RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA — RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- Gone were the cautious disclaimers and reminders of operational security.
It was time to boast. And boast he did.
With the air of a commander who has just won his biggest battle, Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf strode yesterday into the familiar briefing room and took charge.
He teased, scolded, scoffed and led journalists through the detailed steps of a complex, massive and swift military campaign that he modestly labeled "brilliant."
Pointer in hand, charts at his side, the general in desert camouflage described the role of each brigade and division, each country and allied partner.
Confident of victory at hand, he was eager to praise his troops and to show scorn for his enemy.
What did he think of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein as a military strategist?
"Ha!" Schwarzkopf guffawed.
"As far as Saddam Hussein being a great military strategist," he said, jabbing a finger in the air, "he is neither a strategist, nor is he schooled in the operational arts, nor is he a tactician, nor is he a general, nor is he a soldier.
"Other than that, he's a great military man. I want you to know that."
Schwarzkopf exuded satisfaction at having fooled the Iraqis into expecting a frontal offensive over the Saudi-Kuwaiti border. And he teased the press for their inadvertent role in it: Information on a fake amphibious landing, Imminent Thunder, was leaked to reporters -- and extensively reported on -- to make the Iraqis fortify their positions on the eastern shores of Kuwait.
In fact, the brunt of the allied offensive came on a far western flank.
Schwarzkopf boasted about the effectiveness of that western assault, also using the moment to reiterate that removing Iraqis from Kuwait, not destroying Iraq, was the military aim of the operation.
"Ladies and gentlemen . . . we were 150 miles away from Baghdad and there was nobody between us and Baghdad," he said, beaming. "If it had been our intention to take Iraq, if it had been our intention to destroy the country, if it had been our intention to overrun the country, we could have done it unopposed, for all intents and purposes, from this position at that time. But that was not our intention. . . . "