Schwarzkopf Says He Hoped for a Rout of Iraqi Forces but Bush Chose to Halt War
Gulf commander H. Norman Schwarzkopf says he wanted to annihilate Iraq’s armies as Hannibal once crushed the Romans, but President Bush pulled him up short.
In a television interview with David Frost scheduled for broadcast tonight, the U.S. Army general also said Baghdad’s cease-fire negotiators “suckered me” into letting Iraq keep flying the helicopters it is now using against Shiite and Kurdish rebels.
He said Iraqi generals had sought allied permission to fly helicopters for transportation when their real intent was to use the aircraft against the insurrections.
Discussing Bush’s decision to stop the ground war after four days on Feb. 27, when the goal of ousting Iraqi forces from Kuwait had been achieved, Schwarzkopf recalled that the allies were pounding the fleeing Iraqis “and it was literally about to become the battle of Cannae, a battle of annihilation.”
The Carthaginian general Hannibal, one of Schwarzkopf’s military heroes, encircled an entire Roman army at the village of Cannae in 216 BC and cut it to pieces.
“Frankly, my recommendation (to Bush) had been, you know, continue the march,” Schwarzkopf said.
“I mean, we had them in a rout and we could have continued to reap great destruction on them. We could have completely closed the door and made it a battle of annihilation.
“And the President made the decision that we should stop at a given time, at a given place that did leave some escape routes open for them to get back out, and I think it was a very humane decision and a very courageous decision on his part.”
He said historians would second-guess Bush forever and noted that critics were already complaining that the allies failed to destroy Iraq’s Republican Guard and other units.
“There were obviously a lot of people who escaped who wouldn’t have escaped if the decision hadn’t been made to stop us where we were,” he said. ". . . But again, I think that was a very courageous decision on the part of the President.”
The interview is scheduled to be broadcast on public television stations tonight.
Schwarzkopf peppered the interview with the contempt he often aims at Hussein--calling him “an evil man,” a liar and a killer, among other things--but said he appears to be beyond the reach of any international war crimes tribunal.
“What normally happens to people like Saddam is, at some point, they are taken care of by their own folks,” the general said without elaboration.