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oral history: charles horner

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Interview with General Charles Horner, Commander of the U.S. Ninth Air Force
We didn't know how they intended to dispense it - again if they'd put it in a Scud it probably wouldn't have been very good because the Scud comes in so fast you can't fuse it so you can't get it to disperse, it'd just go in the bottom of the crater. You could put it in artillery shells but it's not really good against troops in the field because they just get sick, they don't die, and I mean it takes 'em two weeks to get sick sometimes. So it's really a terrorist weapon and it's best dispensed by a fog or a thing like you use to kill mosquitos. So we knew he had 'em, we didn't know how he was going to use 'em, but we wanted to strike them because we didn't want him to have the option of using 'em.

The problem with striking 'em is when you put a bomb in you get an explosion ..The problem with striking biological weapons storage areas is when you put the bomb into the storage area, you get an explosion and you get debris and you release these spores. Well, there were several scientific studies that said if we attack those sites, every living person on the Saudi Arabian peninsula would have been killed - we had a white paper from England and a white paper from the United States that said that, concerned scientists. I shared their concerns but I thought their studies were a little bit Draconian. So, I was sitting in my office and in walked an army major, a biological warfare guy - I don't know where he came from, God must have sent him, and he said to me, he says I understand you're worried about hitting biological weapon sites and I says, I sure am, and he says, well let me tell you something, you're exposed to anthrax every day of your life. I said, you are, and he said of course you are, he says the only way you die from anthrax is if you get too much - if you kiss a sick sheep, is what he said.

I thought, this guy's weird, but I listened to him - the next thing he talked about is he says there's a bunch of studies that says that these spores will be evenly distributed, he says they won't be, if you set off an explosion they're all going to blow down wind, so pick a time to do your attack when there's no wind. He said, the other thing is sunlight kills them and chlorinated water kills them 100%, so he says the idea they're going to get in the water system and kill everybody, he says, it's nonsense, and what you want to do is attack the site early in the morning so you get maximum sunlight on the site and kill as much of 'em as you possibly can.

I gave that briefing to the Secretary of Defence, he okayed the strikes because we were more concerned about them using them on us than using on them, but we were still very concerned about fall-out and I think the telling argument came is when we were discussing this and we said, there has to be a penalty to a country that would build and store these horrible weapons, so maybe if some people are killed, no matter how bad that is, it sends the right signal to anybody that would build biological weapons. We struck 'em and to the best of my knowledge there was nobody died from the fall-out from those attacks.

Q: When you turned up there, how worried were you that the Iraqis might come steaming over the border?

Horner: The problem we faced initially in the war was the unknown of what the Iraqi army was going to continue to do, were they going to come across the border or not. We couldn't really worry about what they thought they were going to do, we had to worry about what they were capable of doing, so our plans right from the very start was how do we stop an invasion, given the force we had that given night, and of course the force built as we went on, but I can tell you this, those first few nights were pretty strenuous, we didn't have very much to stop 'em.

Q: You were ready from the regard if they came?

Horner: The plan, the technical plan we had for the forces was to attack the supplies for the attacking army, slow 'em down that way, and meanwhile we kept a full tank of gas in all... of our cars and we were ready to go to Jeddah.

Q: When did you start to feel comfortable with what you had out there?

Horner: I think the turning point in Desert Shield with regard to the ability to stop an Iraqi invasion was when the 24th Infantry Division arrived with their heavy equipment, their tanks, and then we had a capability of fighting in place. Up to then we had light troops, the 2nd Airborne, the Saudis national guard, and quite frankly they'd have been speed bumps to the attacking Iraqi army.

Q: Were you confident you could have stopped the Iraqis if they'd come?

Horner: The way we would have handled an initial invasion of Saudi Arabia was we would have harassed 'em, we would have fought, but no decisive battles because our forces would have been chewed up, and eventually they're going to overrun their lines of supply and I thought initially if we could hold 'em ... about the border with .....or the border with the UAE in the west, there's some high terrain in the middle of Saudi Arabia that would have slowed 'em down, that would have been pretty good, and then we were pretty confident that we could hold 'em say in Dharhran area when we got the 24th I.D.

Q: I got the impression in terms of planning instant thunder...

Horner: When Schwarzkopf told me he was going to develop a strategic air campaign plan with the joint staff in Washington, in Jeddah, when he left me there and went back to the States, I was concerned because in Vietnam the targets were picked in Washington and it's one of those Vietnam lessons that's engrained in all of us, the fact you don't pick the targets outside the theatre, that's not the way to do it, and so I was concerned about that - fortunately he was also concerned about it and when the instant thunder plan was built by John Warden... they came over and briefed us, and we took it and made an air campaign out of it, there to start.

Q: And the other thing about this campaign was that in Vietnam, rolling thunder, escalation, lots of little rules, you can't do this unless they fire at you, all that was out the window?

Horner: I think to understand the successes... I think to understand the success of Desert Storm, you have to study Vietnam. That's where the lessons were learned - you don't learn from success, you learn from failure, and we had plenty of failure in Vietnam to study, things like gradualism, things like not fighting a war decisively, things like not fully understanding the political goals and limiting those goals within military operations to the things the military can achieve. The military can't achieve all things, there's only certain things it can achieve and you need to understand what they are.

Q: So clear goals, overwhelming force, clear objectives, just sum it up for me, what was different this time?

Horner: I think the things that we had were we had excellent political goals the President and the coalition leaders had laid down, get the Iraqi army out of Kuwait, cripple the nuclear, biological, chemical capabilities while you're at it - we were not given the goal of fixing Iraq, we couldn't fix it militarily, so in other words we had political goals that were achievable militarily. Other things were we didn't worry about the press per se, people said oh you managed the press, we didn't, we told 'em the truth and we held from 'em those things that we weren't sure of, because we didn't want to get in this .. you know, this escalating idea of what did you do for me today or how successful .. that's why we didn't play the number game. You never heard Schwarzkopf talk about body count, he was adamant, because I mean if you had success A today, then you have to have success B bigger the next day or people become disenchanted.

There were other things, the importance of the coalition - in Vietnam we walked in and sort of said to the Vietnamese, sure guys, stand over here, we're going to save your country. Well, the capital of that country's called Ho Chi Minh City today. This time we went in, we were the guests, there was a host country, primarily Saudi Arabia, although Bahrain, UAE, Qatar and those countries also hosted our forces. But we said, may I, please, thank you, and we worked together, and every member of the coalition was equal, didn't matter whether it was a country with just a few airplanes or a country with a whole air armada, everybody was equal and we sat around the table, we talked to each other as equals, we listened to one another, and the same thing was happening at the political level among the President of the United States and Mrs. Thatcher and then later Majors, and certainly it happened with regard to King Fahd, and all the players were equal.

Q: Was there ever a day you didn't think about Vietnam?

Horner: I don't think there was a day during this war that we didn't touch back and sort of touch those sore points from Vietnam. One of the first casualties in Vietnam was integrity, the people, our generals, it wasn't so much of not telling the truth but when they were faced with impossible situations they tried to make do. In this war we were not about to do that, so I remember one time one of my pilots shot down two airplanes in Iran .. shouldn't have been there, he was chasing them, honest mistake, 22.17.04 the first thing he did was call me and says, boss, we just shot down two in Iran, we knew we weren't supposed to be there, it was an honest mistake .. I said, don't worry about it, just don't do it again, he said got it. I called Schwarzkopf, he called Cheney - now I knew in the Pentagon there'd be somebody who'd say, we need to put a buffer zone up on the border, and so I said .. I sat down with a yellow pad of paper and I started marshalling my arguments about why I didn't want to do that, because it was stupid and but I knew I couldn't succeed, because I knew it would be coming from the Pentagon, some assistant Secretary of Defence... or urban affairs and housing, so what I did is, I sat down and wrote my letter of resignation, right in the height of the air battle, and fortunately the word never came because other people learned from Vietnam as well, to include Secretary Cheney and President Bush.

Q: They let you get on with the job.

Horner: They let the military make the decisions the military should make, they were fully informed on everything, it wasn't a case of the political leadership letting go, the political leadership was always in charge, but they delegated.

Q: When did you have your air campaign ready--the plan?

Horner: The plan to conduct the offensive air campaign came together about late August, early September. In the interim we had a D-Day plan, a defensive campaign, in case the Iraqi army came, and that was appropriate at that time. Then what we did, after we got the offensive air campaign jelled up...put together and got everything lined up, then we folded in the defensive campaign, but again now it was conducting operations against the Iraqi army over in Iraq, not in Saudi Arabia.

Q: On October the 6th actually .. Joe Purvis briefed you guys on the land plan, do you remember sitting there?

Horner: I sat in the room, obviously being the airman in the crowd nobody expected me to speak, but I remember that briefing and the thing that struck me is the plan seemed to go directly at the strength of the Iraqi army, hit 'em where they were in Kuwait, where they were dug in, where they had the fortifications, so I couldn't stand it any longer, I held up my hand, I said, boss, you don't want to hear from me because I'm an 22.19.28 airman, I'm not supposed to know anything about land operations, but I don't like that, and Schwarzkopf said, well you'll like this one better, and he had an alternative that started a flank up the..., it was a little bit of a left hook, but he was not pleased with the land campaign... initially and recommended when the briefing came back to the White House that it not be implemented, that he needed more forces and then he would develop a much better land campaign which .. that's what happened.

Q: But that initial briefing caused a lot of problems, were you aware of all the political flak flying back and forth?

Horner: I'm sure there was a lot of flak back in Washington, I was busy in Riyadh so I really let Washington take care of Washington's problems, I had enough to do at home.

Q: You were convinced by that time you had a really good plan and the Army didn't have to worry too much.

Horner: I think the thing that struck me in those initial briefings on the air campaign plan was really how well it all came together. Now you've got to understand, this particular theatre, this particular enemy, this particular situation, really emphasises the attributes that air brings to the battle. In another situation, say for example today in Yugoslavia, air does not have nearly the importance because of terrain, weather, the nature of the enemy, things of that nature - look at Haiti, I mean offensive air operations in Haiti are out of the question.

Q: Did it ever occur to you not to bomb Iraq? I remember listening to debates at the time saying, well they'll probably only bomb Kuwait because they won't want to bomb Iraq and escalate it, --did it ever occur to you not to?

Horner: Early in the thinking, strategic thinking with regard to this campaign, there were those who wanted to go back to the Vietnam way of doing things, they thought this was acceptable, they said we'll bomb him and that'll make him leave - if we hit Baghdad then we won't have to hit the army - or there was all sorts of theories about using air power. The point I think we came out of Vietnam with was if you're going to fight somebody, if you're going to go to this horrible thing of taking somebody else's life, you'd better do it as viciously as you possibly can and get it over with, that's the only humane thing you can do, that's the only moral thing you can do in this great immoral thing called war, so it never occurred to us to do anything but fight this war just as hard as we possibly could and get it over just as soon as we possibly could with the least amount of loss on both sides.

Q: Can you recall the moment and who told you and how it was told to you that the war was going to happen?

Horner: My wife used to call me over in Riyadh, write me letters and say we're not going to war, are we? Well, I knew in late October that the air campaign plan had been a hit, I knew that the President was facing a lot of problems with regard to Ramadan, the heat of another summer, more than anything else the suffering that the Kuwaiti people trapped in Kuwait were going through with the torture and the rape and the robbery and the murder, so I knew all those factors were present. When he got the U.N. vote through late November, I knew then we were going to go to war, and if you go back and look at the tapes, newsreel tapes of President Bush, he says exactly what he was going to do - it was just people didn't believe it. I told my wife in those letters, I'd say, listen to the President, he's telling you the truth, and it was.

Q: But when did General Schwarzkopf or whoever, when did they actually say to you, okay, it's happening?

Horner: The .. physical fact that we were going to war, I signed an order for the air war about 3 days before the war.

Q: Take me through how that happened, I mean how were you told that you could sign it?

Horner: In late December, Secretary Cheney and Colin Powell came over and we sort of gave them the final briefing, this is what we plan to do, we talked at length about things like bombing biological storage areas, things of this nature. That decision .. at that point then they went back and we knew then we were going to go to war. When the Congress approved it, that really kind of sealed it, that took care of the one remaining loose end that we had on the U.S. side. Each of the coalition nations had to decide whether they were going to take part in the operations and all but one came in right away, that one country waited and came in the next night, so politically we were in January .. early January, we were together on this. Then the question is when do you start the war and the guidance was Schwarzkopf picks the date, Schwarzkopf turned to me and he said, Chuck, the air's starting it, when do you want to do it, so what we did quite frankly is .. he said, it just has to be as soon after the 15th as possible, that was the only guidance, and we took a look and of course the leading edge attack was going to be those Stealth airplanes, so we used the moon phase, the least amount of moonlight would benefit the survivability of the Stealth aircraft and that's how we picked the time for starting the war.

Q: How did the date get picked for the beginning of the air war...?

Horner: The President had given General Schwarzkopf the responsibility for picking the date. General Schwarzkopf turned to me and said, Chuck, it's going to be an air operation, what time do you want to start, so .. and the only guidance was the President had told Schwarzkopf, start it as soon after January 15th as you possibly can. So the thing we looked at is what's starting the war and of course it's the F117s penetrating Iraq and so the criteria we used is when is the least amount of moonlight and that's the time we picked, the 17th in Saudi Arabia, the 16th back here in the United States, was the time we picked to start the war because it enhanced the survivability of the F117s.

Q: How did you come to set the date?

Horner: The way we set the date of starting the war, the President had told Schwarzkopf to pick the date, just make it as soon as possible after the 15th of January. Schwarzkopf turned to me and he said, Chuck, it's an air campaign, you pick the date, so what we did is we looked at the weather and the moon and we were concerned about the Stealth bombers so the moon was the least during ..

Q: How did you come to set the date?

Horner: The President had told Schwarzkopf, you pick the date, just make it as soon after the 15th of January as possible. Schwarzkopf turned to me and said, Chuck, it's an air campaign starting it off, you pick the time and the place, and I said, well, I was worried about the Stealth bombers flying over Baghdad and of course the darker the night the more survivable they are, so we picked the time based on when the least amount of moonlight was present and that's how we picked the 17th, the morning of the 17th, that was the lowest moon phase during the month of January.

Q: Just before we go on to what happened that first night, do you remember when Schwarzkopf gathered with all his army generals, mid-November, you were there, can you describe that to me? I'm told he was there with his blackboard covered with a black cloth ...

Horner: The first time we really all got together, land, sea and air, down to beyond just the component commanders, is we went down to Dharhran and we went to the NCO club down there and General Schwarzkopf had a big board set up and he brought in the VII Corps leaders, Fred Franks and his generals came down. We sat there, he got up and he gave a brief overview of what the air campaign was all about and what it was going to do, and then he talked about the land campaign, and I'll never forget these words, he turned to those guys and he said, if any of you have soldiers when they come here who are not ready to fight and take off and go, don't bring 'em to this war, this one's going to be lightning fast any minute.

Q: Can you recall for me what happened in that briefing?

Horner: General Schwarzkopf brought us all together in November, down in Dharhran, we went into an NCO club mess where the Saudis ate, and he got up and he gave an overall briefing about the air campaign and then he went into what he wanted from the ground commanders and they were principally the ones who were there, Fred Franks was there with all his guys from Germany and of course Gary Luck and the other .. the Marine Corps, and he said something I'll never forget, he talked about the need to attack with great speed and audacity, and he told those commanders, he says, if you have a ground commander, once you start this war the air is going to have them debilitated, if you have anybody there that doesn't want to charge straight ahead, full bore, he said don't bring 'em to this war, and I was really impressed with that.

Q: What did he say about the Republican Guard, do you remember that?

Horner: Of course, one of the main goals that Schwarzkopf always had and I think Powell as well was to get the Republican Guard - he considered them more of a political force almost than a military force. As a result, that was the importance of the left hook, that was the importance of Gary Luck's coming down the road from An Nasiriyah, that was the importance of Barry McCaffrey's tanks getting in amongst 'em and also Freddie Franks wheeling to the right and engaging the ....and the Republican Guards units to the south. I think they did a pretty good job, there are people that say no, but you're never going to get 'em all.

Q: The first night of the air war, what were you trying to achieve?

Horner: The very first night, really the first two or three days of the war ...

Q: What were you trying to do to Iraq that night?

Horner: The first night of the war we wanted to seize control of the air first and foremost, and we also wanted to introduce shock into their entire system - that's why we shut down the electrical grids, first of all it supported hitting the command and control structure, that's why we hit the communications buildings, the sector operation centers, the radars in the airfields, but also we wanted them to feel completely overwhelmed and I think we achieved that.

Q: How formidable was that air defence system?

Horner: The defences around Baghdad were probably the most heavy of any target in the world. Certainly the Kuwaiti theatre operations out there, they had more SAMs and more guns than probably have ever been seen in any combat. They were the most formidable that anybody's ever been up against. Those of you who got to watch the battle from Baghdad or on CNN know what was going up in the air, and remember, for every bullet you saw there were probably eight or ten that were going up that you didn't see.

I think one of the principal differences between this war and Vietnam is in this war the President gave us clear political goals to achieve - kick the Iraqi army out of Kuwait, cripple the nuclear, biological and chemical capabilities. Those goals were militarily achievable, he did not give us goals we couldn't achieve, like fix Iraq, bring democracy to Baghdad, you just can't do that with military forces, and I think that was the difference between Desert Storm and Vietnam, because in Vietnam our goals were less clear and certainly we had things that were not militarily achievable, bring democracy to South Vietnam so to speak.

Q: That first night, how much of a watershed was it in the history of warfare?

Horner: I think the first night of Desert Storm could be considered a watershed in military affairs or warfare because it featured things like the employment of Stealth technology. It was the first time the air campaign was the dominant plan, all the other campaigns were supporting to that plan, and it also featured modern tactics, way of doing business, three-dimensional thinking in the warfare that we hadn't always seen in the past.

Q: What did the first Stealth bomber do with those first bombs?

Horner: The first bombs that fell on Baghdad from an airplane ...

Q: What was the purpose of that mission?

Horner: The first missions to form Desert Storm were fired by an Apache helicopter, army helicopter, against two radar sites on the border of Saudi Arabia. The F117s had already passed overhead, the Tomahawk missiles were already in-bound to their targets in Baghdad, but we wanted to feed in F111s and F15s which are not stealthy, so what we did is we found two radars very close, we used special operations helicopters to guide these Apaches in, they took out those two radars and blew a hole in the Iraqi air surveillance. That increased the survivability odds for those F15s and F111s that went in to hit Scud sites and air operation centres.

Q: And then you had another Stealth drop a bomb on something to do with the air defences, what was that about?

Horner: The primary targets the Stealths hit were the heavily defended targets that supported the command and control for the air defence, the telephone exchange in Baghdad was one of the first targets, a supporting tower, a microwave tower was one of the first targets, also they hit the hardened anti-air defence shelters where they had put one bomb in, dig out the over-burden, and then put a penetrating bomb into the sector operations centres.

Q: And this business with the drones, how did that work?

Horner: One of the things we wanted to do was put fear in the hearts of the SAM operators, so we knew we weren't going to surprise 'em strategically, tactically we may, but we felt that they were going to really be surprised by the Stealth, they probably figured they could shoot it down, so we ran the Stealths and the Tomahawks in, then that woke everybody up, now bombs are going off around the city, so immediately you knew every SAM operator was going to report to work, if he wasn't on his radar already. Then the next thing we did, we gave 'em something they could see, they were unmanned drones, and you know what, they shot down every one of 'em, they reported shooting down .. I think it was 47 and that's how many launched for Baghdad, but also behind those drones, in the air, were these anti-radiation missiles, so the SAM operator, feeling very confident, turns on his radar, lines up that drone, shoots at it and sucks up an anti-radiation missile. We must have been successful because for the rest of the war they shot a lot of SAMs but very seldom did they have the radar guidance to go with them to make 'em work.

Q: When the planes were taking off that night, you were in your headquarters, what were you thinking?

Horner: I think the worst moment of the war for me was the initial moments of the war, because we sat there, 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 - so we have the worry that it's going to be bad, plus I think even more overwhelming was the idea that we were about to embark on an operation where our friends were going to be killed and also we were going to take life, and I don't know of a single soldier or airman or Marine or sailor from any country that doesn't really look back on that and say how can I answer to God for what I've done, and the answer is you can't, you can only ask for forgiveness, and that's the real downer of being part of war, knowing that you're in this situation and you're doing to do these horrible things and you wish it was otherwise and you wish you were some place else.

Q: What were your war games, your computers, telling you that the casualties were going to be that night?

Horner: In preparation for the air campaign, we flew the air tasking order, the whole sorties, out against the Iraqi defences and the results tended to be unbelievable, some of them were very pessimistic and some were very optimistic, it depended on the assumptions going in - the old saying, garbage in, garbage out. For example, one of the computers came out and said the whole war would be over in a week or four days, well, that didn't pass the form of logic that, you know, that it wasn't going to happen. As far as attrition, we've always been suspicious of attrition models because they're always conducted in pure examples, the SAM operator's never afraid, the radar always works, the airplane is always going straight and level, so those attrition models were not very good - some of the estimates we got were hundreds of airplanes, I remember seeing one stage said we'd lose a hundred and something airplanes the first night, I remember Tony Peak, the head of the air force when he briefed President Bush at Camp David in late December or early January, said that he felt we'd lost 175 airplanes. Buster turned to me before the war started, just minutes before the war started, and he said, boss, how many airplanes we going to lose - I took a piece of paper and I wrote 37 on it. I think our actual loss was 41 or 42. Now, I could say I made a really accurate prediction, I thought we were going to lose 37 Air Force airplanes, we didn't lose nearly that many, we lost a total, in all of those causes, all the airplanes, forty something.

Q: What happened when the telephone building was hit?

Horner: When the war started, when the Tomahawk missiles were going into Baghdad, we got word that it was on CNN television, that Bernie Shaw had a microphone out the window of the Al Rashid Hotel, so we knew that he was sending those pictures out via the telephone communications system, satellite. And the telephone building was one of the most important targets and the F117 bomber, Stealth bomber, was supposed to hit it right at 3 minutes after the hour, so I sent one of my officers upstairs to my office where I had a television set, said turn it on and get on the hot line and tell me what happens, and just as the second hand passed through the 12 o'clock position, when that bomb was supposed to hit that building, the fellow upstairs called on the hot line and said Bernie Shaw just went off the air, CNN, the screen went blank, and we knew that we were successful and a whole cheer went up in the tactical air control centre, people started beating each other on the backs and feeling good, so we went from this funeral like environment to suddenly this carnival like environment, and I had to get everybody calmed down because we were in for a long hard flight.

Q: What do you remember about the rest of that night, what were the significant moments for you. When did you realise how low the losses were?

Horner: I think the first we realised that we were in for a much better fight than we initially thought with regard to losing our own aircraft was as the day broke on the first day, the first night, we got through that first night and I think we lost one airplane, an F18 was shot down, probably by a surface to air missile or ground fire, and while I felt very badly about that, you can imagine the relief we also felt in that that was our only loss, and I think that told us that we were going to have a much better time of it than even our wildest imagination.

Q: Do you remember what you said to Buster Glosson or what he said to you at the moment, as you realised, hey, this has gone well?

Horner: I think everybody after that first .. as the morning came, everybody had a sense of relief that it was going to go much better than our worst fears. Now, we shouldn't get confused, we lost a lot of people, I mean and those were not easy days that followed, and we'd go two/three days and not have a loss and we'd start feeling good and then the tragedy .. I'd come in in the morningand we'd lost an A10 or an OV10 or the RAF had lost a Tornado and those were very sobering moments, you realised that war is not fun, it's not a game, it's not anything but something that's horrible.

Q: When people look back at that first night, when the historians look back at the first night, what should they make of it?

Horner: When we seized control of the air, that set the battle, and we seized control of the air that first night - every time the Iraqi interceptor planes, their best defences, took off, it was take off, gear up, blow up, because we had two F15s sitting on every airfield, overhead every airfield, and so we never gave them a chance. In Vietnam, we gave the Vietnamese air force free rein, we didn't attack their airfields, we felt that that would escalate the war. We weren't interested in escalating this war, we were interested in getting this war over with, so it was escalated from the very first moment, as high as we could get it.

Q: And then they started firing the Scuds, how did you first hear that the Scud was being fired?

Horner: We knew we were going to have Scud attacks, in fact as far back as April of '90 when we were preparing for the war game with Schwarzkopf, I talked about Scuds, and we put the Patriot missiles against the critical airports and seaports in order to protect against the Scuds, so we expected to have Scuds shot at us, we also felt that they would shoot them at Israel to try and break up the coalition, to try and bring the Israelis into the war. So when the first Scud came, it wasn't unexpected, we got warning from the satellite that looked down and saw the Scud shooting, and the voice came over the air, we had a woman who sat right down the room from me and she always yelled, Scud alert, I'll always hear those words, all of us will. Immediately everybody started jumping into their chemical warfare gear, I looked over and there was a coalition member whose country had not given him any gear so I just sat there, didn't put mine on, and I thought to myself, if you die from poison gas, you're the dumbest general that ever lived. The Scuds were a problem, we never were able to shut 'em down, we did .. were able to suppress 'em.

Q: You were flying sorties from that first night but Dick Cheney two/three days in, he pounded the table and said, hey, only 30 sorties going out, I want something done. Colin Powell gets on the line to Schwarzkopf, what did Schwarzkopf say to you?

Horner: The Scuds had been first and foremost in our discussions prior to the war, that's why we put two 2000 pound bombs on to every fixed Scud site in the opening moments of the war, but I had promised the Secretary of Defence in our briefings that I would do my utmost to suppress them but I could not guarantee the mobile Scuds wouldn't be able to shoot. I think they shot more than I thought they would, but the point I missed about the whole operation is the terror the Scud induced in the people in Israel, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, it was almost overwhelming, and that's why all the pressure to shut the Scuds down. Militarily they really didn't matter, there was only Scud that really caused big problems, that's the last one fired that killed all the army guys over in Dharhran. My problem then was how do I shut 'em down, they'd wait till the weather was bad, they would hide 'em, they'd bring 'em out, shoot and scoot. We did not have the satellites we needed in order to locate the targets and we didn't have any ballistic missile defences other than the kind that shoot 'em down overhead, so we were in pretty poor shape that way. What we did is we just put more and more sorties - now there was a lot of pressure, I got a lot of phone calls, but we were doing the best we could, we had one half of our F15Es, our most capable night systems with the linear pods on the F15 operating against the western Scuds, and we had almost one half of our F16 linear equipped airplanes, our most capable, the F16 night attackers operating against the eastern, it took an inordinate amount of our effort to try and suppress the Scuds.

Q: But I mean, what sort of phone calls were you getting?

Horner: Well, always .. we knew Scuds were going to be a priority target but as more and more were launched and our efforts to suppress 'em were not as good as they could be, we just had to put more and more effort into it. I'd get phone calls to say what else can you do and I'd say, okay, we'll do this, and I'd just allocate more airplanes.

Q: Who were the phone calls from?

Horner: Generally from Schwarzkopf.

Q: What was he saying?

Horner: The initial impact of the Scud was so immense that General Schwarzkopf was very concerned about it and he would call me and I'd say, well, we're doing this, this and this, and he'd say can you do anything else and so I'd say, sure, I can take airplanes off these targets and put 'em on suppressing Scuds, so that eventually we got to the point where we kept airplanes overhead the Scud launch areas 24 hours a day for all practical purposes. Of course the only time they launched was at night and when there was bad weather, but we just had to do those kinds of things in order to suppress the Scuds - we got 'em down to where they weren't shooting very much.

Q: What else was tried?

Horner: We tried to use the JStars to find the Scuds, that's the radar airplanes like AWACs, only it looks at targets on the ground, it can see movers, and it's a very high resolution radar so it can tell the difference between a tank and a truck. The problem is, the area is huge out there and we were taking a very valuable asset and getting very little return out of it, when we wanted to use it to locate the Iraqi army, so our initial attempts to use the JStars radar airplane to locate the mobile Scuds met with no success because quite frankly they weren't moving, but it was just a waste of that asset. The best thing that we did to suppress the Scuds was when we started putting Sir Peter de la Billiere's Special Air Service guys on the ground and they would go into Iraq and occasionally they'd see a Scud coming on the highway, they'd follow it and then call on the radio to the F15s overhead - unfortunately the weather was always bad so they were bombing on radar and things like that and I don't know whether we ever got a Scud or not.

Q: They were a big problem in the end, if you look at the successful weapons.

Horner: If you want to learn lessons from warfare, look to failures, and our in ability to stop the Iraqis from launching ballistic missiles certainly could be considered a failure. That is a lesson that's not going to be lost on other people and that's why it's so important that we develop the satellites we need to locate accurately launch sites, that's why we need to develop ballistic missile defences, not to shoot 'em down over your own room but to shoot 'em down over the enemy territory, because next time they're not going to have high explosive warheads, they're going to have chemicals and biological warheads.

Q: What would you have done if they started to fire Scuds with chemical weapons?

Horner: There's a lot of speculation about what our reaction would have been if the Iraqis had used chemical weapons on their Scuds. Now from the very start, I said they would not do that. The reason they wouldn't do it had nothing to do with Saddam Hussein being a good guy, it's the technical problem - how do you fuse a Scud warhead to dispense the chemical, it's got to go off precisely. We have never been able to solve that problem and I didn't think if we couldn't that the Iraqis could, and so I didn't feel that they'd ever use chemical weapons and if they did all you'd have is a crater with a bunch of goo in the bottom of it, if you'd eaten a piece of it you'd have died.

Q: Did you ever think of dropping a few tactical nuclear weapons over in that desert there?

Horner: People have asked me did I ever think about using nuclear weapons .. .. you could use nuclear weapons but for what targets? The nuclear weapon's only good against cities, it's not any good against troops in the desert, I mean it takes too many of 'em, so the problem you have is, you have a war where if you kill a lot of people, particularly women and children, you lose the war no matter what happens on the battlefield, and you want to use a nuclear weapon, nuclear weapons are useless to except to deter a rational enemy. The Cold War, the nuclear weapons worked, deterring the United States and Russia from attacking each other. In terms of real war they're not going to deter anybody except .. they're not going to be useful to anybody except a madman.

Q: But you could have put them out there in the desert, there was no-one out there and it would have solved the Scud problem.

Horner: No it wouldn't have solved a thing on the Scud problem.

Q: Why's that?

Horner: Well, it would [have] blown a big hole in the desert so the guy driving the Scud had to go, say oops, there's a nuclear crater there and turn .. nukes are .. nukes are useless, I mean you can get rid of all of 'em, zero nukes.

One of the major lessons of Desert Storm is the fact that it's about the new world, it's not about the Cold War world, it's about how useless nuclear weapons are except to people who have no conscience, and one of the principal targets that we had was the nuclear weapons capability of Iraq, the counter proliferation effort that's going to characterise military operations in the future. What is the real critical crisis in the world today? North Korea building nuclear weapons, concern about India and Pakistan having nuclear weapons, concern about Israel having nuclear weapons - this is the new warfare, the counter proliferation war against nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction.

Q: How did you come to decide to start to hit the biological warfare targets ?

Horner: One of the thorniest problems we had in targeting, and discussed in great detail, was the biological warfare, storage areas - we knew they were storing anthrax and botulism. We didn't know how they intended to dispense it - again if they'd put it in a Scud it probably wouldn't have been very good because the Scud comes in so fast you can't fuse it so you can't get it to disperse, it'd just go in the bottom of the crater. You could put it in artillery shells but it's not really good against troops in the field because they just get sick, they don't die, and I mean it takes 'em two weeks to get sick sometimes. So it's really a terrorist weapon and it's best dispensed by a fog or a thing like you use to kill mosquitos. So we knew he had 'em, we didn't know how he was going to use 'em, but we wanted to strike them because we didn't want him to have the option of using 'em.

The problem with striking 'em is when you put a bomb in you get an explosion ..The problem with striking biological weapons storage areas is when you put the bomb into the storage area, you get an explosion and you get debris and you release these spores. Well, there were several scientific studies that said if we attack those sites, every living person on the Saudi Arabian peninsula would have been killed - we had a white paper from England and a white paper from the United States that said that, concerned scientists. I shared their concerns but I thought their studies were a little bit Draconian. So, I was sitting in my office and in walked an army major, a biological warfare guy - I don't know where he came from, God must have sent him, and he said to me, he says I understand you're worried about hitting biological weapon sites and I says, I sure am, and he says, well let me tell you something, you're exposed to anthrax every day of your life. I said, you are, and he said of course you are, he says the only way you die from anthrax is if you get too much - if you kiss a sick sheep, is what he said.

I thought, this guy's weird, but I listened to him - the next thing he talked about is he says there's a bunch of studies that says that these spores will be evenly distributed, he says they won't be, if you set off an explosion they're all going to blow down wind, so pick a time to do your attack when there's no wind. He said, the other thing is sunlight kills them and chlorinated water kills them 100%, so he says the idea they're going to get in the water system and kill everybody, he says, it's nonsense, and what you want to do is attack the site early in the morning so you get maximum sunlight on the site and kill as much of 'em as you possibly can.

I gave that briefing to the Secretary of Defence, he okayed the strikes because we were more concerned about them using them on us than using on them, but we were still very concerned about fall-out and I think the telling argument came is when we were discussing this and we said, there has to be a penalty to a country that would build and store these horrible weapons, so maybe if some people are killed, no matter how bad that is, it sends the right signal to anybody that would build biological weapons. We struck 'em and to the best of my knowledge there was nobody died from the fall-out from those attacks.

Q: Did it give you nightmares, was it something you worried about when the first couple happened?

Horner: I never really had any emotional problems with the war other than this knowledge that we were involved in this business of killing people, how you kill somebody, really it doesn't matter. I remember during Vietnam people didn't like napalm - well, that's a pretty horrible way to die but any way you die is pretty horrible normally, so I'm pretty anti-war and I don't have any particular dreaders on what's a cleaner way to kill somebody.

Q: But you weren't having a nightmare that by dropping a bomb on one of these BW sites you were going to wipe out the Gulf?

Horner: No, because I knew that wasn't going to happen.

Q: Hunting Saddam, what was the philosophy here, you wanted to get him, didn't you?

Horner: I don't think any of us would have lost any sleep if Saddam Hussein had been killed in this war. As a matter of policy we were not trying to assassinate him but we dropped bombs on every place that he should have been at work. Now that's .. you know, we're getting kind of fancy with words but in reality that's the truth of the matter. Would have killing Saddam Hussein solved the problems in Iraq, I think the answer to that is flat out no, it's like the Mafia, they've got a head gangster, they kill him, another 23-30-48 gangsters going to take over. You'd have to just pull the entire Ba'th party out of power, you'd have to get rid of all the Republican Guards, all the secret police, and it's just not fixable, the society out there has been corrupted, so whether we killed Saddam Hussein or not really to me was not a big issue.

Q: Tell me the story about the Winnebago stuff, how did all that happen? Tom Lennon was telling me he dropped some bombs on them.

Horner: Now, wherever Saddam Hussein was the central command and control target, so you see we weren't targeting Saddam Hussein, we were targeting the central command and control - again it's getting fancy with words but nonetheless it's important. Now we also knew that he had a series of these self-contained motor homes, we call 'em Winnebagos and they used 'em as mobile command posts, they had communications and he could sleep and eat and drive round and they were air-conditioned, the whole thing. One night we got word that Intel had just located one of these Winnebagos parked next to one of these hardened bunkers and so we diverted the F111s fromTom Lennon's guys, on to those targets, and they struck it. I don't know who the general was that borrowed one of Saddam Hussein's Winnebagos but I'm sure he regretted it!

Q: ...We shouldn't have pulled any punches, they've got tactical nuclear weapons, the Republican Guard are parked in the desert, why not use them to take them out?

Horner: American people, in particular, like simple answers to complex problems and one of the answers might be why don't you just nuke 'em? Well the answer to that is you've got to study weapons effects and what can happen, it would take a lot of nuclear weapons to get one tank division and I don't think the American people are going to stand for two/three hundred nuclear weapons going off in the desert, plus the fact you get 'em more efficiently by using laser guided bombs, so nuclear weapons are only good against cities and they're only good against civilian populations.

Q: The Winnebago missions, we talked about those, did you ever find out that you got close to him?

Horner: There is a story that came through intelligence that Saddam Hussein was nearly killed one night when he was in his Winnobago truck in a part of a convoy and the A10s attacked the convoy - they got several other vehicles but they didn't get that vehicle. I guess those guys feel pretty badly about their close miss, but they did a good job.

Q: At the end of the war, did you know where Saddam Hussein was?

Horner: Towards the end of the war we had good intelligence as to where he was hiding. He was in a residential .. he was in a bunker under a residential area in Baghdad. We did not attack it because it was in a residential area.

Q: You could have attacked it?

Horner: We could have attacked that bunker, there's no way of knowing that we would get him and it was certainly that we were going to wreak a lot of havoc among the residential area of Baghdad.

Q: The good old B52 .. Remember when Schwarzkopf came to inspect your plans and he saw you hadn't put any B52s ......

Horner:That's not true. About two nights before the war started, General Schwarzkopf came down to the headquarters - we were all excited because we were very proud of what we'd done. He got in the first room and he noticed that there was like six or eight B52 sorties against the Republican Guards and he said, I thought there were more than that, and we said no, that's the way it's been all along, and he became quite excited about that - some people say he lost his temper, I won't, he threatened to fire me and I said that's his privilege, so what we did is we went upstairs and we got out the briefing that he'd received innumerable times and the numbers were there all along. Now obviously he'd misunderstood something I'd said or some briefing he'd gotten, but the facts were on the briefing charts and he acknowledged that, and the next day he called me up and apologized and wished us well.

Q: Khafji. How did you hear they were attacking, what did you do?

Horner: The most significant ground battle in the whole Gulf War was probably the attack on Khafji. We'd heard that they were planning something, we knew that one of their top armour commanders, III Corps commander, was involved in getting ready to do something and in fact we'd bombed a meeting, one of his staff meetings, we'd gotten word from the Kuwaiti resistance that he was having. We really didn't know what was going on exactly until the first elements came into the town of Khafji, which is over on the coast in the northern area, command area of the Saudi army. What we did then is of course we started putting more air over there but again it was just a few elements and it was night-time, we were in the dark, and there were other Iraqis out in the desert that we didn't know about because there was nothing out there for them to run into.

The first real good information we had came from two different sources, one was a Marine unmanned drone aircraft that went up and took pictures at night and we saw all these APCs, these armoured personnel carriers, that were parked on the burn between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, that's the closest they'd ever gotten. Another thing that happened is we then put a B52 strike in, we called it the Kuwaiti national force, it was an area of south central Kuwait where some trees had been planted in an experimental way to try and hold the desert, make the desert green, and the 52 strike went in and then we put A10s and the A10s on their infrared maverick missiles brought back pictures of hundreds of vehicles and what was interesting is the A10s got so they'd go down, if they saw the Iraqi soldiers getting out of the vehicle and running away from it, they'd go to one that was moving, so they got the guys that weren't afraid and wanted to fight.

What we did then is the next two days we poured literally hundreds of sorties in on that area. Most of the battle of Khafji occurred in Kuwait, on the road from Kuwait City to the town of Khafji in Saudi Arabia, that's where we got most of the Iraqi armor, the Iraqi soldiers that were going to the battle - a few did get into Khafji and several tanks got in there, the Saudi Arabian army and the peninsula shield force, the Arab guys who were serving with the Saudis did a marvellous job and defeated that attack and freed the town.

Q: And what about JStars, George Malden was telling me they spotted a convoy of reinforcements coming down as well.

Horner: Critical to all of our operations, particularly the battle of Khafji and then later when the ground war started, was the Joint Stars aircraft, the radar aircraft. It was able to tell us where the Iraqis were moving at night and of course it was a tip-off on Khafji reinforcement and it was also a tip-off when the Iraqi army started to flee.

Q: So do you remember, you had a terminal, were you looking at this convoy setting off or you got a call from someone, how did it work?

Horner: The way the JStars works is you have on board someone who looks at the on board sensors, they're also being processed and sent to ground stations at army headquarters, Schwarzkopf would get 'em. The problem with when you send 'em to the ground stations is it takes too long because first of all the sergeant looks at it and he says, there's something there, so he goes and tells the captain, the captain looks at it and says, I might make major if I go show this to the colonel, he goes and shows it to the colonel and finally it gets up to General Schwarzkopf. One night General Schwarzkopf called me and said, Chuck, there's 30 vehicles on this road, go get 'em, I says you got it, so I called up the AWACs and we diverted a flight over on to that target and when they got there, there was nothing there. I got looking into it, the information Schwarzkopf got was 3 hours old, they were 3 hours out into the desert, so after that whenever he'd call me with a joint stars product I'd always say, yes sir, we'll look into it and if it's there we'll kill it and we'd look into it and in every case it wasn't there, so it's important that you have somebody on board the joint stars aircraft who's empowered to divert airplanes and he works with AWACs or other airplanes, command control airplanes, and that's how you maximise the use of joint stars.

Q: Why was Khafji a watershed?

Horner: The battle of Khafji was a watershed event in several areas. First of all it showed that the Iraqi army was not invincible, second of all it showed that air power could defeat the army before it got to the battle, and third of all it showed that the Saudi army was very very capable and faced with a fight they could get the job done and they did.

The battle of Khafji did validate the idea that air power could be used to defeat the enemy army before it closed with our own ground forces, that it could feed the battle indigestible chunks for our own friendly ground forces. If he had gotten all his divisions that he sent to Khafji into the town of Khafji, it had been a much more difficult problem for the Saudi army to solve, so in that regard Khafji validated what a lot of airmen had been saying for a long time.

Q: What's the most dramatic moment you remember about the Khafji engagement, you personally.

Horner: One of the most serious but yet humorous stories to come out of the war was during the battle of Khafji. Khalid Ibn Sultan, the head of the Islamic forces, Schwarzkopf's counterpart, had gone to the scene of the battle when it was unfolding and Khalid's a good friend and so Ahmed B........., the head of the Saudi air force, and I were sitting side by side in the tactical air control centre and we're watching things unfold and Khalid calls B......... and they talk a minute in Arabic and then B....... says, Chuck, it's Khalid, 01.11.32 and hands me the phone, so I said, Khalid, yeah, he says, Chuck, I need B52s -well one thing you know when a ground guy asks for B52s, he's in trouble, so I said, Khalid, we're sending air, he says, no, he says I need a lot of air, and I said, Khalid, trust me, we're sending air, he said, no, I really need air, I said Khalid, trust me, you're going to get more air than you ever imagined. He says, I am? I said, trust me. And then you know that little devil that lives in all of us, just before he hung up I said, now Khalid, while you're trusting me I want you to remember something, you're sitting in a bunker at Khafji, I'm sitting in a bunker in Riyadh, and I hung up!

Q: After Khafji you started to get almost immediately the air campaign altering in nature-- someone got angry with Cruise missiles.

Horner: There was a decision to quit using the Tomahawk after we'd used 'em pretty much in the month of January. The reason is, is because the Tomahawk is expensive, it's an expensive bomb - it also does not have the capability to penetrate hard targets so it has some limitations on what you can use it for. The importance of the Tomahawk was that it gave us a surge capability early in the war to service a lot of time critical targets in a hurry and so quite frankly we quit using 'em when it no longer made sense to use them.

Q: What does that mean, service a lot of time critical targets?

Horner: The importance of the Tomahawk was very early in the war when we had to hit a lot of targets that were time sensitive, you know, if they didn't get 'em they'd move or go away or they posed a very serious threat to our air campaign, so we were able to use the Tomahawk, although it's a very expensive weapon, we were able to use it to hit a lot of targets quickly. After we'd gotten over the hump, in other words gotten control of the air and hit the biological storage areas and hit the nuclear production plants and things like that, then we could scale down our operations into a more businesslike tempo and we didn't need the Tomahawk missile.

Q: Can you talk about the Al Rashid?

Horner: Again one of the humorous points of the war was the fact that we were using the Al Rashid hotel as the final update point for the Tomahawk Cruise missiles and so you saw it come into town and it hit the .. it'd fly over the Rashid hotel, then turn on its final run, because we knew precisely where the Rashid hotel was, so we used that for a final update.

Q: In early February, the army commanders started to get concerned, they said you weren't bombing artillery, that you weren't bombing tanks. How were you first made aware of this?

Horner: Oh dear,there was concern by the ground commanders that the air campaign was not striking the targets they wanted struck. I think those were legitimate concerns, any ground commander wants to get the job done with the least loss of his own troops, but you don't have a ground commander in charge of the air campaign because they don't have a theatre wide look like an airman does. We were all working for Schwarzkopf, we were all going to strike the targets Schwarzkopf wanted hit, so I generally was able to understand their complaints and generally dismiss them because I was hitting the targets Schwarzkopf wanted hit, because you see what the ...... wants to do is win the war. So after the war there were Army guys who said, gee, you should have done this or that or the other thing - well I think the results are in, the election was held and we won.

Q: But Schwarzkopf put Cal Waller in charge of making sure you hit the targets.

Horner: He did not put Cal Waller in charge of .. General Waller, Cal Waller, came over to be Schwarzkopf's deputy. When he arrived there he settled in and was the deputy C-in-C . General Waller's role as the deputy to General Schwarzkopf was to sit in the command center when General Schwarzkopf didn't want to sit there, to work those things that General Schwarzkopf did not want to work. As a result he had a lot of time, because General Schwarzkopf's a very energetic guy. When the criticism from the army was that their targets were not being struck, I went to Cal Waller and said, Cal, look-it, you are in the meeting every night when General Schwarzkopf picks the divisions that we hit with air, so you know how the process works. I'm attempting to bring the five different corps target lists up and make something out of it, why don't you do that, and he agreed to do that, he had the same amount of success I did at holding the concerns of the army corps commanders. The point everybody misses is this, General Schwarzkopf was the land component commander and air was going to go where General Schwarzkopf wanted it to go.

Q: But there are those who say the emphasis on getting front line things bombed meant that the Republic Guard didn't get as much attention...did that happen?

Horner: We put a lot of strikes in on the front line units because those were the immediate concern to the Army Corps commanders, so they appeared often in their requests, because when you're a ground guy you tend to be more concerned about things that are close to you than things that you're going to run into 3 days from now. Unfortunately the Republican Guards were not close to 'em, they were located in the back, to be used as the killing force after our army had used itself up on these throwaway divisions that Saddam Hussein put on the front lines. General Schwarzkopf was concerned about the Republican Guard so when he picked the targets he made a Republican Guard division queen for the day, if you will, so today it would be Medina day, tomorrow would be the ... day, and that's how we conducted our operations.

Q: But there's a lot of Republican Guard left at the end of the war.

Horner: There's a lot of Republican Guard left at the end of the war for several reasons, first of all it was closer to the bug-out routes, the main highway from Al Nasiriyah and Basra. Once they were able to get into Basra, we were not going to attack 'em.

Q: But before that, I mean I suppose what I'm wondering is if they'd been bombed so heavily how come there was so much at the end of the war?

Horner: Well, you can't get it all, there were 42 divisions up there, I mean can you imagine the size of that army? At the end of the war there wasn't much of the Iraqi army left, but there was a lot of Iraqi army left because there was a lot of Iraqi army to start with. If you look at the number of divisions they had, if they were full strength, that would have been half a million men, thousands and thousands of tanks, armoured personnel carriers, artillery, so after six weeks of war we had treated a lot of it and I think that showed up in the results of the ground campaign where about 150 troops were killed defeating 42 divisions - that's unprecedented in warfare. Um .. a lot of people say you didn't get all the Republican Guards and the answer to that is, yes, that's true, but now think about it, first of all the Republican Guards, one division was located in Baghdad, we were never going to strike it. Several divisions were located very close to the interstate highway so they could bug out of the area much easier than the army units who surrendered. Also why we killed a lot of tanks, there were just an awful lot of tanks to kill, so I would say we got a sizeable portion of that army, but that was a huge army.

Q: February the 5th, tank blinking, why was it necessary to come up with that technique, what had been happening earlier?

Horner: As the air war shifted from hitting fixed targets in the Baghdad area and getting control of the air, and that occurred in the first couple of weeks, then those assets were then released to treat the Iraqi army in Kuwait and southern Iraq. Among those assets were the laser guided bombers which had been so effective at taking out key command control modes, the F111s, the F15Es, the F117s. Also at this time we had an awful lot of 500-pound laser guiding kits. Prior to the war, when I'd watched these kits being in storage over there I said to myself, we will never use that many 500-pound laser guided kits - I was wrong, because they turned out to be a superb weapon for killing armoured vehicles in the desert. When an Iraqi would move his armoured vehicle during the day it would get hot, the motor running and the sun soaking up the armour. The tank cooled off slower than the desert around it, so at night they stood out on our infrared sensors like spotlights in the desert, and one bomb, one tank, one bomb, one tank. We called it tank blinking. We'd practised it prior to the war in an exercise we called Desert Camel. When I started reporting these results to Schwarzkopf, he looked at me, and being an old army armour officer, he said, Chuck, you can't call it tank blinking, I order you to not call it tank blinking, that's demeaning to the armour. I said, General Schwarzkopf, you don't know fighter pilots, if I order them to stop calling it tank blinking, it'll go down in history ... it's in history.

Q: Why was it necessary, presumably the strikes against tanks before that had run into problems?

Horner: No .. tank blinking was another way to try and bring efficiency to warfare. We were hitting 'em in the day with maverick missiles and F16s with bombs, but there's nothing that's better on a tank than a 500-pound laser guided bomb, and it gave us the capability to hit a lot of tanks at night and the precision munitions, like the infrared mavericks, like the A10 gun, were all very effective at killing armour, so it was just a case of bringing efficiency to warfare.

Q: The Al Firdos bunker-- can you tell me first of all, why was it bombed?

Horner: Prior to the war we laid out categories of targets - command and control was a vital function, we wanted to isolate the Iraqi army from their leadership, we wanted 'em paralysed, so it's important to hit command and control and that might be cutting a fibre optic cable in the desert, it might be bombing a television station, it might be bombing a communications satellite relay, say. What we did with regard to the command and control facilities, we racked and stacked 'em. The one that was most important was hit the first night. Some of the others that were sort of back-up facilities or capable of being command and control were further down the list, so 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 the bunker in the A area of Baghdad. We put it on the schedule, an F117 went out and dropped two bombs precisely where he was ordered to, the next morning we woke up and on CNN they were carrying hundreds of dead women and children out of that bunker. It was obviously being used as an air raid shelter, we didn't know that, we had no intelligence, certainly we would not have struck it, but on the other hand why did they need an air raid shelter, we were not striking .. they were safer in their homes than they were anywhere near a military target. It was just one of those tragedies of war. After the war people called it a colossal intelligence failure - I bristle at that. War is not .. you don't have 100% of knowledge in war. Now, the other important point was, war is about killing and innocent people are going to die, that's why war should be avoided if at all possible.

Q: What did you feel?

Horner: After the Al Firdos bunker, obviously I think all of us felt very very bad, I felt personally very bad about it. We wondered, you know, momentarily if in fact there was some sort of a propaganda ploy and 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. Obviously from a professional standpoint it was bad because it meant that there would be pressure then not to strike any targets in Baghdad. Fortunately we'd already gotten most of the important targets in Baghdad we knew about, so when the pressure inevitably did come to lay off of targets in Baghdad because of bombing that bunker, it was not of tremendous significance, we'd pretty well done most of the heavy work - we didn't get 'em all because we didn't know about all of 'em, but we got the ones pretty much that we knew about, that we wanted to get, nuclear manufacturing facilities, things of that nature.

Q: Did it matter that you were no longer able to hit Baghdad?

Horner: You've got to keep in mind the important goal we went to achieve in this war was to get the Iraqi army out of Kuwait. The war in Baghdad was important, but we were not there to change regimes in Iraq, so the .. the limitations to our strategic campaign in Baghdad that were imposed as a result of the Al F....... bunker incident, given the fact we'd already gotten all the high priority targets there anyway, it was not that critical. One of the lessons we learned from this war is we didn't do things as well as we should have .. I'll give you an example. One of the targets we wanted to use to discredit the regime was the hated secret police, so we went at it like Americans would go at it, we bombed secret police headquarters in Baghdad. The average guy in Iraq doesn't care about Baghdad and he didn't care about the secret police in Baghdad, he wants us to hit the secret police in his village - that's who we should have been bombing, that would have discredited the secret police in the eyes of the people, that would have weakened Saddam Hussein. We just didn't understand what we were doing in these areas.

Q: Tell me about you sitting in the car ... and discussing where you were on the list of targets.....

Horner: To understand the relative importance of Al Firdos, this might help you understand where it was, it was pretty far down the list of command and control sites, near the bottom, and in fact I recall when Buster and I were in the car driving down to our evening meeting with General Schwarzkopf, where we'd go over the targets we were going to hit two days hence - he and I talked about it and we kind of concluded that we were getting into sort of the marginal targets in the Baghdad area, it was important, it was a valid target, but it wasn't one of the top targets that we had to hit.

Q: So when you later on were told, hey, ease off from Baghdad, you didn't feel too badly.

Horner: That didn't bother me all that much. The air power advocates .. I'm an air power advocate but I'm also a realist, you've got a job to do and you get on with it.

Q: Given that you'd actually discussed it like that, when you saw those pictures, what did you think?

Horner: I think the feelings that hit me personally when I saw the bodies being carried out of the Al F...... bunker was one of sadness, there's no getting around it, extreme sadness, I felt as badly about them as I did about the Kuwaiti women who were being murdered, about our own pilots who were being tortured, things of that nature, but that's war and that's the ugly side of war and I think it's very useful that CNN was there to take those pictures, because it ought to remind everybody how ugly and horrible war is, and I can go back to President Bush at Camp David on the 4th of August and I'll never forget in those discussions, he kept his own counsel, he stayed apart when everybody else was talking about war and what would happen and all that, and then he started asking questions and his questions focused in on casualties, and at first I thought he's talking about Americans, and then I said, no, he's talking about all the possible allies, and then I realised he was talking about not only US and Saudi and people like that, he was talking about Iraqis as well. It's like he understood war and how horrible it is and I guess that came from his time in World War Two. But that set the standard for everything we did, we always looked at how can we minimise the loss of life, it was like President Bush was trying to bring a human, moral aspect to this ugly thing called war.

Q: When did the Iraqis start to bug out to Iran?

Horner: The air campaign was designed to induce shock in the Iraqi air defences, primarily their most effective weapon, their interceptor aircraft, so remember the first night when they'd take off blind, we'd blow 'em out of the sky. They tried that a couple of other nights and found out it didn't work, so then they parked 'em in their aircraft shelters and we started plinking aircraft shelters and you saw the pictures of the bombs going in and the front doors blowing off and the big fireballs rolling out. So now they're in a terrible dilemma, the airplanes that wouldn't fly they would park next to mosques and things they knew we were not going to hit, the ones they could fly, they went to Iraq .. Iran. The first night I thought maybe they were defecting, but then when they went the next night I knew that it was a planned thing because if there had been a defection on the first night, Saddam Hussein would have executed every remaining pilot, he wouldn't have had anybody who could fly 'em out. It was a strategy, I'm told that the Iranians told the Iraqis we will keep your airplanes for you and they did.

Q: Were you told that on good authority?

Horner: I was told it by a friend in South Carolina, who's Iranian.

Q: What did you do about it? Were you happy to see them go to Iran?

Horner: The Iraqi air force going to Iran posed a problem in that it allowed the aircraft to survive. Now, would they be used against us flying out of Iran, we didn't know that, but I felt our air defences were sufficient that it really didn't matter, we'd be able to stop 'em.

Q: February the 8th, Dick Cheney came over, Colin Powell came over for a final briefing, some of your air colleagues felt what's the rush, give us a bit more time, what did you feel?

Horner: In February, Secretary Cheney came over to examine the briefings associated with the ground war, I got up and talk about how we'd do close air support. Many people were afraid that the ground war would be started prematurely and we'd incur casualties as a result of that. Why did we start prematurely, well perhaps people in .. advocates for ground service would say, well what if the Iraqis surrender before we got in the war - it didn't matter what those people thought, General Schwarzkopf was the guy that was going to make that decision, and I knew General Schwarzkopf and one thing General Schwarzkopf was not going to do is needlessly spend the life of a single coalition soldier. Again Vietnam, remember when he served with the Vietnamese and carried that guy through the minefield - those lessons are burned indelibly in all of us and so while people were worried about the premature starting of a ground war before we had the battlefield adequately prepared, you could worry about it but I knew General Schwarzkopf wasn't going to let it happen.

Q: So your message to the politicians that day wasn't give us more time, what was your message?

Horner: The message that day was giving Secretary Cheney and General Powell a full explanation of what each individual Corps, Army Corps commander, planned to do with his forces, to show them in detail that we were organised and prepared to do things appropriately. The issue of an amphibious assault came up and that was briefed and I think in that briefing it was decided that the loss of life, potential for loss of life in that amphibious operation was not worth the benefits that would be gained from doing it. That was probably the only real decision that was taken that was kind of .. up to that point was kind of undecided, the rest of the briefings were pretty standard.

Q: HYou worked with Schwarzkopf very very closely and you talked a little about Vietnam, how concerned was he about casualties?

Horner: To understand General Schwarzkopf I think you have to understand several things. One is, he's extremely intelligent, that's important when an airman's dealing with a ground guy, because he was my boss but he was also my counterpart, he was the ground commander as well as the C-in-C, and so it's natural you're going to have some tensions there. That really never happened because he understood, when I'd explain something, he got it right away and understood it, so that worked very very well. The other thing you have to understand about General Schwarzkopf, he was not going to do anything that would endanger the lives of his troops, he loved his troops, he loved the people that fight on the ground - he loved all of us but particularly the guys who fight on the ground, those are the ones he was going to protect most of all, so I never worried about anybody starting the war, and in fact I had to make sure that our air operations emphasised things that would enhance the survivability of the common soldier because he was the C-in-C and that was his guidance.

Q: Some of the politicians, after that briefing way back in October, thought lacked offensive spirit, he was a General McClellan, was he?

Horner: You could have accused General Schwarzkopf of being a General McClellan but I wouldn't have, in fact I would say he's a little bit closer to Patton than McClellan. You recall after the war there was a lot of talk about conflict between Freddy Franks and General Schwarzkopf, that Freddy hadn't moved out fast enough, things of this nature. I'm not going to get into those details, but I think that if you had to balance you could see where Schwarzkopf is cast more as the aggressive character in that scenario.

Q: Why was there this tension between VII Corps, you were an outside observer, you're an air corps guy, I mean the way it's put to me is 18 Corps were all aggression, VII Corps would be in there to fight the Third World War...

Horner: I'm asked was there a tension between Franks and Schwarzkopf .. but there was a lot of tension among everybody. Schwarzkopf used to chew Garry Luck out about the 82nd Airborne and that probably went back to when the 82nd Airborne got all the glory in Grenada and the beloved 24th Infantry Division didn't, so yes, there was probably some tension between General Franks and General Schwarzkopf but it was nothing out of the ordinary. I think the thing that .. if I could point to anything that bothered General Schwarzkopf is that General Franks was a NATO guy and his training and inclinations were to be very careful because he was up against the Russian army in NATO and he had to have the proper strengths and the proper logistic support and everything. In this war he was going to go after an Iraqi army that had endured 6 weeks of the most horrendous air campaign ever known to mankind and Schwarzkopf knew that and so he looked at the battle differently than Franks looked at it and so perhaps he got impatient from time to time with General Franks with regard to his emphasis on all the details, crossing all the Ts and dotting all the i's.

Q: Did you get the impression there were a lot of generals with a sense of history around at that time?

Horner: I think also to understand General Schwarzkopf you had to understand that he saw this as a moment in history for him - not in a selfish standpoint, but something that he just couldn't make a serious mistake over, he wanted it to be exactly right, and if you understood that, you were very careful how you approached him with a plan, you thought it through, you didn't throw any half-baked ideas on the table, and I think that the Air Force did a good job, or the air campaign did a good job of that.

Q: What about Schwarzkopf's tempers-- counter-productive?

Horner: There was a lot of discussion after the war about General Schwarzkopf's temper. General Schwarzkopf had a temper, I mean that's General Schwarzkopf, he always said, he says I wear my feelings on my sleeve. I will say this, if he blew up he got over it. The bad thing about losing your temper is that it does break down communications with subordinates and probably it had a debilitating effect on many of his staff. You take a guy like Jack Lighty, his intelligence guy, Schwarzkopf would cloud up and rain all over Jack Lighty, Jack Lighty is the toughest little guy around, he'd just take it and the next day he'd come back for more, and of course Jack Lighty now is one of our top intelligence generals, so I think the answer with General Schwarzkopf's temper is if you knew what you were talking about and you stood in his face and told him, you survived - if you didn't know what you were talking about or you took him on when you were wrong, it was not very pretty.

Q: And that's how you coped with him, because people say you and he got along pretty well.

Horner: General Schwarzkopf's temper was well known and one night early in January we had reports of helicopters coming across the border and what happened, we got into this circular reporting where it's kind of like a game where everybody whispers to everybody and the answer comes out exactly the opposite at one end but everybody thought they had the right story, and I spent all night chasing down this information and it turned out that it was all false information, but everybody had a different story. Well, General Schwarzkopf was very confused, the more confused he got the madder he got, because he wanted a straight story, and his staff kept calling up me and says, boy, General Schwarzkopf's going to have your tail, he's going to be so upset, and they were all nervous Nellies and all that - well, I was busy trying to find out what was going on, so at 8 o'clock the phone came and the hot line rang and they'd all warned me, so I picked up the phone and I said, what in the hell do you want? And he said, now Chuck, calm down! The key to understanding General Schwarzkopf was accept the fact that he was very very smart, he cared about the troops and he quite frankly was a hero for those two reasons, if for no other.

Q: Freddy Franks was chasing the Republican Guard ... the Republican Guard were within the bomb-line and they weren't being hit, what was going on?

Horner: One of the problems we had continually through the war was getting what we call the first port co-ordination line, people know it as the bomb-line, the control measure so that air is under very tight positive control so we don't kill friendly forces and you want to keep it out far enough so that you protect, you don't have mistakes, but you went in close enough so that where there are no friendly forces the air can have anything on the ground, had anything on the ground, and you don't have to go through this arduous command and control and positive control and things like that. We had some problems in that the line kept creeping out too far - the Army guy sets it but he has to co-ordinate with the air guy, well a lot of times the army guys forgot about that second step and they'd set the line out there and they thought if they put it way out there they'd get more air. Actually they'd get less air because then the air has to go some place else because there's not enough forward air controllers to manage the strikes.

Q: So just to explain in simple terms, what happened was that putting the bomb-line out there, they'd created a sanctuary for the Republican Guard.

Horner: So the further they put that bomb-line out, the less air you're going to get in that area, which in effect creates a sanctuary for the enemy forces.

Q: I had a description of you at a morning briefing, you were not a happy man.

Horner: I got very upset from time to time, whenever this happened, the reason I was upset is because it was dysfunctional to winning the war. I could understand where the Army guys were coming from, they were busy, they wanted to be important, they wanted to be in charge of something, and setting this line out there was important to them, but they've got to co-ordinate, they need to have a dissenting opinion if it's not right, and often they'd skip that step and eventually I'd just say I'm not going to agree and then they would go back and finally get it put to the right place. The last night of the war, they put it way across the Tigris river - well there were no friendly forces across the Tigris river so if they'd put it right on the river there is no danger of hitting friendly forces and the air could have had anything over in that sanctuary.

Q: So this was the night before the war ended. I mean could I get you to sum this up?

Horner: Well, it's not an easily .. it's a complicated issue, you have to understand the function of first port co-ordination line, you have to understand .. Let me try. One of the problems we had was just in co-ordinating between the ground operations and the air operations. The way we'd do that is we'd put a line on the map and anything short of that line, towards the friendlies, you'd limit what air can do. Anything beyond that, air can hit any target there because it's all enemy. Late in the war that line got way out and in fact what it did is created a sanctuary for the Iraqi army because the air was limited in what they could do, you had to have somebody on the ground making sure that those tanks were in fact not friendly - as a result, probably a lot of the Iraqi army got away because we were unable to hit it.

Q: People weren't thinking about using air power properly.

Horner: It's up to the airman to think about using air power properly, not the ground guy, it's up to the ground guy to worry about the ground guys and we have to educate our forces, train together. What is missing often is trust.

Q: You came in that morning, you saw where the bomb-line was, what did you do?

Horner: I told the battlefield co-ordination element that morning when I looked at where the bomb-line was and said get that changed, it took 'em about an hour and a half.

Q: And were you able to get to work then?

Horner: Well ... yeah, we got it moved but it took a while and it probably .. it meant for about 8 hours we were unable to hit Iraqi army forces ... efficiently.

Q: Were you surprised when the war ended?

Horner: I don't think any of us were surprised when the war ended, I think we were all relieved. A lot of talk after the war about did it end too soon, I think the answer to that is no. People said, well, if you'd just gotten Saddam Hussein, that would have solved the problem. First of all, it wouldn't have solved the problem, and think about it this way, what American or what Saudi or what Kuwaiti life is worth that of Saddam Hussein's .. you're not going to fix Iraq and so did the war end too soon? No, I don't think so.

Q: But hitting the Republican Guard had always been an objective, there it all was, stacked up, ready and waiting, Freddy Franks was going to go encircle it...and you were going to move in......

Horner: A lot of people say, well, you could have destroyed the Republican Guard. Let me tell you something, the Republican Guard after the war was not the same Republican Guard as before the war, so did we destroy it - I think we did. Just recently Saddam Hussein marshalled his troops on the border, people said, oh my word, he's going to invade again - let me tell you something, in the heart of every one of those troops that marshalled on the border was the knowledge if they came across the line they were going to get the hell bombed out of 'em. Were they going to attack? I doubt it.

Q: But the D.I.A. tell me there were two divisions worth of armour stacked up there in the Basra pocket at the end of the war.

Horner: Yeah, they had how many armored divisions they had in the field.

Q: And you were happy to see all that?

Horner: Well I would have loved to have got every one of 'em .. how many American lives more would I spend to get every one of 'em, when do we get to the point of diminishing returns? I'll give you a little story .. after the Gulf War, we created a no fly zone over northern Iraq to protect the Kurds from Iraqi air, the Iraqis moved a surface to air missile site near Mosul which was in violation of our dictates. A friend of mine, Glen Proffer, flew down to meet with the Iraqi commander and tell him to remove that site. The Iraqi commander sat there and told him, first of all we reserve the right in Iraq to put our military forces wherever we think they're needed and he said second of all we reject your demands immediately, but he said can I get a ride in your helicopter, and they got in the car and were going out to the helicopter, the Iraqi looked at him and he said, you must let me save face in public, he said, the SAM site will be gone, we'll deal with the Kurds in our own time but we'll take that SAM site away because we're never going to mess with you people again. Did we get the Republican Guards? They're going to have to grow a whole new generation of Republican Guards to replace what went into battle in August of '90 in Kuwait.

Q: What happened to people who flew low in Vietnam?

Horner: I was on a mission in Vietnam, we went in at low altitude, it was the first SAM strike in history, it was July 26th 1965 - we lost eight airplanes. I learned a lesson that day the hard way .. not only did we lose a bunch of airplanes but we had a bunch of airplanes shot up that came back and the holes, because the airplanes were flying solo, the holes were in the top of the airplane, the bullets going off, shells exploding in the air, punching holes in the top of the airplane. I came away with the conclusion that low level was a non-starter, it just didn't make any sense, and if you think about it, where are most of the defences, most of the defences are people with guns and there's a lot of guns on the battlefield - you don't want to go low altitude, you're giving everybody a shot. The reason people don't want to go at high altitude where they're out of sight of the guy with the gun is they're worried about the surface to air missile, they're worried about the enemy interceptor. Well, what you do is you take care of those right off the bat, with electronic counter-measures, support aircraft and fighters, loud weasels and ......... missiles, you have an air campaign that makes sense, then you don't have to fly in the guns, that's why I was against low altitude is because you lose airplanes needlessly.

Q: You let your guys fly low on the first night.

Horner: What happened is I ordered the Air Force guys that they could not go low level unless they could justify it. Two of the wing commanders came to me and pleaded their case, the 111s and the F15E guys. When you think about it, it's a two-seat airplane where half the crew is dedicated towards navigating to the target - I think that had something to sway their opinion, they didn't know it, but they were receiving the word from their crews they had to fly at low altitude. Both of those systems immediately got out of the low altitude environment after they saw all the bullets going past the canopies.

Q: After the first night, when it came to low flying with the United States Air Force, what happened?

Horner: After the first night, the airplanes that went in at low altitude learned the lesson very quickly and we saw them for the most part come up out of the low altitude environment .. yeah, they might have flown around at low altitude trying to evade radar, acquisition radars, but when they got near a target or near a defended area, they weren't at low altitude.

Q: Because hitting Iraqi targets at low altitude--just take me through it.

Horner: Okay. When you fly at low altitude, you make yourself available to everybody with a gun and a shoulder fired infrared SAM. If you're at medium altitude they can't see you, they can hear you, they can know where you are, but they can't see you enough to shoot. Also the triple A has to predict where you are by the time of flight, if you're very close the time of flight of the bullet is very quick so they don't have to lead you very much, but a high altitude aircraft, when you have a large calibre anti-aircraft gun, it has to figure out where you're going to be way out in time, the time of flight of the bullet, so if you just continue to move they can't do it, you defeat the guns.

Q: What do you think of the courage of pilots who have to fly down a runway in 30 seconds in a straight line?

Horner: There's no doubt about it, probably the bravest pilots in the Gulf War were the R.A.F. They had a munition, the JB 233, which had to be delivered at very low altitude and had to be delivered as they flew down the runway. Those airfields were heavily defended targets. I think it showed up in the losses, they took a lot of losses. Now maybe it wasn't from JB 233s, maybe it wasn't just from low level, but there's no doubt about it, their loss rate was like ten times with some of the other systems. They changed all that, Bill Ratton came in and says we're not going to do this any more, he got 'em up at medium altitude, got Paddy Hine to send some Buccaneers down with the laser guided ...laser designated kits, and the Tornados did good work at medium altitude.

Q: It took them six days. Highway Six, how did you know that they were bogging out of Kuwait City?

Horner: When the Iraqis decided to leave Kuwait City, we got the word in two ways, first of all JSTARS saw it on the radar, flashed the word to us. The other thing that happened was kind of interesting, I was sitting there in the headquarters and we always had a Kuwaiti air officer on duty, a major, and he answered the telephone, he frequently talked to the resistance in Kuwait City via satellite telephone - this time he said, do you want to talk to Kuwait City, I said sure, I picked it up and it was a colonel from the Kuwaiti Air Force who'd been trapped in Kuwait city and he'd been in the resistance all this time. He started to tell me about the Iraqis forming up and fleeing the town. He became so emotionally happy, relieved, overjoyed about his country being free and the terrible oppressors leaving, he started to cry. I'm averse to say it but I started to cry as well, I have never been so touched in my entire life.

Q: What did you do, what orders did you give?

Horner: The problem we had was stopping the Iraqis as they left - a lot of that military equipment we wanted to destroy, we did not want it to go back to Iraq. Unfortunately we couldn't get it stopped, we hit the lead vehicles with infrared mavericks or whatever and they'd just pull out in the desert, it was kind of like I.95 going into Washington at rush hour...

Q: What did you do then?

Horner: So what we did in order to stop 'em is Buster called the 4th Wing down at --the F15E guys, and they'd flown their missions, they were home, the crews were in bed, the airplanes were all buttoned up, and he called up and asked Al Hornberg, the wing commander, what can you get airborne, and Al said we'll do whatever we can. Thirty minutes later I think they had 16 airplanes airborne, wall to wall cluster bomb units designed to stop light vehicles. They laid a wall of fire in front of that whole fleeing column and stopped it in its tracks, so then the A10s and the F16s could go in the next day and pick off the individual tanks and trucks and armoured personnel carriers and stolen cars, the wreckage that you saw on the highway leading from Kuwait City. It's interesting, they call it the highway of death - I think if you look closely you're going to see there's very few bodies in that and what you do see is a lot of foot tracks in the sands, when the car came to a halt or the truck came to a halt, they couldn't go anywhere, they just got out and abandoned it and started to walk home.

Q: In those final days of the war, when you saw pilots talk about turkey shoots and stuff like that-- is that something you detected?

Horner: I think towards the end of the war we were all getting uneasy. What happened is that the Iraqi army was leaving Kuwait, there's no doubt about it, we'd achieved all that we were going to achieve and we were .. still the killing was going on. The expression that we got to use was kind of like beating a tethered goat and so people say did we end the war too soon, the answer is not according to us, we ended it in time.

Q: The bulk of the British war casualties were caused by a friendly fire incident, what happened?

Horner: We had several friendly fire incidents, one, maybe the worst single incident was two British armored personnel carriers were hit by A10s carrying maverick missiles. There were mistakes, there were mistakes and the command control system broke down in that the A10s were cleared into the area because I think the British forward air controller who was located to the rear didn't fully understand where his forces were, the panels that were designed to provide visual warning these were friendly targets were in place but they were probably covered to some extent with dust, and besides remember the airplanes were operating at altitudes to avoid ground fire so it was a long way down there to look at the particular panel, and then I think the pilots themselves, if they had it do over, would have probably maybe asked a few more questions before they rolled in on those targets. There was quite a dialogue going on about where they were and what targets were available and things like that, but there's no getting around it, you have people out on that area, out in the modern battlefield, with weapons of such lethality that it requires more control than ever before. We probably had a hundred times more friendly fire incidents than World War Two.

In Vietnam we bombed friendly convoys and we might have killed somebody but more than likely we knocked a tyre off a truck or caused the people to stop and flee or things like that. In this war, when you put a maverick missile on an armoured personnel carrier, you're going to kill everybody in that vehicle, because modern weapons are so deadly. It was an obsession with us on how to stop friendly fire incidents - we had several, we had some in Khafji, we had the .. with the British. Over half the Army casualties were friendly fire incidents, ground to ground kills. It's the price of war, we should do everything we can to prevent it, just like we should do everything we can from killing women and children, like in the Al Firdos bunker, but when you have people out there with these very lethal weapons, you're going to have these incidents.

Q: I never asked you about the Stealth bomber.

Horner: I think one message that comes out of this war loud and clear is that Stealth has revolutionised warfare, particularly when you combine it with the precision munitions, because suddenly now you have the capability to hold any target the enemy has at risk with almost impunity and that's a powerful, powerful thing. It means that military power can be used as a coercion instrument, we saw the Israelis do it with the strike on the Baghdad nuclear reactor in 1980. It means that war can be somewhat efficient - the danger of that is that it may become attractive, politicians may think that war's a bloodless thing, it's my machine against your machine, my computer against your computer, so we don't want to draw .. don't want to draw the wrong lesson from all this, but nonetheless war will never be the same again.

Q: How concerned were you about the level of casualties the Brits were taking?

Horner: I was very concerned about all aircraft losses and the fact that the Tornados were experiencing a higher loss rate than anybody else was personally disturbing to both me and Bill Ratton, the RAF commander.

Q: Was it fairly clear to you what was causing the loss of them?

Horner: I don't think there's any doubt about it, the Tornado losses were in part due to the low altitude tactics.

Q: Were you relieved when they stopped flying at low altitude?

Horner: I think one of the things that helped work the problem is that Bill Ratton finally got 'em up out of the low altitude structure and got some capability to drop laser guided bombs from medium altitude and I think that solved the problem, I think they only lost one airplane after that.

Q: But, you stopped the United States Air Force flying low after the first night, the Brits carried on for many nights after that, what do you feel about that?

Horner: When the British were taking their losses early in the low altitude, I guess it would have been easy enough for me to say something to somebody about that, because I would have if they'd been United States Air Force, but on the other hand, in order to hold the trust of all the allies, you have to respect the allies, and so it was up to them to fight their forces as they saw fit. All I wanted to do is make sure we were working as a team and so it was really up to Bill Ratton to do what needed to be done and he did it.

Q: Did you start to think some evenings, it would be nice if they turned these missions down?

Horner: There were times when I wished the Brits weren't so brave, I kind of inside my heart was saying I wish they wouldn't take all these tough ones, but they were taking the tough targets because they had the munition, that JP 233 needed to shut down the airfields, and the airfields were the tough targets.

Q: What do you remember about Camp David?

Horner: There's two things that come to my mind about Camp David. First of all, they both came from President Bush and they both were ... intuitive but guidance. The first one had to do with the loss of life, he was absolutely fascinated or concerned about the loss of life and it was like he wanted to bring a moral aspect to this immoral thing called war. The second thing I think came from his time as Director of C.I.A. and Ambassador in China and in the U.N., he wanted to know what the other world leaders thought ought to be done about the Iraqi invasion if Kuwait and he kept asking those questions. And, when he couldn't get good answers from the Cabinet he turned to Dick Cheney and he said, Dick, King Fahd is the one most affected by these things, he says, I want you to fly to Jeddah and talk to him and see what he thinks ought to be done, and I sat there and I smiled inwardly because again here's that other ghost from Vietnam - the Americans have all the right answers, we'll tell you how to solve this problem, and of course the capital of the country's now called Ho Chi Minh City, and so that guided all our relationships in the coalition and that's why all the coalition members were treated as equal, we were very very positive about respecting the Saudi customs, no alcohol, I mean this is the first war fought by sober fighter pilots, I mean that's a revolution right there! It was really quite wonderful guidance that he gave us, indirectly, but we all listened.

Q: What did the President say about casualties?

Horner: I remember the President talking about casualties and at first he was asking, you know, how many would suffer from this or how do you avoid casualties from this operation or that operation, and at first I thought he was talking about friendly casualties but then I realised he was talking about everybody who might be in the war, friendly and enemy, and it was as though he was trying to bring some morality to this immoral thing called war, and believe me, every target we struck, we looked at how do we avoid casualties. I could have wiped out the Iraqi army by dropping thousands and millions of cluster bomb units on 'em from B52s, we didn't do that, we went after bombs and we went after their psyche, their morale, and of course it paid off.

Q: Can you imagine what life was like or re-create what life was like for an Iraqi soldier in the front line?

Horner: Probably the most horrible existence anybody had in Desert Shield and Desert Storm had to be the Iraqi soldier in the front lines. He was sent out there on a mission that was abhorrent to his religion, one Muslim attacking another, he knew that in the eyes of God he was wrong. He worked for a leader who he probably hated personally but feared more and he knew that he was sent out there, he had to know he was a throwaway, he was sent out there to die, to inflict whatever casualties he could on the Americans, but to slow 'em down enough for the Republican Guard to come in and take all the glory, inflict enough casualties that the American people would rise up in arms and demand that our army be brought home, plus he's not going to get food, he's not going to get water, he's going to be kept in the dark communications-wise because we're bombing the hell out of all the lines of communications and re-supply routes. He's in a society where the officers are cruel to their men, and then when the defections start, they start executing the soldiers. Can you imagine how horrible it is to be an officer that has to go out and shoot your own men? That is the kind of environment, not only did he have lice, not only did he not have enough food and water, not only you were in a hopeless situation, but you're also defying your ideas about what God expects of you.

Q: All these B-52 strikes and so on, what did they achieve?

Horner: The people might wonder what did the B52s achieve, they didn't kill that much of the enemy - 88,000 of them surrendered, that didn't happen by accident, that was a very carefully orchestrated psychological warfare campaign, to work on the will of the Iraqi army, and I think it paid off.

Q: You're saying you didn't target the B52s in a way to cause mass destruction ... I mean was it deliberate?

Horner: There was not the ideal weapon to effectively kill the Iraqi soldier. Now we went after the Iraqi equipment, we went after the tanks and the artillery primarily, and we did that primarily with precision munitions, whether they be infrared mavericks, laser guided bombs, F16s dropping with the automatic targeting .. computing sights, that's a precision munition. The A10 gun .. those are all designed to inflict damage on equipment and in fact we would send them leaflets that'd say, get away from your tank, get away from your truck, get away from your artillery piece, we do not want to kill you, we want to kill that equipment, and they did it - you'd see every time they moved tanks, they'd stop, park 'em, and you'd have two slit trenches that'd be built well away from the tank, it was obvious they'd park that tank and get out of it and get away from it. One of the generals said after the war, he said in the Iranian war the tank was my friend because I could put my troops in it and they'd be safe from the Iranian artillery barrages, in this war the tank was my enemy because it would get blown up this night or the next day.

Q: How many Iraqi soldiers do you think were killed?

Horner: After the war I kept asking the question, how many Iraqi soldiers were killed, because my guys were with the Army, my forward air controllers would come back and I'd ask about it, because quite frankly I felt badly, and they'd say we didn't see that many casualties, we didn't see that many dead Iraqis, I thought the desert stench would be heavy, and I got to thinking about it and I said, well, if they had 500,000 worth of troops come to the battle, we know that they weren't 100% manned, they were about 80% manned, so they ditched down to 400,000 troops. We also know that about half the troops deserted, so that gets you down to about 200,000 troops, and of that 200,000 we know that after the ground battle started, 88,000 deserted to us, and that's about half of the 200,000 and remember they were told they would be executed by the Westerners if captured, so I wondered, for every one that came towards us, at least one probably went towards Al Nasiriyah or Basra, so that leaves you with about 10 or 20,000 troops unaccounted for, and I think that's probably what the Iraqi casualties were - I don't know that, but that's what my informer logic tells me.

Q: Does the Gulf War matter in the history of air warfare ... what are people going to say about the Gulf War?

Horner: In some ways the Gulf War is a watershed in the history of warfare, it is a revolution in warfare, but you can't point to any one time - for example, the precision munitions that are bringing lethality and efficiency to war, and war of course is a very inefficient operation, they were used in Vietnam, so you can't say the Gulf War showed the precision munitions. Stealth was there for the first time but they were used in Panama, not for any great effort but I mean that's when they first appeared. I think the thing that .. space for example, the Gulf War was called the first space war, well space is going to become more and more fundamental to modern warfare as we go on, but nonetheless we had space before the Gulf War, so it's hard to say all these things came together for the first time, but I think it was the first time maybe these things were emphasised, were used, the concept of air as the main attack versus a supporting attack for ground attack. I think that's the lesson of the Gulf War, plus it's the first real war after the Cold War.

Q: In the final days of the war, did you know where Saddam was and, if you did, why didn't you hit him?

Horner: In the final days of the war we got very good intelligence about the location of Saddam Hussein. We considered striking the target but it really didn't matter whether we got him or not, it wasn't really going to help anything, some gangster would take over in his place and things would go on. You're liable to get a guy worse than Saddam, if there can be somebody, certainly his son is, so we did not strike the target because it was located in a residential area of Baghdad and we'd have had widespread collateral damage.

Q: Was it a political decision or was it, you were going to kill a lot of civilians?

Horner: I never took the target to Schwarzkopf.

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