Just as the day began in Baghdad with U.S. bomb and missile strikes, so it ended with another round of bombardment. Cruise missiles destroyed several government buildings, including a presidential palace used by Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz and the head quarters of the elite Special Republican Guard.
The twin attacks on southern Iraq and Baghdad last night marked the formal beginning of the U.S.-led invasion to oust the government of President Saddam Hussein. By contrast, the morning attack was put together quickly after officials received intelligence reports that many members of the Iraqi leadership, including Hussein, were gathered in a Baghdad bunker.
Although Hussein appeared on television three hours after the dawn attack, intelligence officials believe the Iraqi leader was inside the compound when the missiles and bunker-busting bombs blew it apart But intelligence analysts and operatives working in the region are uncertain whether the Iraqi leader was killed, injured or escaped the attack. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said that whether or not Hussein escaped, his days are numbered.
The Ground War
As missiles fell on the Iraqi capital, U.S. and British ground troops pushed over the border from Kuwait, facing moderate resistance as they captured a wide strip of land along the southern border and headed toward the strategic city of Basra. The ground war started with a massive, hours-long barrage of artillery, howitzer and mortar fire. At about 8 p.m. Iraq time (noon EST), thousands of Marines and soldiers from the Army's 3rd Infantry division engaged Iraqi defenders. The Marines moved to secure Iraqi oil fields, while Navy and British commandos seized key shipping facilities along the Persian Gulf.
Earlier in the day, Iraq fired at least three missiles at U.S. troops in Iraq, but no one was injured and several of the missiles were shot down by Patriot anti-missile batteries, U.S. officials said. Oficials said one of the missiles appeared to be an Al-Samoud 2, which Iraq had been destroying under U.N. supervision.
Cease and Desist
Rumsfeld and other Bush administration officials issued public statements to Iraqi military commanders urging them to stop defending Hussein and to resist commands to use biological or chemical weapons or to destroy Iraqi oil fields.
Protesting the War
Thousands of antiwar demonstrations clashed with police in Cairo, throwing stones at the U.S. Embassy. Other demonstrations were staged in Australia, France, Germany, Greece, Indonesia and Pakistan, as well as in many Arab countries. There were approximately 500 peace vigils and rallies in cities around the country.
In Washington, all 3,600 metropolitan police officers began to work 12-hour shifts, tightening security at bridges, roads and other sensitive facilities. They also faced antiwar protestors, who disrupted traffic in Georgetown and staged demonstrations and marches throughout the day.
James L. Rowe Jr.