Go get 'em, Bill!
WASHINGTON -- We should bomb Iraq, anyway.
We should bomb Iraq regardless of whether U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan gets the written agreement he wants from Saddam Hussein.
That's right. We should strike military targets in Iraq even if Hussein meets all our current demands.
The reason is simple: If we don't, Hussein will just keep doing this.
From Hussein's point of view, the smartest thing for him to do is bring us to the brink again and again until we lose our will to proceed.
So the smartest thing for him to do now is sign an agreement allowing free access to U.N. weapons inspectors.
That way, President Clinton will be pleased. Our allies (the few we still have) will be relieved. Most of our troops and our ships and our planes will return home.
And then, in six months or a year, Hussein will do it again. He will kick out the weapons inspectors or restrict their ability to find his weapons of mass destruction.
Which means the United States will try again to assemble a group of allies (good luck) and go to the enormous expense of sending in troops and planes and ships once more.
And then, Hussein can pull back from the brink once again. And start the whole merry-go-round spinning over and over until everybody is exhausted.
Which is exactly what he wants.
But how do we justify striking him now, even if he agrees to the inspections?
Easy. For months, he has refused to allow U.N. inspectors to search freely for his chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
So even if he agrees that all the inspectors now can do their jobs freely, we should launch air strikes to destroy those weapons he has been illegally assembling and stockpiling.
And if we do this each time Hussein pulls the same stunt, he will get the clear message that the stunt won't work.
He will get the message that pulling back from the brink at the last second will not save him from a strike.
If he knows that each time he hinders the inspectors, his bomb factories and air fields and other military targets will be hit, then he will have a real incentive to allow the inspections to go forward.
Think that is harsh? It is. But I did not come to that conclusion easily.
Last week, after President Clinton gave his speech at the Pentagon on how many chemical and biological weapons Hussein had already assembled, I got a call from an emergency-room nurse in Chicago.
"Do you realize the incredible amounts he is talking about?" she asked me.
Well, no, not really, I said. I have the booklet that the White House released containing the intelligence data. It goes on and on for pages. But I don't really know what 100,396 gallons of botulism or 22,457 gallons of anthrax and all the other stuff can do.
"If you add up everything the president says Hussein has," she said, "it could cause the death of 45 percent of the population."
Forty-five percent of the population of Iraq? I said.
"Forty-five percent of the population of the world!" she said. "The global population!"
I understand those students who protested at Ohio State University last week when Clinton sent some of his Cabinet members there to explain his Iraq policy. And I support the students' right to non-violent protest. Cabinet members should get yelled at more often. It would do them good.
And I also understand the frustration felt by those who feel our policy has muddled goals. Clinton has announced he only wants to "hinder" Hussein's ability to build weapons, not remove Hussein.
As an administration official told me, "The problem is that we have demonized Hussein, but now, we don't want to remove the demon."
As I have written before, I think we should remove the demon.
But even if we are not committed to that policy now, we must take steps to protect the globe from Hussein's weapons.
It is not a pleasant task, it is not an easy task, and undoubtedly, innocent people, especially Iraqis, will suffer because of it.
I believe, however, we have no choice.
We must strike Hussein and strike at his ability to destroy the world.
We will be criticized for doing it.
But if we don't do it, there may be very few people left alive in the world to criticize us
2/19/98: My 15 minutes
2/17/98: The manic-depressive presidency
2/12/98: Drip, Drip, Drip
2/10/98: Clinton tunes out the networks
2/5/98: The flight of the Beast: America's love-hate relationship with scandal
2/3/98: Speaking Clintonese
1/29/98: What the president has going for him
1/27/98: Judgment call: how Americans view President Clinton
1/22/98: Bimbo eruptions past and present
1/20/98: Feeding the beast: Paula Jones gets the full O.J.
1/15/98: Let's get it over with: it's time to deal with Saddam, already
1/13/98: Sonny Bono is dead, let the good times roll
1/8/98: Carribbean Cheesecake: First couple has cake, eats cake
1/6/98: PO'ed: a suspected druggie jumps through the employment hoops
1/1/98: Cures for that holiday hangover
12/30/97: Buy stuff now
12/25/97: Peace to all squirrelkind
12/23/97: Home for the Holidays: Where John Hinckley, never convicted, will not be
12/18/97: Bill's B-list Bacchanalia: Press and politicos get cozy, to a point
12/16/97: All dressed up... (White House flack Mike McCurry speculates on his next career)