Baghdad Braces For War

Residents stock up on bottles of water in Baghdad as the threat of a U.S.-led attack looms over the country, Sunday March 16, 2003. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) AP

On Tuesday, March 18, for the first time in over four years, the Iraqi president appeared in public wearing military uniform, as a show of unity and defiance.

CBS News Correspondent Lara Logan reported that Saddam's cabinet rejected the U.S. ultimatum for him to go into exile. Saddam described it as a sick attempt to take his country without fighting.

And from Iraq's normally measured foreign minister, Naji Sabri, came the most abusive language yet.

"They trade with war. They benefit from war ... they can justify their presence in such offices, in such posts through war, otherwise in normal circumstances how can an ignorant, idiot man become the president of the United States?" he said.

But the worst came in Arabic.

"While we were building civilization here in Iraq," said Sabri, "people in America were living like animals."

Although confronted with imminent military action, it was clear from the minister that Iraq derived some satisfaction from the lack of support America has received in the Security Council. And he reminded the Arab world an attack on Iraq was an attack on the region. A show of support for Saddam Hussein has echoed in demonstrations on the streets of the capital, organized as usual, by the authorities.

"We are very strong, strongest with our president Saddam Hussein," said one demonstrator.

As the American deadline approached, Baghdad was fast becoming a ghost town. The locks were on, shutters came down, and some even welded their shop doors closed, afraid of what will follow the bombing.

The city's commercial heart had almost stopped beating.

Normally busy areas of Baghdad would be so crowded people wouldn't be able to move, but now it's virtually empty. People have either fled the city or are staying home in anticipation of the bombing.

At the French embassy, the ambassador closed the gates as he left; at the Greek embassy, staff said emotional goodbyes.

But the white U.N. plane taking off from Saddam International Airport carrying away the inspectors was perhaps the strongest signal
that diplomacy was definitely over and war was on its way.
  • Brian Bernbaum

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