The most telling comment on the war with Iraq was made by Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who said, "We certainly did not expect it to go this way."
Nobody did.The forecasts of the experts, the press and the government were often more wrong than right.
The conflict brought with it a baggage train of myth and misconception, exaggeration and hyperbole.
From the very beginning millions of people were ready to believe anything bad about Saddam Hussein. That seemed to suit both the coalition against him and Saddam himself.
Saddam was largely responsible for his reputation as a demon.
His televised visit to terrified British hostages, his use of foreigners as human shields and the cruelty of his army in Kuwait all built up his image as the "butcher of Baghdad."
The phrase "mother of battles" is standard Arabic boilerplate, but his enemies read it as a fiendish threat.
Accounts of Iraqi atrocities were accepted without question.
There was the tale of premature babies thrown out of incubators in a Kuwait hospital and left to die. It never happened, although other sickening atrocities took place regularly during the Iraqi occupation.
Before the fighting began, the press reported breathlessly that Iraq might actually use fuel-air explosives, a horrible weapon of almost nuclear potency.
When the fighting began, the country that did use fuel-air explosives was the United States - and nobody complained.
Iraqi defense positions along the borders of Kuwait and Iraq were described as a Maginot Line in the sand - miles of sophisticated underground fortifications, mine fields, tank traps and razor wire behind a wall of sand four stories high and a deep trench full of burning oil.
The wall of sand I saw in southern Iraq was no great obstacle; the fire in the trench had been snuffed out by napalm. Many defense lines there and in Kuwait were rudimentary.
The Iraqi Republican Guard was described as a formidable, well-equipped force dug deep into desert bunkers. It was said to be part of an army in Kuwait and southern Iraq of 540,000 troops.
The actual number was much lower. And while some units of the Republican Guard did fight well, many abandoned their arms and surrendered.
Before the fighting, the Central Intelligence Agency announced that Iraq had stockpiled 1,000 tons of chemical agents. There was speculation that Iraq might be able to assemble and deliver a crude nuclear device.
Iraq's fearsome arsenal of missiles included Exocets, Silkworms and Scuds.
As things turned out, the Scuds were old and inaccurate; just one Silkworm was launched and it missed its target.
Exocets showed up only on two Iraqi planes, which were promptly shot down by the Saudi Air Force.
No nuclear device materialized. And there wasn't a single instance of chemical or biological warfare during the war.
No, the war did not go as expected.
There was no worldwide outbreak of Arab terrorism.
There was no Moslem uprising against the West.
There was no coup against Saddam.
There were, on the other hand, facts misperceived, truth bent out of shape and a fog of myth and misconception - which is about the only thing you can count on in wartime.