Operation Iraqi Freedom begins

Posted 6:30 p.m. March 20

by Marcus Mrowka
U-WIRE Washington Bureau

On Wednesday night, U.S. forces dropped the first bombs on Iraq in a surprise attack on Baghdad, signaling the beginning of the military conflict.

Forty Tomahawk missiles were dropped on three strategic targets around Baghdad in an attempt to hit senior members of the Iraqi government. The attacks came around dawn Iraq time and just as Americans were preparing to sleep at home on the Eastern seaboard.

F-117A stealth aircrafts also dropped 2,000-pound bombs aimed at a residence in southern Baghdad where intelligence reports had shown Hussein as being.

President Bush addressed the nation shortly after the bombing began.

“On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein’s ability to wage war. These are the opening stages of what will be a broad and concerted campaign,” Bush said.

The president also hinted for the first time that the conflict might last longer than original estimates had projected.

“A campaign on the harsh terrain of a nation as large as California could be longer and more difficult than some predict,” he said. “And helping Iraqis achieve a united, stable and free country will require our sustained commitment.”

Bush told Americans that “the only way to limit [the conflict’s] duration is to apply decisive force” and he assured people “this will not be a campaign of half measures and we will accept no outcome but victory.”

Hours after the bombings on Baghdad, Saddam Hussein appeared on Iraqi state television. He vowed that Iraq would ‘stand up to the evil invaders” and told his people “they will face a bitter defeat.”

Iraq responded to the U.S. attacks by firing three missiles into Kuwait, including a Scud missile that was intercepted by a U.S. Patriot. There were no reports of injuries or damages.

Earlier Wednesday, the United States hit a number of targets in southern Iraq aimed at making it easier for troops to advance into Iraq.

A massive leaflet drop has also begun in recent days in southern Iraq. The leaflets urge Iraqi soldiers to surrender to U.S. forces and civilians to remain at home. One leaflet says that Iraqi troops should “not risk their life and the life of their comrades,” but instead they should “leave now, go home, and learn, grow, prosper.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin was one of the first to speak out against the U.S.-led war on Iraq. Russia had been against the war from the onset of the U.S. push to use military power to crush Saddam Hussein. Putin called the war “a serious political mistake.”

“If we install the rule of force in place of international security structures, no country in the world will feel secure,” he said. “That is why Russia insists on a quick end to military operations.”

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