Did the Iraqis really only use landlines during Desert Storm?

Did the Iraqis really only use landlines during Desert Storm?

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I remember reading somewhere -- I think it was in a CIA or NSA briefing paper -- that during Desert Storm, the Iraqis refused to communicate by radio because they were too scared of the U.S. codebreakers. Instead, they used landlines, which they thought were more secure.

Is this in any way true and, if so, is there a source for it?

(I have no security clearance with anything top secret, so if this is true it's out in the open.)

It doesn't seem so.

The Final Report to Congress on the conduct of the [1991] Persian Gulf War states that:

In Iraq, the civil telecommunications system was designed to serve the regime - it was an integral part of military communications. For example, approximately 60 percent of military landline communications passed through the civil telephone system. Degrading this system appears to have had an immediate effect on the ability to command military forces and secret police.

Furthermore, the report states that:

More than half of Iraq's military landline communications passed through major switching facilities in Baghdad. Civil TV and radio facilities could be used easily for C3 backup for military purposes. The Saddam Hussein regime also controlled TV and radio and used them as the principal media for Iraqi propaganda. Thus, these installations also were struck.

Simply put, by the time that Desert Sword began, the Iraqi regime just didn't have the landline infrastructure remaining to be able to use it for effective communication.

Notwithstanding the above, keeping radio communication to a minimum is normal military practice. Even if they weren't concerned about allied code-breaking capabilities (bearing in mind that many of the intercepts came from UK installations on Cyprus), they would certainly have been aware that using radio would reveal the position of their forces to allied monitoring and radio direction finding (RDF).

Similarly, allied ground forces routinely used radio remote units to defeat Iraqi RDF capabilities.


The Iraqi's didn't just use land lines.

As explained in "Conduct of the Persian Gulf War, Final Report to Congress{pp. 74-96}" and summarized in a monograph1 by LTC Robert C. Hood, USAF:

One of the key theater military objectives was attack of the Iraqi political military leadership and C2. The attacks began on the first night of the air campaign. Within the air campaign, the Joint Forces Air Component Commander (JFACC) objectives included "isolate and incapacitate the Iraqi regime." The target sets attacked to accomplish this objective were
-Leadership command facilities
-Crucial aspects of electricity production facilities that power military and military-related industrial systems.
-Telecommunications and Command Control and Communication (C3) system.'

The intent of the attacks was to "fragment and disrupt Iraqi political and military leadership… "
The attacks should cause the leaders to hide or relocate, making it difficult for them to control or even keep pace with events. The attacks on the Iraqi telecommunications and C3 systems interfered with the Iraqi political leaders' ability to issue orders and receive reports by forcing them to use backup systems vulnerable to eavesdropping{emphasis mine}. These attacks did not accomplish their ambitious goals of isolation and decapitation but did impose some, if not considerable, disruption and dislocation of the Iraqi leadership. Many elements of the Iraqi government relocated, some several times, and shifted to backup communications. Normal telephone communications were disrupted.

A note on military jargon: C2 means "Command and Control" and C3 means "Command, Control, and Communication" in Desert Storm era military usage. C3 includes both land line and electromagnetic spectrum communications systems. (How do I know that? When I was an officer, I also got involved in writing military Op Plans for other Joint Operations (even wars) though I was not on that team for Desert Storm {thanks my lucky stars}).

And as our esteemed colleague @sempaiscuba pointed out

More than half of Iraq's military landline communications passed through major switching facilities in Baghdad. Civil TV and radio facilities could be used easily for C3 backup for military purposes. The Saddam Hussein regime also controlled TV and radio and used them as the principal media for Iraqi propaganda. Thus, these installations also were struck.

1 Campaign Planning: Considerations for Attacking National Command and Control; School of Advanced Military Studies, Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth KS, 1994.

The above monograph was marked as acceptable for public distribution

Desert Storm Turns Twenty: What Really Happened in 1991, and Why it Matters, Part I of II

It's been twenty years since we went to war in Iraq for the first time. The years have been kind to Desert Storm, which is now remembered as an unalloyed triumph. But was it? The way Desert Storm was shaped, fought and finished revealed tremendous indecision in Washington, half measures on the battlefield, and an inconclusive war termination that sowed the poison seeds of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990 in large part to extricate himself from the debts of the Iran-Iraq War, which had raged from 1980 to 1988. The Americans, Japanese and Europeans had loaned Saddam about $35 billion, the Saudis $31 billion, Kuwait $14 billion and the U.A.E. $8 billion. The war had cost Iraq at least half a trillion dollars, and Iraq had little hope of repaying its external debt with oil prices sliding down to $13 a barrel as the war petered out and supply picked up.

The Iraqis had been claiming Kuwait ever since the British amputated its territory from the Ottoman province of Basra in 1899. Iraqis defiantly referred to Kuwait as their "19th province" and coveted its hoard of petrodollars and deep reserves of oil. In July 1990, Saddam shaped a pretext for war, when he defined Kuwait's refusal to cede territory to Iraq, cut its oil production, and forgive its Iraqi war debts as "military aggression."

In Baghdad, U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie pressed for a clarification of Iraqi intentions. Her work became more urgent in the third week of July when Iraqi Republican Guard units began deploying to Basra in preparation for what satellite imagery suggested could only be an invasion of Kuwait. She counseled patience.

Bush's Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell, was as hesitant as Glaspie. His military options to retake Kuwait, National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft groused, "had not seemed designed by anyone eager to undertake the task." The Powell Doctrine, conceived after Reagan's disastrous intervention in Lebanon, still prevailed in 1990: U.S. forces would only be introduced into conflicts with clear, achievable aims, a visible exit, and strong popular and congressional support. Powell considered that none of those criteria were fulfilled in the case of Iraq's takeover of Kuwait. He proposed a different strategy: "grind down" Saddam through "a policy of containment or strangulation."

April Glaspie met with Saddam on July 25, 1990. She believed wholeheartedly in the Bush plan to "moderate" Saddam Hussein and make him a U.S. ally. She took as her brief a memo that had arrived from Secretary of State James Baker the previous day. Baker had condemned Iraqi efforts to bully the weaker Gulf states and had noted the peril "of having oil production and pricing policy in the Gulf determined and enforced by Iraqi guns." But Baker also affected "to take no position on the border delineation issue raised by Iraq with respect to Kuwait."

Imprecision like that had caused the Korean War forty years earlier, when Secretary of State Dean Acheson had neglected to include South Korea in America's East Asian security perimeter. The North Koreans had interpreted that omission as license to invade the south. In 1990, Saddam saw an opening in Baker's apparent indifference on the border issue. What if he left Kuwait largely intact, but seized the Rumaila oil field and one or two of Kuwait's islands? Perhaps the Bush administration would permit that. The Bush administration itself had no idea what it would do if Saddam invaded Kuwait. Instead of facing the question squarely, President Bush and his key deputies kicked the can down the road, and merely hoped that "moderation" would work.

"Do not push us to [invade Kuwait]," Saddam growled to Ambassador Glaspie. "Do not make it the only option left with which we can protect our dignity." After the meeting, Glaspie cabled Baker and urged him to "ease off on public criticism of Iraq" until Saddam had been given the chance to negotiate with the Kuwaitis at a Saudi-arranged conference in Jedda. At the Pentagon, hawkish deputies like Paul Wolfowitz were disturbed by the defeatist tone of Glaspie's cable, but the actual presidential letter to Saddam drafted for Bush's signature by his N.S.C. ran in a Glaspian vein. Saddam's saber-rattling, his accumulation of weapons of mass destruction, his brutal police state, and anti-American and anti-Israeli rhetoric were resolutely downplayed -- "certain Iraqi policies and activities" -- and Bush pronounced himself "pleased" with Saddam's willingness to attend the Jedda conference that Saddam himself had convened at the point of a gun. Although Bush was about to announce a 25 percent reduction in U.S. armed forces -- the post-Cold War "peace dividend" -- no cuts had yet been made. Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney's top deputies at the Pentagon recommended a stern rewrite explicitly warning Saddam not to attack Kuwait, but the shilly-shallying N.S.C. letter went out over Bush's signature. Nothing was done to reinforce the Kuwaitis, or to open Saudi bases to U.S. forces. A 2,000-man Marine Expeditionary Unit remained in the Philippines no B-52s were sent to Diego Garcia, and there was not even a Navy carrier in the Gulf or the North Arabian Sea. The nearest U.S. carrier, the Independence, was four days away.

By August 1, it was plain that Saddam intended to invade Kuwait. He had satisfied himself that Washington would not intervene to stop him. Satellite photos depicted corps-strength Iraqi armor and infantry units on the Kuwaiti border, Iraqi marines with bridging equipment opposite Bubiyan Island, dense concentrations of Iraqi strike aircraft and helicopters at air bases in southern Iraq, and all the logistics required for a push down to Kuwait City. Nevertheless, President Bush was preparing to depart for Aspen, Colorado to announce the "peace dividend," and Centcom commander General Norman Schwarzkopf let his staff go home early on August 1. By 7 p.m. Schwarzkopf's staff had all come rushing back from the suburban subdivisions, gyms, Little League diamonds and malls of Tampa Iraqi mechanized divisions had carved into Kuwait, driven the emir into exile, seized the capital, and swiftly defeated weak resistance by the Kuwaiti army. Iraqi troops picked Kuwait clean in a methodical campaign of looting. Containers were loaded with valuables and shipped up to Basra. Iraqi pilots seized Kuwait Airways' jets and flew them up to Baghdad, along with Kuwait airport's runway lights and baggage handling equipment. Cars, trucks, buses, tractors and just about anything with an engine was stolen or stripped for parts. Seats were ripped out of Kuwait's stadiums and movie theaters for use in Iraq. Kuwait's hospitals, universities and libraries were stripped to the bare walls. Beef carcasses were heaved out of Kuwaiti meat freezers and shipped to Iraq. Kuwait's gem market was picked clean, and 1 million ounces of gold were seized from the Central Bank of Kuwait and deposited in Baghdad. Iraqi emissaries circulated around the Middle East boasting that they had taken $500 billion in cash out of Kuwait they offered to share the loot with friendly states who would accept the Iraqi invasion and annexation. Iraqi looters, bused in by Saddam to take their places as "Kuwaitis" in case there were a U.N. referendum on Kuwait's future, swept through Kuwait's shops, houses and apartments stealing everything in sight: televisions, stereos, sinks, toilets, lamps, rugs, curtains, even cutlery and light bulbs.

No one had predicted that Saddam would actually do something this reckless, but he had always been a reckless operator. Not having made up their minds how to handle an Iraqi invasion, the Bush administration fell to arguing. "Not all wars are avoidable," Scowcroft reflected, "and this was perhaps one of them." Saddam's attack engaged America's superpower interest in oil as well as its determination to shape the new world order that had emerged with the collapse of the U.S.S.R. Scowcroft noted a basic divide between those who saw the Iraqi invasion as "the major crisis of our time" (Scowcroft and Cheney) and those who viewed it as a manageable "crisis du jour" (Baker and Powell) that could be handled by sanctions, diplomacy and an embargo on Iraqi oil.

The U.N. Security Council, the U.N. General Assembly and the Arab League had all condemned the invasion and there was discussion in the White House of an air and naval blockade of Iraq, but Secretary of Defense Cheney wanted more than just protests, sanctions or a quarantine. Saddam was angling to "dominate OPEC, the Gulf and the Arab world." His tanks were now forty kilometers from Saudi Arabia, and even if he didn't take their oil wells, he would "have an impact. The problem would get worse, not better." Saddam's hasty offer in August of a final peace settlement to the Iranians and his evacuation of 1,000 square miles of Iranian territory -- the only spoils from Iraq's eight-year war with Iran -- confirmed that Saddam was clearing the decks and focusing all of his energies on a fight with the U.S. Cheney enjoined Bush to lay out American aims clearly: "we need an objective." Cheney wanted to fling Saddam out of Kuwait -- at a minimum -- and perhaps march on to Baghdad to depose him. The U.S. had to maintain a favorable balance in the Gulf. But Cheney also worried that the American people would not support a war to restore the reactionary al-Sabah dynasty, particularly when such a war appeared to benefit Japan -- still the export-driven bugbear of Americans in 1990 -- which imported far more Kuwaiti oil than the U.S. Congress also wavered throughout, even a staunch "national security Democrat" like Georgia Senator Sam Nunn insisting that only air and naval forces be used against Saddam, no ground troops.

With Gorbachev's reformers foundering in the face of counter-attacks from Soviet hardliners, could America really afford to embark on war in Iraq? The always cautious Powell fed on doubts like that. A war with Iraq would not be easy -- "harder than Panama or Libya, this would be the N.F.L., not a scrimmage" -- and such a war as this seemed as ill-advised to Powell as Vietnam. He chided Cheney for sounding "Carteresque" in his resolve to defend the Gulf. Carter, of course, had made all the right noises about defending the Shah and Iranian moderates, but then collapsed under Khomeini's pressure. Powell reckoned that another defeat like that would destroy American credibility, and he didn't like the sound of a war with Iraq. "The American people," he argued, "don't want their young dying for buck-fifty-a gallon oil." Defend Saudi Arabia, Powell reasoned, but concede Kuwait to Saddam. "The next few days Iraq will withdraw, but Saddam will put his puppet in. Everyone in the Arab world will be happy." Powell doubted, as New York Senator Pat Moynihan witheringly put it, that Americans would agree to put 500,000 U.S. troops in harm's way to rescue Kuwaiti princes holed up in Saudi Sheratons, "sitting there in their white robes, drinking coffee and urging us on to war." Moynihan reminded President Bush that Kuwait was an "accident of history," with artificial boundaries drawn by "the bureaucrats of the colonial powers." The implication was clear: Kuwait was not worth the bones of a single American soldier.

But General Powell seemed wobbly even on Saudi Arabia, whose 66,000-man army would not stand a chance against the Iraqis. "We must communicate to Saddam Hussein that Saudi Arabia is the line," Powell advised Cheney, but then added that even there -- the world's biggest oil patch -- American intervention would depend on "popular support" from the American people and a "national sense" that the game was worth the candle. President Bush expressed his frustration with the uniformed military to his diary: "we had a long way to go before the military was 'gung ho,'" -- "our military is waffling and vacillating in terms of what we can do on the ground." Cheney too bristled at Powell's pessimism. The Iraqis had annexed Kuwait and were within striking distance of Saudi Arabia's Hama oil fields. The Pentagon's job was not to poll public or congressional opinion, it was to advise the president on national security. "I want some options, general," Cheney growled.

On August 2, Bush chaired an N.S.C. meeting that featured sharp exchanges between Powell and the hawks, who now coalesced around Cheney. Thomas Pickering, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., scolded Powell for suggesting that the U.S. could maintain its policeman's role in the Gulf if it consented to the Iraqi takeover of Kuwait. Bush too worried that Powell was overestimating Iraqi force. "I just didn't see the Iraqis as being so tough," he told Scowcroft. After the meeting, Bush flew to Aspen, where he met with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher she urged him to take a hard line with Saddam. "If Iraq wins, no small state is safe. They won't stop here. They see a chance to take a major share of oil. It's got to be stopped. We must do everything possible." Thatcher compared the move into Kuwait to Hitler's unopposed moves against Austria and Czechoslovakia in 1938. Hitler had overrun France and Poland with the resources culled from those nations, and Thatcher worried that Saddam would annex the resources of Kuwait and then move on bigger prey like Saudi Arabia.

A hard line, of course, required a war plan. On August 4, Centcom commander General H. Norman Schwarzkopf and his air commander General Chuck Horner flew to Camp David to give President Bush options. By now, there were eleven Iraqi army divisions in Kuwait and Iraqi patrols were scouring the border with Saudi Arabia. Cheney met King Fahd, and warned him that without American troops and aircraft, Saudi Arabia would go the way of Kuwait. Saddam's military was the fourth largest in the world. The million-man Iraqi army with its 5,700 tanks was twenty-times bigger than Saudi Arabia's.

As American units flowed in to backstop the Saudis (Operation Desert Shield), they found themselves undergunned and undersupplied Schwarzkopf sacrificed logistics and prioritized men over materiel to create the impression -- boots on the ground -- of American strength. Even when attention shifted to logistics, the U.S. military was found wanting. Reagan's massive military buildup had sacrificed unglamorous functions like transport ships ("sealift") and minesweepers to pay for high-tech programs like "Star Wars," stealth technology, fighter aircraft, attack subs and cruise missiles. The sea and airlift problems would later explain Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's determination to slim down the armed services, cut their logistical trains, and re-focus on "agility" and "mobility" when he was defense secretary from 2001 to 2006.

By September 1990, 80 percent of Americans supported Operation Desert Shield, which belied Powell's hand-wringing about scant "popular support." Most Americans recognized the need to defend the Western world's energy security. Americans were also moved by a largely spurious $11 million P.R. campaign paid for by the Kuwaiti government and crafted by Hill & Knowlton. Its most effective piece of propaganda was a lie: that Iraqi soldiers had entered Kuwaiti hospitals, yanked newborn babies out of their incubators and dashed them on the floor before packing up the equipment for shipment to Iraq. That lie was retailed by the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S., who pretended to be a Kuwaiti nurse who had witnessed the Iraqi atrocities. In fact, she was not a nurse and had not even been in Kuwait when the Iraqis invaded. Nevertheless, senators and congressmen swallowed the story hook, line and sinker. Many of them referenced it when explaining their votes in support of the war, which was narrowly authorized by the Senate 52-47 and by the House 250-183 on January 12, 1991.

As the numbers suggested, the entire Democratic leadership in both houses voted against the war, and President Bush actually worried about impeachment if the weak congressional support thinned and the war miscarried. That narrow vote to authorize the Gulf War -- the narrowest since the War of 1812 -- was the first congressional approval of military action since the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution of 1964. Iraqi depredations -- real and imagined -- coupled with the Bush administration's argument that it was also fighting to defend American jobs (that depended on cheap energy), and to punish Saddam's human rights abuses and weapons of mass destruction programs (all of which America had winked at and even supported during the 1980s), awakened American idealism. Here was a war that needed to be fought in defense of American values. Still, the vote was close, and hardly amounted to a national crusade. Massachusetts Senator John Kerry blasted Bush for making "a series of unilateral decisions that put us in a box" and "made the war inevitable." His colleague Ted Kennedy beseeched someone, anyone, to "save the President from himself, and save thousands of American soldiers in the Persian Gulf from dying in the desert in a war whose cruelty will be exceeded only by the lack of any rational necessity for waging it." Senator Al Gore, preparing his own run for the presidency, agreed to vote for the war only if given a twenty minute prime-time television slot (by Republican leader Bob Dole) to advertise his vote. New York Senator Pat Moynihan denied that Saddam's invasion of Kuwait amounted to an international crisis that engaged America's values or interests: "All that's happened is that one nasty little country has invaded a littler but just as nasty country."

On November 29, 1990, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 678, which gave Saddam till January 15, 1991 to evacuate Kuwait or face eviction by am American-led coalition that had swelled to thirty-four nations. The coalition itself was interesting it ran the gamut from lightweights like Argentina and Bangladesh to serious combat powers like France and the United Kingdom. Japan and West Germany, big consumers of Gulf oil that were politically reluctant to engage in military operations, chipped in $10 billion and $6.6 billion respectively for the costs of the conflict. Egypt joined to get its external debts -- $16 billion in 1990 -- written off. Debt forgiveness on that scale and the peerless opportunity to charge every coalition ship that transited the Suez Canal a $200,000 toll certainly tempered Mubarak's disappointment at having to reject Saddam's bribe of $20 billion, dangled after the seizure of Kuwait. The Saudis deployed their military, but, far more importantly, paid heavily to the tune of $30 billion for war costs.

Saddam still believed that the U.S. would not risk "another Vietnam." Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara was predicting casualties in Iraq of 30,000. Cheney's Pentagon was predicting as many as 30,000 deaths in the first twenty days of combat. South Dakota Senator George McGovern prophesied 50,000 casualties. The U.S. Air Force predicted the loss of 150 aircraft, with one-quarter of the pilots killed, and another quarter captured "and possibly paraded through the streets of Baghdad." House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt threatened to block all funding for the conflict if Bush proceeded with his essentially Republican authorization to use armed force instead of a formal congressional declaration of war. With terrifying threats, numbers and images like those floating around -- and newspaper columnists alternately flaying Bush for his timidity and bellicosity -- Saddam assumed that the Americans would shrink from battle, as indeed did nearly every witness called by Georgia Senator Sam Nunn's Armed Services Committee to discuss the military option.

One after another, the parade of retired flag officers and secretaries (Admiral William Crowe, General David Jones, former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger, former Secretary of the Navy James Webb, and former National Security Agency Director William Odom) asserted that a war with Iraq would be wrong-headed and bloody: it would shred the U.S. armed forces and convulse the Middle East. Senator Robert Byrd insisted that even if the U.S. delivered a "quick knockout," such a blow "would unleash a cascade of outcomes and reactions that would reduce our long-term ability [to] influence events in that region." Let sanctions bite, they all recommended, as did House Speaker Tom Foley, who gave Bush a letter signed by eighty-one Democratic members that warned of "catastrophic consequences, resulting in the massive loss of lives, including 10,000 -50,000 Americans" if America went to war with Saddam.

Dr. Geoffrey Wawro is the General Olinto Mark Barsanti Professor of Military History and Director of the Military History Center at the University of North Texas. He is the author of Quicksand: America's Pursuit of Power in the Middle East (Penguin Press, 2010.)

Desert Storm Turns Twenty: What Really Happened in 1991, and Why it Matters, Part II of II

Having rebuffed American and U.N. demands that he leave Iraq, Saddam watched the U.N. deadline -- January 15, 1991 -- come and go. Baker had threatened at Geneva that "midnight of January 15th is a very real date," and indeed it was. The next day, Operation Desert Shield became Operation Desert Storm. Desert Storm began in January with a massive air campaign -- Operation Instant Thunder -- whose name was chosen to distinguish it from the pin-pricking Lyndon Johnson air campaign in Vietnam -- Rolling Thunder -- which had gradually increased pressure. Instant Thunder was front-loaded: 100,000 sorties that dropped 88,500 tons of bombs on Iraq immediately. The ground offensive kicked off a month later. A problem arose: it now seemed clear that the U.S. coalition would win the revised war aim was to grind down the Iraqi military and destroy the WMD facilities. But the Iraqis were running away. Could the coalition destroy the bulk of the Iraqi army and annihilate the Republican Guards before they crossed back into Iraq and appealed for a cease-fire? Could they maintain any leverage over the Iraqis if Saddam simply abandoned Kuwait?

The most heavily-trafficked line of retreat was the principal Iraq-Kuwait highway, which filled with Iraqi infantry columns and vehicles trying to reverse out of Kuwait. Saddam knew that the Arab members of the coalition would not join any attacks on Iraqi units once they had left Kuwait, and suspected that other coalition partners like the French would follow suit. Allied forces, racing to hit the Iraqis before they could cross the Euphrates River, pounced on the traffic jams along Highway 8 and slaughtered them. General Barry McCaffrey called the Iraqi units -- infantry and armor alike -- "tethered goats." Neither the troops nor the officers exhibited any initiative. Alerted by juiced-up pilots who spoke excitedly about their easy kills along the Iraqi lines of retreat, the press began referring to American strikes on Highway 8 as "the turkey shoot," the route itself as the "Highway of Death." "Anything with wings and a bomb rack" was sent aloft to participate in the slaughter. Saddam milked the images of death -- burnt-out passenger buses, private cars, and even scorched baby carriages -- for all they were worth in trying to wring sympathy from the Arab street and world opinion. "The victimizer had become the victim," two historians noted. Coalition forces lurched after the blundering, bleeding Iraqis, Schwarzkopf screaming into the telephone to speed Franks up.

The Air Force stopped bombing the coastal highway running north from Kuwait City through Basra and over the causeway that bridged the Euphrates. That was a grave error exploited by the Iraqis, who poured up the road and out of Kuwait unscathed. It was a signal failure of jointness and "air-land battle," and attributable to the growing problem of "friendly fire" -- far more dangerous to the coalition than Iraqi fire -- and to fears in Washington that a second "highway of death" would be politically calamitous for America's image. Bush fretted that he would be accused of "butchering the Iraqis" and "shooting them in the back." He conceded a cease-fire after just 100 hours of combat on February 27.

The critical meeting in the Bush White House took place at 1 pm on February 27. Bush, Scowcroft, Cheney, Powell, Robert Gates and British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd agreed that they needed to force terms on Saddam, and not wait for him to request a cease-fire on his own terms. The allies agreed -- mistakenly -- that they had destroyed Iraq's WMD capabilities in the air campaign. Although the Air Force pronounced itself capable of bombing Iraq "until they're down to two stone axes and a pushcart" and coalition ground units were within striking distance of the Iraqi capital -- the 101st Airborne Division sat astride Highway 8 just 150 miles from Baghdad -- the coalition was losing the will to go on. Thatcher, who might have argued for a drive on to Baghdad to remove Saddam, had left office in November 1990, and been replaced by John Major, who evinced a desire to end the war quickly.

Bush called for a "clean end." The main thing, Bush insisted, was to avoid "charges of brutalization," of piling on just to kill Iraqis in the war's last hours. Secretary of State Baker concurred: "We have done the job. We can stop. We have achieved our aims. We have gotten them out of Kuwait." But, like everyone else in the room, Baker worried about "unfinished business." What would become of the Saddam Hussein regime? Would the Americans give it a shove, or let it stand? In Riyadh, Schwarzkopf was declaring victory at the Hyatt Hotel -- "the gates are closed . we almost completely destroyed the offensive capability of the Iraqi forces" -- and assuring the press that going to Baghdad was not in the cards. That ingenuous revelation prompted a startled protest from Paul Wolfowitz in the Pentagon, who agreed that the allies probably weren't going to Baghdad, but considered it foolhardy to tell that to the Iraqis. Wolfowitz and the other "Washington hawks" -- the future neo-cons -- were still hoping for a coup, and wanted to keep pressure on Saddam.

In Riyadh, the deputy Centcom commander, General Calvin Waller, also expressed amazement at Washington's hasty, charitable concession of a cease-fire, when only about half of the Republican Guard's equipment had been destroyed, and before the last bridges over the Euphrates had been demolished, effectively bottling up the Iraqi army, most of which was still south of Basra, squarely in the sights of the U.S. forces. American planners had planned to disarm and dismount the Iraqis and then send them streaming back into Iraq on foot. That was the kind of image that would humiliate Saddam and rock his regime. "You have got to be shitting me. Why a cease-fire now?" Waller expostulated. "One hundred hours has a nice ring," Schwarzkopf chuckled. "That's bullshit," Waller said. "Then you go argue with them," Schwarzkopf said. "Them" was the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Pentagon, and the Bush White House. Schwarzkopf had never squared off against Powell and was not about to begin now. Powell set the tone in the J.C.S., and talked the other chiefs into an early end to the war. Desert Storm had evicted Saddam from Kuwait and erased the stain of Vietnam, so why fight on?

Air Force Chief of Staff General Merrill McPeak privately protested the "merciful clemency" offered Saddam, but publicly supported Powell. President Bush too wanted to quit while he was ahead. In Washington, the analogy on everyone's mind was not Vietnam, but Korea, where a limited American war -- to evict the North Koreans from the south -- had slipped (under MacArthur's gung-ho influence) into an unlimited struggle to destroy the North Korean communists that had dragged on bloodily and inconclusively for three years and then left American troops as a permanent fixture in South Korea. Few wanted to risk this easy victory and expand American liabilities by rolling the dice and pushing north to Baghdad. Powell ridiculed the notion: it was not as if "a lot of little Jeffersonian democrats would have popped up to run for office" in Baghdad on America's coattails. Still, Bush felt tension and incompleteness everywhere. "Why do I not feel elated?" President Bush asked aloud. He knew why. The instigator of the war had survived to fight another day, and there was little that Bush could do to change that outcome. In his diary, Bush wrote of his anger at seeing Baghdad Radio broadcasting victory even as U.S. forces trounced the Iraqis. But the coalition would not support continued combat in Iraq or Kuwait merely to "destroy Iraqi forces," nor would many Americans. The war was not cheap either 390 Americans had died in combat, and the bill for the war stood at about $620 billion. "We need to have an end. People want that. They are going to want to know that we won and that the kids can come home. We don't want to screw this up with a sloppy, muddled ending." Within a year, two-thirds of Americans would come to believe that President Bush had terminated the war too soon, and the unresolved issue would contribute to Bush's defeat in the elections of 1992.

The Hundred Hour War ground to an equivocal close, over Paul Wolfowitz's recondite objection that "100-hour war" would be a politically disastrous term since it would evoke memories of the 100-hour Franco-British-Israeli attack on Egypt in 1956. ("Would 99-hour war be better?" Cheney joked.) Bush had confidently predicted that the Iraqi "troops will straggle home with no armor, beaten up, 50,000," but they were more numerous than that, and they had extricated lots of armor. American surveillance photos of southern Iraq revealed the depressing news that Saddam had pulled one-quarter of his tanks and half of his APCs from Kuwait. Worse, the tanks that escaped were largely Republican Guard. Indeed the Republican Guard divisions in Kuwait had pulled off a desert Dunkirk, extricating 80,000 troops with large numbers of tanks, helicopters, and heavy guns.

"The end game: it was bad," McCaffrey recalled. "First of all, there was confusion. The objectives were unclear. And the sequence was wrong." Ordinary Iraqis expressed wonderment at Saddam's continued hold on power. Retreating troops fired their AK-47s into the portraits and murals of Saddam that lined their routes home. An Iraqi cement worker muttered: "Kuwait destroyed by Saddam. Iraq destroyed by combined forces. But Saddam is still in his chair." The Shiites of southern Iraq, who had begun to seethe even before the ground war, exploded into rebellion after the cease-fire. Saddam was weakened and discredited. The moment to rise up had arrived. In northern Iraq, the Kurds made the same calculation. They took President Bush's awkward March 1 declaration as a call to action: "In my own view, I've always said it would be - that the Iraqi people should put him aside and that would facilitate the resolution of all these problems that exist, and would certainly facilitate the acceptance of Iraq back into the family of peace-loving nations."

But even as he incited the Iraqis to rebel, Bush rejected any push to Baghdad and conceded Saddam the use of armed helicopters on his side of the border. Saddam promptly exploited the American concession not to hop-scotch over shattered roads and bridges but to blast his rebellious subjects from the air. Bush 41 expressed again his mixed feelings about Desert Storm, this time to a (startled) White House press conference: "You know, to be very honest with you, I haven't yet felt this wonderfully euphoric feeling that many of the American people feel." The father's doubts would sow the son's resolve to, as Bush 41 concluded, "cross the last 't' and dot the last 'i.'"

In Iraq, meanwhile, Schwarzkopf traveled to Safwan to accept Saddam's surrender. The whole truce was badly managed. Although President Bush continued to lament the absence of a "battleship Missouri" moment, the Missouri was actually available, on station in the Persian Gulf, and Schwarzkopf wanted to use it, but was deterred by the logistics of transporting herds of coalition representatives and reporters to the battleship on short notice. Safwan -- an Iraqi airfield just over the border from Kuwait -- would have to do. Yet none of the coalition partners insisted on Saddam's presence at the surrender ceremony, which was a glaring oversight. President Bush wanted Saddam there, but recalled that he and his advisers "asked ourselves what we would do if he refused." Continue the war? Bad. Retreat from the demand of Saddam's attendance? Worse. Powell and Schwarzkopf thus contented themselves with two four-star Iraqi generals, and Bush did not insist on anything more. The "Washington hawks" -- Cheney and Wolfowitz in particular -- felt certain that Powell and Schwarzkopf were being played by Saddam, and letting relatively minor military considerations override long-term political ones. Although Westerners treated beaten enemies with respect, Middle Easterners regarded such courtesy as weakness. "Norm went in uninstructed," a senior Bush administration official recalled. "He should have had instructions," but he didn't. "The process broke down. The generals made an effort not to be guided. It was treated as something that was basically a military decision, not to be micromanaged." Schwarzkopf insisted that he'd been forced to "wing it" precisely because he'd been given no proper instructions. Chas Freeman, the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, spoke of "a total failure of integration between military and political strategy." The narrow-minded fury with which the neo-cons would plot and launch the 2003 Iraq War derived in part from their conviction that the cautious Army generals had thrown away real victory in 1991.

At Safwan, Schwarzkopf staked out cease-fire lines, ordered a prisoner exchange, and demanded details on Iraqi minefields, but did not insist that Saddam turn over his WMD or his Scuds. As the Kurdish and Shiite revolt flared into life -- responding to U.S.-funded radio appeals from transmitters in Saudi Arabia -- Saddam repressed it viciously. One hundred and seventy thousand Kurds and Shiites fled their towns and villages to escape Saddam's wrath. Many hid in the mountains of the north or the marshes of the south or continued into Turkey and Iran as refugees. "When the Iraqi helicopters started coming out, firing on the Iraqis, that's when we knew it was bullshit," a U.S. Army captain bitterly recalled.

Taken off guard amid the hubbub of victory, Bush and his air commanders hastily clapped "no-fly zones" over northern and southern Iraq, expedients that would have been unnecessary had Bush simply demolished the Republican Guards and forbidden the Iraqis to fly. Two historians of the war noted Schwarzkopf's "surprising disinterest in the internal situation in Iraq." To the amazement of the beaten Iraqis, Schwarzkopf "guaranteed" them that the last coalition soldier would leave Iraq the minute the last coalition "ammo and gasoline trucks" were rounded up and put on the road. Bush and Schwarzkopf could have insisted on humane treatment of the Kurds and Shiites, a new constitution, or even a new regime. They could have squatted on the Rumaila oil field - seized by McCaffrey in the last hours of the war -- until Saddam met their political demands, or paid the costs of the war. Instead, in practical military style, they filled their gas and ammo trucks and left. Powell and the J.C.S. vetoed an effort by America's U.N. Ambassador Thomas Pickering to declare Iraq south of Basra a demilitarized zone, a step that would have sheltered the Shiites and held the Rumaila oil field as collateral for Saddam's good behavior. Powell and Schwarzkopf worried that Kurdish and Shiite secessionists might "Lebanonize" Iraq and suck the U.S. military into a civil war, leaving, as Powell put it, Uncle Sam to "sort out 2,000 years of Mesopotamian history." President Bush would not have forgotten just how narrow and precarious support for the war had been in Congress and the press. Virtually everyone had predicted blowback and "mission creep," so the president took pains to avoid both, even at the cost of a partial victory. Limited wars generally end with limited results.

When Army General Steven Arnold prepared a secret Centcom contingency plan that called for a march to Baghdad to remove Saddam and install a friendly regime that would permit "a long-term U.S./Western military presence in the region" -- remarkably like the 2003 plan -- Schwarzkopf's headquarters recoiled in horror. Arnold's plan implied that Desert Storm had been a partial victory, leaving lots of unfinished business in its wake Schwarzkopf, Powell and Bush -- despite the president's doubts -- wanted it recognized as a decisive one. For its part, the State Department feared that Arnold's suggestion of "attacks across the Euphrates River to provide political leverage" against the Saddam regime would tilt America too far toward the Iraqi Shiites. If the Shiite south broke away and rallied to Iran, America would have fought a war to strengthen the Islamic Republic of Iran. Nobody in Washington wanted that outcome, yet. The debates in 1991 prefigured similar debates in 2003, with the difference that they were more openly contested in 1991, but suppressed by "group-think" in 2003.

In the White House, Scowcroft told the president to stand down. "Geopolitics," he said, dictated that Washington let Saddam crush the Shiite revolt. It was not in America's interest for Iraq "to fall apart." Iran would be the prime beneficiary of such a development. Scowcroft and his chief Middle East expert, Richard Haass, had reminded Bush throughout the war that regime change in Iraq must not be an American aim because a vacuum in Iraq would destroy the regional balance of power as well as Bush's coalition. "Mr. President," Haass told Bush, "I know what you want I just don't see how it's going to happen."

Powell warned of mission creep and recommended again that the U.S. get out quickly and cleanly. Powell quarreled with Wolfowitz and told him to stop acting as if the question of aiding the Shiites was still open. Wolfowitz grumbled that Powell and Schwarzkopf were seeking "rapid disengagement to preserve the luster of victory." Indeed the ruthless determination with which Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and the neo-cons would construct the Iraq War twelve years later derived from their conviction that great opportunities to reinvent Iraq had been squandered at Safwan. "The military's attitude was we have won," Wolfowitz bitterly recalled. "Let's cut this cleanly and not let the civilians load us with a lot of missions. Safwan was too hasty and too dignified."

In May 1991, Bush acknowledged that the victory in Kuwait had been anything but decisive when he extended the pre-war economic sanctions against Iraq "until Saddam Hussein is out of power." The D.I.A. confirmed that Saddam's nuclear weapons program "had been slowed but not halted" by Desert Storm. After the war, Saddam employed 2,000 foreign-trained scientists and 18,000 engineers, proof that Saddam was sparing no expense to join the nuclear club. If sanctions and U.N. inspections ever ceased, Saddam would have a bomb "in two to four years." Bush and Scowcroft later explained their decision not to intervene in Iraq's internal affairs or press on to Baghdad to overthrow Saddam in their joint memoir - A World Transformed. Bush noted that the war's object was simple: to eject the Iraqis from Kuwait, restore Kuwait's independence, and degrade the Iraqi military. "To occupy Iraq would instantly shatter our coalition, turn the whole Arab world against us, and make a broken tyrant into a latter-day Arab hero." Bush accurately predicted the fate of his less reflective son: "To march into Baghdad . would condemn young soldiers to fight in what would be an unwinnable urban guerrilla war. It could only plunge that part of the world into even greater instability and destroy the credibility we were working so hard to establish." Secretary of State Baker concurred, arguing that a drive to Baghdad would have transformed a war to rescue Kuwait into "a U.S. war of conquest" that would have snared the Army in "urban warfare and military occupation." Schwarzkopf too was prescient: "I am certain that had we taken all of Iraq, we would have been like the dinosaur in the tar pit - we would still be there." With what sounds like black humor today, Schwarzkopf also noted the prohibitive cost of such a venture, "of occupying Iraqi territory and maintaining or restoring government, education, and other services for the people of Iraq." Surely, Schwarzkopf concluded, "this is a burden the beleaguered American taxpayer would not have been happy to take on." Secretary of Defense Cheney, who would become the sharpest exponent of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, also argued against a push to Baghdad in 1991. "Saddam," Cheney said, "is just one more irritant, but there's a long list of irritants in that part of the world."

Cheney was right. Even a hardliner like Margaret Thatcher worried about "getting an arm caught in the mangle." Summing up the White House discussions on war termination, Rick Atkinson found that "Bush and his men concluded that the excessive price of total victory would be indefinite responsibility for rebuilding a hostile nation with no tradition of democracy but with immensely complex internal politics." Their probity would be confirmed in the years after 2003. Still, the Persian Gulf War left a bad taste in everyone's mouth. Because of his vacillation at Safwan, Bush now found himself precisely where he didn't want to be -- "bogged down in a civil war." The suffering of Iraq's Kurds and Shiites was so visible that Bush belatedly rethought his war aims. In April 1991, he abruptly decided that "Saddam is discredited and cannot be redeemed." Having earlier resolved to leave Saddam in power to ensure a balance of power, Bush now vowed to remove him from power, a task that would have been easier just a month or two earlier when there were a half million U.S. troops in country. Bush resorted to half-measures: economic sanctions, no-fly zones, and a big, apparently permanent U.S. military presence in the region that would embarrass the House of Saud and inflame radicals like Osama bin Laden.

A year after the war, Saddam mocked President Bush from Baghdad and claimed victory: "It was George Bush with his own will who decided to stop the fighting. Nobody had asked him to do so." Seizing on that appearance of presidential weakness, Bill Clinton campaigned that year against President Bush -- and beat him -- chiding Bush for not putting Saddam and his acolytes on trial for war crimes. Clinton would prove no more effective than Bush in removing Saddam. Perhaps Colin Powell said it best, in his post-war memoirs, when he compared the pressures weighing on Bush's war termination with the pressures weighing on Meade after Gettysburg, or on Eisenhower in 1945 as the Russians raced for Berlin. It was easy to say that the generals should have done more, but at what cost, in lives, treasure and opportunity? That lingering question, which appeared hypothetical when Powell wrote his memoirs, would shortly be answered by President Bush's son.

Dr. Geoffrey Wawro is the General Olinto Mark Barsanti Professor of Military History and Director of the Military History Center at the University of North Texas. He is the author of Quicksand: America's Pursuit of Power in the Middle East (Penguin Press, 2010.)

A Myth That Won’t Die About a Gulf War Weapon, and Why It Matters

At the end of Operation Desert Storm in early 1991, the United States Army was extolling the performance of America’s new and technically advanced weapons. Making their combat debuts were the Patriot missile, the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, the Abrams tank and a somewhat curious looking truck that looked like a cross between a tank and a shipping container: the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System, or M.L.R.S., with the chassis and treads of a Bradley and two packs of six rockets on its back.

Each rocket carried 644 dual-purpose improved conventional munitions, or DPICM grenades, which looked like D-cell batteries with a nylon loop streaming from the top. The trucks were designed to fire 12 of these rockets in less than one minute and spread 7,728 small explosive charges over 30 acres. The rockets could be fired deep into enemy territory — dropping millions of explosive charges onto large groups of armored vehicles — without American forces ever having to get near enemy territory.

Rumors were soon circulating that Iraqi soldiers had been so overwhelmed by the M.L.R.S.’s firepower that they had begged the Americans to stop dropping the “steel rain.” For the Army’s long-range artillery units, this phrase became a rallying cry, and a way to evoke the overwhelming victory that left America’s enemy trembling with fear — even today. The problem, however, is that the documentation behind the steel-rain narrative does not exist.

Though some Iraqi soldiers may have been scared of those rockets and their effects, there seem to be no official interrogation records confirming it. There is also evidence that the steel-rain moniker predates Desert Storm in American artillery circles. But those details got lost in the mythmaking.

Just two years after the war’s end, the Government Accountability Office reported that M.L.R.S. rockets failed at far higher rates in combat than the Army had advertised, and that dud grenades left over from rocket attacks had killed and wounded at least 16 American troops. An Army report in the early 2000s noted that even though the M.L.R.S. was deployed in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s, “not one rocket was fired because of the lack of precision and potential for collateral damage as well as the high submunition dud rate.” By the 2000s, the Army seemed to be moving away from the old unguided M.L.R.S. rockets all together, and the steel rain myth seemed to go with it.

But it’s now making a comeback. Advocates in recent years have repeatedly and enthusiastically cited the steel-rain myth as they call on the Pentagon to bring back long-range artillery rockets and missiles in the face of rising tensions with Russia and China — and military planners are listening. As the Army looks to invest in an artillery force that was deliberately gutted for much of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s important to look back at the lionization of M.L.R.S. cluster weapons used during the Persian Gulf war and the misconceptions that surround them.

What is this “steel rain” myth, and where did it come from?

On May 9, 1991, the Army’s chief of staff gave a speech at a gathering of senior artillery leaders at Fort Sill, Okla. — the home of Army and Marine Corps artillery. Gen. Carl Vuono, a career artillery officer, was pumping up the troops with tales of how well the Pentagon’s howitzers and ground-fired rockets had performed in the desert sands of Kuwait and Iraq. “It was training that created the skill in artillery batteries to bring such timely and accurate fires on the Iraqis, which they described as ‘steel rain,’” Vuono said.

What’s inaccurate about this story?

Reporters in the region in February 1991 — during the Desert Storm air and artillery campaign that preceded the ground war — wrote that it was American soldiers themselves who were calling their M.L.R.S. rocket attacks “steel rain.” A now-retired Army colonel named Hampton Hite — who as a captain commanded one of the M.L.R.S. batteries firing at Iraqi targets and was briefly interviewed in a Washington Post report about the rocket system — confirmed to The Times in 2017 that his unit (A Battery, 21st Field Artillery) had used the radio call sign “Steel Rain” since the unit was established in 1986. His soldiers would have been using that name on radio networks heard by many troops in other units, and it is possible that those other soldiers conflated that name with the rockets Hite’s battery fired. “I don’t doubt that these Iraqi P.O.W.s didn’t like being on the receiving end of M.L.R.S.,” Hampton said in 2017. “But I know for a fact that ‘steel rain’ didn’t come from them.”

How did the story spread?

Vuono’s speech injected the story directly into the artillery corps’s bloodstream. He was echoed by Maj. Gen. Raphael J. Hallada, the head of Army field artillery at the time. “As recipients of your firepower and also professional admirers,” Hallada wrote in June 1991 for Field Artillery, an Army journal, “the Iraqi enemy prisoners of war spoke of the terrible, pervasive ‘Steel Rain’ of your cannons and rockets.” The name evolved a bit, with one officer calling it “iron rain” in the same journal a few months later, though he still attributed the coining of the term to Iraqi prisoners.

The Defense Department’s final report to Congress on Desert Storm, published in April 1992, transmitted the narrative to lawmakers, saying that the M.L.R.S. had “a tremendous psychological impact on Iraqi soldiers. Enemy soldiers were terrified of its destructive force, which they sometimes referred to as ‘steel rain.’ ” The myth was then chiseled into stone in the Army’s own history of the war, which was made public in 1993 and sold as a book.

That document also misattributed a mass-fratricide bomblet attack on a unit of the First Armored Division to enemy fire. It correctly states that one American cavalry troop suffered at least 23 wounded when howitzers fired cluster shells at them however, in a 2017 interview with The Times, the squadron operations officer at the time, Mark Hertling, now a retired lieutenant general, says he believes it was friendly fire that wounded his soldiers. Hertling himself was awarded a Purple Heart for shrapnel wounds he suffered in that incident.

So did Iraqis really surrender because of these artillery bomblets?

A lot of Iraqi soldiers surrendered to allied troops in 1991, but without the Pentagon’s producing the records, there are no publicly available documents that point to Iraqis’ surrendering specifically because of these DPICM grenades falling on them. Responding to a query from The Times, the Department of the Army was unable to locate any records from Desert Storm that cited Iraqi prisoners calling M.L.R.S. “steel rain,” and did not respond when asked if the service would continue to stand by its story. The only sources offering the narrative about Iraqis doing so are those written by Army artillery soldiers in the months and years following Desert Storm, citing secondhand accounts.

How did these rocket and artillery bomblets perform in combat?

In many cases, they failed to work as advertised. They were supposed to be able to destroy Soviet armored vehicles, with small armor-piercing warheads. But the attack on the First Armored Unit shows that the DPICMs not only failed to destroy Bradley Fighting Vehicles they also failed to destroy the troop’s unarmored Chevrolet S.U.V.s — even those that took more than one direct hit.

These weapons had a much more pernicious effect, though, that was barely mentioned in the Army’s 1993 history. American howitzers fired nearly 27,450 cluster shells in the war, and batteries fired more than 17,000 submunition-loaded rockets. In all, those munitions disgorged 13.7 million DPICM grenades on Iraq and Kuwait. Pentagon documents estimate that between 10 and 20 percent or more likely failed to explode on impact, littering the battlefield with highly dangerous duds that would still explode if disturbed.

Why didn’t they work like they were supposed to?

During Desert Storm, the simplest reason is that the bomblets often landed in soft sand, when they were designed to hit the steel plates of armored vehicles. These submunitions relied on a simple fuze that needed to hit its target within a certain angle and provide enough resistance to work. Before his 2018 death, Bill Kincheloe, the inventor of that submunition’s fuze, gave multiple interviews to The Times and explained those parameters. “When that thing hits the ground, it has to hit within 45 degrees to fire,” Kincheloe said. “If it hits at 46 degrees, it won’t fire.” Kincheloe said that the sloped sides of tire tracks and footprints left in the sand could provide enough of an angle to send the submunitions tumbling upon impact, instead of detonating. The problem was even more acute because in early 1991, frequent and unusually intense rainstorms made the sand those bomblets landed in even softer. “If you dropped them on the soft sand, about 60 percent would go off,” Kincheloe said. “You’d have between 3 and 12 percent plain old duds, and the rest would be ground-impact duds.”

Some lessons of Desert Storm went unheeded when the United States went to war with Iraq in 2003. Whether because of the “steel rain” myth or not, the military still considered DPICM weapons desirable. One Army unit fired nearly 800 M.L.R.S. rockets after the invasion, and at least one Marine artillery unit shot cluster artillery shells in combat.

Their use had some unfortunate and completely foreseeable negative effects on civilians and American troops alike. A dud DPICM fired in a strike on a suspected insurgent position in late March 2003 exploded after Lance Cpl. Jesus A. Suarez del Solar accidentally stepped on it near Ad Diwaniyah, killing him. In July 2003, Cpl. Travis Bradach-Nall died near Karbala after a Marine nearby dropped a DPICM grenade he was trying to defuse, causing it to detonate.

Are these same weapons being added to the Army’s artillery arsenal today?

In the mid-1990s, when the Pentagon decided to make a precision-guided version of the M.L.R.S. rocket, the first variant was going to contain 406 DPICM grenades with more reliable fuzes that would also cause any duds to detonate after a set amount of time. Israeli Military Industries, the manufacturer of these grenades, claimed that they had a dud rate of less than 1 percent — an attractive feature for American military officials. However, despite spending millions in live-fire testing at ranges in New Mexico and Arizona, the dud rate was still around 5 percent, and the program was canceled in late 2008.

After several different Army munition-development initiatives failed to create a new kind of DPICM with a lower dud rate, the Pentagon appears to have given up on the idea. The effort to improve their reliability was driven in part by a directive from the secretary of defense in 2008 that would have prohibited the use existing cluster munitions like M26 rockets and DPICM artillery shells after 2018 because of their high dud rates, and mandated that only cluster weapons with a reliability rate over 99 percent could be used from then on. In the interim, new weapons programs designed to meet that standard were failing in tests, and the Army began to destroy its less-reliable weapons. That changed abruptly in late 2017 when the Pentagon reversed course and decided to simply retain the massive stockpile of older munitions that performed so poorly in Desert Storm. Patrick Shanahan, the deputy secretary of defense at the time, indicated that they would be kept in service for use in a potential war with North Korea.

As for how many of them remain, the military does not typically disclose its weapons inventories in real time, but there is relatively recent data available in online briefings. According to one report, the Army still had 360,192 rockets in its inventory in 2008. And a 2012 Army briefing noted that the service still had more than 3.6 million 155-millimeter DPICM artillery shells.

The Pentagon’s interest in long-range artillery rockets and missiles continues, though it is unclear whether new models will incorporate cluster-munition warheads. The maximum range of the Pentagon’s current inventory of ground-launched missiles was limited since the 1980s by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, but following the United States’ withdrawal from that treaty last year, the Pentagon can once again field land-based missiles that can fly more than 300 miles before striking their targets — meaning for the first time in more than 30 years the Pentagon is pursuing nonnuclear weapons that can fly as far as modern technology allows. Defense contractors are already offering prototypes for the Army’s consideration, and Congress allocated $160 million for the program in 2019 and $243 million in 2020.

Centralized vs. decentralized command and control

Rhame said he spent much of his time in the months before the war began studying the only other modern, Western military that had gone up against Arab armies—Israel. In 1967 and again in 1973, Israel defended itself against invasion and handily defeated armies from Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon, among other Arab nations. The key to the Israeli’s success was their decentralized command and control, coupled with commanders leading from the front, Rhame said.

Arab armies, on the other hand, tended to have more centralized command and control, meaning that specific orders—as opposed to goals or intent—were handed down from the top to the front-line troops. When something goes wrong—and in war, something always goes wrong—armies with centralized command and control don’t usually react very well. Commanders on the ground in such armies are not trained to improvise, adapt, and overcome like the American soldier is, so when the plan falls apart, they tend to freeze in deference.

Through the course of his studies, Rhame determined the fastest and most effective way to defeat the Iraqis entrenched across the desert was to hit hard and fast with everything he had at his disposal. “I didn’t come here to fight fair,” Rhame told Rick Atkinson at the time. “I came here to put maximum destruction on this son of a bitch with as few American casualties as possible.”

Compared to what little resistance the Iraqis were able to muster to counter Rhame and the 1st Infantry Division, the dark of night and the fog of war proved to be the toughest enemy the Americans would face during Operation Desert Storm.

“They’d fire a few bursts and run away.”

While the 1st Infantry Division steamrolled Iraqi defenses and raced across the desert, Whitlock and his medical platoon were redirected the Iraq’s Tallil Air Base. When they arrived, they found airplane hangars destroyed by coalition bombs. All that was left beneath the metal skeleton of the hangar were short mounds of jagged corrugated steel and the burned remains of Iraqi war planes.

“It took us two days of driving nonstop to get there,” Whitlock told The War Horse. “But it felt like three.” Without doors or sufficient armor to protect his Humvee from Iraqi mines, Whitlock worried about what might happen if he, the medical platoon leader, were to get blown up.

“The night before the invasion, we were finally issued flak jackets, but they were all the wrong sizes,” he said. “Our infantrymen got first dibs on jackets that would actually fit them. By the time I got mine, there weren’t any larges left, so I took my medium-sized jacket and used it as a seat cushion. The passenger-side seat in those old Humvees was right above the battery box, which would get hotter and hotter the longer you were driving. The jacket helped with that. We also put sandbags in the wheel wells. They probably wouldn’t have done much to protect us from a mine, but it was all we could do.”

In addition to the detritus of battle, Whitlock and his platoon encountered only scant resistance. A few guys with guns. “They’d fire a few bursts and run away,” Whitlock said.

“Seemed like we did more damage to ourselves than the Iraqis ever did.”

Did the Iraqis really only use landlines during Desert Storm? - History

The only specific SAM variant I know of is the S-75M2 Volkhov (SA-2F) version of the SA-2 - apparently used by Iraq in the 80s - no idea on the other types!

Here is some info I dug out from a Gulf air war survey - its only analysis from the US side though.

The Iraqi Air Defense System
Beyond its aircraft, Iraq depended on a complex air defense network. The Iraqi system was highly centralized four sectors, each with a Sector Operations Center (SOC), controlled air and air defense assets. The focus of that network was on meeting two threats: long distance Israeli air attacks or that posed by the Iranian Air Force, what little remained after the war. Under each SOC, Intercept Operation Centers (IOCs) ran ground control intercepts and SAM defenses and coordinated the flow of information from individual radar stations and visual reporting sites to the SOCs [DELETED].
Information collated at the center then flowed back down to antiaircraft units, air bases, and SAM sites.

At the center, the Air Defense Operations Center (ADOC) in Baghdad made the crucial decisions, while a French-designed computer system (KARI Iraq spelled backwards in French) tied the network's diverse pieces together. [DELETED] KARI also possessed “land line and/or microwave (either troposcatter or line-of-sight)” to lower levels of command. Redundant land lines tied the section centers to the national command level, while the Iraqis placed the intercept centers near existing telecommunication trunks capable of carrying both voice and data communications. The French designed system modems so that each node could easily switch from one form of communication to another.293 The Iraqis also provided extensive protection to both types of centers by placing them in hardened shelters.

As the war with the Coalition loomed, the Iraqi leadership viewed the strategic purpose of its air defenses as providing the means for the nation to ride out an air campaign. The defenses were to inflict heavy enough losses on the attackers to bring on a ground campaign. The primary tools for defending Iraqi air space were SAM and antiaircraft forces. On paper, active air defenses were indeed impressive: five hundred radars located in no less than one hundred sites, SA-2 batteries, SA-3 batteries, SA-6 batteries, SA-8, and ROLAND I/II systems covered different areas of the nation. The air defense system controlled about 8,000 antiaircraft pieces, but the percentage devoted to the defense of strategic targets as opposed to the defense of the army in the Kuwaiti Theater of Operations is not known. Nevertheless, the Iraqis deployed approximately 4,000 fixed and mobile antiaircraft artillery pieces and SAMs around Baghdad.

Not surprisingly, the Iraqis tied the SAMs closely to computer KARI. However, antiaircraft artillery, relied on barrage firing on preset azimuths to hit attacking aircraft.295 The Iraqis believed that a combination of SAMs and antiaircraft artillery would impose sufficient attrition on attacking forces at medium to high altitudes SAMs would shoot down many Coalition aircraft should the attackers go low, then antiaircraft guns would inflict heavy casualties. Finally, Iraqi aircraft, protected by hardened aircraft shelters, could intervene at selected moments to add to Coalition losses.

Unfortunately for the Iraqis, KARI possessed a number of weaknesses. French experts oriented the system to protect Iraq from attack from the east (Iran) and west (Israel). Coverage towards Saudi Arabia was weak. SAM and antiaircraft defenses were strong in some sectors admittedly, Baghdad was an extraordinarily heavily defended target. Strong air defenses also protected Basra, Scud-launching sites in western Iraq, and Iraq's northern oil fields. But much of the rest of the country lay open a factor that allowed allied aircraft to approach targets from different directions. Moreover, the layout of the western and central sectors created a dead zone pointed directly at Baghdad from Saudi Arabia.296 Not surprisingly, Iraqi defensive systems could only handle threat levels consistent with Middle Eastern force structures.297 Indeed, to the Iraqis, the system's capacity to track targets seemed more than sufficient.

But what Coalition air forces could throw at the Iraqis was something well beyond the capacity of Iraqi information, command and control, and weapons system capabilities.299 The largest weakness, however, lay in the fact that Iraqi operators and pilots could not handle either the technological or tactical competence of Coalition forces. Exacerbating their deficiencies was the low level of training and preparation among Iraqis in comparison to the levels of their opponents.

Coalition air planners in Riyadh realized early in Desert Shield that KARI, which had been designed, built, and installed by the French firm Thompson CSF, was the nervous system of Iraq's air defenses. As of 17 January 1991, KARI consisted of early-warning and low-altitude radars, over two dozen operations centers, more than one hundred reporting and control posts, computers and software, line-of-sight microwave and troposcatter Ccommunications links, and hardware interfaces.1158 Construction of this system had began in the late 1970s, but the Iraqis had not declared it fully operational until 1987.

Given the limited capabilities of Iraqi interceptors detailed in the preceding section, the aspect of the KARI system of greatest interest to Desert Storm air planners was its ability to control and employ radar-guided or “strategic” SAMs (principally the radar-guided SA-2, SA-3, and SA-6, but also the shorter-range Roland and SA-8).1161 In this regard, several points should be noted:
First, the strategic SAMs were not widely dispersed throughout Iraq. Instead, they were concentrated in dense pockets around potential high-value target areas (Mosul, Kirkuk, H-3, the Baghdad area, Basra, etc.).1162 As Figure 8 indicates, the vast majority of Iraqi airspace was not covered by radar-guided SAMs.
Second, while the precise linkages and interfaces between the IOCs and SAM batteries were not well understood going into the conflict, it appears likely that landlines of some sort existed to most fire units and reporting posts.1

Iraqi SAM Systems
SA-2 Guideline/SA-3 GOA
The SA-2 and SA-3 systems formed the backbone of the Iraqi air defense system. These older systems were usually supplemented by an SA-6 battery.30 The SA-2, while updated somewhat, was originally designed to go against the B-52 and presented few problems to modern, fast moving, maneuverable fighter aircraft. It had a range of twenty seven nautical miles and was designed for high-altitude targets.32 The SA-3, developed shortly after the SA-2, had a range of fourteen miles and was designed to defeat low- to medium-altitude aircraft

SA-6 Gainful
The SA-6 was developed in the 1960s to protect maneuvering ground units. Originally employed by the Iraqis in that capacity, it was withdrawn from frontline units during the Iran-Iraq War to protect key strategic sites. The SA-6 had a range of thirteen miles and was designed to be used mainly against very-low- to medium-altitude threats.38 After the Iran-Iraq War, many of the SA-6 batteries were returned to their ground units, particularly the Republican Guards.

The French Roland was another short-range missile designed to protect tactical ground units. It had a range of approximately three and one half miles.42 Approximately thirteen Roland I (clear weather) systems and one hundred Roland II (all weather) systems had been sold to Iraq. By the beginning of the Gulf War, it appeared that most Rolands had been incorporated into the strategic air defense system protecting high-value targets.4

SA-8 Gecko
The SA-8 was another tactical SAM designed to protect maneuver units. However, most SA-8s had been incorporated into the joint defense of strategically important areas, as had the SA-6s. The SA-8 had a maximum range of six nautical miles.

SA-9 Gaskin/SA-13 Gopher
As Desert Storm approached, the only mounted systems organic to Army Air Defense units apparently were the SA-9 and SA-13s. These short-range systems used infrared seekers and could be foiled by flare countermeasures. However, fired against an unaware target, they could be quite effective. The SA-9 and SA-13s were usually used in conjunction with the highly capable ZSU-23/4 AAA weapon system with its Gun Dish radar. The ZSU-23/4 was generally considered the most lethal threat to low-flying aircraft.

Man Portable Air Defense SAMs (Man PADS)
The Iraqis had SA-14s and over 3,000 SA-7s. Both were small, shoulder-fired, heat-seeking missiles used for close-in defense. The SA-7 (Grail) was believed to be a copy of the U.S. Redeye infrared surface-to-air missile. The SA-7 had a range of about two-and-one-half nautical miles and had to be fired at the heat created by an aircraft's exhaust.48 The SA-14 had a range of about three nautical miles and had an improved all-aspect seeker. SA-7s and SA-14s were distributed throughout the Iraqi Army and Air Defense Forces. Overall, infrared surface-to-air missiles were credited with downing or damaging several Coalition aircraft.

Iraqi forces captured a number of U.S.-made Hawk SAM batteries from the Kuwaitis. Hawk was a highly capable missile with excellent low-altitude and ECM capabilities. Since the Iraqis proved unable to operate the Hawk, it was not a factor in Desert Storm, although there was initial concern that it might be used.

AntiAircraft Artillery (AAA)
Numerically, the most important element of the Iraqi Air Defense system was the antiaircraft artillery. Table 2 is a list of the number and country of origin of the various AAA weapons. These 7,500 or more AAA weapons proved to be the most effective Iraqi antiaircraft systems in both the Iran-Iraq War and in Desert Storm. As with other Iraqi air defense weapon systems, AAA was deployed to protect the most important strategic locations. AAA systems used with co-located SAM systems presented a formidable threat to Coalition aircraft. Some post-war evaluations of Iraqi tactics indicated that the purpose of SAMs was not to destroy attack-ing aircraft as much as to force Coalition aircraft to maneuver into the AAA envelope

The ‘Big Five’ systems that helped win Desert Storm

America’s ground supremacy in the 21st century is due primarily to the “Big Five” Army acquisition of the 20th century. These five systems, although designed and procured with fighting the Soviets in mind, first proved their combined might in the Middle East during Operation Desert Storm. Despite being built to stem a communist tide in the Fulda Gap of Germany, these five systems were instrumental in pushing the Iraqi Army out of Kuwait in 1991 and then toppling the Iraqi regime in 2003.

1. M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank

M1A1 Abrams tanks of the 3rd Armored Division during Desert Storm (U.S. Army)

The M1 Abrams is to the Army what the F-15 Eagle is to the Air Force: iconic. Since the Marine Corps divested its tanks in 2020, the Army is now the sole American operator of the Abrams. Built to slug it out with Soviet T-72 and T-80 tanks, the Abrams entered service in 1980 to replace the M60 Patton tank. Despite being one of the heaviest tanks in modern service, its multi-fuel turbine engine can propel it to a limited top speed of 45 mph. Originally equipped with a 105mm rifled main gun, the M1A1 tanks that took part in Desert Storm were upgraded to a 120mm smoothbore main gun that fired an armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding-sabot round. Combined with advanced Chobham composite armor, night vision optics, and modern rangefinders, the Abrams easily outclassed the Iraqi T-55, T-62, and T-72 tanks. Of the nine Abrams tanks destroyed during Desert Storm, seven were destroyed by friendly fire. The other two were scuttled to prevent their capture after being damaged. Abrams tanks were also used in the Iraq War where they saw more close-quarters urban fighting in support of infantry house-to-house clearing operations.

2. M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle

The M2 Bradley had a troubled development. It was mainly a response to the Soviet BMP infantry fighting vehicles which served as both armored personnel carriers and tank-killers. The existing M113 armored personnel carrier lacked offensive capabilities in its troop-carrier configuration and was too slow to keep up with the new M1 Abrams tank. The Bradley was given the M242 25mm autocannon for its main gun and a compliment of 2 TOW anti-tank missiles. To increase its survivability, it was also outfitted with spaced laminate armor. However, in making the Bradley more lethal, the Army sacrificed the vehicle’s cargo capacity and it could only carry six passengers in addition to its crew of three. Still, the Bradley served as an excellent scout and fighting vehicle during Desert Storm. During the 100 hours of ground combat, the Bradley actually destroyed more Iraqi armored vehicles than the Abrams. 20 Bradleys were destroyed—three by enemy fire and 17 by friendly fire. During the Iraq War, the Bradley proved to be more vulnerable to IEDs and close-quarter RPG attacks and was given upgraded reactive armor. Though Bradley losses rose, crew and passenger casualties remained relatively light.

3. AH-64 Apache Attack Helicopter

An AH-64 Apache in the Kuwaiti desert (U.S. Army)

Designed to replace the Vietnam-era AH-1 Cobra, the AH-64 Apache entered service with the Army in 1986. Armed with the M230 30mm chain gun and capable of carrying a combination of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and Hydra 70 2.75-inch rockets, the Apache was built as a tin-opener for Soviet tanks. Its first action was in Panama during Operation Just Cause. General Carl Stiner, the operation’s commander, praised the Apache for its ability to deliver precision fire. “You could fire that Hellfire missile through a window from four miles away at night,” he said. It also was the Apache that fired the first shots of Operation Desert Storm. On January 17, 1991, eight Apaches flew over the desert at low altitude and destroyed an Iraqi radar station. The attack opened a gap in the radar network that allowed the first Coalition air strikes to hit with surprise. 277 Apaches took part in the war and destroyed 278 tanks in addition to numerous other Iraqi vehicles. One Apache was lost after it was hit by an RPG, though the crew survived. A deadlier threat to the Apache was the desert sand. Built to fight in Europe, the early Apaches had no engine filters for the fine particulates. Ground crews came up with the ingenious solution of covering up the engines with pantyhose on the ground. With the addition of advanced optics and weapons management systems, the Apache has become one of the deadliest battlefield implements of the 21st century.

4. UH-60 Black Hawk Medium-Lift Utility Helicopter

A UH-60 Black Hawk lands to pick up troops (U.S. Army)

The UH-60 Black Hawk entered service in 1979 to replace the Vietnam-era UH-1 Iroquois, better known as the Huey, as the Army’s tactical transport helicopter. Designed to carry 11 combat-loaded troops, the Black Hawk was more survivable than the Huey thanks to its run-dry gearbox, redundant subsystems, armored seats, shock-absorbing landing gear, and ballistically-tolerant fuselage. It was first used during the invasion of Grenada in 1983 and saw action again during the invasion of Panama in 1989. During Desert Storm, the Black Hawk was instrumental in carrying out the largest air assault mission in U.S. Army history with over 300 helicopters involved. During the war, 2 Black Hawks were shot down on February 27, 1991 during a combat search and rescue mission. The Black Hawk has since been upgraded with electronic countermeasures, modern navigation systems, and in the case of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment’s Direct Action Penetrator, M134 7.62mm miniguns and Hydra 70 2.75-inchrockets. Two stealth versions of the Black Hawk also helped to deliver the Navy SEALs that killed Osama bin Laden during Operation Neptune Spear in 2011.

5. MIM-104 Patriot Missile

A Patriot missile battery set up in the desert (U.S. Army)

The MIM-104 Patriot is a surface-to-air missile that replaced both the MIM-14 Nike Hercules High to Medium Air Defense missile and the MIM-23 Hawk medium tactical air defense missile. Though it entered service in 1981, the Patriot was unproven in combat when it deployed to the Middle East in 1990. In addition to its anti-aircraft mission the Patriot was also called upon to intercept Iraqi Scud and Al Hussein missiles. Over the course of the war, Patriot missiles attempted to engage over 40 Iraqi missiles. On February 15, 1991, President George H. W. Bush visited Raytheon’s Patriot missile plant and praised its success in the Middle East. “Patriot is 41 for 42: 42 Scuds engaged, 41 intercepted!” The President’s claim of a 97% success rate was challenged by independent investigations into the Patriot’s effectiveness and a government investigation into a failed Scud intercept that resulted in the deaths of 28 American soldiers. The latter was blamed on a one-third of a second deviation in the system’s internal clock due to it being in operation for over 100 hours. Still, the Patriot remains the primary anti-ballistic missile system for America and its allies and is expected to remain in use until at least 2040.

“I don’t want to think of people as hamburger meat ever, ever, ever again.”

Joanne Palella was a sergeant in the U.S. Army’s VII Corps during Desert Storm. As a heavy vehicle driver, Palella had specialized training in transporting munitions. If it could explode or make something else explode, she hauled it. She was also tasked with mopping up after coalition forces laid waste to Iraqi defensive positions, she told the Veterans History Project.

“Mopping up” is a relatively benign term the military uses to describe the task of cleaning up the aftermath of battle. “We had to go through there and pick up the tanks that were partly survived [sic],” Palella remembered years later. They had to “clean up and—pick up explosives and, you know, pick up if there was dead inside the tanks, scrape them out and leave them for the engineers.”

“It just stunk horribly, and that was a horrible memory.”

What had begun as a conventional ground war between two mechanized—albeit unequal—armies had quickly devolved into an unceremonious massacre. The “Highway of Death,” as it came to be known, was the site of the most lopsided of such battles. Over the course of two days, coalition aircraft and ground forces laid waste to some 1,400 vehicles of all shapes and sizes—as well as their occupants—killing thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians while they tried to flee from Kuwait City, north along Highway 80 to Safwan. What was left in the wake of such overwhelming firepower can only be described as a wasteland. President Bush announced a halt to the fighting the following day.

A place the troops called “Death Valley.” Photo courtesy of Joanne Palella/Veterans History Project.

“We made a joke,” Palella remembered, her voice filled with regret in the Veterans History Project tape. “Hamburger meat. Because that’s what it looked like when they were open and then, you know, bloated for three days, and anatomies of their bodies were like, you know, baseballs, and we made jokes of that. It was the only thing we could do. Though, I did vomit the first time we were there. I don’t want to think of people as hamburger meat ever, ever, ever again.”

On another occasion, Palella and her unit were ordered to recover a Bradley that had been turned into a burning husk of metal by an American-made depleted uranium tank round.

“It was a very sad day,” Palella remembered during her interview with the Veterans History Project. “Three soldiers died that day, and they were killed by friendly fire, and one of the guys was a best friend of who he killed. It was pretty bad.”

“I don’t ever want to see war again,” she said. “I will fight a war when it’s in my own backyard on my own land. Otherwise, I won’t go.”

On Sept. 21, 1992, a subcommittee from the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing before the U.S. Congress on illness in veterans of Operation Desert Storm. Among the materials submitted for the record is a letter Palella wrote to Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II, the acting chairman of the subcommittee. In it she details how quickly her health deteriorated after returning to Germany with her unit in August 1991.

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“In June 1991 I received my first attack on the right side of my head,” Palella wrote. “I could not look at any form of light without extreme pain. My vision blurred on my right eye and the hole [sic] right side of my face felt numb yet painful at the same time. I still feel this pain at present and it has not gone back to normal ever since.”

Palella then found out she had a tumor growing on the upper right side of her brain. She experienced cluster headaches. And then doctors diagnosed her with trigeminal neuralgia, which can be caused by exposure to toxins.

“At the present time, I have more ribbons and awards then [sic] most high-ranking non-commissioned officers,” she continued, “but now, I am a burden to the United States Army. I cannot wear a mask or a helmet, thus I am non-deployable.”

“I have felt pain for so long that I would give my right arm to be free of it.”

Palella was encouraged to medically retire. She was told she could claim around 15% disability. But she didn’t want to retire, she said. She didn’t want the disability compensation, either.

“I am going to have brain surgery the 29 September 1992, at Bethesda Navy hospital,” she wrote. “I have a 50/50 chance of success.

“Why am I not being given any answers?” she asked. “At least I should receive a purple heart, it could sit and rot away with my other medals, awards and ribbons, just like me.”

What We Should Have Learned in Desert Storm, But Didn’t

The Cold War ended shortly after Operation Desert Storm, giving the United States a historic opportunity to rapidly incorporate the lessons learned in the Persian Gulf War and to restructure its forces–especially its bomber force–for the twenty-first century.

Five years later, it seems clear that we have squandered much of the valuable insight gained in Desert Storm. Evidence of this can be seen in many assumptions in the Defense Planning Guidance underpinning the 1993 Bottom-Up Review (BUR) of Defense Needs and Programs and the 1995 Heavy Bomber Force Study. The most recent crisis in Iraq exposed our weaknesses. It also underscored the vital importance to the US of long-range, stealthy airpower.

To illustrate my point, I would like to review some of the lessons from the Gulf War that should have–but clearly have not–guided our bomber modernization strategy.

Lesson One: Surprise attack is inevitable and therefore must be hedged against.

The heavy bomber study assumed our enemy would give us fourteen days of unobstructed build-up time before attacking. This jibes neither with history nor military logic. We were surprised at Pearl Harbor, in Korea, and again in the Gulf. Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait took us completely by surprise. We were aware that Saddam Hussein posed a military threat to his neighbors, and in late July 1990 we knew he had moved his forces into position for an attack. Yet, we and our allies had difficulty accepting the threat before us, and when the attack came, we were ill-configured to respond.

I will never forget those long dark nights in August 1990 when we struggled desperately to build up our forces knowing that at any time the Iraqi Army could easily push across Saudi Arabia’s border and capture not only the majority of the world’s oil supply but also the air bases and ports necessary for deploying our forces. Fortunately, Saddam stayed put in Kuwait, and the rest, as they say, is history. But he and other potential aggressors learned a valuable lesson: Don’t give America six months.

In the years since, Saddam has tested our response capabilities with feints against Kuwait. In October 1994, he moved 70,000 troops and 1,000 tanks to the Kuwaiti border well before we could respond. According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, several days elapsed in which Iraq could have once again taken Kuwait and made a run at the Saudi oil fields. This has only reinforced the notion among our likely adversaries that they can accomplish at least their initial military objectives before we can stop them. And, since surprise provides the attacking side such enormous military leverage, we must assume that any future US adversary is likely to do everything possible to mount “a bolt from the blue” attack. History shows that no matter how much you spend on intelligence, you will always be vulnerable.

Hedging against surprise should have played a key role in the BUR and the heavy bomber study. Clearly, it did not. In both studies, the premium should have been placed on forces, such as the B-2, that can respond rapidly, independently, and decisively to fast-breaking crises. Their rosy assumptions about warning obscured the value of rapid response and the B-2’s vital role.

Lesson Two: Future adversaries will be armed with weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the means to deliver them.

The Defense Planning Guidance posited a Gulf enemy with no nuclear capability, no biological weapons capability, and only a limited chemical weapons capability. This flies in the face of what we feared about Iraq prior to the Gulf War and the startling postwar revelations about the size, scope, and complexity of Iraq’s WMD and ballistic missile programs.

Iraq’s potential use of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons dominated our thinking while planning the Gulf War air campaign. The potential for chemical warheads on Scud missiles raised the specter of massive casualties in Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Bahrain. Although in 1990 we were reasonably confident that Saddam had not developed a nuclear bomb, we were far from certain that he wouldn’t use nuclear waste material to create a poisonous warhead for his missiles and airplanes to deliver.

We therefore set out to counter these threats on a broad front, including air attacks on production, storage, and deployed weapons facilities. Our strongest defense was making available to soldiers and civilians the best protective suits and masks. It was our perceived ability to survive chemical attacks that led Saddam to decide against launching them in the first place.

Many take false comfort in the notion that our nuclear arsenal deterred Saddam from unleashing his WMD. Personally, I don’t think our nuclear deterrent was ever truly tested. Would Saddam have kept his WMD holstered if we’d marched on Baghdad, thus threatening his very existence? Would he have used his WMD and missile arsenals differently if he had expected the US to intervene? Might he have even deferred his invasion until after he had developed his first nuclear weapon? The Gulf War raised many more questions about the post­Cold War viability of our nuclear deterrent than it answered.

Other than our preemptive air strikes and passive defense measures, we had few options. In the end, Saddam kept WMD on the shelf. What about next time? India’s former Army Chief of Staff said, “The lesson of Desert Storm is, ‘Don’t fight with the United States without a nuclear weapon.’ ” If you believe intelligence reports, potential adversaries are taking this lesson to heart.

Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, USMC, Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf’s successor at US Central Command, has said the presence of any significant WMD in CENTCOM’s area of responsibility would require the US to fundamentally rethink its ground and air components and the concept of operations that drives them. I could not agree more. The proliferation of WMD and ballistic missiles means that our current strategy of pouring thousands of fighters and hundreds of thousands of troops into our enemy’s back yard is no longer viable. The best hedge against the emerging threat is to shift as much of the power-projection burden as we can–as fast as we can–to long-range systems able to fight effectively from beyond WMD range. This should have been a core finding of the BUR, which would have led to an increased emphasis on the bomber force and thus obviated the need for a heavy bomber study.

An adequate B-2 fleet would dramatically enhance US counterforce capabilities. It would allow us to credibly threaten the destruction of aggressor WMD programs. In conflicts with WMD-armed adversaries, such a capability would allow us to conduct relatively risk-free counterforce strikes before making a large-scale and vulnerable force deployment. Long-range counterforce operations could be protracted, allowing the US to sustain strikes until it is deemed “safe” to enter the theater.

Lesson Three : The revolutionary combination of stealth and precision must be exploited.

Desert Storm marked the first large-scale employment of stealth aircraft–the F-117–equipped with precision weapons. The combination has revolutionized warfare. The F-117’s stealthiness enabled us to achieve surprise every day of the war, attack any target we wanted, and leverage the capabilities of other assets. The F-117s delivered the first strikes, destroying a wide array of critical targets and paralyzing the Iraqi air defense network. Their attacks on the radar sites and command, control, and communications bunkers that controlled the Iraqi defenses opened the door for wave after wave of nonstealthy aircraft to strike effectively and, most important, safely. The F-117’s ability to paralyze the Iraqi air defense network in the opening minutes of the war was critical to gaining air superiority, a vital prerequisite to ejecting the Iraqi Army from Kuwait.

The F-117s did more than just pave the way for less-capable aircraft. They allowed us to strike the “heart” of the enemy–downtown Baghdad–with impunity, regardless of the defenses. This allowed us to maintain continuous pressure on the most vital target sets, which dramatically shortened the air campaign. Because we could depend solely on the F-117 to execute this mission, it more than likely reduced nonstealthy aircraft losses by an order of magnitude.

Stealth also provided tremendous flexibility by drastically reducing the support required for F-117 sorties. For example, if our intelligence detected a heavily defended target requiring immediate attention, and only conventional aircraft were available, we were faced with a difficult set of choices. We could either forgo the strike or pull together an elaborate package of escorts, jammers, defense suppressors, and tankers to get our attack aircraft in. This took valuable time and required major planning adjustments. With the F-117, we would just release the new target data and let the pilots take care of the rest.

In 1995, my chief master attack planner from Desert Storm calculated the “value” of stealth, or the stealth “multiplier effect,” in a bomber study for the Commission on Roles and Missions of the Armed Forces. He found that, in the first twenty-four hours of the Gulf War air campaign, each F-117 sortie was “worth” sixteen nonstealth sorties. As Iraqi air defenses were whittled down, this ratio leveled off about one to eight–still extraordinary. The B-2, equally stealthy but with eight times the payload and five times the range, multiplies even the F-117 “multiplier” and opens the door to large-scale air campaigns prosecuted from outside the theater. Unfortunately, not many people know this because the commission chose not to publish the data.

Lesson Four: The need to minimize US casualties affects planning, decision-making, and operational effectiveness.

Anyone who has led young US troops into combat can appreciate firsthand how this obligation weighs on your mind. All of us wrestled with the fear that our mistakes would result in the otherwise preventable loss of life. I would visit our air bases, look at the faces of the aircrews, and wonder which ones would not be going home. The specter of pitiful Iraqi soldiers left for dead by their commanders and the knowledge that innocent women and children suffered from our bombs still haunt me.

In planning and executing the air campaign, we emphasized tactics and systems that minimized aircraft losses, even though it limited to some degree the effectiveness of our air attacks. We operated our aircraft at high altitudes, above the reach of most Iraqi air defenses. This increased aircraft survivability, but it also made target acquisition more difficult and reduced bombing accuracy. Casualty concerns also dictated which assets went “downtown.” Despite the large number of critical targets in Baghdad, only the F-117 and the Tomahawk cruise missile were used to attack the heavily defended Iraqi capital.

We gave casualty avoidance priority over military effectiveness because it was the morally correct thing to do. The American people have demonstrated unbelievable tolerance at the losses of sons and daughters in battle when they believe in the cause, but no President or general can overestimate the speed at which that patience will disappear if they are perceived to be spending lives foolishly. Public sensitivity to casualties can dominate our political and military decision-making in a crisis.

Without a doubt, rising public sensitivity to casualties increased the attractiveness of airpower. Use of airpower exposes fewer lives to enemy fire than does employment of ground forces. Still, we can do much better. Long-range airpower leaves fewer aircrew and support personnel within enemy reach. Stealth technology drastically reduces the chances of our aircraft being shot down.

Consequences: The Iraq crisis, September 1996, demonstrated the limits on US options.

When Saddam Hussein ignored our warnings recently and sent three Republican Guard divisions into Irbil, in the US-protected no-fly zone in northern Iraq, most, including myself, believed that a strong military response was in order. I was not privy to the military planning that led up to our September 3 response, but I can give you a commander’s perspective on what I expected it to look like.

The objectives seemed fairly clear-cut: Halt, if possible, the attack on the Kurds, but definitely hit Saddam where it hurts. “Hurting” a dictator like Saddam means attacking what gives him his hold on power–his military. Presumably, top priority would be given to the Republican Guard forces arrayed on the outskirts of Irbil and to high-value (and thus well-defended) targets in and near Baghdad. Ideally, F-16s and F-15Es operating out of Turkey and Jordan would attack the Iraqi ground forces, while F-117s from Saudi Arabia would go against Baghdad.

These options never materialized. Turkey, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia probably signaled that US air strikes could not be launched from their territory. This effectively prevented us from using USAF landbased fighters and forced us to turn to our independent options: carrier airpower, bombers, and cruise missiles. However, this also raised a set of constraints that, fortunately, I never had to deal with as coalition air commander. Republican Guard forces in the north were beyond reach of carrier airpower, and sending nonstealthy Navy strike planes into Baghdad was far too risky. B-1B and B-52 bombers had sufficient range but lacked required precision munitions and would have been vulnerable to air defenses. (To my knowledge, the precision-capable B-2 had not been integrated into CENTCOM war plans.)

Cruise missiles, meanwhile, require preprogramming, so they could not be targeted against the highly mobile Iraqi forces, and they lack the punch required to destroy the hardened facilities inside Baghdad. Sorely missing was the capability that propelled us to swift victory in Desert Storm–to penetrate Iraqi defenses safely and deliver large, powerful, precision weapons.

Their strike options limited, our planners apparently turned their attention to a strategy that supported extension of the southern no-fly zone. This meant that attacks against fixed, above-ground facilities in sparsely populated southern Iraq were the logical choice because of their vulnerability to cruise missiles. Hence, the rather limited cruise missile attack against air defenses in southern Iraq, as opposed to the Iraqi forces south of Irbil or targets in Baghdad.

These events demonstrate that our military options are limited, and other important options would be available if our military inventory included an adequate number of long-range stealth bombers. The following points summarize these deficiencies and what we can do to redress them.

US global response capabilities are inadequate. The origins of the Irbil attack are most likely found in the October 1994 and August 1995 Iraqi feints against Kuwait. In both cases, Saddam massed forces against Kuwait, then pulled back when US forces began to arrive. Saddam knew from these exercises that we could not deploy our short-range forces quickly enough to stop him from accomplishing his Irbil objectives. Post­Gulf War efforts to shorten deployment times are laudable but amount to tinkering at the margins. If the United States wishes to deter the Saddam Husseins of the world, we must demonstrate the capability to stop them before they can reach their military objectives. This “prompt denial” capability requires one of two things: large numbers of forward-based forces or forces so rapidly deployable as to be “virtually” present abroad. Given US budget constraints and foreign political sensitivities, the first option is probably not feasible. The second certainly is but requires shifting the power-projection burden from slower-deploying short-range ground, sea, and air forces to independently deployable long-range airpower.

US forces are far too dependent on foreign basing. Current US warfighting strategy hinges on the deployment of short-range fighters and ground forces to foreign bases in the theater of conflict. Desert Storm and the postwar inspections of Iraq’s WMD programs underscored the grave risks entailed with such a strategy. The 1996 Iraqi crisis demonstrated that foreign base access cannot be taken for granted. Once Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey opted out, the entire landbased fighter force was effectively neutralized, leaving US military capabilities seriously circumscribed. Carrier airpower could not compensate. We need the power to fight effectively from beyond the theater, and that means shifting much of the burden to long-range air.

Cruise missiles are no panacea. Cruise missiles are attractive to US decision-makers–and military commanders for that matter–because they minimize the risk of casualties. Many argue that cruise missiles obviate the need for stealthy bombers, but Donald B. Rice, the Secretary of the Air Force during Desert Storm, has pointed out, “This argument fails when considering cost and operational effectiveness.” Cruise missiles are too expensive for sustained operations cost was the reason Washington ordered me to stop firing Tomahawks during the Gulf War. The forty-four cruise missiles fired at Iraq in September cost more than $100 million� times more than an equivalent number of B-2-delivered precision guided munitions. More important, current-generation cruise missiles are not effective against mobile or heavily hardened targets. If the US finds it necessary to truly influence a future Saddam-initiated crisis, planners will have to target hardened and deeply buried facilities inside Baghdad and the highly mobile Republican Guard–and convince the national command authorities of a high probability that no one will get shot down. This demands stealth aircraft and direct-attack precision weapons. Period.

The Gulf War gave me a glimpse into the future of warfare. I saw adversaries who attacked without warning. I saw adversaries armed with WMD and ballistic missiles. I saw an American public that expected our wars to be swiftly won and relatively casualty-free. In 1996, I see the same things, but my confidence that we can overcome these challenges has faded. The difference? In 1991, I returned from the Gulf convinced that tomorrow’s air commanders required–and would indeed have–a fleet of sixty or more long-range stealthy bombers. Inexplicably, the B-2 fleet was slashed from seventy-five to twenty, undermining our ability to employ a newly relevant strategy.

The B-2 is the only weapon system in the US inventory free of range, survivability, and lethality limitations that plagued us during the recent Iraqi crisis. B-2s could well be our only practical option for projecting truly decisive power in future regional crises. The planned force is far too small to underwrite a large-scale air campaign. Given the B-2’s obvious and unique utility in the new global strategic environment, it is difficult to comprehend how the Pentagon could so actively resist expanding the fleet.

Gen. Charles Horner, USAF (Ret.), retired in 1994 as commander in chief of North American Aerospace Defense Command and the US Space Command and commander of Air Force Space Command. He commanded all US and allied air assets in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm during 1990-91.

1 Gulf War Syndrome

Veterans of the First Gulf War are famous for suffering from a number of chronic and unexplained medical symptoms including fatigue, headaches, joint pain, indigestion, insomnia, dizziness, respiratory disorders, and memory problems. There have been a number of studies that have attempted to explain the phenomenon, which is difficult to understand due to the wildly varying expressions of the disease. The US Department of Veteran&rsquos Affairs does provide disability compensation to those affected if they can show they have suffered from &ldquopresumptive&rdquo illnesses like chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia after their service in the Gulf War theaters.

Conspiracy theorists have a variety of explanations for the mystery illnesses. Some blame aspartame, the synthetic sweetener sometimes known as NutraSweet. It is said to create an excitotoxin called aspartate, which is said to damage DNA and harm neurons. Some link Gulf War syndrome with Lou Gehrig&rsquos disease, which damages motor neurons. The diet soda that the military hands out on a regular basis is apparently what caused the syndrome. One theorist calling himself Dr. Blaylock called diet soda &ldquothe most powerful government approved toxic soup imaginable.&rdquo

Others blame the secret deployment of chemical and biological weapons by coalition forces. Former Royal Air Force Corporal Richie Turnbull claimed to have been affected by chemical weapons, specifically sarin gas, in a missile attack on the base where he was stationed. According to Turnbull, the attack was authorized not by Saddam, but by Britain&rsquos Ministry of Defence and the US Department of Defense. Others do blame the Iraqis but claim the biochemical weapons were supplied to Iraq through Jordan in the 1980s and that coalition troops were given vaccines to guard against anthrax, botulism, and bubonic plague. These were allegedly highly experimental and delivered via HIV gene envelopes.

According to conspiracy theorist David Guyatt, the complex array of symptoms attributed to Gulf War syndrome is the result of multiple causes: exposure to a variety of biological and chemical weapons and the unforeseen consequences of testing vaccines on coalition troops.

David Tormsen was grown in a petri dish by Saddam Hussein. Email him at [email protected] .