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Iraq

10 Questions

By Times staff

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 23, 2003


1) Has the war gone according to plan?

The big surprise was the first action on Wednesday night -- a limited, targeted strike on the Iraqi leadership. It was not the overwhelming air assault we had been led to expect. That strike evidently was spontaneous, based on new intelligence indicating Iraq's leaders, perhaps including Saddam Hussein, were gathered in one spot.

Since that initial strike, the war has gone roughly according to what was expected: massive air strikes (the "shock and awe" phase) and an almost immediate ground war.

2) What is the latest on whether Saddam Hussein and his sons have been injured or killed?

It is impossible to say. The Iraqis are going to great pains to show that Hussein is alive, beginning with his television address after the first flurry of bombs Wednesday night. Also on Saturday, Hussein was shown on Iraq television meeting with his war council. But television appearances could be deceiving.

The CIA reportedly concluded the man on Iraq TV hours after the bombing began was Hussein. But it remains unclear whether the appearance was taped in advance.

A senior U.S. official said Saturday there was no new, credible intelligence that would indicate whether Hussein or his sons were alive, dead or wounded.

3) Why is the United States targeting Hussein's sons?

Uday Hussein, 39, and Qusay Hussein, 37, have reputations as brutal and ruthless as their father's.

Uday controls Iraq's newspapers and radio stations. He is reportedly sadistic and violently impulsive. The younger Qusay is his father's likely successor. More serious and low-key than his brother, he oversees his father's special security forces and the Republican Guard.

4) What do we know about civilian casualties?

Reliable figures are difficult to come by, but some reports say the number of civilian deaths is somewhere between 23 and 71, mostly in Baghdad. The Iraqi information minister on Saturday said 207 civilians had been hospitalized. An Iranian lawmaker said two Iranians had been injured by American missiles aimed at Iraqi targets that mistakenly landed in Iran.

5) Have U.S. troops been trained how to take prisoners? What happens to the prisoners after the war?

Allied troops have been instructed to use basic Arabic commands and to distribute cards in Arabic and English explaining they should put down their guns. Training involves "The 5 S's": Search the prisoner. Silence: Tell him to be quiet. Segregate by rank. Speed: Get him quickly into custody. Safeguard: Do not harm or loot.

The scores of prisoners could become a major challenge for the allied forces. They must be fed and closely supervised, and many will require medical attention. Most are expected to be sent home after the war.

6) Why would Iraq burn its oil wells?

During the first Gulf War, Iraq torched hundreds of Kuwaiti oil wells as a spectacular act of defiance and hostility. It created confusion and economic hardship.

Now, with reports of a handful of blazing oil wells in southern Iraq, the strategy appears to be to slow a U.S.-led attack and possibly render the country's oil wealth worthless for a new government.

7) Why would Iraq light trenches of oil afire around Baghdad?

Much like the torching of oil wells, the lighting of trenches of oil apparently is intended to create a more chaotic battlefield and slow the allied attack approaching Baghdad. Some have speculated the Iraqis are counting on the thick black smoke to interfere with the United States' laser-guided bombs.

8) Why is the FBI rounding up Iraqi natives in the United States for questioning?

The FBI says Iraqis are being asked to come in for "voluntary interviews." They say they want to reassure the immigrants the FBI will protect them from hate crimes, but the goal is to identify those who might be sympathetic toward Hussein.

It also is designed to identify anyone who might plan a terror attack inside the United States as retaliation for the invasion.

9) Is this war a personal vendetta, President Bush against Hussein?

The president has cast the war in Iraq as a part of the war on terrorism. But Bush considered Hussein an adversary even before he was elected.

In January 2000, then-Texas Gov. Bush said: "I am very worried about a Saddam Hussein who's not held to account. And if I'm president, and catch him in any way, shape or form building weapons of mass destruction, they'll be taken out."

10) Now that the war has started, will airlines give refunds to skittish travelers?

Cruise lines, hotels and airlines have adopted liberal cancellation policies.

That doesn't necessarily mean refunds. Many airlines are allowing customers to reschedule flights without penalty, but there are exceptions. Some airlines will reschedule reservations without penalty only in the event of war or a Code Red alert. A few days ago that policy was not in effect, but should be now.

The best strategy is to call and see what your airline, cruise line or hotel can do for you.

-- Information from the Associated Press, the Boston Globe, Congressional Quarterly, Cox News Service, the Houston Chronicle, Knight Ridder, New York Times and the Voice of America was used by Times staff writer Stephen Hegarty to compile this report. Times researchers Kitty Bennett, John Martin, Barbara Oliver and Cathy Wos also contributed.

-- If you have any questions about the war in Iraq, please send them to warquestions@sptimes.com.

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