Schwarzkopf Defends Decision to Halt Gulf War

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Despite extensive second-guessing about the conclusion of the Persian Gulf War, former Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf said the United States and its allies never seriously considered pressing the military offensive on to Baghdad.

In a radio interview and in his forthcoming autobiography, “It Doesn’t Take a Hero,” Schwarzkopf, the field commander during the conflict, said that taking Baghdad would have splintered the 28-nation Gulf War coalition, cost American lives and dragged the United States into a quagmire “like the dinosaur in the tar pit.”

“The legitimacy for what we were doing was the United Nations resolution, which called for us to kick the Iraqis out of Kuwait,” the retired four-star general said in a weekend radio interview. “We’d accomplished our mission.”


Since the conclusion of the war on Feb. 28, 1991, critics have claimed that the offensive stopped too soon, allowing Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to escape with much of his land army and its weaponry intact.

Schwarzkopf initially endorsed this view. He said that he had been overruled by President Bush, who wanted a quick end to the fighting.

But in his book, Schwarzkopf said he had come to accept the decision of the President and Gen. Colin L. Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to halt the ground war after 100 hours. “We’d won decisively, and we’d done it with very few casualties. Why not end it? Why get somebody else killed? That made up my mind,” he wrote.

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