Skip to comments.Baghdad hit; Powell warns Syria
Posted on 03/31/2003 7:58:29 AM PST by JohnHuang2
Baghdad hit; Powell warns Syria
Coalition aircraft once again bombed Baghdad in an operation that Central Command called "historic," fighting in An Najaf and An Samana killed some 100 Iraqi troops, and the United States once again warned Syria to cease supporting Saddam Hussein or face the "consequences."
The overnight bombing of Baghdad targeted the Ministry of Information with a Tomahawk Land Attack Munition, CENTCOM said. It said the hit would reduce Saddam's "command and control capabilities."
"The strike enhances the security of coalition forces conducting operations across Iraq," it said.
In a news release headlined "Historic Bomber Package Strikes Baghdad," CENTCOM said for the first time in military history, "multiple B-1, B-2 and B-52 long-range strike aircraft targeted the same geographical area at the same time as part of a single strike package."
It said the bombers targeted leadership and command and control targets of the Iraqi regime using precision munitions.
In fighting in An Najaf and As Samana Sunday, the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division and 82nd Airborne Division respectively killed some 100 Iraqis who were described as "regime terror squad members." Fifty prisoners of war were also taken.
The Washington Post reported Monday some of those POWs may end up in the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where terrorism suspects and members of the Taliban and al-Qaida are held. It said U.S. forces had started rounding up Iraqi men in civilian clothes suspected of being involved with paramilitary squads that have been attacking them in southern Iraq.
The Arabic language al-Jazeera network also reported coalition aircraft attacking the town of Mosul.
Also Monday, the first two trucks since the war began carrying U.N. relief supplies arrived in northern Iraq under the oil for food program, a U.N. spokesman said. There is $14 million in aid relief supplies on the way and a 40 truck convoy will enter soon.
In Washington Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell had harsh word for the Syrian leadership.
"Syria ... faces a critical choice," he told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a Jewish lobby group.
"Syria can continue direct support for terrorist groups and the dying regime of Saddam Hussein, or it can embark on a different and more hopeful course," he said. "Either way, Syria has the responsibility for its choices and for the consequences."
His remarks came two days after U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld also warned the two countries. He accused Syria of selling night-vision goggles to Saddam, calling it a "hostile act," and said Iraqi Shiite forces inside Iran will be regarded as enemy combatants if they interfered with the U.S.-led coalition's operations inside Iraq.
Both countries rejected the criticism.
Also Sunday, U.S. Army Gen. Tommy Franks said coalition forces had established bases in the north and west of Iraq -- capturing a "very large terrorist camp" at Kurmal in the process -- and continued its assault on the large cities in the eastern part of the country.
Iraqi Brig. Hazem al-Rawi said his forces had inflicted much damage on U.S. and British personnel and equipment. He said that over the weekend, tribal forces had shot down a helicopter, destroyed several tanks and killed several coalition troops. U.S. officials said no aircraft were missing and disputed the other claims.
Al-Rawi, speaking in Baghdad, put the coalition death toll in the hundreds, while U.S. officials say 36 U.S. troops -- and a similar number of Britons -- have been killed. Al-Rawi's words also appeared to make suicide attacks part of the current Iraqi war plan.
Two days after an Iraqi officer killed four U.S. soldiers -- the Iraqis put the toll much higher -- by blowing himself up in a taxi and was honored with a posthumous promotion and two medals, al-Rawi said to expect more such attacks.
"It is not at all remarkable that a dying regime should resort to such suicide-bombing tactics," Franks said at a briefing in Qatar.
He added, "Of course it's a threat. We see them occupying centers of cites and in a positions to terrorize the inhabitants and to move out in an attempt to interdict our supplies. They have not been able to do so."
Several of the British casualties have been from so-called "friendly fire" incidents when members of the coalition have accidentally fired upon them.
On Monday, the Times of London interviewed three wounded British soldiers who described how they survived an attack by a U.S. anti-tank aircraft that killed one of their colleagues and destroyed two armored vehicles.
One survivor criticized the American pilot for showing "no regard for human life" and accused him of being a cowboy.
"There was a boy of about 12 years old. He was no more than 20 meters away when the Yank opened up," the soldiers told the newspaper. "There were all these civilians around. He had absolutely no regard for human life. I believe he was a cowboy."
Combat operations continued in Iraq, but apparently at a lower level of intensity than in the first week of the war. However, Franks said what some are calling a pause in the coalition advance on Baghdad, is not that -- at least not in military terms.
"It is simply not the case that there is any operations pause. There is a continuity of operations in this plan. We are on plan. And where we stand today is not only acceptable. It is remarkable," he said.
The Washington Times reported Monday, however, that several military officials and military analysts believe the U.S.-led air war spared too many targets in Iraq in the war's first days.
Additional U.S. forces were deployed in the Kurdish-controlled north of Iraq, a Kurdish official told United Press International. Franks said a northern front had been opened and U.S. forces had carried out airstrikes against Iraqi positions near Mosul and Kirkuk. Franks described the U.S. presence in the north as a "very capable force with enormous leverage in air power."
In the western part of the country, Franks said coalition planes were operating from airfields and were in effective control of the area to inhibit "the use of weapons of mass destruction against neighbors and allies," an apparent reference to the perceived danger that Iraq might try to hit Israel with chemical or biological agents in a missile, in an effort to draw them into the war.
In southern Iraq, U.S. forces discovered the corpses of several of their comrades buried in a shallow grave and some of the bodies appeared to have been brutalized. In addition, bloodied uniforms and what appeared to be a torture device was found near where several U.S. personnel were reported missing last week. Iraqi Information Minister Mohammad Saeed al-Sahhaf did not comment on the allegation other than to say Iraqi forces have been burying the coalition dead "according to the traditions and rituals of their religion. We cannot keep the bodies of those killed like that."
Al-Sahhaf charged the coalition had bombed fruit and vegetable markets in Hamdan near Basra and civilian residents in other villages. Coalition officers reiterated their position that they take care to target only military and government facilities. Franks praised how "precise" the bombardment had been.
Rumsfeld, appearing on "Fox News Sunday," said he did not know whether U.S. or Iraqi ordinance had been responsible for an explosion at a Baghdad market Friday that authorities in the city said killed 58 civilians.
"I don't know," he said. "We're not on the ground there so we can't say... I do notice that they apparently have fired their air defense general because a number of things seem to be coming back down and misfiring and killing innocent Iraqis... we'll know some day."
The United States and Britain fashioned the coalition to force compliance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, passed unanimously in November, which ordered Iraq to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction. Coalition countries say Iraq was not complying and so was subject to the "serious consequences" threatened in 1441.
Asked about such weapons, Rumsfeld said: "There isn't a hunt... The bulk of the weapons of mass destruction activity and sites (are) south of Baghdad and north of Baghdad. ... That's an area we haven't arrived in yet...(We're) not in there looking for weapons of mass destruction. That will come after the war."
(Reported by Martin Walker in Kuwait City; Claude Salhani in London; Nicholas Horrock in Ankara, Turkey; Dalal Saoud in Beirut; Ghassan al-Kadi in Baghdad; and Saud Abu Ramadan in Gaza.)
Copyright © 2001-2003 United Press International
Now it can be told. Saddam is supposed to be a big fan of the Godfather movies, but you can't be a Godfather unless you have the "muscle" to whack your enemies. So, he has instead taken inspiration from another movie: Blazing Saddles.
Remember when the guy about to be hanged put a gun to his own head and threatened to pull the trigger if the townspeople didn't back off and let him escape? That's what Saddam is doing with his population in Baghdad.
The Blazing Saddles Defense may slow things down, and may cause unnecessary death, but it won't work as it did in the movie. But if I were Saddam (or whoever is standing in for him at this juncture) I'd be willing to try anything.