Baghdad under Fire: Saddam Loses Early Won War

  January 30, 2022   Read time 3 min
Baghdad under Fire: Saddam Loses Early Won War
Shortly before dawn, Baghdad residents heard explosions and saw flashes of light. CNN news presenters rushed out on to the balcony of their Baghdad hotel to broadcast live the start of the Persian Gulf War, or Operation Desert Storm.

What followed was a devastating and sustained aerial bombardment involving cruise missiles launched from U.S. warships and U.S., British, and Saudi Arabian fighter planes, bombers, and helicopters. More than 1,000 sorties were flown in the first 24 hours of Desert Storm. The main targets were military, but Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, was also heavily hit. The 1991 Gulf War is often described as the first televised war. All over the world, television audiences were able to watch the war unfold on their television screens. Pictures of missiles launching and fighters taking off were broadcast daily. The devastating results of the bombing also made it onto television screens. The daily briefings given by the allies used video footage and satellite pictures to show that military targets were being destroyed and that every effort was being made to avoid civilian casualties. Terms like “collateral damage” and “surgical strike” became part of the American vocabulary. In the capital city of Baghdad, military and communications installations were targeted, as well as the parliament, airport, defense ministry, and various palaces. All over the country allied aircraft hit major cities and military targets as well as Iraqi forces in Kuwait.

By the end of February, the Iraqi army had made a desperate retreat from Kuwait. At a place called Mutla Ridge, thousands of Iraqi soldiers were pinned down in their vehicles as they tried to cross back into Iraq. Most were killed by air-to-ground missiles. A three-day ground offensive campaign ended on February 27, when U.S. President George H.W. Bush declared victory. In his secret office, where he had been working during the 42-day war, Saddam called in one of his generals during the final days of the conflict to hear his assessment of Iraq’s performance: “What is your evaluation, general?” Saddam asked. “I think this is the biggest defeat in military history,” came the answer. “How can you say that?” “This is bigger than the defeat at Khorranshahr [one of the worst Iraqi losses in the war with Iran that cost tens of thousands of Iraqi lives].” Saddam said nothing for a moment. Then he replied, “That’s your opinion.”

After the Persian Gulf War and the disastrous defeat of his military, Saddam Hussein continued a reign that had lasted more than 30 years. According to some estimates, in the third and fourth years of his formal rule (1981 and 1982) more than 3,000 Iraqis were executed. During the Iran-Iraq war,(1980–1988) Iraq suffered an estimated 375,000 casualties. Sixty thousand Iraqi soldiers were taken prisoner by the Iranians. In major conflicts against his enemies, Saddam has authorized the use of chemical weapons. Weapons inspectors from the United Nations believed he had the capability to produce biological weapons such as anthrax, and perhaps even nuclear weapons. Since 1991, the United Nations had forced economic sanctions on Iraq to allow inspectors into Iraq to scour every square mile of the country in search of weapons of mass destruction.

Yet his defenders call him the leader of a sovereign nation who should not have to bow to international demands. In recent years, hundreds of groups around the world called for a lifting of the sanctions against Iraq, calling them unjust and cruel.

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