DEFENDING AMERICA
David H. Hackworth
October 11, 1994

SADDAM: READY, FIRE, AIM

Militarily, Haiti is winding down. Our forces have done a first class job securing the country and disarming the latest hoods that have been brutalizing the Haitian people. Soon, the line doggies can start coming home, leaving the mission to the Green Berets and the nation building to Samaritans.

But as the thug trio exited Haiti, another monster on the other side of this troubled, dangerous and unpredictable world has risen again from the ashes of Desert Storm.

Saddam Hussein resurfaced to ruin the weekend of the Arab states, the United Nations, the U.S. government and U.S. commanders, staff planners and warriors. Although the Iraqi forces are not nearly as powerful as they were in 1990 when they initiated one of the largest military actions in U.S. history, they're strong enough to cause alarm.

No one ever knows what this loony tune is up to, but the facts are that Saddam deployed sufficient combat power with the right kind of logistics to cross into Kuwait and raise hell for a second time. Since the end of Desert Storm, he has significantly rebuilt his army; and while it's a shadow of the past, it's still capable of packing a mighty sting. So if Saddam was bluffing, it was one he could all too easily back up. Because Saddam has the capability to attack across the border, the Pentagon has to take this very real threat seriously. Our quick response has been smart: better safe than sorry.

Our planners at MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Florida, where General Bennie Peay's Central Command is based, put together a well-greased, no panic reinforcement plan which quickly deployed sufficient force to checkmate Saddam. They now have enough combat power on the ground (tanks, missiles and aircraft) to make any Iraqi with a lick of horse sense never want to revisit another "Mother of all battles" again.

But that's the problem. Saddam is a master of miscalculation, and he doesn't have a damn bit of sense. Seldom in the history of warfare has a nation been led by a more militarily ignorant fool. He knows nothing about war and war-fighting, but has this thing about dressing up in soldier suits and moving toys and boys around the desert. Besides being a pretend general, he's been a troublemaker all his life, with a serial killer's lust for media attention.

Kuwait and the Arab states also didn't sit idly by and let Saddam gobble up one of the world's biggest gas stations, as they did in 1990. Today, the Arab community takes him seriously. When Saddam pushed his forces to the border, the Kuwaitis and their Arab allies moved to forward deployed battle positions. They don't intend to be caught short as they were the last time around, when they convinced George Bush that Saddam wouldn't invade. Bush ignored his own intelligence people's warning that Saddam Hussein was not bluffing, and the U.S. was caught with its pants down.

When General Colin Powell told the nation during the early days of Desert Storm what he was going to do to the Iraqi Army, he said, "Our strategy...is very simple. First we are going to cut it off. And then we are going to kill it."

But because of the tremendous devastation inflicted on hightailing Iraqi forces on the "Highway of Death," and pressure from Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the ground war was stopped short of final victory, even though General Schwarzkopf had already kicked off an operation that would have destroyed the very Republican Guard force that's once again put the squeeze on Kuwait.

If ever Desert Storm II comes down the sandy track, Bill Clinton must let his generals finish the job and not do a George Bush. Even if the U.S. deployment becomes merely a big readiness drill, Clinton needs to define a future strategy which will prevent Saddam from jerking us around again. Saddam must be told if he crawls out of his sandbox again, we're going to smash all his toys. Or, better yet, when the storm settles, all of Saddam's armor should be melted down and recast into a desert zoo to cage Saddam and his menagerie.