CNN LARRY KING LIVE
War in Iraq
Aired March 29, 2003 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, war turns to terrorism. Iraq sends a suicide car bomber to Najaf and four U.S. soldiers are killed. Iraq's vice president says this is only the beginning and threatens terrorism against thousands of Americans.
Meanwhile, more huge explosions in Baghdad tonight and this time coalition bombs appear to target apartment buildings in Baghdad where Iraqi government officials live.
The latest on these and the rest of today's developments with reporters at the front line, we'll get an update from Colonel Tom Bright, Operations Chief at Central Command, plus the changing face of Iraq war coverage.
Among the guests, Desert Storm's Scud Stud Arthur Kent, a news anchor from Abu Dhabi TV.
We start off with Nic Robertson who is now in Rawashid (ph) on the border of Iraq and Jordan, and Nic what about that bombing today in Baghdad? What can you tell us?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Larry, looking at the pictures again bombing very, very close to Iraq's ministry of information, behind the ministry of information where the bomb went off is an area of government housing.
People from the ruling Ba'ath Party live in this area. It's a complex of perhaps several hundreds of apartments and that is where the explosion went off afterwards.
Black smoke could be seen billowing up out of that area, not clear exactly what was hit, but certainly those apartments there lived in by government officials, also hearing from the Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan threatening that there would be more of these suicide bombers. One Iraqi officer today he said drove his car up to a coalition checkpoint, detonated a suicide bomb in the vehicle killing four U.S. Marines.
Now, the vice president was the first Iraqi official several weeks before the war who announced the idea that Iraq might have suicide bombers in its ranks and might use them in the war.
Now he threatens that this could become part of Iraq's arsenal against the coalition forces and perhaps, Larry, what makes this really chilling is that just a couple of days ago the Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, one of the most outspoken and hard line of all the Iraqi officials, said "To all my Fedayeen, to all my hard line fighters, remember the promise you made in front of me some time ago." He said that a couple of days ago. Now we see perhaps these same fighters beginning what he said is a series of suicide bombings -- Larry.
KING: And what, Nic, are the people around you saying about that?
ROBERTSON: It's something that people will take very, very seriously of course because the implicit threat here is that almost any Iraqi who may offer himself up for surrender is potentially a threat in of himself. So, coalition forces now aware of that and say that they will continue with their plans as they have been but they will know that this is now a very realistic threat and that they will deal with it in that light -- Larry.
KING: Thanks, Nic.
Let's go to Frank Buckley embedded with the United States Navy. He's aboard the USS Constellation in the Persian Gulf and what can you tell us, Frank, from your vantage point?
FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via videophone): Well, Larry, a lot of the strike fighters right now are flying the close air support missions, prepping the battlefield missions, that is that they're hopping ahead of the coalition troops and trying to take out certain pieces, artillery pieces, tanks, armored personnel carriers that the coalition troops will encounter as they attempt to advance.
Joining me right now is one of the pilots who just returned from one of the missions. This is Commander Kevin Greene. Commander, you just flew on a close air support mission. Tell us what you did.
CMDR. KEVIN GREENE, F-18 PILOT (via videophone): Well, we took off originally heading to talk to a controller in the western part of Iraq. The whole country is divided up into different sectors and depending on where you're assigned you talk to an airborne controller and they'll put you in touch with either a guy on the ground or an airborne forward air controller guy that's flying an airplane that's locating targets.
The first guy we talked to, he had targets for us that were up in the west of Baghdad and due to our time and fuel and not able to get any extra gas, we weren't able to get that far, so we let them know and they said that controller didn't have any more targets at the moment himself, so they handed us off to some Marines who were working about 60 miles north of Basra.
So, we hooked a right and went over and checked with them, told them we had a couple of F-18s with some bombs looking for some targets and they said come on in. We got a few, some bunkers and an artillery (unintelligible).
We actually got hooked up with a forward air controller, an airborne forward air controller. I'm not even sure what kind of plane it was. It might have been an A-10 or I think we got some F-18Es might be doing it as well.
We each had a couple laser-guided bombs and they gave us coordinates to drop on. They were below the clouds so they could see the target. We were well above the clouds. We couldn't see the target and we just coordinated over the radio to what the appropriate laser code was for our weapons.
And at about 30-second intervals, my wingman and I each dropped one of our bombs, let the guy know in the other airplane that bombs en route and gave him a call about 15 seconds before we calculated impact. They turned our laser on and apparently we shacked bull's eyes on two bunkers in an artillery area.
BUCKLEY: You're flying at night. You've got the night vision goggles. You're using a laser to make sure that the bomb goes on target. Tell me about those night vision goggles. We had a chance to look through them. How helpful are those to you?
GREENE: They're amazing. It's like turning -- practically they're like turning night into day. As you saw, it's not exactly that but you can see the ground as if it's kind of a blurry TV picture but probably one of the biggest benefits we get out of them is actually being able to see other airplanes and see each other in the air (unintelligible).
Ground contours are clear. Buildings are clear. It's not like daytime visibility but you can really, it's like turning on a light switch in a dark room.
BUCKLEY: We've been told by the commander of the air wing that when you fly into Iraq right now he described it as a target rich environment. Tell me what he means by that.
GREENE: Well, that's true. This is the fifth time I've done a close air support mission and we take off not having any targets assigned and every single time I've checked in with someone, I said yes we got multiple targets in this area or that area. So, every single time I've gone flying there are numerous targets that are waiting to be destroyed and we just line up and they call us in one at a time.
BUCKLEY: When you drop in a situation like this where you have cloud cover, you don't even see the target, is there a moment of nervousness that gosh I hope this hits the right thing, that it doesn't hit a civilian? Does that calculation go through your mind at all?
GREENE: Yes. As a matter of fact, tonight we validated or verified our coordinates with each other several times, asked them, you know, they gave us as precise of coordinates they can have and even though our weapons are the laser-guided bombs we drop have a seeker head on the front for final controlling for pinpoint accuracy.
The bomb falls ballistically and we drop it so that even if there's no laser spot it's going to drop pretty close to the target. It's not nearly as precise without the laser nor is it as precise as a GPS-guided bomb without the laser but it's still going to be pretty darn close.
So, what we do is we ask just to confirm there are no collateral damage issues in this area and there are no no-strike targets in this area. They said no that's affirmative. This is a clear area and this weapon is cleared, so we were more comfortable with dropping it then.
BUCKLEY: Commander Greene, thank you very much for your insight. We appreciate it. Larry, the view from a pilot who has just returned on a mission over Iraq -- Larry.
KING: There's never been war coverage like this war coverage. The technical aspects are amazing and here's a guy just back from a mission and you hear from him firsthand.
Gary Tuchman is our CNN correspondent embedded with the Air Force at an air base near Iraqi border. Did you fly on a mission today? Is that what they tell me you did?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via videophone): That's right, Larry. This is a very unusual war in the sense that the Pentagon is allowing us complete access to the troops and to the airmen and to the Marines, and yes, we went on a sortie last night. We've actually gone on two sorties now.
This was a combat support sortie aboard a refueling plane, an HC- 130, and the mission was to refuel a search and rescue helicopter. We traveled into Iraq with the lights on our plane off at an altitude of 500 feet traveling 125 miles per hour with the helicopter right next to the airplane.
The helicopter was 50 feet away from us, the rotor blade to the helicopter even closer, and then they did a delicate dance and refueled the helicopter for about ten minutes. Then the chopper flew away.
Also on the plane with us three so-called PJs, they're para- rescue jumpers and they are on the plane for the simple matter of jumping off the plane to rescue people who might be on the ground if so necessary.
We're told there are only about 300 PJs in the entire Air Force. It's a very demanding, courageous job. The guys who were on the plane with us say they love to do it and they say they're ready to rescue anyone they have to.
Just last week they rescued seven Special Operations members who were stuck on the ground. They picked them up, flew them back to this base and they were safe. So, you can see it's a very interesting scenario allowing journalists to go on the airplanes with the airmen -- Larry.
KING: Gary, would you do it again?
TUCHMAN: Yes, anticipate we'll be doing a lot more of it, Larry. They're allowing us access to do it and I'll tell you one thing that was very interesting about it. While we were on the plane with them, they saw two blips on their radar screen.
They thought it was the helicopters they were going to refuel. It turns out they weren't. They weren't sure what the blips were. So, to play it very carefully, they turned the plane in two 360-degree circles to throw the targets off. It turns out the targets were U.S. Army helicopters but they couldn't be sure that they weren't Iraqi aircraft.
KING: Thanks, Gary, Gary Tuchman with the U.S. Air Force.
We thank Nic Robertson, Frank Buckley, and Gary Tuchman. We stay in touch with them pretty much on a nightly basis.
Let's go to Qatar, Doha in Qatar, and Colonel Tom Bright of the United States Marine Corps. He's Chief of Operations, Joint Operations Center for the Central Command forward. From your vantage point how do you assess the military progress to this minute, Colonel Bright?
COL. TOM BRIGHT, U.S.M.C. CHIEF, CENTCOM JOINT OPS. CTR.: We're doing extremely well, Larry. We're continuing to make very good progress. As you know, Saddam and his regime have taken some fairly drastic measures and just based on the manner in which they're executing their campaign, if you want to even call it that, it's very unsynchronized.
And they have resorted to terrorist activity and paramilitary activities throughout the southern region and that is just a clear indication that we have certainly gotten into his decision cycle.
So, I think we're doing extremely well and we're very pleased. We're able to stay on our plan. We're keeping ourselves synchronized and so things are going well.
KING: I thought terrorism was acts against civilians. Why do you call this terrorism, Colonel Bright?
BRIGHT: Well, it's terrorist activity because of the manner in which they're carrying it out. They have clearly violated the Geneva Convention and the law of land warfare in some of the activities. That is clearly evident to the American public and the international public.
And so, that's why I would call it terrorist activity. I think it's well accepted that the manner in which they're operating is unacceptable and is just certainly, it's just not condoned by any, any international convention that's out there.
KING: And therefore, Colonel Bright, will this force the coalition to change some of its methods in retaliation?
BRIGHT: No, I don't think so, Larry. We're going to stay with our plan. We're going to continue to operate the way we've been. We do take a greater role in the southern region where he has executed most of these activities against the coalition so we're clearly going to attack him, take the fight to him in the south. We're going to eliminate that threat and, frankly, you know what we're finding out is that indigenous forces there in the south are beginning to rise up against the Ba'ath Party, and so in that respect we're making very good headway.
With the HA efforts that we're taking in the south, that's having a tremendous impact as you could well imagine. The public is beginning to more and more recognize that what we are doing is for the Iraqi people and that helps a tremendous amount because they are able to then feed us intelligence on what's going on on the ground.
It's intelligence that we might not otherwise get, so, and that's real important to get at these paramilitary forces that are acting the way they are in the rear areas.
KING: Colonel, what do you know about the enemy's losses?
BRIGHT: Well, we know that we're having a significant impact on him. We normally don't give out specifics about that. What we do know is that the air strikes that we're conducting, our land campaign and our Special Operations campaign that we're executing against the enemy is having a very good effect and it will allow us to stay on our plan. It helps us with keeping our plans synchronized, so things are going well. He's feeling our punch and he'll continue to feel it.
KING: The United States has suspended the missile flyovers in parts of Saudi Arabia and Turkey, why?
BRIGHT: Well, I think it's common knowledge that we had some TLAMs that landed in both countries and we're investigating that and so until we get through that investigation we will continue to work with each of those countries and come to a resolution but it's under investigation and so we're not really at liberty to talk about that at this point -- Larry.
KING: One other thing, colonel. What do you make of the reports back home of complaints about this is going to slow?
BRIGHT: Well, it's not going too slow. It's going right along our plan and we knew that this was going to take a while to execute it but the plan is actually going very well.
What I would tell the American people is that let's keep in mind that we've really, we've been at this for only 11 days and when you think about the progress that we've made in 11 days and what's left to be accomplished, we have made tremendous progress. We don't know how long it's going to take. What we do know is that it is going well and that the enemy continues to feel pressure from us.
The regime continues to feel pressure from us and we're going to be successful at this, and I think everybody recognizes that what we're doing is important and that in the end we will be successful. Frankly, I don't know how long that will take. What I do know is that it is going well and that we are on our plan.
KING: Thank you colonel, as always, Colonel Tom Bright, United States Marine Corps, Chief of Operations at the Joint Operations Center.
We'll assemble our panel right after the break, get you up to date with some people really on the spot, Janine DiGiovanni of the "Times of London;" Jasim Al-Azzawi of Abu Dhabi TV; David Ignatius of the "Washington Post;" and Arthur Kent. We'll be right back. Don't go away.
KING: Let's assemble our panel. In Kuwait City is Janine DiGiovanni, Senior Foreign Correspondent for "The Time of London." She was ordered out of Baghdad by her editor last week, is going to be embedded soon with the military, and is author of an upcoming book on war called "Madness Visible."
In Abu Dhabi the United Arab Emirates, is Jasim Al-Azzawi, anchor and executive producer for Abu Dhabi TV. He's joining us from the Abu Dhabi Television war coverage set.
In Kuwait, one of the fine columnists in this country, David Ignatius, the op ed columnist and associate editor of "The Washington Post."
And, in London, a familiar face, Arthur Kent, host and producer for the History Channel. He covered the '91 Persian Gulf War for NBC News. He was dubbed the Scud Stud and he's a contributing editor of "McLean's Magazine."
Let's go around the horn with individual questions. Later we'll be joined by Colonel Hackworth and Colonel Lang.
Janine, is "Madness Visible" a good title for what -- it's the title of your book, is it a good title for what you're witnessing there?
JANINE DIGIOVANNI, "TIMES OF LONDON": Well, my book is really about the war in the Balkans, the ten years of consistent wars in the former Yugoslavia. But here I think what we're beginning to see too is a completely different war than what we first anticipated, what we first thought would happen.
With the killing yesterday of the four American soldiers, we're beginning to see more of a guerilla-style war which initially I don't think was in the plan. But in Baghdad, where I spent two months, Iraqis constantly said to me, you think or the Americans think that they're going to come in here and walk through Iraq and it's just not going to happen.
We don't like occupying forces. We don't want people to come and liberate us. We will fight back and there will be a lot of surprises in store, and I think this is what we're beginning to see.
KING: Jasim, are you surprised at the way this war is turning? Were you surprised at the suicide bombing?
JASIM AL-AZZAWI, NEWS ANCHOR, ABU DHABI TV: No. In one way or another I'm not. Suddenly there is a distinction between fighting for the regime and between fighting for the country. Even those people who disagree completely with the regime and its history, right now they think this is an invading force.
This is an invading foreign power and they are taking a stance, and it is going to be a lot bloodier as this military campaign unfolds. Just like Janine said, you know, we are beginning to see a guerilla campaign.
Today, as a matter of fact, the Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, he was saying you saw the beginning of the first martyrdom operations in Najaf where four American soldiers got killed and it's going to increase tremendously in the next phase.
KING: David Ignatius of the "Washington Post," I asked Major Bright about it. He says it is terrorism. Is it semantics? Is this terrorism what the coalition is seeing, David?
DAVID IGNATIUS, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, car bombs sure look like what we think of as terrorism. I think the regime is fighting with every tool and asset its got. I think that the American military planners thought that Iraq would implode from the inside when they got here. They believed that Shiites in the south hated the regime. They're right about that.
What they forgot was that people here really are terrorized by Saddam Hussein's secret police. They're just afraid of sticking their necks out, and until they're absolutely convinced that this regime is gone, I think it's going to be a very, very tough war.
KING: Arthur Kent, you were certainly there at the last one, big difference in this one. What's your reaction?
ARTHUR KENT, HISTORY CHANNEL: Absolutely, well you have to admire the sacrifice and the risks being taken by our colleagues in the field, not only those embedded with the U.S. and British militaries but our colleagues in Baghdad and around the region, in Jordan, you know all the way up to Cairo because that's really what this is.
This is a regional conflict. Right now it's localized in Iraq but I got to tell you, Larry, it's Sunday morning here in London. The newspapers have already hit the street and even those newspapers that back this war are now stating that the British public and the British military, the squads out there, the troops in the field have been badly let down by their political leaders.
Because frankly Tony Blair and George W. Bush promised that this would be a swift campaign, that it would be adequately manned and that the Iraqi civilians would be spared the kind of carnage that we're witnessing.
And, frankly, I don't think any informed commentator here in Britain would give you tuppence for Tony Blair's political future. He could in fact, be the first political victim of this once the conflict has ended. KING: Janine, do you share that view?
DIGIOVANNI: Well, I think that it's going to be much tougher, as I said, than we initially thought, and my concern is not even the war in southern Iraq but what will happen when the coalition forces get to Baghdad.
This is a sprawling city of five million people. Most of them are armed. Even in the weeks before a war was declared, people were going out to try to buy ammunition. They were getting their guns ready. Whether or not they're going to actually come out onto the streets and fight is not yet clear but I do think that going into Baghdad is going to be going into a quagmire.
It's going to be difficult. It's urban warfare. It's hostile territory for the forces and I think if you look back on Mogadishu, America didn't do very well there. So, this is a big concern.
KING: Jasim, do you think it's going to get worse before it gets better?
AL-AZZAWI: Let me just comment about Tony Blair being the first casualty. Robin Cook (ph) the former secretary of foreign affairs, he resigned from the House of Commons and today he called for Tony Blair to pull the troops.
And, on the background of what Tony Blair said that the two British soldiers were initially captured and then killed and then we discovered that the defense ministry as a matter of fact went to the families of the two British dead soldiers and told them they fought and, you know, they died heroic death. They were not killed by the Iraqis. And, this is damaging Tony Blair big time.
As for is it going to get worse, we haven't even started yet. The siege of Baghdad will give us a good indication how bloody this is going to get and the red line between Karbala and Kut where military planners whether from the Iraqi side and the American and the British side, they know perhaps this is the Rubicon.
Once the Americans and the British cross it then there is no holds barred from the Iraqi side. Five million people in Baghdad, armed very, very well, guerilla warfare, it's going to take a lot of American and British soldiers to occupy it. Short of destroying it completely, I don't know how they're going to take it.
KING: David Ignatius, you newspaper the "Washington Post" is reporting that covert operators are already now in Baghdad. What can you tell us about that?
IGNATIUS: Well, I know nothing about the reporting of that story. I read it as you did, Larry, and I thought it was fascinating. You know, clearly, what the CIA and the Bush administration are trying to do is make Saddam's operatives, the key people in his regime frightened and separate them from the public so that ordinary Iraqis say you know these guys are going one by one and begin to break free from the regime. I think in terms of talking about how it's going is a tremendous temptation for us in the media to treat this like a baseball game where we've got to give you a score every inning and it's just not like that. I mean, you know, this campaign is unfolding. You know it is true that the fight for Baghdad is going to be at a different level, very intense, very hard to predict how it will go.
But, I think as with Afghanistan, at this point we're really in the early stages and it's hard to make predictions with certainly about how it's going to turn out.
KING: And in that regard, we'll be joined in a moment. Our panel will remain with us throughout the next half hour. We'll be joined by Colonel David Hackworth and Colonel Patrick Lang, and we'll be accepting some of your phone calls as well.
This is LARRY KING LIVE. Standing by now is Stephen Frazier with news headlines. We'll have a word or two and come right back. Don't go away.
STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: Time now to check the latest developments.
In Baghdad just a few hours ago, at least four large explosions shook a residential area northwest of Iraq's information ministry. CNN's Nic Robertson is reporting the area contains buildings where several government officials live and there are also believed to be underground bunkers nearby.
In the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriya, military intelligence officials say they have found a treasure trove of information, including Iraqi military codes and identifications. Fighting in Nasiriya has raged on for days now. U.S. officials also said today the remains of two marines missing since last week were recovered.
Coalition forces are making headway in their battle against oil well fires. They have now secured the Basra Oil Refinery, one of the three sites where fires have been ablaze in southern Iraq.
Here on the home front another day of street protests for and against the war in Iraq. In Boston, 25,000 people spilled into the streets calling for an end to the conflict. In San Francisco, hundreds of people gathered by the bay but they were showing support for U.S. troops.
KING: It's Sunday morning in Baghdad. Joining our distinguished panel in New York is Colonel David Hackworth, United States Army, retired, the highly decorated veteran, award-winning military correspondent. He's our man on the scene, syndicated columnist and best-selling author.
And in Washington is Colonel Patrick Lang, United States Army, retired, former Special Forces officer, former defense intelligence officer for the Middle East, South Asia and terrorism and former director of human intelligence collection for the Defense Intelligence Agency. He's an analyst for the "News Hour" with our good friend Jim Lehrer.
Before we talk to our military folk, one question for Arthur Kent and then the whole panel will get involved. Arthur, what do you make of the disparaging reports here? You talk to you and others and you say this is not going well and you talk to Colonel Bright and he says everything's on course.
KENT: Yes, I think there comes a point where putting a brave face on things becomes a shameful charade. Look, Larry, remember a year ago Afghanistan. There was a lesson, undermanned, not enough men on the ground, two-thirds of the al Qaeda leadership gets away. They're still at large. Up to 10,000 al Qaeda fighters slipped through the net after all that bombing that we saw that looked so impressive on the air.
The fact of the matter is that we've heard from some very distinguished figures, both serving and retired, that not enough troops were sent out here. Look, here's one thing I can tell you because I was with General Schwarzkopf's force reserve in the 1991 Gulf War.
Tommy Franks has no force reserve. He does not have that extra divisional knock out punch in his back pocket, and he has as we saw with the redeployment order this week, only half the troops that would have been necessary to make this the kind of quick, decisive, and merciful in the view of the Iraqi civilians campaign that of course we were promised it was going to be at the outset.
KING: We know on this program Colonel Hackworth has been a critic and we'll bring him in in a minute. But, Colonel Lang, what do you make of all this back and forth disparaging reporting?
COL. PATRICK LANG, U.S. ARMY (RET.), FMR. SPEC. FORCES OFC.: Well, I think and have thought right along that this plan was built on a hope around Washington, a political hope that was enforced with a kind of theological certitude and rammed down the throat of everybody around including all the ground force, senior ground force officers.
And that was the hope in fact, the belief that the Iraqis would welcome us with open arms and everything would be just great and that drove the decision in spite of commitments to the contrary, the decision to send only about half the force that should have been sent.
So, as a result we're now deep in Iraq with too small a force and I don't buy at all Colonel Bright's assertion that the Iraqis don't have a cohesive plan. It seems to me they have a very cohesive plan.
Their plan is to draw us into battle around their capital and fight a war of attrition against us while they do their best to chop our lines of supply to bits all the way down behind us with units of the regular army who didn't surrender and all these militias and all this stuff, you know. That's what I think about it. KING: Colonel Hackworth, have you been proven right based on your criticism the last two nights because the reports are contradictory?
COL. DAVID HACKWORTH, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, my sources are there and they're not the spinners that belong to the liar's club, and I check with them and they tell me what's going on and it's not like being on the battlefield but my sources are young officers who really know what's going on and they're only interested in one thing is keeping their troops alive.
The bottom line is Saddam is saying, said years ago publicly he was going to fight this war differently. He told his people to arm themselves and prepare for guerilla warfare and that's exactly what he's doing. Our own CIA presented this intelligence to Secretary Rumsfeld at the Pentagon and it was just totally ignored.
KING: But, Hack, a week ago you thought this was going to be a slam dunk.
HACKWORTH: If we had the combat force that we were supposed to have. The president of the United States authorized eight divisions. Of those eight divisions, less than half of them are there. Rumsfeld thought he could go on the war on the cheap.
The end of result of that, Larry, is that we don't have sufficient forces to do the job. And so, it is right now, we're between a rock and a hard place. We don't have the forces to keep our supply lines open and we don't have the forces to give our troops a rest.
You can't take combat troops, infantry and tankers, and work them night and day and that's what's happening. They've got to have a rest.
KING: All right, well let's get our reporters' thoughts on what our colonels are saying. Janine, how do you react to what you hear from Colonel Lang and Colonel Hackworth, Janine DiGiovanni?
DIGIOVANNI: Well, I agree with Arthur. I was in Afghanistan in Tora Bora and so I know very well the notion of trying to keep a brave face when, in fact, behind the scenes what's going on is very different, and I think what's happening now is we have two wars.
We've got the real war and we have the propaganda war from both sides. I was in Baghdad and I see what Iraqi TV and Chabab (ph) TV, which is of course owned by Saddam Hussein's son Uday, are doing and they're giving us images of the marketplace disaster, the bombing the day before yesterday. They're giving us images of mothers who have lost children, of the wounded.
On the other side, from the coalition forces we're getting the images from the embedded journalists which is a completely and a very new thing. Those 500 journalists who are traveling with the forces, who are living with them, who are more or less under their control, not so differently from the way that the journalists in Baghdad are under the control of the ministry of information.
So, we have very few journalists who are operating independently. They're known as unilaterals and to do so, to go into the field and to try to work is a very difficult and dangerous thing. We had several journalists killed including ITN's Terry Lloyd who was a veteran correspondent. So, it shows you how difficult it is to operate independently.
KING: Jasim, how do you react to what you are hearing tonight?
AL-AZZAWI: Commenting about what Mr. Hackworth said, and that is the liar's club, this operation, this plan was in one way or another as it unfolds is flawed because it was based on an assumption and that is the Iraqis are not going to fight.
Perhaps this idea was embedded in the heads of senior planners or senior American officials by a gentleman called Ahmed Chelobi (ph). He's Iraqi. He's the head of Iraqi coalition Congress. He's a very shady character. He was indicted in Jordan for embezzlement of $200 million. To his last dying days, King Hussein when he was asked please forgive him and let him go he said no. Short of bringing the money I'm not going to.
The reason why I bring up Mr. Chelobi is because he was the darling of the Pentagon. He convinced many, many senior officials and perhaps Mr. Rumsfeld that he has contacts with Iraqi generals, with senior Iraqi planners.
They are the (unintelligible). They are the people surrounding Saddam Hussein and he knows them very well and he can assure the U.S. that as soon as you come in there is going to be a revolt. There is going to be a coup de tas and there is no need for a lot of soldiers.
The CIA very, very -- a short while ago they cut him loose. They understood that he was a liar and from this perspective this plan perhaps went awry and not enough American and British soldiers were inserted into the region because of this.
KING: David Ignatius in all fairness do you have any quotes from George Bush or Tony Blair or Don Rumsfeld that this would be quick and swift and that the Iraqis would be giving up and surrendering and turning against their leader?
KING: Do we ever have them definitely saying that, David?
IGNATIUS: Well, I don't have them in front of me, Larry, but you know I know that Dick Cheney said on the talk shows that this would be a matter of weeks and not months. And, you know, there was a view that this thing was going to fall, the phrase was like a house of cards.
I've been one of those unilateral journalists that Janine was talking about, operating on my own inside Iraq during the past week and I've seen two things that are worth mentioning. The first is that Americans and the world are not wrong to think that ordinary Iraqis do not like this regime. I talked to a number of Iraqis who are so happy to see coalition forces there and the possibility that their lives would change. You know, the other thing I saw was a pervasive atmosphere of suspicion and insecurity because the secret police and the Ba'ath party that run this country are still in charge.
And, until Iraqis believe that their hold has been broken, that it's over, you're not going to see a change on the ground. I mean they're going to fight hard in part because they got pistols pointed at their heads, and I think you got to remember that.
KING: And, in view of that, Arthur Kent then, aren't you wrong in a sense if these people are being forced to do (unintelligible)?
KENT: No and I agree with everything -- I agree with everything David said. It's true, hence the need for a quick campaign, for a quick solution. You know, the Iraqis have been telling us this for only 12 years, you know, sanctions hurt them. The bombing hurt them. Saddam -- they've been trapped between Saddam Hussein on the one side and our rather insensitive policies on the other. They needed to see a quick demonstration.
For instance, Larry, 12 years, where's the new strategy? Where are the new tactics to somehow get into Basra and demonstrate quickly with a little of that Shock and Awe and get a decision quickly instead of what we've seen which is almost a medieval kind of siege?
And, Saddam's gunmen, these hoods, the Fedayeen Saddam and the Republican Guards and the other irregulars who are inside the city, a few thousand guys with rifles and mortars, now why didn't the U.S. and British forces come up with a strategy to somehow make a decision there quicker and possible so that the Iraqi civilians would not suffer?
Because let's remember this, what's bad for the Iraqi people is bad for the American people because it turns opinion in the region decidedly against the United States of America.
KING: Colonel Lang, the obvious then, what does the coalition do now?
LANG: Well, there are two aspects of that. One is what they ought to do and the other is what they're probably going to do. In the area of what they ought to do in my opinion is we ought to forget about all this ridiculous nonsense that might have come from Ahmed (unintelligible). It was certainly believed wholeheartedly in Washington that everybody was going to throw down their arms and welcome us.
And we ought to get ready seriously to fight, not the siege of Baghdad because the United States is not going to encircle a city of five million people and starve them out. We're not going to do that.
In the end what we're going to have to do is we're going to have to fight out way through the Republican Guards into the city in order to remove the regime. To do that you'd have to bring up enough force. If that means waiting a month or two months until those reserves, which were denied us by the Pentagon after they had promised to send them out, that's what they should do.
But what are they going to do? It was quite obvious from the briefings today, which are very boring but you can learn something from listening to them, what we're going to do is we're going to wait a few days and then as General McChrystal said we're going to start attacking the Republican Guard, little piece here, little piece there, massive air power, destroy them a bit at a time, start chewing them up. That's what we're going to do and we're not going to wait for all these big Army formations to show up and this is going to cost a lot of men.
KING: We're going to take a break in a moment and then go to phone calls. But, Colonel Hackworth, does that then re-change your former predictions?
HACKWORTH: No, no. I think that the military must be absolutely misreading the tea leaves, Larry, because you know they don't understand that Colonel Bright said that he wasn't going to change his tactics when he got the car bomb.
By the way car bombs have been exploding in Israel for the last two decades. You've got to adjust with the tactic. We must understand that we're fighting a guerilla opponent. His main line units, his Republican Guard units, are not deployed in the force on force engagement exercise. They are broken down at company size units in villages. We're going to have to destroy the village so we're back to Vietnam. To save the village we have to destroy it.
KING: We'll take a break and come back and include your phone calls for Colonel David Hackworth, Colonel Patrick Lang, Janine DiGiovanni, Jasim al-Azzawi, David Ignatius of the "Washington Post" and Arthur Kent of the History Channel. We'll be right back. Don't go away.
KING: We're back. Let's go to your phone calls, Flag Pond, Tennessee, hello.
CALLER: Hi. I would like to know what is the difference between our covert forces operating in Iraq with the object of killing Iraqi leaders and the Iraqi troops in civilian clothing attacking us in the same way? Aren't we both terrorists by our own definition?
KING: Colonel Lang, how would you respond?
LANG: Well, I'm not going to talk about our forces. It's kind of an invidious comparison in my view. But with regard to the way the Iraqis have been characterized by CENTCOM and back here, I think it's kind of silly to talk about guerillas in the field who are operating as part of their national strategy obviously as being terrorists. As you observed earlier, the idea of terrorism does not usually apply to the military or paramilitary forces in the field in a war, and I think that's just a ridiculous thing to do and I think we ought to stop doing that.
KING: Were the Kamikaze pilots, Colonel Lang, considered terrorists?
LANG: Absolutely not. I mean and there have been any number of other instances in the world. Jim Lehrer tonight mentioned the example, for example, some of the resistance fighters in World War II certainly went on suicide missions in civilian clothes. So, I think to call these people terrorists is just foolish.
KING: Salt Lake City, Utah, hello.
CALLER: This question is for Colonel Hackworth.
CALLER: I'm currently reading your book "Steal my Soldiers' Hearts" and is the opposition's body count as important in this war as it was in the Vietnam War, and where do you get your inner strength to carry on with your life after witnessing such horrific death and destruction?
HACKWORTH: Body count, I hope it doesn't come into this war but what really frightens me is I see so many parallels between the current war and Vietnam. For example, in Vietnam we fought World War II and in this war we're re-fighting Desert Storm.
Where do I get my inner strength? As a very young boy, at age 14, I went to war and I've seen young boys killed in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, and I swore that that wouldn't ever happen on my watch again, and so that's what gives me the fire in my belly to keep moving down the road.
KING: David Ignatius, do you see any drawing comparison here to Vietnam? I mean the colonel was there.
IGNATIUS: You know, I do, I see certainly in the way in which we got into this war, you know, a king of, you know, almost romanticism about the use of violence and what it was going to do. Every time I look at Donald Rumsfeld now I think Robert McNamara, you know the rimless glasses, the confidence, sometimes the arrogance.
You know my hope is that this is a different kind of entity. I still stick to this believe that the ordinary Iraqi detests this regime and you're going to hit a tipping point where enough Iraqis believe it's going to be over and they are, in fact, going to want to help end Saddam's rule over their lives. That's different from Vietnam.
KING: Poughkeepsie, New York, hello.
CALLER: Yes, hi Larry. Well, I can just see the show tonight evoking some crazy questions. To make a moral equivalency between an American soldier and a terrorist is just outrageous.
But my question is for Colonel Hackworth. He claims we don't have enough soldiers in the field. The way I see it, we have every major city in that country surrounded, cut off, no supplies, nothing. We've surrounded Baghdad. How many more soldiers -- we're under 100 casualties in eight days. How many more soldiers could have accomplished what we've accomplished? Thank you.
KING: All right, good question.
HACKWORTH: The French conquered all of Indo China and they lost the war. WE had all of South Vietnam and we lost the war. It's a matter of having a sufficient balanced force to do the job. We need the divisions that the president authorized to bring to the war that Rumsfeld has decided he could do the war on the cheap and hasn't brought over.
Now the panic button is being pushed and we need those divisions but you don't move a division the size of the 1st Cav Division in a few days. It will probably be late April or May before they're on the battlefield. But believe me, we need far more troops, double what we have there on the ground.
Our presence there doesn't say that we're running the thing. If we were controlling the thing you wouldn't have a taxi drive up to the 1st Brigade of the 3rd Division and kill four soldiers today.
KING: Janine, this outcome isn't in doubt, is it Janine?
DIGIOVANNI: Well, I think really the most important part of the war will be the aftermath, will be the hearts and mind campaign. I think and I really stick to my point having spent so much time in Baghdad talking to ordinary Iraqis that they're not going to take the notion of what they call an occupying force easily.
I even had people saying to me when you come back in a month's time an American will be sitting here in my job. Their history shows that they have always bucked a force that came to occupy them. They don't see it as a liberating force. Whether or not they want Saddam in power isn't the case.
Like the Afghans, they really don't want people coming into their land, coming into their territory and I think this will be the toughest job, trying to get them around, trying to use propaganda or psy ops or any way possible to bring them around to the notion that this might be the better thing for them.
KING: Jasim, there is no question about who's going to win, is there?
AL-AZZAWI: No, absolutely not. Even the Iraqi leadership, they have acknowledged it to the top. Saddam Hussein himself, he said we know this is going to be an epic battle and perhaps the Americans will be victorious.
The comparison between Iraq and Vietnam actually is not in the cards. I mean we all know that in Vietnam 75 million people, a very jungle country, supported by the Soviet Union at that time, big father China was at the back. It lasted for 12 years I mean for obvious reasons.
But as far as Iraq is concerned, people are talking about six months. People are talking about maximum like a year. There is some sort of credibility deficit creeping into this war about the duration of this war.
As far as what Janine said is true that Iraqis feel that it is going to be very, very long. It's going to be, as far as they are concerned three months for them is a long time. Six months for them is a long time.
KING: Arthur Kent, there's no doubt in your mind about the eventual outcome, is there?
KENT: No but I think it's important. This idea about having an American viceroy in Baghdad, as Janine says, right out the window. Forget that one. It was always a laughable suggestion but after the setbacks and the carnage thus far and this protracted prospect of battle for weeks and months, forget that.
What should be happening, Larry, and the important for the American public is now to realize this is the importance of multi- lateralism of the United States exercising its traditional skill in being part of large alliances and holding those alliances together.
Instead, the Bush administration has had the Midas touch in reverse. Every old partnership and part of an alliance they touch turns to lead. You know, America's two closest neighbors, Mexico and Canada, sitting out this war, traditional allies like Norway, France sitting it out, and here, you know, in Spain, Italy, Australia, 70, 80 percent of the public standing against their political leaders who are part of this so-called coalition of the willing.
The fact of the matter is that the Bush administration had better get on the phone very quickly and reassemble its ties with those United Nations countries and try to lend some legitimacy to whatever administration can be cobbled together after the end of this outrage.
KING: Let me get a call, one more call in, Montreal, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry. I was wondering why the bombardment in Baghdad, how come the street lights and the building lights are all still on?
KING: Colonel Lang do you know the answer to that?
LANG: Yes. That's part of the wonderful theory about how we could affect the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people that led to all the miscalculations involved here. The air campaign has been structured so that it presents as little real discomfort to ordinary Iraqis as possible, you know, taking into consideration there are a few stray bombs every once n a while. I'd just like to say about an earlier point that I would agree that the idea of a direct American military administration in Iraq is a real loser and we ought to concentrate on getting out of there as soon as possible or we'll have a reputation all over the Arab world as a neo-colonialist state.
KING: Is this -- David, is this -- this show tonight seems awfully, everyone seems to be in a down position I guess if you acknowledge that. Does this tell us that the future is not bright, David?
IGNATIUS: Well, you know, I think we have to think to ourselves what is victory here? Are we going to end up, is the United States going to end up as a stronger country and is this part of the world going to be stronger? And I think we just, we don't know the answers to that yet.
I still do think that we will reach a tipping point where this looks very different than the way it looks today. You know I think more U.S. forces are coming in and that will make for a more secure environment.
I do think that President Bush is going to have to do a better job of being a global leader. You know he's just not playing well certainly in the Arab world, certainly in Europe, and if those things begin to change, you know, if we do this show a month from now, I think you'd say different things.
KING: Colonel Hackworth, would you agree?
HACKWORTH: Yes and I think that this very painful war will be easy, Larry, compared to the occupation. We've got to look back at history. Our British allies went into Baghdad in March of 1917. They were met with flowers and rice and treated as liberators for about two days and then the basic bottom line nationalism of Iraqis said we don't want you guys here and they started hitting them with guerilla attacks.
KING: We're almost out of time.
HACKWORTH: And so, I think the occupation is going to be very, very difficult.
KING: Thank you very much. We'll do lots more on this in the nights ahead and we thank Colonel David Hackworth, Colonel Patrick Lang, Janine DiGiovanni of "The Times of London," Jasim Al-Azzawi of Abu Dhabi TV, David Ignatius of the "Washington Post," and Arthur Kent the host and producer for the History Channel.
We'll be back tomorrow night and among the guests will be the ambassadors to the United States of Syria, Jordan, and Kuwait.
Stephen Frazier will have the news and Aaron Brown is right around the corner. I'm Larry King, for the guests and yours truly, goodnight.
FRAZIER: I'm Stephen Frazier at the CNN news room with the latest at this hour.
Iraq's vice president went on state television today to say that today's suicide bombing may have been Iraq's first against U.S troops but it won't be the last and he warned they might not be limited to the battlefield either. Four American soldiers were killed today when they responded to a driver's request for help. Then the driver blew them all up.
He may have been willing to die for Saddam Hussein but others were not. We can not show you their faces because they're now prisoners of war, but these men claim to be Iraqi Fedayeen. They said they have been ordered to carry out suicide bombings but decided instead they would give up.
The "Washington Post" reported today that U.S. has covert operatives in Iraqi cities hunting high level Iraqis. An unnamed U.S. official told the "Post" covert teams have already reported several kills.
At last count, 34 Americans and 23 Britons have died in this war, which President Bush has said will protect Iraq's neighbors. But after several U.S. Tomahawk missiles accidentally fell into Saudi Arabia today, that country has complained even though the missiles did not detonate. U.S. military officials say they will change the routes these missiles take to get to their targets in Iraq.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com