David H. Hackworth
March 16, 1999
DISPATCHES FROM THE TROOPS IN SAUDI
As Bill Clinton fumbles into another open-ended, no-exit war in Kosovo,here's what our troops at Saudi Arabia's Prince Sultan Air Base, who daily risk their lives in our long running non-war with Saddam Hussein are saying:"Day after day the same BS without letup. I don't mind telling my guys the truth...we're wasting our time with this mission. Like my Dad told me about Vietnam, we're not fighting to win. How can we win here with one arm tied behind our backs and those nerds in D.C. in charge of National Security?"
"Yeah, we get hostile-fire pay and the tax break for being in a combat zone. I sleep with my protective mask and rifle by my side and am half way to the bunker whenever a truck backfires. This place is dangerous. Just ask the Zoomies who duck telephone pole-size missiles over Iraq. But what gets me is how the Air Force people in southern Turkey get the same combat pay and tax break as we do when they go home to their wives and kids every night!"
"We just caught an Army female sergeant doing it to a young Army private in our bunker. There she was, buck naked, trying to pull rank on our chief. Doesn't the Army have a reg preventing seniors fraternizing with subordinates? The chief said she was just following our commander in chief's example."
"As a squadron CO I don't make policy, but if any of you expect us not to be coming out here next year, five years, or 10 years from now...don't kid yourselves. This thing may last longer than the Cold War." " I've been deployed here three times in less than a year. You ask me if I'm sick of it? I say nuke the whole bleeping desert! I joined up to defend my country, not some rich dudes' gas station."
" We're wasting our time, our money and our people. Why can't the Arabs handle their own problems? Let's face it, we're their mercenaries. You know, 'Onward Christian Soldiers.'"
"You hate it sometimes - the hurry up and wait, the boredom, the alerts - and then you see our aircraft coming back from a mission where they clobbered the Iraqis. It brings things into perspective, makes you proud." "Five Air Force girls got busted. They had a little ring going. One got caught cashing a check for $300. What this shows is males and females simply don't work in such an isolated place of duty."
"Oh great, now they're going to bring back 'Star Wars' and waste billions of dollars all over again while a terrorist drives a truck through the front gate and kills 18 more airmen with a bomb. How about an Anti-Truck Defense?"
"Regardless of orders, boys will be boys and girls will be girls. In the last year, we've had nine airmen evacuated because they got pregnant. That's about one out of 20 folks stationed here shipped home for pregnancy. On the plus side, the kids won't be named Bill or Saddam, but on the minus side, who will do the airmen's work while they're having babies?" "Two guys may be court-martialed for downloading pornography on the Web. Their codes were compromised. It's being treated like losing classified documents."
"The move from Tent City to the new complex (built, ironically, by the family of terrorist Osama bin Laden) is about complete. Life is much better, like not having to hike 200 meters in the dead of night to the latrine. Hot and cold running water is another blessing. The only downside is that unit integrity at the complex has been shot to hell and back. They now have us divided up - there's officer, senior NCO, NCO and airman country."
Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, the headman for our forces in the Gulf, says Saddam will be around for a long time. Fortunately for all of us, Zinni has the guts to tell Clinton his policy to put down the Bad Boy from Baghdad won't do the job. Unlike Westmoreland in Vietnam, Zinni understands the non-war, is listening to the troops and isn't afraid to tell the pols the truth.