by Rod D. Martin
February 10, 1998

This week it became clear: America is about to send its sons and daughters, as well as countless thousands of innocent Iraqis, to hideous tragic deaths. It is a grave thing we do, sending people to their graves, and we ought at least have a reason, and with that reason a plan.

In fact, we have neither. The age-old accusation of our Soviet enemies has finally come true: we pursue war simply to profit a power elite back home. And with the increasing realization of that fact, I, the staunchest hawk you will ever read, find myself in the nearly unbelievable position of standing against the use of American arms. Col. David Hackworth, in his February 4 “Defending America,” takes the same position, and in the process effectively turns the world on its head.

Why do we so stand? Because this mission, if carried through, will be the most ill-planned, ill-prepared military operation since Carter’s aborted hostage rescue in Iran; and because even were that not so, attacking Iraq now will wipe away the integrity of this nation and all who stand with us.

To begin with, since the alleged rationale for war is the destruction of Saddam’s chemical and biological weapons, as well as punishment for defying the UN, our battle plan must necessarily entail measures calculated to achieve these ends. In short, no such plan exists.

Having ruled out an invasion (which could actually take control of the sites in question), and having admitted that the US will not bomb Iraq’s chemical sites (which might well result in massive toxic clouds, spreading death like so many Bhopals), America is left with nothing. It can bomb the Republican Guard perhaps. It can attack Saddam’s palaces, hoping to hit unknown targets with no way to measure success. It can kill civilians. It can even decimate the tiny remnant of the Iraqi Air Force, pretty much at will. What it cannot do is match the firepower it unleashed in 1991, much less exceed it; and in case you didn’t notice, the 1991 war did nothing to change Saddam’s ways beyond such areas as America actually took under its control.

And from that thought, two points must be developed. First, the US military is simply not capable of the sort of operation it conducted in 1991, while Reagan’s Cold War defense establishment was still intact. Slashed to the bone, salaries and morale at all time lows, suffering from low training and an all-time high rate of training accidents, the US military is at its lowest point since just before Korea.

Things have become so bad that the commander of the Army’s V Corps, Lt. Gen. John W. Hendrix, admitted last month that his unit now requires 180 days to become battle ready. This is the same V Corps that whipped Saddam Hussein in less than 100 hours, the same V Corps that has for fifty years been the backbone of America’s defense of Western Europe. V Corps, officially able to fight anywhere, anytime, on a few hours notice, now takes as much time to get ready as a National Guard unit? No wonder Saddam’s provocations have increased in the past two years.

Second, just what do we do if and when Saddam takes his beating and laughs in our face? The administration doesn’t know. Madeleine Albright speaks ominously of a second air raid; but what this is supposed to accomplish is even less clear than the first. Will we go bomb the rubble? Kill more civilians? Albright doesn’t say. She also doesn’t say how any of this is supposed to affect Saddam’s chemical weapons production.

This is, of course, Lyndon Johnson’s 1965 script for North Vietnam.

All of which brings us to our final and sickening point. Saddam has not in fact acted any differently in the last thirty days than he has in the last thirty weeks. Everyone knows this. Nothing has changed, anywhere in the world, except one thing: Monica Lewinsky. And now, a man who “loathes” the military and who has insulted it and gutted it intends to use it to save his hide.

A high price will be paid to do this. Just as Saddam’s actions show a keen awareness of our military decline, North Korea’s in the next few months may well show a similar cognizance of our military preoccupation. We cannot presently fight two wars at once. But beyond the global game of Russian Roulette into which Mr. Clinton drags us, our President also asks America collectively to lie, about everything we do and believe in, about why we are killing other people’s husbands and daughters, simply to divert attention.

In doing this, he forces all of us to join his liberal coterie, who to protect him long ago gave up speaking their hearts, and he debauches the character and integrity of us all. This may well be a fitting end to the Clinton era; but it is an end we must oppose with all our might.