If he had altered his plan after the evidence was that the Iraqis were not going to be able to stand and fight and their morale was low, all of the things that we learned as the result of the Battle of Khafji, he would have modified his plan to close the Army into the rear of the Iraqis much earlier and probably would have achieved the objective that he had set for himself. But he failed to adjust so he didn't read the battlefield correctly. So that's his responsibility. But the other part of the responsibility is on the part of the administration, when they decided to end the war when they did which was about 12 hours, roughly speaking, short of achieving their objective.
Interview with Bernard Trainor, co-author of The Generals' War
Q: What are the intelligence people saying, what are the policy people hearing in the weeks preceding the 2nd of August, 1990 when the Iraqis rolled across the Kuwaiti border?
Trainor: The administration people were convinced that Sadam Hussein was just rattling his saber and had no intention of invading Kuwait, but that he simply was trying to intimidate Kuwait. The intelligence people, however, looking at the evidence of the buildup of Iraqi forces on the Kuwaiti border became convinced that the Iraqis intended to invade Kuwait.
Q: What are the U.S. assumptions about Iraq at that point and about Saddam?
Trainor: Since the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988, the Administration had been focused on the danger of fundamentalism in Iran and its spread. And it sought to balance that off by building bridges to Iraq. They knew Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator, but the devil you know is... is better than the devil you don't. So we were extending bridges, primarily through farm credits and so forth, with the Iraqis, hoping to use them as a counter-balance against Iran. That was the policy. And when Saddam Hussein started to threaten Kuwait, the administration had a great deal of difficulty accepting the fact that their bridge-building policy was a failure.
Q: Who were some of the people making those kind of assumptions--for example, were they in particular from the farm states?
Trainor: The Administration's position of course was endorsed by the people that were from the farm states, Bob Dole being one of them. He went out and visited Saddam Hussein, and more or less gave him his blessing, because it was the farm credits which were allowing us to export the grain and other products, farm products to the Iraqis. So needless to say the support came from the farm states to the administration's policy. It was in their economic interest.
Q: With regard to April Glaspie's discussions with Saddam, what is she saying and whose mistake is it? Is it hers or the administration's?
Trainor: One of the critical junctures in the build-up to the crisis was this unprecedented meeting that Saddam Hussein called with April Glaspie who was our Ambassador to Baghdad. And in essence what Saddam Hussein was doing was feeling her out as to what the American position would be if the Iraqis moved against the Kuwaitis. And the response that he got was a very satisfactory one. She indicated, pretty much under instructions from the State Department that the United States wanted to be friends with everybody in the region, and inter-Arab disputes were the problems of the Arabs, not of the United States. Now in that sense she was carrying out her instructions from the State Department. But I think where she has to take some blame is that after this interview with Saddam Hussein, she recommended to the Administration that they not have a tough response to Saddam Hussein and his threatening moves. That, in a certain sense, gave Saddam Hussein the impression that the United States would simply tolerate, in the interest of Iraqi-American relationships, any sort of Iraqi move against the Kuwaitis. That was a bad miscalculation.
Q: So, in this pre-invasion period, summarize -- what is the U.S. picture of Iraq?
Trainor: The Administration in this fixation that they had on Iran, had pretty much discounted aggression on the part of Iraq. They thought that Iraq in the backwash of the Iran-Iraq war would be concentrating on the reconstruction of the country and would demobilize the army. Even the CIA predicted that it would be a benign Iraq for the foreseeable future. But there was, rather, a great sense of concern, when it turned out that the Iraqis did not demobilize their army, and started to show certain sort of aggressive attitudes towards Kuwait. The Iraqis claiming that the Kuwaitis should give them benefits, financial benefits, because we, the Iraqis have fought the hated Persians, and fought for the Arabs, therefore we should get certain breaks. And the Kuwaitis were ignoring them as were the rest of the Gulf States. But the Administration was convinced that Iraq was not a threat in the area. And it wasn't until July of 1990 that the intelligence community started to see this build-up of Iraqi forces and started to interpret the Iraqi move as being hostile. And not everybody in the intelligence community. It was down at the middle level, not the high level of the community.
Meanwhile, on the military side, Norman Schwarzkopf is down in the central command in Tampa, Florida, which has the responsibility for the U.S. military interest in the Persian Gulf region. He has looked around and the command was designed primarily as accounted to the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union is gone now, so he's looking around for an enemy. Who's the possible enemy in the region? And he sees Iraq as the most logical enemy in the region, even over Iran, and starts to put together some contingency plans in case the Iraqis should move against Saudi Arabia. But it was not because of anything that the Iraqis were doing from the point of view of his command. It was by default. He had to find an enemy to give some reason to his command. So the enemy that he picked was Iraq, and he turned out to be right.
Q: In explaining the reasons for standing up against this invasion, what about Bush's characterization of Saddam?
Trainor: Jim Baker attempted to hit the American psyche by saying, it's jobs, jobs, jobs, and the American people simply shrugged their shoulders and didn't know what he was talking about. But what happened -- there was a demonization took place with Saddam Hussein, as a result of three things that I think changed American attitudes towards the aggression out there, and led ultimately to the support of the war. Number one, it was Saddam Hussein taking hostages and supposedly putting the hostages around military targets. The second thing, again in relation to the hostages, is in what he thought was going to be a public relations coup, he went to the Al Rashid Hotel in downtown Baghdad to visit one of the hostage families that happened to be a British family. And there's the very famous TV interview of Saddam Hussein sitting there patting this little British boy on the head. And the little British boy is standing there absolutely frozen with fright. And the picture that comes through is this moustached, dirty old uncle with this little boy. So now the American people had a vision of a man who was particularly nasty. And then the final thing, in my judgment ,which capped the demonization of Saddam Hussein was the announcement that Saddam Hussein was secretly working on weapons of mass destruction, chemicals, biologicals, and most of all nuclear weapons. Now when the American people, who had lived under the nuclear cloud and the umbrella for forty years of the Cold War, and finally felt that they were free of it, once again now with this monster down in the Gulf, who has taken hostages, who frightens little boys, now has nuclear weapons, the American people started to feel that this fellow was a demon, and that Bush was correct that this man had to be stopped.
Q: Why weren't sanctions going to work?
Trainor: The questions of sanctions of course became the great debate in the fall of 1990, even though the administration was not interested in sanctions. The likelihood of sanctions working, I think, were very low. The borders were too porous, there would be all sorts of smuggling going on. Sanctions traditionally have not been particularly effective. And I think the proof of the pudding is the fact that we have maintained sanctions on Saddam Hussein since the Gulf War, even after having destroyed his infrastructure, and while it's a very crippled state, it's still a viable state. So the likelihood of sanctions working I think were very, very low.
Q: Could you give me your view of the Powell doctrine.....his reluctance to use force?
Trainor: Colin Powell, of course, becomes a major player in in the Gulf War, because he was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, exercised enormous power in that role as the principal military advisor to the President. And Powell was a man that was badly scarred by his experience in Vietnam, as were most of the generals that fought in the war. They saw the U.S. strength and power dissipated and lots of casualties in that war, which was of an inconclusive nature. And they said to themselves, never again, we will never allow the politicians to make the military a plaything. So when the build-up took place on the Kuwaiti border there was some discussion about sending a signal to Sadam Hussein as a deterrent. There was talk about speeding up an aircraft carrier to get it there, to move some ships with military equipment that were in the Indian Ocean up to the region, to fly some airplanes out there. Traditional things that are done in a crisis to show American concern and that America would get involved if the crisis went into any sort of aggression. But Colin Powell was very hesitant on that, and did not support that approach because he took the position, look if we take these deterrent actions and he still crosses the border then we find ourselves either having our bluff called or in a war that we may not want to get involved in. So he opposed it.
So what you had was a case of April Glaspie in her interview with Saddam Hussein not taking a firm stand on the issue of aggression against Kuwait, and you have a lack of a deterrent move on the part of the United States military. Saddam Hussein now gets the impression that he's getting the green light from the Americans that they're not going to interfere with whatever he does in his relationship with Kuwait. So in that sense it contributed to the war.
Q: In that group of key decisionmakers, what position is Colin Powell staking out?
Trainor: When the Administration got together to figure out what they were going to do, there were major players. The President, obviously, he was a hawk. He was a super hawk. His National Security Advisor, Scowcroft, he was also a hawk, wanted to take a tough line. Jim Baker, the Secretary of State, was somewhat reluctant, he tended to fall into the dove category. The Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney, he was a hawk. And the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the final member of this kind of group that was playing such a major role, he also was in the Baker camp as being somewhat of a dove. Let's see if we can't find some negotiated solution to this problem. Let's not cross the Rubicon and go to war in that area. But both Baker and Powell were kind of odd men out. But they were also strong supporters of the Administration so they didn't fight the President on this issue at all. They just expressed, either privately or by body English, their reluctance to see this end up in a fighting war.
Q: So when we look at pictures of that group in that circle around the President, what position does Powell keep?
Trainor: There was an inner circle and an outer circle if you will, of the decisionmakers. And the inner circle in all of the decisions on the war really came down to three. And that was the President, Scowcroft and Baker. People like Gates of the CIA, Powell and Cheney, and Eagleburger, they were kind of in the outer circle. Very, very influential, but the key decisionmakers were the triumvirate of Bush, Baker and Scowcroft.
Q: Can you give a capsule summary of what you see as the Powell doctrine being in this pre-invasion period, and what that means?
Trainor: The position that Powell took, not only on crisis in the Persian Gulf but in general, is that look, Mr. President, if you're going to use military force, don't use it as it was used in Vietnam. You must have a clear objective as you want that force to do. You must have public support for that. You must use overwhelming force and use it decisively for the purpose of winning. Get the operation over quickly, keep the casualties low, and have an exit strategy to get out. If you can't meet those requirements then you should have second thoughts about using military force. This was in keeping with the thinking of former Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger, who had more or less the same position, and interestingly enough, Weinberger expressed those views back in the early '80s when Colin Powell was his military advisor. This was an outgrowth of the Vietnam War, which violated all of those dictates. Each of those elements was noble in itself. But if you take that sort of approach and apply it too rigidly you'd never go to war. And you'd deny the President of the United States the use of military force as the steel fist inside the velvet glove of diplomacy. So the Powell doctrine had its virtues, but a rigid application of the doctrine is not useful to American policy.
Q: The kinds of things that Powell was opposed to-- what does that take away from the President?
Trainor: During the build-up off the crisis in July of 1990, there was some thought of taking some military action to signal Saddam Hussein that there would be American opposition. Powell felt this was a dangerous thing to do. First of all, the Administration did not think that the Iraqis were serious about moving into Kuwait. We were trying to ameliorate the situation through our Ambassador April Glaspie in what turned out to be a miscalculation of major proportions. And the idea of trying to send friendly signals to the Iraqis at the same time threatening the Iraqis with some sort of military deployment didn't seem to make too much sense. But most of all, Colin Powell took the position that if we did take military deterrent action to send the signal and a war erupted between Iraq and Kuwait anyway, then we would find ourselves either in the position of bluffing or find ourselves in a war that we may not want to be involved in. And he certainly felt that we did not want to be involved in it. So therefore, he did not support the movement of military forces as a deterrent signal. And what that deprived the President of was a method of signaling Saddam Hussein that the Americans would oppose any sort of aggression against Kuwait. And Saddam Hussein, not seeing a military signal, not seeing a diplomatic signal, presumably concluded in a classic miscalculation that the United States would not invade, or would not resist an invasion of Kuwait.
Q: What's you view of Bush's statement--'drawing the line in the sand?'
Trainor: When the Iraqi invasion took place and George Bush was trying to excite the American people to oppose it because it was aggression a la Adolf Hitler, he used this marvelous line about drawing a line in the sand against the Iraqis. The only trouble was, he was drawing the line a little bit late. The Iraqis had already crossed the line, they were in Kuwait, and now the best thing he could possibly do was defend Saudi Arabia, and build up support from the international community and the American public to eject Saddam Hussein from Kuwait.
Q: The huge force of two corps that was built--explain how it reflects Powell's thinking.
Trainor: The Iraqis had built up a significant number of forces in Kuwait. And when Colin Powell looked at the order of battle of the Iraqis, we had only one corps in the region. And if he was going to have the sort of decisive rapid victory that he thought we should have under the so-called Powell doctrine, you've got to have the overwhelming force. So his idea was we'll build up our forces until we absolutely overwhelm the Iraqis not only in numbers but also in fire power. So he supported the idea of a build-up of two corps. One that was already in the region, that was brought in the period of August and September. And then bring a corps down from our NATO forces in Europe to double. And these were a very heavy forces with lots of armor.
Q: In hindsight was it a bit of overkill?
Trainor: Schwarzkopf, of course, was delighted that Powell was going to bring in more forces. Every general always wants more forces, more equipment, more ammunition. Their appetite is insatiable. So Schwarzkopf and Powell were in perfect harmony that we needed more forces down there. I think in retrospect, we certainly had more forces than were needed, both in terms of the Iraqis and their absolute combat power, but also the relative combat power that we brought to the field. There was more than enough to do the job.
Q: A capsule sketch of Schwarzkopf.....
Trainor: Norman Schwarzkopf is a very complex man, big, and bluff, with a terrible temper, but as I say with a heart of gold. He really was soft inside. He had a very successful Army career. He had touched all the bases, had the right sort of jobs and commands. But he never was what I would describe as vintage stock. He was a good man and he was a very competent person. One of his great features was that he was good friends with the then Chief of Staff of the Army, Carl Bruno. And when the opening came down at the Central Command, which had the geographic responsibility for American military activities in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, nobody objected to Schwarzkopf getting the job, because in large measure there was the thinking at the end of the Cold War, that command may go away anyway. So in a sense Schwarzkopf was given an award for long and faithful service and kind of put out to pasture. And as a matter of fact, a lot of the officers that were down there were people who were just getting ready for retirement. And it was kind of considered a backwater. It was a headquarters and that was all. It had no troops assigned. The major theater commanders were the theater commander in Europe, who was the NATO commander, and in the Pacific. They had all the forces. And so Schwarzkopf simply had a headquarters, and if a crisis developed in the Persian Gulf he would have to borrow forces from the Pacific Command and the European Command with the approval obviously of the Secretary of Defense to fight his war. So it was a command without a command, and nobody paid that much attention to it.
So Norman Schwarzkopf got down there, and being a good soldiers he started to plan for possible contingencies in the Persian Gulf including one against Iraq.
Q: What about his temper and its affect on his subordinates?
Trainor: Norman Schwarzkopf was a big man and he had a very short fuse. His temper was absolutely without bounds. He would just go purple in the face and scream and yell at people, and he simply intimidated all of those around him. This of course had a terrible effect on his staff who were, with very few exceptions willing to challenge him. Now there were people that were willing to challenge him and Schwarzkopf really, oncehe blew his stack and he settled down again he was a very reasonable sort of man. And his temper was in the form of these outbursts, but he actually underneath was pretty soft. He had opportunities there and reason during the course of the crisis of the war to relieve a lot of his subordinates, both commanders and staff officers, but he never had the heart to do it. He would scream and yell at them but he'd never replace them.
Now some of the members of his staff knew how to work around this and paid no attention to his outbursts. But for most of the officers that served under him, it was a frightening thing to have this man of such large size and power just exploding all over you. And he did intimidate many of his subordinates, and most of them considered him to be a tyrant and a bully.
Q: What was the vulnerability of that first deployment?
Trainor: When the Iraqis crossed into Kuwait we were very ill-prepared to deal with it. After all he had all of these divisions that were within marching distance of the eastern provinces of Saudi Arabia if they cared to continue on. We had not taken deterrent action ahead of time to preposition forces out there that might act as a bulwark against invasion. Or as a source of resources if the invasion did take place. So we had to start from scratch. Now Schwarzkopf did have a contingency plan to move into Saudi Arabia, to defend Saudi Arabia against Iraqi aggression, but that's all it was. He didn't have the forces. So the Joint Chiefs of Staff had to assign him the forces. You had to get the airplanes and the ships to move people out there, and it was a very dicey situation, because nobody knew whether Saddam Hussein was going to be satisfied with swallowing up Kuwait or whether they wanted to continue on into Saudi Arabia. So Schwarzkopf took a gamble. There was a regular deployment plan to get forces out into the region, a very orderly process. But most of it was support equipment in anticipation of warning time before any trouble in the region. But now he didn't have warning time, he had to face the actual fact that the Iraqis were in Kuwait and threatening Saudi Arabia. So he took the position that he would upset the time table for deployment to get troops out there. And he saw American television as a means of signalling to Saddam Hussein the tremendous buildup of American forces. So in a sense he exploited the television business.
Because they focused on airplane after airplane landing in Riyadh, and Dharan and Jubail and places like that, and all of these soldiers getting off like they're ready to go into combat right away. Well, there were soldiers landingm but they didn't have very much in the way of equipment or in the way of ammunition. Indeed they didn't even have enough in the way of food and they were going to these fast food places in Riyadh to feed the troops. But the image that was projected was of enormous American power coming in on the ground. This was during that first and second week of August. But it was all a charade. There was nothing. If the Iraqis had come south at that point they would have been bloody but they would have been successful probably in taking the eastern provinces. It wasn't until the latter part of August and into September that we got the heavy forces in there and the aircraft that were in there that could have stopped them.
But those early days, they were a cliff-hanger for Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell and the Administration in general. But the American public and most of all Saddam Hussein didn't see it that way. By looking at the television they saw this terrific build-up of American forces being done very, very quickly.
Q: There's a bit of finessing going on about the role of Israel, what is it?
Trainor: The President had expended a lot of tickets to put together the international coalition. And a large part of that coalition was the Arab coalition. And this was very, very important for the conduct of any sort of anti-Iraqi action that he was going to take. The basic fly that could get in that ointment was Israel. Because if Israel got in the war, which is something that Saddam Hussein was trying to get them to do, the danger of the Arab coalition breaking up, would have been catastrophic to the administration's policy for ejecting Iraq from Kuwait, because it was supposed to be us in support of the Arabs.
Q: So what does the President have to do?
Trainor: The President to deal with this problem played it very, very low key. He virtually ignored Israel. But in the meantime, people like Lawrence Eaglebeurger, were going out and dealing with the Israelis and convincing the Israelis to play a low key action. Not to come up on the television or the radio, keep it very quiet. So in a sense the Administration played a game of focusing attention on the Arab world and in large measure ignoring the Israeli part of the dimension in the hope that it would not get anybody's attention. And he was very successful in it.
The Administration told the Israelis you know, that we are serious about this, we're going to put forces in there. And that these forces would be sufficient not only to eject Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, but look to the interest of all the major players in the region which would include Israel. And that the Israelis understanding the problem of coalition solidarity and the fact that by getting too close to the Americans in this instance that that could work adversely agains the coalition, they agreed to play it low key. But they made it very clear to the President that Israel would look to Israel's own interests, and if the situation threatened Israel, Israel would take independent action. The thing came to a head when the Iraqis started to fire SCUDs into Tel Aviv. That's when the test of this arrangement was brought on the table.
Q: What's the problem with the guidance system of the Tomahawks?
Trainor: The Tomahawk missile was a cruise missile. And it was designed to follow specific terrain features. With using satellite photography we would get the picture of the ground and this would be digitized in a form that could go into a computer that would be in the Tomahawk missile, so that when the Tomahawk was fired it simply would match what was in its program with the terrain features on the ground and follow it like a roadmap to its target. Now the problem in the Gulf War was that the desert region over in Kuwait and in Iraq was so flat that there were very few signposts. So what the Navy did was make use of the programming that went over Iran, where there were mountains, the Zagros Mountains, which gave a very clear identifying signal. And they had programmed the missiles over the Zagros Mountains long before the Iraqi crisis. This was the route that the Tomahawk missiles were going to take when they went into the Soviet Union if there had been a war with the Soviet Union. So they simply took that and modified it so that when the missiles were halfway up the Zagros Mountains on the course to the Soviet Union they'd make a left turn and go the east towards Baghdad. So in that sense all they had to digitize was the space between where the left turn took place and Baghdad. And that's what they did and that's the way the missiles were fired.
Q: What was the diplomatic delicacy of sending missiles over Iran?
Trainor: Needless to say, there was a risk in firing the Tomahawk missiles over Iranian territory until they made their left hand turn. But it a risk that they thought was worth taking. They weren't at all sure that the Iranians would even spot the missiles. If they did there was a very small likelihood that they would be able to shoot them down. And thirdly they felt that there was a very small likelihood of the Iranians complaining about it for two reasons. Number one, the missiles were aiming at their hated enemy Iraq, so that couldn't displease them. Secondly, they didn't want to admit their inability to prevent these missiles from going over their own territory. So it was a pretty good bet and the Iranians never said a word about the missiles although we know that they knew that the missiles were going over their territory.
Q: The Stealth fighter--what's the difference between its image and the reality?
Trainor: The Stealth fighter was supposed to be the greatest advance in military operations .....Stealth....it conjured up the vision of something invisible. Well, the airplanes were not invisible. They just had a very, very low radar profile. Certain radars could pick them up, but most radars in the course of normal activities would not be able to pick up the Stealth because of its unique radar-avoiding characteristics. So the decision was made that in areas where there was a very high air defense capability on the part of the Iraqis that we would use the Stealth airplanes to go in to take out those capabilities, to go after the Iraqi early warning system and air defense system around Baghdad. Thereafter you could use more conventional non-Stealth aircraft. So the Stealth was going to go in. However, even the pilots of the Stealth airplanes were very, very nervous about this. They weren't quite as sure that they were as stealthy as the advertisements made them out to be. So when they went on their first strike in the Baghdad region there were also conventional airplanes, EF-111's which were electronic jamming aircraft went on the flanks to suppress the Iraqi radar. But the Stealth did work reasonably well. And the only airplanes that actually did fly over Baghdad were the Stealth aircraft. They were able to take out the Iraqi command and control for their air defense missiles, and thereafter the bombings could take place in and around Baghdad with relative impunity. And the proof of the pudding is that no airplanes were shot down in the bombing raids in and around Baghdad.
Q: The one corps plan, at the first briefing presented in Washington, what's Powell up to?
Trainor: Washington became a little antsy about what Schwarzkopf was going to do in terms of offensive operations. Schwarzkopf had only one corps in the region. The Iraqis had built up quite a few forces, and Schwarzkopf felt that he didn't have enough forces. And the only plan he came up with which was considered in Washington both by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and by the Administration as unimaginative, which was to go right up the middle. But the Administration wanted a briefing on his plan, so he sent a team over with this one corps plan which was right up the middle. And it was not very well received. Schwarzkopf had put a lot of caveats on the briefing of this plan, saying that this was what he would have to do if he only had one corps. But he never gave an alternative of what he would do with two corps. And this is really what hurt him. Now Powell was in the position of giving his advice to the President. And you had two elements involved in this thing. One was the ground plan, which was what Secretary of Defense Cheney described as hi diddle diddle right up the middle, kind of catastrophic plan right into the teeth of the Iraqi defenses.
But then there was the air plan. And the aviators had developed this air plan, which they were convinced that if it was executed, it was going to win the war. Now Powell was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but he was also an army officer. And he was afraid that the comparison of the two plans, the Administration was apt to opt for an air plan as the solution to the war, where Powell was convinced that you needed both ground action and air action. So he had to kind of finesse the briefing and to convince the President that this very exuberant air plan that he was hearing about could not do the job by itself, and that there had to be a ground action. But in keeping with his idea of using overwhelming force, the force had to be double in the region. And he was very effective in doing that. He was able to convince the President that an air war would not do it, and you didn't want to launch it prematurely. We should wait until we had an overwhelming ground and air power in position before we went into action.
So when the plan was presented by Schwarzkopf's briefers in Washington which was a single corps attack, basically right into the teeth of the Iraqi defenses, he said that won't do, that we need more forces. And in a sense, he was also looking to slow down the desire to go on the offensive. And I think in the back of his mind he still was thinking that if we give sanctions a chance here we may not have to use these forces. Or if we position these forces, the Iraqis may come to their senses and come to some sort of negotiated solution. So I think Powell was reluctant to see us actually get into active warfare. And he was hoping to slow down this move towards war. But convincethat if we were going to go to war then we better do it with the overwhelming force that he felt was necessary to win very quickly and with few casualties.
Q: Tell me about the fallout after that briefing. Cheney starts going off on his own...what does it drive Cheney to do.
Trainor: Dick Cheney, the Secretary of Defense was a very important figure in all of these events that eventually led up to Desert Storm. First of all, he was aware that Powell wanted to give sanctions a chance, whereas Cheney was a hawk--we had to get these guys out of there, we had to use force to do it. So when he started to see these plans come in from Schwarzkopf which were unimaginative and he was getting briefings from the Joint Staff on all of the problems that they had, he came to the conclusion that the military was dragging their feet. He wanted to energize them. So in effect, he went outside the system and used people on his personal staff to come up with another option to the sort of stuff that he was getting from Schwartzkopf and from the Joint Staff. And this upset Powell,. He felt that the Secretary of Defense was getting into purely military business. Needless to say, it was upsetting Schwarzkopf.
However, it was the right of the Secretary of Defense, to do this. And he got the results that he was looking for. He got the Joint Chiefs of Staff and he got, most of all, Schwarzkopf to start to be a little more creative in their thinking, because Cheney had come up with a plan which called for wide excursion into the western desert, which would divert Baghdad's attention from the Kuwaiti area, and also it would protect Israel. So it not only fulfilled not only a military requirement but a political requirement. Well, the military thought that was crazy, going way out in the desert, but it got their attention. So little by little, the plan which was originally hi diddle diddle, right up the middle, suddenly became a plan going farther and farther to the west, which ultimately became what Schwarzkopf called his Hail Mary or the Western Excursion as it was known in the Pentagon, and it turned out to be a pretty good strategy.
Q: What's the Iraqi strategy for the war, knowing that this air war is happening?
Trainor: The Iraqis approached the war and planned to fight it the same way as they planned to fight the Iranians. That is , have a defense in depth so that when your enemy attacks you bleed him. And you cause him so many casualties in the process that he loses the will to fight or the ability to fight. Saddam Hussein was counting on American's aversion to casualties in support of his strategy. That when the Americans attacked they would take so many casualties, the American people would rise up and say, this is not worth the effort and let's see if we can't have a negotiated settlement, and he would end up with the fruits of his aggression. That was his strategy.
Q: And what's the Air Force strategy for winning the war?
Trainor: The Air Force's idea was to go right to downtown Baghdad and to any of the other military installations in Iraq that were significant. Just forget about the ground troops. Just go after the command and control, and the ability for Saddam Hussein to command and control, his communications, the electric grid, the air fields. All of this backup stuff. That if you break that you in effect have left the forces in the field abandoned. And that they would be useless and they won't resist and they will probably retreat. That was the idea behind the air war. Now that didn't fit in completely with what Norman Schwarzkopf had in mind. He was a ground officer. And yes, he supported the idea of going to downtown Baghdad and destroying the ability of Saddam Hussein to control his forces, but he also wanted to make sure that the troops, the Iraqi troops in the field were being hit. And this got into a little bit of a friction between him and his air component commander who was putting maximum effort on the first night of the war, against 84 targets in Iraq itself and virtually ignoring the field forces. And when he saw the plan for the opening of the air campaign and it did not use B-52s against the Iraqi field forces he got very upset, and said, you promised me to put B-52s on the ground forces.
The Air Force people, particularly General Horner tried to explain to him that the campaign would all work, but he would have none of it. Again, the guy was under an awful lot of pressure and tension and he felt he was being deceived by the Air Force and he blew up and he told both Horner and the Chief Air Force planner, a man by the name of Glosson, he said, you know, if you people won't do it I'll fire you and get somebody who will. So the Air Force had to adjust their approach. But I think it was Schwarzkopf's lack of understanding really of what the Air Force had in mind plus the fact that he was under such terrific pressures, that anything that struck him as deviating from that which he believed and understood he had been briefed on sent him into a tantrum.
So the end result was there was a compromise. That they went after both the targets in Iraq and also the Iraqi field forces. But the original Air Force plan was going to be a six day air campaign, which would be intensive around the clock and that would in effect, break the back of the Iraqis. Well, it didn't happen.
Q: Was the demonization of Saddam by Bush a good idea?
Trainor: Well, the idea of demonizing Saddam Hussein I think was essential to selling the idea to the American people. You know, Americans like white hats and black hats. And we were able to demonize the Kaiser in the first World War. We were able to demonize Hitler in the second World War. In the Vietnam War it was a little difficult. We didn't have a demon. Uncle Ho didn't quite fit the picture. But Saddam Hussein looked like a villain and acted like a villain. So his demonization I think did a lot to convince the Americans that they should support a military effort in the Gulf.
Q: That first night over Baghdad, what was the Iraqi anti-aircraft strategy?
Trainor: The Iraqi air defense system was very sophisticated. The French Thomson CSF company had done an awful lot of work in developing this air defense system that the Iraqis had, which was made up of redundant radar sites and redundant firing battery... batteries of missiles. Plus thousands and thousands of garden variety anti-aircraft guns. The American strategy was to blind that system, that air defense system, so that they couldn't see anything. And they were going to blind it by using an airplane that they couldn't see to begin with which was this Stealth aircraft which could evade their radar and help take it out. Now the Iraqis would be blind, their missiles wouldn't have guidance and their anti-aircraft guns wouldn't have guidance, and that's what we saw in the first night of the war. They were able to take out the command and control facilities for the Iraqi air defenses. Thereafter the Iraqi air defenses depended upon simply volumes of fire going into the air in the pious hope that an American airplane would fly into it. But they were shooting blindly and they got no hits.
Q: So, that first night of the air war summarize what kind of success was that?
Trainor: The first night of the air war that the Americans were treated to and watching CNN was a little bit like watching a 4th of July fireworks display. Lots of fire, but no results. The first night of the air attack was dramatically successful. It virtually shut down the early warning and fire control capabilities of the Iraqis, and thereafter left them blind to the American air attacks which continued to come around the clock.
Q: What about the role and perfomance of the press in reporting what was happening?
Trainor: The press coverage of the war was pretty much under the control of the Saudis and the Americans, because if you misbehaved you were invited to leave the country. Plus the fact that we were dealing with a large area and a remote area and journalists couldn't really get to see what was going on. So in large measure they had to depend upon what they were getting from the military briefings. And the military briefings while they were honest, I don't think there was any question of that. There was no deliberate attempt to deceive the American people, but there was certainly spin control put on it. And the spin control was designed to make everything look good, particularly the weaponry that was being used. We were using laser guided bombs. We were using precision guided munitions of various types. And they were getting the cameras coming back from the attacking aircraft would develop the film and you could see what was going on. And of course they selected the best of these to put on television.
Now were we 100 percent accurate with the precision guided munitions? No there were lots of things that interfere. Pilot error, weather, smoke, fog, all sorts of things, little gremlins that get into systems. So you saw the best of the best. But I have to say the high tech weapons that were employed in the Gulf War, delivered as advertised, and in some instances better than advertised. It wasn't perfect, but it was certainly better than it had been in any previous war. And so I think the accuracy of the precision guided munitions was somewhere in the 76 to 80 percent category, depending upon what weapon you're talking about which is certainly better than we've ever had before. So what you saw was the best, but it was a pretty honest portrayal of the accuracy of the weapons.
Q: What's the impact of that kind of portrayal in terms of people's perception about war?
Trainor: The problem with the picture that the Americans got of this kind of clinical war where every weapon was very precise and did exactly what it was designed to do was to increase that natural American tendency to think that you can run an antiseptic war, where you have the pilots at 30,000 feet dropping a very precise weapon on a precise military target that just destroys that target and doesn't hurt any of the civilians around it and therefore one can carry out war in a clinical fashion with only the individual bad guys getting hurt and the good guys never getting hurt and innocent civilians never getting hurt. That's wrong. War is a dirty confusing thing, whether it's from the air or from the ground.
The danger of that kind of perception I think we were able to see in Bosnia. Where the U.S. people were supportive of the idea of using American aircraft on bombing missions, but absolutely opposed the use of American ground forces, because in their mind's eye it's safe to do it from the air, and accurate from the air, where it's a bloody mess if you do it on the ground.
Q: Tell me about the military's attitude toward the press. What's the strategy they developed about how to handle the press in this war.
Trainor: You're aware that the Marines did a beautiful job.
Well, the guy that was the Marine Commander had been the Public Affairs Officer. Boomer. And so he knew what the press wanted and what they needed and he gave it to them. The Army saw the press as an enemy and restricted it.
Q: Talk about the Army point of view.
Trainor: We'll generalize it. The military that ran the Gulf War were the company commanders in the Vietnam War. And they came away from the war with the feeling that the American press had given them a bad shake, had indeed stabbed them in the back. And so they were very distrustful of the media, and would determine that they were not going to allow the press to paint them in dark hues in the Gulf War. The structure controlling the press was very, very tight for lots of reasons. Most of them good reasons. But it was a controlling structure nonetheless. What the press were able to get out to the public was pretty much what the military wanted them to get out. Now in general it was quite accurate and timely and the policy was to cooperate with the press, but that antipathy to the press that existed particularly on the part of the U.S. Army was reflected in restrictions on the press that were not intended by the Pentagon but were imposed in the field by people who were just anti-press. And the end result of it really was in a sense self-defeating. Because lots of credit that accrued to the military operations never got on television, never got in the newspapers, because by the time it was releasedby the military to get back to the editors it was already overtaken by events. It was old news. So they missed an opportunity. But there was a sense on the part of the military that we got back at you fellows in the press for the bad job that you did in Vietnam. We've controlled you over here. And in a sense I think that was true.
Q: Give me an example or two of how the press reporting played out...
Trainor: I think there were two events that took place that are fascinating in terms of the role that the media played. One is the anticipated amphibious landing against the Kuwaiti coast. The Marines were practicing amphibious operations in the Persian Gulf and the press was invited to watch it. Well, this was during a period of the build-up where there wasn't much news to report, so this became big stuff. But that led the journalists to conclude and Saddam Hussein to conclude that indeed there was going to be an amphibious operation involved in the war. Which was not in the cards to begin with. But there was the impression there. And in a sensethe press deceived themselves and they also deceived Saddam Hussein and indirectly deceived the American people. But it wasn't deliberate deception. It was a case of self-deception on the part of the reporters. But that was a very, very important thing because it ended up with Sadam Hussein putting six divisions along the coast to defend against an amphibious operation.
Q: Another interesting example concerning media coverage?
Trainor: One of the controversial areas over media coverage of the war dealt with the SCUDs firing on the part of the Iraqis into Israel and into Saudi Arabia and the success of the Patriot missile which was designed to shoot down or was trying to shoot down the SCUDs. And the impression that we got during the course of the war was that we were getting a lot of the SCUDs on the ground and that the Patriot missile was in fact shooting down the SCUDs that got up in the air with some great success. Well, neither was true. It turned out at the end of the war that we didn't get one SCUD on the ground, not one at all. We got a lot of dummy SCUDs, and what we thought were SCUDs turned out to be fuel trucks which on their infrared signature looked very much like the transporter for a mobile SCUD. But we didn't get any of the SCUDs on the ground. And the charge was made that the government used the press and lied to the people over the SCUDs. But the point is that Schwarzkopf and the rest of them, they didn't know that, they thought they were getting the SCUDs. But they were not. The second is on the success of the Patriot missile.
The Patriot missile which was designed to shoot down airplanes and not missiles was used against the SCUDs as they were coming in and we were all treated on television to the sight of the big explosion in the sky but then we were little surprised to see another explosion on the ground shortly thereafter and figured what's going on? Well, the truth of the matter is that the Patriot was pretty much doing its job as the government claimed, but the job wasn't quite proper. The Patriot missiles were going after the hottest part of the incoming SCUD, which was the tail, and would blow up in proximity to the tail and blow up that part of the SCUD, but the payload which was the warhead was on the front of the SCUD. And that was unaffected and it would simply tumble to the earth and freefall and explode on the ground. So in a sense yes, they were getting the SCUDs, but by the same token they weren't getting the warhead on the SCUD, which was doing... doing the damage. And so on both of these areas in terms of the SCUDs and the Patriot, the claim was made that the government was deceiving the people by these optimistic reports during the war, when in fact the government thought that what they were reporting was accurate.
Q: The Israelis weren't fooled.
Trainor: Well, I think everybody was puzzled. The Israelis were fooled also in the sense that they saw exactly what we saw on television. They saw the Patriot missile going up getting lost in the clouds and then all of a sudden the reflection of a big explosion. But then they were puzzled by what happened with an explosion on the ground. Well, it took a little while to figure out what was happening on that, and why it was happening. So in a sense they were not fooled in that there was a warhead falling on their territory and we were not fooled in the sense that we had a warhead fall on top of a barracks and kill a lot of American servicemen and women. But nobody quite understood what had happened in the equation, and this wasn't figured out until later on until they did an analysis of the various videotapes.
Q: This control of the press compared to Vietnam, was the American public well served?
Trainor: There were some 2500 journalists out in Saudi Arabia covering this war. And to have 2500 journalists wandering all over the place you know, that's more than even the most hide-bound first Amendment advocate would support. So they had to have some sort of control measures. And they used the pools. Now the pool-- a series of a group of reporters would report in the name of everybody else. This in effect, turned out to be a control measure. And the idea was for the pools to be disestablished once the ground war got underway. And they were. But the whole thing is the ground war went so fast that the pools in large measure were still in existence when the war came to an end. I mean you can take the position that the press was controlled throughout the entire war and I think there's some legitimacy to that, and on the other hand you can take the position of the Pentagon that while the press was in some sort of a controlled position that they got free access to everything and that they were allowed to report accurately, and I think a case can be made for that. In general, I think the American people were served well by the Pentagon policy and the performance of the press. In retrospect when you look at what was said then and what was reported then against what actually happened, it was very close, very close.
Q: There were a fair number of British Tornadoes shot down. What was the problem?
Trainor: The British Tornadoes had the mission of breaking up the runways of the Iraqi air fields. They had a runway breaking bomb that was very good, a British bomb. And that was the Tornadoes mission. Now the technique that they would use which was the one that they had developed to go against the Soviets in a NATO war was attacking at very low level so that you get under the missile envelope of your enemy. Of course we had destroyed that missile envelope in the opening parts of the war. So they would come in very low and cross the runway, almost down on the ground and drop these bombs which would explode and destroy the runway. But that put them in danger of, what I would describe as garden variety anti-aircraft guns. And the Iraqis were employing a technique of not trying to follow the airplane, they would put up a cone of fire. And the airplane would run into it. And this is what happened to the Tornadoes. As they would come in very low. over the airstrip they would run into this wall of fire and get hit and go down. After several losses with the Tornadoes they had to change their technique and they went to a technique of kind of throwing the bombs at the airfield, not flying over them at a low level, it was reasonably successful. But at any rate the Tornado losses dropped after they gave up the low level tactics.
Q: How were the U.S. and also the coalition prisoners treated during the war?
Trainor: Saddam Hussein's jailers were extremely brutal. All of the reports that came out from the British that had been captured and American airmen and others that had been captured were that they were brutally treated, and of course we saw some of this on the television with people, with their faces beaten in. You were in a brutal regime and if you're in their jails, you're going to be worked over. They were starved and they were beaten and they were exploited. I don't think that anybody that fell into Iraqi hands though expected anything different. There were no surprises there.
Q: Can you explain why Saddam suddenly floods the Gulf with oil?
Trainor: Saddam Hussein for whatever reason decided he was going to flood the Gulf with oil. The currents were such that they would float it down along the Saudi coastline. Whether he felt he was going to foul up the logistic operations in the Gulf or somehow or another impede any sort of amphibious operation that would take place along the Kuwaiti coast, we never will know. However, he opened up the main tap of the oil in Kuwait and started to flood the Gulf. It was a problem obviously. We went to mining engineers, oil engineers and I'm thinking well what's the critical area here in order to shut this off and we were told that one of the major elements of the system that if it was destroyed it would stop the flow. And we put a precision guided munition in on that specific target. That shows you how accurate those things are. And it knocked out the system and the oil flow started. The other thing he did, of course, was to light off the oil fields in Kuwait.
Q: Khafji.... What happened with the air cover of Khafji?
Trainor: Well, the air cover was very effective once it got underway. But it was slow in getting there. I mean we had all of these airplanes on the land. We had all these airplanes on the ships. Here you have what turned out to be a major Iraqi attack, three division size attack, with one coming down the coast, one coming inland and one going against Marine outposts out in the west. So it's a major operation underway. And those that were involved in the operation facing the Iraqis are screaming for air power and it's late in coming. They were an hour, forty-five minutes late in most instances coming to the assistance of the forces on the ground. They should have been up there immediately but they weren't.
And Glosson, who was the principle planner, happened to check at the air control headquarters to see how things were going and gets word of this attack underway. But he sees that within the operations center, it's pretty much business as usual. Nobody is getting exorcised over this thing. So he gets pretty excited about it. And then he gets the air component command to General Horner, and they get everybody energized. And then the Iraqis take an awful beating from air. But I think General Glosson was very disappointed at the beginning that people had kind of been lulled into a routine. And when that routine was upset by this offensive action on the part of the Iraqis which was designed to start the ground war, they just didn't get agitated. It was business as usual until they were energized by the leadership. Then the air power just did a terrific job of destroying the Iraqi forces.
People weren't paying attention to the defensive aspects of air power. They were so focused on the offensive operations and so indifferent to the defensive operations that they were slow in getting off the mark until General Glosson and General Horner started to raise the roof with the air controllers.
Q: Khafji. Its significance......what did Khafji show?
Trainor: Up until Khafji, the coalition forces and the Iraqi forces understood what was going to happen on the battlefield. The Iraqis were going to hold in place and counterattack with their armored forces when the Americans attacked. That was the game plan. That was the way the Iraqis had fought the Iranian war, and we knew that. But when the Americans did not attack and the air war was damaging them, Saddam decided that he'd better get the ground war started so he could start the bleeding of the Americans. So he launched the Khafji attack, three divisions, which failed. It failed, because the assumption that Saddam Hussein had made in his plan that he'd be able to move his armored forces was destroyed by our air attacks. So he realized at that end of Khafji that his forces could not maneuver on the ground because of our superior in air power. Now that changed the entire equation of his strategy.
Without having the ability to move his ground forces and with his army being demoralized by the bombing attacks, the idea of standing and fighting in place and counterattacking with armor went out the window. Now the only option left to him then was if we attacked and when we attacked was for him to withdraw, and that's exactly what the Iraqis changed their plan to accommodate to. The American side, particularly Schwarzkopf never read the battle properly. They thought this was just kind of a minor excursion on the part of the Iraqis, when in fact it was a major attempt to start the war. So Schwarzkopf still continued to build his plan on the assumption that the Iraqis were going to stand and fight hard rather than to retreat. So as far as Schwarzkopf was concerned nothing had changed by Khafji and what he was involved in was a great management enterprise of moving his forces to the west for an attack against an enemy who was going to remain and fight when in fact he was moving his forces against an enemy who immediately an attack started was going to retreat.
Q: And what's the implication of that?
Trainor: Now if Schwarzkopf had taken Khafji seriously and realized that the Iraqi strategy was upset by the Iraqi losses from the air attack, and by the Iraqis inability to fight any sort of war of movement because air power prevented it, his strategy which was to hold the Iraqis in place with an attack across the border with the Marines. And then while they were being held in place to come around behind them with this massive armored forces, that strategy was no longer viable. Because the forces that would be going forward to hold the Iraqis in place would be running against an enemy who was not going to fight in place but was going to retreat. And therefore, the envelopment movement may get there too late. Now his plan had the Marines attacking on the first day of the ground war, and this movement of the Army forces on the second day. If he had read Khafji correctly and had come to the conclusion as was obvious that the Iraqis were not going to be able to fight effectively and would probably retreat, he could have done a number of things. He could have speeded up the Army attack or he could have held the Marine attack and let the Army go first, which was one of the things that was recommended to him by one of his general officers.
But he didn't. He never reassessed the situation after Khafji and continued to assume that the Iraqis were going to stand and fight, when it was becoming apparent to a lot of people on the ground that the Iraqis were going to collapse the minute the attack took place and if Schwarzkopf was smart he would move that western attack up so that it went in faster to trap them, and destroy them, which was what the goal of the coalition army was--to use Colin Powell's words in a press conference, "Our strategy is to cut the Iraqis off and destroy them." Well that was what Schwarzkopf was trying to do. But after Khafji he had to modify his strategy to do that or else he, instead of being a cythe coming around to cut them down, you had a piston driving them out and that's what happened. And therefore, a lot of the Republican Guards were able to get away.
Q: How significant a failure was that on Schwarzkopf's part?
Trainor: Schwartzkopf's failure to reassess the situation after Khafji and the bombing campaign and to readjust his timetable in the sequence of attack, robbed him of a complete victory. The Iraqis were getting away and we were chasing to catch up with them and to cut them off. And that was exacerbated by what I would call a premature conclusion to the war before we were able to complete the noose around them. If the war had come a conclusion twelve hours later than it did, a significant number of the Iraqis still would have been trapped. But the combination of Schwarzkopf misreading Khafji or not reading Khafji at all, and modifying a strategy and an earlyending to the war, allowed far too many of the Iraqi Armed Forces to escape,particularly the Republican Guard units and then turn against their own Shiites, and put down the revolt against Saddam Hussein.
Q: What about friendly fire at the Battle of Khafji?
Trainor: Now at the Battle of Khafji we got the first really grim incident of friendly fire. It was the first operation, nobody expected it. There was a lot of excitement and a lot of loose ends came up. But one of the most unfortunate parts of it is we have a classic example of friendlies killing friendlies both on the ground and in the air. One of the Marine light armored infantry vehicles slewed its anti-tank weapon towards what they thought was an Iraqi tank and it turned out to be one of the own vehicles. And he fired and destroyed the vehicle and the troops that were in it.
Another incident, one of the Air Force anti-tank aircraft called the Wart Hog came in and thought it was going after an Iraqi tank and in fact it was going after one of the Marine light armored vehicles and hit it. So there you have in one small action with one unit, you have friendly fire ground against ground and air against ground. Friendly fire is always a problem in war, particularly if your weather is bad or if it's at night. I mean there has been fratricide in military operations since the first cave man threw a rock and hit his friend rather than his foe. It always happens. Can you eliminate it? No, you can never eliminate it. It will always happen, because of circumstances over which you have no control. The best you can do is minimize it and manage it. And you do that with technical fixes like blinker signals or that sort of thing, electronic signals, and also rules of engagement which tell you when to fire and when not to fire. It's easier to do it in the air, in air to air. As you know we didn't have any fratricide in the air during the Gulf War although there were thousands of planes up there. It's easier to do it in the air because you have technological things that you can take advantage of. But on ground to ground and on air to ground, because it's such a melee it's very difficult to ensure that you're not going to have fratricide. But the 7th Corps of the U.S. Army was very, very concerned about fratricide. And this was one of the reasons that it moved probably slower than it should have because it was afraid of taking friendly casualties and was willing to give up a certain amount of dash and initiative to make sure that we didn't take unnecessary friendly casualties.
The reason friendly fire became a big thing in the Gulf War was that we had so few casualties from the enemy because most of the enemy was running. So that, by comparison, made the casualties from our own fire seem that much more aggregious.
Q: Al Firdos, the bunker bombing. Put that in a context, explain some of the issues it raises.
Trainor: Before the age of television when we would bomb even with accurate bombs and kill lots of innocent people the message never really came home, because it's a couple of lines in the newspaper. But when you look on television and you see the bodies of broken children and women being hauled out of a smoking bunker that they had taken refuge in, it has a big, big impact. And therefore, it has a very inhibiting effect upon commanders who are doing the targeting for an air war. And that's what happened in this instance, the Al Firdos bunker was hit. We didn't know the civilians were in there. We saw on television the results of that miscalculation, and what resulted from that was that Colin Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said no more bombing in downtown Baghdad unless we clear the bombing. And this of course, now inhibited the Commanders in the field who were trying to carry out on a useful air campaign. So that visual impression of innocent deaths does have a tremendous impact on field commanders.
Q: After Al Firdos, how does Powell react in terms of the targeting and what is Schwarzkopf saying about that?
Trainor: One has to understand that Powell as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has to think politically as well as militarily and Powell I think did a lot more political thinking than he did military thinking. And when the attack on the Al Firdos bunker took place and it was shown that it was an unfortunate mistargeting problem he said, "we really can't stand another Al Firdos. " So therefore he put the brakes on the conduct of the air war from Saudi Arabia at least as far as it related to downtown Baghdad and said, "we'll clear the targets back here in Washington." Well, this kind of infuriated the air component commanders out there but it also led Schwarzkopf to make a comment also, because Schwarzkopf wanted Washington to keep their hands off the war. But he was also aware that he was not held in very high esteem in Washington and that they were looking for Colin Powell for most of the military management of the war and Schwarzkopf was prompted to remark after the Al Firods bunker thing when the brakes were put on the air war that Powell knew a lot about politics and was a good political general but he didn't have the guts for war, the intestines for war.
Q: What's the military's dilemma? Does this resonate a bit......Vietnam?
Trainor: Any soldier, it doesn't have to be an American soldier, but when he's given a mission he wants everybody get out of the way, let him carry out the mission with the resource that have been given to him and he will look at things almost exclusively in military terms. Well, the world doesn't work that way. I mean there are political considerations. You don't use military force for military ends you use them for political ends. That's what you have military force for . So it's not surprising that military people, Schwarzkopf and others felt that there was an interference on the part of Washington and the conduct of the war and which there was but was it legitimate? Well of course it was legitimate because he was being used to carry out the political purposes of the administration. Now you can overdo this, but you can never avoid it. It was overdone during the Vietnam war where individual targets were picked by the Secretary of Defense and... and the President at certain points during the war, you can overdo that but for a field commander to think that he can operate independent of political considerations of his home capital I think is being very naive.
Q: There's a lot of tension between the services. What are the pressure points. What's going on?
Trainor: I think the big area of disagreement was over air power. First of all the Air Force they wanted to win the war with air power. They felt that there really was probably no reason for a ground attack, that they would do the job and the Army could just walk in. The man who was in charge of the air war was an Air Force officer and everybody was going to do it the Air Force way. Well, the Army was dissatisfied because they felt that they were not getting the air support that they wanted against targets that they were facing. They felt that the Air Force was spending too much time on strategic targets. The Marines felt that they weren't getting their fair share of Air Force sorties so they were unhappy with the Air Force. The Navy on their aircraft carriers felt that they were kind of being in a secondary position to the Air Force so everybody was unhappy with the Air Force,. That was the main friction point. There was very little friction between the Marines and the Army because they were separated by the Egyptian forces and the other Arab forces. The friction point was primarily with the ground forces being dissatisfied with the way they were getting support from the Air Force.
And was that legitimate? In some instances it was not legitimate that the Air Force was in fact doing the job but in other instances, yes, the Air Force was kind of concentrating on the strategic side of it and winning the war through air power without the need for ground power. But I think you have to recognize that this was the first war in history where the air power was the supported force. Usually air power is the supporting force for the ground forces. This time in a sense the ground forces were providing the support for the Air Forces and that they were holding the enemy in place as the Air Force attacked them. The first time in history.
Q: Could you offer further detail about the tension in the bunker over the shape of the air war, in order to understand what that tactical versus strategic difference means?
Trainor: In the Air Force quest to win the war through air power it was concentrating on getting the command and control and breaking the will of the Iraqis by going to downtown Baghdad and only secondarily servicing the Iraqi forces that were in Kuwait. Well, from the Army's standpoint they don't care about downtown Baghdad, they're looking across the desert at all of these tanks and artillery and infantry that the Iraqis have and they're saying to the Air Force, "you're not giving me enough fire power on the targets that I'm going to face tomorrow" and the Air Force is saying, "trust me, we'll take care of them" and your target lists are inadequate we've already hit that target or that's not an important target and the Air Force is getting furious about this and they finally have to bring it up to Schwarzkopf to adjudicate it and Schwarzkopf puts his deputy, General Cal Waller to run a targeting board to adjudicate the fight between the Army and the Air Force. But it was never settled. The Army at the end of the war was still convinced the Air Force did not give them the proper support and the Air Force at the end of the war felt that the army had made unreasonable demands.
Q: How good was Saddam's air forces?
Trainor: Saddam Hussein's air force was not particularly good. It did have a certain strategic capability which is exercised effectively in the war with Iran but generally speaking their pilots were not very good. They were all under ground control. He knew that he was going to lose his air force so he opted to protect the air force by putting them in these steel reinforced bunkers and to move them around to various hidden sites and air field to try to preserve them for a later day. He didn't know that we had the capability with our weaponry to penetrate these bunkers that they were in and these hangers which we did and the end result of that was that we destroyed a lot of their aircraft. He preserved a lot by putting them next to mosques and places like that and some of them flew out to Iran as we know whether they did that under orders or whether they did that on their own volition one can debate but there's no question Saddam Hussein did not intend to try to contest the US air force and the coalition air force in the air. They sent up a reasonable number of sorties to aquit their honor and after that he simply tried to preserve his airplanes.
Q: What was the strategy about trying to kill Saddam. How did that fit into the bombing campaign?
Trainor: Saddam Hussein was never a specific target for the air planners. He was what you might consider a target of opportunity. They were looking for him in conjunction with everything else we were doing and if we saw the opportunity to get him , we would. But it would have taken a lot of intelligence resources and a lot of aircraft to put on a campaign specifically to get Saddam Hussein and at that it probably would have failed. So he was a target of opportunity. They nearly got him one time when he was on his way back from Basra after blessing the Khafji attack plan and his convoy was attacked but as luck would have it he survived the attack.
Q: Set the scene for me. We're on the eve of the ground war and Bush has at this point pulled together a coalition, pulled the military in, he's got the American people. Summarize what he accomplished by the eve of the ground war.
Trainor: George Bush is going to be a case study on coalition building for years, if not decades, to come. It was a magnificent thing that he did. He was foreign policy oriented. He knew the individual players that he was going to be dealing with and he schmoozed them over the telephone. He got the coalition put together with the individual nations and in the United Nations before he ever addressed his domestic problem of supporting the war but what he did he created international support for the war in the form of a coalition and in a form of the United Nations and then he turned around to the US Congress and said, "Are you going to support me?" which put the Congress in a very difficult position. I mean with the whole world supporting him are they going to say no? Well, obviously it was a close call but they came on his side. It was a brilliant job. He didn't try to sell the war at home at first and then to the international community he did it the other way around. Did it very successfully and this you have to say for Norman Schwarzkopf whatever other failings he may have had as a general, he was very, very effective in keeping the coalition together and keeping harmony within the ranks so the combination of George Bush putting together the coalition at the executive level and Norman Schwartzkopf maintaining that coalition at the operational level was absolutely classic.
Q: And, to summarize the three elements that Bush is playing with, the three balls he's got up in the air by the time ground war loomed?
Trainor: Bush had accomplished everything he needed to do by the time the ground war got under way. He had a coalition that was standing firm. He had defanged the problem of the Israelis coming in with the SCUD attacks on Israel. He had an army tthat was ready to go and he had an international community that was still supporting him even though there were last minute effortson the part of the French and on the part of the Soviets to have some sort of negotiated settlement of the war which he didn't want at that point. He wanted the Iraqi army broken and he was able to finesse that. So, I think he has to get absolutely full marks for everything that he did in terms of putting a coalition together, keeping a coalition together and at the eve of the war being in a position to execute a strategy which was bound to be successful in combating the Iraqis.
Q: Set the scene now from the Iraqi point of view on the eve of the ground war. What's the state of the Iraqi army? What's their readiness?
Trainor: You know there was high anxiety in the United States and throughout the world on the eve of the ground war and the Iraqi army had been painted ten feet tall and they were war hardened from their war in Iran and so forth. Well, this was the farthest from the truth. The Iraqi army had shrunken because of desertions. Their morale was down in the pits because of the air war and most of all because they were expected to fight a coalition against which they knew they were going to lose and nobody was very anxious to be one of the thousands of lives that Saddam Hussein said that he was willing to expend in order to bleed the Americans. The morale was terrible. All of the P.O.W.s that were captured were talking about the impact of the air war and the impact of fighting the American forces and they were convinced that they were going to lose and there was no interest in dying for a cause that they didn't particularly believe in anyway. So the end result was the psychological warfare program that we carried out against the field forces encouraging them to surrender, and the bombing attacks and the artillery attacks which convinced them of what would happen to them if they didn't surrender worked so that when the ground attack began there were a few that fought but most of them put up their hands.
Q: Before the ground war begins, what is your overall summary judgment on the air war? Did it live up to the claims of its planners? They said they were going to win in six days.
Trainor: The air campaign which was designed to drive the Iraqis out of Kuwait and win the war without the necessity of ground attack had not achieved its objective. The Iraqis were very, very badly hurt. It achieved lots of its military objectives, but if you make the assumption that you go to war for a political purpose which is to change the situation, it had not done that. In the final analysis it took a ground attack to move in, occupy the territory to drive the Iraqis out. So the air war, I would conclude, was a military success, but it was not victory through air power which was something that the Air Force was looking for.
Q: On the eve of the ground war, what lies ahead for Schwarzkopf and his coalition?
Trainor: On the eve of the ground war, I think Schwarzkopf looked about with satisfaction about what air power had done despite the complaints of the Army and the Marines about air power. But the air power had done its job. It had largely damaged the strategic infrastructure that Saddam Hussein had in Iraq, and had very seriously damaged, physically and psychologically the Iraqi ground forces that were in Kuwait. So that as he got ready to attack on the ground, of course he couldn't predict exactly what was going to happen, but he knew he was going against an enemy that was very badly hurt and very badly demoralized. So I think his acknowledgement of the value of air power was quite well founded and legitimate. Perhaps he should have given air power a little more credit than he did.
Q: But, are there any fears for Schwarzkopf on the eve of the ground war?
Trainor: He saw an Iraqi army that had been very heavily bombed, that was short of everything and in short of will to fight also. But he also saw up in the north, the cream of the crop of the Iraqi armed forces, the Republican Guards, who were being held in reserve, and who had not been damaged as much as the frontline Iraqi units. So while he was confident of victory he was still very, very much concerned that the victory would be a costly one for Americans. The business of friendly casualties, loomed large in Schwarzkopf's mind. He knew victory was there, the question was at what price would that victory come. And the answer to that would not come until G-Day when the forces attacked and the Iraqis started to collapse and then he was a little uncertain as to what all that meant, as to whether this could be a trap and some of the forces get too far out in front. But generally speaking the fear of heavy casualties dissipated the minute the battle on the ground started. But it loomed very large in his mind and the minds of all of the commanders on the night of G-Day.
Q: What were the options Schwarzkopf and the commanders considered if Saddam broke out chemical and biological weapons?
Trainor: There was the great concern on the eve of the war as to whether Saddam Hussein would use chemical or biological weapons. Now what would have been our reaction and retaliation? I don't think we know that. I'm not so sure that the government had really come to a conclusion on that. I think we used the intimidation of the Iraqis as the instrument. When Secretary of State Baker met with Tariq Aziz, his opposite number from Iraq in a last minute effort to stave off the war, Baker warned Aziz as he has recently stated in his own book, not to use any of these weapons of mass destruction or else Iraq for generations would regret it. Now what he meant by that we don't know, and I don't think he knew himself. But I think the implication came across to Tariq Aziz that we would nuke Iraq. I don't think that's what we would have done, but I think that's what we would have done. But I think it was enough to intimidate the Iraqi regime. And as far as the Iraqi field commanders were concerned, I think one of their concerns was that if they did use chemical weapons that they would be held personally responsible at the end of a war they knew they were going to lose and that there might be some sort of a Nuremburg-type trial and that ultimately they would end up at the end of a rope. And so even if they were ordered by Saddam Hussein to use chemical weapons, I question whether many of them or if any of them would have used the weapons. Now as you know we did not find any evidence of chemical weapons in Kuwait. That's not to say that maybe they were there and withdrawn. But there's no indication that the Iraqis did use chemical weapons.
Q: But were there options short of nuclear for the U.S.?
Trainor: At the time, on the eve of the war we were hitting or had already hit and destroyed just about any military useful target that Saddam Hussein had in Iraq. If he used chemicals and if we wanted to up the ante and in a non-nuclear way, we could have started going after essentially what are civilian targets or targets which were going to have a long and dramatic impact on his economy such as bombing the dams and disrupting the... the water flow. I would think that while these were on a potential target list, I don't think that they were ever actively considered by the administration even if chemical weapons were used.
Q: In a nutshell why didn't Saddam use chemical and biological weapons?
Trainor: I think Saddam was reluctant to use chemical weapons because he did not know what sort of retaliation the United States would take and what its dimension would be, and I think he felt that the risk of using those weapons which would only give him very limited advantage would be more than offset by the damage that was liable to be visited on him if he did use them.
Q: But he did set the oil wells on fire. What did he have in mind with that?
Trainor: Well, I think there was a punishment aspect of that involved. He was going to punish the Kuwaitis. But it also had a military aspect. The prevailing winds in that part of the country at that time of the year are from the northwest to the south...southeast. Which would have meant that that smoke was blowing right in the face of the American and the Arab forces as they attacked north, and that would impede their command and control and give Saddam Hussein a certain military advantage. Oddly enough as it turned out, on the day the ground attack began, the wind took an unusual shift and blew from the southeast to the northwest, so that smoke that was supposed to go into the face of the allies, actually went into the face of the Iraqis.
Q: If you look at the three elements of the ground war, can you give a capsule version of how this ground war plan is supposed to work?
Trainor: The Schwarzkopf objective was to trap and destroy the Iraqi forces in Kuwait. And the way he intended to do this was to hold their attention and hold them in place with a Marine attack directly out of Saudi Arabia, and an amphibious feint off the Kuwaiti coast to draw the attention of the Iraqis to the east and to the south. And then launch this massive attack from the west which would come in behind the Iraqis and cut them off and destroy their field army.
Q: No amphibious landing is made. Can you describe the decision not to have an amphibious landing. What was the Navy's angle?
Trainor: No. When the ground plan was put together it was put together basically by Army officers, who, neither had an understanding of Naval operations or amphibious operations or very much interest in them. Plus the fact that they felt that they had a strategy which would lead to the quick defeat Saddam Hussein. So the idea of an amphibious operation was always very low on the priority list. The Marines were pushing for it, but they weren't really pushing that hard, and the Army really thought it was probably something that was unneeded and could be very costly in casualties. So the threat of an amphibious operation was never a real one. Becausethe coalition planners didn't think it was necessary. But in the mind of Saddam Hussein it was real enough because there were so many Marine forces out there and amphibious forces that it tied down an awful lot of his forces that could have been used more effectively elsewhere. Six divisions he had tied down between Kuwait City and the Saudi border. So just the threat of the operation achieved the strategic purpose that an amphibious operation would normally have anyway.
Q: And afterward in what was called the 'mother of all press conferences,' Schwarzkopf heralds the feint as a great piece of strategy. Was it?
Trainor: During the final briefing on the war that Schwarzkopf gave he talked about the amphibious operation as being a master stroke of deception in holding Saddam Hussein down and he took credit for it. Well, in fact it wasn't at all. It was deception really by default. There was never a plan of major proportions for an amphibious operation and he simply took advantage of the results of the perception on the part of Saddam Hussein that there would be one and credited himself with the genius of threatening Saddam Hussein from the sea when it was really never a viable operation.
Q: Can you summarize Fred Franks?
Trainor: Fred Franks who commanded the VII Corps was a battle-seasoned soldier. He had lost a leg in Vietnam. But he was also a very, very cautious soldier and he was a very methodical soldier, and frequently he took counsel in his fears for what the enemy was going to do rather than what he was going to do to the enemy. And some of this came through in the final briefing before the ground war began, when Powell and Cheney visited Schwarzkopf, and Franks got up to give a brief and Schwarzkopf was anticipating he would give you know, a kind of a cheerleader speech. `We're going to do this and we're going to do that to them' and so forth. Instead Franks got up there and talked about he needed more things, more troops and more ammunition and more of everything.
Absolutely infuriated Schwarzkopf. And frankly, it unnerved Secretary Cheney. After it was all over, Cheney remarked to Colin Powell that I think we got the wrong man for the job, or words to that effect. And Powell was a little upset by it but he also assured Cheney that Schwarzkopf knew what he was doing and would take care of things and so forth. So Freddie Franks right from the get-go allowed some of this hesitancy and conservatism to come through at a very time when the powers that be in Washington were looking for some sort of expression of absolute confidence and domination.
Q: What did Schwarzkopf think of Franks?
Trainor: General Schwarzkopf never got along with Franks. I don't know what the origins of their differences were. But Schwarzkopf did not like Franks. Would have preferred not to have had him. Was very critical of him during the campaign and very critical of him after the campaign. As far as he was concerned Franks was the wrong man for the job , did not do the job. I think that's a little unfair to General Franks but that's certainly the impression that Schwarzkopf established very freely.
Q: Did Franks in some way embody the whole Army's burden of carrying Vietnam with them into this war?
Trainor: A lot of the senior generals in the Army, or the company commanders during the Vietnam War are very much marked by it. Most of them have been wounded. They saw a regeneration of the Army in the post-Vietnam period of which they were major players. But oddly you got two type of characters to come out of that process. You get people like Franks, you get people like Colin Powell and you get people like Gary Luck who commanded the 18th Corps, who tended to be very, very conservative and mechanistic in their approach to battle. On the other hand you got some real tigers like General McCaffrey who commanded the 24th Mechanized Division and General Binnie Peay who commanded the 101st Air Assault Division. These guys come out of the Vietnam regeneration as being enormously aggressive. So you had the anomaly of two types of officers coming out of a common experience.
Q: What's the impact of Vietnam on the military going into this war?
Trainor: Those who had fought in the Vietnam War, who are now the general officers of the modern day Army were very much marked by the war and they were interested in victory at very low cost as quickly as possible, making use of as much high tech as they possibly could to avoid the flesh and blood of their own troops.
Q: And in that sense what's their strategy?
Trainor: I think most of the generals that were in the Gulf War subscribed in principle to the so-called Powell doctrine that you have a clear objective and you use overwhelming force quickly, you have an exit strategy, don't get tied down. I think they all believe that that was very worthwhile. I think they would all have different interpretations as to how you would apply that sort of doctrine and to what degree you would apply it.
Q: When you talked about the early success of the Marine push, you called it a piston. What does that say about the Iraqi strength and Schwarzkopf's calculations?
Trainor: On the eve of the Marine ground attack--and they kicked the action off--Schwarzkopf figured they were going to have a pretty tough job because they were going against the fixed offenses that the Iraqis had built. But the Marines went through them like a hot knife through butter. And according to their own plan they were going to be in Kuwait City in three days. And they were in Kuwait City in three days. And this just astounded a lot of people. Why were they so successful? Well, they had fought the Iraqis at Khafji and they had gotten their measure and had come to the conclusion that the Iraqis were not particularly good. So their attack went right through them and surprised everybody and surprised Schwarzkopf who was still seeing them as being the strongest Army in the Middle East. But those who had fought the Iraqis had come to the conclusion that the Iraqis were not very good.
Q: There was a flap about burying the Iraqis in their trenches. What really happened?
Trainor: When the 1st Mechanized Infantry Division went into the attack of course the essence was speed, move fast, move fast. If you're going to run into enemy, you know, bypass them, kill them,get moving, but don't slow down for anything. So when they went forward they came across a trench line where a lot of Iraqis surrendered and a lot of Iraqis did not surrender. So in keeping with their philosophy of attacking fast, they simply sent a bulldozer and bulldozed over the trench line and buried some 150 Iraqi soldiers in there who refused to surrender. Well this made the press as though it was unprecedented and it was terrible. But I don't know that there's much difference between how you die whether you're shot with a bullet or suffocated in a trench line and it certainly wasn't unprecedented. Most of the Japanese in Iwo Jima who were killed were simply buried within the bunkers and tunnels that they were occupying. It's been done in all wars, this is nothing unusual. But Americans have become so out of touch with the unusual, the brutal nature of warfare they saw that this as being something that was out of the ordinary, when in wartime it's very much part of the ordinary.
Q: VII Corps and Frank's worries about casualties --how did that end up affecting their performance?
Trainor: The VII Corps had come out of Europe, and there was sort of almost a European mindset in the way they wanted to fight. Which was a very mechanical way, where you had all sorts of control measures and control lines, and you kept everything aligned and you went step by step througha regular scenario. That was not the kind of the wild, dashing sort of action that you would have expected of the U.S. Army but that's the way their tradition in that particular Corps. But there was another reason for Frank' s caution and that was that he knew he was out in a vast remote area where there were very few terrain signals, terrain features, where the weather was going to be bad, there was going to be a lot of smoke, and he was afraid of friendly casualties being inflicted by friendly forces. So therefore he wanted a lot of control measures so that everybody knew where everybody else was for the maximum amount of time to minimize the likelihood of casualties. Well, when you do something like that you're going to slow down the operation and that's exactly what happened.
Q: And when he stopped that first night, tell me what Schwarzkopf's reaction is when he finds out?
Trainor: Franks got off on the wrong foot with Schwarzkopf on the first night of the war. When the Marines went through the Iraqi position so fast he went to Franks and asked whether Franks could speed up his attack which was not supposed to take place until the second day. Franks said he could and he was given the word to do so. And the anticipation on the part of Schwarzkopf was that Franks by the next morning would be well into Iraqi positions. But for him to move he would have to move at night and would have to go through breeches in the minefields and the wires that the Iraqis had led, and Fred Franks was afraid that he was going to have some confusion in his ranks and there would probably be some casualties so he felt it was probably safer to wait and go through the wire on the following day. When Schwarzkopf awoke on the second day of the ground war and saw that Franks had not advanced he just got outraged, his famous temper boiled over, because here he had the Marines racing north, he had the 18th Airborne Corps on the left flank of the VII Corps, it was racing forward, and here was his main attack stalled at the start line, and he felt that that was absolutely unacceptable.
Q: The second day of the ground war. What happens after the Iraqis attack out of the burning oil fields.... with the Marines advancing rapidly, what happens with this counterattack?
Trainor: When the Marines kicked off their attack they had no idea of what was going to happen. And when they went through the Iraqis as fast as they did then they became very suspicious that the Iraqis may be sucking them into a trap. So they became very wary. And this was particularly true when they ran into all the smoke that had been generated by the Burqan oil fields which were about 13, 14 miles north of where they started the Marine attack and these were all up in flames and lots of smoke. So they held up temporarily to find out what the situation was. And in the process they uncovered a plan that was captured from one of the Iraqis that indicated that the Iraqis planned to attack out of the burning Burqan oil field. So they sent a reconnaissance unit into the oil fields, didn't see any of the Iraqis, but they took the threat seriously and just to check out what was in the oil fields that they couldn't see, all of the artillery that could bear on the oil fields fired into the oil fields. Well it was like hitting a hornet's nest. When that happened all of these armored personnel carriers and tanks that the Iraqis had in fact been hiding in the oil fields came out to attack the Marines. And so there was a free for all just outside the Burqan oil fields and in the process they called in attack helicopters and fixed wing aircraft and our tanks got involved and so forth, and then the Iraqi attack was absolutely crushed. But it was one of those unexpected operations that was not planned. But the Iraqis made a desperate attempt to blunt the Marine attack, were unsuccessful and thereafter the Marines just kept flowing until they reached Kuwait City.
Q: Schwarzkopf gives a press briefing talking about how effective everything has been. Buster Glosson has a strong reaction---What does Schwarzkopf say that ignites Glosson?
Trainor: One of the moments that most people who followed the war will have in their mind is the famous briefing by General Schwarzkopf in the final hours of the war known as the `mother of all briefings.' It was a magnificent performance.... with slides and charts and arrows, he pictured an enemy that was 10 feet tall, that was steeled to make our side bleed and perhaps even to defeat our side. But because of the brilliance of Schwarzkopf's leadership and the ability of the ground forces of the coalition to outsmart and outfight the Iraqis who outnumbered us, he had brought off this brilliant, brilliant victory, well, and had closed the ring on the Iraqis, that they were all put in the prisoner of war bag.
Well, of course this was far from the truth. And the chief air planner for Schwarzkopf, General Buster Glosson, was outraged by this. He felt it was a dishonest briefing and that it was unethical and that Schwarzkopf had painted a picture that did not conform with reality. Reality, as far as Glosson was concerned, was an Iraqi army that was already defeated by air power. And that the ground forces had an easy job of just walking in and capturing them, which was largely true. So he felt that Schwarzkopf had painted a much greater victory for himself with the ground attack than was actually warranted, and was outraged by what... what Schwarzkopf had said. In large measure because air power had created the conditions which led to a ground war that was a walk over.
Q: Was Glosson's assessment fair? Was Schwarzkopf deliberately misleading his audience?
Trainor: I don't think he was deliberately doing so. Schwarzkopf was seeing things in the macro sense. He was enormously relieved of the speed of the victory and the fact that we had small casualties. And in his mind's eye he was still seeing an enemy that was very, very tough in spite of the fact that intelligence was telling him that the enemy was pretty much worn down by the air attacks. But I think he simply got carried away as the great victor of the desert and the exuberance he felt over a quick and almost bloodless victory. So I think if he were to be charged with a sin it would be not for lying, it would be more for pride.
Q: Given the announced US goals regarding the war, how significant was it that a good part of the Republican Guard escaped in the final hours?
Trainor: The administration's goal from the outset was to break the Iraqis' ability to threaten their neighbor with offensive operations with military force. Powell summed that up with a statement that when he was asked about our strategy, in a press conference he said our strategy is simple. We intend to surround them, meaning the Iraqi army and kill them and this was translated down at Schwarzkopf's level in the field to basically the same thing. The goal was not to neutralize the Iraqis, the goal was to destroy the Iraqis that were in Kuwait with particular emphasis on the Republican Guard and in Schwarzkopf's mother of all briefings towards the end of the war, he kind of indicated that when he said, the gate is closed, meaning that no significant units are escaping that they've all been been tied up in in Kuwait and we achieved our objective, which wasn't true at all. There was about two-thirds of the Republican Guards escaped with about 50 percent of of the heavy equipment.
Q: So compare what Schwarzkopf vowed to do with what happened....
Trainor: Schwarzkopf's orders to his subordinates were to destroy the Republican Guard, not neutralize them, but destroy them. Meaning that our forces had cut them off and that they were helpless, lying helpless in in front of us. Of course, that wasn't true at all. The gate was not closed and it was still wide open at at Basra and the Iraqis were fleeing and they had brought their Corps headquarters across the Euphrates and then they were bringing the rest of the divisions across. So, he never carried out the goal that he had set for himself in his own mission orders.
Q: What responsibility does Schwarzkopf bear for the escape of the Republican Guard?
Trainor: Schwarzkopf doesn't bare the full responsibility for the escape of two-thirds of the Republican Guard. He bears quite a bit of it though. If he had altered his plan after the evidence was that the Iraqis were not going to be able to stand and fight and their morale was low, all of the things that we learned as the result of the Battle of Khafji, he would have modified his plan to close the Army into the rear of the Iraqis much earlier and probably would have achieved the objective that he had set for himself. But he failed to adjust so he didn't read the battlefield correctly. So that's his responsibility. But the other part of the responsibility is on the part of the Administration when they decided to end the war when they did which was about 12 hours, roughly speaking, short of achieving their objective.
Q: Powell's reaction to the highway of death....explain it. Was it an overreaction?
Trainor: Powell was the military advisor to the President. In a moment expected, he would give his advice based on military merit . But, when he recommended the end of the war, he recommended it less on a military basis than on a political one. For him, the military campaign had become irrelevant, we had pretty much shown that we had beaten the Iraqis. What concerned him now was the political fall out from what was perceived as us beating to death the Iraqis who were innocently trying to escape the guns--the so-called 'highway of death' where television pictures and news pictures showed this long line of destroyed vehicles and presumably a lot of dead Iraqis soldiers in there. So he felt that that would tarnish the image of the great American victory and it was largely a public relations basis that he recommended to the President that we bring the war to a close when we did.
Was it an overreaction? I think in retrospect it certainly was an overreaction. Most of what existed on the so-called highway of death were stolen goods and stolen vehicles from Kuwait city. There were very few Iraqi solders that were found amongst the wreckage. Most of them when the bombing started were smart enough to jump out of their stolen vehicles and run into the safety of the desert so the highway of death was the highway of death for vehicles, washing machines and stolen television sets, but it really wasn't the highway of death for Iraqi solders.
Q: Why was the Republican Guard so easy to beat?
Trainor: We'll never know exactly how well the Republican Guard would've fought if there was pretty much a level playing field. They had not really been committed to action up to that point and they were totally surprised. Now, if the allies had attacked directly at them as they had anticipated, they might have fought a little bit better but as it was, they were caught by surprise with the attack coming from the west and the units that did engage the U.S. forces hastily moved to defensive positions and really weren't set up for a major set piece battle but even at that, they were totally out-gunned by the Americans. Our tanks had longer range and greater accuracy than theirs did. So I think the outcome would've been basically the same except probably some more Republican Guards would have died if they put up a vigorous attack against the U.S. Army.
Q: What do we know about how many Iraqis soldiers were actually killed? What's the best estimate?
Trainor: They've been all sorts of estimates of Iraqis casualties run by a lower ranked D.I.A. officer that put it at something like 100,000. But it was nothing like that. We don't know the exact number but I think you have to distinguish between the Iraqis in Iraq and those were mostly civilians and there I think they were relatively few killed in Iraq. Saddam Hussein puts the figure at about 3,000. That may be correct, although I think that that's probably a little high, given the type of targets we were going after and the accuracy. Within the theater, I don't think anybody really has a feel for that. The air campaign was not going after the Iraqi soldiers. The air campaign that preceded the ground attack was going after equipment and stores and supplies and the soldiers were pretty much smart enough to stay away from their equipment and supplies so that they weren't killed and then the ground attack went in so very, very quickly that the the casualty rate had to be low. We had all sorts of medical facilities there to take care of of the wounded and they received very few wounded, either American or Iraqi. So, while I can't put a figure on on the number of casualties, it certainly --for the size of the war and the size of the numbers of troops on both sides involved--probably broke the Guinness Book of Records on minor casualties.
Q: How did women soldiers perform in this war?
Trainor: We had a lot of women went out to the Gulf, I don't know the exact number but there was no military organization on land that could've conducted the war without the women. They've become such an integral part of the military service and as far as I know, you know, they distinguish themselves equally with the men. Were there problems? I think there were very few problems.
I think the problems were more cultural problems that we had having women in Saudi Arabia, a very strict Muslim regime that just didn't see women as equals the same as we did. Obviously, when you have a half a million people in the Gulf, there were instances I'm sure of misbehavior of one sort of another. But on sum, there were no major problems that arose that required the Armed Forces after the Gulf to look back on their practice to see what corrective action should be taken. So the friction was minor.
Q: Both on the political side and the military side, it seems as though there was not a real plan for the end of the war....what happened?
Trainor: If the administration had planned as well for the end of the war as they did for the conduct of the war, we probably would have had a more decisive and better outcome. But they didn't. They had no end war strategy. The focus was getting the Iraqis out of Kuwait and breaking the back of the Iraqis Army and there was a pious hope that in the process, the Army would probably turn against Saddam Hussein and toss him out of power. But it was a pious hope and nothing more. There was no plan to do that. They'd looked around for various dissident Iraqis elements that could form maybe some sort of provincial government but didn't find any so there really wasn't no strategy. It was just the hope that in the process of dealing such a decisive defeat, that his own people, would would turn against him. But of course one doesn't achieve political ends without something of a more substantial strategy than that.
Q: What was the reaction of the people under Schwarzkopf, when he said we're ending the war?
Trainor: The army commanders, the VII Corps and the 18th Corps who were still actively engaged against the Iraqis, in a large measure were dumbfounded by the decision to call off the war. In some instances, for example, in the 18th Corps area, they were just ready to launch what was going to be their major attack when they were told to stand down. The VII Corps were already engaged but they hadn't completed their mission so they were absolutely surprised that the war was coming to an end but as good soldiers, they did what they were told.
Q: Did they express their dismay?
Trainor: An example of the dismay was when Schwarzkopf told his deputy that the decision is made to end the war and his deputy used an expletive to express his surprise his disappointment in that decision and Schwartkopf turned around to him and said well, `you go argue with them' meaning Powell who had been the one to call Schwarzkopf and tell him to to bring it to a conclusion. So, I think it's safe to say that the units that were involved out there and the staffs were all quite dismayed by the fact that the war was coming to what they viewed as a premature conclusion.
Q: What was Bush saying publicly to the Iraqis people during the war about hoping they'd overthrow Saddam?
Trainor: George Bush from the outset viewed Saddam Hussein to be of the same family as Adolf Hitler. And, he not only intended to defang him, but he was hoping that the Iraqi people would get rid of Saddam Hussein and replace him with an interim government which showed the possibility of democratic processes. No question, George Bush wanted to get rid of Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath's gangsters that were running Iraq. This comes through, all of his public statements, right from the outset of the war, until the very end. And of course he did not achieve his hope.
Q: Tell me about what happened at the ceasefire talks at Safwan....
Trainor: The cease fire talks at Safwan represented an opportunity for Schwarzkopf and indeed the coalition to put the screws to the Iraqis and to gain great concessions from them. But instead it turned out to be a situation where the Iraqis gained concessions from the victors. The classic example was when the Iraqis asked Schwarzkopf whether they could use fly helicopters, down in southern Iraq, pointing out that the roads were in terrible shape and that there was wreckage all over them, etc., etc. Well, Schwarzkopf was thinking they were being absolutely honest about this thing and they wanted to use the helicopters to transport logistic supplies and personnel. And so he said sure, that will be all right and then the Iraqis asked the question which should've given Schwarzkopf pause and that was, well, how about armed helicopters and Schwarzkopf without even thinking, said `yes' on helicopters. Now, what the Iraqis had in mind were using the helicopter gun ships to put down the Shi'ite uprising which had taken place and Schwarzkopf gave them carte blanche to do it. The President didn't even know about this when questioned about the Iraqis using the helicopters to shoot at the Shi'ites you know. In a speech he said, that well you know, we'll put a stop to that and, and he had to be reminded, that Schwarzkopf had agreed to that with the Iraqis. So, he was finessed by the Iraqis at the Safwan conference.
Q: What was Glosson's reaction?
Trainor: General Glosson, Schwarzkopf's chief air planner, was very upset by this and he said in effect, `this is what happens when you send a ground officer to conduct any sort of negotiations without taking an airman with him.' Nobody who understood the use of helicopters would have ever agreed to that request by the Iraqis. So, he was outraged by Schwarzkopf's conduct at the Safwan conference.
Q: Give me a thumbnail sketch of Buster Glosson and how he played Schwarzkopf early in the air war.
Trainor: General Buster Glosson was a can-do man. While he was a planner, he was also a doer. If you wanted something to move, Buster Glosson would get it moved. He had a dynamic personality. He had good inter-personal relations and he was a con man. He'd make a marvelous con man in civilian life cause he could sell you a bill of goods and make you feel that it was your idea and this is the way he dealt with Schwarzkopf. He was able to charm Schwarzkopf. He was able to convince Schwarzkopf. He was able to manipulate Schwarzkopf and Schwarzkopf never knew it. Now, he did this all for good purposes so I'm not saying thisin a pejorative sense. But the point is, the guy was a master con man.
Q: What's your view of Schwarzkopf telling the Iraqis at Safwan that he's got no intention of going to Baghdad ?
Trainor: Norman Schwarzkopf, when he approached the talks with the Iraqis at Safwan, treated them as equals. It was not a case of the conqueror and the conquered. He tried to make them feel as though they were equals and that they were dealing with really the mechanics, the protocol of a cease fire instead of the submission of the defeated to the victor and that was a big mistake. And he was so anxious not to humiliate or embarrass or increase a sense of anxiety on the part of his opposite numbers across the table that he went far beyond his brief or what he was going, going to do, including reassuring that the U.S. Forces weren't going to Baghdad and he threw a trump card away. They didn't know what we were going to do. They thought we were planning to go to Baghdad and this would probably increase pressure on them in any final solution. So he gratuitously threw away not only helicopters but he threw away a certain political leverage that we had over the Iraqis that should have been exploited.
Q: Why didn't the Iraqi military turn on Saddam?
Trainor: The pious hope that the administration had that the Iraqi military might possibly turn against Saddam Hussein, I think resided in a belief that the Republican Guard, the praetorian guard around Saddam Hussein, may view Saddam as a liability to the best interests of the Iraq nation and people, time to get rid of this man. But, I think a lot of that went to gleaming with the Shi'ite uprising, because the Iraqi Republican Guard was populated mostly with Suni, Suni Muslims which are same as Saddam Hussein and those that were rising up were the Shi'ite and I think there may have been a real concern even on the part of Suni Officers that were perhaps willing to turn against Saddam Hussein, that if they did so and the Shi'ite were the victor in an uprising, that they themselves would suffer. So, I think it was kind of a case of the devil we know, is better than the devil we don't know and they stuck with Saddam Hussein.
That's one interpretation. Another interpretation would be that the Suni officers were so committed to Saddam Hussein, benefited so much from Saddam Hussein that there wasn't a chance of them turning against them regardless of the circumstances. Now, the the Iraqi army was made up mostly of Shi'ite with Suni officers, but they were never in a position to threaten the regime because between Saddam Hussein and that army, there was always the Republican Guard to protect Saddam Hussein and deflect anything that might happen with the regular army.
Q: The Shi'ite uprisings. Did they ever have a chance of being successful?
Trainor: When the Shi'ites revolted, they did have some organization. It was fractionalized but it was there and an uprising had been encouraged by the U.S. government and we abandoned them when it did take place. What chance would they have had say if the Republican Guards have not escaped? They would not have had a chance at autonomy, but I think that they probably would have been able to have sufficient success that they could negotiate with the Baghdad regime for better circumstances of their lot, within Iraq. I think that's the best that they c could have hoped for.
Q: And the Kurds in the north?
Trainor: And, the Kurds in the north would probably be basically in the same position. By that I mean that Saddam Hussein, was faced with the potential problem of the Kurds in the north breaking away and the Shiites in the south breaking away, I'll use that term. And his instrument of restoring order was the Republican Guard that escaped from the south. First, he did the Shi'ites and then he started to move north and would have done the same thing, with the Kurds in northern Iraq until the international community, led by the United States, stepped in and prevented him from doing so.
Q: Describe the role of the Republican Guard.
Trainor: The Republican Guard was the key to Saddam Hussein's salvation. As long as the Republican Guard remained loyal to him, did not turn on him, he was in a reasonably good position because his political infrastructure was in place, as well as his secret police infrastructure in place, and now he has loyal praetorian guard, if you will. If the Iraqi Republican Guards had been destroyed in Kuwait, then you might have had an entirely different situation with part of the regular Iraqi rmy, largely Shiite, going over to the side of the Shi'ite uprising. That, certainly could have happened. But the fact that the Republican Guards were able to reconstitute themselves because so many of them had escaped intact from Kuwait, the chances of the regular Army moving against Saddam Hussein, I think were minimal.
Q: Did Bush pay a price for his demonizing of Saddam?
Trainor: I think that when the war ended, most of the American people were so relieved that the war was over quickly and that the casualties were very few that they were relatively indifferent to the outcome of the war beyond that point. While Saddam Hussein had been demonized and I think the American people wanted to see him tossed out of office, they were not willing to see the war progress and the kind of red herring that was thrown up as well--the possibility of having to go to Baghdad to get rid of Saddam Hussein. The American people were not for that because they felt that there would be a lot of casualties involved so they were satisfied. They were satisfied with the outcome of the war and went on to other things. I think one of the examples that they became quickly indifferent to the war was what happened to the Shi'ites and there no sense of outrage in the United States that we're allowing Saddam Hussein to crush the Shi'ite revolt in such a brutal fashion. The Americans were just so relieved that it was over and so involved in welcoming our troops home , the whole war went out of sight and out of mind. I think it's remained that way for the last five years.
Q: You say in your book that the military has become overly concerned about casualties. What's your sense of that in the context of the Gulf War?
Trainor: No nation wants to suffer casualties with their sons and daughters in warfare. But the fact is, war is a dirty business and you do suffer casualties and most people, and including Americans, are prepared for that sort of thing and they were prepared for a lot of casualties in this war. People were talking openly about 10,000 casualties in the first 48 hours of the war and the American people were prepared to accept that because they were prepared to support the war. But, when you have a war where you have so few casualties and the fact that you use high technology equipment and weapons and systems, then you start to get the mind set amongst people that all fighting can be this way - very, very clinical and antiseptic, where we use weapons and equipment rather than flesh and blood. Now, if that takes hold, then you have created a condition that any time an enemy wants to make mischief and he's afraid about American intervention, all he has to do is wave a bloody shirt and say you going to have a lot of casualties here and you may scare off the Americans. Well, I think we made a sterner stuff than that but I have to tell you in the Pentagon today, there is this sensing that when they look at any possible military employment of U.S. forces, be it in Rwanda, be it in Bosnia, be it anywhere in the world, the first thing that they look at, which is different from years ago, the first they look at is what are the likelihood of casualties and that becomes a determinant on when and how you use military forces. As noble as an objective as it is, I think this is dangerous for the execution of foreign policy on the part of the United States.
I think that the U.S. military has become convinced, because of the almost bloodless victory in the Gulf and the public's great concern about friendly/unfriendly casualties, that the American people will not tolerate casualties in the use of American military forces. That the American people insist on a very low casualty rate in warfare. You talk to planners in the Pentagon and the first thing that is brought up when they are thinking, when thoughts go into a possible use of military force around the world, what's the likelihood of casualties and the likelihood of use of military forces diminishes in proportion to the likelihood of an increase in casualties. They're almost paralyzed, maybe that's too strong a word but they're almost paralyzed in the use of military force because of the perception that the public won't accept casualties. I think that's wrong. I think the American public, if you sell them on the benefits and properness of military action are willing to accept the costs that are involved in it. On the reverse side, it's a very dangerous mind set to have because then a mischief-maker can simply wave a bloody flag and threaten casualties and convince the American military to recommend to the President that they not use military force and what does that do for the President? He's not likely to go against military advice along those lines because he puts himself in tremendous political risk.
This phenomena existing today which says we cannot have high casualties in a military operation, I think it is an outgrowth of the Gulf War. But, I think its deeper roots go back to Vietnam. That the business that we took so many casualties that were useless over such a war that was inconclusive, I think that has conditioned the thinking of the military people on active duty today who were the junior officers during the Vietnam War.
Q: What do we know now about the actual state of progress Iraq has had on its weapons of mass destruction?
Trainor: Our intelligence agencies had a pretty good handle on the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction program prior to the outbreak of the Gulf War and all of the installations associated with those capabilities were targeted very early on, very high priority targets and were hit and were hit very successfully. Well, we only knew and hit the tip of the iceberg as it turned out because after the war, we kept finding out more and more about what they had, where they have it, about which we knew absolutely nothing and we just most recently, with the defection of Saddam Hussein's son-in-law to Jordan, he's disclosed information--even at this late date--that we were totally unaware of. So, they had a major program going on there. The fact that for five years after the end of the war, they kept it secret, is an indication that Saddam Hussein, in no way, has changed his spots and he still wants to be a major power and to him a major power is one that has weapons of mass destruction - nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, biological weapons, any one of them, if possible, and all of them desirable.
Q: Five years on, what's the price we pay for not killing the Republican Guard and leaving Saddam in power?
Trainor: We don't know how the final chapter the Gulf War will be written, other than we could put at the bottom of the page, to be continued. We don't how this will go. Saddam Hussein, may be overthrown. He could be replaced by something better. Could be replaced by something worse. Conceivably, they could reject their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. We don't know and I think it's idle to speculate. I think what one has to do is look not in terms of speculation, but in terms of evidence and the evidence that we have before us is that Saddam Hussein is still in power, will use his brutal police forces to ensure that he stays in power and will do his level best to increase his military capability to include a capability of weapons of mass destruction.
Q: George Bush's demeanor at the press conference he gives in March--could you talk about that?
Trainor: When the Gulf War ended so quickly, with so few casualties, the American people were absolutely elated and yellow ribbons were going up all over the place. The one person in the country that didn't seem to share this elation was the man who was the architect of the victory and that was the President and you have to say to yourself, why? Well, he asked himself that very question. Why don't I feel this, this sense of elation? And, I think that was because he measured the war in the same sense that he had started his observations on it, that this was like Nazi aggression and he was using that as the yard stick and at the end of World War II, that Nazi aggression and its capability was completely destroyed by the destruction of Adolf Hitler and Third Reich. Well, he did not see the same allegorical situation with Saddam Hussein and I think that left him uneasy, as well, it should have.
Q: And what about how the American public viewed this war at its end?
Trainor: The Americans were elated at the end of the war and while they were not lied to by the Pentagon and the military and the administration, as to events, they certainly, had a spin put on their explanations of what had happened. And this left the American people to this day with the impression that this was the perfect war fought by perfect generals and it was far from it. While it was a victory, it was a modest victory, snatched from the jaws of triumph. The generals had beauty spots on them and they had warts, the same as our political leaders did. If there was anything perfect about the war, it was probably the enemy. It was perfectly awful. And it was perfectly capable of making all of the wrong decisions, at the wrong time. That was the only part of perfection in the war.
Q: For good or for ill, what do you see as the effects of the Powell Doctrine as it played out in the Gulf War?
Trainor: The Powell doctrine, which really emerged from the war but was reflected in the war, get both high and low marks. If the doctrine is applied rigidly, it's always going to get low marks because you're not going to do anything and you'll paralyze yourself. On the other hand, you're going to get very low marks, if you ignore some of the things that are in the Powell doctrine because that brings you back into things, like Vietnam, which it was designed to avoid. So, in the war, it got both good marks and bad marks. It gets a bad mark, in the sense that perhaps we could have prevented the war, if we had taken some deterrent action beforehand to stop Saddam Hussein. It gets good marks in terms of using overwhelming force in the region for a quick victory. It gets poor marks in temporizing by saying that we ought to give sanctions a chance--the element of the Powell doctrine that says, you only use force as a last resort, after all other means have been exhausted. I think it also gets poor marks in the end of the war, in that in our rush to avoid being tied down, something which the Powell doctrine admonishes against, we rushed out of the area, without taking advantage of the victory that we had to put finish to Saddam Hussein, both in the final stages of the war and in the outcome at Safwan and thereafter. So, I think it, it gets a mixed bag. There's nothing wrong with the Powell doctrine as long as it's intelligently applied and not rigidly applied.
Q: And, how did the Powell Doctrine play out for the President?
Trainor: The politician--particularly a President--if he is told by his military, `Oh Mr. President, here are the conditions that have to be
met before you can use us.' -- I think that's eroding the authority and the power of the President of the United States, to say nothing of reducing his flexibility. The military is not separate from the rest of society and it is not separate from statecraft, it is part of state-craft. It is one of the arrows we have in our diplomatic quiver. It is the steel fist inside the velvet glove that gives diplomacy some kind of meaning where you have to use force to either support friends/intimidate enemies or go into active use against enemies. You can't separate it from that velvet glove, nor should it be separated. And you should never be dictating to the President of the United States who has these constitutional responsibilities that go with being the chief executive when and when not he can use his military forces. This is not in the best interest of the republic.
Q: How did the Powell Doctrine affect the premature ending of the war--or, did it?
Trainor: The Powell Doctrine was playing throughout the entire crisis, from beginning to end. Why? Because its author, Powell, was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the principle advisor to the President. He was giving the so-called military advice and obviously it was going to be colored by his own perceptions. As we came to the victory, he was anxious to get the thing over with and get out of there as quickly as possible. As we were coming to the end of the war, with the Marines rushing to Kuwait City, with the Iraqis on the run up the so-called highway of death, with the Army forces barrelling in from the west, smashing into the Republican Guard-- Powell at that point saw the military campaign as irrelevant -- we had in effect won. He was interested in getting US forces out of there as quickly as possible so that we don't get tied up. He was also very very sensitive to the image of the US military. That's why the bombing of the Iraqis on the so-called highway of death interested him greatly. Because he thought that we are the reputation of the US Military could be tarnished and he couldn't tolerate that having gone through that sort of thing in Vietnam. So, his idea was "look we've beaten them, bring this thing to a close before people criticize us and lets pick up our equipment and go home." So, that was Powell's thinking and that's what happened. Now, the consequences of that were that it was not a completed war and Saddam Hussein is still there five years from hence causing problems. And the very thing that Powell wanted to avoid: the tying up of US resources, assets and people in the region, to guard against Saddam Hussein, has come to pass, we have thousands of people down there and have and probably will for a longtime. So, in that sense it backfired on him.
Q: Can you summarize the limitations of the Powell doctrine?
Trainor: The Powell doctrine was oriented towards ideological warfare such as we fought against the Vietnamese in the Cold War. It's also ideally suited in a sense to classical warfare such as the Gulf War. But it's ill-suited to the sort of problems we face today where ideological warfare or major classical war are not in the offing. Rather we see ourselves dealing with anarchy and bankrupt states, ethnic warfare and the doctrine just doesn't fit because it's very difficult to get a clear objective in a humanitarian operation other than the objective of for God's sake try to stop the killing. So, the Powell doctrine is an impediment to dealing with the world which we live if it is taken literally and unfortunately it permeates the minds of too many people both in and out of government in and out of the military. So that it does strap us. Let's take for example the use of their power in Bosnia which was resisted by Colin Powell when he was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and in his book ` My American Journey' he explains why. But the odd thing about it is the very day his book comes out making the case amongst other things against using limited air power in Bosnia, was the day that we used air power in Bosnia and the Serbs agree to withdraw their guns from the heights over Sarajevo. It worked. So, one has to be careful with these doctrines that are built for one situation and their application to another.
Q: Was the war a success?
Trainor: The war was a modest success. We did follow the UN resolutions to eject Iraq from Kuwait. And if you set that as being your sole objective then it was a complete success. But the United States set for itself the explicit goal of destroying the Iraqi armed forces and the implicitly unspoken goal of getting rid of Saddam Hussein. So in that sense, it was not a success.
Q: What about Powell's performance -- how would you sum it up?
Trainor: Powell emerged as a very powerful figure in the war. He was the bridge between the administration and the field commander, Norman Schwarzkopf. Both sides were in a certain sense beholding to him. The administration because he was the military expert. Schwarzkopf, because Schwarzkopf knew that he lacked creditability in the White House and they depended upon Colin Powell to manage him so that he didn't do something egregious. So this put Powell in an enormously powerful position in dealing with Schwarzkopf who had never challenged him because he was beholding to him. And the administration who really challenged Powell, took his advice and found that he was a source of wisdom because they trusted him.
That's a powerful position to be in and he exercised it to the hilt. He exercised it so that the war as it unfolded was in keeping with his concept of what warfare should be and the so-called Powell doctrine -- with an objective in getting in very quickly with overwhelming force if you have to use that force but reluctant to use it in the first instance. But if you use it use it in a big way and then pack your bags and come home. That's exactly the way the war was fought because he was the major influence on the decision-making process and he has to share the glory of what was good about the war and he must also share some of the burden of where things did not work out exactly as they should have but he was a major player throughout the entire course of events. The President had total trust in him and I have to say, though, I don't think that the field commanders had the same degree of trust because they saw Powell giving more political advice than he did military advice and I think the evidence suggests exactly that.
Q: And what did we learn about Powell through his performance?
Trainor: Colin Powell is a very conservative military officer. He almost borders on neo-isolationism. You do not use military force unless you are an extremist. We also have seen in Powell's performance that he is an inside man. He understands Washington. He knows how the system works, and he is able to maneuver himself to achieve his goals by using the system in which he operates. He also has proven to be reasonably effective at escaping blame for anything that goes wrong. In that sense he's almost the teflon general. The problems in Somalia have never been hung at his doorstep even though he was involved in all the misadventures down there. So Colin Powell is in fact a political general. I don't say that that's wrong. We've had lots of very good political generals in the past: Eisenhower, Marshall. But most of the generals who have reached the top of the heap as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the equivalent over our history have come up the military route. He came up the military route only so far and then he became a White House Fellow thereafter. His route was largely a political route rather than a military route so while he's steeped in the military tradition and prides himself in that, when he makes a decision or recommends to various authorities a course of action generally speaking evidence supports the fact that the advice is political first and military second as opposed to what one would expect that it will be military first and political second.
Q: And Schwarzkopf's performance in the war?
Trainor: Schwarzkopf's performance was modest. He was not a brilliant strategist. He did a marvelous job keeping the coalition togetherbut he failed to read the battlefield. He became more a manager than a commander and he failed to integrate the effort of his forces and I think he diminished his utility with his terrible temper such that I think he turned away a lot of folks who would have advised him a little more effectively.
Q: And a capsule summary of this war--the forces at play in it?
Trainor: The Gulf War was an American war. There were Iraqis there and there were lots of allies in the coalition who were there . But it was a US war from start to finish and not only that it was a war fought by the different services according to their own culture. The Marines with their aggressive approach were not about to play a secondary role to the Army. The Army with their air-land battle were going to show that they can put the air and the ground together to fight the war. The aviation side was going to win the war all by themselves. And the Navy stood offshore with disdain for anything that was going on ashore. Now this was the war that was fought. Powell gave Schwarzkopf his marching orders. Schwarzkopf was supposed to integrate all of that effort but in large measure never did. He kept everybody happy by giving them their own part of the sandbox to play in and letting them do their own thing as long as it was in keeping with his overall objective. But he never integrated the effort and as a result you did have disconnects throughout the entire war. But the Iraqis were almost a second thought. They were simply targets in the shooting gallery for the American forces.
Q: And finally, the role of this ghost of Vietnam in the minds of those people prosecuting this war?
Trainor: The Gulf War was everything Vietnam was not. The US military was so scarred by their misuse in Vietnam which led to fifty-eight thousand dead and the disgrace of the US military that they said, "never again" so when they were thinking in terms of what they were going to do in the Gulf War, there would be no repetition of this indecision, lack of goal and piecemeal commitment as existed in Vietnam. If you're going to use military force the military leadership told the administration--- do it in a big way. Get out of the way and let us do it. And, in large measure, this is exactly what happened and the happy events that resulted from that approach are proof of the pudding.
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