David H. Hackworth
January 12, 1999


While impeachment bombs explode in the Senate this week, expect more fireworks over the skies of Iraq.

One day the impeachment spectacle will go away. Eventually, Starr could become a California surfer and Monica and Bill a Sonny and Cher-type Las Vegas act managed by Roger Clinton, but the way our national security fumblers are performing, Saddam Hussein ain't never going to change careers.

Also, the way the body count in Iraq is growing, no one else may be left. Saddam's clan has pretty much eliminated anyone who can even spell opposition. That plus the deaths caused from the economic sanctions and the seemingly never-ending U.S. directed military campaign should finish the job.

This week will probably bring more of the "Saddam Show" as he continues to stir up trouble trying to bring down our aircraft over the two no-fly zones and then declaring it, "The mother of all air battles."

I well remember the 31 January 1991 Battle of Khafji that I witnessed so closely I could smell the cordite, see the gun flashes and experience the pucker factor. When it was over, burning tanks littered the field and more than 300 Iraqi prisoners ended up in the POW cage. Iraqi columns beat feet back across the Saudi border, and then Saddam, emulating General William Westmoreland of Vietnam, declared victory. "We won the mother of all battles," he exclaimed from the bottom of his bunker.

Eight years later he's still declaring victory while here we are, readying our missiles and bombs for another serious go at the ever-more-defiant monster of Baghdad with yet another no-win plan.

Our warriors are weary of being players in a game where the ground rules are counterproductive and don't allow them to win. A source in General Anthony Zinni's Tampa, Fla.-based Central Command Headquarters says the December bombing campaign was designed by Zinni to be much more than just another pinprick. But Bill Clinton and advisers cut it way back "on a scale not seen since LBJ and the Vietnam bombing campaign."

Perhaps a Clinton spinmeister suggested that 70 hours would play better in the polls and kick Bill's ever increasing popularity up to still loftier levels. Until Desert Fox, George Bush held the record for the shortest war in our history with Desert Storm weighing in at 100 hours. After seven years of observing Clinton's strategic schemes or rather lack of them, I'm convinced that playing the polls is given far more weight than mere principles of war.

For sure, more bombing alone won't do the job. Bombing coupled with U.S. troops on the ground could oust Saddam. But that would cost a price Clinton and pollster refuse to pay -- American casualties.

Economic sanctions can't win either. They only hurt the innocent and accomplish nothing but bad karma and bad P.R. Remember, tens of thousands of Iraqi children have already died because of medicine and food shortages.

So where do we go from here?

Besides wearing out our military, we've spent enough dough battling Saddam since 1990 to give every American a new four-wheel-drive Jeep Cherokee, a high-definition TV and a desktop computer. Yet we're still on first base with Saddam totally in control of the pitcher's mound.

In 1921, a British statesman took out his ruler, laid it on a map of Mesopotamia and with a few quick strokes of a pencil created Iraq. Next, the British proclaimed Syria's Emir Faisal the King of Iraq, but, of course, they retained control of their future gas station with military muscle.

Why not declare all of Iraq a no-fly zone and then borrow that British ruler and pencil. We could split off the oil-rich north and south, making two separate countries with the Kurds in charge of the north and the Shiite Muslims in the south. This would leave Saddam with his due - - a desert rump state in the center and not much else but sand and statues to his greatness. We could secure the peace as we have in Bosnia with troops on the ground and aircraft in the sky while the two new states went about preparing their own defenses.

Sure, it would be costly. But at least there'd be an end in sight.