DEFENDING AMERICA
David H. Hackworth
November 24, 1998

CLINTON: IF YOU WALK SOFTLY, CARRY A BIG STICK

Saddam Hussein and his thugs have now cost us more than 14 billion bucks.
How many hospitals and schools could we build from such a hefty pot of gold? How many folks could we feed, cloth, house, educate and get started on new lives? How many broken promises to vets could be set right?

$14 billion is enough dough to build four aircraft carriers. Or maintain a tank division in top readiness condition for two decades. Or replace orrepair most of our military's family housing -- which are fast becoming slums -- and give those who serve us so well a decent enough pay raise that they can enjoy the simple things their civilian counterparts take for granted.

We've spent $7 billion on the frequent military buildups in the Persian Gulf since Desert Storm ended and another $7 billion pursuing the war that our troops won and then was lost because George Bush and Colin Powell blinked. Not to mention the $50 billion we spend annually keeping our forces in the Gulf.

This commitment to maintain Asia's and Europe's gas stations for free ties up U.S ships, aircraft and grunts we need for hot missions such as standing ready to deal with unstable North Korea -- a real and dangerous enemy. It's also hobbling and destroying the morale and readiness of the U.S. armed forces.

Few in the Washington power scene complain about this get-or-contain-Saddam game because, like the Cold War, it's good for business. The pork continues to flow into congressional pockets, the defense contractors are making big bucks and the top brass can justify their bloated service budgets.

After all this effort and expense, will Saddam Hussein behave? The short answer is no. Only two weeks ago he promised Clinton that he would let the U.N. inspectors do their thing -- attempting to find his weapons of mass destruction. Now he's already back to ducking and lying.

The U.N. inspectors say that they have proof that Iraqi nerve gas production records exist. They want 'em. Saddam calls the U.N. request "provocative and unprofessional."

Meanwhile, Clinton sits on his missiles. Let this act go unpunished and more such nonsense will come down sooner than later.

Here's what we should do:

* Give Saddam 48 hours to produce the documents. If none surface, then every day until they turn up fire one cruise missile at one component of his oil infrastructure. For example, on Day 1 take out a pumping station, Day 2 a refinery, Day 3 a port facility or an oil transfer station, Day 4 storage tanks and Day 5 a few oil wells. And keep missiling away at his oil cash register until he cries Uncle Sam.

* Any interference with the U.N. team's immediate access to an inspection site would get the following response: Choppers would swing in and pick up the team and minutes later that facility would disappear in a cloud of missile dust. Then the team would go to the next inspection site and knock, knock on the front gate.

* Continue the sanctions. Let nothing in Iraq but food and medicine -- and that includes the liposuction machines Saddam recently tried to procure.

* Train Iraqi opposition groups to conduct special warfare operations. Use them to stop the oil that's now being smuggled into Jordan and Turkey. Nothing like a bazooka round into an oil truck to make a fiery point.

* Drop food and medicine to the Iraqi people using U.N. cargo aircraft.

* Declare Saddam Hussein a war criminal and cause foreign banks to freeze his billions in assets, just as we've been doing with drug lords.

* Set up a reward system: $25,000 for a tank and crew, $100,000 for a jet, $200,000 for a rifle company, $1 million for a tank brigade and $10 million for an infantry division. Tell the Iraqis where to assemble to swap weapons for wampum. Soon all Saddam would have left would be his personal thugs. And with empty bellies and emptier wallets, they would get rid of Saddam faster than mafia soldiers get rid of a godfather who's forgotten whom to kiss.

* Fire the CIA and the Pentagon and put a Green Beret master sergeant in charge of the operation.

Do all of the above and then watch Saddam disappear.