Each morning, Iraqi deserters show up at allied border posts in increasing numbers. Each night, the anti-aircraft fire from Iraqi forces is less coordinated.
After four weeks of intense, day-and-night bombing, there are subtle signs of cracks in the Iraqi military's resolve."They have stopped operating as a national army (pursuing) theater objectives," said Capt. Jessie Morimoto, an Air Force intelligence officer. "What they're doing now is trying to defend themselves as people."
Sporadic artillery duels along the border hint at that.
While Marines and other units have peppered enemy positions with artillery and rocket fire, the Iraqis' response has been light and poorly aimed, despite the fearsome reputation of their South African-made 155mm howitzers.
It is estimated the Iraqis have deployed 3,100 artillery pieces in the Kuwait area. Yet few have fired at allied positions.
"Enemy artillery has not endangered friendly artillery yet," said Col. Ron Richard, operations officer for the 2nd Marine Division.
Morimoto said the nature of Iraqi anti-aircraft fire has changed.
"At the beginning we saw the Iraqis responding as any scared Army would do," firing large numbers of missiles at attacking planes, Morimoto said. Now, she said, the Iraqis operate in small pockets, working independently of each other.
"The pilots can't believe they're doing this and nobody's fighting back," she said.
There are signs that many more Iraqis are willing to give up as the slow leak of deserters grows to a stream. Along Saudi Arabia's northern border, clusters of up to 10 Iraqi soldiers show up at outposts each day, waving leaflets dropped by allied aircraft that tell them how to surrender.
Officers say the official figure of 1,000 Iraqi prisoners is low.
Marines report an increasing number of tired and hungry soldiers walking toward the border, hands in the air, eager for the food and cigarettes the Marines hand out.
Once taken into custody, the prisoners are moved to tent cities at Saudi public buildings. At one location, about 60 miles from the Kuwaiti border, scores of prisoners in garish uniforms of printed pajamas walk exercise paths inside a soccer stadium.
On Tuesday, 10 Iraqi front-line soldiers showed up at an Egyptian outpost after walking through the desert all night.
"It is very bad. Fighting, fighting, fighting, and for what? Nothing," said one, a tank soldier named Saad Shab who served through the entire eight-year Iran-Iraq war.
Shab and his comrades painted a bleak picture of Iraqi forces. Rations have been cut to one sandwich a day. Replacement parts and fuel are scarce. There are rumors that 20,000 Iraqi troops have died in allied bombing raids.
The deserters say as many as half of the front-line troops have walked away from their posts, heading north, to their homes.
The constant threat of death from the air takes its toll, said Capt. Morimoto.
"When you've had somebody come in and bomb your position day and night, you're not very well fed . . . there comes a point when you say, `That's enough,"' she said.