Small World

Jewish World Review / Dec. 21, 1998 /2 Teves, 5759
Did it do any good?

To Beat Saddam,
Sustain the Raids

By Richard Z. Chesnoff

WELL, HERE WE GO AGAIN! After making the mistake last month of hesitating, President Clinton has finally launched long-overdue air strikes against Saddam Hussein and his Iraqi war machine.

It's too early to know the definitive results of this new missile rain. But make no mistake. Even this attack will fail to convince the Iraqi dictator to live up to his international obligations to allow United Nations inspectors to freely ferret out Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

Unless luck is really with our forces and missiles, Saddam and his murderous crowd of thugs will crawl out of their posh underground shelters personally safe and sound. And as is his wont, the Butcher of Baghdad will continue to make every attempt he can to build nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and to hide those monstrous efforts from the world no matter what lies his representatives tell the UN.

Still, the attack and continuing the attack is imperative. The Iraqi dictator cannot simply thumb his nose at the world. Nor is Saddam going to get off scot-free. Unless every one of the cruise missiles misses its target and they won't we will at the very least have further weakened both Iraq's arsenal and its already heavily burdened infrastructure, limiting Saddam's ability to attack his neighbors.

More important, this latest wave of air strikes will further weaken Saddam's hold and hopefully strengthen what's left of his decimated opposition. It may even help persuade someone in his inner circle to move closer to that moment when they forcibly remove Saddam and his thieving sons from power. For that reason, it's imperative that the President and our British allies continue with this air campaign as long as we can and as long as our military strategists tell us the missiles are hitting their marks.

The danger comes with breast-beating pressures from France, Russia, China and others who oppose the attack because it conflicts with their plans to do big business with Iraq. Submitting to their cynical whining will merely result in yet another unfinished war against Saddam.

I wish the people of Iraq no ill will. During times I spent there before, during and after the Gulf War, I met a long-suffering people that deserves far better than a bloodthirsty dictator who has enriched himself even as he drags his oil-rich country to new ruin.

We are targeting military-related installations (including his Republican Guard headquarters and some of Saddam's approximately 80 palaces). But no military action can be surgically free of civilian, even innocent, victims. It is the tragic but deadly price of a war that Saddam launched back in 1990, when he first attacked Kuwait.

In all my years in the Middle East, I heard a frequent refrain from moderate Arab leaders albeit an off-the-record one. One senior minister in a Persian Gulf state put it this way: "The problem is not that the U.S. takes firm action in the Middle East, the problem is you don't follow through on your action.

"It's not enough to send ships to the Persian Gulf, you have to use them and continue using them until the goal is met. Pulling out prematurely leaves us all in a bind and defeats your purposes."

At the time, he was referring to dangers from Iran. But the point is just as applicable to our dealings with Iraq and Saddam. We must stay the course on sanctions and sustained military action, no matter what our international critics say.

And the White House should pay no attention to self-serving cynics in Congress who question the President's motives. Despite the ongoing politicized and, in my opinion, totally unjustified and constitutionally dangerous attempt to remove him from office, Bill Clinton has done well not to let Congress wag him certainly not on an issue as vital to international security as our overly long, still unwon war with Saddam Hussein.

JWR contributor and veteran journalist Richard Z. Chesnoff is a senior correspondent at US News And World Report and a columnist at the NY Daily News.


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