Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf says the Iraqis "suckered" him into letting them use the helicopters that now are part of the bloody suppression of the rebellion against Saddam Hussein.
"I think they suckered me," the Operation Desert Storm commander said in an interview with David Frost, to air on public television.Discussing his cease-fire talks three weeks ago with Iraqi generals, Schwarzkopf said the Iraqis asked to use helicopters because the allies had destroyed their nation's bridges and roads, making travel difficult.
"They looked me straight in the eye and said . . . `We would like to fly our helicopters. And the purpose of flying those helicopters will be for transportation of government officials,' " the four-star general said.
Schwarzkopf said the request seemed reasonable since the Iraqis agreed not to fly over allied forces.
"I think I was suckered because I think they intended, right then, when they asked that question, to use those helicopters against the insurrections that were going on. I think that absolutely was their intention - again, a personal opinion - but as I said, they suckered me."
The Bush administration also said Tuesday that Iraq's use of attack helicopters against Shiite and Kurdish rebels violated an oral understanding between Schwarzkopf and Iraqi military officers.
The Desert Storm commander also revealed that he recommended continuing the ground war beyond the time when President Bush ordered an end to the fighting.
"Frankly, my recommendation had been . . . continue the march. I mean, we had them in a rout and we could have continued to . . . reap great destruction on them. We could have completely closed the door and made it in fact a battle of annihilation," the general said.
But Bush "made the decision . . . we should stop at a given time, at a given place, that did leave some escape routes open for them to get back out, and I think that was a very humane decision and a very courageous decision on his part, also," Schwarzkopf said.
Defense Secretary Dick Cheney said Wednesday that Schwarzkopf raised "no objection" to ending the war against Iraq.
Cheney's statement appeared to be aimed at quieting suggestions that there had been disagreement among top administration and military leaders about the progress of the war.