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For more than a year, the D.C.-based Chicken Hawks who want to boot the Butcher of Baghdad out of Iraq have been telling us that Saddam’s another Hitler with horrendous weapons and have been pushing for the military solution while secretly moving a mighty armored fist into place in the Persian Gulf.

Finally, to drum up flagging public support, they played their strongest card and announced Saddam had either joined the world’s A-Bomb Club or was close.

The people reacted: That creep in the desert had to go, and the sooner we slapped leather the sooner we’d no longer be sweating an Iraqi missile countdown. Self-sacrificing members of Congress concerned only about national security, never their own job security, responded to the polls by oh-so-patriotically backing the nation’s Top Gun. Even Hillary Clinton voted for Dubya’s war solution, double-speaking that it would stop war.

Now our spooks say that North Korea already has a nuclear arsenal almost equal to our new best friend Pakistan – which, by the way, helped them get there.

Rain is definitely falling on plans for Desert Storm II. And the Hawks are out there twisting over how they can spin a pre-emptive attack on Saddam as more pressing than putting down the crazies in North Korea. Which will be some challenge.

Millions of Americans who fought in Korea or stood tall after 1953 and faced North Koreans along the DMZ can testify that we need to take the Hermit Kingdom very seriously. Since the end of the Korean War, the men of that fierce land have repeatedly spit upon the cease-fire agreement, killing our soldiers, capturing the USS Pueblo and barbarously torturing its crew, repeatedly shooting down our aircraft, ambushing our patrols and invading South Korean and Japanese sovereign territory.

Sure Saddam is bad news – and most of the stuff the Chicken Hawks say about this brutal dictator and his thugs is all too true. But Iraq is a pussycat compared with North Korea, with its forward-deployed army composed of millions of fanatical kamikazes with more cannons, rifles and fire in their bellies than all of the U.S. military and our allies combined. The four Purple Hearts I caught there bear witness that these tigers must be kept in their cage.

And what about al-Qaida? The FBI and CIA agree the streets of the USA are more dangerous than at any time in our history and that we need to focus far more intently on how best to defend America before the next 9-11 horror show.

Because post-Cold War cuts make it impossible for the Pentagon to fight two Evil Axis partners at the same time and also engage in the main event – international terrorism as it impacts homeland security – it’s critical that George Bush carefully prioritizes our most dangerous enemies.

Hopefully, he’ll decide to box up both Iraq and North Korea and make our main threat – international terrorism – No. 1 on the hit parade.

Here is what my 57 years on the security beat suggest:

  • Protect the USA. Fine-comb what comes through our ports and borders and ruthlessly cut out all terrorist sleeper and support organizations presently embedded from coast to coast.

  • Bring our military to U.S. Marine standards and prepare it for the war at hand, not another World War II.

  • Nothing gets in or out of Iraq, including oil. Bomb Saddam every time he blinks – in hundreds of air raids against the Mustached One since 1991, we haven’t lost a single aircraft.

  • Stop the flow of money or any other material support from Japan, South Korea and the USA to Pyongyang. Put out the word that the second we see the first missile moving toward a launcher, North Korea will get – without warning – what we had aimed at the Soviets throughout the Cold War.

Forty years ago, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Uncle Sam faced down the dread Soviet Bear with its thousands of nukes and a mean and able army. Jack Kennedy thought out-of-the-box, searched for a nonmilitary solution and prevented a nuclear holocaust that would have ended civilization.

But in 1962, we had a blooded president who – unlike today’s Chicken Hawks – had fought in a bad war and knew firsthand the consequences of battle.

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