In 1998 on this day the United States and United Kingdom launched Operation Desert Fox, a major four-day bombing campaign on Iraqi targets.
These strikes were of course a military response to Iraq's continued failure to comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions and contemporaneous interference with United Nations Special Commission inspectors.
Previously on October 31 US President Bill Clinton had signed into law H.R. 4655, the Iraq Liberation Act which appropriated funds to Iraqi opposition groups in the hope of removing Saddam Hussein from power and replacing his regime with a democracy.
Critics of the Clinton administration were quick to observe that the four-day bombing campaign occurred at the same time the U.S. House of Representatives were conducting the President's impeachment hearing.
Other critics, such as former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said the attacks did not go far enough: I would be amazed if a three-day campaign made a decisive difference. [W]e did not do, in my view, enough damage to degrade it [Iraq's programs for weapons of mass destruction] for six months. It doesn't make any significant difference because in six months to a year they will be back to where they are and we cannot keep repeating these attacks. [...] At the end of the day what will be decisive is what the situation in the Middle East will be two to three years from now. If Saddam is still there, if he's rearming, if the sanctions are lifted, we will have lost, no matter what spin we put on it
Despite these criticisms, cruise missile and bombing attacks did just enough to disrupt Saddam's ability to maintain his grip on power.
The main receipient of H.R. 4655 would be the exiled President-in-Waiting, Ahmed Chalabi. A duplicitous conman, Chalabi would almost draw Israel and Iran into a disastrous nuclear adventure before the United States was forced to invade in 2003. The difficult decision to break with US military tradition and adopt a policy of pre-emptive strike was taken by President Al Gore. Of course Gore was also a beneficiary of regime change - polls suggested that he would never have become President if it wasn't for Bill Clinton's conviction by the Senate.
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