WASHINGTON—The London Daily Express cites British military sources as saying that a ground invasion of Iraq will commence March 17, but the betting in Washington is that hostilities will start on a Saturday. This could reduce the chances of retaliatory terrorist action against the 14th Street Bridge (packed during weekday rush hours) connecting northern Virginia to Washington. Workers won’t be in their offices. Nor will most members of Congress. The subway will be running on a lighter weekend schedule, as will Amtrak and commuter trains. Washington is now ringed with missile batteries, and war planes on patrol can frequently be heard overhead. As always, the sounds of the city are punctuated by screaming sirens of armed convoys carrying officials and visiting diplomats to and from government offices.
The U.S. Capitol itself sits within a veritable fortress, protected on all sides by barriers to thwart bomb-carrying vehicles. There are 1500 members of the Capitol Police Force, whose budget of $220 million a year makes it almost as large as the entire D.C. metropolitan police force, which has 4200 officers and a budget of $300 million.
The Express says the massive “shock and awe” airstrikes that are calculated to unnerve Iraqis and make no place safe to hide in Baghdad will start around March 13. The paper quotes a senior British government source, who it reports has had direct access to British military planning in Kuwait.