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Well, I'm still waiting for the triumphal parade. I don't mean the welcome home parades for the troops. I mean the parade, like the ones the Romans used to stage, in which they show off all the gains of war.

It seems to me the American people ought to get something out of this Persian Gulf war. After all, they paid for it. They bought the allies. They bought the Security Council resolutions. They bought the war machines. And they supplied their sons and daughters.So what do they get in return for all that?

It's easy to see what other folks have gotten. Egypt's president, Hosni Mubarak, got a $7 billion gift from the taxpayers plus whatever the Saudis paid him. The word is the Saudis slipped old Hafez al-Assad of Syria about $3 billion and of course we gave him the wink to kill whoever he thought needed killing in Lebanon. I've heard the Turks got $2 billion for their part in the deal and the Israelis got $650 million plus a lot of Patriot missiles for staying out of it.

The old emir of Kuwait, Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah, got his country back, though it is in a lot worse shape than it was when he left it, driving hell for leather, to a Saudi resort last Aug. 2 where he spent the war. I don't know what he was doing during the war, but it obviously was not planning the reconstruction of his country. That's going a lot slower than the war did.

The Saudis and the other gulf sheiks picked up a little bit extra on the world oil market and will continue to do so while Kuwait and Iraqi oil production is shut down. There's so much oil in the world, though, the price naturally drops when the speculators leave it alone.

Well, that's the on-the-table stuff we know about. We don't know what passed under the table or what promises were whispered in their ears in private meetings. We do know we will end up with the bill for whatever it is.

So where's the benefit for Americans? Yeah, I know a few corporate vultures are circling over Kuwait looking for plump, succulent contracts and no doubt some will find them. But us ordinary folks who don't hang out with the Fortune 500 crowd in that weird resort out in California don't seem to benefit much from their contracts. Lots of folks are still getting laid off from their jobs over here in the 'burbs.

So where's the benefit? If you kill 100,000 to 150,000 human beings, there ought to be some benefit to be gained or else it's a horrible thing to do. After dropping 88,850 tons of high explosives on Iraq and its army in Kuwait, after condemning Iraqi civilians to years of drudgery by destroying their infrastructure, after visiting hunger and disease on their children - surely, after doing all that, the American people must get something out of it.

So where's the loot? In what specific way did all this mayhem improve the lives of the American people? In what specific ways are we better off now than we were before we incurred the just enmity of 17 million people?

If I'm one of the families who had to bury a son or daughter, I know I can be proud of their courage and their devotion to duty, but what did their commander in chief purchase with their lives? I surely hope it is more than a new palace for Sheik Sabah or another billion-plus contract for Bechtel. The sheik's comfort isn't worth the life of a dog, much less a fine young American. As for the corporations, you'd think they'd be content with all they made off the Vietnam War.

I've heard some politicians mention freedom but there wasn't any freedom in Kuwait before the Iraqi invasion and there isn't any now, just as there wasn't and isn't any freedom in Saudi Arabia. There was no democracy in those places either, nor much respect for human rights.

It doesn't seem unreasonable to want to know what we Americans gained for all the billions, for all the precious life, for all the human misery. Don't tell us it was nothing. That kind of goes down hard.