For more than 40 years I have been hounding the world's scoundrels and scalawags, with a great clanking of the crusader's armor, tilting at windmills with a felt-tip pen, creating more commotion than reformation.

I have assaulted corrupt and dictatorial regimes, head down, eyes unblinking, without regard for the anti-American usurper usually waiting in the wings to take over -- as if American interests are better served by a vigorous, uncompromising enemy than by a lethargic, purse-lining friend, as if the traditional crimes of 5-percenter politics were more repellent than the traditional crimes of radical totalitarianism.

No one was more surprised than myself when occasionally I finished a quest with someone's head on a spike. There was Lon Nol, for example, a sorry specimen who ruled Cambodia with haphazard abandon. He tilted toward the West, so Washington overlooked his shortcomings.

Bribery is a venerable institution in the Eastern Hemisphere, so it didn't take much enterprise to uncover graft within the palace. My stories about this helped fell Lon Nol's regime.

Unhappily, Lon Nol was succeeded by the radical revolutionary, Pol Pot, who renamed the country Kampuchea and began stamping out all vestiges of the past. He accomplished this, with gruesome efficiency, by slaughtering one-third of the populace.

Another who felt the point of my pen was Libya's aged King Idris, surrounded by courtiers lining their own pockets. He was succeeded by Moammar Gadhafi, boss of a tiny gang of radical army officers ready to kindle the Mideast tinderbox.

My attacks on the late, vainglorious shah of Iran so ruffled his peacock feathers that he canceled an interview with ABC television after learning that I appeared on its "Good Morning America" show.

But the shah was succeeded by the angry, implacable Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who fits the label "Great Satan" that he likes to pin on others.

I also came under fire from Nicaragua's late dictator Anastasio Somoza who, after his overthrow, called a news conference in exile and denounced me by name.

Now he has been succeeded by Daniel Ortega, who stole the revolution from the Sandinista majority and imposed Marxism on an unsuspecting people. Ortega made the ousting of the U.S. presence a revolutionary imperative.

I can claim perhaps one modest success. I assailed the Philippines' dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who hit back at me from Malacanang until his unceremonious ouster. I intervened to free his archrival, Benigno Aquino, from prison, supporting him until his martyrdom. After his widow, Corazon Aquino, succeeded Marcos, I joined the rejoicing.

I was also the first to report the bizarre shanghaiing of the South Korean dissident, Kim Dae Jung, who was snatched from his exile in Tokyo, nailed inside a packing crate and hauled home to South Korea by the military dictatorship. I visited him in Seoul while he was under house arrest and joined in an appeal for his release. Now he is running for president.

Yet I believe the ruling party's candidate, Roh Tae Woo, is better qualified to lead South Korea.