The 'huge' threat of Iraq
Wow, the Iraqis are really proving how much of a threat they are to the U.S. in this war, eh? I mean, they could win if aliens from the planet Quarkz came down and fought the war for them...
Missiles rain on Baghdad as Iraqi troops surrender
March 23 2003
The US unleashed a withering air assault on Iraq yesterday, striking Baghdad and targets throughout the country with 1500 precision-guided bombs and cruise missiles in an escalating campaign to drive Saddam Hussein from power.
As waves of ground forces headed steadily north toward Baghdad, the aerial strikes shook the ground in the capital, spewing orange flames and turning night to day with explosions amid flashes of anti-aircraft fire.
Dozens of government buildings were destroyed or damaged within minutes, including several of Saddam's presidential palaces.
"The earth is literally shaking in Baghdad," correspondent Khaled Oweis said.
Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf claimed the massive bombing blitz overnight had wounded 207 civilians, most of them women or children, and that since bombing began, 250 civilians had been injured.
Fires broke out in the wrecked buildings. Ambulances rushed around the city, sirens wailing. Black smoke mushroomed into the air over the presidential palace compound.
Perhaps nothing showed how convincing the military might was more than the sight of a division of Iraqi soldiers defecting near the southern city of Basra - about 8000 men, members of Iraq's 51st Division, described by US forces as hungry and poorly clothed. American officials said 10,000 Iraqi soldiers had surrendered by the end of the day.
The allies faced a setback when two British Royal Navy Sea King helicopters collided over the Gulf, killing all seven on board - six British servicemen and one American.
The accident comes only a day after eight British Royal Marines and four US airmen were killed in a helicopter crash in Kuwait.
Pentagon planners had choreographed the display of military might, in part for psychological impact. Witnesses said the scope and power of the strikes far outstripped the intensity of the American air assault on Baghdad in the 1991 Gulf War.
"I was totally awed...I've never, ever seen anything like that," said retired General Norman Schwarzkopf, who commanded allied forces in that conflict. Now an NBC commentator, he watched the attack on live television, along with millions.
The US-led invasion entered its third day with American ground forces continuing to push rapidly toward Baghdad, where many of Saddam's elite forces are said to be dug in. Operation Shock and Awe, or A-Day for Aerial Day, resulted in more than 300 cruise missiles being launched at the capital from American ships and Royal Navy submarines in the Gulf.
US Marines yesterday secured the western flank of the front line,
and Marines have taken a large swathe of southern Iraq to the west of the Euphrates River, about 150 kilometres north of the Kuwaiti border.
This includes the strategic highway 8, a major four-lane access route, as well as its side roads.
Australian troops and ships also saw their first action, exchanging fire and reportedly killing a number of Iraqi soldiers on the ground and taking prisoners on warships at sea.
As Baghdad burned, fires lit up leadership and military buildings and Republican Guard positions.
There was no indication that Saddam's regime had any intention of giving up. Iraqi television broadcast footage of Saddam meeting with aides, in an effort to dampen speculation that he had been injured or killed in US bombing on Wednesday. American officials continued to say they did not know if he was still alive.
Mr al-Sahhaf, asked if his country planned a counter-strike, said Iraq would guarantee "the defeat of those mercenaries, God willing," and that US President George Bush was "a stupid criminal."
US aircraft flew 2000 sorties as the air campaign began in earnest, including air force F-15E and F-16 fighters as well as navy F-14 Tomcats and F/A-18 Hornet strike fighters launched from aircraft carriers, Pentagon officials said.
Returning US airmen reported significant anti-aircraft fire, however, and US and British ground forces were meeting resistance near Basra, the second largest city.
Iraq continued to fire short-range missiles across the southern border into Kuwait, but none caused significant damage. The Kuwaiti military said at least one was an al-Fatah missile, among the banned weapons that UN inspectors had been searching for.
Two US marines were killed, the first American combat deaths. One died battling Iraqi forces in Iraq's oilfields. The other while fighting for the port city of Umm Qasr, now in US hands.
In southern Iraq, US forces moved to seize control of one of the world's richest oilfields. At least seven wells burned out of control and crude oil poured onto the ground, the apparent result of sabotage.
Preventing Saddam from destroying the oil production facilities is crucial to the US plan to use the sale of Iraq's petroleum to pay for the reconstruction of the country.
Commanders of the main US invasion force in southern Iraq reported sporadic resistance, including tank battles. American units seized three airfields in western Iraq, making them available as staging areas for the assault on Baghdad.
US officials said the air attack was launched from 30 bases in five countries, including Britain and the US.
(Post a new comment)