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King: The drama of the president's day

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CNN's John King

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush told the world Wednesday night that the United States and its allies had launched a military campaign to oust Saddam Hussein from Iraq.

Shortly after Bush's speech, CNN White House Correspondent John King reported on how the president spent his day before and after making the decision to begin the strike.

KING: One official here, in providing some information on the dramatic developments here today used this term, he said, 'this is not his father's military,' meaning this president is very confident about the military's capabilities to deliver strikes inside Baghdad while keeping civilian casualties to a minimum.

More of the drama of the president's day. We told you the war planning meetings are now twice a day but it was at an extraordinary extra meeting late this afternoon after the second war planning meeting. We are told for almost four hours from 3:40 to until 7:20 p.m. in the Oval Office -- the president, the vice president, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, CIA director George Tenet, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice -- they came to see the president urgently because we are told there was concern at the CIA and at the Pentagon that a target of opportunity might be lost.

We are told the president actually gave the go ahead at 6:30 p.m. -- 50 minutes before that meeting broke up. At 7:20 p.m. -- after the meeting broke up -- he stopped to see his chief speech writer to tell him there would be an announcement later tonight, time to get to work.

At that point, Mr. Bush left and went to the residence. He had what we are told was a relaxing dinner with the first lady. At 8 o'clock Andy Carr, his chief of staff, came to say the NSA and the CIA had confirmed that Saddam Hussein was still in the country, that he had not accepted the president's ultimatum. Then around 9:30, 9:45 Mr. Bush returned to the Oval Office, put the finishing touches on that speech. At 10:15 p.m. tonight in an address to the American people, the president of the United States announced war was underway.

In his speech, the president went on to say the United States would use maximum force to achieve it's objectives.

One senior official I spoke to a short time ago said the best intelligence information at the moment is a much larger scale operation is still at least 12 hours away.

However he also said the president -- as he did tonight -- reserves the right to act more quickly if any information comes to his attention.

At this hour, as we analyze the early hours of this Mr. Bush has returned to the residence, we are told he is headed to bed. Vice President Cheney, National Security Adviser Rice have also gone home. But of course the White House situation room -- the nerve center here in the West Wing of the White House staffed 24 hours a day -- because of the advances in technology, is in touch with everyone of those forces, the deployed forces, everyone of those vessels positioned around the Persian Gulf.


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