ABC News' Karen Travers reports:
It was a gathering of Republican foreign policy heavyweights tonight in College Station, Texas, as former President George H.W. Bush marked the 20th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm with his national security team.
Speaking before an audience of several thousand people, including Gulf War veterans, active duty military and students from Texas A&M University, including some from Iraq and Kuwait, Bush credited his Cabinet and military team for their leadership and unity during the planning and execution of the air and ground attacks that liberated Kuwait from the invasion by Iraq.
“No president was ever better served by his foreign policy team,” Bush said.
Along with Bush, the event included former Vice President Dan Quayle, then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell, former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and then-National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft.
Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of the coalition forces, was unable to be there because of health issues, but he sent a letter that was read by Powell. In the letter, Schwarzkopf noted that while the military mission ended 20 years ago, the legacy will last forever.
More than 500,000 Americans were deployed at the peak of the fighting. One-hundred forty eight servicemembers were killed and 467 were wounded.
The program began with a video, narrated by Bush, showing the chronology of events leading up to the air strikes in January 1991. The 86-year-old former president delivered remarks, standing unassisted but leaning on a podium, in which he said that one of the greatest honors of his life was serving as commander in chief during this pivotal period.
“There are probably things I could have done better,” Bush acknowledged. “I honestly believe history will say we did this right.”
The amir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, cited Bush’s “decisive action” in 1991.
“The world is a safer place thanks to Desert Storm and to the strength of the international community’s response to Saddam Hussein’s aggression,” he said.
Powell, Baker, Scowcroft and Cheney sat together on stage and participated in a discussion about the leadup to Desert Storm and the planning and debate that occurred in the Bush White House. They seemed to cover familiar ground, but it was striking to hear them all talking together, interrupting each other with their recollections and anecdotes about that period.
Bush did not participate in that portion of the event. Instead, he sat in the audience with his wife, Barbara.
One interesting point: At 7:26, it sounded like there was a protestor singing or chanting in the arena while Cheney was speaking. It was unclear what they were saying, and Cheney kept right on talking through it. But after Cheney finished his answer, Powell interjected and said to the person who just joined the panel, "If you don’t want to study a war, you better be ready to fight a war." Again, it was unclear what the demonstrator was saying to prompt the comment from Powell.
- Karen Travers