DEFENDING AMERICA
David H. Hackworth
19 May 98

BRING THE FIRE DEPARTMENT HOME

While our press groans on and on about the departure of Jerry Seinfeld, 36,000 American warriors are sweating it out in the Gulf.

And I mean sweating it out.

"It's 120 degrees," says an Army sergeant. "There's no shelter, except for tents, which provide shade but are worse then Saunas inside."

Our warriors were rushed out there last February to do a job on Saddam Hussein. They've been standing tall ever since. Besides being hot and sticky they're bored to death, and sick of being cooped up.

Their morale has plummeted from " good to go" to "wanna go home." They feel like a fire department that was rushed to a fire only to find a false alarm, but then are told to "hang around, a fire might start sometime this year."

Meanwhile, their commander in chief is too preoccupied with Monica, African Safaris and playing JFK in Berlin to figure out a coherent strategy to deal with Saddam. So he treats his troops as if they're the Foreign Legion.

But should we expect anything else? This is the president who brought about the disaster in the streets of Mogadishu and when 18 warriors died there, called them "unfortunate casualties." The same commander in chief who invaded Haiti to support a tyrant, whose gang of monsters has turned that poor island back into a killing field. The same master of military miscalculation that sent our warriors to Bosnia in 1995 for one year -- and three years later they're still marking time on Mission Impossible.

After six years of wall to wall disasters, Congress should wake up and realize that Clinton and his national security gang will never get it right. You'd think they'd take the keys to our military machine away from "Crash" Clinton. Just the way the keys to the family car are pulled away from a kid who goes from fender bender to road kill.

Meanwhile our country's badly thought-out military misadventures are destroying America's armed forces. A lot of the best and the brightest are walking. In one battalion alone in the Kuwaiti desert four captains have resigned. Equipment is being worn out and the budget is well below the red line.

To keep a carrier on station in the Gulf costs a million bucks a day, and we have two carriers out there and hundreds of $3,000-an-hour aircraft drilling holes in the skies. I'm told that the Gulf meter is running at $200 million a month.

This money is not dough spent on training or new equipment or to repair the shacks that our warriors' families live in. Nor does it help the thousands who are so terribly underpaid they need food stamps to make it through the month.

We wouldn't be in this terrible fix if we had a president who had worn a uniform or who was advised by a staff of military-experienced advisors. Nor would we be in such a mess if we had a Congress that had a fair number of veterans able to understand the frustrations warriors feel as they're sweating it out on hard duty on a nonsense mission.

Few American politicians have soldiered. Thus, few understand these dumb and repeated missions are driving the members of our armed forces nuts.

It's the press's job to alert the citizens about such hairbrained maneuvers, so they in turn can have at the politicians. But like Congress, few editors and reporters have ever worn boots and walked the walk. They've done "Seinfeld," not the Gulf.

As a result, our uninformed citizens allow our warriors to be so badly misused and abused and only occasionally become briefly outraged when our dead are dragged through foreign streets. Then, after the commercial, it's back to the hottest media story.

It's time to bring our over-stretched forces in the Gulf home. Saddam won't cause a problem while they're staring him down, but they aren't NATO keeping the Sovs in line. They can't hang out in the desert for another 50 years.

Clinton should follow the advise of a naval aviator "to get us out of here and tell Saddam if he sprays one bug to plan to park his car on a glazed parking lot, because Iraq will be history."

THE END