READY FOR THE FIRST SHOTS

Kevin McLaughlin is at the pointy end of Bill Clinton's spear. Late last week Lieut. McLaughlin--his call sign is "Proton" because he once was a nuclear-reactor operator--sat in the ready room of his F-18 Hornet squadron aboard the U.S.S. Nimitz, a 95,000-ton nuclear-powered aircraft carrier steaming in the Persian Gulf. If Clinton decided it was time to punish Saddam Hussein for his defiance of United Nations inspectors, Proton would climb into his $28 million Hornet--the U.S. Navy's premier fighter-attack jet--and shower Iraq with up to 3,000 lbs. of laser-guided bombs and HARM missiles. McLaughlin was ready, as ready as he would...

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