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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Baghdad Waiting for Next Bombing Wave; Coalition Forces Move to Capital

Aired March 22, 2003 - 15:00   ET

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

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Baghdad waits for the bombs to fall again, the smoke of recent explosions still lingering in the air. On the ground, coalition troops keep pushing toward the capital, but lose more of their own along the way. CNN's special coverage of the "Strike on Iraq" continues. I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. Let's go right to my colleague, Wolf Blitzer in Kuwait City -- Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Judy. Another tense night in Baghdad. Baghdad residents, some 5 million of them, experiencing today for the first time daytime bombing strikes, evening bombing strikes. The U.S. military, the U.S. Air Force clearly anxious to demonstrate they can fly and target positions in and around Baghdad, elsewhere in Iraq, in daytime as well as in nighttime.

The bombing strikes are continuing. U.S. officials suggesting that the start of this Shock and Awe campaign, about 24 hours ago, a little bit more than 24 hours ago, is going to intensify certainly in the coming hours and days as the U.S. and its British partners try to rattle the Iraqi leadership into surrendering.

Now, earlier in the day, the ground war is continuing, although there was some stiff resistance that U.S. Army soldiers from the 7th Calvary encountered in Southern Iraq as they continue to move north towards Baghdad. Some of the fierce fighting that occurred was documented by our own Martin Savidge, who is embedded with the 7th Calvary and we'll show more of that during the course of our coverage.

By the way, not long ago, on Iraq TV, there was an appearance by Saddam Hussein, a videotaped appearance showing him meeting with some of his top advisers and his generals. No way of knowing when that videotape was made, whether it's real or not, whether it's up to date. U.S. officials from the president on down saying they have no way of knowing right now what the state of the Iraqi leader is. General Tommy Franks, the central commander, saying only within the past few hours, he has no idea whether Saddam Hussein is alive or dead.

In the meantime, the war continues on multiple fronts in the south, in the west as well as the northern part of Iraq -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Wolf, those pictures so intriguing, because as you say, they could have been taken today but they could have been taken weeks or even months ago. There's no way to know.

Well more coalition troops today paid the ultimate price for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Four U.S. soldiers reportedly were killed in Central Iraq when their vehicles were ambushed and hit by grenades. That report comes from a British journalist who was traveling with the troops.

Also today, six British crew members and one American were killed in another helicopter accident in the war zone. Two British Navy Sea King choppers collided in the air over the Persian Gulf. As of this hour, 25 coalition troops reportedly have been killed in combat or in accidents.

Now, Iraq is claiming that 200 civilians have been wounded in the massive bombing attack that took place last night. As we're all aware, journalists are also at risk. An Australian Network cameraman was killed in a suicide car bombing in Northern Iraq, and three British journalists now are reported as missing.

We're going to take you now to the Pentagon for the latest on how they see they see this war unfolding. Our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre is with us. Jamie, we did hear from General Tommy Franks in the theater today, and there's a possibility, I guess, that the Pentagon will brief later.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: They are considering an additional briefing here today, either later this afternoon or perhaps tomorrow.

We did get that word from General Tommy Franks, the first time we've heard from him since the beginning of both the ground and air operations. And a -- a serious and somewhat sobering message from General Franks who seemed to be cautioning anyone who thinks that the U.S. is on the verge a quick victory that this war could last days, even perhaps weeks.

There is, you know, quite dramatic aerial bombardment going on around Iraq. But the key is the ground. The key is taking ground and moving in on Baghdad. And that is going to take some time. As you reported just a short time ago, some U.S. troops on the ground are encountering some resistance from Iraqi forces.

In some cases, U.S. commanders believe that those forces are being stiffened by Republican Guard Units who have been sent down to increase their will to fight. Nevertheless, General Franks did say today that things seem to be on course and the war is -- war plan is unfolding as it was designed to.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. TOMMY FRANKS, CENTCOM COMMANDER: Our troops are performing as we would expect, magnificently. And, indeed, the outcome is not in doubt. There may well be tough days ahead, but the forces on the field will achieve the objectives that have been set out by the governments of this coalition.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCINTYRE: Now, those forces on the field will not include the U.S. 4th Infantry Division anytime soon. The decision has been made by the Pentagon to move their equipment, which has been on ships in the Mediterranean, through the Suez Canal and around to Kuwait. The 4th Infantry Division, which was supposed to be part of the vanguard of U.S. forces going into Northern Iraq, will instead go to Kuwait and become part of the follow-on force.

One other thing we should mention is that Pentagon officials tell us that in this air campaign, essentially, every attack -- strike aircraft in the inventory is being employed. Today we learned that U.S. A-10s, the so-called A-10 Thunderbolt, a tank killing aircraft, has been dispatched on Scud-hunting missions in Western Iraq looking for those Scud missiles.

In fact, there was a report earlier they may have actually struck some sites. But officials close to the scene say they can't confirm yet. Those A-10s are armed with laser guided bombs. A new version of the bomb, the GBU-12 laser-guided bomb that gives them more capability and of course -- they also have a cannons and missiles they can fire as well -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: We're learning a lot about all that hardware. Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon. And, Jamie, I want to take us quickly back to New York City, where there have been massive anti-war demonstrations today.

CNN's Jason Carroll is there on the scene -- Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, this is a massive anti- war demonstration. Right now, we are at the tail end of this demonstration. I can show you where we are right now, this is the area called Washington Square Park in New York City. This is the area near New York University.

And this is the area where the crowd is supposed to disperse, but you can see from all of the people down here, there are so many people who showed up for this demonstration, estimates a couple hundred thousand people who marched 30 blocks from Midtown Manhattan down to this area, that it's simply difficult to get these people to disperse. So it's a lengthy, long process.

Along the way, we are being told that there was at one point a skirmish between a few of the protesters and police. These protesters are supposed to march along a specific route in order to get down here, that's what they have the permit to do. Apparently they got into a skirmish with some of the officers. That's been worked out.

For the most part, this demonstration has peaceful. Joining me very quickly, two people who came down to for the demonstration. I've got Dhalia Mockmouhd (ph) and Sarah Abdullah (ph). Tell me why you came out here today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I've really been upset. Bush has painted this as an attack or be attacked war. He's really preyed on people's fear post-9/11. We're here to really have people understand that the way to attack terrorism is to understand what's motivating terrorists around the world. And the reason terrorists are frustrated is because of U.S. foreign policy. And so it doesn't matter how many homeland defense systems we have. Until we can address U.S. foreign policy, terrorism will never be uprooted.

CARROLL: All right. Thanks very much. Thanks you two for joining us.

Judy, one more final point, very quickly. These protesters have a permit to march through Manhattan until 4:00 Eastern time. So there's so many people out here, it's difficult to say right now at this point that there is actually going to be able to get all the people down here by 4:00. We're going to wait and see. Back to you.

WOODRUFF: All right. A pretty remarkable show of opposition. Jason Carroll in New York.

We're going to go quickly back to Wolf in Kuwait City, because, Wolf, there may be activity in Baghdad?

BLITZER: We're hearing sirens in Baghdad, Judy. We're going to our viewers these live pictures from Baghdad. There have been sirens going on and off throughout the day in Baghdad, but at this time of the night, usually, when the Iraqis start with their sirens, there's some anticipation they're expecting U.S. bombs, Tomahawk Cruise Missiles. They may be getting some early indication from their early warning systems, their radar systems that U.S. planes are on the way. And as a result, they start up the sirens.

Remember, this is huge city, Baghdad, some 5 million people. In the past several nights, since Wednesday night, whenever these sirens have gone off, almost always they have been followed by air strikes. The first night, Wednesday night, it was limited air strike that the U.S. launched against leadership positions.

They were trying to find Saddam Hussein and his top leaders. No word yet on how successful that first strike was. There's still no indication whether or not Saddam Hussein survived or left -- survived or didn't. But there's no doubt that the Iraqi officials, at least for now, are bracing for some sort of U.S. strike, air strike, perhaps in the coming minutes.

Nic Robertson is standing by. He's now in nearby Jordan. He was in Baghdad until yesterday. Nic, what do you sense is going on from your vantage point?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as you say, very accurately, whenever the air raid sirens were going off, within 10 to 20 minutes, you could see the anti-aircrafts light up around Baghdad. Occasionally, the detonations would only be on the outskirts of the city, but if the sirens went off, it meant that the air defenses around the city were put on alert. And certainly the people of the city were put on alert.

What was interesting this morning at about 5:30 a.m., just as first light was coming up over Baghdad, I was just getting up and I heard the scream of a jet engine over the city and then a huge explosion about a mile from where I was. That was before the air raid siren went off. Almost immediately after the air raid siren then went off and then another jet came over and another explosion close to our hotel.

It appeared this morning, for the first time, that Iraq's air defenses were caught by surprise that they were either not watching closely enough or weren't functioning properly to detect the incoming aircraft coming into Baghdad. But that's the routine that we've seen.

As we left the city this morning, there are still explosions even in daylight at 8:00, 9:00 this morning, happening around the perimeter of the city. Very, very continuous and dull thudding. Thudding almost to the effect of a continuous enough almost to be to the effect of a low rumble, continuous rumble -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Nic, we're going to continue to show our viewers these live pictures from Baghdad where once again sirens have gone off, indicating that perhaps Iraqi officials suspect U.S. war planes, Tomahawk Cruise Missiles might be on the way once again. The second night after A-Day, the start of air war formally began only yesterday.

Nic, I know before you were expelled from Iraq, before you left Baghdad, you did get to take some pictures, some video of the earlier air strikes. I want to show our viewers precisely what you had.

And as we continue to talk, you mentioned the point that earlier today, during the daytime air strike, the first daytime air strike, the Iraqis did not fire up their sirens in advance, indicating that the bombs caught them by surprise. An indication that perhaps their radar system, their other anti -- early warning detection system not as sophisticated as perhaps it -- as it once was.

ROBERTSON: Who's going to be anchor? Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello?

BLITZER: All right. So we're going to get back to Nic Robertson shortly.

CNN's Gary Tuchman is at an air base in the Persian Gulf region. Gary, as we continue to look at these pictures of Baghdad, where sirens are now going off, anticipating another round of U.S. air strikes, what are you hearing from where you are?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What we know and what we hear, wolf, is that the planes over Baghdad and over other cities in Iraq right now could have come from the air base we're at less than 45 minutes or one hour ago. We know before they know in Iraq that the planes are leaving here to go over there.

You know, the people in the Air Force and the Air National Guard truly believe these days are their days to shine. This is the second day of the Shock and Awe campaign, and we're at an air base near the border of Iraq. We can't tell you precisely where we are under Pentagon rules that allow us to stay here and report on this, but this is a very busy air base.

It's sort of resembles sometimes the taxiways, resembles Newark or LAX on a busy Friday night. But instead of 727s, 737s lined up on the taxiway, you have fighters and attackers with bombs and missiles waiting to take off towards Iraq.

Behind me is the A-10 Warthog attack plane. You can see a number of them behind me. These are planes that provide support, cover for the ground troops who are in Iraq. And a short time ago, we talked with the pilot of one of these A-10s behind me who just completed a mission to Iraq today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. COL. MIKE WEBB, U.S. AIR FORCE PILOT: I was sent to a particular location in Iraq near the city of Nasiriyah and worked with many other airplanes, A-10 Thunderbolts and ground troops. And our No. 1 job is to keep our troops safe that are on the ground and make sure that their way is clear as they move forward.

TUCHMAN: What time ammunition do you carry? What armaments and what kind of bombs and missiles?

WEBB: The A-10 is built around a seven barrel Gatling gun. It carries 30 millimeter bullets, would carry almost any flavor of bombs and infrared and electro-optical mavericks had.

TUCHMAN: And this mission, you don't always use them. Did you use them in this mission?

WEBB: On most missions we don't, but on this mission, I cleaned off the jet, so to speak. We found a military compound that had not surrendered. And after 30 to 40 minutes of very significant delays to ensure that there was no collateral damage and that the target was positively identified, there were no friendlies or any noncombatants in the area, we were given permission to engage and destroy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN: We want to give you a look right now at an A-10 that is coming down the taxiway towards us. It's a little distance. While it's coming towards us, another plane is in the air taking off and that A-10 is heading north towards Iraq as we speak.

The man we just interviewed, Lieutenant Colonel Mike Webb, he's actually a police officer in Boise, Idaho. But he is in the Idaho Air National Guard. And that's why he has now become a veteran of the Gulf War II. He tells us that he is absolutely not too proud to admit he had fear while he was flying today, but he also has absolutely no fear to admit he's proud.

He says that while he was flying today, he had audio evidence, as we see the A-10 go by us, audio evidence that a missile was fired at him. Well he says he took the proper evasive actions and he came back safely. And he adds that he will have still another mission sometime tomorrow.

Wolf, back to you. BLITZER: Gary Tuchman, he's at an air base in the Persian Gulf monitoring the situation there. Gary, thanks very much for that report.

And, Judy, as we continue though show our viewers live pictures of Baghdad, where sirens have gone off, we'll continue to monitor what's happening over the skies of Baghdad, try to find out what's happening around other cities in Iraq as well.

But in the meantime, let's go back to Judy Woodruff in Washington.

WOODRUFF: Wolf, we continue to marvel at what those planes can do on those carriers.

We've been talking to Wolf in Kuwait and we want to go back to the region right now to CNN's Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour. Christiane has been with a group of British Marines in Southern Iraq. Christiane, is that where you are now?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're back at the divisional field headquarters on the border near the border area. But earlier today we were in this town of Umm Qasr, which we've been talking a lot about over the last several, 24 hours or so.

And the deal is there that it's a very important port which they've consolidated the port. But they haven't yet fully, fully, fully pacified the urban area. They believe that it's all but done, but there is still a very few pockets of isolated resistance.

And this has been a joint operation. It's -- U.S. Marines are in an unusual arrangement under command of the Royal Marines, 3rd Commando Brigade.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR (voice-over): A helicopter flight over the port of Umm Qasr reveals the area is relatively quiet. And down below, the British soldiers do war tourism, looking at one of those giant billboards of Saddam Hussein.

Taking Umm Qasr was a joint operation. The 15th U.S. Marine Expeditionary Unit was under the command of the British Royal Marines Commando Brigade. Now, U.S. Marines rest at the port after more than a day on the move.

Some, like 21-year-old Corporal Jeremy Archer, had feared the worst.

CPL. JEREMY ARCHER, U.S. MARINES: I expected a big war, I guess, but they're all giving up. So it was easier than I thought.

AMANPOUR: Not all are giving up, though. About three kilometers away from the main port, there are pockets of resistance. The commander of the U.S. Marine unit sent up Cobra helicopters and fired artillery to destroy the Iraqi fire.

COL. THOMAS WALDHAUSER, 15TH MARINE EXPED. UNIT: They did resist. But once it appeared that they would with deal with some overwhelming firepower, they have a tendency then to give up.

AMANPOUR: The British commander says the resistance is isolated.

BRIG. GEN. JAMES DUTTON, ROYAL MARINES: It hasn't been a particularly cohesive fighting force. It's been a D-30 firing a few runs prior to its destruction or a group of individuals firing.

AMANPOUR (on camera): It took longer than expecting to secure Umm Qasr and the military says it's still mopping up small pockets of resistance in the town. Nonetheless, the military says it plans to bring in the first elements of humanitarian aid perhaps within 48 hours.

(voice-over): Umm Qasr is Iraq's main commercial port. It lies at the mouth of the Shat al-Arab waterway, which flows into the Persian Gulf. This was an important strategic target for allied forces and will be the main entry for relief and humanitarian goods.

Just yesterday, Iraqi ministers vowed Umm Qasr would never fall, but hundreds of soldiers have given themselves up and now are POWs under U.S. and British control.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: This gets the lay of the land a little bit on a wider scale in this Southeastern Iraq area. And I'm going to turn now to the British military spokesman, Colonel Chris Vernon. We've just been talking about Umm Qasr. But what about Basra? What is the situation there?

COL. CHRIS VERNON, BRITISH ARMY SPOKESMAN: Well presently, the British division has just replaced the 1st Marine Division of the U.S. forces who have moved on northwest toward al Nasiriyah and Baghdad. We're just balancing, reconfiguring, getting ourselves shaped-up.

And then once we've done that over the next 24 hours, we will turn our attention to Basra and try to gauge what's happening in the city and, indeed, how we would be welcome if we went in.

AMANPOUR: We've been talking quite a lot about Iraqi army military units outside Basra. What is the situation with them?

VERNON: They almost melted away, almost disintegrated with the American advance yesterday. There were some surrenders, some prisoners of war were taken. But really, this 51st Iraqi Division almost became nonexistent.

AMANPOUR: And just to recap, with the American Marines going off, as you said, towards eventually Baghdad, then what happens in this area, the Southeastern Iraq area?

VERNON: We've got to consolidate there. We're going to still push probably further north. And one of the things we will be doing is securing the rear area of the Americans as they move north and indeed, its right flank north of the Euphrates.

So there are still military tasks to be done. And then as I said, we will look at Basra, the second biggest city here in Iraq, and see what sort of reception we get.

AMANPOUR: And the oil fields have been drawing quite a lot of attention. They're secure?

VERNON: They're absolutely critical. This is a huge military economic objective, to gain the oil fields intact. At Rumaila the gas and oil separation plants (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on the peninsula. That has been done, ensures and guarantees the future economic viability of Iraq.

AMANPOUR: And also, no possibility of an ecological disaster. There wasn't too much fire and sabotage there, was there?

VERNON: There wasn't. There's a few oil wells burning. That's not the point, they're easily resuscitated. And the other environmental issue was we were slightly worried that the Iraqis would flood the Persian Gulf from al Faw, another of reasons we're taking the al Faw Gulf (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

AMANPOUR: Thank you very much, Colonel Vernon.

So there you have it. Basically, the strategic objectives the British and Americans set themselves in the Southeastern Iraq area have been consolidated. And right now, they're waiting to see whether they can start bring aid into that port of Umm Qasr that we were talking about because they want to supply civilians and want to start doing it quite quickly -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Christiane, just to clarify, you both talked about resistance melting away. You talked of pockets of resistance. But among those ordinary Iraqis, if you will, who are there, how are they greeting the Americans and the British they see?

AMANPOUR: Well, that's an interesting question. And this port of Umm Qasr was actually going to be sort of a litmus test, because it was one of the first urban or, if you like, residential objectives.

They haven't really yet been able to gauge just how the ordinary civilians feel about them because these civilians have mostly been indoors or they've tried to go away from the town because some of these pockets of Iraqi military have been resisting.

So they're waiting, as you heard Colonel Vernon said, to see how that plays out in Umm Qasr. They know they're going to control Umm Qasr and then to go on and see how the civilians in Basra react to them.

The Iraqi army units that Colonel Vernon talked about, which had melted away, were quite a significant division. It was the 51st Iraqi Army Division. Not Republican Guard, regular army, and there were initial indications that they were going to surrender, the divisional leaders and brigade leaders. And then we've been told now that the whole position there, the whole formation is no longer a threat.

So that for the allied forces is good news. And of course for Basra is good news too, because it means there won't be fighting around that civilian area -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Christiane Amanpour as we said, in Northern Kuwait with a British Marine Division.

We want to turn to the Pentagon now, to our senior military affairs correspondent, Jamie McIntyre and developments there -- Jamie.

MCINTYRE: Well, Judy, the Pentagon has been saying all along that it's going have a hard time keeping up with the information that's coming from the so-called embedded reporters who are actually on the scene with U.S. and British troops.

In this case, it's turning out now that hours afterwards, they're advising us that they're getting conflicting reports about this idea that four U.S. soldiers were killed in combat action today.

That was based on an account from a British journalist from Sky News, who is traveling with part of the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division. He reported that apparently a rocket propelled grenade attack had taken the lives of four U.S. soldiers.

Now we're being told that they have conflicting information and they're not sure at all if any or all of those soldiers were killed or, perhaps, all of them survived the attack. So at this point we just wanted to caution that we're pushing back a little bit, because of these conflicting reports. It may be that not all these soldiers were killed. It may be that not any of them were killed -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well that would be certainly something to be thankful for as we're hearing of casualties in other parts of this war theater. All right, Jamie at the Pentagon.

And we go, return now to Kuwait City, to Wolf.

BLITZER: We have much more coverage still ahead, including images from across Iraq. We'll get an update on the military campaign in the northern part of the country and the refugee crisis that it may, may create.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: All right, we're going to interrupt Leon Harris, because we're now getting new developments in Baghdad. If you are watching the screen, not only sirens going off, but there are now explosions, there's significant explosions that we're beginning to hear going over Baghdad. We're going to show you these pictures. Sirens going off, but there are thuds that are being heard by residents, of course, throughout the city. We're going to continue to watch these pictures, see if any of the cameras we have positioned throughout Baghdad show any of the expected incoming bombs, Tomahawk cruise missiles, on this day two, night two, if you will, of the U.S.-led air war, Shock and Awe. That is expected. The sirens -- well, actually, their sirens have just stopped going in Baghdad. We'll see what that means, if anything.

And we'll continue to watch this situation in Baghdad, of course, over the next several minutes, where there could be some developments. Then again, perhaps not.

Miles O'Brien is standing by as well with General David Grange. General Grange and Miles, what do you think may be happening over the skies of Baghdad?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I -- clearly that's a better question for a retired general than it is for a humble reporter such as myself. David Grange, lots of -- we can get deep into the world of speculation here. Run us through a couple of scenarios as to why we've seen what appears to be an apparent lull.

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I don't know. The lull could be because there's some negotiations going on on some of the higher-ranking Iraqi officials. It could just be they just don't want to run the same time as before. And so it's nerve-wracking to wait for an expected attack, and it doesn't come, it doesn't come, then all of a sudden it's there.

So that could be some of the reasons. And it's just the sequencing of sorties of attack aircraft. It's more optimal for some other reasons internally, for the blue forces, when you attack.

O'BRIEN: That second point is most intriguing to me, that idea of almost a psychological aspect to this. In a way, it can be even more devastating waiting.

GRANGE: Well, absolutely. And part of this is a lot of psychological effort going into this strike on Baghdad. And that's, again, it plays a big effect. Plus, people get used to a pattern, and go out in the street, come back in, they may move some of the commanders around in vehicles, whatever, and they want to catch them.

O'BRIEN: Interesting. Those patterns, even at time like this, people do develop patterns, even though they're probably doing everything they can to avoid that.

GRANGE: Well, exactly. In other words, some say, Well, United States military, the British military are very good at night operations. So we're always going to get hit at night. Well, then you hit in the day, and visa-versa.

O'BRIEN: Well, what are your thoughts on a day operation, though? At this juncture, still a very risky thing.

GRANGE: Probably more risky, but some of the altitudes that some of this -- some of the munitions are dropped, it wouldn't affect them that much. But keep in mind, a lot of the air defenses around Baghdad, but a lot of the targets are elsewhere in Iraq.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about these negotiations. We've reported about them. How are they taking place, e-mail, cell phones? Is there some face-to-face? How is this all going down?

GRANGE: Combination of all the above. I think what you'll find in the south, by Basra, as an example, you're going to see a lot of face-to-face. You know, a lot of people were trained up that have left Iraq that are probably back there with coalition forces right now dealing with some of the members of the Iraqi military or people that run a particular village.

Not only do you get information from them, but also say, Hey, look, we really are not going to occupy, do anything terrible to this town if we pass through it. You don't like Saddam anyway, so go ahead and turn in the weapons, and let's get on with it.

And I think...

O'BRIEN: Let's start talking.

GRANGE: ... because they speak the language, yes, and they know him.

O'BRIEN: Well, and they have the communication capability back to the regime, and so there you have it, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

GRANGE: Right.

O'BRIEN: They're off to the races.

Let's talk, we also want to talk while we're waiting this, and we're -- we want to let viewers know we're watching Baghdad very closely. The minute we hear or see anything that you need to see, we're get to get it to you. But one of the things we've been talking about, and David Grange knows an awful lot about this, having a special forces background, is the whole concept of taking an airfield.

We have -- we know for sure that if I -- unfortunately, I'm not able to get this graphic in motion. So maybe somebody can get it to move for me. But basically, what we're talking about, when you're talking about taking an airfield, these -- this area here, this Scud box, which is H2 and H3, have come to mind.

We know those are now currently securely held by U.S. forces. And -- there we go. As we come in here, this H2 and H3 with its 8,000-foot runways, what we've depicted here are defenses. And exactly how, you know, the aircraft will be put in these bunkers and so forth. How do you go about taking a field like this without incurring casualties?

GRANGE: Well, there's two ways to do it. And this graphic shows one way. You're taking out some of the targets prior to putting a force in to take down the airfield. Here you have a laser designator by a ground guy directing a strike by an Air Force aircraft onto the target. But it doesn't have to be. It could be that you want total surprise, and you don't want to do a preemptive hit before you take down the airfield. In this case, they're doing that to taking out some air defenses, command and control, in this case, their enemy reaction force, which would be the -- or security force tanks on the airfield to soften it up before a unit would come in.

Units would come in by helicopter, could come in by parachute, could come in on the ground, actually, to take down the airfield.

When they take down the airfield, the obvious thing is, you would take out the most critical points on the airfield, command and control tower, a headquarters, a guard shack, those type of things, and immediately push out and secure what's known as an airhead, like they're doing now, in order to bring in follow-on aircraft, C-130, C- 17 aircraft, that would then come in, aircraft that can land very short, in a short amount of distance, and then offload other vehicles to help in the mobility of the force that took down the runway.

In this case, you have Humvees coming off. And they would maybe push out several miles, at critical points around the airfield, a key terrain. You'd bring in a larger aircraft, obviously, to bring in larger equipment, heavy weapons systems. C-17 can bring in a Bradley fighting vehicle, can bring in a tank. And these then give you a substantial force that gives you some oomph in case enemy attack you.

O'BRIEN: Each time you talked about that scenario, there are about three or four options embedded in it. How is that decision made? Is it just based on terrain, local situation, forces available, that kind of thing?

GRANGE: It is. And what anyone who is listening should understand that you don't have to have an airfield to do something like this. The United States military and the British military are experts at forcing their way in anywhere in Iraq by a multitude of means to do something like this. It could be in the north, it could be in the west, it could be west of Baghdad or east of Baghdad.

It can happen. And they're very good at it.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk for a moment about -- and we can put the pointer out, we can talk about this -- the use of special forces. We know, for example, down in this port area, where obviously the transshipment of oil is crucial, Navy SEALs involved in what we -- by the accounts I've read, a very dramatic operation to capture, to ensure they're not destroy these oil platforms. What that tells me is that special forces really has taken a role right at the top of the list when you're planning out a battle these days.

GRANGE: Well, the special forces, special operating forces, would be used -- and this is -- all services have these type of forces -- would be used to take out critical targets that are not too large, obviously, that affect the outcome of the battle. So they do a lot of preconditioning, in other words, battlefield preparation.

O'BRIEN: Right. GRANGE: And it's quite extraordinary to us. But to that team, that's routine training.

O'BRIEN: Routine training. Where else would they be active, possibly? Obviously, this H2, H3 airfield, probably involves some of that, right?

GRANGE: Well, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that, and it may not be special forces. It could be Rangers. It could be paratroopers, it could -- from an airborne unit. It could be a variety.

O'BRIEN: What about up here in the north, do you think...

GRANGE: Well, the key thing in the north, it's not only to call in air strikes on enemy forces with the equipment that they have, but to work with the indigenous population, because you have to link up and talk to the Kurds in this case.

O'BRIEN: The Kurds are key here.

GRANGE: So you can find out, one, what's going on, because they know ground troop, they live there.

O'BRIEN: Right.

GRANGE: They live there. And then say, Look, here's what you got to do to work with us so we don't put bombs on your people. You can tell us where to put the bombs, and we can help you do some sabotage or other unconventional warfare tasks that we need help on.

O'BRIEN: Let -- correct me if I'm wrong. Is at -- is the special operations, special forces, getting a higher priority, more play early on, than they did a dozen years ago (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

GRANGE: In Desert Storm, special operations units were used during the air campaign as well as the ground campaign, so they were actually used before the ground campaign started. But habitually, they go in earlier, and again, to set conditions to assist the conventional forces.

O'BRIEN: All right. Let's -- if we can take a look at that H2 airfield, we've got an image. I want to just show you exactly what we're talking and why these are so critical.

Not only is this a great location. Look at the runway there. This is, this is key. It's about 8,000 feet right there, which means just about every plane -- well, every plane in the inventory, can use that field. If you got those two fields, not only have you prevented a certain area that is, as you've called it, the Scud box, which is the place where Scuds could be lobbed into Israel, but you've got a great refueling point.

GRANGE: Great refueling point, and it gives you the ability to launch operations towards Baghdad and other enemy sites that are, you know, not only the Scud area, but also back to the east, towards Baghdad. O'BRIEN: Yes. All right. Let's -- special operations, we're going to be watching that very closely. There possibly are many other players involved here.

What else are you looking for as this progresses? Other forces coming to bear here, stuff that we may not have heard so much about already.

GRANGE: Well, I think that eventually, we're going to see a buildup of some more general purpose forces, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'BRIEN: Where would that be? Coming up to the south?

GRANGE: I think so, coming out through Kuwait and supporting the 3rd Infantry Division. I think that these guys have been run hard. They may got a lot of oomph left, don't get me wrong, and their units -- not every unit is engaged constantly. But...

O'BRIEN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but by the time they get up here, they're going to want some backfill, right?

GRANGE: I would think that, yes, General Franks is going to add some more infantry armor forces to this mix. And I think you're going to see some more use of air assault and airborne operations, which give you great flexibility...

O'BRIEN: Maybe up here.

GRANGE: ... anywhere in Iraq. Could be up here. It just gives you tremendous flexibility for the commander.

O'BRIEN: All right. David Grange, thanks for the overview. Really appreciate it.

GRANGE: OK.

O'BRIEN: All right. Send it back to Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Miles, thanks, General Grange, as well.

I want to alert our viewers that about 15 minutes or so from now, at the top of the hour, we're standing by for a Pentagon briefing. We're expecting to hear the latest developments from the Pentagon. The Pentagon spokeswoman, Torre Clark (ph), will be briefing, along with General Stanley McCrystal. We'll get the latest from the Pentagon perspective in about 15 minutes at the top of the hour.

We're continuing to show you live pictures from Baghdad as well, where sirens have been going off over the past several minutes, anticipating perhaps, perhaps another U.S.-led air strike against targets in Baghdad. We did hear explosions earlier in the day. Reuters, the British news agency, the Reuters news service, reporting that portions of Baghdad now have been plunged into darkness.

We're not up to speed precisely on what that means. We'll try to monitor the situation in Baghdad as we continue to go along.

Remember, the Pentagon briefing at the top of the hour.

Let's go to Ben Wedeman now. He's standing by in northern Iraq.

From your vantage point, Ben, tell us what you see and what you hear, because we know only 24 hours ago, there were extensive U.S. air strikes not far away from where you are right now.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

Actually, those were the last air strikes in this area. It's been fairly quiet here in Northern Iraq, especially in this corner. We're right outside the village of Kalak, which is right on the front lines.

One of the major developments, however, this morning was that the U.S. fired several, more than 20 cruise missiles into the area currently occupied by the extremist Islamic group Ansar al-Islam, that causing extensive casualties in that area, which is right up against the border with Iran.

Now, that group has been associated or linked by U.S. officials in the past with al Qaeda, the al Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden.

Now, one disturbing event, development in the afternoon in that area, a group of journalists were interviewing people fleeing that area that was hit, that area where Ansar al-Islam is located. One of those journalists, however, was killed when a suicide bomber blew up a taxi.

This journalist a cameraman for the American ABC network. In addition to him, three Kurdish soldiers as well as a civilian was killed in the blast, Wolf.

BLITZER: That -- he was an Australian cameraman working for ABC, is that right? Is that right, Ben?

WEDEMAN: Yes, that is correct. He was a freelancer, based for many years in Bahrain. He moved to Paris, but on this assignment, yes, he was a cameraman for ABC from Australia, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Ben Wedeman, stand by. I want to get back to you shortly.

But first, I want to go to Jason Bellini, our Jason Bellini. He's actually in Umm Qasr, the Iraqi port in the southern part of Iraq, the key port that U.S. and British forces have now taken, the first major strategic victory on the battle plan -- on the battle front involving this war.

Jason, tell us what's happening in Umm Qasr right now.

JASON BELLINI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, well, you just heard Christiane reporting a short while ago that this job was a little bit more difficult than they were expecting. They didn't anticipate the resistance that they got when they entered this port. Now they're saying that this port is contained, and that -- and tonight, it's been very quiet outside. All we've heard is the rumbling of planes overhead.

Let me tell you real quickly about our day today. We started in the Newport. Now, the Newport is where the Oil for Food program, where most of the oil and food from the -- food -- Oil for Food program circulated. We made our way to the old port, which is where I am right now. And here, the Marines we're embedded with made their way building to building, structure to structure, checking them out, anticipating resistance.

But finding very little today. We joined them as they were at a coast guard facility of the Iraqi army. There, they had some fire laid down beforehand. A ship was burning right next to this facility by Apache helicopters came in and blew it up as they were trying to sort of suppress the area.

But when they went in, they found nothing. And tonight, all is quiet, and they're just getting this place ready for humanitarian aid to enter, which they hope to have happen in the next 72 hours, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jason Bellini, he's in Umm Qasr. I want to thank you. Stay safe over there. We'll be getting back in touch with you.

I want to thank all of our embedded journalists.

Judy, as you know, this is dangerous work for those journalists who are out there in Southern Iraq, Northern Iraq, traveling with the U.S. forces, with the British forces. And, of course, we only wish them the best.

Back to Judy Woodruff in Washington.

WOODRUFF: That is certainly right, Wolf. And we know that they are out there on the front lines, in many cases right up front where the troops are going in. And our thoughts and prayers are with all of them and certainly with their families. Worried, very worried back at home.

Speaking of back here in the United States, there are protests both in support of the troops and against the war. We're going to go live from coast to coast to get a sense of what the American people are thinking.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Literally tens of thousands of Americans are on the march this weekend as this war unfolds in Iraq. They are on the march in some of this country's biggest cities. Rallies both against the war and in support of American troops being staged across the nation.

With us now, Jeff Flock in Chicago. You also see Rusty Dornin in San Francisco, Brian Cabell in Atlanta.

And Jeff Flock in Chicago, demonstrations on both sides.

JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's funny, it's been an extraordinary day here, Judy, and I don't know what to extent you're able to hear me here. I'm in the midst of a pro-USA support-the- troops rally, which actually has sort of dispersed, but the -- some folks have hung around and are right around me right now.

What remains is the antiwar rally on the plaza across the street there, and that is still underway. So the folks that were supporting the troops felt they wanted to stick around, even though their rally had ended at about 2:00 local time, to make their voices known as well.

So as we said, it's been something of an extraordinary day, and that both sides have been airing their views all day. Bruce, if you're able to see Off to the right, one of the things is assured that all of these views get aired in a respectful way, has been Chicago police.

You see many of them in riot gear. There have been other uniformed officers that have been out as well, but these officers in riot gear came out about midway through the mutual demonstrations and assured that everyone sort of stayed apart and chanted across the way at each other.

Right now (AUDIO GAP) street, and so it goes.

We talked to people throughout this day, just a short, small sampling of a couple of folks. Give it a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on Iraq, and keep the peace, and bring the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the troops here, because that's where supposed to be, home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am not for war, but I support our president, who I believe God put in leadership. And I support the troops who are out there. These protesters aren't doing anything to support them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FLOCK: So all viewpoints, Judy, as we said, represented. There's a sign that says, "We Support Our President. God Bless the Troops and America." We leave you with that thought here in Chicago today on the Federal Plaza, Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jeff Flock reporting.

Earlier, we heard from New York. We've been telling you there are protests in Atlanta and San Francisco. But there today is also a protest for the president and for his policy in Clarksville, Tennessee, not far from Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

CNN's David Mattingly is there -- David. DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, a very noisy at times support-our-soldiers rally here outside of Fort Campbell. Not surprising when you consider what a big military town this is, 17,000 troops deployed from here, leaving behind a lot of young wives, a lot of spouses, a lot of children, and a lot of friends, many of them here today waving flags, showing signs, people driving by blowing their horns, showing their support.

We have a couple of spouses here with us, and they're also finding that today, it's also a very good excuse to get away from the television just a little bit.

You tell me it's been very stressful at home watching on TV so much today. What has been bothering you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What has been bothering me? Just kind of seeing all the bombing in Baghdad and hearing some of the air raids in Kuwait, but it's not bothering me too bad. I know that my husband's taken care of, so...

MATTINGLY: Does it help with the stress to get out here and be with the crowd?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A little bit, just because I've been watching the news about 24 hours a day. So it's kind of nice to get out and not think about it for a while.

MATTINGLY: A lot of news junkies out here outside the base.

This lady right here also having a picture of her husband, who is deployed over there. How has it been for you at home watching it on television so much?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been both stressful, because you're wondering where, exactly, is hem and what might he be in the midst of, but also comforting, because we do find out, you know, certain areas that's where, because ours is the 101st, that we get a general information as where he might be at.

MATTINGLY: OK. You also have a very good opinion about the embedding of reporters with troops. How do -- you like that idea.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do, I really like the idea that reporters are over with our troops. As long as they give us the accurate news and not dramatize anything, I think it's great. I'm all for it.

MATTINGLY: In addition to cheering, you're dealing with a little bit of the stress right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What stress? This is wonderful. This is great. This is what America's about.

MATTINGLY: Well, most -- Judy, that's probably the most smiles I've seen since I've been here. They have been reacting a little bit also to the antiwar rallies they've seen. They say they would have been here regardless, but that wasn't their motivation. But they are certainly kicking it up a notch today because of what they've seen.

Judy, back to you.

WOODRUFF: Thanks, David. They certainly managed to get our attention, which is what they wanted, and we're glad to know that.

Again, small-town America expressing its views every bit as vigorously as big-city America. And we're going to show you two big cities right now. New York City is going to be on the right side of the screen. Los Angeles on the left. Both of these antiwar demonstrations. We think of Los Angeles as laid-back L.A., but not today. At least some Los Angelians have come out to express their opinion about the war.

The picture on the right, New York City, over 100,000 New Yorkers have come out today to walk down central Manhattan. We're told that at one point, the crowd stretched out over two miles, something like more than 30 blocks, winding its way from Times Square down Broadway to Washington Square Park.

And some arrests in both cities, but you can see the crowds are still out there.

All right, that's New York. That's Los Angeles on the left.

Let's move further north in the state of California to San Francisco, to our Rusty Dornin -- Rusty.

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, as you know, San Francisco is well known for its antiwar demonstrations. And today marks the third day straight of huge demonstrations in this city. The one thing that's very different about this one is, this one is the first legal and permitted demonstration this week.

Right after the bombings started, there were two days of civil disobedience, where more than 2,000 people were arrested for tying up traffic and destroying property. Now, today, they're -- even though the people who are organizing this rally say that they do advocate civil disobedience, they're saying they don't want that to happen today. They want this to be a place where people can come and demonstrate peacefully against the war.

Now, a few of the folks that are here doing just that are Arlene Elizabeth and Ruth Gonzer (ph) here, who have been folding cranes ever since September 11, peace cranes.

Now, Arlene, do you feel -- are you concerned about this demonstration staying peaceful? Are you in favor of civil disobedience to stop the war?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not -- I do not support civil disobedience in terms of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) becoming violent. I don't believe you can have a peaceful demonstration (UNINTELLIGIBLE) violence to achieve peace.

DORNIN: Do you feel safe in -- within this rally today... UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

DORNIN: ... that that's not going to happen?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do.

DORNIN: OK. Ruth, you were saying, you know, the bombing has started. This whole thing doesn't look like it's going to come to a stop because you guys are out here. Why are you out here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I think that the world needs to know that there are people who don't support President Bush.

When you think the world needs to know that there are many, many, many Americans from cities all around this country who feel that we're not being represented by our government, that we don't agree with what he's doing, and that even if, you know, what we're doing is not going to stop him, but people need to know not all Americans feel like he's doing.

You know, we think poverty is a cause of war, that education is a key to helping us, you know, solve our problems. We teach our children over and over again, two wrongs don't make a right. And here we are dropping bombs. And it's wrong.

DORNIN: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So that's why we're standing here telling people that.

DORNIN: Thank you for joining us.

The speakers, the tempo's definitely been building over the past -- last few minutes as the rally gets ready to begin the march through downtown San Francisco. It's very difficult to see now how many people are here, but they are expecting, of course, tens of thousands to march.

When they're through, they will come back. Now, a little earlier, San Francisco's acting police chief was here, and he said he has no problem with this group as long as they remain peaceful, Judy.

WOODRUFF: San Francisco, Rusty, a city no stranger to protests, to demonstrations. I'll tell you this, we can all agree that we've heard some articulate American voices today on both sides of this conflict.

Well, that's the scene from the streets. But what about the overall reaction of the American people? Well, seventy-six percent of Americans say they approve of Washington's decision to go to war with Iraq. That is according to a CNN-"USA Today"-Gallup poll that was conducted on Thursday, just released in the last day.

We're going to take a break. We are just moments away from a briefing at the Pentagon. Our coverage of the strike on Iraq continues. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com



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