1990–1991 war between Iraq and American-led coalition forces
The Persian Gulf War (2 August 1990 – 28 February 1991), codenamed Operation Desert Shield (2 August 1990 – 17 January 1991) for operations leading to the buildup of troops and defense of Saudi Arabia and Operation Desert Storm (17 January 1991 – 28 February 1991) in its combat phase, was a war waged by coalition forces from 34 nations led by the United States against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait. The war is also known under other names, such as the Gulf War, First Gulf War, Gulf War I, Kuwait War, First Iraq War, or Iraq War
- A Texas firefighting team today extinguished the first of 500 oil-well fires set by Iraqi troops and declared a "small victory" that could mark a turning point in the operation.
The team from a Houston-based company, Boots & Coots, using liquid nitrogen and water, put out a relatively small fire on its second attempt this morning.
"I think it's very important," Boots Hansen, the boss of the firefighting team, said of the achievement.
He said the method -- injecting nitrogen into the fire through a large cylinder attached to a giant bulldozer while spraying water at the base of the cylinder -- was less time-consuming than other methods, like the use of dynamite.
"It's a small victory," said Larry Flak, a Houston oil engineer coordinating the entire firefighting effort. "Now we can go from well to well to well without a lot of rigging up or preparation."
Mr. Hansen estimated that the nitrogen method, which deprives the fire of needed oxygen, could probably be used on half the fires set by the Iraqis late in February, before allied ground troops drove them from Kuwait.
- Associated Press, “AFTER THE WAR; Firefighters Extinguish Kuwait Oil-Well Blaze”, New York Times, (April 8, 1991).
- Tonight in Iraq, Saddam walks amidst ruin. His war machine is crushed. His ability to threaten mass destruction is itself destroyed.
- George H. W. Bush, address to the U.S. Congress (06 March 1991)
- Whose life would be on my hands as the commander-in-chief because I, unilaterally, went beyond the international law, went beyond the stated mission, and said we're going to show our macho? We're going into Baghdad. We're going to be an occupying power — America in an Arab land — with no allies at our side. It would have been disastrous. We don't gain the size of our victory by how many innocent kids running away — even though they're bad guys — that we can slaughter. … We're American soldiers; we don't do business that way.
- George H. W. Bush A statement to a reunion of Gulf War veterans (February 28, 1999) as quoted in "Bush tells Gulf vets why Hussein left in Baghdad" by S.H. Kelly, Pentagram (3 March 1999)
- Because if we had gone to Baghdad we would have been all alone. There wouldn't have been anybody else with us. It would have been a U.S. occupation of Iraq. None of the Arab forces that were willing to fight with us in Kuwait were willing to invade Iraq. Once you got to Iraq and took it over and took down Saddam Hussein's government, then what are you going to put in its place? That's a very volatile part of the world. And if you take down the central government in Iraq, you could easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off. Part of it the Syrians would like to have, the west. Part of eastern Iraq the Iranians would like to claim. Fought over for eight years. In the north, you've got the Kurds. And if the Kurds spin loose and join with Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey. It's a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq. The other thing is casualties. Everyone was impressed with the fact that we were able to do our job with as few casualties as we had, but for the 146 Americans killed in action and for the families it wasn't a cheap war. And the question for the president in terms of whether or not we went on to Baghdad and took additional casualties in an effort to get Saddam Hussein was, how many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth? And our judgment was not very many, and I think we got it right.
- Dick Cheney, on not pushing on to Baghdad during the first Gulf War; C-SPAN 4-15-94 Interview on CNN
- British and US forces fired about 320 tonnes of depleted uranium munitions in the 1991 Gulf war and may have used up to 2000 tonnes in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Because of its extreme density it is used to make the tips of armour piercing shells.
Reports from southern Iraq have documented a steep rise in the incidence of cancers since the 1990s, especially cases in children.
- Owen Dyer, “WHO suppressed evidence on effects of depleted uranium, expert says”, BMJ (11 November 2006); 333(7576): 990
- Europe is an economic giant, a political dwarf, and a military worm.
- Mark Eyskens, as quoted by Craig R. Whitney in WAR IN THE GULF: EUROPE; Gulf Fighting Shatters Europeans' Fragile Unity, The New York Times, January 25th, 1991.
- This phrase was pronounced in January 1991, a few days before the beginning of Desert Storm, while Eyskens was the Foreign Minister of Belgium
- So for now, depleted uranium falls into the quagmire of Gulf War Syndrome, from which no treatment has emerged despite the government's spending of at least $300 million.
About 30 percent of the 700,000 men and women who served in the first Gulf War still suffer a baffling array of symptoms very similar to those reported by Reed's unit.
- Amit Sen Gupta, “Lethal Dust: Effects of Depleted Uranium Ammunition”, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 36, No. 5/6 (Feb. 3-16, 2001), p. 454
- Those guys [in the Persian Gulf War] were in hog heaven, man. They had a weapons catalog, "What's G-12 do, Tommy?" "Says here it destroys everything but the fillings in their teeth, helps pay for the war effort." Well, shit, pull that one up!" "Pull up G-12, please." [sound of a missile launch, several beats, then an explosion]] "...Cool. What's G-13 do?"
- Bill Hicks, Relentless (1992), Compiled from live performances 14–17 November 1991
- The great duel, the mother of all battles has begun.… The dawn of victory nears as this great showdown begins!
- Saddam Hussein, Broadcast on Baghdad state radio, January 17, 1991.
- Comment on the beginning of Desert Storm, quoted in Washington Post (17 January 1991) "Iraqi Leader Remains Defiant Following US-Led Air Attacks" by Nora Boustany
- When the war finally started, we were ready. On January 16, 1991, CNN anchor Bernard Shaw reported to the world, “The skies over Baghdad have been illuminated . . .”
As predicted, Iraqi power and communications systems were destroyed by stealth fighter jets and cruise missiles. Every media company based in Baghdad—except CNN—lost power and transmission capabilities. Only CNN broadcast live to hundreds of millions of people worldwide. All channels turned to us for exclusive coverage; there was no place else.
Back then CNN was the only global 24/7 news channel. That live coverage of war—the first time it had been televised worldwide—transformed the media landscape. CNN became required viewing for informed citizens and heads of state, the one truly global news source. That has changed now, with multiple cable networks and news breaking on social media. But without the investment in journalism from visionary owners such as Turner, today’s networks focus more on commentary than newsgathering.
- Tom Johnson, “Desert Storm: The first war televised live around the world (and around the clock)”, Atlanta Magazine, (19 March 2015)
- Our concern over possible use of weapons of mass destruction against U.S. forces in the Middle East has increased because Iraq has violated the Geneva Protocol of 1925 and the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, attempted to acquire nuclear capability and delivery systems, and is reported to be developing biological weapons. The Army Medical Department has had no experience, since World War I, in the management and treatment of mass casualties contaminated by chemical agents, and has never treated casualties resulting from the use of nuclear or biological weapons used against our soldiers. Management and diagnosis of casualties will be complicated by their possible exposure to a mixture of chemical warfare and biological warfare agents. Triage is an essential aspect in the management of mass casualties since the number of injured patients will exceed the maximum medical capability to treat each patient on arrival. All levels of medical support must be prepared to protect themselves, their equipment and supplies, and their patients from contamination. In contaminated operations on the integrated battlefield, it will be of utmost importance to incorporate flexibility and innovation to match the medical and tactical situation.
- Knudson GB, “Operation Desert Shield: medical aspects of weapons of mass destruction.”, Mil Med. 1991 Jun;156(6):267-71
- The U.S. military swatted Saddam’s army, rated as one of the world’s better forces, like so many flies in the first Gulf War, and by the time of the second our conventional superiority was even greater.
- Walter Russell Mead, "Farewell To The Great Loon" (20 October 2011), The American Interest
- It took us some more time, though, to learn that April Glaspie may have tricked Hussein into invading Kuwait to provide that causus belli, and that the Kuwaiti girl crying on Capitol Hill during testimony about Iraqi ‘crimes’ in Kuwait (such as killing babies in incubators) was pure propaganda, created by a PR firm to boost public support for the war. It took people even more time to learn that the USA, after urging the Shi’a of the south of Iraq to rebel, were abandoned and left to slaughter by Saddam Hussein’s returning forces.
- Niccolo Soldo, My Political Journey Part 2: The Implosion of Yugoslavia and Bush's New World Order, Substack, 17 December 2021
- In 1991, Landsat captured the devastating environmental consequences of war. As Iraqi forces withdrew from Kuwait, they set fire to over 650 oil wells and damaged almost 75 more, which then spewed crude oil across the desert and into the Persian Gulf.
Fires burned for ten months. According to a 2009 study published in Disaster Prevention and Management, firefighting crews from ten countries, part of a response team that comprised approximately 11,450 workers from 38 countries, used familiar and also never-before-tested technologies to put out the fires. When the last one was extinguished in November, about 300 lakes of oil remained, as well as a layer of soot and oil that fell out of the sky and mixed with sand and gravel to form 'tarcrete' across 5 percent of Kuwait's landscape.
- NASA, “Landsat Top Ten - Kuwait Oil Fires”, (07.23.12)
- Gibson says the 1991 Gulf War literally chipped away at a priceless past. One example is the massive 4,000-year-old Ziggurat at Ur, in southern Iraq. The temple pyramid was hit by at least 400 shells that took out "big chunks" from the structure, Gibson says.
- NPR Morning Edition, “Protecting Ancient History in Iraq”, (February 20, 2003)
- A small but recurrent component of media reports on Iraq and Kuwait during the period from the Iraq invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990 through the Gulf War and its aftermath dealt with archaeology in the region and the potential and actual impact of the war on archaeological remains. An index of the saliece of archaeology for formulating the meaning of the war is that one of the first editorials printed in the New York Times the day after the bombing of Baghdad began (19 Jan. 1991) centered on thus subject. Entitled 'The Cradle, Ironically, of Civilization', it warned the US military against 'bombing cities, religious shrines or renowned archaeological sites' but went on to focus entirely on the prehistoric sites. It used descriptors that were to recur constantly throughout media coverage of the arhcaeology of the region, describing Ur, for example, as the 'very cradle of civilization and the birthplace of Abraham', and evoking images of 'ancient', 'unexplored', and 'sacred' cities scattered through Iraq.
Why did archaeological remains have this centrality? In a society still; enamored of an evolutionary view of human societies, did the story of a glorious Iraqi past get its power through the devolutionary reversals it displayed, its clear legitimizing unction for an avenging Allied campaign to preserve or even restore what was referred to as 'our common heritage'? Did ancient artifacts, like incubator babies of Kuwait, allow for narratives of innocence in a story that was otherwise too full of moral responsibility - with evil or invisible Iraqis, noble Allies and victimized Kuwaitis? Or, has the fetishizing of the commodity in our society grown over time to such a point that artifact survivors become more important that human Iraqi ones?
- Susan Pollock, Catherine Lutz, “Archaeology Deployed for the Gulf War”, Critique of Anthropology, (September 1, 1994)
- Our strategy in going after this army is very simple. First we are going to cut it off, and then we are going to kill it.
- Colin Powell Remark made as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announcing the U.S. gulf war plan against Saddam Hussein's army. Pentagon press briefing (23 January 1991)
- In fact, the Pioneer UAV was praised as "the single most valuable intelligence collector" in the war against Iraq. They have proved to be extremely reliable and have had high mission completion rates. During the Gulf War, only one UAV was lost in more than 300 missions.
- Jeffrey N. Renehan, “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Weapons of Mass Destruction A Lethal Combination?”, School of Advanced Airpower Studies, (1995-1996), p.2
- Senator Kerry now tells us he has a clear position on the [war on terror]. He voted no on [Desert Storm] in 1991 and yes on [Desert Shield] today. Then he voted no on [troop funding], just after he'd voted yes. He's campaigned against the [war] all year, but says he'd vote yes today. This nation can't afford [presidential leadership] that comes in 57 varieties.
- Mitt Romney, Republican Convention Speech, 2004
- As far as Saddam Hussein being a great military strategist: He is neither a strategist, nor is he schooled in the operational art, nor is he a tactician, nor is he a general, nor is he a soldier. Other than that, he's a great military man.
- Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr., Gulf War briefing (28 February 1991), as quoted in "WAR IN THE GULF: Commander's Briefing; Excerpts From Schwarzkopf News Conference on Gulf War" in The New York Times
- While the duration of actual combat engagement during the first Gulf War in February 1991 was relatively short, measured in days, the legacy of adverse health effects presumed related to it has been disproportionately lengthy. The constellation of symptom complaints in returned troops termed ‘Gulf War Syndrome’ or more generally, ‘unexplained illness’, has received the bulk of both scientific and public attention. However, a small collection of ‘explained’ adverse health outcomes have also been reported over the 15 years since the War's end. One of the best-characterized examples in this category involves the cluster of DU ‘friendly fire’ incidents and the DU-related health effects accrued to those soldiers who were its victims.
- Katherine S Squibb, Melissa A McDiarmid, “Depleted uranium exposure and health effects in Gulf War veterans”, Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2006 Apr 29; 361(1468): 639–648
- I seem to smell the stench of appeasement in the air—the rather nauseating stench of appeasement.
- Margaret Thatcher, "Speech to the House of Commons Statement, 30 October 1990, online at margaretthatcher.org; On a parliament debate about the Gulf War
- Iraq so far has failed to comply with paragraph 2 of resolution 660 (1990) and has usurped the authority of the legitimate Government of Kuwait.
- United Nations Security Council Resolution 661 (6 August 1990)
- Dr. Kang found that male Gulf War veterans reported having infants with likely birth defects at twice the rate of non-veterans. Furthermore, female Gulf War veterans were almost three times more likely to report children with birth defects than their non-Gulf counterparts. The numbers changed somewhat with medical records verification. However, Dr. Kang and his colleagues concluded that the risk of birth defects in children of deployed male veterans still was about 2.2 times that of non-deployed veterans.
- Department of Veterans Affairs (2003). "Q's & A's – New Information Regarding Birth Defects" (PDF). Gulf War Review. 12 (1): 10. Archived from the original(PDF) on 2006-09-29
- Beginning with Desert Storm in Kuwait in 1991, American air superiority to detect and destroy enemy vehicles and troops has given the U.S. an enormous edge in conventional force vs. force warfare in open terrain.
- Bing West, “Urban Warfare, Then and Now”, The Atlantic, (Jun 30, 2017)
- I was convinced before the war that the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein required a vigorous and sustained international response to disarm him. Iraq possessed and had used chemical weapons; it had an active biological weapons program and quite possibly a nuclear research program — all of which were in violation of United Nations resolutions. Having encountered Mr. Hussein and his thugs in the run-up to the Persian Gulf war of 1991, I was only too aware of the dangers he posed.
But were these dangers the same ones the administration told us about? We have to find out. America's foreign policy depends on the sanctity of its information. For this reason, questioning the selective use of intelligence to justify the war in Iraq is neither idle sniping nor "revisionist history," as Mr. Bush has suggested. The act of war is the last option of a democracy, taken when there is a grave threat to our national security. More than 200 American soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq already. We have a duty to ensure that their sacrifice came for the right reasons.
- Joseph C. Wilson, Op-ed piece in The New York Times, (6 July 2003)
“Religious Liberty in the Military: The First Amendment under "Friendly Fire"” (1992)Edit
Kenneth Lasson, “Religious Liberty in the Military: The First Amendment under "Friendly Fire"”, 9 J. L. & Religion 471 (1992)
- When the United States sent a military force to Saudi Arabia in late summer of 1990, it is unlikely that the governments of either country anticipated the sheer variety of religious tensions that would be roiled up by Operation Desert Storm-nor the constitutional questions encountered as a result.
- Not only do the Saudis have strict moral codes pertaining to women, liquor, tobacco, dress, and the sanctity of various holy sites, but they strictly regulate the conduct, comings and goings of all non-Moslems as well. These concerns, in addition to the promulgation of political policies that are stridently skewed against America's only democratic ally in the region, Israel, have caused both the State Department and the Pentagon to walk increasingly fine lines to avoid both political and cultural conflicts.
Thus, for example, early on in the campaign, Jewish-American service members were given the "option" of receiving "non-denominational dogtags." This offer was followed with a pamphlet issued by The United States Central Command on sensitive topics to be "avoided or handled carefully"-including "articles and stories showing U.S.-Israeli ties and friendship," "discussing the 'Jewish lobby' and U.S. intelligence given to Israel," and "referring to the Arab blacklisting of U.S. companies that do business with Israel or the Arab boycotting of companies that have strong Zionist representation in executive positions."
Beyond the obviously defensible position that military personnel be afforded the opportunity to disguise their religious identities in the event they are captured by an enemy, in this case the official governmental overtures were based on a considerably more dubious policy: the official blind-eye approach toward Saudi Arabia's grossly discriminatory fundamentalism. Such diplomatic obsequiousness toward the oil-rich kingdom has been going on nearly a half-century, and in turn has served to endorse practices that are clearly anathema to free societies. Regulating dress and drinking so as not to offend highly conservative allies is one thing, but repressing religious identity and observances is quite another.
- Prior to 1990, Jews and Blacks were purposefully denied assignment to Saudi Arabia. But that situation had to change, of necessity, when American forces were brought in in large numbers-ultimately over 500,000 troops from all the services.
From the earliest months of American military deployment in the Persian Gulf, various regulations, directives, orders, and advisories sought to limit religious practices and expressions. Military chaplains, for example, were ordered to remove insignia showing their religion, and told to call themselves "morale officers." Also, chaplains were prohibited from being interviewed by the media, which in turn was forbidden to film any religious worship services. This was even on bases far away from Saudi citizens or military personnel, and caused a major negative response among the hundreds of chaplains deployed in the Gulf.
Although the Pentagon officially denies there was any substantial restriction on religious freedom of soldiers and sailors, there is enough anecdotal material to cause concern. The press was instrumental in uncovering a number of incidents, long before the official regulations were acknowledged by the military. Thus, it became known that chaplains were told not to wear crosses when away from the troops, or to use terms like "mass" or "holy communion." Some "morale" services had to be held in secret. And certain Christmas carols or hymns were off limits (chaplains were told to substitute "Jingle Bells" for "Oh, Come All Ye Faithful"). President Bush himself, although he declared that we were there "to protect our Arab friends and the American way of life," changed a planned visit to the front from Christmas to Thanksgiving so as not to offend the Saudis.
According to one Jewish chaplain, the restrictions on Jews were more onerous than those placed upon Christians. There was an inadequate number of Jewish chaplains to cover the estimated 2500 Jewish military personnel. It was difficult to obtain copies of the Old Testament and kosher food. Although after awhile Christian services on bases were posted, Jewish services were not-this, by military order.
- Most if not all of these orders and practices may have been the result of an over-reaction by military commanders and the State Department to a misperceived sense of the need to defer to Arab fundamentalist sentiments. It is fairly clear now that the restrictions placed on the troops were much more the product of Americans than Saudis.
- By war's end, the senior chaplain in the Gulf could say that the religious program ultimately in effect was the best he had ever seen. From interviews with a number of military personnel who served in the Gulf, particularly members of the chaplaincy, 'a clear picture begins to emerge. Despite the regulations promulgated from above-from the State Department, the Secretary of Defense, and others in positions of influence-military personnel from all the services freely engaged in religious practices. Directives were widely disregarded. Chaplains refused to call themselves "morale officers." Services were held for all denominations, on all holidays. Kosher food, while difficult to obtain on military bases, (though kosher MREs are supposedly being discussed at present), was available in Riyadh-as was a Torah scroll flown in on a military transport from Frankfurt, West Germany.