or is on some form of drugs that is not having he or she deal in reality. We had 41 days of bombing, so how many more days do you need to bring 'em to their knees? We were being severely criticised in the press here at home and around the world for the' highway of death.' I mean, let's get real, how much more rubble could we cause? How much more hitting of strategic targets in Baghdad would have caused Saddam Hussein to move his forces out of the desert? I have never seen a strategic air campaign yet that moved one enemy soldier off of a piece of terrain. Ultimately if you want to gain Kuwait back and if you want to do what the United Nations charged us to do, you've got to go on the ground and take it back. Saddam Hussein was not going to vacate the trenches in the area where he was without someone going in on the ground kicking him out. We had over a month, a month and a third if you want to be more precise, to try to win that war with strategic air and I don't think strategic air would have caused Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait.
Interview with Lieutenant General Calvin Waller, Deputy Commander of Central Command (CENTCOM)
Q: When you arrived at the headquarters, what was the atmosphere like when you turned up there, you arrived bright and bushy-tailed from the States I guess, you turned up in Riyadh, what was the atmosphere like when you got there?
Waller: I think to be perfectly candid and fair the atmosphere was a little tense. There were many staff officers who were very reluctant to go in and tell the C-in-C candidly what needed to be said, because you must realise that the C-in-C was by himself, he did not have a deputy at the time, he had been doing all of the political things that he had to do and in addition he had been doing all of the things on the tactical side that needed to be done also, so he was enormously busy and in I guess many cases pretty short with people. I thought it was sort of like individuals walking around on eggshells, they were very tentative and very timid in how they would talk to the C-in-C for fear that they would cause some minor upheaval.
Q: When you arrived in the headquarters, General Schwarzkopf, it's no secret, had an explosive temper. What was morale like in that regard?
Waller: Well first of all the staff officers were very very timid .. now you have to bear in mind that General Schwarzkopf was by himself, he had no deputy at that time - he had a chief of staff and other staff officers but he didn't have another senior officer to relieve him of a lot of the responsibility, so he was doing all of the political things that he had to do and he was doing all of the tactical things, so it was incumbent upon me to walk in and try to relieve him of some of those tactical things that needed to be done and leave him to the political entities, but I will tell you that the staff officers appeared to be timid, a little bit like walking around on eggshells, they were very reluctant to give bad newsto General Schwarzkopf, for fear that they would cause some minor eruption, and therein was a problem, to make sure that staff officers did not fear saying what needed to be said so that we could get to the bottom of all those issues.
Q: So you found yourself becoming an intermediary between General Schwarzkopf and officers with bad news.....?
Waller: Well, you know, a lot of people have said that the reason why General Cal Waller was sent to Saudi Arabia was to keep General Schwarzkopf at peace with the staff and with the commanders. You know, if that is the truth, no-one ever instructed me that that's the reason why I was being sent to Saudi Arabia or to Riyadh, I was told by General Powell, as well as by the Army Chief of Staff that I was going to Saudi Arabia because of my experience as a ground combat commander and that I was going there to assist General Schwarzkopf with the combat operation since the President had recently made a decision to increase the number of forces there by over 100,000 when it was decided that VII Corps coming out of Germany would be moved from Europe, NATO countries, into Saudi Arabia, so I went there for ground combat and for combat operations more than I did for trying to keep General Schwarzkopf on an even keel. Now it just so happened that that was my fourth time working for General Schwarzkopf and we were friends and had known each other for years and I certainly understood what was required in working with Norman Schwarzkopf.
Q: What were the warning signs and how did you cope with that, you were talking about the thermometer and so on.
Waller: Well, you know, Norman Schwarzkopf is an enormous bright individual, a smart person, that is prone to some fits of temper and having worked with him for many years I knew what the warning signs of working with Norman Schwarzkopf was all about, it was sort of like watching a thermometer, the blood would start around the shirt collar and then it would work its way up to the jawline and then to the ears and by the time it got to the ears you ought to watch out because there was going to be a minor eruption and if it got to the top of the ears, watch out, because usually there was going to be an eruption and whoever was in the way might get lambasted, so just look at it as an inverse thermometer.
Q: What effect did this explosive temper have on the guys around him?
Waller: You know, many people said to me when I arrived there that many of the staff walked around with a stunned mullet look, sort of a closed caption on their face, staring off into the wild blue yonder, something which was affectionately known to me and the staff officers as a stunned mullet look, not quite knowing what to expect or what was going to happen. There was a lot of that when I arrived and I found it amusing that we found so many people who just sort of wandered around with that particular look, but really what it was all about was there were an enormous amount of dedicated individuals working a lot of long hours trying to accomplish many things that needed to be done but needed a little tender loving care and a few pats on the back and someone to let them know that they wouldn't suffer a severe socking chest wound if they made a minor mistake.
Q: And they weren't going to get that from Norman Schwarzkopf.
Waller: Yes, Norm Schwarzkopf was probably a bit too busy to embrace and put his arm around everybody who probably needed to be embraced and have a little tender loving care taken to him, so I felt it was important for me to stroke those people up who needed to be stroked up and to sort of gently wire-brush those who needed to be wire-brushed.
Q: You caused a rumpus when you said in no uncertain terms that the army needed more time to build up. Did the politicians in the White House understand the scale of the logistics that was required?
Waller: You know, there was an enormous upheaval in early December when I made the comment that the ground forces would not be ready for combat on January the 15th, so let me try to reconstruct for you precisely what went through my mind and what was happening and why I said what I said. I knew precisely what the war plan was all about and how it was going to take place, I knew that we had an air plan that was designed to go on for weeks and then the ground plan would come to fruition and we would launch the ground attack, but I certainly wasn't going to tell Saddam Hussein what our plan was, so in early December I was doing an interview with some reporters who had come over on the plane with Secretary Cheney and they kept pressing me about the magic January the 15th date, which was a date that had been established, which I kept asking where did this date come from, who established January 15 as this critical date - I couldn't really find anyone who could tell me why it was so critical other than it had been a date that had been sort of plucked out of thin air as a date we wanted Saddam to be out of Kuwait or we were going to do something, so when the reporters asked me about January the 15th I told them that, yes, the air force would be ready, yes, the Marines would be ready, I said, yes, I think the Marines will be ready, because the Marines had been there early on and were in position. They asked me if the ground combat forces would be ready to attack on January the 15th and I said, no, they will not be.
Now that was the truth and the reason it was the truth, because at that time we only had 18th Airborne Corps in the country and 18th Airborne Corps, except for the 24th Division, was basically a light infantry division - you don't send light infantry divisions and one heavy division against what we were told were thousands of forces. Now if the President of the United States had made a decision to bring in VII Corps and over 130,000 forces in that Corps from Europe, then it must have been important for them to be on the ground, in their attack positions, with their equipment fully uploaded, with all of the ammunition needed to fight a war. Now I knew that that was not going to happen until mid-February sometime, so I couldn't fathom how anyone could think that we would be ready for a ground attack on January the 15th when the VII Corps was still being shipped over via ships and their ammunition as well as many of their tanks and other combat equipment hadn't even arrived in the country, so the people who castigated me and the people who said that I didn't know what I was talking about, they're the ones in my opinion who did not understand modern warfare. You can't ask a corps to fight a war if it isn't in its positions, if they don't have the people there, if they don't have their weapons ready, and if they aren't prepared to fight.
Q: But the people in the White House and Brent Scowcroft in particular, still feel to this day that if he hadn't hurried things along, General Schwarzkopf would still be out there in the desert waiting for one more battalion. What would have happened if the White House had said, 'hey, you've got enough forces, the Soviets are causing us problems, we want the land war to start on January the 15th?'
Waller: Let me tell you about one of my greatest concerns about that January the 15th date was I knew that if we started the air war on January the 15th, which we did, and we were perfectly capable of doing it because we had an outstanding air war plan, my greatest fear was that after using all of these marvellous airmen and doing all of these great things in the first 10 days of the war, that someone would say, okay, enough of this air attacks and enough of all of this bombing these people, let's go in on the ground and punish them or root them out and send 'em home from Kuwait, and that goes back to what I was saying a bit earlier, how are you going to do that if you only have the 18th Airborne Corps in place, you can't do it, it would have been .. it would have been .. an analogy would have been like sending sheep or lambs to the slaughter, you can't expect one corps which is basically a light corps made up of America's finest airborne paratroopers, made up of the 101st Air Assault Division, and the 24th Division, only one heavy division, the rest of 'em are basically light infantry divisions.
Q: But you and General Schwarzkopf were worried that the White House would say to you, 'go now.' What would you guys have done?
Waller: I was very concerned about whether or not some political figure would make a decision and would press to start the ground war before the VII Corps was in place in their attack positions ready to start the war, that was one of my gravest concerns. I did not want to see a bunch of young Americans or other coalition forces lose their lives because we had not taken the time to put the people in position that was there. I asked General Schwarzkopf, what happens if after 9 days, 10 days of bombing, someone says from the White House or from the Department of Defence, alright, enough of this, go in on the ground, and he says I will resign and I said, well, then what does that mean, and he says, well then probably you'll be in charge, and I said if I resign that means they keep going down the line till they find somebody who will do it and then we will suffer a lot of casualties in my opinion needlessly, so it was of the utmost concern to both Norman Schwarzkopf and myself that someone might pressure to start the ground attack before we had VII Corps in position.
Q: The atmospherics that you were getting through Colin Powell, I mean you must have been well aware of all the General McClellan jibes --were you aware that all this stuff was going on behind your backs in the White House?
Waller: One of our greatest concerns was although that the Civil War series was on back in the States at the time, was well done, it made instant military experts out of a lot of people in the White House and across America, because then all of a sudden watching the Civil War series, some 14 hours of it, decided they wanted to liken Norman Schwarzkopf to General McClellan and me to someone else and maybe every commander they tried to line up and said, you know, that's Jeb Stewart or that's McClellan or that is Longstreet, so forth and so on, and that was a grave disservice to us I believe, that it happened to be on that particular time, because these instant military experts would say, well, these guys are like McClellan, they want to have all of the troops that they can possibly get, and to an extent that is true, if we made a decision to bring 'em in and the decision was made, then in my opinion it is folly not to wait until they get on the ground and are prepared to fight, so all I said and I think Norman Schwarzkopf agreed with me was let's wait until our forces that have been designated to get here are here and ready to fight before we launch some premature ground attack.
Q: Was there any specific conversation or incident that you recall linked to this conversation with Norman Schwarzkopf which made you think, hey, there really is a head of steam building up in the White House to do this earlier?
Waller: Yes, because he talked to General Colin Powell sometimes 3 or 4 times a day and, you know, on some occasions even more frequent than that that he talked to him and of course Colin Powell knew about what was happening in the political halls of the White House and the Pentagon about people wanting to draw an analogy between McClellan and General Schwarzkopf, so I think on several occasions he mentioned this to Norman Schwarzkopf, he being Colin Powell, mentioned it to Norman Schwarzkopf that, hey, people back here think that you don't want to really do this, don't have the stomach for it, you know, just heads up, be alert to this particular point and of course General Schwarzkopf was upset by those kind of remarks, being an astute military historian he didn't particularly take kindly to someone calling him a McClellan.
Q: Can you recall for me the day when Norman Schwarzkopf was told that people in the White House were saying he was like General McClellan?
Waller: Yes, as I recall it was one of the early afternoon calls that General Powell made and mentioned to Norman Schwarzkopf that we should get on with things and get it organised and get it done because General Schwarzkopf was being referred to as another McClellan - after that telephone conversation was over with, I think Norman Schwarzkopf broke a pencil, probably took another one and chewed off the head of the .. the eraser off of the pencil and then related to me that there were individuals somewhere in the White House who were referring to him as another McClellan and needless to say that was not a good day to be in the Riyadh headquarters of the CENTCOM because Norman Schwarzkopf was bitterly opposed to being referred to as another McClellan and after that particular comment we made sure we renewed every effort to get on with doing what needed to be done as expeditiously as possible, in spite of the fact that we were doing everything that we could in the first place, but Norman Schwarzkopf did not want to be referred to as another McClellan.
Q: Just how big a force was VII Corps, I mean people have said to me it was the army that was going to fight the Third World War.
Waller: When you look at the total size of this force and when you want to compare the size of it, it's 130,000 souls, men and women in that Corps, that's larger than many of our cities in the United States. I mean when you look at the number of divisions that it brought with it, with the artillery groups, with the air defence group, with the battalions of support, with the engineering battalions, with the artillery battalions, with all of the things that must support this entire Corps, you're talking about moving the equivalent of a city of 130,000 people, and let's just take a city of 130,000 people in the United States and say pick it up and move everything that's in that city, lock stock and barrel, 7,000 miles away, or 4,000 miles over the ocean I would say, less than what it was from the United States to Saudi Arabia, but that's the equivalent of what we had to do, move 130,000 people that belonged to VII Corps from Europe to the desert in Saudi Arabia, house them, feed them, clothe them, outfit them with everything that they needed from a toothbrush to a toilet or to a shower or what have you, an enormous undertaking logistically to do such a thing.
Q: Did the guys in the White House understand this?
Waller: Many people have said did the politicians understand what it took to move a force of 130,000 people from NATO to the desert, I don't think people had a clue as to what it takes to do that. Most people have difficulty in moving their household goods from one place to another, but if you could just imagine, and I would like for politicians to understand when they talk about moving an army corps of 130,000, plus or minus a few, from one continent to another and from one side of the world to another side of the world, across the ocean, and say do that, just imagine it would be like moving the equivalent of 100,000 furniture vans from one place to another, and if you can imagine doing that, everybody moving at one time, imagine having a city of 100,000, all of a sudden everybody leaving that city at one time or within days of each other - an enormous undertaking and task, and a lot of politicians don't have a clue, had no appreciation for what it would take in order to make that happen.
Q: Of course Brent Scowcroft's a general, he must understand.
Waller: I think if you checked this distinguished gentleman's background, you will find that most of his time was spent in the Air Force, not in tactical units, not knowing what the Army is all about and what it takes to move the Army from point A to point B - it's a bit different from moving an aircraft squadron or a wing that can basically get into its airplane, fly the wing where it needs to be and then put the supporting equipment on various kinds of box cars, or other.......most of those people can get into their aircrafts and fly and be at point A within 12 to 15 hours. Now the other equipment has to come along behind them but when you're talking about a 130,000 man Corps, that's a big difference than moving an aircraft squadron or wing from point A to point B.
Q: When did you actually know that there would be an air war?
Waller: I realised that we were going to have an air war in December, when Secretary of Defence Cheney, along with General Powell, their advisers, came to Riyadh to receive an updated briefing from us there in the Central Command headquarters, about where we were, where we had to go and what was needed in order to launch the campaign. It was clear to me after we finished that series of briefing, in December, that the will of Secretary of Defence, as well as the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell, that we were committed to go into some form of warfare and I knew that we were going to at least launch the air campaign. I wasn't sure whether or not we would have to launch the ground campaign but I knew after those series of briefings that at least we were going to enter into the air campaign.
Q: What was giving you the clue?
Waller: I received several clues from that visit, where the resolve of the Secretary of Defence, the very pointed questions, the resolve of the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Powell, was such that you knew that obviously they had talked with the President and the President's advisers and that the message, through body language, through the way that they conveyed their messages and so forth, that they were very serious about getting Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait and therefore I felt that we were going to at least launch the air campaign, which we did.
Q: And how did it come about that the air campaign was launched on January the 16th at that specific moment?
Waller: Well, after the December briefing and then the Secretary of Defence and the chairman departed Riyadh, they went back to the United States, to Camp David specifically, to brief President Bush about their trip to Riyadh. Shortly after their briefing to President Bush and President Bush's advisers, we received word in Riyadh, through General Powell, to General Schwarzkopf, that the .. at least the air campaign had been approved and that we would launch that on January the 15th, which was January the 16th our time at zero zero one, so that we set about to launch the air campaign precisely on the date that had been established and set.
Q: Can you describe that meeting where you went into Schwarzkopf's office and heard there was going to be an air war?
Waller: Well, you know, obviously this is a very top secret type of conversation that took place so we made sure that we were in a very secure setting when General Schwarzkopf decided to tell the key individuals there at Riyadh about the decision that had been made, so there must have been ten of us or who huddled in a room as I recall and we got the word from General Schwarzkopf that he had just received confirmation from General Powell that the President of the United States had approved the launching of the air campaign on January the 15th, United States time, January the 16th our time, so it was a pretty sombre period, we sat around and reflected on precisely what that meant, we reflected on the things that we needed to do between that day and the start of affairs, of the launch of the air campaign, and everyone went about his business in a very professional way and left there with the feeling of an enormous sense of responsibility and a very heavy weight on your shoulders, that this decision was going to possibly cause the loss of lives of a lot of great young Americans and other coalition warriors. So I don't think anyone took it lightly and, you know, everyone took it very seriously and people went back to their offices and to their respective places of duty to reflect on that and then to do the things that needed to be done in order to prepare.
Q: There wasn't a sense of euphoria?
Waller: I do not ever recall any sense of euphoria that we are now going to go kick some butt, this is what we all have been training for, are ready to do, I don't ever recall anyone giving any sort
of--this is it, let's go do it and make it happen, it was a very very somber moment and I think most of the people who received that message from General Schwarzkopf were very reflective on their responsibilities and what they needed to do in order to make a success of what it was we were about to accomplish and do.
Q: Did General Schwarzkopf discuss with you his worries about the air campaign and his worries about the casualties? ...
Waller: No, General Schwarzkopf never reflected with me about the launch of the air campaign, about what was going to happen. Once that decision was made and he had announced it, I think he resigned himself to the fact that this is destiny, the handwriting is on the wall, there's not a lot that needs to be said about it or there's nothing much we can do to change it so we went our separate ways so to speak and we never really sat down and reflected on that at all, once that decision was made, there was just too much work to be done to really sit around and reflect, because that meant we had an awful lot of other things that we needed to accomplish and to get in place as a follow-on to the air campaign.
Q: That first night of the war, can you describe for me how General Schwarzkopf made his entrance and what happened?
Waller: Well, the first night of the war was really a unique sort of experience. Most of us, those people who had seats in the war room, were there long before the designated hour, and as I recall, at a few minutes before the first aircraft was to be launched and to hit its target, the door popped open and the announcement was made, ladies and gentlemen, the commanding chief of Central Command, and General Schwarzkopf came through the door, moved to his place at a table, and he turned to his right where the chaplain was standing and he asked the chaplain to say a prayer, and the chaplain said that prayer, and after the prayer was over his senior military executive, Colonel Bell, had a tape recorder and walked to the table, put the tape recorder on the war room table, punched a button and Lee Greenwood's song, "God Bless The USA" came bursting from the radio and we all stood there at rigid attention and listened at Lee Greenwood sing his song, and when that song was over with we took our seats at the table and then it was a matter of waiting and praying that those airplanes that had been launched, for which there was probably no recall at this particular time, that they would get to their targets safely and that we wouldn't lose nearly as many aircraft as we expected that we were going to lose.
Q: Jack Leide told me he didn't think there was a dry eye in the house, was it a very emotional moment?
Waller: I would say to you that it's one of the most emotional moments I've ever experienced, here was a senior leadership of the Central Command, responsible for the lead of most of the coalition forces, all of us feeling an enormous sense of responsibility, not knowing what to expect, very emotional to be there and to not be able to accomplish or to do anything except wait for the telephone to ring, for someone to tell you that we have lost X number of planes or we have X number of planes that have returned and we lost no planes or we lost no lives, and the wait was excruciating, agonising, to sit there and to be able to do nothing but just to wait to see what was going to happen ... so yes, it was very emotional.
Q: What were you thinking as an individual, not as a general but as an individual.
Waller: My thought process ran something along these lines, I have been a soldier for a long period of time, I have done everything in my power to prepare these great Americans and other coalition forces for this particular moment, I hope that we are successful and that we will lose as few lives as humanly possible, because I was so concerned about the enormous projection that had been made about how many planes we might lose, about the kind of air defence that Saddam Hussein had around Baghdad, I was just so concerned that those planes would roll in to Baghdad and that many of them would never ever return to their bases or to their ships, and I was thinking
about .. most of them were young people and I was thinking about most of those pilots who were flying those planes were young enough to be my sons and I was thinking about my two sons and how I would feel as a parent if they were going over Baghdad and so forth and I knew that a lot of their parents had no idea that their sons or daughters were en route to this sort of thing, so I just tried to put myself in the kind of mood and situation where I looked upon it as a loving parent, that I'd done the best I possibly could and now hopefully their skills would bring them through it.
Q: And when this music was being played, can you describe General Schwarzkopf, what did he look like?
Waller: I glanced over to see how Norman Schwarzkopf was sort of taking what was going on with Lee Greenwood's song and he like everybody else had a tear in his eye, very emotional, somber, and probably thinking much along the same lines that I think I was and that was that we had done our very best and there was not a lot we could do at this time, that they were on their own and God help them.
Q: What else do you remember about that night, . I mean do you recall the moment the television went off the air, for example?
Waller: Well, oddly enough that particular night there were several things that will always remain with me. The first thing that I remember was getting a report that the first aircraft that was supposed to make the first attack was successful, which had opened a hole in the line.
Q: When you heard the news it was successful, I mean what did you think?
Waller: It was an enormous amount of elation when you heard that the first aircraft was successful in knocking out its target so that we could breach the air defence line and hopefully the rest of the aircraft or many of the aircraft could go through that particular breach in that air defence line and...
Q: What were you saying to each other, I mean you were next to General Schwarzkopf?
Waller: Well, it was sort of like being in a football game where a touchdown is scored, because there was a lot of pounding the table saying that's super, that's great, that is .. it was, you know, a moment of elation, it was very very .. very very good news when the report came in that the aircraft had been successful in doing that so, you know, it was the first taste of shall I say victory, it was the first in a series of many good things that happened that particular evening, and then as time wore on, of course you know we had some journalists in Baghdad and of course they were on CNN live, talking about various things, what was happening and so forth, and when the word came from these journalists that the aircraft were over Baghdad, we were again elated that they had made it to Baghdad but then when their success was so evident, because then all of a sudden the journalists who were there were scrambling to find some safety and when they were knocked off of the air because one of the major targets that we had put to our air campaign was to get those television stations and towers and so forth, when they went off the air we knew that at least we'd been successful in stopping some of the transmissions from Baghdad.
Q: How did you learn, did you have a television there or someone came and told you?
Waller: Yes, we had a television in the war room and it was in the corner of the war room and we could all, you know, glance to our right and look up a bit and we could see what was happening on the television in the war room, and we also had targeted the power stations in Baghdad and when the power went out and everyone said it was darkness, total darkness over in Baghdad, then again we knew we had been successful in at least reaching those targets.
Q: What did General Schwarzkopf say, you were sitting next to him ...
Waller: I was sitting next to Norman Schwarzkopf and as I recall he turned to me and he says, at least we have reached Baghdad, at least we have accomplished hitting some major targets and maybe it's going to be okay.
Q: What else do you recall from that night?
Waller: I guess the most elated feeling that I have or that I can ever recall from that particular night was that after the first wave of aircraft finished their first runs and as I recall all of them returned to their bases or to their ships and I think we only had one that did not return, so it was an overwhelming feeling of success because I mean we had .. we had a prediction of losing anywhere between 20 and 50 aircraft that night and as bad as it was to lose one, it was just such a good feeling to have the vast majority of them return safely, so that was just a overwhelming feeling of success.
Q: And then the Scuds came and there was enormous political pressure to do something, to stop the Scuds. How was this pressure to do something transmitted to you guys?
Waller: Once Saddam Hussein launched those Scuds, it was one of the most non-productive times that I think that we had during the conflict. Why do I say that? I say that because we had to divert an enormous amount of time, energy, combat resources into trying to find these mobile launch Scuds, we had a great appreciation for what was happening in Israel and how the people in Riyadh and other parts of Saudi Arabia felt about the Scuds being launched in their directions and so forth, and I don't want to diminish for one minute how these people felt, but on the other hand I would like for people to understand and appreciate that our primary mission was to bring Saddam Hussein and his military machinery to their knees and to do what the United Nations had asked us to do and that was to get him out of the sovereign state of Kuwait and here we were devoting an awful lot of our energies and time and combat power to looking for these Scud missiles.
Q: Was General Schwarzkopf getting frustrated that the politicians didn't understand this?
Waller: There was frustration on the part of everybody, there was frustration on the part of the air forces, the coalition air forces, having to divert a lot of time and energy to that, there was frustration on the part of our staff who didn't have a sense of how we could find these mobile Scud missiles, there was a frustration that we didn't know precisely how many of these things that Saddam had, it was just an overwhelming sense of helplessness - here we had this tremendous machinery of combat power and that these sort of insignificant, inaccurate Scuds which was basically a area weapon, a terrace type weapon, was causing us such an enormous problem from the standpoint of diversion of critical resources to trying to find these things.
Q: Do you recall any specific moments when General Schwarzkopf came to you and said ... you know, the guys in Washington just don't understand!
Waller: Almost on a daily basis General Schwarzkopf was receiving an enormous amount of help from politicians and from General Powell as to what might be done or how it might be done in finding these Scud missiles and those people who didn't have the responsibility always seemed to have an easy answer, just go out there and find them, go out there and cordon off this whole area and stop it, and as I recall, I remember discussing with Norman Schwarzkopf that this is like looking for a truck in the state of Maine, because the area where these things were coming from was about the size of the state of Maine, so if you could imagine having a truck moving around the forests of Maine and someone trying to find it with aircraft or an overhead or whatever, and remember that most of those aircraft were flying at some 500 plus miles an hour, to find this truck in Maine it would be rather difficult, and for those people who said just send some forces out there to have them to .. you know, scurry around the area and to find them, did not have an appreciation for how far this force would be away from their base and just what an enormous task it is to try to be on foot and cover an area the size of Maine.
Q: And what did General Schwarzkopf say to you about the people who came up with neat easy answers?
Waller: Well, needless to say, General Schwarzkopf was a bit taken aback by how so many people seemed to be offering so many easy answers but yet didn't understand the enormous task that was at hand, so I think he had a few choice words for some of those individuals ...He called them pony-headed politicians who had never fought their way out of a wet paper bag, here they are trying to tell, you know, this enormous collection of military experts how to accomplish this task of finding and destroying these Scuds.
Q: Your conversation with Norman Schwarzkopf about Scuds -- what did he do as a result of it?
Waller: Well for days we were scratching our head and worrying about what it was we were going to do to solve this problem of finding these Scuds in this place the size of Maine and I said to General Schwarzkopf, I said, do you know, we're wasting a lot of manpower, a lot of energy, a lot of time, a lot of resources looking for these things when the actual danger of one of these Scuds is about as much danger of being killed by a Scud as it is by being hit by lightning in a Georgia storm. Now Norman Schwarzkopf took that statement and went on national TV and used this analogy in a Press conference and needless to say it did not go over very well when the people of Israel heard this and when many other people around the country heard it, because they thought it was a bit insensitive on his part, and the telephone rang and he got a call from the chairman saying we'd better lighten up on using analogies about Georgia lightning and comparing that to what's happening with the people of Israel, so Norman Schwarzkopf was quite concerned and never used those kind of analogies again.
Q: And he launched a few more missions ... what did he do after that?
Waller: Well we continued to dedicate aircraft to looking for Scuds, we brought in some highly skilled forces to try to find those Scuds and to prevent them from going into their favourite places to launch those Scuds into Israel.
Q: What were the Army guys saying to you as the air campaign went on?
Waller: As the air campaign went on past the two or three week mark and it was obvious to everyone that the Air Force had suppressed the enemy air, that there were no planes being launched against it, that it had pretty much free rein to fly anywhere they wanted to over the battlefield and so forth, the ground forces and especially the ground forces commanders were very concerned that we should start shaping the battlefield and shaping the battlefield in military language means you want to destroy those targets that are in front of the ground forces, that can have a direct influence or impact on what your mission is, so the ground forces commanders were very concerned that the targets out to their immediate front were not being hit with the frequency that they felt that would soften up or destroy these targets so it would make their job easier to breach the enemy lines and to reach their objectives, so I started receiving a lot of phone calls from commanders saying when are we going to do more to shape the battlefield and so then I had to go to General Schwarzkopf and tell him that we weren't doing enough to shape the battlefield and that caused a large problem with the Air Force in accomplishing what we needed to accomplish in shaping the battlefield.
Q: So how did you solve this?
Waller: Well, in order to solve this problem I had to have several different meetings with different people. I met with the commanders of the ground forces and they told me in no uncertain terms that they were not happy with the results of what was happening and so forth, so then I had to meet with the Air Force, we had a single air component commander who all air forces reported to him, which was General Horner, so I met with General Horner and his people to discuss what was taking place and how the ground commanders felt.
Q: Chuck Horner says he met with you and that he was hitting these targets. It was just that Army intelligence was too slow, didn't understand, and anyway he was going to get round to them in the end, it was all a fuss over nothing.
Waller: Well, General Horner thought that maybe it was a fuss over nothing, that he would get around to these targets when he .. when he had time to, but what General Horner evidently didn't appreciate was that when you have to launch your division or your battalion or your brigade across those lines and you see day in and day out that there are thousands of other targets being hit and the ones that are right out in front of you are still there and not being hit, then you keep asking yourself, why do they continue to hit all of those targets in Baghdad when I have hundreds of targets right out in front of me that should be hit but nobody's hitting 'em.
Q: That's because you Army guys don't understand that air power's changed and it's strategic and that they could win the war by hitting these targets.
Waller: Well, there are many commanders who felt that it was absolutely of the utmost importance if they were going to have a ground attack that that battlefield should be shaped and it should be shaped forthwith, rather than to continue to hit strategic targets. Now those people who are into strategic targets may believe and feel that it is more important to hit strategic targets than it is to shape the battlefield but I can guarantee you that when you're on the ground and you're faced with fighting for your life and for your men's lives, that you're going to be far more concerned with what's out in front of you than you are with what's happening in downtown Baghdad.
Q: Buster Glosson was good at giving the hard sell to Norman Schwarzkopf, can you describe what Buster Glosson used to do? .
Waller: You know, when you try to set the stage about what was really going on with the Air Force, now this is Cal Waller's opinion, I really believe that Buster Glosson really believed in his own mind that if he could just have a few more days and hit a few more targets, that there wouldn't be a need for a ground war. Now hardly anybody else believed that but I think in Buster's own mind he believed it, so he wanted to use every asset, every resource, to pound those strategic targets that would ultimately bring Saddam Hussein and his leaders or forces to their knees and they would cry ...... and give up, so when I took it upon myself with the blessing of General Schwarzkopf to become the head of the targeting group so to speak and set the priorities for what targets would be hit, it was incumbent upon me to make sure that we were doing an adequate job of hitting those targets in front of the ground forces where the commanders felt that they were most vulnerable.
So every evening at the evening brief, the 7 o'clock follies it was called, when it was time for General Glosson to get up and brief General Schwarzkopf on what targets were going to be hit the next day, Buster Glosson would use an approach that I could draw an analogy to as sort of a snake oil salesman - he would put up his little chart and point so quickly that if you weren't really attuned to what was going on, you might miss what targets were supposed to be hit, and then he would tell General Schwarzkopf in sort of hushed tones so that only General Schwarzkopf and maybe the three or four people who were right there at the table leaning forward straining could hear him say why it was so important to hit these targets that he had hit, and in many cases they were strategic targets and didn't have much to do with shaping the battlefield, so ..
Q: How would he describe them?
Waller: Well, he would say that this is the Didiwad Didibelin, this is where all of the leaders of the political party of Saddam Hussein will be holding their meetings and if we can just destroy this building, you know, it's going to bring everything in Baghdad to a standstill, or he would show some bridge and say that everything that must go anywhere comes over this bridge and this is the single most important bridge in the world, he'd say we've got to hit this one and knock it out and, you know, General Schwarzkopf would say okay and he would show some other building, how important it was, because this is where all of the things are being made that will cause the little .. Republican Guards to materialise and so forth and so on, it was unbelievable as to how he would give this briefing to General Schwarzkopf, and then he would go out and those resources that had been targeted for shaping the battlefield or to solve some of the commanders problems, I think if the weather looked bad, if it looked like there was going to be a cloud over that area, anything that he could do to refrag. or to change that target, he would divert the aircraft from doing it. So after several days of this, I said to General Glosson, Buster, if you change one more target without my approval I'm going to choke your tongue out, so that was pretty graphic but I wanted to make sure he understood the message and that was let's shape the battlefield prior to sending another 10 aircraft to hit the Basra party headquarters which was already in rubble.
Q: Buster Glosson says --if he could carried on hitting the strategic targets, Saddam would have waved the white flag...
Waller: Anyone who says that if they had been allowed just a few more days of strategic bombing that there wouldn't have been a need for a ground attack, I think is absolutely smoking something or is on some form of drugs that is not having he or she deal in reality. We had 41 days of bombing, so how many more days do you need to bring 'em to their knees? We were being severely criticised in the Press here at home and around the world for the Highway of Death, I mean let's get real, how much more rubble could we cause, how much more hitting of strategic targets in Baghdad would have caused Saddam Hussein to move his forces out of the desert? I have never seen a strategic air campaign yet that moved one enemy soldier off of a piece of terrain. Ultimately if you want to gain Kuwait back and if you want to do what the United Nations charged us to do, you've got to go on the ground and take it back. Saddam Hussein was not going to vacate the trenches in the area where he was without someone going in on the ground kicking him out. We had over a month, a month and a third if you want to be more precise, to try to win that war with strategic air and I don't think strategic air would have caused Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait.
Q: Once you started your job and started to get them to hit these targets, you discovered they were diverting to other things. What were they doing and what did you do about it?
Waller: Well, one of the things that I found after trying to prioritise where the aircraft would go, especially to shape the battlefield, I found that they would put the strike aircraft up that were supposed to go to shape the battlefield and then for the most ridiculous excuse they would divert those aircraft to go hit some strategic target and when I asked the question, why didn't they hit X or Y or Z or B or X-ray target, I was told, well the weather was bad, there was a cloud or .. you know, something, some minor excuse for diverting the aircraft to another target, so I distinctly remember telling Buster Glosson one day, Buster, if you divert another flight of aircraft without my approval, I'm going to choke your tongue out, and I think he got the message after that because he found out that I was serious, and we had less diversion of aircraft and we had more servicing of the targets that the ground commanders cared so much about.
Q: In your early conversations, I've seen in Rick Atkinson's book, you realised that hitting artillery, tanks was a difficult job, it needed to be done from the beginning and you gave some analogy involving a wild cat and spaghetti.....
Waller: Well, it is an enormous task to go out using high performance aircraft, trying to hit floating targets, much like the Scuds, much like trying to find a tank that's moving around or an artillery piece that's moving around, or mobile divisions or mobile units and so forth who can pick up and move from the time you launch an aircraft to the time it gets over the target, it may have moved, it may not be there any more, so it is hard to find, and as I .. as I said to the guys out there using the analogy of the wild cat, it's like poking spaghetti up a wild cat's behind, you don't get much accomplished but you get a heck of a lot of scratch marks on your arm, so while you don't accomplish too much in finding these fleeing targets, the ones that can move, and you don't have the satisfaction of being able to watch all of these Smart bombs go down an air shaft and rubble a building or something, nevertheless if and when you do find them and you can destroy 'em, it makes that infantryman or that Marine or that Egyptian or that other coalition force so much happier that they don't have to deal with those forces hand to hand or machine gun to machine gun or rifle to rifle.
Q: Was there any consideration of relieving General Glosson at that point?
Waller: No, nobody would have ..
Nobody was ever even interested in relieving him because he really had the .. Schwarzkopf's, number and he was telling Schwarzkopf what he wanted to hear and he'd come in and weave a story about how important what he was doing was and so forth and Schwarzkopf believed him.
Q: How important was the invention of 'tank blinking?'
Waller: Well, we had enormous problems with trying to shape that battlefield and after telling and showing and pleading and cajoling and threatening Buster and his other band of merry men to make sure that we were giving the ground commanders what they needed and wanted, some smart young air force people came up with the idea, hey, why don't we use our thermal sights in some of the aircraft we have to view through those thermal sights which will cause a warmed up tank, by the sun being on it in the daytime and so forth, it will still be enormously hot at night, so at night under darkness we can go out, use our thermal sights to find these things that will be like a big night-light shining out in the desert and then we can destroy 'em, so the term was called tank blinking or finding tanks that had been camouflaged, many of them had been covered with sand so that they would blend in with the desert, but still that tank or other metal object, whether it was an artillery piece or tank or whatever, would still give off this enormous heat signature and through the thermal sight you could see it and then you could kill it.
Q: What did you feel--'Hey, we're finally getting somewhere now?' ..
Waller: Well, after the invention of what I call good common senses to determine where these vehicles were and we started to have success with them, I was elated because I said now finally we are providing the ground commanders with something that they sorely need to reduce the number of tanks that they're going to be faced with or reduce the number of artillery pieces that will be bringing fire upon them as they cross the desert or try to breach those areas, so everyone was happy, not only me but the ground commanders were elated and we were just thrilled that something was now being done about this problem we had.
Q: You must have wondered why it wasn't done a lot earlier.
Waller: Absolutely, I was wondering why didn't we think about this weeks ago, why didn't we think about it when it first happened, why did it take us this long.
Q: What's the answer?
Waller: ... to come up with this idea. The answer I think is that we were too concerned about the strategic targets, to really concentrate on shaping the battlefield for those ground commanders.
Q: The Brits began to lose a lot of planes .. they were coming with low flying, it was all they could do really. How much concern was there about that?
Waller: Enormous amount of concern about the loss of the British aircraft, it was an unusual high number when we started this that all of a sudden we were losing the British aircraft at this alarming high rate, so we asked the question, are we doing something wrong and of course the leadership of the British forces, Peter de Billiere decided, you know, that it was time to take a reassessment of what was taking place, so after reassessing their tactics and how they were going about accomplishing their mission, they decided to make some modification in these tactics and all of a sudden we stopped losing the enormous number of British aircraft and it was returned .. mind you, I'm not saying that the loss of any life is acceptable but certainly it was unacceptable at the high rate that we were losing 'em, but then once we changed the tactics it was much more acceptable to what was expected, and I'm not saying that ... I'm not making light of what happened.
Q: When General Schwarzkopf was hearing that the Brits had lost yet another plane, what was he saying, what were you all thinking?
Waller: Well, the conversation went something like this because we had a British liaison officer in our war room with us and that officer sat at the table just like all the rest of us, and we would all turn to that officer and say, you know, what is happening, what can you tell us about the situation that will shed some light on why this is going on, can you prepare us, assist us in figuring out what is happening so that we can get some help to solve the problem that we are faced with at the present time.
Q: Why was it a matter of concern?
Waller: The leadership in that war room was concerned about the loss of any lives, regardless of their nationality, we were concerned about why are the coalition forces taking these kinds of losses when other aircraft don't seem to have the same problem, is there something peculiar about this aircraft, are we doing something that's different, so we looked at every .. every situation where we were losing lives and we wanted to assess if we were doing the right thing or if a change in modus operandi might solve that problem, and that's what we did in the case of the British aircraft.
Q: If the Brits hadn't decided to go up to medium altitude, what would your recommendation have been to General Schwarzkopf?
Waller: If the British air force along with the other coalition air forces and of course with the United States air force having a big part in that hadn't gotten together and changed the tactics, my recommendation to General Schwarzkopf would have been that we need to ground these aircraft until we can come up with a system or a tactic or a technique that prevents such enormous loss of equipment as well as, you know, what is more important than even the equipment, which were the people who were manning those aircraft.
Q: All this bomb damage assessment, what was your perspective on it?
Waller: The bomb damage assessment, I thought that was one of the biggest debacles that we ever became engaged in, I thought it was ludicrous that we expended so much time and energy on arguing over whether or not a bridge is destroyed, whether or not a building is destroyed, whether it's 5% or whether it's 10% or whether it's 50%, we almost consumed ourselves in trying to figure this out, people were arguing between the United States and Riyadh and there were different sections of the intelligence world arguing over what was right, what was wrong, it was really the most ridiculous arguments that I encountered during the whole Persian Gulf War and I felt that we put too much emphasis on various segments of the intelligence community, whether it was the CIA, whether it was the DIA, whether it was .. and I guess I should explain that, Central Intelligence Agency, whether it was the Defence Intelligence Agency, whether it was the Army, the Navy or the Air Force and their intelligence systems that were giving out these various figures and so forth. I don't know why we couldn't just appoint one group of people to get their heads together and collectively agree that, yes, the bridge or the building is 30% destroyed, and it ought to be, in my opinion, a common set of rules, everyone ought to be looking at the same set of rules to determine whether or not the bridge is destroyed, or the building, or what per cent of the building is destroyed.
Q: I spoke to Dick Kerr, who's the CIA Deputy Director, who was the guy who was pushing the CIA line on this, he says he'd been in Vietnam, the bomb damage assessment was wrong there, he was determined that this time the CIA were going to get it right and if that meant having an independent view, he was going to do it.
Waller: Well, let's talk about the CIA, maybe their assessment of having the individual who was in charge of that having been in Vietnam on bomb damage assessment was going to make sure that the CIA was never part of doing it that way again. I'm not sure that that makes it right that he or she watched it in Vietnam and now they're going to solve a problem henceforth now and forever in their own way, doesn't it make a lot more common sense that we all agree that it is counted the same way instead of three or four different ways? That's .. in my opinion that's what it should be, I mean we ought to all agree that if a building has X number of spans knocked down or if it's in a certain amount of rubble, then it is either 30 to 40% destroyed or it is 50% destroyed but it ought to be a common set of guidelines that all of these people are looking. What utility is it to have the CIA say the building or the bridge is 10% destroyed, the DIA using its guidelines says it's 60% destroyed, the navy using its guidelines saying it's 40% destroyed and the army using its guidelines saying it is 90% destroyed, what is the President or the Secretary of Defence supposed to believe when you look at all of these different views, so shouldn't we make a common denominator among all of these and say here are the guidelines for bomb damage assessment?
Q: Is there something specific you remember?
Waller: Let me give you one of the most ludicrous examples that I've ever witnessed in my life. Let's take a double span bridge, if you blow out the .. and let's say this span of bridge runs north and south, if you blow out the south end of the bridge, one span of it, then no cars going south are going to use that bridge. Let's say if you blow out the north end of that bridge, no cars going south are going to be able to use the bridge. As far as I'm concerned the bridge is useless to anyone because nobody can go south, no-one can go north. Now, there was some silly discussion among some of these people that if you didn't have both spans close enough together, that the bridge was still usable, as if the car by some magic or something could hop 10 feet or 20 feet over a piece of bridge that was destroyed, and we'd say does this pass the common sense test, that both spans of the bridge have to be together, that erect. So, you know, you'd just sit there in utter frustration saying this bridge right here, or this building, is no longer usable, yet we have one group of people saying it's 10% to 30% destroyed and another group saying it's 60 to 80% destroyed and then having people call you up saying which is it.
Q: General Schwarzkopf, did he become increasingly passionate, angry......what do you recall of his attitude?
Waller: General Schwarzkopf's attitude about bomb damage assessment, it became one of the most humorous things in Riyadh headquarters, because we had a clever young man who worked in one of our sections there who was an excellent cartoonist and this cartoonist drew a cartoon of an individual who had absolutely been blooded and I mean it just looked like he'd been in a fight with maybe 20 lions and he was the only one trying to fight these lions or something, I mean his clothes were ripped apart, he was bleeding from all over his body, and the caption said as this individual was going down the hallway, "Did you just come from a bomb damage assessment meeting?". I thought that cartoon spoke volumes.
Q: Describe a bomb damage assessment meeting you went to with General Schwarzkopf, one that sticks in your mind, what was he saying, what was he doing?
Waller: The meetings we had on bomb damage assessment were .. they were unbelievable. Tthe intelligence officer would come in and give the rationale for why we in CENTCOM or Central Command headquarters thought that certain buildings were certain percentages, or bridge or whatever it was we were assessing, and then we would have the input that came from the chairman because the chairman was getting his input from either the Defence Intelligence Agency or the CIA in some cases and they wouldn't even be close in many cases, so the C-in-C would say why do we say it's 30% and these guys say it's 10% or vice versa and then the upheavals would start, the arguments, the blasting, the tirades and so forth when we couldn't get it right or we couldn't come to closure or agreement on which one was right. I .. another one of my sayings would be that I'd sit there in utter amazement and shake my head and say, why are we doing this to ourselves, it's like pole vaulting over mouse turds, there's no need to do that, but we did it.
Q: Why did people get so worked up about it, was it a legacy of Vietnam or was it just bureaucratic in-fighting?
Waller: I think it was a combination of bureaucratic in-fighting, a throwback to what had happened in Vietnam, people just weren't comfortable in calling it .. in leaving it that way, everyone wanted to throw their own two cents or ten cents into it to change it.
Q: How was it fixed?
Waller: I don't think it was really ever fixed, we tried our very best to get different groups to agree, okay, we won't publish this until we have talked to you, and it got a little bit better but I don't think it was ever 100% fixed, we had our people in Riyadh talking to the people in Washington, trying to agree before any single entity made a statement on precisely what it was that was completed or percentage wise what was destroyed, but a 100% error free bomb damage assessment, I don't think we ever reached that.
Q: How did he describe the people back in Washington who were doing this, how did General Schwarzkopf describe them?
Waller: I cannot repeat on camera some of the things that he said about these people in Washington but it was crystal clear to anyone who was within his voice that he held a lot of these people in Washington who were second guessing what was happening in complete utter disregard.
Q: They were accusing you of saying you were destroying more than you really were.....?
Waller: That's part of it and you could feel that maybe they were saying we don't trust you guys out there, we think that you guys are gilding the lily so to speak in that you're taking far too much credit for what it is that you're doing, so yes, there might have been some throwbacks to how the military commanders were perceived there in the Persian Gulf area, much like some of our former commanders might have been perceived in the republic of Vietnam.
Q: So basically the bomb damage assessment controversies were similar to the body count.
Waller: Absolutely .. absolutely, that's a very good analogy, very good.
Q: Khafji, do you recall the night Khafji happened, what were you doing .. your memories of Khafji.
Waller: Khafji occurred while General Schwarzkopf was not in Riyadh, he had to go visit some of the naval forces outside of the Riyadh area so he was not in Riyadh when this particular incident took place, so that left me in charge and early that evening when word came that forces from our right flank, which would have been Saddam's left flank, had made an excursion into the little town of Khafji which was at the very uppermost right flank of our forces and were moving on that town. My immediate concern was that we had some Marines who were in the town of Khafji and using one of the tallest buildings in that town as an outpost, so my immediate concern was for their safety and how we were going to get them out of there if the Iraqi forces had closed in and had occupied that town.
Q: Did you talk to Walt Boomer about that?
Waller: Yes I did and ..
Q: What did you say to him .. because he got on the phone immediately to the guys down at the ground, he hadn't realised you were in charge that night, what were you saying to Walt Boomer?
Waller: I said to Walt Boomer, can we get them out, can we extricate this group of Marines and how hard is that going to be and is there something that we can do to assist you in getting them out to prevent them from being captured or being killed by the Iraqis and Walt said he'd have to get back to me and make an assessment of what's going on and he would let me know. In the meantime the Saudi commander came running into the war room with his hair on fire, saying that we would have to do something immediately, so I sat him down and tried to explain to him that this was not a very important part of what it was that we were doing, that Khafji was exposed out there on the right flank and we had known all along that it would be undefendable, there was no way that we were going to defend Khafji, that is why we had moved the people out of there because it just .. it was impossible to sit there and defend it when the Iraqis occupying Kuwait could have gotten back and lobbed all sorts of ammunition into that town with impunity.
Q: So the Saudi commander was really worked up.
Waller: Oh, my God, he was worked up. The Saudi commander then decided that he was going to go out and lead the forces, which he did and he did a good job of ..
Q: Why was the Saudi commander so worked up, can you explain, how worked up was the Saudi commander, you describe it to me .. and why?
Waller: The Saudi commander was very exercised and worked up about Khafji because I was told that the King was worked up about Khafji, that the King had said he did not want Saddam Hussein to occupy or retain one piece of territory in Saudi Arabia, and for those of you who are observing this programme, in Saudi Arabia when the King says, or the keeper of the two holy mosques says that he does not want this to happen, then the Saudis will almost try to move heaven and earth to prevent that from happening. So therefore later that evening I had a visit from royalty, the Minister of Defence, along with a lot of other high-ranking people in the government of Saudi Arabia, and they wanted to meet with General Schwarzkopf, well of course he was not there so they had to settle for me and they asked me to destroy the town of Khafji, to level it, just completely bomb it to smithereens, and I asked why they wanted that done and they said they just didn't want any piece of the territory to be in the hands of Saddam Hussein, so I explained to them why I thought that that was not a realistic thing to do, why I thought that it would be far more important to drive the Iraqis out of Khafji than it would be to acknowledge defeat in that area and completely destroy the town, and I told them that I thought that the forces on that side were fully capable of regaining Khafji if they were willing, and obviously they were willing, to go in and fight and regain it.
Q: So they were saying to save Khafji we have to destroy it.
Waller: Absolutely, they wanted it absolutely levelled, which I refused to take part in and so the commander of the Saudi forces went there with his Saudi forces, along with forces from other countries, I think there were several companies as I .. countries as I recall, and it was quite a fight, along with a lot of support from the Marines and from the Air Force and Khafji was finally recaptured. It proved to me at that point that the Iraqis were not a very good military force, they never even found the Marine forces that were hiding in the town, you know, so I said they can't be very good military people if they don't come in and search the town from top to bottom, every house, but they never even found the Marines who were using the building as an outpost or an observation post to observe as far as they could into Kuwait.
Q: What was the message that Khafji sent to you?
Waller: The lesson I learned from Khafji was as follows: that the Iraqi armed forces, especially those who happened to be in that area, were not the elite armed forces that some people had given them credit for. I thought that they might have been sort of a second rate army but I did not want to fall prey to the fact that, okay, we can throw caution to the wind and we can just go anywhere we want to across this line, you must remember that they had dug in, they had some formidable obstacles there, they had minefields, and you would think that even the most rudimentary type of military people would have those obstacles covered by fire, so if you're going to hit those areas, especially those obstacles, you would expect to be undertaken by overwhelming small arms fire as well as artillery fire, mortar fire, rocket fire, anything that you could bring to bear on that particular site.
Q: So your message to those guys who say that you and Norman Schwarzkopf were stupid, bad military thinking, not realising that Khafji meant that you could do what you want--- what's your message to those people?
Waller: My message to those people is that that's how you get people killed, that's how you lose enormous battles, when you underestimate your enemy. You have to have some respect for the enemy, that if they are going to call themselves an army, certainly they would have done the kinds of things that you would expect any military force to do and that is to place overwhelming fire on those places where the enemy is most vulnerable, and we would have been most vulnerable in those places where we were going to breach their lines, so you couldn't just say, hey, these are a bunch of people who don't know anything about what they're doing, we're going to throw caution to the wind, we're going to just run through the minefields because they won't be covered by fire, we're going to just walk over the trenches and ditches and all of the other things as if they are not there because this is not really a military force and we're just going to do this - that's how you get a lot of people killed.
Q: Khafji starts to focus people thinking about the ground war, tank blinking happened just afterwards, Khafji, end of January, tank blinking, round about the 5th, then you get the Al-Fardos bombing, do you remember the day that happened and how Schwarzkopf reacted?
Waller: That turned out to be a bunker where a lot of civilians were using as refugees to protect themselves from air which we were told on numerous occasions that it was a military bunker and used as a military command post. As it turned out, you know, I think history will report that it was more of a civilian bunker used by a lot of civilians to try to protect themselves from the overwhelming force that was coming from the air, our air attacks in Baghdad - one of the most unfortunate incidents that took place during that war, I remember that extremely well because when the word came that we had hit a civilian defence bunker rather than a military command bunker, we started examining how could that be, it's on this list of military targets, we'd been right in so many other cases, how did we get this one wrong, but it turned out that we had it wrong. There's no sense in trying to say that it was a military bunker when it turned out that we had more civilians there than we had military people. It's unfortunate, I'm personally sorry that it happened, I felt bad that it happened, but on the other hand I'm a military man and I knew that sometimes we make mistakes and it's obvious that a mistake was made in this particular case. Norman Schwarzkopf felt as I felt, he felt bad that we had a target on our list that turned out to be more of a civilian target than it did a military target, so we had to then go back and re-examine those targets on our list to try to make sure we didn't make the same mistake twice.
Q: How did this bombing affect the way the air war was conducted?
Waller: After we realised that we had made a mistake in this bunker and we reassessed our targeting procedures and how we should do targeting in the future and so forth, we decided that we had probably done a sufficient amount of strategic bombing in Baghdad itself and that unless we have irrefutable evidence that there is a military target in Baghdad that we need to hit, then we wanted to stay away from those sort of murky, unsure targets that didn't have a clearly defined military mission to 'em, so we said it's not worth it, we have done all of these other things and we've had all this enormous success, why do we want to go in and risk having another one of these kinds of incident, to turn world opinion against us to saying there's just a bunch of loose cowboys out there who don't really care about human life and they're just trying to destroy anything and everything that they possibly can, so we had to really tighten up our procedures and I think a lot of credit goes to the air force in the other targeting, people who worked on that, we did, we didn't have another incident of that nature and ..
Q: But Buster Glosson feels that the sad thing about Al-Firdos was that it meant that Saddam no longer had pressure put on him - Glosson actually wrote in his diary, "This is a sad day, Saddam is going to be allowed to escape, I'm not being allowed to keep the pressure on him by bombing the centre of government."
Waller: Well I guess, you know, Buster's opinion is like everyone else, they have one and I can't refute his opinion - I have my own opinion, I don't think it was nearly as devastating as Buster thought that it might have been but, you know, that's debatable, and I try to keep an open mind to all that is debatable.
Q: What went wrong with Al Firdos?
Waller: In this case I think it was a classic example of a targeteer or a chief targeteer wanting so desperately to get to a pivotal point where it would cause the crumbling of the central government or someone, whether it was a ......... or whether it was someone else who had said, yes, this has military importance, this is an important military bunker because it has some camouflage fences on it, it has camouflaged this and it has this, which makes it a military target and so forth, believing so strongly that this is going to have a devastating impact upon Saddam Hussein and his government, that you get obsessed with what needs to be done, so you start to lose a sense of reality and you become so enamoured with .. I want to get it, in the worst sort of way, that you somehow want it so bad that you lose touch with what is really happening, and ..
Q: The point is I suppose if the human intelligence was that good it would have said there were some civilians in there.
Waller: And that is the problem that I have with it, if human intelligence was so good by saying this is a military target, why didn't they tell us, but it's also being used by three or four hundred civilians, or I don't know the exact number, but by a large number of civilians as a refuge against the air attacks on Baghdad, so I fault our human intelligence source just as much as I fault anybody else for not telling us that.
Q: Cruise missiles--something everyone saw whizzing back and forth against the screen. Then they suddenly stopped, what happened?
Waller:The end came on Cruise missiles when we were throwing Cruise missiles around as if it was, a small arms weapon. We were launching these missiles, which are enormously expensive, all over the place and you had to ask yourself why? What is the good rationale for continuing to send Cruise missiles into downtown Baghdad when we had done so much devastating damage before? My point of view to General Schwarzkopf was that if there is a target that is of the utmost importance, then yes, let's go after it. However, just for the sake of launching more missiles may not be the wisest thing to do.
Q: Tell me why you made the recommendation and what you said.
Waller: I made a recommendation to General Schwarzkopf that I thought that we ought to take a real hard look at how many Cruise missiles we were sending into downtown Baghdad because they were enormously expensive and I wasn't sure that the targets that we were sending them against warranted continuing to use that enormous resource against what I considered almost rubble, so on the day that we had our last four, one of 'em we believed sort of hit a target and then ricocheted into the marketplace, therein causing a lot of what we call collateral damage or damage to places that should not have happened, to civilian targets, and in particular to cause loss of life of some civilians, and when that happened and it was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt by showing a piece of the Cruise missile with the numbers on it and so forth and so on, we could then see that, yes, it was clearly part of our missile that had gone into that marketplace and had caused that damage, then we said, okay, let's take a very critical look at which targets we're going to launch Cruise missiles against and we need to make sure that it is a target that is worthy of such a weapons system and don't just send them out for the sake of sending 'em out any more.
Q: The strategic bombers were running out of targets really, weren't they?
Waller: Yes. The important ones in particular had been hit time and time again, so we werenot target rich so to speak on strategic targets for those strategic bombers.
Q: And civilians were beginning to get killed.
Waller: That is correct, we had many civilians who were suffering and suffering enormously.
Q: And these things are hugely expensive.
Waller: Absolutely .. hugely expensive and every time we launched one it was an enormous expense and I just thought that we ought to husband our resources and not continue to launch Cruise missiles into downtown Baghdad, especially if we were going to have them to sometimes .. most of the time, it is one of the most accurate systems that we had, but then on the chance of it hitting the wrong target and it'd ricochet somewhere else and causes the kind of damage that we saw caused, it's time to reassess what you're going to do. Now if it was of the utmost importance to hit these targets, then okay, you will continue to do what you have to do in order to win, but at that point we pretty much had every opportunity we needed to hit targets that we wanted and I just felt and my recommendation to General Schwarzkopf was that it was sort of ridiculous to keep sending Cruise missiles to a place that didn't actually warrant Cruise missiles.
Q: Do you remember what General Schwarzkopf said to you after that February the 8th briefing about Freddy Franks?
Waller: One of the things I remember after the February the 8th briefing is General Schwarzkopf saying to me, what in the name of goodness does VII Corps need in order to get this mission done, why is it that we seem to always be needing more material, more ammunition, more equipment, more resources or whatever, let's get on with this mission and let's quit worrying about what it is that we need.
Q: How did you hear there would definitely be a land war?
Waller: Colin Powell called Norman Schwarzkopf, much as he had done to alert us that the President had approved that we would start the air campaign.
Q: What did Schwarzkopf say to Barry McCaffrey?
Waller: As I recall, he said to Barry, the 24th Division has a critical mission, I know that you are capable of leading the victory .. division to victory, I would expect no less.
Q: And to Freddy Franks?
Waller: And to Freddy Franks, as I recall, he said to Freddy, VII Corps has probably the most important part of this, it is absolutely critical that you and your commanders, you know, accomplish your mission, I know that you have trained hard and that you've worked hard to reach this point and I have the confidence that you can do it.
Q: So the Marines go in first, how far did you expect the Marines to get?
Waller: As you will recall, the Marines were the first ones to initiate the attack, we had a very phased attack to cross the front, the Marines were supposed to attack and everyone, I don't think anyone predicted that the Marines would get much farther than maybe 5 kilometres, at the very most maybe 8, and that then with the enormous overwhelming forces that were arrayed in that area, that they would stop the Marines, and when the Marines stopped there would be a fight but then everybody's attention would be diverted along our right flank, the Iraqis left flank, and while everyone was concentrating on that fight, then .. you know, some time later we would start the VII Corps on the student body left move or the flanking move to engage the Republican Guards.
Q: .. What was Boomer saying to you?
Waller: General Walt Boomer, the leader of the Marines, said to me as well as to General Schwarzkopf and to anybody else that would listen, hey, I've got most of the Iraqi forces in my area, I've got the lion's share of those divisions that are facing me and I am going to have a tough go of it, so we didn't expect the Marines to have an enormous amount of success. We wanted the Marines to fix the Iraqis, get their attention diverted to our right flank and to the Marines area and then, as I mentioned earlier, to start on the left hook.
Q: But the Marines actually went straight through 'em, started to expose their flank, what was your recommendation to General Schwarzkopf?
Waller: When I saw the enormous success of the Marines and I saw how successful that they were going to be, and I saw them moving at far faster rates than anyone had predicted, then I became very concerned that the coalition forces on their left, which were not scheduled to attack for some time, would have remained in place and not moved at a rate to protect the Marines left wing.
Q: So you were saying we've got to send them earlier?
Waller: So my recommendation to General Schwarzkopf was, look, the Marines are getting too far out in front, the coalition forces are not scheduled to move with them, so we'd better move up the attack time so that we don't have the Marines with an exposed left flank, so that was my recommendation to General Schwarzkopf. General Schwarzkopf made an assessment of the situation, agreed with that, and issued orders for the coalition forces to move earlier than had been originally planned, as well as issued orders to the Army ground forces commander, General Yeosock, to alert the forces under his command that they should be prepared to move earlier than had originally planned, because of the enormous success that the Marines were having.
Q: Medina Ridge...Franks doesn't know the briefing's going on, heonly discovered the briefing had occurred two weeks later. Franks doesn't know anything about this, he thinks he's getting ready for final encirclement, you're in the war room watching television, what did you see and as honestly as you can what did you think?
Waller: Well, I see .. first of all I had watched the preparation for this briefing and I watched the slides being put together and I observe the things that are going into it to .. you know, that are going to be presented at this briefing and I see that General Schwarzkopf is doing his level best to get all of his material to the point where he can master that material and he is one of the world's best at doing that. So he gets up in this briefing and he says, the gates are closed, and I look at him and I look at the other people who are around him and my immediate first sensation is, I don't think so, that may be bullshit, that the gates are closed. But I must confess, I didn't .. I didn't do anything about it. In hindsight I wish I had said no, we ought to recon. with this, we should go on, we should do .. but I didn't.
Q: Why not?
Waller: Because at the time I really believed that we had done enough to cause Saddam Hussein to be put out of office, to be run out of Baghdad on a rail, to be hung from the nearest yardarm or what have you, I just did not believe that Saddam Hussein could have survived that sort of defeat and still be in power, and I was wrong.
Q: Freddy Franks remembers that night, he didn't know this briefing was going on, Medina Ridge was fought, he went and had a look, went up there with the front line guys - got shelled a bit actually - went back, contacted his guys, prepared for a night assault, then there was the friendly fire problem that Ron Griffith rang in and said I've got serious problems with such a small front, said okay, we do it in the morning, Freddy Franks goes to bed thinking that tomorrow he's finally going to engage them, the first, Barry McCaffery likewise says tomorrow .. I'm finally going to engage them, give them what General Schwarzkopf thought, I mean isn't it remarkable that Freddy Franks never got a call from anyone to say is the gate closed?
How could it be that Freddy Franks wasn't consulted and asked, are the gates closed?
Waller: You know, I'm at a total loss to understand or appreciate how we could have made .. a statement that the gates are closed if we had not confirmed that with the ground commander. I don't know how it happened, I don't know whether it was one of these things where you're in front of the press and instead of saying I don't know or instead of saying I'll have to check or whatever else, that we sometimes get caught up in giving answers which are very glib or which make good sound bites that sometimes we don't pay attention to what it is we're saying - I don't know the answer as to why we did not consult beyond a shadow of a doubt with the commanders out in the field as to whether or not they had totally encircled the Republican Guard and they were ready to pounce on 'em. Now my impression of all of that, having been in the war room, was that we were making an enormous amount of progress, that we had the Republican Guards with their backs to the river and to the ocean and it was just a matter the next day of policing up what needed to be done, so I don't know why we didn't confirm it with the commanders in the field.
Q: Were you concerned at the idea the war was being ended on a clock basis?
Waller: Absolutely, I was concerned about stopping the war on a clock basis because we were not on rigid, defined objectives, so we have to then look at maps and to say, okay, where do we want our forces to be arrayed, what kind of position should we have 'em in, should they be on certain longitudes and latitudes or should they be along certain grid co-ordinates and so forth and so on, where are they now, where should they be, we want to make sure they're not in a position where they're going to be vulnerable to maybe continued attacks from the other side, so all of these things had to be taken in consideration. We also wondered where is the mechanism for stopping a war or where is that, is that coming from the Pentagon, is it coming from the State Department, what do we say about cessation of hostilities and so forth and so on.
Q: It was a mess.
Waller: Absolutely, it was unbelievable, to be very candid with you, because .. you know, General Schwarzkopf dictated a document, when there was none forthcoming, to his navy stenographer, that was then sent back to the Pentagon, the Pentagon changed 'happy' to 'glad', 'we' to 'they', .. and put in a few fixes, gave it to the State Department and the State Department changed a couple of words and sent it back to us and says, use this, so I think that that is the first time in the history of warfare that the commanding general and chief of the forces dictated the document that was to be used by the coalition forces for cessation of hostilities.
Q: And this document, what, it laid down .. what did it say, I can't remember this document.
Waller: This document talked about when hostilities will be stopped, where the forces will be arrayed, what the buffer zone would look like and what we would do to ...
Q: So just to get you to sum all this up ... you hear the war's going to end and then you guys are saying, well, how do we end it.
Waller: That's exactly right .. let me ask you this question, you're sitting in the war room, someone says we're going to end the war, and you say, well now, how are we going to do this, what's going to happen, what are we going to .. say, where do we end it, where do we stop it, how do we go about just .. you just can't say everybody stop in place, there's all sorts of things that you must be able to hand the other side and give to them and say here are the parameters, here's where we're going to be, here is the array of forces, you won't cross this line, we won't cross another line, so that document was not readily available. We in Central Command were under the impression that all of these smart people in Washington or in the State Department were working on such a document and would have it ready for us, but that was not the case, General Schwarzkopf dictated that document to his navy stenographer.
Q: It's odd that after all those months of planning no-one had thought about how to end the war.
Waller: Absolutely, no-one had really given .. I mean absolute given a great deal of thought to how the war would be ended.
Q: What were the implications of that?
Waller: Well, it turned out that we were in pretty good shape, we dictated our own things that we wanted, to separate the forces, we were going to be occupying, we were not going to give up the territory where we were, we were going to stay in that particular area until such time as we had come to some formal agreement, that the buffer zone between the two forces would be certain things, that hostilities would resume again if any hostile act were taken toward our forces, we modified rules of engagement so that our forces could protect themselves from any hostile act by the Iraqis and so forth.
Q: And when General Schwarzkopf went to Safwan with the list of things the Iraqis had to agree to, how was that prepared?
Waller: In the same document that Norman Schwarzkopf dictated back were the things that we were going to discuss with the Iraqis at Safwan and there was very little modification to what Norman Schwarzkopf had dictated that was different from what we got back, that was eventually approved by the State Department and, you know, the things that were uppermost in our minds were our POWs and we wanted to make sure that we got every one of them accounted for and that they in turn would, you know, have to take responsibility for their POWs who wanted to be returned to Iraq.
Q: So just to get you to paint the picture for me because the whole world watched that ceremony in the tent in Safwan and I'd sort of imagined all that stuff was drawn up in the White House and so on, how was it drawn up, can you remember watching or listening or being part of it as that list of conditions for the ceasefire was drawn up, how was it done?
Waller: Norman Schwarzkopf said, how do we make this happen, what do we do, and we had a State Department representative in our war room and he said to the State Department representative, what is it we're supposed to do, Mr. State Department rep., and the State Department rep. gave what we called the Iraqi salute, he didn't know, so Schwarzkopf asked for his stenographer to come in and sat him down next to him, he turned in his chair and started dictating to him things that he thought, someone would think of something .. and give him a little note, he in turn would read that note and, you know, phrase a sentence or a paragraph or whatever needed to be phrased in the proposed document, the navy yeoman went off and typed it up, brought it back in, and he made some slight modifications to it and then we sent it off to the Pentagon and the State Department - that's how it was done, nothing magic about it at all.
Q: Barry McCaffery finally got the fight he was looking for, what was it, March 2nd, I can't remember, but it was a couple of days after the ceasefire, what do you recall about that?
Waller: I recall receiving word that the 24th Division had to take some Iraqi soldiers under fire because they had been fired upon and once they had been fired upon, in self defence, and under the rules of the engagement that had gone out, the 24th Division had just absolutely devastated the force that had fired upon them.
Q: Was there much discussion in the war room about what was going on?
Waller: Oh yeah, a lot of discussion about why did that happen and wonder what madman on the Iraqi side would want to fire upon the 24th Division with this overwhelming amount of fire power and they had just been devastated, so it was very difficult to believe that any .. anybody with any sense at all would fire upon the Americans at this time, so you know, we were just wondering how could it happen.
Q: And what answer did you come up with?
Waller: The answer we got, that the 24th Division had fired in self defence, that they were fired upon and they had taken appropriate action to make sure that they were not fired upon again.
I think the 24th, having probably less clearly defined lines as to precisely where it was that they were supposed to be, had one interpretation of where their lines were and the Iraqis having an interpretation of where they could or could not go, probably inadvertently decided they wanted to save as much of their equipment and head down the causeway with hopefully not being fired upon, maybe when they were challenged someone didn't fully understand what was going on and decided to fire and that was a mistake because the 24th Division overwhelmed them.
Q: In the end the Republican Guard weren't destroyed, Norman Schwarzkopf blames Freddy Franks, Freddy Franks sort of blames Norman Schwarzkopf, what do you, Cal Waller, who played a big part in all of this, how could it be that the Republican Guard wasn't destroyed and was able to get two divisions of armour out ... why was it that the Republican Guard wasn't destroyed?
Waller: I think there's several reasons .. why we didn't do this. Number one, we stopped before we had completed the mission that we had established for the forces going into, we never once said to anybody that your mission is going to be complete as soon as we kick the Iraqis out of Kuwait, that was not what we told our forces. We said to our forces that we wanted to close with and destroy the Republican Guards and that was the overriding mission that most of our forces thought. When we decided that we were not going to let that mission play out for however long it had to play out, we changed the overriding mission of our forces, we gave them a change in mission, therefore we did not close with and destroy the Republican Guards. The other reason is - and this should be a lesson to all politicians, to all future leaders, I'm in the twilight of a mediocre career and I look back with hindsight as a commander in the military and I can say to all of the future commanders out there, you must ensure that you understand what your mission is and you must live by mission accomplishment to the best of your abilities and when your mission has been changed you should make sure that everyone who gives that order understands the implication of what a mission change means.
Q: What you're saying here is that the politicians moved the goalposts, the politicians changed the mission, and people wonder why the army didn't achieve the mission, the army could have achieved the mission but the politicians stopped the war too soon.
Waller: What I'm saying is, is an analogy to a football game, is that the goalpost didn't change but we changed the goal line, instead of leaving the goal line where it always should be and always is, we built a new line, we said that you have made a touchdown by the goal line being on the 20 yard line instead of being on the 10 yard line.
Q: I like the thing that you changed what made a touchdown, I mean the original touchdown was destroying the Republican Guard but suddenly it was Kuwait City, as you say, putting positive spin ... did the goal change and who changed it?
Waller: I think .. I think the goal was changed just as we changed in the mind of all of those great young men and young women who were fighting out there, they expected to reach the goal line, but when we said, no, we have accomplished what we set out to do by kicking Saddam Hussein .. out of Kuwait, it was confusing to them, they said wait a minute, I thought we were going .. this was our mission was to close with and destroy the Republican Guards enemy if it meant going all the way to the corner of this country, which would have been pushing the Republican Guards back to the ocean and to the river. Now all of a sudden here we are miles from that location and we were saying to these outstanding young men and young women, forget that, we're now going to change and you have succeeded because you have kicked him out of Kuwait.
Q: So you were pretty bemused about this as well?
Waller: At the time, as I have said before, I said, well, okay, what's the sense in going on, maybe we have accomplished the mission by kicking Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait and certainly he has suffered a devastating defeat and therefore he shouldn't survive if he's had such a defeat, but I was wrong.
Q: Was Norman Schwarzkopf reluctant to fight this war as some of the politicians think?
Waller: I think politicians who say Norman Schwarzkopf was reluctant to fight this war are sadly mistaken. Norman Schwarzkopf didn't want to enter into another military war where the resolve of the people was not to stick it out, so he was concerned, you know, the ghost of Vietnam, entering into a conflict not having the support of the people concerned him, but once we saw the overwhelming support from the people of America who were behind all of the coalition forces, who gave so much of themselves, Norman Schwarzkopf realised that this was not the same .. and he was up for the task. Now no commander, not even Norman Schwarzkopf or anybody else in my estimation, unless it happens to be a madman, enjoys war and Norman Schwarzkopf was reluctant to go charging off and saying, yes, I'm going to send all these young men and young women out there come hell or high water, it's just not his nature, he was very concerned about his soldiers and I think his soldiers responded very well to the bear ..they loved him.
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