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U.S. Forces Hunt for Last of Saddam's Loyal Fighters

Aired April 9, 2003 - 16:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: A symbol of Saddam Hussein's regime falls. People in Baghdad welcome a first taste of freedom.

U.S. forces hunt for the last of Saddam's loyal fighters knowing that danger may be just around the corner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is smoke coming from some of the buildings. We can hear now a lot of gunfire. To be honest, this was not the exact reception we anticipated.

ANNOUNCER: Will there be chaos after the conflict? The fast- moving drama from Basra to Baghdad adds urgency to the question, what comes next?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dear brave friends.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dear brave friend.

ANNOUNCER: Soldiers find comfort and strength in letters sent by second graders back home. "You are my best friend. You can keep this in your bag. Sincerely Ryan."

CNN Live. This hour, Judy Woodruff reports from Washington, with correspondents from around the world. A special edition of "INSIDE POLITICS: The War in Iraq" starts right now.


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us.

Well, officials here in Washington are trying to walk a fine line between welcoming the apparent fall of the Saddam Hussein regime and warning that this war is not over yet.

At the Defense Department, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld simply saying, I think this is a good day for the people of Iraq. Well, his cautious tone did not discourage Iraqi-Americans in Michigan, where many of them live, from pouring into the streets to celebrate the liberation of their homeland.

But in another Muslim community in California, some youngsters said they felt torn.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I think of Iraq (ph).


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's sad because I don't know why they fight with Iraq. I don't know why, because I just don't like war. I just want peace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't like it because people are killing each other.


WOODRUFF: More ahead on how children see the war in Iraq unfolding on their television screens.

But, first, we go to Kuwait City for more on the remarkable turn of events three weeks after the start of this war.

Hello, again to my colleague, Wolf Blitzer.

Wolf, it has been a fast-moving day.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Judy, fast moving and historic. But we still don't have an answer to the question that we've been asking now for a week. Is Saddam Hussein dead or alive? Still, for cheering Iraqis in Baghdad today, the answer didn't seem to matter as much as the fact that there was no sign, repeat no sign whatsoever of Saddam Hussein, his regime or his death squads.

And as you saw live here on CNN earlier today, some Iraqis felt emboldened enough to topple a statue of Saddam Hussein in the center of the city, with, of course, some help from the United States marine corps and their tanks.

But the you is being tempered by casualties, even as Baghdad hospitals are packed with the wounded, the International Committee of the Red Cross confirms it must temporarily stop its work in the capital because of the chaos there.

ITN reporter John Irvine was watching today's remarkable events unfold in the Iraqi capital. Here's a look at what he witnessed.


JOHN IRVINE, ITN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To venture right was a calculated risk, but an irresistible one. We'd heard no gunfire and there were enough Iraqi cars on the road to give us confidence. One of the first places we reached was an office used by Saddam Hussein's secret police. Here his numerous portraits were going up in flames. At last, ordinary Iraqis were showing their true feelings towards their leader. When people saw our camera, they couldn't hide their delight at the turn of events. Further on, we spoke to some civilians who told me how they felt.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Freedom. Freedom.

IRVINE: Then, all of a sudden, the United States Marines showed up.


(on camera): This is one of those extraordinary moments, something I never really thought I would see on the streets of the Iraqi capital. Hello. We're from British television.

(voice-over): The Americans gestured for us to come and meet them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing?

(on camera): My name is John Irvine from ITN.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice to meet you.

IRVINE: Sergeant, did you say?


IRVINE: Welcome to Baghdad.


IRVINE: How does it feel to be here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It feels pretty good. It's nice to represent the Marine Corps here. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) California.

IRVINE: When did you guys get in?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been -- here exactly?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got here about a week ago.

IRVINE: When did you get into Baghdad?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just now. Well, actually last night.

IRVINE: And what sort of welcome have you had from ordinary people here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm an Iraqi man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing? Nice to meet you sir. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you? We've been waiting for you a long time. You know that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been waiting to come here a long time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Finish very quick, not like in 1991.


IRVINE: Hamid is our Iraqi driver.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The cache of weapons is on the truck. We had all the RPGs and AK-47s on this civilian truck here.

IRVINE (voice-over): The Marines were destroying Iraqi weaponry they found in the back of a lorry. The soldiers appeared relaxed, some were clearly exhausted, but others were keen to talk about their experiences.

(on camera): What sort of response have you had from ordinary civilians you've come across?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actually, civilians have been very cooperative. They are pretty cheerful that we're here. And we haven't had any conflict with them whatsoever.

IRVINE (voice-over): One of the men was a veteran of the first Gulf War.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first Gulf War was pretty much we had a clear-cut objective. We had to push all of the Iraqis out of Kuwait and push them back towards Iraq. Everything was pretty much wide in the open. Keep heading south and everything we saw was enemy. This time as we go through we have a civilian population to worry about. And it's kind of hard for us because we have to judge between the civilian and military. And it's easy for us to win the war by completely destroying everything in front of us. But that's not what we want to do.

IRVINE: Several Marines were guarding the hotel that had been the base for the U.N. weapons inspectors in Baghdad. Looters had been here, and the Americans rescued U.N. cars before they were driven away. At one point the soldiers thought they were coming under fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Behind the white truck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sniper's got eyes on it, sir. You're looking right now.

IRVINE: The snipers with eyes on were two marine sharpshooters on the hotel roof, but they weren't needed. Eventually, the Marine commander decided that the Iraqi gunfire was probably more celebratory than aggressive.

(on camera): These men are part of a company of 200 American marines who fought their way into Baghdad last night. They are pleased with their accomplishments so far and remain confident. They don't believe this war is over yet, but they do believe it's nearing an end.

(voice-over): And, indeed, that came very quickly. Just a few hours later, the U.S. Cavalry rode straight into the city center unopposed. What a formidable force this was. The Americans might yet control Baghdad in its entirety, but they do hold all the important parts.

John Irvine, ITV News.


BLITZER: What's clear is that Saddam Hussein may be alive, may be dead, but a lot of Iraqis, Judy, simply are convinced he no longer has any day-to-day control over their lives. I'll have a complete wrap-up at the top of the hour, a special edition of "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" live from here in the Persian Gulf. Until then, Judy, back to you in Washington.

WOODRUFF: Thanks, Wolf.

Right now, joining us on the telephone is Bob Nickelsberg of "TIME" magazine. He is in Baghdad at the Palestine Hotel.

Bob, I don't know about you, but our jaws are dropping back here in the United States watching these extraordinary pictures. Help us understand what you're seeing there.

BOB NICKELSBERG, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, it's back to twilight zone for Baghdad, actually. The streets are empty. No lights other than what the generators are producing for the two hotels, and about a hundred feet from the statue that was pulled down earlier this afternoon. It's quite an eerie situation.

WOODRUFF: What do you mean by eerie?

NICKELSBERG: Nobody on the streets. No cars. Occasional flares off in the distance, some military gunfire. This is not a completely liberated city. It may feel like one to those that are sitting inside their houses, but if you are to go out in the streets, it's pretty spooky. And the marines have gloves off and anyone who doesn't stop will be shot. So, it's still some tension.

WOODRUFF: Bob Nickelsberg, what are people afraid of at this point?

NICKELSBERG: Not really sure other than that the Ba'ath party officials aren't totally gone. They are not dissolved. They could still be in another neighborhood waiting, hunkering down. The armed Fedayeen are still active in certain parts of the city. I believe some journalists today were abducted. I'm not sure about that, but I think they still are being held. Burned out vehicles on the side of the road. Not everything is in order here, and we'll know a little bit more tomorrow on how confident the people feel about the security. But right now everything is shut tight. No shops are open. WOODRUFF: All right. Bob Nickelsberg with "TIME" magazine, giving us a flavor of Baghdad at night. It is just after midnight in the capital city where we saw the historic events on this Wednesday, three weeks after the war started. But he's describing tonight a mood of caution and people staying close by.

Well, CNN's Rula Amin is also keeping a close watch on what's been happening in Baghdad as she has throughout this war. She's with us now from the Jordanian side of the border with Iraq. Rula, this has all happened so fast. What are you hearing right now from the people you are talking to?

RULA AMIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The people we talked to in Baghdad, you can sense there is relief and there's anxiety. For many Iraqis, this was a day they have long awaited for. And maybe today the best scene to capture the mood was at al-Fardus (ph) Square, that's where the Saddam Hussein's statue was brought down by joint efforts of young Iraqis and U.S. soldiers. It was very symbolic of how the day unfolded. You can see there that the crowds are cheering. They are, for the first time in their lives, they are on the streets, expressing their voices, without being told what to say.

The way that they started was when people woke up and discovered that there were no more Iraqi security forces on their streets, no Republican Guards, no ruling Ba'ath party militias and no Fedayeen Saddam. And that's when in Saddam city, people took to the streets, cheering the fall of the Iraqi regime, welcoming U.S. troops and thanking president Bush, because in overpopulated neighborhoods, very poor, mostly Shiite Iraqis, and many of them have been long opponents of the Iraqi regime and the Iraqi leader. Today was the first day they were able to express all these emotions.

And afterwards we saw looting in Baghdad. It was widespread. You can see that people were going into any building they can get into, government buildings, universities, U.N. headquarters. They went in and grabbed whatever was there. They grabbed chairs, furniture, computers, safe deposit boxes, documents, whatever. Things you may think that were not valuable.

We saw them getting plastic flowers. Really, it's as if just they were exercising the feeling that they can go into these government buildings and take out whatever they want without anybody stopping them.

Still, not all Iraqis were on the streets. Many stayed home today. There were still firefights going on in certain neighborhoods in Baghdad. And people felt that the streets were too dangerous, not only because of the firefights, but also because they were concerned about these scenes of looting. There is concern, and people are afraid. They are afraid for their property and for their life.

I've been in Baghdad before and for weeks people have been telling us, for months even, that they were concerned that after Saddam Hussein is removed, what happens next? The chaos, the breakdown of the law and order and who will take over. And, today, there was only a glimpse of these and fears are very afraid that this will go and this will widespread -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Rula, very quickly, can you tell us what sign are people looking for that will make them feel safe?

AMIN: They want to make sure there is no more looting. They want to make sure that there is a new authority in Iraq, one that represents the people, and will take care of them. So they need to see that someone or some kind of leadership is emerging, taking things in order, putting things in order and taking matters into their own hands. They still don't see that yet -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Rula Amin reporting on Baghdad from just across the border in Jordan. Rula, thank you again.

Well, with the disarray we've been hearing about in Baghdad, a key question, of course, concerning Iraqi officials and whether they still control parts of the government is just what we've been talking about.

CNN's David Ensor is with me now to talk about that.

David, what are your sources in the intelligence community telling you?

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, they started saying early this morning, Judy, that the regime no longer had any meaningful control of the country, that they were not seeing any signs of communication. So they felt that the regime had basically gone. None of the government ministers reported to their offices today. None of them turned up, not even the information minister.

As for Saddam Hussein, there were rumors flying today about where he might be and whether he's still alive. Could he be in the Russian embassy in Baghdad? No, said the Russians and no say U.S. officials. Could he be wounded and on his way to the Syrian border? No, say U.S. officials again.

The question, though, is not without consequence and Secretary Rumsfeld was asked about it today, too.


DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: It is hard to find a single person. It is hard to find them when they are alive and mobile. It's hard to find them when they are not well. And it's hard to find them if they are buried under rubble. We don't know. And he's not been around. He's not active. Therefore, he's either dead or he's incapacitated, or he's healthy and cowering in some tunnel some place trying to avoid being caught.


ENSOR: There are a lot of tasks now before the intelligence community. They have to vet all the various members of the old regime, figure out where all the Fedayeen Saddam are. Vet people to see who can be part of a new Iraq and who must be kept out. There's a question of the weapons of mass destruction -- finding, keeping them from moving into other countries. So there's just a tremendous amount of work now that faces the intelligence and the military communities of the United states in Iraq -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: David, how can they be so sure that Saddam Hussein has not fled or trying to flee to Syria or fled to his hometown of Tikrit?

ENSOR: Well, they just aren't sure. That's the bottom line. There was good intelligence they felt that Saddam Hussein, in particular, an eyewitness who said he saw Saddam Hussein going into that building that was struck on Monday. So there is a certain number of people who are optimistic that he may already be dead. However, he's escaped so many attempts on his life in the past no one is sure. He could be in Tikrit, but officials say they do not believe he's on the way to Syria -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. David Ensor, thanks very much.

The fall of Baghdad. We are, by all accounts, seeing a major historic event today. But as we know, the fighting is not over. We're going to take you live to the northern front where Kurdish forces have stepped up their advances.


WOODRUFF: You've been watching scenes right now of celebration in the northern Iraqi town of Erbil. This is in the Kurdish- controlled part of Iraq. This is a part of the country not under Saddam Hussein's rule, but you can see these people very happy to know that the Saddam Hussein regime is all but gone.

Well, the Kurdish fighters along with U.S. special forces are taking advantage of the rapidly shifting tide in this war. The coalition northern front is picking up the pace and staking out new turf.

CNN's Brent Sadler is with the coalition forces near the town of Kalar, an important point on the route to Baghdad. And he joins us now live with an update, Brent.

BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Judy, yes, significant developments in this southeastern sector of the northern front. We know there have been air strikes all along the northern front for the past three weeks. But, today, for the first time a joint assault operation tying up U.S. special forces and Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in the battlefield, shoulder to shoulder.

Now, this assault against a defensive position around the town on a route leading to Baghdad, the capital 90 miles, began with an opening barrage of 60-millimeter mortars, fired by those American special forces.

Now, very soon after those mortars opened up, Peshmergas charged in really aiming directly at the former positions of the Iraqi soldiers. We were able to see a white pickup truck collecting soldiers who jumped into the back and then fled, speeding away toward Baghdad as the Iraqi Kurds opened fire, firing at the back of the fleeing Iraqi soldiers.

So, this really was a firefighting microcosm of, perhaps, what we might see over the next few days as U.S. special forces and the Iraqi Kurds look at ways that they can increase pressure on this northern area. They know that what's happened in Baghdad is a major, major blow to Saddam Hussein, that the regime is finished as far as control of Baghdad is concerned.

But, you know, look at the northern part of Iraq, Judy. There are still here a lot of places to hide. Tikrit, the main supply route from Baghdad to Tikrit, one of Saddam Hussein's strongholds, in fact, his birthplace. That was cut off. But before U.S. tanks were able to encircle the capital, there have been several days when it might have been possible for Saddam Hussein and his top entourage to slip away from the capital.

And there's an awful lot of territory here in the north, much of it mountainous, very difficult areas to get to, remote areas where it's possible that Kurdish guerrilla leaders on the ground, it's possible that Saddam Hussein could try and find some refuge, some hiding place.

But only temporarily, they say, because sooner or later, U.S. forces will push up from the south or coming from the north to tidy up this swathe of territory that still has no significant coalition presence on the ground here. So that is the situation on the ground here. Continuation of the Iraqi Kurds moving forward, under covering fire from American troops on the ground and continuing American air support.

Brent Sadler, CNN, Kalar, in northern Iraq.

WOODRUFF: Brent, thank you very much for that reporting. Shades of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, when you hear Brent describing the possibility that Saddam Hussein would move into a hard to find area in the northern part of the country. So, of course, we are going to be watching that part of the story very, very closely.

The White House reacts to this day's events and sounds a note of caution. Up next, public comment from the vice president with live updates from the White House when we come back.


WOODRUFF: You are looking at live pictures of the White House where President Bush watched some of the television coverage of events in Baghdad today. Separately, Vice President Cheney shared his thoughts in a speech in New Orleans.

With me now for more on all this, CNN's senior White House correspondent John King. John, they have to be happy there.

JOHN KING, CNN SNR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Judy, they are. Behind the scenes privately here you get a palpable sense of vindication, although publicly caution is the watchword here, administration officials from the vice president on down saying the war is not over yet. Some of the toughest fighting could still be ahead. Mostly they believe in those northern Iraq areas Brent Sadler was just talking about before the break.

But they do believe the pictures out of Baghdad today, on the one hand, send as powerful a message as you can send to the people in the Arab world who have criticized this war. People in Baghdad celebrating. U.S. troops assisting in pulling down that statue of Saddam Hussein. Across the Arab world, the administration hopes to send a signal that the United States is there to help the Iraqi people regain control of their own country, as a liberty, not as any imperial or occupying force.

Of course, at the same time, though, the White House worries that the American people might see these pictures and think the war is over. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney among those saying the toughest fighting might still lie ahead, still unanswered questions about the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein and other key members of the Iraqi leadership. The vice president made that argument today. But even as he sounds that note of caution, you do sense a little tiny bit of we told you so.


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Bottom line, with less than half of the ground forces and two-thirds of the air assets used 12 years ago in Desert Storm, Secretary Rumsfeld and General Franks have achieved a far more difficult objective. Yet until this war is fully won, we cannot be overconfident in our position. And we must not underestimate the desperation of whatever forces remain loyal to the dictator.


KING: We will not hear from the president today, we are told, but before the week is out and perhaps as early as tomorrow officials say the president is likely to offer his thoughts on the challenges just ahead. So, again, behind the scenes, a sense of vindication, but also a cautious attitude because of the fighting still to come. I have to tell you, though, Judy, the CIA Director George Tenet walked out of the White House a short time ago with a giant smile on his face. I cannot recall a moment since September 11, 2001 and those tragic events when we have seen the CIA director look so happy.

WOODRUFF: Well, John, given all that you've said, we know that there's an American retired general waiting in Kuwait. But in addition to that, what steps are they already taking at the White House to plan for a post-Saddam Hussein government in Iraq?

KING: They are planning to accelerate that planning process. Jay Garner the retired general will go into Iraq soon with his troops soon. I say troops. They are civilians from the U.S. government. That will take place soon. They are awaiting for word from the Pentagon that it believes the security environment is secure enough for that to happen.

And beginning as early as next week, there will be a series of town meetings, if you will. The invitations will be issued by General Tommy Franks. They are trying to identify Iraqis from within the country, as well as Iraqi dissidents and exiles, the diaspora they call it here at the White House, who will be part of a planning process to begin the process -- they say it could takes weeks or more -- of selecting who should be part of that interim Iraqi authority.

Now, we know, one person who will be invited is planning process, those planning meetings, is Ahmed Chalabi. He is the leader of the Iraqi National Congress. He is known to be a favorite of Vice President Dick Cheney, of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Secretary Rumsfeld's top deputy, Paul Wolfowitz. He will be involved in the planning and in those meetings.

But I also should report that there is a sense of annoyance here at the White House, even among some of Mr. Chalabi's top supporters, that, since returning to Iraq in recent days, he has complained frequently, including on our air earlier today, that the United States is moving too slowly to get in the reconstruction efforts, to restore electricity and restore water.

Over at the Pentagon today, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, again, a supporter of Mr. Chalabi, said that, in his view, services were already at their prewar levels. And Mr. Rumsfeld went on to say, Secretary Rumsfeld went on to say, there is still a war going on, still quite a dangerous situation -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Yes, we caught some of that irritation in his choice.

All right, John King, our senior White House correspondent, thank you.

Still to come: warfare amid the celebrations in Baghdad. As Iraqis poured into the streets to mark their apparent new freedom, American troops come under fire from a different area. CNN's Martin Savidge will show us what they came up against at Baghdad University.



WOODRUFF: Even as celebration broke out in Baghdad's Fardos Square, nearby Baghdad University was the scene of open warfare. Earlier today, CNN's Martin Savidge gave us a play-by-play live report, as the 1st Battalion 7th Marines put down the resistance without suffering a single casualty.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As the convoy was moving, we've now run into apparently some opposition up front. There is a sound of explosions, heavy gunfire, heavy machine gunfire, we're now moving obviously in a different direction. The Marines apparently changing their strategy somewhat. We're not clear exactly what they're doing, but we're now in tow with the Marines.

I can't tell you what roadway we are on, because we're a little disoriented now with the change of tactics. An armored personnel carrier now also pushing up on that same position there. And we are trying to ascertain. It appears that the gunfire is coming from a collection of buildings that are off to our left.

You can hear the Marines shouting. There is more fire. It's not confused. What they are doing is organizing their lines of defenses here. They were obvious -- their lines of defense are basically to protect the convoy and deploy as they move. That sounds like more tank fire or more missile fire.

The tanks are still poised, as you can see, on that overpass. t Marines are being advised to keep their eyes on both sides of the street. Just because they are engaged from one side does not mean that they cannot be engaged -- it's M-16 fire now starting.

To be honest, this was not the exact reception we anticipated. That was a tow, I believe, going off. There's a lot of smoke and dust now, and fire, as you can hear, at a far cry from the jubilant crowds we left just, hard to imagine, two blocks away.


WOODRUFF: Just watching that leaves you out of breath and so close to where they were celebrating in Baghdad today.

Well, meantime, 50 miles south of Baghdad, soldiers from the 101st Airborne's 3rd Brigade rolled into the town of Hillah. The troops seized the town's courthouse, going room to room in search of Iraqi fighters loyal to the regime. Yesterday, the soldiers battled Iraqis believed to be members of Saddam's Fedayeen. But instead of armed resistance, today, the soldiers found cheering crowds.

Well, the picture that so many of us will remember from this day was that of a Marine climbing up on the statue in central Baghdad, the statue of Saddam Hussein. That Marine -- his sister lives in New York City. She's with us on the telephone right now. Her name is Connie Chin.

Ms. Chin, I understand it was your brother, Marine Corporal Edward Chin, who was putting that American flag up on the top of the statue. By any chance, have you talked to your brother since it happened?

CONNIE CHIN, SISTER OF CPL. EDWARD CHIN: No, I haven't heard from him yet.

WOODRUFF: How did you know it was he?

CHIN: Well, we got a call from a representative from the Marines that pretty much that -- he's saying that he's a hero and telling us what he did. I haven't seen footage of it yet.

WOODRUFF: You haven't seen the footage?

CHIN: No, I've been at work all day.


WOODRUFF: Well, if you have a TV screen nearby, switch it over to CNN, if it's not already on CNN, and you can see it.

CHIN: Well, I see stills online, so I've been going there.

WOODRUFF: What do you think about this?

CHIN: It's just amazing. We're just so proud of him.

WOODRUFF: We are told -- and we know that the flag only stayed up there a short time, maybe a few minutes, before they pulled it down and put up an Iraqi flag.

CHIN: Oh, is that right?

WOODRUFF: Are you -- when was the last time you talked to your brother?

CHIN: Before he left to go to Kuwait in the second week of January. That was the last time we spoke to him.

WOODRUFF: So you must have been worried during that time.

CHIN: We were worried. But, at the same time, we were very confident that he's with his men and they are all trained to do what they have to do out there.

WOODRUFF: So seeing these pictures today has to be very heartening for you.

CHIN: Yes. I was just speechless. And I can't really put into words what I'm feeling. But I'm just very proud of my brother right now.

WOODRUFF: Well, we wish you the best. And we certainly are thinking of your whole family, with your brother and...

CHIN: Thank you so much. Thank you so much. Can't wait to talk to him in person.

WOODRUFF: Well, we appreciate your talking with us.

We've been talking with Connie Chin. She lives in New York City. Her brother -- that is her brother right there on the top of -- close to the top of that statue of Saddam Hussein. It was he today who put the flag of the United States up around the head of the statue and then quickly took it down and put up the flag of Iraq.

Well, United States Central Command warned today that more tough fighting lies ahead. And as that warning went out, U.S. Marines were shooting it out with Iraqi gunmen at Baghdad University. Kurdish fighters were chasing Iraqi troops out of their positions in northern Iraq.

CNN's Miles O'Brien is with our military analyst now, retired General Wesley Clark -- Miles.


So much of today we've spent -- our focus was on the University of Baghdad with Martin Savidge and then Fardos Square, where we saw that remarkable image of that huge statue of Saddam Hussein coming down. But the north of the country of Iraq is an area which has received less attention and perhaps is something that we're going to be focusing on more in the days to come.

Joining us to talk a little bit more about this: General Wes Clark, as Judy mentioned.

General Clark, good to have you with us.


O'BRIEN: Let's get the lay of the land. We'll go to and zoom in.

Three cities I want to talk about: Tikrit, Kirkuk and Mosul. Let's go into Tikrit first. Last I checked -- you tell me, General Clark. Last I checked on Tikrit, the Adnan Division of the Special Republican Guard -- or Republican Guard, I should say -- was there defending what I'm going to show you here, among other things, this huge palace compound in Saddam Hussein's home. His tribe is there. And it's obviously a well-fortified place.

Do you suspect that that is a true fighting force still and something to be reckoned with?

CLARK: I think it's been heavily attrited. What we don't know -- and perhaps the men and women at Central Command do know -- is what's happened to the stream of instructions and any command-and- control coming out of Baghdad.

We have to assume that something dramatic happened in Baghdad that shattered the resistance there. Perhaps Saddam Hussein was taken out. If he was or if the demoralization from Baghdad seeps out into Tikrit, there could be little fight in Tikrit. But we wouldn't be able to proceed on that assumption. Our forces would have to proceed there with the assumption they would indeed have to fight. And it could be another urban fight.

O'BRIEN: All right, let's move -- on that ominous note, let's move up to Kirkuk, Kirkuk also still controlled, ostensibly, I should say, at this point by the Iraqis. This is a very significant place, because it is the home to these northern oil fields. The concern is that these are not secured by special operations or any other entity that would be allied with the coalition.

What's the strategy there, do you suppose?

CLARK: Well, hopefully, we'll go in and secure the oil fields first. Presumably, they've been rigged for demolition and perhaps the order to execute didn't come. But there's also likely to be ethnic tensions around Kirkuk, because this has been an area that's been under contention between the Kurdish factions and the Sunni factions allied with Saddam. There's been resettlement in the area. Some people have lost their homes here and in Mosul. And so we just don't know how this will work out.

O'BRIEN: Quickly -- I'm showing a picture of the airfield at Kirkuk, a lot of fortified bunkers there. Do you suppose that that is something that is the focus of attention of special operations right now?

CLARK: My guess is, that was the focus of attention, Miles, of the precision strikes. We saw many of them from over the horizon and reflected at night in the cameras of some of the reporters that were out there in the north. My guess is, they've been taken out. Those are the first targets normally.

O'BRIEN: And I should point out, the image we're looking at right now predates the hostilities.

All right, General Wes Clark, thanks for giving us a quick sense of what's going to go on in the north. Obviously, we'll be focusing on that in the days to come -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thank you, Miles.

And thank you, General Clark.

The Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is questioning the Bush administration's plans for post-war Iraq. Richard Lugar of Indiana says the administration's explanation to Congress and the American people -- quote -- "has not been good enough." In a statement that he put out today, Senator Lugar said, "The thought that all this planning can spin on forever without our intervention," meaning Congress, "is nonsense. It won't."

Lugar said that Congress must get more information so that it can debate the plans for rebuilding Iraq, the expense and, he said, the things in our domestic economy that may have to be delayed, postponed or substituted -- again, that from Senator Richard Lugar.

Well, plans for governing Iraq after Saddam Hussein is out of power have been in the works for some time now. But that doesn't mean the job is going to be simple or easy.

CNN's Candy Crowley has more on the U.S. strategy and its potential pitfalls.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In post-war Iraq, the main aim is government with an Iraqi face, ASAP. To that end, the U.S. has called a meeting in Nasiriyah next week bringing together newly freed and formerly exiled Iraqis. They will discuss the makeup of a kind of quasi government, an interim authority. And here's where it starts to get tricky. RICHARD ARMITAGE, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: But if we put our thumb on the scale, if we try to dictate who will be the leader, even in the interim phase of Iraq, we may fail. And that would be a terrible tragedy after all this blood and treasure has been expended.

CROWLEY: Case in point: Some in Washington think the Pentagon brought this man, Ahmed Chalabi, and 600 other Iraqi exiles into Nasiriyah in advance of next week's conference to give Chalabi a leg up into the interim government. The Pentagon denies that.

Until they can piece this together, post-war Iraq will be run by the Pentagon. Retired Lieutenant General Jay Garner, holed up in a Kuwaiti hotel with dozens of other Americans, will move into Baghdad and take over various essential Iraqi departments: finance, oil and intelligence. At the State Department on Capitol Hill and at the U.N., there are those who think the military is ill-suited for the kind of soft touch needed to build a democracy in a region skeptical of U.S. motives. International involvement, they argue, will remove the made-in-the-USA tag on a new Iraqi government.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: I think that there ought be a role not only for the U.N., but, of course, for the international community, in large measure, with U.S. and British leadership.

CROWLEY: A coalition of the interested, it is also argued, would ease U.S.-European tension, which hit the breakpoint over Iraq. Besides, stability, reconstruction and democracy are manpower- intensive and very expensive.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: It's going to cost us 20 billion bucks a year just to keep American boots on the ground. I'd like to share that opportunity with the rest of the world out of our own naked self-interest.

CROWLEY: It's down to a matter of proportion. There is general agreement the military has to be in charge until there is peace. And there is even agreement that there is a role for the U.N. But the U.N. is unlikely to want to operate under the direction of the U.S. and the president is equally unlikely to give up the driver's seat.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When we say vital role for the United Nations, we mean vital role for the United Nations.

CROWLEY: It may come down to what your definition of vital is.

Candy Crowley, CNN.


WOODRUFF: Thanks, Candy.

Well, the variety of reactions to the dramatic events in Baghdad -- up next, Bill Schneider joins me to talk about the day's events as viewed by different audiences around the world. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: ... what President Bush and Vice President Cheney said would happen.

WOODRUFF: But what about other scenes, Bill, that we were seeing from Baghdad today? What might disturb Americans from watching it?

SCHNEIDER: I think the image of Iraqis looting Baghdad, carrying away furniture. To Americans, that looks like anarchy. It means coalition forces have to restore order as quickly as possible to keep those pictures from continuing. Americans do not want to get the impression that tyranny has been replaced by lawlessness, and neither do Iraqis.

WOODRUFF: And, Bill, what about the effect in other countries, a number of other countries, where there was a considerable amount of anti-war sentiment?

SCHNEIDER: Judy, people see pictures through lenses. The lenses people use in Europe and the Arab world may be very different from American lenses. They have their own public opinion, which was strongly predisposed against this war.

Take the picture of the American flag being draped over the statue of Saddam Hussein today. To some Americans, that looks like victory. To Arabs and Europeans, it may look like conquest. They are already predisposed to see the United States as arrogant and bullying. This picture, as brief as it lasted, may confirm that impression.

WOODRUFF: And having said that, Bill, are there any pictures to counteract that?

SCHNEIDER: I think there are: the pictures of Iraqis chipping away at the base of the statue. Those are Iraqis using whatever tools they have at hand to make a statement. It's likely to remind some Europeans of the image from 1989 of Germans chipping away at the Berlin Wall, a very resonant image for them.

Ultimately, it took the might of the United States, a huge American tank, to bring that statue down. But the idea is, the U.S. is helping them do what they really want to do -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Schneider, thanks very much. We appreciate it.

Well, the apparent end of Saddam Hussein's grip on power has come at a price. By our count, the U.S. death toll in this war right now, over 130, 86 Americans killed by hostile fire, 15 by friendly-fire or in accidents. Most of the 31 British deaths were the result of friendly-fire or accidents. Abu Dhabi television is quoting official Iraqi sources as saying more than 1,200 civilians have been killed in Iraq and more than 5,100 wounded. Iraq has not released figures on military casualties, but the United States reports thousands of Iraqi troops have been killed and more than 7,300 have been taken prisoner. Medical officials in Baghdad are now saying civilian casualties have increased since U.S. troops entered the city. Doctors at one hospital say they received up to 35 dead and 250 to 300 wounded civilians today, just today. Syrian television, meantime, is reporting a lack of medicine and water in overcrowded Baghdad facilities. And we are getting reports of dire straits at one hospital in Basra. After gunfire and looting there, just 50 out of 150 doctors showed up for work today.

Well, they all start with the same greeting, the letters some sailors in the Persian Gulf are getting from Clayton, North Carolina. And this mail from home has made an impression.

We'll have a report.


WOODRUFF: The United States Navy and Coast Guard crews are providing port security in the Persian Gulf during the Iraq war. And one group of sailors is getting letters from elementary school children in North Carolina. The students are getting inspiration from their teacher, who has a personal connection, as CNN's Daryn Kagan reports.


DARYN KAGAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It started as a story on port security, how U.S. Navy and Coast Guard reserves are keeping ships safe from attack in Kuwait and Iraq.

(on camera): The mission of these units is to protect these ports.

(voice-over): But among the boats, guns, radar, sonar and communications, we found a secret weapon posted on the side of the tent that serves as the command center: letters from second-graders. Each one starts the same way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Dear brave friend."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Dear brave friend."

LT. CMDR. MIKE ROBERTS, U.S. NAVY: "Dear brave friend. Hello. My name is Ryan. I am in second grade. You are keeping the United States of America safe. You are..."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "You are my best friend. You can keep this in your bag. Sincerely, Ryan."

ROBERTS: I'm the big brother.

KAGAN: It turns out this is actually a story about a brother, Lieutenant Commander Mike Roberts, and a supportive sister, Christine Cupolo.

CHRISTINE CUPOLO, TEACHER: Yes, I do. My brother is in Kuwait. ROBERTS: My sister is a grammar school teacher in Clayton, North Carolina.

CUPOLO: He was sent over right next to the Persian Gulf now since New Year's Eve. And this is one of many deployments he's been on, but this one is probably the most crucial.

ROBERTS: Her second-graders were very interested in sending some letters out to the troops.

CUPOLO: So, I knew that, at one point or another, my children needed to write. I thought that would be a real uplifting experience for the troops.

ROBERTS: And she says: "Dear brave friend. Hello. My name is Amanda."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "We would have to say that you are a very brave person. When the war starts, your heart will be in our souls."

ROBERTS: For these kids to takes time to read letters to us and stuff like that in their class, what more can you ask? Just keep it going.

KAGAN: There will be more letters on the way. Back in North Carolina, the Riverwood Elementary second-graders are working on the next batch.

CUPOLO: Absolutely. You might want to mention that in your letter as well.

KAGAN: This time, they hope the sailors will write back with answers to their questions.

CUPOLO: So you want to know how fast the dolphins there are swimming? OK. I would write that down. I would say: "Dear, friend, I have some questions for you. I want to know about the dolphins that are helping you out over there." Can you do that? Do you think you could ask them a question? Sure. They will be happy to answer it.

We started work on our letters the last week of February and worked on them the first week of March and sent them out a few weeks ago. And they got the letters pretty quickly over there. But I think this helps me stay closer to my brother.

KAGAN (on camera): Any message to your sister?

ROBERTS: Yes. I'd just like to tell her, thank you very much, Christine. Hope you're doing well in North Carolina. And thank you very much to your students for all the support and the letters that they sent out to us.

KAGAN (voice-over): Their second-grade work keeping watch over those who keep watch in the Persian Gulf.

Daryn Kagan, CNN, Kuwait. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Those letters important at both ends.

That's it for this hour. I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington.


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