on Track to Baghdad
By Jim Garamone,
March 25, 2003 – Just a few days of ground combat, coalition
forces are more than 200 miles into Iraq and poised to take on
forces defending Baghdad, U.S. and British defense leaders said.
Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff Air Force Gen. Richard Myers told reporters at a Pentagon
press conference that the plan to disarm Saddam Hussein and liberate
the Iraqi people is on track. As part of the war plan, more U.S.
troops are flowing into the region, Rumsfeld said.
is a force flow that’s been put in place weeks and weeks and weeks
ago, where people were mobilized, people were trained, …
equipment was loaded on ships, ships were leased, ships were sent
over, ships moved into position, ships were unloaded, personnel
were airlifted over to meet with their equipment," he said.
"And every hour the number of U.S. and coalition forces in
that country are increasing."
the plan put in place by U.S. Central Command "brilliant."
He said most of the casualties sustained by coalition forces have
been as a result of Iraqi committing serious violations of the
law of armed conflict and the Geneva Conventions. And while embedded
reporters show skirmishes in Iraq, he is satisfied with the progress.
been at it now for less than a week," Myers said. "We’re
just about to Baghdad."
Rumsfeld addressed reports that there was a "red line"
— as some news stories called it — around Baghdad where local
Iraqi commanders could use chemical and biological weapons.
"There has been intelligence scraps, who knows how accurate
they are, chatter in the system that suggest that the closer that
coalition forces get to Baghdad and Tikrit, the greater the likelihood
and that some command and control arrangements (to use chemical
weapons) have been put in place," Rumsfeld said. "But
whether it will happen or not remains to be seen."
said the mere fact that this is a possibility restates the reason
the coalition must take on Hussein. "Those who behave with
such brutality cannot be allowed to possess tools of mass murder,"
he said. "This is the behavior of desperate men. Iraqi authorities
know their days are numbered. And while the Iraqi regime is on
the way out, it’s important to know that it can still be brutal,
particularly in the moments before it finally succumbs."
the campaign could "grow more dangerous in the coming days
and weeks as coalition forces close on Baghdad and the regime
is faced with its certain death."
to analysts who insist that the coalition plan is seriously flawed.
He said many experts made the same criticism about operations
in Afghanistan. "Then Mazar-e Sharif fell," he said.
that there are uprisings in Basra against the Iraqi paramilitary
forces. "Clearly, … the people in Basra, I think for
the most part, would be happy to be done with this regime,"
he said. "But they’re not going to do so as long as they
think there’s a shred of evidence that there’s going to be some
threat against them."
the people of Basra remember 1991 when they rose against Saddam
Hussein. "Hundreds of thousands were killed because they
thought they had a chance for a popular uprising, and …
the backing didn’t materialize the way they thought it was going
to materialize," he said. "And so I think we have, rightly
so, some very cautious people."
the Fedayeen Saddam and Republican Guard that may have come south
to Basra in civilian clothes are more akin to terrorists than
soldiers. He said these men are intimidating the people of Basra,
but that coalition force "will start working that."
everyone that the war is only five days old. "We’re still,
needless to say, much closer to the beginning than the end,"
he said. "The men and women in the uniform … are performing
superbly. They’re doing an outstanding job."
He said planners
expected the Iraqi resistance and that it has not affected coalition
progress. "Iraqi forces are capitulating by the hundreds,"
he said. "The total now, as I understand it … was something
in excess of 3,500 Iraqi prisoners of war and thousands more
that have been part of units that have simply disbanded.
each passing day, the Iraqi regime is losing control over more
of the country," he continued. "Coalition forces are
closing in on Baghdad and will not stop until that regime has
been driven from power. Their defeat is certain. All that is unclear
is the number of days or weeks it will take."