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Iraq

16 Questions: Sorting it out, looking ahead

By Times staff writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 30, 2003

1) Is the war going according to plan?

President Bush and Gen. Tommy Franks say it is. But several high-ranking commanders say the ground assault on Baghdad is behind schedule.

Sandstorms grounded U.S. helicopters and slowed the advance of ground troops. But the military also has encountered more resistance than expected, and has had to fight continuously in areas believed secure after the ground forces rushed across the desert toward Baghdad.

2) Do we have enough soldiers in Iraq?

Gen. Franks says the U.S.-led coalition has enough soldiers. But several military experts, including some top commanders, believe the United States needs more soldiers to combat stiff Iraqi resistance and to secure supply lines behind the infantry aiming for Baghdad.

More U.S. forces are coming. The Pentagon said about 90,000 U.S. troops were in Iraq, with 100,000 to 120,000 more on the way.

3) How is the humanitarian effort going?

That too fell behind schedule.

The start of a seaborne relief operation was delayed after British forces discovered Iraqi mines in the shipping channel of the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr. The mines had to be swept before the British supply ship Sir Galahad could dock at Umm Qasr on Friday with 200 tons of bottled water and 400 tons of beans, rice, cooking oil and other supplies.

In the meantime, some food and supplies were transported by trucks from Kuwait.

4) Of the American soldiers who have died in Iraq, how many were combat deaths?

The Pentagon said Saturday the number of American deaths stood at 36, including 29 killed in action. The others were noncombat deaths, including accidents, friendly fire, two drownings and the grenade attack allegedly carried out by an American soldier.

5) Have any weapons of mass destruction been found?

No. But there are signs that Saddam Hussein might soon use chemical weapons.

Interviews with Iraqi prisoners and electronic eavesdropping suggest Hussein's Republican Guard is ready to use chemical weapons to protect the outskirts of Baghdad. Also, coalition forces have found Iraqi gas masks and chemical suits in abandoned trenches.

6) Why are wounded American soldiers being sent to Germany for medical care?

Landstuhl, in southwestern Germany, is the largest U.S. military medical center outside the United States. It takes roughly 10 hours to fly from Kuwait to Germany.

Some wounded soldiers have been sent to a Spanish naval base -- Naval Station Rota on the southern coast of Spain. And some wounded -- both Americans and Iraqis -- have been sent to the USNS Comfort, a fully equipped hospital ship in the northern Persian Gulf.

7) What happens after the wounded soldiers are treated?

Depending on the severity of their injuries, American soldiers could return to the war. Many, though, will be sent home or get transferred to Walter Reed Army Medical Center or the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., for further care.

8) Did Iraqi soldiers violate the rules of war when they faked surrender and then opened fire on coalition troops?

Yes. That is a violation of the Geneva Convention prohibition against "perfidy," which includes "the feigning of an intent to negotiate under a flag of truce or of a surrender." Both the United States and Iraq have pledged to abide by the rules of the Geneva Convention. Other apparent violations include the Iraqis' wearing of civilian clothes over military uniforms.

9) What is the penalty, if any, for violating the Geneva Convention?

Violations could result in charges of war crimes.

It's unclear how the war crimes trials might proceed. The United States, with its disagreements with the United Nations and many traditional allies, might not welcome their participation in an international tribunal. A military commission, similar to the Nuremberg Tribunal after World War II, might be the alternative.

10) Is it illegal to attempt to kill the leader of a country?

During a war, the leader of a country is a fair target.

The United States has banned assassination attempts on world leaders, but that ban applies during peace time. The rules are different during war time.

Historically, there have been unwritten agreements between nations that they would not attempt to kill another country's leader, even during war time, according to Roy Gutman, founder of the Crimes of War Project at American University. But given the U.S. goal of a regime change in Iraq, that unwritten agreement evidently doesn't apply.

11) What is a sortie?

A sortie is a single flight of a combat aircraft on a mission. In the war in Iraq, references to the U.S.-led coalition flying hundreds of sorties over Baghdad generally refer to aircraft running bombing missions.

12) What other countries are supporting the United States in the Iraq war?

This number seems to change daily. President Bush claims the support of 49 nations, though the war is being waged primarily by soldiers from the United States and Britain, with significant help from Australia.

Many other countries have pledged noncombat military or medical support, including Denmark, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania. Some, such as Micronesia, Iceland, Uzbekistan and Palau are offering political support only. Some, such as Turkey and Ethiopia, are allowing the United States to use their airspace. Others, such as El Salvador and Japan, have offered to help keep the peace or rebuild Iraq after the war.

Morocco reportedly has offered the services of 2,000 monkeys trained to detonate land mines.

13) What is the significance of Turkey's refusal to allow U.S. soldiers to use Turkish land as a staging area?

Turkey's refusal prevented the United States from launching a two-pronged ground war -- from Kuwait to the southwest and Turkey to the north. However, the United States established a northern front anyway. It wasn't the massive armored invasion envisioned, but 1,000 members of the 173rd Airborne Brigade parachuted into northern Iraq on Wednesday, along with tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles.

14) Are we headed for the kind of drawn-out, street-to-street combat in Baghdad that the United States had hoped to avoid?

The Iraqi leadership keeps warning that it is inevitable. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, however, suggested American troops might lay siege and surround the capital city rather than invade, in hopes its citizens will rise up against Saddam Hussein.

15) Have the Iraqi people welcomed the U.S.-led coalition soldiers as liberators?

There have been reports of a civilian uprising against Saddam Hussein in the southern port city of Basra. The Kurds in northern Iraq have celebrated the retreat of Iraqis from that area, where Iraqis have long oppressed the Kurds. And in other areas, civilians have appeared to welcome soldiers.

But in areas such as Umm Qasr, now in control of allied forces, many Iraqis reportedly have kept their portraits of Saddam Hussein, either because they still support the Iraqi leaders or because they fear he might remain in power.

16) Do reporters 'embedded' with military units wear military uniforms? Do they travel in military vehicles or their own?

Reporters do not wear military uniforms and are prohibited from carrying personal firearms. They were encouraged to wear clothing that is "subdued in color and appearance" and to bring their own helmet or flak vest. They were provided with protective equipment for biological or chemical weapons and instructed how to use them.

They also are provided transportation with the military unit they accompany.

-- Information from the Chicago Tribune, Ottawa Citizen, Philadelphia Inquirer, Reuters and Washington Post was used in this report compiled by Times staff writer Stephen Hegarty. Researchers Caryn Baird and Kitty Bennett also contributed.

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

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