White House: Military Campaign has Begun

The city of Baghdad was awaken by the sounds of explosions Thursday morning.
The city of Baghdad was awaken by the sounds of explosions Thursday morning.
Cruise missiles target Saddam during the early morning attack.
Cruise missiles target Saddam during the early morning attack.
White House: Military Campaign has Begun
By: CBS News

updated: 9:48 a.m.   3/20
(CBS)-- President Bush Thursday weighed a dramatic intensification of attacks on Iraq, after the United States began its war with pinpoint airstrikes aimed at killing Saddam Hussein.

The president met with his war council early Thursday, including CIA Director George Tenet, who was expected to brief the president on results of the cruise missile and precision bomb strikes against Iraqi leaders in Baghdad.

Intelligence officers, meanwhile, were analyzing a television appearance by a person purported to be Saddam. The appearance came after the bombing, but it was possible the man on camera was not the Iraqi president, but a double.

Iraq retaliated for the U.S. attack Thursday, firing three missiles at U.S. troop positions in Kuwait. All three missiles were destroyed by Patriot interceptors. None carried chemical or biological weapons.

American troops went on alert two separate times when the missiles were in the air, donning gas masks and protective suits twice and then receiving the "all clear." Air raid sirens wailed repeatedly in Kuwait City as officials warned that some Iraqi missiles might be aimed there.

In major developments so far:

  • In another possible attack, a small airplane crashed while attempting to fly from Iraq toward an area of Kuwait where U.S. Marines are stationed. The Marines donned gas masks because of fears that the plane could have been carrying chemical weapons, the official said. No agents were detected.

  • An American helicopter, possibly carrying special forces troops, made a hard landing inside Iraq. No injuries were reported. CBS News Analyst Gen. Perry Smith said the chopper had to be destroyed to protect classified material that might have been on board.

  • President Bush addressed the nation soon after the start of hostilities Wednesday night, telling the American people and the world that the strikes represented "the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people, and to defend the world from grave danger."

  • Two Iraqi divisions are reportedly making plans to surrender, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod, who is stationed with the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division.

  • The attacks increased worries about terrorism. The State Department issued a worldwide caution warning Americans about an increased threat of attacks, while Israelis carried gas masks to school and work.

  • Peace protesters and many governments condemned the start of hostilities while some allies of the United States solemnly proclaimed that the conflict was sadly necessary.

    The war began less than two hours after the 8 p.m. Wednesday ET deadline Mr. Bush had given Saddam to exile himself from Iraq along with his sons, at about 9:30 p.m.

    The president gave the go-ahead to attack just after 6:30 p.m., after Tenet told Mr. Bush that U.S. intelligence had a probable fix on the residence where Saddam and other Iraqi leaders would be sleeping in the early morning hours in Baghdad, U.S. officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

    Those other Iraqi leaders were believed to include Saddam's two sons, Qusai and Odai. Both sons hold high-level security positions in Saddam's regime.

    The initial salvos against Baghdad consisted of 40 Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from Navy ships in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, as well as precision-guided 2,000-pound bombs dropped from two F-117A Nighthawk stealth jets.

    Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf said the U.S. strikes killed one person, injured several and hit a customs office and some empty Iraqi TV buildings, among other targets. There was no way to verify his report.

    Three hours after the bombs and cruise missiles hit their target or targets, Iraqi TV carried a message reported to be from Saddam.

    In his address to the Iraqi people - also aimed at people watching around the world – the person claiming to be Saddam condemned the U.S. and Britain for "shameful crimes against Iraq and humanity." He went on to tell the people of Iraq to "go draw your sword" and assured them that they will be victorious and their enemies will be defeated and humiliated.

    CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin said U.S. intelligence was using computer voice analysis to determine if the man who appeared was actually Saddam.

    Martin reports that while the first attacks deviated from the Pentagon war plan, defense officials plan to stick with their original timetable, unless it appears they are losing momentum in the war.

    After a brief night of sleep, the president talked to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice at 6 a.m. ET Thursday to learn of overnight events, said a senior administration official. Mr. Bush began work in the Oval Office at 6:50 a.m.

    Mr. Bush was likely to remain at the White House under extraordinary security in the opening phases of the war. Pedestrians without official business are being kept farther away from the executive mansion than usual.

    In his somber and brief remarks Wednesday evening announcing the beginning of the war, Mr. Bush stressed that the U.S. is not acting alone - and insisted that the U.S. does not seek to take over Iraq for its own.

    "More than 35 countries are giving crucial support, from the use of naval and air bases, to help with intelligence and logistics, to the deployment of combat units," said Mr. Bush, emphasizing unity in the wake of U.S. failure to get U.N. approval for a resolution endorsing the use of force to disarm Iraq.

    The president spoke as a U.S.-led force of 300,000 troops ringed Iraq, ready to move in when given the order.

    "Now that the conflict has come, the only way to limit its duration is to apply decisive force," the president said. "And I assure you, this will not be a campaign of half measures and we will accept no outcome but victory."

    U.S. and British troops massed in northern Kuwait were still awaiting orders to cross into Iraq, but welcomed news of the first strikes.

    "It's about time," said Lance Cpl. Chad Borgmann, 23, of Sidney, Neb., a member of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. "We've been here a month and a week. We're ready to go."

    In other nations, reactions varied dramatically. Both Russia and China demanded an immediate halt to the military action, which Russian President Vladimir Putin called "a big political mistake." Religious parties in Pakistan called for a general strike to protest U.S. policy, and hundreds of stone-throwing anti-war protesters in Egypt clashed with riot police.

    Support for Washington came from allies Britain and Japan, among others. Australia, which has contributed 2,000 soldiers to the U.S.-led force, said its warships and fighter jets were involved in combat support operations Thursday.