BAGHDAD, Iraq March 24 —
Saddam Hussein tried to rally his people Monday in a TV
appearance calculated to show that U.S. bombs and missiles had
missed him. Iraq also claimed to have shot down two American
helicopters and taken pilots prisoner.
With U.S.-forces closing in on Baghdad, the Iraqi president
declared that the enemy would be crushed and "victory will be ours
"You Iraqis are in line with what God has ordered you to do, to
cut their throats," he said.
Saddam appeared in olive-drab military uniform and looked
strikingly more vigorous than he did in the speech that aired hours
after the first air strikes on Baghdad last week. At the time, U.S.
officials raised the possibility that Saddam was killed or wounded
in the attacks and that the speech was taped beforehand.
This time, he referred specifically to U.S. tactics and the
fighting around Umm Qasr in an obvious attempt to show that the
address was current.
Praising his troops, Saddam said Iraqi fighters are "causing the
enemy to suffer and to lose every day."
"As time goes by, they will lose more and they will not be able
to escape lightly from their predicament," he said. "We will make it
as painful as we can."
In Washington, the State Department had no immediate comment on
the speech. U.S. intelligence agencies routinely analyze such
addresses to determine from speech patterns and image comparisons
whether the footage is, in fact, Saddam.
Shortly after Saddam's address, Information Minister Mohammed
Saeed al-Sahhaf went on state-run television and announced: "A small
number of peasants shot down two Apaches. Perhaps we will show
pictures of the pilots."
Iraqi television showed pictures of only one downed helicopter in
a field. Men in Arab headdress danced around the aircraft with
Kalashnikov rifles. The footage also showed two helmets.
At the Pentagon, Air Force Master Sgt. Grant Windsor confirmed
that one Apache was missing but gave no other details. He said the
Defense Department is studying the footage.
U.S. forces have begun attacking the elite Iraqi Republican Guard
that rings Baghdad. The helicopter on television showed little if
any damage, suggesting it had been forced to land by mechanical
problems rather than ground fire.
Al-Sahhaf also said that the U.S. bombardment of Baghdad had
injured 194 civilians.
The report of the downed helicopters and new prisoners of war
came only one day after the Arabic-language TV network al-Jazeera
showed video of five American prisoners of war captured in fighting
near the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah.
"Yesterday was a black day and the black days will increase,"
Muin Kassis, a spokesman for the International Committee of the
Red Cross in Amman, Jordan, said his organization had not been given
access to the U.S. prisoners as of Monday afternoon.
Meanwhile, smoke from fires that were set conceal targets from
bombing raids hung over much of Baghdad, giving the city a gloomy,
twilight appearance. Iraqi television on Sunday showed footage of
several corpses identified as American soldiers, drawing cheers from
Iraqis watching TV in coffee shops and hotel lobbies.
Despite the tension, traffic was heavy Monday in parts of Baghdad
and people walked around in the streets. But most of the shops that
reopened along the commercial Al-Rasheed Street were suitcase
Announcers on Iraq's two TV stations have started wearing
olive-green military uniforms to introduce patriotic songs, archival
footage of Saddam and old films with a patriotic message.
|Iraq President Saddam Hussein
delivers an address in this image from video released on
Monday morning March 24, 2003 by Iraqi TV. (AP Photo/Iraqi TV
Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This
material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or