It is reasonable to assume that anyone who grew up in Chicago would know at least a half-dozen professional killers, but I know only two and they're from New York.
I have never met them personally, but I have a close friend who went to high school with them. They are not bad people, he emphasizes, they are just two guys who found themselves with certain marketable skills and went into business together.
I will call them Stuart and Julius, which are not their real names, but their real names are as ordinary sounding as those. (Killers with names like "Tony The Tuna" and "Momo the Meat-Axe" are usually found only in tabloid newspapers and fiction.)
Stuart and Julius do not kill at random, out of anger or by accident and are therefore a lot safer than the 20,000 or so other killers America spawns every year.
I tried to reach them the other day to see what they thought the chances were of a professional hit on Saddam Hussein.
I am not suggesting that Stuart and Julius could do it themselves -- they are small-timers -- but the U.S. government could certainly find a few big-time killers if it wanted to.
And it should. No matter what our stated goals are in the Persian Gulf war, we really cannot accept any solution that leaves Saddam Hussein alive and in power.
We could, perhaps, capture him. But then what? Try him for war crimes? For parading our POWs through the streets?
First-degree murderers in this country serve an average of only eight years before they are paroled or have their sentences commuted.
So what's Saddam going to get for parading a prisoner? A hundred hours of community service?
Let's face it, what we really need to do is ice this guy.
And that's because one of the worst things he could do to us right now is withdraw his troops from Kuwait.
Although we say that is all we want from this war, that would still leave a wealthy, powerful Saddam on the border of Kuwait with a virtually untouched army and a still-large air force.
We would have to spend our time getting our troops back home (the American public is not going to allow them to stay there forever) while he spent his time re-arming, buying bigger and better weapons for his next military adventure.
So figure it out: We need him dead or gone or both.
I first recommended the assassination of Saddam Hussein on Aug. 10 of last year and I wasn't kidding then, either.
What's that? Assassination? How horrible. How terrible. How slimy. How un-American.
That's what some people say.
And so instead of sending in two guys with rifles and sniper scopes, we are sending in 500,000 men and women, the troops of our allies, thousands of planes, ships and tanks, and we are spending anywhere from $500 million to $1 billion per day to do it.
How is that any less horrible? Voltaire said: "Killing a man is murder unless you do it to the sound of trumpets." So we have sounded the trumpets and sent in our troops.
And we say if Saddam gets accidentally killed in this war, that would be swell.
But how many American lives will be lost before that happy accident occurs?
I don't see why we should be so squeamish. Sending a Tomahawk missile into Baghdad is no less murderous than shooting a guy in the head as he walks to his car.
War risks very many good and innocent lives. Assassination risks very few, if any.
There is a presidential order against assassination, signed by Gerald Ford in February 1976. It states "no employee of the United States government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination."
It was reaffirmed by Ronald Reagan, who widened it to ban U.S. intelligence agencies from requesting "any person" to engage in political assassination.
But this would not be political assassination. Saddam is marching around wearing the military uniform of a field marshal. So it would be a military assassination, which means it probably wouldn't be an assassination at all. It would be a simple act of war.
Could we find the right people to do it? Well, after a few phone calls to New York to try to find the two hit men I know, I learned that Stuart had died in a car accident and Julius has not been heard from in some time.
But a country as rich in natural resources as ours could certainly come up with a few good men.
Sure, Saddam is very careful, uses look-alikes, changes his routes and is well-guarded. I am not saying getting him would be easy. I am not saying it would be guaranteed.
I am just saying it is worth a try.
Our president said last week that "no one should weep for this tyrant when he is brought to justice."
He did not necessarily mean a trial. "Equal and exact justice to all" is what Thomas Jefferson said America promised.
And if Saddam Hussein should not make it through this war alive, I can't imagine anything more equal or exact or just than that.