More American Bombs, and More Iraqi Defiance

BAGHDAD, Tuesday morning, 12:30 a.m.—This morning, hundreds of Iraqis filled the lobby of the Palestine Hotel to watch the broadcast of Saddam Hussein’s speech. Their mood was defiant. They clapped and cheered as Saddam rallied them to war. “Americans have bombed civilian areas,” Saddam said, according to my translator. “They are trying to weaken us, but they are stupid. They will never win.”

Iraqi TV rejoiced over yesterday’s battles. All day long, it broadcast the interrogation of the captured American soldiers. Rumors spread through the capital about two British pilots captured in Baghdad, but they haven’t been seen on TV.

The atmosphere on the street gets more and more menacing every day. There are groups of people chanting anti-American slogans. The military presence has increased dramatically. Outposts and bunkers are on every corner. Roadblocks are set up on all the main streets. The oil trenches ignited over the weekend continue to burn—casting a literal black cloud over the city. Iraqis assume that American forces will encircle Baghdad, and they are preparing for a siege.

Tonight’s bombing started just over an hour ago, following another day of intense raids. We could see fighter planes today. Tomahawk strikes, by now almost routine, took out city buildings. We also heard that B-52s were bombing the outskirts of the city.

I’m too distracted to follow tonight’s assault very carefully. Iraqi officials are continuing to harass us. I was just told that we will be expelled first thing in the morning. They said we will have to drive to Syria—a 20-hour ride on a highway that we’ve heard is under bombardment from the coalition. It’s a suicide drive, and I am not going to do it. I have about six hours to figure out how to get out of it.