by Col. David H. Hackworth
29 October 1996


"We are going to get hit again. Many of us are going to die." These words, written by an Air Force leader from a remote desert airbase in Saudi Arabia, were passed to me last week with the plea, "Do something quickly to stop another disaster from happening."

I passed this concerned leader's alarming message to the right folks in the Pentagon and was assured the long list of security concerns would be given the "highest priority."

I was also told Air Force Chief of Staff Ronald Fogleman would soon visit the base to have a first-hand look and wanted to talk to any Airman sweating the local security. Fogleman, a good man who holds the welfare of the troops as his number one priority, is one of the few old-fashioned leaders left at the top.

Since last year, two American installations in Saudi Arabia have been hit. In November 1995, a terrorist attack killed five Americans, and in another bombing last June, 19 American Airmen were killed.

I'm convinced more Americans will die in Saudi Arabia regardless of the precautions that U.S. military leadership takes. The scores of terrorist attacks that have occurred around this troubled globe in 1996 alone -- including the Atlanta Olympics with a security force almost equivalent in size to the US Marine Corps -- have proven it's impossible to stop a determined terrorist.

Saudi Arabia, like much of the rest of the Gulf region, is a time bomb waiting to explode. King Fahd's monarchy is ruled with a harsh, iron fist that tolerates no political dissent and allows no democratic institutions. The natives, except the 2,000 Rolex-wearing princes, are poor and unhappy. Many blame the USA for propping up an ailing King and his repressive regime. Our troops are seen as infidels trespassing on holy soil who are corrupting Islamic society. They say, "Yankees go home."

The two recent terrorist bombings are handwriting on the wall. If we don't leave under our own steam, the terrorists -- just like the Viet Cong between 1960 and 1973 -- will explode more and more bombs until the American people cry, "Bring our troops home!"

We do a lot of preaching around the globe about democracy and force many bad heads of state to lighten up on their people or we won't do business with them. But not in Saudi.

The reason Washington has a double standard in "The Kingdom" is their lust for oil. One out of every ten gallons of gasoline Americans use comes out of that totalitarian sand trap.

We spend about $50 billion dollars a year defending the Gulf gas station and its despots: our Navy maintains over 21 ships manned by 15,000 sailors and marines; and the Air Force and Army keep over 10,000 troops manning squadrons of aircraft and battalions of tank/infantry. Whenever the stuff hits the fan in the Gulf, we rush over more ships, squadrons and battalions to augment our standing force. The additional price for defending Gulf oil is about a billion dollars every time our chain is pulled.

Yet we import only about 10 percent of our oil from the Persian Gulf. Europe scores about 30 percent, and Japan depends on the Gulf for over half its oil supply.

Suckers that we are, we pay ALL the security costs while the Europeans and Japanese get a free ride with cheap oil, which then allows them to beat our chops in the market place.

No wonder we spend more money on defense than Japan and Western Europe combined!

The United States must break its addiction to Gulf oil. In a few years, the House of Saud will belly up and radical anti-American fanatics will slam our pump shut. And you can bet that those long-time twin threats, Iraq and Iran, will fling more torches at our gas station in the months to come.

America's oil independence will free us from defending the indefensible, prevent another Vietnam and create new industries -- ethanol, oil from coal, wind and solar power, and fuel-efficient cars and trucks. These measures would not only get our warriors out of the killing fields where they're sitting ducks but would also produce jobs and kick America's dangerous Middle East oil habit.