In a heavily guarded news conference in Baghdad today, Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, called the state of conflict there a "war." John Burns, the New York Times correspondent covering the event, quotes Sanchez's aides noting that the general's choice of words was deliberate—his way of injecting realism into the debate back in Washington. "We are taking the fight into the safe havens of the enemy in the heartland of the country," Sanchez stated. That sounds like war, all right.The New York Times quote needs to be placed in the complete context:
To reinforce the impression, word also got around today that the White House has called L. Paul Bremer back to Washington for talks. Bremer is the civilian chief of the U.S.-led occupation authority. He left Baghdad quite promptly, deferring a long-scheduled meeting with the Polish prime minister, whose own troops have recently arrived in country for patrol duties. The guess around the Pentagon is that Bremer's role in postwar reconstruction will probably be scaled back, if not suspended, at least until the war is really over.
"We are taking the fight into the safe havens of the enemy in the heartland of the country where we continue to face former regime loyalists, criminals and foreign terrorists, who are trying to isolate the coalition forces from the Iraqi people and break the will of the international community," General Sanchez told a heavily guarded news conference in the Iraqi capital. He added, "They will fail." [paragraphs snipped]Interestingly, five days ago, a peace list I'm on included a post called Rumblings of a Surprise US Air Attack. The information came from the Scottish Committee for Nuclear Disarmament, which apparently has "peace watchers" that monitor US Air Force Bases (Fairford and Welford) in the UK:
In response to questions, he added, "What we are embarking on here is the absolute necessity to defeat the enemy," in pursuit of which the "application of all combat power that is available to us" would be used.
Since Saturday, November 1, people in the Highlands of Scotland have been witnessing large movements of US warplanes overhead. Experienced observers say the large numbers are reminiscent of those that preceded the bombing of Iraq in 1998 and military strikes on Libya in the 1980's, as well as the first Gulf War.The Gulf War, of course, was a much larger operation than the '98 bombings or the Libyan bombings, so it's hard to gauge what's about to happen.
At the weekend, warplanes were flying over at a rate of roughly one every 15 minutes. In addition to watching them from the ground, the plane spotters have also been able to overhear pilots talking by listening to their radio
At this rate, some 288 warplanes would have passed over Scotland in three days.
It is thought that the planes have flown on a route from the US over the north pole to bases in Europe and the Mediterranean. The size and scale of the movement suggests that the US may be preparing to strike at a country in the Middle East in the next week or ten days.
But it certainly looks as if the US is about to prove that it is still at war in Iraq.