Saddam Hussein's death squads, coalition progress and a stern warning to Syria and Iran highlighted Secretary of Defense Ruimsfeld's press briefing of March 28.
The Death Squads
Operating under the name Fedayeen Saddam, which translates to "Saddam's Martyrs," Iraqi death squads threaten regular Iraqi soldiers with death in order to compel them to fight for the Hussein regime.
"These death squads report to the Hussein family directly," Rumsfeld said. "Their ranks are populated by criminals released from Iraqi prisons, they dress in civilian clothes and operate from private homes confiscated from innocent people and try to blend in with the civilian population."
According to Rumsfeld, the Fedayeen conduct public executions, often cutting out the tongues of those accused of disloyalty and wielding swords to behead people "convicted" of aiding the U.S. coalition.
"They (the Fedayeen) put on American and British uniforms to try to fool regular Iraqi soldiers into surrendering to them and then execute them as an example for others who might contemplate defection or capitulation," Rumsfeld said.
Rumsfeld called the very name of the death squads -- Saddam's Martyrs -- a lie, because "their purpose is certainly not to make martyrs of themselves, but to make martyrs of innocent Iraqis opposed to Saddam's rule. But we will take them at their word, and if their wish is to die for Saddam Hussein, they will be accommodated," said Rumsfeld.
Having fought their way to within 50 miles of Baghdad, Rumsfeld declared the U.S.-led coalition forces to be making solid progress since the start of the ground war. Coalition troops were concentrating on the Iraqi Republican Guard divisions guarding the capital. Coalition air forces are striking targets when and where they want. In the north, the Army's 173rd Airborne has been deploying, and coalition forces have been launching attacks against terrorist groups in the region.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force Gen. Richard Myers said that after only eight days of battle, coalition forces controlled between 35 percent and 40 percent of Iraq.
In addition, humanitarian aid is already starting to pour into Iraq. Coalition maritime forces have cleared a channel 200 yards wide from the Persian Gulf to the port of Umm Qasr. The first ship with humanitarian aid, the HMS Sir Galahad, docked at port facilities on March 28.
In southern Iraq, British and U.S. troops had taken control of the oil fields and were protecting them from further sabotage by the Hussein regime.
Rumsfeld also addressed doubts about coalition progress recently expressed in the media.
"In that short period of a week, we have seen mood swings in the media from highs to lows to highs and back again, sometimes in a single 24-hour period," Rumsfeld said. "For some the massive volume of television and breathless reports can seem to be somewhat disorienting.
"Fortunately, my sense is the American people have a very good center of gravity and can absorb and balance what they see and hear."