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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Strike on Iraq

Aired March 21, 2003 - 23:30   ET

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

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: The dozens of bombs seem to come out of the bellies of these planes and just flatten out entire blocks and square blocks and blocks. It's a very different kind of air warfare that gets fought in the 21st century.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It's much different and the key on this is it's reconnaissance and intelligence led. What we know we want to strike we can strike with precision. So it all comes down to the knowledge that precision of the knowledge to guide those bombs and ...

BROWN: General, stay with us for -- we got a ways to go here. If you're just joining us and you haven't been around TV or radio throughout the day, a lot of things have happened. It's 11:30, almost 11:31 here in the East. Heidi Collins has a quick update on the events of an extraordinarily busy day.

(NEWSBREAK)

BROWN: Thank you, Heidi, have a good night. Once more to Heidi Collins, who's been handling the update duty for a long time today. What we'll go on now in the skies way up over Iraq -- U.S. satellites, U.S. spy satellites will be making passes over the city. It is one of the way, it's not the only way, but it's one of the ways that military planners will figure out how successful they have been. We heard John Burns (ph) a little bit ago of the "New York Times" say from where he was standing about a half a mile away it was hard for him to imagine that anything survived any building survived those attacks.

Miles O'Brien has been working a bit on this whole notion of bomb damage assessment, or as the general would say BDA.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: BDA.

BROWN: General, I'm getting better at this sort of thing. Miles, walk us through it.

O'BRIEN: It's almost like dealing with NASA at times, Aaron. First of all let's -- let's talk a little bit about how many missions were staged today and the remarkable fact that not a single U.S. aircraft was lost through all of this. This was part of the reason why -- this is a B-52 and what we're showing you here is a calcumerum (ph), calcum (ph), that's Conventional Air Launch Missile.

A cruise missile which is dropped off of a B-52. We've been telling you about cruise missiles which come off ships and off of submarines. This is one of the other ways that these can be launched. More than 1,000 have already been launched on Iraq since this campaign began at more than a $1 million a copy, a $1 billion bill for that. Just to put that into some perspective.

Now let's give you an idea some of the targets that were sought out today. We'll kind of given you this before for the BDA, the bomb damage assessment and I'm going to take you up north to Mosul . Mosul and Tikrit north of Baghdad, important sites following the Tigres River that narrow of vegetation and civilization in Iraq. This takes you down to a VIP residence in Mosul . One of some of the 50 palaces plus that Saddam Hussein has built over the years costing some $2 billion. Let's move south to Tikrit. Tikrit is his home town, his clan is there, his tribe is there, it is filled with all kinds of Saddam Hussein palaces, another obvious target for the people who come up with these scenarios.

Now let's take you down to Baghdad and we'll give you some specifics about what happened there in the course of this day as we watch some of this -- these -- this video of this bombing campaign. We'll take -- give you a wide shot of the palace area which was the focus of a lot of attention. First take a look at some of these pictures. If you look in the foreground there, there is a building there which is associated with a Ministry of Planning.

I'm going to tell you a little bit more about what is going on beside it as we look at some satellite images in just moment. But this bombing was very sustained and very precise. This big wide swathe of Baghdad is all considered part of Presidential Palace compound. The Republican Palace right at the center of it. Let's take you a little bit further down the street here or up north actually as we're headed to the northwest really to the Ministry of Information. The reason I show you that is that is where the camera is locating that you've been seeing all these pictures from.

Satellite dishes on the roof there and the camera shooting in this direction. Let's swing around, show you exactly what you were looking and as we swing around we'll try to match up this view with some of the pictures you've been seeing and give you a sense of what's been going on and exactly what was destroyed based on what we heard as you look at live pictures now as dawn breaks over Baghdad.

There's those pictures you see, there's that building in the foreground. Come back to the satellite image and I'll show you where that building is as we move a little bit closer to that area. That building is off in this direction here and those palaces, all that activity is right in there. Let's move along and go to that area. We'll show you the palace that was involved in that tremendous explosion there. Just one of several that was the target here.

Once again these palaces, bit of a euphemism, these are really complexes which involve all manner of ravine control. The Republican palace, that main central palace here right on the banks of the Tigress River. Another one that was struck we know for sure on the course of this thousand cruise missile attack, the palace that is known as Al-Suji (ph). Al-Suji (ph) is a little further down the Tigress River and then finally the palace know as Al-salam (ph), which translated is the peace palace.

We'll show you quickly some of the pictures released by Iraqi TV of the remnants of what is the peace palace, the Al-salam (ph). These pictures released shortly after that barrage of bombs which rained down on Baghdad. Go back to the satellite image and you'll see the before, there was your after. And that is exactly what has been going on. These regime targets, these focuses of Saddam Hussein's -- well his desire to build monuments to himself, much of that today lies in rubble -- Aaron.

BROWN: Miles, thank you. That's -- and we assume I think correctly that the level of sophistication of the satellite imagery that the American military will be working at is a bit more precise than what we just put on the air -- what we just put on the air the computer enhancement there is pretty interesting stuff.

We have I think generally people are aware we showed earlier round 10 o'clock or I think 10 o'clock eastern some of the demonstrations that are going on in Chicago. Obviously there's enormous concern around the world about the breakdown of diplomacy in the beginning of the war. This is particularly true in Arab capitals. One of the things that we ought to look at and pay attention to is how the world is reacting to the American attack on Iraq which is now a couple of days old. So here is a quick survey, if you will, of world reaction today on the streets at least to what has gone on.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): Today around the world, the anti-war protests seemed to grow larger and increasingly more violent.

Fighting broke out on the streets of Cairo, rocks thrown at riot police, water cannons used to disperse tens of thousands of protesters.

In Bahrain, police used tear gas to push back anti-war demonstrators, marchers shouting for U.S. troops to get out of their country.

The 5th Fleet is based there. For Arab leaders in the region war has caused them to walk a most delicate diplomatic line.

KING ABDULLAH, JORDAN (through translator): We will work with all possible means to put -- bring a stop to this war as soon as possible, in order to ease the suffering of our brothers in Iraq.

BROWN: Not all of the protests were abroad. Protests in San Francisco threatened to shut down the city, or parts of it, for the second day in a row as anti-war activists sat in the street. Hundreds have been arrested. But there was also this today.

The people of Mobile, Alabama standing in support of American troops at war.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're supporting our nation. BROWN: Not all protests are large; sometimes they are as simple as one lone man in a Midwestern town. Morgan Richardson (ph) today, the town was Austin, Minnesota.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Which, if I remember much from -- I don't remember much honestly from my high school geography, Austin is to the south of the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. This has happened now a couple of nights in a row to us. Where we're able to we do what many of you do to be honest, we check the Internet, see what other people are reporting. You've got literally thousands of people reporters around the world who are working on this story. On one screen is a story or another, you have the embeds in country, you have a lot of people in Washington, in Arab capitals, in European capitals of all trying to develop different story lines that ultimately someday will give us the full picture of what has gone on. That's how you build it. I mean each of these little pictures.

Literally you have the picture of Baghdad looking south and a picture of northern Iraq and a picture and a picture there and then you add all the diplomatic pictures and you add all the governmental pictures what's going on in the White House and ultimately -- but ultimately takes a while you get the full picture of what's going on.

Tomorrow's, Saturday's "Washington Post" will report that havens are being offered to defectors on an intensified effort to divide Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from his inner circle.

U.S. military intelligence officers have communicated with some Iraqi commanders according to the Post and secretly designated buildings in the capital for defectors to occupy promising that they will not be targeted in the American air campaign, senior U. S. officials said yesterday. That's the lead to a story in the Washington Post for Saturday.

One of the -- truly one of the reasons we love having General Clark with us is because of his military background he sees, often sees things not simply in military things but more broadly than we might otherwise miss or has interpretations that we don't necessarily see and our guys don't necessarily see, our men and women. When you read this you saw a couple of things didn't you?

CLARK: Well, I got a little bit concerned because the way to end this war quickly is not only the bombing but it's the relentlessness of American purpose. And there wee a couple of phrases in this article that made me think we may be trying too hard to reach the Iraqis. We don't want to be the suitors in this. We want them to come to us seeking a means of escape. "Please get us out of this terrible fix we're in." Not coming to them and saying we really hate to do this to you. We've got all these bombs, we really don't want to use them, so please won't you, we'll give you these building and you can't see from just reading this story where the balance is. But there is a balance in this type of psychological pressure and using military force simultaneous with diplomacy. BROWN: So let me I'm going to try and force you to be a little more direct here. We were looking at a specific line and the story which reads "there are lots of people all trying to give the Iraqi commanders option and ways to end the resistance" and your reaction when you read that was that there might be a sense that the Americans are so desperate to end this before that they're really as strong and maybe if you're an Iraqi maybe we can meet these guys, maybe they will give in cause they don't really want to fight it, what they want to do is see if we'll give up and if we don't they may fold like a cheap suitcase.

CLARK: That would be the concern that that sentence ...

BROWN: No one's suggesting that's what's happening it's just the -- I think what you're saying is that that might be running through the minds of an Iraqi who does not want to fold.

CLARK: It might be, it might be.

BROWN: We were talking yesterday you and I think there's -- I'm almost certain we were just standing in the newsroom here talking about trying to balance, when you're trying to get the enemy to fold, that one of the things you can't just say "OK, look, everybody stop, stop shooting, stop bombing, we're going to try and just talk nicely to one another". That what you do is keep pounding them to remind them why it is that it might be a bad idea to give it up.

CLARK: That's exactly. You know in the early stages of the Kosovo campaign many different efforts were made to persuade Milosevic that he shouldn't let his country be bombed. He should concede right away and give in to NATO. And the more the efforts were made, the lesson I took from it was the greater the effort people made to reach Milosevic the more convinced he was that some how NATO wouldn't want to go through with this. So there's a balance, there's a line you don't want to cross in applying the psychological pressure directly.

BROWN: Just as -- go and take this (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that is if you can, those of you who were with us last night these are the guys that you spent your evening with if you will. This is the 7th Cav, they have -- if you were with us last night you know this -- it was an extraordinary thing to witness, This is a remarkably clear picture when these videophones stop down -- I assume this is videophone, isn't it? Videophone stop -- when the movement stops the picture clears a whole but you see they've made their way about 100 miles inside of Iraq. They came from Kuwait, they crossed this borough without much difficulty and last night for four hours or so it felt as if we were riding with them.

Which reminds me if I may just is of something else one other piece of this is from last night. I want to take a minute and talk about again those of you who were with us last night there was a moment where and it you know I'd like to tell you it was really smart. We plan all this stuff, it's not how it happen but the fact is that a woman up in upstate New York has a son who's in this unit and she happened to be watching. She's watching her son and they were pretty green pictures yesterday, but she's watching her son and she doesn't see him but she knows that's the unit making their way across the desert and she feels as you would feel if it was your son a lot of anxiety and tremendous pride, both of those things and she sent us a most lovely e-mail and we read it on the air.

And basically she talked about how proud she was and she thanked us and there was no reason to thank us but we certainly understood her pride and this afternoon I called her up to thank her for her e-mail and obviously to say I hoped that in reading it I didn't embarrass her, people don't necessarily send e-mails to us to have them read on the air. And we started to talk about her son and she said when he left, her name is Rosemary, Rosemary said to him Kevin I'm very much afraid. This is the first time in my life I feel like I can't protect you and Kevin said to her Mom, my turn to protect you.

When I read her e-mail on the air, this hasn't happened to me very often in my life in this instance, I could feel it in my throat, I really I think we all felt the emotion of that moment and when I talked to her this afternoon and she described her son saying, "Mom it's my turn to protect you," it happened again. Her little boy had grown up. We hope Kevin is out there safely and all of this Army colleagues are out there safely tonight. They've had an extraordinary couple of days making their way and thankfully they after meeting a little resistance at the very beginning on the left side of the screen by the way I guess this the second 101st we've got a correspondent there and we'll talk a bit about that but we spent so much time with the Cav yesterday live, Walt Rogers reporting and we'll hear from Walt I hope before the night's over but anyway they probably are just stomp down. General you think they're just doing another refuel or they've stopped the at place -- have they stopped where they're going to stop?

CLARK: No, they're working their way to Baghdad.

BROWN: It would be a guess but they must be somewhere in near the river because I see greenery behind them so they're out of the desert somewhere near the Euphrates. And we don't want to be anymore specific than that as you as you move from -- if you move to the north what happens is the desert changes and you get a little more green in you see none of this green when you're in Kuwait but as you get into little deeper in the southern part of Iraq you do see -- you start to see some greenery even in the south. And we want to always be careful, and we try always to be careful, about giving too much detail on this, but it's a big desert out there and anyway, it's good to see those guides.

I think we all felt -- I know I got a lot of notes from viewers, we all felt like we got to know them in a kind of crazy way, even as we didn't see them. We saw them racing across the desert, and we saw them going past Bedoiun tents and herds of goats and wildflowers that were coming up in the desert, and Walt Rodgers stunning descriptions last night of that ride, that bumpy, noisy, not very comfortable ride. We saw them trying to eat their breakfast and refueling as some helicopters to do reconnaissance from them. Those of you who were along for the ride last night, I think it is one of those television nights you won't forget.

And what made it perfect is that there was no hostile fire; there was not war in front of us. We didn't have to report the worst of the detail of war, but we could -- we could just marvel at this combination of cooperation, technology, and just really good journalism that was going on. And we see it again, out in the desert, American soldiers walking around their vehicles. And behind them, there'll be an infantry division that will move at some point, if it has not started already.

We saw a moment ago a picture of the 101st. And we do have a correspondent also embedded in that fabled group of soldiers. We don't quite -- we don't quite have contact with Ryan Chilcote, but the picture has done some terrific work for us as well and hopefully we'll get all of those problems, the audio problems solved.

I think all of you certainly understand the complexity of trying to put live television pictures on from the middle of nowhere, and the middle of nowhere is pretty much what you're looking at out there.

General, we spent a long time with these guys last night. We didn't -- we were both so tired when it was over, we didn't talk much. It was a heck of a ride, though, wasn't it?

CLARK: They really galloped across the ground there. And fulfilled their mission, According to the press, that'll be published tomorrow morning, this infantry division has raced unopposed across a wide swatch of Iraqi desert and they're on the edge of the Euphrates Valley, as of last night, in Iraq, and spread out somewhere in central Iraq.

BROWN: Now, have these guys -- just because we did spend so much time with them, have they slept at all?

CLARK: Hopefully they've given them time, and maybe that's what they've done here. This is early morning in Iraq, maybe they pulled into this position after dark last night and gave them a chance to look at the vehicles, make sure the weapons were clean, and rest, because there are liable to be some tough days ahead. And even though this is different than carrying 70 pounds on your back and walking, this is still very, very strenuous operations. Even if you're in that vehicle, you're being bounced and jostled all day, carrying a lot of gear. And you're under continuous stress and you don't get a lot of uninterrupted sleep. So the chance to get six hours flat on your back in relative safety, well I hope they got it.

BROWN: I hope they did too. I just want to make this point again, and I hope it doesn't sound defensive, because in no sense do I mean it that way, we are always extremely vague about where any particular unit is, for obvious reasons. This is -- I suppose in this day and age Iraqi intelligence can throw a satellite dish up like many of you have in your home and watch all the American television networks, but CNN, as you know, really is in comments like this the world's television network. And bad guys, in this case Iraq, sit and watch us. And what we want to be extremely careful of is that we don't say anything that endangers any of those young men you see in front of you.

Now, in truth, I feel a whole lot more confident and how I do this and how we do this when you have the former supreme NATO commander sitting next to you, because he has an exquisite sense of both what we can say safely and what we ought not to say safely.

And I know, and I understand, I think we all understand, why viewers, why you get concerned about this. We are -- we are as concerned as you. None of us wants on our shoulders, ever, either for any reason, accidental, competitive, any of those crazy reasons you can think of, to have said anything or done anything that endanger the lives of any of those young men.

And so we are pretty careful -- well, not pretty careful, we're very careful -- even before the embed rules were put into place with this agreement with the Pentagon, here at CNN -- and I'm sure this is true at other news organizations -- internal rules about talking about troop movements and all the rest -- for someone who didn't want to sound defensive, I've certainly prattled on a long time about this. Trust me: We think about it all the time.

Walt Rodgers is out there.

Walt, have you -- well, please, go ahead.

CLARK: Let me -- can I finish -- I have -- because, you know, I did say there's a river there, but it's impossible to go north out of Kuwait without at some point running into that river. And saying the river's name really doesn't identify the location of the unit in any targetable sense.

BROWN: This came up just at one point last night and the general pointed out, it's a big darn desert out there. The fact that we know they're in the desert doesn't tell the Iraqis a whole lot.

CLARK: That's exactly right. Their security is maintained.

BROWN: OK. Well, Ryan Chilcote, as we said, he is with the 101st. We also spent some time with them last night. They were as we looked at it, getting ready to move out. Ryan, have they in fact moved out now?

RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Aaron, I can report that the 101st Airborne 3rd Brigade is now well inside Iraq. I'm actually with them, that is with the 101st, ever since we left Ft. Campbell. And for these soldiers, it's a pretty significant moment now, well inside Iraq -- Aaron.

BROWN: And how does -- describe how it comes about that they move out. Does somebody -- was there a pep talk, was there -- what happens?

CHILCOTE: Well, first of all, it was in the cover of night that the convoys moved out of Kuwait. A pretty long convoy. There was not any immediate pep talk before. We had been in what was called an assembly area for some time. The pep talks for the troops had taken place a long time before that.

It was pretty much a very organized, orchestrated event, a lot of vehicles involved. Sort of like being in one big traffic jam, you know. And there were a lot of stops where they would let convoys in front get farther forward and then move this convoy forward too.

It was kind of like being in a traffic jam, but only all the people belonged to the military.

BROWN: Was it -- well, let me get to Walt Rodgers who is up on the top screen, Ryan, just stay with me for another minute. Was it quiet? Did the guys cheer? Did they -- I guess as much sense of the moment as you can.

CHILCOTE: Absolutely. You know, a lot of the soldiers actually did take pictures as they came across the border. I'm not sure that they were supposed to do that; the army likes to enforce what they call light discipline. In other words, they encourage the soldiers really to try and make the soldiers not to use white light. But I must have seen at least five soldiers hop out of their vehicles and take pictures as they crossed the border. But this is really the beginning and a lot of these soldiers really wanted -- not that they really want to go to war with Iraq, but sitting in Kuwait, they were waiting for some kind of resolution; they either wanted to go home or they wanted to get started. The way they looked at it, the sooner it started, the sooner it gets finished so they can go home.

So moving into Iraq for a lot of these troops was really quite a pleasant, reassuring actually experience.

BROWN: It's become a motto, as you know far better than we do, of a lot of these units, a lot of these sergeants and the young officers, to say to homesick young men who want to get home, "The road home goes through Baghdad." It must have been at least to some degree a relief to know that they are on their way, that it's under way.

CHILCOTE: Yes, the feeling of the 101st -- I noticed when we past through the border, there was a sign that said in English, Welcome to Iraq. It had been left there by soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division. So obviously, it is a feeling that is shared by all the soldiers. They really wanted to, A, move into Iraq, and, B, know that they had made that move. It's an important thing for them.

BROWN: Now, let me ask you to do something I asked you to do again. Just step out of the way and so we can get a view of this long...

CHILCOTE: Sure.

BROWN: ...line of military vehicles of all sorts.

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