THE GROUND WAR hadn't even started, but already there was talk about compensation, rebuilding, and who was going to pick up the tab when it's over. This talk about money strikes me as being crass. Or, as the smart set might say, tacky, tacky, tacky.
For example, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia says that after Saddam Hussein has been thrashed, Iraq should rebuild Kuwait and compensate Saudi Arabia for damage and expenses.
That view is shared by the ruling family of Kuwait. No matter how the war turns out, they will still be worth billions. But even billionaires have to count their millions. So they want Iraq to pony up the price of their looted palaces.
Egypt was already rewarded when we wrote off some of its debt, and it expects to cash in later on more of our foreign aid.
Then there is Israel, which wants to hit us up for a few billion as a reward for remaining calm and not trying to wipe out Baghdad.
Even our government officials have shown a generous streak by saying that after we've blown Iraq to bite-size pieces, we might help rebuild it.
That, of course, is part of the American tradition. After we defeated the Japanese, we gave them a fine constitution and helped them build a high-powered capitalistic society. We were just about as nice to Germany, even employing some of their war criminal scientists to help us build rockets and missiles.
I've often thought that the Vietnamese were foolish. Had they thrown down their arms and surrendered, by now Vietnam would have American-financed luxury resorts, golf courses, and might even be selling us fast little red Ho Chi Minh sports cars.
I'm all for kindness, generosity and fairness. But with all these sheiks, emirs and kings talking about compensation, I have noticed that one important group has been overlooked.
Have any of these sand-flea potentates mentioned paying the debt they will owe the American GI and his/her family?
I haven't seen any sheiks, emirs or kings hunkered down near the front lines. Nor do I expect to see them there now that all hell has broken loose.
So if we're going to talk about compensation, we should start with those who are doing the dirty work -- not some horny Arab who has got several trillion dollars worth of oil reserves under his sand.
Yes, I hate to sound unpatriotic -- especially with millions of my gullible and misinformed fellow Americans jabbering about our fight for "democracy" -- but I'm not deeply concerned about who rebuilds Kuwait.
Kuwait and democracy? Here we have a country run by an emir whose religion permits him to have four wives. You would think that would be enough for any potentate, especially one who is getting up in years.
But this slick geezer has found a loophole. When he gets a yearning for some young thing, he brings her in, has a holy man perform the marriage ceremony, satisfies his lusts, then quickly divorces her or one of his earlier wives. That way, he keeps himself within the four-wife limit. And he doesn't even have to pay a divorce lawyer. Under his rather male chauvinistic law, all he has to do is say: "Talahk!" (I divorce you) three times and she's history.
In this country, we would call that a quickie or a nooner. But being the emir, he doesn't have to worry about a divorce detective bursting into the room and taking embarrassing photos. So far, emir watchers say he's shed at least 40 wives that way. And at last count, he had 70 kids. With baby-sitting fees what they are, he has to be a billionaire.
So what we're talking about isn't a democracy. It wasn't before Iraq's invasion, and it won't be when the war is over. Nor is Saudi Arabia, or most of the other Arab states.
But that's OK. Our commander-in-chief, a former oil man, says he is fond of Kuwait's emir and his family, and that's good enough for me, although I hope he doesn't use taxpayers' money to send happy birthday cards to all the emir's kids.
As for King Fahd, of oil-rich Saudi Arabia, I'm not concerned about his war overhead, either. Let him tell some of his kinfolk to stay away from the crap tables in Vegas and Monte Carlo and his bottom line will be in fine shape.
If anything, we should be preparing bills to be sent to all those whose hides or vast fortunes we're protecting in that part of the world. Let them generously compensate the widows and widowers this war will produce. Let them handle the mortgage payments that some military families are scrambling to cover, the disruption of their careers. Would the emir see his way clear to pay for the education of the kids who will survive a dead GI parent?
If we're going to act as the world's bouncers, bodyguards and gunslingers, the least we can do is demand payment. If George Bush doesn't understand that, maybe we should elect a nightclub owner as president.