Roy Exum: Schwarzkopf Never Said It

Saturday, December 29, 2012 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

When America learned that one of its much-beloved soldiers had died late Thursday in Tampa, I’ll bet there were millions just like me who grinned at memory of the leather-tough General H. Norman Schwarzkopf. He’s the hero of a leader who once drove Saddam Hussein out of Iraq. If the truth be known, “Stormin’ Norman” literally scared Saddam to death, bellowing at one press briefing, “If the Iraqis are dumb enough to attack, they are going to pay a terrible price for it."

General Schwarzkopf captured the world’s fancy in “Operation Desert Storm” when he won the ground war in a lightning-quick four days and we adored his attitude. "We need to destroy -- not attack, not damage, not surround -- I want to destroy the Republican Guard!"

To the mothers and fathers who had our children in Iraq at the time, his daily briefings kept us as enthused and as hopeful as his own troops.

"Yesterday at the beginning of the ground war Iraq had the fourth largest army in the world. Today they have the second largest army in Iraq."

I always thought his “golden moment” was in an interview where he was asked about “forgiveness” and he allegedly said, “I believe that forgiving Hizbollah is God’s function … it’s just up to us to arrange the meeting.”

Unfortunately, the classic line actually came from some over-zealous reporter somewhere along the way. To set the record straight, Snopes.com provides an exchange that appeared in a “Meet The Press” interview in February of 2003:

REPORTER TIM RUSSERT: “General Schwarzkopf, how important is it that we capture Osama bin Laden?”

GENERAL SCHWARZKOPF: “Well, I think it is only important because the man on the street in the Middle East, you know, believes that he … a lot of people believe that he is on the right track and that he is some sort of folk hero and that sort of thing. And I think it is necessary to bring him down, one way or another. I will confess to you that, you know, one of the statements that has been attributed to me that I’m sort ofproud of is somebody said, you know, ‘What do we do about Osama bin Laden?’ And they asked me, ‘Can we forgive him?’ And I said, ‘Forgiveness is up to God. I just hope we can hurry up the meeting.’ And that’s about the way I feel about him, really.”

So there you have it, the best “almost” quote in history. What is curious is that H. Norman Schwarzkopf, a well-traveled graduate of West Point (1956) was actually quite a sage when he spoke on leadership and what really matters.

In heart-felt tribute to General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, here are some of the things he asked us to remember:

* * *

"You've got to believe in what you're doing. If you don't believe in what you're doing, you're not going to do it well. You truly have to believe in it. You have to believe that you're doing what's right. And I don't think I could go to war -- I mean I don't think ultimately I could serve my country -- if I thought we were doing something wrong. I think I would get out, I would leave. You don't have to stay, you have an alternative. It's not like the German generals who tried to justify what they did at the Nuremberg trials by saying, "I was only doing my duty." That's not right, because you have higher duties. You have a duty to your moral code, whatever it might be. You've got to do what's right."

* * *

"When placed in command - take charge."

* * *

"Anybody who says they're not afraid of war is either a liar, or they're crazy. And there's nothing wrong with fear. I mean, fear is good. Fear will keep you alive in a war. Fear will keep you alive in business."

* * *

"When placed in command - take charge."

* * *

"My job is to think of everything that could possibly go wrong, and then try and fix it."

* * *

"The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it."

* * *

"True courage is being afraid, and going ahead and doing your job anyhow, that's what courage is."

* * *

"If you're not confident in yourself, how can you expect anybody else to have confidence in you?"

* * *

"It doesn't take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle."

* * *

"Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy."

* * *

"If you lead men in battle, I don't care whether you're a sergeant, or a second lieutenant, or a four-star General, they're your people."

* * *

"You learn far more from negative leadership than from positive leadership. Because you learn how not to do it. And, therefore, you learn how to do it."

* * *

"A man does not get to write his own epitaph. But if I were to write mine it would say the following: ‘He loved his family, and he loved his troops, and they loved him’ -- period."

royexum@aol.com


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