Norman Schwarzkopf Dead at 78
General H. Norman Schwarzkoft, commander during Operation Desert Storm, has died at the age of 78.
AP (“Retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf dies“):
Retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who topped an illustrious military career by commanding the U.S.-led international coalition that drove Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait in 1991 but kept a low public profile in controversies over the second Gulf War against Iraq, died Thursday. He was 78.
Schwarzkopf died in Tampa, Fla., where he had lived in retirement, according to a U.S. official, who was not authorized to release the information publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
A much-decorated combat soldier in Vietnam, Schwarzkopf was known popularly as “Stormin’ Norman” for a notoriously explosive temper.
He served in his last military assignment in Tampa as commander-in-chief of U.S. Central Command, the headquarters responsible for U.S. military and security concerns in nearly 20 countries from the eastern Mediterranean and Africa to Pakistan.
Schwarzkopf became “CINC-Centcom” in 1988 and when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait three years later to punish it for allegedly stealing Iraqi oil reserves, he commanded Operation Desert Storm, the coalition of some 30 countries organized by then-President George H.W. Bush that succeeded in driving the Iraqis out.
At the peak of his postwar national celebrity, Schwarzkopf – a self-proclaimed political independent – rejected suggestions that he run for office, and remained far more private than other generals, although he did serve briefly as a military commentator for NBC.
While focused primarily in his later years on charitable enterprises, he campaigned for President George W. Bush in 2000 but was ambivalent about the 2003 invasion of Iraq, saying he doubted victory would be as easy as the White House and Pentagon predicted. In early 2003 he told the Washington Post the outcome was an unknown:
“What is postwar Iraq going to look like, with the Kurds and the Sunnis and the Shiites? That’s a huge question, to my mind. It really should be part of the overall campaign plan,” he said.
Initially Schwarzkopf had endorsed the invasion, saying he was convinced that former Secretary of State Colin Powell had given the United Nations powerful evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. After that proved false, he said decisions to go to war should depend on what U.N. weapons inspectors found.
He seldom spoke up during the conflict, but in late 2004, he sharply criticized then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon for mistakes that included inadequate training for Army reservists sent to Iraq and for erroneous judgments about Iraq.
“In the final analysis I think we are behind schedule. … I don’t think we counted on it turning into jihad (holy war),” he said in an NBC interview.
Schwarzkopf became a legend through his daily televised briefings on CNN during the war. The irony was that, as the first truly televised war, those at home—including my parents—had a much better understanding of the war and Schwarzkopt’s personality than those of us fighting the war did. My folks bought me a couple VHS tapes highlighting the war footage, including some of Schwarzkopf’s more famous remarks, such as his assessment of Saddam Hussein:
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-I want you to know that.
The general’s 1993 autobiography, It Doesn’t Take A Hero, earned a snarky footnote in my dissertation for it’s assertion that, had US forces continued to pursue Hussein into Baghdad, rather than simply ejecting his forces from Kuwait, the coalition that President George H.W. Bush (himself now in critical condition in a Houston hospital) had assembled would have collapsed. “Not even France,” Schwarzkoft declared, would have stood by us. My footnote was something to the effect that “It’s not clear from content whether Schwarzkopf was being ironic with regard to French steadfastness.”
Regardless, while the general has been out of the spotlight for some time now, he was a great public servant. May he rest in peace.