- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2003

The U.S. missile and bomb attack yesterday on a leadership compound in Baghdad has shaken Saddam Hussein, and there were intelligence reports suggesting that Saddam himself might have been hit.
The immediate public indications were that Saddam survived he appeared in a television message a short time after the first strike of the war against Iraq.
But the videotape is "still being evaluated," one U.S. official said. "At this point, we don't know" whether it was Saddam or a double.
In addition, according to American officials, U.S. intelligence reports confirm that Saddam Hussein was in the building, and the only doubt is whether he had left 30 minutes before the strike, which came at 5:30 a.m. Baghdad time.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters that the televised message may have been fraudulent.
"There is debate about that. I have no inside information," Mr. Rumsfeld said, noting also that there is no information that Saddam's son Uday has taken over the country.
The White House also sounded a skeptical note about the Iraqi television broadcast.
"Is it Saddam Hussein or not? We've reached no conclusions," Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said. "Was it pre-taped, pre-canned? We've reached no conclusions."
In case Saddam survived the attack, the administration renewed calls for his exile.
"We continue to hope that Saddam Hussein will leave Iraq," Mr. Fleischer said. "We continue to hope that Iraqi generals will not follow orders. It is not too late for them to do that."
U.S. intelligence agencies are conducting voice analysis of the broadcast to compare it with earlier broadcasts of Saddam, as well as examining Saddam's appearance.
"There is technology in terms of voice matching and also looking at images," the official said. "That's under way."
The Iraqi leader appeared in thick, horn-rimmed glasses and looked pale as he read a prepared speech on a stenographer's notebook. In his message, he called President Bush a "criminal" for undertaking military action.
Other U.S. officials said there are signs that communications among the Iraqi leadership were disrupted by the attacks Wednesday and yesterday. "This is a guy who's preoccupied with his security and personal safety, and after last night he has to be obsessed with it," one official said.
"In terms of whether or not he can trust anybody in his inner circle and also concerns about any activities he undertakes, where he goes, who he meets, who he communicates with, where he decides to spend the evening, he's got to be extremely concerned about his personal safety."
The targeting of Iraqi leaders including Saddam, sons Uday and Qusai, and other senior officials is part of a deliberate military strategy aimed at disrupting the Iraqi military and political leadership, defense officials said.
The early-morning missile and guided-bomb attack was based on detailed information that U.S. officials said was specific enough to have allowed a pinpoint strike on a meeting of senior Iraqi leaders. The officials said it was a rare case of having "actionable" intelligence for the military strike.
Pentagon war planners calculated that opening the military offensive against Iraq with a pinpoint attack designed to kill top leaders would speed the hoped-for capitulation of Iraqi military forces.
Attacking the Iraqi leadership in the past was very difficult because of the security measures used by Saddam. For example, in the 1991 Persian Gulf war, Saddam would employ up to 20 white Mercedes when he traveled so that anyone trying to follow his movements would be confused, an intelligence official said.
Bill Sammon and Rowan Scarborough contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide