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U.S. warns Iraqis: If you attack, you'll die

©Associated Press

March 19, 2003

WASHINGTON -- Surrender or die, Iraqi troops are being told in U.S. leaflets, radio broadcasts and other messages giving precise instructions on where their tanks had better be pointed when the jets arrive.

Messages broadcast by the Air Force Commando Solo -- planes outfitted as flying radio transmitter stations -- are telling the Iraqis to put their weapons down and array their equipment in a way that will signal they don't intend to engage U.S. forces, said Maj. Rumi Nielson-Green, spokeswoman for the U.S. Command at its Qatar headquarters.

Leaflets dropped last week showed such a signal in four photos. They pictured a tank with its cannon turned up and later being bombed by U.S. jets, while the bombers simply passed by another tank with its cannon pointed toward the ground.

"Take an offensive posture, and you will be destroyed," the leaflet said in Arabic. "Do not take an offensive posture, and you will not be destroyed."

"If you are a tanker, you are going to know the difference in the posture," Nielson-Green said. "They put things in the messages that would be known to a military person who handles that equipment."

Iraqi forces also are being told to return to their barracks and that officers may keep their side arms, officials said.

Citing apparent low morale among Iraqi forces and their subsequent unwillingness to die for President Saddam Hussein, U.S. officials say they hope the troops will abandon him at the outset of the war without putting up a fight.

Monday night, President Bush gave Hussein 48 hours to go into exile with his family, especially his two sons, whom, with their father, the United States has placed on a list of Iraqi officials liable to be tried on war crimes charges.

"It is not too late for the Iraq military to act with honor and protect your country, by permitting the peaceful entry of coalition forces to eliminate weapons of mass destruction," Bush said in his Monday night speech, shown worldwide. It was simultaneously translated into Arabic and beamed into Iraq. Bush said American forces would give Iraqi military units "clear instructions on actions they can take to avoid being attacked and destroyed."

Echoing other leaflets that have been dropped over Iraq in recent months, Bush also warned Iraqi forces not to use weapons of mass destruction or destroy the country's oil wells and said war crimes will prosecuted.

In the 1991 Persian Gulf War, some 25,000 Iraqis were captured in the first few days of the ground assault, many of whom merely put down their arms without a fight. American troops captured 400 Iraqis in one encounter, and in another four dozen tanks were parked near their position, with their Iraqi crews indicating a desire to surrender, officials said at the time.

Americans hope the Iraqi forces this time will stand aside and allow U.S. forces to move quickly to Baghdad, where Hussein is expected to make a stand.

Commanders are expecting little resistance from Hussein's regular army, but his better-equipped, better-trained Republican Guard could be a problem, defense officials say.

"They are basically gambling that Saddam's regime will collapse the way the Soviet Union collapsed, the way Romania collapsed, the way communism collapsed," said John Pike, military analyst with "They are gambling that the only thing that keeps his regime going is that everybody is convinced it will keep going, but that ... the number of people who wish to be the last person killed defending a dying regime is relatively small."

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