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Retired General: U.S. Not Heading for Military Showdown

Posted November 11, 1997

— An American U-2 resumed reconnaissance flights Monday morning, despite Iraq's threats to shoot down the spy plane. No shots were fired. Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz met with U.N. leaders Monday, but refused to budge on his stance to exclude weapons inspection teams with Americans.

Saddam Hussein said his people must choose between "sacrifice or slavery," implying he may not back down.

Retired Air Force General Bob Springer agreed to speak with WRAL's Brian Bowman about what's been happening. He said he believes the U.S. is not headed toward a military showdown. Instead, he thinks Hussein is rattling his sword to drum up political support in his own country. On the other hand, he says Hussein's actions clearly show he has something to hide.

For more than a week, Saddam Hussein has threatened to shoot down U-2 spy planes, saying Americans have no right to see his cache of weapons.

"It may just be that when he's out there turning off the lights, turning off the cameras, shifting his things from one location to the other, the U.N. inspectors came very close to finding something," said Springer.

General Springer said he believes Hussein is developing chemical and biological weapons, but is not hoping to use them right now. He believes Hussein is bluffing about a military clash, and really hopes to avoid another fight.

North Carolina's military bases like Seymour Johnson Air Force base are not on any type of standby or alert. In fact, they haven't changed a thing about their daily routine.

"We're not involved in any preparations for anything other than normal daily ops here," said Col. Ron Hayden, 4th FW Vice Commander.

General Springer said the U.S. has 18,000 troops in the Gulf right now, so even if we do strike, the men and women here might not be needed. Still, he believes Hussein is simply trying to draw us in as an enemy to ease his own political conflicts at home.

"I don't think that Saddam Hussein would have fired the missiles anyway today before his foreign minister had a chance to meet with the U.N. Security Council," said Springer. "That would have really been stupid. Of course, he's been known to do a lot of stupid things."

U.S. Ambassador Bill Richardson wants the United Nations Security Council to impose strict sanctions on Iraq to show Hussein his actions won't be tolerated. Richardson says if the council refuses, "All bets are a go, all options are open." And that could mean a military strike.


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