Chemical-Biological Defense: U.S. Military Policies and Decisions in the Gulf War

By Albert J.Mauroni | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6

Operation Desert Storm Begins

We got a lot of questions about why the Iraqis didn't use chemical weapons, and I don't know the answer. But I just thank God that they didn't.

—General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, February 27, 1991

United Nations Resolution 678, cast on November 29, 1990, set January 15 as the deadline for the removal of Iraqi forces out of Kuwait; otherwise the coalition could use “all necessary means” to oust the Iraqi occupation. Despite several meetings between UN and Iraqi delegations through December, it appeared that the Iraqi forces were in Kuwait to stay. Congress finally voted to support the UN measure on January 12, 1991. CENTCOM forces were not fully ready for NBC warfare, although individually the troops were as finely honed as they would be. By this time, CENTCOM had thirty-six Foxes in theater. Although the ANBACIS-II system had been proven functional, none were set up in the theater to warn against the threatened attacks. Concerns remained over the shortages of chemical protective suits and masks in theater stockpiles. There were insufficient stocks for the thirty days of conflict planned, if CB agent warfare continued throughout the conflict. Hospitals on land integrated their few collective protection systems into their unit positions, while the two Navy hospital ships prepared for chemical casualty treatment.

The political rhetoric increased on all levels to convince Saddam Hussein against using CB agent munitions. During a visit to the Gulf in December, Defense Secretary Cheney warned that if Saddam Hussein was “foolish enough to use weapons of mass destruction, the US response would be absolutely overwhelming and it would be devastating.” White House Chief of Staff John Sununu made clear that this did not mean retaliation with chemical weapons, contrary to the existing policy of retaliation in kind. British Prime Minister John Major assured reporters during a trip to Saudi Arabia on January 6 that the UK would not consider nuclear weapons in response to Iraqi CW attack: “We have plenty of weapons short of that. We have no plans of the sort you envisage.” In Saudi Arabia, British embassy

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