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U.S. Begins Invasion of Iraq in An Attempt to Assassinate Iraqi President Saddam Hussein: We Go Live to Baghdad with Kathy Kelly and Hear President Bush, Hussein

StoryMarch 20, 2003
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At around 9:30 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 has been hit or the extent of the casualties. The Iraqi News Agency has just reported there are fourteen injured and one dead.

The US military says Iraq responded by firing three missiles into northern Kuwait.

The attack was not the beginning of the expected massive "Shock and Awe" campaign. Instead, it was a targeted strike on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his sons.

The Pentagon and the White House evidently had not intended to start the war this way.

Around 4 pm yesterday, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, CIA director George Tenet, War Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card Jr. and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers and national security advisor Condoleezza Rice met for nearly four hours.

The Washington Post is reporting CIA director George Tenet offered President Bush the prospect — improbable to the point of fantasy, yet somehow at hand — that the war against Iraq might be transformed with its opening shots. Tenet said the CIA believed Saddam Hussein and the most senior levels of the Iraqi leadership had fallen under U.S. surveillance.

The unforeseen glimpse of the enemy was not expected to last, and so presented what one administration official called a rare "target of opportunity."

The Washington Post reports Bush and his senior advisers tore up the carefully orchestrated schedule of violence that the U.S. Central Command had honed for months. They decided to attempt to assassinate Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and much of the Iraqi leadership in a single blow.

We begin this broadcast of the "War and Peace Report" with special guest co-host Jeremy Scahill by listening to President Bush’s addressed to the nation broadcast live at 10:15 EST last night.

  • President Bush, announcing the US invasion of Iraq has begun, 10:15 EST, March 19, 2003.

It’s not 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 President Hussein.

  • Iraqi state television’s broadcast of what it says is Saddam Hussein, March 20, 2003.

U.S. analysts are not yet sure whether that was in fact Saddam Hussein, or whether he was speaking live after the attack. Saddam Hussein has several body doubles. The glasses he wore looked nothing like the ones he normally wears. The address did not specifically address the missile attacks.

The Arab TV network Al-Jazeera reported that as the attack began, US propaganda messages were broadcast on Iraqi airwaves, saying QUOTE: "This is the day you have been waiting for."

  • Kathy Kelly, founder of Voices in the Wilderness speaking live from Baghdad.

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