Pentagon wanted to fire 'abusive' Schwarzkopf: A new book claims Gulf war allied commander threatened and humiliated his senior military staff, writes Patrick Cockburn in Washington

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The Independent Online
GENERAL Norman Schwarzkopf, the United States commander in the Gulf war, was almost fired by the Pentagon because of his rages against his senior commanders. A new book on the war says his headquarters became 'a dispirited bunker' as he abused and humiliated his staff, threatening to sack or court-martial his top commanders.

Dick Cheney, then the US Defense Secretary, considered firing Gen Schwarzkopf because of his fits of fury and the regal trappings he adoped as allied commander. The Pentagon objected to the general moving around in a 'motorcade larger than (King) Fahd's'. Aboard a plane, Mr Cheney was shocked to see a colonel on his hands and knees ironing Gen Schwarzkopf's uniform while a major held his place in a queue for the lavatory.

Gen Scharzkopf, now retired, kept his job but Mr Cheney sent him as deputy a senior general whose job was to shield the headquarters staff from the rages of their commander.

In Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War, Richard Atkinson of the Washington Post also says the United States knowingly violated Iranian airspace by firing Tomahawk cruise missiles at Iraqi targets that flew over Iranian territory. The reason was that the guidance system of the Tomahawk needed broken terrain, such as the mountains of western Iran, in which to operate.

The book also confirms that US bombing was considerably less accurate than claimed at the time. Of 167 laser-guided bombs dropped by F-117E Stealth bombers, 76 missed their targets in the first five days of the war. Gen Schwarzkopf showed the press a video taken by a US jet saying it showed seven Iraqi Scud launchers being destroyed from the air. Within minutes the CIA told him the launchers were in fact oil tankers but he never corrected himself.

The US navy, contrary to rules of engagement, sank an Iraqi tanker in the Gulf, releasing large quantities of oil. Gen Schwarzkopf gave formal notice that he was considering the court-martial of those responsible, Vice-Admiral Stanley Arthur and his staff, forcing Admiral Arthur to devote much of his time to preparing his legal defence. Gen Schwarzkopf apparently refused to adjudicate in a long-running row between the air force, which wanted to carry out the strategic bombing of Iraq, and the army, which wanted tactical air support for its operations in Kuwait.

The book also says the bombing of the Amariyah shelter in Baghdad, in which 204 civilians - mainly women and children - were killed, was the result of a tip-off from a spy high up in the Iraqi government who said it was being used as a government command post.

Washington never had any doubt it would win the war but was concerned that Iraq would use chemical weapons. Gen Schwarzkopf recommended saying to Iraq: 'If you use chemical weapons, we're going to use nuclear weapons.' An air force general suggested using small nuclear weapons on 18 Iraqi biological weapons sites but this was ruled out by General Colin Powell, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

(Photograph omitted)