The Gulf War:
Overreaction & Excessiveness
By Hassan A El-Najjar
Amazone Press, 2001
The Root of Subsequent US Invasion of the Middle East
America was dragged into conflict
with the Arab and Muslim worlds
MOTHER OF ALL BATTLES
The 1991 Gulf War was described by the Iraqi President, Saddam
Hussain, as “Um El-Ma=arek,”
or the “Mother of All Battles.”
It turned to be really so in both regional and international contexts.
It was the only war, in memory, in which an international coalition of
31 countries fought against one small Third World country. The
coalition included the three strongest nations on earth: the U.S.,
Britain, and France. Moreover, it had unlimited access to the oil
wealth of the Gulf states to get the job done no matter how much it
would cost. As a result, the war was nothing but carnage and a
destruction of Iraq.
The destruction not only included the
Iraqi military machine but also extended to the Iraqi economy. The
cost for humans, both civilian and military, was enormous as hundreds
of thousands of Iraqis lost their lives. The ratio of Iraqis who were
killed in the Gulf War exceeded World War I and World War II ratios.
Thus, the “Mother of All Battles” was really an example of
excessiveness in wars. In this chapter, that excessiveness will be
analyzed in relation to war objectives, destruction, killing, and
As mentioned in Chapter VII, the war option was made just a few
days after the Iraqi invasion. The war was planned according to the
American military doctrine known as “Airland Battle.” This
doctrine ensured using all available resources from nuclear weapons to
psychological warfare in order to defeat the enemy. The doctrine was
followed in planning the military operations of Grenada, in 1983, and
Panama in 1989. The major element in the doctrine is using
overwhelming force to achieve a quick victory.
By August 25, 1990, a U.S. four-phase
war plan had been in place. This included a strategic air campaign
against Iraq itself, an air campaign against Iraqi forces in Kuwait,
the destruction of the Iraqi Republican Guard forces in Southern Iraq,
and a ground attack to eject the Iraqi forces out of Kuwait.
The first phase of the war deserves
special attention. It aimed at knocking out the Iraqi command and
control installations, transportation systems, production and storage
facilities, and air defense networks.
Eventually, the air campaign aimed at the destruction of Iraq's
"centers of gravity," which included the country's military,
industrial, and transportation infrastructure. It also included the
destruction of essential economic sites such as power stations, oil
facilities, roads, and bridges.
This meant that the destruction of Iraq was a goal in itself. Thus,
ejecting Iraq out of Kuwait was not the real objective of the war. It
could have been achieved by peaceful initiatives or by economic
sanctions. Rather, the destruction of Iraq as a regional power would
allow the U.S. to maintain its control over the Arabian oil, protect
Israel's security, remove a potential threat to its allies in the
Gulf, and generally affirm America's global supremacy.
The U.N. Security Council issued an ultimatum to Iraq to
withdraw its forces from Kuwait before January 15, 1991. As Iraq did
not do that, the air campaign started 24 hours after the expiration of
the ultimatum (January 17 Eastern Time) and
continued for 38 days.
In order for the planned destruction
to happen, Iraq was bombarded with an enormous number of explosive
devices that reached about 88,500 tons.
That was equivalent to 7.5 nuclear bombs like the one dropped on
Hiroshima at the end of World War II.
The total number of sorties was 108,043,
of which 83.6 percent were flown by the U.S. air forces, 6.5 percent
by Saudi Arabia, 5.1 percent by Britain, and 2.1 percent by France.
This shows that it was basically an American war. Actually, the
American forces constituted about 86 percent of the whole coalition
forces, which came to Saudi Arabia, which was 540,331 out of 630,282.
This resulted in the fact that the U.S. had most of the coalition's
“small” losses: 146 deaths and 338 injuries, while the second
highest losses were in Saudi Arabian forces: 38 deaths and 175
Thus, the war was basically planned and fought by American forces and
Missiles and Israeli Pressures
The coalition air forces dominated the battlefield from the
first day of the war. Iraq=s
major reaction was firing 88 missiles: 42 at Israel, 43 at Saudi
Arabia, and three at Bahrain. Otherwise, it almost did nothing except
receiving aerial hits.
While the coalition military leaders dismissed these missiles as
unimportant, political leaders considered them as very dangerous
because about half of them targeted Israel.
The Iraqi missiles were modified from the basic Russian Scud
missile, which had an original effective range of 200 miles. Two
modified versions were produced with longer reach: Al-Hussain with a
range of 450 miles, and Al-Abbas with a range of 600 miles.
A third modified version was Al-Abed with a range of 2000 kilometers
The major fear was using these missiles to deliver chemical or
biological weapons during the war. Though this did not happen,
Secretary Cheney and General Powell contemplated the use of tactical
nuclear weapons in case the missiles were used for that purpose. The
Israelis also had the same intentions against Iraq. General Barak, the
Israeli Deputy Chief-of-Staff, conveyed a message to the Bush
administration that Israel was willing to use nuclear weapons if the
Iraqis used chemical weapons.
Furthermore, the Bush administration was ready to destroy the Iraqi
dams on the Euphrates and Tigris rivers to flood Baghdad.
Had this happened, it would have caused a horrendous number of
civilian casualties. However,
Iraq decided not to use chemical weapons in spite of the fact that
there were 30 chemical warheads for Al-Hussain missiles, ready to use
during the war.
That wise Iraqi decision prevented the doomsday scenario of mass
destruction adopted by the Bush administration and the Israeli
In response to the Iraqi missile
attacks, Israeli pressures intensified on the Bush administration. The
Israelis wanted to participate directly in the air campaign against
Iraq. The Bush administration persuaded them to give up the idea in
order to keep the coalition intact. After all, by not retaliating,
they achieved their “larger strategic objective -- the destruction
But this was not good enough for the Israelis. That was why Secretary
Baker called Shamir pleading with him: “Don=t
make it more difficult for us to do the job for you,”
thus admitting that the destruction of Iraq was being done for the
sake of Israel.
The Israeli government was still not
content and asked that the Defense Minister, Moshe Arens, be briefed
about results of the air campaign. He came to Washington at the
beginning of February 1991, where both Cheney and Powell reported to
him how the air campaign was going. However, he expressed his belief
that Israel could do a better job in destroying the Iraqi missiles. At
that point, President Bush felt irritated because the Israeli
hard-liners “seemed to offer so little thanks for what we (the Bush
administration) were trying to accomplish for them.”
Thus, President Bush, like Secretary Baker above, admitted that the
destruction of Iraq was being done for Israel.
The Israelis insisted on that
Israel receive direct intelligence from the U.S. satellites so that
the Israeli military would have instantaneous information on Iraqi
deployment. The Bush administration agreed and began sharing
intelligence with the Israeli defense headquarters.
In addition, the Israelis demanded
that the headquarters of the Central Command in Riyadh receive a team
of their officers to participate in decision-making there. This was
rejected by the Saudis. As a result, the Central Command had to assure
the Israelis by removing one-third of the allied planes from the air
campaign and diverting them to western Iraq to hunt for the Iraqi
missile launchers, within six minutes of firing. Moreover, the
Israelis wanted to send their planes to destroy several sites in Iraq
though some of them were already destroyed and others were just sand
dunes. They were finally persuaded not to insist on that because the
coalition forces were doing the job for them. However, supporters of
Israel in Washington continued their pressures on the administration.
These were the hawkish politicians who gave Cheney and Powell a hard
time, according to General Schwarzkopf.
Although the Iraqi missiles did not
demonstrate a genuine military threat, they had a serious impact on
the Arab-Israeli conflict. For the first time, an Arab state could
develop and use such strategic weapons to reach Israel. This happened
in spite of the attempts of supporters of Israel to maintain an
Israeli monopoly on these weapons in the region. Before the war,
Israel bombed, shelled, and raided countless Arab towns and villages
in Palestine, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and even as far
away as Tunisia, but except for an occasional katyusha rocket on a
border settlement, its own population centers have never come under
any Arab attacks.
The Iraqi missile attacks on Israel
ended the Israeli myth of invincibility that was created and promoted
to discourage Arabs from thinking about attacking Israel. Furthermore,
the missiles could have been much more lethal had they been provided
with chemical weapons. The apprehension that these missiles may carry
chemical weapons caused a severe psychological impact on the Israeli
Actually, this might have been a major factor that has contributed to
dragging the Israeli Likude government of Shamir to come to the
negotiating table afterwards.
These missile attacks, together with the Palestinian Uprising, might
have convinced the Israelis that only a just peace in the Middle East
can guarantee their security, as argued by Shimon Peres.
The coalition forces were in complete control of the
battlefields throughout the air campaign. This meant that the air
campaign was successful in achieving the war goals. The evidence was
in the various Iraqi offers of unconditional withdrawal. In spit of
that, they were denied any chance to withdraw. The Bush administration
was not content of the destruction inflicted on Iraq and its forces in
Kuwait. Actually, it did not want to “eject them out of Kuwait.”
Rather, it wanted to destroy them there. That was why President Bush
ordered the unnecessary ground war. As General Schwarzkopf pointed out
several times, a major objective of the ground war was the destruction
of the Iraqi forces so that they would never be used again.
There were at least five major Iraqi
offers of withdrawal before the ground war, all of which were rejected
by the Bush administration. These were all presented to the
administration through Soviet initiatives.
The first of these initiatives was
presented by the Foreign Minister Bessmertnykh to Secretary Baker
during their meeting on January 26, 1991. Baker rejected the
initiative because it would allow the Iraqis to withdraw their
military forces intact.
On January 28, Baker agreed to two
separate but joint statements: one on the Gulf and the other on the
Arab-Israeli conflict. This angered the President and Scowcroft
because they saw it as a linkage and Baker admitted that it was a
“careless error” that did not mean a change in the policy.
The third Soviet attempt to avoid the
ground war was on February 10, 1991. Primakov went to Baghdad and
persuaded the Iraqis to announce their willingness to withdraw during
a fixed period of time in exchange for a cease-fire. President Bush=s
answer was the sarcastic slang rejection known as “no way, Jose.”
The fourth initiative was on February 18, 1991 during Aziz=s
visit to Moscow. Iraq agreed to start withdrawing its troops
unconditionally the following day after a cease-fire, in exchange for
not being attacked while withdrawing. It was also rejected by the
President as an unacceptable solution.
The fifth and final Soviet initiative
was on February 22. President Gorbachev called President Bush
reporting that Iraq agreed to the American conditions of unconditional
and immediate withdrawal that would be completed in three weeks.
Iraqis also agreed that there would be no linkage to the Arab-Israeli
conflict but they wanted the UN resolutions to be rescinded. President
Bush rejected the initiative because of the last condition.
Furthermore, he instructed his Press Secretary, Marlin Fitzwater, to
issue the final ultimatum to Iraq. He announced that for Iraqis to
avoid the ground war, they must agree to all previous UN resolutions,
begin a full-scale withdrawal by noon New York time of the following
day, February 23, 1991, and complete their withdrawal within a week.
In return, the U.S. “promised not to fire on any retreating
It was absolutely impossible for the
Iraqis to do what President Bush wanted them to do. Logistically, the
Iraqi leadership could not communicate that fast with its troops in
Kuwait after the destruction of its communications with these troops.
Even if it could, it was impossible to complete withdrawal within a
week. There was actually not enough time for them even to announce
their answer to the ultimatum. Thus, the ground war started on
February 24, 1991 and lasted until 8 a.m. of February 28, 1991, in
spite of the Iraqi withdrawal, which was officially announced and
started around midnight of February 25.
To achieve the goal of destruction,
the ground war plan required outflanking and destroying the Republican
Guard by VII Corps. It also required the blocking of the Iraqi getaway
routes in the Euphrates valley by XVIII Airborne Corps.
The latter requirement was made in order to make sure that the
retreating Iraqi forces are cut off and killed.
The military leaders of the coalition, represented by General
Schwarzkopf, knew that the ground war was unnecessary and that the air
campaign devastated the Iraqi forces in Kuwait. Therefore, they not
only did not ask for it but also were angry because it was insisted on
by their political leaders. Schwarzkopf described how he felt about
being pushed to launch the ground war. He said:
increasing pressure to launch the ground war early was making me
crazy. I could guess what was going on and figured Cheney and Powell
were caught in the middle. There had to be a contingent of hawks in
Washington who did not stop until we'd punished Saddam. We'd been
bombing Iraq for more than a month, but that wasn't good enough. These
were guys who seen John Wayne in The Green Perets, they'd seen Rambo,
they'd seen Patton, and it was very easy for them to pound
their desks and say, "By God, we've got to go in there and kick
Schwarzkopf also mentioned that the
not the Central Command, insisted on not giving the Iraqis any
opportunities to withdraw from Kuwait alive. The Iraqis offered to
withdraw in three weeks but President Bush gave them only one week.
The objective was to deny them any possibility of saving themselves.
Schwarzkopf knew that this might mean killing fifty thousand more
Iraqis and he argued with Powell that the coalition had achieved its
goals and there was no need for more killing.
Powell, by turn, argued with President Bush to allow the Iraqis to
withdraw instead of the unnecessary destruction of the ground war. The
President insisted that they should “crack under force, it is better
than withdrawal.” Powell replied asking: “But at what cost?”
On February 18, Cheney and Powell called Schwarzkopf telling
him that the National Security Council wanted the ground war to start
as soon as possible because the Council did not want to give the
Iraqis a chance to withdraw from Kuwait alive. They also told him that
President Gorbachev had another proposal to prevent the ground war,
which was rejected. Instead, the State Department demanded an
unconditional surrender. At that point, Schwarzopf replied that if an
Arabist looked at this demand, he or she would tell them that this
kind of ultimatum “does not work with Arabs: they (would) die
first.” Then, Schwarzkopf continued saying that:
comes down to a question of lives," I told Powell, "We have
probably inflicted a hundred thousand casualties on the Iraqis at the
cost of one hundred for us. Why should we inflict a hundred and fifty
thousand casualties?" Cheney said, "I don't see why the
Soviets have to be involved at all." I answered him saying,
"For what it's worth. Saddam has to work through a middleman
because that's the way Arabs do business. He will never negotiate
directly. By working through a broker, he saves face and then
afterward, of course, no matter what he has agreed to, he can make any
claim he wants because he never talked to his enemy."
In spite of this attempt from
Schwarzkopf to prevent the ground war, the Washington hawks refused it
because this might have saved some of the Iraqi forces and their
equipment from destruction. In fact, the President’s National
Security Advisor, Brent Scowcroft, admitted that he was as impatient
as the President to begin the ground campaign in spite of the
reluctance of military commanders and Secretary Baker.
The ground war lasted from February
24 to February 28 and it was arbitrarily extended from four to five
days. General Powell related that the idea of the arbitrary extension
of the ground war was originally suggested by Schwarzkopf. This seems
like a strange suggestion because he was trying to avoid the ground
war altogether. Powell said that Schwarzkopf wanted the war to be
extended one more day so that it may be referred to, in the future, as
the five-day war. This was in imitation to the Israelis who refer to
the 1967 war, as the six-day war, “in reference to God=s
creation of the world in six days.”
It is unbelievable that a war is extended arbitrarily so
history books can mention it as the five-day war, that is one day
shorter than the 1967 six-day Israeli war against Arabs! Thus, in
order to achieve that propagandistic goal, tens of thousands of Iraqis
had to be killed.
Every aspect of the 1991 Gulf War was excessive. This was
reflected in the number of the coalition troops, the number of air
raids, and the costs of the war. However, none of these could be
compared to the excessiveness in killing Iraqi soldiers, particularly
while retreating north during the ground war. This was contrary to
assurances, during the Geneva Meeting with Aziz, that “Americans don=t
shoot their adversaries in the back.”
It was also contrary to President Bush=s
announcement on February 24, 1991 that “the coalition forces would
not attack unarmed soldiers in retreat.”
Secretary Baker admitted that excessiveness when he attempted to
explain why the war ended “so soon.” He said:
fighter pilots were returning from their missions talking about the
"turkey shoot" of Iraqis desperately fleeing north along
what became aptly known the Highway of Death. These comments were
certain to be followed in short order by grisly news photographs of
the carnage. The Soviets had furiously sought to head off the ground
war. Now there were genuine fears that they may fracture the coalition
by calling on the Security Council to halt the continuing SLAUGHTER.
Back home, the thought began to resonate that this war was about to
become UN-AMERICAN -- that it was, perversely, too easy (emphasis
added) and therefore must be stopped."
In describing what happened in
Highway 6, the Highway of Death, Secretary Baker mentioned that the
“coalition pilots had caught retreating Iraqi soldiers in the open
on the last day of the war ... For hundreds of yards on either side of
the road, wreckage was strewn throughout the sands.”
When some media reports started to
show the carnage, General Colin Powell called General Schwarzkopf to
inform him that the White House was getting nervous. These reports, he
added, “make it look like wanton killing. Even the French and the
British began to ask about an end to this "wanton killing.”
All this was happening in spite of
the Iraqi announcement of withdrawal from Kuwait and the start of
actual withdrawal at 2:15 a.m. of February 25, which was 46 hours
after the start of the ground war.
Neither the official announcement nor the actual withdrawal helped the
retreating Iraqi forces. This was simply because the destruction and
slaughter were the real goals of the ground war. When General
Schwarzkopf gave instructions to General Gary Luck, the XVIII Airborne
Corps commander, he told him: "Your mission is to inflict the
maximum destruction on the Iraqi military machine. You are to destroy
all war-fighting equipment. Do not just pass it on the battlefield. We
don't want the Iraqis coming at us again five years from now."
Of course, when the equipment was destroyed, soldiers were destroyed
Inside Iraq, the carnage was more
severe. As planned, XVIII Airborne Corps with the 82nd Airborne
Division and a French light armored division penetrated deep in
western Iraq. The 101st Airborne and the 24th Infantry divisions moved
straight north heading for the Euphrates River valley. VII Corps with
the British 1st Armored Division launched the main attack that
destroyed the Tawakalna Iraqi Republican Guard Division. The other two
retreating Republican Guard divisions, Medina and Hamourabi, were
destroyed by the waiting divisions in the East. These also destroyed
other Iraqi convoys retreating from Kuwait in the “kill box”
between Basrah and the Euphrates.
The result was a horrendous massacre.
Intelligence reports from marine patrols, which breached Iraqi lines,
assured that Iraqi forward trenches were either empty or full of
bodies. General Colin Powell, also, confirmed that fact during the war
cabinet meeting on February 27, 1991 when he said: “We=re
killing literally thousands of people ... Iraqis trying to escape
along the >Highway
In spite of this admission of
excessiveness by the U.S. Secretary of State and the Chairman of the
Joint-Chiefs-of-Staff, most of the coalition leaders tried to avoid
mentioning the huge numbers of the Iraqi casualties during the air and
ground campaigns. President Bush mentioned that the Iraqi troops were
“beaten up 50,000 ... and maybe more dead,” in the last page of
his account of the war.
Some American estimates were as high as 300,000 Iraqi military
casualties, others were as low as 25,000.
Schwarzkopf’s Deputy Commander-in-Chief, Lieutenant General Buck
Rogers, stated that there were about 200,000 Iraqis killed in the war.
No matter which one is the true estimate, these were unnecessarily
lost lives resulting from an excessive war.
There was also a civilian loss of
life despite General Schwarzkopf=s
claim that civilians were not targeted by the coalition bombs. The
destruction of chemical and nuclear installations exposed the Iraqi
civilian population to dangers that have resulted in the death of
hundreds of thousands of people after the war. In addition to that,
conventional bombs represented about 93 percent of the total number of
bombs dropped on Iraq. These bombs were 25 percent accurate, which
meant that there was a lot of “collateral damage,” or civilian
Although many civilians were killed
during the war, little has been said about them. In one incident that
was reported by the CNN correspondent, Peter Arnett, on February 12,
1991, two bombs hit Al-Ameriya civilian air-raid shelter and killed
several hundred Iraqis, most of whom were women and children. However,
General Schwarzkopf insisted that the shelter was "a legitimate
After his report, Arnett was fiercely criticized by the war hawks in
the government and the media. They did not want him to show the
American people an aspect of the war that was carefully shielded from
them, loss of human lives particularly civilian ones. He demonstrated
that he was different from the majority of journalists who covered
that war. Most of these journalists accepted censorship and reported
what they were allowed to see or report on. Thus, the American people
had the slightest chances to watch, hear, or read about the hundreds
of thousands of Iraqis who were killed during the war.
The enormous Iraqi casualties turned
to be a sensitive issue that most political and military leaders of
the coalition avoided in their accounts after the war. Although every
human life is precious, during the entire crisis and the war, only few
hundred Kuwaiti lives were lost. Only a few hundred soldiers from the
coalition forces were killed and many of them died because of friendly
fire. Only two Israelis were killed directly and eleven died
indirectly because of the Iraqi missiles.
Therefore, there was no justification for that excessiveness. As a
result, a very small number of accounts mentioned the topic. Some of
them even tried to do a damage-control job by attempting to make Iraqi
casualties look very small. They tried to hide the fact that the war
was unnecessarily excessive and extremely overdone.
General Schwarzkopf estimated that by
January 9, 1991, there were 38 Iraqi divisions (4 less than earlier
estimates) in the battlefield. These were composed of 545,000 men,
4,300 tanks, and 3,100 pieces of artillery.
By the end of the war, twenty-seven of these divisions were destroyed.
This amounted to about 70 percent of them. Assuming that these
divisions were equal in number, then the number of soldiers who were
killed or injured would be more than 380,000. Thus, General
estimates of one hundred thousand Iraqi deaths during the air campaign
and fifty thousands more at the end of the ground were not
Other estimates were 220,000,
However, some accounts attempted to
minimize these Iraqi casualties in what amounted to a damage-control
effort. Representative Les Aspin, Chairman of the House Committee on
Armed Services and one of the few Democrats in Congress who supported
the Bush administration in its war option, produced a report for that
effect together with Representative William Dickinson.
They argued that the number of the Iraqis killed during the air
campaign was not enormous. They admitted from the beginning that
dependable counts did not exist. Therefore, their estimates relied on
counting numbers of Iraqi tanks, armored personnel carriers and
artillery pieces. Accordingly, the Pentagon public affairs office B
their main source of information -- did some simple arithmetic. The
number of Iraqi divisions in Kuwait, which was originally believed to
be 42, was multiplied by the number of soldiers thought by
intelligence analysts to comprise a division. This resulted in an
estimate of approximately 547,000 Iraqi troops. However, after the
war, captured senior Iraqi officers reported that many of these units
were substantially understrength, which is less than what they were
thought to be. As a result, the report concluded that there were only
183,000 Iraqi troops. Of these, the coalition forces captured about
63,000 while the rest 120,000 escaped or were killed during the ground
In explaining their conclusions,
Aspin and Dickenson mentioned that the original figure (assigned
strength) was 547,000 but it was later discovered that the estimated
understregth was 185,000. This means that the real figure was 362,000
Iraqi troops in Kuwait. What happened to them? The report answered
that 17,000 of them were injured and 9,000 were killed during the air
campaign, 63,000 were captured, and 153,000 deserted.
When these figures are analyzed, it
is not difficult to find out that they are inaccurate and unreliable
for three main reasons. First, the claim of 153,000 deserters is based
on reports of captured Iraqi officers who represented only about 12
percent of the “assigned” Iraqi troops. This is not a reliable
evidence that we can use to generalize about the remaining vast
majority, 88 percent of the troops. It is likely that many of these
were killed and buried inside their bunkers or trenches in the
Second, the claim of the 120,000
Iraqi troops who escaped during the air campaign or were killed during
the ground war is also unreliable. On pages 32 and 34, the report
mentioned that they had escaped. However, on page 35, they were
described as “escaped/killed during ground war.”
The report never elaborated on how many were killed and how many
managed to escape. This uncertainty of the report may be attributed to
the fact that it was mainly based on “guesses,” and on the hope
that the other numbers are accurate. As a result, these estimates did
not really represent more than wishful thinking.
Finally, these figures did not
include casualties inside Iraq during the air campaign and the ground
war. Thus doing, the Aspin and Dickinson=s
report failed to challenge General Schwarzkopf=s
estimates. When President Bush published his memoirs later, in 1998,
he seemed more to believe Schwarzkopf=s
estimates than the Aspin figures. However, he tried to minimize the
Iraqi casualties by mentioning that there were more than 50,000 Iraqi
Another damage-control effort was
made by John G. Heidenrich, who worked as a military analyst for the
Secretary of defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
during the war. Heidenrich=s
attempt was more blunt than Aspen and Dickinson=s.
He mentioned in the first page of his article that Schwarzkopf=s
estimates were nothing but rumors based on the initial
“misleading” field reports. Thus, his job was to address “the
damage that has already been done” by the Commander of the coalition
forces. However, in his damage-control job, he did not support his
argument with any official materials from the Pentagon. To the
contrary, the figures he used supported those revealed by Schwarzkopf.
Instead of relying on official data from the Pentagon, where he
worked, he used historical ratios of war casualties to argue that
there was a very small number of Iraqi casualties that did not exceed
9,500 deaths and 25,000 injuries. It was a less serious but a sad
attempt of hiding the truth from the American people. He mentioned
that among the 100,000 Iraqis who were captured, there were 2,000
injured. He could not explain how 98,000 un-injured soldiers could be
captured while 23,000 injured soldiers could manage to escape. His
other major mistake was his failure to account for the casualties
inside Iraq, as a result of the 38 days of the air campaign.
In brief, such damage-control attempts were self-defeating and would
not stand a little effort of analysis. Even seven years after the war,
President Bush admitted that there were more than 50,000 Iraqi deaths
during the war.
War costs in moral devastation and pain to victims cannot be
estimated. Indirect material costs cannot be estimated either. But one
estimate of direct material costs of the war reached more than $100
Most of these were paid by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other Gulf
states. If the increase in military spending and weapon purchases in
these states, after the war, is added together with the enormous Iraqi
losses, the result is a huge figure, exceeding $600 billion.
The war also contributed to an increase in military spending in the
entire Gulf region as well as in the United States. Consequently, the
indirect costs include a decrease in socio-economic development in the
Gulf and more suffering among the poor in the United States, due to
less public spending on health care, welfare assistance, affordable
housing, and higher education.
When Secretary Baker toured the Gulf
for financial contributions, on September 6-7, 1990, Saudi Arabia and
the Kuwaiti government in-exile paid $17 billion each. Moreover, King
Fahd gave an undertaking that his country would provide the coalition
forces with all the food, fuel, water, accommodation, local
transportation and other facilities they needed - at no cost to
themselves. In addition to that, the U.S. Department of Defense
presented to the Saudis a bill of $2.6 billion, which included $1.9
billion of expenses in airlifting and sealifting troops and supplies.
The cost of the American military build-up in Saudi Arabia after that
amounted to about $1 billion every month. Thus, by the end of the air
campaign, the direct costs reached about $60 billion.
When adding costs of the ground war and its consequences, including
stay in Saudi Arabia for several more months, the $100 billion figure
of El-Rayyes is not a farfetched one.
The Saudi support for the coalition
troops was “lavish.” It must have been the first war in history in
which the troops never missed a meal. Over 750,000 troops were fed
each day at Saudi expense. American forces alone were supplied with
two million gallons of drinking water each day. The fuel consumption
by the two American corps approached 4.5 million gallons each day.
This “lavish” spending certainly
pleased an important category of the Saudi people, contractors. These
were overjoyed as they supplied the “voracious” demands of the
U.S. military. That support for the coalition forces cost Saudi Arabia
about $10 billion. In addition, the Saudi Ministry of Finance made a
direct contribution to the U.S. Treasury of about $14 billion, while
further $3.5 billion was paid direct to the treasuries of other
countries that helped the coalition military effort.
According to the agreed upon plan with the military leaders,
President Bush announced the cease-fire on February 27, 1991,
contingent on an end to Iraqi fighting, an end to Iraqi missile
attacks, an immediate release of prisoners of war, an immediate
release of Kuwaiti civilian hostages, and compliance with the UN
In order to work out details of the
cease-fire, the coalition commander met with representatives of the
Iraqi military command in Safwan, an Iraqi airstrip 3 miles north of
the Kuwaiti border. The Safwan Conference was held on March 3, 1991,
in the 3rd day after cessation of hostilities on February 28 (Gulf
time). The Saudi commander, Khaled Bin Sultan, who accompanied the
coalition commander, Schwarzkopf, was disappointed for two main
reasons. First, the conference did not result in the complete
surrender of Iraq. He had a vision of a solemn scene like the one in
Tokyo Bay in September 1945. As a result, he considered the conference
a failure. Second, the Americans disappointed him when they did not
insist on that Iraq should be represented by a member of the
Revolutionary Command Council. Instead, Iraq was represented by two
Iraqi three-star generals, who were even unknown to the coalition
intelligence officers. These were Lieutenant General Sultan Hashim
Ahmed, the Iraqi Deputy Chief of Staff, and Lieutenant General Salah
In the Conference, the Iraqi
representative, General Sultan Ahmed, asked General Norman Schwarzkopf
about why the coalition had launched the ground forces into Iraq when
"we had withdrawn from Kuwait and announced it on television and
radio." Schwarzkopf never answered that question but replied,
"we will leave it to history." General Ahmed answered him,
"I have just mentioned it for history," too.
Within an Arabic context, that may not be understood as a question
only. Rather, a complaint about excessive killing of Iraqi soldiers.
Secretary Baker summarized the Gulf War outcomes in seven major
results. First, it made peace possible between Arabs and Israelis.
Second, Arab radicalism had been discredited. Third, moderate Arab
governments were strengthened. Fourth, The United States had earned
the deep gratitude of all of the Gulf Arabs. Fifth, the war
neutralized the gravest threat to Israel=s
security. Sixth, the U.S. demonstrated that the Soviet Union was no
longer a major player on the world stage. Seventh, the American
credibility internationally became higher than anytime since the end
of World War II.
When these results are analyzed, it
becomes clear that the war has benefited the minority ruling elites in
the region on the expense of the majority of the Arab masses. First, a
decade after the war, a just peace between Arabs and Israel has not
been achieved. Israelis have been dragging their feet in an endless
process of negotiations instead of a quick withdrawal from the Arab
occupied territories, like what Iraqis were forced to do. Second,
instead of “discrediting” Arab nationalists (Secretary Baker
referred to them as radicals), they could have been won as friends had
the crisis been resolved peacefully. Third, the war strengthened Arab
dictatorships. It did not lead to the emergence of any democratic
governments whether in moderate or non-moderate Arab states. Fourth,
while the United States had earned the gratitude of the minority of
Arabs in the Gulf, it earned a hostile attitude from the majority of
Arabs, everywhere. Moreover, the war increased the material and
psychological barriers between the Gulf states and the rest of Arabs.
Fifth, the war neutralized the Iraqi threat to Israel, which
encouraged the Israelis to continue their occupation of the
Palestinian, Lebanese, and Syrian territories. Sixth, the War
demonstrated that the Soviet Union could no longer continue playing
its role as a superpower that competed with the United States.
Moreover, the Soviets sold their will to the U.S. during the crisis,
which was an indicator to their downfall within a few months after
that. Finally, the war resulted in regaining the American credibility
in the world. However, the beneficiaries were the elite autocratic
governments, not the majority of people. The war did not promote the
American values of democracy, liberty, equality of opportunity, and
hard work. To the contrary, the victorious sovereign states of the
Gulf continued to represent the opposite of these American values.
Although immigrants constitute the majority in these states, the vast
majority of them never become permanent residents or citizens. The
objective is to limit access to the oil wealth to the privileged
citizens, who enjoy that access on basis of birthrights, not
qualifications or hard work. The war was truly a misrepresentation of
what most Americans stand for.
The administration missed a golden opportunity to win the
hearts and minds of the majority of Arabs, who live in the less
fortunate Arab states. For example, on February 7, Secretary Baker
unveiled before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the idea of a
Middle East Development Bank. This bank, he proposed, “would collect
funds from the more prosperous countries of the region to finance
economic development in the region ... The Middle East, a land of
disproportionate wealth remains the only area of the world without (a
development bank),” he added. However, President Bush killed the
The position of the President to
oppose the idea of a Middle East development bank is strange. As a
Texan who is close to the oil industry there, he should have been
supportive to that proposal. Texan oil revenues are taxed by the
federal government and thus shared with other non-oil-producing states
of the Union. He took a strange position by opposing that the
oil-producing Arab states share some of their oil revenues with the
other non-oil-producing Arab states. In fact, he lost a historical
opportunity by not establishing that bank. The Gulf rulers could not
reject that proposal had he presented it to them after the war. After
all, they owed him the continuation of their regimes. Because of that
missed opportunity, the Middle East is still polarized as privileged
halves and impoverished have-nots. This is a recipe for the
continuation of instability in the region that he attempted to end by
reversing the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
It is amazing that the Bush
administration adopted a double-standard policy even in inter-Arab
affairs. While wealthy Arabs were rescued in the Gulf War, the poor
Arabs were denied the opportunity of the Development Bank. Anyway,
President Bush did not justify his opposition toward the Bank, but
Secretary Baker defended the double-standard policy concerning the
Israeli occupation of the Arab territories. He mentioned that when he
met with the Palestinian leaders in East Jerusalem after the war, they
“made the ridiculous suggestion that the same sort of international
coalition that enforced UN Resolution 678 ... should now enforce
Resolutions 242 and 338 by removing the Israelis from the occupied
territories.” He replied: “If you=re
asking that we send in the Eighty-Second Airborne, forget it ... That
going to happen.” He then explained “the difference between 678,
which was mandatory and unconditional, and 242 and 338, which called
for negotiations involving land for peace.
Despite this attempt to justify the double-standard American policy in
the Middle East, Baker could not hide the fact that it was still a
double-standard policy. If there was one standard in conducting
foreign policy, then Resolutions 242 and 338 would be mandatory and
unconditional, as well.
The Bush administration preferred to go to war, in which
hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives were lost, than resolving the
crisis peacefully. Officials in the administration were even willing
to use tactical nuclear weapons, which could have led to a disaster of
mass destruction in the entire Middle East region. This was prevented
only because of Iraq=s
wise decision not to use chemical weapons during the war.
Had the objective been the Iraqi
withdrawal from Kuwait, the crisis could have been resolved
peacefully. But the destruction of Iraq turned to be the real
objective of the war, which explains the huge loss of Iraqi lives.
That destruction removed a potential threat to the balance of power in
the region and left Israel as the only regional superpower. In fact,
the war strengthened the position of Israel, as the idea of linkage
was defeated and the Israeli occupation of the Arab territories
extended ten more years. Furthermore, the war resulted in more
polarization between the wealthy and the poor in the region. All this
happened as a result of the lack of vision in the administration
concerning the future of the region.
The collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact caught the Bush administration by surprise. The foreign policy experts in the administration were not ready with plans for peace after the Cold War. As the only remaining superpower, America needs to address challenges of peace, which is the subject of Chapter XI.
Although “Um El-Ma’arek” literally means “The Mother of
Battles,” most authors have used “The Mother of All Battles,”
instead, apparently following the first translation.
 During WWI, there were 135 combat casualties per 1000 troops. The WWII ratio was 156 per 1000. In the Gulf War, 1.3 million troops from both camps were deployed producing an estimated 220,000 deaths. Thus, the Gulf War ratio was 169 deaths per 1000 troops in just 43 days of combat (Marullo, 1993: 8). Even if we consider more conservative figures (150,000 deaths), the loss in human life is still among the highest in history.
 Badsey (1992: 66-67).
 Schwarzkopf (1992: 382-383).
 Powell (1995: 472-473).
 Sibbald (1992: 110).
 Bin Sultan (1995: 313-315).
 Bin Sultan (1955: 341, 344).
 Sibbald (1992: 122).
 Benn (1998).
 President Bush mentioned that there were 110,000 sorties
(Bush and Scowcroft, 1998: 486).
 Bin Sultan (1995: 337).
Bin Sultan (1995: 420).
The exception was the few battles fought by the Republican Guard, in
self-defense, while trying to retreat north and east, during the
 Bin Sultan (1995: 347-48, 354).
Timmerman (1991: 267, 365-366) mentioned that Al-Hussain flew 615
kilometers (382 miles). Mcknight (1992: 175) mentioned that Al-Hussain
had a range of 650 kilometers (404 miles), and Al-Abbas could fly
about 850 kilometers (528 miles).
 Powell (1995: 486, 503-504, 511-512).
 Levrani (1997: 56).
 Baker (1995: 385).
 Baker (1995: 387-388).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 468).
 Baker (1995: 388-89).
 Schwarzkopf (1992: 418-19).
 Bin Sultan (1995: 348-49).
 Levrani (1997: 6-7).
 Bin Sultan (1995: 357).
 Peres (1993: 20).
 Schwarzkopf (1992: 453).
 Baker (1995: 391).
 Baker (1995: 392).
 Baker (1995: 402). Pronounced as “no way hozay.”
 Baker (1995: 403).
 Baker (1995: 405-406); Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 475-77).
 Bin Sultan (1995: 391-92, 405, 411).
Schwarzkopf (1995: 453).
 The words “cut off and killed” are Colin Powell’s (Powell, 1995: 509). He probably borrowed them from Brent Scowcroft, who suggested the plan.
Schwarzkopf (1992: 443).
 Probably, Schwarzkopf was referring here to the members of congress who were instrumental in pushing for the passing of the war resolution in Congress, in addition to pro-Israel experts in the administration, and the army of strategy, military, and counter-terrorism experts who overwhelmed the media demanding and arguing for nothing short of the total destruction of Iraq.
 Schwarzkopf (1992: 411-12).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 477).
 Schwarzkopf (1992: 442-43).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 462-463).
 Powell (1995: 520).
 Baker (1995: 360).
 Baker (1995: 410).
 Baker (1995: 436).
 Baker (1995: 412).
 Schwarzkopf (1992: 467-69).
 Schwarzkopf (1992: 461).
 Schwarzkopf (1992: 462).
 Powell (1995: 517); Schwarzkopf (1992: 466).
 Baker (1995: 409-410).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 487).
 Toase (1992: 169).
 Cipkowski (1992: 191).
Levrani (1997: 26).
 Levrani (1997: 2).
 Schwarzkopf (1992: 407).
 Powell (1995: 518).
 Schwarzkopf (1992: 441-42).
 Marullo (1993: 8)
 Cipkowski (1992: 191); Benn (1998).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 487).
 Aspin and Dickinson (1992).
 Aspin and Dickinson (1992: 29-35).
 Aspin and Dickinson (1992: 33-35).
 Aspin and Dickinson (1992: 32-35).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 487).
 Heidenrich (1993).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 487).
 Bin Sultan (1995: 290-91).
 Powell (1995: 469, 515).
 Bin Sultan (1995: 284).
 Bin Sultan (1995: 292-93).
 Schwarzkopf (1992: 470).
 Bin Sultan (1955: 421-424).
 Schwarzkopf (1992: 488).
 Baker (1995: 412).
 Baker (1995: 413).
 Baker (1995: 424).
Table of Contents, Gulf War: Overreaction & Excessiveness, By Hassan A El-Najjar