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MAN O' WAR

For months we've been bombarded by puff pieces about General H. Norman Schwarzkopf. Schwarzkopf, the general with the 170 IQ, has been certified by the Newspaper Publishers of America as the hero of The War That Saved the Emir of Kuwait and his 350 Wives.

After President Bush telephoned Schwarzkopf and ordered him to cease fire and put a halt to what was becoming a slaughter of the Iraqi army, everyone assumed The General would adopt a low profile. His war was over and his troops were victorious.

But for generals, wars are never allowed to just fade away. They require constant re-evaluation. Key decisions must be explained over and over. And when newspapers and magazines stop writing about them, the generals sit down and write books about them.

Generals don't stop explaining their moves until their decisions and the battles sound just right. The tale must be told until The General emerges as the undisputed hero of the struggle.

Why Schwarzkopf feels he must keep talking and explaining his victory is puzzling. He has made the cover of all the newsmagazines. He has been lionized by Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, and Tom Brokaw. What media giant is there left for him to conquer?

One always hesitates to impute less than honorable motives to a man universally acclaimed as a war hero. The truth of the matter is that General Schwarzkopf's ego has become so bloated that the next fatigue cap he buys will have to be custom-made. In short, he has become a first-class blowhard.

There is absolutely no reason other than overblown vanity to account for Schwarzkopf's continuing to explain himself in-depth in television appearances.

After all, the danger has passed. Kuwait is more in need of an army of firefighters than a division of infantry. Things are safe enough there. Even the head of the Sabah clan has made his way back home.

True, it is not certain that all the Emir's wives have returned. In fact, there are reports, possibly fallacious, that the Emir has brought home a few additional wives encountered while he spent the war relaxing in Egypt.

Schwarzkopf's ego is apparently bolstered by studying history at West Point. In his interviews, he doesn't compare himself merely to Douglas MacArthur and George Patton. His references to history make it frighteningly clear he rates himself with Caesar, Alexander the Great, Hannibal, and Xerxes.

These were some of the names Schwarzkopf tossed around in his televised interview with Britisher David Frost, the most obsequious hack of them all.

I'll always remember the day Frost showed up at the Snake River Canyon to appear with Evel Knievel, the daredevil motorcyclist. Frost was supposed to interview Knievel after that worthy had performed what would have been the spectacular but silly stunt of leaping across the canyon mouth on his motorcycle.

Just before being launched through the air, Knievel thought better of the stunt. He pulled the ripcord of the parachute he was wearing and fluttered harmlessly to the canyon floor, several hundred feet below.

When they brought Knievel back up to the top of the canyon, Frost, microphone in hand, greeted him with fulsome praise. "Thank God, Evel," Frost shouted. "Thank God you're back with us, safe and sound."

"Shee-eet," drawled Evel, who was clearly not a devotee of the niceties of the English language.

Frost's packaging of the Knievel jump never did make the big television splash expected. On the very afternoon that Knievel made his anticlimactic parachute drop, President Gerald Ford granted a pardon to ex-President Richard Nixon.

Knievel's escapade was pushed to the rear of the nation's newspapers, where it no doubt belonged all along. Nixon was once again front-page news.

Frost, however, is nothing if not persistent. Several months later, he turned up on television interviewing Nixon about Watergate.

This was the interview in which the most-remembered question was asked not by Frost but by Nixon. During a break for commercials, Nixon leaned over to Frost in an attempt to make small talk.

"Are you fornicating much lately?" Nixon inquired with a straight face.

It is too early for us to know what Schwarzkopf said to Frost during intermissions.

But we do know what The General said on camera, and that has been enough to ensure he will never reach the five-star status that some had been predicting for him.

"We could have completely closed the door and made it a battle of annihilation," Schwarzkopf said. "The president, you know, made the decision that we should stop at a given place and that did leave some escape routes open for them to get back out."

Schwarzkopf had been warned that his public comments would get him in trouble.

And this remark did so because he was placing the blood bath against Iraq's rebelling citizens directly at Bush's door.

In case there was any doubt that it was Bush he was faulting, Schwarzkopf added: "Frankly, my recommendation had been to continue the march.

"We had them in a rout and we could have continued to, you know, reap great destruction upon them. We could have completely closed the door and made it, in fact, a battle of annihilation."

Schwarzkopf added a condescending compliment indicating that Bush should be commended for his humanity. But the message was clear.

Actually, Schwarzkopf was right. President Bush does deserve the rap for halting the total destruction of Saddam Hussein's army. With the army decimated, Saddam's removal from power would have been a certainty.

For weeks the president encouraged the citizens of Iraq to rise up and purge themselves of the man he kept equating with Adolf Hitler.

But when the people rose up, Bush's order made it possible for the remnants of Saddam's army to slaughter these would-be revolutionaries.

The Frost interview was a clear case of a general protecting himself in the eyes of history against charges he allowed Iraq's military power to slip from his grasp. Bush says the halt to hostilities was ordered to preserve stability. He insists The General fully agreed with him at the time.

Only later did Schwarzkopf disassociate himself, and then only briefly. On the following day, when Bush counterattacked Schwarzkopf, The General caved in quickly. Not surprisingly, he blamed the press for exaggerating the situation.

We are left to wonder.
The Nazi army was not allowed to police Germany after the Second World War. The Japanese army didn't preside over the defeated Japan.

Is this what George Bush meant all along when he spoke of "New World Order?"

Schwarzkopf will now probably remain silent until he retires and runs for office or becomes a vice president at Chrysler Corporation. He is enough a student of history to recall what President Harry Truman said when he fired General Douglas MacArthur:

"I didn't fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, because that's not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three quarters of them would be in jail."

Schwarzkopf's ego has become so bloated that the next fatigue cap he buys will have to be custom-made.

His references to history make it frighteningly clear he rates himself with Caesar, Alexander the Great, Hannibal, and Xerxes.

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Tom Fitzpatrick