WASHINGTON -- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld Thursday promised that Wednesday night's opening volley of cruise missiles and bombs in Iraq will be followed by a military campaign "of a force and scope and scale that will be beyond" anything seen before.
Rumsfeld called on Iraqi troops to help the American effort. "The Iraqi soldiers and officers must ask themselves whether they want to die fighting for a doomed regime or do they want to survive, help the Iraqi people in the liberation of their country and play a role in a new free Iraq?" he said.
A defense official continued to characterize the initial skirmishes since Wednesday night as "preparation of the battlefield." Incursions by ground forces along the Kuwaiti border, cruise missile volleys and scattered bombing runs are intended to keep the regime of Saddam Hussein "guessing and off balance," the official said.
"When we make our move, it will be intended to surprise and disarm the Iraqi regime, and bring it down as quickly as possible," the official said.
Two of the missiles fired by Iraqi forces into Kuwait were not long-range Scuds, as initially reported, but short-range rockets that were not likely to have been illegal, under the terms of Saddam Hussein's 1991 Gulf War surrender, the defense official said.
Rumsfeld used the bulk of his first press conference of the conflict to address Iraqi forces and the Iraqi people. He warned Iraqi troops and commanders that the destruction of oil wells and dams would be considered a criminal act. "It's no excuse to say, 'I was just following orders,"' he cautioned, adding, "You will have a place in a free Iraq if you do the right thing."
"To the Iraqi people, let me say, 'the day of your liberation will soon be at hand,"' Rumsfeld said, promising that U.S. forces would turn over control of Iraq to Iraqi citizens "as soon as possible."
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