Just about 9:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time last night, the U.S. military began an unprovoked attack on Iraq. Air raid sirens sounded throughout Baghdad just before the sun rose. Anti-aircraft fire filled the sky, and explosions shook the city. Pentagon officials said over 30 Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched from warships. Two stealth bombers each dropped two one-ton bombs. It’s not clear what’s been hit or the extent of the casualties. The Iraqi News Agency has just reported there are 14 injured and one Jordanian man dead. Iraq responded by firing three missiles into northern Kuwait.
The attack was not the beginning of the expected massive, what the U.S. government calls “shock and awe” campaign. Instead, it was a targeted strike on President Saddam Hussein and his sons. It’s not yet clear whether the assassination attempt was successful. Three hours after the attack began, Iraqi state television broadcast what it said was a live address by Saddam Hussein. U.S. analysts say it could have been one of Saddam Hussein’s body doubles, as well as questioning whether the taping was done before or after the U.S. attack. The Arab TV network Al Jazeera reported, as the attack began, U.S. propaganda messages were broadcast on Iraqi airwaves saying, “This is the day you have been waiting for.”
Hours before the attack, Senator Robert Byrd, the oldest voice in the U.S. Congress, condemned the Bush administration’s war plans. The West Virginia Democrat said, “Today I weep for my country. No more is the image of America one of strong, yet benevolent peacekeeper. … Around the globe, our friends mistrust us, our word is disputed, our intentions are questioned.” Byrd continued, “We flaunt our superpower status with arrogance. … After war has ended, the United States will have to rebuild much more than the country of Iraq. We will have to rebuild America’s image around the globe.”
Around the world, international leaders condemned the U.S. war. Top officials from France, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Greece, Malaysia, Indonesia and New Zealand were among the countries opposing the attack. China called for an immediate halt to the attack. Indonesia requested an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council to stop the war. And New Zealand said it “won’t assist in a baseless war.”
More than 500 cities, villages, towns around the United States are organizing protests for today. Activists are calling for nationwide walkouts, strikes and protests. Yesterday, dozens of people were arrested in Washington while staging antiwar protests in the nation’s capital. Over 200 demonstrators marched from a park near the White House to War Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s house in northwest Washington. In Boston, police arrested 36 people in two antiwar protests at a federal building and outside the Boston Stock Exchange. During a midday march to the United Nations in New York, 45 antiwar demonstrators were taken into custody and charged with disorderly conduct.
In Britain, activists are calling on workers to stage a mass walkout from offices and colleges around the country. In Australia, thousands walked out of their homes, schools and workplaces to protest the U.S. invasion. Some 40,000 gathered in Melbourne, and at least 20,000 in Sydney. In Germany, 50,000 school students marched from Berlin’s central plaza, past the guarded U.S. Embassy and through the Brandenburg Gate.
And as we went to air, we heard about arrests taking place locally in New Jersey.
Hours before the bombs fell, chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said it was regrettable that war would soon begin. He reported to the Security Council that Iraqi disarmament of weapons could have been verified in a matter of months, had the U.S. not attacked Iraq. And U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the council he would soon present proposals to deal with humanitarian emergency, to deal with what he described as an “imminent disaster.”
While the U.S. attacked Iraq, the U.S. military also launched its biggest raid in Afghanistan in over a year. Some 1,000 U.S. troops invaded southeastern Afghanistan last night. Pentagon officials said they were on the hunt for members of al-Qaeda.
The U.S. quietly gave Israel an unprecedented $10 billion aid package. Already the biggest recipient of U.S. aid, Israel will receive $1 billion in direct military aid and $9 billion in loan guarantees, this according to Israel’s Finance Ministry.
The U.S. Senate has narrowly rejected a plan to allow oil drilling in an Alaskan wildlife refuge. The defeat is a major setback for President George Bush’s administration, which had insisted that oil exploration in the 19 million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was essential for America’s supply of energy.