”America, Allied Forces Launch Attack on Iraq, Ground Forces Move In”

American and allied forces waged a strike early this morning in Iraq, targeting top Iraqi officials who reportedly were gathering in an obscure residence. American officials would not identify the targets of the strike, but the strategic strike marked the opening salvo of the U.S.-led war against Iraq that Pres. Bush warned “could be longer and more difficult than some predict.”

Shortly after, U.S. Marines crossed from Kuwait into Iraq in the start of the ground war against Saddam Hussein, while to the north in Baghdad, a series of massive explosions from an aerial bombardment rocked the city.

United Press International reporter Richard Tomkins, crossing the Iraqi border with the Marines, reported U.S. forces encountered Iraqi troops using Soviet-made tanks and small arms soon after entering southern Iraq. U.S. military officials confirmed that oil wells were burning near the Kuwaiti border.

Tomkins reported the Marines entered Iraq in armored vehicles equipped with machine guns and grenade launchers. All the Marines wore full-body suits to provide protection against possible Iraqi use of chemical or biological weapons.

In Baghdad, CNN reported smoke rising from three locations after large blasts. Intense anti-aircraft fire erupted from across the city. Shortly before the Marines went in, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned that a massive attack to disarm Saddam Hussein and remove the Iraqi leader’s regime was imminent.

Rumsfeld said the coalition against Saddam includes more than 35 nations, and the White House said it includes wide representation around the world.
“The coalition includes nations from every continent on the globe,” said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. “The focus is on disarmament.”

In separate briefings, Fleischer and Rumsfeld said they had received reports of three or four oil wells being set ablaze in southern Iraq — a tactic Saddam used in the 1991 Gulf War.

In other developments Thursday, the Turkish parliament approved a measure giving U.S. planes the right to fly over the country — but it did not grant rights to base U.S. troops in Turkey for use against Iraq.

“We appreciate Turkey acting as they have,” Fleischer said.

Early Thursday Iraq time, the U.S. launched 40 cruise missiles from two cruisers, two destroyers and two submarines operating in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea. Two F-117A stealth fighters also took part, attacking with 2,000-pound precision bombs.

The attack, directed at Iraqi leadership, hit a residential area south of Baghdad and several other areas with some 40 cruise missiles and precision bombs.

Saddam later appeared on state-run television with a statement he began with Thursday’s date, but even then it was unclear when the tape had been made — and the White House said it was unsure the speaker was Saddam.

Rumsfeld reiterated a message delivered by millions of leaflets dropped near Iraqi forces, suggesting the Iraqis lay down their arms or be killed “protecting a doomed regime.”

Rumsfeld said the next wave of bombings — the so-called shock and awe attack — would be of a “force and scope and scale beyond anything that has been seen before.” The coalition forces included 240,000 American, 45,000 British and 2,000 Australian troops. He also said that the coalition the Bush administration had fashioned for the battle was broader than the one the president’s father gathered for the 1991 Gulf War to drive Iraq out of Kuwait.

”Bush Addresses the Nation After War Began”

“My fellow citizens, at this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.

“On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein’s ability to wage war. These are opening stages of what will be a broad and concerted campaign. 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. Every nation in this coalition has chosen to bear the duty and share the honor of serving in our common defense.

*Why We Know Iraq is Lying

*What Does Disarmament Look Like?

*U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell Addresses the U.N. Security Council

“To all the men and women of the United States Armed Forces now in the Middle East, the peace of a troubled world and the hopes of an oppressed people now depend on you. That trust is well placed.

“The enemies you confront will come to know your skill and bravery. The people you liberate will witness the honorable and decent spirit of the American military. In this conflict, America faces an enemy who has no regard for conventions of war or rules of morality. Saddam Hussein has placed Iraqi troops and equipment in civilian areas, attempting to use innocent men, women and children as shields for his own military — a final atrocity against his people.

“I want Americans and all the world to know that coalition forces will make every effort to spare innocent civilians from harm. A campaign on the harsh terrain of a nation as large as California could be longer and more difficult than some predict. And helping Iraqis achieve a united, stable and free country will require our sustained commitment.

“We come to Iraq with respect for its citizens, for their great civilization and for the religious faiths they practice. We have no ambition in Iraq, except to remove a threat and restore control of that country to its own people.

“I know that the families of our military are praying that all those who serve will return safely and soon. Millions of Americans are praying with you for the safety of your loved ones and for the protection of the innocent. For your sacrifice, you have the gratitude and respect of the American people. And you can know that our forces will be coming home as soon as their work is done.

“Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly — yet, our purpose is sure. The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder. We will meet that threat now, with our Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines, so that we do not have to meet it later with armies of fire fighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities.

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

“My fellow citizens, the dangers to our country and the world will be overcome. We will pass through this time of peril and carry on the work of peace. We will defend our freedom. We will bring freedom to others and we will prevail.

“May God bless our country and all who defend her.”

”Hawaii’s Terrorist Alert Level Raised, Elected Officials Offer Strategies to Keep Hawaii Safe, Economically Afloat”

Coordinating with Pres. George W. Bush’s 48 hour warning to Iraqi Dictator Saddam Hussein to leave or be removed from office, Gov. Linda Lingle yesterday beginning at 3 p.m., raised Hawaii’s terrorism alert level from “blue” to “yellow.” The raise in alert status won’t have consequences easily visible to the average Hawaii citizen, she says, but those who work or do business with refineries or utility companies or state facilities will likely encounter more security and possibly delays when trying to enter these facilities. There also will be more scrutiny of deliveries to the state Capitol and other government buildings.

The governor, speaking to the guests at the opening of the First Hawaiian Auto Show last night, also said she talked with the Office of Homeland Security after Bush addressed the nation to tell the public war had begun. Earlier she met with Hawaii’s four county mayors to discuss additional security, police presence and emergency response procedures

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