The seeds of the second president Bushs decision to invade were planted by
the unfinished nature of the 1991 war, in which the U.S. military expelled Iraq
from Kuwait but ended the fighting prematurely and sloppily, without due consideration
by the first president Bush and his advisers of what end state they
wished to achieve. In February 1991, President Bush gave speeches that encouraged
Iraqis to take matters into their own hands and force Saddam Hussein
the dictator to step aside. U.S. Air Force aircraft dropped leaflets on fielded
Iraqi units urging them to rebel. On March 1, Iraqi army units in Basra began to
do just that.
But when the Shiites of cities in the south rose up, U.S. forces stood by, their
guns silent. It was Saddam Hussein who continued to fight. He didnt feel defeated,
and in a sense, really wasnt. Rather, in the face of the U.S. counterattack
into Kuwait, Saddam simply had withdrawn from that front to launch fierce internal
offensives against the Shiites in the south of Iraq in early March and then,
a few weeks later, against the Kurds in the north when they also rose up. An estimated
twenty thousand Shiites died in the aborted uprising. Tens of thousands of
Kurds fled their homes and crossed into the mountains of Turkey, where they began
to die of exposure.
The U.S. government made three key mistakes in handling the end of the 1991
war. It encouraged the Shiites and Kurds to rebel, but didnt support them. Gen.
H.Norman Schwarzkopf, in the euphoria of the wars end, approved an exception
to the no-fly rule to permit Iraqi helicopter flightsand Iraqi military helicopters
were promptly used to shoot up the streets of the southern cities. Army Capt.
Brian McNerney commanded an artillery battery during the 1991 war.When the
Iraqi helicopters started coming out, firing on the Iraqis, thats when we knew it
was bullshit, he recalled fifteen years later, when he was serving as a lieutenant
colonel in Balad, Iraq. It was very painful. I was thinking, Something is really
wrong.We were sitting in a swamp and it began to feel lousy.
Second, the U.S. government assumed that Saddams regime was so damaged
that his fall was inevitable. We were disappointed that Saddams defeat did not
break his hold on power, as . . . we had come to expect, the first president Bush
and his national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft,wrote in their 1998 joint memoir, A World Transformed.
Third, the U.S. military didnt undercut the core of Saddam Husseins power.
Much of his army, especially elite Republican Guard units, were allowed to leave
Kuwait relatively untouched. Army Col. Douglas Macgregor, who fought in one
of the 1991 conflicts crucial battles, later called the outcome a hollow victory.
Despite the overwhelming force President George H.W. Bush provided, Desert
Storms most important objective, the destruction of the Republican Guard
corps, was not accomplished, he wrote years later. Instead, perhaps as many as
80,000 Iraqi Republican Guards, along with hundreds of tanks, armored fighting
vehicles, and armed helicopters escaped to mercilessly crush uprisings across Iraq
with a ruthlessness not seen since Stalin.
Having incited a rebellion against Saddam Hussein, the U.S. government
stood by while the rebels were slaughtered. This failure would haunt the U.S. occupation
twelve years later, when U.S. commanders were met not with cordial
welcomes in the south but with cold distrust. In retrospect, Macgregor concluded,
the 1991 war amounted to a strategic defeat for the United States.
The most senior official in the first Bush administration urging that more be
done in the spring of 1991 to help the rebellious Shiites was Paul Wolfowitz, then
the under secretary of defense for policy. Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, Joint
Chiefs chairman Colin Powell, and National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft
disagreedand so thousands of Shiites were killed as U.S. troops sat not many
miles away. This is one reason that many neoconservatives would later view Powell
not as the moral paragon many Americans do but rather as someone willing to
sit on his hands as Iraqis (and later, Bosnians) were killed on his watch.
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...