Originally created 03/06/03

Massive bombing expected in opening days of Iraq war



WASHINGTON -- In a strategy Pentagon officials are calling "shock and awe," U.S. forces plan to drop 10 times the bombs in the opening days of the air campaign in Iraq than they did in the first Persian Gulf war, officials said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the commander who would lead the war, Gen. Tommy R. Franks, was to consult with President Bush at the White House on Wednesday. Last week Franks reviewed his war plan with commanders at his Gulf command post and Tuesday he met with top Defense Department civilian and uniformed leaders.

If President Bush orders the invasion of Iraq, the powerful airstrikes with thousands of bombs and missiles would be combined with quick ground assaults - a combination aimed at overwhelming President Saddam Hussein's defenses, keeping him from mustering catastrophic retaliation, and convince his forces they can't win, Pentagon officials have said.

They said Wednesday that part of that plan is to launch an initial air bombardment using 10 times the number of precision-guided weapons fired in the opening days of 1991 war. Targets include Saddam's military and political headquarters, air defenses, communications facilities and systems he could use to launch chemical and biological weapons the Bush administration says he has.

"If asked to go into conflict in Iraq, what you'd like to do is have it be a short conflict," said Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard Myers. He spoke Tuesday in an interview with American newspaper reporters.

While fewer than 10 percent of the bombs dropped during the last Gulf War were precision guided, more than 80 percent of the ordnance dropped this time would be guided by lasers, satellites or video cameras, Myers said in an interview with WMAL radio Tuesday night.

Improvements in U.S. aircraft and other advances mean five times as many bombs can be launched today with the same number of aircraft, another official said.

Officials have said a goal in selecting targets for the war has been to do as little damage as possible to civilian infrastructure to limit the amount of reconstruction needed and emphasize the point with the Iraqi population that the war is not against them, but their leader.

Meanwhile, the American propaganda war continued. U.S. Central Command said it had dropped 420,000 leaflets in the no-fly zone over southern Iraq, urging Saddam's troops to desert and alerting Iraqis to radio frequencies where they can here anti-Saddam programming.

And American land, air and sea forces already in the Gulf region or ordered there has now topped 300,000 as time ticks down on a decision on whether to use force to disarm and overthrow Saddam.

In addition to more than 100,000 the U.S. troops based in Kuwait and every other country on the Arabian Peninsula except Yemen, there are five aircraft carrier battle groups nearby, each with about 50 strike aircraft aboard and including 30 to 40 vessels armed with Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles.

A sixth carrier, the USS Nimitz, is heading to the Gulf to relieve the USS Abraham Lincoln.