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CNN CROSSFIRE

Just One Hour for Saddam Hussein to Exit Iraq, Avoid War

Aired March 19, 2003 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE.

On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson

In the CROSSFIRE tonight: one hour and counting.

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have not received, unfortunately, any indication from Saddam Hussein that he intends to leave the country.

ANNOUNCER: And at zero hour, exactly what happens?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We fight him, God willing, and we will be victorious.

ANNOUNCER: Maybe he should guess again. We'll look at the military options and the diplomatic ones.

KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: We must all feel that this is a sad day for the United Nations and the international community.

ANNOUNCER: Plus, will Saddam Hussein run if the bombs start falling? We'll ask his biographer tonight on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Welcome to a special countdown edition of CROSSFIRE. Saddam Hussein has precisely 59 minutes to leave Iraq to avoid war. It doesn't look like he's going to, so in addition to keeping our eyes on the clock, we'll also be spending the next hour looking at the big picture. What is the military's likely strategy? What obstacles can Iraq put in the way? And what happens once we win?

A couple of retired officers who were CNN military analysts will join us. We'll also ask Saddam Hussein biographer how the Iraqi dictator is likely to react when hundreds of thousands of American soldiers come streaming across his borders.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: It is a little after 3:00 a.m. in Baghdad, about 7:00 p.m. here in Washington, of course, and our CNN correspondents all over the world are working around the clock as that deadline for Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq approaches.

We are joined now by three of the best in the business. Wolf Blitzer, who is in Kuwait, Suzanne Malveaux, who is at the White House, and Jamie McIntyre, our senior Pentagon correspondent.

Wolf, what is going on in Kuwait City right now, sir?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Kuwait City, they are bracing for the start of this war. They think it could be imminent. They think it could be perhaps hours away, maybe another day or two, but, by no doubt, officials here, from the top leadership on down, as well as rank and file Kuwaitis, they certainly support the Bush administration. They support the U.S. government. They know firsthand what Iraqi military occupation is like, having experienced that a dozen years ago.

Now, up in the northern part of Kuwait earlier today, along the border with Iraq, the first Iraqi soldiers actually surrendered; 17 Iraqi soldiers surrendered to U.S. troops along the border. Along the border they were handed over to Kuwaiti forces in the northern part of the country.

By the way, in the northern part of Iraq today they had some significant sandstorms, which could hamper U.S. attack helicopters, ground forces if the order is given.

Elsewhere in the region, Turkey, the government of Turkey, the new government of Turkey looks like it's going to give the Bush administration, the United States and its coalition partners, specifically Britain, permission to fly over Turkey, to use Turkish airspace to attack areas in Iraq. But so far, no official word on the use of Turkey as a base to launch ground strikes. And the Bush administration - excuse me, the Bush administration earlier saying that that $6 billion aid offer, that aid package, to Turkey no longer on the table right now.

As far as what Saddam Hussein will do, the king of Bahrain, not far away from where I am right now, he made an offer, a public offer to Saddam Hussein, saying he could have safe sanctuary. He could live in exile quietly for the rest of his life in Bahrain if he decides to leave Baghdad at this late hour. No indications from the Iraqi government in the next several minutes, of course, as you say, that Saddam Hussein is going to do anything like that. But a generous offer from the king of Bahrain to see if war could be averted -- Paul.

CARLSON: Wolf, it's Tucker. You're in Kuwait City, which I think is only about 40 miles from the Iraqi border. Give us a sense of how people in Kuwait City are reacting. Is their panic?

BLITZER: Well, they're remarkably calm people here. A little bit further away from the board, but still remarkably calm here in Kuwait City. Most residents accepting the possibility, the likelihood, now the near certainty that there will be a war.

There's been some shopping at the stores. They've been going out buying the kinds of batteries, even duct tape, water, things that they would need in this kind of situation, things all of us who live through terrorist scares in the United States are very familiar with.

But by and large, the leadership here, as well as rank and file Kuwaitis, they're relying on the protection of the U.S. military. There are patriot air defense missile batteries all over the place, so they think it's relatively secure, and they're bracing for the best.

BEGALA: Wolf Blitzer in Kuwait City, be well, friend. Be safe and thank you for that report. I know we're going to be seeing an awful lot of you lately.

President Bush, meanwhile, if you're here at home, took care of the very last formality he needed to before he can launch an attack in Iraq. In accordance with last fall's congressional authorization for use of force in Iraq, the president today sent a letter to Congress officially informing the Congress of his determination that diplomacy will not work in the effort to disarm Saddam Hussein.

For more on our president's day, we go to CNN White House Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux. Suzanne, a busy day at the White House?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paul, it's really been an extraordinary day at the White House. With an hour and counting here, no one believes that Saddam Hussein is going to leave his country. We are all now simply waiting for war.

The president, earlier today, met with his national security council. He also met with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld at least twice, as well as Gen. Myers. He was given the latest information, the detail on the war plans. We are told he was updated about the conditions in the region, including the weather conditions, as well as those forward troop movement, all of this for the president to determine when is the best time for the U.S. to strike.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FLEISCHER: The president made very plain to the American people that, as a result of Saddam Hussein's failure to disarm his possession of weapons of mass destruction, he has come to the determination that the only way to enforce the United Nations resolutions now is through the use of force.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: And today, several hundred protesters gathered outside of the White House, anti-war protesters. Several dozen were arrested when they would not leave Lafayette Park, just right across the street. When U.S. Park Police closed it down, they were kneeling on Pennsylvania Avenue. That's when they were arrested. There have been protests around the country on this day. Many people are very anxious about what is about to happen - Tucker.

CARLSON: Suzanne, tell us about some of the preparations here in the United States. The administration has said it's concerned about homeland security. Did the president address that at all today? MALVEAUX: Well, he actually met with the secretary of homeland security, Tom Ridge, as well as the mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, to discuss exactly that, the preparations that they're making. They're obviously saying that it's going to become much more dangerous for Americans, in terms of terrorist attacks, when this war actually happens.

They're going to be upping the protection of bridges, as well as ports. We've even seen, just within the last 24 hours, increased security here around the White House. There is a perimeter that's been expanded so people are not actually able to get that close to the White House. The White House press corps needs to present its own pass about a block away before you get to the grounds - Paul.

CARLSON: Suzanne Malveaux at the White House, you may be up late tonight. Thanks very much.

Although bombs are not yet falling on Baghdad, as you can see by this live picture, U.S. and coalition war planes today struck a number of artillery sites in Iraq's southern no-fly zone.

For more on the military moves, here is CNN's senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre. Jamie, what is the latest?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tucker, we've been expecting this as the U.S. gets closer to invading Iraq. The U.S. identified, several days ago, several artillery pieces, long- range artillery pieces they said were within range of U.S. troops gathered in Kuwait. They are supposedly capable of launching chemical munitions.

Well today, in heavier than usual strikes in the southern no-fly zone, the U.S. military attacked those 10 artillery pieces, as well as another surface-to-surface missile site and also some cable repeater stations, defense radars. Again, softening up the battlefield as the U.S. prepares to invade.

But the U.S. stresses this was not the beginning of the war. It is action that was authorized in the southern no-fly zone. At this point, no U.S. troops have crossed the border into Iraq except, of course, for Special Operations troops who go in without the Pentagon acknowledging that publicly.

BEGALA: Jamie, it's Paul. In 51 minutes, by my watch, the president will be absolutely free to give the fire at will order, the go order. What advice are his senior military leaders giving him as to the timing? The president said in his speech the other night, we will attack at the time of our choosing. What advice is he getting on timing?

MCINTYRE: Well, if he's like most commanders in chief, they will leave that precise timing to the military commanders, who are going to evaluate all the conditions on the ground, including these sandstorms they've had lately, which make it hard for helicopters to fly, just taking a look at how things are moving. One thing they might want to do is they're putting a lot of pressure on the Iraqi regime and on the Iraqi military to try to surrender. They are sending leaflets out with instructions on how to surrender. They may want to have a little time to let that sink in. You know, sort of like when somebody calls a time out when they're going to kick a field goal in a football game to make them think about it. They may want to just give them a time-out to think about the psychological impact of as they go to bed tonight, they don't know if this is their last night before they are going to meet the might of the U.S. military.

But the commanders will make that decision, try to preserve some tactical surprise in not just when the U.S. goes in, but exactly how they do it.

BEGALA: Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon, thank you for that fascinating report, and thank you for staying on top of all the news breaking out of the Pentagon. We've got to take a break now as the deadline approaches, and when we come back, we will talk about the American invasion of Iraq.

You know, presidents never publicly rule any military option in or out, but what military strategy and which battlefield tactics will prove the most effective when America goes to war? We'll ask retired general and former NATO supreme commander Wesley Clark, when he steps into the CROSSFIRE next.

A little bit later, we'll take you back to Kuwait for the latest, as we count down toward the deadline. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We are precisely 46 minutes and 37 seconds, if my watch is accurate, away from President Bush's deadline for Saddam Hussein and his sons to leave Iraq.

Now, assuming the obvious that Saddam stays put, the U.S. is prepared to put plenty of hardware and man power into action to enforce the president's declaration.

Her to talk about it, the man with firsthand knowledge of using American military power to dislodge a dictator, retired Army general, former NATO supreme commander, Gen. Wesley Clark. He led the successful 1999 war to stop ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. He's now a CNN military analyst.

Hello, Clark. Good to see you, sir.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, U.S. ARMY (RETIRED), FMR. NATO SUPREME COMMANDER, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Good to see you.

CARLSON: Now, Gen. Clark, our viewers will be, in a second I think, looking at live pictures from our camera in Baghdad. When do you think this campaign is going to start, and do you think it will start in Baghdad?

CLARK: Well, it's a mystery, really. I mean we just don't know.

CARLSON: Right.

CLARK: Technically, it could start in an hour. It might not start until...

CARLSON: Forty-seven minutes.

CLARK: It might not start until noon tomorrow. It might start in the middle of the night, tomorrow night. There are advantages and disadvantages any way you go on this.

CARLSON: What are the criteria you would use if you were commanding this operation? I mean what - how would you make the judgment about when to start.

CLARK: Well, obviously, you're not going to start until the troops are ready, but Tommy Franks has said the troops are ready. So now it's a matter of what is your best opportunity to get tactical surprise, plus how well is the psychological operation working, and will you gain something if you let it delay a little bit longer?

So they may decide to let it cook.

BEGALA: Right, Jamie McIntyre, earlier, had said that some of their thinking, depending on -- ice them like a field goal kicker in a big game.

You must be having flashbacks back to March of 1999. President Clinton sent his emissary, Richard Holbrooke, to meet Slobodan Milosevic, the dictator who was then Serbian leader, and gave him an ultimatum, gave him a warning. He rejected it as well.

You then were the man who got the go order. You had all the forces of NATO arrayed before you. How does Gen. Franks, Gen. Myers, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, how do those generals decide which tools to deploy when? What do you start with?

CLARK: Well, you have to start with what your objective is. And in the case of Kosovo, we started in the summer of 1998 working on an air campaign plan. And we briefed it to NATO, and then we began the planning. And I remember, during the first video teleconference, I was in Los Angeles, and my air commander was in Europe. And we sat there in a beautiful, summer day, both in Stuttgart, Germany and in Los Angeles, thinking, can this be true? Are we really going to plan this campaign against Slobodan Milosevic?

BEGALA: Which piece of hardware do you...

CLARK: So it's well thought out.

BEGALA: ... the Stealth and the...

CLARK: They've worked this. This one will probably be the Stealth bomber, the B-2. Probably start with Tomahawk missiles. They'll probably start with air-launched cruise missiles. They're unmanned, so there's a lower risk. They can be programmed in advance. We'll probably fire...

BEGALA: They'll be fired out of aircraft and then also out of sea-based tomahawk...

CLARK: Aircraft, submarines, cruisers, destroyers, they all fire these and they'll all be orchestrated. They know the routes; they know the targets. It's an enormous planning process, but that will probably be the first weapon that goes in.

BEGALA: And then the B-2 you mentioned. Tell our audience.

CLARK: The B-2 Stealth bomber carries the joint direct attack munitions, JDAM. It's a GPS-guided bomb installed with a satellite update, so it's very, very accurate. You don't have to see the target. You just have to know where it is.

You put the coordinates in. The aircraft's flying out of range and probably out of any detection. It's very, very reliable. And we have a lot of them.

CARLSON: How long after that point, General, do ground troops move in?

CLARK: Well, that's really the commander's call. They could move immediately or they could wait. But in this case, we softened up his air defenses. We've got complete air superiority over the southern no-fly zone. So my guess is they'll move pretty quick.

CARLSON: Well, what about Iraq's SCUDs? Does Iraq have any that still work, and are they capable of hitting Israel or Qatar or Kuwait?

CLARK: We think he's got about two dozen SCUDs. We don't know whether they're workable. Chances are, they are. He's going to have to launch them within a certain zone in western Iraq in order to hit Israel. He can't launch them from anywhere because they don't have enough range.

He can launch them from south of Baghdad and hit Kuwait, and he has the shorter range of 90-plus mile al-Samoud 2 missiles that we've been trying to get destroyed.

So he does have the means of striking friendly countries.

CARLSON: Why is it hard to destroy them? I mean they must be physically large. Can't our satellites determine where they are? Are they easy to hide?

CLARK: Well, they were hidden when they were parked during the Gulf war. We spent about 10 years looking at the problem afterwards, and apparently some of them were parked under bridges and things where the satellites just didn't see them.

CARLSON: How big are they? Just give us a sense of what does a SCUD look like.

CLARK: Oh, about 60 feet long, 70 feet long, a big tractor, trailer truck. You'd think, why, my goodness. But there are lots of tractor trailer trucks in Iraq.

And the satellite is like looking through a soda straw at the carpet. And just imagine walking over the carpet looking for something looking through a soda straw. I mean you may or may not see it. And it's not reporting something moving. It's just a strip of pictures, and so it's a matter of luck whether you actually detect these things.

Now that was 1991. We've gotten a lot better since then, and we've got very good chances to stop the SCUD problem entirely this time.

BEGALA: Well, to me - get you to pull you back the lens a little bit and talk about objectives. In Kosovo, it was to stop ethnic cleansing, to remove Milosevic and send him off to trial for war crimes. That's happened. Nobody has any doubt that, militarily, we'll achieve our objective in Iraq of deposing Saddam Hussein and then, over time, disarming the country.

We also have to build a democracy there, according to our stated warnings. Right?

CLARK: That's right. I mean you've got to go back to the beginning. We originally did this because he had weapons of mass destruction. So one objective is you've got to get to the weapons of mass destruction. It's really not about Saddam's military. They're just in the way. You've got to get the weapons of mass destruction out.

But then, at the same time that we're doing this, we've got to keep an eye on North Korea. Because if the problem is to prevent weapons proliferation, of nuclear weapons in particular, which is what we were talking about, because lots of people have got chemical and biological weapons, if it's nuclear weapons, well, there's North Korea preparing to start a chemical nuclear weapons factory in North Korea.

So we have to keep an eye on North Korea at the same time. We don't want to win it in Iraq and lose it in North Korea because we focused on Iraq. That wouldn't be much of a victory in terms of anti- proliferation.

And then we've got the other problems that are there. We said we were going to do something about terrorism. So we don't want to go into Iraq and have that become a source of so much hatred and animosity that it feeds the terrorist machine.

So we've got to go in decisively. We've got to go in without causing a lot of civilian casualties. And we've got to go in in a way that doesn't arouse any more resentment in the Arab world than is out there.

And then we've got to have a post-war strategy. And it's just a daunting series of objectives. It's much more than simply fighting against Saddam's military. So for all of the B-2s and cruise missiles and tanks and all the action that we're going to see on television, the real struggle here is afterwards. CARLSON: OK. Gen. Clark, we'll take a quick break. We'll be back in just a minute. The deadline is approaching. The ships, planes and tanks are ready. Will the weather be a factor? We'll find out if more sandstorms are in the forecast.

Then we'll consider the troops you've never seen in action, except in training videos like these. We'll be joined by a former member of our Special Operations forces.

We'll also check back in with Wolf Blitzer for the latest from Kuwait City. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're only about 35-and-a- half minutes away from the deadline in Iraq.

This time of year, sandstorms are a fact of life in the Middle East, and they're an obstacle for military planners. For the latest forecast, let's check in with Orelon Sidney in the CNN weather center.

ORELON SIDNEY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Tucker, conditions are going to improve considerably tomorrow. This is the big storm that passed through this morning. You can see it kind of starting up right about here, just off the coast of Damascus and then continuing on toward the north and east.

The good news is the low pressure system has diminished in intensity and moved off to the northeast. That's what generally causes those strong winds to come out of the south and southwest, and visibilities were as low as 1,200 feet earlier on Wednesday.

This is the forecast then, much cooler air coming in behind this area of low pressure. It will be windy out ahead of the front, but that's going to be in Iran. Cool temperatures and winds about 12 to 15 miles an hour can be expected across parts of Iraq and Kuwait. It does not look like any sand or dust will be raised tomorrow. Tucker, back to you.

CARLSON: Thanks a lot.

President Bush received briefings today on what a White House official calls preparatory actions inside Iraq. Those are presumably Special Forces operations to scout attack routes and potential targets. CNN military analyst and former NATO commander Gen. Wesley Clark is still with us here in the studio. And for more on Special Operations, we're joined by CNN Security Analyst Kelly McCann. He's a retired Marine Corps. Major and was Special Operations officer.

Kelly, thanks for joining us again. It's always good to see you again.

We just heard Orelon Sidney's weather report. Apparently, sandstorms will abate tomorrow. But even the most cockeyed optimist doesn't believe this will be a one-day war. Sandstorms do kick up all the time in the desert. How big a problem is that for your former fellow colleagues in the Marines and the armed forces?

MAJ. KELLY MCCANN, U.S. MARINE CORPS. (RETIRED), CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Well, they're in now. So they're ahead of any storm. They've been doing...

BEGALA: Special Operations forces.

MCCANN: Right. They've been doing their work. Now, ground forces, it depends on the op order, and none of us are privy to what that op order is and how it will play out.

BEGALA: Op order being.

MCCANN: Operational planning and the actual order that they execute.

BEGALA: For those of us who never finished the Boy Scouts, you know, you've got to help us along here.

MCCANN: Right. The operational order, so it could be that we'll engage with some of the weapons that the general talked about, which are unaffected by any dust storm. The trick will be, do we want to move troops in concert with that so when the Iraqis lift their heads up after that covering fire, we're standing there with rifles or not? Is there another play?

BEGALA: And they - I'm sorry, go ahead, Tucker.

CARLSON: Well, Gen. Clark, I just - tell us what would happen. There's been a lot of talk about what happens if the Iraqi military uses chemical weapons against our troops. Tell us what would happen.

CLARK: Well, the first thing is you have to be prepared to react to that. So the first reaction is defensive. You get everybody warned. Hopefully you get a little early warning before they use it. Everybody puts in - his mask on and his gloves on and so forth so you can deal with it defensively.

CARLSON: Sorry to interrupt you, but how would you know it's coming? How are the warnings...

CLARK: There are various ways of knowing. There are some units that are associated with chemical weapons. So if you see activity with that unit, you've got some suspicion. There may be other indicators, and I don't want to go into all those indicators here.

And you also have chemical agent detection alarms for stationary positions, but that's when the chemical agent is right on you. It could be a bio-agent, but you also might get some alert on that.

So you're going to first get yourself in the right defensive posture. If it's a chemical agent and you can drive through it, you'll drive through it and get away from it and get away from it. You'll decontaminate at some point. But then there's the larger issue I think you're driving at, Tucker, is, what do we do as a nation about it? CARLSON: Right, and how do we...

BEGALA: Well, Kelly, first, you, as a guy who was on the ground, the training kicks in, I'm sure. But this has got to be top of mind worry for these men in the field, right?

MCCANN: Well, the key is you win by winning. And as the general just pointed out, you drive through. You don't let that deter you. It's going to slow you down. There are logistical concerns. You're going to have to decontaminate.

But the best answer is to get to where they're being launched from and kill those people, and then they don't launch anymore, to destroy those things, the transporter erector launcher systems. So to get clogged up, to hold up is precisely the wrong thing to do or to maybe even up the ante. There has to be a better logic than that. You win by winning, and it's to destroy their capability.

BEGALA: But, General, several months ago, actually, the president stunned a lot of people in the press. Actually, he said the exact right thing by just stating a 50-year policy of the United States of America, which is every president has every option before him, including a nuclear option, if anybody's foolish enough to use the wrong kinds of weapons against American troops. That has to be on the table for the president. Doesn't it?

CLARK; I think it's always on the table in wartime. I think the commander in chief has to have that option. But you have to look at the specific circumstances and ask would it make sense to use that weapon or series of weapons in this case?

It's hard to envision what kind of targets they might be used on. I mean the most effective answer to it is to win the war quickly and decisively, not necessarily to use a nuclear weapon because if there's one bit of logic in Saddam's use of chemical weapons, maybe he wants us to respond with a nuke.

For all of the people that would condemn him for using chemical weapons, we would be condemned even more strongly for using a nuke. So that's not a reason not to use it, if you have to use it and it's militarily efficacious in this circumstance. But that case would have to be proven.

It doesn't look like there's any requirement to do that. We would move straight in and finish the fight.

CARLSON: Kelly McCann, the deadlines about 30 minutes away right now, which mean, in 30 minutes, we could go to war. Whether we will or not is another question.

Let's say you're an American soldier in Kuwait on the border with Iraq. What are you thinking right now?

MCCANN: There are some lonely young men right now, who are motivated and capable, but this is where you test your metal. And the bottom line is they're having very personal thoughts. Outwardly, they're very capable; they're very strong; and they're motivated.

But no man can go into battle without wondering. Now, when it becomes frequent and recent experience and once you've been engaged and you shake the murphies (ph) off and off you go. But the bottom line is, right now, everybody's looking...

CARLSON: And is it chemical weapons, you think, that American troops fear most?

MCCANN: It's conflict. It's the idea that I've been training all my life to do this thing, and suddenly, now I'm here and I'm going to do it or someone's going to do it to me. It's a very primal and very human experience.

CLARK: There are tremendous uncertainties associated with going to war. And it's easier to talk about arrows on a map, and you're with your buddies and you're talking about what you will do when you get there. But it's another thing when it comes right down to it and you realize what could confront you in the next hour or 12 hours or two days. And it's just a staggering list of uncertainties.

You could get out of the action entirely, your vehicle could break down. You could get hit, you could get hit by friendly fire. He could use a chemical weapon against you.

You know just don't know. And as you start to think through those things and ask yourself, am I ready for this, am I ready for that, you've got to work your way through it, you've got to build your mental readiness. You have to build your toughness, you've got to build your readiness to go forward.

BEGALA: And it's important for the American people to understand that every single soldier and sailor and airman and Marine who is involved in this is at risk. I remember in the last Gulf War there was a National Guard troop out of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, far behind on the safe side of the lines in a water unit when the scud missile hit their mess (ph) tent and wiped out 30 men. So every one of them has to know they're risking their lives for us.

CLARK: In modern war you're not necessarily safe just because you're not in the first vehicle or the first line of soldiers. Everybody has to be committed and read mentally, doing their job, and disciplined ready to respond if the unexpected happens.

BEGALA: All right. General Clark, Major McCann, keep your seats just for a minute. When we come back we're going to -- actually, when we come back -- first ,before we come back to our guests, we're going to go to Wolf Blitzer for an update on all of the latest in Kuwait City. You are watching CROSSFIRE on CNN. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS ALERT)

BEGALA: Now we're going to get some reaction on the latest developments from our guests. They are CNN security analyst, retired Marine Special Operations Officer Kelly McCann, and former NATO Supreme Commander, now CNN military analyst, General Wesley Clark -- gentlemen.

CARLSON: General Clark, you heard and we know that the American military has dropped millions of these pamphlets urging Iraqi soldiers to surrender, and there's some suggestion they will surrender in large numbers. What do you do with them at that point? Does that bog you down as you try to move forward?

CLARK: It could, and this is one of the reasons that so many of us old ground pounders have said let's get a large force there. Because when you start trying to deal with a lot of people surrendering, it takes away your own military manpower and your flexibility and capability. We don't have a large force there right now, honestly. I mean the force on the ground is actually fairly modest in terms of troop strength.

So my guess is we're going to use our Special Forces there. They're going to be working with the Iraqi opposition. And we'll probably do minimal with the prisoners ourselves. We'll probably turn them over to the Iraqi opposition with the U.S. Special Operations Forces to be secured.

BEGALA: In fact, speaking of Special Operations Forces, a former officer in those forces, it's a safe bet -- and not been announced by the Pentagon -- that some of your former colleagues are already there in country, in Iraq doing their job. Is that why we just got this report from Wolf Blitzer that 10 surface-to-surface batteries were hit in the no-fly zone? Usually the hits that have occurred in the no-fly zone of course have been against air defenses or radars, the kind of things that could threaten our planes. Now, rightly, we're attacking batteries that can fly surface-to-surface, that is attack troops on the ground to protect your former guys, right?

MCCANN: It is among the missionaries, of course, to do threat assessments, target assessments, confirm the target lists, to go out there and do deep reconnaissance, check out news of access to make sure that things are made ready. But it's not the time to put them in a particular place, because with a little backward planning, the opposition forces could easily look at time and distance variables and have a vector to go look for people. But suffice it to say they're what we call wiring the country up.

BEGALA: Now what does that mean? Just tell me, what do are they equipped with? What are they there to do to find scud missiles to protect them from launching on Qatar, Kuwait, Israel, to look for weapons of mass destruction? What's their mission?

MCCANN: Well, to have a good special operations plan, it's integral to the planning from the very beginning. It's always a bastard child, if you will, brought in late. And usually your success rate goes significantly down.

So from the beginning it's been considered what do we do with these men and what's the best use of them? They are out now again acquiring routes. They're trying to confirm targets still exist where we thought they exist. They're trying to see if there is troop movements and report that back to the J3 so they can make adjustments. The J2 is going to (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

They're busy guys and they're trying to avoid any kind of contact. When the mission starts, or just prior to it, then we go into perhaps short-term raids on direct action missions. They could attack to support strategic objectives, operational issues, or specific tactical intermediary objectives to make it easier for conventional forces.

CARLSON: General Clark, you were explaining a couple of minutes ago how hard it's been to find scud missiles, which, as you said, are 60 to 70 feet long. How hard then will it be to find Saddam Hussein and his sons?

CLARK: Well, it may or may not be hard. It depends on what kind of signature they have. And as he starts losing command posts, if he's still in there fighting -- and he may try to take personal direction of the battle -- I mean we don't know. It may create a signature.

But in general, I think what we have to do is not focus on Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein is not important in this battle. Osama bin Laden is important. Saddam Hussein, he's the head of a government.

What you have to do is take over the country, occupy his palaces, take the seat of government, destroy his ministries, take his files, remove his communications. As an individual, Saddam Hussein's not going to do anything. He's not going to survive very long.

He's hated. If he gets away and goes to a neighboring country, fine. He won't survive very long there.

He's not a cult figure. So what we don't want to do is -- I hope, and I'm just suggesting this, obviously -- let's not make Saddam Hussein the cult figure. The cult figure, the guy we want is Osama bin Laden. Saddam Hussein, we want the government, we want that regime changed.

We want people in there that we can trust that will participate in the world the right way. But Saddam Hussein, as an individual, he's nothing once we're into that country and into Baghdad.

CARLSON: I must say, that's going to be a tough sell to the American public, though, that here we've initiate this war in Iraq and really in the end it doesn't really matter whether they get Saddam Hussein.

CLARK: It's a tough political argument to make, because in the United States we always personalize our enemy. We want somebody that we can really dislike, and Saddam Hussein is a very dislikable guy. And he is a terrible guy, he's got a terrible record.

He should be a war criminal. Or, as far as I know, he hasn't been indicted, but he should be. I mean he's done some reprehensible things. And if we capture him, fine, but we can accomplish all of our missions without capturing Saddam Hussein.

BEGALA: Kelly, let me get you to personalize it to the guys on our side. Every one of them a son or a daughter or a father of an American family here. What are we doing to protect them?

We've seen reports about potential Iraqi terrorists, perhaps even dressed in look-alike U.S. uniforms. Maybe fake surrenders where they can come into an American camp and use terrorist tactics to -- what are we doing to protect our guys in the field?

MCCANN: Education, number one. We actually started a structure called Force Protection Command, which actually is on site to protect the rare area. It's much more beefed up. We have lots better technology and have had better strides in education to make troops aware of the cleverness of deception like that.

There are also some things that would be very difficult to duplicate in uniforms. Without getting into it, it would be very difficult to obtain the same kind of signature. Some low-tech tactics that Saddam Hussein tries to use will be worthwhile. Some will be fruitless, and he doesn't know that they're going to be fruitless, but our troops do. So you should have confidence in your kids.

CARLSON: Kelly McCann, General Wesley Clark, thank you both. We'll be hearing much more from both of you in the coming days. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Iraq's deadline is getting closer; 18 minutes to be precise. Before we get there, one of our viewers suggests a way to keep the French, the Germans and the Russians -- remember them -- a lesson for their obstructionism.

And next, a man who has come about as close as anyone in the world to understanding Saddam Hussein. We'll talk to Saddam's biographer in just a moment. We'll be right back.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE, coming to you live, as always, from the George Washington University here in downtown Washington. It is 15 minutes to the deadline in Iraq. And as the clock ticks down, is there any chance Saddam Hussein will leave any time soon?

Joining us now is a man who has studied the Iraqi dictator inside and out. Andrew Cockburn, the author of "Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein."

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Andrew, thank you for joining us.

ANDREW COCKBURN, SADDAM HUSSEIN BIOGRAPHER: You're welcome.

BEGALA: An important topic tonight, obviously. The book title "Out of the Ashes." Is there any chance the Saddam family will be out on their asses and just take the exile offer from Bush and get the hell out of Dodge?

COCKBURN: No. Well he'd have to run to the airport I think in 15 minutes.

BEGALA: Yes. He's got about 14 minutes now.

COCKBURN: Yes, they'd stop, they'd clear the traffic for him. But, no, and I never thought he would. I mean he is not a guy who was ever -- I thought -- who was ever going to take the option of running away for two reasons.

BEGALA: Bahrain today offered him safe haven.

COCKBURN: Yes, but he -- first of all, he wouldn't trust them not to turn them over to the Americans, and he'd be strung up somewhere. And, secondly, he's very conscious, you know, of his dignity, his place in history. He talks -- he's talked in the past about "how they'd be looking at me in 200 years."

He sees himself as part of a long line of great rulers of Mesopotamia and Iraq. So he'll be conscious of that. Also, he's been in tight spots before. There was a time in 1964 when he was on the run, his party being forced from power. The house he was in with two companions was surrounded by the police, was there shooting and calling him to surrender and then shooting.

And one of his companions said, let's pack it in. And he said, no, no, we'll fight until the last bullet and then we'll try and get away. So that's his kind of mindset. This is a tough street guy and he's not going to pack it in.

CARLSON: Well it's not, as the president said the other day, it's not simply Saddam the U.S. is interested in, but his sons. Tell us about Uday, for instance. Uday his son.

COCKBURN: He's the elder one. He's a very scary individual indeed. I mean Saddam, even today in Iraq has had a certain charisma. You know people fear him, but to see Saddam, there's a certain respect for him.

Uday people simply fear. He's kind of a psychopath. Most of the terrible stories you hear about him are true.

He's chairman of the Iraqi Olympic Committee, for example. It's the only Olympic committee that has its own jail because people who offend him he sticks in the jail, including members of the Iraqi football team. If you go and watch Iraq play a soccer match, the guys with shaven heads are the ones who played badly last time. And have spent (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to sort of motivate them properly for this time. He's very greedy. He dominates the smuggling scene in Iraq. He's a amassed a huge fortune. It probably won't do him much good now.

But he's been the one grasping for money. Even Saddam has complained about him. Saddam called him a useless playboy, I remember on one occasion. He's a very scary and unpleasant person.

BEGALA: Well now how about the brother Qusay, then? He's no better, is he?

COCKBURN: Well, he's more interesting. He's not -- you know Uday is out there. He's just a sort of arrogant, blood thirsty liar. Qusay is smart. I mean on the one occasion I had an opportunity to observe them, Qusay was like the -- he was the deferential younger kid, but my wife, who was actually sitting with him, described him as the guy you meet at the high school dance who would rather be at home dissecting rats.

She said he was that creepy. A very creepy individual, indeed, but smart.

BEGALA: What's been his sphere of power within...

COCKBURN: Oh, bigger and bigger. I mean for 10 years he's been in charge of all the securities services. He's really -- after Saddam, he's been the next guy. He is the guy that Saddam trusts not only to be loyal...

BEGALA: The security service have been the ones who carry out the torture.

COCKBURN: Carry out the torture. You know (UNINTELLIGIBLE) torture. You know, find out who to torture, spy on each other. He's the guy that Saddam trusts to be loyal, of course, but also to be smart. So he's a very significant individual.

CARLSON: Now you said 30 years ago Saddam was trapped in a house with two companions under attack from the police.

COCKBURN: Yes.

CARLSON: First, how did he get out?

COCKBURN: Well, he did fight until the end and his last bullet. And then he tried to run away. And he was in fact captured. But he went on fighting and got into jail and actually pretty soon escaped from jail.

CARLSON: So what's going on happen? I mean what do you envision his last stand to look like at this point? Is he going to fight it out, do you think, of what you know of him?

COCKBURN: I think he will, yes. I think that's exactly what he'll do. I don't think he's -- he's never going to pack it in. I think he'll try and stay on the run. He's an optimist, you know? He's always been in tight spots before. I think this is what he'll be thinking right now. Things have been bad before, you know, that time in 19 -- you know, after he was displaced from power. The time before that when he tried his first big assassination attempt, he tried to kill the president of Iraq.

The attempt failed. He was wounded. He had to flee, he got away across the desert.

In 1982, the Iranians had broken through. His forces were in pell-mell retreat. Saddam, you know he thought at that time he was all up (ph) with them. But he laughed it through. And I'm sure what's going through his mind right now is things are pretty bad, you know, it looks black, but there may still be a chance.

CARLSON: So you're describing someone who's irrational, it sounds like.

COCKBURN: Well, he hasn't got much option, you know? I mean if all your choice are bad, you might as well...

CARLSON: He could go to Bahrain or Saudi Arabia.

COCKBURN: Well, no, because then -- first of all, he thinks they'll probably turn them over to the Americans. He doesn't trust them. He doesn't trust them not to kill him, which is probably not too -- that's not irrational, because remember, he knows a lot.

He knows who he bribed over the years. He knows all of the secrets of who he's done deals with, which a lot of people outside Iraq would not want publicized.

BEGALA: Your (UNINTELLIGIBLE) painted an amazing picture, John F. Burns (ph), the reporter, about Saddam in one of his bunkers meeting with one of his senior lackeys underground in a low ceiling, but white marbled walls. And Mr. Burns (ph), the reporter, compared the picture to Hitler in his bunker in Berlin as the allied army came around him.

COCKBURN: Well, that's an apt comparison. Although, in the last war, he didn't go to a bunker. You know we kept blowing up bunkers trying to kill him, and in fact he was never in a bunker.

He just moved into an ordinary middle class house in the Monsoor (ph) district or one of the upscale districts in Baghdad. Just took it over, no one knew where he was. He drove around -- someone I talked to who saw him during the war who was the head of the military intelligence at the time said he'd turn up just at intelligence headquarters in a car with one driver, one guy, an anonymous little car.

So that's what he's really good at, is fading into the crowd, if you will. I don't think he'd be stupid enough to hide out in a bunker, because he would never be that confident that the U.S. wouldn't find it and bomb it. I think he'll be -- Saddam's -- Baghdad is a big city. I think he'll be somewhere where you just wouldn't know to look.

CARLSON: We are almost out of time, but so is Saddam Hussein. He has eight minutes left. He's not leaving, is he?

COCKBURN: Well, fast drive, planes waiting, who knows?

BEGALA: Any chance -- we have a few seconds left -- any chance though of a coup or an assassination by his military leaders?

COCKBURN: That is always possible. Something he thinks is always possible. So -- and he's probably a good judge in these things. So you never know.

BEGALA: Terrific. Andrew Cockburn is the name. Thank you very much.

COCKBURN: You're welcome.

BEGALA: "Out of the Ashes," the book, the biography of Saddam Hussein. It's an amazing read. Thank you very much, Andrew.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: We have just enough time before that deadline is enforced to let our viewers fire back at us. One of them has a reminder that, even on the verge of war, all of us still have the right to free speech. Stay with us.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. On the verge of war, we are not yet at war, so it's perfectly fine for me and everybody else to continue our political debates. We've put them aside for tonight, but not for "Fireback." Many of our viewers have some strong opinions about many of the topics we've been talking about on the show lately.

Let's begin with Patrick Drew of Green Bay, Wisconsin. "Talking about the U.N. resolution, do you know why Mr. Bush didn't get the votes he needed at the U.N.? He didn't have Katherine Harris or his brother Jeb counting the ballots."

Well, that's what our guys are righting for, though, the right for Patrick Drew and me and everybody else to make fun of our leader.

CARLSON: That's part of what they're fighting for, yes. Probably a small part.

Josh Rush of Scottsdale writes, "Since France, Germany and Russia derailed diplomacy by removing the threat of serious consequences at the hand of the U.N., I think it's only fair that Congress earmark all the aid we provide those nations to offset the cost of doing the U.N.'s dirty work." All right, Josh.

BEGALA: Well, I don't think we provide a whole lot of aid... CARLSON: Well, that's probably true, but it's symbolic, Paul. Yes.

BEGALA: The trade or the aid. I guess no more Russian dressing, if we're going to have freedom fries and all this patriotic correctness.

Brian Gridley -- by the way, can we eat turkey if the country of Turkey doesn't let us use their -- I'm lost, sorry. Brian Gridley of Evans, Georgia writes about the enormous contretemps, the huge backlash from the ultra right over Tom Daschle's rather sensible critique of the president's foreign policy.

He writes, "Since when did it become unpatriotic for an elected representative to use his free speech rights to criticize the failed policies of a presidential administration?" You know you could agree or disagree with Daschle's comments, but the counterattack from the far right, Tucker, was astonishing.

CARLSON: Nobody's questioning his right to say it. It's when congressman Pete Stark, a Democrat of California, accuses the U.S. military of terrorism, as he did tonight. I'm not saying he shouldn't have the right to say it. He does have the right, but it's still appalling.

BEGALA: But that's -- but Daschle...

CARLSON: Rick of Dixmont, Maine writes, "How can Secretary Ridge go on all of the morning shows and state we are prepared for another attack when a nut with a tractor has had downtown Washington tied up for three days?"

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Now I agree with him. People may not know about this because CNN is covering more important news. But Rick ain't making that up. There's some lunatic -- a report's out that he's a tobacco farmer and he's parked his tractor in a pond by the Washington Monument.

CARLSON: Why don't they get him with a tranquilizer dart? That's my question -- yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. I'm Julianne Bunken (ph) from Buffalo Grove, Illinois. We continue to hear about steps that will be taken after the U.S. wins the war, but what will define a win?

BEGALA: Well, General Clark, I thought, was wonderfully eloquent about that. I mean we have very, very high objectives our president has set. It's not only to depose Saddam Hussein, it's not only to disarm his weapons of mass destruction, but it is to bring a democracy and freedom to the Iraqi people, which is a very important and noble goal. But I think it's going to be awfully difficult to pull off.

CARLSON: Well I think the lives of everyone in Iraq are going to be improved the moment Saddam Hussein leaves, and that's a win -- yes. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. Aaron Scofield (ph) from Washington, D.C. Is it possible for our forces to have any surprise advantage with the intense media coverage that the war plans are getting right now?

CARLSON: Well, not in some general sense. I mean I think Saddam Hussein has caught on that something's afoot at this point. But the exact time, as the president said, is unknown. Even CNN doesn't know it, and that gives you a sense of how secret it is.

BEGALA: Absolutely. And I thought Jamie McIntyre at the beginning of the show, reporting from the Pentagon -- he's CNN's senior Pentagon correspondent -- pointing out that it's like putting a field goal kicker on ice. Kelly McCann, the major from the Marines, said that this is like one of the worst things we can do, is torment them with the waiting time.

So good for them. I support the strategy, even if I don't always agree with the president. From the left, I am Paul Begala. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: From the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again next time for yet more CROSSFIRE.

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