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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Strike on Iraq: Interview With Senator Evan Bayh

Aired March 20, 2003 - 17:33   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Will the United States have to go all out against Iraq? Will the Baghdad regime collapse? Joining me now from Capitol Hill, Senator Evan Bayh, he's a Democrat. He serves on both the Intelligence Community as well as the Armed Services Committee.
Senator Bayh, thanks very much for joining us. I know you're well briefed on these matters. Is Saddam Hussein, as far as you know right now, alive?

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D-IN), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Wolf, as far as I know, he is alive. I think we have to operate under that assumption until proven to the contrary.

BLITZER: How good was the information that prompted President Bush yesterday to give the order to launch that tomahawk cruise missile strike against those -- that Iraqi leadership position in Baghdad presumably including Saddam Hussein?

BAYH: Well, Wolf, as you know, we can't get into too many specifics. But suffice to say I don't think the president would have authorized the strike unless there was a high deal of confidence in the information that he was provided.

BLITZER: Do you know what the damage was, who was killed? I'm told earlier in the day that -- that important elements of the Iraqi leadership were, in fact, in that building and probably were killed. But I'm wondering if you have any updated information?

BAYH: Wolf, I don't. We were scheduled to have a CIA briefing at three o'clock today but the agency had to postpone that. They said they weren't ready. We have a classified armed services briefing this evening at six-thirty so perhaps we'll know -- know more later on about the assessment of exactly who was taken out in that strike.

BLITZER: Are you surprised, Senator Bayh, like I am, that that Shock and Awe huge bombardment that we all had been bracing for has been delayed at least it hasn't started yet? There are these relatively limited strikes yesterday and today against various targets in and around Baghdad.

BAYH: Wolf, I am and I can only speculate as to why that it is. Perhaps -- we've had reports that a number of Iraqi units may be willing to capitulate fairly quickly. Perhaps we're giving them a little more time to do that before they are destroyed. Perhaps we're showing that we're serious about taking out Saddam and in so doing, encouraging further intelligence sources to come forward to let us know where he is so we can take him down.

But to answer your question directly, I am surprised. I think that it's on the way, though, if we don't get the kind of results we want from these limited attacks.

BLITZER: When you say it's on the way Senator Bayh, when do you anticipate that the full fiery of the U.S. military might be unleashed?

BAYH: Wolf, that I don't know. That's a closely held secret by the Pentagon. And if I did, I probably couldn't tell you here on international television. However, I think what's going on here, Wolf, is that we have good intelligence that a number of Iraqi units are willing to put down their arms. I assume that we're giving them an opportunity to do that before we go in and kill people needlessly. At what point the military decide -- I think part of this, frankly, is going to depend upon the active resistance that we encounter to the extent that the resistance stiffens and I assume we'll go all out and do what we have to do to make sure that our men and women are protected and that means Shock to Awe and everything else we can throw at them.

BLITZER: Senator Evan Bayh, he's a Democrat but he's been supportive of President Bush throughout this showdown with Iraq, now a war with Iraq. Senator Evan Bayh thanks for joining us tonight.

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