David H. Hackworth
December 29, 1998


Happy New Year. But wait a minute -- is that Saddam Hussein standing there in the middle of the Iraqi desert giving us the double bird? Or is he just heralding 1999 in some traditional Iraqi way?

For eight years the U.S. has bombed and bad mouthed the Beast of Baghdad. We've virtually closed down his imports and oil business. Yet, like herpes, he just won't go away.

Our frustrated troops, who've now put more time in the Gulf than an Iraqi date farmer, don't call Bill Clinton's latest attempt to erase Saddam Operation Desert Fox. Nope -- to them it's Operation Desert Flop.

A former B-1 bomber pilot gave this latest military floparooty of the Clinton administration another title: Operation Free Willy.

Regardless of what you call it and its underlying purpose, the bottom line is that it was a military disaster. Little was accomplished except wasting a lot of money on what turned out to be the most expensive demolition job in history.

Saddam, last seen on TV ranting and railing while wading through the rubble, appears to have put it over on us kind of like the way Rodney King did with the billy-club swinging LAPD.

This latest disaster wasn't our troops fault. They deployed flawlessly and then executed a difficult high risk operation with precision and professionalism.

The problem was that once again Clinton sent American warriors into danger on a flawed military operation that didn't have a prayer of accomplishing its mission.

I don't give the top brass high marks either. They should have challenged the President's harebrained plan, told him it wouldn't accomplish zilch and that in the end things would only be worse. If Clinton then insisted on launching, the Chiefs should have done the right thing and resigned en masse.

When was the last time a general or admiral resigned over principle?

Nothing would get a draft dodger's attention during a military heat-up like stars being slapped down on a desk and the words "I quit" echoing through the White House halls.

Now as the New Year jumps off, Saddam's warned Clinton that if U.S. planes enter Iraqi airspace -- in accordance with the 1991 peace arrangement paid for by American blood, gold and sacrifice -- he'll blow them out of the sky.

Saddam's also said the UN weapons inspectors are persona non grata.

Once he's cleared the decks, Saddam can merrily begin 1999 doing a few of his favorite things -- by rebuilding his weapons plants and his military machine.

He could be back making germ and chemical weapons of mass destruction in a few months and be up to his old neighbor-menacing tricks within a year.

Clinton told the nation last year that the weapons inspection program did more to reduce Saddam's weapons of mass destruction than the 88,000 tons of bombs dropped during Operation Desert Storm. And now his ineptness has closed down the very same inspection program he praised.

Just before Operation Desert Fox, Clinton told the nation, "Their mission is to attack Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors." But according to Defense Secretary William Cohen, no plants manufacturing weapons of mass destruction were attacked.

What gives?

Maybe, as was the case during the Vietnam War, the White House and Pentagon are singing off different sheets of music while the Joint Staff generals and admirals are humming their time-honored Go-Along-To-Get-Along backup chorus.

Bombs alone -- even smart ones -- can't destabilize an Evil Empire. Massive bombing campaigns alone failed to prevail over the Nazis, North Koreas and Communists Vietnamese. The only bombs that ever brought a war to an end were the two A-bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

After the religious holiday Ramadan -- mid January -- expect our bombs to rain down on Iraq once again. Except that to win this time around, it shouldn't be another light shower but a sustained bombing storm coupled with a multidivisional ground attack.

Again the timing will be excellent for Clinton. The Senate will be doing their impeachment show and tell, and the high tech aerial Atari game will provide welcome relief for this nation's TV addicts and ever-hungry news channels.

I sometimes wonder if Saddam Hussein hasn't joined James Carville on the Clinton payroll.