Persian Gulf War 1990-91

Canada deployed three naval vessels, 26 CF-18 aircraft and 4,000 personnel to the Middle East during the first Gulf War. Canadians also oversaw a military headquarters in Bahrain.

Canada was among a handful of coalition members to engage its forces in combat. Initially part of a UN mandate, Canada’s military operations went beyond what the UN authorized. The UN resolution allowed for attacks against Iraqi establishments in Kuwait while the US-led forces bombed across Iraq.

Hawkish in the lead up to the conflict, Ottawa had little time or interest in waiting for sanctions or diplomacy to solve the crisis unleashed by Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. George H. W. Bush wanted to deepen the US foothold in the region and Brian Mulroney’s Conservative government was prepared to contribute. The first Gulf War was largely designed to reverse the Middle East’s decolonization process, what Mark Curtis described as the open “rehabilitation of colonialism and imperialism.”

20,000 Iraqi troops were killed and between 20,000 and 200,000 Iraqi civilians perished in the fighting. “The coalition flew over 100,000 sorties, dropping 88,500 tons of bombs, and widely destroying military and civilian infrastructure. 11 of Iraq’s 20 major power stations and 119 substations were totally destroyed, while a further six major power stations were damaged. At the end of the war, electricity production was at four percent of its pre-war levels. Bombs damaged all major dams, most major pumping stations and many sewage treatment plants, turning Iraq from one of the most advanced Arab countries into one of the most backward. Telecommunications equipment, port facilities, oil refineries and distribution, railroads and bridges were also destroyed.”