“A Firm and Commensurate
Response”: U.S. Retaliation for
the Bush Assassination Attempt
ANDREW J. BACEVICH
Late on the night of April 13, 1993, two vehicles, one a Mercedes Benz sedan, the other a Toyota Land Cruiser, their headlights darkened, crossed undetected from Iraq into Kuwait. The two vehicles carried a total of ten passengers, all Iraqi citizens. They also carried a cargo that included illicit whisky, handguns, an AK47 assault rifle, ammunition, and eighty kilograms of explosives built into the frame of the Land Cruiser. Their mission was a deadly serious one: to exact a modicum of revenge for the humiliation that Iraq had suffered two years earlier at the hands of the United States and its coalition partners during the Persian Gulf War. More specifically, their mission was to assassinate former U.S. President George Bush on his forthcoming visit to Kuwait.
Arriving at the outskirts of Kuwait City, the would-be assassins hid the Land Cruiser in an empty warehouse and linked up with four additional collaborators—three Kuwaitis, the fourth an Iraqi resident of Kuwait. They also put the finishing touches on three plans to kill Bush on April 15. The primary plan was to detonate a bomb by remote control as the former president’s motorcade passed by on its way to a public ceremony at Kuwait University. In the event that that plan failed, the principal backup involved positioning the Land Cruiser, packed with explosives and a manual clock-type detonator, on Bush Street near the site of a planned appearance by the former president. If all else failed, Wali al-Gahazali, one of the ringleaders of the group, would as a last resort don a bomb belt and attempt to rush Mr. Bush in a suicide attack.
This daring plot unraveled even before it got fully underway. On April 14, former President Bush arrived in Kuwait. That same day, the conspirators returned to their hiding place after reconnoitering the city to find