The commander of Operation Desert Storm said Thursday the first ground combat deaths in the Persian Gulf war ought to bring home to Americans that "war is going to kill people." President Bush designated Sunday a "national day of prayer."
"I encourage all people of faith to say a special prayer on that day, a prayer for peace, a prayer for the safety of our troops, a prayer for their families, a prayer for the innocents caught up in this war," the president told a prayer breakfast.In an interview on CNN, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of U.S. and allied forces in the Persian Gulf, said that "perhaps in the euphoria of the high-technology weapons and this sort of thing, we had lost sight of the fact that lives are being lost. There are human lives involved here, and war is going to kill people."
The general added that "if this is sobering to the American people, I don't think that's unhealthy. As a matter of fact, I think it's important that the American people understand that."
Commenting as the deaths of 11 U.S. Marines in the initial Iraqi assault on the Saudi Arabian town of Khafji were disclosed, some Democratic lawmakers said Bush needs to do more to prepare the public for the likely carnage that full-scale ground fighting could bring.
"I think we have expectations that are unrealistic," said Rep. Les Aspin, D-Wis., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. So far, he said, the war has been "essentially devoid of casualties," creating "a standard impossible to match."
But House Speaker Thomas S. Foley, D-Wash., said the public has no illusions about the potential human cost.
"I don't think the country is without realism on this. Any idea that the war can somehow be costless . . . is now gone," Foley said. "People expect that it could be a war that could produce much more serious loss of life and casualties."
Bush was silent on the deaths of the Marines when he went to Capitol Hill on Wednesday for a brief speech.
"He's very saddened by any casualties, and we certainly are following this incident," was the only comment from presidential spokesman Marlin Fitzwater.