VP Cheney Compares Then and Now
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 9, 2003 A dozen years ago, Defense Secretary Richard Cheney directed Operation Desert Storm. Today Vice President Cheney has the historical perspective to compare the 1991 Gulf War with today's Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"With less than half of the ground forces and two-thirds of the air assets used 12 years ago in Desert Storm," he said, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Army Gen. Tommy Franks "have achieved a far more difficult objective."
"Saddam Hussein apparently expected that this war would essentially be a replay of Desert Storm," Cheney said in an address to the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Even though the Iraqi dictator knew nearly 250,000 coalition forces were in the Gulf on the brink of war, Saddam seems to have assumed he would have time to destroy Iraq's oil fields and bridges.
But Franks' bold tactics foiled Saddam, Cheney said. Operation Iraqi Freedom's commander made the most of every technological advantage of the U.S. military, and coalition forces succeeded in taking the enemy by surprise. Overall, he said, the coalition campaign in Iraq has displayed vastly improved capabilities over those of the Gulf War.
"In (Operation) Desert Storm, only 20 percent of our air- to-ground fighters could guide a laser-guided bomb to target," Cheney said. "Today, all of our air-to-ground fighters have that capability.
"In Desert Storm, it usually took up to two days for target planners to get a photo of a target, confirm its coordinates, plan the mission and deliver it to the bomber crew. Now we have near real-time imaging of targets with photos and coordinates transmitted by e-mail to aircraft already in flight.
"In Desert Storm, battalion, brigade and division commanders had to rely on maps, grease pencils and radio reports to track the movements of our forces. Today our commanders have a real-time display of our armed forces on their computer screens.
Cheney pointed out the critical importance of the B-2 bomber. "On a single bombing sortie," he noted, "a B-2 can hit 16 separate targets, each with a 2,000-pound, precision-guided, satellite-based weapon.
"The superior technology we now possess is perhaps the most obvious difference between the Gulf War and the present conflict, but there are many others," he continued. "Desert Storm began with a 38-day air campaign, followed by a brief ground attack. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, the ground war began before the air war.
"In 1991, Saddam Hussein had time to set Kuwait's oil fields ablaze. In the current conflict, forces sent in early protected the 600 oil fields in southern Iraq, prevented an environmental catastrophe and safeguarded a resource that's vital for the future of the people of Iraq.
The vice president compared Saddam's firing of Scud missiles at Israel and Saudi Arabia 12 years ago. "This time was different," he said. "Again, thanks to our special operations forces, which seized control of the missile launch baskets in western Iraq, preventing their use by the enemy."
He praised the vital role that U.S., British, Australian and Polish special ops forces have played a vital role in the success of the current Iraqi campaign.
"During Operation Desert Storm, we faced a massive flow of refugees in need of aid and shelter," Cheney said. "But so far, in Operation Iraqi Freedom, we've averted a large- scale humanitarian crisis.
U.S. and Royal Marines succeeded in taking the al Faw peninsula and cleared a path for humanitarian aid. And today, even as fighting continues, coalition forces are bringing food and water and medical supplies to liberated Iraqis."
Cheney concluded with a recent quote by military historian Victor Davis Hanson, who calls the Iraqi Freedom campaign "historically unprecedented" and predicts its logistics will be studied for decades.
"By any fair standard of even the most dazzling charges in military history," the historian wrote, "the Germans in the Ardennes in the spring of 1940, or Patton's romp in July of 1944, the present race to Baghdad is unprecedented in its speed and daring and in the lightness of its casualties."