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Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service March 29, 2003

Daily question and answer about the war in Iraq

Q: Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, who gives the daily briefings in Qatar, wears a patch of the U.S. flag on his right shoulder. But the flag is backward. What gives?

A: Several Detroit Free Press readers spotted Brooks' patch _ and the patches on uniforms of other U.S. troops _ and wondered the same thing. The answer is blowing in the wind _ sort of.

The flag patch on the right shoulder is known as "flag forward," according to a Pentagon spokesman. That means the soldier is treated like a flagpole facing the wind. Flag patches on the right shoulder would "blow" backward. Patches on the left should wave correctly.

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Q: Is it really so unusual that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would use a double to throw off possible assassins?

A: Not at all. Nor is he the first major political figure to use a double (or two) to fake out opponents. Historians say George Washington, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt used doubles. Adolf Hitler was suspected of using a double, and so was Josef Stalin.

But when it comes to decoys, Saddam has been a master of deception, trotting out as many as 16 look-alikes by one estimate.

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Q: What makes the Iraqi Republican Guard "elite" as so many news organizations describe it?

A: Military experts say Iraq's Republican Guard is the country's best-trained and best-equipped, and gets the best housing and the best pay.

But while the Republican Guard gets the best Iraq has, it's believed to be the best of very little.

GlobalSecurity.org, an Alexandria, Va.-based organization that compiles data on military forces, estimates the Republican Guard has 50,000 men. The force was once open only to young men from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit but expanded recruiting during the Iran-Iraq War.

Republican Guard recruits receive a monthly salary of about $40, compared to $5 for a newly appointed Iraqi civil servant with a college degree. They also get plots of land, extra food, and free health care and education for their children.

In the 1991 Persian Gulf War, one of the guard's most battle-hardened units, the Medina division, lost 61 tanks and 34 armored personnel carriers in less than an hour of fighting against the U.S. 1st Armored Division near Basra.

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Many people have suggested the war with Iraq is about controlling that country's huge oil reserves. Some answers to questions about Iraq's oil:

Q: How much oil does Iraq have?

A: It has about 112.5 billion barrels in proven reserves. That puts Iraq second only to Saudi Arabia, which has 262 billion barrels in reserve. But geologists have suggested Iraq may have another 220 billion barrels so far unverified.

Q: What's special about Iraq oil?

A: It's cheaper to produce, and with overland pipelines running through Syria and Turkey, Iraqi oil can be delivered directly to the eastern Mediterranean, closer to European markets.

Q: What's the state of Iraq's oil fields?

A: Poor. Before the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq was pumping about 3.5 million barrels a day. Under U.N. sanctions, Iraq's oil fields have fallen into disrepair. Production in February was about 2.5 million barrels a day.

Estimates of the money and time needed to upgrade Iraq's oil infrastructure vary. Some analysts argue that Iraq would need several years and tens of billions of dollars to boost its output capacity much above what it was in 1990, on the eve of Operation Desert Storm.

Q: What could Iraqi oil production be?

A: Experts suggest 8 million barrels a day, eventually. That's on par with Saudi Arabia's daily production.

Q: And that's if President Saddam Hussein is replaced?

A: Yes. Experts also say if Hussein were replaced by a government friendly to outsiders, Iraq could become a magnet for oil explorers from across the globe.

Q: What will the United States do with Iraqi oil once the war is over?

A: It will hold the reserves in trust for the Iraqi people, Secretary of State Colin Powell has said. "How will we operate it? How best to do that? We are studying different models. But the one thing I can assure you of is that it will be held in trust for the Iraqi people, to benefit the Iraqi people. That is a legal obligation that the occupying power will have," he said in February.

Q: Who buys Iraqi oil?

A: The United States tends to be the biggest importer of Iraqi crude, buying 366,000 barrels a day during December 2002. Iraq was the seventh-biggest supplier of U.S. crude imports that month, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Iraq's other customers include France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. In February, about two-thirds of Iraq's exports went to the western hemisphere.

(SOURCES: International Energy Agency, Center for Global Energy Studies, U.S. Energy Information Administration, Energy Intelligence Group, Council on Foreign Relations, news services.)

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Q: U.S. TV networks showed video of Iraqi POWs with their hands on their heads or kneeling on the ground. Doesn't that violate the Geneva Conventions?

A: The Swiss-based International Committee of the Red Cross says both Iraqi and Western TV coverage was guilty of breaking convention prohibitions of showing close-ups of captives.

The Iraqi video was much more harsh and included displays of the captives being questioned. U.S. network cameras ranged over Iraqi POWs, not lingering on individuals. But both countries are in violation, the International Red Cross says.

"The Geneva Convention completely prohibits publishing pictures of prisoners of war, as has been happening," Tamara Al-Rifai and the IRC said. "It applies to all parties. For us, the law is clear, and all the parties involved in this war were signatories."

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Q: We've been hearing references to weapons of mass destruction. What constitutes such weapons?

A: There's no ironclad definition, but nuclear, biological and chemical weapons are the major ones labeled weapons of mass destruction.

Nuclear weapons include atomic, hydrogen and dirty bombs.

Biological weapons are those capable of spreading anthrax, botulinum toxin, plague, ricin, smallpox, tularemia, viral hemorrhagic fevers and other diseases.

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Q: I'm curious about Kofi Annan and Hans Blix. How did they get their positions, and what are they paid?

A: U.N. Secretary-General Annan joined the United Nations system in 1962 as an administrative and budget officer with the World Health Organization in Geneva. He has held numerous U.N. positions since then.

His annual salary is $227,253.

Blix, the chief U.N. weapons inspector, was plucked out of retirement in 1999 by Annan to take the helm of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission.

A former lawyer and veteran Swedish diplomat, Blix had been director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

His spokesman said Blix's salary isn't public information.

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Q: Have any American diplomats resigned in opposition to the U.S. policy toward Iraq?

A: So far, three have resigned. Mary Wright, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, cited U.S. policy toward Iraq, North Korea and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as reasons for her decision to step down Thursday.

She follows John Brown, a former cultural attache at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, and John Brady Kiesling, political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Athens, who also recently stepped down because of U.S. policy on Iraq.

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Q: I'd like to send care packages to American troops overseas. What would be suitable, and where should I mail them?

A: Anonymous packages cannot be mailed to service members, the Pentagon says.

The only packages that can be sent are those mailed by family and friends to specific members of the military whose names and addresses they know.

But there are other ways to show your support, including donations to military relief societies and e-mail greetings. They are outlined at www.defendamerica.mil; then click on Support Our Troops.

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Q: I read that some Marines were planning to use pigeons as a warning that chemical weapons were in the air. Doesn't the military have better detection devices than pigeons?

A: Yes, it does. While birds dying because of illegal weapons in the air help U.S. troops prepare for the worst, the troops do have devices to detect and protect against biological and chemical attack. But they remain untested in battle.

Today's new sensors can distinguish agents from one another, important for those trying to decontaminate exposed people, vehicles and equipment. There are also sensors now that can detect gas clouds at distances of up to three miles, Pentagon experts say.

New protective suits are lighter and more effective than those used during the Persian Gulf War in 1991. They are also easier to put on, offer better visibility and more comfortable than the old ones.

In addition, troops carry antidotes to nerve gas in injectors they can jab into their thighs if they are exposed.

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Q: I read that the no-fly zones in Iraq weren't set up by the United Nations. So who authorized them?

A: The United States, Britain and France proclaimed the no-fly zones after the 1991 Persian Gulf War to protect Kurds in the north and Shiite Muslims in the south. France withdrew from the patrols in 1996.

The United States and Britain argue the patrols are authorized under U.N. Security Council Resolution 688 adopted April 5, 1991. The text "condemns the repression of the Iraqi civilian population in many parts of Iraq," but it doesn't specifically mention no-fly zones.

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Q: With the controversy about France's opposition to a U.N. resolution on war in Iraq, I got to wondering: Why are french fries called that anyway?

A: Historians agree that the deep-fried potato strips became popular in both France and Belgium during the 19th Century. According to legend, U.S. soldiers stationed in those countries during World War I brought back a taste for the fries_which then came to be known as french fries in the United States.

Anyway, writes Michel Mes, who runs www.belgianfries.com, the explanation is simple: "In English, 'to french' means (or at least meant) 'to cut into lengthwise pieces.' So logically, french fries is short for 'frenched and fried' potatoes."

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Q: What was the casualty toll during the 1991 PersianGulf War?

A: Iraq says at least 75,000 soldiers and 35,000 civilians were killed. The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency says 100,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed and 300,000 wounded, and as many as 3,000 Iraqi civilians were killed. Of more than 540,000 Americans deployed at the peak of the fighting, 148 were killed and 467 wounded.

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Q: Weren't many of the people involved in the current Iraq crisis involved in the Gulf War?

A: Indeed. Here's a now-and-then look:

_Colin Powell: secretary of state. In 1991, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

_Dick Cheney: vice president. Then, defense secretary.

_Donald Rumsfeld: defense secretary. Then, chairman and chief executive officer of General Instrument Corp.

_Paul Wolfowitz: deputy defense secretary. Then, undersecretary of defense for policy.

_Condoleezza Rice: national security adviser. Then, senior director of Soviet and East European affairs in the National Security Council.

_George W. Bush: president. Then, managing general partner of baseball's Texas Rangers.


Copyright 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service