Wall Street Journal: "fierce resistance", etc.

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sun Mar 23 13:42:38 MST 2003

(Fierce resistance, no weapons of
mass destruction, US troops now
reported missing and/or captured.

(Washington is pushing for the UN
to clean up the mess the US and
its allies now making in Iraq.

(US diplomacy more isolated than
ever and Bush went on TV an hour
ago to explain that everything is
going according to US plans...)

March 23, 2003 2:55 p.m. EST

Allied Forces Push Through
To Within 100 Miles of Baghdad

Twelve U.S. Troops Reported Missing
Following an Ambush in Southern Iraq

U.S. coalition forces found their march toward Baghdad
slowed by fierce resistance in the south, along with
setbacks including Iraq's capture of a handful of soldiers,
the accidental downing of a British aircraft by a U.S.
missile and a grenade attack on forces in Kuwait blamed on a
Muslim U.S. soldier.

By Sunday night in Iraq, forces from the U.S. Third Infantry
Division were about 100 miles from the Iraqi capital, more
than two-thirds of the distance from the southern border
with Kuwait, where the ground war to dislodge Saddam
Hussein began late last week. Officials said all major oil
facilities in the south were secured, with forces fighting
minor fires apparently set by retreating Iraqi soldiers.

Coalition air forces also were continuing the heavy
bombardment of select targets tied to the regime in Baghdad
and Mr. Hussein's hometown of Tikrit as part of the "shock
and awe" air campaign that began during the weekend.

But late Sunday, the Pentagon confirmed reports that
American soldiers were missing. Arab satellite station Al
Jazeera aired footage from Iraqi television of what it
identified as dead and captured American prisoners.
There was no U.S. confirmation that the footage portrayed
coalition soldiers, but U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H.
Rumsfeld said its airing would violate the Geneva
Convention, and the International Red Cross agreed.

After making a rapid sweep into southern Iraq in the early
hours of the ground campaign last week, coalition forces
were running into stiff resistance Sunday in several
different areas. At the leading edge of the charge, members
of the Third Infantry swept through Nasiriya, a key
strategic city on the road to Baghdad, and secured a bridge
across the Euphrates River, only to encounter a tough battle
in Al Samawah.

Local Iraqi militia were "putting up some resistance; they
are not capitulating," said Division Col. Robert Tipton.
"There have been some casualties in the first brigade." Yet
Col. Tipton said the battle plan was going as he expected.
"We are not seeing big capitulations, but I don't know that
I believed that would happen anyway." Officials declined to
give a breakdown of wounded and killed.

Twelve U.S. Troops Reported Missing

Behind them, about 1,000 U.S. Marines, including members of
the First Marine Expeditionary Force, were engaged in
Nasiriya in an intense firefight with irregular guerrilla
fighters known as Saddam's Fedayeen. A rescue-and-recovery
operation was dispatched to the area from Kuwait to assist
an unknown number of wounded coalition soldiers, while
coalition aircraft were called in for strafing runs.

Twelve U.S. troops were reported missing Sunday after an
ambush in southern Iraq. The U.S. Central Command said. Lt.
Gen. John Abizaid said the service members were reported
missing as a result of an ambush of an army supply convoy at
al Nasiriya. Lt. Gen. Abizaid called the fighting there the
"sharpest engagement of the war thus far."

Brig Gen. Vincent Brooks said the ambush came after allied
forces met a unit outside of Nasiriya that showed signs it
was prepared to surrender. The forces came under fire while
preparing to accept what appeared to be surrendering forces.

Gen. Brooks said the military believed the 12 missing
soldiers were "in the custody of the irregular forces that
conducted the ambush, and their status is not known." Lt.
Gen. Abizaid said the captors were either Republican Guard
forces or Iraqi guerrillas, and Gen. Brooks said the Iraqis
destroyed the six coalition vehicles in the ambush.

The Marines earlier had avoided potentially brutal urban
fights, moving quickly, collecting surrenders and destroying
Iraqi armor and artillery in the countryside as they swept
north out of Kuwait. Once secure, they immediately turned
over their positions in southernmost Iraq to British troops,
whose job includes keeping remaining Iraqi soldiers and
tanks confined to Az Zubayr and nearby Basra, Iraq's major
southern city.

"Our goal is Baghdad and taking out this regime," said Lt.
Col. Michael Belcher, commander of 3rd Battalion, 7th
Regiment, which spearheaded the attack along with the 1st
Tank Battalion and other Marine forces.

Marines in tanks straddling the highway near Basra said they
were attacked Saturday morning by "suicide vehicles" from
the direction of Basra. The highway ahead of the U.S. tanks
contained scattered wrecks, including one burned-out,
open-bed truck with a machine-gun mounted in the back.

U.S. forces advancing up the Euphrates river, meanwhile,
were halted by Iraqi troops about 45 miles southeast of the
city of Najaf in the early hours of Sunday as well. Marine
units also were meeting scattered but relatively heavy
resistance around Umm Qasr, a port town near the Kuwaiti
border, which was hit by air strikes Sunday afternoon.
Sporadic fighting continued as well around Basra, Iraq's
second-largest city, where coalition troops had hoped to be
welcomed as liberators.

In Baghdad, Iraqi air defenses remained active and robust
despite heavy bombing, and were routinely firing
anti-aircraft rounds and surface-to-air missiles at invading
attack aircraft, U.S. military officials said. The steady
firing suggested Iraqi military leaders retained at least
some control of forces around Baghdad, despite U.S. hopes
air attacks had crippled the Iraqi military command

President Bush, returning to the White House on Sunday from
a weekend at Camp David, sought to put a good face on the
news, saying there had been progress in the war on Iraq
while warning that it was the start of a tough fight.

"Saddam Hussein is losing control of his country," Mr. Bush
said. "We're slowly but surely achieving our objective." He
added that "There's pockets of resistance, but we're making
good progress. This is just the beginning of a tough fight."

Mr. Bush also said that any Iraqi mistreating U.S. prisoners
would be treated as a "war criminal." He added that he
expected "massive amounts" of humanitarian aid to start
moving into Iraq "within the next 36 hours."

'Friendly Fire' Incident

In another setback, U.S. officials said Sunday that a
Patriot missile had shot down a British Tornado GR4 aircraft
engaged on a search-and-rescue mission near the Kuwaiti
border. Its crew was missing. Officials said the "friendly
fire" incident was under investigation.

It was the third air accident in as many days, with 14
British troops already killed in two helicopter crashes.

In Kuwait, military officials were questioning a U.S.
soldier in connection with an explosives and gunfire attack
at a U.S. base in Kuwait that killed a fellow soldier and
wounded 13 others. The attack occurred early Sunday at a
101st Airborne Division command center, where an assailant
threw grenades into three tents.

Three of the wounded were seriously injured, while another
10 had superficial wounds from grenade fragments, said a
military spokesman.

While much of the coalition force was concentrated in the
south, Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of operations in Iraq,
said a scattering of special-forces troops were operating in
the north. The coalition also has promised to create a large
northern front, but that has yet to materialize.

Gen. Franks also said Turkish troops had made routine
incursions into Iraq, a situation that threatens to
complicate the situation there. But Gen. Franks said the
Turkish troop incursions present no concern at this point.

On Saturday, coalition forces fired Tomahawk cruise missiles
at Sulaymaniya, a city to the east of Kirkuk, which is
suspected of harboring guerrillas from Ansar al Islam, which
U.S. officials have accused of being a terrorist group tied
to al Qaeda.

Outside of the Kirkuk oilfield, responsible for about a
third of Iraq's oil output, forces had yet to secure
oilfields in the north. On Sunday, the U.S. formally
scrapped the "northern option," which would have
brought tens of thousands of U.S. troops through
Turkey. The Fourth Infantry Division, currently in
Texas, is being  ordered to Kuwait.

U.S. officials have said that Army airborne troops might
join small numbers of special-operations forces already in
northern Iraq, and indeed, the 101st Airborne, which has
been bivouacked in Kuwait, began preparing Saturday night to
push north.

Across Iraq, Gen. Franks said, special-forces units were
actively searching for weapons of mass destruction and scud
launchers. But no chemical or biological weapons had yet
been discovered, while not a single launcher has yet been
destroyed. Iraq has denied possessing both weapons of mass
destruction and scuds. (See related article6.)

Victoria Clarke, assistant secretary of defense for public
affairs, said during a televised briefing at the Pentagon
that the administration knows about "a number of sites"
where Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. But Ms. Clarke
declined to provide any estimate of how many sites the U.S.
knows of.

Privately, officials admitted the Bush administration was
privately concerned about creating expectations among the
American public that the war would end quickly.

Global Image

The administration had hoped that urging Iraqi soldiers into
surrender through the massive military show of force would
lead to a quick end to the conflict. Besides shortening the
war, massive surrenders would help the U.S.'s image
internationally at a time when it 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

But massive surrenders hadn't yet occurred, though U.S.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on the CBS television
program "Face the Nation" that discussions were under way
between coalition military officials and leaders of some
Iraqi military units in the field about laying down their
arms. No Iraqi Republican Guard units had surrendered so
far, and there were no talks under way between the U.S. and
Iraqi officials in Baghdad.

American officials were still struggling to assess whether
senior leaders were killed or injured in the attack on a
leadership compound in Baghdad that kicked off the war on

The administration also was working on its plans for postwar
administration in Iraq, including the drafting of new United
Nations resolutions. The push to craft a new set of U.N.
resolutions was a joint U.S.-British effort to win approval
at least for the rebuilding effort. One resolution will seek
to get the U.N. directly involved in postwar work, while
another would revamp the oil-for-food program to give the
international body direct control over oil shipments and the
use of oil revenue to purchase humanitarian goods.

The Bush administration is especially eager to get a
resolution to change the oil-for-food program, while the
British appear more intent than Washington does on
winning quick approval for U.N. oversight over postwar
reconstruction and appointment of an interim government.

The White House also was turning some attention to getting
approval from the U.S. Congress to pay for the war. In
conversations with congressional leaders Monday, Mr. Bush is
expected to outline needs for as much as $80 billion to fund
military action and reconstruction efforts. Last week,
Congress passed budget plans and tax cuts that didn't
include funding for the war.

The cost of the war has been a subject of speculation inside
and outside the administration for months. Last fall, Mr.
Bush's then-economic adviser, Lawrence Lindsey, put the cost
at $100 billion to $200 billion. In January, Mr. Rumsfeld
put the military costs at "under $50 billion." Pentagon
officials last month suggested a range of $60 billion to $95
billion for the war alone.

Over the weekend, antiwar protesters again disrupted traffic
in major American cities including San Francisco, Washington
and Chicago, carrying coffins and smearing 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. Large antiwar protests also were
held around the globe.

-- Wall Street Journal reporter Michael M. Phillips and The
Associated Press contributed to this article.

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