Saturday, March 22
Minute after minute the missiles came, with devastating shrieks
Robert Fisk in Baghdad, The Independent, 22 March 2003
Saddam's main presidential palace, a great rampart of a building 20 storeys high, simply exploded in front of me a cauldron of fire, a 100ft sheet of flame and a sound that had my ears singing for an hour after. The entire, massively buttressed edifice shuddered under the impact. Then four more cruise missiles came in.
It is the heaviest bombing Baghdad has suffered in more than 20 years of war. All across the city last night, massive explosions shook the ground. To my right, the Ministry of Armaments Procurement a long colonnaded building looking much like the façade of the Pentagon coughed fire as five missiles crashed into the concrete.
In an operation officially intended to create "shock and awe'', shock was hardly the word for it. The few Iraqis in the streets around me no friends of Saddam I would suspect cursed under their breath.
From high-rise buildings, shops and homes came the thunder of crashing glass as the shock waves swept across the Tigris river in both directions. [...]
How, I ask myself, does one describe this outside the language of a military report, the definition of the colour, the decibels of the explosions? When the cruise missiles came in it sounded as if someone was ripping to pieces huge curtains of silk in the sky and the blast waves became a kind of frightening counterpoint to the flames.
There is something anarchic about all human beings, about their reaction to violence. The Iraqis around me stood and watched, as I did, at huge tongues of flame bursting from the upper stories of Saddam's palace, reaching high into the sky. Strangely, the electricity grid continued to operate and around us the traffic lights continued to move between red and green. Billboards moved in the breeze of the shock waves and floodlights continued to blaze on public buildings. Above us we could see the massive curtains of smoke beginning to move over Baghdad, white from the explosions, black from the burning targets.
How could one resist it? How could the Iraqis ever believe with their broken technology, their debilitating 12 years of sanctions, that they could defeat the computers of these missiles and of these aircraft? It was the same old story: irresistible, unquestionable power. [...]