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U.S.-led Forces Setting Stage for Ground Troops to Roll Into Iraqi Capital

Aired March 25, 2003 - 16:00   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Our coverage of this war does continue. I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington.
At least three large explosions shook Baghdad within the past hour. U.S.-led forces are setting the stage for their ground troops to roll into the Iraqi capital. In the process, they're battling fierce sandstorms and defiant Iraqi troops. And they expect the worst is still ahead.

We have a new development, and it is coming out of the Pentagon. Our chief military affairs correspondent Jamie McIntyre joins me now -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CHIEF MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, Pentagon officials now saying that accusing Iraq, essentially, of another violation of the war of international armed conflict in the Geneva Conventions. Say that they have seized more than 170 paramilitary fighters dressed in civilian clothes or parts of uniforms who are holed up apparently in a hospital at Nasiriya.

This would violate the Geneva Convention against using the Red Cross emblem or equivalent symbol as protection against war. They say this is a warm crime. In fact, they say, at this location they found more than 200 weapons, 3,000 chemical suits and masks, and various Iraqi military uniforms.

Marines there also found a T-55 tank on the hospital compound. Before they went in they used a loudspeaker to urge all the doctors and patients in the hospital to evacuate before they took control. They captured about 170 prisoners. This marine unit. They say that they have evidence that they were actually using this as a staging area, that they were taking weapons and ammunition from this hospital and then using it to go into town and terrorize residents of the an Nasiriya area.

Again, the Pentagon saying it's just another violation of war crime committed by members of this Iraqi paramilitary unit known as the Fedayeen Saddam. And the U.S. says they will prosecute people as war criminals after the war is over -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Jamie, are they saying whether there was any legitimate use of this hospital at all or was it just purely a military rouse, if you will? MCINTYRE: Well, they say it was a hospital and, in fact, it had doctors and patients in it, although they say there were no civilians in the hospital at the time that they captured these 170 people there.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jamie McIntyre with some information about U.S. forces and what they encountered in the Nasiriya region. Jamie, thanks very much. And we'll be coming back to you I know as our coverage goes on.

Now let's go to Kuwait City where Wolf Blitzer also is following the latest -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you very much, Judy.

And as we're following the latest, we want to show our viewers live pictures of Baghdad right now. Only within the past hour or so, more explosions, more apparent U.S. bombs hitting various targets in Baghdad. Eyewitnesses say they were very, very powerful bombs.

This time, and indeed a Reuters correspondent who was in Baghdad now reporting that Iraqi television has gone off the air, although it's unclear if it's gone off the air for some very technical reasons or whether it was bombed off the air, if you will, by the U.S. military. But we're monitoring the situation in Baghdad right now, and we'll continue to have updates for our viewers.

Meanwhile, in southern Iraq in Basra, there are reports now confirmed by British military officers of what's being described as a popular uprising in Basra by the local population or, at least, elements of the population. Basra Shia Muslim uprising, rising up against Iraqi military forces and paramilitary forces in the city. It's a large city, about 1.2 million people, the second largest city in Iraq.

The British military is outside of Basra, attempting to help those who are rising up against the Iraqi military. We're continuing to follow that story, as well.

British forces, by the way are, are employing some new tactic in and around Basra. Their aim is to try to wear down Iraqi troops and get urgently needed humanitarian aid into the city. CNN's Christiane Amanpour reports.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The British army has been forced to change tactics around Basra, because it is encountering much stiffer than expected military resistance. Both from irregulars like these, Saddam's Fedayeen and elements of the Iraqi Army 51st division.

Their commanders have been taught to surrender and disband but, instead, they have pulled back into the city, along with tanks and heavy artillery. And they are engaging the British arrayed outside. These British troops rest after fierce tank and artillery duels. And the officers say they are now entering a difficult and high risk military operation to destroy Iraqi army resistance.

And this is exactly what British forces had hoped to avoid. They do not want to get sucked into street fighting. And they want to avoid killing Iraqi civilians.

COL. CHRIS VERNON, BRITISH ARMY SPOKESMAN: When seizing fleeting opportunities, as he brings his tanks out to the rear outskirts, engaging with direct fire tanks and, indeed, artillery, but only on to the outskirts where we're pretty clear we're not going to inflict actual damage on civilians.

AMANPOUR: The British had hoped to be welcomed into Basra. And they want to deliver humanitarian aid. Now, they hope to speed that up by finally taking control of the port of Umm Qasr after several days of military operations against Iraqi army elements who had held out to the end. Supply ships may start entering the port as soon as the channel is swept of mines.

BRIG. JIM DUTTON, ROYAL MARINES: But not in Basra. And Basra has very little food, electricity and water. We're going to have to find other ways of getting supplies down there, which is what's occupying our minds at the moment.

AMANPOUR: In the meantime, massive supplies of humanitarian aid are stacked up in Kuwait, and they may be driven in.

(on camera): Destroying the Iraqi armed resistance around Basra will take much longer than the British army had expected, and British officers now admit that the Iraqis are trying to fight this battle on their own terms, trying to draw the British into urban warfare, knowing that they cannot defeat superior force in the open desert.

Christiane Amanpour, CNN, with the British divisional headquarters in northern Kuwait.


BLITZER: And we're continuing to follow the situation in Basra. In the southern part of Iraq, whether that uprising is, in fact, real, how serious it is, what kind of potential damage it could do to the Iraqi military remaining in that key southern city, a lot of activity going on today. I'll be back later this hour with more. In the meantime, back to Judy Woodruff in Washington -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thanks, Wolf.

The technology we all talk about that allows U.S. troops to wage their fighting, both in the daylight and in darkness, often comes with one overlooked draw back and that is sleep deprivation and fatigue. CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is with me now from Atlanta. Elizabeth, what does the military do to keep these troops awake?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they have various things they employ, Judy. And we have learned in this conflict that sleep deprivation has, indeed, been a serious issue. Our Walt Rodgers who is with the 3rd 7th Cavalry certainly learned that. Let's hear what Walt was going through.


WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there's been no horizontal sleep of any sort for 60 hours. You don't sleep. You really don't sleep out here. Of course, you are on an adrenaline high, racing across the desert. These are young men who know how to burn the candle at both ends.


COHEN: And so what sleep experts in the military say is get sleep while you can. Here you see two people sleeping double decker in a fox hole. Here you see a group of troops sleeping on the deck of a barge ship. And here you see someone who is just on the side of the road in his cot, has taken his boots off. And that's what the experts say. Just get naps when you can if you can't get that highly valued eight hours of sleep.

Now, in some extreme circumstances what they do, aviators, when they become fatigued -- this is both in the Air Force and in the Navy, they offer these aviators to take amphetamines, specifically Dexedrine. They don't make them take it. However, they offer it up to them. And so that's what some of the pilots, apparently, do. There is another drug that is under investigation to give to aviators, and it's called Provigil. It is currently on the market for narcoleptics. And studies show that it keeps troops awake and alert without some of the side effects of amphetamines.

Now, the sleep experts in the military have also studied whether or not troops should be given caffeine tablets, or snack bars that have caffeine in it, or perhaps chewing gum with caffeine. Currently, those are not distributed to troops -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Why is that, Elizabeth?

COHEN: Well, many people are concerned about the diuretic effects of caffeine, that the troops might get dehydrated if they have that much caffeine. There is also some concern that it makes some people jumpy. So, right now, they don't distribute those.

WOODRUFF: All right, CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

Up next, military critics question Pentagon war planning, some perspective on the ground war from our military analysts.

WOODRUFF: It was always believed that the onset of war in Iraq would raise concerns about possible retaliatory terror attacks in the United states. And, sure enough, you're looking at pictures of New York City. The Department of Homeland Security has added unarmed Blackhawk helicopters, and we are told Citation II jets to the fleet of aircraft patrolling the skies over Manhattan, over New York City, to include these new aircraft.

Homeland Security Department saying, approximately, 50 pilots and crewmembers have been deployed to New York over the weekend. They began 24-hour flight operations on Sunday. They are not giving us the total number of additional aircraft, but we are told this is a part of the department's newly formed bureau of immigration and customs enforcement. So, again, these pictures just in the last few hours over New York City.

Well, as the pace of the war appears, at least in the last few hours, appears to have slowed down and the number of U.S. casualties has grown, some critics have suggested that Pentagon planners may have miscalculated in their preparations for a ground war in Iraq. And let's get some perspective on that. We turn once again to our colleague Miles O'Brien at CNN Center -- Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Judy.

You know, to a person, most every military man you talk to, man or woman, they will tell you it's always better to have more than what you have. The question is, is the force that's on the ground in Iraq and on its way, for that matter, too thin for its opposition? Major General Don Sheppard, retired U.S. Air Force here to talk about it. I'll tell you what, before we do the numbers, why don't we just run through the math here, and talk about where things are. And then we'll do a little mathematics on how it stacks up against the Iraqis.

MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPARD (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: All right. Great. The first thing you have got going on is the port of Umm Qasr down here has been cured. Basra, still fighting going on there, but uprisings taking place.

Nasiriya, still some fighting cleanup going on there. Lead elements of the 3rd Infantry Division, the 3rd of the 7th Cav is up here between Andaja (ph) and Karbala. And now they are coming up against the first real battle up here, which is the brigades of the Medina Division. Now, a division from the United states' standpoint has 15 to 17,000 people. The division from the Republican Guard standpoint has 10,000 to 12,000 people.

Basically, what's happening up here right now is that these divisions, the Medina Division, the Almeda (ph) Division, the Hamurabi Division, are facing three divisions coming up the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, the 3rd Infantry Division, the 101st Airborne Division.

Now, the question is is that enough troops to come in and take downtown Baghdad. The people that say we don't have enough troops up there, don't know what they're talking about. Tommy Franks has 30 years in this business. He is not going to string United States troops out with long supply lines, and get them in trouble and worry about the security in the rear.

This is a very carefully constructed plan. He can always bring elements of the 101st Airborne, and turn them to the right in support of anybody that gets in trouble. And, in addition, as they come up against these Republican Guard divisions, we have massive air power from the United States to employ against all of those divisions. The Republican Guard is in deep trouble and they don't realize it. O'BRIEN: All right. Let's take a look at a graphic quickly and just summarize the numbers for you, just so you have a sense of it. Right now, 250,000, give or take U.S., British and other troops versus a force of 550,000. But of that, many of those poorly fed, poorly paid conscripts. So the real fighting core there is what?

SHEPPARD: Seven divisions of the Republican Guard. And their divisions 10,000 to 12,000. So, you're looking at less than 100,000 troops that really are there to defend Baghdad.

M. O'BRIEN: With no air power to speak of.

SHEPPARD: Indeed, And they are spread all over, defending the whole country. Where we attack at places of our choosing.

M. O'BRIEN: I'm sorry, that was the troop strength in '91. I misread that, but it is sort of similar anyway. Let's go to the situation back in '91 versus -- this is Iraqi troops strength. I'm sorry. I had it mixed up the way they divided these. 350,000 currently. And we said the core number much less than that. They had more than a million. That's a million-man army in '91.

SHEPPARD: It is. It is.

M. O'BRIEN: But, of course, it just played dead.

SHEPPARD: Yes, 350,000 of them now in the Iraqi military, 90,000 to 100,000 of them are Republican Guard. They do not have really good equipment. They do not have any air power to speak of. And they are not well trained or well equipped. And we are going to own the air very quickly. And we have well supplied divisions coming toward us.

MILES: Quickly, are we too thin.

SHEPPARD: We're not too thin. And we have three more divisions closing.

M. O'BRIEN: But we're thin?

SHEPPARD: We're always thin. From a military standpoint, you always want more.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Don Sheppard. Thanks very much -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thank you, Miles. And thank you, General Sheppard.

Well, even as Pentagon officials advise and tell the American people that this war is in its earliest stages, there is planning already underway for the rebuilding of Iraq after the war. And for more on that, let's turn to Tim O'Brien of CNN's Financial News. Hello, Tim.

TIM O'BRIEN, CNNfn CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy. Well, a substantial quantity of reconstruction work has already been farmed out. The Army Corps of Engineers has contracted with the firm Kellogg, Brown and Root to extinguish oil well fires in Iraq, and to help repair the country's petroleum infrastructure.

Kellog, Brown and Root is a subsidiary of Haliburton, the company run by Dick Cheney prior to Cheney's becoming George Bush's running mate. There is no fixed dollar amount to the contract. Pentagon sources tell CNN the award is on a cost-plus basis.

Now, the Agency for International Development will be playing a leading role in the reconstruction and beyond food and medicine. It will also be heavily involved in rebuilding Iraq's international and domestic airports, repairing roads, schools, hospitals, and ensuring that safe drinking water is available. It's all happening quickly. A big factor in the awarding of contracts is, who has the necessary security clearances?


ANDREW NATSIOS, USAID ADMINISTRATOR: There's a lot of security information that is classified. It takes awhile to get a security classification. So we ask for companies that had security classifications already, that knew how to bid federal contracts, work through the existing accounting system for the federal government. So we could move this very rapidly. Speed is of the essence in this whole thing.


T. O'BRIEN: Now, as you've hear, there have been some reports of an uprising in the Iraqi city of Basra staged by opponents of Saddam Hussein. Part of the humanitarian effort is aimed at convincing the Iraqi people that they would be better off without Saddam Hussein than they are with him. Here's President Bush speaking at the Pentagon this morning.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Coalition forces are working hard to make sure that when the food and medicine begins to move it does so in a safe way. And soon, the Iraqi people will see the great compassion of not only the United States, but other nations around the world who care deeply about the human condition inside that country.


T. O'BRIEN: Now, no one can calculate with any precision what the reconstruction will cost, but the U.S. taxpayers will not be footing the bill by themselves. Secretary of State Colin Powell said last week the U.S. will be drawing heavily on Iraqi assets, too, especially their oil assets to help pay the bill -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Tim, just quickly, how much competition was there for these jobs?

T. O'BRIEN: There is competition. It's wide open, whoever has security clearance, not just U.S companies. The big thing right now is getting companies that do have security clearances that can get in there quickly.

WOODRUFF: All right. CNN's Tim O'Brien. Thank you very much.

Turning back here to Washington right now to President Bush, who, as Tim just reminded us, did go to the Pentagon today to give a quick update on the war. And as you see our correspondent John King joining us, not only to give an update on the war, but to talk about how much it may cost -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Judy. Mr. Bush officially unveiling his emergency war budget. It's just shy of $75 billion. And to the viewers who are usually watching INSIDE POLITICS at this hour, it is no secret that when a spending proposal is sent up on Capitol Hill it often grows, and grows and grows as lawmakers add pet projects to it.

The White House is concerned that Mr. Bush wants this legislation on his desk before the lawmakers break in April for the Easter recess. Mr. Bush says it's critical to paying for the bombs, paying for the munitions, paying for all of those National Guard troops. So he is asking Congress to pass it quickly. No funny business.


BUSH: Business as usual on Capitol Hill can't go on during this time of war. And by that I mean, this supplemental should not be viewed as an opportunity to add spending that is unrelated, unwise, and unnecessary. Every dollar we spend must serve the interests of our nation. And the interest of our nation in this supplemental is to win this war.


KING: Now, despite the call for quick action, the White House left the door wide open today to Congress adding money one key priority of some lawmakers, including the House Speaker Dennis Hastert, a critical Republican, of course, aid to the airline industry. Mr. Bush did not include any new aid to the airline industry in his proposal, but many on Capitol Hill believe that is necessary. The White House press secretary Ari Fleischer today saying the president will look at whatever the Congress sends him as the debate goes forward.

One other contentious issue at the White House briefing today. It was on Sunday that President Bush promised that the humanitarian aid pipeline would be open, flowing into Iraq within 36 hours. That time frame, of course, has passed. The humanitarian aid still sitting in Kuwait, in Jordan, on ships in the Gulf region. Ari Fleischer today insisting that it was steps by the Iraqi regime, including the mining of a key harbor, not bad coalition planning, that is to blame.


ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's a massive stockpiling that stands by and ready. And what is at stake is the mining of the harbor that was done by the Iraqis, which only serves, once again, as a reminder of how Iraq is willing to starve its own people to accomplish its military aims.


KING: A high profile for the president in the days just ahead. He will travel tomorrow to Tampa, Florida, the headquarters of the Central Command, the military command running the war in Iraq. Mr. Bush will talk to coalition leaders there at that briefing, also try to deliver, as he did today, a bit of a pep talk to the troops in the field. Then it's back to Washington. Mr. Bush, we'll spend tomorrow night at Camp David, his guest, the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, talks Wednesday night and, then, throughout the day on Thursday. The two leaders getting together, Judy, to talk war strategy, just as coalition forces reach a key juncture nearing the point of time when the siege of Baghdad will begin.

WOODRUFF: John, it was interesting, on the cost of the war we heard Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, after his saw the president, to say this budget, he said, is not the cost of the war. It's simply what the Pentagon, and the State Department, and the CIA and other agencies need to pay their bills. And he went on to say, you can't tell how long it's going to last. If you don't know that, you don't know how much it's going to cost.

John, I'm stepping on the next report we're going to get from Jon Karl from the Capitol, but I do want to add before I let you, what are they saying at the White House about this vote in the Senate to cut the president's tax cut request in half.

KING: They are saying it is one vote, and there will be more votes. The hope here at the White House is that Mr. Bush will recover from this, and that he will get in the end close to most of his tax cut, if not all of his tax cut, certainly, though, that's a warning shot, if you will, from the United states Senate which up to now had gingerly embraced the president's tax cut proposal, but many law makers, including several key Republicans, I'm sure Jon will touch on it, telling the president you can't have a big tax cut in the middle of a war.

WOODRUFF: Let's go from John King at the White House to Jon Karl. And, Jon, I did just step on your story a little bit but I wanted to know what they were saying at the White House. A serious setback for the president with this tax cut vote today in the Senate.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. This cuts the tax cut more than in half, putting it down to $350 billion down from the $727 billion that the president wanted. And there were three Republicans in the Senate that joined all the Democrats present in voting for this amendment to slash the taxcut. And in making the case for cutting the tax cut down to size, both the key Democratic and Republican sponsors of the amendment cited as John King alluded to, the war with Iraq.


SEN. JOHN BREAUX (D), LOUISIANA: Uncertainty of the war. The realization that we are operating with a deficit, not a surplus, are all factors that allowed us to pass a reduction in the size of the tax cut. I think that it is simply a reflection of the facts in the world that we live in today. .

SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH (R), OHIO: As this war goes on and people fully comprehend the responsibility we are going to have to win this war, and then the aftermath of this war, I think we're going to become a lot more serious about our financial situation, particularly ...


KARL: Now, Republicans are clearly stung by this defeat, Judy. But Republicans up here on Capitol Hill are echoing what you're hearing from John King at the White House in terms of saying they will make an effort to put that tax cut back up, back up as close to $726 billion as they can. There are several votes between now and four o'clock tomorrow when the Senate is scheduled to have a final vote on the budget, where they have an opportunity to have amendments to add more money to the tax cut. And then, finally, you also have the fact that the House of Representatives passed the full tax cut last week on Friday.

So you had the opportunity when the Senate and the House get together to reconcile their differences that that number could go back up. But this is clearly a significant blow to the president's effort to get his tax cut. And it's also a reminder that a popular war time president is getting virtually everything he wants here on Capitol Hill, in terms of fighting the war. It doesn't mean he's going to get what he wants in terms of the domestic agenda.

WOODRUFF: Not a good afternoon for the president when it comes to the tax cut. But as you and John point out, they are not giving up.

KARL: No, they're not.

WOODRUFF: OK, Jon Karl, thanks very much.



WOODRUFF: As we continue to monitor the progress of the war in Iraq, we want to turn to one of our correspondents who has become a familiar face the last few days. Our Frank Buckley is on board the USS Constellation with some of those very courageous Navy fighters.

Frank, are you with us?


And those pilots are encountering some rough conditions as they land back on the Constellation tonight. It's always a difficult task for these carrier pilots to land on a pitching deck in the night. But it's also raining, so that's giving them some additional difficulties. But they're all coming back safely tonight. Pilots from the Constellation continue to strike targets in Iraq, both fixed targets and they are also providing close air support. They call these task missions. We were able to set in on a briefing for one of task missions. Essentially, what happens is, these pilots hear the so-called kill box that they are going to. That's the quadrant that they'll be responsible for to support troops on the ground.

They get instructions en route on exactly what they'll be hitting, if anything. And then they strike those targets. We talked to the division leader of this particular briefing upon their return from Karbala. That's the area where they were responsible for. He said the calls for close air support were coming in immediately upon arrival.


CAPT. TRAVIS KELLEY, U.S. MARINE CORPS: All I can say is, it sounded like it was probably pretty intense, because they were using so many guys for close air support, so many aircraft. I would say, if they weren't using any aircraft, it would probably be not so intense. But the fact that they were using a lot, I think it's probably pretty intense up there.


BUCKLEY: And other aircraft from the Constellation hit, during the past 36 hours, Special Republican Guard and surface-to-air and surface-to-air support systems right in the vicinity of Baghdad and artillery positions also south of Baghdad -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, CNN's Frank Buckley checking in with us.

And, as he said, not only -- the already difficult job that they have compounded by the fact that it's raining, which has to make it even harder to get the job done and to land as they want to land on that carrier.

Well, military officials here in Washington and in the Gulf region have now confirmed 39 members of the coalition fighting force have died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Of the American troops, 12 were killed in combat, nine in accidents. In addition, seven U.S. troops are known to be held prisoners of war in Iraq. At least six others are missing in action. As for British casualties, two combat deaths reported -- confirmed, that is, -- so far and 16 accidental deaths. Meantime,, Iraq has reported at least 78 civilians killed in coalition bombing raids.

In Texas, the family of POW Shoshana Johnson waited for word Today from the Red Cross about her condition. Johnson was stationed at Fort Bliss in Texas.

That's where we find CNN's Ed Lavandera -- Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy. Well, here officials are waiting to hear official word -- or we're waiting to hear official word of exactly what is going on. For the last couple of days, since this story first broke on Sunday, the military officials here at this base have not been allowed to comment publicly as to what has happened. They say they're still trying to -- they just don't have enough information at this point to piece everything together and explain specifically what has happened to the 507th Maintenance Company based here in Fort Bliss, Texas.

They had been working with the 3rd Infantry Division just outside of the town of Nasiriyah, when, according to several families that we've spoken with, say that the unit was in a truck and then made a wrong turn and then were captured by Iraqi soldiers. Five of the 12 are confirmed POWs, prisoners of war. Then, we also are told that the fate of the other seven is not known at this time. So many of the families here are still anxiously awaiting the word.

We have also spoken with many families who have said they just -- they haven't been getting a lot of information. Perhaps there just isn't much information to get. But several families have expressed frustration with just the amount of information they are getting. Shoshana Johnson's family, one of the confirmed prisoners of war, says, and they are hoping, that it is crucial that the Red Cross get in to be able to see the prisoners of war to be able to determine just what kind of condition and what kind of shape those soldiers are in.

And we had a chance to speak yesterday with Shoshana Johnson's father and sister.


CLAUDE JOHNSON, FATHER OF SHOSHANA JOHNSON: The instant they found out they had prisoners, they should have been talking to people in the Red Cross and ensuring that somebody got out there. We can't turn the clock back. What is done is done. Now is the time to get the people from the Red Cross or whatever organization is available to go in and make a true assessment.

NIKKI JOHNSON, SISTER OF SHOSHANA JOHNSON: Shoshana has always gotten out of it. She knows how to get out of it. She's a fighter.


LAVANDERA: Now, like we mentioned the family here are awaiting word. The officials here at Fort Bliss have said that they have been wanting to talk here for the last couple of days. They are getting the directions from the Pentagon not to speak from this base as to what has happened with that unit.

So, Judy, the latest from here is that many of these families still awaiting word of the fate of their loved ones and just trying to figure out exactly what has happened here in the last three days -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, it has got to be just enormously frustrating for these families, not to mention the heartache. Ed Lavandera, thanks very much.

The big picture in Baghdad. Question: How will U.S. forces take on Saddam Hussein's best-trained and most loyal fighters?


WOODRUFF: Live pictures from Baghdad, where, as you can see, it's just a little after 12:30 in the morning, the Iraqi capital bracing once again for another night of likely attacks from coalition forces.

As we look at that, we know that they are surrounding Baghdad -- Iraqi troops, that is, surrounding the capital city, as we know U.S.- led forces are getting ever closer.

CNN's Miles O'Brien and CNN analyst retired Major General Don Shepperd with us now from the CNN Center to look at, Miles, what the possible strategies are in an urban warfare situation.

O'BRIEN: Judy, thanks very much.

Urban warfare, two words that can send shivers down the spine of a military person as you start to think about planning. The variables become tremendous and the risk so great. We're looking right here at an overall map of the city of Baghdad, a city of five million people. And getting into this -- these canyons and these roads and going door by door is just what the military would prefer not to do.

SHEPPERD: Absolutely, and just what the Iraqi military would prefer that we do. All the images of "Black Hawk Down" are here. When you go into an urban environment, you have to be very, very careful, because the advantages are on the defender's side.

O'BRIEN: All right, let's look at an animation, give you a possible scenario, tell you how a building might be taken. As we zoom in, these are some of our satellite imagery.

But we'll bring you down here. I want to point out that in there is a mosque, to point it out. And the reason we point it out is, it's something that would be avoided at all cost by U.S. troops. What we are showing here are some Bradley Fighting Vehicles, armor, that kind of thing. What would they be doing?

SHEPPERD: Well, basically, these are the enemy that are trying to attack our people from inside the city, parking it next to that mosque, making it difficult for us to attack. So we are now going to go in take down a building or a palace where there are some bad guys inside there.


O'BRIEN: Bad guys up here and snipers who would be fortifying that building. And, of course, on top, this is very common. That's not anti-aircraft. That would be -- or is it? SHEPPERD: Well, it could be anti-aircraft guns. It could also be used -- anti-aircraft guns can be trained downward for troops coming into the objectives.

O'BRIEN: All right. In comes the Apache helicopters here, along with Bradley Fighting Vehicles. This would be like a special operations type of thing, Rangers, perhaps. The bombardment coming from the helicopters typically as those tanks are moving, right?

SHEPPERD: Yes. We're not giving away tactics here. What we're saying is that the United States would come in with airpower, provide it from helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. They would support the forces on the ground that would come in, in armored vehicles to seize objectives and to take care of troops that they're after.

This is very difficult and very dangerous work. And, again, we're not giving away tactics here.

O'BRIEN: In go the troops. And the hope is, at that point, that they've done their job. Dangerous work, something that you'd like to avoid, but it may be inevitable in this conflict.

SHEPPERD: It may inevitable. The idea is to try to get these troops to realize it's hopeless before U.S. forces and coalition forces go into the city. But if the U.S. military has to go into the city, they have the tactics and the equipment to do it if it becomes required, Miles.

O'BRIEN: Hopefully not the "Black Hawk Down" scenario.

Don Shepperd, thanks very much -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: That "Black Hawk Down" is one image we want to try to get out of our minds.

All right, thank you, Miles, and thank you, General Shepperd.

Coalition shipments of humanitarian aid have been delayed, we're told, by the continued fighting in Iraq's only port on the Persian Gulf.

CNN's Barbara Starr has more now on the obstacles that are preventing delivery of food, water and other supplies.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Kuwait, the Red Crescent has begun loading trucks with relief supplies destined for Iraq. A convoy of British and American military vehicles crossed the border headed for the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr. But as sporadic fighting continues along the road to Baghdad, getting large- scale supplies into southern Iraq has still not happened.

GEN. RICHARD MYERS, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: It's the Fedayeen Saddam and others that are keeping the Iraqi people from getting the food, the water and the medicine they need. STARR: One key obstacle: The Umm Qasr port will not reopen for a few days.

And up the road in Basra, the situation is increasingly chaotic. British forces are battling 1,000 fighters loyal to Saddam Hussein, opposition that has been holding up the first major relief shipment. Coalition forces have restored a portion of water and electricity to the city, after it was reportedly cut by Saddam loyalists. Prime Minister Tony Blair says it is the Iraqi regime that is causing the problem, not the war.

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We should be clear that it is not military action that will create humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq. The humanitarian disaster is here and now. It is happening. It has actually been happening for years.

STARR: The situation may be more grim in the days ahead, especially as U.S. forces approach Baghdad. Before the war, the Iraqi government distributed enough food rations to last until the end of April. But that will run out. And relief must start moving, say aid workers.

ANTONIA PARADELA, WORLD FOOD PROGRAM: We are talking about hundreds of thousands of tons of food that should be on the move and we should be able to get them into Iraq as soon as possible.

STARR (on camera): The U.S. military strategy has been to press on to Baghdad and avoid fighting in the cities. But with fighting continuing,, the question now remains, how soon will it be safe for humanitarian relief workers to move in?

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


WOODRUFF: Meantime, the extraordinary pictures brought to us by embedded reporters have provided -- like the pictures you're seeing now -- have brought us a view of war not like any other in history.

CNN's Jeff Greenfield has some thoughts on what we have seen so far and the unanswered questions raised by instant access to the battlefield.


JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST (voice-over): There is something almost hypnotic about it, watching a war as it happens, live from an aircraft carrier thousands of miles away, live as troops roll across a desert, live as bombs fall on a distant city.

And, as it is happening, the tactics are dissected, the strategy explained by officials and by experts. We are awash in data that changes by the minute. But if we hear and see more faster, quicker, do we know more? Consider, we learned in the first hours of the war that Saddam was dead, or he was injured, or incapacitated, or his son was dead, or that really wasn't Saddam at all. Within two days, we learned that U.S. forces were rolling along unimpeded, welcomed as liberators. A day or so later, we learned of Iraqi irregulars using guerrilla tactics, raising the prospect of exactly the kind of urban warfare the military had hoped to avoid.

The cheery headlines of three days ago are replaced today by headlines where the news is almost irredeemably dark. It's only a matter of time before that Vietnam phrase, quagmire, begins to reappear.

(on camera): It is, of course, entirely possible that the gloom of today is no more a proper measure of the war's course than the early tone of bloodless victory. And that's exactly the point.

Equipped, as the media are, with these astonishing bells and whistles, we are determined to bring viewers the unprecedented and compelling story of combat witnessed in real time. But the very pace and reach of that access can paint a distorted picture. If Americans are captured or killed, does that mean the whole war is going badly? Do a few waves from bystanders mean the troops are all going to be welcomed? Does hostile fire mean the Iraqis are all behind Saddam?

These real-time images of combat are compelling. The hard question is, do they inform us or, at times, unintentionally mislead us?

Jeff Greenfield, CNN, New York.


WOODRUFF: Some of these things, of course, we won't know until this war is over.

Well, now let's consider public reaction to the ups and downs and sheer volume of war reporting in print and on the airwaves.

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is with us.

Bill, what are you finding that Americans think of all this news media coverage so far of the war?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Judy, not to sound self-congratulatory, but people think the media are doing great.

In our poll over the weekend, a majority of Americans said the news media are doing an excellent job covering the war. Now, here's a twist on the charge of liberal media bias. People who support the war give the press higher ratings than people who oppose the war: 57 percent excellent among war supporters, 38 percent excellent among war opponents. We are hearing the charge that war critic are saying the media are cheerleading for the war. And that appears to underlie these assessments.

And one more finding, Judy. Opponents of the war are not following the war news as closely. The war critics are literally tuning the war out. WOODRUFF: Bill, as much as we know about the ratings, do they seem to have any connection with what is in the news, whether it's good or bad or whatever?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, actually, they do. We interviewed some people on Saturday, when the war news was very good, and others on Sunday, when the news was less encouraging. And what do we find? Ratings of the media slipped from Saturday to Sunday. The number giving the press bad marks nearly doubled, from 11 percent to 20 percent.

Americans like the media less when we bring bad news, when they do not think the press is cheerleading for the war -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Fascinating.

All right, Bill Schneider, thank you very much for that.

And coming up next: It was a very different war, but Vietnam veterans know what troops in the Gulf are going through right now. They share their memories of the battle to stay alive.


WOODRUFF: The war in Iraq is not popular among some of the United States' traditional allies, including Germany. Huge anti-war protests have been staged across that country, including this one just yesterday in Hamburg in northern Germany.

With me now to talk more about all this and the reaction to the war overall: Germany's ambassador to the United States, Wolfgang Ischinger.

Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much for talking to me.

Your country, your government, was very much against this war going into it. Now that it's under way, what's the view of your government now?


Of course, we were not in favor of this war. Now that U.S. soldiers are fighting in Iraq, millions of Germans hope and pray, with America, that this is going to be over quickly, that the dictator will be deposed quickly, that there will be a minimum number of casualties, and that we can return to a better relationship between America and her European allies.

WOODRUFF: You are saying that, and yet we're looking at these pictures of big protests in your country.

ISCHINGER: We have had protests in this country, too. And don't forget, protests against our own governments, against America in Europe are nothing new. We had them 20 years ago. We had them 10 years ago. I'm not -- I don't get too excited about that. I've seen worse demonstrations in my own country than the ones I'm seeing right now.

WOODRUFF: What is your government's view? What is your view right now of how the war is going?

ISCHINGER: Well, again, of course, we don't have any soldiers there. So I am watching CNN, like everyone else.

WOODRUFF: I understand.

ISCHINGER: I hope that those are right and will be proven right who have predicted U.S. capability of taking this to a rapid and successful conclusion.

I have seen with some concern how heavy the fighting has been. And, of course, we are following every inch of the way with great interest and in constant touch with our American colleagues here in Washington and overseas.

WOODRUFF: Mr. Ambassador, I want to ask you about a report in "The New York Times" today that the U.S. government is saying it plans to run Iraq in the aftermath of this war. There have been others who have said it should be an international effort. What's the view of the German government?

ISCHINGER: Well, clearly, my government believes -- and I think that belief is shared widely in Europe and elsewhere -- that we have had a very, very good experience in past situations, in Afghanistan a year or so ago, in the Balkans, in Kosovo, in Bosnia, with a civilian administration, with an overall administration effort run and administered through the U.N.

And I personally have been involved in some of these efforts. And I don't share the view that the U.N. can't do that. If we want to give international legitimacy to what we're going to be doing in and with Iraq, I think it would be enormously helpful to have a U.N. roof over it.

WOODRUFF: But, right now, it looks like the Bush administration is determined to make this a U.S. effort, at least right after the war. What does that mean?

ISCHINGER: Well, it means that we will be working with the Bush administration to see at what moment the U.N. can be given a role. That would be, I believe, of great importance for the ability and for the willingness of many countries around the world to offer their contributions to this effort. We have to bind this together somehow at the U.N. in New York.

WOODRUFF: So, right now, your government viewing it as a mistake that the U.S. is planning to do it -- planning to do it this way?

ISCHINGER: Well, I think it's OK for the U.S. to consider this being in their hands, but it has to move over.

WOODRUFF: All right, Wolfgang Ischinger is the ambassador of Germany to the United States. Thank you very much for talking with us.

ISCHINGER: Pleasure to be here, Judy.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

Well, when you are at war, virtually every minute of every day is a fight for survival. The troops now in Iraq never forget that. Neither do veterans of wars past.

They shared their stories, some of them, with CNN's Candy Crowley.


REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: I would think that the daily prayer is, let me make tomorrow. Just let me make tomorrow.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They say you don't think much when the shooting begins.

TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: In that moment, when you hit the ground the first time, and you look around to try to figure out what's going on, you see, fortunately, everybody else has hit the ground, because that's what instinctively you are trained to do. And then you start operating accordingly.

CROWLEY: Whoever you are, wherever you are, you are your own autopilot.

REP. RANDY CUNNINGHAM (R), CALIFORNIA: You're busy. When you are in the air, you have got tracers coming by. Your mind is working like a computer. You're trying to save the guys that you are flying with.

CROWLEY: Once you are geared up and moving, war becomes a 90 percent head thing. What you think about, the only thing you can think about, is the mission.

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: It's a very, very huge mental process that keeps you disciplined, so that, in fact, when you are attacked or if you are an ambush patrol, the cold, the heat, lack of water, all the discomfort, all the threat, all the fright, that doesn't overtake you. You keep riveted on that mission.

CROWLEY: But it is not all combat, not all firefights. There are long periods of time when there is no action.

HAGEL: Some talked about going to college. Some talked about raising horses, starting businesses. It was all toward the future. We didn't talk about the past. We didn't talk about what happened yesterday.

CROWLEY: Still, when the talking stops, the quiet times can be when everything you didn't think about in battle comes crashing down on you. CUNNINGHAM: Afterwards, if you took every emotion, anger, hate, fear, love, all of those things, magnify them 1,000 percent and that's what it's like. When the other guy goes down in fire, instead of you, it's almost like you are reborn.

CROWLEY: Even huddled in a foxhole behind enemy lines in Korea, there were quiet times for the high school dropout who joined up in search of a better life.

RANGEL: You make commitments that, if you ever get out of it, how things would be a lot different. You'd treat your mom better. You'd be a better citizen. You'd stay in school. You'd make something out of yourself.

CROWLEY: Sometimes the night quiet could be as painful in its own way as the day battles.

RANGEL: And you wonder, if you get killed, whether it would matter to anybody, whether anyone would really care. Did you ever really do anything that would cause you to be missed?

CROWLEY: Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: The stories.

That wraps up our coverage this hour. It will continue, live coverage of the war in Iraq, right after this -- the headlines at the top of the hour.

I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington.


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