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Persian Gulf War Timeline

Latest War with Iraq News - The war begins
at approximately 5:32 am Baghdad time on March 20.
(In the United States, 9:32 pm, EST, March 19, 2003)

  • For continuing up-to-date coverage of the War in Iraq, we recommend these online news sources - BBC News, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times - Associates Press News Wire, Sydney Morning Herald, CNN News, MSNBC News, CBS News, International Herald Tribune.
  • First U.S. Allied Airplane lands in Baghdad LA Times - A hulking U.S. C-130 transport plane landed at the Baghdad international airport, carrying unknown cargo but weighted with symbolism and tactical importance...
  • US moves to encircle Baghdad - BBC News - American troops strengthen their positions around the Iraqi capital amid fierce fighting on the western outskirts...
  • UK troops storm Basra - BBC News - British troops bombard the local headquarters of Iraq's ruling party as commanders promise the “liberation of Basra”...
  • U.S. Forces Head Into Heart of Baghdad - Washington Post - U.S. Army troops and armored vehicles entered Baghdad in large numbers this morning for the first time, military officials said, probing toward the heart of an Iraqi capital now ringed by U.S. forces.
  • U.S. Seizes Iraqi Guard Division's HQ - LA Times - U.S. Army soldiers Saturday captured the headquarters of the Republican Guard's Medina Division in this town about 35 miles southeast of Baghdad. Two tank companies and an infantry company of the 3rd Infantry Division rolled through the headquarters unopposed and quickly took over the entire base. It appeared that the Republican Guard defenses had completely collapsed.
  • The airfield is secure - 2,500 Iraqi Guards Surrender - LA Times - U.S. armored units backed by warplanes ousted Iraqi forces from Baghdad's airport Friday while 2,500 Republican Guard soldiers south of the city surrendered to Marines, American officials said. "The airfield is secure and our forces are continuing to clear the areas in and around it," said Col. John Peabody, whose 3rd Infantry Division engineer brigade was at Saddam International Airport...
  • U.S. Forces Occupy Part of Baghdad Airport - LA Times - NEAR BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - U.S. forces occupied part of Baghdad's airport before dawn Friday, putting them about nine miles from the capital after a fierce battle up a single-lane road with Iraqi fighters...
  • The ground war moved closer to Baghdad on Monday, with fierce skirmishes between US troops and Republican Guard units at Hindiya, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of the capital, the US military said. - BBC News - Coalition bombs and missiles have struck Iraqi presidential sites in central Baghdad and pounded Republican Guard divisions just south of the city in a round-the-clock bombardment...
  • First Relief Convoy Rolls Into Iraq - LA Times - SOUTHERN IRAQ - UMM QASR, Iraq (AP) - The first sizable relief convoy rolled into Iraq on Wednesday bringing water, tuna, crackers and other food to Iraqis, some of whom cheered as they swarmed allied troops handing out supplies...
  • US-led forces have been encountering pockets of stubborn resistance as they press ahead towards the Iraqi capital Baghdad. - BBC - In one of the longest-running challenges so far in the conflict, air strikes were called in on the southern port town of Umm Qasr to overcome about...
  • Attack Was 48 Hours Old When It Began - Washington Post - Under the official war plan, designated “OPLAN 1003 V” and approved by the president, the war with Iraq had already begun...
  • Anti-war protests span the globe - BBC - Tens of thousands of people worldwide have taken to the streets to stage the latest series of demonstrations against the conflict in Iraq...
  • Coalition Troops Barrel towards Baghdad - Washington Post - Swifly moving columns of U.S. tanks and armored vehicles pushed towards Baghdad today and allied warplanes and ships rained bombs and missiles on the Iraqi capital in a day-and-night pounding...
  • The Antiwar Movement - Washington Post - Its Roots, Major Protest Groups, Global Views...
  • Allied Forces Take Basra Airport, Bridge - LA Times - SOUTHERN IRAQ (AP) - U.S. and British forces moved in on Iraq's second-largest city Saturday, taking its airport and a bridge while Saddam Hussein's security forces resisted with artillery and heavy machine guns...
  • Entire Division of Iraqi Army Surrenders - LA Times - WASHINGTON (AP) - An entire division of the Iraqi army, numbering 8,000 soldiers, surrendered to coalition forces in southern Iraq Friday, Pentagon officials said...
  • Massive air raids rock Iraq - BBC - United States and British forces have launched massive aerial assaults on targets in Baghdad and beyond in a major escalation of the war...
  • Turkish Troops Will Enter Northern Iraq - Turk FM Washington Post - ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey said on Friday its troops would enter northern Iraq to prevent an influx of refugees across its borders, but gave no date for an incursion the United States says it opposes...
  • Desert Rats in fierce tank battle - The Scotsman - BRITAIN’S elite Desert Rats today came under heavy fire as they provided cover for a US thrust into the heart of Iraq. The British 7th Armoured Brigade, the Desert Rats, were engaged in fierce fighting with Iraqi forces as they flanked the main thrust towards Baghdad by the 7th US Cavalry in Abrams tanks...
  • Marines Take Strategic Port in S. Iraq - LA Times - KUWAIT CITY (AP) - U.S. Marines have captured the strategic port in the southern Iraqi city of Umm Qasr but are still encountering pockets of resistance, U.S. military sources said Friday. "We've taken most of the port, and at least a couple of hundred prisoners," a U.S. military official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "We're not done securing it at this time."
  • THE AMERICAN 3rd infantry division was today 90 miles inside Iraq - The Scotsman - U.S. troops pushing forward towards the main road to Baghdad.
  • Battle for Iraq Not the Pushover It Appears - Reuters - AS SAYLIYA CAMP, Qatar (Reuters) - Television images of U.S. tanks tearing across desert sands make the invasion of Iraq look as easy as punching through a soggy paper bag, but the toughest battles of this war are yet to come...
  • Weather Forecast: Hot and furious dust storms predicted for battle zone - The Sydney Morning Herald - A powerful storm is likely to pummel military forces in and around Iraq with blinding sand and choking dust starting on Monday night, meteorologists predict. The dust storm would probably be nearly twice as strong as the one that grounded helicopters and limited troop movements in Kuwait on Wednesday, the forecasters said...
  • Iraq could release strategic floods: US - Indian Express - Iraq's military could deliberately cause flooding along the Tigris River between the capital Baghdad and the city of Al Kut by releasing water from upstream reservoirs, the US Defense Department said in a statement...
  • U.S. Forces Seize Western Iraqi Airfields - LA Times - WASHINGTON (AP) - American forces seized important airfields in western Iraq, and a U.S. Marine became the first combat death while fighting for control of a southern oil field. The airfields known as H-2 and H-3 in far western Iraq were taken without much resistance from Iraqi troops, defense officials said on condition of anonymity. But they called control of the installations "tentative."
  • Aussie anti-war protests intensify - News Interactive - PROTESTERS lit fires in Sydney and staged a "die in" in north Queensland as another wave of anti-war protests swept Australia today. As news of the push into Iraq by the United States and its British and Australian allies gathered pace, peace activists maintained their anger.
  • Mass protests in Switzerland against war - Swiss Info - Tens of thousands of students have taken to the streets of Switzerland to voice their opposition to the United States-led war against Iraq. Around 40,000 students joined protests in cities such as Zurich, Bern and Geneva to demand the withdrawal of US and coalition troops from the region.
  • U.S. Forces Seize Western Iraqi Airfields - LA Times - WASHINGTON (AP) - American forces seized important airfields in western Iraq, and a U.S. Marine became the first combat death while fighting for control of a southern oil field. The airfields known as H-2 and H-3 in far western Iraq were taken without much resistance from Iraqi troops, defense officials said on condition of anonymity. But they called control of the installations "tentative."
  • The capture of Iraqi oil fields by UK troops is a victory, says BBC's Clive Myrie. BBC - Royal Marine commandos made the successful sea and air assault on the strategically important al Faw peninsula in south-eastern Iraq, where they captured oil facilities...
  • Allies Suffer First Combat Deaths in Iraq - LA Times - IN THE KUWAIT-IRAQ DEMILITARIZED ZONE (AP) - One U.S. Marine died Friday in fighting as troops advanced on an oil field in southern Iraq, the military said. Separately, 12 coalition soldiers were killed as their helicopter crashed in the first hours of the ground war. U.S. Marines encountered mortar fire as they took control of the main highway leading to the key port city of Basra, at the heart of Iraq's southern oil facilities. The Marine was killed during the advance on the Rumeila oil field, the military said.
  • Forces may enter Baghdad within four days, British military says - Sky News - UK - Allied troops are driving deeper into the Iraqi desert, with commanders predicting arrival in Baghdad within four days...
  • Brits capture Faw; British forces secure Iraq's Faw Peninsula - CNN - INSIDE SOUTHERN IRAQ (CNN) -- U.S. and coalition forces swept across the Iraqi desert Friday, seizing key towns in the southern part of the country, U.S. and British officials said...lead element of the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division, raced unopposed toward Baghdad in what CNN Correspondent Walter Rodgers described as "a huge wave of steel."
  • US, Britain Race Into Iraq, See War Over Soon - SOUTHERN IRAQ (Reuters) - U.S. and British officers predicted a swift victory on Friday after American armored columns raced deep into Iraq and British marines seized vital oil facilities in the south. More...
  • U.S. Army, Marines Drive Deeper Into Iraq - LA Times - SOUTHERN IRAQ (AP) - The U.S. Marines and Army rolled into Iraq and engaged Saddam Hussein's forces in the desert on Thursday, joining British troops in launching the war's ground assault. As U.S. armor drove deeper into Iraq Friday morning, British troops conducted an assault on the strategic al-Faw peninsula, Iraq's access point to the Persian Gulf and the site of major oil facilities. British military officials said they hoped to seize the key port of Umm Qasr before the day's end.
  • Troops die in air crash - BBC - A US CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter has crashed in Kuwait, killing 12 British and four American troops. US defence officials said there appeared to have been no survivors in the crash...
  • Aerial Assault of Baghdad Continues Washington Post - Air raids resumed over Baghdad's night sky, as U.S. and British tanks and helicopters moved into southern Iraq, headed toward the strategic city of Basra, British military sources said...
  • U.S. Talks With Iraqis About Surrender LA Times - WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. officials are communicating with Iraqis to surrender or attempt a coup that might topple Saddam Hussein's regime without a full-scale U.S. invasion, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Thursday night. Rumsfeld said communications included talks with Iraq's elite Republican Guard, and he was optimistic about the outcome.
  • US, UK forces enter Iraq in Gulf War II - Daily Times, Pakistan - The United States launched cruise missile and air strikes on Baghdad while US and British troops invaded southern Iraq from Kuwait on Thursday, as the ...
  • U.S. Confirms Saddam Hussein in Video - LA Times - WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. intelligence officials said Friday they have determined that it was almost certainly Saddam Hussein, not a look-alike, who appeared on a video recording that aired on Iraqi television a few hours after he was targeted by an American air strike. However, officials say it is unclear whether the message was recorded before or after the strike. They said some reports indicate Saddam pre-recorded several speeches to air during fighting.
  • Saddam Or Imposter? - CBS News - The look-alikes reportedly had plastic surgery and were trained in the dictator's mannerisms, including the way he walks, and even down to his facial tics. ...
  • Allied Forces Cross Into Southern Iraq - LA Times - SOUTHERN IRAQ (AP) -- Allied forces crossed into southern Iraq on Thursday after a thundering barrage of artillery that signaled the start of ground war. Infantrymen on the move, their weeks of waiting at an end, cheered as shells screamed overhead...
  • Mystery over vanished Iraqi general - BBC - Danish police are searching for firm leads in their hunt for a key missing Iraqi defector, as reports said he might have been snatched...
  • Officials: Saddam in Compound When Hit - LA Times - WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. intelligence believes Saddam Hussein and possibly two of his sons were present inside a suburban Baghdad compound when it was struck by U.S. missiles and bombs and that medical attention was summoned afterward, government officials said Thursday night. The officials, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, said intelligence agencies have not made any determination yet whether Hussein himself or his sons were injured or killed in the attacks and they were carefully analyzing videotapes purporting to show Hussein after the attack.
  • Antiwar protests circle the globe - MSNBC - A wave of sometimes violent protests circled the globe Thursday to protest the beginning of a U.S.-led war against Iraq. In the United States, anti-war demonstrators blocked morning rush-hour traffic in Washington and San Francisco and chanted “no blood for oil” outside the White House. Internationally, protests were mounted from Athens to Asia ...
  • UN readies Iraq food crisis plan - BBC - The United Nations food agency, believing that it may be facing the largest and most costly humanitarian crisis in history, is making contingency plans to feed the people of Iraq...
  • Worldwide protests denounce war in Iraq; 13 US missions close International Herald Tribune - Protests swelled around the world from Stockholm to Srinagar and San Francisco on Thursday as the United States and Britain launched military action in ...
  • Iraq Fires Missiles Toward U.S. Troops - LA Times - IN THE KUWAITI DESERT (AP) -- Iraq fired missiles across the Kuwaiti border toward U.S. troops Thursday, prompting soldiers to don gas masks and chemical protective gear. At least one of the rockets was intercepted by a Patriot missile, U.S. officials said.
  • President Bush Addresses the Nation - The Oval Office 10:16 P.M. EST - THE PRESIDENT: My fellow citizens, at this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger...
  • War on Iraq begins - BBC News - US President George W Bush has said he has launched a war on Baghdad, vowing to "disarm Iraq and to free its people". Mr Bush delivered a live television address shortly after explosions rocked the Iraqi capital, signalling the start of the US-led campaign to topple Saddam Hussein...
  • War begins with strike at Iraqi 'leadership targets' - Stars and Stripes - War erupted Wednesday night as the United States launched cruise missiles at Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and other "leadership targets" in Baghdad, officials said. The strike was aimed at crippling Hussein's regime and specifically targeted him, his sons and other senior leaders of the Baath Party and Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council, according to a senior Bush administration official. Ground forces poised at the Iraqi border did not appear to have been ordered into combat, however.
  • Air Raid Sirens, Planes Heard in Baghdad - Yahoo News
  • U.S. Begins Striking Iraq - Washington Post - U.S. Begins Striking Iraq “Military stages of Iraqi disarmament have begun,” said Ari Fleischer.

History of the First Persian Gulf War

The Gulf War, also known as: Persian Gulf War, War in the Gulf, Iraq-Kuwait Conflict, Second Gulf War, UN-Iraq conflict, and Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, and Desert Saber, was a conflict between Iraq and a coalition force led by the United States in 1990-1991. The conflict took place on the ground in Iraq, Kuwait, and bordering areas of Saudi Arabia, with long-range missiles also landing in Israel. The Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988 was also called the Gulf War, especially before 1990.


Prior to World War I, Kuwait had been a province of Iraq, as a territory in the Ottoman Empire. However, Kuwait was split from Iraq in post-war negotiations and became a British territory, later an independent monarchy. Iraq never accepted the legitimacy of Kuwaiti independence from Iraq, although prior to 1990 it had accepted the reality. The Iraq-Kuwait border was never well-defined and border disputes between the two countries had been continuous since the creation of Kuwait.

Following the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, Iraq was extremely indebted. It hoped to repay its debts by raising the price of oil through OPEC oil production cuts, but instead, Kuwait increased production, lowering prices, in an attempt to leverage a better resolution of their border dispute. In addition, Iraq charged that Kuwait had taken advantage of the Iran-Iraq War to drill for oil and build military outposts on Iraqi soil near Kuwait. Furthermore, Iraq charged that it had performed a collective service for all Arabs by acting as a buffer against Iran and that therefore Kuwait and Saudi Arabia should forgive Iraq's war debts.

In late July, 1990, as negotiations between Iraq and Kuwait stalled, Iraq amassed troops on Kuwait's borders and summoned American ambassador April Glaspie for a meeting with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. In that meeting, Hussein outlined his grievances against Kuwait, while promising that he would not invade Kuwait before one more round of negotiations. Glaspie offered mixed messages, expressing concern over the troop buildup, while saying that the US "have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait" (from the Iraqi transcript of the meeting, as published in Sifry).

Some people, like scholar William Blum, allege that the United States gave secret encouragement to Kuwait to be provocative in their territorial claims and promised to defend Kuwait from the expected Iraqi reaction. This, his argument goes, was in response to increasing Iraqi warnings about American hegemony in the Gulf region. Also, it helped to stanch expected cuts in defense spending and boost President George Bush's domestic popularity. (Blum, Ch. 52)

The Onset

Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait with armor and infantry, occupying strategic posts throughout the country, including the Emir's palace, on August 2, 1990. Troops looted medical and food supplies, detained thousands of civilians, and took over the media. Iraq detained thousands of Western visitors as hostages, and later attempted to use them as bargaining chips. Iraq initially established a puppet "liberated" Kuwaiti government, but quickly dissolved this and declared parts of Kuwait to be extensions of the Iraqi province of Basra and the rest to be the 19th province of Iraq.

Within hours of the initial invasion, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 660, condemning the invasion and demanding a withdrawal of Iraqi troops. On August 6, the Security Council passed Resolution 661, placing economic sanctions on Iraq and, on November 11, Resolution 678, giving Iraq a withdrawal deadline of January 15, 1991, and authorizing "all necessary means to uphold and implement Resolution 660".

President of the United States George Bush quickly announced that the US would launch a "wholly defensive" mission to prevent Iraq from invading Saudi Arabia - Operation Desert Shield [PRES]. There is no evidence that Iraq ever intended to invade Saudi Arabia, as even General Norman Schwarzkopf, the allied commander during the conflict, admitted. Iraq claimed all throughout that its only intent was to reclaim its "province" Kuwait. The Department of Defense claimed to have satellite photos of a large troop buildup in Kuwait along the Saudi border, but never made them public for security reasons. Other satellite photos purchased from Soviet satellite sources apparently showed no such buildup.

The navy mobilised two naval battle groups, USS Eisenhower and USS Independence, to the area [NAVY], where they were ready by August 8. Military buildup continued from there, eventually reaching 500,000 troops. The consensus among military analysts is that until October, the American military forces in the area would have been insufficient to stop an invasion of Saudi Arabia had Iraq attempted one.

The United States, especially Secretary of State James Baker, assembled a coalition of forces to join it in opposing Iraq, consisting of soldiers from 34 countries: Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Honduras, Italy, Kuwait, Morocco, The Netherlands, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Korea, Spain, Syria, Turkey, The United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States itself. US troops represented 74% of 660,000 troops in the theater of war. Many of the coalition forces were reluctant to join; some felt that the war was an internal Arab affair; others feared increasing American influence in Kuwait. In the end, many nations were persuaded by offers of economic aid or debt forgiveness. (Blum)

The United States went through a number of different public justifications for their involvement in the conflict. The first reasons given were the importance of oil to the American economy and the United States' longstanding friendly relationship with Saudi Arabia [PRES]. However, many Americans were dissatisfied with these explanations and "No Blood For Oil" became a rallying cry for domestic peace activists, though opposition never reached the size of opposition to the Vietnam War. Later justifications for the war included Iraq's history of human rights abuses under President Saddam Hussein, the potential that Iraq may develop nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction, and that "naked aggression [against Kuwait] will not stand."

Shortly after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, the organization Citizens for a Free Kuwait was formed in the US. It hired the public relations firm Hill and Knowlton for about $11 million, money from the Kuwaiti government. This firm went on to manufacture a fake campaign, which described Iraqi soldiers pulling babies out of incubators in Kuwaiti hospitals and letting them die on the floor. A video news release was widely distributed by US TV networks; false supporting testimony was given before Congress and before the UN Security Council. The fifteen-year-old girl testifying before Congress was later revealed to be the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States; the supposed surgeon testifying at the UN was in fact a dentist who later admitted to having lied. [MCA]

Various peace proposals were floated, but none were agreed to. The United States insisted that the only acceptable terms for peace were Iraq's full, unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait. Iraq insisted that withdrawal from Kuwait must be "linked" to a simultaneous withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and Israeli troops from the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, and southern Lebanon.

Air Campaign

On January 16, 1991, one day after the deadline set in Resolution 678, the coalition launched a massive air campaign: more than 1,000 sorties per day, 10 times as many as the allies used in World War II. (Bolkom, Ch. 8) Weapons used included smart bombs, cluster bombs, daisy cutters, and cruise missiles (see below). Air superiority in the theatre was quickly achieved; coalition air forces flew sorties largely unchallenged.

The air campaign targeted military targets like the Iraqi Republican Guard in Kuwait, air defense systems, Scud missile launchers, air forces and airfields, weapons research facilities, and naval forces. In addition, it targeted facilities useful for both the military and civilians: electricity production facilities, telecommunications equipment, port facilities, oil refineries and distribution, railroads and bridges. [RCCPGW] Two live nuclear reactors were bombed [WASHPOST], in violation of the recently passed UN Resolution 45/52 banning such attacks. Electrical power facilities were destroyed across the (previously industrialized) country. At the end of the war, electricity production was at 4% of it's pre-war levels; months later, it was still only at 20-25%. (Bolkom) Bombs destroyed the utility of all major dams, most major pumping stations, and many sewage treatment plants. Sewage flowed directly into the Tigris River, from which civilians drew drinking water, resulting in widespread disease (Arbuthnot, Felicity). Documents released by the Pentagon confirm that this attack was deliberate and carefully planned, a war crime by Article 54 of the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Convention, and that "increased incidences, if not epidemics, of disease" among the civilian population were both anticipated and intended [PENT]. In most cases, the Allies avoided hitting civilian-only facilities. However, over 300 civilians died in one bombing raid of an air raid shelter [BBC]. (Some people estimate 600-1,000 people died in that raid.)

Iraq launched missile attacks on coalition bases in Saudi Arabia and on Israel, in the hopes of drawing Israel into the war and drawing other Arab states out of it. This strategy proved ineffective. Israel did not join the coalition, and all Arab states stayed in the coalition except Jordan, which remained officially neutral throughout.

Ground Campaign

On February 24, the US began Operation Desert Sabre, the ground portion of the campaign. US forces pulled plows along Iraqi trenches, burying their occupants alive. Soon after, a convoy of Marines penetrated deep into Iraqi territory, collecting thousands of deserting Iraqi troops, weakened and demoralised by the extensive air campaign. The US anticipated that Iraq might use chemical weapons, and made provisional plans for extracting revenge by destroying the dams on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, drowning Baghdad in water. [PBS]

Iraq did not use chemical weapons, and the allied advance was much swifter than US generals expected. Iraqi troops quickly retreated out of Kuwait, setting fire to Kuwaiti oil fields as they left. A long convoy of retreating Iraqi troops formed along the main Iraq-Kuwait highway. This convoy was bombed so extensively by the Allies that it came to be known as the Highway of Death. One hundred hours after the ground campaign started, President Bush declared a ceasefire unilaterally. Journalist Seymour Hersh has charged that, two days after the ceasefire, American troops led by Barry McCaffrey, engaged in a systematic massacre of retreating Iraqi troops, in addition to some civilians. McCaffrey has denied the charges and an army investigation has cleared him. (Forbes, Daniel)

A peace conference was held in allied-occupied Iraq. At the conference, Iraq negotiated use of armed helicopters on their side of the temporary border. Soon after, these helicopters, and much of the Iraqi armed forces, were refocused toward fighting against a Shiite uprising in the south. In the North, Kurdish leaders took heart in American statements that they would support a people's uprising, and began fighting, in the hopes of triggering a coup. However, when no American support was forthcoming, Iraqi generals remained loyal and brutally crushed the Kurdish troops. Millions of Kurds fled across the mountains to Kurdish areas of Turkey and Iran. These incidents would later result in no-fly zones in both the North and the South (see below). In Kuwait, the Emir was restored and pro-democracy forces were attacked along with suspected Iraqi collaborators, especially Palestinians. Eventually, over 400,000 people were expelled from the country. [PBS]


Gulf War casualty numbers are controversial. Coalition military deaths seem to be around 378, with US forces suffering 148 battle-related and 145 non-battle-related deaths (included in the 378). The number of coalition wounded seems to have been less than 1,000. Iraqi casualty numbers are highly disputed. Some claim as low as 1,500 military killed, some 200,000. Many scholars believe a number around 25,000 to 75,000. The number of military wounded is equally unknown. 71,000 Iraqis were taken as prisoners of war by US troops. Estimates of Iraqi civilian death range from 100 to 35,000.


The cost of the war to the United States was calculated by Congress to be $61.1 billion; two-thirds of that amount was paid by Kuwait, Japan and Saudi Arabia.

Media Campaign

The US policy regarding media freedom was much more restrictive than in previous conflicts. Most of the press information came from briefings organized by the military. Only selected journalists were allowed to visit the front lines or conduct interviews with soldiers. Those visits were always conducted in the presence of officers, and were subject to both prior approval by the military, and censorship afterward. This was ostensibly to protect sensitive information from being revealed to Iraq, but often in practice it was used to protect politically embarrassing information from being revealed. This policy was heavily influenced by the military's experience with the Vietnam War, which it believed it had lost due to public opposition within the United States.

At the same time, the coverage of this war was new in its instantaneousness. Many American journalists remained stationed in the Iraqi capital Baghdad throughout the war, and footage of incoming missiles was carried almost immediately on the nightly television news and the cable news channels such as CNN.


Following the uprisings in the North and South, no-fly zones were established to help protect the Shiite and Kurdish minorities in South and North Iraq, respectively. These no-fly zones have been monitored, mainly by the US and the UK. Combined, they have flown more sorties over Iraq in the eleven years following the war than were flown during the war. These sorties have dropped some amount of bombs nearly every other day. However, the greatest amount of bombs were dropped in two sustained bombing campaigns: Desert Strike, which lasted a few weeks in September 1996, and Desert Fox, in December 1998.

A United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) on weapons was established, to monitor Iraq's compliance with restrictions on weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles. Iraq accepted some and refused other weapons inspections, until 1997, when they expelled the entire UNSCOM team. The team returned for an even more turbulent time period between 1997 and 1999, when it was replaced by a new team, which, as of 2002, has not inspected once. Prior to 1997, the team found some evidence of biological weapons programs at one site, and non-compliance at many other sites. One member of the weapons inspection team, Scott Ritter, a US Marine, resigned in 1998, alleging that the United States was blocking investigations because they did not want a full-scale confrontation with Iraq. He also alleged that the CIA was using the weapons inspection teams as a cover for covert operations inside Iraq.

Economic sanctions were kept in place following the war. Iraq was allowed to import certain products under the food-for-oil program. A 1998 UNICEF report found that the sanctions resulted in an increase in 90,000 deaths per year [IAC].

Many returning coalition soldiers reported illnesses following their particiption in the Gulf War, a phenomenon known as Gulf war syndrome. There has been widespread speculation and disagreement about the causes (and existence) of this syndrome. Some factors considered as possibly causal include exposure to depleted uranium, oil fires, or the anthrax vaccine.

Palestinian support for Iraq caused some discontent among its Arab supporters and this had the effect of causing the Palestinian's to begin secret negotiations with Israel which led to the Oslo Accords. The People's Republic of China was surprised by the swiftness of the Coalition victory and this led to the start of a high technology change in the People's Liberation Army. The continued sanctions on Iraq and the continued American military presence in Saudi Arabia have caused discontent within the Arab world, and were used as the justification for the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack. Iraq and especially Saddam Hussein have also been considered as targets for the United States' War on Terrorism.


Precision guided munitions (PGMs, also "smart bombs"), such as the USAF guided missile AGM-130, were heralded as key in allowing military strikes to be made with the minimum of civilian casualties. Specific buildings in downtown Baghdad could be bombed whilst journalists in their hotels watched cruise missiles fly by. PGMs amounted to approximately 7.4% of all bombs dropped by the coalition. Other bombs included Cluster bombs, which break up into clusters of bomblets, and Daisy cutters, 15,000-pound bombs which can "[disintegrate] everything within hundreds of yards". [BAS]

Scud is a low technology rocket bomb that Iraq used, launching them into both Saudi Arabia and Israel. Some bombs caused extensive casualties, others caused little damage. Concerns were raised of possible chemical or biological warheads on these rockets, but if they existed they were not used. Coalition efforts to eliminate Scud launchers or to knock down Scuds in flight with the Patriot missile defense were far less effective than military leaders claimed at the time.

Global Positioning System units were key in enabling coalition units to navigate across the desert undetected by enemy troops. Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) and satellite communication systems were also important.

Important Individuals

United States: President George Bush, General Norman Schwarzkopf, Secretary of State James Baker, General Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney

Iraq: President Saddam Hussein, Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz

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