Comments Following the Gulf War
I saved some copies of Newsweek and U.S. News & World
Report following the conclusion of the Gulf War back in 1991.
The comments that were made then are interesting in light of
You’ll recall that the ground war came to an end after 100 hours
on February 28. The air war that preceded this lasted about six
--On President George H.W. Bush’s victory: “(It is) a triumph of
almost Biblical proportions – his enemy slain in countless
numbers, his own soldiers hardly touched by the battlefield’s
scouring wind. His standing in the polls soared to even higher
levels; the latest Newsweek survey gave him an 89 percent
--On General Norman Schwarzkopf: Historian Stephen Ambrose
commented, “He’d make a great candidate for president. He’s
our first victorious general since MacArthur and Ike.”
--Saddam set 600 of Kuwait’s 950 oil wells ablaze.
--The U.S. sent 3,500 tanks against the surviving elements of
Iraq’s force after the air war phase.
--As we were building up forces in Saudi Arabia (since August
1990), Saddam could have rolled over them if he had acted early.
--Comment on post-war energy policy. “The other element
lacking from the president’s energy proposal is any real
encouragement to conserve oil it’s also high time Americans
started viewing the war against oil dependence the way they see
military conflicts: as a fight demanding sacrifices from
everyone.” [We only got worse, I’d think you’d agree.]
--President George Bush on February 23rd: “I ask only that all of
you stop and say a prayer for all the coalition forces who this
very moment are risking their lives for their country and for all
--Newsweek had the “Conventional Wisdom” column back in
George Bush: up arrow “Master of all he surveys. Look on
my polls, ye Democrats, and despair.”
Norman Schwarzkopf: up arrow “Five stars ain’t enough.
While you’re at it, why don’t you save the banks?”
Democrats: down arrow “Aaaaaiiiiiieeeeee!!! Help, I’ve fallen
and I can’t get up.”
Energy: down arrow “Bush’s energy policy is pathetic. So
what? Fill ‘er up.”
--“But success left Bush feeling a little blue. On Friday, when a
reporter noted at a news conference that the president seemed
‘somber,’ Bush conceded that he didn’t yet share ‘this wonderful
euphoric feeling’ that had swept up so many of his countrymen.
He recalled World War II, the first great crusade of his life.
‘There was a definitive end to that conflict,’ he said. But in the
Persian Gulf War, ‘we have Saddam still there, the man that
wreaked this havoc upon his neighbors. We have our prisoners
still held. We have people unaccounted for.’ Once all that was
straightened out, there would be time for good feelings. ‘I’ll get
there,’ said the president.”
--George Will: “Today George Bush stands at the sort of
pinnacle few presidents have experienced. He has earned the
nation’s trust and, almost as important, he has the nation’s
attention. This is a perishable moment, and a propitious moment
to say: As we welcome home the heroes from their sacrifices, let
us make some symmetrical sacrifices to make this a land fit for
heroes. The business of America is not business. Neither is it
war. The business of America is justice, and securing the
blessings of liberty.”
[U.S. News & World Report, 3/11/91]
--Between Christmas and the start of the Ground War, Feb. 23
(eastern time), President Bush didn’t talk to General
Schwarzkopf because he didn’t want to give the impression he
was micro-managing the war, a la LBJ.
--Iraq was looking for an amphibious landing in Kuwait, while
Schwarzkopf was attacking from the other side. 100,000 troops
were moved to the west without any real detection, thanks to the
fact that the air war had taken out Saddam’s ability to mount
--Schwarzkopf adopted Stonewall Jackson’s long flank during
the battle of Chancellorsville in 1863.
--By one early estimate the U.S. damaged or destroyed 4,000 of
Saddam’s tanks. The Allies lost 4.
--Arab affairs expert Fouad Ajami: “No one can predict with any
assurance what a new political order in the Arab world might
look like. But this is an old and stubborn world. It won’t
reinvent itself. The old status quo was given a reprieve. Don’t
look for the Arab world to make great, new changes. After the
storm, men seek their beds, relieved that an old order is given a
new lease on life
“We have gone east to do what had to be done. In war, matters
were simple and straightforward. We now go into a twilight,
somewhere between war and peace, deep into a region that
remains difficult for us to fathom, let alone reorder to our likes.
To the power of a despot and a political cannibal, there was no
local deterrent; America supplied that deterrent. But the work of
making a civilization see its way out of its own thicket, of
making it shed its own deadly dreams and delusions, is a matter
beyond any foreign savior’s reach and power.”
--Conventional Wisdom, Democrats: Down arrow
“Desperately seeking someone. How do you spell relief?
--There was growing speculation that President Bush would drop
Dan Quayle for Colin Powell.
--Secretary of State James Baker toured the Middle East in the
aftermath of the war. While in Saudi Arabia an English-
language Saudi newspaper had a headline, “Bush Pledges To
Solve Palestinian Problem.” None had ever been made, but this
was the impression then.
--From a report, “Now, the Arabs and Israelis seem to think
Washington owes them something for the privilege of having
saved them from their enemies. The Arabs want pressure on
Israel. The Israelis, who absorbed the punishment from
Saddam’s Scud missiles, feel they have earned the right to hang
onto occupied territory – and they want more money from the
--“The Iraqi dictator has never been in greater danger.” Ahem.
--You’ll recall that right after the Gulf War ended, there was a
full-scale uprising against Saddam. Here are the comments from
“After three days, Saddam’s troops began retaking ground, using
tanks, artillery and rockets to indiscriminately kill thousands of
fighters and civilians. The refugees described the resistance
fighters’ position as desperate. ‘If we don’t get help from the
allies, we don’t stand a chance,’ said a dockworker who fled
from Basra. But reporters freed Saturday from captivity in the
region said Army units had been demoralized and under frequent
attack. Saddam probably can hang on as long as he retains the
loyalty of his elite Republican Guard (which received big pay
raises last week). But military leaders traditionally dislike
suppressing internal revolts. If popular unrest keeps spreading,
the Army may break ranks – and break Saddam’s hold on power
--And a little insight into Dick Cheney, then secretary of defense.
He vetoed taking out a huge statue of Saddam in Baghdad as
well as Iraq’s garish war memorial because it was “gratuitous.”
Lastly, on a lighter note, Saddam was expected to wage “the
mother of all battles,” which others then took advantage of.
From the Toronto Star, “This will be the mother of all retreats.”
The Boston Globe on TV coverage: “Images are the mother of all
words.” A White House spokesman on James Baker: “(He will
take) the mother of all trips.” London’s Sunday Times on the
war, “ the mother of all routs.” What’ll it be this time?