CNN LARRY KING LIVE
War in Iraq: Analysis of Day's Events
Aired March 31, 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 HOST: Tonight, relentless coalition air attacks on a presidential compound in Baghdad and on the Republican Guard defending Baghdad. And seven civilians, women and children, are killed today when U.S. soldiers fire on a van trying to drive through a checkpoint.
Veteran newsman Peter Arnett fired after controversial comments to Iraqi TV and Geraldo Rivera may be kicked out of Iraq, maybe not.
We'll have the latest on those stories, plus the man who runs the nerve center for "Operation Iraqi Freedom," Colonel Tom Bright at CENTCOM in Doha, Qatar and more.
We begin with Nic Robertson in Ruwaished, Jordan. Nic, what about that story of the killing of civilians? How did that happen?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Larry, apparently they were approaching a checkpoint -- coalition force checkpoint. This -- the unit was a unit that had been involved or at least very closely tied to that unit -- was some of them were killed in a suicide bombing last week when a car approached a checkpoint and blew up. Perhaps a little edgy.
Apparently they shot over the air of the vehicle to get its attention to stop. It didn't slow down. They shot in the radiator of the vehicle. That didn't stop it. Then they shot with a larger caliber weapon into the vehicle. For the time the vehicle stopped and the coalition forces could get close and check. They discovered women and children in it, apparently with their possessions, possibly trying to flee that particular area, Larry.
KING: And what's the latest on the air attacks overnight in Baghdad?
ROBERTSON: It seems to be slightly quieter in Baghdad. There were a number of explosions earlier in the evening, a couple of them at a presidential palace hit before some of the -- another one about half a mile from a hotel where journalists are in downtown Baghdad. Not clear exactly what was targeted there.
But perhaps the most interesting thing from Baghdad today, President Saddam Hussein on television with his two sons, Uday Saddam Hussein, who is in charge of the Fedayeen forces in Iraq, an indication there for the Iraqi people that the leadership of that particular hard-line force is still about, and with his other son, Qusay Saddam Hussein. Qusay in charge not only of the Republican Guard, who are now on the outskirts of Baghdad between Baghdad and the coalition forces but also Qusay Saddam Hussein in charge of the whole of the center of Iraq.
So for Iraqi people, a double message. Number one, their TV station back up on the air after coalition forces have taken it out on a couple of occasions, and that the leadership of the main Republican Guard and the Fedayeen forces and the center of Iraq, all alive and well, apparently and with their father -- Larry.
KING: Thank you, Nic. Nic Robertson at the Jordanian-Iraqi border.
Let's go to Mike Boettcher, the CNN correspondent embedded with U.S. Special Operations Forces in southeastern Iraq. What do we hear from your vantage point, Mike?
MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Larry, tonight relatively quiet. Volleys to the north, south, east and west on Basra and I am on the outskirts of Basra.
But even when it's quiet, there's a lot going on out there. I am with Special Operations Forces on the outskirts of Basra. And we were invited along to see their psychological operations. Quite interesting, Larry.
They use one Humvee with a speaker combined with one British tank and four armored vehicles and then they turn that speaker on which has the soundtrack of many minitanks rolling through the desert and it sounds like an entire division of tanks. Now, this is designed to make the Iraqis think that the attack on Basra has begun.
In addition to this, they fire flares in the air and then the tank, that singular tank, will open up with a volley of fire occasionally. Occasionally they take fire back from mortars or artillery or machine guns from the Iraqi side. But, according to the Special Operations Forces, it keeps the Iraqis on edge. They don't know when an attack is going to come. They think it's coming. It make them move when they don't want to move and see things that actually are not there, Larry.
KING: Mike, why would the special forces allow you to show this?
BOETTCHER: Well, because it is a matter of deception, they say.
If the Iraqis see this, and they will, this particular story, and have, I would assume, they might just let their guard down the next time. And the next time it could be a recording again, and the next time it could be real and it will be real some day, according to coalition sources here.
KING: For you, Mike, what is being with Special Forces entail?
BOETTCHER: Well, it's -- you know, Larry, it's very unique because this has never been done before to this extent in history. This is usually a force that calls itself the quiet force. They -- they are a bunch of guys and women, in some respects, but not at this particular base, who conduct missions that are done entirely in secret. So as a reporter, walking in here, it was a unique experience for me and for them.
But they are and have been terrific. I think that they conduct so many different kinds of operations that no one has ever heard about and we hope to tell you about in the coming days that they have -- I have kind of warmed to the idea of people actually seeing what they do out here. Not everything, of course. We won't be able to show everything. But it is an amazing group of people to work with.
KING: They are, I would gather, unusual people.
BOETTCHER: You know, Larry, they're unusual.
The movies portray these guys as kicking in doors, you know, and firing weapons, the Steven Segal sort of thing. But frankly a lot of them are brainiacs. I mean, they're very smart. They look for free thinkers, people who think on the move. And it's not so much their skills with weapons that they look for, it's their skill with their mind. And these guys are very, very smart.
KING: Thanks, Mike, as always. Mike Boettcher, CNN correspondent embedded with U.S. Special Operations Forces.
Let's go to Kalak, Northern Iraq, Ben Wedeman, CNN correspondent the, latest from there. There was an air assault on Mosul. What's the latest from where you are, Ben?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Basically, Larry, we've seen a real intensification of the air campaign in the north. Yesterday evening, I was right here and we were watching as two F-14 Tomcats came flying overhead, very low and their bombs slamming into the Iraqi positions behind me. We've seen B-52s flying in the direction of Mosul and Kirkuk, those two northern Iraqi cities still under the control of Saddam Hussein.
Now, Larry what's interesting is that after three days of really relentless bombing of Iraqi frontline positions in the north, we're beginning to see that some of the Iraqi troops are cracking. Yesterday I had a chance -- actually today for you, I had a chance to see five of these Iraqi soldiers who have basically fled their positions. They told me that they were under bombardment from coalition airplanes for five days. They were exhausted. They hadn't been able to sleep. Their positions had been destroyed. They said they had been watching their comrades being killed and wounded by these coalition bombings and therefore, they said, they had enough. They ran away from their positions at about 5:00 in the morning., just before the sun came up.
They also told me that many of their comrades would like to abandon their positions, but they're terrified of these government death squads who who are out there -- basically been given cart blanche to execute any Iraqi soldiers who attempt to leave their positions. Something else they told me is that they had no idea really about the war that's going on in Iraq because their commanding officers had confiscated their radios.
One other interesting point they told me was that just after the war began, they were -- they were basically given gas masks by their officers -- Larry.
KING: Ben, from a coverage standpoint, what has this been like for you?
WEDEMAN: Well, it's been rather bizarre because we've been watching what's been going on in the south, watching our colleagues like Walt Rodgers and Alessio Vinci, really in some heavy action. Up here in the north, it has been a much slower developing story with its own drama.
For instance, here, from where I'm standing, we've been watch something fairly intense bombing fairly close by. But it -- we haven't seen the kind of action that Alessio and Walt have been in the midst of, not that we actually want to see it, because that looks very dangerous. But it's been very exciting up here nonetheless.
KING: Ben Wedeman, thank you very much, from Kalak, Northern Iraq. We'll take a break and be back with lots more. Don't go away.
KING: In a little while, we'll be checking in with Colonel Tom Bright. Chief of operations, Joint Operations Center for the Central Command Forward. He's with the United States Marine Corps.
Joining us now in Kuwait City is Janine Digiovanni, the senior foreign correspondent for "The Times of London." She's about to be embedded with the British Military, reporter from Baghdad until ordered out by her editor. She's author, by the way, of an upcoming back on war called "Madness Visible."
And in Amman, Jordan is Mohammed Alkhereiji, the war correspondent for ArabNews.com. Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English language daily newspaper.
Janine, we would like you to comment on the Peter Arnett story. What do you make of him giving that interview to Iraq television, subsequently being fired?
JANINE DIGIOVANNI, "TIMES OF LONDON:" Well, I haven't actually heard his interview but I have read some of the comments. Peter Arnett is a very outspoken journalist. And as you know, live television can be a very dangerous thing unlike print where you can come back and retract something. Television, once it is out, it is out.
I haven't had a chance to speak to him personally about why he did it or if he actually believes this. I think he did come back and apologize and he has been hired by a British newspaper to continue reporting the war.
But I think that if he did -- if he did say this and it was an analysis and it was his opinion, I actually don't see why he should have been fired. If journalists have anti-war sentiment, it shouldn't -- it doesn't mean they're being unpatriotic. It just means that they're trying to express something. He wasn't giving away military strategy. He was simply airing his view.
So I have very mixed feelings about it actually.
KING: Mohammed, what are your thoughts on the subject?
MOHAMMED ALKHEREIJI, ARABNEWS.COM: Well, it is always sad to see something happen to somebody of Mr. Arnett's caliber. Although as a journalist he should be impartial and should refrain from expressing his opinion too much. But his popularity should skyrocket here in the Middle East.
KING: Thank you, Mohammed. We'll come back with Janine and Mohammed in just a moment.
Right now, let's go to Doha in Qatar. Standing by is Colonel Tom Bright of the United States Marine Corps, always good having you with us. Colonel, what is the latest you can tell us about the current activities and then we'll have a few questions.
COL. TOM BRIGHT, USMC CHIEF, CENTCOM JOC: OK. Larry, first of all, good morning. Before I get started and go on around the horn because what I would like to do is -- I intend today to talk a little bit about each of our fronts, the north, the west and the south and overhead.
But first, I'd like to just first say that everybody is well aware of the incident that we had up near an Najaf with the civilians and it was a very tragic incident as you can imagine. And rather than addressing any specifics that go with that, we're going to investigate that and as we get more information on that, we'll certainly provide that as we get that -- get more clarity on what occurred there.
KING: Fair enough.
BRIGHT: So I'd like to refrain from discussing that if we could.
BRIGHT: Let me just talk quickly about what is going on. In the south -- well, first of all we are, as I have continued to say each time I come on, it's -- we are on our plan and things are going very well. We continue to maintain contact with the enemy. Destroy those that decide to fight and take those in and embrace those that decide to surrender to us. And we continue to do a good job on reducing the regime's ability to command and control his fielded forces.
In the south, it's good to note that we only have two oil well fires that continue to burn. And I'll tell you, we started off with seven and we made very good progress in getting that cleaned up. We expect to have that clean up in the next week or so, we would think.
And the 1st U.K. continues to secure the Ramallah oil fields and continues to provide a secure environment for the H.A. download of equipment, humanitarian assistance download. As you know, we had the Sir Galahad in there she got under way and we have a significant armada of H.A. flow that will come in there in the near future.
We've made tremendous progress in some of the major cities in the south such as an Najaf, al Nasiriya, Basra, Umm Qasr, and others where we -- what we have really found out, Larry, is that the civilian populous in those areas are s really beginning to recognize that what we are there to do is to help them. And we have done that through our humanitarian assistance operations that we have executed in those areas.
But more importantly, we have garnered their support and their confidence that we are in fact going to rid them of the brutality that they've been under with the regime and the current actions of the Ba'ath Party.
We have gained and we continue to maintain contact with the enemy right there around the southern port of Baghdad. And in our own terms and in our own time we'll continue the attack to defeat those fielded forces.
As you know, Larry, we are in contact now with his most prized forces in and around Baghdad. And now as the fight is on to reduce that -- those priced forces that he has.
Out in the west, we continue to have very good success with the isolated forces that are out there. And they truly are isolated and away from the fight, but we continue to destroy those that want to fight that want to fight us. And we continue to do precision strikes as we gain -- get -- put the noose closer around the regime from the west.
In the north, we have a substantial force now up in the north and it is serving a number of purposes up there. It is quelling the historic feud between the Turks and the Kurds as well as providing a credible military force to give the opportunity for those forces up there to capitulate to and to surrender to.
So those are our three primary fronts that we have. And, of course, from the overhead we continue to pound the regime, his ability to command and control, his ability to command and control his fielded forces as well as to try or attempt to garner support from sympathetic international leaders. So we are doing exceptionally well. And -- go ahead, Larry.
KING: Well covered, Colonel. Let me ask just a few things. Major General Stanley McChrystal at the Pentagon today says more than 700 Tomahawk missiles have been used so far. And officials tell CNN that's more than one-third of the inventory, causing the coalition to adjust some battlefield plans. Do you concur?
BRIGHT: Well, I wouldn't necessarily say that we're adjusting our battlefield plans because of the expenditure of TLAMs. We use a myriad of weapons systems. TLAMs is one of those.
And so while we have used (UNINTELLIGIBLE) out, we are not dependent on them for the success of our operations. So if we begin to run short in that area, we'll just simply turn to another weapons system. We're not dependent on that weapons system, though.
KING: How do you deal with suicide bombers? The General Hasim Alrowo (ph) of Iraq claims you're going to -- he's got 4,000 volunteers from 23 countries standing by to carry out suicide attacks. How do you defend a suicide attack?
BRIGHT: Well, Larry, it is -- defending from a suicide attacker is a real challenge. We have defensive positions. We have techniques, tactics and procedures that will keep them at bay. And they will have some success, no doubt.
But in the long run, they'll find that they are unable to penetrate our forces. They're unable to execute the missions that they're intending to execute. And, so we'll just deal with it as it present itself in the military fashion that we have.
KING: And finally, Colonel, how about the efforts to silence Iraqi TV and radio? How goes that?
BRIGHT: Well, I think it is going pretty well. He's got an elaborate setup there and so we continue to systematically dismantle it each time it shows itself. And we're having very good success as you know. As you know, we brought them down for a period of about three hours here recently. And we'll continue to pound at that and take away his ability to communicate with the outside world and with his fielded forces. So we're making good progress there.
KING: Thank you, colonel.
As always, we appreciate your reports with us on a nightly basis. Colonel Tom Bright, the United States Marine Corps.
By the way, it is an hour later all through that region and in Europe than it was last Saturday. They go ahead in time one week before the United States does. So usually it is -- they're 12 hours ahead of us. Now in the Baghdad area.
Back we go to Janine Digiovanni and Mohammed Alkheireji.
Janine is in Kuwait City and Mohammed is in Amman. That was an optimistic report by the major. What -- does that go along with your assessment?
DIGIONVANNI: It did. If you look at the map of Iraq, the forces are moving across the country. In Basra, the Brits are doing a marvelous job. They're still trying to secure it. The most difficult thing I think in Basra will be to turn the population, the local population towards the Coalition forces. And the thing to remember is that 12 years ago, the Shiite population in Basra did suffer terribly when they launched an uprising in the wake of the Gulf War, and it was brutally put down because America did not come and aid them. They expected it. It didn't happen.
So they're very wary. The people of Basra are very wary. They need to be won over. The main thing that will have to be done in Basra and in Baghdad as well is this psy-ops campaign which was mentioned earlier. Television, radio, it will have to come in. It will have to convince the people that the Coalition is here to support them. They're not going to abandon them again, which is what happened before. So I think this is -- this is really going to be the true test. That and, of course, the battle of Baghdad. It is one thing to take Basra. It is one thing to take Najaf and Karbala, the holy Shiite cities, but Baghdad is going to be a struggle.
KING: I said major, of course, it is Colonel Tom Bright.
Mohammed, what do you make of his assessment and does that back up your assessment?
ALKHEREIJI: Well, I think if they secure the regions that they already covered, 100 percent, they will be in a better position to take over Baghdad. But if they leave some things -- some stones unturned, they might have some unrest, some visceral attacks from locals or militias before they know it. With regards to the media and so forth they need to utilize it definitely to get the Iraqi people on their side. There is a general distrust of this mission. The army -- the Allied forces so far have done a poor job in getting their message across to the people. And that sums up the toughness of the resistance that we have seen so far. And there are some wounds that haven't healed from first Gulf War that needs to be taken care of before they can seriously take Baghdad.
KING: By the way, at the bottom of the hour, we'll be joined by General William Odom United States Army, retired. And our man, Colonel David Hackworth, the United States, retired. Our panel will remain.
That panel is joined by Kevin Dunn, defense correspondent for ITV News. He is in Doha, Qatar. As we reported ITV News correspondent, Terry Lloyd was killed in an incident on the Southern Iraqi war front on March 23.
What is your assessment, Kevin, as to how this battle goes now, I think now in it's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) day?
KEVIN DUNN, ITV DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: Well can I say, Larry, thank you for your condolences and sympathy for the loss of Terry Lloyd, one of our finest and most experienced reporters. I was glad to hear Colonel Bright say the U.S. Marines were going to investigate tonight's incident another tragic accident involving civilians on a road in Southern Iraq.
But you do know, Larry, I think that two of our personnel, Terry's cameraman Fred Neirak (ph) a French national, and Hussein Osman (ph) a Lebanese national, there translator are still missing. Are still unaccounted for after that incident. And we believe the Pentagon have a situation report on the incident. We have not received it. And I think the U.S. military really owes it to the families, to Terry's family and the families of the two missing men to give us what information they have as soon as possible. It is a very sad incident. We know it was an accident, but we would like whatever information possible for the families of the missing men.
KING: What is your equation to how the British are equating themselves?
DUNN: I think the British are finding things much tougher than they anticipated. They're certainly satisfied at the speed and success with which they took control of the southern oil fields. They are facing difficulties in and around Basra. And that proved much more difficult to subdue. They're very anxious not to move into heavily populated city and cause damage to civilians and damage to the town itself. But they're taking much longer to take control of that city than they anticipated. And yesterday the British lost a Royal Marine in the Al Faw Peninsula. Way down south in an area that we thought was well under Coalition control.
So even in the southern areas of Iraq, the very south, the British and the Americans are finding difficulties which ten days into this campaign they would not necessarily have anticipated -- Larry.
KING: Thank you, Kevin. What we're going do is take a break. When he can come back, Janine Digiovanni, in Kuwait City, Muhammed Alkheireji, in Oman, and Kevin Dunn in Doha, in Qatar.
And we'll be joined by General William Odom (ph), United States Army, retired. Senior fellow and director of the National Security Studies at Hudson Institute Office in Washington D.C. He formerly served as director of the National Security Agency. And the author of "Fixing Intelligence For a More Secure America." And of course, Colonel David Hackworth. Hack as he is affectionately called, the highly decorated veteran, author of the book "Steal my Soldiers' Hearts." They'll be joining the panel. We will be including your phone calls.
But first, Heidi Collins will have headlines and a word or two and we'll be right back. Don't go away.
KING: Let's assemble the entire panel. In Kuwait City is Janine Digiovanni, senior foreign correspondent for "The Times of London"; in Amman, Jordan, Mohammed Alkhereiji the war correspondent for Arabnews.com. In Doha, Qatar, is Kevin Dunn, defense correspondent for ITV News.
Now joining us in Washington, Lieutenant General William Odom, United States Army, retired, senior fellow and director National Security Studies, Hudson Institutes. And in New York, Colonel David Hackworth, United States Army, retired, the highly decorated veteran.
General Odom, this Geraldo Rivera story -- he was apparently expelled by the military for giving location, I understand it, doing some further investigation in that. What's your reaction to that story? LT. GEN. WILLIAM E. ODOM, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, I think the military officers in charge there were justified in asking him to leave.
KING: Simply because you don't give out location where you are when you're embedded?
ODOM: Absolutely not.
KING: Is that the understanding rule?
ODOM: If that was the rule, then I think he should have followed it. And it's a very sensible rule. I don't think many people are aware of the kinds of intelligence-collection techniques that the Iraqis have. Television like this is one of them. It is a very important source of information for them. And while they may not be able to target something on that place right then, any improvement in their understanding of the situation is a disadvantage to the forces.
KING: Hack, what's your reading on the same question?
COL. DAVID HACKWORTH, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, if Geraldo did spill the beans and got sacked, he certainly deserves it. There's an old saying that goes back to probably prior to World War II, "Loose lips sink ships." And the general's dead on.
KING: Janine, what are your thoughts?
DIGIOVANNI: Well, I think this is one of the problems of the embedding process. It's a new thing for us journalists. We're used to be being able to do what we want. Most of us who cover war usually follow militias or we follow in a non-traditional way. So not being able to give location I understand completely, from a military point of view. It's very dangerous. He shouldn't have done it. Another thing is we're not allowed to use our Thuraya satellite phones because they give out GPS -- the strategy, the coordinates of where we are. And I agree with Hack that if, indeed, he did give his location, it was completely out of order. It is one of the rules of embedding, and if you're going to go with this process, you've got to follow what they want you to do.
KING: Mohammed, do you share that view?
ALKHEREIJI: I do. I agree. This is a dangerous time. It's a time of war. And he broke a cardinal rule, and when you break that rule, you have to pay. You have to pay the price.
KING: And Kevin, are you going to make this unanimous?
DUNN: I think I probably am, Larry, yes. I mean, if we go into these scenarios where, as journalists, we accept that we're going to be embedded, we get access that is unprecedented. In return, we agree to play by the ground rules. And that means not giving away operational details that might endanger the servicemen that we're with. Yes, we are operating, to an extent, under restrictions. It is up to us as broadcasters to flag up to the public that there are restrictions upon what our reporters are able to say in those situations.
But the alternative, as we've sadly seen, is to operate unilaterally, with the dangers that that brings and the dangers of incidents like the one in which Terry Lloyd sadly lost his life.
KING: General Odom, in the new "New Yorker" out today, Seymour Hersh, the veteran correspondent and reporter, reports of major disagreements between Secretary Rumsfeld and the Joint Chiefs and the people running this show. What do you make of that?
ODOM: I don't know any details that would shed more light on that than he tries to shed. I don't think that's terribly important one way or another right now. What's more important is that in light of what's happening in Iraq, that the command structures, from the secretary right on down, act as quickly as they can in improving our situation there.
And one of the things they're having to do -- I said some time ago, it made sense to do, and I see they are doing it -- is try to move more heavy ground forces in to load the combat power to our enormous advantage as we approach Baghdad. So I think things are moving pretty well. I can see why there might be disagreements over the amount of ground power that was brought in there. The idea that we go with less than three or four divisions from -- at the very beginning, strikes me as a little strange. I think you would flunk an exercise in the command and staff college at Fort Leavenworth if your solution was to launch with one heavy division down there.
KING: Hack, did you see the story? If not, what did you make of it, as I generalized it, of a major division?
HACKWORTH: Well, I read the story, and I've talked to a whole bunch of folks that are in the inside in the Pentagon and out in the field. And bottom line is I think the secretary def, he made a call and went in really light, and his general should have stood tall. On the good news side is that the mighty 4th Infantry Division, which is a very powerful mechanized division, is unloading as we talk, at the wharfs in Kuwait. The 2nd AC, a very tough outfit, is being flown over from Fort Polk, an armored cav regiment. Another armored brigade is being flown into the north. So we're getting the combat power on the ground.
The bottom line is bad decision by secretary of defense. It will be salvaged by those great young men that are down on the ground and up in the air, and they're always the guys that save the faulty plans of the generals and the guys like Rumsfeld, so we'll do it, and it'll be done.
ODOM: Could I add one more...
KING: Lots more questions coming...
ODOM: ... point on that?
KING: ... and we'll -- I'm sorry, General. Go ahead. ODOM: There is one point I'd like to make about this. Rather than trying to fix the blame right now, the more important thing to do is render this after the war and to realize that heavy forces are really important after the cold war. There's a view in Washington and in the Pentagon that we don't need those heavy forces anymore. If you look out there and see some of these battle scenes, you'll see that it's very nice to have an M-1 tank with 120-millimeter gun with you and to have quite a few of them. The 3rd Armor -- the 3rd Mechanized Division would not be up as far with the 3rd of the 7th Cav leading it without those kinds of forces.
So that's something that we can act on later, and our force structure arrangements. We have much too much maritime force compared to the amount of ground force and tactical air force.
KING: Hack, what's the effect of weather now? It is getting warmer.
HACKWORTH: Well, weather, the enemy, the terrain, the mission are the four key elements of war. And when you look out there now, it's unusually hot. It's normally about 85 degrees. It's now in the 90s. But when you put on an armored vest, that kicks it up 10 degrees. Then you put your MOPP suit on, you're kicking it up another 10 degrees. So those kids now, in the daytime, it's 110 degrees body heat. It is going to go up 10 degrees each month, April and May. So we got to get this thing done mighty quickly or be fighting only at night, or we're going to have enormous heat stroke casualties, which will take you out as fast as a bullet, Larry.
KING: Janine, do you to expect it now to go faster, in view of what Hack just said?
DIGIOVANNI: Well, I think it has to go faster. I really do because, as I've mentioned where before, I believe that the Iraqi resistance will get stronger. While I was in Baghdad, people repeatedly told me that even if they did not agree with Saddam Hussein, even if they did not want him as a leader, they did not want an occupying force in their country. And my view is that the longer it goes on, the more pockets of resistance will emerge. And they'll be small guerrilla pockets, which are harder to fight. And we will see more incidents of suicide bombers, of human shields, of nontraditional military tactics, which will be more and more difficult. So I think, in many ways, it has to go fast if the coalition wants to succeed.
KING: Mohammed, do you agree?
ALKHEREIJI: I agree. It has to go faster. It's in the allied troops's best interest. If this thing lasts until summer, the weather's going to hit 120, 150, and you will see people get heat stroke. You will see people's stamina lessen. And also, yes, with regard to the resistance, if they go in, do their job fast, less -- there'll be less speculation and less chance of an uprising from the people who do see this as a legitimate invasion and an occupation.
KING: Kevin, do you expect a pickup now? DUNN: Well, I think what we're seeing, Larry, is that pause in the campaign while the forces reshape. To a certain extent, the Americans, the feeling here is, have been victims of their own success in moving so far so fast in that initial armored advance and then being surprised at the vulnerability to their supply lines.
But with the 4th Infantry Division now starting to flow through, there is a feeling here that, in their words, they will reshape the battlefield. They will reposition their forces, bring in extra troops to get into a position where they can move on to the next phase of the campaign, which is expected to be an assault on the Republican Guard. But they can only go so fast as it takes in order to get enough force for General Franks to feel he has the strength and confidence to take on those Republican Guard divisions.
KING: General Odom, I got to take a break in a minute, and then we'll take phone calls. But your book on fixing intelligence for a more secure America -- how do you assess American intelligence thus far in this battle?
ODOM: Very few military commanders fight with the intelligence advantage that the U.S. and the British are fighting with out there right now. The same was true in the Gulf war. There are problems. We could get more -- we could get more intelligence for less money by fixing some things. The weakness in our intelligence is really counterintelligence at home, more than it is there. So it's extraordinary the kind of intelligence they have. But war fighters will always want more and better, no matter if it's darn near perfect.
KING: Let's take a break and come back. We'll start to include your phone calls for our panel on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
KING: let's take some phone calls for our panel. Worcester, Massachusetts. Hello.
KING: Hi. Go ahead. What's your question?
CALLER: My question is for Lieutenant Colonel Bright or the general. I understand Saddam has 600 Soviet MiGs. I may be wrong. Correct me. Why has he not used his MiGs, or is he saving them for a chemical attack on our assault on Baghdad?
KING: Good question. Where is his air power, General Odom?
ODOM: He doesn't have 600 MiGs, according to my information. But he does have some aircraft, and they're in hangar rats (ph) that are hard to destroy. The interesting thing is they don't try to fly. I think the explanation is clear. Any plane that came off the ground in the first Gulf war was destroyed in a very short amount of time. If the they come up this time, they will be destroyed. One of the things the U.S. Air Force has always done for the Army, at least in my lifetime, has been to insure that they will -- the Army has not fought under hostile air attack except on very rare occasions. So that Air Force service is alive and well out there, and I don't expect to see any Iraqi air activity of any significance.
HACKWORTH: I agree with that. I think the Iraqi pilots are very highly intelligent guys. They know if they fly, they'll die.
KING: Tampa, Florida. Hello.
CALLER: Yes, Larry. My question for the panel is -- with Syrian soldiers crossing the line, the border to actually support Iraq, have other nations done so? And also, with Iraqi soldiers dressing up as civilians, how will this affect the approach when they reach Baghdad, as far as the allied troops?
KING: Janine and then the general. Janine, you want to take that first?
DIGIOVANNI: Yes. Well, I'm not surprised that Syrian soldiers are crossing the border. And I think in coming weeks, we'll see more of that. My concern has been a regional one, the implications it would have in the region. Will it ignite pan-Arabic hostility? People are angry in the this part of the world about the attack on Iraq. And if you look back on wars, say, in Bosnia, we had a lot of soldiers, mercenaries coming from Chechnya, coming from the Sudan, coming from all over, Saudis, who had come to join this fight. And I think in coming weeks, we will see much more of it.
KING: General, how about military dressed up as civilians?
ODOM: Well, that's a problem. I don't see that becoming a highly significant problem. It's going to lead to some bloody, nasty episodes, but I don't see that as generating the kind of combat power that can cause -- cause us to lose the battle out there. It is the spinoffs, the effect on the region, as Janine just said, some political side effects. But I think immediate combat, we could see some serious and bloody exchanges. but in the balance of forces overall, I don't see that it could be a determining factor.
KING: Toronto, Ontario. Hello.
CALLER: Hi, there. Yes. A lot of people I know did not want this war to start, but now that it has, a lot of people that I work with are all now saying that Canada should be in it. Would it make a difference if Canada did decide to send troops, and other countries that are just sitting by watching?
HACKWORTH: Well, if you sent those mighty Princess Pats, it should would. The Canadians have got great fighting forces, a lot of fighting spirit, and we fought alongside of them in a bunch of wars. So I'm sure that the president of the United States would say welcome.
KING: Kevin Dunn, what do you think?
DUNN: Well, I think, certainly, the United States would welcome any further evidence of troops from other countries. At the moment, the coalition, so-called, consists of the U.S., Britain and Australian troops committed in the theater. Although we've been told there's a list of 49 countries that make up the coalition of the willing, that list has not been published. Certainly, the United States would like to see as broad a sweep of support as possible internationally. And the Canadian troops are very competent soldiers. I'm sure the Americans would welcome them.
KING: To Dallas, Texas. Hello.
CALLER: Yes. My question is for the general and the colonel. In the event that Saddam Hussein and/or his family were to sneak out of the country, would we hunt them down and bring them to justice? Would these people continue to just be hidden out in other countries? What possibly would happen, in that event?
ODOM: We would certainly try to hunt them down. We'd have to know that they'd left the country to be -- to decide to go do it. We would have no real basis for beginning to hunt until we know that. But I think absolutely.
KING: Do you agree, Hack?
HACKWORTH: No question that Saddam Hussein is a war criminal. And the president gave him a mighty invitation to leave, and he didn't. So wherever he goes, he's in big trouble.
KING: To Aliso Viejo. Hello.
CALLER: Hi. This question is for General Odom. First I want to say I totally support the troops. And I want to know, in your opinion, what would the difference have been if the 4th Infantry was there right now? Would they be in Baghdad? Would they be fighting?
ODOM: I don't think we would be in Baghdad yet. I think prospects for having enough force to begin the Baghdad battle would be better. In other words, we could probably begin it early. But even with the 4th Mech, more force will be required to be sure we're going to have this thing turn out right when we launch it. It would be much less to our advantage if we launch a battle early without enough force. So the more force you can get in there earlier, the better the prospects, and the sooner it'll be done.
KING: Covington, Georgia. Hello.
KING: Hi. CALLER: I'm -- I just have a question, and I'd like to know, from the colonel's perspective or whoever else you have on the panel, considering that right now, we're not really winning a PR war, per se, would you think that, at some point, if we get into a situation where we think that it's not tipping in our direction, that maybe we'd sidetrack the PR war and just go for the big blow to maybe reach our goal?
KING: Hack, you understand that?
HACKWORTH: I think so. I think the biggest problem the commander on the ground has is all of those guerrillas behind him. And those guerrillas are cutting his supply lines. And right now, a brigade of the 101st Airborne, my old outfit, a brigade of the 82nd, are in real serious firefights 100 miles behind where the 3rd Infantry Division is. And the guerrillas are fighting classically, and they have their supplies cached. They're running around in civilian gear, doing hit-and-run operations. They're hiding their caches and they're hiding out in mosques and in hospitals, in schools.
And the main thing -- and probably, the good general would like to talk about this -- they're not using radios. They're using the same kind of communications that our soldiers used in the Civil War, runners, messengers. So there's no radio intercept to find out where they are.
KING: General, you agree?
ODOM: I agree with what he said completely. The communications problem does -- the lack of electronic communications makes them harder to find, and it could be a long, drawn-out operation in this regard. Thus far, it does not seem that that's affecting the operational capabilities of the troops that are far forward. And I hope that continues to be the situation.
KING: Mohammed, any fears of the United States warnings to Syria and Iran, fears of widening this conflict?
ALKHEREIJI: Oh, definitely. The region right now is pretty distabilized. I've spoken to some people here today, and they do see it as them trying to pass on the blame or trying to drag other countries into the war. Not very good timing. Whether it's true or not, that remains to be seen.
KING: Salida, California. Hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry. Hello to all of you.
CALLER: My question is for anybody that would like to answer it. Yesterday on the show, you had some dignitaries from other surrounding countries there. And they were saying how the citizens were not happy about all this. I'd like to know, what are they doing to try and let them understand exactly what it is we're trying to accomplish, that we're not trying to take over, and to, hopefully, get those people to understand that we're not the enemy here?
KING: All right, Kevin, has the coalition done a poor job, in the public relations area, of explaining its position?
DUNN: I think, Larry, they have had problems of presentation, particularly evident here at Central Command. You get the impression that the commanders who planned this war have been caught out by the live, 24-hour capability technology of the war. So that the first reports we're getting are from the embedded reporters, your correspondents that we've heard from in the front lines, and only later is that information being collated and confirmed here at Central Command.
We've also got problems of presentation, I believe in the language being used by commanders here. They talked of Iraqi "irregulars." Then they talked of "fanatics." Then they talked of "terrorists." Now they're talking of "death squads." It's a motive language. They obviously feel they need to wage a campaign for public opinion. But we're told, you know, Larry that the words here are from the podium of truth. Well, the problem is that one man's podium of truth is another man's podium of propaganda. And I don't think the commanders here at Central Command are yet on top of that presentation of the war.
KING: Cincinnati. Hello.
CALLER: Yes, sir. I just had a quick question. Say this thing gets drawn out, we get inside of Baghdad, and it turns into the unfortunate event of guerrilla warfare. And Saddam holds back on using the chemical weapons, and it takes us a while to locate him or find him. Is there any chance that we're going to go back to the table and say, OK, we have this city under control, we have this situation pretty much in hand, they're in a no-win situation -- is there any chance that we're going to go back to the table and try to re-evaluate, so we can try to cut back on the civilian population problems and clear our image up? Or is it going to be all or nothing through this whole thing?
KING: Janine, is it all or nothing?
DIGIOVANNI: I think it's all or nothing. I think from the beginning, this war has been about regime change. It hasn't been about taking over the country. It's been about toppling Saddam Hussein. So I think that if the coalition does not find him, if he's not rooted out, it's not going to be a success. The whole point of it was to topple his regime, to topple the Ba'ath Party, to root out the elements of his regime, and then to try to reinstall a democratic government, which would be led by an American general and possibly something on the model of Karzai in Afghanistan, a local, perhaps a member of the Iraqi opposition like Ahmed Chalabi, who would lead the country so that Iraqis do not feel that they're being led by America.
KING: Hack, we only have a minute left. Do I note you being more upbeat tonight?
HACKWORTH: My estimate of the situation is when I saw the 4th Mech getting in there and the 2nd AC going over and a brigade from the 1st Armored, it made me happy. And once the 101 and the 82nds cleaned out the Gs behind them and we get supplies up to the front -- that's one of the points that the people at the forward edge really don't have the supplies they need, and they're actually flying stuff in. So once that supply line is copacetic, then you're going to see a bigger smile.
KING: And General, we only have about 15 seconds. Do you remain very optimistic?
ODOM: We could have a breakthrough that's a pleasant surprise, but we could find this thing dragging out. I remain open to either outcome. It's too early to make a judgment.
KING: Thank you all very much. Janine Digiovanni, Mohammed Alkhereiji, Kevin Dunn, Lieutenant General William Odom, and Hack, Colonel David Hackworth.
Heidi Collins is next with headlines right to the minute. And a break or two, and then Aaron Brown and "NEWSNIGHT." See you tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE. Good night.
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