NEW YORK -- Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf said in an interview published Sunday the body count system used by the military in the Vietnam War was 'a lie' and added, 'I was forced to participate in that lie.'
The general, who won widespread praise for developing the war strategy that defeated Iraq in the Persian Gulf War, told Life magazine that he measures 'everything in my life from Vietnam,' where he served two tours of duty as an officer.
During his first tour, in 1965-66, Schwarzkopf spent most of his time with the Vietnamese Airborne. He called the experience 'very profound,' adding, 'I believed very much in what I was doing.'
But during his second tour, in 1969-70, when he served as a lieutenant colonel, Schwarzkopf said there was a 'loss of confidence' by Americans in the military. And, he added, 'we probably deserved a lot of it.'
He was especially critical of the military's use of body counts -- tallies of U.S. and enemy dead -- to measure the success of the war in Vietnam.
'Body count was a big lie,' the general said. 'O.K., I was forced to participate in that lie.
'Many times people would call me up on the radio after a battle and say, 'What was your body count.' I'd say, 'I don't know what the body count was.' They'd say, 'Well, make one up. We have to report a body count.'
'So, eventually, just to get them off your back, you'd say, 'O.K., the body count was 250,'' the general recalled.
Schwarzkopf and other allied military officials did not issue enemy casualty estimates during the Gulf War.