War Of Words

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: As U.S. bombers and stealth fighters headed towards Iraq, harsh rhetoric came from both sides of the escalating conflict. Defense Secretary William Perry said that the U.S. was ready to take all "necessary and appropriate actions" to defend its forces from any challenge by the Iraqis. Perry's remarks came a day after the Pentagon sent four B-52s and eight F-117A stealth fighter-bombers to the region to respond to a missile fired by Iraq at a U.S. fighter jet. The Kuwaiti government drew the ire of Tariq Aziz, Iraq's deputy prime minister, after it agreed to host some of the U.S. planes. Aziz likened Kuwait's action to be a "flagrant aggression against the people of Iraq and an act of war against the Iraqi state." Nonsense, Perry responded, and added that "U.S. military forces do not pose a threat to Iraq." The planes would allow the U.S. forces to launch a stronger offensive against Iraq than last week's cruise missile attack, TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson reports, and let the U.S. continue with a strategy of containment against Saddam Hussein that has been in place since the end of the Gulf War. With the additional capability, Thompson notes, U.S. forces could hit military headquarters, mobile air-defense batteries, drop laser-guided bombs on command bunkers, destroy Iraq's highly capable Mirage fighter planes on the ground, or hit manufacturing and storage sites for chemical and biological weapons. "Militarily, Saddam is caught in a box," Thompson says. "He can provide little annoyances to the U.S. periodically, but his army isn't strong enough to pose a serious threat to U.S. troops." -->