This account of Iraq's capitulation to U.S. forces was published March 4, 1991.


SAFWAN, Iraq - Allied commander Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf made certain no one doubted who controlled this wind-blown desert airstrip for his postwar meeting with Iraqi military officials Sunday.

On guard: U.S. troops with Apache helicopters and half a dozen M1A1 tanks with guns pointed toward the runway.

"Welcome to Iraq. Courtesy of the Big Red One," read a 4-foot painted sign leaning against one tank - a calling card from the U.S. 1st Infantry Division.

In the distance, more tanks, artillery pieces and even Patriot missile batteries were pointed skyward to protect the allied leaders.

"Today is the icing on the cake," said tank driver Michael York, 20, of Warren, Maine, his helmeted head sticking up from a tank behind Schwarzkopf's runway podium. "It's part of the reward for this war. My only regret is I don't have any more film."

"We didn't defeat an army. We defeated a bunch of hoodlums. Anything of value they destroyed," said Army Maj. Joseph Repya, 44, of Minneapolis, whose unit escorted the eight Iraqi officers.

Repya's troops met the Iraqis 3 miles out - and loaded them into a caravan of two M1A1 tanks, two Bradley fighting vehicles and two Humvees. Hovering above were two Apache helicopters.

Their long-awaited arrival was preceded by several misfires when U.S. military officials pointed out the wrong Arab contingents as the Iraqis.

Kuwaiti Maj. Gen. Jaber Sabah was swamped by reporters and cameramen who mistook him for an Iraqi general. Schwarzkopf stopped the questions when he came out and bear-hugged Sabah.

"Congratulations," Schwarzkopf told him. "Thank you very much indeed, sir," the Kuwaiti general said.

"There's nothing to thank us for," Schwarzkopf replied. "It was a team effort."

The real Iraqis were driven along the side of the runway and ushered into a tent for a weapons search.

Dressed in dark uniforms with black berets, they were led by Lt. Gen. Sultan Hasheem Ahmad, a relative of President Saddam Hussein.

Inside the tent, Schwarzkopf and Saudi Lt. Gen. Khalid Sultan sat in black leather chairs to face Ahmad across a rectangular redwood table.

"I put the table up. It's going into the Smithsonian," said Maj. Kathy Stinson of Wheaton, Md., the protocol officer for the VII Corps.

Allied commanders sat on rows of folding metal chairs behind Schwarzkopf.

In one corner, a video camera recorded the proceedings. To the side, a transcriber took dictation. A table at the rear was stocked with fruit, soft drinks, bottled water, pita bread and Arabic dip.

Schwarzkopf had a Diet Pepsi in front of him. He and Khalid had pads of yellow legal-size paper; the Iraqis had white pads half as big.

"I'm not here to give them anything," Schwarzkopf said before the two-hour meeting. "I'm here to tell them exactly what we expect them to do."

When the conference ended, Schwarzkopf escorted the Iraqi general to a waiting Humvee as reporters and cameramen shouted questions to both.

The Iraqi looked straight forward, his jaw set, mustache barely moving in a grim smile as he strode with Schwarzkopf.

Schwarzkopf shook his hand, whispered a few words to him and sent him on his way.

Outside the Iraqi's passenger-side window, perhaps a foot from his face, a small U.S. flag fluttered on the antenna as the Humvee drove him away.