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Strike on Iraq: Analysis of Pentagon Briefing

Aired March 22, 2003 - 16:33   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: We've been listening to General David McChrystal on the staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and also Tori Clarke, who of course is assistant secretary of defense for public affairs answering reporters' questions at the Pentagon. Bottom line here, only thing certain out of the conflict is the outcome. What they're saying is they can't tell you how long it's going to last. They were unable to give us a number of operational details that of course reporters were asking about.
I want to quickly turn to retired Army General David Grange. David, I know you were listening too. And I want to ask you what you picked up on. But one thing I do want to pinpoint as I turn to you, and that is this comment by General McChrystal that the success is going to be measured by the effects and not necessarily by how much targets are hit.

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE, (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: What he's referring to, Ranger McChrystal is referring to effects-based operations. What that means is that it doesn't -- you don't have to have bomb damage assessment. In other words, a kinetic item went in and blew up a building or a tank. In other words, you may affect the capabilities of an enemy target through information warfare, psychological actions, as an example. And what it means that you attack not only the physical domain of the enemy, but you attack the organizational domain, which means you sever the command and control. And it also means you attack the moral domain. Fear, sense of hopelessness, that you're surrounded, that you should give up. Those are the -- that's what he's talking about in effects-based.

WOODRUFF: What did you hear that advanced your understanding of what's going on over there, and just quickly a reference to when Tori Clarke said we don't have strategic surprise, that element, but we do want to preserve any tactical surprise that we can.

GRANGE: Right. There's three levels of surprise. You have strategic, which means we're in a war and react, and it's a big picture globally. And they know we have so many forces over there and so many ships in the sea, at the sea and we're firing these missiles. And it's really kind of the stuff that you -- we're watching on television.

Operational surprise is more of some of General Franks' actual -- what he puts out in the theater to employ special operating forces or air strikes or ground fighting. And tactical surprise is within the units themselves, like the 3rd Infantry Division have got to cross the Euphrates river. They announced that after it happened so the Iraqis couldn't oppose the river crossing. That would be tactical surprise.

WOODRUFF: All right, retired Army General David Grange, who has been consultant to CNN throughout Operation Iraqi Freedom. As I turn to my colleague, Wolf Blitzer in Kuwait, Wolf, I would just take note that Tori Clarke began by telling us about the deaths of some journalists in Iraq and she made a point of saying they're not embedded with U.S. or British military units, but she gave a very clear warning about how dangerous it is to be out there.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's dangerous for all journalists who go into Iraq, whether they're embedded with U.S. or British forces, or whether they go, as we say, unilaterally on their own with their own security, and the death of at least one journalist we know in the northern part of Iraq today and perhaps others underscores the dangers for all these journalists. We wish only the best to all of our colleagues, all our journalistic colleagues as they continue to try to do their jobs and cover this war.

I was also struck, Judy, by what the general said at the briefing at the Pentagon, that 400 Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched. Another 100 air launched Tomahawk cruise missiles, and several hundred more precision guided bombs. I'm thinking about 1,000 of these altogether during this first 24-hour period of the Shock and Awe campaign.

And as you say, significant development, crossing the Euphrates river, moving 150 miles so far on the ground into Iraq. Significant developments.

Nic Robertson was, until yesterday, in Baghdad, covering this story, so excellently for all our viewers around the world. He's now been expelled together with his team from Baghdad. They drove long into Jordan. Nic is joining us now live from Amman, Jordan, the capital there. Nic, first of all, tell us your impressions now as you see what's going on 24 hours into the air campaign.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, when we were leaving Baghdad this morning, the detonations that we could hear around the outskirts of the city were huge. We were in the center. So anyone living in the center of the city could feel almost this continual rumbling as one detonation came after another after another. That sense of shock and awe must to a degree, be being felt by many in Baghdad. But in particular, by those close to all those detonations. And of course, anyone in the center of Baghdad overnight last night would have seen the destruction of one of President Saddam Hussein's presidential areas, a large area in the center of Baghdad right on the Tigris river, hit repeatedly through the night, and certainly most people in the city would have been able to see the flashes and hear the detonations and even feel the rumbling.

So it is beginning to take an effect. The streets were very empty as we left the city today. In fact, really the only people we were seeing around were Baath Party officials in their olive green uniforms, most of them armed, loitering somewhat menacingly on the street corners of the city. They had small bunkers built. Some of the people manning those bunkers appeared to be as young as 16 or 17 years old.

But what we noticed, Wolf, the further away we got from Baghdad, the further away we got from the capital, we saw fewer and fewer and fewer military forces until really, within perhaps 100 miles of Baghdad, virtually no military forces to be seen whatsoever. Real indication here, perhaps, Wolf, that Baghdad is exactly what Iraqi officials are concentrating on holding. And very appear prepared at least to cede relatively easily those areas outside of the capital -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You were in Baghdad last night 9:00 p.m. local time when the Shock and Awe air strikes began. Give our viewers a sense of what it was like to be one of among five million people to go through that ordeal.

ROBERTSON: Wolf, I suspect that I was lucky, inasmuch I had a good reason to believe I was in a location that wasn't targeted, and because I understand the nature of these weapons, I had good reason to believe that 99 percent or a high percentage of the time, they would be accurate. And therefore, I could watch it without feeling a huge sense of personal danger.

I have not witnessed anything on this scale before. The multiple detonations, that almost, to be honest, Wolf, it had an Armageddon like feel to it, albeit in a limited area, multiple flashes, detonations that impacted your body, that blew the window open, that blew the plaster off the walls of the room I was in. It was massive, it was awesome, and for people who perhaps didn't have that same degree of knowledge of the weaponry and a certain knowledge that perhaps the location they were in wasn't about to be targeted, it certainly would have been shocking as well. It was -- it was awesome is perhaps the only way to describe it, Wolf.

BLITZER: And presumably, that was not -- that will not be the last time that kind of Shock and Awe bombing strike affects the Iraqi capital or other cities in Iraq. Nic, before I let you go, describe a little bit what it was like to drive from Baghdad, to leave Iraq, to get into Jordan, make it where you are now, Amman, the Jordanian capital. Specifically, we'd heard stories from other journalists who were expelled from Iraq that they were forced to pay huge sums of money to Iraqi officials simply to get out safely.

ROBERTSON: What happens at the border between Jordan and Iraq, is on the Iraqi side, there's a customs facility and they search your bags and belongings. And they have very strict foreign currency regulations. So if you try and leave the country with currency that you haven't declared going in, and some people don't do that, then you're in violation of laws.

Now, normally, the searching isn't very strict, and certainly for the other journalists preceding us, they were searched very strictly, even sent back to Baghdad to appear in court paying astronomical sums to be released from court and leave the country. We, perhaps, were somewhat luckier. Perhaps the border guards now realizing that they only too themselves have a few days duty left at that border point. They weren't so strict in their searches. They did pay a lot of attention to detail to our equipment, but we certainly didn't get any of the body frisking that I know my other journalistic colleagues had when they came out a few days ago, Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic Robertson, he's safe and sound in Amman, Jordan outside of Iraq. Nic, I think I think for all of our journalistic colleagues not only at CNN but from the news organizations around the world, we're happy all four of you made it out safe and sound, and we thank you for all of your excellent work. Back to you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: His crew got out safely, and also admiring of the enormous courage they showed while they were in Baghdad as long as they were permitted to be by Iraqi officials.

Still ahead, voices of protest here at home and overseas. When we come back, we're going to go live to New York City where demonstrators have been out all day long speaking out against the war, and others showing support for the troops.


WOODRUFF: As we watch these live pictures from Baghdad, the middle of the night, early morning over there, we want to tell you that the war on Iraq is sending protesters around the world into the streets this weekend. Tens of thousands of them turned out today for a massive demonstration in Britain's capital, London. While organizers claimed at least a quarter of a million people showed up, police put the number at about 80,000.

In the Middle East, a large and angry crowd marched through the streets of Gaza City to protest against the U.S.-led attacks on Iraq.

Here in the United States, meantime, demonstrators turned out today in big cities and some small ones. The biggest demonstration of all, though, in New York City. Over 100 police said, maybe 200,000 people turning out. Our Maria Hinojosa has been out all day long with the crowd. You can see from this overhead shot, Maria, I know -- I don't believe you have access to it, but we're showing our viewers from the helicopter view that shows an enormous group of people.

MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, the organizers here are saying that this crowd is anywhere from 200,000 to 300,000 strong. The police are saying it's well over 100,000. But certainly tens of thousands of people have come out to the streets of New York to say they do not support this war, not one bit. Their main focus now they say is to try to stop the war, to bring the troops home.

Now, it was a very orderly demonstration, coming down Broadway. But when they came here to Washington Square Park, it began to really just descend into some complications. Now, this is a very large crowd. They were being allowed to go around Washington Square Park for a quite a while. But then, soon, there began a confrontation with the police, where the police suddenly brought out a van, and we have someone here, her name is Dana Walters (ph). You saw what was happening, Dana. Take us to the scene. What happened?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The police were pushing thousand of marchers this way, with back-up vehicles, vans and buses full of police in riot gear. The marchers were being directed back towards them by another set of police that were blocking access to the subway. There was a confrontation. The marchers were chanting "the whole world is watching," and "whose streets, our streets." And this woman stepped up to confront the police to ask why we were being pushed in opposite directions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Actually, I didn't ask them anything. All I did was stand there, and then we started to chant that "peace is for your children too." And they were standing there abreast with their plastic handcuffs, each of them had their plastic handcuffs, and the face shields up and down. And I don't know, I think I moved toward them because I think what are they going to do to an old, white-haired lady?

HINOJOSA: So what happened at that moment?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They stopped, and I didn't know exactly that they stopped when I faced them. Later, people were thanking me so I was a little surprised.

HINOJOSA: You're 75 years old. Why are you taking to the streets, even though the war is well under way?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not a war that's under way. It's a massacre that's under way. It's an invasion that's under way. And the oil companies -- they have already given out contracts for the reconstruction to who, American cousins like Halliburton. I heard that this morning.

HINOJOSA: Harriet (ph), do you think that the politicians in Washington will be moved by the tens of thousands of people that have come out to the streets here in New York and in other cities around the world?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: King Bush, the resident of the White House, says he doesn't listen to anybody. And it's true. He may not. But we've got to keep coming out, and it may have slowed them down a little, but not much. That doesn't matter. We're going to get America back for the people.

HINOJOSA: And clearly, Harriet, who is only 75 years old, was able -- she's now being credited with keeping the police at bay, though there were confrontations. We know that there were several arrests. We don't have any confirmation now. We do know also that there was pepper spray that was used on a couple of demonstrators. A lot of anger, Judy, a lot of anger directed at the media, saying that we're not telling the story of the people who are against this war.

So a lot of -- it's very tense right now. We know that there are police over there. We've got protesters on this side. So we'll keep you informed as it develops -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thank you, Maria, in New York City, the site of the biggest demonstrations today. Well, certainly you can't say the media isn't telling that side of the story today. We've been covering these demonstrations all day long in New York City, in Atlanta, in Chicago, where people were demonstrating on both sides a short time ago. We had a report of demonstrations in Los Angeles, and further up north in the state of California, San Francisco, a city that's no stranger to protests and demonstrations. CNN's Rusty Dornin is there. Rusty, the last time I saw you, the crowd was gathering.

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the crowd now is dispelling a bit because they're gathering for the march, Judy. It's a bit of a festival atmosphere, very different from the previous two days here in San Francisco, where we had crowds in the street, a lot of civil disobedience, more than 2,000 people were arrested for tying up traffic and destroying property.

But today, we also heard a lot from speakers here about the fact that they don't feel that the media is covering this properly. They feel the embedded reporters are just spokespeople for the Pentagon and that they're urging on this war.

There's also a very radical contingent here that's saying they want to shut down military bases, they want to shut down all ports with civil disobedience, and that that's the only way they can have their voices heard.

But the folks who organized this rally really wanted it to be a peaceful one. They wanted people and families to be able to feel like they could gather.

Now, the march is just beginning to assemble. They're planning to march for about an hour or an hour and a half and come back here for music and more speakers.

There's also just a wide variety of folks here who have gathered for this. On one hand, you've got a gentleman who claims to be a Maoist, over here, we have folks who are for the war and are backing Bush. They've been getting -- you can see a confrontation going on right now between an anti-war person and someone who does support the war. Those have been going on all day. But fortunately, they've not been getting violent. There have been some pretty strong words used, but no one seems to be getting violent about it.

So they will be back, as I said, in about an hour. The police say as long as this demonstration is peaceful, they're fine. But as soon as they start tying up traffic in the streets, they will begin arresting -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Rusty, are there any -- how many people are you seeing there who support the president and support the policy of going into Iraq?

DORNIN: The only folks really, there's about 10 people here right now, Judy. But there is also a huge demonstration in Sacramento today. A lot of the folks that I know that are pro-Bush supporters and support the troops say that they went there today, rather than coming here.

WOODRUFF: All right, Rusty Dornin in San Francisco. We've been showing you these protests in a number of cities, and we'll tell you that while these anti-war protesters are spreading this message on the streets, our latest poll shows that 76 percent of Americans tell the pollsters that they approve of the U.S. decision to go to war with Iraq, while 20 percent say they disapprove.

Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, with more on the war and public opinion. Bill, first of all, how different is public opinion for this war from the first Gulf War back in 1991?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Judy, "The New York Times" reported an interesting comparison that showed a really striking difference between this war and Bush's father's experience in the Gulf War. In the Gulf War, Republicans, of course, were solidly behind the first President Bush. But so were Democrats; 81 percent of Democrats said they supported his handling of that war after the first few days. But compare that with this war -- 93 percent of Republicans are behind this President Bush, but only 50 percent of Democrats. That is an immense partisan difference. We did not see partisan differences that big until several years into the Vietnam War. Politically, I think it's fair to say this is President Bush's war.

WOODRUFF: Bill, what do you think explains the difference?

SCHNEIDER: Well, President Bush. He is very unpopular with Democrats, and a lot of Democrats, a lot, see this as a politically concocted war. They don't understand the argument for it. They don't see the Iraqi threat. The -- most Americans believe that what's driving this war is 9/11, but a lot of Democrats say wait a minute, we don't see any connection between Iraq and 9/11 and we don't see any threat from Iraq. And moreover, the argument, weapons of mass destruction, they say let the inspectors finish their job, let them find the weapons of mass destruction. We haven't seen them yet. They're very suspicious of President Bush and think this war is being driven by politics. And the rest of the world is not on the United States' side and that substantiates that Democratic criticism.

WOODRUFF: All right. Bill Schneider, our senior political analyst, as we look at live pictures of Baghdad.

And as we look at those pictures, we want to share with you that among the military families keeping close watch on what all is happening are the U.S. troops -- are those troops families at Georgia's Fort Stewart. Christina Waterhouse joins us now. She is the wife of Sergeant Donald Brett Waterhouse. He's a member of the 3rd Infantry Division, Mechanized Division, that is, based at Fort Stewart. Ms. Waterhouse, thank you for talking with us. When was the last time you spoke with your husband?

CHRISTINA WATERHOUSE, MILITARY SPOUSE: I spoke with my husband about three weeks ago.

WOODRUFF: And what was he saying to you then?

WATERHOUSE: Just indicating that they were still waiting for information, but that probably would not hear from him for a while. But he did indicate that they were all fine, doing well, and trained for this mission and ready to go whenever they were called.

WOODRUFF: What's your best understanding of where he is right now?

WATERHOUSE: My best understanding is that somewhere in the vicinity of approaching Baghdad. Where, exactly, I don't know at this time.

WOODRUFF: What are your thoughts, Mrs. Waterhouse, as you watch the images on television of this war?

WATERHOUSE: I have mixed feelings, really. I know that it's wonderful -- my husband was also a veteran of the Gulf War, of the previous Gulf War. And just the media coverage is, you know, great, because we can really keep an eye on where they are and how things are happening. But then on the flip side of that, I have, you know, sort of mixed emotions, as I said, because if there is, heaven forbid, an accident, the likelihood of anyone from casualty assistance getting to that family member first are really slim. So it's a tough situation.

WOODRUFF: How do you feel about this war yourself? You're watching pictures today, I assume, of many Americans protesting the war. They say they support the troops, but they disagree with the war. What do you think?

WATERHOUSE: Again, I'm a military wife of 11 years. I support the military, my husband, of course, and I know -- I just want to reiterate that they're well trained, ready to do their mission and just want them to come home safe.

WOODRUFF: Well, that sentiment is one shared by all of us. Christina Waterhouse, whose husband, Staff Sergeant Donald Brett Waterhouse, is with the 3rd Infantry Division -- 3rd Infantry Mechanized Division based at Fort Stewart, Georgia. Mrs. Waterhouse, thank you very much for talking with us.

WATERHOUSE: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: All of the men and women in uniform, in Iraq and in the entire region are in our thoughts.

That wraps up our coverage this hour. Wolf Blitzer straight ahead with more from Kuwait and around the world. I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. We'll be right back with more live coverage.


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