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BACKGROUND REPORT - March 23, 2003: Level of Fighting Increases - 2003-03-28

This is a VOA Special English Background Report.

Military action in Iraq has reached a new level. The military commanders leading "Operation Iraqi Freedom" are now using intense bombing and missile attacks on Iraqi targets. VOA reporter Alex Belida says the military has decided to use a heavy bombing campaign. The campaign is being called “shock and awe.” The decision to use the “shock and awe” campaign was made after efforts failed to force the Iraqi leadership to surrender.

United States Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s government is beginning to lose its hold on power. The American Defense Department hopes that intense air strikes will cause the government to surrender. The American military is using radio broadcasts, communications with Iraqi commanders and printed materials dropped from airplanes. Reports say hundreds of Iraqi soldiers have surrendered.

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld says he thinks that more Iraqis will surrender as military activity increases. However, one high-level Defense Department official says there has been some resistance. The official said not all Iraqis may welcome American and British troops.

For the first time, United States Army General Tommy Franks spoke to reporters Saturday about the conflict in Iraq. General Franks heads the United States Central Command. He planned the strikes against Iraq with Mister Rumsfeld.

General Franks said war in Iraq “will be unlike any other in history.” He said such high-technology weapons have never been combined with such a large armed force. General Franks said the military action is designed to remove President Saddam Hussein from power. Another goal, he said, was to control Iraqi weapons of great destruction. General Franks said he was sure these weapons exist in Iraq. However, he said he did not know how long it would take to identify and control the weapons.

General Franks is fifty-seven-years old. He has been in the Army since he was twenty years old. He served in Vietnam and received three medals. In nineteen-seventy-one, he finished studies in business at the University of Texas. He continued serving in the army, where he commanded troops in Germany in the nineteen-eighties. He took part in the Gulf War. Later in the nineteen-nineties, he commanded troops in South Korea.

General Franks became commander-in-chief of the United States Central Command in June of two-thousand. His friends include King Abdullah of Jordan and the presidents of Egypt and Pakistan. Tommy Franks was born in nineteen-forty-five in Wynnewood, Oklahoma. He grew up in Midland, Texas.