Published September 30, 2002
WASHINGTON – New video showing Iraqi forces firing at U.S. and British aircraft patrolling the no-fly zone is more evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime continues to defy the world, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Monday.
In the last two weeks, Saddam's forces have shot anti-aircraft missiles 67 times, said Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers. The last weekend alone saw 14 strikes against the planes. Iraq also has flown military planes into the no-fly zone, which they are forbidden from doing, Myers said.
"That ought to tell reasonable people something," Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon.
Iraqi forces have missed their intended targets each time.
He said Saddam's actions demonstrate that Iraq has been in defiance of U.N. resolutions ever since the no-fly zones were instituted in 1992 to insure Saddam didn't attack his own people, including minority groups inside Iraq.
"Within hours of promising to fulfill the relevant Security Council resolutions and to do so, quote, 'without conditions,' unquote, Iraq was trying to shoot down and kill coalition pilots, U.S. and U.K., who are implementing those relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions," Rumsfeld said.
"It bothers the dickens out of me that U.S. and British pilots are getting fired at day after day after day, with impunity," Rumsfeld added.
Myers showed video clips from fighter jets and pilotless Predator spy drones that he said showed Iraqi antiaircraft artillery and surface-to-air missile fires. One video, which Myers said was shot by a Predator in the southern no-fly zone, showed a two-missile battery swiveling in a circle, then firing one of the missiles.
The video and accompanying remarks are the White House's latest effort to win support for two separate resolutions calling for the use of force as needed to disarm Saddam's regime.
One resolution is likely to be taken up in the Senate on Tuesday. Bush had asked for authority to take whatever means he "determined to be appropriate" to restore peace and stability to the region, but Congress plans to limit that by triggering authority only when Iraq violates chemical and biological weapons rules.
The White House had wanted each of the 16 broken Security Council resolutions to be a trigger, including things like failing to pay Kuwait war reparations and violating the oil-for-food program.
But the language he does get is more than he can hope for right now at the United Nations, where Russia, China and France are still refusing to authorize any military force in Iraq. The United States is said to be toning down some of the language of the latest resolution to gain more support for it.
"The focus remains on building support" for the U.S. position among the three permanent members of the Security Council that oppose action, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.
World opposition to war with Iraq remains high. One hundred and fifty thousand people turned out in London to protest any action in advance of a vote of confidence in Parliament for Prime Minister Tony Blair and the use of force against Iraq if diplomacy fails and the United Nations supports it. Blair, who has stayed the course with the United States on the demands for action, had fought hard for the vote.
Protesters also came out in Spain over the weekend. A recent poll showed 87 percent of Spaniards oppose war on Iraq and another 71 percent said any action should get U.N. approval.
As opposition remains high, U.N. weapons inspectors are pushing for the right to roam freely around Saddam's residential palaces and other sites. Weapons inspectors and Iraqi military officials are meeting in Vienna, Austria about the logistics for a possible return to Baghdad.
Iraq said over the weekend that it would not comply with any new U.N. resolutions governing inspections, meaning inspectors would not have access to sprawling presidential palaces.
"It has to do with access to Iraq, entry into Iraq and the accommodation of inspectors, the headquarters that we have in Baghdad, movement inside Iraq, security of inspectors," said Hans Blix, the U.N.'s chief weapons inspector.
Fleischer said, "The meetings in Vienna are focused on the existing resolutions, which the world knows have not been honored."
Russia's foreign ministry said Monday that U.S. and British attacks on Iraqi missile installations, aimed at enforcing the no-fly zone, are undermining the effort to resume U.N. inspections, and may have been timed to do so.
U.S. officials say an attack on a mobile missile installation in Basra was ordered after it targeted U.S. planes.
Back in Washington, Bush returned to the White House Monday after spending a weekend at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. He has a light schedule this week so he can focus on lobbying Congress and the United Nations personally, if necessary.
Three Democratic House members who visited Baghdad said over the weekend that the Bush administration should work closely with the United Nations and to let inspectors resume their work.
"You don't start out by putting the gun to their head and saying we're going to shoot you if you blink," said Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., speaking from Iraq.
Asked about this, Fleischer said, "It struck me as somewhat remarkable that a member of Congress goes to Baghdad, Iraq, where he said Saddam Hussein needs to be given the benefit of the doubt and that Saddam Hussein may be more believable than President Bush."
Fox News' Mike Emanuel and Wendell Goler and the Associated Press contributed to this report.