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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Coalition Forces Continue to Move But Not Without Cost

Aired March 24, 2003 - 12:00   ET

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Saddam will go. This regime will be replaced. The Iraqi people will be held to a better future. The weapons of mass destruction, for which a peaceful Iraq has no use, will be eliminated. That we will encounter more difficulties and anxious moments in the days ahead is certain, but no less certain, indeed more so, is coalition victory.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The British prime minister takes a big picture view in remarks to the House of Commons. Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Kuwait City.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf. Welcome. I'm Paula Zahn in New York. We appreciate you joining us for this new hour of CNN special coverage of the war in Iraq -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's already 8:00 p.m., Paula, here in the Persian Gulf, where coalition forces continue to move, in the words of the central commander, General Tommy Franks, but not without cost. A U.S. attack helicopter was downed today roughly 50 miles outside Baghdad. And its crew is now listed MIA, missing in action. Nasiriya is still the scene of heavy fighting. And a U.S. cavalry unit that was leading the allied advance is stalled for a second straight day.

Explosions shook Baghdad this morning, this afternoon and again within the past hour. As is usually the case, though, we have no idea yet what was hit. We do know a sand storm is bearing down on the area. The Associated Press reports it's already complicating coalition movements.

U.S. military leaders maintain the resistance that coalition forces are running into almost everywhere they step is not unexpected and not forcing major changes in strategy. Let's get an update on various developments from CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, General Tommy Franks held an updated news briefing at his headquarters in Qatar earlier today, telling reporters his view of the progress five days into the war. Here's a little bit of what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEN. TOMMY FRANKS, CENTCOM COMMANDER: As you know, our forces have been moving rapidly. We've intentionally bypassed enemy formations to include paramilitary and the Fidayeen, and so you can expect that our cleanup operations are going to be ongoing for -- across the days in the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: But when you look at the map, it really begins to tell the story of what is happening here. U.S. forces continuing to press onto Baghdad. Bypassing some of these key cities that they have fought their way through as they go around the cities and move to Baghdad. That is part of the strategy. They don't want to get bogged down in the cities.

What they are encountering, officials say, is the irregular forces, the Fidayeen, the Special Republican Guard, the troops most loyal to Saddam Hussein that are putting up what the U.S. military calls resistance. So they want to go around that. But the question now that is beginning to emerge is there are beginning to be very long supply lines for the U.S. military as they move forward now possibly as close as 50 miles from Baghdad, even along the southern suburban edges of the city.

So all of this is beginning to shape up as an issue that doesn't seem to be going away. In addition, in the west, there are a number of new missions, we are told, by U.S. special forces looking for weapons of mass destruction, looking for missiles and launchers. That is becoming the other key issue at the moment, trying to locate some of the weapons of mass destruction the U.S. government believes the Iraqi regime has.

We have, in recent hours, been warned away from thinking that there may be a chemical weapons facility at the town of Nagif (ph). Yesterday U.S. officials indicating there may have been one there. But now they believe that that may be a plant that was long ago, years ago abandoned by the Iraqis. But what we can say, Wolf, is that exploitation teams -- that's what they call them, chem/bio exploitation teams have now moved into several areas in Iraq looking at possible weapons of mass destruction sites -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara, a lot of our viewers, of course, are familiar with the regular Iraqi army, several hundred thousand, they're also familiar with the so-called Elite Republican Guard and the Special Republican Guard, but many of them may not be familiar with this other unit, the Fedayeen. Tell our viewers specifically who they are and who they're most loyal to.

STARR: Well, it is the understanding of the U.S. government at least that these are basically troops loyal to Saddam Hussein and his sons. Very loyal to the top leadership of the regime. Described here as something even less than irregular forces; one official describing them as criminals; another describing them as thugs. Loyal mainly to one of Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday.

But these are the troops that the U.S. believes are now conducting some of these raids against U.S. forces. As they move forward to Baghdad, trouble is erupting in the rear echelons. A lot of raids. A lot of very small scale attacks that the U.S. believes are being staged by these forces.

Now, Tommy Franks says it's not a surprise. They had expected this all the way along. But this may be one of the major reasons from the standpoint of strategy that the U.S. military is trying to avoid going into the cities and actually occupying them, instead fighting on the outskirts, basically trying to put a city under isolation and surveillance, as it is described to us, and keep people from moving around too much if they are deemed to be those who would cause trouble.

The question, of course, being in the days ahead, how this will affect the flow of humanitarian supplies. This is the other emerging problem. The Pentagon, the military out at Central Command has promised very rapid delivery of humanitarian supplies. But if they can't secure the region, international aid workers are not likely to go in there. And that may begin to be a problem. They still say they hope to begin delivering supplies in the next few days -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara, very quickly, is there a Pentagon briefing expected today?

STARR: There is talk in the hallways, but things are pretty fluid around here. People have a tough time sticking to their schedules. Some very tentative talk. But we'll be back to you as soon as we have word.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr, our Pentagon correspondent. Thanks, Barbara, very much. Paula, back to you.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Wolf. We heard Tommy Franks saying earlier today that there has been rapid if not in some cases dramatic progress in the advance on Baghdad. And as Barbara just said, though, there are these pockets of tenacity of Iraqi units that was unexpected. And Sara (sic) Rose Weaver is embedded with the army in central Iraq. She came under fire earlier today. She joins us now live on the telephone. Sara (sic), what's the latest?

LISA ROSE WEAVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's actually Lisa, Paula. It's been four hours now since a single (UNINTELLIGIBLE)) artillery round was fired about 100 meters away from the main portion of a small encampment with which I am embedded. It's an air defense artillery battery. People -- it was a very sharp, loud boom. People immediately, myself included, dove under Humvee vehicles.

The troops jumped into trenches behind sand (UNINTELLIGIBLE) erecting for hours before the attack, presumably on the assumption that our position might be vulnerable. This particular air defense battery is kind of far out there and doing something unusual for air defense, moving (UNINTELLIGIBLE) rather than remaining static in the background, which is what Patriot missile batteries usually do.

Now, about an hour and a half after the first artillery round, there was a second, which, interestingly, nobody heard or saw because we were so busy packing up. The military authorities have made the decision to leave the area, get the people and those Patriot missiles out. We are now at the moment regrouping to find another location so that that second artillery round wasn't actually heard. But it did occur in the same general area -- Paula.

ZAHN: Lisa Rose Weaver, sorry to have messed up your name. We're juggling a lot of names here this morning. Please stay safe.

Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence sources say there is reason to believe the most recent appearance of Saddam Hussein was taped before the war began. Experts more or less conclude it really was Saddam, whose fiery comments aired today on Iraqi TV, but his actual health and welfare remain much a mystery. CNN national security correspondent David Ensor tells us more from Washington. Good afternoon, David. For starters, is he injured, as one senator led us to believe that yesterday, carried off on a stretcher from that compound that got hit that first night?

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: We just don't have definitive word on that, Paula. And the Iraqis are obviously making a strong effort to show that he's still alive and in control. In fact, if we have it, there's a new tape just in. I'll be watching this the same time as our viewers for the first time. This is a tape that should show us, I'm told, Saddam Hussein meeting with his son Qusay and at least one other -- couple of other military advisers, looking relaxed, smiling.

And of course, once again, we are left with the same question on this tape as we have been with the others. Was this tape made today? Was it made before the first strikes that occurred Wednesday night Washington time? One of which is thought to have hit his compound where he was staying. As you say, there are questions about that. This is the tape that came out earlier today with the fiery comments you mentioned. U.S. intelligence officials are analyzing it closely. The first thing they, of course, do is check the voice, which is one of the easiest ways to identify whether it's the same person or not. Officials are pointing out that on this tape, which is supposedly him recently, he refers to the involvement of some Iraqi military units which U.S. officials say were not in fact yet involved in the fighting. There are also some jump cuts in this video. That's pointed out to me. We use jump cuts in television news. But officials point out that those could be -- could show that the tape was doctored to fit current circumstances.

They believe that Saddam taped quite a number of messages of one kind or another with different language in it prior to the beginning of the war. And it is still possible we may be looking at that old file video being recirculated over and over again.

At the same time, they're not ruling out that he's alive. There is that intelligence suggesting he might have been injured on Wednesday night. But officials say they also have intelligence suggesting he's just fine. And there's even some suggesting he may be dead. Officials in Washington are just simply not willing to say at this point. They do not think they know for sure. Here we see the first picture of Saddam, the one with the large glasses on, the first one that was broadcast right after the bombing. Questions were there about whether that was a double. U.S. intelligence now says they do believe that was Saddam, not looking as well as usual.

Now, there is a report in "Newsweek" magazine, stating that the U.S. was able to target Saddam Hussein himself on that first Wednesday night bombing, because it has penetrated his inner circle, because it has an agent in the inner circle. Now, U.S. intelligence officials are declining all comment on that report. Here we see the cruise missile attacks that some of which landed on the compound where it's believed Saddam Hussein was spending the night.

They're refusing comment on that report, but I should note that on Thursday, right after those attacks, the same officials were noting that the strike on Hussein's compound, quote, "should cause him to worry now that members of his trusted inner circle may have turned against him." So while they're not confirming they have an agent in the inner circle, they don't mind if Saddam thinks they do -- Paula.

ZAHN: I can bet on that. Let's move on to the issue of Saddam's paramilitary force. What can you tell us about the intelligence gathered on the Fedayeen? That's something we haven't talked a whole lot about until today.

ENSOR: U.S. intelligence officials say that the Fedayeen Saddam, as it is called, which was founded in 1994 and is headed by Uday Hussein, the oldest son of Saddam Hussein, has about 25,000 members, they believe. This is a irregular unit. They don't wear uniforms. They live in their own houses all around the country. They're heavily armed. And they are known, U.S. officials say, for their brutality.

Now, normally this group, the role of the Fedayeen Saddam is to keep control of the population. If there's unrest, they move in against it. And they are -- they are there as, in effect, as spies and controllers of what is sometimes a pretty restless population in Iraq. But right now, U.S. officials say they're being used to try and make trouble for U.S. and British forces from the rear. And these officials tell me that it was the Fedayeen Saddam that took those American prisoners -- Paula.

ZAHN: So what is the sense you get from these officials you talk with? Are they primarily in the southern part of the country or are they really scattered all over the country?

ENSOR: They are all over the country. These are hard-line loyalists of the regime. Again, they wear their regular clothes. Sometimes the locals don't even know who they are. But they're heavily armed. And when the moment comes, if there's unrest or if there is an opportunity, they pull out their guns and do what they have to do.

ZAHN: David Ensor, thanks for the wealth of information. We'll be getting back to you throughout the afternoon. Back to Wolf now in Kuwait City -- Wolf. BLITZER: Thanks, Paula. Let's get to Gary Strieker now. He is one of our embedded correspondents. He's aboard the USS Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier in the eastern Mediterranean. He's joining us now. Gary, tell us what's happening aboard the Roosevelt?

GARY STRIEKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we just learned from sources here that today there's going to be a dramatic change in the way the air wing assets on this aircraft carrier, and probably other aircraft carriers in this campaign, are going to be used. Today there will be a dramatic intensification of the launches off this aircraft, and many of them are going to be used in what's called close air support instead of strictly bombing missions.

They're going to be going in -- the whole country Iraq is divided into quadrants, into small boxes called air interdiction zone. And these planes will go into those boxes, those boxed in areas, fly around, take out targets of opportunity, if they find them, and then if they're called in by ground troops for close air support, they will accomplish that.

I think this indicates a couple of things, Wolf. That obviously the ground war is intensifying and this is a dramatic change in the use of these air assets on the carriers. And also, the infrastructure targets that the strike aircraft had been taking out over the past week are reducing. They don't have as many targets as they did before. And of course, the whole purpose of this war is to avoid massive structural damage that will have to be rebuilt after the war is over. So they're going to be running out of targets. And close air support is probably going to be a much bigger component of what these planes are doing off the carriers, Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Gary, stand by. I want to explain to our viewers what we mean by close air support. But as we do, I want to show our viewers what's happening in Baghdad right now. Not a huge surprise, once again air raid sirens are being blasted in Baghdad. You can hear them right now. That's usually anticipation that perhaps some bombing raids are on the way. Let's listen in for a second.

Well, I think there it is. I think we just heard an explosion there in Baghdad, 8:20 p.m. local time here in the Persian Gulf. We're seeing these live pictures from Baghdad, as we continue to monitor what we can see and hear in the Iraqi capital.

Gary, close air support basically means when these planes go out and try to help advancing U.S. ground forces, tanks, armored personnel carriers. They may encounter some resistance. They go out and deal with Iraqi forces that may be aligned against U.S. forces and British forces moving in. What planes do they have aboard the Roosevelt that can undertake these kinds of close air support bombing raids?

STRIEKER: Well, the main aircraft, the main warplanes that will be used, they're based on this ship and most of the other ships. The jet aircraft that can land and take off on these carriers. Those are F-14 Tomcats and F-18 Hornets. And they will be launching in great numbers. I can tell you, Wolf, today that the pilots on this ship are very psyched about the missions that they have ahead of them, because they felt very constrained over the past week.

They haven't felt that the assets they have really been launched in a way that could be most effective for what's needed. They have been felt leashed, as one pilot told me. But now they feel that they're finally going to be able to do what they have been trained to do. And I think we'll see, as I mentioned before, a dramatic increase in the use of these pilots and their aircraft off these carriers, Wolf.

BLITZER: And Gary, it's a lot more dangerous, though, when they're engaged in bombing for the close air support kinds of missions. Because normally they have to fly a lot lower than if they're dropping those 2,000-pound J-DAMs, those precision-guided bombs. They can do that from a much higher altitude. So the risk level goes up. I assume these aviators have spoken to you about that.

STRIEKER: Yes, they have. And because of the fact that prisoners have already been taken, they've seen these images on CNN. They've been watching them here on the carrier. These pilots are talking among themselves much more than they were in the past, about the possibilities of going down, being taken prisoner. It's something that's very much on their minds. As one of them told me, he's a veteran of the Afghanistan war. And he was one of the first to fly an F-18 into Afghanistan in 2001.

And he said that the air defenses in Afghanistan were practically negligible, of course, and it's a much different situation in Iraq. And he says that he doesn't want to even compare the two. It's -- there's a lot of air defense. There were some surface-to-air missiles in Afghanistan, some gunnery, but nothing like the air defense that Iraq has in that country, Wolf.

BLITZER: Gary Strieker, aboard the USS Roosevelt, one of two U.S. aircraft carriers in the eastern Mediterranean, together with the Harry S. Truman. Gary Strieker reporting now that these pilots aboard these F-14s and these F-18s are about to undertake a new phase in their mission. Instead of the overall strategic bombing, the bombing that's been occurring in Baghdad over these past several days and other major cities in Iraq; these pilots now about to begin close air support going after targets to help advancing U.S. infantry, Marine Corps and other units on the ground as they move, as they march towards Baghdad.

Gary Strieker, thanks very much for that report.

There are a lot of other developments as we watch these live pictures from Baghdad. Still, we just heard sirens going off in the Iraqi capital. We heard at least one explosion, perhaps more. This is the time of night when the people of Baghdad have gotten used to U.S. bombing missions in the Iraqi capital. Just after dark, a time of opportunity for U.S. warplanes, cruise missiles to begin going after their selected targets in Baghdad and other areas of Iraq.

Let's go over to the White House now. Our senior White House correspondent John King is standing by. The president's got some important meetings on his agenda today, John. JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, at the moment, the president is having lunch with the joint chiefs, they are the top generals in the U.S. military. An important symbolic lunch for the president. We will see a White House photograph of this meeting later in the day. Although the joint chiefs themselves have no direct role, or no immediate direct role anyway in the minute-to- minute command of this operation, General Tommy Franks from the Central Command is the general running the war, if you will, from his base now moved to Doha, Qatar.

Mr. Bush also this afternoon, though, will meet with leading members of Congress, those involved in appropriating the money for this country, and we are told at that session the president will tell them that he needs about $75 billion in emergency spending to pay for this war, the humanitarian effort and the reconstruction to come immediately after it, as well as some homeland security emergency money here in the United States. So $75 billion, CNN is told, is the rough estimate of what the president will ask from Congress.

We also were told and we were told to look for more of this, that the president on Wednesday will travel to the Central Command headquarters here in the United States. It is in Tampa, Florida. It was General Franks' home base before he went over to the region. Much of the support staff remains in Tampa, Florida. The president will go there to thank the troops, coalition troops, not just U.S. troops, based at the Central Command headquarters, to spend a little time with them. Part of an effort by the White House to get the president out a bit more visible. One, to thank the troops; two, to voice condolences and concern for the casualties and the captives and those injured.

But also to remind the American people -- and this is a concern here at the White House -- the White House believes the American people need to be reminded more that this could be a more lengthy and a more dangerous combat operation that many perhaps had anticipated heading in. The White House is concerned, Wolf, that because the experience in Afghanistan, in Kosovo and even back in the last Persian Gulf War 12 years ago that the American people are not prepared for significant casualties, because the U.S. military has had dominance in most of its campaigns of late.

Because of the ground fighting here, and you just heard more from Gary Strieker about what is to come, the White House believes the president needs to be out almost every day reminding the American people that he believes things are going well, but there are significant risks to the U.S. men and women on the ground inside Iraq -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And I guess we should just all step back and realize this is only day five of this war. No one anticipated it was going to be only a few days. This war is obviously going to continue for some time. John, that $75 billion supplemental budget request that the president is going to put forward, is that seen as sort of a down payment, the initial budget request, or is that going to cover the whole deal as far as the administration is concerned?

KING: It really depends how long the war effort goes. There have been some estimates that it could go as high as $100 billion. We are told the president himself and top aides have been squeezing money out of that request that they do not believe is directly necessary for this campaign. In terms of the military operation, most of the money would go to resupply all the weapons systems. There's some additional foreign aid in this measure as well.

And again, as I mentioned, some homeland security funds. The president believes and the White House senior staff members here tell us they believe it is enough to pay for the war effort and the down payment on the humanitarian and reconstruction effort. The rest of the reconstruction effort obviously would be paid for with Iraqi oil, once there is a new government, an interim government, up and running.

Don't be surprised, though, if Congress adds more money to this request. That generally happens anyway, because some in Congress will say the military needs even more, and whenever there's spending legislation making its way through the Congress, Wolf, as you know, lawmakers often try to add pet projects of their own, whether they have anything directly to do with this campaign or not.

BLITZER: And, John, correct me if I'm wrong, because you'll remember these numbers maybe even better than I will. During the first Gulf War, it cost around that $75 billion mark, but almost all of it, with the exception of about $5 billion, was paid for by the Saudis, the Japanese, the Europeans, the international community. This time around, that entire $75 billion price tag is going to be paid for by U.S. taxpayers.

KING: That's exactly right. It was a tiny percentage paid by, in the end paid for by the U.S. taxpayers in the first Persian Gulf War. The White House has said for some time now to prepare the American people for the bill, if you will, especially when it comes to the military operations; 100 percent of that money is coming out of the U.S. Treasury.

There will be some assistance when it comes to the humanitarian aid going in. Great Britain is participating, Japan and others have promised to participate. But when it comes to the nuts and bolts of the United States military operation, that will be paid for by U.S. taxpayers and U.S. taxpayers alone.

BLITZER: John King at the White House, thanks very much. And we'll hear much more from the Bush administration at the top of the hour. The White House briefing with the press secretary Ari Fleischer is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. Eastern. CNN, of course, will carry it live.

And we just received word, Paula, that there will indeed be a Pentagon briefing later today, 3:30 p.m. Eastern. CNN will certainly carry that live as well -- Paula.

ZAHN: Lots of briefings to keep track of today. Thanks, Wolf.

The effort to help Iraqi refugees is picking up speed once again today. Coming up, we're going to talk live with an aid worker in the region. Plus, what people in northern Iraq need the most now? Also ahead, surgery on the front lines. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes us inside a real MASH unit.

And throughout all of our coverage we're keeping an eye on live pictures out of Baghdad as Wolf just said, within the last half hour a report of potentially two explosions. I know at the top of the 11:00 hour the reports of some four explosions. We'll try to sort that all out for you. We're back in just a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting live from Kuwait. Paula Zahn is in New York. Let's go right to CNN's Ryan Chilcote he's embedded with the U.S. troops in central Iraq right now. Ryan's joining us via video phone.

What's the progress on the battlefield where you are, Ryan?

RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're actually at a forward area rearming and refueling point and behind me, I don't know how much of this you can see, if you look over to the left, a UH-58 Kiowa Warrior attack helicopter is going to land. This is one of the things that happens at FARRP's forward area rearming and refueling points. Very difficult to see, I imagine.

This is inside Iraq, 101st Airborne's 3rd brigade and 101st Airborne's Aviation set up this FARRP just yesterday. And this is really very important, it allows the aircraft to stay inside Iraq and refuel here, meaning that they can spend more time destroying targets inside Iraq and also send infantry deeper behind Iraqi lines, very important for the war effort for the U.S. military. Now, with us to talk about this, I don't know how much you can see is Lieutenant Shaw -- Lieutenant Riz Shaw he -- this is his FARRP.

Lieutenant Shaw, explain why would a helicopter fly at night completely blacked out like this?

LT. RIZ SHAW, 101ST ARMY AIRBORNE DIVISION: A helicopter would fly at night completely blacked out because he's taking advantage of the environment. The enemy is not as proficient in fighting at night as we are. United States army owns the night. That is the best time for us to conduct our combat operations.

CHILCOTE: Now, explain, some people understand brownout, that's the situation with the dust kicking up as the helicopter lands, explain that to our viewers. Explain what that means at night in particular.

SHAW: Yes, I mean even during the day it's challenging enough, because it's like going through a snow blizzard except it's brown is the best way to describe it. Now, imagine the same blow -- snow blizzard at night, a brown one. So for the last 35 to 15 feet when he's on approach, he loses all visual contact with the ground. He basically has to fly off his instincts and training.

CHILCOTE: That's dangerous?

SHAW: It's as dangerous as landing an aircraft carrier at night. CHILCOTE: Your team, you said started setting up here yesterday; been working hard.

SHAW: Yes, all through the night. We've been up since Friday morning 5:00 and this is going on Monday night.

CHILCOTE: OK, Wolf, any questions? You can take advantage of this opportunity we have Lieutenant Shaw here with us.

WOLF: You may want to ask your guest how worried are they when these helicopters go in over enemy positions -- over Iraqi positions, given the Iraqi anti-aircraft capabilities that clearly still exist.

CHILCOTE: Sure, good question. How concerned are you about helicopters flying at night over Iraqi anti-aircraft positions?

SHAW: I would be more concerned about aircraft flying during the day. Because the Iraqi systems aren't as advanced as ours, so a lot of the systems are based on visual recognition. So by flying at night, flying lower to the ground we minimize the threat against our Army aircraft.

CHILCOTE: Now, describe real quickly for people what's going on. This helicopter is on the ground at the FARRP. What is it doing? It's difficult to see because of the blackout, but what's going on over there?

SHAW: What's going on right now, we call this hot gas operations, meaning its engines remain in 100 percent and rotors turning. The POL person, the true trooper out here, 77 Foxtrot, he was going to go up, hook up and give the aircraft fuel, unhook and allow him to do his mission quickly and efficiently.

CHILCOTE: And this is more fuel than just fueling up your car.

SHAW: Oh, yes. This is JPA jet fuel, basically.

CHILCOTE: And how many gallons are we talking about for say the helicopter that's here right now?

SHAW: The OH-58 Delta takes approximately 80 gallons of gas.

CHILCOTE: All right, Wolf, well, that's it from the forward area rearming and refueling point that the 101st Airborne has set up here in southern Iraq.

WOLF: And I don't think anyone can underestimate the dangers that these forces from the 101st are about to endure. Thanks you very much, Ryan Chilcote, our embedded journalist with the 101st, he's up in central Iraq somewhere -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks, Wolf. We're going to get straight to another one of those embedded reporters. Our own Gary Tuchman, with the Air Force at an air base near the Iraqi border; he joins us live by video phone now. What's the latest from there, Gary? GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, hello to you. We've all heard the tragic news on the battlefield and on helicopters. But the U.S. Air Force is reporting that nearly 7,000 sorties each and every one has gotten back to base safely with the exception of one a British Air Force Tornado that happened early yesterday morning and that was an accident.

It was accidentally shot down by a Patriot missile launcher, those are the weapons used to shoot down ballistic weapons from Iraq they accidentally hit the British Tornado and two British air men are missing and presumed dead. But the other 6,999 or roughly that amount have come back to bases safely and the Air Force is gratified about that.

Behind me, one of their workhorses, it's the A-10 attack plane provides close air support for the troops that are on the ground. With us, right now, is one of the people in charge of the A-10's. This is Staff Sergeant John Freelove, he's an A-10 crew chief.

Sergeant thanks for joining us. How do you think your planes are doing so far?

SGT. JOHN FREELOVE, USAF: We're real pleased what they've been showing us. They're coming back with -- pretty much empty of all their ordnances, which means they did their tasks.

TUCHMAN: I want to give our viewer a look at something they don't usually get a chance to see. But, we'll go right between us, and you can see underneath the wings of these aircraft, affectionately known as Warthogs, you can see the weapons they carry, the bombs, the missiles. Specifically Sergeant, what are we looking at?

FREELOVE: Well, we generally have a A-9 Side Winder missiles, which are air to air for protection in case they come up against enemy aircraft. In -- then carry some AGM-65 Mavericks, which they used to bust up bunkers, tanks and hardened shelters and things like that; and then an assortment of Mark-82 cast iron bombs for general purpose blowing up stuff.

TUCHMAN: We'll come back to us, now. I want the viewers to see what you have in your hand here. Where did you get this from and what is it?

FREELOVE: This is a spent .30 millimeter shell from a recent mission. The Hogs were coming back from their regular mission and were called in to help out; there was an Iraqi column that was advancing on some of our troops and our two Hogs went in, identified them and strafed them and basically did their business.

TUCHMAN: Sergeant, thanks for joining us, we appreciate your time.

Highly placed Air Force officials are telling us they expect a 24 hour period ending later tonight. There will be an estimated 1,000 sorties to Iraq with bombs and missiles, another 1,000 for support missions, providing support to ground troops or dropping leaflets. Of 1,000 the bombs and missiles, we're told roughly 800 will be focused in the Baghdad area looking for Iraqi republican guard troops.

We can tell you at this particular base we're at right now, the location which we're not allowed to say under the Pentagon rules, but at this base near the Iraqi border and as we speak an F-16 is taking off. But we're being told that this base they're expecting more traffic than ever today and we can tell you a couple hours on the taxiways and runways, we saw actually seven fighter aircraft lined up on the taxiway getting ready to take off. It almost looked like La Guardia airport on a busy Sunday afternoon. Paula, back to you.

ZAHN: That could be quite a sight. Come back to the pace of the sorties being flown., you said about 7,000 in all. Give us a sense of what the daily lives are of the men and women that you're around. Are they getting any sleep at all?

TUCHMAN: That's a really interesting question, Paula because we've been walking around and talking to these pilots, but sometimes we go to talk to them they're literally ready to nod off while we're talking. Some have two missions a day.

Usually two to three hours from when they leave here until they come back here from Iraq and what happens is a couple hours before they're supposed to go on a mission, they have to get into place in a lounge. They don't know exactly when they're going to leave and they sit in these very comfortable brown recliners in the lounge and a lot of them just nod off before their missions.

ZAHN: Well, we wish them luck. Gary Tuchman, quite a lot of noise behind you it gives us a very good sense of the kind of action underway. Thanks so very much.

Back to Wolf now in Kuwait City. I have heard that over and over again today, the fatigue that these young men and women are dealing with.

WOLF: It's an exhausting mission, there's no doubt about it. But they have to learn to pace themselves given the fact that this is going to go on for some time, Paula. Indeed it's not only going in the southern part of Iraq, the western part of Iraq, but coalition war plans in the north also have now been complicated, as you may well be aware, by some political developments. Let's go to CNN's Ben Wedeman, he's up in the north and he's joining us now live.

Ben, what is exactly happening where you are?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are still in Kalak right on the lines between Kurdish and Iraqi forces. What has happened today, Wolf, is that the pieces of the northern front are beginning to come together. Today we saw for the first time a very senior American Army, rather military official, that is one Major General Henry Osman of the United States Marine Corp who arrived in Salahaddin which is the -- basically the capital of the part of the Kurdish area that's run by the Kurdistan democratic party. Now, the Major General Osman was here basically to announce the beginning of the formation of a U.S. force in northern Iraq. And this is what he had to say when he made this statement. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJ. GEN. HENRY OSMAN, U.S. MARINE CORPS: This command has been established to conduct liaison and coordination with military and humanitarian assistance organizations, both in southeast Turkey and northern Iraq. Functions are three -- first, to assist in the deconfliction of military activities; second, to synchronize humanitarian assistance and military operations; and, third, assist in the coordination of relief operations in northern Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WEDEMAN: And of course what he really means in all of that, Wolf, is that among other things, that he will be coordinating the activities between U.S. and British forces on the one hand and the more than 70,000 Kurdish fighters located in the northern part of the country. Now, the U.S. forces at this point -- the precise number of them in country in northern Iraq is unknown, but it's at least 200, probably more. They've been flying into two main air bases -- one called Hariir, just outside of Erbil not far from where I am.

That's an old Iraqi air force base that we recently saw being renovated -- fixed up for the arrival of these U.S. transport planes. The other airport is in the area of Sulaymaniyah the Iranian border to the east of here. That's the other faction the patriotic unit of Kurdistan, those forces who arrived in the Sulaymaniyah area will also be involved in the operations against the Ansar al-Islam, that fundamentalist Islamic group associated with al Qaeda that has been the target in recent days of cruise missile attacks -- Wolf.

WOLF: You know, I'm just listening to your report, Ben, hearing about those 200 U.S. military personnel now on the ground, probably lot of other special operation forces that you don see, that we don't really know about. But you can only imagine what would have been the case if the Turkish government would have let those 62,000 U.S. ground forces in...

(CROSSTALK)

WEDEMAN: I believe I have lost communication, Wolf. Of course, I think you were going to...

WOLF: Unfortunately, I think he's not hearing me, Ben Wedeman. I just making the point you can only imagine what would have been the case the assault on Baghdad if there would have been 62,000 U.S. ground forces, I believe, from the 4th Infantry that had expected to go into Turkey and move towards Baghdad from the north. You would have had a two-front drive towards Baghdad, a huge military force from the north as well as the force that we're seeing move towards Baghdad from the south.

Paula, this is a war that's being fought now a lot of improvisation going along, lot of flexibility for the General -- the commanding General Tommy Franks because of some of the political decisions that were made in the days and weeks leading up to this war. ZAHN: And I guess that is one of the markers that they've given us from day one, that this campaign will be very much marked, not only by a rolling campaign, but by flexibility.

Quick programming note for you now that at 1:00 Ari Fleischer will be holding a news conference from the White House, bringing us up to date on administration action.

One of the first combat casualties of this war was a 30-year-old Marine Second Lieutenant Therrell Chain Childers. His family has deep military roots, his grandfather, father and younger brother have all served; and his brother-in-law was about to be deployed to Kuwait but now that is all on hold and Sergeant Richard Brown joins us by telephone.

Thank you very much for being with us, Sergeant. We are very sorry about the loss of your brother-in-law.

SGT. RICHARD BROWN, U.S. ARMY: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: What is it that you would like folks watching us today to know about the convictions of your brother-in-law and the value of his service to this country?

BROWN: Well, first off Paula, I'd like to send condolences from all of my family's -- all the members of my family, we send out the deepest condolences to those who have POWs and have lost their lives, also. We all have to stick together. As far as my brother-in-law goes people need to realize he died doing exactly what he wanted to do. He was always a Marine. Marines came first and he died exactly the way he wanted to, in battle. He died a hero in my book.

ZAHN: Well, I think everybody views him as a great hero and his death has some changed your life in a dramatic number of ways. Your deployment has now been put on hold. Is that pretty much standard procedure?

BROWN: Well, that was left up to me and my command. My 1st Sergeant and I pretty much made that decision. I really was split between my marriage -- my biological family and my unit. They're my second family and I really wanted to go with them, but, you know, I have to take care of my family here, but I am going to go catch up with them probably next month. I was supposed to leave last night.

ZAHN: And do you have any idea if, in fact, you are deployed, where you'll end up?

BROWN: I'll be over in the theater of operation somewhere in Kuwait. I really can't give specific details on that.

ZAHN: Has the loss of your brother-in-law affected the way you look at your commitment?

BROWN: Actually, it strengthens my commitment. I'm more dedicated to my mission now. You know, I don't want to dwell on that. I don't want it being to where I'm afraid that something's going to be happening to me. I can't do it. I have to depend on training that I have received and drive on with my mission and my unit's mission.

ZAHN: Tell us a little about how Therrell's family is doing.

BROWN: Well, speaking for my wife, she's holding out pretty good, about as good as expected. I know a lot of relief was taken off of her when she was notified that I wasn't leaving right away. My daughter's doing a lot better with it; she hasn't really talked about it that much and when she's ready to, we're all just going to be here. The shock is over with and we're just getting ready to go on with the rest. The details will be going out later on.

ZAHN: Has your family's confidence been shaken as you sit around and await the likely prospect of heading off into the theater?

BROWN: No. I don't believe it has. Like you mentioned earlier, the whole family is military and they know the ultimate price that anybody in the military pays when you sign up. That's the ultimate price is being killed in combat or being killed in any other way over there and I don't think that it's discouraged them for me leaving they're supporting me. I think I'm getting more support now than I was earlier, actually.

ZAHN: Sergeant Brown, I was fascinated by something you said a little bit earlier about the twin pools of your biological family and the need to serve your country. That's not the first time I have heard that over this past week. Can you help us better understand that and the conflict that one must feel in a situation your family finds itself in?

BROWN: Well, Paula, I'm in the 297 Transportation Company, been there for three years and when you've been with a unit that long, it becomes your family. My 1st Sergeant, 1st Sergeant James Darnell, is kind of like the father. And, you know, he looks after all the troops just like a father would. So you have 207 brothers and sisters that got deployed yesterday, you can't go with them.

It's kind of like part of your family is now missing, but you know you're going to catch up with them. I have to take care of my family here. The three people here outweigh that second family, but they need to know that I'm going to be over with them soon and supporting them in my mission.

ZAHN: And finally Sergeant Brown, I know you said all Americans should understand the depth of commitment soldiers make to this country. A final thought though of what you want them to understand as they see some of this dreadful news come back home to them.

BROWN: They need to understand that when their brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, whoever it is that signs that dotted line, they realize when they sign it that they -- this could happen. It's not something that they want to dwell on, it's not something people want to think about, but it is a real -- it is realistic. It is a realism that you know, obviously I have to deal with and others now are having to deal with. And again my condolences go out to all of them, but you know, they died doing the job that they had to do and they have to believe that, you know, they all died heroes in my book. ZAHN: In my book as well and I'm sure in the rest of all American's book. Sergeant Richard Brown, your family has shown nothing but grace and dignity during this very tough time. Thank you for spending a little time with us this afternoon and good luck to you and the rest of your family.

Now back to Wolf in Kuwait City -- Wolf.

WOLF: Thanks very much, Paula very moving interview, but multiply that many thousands of times and you'll get the full impact of what's going on, the human side of this war.

Just a quick note. We're standing by at the top of the hour, the White House press briefing with Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. We, of course, will have live coverage on the latest developments, the Q and A, the question and answer session, between the White House press corp. and the White House press secretary.

In the mean time, the U.S. central command says six vehicle U.S. army supply convoy was ambushed by Iraqi forces in southern Iraq near Nasiriyah yesterday and that 12 soldiers couldn't be accounted for. Later in the day, Al Jazeera, the Arab language satellite network, transmitted video shot by the state-run Iraqi TV with gruesome pictures of several dead soldiers and interviews with five captured Americans.

CNN has decided not to show video of the dead soldiers and instead will air these two images with know identifying features. It was apparent from the video that some soldiers had been shot, some of them in the forehead. CNN decided not to air any video of the captured soldiers until the network was certain the families of the POWs have been contacted. The interviews on the tape lasted nearly seven minutes.

The Pentagon asked that those interviews not be aired, but CNN has decided to air brief audio and video from the POWs because coverage of their treatment is an important part of the war coverage. The mother of one of the soldiers Anecita Hudson says she saw the video of the interviews with the captured soldiers on a Filipino TV channel she subscribes to. This is an excerpt of what she saw.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your name?

SPC. JOSEPH HUDSON, U.S. ARMY: Specialist Joseph Hudson 58565...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF: Mrs. Hudson told CNN yesterday that she had just found out from her daughter-in-law that her son had been moved out of Kuwait.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANECITA HUDSON, MOTHER OF JOSEPH HUDSON: I ask her, I said, is not -- is Joe OK? You talk to him? She said, yes, they're OK, but they move him from Kuwait to somewhere else. They're not saying it on the telephone because it's against the rules and then now I find out that he's been captured in Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF: This Kansas family says they heard from the military that their son and brother is a POW.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRIVATE MILLER, U.S. ARMY: PFC Miller.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: PFC Miller?

MILLER: Private 1st Class Miller.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOLF: His brother and sister say the family is scared but thinking positively.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIMBERLY MILLER, SISTER OF PATRICK MILLER: My brother is a fighter and always has been. I mean, he'd give up his life for anybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF: A reacting to the release of the videotape the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the Iraqis are in violation of the Geneva Conventions. The agreement prohibits nations from humiliating and degrading prisoners of war. Later the Iraqis issued a statement insisting they would honor the Geneva Conventions and treat all POWs humanely.

All those captured are believed to be with the 507th Maintenance Company which is not considered a combat unit it's based at Fort Bliss, Texas. That's where we find CNN's Brian Cabell. Brian, what's going on over there today?

BRIAN CABELL, CNN NEWS: Well, Wolf, you know military bases are supposed to be prepared for news like this, news that some of their soldiers are missing or they've been killed. Still, in spite of that even in war time, it comes as a shock. I talked to a sergeant an hour ago. I asked him how he felt when he first got the news that some of the soldiers here at Bliss were missing. He said chills literally went up and down his spine and then he said he started praying.

As you indicated 12 soldiers from Fort Bliss, the 507th Maintenance Company specifically, are unaccounted for. Now that could mean they are dead, could mean they are wounded, it could mean they are captured and as you indicated five POWs have been shown on Iraqi TV so far. We can now give you four names. The latest one we have been told we can release, because the family has been notified, is Edgar Hernandez from Mission, Texas. I'm sorry we can't give you his rank at this point we are trying to get that.

We also know that Specialist Shoshanna Johnson is a 30-year-old mother of one child, she is a chef, she has also been captured. PFC Patrick Miller, whom you indicated also, 23 years old, a wife, he has two kids, 4 years old and 7 months old. And Specialist Joseph Hudson, 23, a wife and a daughter he has, and as we saw a little while ago his mother talked to CNN last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

A. HUDSON: I would just like to pass the word to the Iraqi's people that I hope they don't get mean to this prisoner and I hope that they just going to let my son go home. You know, like the American treat them nice. I just hope that they treat my son nice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABELL: Officials here at Fort Bliss had scheduled a press conference noon time here, that's 2:00 eastern, that has now been postponed. They say they won't have a press conference here, Wolf, until they get more information from the DOD -- or the Department of Army and so far that has not been for forthcoming. Back to you.

WOLF: How many troops do you know, Brian, have been moved out from Fort Bliss to this part of the world, where I am, in the Persian Gulf?

CABELL: Well there's about 13,000 here at Fort Bliss and our -- the indication is about 4,500 have been deployed out there.

WOLF: All right, Brian Cabell Fort Bliss, Texas.

Paula, back to you.

ZAHN: Breaking news out of the U.N. a little bit earlier this morning when U.S. Secretary Kofi Annan said he wanted to restore Iraq's oil for food program as soon as possible. Richard Roth is at the U.N. right now with the Iraqi ambassador to the U.N. -- Richard.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Paula, I'm here with the Mohammed Aldouri the Iraqi representative, the ambassador from the United Nations -- to the United Nations, the U.S. is interested in seeking the expulsion of a lot of Iraqi diplomats from around the world, you are still here. Tell us your thoughts on your government's effort to fight back against the U.S. coalition of the willing attack right now to this point.

MOHAMMED ALDOURI, IRAQI AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Which point?

ROTH: Right now, to where we stand on the battlefield to where on the diplomatic front. How is your country doing do you think?

ALDOURI: No. You started with expulsion of Iraqi diplomat here and there. This is really not a big problem a big issue for us. The big issue, the biggest issue is the war initiated by the United States and its allies, especially, specifically the United Kingdom and the Iraq people now defending their country and we are satisfied that the Iraqi people defending very, very well their independence, their dignity, and their own people, their country.

ROTH: Are the Iraqi troops, Iraqi authorities, respecting the Geneva Convention regarding the Prisoners of War and do you think the U.S. is?

ALDOURI: There's no question about that. This is -- we are respecting always our engagements our obligations within international treaties and specifically, especially the Geneva Convention. There is no question about that, this is a part of our life, this is a part of our religion, this is a part of our principle. So I cannot accept that Iraq is violating Geneva Convention at it has been said before.

ROTH: Has it been determined yet that it appeared according to the video that some have seen that the U.S. soldiers, some were shot perhaps in the forehead right directly -- almost execution style.

ALDOURI: Well, you know you can accuse, you can -- this is part of the propaganda -- American propaganda against my country. I really -- I cannot accept these kind of accusations. Those who are invading my country are Americans. Why they are there, what they are doing?

We are, as most country, we are looking for peaceful solutions. We did whatever to avoid this war. And, after that, the American is killing now Iraqi people, bombarding cities, attacking residential areas, even in the were country, killing hundreds and hundreds of people.

So this is the violation of humanitarian international law and not just a question of some prisoners of war or just exposing them to out television. You know, and this huge war, I think something really without any importance, without any value.

ROTH: Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo, perhaps about the timetable. But do you anticipate urging a Security Council emergency session and what would that accomplish?

ALDOURI: Well, you know, yes, of course, we hope that there will be some outcome from the ministerial meetings of Cairo. Asking meetings -- Security Council to meet about what will be the discussion there -- in here in the Security Council.

Certainly we would like to voice the international community, the members Nonalign Movement and the Arabs countries just to tell how they are unhappy, how they are -- or how they are against the war or how they are willing to have -- to have an end for this war which is a war of aggression, which is against international law, which is against the charter that United States and the Britain initiated this war alone, without any kind of blessing from the international community.

ROTH: Your comments on Friday were pretty strong against Kofi Annan the secretary-general of the U.N., accusing him of doing the bidding of the U.S. and U.K. Today he responded and he said, don't call him a colonialist. He grew up in Ghana and was himself the subject to colonial rule. And he said he acted fairly and the Security Council was well aware of the looming crisis.

ZAHN: Richard Roth, we're going have to interrupt you because Ari Fleischer's reading -- briefing that is, has gotten under way at the White House. Let's listen in.

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