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FRONTLINE Show #1407T
Air Date: January 28, 1997
The Gulf War, Part A
[This program was originally broadcast on January 9, 1996.]
NARRATOR: In the winter of 1991, amid the burning oil wells of Kuwait, two armies faced each other in the desert. At stake were the oil fields of the Middle East and America's leadership in the world. The war in the Persian Gulf would be the first test after the Cold war of the American promise of a "new world order."
BERNARD TRAINOR: The Gulf war was an American war. There were Iraqis there and there were_ lots of allies in the coalition were there, but it was a U.S. war from start to finish.
NARRATOR: For the American military, this would be a war fought on two fronts: against an Iraqi army entrenched in the desert and against the entrenched ghosts of an old war.
RICK ATKINSON: The Persian Gulf war didn't last for six weeks, it lasted for 20 years. Vietnam is a poltergeist through this whole thing. It had a psychological dimension, as a consequence of Vietnam, that transcended Saddam Hussein and the invasion of Kuwait, somehow, in ways that made_ made this war larger than_ than it really was.
NARRATOR: This is the story of what happened when America confronted Saddam Hussein and itself in the Arabian desert.
It was in July, 1990, when American spy satellites first photographed unusual military movement in the Persian Gulf.
Gen. COLIN POWELL: My intelligence officer came in and started to show me satellite photos and other intelligence which suggested an Iraqi buildup in the southern part of Iraq. It wasn't immediately troubling because it was just a buildup within their own country. It did not have the backup that one would expect to see for an invasion of another country.
The logistics system was not in place to support an invasion. They had not brought forward artillery. We couldn't see their communications coming up in the way that one would expect to see. And so although it was of interest and troubling, it did not yet become something of great concern.
NARRATOR: The U.S. had sided with Saddam Hussein during Iraq's eight-year war with Iran. Now the Iraqi dictator was using his vast oil revenues to build nuclear weapons and equip a million-man army that could dominate the Middle East. But the American government was confident it could contain his ambitions.
BERNARD TRAINOR, Author, The General's War: One of the basic problems at the outset of the crisis was that the administration was convinced of the rectitude of its policy towards Iraq, which was to extend them credits and to try to build bridges to Iraq to change their behavior. They knew Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator, but the idea, "If we build bridges, maybe we can change this fellow's way of doing business."
Meanwhile, the intelligence community, in the summer of 1990, was watching what Saddam Hussein did and what he said and they were trying to send this message to their political masters that the Iraqis were serious about moving into Kuwait. But the administration just couldn't conceive that its policy was failing and therefore they turned a deaf ear to these warnings.
NARRATOR: In Washington that summer, President Bush was distracted by a much bigger problem: managing the fall of communism and the end of the Cold war.
RICHARD HAAS, President's Middle East Advisor: The idea that, on a Sunday afternoon or something, I was going to stroll into the Oval and go, "Oh, by the way, Mr. President, Saddam Hussein is going to mass 100,000-plus forces and is going to walk into Kuwait and is going to make this the 19th province of Iraq and this is going to be the major test of the post-cold war world"_ that was too big. It was too dramatic.
NARRATOR: [May, 1990, Baghdad Arab Summit] Two months earlier, Saddam Hussein had welcomed his neighbor and ally, the emir of Kuwait. The emir ruled one of the wealthiest countries on earth. Kuwait owned one tenth of the world's oil. Iraq was rich in oil, too, but Saddam's military spending had pushed his regime to the brink of bankruptcy. Saddam blamed the emir for his troubles, accusing Kuwait of flooding the market with cheap oil, lowering prices and hastening Iraq's descent into economic crisis.
TARIQ AZIZ, Iraqi Foreign Minister: We started to realize that there is a conspiracy against Iraq, a deliberate conspiracy against Iraq by Kuwait, organized, devised by the United States.
NARRATOR: Later that day, Saddam would issue the emir a stark warning.
TARIQ AZIZ: He said, "Each dollar less in price means to us one billion in revenues for a year. If you do not mean waging a war against Iraq, please stop it."
NARRATOR: [June, 1990] But the emir took a tough stand and, a month later, Saddam's inner circle decided that unless Kuwait handed over $10 billion to Iraq immediately, they would invade.
TARIQ AZIZ: Iraq had no choice but to act, either to be destroyed, to be suffocated and strangled inside its territory or attack the enemy on the outside.
NARRATOR: [July 16, 1990, Southern Iraq] The Republican Guard was ordered to move south toward Iraq's border with Kuwait. These were the Iraqi Army's elite divisions, equipped with Soviet tanks. No other Middle Eastern country except Israel had forces to rival them. Soon 30,000 Iraqi troops had massed on the border between Iraq and Kuwait.
[July 24, 1990, Baghdad] With the crisis building, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak rushed to Baghdad, sent by Kuwait and the Arab world to arrange negotiations. Mubarak, one of America's closest allies in the region, was determined to discover Saddam's plans. It was an encounter that would have far-reaching consequences.
HOSNI MUBARAK, President of Egypt: I met with Saddam Hussein. He met me in the airport. Then he took me in the car _ he was driving _ beside him. Nobody with us. And we went to one of the palaces near the lake there. And we went upstairs to the first floor, tete-a-tete in a big room and we were both alone. Nobody with us.
I asked him about the problem, what's happening. I told him, "Do you have any intention to attack them or invade them?" He told me, "No, but don't tell the Kuwaitis about that." It was a very clear answer.
NARRATOR: As soon as he left Baghdad, the Egyptian president telephoned the White House to report that Saddam was bluffing. Mubarak told George Bush that the Iraqi leader was desperate for money, but that the Arabs would sort things out.
Gen. BRENT SCOWCROFT, National Security Advisor: Since we didn't know the internal situation in Iraq nor Saddam Hussein, our best bet was to take counsel from the people who did know him. And what he was really saying was, you know, "Don't jump in this thing. Just_ just let it work it_ let it work its way out. You've got to handle this guy right."
NARRATOR: At his headquarters in Tampa, Florida, the American military commander responsible for the Middle East was following the diplomatic developments.
Gen. NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF, Commander in Chief, Central Command: Every elder statesman in the world who was an Arabist was saying, "Oh, this will never happen." You know, "An Arab will never invade another Arab. This is all a show of force on Saddam's part" and that the Kuwaitis will cave and grant him the concessions that he was looking for and he won't have to do this invasion.
NARRATOR: [July 25, 1990, Baghdad] The day after Mubarak's visit, Saddam abruptly summoned the American ambassador, April Glaspie.
BERNARD TRAINOR: And, in essence, what Saddam Hussein was doing was feeling her out as to what the American position would be if the Iraqis moved against the Kuwaitis. And the response that he got was a very satisfactory one.
NARRATOR: Glaspie repeated for Saddam the State Department's position.
RICK ATKINSON, Author, Crusade: This was hardly tantamount to a warning shot across the bow. She said, "We're watching you. We're concerned about the bellicose statements that you've been issuing. But our fundamental feeling is that we have no direct vested interest in Arab-Arab disputes, including the dispute that you're having with the Kuwaitis over the_ the mutual border that you share."
NARRATOR: As the meeting ended, Saddam announced there would be more talks with the Kuwaitis. And Glaspie cabled Washington, "Saddam is worried. I believe we would now be well advised to ease off on public criticism of Iraq until we see how negotiations develop." The cable reached the president's Middle East Advisor at a critical moment.
RICHARD HAAS: I had actually written a memo to the president, saying, "We're getting all this intelligence," obviously concerned, when suddenly, the cable from April Glaspie came. And what I did was, I scribbled on the top of the memo, "What I've written you may be a little bit O.B.E." _ overtaken by events _ "Mr. President, because things look a little bit calmer now. April's just come in with a cable essentially saying, 'I think this situation's going to wind down. We Americans need to sit tight and not overreact.' "
I think by the time George Bush went back to the residence on July 25th, the general sense was a crisis that, while probably not past, had largely peaked and that it was on its way to getting resolved.
NARRATOR: But the Iraqi threat was still building on the Kuwaiti border. The original 30,000 troops grew to 70,000 then 100,000. Arab leaders continued to insist it was all a bluff. Then, on August 1st, the Iraqis walked out on talks when the Kuwaitis refused to meet their demands. Saddam issued his orders.
ABU JOAD, Republican Guard: [through interpreter] We gathered at 4:00 o'clock on the afternoon before the invasion and on a map table we were shown our objectives in Kuwait. Our captain explained the Kuwaiti government was about to change. We had been asked to help set up the new government.
NARRATOR: During the crisis, Major General Wafic al Sammarai held a key position in Iraqi military intelligence. He says he met with Saddam Hussein nearly every day and remembers Saddam's final calculations about what America would do.
Gen. WAFIC AL SAMMARAI, Iraqi Military Intelligence: [through interpreter] Saddam thought any reprisals would be limited and would tail off with time. He thought that America's involvement in Vietnam had badly damaged its willingness to use military power. Vietnam had been an outright defeat, militarily and politically.
NARRATOR: As they spoke, a satellite took this photograph. American intelligence analysts searched for the bases, which had been crammed with hundreds of Iraqi tanks. But when they found them, they were empty. The Republican Guard was on the move. More photographs arrived showing assault helicopters at Iraqi airfields within striking range of Kuwait. U.S. Defense Intelligence issued its highest alert, "WATCHCON I."
Gen. COLIN POWELL: Schwarzkopf came up to the meeting place of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the first of August and it was in that meeting that it all sort of clicked for me that this could no longer be just a feint or a demonstration, but it was a serious, serious threat to Kuwait.
Gen. NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF: I had explained to them that I was quite sure that this was a plan. I couldn't guarantee them that they were going to invade, but I felt that all the indications were there that they were going to invade.
Gen. COLIN POWELL: As I walked out of that meeting with Secretary Cheney, I said, "Dick, this cannot be just a feint and we've got to try to get some kind of message off immediately."
RICHARD HAAS: I was essentially deputized to go back to the White House to meet with Scowcroft and the president and to convince them to take one last shot at trying to influence Saddam. And just as we were talking about what exactly he would say to Saddam in this last effort to get him to think twice before doing anything, that's when the phone rang saying, "We just heard from our people in Kuwait. Shooting has started. This war or whatever it is has begun."
[August 2, 1990]
RAY WASHER, Kuwait City Resident: Well, on that morning, I was woken up by a large explosion and I looked out the window and there's the tower all in a pall of smoke. I thought, "Hello, hello. We've got a problem going on here."
NARRATOR: Republican Guard tanks sealed off the city while Iraqi special forces seized government buildings. The advancing Iraqis met little resistance. The emir had stood down his army to avoid provoking Saddam. Many of his soldiers were taking their summer vacations.
NAT HOWELL, U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait: I received a call from_ from a friend in the foreign ministry and he told me that the foreign minister said that now _ and stressed "now" _ is the time for the U.S. to act. And I said to him, "There may have been a time to act yesterday. There may be a time to act in the future. But I don't know what we can do right now."
Pres. HOSNI MUBARAK: For us, it was shocking. Shocking. I couldn't believe that this could happen in the Arab world. Saddam Hussein_ we were very_ in good terms and he was a friend. We know each other very well. But I didn't expect him to do that.
NARRATOR: By noon, Saddam Hussein controlled one fifth of the world's oil.
RICHARD HAAS: Saddam probably figured the Arab world and the world at large would bitch and moan for a couple of days and then people would get used to it and the world would essentially learn to live with it. And the United States, which had left Lebanon a decade before, and so forth, was not going to do anything. And even if the United States wanted to do something, the local Arabs would never do anything. They would never work with the United States and stand up to Saddam. So I think Saddam took the pretty intelligent decision that he could probably get away with it.
[8:00 A.M., August 2, 1990]
HELEN THOMAS, UPI: Mr. President?
Pres. GEORGE BUSH: Yeah, Helen?
HELEN THOMAS: Do you contemplate intervention as one of your options?
Pres. GEORGE BUSH: We're not discussing intervention. I would not discuss any military options, even if we'd agreed upon them, but one of the things_
NARRATOR: The president summoned his National Security Council to confront the crisis, but Bush's confused statement to the press set the tone for the subsequent meeting. It was rambling and inconclusive.
Pres. GEORGE BUSH: _and we will_
RICHARD CHENEY, Secretary of Defense: We really needed some time to come to grips with this basic, fundamental question of our strategic assessment of what this meant. Did it matter that he'd taken Kuwait?
Gen. BRENT SCOWCROFT: The notion of Iraq, which was an oil powerhouse in itself, acquiring the Kuwaiti resources and thus, perhaps, being able to dominate OPEC, was a tremendous danger to the United States and to the industrialized world. I thought it made a lot of difference.
RICHARD HAAS: To put it bluntly, what we ultimately did, sending half a million people around the world and all that that entailed_ that was too big of a thought for people at that first meeting even to think about. So instead, you had people talking all over the place, many of whom were talking about how we could live with this.
NARRATOR: The president left to give a speech in Aspen. Brent Scowcroft traveled with him.
Gen. BRENT SCOWCROFT: The president was way out in front of most of his advisers. He felt the same way I did about it, about the sort of resigned tone of the meeting and that there was no_ no sense of outrage or no sense of imperative.
NARRATOR: Waiting in Aspen for the president was the British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher. The victor in the Falklands was already thinking about war.
MARGARET THATCHER, Former Prime Minister, Great Britain 1979-1990: George Bush just said to me, "Margaret, what is your view?" And so, indeed, I told him that aggressors must be stopped, not only stopped, but they must be thrown out. An aggressor cannot gain from his aggression. He must be thrown out and, really, by that time, in my mind, I thought we ought to throw him out so decisively that he could never think of doing it again.
Gen. BRENT SCOWCROFT: It was like two soulmates finding each other. They found, from the very first words, that they were exactly on the same wavelength, that this was a tremendously serious event, that it could not be tolerated and something had to be done.
NARRATOR: The president said little to the press, but he was already thinking about military action. Thatcher remembers telling him Saddam was a potential Hitler who must be stopped. Both leaders drew their history lessons from World War II.
MARGARET THATCHER: Don't forget George Bush fought bravely in the last war. He knew what it was like to fight. He was injured. So he knew that if you didn't turn out an aggressor, then you could have simply terrible consequences for future generations.
NARRATOR: George Bush had been formed by his experiences as a young Navy pilot in the Pacific. But for his generals, the last war was Vietnam, where Norman Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell had served as young officers. And 20 years later, the military and the country were still traumatized by the disaster in Vietnam.
[August 3, 1990] As the president returned to Washington, the political challenge that faced him was enormous. To throw Saddam out of Kuwait, he would have to overcome stiff resistance inside his own government and in the country. But now, as the president headed for a meeting with his key advisers, there was fresh intelligence that the Iraqis might be headed for Saudi Arabia.
Gen. BRENT SCOWCROFT: One of the first questions was, "Is he going to stop at the borders of Kuwait? Saddam_ is he going to stop there or_ or is he likely to go on into Saudi Arabia and move down to the oil fields?"
RICHARD CHENEY: We had no idea what he was going to do. Everbody'd been dead wrong with respect to the question of whether or not he was going to invade Kuwait and he'd invaded Kuwait and he had 140,000 Iraqi troops on the Saudi border.
Gen. COLIN POWELL, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff: The key decision that came out of that meeting is, "We will defend Saudi Arabia." There was no debate about that. The question I then posed is, "Then what? Are we prepared_ should we be prepared to go forward and fight for Kuwait?"
NARRATOR: The president gave no response to Powell's question that night or the next day at Camp David. Vietnam was at the table, the old fear of another escalating conflict with no clear end.
Gen. COLIN POWELL: For those of us who were Vietnam veterans, we all have a view that says, "If you're going to put us into something, then you owe the armed forces, you owe the American people, a clear statement of what political objective you're trying to achieve."
RICHARD CHENEY: Initially, anyway, General Powell was not as concerned about the crisis as I was. He, in fact, was more of an advocate of sanctions, as opposed to military force. The senior military leadership understands better than anybody else that if, in fact, you're going to use military force, you're going to suffer casualties. It's almost impossible not to. And it's their people that are hurt in the process.
NARRATOR: At Camp David, the military briefed the president on its plan to defend Saudi Arabia.
Gen. NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF: The bottom line I was trying to make to the president is that this is the force that was necessary to guarantee a defense of Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf oil fields. It was not an offensive force, by any means. The force would have to be considerably bigger if we were going to eject the Iraqis out of Kuwait by force of arms.
NARRATOR: After the meeting, while Brent Scowcroft stayed on with the president to figure out how to persuade the Saudis to accept American troops, Colin Powell left for Washington.
Gen. COLIN POWELL: I don't recall anybody saying, "We're going to go take back Kuwait." I recall everybody saying, "We are going to clearly do whatever is necessary to defend Saudi Arabia."
NARRATOR: [August 5, 1990] The next afternoon, Bush returned to Washington. The generals hoped talk of liberating Kuwait had gone away. It wasn't the last time they would misread George Bush.
RICHARD HAAS: He motioned me to come out, so I went out there, and he said, "What's going on? What have we heard?" And what I essentially reported was that there had been zero progress. He was pretty fired up even before I spoke to him. I think I probably added 10 percent, but he was_ he was pretty much there, to begin with. And then he went off and_ the "This will not stand" line was not mine. That was his. And that was just his speaking from where he was.
Pres. GEORGE BUSH: This will not stand. This will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait.
Gen. COLIN POWELL: I'm home watching this on television and that was the first direct expression from the president that he has crossed the line and there is no question he will do what is necessary to get the Iraqis out of Kuwait, whether it's by sanctions, sanctions and force, force alone, whatever it's going to take. And so he had crossed the river, at that point, in my mind. And I sat up and said, "Wow."
Pres. GEORGE BUSH: I've got to go. I have to go to work. I got to go to work.
Gen. BRENT SCOWCROFT: I liked it. I liked it very much. Others_ Colin Powell says, "That'll teach us to leave you up at Camp David alone with him."
NARRATOR: Satellites now showed two Iraqi divisions near the Saudi border. The CIA reported the Saudis were considering buying Saddam off. If the Iraqis captured Saudi Arabia's ports, Saddam would control 40 percent of the world's oil.
[August 6, 1990] The president dispatched Defense Secretary Dick Cheney to Saudi Arabia. Cheney and his high-level delegation had to convince the Saudi rulers, who had never allowed U.S. troops on their soil, that they could soon become another Kuwait.
RICHARD CHENEY: I told King Fahd that they did not have the luxury of waiting until Saddam began an invasion of Saudi Arabia and then ask for our help, because then it would be too late.
ROBERT GATES, Deputy National Security Advisor: When Norm Schwarzkopf started laying out what we were prepared to send to Saudi Arabia, beginning with 200,000 troops, I just had the sense that Fahd was absolutely stunned.
Gen. NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF: At the end of that discussion, the king turned and said, "Okay." And I almost fell out of my chair because I absolutely was sitting there thinking, "Well, you know, this_ this is going to be, `Thank you very much for the information. We'll let you know.' " And the king said, "Okay," and I think we all did a double take and went back and said_ you know, Secretary Cheney said, "So you agree?" and the king said, "Yes, I agree."
We walked out of the meeting and I said to Secretary Cheney, I said, "Sir, I'm prepared to start the flow now. Do you want me to do that?" And Secretary Cheney said, "Yes." And so I turned to Chuck and I said, "Chuck, send 'em on their way."
NARRATOR: It would be the largest military deployment since Vietnam, more than a quarter million U.S. troops. The president emphasized the buildup was wholly defensive.
Pres. GEORGE BUSH: To assume Iraq will not attack again would be unwise and unrealistic. [August 8, 1990]
If history teaches us anything, it is that we must resist aggression or it will destroy our freedoms. Appeasement does not work. As was the case in the 1930s, we see in Saddam Hussein an aggressive dictator threatening his neighbors.
NARRATOR: The first American aircraft refueled above the Saudi desert. Saddam Hussein had never expected to see forces from America, the great ally of Israel, operating from Arab soil. But the invasion had turned both western and Arab governments against Iraq. Soon British, French and Egyptian troops arrived, the beginnings of a coalition of 30 countries.
Saddam struck back, rounding up foreigners in Kuwait as hostages. He hoped to intimidate the West. But his chilling encounter with 7-year-old Stuart Lockwood had the opposite effect.
SADDAM HUSSEIN: [through interpreter] Does Stuart get his milk?
HOSTAGE: Yes, he does.
STUART LOCKWOOD: He patted me on the head and ruffled my hair up and I was scared because of the soldiers.
SADDAM HUSSEIN: [through interpreter] Are you getting your milk, Stuart?
STUART LOCKWOOD: My throat was going all shivering and all that and I goes, "Oh, no. It's going to get me." It was something like that. "You're going to put me in this room forever with my mum and dad and my brother." I felt really nervous.
RICK ATKINSON: He was a man who miscalculated in taking hostages and then compounded his miscalculation and made Schwarzkopf's military efforts much easier by letting them go in December. Every time he had to make a major strategic decision, Saddam guessed wrong.
NARRATOR: The U.N. imposed sanctions and called on Saddam to withdraw from Kuwait. Instead he sent in over 300,000 soldiers. Kuwait's wealth was systematically plundered. Some Kuwaitis tried to fight back, but the resistance was soon broken. Saddam ruled Kuwait as he'd always ruled Iraq, with torture and terror. But this time the United States was no longer turning a blind eye and Saddam's methods allowed President Bush to elevate the struggle to a moral crusade.
Pres. GEORGE BUSH: Summary executions, routine torture_ Hitler revisited. America will not stand aside. The world will not allow the strong to swallow up the weak.
NARRATOR: By the time Saddam paid his first visit to Kuwait, Bush had authorized the CIA to start recruiting Iraqi dissidents to overthrow him. The U.S. Army's Delta Force was on stand-by to go into Iraq and kidnap him, but Saddam's security was too tight.
Gen. WAYNE DOWNING, Joint Special Operations Commander: We did try to target Saddam Hussein. He was a very difficult target. Saddam Hussein moved around a lot. He had a lot of different locations. When you're going to conduct an operation to go in and capture someone, you need a lot of detailed intelligence and you've got to know what it is you're going about. You certainly have to think of the down side of it, is_ is "Can I do that?" and_ "And if I can't, do I want to end up with 20 or 30 dead Americans or 50 captured?"
NARRATOR: [September 17, 1990, Helsinki, Finland] President Bush had isolated Saddam diplomatically. He met Mikhail Gorbachev to ask the Soviet Union not to stand in the way if America went to war with Iraq. Iraq was an old ally of the Soviet Union, but Gorbachev agreed. The cold war had just ended. Gorbachev did not want to risk his new relationship with America.
MIKHAIL GORBACHEV, Soviet President: [through interpreter] This was a key meeting. A country had been occupied. If, at that point in history, we had not been able to deal with that situation, everything else we had worked for would have been null and void.
JAMES BAKER, Secretary of State: Without the Soviet Union on board, we never would have been able to marshal the international coalition that we were able to build up. It just gave a completely different dynamic to the whole effort. Instead of being an effort, let's say, by the United States and the United Kingdom to eject Iraq from Kuwait, it was an effort by the entire international community.
NARRATOR: Baker and Bush had methodically built a broad international coalition to oppose Saddam. Ultimately, Bush would convince over 30 nations to contribute financial or military support to the effort.
In the Persian Gulf, a multi-national naval force had cut off Iraqi shipping, enforcing the stiff United Nations economic sanctions. But the CIA was telling President Bush it could take years for sanctions to drive Saddam from Kuwait. And inside the American government, there was a growing split over whether sanctions alone could work.
Gen. COLIN POWELL: My thinking was that it would be great if sanctions would do the job because then we would avoid a war with unknown consequences, and therefore we should give sanctions as much of a ride as was politically possible.
NARRATOR: [September 24, 1990] Powell went to see the president. He feared that Bush might rush to war because his civilian advisers had not properly explained how long-term sanctions might work.
Gen. COLIN POWELL: I laid out for him what a sanctions policy might look like and how it would work. He listened intently in that way he has, somewhat slouched in his chair, with his chin slightly down. And his response was, "Well, Colin, that's all very, very interesting. It's good to consider all options. But I just don't think we're going to have time for sanctions to work."
NARRATOR: Even after this meeting, Colin Powell would continue to argue against the president's line. Two weeks later in the Pentagon, Powell spoke with a top British commander.
Sir PATRICK HINE, British Air Chief Marshal: Colin Powell said to me that he would be prepared to give sanctions a considerable time to work. And I said, "Well, how long are we talking about?" And to my astonishment, Colin Powell said, "Well, I would give them up to two years to work." He said, "I don't think we should mount a military operation for at least that length of time, if that's what it takes for the sanctions to work," which he was confident that they would.
INTERVIEWER: Would you have given sanctions two years?
Gen. COLIN POWELL: I don't_ I don't know_ I don't know. At that point, when we're talking about this on the 24th of September, sanctions had only been at work for about a month_ a little over a month. It wasn't clear whether they would have a desired effect. I was prepared to wait and see.
NARRATOR: The president and his generals were on a collision course. In the Saudi desert, Schwarzkopf now commanded over 200,000 U.S. and coalition troops. In early October, Bush asked for an immediate briefing on how the military planned to throw Saddam out of Kuwait. But Schwarzkopf believed he didn't have a large enough force. The Iraqis outnumbered him at least two to one.
Gen. NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF: Colin called me and said, "I want you to send an offensive option back" and I objected strongly. I said, "Look, I've told everybody all along, we do not have the forces on the ground to conduct an offensive option."
Gen. COLIN POWELL: And my view was, "Well, that's all right. You know, it's a work in progress. Bring it_ bring it back to the United States. Let us brief it and we'll all see where we are."
NARRATOR: Three days later, Schwarzkopf's chief planner, Colonel Joe Purvis, flew to Washington to brief the president and his aides. To Purvis, it was obvious the best option was to outflank the Iraqi defenses, but he and Schwarzkopf believed they only had enough troops to attack head-on. The computers predicted 10,000 casualties.
Col. JOE PURVIS: When I put up the viewgraph that had the graphics on it, showing the military operation, the arrow pointing straight into Kuwait from Saudi Arabia, General Scowcroft immediately responded by_ it didn't look right to him, asked, "Why_ why are you attacking into the strength of the Iraqi defense?"
Gen. BRENT SCOWCROFT, National Security Advisor: My first question is, "Why don't you go around to the west?" And the answer was, "Well, we don't have enough gas trucks. We'll run out of gas when we're up there on the shoulder. We can't do that. It's not a feasible option." And maybe something_ "We don't know what kind of sand there is"_ something_ but I was_ I was pretty appalled.
JAMES BAKER: The military were saying, "Here's the way we'd have to do it," in a manner that would suggest an extraordinary number of casualties and a_ and a large_ a large price to pay.
ROBERT GATES, Deputy National Security Advisor: This was an effort, however conscious or unconscious, to basically say, "This is going to be a near-run thing and the casualties are going to be very high and maybe we ought not do this." I think that there was very little enthusiasm in the American military for, in fact, throwing Saddam out of Kuwait militarily.
Gen. COLIN POWELL: I wasn't trying to frighten them. I wanted to make sure they understood the significance of the operation we were thinking about. This wasn't going to be just a simple walk in the woods, drop a few bombs and they'll all go home, the way the Egyptians and the Saudis and the Turks were telling my political colleagues.
And these were all gentlemen who had never really been in a major war. And so what I was trying to do was make sure they understood what we were doing and the difficulties of what we were doing, especially when it came to a ground plan. And I think the ground plan is what scared them all to death.
NARRATOR: That night, there was a crisis of confidence at the heart of the administration. The White House team wondered if the right generals were in command.
Gen. BRENT SCOWCROFT: And I went immediately to Cheney and said, you know, "This just can't happen. If this is what we're going to get, then we'll just have to find a different way to do the military planning."
RICHARD CHENEY, Secretary of Defense: I shared Brent's concern and I wanted to send a message through the organization that said, "Guys, we mean business. Now, one way or another, we're going to get an option put together that allows us to launch offensive action to go after the Iraqis."
Gen. COLIN POWELL: What I told them was, "Not_ not_ don't_ don't panic. This is a solvable problem and we will come up with a plan that you will find workable."
NARRATOR: [October 21, 1990, Riyadh] Powell rushed to Saudi Arabia to meet with Schwarzkopf. They knew that back in Washington, Richard Cheney was forming his own Pentagon team to develop a war plan. In Riyadh, Schwarzkopf laid out for Powell the additional forces he would need if the president wanted war.
Gen. NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF: When Colin came over for his briefing, I pointed out all of my trepidations and the conclusion of that was Colin said, "Okay. If you are going to be required to attack, you will have the forces that you need." That was very reassuring to me.
NARRATOR: [October 30, 1990] Powell returned to the White House with the new plan.
Gen. COLIN POWELL: I said, "Mr. President, if you direct us to attack in order to eject the Iraqi army out of Kuwait, this is how we're going to do it."
ROBERT GATES: They asked for the VII Corps, the two heaviest divisions in the American Army out of Europe, which totally weakened NATO. They asked for six carrier battle groups. And then the political poison pill, they asked for the activation of the National Guard and the Army Reserves. The force represented in these three requests was just awesome, overwhelming, not to mention the cost. The president pushed his chair back, said, "You have_ you've got it. And if you need more, come see me."
NARRATOR: Bush made that commitment in secret just days before the Congressional elections.
RICK ATKINSON, Author, Crusade: So the decision was made in the White House, not surprisingly, I think, in retrospect, although somewhat duplicitously, that the decision would not be announced until after the election, a belief that you didn't want to complicate matters by making it even more of a political issue than it already was.
NARRATOR: Two days after the election, a quarter million more troops began heading for the Gulf.
Pres. GEORGE BUSH: I have today directed the Secretary of Defense to increase the size of U.S. forces committed to Desert Shield to ensure that the coalition has an adequate offensive military option should that be necessary to achieve our common goals.
NARRATOR: Bush had taken his generals to the brink of war. Now he had to bring along the American public. Saddam Hussein believed the trauma of Vietnam meant that the American people would not stand for a war. Now the polls showed support for Bush's handling of the crisis was slipping.
RICHARD CHENEY: Sanctions working doesn't mean just destruction of the Iraqi economy. It means getting Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.
NARRATOR: An angry Democratic Congress convened hearings to grill the administration on its plans for war.
CONGRESSMAN: Does that not offer us our best prospect to succeed?
RICHARD CHENEY: If the president were to ask me today, "Can you guarantee that these sanctions will work within a year or two?" the answer is no, I cannot.
ROBERT MacNAMARA: The point is it's going to be bloody! There are going to be thousands and thousands and thousands of casualties!
NARRATOR: Some of the sharpest criticism came from the defense establishment, especially from the man who had planned the war in Vietnam.
ROBERT MacNAMARA, Secretary of Defense, 1961-1968: Surely we should be prepared to extend the sanctions over a 12- or 18-month period. If that offers an opportunity to achieve our political objective without the loss of American lives, who can doubt that a year of blockade will be cheaper than a week of war?
Admiral WILLIAM CROWE, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1985-1989: It would be a sad commentary if Saddam Hussein, a two-bit tyrant who sits on 17 million people and possess a gross national product of $40 billion, proved to be more patient than the United States, the world's most affluent and powerful nation. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Sen. SAM NUNN, (D) Georgia: Thank you very much, Admiral Crowe. These are two of the most powerful statements I've heard before this committee in my 18 years here and I think you've rendered a real service and given us a great deal to think about.
BERNARD TRAINOR, Author, The Generals' War: This administration had to build up a certain amount of support for the_ for the administration's position and they drew in all sorts of people to talk about the aggression of the Iraqis and how horrible they were, the same sort of thing that we saw in every previous war. And they weren't too careful about checking the credentials and the credibility of the people that they were enlisting.
NARRATOR: No one lobbied Congress harder than the Kuwaitis, who spent $10 million on a campaign that centered on Iraqi atrocities. The Congressional Human Rights Caucus convened a special hearing to look into the abuses and heard from a host of witnesses presented by the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S.
1st WITNESS: They tortured him. They abused him. And after 10 days of torture, they brought him to his parents' home, called out all of the family members, the neighbors, and shot him dead in front of his mother.
2nd WITNESS: I stayed behind. I wanted to do something for my country.
NARRATOR: But the most compelling testimony came from an anonymous 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl.
2nd WITNESS: _volunteered at the Aladein hospital with 12 other women who wanted to help, as well.
NARRATOR: She said she witnessed first-hand Iraqi soldiers removing Kuwaiti babies from hospital incubators and then stealing the incubators.
2nd WITNESS: While I was there, I saw the Iraqi soldiers come into the hospital with guns. They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators and left the children to die on the cold floor!
Rep. JOHN PORTER, (R) ILLINOIS: We have never heard in all this time, in all circumstances, a record of inhumanity and brutality and sadism as the ones that the witnesses have given us today.
NARRATOR: Only later was it discovered that the girl was actually the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador and that there were doubts about whether she had actually seen the events she described.
INTERVIEWER: [source: CBC_The 5th Estate] I have to ask why she was not identified as your daughter when she gave that testimony to the House committee.
SAUD NASIR AL-SABAH, Kuwaiti Ambassador: Well_
INTERVIEWER: Or for the House caucus.
SAUD NASIR AL-SABAH: Well, for security reasons, I didn't believe it was just for to_ for her safety.
INTERVIEWER: Did the Human Rights Caucus members and the chair people know who she was?
SAUD NASIR AL-SABAH: Yes, of course they did.
INTERVIEWER: They knew her identity.
SAUD NASIR AL-SABAH: They knew her identity and they knew exactly what_ what the girl was telling them was the truth.
INTERVIEWER: How many people knew that she was the ambassador's daughter?
Rep. JOHN PORTER, (R) ILLINOIS: I didn't. I don't know who knew. I did not know she was the ambassador's daughter.
BERNARD TRAINOR: Now, I don't know the truth of the story, but it certainly undermined her credibility and, in a certain sense, undermined the credibility of the administration.
Pres. GEORGE BUSH: Twenty-two premature babies. They all died. And then they shot the hospital employees.
BERNARD TRAINOR: George Bush rose up in righteous anger and called this aggression a la the Nazi era.
Pres. GEORGE BUSH: The fight is about naked aggression!
BERNARD TRAINOR: The American people didn't quite understand that. Then the next argument was that the war was about oil. We had to protect oil.
Pres. GEORGE BUSH: _if control of the world's great oil reserves fell into the hands of that one man, Saddam Hussein.
BERNARD TRAINOR: The banners came out in Harvard Square, "Hell, no. We won't go. We won't die for Texaco." That really didn't_ didn't resonate. And then, if you recall, Jim Baker got up there and said it's about "jobs, jobs, jobs."
JAMES BAKER: If you want to sum it up in one word, it's jobs.
BERNARD TRAINOR: The American people said, "Huh? What's this all about?"
Pres. GEORGE BUSH: I'm deeply concerned about Saddam's efforts to acquire nuclear weapons.
BERNARD TRAINOR: And then the final thing which capped the demonization of Saddam Hussein was the announcement that Saddam Hussein was secretly working on weapons of mass destruction_ chemicals, biologicals and, mosty all_ most of all, nuclear weapons.
Pres. GEORGE BUSH: And that's what we're dealing with! We're dealing with Hitler revisited, a totalitarianism and a brutality that is naked and unprecedented in modern times! And that must not stand! We cannot talk about compromise_
Gen. COLIN POWELL: When you demonize an enemy, such as the president tended to do with Saddam Hussein, you raise expectations that you will do something about him at the end of the day. We did not know how to get Saddam Hussein. This is a man who has survived for three decades by nobody knowing how to get him. And so by demonizing him, which was a useful way to raise public interest and support of what we were doing, we also faced the problem of if he was still there at the end of it, which he most likely would be, it would take some shine off the achievement.
NARRATOR: [November 29, 1990] The Bush administration was having much more success building up international support for war. Their maneuvering led to a historic U.N. vote authorizing the use of force in six weeks if Iraq refused to leave Kuwait.
JAMES BAKER: Will those in favor of the draft resolution contained in document S/21969 please raise their hand?
RICK ATKINSON: There were various concessions made to different countries whose support was critical. Egypt was forgiven $7 billion in various debts. Syria was forgiven many of the same sins of which Saddam was accused. Turkey was basically granted certain trade concessions in return for their very important support.
JAMES BAKER: The draft resolution has been adopted as Resolution 678-1990.
We have taken political, economic and military measures to quarantine Iraq and to contain its aggression. The nations of the world have not stood idly by.
NARRATOR: But the U.N. resolution only deepened the fears of the American people.
JAMES BAKER: There was very little public support in the United States for the idea of going to war in the Persian Gulf. In fact, it was overwhelmingly opposed.
If we were going to fight a war, we had to do so with the support of the American people, if possible, with the support of the American Congress, but that if we were going to send people_ Americans off to die in the Persian Gulf, we had to be able to survive the judgments of history that we didn't do so precipitously.
Pres. GEORGE BUSH: [November 30, 1990] To go the extra mile for peace, I will issue an invitation to Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz to come to Washington. In addition, I'm asking Secretary Jim Baker to go to Baghdad to see Saddam Hussein.
NARRATOR: [January 9, 1991] Just six days before the U.N. deadline for war, and after many changes of plan, James Baker prepared to meet Tariq Aziz. The Bush administration needed the talks to win over public opinion and a hostile Congress, but they feared the Iraqis might offer a deal that would split the coalition.
TARIQ AZIZ, Iraqi Foreign Minister: If there is a genuine, sincere, serious intention to make peace in the whole region of the Middle East, we are ready to reciprocate.
When I went to meet with James Baker, I hadn't the slightest idea that that meeting would succeed. I knew that that was public relations, that he wanted to tell the Congress, "Look, to the end I tried to find a diplomatic settlement," so that he could get a few more votes.
NARRATOR: Baker carried a letter from President Bush to the Iraqi leader demanding withdrawal and reminding Saddam America had nuclear weapons.
JAMES BAKER: The president's letter to Saddam Hussein, which Tariq Aziz read in_ in Geneva, made it very clear that if Iraq used weapons of mass destruction, chemical weapons, against United States forces that the American people would_ would demand vengeance and that we had the means to achieve it.
TARIQ AZIZ: I read it very carefully and then when I ended reading it, I told him, "Look, Mr. Secretary, this is not the kind of correspondence between two heads of state. This is a letter of threat and I cannot receive from you a letter of threat to my president," and I returned it to him.
NARRATOR: The president's team could only wait. Had they given Saddam a chance to escape?
RICHARD HAAS, President's Middle East Advisor: We basically said, "What if Saddam proposes this? What if he proposes a partial pullback? What if he actually does a partial pullback and promises a complete pullback?" What we did was we must have gamed out 10 different Iraqi scenarios that we thought would test the coalition.
Gen. BRENT SCOWCROFT, National Security Advisor: And I could never figure out why he didn't do it. He could have_ he could have just given us fits and that was what I was worried about happening as a result of a meeting like this.
NARRATOR: But in Geneva, Tariq Aziz had offered no last-minute compromise. Instead, the talk had turned to war.
JAMES BAKER: I said that they should not make the mistake of assuming that they would control the terms of the_ of the battle, as perhaps they might have assumed in their war with Iran, that this would be a totally different situation, that our technological superiority was overwhelming and would be brought to bear.
TARIQ AZIZ: My response was very cool. I told him, "Mr. Secretary, Iraq is a very ancient nation. We have lived for 6,000 years. I have no doubts that you are a very powerful nation. I have no doubts that you have a very strong military machine and you will inflict on us heavy losses. But Iraq will survive and this leadership will decide the future of Iraq."
JAMES BAKER: And I was certain, at the time, that we would be going to war and going to war very, very soon.
Regrettably, ladies and gentlemen, in over six hours I
heard nothing that suggested to me any Iraqi
RICHARD HAAS: Even to this day, I am stunned by Saddam's failure to exploit all of his options. Time and time again, Saddam, by opting for the maximum, actually made it relatively_ I hate to use the word "easy," but made it much less difficult on the United States and the coalition to sustain itself. And, you know, I'm not sure, at times, so much whether we won it but, clearly, he lost it.
NARRATOR: Congress debated whether to give the president the authority to go to war. The House was supporting Bush, but the Senate vote would be close.
Sen. PAUL WELLSTONE, (D) MINNESOTA: But this is the truth. I could not accept the loss of life of any of our children in the Persian Gulf right now. And that tells me that in my gut, I do not believe that it's time to go to war!
Sen. SAM NUNN, (D) GEORGIA: I see no compelling reason to rush to military action. Of course, there are no guarantees on economic sanctions. There are also no guarantees on war. Where are the guarantees on war?
Sen. JOHN DANFORTH, (R) MISSOURI: It is not an option for the Congress of the United States to disapprove what we for months have asked others to support. It is unthinkable that our government would now lose its will.
Vice Pres. DAN QUAYLE: On this vote, the yeas are 52 and the nays are 47.
JAMES BAKER: We would not have won the vote without Geneva. We simply wouldn't. In the aftermath of the Geneva meeting, opposition to our use of force eroded. So it was an idea that_ that germinated with the president. It was the right idea. We did it right. And there really should be no_ no second thoughts about that. It worked exactly the way it should have worked.
NARRATOR: In the beginning, George Bush had been almost alone in his determination to turn back the invasion of Kuwait. Five months later, the man often derided as a political wimp had maneuvered his generals, his country and most of the world to join his stand in the desert.
ROBERT GATES: The president privately, with the most inner circle, made absolutely clear he was going to go forward with this action even if he were impeached. The truth of the matter is that while public opinion and the voice of Congress was important to Bush, I believe it had no impact on his decision about what he would do. He was going to throw that son of a bitch out of Kuwait, regardless of whether the Congress or the public supported him.
NARRATOR: [January 15, 1991, Baghdad] In the final hours before the U.N. deadline, Saddam appeared on television to assure the Iraqi people victory would be theirs. "You are the new leader of the Arab world," he was told. "The Americans", said Saddam, "rely too much on technology. They never fight man to man. They can never win the battle."
DEMONSTRATORS: [singing] We shall overcome, we shall overcome some day_
NARRATOR: Across America, midnight vigils marked the passing of the deadline. At dawn the president signed the order that would take America and the coalition to war.
Gen. BRENT SCOWCROFT: He was ordering people into situations where they would lose their lives and the kind of magnitude of that awful decision, I think, haunted him. You know, how much is a life worth? How much is_ are 100 lives worth, 1,000, 10,000?
NARRATOR: In the Gulf, 1,700 coalition aircraft now prepared to attack. They faced modern Iraqi fighters, many built by the French and Soviets, hundreds of missile batteries and thousands of anti-aircraft guns. At one stage, Pentagon estimates suggested one in five aircraft in the first attack might be shot down.
Gen. CHUCK HORNER, Coalition Air Commander: We were filled with uncertainty. Our press had been telling us that our generals couldn't general, that our technology didn't work and our young people were no good. Now, we didn't believe it, but we worried about it because it was sort of imbued in our whole national psyche. Vietnam was a ghost we carried with us.
NARRATOR: The air planners' first targets were not the 400,000 Iraqi troops in and around Kuwait, but key strategic political and military targets in Baghdad and all over Iraq. Some hoped that for the first time in history, air power alone would bring victory.
Gen. BUSTER C. GLOSSON, Commander, Strategic Bombing Campaign: I thought the strategic campaign would not only work, but that it would be bordering on unbelievably successful. And that was based on the fact that technology had finally caught up with the vision that we had always had of how to apply a strategic air campaign.
Col. DAVID DEPTULA, Target Planner: Imagine Iraq like a human body. What happens if you take away somebody's ability to think, somebody's ability to communicate with the rest of the body? What happens if you sever their spinal cord? They can't function, right?
NARRATOR: Before the planes could attack, Task Force Normandy would fire the first shots of the war. Its Apache gunships had been training for months. Their mission was vital: to destroy at all costs two Iraqi radar sites that would otherwise give Baghdad an early warning of what was to come.
[1:00 A.M., January 17, 1991] It was a moonless night. Eight Apaches armed with Hellfire missiles took off towards Iraq. This is a pilot's eye view, videotape from one helicopter's night vision camera. The gunships flew just a few feet off the desert until they were eight miles from the radar dishes.
Lt. TOM DREW, Task Force Normandy: We slowed our air speed to about 40 knots, came up on line, all abreast, so we're all the same distance from the target. And at this point, I'm not looking through my goggles. I'm looking at a T.V. screen right in front of me. Watched the clock tick to zero and I gave the code word "Get some." At that point, everybody fired their Hellfires.
1st HELICOPTER PILOT: Second missile.
NARRATOR: From a range of four miles, each crew aimed a laser beam that guided their missiles. The Iraqis had anti-aircraft guns, but could not see or hear the helicopters. This was a new kind of war.
1st HELICOPTER PILOT: How's it doing?
2nd HELICOPTER PILOT: Still in the air.
1st HELICOPTER PILOT: Okay.
2nd HELICOPTER PILOT: Hit that one. Sliding to the left. Hit that one.
1st HELICOPTER PILOT: Okay.
Lt. TOM DREW: With the initial blast of the Hellfire, then we really saw some activity in the target.
2nd HELICOPTER PILOT: You're lined up.
1st HELICOPTER PILOT: Firing.
2nd HELICOPTER PILOT: Firing.
1st HELICOPTER PILOT: I see people running around now.
2nd HELICOPTER PILOT: All right. Hold her steady.
1st HELICOPTER PILOT: Got it.
2nd HELICOPTER PILOT: There it goes.
Lt. TOM DREW: I select my gun. I've got very bright flashes of light to my left and right, as the Hellfires are leaving, people running around on the site. And underneath my goggles I can see the explosions, my wing man firing his 30-millimeter, the muzzle flashes from that. Out of the probably 150 people that we were briefed were at the site, I_ I would imagine not more than 10 or 20 probably lived through that engagement.
Gen. CALVIN WALLER, Deputy Commander in Chief, Coalition Forces: Within five minutes of the time that the first aircraft were scheduled to hit their targets, General Schwarzkopf came in. The door opened. His senior military assistant announced, "The commander in chief of the United States Central Command," and he burst through the door and took his place at the table.
Gen. NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF: And then I asked the chaplain to say a prayer and then I played "God Bless the USA," a blatantly chauvinistic piece of music, but I think it characterized the pride that all of us had in our profession and in what we were. And there's a line in there that says, "I would proudly stand next to you and defend her still today" and that's what it was all about. And I said, "Now we all know what we need to do. Now let's get on with it."
[Lee Greenwood singing]_and I'm proud to be an American, where I know I'm free]
Gen. NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF: Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines_ this morning at 0300, we launched Operation Desert Storm. My confidence in you is total. Our cause is just. Now you must be the thunder and lightning of Desert Storm.
Planes were in the air at that time, heading towards their targets with_ with no guarantees of the outcome. To know that we had taken a very big step and that the war had started and none of us know exactly how it was going to end_ that's a very, very emotional moment.
NARRATOR: [January 17, 1991, USS Wisconsin] In the Gulf, the Navy prepared to launch dozens of Cruise missiles, but the missiles' guidance systems couldn't navigate over the flat desert of Iraq. They needed landmarks to lock onto, so they were secretly programmed to fly over the mountains of Iran and then turn towards Baghdad. The Iranians were told nothing and no one knew exactly what would happen.
Vice Admiral STANLEY ARTHUR, Commander, Coalition Navy Force: Downtown Tehran would not have been a good_ a good mission. We were dealing with neighboring countries who we didn't want to join into the fray.
We'd never used them in conflict before and there was a lot of apprehension about "Do we launch these things and then they make up their own mind where they're going?"
PETER ARNETT, CNN: By 2:25 in the morning, I was tired, sitting in the CNN workspace. I had an Englishman engineer and I was sort of telling him, you know, it was a bust. We'd have to wait for another night. And then he started to hear, he claimed, dogs barking. And my hearing is not so good, as the result of being in Vietnam for many years, but I, too, started to hear dogs barking. And he said, "That has to be a signal." And I laughed and I said, "Dog radar? Come on!" And 10 seconds after I'd made that memorable statement, the sound of anti-aircraft fire started.
NARRATOR: Ten Stealth bombers were just minutes away from downtown Baghdad. The Stealth was designed to be invisible to radar. But to be safe, the Air Force started jamming Baghdad's radar defenses. The jamming gave the game away. Iraqi radars were blinded, but 3,000 anti-aircraft guns and 60 missile batteries began firing wildly into the sky.
SAMDAR, Iraqi Soldier: [through interpreter] That night orders came from headquarters to fire back any way we could, even if it meant closing our eyes and firing into the sky. You see, it was so dark and the aircraft were coming so quickly and we didn't have the capability to aim accurately. That's why they told us, "Put up a barrage of fire any way you can."
NARRATOR: In the approaching Stealth bombers, the pilots saw the firestorm of shells and missiles exploding above the city. They flew straight towards it.
Maj. PAUL DOLSON, Stealth Pilot: As I'm flying in, the aircraft was actually being buffeted by the triple-A exploding. Looking back, it's kind of like an old World War II movie, where they sit in the cockpit of their B-29s and bounce around over Dresden.
NARRATOR: Dolson's bomb destroyed Iraq's main telephone exchange.
Maj. PAUL DOLSON: I just remember looking over my shoulder and I thought to myself, you know, "It's a miracle. There is no way anybody else is coming out of there."
NARRATOR: A minute behind, Dolson's wing man was still flying through the barrage.
Maj. JERRY LEATHERMAN, Stealth Pilot: There was stuff going off all around you, under you, you know, some of it arcing over above you. I know that I've trained my whole Air Force career to make sure that I could do this and now the_ did I have the right stuff now?
NARRATOR: Leatherman destroyed the main telephone tower. Another laser-guided bomb hit the headquarters controlling Baghdad's air defenses. Other pilots destroyed government ministries and a key communications tower. Also targeted: Saddam's lakeside palace.
Gen. NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF: What we wanted to do was sever his ability to communicate with his frontline forces. And if that meant killing him, then so be it.
JOHN HOLLIMAN, CNN: Holy cow! That was a large airburst that we saw. It was filling the sky.
PETER ARNETT: And I think, John, that airburst took out the telecommunications.
NARRATOR: CNN gave a running account to the rest of the world.
Six minutes after the Stealth bombers left, the Cruise missiles arrived. Some destroyed government buildings, others dropped carbon filament, which shorted out the electrical grid system.
The president and his advisers watched the war unfold on television.
Gen. BRENT SCOWCROFT, National Security Advisor: This is one of those times when I really had a sense of history. I had the battle plan on my lap and we were sitting here, watching CNN. And to see the battle unfolding from the CNN parts, when_ when the CNN announcer, a couple of minutes after the first radar should have been hit on the border, that we_ "We have reports of air strikes down in the southern part of the country"_ it was_ it was uncanny.
NARRATOR: With Baghdad's air defense headquarters destroyed and its radar system in chaos, hundreds of Iraq's fighters couldn't operate. Only a few struggled into the air.
Maj. JON KELK, Fighter Pilot: I see that somebody's targeted on me. It's an Iraqi fighter who wants to target me and shoot me down. So I remember firing a missile. I remember seeing this big blue flame coming across the sky, three to five seconds long. And I remember seeing it and_ and then it goes away. I remember thinking to myself that_ that my missile hit him and that the target's destroyed and that he's down, but what's ahead?
NARRATOR: With hundreds of allied aircraft flying, AWACS planes packed with computer equipment helped control the battle. That night the coalition armada systematically attacked Iraq's war machine. The factories that made chemical and biological weapons, the Scud missile plants_ in all over 200 different targets were hit.
Col. DAVID DEPTULA: The first 24 hours consisted of more attacks in the master attack plan than the entire number of targets that were targeted in the years 1942 and 1943, during the combined bomber offensive in Europe.
NARRATOR: That first night was a new benchmark in the history of warfare, the first time the world had seen precision bombing on a vast scale. And defying all expectations, only one allied pilot, an American, had been killed.
Gen. COLIN POWELL: And the whole world starts to watch this war in real time and, suddenly, one of the first scenes coming off one of our airfields is of this F-16 landing. Rolls to a stop, canopy pops open, pilot comes out. I met him later. His name is Jet Jurnigen , of all_ I mean, right out of Hollywood central casting. Jet Jurnigen is the young man's name.
And I'm watching this in real time in my office and suddenly the youngster turns around to talk to the reporters and I said, "Uh-oh." No telling what Jet Jurnigen is liable to say to a pushy reporter. And what Jet Jurnigen says is, "I'll tell you what it was all about. First, I want to thank God that I completed my mission successfully and I got back to my base safely."
JET JURNIGEN, Fighter Pilot: I've been a very fortunate fellow.
Gen. COLIN POWELL: Sounds pretty good. American people hearing this. Confident young American pilot. Starts to walk away and he looks over his shoulder a second time. He says_
JET JURNIGEN: The Lord blessed me with a good woman_
Gen. COLIN POWELL: Oh! Starts to walk away again. He looks over his shoulder a third time. He says, "I want to thank God that I'm an American." And then he looks over his shoulder a fourth time. He says, "I want to thank God that I'm an American fighter pilot." I about swooned.
JET JURNIGEN: God bless America!
Gen. COLIN POWELL: The American people saw this spirit of confidence, spirit of professionalism. It was a feel-good that we had not seen since the end of World War II.
NARRATOR: With air superiority established over the Iraqis, the coalition air planners were now confident enough to launch conventional aircraft on massive daylight raids.
Maj. JEFF TICE, F-15 Pilot: My squadron was part of a large armada of airplanes doing one of the first daylight raids over Baghdad. My particular target was an oil refinery on the bend in the river in Baghdad.
A lot of people trying to shoot at us. Another couple of missiles are fired. We maneuver heavily to avoid those missiles and_ and they go by us very_ very nicely. You know, one went by on my right. I could see two go by my wing man on his left and right.
As I continued to roll my jet, I looked back over to the right to where the missile would have gone and there was a cloud of, you know, just black and silver metal flying everywhere. And I thought, "Maybe I took a small hit."
Well, in the nanosecond that it took me to roll up and look and make that assessment, my airplane just decided it's going to shut down and all the systems just went "Boom!" just like somebody pulled the plug. And I thought, "Oh, Jesus. I'm hit."
Engine quit. Realized I was going to have to get out. And I just configured the aircraft as much as I possibly could to glide as far as I could. I wanted to get as far south as I could and as far away from the western edge of Iraq. Again, checked my map one more time and I said, "Okay, I'm in the middle of nowhere. The sun's going down. This is not going to be too bad."
Then, all of a sudden, I see some clouds of smoke coming up and I go, "Oh, no! Someone's shooting at me."
NARRATOR: [January 17, 1991, Bagdhad] In Baghdad, Saddam Hussein was moving between safe houses in the suburbs. The bombing had been more devastating than he'd expected without the civilian deaths he'd believed would outrage world opinion. His intelligence chief says Saddam's temper flared when he was briefed on the gravity of Iraq's situation.
Gen. WAFIC AL SAMMARAI, Iraqi Military Intelligence: [through interpreter] I said, "I know that Iraq will be destroyed. I am telling you the truth." Saddam said, "These Americans are technicians, not soldiers who fight. They have technology on their side, but that won't help them win."
NARRATOR: When Saddam met with his ministers after the first night's bombing, he had already ordered action he believed would shatter the coalition of Western and Arab countries attacking Iraq. Scud missile launchers hidden in the desert fired at Israel.
TARIQ AZIZ, Iraqi Foreign Minister: We had the capability, we did it. When you are attacked by an enemy, you attack your enemies. That's natural.
NARRATOR: [January 18, 1991, Tel Aviv] The Scuds were fired indiscriminately at Israel's largest city. Saddam calculated the Israelis would retaliate and join the conflict. The Arabs in the coalition would then refuse to fight alongside Israel. The coalition would collapse and so would the war. Soon more Scuds were on the way.
MOSHE ARENS, Israeli Defense Minister: Well, I wasn't told, I heard them. And I rushed out of my home to go to our headquarters in the defense ministry and on the way I heard the Scuds landing in the Tel Aviv area.
NARRATOR: Israel's nuclear forces now went on full alert. Sixty Israeli jets took to the skies. Early warning radar appeared to show Iraqi bombers headed for Israel.
In the Pentagon, the defense secretary picked up the hotline to Tel Aviv. Israeli retaliation seemed inevitable.
RICHARD CHENEY: Can you imagine an American president sitting quietly as missiles land on the United States, saying, "No, we're not going to do anything"? I mean, that's an unacceptable political position for any government.
MOSHE ARENS: I think it was Cheney that called me and I reported to him on the hits that we'd taken. I had no doubt that Israel was going to take action. The question was action when and what type of action.
NARRATOR: The Israeli Army reported nerve gas in the debris of one of the missiles. Israelis prepared for the worst.
ROBERT GATES, Deputy National Security Advisor: We knew we had a real problem, at this point, because if Israel got into the war, this was a real break for Saddam. If he provoked the Israelis into attacking him, then the chances of holding the coalition together really became problematical.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister: [in gas mask] I must say that this is the darndest way to conduct an interview.
NARRATOR: Ultimately, none of the eight Scuds that landed proved to have chemical warheads. After some discussion, Baghdad had decided the Israelis might retaliate against a chemical attack with nuclear weapons.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Now, we would like to see that threat removed and we will take the actions that are necessary to remove it. I cannot tell you when. I cannot tell you where.
Gen. WAFIC AL SAMMARAI: [through interpreter] Some of the Scud missiles were loaded with chemical warheads, but they were not used. They were kept hidden throughout the war. We didn't use them because the other side had a deterrent force.
NARRATOR: The man who would decide what happened next was Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. He and George Bush disliked each other and when Bush telephoned him, Shamir angrily told the president that if America couldn't stop the Scuds, the Israeli Air Force would.
MOSHE ARENS: Bush said to Shamir, pleaded with Shamir, tried to cajole Shamir that Israel not take any military action, that this would be injurious to the cause of_ to the allied cause, that in the final analysis, that this would also be injurious to Israel's cause.
RICHARD HAAS, President's Middle East Advisor: This was not a warm and close and fuzzy relationship, but yet, for this one period, they communicated. And maybe because they hadn't been all folksy and friendly, it was almost more real because of it and it was very, very straight, very honest, no flourishes, no frills. But I really think they got through to each other.
YITZHAK SHAMIR, Israeli Prime Minister: I think, in such situations, you have not to play with words. It's not_ it couldn't be a moment of diplomatic discussions and debates. And, well, I explained to him, "It's very difficult, Mr. President. It's very difficult. I don't know what the day of tomorrow will bring, but at this moment, we will act accordingly, accordingly with your concepts."
NARRATOR: Israel became the president's top priority.
Pres. GEORGE BUSH: [January 19, 1991] We're going to be redoubling our efforts in the darnedest search-and-destroy effort that's ever been undertaken in that_ out in that area. And I hope that that is very reassuring to the citizens of Israel.
Gen. NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF: Washington's approach to the Scuds was purely a political approach. My approach was purely a military approach.
As I told you before, I think Scuds are militarily insignificant. I saw one the other day_
NARRATOR: In Riyadh, Schwarzkopf rebelled against the new emphasis on Scuds. He wanted to use his air force to win the war, not placate the Israelis.
Gen. NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF: As you know, the total Scud launches have been_
No one in Israel was ever killed by a Scud missile. They did have some people die as a result of putting their gas masks on wrong, but no one was ever killed as a result of Scud missiles.
RICHARD CHENEY, Secretary of Defense: From my perspective, from the strategic perspective and the president's perspective _ and, obviously, I was doing this with the president's approval _ was it was vital to keep the Israelis out of the conflict and that the way you did that was to make certain that they knew we were doing everything humanly possible to deal with that Scud threat.
Gen. CALVIN WALLER, Deputy Commander in Chief, Coalition Forces: Well, General Schwarzkopf thought that many of these people who had these easy answers about how to solve this Scud problem were a bunch of pointy-headed politicians who had never fought them_ fought their way out of a wet paper bag.
NARRATOR: Cheney overruled Schwarzkopf. Aircraft started to criss-cross 28,000 square miles of desert, looking for perhaps 14 mobile Scud launchers. The pilots couldn't find the launchers or the Iraqi convoys bringing in more missiles.
Gen. NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF: I'm going to have General Glosson come back up here and show you some film that I think will speak for itself.
NARRATOR: Two weeks into the Scud campaign, Schwarzkopf was finally able to show some results.
Gen. BUSTER C. GLOSSON: _let you look into the night sky of Iraq, as we are attacking mobile Scuds. And now the pilot is maneuvering to drop laser-guided bombs on this target. There are a total of 11 vehicles in this area and all of these are already loaded with Scud missiles, as you can see. These have already been fired.
RICK ATKINSON, Author Crusade: Washington, at Langley in Virginia at the CIA headquarters, this was being watched on CNN, as it was everywhere else. And CIA analysts looked at it and they said, "Oh, my God. Those are oil trucks." And elsewhere, there was even a suspicion that they may have been milk trucks. As far as the American public was concerned, they remained Scud launchers. They were never told otherwise.
NARRATOR: But there was another way to hunt Scuds. British Special Forces, the SAS, were operating deep inside Iraq. Schwarzkopf distrusted Special Forces, but the SAS commander had persuaded him to make an exception.
Brig. ANDY MASSEY, Commander, U.K. Special Forces: There had to be people on the ground. The human eye cannot be replaced by technology. We were well armed. We had good strength. We, above all, had the desert as our friend to retreat and hide into. We were told, in very categoric terms, priorities 1 to 10 were Scud, Scud and nothing but Scud.
NARRATOR: For 43 days, the SAS patrolled the Iraqi desert closest to Israel. They called it "the Scud box." This is the only known film of an SAS column. It was taken by the gun camera of an American helicopter flying in to take back a prisoner. Within two days of the SAS arriving, there were no more Scud launches from the Scud box. Columns like this destroyed radar sites, microwave towers and cut communications cables. When they saw a Scud convoy, they attacked it.
Brig. ANDY MASSEY: On the 4th of February, we had a column that encountered a Scud convoy. They knocked out one missile. The engagement then lasted, I think, something about four and a half hours. The young officer eventually called in the F-15s to take on the other targets.
SAS OFFICER: Be aware that they are my friendly forces, eight vehicles total in the open, 500 meters north and west. Your original target was three launchers plus associated vehicles by the burning light.
F-15 PILOT: Bombs away! Bombs away!
NARRATOR: But it was a huge desert and the Iraqis simply moved their mobile launchers far away from the SAS's Scud box.
America had rushed Patriot missiles to Israel and Saudi Arabia to shot down Scuds. In the skies above Tel Aviv and Riyadh, they dueled with the incoming missiles. The Patriots got as close as they could and detonated, filling the air with shrapnel.
The Patriot became a symbol of resistance, damping down the pressure for Israel to join the war.
Pres. GEORGE BUSH: The Patriot is 41 for 42_ 42 Scuds engaged, 41 intercepted! I view it as an honor to be here, to come to Raytheon, the home of the men and women who built the Scud-busters. We're very, very proud of you.
NARRATOR: The Israeli government thought all this was nonsense. The Pentagon was claiming a kill every time a Patriot exploded near a Scud and the Israelis simply didn't believe the American figures.
On the ground in Tel Aviv, experts from the Israeli military analyzed the damage every time a Scud fell to earth. What they discovered was kept top secret so as not to inflame Israeli public opinion.
MOSHE ARENS, Israeli Defense Minister: When I met President Bush in Washington, we got into something of an argument because he was convinced that the Patriots were doing a great job. I told him that, at the very best, the intercept ratio maybe was 20 percent intercept probability. He asked me what I meant by that and I said that maybe out of every 10 Scuds the Patriots tried to intercept, they might succeed with two. But in retrospect, I was overstating the case. I think that probably not a single Scud was intercepted by a Patriot.
RICK ATKINSON: When the Scuds started falling, the Americans didn't realize that they were, in fact, breaking up as they were reentering the atmosphere. The Patriot would see not only the warhead falling, but pieces of fuel tank, pieces of missile that were disintegrating. And the Patriot was designed in such a way that its radar would lock on an incoming object and fire two missiles at that object. Well, that's fine if you see one warhead coming in. It's not so fine if you see six or seven pieces of junk coming in.
NARRATOR: After the war, the Army downgraded the Patriot's overall success rate against Scuds to sixty percent. But that figure was hotly disputed and other studies placed the kill rate much lower. A GAO study of classified military records said the Army really had "high confidence" that twenty five percent of the Scuds were destroyed, but that there was no way to conclusively determine how many targets the Patriots had killed.
RICHARD CHENEY: From my perspective Patriot was an air defense system designed to shoot down aircraft, not missles. We've been able to upgrade it and improve it and it was a miracle that we had anything at all to use against missles. It wasn't perfect, but in fact it did its job. It did its job in the sense that it helped us justify to the Israelis why they had to stay out of the war, that we were doing everything that could be done.
NARRATOR: As the air war continued, the British RAF Tornadoes were taking a beating during bombing raids over Iraqi airfields. The Tornado pilots were trained to fight a war in Europe, to surprise enemy defenses by flying low. But in the desert these tactics left them vulnerable. In the first week four Tornadoes were lost, one quarter of the coalition casualties.
Flight Lt. JOHN PETERS, RAF Pilot: Out there, it was burning blue. I mean, it was probably 8:00 o'clock in the morning, 8:30, and it was blue sky and the visibility was 1,000 miles.
Flight Lt. JOHN NICHOLS, RAF Navigator: We were flying at maybe 60 or 70 feet from the road, 500 or 600 miles an hour. And there's this huge explosion and a flash and the aircraft just_ we_ was hit by a missile.
Flight Lt. JOHN PETERS: Where I had blue above my head, suddenly the desert was above my head and it was just tumbling. I was going, "Eject! Eject!" And John said, "Don't bloody well eject!" And I was going, "Eject!" And eventually, I just grabbed_ we have the swing wing, obviously, in the Tornado and I threw the lever for it and the aircraft righted itself.
Flight Lt. JOHN NICHOLS: I couldn't see the back of the aircraft. All it was was a ball of fire and the fire was spreading its way down the spine of the aircraft towards me.
Flight Lt. JOHN PETERS: And then you say, "This aircraft is going no further" and you go, "Give me the ejection drills," you know.
Flight Lt. JOHN NICHOLS: It's actually half a second between pulling the handle and being thrown clear of the aircraft and that half a second's like a lifetime.
Flight Lt. JOHN PETERS: And then it's as if someone, a huge giant, just grabs you by the shoulders, yanks you up. And I remember my head going forward.
Flight Lt. JOHN NICHOLS: And then there's the crack as the canopy opens and you're left in your parachute and it's deathly silent.
Flight Lt. JOHN PETERS: And then you realize how big the desert is. Then we saw some Iraqis coming towards us.
Gen. COLIN POWELL: You could sense the anxiety and unease throughout the body politic. "Gosh, it's been going on for a week. Why isn't it over? Maybe it's not going well. What are we trying to do?" And we had not been sort of onstage to explain what we were trying to do, so I went up to see Secretary Cheney and said to the secretary, "We've got to do something because this is_ you know, we're starting to lose the public on this one."
SPOKESMAN: The secretary will have a short statement.
RICK ATKINSON: Many of the military commanders involved in Desert Storm believed that the press had been a prime contributor to the loss in Vietnam, that the press, by negative reporting, tended to undermine support for the U.S. military at home.
Gen. COLIN POWELL: [January 23, 1991] Our strategy to go after this army is very, very simple. First we're going to cut it off and then we're going to kill it.
RICK ATKINSON: Powell had a more sophisticated view. He recognized that the media was, for one thing, a very important part of his arsenal because you can win the battle and lose the war through television.
Gen. COLIN POWELL: As a measure of effectiveness of how we're doing in the air campaign, I just pulled these two things out. I've laundered them so you can't really tell what I'm talking about because I don't want the Iraqis to know what I'm talking about. But trust me. Trust me.
NARRATOR: It was a telling moment, an American general saying "Trust me" and getting away with it, a measure of how far the Army had traveled since Vietnam.
Gen. COLIN POWELL: I think it showed that we had reached a point where the American military had gained a level of credibility again with the American people and the press. And although there may have been members of the press who were skeptical about trusting me, the American people, at that point, were willing to trust me.
NARRATOR: A week into the war, the air planners still believed that by bombing Iraq they could deliver a decisive victory. The air campaign was still focused on Iraq's infrastructure rather than on the troops occupying Kuwait. But Saddam was determined to sit out the bombing.
Officially, Saddam was not a target, but the allies launched 260 missions against sites where they thought he might be hiding. Eventually, spies reported Saddam slept in private houses, changing location every night.
Gen. HARRY E. SOYSTER, Director, Defense Intelligence Agency: You can find out, perhaps, where he has been. You can find out even where he is. But what you need to know is where he's going to be because you must mount an attack. And so it's almost an impossible task.
Gen. WAFIC AL SAMMARAI, Iraqi Military Intelligence: [through interpreter] You might find it strange, but the president of the Republic of Iraq was sometimes driven around the city in an old taxi. It's strange, but true. And Saddam also used a lorry to move around the city. These are some of the measures he resorted to.
NARRATOR: The Air Force kept searching. These Iraqi television pictures showing Saddam in an American-made Winnebago launched more missions.
Gen. JOHN LEIDE, Director of Coalition Intelligence: When we saw him sitting in a Winnebago, we went after the Winnebagos with a vengeance and whenever we saw one_ or tried to find one and whenever we saw one, or two or three, we would_ we would attack them as quickly as we possibly could.
Gen. NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF, Commander in Chief, Coalition Forces: The closest we came, we had a report that there was a convoy one night, a very, very large convoy moving down a road. We then attacked that convoy and it's my understanding that we hit the vehicle in front of his and the vehicle behind his and killed the bodyguards in it and_ and didn't touch him.
NARRATOR: [January 25, 1991] A week into the air war, Iraqi troops opened a Kuwait pipeline that flooded the Gulf with oil. The oil endangered the desalination plants that provided Saudi Arabia with drinking water. But the plants continued to work and a bombing raid cut the flow of oil. Saddam was already planning a bigger move.
BERNARD TRAINOR, Author The Generals' War: His strategy, of course, was to bleed the Americans and cause an outrage in the United States and a reaction which would lead to a negotiated settlement of the war. Well, he had to have Americans to bleed, but there were no Americans bleeding. So he hurried up his_ his time schedule by, "If they won't attack us, we'll attack them."
NARRATOR: Saddam ordered his forces to attack a Saudi border down called Khafji.
Gen. WAFIC AL SAMMARAI: [through interpreter] Saddam said, "Capture for me 4,000 or 5,000 American, English and French troops and we'll use them as human shields. We will tie them to our tanks and overrun the Saudi oil wells. If we do this, the allied jets won't attack."
NARRATOR: [January 28, 1991] That evening, U.S. Marines sent an unmanned spy plane on a routine flight over southern Kuwait.
1st TECHNICIAN: What do we have over here? Let's see what they are. Man, this is something. Whatever they're towing, it's got four wheels on it.
2nd TECHNICIAN: I don't see any tubes coming out. A.A. perhaps?
NARRATOR: As the drone beamed back television pictures of the Iraqi advance, Marine helicopter pilots waited for orders to attack, but the orders didn't come.
Maj. RANDY HAMMOND, Marine Helicopter Pilot: We'd been on the land line back to our wing headquarters to let them know what was going on and we started_ you know, a million and one scenarios began running through our minds on, you know, why in the world would they not be letting us launch on these vehicles?
1st TECHNICIAN: Guess what? Closer, closer. And 22:53 hours. They've crossed the border.
2nd TECHNICIAN: They've crossed.
1st TECHNICIAN: They're in Saudi Arabia. King Fahd's going to be pissed. Fahd baby's going to be pissed.
2nd TECHNICIAN: He's_ he's going to be hot.
NARRATOR: For an hour and a half, the Marines waited for the air strikes to begin. But at Air Force headquarters, they were concentrating on their strategic campaign. At first, they simply didn't see the importance of the Iraqi advance.
1st TECHNICIAN: Where's our air? This is ridiculous.
2nd TECHNICIAN: Friggin' bomber couldn't ask for any better target than that.
Gen. BUSTER C. GLOSSON, Commander, Strategic Bombing Campaign: Why was the Iraqi advance not stopped prior to Khafji? A very straightforward, simple question deserves a very straightforward, simple answer. It was not the Air Force's best day.
NARRATOR: But the Iraqis, too, had miscalculated. Khafji had been evacuated. The only people there were two Marine reconnaissance patrols hidden in the town.
Sgt. LAWRENCE LENTZ, U.S. Marines: I got the team together and I said, "We've been practicing for, some of us, five years to play in the big game and now here we all of a sudden get a chance. I think we ought to stay." And they agreed.
Corp. CHUCK INGRAHAM, U.S. Marines.: You're the only people there, yourself and another team of your buddies somewhere else in the city and you know that that's it, the point of no return.
1st GUNNER: Stand by.
2nd GUNNER: A harmless missile. I'll shoot it downrange, take that bad boy out.
NARRATOR: Baghdad announced a great victory at Khafji, but by dawn the next day, American artillery was in position. Hidden on rooftops, the Marines inside the city radioed precise instructions on where to fire.
Corp. CHUCK INGRAHAM: When I finally got artillery fire, it was the best feeling in the world. Everything we called in was what we call "danger close," which simply means that it's so close that the round could actually hit us instead of the enemy.
NARRATOR: Every moment, the Marines in the town expected to be discovered.
Corp. CHUCK INGRAHAM: The Iraqis came very close to capturing us. They were inside of our building for at least a day. You could see their heads down there and, if you wanted to, you could spit on them.
NARRATOR: Two days later, Saudi forces formed up to retake their town. The attack would cost them 19 dead. Perhaps 100 Iraqis died. Meanwhile, air strikes destroyed two Iraqi divisions desperately trying to reach Khafji. North of the town, one survivor recalls thousands of dead and scenes of carnage.
IRAQI SOLDIER: [through interpreter] We were afraid. We could see death all around us. We could see people we had just spoken to, people we knew, people we'd lived with, wounded and dying. There was nothing we could do for them. We couldn't reach them. We couldn't save them or pull them to safety.
NARRATOR: Saddam's terrible defeat at Khafji showed that because of American air power, the Iraqis could not attack and maneuver in the open.
Gen. JOHN LEIDE, Director of Coalition Intelligence: I told General Schwarzkopf, I said, "You know, I hate to say this at this time, but these guys aren't worth a shit and they can't put together_ coordinate an attack above the brigade level." And I hated to say that because, you know, you hate to say something as definitive as that, but I was, at that time, convinced that we could really_ we could really destroy these guys in detail.
BERNARD TRAINOR: The American side, particularly Schwarzkopf, never read the battle properly. They thought this was just kind of a minor excursion on the part of the Iraqis when, in fact, it was a major attempt to start the war. So Schwarzkopf still continued to build his plan on_ on the assumption that the Iraqis were going to stand and fight hard, rather than_ than to retreat. Schwarzkopf should have modified his plan. Well, he never did that.
Gen. WAFIC AL SAMMARAI, Iraqi Military Intelligence: [through interpreter] Saddam became tense and anxious, although he always tried to conceal it. He was restless. It wasn't so much that he cared about the casualties, but they exasperated him.
NARRATOR: Dozens of coalition prisoners, many of them pilots, were being held in Baghdad.
Maj. JEFF TICE, F-15 Pilot: The Iraqis, the guards, put wire around this ear, ran it under my chin, put_ and wrapped it around this ear and obviously hooked it to some sort of electrical device. And they were very interested in having me say something on their camera and I was not interested in telling them anything or saying anything on camera. I had told them quite a bit more than I had wanted to, at this point in time.
IRAQI INTERROGATOR: What was your mission?
Maj. JEFF TICE: So they turned on the juice and what that did was basically drives your jaw together with violent force. All your muscles contract. My nose went to my chest and it felt like a little electronic_ a little lightning bolt hit me right in the forehead. There was a flash. And, again, it was momentary in contact, you know, a second on and, you know, everything contracts in your body. And I started spitting out pieces of teeth.
IRAQI INTERROGATOR: What was your mission?
Maj. JEFF TICE: I'm exhausted, you know? I'm drenched in sweat and urine and everything else and I_ and he finally says, "Look," you know, "we'll let you talk to your wife and children. You probably are interested in"_ you know, now it's very attractive to me and I said, "Okay. I'll make the tape."
IRAQI INTERROGATOR: What was your mission?
Maj. JEFF TICE: I was to attack and blow a refinery near Baghdad.
So I was thrown back in the hallway and I said, "Oh, I can't believe I made the tape!" And this distinct British voice not more than three feet away from me says, "Don't worry, mate. We all made the tape."
Flight Lt. JOHN PETERS, RAF Pilot: They just yanked me up and just karate chopped from a kind of, felt like the heel of the boot just into my knee and I collapsed again and they just pulled me up_ smack! Pulled me up_ smack! Pulled me up_ smack! Pulled me up_ smack! And eventually_ and somewhere in there, whilst they're doing that, they say, "Are you pilot or navigator? Are you pilot or"_ and I eventually_ "Pilot" and it just came out. I couldn't_ I couldn't stop it. And that's when you realize you've broken to the violence. You feel a desperate sense of failure that you've let everyone down.
IRAQI INTERROGATOR: Do you have a message?
Flight Lt. JOHN PETERS: I thought everyone thought that I was a traitor and that everyone would see that I'd failed and that that was the last image my family was going to see of me.
Timmy and Guy, I love you.
Gen. NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF: [January 30, 1991] I'm now going to show you a picture of the luckiest man in Iraq on this particular day. Keep your eye on the crosshairs, right there. Look at here. Right through the crosshairs!
NARRATOR: In Riyadh, the military's carefully screened videos were giving the impression that this was a bloodless war.
Gen. NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF: And now, in his rearview mirror_
BERNARD TRAINOR: The image that we got from the war has reinforced that American attitude that you can fight a clean war from the air with very few friendly casualties and the only being hurt on the enemy side are the enemy soldiers and not the enemy civilians. Wrong. War is a dirty, confusing thing, whether it's from the air or from the ground.
Gen. CHUCK HORNER, Coalition Air Commander: Late in January, we came to the lower part of the list and one of those targets that we hadn't been able to get to before, because it wasn't high priority, was a bunker in the Al Firdos area of Baghdad.
Gen. BUSTER C. GLOSSON, Commander, Strategic Bombing Campaign: The things that we were monitoring, of course, showed some of the leadership people going to this bunker at different times during the night and leaving. And some of the signals they were picking up indicated that things were happening in that bunker. It was not just a place to go sleep. And so that's why it became a military target and that's why we bombed it when we did.
NARRATOR: [February 13, 1991] Two Stealth bombers were assigned to the mission. Days before, a spy inside the Iraqi government had reported Iraqi intelligence was using the bunker.
PETER ARNETT, CNN: We just ran, followed the fire_ firemen in, down a ramp. The heat was terrible. The smell was awful. And it was clear to me, as we got into the main room, that the bodies themselves had been ignited by the_ by the tremendous heat and were just burning in their own fat. And the firemen were just stepping over bodies, as we did.
NARRATOR: The bunker was a public air raid shelter. Two hundred four people, many women and children, were killed. The shelters were the only places in the city with running water and electricity, so each night families gathered in them.
MARLIN FITZWATER, White House Press Secretary: The bunker that was attacked last night was a military target, a command and control center that fed instructions directly to the Iraqi war machine, painted and camouflaged to avoid detection, and well-documented as a military target.
IRAQI MAN: I lose my wife and my children! Is that fair? I can't say anything more.
Gen. CHUCK HORNER: We wondered momentarily if, in fact, there was some sort of a propaganda ploy, that these people were Kurds that Saddam Hussein had murdered and then put in there, things like that. But it was obvious that, in fact, it was being used as an air raid shelter.
NARRATOR: The Pentagon says if it had known about the civilians, the shelter would never have been bombed. But the military has always insisted that a section of Iraq's intelligence service also used this building. Baghdad has always denied it. But Wafic Al Sammarai, now an exile, says the Americans are right.
Gen. WAFIC AL SAMMARAI: [through interpreter] Part of the shelter was used by this intelligence service. There were different groups, but mostly there were people from the technical affairs department. They would often go in and out of the bunker and, on one occasion, Saddam himself visited.
NARRATOR: The Al Firdos disaster brought home the bloody reality of even a high-tech war and created a major public relations problem for the allies.
Gen. COLIN POWELL: I called General Schwarzkopf. We talked about it and I said, "Norm, clearly, we did what we thought was right, but it turned out to be full of civilians. We have got to look at the target list a little more closely and we got to take a look at what it is we're doing in Baghdad itself." We didn't shut down all targets in Baghdad, but I asked questions like, "Why are we bombing the Ba'ath Party headquarters for the eighth time? Do we think there is somebody still in the Ba'ath Party headquarters? Why are we bouncing rubble with million-dollar missiles?"
NARRATOR: The word was passed: Bombing Baghdad now would be the exception, not the rule, and that ended the illusion that air power alone would win this war.
Gen. BUSTER C. GLOSSON: I thought it was a mistake to lift the intensity off of the leadership in Baghdad and I thought it would give them an opportunity to show more mischief and be more involved in what was going on in Kuwait City and down with the land army.
Gen. CALVIN WALLER, Deputy Commander in Chief, Coalition Forces: How much more hitting of strategic targets in Baghdad would have caused Saddam Hussein to move his forces out of the desert? 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.
NARRATOR: In the Saudi desert, half a million American, British, French and Arab troops moved to their final positions. The ground war would begin in 11 days.
ANNOUNCER: Next time, "The Gulf War" continues.
Gen. COLIN POWELL: The ground plan is what scared them all to death.
CHARLES RESTIFO, U.S. Marines: You look left and right and you see mines everywhere.
ANNOUNCER: The war behind enemy lines:
Maj. RHONDA CORNUM: I looked up and I saw five Iraqi guys with their rifles pointed at me. So then I knew I wasn't dead.
Maj. JEFF TICE: The bombs came roaring through that building, picked me up, set me right back down on the floor.
ANNOUNCER: The war between the generals:
Gen. CALVIN WALLER: So I said, "We have not accomplished our mission.
Gen. NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF: I was just damn glad to have the victory in our hands with a minimum loss of casualties.
ANNOUNCER: And the war's ragged end:
MARGARET THATCHER: There is the aggressor, Saddam Hussein, still in power. There is the president of the United States no longer in power. I wonder who won?
ANNOUNCER: Don't miss the compelling conclusion of "The Gulf War", next time on FRONTLINE.
ANNOUNCER: There is more on "The Gulf War" at FRONTLINE online. Check out our web exclusive debate on Gulf War Syndrome and the Pentagon's response to charges of cover-up. You'll also find an extensive oral history of the war, more first-hand accounts from airmen and soldiers, find out more about the weapons and technology used for the first time and lots more at www.pbs.org. And please let us know what you thought about the program [firstname.lastname@example.org, 617.254.0243, Dear FRONTLINE, 125 Western Avenue, Boston, MA 02134].
THE GULF WAR
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