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Baghdad Still in Flux; Bush Says Security Will Soon Improve in Iraq

Aired April 10, 2003 - 22:00   ET


AARON BROWN, ANCHOR: Well good evening again, everyone. If yesterday was a day of wonderment, today has been a day of wondering. Wondering how long it will take to gain control of all of Baghdad, wondering how many more will die on both sides, wondering what really happened to the regime, and wondering where to start in keeping the peace.
We begin, as we do every night, with a quick look at the pieces in play. Tonight they add up to a war closer to being won, but also a peace perhaps harder to keep. And a capital city still very much in flux.


BROWN (voice-over): Day two of American control of Baghdad was both dangerous and deadly. Fire and the smoke from explosions were common. There was cheering on the streets, but not everyone, it was clear, was happy to see the Americans. Said a spokesman for Central Command, "Baghdad is still an ugly place."

CAPT. JOE PLENZLER, U.S. MARINES, BAGHDAD: A man strapped with explosives approached a checkpoint and detonated himself.

BROWN: There was a suicide bombing at an American checkpoint. At least four Marines seriously wounded. Heavy fighting too at a mosque in the middle of the city. One confirmed Marine death; nearly two dozen hurt.

Overnight, a barrage of fire from Marines manning a different checkpoint. These pictures from Australian broadcasting. The Marines, some of them tense and edgy and understandably confused, have orders to fire on anything that does not stop when orders do.

PLENZLER: We expected all the dirty tricks we've seen. And when we see schools full of explosives, women and children pushed out in front of gunmen, you know they've basically done everything they could to incite.

BROWN: By far, the biggest strategic gains were in the north. Kurdish rebels, accompanied by American Special Forces, took effective control of Kirkuk, the oil capital in the north. Cheering on the streets there as well as Kurdish rebels pumped round after round into images of Saddam Hussein. Another statue destroyed as well. MAJ. GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: The Iraqis owned it when we went to bed last night. They do not own it anymore. The regime doesn't own it. The Iraqi people own it now.

BROWN: In Najaf, site of an important Shiite mosque, a high- ranking cleric was killed, a returning exile. It was apparently a factional dispute that became deadly in one of the holiest place in Shiite Islam, the shrine of Imam Ali.

To the south of Baghdad, as elements of the 101st Airborne drove closer to the city, there were some huge explosions only a few hundred yards from the GIs. You could see an Apache helicopter hovering overhead. The explosions coming from an abandoned Iraqi ammunition depot.

Far to the west of Baghdad, the Army took over another Iraqi town where villagers led them to an abandoned Al Samoud missile, still sitting there in a large warehouse. Stacks of weapons continue to be confiscated. Here in a southern Iraqi city, and here the first glimpse of Saddam Hussein's battered yacht, just barely afloat.

All across the country looting continues to be a major problem. People could be seen with armloads, even truckloads of goods. Back in Baghdad, looters even entered the home of one of the most visible and important Iraqi government leaders, Tariq Aziz. He had left behind a home of elegance. Now abandoned.

And about that American flag that ever so briefly covered the face of Saddam Hussein on that statue in Baghdad yesterday, orders went out that any display of American flags, any display on statues, on vehicles, on buildings, on command posts, is now forbidden. A reminder, this is the Middle East.


BROWN: So that's the big picture today. A small sign of the challenges and sensitivities of occupying a city. No longer at war as such, but hardly at ease. Another sign as troops now eyeing Baghdadis, most of whom seem to wish Americans well but they are looked upon with more suspicion, in any case, because of today's suicide attack.

CNN's Nic Robertson has returned to Baghdad, a very different place from the one he was forced to leave. Nic, welcome back.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you very much, Aaron. And it's good to be back. And it's a very interesting day to be here as well.

It's Friday morning here now. This is going to be the first Friday when Iraqis will be able to go to their mosques and hear their Imams, their preachers preach to them whatever the Imams want to say. Until now, that has been essentially dictated by the former Iraqi leader, President Saddam Hussein. Now those Imams can say what they want to say. Sixty percent of the Muslims here in Iraq who will go to the mosques today are Shia Muslims. And they adhere perhaps more than the Sunnis to the teachings and the words of the Imams in the mosques. Their message will likely be a very interesting one.

Could potentially be very political at this stage. Could potentially tell their people to stop the looting. It's not clear what they'll say. But it will certainly give us a good sense of the direction that the Shia community, that 60 percent of Iraq that has been down trodden so much through President Saddam Hussein's regime, it will give us a good indication of how they plan to play this peculiar situation.

Will they decide to coexist with coalition forces? Will they up the ante with coalition forces? Will they tell the people to stop looting on the streets? It's going to be a very interesting day to hear the direction they push their people on this first day when they will be able to give their own free speeches.

Yesterday, of course, a day of really intensified looting in the city. Not only the government buildings, but hospitals. Many of it much of the medical supplies in hospitals literally ripped off, taken away.

Embassies in the city looted. Hotels in the city looted. Private residences looted. And that has left many people here feeling uneasy.

Uneasy for two reasons. Uneasy because they look at the coalition troops, they look at the U.S. Marines, they look at the U.S. Army soldiers here, and wonder why they are not stopping the looting. Now of course coalition commanders say that they do not have the troops to stop the looting, to saturate the city in such a way to prevent that happening.

But it is a cause of concern for the residents of Baghdad because of course now, without the heavy-handed regime of the former Iraqi leader, President Saddam Hussein, without that to give the country security and stability, the type of security and stability it had before at least, there is very little to stop people looting. And people here are very worried that that hasn't been replaced.

Then they look to the coalition forces now to do that. To replace that, to give a clear indication that looting is not on, and that it should not take place -- Aaron.

BROWN: So as you look at Baghdad early on Friday morning, is it essentially anarchy?

ROBERTSON: At this moment, it's very quiet. There's been sporadic gunfire through the night. As we drove into town, about 12, 14 hours ago, as you drove through some neighborhoods, there was this sort of quiescent feeling of emotion, of a state of flux, of no clear direction, of people that could swell up and move and perhaps become very emotional at any time.

And that's not a feeling I've ever felt on the streets here. It's not a situation I've ever seen.

As we drove down one side of the road, down the other side of the road, there were wheelbarrows, there were cars full of whatever people could take away. Some fans on some cars, chairs, computers stacked on a wheelbarrow, a huge industrial lathe, probably several tons in weight, being trucked away on a huge forklift truck. Whatever could be moved being looted.

There's that sense for the people on the streets here. There's this freedom to do whatever you want. But of course that runs very close to chaos. Very close, if you will, to a sense of anarchy.

Frightening for those not in involved in the looting. Liberating for those who are getting involved in it, Aaron. But for many people here, really this is still a state of flux, still a change. And they don't see the end quite yet -- Aaron.

BROWN: Nic, as quickly as you can, is it a more dangerous city today than the one you left? OK. I'm not sure he was able to hear us. We've had some problems with communications. We'll try and fix it, get back to Nic later as we go through the morning.

North of Baghdad next. American troops, Kurdish fighters have been moving into the city of Mosul. Earlier today Kirkuk fell. The Kurds just walked in, American Special Forces walked in with them. This is making neighboring Turkey somewhat nervous.

The Turks don't want anything that smacks of a Kurdish state up north in Iraq, one that might have designs on the Kurdish populations inside Turkey. But for now, the focus is on the Iraqi side of the border and the areas liberated from Saddam Hussein. CNN's Jane Arraf is there this morning and she joins us now. Jane, good morning.

JANE ARRAF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Aaron. Well, as you can probably see behind me, the sun is just coming up here after an amazing day yesterday.

Now we drove in with some of the Kurds who were coming from Erbil and other Kurdish cities to this city here in Kirkuk. And a lot of them were coming just to celebrate. They were waving Kurdish flags. Some of them coming to places they had left, had been forced out of. And of course those Kurdish soldiers that you mentioned.

Now a lot of them congregated in the main public square where, as in most Iraqi cities, there's a huge statue of Saddam Hussein. This one with him in tribal dress. They tried for quite a long time to topple that statue and finally succeeded. And it kind of launched a wave of celebration.

They set a portrait on fire. And across the city, people were ripping up photos, they were destroying statues and looting. The same thing here that we've seen in other cities; sort of a frenzy of looting.

Now this was confined mostly to government buildings, but people were taking everything they could carry off. At one point we saw this amazing scene in the street where we saw people trying to drive a combine farm equipment that they couldn't actually drive. At the same time, there was a taxi going by with a dead body sticking out.

It was really just a very strange day with a lot of people left not knowing quite what to think, what was going to happen, whether the soldiers would stay, whether the Turks would come in. And wondering where in the world the American soldiers were, because they weren't seeing very many of those -- Aaron.

BROWN: Are they wishing to see them?

ARRAF: They are, a lot of the them. Now the Kurds obviously are ecstatic. But this is, as you know, a multi-ethnic city.

There are a lot of Kurds, there are a lot of Turkomans, that ethnic Turkish minority. There are a lot of Arabs and Christians as well.

Now this really was a Kurdish day. They were more in appearance than anyone else, really. It's not expected to remain that way. And the people who -- especially the people we spoke to on the sidelines of these very noisy gatherings, were quietly very nervous. They were saying that they really wanted so see American forces to maintain law and order, and they were a little bit worried that they weren't out there in full force -- Aaron.

BROWN: Jane, thank you. Jane Arraf in Kirkuk, a city that has fallen today.

The United States wants Iraq to rally around that image of a statue crashing down. They don't want them to fixate on a different image, an excited Marine covering a statue for the briefest of moments with an American flag. The White House wants to be clear that the new Iraq will be run by Iraqis, for Iraqis, not by the Americans, not by the British. And today that message came from the president himself.

More from our senior White House correspondent, John King. John, good evening.


The White House also wants to make clear to the Iraqi people that it sees the pictures and hears the reports of the looting and chaos in some cities and that it plans to do something about it. The president and Prime Minister Tony Blair now getting together. They have rallied their own constituencies in their countries for weeks if not months to support this war. Now they are trying to win the support of the Iraqi people.

Direct appeals, both leaders saying U.S. and coalition forces are there as liberators, not conquerors. And the president saying in a videotaped message today, security will improve soon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KING (voice-over): It is called Commando Solo, an airborne radio and TV studio. A weapon of psychological warfare, now part of the early efforts to win the peace.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will help you build a peaceful and representative government that protects the rights of all citizens. And then our military forces will leave. Iraq will go forward as a unified, independent and sovereign nation that has regained a respected place in the world.

KING: The new videotaped statements from President Bush and his closest ally are an effort to calm worries that dictatorship will be replaced by indefinite military occupation, and to answer any Iraqis who might still doubt a new day is at hand.

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I know, however, that some of you feared a repeat of 1991, when you thought Saddam's rule was being ended but he stayed and you suffered. That will not happen this time. This regime will be gone and ended.

KING: The immediate goals of the broadcast are to provide information about humanitarian aid and other government services, seek help searching for weapons of mass destruction, reassure Iraqis the Saddam Hussein regime is gone from power, and to promise the United States and Great Britain will quickly transfer power to a new Iraqi administration.

Many Iraqi TV facilities were destroyed in the bombing, and many Iraqis still lack power. But the Pentagon is working to get more and more information -- critics say propaganda -- to the Iraqi people.

MAJ. GEN. GENE RENUART, U.S. AIR FORCE: We're working very aggressively to find the contacts within the city and in the country who would like to begin an Iraqi broadcast network, if you will.

KING: The main target audience is the Iraqi people.


KING: But the administration also hopes these new messages and that new Iraqi TV network in the works also serve as a counter way to political counterbalance, if you will, to the many Arab broadcasters who have been harshly critical of this war and who are contending that the goal is not liberating the Iraqi people, that the goal is for the United States to seize Iraq's oil wealth -- Aaron.

BROWN: John, we'll take this up with General Clark in a moment, too. But as a practical matter, what can the White House do or what can the Pentagon do, more correctly, to improve the security situation quickly?

KING: Well they are going to have to use some troops for police purposes, which they did not want to do. They say the priority now has to be on winning the remaining combat operations, but they are going to have to do more to patrol the streets. They understand that. They also hope to move as quickly to get the police forces, the local police forces back up and running. But having watched these pictures for the last few days, they know the Iraqi people will begin to doubt the credibility of this operation if they do not make the streets safer soon.

BROWN: John, thank you. Our senior White House correspondent, John King.

Actually, in the program today, over the next hour or so, we'll take a look at this question of building a police force from scratch, how you do it. Ray Kelly, the New York City police commissioner, will join us to talk about that.

Henry Kissinger joins us tonight. In this hour we'll tell you one of the great back (ph) stories of this regime and how it targeted CNN and the individuals working for CNN. All of that coming up.

But first, General Wesley Clark joins us. General Clark, soldiers don't really want to be police officers. But you can't look at what is going on there and say there's much choice.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: There isn't much choice, Aaron. I mean we've -- Ray Kelly is going to talk about this in Haiti. But we went into Haiti in 1994 determined we weren't going to police. And yet we saw mob violence and people killed in the streets right in front of us, and we ended up policing there.

And it's been a sort of principle before every one of these operations. We say we're not policemen, and yet we end up having to maintain order. And that's what we're going to have to do here. Put presence on the street, guard key facilities, break up crowds that look like they're about to do something wrong, and generally intimidate those who want to take advantage of the situation into not acting while we're around.

BROWN: The danger is from the military side, what?

CLARK: Well the danger is you get distracted and the troops really aren't trained for it. And what you get is people who are involved in activities that they're not able to really do.

For example, in the Kosovo campaign -- and "The Washington Post" reporter Dana Priest has written a book describing this incident in great detail -- but people get drawn into police-type activities. Investigations, trying to break up organized corruption or crime rings. And they're way beyond their depth.

They do things that we don't approve of doing, that don't represent this country very well. And that's typically what happens when you get the armed forces in. They get over their head in police work that they're not trained to do.

BROWN: General, it's good to have you with us tonight. We've got a lot of issues for you on the table. And the general will join us along the way as well. We have much ahead. We'll take a break first. Our coverage continues in a moment.


BROWN: We were struck today by the words of an Iraqi cleric now living in Dearborn, Michigan. "We've got rid of one Arab dictator," he said. "Now let's carry on." From his mouth to the Bush administration's ear, that is the question today.

Secretary of State Powell told Pakistani television Washington has no list of other Mid Eastern countries to attack. But there are other influential voices now making themselves heard as well. CNN's David Ensor joins us now from Washington. David, good evening.


Well they are influential indeed. Some key members of the Bush administration and their allies believe that this war in Iraq should be just the beginning of an effort to change the entire region.


ENSOR (voice-over): Is Syria next? Or Iran? What about Saudi Arabia? Building on success in Iraq, senior Democrats fear some in the Bush administration may try to foment change throughout the Middle East.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: I think that Syria in the crosshairs, as well as Iran. And quite frankly, our Arab "friends."

QUESTION: Is the president contemplating any other regime changes in the Middle East?

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: As the president has made very clear, Iraq is unique.

ENSOR: But Democrats are alarmed by a warning to Syria's leaders from defense Secretary Rumsfeld that continuing to allow night vision goggles and other war equipment to enter Iraq would be considered hostile. And warnings to Syria and Iran both about their weapons programs.

JOHN BOLTON, UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE: Now the outcome in Iraq we hope will cause other states in the region, and indeed around the world, to look at the consequences of pursuing weapons of mass destruction.

BIDEN: And the sentence he didn't finish was, if they don't, they'll be in for the same treatment. I am absolutely confident that is Secretary Bolton's view. I'm also confident that is not Powell's view. And I'm uncertain what the president's view is.

ENSOR: Some fear administration conservatives, like Donald Rumsfeld, Undersecretary of State John Bolton, and Deputy Secretary of State Paul Wolfowitz, whom critics have taken to calling "Wolfowitz of Arabia," seek an American empire in the Middle East, that these men will push the president to threaten force beyond Iraq.

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Are there any plans to send any U.S. forces into Syria?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think anyone in the Bush administration or in what is called loosely the neo-conservative movement wants to see an American empire in the Middle East.

ENSOR: Neo-conservative allies of Wolfowitz, like (UNINTELLIGIBLE), say they don't want empire, but they want change in the region.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there is a general recognition, certainly 9/11 crystallized it, that the Middle East politically is dysfunctional. And that something needs to be done to change fundamentally the way the Muslim Middle Eastern societies politically operates.

ENSOR: Should that change extend to friendly nations, like Egypt and Saudi Arabia? Conservatives inside the administration certainly don't say so in public. But one of their allies has.

JAMES WOOLSEY, FMR. CIA DIRECTORY: ... and that we are on the side of those whom you, the Mubaraks, the Saudi royal family, most fear. We are on the side of your own people.


ENSOR: So in the coming months and weeks, watch for a debate about how much of the Middle East the U.S. should try to shake up. It's a debate in which the president himself has yet to fully stake out a position -- Aaron.

BROWN: Well the president often likes it that way. Let others do the talking, he'll weigh in when he has to. David, thank you. David Ensor with us tonight.

Also with us tonight, former Secretary of State, Dr. Henry Kissinger. Dr. Kissinger is in New York. Sir, it's good to see you.


BROWN: Short of going to war, how does the country, if it is the country's goal, influence change in the Middle East?

KISSINGER: Well, we will make an influence in the immediate future by our performance in Iraq, by the ability to establish a civil authority in Iraq. By that civil authority performing on behalf of its population in producing a government that is more constitutional than the previous one.

I believe also that establishing full democracy takes time and will not be capable of achievement in the next few months. But progress can be made towards a more orderly and a more constitutional and responsive government.

BROWN: And how will that influence a government in Syria or a government in Saudi Arabia?

KISSINGER: I don't think we can apply general rules, because the case of each of these countries is different. Saudi Arabia, with all its faults, has been a friend of the United States. And its weaknesses and its failures have been due to the fact that a governing group has been sitting on a very fluctuating situation and a very dangerous situation. And most of the members of that explosive mix are people who are much worse for the United States, because they are the military type rulers like Saddam, or religious rulers like Khomenei was in Iran.

Syria is a secular government. But it has tolerated a number of Fedayeen groups and terrorist groups operating from their territory and having headquarters in Damascus. And the main force of the Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed terrorist group, is in (UNINTELLIGIBLE), in Lebanon under Syrian control. So there we have specific requests in affecting the security of the Middle East that we can make of Syria.

BROWN: When James Woolsey talks, as he did the other day, about -- in his phrase, "We are now entering World War IV" -- World War III being the Korean War -- is that helpful, or does that -- might that cause some of these governments to in fact hunker down?

KISSINGER: James Woolsey is a good friend of mine. But in the conduct of foreign policy, one has to distinguish between general objectives and what is achievable in any particular segment of time.

I would not think that this is the moment when we are still involved in military operations in Iraq, when Iraq borders Syria and Iran, which are countries that also contain terrorist organizations, that we turn full force on countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, that have been quite supportive of what we have done, and whose evolution can be -- can continue internally without constant American pressure. It's not our role in the world to change every dysfunctional government within a one or two-year period.

BROWN: A couple of quick things. Are you surprised at how fast ultimately the Iraqi regime just collapsed or vanished?

KISSINGER: No, I expected it to collapse quickly. But it collapsed even more quickly than I thought it would. It thought it would collapse before the end of April. And it has collapsed even more rapidly, which is probably due to the extraordinarily capable military machine that we have developed and the extraordinary qualities of our military personnel that has been -- that the public has been able to see on television from morning to night.

BROWN: Dr. Kissinger, it's always good to have you on the program. We look forward to seeing you back in New York soon.

KISSINGER: Thank you. Good to be here.

BROWN: Thank you, sir. Former Secretary of State, National Security Advisor, Dr. Henry Kissinger.

Mark Johnson is on the phone. He's with the "Charlotte Observer" in Charlotte, North Carolina, but he's not in Charlotte, North Carolina tonight. Mark, gives us an idea of where you are and what you can report.

MARK JOHNSON, "CHARLOTTE OBSERVER": Sure. I'm in a town called Adiwaniya (ph), which is about 60 miles south of Baghdad, with the 82nd. The 82nd is in charge of about a 60 mile long corridor in south central Iraq.

And what's been going on lately is kind of the next step in the story in Iraq. The 82nd is still obviously in the military mode, but they're also working with the cities here, trying to help them transition back to local self-rule. They're trying to move from military occupation to having the local governments reestablish themselves.

And a couple of things that have gone on in the town that we're in right now, Adiwaniya (ph), the commander of the brigade here met with some of the local sheiks yesterday, and went over some things like how to identify people who would serve in a new police force or potentially in a new military. And the U.S. commanders here are likely to use terms like the "freedom force" or "freedom fighters."

And then a couple of days ago, in a town called Asamawa (ph), which was actually the first city that the 82nd occupied, they met again with some sheiks the other day. And the purpose was basically to start working through them as, you know, a viable institution for identifying future leaders. I mean, once basically that you've knocked out the Hussein government, you're starting from scratch. And the sheiks, just because of -- I guess the culture and structure here, those are the institutions that they want to work through. So they're very quickly moving into this next phase.

BROWN: Mark, thank you -- Mark Johnson of "The Charlotte Observer" on the topic of putting a country back together again. It's one of the things we'll do shortly after an update.

We'll take a break first. Then our coverage continues.


BROWN: Pictures today from Baghdad, Basra, now Kirkuk, speak volumes about what happens in the period between the toppling of a police state and the establishment of a decent and respected police force.

Raymond Kelly is New York City's police commissioner. Before that, he helped remake Haiti's police force after the fall of dictatorship there. Mr. Kelly joins us from New York.

And it's always good to have you with us.

Where do you begin in a situation where you have literally now no civil authority at all? RAYMOND KELLY, NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: Well, I think you're going to have to rely on the coalition. Obviously, the U.S. military is going to have to be the police force. They don't want to do that, certainly for the long term. But I think there's no getting around it. We're going to have to police Iraq for a significant period of time.

BROWN: Do you assume, when you start building a police force, that everyone who was a police officer, every detective, every beat cop, is out?

KELLY: I think you probably have to start with that assumption. You need a vetting process to go forward. That's what we did in Haiti. I think it's much more complex in Iraq.

You have the issue of Sunni vs. Shia. You have lots of tribal issues to address. So I think you have to start from scratch. And, of course, that's going to extend the period of time that the U.S. military is going to have to be the police of Iraq.

BROWN: I'm a little nervous about asking you to design a new police force for Iraq. But do you do this city by city? Or do you do a national police force? How do you even look at the problem?

KELLY: I think you probably have to have a national structure. I think it's difficult to do it city by city.

But then you -- again, as far as Iraq goes, you have a Kurdish issue in the north. You have a Shia problem in the south. So I think the initial look is as a national police force, with some fine-tuning when you get into the cities. It's going to be difficult, certainly much more difficult than we saw in Kosovo or in Haiti. And, again, it just means that the U.S. military is going to be doing it, something that they're not particularly well-trained for.

We do have military police. Really, their function is to take care of prisoners of war. They're not trained or equipped to police, let's say, a city of five million people like Baghdad or a country the size of California. So it's going to take us a long time to set up a civil police force. I think what you'll see in the interim, you'll see some international force come forward.

I would say that force should be directed by the United States, rather than the U.N. I think the U.N. policing model and philosophy is much more of a monitoring approach. I think, in Iraq, you need a much more proactive approach to developing a police force and then monitoring as it goes forward.

BROWN: We've got about a minute here. Are you trying -- is the object here to just simply maintain order, as opposed to investigating burglaries and robberies and issuing traffic tickets? How modest are the goals here?

KELLY: I think the goals are pretty modest, certainly in the beginning. Maintaining order is the No. 1 priority. I think pretty far down the road, you get into the more sophisticated areas of policing, such as investigations. Obviously, serious crimes such as homicide, they're going to have to be investigated. But when you start getting into the nuances, I think we have a long way to go before we're going to able to address those sorts of things.

BROWN: Chief Kelly, it's good to see you. Nice to have you with us.

KELLY: See you, Aaron.

BROWN: Raymond Kelly, the police commissioner in New York City, who once had this task in a complicated place, Haiti, but not nearly as complicated as Iraq.

Dana Priest has been filing one fascinating story after another on the search for Saddam Hussein. She joins us to talk more about the government of Iraq and where it went.

We'll take a break first.


DANA PRIEST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": They've only killed three of them. They don't know where Saddam Hussein is. And if you ask them, they'll tell you, we don't know if he's dead or alive. That goes for his sons as well. The only one we know that they have is Chemical Ali, but they even hedge on that, saying, well, we don't have his DNA. We don't have his body, so we're not really certain about that either.

So they are really in a quandary. It seems like they have escaped or they're in such a good hiding place in Baghdad that they don't know where it is. The best case that they can guess at is Tikrit, where you've seen briefers talk about the airstrikes there today and continued reinforcements that they see of both conventional and some paramilitary Iraqi units. So that's their best guess.

And, of course, fleeing to Syria is also something that they've talked about. There are troops still battling in Al Qaim up near the border and also Mosul.

BROWN: They just seemed to up and vanish overnight. Almost literally, one night they're seemed to be a regime in place, and you woke up the next morning and it was gone. And they have a multitude of ways to listen in and find things out. And they've heard nothing that is a clue?

PRIEST: That's right.

And if you remember, we were talking here today about Tora Bora and how there were no U.S. forces in Afghanistan when that battle happened and they left. This one, the same thing has happened, but for different reasons. They have lots of forces around, but these people have been able to escape probably because they're not in uniform. They have a good system for moving around undetected anyway. And it's really like finding a needle in a haystack.

Plus, they don't really have that many troops on the ground to patrol, do checkpoints. As one intelligence analyst said, we are in Iraq, but we certainly don't control all the roads. We haven't set up that many checkpoints. And so we really don't have that many people out there able to look. They haven't even actually been to the site of the missile attack several days ago on the restaurant, where Saddam Hussein was supposed to have been. So they haven't been out there yet either. They hope to get there in a couple of days, but they haven't been out there yet.

BROWN: Do you have a piece in the paper tomorrow?

PRIEST: Yes. And it says about what I've just said, and a little bit more.


BROWN: Dana, thank you. Thank you for your patience as well -- Dana Priest, who writes about intelligence matters for "The Washington Post."

We'll take a break.

Our coverage continues with one of the great backstories of this war and journalism, specifically us, CNN -- but the break first.


BROWN: Only now, with the regime of Saddam Hussein effectively finished, have the Iraqi people felt safe enough to come forward with the stories of terror that they have lived through.

We know they were the primary targets of this brutality, but they were not the only targets. In an op-ed tomorrow in "The New York Times," CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan reveals that he was personally threatened and that other CNN staffers were targeted by the Iraqi government, a terror plot. Only now, with the fall of the regime, does CNN feel safe enough to reveal it. We'll talk to Mr. Jordan in a moment.

First: the background.


BROWN (voice-over): Throughout the U.S.-led on attack, the Iraqi information minister, Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahhaf, has been the ultimate voice of denial.

MOHAMMED SAEED AL-SAHHAF, IRAQI INFORMATION MINISTER (through translator): We kicked them out. We pulverized them, defeated them on the outside of the airport.

BROWN: He has not been heard from since Tuesday, but he's been consistently front and center, and recently, obviously, consistently wrong. Many didn't know how to read Sahhaf other than as a source of amusement, with a lot of talk, little follow-through.

EASON JORDAN, CNN CHIEF NEWS EXECUTIVE: He's hard to take seriously, but I've dealt with him for years. And this is a guy who can be deadly serious.

BROWN: CNN's chief news executive, Eason Jordan, has known Sahhaf for years and, now that the regime has fallen, can reveal just how deadly serious Saddam's spokesman can be.

JORDAN: Well, I had a meeting in December with Minister Sahhaf. And during that meeting, I asked for his permission to send a CNN team to northern Iraq, which is actually Kurd-controlled territory. When I asked him this question, he bristled. And he said, "Mr. Jordan, if you send a CNN team there, the severest possible consequences will come to them."

When I said, "What does that mean?" he just snapped back.

He said: "Don't you understand? The severest possible consequences." And to me, it was clear he was talking about assassinating those journalists.

BROWN: Sahhaf and the Iraqi regime did indeed intend to follow through on those threats. CNN has obtained this videotape evidence from Kurdish authorities, evidence that outlines a plan to attack the CNN compound in Irbil in northern Iraq, complete with what Kurdish officials say are confessions from the men who were drafted to carry the attack out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Mohammad (ph), Colonel Ahmad (ph) and Major Anham (ph), they trained me on military intelligence. Then Staff Brigadier Mohammad asked me to blow up Al- Haman (ph) hotel. He said that the Americans and Israelis, according to Mohammad, they have come under the cover of CNN. They're all working for America and Israel intelligence. We want to make Jihad operation.

He said to me that, you should contact with some persons. Sabah (ph) had a plan to blow up Al-Haman hotel. I asked him, what do you have in Al-Haman? As I knew, there is just staff of CNN satellite TV in Al-Haman. He said: No, they are from the CIA working under cover of CNN.

I asked him: What do you want from me? What is your plan? He said: Our plan is to attack them or frighten them or take them as hostages. This is to tell the Americans that, if they attack Iraq, they will have losses. They should pay for their attack.

BROWN: Fortunately, for members of the CNN crew reporting from northern Iraq, the attack was averted when these men were arrested while preparing to blow up the CNN compound with nearly a ton of explosives. But these taped confessions are chilling reminders to just how far Saddam Hussein would go to eliminate those who disagreed with him.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BROWN: Eason Jordan is our chief news executive. He is a colleague and a friend and reporter through and through. And he is with us now.

Mr. Jordan, anything you want to add to that? Was there anything specific, other than sending a crew to the northern part of the country, that seemed to upset the Iraqi government?

JORDAN: Well, Minister Sahhaf felt it was a violation of Iraqi sovereignty for CNN to send a team to northern Iraq against the wishes of the Iraqi government, without the permission of the Iraqi government. And to him, clearly, this was a capital offense.

BROWN: Why did they throw Nic and company out?

JORDAN: There's been a long-running feud here. And the reason I actually met with Minister Sahhaf in December of last year was to appeal to get Jane Arraf, our longtime Baghdad bureau chief, back into the country. Sahhaf said: There's no way she's coming back to this country. She's banned for life.

I said: Well, how about Christiane Amanpour? He said no. How about Wolf Blitzer? He said no. How about Brent Sadler? He said no. He convinced himself that CNN was a part of the CIA. And we heard it from the gentleman on this tape. And a previous information minister accused me personally of being the CIA station chief for all of Iraq. But these people believe in their hearts -- or at least they did -- that CNN was part of the enemy regime.

BROWN: We would come to you almost literally every day, desperate to try and get somebody to talk to us out of Baghdad. And you would every day say, no, no, no. And the reason you would say no was?

JORDAN: The reason we would say no is, once CNN was thrown out on the grounds of being a U.S. government puppet organization in the eyes of the Iraqi leadership, the Iraqi ministry of information leadership called together all of the remaining foreign journalists in Baghdad and said: If any one of you helps CNN in any way, if any one of you speaks on the phone with CNN, you will not just be expelled. In fact, we won't expel you at all. What we will do is, we will imprison you and charge you with spying for the CIA.

BROWN: So they literally attempted to cut what, in moments like this, is the world's television network out of any coverage in Iraq at all?

JORDAN: That's right.

And we received frantic calls from news organizations around the world, begging and pleading that we not use their material, that we not talk to their correspondents, because they felt lives were at risk. And, of course, we respected their wishes.

BROWN: We would put shots from Abu Dhabi TV up, shots from Al- Jazeera TV up. Was that a risky proposition or did the government -- the government obviously was cool with that?

JORDAN: The government did not complain about the Arab networks. I don't know why precisely.

But the AP, Reuters, ITN, and other news organizations were just panic-stricken with the idea that CNN, even just mistakenly, would use some of their material on the air and risk having journalists from those news organizations locked up, maybe for life, in Baghdad.

BROWN: About a minute. Two questions.

This threat is made in December. You kept crews there, our colleagues there, until they were thrown out two weeks ago, 2 1/2 weeks ago. Why?

JORDAN: Our people in Baghdad knew of the threats. In fact, when I met with the minister of information -- and I met with him alone -- I came downstairs and I told my colleagues at the time -- Rym Brahimi was there. I came down and I said: Rym, the minister of information has just threatened to assassinate our colleagues if they go to northern Iraq.

And as we sent more and more people to Baghdad, every single person who went knew of the threat and knew of the risk involved.

BROWN: This is a threat different from the normal warnings that reporters are given. You're going -- I've gotten these from you -- you're going to a dangerous place; you have to make a choice whether you want to go. Did you have concern, as an executive, even giving reporters this sort of option?

JORDAN: It was important for us to be there. And we knew that there was a significant risk. There was significant risk for me, having been accused of being a CIA station chief myself and going to Baghdad. But we felt it was important to tell the story. And risks were taken. And thank goodness everybody survived those risks.

BROWN: And it is because CNN is seen as the world's television network that you were seen as the station chief of the CIA?

JORDAN: Well, there were people in Iraq who believed that CNN was effectively the CIA. In the absence of a U.S. Embassy, in the absence of U.S. diplomats being in Baghdad, they felt, well, the next best way must be CNN. So it's CNN. And they just attached us with that label. And it's been that way for years and years.

BROWN: Eason, thanks for coming in tonight.

JORDAN: Thanks, Aaron.

BROWN: Thank you very much, Eason Jordan, our chief news executive.

We'll take a break with pictures of Baghdad on a Friday morning. Our coverage continues in a moment.


BROWN: Let's bring General Clark back in.

General, we've put a lot of different things on the table in the first 57 minutes, from creating a police force to recreating the Middle East.

Just a hanging curve. Start where you want.

CLARK: Well, first of all, with respect to the Middle East discussion, I think that really is the crucial discussion. As I've gone around Washington the last few days, I've heard it buzzed everywhere. And I think the real discriminator here is going to be how quickly the administration moves in a serious fashion to reenergize peace between Israel and the Palestinians, or the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

If it's clear that they're not going to go against Syria, then the evidence of that will be high-level, immediate effort to start serious peace discussions between Israel and the Palestinians. If it's postponed, if there's jockeying around, then we're going to see is what many are calling sort of an active foreign policy in the region, pressuring, bumping Syria -- give up the weapons, get rid of the terrorists, and so forth -- with the expectation that, if they don't, well, of course, the pressure will be increased.

So I think that's the big-picture issue there. And all of this is going to be going on while we're still in Iraq and wrestling with that problem.

BROWN: About 45 seconds before we go to break.

You heard Ray Kelly talk about the problems of even in Haiti, a much more -- by no means paradise, but a much more manageable problem, in a lot of ways, than Iraq. What's your sense of how modest the goal should be in establishing some sort of civil authority there?

CLARK: Well, I think we should have modest goals.

This is a country which still had an authority, unlike in Haiti, where it had nearly totally broken down. We should be dealing with the clerics in the region and tribal elders and anybody who has any vestiges of authority and get them to control their people, because there simply aren't enough troops to do a police job. And if there were, we couldn't do it well anyway. We're going to have some time and stability to create local institutions of law and order.

BROWN: General, we'll have more from you as the night goes on.

We'll take a break, update the day's headlines -- back to Baghdad when we come back.


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