CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Strike on Iraq: War Under Way
Aired March 23, 2003 - 00:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: I wanted to give you today's headlines but I need to take 20 seconds to clean up a small mess that I probably made a little bit ago.
We were talking about demonstrations and I think in the way I said something it sounded like there were hundreds of thousands of demonstrators both for and against. The large demonstrations that went on in the United States were largely in opposition to the war. There were many demonstrations in support of the troops and in support of the president's policy. By and large they were much smaller.
Then we went into talking about polling and the rest. If that was misunderstood by people on the anti-war side, I apologize. It was not intentional. That sometimes happens in the way that we say things, that we didn't mean it.
That's cleaned up, I hope.
Heidi Collins takes a look at the headlines now, a little bit past midnight -- half past midnight here in the east -- Heidi.
BROWN: Quickly go to Baghdad for a second and take a look there on a Sunday morning. And we'll give you a little bit more information that we've gotten just in the last couple of minutes.
As you look at Baghdad, we're also getting reports from -- well, Al Jazeera is reporting, let's put it that way. Al Jazeera is reporting that there is some fighting going on in -- in and around Umm Qasar.
What is interesting to me a bit about that -- this is that port city we've talked a fair amount about tonight -- is that my impression of this, just seeing the reporting that was done both by Christiane, who had gone in with the British unit, and Jason Bellini, who had gone in with an American Marine unit, is that that piece of business had been taken care of already.
Al Jazeera is -- Al Jazeera's reporting suggests otherwise. And so what we're trying to do now is see if we can get ahold of Jason and see what he can tell us. But they are talking about gunfights and fire fights breaking out in Umm Qasar. And we have yet to confirm that of our own reporting, but it's a big country and we try and be everyone, but you can't. And so in this case we pass it on with the qualification that it is somebody else's work out there. Baghdad on a Sunday morning, was a relatively quiet night there. That does not necessarily mean either of two things: one is that it will be a quiet Sunday and secondly that in other parts of the country there isn't a fair amount of nastiness going on. But it is daybreak there on a Sunday, and you see a few people milling about on the streets -- at least we can -- but not a lot of traffic.
We did see earlier in a report on what Iraqi TV was showing -- I think this was some hours ago, now, for me -- that people had gone out the other day and done some shopping and stored up and the conditions in that city are obviously difficult, but also it says something about the precision of the attack the other day, yesterday, that it does seem to have spared everything but what they were going after, for the most part. We can't say that is absolutely the case, but it does seem to be -- it does seem to have worked pretty well so far.
The Iraqis report 207 civilian injuries, and in fact they took reporters out to the hospital to see some of them. And they blame the Americans and the British and -- the American and British attacks on that.
And we would add to that there is some reason to believe that some of those people may have been -- we don't know how many and won't guess, OK? -- but that some of those people may also have been hurt by anti-aircraft fire as it came back down. The stuff goes up and gravity works and it comes back down, and some of the injuries are consistent with that sort of thing.
But it all gets lumped into the same thing by the Iraqi information minister. And we don't mean to suggest by that that there were no civilian casualties. We simply do not know that, OK? But we do have reason to believe that some of those injuries were caused by anti-aircraft fire falling back to the ground.
We're going to spend a few minutes now trying to talk about the mood of the country, a little bit about the journalism that's going on. To help us do that, we've assembled a number of newspapermen and women. Robert Kittle of the "San Diego Union-Tribune," James Warren of the "Chicago Tribune," and Ellen Soetteber of the "St. Louis Post- Dispatch."
Ellen, I hope I pronounced your name correctly.
ELLEN SOETTEBER, "ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH:" Yes, just fine, thanks.
BROWN: Thank you. We're glad to see all of you.
Jim, since I know you best, I'll start with you first. I'm -- I'm a little struck, before we get into some of the -- well, this is a mood question -- by the anger that is already out there and the kinds of things that -- the kind of mail that I've been receiving on both sides.
Is it your sense that it is a pretty angry land right now? JAMES WARREN, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE:" In fact, not quite, not necessarily here in the heartland. It will be interesting to see what my old chum Ellen says about that.
If you take the protests here in Chicago, Aaron, I think they have been fervent and feisty and in one case on Thursday night, distinctly spontaneous as thousands of people, after a demonstration had seemingly ended, made their way to a big expressway and screwed traffic up for hours.
Nevertheless, what strikes me is a certain sort of civic nonchalance, in a way. It strikes me as if this is not quite as uppermost in people's minds as one might have imagined. Walking the north side of Chicago today a couple of miles up to Wrigley Field and back, I was struck by the fact almost every TV I saw, mostly in taverns, admittedly, were tuned not to the news channels but rather to the NCAA play-offs.
What's -- what's in the air? I think it might be a mix of things. It might be a little bit of just plain resignation. Folks knew this was going to happen. It might be political apathy. It might be good old-fashioned, if unfortunate, American isolationism.
And finally, and I think this has something to do with it, it may just be a sort of disassociation from the events of September 11 and terrorism in general, that I think my friends in New York and Washington have a hard time fully believing it. This did not happen here in the same way. People weren't affected in the same way.
And we might add parenthetically that that lower level of concern, Aaron, has in some fashion been met by a certain inattention, equivalent in attention, on the part of the federal government.
It was not until today, how many months after September 11, that the federal government, via the Federal Aviation Administration, decided that it would bar small planes from flying over downtown Chicago in the same manner it has barred planes from flying over New York City and D.C. and even subsequently barred them from even flying over Disneyland and Disney World.
The mayor of the city, Richard Daly, for a year has been saying, "Wait a second, guys. If you're serious about this why not us, too?" Only happened today.
BROWN: All right, Ellen. We'll move a little bit west and the letters to the editor, the calls that the paper getting, do you sense one way or the other, or would you agree with Jim that it makes a difference if you're in New York or Washington in how you perceive this moment?
SOETTEBER: Yes, I think there is a difference. For one thing, we don't have the same level of tension about the odds of some kind of terrorism attack happening here that I think -- I keep hearing from friends in both New York and Washington, that they're sensing.
I don't entirely agree with Jim in I think people are going about their lives and watching basketball and shopping, and I was at a family party tonight for my twin nephews, one year old. And so we are going on with our lives, but I sense among a lot of people, including many who support the war, a deep ambivalence about it and a lot of concern about it. There's almost like a sense of a collective baited breath. People are very concerned about what's going to happen next.
SOETTERBER: What's going to happen next here in terms of terrorism at home. What's going to happen long term in the Middle East, in Korea. A lot of concern, even among those who support the war.
BROWN: And I wonder, Robert, out west -- San Diego, I think this is true but correct me if I'm wrong, it used to be much more of a Navy town, a military town, than it is these days. What's the mood out there?
ROBERT : Aaron, this is still very much a military town.
ROBERT KITTLE, "SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE:" Less so of the Navy as the Marine Corps now. And in fact, Camp Pendleton is here. So the first six Marine casualties of the war were all from San Diego.
So frankly, San Diego is experiencing this war in a very acute way. I don't think there's any sense of nonchalance here about it. I think people are concerned about it, they're concerned about their sons and daughters, who are in the conflict. And I think that when -- when the casualties occurred, for example, there was a kind of rallying around, not just around the Marine community, which is very close-knit, but the larger community.
I mean, we sense this war in a very direct way because literally tens of thousands of men and women from San Diego have been deployed to disarm Saddam Hussein. So everyone here, I think, is following the war very closely and is very much involved in it.
BROWN: And let me follow that with this, then. When you're making the editorial decisions and putting the paper together, how -- are you then pretty careful about how you handle the anti-war stuff that went on? That's got to be a pretty big part of the Sunday paper.
KITTLE: Well, we cover the anti-war aspects, as well. There was an anti-war demonstration today in San Diego, a small one. The public opinion here overwhelmingly supports the war, I think. But on our op- ed page, we've had a very robust debate among the letter writers for war and against the war.
On our editorial page, we had urged George Bush to work through the United Nations, to continue to do this in a multi-lateral way if at all possible. But when the French, in effect, torpedoed the second resolution at the U.N., we agreed with the president that it was time to go ahead and begin the war with British and U.S. forces. So we're supporting the war; we've done that reluctantly, while urging all the diplomatic alternatives to be played out. But certainly, as a newspaper, we're covering all aspects of the war.
BROWN: Ellen, do you have embedded reporters out there in the Persian Gulf, and do you have a feeling yet for how the embedding process is working? Are you getting the kind of material you hoped to get?
SOETTEBER: We have a reporter/, photographer embedded with the Marines in Iraq, and we were supposed to have been with the 4th Infantry Division going in from Turkey into northern Iraq, but of course, they're still at Fort Leonard Wood because of the actions of the Turkish government. So --
Communications has been very difficult. We've gone for periods as long as 40 hours without hearing from our folks. It's difficult -- actually, you're dealing with that, too, at CNN -- they can't always file and make deadline.
But on the other hand, we've been with these -- with the Marines in Kuwait waiting to go in for almost two months now with this unit that we're embedded with. And it's been a wonderful opportunity to tell the stories of what the soldiers are going through. Those of us who have never served in the military, I think, are learning a great deal of what it's actually like to be there -- that's what our folks have really concentrated on reporting -- and for people who have been in past conflicts to report on how different it is.
So, so far, I think our readers are gaining tremendously from the exposure to it. Longer term, it could be more problematic.
BROWN: All right.
WARREN: Aaron, I think I might add -- I was just -- I figured you might throw something like that at us, and...
BROWN: Did you now?
WARREN: ... I wasn't quite sure what to say until I got here a little bit early and saw your phone interview with "TIME" magazine correspondent Jim Lacey.
Now I think this whole business of embedding reporters is very much a double-edged sword. I think there are perils in getting too close to folks and perhaps losing one's ability to be real critical. And of course, at all times, you really may not know the larger picture, what's really going on.
But just tell me how quick the Pentagon would have been to tell the world, to tell you about at least the allegation that someone in the 101st Airborne had done what may have played out in the last few hours if there had not been reporters embedded right there. I mean, this is, in some ways, a potential P.R. catastrophe for them. And given the history, obviously, of news management by the American military, not the sort of thing, I think, that in the best of all worlds to them, they'd like seen.
BROWN: Let me follow that up. And every now and then I look over to General Clark, and I suspect he has some thoughts on this, too.
Just taking that one story, Jim, it was interesting as we filed it this afternoon, Jim Lacey reported that the incident happened. And clearly he knew in the initial reporting, he knew a lot more than he was allowed to say, under the embed rules. Clearly, the commander had said, "You can say this, but that's as far as you can go."
To a certain extent, this is what people who have been very critical of us, generally, as a business, the news business, and I think perhaps television in particular, worried about that the embedding process gave too much control to the military.
How do you balance this with your correspondents over there?
WARREN: Well, if you're asking me, it's a tough thing. I mean, you -- we made the agreement to go -- to go do it this way. We made the agreement to abide by a certain set of rules, including not disclosing location. And there undoubtedly can be some tough choices as, perhaps, Jim Lacey felt tonight.
But folks should realize that the whole relationship -- and General Clark probably knows a lot more about it than I do -- between the military and the press has been a most uneven one. The modern version of it probably dates back, maybe, Aaron, to the Civil War.
And most of the reporting done in the Civil War was absolutely awful. Folks road with either divisions in the south or the north, and they basically shilled to them. And when they tried to do some decent reporting, as in the case of some guys with General Sherman, you know, they were threatened with their lives. Ulysses S. Grant threw one guy out of his camp, I remember, because he was listening in to too many conversations.
In World War I and World War II, you have becoming, I think, the real modern version of media management, committees set up by the Pentagon to essentially control us. You had Vietnam and a great deal of honest reporting.
But as General Clark surely knows, whether he agrees with it or not, there certain grew up, post-Vietnam, the sense among many senior military officials that we, in some ways, had run amuck and had unfairly tainted American public opinion via our reporting, which led to a much greater degree of control, personified, I guess, in the Gulf War.
BROWN: Jim, let me get -- I want to get back to all of you here. We're not done with you, please don't go away.
But General, you're sitting here and you hear Jim talk about the way the Pentagon has traditionally managed the news. And had that -- had those reporters. A couple of them, I'm not sure how many, were at that camp. Had they not been there, this thing would have taken some time to come out. That may or may not be true; we can't know. But you could have a suspicion.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK, MILITARY ANALYST: Well, big institutions, any big institution like the Pentagon is going to be sensitive about what people know about it. It's always going to try to put its best face on.
But what strikes me in this case is that we've been given a window into this unit. We've seen this tragedy up close. It is a tragedy. It's a terrible thing. But it's not a break-down in discipline in the armed forces. And what's likely to come out of this, after the tragedy of the death and the wounded and the investigation, is a demonstration of the remarkable resilience of the American armed forces and the men and women who serve there and lead there.
BROWN: Just -- you know, both sides here made a deal. Robert, I'm headed your way on this, but both sides made a deal here which on the one hand, we in the media made a deal that we would abide by a certain set of rules.
And on the other hand, the Pentagon made a decision, a calculation, that there was more to be gained by allowing access, allowing reporters to know these people, than there was to lose. And we have seen, on our end, on the television end, I'm not sure at your end, but we have seen now as of today examples of both of that, I guess.
KITTLE: Aaron, I think the American people are the real winners with this embed system. It's far better to have reporters on the scene than not have them on the scene, under almost any circumstances.
BROWN: But you're -- you're a reporter saying that. I mean, you're a newspaper guy saying that.
BROWN: Of course you say that. I can't imagine that you're not getting mail saying why are you writing this and why are you -- why are you saying that?
KITTLE: Well, consider -- consider the freedom that the reporters have here. As I understand it, the rules basically are that reporters will not report any operational details that could help the enemy. That that's the blanket under which they've refused -- they've agreed not to disclose information.
Now while that can be a broad blanket, most of the time the reporters have the ability to report and they have the ability to report live, as you're -- as Jim Lacey did with you earlier this evening -- without any censorship. No one is -- no one is okaying or approving his comments before they go out.
The military is trusting him to abide by the agreement and not to disclose operational details.
That's a very flexible system that I think gives the American people far more information than they have had in the past. I was a Pentagon reporter at one time, and it was unthinkable 15 years ago that you could have reporters on the front lines with the troops, able to report generally whatever they can, so long as it does not compromise the military operation.
I think that's a very fair compromise, and I think the news media benefit from it, the military benefits from it because frankly, Americans, you know, learn a lot when they see the way the American military functions and it's a good story to tell. But you know, the real benefit is for readers and viewers who have a far better understanding of this war, I think, than any war ever fought in history.
BROWN: All right.
SOETTEBER: And I can jump in here. I find that readers really are eating this material up, that they aren't complaining about it. Quite the contrary, they're begging for more. Our reporter who's been with the Marines, I said for almost two months, Ron Harris, has become a local name. People all up and say, "Is Ron Harris going to be in the paper tomorrow?" They're searching for his work on our online site, STLToday.com.
And so I think they are really gaining from it and they're seeing real value in it.
WARREN: With all due respect, guys, it's really sort of night and day, if you compare even what we know now and think about what we still don't know about the military actions in Afghanistan with, for instance, what happened in Vietnam. And I'm there are lots of folks at CNN who were there, friends of yours, Aaron, who will tell you instantly that the degree of access they had, the degree of freedom they had to go where they wanted to go, was infinitely greater than what's playing out here.
BROWN: Thank you all very much. When you assemble a group, you never quite know how and where the conversation's headed, honestly, or at least I don't. I hope you'll all come back as this goes on, and we'll talk a little bit more about how the country is handling it and if the mood is changing. And also look critically at how we're handling it, too.
It's good to talk to all of you; thank you.
These are things we like to do normally on "NEWSNIGHT." A lot of you are not normal "NEWSNIGHT" viewers. We're glad to have you along.
One of the things we do, if I can get over to them, is take a look at the morning papers from around the country and around the world. These are tomorrow morning's papers, some of the headlines. And we'll show some of them. Should I turn to this camera, or this one?
OK, this is the "Times-Herald-Record" of Hudson Valley, upstate New York. I have to sometimes do this without my glasses. Is this the camera you want me to do it to, too? Oh, over here. OK. "ON TO BAGHDAD," it reads, with a nice picture there on the front. We're going to show you some more pictures in a minute, but a couple more headlines first.
The "Cincinnati Inquirer," sort of active headline, "Fire fights flare as allies role halfway to Baghdad." That's the "Cincinnati Inquirer."
The "Dallas Morning News" that lands on your doorstep in Dallas, Texas, kind of a similar headline, "Closing in on Iraqis: Ground troops now halfway to Baghdad." I guess I can put my glasses back on now. Let me set those down.
Moving on, then, here's the "Post Dispatch." There it is, that's the headline: "Tanks are halfway to Baghdad." That seems to be pretty much the theme, doesn't it?
But not for the Arkansas "Democrat-Gazette." This is a -- you know this paper, don't you, General Clark? You want to do this headline? You can do that.
CLARK: Go ahead.
BROWN: You're not quite ready to be the anchor? All right. "U.S. forces isolate Basra" is the headline in the Arkansas paper. A lot of people became familiar with that during a previous administration, as someone once said.
Here's a paper I know pretty well: the Minneapolis "Star and Tribune" in Minneapolis-St. Paul. "Halfway to Baghdad." Looks like everybody hired the same headline writer.
I'll do one more, because it's a big old picture in the Boston -- actually, I'll do two more. The Boston "Sunday Herald," one of the two major newspapers in Boston, "The Globe" being the other one. We wish "The Globe" would send us their front page, too. "On to Baghdad." That's a pretty interesting picture there.
"The Observer," a British paper -- here's the kind of picture out there that is going to trouble lots of people in the world, and that's why we -- we don't chose it so we can trouble lots of people in the world. We choose it to show you the kind of thing that will inflame some people and why there is great power in pictures, I guess. "Special forces in Baghdad as Saddam's Armies Reel" is the headline, but believe me, what the story people are going to read is right over here, "Children" -- I'm sorry, is the picture they will look at, is this young Iraqi who was hurt. This sort of picture, played across Arab communities, will be troublesome, I think.
OK, we'll take a look at some of the headlines and hopefully before we go -- some of our headlines, not newspaper headlines -- before we go we'll leave you tonight -- we've got another hour here to go -- we'll take a look at some of the fabulous still photography that has been done already. Powerful, powerful pictures that have been done.
First, Heidi Collins gets us up-to-date on all the events of a busy day.
BROWN: It was Jim Lacey who first -- Jim Lacey of "TIME" magazine -- and we can say a colleague of ours; we're all under the same parent umbrella -- who first reported for us this tragic incident at Camp Pennsylvania in the northern part of Kuwait.
And Jim is back on the phone with us. Jim, are you able to give us -- I think now we're all interested in as much detail as you can about this suspect, what's going on there and anything else you can give us.
JIM LACEY, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Yes. The suspect himself, we can now say he's got an Arabic-sounding last name. And that has led to some relatively well-informed speculation as to his motivations. He was already picked out by the chain of command to -- some of the soldiers had said that he was being withdrawn, pacing a lot, not talking to anybody. He had also become not insubordinate, but wasn't doing things that were expected of this soldier, and the chain of command had already told him he would not go forward with them when they go back to Iraq.
So they were looking at this gentleman for being a semi-problem, but nobody ever suspected anything of this magnitude from him. And he managed to get ahold of four hand grenades. The ammunition had been issued out to this unit for future movement into Iraq.
He attacked the headquarters element here. I heard at the beginning of this that his intention may have been to kill the camp commander. If that was his intention, it failed. The camp commander is here and has been doctored.
But he would not have known any of these people. The people he attacked he would have no contact with. These are the 1st -- this is a brigade headquarters element, and he was from the engineer unit that is only attached to this operation and during war times. So the chances that he ever even came in contact with any of the people he attacked tonight are marginal, so it's -- go ahead.
BROWN: Let me just interrupt just quickly. I want to come back to this, and I need to ask for clarification on something, too. We're getting a report that there are air raid sirens going off in Baghdad. This happens on and off. Sometimes it means something, sometimes it doesn't, but if I didn't report it, it would almost certainly mean something in the way the world works. So now we're on the record there.
Jim, did you say -- because I had a little trouble hearing you -- that the suspicion is that his Arab -- did you say you thought that -- they thought there might be political motivation, or there was not political motivation?
LACEY: No, that would be relatively informed speculation that there would be some religious or political motivation through this. The chance of it being a disgruntled soldier who was mad at the chain of command is limited by the fact he attacked a group of officers that he would have had no contact with. So it was not -- this was not a personal attack or a personal vendetta. He selected his targets based on other reasons.
BROWN: It is a complicating factor here, isn't it? I mean, it makes the -- it's one more layer to a story. It makes it all the more troubling.
LACEY: Yes, slightly more troubling, but by no means an indictment of everybody. There are a number of other Muslim soldiers serving here, and there's a quite a number of Arab soldiers serving here, doing outstanding work and are to be commended on everything they're doing every day. So no one wants to paint the broad picture here, but there is this one troubling element, and now it is really tense.
BROWN: Absolutely correct. Do you have any more information on the 12 remaining wounded? One has died of the 13 who were hurt. We know, as Jim first reported to us, and now it is being widely reported that one of those 13 died. Do you know much about the other 12?
LACEY: Now, about half of them were what we would call walking wounded. They were mobile, so they were in no danger whatsoever, slightly hit by grenade fragments. I think that -- and this is my estimate -- I think they took seven or eight in helicopters during the night to one of the combat support hospitals nearby, and I have no information on them whatsoever. But...
BROWN: I'm sorry, this...
LACEY: ... it all looked to me at the time that two of them -- two soldiers were seriously injured when I was watching them being taken away earlier today.
BROWN: This being television, Jim, and people come into it and out of it at various times, I wonder if you might describe again, as you did when we last talked to you, how quickly it seemed to you that the unit was refocused and put back together again.
LACEY: Let's say when I -- from the time the attack took place to the time that the young officers, and as I said a young major, two young captains who were actually slightly wounded, the two captains had control of the situation, treated the wounded, got the wounded treated, called for ambulances, informed all of the other soldiers on the post of what was happening, set up a security perimeter, donned a search for whoever did this, they had most of that done within the first five or six minutes. It was absolutely an outstanding performance by a couple of young -- a few young officers here.
Within two hours, the commander here was telling his troops this is a terrible thing, but our focus is to move into Iraq and let's make sure we don't lose that.
And as I stand around this camp right now, everything is happening exactly as it's supposed to. I mean, they've taken care of their wounded. They've got the criminal investigation division dealing with what it's supposed to do, but the soldiers have -- the chain of command has taken over, and the soldiers are back to work getting this unit ready to move into Iraq at some future time and date.
BROWN: And again, I know you've done this for us one other time. Please do it again. Just describe how it is that they went about finding the suspect, because certainly initially their initial feel was not that they had been attacked from within by one of their own.
LACEY: Well, when you're in a situation like this, the first suspicion is always a terrorist attack from the outside. I can say that we're pretty well guarded here, and I won't go into any details as to how we're guarded, but we are well -- there is good security here. So I don't think anyone said it was an American soldier to begin with, but nobody ruled it out either.
And the units here, as soon as something like this happens, the chain of command in every single unit immediately accounts for all of its people. They've got to know who is where, who is doing what, if anyone else has been hit. But during that accountability check it turned out that this one soldier was missing from his unit and four grenades were missing at the same time.
They he had been troubled -- not troubled, but they had been watching him as a disgruntled soldier for a little while now. I guess the mathematical calculation in that case was not that hard to make. And we had the soldier's name as a possible suspect at least a half- an-hour before he was found. I would -- well, I'm guessing on that time, but it was a good amount of time they had a suspect's name in hand before they found him hiding in a bunker about 75 yards from where the explosion took -- the first two explosions took place.
He was -- that major I had mentioned earlier actually was going bunker to bunker to make sure there were no soldiers left out there unaccounted for and found him, had his name, and the soldier, I'm told, admitted doing it.
The major kept the gun on him, he called for help, they put him in handcuffs, no one asked him any questions until he had been read his rights, and after that I don't know what he -- what that soldier said.
BROWN: Jim, let me ask you one business question. I've always wondered this about somebody who writes for a weekly news magazine. Did this happen in a way that you'll be able to get your story and your reporting in the magazine this week?
LACEY: I think so. They were holding up the magazine, and they made me do some writing, and I got a lot of help from the inside. There's a "TIME" photographer here with me, so I think there's going to be some excellent -- not excellent, there's no way to say something like this. There will be a comprehensive story and pictures of this terrible situation.
But we are here, and I'm going to make sure I say this one more time. The performance of the soldiers I saw tonight all around me was absolutely magnificent. If there's one disgruntled soldier, there are several thousand more on this camp who are doing everything that's ever been asked of any American soldier anywhere.
BROWN: Jim, I must say you've done a terrific job here, and you've made that particular point eloquently tonight with us. We'll let you go continue your work. Thank you a lot.
Jim Lacey, "TIME" magazine, and as we say at our end, he'll be crashing that story to get it in the magazine this week. All sorts of journalists are working on all sorts of different deadlines out there, and Jim has done a terrific job.
Tom Mintier is at Central Command in Qatar. That's where Tommy Franks -- where General Tommy Franks and the war is being run out of.
This has obviously, Tom, made its way there. They've confirmed the death. What is the reaction?
TOM MINTIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, privately, officers are saying that this was an attack on their own. They don't talk about it being involved in morale, but they say an attack on their own.
Now, those of us who are old enough to remember Vietnam, they used to have something called "fragging" there, where hand grenades were used against superior officers, but this was a much larger, apparently, attack.
And I think it really shows what the embedded journalists are able to do. There had been questions before this operation began if there were some bad news to report whether indeed that would be prevented from coming out until after the operation was over. But as we have seen the pictures of the suspect and the information we've been getting from the embedded journalists with the 101st Airborne, we're getting the reports out of what I'm sure they consider very bad news by CentCom.
CentCom has announced also that they will have a briefing in about 13 hours from now, so we're not probably going to get anyone on camera inside the briefing room until that time, but I'm sure it will be definitely a topic of discussion at the daily briefing here in Qatar.
BROWN: Just to make clear, the briefing you're talking about coming up in 13 hours is not specifically on this incident, but broadly on Central Command's view of the war.
MINTIER: That's right. A brigadier general will be -- Brigadier General Brooks (ph) will be briefing reporters as part of an ongoing daily briefing, but the timing in about 13 hours probably has nothing to do with this incident at the 101st Airborne, but they want to wait until late in the evening here in Doha before the briefing is put out.
They did confirm the death within the last half-hour, but when I asked for someone to appear with me to talk about this incident, so far it has not been provided. BROWN: And in doing your reporting, did you find anger? Did you find -- I know you described it as an attack on one of our own, someone said that to you. Was there concern about how this would be reported and how it would be perceived? Because clearly it is hardly good news; it's troubling news.
MINTIER: It is very troubling news, and it was not passed on to me that way. It was the concern with the incident itself, not in the area of morale but in the area of it being an attack from inside, from one of their own men on their own men. I'm sure the situation in Iraq is difficult enough without constantly looking over your shoulder to see what's going on behind you.
So there is a sense of concern mixed with grief that this incident occurred in the first few days of the campaign in Iraq, but as you heard from the "TIME" journalist with the 101st, they are going about their job and pushing forward. And while this incident may be on their minds, it is not in front of their minds.
So I think probably from CentCom we'll hear the same thing later through the day that this was an isolated incident of a disgruntled soldier who attacked his own soldiers. Who knows yet what the reasons are? I'm sure he's being interrogated right now by other military officers. And seeing the picture of him on the ground that was transmitted from the military base was pretty amazing. You wouldn't expect to see that.
BROWN: No, some of us may have felt that the information was a little slow -- the detail of the information was a little slow coming out, but that's the way it works sometimes.
Tom, thank you. It's good to see you. It's our first time to talk to you in a while. Tom Mintier, who will cover Central Command, and we'll no doubt be seeing a lot from him.
We want to bring in General Wesley Clark now, who is our military analyst.
General, let me ask a slightly indelicate question here.
Here you have someone who is described as having an Arab last name or an Arab-sounding last name. And Jim Lacey made the point that -- and it almost doesnít need to be said, but I'll say it again and then we can be clear -- that this is an incident that involved one person and one action. But you have -- no doubt you have about three million Arab Americans in the country, and I'm sure you had plenty of them when we did the story not long ago on a young Marine.
Do you think that there will be a suspicion that this will work its way through in a way that will make soldiers suspicious of those Arab Americans and those Muslims in their units? Would you be concerned about that if you were running the show?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes and no.
BROWN: OK. CLARK: No in the sense that I think people are judged as individuals by those with whom they associate. They had already spotted this guy as a trouble maker. They just didn't understand how far it could go. And maybe they didn't get to the bottom of the trouble or maybe they did. We don't know yet exactly, you know, why he did it, but, you know, speculation is he had some political motive. So they're going to be judged as individuals.
But yes in the sense that this having been done shows the extent to which someone could, if it turns out that this was political, could carry his political beliefs inside the organization.
Now, look, we've got a lot of great Arab Americans in the United States Armed Forces. We have this (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
CLARK: And they have said that it's right for these Islamic soldiers to fight with the United States. So there is no reason for this kind of an issue to have occurred. Nevertheless, I think, you know, it's human nature...
BROWN: So it's human nature.
CLARK: You know, on the one hand, they're going to look at this soldier and say, we know he's a great guy. That's not an issue. He may feel -- an Arab American soldier, he or she may feel under some special scrutiny because of this.
BROWN: I know -- I don't want to say I know. I imagine and it's hard for me not to believe that in Patterson, New Jersey or Dearborn, Michigan, in these American cities with large Arab American populations, when they heard the report for the first time that an American soldier was responsible for this that someone didnít look across a dining room table and go, oh, man, I hope it's not one of our guys who did that.
CLARK: I'm sure that's true.
CLARK: I'm sure that's true, because, you know, they already, many of them are carrying a very heavy burden on 9/11, and there are a lot of Arab Americans who -- especially Iraqi Americans who say get in there and finish off Saddam Hussein.
BROWN: It's just -- well, it's all sad. No matter what the motive, how you slice it and dice it, it's all sad, and it is particularly sad that someone has died in this incident. One person has died. We don't have the name and hometown. That will take a little more time until next of kin is notified.
But if you look at how this has unfolded over the last several days and you have a death today in this sort of incident and you've had the series of accidents over the last couple of days, and you just -- but at the end of the day, no matter how these people die, whether it is in this sort of accident, an incident or an accident or in combat, you still have grieving families and wives and children and all the rest. And it's just sad to add onto that notion.
British military is now reporting -- RAF -- the Royal Air Force is reporting that one of its planes coming back from a mission is missing. We don't presume the worst. The worst we presume is that the plane is missing, and we would imagine that an aggressive search is on for the crew of that plane.
The British already, as many of you know, have taken a tough hit. They have about 40,000 or so troops in the region, and all of the accidents have been -- have affected them. They had British commandos in a helicopter that went down I think eight of them the other day. There were two British helicopters that collided the other night -- last night about this time in an incident that took a number of lives, seven British lives I believe, General, and one American in that incident.
So over in Great Britain where their prime minister went very much against the public mood, it will be interesting to see how the public reacts. Certainly, there will be those who will say that this is one of the reasons why they didn't want British soldiers to get into the fight, and there will be others, we suspect, who will see this as a reason to rally behind the other 40,000 British troops who are still there. That's also human nature.
But we report now that the RAF says one of its planes coming back from a mission over Iraq is at this hour missing.
Ryan Chilcote is with the 101st, and we've heard from him a couple of times, as they've made their way through the desert. The 101st has had a tough day -- Ryan.
RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, now going through -- the 101st 3rd Brigade going through -- and not only, there are units here as well and not from the 101st -- going through a town. This is the third town that the 101st has gone through that I have witnessed a very warm reception, a lot of Iraqis standing out on the streets watching them pass by.
Again, the MREs that I mentioned earlier, some MREs being tossed to the Iraqis, and I just -- the last image, I just saw a man leaning over to pick up some Skittles, if you can believe it or not.
But a very -- it's quite a scene. The commander got out, spoke with some of the Iraqis. They said that they are against Saddam, that they are happy that the Americans are here.
I should say it's a little bit difficult. Not too many of the Iraqis, at least in this town, speak English, so translation will (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the soldiers that I'm with do have an interpreter. He is from the Free Iraqi Forces. And there are a lot -- there are several of these interpreters, and they all wear a badge, or at least were wearing a badge back in Kuwait -- I don't know if he's still wearing it -- that says "FIF," or Free Iraqi Forces. They translate for the troops on the ground. But a very warm reception, a lot of children, a lot of elderly, and a lot of troops rolling through this not so big town -- Aaron.
BROWN: Just give me an idea. When you're talking about numbers of people in the town, how many people are we talking about, and how many people seem to come out?
CHILCOTE: Sure. Well, the town, as we rolled through it, I would estimate it was about a mile long. It's been described as buildings, they are about one-story stone buildings, pretty -- it doesn't look like the best-off of places, I guess I'll put it that way.
Maybe 200 people turned out mainly then, some older, a lot of children. The women seemed to stay back from the road. They were standing in groups of anywhere from a couple of people to a couple of dozen and were pretty much every, I would say, 20 or 30 yards along the road. Some people stopped in their cars. One minibus had pulled over and they were all looking at the troops.
The troops pretty much staying, with the exception of the commander that I mentioned, staying in their vehicles sort of at-the- ready.
Obviously, this is only the second town that the 101st Airborne 3rd Brigade has passed through, and they really don't know what to expect. So obviously, they're a bit cautious, but a pretty warm atmosphere -- Aaron.
BROWN: Just one more quick question, Ryan, and we'll let you get back to work or other work, if you will.
Was this the first -- these villagers, was this the first Americans -- were these the first Americans they had seen, or had others come through?
CHILCOTE: No. No, others have come through.
CHILCOTE: And they seemed to have in their minds at least, they are being very receptive, and a lot of them -- you know, I sort of tried to communicate with some of them without (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And we were able to have some basic conversations, and I've got to listen to the tape and find out exactly what they were saying.
But clearly, they were, in the conversation with the commander, they were saying that they were against -- that their tribe is against Saddam and they're happy to see the American troops. The Americans will help. They obviously assume that the Americans -- in this town are assuming that the Americans are here to stay.
BROWN: Ryan, we'll let you get back on the road, as you make your way through. You've just done a terrific job for us tonight. Thank you. Ryan Chilcote with the 101st.
BROWN: Alessio Vinci has been traveling with a Marine unit, and he's on the phone with us also.
To the extent you can, let us know what part of Iraq you're in. And why don't you start there and go ahead?
ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, for security reasons, I've been asked by our commander here, a Marine commander, not to disclose the location from where I'm talking to you right now from. I can only tell you that I am riding with an infantry battalion of the U.S. Marines. And our advance now towards the north at this time has come to a halt, because the U.S. forces have come across (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of the Iraqi military.
BROWN: Alessio, I lost you for just a second. Just stand by for a second.
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