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US Military Encourages Iraqi Soldiers to Desert - 2003-02-28

The Pentagon has begun an effort to encourage Iraqi soldiers to desert, as the Bush administration continues its preparations for a possible war.

Coalition aircraft have dropped a quarter of a million leaflets over southern Iraq, some urging Iraqi soldiers to return to their families - an outright appeal to Iraqi troops to desert their posts.

The new leaflet says "Do not risk your life and the lives of your comrades. Leave now and go home. Watch your children learn, grow and prosper."

An illustration on one side of the leaflet shows what is apparently supposed to be a dead Iraqi soldier. On the other side a man in civilian clothing is surrounded by his children.

Defense officials cannot say whether such leaflet appeals are having any effect. But in recent weeks, millions of leaflets have been dropped. In addition to urging soldiers to desert, others warn civilians to stay away from military areas.

The information war also includes radio broadcasts along with direct telephone calls and computer e-mails to senior Iraqi commanders. Many of these appeals to upper echelon officials warn against the use of chemical or biological weapons against U.S.-led coalition troops in the event of a war.

More than 200,000 American military personnel are now in the Gulf region, about half of them in Kuwait, poised to move against Baghdad if President Bush orders.