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(PERSIAN GULF WARS to 1991 – continued)

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PERSIAN GULF WARS to 1991 (7 of 8)

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Iraq Defeated Militarily

On the morning of 26 February 1991, Baghdad radio announced that Iraqi forces had "performed their Jihad duty of refusing to comply with the logic of evil, imposition and aggression." Also the broadcast announced that Iraq would comply with United Nations resolutions – a reference perhaps to the UN demand that Iraq withdraw its troops from Kuwait.

That day, tank battles were taking place, and many Iraqi tanks were being destroyed. And that day also Iraqis and Palestinians were rushing out of Kuwait City, northward toward Iraq on what would be called the Highway of Death. The column of fleeing Iraqis consisted of tanks, trucks, armored fighting vehicles and other vehicles included looted cars and stolen goods from Kuwait. Allied planes struck against the column. Tanks burned. Every vehicle was destroyed and no one was seen as having survived.

The sight was televised across the world. Muslims began responding to the "Highway of Death" with accusations of unnecessary killing. General Schwarzkopf was furious over reports by journalists suggesting that Allied pilots had wantonly destroyed civilians fleeing Kuwait City.

On the morning of 27 February in Iraq, fighting was still taking place, but that day General Powell in Washington saw the liberation of Kuwait as having been achieved. Of the "Highway of Death" he was to say that "You don't do unnecessary killing if it can be avoided. At some point you decide you've accomplished your objectives and you stop."

Trail of Tears out of Kuwait City

Iraqis northward out of Kuwait City. the "highway of death." Enlargement of photo of the Trail of Tears out of Kuwait City

Iraqi set oil fires

Iraqi set oil fires

President George H. W. Bush, too, had been moved by the sight of the Highway of Death. He, too, was of the opinion that US forces did not kill wantonly – soldiers or civilians. He asked General Powell, "Why not end it now?" Powell called Schwarzkopf and asked his opinion, and Schwarzkopf is reported by Powell to have said something to the effect that it was probably the right thing to do but that he wanted first to have a look around. Bush and his Secretary of Defence, Dick Cheney, also spoke to Schwarzkopf, and they all agreed that it was time to end the fighting. A different war with different circumstances from Vietnam. US troops were in Vietnam ten years. President Bush decided to end the war 100 hours after the ground war had begun – at 8 in the morning Saudi time, on the 28 February.

On the 28th the US 24th Infantry Division fought against elements of Iraq's Republican Guards as they were fleeing north from Kuwaiti oil fields, resulting in one of the largest tank battles of the war.

For the United States and its allies the war ended with 190 dead, 113 of whom were US personnel, killed by the Iraqis. Additional 145 died from accidents and 35 from friendly fire. According to a study done by the Project on Defense Alternatives, Saddam's military suffered between 20,000 and 26,000 killed. Saddam Hussein's government claimed that the US air campaign killed 2,300 civilians.

It was, at any rate, the most one-sided victory in the history of modern warfare.

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