WASHINGTON – The Pentagon has launched a radio propaganda war over Iraq, broadcasting anti-Saddam Hussein messages officials say are aimed at weakening his support among his people and his military.
"People of Iraq ... the amount of money Saddam spends on himself in one day would be more than enough to feed a family for a year," said an English translation of one radio broadcast released by the U.S. Central Command. "How much longer will this corrupt rule be allowed to exploit and oppress the Iraqi people?"
"Soldiers of Iraq. Saddam does not care for the military of Iraq," said another of several radio messages. "Saddam uses his soldiers as puppets ... for his own personal glory.
"Saddam also sacrificed thousands of soldiers during the Iran/Iraq war ... When the Iraqi soldiers that were taken prisoner were returned, Saddam ordered their ears to be cut off as punishment for being captured. "
Transmitted five hours a night from American planes flying Iraq's southern no-fly zone, the broadcasts are the first of their kind since those used in the 1991 Persian Gulf War when Iraqi forces were ousted from Kuwait, defense officials said.
The broadcasts of Arabic music and anti-Saddam messages began Thursday, said Pentagon spokesman Lt. Daniel D. Hetlage. But the program only became known Monday when the Central Command said it had dropped 480,000 leaflets over the southern no-fly zone in Iraq, including some alerting the Iraqis to radio frequencies and times to tune in to the American broadcasts.
The radio programs aim to "dissuade the Iraqi military from supporting Saddam," said Hetlage.
Other versions include ones on Saddam's past use of weapons of mass destruction and explaining the world's view of weapons inspections now under way in Iraq.
They are being transmitted from an Air Force EC-130E Commando Solo aircraft, according to another official.
Leaflets dropped Monday to advertise the broadcasts feature a map of Iraq and two radio transmitters, with a message saying "Information Radio" can be heard from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., at five frequencies.
The mass drop of nearly half a million leaflets was the seventh distribution of flyers over southern Iraq in three months — and the largest. Leaflets were dropped over six locations and also included messages warning Iraqi military not to shoot at coalition aircraft monitoring the restricted zones, saying the zones are set up to protect the Iraqi people.
Officials said other drops have had little effect in getting Iraqi forces to stop harassing British and American planes that have been monitoring no-fly zones set up a decade ago over the country. The northern zones protect the Kurdish minority and the southern zones protect the Shiites. Saddam considers the zones a violation of his sovereignty.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said Monday that Iraq's weapons declaration bears out U.S. skepticism that Saddam would come clean.
He withheld a detailed assessment of the Iraqi declaration on weapons until chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix reports to the U.N. Security Council on Thursday, but said the declaration appears suspect.
"We said at the very beginning that we approached it with skepticism, and the information I've received so far is that skepticism is well-founded," Powell said in his first public comments on the declaration.
Powell told reporters at the State Department that the United States was in consultation with international weapons inspectors and other Security Council members on what to do next.
If Iraq refuses to disarm, Powell said, "The international community has an obligation to act and do whatever is necessary to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction, and that includes the use of military force."
Iraq has denied harboring chemical and biological weapons and having programs to develop nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.
Last week, Bush administration officials dismissed the 12,000-page declaration as woefully short of facts. "We know that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and has programs to create more," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Friday.