in the making. I want to–hats off to PublicAffairs press for bringing this book out. And if not for the key–you know, this British intelligence MI6 operative who was in the embassy in Kuwait city, stepping forward and saying this is the truth–they would just continue to deny it for another 30 years. Maybe now they’ll have to honor the people who suffered and died by releasing a report that they’ve sat on, as governments all over the world sit on those reports that reveal their crimes.
That’s all the crimes, official crimes we have the time for today. I want to thank Stephen Davis. The book is Flight 149: A Hostage Crisis, a Secret Special Forces Unit, and the Origins of the Gulf War, PublicAffairs press. I want to thank Christopher Ho at KCRW, the NPR station in Santa Monica, for posting these shows. Joshua Scheer, our executive editor and producer. Natasha Hakimi, who does the introductions and summaries. Lucy Berbeo, who does the transcription. And I want to thank the JWK Foundation in the name of a really gutsy journalist, Jean Stein, for helping with some of the funding that makes this possible. See you next week with another edition of Scheer Intelligence.