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
- 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
- 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