Fire in the Sky

Tim Paluch

At one point during the presidential campaign, Dubya called the Clinton Administration’s approach to Saddam Hussein, the walking Middle East crisis, “bankrupt.”Dubya said that his administration would take a stronger stance against Saddam if it were discovered Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction. “I’d take him out” is how he put it. Friday, while Dubya was down in Mexico chatting with Vincente Fox, American and British planes began bombing Iraq air-defense sites. Has Dubya already begun keeping his campaign promise to change the Unites States policy toward Saddam? Hardly.Dubya and his cronies repeatedly called these attacks “routine,” explaining that the country was only enforcing the no-fly zones created in 1991. The unfortunate thing is, no matter how immoral and unneeded Friday’s seemingly active attacks were, they were indeed routine.Allied planes have been regularly striking Iraq since December 1998, when Hussein began seriously challenging the no-fly zones. Just last year, there were over a dozen strikes, resulting in 300 civilian deaths and 900 injuries, according to the Iraqi government. Friday’s bombings were the most severe since 1998.He may have overtly criticized Clinton and his approach, but Dubya now appears headed down the very path of “routine” missions and ineffectiveness of his predecessor. Friday’s bombings were stronger doses of the same medicine administered over the last ten years. Dubya has made no effort to change American policy toward Saddam yet and has said Washington would continue to enforce the strategy of no-fly zones. Dubya also talked of “energizing sanctions” and increasing involvement and funding for the Iraqi opposition groups. Sound familiar? It should. Clinton played the same game.It is time for a change in policy toward Iraq, and by Iraq, I mean Saddam Hussein himself. For 10 years the United States has enacted policies that have impoverished Iraqi civilians while doing nothing to stop or remove Saddam Hussein from power.Inspectors haven’t found anything in Iraq since 1993, which either means they don’t have anything or Saddam knows how to hide things well. The U.S.-imposed sanctions have lost all support in the international community, with France, Russia and the U.N. paying no attention. Even Iraq’s one-time mortal enemies, Syria, have reopened trade policies with Baghdad. In Iraq, citizens don’t blame Saddam for their problems, they blame us. Saddam is seen as the one who stood up to imperialistic Americans. His picture is up in their homes, not Dubya’s or Clinton’s or Daddy Bush’s.If Dubya really wants a change in the United State’s policy toward Saddam, he needs to do more than say so. Instead of continuing to take the moral low ground, there needs to be some confrontation.Washington should end the economic sanctions that have depleted the nation and its civilians. Instead of massive restrictions on trade and assistance, the United States should initiate tighter restrictions on military imports into Iraq. In that sense, at least, Saddam himself is being contained, not the innocent civilians. We need to let that part of the world see that the United States is not the capitalist imperialists we certainly appear to be.Dubya, as intimidating as he may have looked Friday in his short-sleeves telling the world the attacks were no big deal, must show Saddam who’s boss. It is amazing that Hussein, a madman leader of an insignificant mid-sized country, has been able to aggravate the United States for this long with his cat-and-mouse games. He knows damn well that if he fouls up and starts developing a new radar system, the worst that will happen is a couple of civilian and military deaths. For some reason, I think he still sleeps OK at night despite the fatalities.In order to change that thinking, we need someone to stare into the camera, look directly at Saddam, and tell him the sanctions are over and the ball is now in his court. Make a wrong move, we’ll come in. Build a tower we don’t like, we bring the big guns. Washington should not play the cards that Saddam has dealt them. Washington should deal its own hand. I am not usually one to condone military force, but in this case the Iraqi civilians have suffered more from the policies we have enacted with a gross indifference to international law. Who are we to designate areas no-fly zones? I wouldn’t recognize them either. How would we like it if China said we couldn’t fly over Hawaii? And it wouldn’t take long to finish the job that Daddy Bush wouldn’t. Quick strikes at Saddam and his comrades would take about as long as the last “war,” except this time we should make sure Saddam does not survive. And it would do wonders for our underpaid military’s morale.American policy toward Iraq has been a failure. It was through the Clinton administration and now appears to be heading down that path with Dubya at the helm. The reality is that Saddam is a third-rate dictator who somehow has managed to thwart the greatest superpower in the world. We need to cut the crap and get in the ring. Tim Paluch is a junior in journalism nd mass communication from Orland Park, Ill.