By Heather Yamour
Twenty years after the United States and allied forces liberated Kuwait from Iraq, key former-US administration officials say they would not change the handling of the First Gulf War despite criticism over “unfinished business”.
Speaking on a panel at the Council on Foreign Relations, late Tuesday, Retired General Brent Scowcroft, National Security Advisor under President George H.W. Bush, said he would not change Americas handling of the first Gulf War in 1991, but acknowledged there was talk after the first Gulf War of Americas “unfinished business” to topple Saddam Hussein.
“Its true that after the end of the first Gulf War there was a lot of talk about why we didnt finish the job and that continued until the second Gulf War,” said Scowcroft, explaining, “One thing that is important to remember is to put this in a context of a world emerging from the Cold War. We saw ourselves not as the Untied States flexing its muscles but as a representative of the world community in dealing with unprovoked aggression.” However, former Bush administration officials say nothing from the first Gulf War could have predicted the US invasion of Iraq more than 12 years later.
Richard Haass, former Senior Director for the National Security Council under the Bush administration affirmed “there was nothing in the outcome of the first Gulf war that made the second Gulf War inevitable,” calling the US invasion in 2003 a “war of choice”.
President Bush, 1989-1993, launched Operations Desert Storm on January 16, 1991 to oust invading Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. More than 1.5 million US and coalition soldiers were deployed to the Arabian Gulf to combat Saddam Husseins army, along with more than 8,000 tanks and hundreds of fighter jets. This was the largest buildup of American troops since the Vietnam War.
However, at the time one of the biggest concerns for security and administration officials was the threat Iraq would launch chemical weapon attack against coalition forces.
“We knew Saddam Hussein had the capability. They certainly had the chemicals, we knew that. The question was how seriously he took the threat,” said former Deputy Director of Central Intelligence Richard Kerr.
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff David Jeremiah, agreeing with Kerr, said commanders on the ground felt a chemical attack was “likely to happen based on the experience they saw.” On February 28, 1991 Iraq agreed to a cease fire. An estimated 148 American troops had been killed and 467 injured in the fighting.
Saddam Hussein was ousted in 2003 during the second Gulf War, launched by Bushs son, former President George W. Bush. After being convicted of war crimes, Hussein was executed in 2006.