It was a monumental day for Texas A&M University Thursday when the political and military leaders of Operation Desert Storm gathered to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the short-lived war to liberate Kuwait from the hands of Saddam Hussein's Iraqi forces. For those who might have been foggy on the details, the two-hour program served not only as a refresher course but also as an opportunity to hear first-hand from those instrumental in orchestrating the multi-national effort.
"History will say that we got this one right," said President George H.W. Bush as he addressed the crowd of 6,000 at A&M's Reed Arena. The former president spoke briefly to the gathering that included several hundred Desert Storm veterans invited as special guests, military brass from Ft. Hood, major donors to the Bush Presidential Library and Museum, the A&M Corps and the general public.
"No president was ever better served by his foreign policy team," Bush said. "My gratitude for them knows no bounds."
It was that team that would spend more than an hour discussing various aspects of the conflict that involved 500,000 U.S. servicemen and resulted in 148 killed and 467 wounded.
Also addressing the gathering but not participating in the broader discussion was Sheikh Ahmad Humood Jaber Al-Sabah, representing the emir of Kuwait, who cited Bush’s “decisive action” in 1991. "The world is a safer place thanks to Desert Storm and to the world's response to Saddam Hussein’s aggression,” he said.
With Dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service Ryan Crocker serving as moderator, the protagonists in this chapter of U.S. history settled into tufted leather chairs spread across the arena stage for the broad-based discussion. Bush's Secretary of State James A. Baker III, then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and retired Marine Gen. Walter Boomer provided their insights.
Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of the coalition forces, had been scheduled to attend, but had to cancel due to health issues. He sent a letter that was read by Powell.