The Gulf War

A line in the Sand



On July 17, 1990, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein accused Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates of flooding the world oil market. Specifically, he accused Kuwait for stealing oil from a disputed supply, the Rumaila oil field which ran beneath both countries, and thus waging "economic war" against Iraq. On August 2, 1990, Iraqi military forces invaded and occupied Kuwait.


U.S. involvement in the situation was immediate, as Sheikh Jaber Al Sabah, the Emir of Kuwait, met with then-Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney to request U.S. military assistance, and President George Bush condemned Iraq's actions. While U.S. military commanders and strategists formulated offensive plans, the United Nations passed a resolution calling for military action if Hussein did not withdraw his forces by January 15, 1991.


 Iraq ignored all demands, and in response, a coalition of UN forces began immediately to build in Saudi Arabia. On January 12, Congress granted President Bush the authority to wage war. Hostilities commenced on January 17, as the 36 members of the coalition forces, under the direction of American General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, initiated an air campaign to disable Iraq's communications, air defenses, and early warning radar installations. Millions of Americans were glued to their television sets as CNN broadcast images of the air attack in Baghdad -- the beginning of the first "live" television war.


The resulting coalition campaign, which would come to be known as Desert Storm, mainly involved Air Force units, with strong support from the Navy, included strategic aircraft sorties against installations in Baghdad as well as other military targets. Terms like "SCUD" and "Patriot missile" became household words.


After five weeks of air and missile combat, ground troops began their campaign in Kuwait. On February 27, coalition forces entered Kuwait City, forcing Iraq to concede a cease-fire after only 100 hours.


 On March 3, General Schwartzkopf sat down with the Iraqi military and dictated the terms for the cease-fire. Allied forces would remain in defensive positions in the area of Iraq they currently occupied. Iraqi forces would be allowed to leave this area, but would not take any of their equipment or supplies. In addition, no aircraft would be allowed to operate in an area near U.S. forces, and other flights were strictly limited. On March 6, President Bush addressed Congress and announced the liberation of Kuwait, and on March 8, U.S. forces began touching American soil for the first time in months.


The Gulf reunited the American people and the military, helping to mend the wounds from the Vietnam War. Returning service members were welcomed back and faith in the military's effectiveness was restored. Still, the war was not without controversy -- friendly fire accounted for almost a third of the over 200 Americans killed, raising doubts about the advances in military technology.