The Point Of No Return?

Soldiers from the 52nd Fighter Wing queue before they embark an aircraft at the U.S. Air Base Spangdahlem, southern Germany, early Sunday, Jan. 12, 2003. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has ordered 62,000 more American troops to the Gulf region in recent days, increasing the military pressure on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. CBS/AP

Even though both the United States and Britain insist war can still be avoided if Saddam disarms, the massive buildup of U.S. forces, the march toward war, may be reaching a point of no return.

CBS News Correspondent David Martin reports there could still be a war -- if not to disarm Saddam, to remove him.

Marines from Camp Lejeune, N.C., drive their armored vehicles on to the beach and load it aboard air cushion vessels to be transferred to ships off shore. Their families know what lies ahead.

Said one young mother: "I don't really want my husband in harm's way. Just watching him leave, our baby's only 5 months old. He's going to miss everything. It's very sad, very sad."

The Camp Lejeune marines are a small part of the 85,000 American service men and women -- both from the states and from Europe -- who have now been ordered to the Persian Gulf, wondering if this really will be the final battle with Saddam Hussein.

Said one U.S. serviceman as troops mobilized in Germany: "I expect to win the war, so we ain't gotta go back to the desert next time. They'd be great in a perfect world, but I don't know if that's gonna happen."

That will bring the total force south of Iraq to 130,000. The U.S. can not keep that many troops deployed in the desert indefinitely. And it is hard to imagine President Bush bringing them home and leaving Saddam in power.

There's been no decision to go to war, but the U.S. has now committed its military forces to a final showdown with Saddam -- even though there are still gaping holes in the battle plan.

The special operations forces that were to use Jordan as a jumping off point for raids into western Iraq have not gotten their orders either because Jordan's king is having second thoughts.

The army division that was to use Turkey as its base for operations in northern Iraq has not yet received its orders because the Turks have still not given their approval. A 150-member Pentagon team was in Turkey Monday to inspect bases there.

But as CBS News Correspondent Richard Roth reports, the Turkish public strongly opposes war and the government is looking for a way out. It's crunch time for the only NATO ally on the Iraqi border.

Turkish officials visiting Baghdad this past weekend were so desperate to avoid war, they proposed the unmentionable, a source tells Roth. Surprising a senior member of the Iraqi government with the stark message that Saddam Hussein's exile may be the only way to prevent a U.S. attack. But it would take a brave man, the source conceded, to pass the message on to Saddam.

Turkey's been a launch pad for American patrols over Iraq ever since the gulf war ended. But the u-s now wants permission to deploy troops here, with access to military bases and ports. And turkey's stalling a decision on that.

Turkey says it's still burdened with refugees and damage to trade from the last war. And though the U.S. has promised aid to cushion the economy, Turkey's hinting it wants more -- perhaps including some valuable northern Iraq oil fields it claims rights to under an 80-year-old treaty. But Turkey's worried it could still be risking more than it stands to gain, and won't decide before late this month how much it should help America

With both Turkey and Jordan questionable in their support of war against Iraq, that funnels everything down to Kuwait, where a chemical attack by Saddam's scud missiles could seriously disrupt the flow of troops.

"We're worried," one military officer says. "This is not low risk."
  • Jarrett Murphy

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