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Context of '1991: White House Is Protected from Airplane Attack During Gulf War'

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Time magazine reports in 1994, “During the Gulf War, uniformed air-defense teams could be seen patrolling the top floor [of the White House] with automatic rifles or shoulder-mounted ground-to-air missiles.” [Time, 9/26/1994] While a battery of surface-to-air-missiles remains permanently on the roof of the White House, the rest of these defenses are apparently removed after the war is over. [Daily Telegraph, 9/16/2001] Yet even though counterterrorism officials later call the alerts in the summer of 2001 “the most urgent in decades,” similar defensive measures will apparently not be taken. [US Congress, 9/18/2002]

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Mark Rosenker.Mark Rosenker. [Source: National Transportation Safety Board]The FAA’s Jacksonville Center informs the pilot of Air Force One that an unidentified aircraft is heading toward his plane, and this aircraft is out of radio contact, has its transponder off, and might be another hijacking. Air Force One is currently flying toward Gainesville in northern Florida. [CBS News, 9/11/2002; CBS News, 1/17/2009; Peter Schnall, 1/25/2009] Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, has just been informed that President Bush, who is on the plane, has been called by Vice President Dick Cheney, and Cheney told the president that an anonymous threat has been phoned into the White House, stating that Air Force One is the next target (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 106-107; CBS News, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554]
Suspicious Plane Descending toward Air Force One - Tillman is now notified of the suspicious aircraft by the Jacksonville Center. He will later recall that the Jacksonville Center air traffic controller says there is “an aircraft coming at us, descending… and… its transponder was not on, and they had no idea who it was. It could have been another hijacked airliner. They weren’t sure.” The controller tells Tillman the aircraft is “behind you 10 miles, descending at least, flight level 3-5-0, looks to be holding there.” He adds: “Apparently we’ve lost radio contact with them. Are you aware of them?” Tillman replies, “Affirmative.” [Peter Schnall, 1/25/2009] The FAA reports this suspicious aircraft over the Pentagon’s air threat conference call at 10:39 a.m., saying the Jacksonville Center “is not working the aircraft. He’s not under [air traffic control] control.” [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file] Major Robert Darling of the White House Military Office, who is in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, will later recall that around this time, those in the PEOC receive word “of an unaccounted-for airliner last seen in the Atlanta, Georgia, area headed southeast toward Florida.” It is unclear if this is the aircraft that Tillman is warned about. [Darling, 2010, pp. 61]
Pilot Tells Others on Air Force One of Suspect Plane - Tillman informs others onboard Air Force One of the suspicious plane. Mark Rosenker, the director of the White House Military Office, will recall that Tillman “indicated to us that something was coming at us, it was not squawking [i.e. its transponder was off], it was not turning, and we had a feeling that we were going to be able to get away from it. But for a moment you ask the question, ‘What could it be?’” A CBS interviewer will point out to Rosenker that since this “unidentified aircraft… had its transponder off and wasn’t communicating,” it is apparently following “the MO [modus operandi] of all the other aircraft that attacked that day,” and suggest, “That must have made everybody a little nervous.” Rosenker will reply, “Well, it did.” However, he will add, “[W]e are clearly on probably the finest airplane in the world, so we were comforted by knowing that we had the ability to out-run and out-climb anything that was going to get near us.” [White House, 8/29/2002]
Air Force One Heads toward Gulf of Mexico for Safety - Tillman turns Air Force One and heads out to the Gulf of Mexico. He will recall: “We weren’t sure who was hijacked and who wasn’t, so I went out into the Gulf of Mexico. There’s basically fighters all over the Gulf that have the capability to make sure that no one comes into the Gulf, penetrates the United States. So I knew I’d be safe out into the Gulf of Mexico.” He will say he heads to the Gulf “to regroup and figure out where we could bring the president to keep him safe.”
Suspicious Plane a False Alarm - The concern about the suspicious aircraft turns out to be a false alarm. According to Tillman, “In reality, just his transponder was off [and] he hadn’t checked in with the controller right afterwards.” [CBS News, 1/17/2009; Peter Schnall, 1/25/2009]

Entity Tags: Mark Rosenker, Mark Tillman, Robert J. Darling, Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Current and former top US military brass dispute White House claims that Iraq poses an immediate threat to the US and that it must be dealt with militarily. In late July 2002, Washington Post reports that “top generals and admirals in the military establishment, including members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff” believe that Saddam Hussein’s regime “poses no immediate threat and that the United States should continue its policy of containment rather than invade Iraq to force a change of leadership in Baghdad.” The report says that the military officials’ positions are based “in part on intelligence assessments of the state of Hussein’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and his missile delivery capabilities.” The newspaper says that there are several reasons why these dissident officers disagree with their civilian bosses. They worry that if Saddam Hussein is removed, Iraq could “split up,… potentially leading to chaos and the creation of new anti-American regimes and terrorist sanctuaries in the region.” It is also possible, they say, that an invasion of Iraq could provoke Saddam Hussein into using whatever weapons of mass destruction he may have. And even if the invasion is successful, the aftermath could see “mass instability, requiring tens of thousands of US troops to maintain peace, prop up a post-Saddam government, and prevent the fragmentation of Iraq,” the military brass warns. Their position is that the US should continue its policy of containment, specifically sanctions and the enforcement of the US- and British-imposed “no-fly” zones. [Washington Post, 7/28/2002]
Perle: Generals Not Competent to Judge - Responding to the dissenting opinions of these military officials, Richard Perle, current chairman of the Defense Policy Board, says that the decision of whether or not to attack Iraq is “a political judgment that these guys aren’t competent to make.” [Washington Post, 7/28/2002]
'Unusual Alliance' Between State, Pentagon Generals - A few days later, Washington Post publishes another story along similar lines, reporting, “Much of the senior uniformed military, with the notable exception of some top Air Force and Marine generals, opposes going to war anytime soon, a stance that is provoking frustration among civilian officials in the Pentagon and in the White House.” Notably the division has created “an unusual alliance between the State Department and the uniformed side of the Pentagon, elements of the government that more often seem to oppose each other in foreign policy debates.” [Washington Post, 8/1/2002] The extent of the generals’ disagreement is quite significant, reports the Post, which quotes one proponent of invading Iraq expressing his/her concern that the brass’ opinion could ultimately dissuade Bush from taking military action. “You can’t force things onto people who don’t want to do it, and the three- and four-star Army generals don’t want to do it. I think this will go back and forth, and back and forth, until it’s time for Bush to run for reelection,” the source says. [Washington Post, 8/1/2002] During the next several months, several former military officials speak out against the Bush administration’s military plans, including Wesley Clark, Joseph P. Hoar, John M. Shalikashvili, Tony McPeak, Gen James L Jones, Norman Schwarzkopf, Anthony Zinni, Henry H. Shelton and Thomas G. McInerney. In mid-January 2003, Time magazine reports that according to its sources, “as many as 1 in 3 senior officers questions the wisdom of a preemptive war with Iraq.” They complain that “the US military is already stretched across the globe, the war against Osama bin Laden is unfinished, and… a long postwar occupation looks inevitable.” [Time, 1/19/2003]

Entity Tags: Tony McPeak, Thomas G. McInerney, Richard Perle, Kim Holmes, Joseph Hoar, Anthony Zinni, Norman Schwarzkopf, Henry Hugh Shelton, John M. Shalikashvili, James L. Jones, Wesley Clark

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

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