Bush administration officials warned the Iraqi military yesterday that time was running out to surrender before selective British-U.S. strikes become an all-out attack from land and air.
On the third day of hostilities in Iraq, President Bush, meeting with congressional leaders before leaving for Camp David for the weekend, reported that "we are making progress" in the war. "We will stay on task until we've achieved our objective," he said, shortly after the government reported the first of the day's two American combat deaths, bringing U.S. fatalities in the conflict to six.
In coordinated appearances, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard B. Myers, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and White House press secretary Ari Fleischer all appealed to Iraqi soldiers to surrender to avert protracted violence and inevitable defeat.
"We have been issuing, through a variety of methods, communications urging the Iraq military to surrender, and apparently what we have done thus far has not been sufficiently persuasive that they would have done that," Rumsfeld said at the Pentagon. "It may very well be that with the initiation of the ground war last evening and the initiation of the air war this afternoon, that we may find people responding and surrendering."
Across the Potomac River, Powell delivered a similar warning. "The operation is going, I think, in a very fine manner," he said. "And in order to prevent any loss of life beyond that which may have occurred already, it would be wise for Iraqi leaders to recognize that their day is over and that this is going to happen."
By day's end yesterday, the pressure on Iraqis to surrender yielded its first major victory: the commander of Iraq's 51st Infantry Division surrendered and apparently so did the 8,000 troops he led.
Administration officials are hoping that by frightening Iraqi soldiers into surrender, they can shorten the conflict. That would help the international U.S. image, which is being further injured by fresh diplomatic obstacles. Russia and Canada defied a U.S. request to expel Iraqi diplomats; the State Department listed only Australia and Romania as cooperating with the request. The administration squabbled with Turkey over its ambitions in northern Iraq, while at the United Nations, some smaller countries in the General Assembly tried to pass an antiwar resolution.
The diplomatic troubles were accompanied by more shows of anti-American anger in the streets. Inflamed by television images of explosions in Baghdad, tens of thousands of demonstrators across the world rallied against the war. Protests in parts of the Muslim world, including Yemen, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan and Indonesia, were particularly bitter and at times violent. The United States shut its embassy in Nigeria over security concerns.
Domestic antiwar protesters again disrupted traffic in major American cities. In San Francisco, Washington, Chicago and elsewhere, demonstrators carried coffins and smeared fake blood on themselves and on dolls. There were scattered reports of violence and arrests, as well as some counter-demonstrations in support of the troops.
In Washington, the House and Senate passed resolutions in support of the troops. Bush sent a formal notification of the military action to Congress under the 1973 War Powers Resolution. "These military operations have been carefully planned to accomplish our goals with the minimum loss of life among coalition military forces and to innocent civilians," Bush wrote in the notification. "It is not possible to know at this time either the duration of active combat operations or the scope or duration of the deployment of U.S. Armed Forces necessary to accomplish our goals fully."
Markets yesterday continued to reflect optimism about a decisive American victory. As crude oil prices dropped for the seventh straight day, stock prices continued an eight-day rally. The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 235 points, to 8522.
Despite the evident military progress in the air and on the ground in Iraq, the White House cautioned anew that the war "still can be a long, lengthy, dangerous engagement," as Fleischer put it. Underscoring that point, the government reported that two Marines had been killed, along with the four Americans and eight Britons who died in a helicopter crash Thursday.
While not mentioning the American casualties, Bush said: "All of us involved here in Washington are extremely proud of the skill and bravery of our young Americans who are willing to sacrifice for something greater than themselves." The president, in his only public appearance, took no questions and did not discuss specifics about the war, advising reporters that Rumsfeld would be conducting a briefing.
Fleischer also predicted that as U.S. and British forces take control of more areas of Iraq, they will discover chemical and biological weapons that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has claimed he does not have. "There's no question that Saddam Hussein possesses biological and chemical weapons," he said. "And all this will be made clear in the course of the operation for whatever duration it takes."
With an eye toward the domestic agenda, Fleischer linked passage of the president's economic and tax cut package yesterday to the well-being of the men and women serving in the Persian Gulf. "The president believes that no matter what happens in the pursuit of a war, it is vital that jobs are available for the soldiers and the Marines and all the service men and women when they come home from the war," he said.
The day presented a vivid image of modern warfare: On split television screens, clear footage of mushroom clouds and burning buildings in Baghdad was paired with confident briefings by Bush administration officials about military advances and growing international support (Rumsfeld put the number of cooperating nations at 45, 10 more than on Thursday). With both the air and ground phases of the U.S. operations fully underway, Rumsfeld, asserting control of "a growing portion of the country of Iraq," cited increasing confusion and diminishing communication among Iraqi forces. "They're beginning to realize, I suspect, that the regime is history," he said.
U.S. officials sought to project an aura of inevitable collapse of Hussein's regime in order to bring about surrender with limited violence. Asserting that "the liberation is underway and it is inevitable," Powell said "there are a number of channels open" to encourage Iraqis to surrender -- though officials said there are no negotiations over a general surrender of the Iraqi military.
Fleischer also addressed the hope of Iraqi soldiers' surrender in his briefing, saying "the use of force is being pursued to help make this get settled in the most peaceful way possible."
Rumsfeld noted that the air assault that opened yesterday came only after "additional time" was given to senior military leaders in Iraqi to heed calls to surrender, defect or in other ways separate themselves from Hussein. "When that did not happen, the only choice one has is to proceed and use coercion," he said.