the gulf war
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oral history: the decision makers

Examining the Gulf War through the eyes and in the words of those who played major roles

colin powell

photo of colin powellChairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

Q: A big decision day, October the 30th. What did you say to the President?
Powell: We assembled in the Situation Room at the White House. I'd just returned from Saudi Arabia where Norm and I and all of his commanders went over what would be needed for a more workable plan... continue



richard cheney

photo of richard cheneySecretary of Defense

Q: The first part of the air war...were you having nightmares about casualties?
Cheney: I'd never tried to penetrate a mine field, how do you do that? How do you run air control traffic pattern when you've to get 4,000 airplanes all trying to get over Baghdad at the same time?
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james baker

photo ofjames bakerSecretary of State

Q: The President seems to have been determined to give the military everything they wanted. Why?
Baker: I think the President was aware of the experience of Vietnam consistently throughout this episode....
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margaret thatcher

photo of margaret thatcherPrime Minister of England

Q: George Bush and Dick Cheney were being told by Colin Powell to give sanctions a chance....
Thatcher: Look, sanctions don't work. There's a possibility that we would cut off a lot of the money flowing to Iraq, by cutting out the oil....
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robert gates

photo of robert gatesDeputy National Security Adviser

Q: What would you have done if Saddam Hussein in that land war had used chemical, biological weapons and started to cause serious casualties?
Gates: We had prepared for the possible use of chemical and biological weapons by the Iraqis....
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brent scowcroft

photo of brent scowcroftNational Security Adviser

Q: You were pretty upset about the first military briefing given at the White House.
Scowcroft: I was not happy and it sounded to me like a briefing by people who didn't want to do it.... continue



richard haass

photo of richard haassNational Security Council Director for Near East and South Asian Affairs

Q: Why do you think Saddam Hussein invaded?
Haass: People call Saddam Hussein irrational. I don't think he's irrational. I think it was probably quite an intelligent move....
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mikhail gorbachev

photo of mikhail gorbachevPresident of the Soviet Union

Q: What was your initial reaction on hearing Kuwait had been invaded by Iraq?
Gorbachev: A surprise. An absurd decision. That action could have been done only by an adventurer or a person who did not have a sense of reality.
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