Iraq's Bounty on Planes Raises the Stakes

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Saddam's $14,000 bounty on their heads may not have deterred U.S. pilots, but it highlights the danger of the current standoff. "Losing a pilot over the 'no-fly' zone creates a political problem because it potentially escalates the conflict in a way that the U.S. may not be planning on," says TIME U.N. correspondent William Dowell. "Right now everyone's asking what Washington's game plan is, and there's no clear answer."

Special Report U.S. pilots showed their disdain for Iraqi air defenses Tuesday by striking targets in the north and south of the country. After all, Saddam's gunners' failure to shoot down a U.S. plane thus far hasn't been for lack of motivation: "U.S. pilots know the location of Iraq's missile sites and avoid their 'threat arcs,'" says TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson. To get a kill the Iraqis would have to lure a pilot into range by switching off their radar and even sending up planes to act as bait. "Our pilots are warned not to take the bait," says Thompson, "but they're aware there's always a danger they could be shot down." While the pilots are prepared for the risk they're taking, the same may not be true for the politicians.