Oklahomans react to Iraq bombing

Saturday, February 17th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

It's been ten years of "off and on" conflict with Saddam Hussein. For one Oklahoma Senator, the tussles have gone on too long.

And for Tulsa's Air Guard Fighter wing, Friday's bombing means more tense moments. For President George W. Bush it is his first military action. But it's all too close to his father’s last military action. It's been ten years since the Gulf War and the U.S. is still trying to handle Saddam Hussein.

Many, including Senator Jim Inhofe think Hussein has been testing the new president since he's taken office. "He was displaying a map of Iraq that included Kuwait. That's the first time in ten years that he's done that." Inhofe says he wishes the U.S. had been more forceful with Iraq over the past ten years. "That we've backed down too often, and that ground troops might be the answer to finally stopping him. He's a hard one to get, but I don't know how it's gonna end other than having to get into some type of hopefully limited conflict."

Tulsa's Air National Guard fighter wing knows a lot about that area. They've flown several missions in the northern no-fly zone of Iraq. They'll fly another mission in the southern no-fly zone a little later this summer. That's the same area that produced Friday's bombing run. Lt. Col. Willie Braggs III says, "if you're patrolling a hostile area anything can happen at anytime, so you have to be prepared for it." The 138th fighter wing has five F-16's and pilots returning from Jordan Saturday. The crews weren't involved with any policing of the no-fly zone on this mission, but have made bombing runs in Iraq on a few occasions.

Col. Braggs says that anytime there are problems in the Middle East, tensions run high. "Anytime someone has the potential of shooting at you it brings a different mentality." The unit will likely return to the Middle East sometime this summer. That is unless Inhofe's warning of a full-blown conflict comes to fruition.

President Bush called Friday's attack a routine mission. The Pentagon says at this point, it doesn't anticipate any more bombings.