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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Bush Address to the Nation

Aired March 17, 2003 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: This is a CNN special report, SHOWDOWN: IRAQ, "On the Brink of War."

President Bush prepares to speak to the nation and the world.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) will issue an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein.

ANNOUNCER: Two choices: exile or war. And not much time to choose.

KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: War is always a catastrophe.

ANNOUNCER: Live from the U.N., Paris, London and Moscow, why diplomacy' failed so far.

And live from Kuwait, Israel, Jordan and the White House, when would a war start and how will the world react?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good evening. I'm Aaron Brown and the country is very much on the brink of war tonight, a war that will touch hundreds of thousands of American families, their sons and daughters will wage it and perhaps change the face of both the Middle East and diplomacy as we've come to know it.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Judy Woodruff.

In one hour, President Bush goes on nationwide television with a great deal at stake. He is expected to deliver a final ultimatum to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Along with our correspondents Wolf Blitzer and Christiane Amanpour in Kuwait, we're going to take you around the world both before and after the president speaks.

The question on everyone's mind tonight, when would a war start?

BROWN: We may not be able to answer that exactly, but by the time the president finishes, we'll have a very good idea of when it will start and much more.

We begin with our senior White House correspondent, John King. John, good evening. JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good evening to you, Aaron.

One hour from now, from what is called the cross halls in the White House residence, President Bush will tell the Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein he has 48 hours, two days, to give up power and leave Iraq, along with about 100 of his top deputies or else. The United States and its allies will be prepared to launch military action to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction and to dislodge Saddam Hussein from power.

We are told the president's remarks will run about 15 minutes. That the president will assert, despite his many critics today, that he has legal standing under existing United Nations resolutions to go to war. The president, we are told, also will tell the Iraqi people that once Saddam Hussein is removed from power, the riches of that country, principally of its oil, will be used to build what the president will voice hope will be a vibrant new democracy in the Middle East.

Again, though, the headline tonight, Mr. Bush will tell Saddam Hussein he has just 48 hours to give up power or face a U.S.-led invasion. You see the president here, the one bit we did see of him today, taking a break from his preparations to play with his dogs, Barney and Spot, on the south grounds.

White house officials told us the president twice practiced this speech today. He also had some urgent meetings late this afternoon with the leadership of Congress and other key members of Congress. At that meeting Mr. Bush promised that once a military action begins, he will quickly ask for emergency spending that could total up to $100 billion, to pay for the war and its immediate aftermath. That emergency spending request could go up to Capitol Hill as early as next week.

Now, as the president prepared to deliver these remarks tonight he was briefed by his national security team, briefed as well by his domestic terrorism team. And as the president prepares to send the country to war, possibly as early as Wednesday night, the administration is considering poise to raise the threat level here at home.

For more on that, our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: John, a conference call has been scheduled tonight for a half hour from now between Tom Ridge, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and the nation's governors and their homeland security officials, a sign that the nation's threat alert status will be upgraded tonight to orange.

It would be a surprise if the threat level did not go up. Officials at every level of government have assumed for weeks and even months that imminent war would trigger the change and planning for such a contingency has been going on for months. Homeland security sources tell me there is increased intelligence chatter that makes them concerned, but no specific information about a terrorist attack. Several officials say their No. 1 concern is a conventional attack by a suicide bomber, for instance. Virtually all of the dozens of known Islamic extremists who are not in custody are under intense surveillance tonight, but there is concern about thousands of other Iraqi sympathizers who may strike out on their own and concerned about al Qaeda. One official telling me we have 80 percent of the bad actors rounded up. It is the other 20 percent that they can't find and those that they don't know about that I'm worried about.

The officials to whom I have spoken in several states say they expect security will be somewhat more intense than at other periods when the country has been at orange. But they're waiting to hear what Secretary Ridge tells them tonight at the federal level. You can expect many of the same sorts of measures you've seen in the past: increased border security, increased airport security and so forth.

Judy, Aaron, back to you.

BROWN: OK. Jeanne, thank you very much.

And that's all scheduled to happen after the president's speech tonight. And as Jeanne said, it would be surprising if it did not.

For months now it seems the focus of all of this, even as the buildup in the Persian Gulf has gone on, has been the diplomatic efforts, diplomatic efforts at the State Department, diplomatic efforts at the United Nations as well.

Richard Roth covers the United Nations for us -- Richard.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, here at the U.N., as we know, the questions have been: When is the vote? Who will vote? How will someone vote? How will Cameroon vote?

Well, it all doesn't matter right now because the U.S., U.K. and Spain said they weren't going put their resolution to the test. They're going rely on 1441, a resolution passed in November, supported by the full Security Council. But throughout the day here, after this move, a lot of bitter recriminations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN NEGROPONTE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: It was a test and it is most regrettable, as we said earlier, that in light of the explicit decision of one country to exercise its veto, it was not possible to move this resolution forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIERE, FRENCH AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: I think everybody knows very well in the Council and I think here in the U.N. that the draft resolution co-sponsored by United States, U.K. and Spain does not get or did not get support in the Council. The majority of the member of the Council consider that it is not justified, it is not legitimate to authorize the use of force.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N..: Most members of the council when we discussed the consultations, the situation today, supported the continuation of inspections and clearly stated that the peaceful solution to the problem still exists and that the possibilities for disarmament for inspections have not been exhausted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEFAN TAFROV, BULGARIAN AMB. TO U.N.: When the council is divided like the way it is now, it is a sad moment for the U.N. and our vision of the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROTH: A lot of disappointment here among diplomats. But now the United Nations will do what it probably does best: humanitarian care for the expected flood of refugees and the post-war reconstruction and reconciliation of Iraq.

Secretary-General Annan also ordering out 330 U.N. staff members, including weapons inspectors and humanitarian aid officials -- Aaron.

BROWN: Well, Richard, it's a -- it must be a very difficult day over there, because no matter how you slice it and dice it, a system that is supposed to work, a system that is supposed to prevent this sort of thing did not -- it didn't work.

ROTH: And for years...

(CROSSTALK)

ROTH: Yes, and for years after the Gulf War and before it, there was this grand coalition, most votes were 15-0. They were precooked in the back rooms. When they came out at the table, everybody's hands went in the air on a variety of issues. But you started to see it slide in 1999 with Kosovo, the U.S., fearing a Russian veto, acted on its own with a coalition of the willing and went ahead. And now we're seeing part two of that. A lot of anger here between France, U.S. and U.K. and a lot of worries about what it means for the U.S.- European relationship and U.N. relevance.

BROWN: Richard, thank you. Richard Roth at the United Nations tonight.

Over time, historians will write about all of this, why it happened, the way it happened, why wasn't -- why there was not a diplomatic solution. We don't have the benefit of that sort of time.

We go to the State Department and our State Department correspondent, Andrea Koppel. It must be a difficult day over there as well. Secretary of state is being criticized in some quarters for this failure also.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Aaron. And in fact, Secretary Powell was a little defensive earlier today when he took reporters' questions here at the State Department. And one reporter asked him. Does he wish he had done anything differently? Does he wish perhaps he had traveled more? And he said, you know, there is a whole bunch of ways that you can do diplomacy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POWELL: You do your job by personal contact, by contact, by travel and by the use of modern technology so that you can get more bang for the time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOPPEL: He then proceeded to kind of list all the face-to-face meetings that he had had with various foreign ministers from the permanent five up in -- up in New York and Turkish Officials over in Davos, Switzerland. But in point of fact, Aaron, Secretary of State Powell has not traveled as much as the man who had the job during the Persian Gulf war and that was former Secretary of State James Baker. He was always on the plane.

So as you just said there, historians will judge whether or not this could have been done differently -- Aaron.

Andrea, thank you. Andrea Koppel at the State Department. As in goes on tonight, we'll check back with her as well.

WOODRUFF: And we will and our Wolf Blitzer, who miraculously is in Kuwait City today, after having been in Washington yesterday.

Wolf, while all the diplomacy has been going on, the military has been getting ready. Now something like 250,000 allied troops in the region. And we're told they're ready.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: They're not only ready, they're -- most of them are here in Kuwait, about a third of this country now has basically been put on the sidelines. As U.S., British forces prepare to move in to Iraq. They're only waiting for the order for the commander in chief. On the streets you wouldn't necessarily know there is all this tension. People here are a little bit nervous, but they're not leaving. There is no panic. People are not fleeing.

They recognize that Saddam Hussein -- at least most Kuwaitis Saddam Hussein must go one way or another. There is a lot of bitterness here in Kuwait as a result of the Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait a dozen years ago. But people are getting ready for the worst, there is no doubt about that. Meanwhile, not far away in Baghdad there are signs people there believe war is surely on the way. While U.N. weapons inspectors were pulling out of Iraq, leaving the country is a choice the Iraqi people don't have. But some are fleeing in the capital city of Baghdad. Others they are hunkering down.

CNN's Nic Robertson remains in Baghdad and has the latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There are 134 U.N. inspection staff here, 56 of them U.N. Inspectors. They are now expecting to leave in the early hours of Tuesday morning. They will be joined very likely by many other U.N. staff from Baghdad and around Iraq. They will, we are told, be leaving by plane from Baghdad's main international airport in the early hours of Tuesday morning. From there, they will likely fly to Cyprus.

The people of Iraq when they see these inspectors and the other U.N. staff go, it will very likely remind them of operation Desert Fox in 1998, when U.N. Staff were pulled out of Iraq before air strikes then. Very likely, another clear signal for the people here that war isn't far away. Certainly what we have seen, people stocking up food from the shops here. Many other store owners in fact closing down their stores, taking -- taking their stocks out in some cases. Electronics goods in some stores. But even, stores selling vegetables, closing down, for the preparation of this likely war that many people assess is coming.

Political reaction also to the fact the U.N. weapons inspectors are leaving very acerbic reaction coming from the foreign minister here Naji Sabri, saying regretful the U.N. weapons inspectors and U.N. staff were pull out. Also saying a violation of the U.N. charter, a violation of U.N. resolution 687. But when asked about whether or not President Saddam Hussein would step down or move out of Iraq, the foreign minister said it was President Bush who should go.

NAJI SABRI, FOREIGN MINISTER, IRAQ: The only option is the war monger number one in the world, the failing of President Bush, who made his country a joke in the world. Who has made the administration isolated in the world. Who made the United States public enemy number one. He should depart.

ROBERTSON: Iraqi officials are concerned, the end of the diplomatic war appears to have been reached, criticism not only of President Bush, we have heard that many times. But criticism of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. It very much seem now as if Iraq just preparing for itself of war. Had been keeping its options open, creating with the U.N. weapons inspectors. Those inspectors now on the verge of leaving very much Iraq now concentrating on preparing for war.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And Nic will be remaining in Baghdad covering coming days for CNN. With me here in Kuwait City our own Christiane Amanpour. There were so many similarities on what the mood was on the eve of the Gulf War but there are differences as well.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The differences are so striking that it is worth talking about. We were all, 12 years ago, covering the beginning of the Gulf War. There was an enormous coalition that George Bush the I had gotten. We talk just a few minutes ago about how history may write about the diplomacy, and the unprecedented failure of diplomacy we have just seen collapse before our eyes.

Many newspapers in the United States and in Europe already writing about what they believe to have been an inept show of diplomacy by the United States, where the United States alienated so many of its allies and, you know, caused itself to be isolated, so different to what we saw 12 years ago. I think notable 12 years ago, though in terms of who was isolated, while the us had this enormous coalition, Jordan was one of the countries that did not join the United States, referred to state out of that Coalition, and many blamed Jordan, and isolated the King of Jordan back then, King Hussein, for being pro-Saddam.

Well today, it is a little different. King Abdullah II of Jordan months ago said he believed war was now inevitable and he has been doing pretty much everything he can to make the best of what may be a difficult situation for Jordan, for all sorts of different reasons. Jordan has said that they will grant overflight rights for certain support aircraft, not combat aircraft, and also they have patriot missile batteries to ward off against potentially Iraqi Scud attacks and there are American troops there. There is also a small town in Jordan, the last town before you get to Iraq called Ruwaishid. Well, right now it has turned into quite a metropolis as a lot military action focuses there.

That's where we find our Rula Amin.

RULA AMIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, Ruwaishid, as you said, is the last town before the travelers get to the Iraqi border. Baghdad is five hours away from the road from here. And people here are very apprehensive, very concerned from the fallout of this war. Just 10 minutes up the road from here, the -- there is refugee camp that is being prepared, two of them, to receive any refugees that will flee Iraq in case there say war. The United Nations are estimating that there is about 600,000 people who will be trying to flee Iraq in case of war and some of them will be heading this way. At the same time, Jordanians are very angry, very apprehensive and very frustrated. Many of them don't see the point of this war. They don't buy the justification for it and they are concerned that Iraqi civilians will end up paying a very high price for it. At the same time, there is a lot of frustration, a feeling of impotence, they unable to do anything to stop it. And that's why the government here has to walk a tight rope -- a very tight line to accommodate the people's needs to see the government stand and reflect their views. At the same time the government says its relationship with the United States is strategic and doesn't intend to let the differences over Iraq undermine that relationship -- Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Rula, thanks. We'll be keeping our eye on Jordan, west of Iraq, and see develops there in the next several days. But right now, we go back to Aaron and Judy in Washington.

BROWN: Christiane, thank you.

The president speaks in about 44 minutes from now. Within the past hour there was a White House briefing for Congressional leaders. A number of prominent Democrats made no secret of their disdain today for the president's efforts at international diplomacy, for example, the Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: I'm saddened, saddened that this president failed so miserably at diplomacy that we're now forced to war. Saddened that we have to give up one life because this president couldn't create the kind of diplomatic effort that was so critical for our country. But we will work and we will do all that we can to get through this crisis like we've gotten through so many.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Tom Daschle's view. Not necessarily Dick Gephardt's view, the Congressman from Missouri, one of the Democratic presidential hopefuls joins us tonight.

Good evening.

WOODRUFF: Congressman Gephardt, do you agree with Tom Daschle that the president just essentially abandon diplomacy here to forge ahead?

REP. DICK GEPHARDT (D), MISSOURI: There is plenty of time later to point fingers and to figure out what went wrong with what. But Tonight is a night for us to unite our country and have our thoughts and prayers for our young people out there in the Gulf. I've said many times that we've got to keep our people safe. And to do that I think we have to disarm Saddam Hussein. And make sure that components of weapons of mass destruction don't wind up in the hands of terrorists. That's what this has always been about. And that's what I hope we can achieve. I wish the U.N. had been behind this. But that didn't come to pass and we've got to do what is right to do and I hope our young people do it safely.

Does the administration bear any responsibility for the inability to get -- set aside the French for a second and the veto question to get nine votes out of the Security Council, the United States of America could not persuade nine other countries to sign on.

GEPHARDT: It was obviously complicated by the veto threats. That was a problem, I'm sure. I think they might have been able to get the nine votes had that not become a problem.

You got to go back to last year. The president and some members of the administration last august were saying they probably didn't need to go to the U.N. A lot of us told them very strongly we thought they needed to go to the U.N. I negotiated the language into the resolution that said they would go to the U.N. and they've been there for four months. And they worked to try to get U.N. lined up.

I wish they would have. They didn't. And now we've got to unite in this country and get done what is important to do to keep our people safe. That's what this is about.

WOODRUFF: How much does President Bush risk by doing what he's doing at this point? Do you see this as a risky move on his part?

GEPHARDT: Anytime you use force and have to go to war, there is risk involved and we all know that. But there are things you have to do keep the people of this country safe. I'm sure there was disagreement about sending forces to Afghanistan. There was agreement that we needed to do that. I call it self-defense.

Again, 9/11 was a -- the ultimate wakeup call. And from then we know that we face a terrible threat. We cannot have a weapon of mass destruction detonated in this country. It is unthinkable. We've got to do everything in our power to prevent that from happening. And that's what this and other things that we're having to do are about.

There are a lot of other things we need to do to make sure that happens. We're going to be talking about that in the days ahead. But for tonight, we got to unite the country. We got to have in our thoughts and prayers our young people.

BROWN: Well, moments like this, thankfully, at least for a while the country does unite. Everybody seems to, particularly in the post- Vietnam era, understand the difference between soldiers and policy. And I think all of our thoughts are with those 250,000 American young men and women who are overseas.

Are we going to find -- do you believe the country will find itself in almost perpetual state of antagonism with one country or another, Iran next, North Korea after that? Is that where the 21st century is headed?

GEPHARDT: Well, I hope not. I hope we can have a successful policy in trying to deal with these problems around the world. We should be worried as a recent report said about what's happening with weapons of mass destruction in Russia, in Pakistan, in lots of places around the world.

This is a complicated and difficult world we now live in. And we got lots of challenges. We got to prevent young people from deciding to become terrorists. We've got to worry about spreading Democratic values across the world.

There are a lot of things we need to do, but first order of business right now is uniting the country, keeping weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists and keeping our people safe. We cannot have another 9/11 and we got to all work together as best we can to make sure that's done.

WOODRUFF: Much more complicated world than a lot of people thought at the end of the Cold War.

GEPHARDT: Absolutely.

BROWN: Congressman, it's nice to see you. Thanks for coming in tonight. Congressman Dick Gephardt of Missouri and his view on that.

Israel, of course, for those of you with good memories, will recall became a target during the last Gulf War. Scud missiles landing there. Next, in this special report we'll go live to Tel Aviv for a look at how the Israelis are preparing for war. The president speaks in about 40 minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our special coverage. We're only a little bit more than a half an hour away from President Bush's speech to the nation, a speech in which he's expected to give Saddam Hussein 48 hours to go into exile or face the possibility of war.

Israel's home front command today told the nation citizens to get ready for war. For more on those preparations, let's go to Tel Aviv. CNN's Kelly Wallace is standing by -- Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the move by the Israeli military is described as precautionary. Urging citizens to get all the equipment they'll need to prepare a sealed off room, also known as a safe room, in the event of a chemical or biological attack. Many Israelis responding, heading to the stores to buy duct tape and plastic.

What the military, though, did not do is urge citizens to go ahead and prepare that safe room now. That is likely to come when officials believe an American attack on Baghdad is about to begin.

On a sad note, the conflict has already claimed three Israeli lives. According to police, a mother and her two teenage sons suffocated to death after they spent the night in their safe room. Now, Israel's defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, today is urging Israelis to go on with their lives. He says the probability of an Iraqi attack on Israel is very low. And according to a poll published last week, a majority of Israelis agree.

Still, Mofaz is saying unlike 1991 when Israel did not retaliate for the 39 Iraqi Scud attacks, he says if Iraq attacks this time, Israel has a right to defend itself. Other says this country is bracing for a possible war in the region. Israeli military sources say a small number of reservists have been called up to staff some anti-aircraft units.

And the State Department has ordered all nonessential diplomats and their families to leave the country. The U.S. has issued that same order for Kuwait and that's where we go now to my colleague Christiane Amanpour in Kuwait City -- Christiane.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kelly, indeed this is one of the most dangerous locations because it is the staging point for about a quarter million troops. And of course not only the U.S., but the British as well have asked all their nonessential and all citizens to leave and leave as quickly as possible.

As for Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair who has staked so much in supporting the president, President Bush, it's costing him a great deal at home. Already one cabinet minister has resigned and he will put his policy to a vote in parliament tomorrow.

We're going to Fionnuala Sweeney in London for more on what Blair is doing.

FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, indeed, Christiane, it has been quite a day hear London politically speaking. An emergency cabinet meeting to discuss a possible war, the resignation of a cabinet minister and a very troubling day for the prime minister, Tony Blair.

He's in quite a bit of trouble with many of his own party. It was left to his Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to go to the House of Commons this evening and make his government's case for a possible war against Iraq. In a speech to parliamentarians, he put the blame for the failure of diplomacy at the United Nations firmly on the shoulders of France. You may recall that many people here in Britain oppose a war against Iraq without a second United Nations resolution.

However, the night in the House of Commons belonged to that cabinet minister who resigned, Robin Cook. Is a rousing speech, which received an ovation from members of the House, he said it was not the fault of France that diplomacy had failed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBIN COOK, FMR. HOUSE OF COMMONS LDR.: It is not France alone that wants more time for inspections. Germany wants more time for inspections. Russia wants more time for inspections. Indeed, at no time have we signed up even the minimum necessary to carry a second resolution.

We delude ourselves if we think that the degree of international hostility is all the result of President Chirac. The real idea is that Britain is being asked to embark in a war without agreement in any of international bodies which of we are the leading partner. Not NATO, not the European Union, and now not the Security Council. To end up in such diplomatic weakness is a serious reverse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SWEENEY: And a note for U.S. viewers. Before he sat down, he said what had come to trouble him most over the past week is a suspicion that if the hanging chads in Florida had gone the other way and Al Gore had been elected, we would not "be now about to commit British troops to war." There will be an emergency debate on a motion proposed by the government to launch a war in Iraq -- against Iraq. That will be held on Tuesday evening, about 24 hours from now. Some 166 members of Tony Blair's own labor party expected to resist and vote against that motion -- Christiane

AMANPOUR: Fionnuala, thank you. And, of course, because Tony Blair has so closely staked his policy to George Bush, the president of the United States tried a few ways to help him out to give him cover. The summit in the Azores, for instance; the attempt to reach out to the Palestinians and the Israelis in terms of potentially publishing (ph) the roadmap. Most of that was done to try to shore up Tony Blair.

But as Fionnuala says, there may be more of his ministers and more of his labor MPs voting against him when this comes to a cabinet vote tomorrow. But perhaps not enough to cause him a really serious crisis in the short term. Back to you, Aaron.

BROWN: Thank you, Christiane. Certainly the two men, President Bush and Tony Blair, had very different political problems as they took a look at this and how to deal with Iraq and how to deal with the diplomacy. The president will speak to the nation and the world about 30 minutes from now, at the top of the hour, 8:00.

WOODRUFF: And now our special report: The leaders of the international opposition to war. We will check in on the French, on the Russians and the Chinese when our special report continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: The White House on this March night, a warm night in Washington. In about a half an hour, a little less, the president will give Saddam Hussein an ultimatum: 48 hours or face war. "Showdown Iraq: The Brink of War" continues after this short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Twenty minutes from now, the president of the United States speaks to the country and to the world. There is an exquisite tension in the air tonight.

WOODRUFF: And, Aaron, if there is one country that the United States has blamed for the fact that diplomacy failed, it is France. CNN's Christiane Amanpour talked to just over the last day or so with the leader of France, President Jacques Chirac. And, Christiane, I think when you talked to him, we all got a better understanding of where the French are coming from in all of this.

AMANPOUR: Yes, Judy. You know he know that he's being blamed, and often in first-name ways. Impassioned, impatient comments coming from both the U.K. and U.S. leadership about France's obstructionism on this issue, they call it. But, of course, what he says, and from his point of view, the French simply don't believe that all the time has run out for diplomacy and for the inspections to work. And he also says that we are not automatically against war, we're not pacifists.

We will should our responsibilities. But it should be up to the inspectors. And of course he did tell me in this interview yesterday they would give 30 days for the inspections to work or reach an impasse and then consider joining a coalition of war. That, of course, was swiftly rejected by Vice President Dick Cheney yesterday morning. And Jacques Chirac spoke quite a lot about the warnings he felt he wanted to give to the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT JACQUES CHIRAC, FRANCE (through translator): From my experience from the international political stage, I'm telling my American friends, beware, be careful. Think it over seriously before you take action that is not necessary and that can be very dangerous, especially in the fight against international terrorism, which we are really working hard on.

AMANPOUR: On the eve of what looks like war, what do you have to say to President Bush, who you call a friend?

CHIRAC (through translator): I just want to tell him that I don't share his views, that I don't approve of his initiative. And, of course, I hope that things run as smoothly as possible and there is peaceful disarmament. But if we have to have a war, let there be as few traumas and as little destruction as possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: I got the impression after speaking to President Chirac that the French believe that the U.S. had pretty much made up their mind on a military option long before the diplomacy collapsed. And certainly from other French and other European officials, I get the impression from conversations that essentially all sides may have played some of their cards wrong, boxed themselves into diplomatic corners that they eventually couldn't get out of and eventually couldn't reach a compromise -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Christiane, after this -- when you talk with the French, how hard do they say it is going to be to patch back relations together with the United States?

AMANPOUR: Well, it depends on who you talk to. I spoke extensively about that to President Chirac, and he insisted that, despite the differences they have right now, that France and the United States have a long -- he said 200 years of friendship. And that these tensions right now, he called them superficial and not deep rooted.

But of course from the United States you get a different message, that what has happened is deeply wounding. And certainly from other French people you hear -- and from experts you hear a sense of worry that this may have put a very, very deep division between the two countries and, of course, contributes this disagreement, strong disagreement between the United States and France. Contributes to potential long-term damage to the transatlantic alliances: NATO, the U.N. and to some lesser extent, the EU as well.

WOODRUFF: Christiane, you're absolutely right. The two views couldn't be more different. It is everything but contempt here in Washington, when you talk to Bush administration officials about the French. Christiane Amanpour, and of course that interview Christiane did was for CBS "60 Minutes." It aired on Sunday night. Meantime, another opponent of this war, Russia's Vladimir Putin, today said that this war is illegal, it would be illegal if it happens. And he said it's a mistake that could undermine world security. For more on Russian attitudes, we go CNN's Moscow bureau chief Jill Dougherty. Hi, Jill.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Judy, President Putin does believe that this is a mistake. He said it today. The first time that we've actually heard from him literally in weeks. He said that it is a mistake fraught with the gravest consequences. He said not only will there be casualties, but it would actually undermine the international situation.

We also heard from Igor Ivanov, the foreign minister, saying that there is no justification legally for taking military action. And he said specifically, Resolution 1441 does not include this type of authority for taking military action. But at the same time that you have the Russian position still very negative about this, you do have some fence mending in terms of the relationship with the United States.

Today, an interview with the deputy foreign minister, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), who is a specialist, by the way, in relations with the United States. He was saying that Russia, if the United States does take military action, will not be stirring up any anti-American campaign. And he noted that the relationship between Russia and the United States is too important, as he put it, to have it held hostage to disagreements over Iraq.

But already we're get something indication that there may be some problems. Late news tonight that the Russian Duma, the parliament, may not bring up for consideration the Treaty of Moscow. That is that agreement on strategic weapons between the United States and Russia. It was approved by the Senate unanimously just the past week. And now Russia is saying they may put off considering that. Back to you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well that is interesting. That would be a direct effect from this situation on Iraq, because there was no indication that that was going to happen before today. All right. Jill Dougherty in Moscow, thanks.

So, Aaron, we're already seeing fallout potentially here.

BROWN: There is not a major player in the world who has not been impacted by this extraordinary four-month period. Every one of them, the Russians, the French, the Germans, the British, certainly, and the Chinese as well. This comes at a very awkward time for the Chinese.

Beijing has opposed military action. Beijing lined up with the French and the Germans and the others to say that inspectors ought to give more time. At the same time this is going on, the Chinese find themselves in the middle of political change of their own. New leaders have been sworn in just the last couple of days. In many respects, it is a new generation of Chinese leadership. Their relationship with the United States for economic reasons is extraordinarily important. They were looking for any enemies to make either in this. But nevertheless they came out against the American position. We go now to Beijing and our bureau chief there Jamie Florcruz -- good evening.

JAIME FLORCRUZ, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: Aaron, the streets in Beijing seem calm and normal, even as the Chinese national parliament prepares to end its annual session. In about two hours' time, the newly-installed prime minister will give his first press conference. But even those are overshadowed by the Iraq crisis, as this morning's headlines in Beijing shows.

It reads, "The Iraq crisis has already reached its final stage," noting that the U.S., the U.K. and Spain have abandoned their plans to put a new resolution to vote and that the U.S. has already moved a lot of airplanes into northern Kuwait and that the Chinese diplomats and journalists have been evacuated out of Baghdad. Most Chinese here are still hoping that the war can be avoided, as the newly-installed foreign minister said he is keeping his fingers crossed for peace -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Jaime, we have not heard from the Chinese. They've been very quiet, certainly compared to the French and the others. Why is that?

FLORCRUZ: Well, the Chinese are caught between the United States. They want to keep a very cordial relations with the United States and they don't want to stand in the way of what they want to do. But, at the same time, they also champion the so-called third world, the Arab cause, and they don't want to be seen as pro-American on this one -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Jaime Florcruz in Beijing.

And as you said, Aaron, every country that is a major player in the world is deeply involved in this decision to go to war, whether they're sending troops or not.

BROWN: And the nature of our time is that every country or virtually every country is so connected, whether it is economics or security, any of these issues, they are all connected. They all need each other at the end of the day, whatever the end of the day is going to be on this one. It has been a fascinating thing to watch if the stakes weren't so high. And they couldn't be higher.

WOODRUFF: President Bush's speech begins just minutes from now. As we continue waiting, we're going to shift the focus from the diplomatic to the military.

BROWN: And next, if war comes, they will attack from the air. But their toughest work will be on the ground. This special continues in a moment. We'll take a short break first.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: We're just about 10 minutes away from a speech. President Bush addressing the nation on television, giving Saddam Hussein a deadline.

BROWN: And from the moment those words come off the president's lips, the military planners will be even more nervous, if you will, than they have been, because at that point they start to worry that Saddam, feeling that the war is coming, may start one himself. They've got all of these American troops amassed now in Kuwait, so that is one of the concerns for planners. While they are poised for action there, there is information coming in now that the Republican Guard units, this elite group of Iraqi soldiers south of Baghdad, have been issued chemical munitions.

That's the report we're getting. We go live to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre. Jamie, where is this report coming from? How credible a report is it, as we are almost literally on the eve of war?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Aaron, this comes from U.S. intelligence gathering. And U.S. officials are quick to admit it is not conclusive is. It is not hard proof. It is simply an indication that they believe one unit, at least one unit of the Republican Guard, may have been issued chemical shells for their weapons.

They haven't seen the chemical weapons. They haven't found the smoking gun. This comes at a time when Iraq is making a number of what appear to be defensive moves, including dispersing Republican Guard units out of the garrison into areas where they could presumably try to survive the first wave of a U.S. assault. The question is, would they be trying to live to fight another day, or perhaps live to surrender another day?

The U.S. just doesn't know. They're continuing to see Iraq make a lot of preparations for war, while the U.S. says essentially it is ready to go in just about every way -- Aaron.

BROWN: Do we see anything different in the way the Iraqis are preparing today, as best we know it, from how they prepared a dozen years ago? Because we all know what happened when the ground war at least started then.

MCINTYRE: Well, one thing we're seeing is that they've been continuing to build these trenches across the country and fill them with oil to light them on fire. This doesn't really create a big problem for U.S. bombs because they're not affected by the smoke. It doesn't really create a big problem on the ground because you can simply go around these trenches.

So the Pentagon is puzzling over exactly what they hope to accomplish. What they fear is that Iraq is going to try to create the impression with these big oil fires that schools or mosques or hospitals are on fire and burning because of the U.S. strike and try to turn public opinion. But, frankly, when it comes to the military match-up, Iraq really doesn't have much of a chance against the force that is a raid against it.

BROWN: And just very, very briefly, is the sense still that the Iraqi plan is to essentially withdraw to Baghdad and try and make their stand, if you will, there?

MCINTYRE: Yes. They have these circles of steel they call them, concentric rings of defenses. But the real question is really will they fold or fight when they really -- when the rubber meets the road?

BROWN: Jamie, thank you. We'll talk you to again after the president speaks coming up in a little bit. Jamie McIntyre.

WOODRUFF: So many interesting questions raised by this, Aaron, because, you know, we think the U.S. has so many more -- so much more power, so much more military might, a raid against this country of Iraq, and yet there are still uncertainties about this war. It may be over quickly, but the outcome of each and every battle is not going to be known until it happens.

BROWN: Well, I just know from when we were in Kuwait, now I guess three weeks ago, one of the things -- you can plan for a lot in these, and hope hopefully your planning is good. But one of the things you can't plan for is bad luck, and bad luck happens. Accidents happen. A missile, as we learned in the first Gulf War, hits a mess hall and lots of people die. That you can't plan for.

WOODRUFF: President Bush coming up just about five minutes from now. And we're going to take a short break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There are more than 200,000 U.S. troops now deployed to the region. Another 40,000 British troops and 2,000 Australian forces as well. Among the troops deployed, the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division.

CNN's Ryan Chilcote is with them. They're called the Screaming Eagles. He joins us now live via video phone -- Ryan.

RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No question what the troops expect from this speech. They fully expect the president of the United States to give President Saddam Hussein an ultimatum, and they fully expect President Saddam Hussein to fail that ultimatum. These troops expect that they're going to be going to war in short time. They expect they're going to be shipping out of camp New Jersey in the coming days should there be war.

Now, I just bumped into a soldier in the shower tent. He said he's making his way as quickly as he can over to the MWR tent. That's the morale, wellness and recreation tent. It's a place where the soldiers can play ping-pong and where they can play cards. It's also a place where they watch TV.

He said he's going to watch this speech, despite the fact that it is just 3:55 in the morning here. He said he wouldn't miss this for the world. This is historic. This, he says, means they're going to be going to war. And he says that's a good thing, because there are a lot of soldiers spread throughout the desert that want to get this over as quickly as possible so they can get back home.

Now what would the 101st do should there be military action in Iraq? Well, the 101st Airborne specializes in air assault. Air assault means you move soldiers forward on the battlefield using helicopters. We saw a rehearsal today, a training exercise, where the soldiers were practicing setting up what are called FARPS, forward area refueling and rearming points. Basically gigantic gas stations in the middle of the desert for helicopters.

Helicopters come in, they refuel, and then they can go on from there. Once they've exhausted their fuel supply, they land, they can take those troops, those infantry troops further into the battlefield. But another telling sign of what the soldiers might be asked to do, should there be military action in Iraq. Back to you.

BLITZER: Ryan Chilcote with the 101st Airborne. Thanks, Ryan, very much.

And Judy and Aaron, Christiane and I are going to be standing by, waiting like the rest of the world to hear precisely what President Bush will say in the coming moments -- Aaron and Judy.

BROWN: Well, thank you. You won't have to wait long. We're two minutes, a little less than that away from the president's speech. There is, in our view, I guess, no more serious moment than the one we are about to enter: the country standing on the very edge of war.

WOODRUFF: And John King, our senior White House correspondent who is at the White House tonight, John, this president has a lot riding not so much on the speech, but on the military action that comes after it.

KING: Well, Judy, the president putting his presidency on the line here in a defining moment, as we are just about a minute away. We are told the president will tell Saddam Hussein he has 48 hours to leave power. Senior administration officials telling us war could begin any time after that deadline lapses on Wednesday night and that Mr. Bush would deliver an Oval Office address shortly after he gave the orders to send any U.S. troops into combat.

We also are told Mr. Bush will take a small portion of his speech tonight, expected to run about 15 minutes, to directly address the Iraqi people, telling them that when Saddam Hussein is removed from power, they will be part of a vibrant new nation. A nation Mr. Bush will say can be a rich and well contributing member of the international community.

The president, we are told, will voice his frustration that he could not get the support of the United Nations Security Council at this moment. But he will also say that he believes he has authority under international law to go forward with a military confrontation that could begin as early as Wednesday night.

You may hear some whistle and protesting here. A small group, two dozen protesters, outside the White House gates as Mr. Bush prepares to tell the American people war could be just two days away -- Judy, Aaron.

WOODRUFF: A remarkable moment in international affairs. The president, Aaron, defying much of the world to go and push ahead with this military move.

BROWN: For all the talk that has come, the talk that is about to happen is the talk that matters. The president of the United States about to tell the country and the world that we are on the edge of war.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My fellow citizens, events in Iraq have now reached the final days of decision.

For more than a decade, the United States and other nations have pursued patient and honorable efforts to disarm the Iraqi regime without war. That regime pledged to reveal and destroy all of its weapons of mass destruction as a condition for ending the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

Since then, the world has engaged in 12 years of diplomacy. We have passed more than a dozen resolutions in the United Nations Security Council. We have sent hundreds of weapons inspectors to oversee the disarmament of Iraq.

Our good faith has not been returned. The Iraqi regime has used diplomacy as a ploy to gain time and advantage.

It has uniformly defied Security Council resolutions demanding full disarmament.

Over the years, U.N. weapons inspectors have been threatened by Iraqi officials, electronically bugged and systematically deceived. Peaceful efforts to disarm the Iraq regime have failed again and again because we are not dealing with peaceful men.

Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised. This regime has already used weapons of mass destruction against Iraq's neighbors and against Iraq's people.

The regime has a history of reckless aggression in the Middle East. It has a deep hatred of America and our friends and it has aided, trained and harbored terrorists, including operatives of Al Qaeda.

The danger is clear: Using chemical, biological or, one day, nuclear weapons obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could fulfill their stated ambitions and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country or any other.

The United States and other nations did nothing to deserve or invite this threat, but we will do everything to defeat it. Instead of drifting along toward tragedy, we will set a course toward safety. Before the day of horror can come, before it is too late to act, this danger will be removed.

The United States of America has the sovereign authority to use force in assuring its own national security. That duty falls to me as commander of chief by the oath I have sworn, by the oath I will keep.

Recognizing the threat to our country, the United States Congress voted overwhelmingly last year to support the use of force against Iraq.

America tried to work with the United Nations to address this threat because we wanted to resolve the issue peacefully. We believe in the mission of the United Nations.

One reason the U.N. was founded after the Second World War was to confront aggressive dictators actively and early, before they can attack the innocent and destroy the peace.

In the case of Iraq, the Security Council did act in the early 1990s. Under Resolutions 678 and 687, both still in effect, the United States and our allies are authorized to use force in ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction.

This is not a question of authority, it is a question of will.

Last September, I went to the U.N. General Assembly and urged the nations of the world to unite and bring an end to this danger. On November 8, the Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1441, finding Iraq in material breach of its obligations and vowing serious consequences if Iraq did not fully and immediately disarm.

Today, no nation can possibly claim that Iraq has disarmed. And it will not disarm so long as Saddam Hussein holds power.

For the last four and a half months, the United States and our allies have worked within the Security Council to enforce that council's longstanding demands. Yet some permanent members of the Security Council have publicly announced that they will veto any resolution that compels the disarmament of Iraq. These governments share our assessment of the danger, but not our resolve to meet it.

Many nations, however, do have the resolve and fortitude to act against this threat to peace, and a broad coalition is now gathering to enforce the just demands of the world.

The United Nations Security Council has not lived up to its responsibilities, so we will rise to ours.

In recent days, some governments in the Middle East have been doing their part. They have delivered public and private messages urging the dictator to leave Iraq so that disarmament can proceed peacefully.

He has thus far refused. All the decades of deceit and cruelty have now reached an end. Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict commenced at a time of our choosing.

For their own safety, all foreign nationals, including journalists and inspectors, should leave Iraq immediately.

Many Iraqis can hear me tonight in a translated radio broadcast, and I have a message for them: If we must begin a military campaign, it will be directed against the lawless men who rule your country and not against you.

As our coalition takes away their power, we will deliver the food and medicine you need.

We will tear down the apparatus of terror and we will help you to build a new Iraq that is prosperous and free.

In free Iraq there will be no more wars of aggression against your neighbors, no more poison factories, no more executions of dissidents, no more torture chambers and rape rooms.

The tyrant will soon be gone. The day of your liberation is near.

It is too late for Saddam Hussein to remain in power. It is not too late for the Iraq military to act with honor and protect your country, by permitting the peaceful entry of coalition forces to eliminate weapons of mass destruction. Our forces will give Iraqi military units clear instructions on actions they can take to avoid being attack and destroyed.

I urge every member of the Iraqi military and intelligence services: If war comes, do not fight for a dying regime that is not worth your own life.

And all Iraqi military and civilian personnel should listen carefully to this warning: In any conflict, your fate will depend on your actions. Do not destroy oil wells, a source of wealth that belongs to the Iraqi people. Do not obey any command to use weapons of mass destruction against anyone, including the Iraqi people. War crimes will be prosecuted, war criminals will be punished and it will be no defense to say, "I was just following orders."

Should Saddam Hussein choose confrontation, the American people can know that every measure has been taken to avoid war and every measure will be taken to win it.

Americans understand the costs of conflict because we have paid them in the past. War has no certainty except the certainty of sacrifice.

Yet the only way to reduce the harm and duration of war is to apply the full force and might of our military, and we are prepared to do so. If Saddam Hussein attempts to cling to power, he will remain a deadly foe until the end.

In desperation, he and terrorist groups might try to conduct terrorist operations against the American people and our friends. These attacks are not inevitable. They are, however, possible.

And this very fact underscores the reason we cannot live under the threat of blackmail. The terrorist threat to America and the world will be diminished the moment that Saddam Hussein is disarmed.

Our government is on heightened watch against these dangers. Just as we are preparing to ensure victory in Iraq, we are taking further actions to protect our homeland.

In recent days, American authorities have expelled from the country certain individuals with ties to Iraqi intelligence services.

Among other measures, I have directed additional security at our airports and increased Coast Guard patrols of major seaports. The Department of Homeland Security is working closely with the nation's governors to increase armed security at critical facilities across America.

Should enemies strike our country, they would be attempting to shift our attention with panic and weaken our morale with fear. In this, they would fail.

No act of theirs can alter the course or shake the resolve of this country. We are a peaceful people, yet we are not a fragile people. And we will not be intimidated by thugs and killers.

If our enemies dare to strike us, they and all who have aided them will face fearful consequences.

We are now acting because the risks of inaction would be far greater. In one year, or five years, the power of Iraq to inflict harm on all free nations would be multiplied many times over.

With these capabilities, Saddam Hussein and his terrorist allies could choose the moment of deadly conflict when they are strongest. We choose to meet that threat now where it arises, before it can appear suddenly in our skies and cities.

The cause of peace requires all free nations to recognize new and undeniable realities. In the 20th century, some chose to appease murderous dictators whose threats were allowed to grow into genocide and global war.

In this century, when evil men plot chemical, biological and nuclear terror, a policy of appeasement could bring destruction of a kind never before seen on this earth. Terrorists and terrorist states do not reveal these threats with fair notice in formal declarations.

And responding to such enemies only after they have struck first is not self defense. It is suicide. The security of the world requires disarming Saddam Hussein now.

As we enforce the just demands of the world, we will also honor the deepest commitments of our country.

Unlike Saddam Hussein, we believe the Iraqi people are deserving and capable of human liberty, and when the dictator has departed, they can set an example to all the Middle East of a vital and peaceful and self-governing nation.

The United States with other countries will work to advance liberty and peace in that region. Our goal will not be achieved overnight, but it can come over time. The power and appeal of human liberty is felt in every life and every land, and the greatest power of freedom is to overcome hatred and violence, and turn the creative gifts of men and women to the pursuits of peace. That is the future we choose.

Free nations have a duty to defend our people by uniting against the violent, and tonight, as we have done before, America and our allies accept that responsibility.

Good night, and may God continue to bless America.

BROWN: The president tonight from the White House. No matter how much you know in advance -- how-- no matter how you know the words that will be spoken, until you hear them, you don't appreciate the power of them.

Before the day of horror can come before it is too late, the danger, Saddam Hussein, will be removed.

WOODRUFF: Well, and the president made it very clear if it wasn't already clear, Aaron, Saddam Hussein has 48 hours, he and his sons -- sons to get out of Iraq. And one line that struck me, he said, "Instead of drifting toward tragedy, we are going to set a course toward safety." He made this appear as if it's the world against Saddam Hussein. He said the world is not safe, the world is not secure unless we get rid of this man. Clearly there are many other leaders around the globe that disagree with the president about that.

BROWN: They may disagree with the how to get rid of him or how to proceed. I don't know the degree that they disagree, if I can construct that sentence, on the danger of this particular person. The dispute, it seems, has centered around the timing, the how of all of this. But in any case, all of that, the how of this seems well down the road now. The how of it is pretty clear. Forty-eight hours and then, as the president said, we will launch military conflict at a time of our choosing.

That will come most likely from the air and from Kuwait, where literally hundreds of thousands of Americans are stationed tonight. And Wolf Blitzer and Christiane Amanpour are there as well.

BLITZER: All right, Christiane. AMANPOUR: Powerful warnings to Saddam Hussein and powerful promises to the Iraqi people from President Bush. But 12 years ago, President Bush's father made a similar declaration of war and the withhold world was united with him. Arab troops were going to cross the border to get Saddam Hussein out of Iraq.

Today, the United States stands virtually isolated, with just a couple of allies and the majority of the world right now, before a gun has been fired, before a bullet has been shot, does not believe the United States is on the right course. That, of course, may change once this gets under way.

BLITZER: And, you know, Christiane, the themes that the president articulated were very precise. Not only disarmament, getting rid of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, but also regime change came through, Saddam Hussein's days in Baghdad are over with unless he leaves voluntarily over the next 48 hours.

And to back this up, the president made clear that his doctrine of preemptive strikes, going forward before anyone can do the U.S. harm, that remains very much on the table. This is a president, Aaron and Judy, whose views were very much etched by 9/11. He's not about to let the United States get surprised once again.

That's why he's going to war against Iraq.

WOODRUFF: You're right, wolf, and Christiane, a frequent references there to terrorism, to what would happen if weapons of mass destruction got into the wrong hands. And in line with the terror concerns, here in the United States, CNN's Jeanne Meserve has an update now on a new development -- Jeanne.

MESERVE: Yes, the threat level is now officially up to orange. Some statements now from the Department of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, saying the intelligence community believes that terrorists will attempt multiple attacks against U.S. and coalition targets worldwide in the event of a U.S.-led military campaign against Saddam Hussein.

The statement says a large volume of reporting across a range of sources, some of which are highly reliable, indicates that al Qaeda probably would attempt to launch terrorist attacks against U.S. interests by claiming that they are defending the Muslim world and the Iraqi people, rather than the regime of Saddam Hussein.

There was a conference call this evening between a CIA official and the nation's governors and homeland security officers. They tell -- in that phone call, the CIA officials said that the intelligence community believes there is a near certainty of a large or small scale attack that would involve mass casualties, economic impact, psychological impact, symbolic impact and they do believe al Qaeda is in the final stages of planning a large scale attack overseas. This CIA official telling the nation's state homeland officials and governors they believe that al Qaeda will rationalize the use of chemical, biological or radiological weapons based on the large number of casualties the U.S. may inflict on this conflict. In this call, this official telling the states there is particular concern about buildings, subways was and enclosed areas. Also concern not just about al Qaeda, but about sleeper agents, Iraqi sleeper agents who are proficient in assassination, kidnappings and bombings. And so a new security apparatus has been in place, the name being given to it "Operation: Liberty Shield."

Back to you.

WOODRUFF: Jeanne, can you compare how sure they are about the sources, about the credibility of their intelligence this time compared to the previous times and we've seen the threat levels raised?

MESERVE: Well, one homeland security official I spoke to was struck by the fact that there is unanimous agreement within the U.S. intelligence community that involves the CIA, the NSA, the FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency, all the intelligence arms of the United States government, I'm told, are in agreement this time.

WOODRUFF: All right. Jeanne Meserve reporting that the threat level is now high, having been raised immediately upon President Bush's address to the nation and giving Saddam Hussein 48 hours to leave Iraq with his sons or else there will be military action to remove him -- Aaron.

BROWN: You said officials see it as almost a certainty that there will be at least an attempt at a large scale terrorist attack on the United States or its interests home or abroad. Almost a certainty. It's hard to get more sobering than that or anything else we've heard in the last 20 minutes or so.

Our senior White House correspondent John King joins us again. I imagine, John, it has been a remarkably sobering few days at the white house as this endgame has become clear.

KING: It has been, indeed Aaron. Yet administration officials, some key lawmakers who met with the president today say they find him to be focused on the task at hand. Mr. Bush took time earlier today to travel outside to play with his dogs, taking a break from the preparations for this speech.

This is, the president says, a moment of truth for the world, but certainly a moment of truth for the Bush presidency. He said in that 15-minute speech -- quote -- "the tyrant will soon be gone."

This president about to set out on a military confrontation designed to remove Saddam Hussein from power. This 12 years after his father, as president of the United States, set out on a military action to evict Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Many consider it still the unfinished business of the first Persian Gulf War to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Mr. Bush promising the Iraqi people that was simply his goal and that they would soon interest have their country back.

There are many skeptics here in the United States and around the world that there will ever be this free and flourishing democracy known as Iraq in the Middle East. But Mr. Bush laying out that vision tonight.

Aaron, we are told this say president who will follow the advice of his military commanders, but who does not want to wait long. No one here at the White House expects Saddam Hussein and his sons to accept this ultimatum. They are telling us as early as Wednesday night the president could be back in the Oval Office signaling that military confrontation has begun. He will not wait long, in part because of the fears of those terrorist attacks here at home and on U.S. troops overseas. But we are told this president will listen to the military commanders. But when he says 48 hour, we should not look much beyond that unless there are complicating factors in the field from the beginning of military confrontation.

BROWN: Well, the clock is -- the clock is ticking now, John. It is not unusual after the president speaks that administration officials then fan out around the country, talking to editorial boards, talking to friendly audiences, talking to reporters and the like, selling the policy.

Is there any sense that this policy needs to be sold or has the speech today, essentially tonight, been the sales job?

KING: This is the primary sales job of the next 48 hours. The president has no public events tomorrow. The administration says this is not a political campaign in as such they believe they have the support of the American people right now. They believe the president solidified his support with Congress today.

The next key moment, we are told, will be the president sitting at his desk in the Oval Office saying, Military action has begun. The one caveat, of course, is if this ultimatum is accepted. No one at the Bush White House believes it will be.

BROWN: No, but it's the last hope there is to avoid war. So those who need something to hang on, and a lot of us need something to hang on in moments like this, will hang on that at least for a bit.

Thank you, John. John King.

WOODRUFF: Well, if there's one institution that's been left out in the cold by the president's declaration tonight, it's the United Nations. At one point, the president said the U.N. Security Council has not lived up to its responsibilities, so we will rise to ours.

CNN's U.N. correspondent, Richard Roth, is with us. Richard, I daresay that there are those at the U.N., including the secretary- general himself, who would take issue with the president on that point.

ROTH: Well, the secretary-general, Judy, knows full well that the U.N.'s greatest task lies ahead. The U.S. and U.K. seem to be giving it to the U.N. to handle the humanitarian issues, postwar, reconciliation and reconstruction. So the U.N. is not totally out of it. But in terms of the Security Council here, there is a great divide that still stands between the U.S. and U.K. And on the other side, France and Russia. And the president making it clear while knocking the Security Council, he said -- quote -- "some members of the Security Council threatening to veto any United Nations Security Council resolution" and he certainly expressed displeasure with that.

Also the president taking time to say this is a legal action if he should choose to order military force. He said this is not a question of authority, it is a question of will. And he cited many of the Security Council resolutions that are on the books.

Some legal scholars, some diplomats question whether it's truly legal. The U.S. says language found in other resolutions, including the last one, unanimously passed, warning of serious consequences if there is no immediate cooperation, gives Washington the full authority -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Richard Roth reporting from the United Nations, where it is -- they're there are going to be some hard feelings, Aaron, even as Richard said they're focused on the future. They're not in -- they're not in a position where they have the luxury of looking back on what has just happened. But having said that, it is a pretty unprecedented split we have seen at the U.N.

BROWN: One of the places that there is near unanimity on removing Saddam Hussein from power and doing it as soon as possible is Kuwait.

Wolf Blitzer is there. Wolf, good evening again to you.

BLITZER: Good evening, once again, Aaron.

There is no doubt that U.S. troops are prepared and they're prepared to move once the president gives the order, 48 hours from now. That's possible that order could come as quickly as that.

CNN's Miles O'Brien is standing by in Atlanta. Take a look at how the U.S. and its coalition partners are arrayed for a possible war right now -- Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Wolf. We're going to take a look at the troop buildup, the location of the aircraft carriers and the aircraft and we'll compare that somewhat to the situation in 1991.

It's slightly different than it was back then and to help guide us through all of this, we turn to one of our retired generals, who is now military analyst for us. Retired General David Grange joining us from Chicago.

General Grange, good to have you with us.

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Good evening.

O'BRIEN: Big picture here. Many fewer troops, the idea from the Pentagon's perspective is to put more oomph per troop. Is that really the way it is going play out, do you think?

GRANGE: Well, I think so. You know, the military has learned a lot from the '91 war. There has been about 10 to 12 years of buildup in this region just in case there was a contingency like this.

The technology's improved vastly. The training regimen, these units involved, still is tough as it always has been. At least since the last -- in the '90s I'd say. I would say those troops are ready to go from all services regardless of when the word is give and how long a duration may last.

O'BRIEN: All right. I put the map in motion while you were talking, General Grange. First of all, let's talk about what is going on right here in the Persian Gulf.

In 1991, there were four aircraft carriers stationed there. Today, three aircraft carriers. We're told there are 130,000 U.S. troops in Kuwait and another 25,000 British troops there. Does that seem like enough in that quadrant of this map?

GRANGE: Well, you know, then they have troops elsewhere, as you know. But that's -- I don't think you would want to have more than three aircraft carriers in that particular location.

And again, its access to targets and dispersion and cycling of the different air sorties in. The troops on the ground, you have approximately two corps with a lot support as well to get those corps moving. There are a mix of heavy armored and air assault and airborne capabilities. So you have a three dimensional maneuver capability with the forces that are arrayed around Kuwait now.

O'BRIEN: All right. While you were talking, we took a tour around the Arabian Peninsula to the Red Sea and what we have now is two aircraft carriers, '91, same situation.

Looking at the big picture, when you look at all the armed services with air power, about 1, 000 aircraft in the region right now, as compared to ,1800 in 1991. Is that something that is significant? Of course we got a lot more smart weaponry now, don't we?

GRANGE: Well, a lot of these aircraft can do tenfold what an aircraft could do in the first war, especially some of the more advanced bombers.

So not only do you have fighters to deal with enemy fighters and provide protection for bombing runs, but you have quite an array of refueling aircraft as well from not only the United States, but from Great Britain, as was mentioned earlier today. So I would say that the capabilities of the aircraft are much greater than the first war.

O'BRIEN: All right. While you were talking we took a move around to Turkey and this is perhaps the biggest question mark of the evening. In 1991, numerous aircraft sorties out of Insurlik and other bases in Turkey. Today it is unclear what the Turkish role is going to be. There's going to be a vote tomorrow in the parliament. We have the specter of 60,000 plus troops bobbing in the waters there. That's the fourth cavalry -- or fourth infantry, I should say, waiting for some where to go, presumably the idea was to send them over Turkey and into Iraq, which is over here. That's not going to happen. How big a setback is that?

GRANGE: Well, that still could happen, but it wouldn't happen maybe at the beginning of hostilities. It could be a follow-on force that would help secure the northern part of Iraq after a war began. But, again, they could move down through the Red Sea and around to Kuwait to reinforce the units that are down in Kuwait, move them north.

So, just because that unit, those units, have not been authorized by Turkey to come in from the north, other units could take down targets in the north launched from elsewhere.

O'BRIEN: All right, looking, as I highlight the target of Iraq there, the focus of our attention, and looking at the big numbers there: 500,000 vs. potentially 250,000 troops -- that's a misprint there.

The key here is, this is not exactly what the Powell doctrine called for, which is the use of overwhelming force.

Quickly, General Grange, do you feel as if there are enough troops in the region to do the good job?

GRANGE: Personally, I would like to see more combat maneuver troops. However, a lot has been learned since the '91 war on the capabilities of the Iraqi army. It is not quite as capable as it was in those days.

So, with audacity and speed and the mobility of the forces that are arrayed, I think they'll do all right. But it would be nice to have a few other units in the area to take care of the unknown, the unexpected, that is sure to happen once the war starts.

O'BRIEN: David grange, retired general of the United States Army, thanks, as always.

It's always a trade-off, Wolf, between speed and sheer power -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A lot of similarities, a lot of differences, Miles, between 1991 and now. At that time, the Iraqis had a million-man army, now perhaps 400,000. At that time, the U.S. mission and its coalition partners' was to liberate Kuwait. Now the U.S. has a much broader mission: to go in and to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

And we're going to be watching all of this unfolding, the president of the United States tonight warning that Saddam Hussein and his sons have 48 hours to either leave or face war -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, Wolf and Miles and General Grange, as we consider the audacious might of the U.S. military, it is worth thinking about some of the lines that President Bush spoke tonight addressing the Iraqi military directly.

And let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre.

Jamie, we heard the president say: "I urge every member of Iraqi military, don't fight for a dying regime. It's not worth your own life." And he went on to give them very specific advice.

MCINTYRE: Well, he said they would be getting very specific instructions from the U.S. military about how to surrender, how to permit what he called a peaceful entry of the U.S. invasion force into Iraq.

It is interesting. It comes as U.S. intelligence says that the Republican Guard, perhaps some of Saddam Hussein's best-trained, best- equipped troops are dispersing around Baghdad in defensive positions. Now, the question is, are they dispersing to live to fight another day or are they dispersing so they can live through the assault and surrender on another day?

Now, President Bush, part of the psychological operations, his message was broadcast, translated over a U.S. military plane directly to the Iraqi people and Iraqi troops. The U.S. is continuing to hope that, in the face of what is a certain victory by the U.S., that Iraqi troops will surrender. At this point, though, they don't know whether it is a reality or just wishful thinking.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jamie McIntyre, he told them specifically not to burn any oil wells and not to use weapons of mass destruction -- Aaron.

BROWN: And that war crime trials would be held and "I was just following orders" would be no excuse.

WOODRUFF: It would be no excuse.

BROWN: Would be no excuse.

The president talked tonight about this being a broad coalition. And I suppose it depends a bit on how you define broad. It is certainly a coalition, in any case. But, in many respects, this is an American moment. Mostly Americans are going to fight this war. And the country is reacting now to being on the brink of war.

Up next, American opinion on this conflict: how Americans view the U.S. effort to win international support for a war, an effort that ultimately failed.

"Showdown Iraq: On the Brink of War" continues after a short break first.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're here to stop the United States government from perpetuating a terrible crime against humanity in our name.

PROTESTERS: How many people have to die? How many people have to die? How many people have to die?

CROWD (singing): God bless America, my home sweet home.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Clearly, many Americans feel strongly either for or against this war. We don't know how many of them were listening tonight, Aaron, but we assume a lot of people were.

BROWN: And one of the things you can be sure of is that reporters all over the country are talking to people now to get a sense of what they thought, the president -- what they thought of the president's talk tonight.

Pollsters, you can also be sure, are out to put some numerical value on people's feelings. We don't quite have the polling back yet, but we do have a sense of where the country is in the last few days, as we ramped up to this moment. It has been very clear for a couple of days where this was all headed. Certainly it was yesterday. And pollsters have been working on that.

And Bill Schneider's job, among others, is to figure out what the pollsters are telling us. And Mr. Schneider joins us from our Washington bureau -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Aaron, I would use one word: anxious. Americans are clearly anxious, but not only over the prospect of war. When we asked people if they're satisfied with the way things are going in the country, the level of dissatisfaction is higher than it's been in 70 years.

And that precisely mirrors people's bleak assessment of the nation's economy; 64 percent say the economy is in lousy shape. But Americans are also feeling less confident about the threat of terrorism. A year ago, just over 50 percent of the public thought the U.S. and its allies were winning the war on terrorism. Now, even after the capture of a top al Qaeda operative, only 37 percent, you see here, believe that the U.S. is winning. The prevailing view now is that neither side is winning that war.

For Americans, Aaron, this is all about 9/11, another 9/11, as the president described it in his remarks tonight. The public is convinced that Saddam Hussein has ties to terrorist groups that will strike again at the United States if he is not disarmed. And like President Bush, the American public has run out of patience. Nearly 60 percent believe that U.S. efforts to win international support for military action against Iraq have taken too long already, that they should not be given more time. Enough already is the American point of view.

BROWN: It is the one argument, I think, above all else, that resonated for the president as he laid out the case: that 9/11, or in the shadow of 9/11, at least, something had to be done about Iraq.

SCHNEIDER: That's right.

BROWN: Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, as we consider the public reaction, the public debate in all of this, and the obvious military risks, it is also clear that the president faces severe -- serious political risks in going ahead with military action against Iraq.

Let's bring in our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.

Candy, at a time like this, it is almost unseemly to talk about politics. But in the broadest possible sense, this president is staking everything on this war.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely.

And because you talk about the political ramifications of something doesn't intimate that there are political motivation behind it. But every policy action has political ramifications. And it is very hard, Judy, to overestimate what this means for President Bush and for his political future.

As you can imagine, this is a man who has always said, look, if I have got political capital, I'm going spend it. And he's spending it all on this war. If it goes badly, if there are ramifications that are intolerable, and if the peace does not work out the way he envisions it, this is going to be a very grim next election year for George Bush.

WOODRUFF: Candy, just quickly, any indication of how much all this was taken into consideration as they made this decision? We know, as you said, or we suggested, Karl Rove, the president's chief political adviser, has been in on some of these meetings. We would never suggest that this in any way had anything to do with the president's decisions, but the calculus is always there.

CROWLEY: It has to be. There are people whose entire job is to sit around and worry about the political implications of whatever is going to happen.

I would judge, however, if the president were going to be moved by politics on this particular issue, that the politics are kind of in the other way. So we're going to have to wait and see what the ramifications are. But there clearly are people at the White House and elsewhere, along the Democratic campaign trail, that have weighed what this war means to the candidates and to the president should he seek reelection.

WOODRUFF: It is going to shape the rest of his presidency and his effort to win reelection.

Candy Crowley, thanks very much.

So, Aaron, everything at stake. BROWN: It is extraordinary: the military risks, the political gambles, the impact on the economy, all of it. We are in an extraordinary time.

Wolf Blitzer is in Kuwait -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Aaron, there is no doubt that the political pressures on Tony Blair, the British prime minister, are enormous as well. Those pressures hit home for him very much today. And, of course, in the coming days, they will be quite intense.

Let's turn to CNN's Fionnuala Sweeney to get a little bit more on what's going on in London right now, as the U.S. and its coalition partners, specifically on the military front, Britain and Australia, prepare for war -- Fionnuala.

SWEENEY: Yes.

It has been an intense day politically here in London that has seen an emergency Cabinet meeting being held, followed subsequently by a resignation, the first resignation of a Cabinet minister over this Iraq crisis. Another is expected to follow, perhaps later this morning. And it also saw the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, go to the House of Commons, where he announced there would be an emergency debate on going to war with Iraq on Tuesday afternoon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JACK STRAW, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: As a result of Saddam Hussein's persistent refusal to meet the United Nations' demands and the inability of the Security Council to adopt a further resolution, the Cabinet has decided to ask the House to support the United Kingdom's participation in military operations, should they be necessary, with the objective of ensuring the disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and thereby the maintenance of the authority of the United Nations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SWEENEY: Well, shortly after Jack Straw spoke, that Cabinet minister who resigned earlier in the day, Robin Cook, took to the floor of the House of Commons. And amid extraordinary scenes, he explained his reason for not supporting a war against Iraq.

And this really is a problem that Tony Blair faces throughout his Labor Party -- another Cabinet minister, as I said, expected to resign, or certainly says she's pondering her future overnight, following the resignation of Robin Cook. But the problem for Tony Blair, 24 hours from now, is that, as the House of Commons debates this possible war with Iraq, as many as 160 Labor M.P.s, members of Tony Blair's own party, could be voting against him.

And just to give you a sense of what is going on here in the morning newspapers, which have just arrived, see one of broadsheets saying, "Diplomacy Dies, Now It's War," and also mentioning there the resignation of Robin Cook, all the broadsheets here speaking about how Cook is the first casualty of war. "The Independent" also saying the same thing: "The Talking is Over, Now the World Must Confront the Reality of War."

And, finally, the tabloid newspapers here, which have a huge circulation, the anti-war "Daily Mirror" saying: "Unlawful, Unethical, Unstoppable." And the pro-war "Sun" newspaper is saying, "Green Light for War."

That's how it looks in London overnight.

BLITZER: Fionnuala Sweeney in London -- Fionnuala, thanks for that report. Appreciate it very much.

I'm joined here by our own CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

Christiane, were you surprised that the British prime minister, Tony Blair, after all these weeks of saying he wouldn't do it unless there was another U.N. Security Council resolution, well, now he's doing it and there is no U.N. Security Council resolution?

AMANPOUR: It was clear, even before today, before yesterday at the Azores, that there wouldn't be a second Security Council resolution. And it did appear that he had made his peace with that, to the extent possible. And he said that he was going with President Bush, come what may, if it came to war.

Well, it does appear that it has come to that. But remember that the majority of the world don't actually support this military action. And while France has taken most of the heat for promising a veto and therefore, according to the U.S. and the U.K., collapsing diplomacy, well, the U.S. couldn't even get its own neighbors on board, Canada and Mexico.

So there has been a lot of diplomatic chaos, really, as many people, many commentators, have said. And, as I say, France has taken the brunt of the recriminations.

And we go now to Paris and CNN's Jim Bittermann.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, France got hammered all day long today, both by Tony Blair and by Colin Powell, and even by President Bush this evening. At times, it almost sounded as if Jacques Chirac was the real enemy and not Saddam Hussein.

But, in any case, I think we heard from President Bush tonight some of the things that have hindered the U.S. diplomacy efforts over the last few months, especially the president's willingness to speak for the rest of the world at the same time he kind of vaguely insults it. He said that the rest of the world shares the assessment of the United States about Saddam Hussein, but doesn't share the resolve.

Well, I think there are a lot of people here and elsewhere that might disagree with that. The French are very resolute about disarming Saddam Hussein. They just disagree about the way it should be done. They have made the point over and over and over again that far more weapons were taken out of Saddam Hussein's hands in -- by weapons inspectors in the period after the Gulf War than by the military during the Gulf War.

And this has kind of really confirmed to the French and others what the president is doing tonight, confirms to them that disarmament is not really what the United States is after here, but rather government overthrow. And if that's the case, then the French don't agree with it, along with people like the pope and secretary-general of the U.N. and people on the Security Council that represent a billion and a half people worldwide -- Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Jim, also, in his address to the nation tonight, President Bush said that the terrorist threat for the whole world would be diminished by the removal of Saddam Hussein. Well, of course, the French president and many others, including in Russia, believe that the reverse may be true, that this kind of military action could spark more anti-American, anti-Western terrorism.

We go now to CNN's Jill Dougherty in Moscow.

DOUGHERTY: That's definitely true.

In fact, even tonight, you have Russia arguing that Saddam Hussein is not an imminent threat to the world, President Putin today saying that any step toward war would be a grave mistake, marked, as he said, with the most serious consequences, and it would ultimately lead to the destabilization of the international situation.

You had Igor Ivanov, the foreign minister, also arguing that there is no legal basis in Resolution 1441 for the United States to take military action. And, at this point, however, you do have some attempt at fence-mending, you could say, between the United States and Russia. After all, they got very far apart on this issue. And now you have the Russians at least saying that this -- the differences that they have over Iraq should not hold hostage the entire relationship.

That is certainly the view of Russia. And the United States has pulled back somewhat and said that, even though there are differences, it should not torpedo the relationship. However, you do have this evening information coming from the Duma, the Russian Parliament, that they may put off looking at the Treaty of Moscow, which is that strategic arms agreement between President Putin and President Bush, now saying that they may put that off, even though the United States Senate, just a couple of weeks ago, passed it unanimously -- back to you.

AMANPOUR: Jill, we will be watching to see what exactly the posture of Russia and Paris will be once the war starts.

For now, we go back to Aaron and Judy.

BROWN: Christiane, thank you very much.

Well, it's pretty clear the ultimatum is on the table tonight for Saddam Hussein to seek exile, get out of the country in 24 hours, or face war. Not many people believe Saddam Hussein will actually leave, but what if he did? Where might he go? WOODRUFF: Well, coming up next, we're going to look at the countries which just might roll out the welcome mat for Saddam Hussein.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: President Bush says Saddam Hussein has 48 hours to accept exile or face war. Will Saddam Hussein accept that threat from President Bush?

Let's bring in our analyst, Ken Pollack, joining us now.

Everybody seems to think, Ken, the prospect of Saddam Hussein and his sons going into exile very remote, almost impossible. Do you believe there is even a chance he might accept that offer?

KENNETH POLLACK, CNN ANALYST: No, I honestly don't, Wolf.

It is possible that, at the last minute, he might try some bizarre negotiations to give people the sense he might. But he's made it very clear. He told Dan Rather: We were born in Iraq. We will die here. And I think everybody expects that that is exactly what he'll do.

BLITZER: What about his two sons, Uday and Qusay? The offer was made to them as well.

POLLACK: They are not going to disobey their father. There's no question about that. What's more, if there is anyone in Iraq or in the entire Middle East who is hated more than Saddam Hussein, that person could only be Uday Saddam, Saddam's oldest son.

Uday is a sadistic killer and has done some of the most horrible things imaginable to men and women over the course of his term as Saddam's son. He also knows that, if they went into exile, they would not last very long.

BLITZER: The notion that the Iraqi military is hearing what the president is saying -- don't fight; otherwise, you will be tried for war crimes if in fact you use weapons of mass destruction -- do you believe that message is getting through?

POLLACK: Yes, I think it probably is. I think that there are Iraqi officers who are listening as best they can. I think that they are picking up the leaflets. That's something that state saw all during the Gulf War. We had Iraqis who were coming across the line, carrying the leaflets. So I think they understand the message.

The question is, what kind of a position are they going find themselves in? Saddam is putting his own security personnel, his most loyal troops, he is deploying them forward with the combat units to try to force them to obey his orders, on pain of death. And I think the question for them is, which death seems more certain, death at Saddam's hands or death at the hands of a war crimes tribunal if they're found guilty of actually using these weapons of mass destruction? BLITZER: And very briefly, Ken, over these 48 hours, before the U.S. strikes, do you sense that the Iraqi military might launch the first strike itself?

POLLACK: I think it unlikely, Wolf. You can't rule anything out. Certainly, our troops have to be prepared. But Saddam's capabilities to do real harm to our troops are extremely limited. About the only thing he would do is galvanize us into action.

BLITZER: Ken Pollack, our Iraq analyst -- Ken, thanks very much.

Christiane, the 48 hours, that is going to be critical right now.

AMANPOUR: And, of course, for the Arab world, what is remarkable is that there hasn't been the kind of uprising or mass demonstrations from one end to the other that some people had predicted. Many countries, including some of the U.S. allies, Jordan and Egypt, have pretty much thought war was inevitable for a long time now.

Now we go to Rula Amin in Jordan for the Arab perspective.

AMIN: Christiane, it is 4:00 a.m. in the morning here and there is no official reaction. It is chilly here.

And the argument that President Bush made, he has made before. And the reaction we got on these arguments on the street were skeptical. People just don't buy the justification for this war. What George Bush, the president, calls liberation people here see as occupation of another Arab country. And they say there is no international legitimacy to it.

Arab governments, on another hand, have no love lost for Saddam Hussein. However, they are deeply concerned from the fallout of such a war. They believe that instability in Iraq may lead to instability in the region. And, as King Abdullah of Jordan has put it, he said, a long conflict in Iraq may -- along with the conflict raging between the Palestinians and the Israelis, is something that the region cannot bear -- Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Well, Rula, we'll be watching.

And, certainly, here in Kuwait, which was invaded by Saddam Hussein 12 years ago, here, they want it to happen and they want it to happen pretty quickly -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And, by all accounts, it is going to happen. And Kuwaitis are gearing up. We'll be watching. We'll be reporting. We'll be here for the duration.

For Christiane Amanpour, thanks very much -- back to Judy and Aaron in Washington.

BROWN: Well, there are so many questions -- thank you, all -- there are so many questions that will be answered, I suppose, in the days ahead. One question was clearly answered tonight, that the clock is ticking at 48 hours. What we don't know is how the Arab world will react. We don't know how the war will go. We don't know if this audacious plan of shock and awe will do all that it is designed to do as quickly as it is designed to do it. We don't know any of those things yet, but we're all going to watch it unfold, apparently. That much seems pretty certain.

WOODRUFF: We all seem to be, at a time like this, Aaron, I think fixated on a calendar.

I think it was months ago that President Bush set himself on this course that we find ourselves coming to the end of now, in which he said, this is a country that we have got to do something about. This is a leader who needs to be taken out if he won't disarm. Here we find ourselves six, seven months later. We are on the brink of war. He is saying to the Iraqi people: We're not coming after you. We're coming after the lawless men who have ruled your country. The tyrant won't be around anymore.

It is a promise that he probably can deliver on. But what the reaction is going to be, the aftermath of this war, is, I think, going to be a much bigger headache for this president.

BROWN: The occupation -- it is not a word the administration is comfortable with, understandably -- the occupation of Iraq is a complicated thing, because Iraq is a complicated place.

It is, in some respects, like Yugoslavia. There are lots of different constituent groups, different religious groups, different ethnic groups. All have been waiting, in some respects, for a moment of liberation. And how the Americans and the British will keep them all in line is one of the questions that will apparently become clear to us, if not in the days ahead, then certainly in the months.

WOODRUFF: We would urge you all, for more information, of course, tune to CNN.com.

For Christiane and Wolf, who are in Kuwait, for Aaron Brown, I'm Judy Woodruff.

Stay tuned now for "LARRY KING LIVE," followed by "NEWSNIGHT WITH AARON BROWN."

BROWN: See you then. Good night.

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