And so it begins.
Last Thursday, the world watched as flashes of light and puffs of smoke awakened the Iraqi sky.
President George W. Bush jump-started the war when a “target of opportunity” to get Saddam Hussein presented itself.
The U.S. military intelligence thought they knew where Saddam was, along with other members of his regime, and proposed a “decapitation strike.”
If successful, the war would end before it had a chance to get started.
That didn’t happen.
According to Iraqi authorities, 10 people died in the attack.
And Saddam was not one of them.
During the first strike, Bush warned that there would be no half-measures, that “we will accept no outcome but victory.”
But Bush failed to mention that victory in Iraq would come at a bloody price.
Amid early reports that allied forces had secured Iraqi ports and major locations in the desert, swift victory held its promise.
But almost immediately, the tide of war shifted when allied forces suffered major setbacks on the road to Baghdad.
The Iraqi military lauded success on Sunday, when fighting at Nasiriya, a major crossing point on the Euphrates, inflicted serious damage on U.S. forces and left American prisoners in Iraqi hands.
Apparently, Iraqi soldiers used ambushes and fake surrenders to kill or capture up to 21 American troops, inflicting significant casualties on the allied forces.
Now war has shown its true character – not imminent victory, but absolute tragedy.
Reportedly, up to nine U.S. Marines were killed in one battle, while a dozen Army troops were missing after another ambush.
On Sunday, Arab television network al-Jazeera began showing video images of five American prisoners of war captured in fighting.
The footage also showed at least four dead bodies.
The United States is saying that Iraq is violating the Geneva Convention by allowing the POWs to appear on television and be asked questions.
In response, Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf accused allied forces of “crying tears of crocodiles,” for attacking Iraq and finding the consequences unpleasant.
In many ways, al-Sahhaf is right. For months, Bush has been telling the world that Saddam is a threat to everything we love and cherish.
And, in his unproved wisdom, Bush unleashed a preemptive death sentence on Iraq, only to find that Iraqi soldiers will fight for their country, and that his imperial slaughter has turned into an ugly war.
Allied forces have suffered severe causalities.
But as Tomahawk missiles rain down on Baghdad, a city of 5 million people, the consequences have also been great for the Iraqi people.
Iraq reports that 77 civilians were killed Saturday in Basra, where allied forces captured the airport and a key bridge, and 503 were wounded by coalition air strikes across the country.
German public television ARD said a cruise missile hit a residential area in Baghdad on Sunday morning, destroying five houses and injuring at least two
And Al-Arabiya, an Arab television news channel, reported that four people were killed in attacks on the city of Tikrit, Saddam’s hometown.
In the meantime, Saddam is still alive, addressing his people in full military uniform, and promising that “Iraq will strike the necks [of each enemy fighter]…so that evil will be defeated.”
And his Information Minister, Al-Sahhaf, warns, “the black days will increase,” – an ominous and truthful prophecy.
On Monday, Iraq claimed to have shot down two Apache helicopters and to hold two U.S. pilots prisoner.
The Pentagon confirmed that one Apache is missing.
Surely, as the city of Baghdad boils, it is too soon to celebrate.