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Bill, You're No Desert Fox

By Eric Margolis Dec. 27, 1998

Irrepressible Saddam Hussein, the Energizer Bunny of Arab politics, popped out from the smoking rubble of Iraq last week, beat his drum, and proclaimed yet another victory over the `American and British criminal imperialists.'

The Clinton Administration was also busy proclaiming victory over Great Satan Saddam. It was merely a coincidence, Administration spin doctors assured, that `Operation Desert Fox' was launched on the eve of impeachment proceedings against President Clinton. Why the operation was named after a German WWII field marshall remained a mystery.

Who won the latest war between the world's sole super-power and Iraq, a demolished nation of 23 million, half of whom are in permanent revolt? The score: Saddam 1/Clinton 0.

  • US forces fired 400 cruise missiles and dropped 600 precision-guided bombs. These munitions alone cost US taxpayers $1.1 billion. The Pentagon claims 85% hit their targets, which is likely true. Alarmingly, US warstocks of missiles and precision guided munitions are now gravely depleted, just as the danger of an attack by North Korea's 1.2 million-man armed forces is increasing.

  • Main targets: airfields (Iraq's air force is grounded); factories producing permitted short-ranged tactical missiles; gaudy presidential palaces; TV stations; an oil refinery; AA defenses; command and control centers; office buildings; Republican Guard barracks. The British, scorned by Iraq as `America's attack poodle,' claimed to have destroyed a hanger filled with `Saddam's drones of death,' a lurid fantasy worthy of Fu Manchu.

  • Iraq, described by Clinton as a `threat to the world,' couldn't shoot down even one attacking aircraft. It proved utterly defenceless.

  • Weapons of mass destruction sites - cited as reason for bombing Iraq - were not attacked. For fear of releasing clouds of gas and germs, said the US. More likely: there either were none, or they were not located. UN arms inspectors certainly couldn't find them. Iraq's cadre of biowarfare technicians remained intact.

  • Iraq says the American attacks killed 62 soldiers and wounded 180, a figure not disputed by the Pentagon. Killing each Iraqi soldier thus cost US taxpayers about $18 million in munitions alone. Dropping sacks of cash wound have been cheaper. `Thousands' of civilians were killed or injured, says Baghdad, though it showed no proof.

  • The US did not manage to isolate Saddam in Baghdad or provoke an uprising. Nor did US bombing ravage the Republican Guard, Saddam's mainstay. Only barracks were destroyed. Most Iraqi troops and office workers moved out of harm's way before bombing began.

  • Iraq kicked out for good vexing US-run arms inspectors. Their job was to keep discovering violations to prevent sanctions of Iraq from being lifted.

  • The US Joint Chiefs of Staff, the weakest and least competent collection of political generals seen in many decades, dutifully seconded the draft-dodging president's victory claims. But the point of war is to change the political situation, which the attack certainly did not. American had loosed its vaunted, high-tech thunderbolts against Iraq - including much-ballyhooed `information warfare' - with scant results.

  • The total operational cost of Clinton's Impeachment Bombing, including ordinance, was at least US $2.6 billion, not counting enormous stress on ship and aircraft crews and wear on equipment. On top of this, deployment of US forces around Iraq costs $20 million daily. All of these funds are being drawn from Pentagon current operating budgets, meaning that readiness, maintenance, and training of other forces are being gutted to pay for the endless, sterile confrontation with Iraq.

  • The attack failed to isolate Saddam or provoke an uprising, but, ironically, it showed the isolation from their own people of America's Arab allies. While the oil monarchs of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the Gulf allowed the US and Britain to use their airfields to attack `brotherly' Iraq, the voteless citizens of these American protectorates were demonstrating for Iraq. Anti-American riots erupted across the Arab and Muslim world. The pre-Ramadan attack outraged Muslims everywhere. Europe moved sharply away from America's crusade against Iraq, demanding a new policy, and easing of sanctions.

  • The Pentagon's fears about `asymmetrical warfare' were justified. America's high-tech weapons simply made the rubble in Iraq bounce. The wicked Iraqis were still shouting defiance and mooning the frustrated American big stick strategists. Invading Iraq was out of the question: fighting from urban areas, the Iraqis would be able to offer real resistance. The Pentagon's Powell Doctrine strictly limits offensive military operations to those foes that cannot cause the US substantial casualties. Israel's American partisans, who have been leading calls for the invasion of Iraq, declined to urge Israel itself to invade Iraq.

  • US operations against Iraq bear great similarity to Britain's 19th century colonial `small wars,' in which then high-tech cannon, rapid-fire rifles, and Gatling guns were employed to mow down mobs of spear-waving Dervishes, Zulu, and Pathan. Such massacres bring little glory on the Joint Chiefs who direct these turkey shoots, or on the airmen and rocketeers who conduct them.

  • After doing its worst to Iraq, the US is back to square one. Iraq, by contrast, has succeeded in seriously undermining US-British sanctions, and even gained sympathy. America's cruel, fruitless policy of starving and bombing Iraq is a glaring failure. New policy is urgently needed.


Bill Clinton, you're certainly no Erwin Rommel.


Copyright: Eric Margolis, 1998


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