Retired U.S. Army Colonel David H. Hackworth fought in Korea and Vietnam, earning a battlefield commission, two Distinguished Service Crosses, 10 Silver Stars, three Legions of Merit, eight Bronze Stars and eight Purple Hearts, but, he told a March 12 gathering at the Newport Beach Public Library, "the hardest goddamn one to get was the good conduct medal."
Speaking before a packed house of more than 200, Hackworth displayed complete and refreshing contempt for George W. Bush—"I didn't try to join the Alabama National Guard"—and the "chickenhawks" running the Pentagon today. He clearly despises such men as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, one of the chief architects of the planned invasion, asking why Wolfowitz is so hot for war—considering he spent the entire Vietnam War at Yale earning his bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees.
Hackworth spoke a week before Bush's 48-hour ultimatum, but he made it clear invading now was foolhardy. "We don't yet have the 'steel fist' we need in the area," he said, referring to the numerous infantry and armored divisions floating in the Mediterranean or still waiting in Texas to get on ships. "We will probably see war in the next 30 days—unless our support [from Britain and others] is nickel-and-dimed away," he said. "The trouble is the weather—in late March, early April, it's 90 degrees out there. With the [chemical warfare] suits they're wearing, you'll see a lot of heat casualties."
Hackworth doesn't like the idea of the U.S. invading Iraq, especially without the backing of the U.N. "Iraq is No. 7 on the list of threats facing the U.S.," he said. "It's the pussycat of the Axis of Evil. It's very weak.
"I think it will be slam, bam, goodbye, Saddam, 30 days at most—if everything goes according to plan. It should be fine, but my experience with plans is they last as long as the first shot, and then they go to hell.
"But the hard part will be the huge, long, long occupation. This is not a homogeneous land. There is no emperor saying to his people, 'Help the Americans.' Occupation could take as long as 50, 60 years. We're still in Germany, Japan, after all. And we'll pay for it.
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"The president has to get together with France, Britain, Germany and Russia. All must agree on course of action. We set up roadblocks, then all go to war together if Iraq doesn't pass them. We should add 200 to 300 U.S. inspectors. Why aren't we looking at the artillery and missile units of the Republican Guard units?"
Hackworth's faith in inspections rather than war is based on history. "Saddam needs to be contained," he said. "Look at the Soviet Union: they had submarines, thousands of nuclear missiles, that crazy guy at the U.N. who took his shoe off, said they would bury us, but we contained them. And where are they now? If we're not careful, we'll get that same tombstone.
"I think we should be concerned with America, not making a new empire. Our major concentration should be to take a hard look at what caused Sept. 11, what caused the hatred to us around the world, and protect America.
"How did we get here? We occupied the whole world. We have to take a really hard look at ourselves—how we can clean up our act. We will not resolve this with cannons."