My first job as a general was to write Certain Victory, the Army’s official story of the First Gulf War. My mission was the first of its kind: Deliver an operational history immediately after the war, drawn from the views of soldiers who had fought there. Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III, the Army Vice Chief of Staff at the time, told me to produce a printable version in one year. Volumes like these normally take at least a decade or more, but Peay wanted to get our message out ahead of the mountains of popular chronicles in the works. We also knew the Air Force was writing a similar book on the air war. We knew what they were going to say and how popular their message would be, so we were committed to being both first and factually right.
Most of the team working on Certain Victory had participated in the campaign, but they were not writers or historians. Their firsthand experience with ground truth was, in my opinion, the chief reason why our work became a classic. My team had complete authority to talk to every soldier in the Army. We swam through hundreds of thousands of operational and personal memoirs and spoke to virtually every senior commander, many of them still in theater. I exercised my general officer authority to declassify documents that would have taken decades had we followed the standard practices of the day.
Vietnam Generation Vindicated
Our first conclusion about the war was personal, not operational: The clear success of Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr.’s “Great Wheel” maneuver of moving hundreds of miles across the desert to attack the Iraqi army flank finally ended the stigma of Vietnam and vindicated my generation. The Army that emerged from the blowing sands of Kuwait and Iraq was new and proud and confident—maybe too confident, as subsequent events would suggest.
Left unspoken, but certainly implied is the disastrous role GEN Colin Powell had in convincing President Bush to stop the ground war before the Republican Guard was destroyed.