|An explosion is seen in Baghdad as the US launched a war on Iraq with air stikes on the capital(AFP/Patrick Baz)||A Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM) leaves the deck of the guided missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) toward military targets in Iraq (news - web sites), March 20, 2003. The Bunker Hill is currently forward deployed to the Gulf in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. President George W. Bush unleashed a war to topple Saddam Hussein on Thursday with dawn air strikes on Baghdad but the Iraqi leader responded defiantly, denouncing the 'criminal little Bush.' REUTERS/U.S NAVY PHOTOGRAPH|
1) Iraq Fires Missiles Toward US Troops
(March 20: AP)
2) Potential Targets All Across Baghdad (March 20: AP)
3) U.S. Officials: Saddam a Strike Target (March 20: AP)
4) Bush Launches Military Strikes On Iraq (March 20: AP)
5) Saddam Backers Take Up Arms in Baghdad (March 19: AP)
6) As missiles fly, so do Web messages (March 20: Reuters)
A U.S. War on Iraq Violates U.N. Charter
'Uniting for peace' resolution may be last option to stop conflict
Between The LIne Radio Show (USA)
Interview by Scott Harris. Listen to RealAudio version of program:
Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Michael Ratner, president
the Center for Constitutional Rights, who explains the "Uniting for
Peace" option and the damage that he fears will be done to the system of
international law by a unilateral U.S. war on Iraq.
IN THE KUWAITI DESERT (AP) - Iraq fired missiles into Kuwait in a series of apparently ineffectual counterattacks against U.S. troops and Kuwaiti civilians Thursday, forcing American soldiers to put on gas masks and chemical protective suits.
There were no immediate reports of any injuries or damage, and there was no evidence the missiles had chemical or biological warheads.
Soldiers were given the all-clear after several minutes.
Details of the attacks were difficult to establish because of security restrictions on U.S. reporters accompanying American troops and the confusion over repeated missile alerts.
A British military spokesman, Lt. Col. Ronnie McCourt, confirmed three missiles were fired by the Iraqis into Kuwait, including one Scud that was intercepted by a Patriot. Col. Youssef al-Mullah, spokesman for the Kuwaiti military, said four missiles were fired at Kuwait.
The missile attacks came hours after the U.S. air strike on Baghdad.
Missiles landed near U.S. troops, one of them falling near the men of A Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment. They were eating lunch when they heard the missile land in the desert before they actually heard the locomotive-like roar of the rocket flying through the air.
The men swiftly put on their masks and their protective suits, then waited in the desert heat for about 20 minutes before the all-clear crackled over the radio.
The men returned to cleaning their weapons, reading books and waiting for their part of the war to begin.
``I know what I'll be using as a pillow tonight,'' Staff Sgt. Bryce Ivings of Sarasota, Fla., said of his protective suit.
At Camp New Jersey - a second encampment in the Kuwaiti desert where soldiers put on their protective gear because of a missile attack - officers said the missile appeared to be an Al Samoud 2, which is smaller than a Scud.
Kuwaiti army commanders also announced a missile was launched at Kuwait City at about 1:30 p.m. Thursday. Air raid sirens sounded in the Kuwaiti capital.
Earlier, in what appeared to be a separate attack, Kuwaiti Defense Minister Sheik Jaber Mubarak Al Sabah told The Kuwait News Agency two Iraqi missiles fell on the border with Iraq. There were no casualties or damage, another official told KUNA.
Shops and restaurants in the city remained open and there were still cars and pedestrians on the streets.
Hassan al-Matrouk, a lawyer, went to a supermarket to buy some food after the sirens wailed two times.
``The first time, we went into the safe room we had prepared at home. My wife and children were afraid. The second time, they went into the room and I stayed in the living room watching television,'' said the 48-year-old Kuwaiti.
``I believe he will use chemical weapons against us and that will be a stupid decision, because it will lead to attacking Baghdad with nuclear weapons.''
The government announced it was closing Kuwait University and public schools for a week starting Saturday, which is the first day of the week here.
03/20/03 08:36 EST
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Baghdad has always been the command center - the commercial, cultural, political and military heart of Iraq.
Potential targets for U.S. air strikes are spread across the city of about 5 million people, a metropolitan sprawl bisected by the wide and tightly winding Tigris River.
The ``center of the center'' - two presidential palaces linked by two miles of green and heavily guarded riverside domain - lies at a broad bend in the Tigris at Baghdad's core. One of the vast complexes, the Republican Palace, is the seat of President Saddam Hussein's government and its grounds are believed to hold a major bunker system.
Even in peacetime, few knew in which of the dozens of Iraqi palaces Saddam might be working or sleeping on any day. In wartime, the secrecy would grow even tighter.
Between these two major Baghdad palaces, across a broad, little-traveled al-Kindi Street, the gargantuan Baath Party headquarters - which dwarfs most government buildings in Washington - has been rebuilt in recent years after suffering heavy damage in 1991 Gulf War bombing. As a symbol of Iraq's authoritarian one-party system, it might again become a target.
This area west of the Tigris - west Baghdad - is dotted with important security and other government installations: Republican Guard and military intelligence headquarters, the Foreign and Information ministries and the radio-television center. It also is home to the National Museum and other tourist destinations from quieter times.
It's a district of high-rise housing projects and grand boulevards lined with majestic buildings, some fronted by heroic, larger-than-life statues of Saddam. Presidential portraits are everywhere, sometimes even painted on the sides of buildings.
In the 1991 war, Americans targeted Tigris River bridges, important links not just between Baghdad's two halves but between western and eastern halves of Iraq. The central Jumhuriya Bridge was destroyed but since has been rebuilt, topped by a Saddam portrait. Well-disciplined units man anti-aircraft guns near the bridge abutments, eyes forever skyward.
Farther from the center, U.S. targeters might focus on the al-Rashid military airfield in east Baghdad, and perhaps on some of the military industrial establishments across the capital, such as the Karama missile works in northern Baghdad.
03/20/03 08:37 EST
The United States launched the opening salvo Wednesday night of a war to topple Saddam Hussein, firing cruise missiles and precision-guided bombs into Baghdad. U.S. officials said the Iraqi leader himself was among the targets.
``This will not be a campaign of half-measures and we will accept no outcome but victory,'' President Bush said in an Oval Office address shortly after explosions ricocheted through the pre-dawn light of the Iraqi capital.
Anti-aircraft tracer fire arced across the Baghdad sky as the American munitions bore in on their targets. A ball of fire shot skyward after one explosion.
Saddam appeared on state-run television a few hours after the attack. He said the United States had committed a ``shameful crime'' by attacking Iraq, and urged his country to ``draw your sword'' against the enemy. He appeared unhurt, and wore a military uniform.
The missiles struck less than two hours after the expiration of Bush's deadline for Saddam to surrender power or face war.
Bush described the targets as being of ``military importance,'' and one White House official said the attack was the result of fresh intelligence that prompted an earlier-than-planned opening strike.
Two officials knowledgeable about the operation said the Iraqi dictator was among the ``leadership targets'' that the strikes were aimed at.
It was clear from Bush's words - he called it the opening stages of a ``broad and concerted campaign'' - that the war to topple the Iraqi dictator and eliminate his weapons of mass destruction had begun.
Earlier in the day, Bush told Congress the attack was part of a worldwide war against terrorism, and American forces launched a raid in Afghanistan at the same time it struck in Iraq. About 1,000 members of the 82nd Airborne Division moved into villages in southeastern Afghanistan, looking for members of the al-Qaida network.
In Iraq, an American-led invasion force of 300,000 troops awaited the order to strike more broadly. U.S. and British forces massed in the Kuwaiti desert close to the Iraqi border, giant B-52 warplanes were loaded with bombs and Tomahawk missile-carrying ships were in position, all awaiting an attack order from Bush.
Bush had given Saddam 48 hours to leave the country or face war.
The ultimatum expired at 8 p.m. EST - 4 a.m. Thursday in Baghdad, its population shrunken in recent days by an exodus of thousands of fearful residents.
Not long after, White House chief of staff Andrew Card informed the president that intelligence officials had no information that Saddam had left Iraq, and Saddam's regime gave every appearance of digging in.
In the minutes after the deadline, Iraqi TV showed footage of a pro-Saddam march Tuesday in Baghdad, with members of the crowd chanting pro-Saddam slogans, some brandishing rifles and carrying pictures of Saddam.
``We are dedicated to martyrdom in defense of Iraq under your leadership,'' a loyal Iraqi parliament assured the Iraqi dictator before the U.S. attack, and armed members of the ruling Baath party deployed behind hundreds of sandbagged defensive positions in Baghdad.
Even so, 17 Iraqi soldiers surrendered to American GIs during the day, eager to give up before the shooting started.
Bush met periodically throughout the day with his top aides at the White House and sent formal notice to Congress that reliance on ``further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone'' would not suffice to counter ``the continuing threat posed by Iraq.''
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the nation ``ought to be prepared for the loss'' of American lives once the military effort begins to depose Saddam and recover weapons of mass destruction.
Along with the U.S.-led force approaching 300,000 troops massed in the Persian Gulf region were 1,000 combat aircraft and five aircraft carrier battle groups. The United States claims the public or private support of 45 other nations in a coalition to topple Saddam. But only Britain, with about 40,000 troops, was making a sizable contribution to the military force.
In a run-up to war, U.S. aircraft also dropped nearly 2 million leaflets over southern Iraq with a variety of messages, including, for the first time, instructions to Iraqi troops on how to capitulate to avoid being killed.
Hundreds of miles away, at an air base in England, crews loaded bombs aboard giant B-52 combat aircraft.
Apart from the desire to capture weapons of mass destruction, Bush's submission to Congress said a military attack could lead to the discovery of information that would allow the apprehension of terrorists living in the United States. An attack, it said, ``is a vital part of the international war on terrorism.''
Despite deep divisions at the United Nations, Bush also claimed ``the authority - indeed, given the dangers involved, the duty - to use force against Iraq to protect the security of the American people and to compel compliance with United Nations resolutions.''
The diplomatic wheels still turned at the United Nations, where foreign ministers met in the Security Council at the request of the French and Germans, prominent critics of the American military operation.
``This is a sad day for the United Nations,'' said the organization's secretary-general, Kofi Annan. ``I know that millions of people around the world share this sense of disappointment and are deeply alarmed.''
Bush abandoned diplomacy on Monday, and administration officials blamed French intransigence for the lack of consensus on a new Security Council resolution that would have given Saddam an ultimatum.
Another country in the region, Bahrain, publicly offered exile to Saddam ``in a dignified manner that should not be seen as undermining Iraq's position and capabilities.''
``It's the last-hour chance and we hope that Iraq will accept this offer
to avoid war,'' Information Minister Nabil al-Hamer told The Associated
03/20/03 00:52 EST
WASHINGTON (AP) - Taking the nation to war, President Bush said the conflict in Iraq may be long and difficult but the U.S. troops will succeed at their mission ``to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.''
``The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder,'' the president said in an Oval Office address a little more than two hours after his 8 p.m. EST ultimatum for Saddam Hussein to give up power.
He said U.S. forces launched airstrikes against ``targets of military importance.'' A U.S. military official said about three dozen cruise missiles were fired from a small number of ships at ``leadership targets.''
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was not certain whether Saddam was a target. Shortly before the attack, Bush was told U.S. intelligence believed Saddam was still in Iraq.
``These are opening stages of what will be a broad and concerted campaign,'' the president said.
He spoke in vague but grim terms about the sacrifices ahead.
``A campaign on the harsh terrain of a nation as large as California could be longer and more difficult than some predict,'' he said.
``America faces an enemy who has no regard for conventions of war or rules of morality.''
There was no indication whether the attack was successful.
``Now that the conflict has come, the only way to limit its duration is to apply decisive force,'' the president said. ``And I assure you, this will not be a campaign of half measures and we will accept no outcome but victory.''
The strikes used Tomahawk cruise missiles and precision-guided bombs dropped from F-117 Nighthawks, the Air Force's stealth fighter-bombers, military officials said.
Bush gave the attack go-ahead near the end of a hastily arranged three-and-a-half-hour meeting with his war council - including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was the third meeting of the day between Bush and the group.
A senior White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that military advisers originally did not intend to begin the assault Wednesday. However, Bush was told in the third meeting that fresh intelligence had prompted military planners to change their recommendation.
The official would not say what the intelligence was but said it prompted Bush to order the strike shortly after 6:30 p.m. EST.
The president then reviewed his address with his chief speechwriter and went to the residence for dinner with Laura Bush. They were in the living room when White House chief of staff Andrew Card called to inform the president that intelligence officials had no information that Saddam had left Iraq.
Bush polished his remarks and headed back to the Oval Office to deliver them to a jittery nation.
Moments before his image was beamed to a worldwide audience, Bush was asked by an aide how he was doing. ``I feel great,'' Bush said, clenching his fist.
He spoke as a U.S.-led force of 300,000 troops ringed Iraq, ready to launch a ferocious assault to topple the Iraqi dictator and capture any weapons of mass destruction.
The United States has initiated attacks in such places as Grenada and Panama, but war in Iraq would set a new standard for pre-emptive military action.
``On my order, coalition forces have begun targeting selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein's ability to wage war,'' the president said. ``These are the opening stages of what will be a broad and concerted campaign.''
As he has many times in the run-up to war, Bush declared that the United States has ``no ambition in Iraq except to remove a threat. Our forces will be coming home as soon as their work is done.''
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer had announced Bush's plans to speak on short notice. Fleischer spoke as anti-aircraft fire and explosions were heard across Baghdad after air raid sirens went off at the capital at dawn.
Bush's speech came at the end of an anxious day of waiting at the White House. Extra security enveloped the executive mansion while aides inside whispered rumors of Iraqi defections and surrenders.
Bush sent Congress formal notice that he had determined ``further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone'' would not be enough to contain the ``threat posed by Iraq.'' Bush has contended that Saddam possesses chemical and biological weapons that he could use on his enemies or slip to terrorists.
Offering fresh justification for war, the report said one of the spoils of victory may be information about terror cells in the United States.
``United States government personnel operating in Iraq may discover information through Iraqi government documents and interviews with detained Iraqi officials that would identify individuals currently in the United States and abroad who are linked to terrorist organizations,'' the report said.
White House officials said the assertion was mostly speculative.
03/20/03 00:30 EST
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Hundreds of armed members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party and security forces deployed Wednesday throughout Baghdad, taking positions behind sandbags and in foxholes ahead of the U.S. deadline for the Iraqi leader to leave or face war.
But there was no sign of regular army troops, and much of Baghdad, a normally vibrant city of 5 million people, was deserted as darkness fell, with almost every store shut. Traffic was light all day and residents continued to stream out, heading for the relative safety of the countryside.
Iraqi officials, however, remained defiant in the face of about 300,000 U.S. and British troops backed by 1,000 warplanes and a fleet of warships - all ready for an attack on Iraq to rid it of weapons of mass destruction that Washington and London say Saddam is concealing.
President Bush gave Saddam and his sons until 4 a.m. local time Thursday (8 p.m. EST Wednesday) to leave Iraq or face war. Saddam rejected the 48-hour ultimatum on Tuesday.
Members of Iraq's parliament declared their loyalty to Saddam on Wednesday and renewed their confidence in his leadership.
``We are dedicated to martyrdom in defense of Iraq under your leadership,'' they said in a message to Saddam issued at the end of their session.
Speaker Saadoun Hammadi opened the meeting by saying: ``The people of Iraq, with a free and honest will, have spoken decisively and clearly in choosing their mujahid leader Saddam Hussein president of the country.''
Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, meanwhile, appeared at a news conference in Baghdad, putting to rest rumors he had abandoned the Iraqi regime and declaring that he, like other Iraqis, would rally behind Saddam.
Ruling out a last-minute political solution, Aziz told the hurriedly convened news conference: ``We are ready to fight, prepared to face the aggressors and are certain of victory.''
Aziz scoffed at rumors of his defection as part of a psychological war against Iraq, adding: ``It is not going to be a short war, unless he (President Bush) decides to end his aggression. It is not going to be a picnic for him.''
``I am carrying my pistol to confirm to you that we are ready to fight the aggressors,'' said Aziz, who appeared in uniform. ``American soldiers are nothing but mercenaries and they will be defeated.''
Bahrain, a small Persian Gulf state allied with the United States, offered Saddam a haven Wednesday, the first such offer to be publicly extended to the Iraqi leader as Arabs scramble to avert war. There was no immediate comment in Baghdad on the offer.
The Baath loyalists and security forces, meanwhile, stood behind hundreds of sandbagged positions built throughout the city over the past two weeks. Some were inside foxholes. Most were armed with Kalashnikovs, but some had rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine-guns. On the city's southern fringes, several anti-aircraft guns could be seen.
Even Baghdad's traffic policemen wore helmets and carried assault rifles.
The Baathists, who wore olive-green uniforms and deployed in clusters of fours and fives, are widely expected to take charge of keeping law and order in Baghdad and other main Iraqi cities in the event of war.
Saddam, Iraq's president of 23 years, also was expected to look to them and other loyal militiamen and troops to deal with any anti-government stirrings by groups tempted to capitalize on the chaos caused by war to try to seize power.
Curiously, there was no sign Wednesday of Iraq's army troops or armor in or outside Baghdad, where Saddam is widely expected to make his final stand against any invaders.
The Iraqi leadership rejected Bush's ultimatum Tuesday in a statement issued after a joint meeting of the top executive Revolution Command Council and the Baath Party - chaired by Saddam.
Asked after Wednesday's parliament's session whether Saddam would bow to U.S. demands and flee, Hammadi said: ``He will be in front of everyone. He will fight and guide our country to victory. This is absolutely unthinkable.''
Iraq's parliament is a rubber-stamp legislature. Saddam's Revolution Command Council and the ruling Arab Baath Socialist Party have the final say in the country.
Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf told a news conference Wednesday that Washington was deceiving American troops about the number of casualties they would sustain.
``We tell American soldiers and officers in Kuwait or wherever else they may be: 'Open your eyes and be alert to the lies of the American administration' ... (to say that) invading Iraq will be like a picnic is a stupid idea,'' he said.
Earlier on Wednesday, Baghdad residents did last-minute shopping at the food stores that remained open, seemingly resigned that war would come within hours.
``We cry for Baghdad,'' said civil servant and part-time Baghdad historian Abdel-Jabar al-Tamimi. ``Tonight, we shall be awake waiting for the bombs to fall, but we will also remember that God is stronger than oppression. Wars come and go, but Baghdad will remain.''
Shelves in many shops in the commercial heart of Baghdad were nearly empty after store owners moved their merchandise to warehouses, fearing bombing or looting.
``I took all my goods home for fear of the bombing,'' said Tareq Khalil, who owns a store that sells eyeglass frames on Al-Rasheed Street, Baghdad's oldest surviving road.
The dinar, Iraq's currency, also lost ground against the U.S. dollar, slumping to about 2,900 to the dollar, compared to 2,800 on Tuesday and 2,600 a week ago.
Along the road from Baghdad to Jordan, gas stations were crowded but traffic was thin.
Some gas stations along the sand-swept route had emptied their tanks trying to match the demand, with the cost of a gallon of gas soaring to nearly $4 from its usual 8 cents.
U.N. weapons inspectors flew out of Iraq on Tuesday, ordered out by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan after the United States indicated war was near.
Foreign Minister Naji Sabri criticized Annan for withdrawing the inspectors
as well as humanitarian workers and U.N. observers on the Iraq-Kuwait border,
calling it a violation of U.N. resolutions that cleared ``the path for aggression.''
03/19/03 15:37 EST
BEIJING/NEW YORK, March 20 (Reuters) - Moments after the first missiles hit Iraq, Web surfers around the world logged on to get the latest news and unleash their own barrage of messages.
Online news portals in the United States and China -- which have nearly a quarter of a billion Web users between them -- reported three times as much traffic as usual, showing the power of the Net as a major source of information and ringing up profits for Web portals.
"Our page views went through the roof," said Sohu.com spokeswoman Caroline Straathof. Some 20,000 people had registered for the Chinese portal's SMS-based news service in the first few hours of the war, paying about 25 yuan ($3) a month to receive urgent news on their mobile phones, she said.
People across the world also tapped away on their mobile phones, sending each other phone text messages of fear, outrage and black humour.
"Have you heard that when the United States takes over Iraq it will divide the country into three zones -- premium, regular and unleaded," said one message circulating in Manila -- a hotbed of text messaging.
Chat rooms at three of China's portals were humming with activity, with many users bashing the United States.
"Let's beat down U.S. imperialism! Bush is the ringleader of the invader! Bush is Hitler of the 21st century!" said one Web user named "xuchangc" on NetEase.com.
"Think of those poor children, elders and women in Iraq, they are innocent! Long life Saddam, long live Iraq!"
The Internet has emerged as a key source for news, communication and comfort during major events, especially after the September 11 attacks on the United States.
The United States and China are the world's biggest Web countries, with about 170 million U.S. and 59 million Chinese Internet users in 2002, the semi-official China Internet Network Information Centre said in January.
Yahoo Inc's news site saw about three times more traffic than it would in a typical hour directly after President George W. Bush told Americans in a speech that the U.S. had launched a war on Iraq, according to spokeswoman Joanna Stevens.
Traffic at the Internet arm of cable news network MSNBC was running at two to two-and-a-half times normal levels after the war started, said Dean Wright, editor-in-chief.
The Web site would target people at work who have high-speed connections by adding a live video television stream in the next few days, he said.
SLOW MOTION WAR
Some Philippine mobile phone operators had boosted network capacity to cope with an anticipated surge in calls, particularly because some 1.3 million Filipinos work in the Middle East, but they reported no spikes in usage.
"This has been a sort of slow-motion war and many of those that have been concerned have probably already talked to their relatives abroad in the past few days," said Ramon Isberto, head of public affairs at Smart Communications Inc, a cellular unit of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co (PLDT).
The Philippines' 80 million people send an estimated 165 million messages a day, making them among the busiest users of thumbs on their phones in the world.
"America has lost its moral ascendancy," said one Filipino in a text message to his brother, an officer in the U.S. Navy, before the attacks began.
"As a soldier of a mighty nation that's about to swat a fly with tonnes of ammunition, you'll always have our prayers."
NEWS DRIVES NET
In the first six hours after the attack started, about 40 million users visited the Chinese portal's Sina.com's site compared with a daily average of just 20 million users, Chen said.
Customers also flocked to sign up for Sina.com's short messaging (SMS) news alert service which costs between eight to 30 yuan, he said, adding the firm expected to double its SMS users to 1,000,000 people by the end of the year because of attention generated by the war.
"From a purely business point of view, this war will have a positive impact," Sina.com editor in chief Chen Tong told Reuters. "It will be a major source of information for Chinese, especially because cable news does not run 24 hours a day here."
The search for news of the threat of war has driven many Americans to the Web. The 15 top news sites had an average 41 percent more traffic on Tuesday than their daily average over the previous four weeks, according to Comscore Media Metrix.
The conflict with Iraq will be the biggest war involving the United States since the Internet became a major medium. In the 1991 Gulf War, the Internet was in very early stages of development and cable television networks were the dominant source for breaking news for many people.
While activity on the Internet picked up after Bush's speech, there was no crush of Web traffic because many Americans were at home watching TV rather than at work in front of their computers.
"People are still watching the television and right now this is a visual thing," said Eric Siegel, principal consultant at Keynote Systems, which measures the performance of Internet sites. "As more information appears than they can get from the TV, people will turn to the Web."
(Additional reporting by Michael Barker and Dolly Aglay in Manila, Kiyoshi
Takenaka in Tokyo and Muralikumar Anantharaman in Singapore)
03/20/03 07:01 ET