CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
American POWs Held in Iraq
Aired March 23, 2003 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good evening again, everyone. Proof today that war is a nasty and difficult and heart breaking business. And next to dealing with the deaths of soldiers, there is no more issue -- no issue more sensitive than the question of POWs.
And that question has now presented itself again, as it does in virtually every war. American soldiers are being held prisoner tonight by Iraq. There are five of them. They are based at Fort Bliss in Texas. The Secretary of Defense made clear today that he believes that the interviews conducted with them by state run Iraqi TV were violations of the Geneva Conventions. While these interviews, we use the term loosely, have been widely seen around the world, we at CNN will not air all of them until we are certain the families of these captured Americans have been notified. And then, we will only air a very brief clip.
We reached this decision because of who they are. They're Americans and how they are treated is an important part of the coverage of any war. And we would add, since one of our military analysts said to us today, showing the world these young soldiers and their condition helps ensure their safety at the hands of the Iraqi government.
We know now the family of Joseph Hudson, a 23 year old is aware of his capture. His mother learned of it by watching a Filipino TV broadcast on satellite from a New Mexico home. And since then, has been formally notified by the Pentagon.
So here, briefly, is how he looked and how he sounded when he was interviewed on Iraqi TV.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your name?
JOSEPH HUDSON: Specialist Joseph Hudson, 585-65.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Twenty-three year old Joseph Hudson. He has an 18-year old brother. Mom lives in New Mexico. And it is possible before this night is out we will have the opportunity to talk with her.
This was very much on the mind of the president of the United States. As you can imagine today, this has been a very difficult day in many respects in the war. The reality of the war became quite clear. Dana Bash has been covering the president on this day and reports from the White House.
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Back from Camp David as Iraqis released graphic pictures of Americans killed in action and the first prisoners of war, a stern warning from the commander and chief.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The POWs I expect to be treated humanely. And just like we're treating the prisoners that we have captured humanely. If not, the people who mistreat the prisoners will be treated as war criminals.
BASH: Taking reporters' questions for the first time in a week, the president expressed confidence about the war's progress, but as a reality of casualties on the battlefield set in, he braced the country for a tough fight ahead.
BUSH: I know that Saddam Hussein is losing control of his country, that we're slowly but surely achieving our objective. It's important for the American people to realize that this war has just begun.
BASH: Despite some resistance, Mr. Bush said U.S. forces achieved a key objective, securing most of southern Iraq, especially the oil fields.
BUSH: Tommy Franks put a plan in place and moved on those oil fields quickly. And at least in the south, they are secure. And that is positive news for all of us.
BASH: But things are more precarious on the northern front. The administration is concerned Turkey may send troops into Iraq.
BUSH: And we're making it very clear to the Turks that we expect them not to come into Northern Iraq. We're in constant touch with the Turkish military, as well as Turkish politicians. They know our policy. And it's a firm policy. And we've made it very clear to them we expect them not to go into Northern Iraq.
BASH: As for Saddam Hussein, the president made clear the opportunity to leave Iraq safely has come and gone.
BASH: And the president tomorrow will meet with top congressional leaders to go for the bill to pay for this war. We are told that the price tag at this point will be between $75 and $90 billion. That's what the president will ask Congress for to help pay for it. The other thing we are told tonight is that the president is likely to travel outside Washington, perhaps to visit troops and their families -- Anderson?
BROWN: Yes, thank you, Dana Bash at the White House tonight. Just to underscore something the president said in talking about how Americans are treating the Iraqis, those of you who were with us earlier tonight heard a report by Dr. Sanjay Gupta who in a field hospital, they were operating on someone at the time. We didn't know who that someone was. They were -- it was an abdominal wound, as I recall. We now know that someone was an Iraqi soldier whose life they were trying to save.
We turn now to General Wes Clark, who has been with us over these long hours in the evening.
General, I said at the beginning in some ways next to dealing with the reporting on death and dealing with death and POW issues, the most sensitive, I'm not sure in fact it's not the other way around, it does clearly to the Iraqi side displaying these POWs was a propaganda effort.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: That's a big win for the Iraqis in terms of their view of how they have to fight this war. Their problem is to keep up the spirit of resistance in the face of overwhelming U.S. and coalition strength. And the fact that they could sneak in, ambush this maintenance outfit, driving a wrecker, towing a water trailer, and then we don't know what happened to the troops, whether they were shot in the process of being captured, whether they were lined up against the wall and executed, we don't know that right now. But it doesn't look good. It's brutal. It's obviously totally a violation of the Geneva Convention to put them on television this way. And it will -- it serves Iraqis domestic purpose.
BROWN: Let's talk a bit about what international law requires of the Iraqi government and the American government for that matter, when prisoners of war are taken.
CLARK: That's the Geneva Convention, basically. After World War II, everyone agreed that there were certain standards that had to be applied to prisoners. They're disarmed. They are segregated by rank normally. They are usually interrogated. They're not allowed to be abused, beaten up, threatened with their lives. They have to be given shelter. They have to be given medical treatment. And they have to be allowed communications. And their presence has to be reported to the Red Cross.
BROWN: Rules of war, I think, it's always had an odd ring to me, I think war being what it is. By and large, have most countries conformed to reasonable humane treatment of POWs?
CLARK: Well, over the years, it varies. And it's very -- not only from country to country, but in accordance with the circumstances under which the POWs are captured. And the honest truth is most countries have, at one point or another, had some soldiers who violated these rules. But the importance of the rules is to try to regulate what is otherwise and absolutely horrifying, terrible human endeavor warfare.
And after World War II, people realized what a terrible tragic activity this was after the fire bombing of Dresden, the fire bomb with Tokyo, the use of nuclear weapons. And they set out to try to limit and draw lines around what was permissible. It was to take care of non combatants and exclude them from the battlefield, to take care of the civilians and the civilian industries and targets that have no military value and not strike those.
And of course, once a prisoner is disarmed, he's no longer part of a fight, at least in the sense of an open arm threat to the force.
BROWN: Everybody who's ever gone to boot camp has been taught briefly how they're expected to behave should this horrible thing happen to them. I remember thinking that's easy for them to say. They -- you know, they went back to their offices and the Pentagon, to be honest.
Is there a realistic expectation that POWs, American POWs will give nothing more name, rank and serial number?
CLARK: Well, that's the code of conduct we established after the Korean War. It was clear during the Korean War that American soldiers were so shocked and stunned that some of them fell prey to what was known at the time as brainwashing. And they were participating with their North Korean and Chinese captors in education sessions and other things. Which -- so we put out a code of conduct and said, name, rank, serial number, death of birth. But we learned during this Vietnam prisoner experience that in practice, the important thing is not to -- you try to limit it to that, but you're going to -- there's a breaking point for every human being.
And the important point, and the courage of the Vietnam War POWs, was that they continued to resist again and again and again. And they fought off the psychology of guilt that comes from normal human failure under torture. And by allowing more flexibility in the code, we strengthened the resistance of our soldiers. We have a more realistic standard. And we protect their psychology and the well being of our force.
BROWN: Retired Colonel George "Bud" Day, a Vietnam era POW, he spent 5.5 years being held. He was a metal of honor winner. And we have him on the telephone. What are those five Americans going through right now, emotionally?
GEORGE "BUD" DAY, FORMER POW: Well, they're under a lot of stress. It's very difficult when you first capture. You know, you certainly always have that feeling that you're alone, that you have some questions about what you ought to do. You're getting a lot of pressure. Many times, lack of food, lack of medical care, gives some -- you have a very muddled mind many times.
BROWN: I'm -- the -- in this case, in the case of Joe Hudson whose picture we showed a moment ago, his mother learned of this when she saw this tape, not the short clip that we played, but the long piece that Iraqi television did. She saw that before the Army had contacted her. Do you know how your family became aware that you had been taken captive?
DAY: Yes, I do. I was one of those cases where the Vietnamese never released my name until September of 1971. And the way I got out was for me to write a letter. This is in retaliation for my having escaped. So there is a side benefit of these sort of forced appearances. And that is that again become aware that they -- their family members alive. And that was for many POW -- Vietnam POWs, that was a terrible question that the families went several years, where they had no clue whether their son, their husband was alive.
BROWN: In those -- and general, as always, please feel free to jump in, as always in these situations, were you kept in isolation for most of that time, all of that time, none of that time?
DAY: I had -- I did a total of 67 months as a POW. And 38 months of that were -- was in solitary. But we had such a good communication system set up, that even though I was in solitary, I was always hearing from somebody, either tapping through the wall, sweeping out in the yard, flashing to me with a piece of paper. I always had some kind of contact with someone.
BROWN: How old were you when you were taken captive.
DAY: I was 41. And I had been an enlisted Marine -- I'd been lieutenant during the Korean War. So I was a lifer with about a year to go. I'd only planned to stay another year after I finished my Vietnam tour. So I was a -- kind of a salty old guy. And I'd been around the world a little bit.
BROWN: Yes. General Clark, in this case, we are dealing with younger soldiers that have less experience, not only in matters of military, but less experience in matters of life, if you will. Much more difficult, complicated problem for them?
CLARK: In a way it is, in a way it isn't. I mean, most of these soldiers have -- they don't have the specialized knowledge that's useful.
BROWN: They have nothing to give the enemy?
CLARK: Really, other than their propaganda value.
CLARK: But they're going to be, just as Colonel Day said, they're going to be confused. They're going to be afraid. They're going to be threatened. And they're going to feel threatened. And then they're going to have guilt for having talked, having said where they're from, having told about their unit that it's inevitable. And what we're praying for is that they'll have a bounce bank and a resistance to come back and say, okay, I'm going to do it better tomorrow. I'm going to be tougher tomorrow. I'm going to hang them and be strong because we are going to get these men or women back. And we're going to bring home and we're going to treat them well. We want them to feel good about themselves.
BROWN: Colonel, is that a pretty good description of your mood, that there were times of great despair and a sense of guilt, any of that? DAY: I think I had some periods of terrible despair, because I had been brutalized very badly and I'd been wounded significantly. So I agree with General Clark. What happens is that once you get into the communication chain, and you're aware that other Americans are around and suffering basically the same circumstances you are, I think your anxiety begins to back down a little bit. And what the Vietnamese much like the Koreans, much like the Japanese, we had the -- an enormous amount of brutality, starvation, segregation, and just a very, very mean treatment. And so, the idea that you had someone to communicate with and could pray together was so very important. That was very helpful.
BROWN: General Clark, we ought not necessarily assume either the best or the worst, because we don't know either, but in fact, we do know something about how the Iraqis treated POWs in the past, don't we?
CLARK: Well, they didn't treat them too well. And -- but these were individual flyers who were taking a different locations. We had a case where the Serbs took our three soldiers in 1999. Apparently it was a Serb special forces operation actually snatched these three troops...
CLARK: ...you know, and brought them back into Serbia. They were shown on television. They looked like they had been roughed up. They were locked up. They were threatened. They were pounded on. And eventually, we got them back. And so, that's the -- probably the sort of median best case on this. And it could be worse.
BROWN: We're -- let's throw one more voice into the mix.
DAY: Yes, could I make one comment here, Mr. Brown?
BROWN: Yes. Sure, go ahead, yes, sir.
DAY: Yes, one of the best things that POWs have going for them right now is the president's very strong stance on the fact that he's going to hold the Iraqis accountable, and that somebody is going to be blistered pretty good if our POWs are mistreated. This was one of the terrible mistakes of the Vietnam War, and that the Johnson administration instructed the families that they could not even tell the public that their husband or son, whoever it might be, was a POW. And so as a result, they were able to get away with license and mistreatment and a lot of lack of public spotlight on them.
Here, the president has raised the issue that he knows this young man is a POW. And he wants him back. And that's extremely important to -- not only to the POW, but the entire world.
BROWN: Let me -- colonel, thank you. Let me throw now one more voice into the mix. Robert Wetzel joins us now from Denver, Colorado. Mr. Wetzel was a prisoner in I hope I get this right, because a lot of information's coming at me, you were a prisoner in Iraq during the first Gulf War, correct? ROBERT WETZEL, U.S. NAVY PILOT: Yes, that's correct.
BROWN: Tell me what that first -- you were a pilot, right?
WETZEL: Yes, I was flying the A-6 Intruder for the Navy.
BROWN: And tell me what that first night looked like?
WETZEL: You mean the first night of captivity?
WETZEL: Well, my first night of captivity, I'd just been shot down. And it was still the first day of the war. And it was still the first day of the war. And during my ejection, I broke both my arms, my back, my collarbone, and had multiple cuts. And we taken in by some medical personnel that night. And actually, that night, there was nothing -- no bed dealing with me. The next day, they drove us up to Baghdad, which I was not aware of. I thought we were somewhere else, but we were actually in Baghdad.
And the treatment up there got worse. Initially for me, I went to the -- they took me to a hospital and worked on both my arms. So I was pretty fortunate that they did that. But shortly after the hospital stay, they put me in the rest -- with the rest of the POWs and the prison system. And there, the treatment turned much worse than at the hospital.
BROWN: When you talk about the treatment getting worse, what are you saying?
WETZEL: I'm sorry, what did you say?
BROWN: When you talk about the treatment got worse, what is it that you're saying? In what respect did it get worse?
WETZEL: The treatment did get worse. We were kept in solitary confinement. It was cold. We were getting bed once a day. Pita bread, two pieces of pita bread and small soup broth, a bowl of that. And while I was in this prison system, I was interrogated twice.
The first time I was interrogated, the Iraqis started to ask me some questions. And I gave them my name, rank, and serial number. And they right away started to whip me with a heavy whip for like five or 10 minutes. And then they stopped and they asked me again, some question. And I gave them my name, rank and serial number. And then they started whipping me again. And this time, it was much more intense. And I felt that after about five or 10 minutes, they were actually going to go to escalate to a higher level of torture, which I didn't feel my body at that time could handle with multiple broken bones. So at that time, I started to give them a little bit of information. And then I'd give them a -- maybe about a minute's worth of information. And then I'd tell them, all right, I don't know quite any more about that.
And then they'd whip me again for about another five or 10 minutes. I'd give them a little bit more information. And so that went on for quite a while. And while that was going on, I was also burned by a cigarette at least once I know of. So the treatment got fairly harsh quickly.
BROWN: Did you wish you were dead?
WETZEL: Was I wishing I was dead?
WETZEL: No, I wasn't quite to that point. I think if I had no broken bones, I probably would have gotten to the point where I wish -- I was wishing I was dead, but not at that -- quite at that point, no.
BROWN: And so they finished this first interrogation and they are torturing you. I think that's a fair word to use. You're talking about whipping somebody. And then they take you back to a cell and just dump you there for a while?
WETZEL: Yes. My first interrogation didn't actually occur until about two weeks into my captivity. So at that point, I really didn't even feel like I had any useful information for them. And they put me back in my cell. And I kind of thought about what had happened. And I was actually very happy with my performance on how I was able to withstand their torturing, basically, and try to get information. I did not give them any information that put anybody's life in jeopardy.
So I felt pretty happy with how I'd done, but I was taken back to my cell. And that's how we were usually treated. We were always put in solitary confinement.
BROWN: And then, did they come back the next day and go through the same drill again?
WETZEL: It was like another two days, I believe, that they came back. And they initially started to -- it was kind of a different scenario. They came and got me and took me to another interrogation room. And they were actually trying to be my friend. It was kind of called what they call a soft cell. And they were trying to be friendly with me. And I playing along with the game.
They were asking me basically the same information that they had asked me before. So I figured, well I'll play the soft cell game. And then they started to get to the point where they were getting into information. And I couldn't go there. So that's when I pretended I did not know any more information.
And then it started not with the whip, but open hand slaps against the head and slaps across the face and everything. And then for some reason, without really getting into much more than that, they kind of stopped interrogation and took me back to my cell.
BROWN: I can't imagine that talking about this is an altogether pleasant experience. And if at some point, you just don't want to, just tell me, okay? I -- so you're not being fed very well. Are you talking to other Americans at all? Are you able to communicate with them at this point?
WETZEL: Not really. There was really two times that I actually talked to any other POWs. And the first time was February 23rd, we were at a prison called -- that we named the Biltmore. And it had been bombed by F-117s from the Air Force. And it kind of was a lot of chaos.
The Iraqis were actually trying to get us out of that prison after the bombing. And they couldn't get my door open, because they couldn't find the key. So there were seven of us left there that night. And we were able to communicate through like a little window in our prison cell door. And that was the first time I was able to speak to any of the POWs. And at that point, I found out that the war effort was going much better than I had thought it was. And then also, towards the end of my captivity, I was able to do the tap code with an Air Force captain, Dale Storr, that was next to me in my cell. We did a little bit of tapping and talking a little bit. So that was my two times information coming in.
BROWN: Were you confident -- or as confident as one could be under the circumstances, that you would ultimately be released?
WETZEL: Yes. I had to be pretty optimistic though. That first day of captivity, really, the second day of captivity for me was a turning point for me. I was very depressed. And here I was, a POW, I had all these multiple broken bones. I was in a bad situation. And I was very depressed.
So I made a conscious effort at that point. I said to myself, "You got to come out of this. You have to a positive outlook on it." So from that point on, I was very optimistic with my captivity. I always felt that we were going to be released at one point.
During my captivity, I kept busy by four things. I prayed a lot to God, saying Hail Marys and Our Fathers. I thought of happy times growing up in the Metuchen, New Jersey with my friends and family. I thought of happy times that I was going to have when I was released after the war with my wife, Jackie, and my kids and my family and friends. And then I also spent some time just kind of daydreaming. But with those four things, I really stressed upon myself to keep busy and try to not think about the bad points. Because every now and then, I'd slip and I'd start thinking about my horrible situation that I was in. And I'd start to get depressed. And then I'd realize I'm not going to make it through this captivity.
And I think that's what the POWs now that are -- that were taken captive have to do also. They have to make a decision early on to make the best of the situation. And they're going to do whatever they need to, basically, to get out of it safely without obviously putting their command -- their squadron or whatever into jeopardy at all.
BROWN: Let me end this on as positive a question as I can. Just tell me how it came to be that you found out you were going home?
WETZEL: It was -- I suspected something was going on because the -- I didn't hear as many missiles going up. The sirens weren't going off as often. And they told me that the war was over and that I'd be going home soon. It was March 2 that they told me that. And that was the day I was supposed to be married to my fiance, Jackie. And so, I suspect, you know, they were telling me that they had won the war and everything, but I could tell the treatment had gotten better. We were getting three meals a day now. And they actually had a doctor looking at me a little bit. The stitches that I had were all grown over by the skin mostly. And it looked like they were trying to take care of us a little bit better. So I suspected that we were getting out there.
WETZEL: But I wasn't going to believe it until I was actually out of Iraq, because with my positive attitude, every time they took me somewhere, I was always all right, this is it. I'm getting on a bus and we're heading out of here. And I was disappointed several times.
BROWN: Mr. Wetzel, you've given us a fascinating and difficult window into what it's like to be one of those young Americans today. I can only imagine how you must have felt when you heard of all of this. We are enormously appreciative of your time tonight. And we're very glad to see you. It gives all of us hope, just to talk to you. Thank you, sir, very much.
WETZEL: Well, thank you.
CLARK: Aaron, can I add to...
CLARK: ...Colonel Day and...
BROWN: And Bob Wetzel.
CLARK: ...and Bob Wetzel, that we really admire your courage and the example you've set. And Colonel Day, you received a medal of honor for your service there. And thank you for being such a great example to the men and women of America. Thank you.
BROWN: Thank you both very much.
WETZEL: And if I could say a quick thing. I'd like to just say for the families of the POWs, you know, don't ever give up hope. There's a lot of POWs that were missing in action and killed in action and as listed as that, and then they came out after the war. So never give up hope. And I'd also like to say that the Vietnam POWs were an inspiration to me and all the Desert Storm POWs.
BROWN: Bob, thank you. Hope is a great gift God gave us. It gets us through the most difficult of times. And I think there are -- you know, a lot of homes tonight hope is something they're looking for. Thank you, sir, very much. Bob Wetzel and his experience.
Just -- let me take a second to recap this. We want to lay out what we know, what appears to have happened in all of this. There was this group of 12 soldiers from the 507th Maintenance company. They were in southern Iraq when they were attacked. It's not precisely clear what happened during the attack. At least five members of the group were captured. And apparently, as many as seven were killed. The circumstances of their deaths are not known.
However, video of their bodies, and they have been laid out in a room, and it was vivid and horrible, far more horrible than anything we would ever show under any circumstance on American television, was broadcast across the Arab world by Al-Jazeera, the Arab television network.
As were the interviews of the captured Americans, we're also shown on Iraqi state TV. And then rebroadcast by Al Jazeera as well.
After we update you on all of the other events of this day, we'll talk with the chief Washington correspondent for Al Jazeera, but first, Heidi Collins.
BROWN: Thank you. You can hear the air raid sirens going off again in Baghdad. It's always hard to know what this all means. As you all know now, five or so, almost five days I've lost track, into the war, but there in the nightfall at about 3:00 Baghdad time. It's now about 6:30 in the morning in Baghdad, there was a series of explosions. There had been explosions before. What these air raid sirens are about, we don't know. I do know now we have four cameras that in stationary positions. They give us a view of the city, but not an entire view of the city. You've heard the air raid sirens go off. And we'll see what it turns out to be.
Heidi, were you finished. You want to finish up? Okay, we'll keep going and we'll get back to Heidi towards the top of the hour.
Hafez Al-Miraz is the Washington bureau -- Washington -- chief Washington correspondent for Al-Jazeera. And he joins us now. Good to see you, good evening.
HAFEZ AL-MIRAZ, AL-JAZEERA CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Good evening.
BROWN: Look, I'll play this as directly as I can. Explain to me the rationale that your network had for displaying what can only be described as the most gruesome of pictures across the Arab world?
AL-MIRAZ: Thank you for the opportunity. I would like just to explain, first of all, that Al-Jazeera, as you know, an independent news media. We're not taking sides in that conflict or in any other conflict. We are reporting the news. And we are putting out footage that we feel it is newsworthy sometimes for our own audience. This is an Arabic language news network. We don't broadcast in English or at least not yet.
The Al-Jazeera for the last three days have been putting out footages of bodies of Iraqi dead Iraqis. They were both armies or civilians. And today, the -- we found that there are footages, or we have a chance to put out footages, although it was shot by the Iraqi TV or part of it by Iraqi TV, of the other side of the war. Also the -- that the human suffering on the American level, on the American side.
Some of the footages for your case or my case may be -- would be controversial. Do you need to put that much of the footage or the close-up? And it is a debate, even in our news room for a while. People who feel that it is the reality of war. And you cannot have just war as video games and just the very sensitized image of the war. But the main point...
BROWN: Mr. Al-Miraz.
AL-MIRAZ: ...is the footage of people who are dead and bodies were put to Al-Jazeera for the last two days of Iraqis. Today it was put on for American victims. It is very -- it's a tragedy. It is very painful and emotional issue.
BROWN: All right, sir...
AL-MIRAZ: ...on both sides.
BROWN: ...respectfully, I understand that. And I, believe me, would be the first to argue and have many times in my professional life, that we are not in the business of sanitizing war or anything else. But is not -- is there not a line between sanitizing the news and simply putting something on TV because it is gruesome. You can show the horror or war without zooming in on the most gruesome -- I mean, I don't -- I'm reluctant to even describe...
BROWN: ...what that 6.5 minutes looked like, because honestly, sir, it is vile.
AL-MIRAZ: And that's what happened. Al-Jazeera, when we got the chance to edit these tapes, first it was rushed and put out as is or mostly as is. And I agree with you. Some of it is really terrible and horrible. Unfortunately, some European networks, including Sky News, that is also the owners of Sky News are the owners of other U.S. networks, put the pictures as is. And maybe they did not edit out, but Al-Jazeera did edit out after that the pictures. And we made sure that it doesn't show a description of faces or anything like that. That happened on -- later on.
Also, we honor the request by the Pentagon to give them some time, not to play the footage -- not to play the video for the POWs until they identify them and notify the families. That happens around 12:00 noon today. And the -- my headquarters did really respond to that request for humanitarian consideration. And we honor this as of 12:00 noon, until like 8:00 p.m. today, Al-Jazeera did not put any of these footages or the POWs, while other networks in Europe, including U.S. allies like Spain state TV, Portugal, Belgium, others. They did put it out.
BROWN: And sir, and they have to -- sir, they have...
AL-MIRAZ: If I can finish, Aaron, on that.
BROWN: I'm sorry, but they have to answer for themselves.
AL-MIRAZ: That's true.
BROWN: In this case, sir, you have to answer for Al-Jazeera.
AL-MIRAZ: And let me just finish that point, please.
AL-MIRAZ: To explain to you what happen. So 12:00 noon Al- Jazeera did abide by that until the people in the Pentagon notified the families. And unfortunately, half an hour after that, 12:30, I was watching CNN and I found one of your reporters in the Pentagon reading names of three POWs. And this is CNN in English for American families, while Al-Jazeera would not reach any American or English speaker audience in the U.S. And this is what we're talking about.
BROWN: Sir, are you saying that this happened on CNN...
AL-MIRAZ: Yes, sir.
BROWN: ...excuse me, let me finish the sentence. I wasn't quite done. On CNN International or CNN domestic.
AL-MIRAZ: CNN domestic, sir.
BROWN: Because as you know, excuse me, as you know, there's a very different audience and a very different issue there.
AL-MIRAZ: As -- we're talking about CNN domestic, CNN America. We're talking about 12:30. And the Pentagon did investigate that and talk to the reporter who did that. And to -- just to add to that also, look today at "The Washington Post" front page.
BROWN: OK, that...
AL-MIRAZ: "The Washington Post" front page has an Iraqi POW. I don't think that this is -- two wrongs don't make a right. I agree with you.
AL-MIRAZ: As we know in about...
BROWN: We're getting -- no, no, we're veering all over the place. But let me bring you back to one question. Let's not go to the POWs yet. We'll get to the POWs if you want. How many times before noon when you pulled this -- when you say you pulled this thing or edited this thing or whatever precisely happened, how many times were the six minutes, and you know this, sir, you know how gruesome that piece of tape is, how many times had that been aired? And for what purpose could it possibly have been to air it in that form?
AL-MIRAZ: Well, I haven't counted how many times. It might be twice or three times, but also we have to remember we are in testing times. And this is a war. And until you know there is a reaction like that, maybe people didn't feel it, but once they felt that there is a very negative reaction to some of these footages, they responded to that. And we should remember also, Aaron, that in 1993, when CNN was 13 years old, Al-Jazeera is now seven year old, CNN put the footages of the U.S. soldiers bodies dragged in Mogadishu, in Somalia city. And I don't think also would people judge on CNN for doing that. People hated -- those people who did that to the U.S. soldiers, but not CNN because it carried...
AL-MIRAZ: ...the bodies of U.S. soldiers in Somalia in 1993.
BROWN: Sir, this is -- there's nothing easy about these issues. And there's nothing easy about these conversations. And the one thing I would say, hopefully for all of us, is we appreciate a lot your willingness to come on and talk about it, because it is...
AL-MIRAZ: May I add something, Aaron?
BROWN: ...I'm sure you knew, this was -- this is a tough one for both sides of this conversation. Thank you very much.
AL-MIRAZ: May I add something, please?
BROWN: If you can do it in about 20 seconds.
AL-MIRAZ: OK, just also the issue of POWs, even in your show, you put a still photo of an Iraqi POW, I think, and you had a comment on it two days ago. And I hope you all respect the regulations. Al- Jazeera will respect it as of now. And I hope you as networks will put Iraqi POWs should do the same.
BROWN: Well, OK, point made. And just to make the point back, I'm almost 100 percent certain that the family of that POW, wherever they are, did not see that picture on CNN. Thank you.
AL-MIRAZ: Same for us.
BROWN: Sir, thank you very much.
On we go. General Clark, apparently it's going to be a night.
Last time, we talked to Karl Penhaul, he was with a unit, an Apache helicopter unit that had been at work. And the Apaches do tough work out in the field. And Karl joins us on the telephone now, I believe.
KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Aaron. Dawn's now broken here over the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) where the Apache helicopters have now landed. And it's only now that the pilots and their commanders are assessing the damage that is being done, not so much the damage to the Iraqi Republican Guard position, that kind of analysis will come later. The immediate analysis is being done is the damage that has been done to the Apache helicopters.
The mission started around midnight local time. And the helicopters returned about half past 3:00. I flew on a Black Hawk helicopter during that mission. That was the command and control helicopter for one of the battalions that was flying the mission.
The aim of the mission was to fight against the second armored brigade of the Medina Division, one of the elite Republican Guard units, and take out up to 90 of their T-72 tanks and some towed artillery pieces. But as the Apache helicopters approached the position near the town of Carballah (ph) on the southern approaches to Baghdad, there was a heavy barrage of anti aircraft fire that went up. And the Apaches virtually sailed into a wall of fire.
The Apaches, of course, are equipped with a lot of armaments, with hellfire missiles, with rockets, with 30 millimeter cannons. But looking at some of these helicopters today, they didn't fire off their full load of hellfire missiles. And like I say, the light is -- the first light is coming here. And I can see certainly signs of full and impacts on many of these crafts that are now strewn around the desert rather than parked in any order, Aaron?
BROWN: Karl, you're an embedded reporter and you need to play by the embedded rules. So if you cannot answer a question, just quickly say so. We'll move on. Can you tell us if everyone came back?
PENHAUL: I can't answer that, Aaron.
BROWN: That's fine.
PENHAUL: That is under ground rules, we can't talk about...
BROWN: That's fine. That's -- we'll just ask them as you can answer them. So they are assessing the damage to their own side. And I assume others will figure out what damage there has been inflicted, if you will, on the Iraqi forces in the area. Do they give you -- are they -- all right, are these -- General Clark raised a good question. There are two versions to the Apaches. Is this the long bow?
PENHAUL: There -- it was a mixture. The long bows were flying. And also, the alpha model, the original Apaches were flying. Again, under ground rules, it's a little bit difficult to speak precisely of...
PENHAUL: ...some that were in action, but it was certainly a mixture of battalions and squadrons, mixing long bows and alpha model Apaches. Precisely, it was the 11th Helicopter Attack regiment based in Illesheim in Germany. And it was also first attack, that's part of the 1st Cavalry Division, based out of Fort Hood, Texas. Those units they can put together in 11th Regiment Task Force. And that was their task last night, just to fly against this elite Republican Guard unit.
BROWN: Just so our viewers -- there are two versions of the Apache. One is essentially second generation. It has a little better -- slightly somewhat different weaponry. It also has -- it's more sophisticated helicopter. They're both pretty remarkable war machines, if you will. But one is a generation older, slightly less sophisticated. And that's the nature of the question.
Was there air support beyond the helicopters, Air Force support?
PENHAUL: There was close air support. Because of the problems of Air Force aircraft flying at higher altitudes, flying on the same positions that helicopters fly typically at very low altitudes they're flying at, then the helicopters were allowed to go and do their work first. The -- like I say, the helicopters were flying at very, very low altitudes. It seems to be quite clear the Iraqis initially thought they were on the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and Air Force unit from claims fly quite high. The anti aircraft barrage were aimed quite high. Then when they realized it was helicopters that were attacking them, then the Iraqis dropped the level of the anti aircraft fire and put up a big barrage.
It wasn't pinpointed specifically at single helicopters. It didn't appear for a moment that they had the sophistication to lock onto specific targets. But like I say, the -- putting up this wall of anti aircraft fire does seem this morning, looking around the airfield where I am, that anti aircraft fire seems to have been very effective.
In fact, the Black Hawk helicopter that we were flying in, we were -- as the command and control helicopter typically holds in a holding pattern away from the combat zone, we were probably flying about 15 miles away from the combat zone. But I did hear the zing of several bullets, probably fairly small caliber assault rifle rounds zinging up around the helicopter although none appeared to have impacted -- Aaron?
BROWN: Karl, thanks a lot. Karl Penhaul who is with the Apache group. Those of you who are regular frequent viewers of "NEWSNIGHT" might recall a piece that we did when we were in Kuwait. And those were the guys. But we hope -- and we particularly hope, honestly, that they're all well and safe.
Jamie McIntyre's at the Pentagon. Jamie, we've put a lot on the table in 47 minutes here. You want to start with the POW question? And we'll work through this chemical factory. We should deal with that before we leave you, too.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's start with this alleged chemical factory.
MCINTYRE: Because this is one of those stories, I should warn you, that may not look quite as exciting by tomorrow, but it looks kind of interesting tonight. And I say that because U.S. officials confirmed to CNN that U.S. troops have secured a facility that may, and you have to underline the may, may have produced chemical weapons at some time. It's a suspected chemical weapons facility. That said, we don't know if there are any chemicals there. We don't know exactly what they found at this location.
It's a site, it's a facility that's about 90 miles south of Baghdad at a place called Al Najaf. And it is, based on apparently some U.S. intelligence, it's suspected that chemical weapons were made there.
Now the interesting thing about it is the generals who were in charge there, apparently there were two of them, have surrendered to the United States. They're in -- they're prisoners of the United States and they are talking to U.S. military officials. And that's about as far as we can go.
Now by tomorrow, we may found out that there isn't a whole lot there. Or we may find out that there are dual use chemicals there or something that might be ambiguous. But tonight, we're reporting it as a suspected chemical weapons facility that's been captured by the United States.
And of course, if it were to turn out that the U.S. were ever to find weapons of mass destruction, chemical, biological weapons, that of course would be a huge development in the way that this whole operation is perceived by the rest of the world.
BROWN: Well, it's just game, set match. I mean, if that's what that turns out to be, on that question, the question of weapons of mass destruction, chemical weapons, that is game, set match right there.
MCINTYRE: Yes, but I'm just going to...
BROWN: If it turns out.
MCINTYRE: ...I'm going to guess, based on my experience, that it turns out to be something a lot more ambiguous by tomorrow.
BROWN: I suspect so.
MCINTYRE: We'll talk about it tomorrow night.
BROWN: Now on the POW question, and then if you will, give us a sort of long view of the day?
MCINTYRE: Well, the POW question is -- first of all, the United States, the U.S. military has always thought that there would be casualties in this war, and that there would be prisoners of war. And they are insisting that Iraq treat these prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions. They already complained that by showing their pictures on television, by interviewing them, they violated the Geneva Conventions. But other than that, they're hopeful that they will receive, if not humane treatment, at least not too abusive treatment. And you've heard about how some of the other prisoners have been treated the last time. As for the war itself, the U.S. military is putting the best face on today's difficulties, saying that they never expected this to be a clean war, and that the U.S. battle plan is on track, despite the combat losses, despite the taking of American prisoners, the U.S. is continuing to march toward Baghdad. In fact, they say they will be -- they will have the main elements of their force in the vicinity of Baghdad very soon.
MCINTYRE (voice-over): What military commanders call the sharpest engagement of the war thus far occurred at the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriya about 100 miles north of Kuwait.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today was a tough day of fighting for the coalition, but we continue our attack to remove the regime and to destroy the forces supporting t.
MCINTYRE: U.S. Marines thought the main fighting was over at Nasiriya, but they were tricked, U.S. commanders say, by special Republican Guard forces who had infiltrated the regular Iraqi troops.
LT. GEN. JOHN ARIZAID, DEPUTY COMMANDER U.S. CENTCOM: In one incident, a flag of surrender was displayed. And it was followed up by artillery fire. In another incident, there were troops dressed in civilian clothes that appeared to welcome the forces, and then ambush them.
MCINTYRE: It was also near Nasiriya where a U.S. military supply convoy came under attack after making a wrong turn.
ARIZAID: I can tell you for a fact that we are definitely missing 12 Army soldiers that are unaccounted for, some of whom I believe ended up on Baghdad television.
MCINTYRE: Iraqi television aired gruesome pictures of four dead soldiers, along with videotaped questioning of five captured American POWs, which the Pentagon charged violated international accords.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: It's a violation of the Geneva Convention for the Iraqis to be -- if in fact that's what's taking place, to be showing prisoners of war in a humiliating manner.
MCINTYRE: U.S. troops will now use more caution in approaching what may only appear to be friendly Iraqis. But U.S. commanders insist the Iraqi military remains in disarray.
ARIZAID: We have not seen on the battlefield a single coherent military move. These moves are dangerous to the troops in the field, but they're not dangerous to the success of the mission.
RUMSFELD: The cost of this war is clear. The outcome is clear. The regime of Saddam Hussein is gone. It's over.
(END VIDEOTAPE) MCINTYRE: And two late items to add, Aaron. One from the British Defense Ministry, not coming out of here, but two British soldiers are not missing on the battlefield in southern Iraq. A search is underway. And from the U.S. Navy confirmation, that two Tomahawk cruise missiles that were fired over Turkey, now that the U.S. has permission to fly over Turkey, went awry and apparently landed in an unpopulated area of Turkey. We're told that no one was hurt -- Aaron?
BROWN: Well, the fact that no one was hurt is probably the best news in a tough day. Jamie, thank you, Jamie McIntyre.
I'm getting a little backed up. I just want to turn to General Clark for one second, because I want you in 30 seconds or so, put context on what is going to be headlined, I think, throughout the country and throughout the world as a tough day for the coalition side. These days happen.
CLARK: These days happen. You know, this is part of moving toward Baghdad. Everybody knew the resistance was going to get tougher. Even though there haven't been any coherent moves by the Iraqis, their army has some individually courageous in it. They've got equipment and weapons that will kill people. They've been sneaky. Some of these guys have been in fights before. You're going to have ups and downs. And the important point is to just keep it on an even keel and continue to push toward Baghdad and bring into play the overwhelming technological superiority of the U.S. forces.
BROWN: And on the subject of the push to Baghdad, Ryan Chilcote is embedded with the group from the 101st. And Ryan, it's good to see you tonight. Give us the detail that you can give us.
RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the 101st Airborne has moved into Southern Iraq. And we are at what is called a FARP. A FARP is a forward area re-arming and refueling point. I'm going to show you the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter behind me. The FARPs -- FARPs are made for Black Hawks and Apaches, other helicopters that the military uses. They are basically gas stations, if you will, for the helicopters of the Army. The gas stations and arms depots, I should say.
What happens is helicopters fly in here. They can fly to the front. And then come back here. And they can refuel here and re-arm. What that means is instead of having to taxi all the way back to the rear, they can just come back here, spend less time taxing, and more time if they're an attack helicopter, like the Apache, destroying targets like Karl was describing. Or if they're an assault helicopter, meaning they move infantry like the UH-60, which normally has -- that you're seeing right now, which normally has 16 soldiers inside of it, they can spend more time moving forward, going deeper behind Iraqi lines.
This is a very significant development in the military build-up. You know, we talked about the military build-up in the theater. This is a very significant moment in the military build-up inside Iraq itself. Let me show you some of the tankers over here that the UH-60s and AH-64s, that's what the Apache attack helicopter is called, the fuelers where they would actually get their fuel, they're over there. It takes a lot of fuel for these helicopters to work. They can only run for a finite number of times. Then they have to sit down and get gas. So this is very key to have an operation like this. And this was the objective of the 101st Airborne 3rd Brigade to set this up. They did it today, well actually, it's now 6:00 in the morning here. So they did it yesterday.
See what else I can show you here. There's -- there are a lot of helicopters here naturally. Not all of them within sight. There's another Black Hawk over there. There are also Apache Longbow helicopters. That's the AH-64 improved model, a very lethal helicopter, four times more lethal than it's predecessor, the Apache alpha model.
And what's so amazing about this helicopter, and we'll probably hear a lot about it in the coming weeks, is that this helicopter has a very sophisticated radar system. So it pops up, finds a series of targets, and it doesn't have enough -- it might not have enough munitions itself to destroy all the targets. So it will share that data with other Apache attack helicopters in the area. And then they will all fire on all of those targets in unison. So it's like a computer network, if you will, really very deadly stuff.
We talk about close air support from the Air Force, supporting the Infantry on the ground. Well, aviation can also play a large role. And now that this FARP is established, now that this forward area re-arming and refueling point is established, obviously, aviation is going to play a lot larger role, because they can go much -- now much, much deeper into Iraq.
Aaron, any questions? I'm hoping that this UH-60 will take off for us, but you know how it is with timing. You're never quite as lucky as you'd like.
BROWN: You know what, in the coverage of all of this, timing, Ryan, can be both good and bad. Honestly, and let's just leave it where it is, and wish you and all of them well. And we'll check back with you before our night is done. I've got 20 seconds here before we go to an update.
You had, general, a couple of quick thoughts?
CLARK: Just thinking about the dust in that FARP. It's big. We need it. It's vital. It's part of the operational procedures. And it's tough to operate.
BROWN: And this second generation Apache is -- it's the first time out of the gate. It's the first time it's been used as the real deal.
CLARK: That's right. I mean, we just brought it -- started bringing these into the inventory about three or four years ago. We've got several units equipped with them. They are very, very good, but like every other system, it has to be used in conjunction with combined arms. It has to be supported with artillery. You need to get air in there. You can use multiple launch rocket systems. You can use deception and surprise. You strike quickly and elude the enemy's ability to react. And they're going to be very, very good.
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