Top two military leaders laud troops WAR IN THE GULF


WITH U.S. FORCES, Saudi Arabia -- America's two top military men inscribed a message to Saddam Hussein yesterday -- on a 2,000-pound bomb -- and told U.S. airmen at a secret base that they intended to end the war as quickly as possible and "in a way everyone will know who won."

Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney and Gen. Colin L. Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke confidently about the eventual outcome of the war and continued public support. "You have brought a sense of pride back to America," General Powell said.

Unlike the general's visit to U.S. troops here in the early days of the military buildup, when soldiers besieged him with questions about when they could go home, no one yesterday raised a complaint or a challenge. At one meeting with several hundred airmen, Mr. Cheney and General Powell offered to answer any questions, but not a single voice was raised.

During their two-hour visit to the base, the two leaders chatted with crewmen who fly and service the F-117A Stealth fighter and accepted a Bart Simpson doll, dressed in camouflage fatigues, from Staff Sgt. John Pennell, who has a blond flattop and bears a striking resemblance to the famous underachiever. Mr. Cheney promised the doll would be on President Bush's desk this morning.

When someone asked Mr. Cheney and General Powell to sign a bomb being prepared for an F-117A mission, they obliged with a black felt-tipped pen.

"To Saddam: You didn't move it and now you'll lose it. Colin Powell," the chairman wrote. Mr. Cheney added: "To Saddam, with affection. Dick Cheney. Def. Sec."

At each stop on the base, Mr. Cheney and General Powell repeated their message that new weapons like the Stealth had performed magnificently. The airmen agreed.

General Powell told the men and women that wherever he goes in the United States, people want to shake his hand and pat him on the back. "But it's your hand they're shaking when they reach for mine; your back they want to pat," he said. "It's easy to be chairman in this environment."

This article was screened by U.S. military authorities.

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