The country commemorated the 20th Anniversary of the Persian Gulf War this week. While technically the coalition-side of the fighting to liberate Kuwait in 1991 began on January 17, yesterday the major ceremonies remembering the historic campaign were held at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. As a graduate assistant for the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs, I was busy helping the trains move on time. Here’s a run-down of the events:
At 11:00am, Bush School of Government and Public Service faculty and students were invited to a closed-door session with: Vice President Dan Quayle, Secretary of State Jim Baker, Vice President (then Secretary of Defense) Richard Cheney, Secretary of State (then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) Colin Powell, commanding General of the Marine Expeditionary Force Walter E. Boomer. During this off-the-record session, the principals and VP Quayle spoke candidly about the events leading up to and during the war. Meanwhile, President Bush sat quietly to the side listening to the dream team.
From 2:00 to 3:30pm, a panel of Middle East experts discussed an upcoming book about the war to an overcrowded auditorium. Only a limited number of guests from the public were allowed to attend this event due to overwhelming response from those who received an invitation from the institute. The panel included former Director of Policy Planning for the US Department of State and current President of the Foreign Affairs Council Richard Haass, former advisor to the US Mission to the UN Shibley Telhami, chief military correspondent for the New York Times Michael Gordon, Dean of the University of Kuwait Abdul-Reda Assiri, and foreign policy expert Jeffrey Engel.
At 5:00pm the main event was held in Reed Arena, where almost 4,000 guests watched history unfold once again. On stage, Ambassador (ret.) Ryan Crocker fielded questions to Qualye, Baker, Cheney, Powell, Boomer, and Mohammad Abdullah Abulhasan (Kuwait’s ambassador to the US in 1991). Colin Powell read a heartfelt letter from General Norman Schwarzkopf, who was the commander of the coalition. In addition to the discussion, the event also included the premiere of the new 10-minute film about the Gulf War, produced by the Bush School and the Scowcroft Institute, as well as a surprise performance by Lee Greenwood of “Proud to be an American”.
Considering all the moving parts, the entire event was a huge success. The trains did indeed move on time, aside from a few minor glitches – like Brian Williams taking too long on his interview and an attempt at heckling Vice President Cheney. This was an incredible experience for all those involved, both working behind the scenes and those just there for the show.
For more coverage of the events, photos, and footage: