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The U.S. Defense Department reported last week that missiles and
bombs have destroyed about one-fifth of Iraq’s air defenses, most in the
past five weeks of clashes between American and British warplanes and
Saddam Hussein’s pilots and anti-aircraft batteries.
Iraq has suffered about 40 hits on its air defense sites since Dec.
28, when the Iraqi military began attacking U.S. and British fighters
patrolling “no-fly” zones over northern and southern Iraq, U.S. defense
officials say. That’s more than during December’s four-day allied
bombing campaign, which coincided with House impeachment deliberations.
Most Americans aren’t even aware of the new low-intensity war the
U.S. has been conducting in Iraq in recent weeks. It includes nearly
daily airstrikes and missile attacks on sites that have nothing to do
with the original target of the Desert Fox mission — weapons of mass
Here are some of the news stories that have come in below the
big-media radar screen just last week:
On Friday, Feb. 5: Supporting Iraqi casualty reports from two stray
missiles last week, a U.N. report says 17 Iraqis were killed, including
On Wednesday, Feb. 3: Adding a new dimension to the U.S.-Iraq
military confrontation, American warplanes attacked Iraqi anti-ship
missile launchers newly deployed along the Persian Gulf. Pentagon
officials said the Iraqi weapons had been moved to the area as a threat
to ships in Kuwaiti coastal waters.
On Monday, Feb 1: A defiant Iraq rejected a new initiative on ending
its deadlock with the United Nations, while U.S. and British jets
pounded Iraqi installations with intense bombings.
Somebody needs to begin raising some questions about this new phase
of the Iraq military campaign: What is the new objective? Where is this
carnage leading? How will we define victory? When can we get the hell
out of Iraq?
Remember, President Clinton declared victory on the day he was
impeached by the House last December. He said the U.S. bombing campaign
had seriously set back Iraq’s program to develop weapons of mass
destruction. We would resume attacks, he said, if and when Saddam
Hussein renewed his efforts to develop such arms.
But the truth is, the attacks have never ended. And Clinton lied when
he stated to the American people that the bombing campaign had reduced
the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons program. Defense Department officials
have admitted recently that weapons of mass destruction were never even
targeted in those bombing campaigns.
For anyone paying attention to news in the Persian Gulf, it’s
becoming clear that the U.S. has no game plan in Iraq, no meaningful
military goals and certainly no exit strategy. The airstrikes amount to
little more than international harassment of Hussein and the routine
killing and terrorizing of people who have no say in the way their
government is run.
There’s a cost to this futile campaign for Americans, too. Even
though U.S. casualties have been mercifully light, somebody needs to
start adding up the bill.
These frequent military buildups in the Persian Gulf since 1991 have
cost American taxpayers at least $60 billion. I say “at least” because
the Pentagon does not release figures on the spending for day-to-day
Iraq duties. These are “guesses” — nobody’s really counting.
In fact, nobody’s really paying attention at all to what the
administration is doing in Iraq. More attention is being directed toward
another misguided foreign policy non-objective in Kosovo, where U.S.
troops are about to be deployed under foreign command.
Americans have also been distracted by the political charade in the
U.S. Senate. And there’s an irony in that development. This debacle in
Iraq may well have started as a wag-the-dog scenario to get people’s
minds off of the impeachment issue. Now, it seems, Clinton is using his
success in winning his impeachment trial to divert attention from his
thoroughly immoral and dangerous foreign policy misadventures.
There’s no question Clinton is a skillful political propagandist and
tactician. But he has also been the beneficiary of plain-old good luck
in avoiding any serious military disasters or threats in the last six
Can we count on that good fortune to last another two years?