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SECDEF: Air strikes not aimed at civilians

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (March 25, 2003) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld lauded the air coalition's unsurpassed ability to avoid collateral damage during a March 25 press conference in the Pentagon.

Speaking directly to Iraqi civilians about the intent of coalition air strikes, the secretary said that there can be no mistake about the coalition's intent.

"By now you have seen and know that coalition air strikes are not aimed at you. They are aimed at the regime of Saddam Hussein," Rumsfeld said.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff echoed those comments later in the press conference.

"The air campaign is continuing well," said Gen. Richard B. Myers. "We flew nearly 1,000 sorties over Iraq (March 24), most against republican guard units, and conducted close-air support for the ground advancement in the south and the special forces in the west."

According to earlier reports by U.S. Central Command officials, similar air strikes were planned for March 25. Coalition forces intended to conduct more than 1,400 sorties against republican guard units and weapon systems that could be used to deliver chemical weapons.

According to Rumsfeld, there is no reason to believe the trend will not continue in the future.

"We have total dominance of the air," Rumsfeld said. "It is not air superiority -- it is dominance. (The Iraqi military has) not put an airplane up."