War Begins; Coalition Aircraft Attack Iraqi Targets


by Jim Garamone, AFPS (Updated March 20, 6:30a.m. EST)

A Tomahawk Land Attack Missile is launched from the USS Milius and heads toward its target in Iraq early March 20, 2003, at the beginning of a U.S. offensive against Saddam Hussein Four U.S. cruisers and two submarines fired Tomahawk missiles at Iraq early Thursday and operations, a top admiral said.

Photo by Reuters Tv / Reuters

WASHINGTON, March 19, 2003 – At 9:33pm Eastern (5:33am in Baghdad), just about 90 minutes after the 48 hour deadline, stealth fighters and cruise missiles effected the first strike to disarm Iraq. At 10:15pm Eastern, the President of the United States addressed the American people to tell them that the operations to disarm Iraq have begun in order to free the Iraqi people and to help defend the world from terror.

U.S. Navy warships the USS Bunker Hill, Donald Cook, Cowpens, Milius, and two U.S. Navy submarines fired at least 40 Tomahawk missiles from the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf on selected Iraqi targets. F-117 Stealth Fighters joined the strategic first strike from the air.

Reporters witnessed streaming lights in the sky, followed by loud explosion sounds in Baghdad. The strike ended quickly.

In about 30 minutes after the first strike on Iraq had ended, the President spoke to the nation from the Oval Office, "On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein’s ability to wage war."

He said the coalition – 35 nations contributing in a variety of ways – is moving to disarm Hussein and to put a stop to his murderous rule. "Every nation in this coalition has chosen to bear the duty and share the honor of sharing in our common defense," Bush said.

Iraqi Scuds Fired Toward Coalition in Kuwait; Have Been Intercepted by Patriot Missiles

Not long after the first Coalition strike on selected Iraq targets had started, sirens went off in Kuwait and reporters and military quickly put on their chemical and gas protective suits. It is believed that at least one scud missile from Iraq was reportedly intercepted by Patriot missiles.

At Camp Freedom in Kuwait, U.S. Col. Oliver North with FoxNews donned a gas mask as he said that rockets had been fired into the area from Iraq and the warning had come to put on protective gear. Col. Oliver North said that although he’s slower at putting the equipment on and the situation was definitely dangerous, he is with the finest and best trained British Royal Marines and U.S. Marines in the world.

He said they helped him put on all his protective gear faster, and Col. North–fully covered in mask and suit–took a moment to reassure families watching and listening on television that their brave young men and women are well protected and are all okay.

After Firing Scuds on Troops — Iraq Denies Having Scuds

Kuwaiti officials are reportedly investigating the war heads of the scuds fired from Iraq toward Coalition troops.

And at about 2pm in Baghdad, Mohammed Al-Sahaf, saying that he is the Iraqi Information Minister, told reporters who asked about the scuds fired on Kuwait, "I heard that a scud missile was hit, but we don’t have scud missiles, so I have no idea"

Kuwaiti officials are helping the Coalition troops with incoming scud warnings. The Kuwaitis are hoping that Coalition troops will effect the rescue of Kuwaiti citizens being held in Iraqi prisons for over 4,613 days.

Bush: ‘We will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime’

Bush had direct words to the more than 250,000 U.S. service members in the area of operations. "The peace of a troubled world and the hopes of an oppressed people now depend on you," the president said. "That trust is well-placed. The enemies you confront will soon know your skill and bravery. The people you liberate will witness the honorable and decent spirit of the American military."

He said that once again Saddam Hussein has placed innocent civilians amid military targets. He assured the world that coalition forces will do all they can to minimize Iraqi casualties.

Bush observed the conflict will be dangerous, but U.S. commitment will end with victory. He promised America will help feed the population of Iraq and rebuild the infrastructure of the oil-rich land.

But even then, the United States will not stay in the nation one second longer than necessary. "We have no ambition in Iraq except to remove a threat and restore control of that country to its own people," Bush said.

The president also spoke of the sacrifice made by the relatives of American service members. "I know that the families of our military are now praying that all those who serve will return safely and soon," he said.

"Millions of Americans are praying with you for the safety of your loved ones and for the protection of the innocent. For your sacrifice, you have the gratitude and respect of the American people. And you can know our forces will be coming home as soon as their work is done."

Bush pointed out that now is the time to confront the threat Saddam Hussein has become. Waiting will only make things worse, he said. "We will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder. We will meet that threat now with our Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines, so we will not have to meet it later with armies of firefighters, and police and doctors on the streets of our cities."

He stressed the U.S. military will apply decisive force to ensure a speedy campaign. "I assure you this will not be a campaign of half-measures and we will accept no outcome but victory," he said.