Bubbles of fire tore into the sky above Baghdad

March 2003: Robert Fisk gives an eye-witness account of the start of the shock and awe campaign

Saturday 09 April 2022 21:30
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<p>Two US combat jets launch as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, as the shock and awe campaign begins, 21 March 2003    </p>

Two US combat jets launch as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, as the shock and awe campaign begins, 21 March 2003

It was like a door slamming deep beneath the surface of the earth; a pulsating, minute-long roar of sound that brought US president George Bush’s supposed crusade against “terrorism” to Baghdad last night.

There was a thrashing of tracer on the horizon from the Baghdad air defences – the Second World War era firepower of old Soviet anti-aircraft guns – and then a series of tremendous vibrations that had the ground shaking under our feet. Bubbles of fire tore into the sky around the Iraqi capital, dark red at the base, golden at the top.

Saddam Hussein, of course, has vowed to fight to the end, but in Baghdad last night, there was a truly Valhalla quality about the violence. Within minutes, looking out across the Tigris river I could see pin-pricks of fire as bombs and cruise missiles exploded on to Iraq’s military and communications centres and, no doubt, upon the innocent as well.

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