the gulf war
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Q: What do we know about how many Iraqis soldiers were actually killed? What's the best estimate?

Trainor: They've been all sorts of estimates of Iraqis casualties run by a lower ranked D.I.A. officer that put it at something like 100,000. But it was nothing like that. We don't know the exact number but I think you have to distinguish between the Iraqis in Iraq and those were mostly civilians and there I think they were relatively few killed in Iraq. Saddam Hussein puts the figure at about 3,000. That may be correct, although I think that that's probably a little high, given the type of targets we were going after and the accuracy. Within the theater, I don't think anybody really has a feel for that. The air campaign was not going after the Iraqi soldiers. The air campaign that preceded the ground attack was going after equipment and stores and supplies and the soldiers were pretty much smart enough to stay away from their equipment and supplies so that they weren't killed and then the ground attack went in so very, very quickly that the the casualty rate had to be low. We had all sorts of medical facilities there to take care of of the wounded and they received very few wounded, either American or Iraqi. So, while I can't put a figure on on the number of casualties, it certainly --for the size of the war and the size of the numbers of troops on both sides involved--probably broke the Guinness Book of Records on minor casualties.

Q: There was a flap about burying the Iraqis in their trenches. What really happened?

Trainor: When the 1st Mechanized Infantry Division went into the attack, of course the essence was speed, move fast, move fast. If you're going to run into enemy, you know, bypass them, kill them,get moving, but don't slow down for anything. So when they went forward they came across a trench line where a lot of Iraqis surrendered and a lot of Iraqis did not surrender. So in keeping with their philosophy of attacking fast, they simply sent a bulldozer and bulldozed over the trench line and buried some 150 Iraqi soldiers in there who refused to surrender. Well this made the press as though it was unprecedented and it was terrible. But I don't know that there's much difference between how you die whether you're shot with a bullet or suffocated in a trench line and it certainly wasn't unprecedented. Most of the Japanese in Iwo Jima who were killed were simply buried within the bunkers and tunnels that they were occupying. It's been done in all wars, this is nothing unusual. But Americans have become so out of touch with the unusual, the brutal nature of warfare they saw that this as being something that was out of the ordinary, when in wartime it's very much part of the ordinary.

Q: Powell's reaction to the highway of death....explain it. Was it an overreaction?

Trainor: Powell was the military advisor to the President. In a moment expected, he would give his advice based on military merit . But, when he recommended the end of the war, he recommended it less on a military basis than on a political one. For him, the military campaign had become irrelevant, we had pretty much shown that we had beaten the Iraqis. What concerned him now was the political fall out from what was perceived as us beating to death the Iraqis who were innocently trying to escape the guns--the so-called highway of death where television pictures and news pictures showed this long line of destroyed vehicles and presumably a lot of dead Iraqis soldiers in there. So he felt that that would tarnish the image of the great American victory and it was largely a public relations basis that he recommended to the President that we bring the war to a close when we did.

Was it an overreaction? I think in retrospect it certainly was an overreaction. Most of what existed on the so-called highway of death were stolen goods and stolen vehicles from Kuwait city. There were very few Iraqi solders that were found amongst the wreckage. Most of them when the bombing started were smart enough to jump out of their stolen vehicles and run into the safety of the desert so the highway of death was the highway of death for vehicles, washing machines and stolen television sets, but it really wasn't the highway of death for Iraqi solders.


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