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March 20, 2003
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Saddam, Iraq Outgunned Against the U.S.
Saddam, Iraq Outgunned Against the High-Tech Military Might of the U.S.

The Associated Press

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Saddam Hussein urges his people to "draw your sword" against U.S. invaders, but it is a battle he knows he cannot win.

Under siege from half-million-dollar cruise missiles and computer-precise weapons of the world's mightiest military, the Iraqi leader can only delay the inevitable. A simultaneous American sweep in Afghanistan for al-Qaida suspects on Thursday helped drive home the reality of U.S. might.

The new Persian Gulf War is beginning much more gradually than had been expected. The slow start reflects an enormous psychological component as U.S. officials continue to extend appeals to Iraqi soldiers to lay down their arms and even suggest Saddam could still seek exile.

In the opening hours, the Iraqi military appeared unable to muster a coordinated response to the air strikes on a suspected Saddam hide-out at daybreak, the bombardment of selected Baghdad government buildings later Thursday and the movement of U.S. and British troops into southern Iraq.

Early actions packed some potent messages.

For example, the decision to first strike leadership targets signaled that the military objective was to remove Saddam and his key lieutenants not to threaten the civilian population nor Muslim institutions. It also showed the Iraqi leadership that the American military could be unpredictable not beholden to one-dimensional strategy of unrelenting air power.

"What will follow will not be a repeat of any other conflict," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Thursday.

Early strikes were an attempt to cut off Saddam and his senior military commanders from their troops in the field. U.S. intelligence picked up early signs the Iraqi leadership, in fact, might be out of communication with field commanders.

With its slow-start war, the Bush administration was seeking to convince Iraqi military units that resistance would prove futile and to address rising international opposition to Bush's decision to go to war without U.N. backing.

"We have no ambition in Iraq, except to remove a threat and restore control of that country to its own people," Bush said in his address to the nation Wednesday night.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters, "We continue to hope that Saddam Hussein will leave Iraq. We continue to hope that Iraqi generals will not follow orders. It is not too late for them to do that."

Officials hoped for wholesale Iraqi military surrenders as U.S. and British troops advanced. Iraq denied a Kuwait News Agency report that hundreds of Iraqi soldiers had surrendered.

In Afghanistan, U.S. attack helicopters and about 1,000 U.S. troops stormed villages in the south Thursday in raids aimed at tracking down remnants of al-Qaida and the Taliban. The Pentagon called the timing coincidental, but it helped to underscore White House contentions that Bush had not lost sight of the broader war on terrorism.

Faced with overwhelming U.S. power and an imminent massive assault on his country, Saddam did not have many real options.

He could try to do as much damage as possible on his way out, perhaps using chemical and biological weapons against advancing U.S. troops and Israel, setting afire oil fields and blowing up dams.

He could try to bring fighting to the streets of Baghdad in hopes that high civilian casualties would further inflame world opposition and pressure the United States to halt.

Either strategy way would almost certainly be a losing one for him, military analysts suggested.

"I think he's in some ways probably delusional and thinks that his inner circle of Republican Guard forces will be able to protect him, and that they'll be able to wait this out," said Jay Farrar, a military analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former Marine colonel.

"The ultimate goal for him is survival. He can delay some things, but I don't think in the end he can delay much," Farrar said.

In the 12 years since the first Persian Gulf War, the sophistication and precision of U.S. weaponry has grown by leaps and bounds, while Saddam's army once the world's fourth largest has been in decline, said Clark Murdock, the Air Force's deputy director for planning from 1995 to 2000.

"The Republican Guard units are well equipped with essentially Soviet-era capabilities," Murdock said.

Iraqi state-run television on Thursday aired a tape purporting to show Saddam addressing his people after the first U.S. airstrikes. "Draw your sword and be not afraid," Saddam urged.

But few were betting on Saddam's swordsmen against the world's sole remaining super power.

EDITOR'S NOTE Tom Raum has covered national and international affairs for The Associated Press since 1973

photo credit and caption:
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is shown during a nationally televised address shown on Iraqi television Thursday, March 20, 2003, following the United States attacks on Iraq. (AP Photo/Iraqi TV via APTN)

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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