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Archive for Saturday, January 18, 1992

SATURDAY COLUMN

January 18, 1992

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A year ago, United States and allied warplanes were striking Iraqi targets, and on Feb. 24, the allied ground offensive began. During the short war, the 28-member nation coalition executed a near-perfect military operation against the Iraqi forces.

The war ended on Feb. 28, much quicker and with far less loss of life than most anyone had expected.

There had been much heated debate in Congress about the Iraqi situation, and President Bush had to work extremely hard, with the aid of Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole to get the necessary votes to OK the possible use of military force. Many of those critical of Bush and those eager to whittle down the president's power used all kinds of arguments as to why it was wrong to approve a military action.

Democratic leaders such as Missouri's Rep. Richard Gephardt, Maine Sen. George Mitchell and other political foes of Bush tried their best to defeat the president's request for approval to use force to implement the United Nations mandate to get Saddam Hussein's forces out of Kuwait.

THOSE FIGHTING the president wanted to use economic sanctions against Saddam with some claiming Bush and others in the administration had overstated the threat of Saddam to the stability of the vital Middle East area.

After the shooting had stopped, it wasn't long before various allied officials and later members of United Nations inspections teams, discovered Saddam had built a huge military machine, had come close to putting together a nuclear device and had amassed extensive stocks of lethal chemical weapons.

Chances are, economic sanctions against Saddam would have accomplished nothing but give the unstable, dangerous leader more time to build his war machine and to terrorize Iraqis into submission and support.

Lawmakers such as Gephardt, Mitchell and many other Democrats were strangely silent following the highly successful war. Still later, they didn't have much to say about all the evidence that was uncovered which made it clear Saddam was, and is, a cunning, ruthless leader who probably would use any means to strengthen his position and to carry out a plan to seize a good portion of the world's oil supply.

A YEAR AGO, many were criticizing Bush for not ending the war sooner as it was clear allied forces were routing the supposedly invincible Iraqi army. Pictures showed vast destruction, and there were increasing pleas for the president to have compassion and stop the killing.

Now, a year later, the president is being criticized for not extending the war and crushing Saddam. His critics and foes are determined to fault the president for his Kuwait-Iraq actions and policies.

It's clearly a case of "Don't bother me with what you accomplished yesterday; what have you done for me today?"

A diverse group of nations led by the U.S., with a great assist from Secretary of State James Baker, joined hands for the Kuwait action. Massive amounts of supplies were moved thousands of miles to a hostile environment, and new "high-tech" weapons proved successful beyond expectations. It was a great military action.

Some tried to pooh-pooh the effort, saying the Iraqi army was not a strong force and that the allied effort enjoyed total air superiority.

This wasn't the way these critics were talking before the shooting began as they claimed there would be massive loss of American lives.

IT'S SO EASY to criticize when the person criticizing doesn't have the final responsibility for initiating action and the criticism comes after the fact. This is why much of the current criticism and second-guessing is so disappointing but really not too surprising. These Monday morning quarterbacks have all the answers and are having a field day saying what the president should have done, what Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf should have done and how Uncle Sam really didn't accomplish much in the Persian Gulf war.

These critics now are saying Saddam still is in power, our massive military forces were unable to crush the leader and that the dictator has gained a moral victory over the U.S. and other allied forces. There is no way for Bush to win in this situation. He would have been faulted if he had allowed U.S. and allied forces to continue the "turkey shoot" in Iraq, and now he is being faulted for not pushing further north and crushing Saddam and his forces, throughout Iraq.

This being an election year, those in Congress who opposed U.S. action and who forecast horrible losses for American forces, will try to cloud the issues and hope voters forget their opposition to Desert Storm. Also, those opposed to Bush now will try to fault and blame him for Saddam's continued leadership in Iraq.

ALREADY, there are those who claim that due to what they suggest was Bush's mishandling of the war, U.S. forces are likely to be back in the Persian Gulf within three or four years, taking care of the unfinished business of getting rid of Saddam.

Hindsight is great, whether critiquing how a coach and team performed in an athletic contest or how military leaders and their troops performed in a war. Hindsight also is an easy, handy tool for challengers to use in trying to oust an incumbent officeholder.

The Persian Gulf military effort was a tremendously successful action, and it brought together a group of diverse nations in a common cause for good. There never is any perfect solution or resolution of a war, but allied leaders did what they thought was necessary at that time. Now the pressure must continue to monitor Saddam's actions and demand that he abide by every facet of the cease-fire settlement.

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