The Buildup to the Gulf War
THERE WERE two major milestones for the United States on the road to the Gulf War in the fall of 1990. The decision to send U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia in August won bipartisan support in Congress. The decision to double the size of the deployment in November generated opposition from leading Democrats. The juxtaposition of the two stages in the buildup to the Gulf War, like the Grenada/Panama comparison in chapter 3, offers much insight into the impact of the spectrum of opinion expressed in Washington on the spectrum of debate in the news.
In August, the Washington Post reported that “members of Congress … were unanimous in support of Bush's actions.” In the assessment of House Speaker Tom Foley, “Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate … are very strongly of the opinion the president had to act.”1 United Press International reported that “Democrats and Republicans joined together to support dispatching troops,” and quoted the declaration of Senate majority leader George Mitchell, “It is important for the nation to unite behind the president in this time of challenge to American interests.”2Congressional Quarterly found that “Every member [of Congress] who issued a statement on the U.S. military buildup in the Persian Gulf has praised the President's actions.”3 Although some in Congress urged that other nations needed to contribute to the military operation4 and expressed concern that public support might be hard to sustain if a war started,5 there appears to have been no opposition in Washington to U.S. intervention at this stage.
In November, Democrats were divided on the wisdom of the president's policy. Although Les Aspin, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, supported U.S. policy, House majority leader Richard Gephardt “reportedly urg[ed] Bush to give economic sanctions far more time …____________________