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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

CENTCOM Briefing

Aired March 26, 2003 - 08:04   ET

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

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Now Brigadier General Vincent Brooks.
BRIG. GEN. BROOKS, CENTCOM SPOKESMAN: I am going to give you today's update, and afterwards we'll pause for questions.

Let me begin by saying the coalition continues Operation Iraqi Freedom on our sixth day since the coalition ground forces began their attack into Iraq. We remain on plan, and we're confident that we will accomplish our objectives.

The regime has shown its true colors in the recent days of fighting. They have demonstrated brutality, the disregard for the laws of armed conflict and, most importantly, the repressive measures taken against the Iraqi population are all quite clear. Our men and women are demonstrating courage and resolve in removing this regime from power, and we are mindful of our own fallen comrades and their families.

The coalition is growing in strength and also in support with now over 47 countries contributing to the operation. We're unified in purpose and in our commitment to achieving our aims.

As I have done before, I'd like to give you an update on our operations, and then afterwards, as I mentioned, we'll proceed to questions.

Our attacks against the regime remain direct and we believe they are effective, and I've got five weapon system video clips to show you today. These were all taken within the last two days.

Let's bring up the first one, please.

This is a bridge out in western Iraq, and there's a military vehicle dispositioned up underneath of it. You'll see it attacked. The weapon comes in from the far right underneath of the bridge and the bridge remains in tact afterwards. A multiple rocket-launcher in the vicinity of An Najaf in central Iraq. A hardened air shelter near Karbala in central Iraq. The next one is a tank, also in Karbala, in a revetted position. And finally, a military headquarters building near Karbala.

Our direct attacks against the regime command, control, communications and integrated air defense continue, and included attacks against several targets of opportunity yesterday. I have two sets of images to show you today and, again, I'll show you before and after images just to make it clear how we attack, where we attack and to emphasize one more time how precise and deliberate we intend to be. The first one that we'll bring up is an Iraqi intelligence service headquarters in Baghdad. On the image you'll see the split in the road and the headquarters facilities really go on both sides of the road, but the right side of the split is really where the targets were located. I would say also it's within one block of a mosque, a school and a prison in multiple directions around the outsides.

The next image, please.

The post-strike image shows an effective attack against the targeted facilities, and this is the split view that shows them both. The next image is a brigade headquarters in the south of Baghdad. This is a brigade camp that's about 20 miles outside of Baghdad to the south, and the targeted facilities within it are the command buildings and one communications building. They are the intended targets and they're highlighted by the blue arrows.

Post-strike, please. And the split.

Our coalition Special Operations Forces continue to set conditions for our conventional forces by calling in close air support on military targets, including last night the destruction of the Ba'ath Party headquarters in Al Samawah. Our land component remains on track and had action at several places, and I'll highlight some of those to you this afternoon.

Let's bring up this map, please.

These really are the areas where much of the contact occurred in the last 24 hours. First, southeast of An Najaf; there were a series of engagements that occurred over the period of about three to four hours. Coalition forces of U.S. Fifth Corps sustained a few damaged vehicles and, in turn, inflicted significant damage on the Iraqi force. Near An Nassiryah the First Expeditionary Force gained control of a hospital that was in use as a paramilitary headquarters, staging area and storage area. Notably, within the hospital there were 200 weapons, Iraqi military uniforms, one tank, 3,000 chemical protective suits and nerve agent antidote injectors.

Our UK forces conducted aggressive patrols in the Al Faw area and Umm Qasr to increase the security in those areas, and also conducted a raid that destroyed a Ba'ath Party headquarters in Basra. They continued to have success against the irregulars in the area. And our Maritime component cleared the Korabdullah all the way up to the port of Umm Qasr. That waterway is now opened and we intend to start moving vessels in as soon as possible to bring humanitarian supplies, and I'll talk about that in a moment.

BROOKS: We continue to talk about the importance of information in our efforts to communicate with the Iraqi people and also with the Iraqi military. I have two leaflets to show you today that express what we have been communicating. These are important leaflets, again to inform the Iraqi people what must be done to protect them, and how to stay away from coalition operations since combat operations are inherently dangerous, and it informs them also to go to the radio, and this is consistent with the radio broadcasts that we have had. A second one also, same sort of theme and talks about Special Operations Forces: Keep distance to remain safe.

We remain committed to preserving the rich cultural and heritage and the resources of the Iraqi people. The regime continues to put them at risk. I've showed you before images of MiGs in cemeteries. Today I want to show you an image of military equipment positioned close to a very historic site.

Let's bring up the image.

This is a part of the ruins of a place called Tesafon (ph). It is about 20 miles southeast of Baghdad on the banks of the Tigris River and it is a site that has over 2,000 years of history and it's significant to a number of nations. What you see with the yellow lines is military equipment, communications equipment positioned right beside that. On top of the building, as the sign shows, this is marked with an international symbol of being an historic place.

Nevertheless, progress is being made daily by the coalition in our effort to preserve the resources vital to Iraq's future. Humanitarian supplies have been loaded and are moving on their way to Umm Qasr, as we speak. The port is being prepared for reopening and port workers have been invited to come back and begin work. And I would also say that there are now in the Rumeila oil fields six wells that are on fire. Yesterday one was put out with the aid of the Kuwait Oil Company.

And so, I'll wrap this up at this point by reemphasizing that we are committed, we're on track and we remain sure of the final outcome. With that, I'll take your questions.

QUESTION: Hello, General.

One of our embedded reporters has described to us this morning that U.S. troops have encountered an Iraqi who was in a U.S. military uniform and strapped with explosives -- that Iraqi was found already dead. Can you give us any information about other instances like this? And how are U.S. and coalition troops prepared to deal with it?

BROOKS: Well, let me first say, I have not heard that report. I must say that I'm not surprised about it. CENTCOM has already been on the record to say that we had information that this regime would seek to gain U.S. and UK uniforms in order to commit atrocities. And so, if that's the report -- if that's true, I'm not at all surprised by that.

What I would say to you also, though, is it tells us about the tactics of this regime. We've begun to see that more and more over the last several days. The practices that have been conducted by these paramilitaries and by these others who are out there -- sometimes in uniform; sometimes not in uniform -- are more akin to the behaviors of global terrorists than they are to a nation. And that certainly is in our mind at this time.

QUESTION: General Brooks, there is information out there that the bridges leading into Baghdad may have been set with explosives. What can you tell us about intelligence that you're getting about the approaches to Baghdad being like that?

BROOKS: We've heard the same kind of reports, and when I join that type of a report with what I showed you yesterday -- the oil trenches that were deliberately built inside of Baghdad and set aflame already -- again, I'm not at all surprised that that would be the case. We have heard reports about bridges being mined -- correction, bridges being rigged with demolitions, is the more appropriate way to describe that -- in several parts of time, and it just reminds us that this regime will go to extraordinary lengths to protect itself. The first set, by the way, separated Saddam City from where the majority of the regime's work is.

QUESTION: Iraq is reporting today that there was a missile attack on a residential section of Baghdad that killed 14 civilians. Can you confirm that and tell us what went wrong? And secondly, on Sunday the coalition forces attacked a bridge in western Iraq that killed five civilians. And I'm wondering why the bridge was attacked when I thought the goal was not to destroy Iraq's infrastructure?

BROOKS: Well, first I'm not aware -- I've heard this report that you're saying. It's in the media right now. We don't have a report that corroborates that. And so, I can't confirm it. What I can tell you is, as I've shown you on a regular basis, we have a very, very deliberate process for targeting. It's unlike any other targeting process in the world. It takes into account all science, it takes into account all capability, and we do everything physically and scientifically possible to be precise in our targeting and also to minimize secondary effects, whether it's on people or structures.

As to the bridge in the west, we know that that's an area where the regime has, in the past, positioned weapons that can reach neighboring countries and, as I showed in the earlier video clip, will hide military vehicles underneath of those bridges. Our efforts in that case were related to destroying what was beneath the bridge.

QUESTION: Well, now it is almost one week since the war started and many hundreds of civilian Iraqis have been killed by coalition bombs. Do you think it will help Iraqi people to believe you and to trust you -- to believe that you are coming to emancipate them?

BROOKS: Thanks for the question.

First, I don't accept the premise of the question which says that the civilians have been killed by coalition bombs. I just don't accept that. What we've seen over the last several days is Iraqi citizens being marched out in front of irregular formations while they are firing. Iraqi civilians are being killed on the battlefield by Iraqis. I can't make that point more strongly than I've just done it.

QUESTION: Sir, a few days ago General Franks stood here and said this was a platform for truth not propaganda. To that end, when will you show us pictures of what happens when precision bombs don't go where they're suppose to, when they fail to hit their designated targets or if they fail to go off at all? And will you also provide us with a running audit of the effectiveness of these weapons; that is, the numbers that succeed, the numbers that miss and the ones that don't go off? And if you don't, doesn't that expose you to the charge that this is more propaganda than truth?

BROOKS: Well, I can certainly assure you, having been up here each one of the days and each one of the briefings, that this is a platform for truth. I cannot say that about everything that you're seeing from platforms in other countries or in other areas. And we certainly have seen different approaches to informing the media. We've got a wide open discussion with you on a daily basis, we have embedded media so that the truth does come out, and we believe we're being very consistent with that.

QUESTION: If I may follow-up on that. We've been getting terrific snapshots from our embedded correspondents, but we were told we would then get the big picture here from this podium. And instead, we've been getting snapshot videos, vague generalities, we're on our time line -- that doesn't surprise me. Can you give us a little more of the big picture, without telling us more than the Iraqis already know. For example, how many thrusts are there towards Baghdad? Are there two, are there multiple?

BROOKS: Well, it's a fair question. And I would tell you this; first, we have to preserve the security of the operation. That's our first priority, and we're going to do that. Operations are ongoing. We have forces that are throughout all of Iraq at this point. And so, if you were someone in the regime wondering where it's going to come from, the answer is it's going to come from everywhere. I'm not going to put very specific terms on exactly what thrust, exactly what unit. It's just not prudent for us to do that.

QUESTION: General, the pictures from this morning's bombing in Baghdad have already gone around the world. You've already seen them yourself. You must be able to give us some reaction to them and some knowledge, at least preliminary, of what happened, which bombs were dropped and why it went wrong?

BROOKS: I honestly cannot. We don't know that those were ours. We can't say that we had anything to do with that at this point. And once we have more information, we will be on the record about anything that happens in that way.

QUESTION: General, can I ask you to talk about Basra a little bit. There was a lot of excitement, particularly among the British military last night, at this apparent uprising? Now, has that happened? Was it wishful thinking? And do you understand that the people of Basra may be reluctant after what happened last time to rebel until they see coalition troops in their city supporting them. It isn't just a reluctance to commit forces, putting the lives of your own troops before the civilians in Basra.

BROOKS: What we saw in Basra last night is a very confusing situation, to say the least. We saw first fighting happening within the city between Iraqis. Some of them in uniform; some not in uniform. We also saw a significant degree of violent activity done by paramilitaries shooting into the town of Basra, with mortars primarily. Again, a disregard for the people living there.

The UK forces in that area were already conducting operations to try to block off the town and prevent any reinforcements from moving in and out of the town, and we've seen some movement of paramilitaries on the road from the north. They were effective in that. And also, ended up providing some counter fire support against those mortars that were being fired into the town. So we would hope that, first, it's clear to us that the people of Basra have had about enough of what the regime is doing to them, and that's what we think we saw last night. And secondly, we remain committed to their liberation, not to their destruction.

QUESTION: We understand that the bad weather may lead to some of your bombs going wrong and hitting residential areas. Does the bad weather today affect your overall operations? Thanks.

BROOKS: Well, let me start by saying that as a matter of practice in military operations we always consider the effects of weather, and that happens from the lowest level to the highest level. Daily we analyze what the weather's going to be and what the impacts would be. And in some cases, it's as technical as deciding down at the lower end exactly how many charges you put on an artillery around before you fire it because of the barometric effects and the temperature effects, all the way up to, should we fly; if so, with what aircraft; should we use a certain weapon system versus another.

I can tell you that our operations that continued over the last several days took weather into account and continued in spite of it. Were we concerned with a loss of precision, we would not have conducted operations. So I'm satisfied that we have done all that we can do, again to remain precise, remain on the plan and attack those targets that were necessary for us.

QUESTION: General, during the past few days we've seen patriot batteries strike a number of incoming missiles. Can you tell us what type of missiles the Iraqis are using and whether or not these were the weapons prohibited by the United Nations and the weapons they claim they didn't have?

BROOKS: Yes. What we're seeing is a variance of the Ababil-100 and the Al-Samoud missiles. That's generally what they are. In some cases, we can't necessarily specify which it is. But we've had about 10 missiles fired at this point in time, all of which oriented toward Kuwait, a neighboring country. Those that have been threatening have all been shot down by patriot missile systems. What is interesting is out of those missiles, several of them have been well beyond 150 kilometers. One missile flew extremely long and went into the North Arabian Gulf and went in the water at about 190 kilometers.

QUESTION: General, if it wasn't a coalition strike on the market, then what was it in Baghdad?

BROOKS: I can't say. I don't know, and when we find out we'll try to determine that. What I can tell you about our process, though, is if we have any concern that we may have had in error -- and it's a fair question about what happens when we have a mistake, and mistakes can occur -- when we have something like that, we will go back and examine flight paths, weapons release, what the circumstances were and try to determine whether or not we had an impact on something like that. Right now, we simply don't know.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) is it the first visit of the Red Cross...

BROOKS: We have made coordination with the Red Cross. I don't know the specific date. I think it will be at their earliest convenience at this point now that we have made the initial contacts for them to come and be able to visit any prisoners we have. We are very open about the treatment of our prisoners. I don't know the date, though.

QUESTION: How many (OFF-MIKE)

BROOKS: Without getting too precise, I would say we're over 4,000 at the current time.

QUESTION: U.S. troops and coalition forces advanced well, as you have said, and the troops are close to Baghdad. Reports say that it's important for Iraq to possess mass destruction of weapons or to use the weapons in or around Baghdad area because it's also dangerous for the Iraqi troops. What's your idea of it?

BROOKS: We remain convinced that this regime has not only the means, but also the will to use weapons of mass destruction. What we found last night inside of that hospital reinforces our concern in that regard. The danger does increase, we believe, as we approach Baghdad, but we are well-prepared to deal with the potential use of chemical weapons. We've vaccinated and inoculated soldiers and sailors and airmen and Marines to the potential use. We have detection equipment. We have protective equipment. So all that we can do, we've done to this point to ensure that we can continue our operations. Our objective is beyond that. The regime must go, Iraq must be disarmed, and that's our ultimate outcome.

QUESTION: Because of this protective chemical uniforms you found, and having seen the campaign of leaflets and radio, are you reaching the Baghdad area with this campaign?

BROOKS: We do communicate throughout all of Iraq at this point. I mentioned yesterday that we've been on five different radio frequencies operating 24 hours a day since the 17th of February (sic). Our coverage goes over all of Iraq and we try to communicate with as much of the population as we can to tell them about things. We have not announced any weapons of mass destruction use or any of that sort of thing at this point in time.

QUESTION: We've heard very little coming out of western Iraq. I believe one scud launcher has been found. What can you tell us about the ongoing scud content and to what degree, at this point, do you control the west?

BROOKS: We're having very good success, we believe, in the west to limit the options of the regime on threatening its neighbors. We know historically that is an area that such activities have occurred. We know that there are potential places to hide them out in that area. And so, we've been very aggressive with primarily coalition Special Operations Forces throughout the west to prevent the use of those long-range weapons threatening neighboring countries.

QUESTION: Why do you think the Iraqi TV is a military target because there are a lot of civilians working inside, I guess? Thank you.

BROOKS: We only target things that have military significance -- we only target things that have military significance. As we examine the different parts of the regime and how it communicates, how it issues orders, how it controls -- all these things go into our calculus of what we'll strike and when we'll strike. That's the reason. So this is something that is used by the regime to do the things that are necessary to issue instructions to regime forces.

QUESTION: There's some intelligence reports, I think, that there are several thousand republican guards coming south from Baghdad, coming around to Nassiryah. I'm wondering, at this point, can you acknowledge that you're not only dealing now a sporadic pockets of resistance or sporadic firing, but serious walls of resistance coming down from Baghdad? And also, an update, please, on the situation in Nassiryah. What do you control, what have you secured, have you got some bridges, which side of the river are you on? And we're waiting for a casualty toll, I think, yesterday from the previous night's fire fight. Do you have that?

BROOKS: Let me first talk about the situation south of Baghdad and headed down in the Karbala and An Najaf areas. We certainly know about the attack that occurred on the flank of a unit south of An Najaf -- I mentioned that in the opening remarks-- and that attack was seriously repulsed with significant damages to the attacking Iraqi force. We've not seen any significant movements of the types of forces you describe from in and around Baghdad. There have been some local positionings. There have been some survival positionings. But not serious attacks. And we certainly remain, we believe, well in control of the situation at hand.

You had a last part to that question, if you would repeat that?

QUESTION: Around An Nasiriyah there were some casualties two nights ago, I believe, and we hadn't gotten an update on the number. The Iraqis were saying eight.

BROOKS: As a matter of practice, we just aren't going to announce numbers of casualties. I can tell you any losses we've had, have been very, very small. Last night, for example, we ended up in the exchange in An Nasiriyah where we went into the hospital and took it away from a headquarters. Over 107 EPWs, enemy prisoners of war, were taken at that point in time. The exchange is very much in our favor in each one of these encounters.

QUESTION: First of all, sir, I'd like to talk about some of the images and videos that you show; brigade headquarters, intelligence headquarters, and you also spoke about Ba-ath Party headquarters. Why do you have reason to believe that these places have been already evacuated? And how worried are you about the prospect of a protracted siege of Baghdad? Thank you. BROOKS: The timing of our attacks is associated with when we believe the necessary effect is to be achieved, and these headquarters are all parts of the regime and its military forces and those forces that support it. I can say that we're very comfortable in the timing. We're very comfortable in some cases the time of day that we do our work to ensure that we have the desired effect.

As to our concerns about a siege, right now, our operations are not designed to be a siege and we're comfortable that we remain on the plan that let's us do what we need to do and accomplish the objective in a way that needs to be accomplished. Is there a follow-up on that?

QUESTION: I mean, the Iraqi leadership is dug in in Baghdad. How do you intend to get the out of there?

BROOKS: Well, you've seen some of our attacks against the regime command and control facilities, so they're not dug in in those places, I can tell you that.

QUESTION: The U.N. and aid organizations have stated that an almost nonsignificant number of refugees have attempted to cross the borders. That's probably strange since there is a humanitarian crisis. So I would like your take on that. And also, if you could tell us how much your appeal for people to stay off the roads is waning in this situation?

BROOKS: We think we're having some effect at causing people to stay off the roads, and we believe that that keeps them protected. There's a lot of military activity ongoing out there, as you're well aware, and we think that they are best protected when they stay where they are. The liberation is coming and the good news is is that there have not been large humanitarian flows or refugee flows that create humanitarian crises. We have concerns about places like Basra, though, where water has been turned off and only recently turned back on, and the impact of what the regime has gone to some of its own towns.

QUESTION: Sir, you just said that coalition forces have now secured more than 4,000 Iraqi EPWs, but is there an instance or will there be an instance where these Iraqis will ever be denied POW status and instead be designated as battlefield detainees as occurred in Afghanistan? And my second question is, Iraqi civilians will probably die. We don't know how many or if any have died thus far in the war. If they do die and if it is determined that they died because of a coalition force bomb or a horrendous accident by coalition forces, will the coalition forces provide financial compensation for their families?

BROOKS: Well, first, let me talk about enemy prisoners of war and our approach to them.

As I mentioned, the numbers are up over 4,000. We continue to take care of those enemy prisoners of war, in some cases, providing lots of medical support, if they require that. You saw some images on television today of evacuation off the battlefield with coalition forces carrying off wounded Iraqis regardless of their status, and that's the way we approach our operations -- it's just the way we are. As to characterizations of them at some point in time, it's really difficult for me to say that at this point. We have made no policy decision that would change the way we're handling those that we take into our custody as a result of military operations on the battlefield.

And as to the second part, that's certainly not something for this command to make a determination on for compensations.

QUESTION: I'm interested in the visual record -- the extent of the visual record that you've been showing for the last number of days on a selective basis. How much is there? Is every attack, every bombing attack filmed? Where does this record reside? How much are you willing to release on it, and on what basis and on what time schedule?

BROOKS: Not all of our weapons have the ability to do what you've seen here in terms of recording the image. Some of them come afterwards when we try to make a determination of how effective we were.

QUESTION: Give me a range of say 50 percent, 90 percent, 20 percent.

BROOKS: It really various depending on where we are in operation. For example, some of our initial operations in Baghdad weren't done by things that have cameras on them. And so, I don't have a good number for you. There is not a central repository of this and many of these images are declassified for public release, and that's how we end up going through the process.

QUESTION: There were reports this morning that you've ordered a change of tactics to get your troops to concentrate on paramilitaries rather than regular forces. Are those true? And if so, do they not show that we're in for the long haul rather a short war?

BROOKS: Well, I will reiterate that we are on plan. We know what we're doing at this point in time. We're comfortable with how the battle is progressing. We're on our time line. We do have some pockets of resistance that require attention, and we're dealing with those and that will continue. But it does not hinder our ultimate aim, doesn't change our time line and it doesn't change the ultimate outcome.

QUESTION: General, how much of your weaponry uses depleted uranium? And what are your concerns about the effects of that on Iraqi civilians?

BROOKS: There's a very small portion of our munitions that use depleted uranium, and there have been lots of studies on what the actual hazards are from depleted uranium. When depleted uranium hits something, it's the residue from that that has any possible hazard at all, and that requires close, personal ingestion in order to have an effect. We believe that the way we do our operations in as safe as can be done for combat action and does not create the kind of hazard that may have been thought about in the past. QUESTION: This war talks about humanity a lot, and according to a Russian radio station that U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter, Elizabeth, is on her way to Baghdad to join an antiwar group who use themselves as human shields to defend further aggression from coalition. What do you have to say to the innocent civilian people who are willing to risk their own lives in a hope to stop this war? Thank you.

BROOKS: First, we'd say that our efforts are, in fact, to liberate the Iraqi people and free them from the types of brutality that we've seen exhibited over the last several days. People have a number of things that they believe in, and they make their own choices. It's a very dangerous place and it is ill-advised to go to the kind of area that Baghdad is right now with the regime and its activities; things like the fires, things like the bridges being rigged for demolition. It's not well-advised, but people have their choices to make, and that's the way it goes from there.

Our approach to it will be, regardless of who the civilians are, we'll take every effort to try to minimize the potential effects on them, and that's the best we can do. Unfortunately, there may be civilian casualties in the prosecution of war.

QUESTION: Regarding the weather, do you think you made the wrong decision by fighting in these circumstances, and it would have been better to wage the war pretty much earlier? And secondly, how close are you from Baghdad?

BROOKS: We, as I mentioned before, have the ability to operate through a variety of weather circumstances, and we take weather into account for all of our operations. At this point in time, the timing of the operation is not driven by weather. The start of the operation, as you've heard said on the record in a number of places, was not driven by weather. We can operate day and night in good weather and in bad weather. Some of our capabilities are impacted, but our entire operation is not. And I'm simply not going to tell you how close we are to Baghdad.

QUESTION: Can you tell me how many of the bombs that you're dropping on Iraq are not hitting their targets?

BROOKS: I don't know that we've done a measurement of that. What I can tell you is, after every attack when we go back to examine whether we achieve the desired effect, if something is missed, it's always within an error rate that we calculate inside of the initial plan for the attack. Some of them we attack again if we don't hit. If we didn't achieve the desired effect, we'll go back, and that does happen on some occasions, but I don't know what the number is, and perhaps we can get that information to you and feed it back.

QUESTION: You say the Umm Qasr waterway is clear. Your British colleagues indicate that they've still got another couple of days worth of mine clearance to do. Can you clarify that seeming contradiction? And you say that you don't know whether the bomb that struck the Baghdad market is one of yours, what other options are there? BROOKS: Well, first, let me say, the Umm Qasr Port mine-clearing operations have been ongoing for several days. And our report today is that we have succeeded in clearing from the southern part of the Korabella all the way up to Umm Qasr, and also in the port itself. And so, that's the latest information we have as we know it.

As to what happened inside of Baghdad, again: We've seen people wearing U.S. uniforms, as you've reported, strapped with explosives. We've seen irregulars marching people in the street in front of them as they fire on coalition forces. We've seen buses following tank columns that empty out and have people with weapons engaging in combat. We've seen a number of things that tell us that what meets the eye always is not necessarily what is true.

QUESTION: How come you are still using depleted uranium rounds since we know that they are causing health problems, including cancers to the civilian populations and to the military operation?

BROOKS: I think that's probably overstated. And we've done lots of analysis and scientific work and we believe that we're still safe with what we use. That's simply the way it is.

QUESTION: Your lines of fire are getting increasingly longer as you get closer to Baghdad. Are you having to pull units away to protect those lines of supply from guerrillas? And are you going to need the arrival of some of these forces that are in transit to protect those lines of supply before you can make an assault on Baghdad?

BROOKS: Well, security throughout operations is something that every commander has to consider whenever operations are ongoing. And we have certainly penetrated a great depth inside of Iraq at this point. We maintain security throughout; and, as commanders, see a need to adjust their security along their lines of communication or around their positions, they do so. We're comfortable that our commanders know exactly what they're doing and will accomplish whatever they need to and make whatever adjustments are necessary to keep security as it should be and keep the lines open.

Frankly, one of the great stories of our operations so far is the logistics and how well those have flowed and how well we have been able to protect it to keep things going.

QUESTION: Can I bring you back to the situation in Basra? Last night your colleagues, the British chief of staff, General Peter Wolf (ph), said that you want to give quote, "every encouragement to the people of Basra to rise up." What undertakings specifically can you give to the people of Basra that if they do rise up, you will give them full military support, including the use of ground troops, perhaps?

BROOKS: I think as to how we will assist those who are trying to remove the regime themselves, which we certainly believe is their future, it is too early for me to say exactly what methods would be used to do that. We do know, just like last night, that mortar fire was used from UK forces to counter mortar fires being used by Iraqi forces into the Iraqi population. That's just one example. And it certainly shows that there's a commitment ensuring that there is, in fact, liberation at the result of this operation.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on whether the International Red Cross has actually been able to reach American POWs?

BROOKS: I don't have any information on that at this point in time.

QUESTION: General, do you think entering and controlling Baghdad by U.S. forces is an easy matter? If yes, why and how?

BROOKS: We've never said that this would be an easy operation. We have always said that we are certain in the outcome, and that remains the case. Our forces are very well-trained. They're very capable. It's a robust force that can operate in all dimensions -- air, land, sea. We have special operations capability that enhances that and makes it possible for us to be successful. Now, we will ultimately achieve our aims, and there's no question about that and there is no doubt.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what (inaudible) does? And can you confirm that it's not been used yet? But is it possible that it's going to be used...

BROOKS: I don't know what it is and so I just can't address it. I've heard talks about it, but I don't know anything about that.

QUESTION: Can you talk to us about what's happened in the north on the Kurdish border? We heard that there is a bombardment. When are you going to open a new front and what's happened there?

BROOKS: The primary effort that we have in the North right now is to ensure that; first, we have a degree of stability that's ongoing. We have coalition Special Operations Forces that are doing a lot of good work up in the north. The Iraqi regime forces have, in some cases, tried to attack with fires primarily into the Kurdish autonomous area, and we have responded with close air support and a number of other attacks as well, and they've been very effective, just as they have been throughout the country.

QUESTION: Just back to the questions about the video that you have been showing, to be clear -- so are you saying that you don't have a single example on the video of a bomb hitting a wrong target or missing its target? And if you do have any, when will they be shown?

BROOKS: Well, again, what I'm showing you is our approach to precision and the effects that we are achieving. Our effects do not achieve the level of perfection. That's never happened in the history of warfare, and I'm certainly not going to try to tell you that that's happened now. And so, as I mentioned, we do reattacks when we see something that we want to achieve a desired effect and haven't, which tells you that there's always a degree of effectiveness that you have to measure. And what I've shown you here thus far is successful attacks. I don't have images of unsuccessful attacks. And at some point in time, perhaps, we'll show those in the future. But we'll see in the coming days on that.

QUESTION: Can we make a special request for those?

(LAUGHTER)

BROOKS: It's an interesting question, but I don't think we're going to do that at this point. But we'll certainly remain truthful, and that's how we've been thus far, and we'll continue to do so.

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. Good afternoon.

ZAHN: And with that, Brigadier General Vincent Brooks has wrapped up about a 46-minute briefing from Qatar. Among the highlights, the fact that 4,000 Iraqi POWs are now being held by coalition forces, and then when it came to the increased criticism surrounding the coalition plan, Brigadier General Brooks said that -- quote -- we are on plan and comfortable with the way the battle is progressing.

But he was asked some very specific questions about whether there has been any ordered change of tactic, and although he didn't directly answer that question. He did say this, we are on plan, we are on our timetable, we have pockets of resistance that we're taking care of, but we are on our timetable.

And then, there was another interesting thing that surfaced in this briefing, and there was almost an accusation made by one reporter that the vice president's daughter, Elizabeth, was going to travel to Baghdad and serve as a human shield in Baghdad as troops head in that direction. That was immediately shot down by the White House.

Apparently, that report started in London sometime earlier today and has absolutely been knocked down by the White House.

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