This news item is appearing on the Australian news tonight:
(Ozzie is barely refraining from venting his own feelings on this)
18:48 AEST Sat 1 Feb 2003 US admits forces in Iraq now
AP - US bombers are hitting hard inside Iraq, getting a head start on disabling President Saddam Hussein's defences in the south, while other US forces are on the ground in the north preparing for war.
US and British warplanes bombed three dozen sites in January, most associated with air defence communications in the southeast.
That's the route invading US ground troops probably would take if war should come.
The Pentagon also has acknowledged it has inserted a small number of troops into the north, although it refuses to describe their mission.
Meanwhile, pilots have nearly doubled the supplies of leaflets dropped over the south to undermine the rule of Saddam, to 3 million this month.
"We're kind of getting a head start," Lexington Institute military analyst Loren Thompson said, speaking of the increasing airstrikes.
"We're taking advantage of the situation to reduce Iraqi defences so we can use the full weight of our air power when the war does come."
The situation he speaks of is the dominance the allies have over a large portion of Iraq's skies. For more than a decade, the US-British coalition has enforced flight-interdiction zones over the north and south in the name of keeping Iraqi forces from harassing Kurdish and Shiite Muslim populations in those regions.
Patrols over the zones have benefited the coalition by facilitating the gathering of intelligence, getting practice in dealing with Iraqi forces and becoming familiar with the territory.
On Wednesday, 11 of the 15 United Nations Security Council members advocated more weapons inspections and peaceful disarmament of Iraq rather than a rush to war.
But a Bush administration impatient with Saddam has steadily continued the deployment to the region of tens of thousands of troops for a possible military campaign.
Inside Iraq, meanwhile, the Defence Department has accelerated bombing and dropping propaganda in the decade-old southern flight-interdiction zone.
It also has sent the troops into the north, where the CIA has been checking out airstrips and working with opposition groups.