Newsday (New York, NY) March 22, 2003
'Shock And Awe'
By William Douglas and Craig Gordon.
STAFF CORRESPONDENTS; William Douglas reported from Washington, Craig Gordon from Qatar. Also contributing to this story were staff correspondents Stephanie McCrummen in the Persian Gulf and Thomas Frank in southern Iraq and special correspondent Knut Royce in Washington.
Doha, Qatar - The United States unleashed a devastating air assault on Baghdad yesterday, illuminating the nighttime skies with precision-guided missiles that were aimed at hundreds of targets and the will of the Iraqi regime, Pentagon officials said.
The start of the so-called "shock and awe" air strikes came as U.S. and allied forces traveled 100 miles into Iraq en route to Baghdad, a march a British military official said now could take three or four days.
The brilliant flashes of bombs awed even the pilots en route to drop more.
"From a distance of about 100 miles, you could just see glowing clouds over Baghdad ... the glowing lights of Baghdad," said Marine Capt. Nate Miller, 29, of Lapeer, Mich., after returning safely to the USS Constellation in the Persian Gulf.
Allied troops have encountered mixed Iraqi resistance and hostile fire in their sprint across the desert. Two U.S. Marines were killed - one in a gunfight as his unit advanced on an oil field and the other while battling Iraqi forces near the port of Umm Qasr - becoming the first American combat casualties of the war.
The Army's 3rd Infantry Division was moving toward the city of An Nasiriyah. Military officials had expected extensive Iraqi capitulation in encountering the Iraqi 11th Infantry, but were surprised at the extent of the fight the Iraqi forces put up. However, the march is right on schedule, the military says.
But elsewhere, the world's most powerful army moved forward as easily as if it had been invited into Iraq.
An entire Iraqi division, the 51st Infantry, with 8,000 men and as many as 200 tanks, surrendered en masse at Basra, the key allied target of the day, The Associated Press reported.
U.S. officials were optimistic about the war. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, gauging Friday's bombing assault, said that when troops arrive in Baghdad they are likely to find a politically rudderless city softened by a rain of computer-targeted bombs.
"The regime is starting to lose control of their country," Rumsfeld told reporters. "The confusion of Iraqi officials is growing. Their ability to see what is happening on the battlefield, to communicate with their forces and to control their country is slipping away."
But military analysts warn that the closer allied forces get to Baghdad, the fiercer the fighting is likely to be.
Hussein has been pulling his best troops, the Republican Guard, back to defend Baghdad, leaving only low-paid and poorly equipped conscripts to defend the outer edges of his nation.
A dangerous complication for the U.S. arose in northern Iraq, as Turkey sent 1,000 troops across its border into Iraq to bolster its military presence and promised to send more to prevent Iraqi Kurds from creating an independent state. The United States opposes any unilateral move by Turkey into northern Iraq, fearing it would disrupt the U.S. campaign to overthrow Hussein.
Intelligence sources said that the U.S. attack that started the war two days ago was unsuccessful in killing Hussein, but did kill Taha Yassin Ramadan, the No. 2 person in the Iraqi government, and Izzat Ibrahim, another top leader.
Friday's spectacular bombardment of Baghdad left no doubt that the war in Iraq was fully under way. The assault began shortly after 9 p.m. Baghdad time on Friday, the Muslim day of prayer.
Deafening, rattling explosions could be heard and giant plumes of smoke sometimes taking the shape of mushroom clouds could be seen in Baghdad. Thunderous explosions and blasts were also reported in the northern cities of Kirkuk and Mosul.
Pentagon officials gave few specifics. General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, promised that "several hundred military targets will be hit over the coming hours."
Rear Adm. Matthew G. Moffit, commander of the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk battle group, said the attack on Baghdad came from 320 Tomahawk cruise missiles fired by ships in the gulf and the Red Sea.
After an overnight reprieve, the bombing of Baghdad resumed at dawn Saturday local time.
Pentagon officials said the massive display of military might was not designed to kill Iraqis, but to scare Iraqi forces into laying down their arms and surrendering and to convince political leaders to relinquish power.
As for the Iraqi leadership, Secretary of State Colin Powell said "there are a number of channels open to Baghdad" for them to surrender.
"There are a number of individuals in countries around the world who have been conveying the message to the Iraqi regime that it is now inevitable that there will be a change," Powell said.
Pentagon officials had suggested that they might eschew a massive bombing campaign if it appeared the government would collapse. But the Pentagon decided to go ahead with the campaign as U.S. ground forces in the south began to meet resistance.
Even as bombs were falling around Iraq, U.S. and British ground forces were continuing their push into the country in what appeared to be a two-pronged assault from the south, with some forces seizing southern oil fields and others already on the march toward Baghdad.
Resistance varied, with almost none in some places but fierce firefights in the south and north.
"It's sporadic resistance," Meyers said. "There have been tank battles. Generally limited, but there have been some fighting."
After barely 24 hours of ground attacks, allied forces controlled the Rumaila area, whose 20 billion barrels of total reserves make it the biggest deposit in southern Iraq, and Umm Qasr, a key Iraqi port city about 20 miles south of Basra. In addition, British forces seized the strategically important al Faw peninsula, gateway to the Persian Gulf. They hope to open it up to humanitarian aid shipments within days but first must determine whether Hussein mined the area, a British official in Qatar said.
Iraqis did not give up Umm Qasr without a fight, briefly offering stiff resistance to U.S. Marines and British forces, who poured in massive artillery barrages and called in air strikes just west of the city. Later, Marines briefly raised an American flag over the city before they were ordered by superiors to take it down, in accordance with Bush's statements that this is a war of liberation, not conquest.
Marines also broke through Iraqi defenses on Highway 80 linking Kuwait and Basra, and allied troops began moving toward Iraq's second-largest city.
Pentagon officials said Navy SEAL commandos had taken control of two Iraqi terminals where oil can be loaded onto tanker ships for export. But even the presence of U.S. troops wasn't enough to stop retreating Iraqi forces from apparently setting seven oilfields on fire, sending thick clouds of black smoke into the air.
Maj. David Rude of the 3rd Infantry Division, headed for An Nasiriyah, said about 20 Apache attack helicopters destroyed six armored personnel carriers and one mobile surface-to-air missile unit. Rude estimated that 40 Iraqis were killed in those strikes and another 20 Iraqi soldiers were killed as they tried to destroy infrastructure in the area.
Elsewhere in the south, troops from the 101st Airborne, the Army's elite assault division, breezed in without opposition Friday and moved deep inland across the desert sand, their course cleared by Marines who led the initial assault.
Iraqi forces managed to torch a small number of oil wells in the vicinity and gave U.S. and British troops a harder time than expected as they moved to take over the oil-rich southeastern section of Iraq.
In the north, warplanes bombed Iraqi military installations around the oil-rich cities of Kirkuk and Mosul, as U.S. special forces worked with Kurdish militiamen to battle Iraqi forces in the area, Rumsfeld said. Hussein's hometown of Tikrit also was bombed.
In western Iraq, U.S. special forces troops seized the H-2 and H-3 airfields, though their hold on them was tenuous. Special forces had the high-priority mission of seizing the western targets, believed to be a possible launching pad for Scud missiles into Israel.
So far, however, there have been no Scud launches against Israel, nor any use by Iraqi forces of chemical or biological weapons.
The lack of a sustained fight or a strong response by Iraqi forces has buoyed the confidence of U.S. troops and their allies.
Group Capt. Al Lockwood, a British military spokesman in Qatar, said, "If I were a betting man, which I'm not," he would wager that allied forces would be in Baghdad in "three or four days."
But military analysts cautioned that U.S. forces so far had only crossed into southern Iraq, home to the Iraqi Shiites who staged an uprising against the Iraqi government after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, only to be crushed by Hussein's forces.
"The likelihood is that this will get tougher as the forces make contact with the Republican Guard, and with the more entrenched defenses of Baghdad," said Loren Thompson, an analyst with the Lexington Institute, a Washington think tank.
William Douglas reported from Washington, Craig Gordon from Qatar. Also contributing to this story were staff correspondents Stephanie McCrummen in the Persian Gulf and Thomas Frank in southern Iraq and special correspondent Knut Royce in Washington.
HEAVY HITTER: To inflict the "shock and awe" military planners say is necessary to overwhelm Iraqi forces, the Air Force called upon its biggest bomber; the B-52 Stratofortress. Though the plane dropped mainly unguided ordnance during Desert Storm, new technology has made it possible for the plane's "dumb" bombs to be converted into precision-guided weapons in just 30 mintues
* CREW: 5
* LENGTH: 159 feet
* Wingspan: 185 feet
* Weight: 240,000 pounds loaded
* Speed: 650 mph
* Range; 10,000 miles*
* Operation altitude: 50,000 feet
* Armament: 51 bombs or 20 cruise missiles, or mix of both totaling 50,000 pounds; 20-mm tail-turret gun
* Cost: $30 million per aircraft
*With aerial refueling
Role: General purpose bomb
Warhead: 945-pound fragmentation
GPS Guidance Unit
Role: Guidance kit that installs on tail of an unguided MK-84, converting it into a satellite-guided bomb.
Guidance: Global positioning system
Accuracy: Within 43 feet
Role: Air-to-ground cruise missile
Guidance: Global positioning system
Warhead; 1,500-3,000 pound fragmentation
Role: Cluster bomb that unleashes small bomblets on personnel and armor
Warhead: 202 bomblets
Guidance: TV or infrared homing
Warhead: 750 pounds
The responsibility of flying and fighting falls on five crew members.
3: Spare (Instructor Seat)
4: Electronic Warfare Officer
6: Radar Navigator
GRAPHIC: 1) AP Photo- British soldiers of 1st Squadron Royal Air Force Regiment fire a 51mm illumination round during the allied advance on Friday. 2) Photo-B-52 bomber takes-off from Fairford airbase in England. 3) AP Photo-A U.S. Cobra helicopter fires a missile at Iraqi positions in the demilitarized zone between Iraq and Kuwait, north of Kuwait City, on Friday. 4) Getty Images Photo-A Marine pulls down a poster of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on Friday in the southern city of Safwan. 5) Newsday Photo by Moises Saman-Baghdad buildings smolder after getting a pounding by B-52s and other bombers Friday. 6) Getty Images Bulldog Cover Photo - An F/A-18 Hornet launches from the USS Constellation Friday night. Newsday Graphic by Rod Eyer - HEAVY HITTER: To inflict the "shock and awe" military planners say is necessary to overwhelm Iraqi forces, the Air Force called upon its biggest bomber; the B-52 Stratofortress. Though the plane dropped mainly unguided ordnance during Desert Storm, new technology has made it possible for the plane's "dumb" bombs to be converted into precision-guided weapons in just 30 mintues (illustrations not in text database; chart see end of text)
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