Bush, Ex-Officials Gather for Gulf War Anniversary

January 20, 2011 - 4:41 PM

College Station, Texas (AP) - Former President George H.W. Bush and top officials from his administration were set to reunite Thursday to mark the 20th anniversary of the start of the Gulf War.

Bush and key members of his foreign policy team were expected to gather at Texas A&M University before an audience of several thousand people, including Gulf War veterans, to discuss the conflict that started Jan. 17, 1991, and its impact.

New documents detailing conversations former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had with members of his inner circle as the ground assault began on Feb. 24, 1991, were released Thursday by the National Defense University in Washington. The transcripts released for the 20th anniversary show Hussein tried to broker a last minute peace deal with the help of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev but at the same time remaining defiant, calling the coalition forces "treacherous and cowardly" and describing Bush as "the enemy of God and humanity."

Along with Bush, the reunion will include former Vice President Dan Quayle, then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell, former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and then-National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft.

Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of the coalition forces, will not be there for health reasons.

The war was prompted by Iraq's August 1990 invasion of Kuwait, its small, oil-rich neighbor. The Kuwaiti dignitaries expected at the event Thursday include the emir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.

The United States Security Council warned Iraq that if it didn't withdraw its troops from Kuwait by Jan. 15, 1991, a U.S.-led coalition would be authorized to drive them out. The Gulf War, also known as Operation Desert Storm, began two days later with air attacks against Iraqi targets.

The ground assault that started about a month later lasted only 100 hours. Kuwait was liberated and Iraqi troops were driven back to their home country. Of the more than 540,000 Americans deployed at the peak of the fighting, 148 were killed and 467 were wounded.

The documents released Thursday showed that as coalition troops began their ground assault, Hussein was exchanging letters with Gorbachev, asking the former Soviet leader to help broker a peace agreement. Gorbachev had apparently been able to get Iraq to agree to withdraw its troops from Kuwait within 21 days.

"Even though we will keep our promise, Mr. President, we do know that the Americans, especially their president, have no honor and we do not trust them; therefore, we are working only with your peace proposal," Hussein wrote to Gorbachev.

Gorbachev replied that Bush had not agreed to the proposal, having been upset by Iraq's burning of oil fields in Kuwait. Gorbachev urged Hussein to write to Bush directly and promise to withdraw his troops not in 21 days, but in nine or 10.

By that point, however, the ground attack had begun. The documents show Hussein's frustration at Gorbachev.

"He tricked us; it is a trick!" he said of the Soviet leader's efforts.

Bush said this week he has no regrets about his administration's handling of the war, including the decision to pull out American forces and leave Hussein in power.

The Iraqi leader was ousted in 2003 during the Iraq war, which started under Bush's son, former President George W. Bush. After being convicted of crimes against humanity, Hussein was hanged in December 2006.

Texas A&M is about 100 miles northwest of Houston and home to Bush's presidential library.