Clinton's Renewed Air and Missile Strikes on Iraq Soil America's Name

By Findley, Paul | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March 31, 1999 | Go to article overview

Clinton's Renewed Air and Missile Strikes on Iraq Soil America's Name


Findley, Paul, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


Clinton's Renewed Air And Missile Strikes on Iraq Soil America's Name

The USA Today newspaper published a photograph recently showing Palestinians in Gaza burning U.S. flags and chanting words of abuse against President Bill Clinton.

A week before another photograph showed Palestinians, perhaps some of the same ones, waving U.S. flags as they joyously welcomed Clinton to Gaza. The headline over the accompanying news report: "A hero for a week, Clinton is villain now to Palestinians."

The news report began: "The U.S. flags that lined the street last week have been torched. The pictures of President Clinton that graced the walls of homes and shops have been ripped in two. Even the Christmas decorations that the first family hung on a tree have been taken down and smashed."

A storekeeper is quoted as saying: "Clinton told the Palestinian and Arab people: `America is with you.' Yet 48 hours later, he bombs Iraq. What a hypocrite. I'd like to slash his throat."

An animal feed supplier is quoted: "The people are saying this isn't just a strike against Iraq, that it is a strike against all Arabs from the strait [of Gibraltar] to the Gulf."

The sudden, torrential outpouring of anti-American emotion is receiving little attention in the United States. Oblivious to this outrage, the American people are mostly rejoicing that no U.S. military person was even injured in the delivery of the enormous air assault against Iraq. They are pleased that a 26-year-old woman flying a sortie over Iraq became the first female fighter pilot to deliver bombs and missiles in combat.

The bombardment was heavier than the total onslaught on Iraq in Desert Storm. Nearly a half-billion dollars' worth of missiles alone was unloaded on Iraqi targets. Aside from the financial cost, Americans consider it a pointed exercise of war power.

Three out of four Americans believe the assault was justified, a suitable punishment to Saddam. An estimate by the Center for Defense Information puts the initial cost of $488 million, but this is only the starting point.

Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni, regional commander of the Desert Fox operation, said 30,000 U.S. troops were directly involved, plus support from 10,000 others of worldwide bases. The Associated Press reports that forces flew more than 600 sorties in four days, half of them night strikes. U.S. aircraft dropped more than 90 cruise missiles and 600 other bombs. Ten warships launched in all more than 300 additional cruise missiles. The cost of each is put at about $1 million.

In a military sense, it is difficult to comprehend how the turn of events is a victory for the United States over any predatory inclinations Saddam Hussain may have. There is little historic evidence that air assaults alone will cripple even defense and military installations of the enemy.

Students of air power conclude that only when accompanied by ground operations are air assaults successful. This is a lesson learned in World War II and in Vietnam. Despite the pounding, Saddam remains in power, probably more securely than before the assaults. United Nations weapons inspectors, who for all their limitations provided some constraints on Saddam's military preparations, are gone from Iraq and likely gone for good.

The aftermath of the air assault discloses at least one major setback in the international quest to keep Saddam from developing weapons of mass destruction. David Kay, a former U.N. official, noted this casualty: "UNSCOM [the U.N. weapons inspection group], as we have known it for seven-and-a-half years, is history."

For all the setbacks and indignities suffered by UNSCOM over the years, the inspectors were nevertheless able to identify and destroy massive amounts of weaponry. At worst, they represented an annoying presence that surely impeded some of the predatory plans Saddam may have entertained. They were experienced, highly trained personnel who were free to roam much of the countryside and provide valuable information to the United Nations Security Council. …

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