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Tuesday, 16 May, 2000, 09:49 GMT 10:49 UK
General hits at Gulf 'insults'

US drug czar Barry McCaffrey has defended himself against allegations that he used excessive force while commanding an infantry division during the Gulf War in 1991.

Journalist Seymour Hersh, writing in the New Yorker magazine, said that on three occasions, General McCaffrey or his men of the 24th infantry division either fired on enemy soldiers who had surrendered in an "unprovoked attack", or "went too far" in responding to a non-existent threat.



We had to support our soldiers

General McCaffrey
General McCaffrey said an army investigation had previously cleared him of any blame and he accused the New Yorker of maligning young soldiers.

Speaking on NBC's Today show, General McCaffrey, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said: "Hersh is rewriting history and insulting great young troops that we ought to be proud of."

White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said President Bill Clinton felt the charges were unsubstantiated.

'All-out attack'

Pulitzer Prize winner Mr Hersh first made his name by reporting on the massacre of Vietnamese civilians by Americans in the hamlet of My Lai, but came under attack a few years ago with an unflattering portrait of President John Kennedy in The Dark Side of Camelot.

His article covered several incidents in the war, in which Nato forces drove Iraqi troops out of Kuwait, invaded by the Iraqis in August 1990.

They included the Battle of Rumaila on 2 March 1991, two days after President George Bush declared a ceasefire.

Mr Hersh said General McCaffrey reported that despite the ceasefire, his division had come under attack from a retreating Iraqi Republican Guard tank division.

General McCaffrey "ordered an assault in force - an all-out attack," Hersh wrote, adding that the US forces destroyed about 700 Iraqi tanks, cars and trucks.

Mr McCaffrey said two US company commanders had reported coming under fire and he had ordered his troops to respond.

"Two company commanders say they are under fire, we had to support our soldiers."

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See also:

25 Oct 99 | UK Politics
US drugs czar hounded by protesters
17 Nov 98 | DECISION MAKERS AND DIPLOMACY
US Interests In The Gulf
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