Wave after wave of air attacks flashed the thunder and lightning of "Operation Desert Storm" Wednesday and Thursday as the United States and its allies launched war to force Iraq from Kuwait.
The Pentagon said all is "going very well" and that allies may have destroyed Iraq's air force, broken the back of its chemical, biological and nuclear arms complex and neutralized Iraq's military command and control installations.Iraq also was unable to launch the chemical-armed missile attack against Israel that Saddam Hussein promised would be its first counterstrike and mustered only minor resistance.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Iraq did not even manage to fire one surface-to-air missile, "which shows its radar and control facilities must have been totally neutralized."
But the advances came with costs - although phenomenally small for such a large operation. Defense Secretary Dick Cheney said one U.S. Navy F-18 fighter jet had been lost and its pilot killed. A British aircraft also had been shot down. Iraqi radio said that 14 allied aircraft were shot down - which Cheney denied.
Also, Hatch reported that four terrorist attacks occurred Thursday in response to the war: one against a U.S. consulate in Pakistan; a bombing in Berlin; a fire bombing of a U.S. consulate library in Ecuador; and bombing of a Harvard University student villa in Florence, Italy. He had no further details.
Also, Iraqi artillery damaged a Saudi Arabian oil refinery, said Gen. Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And a defiant Saddam told his country on radio, "The dawn of victory nears as this great showdown begins."
The White House announced that the war began with bombings at 5 p.m. MST or 3 a.m. in Iraq - 19 hours after the United Nations deadline for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait.
"The battle has been joined," a firm, confident President Bush told the nation from the White House at 7 p.m. MST Wednesday. He gave the defensive Operation Shield the new code name Operation Desert Storm as the war began.
He said the allies had "exhausted all reasonable efforts to reach a peaceful resolution" and "have no choice but to drive Saddam from Kuwait by force. We will not fail."
Bush added, "This will not be another Vietnam. . . . Our troops will have the best possible support in the entire world. And they will not be asked to fight with one hand tied behind their back."
He also said he instructed the Pentagon "to take every necessary step to prevail as quickly as possible and with the greatest degree of protection possible for allied servicemen and women."
Cheney said air attacks were carried out by U.S., British, Saudi, Kuwaiti and French aircraft. Troops and ships from 23 other nations also were in the Persian Gulf to offer support.
With such international support, Bush said he hopes that the new war may lead to a new order in the post-Cold War world "where the rule of law, not the law of the jungle, governs."
He added, "I am convinced not only that we will prevail but that out of the horror of combat will come the recognition that no nation can stand against a world united, no nation will be permitted to brutally assault its neighbor."Bush said he chose to strike now because "the world could wait no longer. Sanctions, though having some effect, showed no signs of accomplishing their objective."
He added that while the world tried to negotiate peace with Saddam over the past six months, he systematically raped Kuwait and even murdered children. "While the world waited, Saddam Hussein met every overture of peace with open contempt. While the world prayed for peace, Saddam prepared for war."
On Thursday, Bush rose at 5 a.m. to walk his dog around the White House. He appeared upbeat in a short informal stop at the White House press room and spent the morning in briefings and updates with top military advisers. He, his wife and members of the Cabinet also attended church.
Meanwhile, Saddam told his country on radio that Bush was "a devil" and would be defeated. "The evil and satanic intentions of the White House will be crushed and so will all the blasphemous and oppressive forces" referring to the Saudis.
Defense Secretary Cheney said the air attacks throughout Iraq and Kuwait were aimed at missile sites, air fields, chemical and nuclear arms sites and other installations that could shoot down allied aircraft and harm ground troops.
He said he felt "we achieved a fairly high degree of tactical surprise." He said the allies carried out an air strike plan that they had devised and practiced for months.
1,000 missions flown
Powell said virtually every type of aircraft that the United States has in the Persian Gulf was thrown at Iraq overnight, with more than 1,000 individual missions flown.
That included fighters such as the F-16 (such as those deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah), F-15E, F-4 and the "Stealth" F-117; bombers such as the B-52, A-7 and A-6; Apache attack helicopters; and various "electronic combat" aircraft used to jam radio and radar signals.
Also, he said that throughout the attacks, the Navy launched more than 100 Tomahawk cruise missiles - the first wartime use of those sophisticated weapons, which are built in part by Thiokol and Hercules. Litton in Salt Lake City also made guidance systems for the weapon. The missiles were also tested at Utah's Dugway Proving Ground.
Powell said 80 percent of the aircraft were able to successfully complete their missions, dropping weapons on target. Of those that could not, some had mechanical or weather problems and others simply did not drop bombs because they could not adequately identify their targets.
`War just beginning'
Cheney said he signed orders Tuesday afternoon to launch the attack Wednesday unless Iraq offered some last-minute diplomatic alternatives. Cheney stressed that the war is just beginning and much fighting still lies ahead - despite highly optimistic early news.
"This operation will continue until we achieve our objectives of forcing Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait," Cheney said Thursday.
While Cheney and Powell also said that plans for early war action called almost exclusively for air attacks, news services reported that ground troops were engaged in some battles and that many Iraqis had surrendered - including Egyptian news reports that 50 Iraqi tank crews had surrendered.
Also, various news service reports said Iraq's elite Republican guard had been "decimated" in heavy bombing attacks and that allied troops appeared to be massing on the Kuwaiti border.
While the Pentagon did not confirm such reports, Cheney said, "The activities that are under way now are obviously primarily the air portion of the campaign. That does not mean that at some point we will not engage ground forces as well."
SCUDs still a threat
Cheney and Hatch warned that one complication in the war is that the United States does not know where Iraq has its SCUD missiles. Hatch said they are on mobile launchers, have not been found and present a serious threat to troops.
When Cheney was asked to give details of damage inflicted on Baghdad, he said the best information he had was reports from CNN correspondents who reported what they saw from their hotel windows. As films from aircraft are evaluated, he said the military will determine which targets should be attacked again.
Looked like dawn
CNN reporter and anchor Bernard Shaw said explosions in the night sky over Baghdad were so bright that a rooster was fooled into thinking it was dawn and began crowing.
CNN, ABC, BBC and other reporters in Baghdad also reported that civilian sections of Baghdad had been spared from attack.
They reported that several military targets had taken direct, pinpoint hits. The Iraqi defense ministry had been partially destroyed, with part of the building burning uncontrolled. Saddam's Baath Party headquarters had also been hit. Two oil refineries were burning.
However, they reported that Bagh-dad's commercial airport was unscathed.
Reporters in Baghdad also reported that waves of attacks hit every 15 minutes or so, but they had seen no allied aircraft shot down despite heavy anti-aircraft artillery. Networks also reported that the Iraqi government finally pulled the plug on all reports from within Iraq late Thursday morning.
CNN and ABC also reported that the war began when the first squadron of F-15E fighter-bombers took off on a moonless night from a central Saudi air base about 2:20 p.m. Wednesday.
Before the attack began, Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of the multinational force, told his troops, "Our cause is just. You must be the thunder and lightning of Desert Storm. May God be with you."
Where to call for casualty information
The Pentagon has established 24-hour telephone numbers for relatives and friends of service members to obtain information concerning casualties. Here are the numbers:
Army (general information): 1-703-614-0739.
Air Force (general information): 1-800-253-9276.
Navy (immediate family members): 1-800-255-3808.
Navy (general information): 1-800-732-1206.
Marine Corps (immediate family members): 1-800-523-2694.
Coast Guard (immediate family members): 1-800-283-8724.
Allied onslaught against Iraq's defenses
A typical formation attacking an Iraqi airbase would include several different types of aircraft specializing in different aspects of the mission.
F-15E Eagle: U.S. fighter bomber; excels at high-speed low-level bombing attacks on many types of targets.
A-6 Intruder: U.S. Navy attack jet; the EA-6B electronic countermeasures version jams enemy radar systems, allowing the formation to reach targets without being spotted by Iraqi jets or missile.
E-3 AWACS: Command jet directs air operations using sophisticated on-board radar.
F-117 Stealth fighter-bomber: Jet's extremely small visibility to radar makes it useful for gaining surprise and knocking out anti-aircraft missiles and radar stations.
Tornado GR1: Fighter-bomber flown by British, French and Saudi air forces to carry "runway-buster" bombs and other weapons.
Other aircraft likely to be used in airbase attacks: U.S. F-4 Wild Weasel radar-jamming fighter bombers; British and French Jaguar fighter-bombers; British Tornado F-3 and U.S. F/A-14 fighters for cover against enemy fighters.