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The White House Decision to Launch the War - 2003-03-21

President Bush met with top administration officials – including Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld -- at the White House Thursday – to discuss the next phase of the war – following the attacks on Baghdad at daybreak – aimed at taking out top level Iraqi leaders.

U.S. President George W. Bush spoke to reporters after meeting with his cabinet Thursday afternoon.

President Bush said decisive force will be used to limit the length of the war – but he also warned the campaign could be longer and more difficult than some predictions.

He announced the first attacks in a televised address late Wednesday.

“On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein’s ability to wage war.”

The targets President Bush was referring to reportedly were Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and his top deputies. American newspaper and television reports say CIA Director George Tenet told the President Wednesday he had intelligence information on exactly where the Iraqi leader was – meeting with his war council in a private residence – in Baghdad – making the group a so-called “target of opportunity” -- and reportedly causing Mr. Bush to quickly alter the plans for launching the military campaign against Iraq.

It is not clear whether any senior Iraqi officials were killed. Shortly after the missile strike on the residence, Iraqi T- broadcast what appeared to be a defiant Saddam Hussein – saying Iraq would be victorious. The White House says U.S. intelligence has not yet reached a conclusion – as to whether it really was Saddam Hussein – who has been known to use body doubles. Officials also say they don’t know if the remarks were pre-recorded.