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Iraq is dead center in our commander in chief’s cross hairs. While the trigger hasn’t yet been squeezed, our forces are on the march, and soon a giant juggernaut will be cocked and locked. The Butcher of Baghdad will be hit everywhere but loose if the attack order comes down.

No question Saddam Hussein – with spies near every U.S. military base and at our overseas launching pads reporting on the beans and bullets, war toys and boys – is watching the fist move into position.

For sure he must be thinking that President Bush wouldn’t talk war, activate the Reserves, spend billions of dollars moving tens of thousands of fighters and megatons of gear into place and then call off High Noon – possibly committing political suicide after all the saber rattling – because of a lack of consensus with our allies.

Saddam-the-Guilty has got to be worrying that despite widespread dissent, the odds are that “43″ will make his case for war to the American people using Iraq’s failed compliance with the ’91 Desert Storm peace agreement. Or by proving once and for all that Saddam’s got the Doomsday factories going full steam. Or that Saddam’s one of the firstest with the mostest behind al-Qaida.

But while the phony field marshal’s battle record reveals that the master of military miscalculation would flunk Tactics 101 faster than the dumbest recruit in the regiment, Saddam has earned a doctorate 10 times over in ruthlessness and cunning. And when Psycho Saddam’s finally cornered – the bottom line being his bunker simply isn’t deep enough to save his sorry butt from what we’ll dump on him – he has to have figured out that he’s got nothing to lose by taking as many of those he hates with him as possible. His idea of a good time these days is probably putting loyal kamikazes in place to strike back at us big-time with Weapons of Mass Destruction – real nukes, chemical and biological weapons or dirty bombs.

The Israelis know exactly what to expect from Saddam. Not only do they have an anti-Scud missile-defense system up and running, they’re making sure their citizens are protected from WMD: Each house-building has a sealed room to keep out the deadly bugs and fumes, and everyone has a gas mask. All first-responders – medical, police, firemen – are being vaccinated against smallpox. Even anti-radiation pills might soon be distributed to the general population. Based on past experience, Israel’s already implemented the carefully conceived plans that will allow the besieged country to survive Saddam’s final hits.

Thanks to our own proper planning, our forces in the desert will also be protected – by good gear and top detection devices to tell them when the unthinkable’s about to happen. And if the present crop of generals is Stormin’ Norman smart, the charge across the desert after the WMD exchange should be even easier than the ground phase of Schwarzkopf’s brilliant 1991 Desert Storm campaign.

But are the average Joe and Jane and their kids in the USA similarly set for the bad stuff? Because if you ask savvy members of our security screen about Iraqi WMD, they’ll tell you they’re already here, that Saddam’s agents have been sneaking them in for years. If we can’t stop tons of cocaine and heroin, they say, how could we stop a few containers of WMD?

Unfortunately, the average American family is about as ready for Armageddon as the good people working in the World Trade Center were up for evacuating the Twin Towers on the morning of Sept. 11. That’s because in almost a year the only tangible thing our Homeland Security apparatus has done – besides spending a bunch of bucks building the slickest bureaucracy in U.S. history – is produce a color-coded warning system that most of us still don’t understand.

Regrettably, the history of our country tells us that we only get our act together after we’re knocked down. But this time around, the white stars and crosses could stretch from New York City to Los Angeles and back.

Mr. Bush, don’t squeeze the trigger until our citizens are as well-protected as the Israelis. Right now, Saddam’s exit from the world scene simply isn’t worth the tragic price our unprotected citizens might pay.

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