With Iraqi Regime Going Down the Tubes, Where's Saddam?
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 30, 2003 "Where is Saddam?" Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld asked today during an appearance on Fox News Sunday.
Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Richard Myers said during appearances on various news programs that there has not been a verifiable appearance by the Iraqi dictator or his sons since the war began.
In that time, Rumsfeld and Myers said, coalition forces have been pushing on many fronts to liberate Iraq. Forces have control of western Iraq, and coalition conventional forces are massing in northern Iraq as special operations forces lead local forces there in much the same way they did in Afghanistan.
To the south, coalition forces are within 50 miles of Baghdad and ready to confront the Republican Guard. Coalition air forces are hitting command and control facilities, Republican Guard targets and missile targets at will.
Given the progress allied forces have made, why hasn't Saddam Hussein tried to rally his people, both DoD leaders asked. Both men said they don't know if Saddam is alive or dead. Myers said on the CBS program "Face the Nation" that the families of high-level Iraqi officials are reportedly fleeing the country.
That's one reason DoD leaders are amazed at public criticism of the coalition war plan. "Put yourself in Saddam Hussein's shoes," Rumsfeld said on ABC-TV's "This Week." "His circumstance is not a happy one. We're within 49 miles of Baghdad. He's being closed on from the north and south. And yet there's so many people running around hyperventilating that things aren't going well: This plan is working."
The plan that Army Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of U.S. Central Command, came up with stresses adaptability and flexibility. "One of the bookends on this plan was, let's be ready for catastrophic success," Myers said. "The other bookend was this is going to be a long, tough fight. Somewhere on that spectrum is probably where it will settle out."
Still, the toughest days in the campaign may lie ahead as coalition forces attack the Republican Guard, Rumsfeld said. "Clearly, they are the most effective forces that Saddam Hussein has," he said.
The Republican Guard has formed a ring around Baghdad, Myers said on "Face the Nation." Coalition forces have never let up pressure against these forces. Between 40 percent and 50 percent of the strike sorties are directed against units of the Republican Guard, he said.
"Some Republican Guard units are severely degraded as far as equipment," the chairman said. "For infantry, it's tougher to tell." Myers said the coalition is going to be patient. "We're only going to start major pushes when we think it is to our advantage -- at a time and place of our choosing."
He said Republican Guard units immediately facing U.S. units "clearly are below 50 percent capability."
Rumsfeld said there have been military-to-military discussions to surrender Iraqi forces. He said while there is interest, fear stops these leaders from carrying through. "Saddam Hussein's regime is one of the most vicious on the face of the Earth," he said. "It's Gestapo- like. They kill people who even think about not being supportive of that regime."
Experiences in Basra may foretell the future. Myers said that as the British forces secure the city, more and more people are coming over to the coalition side.
Myers addressed charges that guerrillas have halted needed supplies from getting through to soldiers and Marines confronting the Republican Guard. "Despite the harassment of the supply lines, there has not been a militarily significant act on U.S. forces yet that would deter us from our objectives or that has really slowed us down," he replied.
Myers and Rumsfeld said coalition forces do not know about whether Iraqi forces may use chemical weapons. Myers confirmed that intelligence reports indicate Iraqi forces wearing protective suits were unloading 50-gallon drums of a substance two days ago.
"There's really not enough information to make a determination," he said. Allied commanders, however, are preparing for the worst and are trying to take out artillery and missile sites.
Both Myers and Rumsfeld would not hint at a timetable for operations. "We can afford to be patient," Myers said. "We're not going to commit our sons and daughters to battle till the odds are distinctly in our favor. Then we'll take the fight to the enemy."