General admits ‘we’re still at war’

July 3, 2003, 10:59PM
General admits ‘we’re still at war’
As violence rises, U.S. increases bounty on Saddam to $25 million

New York Times

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Two months after President Bush declared the end of major combat, the commander of allied forces in Iraq acknowledged on Thursday that “we’re still at war” and the United States announced a reward of up to $25 million for the capture of Saddam Hussein or confirmation of his death.

The statement from the Army commander, Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, came on a day in which 10 American soldiers were wounded in three separate attacks.

With the violence seemingly escalating daily, the offer of a bounty for Saddam seemed to reflect the renewed urgency allied officials and military commanders attach to finding the deposed leader and his two sons, whose specter they believe is fueling the growing resistance to the American occupation.

“Until we know for sure, their names will continue to cast a shadow of fear over this country,” L. Paul Bremer, the American civilian administrator of Iraq, said in his weekly address to the Iraqi people.

In Washington on Thursday, a group of senators just back from a three-day visit to Iraq were even more emphatic about the need to capture or kill Saddam.

“There’s a pervasive climate of fear that is impeding the recovery, particularly in central and southern Iraq,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. “There is a fear that he will return, that he will come back.”

The $25-million reward for Saddam is the same amount offered for Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaida. Bremer said up to $15 million apiece would be offered for similar information on Saddam’s sons, Uday and Qusay.

Bremer said in an interview on Sunday that the “general assessment” of people he talked to was that Saddam was still in Iraq. Referring to the recent capture of Saddam’s presidential secretary, Bremer said, “The noose is going to get tighter and tighter.”

While Bremer maintained that the threats and violence against American soldiers and civilians, as well as the Iraqis working with them, would not deter reconstruction, Sanchez made clear at a news conference on Thursday that rebuilding the country and fighting the enemy would have to take place side by side.

While saying the daily attacks on American forces did not appear to be centrally or even regionally coordinated, the commander acknowledged that there had been an “increase in sophistication of the explosive devices.” He said 25 soldiers had been killed in action and 177 wounded since May 1, when Bush declared the official cessation of major hostilities.

The multiple attacks on Thursday came a day after Bush essentially dared militants to attack American soldiers, saying, “Bring `em on.” The American-led alliance, he said, has adequate force to deal with the security situation.

Thursday’s attacks seemed to defy that assertion. They also suggested that sapping the resistance might not be as simple as capturing or killing Saddam. The attacks occurred in diverse locations: a Sunni area west of Baghdad that staunchly supported the former government, a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad that did not, and the center of the city.

In the Baghdad neighborhood of Kadhimiya on Thursday, a gunman opened fire on a group of soldiers from the 1st Armored Division on foot patrol at 2:30 a.m., wounding one of them. The soldiers returned fire, killing the gunman and wounding a 6-year-old boy with him, according to an American military spokesman.

In the city of Ramadi, about 65 miles west of Baghdad, six soldiers were wounded when their two-vehicle convoy drove over an improvised explosive device at 6:30 a.m. The city’s Sunni Muslim residents were among the core of Saddam’s base of support, serving as army officers and officials in his government.

In Baghdad, just before 10 a.m. Thursday, a man on foot fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a three-vehicle military convoy moving down Haifa Street, a busy thoroughfare. One Humvee was struck, wounding three soldiers, witnesses and a military spokesman said.

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