George Bush decided to begin a military operation an hour before the ultimatum expired. An informed source at the US president's administration said this to journalists. According to him, Bush ordered to begin the military operation between 2.30 and 3.00, Moscow time.
Then, Bush made the last changes in the text of the already prepared address.
The term of ultimatum to Saddam Hussein expired at 4.00, Moscow time. At that moment Bush already had supper with First Lady Laura Bush in his residence. Approximately at the same time, CIA director George Tenet informed Bush, through the president's chief of staff, Andrew Card, that according to information received from special services and the US National Security Council Saddam Hussein refused to obey to the ultimatum and remained in Iraq.
By that moment photographers and TV operators who work in the White House were informed that they would not be able to have contacts with the President till the next morning. The sources at the administration began assuring mass media that the beginning of the operation was likely to be postponed.
Nevertheless, many journalists refused to leave the White House and continued waiting for the development of events.
At about 5.00, Moscow time, internal information appeared at the US administration that Bush will possibly make a statement at 6.00, Moscow time.
At 5.30, Moscow time, the first missile strike was delivered at Baghdad. The first to announce this live on TV from the Iraqi capital was the US NBC company.
Approximately at 5.45, Moscow time, press secretary of the White House Ari Fleischer told journalists that the military operation began.