THE COUNTDOWN BEGINS:
5 Hours to G-Day
All indications are that the ever-defiant Saddam Hussein will not take up President Bush's invitation to "get out of town," at least not by 8:00 pm EST tonite. Thus the 300,000 US, UK, and Australian troops and 1,000 warplanes amassed at his borders are now on the move.
Associated Press reporter David Crary relates the following details (Fair Use extracts in blue text; emphases via underlines added):
(March 19) -- Hours before the deadline set by President Bush, Saddam Hussein gave no sign of yielding, and long columns of U.S. armored vehicles moved through swirling Kuwaiti sandstorms Wednesday toward Iraq's border.
In Baghdad, fortified by trenches and sandbags, streets were quieter than usual, with light traffic and some shops shuttered. Saddam ordered residents to stack wood and oil barrels to be set afire in hopes of concealing targets from bombardment.
Iraq's rubber-stamp parliament, at a special session, rejected the U.S. ultimatum and reaffirmed support for Saddam. The idea that he would flee into exile ''is absolutely unthinkable,'' said Speaker Saadoon Hammadi.
Just across Iraq's southern border, U.S. and British troops piled ammunition and combat gear into fighting vehicles and broke camp, ready to invade on short notice. One major deployment involved the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division - its 20,000 soldiers and thousands of vehicles were ordered to positions close to the border.
...''We are one day closer to making history,'' Col. Michael Linnington, commander of the 101st Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade, told his officers at a briefing Wednesday morning.
...Though U.S. defense officials hope for a quick victory, with minimal casualties on both sides, they raised the possibility that Iraq would use chemical weapons. Pentagon officials said intelligence reports suggest Saddam has given field commanders authority to use such weapons.
The top American general in Kuwait, Lt. Gen. David D. McKiernan, warned against any such tactics. ''It would be a hugely bad choice on the part of any Iraqi leader or commander to employ chemical weapons,'' he said.
Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said he does not believe Saddam's government would use chemical or biological weapons even as a last resort because it would turn world opinion in favor of the United States. ''Some people care about their reputation even after death,'' Blix said.
Interestingly enough, Blix does not mention that as recently as the past few months Saddam has been telling the UN Security Council and its weapons inspectors in Iraq that he does not possession chemical or biological weapons.
Obviously, as has now been established, Saddam had been lying all along. Yet Bush's critics, especially in the Democratic Party, continue on their self-deluding merry way as if nothing has changed:
....Some determined opponents of the war - including a group of black members of Congress - refused to abandon hopes for a diplomatic settlement.
''We are making one last plea not only on behalf of ourselves but on behalf of millions of people throughout our country, millions of people throughout our world,'' said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said black lawmakers had asked to meet with Bush but were rebuffed....