American Reporter Staff
Los Angeles, Calif.
April 5, 2003
U.S. TROOPS IN BAGHDAD; NO BANNED WEAPONS FOUND
LOS ANGELES, April 4, 2003 -- U.S. and allied troops pushed closer to the center of Baghdad today without encountering significant resistance or any of the weapons of mass destruction that were the principal reason for the war. At the same time, the lack of resistance suggests that U.S. military experts made a critical error in 1991 when they failed to take the first Gulf War to the conclusion that was sought today.
Troops destroyed one Iraqi division and effectively impaired another as they prepared for urban fighting on a scale that is difficult to estimate due to the lack of significant resistance outside the city and questions about the coherence of the three remaining Iraqi divisions still capable of defending the city. Secretary Colin Powell said at a briefing in Europe troops were close to the Saddam Hussein International Airport and encountering little resistance.
In Najaf, a major city 50 miles from the capital, allied commanders were cheered by the issuance of a fatwa by the city's chief Shiite cleric, who urged citizens not to resist as troops took the city.
The closest U.S. troops have come to encountering evidence of chemical or biological weapons came in the seizure of a Baath Party headquarters in Nasiriyah where 3,000 chemical suits and masks were found, and another 300 discovered at a military hospital closer to Baghdad.
"The last thing anyone would want to see is their being used in this confict," Rumsfeld reiterated that use of such weapons would eliminate any hope of "a deal" with the current Iraqi regime. He again noted that U.S. war planners
"There's still contacts," Rumsfeld said of U.S. and allied efforts to win over generals and other military and civilian leaders. For those who remain loyal to Saddam, he said, "They're going to have to figure out how not to get shot from folks who have infiltrated their operations," he said.
In an interview broadcast last night on ABC News, British Prime Minister Tony Blair told the network that he was certain that weapons of mass destruction would be found in Iraq because "a vast amount of weaponry" was missing when UN inspectors toured ther country in 1998. But Blair refused to say he would resign if Saddam's alleged arsenal of chemical, biological and nuclear weaons were never discovered.
In a variety of settings and cities, including the outskirts of Baghdad, some Iraqis greeted U.S. and allied troops as liberators. One uncertainty that remained was whether Iraqi forced had wired explosives to oil wells in northern oilfields. Rumsfeld called it "unexpected" that few wells were damaged as Iraqis retreated from the south.
On another front, the giant Parsons and Bechtel engineering firms were said to be the two finalists for a U.S. contract to rebuild Iraq following any allied victory, the Los Angeles Timesreported.
Meanwhile, taking a cue from the Bush administration's war rhetoric, U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry called for a "regime change" in the United Styates in the next presidential election. The leading Democratic candidate for the party's nomination, he charged in a speech at a Massachusetts library that President George W. Bush had alienated members of the United Nations by failing to pursue a diplomatic solution to U.S. concerns about Iraq and instead going to war.