http://www.lt-smash.us/archives/002420.html#002420 A Personal VictoryPLEASE FORGIVE ME if I ramble on in this post Im BUI (Blogging Under the Influence). Id say Im BWI, but I dont want to be confused with an airport in Maryland. Im sure youll understand why by the time you get to the end. SADDAM AND I go back a long way. My association with him dates back to the late 1980s, when I learned about his various crimes against the people of Iraq while researching a report for my high school civics class. Sure, he was the enemy of our enemy (Iran), but his use of chemical weapons against his own people and his oppression of the Kurdish and Shiite minorities illustrated clearly that he was no friend of freedom. Even so, when I began the long application process for Annapolis, our number one enemy was still the Soviet Union. I sensed that the Soviet Empire was near collapse, and I wanted to be a part of the military that finally pushed that dinosaur over the edge. Hey, some kids wanted to change the world by saving the environment or campaigning for Amnesty International; but I wanted to defeat the Evil Empire, through force if necessary. I blame Tom Clancy. In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell and the Warsaw Pact dissolved. We lost our enemy. Shortly afterwards, I accepted an appointment to the Naval Academy. I figured I would serve in the peacetime Navy, showing the flag and steaming from port to port. Maybe a brush fire war" would flare up, and we might launch a missile or two. But mainly it would be a good time for everyone, like the Great White Fleet of old. I reported to Annapolis for duty in July of 1990. One month later, Saddam Hussein shocked the world by invading Kuwait. Why would he do that, I wondered Kuwait actually sided with Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war. We had escorted supertankers to Kuwait in order to protect them from attacks by Iranian gunboats. It just didnt make sense. But Saddam was never about honor and loyalty he was always about greed and power. His henchmen raped and pillaged their former ally, and defied demands by an outraged world that he reverse his illegal invasion. So we forced him out. Like most Americans, I watched the war on television. But I was wearing a uniform, and I realized that one day it could be me out there, putting my life on the line. I figured, after Desert Storm, that Saddam was finished. Somehow, he managed to hold onto power by his fingernails, and continued to defy the United Nations. But I figured we had him in a pretty tight box, and he wouldnt be a problem anymore. Iran looked to be the major bully in the Gulf, once again. In 1996-97, I went on my first deployment to the Gulf. While the flyboys concentrated most of their efforts on the no-fly zones, we concentrated on protecting our flank from attack from Iran. But there was that pesky problem of maintaining the UN sanctions regime. Those smugglers would leave Iraq, and hug the Iranian coastline until they were clear of the US Navy. They knew that we wouldnt violate Iranian waters, and we figured they were paying protection money to the Iranian government to smuggle Iraqi oil through their coastal waters. Everybody profited, including our allies in the Gulf who confiscated any proceeds from the oil tankers that we did manage to intercept. We were the only ones who didnt come out ahead The liberty in Bahrain in Dubai was OK, but I would have preferred more visits to Hong Kong, Singapore, Bali, or Australia. Who wouldnt? I went on a second deployment to the Gulf the following year, this time on an aircraft carrier. It was supposed to be a pleasure cruise, with port visits around the world. Mrs. Smash came to visit me in Hong Kong, and then flew ahead to meet me in Singapore. But we didnt go to Singapore. We got orders to leave Hong Kong and make best speed to the Gulf, because Saddam was acting up again. We took up station in the northern Gulf, and commenced flight operations. We went for almost three months without setting foot on dry land so long that the Navy granted us a rare beer day, in which each sailor got two beers to drink with lunch. We spent Thanksgiving at sea that year. And Christmas. And New Years. Saddam kicked the UN weapons inspector out of Iraq, and we remained on station, ready to go to war. Another carrier arrived. Then the British sent a carrier. Then yet another carrier arrived. The Gulf was getting crowded surely, this time we would take the bastard out, once and for all. Then, inexplicably, we were ordered home. Several months later, President Clinton ordered a series of air strikes against Iraq, and claimed victory. But I knew better. I resigned my active duty commission a couple of years later, and joined the Reserves. I was tired of being jerked around by a two-bit tyrant. On September 11, 2001 I was getting ready for work when my phone rang. It was my mother. I thought she was calling to wish me a happy birthday. She told me to turn on the TV. I asked What channel? She said Any channel. I saw the towers burning, and knew my life had changed forever. Certainly, my birthday would never be the same again. A couple of months later, I was with my Reserve unit in Egypt, providing security for the port of Dukhaila while US ships loaded military vehicles at the conclusion of a large, multi-national exercise. It was a dress rehearsal for the war we all knew was coming in Iraq. It wasnt that we were certain that Saddam had a role in the terror attacks; but we all realized that the rules had changed. We couldnt afford to be patient while our enemies planned against us with impunity. And Saddam had made it perfectly clear that he was our enemy. We gave Saddam so many chances to back down maybe too many chances. But a year ago, I received orders to return to active duty, and was deployed to a port in Kuwait. We established a tight security cordon around the port where hundreds of ships would unload military cargo for one of the largest movements of military hardware in modern history. There would be no USS Cole incidents while I had the watch. I spent eight months in Kuwait, and actually visited Iraq on two separate occasions. But I didnt mind the danger, discomfort, and extended family separation so much, if it meant that the asshole was going to be finished off once and for all. We got his kids, but Saddam eluded us. I came home in August, proud to have served, but a little disappointed that the tyrants fate was still undetermined. This morning, at almost the same exact time that my mother had called me two years earlier, my phone rang again. This time, it was my mother-in-law. She apologized for waking me, but explained that I might want to know what was going on in the news. My stomach tightened. Oh, no, I thought not again! My wife was having similar thoughts as I went to turn on the TV. Whats going on? she asked. We got Saddam, I replied, echoing my mother-in-law, Alive! He wasnt the reason that I joined the military in the first place, but he has been my nemesis since Day One. And now hes in custody. Ive had a couple or five margaritas tonight, and Im feeling pretty good right about now. Yeah, that Bin Laden guy is still on the loose. And there are plenty of other criminals, thugs, and tyrants ready to fill the void. But that doesnt mean we shouldnt enjoy the moment. I think Ill have another drink UPDATE: Good Morning! No hangover for me today -- I guess I stopped drinking just in time. It pays to know your limits, and to use quality tequila when mixing those margaritas. Another tip: a dash of Grand Marnier gives 'em a little extra flavor and kick. I just read the above post again, and found it to be suprisingly coherent and free of glaring spelling or grammatical errors, considering my condition when I composed it. Maybe I should BUI more often... Thanks to Glenn for the links.