- Q: People always [ask] this--why didn't you go to Baghdad and finish off the job?
Schwarzkopf: On the question of going to Baghdad. If you remember the Vietnam war, we had no international legitimacy for what we did. As a result we, first of all, lost the battle of world public opinion and eventually we lost the battle at home.
In the Gulf War we had great international legitimacy in the form of eight United Nations Resolutions, every one of which said "Kick Iraq out of Kuwait", did not say one word about going into Iraq, taking Baghdad, conquering the whole country and hanging Saddam Hussein. That's point number one.
Point number two, had we gone on to Baghdad, I don't believe the French would have gone and I'm quite sure that the Arab coalition would not have gone, the coalition would have ruptured and the only people that would have gone would have been the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
And, oh by the way, I think we'd still be there, we'd be like a dinosaur in a tar pit, we could not have gotten out and we'd still be the occupying power and we'd be paying one hundred percent of all the costs to administer all of Iraq.
Thirdly, I don't think we could have found Saddam Hussein if we'd done that. We forget the lessons of Panama. We had ten thousand Americans on the ground in Panama before we went into that very small country, we still couldn't find a fellow named Noriega, so what makes you think that we would go into a nation the size of Iraq and be able to find one person who has all the ability in the world to escape and hide and fly out of the country.
But I think, more importantly, there's a strategic consideration. Saddam Hussein portrayed that war from the very beginning as "This is not a war against Iraqi aggression against Kuwait. This is the Western colonial lackey friends of Israel coming in to destroy the only nation that dare stand up to Israel, that is Iraq".
Had we proceeded to go on into Iraq and take all of Iraq, I think that you would have millions of people in that part of the world who would say Saddam was right, that that was the objective.
Instead we went in, we did what the United Nations mandate asked us to do and we left and we didn't ask for anything. We didn't leave permanent military forces over there, we didn't demand territory, we didn't demand bases, and the Arabs became convinced that the West was willing to deal with them evenhandedly which has led directly, in my mind, to the progress that's going on at the peace table an.. between Israel and the Arabs and the Palestinians. It never would have happened if Desert Storm hadn't occurred.
So the bottom line, as far as I'm concerned, is that sure, emotionally I would have loved to have gone to Baghdad and grabbed Saddam Hussein, but this was not an emotional decision, it was a strategic decision, and strategically we were smart enough to win the war and win the peace.
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
Frontline Interview with Norman Schwarzkopf