McCaffrey, Author Clash on Gulf

Monday, May 15th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey and author Seymour Hersh clashed Monday over charges that troops led by McCaffrey used unnecessary force in a battle with Iraqi troops after the Gulf War cease fire.

The actions of McCaffrey's troops are questioned by several of McCaffrey's former military colleagues in a report written by Hersh in The New Yorker magazine.

One of the ex-colleagues, retired Lt. Gen. James H. Johnson Jr., is quoted as saying that ``there was no need to be shooting at anybody'' on March 2, 1991. ``They couldn't surrender fast enough. The war was over.''

``They were a defeated army going home and he attacked them,'' Hersh said on NBC's ``Today'' show.

``This is nonsense, this is revisionist history,'' responded McCaffrey, now director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

McCaffrey said two of his company commanders reported they were under fire and ``we obviously had to support our soldiers.''

The Army has investigated the allegations that McCaffrey ordered an unnecessary attack and concluded there was no evidence of war crimes or misconduct by McCaffrey or his troops.

Hersh ``is recycling charges that were investigated 10 years ago. It conclusively demonstrated there was no wrongdoing,'' said McCaffrey, who was also appearing on ABC's ``Good Morning America'' and CBS's ``The Early Show.''

The magazine said that its research found:

—There was disagreement among officers assigned to McCaffrey's mobile headquarters about whether Iraqis had attacked American forces, prompting McCaffrey's strong response. Patrick Lamar, the operations officer of McCaffrey's division, told the magazine that the initial skirmish that triggered McCaffrey's order to attack was ``a giant hoax. The Iraqis were doing absolutely nothing. I told McCaffrey I was having trouble confirming the incoming'' fire.

—Retired Lt. Gen. John J. Yeosock said ``what Barry ended up doing was fighting sand dunes and moving rapidly'' and McCaffrey was ``looking for a battle.''

—Maj. Gen. Ronald Griffith said McCaffrey ``made it a battle when it was never one.''

The attack ordered by McCaffrey destroyed some 700 Iraqi tanks, armored cars and trucks, The New Yorker reported.

``Hersh says that the Iraqi forces at Rumaylah were in `retreat,''' McCaffrey said in a response. ``However, he wasn't the one watching a force spanning five miles, made up of hundreds of Iraqi tanks, trucks and armored personnel carriers face him. The Iraqis fired on U.S. forces. The Army investigations unequivocally concluded that the use of force in response was justified.''

The magazine noted that there were occasional ``bitter disputes'' between McCaffrey and other generals over such things as the perceived hoarding of tank and truck fuel by McCaffrey, whose division performed the famed ``left hook'' maneuver that blocked the retreat of Iraqi forces from the war zone in Kuwait.