Sunday, May 06, 2007


Operation Desert Storm, and the 1991 Persian Gulf War, have been treated fairly kindly by historians. Many have seen the operation as extremely successful. Indeed, after just a month of air strikes and only a hundred hours of ground war, President Bush declared a ceasefire.

Yet many Americans have no clear understanding of the intricacies of the strategy pursued by the Bush Administration during the war. We explore Hussein’ s belligerent invasion of Kuwait, the reasons behind George H. Bush’s decision to defend the small, oil-rich State of Kuwait and finally, the decision not to march on to Baghdad.

The decision to halt the fighting allowed Saddam Hussein to remain in power, yet the factors that influenced the choice are rarely examined. In this episode of Final Report we explore the full story and the effect the first Persian Gulf War had upon the balance of power in the Arab region.

On 17th January 1991, the United States of America and an allied coalition of twenty-eight nations attacked Baghdad. The invasion was launched in retaliation for the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq’s president Saddam Hussein. It was the first time American troops faced Hussein. It was also the first instance in American history when a conflict was broadcast live into the public’s living rooms.

US led allied forces launched an overwhelming air strike against Iraq, employing innovative new weaponry such as the F-117 Stealth Bomber and the Patriot missile. With precision arms and intelligence, US military strategists were able to conduct a massive air strike with fewer casualties than previously thought possible.

President George H. Bush and advisors such as Colin Powell were determined not to draw the country into a conflict which would result in vast Vietnam War-style collateral damage. Yet the war was still bloody and brutal. On 13th February, five hundred Iraqi civilians were killed when US forces bombed an air-raid shelter. Two weeks later, the US military fired on retreating Iraqi forces along a roadway that became labelled the ‘Highway of Death’.

The conflict escalated into an extremely asymmetric war. After a month of air strikes and only one hundred hours of ground war, President Bush declared a ceasefire. Many assumed that Saddam Hussein would not survive politically in the wake his country’s defeat. Yet he remained the undisputed leader of Iraq until 2003.


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