He was extremely needy, economically--largely for his own mistakes-- but all the same, the bottom line was he was extremely needy. Kuwait was extremely wealthy, it had a pile of more than a hundred billion dollars sitting there getting invested. It was extremely weak militarily. Saddam probably figured he could do it quickly, as he could militarily, and the Arab world and the world at large would bitch and moan for a couple of days, and then people would get used to it. And the world would essentially learn to live with it. And the United States, which had left Lebanon a decade before and so forth was not going to do anything. And even if the United States wanted to do something, the local Arabs would never do anything, they would never work with the United States and stand up to Saddam. I think Saddam took the pretty intelligent decision that he could proably get away with it.
Interview with Richard Haass, National Security Council Director for Near East and South Asian Affairs
Q: Could you sum up the approach the Administration were taking towards Saddam Hussein and Iraq in 1990?
RH: The Bush Administration came into office in early '89. That was six months after the end of the Iran Iraq War. Iraq had emerged as the most powerful country in a key part of the world to us. I think the feeling was at the time, let's at least try to develop a workable relationship with Saddam Hussein who, after all, we were able to co-operate with in limited fashion during the war against Iran. For about a year or so the United States tried that. The policy tends to be called constructive engagement. The idea was to put forward some very limited economic carrots and see whether we could maybe encourage them to behave moderately in the Gulf. After about a year, by the end of 1989, the conclusion had increasingly gone through the Administration that it wasn't working, that constructive engagement with Saddam just wasn't happening, and by the spring of 1990 that became even more widespread as a conclusion. So the real question was what to do about Saddam. Do we continue this extremely limited relationship or do we eliminate it? The Congress was calling for eliminating it; the Administration I think essentially concluded, let's at least keep the door open. Let's let him know that he's being tested, that we don't like what we're seeing, we don't like the fact that he and his people are obviously killing people, that - they're illegally exporting things that could potentially help the nuclear programme, that there's all sorts of corruption going on with our US economic aid, and so forth. So the feeling was let's - let's revise - at least review this relationship.
Q: So by the spring/summer of 1990, before the Kuwait invasion, the idea that the US and Iraq are having some sort of ..... ?
RH: By the spring of 1990 - any attempt at a sort of new relationship had essentially run aground. The Iraqis knew full well - I think there was a quote at some point where Saddam actually said to somebody, "what else can you take away from me?" There really was very little left in the pot at that point, and I think the consensus in the Administration was that we were right to try to develop a better relationship with Iraq but that, because of Iraqi behavior at home and abroad, it was simply impossible.
Q: When did Iraq first register on your radar with regard to Kuwait?
RH: Historically, there's always something ..... about Iraqi claims to Kuwait, and I've done some studying of the Gulf, I've done my doctorate on it. And ..... so I know something about it. But in terms of this particular job, it simply hadn't registered until July. I had actually been in Iraq and Kuwait as recently as May. It was not on the radar scope then. But it really was July when the crisis began.
Q: July 17th, he made a television address when he threatened Kuwait. Do you remember that?
Q: What happened? Do you remember it coming across your desk? How did you assess it when it happened?
RH: Again, - mid July or somewhen you did have Saddam Hussein getting much more bellicose in his public statements and in reports of his diplomacy the general take in the administration, and it was my take as well, was that this was - what you might - it was pounding the tom-toms. It was Saddam Hussein essentially trying to add some muscle to his diplomacy; he was clearly hurting economically, he was clearly trying to muscle OPEC to get the Arab oil producers to do his bidding in terms of reducing output and raising price. And when he started threatening Kuwait, which was widespread believed that they were perhaps over-producing, that this was again part and parcel of his economic strategy.
Q: The build up starts. When do you first hear of the build up, and again, what's your take on that?
RH: I don't temember when I first read of the build up. I assume it was probably essentially when it began. Every day you get tons of stuff in the in-box in government. The hardest thing about being a government official is often separating the wheat from the chaff. In retrospect the Iraqi military build up obviously jumps up. At the time it was one of 6,000 bits of information that was coming in to us. I don't remember when I first noticed it. When I did, again, the general feeling was, this is probably the 1990 equivalent of gunboat diplomacy. Rather than bringing gunboats into the harbor, like the British Navy might have once did, this was Saddam bringing his equivalent of gunboats up against the border, again to pressure Kuwait and to send a signal to the Arab oil producers that the time had come to follow the Iraqi line.
Q: I interviewed President Mubarak. He remembers very well going to see Saddam Hussein and he saying to him unequivocally, "I'm not going to do it. ..... the Kuwaitis, but I'm not going to do this" He reported back to you.
RH: All along the so-called Arab moderates, Egypt's Mubarak, Jordan's King Hussein, and others were basically saying, calm down about Saddam; don't take the man seriously. We've got him under control; it seems we're house breaking him for you. we're going to turn him into a good citizen of the Gulf, so don't over-react. And as recently or as late as July, 1990, that was essentially the message: don't you Americans over-react; this is just Arab rhetoric; we will take care of it in our own Arab diplomatic way, thank you very much.
Q: You were getting though DIA, CIA, all this intelligence information on this huge build up. How did you weigh this with what Mubarak was telling you?
RH: Intelligence provides you a snapshot of capabilities. Every day the snapshots were coming in ................ that Saddam was building up his forces along the border. We could say that. But the entire way in which it was perceived was one of being fairly calm about it. In part this was our - what we were hearing from the Mubarakh's of the world who were saying don't over-react - part of a simple ..... and assessment, that this was a form again of muscular diplomacy, where Saddam was pressuring his neighbors. And perhaps we're victims of our times, but it was hard to imagine that in 1990 somebody was going to bring 100,000 troops up to the border, threaten a country, go on, take it over, absorb it and so forth. I think our mindset was clearly one that this was a form of diplomacy, however muscular, however crude, rather than a form of military preparation per se.
Q: What was the significance of the April Glaspie meeting? From your point of view?
RH: The meeting on the 25th if my memory serves me right, had a big impact. Just before that meeting I had actually written a memo to the President saying, we're getting all this intelligence, obviously concerned. I gave him my analysis. I said there are several options. The most likely option I thought was simply that Saddam was bluffing and this was ...... of supporting his diplomacy. The second option is that he was going to take a bite out of Kuwait. Most likely to then trade it for what he wanted in the way of oil diplomacy. Third scenario was the one that he would actually invade and try to conquer all of Kuwait, which of course he could do if he wanted to. I said I thought the third scenario, the most ambitious one, was the least likely, even though I was concerned because he had put more forces on the border than were necessary for either of the first two scenarios, to simply threaten or to take a bite out of Kuwait. I finished the memo, I was sending up when suddenly the cable came. And what I did was I scribbled on the top of the memo, "What I've written may be a little bit OBE (overtaken by events), Mr. President, because things look a little bit calmer now. ....... just come in with a cable essentially saying, I think this situation's going to wind down; we Americans need to sit tight and not over-react". So my general feeling then was her meeting with Saddam was something of a breakthrough and probably the beginning of the diffusion of the crisis.
Q: Because everyone was concentrating on the signals she was giving to Saddam. Was that what mattered, or was it what she was bringing back that mattered?
RH: Well from where I was sitting, the input of the Ambassador was important because it was the best take I could get on Saddam. It was the best form of intelligence, if you will, that I could get. What she was essentially saying was, "this crisis is probably not going to happen, but this is a bit of very elaborate, however crude, Saddam-choreographed diplomacy." So from where I sat, it meant, this was probably peaked as a crisis and now was going to work itself out Arab-style. That was the biggest impact on me. The impact on Saddam - mixed. It was not as elegant or specific as one would have liked; on the other hand I think he got the message that the United States had important interests in that part of the world and that, while we did want to see those interests, if you will, protected peacefully, we wanted to see him back off. He should have left that meeting with no doubt about the American commitment to that part of the world.
Q: Would you like to have seen a harder message delivered?
RH: I think she's taken a little bit of a bum rap. Yes, we probably could have jacked up her message 10% in terms of firmness; on the other hand she could not have jumped on the desk and said, "Saddam, don't you invade or we're going to put half a million people there." One, it wouldn't have been credible. Two, it's important to remember that at the time the purpose of this meeting was to get a sense of what he was doing and the sense was that things were probably unwinding, that things were getting diffused. And secondly to communicate to him a sense of American fairness. We didn't want a war. What we wanted was Saddam to back off. So the idea that she was going to rant and rave was probably unrealistic. What we really wanted was not to screw up the diplomacy that was going on, and at the same time to communicate some fairness. Maybe she didn't get that mix 100% right; maybe she was a little bit too careful not to undermine the diplomacy. But by and large she had a tough job; I think she did it okay.
Q: 25th July. Where have you got to, if you're George Bush, by 25th July?
RH: I think by the time George Bush went back to the residence on July 25th, ....... in a sense it was a crisis that, while it probably might pass, had largely peaked, that it was on its way to getting resolved. That the Iraqi debacle was more political than military, it was to back up Iraqi diplomacy. It meant an intervention or an invasion by Iraq was unlikely, and that more than anything else the risk was probably over.
Q: Do you remember briefing him at all during that period?
RH: I don't remember briefing him. I think - the memo I sent up on the 25th, essentially trying to analyze Saddam's intentions, took care of things, and again, after the cable came in from April Glaspie on July 25th after her meeting, there is a sense that the air had gone out of the balloon a little bit, that again, this crisis had probably passed and so there wasn't a need to say, I need 10 minutes or half an hour of the President's time, 'cos the feeling after her cable came in is that this crisis was probably not going to become a crisis.
Q: When did your view on that begin to change? The build up was continuing..... When did you start to think--this hasn't gone away?
RH: My view of the crisis stayed with me every day after July 25th, but really didn't peak or get really serious until August 1st. The diplomacy was still continuing, the idea that he would keep forces in place or even continue to add them up didn't hit me as shocking, given his own style of diplomacy, which was obviously heavy handed. The idea that institutions, once they begin things, often continue doing things. So I wasn't shocked by that or particularly alarmed.
Q: Before I move on to the events of August 1st, the Kuwaits, the Ambassador has described to me how he was getting these daily DIA briefings. Did you want the Kuwaitis to take some of the symbolic pressure?
RH: What we were doing in the week or ten days or so before the war began, when we did get somewhat alarmed, is we were trying to balance a calming message with a firm message. Part of the firmness was to offer a small exercise to the countries of the region. If I remember correctly, it was a tanker refuelling exercise. The idea is we'd send some American planes over and we'd work this out of local countries. The only taker was the United Arab Emirates. As it turned out it was more than a week before the exercise could actually happen because I think the planes that were sent over had the wrong type of fuel connectors. I can remember ........... asked me, has the exercise happened yet, and I said, no, no, no. The Kuwaitis and others were clearly reluctant to do sometehing like that; they were scared of being provocative.
Q: And the relationship at the time with the Kuwaitis...How would you characterize the relationship at the time?
RH: It's important to remember that the relationship with Kuwait was scratchy. For along time Kuwaithad been often the most anti-American of the voices in the Gulf, and often criticized the Saudis and others for being too close to us. It was not about taking easy or cheap shots at us; the idea that we were going to put this great embrace around Kuwait when we hadn't had a particularly intimate relationship. That was a stretch, and the idea that the Kuwaitis would be uncomfortable about accepting a military execise.... their whole idea was a kind of equidistant between the super powers, Kuwait- do- it-itself sort of diplomacy.
Q: August 1st - a CIA oficer came to see you that morning. What was he saying to you?
RH: Well by August 1st it was clear that this was probably at this point more than simply muscular diplomacy, that the Iraqis were getting ready to do something, what exactly we didn't know. It might have simply been taking oil fields or the islands, it might have something more. We had no idea what they were doing. But by August 1st it was clear that they were up to more than simply flexing their muscles.
Q: Do you remember the conversation that you had that morning with the CIA officer. Was he banging the table and saying, "hey, they're going to do it."
RH: Briefings almost never involve people banging the table. In this case people come in with their charts and say, here is what's going on, here is the movement of forces, here's what we can pick up about the state of readiness, here's what we think. People who are responsible for warning places like the CIA historically tend to be the most sensitive to narrow warning - developments. People who are often responsible for general political analysis tend to be calmer 'cos they see things in a wider context. On the morning of August 1st a lot of the warning indicators were - had gone off. They simply suggested that the Iraqis were not just flexing muscles but looked to be preparing to do something. But none of those indicators could tell you what they might be preparing to do.
Q: So your take on it at the time, that morning?
RH: My take by the morning of August 1st was that the Iraqi military was likely to do something but I'd no idea what the full dimensions of it might be.
Q: What happens next?
RH: Actually the meeting on August 1st what happened was almost a rolling Deputies' Committee meeting, but really an expanding one. We must have had 15 or 20 people in the room ..... at the State Department that day. Bob Gates was out of town, so I was the main person from the White House. What it was was all the policy and intelligence people around the table saying, okay, what's the latest intelligence, what do we make of it, how certain are we that the Iraqis are doing something. What are our military options if they strike? Where are our forces? What should we do diplomatically? And I think what you have is a meeting that went from late morning to late afternoon, to probably 5.00, where people just generally massaged it. And by 5.00 the general consensus was, yes the Iraqis are extremely likely to be doing something, no we don't know what exactly it is they are likely to do, and we the United States had ought to send the Iraqis a signal.
Q: The meeting itself, was there a dramatic moment?
RH: To me the most dramatic moment was the end of the meeting where, after meeting for five or six hours over at State, I was essentially deputized to go back to the White House to meet with Scowcroft and the President and to convince them to take one last shot at trying to influence Saddam. So I hurried back to the White House, I spoke to Scowcroft, I described the meeting; I said, let's go and see the President. - He said, fine, he picked up the phone to the President's appointments secretary. We got in right away. He and I went in to see the President who was over in the residence at that point. I briefed the President on the situation as we knew it, I briefed him on all the details in the meeting and the idea was that he would take one last effort at communicating with the Iraqis. Well we talked about all the possibilities. Do we do it here, through the Embassy, do we do it through the UN, do we do it through Baghdad?
The feeling was probably through Baghdad but we had no illusions about how hard it would be 'cos by then, six or seven o'clock our time, was the middle of the night their time. But we also knew that, unless you got to Saddam, probably nothing else would do. So the feeling was that, we talked it over, and the President was literally about to pick up the phone and try to think of how to get through to Saddam, and I was going to call the Ambasssador and try to set it up. And just as we were talking about what exactly we would say to Saddam in this last effort to - get him to think twice before doing anything, that's when the phone rang. And it was Bob on the line for Scowcroft saying, "we've just heard from our people in Kuwait, shooting has started. This war, whatever it is, has begun." Scowcroft said, thanks very much, hung up the phone, described to us what had happened and clearly our conversation had suddenly just become .... And the feeling was, okay, let's get to work, let's see what we have, let's see what we want to do.
And the President said, all right then, so much for our calling Saddam. And the feeling was, let's get to work, we promised the President we'd keep him abreast, we'd fill him in as soon as we had anything, as soon as we heard from the intelligence people. So Ben and I went back over to his office in the West Wing and that was the beginning of that night, which became a long, long series of inter-agency meetings using this closed circuit secure television network that had been established.
Q: Did you know straight away that this mattered?
RH: I knew straight away that it mattered; I didn't know straightaway how much it mattered. - Until we had a full sense of what Saddam had done and the consequences, I didn't have a sense that this really was a .... It took probably 24 hours for that to happen. It really wasn't until the next - or maybe 12 hours - it wasn't until the next morning that I had a sense that this was not just another crisis, that this was a major thing by any definition of the word major.
Q: Why did he do it-- why do you think Saddam Hussein invaded?
RH: People call Saddam Hussein irrational. I don't think he's irrational. I think it was probably quite an intelligent move. He was extremely needy economically, largely for his own mistakes, but all the same the bottom line was he was extremely needy. Kuwait was extremely wealthy, it had a pile of more than a hundred billion dollars sitting there getting invested. It was extremely weak militarily. Saddam probably figured he could do it quickly, as he could militarily, and the Arab world and the world at large would bitch and moan for a couple of days, and then people would get used to it. And the world would essentially learn to live with it. And the United States, which had left Lebanon a decade before and so forth was not going to do anything. And even if the United States wanted to do something, the local Arabs would never do anything, they would never work with the United States and stand up to Saddam. I think Saddam took the pretty intelligent decision that he could proably get away with it.
Q: And, again, you must have thought long and hard about this, why didn't you spot what was going to happen? What do you think was the fundamental reason why you weren't able to say to the President, hey, this guy we've got to watch, he's really dangerous, he's going to do it?
RH: None of us harbored any illusions about Saddam Hussein. I think though that the reason we failed to predict what he did was simply because of its sheer brazenry and its magnitude. The idea that on a Sunday afternoon or something I was going to stroll into the Oval and go, by the way, Mr. President, Saddam Hussein is going to amass 100,000 plus forces and is going to walk into Kuwait and he's going to make this the 19th province of Iraq, and this is going to be major test of the post-Cold War world. It was too dramatic. Particularly when he probably could have had a lot of what he wanted short of doing that. Saddam, simply by being ... powerful, simply by being next door to Kuwait, it could have probably Finlandized and could have done what Syria did to Lebanon originally or what the Soviets did to Finland. He could have ..... pressured Kuwait into probably giving him a lot of what he wanted. Maybe we were - maybe we were victims of a mindset. Here it is, it's the post-Cold War world, people are talking about the end of history. Maybe we thought that the era had passed when countries, if you will, ............ with all their military force and simply tried to erase other countries off the map. Maybe it was simply too big of a thought for us to comfortably absorb. And if that's the case, I plead guilty.
Q: One final thing. John Kelly and the hearing, which I suspect was. How much did that matter?
Haass: John Kelly's statements of events when he was Congressman Hamilton, were perhaps more categorical than they ought to have been about what we weren't going to do about the absence of a military commitment. But I would say two things. First, no one should have doubted our interests and the fact that we didn't have a treaty commitment ought not to have been over ... In any case, I think all of these criticisms of John Kelly at the hearing of April Glaspie, her meeting, I think all of these criticisms are misplaced. I don't think there is anything any American representative could have credibly said where Saddam would have been rocked back on his heels and figured out that, if he did this, he would have half a million Americans, several hundred thousand others, a dozen or two UN Resolutions, Arab states going cheek by jowl with American, you know, ....., Christians, Jews, what have you, to resist him. I just don't think any diplomatic message could have persuaded Saddam Hussein that the war would have done what it did. It's that simple.
Q: And the Kuwaitis, could they have done something?
Haass: I don't think there was anything the Kuwaitis could have done to have dissuaded Saddam. Their military was so modest as to be non-existent. The entire history had been diplomatically posed as a kind of go it alone, play off everybody. The idea that a fellow Arab state and an Arab monarchy was going to put its future on the line and associate itself with the West and the United States and roll the dice against a fellow Arab and an Arab radical and a major Arab power - if you're Saddam Hussein that would have probably been one of the less likely outcomes. Indeed it's the reason I don't think Saddam was crazy. It probably wasn't necessary that he did what he did; I think he could have had a lot of his cake without having to have used military force. But it wasn't a crazy calculation. The idea that the Kuwaitis and the Egyptians and the Americans and the Israelis and all these countries were going to work together and resist him and do what they did, I don't think on a scale of probability of one to ten, that it was probably no higher than one.
Q: Everyone gathered in the room and the President let the press in for a few minutes and he said, we're not discussing intervention. What did you think?
Haass: As soon as the President said that my heart sank 'cos I knew what he meant and I knew how it would be interpreted. What the President meant was we were not yet discussing it 'cos the feeling was it would be premature, we were looking at our other options, but the way it came out, it came out too hard edged and it made, it made it sound as if we had considered it and we'd rejected it. And it would be interpreted as a signal of weakness. As soon as the meeting ended I went up to Brad Skocroft and I said we have to look for an opportunity to correct that. I explained and he said `You're right' and we ultimately found opportunities to correct it.
Q: Could you describe the nature of that meeting?
Haass: That first meeting reinforced the rule that first meetings of any group are always awful. First meetings are kind of a time for what I call station identification, people go on the air and they say things and they haven't really quite thought it through. In this case you also had several key people out of town, people hadn't had a lot of sleep, they were absorbing stuff. To call it unfocused would probably be uncharitable. What you had was a lot of people talking. To put it bluntly, what we ultimately did--sending half a million people around the world and all that that entails--that was too big of a thought for people at that first meeting even to think about. So instead you had people talking all over the place many of whom were talking about how we could live with this. Let me give you an example... some of the people, particularly from the economics side of the house, were talking about the impossibility of embargoing oil cos the idea that oil is fungible. The moment someone said `well hold it! we're not just talking about voluntary embargoes we're talking about physical cut offs, closing down pipelines, shooting oil tankers out of the seas' and you could see people's eyes go very wide, `oh my god I never thought of that, are you serious? you can't really be serious'. What that first meeting was a kind of coming to terms with the crisis and as a result it was a fairly unfocused effort.
Q: The President, was he making it clear at that meeting that he wasn't accepting the status quo or at that stage was he just keeping his counsel?
Haass: The President was pretty much keeping his counsel; he wanted to let other people talk a lot to get their unvarnished views. He was in more of a listening mode at that point.
Q: And was Colin Powell talking at that stage about the use of military power?
Haass: Not really, there was very little about that. I think it was Colin who gave an initial briefing about where our forces were, what the latest Iraqi military order of battle looked like. The first serious military briefing didn't happen 'til Saturday morning up at Camp David.
Q: Why were you so upset after that meeting?
Haass: I walked out of that meeting about as unhappy as I've ever been in government. My sense was that Saddam had thrown down a gauntlet not just for the Gulf but for much bigger stakes... and I think it means something. And there is a sense I had at the meeting that the people around the table didn't grasp it, they didn't get it and they were not responding commensurate with the stakes. And I was just extremely unhappy and I remember telling Scowcroft how unhappy I was and he said `I hear you, I hear you' and he and the President were taking off for Aspen and he said `Look there's going to be another meeting, get us ready for that, I'm with you, don't worry about me don't worry about the President, but do what you have to do'. So I went back to my office and wrote the briefing memo for the second NSC meeting and it gave me a chance to put on paper what I thought were the stakes l what I thought needed to be done and it was almost therapeutic 'cos it allowed me to sort of say I really didn't like this first meeting and here's the sort of response that I think we need.
Q: And why did this invasion matter?
Haass: The invasion mattered on a couple of levels, one was oil. If Saddam controlled Kuwait it wouldn't simply be the control over that chunk of the world's oil but no other country in the region could ever be independent again. They knew that if they ever crossed Saddam at the next OPEC meeting this could happen to them, he didn't have to invade Saudi Arabia or the other producers to have control over them. Big end to the peace process, Israel would never be free to even contemplate a trade of territory for peace with anybody . But beyond the region it would set in motion the worst conceivable trends that this was going to be the nature of the post cold war world there's essentially going to become a free for all. You don't get historical training points a lot, maybe I studied too much history, but this to me was one of those training points and I just had the sense that whatever he did and didn't do, whatever he said or didn't say, was going to have consequences beyond this crisis. Even though the crisis itself had enormous stakes. So I just thought this was one of those times in history when things counted.
Q: Aspen....the meeting between Thatcher and Bush. What was its significance?
Haass: Aspen's become one of the myths of the crisis, that George Bush went off there weak-kneed and returned back to Washington stiffened. I just don't see it ..., based on what I knew from him and Brent Scowcroft before they went off pretty much knowing what they wanted. What I figured happened between him and Mrs Thatcher at Aspen was a kind of reinforcing of each other's spirit, I think they were essentially in the same place. What was nice for each of them was to have this kind of echo effect and I think each of them came out sort of aaah- isn't this great, now we can move forward together so I think it had a reinforcing effect that sort of added 5 or 10%. It didn't create the American response any more than it created the British response. A lot of people also confused the don't go wobbly, heh it didn't happen here, it had nothing to do with Aspen and happened six weeks later and I think there has just been a lot of historical confusion which has exaggerated the significance of it.
Q: I'll ask you about the 'don't go wobbly', were you there for that incident. The 'don't go wobbly'. We'll get on to it later. Were you at the second NSE meeting? How was this different?
Haass: The second NSE meeting was night and day, if the previous one was night this one was day. Before the meeting there was a little huddle in the Oval Office where B..... Dick T.... and others had essentially talked. Everybody knew when they were coming out. The President wanted to speak because the President was upset with the first meeting and B said then 'Mr President, hold back, if you speak we'll never know what everybody else thinks', the President agreed. What you then had was a meeting where Larry, Dick Cheney and Grant ..... each spoke uh, one more passionate and the other cooler than the other. It was really impressive, each one sang 'this is one of those moments in history where you've got to do the right thing, we've got to stand out, we've got to resist' and the media on the table was 'OK, let's do it'. The meeting no longer was a debate about what the United States had to do.
Q: And the President, what did he say?
Haass: Uh, he gave you his careful pursuit of ... certain things to ... but he was 100% with the consensus at the point, at that point.
Q: You've said it so I'm not asking you to be disloyal to the President or anything um, cos actually I don't think it's a matter of disloyalty. Your sense of where the President was at at that time?
Haass: Oh at that time I think the President was at least as far if not farther than any of his advisers. I think he understood that when Presidents of the United States start using words like unacceptable and the rest about what the consequences are you don't bandy about these words lightly. I think the President understood what he was potentially going to have to do. But he still hoped he could avoid having to do it but he had no doubts whatsoever that Saddam had to be denied what he had done.
Q: At this meeting, I mean in terms of my
tidy Television Producers mind, this meeting mattered?
Haass: I think the second NSE meeting, the Friday meeting mattered because it was a way in which the Government got its legs. It was the way which the Government consensus came together after the awful first meeting and just simply, maybe by then 36 hours had passed, people had found their balance and had essentially gotten a sense of direction and a sense of purpose, a sense of seriousness, and all the lack of focus of that first meeting had dissipated.
Q: Camp David, a sense of history as you gather there?
Haass: ... humour basically lasted for 2 hours. I think it was from 8 - 10 or so that morning uh, most of us helicoptered up from the Vice President's place. The people from the Pentagon helicoptered out from there. Uh, the first hour was essentially a briefing from the military types, from S..... about what the other side was doing, what we could do. And the second hour was really a conversation about our military options and in particular about how to approach the Saudis and get them on board. What Camp David was, was the first serious military conversation and a real sense of seriousness that this had to go forward if diplomacy was to have a chance and this had to go forward assuming diplomacy didn't work.
Q: People have told me the President's very graphic dangers of appeasement at that meeting. Do you remember him talking about that?
Haass: I never saw it. I was the note taker and I should have.
Q: As you say you were the note taker, I've heard all sorts of long interminable accounts of the meeting but what for you were the high points, what do you remember? Colin Powell or Schwarzkopf or the President or Dick Cheney?
Haass: To me the high point of the meeting was people being realistic and understanding that there was no way to do this without the Saudis. What you have to remember is that when this meeting was held there was some uncertainty about whether the Saudis and the others were going to throw in their lot with us and there was some toying around with, 'well let's do this without them if we have to', some kind of tough talk. And people like me and others were saying 'Hold it, you really can't, uh you need a place to work with' uh and so the meeting was really realistic about our military requirements and more than anything else led to the Cheney mission and the whole idea of building a close working relationship with the Saudis and the other Gulf countries in order to put together a large scale military effort.
Q: Was there any serious discussion of just having an air campaign and not putting ground troops in?
Haass: Well there was some discussion about what to do if the Saudis didn't go along and it was all over the place. And what was good was that by the end of the discussion the sense was 'Look let's make a focused attempt to get the Saudis, I think we have a decent chance' and that it was essential to have even an air campaign as well as well as a ground effort.
Q: So to sum up by the end of that meeting, the President and the administration were saying that we're going to send ground troops, we're going to get military option going but we need the Saudis. Could you sum up for me where, by the end of that meeting, the situation had gotten?
Haass: By the end of Saturday morning's meeting at the Camp David there was a consensus that we had to get the Saudis on board. The idea was that first Skowcroft, I think S... and I were going to meet with the Saudi Ambassador several times in Washington. The whole idea then was to launch what became an achieving mission. Uh and that this was the precursor for the United States ..... ultimate troops. Ground troops as well as air forces uh in that part of the world to defend Saudi Arabia and also the view to put into place the beginnings, the foundations of what might ultimately be required if we were ever going to have to go beyond that and actually liberate Kuwait. But the whole idea at this point was to defend Saudi Arabia. We knew that while we could put airforces in first we also needed some ground forces as well.
Q: How much worry was there that he would move into Saudi?
Haass: There was real worry and this to me, actually, was the most frightening time in the crisis. This was the point at which there was the greatest difference between what Saddam could do and where we were. If he had gone on those first few days, if he for example had sent in forces, had destroyed runways, had used chemical weapons against Saudi runways, it would have been a nightmare for us. We were at our most vulnerable, this was the point at which the comparison between what he could bring to battle and what we could bring to battle was at its most dramatic. So this to me, these few days from that meeting and when we first began to introduce forces, several days later, this was the scariest time of the crisis.
Q: And the mood of that meeting. I asked you to characterize that mood. Was it purposeful or was there still a feeling of great crisis? I'm not saying that people were panicking, was there a feeling of crisis, a feeling that this was serious stuff, the administration's arse was on the line, that, you know, this had to
be sorted out.
Haass: Oh, yeah, there was a feeling, a feeling of, there was a feeling of real purposefulness and also of stakes. There was a sense that our situation in the Gulf, our ... ... and probably the administration was on the line. And did any of us imagine and that we would succeed and the Administration still didn't get re-elected. That's a different point. But there was very much a sense that if this went badly this would be the end of the Bush administration.
Q: What happened with the Saudis next. There is evidence and .... ... was telling me that these guys, no doubt with some funny dish somewhere was picking up evidence or that the Saudis were thinking of cutting a deal in Geneva, paying a bit of money to the Iraqi's. How much to you was the worry that the Saudis were going to cut a deal, kiss some cheeks and sign a cheque.
Haass: There was real concern about the Saudis, about what either they would do with Iraq or what they wouldn't do with us. The feeling was that maybe the Saudis wouldn't be comfortable about .... ..... inviting us in and really casting their lot with us. There are those who protected their word, there were those who said 'No way'. What we made sure is that before Dick Cheney went over was that Saudis understood that his mission was not to ask them about whether they would work with us, but he would only go over if they understood in advance that by his going over they had already agreed to work with us and that his going over was to work out the details. And the Saudis resisted that and then they tried to basically say 'Well send Dick Cheney over, we'll talk about it' and in the meetings that B... Skowcroft, ... .... and I had with Prince .... the message was very much 'Uh, uh, we want to work with you but we can't have a situation where the American Secretary of Defense flies over and then you all say thank you very much and we don't want to proceed'. That would be the worst of all possible outcomes. If you accept him you have to know that you have accepted the idea of working with us voluntarily. They resisted that at first, ultimately they agreed and the mission went forward.
Q: How did you get the agreement? Was it B that came to you or?
Haass: We had meetings with B... who then spoke to his Uncle, the King, and we were determined that actually they had to be impressed, and I think B... himself would say this to you, they had to be impressed or convinced of our seriousness. We said be convinced, we are not playing around and whatever numbers you are thinking about multiply them several times over. If we send forces to this we are not going in light. Be convinced of our seriousness, I think that gave B.... the ammunition he needed to go back home to convince his Uncle to give us the green light and as a result the Cheney mission could proceed.
Q: And how did you get the green light? Was there a phone call or was there...?
Haass: B.... was with us and if my memory serves us right uh, it was understood that they agreed to our terms to the visit.
Q: Why would it have been so disastrous, I mean I can understand you said ....., why would it have been so disastrous if Dick Cheney had gone and they said 'heh, no it's nice to see you but forget it'.
Haass: If Dick Cheney had gone over and left with anything less than full Saudi agreement to a serious military effort they would have convinced Saddam that he was white. That the Americans and/or his local Arab partners would not stand up to him and secondly it might have actually encouraged him to go on. Not only would it have allowed him to consolidate what he had done it may have actually tempted him to keep going. Plus it would have been a terrible message for us, the United States, to send that we were unable to arrange an adequate diplomatic base to do something militarily. This was still early on in the crisis, everything that was said or done would send out all sorts of signals, would establish precedence, it was essential that we started out on a firm footing with the Saudis.
Q: What was the significance of the actual Cheney meeting. I mean I've seen it dressed up as this moment of great drama and Dick Cheney makes it clear that he wasn't sure what the outcome was going to be, and for you was there a degree of nervousness over the meeting or did you think 'Heh, signed and sealed he's just got to shake hands and away we go'?
Haass: There's always a degree of uncertainty no matter what you know in advance and no matter what assurances we had that the Saudis were all on board. You never knew until you knew. That said, I was pretty confident that it would work and the people we were sending over I had zero doubts about whatsoever. It would be presumptuous or .... for me to have any doubts in the first place. No, I felt pretty good about it.
Q: And just to leap ahead in the chronology for a bit, where you in the White House when Dick Cheney, were you in the Oval Office when Dick Cheney called there?
Haass: I don't remember.
Q: What I really want to ask you about now, after Camp David you went back to Washington. .....
Haass: We're breaking up from the meeting, it's about 10 o'clock in the morning and the Presidents .... we're walking towards the, uh to get to the helicopters, and there's Pam Schreiber and Chris Evert, and the President goes uh we should ... and stay you need a fourth for tennis. Uh, you know the idea of joining that foursome would have been uh needless to say one of the great moments, and I sort of looked at Skowcroft. He ...... ..... what the hell did you think you ...... anyhow. Uh and I trooped back to Washington because it was a beautiful day and needless to say did not see any of it.
Q: As the President landed... I mean on the following day on the Sunday, you met him. Could you describe how you met him and what you said to him, what you briefed him?
Haass: Yeah, it was a Sunday afternoon. I had been there all day and most of the night and Brad called and said that the President was helicoptering in from Camp David, he Brad couldn't be there, would I please meet him would I please brief him on what is going on and would I please give him some talking points. Uh because he was going to have to say some things to the press. Uh, so I said OK I would do it. I sat down at the machine and was so tired I almost needed help typing away uh, got the help and essentially we were waiting for the President when he landed and didn't move until motioned. Motion leader came out so I went out there and he said uh 'What's going on? What have we heard?' and at this point a lot of it was really to hear form Arab capitals, whether they'd been able to work any diplomatic uh, success. What I essentially reported was NO and despite the promises we had heard from Oman and elsewhere that there had been zero progress and clearly that we weren't going to get any help from those quarters publicly and privately. And that I thought, you know, publicly that we needed to .... ..... .... some very firm messages to the uh, to the press obviously of .... ..... He was pretty fired up even before I spoke to him uh, I think I probably added 10% but he was, he was pretty much there to begin with and then he went off. And uh, this .... ..... ..... uh was not mine and that was just his speaking from where he was.
Q: Were you surprised?
Haass: No because I knew exactly where his head was at and this was simply saying in public what I had already heard him say in private.
Q: People like Colin Powell, and no secret about that, were appalled when they heard him say that the policy making on the hoof, ... we're just talking about containment in Saudi Arabia and was it policy making on the hoof?
Haass: I don't think it was policy making on the fly, I don't think it was uh unthought through uh, we had been talking about defending Saudi Arabia but everything up to that from the UN Resolutions to the freezing of assets to the public comments to the military preparations to the private diplomacy. We had said that this aggression would not stand so what the President simply did was said it publicly. It was stark it was dramatic , it wasn't simply what he said it was how he said it. People got a sense of resolution. I don't think anybody who was involved in the deliberations up to that point ought to have been surprised.
Q: And could I just get you to scroll back and I would just like you to redo what you were advising him because I can see you sort of reeling it off, um, you went out you met the President. You had this some people call it as the coffee order, what was the conversation with the President, what were you telling him?
Haass: What he wanted to know, when I went out to meet the President what he wanted to know was what had happened in the last few hours and what I did was fill him in on the diplomacy. Uh What we might have heard if you ... .... what we had gotten Oman and what we had gotten from Cairo. The entire thing was to give the Arab moderates several days to try to work this out and what I essentially said was there is no progress whatsoever to report. Indeed there might even be a lack of progress because what we see is Iraq digging in and we see no efforts that any of this diplomacy is doing anything but buying time for him. President said 'I hear you' uh and then we just talked very briefly about what he might say and I had typed out some talking points for him which refer to the .... bomb about our resolve and uh how concerned we were. Our disappointment at the lack of progress, our continuing consultation in capitals, in New York and so forth in regards to that and then clearly I did his own spin on it and uh, came up with this ....
Q: Very briefly to talk to you about at one stage when I was making a series I was going to go in to the ins and outs of Mubarak and King Hussein and so on. It seems to me pointless and it's probably better to go for the more global view. Why didn't they get it together? Why weren't the Arab moderates able to pull together some sort of deal?
Haass: The whole tradition of the contemporary Arab world has been trying to work out things collectively. The whole idea of Arab unity, the Arab nation being this collective concept, the whole idea that an Arab state would do to another state what Iraq did to Kuwait was completely foreign, it was really a rejection of an entire concept of modern Arab politics. It was very ... then for the moderate Arabs, the Jordanians uh the Egyptians and the others to really respond in kind and to be as firm with Saddam as the situation warranted 'cos it went against the grain of 'my Arab brother' and let us work this out. The whole theology, if you will, was that Arab unity and the enemy is Israel. Well Israel wasn't the enemy in this case the enemy was another Arab state. I think it was just too big a the thought, it was too politically hard for a lot of these guys to absorb and then act on.
Q: Apparently President Mubarak, he said that weekend, you know as the first initiatives .... ... Mubarak said when the President stood ... the wall that marked the end of Arab politics as he'd known it for 20, 30 years.
Haass: That Sunday, more than anything else I can crystallise that this was not simply business as usual, that this was not just another foreign policy crisis, that this was going to become the final moment for this President and this administration. This was going to become the defining moment for international relations. That Arab politics would never be the same again, that the Gulf would never be the same again. A lot of people watched it, a lot of people were glued to their TV sets and there was something about not simply what President Bush said but how he said it and the starkness of it and the resolution that that image is really ingrained in people's memories.
Q: Whereon about this time America tuned in over many months, you were on the deputy's committee but you drafted most of the stuff, started to think about war aims. What were the war aims and where did you cut them the way you did?
Haass: Well the war aims were fairly limited, essentially the liberation of Kuwait, the restoration of its Government and so forth. The war aims were limited because we were concerned about fashion and the consensus around them. We wanted to work that not simply through the UN, not simply through Moscow but really throughout the Arab world, we didn't want to have a situation where the United States did things to liberate Kuwait then in turn created great unrest in Cairo or elsewhere so the whole idea was to fashion a set of aims that were militarily do-able and that were politically sustainable.
Q: Going to Baghdad, overthrowing Saddam Hussein. Why weren't those ever taken up?
Haass: I don't know how to draft .... that tell you to 'Replace this government with something better'. I don't know how to do that sort of thing without years of occupation and even then I can't guarantee it. But unless you are willing to do the sort of thing the United States and the world did after World War II with Germany and Japan and spend years and years on the ground in a retail occupation, door to door, street to street. I don't know anyway to use military force to engineer the societies of other peoples. The fact in this case it was the 1990's, it was an Islamic society, it was an Arab society, it was half the world away where there were no common traditions. I just thought that was beyond the do-able.
Q: You were looking at what was happening in Sanctions. What was your advice to the President by the time you were getting to the end of September?
Haass: S... stuff out, uh, the decision to go to sanctions was a smart one. There was not a lot else we could do at that point, we'd had the military action early on. There was the chance that sanctions might work. Uh, but just as important, before you could ever use the military option we had to try sanctions. There's always some box you have to check. People couldn't say you didn't try it if you tried it and it didn't work so the feeling was, lets try sanctions, it buys us time, it's a necessary stop, if it works great if it doesn't work OK. Uh, so that's where we were and that's why we began to go down that road real early on, from early August on. People like me did not have a lot of hope that sanctions would work. One, history teaches you to be fairly suspect of sanctions particularly when you're going off to fairly ...... societies uh like Iraq had the potential to be given how totalitarian it was. Uh, I just was worried that it would take too long and ..... the time then began to fray, so I never had any illusions. Quite honestly I was surprised they worked as well as they did and, but I never thought that sanctions alone would do the trick.
Q: Was there a moment when, I'm trying to find a sort of turning point, maybe it doesn't exist, when the President said heh, it's time to crack on now so lets get the offensive options lined up. Some people suggested was when the Emir visited that that precipitated a lot of stuff. When do you think it was?
Haass: You see the Emir's visit was a very emotional one. I remember the meeting in the Oval and then we went on to lunch. The President was clearly affected by that, in detail of it, and uh we all can deal in abstractions but when you reduce all the other concerns to people getting tortured and suffering it's something that people can knot their hands around and they understood. I think it had an impact. The biggest impact was it told us that there's a price to be paid for time. That while we needed some time to build up militarily at some point the passage of time became dysfunctional from our point of view. One of the main reasons it became dysfunctional was the price the Kuwaiti's were paying and to put a good ... sometime there wouldn't be a Kuwait to see. And I think that what the Emir's meeting did was it shortened the President's time for licence.
Q: You say the President was affected could I get you to describe that, both Ambassador Massey and S...... D..... told me he was, his eyes were full, he was almost in tears. Could you describe?
Haass: It was quite different the Emir of Kuwait is not a flashy sort of person, he's very low keyed dour, I think is probably the word. There is something about the setting, uh first in the Oval and then I remember over lunch uh and I was at one end of the table and the President and the Emir of Kuwait were sitting opposite each other in the middle. And sitting there eating my soup and there was something trying to take notes, eat soup and listen and it was just too incongruous. And here is this man here in this splendid setting with this very nice meal and this man was telling them all just powerful stories about whether or not... Uh, the President at one point left and then, and um, get him some map of Kuwait or something, went back in to his study or whatever it was off the room and brought it in. It was just flip. People forget that policy is made by people, Governments are made up of people and it's not actually '.....' to me that another president or another administration would have done the same thing that George Bush and his administration did. A lot of people in hindsight say everything you all did was obvious. Well it wasn't so obvious at the same, at the time, and again my guess says that others would have done, likely would have done different things. Now you can either get it in better or worse. The people of the Bush administration were affected by this crisis and I think what they did was affected by some of these details on accounts.
Q: Did the President say, 'Hey, let's get things moving or weren't you involved in that side of things?
Haass: I was uh, yeah there was just some desire to see uh what was the thinking and...Uh late September, early October Desert Shield was already getting pretty far along. There was also the growing sense that sanctions might not do the trick so clearly thinking had begun to turn towards what ultimately became Desert Storm. Towards the idea of an offensive action to liberate Kuwait and the President and Scowcroft, in particular, were getting anxious to see what was being cooked. And so uh at some point curiosity and impatience got the best of them if you will and people said 'heh, we want to beat him' um hence October 11th.
Q: You didn't sit in on their meeting, can you recount though what happened after it?
Haass: Yeah I was with, I can't remember what I was doing that day but I was doing something else and then afterwards I met with B.... and um I asked him about the meeting and his enthusiasm for what he had heard was finite.
Q: What was your take on it? I must ask what you felt?
Haass: I didn't quite know how to read it. The generous part of me said well these guys haven't had a lot of time to focus on it yet and that explained the rather lack of uh imagination that we were getting. The dark and suspicious side of me said, heh these guys don't want to have to use force to liberate Kuwait and what they've done is come up with proposals that, that they know will get rejected. One of the things uh I've learned over the years from watching people in Washington play the bureaucratic game is the best way to say no is often to say yes. You say yes to what you're asked but you design your answer in such a way with so many conditions that the person who asked you says 'Oh well in that case I don't want it'. And my suspicion at the time was, the dark side of me was saying this is the way certain people were saying no, which was by saying yes in a heavily unimaginative sort of way.
Q: How much in the months before were you, I want to ask it straight and whether you use peoples names or not is up to you, two days before that briefing Conan Powell sat down with Sir Patrick Heine, therefore British Commander and his equivalent, and said he thought sanctions should be given another two years and that a war would be a disaster in the Middle East. Heinz told me all this...in London and people wondered what the hell was going on, um, in dealing in preparing for offensive options at that time how much was this tension, the tension between the people who said 'hey we've got to get on with this' and the people who were saying 'containment'. How much was that a dominant feature of the politics?
Haass: The tension between those who were saying 'let sanctions work' and those who were saying 'sanctions are never going to work, let's get serious about the military alternative' didn't really get that strong yet. Uh, by October it will. Uh the closer we got uh to November and then December clearly, but by September that tension hadn't really coalesced yet. What you sensed was people resisting more than real, more than anything else.
Q: You had this sense that the military were perhaps trying to say 'heh do you really want to fight this'. What happened next from your point of view?
Haass: I, by late October, the political leadership had essentially concluded that sanctions were not going to work, or if they did work were only going to work against a specific military deadline. And what you then had were two tracks that began. One was the acceleration of the military preparations track which ultimately led to the decision to double the forces by uh late October early November, that decision. And secondly you had the diplomatic track which led in late November to Resolution 678 which then set the January 15th deadline and the two were very much connected. Again the diplomatic track it was believe would only work if there was a credible military option but we also knew that unless we established the credible diplomatic track we wouldn't be able to put into place the military options. The two were very much mutually reinforcing.
Q: And getting back to the briefing at the White House, I remember talking to you about this and then we were chatting off the record. OK you weren't in the briefing but you heard what the plan was. What was your perception of the plan itself, I remember you were talking about it in football terms and so on. I had General McLellan thrown at me I've had heh diddle diddle straight up the middle. I mean what did you think about this plan when you heard about it?
Haass: I'm no military expert but it seemed to me to be unimaginative and then some. The analogy I came up with was Ohio state football under Woody Hayes which used to be three yards and a cloud of dust. Never try the forward pass, never try the underarm, but basically go up the middle and grind it out and it's an effective way of giving yardage very slowly with an awful lot of losses along the way.
Q: October 30th, again I don't know if you were at the meeting....
Haass: No I was on...you know I was on the vapour truck so, so I wasn't at that meeting.
Q: Right this was to try and get everything....
Haass: I was on the 678 track, Baker in late October early November, Secretary Baker was leading the diplomatic mission to get countries to sign up to what became resolution 678.
Q: Could you just sum up now...... how remarkable a trip was it?
Haass: That trip was not quite the magical mystery tour. I'd had more fun in my life. Uh on the other hand it was, it was satisfying in a way to do a trip where you had such a specific goal. These were not consultations in the general sense. This was to get countries to sign up to a resolution that had all sorts of consequences. We wanted to get the resolution passed while the United States was still the President of the Security Counsel which meant that it had to be passed by the end of November. We wanted to set a firm deadline and we ultimately came up with January 15 as a sort of compromise date. And the idea was one after one after one to get countries to agree, at least, not to oppose us and we succeeded. And so it was a gruelling but it was, it was a satisfying and necessary undertaking.
Q: Were you with part of the team who was calling the Shevhadnazzi when this phrase or necessary means came up? Can you recall the discussions...? Even if you can't recall in great detail?
Haass: I'm not sure if I was in the room when .... it might have been just Baker and Dennis Ross with Shevhadnazzi. Sorry.....
Q: And in all of this, the Soviets as they were then, how important were they to this whole endeavour?
Haass: The Soviets were important, not simply by what they did but more importantly by what they didn't do. The crisis had taken place a decade before. It would have been very hard to imagine the United States going to bat for countries that worked with and supported and the Soviet Union simply sitting on its hands while one of its major proxies or allies was getting creamed. So the biggest thing the Soviets could do was not do a lot. No, they actually, they did for us as they did in the counsel, that to me is icing on the cake. But my real concern with the Soviets is that they backed, that they sat, they sat it out and they didn't give Saddam reason to believe that they were a friend in his court.
Q: Do you remember watching the vote, the all necessary means vote ..... Tell me where you were.....?
Haass: Uh, no but that is a foregone conclusion cos when we had um, we nearly had everybody on board. The actual vote itself was a bit of theatre, the key thing was getting countries there and even before that what was important was not bringing that process too far along unless we were sure we had the votes. What I wanted to avoid was a situation where the United States in a visible hope, high profile sort of way were not to get support for what became resolution 678 for the use of all necessary means, and fail. Because then if we had failed it would have made it much more difficult to get international, much less domestic support, for going to war with Saddam. So my own view was we could only go for it if we were 99% plus sure that we were going to get it. That was the tricky part. So we went forward enough to get it but not so far forward that if you couldn't get it you couldn't walk away from it. 'Cos people like me thought we could do this without that resolution. It's nice to have but it's not necessary to have. We just had to avoid a situation where we tried to get it and couldn't.
Q: The following day there was the announcement made that James Baker would attempt to go to Baghdad. What did you think of that?
Haass: Uh it's no secret that my enthusiasm for this last ditch diplomatic effort was modest. I didn't see the need for it and I worried that it could be turned against us. That it could be, you know, manipulated. That the Iraqi's could put just enough on the table that the world would say, halt, hold off, let's give diplomacy a chance. So I was very worried that this could be used as a way to pull out the string and once we lost the momentum diplomatically and militarily uh, which was inherent in the resolution leading to January 15th, I was worried that it would be extremely hard maybe even impossible to regain the momentum.
Q: This was domestic politics .......?
Haass: Well, the argument for the mission was 'Go the extra mile' that if you were going to have to go to war and you'd have to remember at that point we estimated that our casualties would be much greater, that it's important to show that you've gone every mile. It was important diplomatically in keeping the coalition together. So I think those were the strong arguments and really even there was a chance it would succeed. This one last chance would show Saddam that we were serious. I was worried that the fact that we were going to the negotiation would have just the opposite effect. That it would show Saddam that we were too hungry to go to war and that it would give him a chance to put things on the table that would feed us diplomatically because people would say 'Well why don't you give him a chance' and ... ... believing why don't you work with that. So I was extremely worried that this would boomerang on us.
Q: How did you find out about it?
Haass: Not my happiest day bureaucratically. Uh I found out about it which is after it essentially had been cooked up and I went in and I uh, I complained, uh I told G... I felt this was a bad idea, here's why. He said 'I hear you, you may be right, but it's too late'. Whenever I'd disagree with him and the President he'd say 'You know the guy in the Oval office he has this uh habit of thinking that he is elected by the majority of the American people and uh, sometimes uh, even if you're right you're going to have to go along', I said 'I hear you, I'll salute, I'll support in any way I can I just think it's a bad idea' and uh, not for the first time I lost an argument.
Q: Were you right? A lot of people in the Middle East believed that Saddam conned ... and pulled the war because of this?
Haass: I don't understand.
Q: Well, a lot of people say that you know because the Americans were in pursuit of .... Saddam conned ... and he might have got out?
Haass: I don't know, I think I'm right that I still think the meeting was ill advised. Uh, in the end it turned out to be a wash Saddam was not clever when they refused to accept the letter, when they basically were so hard headed, um again Saddam saved us from ourselves. If you had handled that meeting with some adeptness, if he had given us a quarter of a loaf he could have complicated things considerably but because uh Tarik Aziz clearly was on an extremely short leash uh it made it feel easy for us to say we tried and no matter what we did Saddam clearly did not want a peaceful way out. So in the end the meeting didn't hurt us but I think it was an unnecessary risk.
Q: Did you want Saddam to withdraw at that stage?
Haass: It sounds awful to say but um you didn't want a peaceful resolution but I mean I was torn, part of me wanted a peaceful resolution for all the obvious reasons, you didn't want any drop of blood to be spilt, but part of me was extremely worried that if there was a peaceful resolution that would, we would buy ourselves some false time and that it would make it much harder to do this sort of thing again 'cos people would say 'Oh well you did it last time, it wasn't necessary, Saddam never meant to do it' and that with the passage of time he would be that much stronger. So my concern was that if we didn't take advantage of this the next time the crisis came around, and I was sure it would, we would be much better, much worse off. Secondly, I had done a paper with the deputy's committee about what a containment strategy would look like. What it would take for us to contain Saddam in the event we didn't have a war and the political and military demands of that policy were enormous and I simply didn't know if we could sustain it ourselves, the United States, and more important the Saudi's the Kuwaiti's and others. 'Cos it would have meant an awfully large American presence in that part of the world so my concern was the alternative to war might over time simply not be sustainable.
Q: The other thing that's going on....
Haass: Could I just add one thing to that?
Q: Yes, of course.
Haass: Uh, with that said I really hadn't accepted yes for an answer. So if Saddam had decided to back out and follow the UN resolutions I knew he had no choice but to act with us and declare victory but I also had no illusions that sustaining victory over time would be an awfully difficult thing because the political and military consequences of having to contain an armed Saddam Hussein I knew would be extraordinarily difficult.
Q: Why didn't he do it?
Haass: Oh, he made constant withdrawals. Even to this day I am stunned by Saddam's failure to exploit all of his options. If he had simply offered up half a loaf, 'OK I'll pull back from this part of Kuwait and not that' or even at the beginning if he'd only gone in to part of Kuwait and rather than getting greedy and going after the whole thing. I think he could have made it infinitely harder for us to have put together the coalition for us to have sustained airforce to have fought the war so forth. But time and time again Saddam, by opting for the maximum, actually made it relatively, I don't like to use the word easy, but made it much less difficult on the United States and the coalition to sustain itself. Yeah, I'm not sure at times so much weather we wanted but clearly he lost it.
Q: One of the .... a lot of people in the intelligence world remember, they had a huge bust up in December, they were .... Did this register on your scope? Or weren't you that interested?
Haass: The .... of the intelligence community there were Saddam's intentions didn't impress me a whole hell of a lot and at some point you become your own intelligence analyst, for better and for worse. And unlike the intelligence people, people like me on the policy side had a better sense of what the policy dimension of it was so I knew often better than they did what was going in and out of the diplomatic channel and so forth. And there guess about Saddam's intentions was arguably no better or worse than anybody else's and whether that person was writing it out ... in the New York Times or sitting uh on the policy side of the Government, I didn't know. Nothing they could say would prove to me that either he's going to stay or not. I just thought that we had to prepare for the fact that he might not leave and that we had to put into place militarily everything we would need to get him out but diplomatically we have to try everything to get him to leave peacefully. The important thing is that if we had to use force no-one could say we rushed to it, no one could say we didn't explore every avenue we had. The force had to be seen as something of a necessary, rather than an optional, choice for us and I think we succeeded at that.
Q: Very quickly what did this whole affair tell you about the intelligence agencies, not just the NIE but the whole......
Haass: Well in ... the crisis, from before the crisis through it intelligence never tells you an awful lot about intentions particularly in a country like Iraq where you're not, where you don't have the luxury or talking to a lot of people or even getting at the way people feel. You mustn't, you're often dealing with a person so it's extremely hard to read this man's intentions, as a result it's extremely hard to read Iraq's intentions. As a result our intelligence community, through no fault of its own, couldn't shine an awful lot of light on what Saddam or Iraq were likely to do next.
Q: Geneva, you and the Deputy's Committee drafted a letter or I suspect you drafted it and they had a look at it. What were you trying to achieve with that letter?
Haass: The letter to Saddam that Secretary Baker tried to hand over to Tarik Aziz at Geneva uh had the same problem of every other communication we had, or the same challenge. We wanted to communicate to Iraq firmness, you have to also communicate to the American audience and to the Arab audience a sense of fairness and what it was was a balancing act that here's what you've got to do uh, here's what will befall you if you don't but you couldn't ask him to go things that were impossible so we weren't asking him, for example to give up power, we weren't asking him for humiliation but we were asking him to get out of Iraq and pull out of Kuwait by the date certain. And, like this communication like all others had to withstand scrutiny in different markets. In the Iraqi market place we had to differentiate between Saddam and the Iraqi people, in the Arab market place and the Islamic market place where we couldn't look insensitive to the welfare of Muslims and Arabs. In the American market place where we had to show a respect for law and fairness but also we had to be tough and again there was an attempt at balancing these various concerns.
Q: The day of the talks, I guess you were sitting with your television turned up. Um, as Jim Baker walked in, what were you thinking?
Haass: I was trying to keep busy. I was trying not to watch uh, the tube and to just keep busy and at that point really preparing for half loaves. A lot of what me and the Deputy's Committed did at that time was uh, play out various gambits. And we would basically say what if Saddam proposes this, what if he proposes a tenth, uh a partial pull back, what if he actually does a partial pull back and promises a complete pull back. What we did was we must have gamed out ten different Iraqi scenarios that we thought would test the coalition. And that's how I was spending my time which was preparing our responses 'cos I knew that if Saddam did something like that we had to be ready immediately with a response. I didn't want him to dominate a news cycle. So if he came out with something I wanted to have us ready to go with a very demanding response that would test his intentions.
Q: Did it seem to you inconceivable that Jim Baker wouldn't walk out with something?
Haass: I had no idea. It seemed to me that yeah, there was that possibility. Again without my job, I couldn't control any of that. All I could do was be prepared for any strategy that Iraq put on the table and the most likely one was the half loaf, quarter loaf. Either they did something or they promised to do something or both. What I really had to have in hand was a script saying 'OK thank you very much but here are the following ... other things you have to do by the following timetable if you want us to lift, if you will, the sword that's hanging over you.' And that to me was the most useful thing I could focus on.
Q: When did you realise the Iraqi's weren't playing ball?
Haass: Oh, I didn't realise that until the end. Once the war began. I still thought at any moment they might say 'OK now we're ready to do it', as indeed happened at various times to the Russians and the French. So at no point until the entire crisis was over did I ever assume that the Iraqi's might not throw us a code ball. Might not put out something that would somehow threaten coalition consensus.
Q: But do you remember Jim Baker, on that specific day in Geneva do you remember Jim Baker coming out?
Haass: Yeah, I was sitting in the uh, I think we were all in the cabinet room. The meeting was congression of leaders at that time and the President went out to take the call from Secretary Baker and I was sitting, he had the uh what I call the big boys, in the cabinet and the congressional leader types were sitting round the table. People like me who also used to be known as the back benchers uh were sitting back then and I was just like everybody else, waiting through uh, to see what the results were.
Q: And what happened then?
Haass: Our President came in uh, his face showed it all uh as did Secretary Bakers' face if you saw him on television, the greyness the, looked drawn, and uh said 'So be it'. Where were we and let's go back to the conversation and indeed they added a real injection of realism and sobriety to the conversation because it was clear then that this was uh, this was not just a dress rehearsal.
Q: Do you remember anything, I don't know how often you see him, but ....the President knew at this time... he became very contemplative over the Christmas period....?
Haass: No not really, ..... would walk around the .... line and so forth, you know, later on.
Q: Tell me about that?
Haass: Yes contemplative but not to the point of immobilism. I mean, everybody would have a sense of seriousness, you had a sense of purpose. I think we were all exhausted what with an overload of adrenaline. There was a sense we were doing the right thing though, it sounds corny but it's true. There was a sense that we would have been nice in this crisis and that what we were doing was right and necessary and we had been responsible and we had looked at all the alternatives and we had tried to work this thing out and we had prepared the military side and we had not micro-managed them and we had basically given them their head. That we had handled this as well as we were capable of doing and in that kind of certain confidence, a certain serenity, because there wasn't a lot of looking over your shoulder over what we might have done differently.
Q: Did you ever gain any insight at the time about what the President would have done if he'd lost the vote. Since he stayed with you on a couple of things I discovered an obscure interview he gave where he said he would have gone ahead anyway. Charles ... recalls a conversation where he said 'Yeah, I would have done it' and Bob Gasse says 'Yes he would have done it'. So can I ask you?
Haass: Various conversations where that question came up involving Ben Skocroft, myself, Bob Gates, Johnson ... President, uh the President's determination at that point not to be deterred by congress was high. I think he would have gone ahead even in the absence of a congressional vote of support. The reason I say I think is, you never know. That it's one thing to say so at the time. It would have been something else to actually have done it. Talk about rolling the dice because there would have been a million uh things introduced in the courts and on the floor of congress and impeachment resolutions and it would have been hard ball. No, it's true that .... but even if that question happened, even if the President had lost the vote, had gone ahead I think had the situation on the ground went well enough he would have been politically safe. He would have insulated himself from it, but we would have had a good old fashioned constitutional crisis on our hands. Whether he really would have pressed it that far I don't know, I think so, but you can never be sure. It's the difference between saying you'll do something in the abstract and actually doing it.
Q: Were you present, again I don't know, for the signing of the national security directive?
Haass: No I think that I was the principal drafter but that uh it happened in the Deputy's Committee but if I'm not mistaken, I don't remember whether B..... did that himself or whether I was in the room as well. As ridiculous as it sounds I just don't remember.
Q: What do you remember about the moment the deadline was crossed? What was it like being in the heart of things, any particular memories?
Haass: I thought of it as being, what a lot of time as being the eye of the storm, and the eye of the hurricane. We were incredibly busy, I'm a list keeper, you know I must have had lists of hundreds of things I wanted to do everyday and crossed them off and so forth. Uh, you are dealing with a hundred things, you're exhausted, you're living on a couple of hours sleep. Uh, because you're kind of calm, because you've got to keep control. It doesn't do to lose control. It doesn't help you, it doesn't help the way you're perceived. And the people around you are kind of businesslike, there's a purpose almost to it. So it's not as though you're nervous, it's, you're too busy doing what you're doing to have the luxury of being nervous.
Q: And the night the air war broke out, where were you then?
Haass: Uh, I was in my office. Um, it was actually one of the nice moments uh, which is, Ben Schocroft called me, um it was one of the reasons that he was one of the best people in the world to work for. And I picked up the phone and he said I just want to tell you um that you've done a great job and you've really helped us up to this point, um and anyway he just, he was confident and I was, we were confident about how this would turn out militarily but it was just a really nice moment to uh, for a boss to say that.
Q: The next night Scud Thursday as it's been called. Could you tell me the story...?
Haass: Actually it was funny. Scud Thursday was the Friday night because again there's a sense of being in the eye of the storm. Once the war began there was surprisingly enough a little bit less for people like me to do because the ball was handed off to the military. So .... effects me but it wasn't quite as intense from diplomacy was right and centre. I actually was thinking of getting home at a reasonable hour uh that night. I recently had gotten married uh .... the person I was married to, and it was about 7-7.30 and I could begin to see that I actually would get home for dinner. Uh something that hadn't happened in months and um I remember walking over to Bert's office around 7 or 7:30 just for a final talk. We had spent hours together every day checking about stuff and this was the final check and I walked over to his office and just when I was there the phone rang, we learned about, about the scud launches. And thus began Scud Thursday and it must have gone from about 7-7:30 at night 'til maybe 10:30-11 o'clock at night. It was a very intense 3, 4 hours and Burt and I were there and Bob Gates and he, Bert's office became sort of action central. Jim Baker,...Marlin Fitzwater... we were all gathered in Bert's office uh, and that's how we spent that night. One of the people who weren't there Dick Cheney, who was over at the Pentagon and the President, who was over in the residence. But otherwise the uh, the Government if you will had gotten reduced to very much the people who were in uh Skocroft's office.
Q: Do you remember Dick Cheney calling?
Haass: Well I remember quite a few things from that night. Uh, Dick Cheyney called early on in the evening to say he's just gotten a call from Misha Adams who was his opposite number, the Israeli Minister of Defence. And the Israeli's clearly wanted to act and my recollection of it is that Dick felt that it would be pretty impossible to keep them out and he relayed that I think to Mr Brent who he was speaking to. Brent got off the phone and relayed the conversation and asked well does everyone agree? I said 'I don't', uh, obviously we argued strongly but perhaps more strong than someone at my modest level should have. I argued extremely strongly how I felt that it was not desirable for the Israeli's to come in for the reasons about coalition consensus and I don't think militarily they could add much at that point and also that I though it wasn't inevitable. That I thought if we laid in, if Secretary Baker and the President laid in I thought we had a chance of keeping the Israeli's out and Adams was not necessarily the right person to take the queue from because he was the Defence Minister. Of course he would want to go in because that's what Defence Ministers naturally wanted to do. I thought if we approached it more from a diplomatic angle that we had a chance of keeping the Israeli's out and people heard me out and agreed to try.
Q: And what happened then?
Haass: Secretary Baker picked up the phone and tried to get Prime Minister Shamir. Who after first Secretary Baker I think spoke to the President explaining the strategy. The President said 'Let's try' the President agreed that he would be valuable to help. Secretary Baker picked up the phone uh I was on the other extension. I speak some Hebrew and the idea was to have a conversation between him and Prime Minister Shamir. And we tried getting through, I don't know if it was a bad connection or we couldn't get the Prime Minister and Secretary, and they asked us for the telephone number. Uh they were going to call us back. And Secretary Baker said 'heh what's our telephone number here' and I said in one of those moments uh Mr Secretary you should remember it's your favourite number uh, everybody cracked up. The reason being a few weeks before Secretary Baker had some fairly rough testimony on the hill where he had told the Israeli Government that if you want peace, uh all you've got to do is call. And he gave them the White House telephone number 202 - 456-1414, I think it was.
And uh anyhow ... comment at the time was ... there goes your chance of ever getting an Embassy and uh, in any case the Israeli's did call back uh, Secretary Baker did have the conversation with um Prime Minister Shamir ... and then in the course of the next 12 hours what you have was a combination of conversations between the President and Prime Minister Shamir and conversations, and cables, or letters rather from the President to Prime Minister Shamir uh basically saying please ..... offer to send ... the Deputy Secretary of State at that time over to speak to him to basically engage the Israeli's to. What brought them together is the serious diplomacy of trying to keep the Israeli's out of the conflict, actively at the same time they did things to make it politically and militarily impossible for them to stay out.
Q: You said that Jim Baker called Prime Minister Shamir, could you recount that conversation, describe its tone?
Haass: The Baker- Shamir conversation which was I'm pretty sure the first of the direct high level ones was the Secretary laid out our position that we would, we understood how difficult it was what we were asking them uh but we really wanted them to sit it out, here's why, strategically and so forth. Uh and please don't do anything before you talk to us again. The idea was to basically freeze the situation a little bit. He entered a series of conversations and exchanges of letters between the President and Prime Minister Shamir.
Q: Wasn't that extraordinary?
Haass: President Bush understood that what he was asking Shamir was in some ways the most difficult thing you could ever ask the leader of another country. Which is not to exercise the most basic of all rights. Which is the right to defend yourself.
Q: Was it something that only a President could ask another head of state, or in this case head of government?
Haass: It's a small fraternity. And it had certain credibility coming from Bush to Shamir that uh he knew how difficult it was. Remember of course also these two guys had not hit it off. No illusions, this was not a warm and close and fuzzy relationship. Yet through this one period they communicated. And maybe because they hadn't been all folksy and friendly it was almost no ... to cosset. And there was very, very straight, very honest, no flourishes, no frills, but I really think they got through to each other and I think that the fact the Israeli's did sit it out. Look I've been a critic of Prime Minister Shamir's but I thought that was incredibly statesmanlike uh the fact that they did sit it out was a real testimony to both him and President Bush.
Q: Adams tells me that every time he thought he was running Shamir down .... The President would speak to Shamir.
Haass: We knew that, we knew that Prime Minister Shamir was going to come under irregular pressure but I would describe, I would try to describe what it was probably like and what it would be like in the cabinet and so forth. And one of the reasons we'd constantly got on the phone, we constantly sent letters, we sent Larry I...... and Paul ...... and others over was we knew that we had to give regular input. We almost had to become part of the Israeli political debate, we knew that was the only way we could influence him.
Q: And regular phone calls from the President?
Haass: Regular phone calls from the President, regular letters uh they .... they sold the very difficult stuff, but again, in order to be effective in diplomacy sometimes you almost have to earn for yourself a suited air table. We almost wanted to become members of the Israeli cabinet on this decision and I think it worked.
Q: Do you remember the point in the evening when the rumour that chemical weapons had been used?
Haass: I remember um sitting there, the first report came, I think it was on CNN I think. That um they'd used chemicals. My reaction was if that's true you can't keep the Israeli's from holding back and at that point we said if it's true that the Iraqi's have used chemicals then we're talking about the nature of the Israeli's response, not whether the Israeli's respond. If it's just how explosive and it does not say massive loss of life I said I still think we can keep them out. Fortunately that turned out to be the case.
Q: And you said he explained earlier when all this happened why Israel...?
Why did keeping the Israeli's out matter?
Haass: I believe it was important to keep the Israeli's out simply because things were going so well. Uh if it ain't broke don't fix it. This coalition was doing extraordinarily well politically and militarily. I can't tell you for sure that if the Israeli's come in, came in it would have fallen apart but they were sure of that risk. And just so the Israelis had to do something vis-à-vis Jordan and the Jordanians had to scramble some fighters and that started an incident. It just seemed to me that this was a string and that we were pulling it and it had the potential to pull apart the sweater. I didn't want us to risk it. Again it may have gone OK but the stakes were too big to risk it and militarily it could not add enough to justify taking the risk.
Q: When did you know you were safe that night from this threat?
Haass: I didn't. We probably broke up that night around 10.30 or 11. By this point I was almost running in Israel. We'd gotten through that but as we drove home I was, had a sense that this problem wasn't going away. That we made it past these few hours but we were only as safe as the next missile and where that hit, what kind of an impact it had, what it was carrying and so forth. That this was clearly something that Saddam was going to keep poking the stick at.
Q: Just to push on from Israelis .... Do you remember Misha Adams coming to the White House?
Haass: I do.
Q: A very angry Misha Adams turns up in the Oval Office, what did he say?
Haass: It was not a happy meeting. The February 11th meeting, the Israeli's were frustrated, understandably with the continuing scud attacks and were not particularly happy with what they were getting in the way of the performance of the Patriots. Weren't particularly happy with the level of effort they thought they were getting from coalition air forces going after the scuds in Western Iraq and essentially wanted to do it themselves. So what you had was Misha Adams expressing all his frustration. And from our point of view it was 'heh we're doing all these things militarily, the level of effort is extraordinary uh, this really is going well, Israel is in fact on balance benefiting from this military effort why aren't you showing a little bit of larger perspective or even gratitude'. And it was one of those conversations where people just did not connect and it was almost emblematic of some of the frustrations that entered into the relations between the Shamir Government and the Bush administration because he belonged on the same side and it was just uh a frustrating meeting which didn't click and yet people went into the meeting feeling pretty good and came out of the meeting feeling pretty uh disappointed.
Q: What did Adams say about the Patriots?
Haass: Uh he was this, Adams was voicing considerable scepticism uh about the Patriots. As it turned out probably some of that scepticism was well placed but at the time we thought the Patriots were doing better than they were.
Q: And in the end I suppose the Patriots were achieving their political purpose?
Haass: Well at the time we thought the Patriots were achieving their military purpose as well as a global purpose. But certainly the political focus was important because no one had any better ideas about how to handle scuds. There are two ways to react them, we either had to go after them on re-entry with Patriots or you go after them at the source before they are launched. The problem with going after them on the ground before they were launched was simply how hard it was. These things were tiny, they're easy to hide, they're out there in the desert. They're just real hard to get at and as it turns out we weren't very successful at either end of the anti-scud game, either shooting them down or getting them before they were shot off.
Q: What was your ... on why Adams came to the White House that day? What was he trying to achieve?
Haass: My guess is that Adams came because he was in the Israeli cabinet representing the hockey side and that hockey side meant the people in the Israeli Government who wanted to get Israel involved. And I think from Shamir's point of view rather than simply telling them no, it was probably easier to have them come over and have the Americans tell them no. Um I got the sense that this meeting was partially designed for Shamir's political purposes as much as anything else.
Q: Was it ever known to ask questions of the Israelis? Was it ever known that within this whatever it was, month, of airborne and land war when you thought that's it they can do it?
Haass: One time I thought there might is when the missile hit and we heard those reports about chemical weapons and if that had been the case my feeling is the Israeli's would have gone in and there was nothing we could or even should have done at that point to stop it. Believe it or not no I thought the ..... had at least a 50/50 chance of keeping them out if we really pressed hard and if we listened to them and when they made requests for Patriots or for air effort for, for communications links we exceeded and we worked with them. 'Cos I think that what we were asking them to do, or more accurate what we were asking them not to do was extraordinary. Ask a country not to respond is so unnatural so I felt that we really had to do everything we could to compensate for what we were asking them not to do which was quite extraordinary.
Q: Lets talk about that early conversation with David .....?
Haas: David .... was one of the key political military persons in the Israeli Government and come over as early as August in the crisis. Uh which was good because it was important that the United States and Israel started talking. And I remember we had this meeting, uh, I think it might have been ... state. And a few of us from the US ... and David and his people and David at some point in the meeting said 'Let me see if I've got it right, um you don't want us to go first, to basically pre-empt against the Iraqi's?' and I said 'No David you've only got it half right, yes we don't want you to pre-empt but we don't even want you to go second, it's really important if the Iraqi's are against you that before you do anything, you the Israeli's come to talk to us because whatever you're stakes are in this crisis our stakes are at least as large and arguably larger.'
Q: Something I should have asked you, Adams says he feels betrayed because he thought he had an assurance in case Israel was attacked, they would go into it?
Haass: I don't know where Mr Adams could have gotten that assurance because in my meetings with David .... I was as explicit as I could be that not only did we not want the Israelis to shoot first, we didn't even want them to shoot second and that if they were attacked the understanding was that they would come talk to us before responding because our equities in this entire crisis were arguably even greater than theirs.
Q: Pushing on to a different subject, um where bombing bunker when it was born with the civilians and so on ...
Haass: Uh The bombing of the bunker was one of those terrible things that happened. It was truly unintentional we uh launched a pretty intense public campaign to demonstrate that it was unintentional. It made everybody feel awful and no-one got any satisfaction from that.
Q: ...Iraqi peace offer came in, do you remember it coming in? I don't know if you were with the President I think Skocroft and Gates were I don't know if you were?
Haass: ...... February 15.
Q: And the Iraqi's said 'We withdraw'...do you recall that at all?
Haass: I remember when the Iraqi .... of ... February came in. At first the feeling was 'What's going on'. Sceptical mixed feelings, didn't want to be denied certain aspects of military victories at this point, on the other hand if we got all that we wanted, great lets pocket it. But really sceptical and really quickly uh fortunate enough uh, the scepticism was borne out because there was a whole grab bag of conditions and once again the Iraqi's were up to their old tricks.
Q: When, an issue that was much more serious was the final Soviet initiative...
Haass: Well the Soviet initiative was, was only more serious than any of the others and the reason it was more serious had nothing to do with the substance of the initiative but it had everything to do with Gorbachev. We wanted to seem appreciative, respectful, we didn't want to, in any way, complicate Gorbachev's situation which was already deteriorating at this point and we didn't want to act in such a way that we would jeopardise Soviet support for what we were doing in the larger Gulf crisis. The actual substance of it wasn't that hard to dismiss because like all Iraqi offers, ... through Moscow and the West is heavily conditioned. The real question was how to work in a situation Gorbachev could survive with it politically and at this .... was a 45 minute phone call between the President and uh President Gorbachev. So it, it, the idea is to allow them to betray ... as gracefully as possible in a way that would not exacerbate his domestic problems.
Q: When we met before you said that was a angry, you said Gorbachev was anguished. Can you seriously say this was a man going through the motions. I should ask you. What was going on?
Haass: No, I don't see this from Gorbachev's side of the phone call was here's someone who's under tremendous pressure ..... And that it didn't this phone call had everything to do with the situation in Moscow and the Soviet Union they didn't do it the best. And for Gorbachev this had become an important factor in his domestic, political survival even and that's how we saw it. So I wasn't just handling it from my side I was working very closely with the Soviet people... and others because the key was to say No to Gorbachev in a way that would not add, even more weight to a guy who was stooped over from all that he was carrying. On the other hand we couldn't compromise what we were trying to achieve and were far along in achieving in the Gulf. So the bottom line was we'd had to look for a way to say NO as gently and as carefully as we could.
Q: To what extent did the Gorbachev call add to the Presidents desire to crack on with the ......?
Haass: The Gorbachev mission, the disseminated signs were seen from the eye of the French efforts of Oman and Libyan ... and what the purpose was of the whole approach and whether for example it was from democracy. Rather than the Kuwaiti Government and, and was the real goal. All of these things told us that our time was not unlimited and that this coalition was vulnerable as also the scud missile attacks on Israel demonstrated. Uh we couldn't see that we had unlimited time and I think it, it added a sense of urgency that we'd better get on with it uh and also at some point the air war was coming up against diminishing returns. It really was a coming together of the political and the military rationales for getting on with the ground war because there wasn't a lot more to be achieved by an air only phase at that point.
Q: And did you see anything of the President at that time...?Can you remember around February 23rd ..... Can you describe the scene to me?
Haass: Uh, no it was late at night, we were having one of our endless meetings to sort of uh .... of eight, nine, ten ..... A plus leaders or whatever that makes them. Uh we were talking about the uh public statements we were going to use about the uh launching of the ground war and how we were going to task it and the timing and so forth. We had been meeting without the President actually over at the residence. The President was at some formal event or something. And we just had several hours of meetings and that's what it was. It was basically to share with him the results of that.
Q: ... At that meeting that led to the President giving the speech saying hostilities.....Just take me from that day......
Haass: This is February 27th?
Q: February 27th.
Haass: Uh, by February 27th we knew that the end of the war was approaching, we didn't know exactly when whether it was a day or two days, three days what have you. I was already then assigned the task of preparing the remarks the President was going to issue whenever that happened so I was sitting at my word processor pecking away and suddenly Bob Gates is on the line. The meeting had begun in the Oval Office maybe half an hour before and the, the, the understanding I had with Gates and Scowcroft was that I didn't go to the meeting because I was going to start drafting the remarks. And suddenly Gates said 'Well you'd better get over here right away' and I said 'Well I'm not really that far along' uh and Gates said 'No you don't understand me, get your arse down here' I said 'OK'. And so basically I just got on my bicycle and went uh probably about 100 yards from my office uh to the Oval and I walked in and the meeting had been going on by then for maybe 45 minutes. And people were already talking about ending the war uh right away. And the, when I walked into the conversation it was like walking into a movie half way through. I was surprised that's what they all had decided, but that right along that point is when they decided that they would want it to get Schwarzkopf's latest uh fix about how he would feel about it because clearly this was moving along fast.
Q: So what happened?
Haass: Uh President has a phone, uh so he's sitting on his out chair, and there's two, there's two chairs at that side of the Oval office not at the desk side of the Oval office and he took out the phone, picked it up and said he wanted to get Schwarzkopf and got it and put Conan Powell, he called Powell on the line actually to talk to Schwarzkopf and Conan explained what the consensus was and John ... wanted to run it by him and so that everyone, all the people in this room...uh but wanted to find out how you people on the ground and whether this would give you enough time. And he got off the phone and said it's OK with him, it's fine with him. To this other line he said the general consensus in the room was that by giving this extra whatever it was hours you were not simply to finish fighting that day but they had a few hours the next morning....
Q: You went in to the meeting you said it was half way through a consensus was emerging, what was the consensus?
Haass: By the time I got to the Oval office the meeting must have been half way through, the consensus was clearly towards ending the war sooner rather than later. In part to gain diplomatic offensive the whole idea was all along we had been one step ahead we hadn't been pushed in to things. So before people start screaming at us to stop, lets stop. Secondly, militarily the assumption was we'd accomplished all that we needed to in the so called closed gate, blocked in the Iraqi troops in the South so there wasn't a hell of a lot left to accomplish militarily against those forces that were in the uh battlefield earlier. Uh when I walked in though, just to make sure on that second point, on the military point the idea was to place a call to Schwarzkopf so the President reached down got the call asked the operator to get General Schwarzkopf or General Powell and both Powell and, if I'm not mistaken, the President then spoke sequentially to Schwarzkopf whether the idea of stopping, the idea would be that we would still have one or two hours the next morning uh Kuwait/Iraq time in order to complete any military operations before it was midnight our time and the hundred hour deadline hit and everybody said fine, they could do everything they had to and that was that. The meeting broke up and I was told to go finish the statement. And went and did it in a few hours.
Q: So can I be absolutely clear on this because this is incredibly important that the phone call between the President and Norman Schwarzkopf, Conan Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf can you just describe that for me. Just say very explicitly, very clearly what you all perceived as the message from Norman Schwarzkopf being.
Haass: My recollection of the phone call is that Conan Powell briefed Norman Schwarzkopf on exactly what the thinking was in the room about, why, that we were thinking of stopping the war a little bit sooner than thought, that the feeling was politically it made sense to do so, diplomatically it made sense to do so. Militarily we wouldn't see a problem but before we decided that sort of thing here we obviously wanted to run it by him as the chief person on the ground. Did he have any problem with stopping it? And I heard, as to you know I wasn't on the phone but when Conan Powell and the President put it down the feeling was fine. And everyone was comfortable with this, it would stop at midnight our time, I believe it was 08:00 in the morning their time which would still give them a few hours of light the next morning if they needed it and the feeling was that was plenty of time to continue the operations in the South. By which time all the Iraqi forces would be cut off and none would be allowed to go North.
Q: And you believed sitting in that room, was that Presidents Advisor on the Middle East, you believed that the Republican Guard went circle?
Haass: Oh I have no doubt that the decision was promised on the assumption that the Guard Forces in the South were cut off. That certainly there were still several divisions of Iraqi forces in the North that had never been introduced. But no one was talking about that. But the forces that were down in the South around .... and so forth were completely cut off.
Q: What did you think would happen to those forces?
Haass: Oh, that we would basically allow the people to go forward but they were going to have to leave their toys behind.
Q: How much discussion was there about slaughter? How big a concern, I heard the word, Colin Powell used the word American ...... Do you recall that?
Haass: The question was whether to continue fighting at this time and what we were getting for it. The military was uncomfortable with it, uh phrases like trick and shoot, you had American pilots and others coming back from the battle field using that phrase. They left people uncomfortable, Conan Powell and others clearly felt uncomfortable. I was asked what I thought diplomatically and I said 'Perhaps I'm prone to sports metaphors, it looked like piling on football' and I was worried that if we were seen to be piling on it would be bound against us in the eye of the world and that it was militarily not accomplished from the land any more but it was politically counter productive. The whole consensus in the room was, 'If we've accomplished what we need to accomplish militarily let's stop it and politically get out ahead of the parade before everyone starts coming to our door and saying 'For Gods sake stop it'. So I feel that we actually did the really smart thing diplomatically by staying one step ahead of people of the consensus and militarily there was really no doubt.
Q: Saddam Hussein. Was there any discussion of his likely fate in that meeting?
Haass: Not in that meeting but in an awful lot of other meetings and the working consensus was that once the Iraqi troops came back some time after that and once the Iraqi people realised the full dimensions of this devastation and his failure, that Saddam Hussein likely would not be able to politically survive uh, this coming on with years with the Iran, Iraq war.
Q: Could you just sum up for me again that liberal story that what happened at the end of the meeting? What did the President say in his summing up and what did it mean to you? I think you said oh the President said 'Let's get on with it' or something and you rushed out to do the speech. Can you just tell us what happened in the last 30 seconds of the meeting?
Haass: The President got off the phone, it .... it was one of those all right things, let's get on with it. Um people just looked at me and said 'OK when are we going to have your draft ready by' I said by such and such o'clock and that was that. It was actually very straight forward. Look around decisions that work when .... in hindsight, at the time it seemed pretty much a clear call. Diplomatically we were stealing a march, we thought, and shielding ourselves from potential criticism. Militarily we didn't see a downside. We were told by the commanders on the ground that things had been taken care of and there had been marginal fatality as you will but the reason was because the fighting was small. So we knew how to organise it we weren't pulling out at this point. ....says 'heh this makes sense' .... in this crisis we stayed one step ahead. We've never been pushed, dragging screaming but instead we have really laid it out. Lets continue doing that and this will be welcome particularly in the uh, in the Arab world which ultimately we've got to put together the pieces even in Iraq, we don't want to inflict greater damage than we have to. We felt good about it.
Q: And you personally felt comfortable with all this?
Haass: Yeah I was surprised when I walked into the meeting that things had moved this quickly because I had been thinking that we would probably need another 24 hours or so. But my feeling was once I'd heard right, particularly militarily my feeling was well I don't see a big downside. So I was surprised it had gone that fast but I hadn't heard any reasons not to.
Q: At the very end when Norman Schwarzkopf put the phone down. He a walked through to Colonel Miller and said uh, they're going to end the war, they're going to end the hostilities and C.... said 'You're bullshitting me'.......? What do you make of all that?
Haass: Well I make two things of it. The hundred hours thing was no big deal. That was something we stumbled across it wasn't like people went into the meeting saying lets look for some PR packaging. That just happened that was merely the result of the decision than the cause of the decision. Well, if people at the other end of the phone felt it was wrong they were under an obligation to say so. The way we ... to the Commander in Chief and the way we .... to any boss is not simply saluting once he gives you a decision but it's reeling in on what you think the decision should be. And when the President and when Conan Powell got on the phone with the military on the ground there he wasn't saying we have decided I am giving you an order. He was saying, he said 'We're thinking about it what do you think? Do you have any problems with this? Can you live with it?' and if they had said 'No, Mr President we need an extra 12, 24, 36 hours, we really need it for the following reasons', obviously he would have gone along 'cos all along this President was really careful about not, not pre-managing the military, but he didn't here it. And by not saying it, to use that other international .... .... silence is of the essence. If they didn't approach us we were left with the impression that they were comfortable with what was the line of thinking in the Oval office that day.
Q: Virtually every army commander I've spoken to... they all believe the war was stopped by you guys because you lost heart. ...they assumed it was the guys in suits back in the White House that stopped the war for reasons of keeping Iraq strong to take on Iran in the future and so on. What do you say to all this?
Haass: Yeah, what part of...?
Q: I just wanted to tell you that this isn't me, just one guy. The military high ranking guys, guys who might turn into Chairmans and Joint Chiefs believe that you stopped the war for political reasons and disregarded military advice?
Haass: The war was stopped when it was for two reasons. One was diplomatic, the feeling was to stop the war before the eye of the world and probably the American people in general said 'Heh stop the carnage, this is unnecessary' which really made sense to go out in front of the parade that we saw coming. Militarily we stopped the war because we simply didn't think there was a lot more to do from continuing it. Uh that was just a consensus in the room but before that consensus was translated into a decision that's when the President and Conan Powell got on the phone and spoke to Norman Schwarzkopf and said 'Norman this is the way we are thinking, this is our general instinct. Is it OK by you?' and they said 'Fine' they never objected. Now in retrospect if people there are saying they felt differently and they needed and extra 12 or 24 or 36 hours well then they blew it, they should have said something.
Our loyalty never consists of simply saluting when the boss gives an order. Loyalty also consists of giving your best advise... Bush didn't get on the phone and say we've decided, he said 'We are thinking about, we are leaning towards, but it's up to you'. And given the whole history of the war, given the way that Bush had really gone out of his way not to make or manage the military, I'm pretty confident that if Norman Schwarzkopf had said I need another 24 or 36 hours, he would have got it. We would have said 'OK we're willing to take the diplomatic heat in order to accomplish things militarily', but he didn't hear it. So at the end of that meeting there was a sense of Phew there's no dark side militarily, lets do it, Richard go off and draft the speech. We got to do it tonight. And that's the way we left the Oval office.
Q: Can you remember drafting that speech?
Haass: Sure. [Laughter] It was one of the key speeches. I remember drafting the, you know January speech which was really the first time the President went out and spoke uh ...cut...I remember drafting that speech just as I remember drafting a few others. The first was August 8th, which was the first time the President spoke to the American public from the Oval office. I remember the speech at the beginning of the air war. Uh I remember this one because this was a kind of finality one, it was a chance of cleaning against some of the earlier speeches I was conscious of even using some of the same lines if you will and reversing them, the idea that now Kuwait is liberated and so forth there is a sense of an enclosure toward a new government. There is a real sense of some accomplishment by this point.
Q: It was a speech that made clear that the objectives had been achieved.
Haass: Yeah, well they had. The object, the speech which didn't make clear that the objectives had been achieved and we wanted to remind people of that, uh we laid out certain objectives going in. I think we were disciplined in keeping to them, we wanted to remind people that the objectives had been met. The most important for two things. One, was to make people realise what we had accomplished. The message to make people realise that our objectives have limits, that this was not a war of vengeance if you will, that this was not an Anti Arab, anti Muslim sort of thing. There was .....other things in themselves. Wars are to create new political situations. The purpose of this war was not simply, if you will, to liberate Kuwait but it was also to create new conditions in this part of the world that would promote security and promote our interests so we very much wanted to communicate the sense that this war was not some anti Arab or anti Muslim crusade but this war was something that was necessary, that was fought reluctantly and was fought for limited purposes and I think it was important to say that.
Q: Had you been thinking ahead about what was going to happen to Iraq?
Q: The war's over with great rejoicing, a great victory is won. But Saddam Hussein's still there. What's your advice to the President at that stage about what is going to happen in Iraq?
Haass: The most important thing when the war ended was that we had the liberation of Kuwait and we had Iraq vastly cut down to size. The feeling was the Iraqi military was really only .....
Q: What was your advice to the President?
Haass: At the end of the war we had liberated Kuwait, we had an Iraq that was cut down to size that really wasn't in a position to threaten anybody for some time to come. We had fairly extensive political, military relations with our friends in the region. The one fly in the ointment was obviously that Saddam was still in power. It was our view that that likely scenario is that Saddam would be overthrown by his own people, probably from the military, who would have essentially have been fed up with the fact that this character had twice marched them off into disaster within a decade. And our view was that whilst we couldn't guarantee it that was the most likely course of action. Events were simply left to themselves.
Q: Without getting into sources or anything like that, was this just a pious hope or was there reason to think Saddam might be overthrown?
Haass: This was more of an assessment based on our overall reading of the situation.
Q: How concerned were you at this stage about doing anything which might lead to the break-up of Iraq?
Haass: There was some concern. We'd thought about ... We had thought about the, the future of Iraq and in general we cannot favour opportunity. The feeling was that we would not want to turn Iraq into some Lebanon like battlefield where Turkey, Iran, Syria and others would come in where Iraqis themselves would be at war forever. There was also the view that it was just possible that a different kind of Iraq could be a useful balancer to Iran which was still in the throws of the Islamic revolution, very much an Imperial power in the Gulf. So the feeling was for lots of reasons, keeping Iraq intact uh was probably in the long term strategic interests of the United States.
Q: A few days later the S.... Ceremony occurred. Was that what you'd wanted? Was it what you expected?
Haass: I was careful not to micro manage the S... Ceremony feeling that it was a kind of military to military talks uh, Schwarzkopf seemed to have strong ideas about how to deal with this. And also since we were looking to the Iraqi military as maybe as an institution that would help oust Saddam. If that was the hope the feeling was not to humiliate them but to draw a distinction between them and this current political leadership so we essentially left most of it to the military and worrying about longer term issues rather than simply the meeting itself.
Q: The reason I raise this is Brent Scowcroft, and it surprised me I know Paul W.... had such strong feelings about S...., he says there should have been more humiliation. Brent Scowcroft says in retrospect he wished he had insisted that Saddam was there.
Haass: I think perhaps we were too careful in not offending Iraqi sensibilities. We were dealing with them too much as if we were dealing with a, say in Japan or something after the war, but we didn't think hard enough about humiliating the political leadership. It's possible that a case could have been made that we should have handled it less as a military to military and more if you will as a political to military because on their side the military and the political institutions were subfused. And I think in dealing with the Iraqi military as a traditional military establishment after the war was probably too narrow of an approach. I think that's a fair criticism.
Q: And just to get this straight in my mind you were anxious with S.... for good reasons, not to humiliate the Iraqi military?
Haass: I saw no reason to humiliate the military, again I didn't want the country to fly apart. Uh and I wanted to distinguish between the military and the political leadership, and again I was hoping that if there was an overthrow of Saddam it was my sense the most likely source was going to come from the Iraqi military who had the strength and had the access.
Q: When the Shia uprising started and it was beginning to happen at this time. Did you expect it?
Haass: No, we did not predict either the Shia or the Kurdish uprisings. Uh ironically I think they had the unintended effect of cementing Saddam's hold on power. They allowed Saddam to recast the situation and himself so he was no longer the failed leader who had twice in a decade sent his troops off to slaughter. But suddenly Saddam was the hero of a united S... dominated Iraq and as one of the unintended consequences of these twin revoltings is that actually threw Saddam a lifeline just when he needed it most.
Q: They [felt] they were betrayed and indeed there is no doubt that the President said on a number of occasions it would be great if the Iraqi people rose up.
Haass: This is one of those situations when an awful lot of mythologies went up. Whenever the President talked about the desirability of the Iraqi people rising up it was always in the context of men off wading the air war or the ground war. The idea was they could spare themselves an awful lot if they could get rid of Saddam then. To the best of my knowledge never said that after February 27th/28th. It was not a post war statement.
Q: I mean I won't contradict you as it will on camera. On March 1st he again said it he again said Saddam Hussein is still there a lot of the problems we have would be resolved if they could put aside their leader.
Haass: Um in any event, in any state ....... any appeals if you will to the Iraqi people to overthrow the people were never couched in ethnic terms it was never couched as a pro Shia or a pro Kurdistan thing it was always an Iraqi thing. Also we didn't have contacts with either the Kurds or the Shia. We could perhaps be criticised for not having developed them and I think there were reasons why we didn't. In retrospect I wish we had had more contact. But we were not in any way treating or supporting specific organised rebellions. These were much more spontaneous local interfires, if you will, local uprisings. But there is nothing orchestrated by the United States. There was nothing authoritatively set in motion by the United States to use either the Shia in the South or the Kurds in the North as a vehicle for overthrowing Saddam. Again it was our view that the best way to see him out would have been through the military, because only working through them and the same core could you really get at the heart of that country.
Q: As the Shia uprising progressed you were getting reports back from it, not least from the US military who were watching what was happening. What was your advice to the President then?
Haass: It was, it was an awkward situation watching what was going on in the South uh my own view was reluctantly that we had to largely stand aside. That by getting involved I worried about the objectives of these groups. I worried about whether they would get involved in the United Iraq, I worried about their connections with Iran since clearly people were coming across the border from Iran. These were not all Iraqi people acting independently and I really worried mainly about the United States getting drawn in. We had just finished a large enormous conventional style war which worked to our advantage. To move from war fighting into some sort of peace making operation or even nation burning, where we were going to try to re-engineer Iraqi society seemed to me the height of risk. It seemed to be taking us out of the context which worked to our advantage and placing us in a context which was laden with all sorts of uncertainties and tended to work against large conventional organised mobile armies. And I just worried that it was too risky and the results were too uncertain so my own feeling was that as awful as it was and as reluctant as I felt that we just had to hang back.
Q: And you're still feeling that this whole thing could be solved if Saddam was overthrown?
Haass: That's right. Again, underlying my reluctance to see us involved on either the side of the Shia in the South or the Kurds in the North was not simply my concern over their agendas, was not simply my concern about our getting sucked in, but was my view that Saddam was still vulnerable to his own military and I was worrying about the cost of our getting involved and I was thinking also that it was still possible that we wouldn't have to pay the price in any case, that Iraqi's themselves would take care of the problem.
Q: I scribbled some dates down here and I don't know whether you're involved. I know that on the 26th March there was a big eight meeting which was primarily to discuss the withdrawal, the 20th April withdrawal. Burt ... , Conan Powell presented a case for non intervention and do you recall any meetings where this was thrashed out in the White House with the President or...
Haass: Yeah but I'm not sure if I want to talk about that now.
Q: Can I ask you just in general terms. What was the nature of the...
Haass: Part of it in March the President was travelling, if you recall went to Canada and then he went to Bermuda to meet Prime Minister Major for their first meeting I believe. I also went to Martinique to meet the President and I was with him when a lot of this was happening. Uh at that time the Iraqi's were using helicopter gun ships in ways that were not anticipated at S.... and we were having debates on the fly, if you will, about what it was the United States should and should not do. Um as awful as it was to watch what was going on we were just extremely concerned that by, for example saying 'OK, no helicopters' well then what happened if the Iraqi's started using tanks or artillery. We were just worried about getting sucked in to an open ended retail oriented level, and wholesale oriented political, military type struggle. And we just decided that as awful as it was and as frustrated as we were the smarter course was to hang back. Well a lot of people criticised us, they said we should have got involved on behalf of the Shia, we should have got involved on behalf of the Kurds, we should have kept the war going longer.
Maybe they're right and if you pause it like a lot of people, these people do that we could have done it successfully and in a very short ... and very few casualties we could have, if you will, supported the Iraqi's overthrown Saddam and instituted something an awful lot better. Well yes if that's the case then we felt we should have done it but there is no guarantee and I was just as worried that by continuing things we would get involved in some very expensive, messy open ended struggle. Where suddenly rather than being the hero's who had liberated Kuwait we'd become the people who are now occupying Muslimist, uh Arab Iraq and it turned into a nightmare where congress said 'Hold it you've gone way beyond your authorisation with the allies and said hold it what the hell are you guys doing, we've now become occupiers with the Russians and others at the security counsel saying heh we never signed on for this' and this coalition began to crumble. So sure it's easy to pause it in retrospect that we should have gone on and done all these things if everything turned out perfectly but no one could have known that at the time. You don't even know it now, not even hindsight's not 20/20 in this case. I don't know if we could have gone on and done any of these things and now ended up at a situation much worse than the end perfect situation we now have.
Q: Were these difficult anguished decisions at the time?
Haass: Sure it was, it was difficult not to do things. In some cases in life it's more difficult not to do things than it is to do something. And those who criticise us for it may have a point, the point is it's impossible to know 'cos it's just as easy for me to say 'Yeah if we'd done some of those things, however imperfect this situation is that we now have we could have ended up with a situation even more imperfect, where more Americans died in Iraq than had died in the entire conflict up to that point, where Saddam could have hung on'. Look how hard it was to get Norriega out of Panama, look how hard it turned out after the Gulf war to get someone like Aydim which we never succeeded. What these people are confident is that a largely conventional western army could have gone on and stayed involved in Iraq directly uh and brought out something good, why were they so confident that we could have pulled this off given our experiences and everything from Vietnam to Somalia and so forth. I'm not so sure so sure, I have some frustration that's happened, sure I have some questions about whether everything we did was right and on balance given what we know I'd rather take three quarters of a loaf of success than risk it all going for the rest. We might have risked the Gulf and we might have lost the Gulf.
Q: Could you recall that conversation and the President's reaction?
Haass: Our main but ..... created the situation in North was going very badly and we were trying to just yeah, look at it as a normal humanitarian nightmare. Clearly that wasn't working. The British and the others were pressing for a presence so called surveillance and President Bush was reluctant to do that. The feeling was that would just get us too involved it was too intrusive. We ended up at the half way situation, I think it was April 5th, by basically agreeing to drop through having the military involved and a large airdrop. We tried that for around 10/11 days that clearly wasn't adequate for all the obvious reasons and then by mid April we essentially embraced the safe haven situation and we ran into Northern Iraq and we carved out uh both the security zone and then a larger no fly zone. The keen idea was to create a large uh, extra Sovereign if you will, safe haven in the North. We did it reluctantly, I think to be honest with you we were driven to it as much by the television pictures and the political pressure diplomatically and domestically uh, as anything else.
Q: .... In terms of a plus element how important was Jim Bakers visit?
Haass: ... I thought Jim Bakers visit was one of the inputs that, that pushed us over I think the key hand was CNN, I think it was CNN television just seeing that it wasn't working and the feeling was that we could do something and then coming up with the safe haven idea. What was so good about that idea it was allowing us to get involved but it still put some limits on the involvement. What we wanted to do was avoid getting sucked into the uh intricacies of domestic Iraqi politics and making the Kurdish political agenda our own. What was good about the safe haven and then about the no fly zones is it allowed us to keep people alive. To bring them necessities without becoming party to all that they were up to domestically so it seemed to us as an acceptable half way house.
Q: More for a British audience, I mean how important was John Major's pressing the safe havens. He really adopted it, it was his first big idea, as it were.
Haass: I think Prime Minister Major's uh a person who made a big difference. The British have been through .... crisis in many ways our closest ally uh when a British Prime Minister says something and says it loud and says it hard uh we take it seriously. And it was an idea that had some attraction we were just worried about its consequences but when we felt we had no choice we, we were glad to embrace it. I think uh Mr Majors' advocacy was one of the things that pushed President Bush over the edge on this one.
Q: It isn't exactly the end game of the war and it's the only part where I do really use hind sight. It did lead to a feeling of a whole victory rightly or wrongly.... If you could play it again is there any single thing you could have done?
Haass: There's a few things I might have done differently. I'm not sure any of them would have made a real difference. Uh, one of the things I would have done differently is I would have had more contacts with the Shia and the Kurds of Iraq. We basically limited ourselves for fear of offending Turkey in the case of the North and for other reasons in the South. I think we should have known more about these people if only to learn that they were out there. Maybe to have discouraged them doing things if we didn't want them to do it and we could have said 'heh we don't think you want to do these uprisings at one help' or 'heh you should know we won't be there' or maybe we could have advocated certain things, or co-ordinated them better. But I think we hurt ourselves by not having better communication with them. Secondly, I think S.... uh we probably could have done more to humiliate Saddam we could have been more careful about the, the helicopters and so forth. Those are the only two things that I've had some second thoughts about but saying that I'm not sure if even if we had done both of those things perfectly it would have made a consequential difference and there's no way of knowing and I doubt it but those are the one or two things I'd probably do differently if I could revisit it.
Q: You would have loved to have seen Saddam Hussein go would you? At the end of the war would you like to have seen him gone?
Haass: I would have liked to have seen Saddam - there on the other hand just imagine if he didn't show up. It's very difficult and dangerous to insist on things you can't guarantee so this, if Saddam hadn't shown up if the had started the bombing again, I... It's very risky to ask for things that um aren't in your power to bring about and that you can't sustain because there's no way we could have sustained domestically or internationally a resumption or a continuation of the fighting so that we could have our moment of humiliating Saddam. So while it would have been nice to have I'm not sure if it was something we really could have pulled off.
Q: And how...?
Haass: Oh very much I think it would have been in the best interests of Iraq, the Iraqi people, the region uh and there's no reason to talk about that in the past tense. I think the Iraqi people and the people of the Gulf and the world would be better off without that man.
Q: What did the war achieve... let's deal with the more narrow things in terms of cutting Iraq down to size. In narrower terms what did the war achieve?
Haass: What the war achieved in the narrower sense was the security of all. Supplies in Kuwait in the Gulf more generally. We cut Iraq down to size. Iraq was clearly first among unequals in the Gulf and it clearly uh put a real limit on Iraq's capability. Even more than a year given what they were doing with nuclear weapons and so forth, it set the stage for a peace process and made possible Madrid and made possible the whole breakthrough of peace, uh of face to face talks and all the partners we've subsequently made.
Q: You said real things about the United States in the war?
Haass: About our willingness to act in the World. About our willingness to be an effective force for good. About our ability to use military force to accomplish this. It also helped the United Nations, it showed that this institution could be a source of uh political strength rather than simply a source of gridlock. So uh I think the war accomplished a great deal. Did it solve the problems of the region? No. Did it solve the problems of the post cold world war? Of course not. It wasn't there to solve problems, what they do is they help you deal with some things they help give you opportunities for some other things and they didn't create problems in their way. They took care of the immediate uh set of problems even if it didn't end history in this part of the world.
Q: And just to end up a bit about George Bush. Well let me ask you. What was his contribution?
Haass: History is made by people. Yeah, I used to teach history uh at Harvard, uh public policy and we used to teach this sort of thing. Governments are made up of people. Governments are made up of individuals and Bush's presidency mattered. I am not convinced that another man sitting in the Oval office at that time would have done the same things. Clearly he may have done everything identical but it's quite possible that another politician would have said 'Heh, let's let sanctions work forever' uh I can imagine several administrations in recent memory, aren't willing to roll the dice on the Gulf war. Are willing to put so much at stake militarily, politically and economically so George Bush's greatest single contribution to history in this crisis and probably larger was in seeing the reality of this stakes and not blinking. In willing to see through this commitment. That was an enormous undertaking and all the people who ignore that are underestimating and they could see what we did or didn't do before or after the crisis, they're losing sight of uh what was by any means not indemnibable. It was not automatic that he or anyone else sitting in that chair uh would have had the guts uh and the political courage to, to make decisions of that magnitude.
Q: Why did you do it, I mean the interesting thing talking to Bob Gates...?
Haass: George Bush always says he hates interviewers that put him on the couch. If I had to put him on the couch I would say that this work erupted and this whole crisis...
Q: OK Thatcher, did the administration......?
Haass: This ... what it is .... you get sick. It did not happen at the beginning of the crisis. It did not happen at Aspen it happened several weeks later and the real question was whether the United States and the coalition were going to begin to enforce the naval intradition mission. To prevent supplies, goods coming in and out of Iraq or whether they were going to wait before doing it for an extensive New Year inaugurisation. There are some ..... ..... in the security counsel over there and the real question is whether we gave an extra 24 or 48 hours. The British were clearly now ready to rock and roll. They were preaching to the choir. Several ... were ..... going to do it. Needed just a sign to give the UN another 24 hours so in one way or another it was going to happen. The idea that this was some major diplomatic intervention, uh uh, again it was just reinforcing on our own instincts. We were perhaps 24 hours more patient when it came to the security counsel than Mrs Thatcher.
Q: ...Why did George Bush do it?
Haass: Uh I hope the President will forgive me for this he hates being put on the couch. My guess is uh that there is something about this entire thing ... with him, about Saddam Hussein, there is something about the lies, there is something, there is..... George Bush always hates being put on the couch but I'm gonna put him there for a second. My heart says that there was something about this entire thing that just offending him. George Bush is a man of values, of morals, of common decency almost a code. Uh, and Saddam Hussein violated the code in every way. He violated the code by what he did, by invading Kuwait, he violated it by all the lies, he violated it by the way he treated the people inside Kuwait. There was something that was so clear to the ..... that you really gotten, we're so used to dealing with greys in foreign policy this has got to be one of those moments and for George Bush this just became a sort of new found moment. This just became one of those things where there wasn't a lot of give. There wasn't a .... reason to be immobilised and it really was just that clear and as a result uh, for a man who was, who was given to .... fairly clear terms this war enforced that and I think as a result he had no doubts about how and whether to respond.
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