Very few people knew. Now there were lots of rumors and lots of speculation and lots of talk going round the headquarters, but there had been no official announcement.
Interview with General Norman Schwarzkopf, Commander-in-Chief, Central Command (CENTCOM)
So, what I did was I asked for my principle staff to meet me in the war room down in the basement, a half an hour before `H hour'. And I had written a message to all the forces, and what I did is I assembled them in there and I read them the message... And then I asked the chaplain to say a prayer, and then I played `God Bless the USA' - a blatantly chauvinistic piece of music (chuckle), but I think it characterised the pride that all of us have in our profession, and in what we were, and there's a line in there that says "I would proudly stand next to you, and defend her still today" and that's what it was all about.
And I said, "Now, we all know what we need to do. Now let's get on with it."
Q: There was this incredible build-up going on in the Iraqi desert in those final weeks of July 1990. What could you see?
Schwarzkopf: As the build-up was going along the border, we really weren't quite sure what we were seeing. We knew that the area to the west of Basra was a traditional maneuver area for the Iraqi military forces and particularly for their armored forces.
So initially when we saw the armored divisions moving down to that area, we weren't sure whether there was a build-up along the border to threaten Kuwait or whether it was just maneuvers we were seeing and because it was the same time that they normally conduct their maneuvers.
But as time went on a pattern started to emerge; we saw, for instance Marine units and side by side with the amphibious transport, we saw Special Forces units and side by side with the helicopter units.
What I think finally convinced us was we saw logistical supplies being brought up and delivered to these units and, of course, the units were camped in the fashion that showed that they weren't really going on manoeuvres. And then finally as they started moving down towards the border, I think we became convinced that there was going to be some kind of an invasion.
I briefed the Joint Chiefs of Staff on I think it was the last day of July and said based upon this pattern that's emerging we feel that this is definitely a plan.
Q: Why was it you were convinced something was going to happen? Because the State Department people, they were getting assurances from Mubarak, saying it wasn't going to happen. What was it just on that final day that made you think, "Hey, this is serious....?
Schwarzkopf: Well, we were getting diplomatic assurances from all over the world,every elder statesman in the world who was an Arabist was saying,
"Oh, this will never happen, you know, an Arab will never invade another Arab, this is all a show of force on Saddam's part and that the Kuwaitis will cave and grant him the concessions that he was looking for, and he won't have to do this invasion."
It was only when we started to see this pattern of the type of forces that you would need to conduct an operation being grouped together geographically on the ground that it became very apparent that what you were seeing emerging was a military plan.
There are certain things that are known in the intelligence communities, indications and warnings, you know, tanks, tanks far forward, artillery placed far forward, this sort of thing it indicates an offensive operation. Whereas if it was a defensive operation artillery is located in depth, that sort of thing.
Q: So, on that last afternoon, I think on August the 1st, you told the Joint Chiefs it was gonna happen, and in the tank you briefed Colin Powell and Dick Cheney. Could you describe what you said to them?
Schwarzkopf: Well, the afternoon of August the 1st, I met in the tank with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary Cheney.
My briefing consists of, first of all, of showing them the situation on the ground and showing them this linkage between units and the things that the units needed in order to accomplish what that type of unit did, and I'd explained to them that I was quite sure that this was a plan. I couldn't guarantee them that they were going to invade but I felt that all the indications were there, that they were going to invade.
Then from that point we went into what we could do immediately in the way of military force projection to put forces on the ground to defend Saudi Arabia and, of course, to defend all the oilfields on the Gulf in places like Bahrain, the United Arab Emirate and also how we would conduct a force build-up to put up a robust defence of Saudi Arabia.
Q: At that time, what was your assessment of Iraq and Saddam Hussein?
Schwarzkopf: Well, we had studied Saddam Hussein in my headquarters very carefully and the Iraqi military. Frankly, we had gone to school on what Iraq did in the war between Iran and Iraq, the type of forces they had, the numbers they had, the tactics they used.
They were the fourth largest army in the world, number one. Number two, the economy of Iraq was such that we knew that they could not absorb all the soldiers out of the military back into the economy and therefore the army was going to stay in place. And, number three, they had, in fact, in the Al Fao campaign, for instance, fought quite a credible offensive armored battle.
So, I would say, based upon the size of the Iraqi military and the type of equipment they had, they had a vast array of equipment. They had Soviet equipment, they had French equipment, they had British equipment, they had, for instance, from the tanks they imported, they had three different generations of Soviet tank from a very early rudimentary generation of T-55, all the way up to the T-72 which was a very, very good tank.
So they had the capability to be quite a formidable enemy and, of course, you do judge your enemy based upon capabilities, not intent, you have to look at the enemy and really almost make a worst case call every time.
Q: How did you hear that the invasion had happened?
Schwarzkopf: I had just flown home from the briefing that I'd given the Joint Chiefs and it was an evening time and the hotline rung in my home and it was Colin Powell on the other end of the line. And he said,
"Well, you're right, they've invaded, and, you know, we don't know what's going to happen now but, they've come across the border and the invasion has started".
And I immediately got dressed. I was dressed to go out and do sport and instead I changed my clothes and went into my headquarters and started monitoring the situation.
Q: From your appreciation of the area, did you think immediately, "This matters, this is serious"?
Schwarzkopf: Yes, there was no question about that.
We had been planning for just this sort of occurrence, in our Central Command plans for a year, so, and we always knew the precursor to an overall attack taking over the entire Gulf would be the taking of Kuwait first.
So, when this was launched, your first reaction is this could be a very, very serious matter. Your second reaction is based upon all these diplomatic assurances that we have had, you know, and the Arab League will come into play ...
Of course, even at the time that tthe invasion was unfolding, we were receiving information that all diplomatic measures were underway to stop this whole thing to roll back, that Saddam had made his point and this would all be settled very peacefully in no time at all and thatthis really wasn't an invasion.
So, you were sort of getting stories from both sides, one of which were telling you that serious military situation was going on the ground, and another one that was saying, well, diplomatically it's all gonna be taken care of and... and this just won't last very long.
Q: After a night of no sleep, you arrived at the White House. Can I ask you about that August the 2nd meeting? A lot of people have told us--they all say it was a very disorganised meeting...
Schwarzkopf: Well, the White House meeting on August the 2nd was disorganised. I don't say that critically I say that only because we knew so little about the actual situation as it was unfolding on the ground and certainly many of the people who were at that meeting had no knowledge of what was going on, I mean, you had the entire Cabinet there.
And, what was happening was questions were being asked by the President, rather specific questions and people were being required to generate their answers right there on the spot. Some of the answers were very good and some of the answers, quite frankly, were very, very weak or meaningless, for that matter.
Q: You got very upset with the Intelligence briefing?
Schwarzkopf: Well, the Intelligence briefing I thought was, you know, ill-informed because, of course, I had my own force right on the ground right there and I knew exactly what was going on and therefore the information that the President was being given just wasn't the correct information at that time and I found that sort of a serious breach when the President was not given the correct Intelligence information.
But it became apparent to everybody at the table that this was a very serious matter and therefore everybody thought they had to chime in and give their opinions and some of the opinions were ludicrous and others were very good.
What's going to happen to the price of oil? How is this going to affect international you know, commerce and? .. And how is this going to affect the economies of the world and? On and on and on. What is the United Nations going to be able to do about this, will they participate? And that sort of thing.
At the conclusion of this general discussion, Colin Powell introduced me and had asked me to give a briefing of exactly what we could do at that particular time, what our capabilities were at that time, and I got up and gave that briefing of short term capabilities, it wasn't long term program, it was short term capabilities and what we could do at that immediate time. And that was the conclusion of the meeting.
Q: What was your impression then of the President's frame of mind?
Schwarkopf: Well, I thought the President showed great resolve. I mean it was obvious that what he was really in an information seeking mode where he was trying to garner as much information as he could to really kind of decide what the initial reaction of the United States of America should be. He certainly was very much in charge.
Q: What was Colin Powell's opinion of how things were gonna pan out? What was your opinion?
Schwarzkopf: I think in the very early days none of us were quite sure how it was going to pan out. None of us were quite sure what action the United States of America would take.
There had been a prevailing opinion for many years in the military the United States would never get involved in a protracted war in the Middle East, that there were no vital interests threatened there, that there were no treaty obligations there.
More and more Colin and I started focusing on, what is the end game? You know, what do we expect to see happen if we focused on various courses of action.
And obviously we were looking at the introduction of military forces but kind of saying to ourselves
"Gee, if we introduce military forces, what is this going to lead to and when do we come back home, or how long do we stay there or what do we expect to happen as a result?"
All which of course . are imponderables. Certainly there's no easy answers to this. Colin expressed the feeling that certainly we would go to war over Saudi Arabia but would we be willing to go to war over Kuwait?
Q: Camp David, the President had pretty much decided the day before troops would be deployed... did you have a sense of history?
Schwarzkopf: Camp David was certainly an history meeting. Small group there, the President's closest advisers, very calm meeting, much unlike the meeting that we had been to earlier.
It was obvious that at this point the President had decided to do something and Colin had said,
"Now I want you to talk about the full plan that you are ready to implement for the defence of Saudi Arabia."
So it was a much more in-depth, briefing on the forces that we would commit, how many fighter squadrons, what naval ships, what army units, err, how long it would take for them to get there,the full blown plan.
The bottom line I was trying to make to the President is that this is the force that was necessary to guarantee a defence of Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf oilfields; it was not offensive force by any means.
And the last slide as a matter of fact I showed was the fact that, in the event we decided to go on the offensive against this very, very large military force we were gonna have to take on, or if you follow all the rules of the offensive, the force would have to be considerably bigger if we going to eject the Iraqis out of Kuwait by force of arms.
Q: In this plan that you've laid out, how important was it to get permission from the Saudis?
Schwarzkopf: In the early plans of Central Command made for this part of the world, there was always the assumption that we would have to take everything in with us, that we would have to even build our own ports.
When we shifted our planning to the defence of Saudi Arabia and the oilfields against Iraqi invasion, one of the assumptions that we made was that the Saudis would, in fact, allow us to come in and use their facilities; that was critical to the plan.
There was absolutely no way in the world we could rapidly deploy our air forces if we couldn't go in and use the Saudi military airfields that were in place. There was no way we could possibly deploy the Marine Corps and bring in the Marine pre-positioned ships .. equipment, without using the Saudi ports.
So, it was absolutely necessary to have the Saudis' permission to come in because of the sovereignty of the nation of Saudi Arabia and the number of forces we were going to bring into the country and it was absolutely necessary to have their approval because we very, very much needed to use their equipment.
Q: The meeting with King Fahd which was a remarkable..As you walked into the room what were you thinking about the importance of this meeting?
Schwarzkopf: As we were flying over in the aircraft to meet with the King of Saudi Arabia, Secretary Cheney called me in and said,
"You know, you've been working in this area for a couple of years now and you know these people, what do you think will happen?"
And I said,
" I think what will happen is we'll make our presentation and they'll listen very carefully and then they'll say `Thank you very much, we'll let you know', and we will get back on the airplane and fly back to Washington with no decision."
I was really convinced that was going to happen. So when we walked into the actual meeting room, with the King, that's what I expected. I was quite relaxed, I had a sense of urgency to get the message across, to deliver the correct information, to make sure the Saudis understood what was going on, but I had no expectations that... that... the decision was imminent.
Q: What did the pictures you brought the King show?
Schwarzkopf: The pictures were of Iraqi tanks. And we had the border between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia drawn in on the pictures and we showed the disposition of the tanks actually on the border that showed the tanks were far forward again.
Tanks being deployed far forward is an indication of offensive action; tanks in depth is an indication of defensive action. So we showed a picture of these tanks all strewn along the border between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and, in fact, some of the tanks across the border in Saudi Arabian territory.
I didn't realise at the time but I think that was very significant in the King's ultimate decision, I think he was infuriated that, in fact, the sovereignty of Saudi Arabia has been violated by these tanks even though it was on a piece of sand out in the middle of nowhere, he was still very upset by this.
Q: What did you do next?
Schwarzkopf: I followed that with a briefing of, "This is what we're prepared to do ..."
wanted him to clearly understand the number of fighter squadrons that would be coming in, the number of troops that would be coming in, the number of ships that would be coming in and I showed him a time phase sequence of the build-up so that he understood what we could to counter, to, in fact, defend Saudi Arabia against what looked like could be a very possible invasion from the north.
At that point, I stepped aside, that was the end of my briefing and Secretary Cheney then took over the briefing from there. What Secretary Cheney then told the King was, wasthe United States of America, the President felt this was a very serious situation.
He then told the King three things. That, number one, we were prepared to introduce US forces into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to defend the Kingdom. Number two, we were prepared to stay as long as was necessary to guarantee the safety of Saudi Arabia. And, number three, he told them that when the time came to leave, we would leave, we take all of our forces home, and there would be no residual forces left in the Kingdom.
Q: What happened?
Schwarzkopf: After Secretary Cheney concluded his remarks, there was an ongoing conversation that occurred in Arabic among the King and the member of the Royal Family that were in the room with him. Quite a heated discussion--not very long but quite a heated discussion.
At the end of that discussion, the King turned and said, "OK!"
And I almost fell out of my chair because I absolutely was sitting there, thinking, "Well, you know, this is going to be thank you very much for the information, we'll let you know",
And the King said "OK!" AndI think we all did a double-take, and went back and said, you know, Secretary Cheney said,
"So, you agree?"
And the King said,
"Yes, I agree."
Now Ambassador Freeman said later on, who understood Arabic, said that there was, the discussion was, you know,
"Let's not do anything too rapidly and... and this sort of thing and remember what the Kuwaitis did at ..." And, you know, the King made some comment, "Yes, and the Kuwaitis are all living in our hotels right now becausethey weren't willing to make a decision in this matter and I'm not going to have that happen."
That's why I go back to this point of saying that I think that the fact that there were Iraqi tanks on Saudi Arabian soil at that time was one of the things that really, really had the King's dander up. But, in any event, he said "OK, you know, bring your forces!"
And as I say, I was in a state of complete shock.
Now the following morning we went and met with Prince Sultan, Prince Sultan was a Minister of Defence who was not at the meeting the night before because he was not in Jeddah. And we met with Prince Sultan and laid it all out again just to exactly what was happening but, in the meantime, I was calling back saying to Chuck Horner's Air Force, you know, "Get your planes ready!"
Without being critical at all, I don't mean this in a critical way, but I think the Saudis were absolutely stunned with the rapidity with which we arrived because the next morning when Sultan said, you know---"Well, when do you expect the first planes to arrive?"
I think our answer was,
"Within 12 hours, they'll be here."
He said, "Within 12 hours?" And we said "Yeah, they're... they're on the way, as we speak."
Q: And it was a huge build-up?
Schwarzkopf: It was a huge build-up. Of course, it was slow at first, from my standpoint the build-up couldn't have been fast enough because, again, we were still facing a very formidable military force, they was still arrayed in an offensive posture along the border and could have attacked at any given time.
We knew that the Iraqis were students of the Soviets, the Soviets have what they call `a strategic pause'. They accomplish one phase of their operation, they then pause there, they refuel, they re-arm, they re-equip, they replace the men that they have lost and then after and they rest, and after this strategic pause they then carry on to the next phase of their offensive, that was their doctrine at that time. Everything we saw along the Kuwaiti border fit the pattern of a strategic pause.
So, again, nobody knew what was going to happen, we had to go with the best information and indications and warnings that we had. And it was highly likely that they were going through a strategic pause ready to carry out the next phase and, therefore, we had to get as much over there as we could, as fast as we possibly could.
But quite realistically the first forces that we brought over there were nothing more than a tripwire force.
Q: Could you have held them, the Iraqis, if they'd attacked then?
Schwarzkopf: I don't think so, no. I think we could have inflicted a great deal of damage on them after the first week, with our air power but, air power could not have done it alone.
The 82nd airborne troops that were over there used to facetiously refer to themselves as `Iraqi tank speed bumps', because they were light infantry and did not have the heavy anti-tank weapons they needed.
So, I think that if Iraq had chosen . to continue their attack at that time and sweep through those oilfields and certainly take the port of Dhahran and the airfield at Dhahran, our problems would have been seriously compounded.
There was no question about the fact that had the Iraqis chose to continue the attack at that time they could have swept all the way down the coast, to Dhahran and I think, of course, once you're at Dhahran it would be very easy to go over and take Bahrain and continue on down the coast to, err, taking Qatar and also taking the United Arab Emirate.
And you must remember that Saddam's threats were against both Kuwait and the United Arab Emirate and the only way to get to the United Arab Emirate would have been through Saudi Arabia.
Q: Do you remember your first press conference and some reporter asked if the US could defend them against an Iraqi ground attack? What was going through your mind to see everyone was eye-balling you for the first time?
Schwarzkopf: Well, the first press conference was at the end of August. I think I'd been there about eight days and, there had been some complaints that the press had not been able to meet with people overall in charge and so Washington, in fact, came to me and said, you know,
"You ought to conduct a press conference," and my own public affairs did.
And so we had it in the hotel at Dhahran and I walked into the room and I was absolutely floored by the number of people that were in the room to begin with, and I can remember along the back wall was this bank of television cameras, I mean, arrayed across the entire back wall and I was sort of taken aback by the whole thing.
Probably the principal memory I have of that is people kept pressing me for locations and capabilities, you know,
"Where are the troops located, what can the troops do?" and that sort of thing.
And obviously that's information that I couldn't give them because, we already knew that Saddam Hussein had... had television right in his own command post and anything I was saying in television cameras, of course, was going right into the Iraqi command post.
So I kept saying, saying, you know, "I'm not going to give you that information!" And then I would get another question asking for essentially the same information, only with a question re-stated in some other matter.
Q: The President's speech on August the 16th, what do you remember about that?
Schwarzkopf: Well, Colin and I had just had another discussion about what is the end game. He had asked me about an offensive option, what we would have t to kick the Iraqis out of Kuwait and I had showed him the only possible alternative that we had with the number of forces that were going to be committed. And I told him that I didn't think it could be done,unless a lot more decisions were made.
And of course, up until that time, there had been no indication of kicking Iraq out of Kuwait, it was more defending Saudi Arabia. So when the President got up and gave the speech that he did on the 16th, I looked at Colin and Colin looked at me, because we were both quite surprised with the vigour of the speech and the indications that, you know, either they get out or we kick them out type of an approach, because neither of us at that point had gone that far in our thinking.
At that point our thinking was totally defensive, everything I had briefed had been defensive and I had been very careful to point out at Camp David that this is what it takes to defend, this is not what it takes to attack and so, therefore, when the conversation went from stopping them, to ejecting them, we were talking about an entirely different type of military operation.
Q: You contacted the Pentagon and said, "Hey, let's get some work done on this" and John Warden came to see you. What appealed to you about what John Warden showed you?
Schwarzkopf: As the events of August unfolded, we had the hostage situation where they'd taken Americans and Europeans as hostages and were placing them on strategic targets. We also had the Embassies surrounded and the Embassy staffs inside the Embassies and very much in danger.
And people were publicly saying, you know, "Nothing had better happen to the hostages, nothing had better happen to our Embassies, they invade our Embassies that's an act of wa and they'll pay a terrible price for that."
And it suddenly dawned on me that I had no military options or very, very limited military options, to offer the President so I called up Colin Powell and said, you know,
"We need to think this through because, if, in fact, they do invade the Embassy or if, in fact, they do start executing hostages and we want to retaliate, I need a package of retaliation options that I can offer to the President of the United States, and let him pick from this array as to what he might want to do."
So, I asked Colin to allow me to work directly with the air staff to develop a package of options. Based upon that conversation, John Warden came down to my headquarters and we met.
Now at the same time, I was also starting to get questions, more questions about an offensive option, so John briefed me on an array of air targets and a strategic air campaign that could be targeted against strictly military or military-related targets.
And they were in packages. We had a package that were transportation targets, a package of nuclear targets, a package of chemical targets, a package of leadership targets, and this sort of thing, and had all of these various packages from which we could have selected individually or we could have selected to... chosen to execute an entire package. But putting it altogether, it was a very, very attractive strategic air campaign.
I then realise, sitting in that room, that this strategic air campaign would have to be a precursor to any offensive campaign. So, in conversations with John, we carried this a step further, calling this phase one, and I said,
"Now what would we have to do, you know, if we wanted to invade Iraq?"
And so we very quickly came up with this four phased campaign, where phase one was the strategic air campaign, phase two was we move it down into Kuwait to eliminate the air defences, number three we start to attrition the Iraqi military forces to get the numbers down to more in order of what we wanted, and then phase four was the offensive ground campaign.
And those four phases held throughout the entire planning of the war subsequently, it was a four-phased offensive campaign, always with the strategic air campaign being a stand along campaign that we could execute without executing phase two, three and four, if we so desire.
Q: Did you ever have any doubts about bombing Iraq itself or was it a case of, this ain't gonna be Vietnam?
Schwarzkopf: I had no doubt at all that we would bomb Iraq if I was going to be the Military Commander.
Again, the whole point of studying Iraq had been to come up with its strengths and weaknesses and our strengths and weaknesses and to devise a strategy which allowed us to use our strengths against their weaknesses.
And obviously one of the very, very great strengths that we had was our ability with strategic air power and tactical air power. And one of his very great weaknesses vis a vis our strength was his very, very weak air force.
It would have been absolutely stupid to go into a military campaign against his forces who had a tremendous advantage on us on the ground, numbers wise, and said,
"OK, we'll only fight this battle on the ground, we won't fight it in the air." That would have been ludicrous.
Q: How important was your support in making this happen?
Schwarzkopf: I think probably more important was the fact that Colin Powell completely understood the importance of this and we, as a team, were solidly behind it.
I would also tell you that anyone who received a briefing on that plan came away very impressed with the significance of the plan and, there was more to it than just a plan.
For the first time we had a capability to focus on military targets and avoid civilian areas. So there was a degree of discrimination within the execution of the plan that made it much more palatable than it would have been, something like the firebombing of.. of Tokyo or something like that, that was just an indiscriminate destruction of the entire city.
Q: Did you ever see a strategic air campaign as the total way of getting Iraqis out of Kuwait, full stop?
Schwarzkopf: It was an option but I have never felt that it was the complete option. I always felt that it would take ground forces on the ground to, in fact, eject the ground forces that were over there.
Q: Let's talk now about the offensive. Could you describe how, on October the 6th, Colin Powell called you to say, "Send a briefing team" and your reaction to this?
Schwarzkopf: The forces that we had on the ground in early October were the forces that we required to defend Saudi Arabia, to give a guaranteed defence of Saudi Arabia.
I had tried every way I could to make it very clear to everyone in Washington that were we required to go on the offence, it would require more forces. One of the standard rules of warfare is the attacker should outnumber the defender, a minimum of three to one and if it gets a strongly fortified position, five to one.
And, of course, the ratios were just the other way around, they were outnumbering us by about three to one, or five to one. And they, at that time, were developing very strong defensive positions with barbed wire, with minefields, with this sort of thing.
So your simple mathematics said that, you know, if we were going to conduct, an offensive operation, it would be... it would require more force.
Colin called me in early October and said, "I want you to send a briefing team back to the White House to brief the air campaign." Because I had come over there, I had seen the subsequent air campaign, after Chuck Horner and Buster Glosson had taken over and they'd come in and laid it all out before me. And I was so very impressed with it, I called back and said,
"Look, this is absolutely sensational and this will do the trick, this is just the kind of air campaign we need to have, and you need to let people see this."
Colin saw it, he was very impressed with it. And so, therefore, I think he wanted to I think he wanted to show it to the White House to make the White House feel good.
So he said, "I want you to send a team back, with the, air campaign."
And then he said,
"And I also want you to send an offensive option back."
And I objected strongly. I said,"Look, I've told everybody all along we do not have the forces on the ground to conduct an offensive option, and if we do conduct it there is only one possibility and that's a penetration right to the heartland of Kuwait where we will sit and we may accomplish all of our objectives and get to that point and then if the Iraqis choose to reinforce, we're out of options, we have no reserve, we have no other forces over here and we could be destroyed."
And Colin said,"I understand that and you've made it clear to me and what I want you to do is present this offensive option anyhow so we can show the White House exactly what it is we're dealing with."
I was still very uneasy about that. So, what I did was, I sent Bob Johnson, my Chief of Staff back. But before I did, I said to Bob,
"These are the last two charts I want you to show the President and that is this is the offensive option, it's the only one we could conduct at this time with these forces. But I do not recommend this course of action. It is the wrong course of action, if we're going to attack, we need to attack the proper way."
Q: What did the final slide say in this briefing?
Schwarzkopf: The final slide said,
This plan is not recommended and if you do want to eject the Iraqis out of Kuwait it will take considerably more force on the ground than we presently have."
Q: Buster Glosson and Joe Purvis both remember you saying that, "Stick to this brief, though don't over-emphasise it, otherwise I'll terminate your military career!" You wanted to get this message across. Why were you so insistent about that?
Schwarzkopf: It was very important to me that my views as the theatre Commander be presented just as they were. Obviously I knew at this table there were going to be a lot of outsiders sitting around, there were gonna be a lot of other people.
Many times in the past, military decisions had been influenced bypeople within the government who have no military training whatsoever.
So, I just wanted to be absolutely sure that the President understood that although I was asked to give an offensive option and this would be the way that we would do it if we had to do it with what we had on the ground, but I absolutely did not recommend that course of action and that was not what I felt needed to be done.
AndI didn't want that position waffled or equivocated or changed. I didn't want the briefers--because they were receiving pressure from all sides-- to cave in and say,
"Well, OK, I think we could do it" or anything, you know, that wasn't their purpose. They were the briefers, they were there to brief my position.
As a matter of fact, I had originally volunteered to go back to Washington myself. I said, "This is so important that I would like to come back and give this briefing."
And Colin felt that my arrival in Washington DC could not be done in secret and that that would gin up a whole great deal of speculation within the Washington community as to why I was there and, therefore, he said,
"No, I'd rather you stay behind." And therefore I sent my Chief of Staff to give the briefing.
Q: When did you first realise that things had gone badly, that some of the political figures, General Scowcroft, in particular, but also Bob Gates, Dick Cheney has also told me he thought "Hey diddle, diddle, up the middle" was his description; they've all took it as you gaming them .... When did you first begin to realise something had gone wrong?
Schwarzkopf: Well, Colin reported back to me almost immediately that, the briefing on the air campaign had gone wonderfully, the briefing on the ground campaign had gone terribly.
And you know, he confirmed all of my worst suspicions because the information he gave me is as the briefers were going on with the plan, it was constantly being interrupted and people were interjecting in there,
"Well, that doesn't make sense and you can't do this and you shouldn't that ..."
And they were never allowed to present their complete briefing before the entire, you know, before they were already debunked. And in fact, my last disclaimer, by the time the disclaimer came up, it really didn't carry very much weight because, by that time, everybody around the table said, "Oh, this is a terrible plan"
Given the forces that we had on the ground and the forces that we were facing on the opposite side and the type of positions we were facing, it wasn't a terrible plan, it was the only plan. There was no other way we could have possibly conducted that military operation other than the way it was presented to them at that time.
Q: Why do you think they got the wrong end of the stick?
Schwarzkopf: I don't know. I don't know again what introduction was given to the plan. I wasn't there and, as I say, hindsight being 20/20, I wished, I still wish that I had been there for that presentation because I probably would have introduced it from the standpoint of, you know, this is not a recommended plan, it's the only way it could be done under these circumstances.
I wasn't confident with it at all and we had not developed our offensive option to the extent that I wanted it developed. We just in the process of it and when told we have to present something, this was all we had to present.
There was absolutely no gamesmanship involved in this at all none whatsoever. This was not a "Throw 'em the worst case and therefore they will give us more people ..." there was none of that at all.
It was the only plan that was available at that time that, that could have... could have met with any success whatsoever.
And that isn't just my opinion. I mean, I was not working on this plan in isolation by myself, quite the contrary. This was the opinion of all of the military experts that were involved in bringing this plan together..
Q: You must have thought long and hard about this -- as to why they took it this way. The only reason, I can assume, is that, they were aware.--General Scowcroft, Bob Gates, Dick Cheney to a lesser extent--were aware that Colin Powell had reservations, Colin Powell made no secret of the fact that he wanted containment to carry on. What do you think was the reason that these highly intelligent people got the wrong end of the stick?
Schwarzkopf: If you examine the options... that are available in the broadest of terms for the attack, there are really only three options.
Option number one is a frontal attack across the entire front... That's a very costly option when you're facing a huge, overwhelming force ..
Option number two is an envelopment. Either single or double envelopment, where you... whip around behind them into the rear... Requires highly mobile forces... and sufficient forces so that when they get back there, they're capable of defending themselves. And when you do that, you also require a fixing force. Because if you don't fix the forces that are on the front line, they can all turn around and go back there against the envelopment.
And option number three is a penetration, where you select a given point in the line, and then you concentrate your forces there, so your forces are stronger than the forces you're opposing there, and you punch through and try and get into his rear. And succeed that way.
I think the people at the table quite frankly just don't understand that. And therefore when they see a penetration, going right to a piece of strategic terrain north of Kuwait City, they find it unimaginative. They probably are displaying their lack of knowledge of... military options.
Q: Dick Cheney told me the whole point of the Western Excursion and so on, was to get the message across to the military, that this war was going to have to happen--if it had to happen, that he wanted to get the message across that this was serious.
Schwarzkopf: Nobody had to deliver any messages to me that this was a serious business. Because, having been through what I'd already been through in Washington before I ever left, I realised that one day there would come that requirement for us to perhaps have to eject the Iraqis out of Kuwait.
I was very confident of the defensive plan because we'd been working on that for over a year in our headquarters. We had not been working on any offensive plan at all - none.
So when I arrived in country, my first priority with my planners is we have to get cranking on an offensive option. And, the offensive option was preoccupying my thinking, and everybody else in my headquarter's thinking for a very very long time.
Not because we were sure that we were going to have to execute it, but because if the President of the United States... and all the rest of the world leaders turned around and said "Execute your offensive option!" I obviously had to have one.
It's the same type of thinking that went into the decision that led to the strategic air campaign. I recognised that if something were to happen, I had to have a military option to present... And that's exactly what we were doing in this case.
Q: Final question in this area...Colin Powell phoned you, and you were furious and you said "Look we don't need to go on, we don't have a concept, we don't have a concept of how we're going to conduct this operation." What was going on?
Schwarzkopf: The frustration was, that based upon all the work we had done, the only viable offensive plan we could come up with was this penetration. Yet it was a very high risk military operation. It was very dependent upon several things turning out positively, any one of which had gone wrong, would have stopped us dead in our tracks. And it also could have been a very, very high, casualty-producing type operation.
So. Yes, we had an offensive plan. Did we have a viable offensive plan?
Absolutely not, in my viewpoint.
So when Colin called and said... you know, I said
"We're not prepared to do this!" And Colin said "You have to do it!" I of course was very frustrated, because I did not under any circumstances I didn't want to present the plan. It's just that simple. Because it was not a plan that I recommended and as I said, I made it very clear to my briefers that I wanted them to say that.
Q: You won the argument. How do you describe the phone call-- Colin Powell telling you that you'd got the extra forces, and what your reaction to that was?
Schwarzkopf: Well, it wasn't shortly thereafter. It was quite sometime after that.....
Colin came to visit my headquarters. We had extensive briefings and by this time I had gone ahead ---- because after the Washington briefing the question had come back to me: "Okay, what do you need? And if you had the forces what would you do?"
And I said "Fine, I can show you that in a heartbeat."
So we really had two plans: what we called the One Corps option and the Two Corps option. And the Two Corps option was essentially fix the forces in place using One Corps and the Arab forces, and do the envelopment. The second option was the Two Corps option, which was the penetration.
When Colin came over for his briefing he said "I would like to briefed again on the One Corps option".
And,I said "Fine, I'd like to show you the Two Corps option! So he came over, we briefed him on the One Corps option, we showed him the Two Corps option. Then the following morning he asked to be briefed again on the One Corps option.
I briefed him again on the One Corps option, and I pointed out all of my trepidations with regard to that option. And the conclusion of that, was Colin said "Okay, if you are going to be required to attack, you will have the forces that you need". That was very reassuring to me.
And he made that promise, and when I received the phone call eventually, I went back a few subsequent things came out you know, from again, the Washington community, that were really driving me up the wall. So I had composed a very very emotional message that I was going to send in just saying, you know,
"This is ridiculous..." Because we were still being required to look at ridiculous options that were coming out and it seemed like everybody and his brother in Washington who had an idea of how we were going to do this, was coming up with... and then we were being asked to comment on it.
And so I just sent a message that said
Look," you know, "My staff is being driven right into the ground by these `what if' drills? You're not showing us any confidence in us at all. We were the ones in the first place who said we didn't want to do this, and you forced us to brief you on this, and now we're being criticised for it. "But fortunately enough I never had to send that message, because I got the phonecall saying "Okay, you're gonna get the forces".
Q: Some have said that it was your opinion you could never get any strategic guidelines out of Washington....
Schwarzkopf: Whenthe Normandy Invasion was planned, a very specific strategic objective was given, and that strategic objective was the basis upon which the plan for the Normandy Invasion was derived.
We never had such a strategic directive. We had a series of phone calls... most of which were not followed up with hard copy... saying, "Do this, do that, what we think we ought to do is that, what we might want to do is that".
and so there a came a point where, where all of us were saying, "Okay, it seems to me that all the decisions have been made. Let's have a strategic directive".
I think that more importantly people were saying "What, what will the end game be? You know, when do we terminate all this? What is it we're trying to accomplish at the end of the day? What do we expect to see on the ground? What are the terms of cessation of hostilities? Will we use nuclear weapons?"
You know, looking for some sort of an outline and form within which, you know, the military people could in fact make the decisions that the military people needed to make, once the political decisions had been made.
We never had that. And as a result, what we had to do, all of us, we had to make assumptions about the political decisions to therefore fit the military plans to what we assumed were the political conditions. And then of course, if one of those conditions changed it kind of threw everything into a cocked hat, and we had to go back to ground zero, not necessarily ...
Q: Everyone's always said to me "Oh, they had a very clear objective" you know, "Get rid of the Iraqis from Kuwait." Could you explain to me in headline terms, just very briefly, why wasn't that good enough?
Schwarzkopf: Well I think, I think... What has happened since then... is a pretty clear example of why that probably wasn't good enough.
I mean the whole question that we hear over and over again, "Why didn't you go to Baghdad and, and capture Saddam Hussein? Why didn't you inflict greater damage on the Republican Guard?"
When the decision was made to end the war, the decision was made, it's because I had accomplished all of my military objectives. The things that now that people are talking about, capturing Saddam Hussein, destroying ... inflicting more damage on the Republican Guard, etc., etc., etc., these are political decisions, far beyond the military realm.
I had to establish my own objectives, and my own objectives frankly turned out to be, you know, number one objective: Iraqis out of Kuwait, number two: inflict as much damage as I could on their armed forces so they couldn't come back another day.
The kick them out of Iraq objective was one that was given to us by United Nations Resolution. But the second part of this thing; inflict maximum damage upon the Iraqi armed forces so that they cannot return, you know, shortly thereafter, was another objective that evolved. But again you'll never find that in writing, anywhere.
Q: Tell me about your briefing to your command. What did you want to get across to all these generals that were gathered?
Schwarzkopf: Once I was told that I would get this very large increase in force, more in fact than I'd asked for, to execute the offensive operation, I knew there was a great deal that had to be done. We had to sell that plan to the Arabs. We had to get into the detail planning.
But it was very important to me that my... principal commanders, the ones that were going to bear the brunt of that attack, had got themselves in the proper mind set as rapidly as possible and maintain that mind set throughout their planning.
Let's face it. It was a very very aggressive plan...you know, to throw forces up against the main lines and hold them, and then to make this very wide - almost a turning movement in the military definition, even more than the envelopment ... to go very very deep across unknown terrain, to move very very rapidly. It was a bold plan. And therefore it required bold planning and it required bold execution.
I knew all the commanders that were there, and I wanted them to know from the very outset what I expected of them and why.
So, when I walked into that room I initially gave them the strategic concept, what I had identified as the enemy's centre of gravity, in accordance with Klowsowitz's definition. And then how we were going to go about systematically accomplishing what we wanted to accomplish to attack that centre of gravity. And preparing the ground for the ground campaign. And then I wanted to show them what the ground campaign would be.
Q: What did you say to them, for example about the Republican Guard?
Schwarzkopf: Well I told them that I had identified the Republican Guard as one of the two centers of gravity. You know Clausewitz says center of gravity is that thing which, if destroyed, will destroy the will of the enemy to fight.
I had identified two centers of gravity in the Iraqi military. One was Saddam Hussein himself. And number two was the Republican Guard, because the Republican Guard was the elite force of the Iraqi army and if the Republican Guard collapsed, then the rest of the Iraqi army wasn't going to hold together.
So, basically, I described how we were going to cut off Saddam Hussein from his ability to issue directives to the frontline forces, through the strategic air campaign.
And then secondly, I told how from day one we would start attacking the Republican Guard and we would continue to attack them relentlessly until the final ground assault, er, succeeded.
Q: Did you have a sense of history as you spoke to them?
Schwarzkopf: I didn't have any sense of history. It was a very very important briefing... I was delighted to be able to give the briefing because I'd gone through all this agony, worrying about being directed to do this One Corps attack and all of the politics and the bureaucracy involved with that, and I was so greatly relieved that now finally we were going to be able to it the right way.
Our philosophy in the United States Army has always been to present the commander's concept to your subordinates, make sure they clearly understand the concept, and then allow them to use their initiative in figuring out how they're going to conduct their operation within the overall commander's concept.
So, the best way to describe what I was doing was, I was, wanted to make everyone in that room understand the strategic concept that was involved, and the operational concept that was involved, and then allow them to go back and start their planning on how they were going to execute their part of the overall concept.
Q: There was a sort of `us and them' relationship between 18th Corps and VII Corps. I mean VII Corps, as I understand it, rather static, more conservative, they were the guys who were gonna fight World War Three. 18th Corps much more up and at 'em ... How would you characterise the difference between the two Corps?
Schwarzkopf: 18th Airborne Corps, you have to understand, consisted of the 101st Air Assault, the 82nd Airborne and the 24th Mech. We'd made innumerable trips to the National Training Center. It was a very very very highly mobile, fluid,operational concept out there, where you fought twenty- four hours a day, seven days a week. There were no off pauses, there was no stopping, there was no anything.
So I think the mentality of the 18th Airborne Corps was probably one of, you know, deep penetrations andthat's precisely why among other reasons I had them out on that flight there.
I would also confess to that I knew the 24th Division, I knew what it could do, I knew the 101st and I knew both the commanders, and I had great confidence in those two commanders. As I did in the Corps commander.
The VII Corps was of course a very, very heavy Corps with huge armored capability. This is purely personal position, but having served in the Army in Germany, where there was a great deal of control-- concern about things like maneuver damage and therefore they very much stayed on the highways and they generally would stop operations at night and start them the next morning and this sort of thing, because they didn't want to be driving across farmers' fields in the middle of the night and, you know, they didn't want to have accidents on the autobahns and this sort of thing.
So I just think, I found that there was mainly probably as a result of the National Training Center experience that there was a different mentality between those forces that had been through the National Training Center concept, and those that had not.
Q: For a civilian, like me, how would you sum up the difference between these two corps?
Schwarzkopf: When the plans were presented... by both Corps commanders, the 18th Airborne Corps plan was a very bold plan, an extremely bold plan, as was required for what their operation would consist of.
When the VII Corps plan was presented, it was a very carefully thought out build up of combat power prior to ever engaging and penetrating the position first of all, getting all of your combat power through, building up that combat power,in a correlation of forces concept, to a point where you had sufficient combat power to then take on the entire body of the Republican Guard.
And at the time of the briefing, although it was, not a bold concept, it was certainly a very very good concept for the mission that they were supposed to accomplish at that given time.
Q: Pushing on.... Cheney and Powell came over in December ... What was the message you gave to them?
Schwarzkopf: When Cheney and Powell came over in December, I think they went away feeling very good about what they'd seen. We brought in a Corps commander, we brought in two different division commanders to brief them. After they'd had the overall briefing on where we were, these people came in and briefed them in detail on their concept of the operation. They were also briefed on the logistics plans.
And I think they walked away with a very good feeling that number one, it was the right decision to go with the forces that we had there and that number two, the commander had a very good handle on what was happening.
Q: The Geneva talks, when Jim Baker talked to Tariq Aziz, do you remember sitting watching those talks?
Schwarzkopf: Well it was very late at night in Riyadh. But I realised that this was going to determine whether we went to war or not.
And so I waited to watch on CNN, Secretary Baker's report out. And when Secretary Baker gave his report, very pessimistic and saying, you know, "I'll allow the Iraqis to speak for themselves ..."
And then Tariq Aziz came out and talked for... it seemed like forever, and never mentioned one word about Kuwait, at that point I realised we were going to war.
Q: How did you feel about that? You said in your book that you thought about the casualties, you thought about the cost of war.
Schwarzkopf: Well I think it's fair to say that anyone who picks the military as a career prepares all their lives for war, but hopes they will never have to go to war. Certainly more senior commanders, maybe not the junior commanders, maybe they want to get in there... But certainly anyone who's been around the military as long as I had you, you would hope that you can avoid war, because war costs people their lives. I mean your own forces, the enemy forces, innocent civilians that are caught in between. And therefore war should be the last, very very last recourse.
And so, you know, you're torn by two ends. Number one you are going through detailed preparations to make sure you do do it right and you do prevail. And at the same time another part of you is saying you know, "Gosh, it would be really be nice if somehow this could all be brought about to a necessary conclusion without the need to go to war."
Q: If the Iraqis at that stage had offered to withdraw, would you have regarded that as victory?
Schwarzkopf: If the Iraqis at that stage had offered to withdraw, I would have regarded that as victory, yes. But I would qualify that with saying that it had to be done in such a way that there some assurances that the same thing wouldn't happen six months from now. That was the problem.
The Arab world was very concerned about the win-win scenario, where Saddam Hussein withdraws, we win but he wins too, and is in a position where he can now intimidate the entire Arab world from now on by saying
"Remember what I did to Kuwait. I can always come back and do it again!"
I offer as an intellectual exercise--"What do you think would have happened in the early days of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, if Saddam Hussein had said... `Gee, you're right world! I did something wrong. I will pull my forces out of Kuwait.' Then he pulled his forces back and stopped just short of the Rumaila oilfields and kept them all for himself, and said `Oh, by the way, there's always been a border point of dispute here. I think I'll just keep all these oilfields!'
Q: Would the world have gone to war?
Schwarzkopf: I don't think so. I don't think so. Yet he would've won big time. Strategically he would've won big time.So you have to consider not only the operational victory but the strategic victory, the long term victory. And that was one of the major concerns with Iraq pulling out at any given time, you know, right up to those latter days, people were very concerned that Iraq would pull out, but would've won anyhow because they would've intimidated the entire rest of the Arab world, and you know, would have 'em scared to death and still have these huge forces intact.
I somewhat facetiously say that I spent a great deal of time trying to get into Saddam Hussein's thinking. And, in hindsight all I would've had to have done is pick the absolutely stupidest course of action every time, and I would've been pretty close to predicting what was going to happen.
So, there were several places along the way where I think the Iraqis could've accomplished a strategic victory. And they blew it.
Q: Just a brief one. You taped a quotation from Sherman to your desk. Tell me what you taped...
Schwarzkopf: I actually had two quotations. One from General Sherman and one from General MacArthur.
The General Sherman quotation was `War is the remedy our enemies have chosen, and I say let's give them all they want.' The MacArthur one was from a speech that he gave at the United Stated Military Academy, called Duty, Honor, Country, when he said something to the effect that
`Yours is the profession of arms,' and essentially was, you know, `If you don't do it, nobody else will.'
That was the bottom line to the whole thing. I taped that there because there were some times when I would think to myself "Oh my goodness!", you know, "how did I get involved in this?" and, you know "I wish somebody would lift this burden from me".
And then I came to understand that that that's the thing I've been trained for all my life. And if I didn't do it, who was going to do it?
Q: The first night of the war. Can you recall... your entry into the war room that night?
Schwarzkopf: In the days immediately preceding the launch of the air attack, we tried to keep it a very very deep secret, exactly when these attacks would be launched. Very few people knew. Now there were lots of rumors and lots of speculation and lots of talk going round the headquarters, but there had been no official announcement.
So, what I did was I asked for my principle staff to meet me in the war room down in the basement, a half an hour before `H hour'. And I had written a message to all the forces, and what I did is I assembled them in there and I read them the message... And then I asked the chaplain to say a prayer, and then I played `God Bless the USA' - a blatantly chauvinistic piece of music (chuckles), but I think it characterised the pride that all of us have in our profession, and in what we were and there's a line in there that says "I would proudly stand next to you, And defend her still today" and that's what it was all about.
And I said, "Now, we all know what we need to do. Now let's get on with it."
Q: Playing the Lee Greenwood tune.... everyone who was there said it was a very emotional ... What were you feeling?
Schwarzkopf: I was very emotional. I mean,know that the orders have been given, that the planes were in the air at that time, heading towards their targets with no guarantees of the outcome. To know that we had taken a very big step and that the war had started and none of us knew exactly how it was going to end. It's a very very emotional moment.
I still, whenever I hear Lee Greenwood's `God Bless the USA', even today, I still get very very emotional. Particularly that business about, you know, men who have died. Because of course that brings back memories of Vietnam to me, as well as Desert Storm. And then, it follows up with a line that says
"I would gladly stand next to you and defend her still today" and I believe that very strongly.
So there's a whole sort of emotional side of this military career that's expressed in that song, and it touches my heart every time I hear it.
Q: Just for the record, if you don't mind reading from your book --
Schwarzkopf: "Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines of the United States Central Command. This morning at 0300 ...
... we launched Operation Desert Storm, an offensive campaign that will enforce United Nations Resolutions that Iraq must cease its rape and pillage of its weaker neighbor and withdraw its forces from Kuwait. The President, the Congress, the American people, and indeed the world, stand united in their support of your actions. You are a member of the most powerful force our country in coalition with our allies has ever assembled in a single theatre to face such an aggressor. You have trained hard for this battle and you are ready. During my visits with you, I have seen in your eyes a fire of determination to get this job done, and done quickly, so that we may return to the shores of our great nation. My confidence is you is total. Our cause is just. Now, you must be the thunder and lightning of Desert Storm. May God be with you, our loved ones at home, and our country."
Q: Then you got down to business. Do you remember hearing from Jesse Johnson that the special forces in Kuwait had worked?
Schwarzkopf: Yeah, Jesse Johnson called me to report on the initial penetration by the helicopters where they had to fly in, take out a radar station, which sort of opened the door for every plane that came in after that.
It was a very risky operation, very high risk operation. They'd conducted countless rehearsals, I had had reports on every one of those rehearsals and still, you know, my heart was in my throat about whether this would succeed, and if it didn't succeed it could've cost us a lot of aircraft.
So, the first report I got back was Jesse calling me to say that the troops were back and that the mission was accomplished and, best of all, the mission was accomplished without any casualties at all.
That was the first of many pieces of good news that followed after that. I would tell you that that wasn't half as impressive as the reports I was getting later on from Chuck Horner, about the return of our aircrafts.
There had been speculation that in those initial waves of aicraft, our casualties could have been as high as 20%. Which given the type of operation it was, compared to the type of operation that had occurred in other wars, would not have been extraordinarily high casualties.
So when the reports are coming back in from Chuck Horner saying, you know, 100% of all the aircraft to date have returned, and we have only lost one aircraft of so many aircraft, the thousands of sorties that were going out that night, I mean you know, there was just a feeling of wonderment.
We were going up against what we knew to be the most sophisticated air defence system that our air forces, our combined air forces, had ever flown against.
Q: How important, was the first night -- what it achieved?
Schwarzkopf: Well I don't think it accomplished anything by way of surprise.
The Iraqis were more than ready. So that's the bad news.
The good news is it didn't make any difference, because what in fact happened was it was completely successful in accomplishing everything we wanted to accomplish at very very very low cost.
And because the cost was so low, it then allowed us to continue on with the campaign, you know, day in and day out after thatwith a much greater feeling of relief, knowing that we could in fact execute this very very ambitious strategic air campaign and that we wouldn't have a very very high price for it.
I think that that was, more than anything else the, the importance of that first night's campaign.
Q: Saddam.What were your instructions with regard to Saddam Hussein?
Schwarzkopf: Well, the objective regarding Saddam Hussein was that he was in fact a center of gravity. He was the single most important person in Iraq, and not only that but in Iraq's determination to fight this war.
Also when you study the war between Iran and Iraq, often he was the person issuing the orders to the frontline troops.
Q: So you wanted to get him?
Schwarzkopf: That was one of their strategic weaknesses. So therefore what we wanted to do was sever his his ability to... communicate with his frontline forces. And if that meant killing him, then so be it.
I mean, you certainly want to go after the centre of gravity and therefore we bombed command bunkers and this sort of thing. But the objective was not to kill Saddam Hussein, as much as it was to completely sever his ability to communicate with his forces.
Q: What was the closest you came?
Schwarzkopf: Ah! The closest we came, we had a report that there was a very very large convey moving down a road one night. We then attacked that convey and it's my understanding that we hit the vehicle in front of his and the vehicle behind his, and killed the bodyguards in it, and didn't touch him.
But, one of the interesting things that happened is up until that time, Saddam had been quite visibly up front on television, walking around and being seen in public. And all of a sudden we didn't see him any more. So that in itself accomplished something.
Q: Getting to the scuds. You got a message, you say in your book, from your Operations Officer about Israeli intentions on the Saturday morning. The first day no scuds, and then the second night they fired the scuds. And it was saying there were Israeli fighters and so on.
Schwarzkopf: The message we got was that there was an Israeli aircraft, in the air, prepared to attack into western Iraq.
That caused me considerable concern on two fronts. The first being that the Arabs had made it very clear from the first day we arrived over there, that any involvement on the part of Israel would make their position almost untenable...Secondly... of course, I had aircraft in the air over there. We had aircraft in the air. Chuck Horner's aircraft were there. And there's a deconfliction that has to take place with another force of aircraft entering into that area, flying around, could have created a great great difficulty with regard to fratricide and I was very very concerned about deconflicting this area.
Thirdly, quite frankly, there was nothing that the Israelis could've done that we weren't already doing, and so therefore it would've been really a futile gesture which could've caused the coalition to become unglued and all for something that was already being done.
Q: Tell me about the difference in the approach between Washington and yours...
Schwarzkopf: Washington's approach to the scuds was purely a political approach. My approach was purely a military approach.
Washington was very concerned about the pressure that was being brought to bear within Israel as a result of the scuds landing on Israel. And the fact that, if we couldn't convince the Israelis we were doing everything that could possibly be done to stop the scuds, that they would intervene, with subsequent impact on the coalition.
I would confess to you that my position was quite different and that's that number one, no one in Israel was ever killed by a scud missile. They did have some people die as a result of putting their gas masks on wrong. But no one was ever killed as a result of scud missiles.
Secondly, many many of the scud missiles were landing way outside of the towns. So as a military weapon it was, it was almost totally ineffective. It had no military significance and, by diverting as much air power as we were being required to divert, in kind of chasing this needle in a haystack, which is what the mobile scuds turned out to be, we weren't being very successful, every time we thought we were being successful we'd find out subsequently we weren't being very successful.
So we were diverting huge amounts of aircraft which could be contributing to the overall campaign plan. As a result the campaign plan was being prolonged because we weren't accomplishing on the time schedule we'd planned to accomplish, because of this diversion.
Please don't misunderstand me. I clearly understand the pressures that were on Washington and why they were doing it. But it was the only time during the entire war, where we started getting sort of the operational-type instructions from Washington DC.
Up until that time Washington had been very content to let the military people in the field do the job of the military people in the field. And, and now all of a sudden we were getting more of the, you know, "Why don't you go out and do this? Why don't you go do that? Why isn't it..."
And I would say that although I was somewhat frustrated by it, the person that was really really frustrated was poor Chuck Horner. I mean it was just driving him crazy.
Q: With regard to the scuds, there was a remark you made....
Schwarzkopf: The remark I made has been incorrectly quoted. It's been attributed to me that I said that
"... I was in more danger in a lightning storm in southern Georgia, than I was in the scud attack in Tel Aviv."
That is absolutely incorrect. What I said is I was under more danger from a lightning attack in southern Georgia than I would have been in the streets of Saudi Arabia ...... it was not Tel Aviv at all.
But the point was that the scud was purely a random act, a missile that was launched in the air, it was not aimed, there was no guidance system to it whatsoever, it kind of fell to earth and, and where it happened to land was a question of fate... more than it was a deliberate blow.
Unfortunately if you've ever been in southern Georgia on the beaches in a lightning storm, if you're out there you're in great great danger, and you can be killed very very quickly.
Uder a scud attack quite frankly,--and if it weren't for that one unfortunate incident where the warhead fell on one of our sleeping quarters---the casualties from the scud would have been extremely low.
So, and as I say, no one in Israel was ever killed by a scud missile attack. So that's what I meant when I made that comment.
Q: What for you was the significance of the Patriots? What did the Patriot achieve?
Schwarzkopf: The Patriot missile is a point defence missile. Point defence means that you put the missile at a location to defend a very specific target such as an airfield, a supply dump or a headquarters. 100% of all of the places that Patriot missile was deployed to protect were protected. None of them were ever hit.
What in fact happened was the Patriot missile also demonstrated a limited area defence capability, and that is that not only did it defend that particular airfield that it was there to defend, but also that it went up and it intercepted the incoming scud missiles over a much broader area.
And also I think it had a very very strong psychological effect on the people on the ground who sat there and watched the Patriot missiles go up, engage and explode the scud.
Now, again there's been a lot of criticism of the Patriots and a lot of pro and con. The Patriots did in fact many many times engage the scud missiles and cause them to blow up. Of course the warhead from the scud continued to fall to earth and explode when it hit the earth, but the Patriots accomplished their missions as far as protecting those point targets that they were deployed to protect.
Q: And psychologically, I mean, Winston Churchill in the Blitz in the Second World War said "Let the guns fly though they weren't hitting anything because it... I mean how important psychologically ...
Schwarzkopf: Well, I think the Patriot was very very important from a psychological standpoint, not only on our forces, but particularly on the Saudis. Saudis of course were very worried about the King, they were very worried about protecting the palaces and they were very worried about Riyadh.
And so I think that the fact that they saw those Patriot missiles there, in fact, intercepting the scud missiles, I think had a very strong psychological effect on the Saudis.
Q: How did you stop King Fahd firing off one of his missiles?
Schwarzkopf: Actually it was Prince Khalid that came to me, because Khalid was the Air Defence Commander, and those missiles were under his command. And he came to me and said, you know,
"We're thinking about firing our own missiles!"
And basically what I said to him was,
I would not recommend that because then you put yourself in the same position that the Iraqis are in. Those missiles do not have theaccuracy that you'd want them to have. We've accused the Iraqis of a terror tactic in that they just shoot these missiles off and they land in the middle of cities, killing innocent people. Yet if the Saudis had fired their missiles, they would have had exactly the same effect. They were not accurate enough to land on a specific target. And therefore I explained to them that I felt that would put them in the same position that we were putting the Iraqis in, and that wasn't in the best interests of the coalition.
Q: Khafji, as we're talking about the Saudis. Could you describe how you persuaded King Fahd not to bomb Khafji flat, or get you to bomb Khafji flat, after the Iraqis took the city? What happened?
Schwarzkopf: Well, the Iraqis attacked down the coast highway... and, and occupied the city of Khafji. Really wasn't any great victory because there was no one in Khafji, everyone had pulled out of Khafji, there was no military force there, other than the Saudi Arabian National Guard that'd been on the border and had pulled back. They were in a covering role.
To this day, I'm really not quite sure what the Iraqis intended in going into Khafji. Because what they did is they just set themselves up to be pounded mercilesslyby our air attacks, as they went down and as they went all the way back.
We were really very much in the business of sorting out what was going on in Khafji, and Khalid had told me that the Arab forces were going to retake Khafji. The Marines were in quite a battle at the time against the forces that were against them. Andwe were in the process of allocating air and getting as much air up there as we possibly could to handle that situation.
And then in the middle of the night, Khalid's deputy actually came to me with a request that we go in there and level Khafji. Again it was a very interesting parallelism between that and the tanks across the border.
The King's just said, you know, "I would rather than allow a piece of Saudi Arabian soil to be in the hands of the enemy, rather, you know, we will destroy the city."
And I just told Khalid's deputy at the time that that wasn't the way we did business. That the counter-attack force would come in, and we would retake the city. . And, that's the best way to do it in the long run. And certainly in the eyes of the world and world public opinion, that's the proper course of action to take.
Q: What did the encounter with Khafji tell you about the Iraqis?
Schwarzkopf: It told me several things.
First of all, it told me that they weren't as good as they had been touted to be. The 5th Division of attack was supposed to be just one level under the Republican Guard, almost as good as the Republican Guard. And they were highly ineffective and their tactics were very very ineffective and it didn't take much to kick them back. Secondly, we had been told how really effective the Iraqi artillery was and the Iraqi artillery at Khafji was very very ineffective.
So it really, it taught me that the enemy that we were going to go up against was nowhere near as formidable as we had been led to believe.
But more importantly, it also gave the Arab forces an opportunity to gain a great victory. And it taught them too, that the Iraqis were not 10 foot tall, that in fact that they could take them on and and whip 'em.
Q: There's this new book out and it says that you failed to appreciate the significance of Khafji. That after Khafji you should have thrown all your plans in the air, you should have realised afater Khafji, that the Marines were just going to go straight through them...should Khafji have told you that the Iraqis weren't worth anything?
Schwarzkopf: I don't think so. First of all it was the 5th Division, it was not the Republican Guard. The Republican Guard was located way deep -- in the western part of Kuwait, in a position to counter-attack very strongly into any force that were to go in.
What it sounds like-- People espouse that theory are advocating the `High diddle diddle, right up the middle' penetration, that was the original, you know, One Corps, attack philosophy.
And I would tell you that Khafji was a helluva fight. Khafji wasn't that easy. Huge casualties were inflicted upon those forces by the air power, there were a lot of casualties taken among the marines on the ground too, and there were a couple of penetrations in the Marine area that subsequently went back. But it wasn't any cakewalk, by any way, shape or form, at least not for the reports we have at the time.
Q: The meeting at the Blue Ridge about the amphibious attack, can you recall that meeting for me?
Schwarzkopf: That meeting on the Blue Ridge with Stan Arthur and Walt Boomer... Basically the reason why they wanted to have the meeting was because if they were going to conduct an amphibious operation, they needed to get the ball rolling at that time.
You first of all have to understand that we had gone to a great deal of effort to convince the Iraqis that we were going to be doing an amphibious operation, and that's one of the reasons why so many of their forces were arrayed out to sea.
It didn't make a lot of sense, to my mind, to do an amphibious operation. I would also tell you that Washington very much opposed to any amphibious operation. As a matter of fact they had made it very clear to me that any proposal to do an amphibious operation would probably be denied by Washington.
But I felt that I oughta give Walt and Stan, an opportunity to present their case.
At the conclusion of their briefing, I still felt that the number of casualties that they would take, as a result of the very strong Iraqi positions, was not worth what the operation would accomplish. Because, after all, this was still the secondary attack, this was not the primary attack. And the primary attack was going to be the one that went after the Republican Guard. Again, remember that the destruction of the Republican Guard was one of the objectives.
And secondly, the amount of bombardment that would have had to take place to adequately, to reduce the dug-in, strength of the Iraqi force in that area would have inflicted great destruction on that part of Kuwait.
And again, faced with the fact that this is the secondary attack, Washington probably isn't going to approve it, no matter what is said here, and the price that we would have to pay in the way of casualties, it just wasn't worth it to go ahead and do it.
I had said this several times before that our job was to liberate Kuwait, it wasn't to destroy Kuwait. I felt that very strongly.
There were many other cases in the strategic air campaign where people wanted to go in and take out certain targets and I said,
"We're not going to do that, because we take out that target and that's good for a very short run. But in the long run we're going to destroy the Kuwaiti oil industry, and give them back a country that they can't do anything with."
Q: There was an enormous political pressure on Walt.
Schwarzkopf: ... to do an amphibious operation...
Q: ... Tell me about that and would you have resisted it?
Schwarzkopf: You know, the United States Marine Corps is famous for its amphibious operations. And the Marines wanted to do an amphibious operation in conjunction with their attack.
And again I can understand the pressures that were being brought to bear on Walt to do an amphibious operation.
But I certainly wasn't going to approve an operation that I didn't feel would add considerably to the overall campaign plan. And again I was faced with tremendous reticence on the part of Washington DC to do any amphibious operation at all.
I finally let them go ahead with the planning for an amphibious operation on Falaqa Island off the coast of Kuwait city and they couldn't pull it off. They never could pull it off because they found out there were mines in the water and the minute they hit the mines, they had to back off. And, although. again I had them on a string and I should say we, Colin Powell and I had them on a string, and we said "Continue with the planning, but you will not execute it without our permission".
And, discussing it over and over again, both Colin and I had continued to agree that there was no real purpose in an amphibious operation. But even getting to the point where they could conduct one, they never could pull it off because they had to pull back because of the mines in the water.So to my mind, at that point amphibious operations became a moot point.
Q: Who was concerned about the amphibious landing?
Schwarzkopf: I certainly know Colin Powell was, I'm sure Dick Cheney was, I'm sure that anyone who looked at the array of Iraqi forces along the beach and knew the campaign plan, knew that this was the secondary attack, would say
"Why are you going ahead?" And, you know, an amphibious operation's not the simplest thing in the world. There's elements of risk involved with it, and "Why are you insisting on an amphibious operation in what is the secondary attack area, when you are tacking right into the teeth of the Iraqi position?" So, that's why I use the term Washington DC. Because it was the entire Washington community from my standpoint that was being relayed to me were against such an operation.
Q: And all the time, every day, you were worrying about casualties. It's a dominant theme. What was your nightmare scenario?
Schwarzkopf: My nightmare scenario was the fact that our forces would attack into Iraq, and find themselves in such a great concentration that they became targeted by chemical weapons or some sort of a rudimentary nuclear device that would cause mass casualties.
That's exactly what the Iraqis did in the Iran/Iraq war. They would take the attacking masses of the Iranians, let them run up against their barrier system, and when there were thousands of people massed against the barrier system, they would drop chemical weapons on them and kill the thousands of people.
We knew that they had done this in the Iran/Iraq war. There was every reason to believe that they would do it opposing us. And we also knew that they had some limited nuclear capability, and thought that perhaps they could assemble some sort of very very rudimentary device which they could detonate.
We were particularly worried about that area out to the east, that the envelopment was going to come through, because I for one could never understand why it was that area was left wide open and unprotected. And, I had my intelligence staff using terms like `chemical killing sack', `nuclear detonation area' and this sort of thing to describe possible scenarios as to why that area was left open.
Q: Did you ever have any hard intelligence that they might have a nuclear device?
Schwarzkopf: No. We had a matter of fact very good intelligence that they did not have a nuclear weapon. But we certainly had had indications for many years that they had a nuclear program going on, and it could very easily yield a primitive nuclear device of some sort or another.
Q: Buster Glosson has told me about a punishment air tasking order if they'd used chemical weapons, involving the dams and so on. How devastating would that have been, that punishment air tasking order?
Schwarzkopf: That air tasking order had a great deal of flexibility built into it, and there were any number of scenarios. Again, all of the contingency plans that we made regarding the air were made regarding air power, were made in such a way that you had an array of initiatives that you could've selected from, to make them either a demonstration-type thing, all the way through to a very very serious attack...
Q: So, if there'd been a serious use of chemical weapons, what would you have done?
Schwarzkopf: I don't know. I really don't. At that point, you know, all I could've done is turned to the President and say
"Okay, this is the array of options that you have available to you. Make your choice!"
Q: Getting back to the air war. The air war's going on. You've got the whole problem with bomb damage assessment. How frustrating was the performance of the intelligence community in giving you accurate bomb damage assessment?
Schwarzkopf: During this war we probably had the finest intelligence support that any commander has ever had in the history of warfare.
That's the good news, but it's also the bad news. Because... there were reams and reams of factual information that were pouring into our headquarters, without any concise analysis coming along with it. And, the intelligence community was almost being buried under the amount of intelligence information that they were receiving.
We had established certain criteria that we had to meet before we wanted to kick off the ground campaign plan. And yet we were being frustrated in our accomplishment of this criteria because, even after placing thousands and thousands of tons of bombs on the enemy, when we would finally get an assessment back, I personally felt it was sort of a waffling of results. It was sort of an either/or, `you may have, but then again you may not have'.
A very good example would be, for instance, the destruction of Iraqi aircraft. We went in first of all to destroy the airfields. We shot down all the planes in the air. A lot of them flew off to Iran and then some of them went into hardened shelters and we were continuing to pound these hardened shelters.
So at one point Chuck Horner's people came up with an estimate that the Iraqi airforce was attritioned to such and such a point. And, that would then be challenged by the intelligence community back in Washington, saying
"No, no, based upon our air photography, that's not the case. You haven't really done anything".
And I kept saying
"Wait a minute. We're missing the purposes here. What we are trying to do is accomplish a certain thing by this attack, and we should never lose sight of what it is we are trying to accomplish. In this case we are trying to render the Iraqi airforce ineffective, and in fact that has happened. So we've accomplished 100% of our objective, even though we may not have taken out 100% of the airplanes, we may've only taken out 25%".
The number of airplanes exactly that were taken out was irrelevant. What was relevant was what this was designed to do, -- make the airforce of the Iraqis absolutely ineffective against ours.
Q: How were the differing estimates resolved?
Schwarzkopf: In the final analysis, Colin Powell came back to me and said,
"The decision has been made that we are going to take the assessment of you, the commanders in the field."
And I'm very glad that's the case because, if we had been held to the estimates that were coming out of Washington DC, then we would've attacked much much later than we ultimately did.
Q: Cal Waller. In the end you appointed him to adjudicate targets. Why?
Schwarzkopf: There's always been a doctrinal dispute between the Air Force, the Navy and Marine Corps, on the utilisation of aircraft in the combat theatre. Each one of those people sort of wants to put a box around the airplanes in an area and say
"It all belongs to me". And frankly as a theatre commander that is not the best way to operate. As a theatre commander the best way to operate is that you can have only one person in charge of everything that flies in the air and depend on that person to honestly make judgements in the best interests of your theatre commanders' overall concepts and missions.
I appointed Chuck Horner as my air component commander. He performed absolutely magnificently and if I ever had to go to war again, I would do the same thing all over again.
It was only in those very latter days, when we were allocating forces to soften up the frontline positions, that a dispute broke out between the Army and the Marines as to the number of aircraft each should be getting. And each started insisting that the other people were getting more, and they were not getting enough.
And so therefore I put Cal Waller in charge of that, and I said
"You meet every day with those people. You come and make a recommendation to me in the evening as to how we should allocate those forces."
Q: People like Tom Graham, Freddy Franks ...... they all said they were very frustrated with the degree of air support. They perceived that ... Is it true, do you think, that the strategic air bombers were saying "Hey, let's go and bomb some more headquarters of this, and the headquarters of that", and found bombing tanks and stuff rather tedious and boring?
Schwarzkopf: You really have three areas of where you bomb. You sort of bomb deepin the strategic bombing campaign. Then you have the interdiction area. And then you have the close air support area.
As a ground commander, in all my experience, having been in the ground war, I was very satisfied with the amount of effort that was being applied to the bombing campaign in front of the troops.
But I will confess, thinking about it right now, that a large amount of that was in the interdiction area, rather than the close air support area. That had always been the plan. You know, to kind of move down sequentially, and the last place we would be hitting would be those frontline positions.
Q: How passionate were these arguments and how much of a distraction were they for you?
Schwarzkopf: The arguments about the allocation of air power is always a passionate argument. No one ever feels that they're getting their share. I frankly think, unless they were getting one hundred percent, no-one ever would feel they were getting their share.
You also have the business of well some of the airplanes belong to the Navy so therefore should they be flying in support of the Army, and some of these belong to the Airforce, and should they be flying in support of the Navy and on and on ad infinitum.
I think from my standpoint the air support to the troops was more than adequate, although it may not have been obvious to the troops on the ground at that time because a great deal of the air support was being concentrated against the Republican Guard that was located in depth to soften them up for when the ground forces would eventually run into them. It was also being applied against artillery positions and this sort of thing, in depth, that the troops could have run up against.
And therefore, unless the bombs are being dropped right along the front lines in close air support, it probably was not apparent to the forces on the ground the amount of support they were in fact getting.
Q: The cruise missile.. various people have talked to me about it.. Colin Powell rang you up and said "Jesus Christ, every time you pull the trigger it's another two million bucks". How did it come that they weren't fired anymore?
Schwarzkopf: Well just about what you said. The cruise missiles were a very very important part of the initial strategic air campaign and they were very effective and worked you know, fine fashion, relatively speaking.
But of course, they're very expensive and the United States also has a limited inventory of cruise missiles and so at one point Colin called me up and said, you know
"I hope you realise that every time you fire another one of these cruise missiles, you know, it's two million bucks flying off into the air there and I wish you'd consider other ways of accomplishing the same mission if you can".
So I turned to Chuck Horner and.. and passed those instructions on to him and said, you know
"Let's not fire any more cruise missiles unless that's the only way to get the job done or you know, obviously if we're going to put a lot of peoples lives at risk doing it some other way, we didn't want to do it that way because, although cruise missiles cost you two million dollars they don't cost you any human life".
But that was basically why we scaled back the use of cruise missiles.
Q: They'd appeared on television as well I think. Why did that suddenly motivate Colin Powell to call you?
After Colin had given me these instructions then somebody in Washington got hold of a bunch of footage of cruise missiles firing and this found its way on television and Colin called up and said
"I thought we'd decided not to fire any more cruise missiles and now all these cruise missiles are firing!"
And I said "That's true but those are pictures of cruise missiles that were fired before we had this discussion!"
Q: After that bunker in Bagdad was bombed, what happened to the strategic air campaign with regard to targets in the center of Baghdad and why?
Schwarzkopf: We'd arrived at the time when we were re-targeting er targets that had already been hit several times within Baghdad. Or we were targeting new command and control facilities that came up. But in essence the return on our investment it was felt was diminishing every day.
As a result of the bombing of the bunker that in fact incurred the civilian casualties, the decision was made as we'd just about gotten all we can out of the strategic bombing campaign down in Baghdad.
Up until that time we'd been quite successful in convincing people that we were not targeting civilians and due to this terrible tragedy people may have changed their minds about that.
And this was one of those decisions that came about from a political initiative in Washington about the concern for civilian casualties, And we came to the conclusion that we could pull back from the strategic bombing campaign without diminishing the overall campaign plan and so we went back to Washington and said "Look, we can do that if you want us to do". And they came back and said "Fine, do it!" and that was it.
Q: Buster Glosson still believes that with that extra bombing it had put much more strain on the regime, would have had a possible effect on the outcome of the war.
Schwarzkopf: I still think that without the ground attack we never would have had Iraq leave Kuwait.
More importantly, without the ground attack, we would have had Iraq leave Kuwait with a pretty darned strong armed forces that could always be a threat to come back in again in a very short period of time.
Q: Let's talk about the land war. You say in your book the pressure to launch a ground war in the final days was making you crazy. What was going on?
Schwarzkopf: Once the decision had been made to launch the ground war and once the forces had been allocated to launch the ground war, it was obvious that Washington wanted to get on with it, very understandable thing.
In my case, I had to make absolutely sure that I had all of the troops in place, with the proper support, so that we could accomplish this. I think that, had all things been equal, Washington would have like to have seen the ground war started quite a while before we ultimately did do it. But they also understood why we didn't go and why we waited.
We finally adopted a time that I thought we would be able to launch the ground war, on the 22nd, then it shifted to the 23rd, then it shifted to the 24th.
The exact time of the ground war, was predicated on several things, the ambient light level, weather conditions were absolutely critical, and the weather predictions that we were getting at the time were very mixed.
The Marines do not have a lot of heavy artillery and depend upon their aircraft to provide the close air support to replace their artillery. And Walt Boomer came to me and said he was very concerned about launching his attack when the weather was predicted to be so bad. So I supported him.
I went to Washington and said that we have to delay the attack and again that met with some resistance again because of Washington's desire to do it sooner rather than later.
Q: You and Colin Powell had a pretty good relationship but that argument was a big one over the start date.
Schwarzkopf: Yeh, I'd rather not dwell on that argument because it's something that has been so blown out of proportion.
In the book, Newsweek chose to pull that straight out of context and make it the very first thing they put in their excerpts. Therefore, the first thing Colin ever read of the book had he and I screaming at each other over the telephone. It sort of poisoned the water for a very very long time between the two us and, I think, unjustifiably so.
I actually wrote that part of the book to try and make people understand the tremendous pressure that everyone is under when you're making a momentous decision about...
When you're proposing to launch an attack of the magnitude that we were going to launch, with the unknowns out there you want to do everything you can to level the playing field, to make sure that your forces have every advantage.
In other words you don't want to give up anything at the outset.
Q: What's your most vivid memory of that period?
Schwarzkopf: I couldn't tell you, there were so many. But I was very happy to be able to go back, subsequent to that, and say, you know
"Good news. Now the people in the weather.. say that the weather is going to be good and therefore we can go back to the original time".
And that conversation was subsequent to the one we had before where we were really in a heated discussion...As it turned out the weather was lousy anyhow, but fortunately it didn't make any difference.
Q: How did you tell your generals -- "It's a go"?
Schwarzkopf: Well it was right down to the last line, I mean, the forces were already moving, they knew when D Day, H-Hour was. We were constantly in communication with each other--can we move it up, can we slow it down, that sort of thing, you know, you're not at point A at one second in time and point B at another second in time.
Q: Barry McCaffrey remembers that you actually made personal phone calls to the generals.
Schwarzkopf: I did. I considered them you know, not necessarily protéges, but people that I had known throughout my military career. And therefore I knew that they had a hell of a task in front of them, I mean, this was a very bold plan and it required bold execution.
And so I just felt it was the right thing to do to call each one of them up and wish them good luck and God speed, and that's what I did.
Probably was a violation of military protocol for me to go right down to the division commander level and talk to them but, in that case, it wasn't a military call so much as it was a personal call.
Q: By all accounts you seem to be .. a very reflective guy, religious guy as well. What were you thinking in those final hours, putting aside the professional soldier now... what were you thinking to yourself?
Schwarzkopf: More than anything else in those final hours I was asking myself
"What did I forget? What have I missed? What more can I do?"
And then the time finally comes when you realise there's I described it as throwing the dice in the air at a crap table, you know, once you have thrown the dice in the air you can't call them back, at that point all you can do is wait until they land on the table to see what the numbers come up. And that is a very awkward time because you can just sit there on your hands and wait, there's nothing more you can do.
Q: How concerned were you, in those final hours, about the degree of casualties that Walt Boomer and his guys were going to take?
Schwarzkopf: I was feeling better in those final hours about the degree of casualties that the Marines were going take because they had already been running reconnaissance into the wire and I was getting very favourable reports back from Walt as far as the lanes that they were being able to cut into the wire and to clear through the minefields and this sort of thing.
A basic military premise is that a barrier is only effective if it's covered by fire and it appeared that the barriers were there but they were not being covered by fire, they were not being manned, and therefore I was feeling a little bit better you know, about the number of casualties that they were going to take.
Q: So.. now.. the land war starting, this huge thing that you'd been orchestrating in your mind,what's the feedback you're getting. Just re-live those moments for me.
Schwarzkopf: Ok. The Marines have gone in and are making good progress, not astounding progress but they are moving along faster than had been expected and they are in a position where their flank is starting to become exposed, their left flank is starting to become exposed.
But probably most important of all, right about the time the Marines are making the great progress we get a report that the Iraqis are starting to blow up the de-salinisation plant in downtown Kuwait City.
In the desert, everybody needs water, the Iraqis need it just as much as the Kuwaitis. So therefore when the Iraqis are blowing up the de-salinisation plant it is a very clear signal that they're getting ready to retreat and leave Kuwait City and get out of Kuwait.
Q: So you want to crank things up?
Schwarzkopf: Again, one of the principles of the overall campaign was to inflict as much damage on the Republican Guard as we possibly could and they were sitting very, very deep, you know, out back in the desert.
And so therefore it became obvious that if we were going to inflict that damage on the Republican Guard we had to go ahead and inflict it as early as possible.
And therefore I decided to move the main attack up, I didn't do that again in isolation, I called all of the commanders involved and asked them if they could move their forces and if they could then cross their line of departure at three o clock in the afternoon. Every commander came back and reported to me that they could and therefore I ordered the main attack moved up to three o clock in the afternoon.
Q: What happened next?
Schwarzkopf: Well, the 18th Airborne Corps took off like a rocket, moved out very very rapidly, moved all day and all night and by the following day, the 24th Mech and the 101st Air Assault had penetrated deeply into Iraqi territory, so deep, as a matter of fact, that I was quite concerned now with their flank, because they were way way way up North and continuing to move. I was also worried about them running out beyond their re-supply line.
The Arab Corps in the middle had been very slow to move and they had moved up to the wire but they had not gone through the wire that night and the VII Corps had also started moving and the first reports I had was they had penetrated the wire and were moving quite well. Unfortunately, subsequently, the front line trace of VII Corps kept getting re-adjusted backwards ......
Q: Let me ask you about this because a lot of people remember..just tell me what you felt when you came down in the morning and saw the map?
Schwarzkopf: Well, what had in fact happened is on the first day, before I went to bed that night, the VII Corps front line position was quite a ways forward. I came back the following morning and the front line position was considerably back from where it was.
We sat there all day long waiting for the VII Corps to move and there just wasn't a lot of movement, it just wasn't happening. But there was movement, they were moving forward. I had had discussions with the army ground force commander about the fact that
"Look we can't stop for the night. We've got to go. We're now on an exploitation mode. This is much different than what we had started, this is not you know, a move through build up, overwhelming force to attack. We've got to get.. contact with the enemy and maintain contact to hold them there if we're going to destroy them and we don't want them to escape across the border prematurely".
So when I went to bed that night VII Corps position was.. quite a ways up and I came back the next morning and it was back again to almost where it was the day before.
And that's when I just could not understand, you know, number one why I kept getting these false reports of it would be up there and then I would come through and it would be back again.
And secondly I was very concerned because we had had to stop the movement of the 24th out on the flank, we had had to stop the movement of the 101st out on the flank, they'd had to stop dead because their flank was exposed, the Marines were making great progress over in their area and of course the most powerful force on the battlefield was moving ponderously slowly
I don't know whether it was for a lack of understanding that they were in the exploitation mode or if it was because they were wedded to a given plan and they just did not have the flexibility to come out of that plan.
And it was probably a combination of both, it was probably, in hindsight, the fact that nobody had bothered to explain to them that this was an exploitation now and that they had to get up there and get hold of the enemy. I think it had to do with the very, very detailed nature of a very very tedious plan that was going to continue to unfold step by step as it had been planned without regard to what was happening on the enemy side of the battlefield.
Q: Now Freddy Franks and others say look, they paused in the breach that night in order to stop an enormous traffic snarl up. They were doing it at night, it started early, there would have been a huge snarl up, it was the sensible thing to do... What's your reaction to that argument?
Schwarzkopf: In a deliberate attack I would say that's a correct assessment, in an exploitation it's not.
You focus back to the days of Alexander the Great and one of the reasons why Alexander the Great was so successful against hugely overwhelming numbers of forces is that once those forces started to retreat Alexander would pursue them relentlessly.
The same thing is applied across the history of battlefields and one of the principle tactics of modern armoured warfare, is this exploitation in pursuit, that once you have the enemy falling back you just keep relentless pressure on them so that they can't re-organise and come back to fight another day.
Again, I don't know if VII Corps understood that they were in an exploitation at that stage of the game. I do know that every conversation.. you see I don't talk to Corps Commanders..... every conversation I had with the Army Commander, John Yeosock, was the fact that they are continuing to execute their plan as originally devised. And I kept saying
"But the enemy situation has changed and therefore the plan should be changing and that's the whole reason why we moved up the main attack, we've got the enemy reeling."
And, most importantly, they hadn't encountered any enemy fire. I mean the Marines on the right flank were.. were getting in big fights over here and they were continuing to move forward, Barry McCaffrey with his division was moving over much tougher terrain, much tougher terrain out in the west and moving huge distances, and the largest and most powerful force under my command was not moving at all. That's what the frustration was.
Q: And what were you seeing at that time, in terms of JStars, we're getting the JStars printouts and so on, they're being incredible helpful. What was the vision of the battlefield that you saw sitting there?
Schwarzkopf: Well, of course, you were seeing a giant evacuation occurring out of Kuwait City, you were seeing enemy forces pulling back and that's exactly what, you know, we were trying to prevent. We wanted to capture stop them.. you know, capture as many of them as we possibly could.
I will confess to you I didn't see JStars printouts directly.... you know, every report, and this is probably one of the lessons that we learn over and over and over again and that's that as a commander you are a victim of the information you get from everybody else and and you have to trust your subordinates, you have to believe what they're telling you and as reports come in, what you see you believe at face value.
And if you know, if later on it turns out not to be that way then it's shame on the people that were reporting to you because you have to believe your subordinates and the information they send you.
Q: I interviewed Freddy Franks who is very gentlemanly about all this but says he didn't see it as an exploitation, he was still worried about all sorts of forces out there and all sorts of possibilities.
Schwarzkopf: Well, that's probably then.... I try not to place blame here but again you see, he should have been getting the same Intelligence we were getting, OK. I mean, I'm getting that Intelligence, that Intelligence is deciminated down to the Army component command headquarters, that Army component command headquarters should be deciminating it down to the subordinate headquarters.
Was that happening? I don' know because I wasn't at either of those subordinate headquarters. I must assume that it was happening, I find it very hard to believe that all of a sudden we had this giant lapse of communication going down.
I also communicated with the intermediate commander several times the fact that this is an exploitation.
Certainly, perhaps not at the end of the first day but by the second day there was no doubt in anybody's mind, across the board, that this was an exploitation, I don't see how there could have been a doubt.
Q: They were kicking with the fist, not the fingers. They were massing their forces.
Schwarzkopf: You're saying that, I'm not!
Q: No that's what Freddy Franks sat there and said. I mean, weren't they just following from the plan...?
Schwarzkopf: It appeared to everyone, it wasn't just me, it was everyone who was watching the unfolding in this battle that they appeared to be wedded to their initial plan which was one that would cause them to engage a numerically superior, well dug in, enemy in what would be a very tough fight, when in fact the enemy situation was changing before all of our eyes and yet they were continuing to execute the same plan. And that's what it appeared to all of us sitting in the war room.
Q: Freddy Franks eventually called you. Do you remember that conversation and what you said to him?
Schwarzkopf: I had not expected the call from Freddy .. because I had been dealing, as I quite properly should, I tried very hard not to jump the change in plan but Freddy had been told by John Yeosack that he ought to give me a call and let me know what was going on.
I then took Freddy's call and what he had told me was he.. he felt that he had gone up and around some Iraqi units and was going to attack down to the south to eliminate them before he continued on, and I then told him, at that time,
"I don't want you going south. What I want you to do is I want you to go north and to the east because that's where the Republican Guard is and we're in an exploitation, we have to get these guys before they get away from us!"
Q: Tthe first engagement really, VII Corps and the Iraqis. Do you remember that? It was called 73 Easting subsequently. It was when they first made contact, when they started to fight.
Schwarzkopf: Well, you know, when VII Corps finally you know, engaged the enemy they did a marvellous job and I was quite relieved that they had finally gotten up there and gotten in contact with some of the Republican Guard and could start get on with the battle and, you know, pin these guys down.
And they did a good job when they got there, they did a very fine job when they got there.
Q: The night.. actually the night before you spoke to Freddy Franks, February the 26th, you got the news that the Iraqis were pulling out of Kuwait and the bombing of Highway Six started. Do you remember that? Why did you bomb them?
Schwarzkopf: Well, the first reason why we bombed the highway coming north out of Kuwait is because there was a great deal of military equipment on that highway and, again, I had given orders to all of my commanders that I wanted every piece of Iraqi equipment that we possibly could destroyed, because if we destroyed that Iraqi military equipment that was equipment that would not be around for them to use later on.
Secondly, the people that were running away from Kuwait were the people that had been inflicting the atrocities on the City of Kuwait, they were all military people and by the way, just about every vehicle that they were fleeing in was a vehicle that they had stolen from Kuwait.
So this was not a bunch of innocent people just trying to make their way back across the border er to Iraq, this was a bunch of.. of rapists, murderers and thugs who had raped and pillaged downtown Kuwait City and now were trying to get out of the country before they were caught.
Q: When you get to the final day of the war, February the 27th, the day in which the decision is taken ultimately to end it at the end of the following morning. Could you just paint a picture for me. How did the battlefield look that morning, February 27th, to you?
Schwarzkopf: Well it was more the evening of the 27th.
By the evening of the 27th, 18th Airborne Corps had exploited all the waves of the Tigris and Euphrates area to the point where they were now swinging across to the east and were going to be able to drive very far forward and completely cut off the Iraqi forces that were in Kuwait.
Q: How does the battlefield look that morning? What sort of enemy are you dealing with, what have your guys achieved?
Schwarzkopf: On the morning of the 27th all across the front we've engaged the enemy, the enemy is in complete withdrawal. We've accomplished all of our objectives on the western side, we've also accomplished our principle objectives on the eastern side. Kuwait City is being occupied and it looks like, as a matter of fact, we're just in a mopping up operation inflicting as many casualties on the enemy as we can and destroying as much of his military equipment.
Q: Colin Powell called you at three o clock, and you discussed how much more time was needed. Can you tell me the conversation? What happened?
Schwarzkopf: The exact conversation was--
"What.. what are your plans?"
And I told him--"I plan to continue the operation as it was originally designed, and that is to continue with this envelopment movement that went over and drove all the way to the sea and cut off everybody below".
And he then asked me when I thought that would be completed and I told him that I thought that would be completed by the end of the day on the 28th. This was information that I'd asked my Army commander about and he had told by the end of the day of 28th.
And then he asked me-- "Could you stop tomorrow morning?"
And I did a very very quick mental calculation and basically said that we have accomplished all of our military ojectives and if need be we could stop tomorrow morning.
I will confess to you that part of that deliberation had to do with American casualties. We had accomplished what we'd accomplished with so few casualties and another day of the war, more or less, would only cause more people to die that didn't need to die.
So I said yes if he wanted us to stop the following morning I could stop, but I would have to have sufficient advance notice to make sure that the word got out to all of my troops.
And he said "OK fine. I will get back to you".
He then called me back later and we joked, we actually joked at the time about you know, I think I told him--
"If you stop this thing when you do it'll be the four day war or the three day war, or something like that which will then make it the most successful war in history!"
Q: Well let me ask you about what do you remember saying to him about the five day war?
Schwarzkopf: Well, we had already talked about it in the war room when John Yeosock had told me that he felt that they could accomplish all their objectives by the night of the 28th and I don't know who it was, and maybe it was me who came up with the fact that "Hey, this is a five day war and up until now everybody has said, you know, the Six Day War was the greatest and most rapid victory there was and now, all of a sudden, we have a five day war!"
So it sort of had a good feeling about it and it was a joke and I just said to him I said "I hope you realise that this would be the five, you know, there'd be a five day war!" And he laughed and said "That's right".
He called me back subsequently and said
"How about if we shut the war off at ..." midnight I guess it was, Washington time, which would of made it eight o clock in the morning our time or nine o clock in the morning or something like that. And I said "Fine. I once again have to get to my commanders to make sure that they can all do this but I think they can and unless I get back to you that'll be fine".
And then he made the comment
"Well that'll make it a hundred hour war!"
And I laughed and I said "Terrific!" You know, the whole conversation was a lighthearted one. We were both feeling very good about what was happening at that time.
And I checked with my commanders and they, in fact, assured me that they could meet those time lines and that's what transpired.
Q: You'd always been very concerned about getting the Republican Guard and it's clear from reading from your book that you regret you weren't able to get at them a bit more. Why didn't you say to Colin Powell "Hey, I'd really like to carry on longer, I'd like to finish off the Republican Guard. It's not a good time to stop".
Schwarzkopf: The truth of the matter is that when you're sitting where I'm sitting the picture of the battlefield is not that clear.
At that time I knew we'd inflicted a lot of casualties on them, I knew we'd been pounding them with air for over a month, the reports I was getting from the battlefield was that we were inflicting huge casualties on them. At that time we had reports of over fifty thousand prisoners, which turned out eventually to be eighty thousand prisoners. So every picture that had painted for me in my headquarters was that of an overwhelming success.
I did in fact call back and say"I hope you understand that that if we do stop this there are going to be pictures tomorrow of tanks going across the river back into Iraq intact" and he got back to me and said he had sent that message through and it had been acknowledged.
That's because, from my commanders, I'd had.. received word that tomorrow was going to be a turkey shoot and that this is in fact what they'd be going after.
In that regard Barry McCaffrey said to me, after the fact, he said "We stopped at the right time" he said "the battlefield was getting very murky. It was very hard to determine those people who were trying to surrender versus those people that were continuing to fight. We could have very easily had some war crimes on our hands by shooting people who were trying to give up and things were getting very confusing". So he endorsed the fact that we stopped when we did.
But there was no question about the fact that we had accomplished an overwhelming military victory. We had accomplished all of our objectives. We had inflicted great, great casualties and great damage to the Republican Guard. We had inflicted great damage to the Iraqi military force and we had ejected the Iraqis out of Kuwait and that, after all, was the purpose of it and we'd done it all with an amazingly low loss of life.
So I didn't have any compunctions about stopping and to this day I don't. It was a decision that had to be made at some point and that was as good a point as any.
Q: Did Colin Powell in either conversation.. or the first conversation say to you, as some people have implied to me, that "Hey, you know, the President feels it's time to stop. He's worried about the carnage" and you sort of reluctantly said "Yeh, well, if the President feels that let's do it".
Schwarzkopf: Absolutely not.
Q: Was it the impression given to you that the President wanted it stopped?
Schwarzkopf: Absolutely not. Absolutely not.
Colin Powell did say to me at one point that the reporting has turned negative, that there are photographers all over the `highway of death' talking about the innocent people that have been killed on the `highway of death' and there is some concern in Washington about this kind of reportig and implied that that might have been driving the decision to stop when we did. But there was never any implication that the President thinks he wants to stop it now so therefore, you know, we ought to stop it.
Q: You had always wanted to destroy the Republican Guard. That first briefing you gave em you'd said to all you Generals "I don't want them degraded, I don't want them mistreated, I want them destroyed". And here was your opportunity, your forces were poised to encircle them entirely. Why did you draw back at this moment?
Schwarzkopf: Well, I don't consider it a drawing back. From the information that I had in my headquarters we had inflicted tremendous damage on the Republican Guard.
We had bombed them for over thirty days straight, we had attacked them and fought them, we had destroyed many many many pieces of equipment, we had attacked from the air during the ground campaign and inflicted great damage on them.
So I already felt that there were several divisions of the Republican Guard, it was reported to me, that had been destroyed. It wasn't a hundred percent destruction but had we been allowed to go on for one more day it would not have been a hundred percent destruction then.
Q: You would have had them then encircled entirely?
Schwarzkopf: Except those that had already managed to escape, and there had been a considerable flow across the bridges. Where we really had them was we had them up against the river and there were very few bridges to go across so the next day, had we chosen to go in there and bomb these huge concentration of forces, we could have inflicted a great deal of damage on them there.
Q: And then you've got the later call which was about ten thirty, could you describe what did Colin Powell say to you, what did you say to him?
Schwarzkopf: Colin Powell called -- it was late in the evening in our headquarters. He said--
"I'm at the White House. We've discussed ending the war in five days. Could you in fact execute a ceasefire if it was declared effective midnight Washington time tonight?" which would have been first thing in the morning our time.
I told him that I could live with that, that I had to contact all of my commanders to make absolutely sure that they could in fact execute those orders in the limited amount of time possible and, therefore, if that was the decision I needed to know as soon as possible but I was quite satisfied with that decision if the decision was made in Washington.
Q: Would you have liked the war to continue to be a five day war rather than an a hundred hour war?
Schwarzkopf: You mean in hindsight?
Q: Whichever, in hindsight or then.
Schwarzkopf: Well, as long as I'm allowed to live in this fantasy world of hindsight, I would have been delighted if the war would have continued on for another 24 hours and we had taken zero casualties! OK?
I mean, if the war was going to go on more people were going to be killed and, quite frankly, the driving force behind my saying that I could live with it, was the fact that if we went on another day we were going to kill some more of our people and we had already won an overwhelming victory with a minimum of casualties and that was good enough for me.
Q: But in your book you talk about.. "Well, if Freddy Franks had moved a bit faster, maybe we would have got at the Republican Guard". His line is "If you wanted to get at them so badly, why did you stop then?" Freddy Franks said "I was poised that night, I couldn't believe it when I was stopped. Tomorrow was going to be the decisive battle".
Schwarzkopf: The answer to that is quite simply that I didn't stop anything!
The President of the United States in Washington D.C. stopped it. It wasn't General Schwarzkopf that stopped anything!
Anybody who knows anything about the military knows that we have our masters and the decision was made in Washington to stop the war when it did. They asked me if I concurred in that decision and I did concur in that decision.
Q: They say they stopped it because you told them you'd achieved everything.
Schwarzkopf: We had achieved all of our military objectives.
Q: Let me rephrase this to you..... just for the record I'm trying to establish, did you feel that the driving force was coming from the White House or was it a matter of you saying "No no, we've done everything, let's finish it" or was it, as others have told me who were close to you, that you felt that the White House was saying "Hey, we'd really like to stop this".
Schwarzkopf: Oh there's no question about the fact that this was presented to me as a fait accompli in Washington.
It was Washington had made the decision that they wanted the war to stop at midnight and they were just calling me to find out if I had any violent objections. You know, it was never presented "Well, we'd like to stop it at midnight but if you don't concur with this then we'll let you go on all day tomorrow". That was not the case at all. It was quite the contrary, it was presented to me as a fait accomplit "Do you concur in this decision?"
And I'd already said that I can live with it and.. to them.. I'd said that to them before and I said it again
"I can live with that decision".
I didn't say that "Oh, I'm violently... I'm euphoric about this thing and it's absolutely the best of all possible worlds" and that sort of thing. Quite frankly I don't think anybody could have said that at the time because you don't have that clear a picture of what's going on in the battlefield.
Plain and simply, Washington came to me after we had won an overwhelming victory at a minimum loss of lives and said
"We want to stop the war at midnight tonight. Do you have any problem with that?"
And my answer was "No I don't have any problem with that".
So it's just that simple. There's no more or any less to it. OK? It's just plain and simply--that's the context in which the message was delivered and the answer that was given.
You know, the Iraqis went in to that war, OK, with 64 divisions I believe it was, forty four of those divisions ended up in Kuwait, OK? The total Iraqi army today consists of 24 divisions. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to figure out the amount of destruction to the Iraqi armed forces that took place in Desert Storm.
I should say something else again, this is very important.
You know, maybe it is the `objectives' word we're talking about. When the military talks in terms of objectives, you know, there are various objectives all across the map that you plan to attack and take, OK. Objectives does mean all the subtle inferences.. I mean the subtle accomplishments that you expect to accomplish all the way through.
So perhaps in focusing too much on the word we have accomplished all our objectives, we are losing sight of what we're really talking about.
Q: I guess the key thing I'm coming back to is this. When I talked to the people who were sat in that room, in the White House.... Baker, Cheney, Richard Haass, Gates and Scowcroft and various other people who were sitting there.... They say yes there was concern on the part of Colin Powell about the slaughter. There was no concern among the politicians...What you're telling me rather turns that on its head.
Schwarzkopf: Wait a minute. Wait. Just a minute now.
Realistically, it is not a military decision to go to war any more than it is a military decision to end a war.
The decision to go to war and the decision to end a war is completely, totally and one hundred percent a political decision. Period.
The military doesn't decide to go to war, the military does not decide to end a war. OK? This is a political decision made by governments of nations based upon information that's given to them.
So anyone who says it was a military decision to end the war is a cop out artist, that's what it is. OK, it's just that simple. Again, I wasn't in the room, any more than I was in the room on the 6th October briefing that I dearly wished I had been there, but I wasn't there. So I know nothing about what went on in that room. I know what I said, I know what said to me on the other end of the telephone and I have explained a thousand times how that came down.
Q: If you had been in the room and not talking through someone else, what would you have said directly to the President? What would you have said to him?
Schwarzkopf: I haven't the slightest idea because that's a hypothetical question. I would have been anwering a question that was asked of me and a lot of it would have had to do with the context and the way the question was asked.
One more time, one more time, OK? The question was posed to me, OK?
"What are you going to do tomorrow?""We are going to continue to execute the plan as it is written," OK? "That will give us a five day war. Would you have any objection to stopping the war tomorrow morning?" That means I'm going to stand up and say "No, I absolutely insist we go on with the war for another twelve or fourteen hours".
You realise, I hope, that we are talking eight hours, is what we're talking, OK? The war ended at eight o clock in the morning our time, or nine o clock in the morning, it otherwise would have ended at five o clock in the afternoon. So the total time frame we're talking about is eight lousy hours and it's been blown totally out of proportion, totally out of proportion.
But "Do you have any objection?"
I said "No, I can live with that". I didn't say "I'm euphoric about it, that's wonderful". I was just damned glad to have the victory in our hands with the minimum loss of casualties and I was willing to settle for that because that's a hell of a lot more than anybody's had in war in as long as I can remember. OK? So that's where it stood and it's something that we should all be damned proud of rather than making a ridiculous issue about whether or not the war went on for eight more hours.
Quite frankly, had the war gone on for eight more hours it would have had absolutely zero impact on the course of history that took place after that event. Zero impact. History would have been exactly the same, the only thing that's different is we probably would have killed a whole lot more Iraqis and we probably would have lost a lot more lives on the part of the United States and its allies.
Q: People always [ask] this--why didn't you go to Baghdad and finish off the job?
Schwarzkopf: On the question of going to Baghdad. If you remember the Vietnam war, we had no international legitimacy for what we did. As a result we, first of all, lost the battle of world public opinion and eventually we lost the battle at home.
In the Gulf War we had great international legitimacy in the form of eight United Nations Resolutions, every one of which said "Kick Iraq out of Kuwait", did not say one word about going into Iraq, taking Baghdad, conquering the whole country and hanging Saddam Hussein. That's point number one.
Point number two, had we gone on to Baghdad, I don't believe the French would have gone and I'm quite sure that the Arab coalition would not have gone, the coalition would have ruptured and the only people that would have gone would have been the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
And, oh by the way, I think we'd still be there, we'd be like a dinosaur in a tar pit, we could not have gotten out and we'd still be the occupying power and we'd be paying one hundred percent of all the costs to administer all of Iraq.
Thirdly, I don't think we could have found Saddam Hussein if we'd done that. We forget the lessons of Panama. We had ten thousand Americans on the ground in Panama before we went into that very small country, we still couldn't find a fellow named Noriega, so what makes you think that we would go into a nation the size of Iraq and be able to find one person who has all the ability in the world to escape and hide and fly out of the country.
But I think, more importantly, there's a strategic consideration. Saddam Hussein portrayed that war from the very beginning as "This is not a war against Iraqi aggression against Kuwait. This is the Western colonial lackey friends of Israel coming in to destroy the only nation that dare stand up to Israel, that is Iraq".
Had we proceeded to go on into Iraq and take all of Iraq, I think that you would have millions of people in that part of the world who would say Saddam was right, that that was the objective.
Instead we went in, we did what the United Nations mandate asked us to do and we left and we didn't ask for anything. We didn't leave permanent military forces over there, we didn't demand territory, we didn't demand bases, and the Arabs became convinced that the West was willing to deal with them evenhandedly which has led directly, in my mind, to the progress that's going on at the peace table an.. between Israel and the Arabs and the Palestinians. It never would have happened if Desert Storm hadn't occurred.
So the bottom line, as far as I'm concerned, is that sure, emotionally I would have loved to have gone to Baghdad and grabbed Saddam Hussein, but this was not an emotional decision, it was a strategic decision, and strategically we were smart enough to win the war and win the peace.
Q: Safwan. Did you get any guidance from Washington as to how you were going to conduct Safwan?
Schwarzkopf: Fundamentally, no. Colin and I talked about the objectives that we thought we wanted to accomplish there.
Because I didn't have any terms of reference I wrote my own. I sent them back to Washington and basically got them back unchanged saying
"Go to Safwan and do that!"
So I went to Safwan and the President announced that we were going to discuss the terms of the ceasefire and so therefore, I went to Safwan with my own instructions which, basically, number one was to get our POWs back, and then number two to make sure that we had very very clear lines drawn so that we didn't have any inadvertent battles after that.
Q: White House gossip says "You know, we tried to offer Norman Schwarzkopf lots of advice about Safwan but he wouldn't hear it. He wanted his own ceasefire" ......
Schwarzkopf: That's absolutely bogus. I mean, anyone who would say that they offered Norman Schwarzkopf anything going into Safwan, that's a blatant lie.
Q: You'd won this incredible victory and now you were having a look at what the place looked like. I mean, do you have any strong memories of that journey...?
Schwarzkopf: Well, my strongest memory of the journey to Safwan was when my aircraft flew in to Kuwait City because we were up above the clouds in the beautiful sunlit blue sky and then as we started to descend, you had this feeling that something is terribly wrong, something is very different here.
And I realised that we were coming down into this black black smoke and as we got closer to approaching the airfield, the smoke got very very dark, it was almost night like outside and then suddenly you looked down and bef.. below you you see these huge balls of flame. And that's when I made the comment that this looks like what I'd always imagined hell would look like.
We landed at the airfield and it was under this pall of black smoke, we got into the helicopter and we started to fly north and out on the horizon I can remember seeing just oil well after oil well after oil well in flames and my reaction then was
"This is absolutely stupid! This is nothing more than.. than the act of a madman ..."
Because anybody who knows anything about Kuwait's economy knows that over fifty one percent of their assets are in.. foreign investments, that you could blow up every oil well in Kuwait, they could never pump another drop of oil and it wouldn't effect the country. I mean this was just an act of vengence and ecological disaster that was unforgivable.
Q: At Safwan--the planning for what would happen there-- What did you want to achieve?
Schwarzkopf: When the Iraqis arrived at Safwan I wanted to make very sure that they completely understood the overwhelming military power that their armed forces had faced on the ground and I also wanted to make it very clear to them that we were completely capable of resuming hostilities at any given time and quitely frankly, inflicting great damage upon them if we chose to do so.
I didn't want them to arrive thinking this was a meeting of equals, I wanted them to clearly understand that this was the victor over the vanquished when they sat down at that table.
Q: What do you remember about your encounter with them? Do you remember asking about the POWs?
Schwarzkopf: Well, my first order of business was the POWs and we knew exactly how many people were missing and we wanted an accountabilityof how many were alive, how many were dead, how many were POWs and this sort of thing.
So he sat down and said "I'm prepared to give you that information" And I said "Would you give it to me now?" And they reeled off the status of each one and how many bodies they had and this sort of thing.
And at that point I said "OK, I want to now talk about the return of the dead bodies."
And he interrupted me and said "Wait a minute, how about our POWs? I want to know the status of our POWs."
And I said to him "Well very good. We have fifty thousand," I believe the number was I gave him, "we have fifty thousand and we're still counting."
And his whole face just changed. Up until that time they had been a little bit arrogant I think, but I think at that moment they came to understand the magnitude of their defeat.
I don't think they had the slightest idea how many people they had had captured and when I told them fifty thousand, their whole demeanor changed.
And then subsequently, when we were.. I was showing them the demarcation lines on the maps, and they said
"Well, you know, why is it that our troops have to draw all the way back to these demarcation lines?"
And I said "You don't understand, my troops are considerably forward of these demarcation lines! We're the ones that are drawing back to establish these buffer zones so that we are not going to shoot each other".And again this was the subject of a great deal of conversation and murmuring. I think, once again, they were shocked at how far we had advanced.
Q: Why did you let the helicopters fly?
Schwarzkopf: Because we had just gone through a long discussion about aircraft and I had said that you know, the Iraqis could fly none of their military aircraft over the area and we would make absolutely sure that any vehicles that went through were clearly marked and in essence, I told them if they tried to fly into their fighter planes, you know, they'd be shot down.
And then this fellow looked at me and said
"Well can we fly our helicopters because," he said "frankly, you all destroyed so many bridges and highways between here and Baghdad, it was very difficult to get here today," or words to that effect "and you realise that the same kind of helicopter that flies military missions also is a administrative transport helicopter".
The same thing is exactly true in our military. The Black Hawk helicopter can fly military missions but it also is a transporter, you know, can be of administrative use.
And so he said "We'd like to be able to use our helicopters for administrative purposes, to fly around".
And I knew the great devastation we had inflicted upon their roads and their bridges and that seemed like a very reasonable request to me. So I said "Fine, you may fly your helicopters." And then we got into a long discussion about how they would be marked, etc etc so there would be no question of mis-identification. It was purely and simply that.
Quite frankly I think I've revised my position on this. At the time I said I felt like I was snookered but I don't think I was snookered at all, I think the request was meant in the spirit exactly which he asked for it and then subsequently, when they went ahead and used the helicopters to suppress the rebellions around Basra, I think that they used the agreement as a ploy to do that. Because when we went back to them later and I told them at another meeting that I was upset by their use of their helicopters they got very, very defensive about the whole thing.
So in hindsight, although I'd like to give them credit for being very clever, I don't think they were particularly clever, I think the decision..it was presented to me in exactly the way they meant it to be presented at that time.
Q: What was your advice as to what to do about the uprising, the Shi'ite uprising?
Schwarzkopf: Well I don't know that I was asked for any advice. And as a matter of fact, I'm quite sure I wasn't asked any advice....
I have said all along, with that regard, we need to be very careful about how much support we give the Shi'ites. Let's fact it, the Iranian government is predominantly behind the Shi'ites and the Iranian government has a policy of exporting its revolution to the entire rest of the world.
So I'm not too sure that's exactly who we should be supporting in a conflict between the Shi'ites and the Sunnis. Again, you know, we need again to look at this thing from a strategic standpoint and what's in the best interests of that entire part of the world. But I wasn't asked advice.... I'm quite sure in my own mind that.. supporting the Shi'ite revolution is not.....in the Iran/Iraq war that occurred before that time, OK, a lot of people were rooting for Iraq over Iran because they were concerned about the very same thing.
Q: What were thinking as you walked in that Washington parade?
Schwarzkopf: Well.. I was in Vietnan twice, 1965 to 1966 and 1969 to 1970 and I couldn't help but just think to myself this is the right way to come home to your country.
You know, the country was paying us this wonderful tribute for having served our country and it tended to exorcise a lot of ghosts and a lot of wounds that all of us who were in Vietnam carried with us.
So it was a glorious day, it wasn't a euphoric thing at all, it was just a very nice, warm experience, sort of what's supposed to happen when the war is over.
Q: Were you thinking of friends?
Schwarzkopf: Oh yeh, sure, but I was thinking more of my staff and their families and my troops and all the people that were with me over in Desert Storm, you know, my staff was marching with me and my fellow commanders were there and we were sort of running into each other at various places.
As I say, it was just a very nice thing.
Q: What did the war, this fabulous victory you'd delivered, what did it achieve?
Schwarzkopf: Well, it achieved a lot of things. Number one I think that we have a far greater opportunity for peace in the Middle East than any of us have ever seen in our lifetimes.
Number two I think that we did show that a coalition of nations were capable of coming together and sending a messsage to ruthless aggressors anywhere that we will not tolerate that agression.
Certainly in our country it re-established the credibility of our military in the minds of our citizens of the United States like no other thing ever could re-establish it.
I think it returned a great deal of pride to our country that our country had lost as a result of the Vietnam experience.
But most importantly of all I think that this legacy that we've left behind that "Hey, you know, if some other ruthless dictator decides they're going to try the same thing, then perhaps they'll think twice before they do."
Q: Now pretty much the final question--you have a reputation as "the bear", as someone who's tough to work with, you know, big temper.
Schwarzkopf: Well, unfortunately, I have always regretted the fact that I have a temper, but I also have you know, have great love and respect for all of the people that have worked for me. I think like everything else, this is one of those things that has been blown out of proportion.
If you look at every single military person that I worked with during the Gulf War, not a single one of them ever had their career ruined, not a single one of them was relieved, all of them went on to have very very bright futures, most of them went on to have very very bright futures as all of my subordinates. I don't think that anyone can go back, at any time I was a Central Command commander and point to one person whose military career I ruined because of my terrible temper.
Do I have a temper? Yes, but I've been portrayed as having a terrible temper 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, that's simply not true. I've been accused of leading by intimidation. I don't think that you can lead by intimidation when you in fact had not relieved people, destroyed careers, left you know tattered, mangled bodies on the rocks. And I think my commanders, those people that really know me, know that to be the truth.
Q: And is your anger a deliberate ploy-- this is a way to make things happen?
Schwarzkopf: In some cases yes, in some cases yes. Particularly when you're dealing with very high ranking people you know, you have to get their attention, they are used to, by their rank, of having their own way and doing their own thing and when it's necessary to all work together on something, sometimes you have to hit the mule between the eyes of the two by four to get its attention.
I think it's more the fact that I care so very much about.. the lives of our troops, I care so very much about the dignity of our nation, I care so very much about doing it right and you know, the fact that when human lives are on the line you can not be cavalier, you can't do enough, you cannot do enough, you must do everything you possibly can and leave no stone unturned and you can never settle for second best or a second class solution when you're dealing with enterprises of such magnitude that they involve the lives of literally thousands and thousands and thousands of people.
Q: And your soldiers, the people who fought out there? What have you got to say about them?
Schwarzkopf: Well I'll let my soldiers speak for themselves. I've had a lot of people come up and say
"Thank you very much General Schwarzkopf for restoring my faith in my country." And I always say "You don't want General Schwarzkopf to restore your faith in your country, 541,000 magnificent American men and women who were ripped from the breast of their families on short notice and sent half way around the world to the most inhospitable environment imagined and ultimately had to face death, that's who restored their faith in their country."
And by talking about the 541,000 Americans I'm certainly not in any way ignoring the magnificent participation of the Brits and the Egyptians and the Arabs and all the rest of them.
I mean, it was a wonderful wonderful team effort, and I guess that's probably what bothers me more than anything else because about 99% of the time it was a wonderful collegial undertaking where we all worked together in the best of possible spirits and, unfortunately, there are those that tend to focus on the 1%.
Q: Actually I'm going to have to focus on the 1%, and it is the last question. Why do you get so annoyed over Safwan not being taken?
Schwarzkopf: Very simply, Safwan was a key road junction to the north of Kuwait City. Control of Safwan would have prevented the flow of a large number of forces through that area with ease.
When the decision was made to stop operations the following morning, that evening I looked at the front line traces and I called up my army component commander and I said
"I want you to take Safwan! Can you take Safwan by tomorrow morning?"
And the answer I was given was "Yes, we can take Safwan by tomorrow morning".I went to bed, got up the next morning and here was a great big symbol on the map showing that US forces had taken Safwan. Three days later when we are casting about trying to find the final location I finally say
"Well, gosh, since we can't find any place else, let's do it at Safwan because there's an airfield there, it's easy to get through and everything else". And I looked up on the map, and the symbol was still there, Safwan is taken. It's only then did I find out that Safwan was not taken.
Now.. you know, was I lied to? I don't know. I don't think so, I don't like to think so. But the fact that I gave a specific order to take Safwan and then I was told that Safwan had been taken and then I only find out three days later.....If I had never decided to hold the ceasefire talks at Safwan, to this day I probably would never know that in fact it was reported to me that Safwan was taken but it wasn't.
And, you know, the one thing that's more important than anything else as far as I'm concerned in the military, is this thing about honor. I told you, as commander I must believe what I'm being told by my subordinates and here I had.. I had sat there.. I mean I had told Washington "Oh well, no problem, we can go to Safwan, you know, Safwan's in our hands! I know because I specifically gave the order and I have been told that we took it and there is the symbol right up there on the may that says Safwan is taken."
It wasn't at all. And that's why Safwan was such a egregious problem as far as I'm concerned. OK?
Q: What do you say to these people who say "Ah, Saddam's still in power. He won the war".
Schwarzkopf: Well, of course he didn't win the war...
First of all, Saddam did not win the war, even though he says he did, I mean, you know, that's a joke and everybody in the world knows it.
That's very important, face is everything in the Arab world. Saddam is impotent in the Arab world today. Saddam has no voice in the Arab world today whatsoever.
As a result we have things like the peace talks going on with the Palestinians and the Israelis. If Saddam were to be replaced tomorrow he would probably be replaced with someone who's just as bad or worse than he is.
But because this person did not insult the King of Saudi Arabia, did not insult Mubarak, because this person didn't do all these terrible things that Saddam has done, the doors would be opened of Arab diplomacy to this person s and Iraq would be brought back into the fold. So there's some people that would say we're better off with Saddam there than with somebody else in there. But the bottom line is-- Who's Saddam? What's he going to do?
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