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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Battle Between U.S. Marines, Iraqi Military in Nasiriya Most Intense Yet; U.S. Air Force Officials Say Coalition is in Control of Skies

Aired March 26, 2003 - 19:00   ET

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

ANNOUNCER: Sandstorms.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hate to be obvious, but in order to kill your enemy or to kill another soldier, you have to be able to see them.

ANNOUNCER: Slowed down, but not shut down.

In one Iraqi city, an uprising.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Firing munitions onto their own people.

ANNOUNCER: In another, battle in the streets. Snap judgments. Can you trust the white flags and ambulances?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch out for this (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to be a trap.

ANNOUNCER: A day of frustration, anxiety, and determination.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We cannot know the duration of this war, yet we know its outcome. We will prevail.

ANNOUNCER: Live from Baghdad, Washington, Kuwait, New York, Texas, and cities around the globe, war in Iraq, live from the front lines.

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Just after 3:00 in the morning in Baghdad today, the city shrouded by blowing sand and smoke, the smoke from trenches of oil intensely set on fire by the Iraqi government.

Something else you don't see in the darkness tonight, you don't see the closing in of coalition forces, but the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says they are on the doorstep of Baghdad.

Over the next couple of hours, we will lay out for you what has been an interesting, difficult, and strategically important day in the war with Iraq.

Good evening again, everyone, from CNN Center in Atlanta. I'm Aaron Brown.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, Aaron. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Kuwait City.

There's a lot going on inside Iraq right now. Let's begin with this.

The Pentagon says a massive land battle has taken place between coalition forces and Iraqi troops near Najaf and Karbala. U.S. officials say 300 Iraqis have been killed in that fighting.

Two more British soldiers have been killed by friendly fire. Officials say it happened when their tank was fired on by another British tank outside the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

The British and Iraqis have been fighting around Basra all day. Apparently there's fighting inside the city as well. A number of sources now tell us a popular uprising against Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party is under way, although the Iraqi government denies it.

Families of the two American helicopter pilots captured yesterday in Iraq have been told the men evaded capture for a period of time. And after their Apache helicopter went down, the men's comrades tried to rescue them not once, but twice. Both rescue attempts were met by heavy ground fire. And during the second attempt, one of the rescue helicopters caught fire.

U.S. Marines have been fighting around the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah. We haven't gotten the pictures yet, but the Marines seized a hospital and the Iraqi forces where they're -- they've been using the hospital to stage military operations. U.S. forces seized a tank, 200 weapons, nearly 170 Iraqi prisoners, and -- get this -- 3,000 chemical suits with masks. There were no civilians inside the hospital.

Another major story in Iraq today, the sand. But a huge sandstorm didn't stop the tanks from the U.S. 7th Cavalry. They broke through Iraqi lines and crossed the strategically important Euphrates River. But listen to part of a report filed earlier by CNN's Walter Rodgers driving through hostile territory in that sandstorm.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have been under heavy fire for the past couple miles, mostly a small arms fire, but the sandstorm has enabled the Iraqis to come very close to the road, and if I sound a little nervous, it's because we're in a soft-skinned vehicle, and everybody else is in armor.

It's very difficult to police this road at this point because of the sandstorm. Again, if you imagine yourself standing on a football field, the sandstorm is so dense that if you were on the goal line, you probably couldn't see much beyond midfield at this point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: That is a quick overview of the day. The day's lead clearly now is a significant, the first significant ground battle of the war.

To the Pentagon and our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie. JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Aaron, there was quite a bit of activity on the ground today, even though there was a lot of sandstorms in the area that was blocking visibility.

First of all, the coalition flew more than 1,500 sorties over Iraq today, including about 700 strike sorties, about 100 targets, including leadership targets and Republican Guard targets.

But probably the biggest confrontation came on the ground. U.S. Soldiers from the 7th Cavalry encountered a large number of Iraqi forces. Not clear exactly who they were, but they apparently fired at the U.S. soldiers, including rocket-propelled grenades. There was a firefight. It is over now, and according to the Pentagon, they believe as many as 200 or 300 Iraqi soldiers were killed at that location.

Today at the Pentagon, it was a day to try to manage the expectations. A lot of questions about how the war is going, and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld tried to make it clear that this war is closer to the beginning than the end.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: This campaign could well grow more dangerous in the coming days and weeks as coalition forces close on Baghdad and the regime is faced with its certain death. But the outcome is assured.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCINTYRE: The other significant incident today involved U.S. Marines who took a hospital, but they say there were no doctors, nurses, or patients in this hospital. Instead, they say, it was being used as a base for irregular Iraqi troops. There they found about 200 weapons, and, significantly, about 3,000 chemical suits.

And they also released pictures of what they said were atropine canisters. This is the nerve gas antidote, atropine, another indication that Iraqi troops may be planning to use chemical weapons against the U.S. forces.

Also, Aaron, one more thing. Baghdad television apparently went off the air briefly today for about 15 minutes and then came back on with a much weaker signal. And there's some indication that some of these air strikes today were an attempt to take out Baghdad television, which the U.S. says is basically being used as a propaganda arm of the Iraqi government, Aaron.

BROWN: Jamie, one quick question on this battle, this ground battle that was played out. Do we know how long ago the fighting stopped?

MCINTYRE: Well, we were first told about it about two hours ago, and at that point, apparently, it -- they had gotten a report that it had ended. So it took place some hours ago. And again, the initial report is that there were no U.S. casualties in this, and that it was a case of the Iraqis essentially encountering the U.S. forces, and then the battle breaking out.

All of the Iraqi troops apparently were on foot, or there were no tracked vehicles or anything involved. The U.S., of course, is very -- a lot of tracked vehicles and armor, and they had a clear military advantage, and apparently they used that to great effect.

BROWN: Jamie, thank you. Jamie McIntyre. We'll be checking back with you in these two hours.

We believe the 7th Cav was involved in that. We spent a lot of time with the 7th Cav. That's Walt Rodgers' group. We hope we'll be hearing from him, as he is allowed to file, if in fact his group was involved in what was a significant battle.

It is, of course, as we often say, a snapshot of a larger picture, but it absolutely fits into the larger picture.

Miles O'Brien joins us now to try and help put this small picture in the large frame -- Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, thanks very much.

I'm joined by General Don Shepperd. And we're going to walk you through what is clearly the most significant ground battle in this rather short war.

What -- based on what we know, we have a lot of scattered, stray reports. We'd love to hear from Walter Rodgers on the ground. We hope to hear from him soon. He's right there. What do we know about what's going on?

GEN. DON SHEPPERD, CAMPAIGN MILITARY ANALYST: All right. What we've heard is the 3rd of 7th Cav is in a place called Najaf, which south of Karbala. Karbala is about 50 miles south of Baghdad, right here, represented by the red tank on the table. Najaf right here, represented by the blue table.

What we've heard is, they stopped in the sandstorm, either the southern elements of the Medina Division, the Medina Armored Division, which is 10,000 to 12,000 troops in the whole division there, hit the 3rd of the 7th Cav, or perhaps Fedayeen, a group of Fedayeen.

Now, the estimates are 200 to 300 killed. I am very skeptical of estimates such as this, as Jamie said, because you really don't know, the shooters always think they hit what they're shooting at. They're shooting at dismounted infantry there, or dismounted people, so they claim high casualties. I don't think they'll know till the weather clears.

O'BRIEN: Two, it -- 200 to 300, I mean, it's such an early estimate. Do we know anything about U.S. casualties at all?

SHEPPERD: The reports are that the U.S. suffered no casualties. That's the reports we have right now. I'm suspect of all of that. So it's very early reports, Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right. This has a feel of a shift. Where does it go from here?

SHEPPERD: All right. I think what you're seeing is the battle for Baghdad being shaped. What we basically have here is, you've got the Medina Division south of Baghdad. You've got the Al Nida (ph) Division to the east of Baghdad. You got the Hammurabi Division to the west of Baghdad.

You will see all of those divisions -- again, 10,000 to 12,000 Iraqi troops, pounded by United States air power.

South of that, as battles develop along the road to Baghdad, you're going to see close air support by A-10 aircraft, helicopters, AB8-B (ph), and you're going to see F-16s and F-18s being employed north against in the north of the area, in accordance with their rules of engagement, trying to weaken the Iraqi divisions before the troops get there and before the troops can be employed against them in the battle of Baghdad, Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right. Quickly, let's look at the lay of the land with some satellite imagery and just give you a sense of what we're talking about when we're talking about Karbala. The key in Karbala, among -- of course, its proximity to Baghdad is part of it, but there's -- I counted at least three or four bridges which cross the Euphrates River there. Obviously that's important.

SHEPPERD: Indeed. Bridges are very important. You've got to get across the Euphrates both ways. If somebody gets in trouble, you have to be able to get to them from the west side, because they're on the east side. So they're very, very important. They will be heavily defended. They will also explosives mounted on them. So they're important that you'd be able to cross that river.

We do have bridging on the coalition side. We have bridging material, but you'd rather go across a bridge.

O'BRIEN: All right. That's the way to go. And one other thing I want (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Let's go back to the map table very quickly. You wanted to tell me a little bit about kind of the change in the rules of engagement for some of the airplanes here. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) sort of an imaginary line just south of Baghdad. Tell us about that.

SHEPPERD: All right. What we're going to call that is FSCL, fire support coordination line. South of that line, south of that line, you have to have Air Force or Marine forward air controllers with the ground troops, controlling the air, making sure that the air power knows where United States and coalition forces are, so they hit the enemy and not ours.

North of that, air power will be allowed to roam on its own in kill boxes or against specific targets in accordance to the ROE, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) would read something like this, rules of engagement would say, Anything you can identify as a military formation or a military vehicle, you are cleared to hit it with your weapons. O'BRIEN: Targets of opportunity. Don Shepperd, thank you very much for giving us a sense of what's going on in a -- clearly a very dynamic situation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. Good analysis.

Devil Docs, those are the military surgeons operating in Iraq, and they're fighting numerous forces as they try to save the lives of the wounded. In addition to the wind and the sand, they have to take up arms to protect themselves against Iraqi troops.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our medical correspondent, is embedded with the U.S. medical unit in southern Iraq. He's joining us now live. What's happening right now, Sanjay?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's just been nonstop since you and I last spoke. Not surprising, the particular ward that we're in is a 24-hour ward, taking care of patients literally around the clock, divided into two parts, one side for the Iraqi soldiers, the other side for the coalition forces.

Right now there are 16 patients, several more patients are expected throughout the night. Ten of the patients here are Iraqi. Six are the coalition forces.

It's been a very chaotic day here, not only in the ward, but really around the entire medical camp. It started out with the sandstorm that we've heard so much about. It really brought things to a standstill here, quite literally. It actually knocked over a couple of the medical tents and contaminating some of the equipment. That equipment quickly had to be taken into clean tents, cleaned, and the tents had to be reestablished.

Also, Wolf, here at this medical camp, there is known as an enemy breach today. That means enemies were seen within the perimeter of this camp. That certainly got everyone's attention. The Marines quickly set up an inner perimeter to try and look for any of these enemy forces. At this time, we still remain on a level of threat. However, we've not had any further activity with respect to that.

Very interesting in this particular ward here, Wolf. The -- I -- a lot of questions about the Iraqi soldiers and what happens to them. Certainly they are interrogated by the intelligence agencies, members, as well as having translators in here to try to collect any intelligence. That process is ongoing as well.

But overall, Wolf, a very busy day, a very chaotic day. The Devil Docs are up and running, the weather has cooled here, and it rained quite a bit after that sandstorm, and it is actually for the first time in a long time somewhat pleasant outside, Wolf.

BLITZER: Sanjay, I know you've spoken to a lot of these doctors, these surgeons. How do they feel about treating Iraqi soldiers who probably only minutes before tried to kill them, and now they're in operating rooms, and they're trying to save their lives? What do they say about that? GUPTA: Well, I'll tell you, Wolf, the point was very poignantly made by one of the doctors. The first operation that was actually performed here was one that we witnessed, and we brought to the viewers of CNN.

It came right on the heels of many of these Marines hearing about the killing of four soldiers by the Iraqi soldiers. And so you really had a contrast. One doctor put it to me, "We are operating on their guys, while they're killing ours." That was exactly what he said. A particularly poignant remark.

But I will tell you this, despite how they may feel, despite their emotional feelings about it, they are very clear in terms of triage. It is medical triage. The sickest patients, the patients who are most likely to benefit from an operation, they will go first, no matter whether they're coalition forces or Iraqi forces, they -- whoever is sickest and whoever will benefit from the operation will go first. Very clear, medical triage, not political triage, Wolf.

BLITZER: It's hard for a lot of our average viewers, I'm sure, to understand, but that's the medical tradition, including in the U.S. military. These Navy doctors working with the Marines now on the front lines, and our Dr. Sanjay Gupta is there as well. Sanjay, thanks very much. Stay safe out there in Iraq.

At least 43 members of the coalition fighting force have died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. CNN's latest count shows that 23 Americans and 20 British troops have been killed since the war began. Twenty of those coalition deaths came in combat. One American died in a grenade attack allegedly by a fellow soldier. The other deaths are the result of accidents.

In addition, seven U.S. troops are known to be held prisoner in Iraq. At least six others are missing in action. British military officials say two British soldiers were killed by friendly fire Tuesday night outside Basra.

Iraq's information minister says 78 Iraqi civilians have been killed in coalition bombing raids -- Aaron.

BROWN: Wolf, the president talked about the obstacles of war during a speech today at the Pentagon. He said, quote, "We cannot know the duration of this war, yet we know its outcome." He also thanked the families who have suffered great losses and asked Congress to act quickly on his $75 billion supplemental budget request to cover the cost of the war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: The wartime supplemental is directly related to winning this war and to securing the peace that will follow this war. I ask Congress to ask quickly and responsibly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: This shows you just how quickly the cost of a war can add up. Wednesday's so-called decapitation strike, which started the war in Baghdad, used 39 cruise missiles at roughly $600,000 apiece, roughly. That air strike alone cost more than $23 million.

Meanwhile, there are questions from Congress on whether the United States can afford both the war and the president's tax cut. The Senate, with a Republican majority, voted 51 to 48 to slash the tax cut basically in half.

War is dominating the airwaves, of course. Coming up, we'll ask whether all the media coverage is having an impact on public opinion. And part of that coverage, prisoners of war, of course. And we'll hear from some of their families as well.

Our coverage of war in Iraq continues with some of the pictures.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The families of the seven U.S. POWs in Iraq are waiting for word from the International Committee of the Red Cross about their condition. Most of the American prisoners of war are from Fort Bliss. That's in Texas.

That's where CNN's Ed Lavandera is standing by, where he says military officials want to talk, but the Pentagon is so far telling them not to. Ed, why is that?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, according to the officials here at Fort Bliss, Texas, they're just not exactly clear of all the details, all the information. So to go before reporters and try to answer them all, they feel that it would put them in a very difficult situation.

And it's been three days since these 12 soldiers, part of the 507th Maintenance Company here at Fort Bliss, Texas, apparently took a wrong turn during a battle near Nasiriyah in the southern part of Iraq.

Five of those soldiers, we now know, are prisoners of war, along with the two others, that's making the total of seven prisoners of war. The other seven from Fort Bliss, their fate is unknown at this time, and it's the waiting and the uncertainty of what's going on that makes it very difficult for these families to cope.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA (voice-over): News comes in quickly from the Iraqi battlefield, but not fast enough for the families of seven prisoners of war and at least seven others whose fate is unknown. They know their loved ones are in danger, but uncertainty ignites anxiety, and that makes this ordeal tougher to handle.

David Williams' son is one of the Apache helicopter pilots captured by Iraqi soldiers. He knows there's nothing he can do for now.

DAVID WILLIAMS, FATHER OF APACHE PILOT: It's very difficult, but it's something that I know that I have enough support through friends and family and through God, I said -- for support, that I'll be able to make it along with our family.

LAVANDERA: Twenty-year-old Jessica Lynch is part of the 507th Maintenance Company out of Fort Bliss, Texas. Five of her fellow soldiers are confirmed POWs. She's listed as missing. All her family can do is hope.

DON NELSON, FRIEND OF MIA LYNCH: She was excited about going to Kuwait. You know, everybody else was worried about her, but she wasn't a bit worried about it. She said, I've trained to do a job, and I'm going to do it. Very proud kid.

LAVANDERA: In Edgar Hernandez's hometown of Mission, Texas, yellow ribbons decorate the street where his family lives.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's heartbreaking. But at the same time, you feel a sense of pride. The community is coming together and pulling for the family.

LAVANDERA: As these families wait for news from the front lines, they look at the pictures of their loved ones in captivity and try hard to imagine what they must be thinking.

DAVID WILLIAMS, SR., FATHER OF APACHE PILOT: He seemed to be in good spirits. And, you know, I'm sure he doesn't like being there, but I'm sure, you know, the situation, he'll make the best of it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: U.S. military officials are expressing concern to many of these families. They're concerned about them giving many of these interviews to the news media. The U.S. military officials expressing to their families that there is the possibility that the Iraqi government could use their comments out of context and use it as propaganda against them in some form or fashion.

But the military insist that these families still do have the right to speak with the news media if they'd like. And many of them have been more than willing to come forward to do so.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Ed Lavandera, our heart goes out to those families. Thanks very much for that report.

Aaron, back to you.

BROWN: And our hearts go out to the families of at least six U.S. troops who are listed missing in action tonight. We can identify four of them, because we know their families have been notified, and their stories, of course, are an important part of this war as well.

From Tuba City, Arizona, Private First Class Laurie Pieslewa, Sergeant Donald Walters of Salem, Oregon. We talked with his family last night, a West Virginian, Private First Class Jessica Lynch, and Private Brandon Sloan of Bedford Heights, Ohio.

CNN's Jason Bellini is embedded with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. He has brought us some pictures of a significant firefight Sunday in Umm Qasr, and now he and that unit are heading further into Iraq.

Here is his report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JASON BELLINI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first in to the port of Umm Qasr are also the first out. The shadowy, civilian- clothed Iraqi fighters who played a game of shoot-and-go-hide with them seem to have lost.

So now they're sent deeper into Iraq to another objective, to another reported hot spot.

On the road, they witness a deteriorating country. Villagers wave at them as they pass by. Bombed-out Iraqi military hardware off the road, more detained Iraqis, perhaps civilian, perhaps not.

The omnipresent smiling face of Saddam Hussein greeting them upon their arrival.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), just run that over.

BELLINI: Their work begins right away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're taking gunfire from them!

BELLINI: Out in the distance, ununiformed Iraqi soldiers again fighting what the Marines consider an unfair fight, potshots from men in civilian clothing dispersed among the civilian population.

The response of choice is to use missiles, mortars, and bullets, virtually guaranteeing the obliteration of the opponent.

Shortly after opening their fire, an ambulance rolls up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch out for this (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to be a trap.

BELLINI: It's too hard for them to see through their binoculars who's getting in, but the image is a reminder that their weapons have no conscience.

Presumed civilians, men, women, and children, wave a white flag to surrender. These are not the gunmen they're looking for. The cat- and-mouse game is not one Marines like to play.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where the hell we going to bring these EPWs?

BELLINI: As hours drag on, frustration overtakes inhibition.

So Marines wait for the order to fire once again, knowing no matter how well they kill, in this situation, it's hard for any of them to be heroes.

Jason Bellini, CNN, with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit in southern Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Man, that is a fantastic -- that is a fantastic look at what the Pentagon planners would call the asymmetrical war, the way the Iraqis are fighting this. That is some -- that is something.

Still ahead tonight, we'll put it all in the larger picture. Urban warfare, how will U.S. forces take on Saddam Hussein's best trained and most loyal fighters? As the war on Iraq coverage continues here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Good evening, everyone. I'm Heidi Collins at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Our coverage continues right after these headlines.

What may have been the biggest land battle between coalition and Iraqi forces is over. The Pentagon says the fighting east of Najaf killed as many as 300 Iraqi soldiers.

British forces pounded the city of Basra with tank fire and missiles today. British officials say Iraqis in the city had revolted against the ruling Ba'ath Party.

A second day of intense fighting was seen in Nasiriyah as U.S. Marines moved through the area.

Iraqi forces could be trying to set up a smokescreen around Baghdad. The Pentagon says the city is surrounded with oil-filled trenches that are being set on fire to make coalition more difficult.

U.S. Marines say they have seized Iraqi weapons in a hospital in Nasiriyah. The seizure included containers of atropine used to counteract chemical nerve agents. More than 200 weapons, along with 170 Iraqi soldiers, were captured in that operation.

U.S. Army Sergeant Asan Akbar is in a military confinement center in Germany...

(NEWS ALERT)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting tonight live from Kuwait City.

For the last few nights, coalition and Iraqi forces have been locked in a bloody battle for the key southern city of Nasiriya. CNN's Alessio Vinci is embedded with the U.S. Marines in Nasiriya. He filed this report earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ALESSIO VINCI, CNN ROME BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): The battle in Nasiriya between U.S. Marines and Iraqi military continued for the second straight night, and it was the most intense yet. Heavy machine gunfire, mortars and helicopter gun ships were all involved in the fight, as the U.S. military pushes north toward Baghdad. The fight was so intense and the front lines so fluid that a U.S. Marine unit involved in the battle mistakenly took U.S. forces staged nearby as opposing forces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I got one Marine shot.

VINCI: The Marine was lightly wounded in the shoulder and immediately evacuated, as others frantically tried to identify themselves using chemical lights and special signs. Later in the day a nasty sandstorm and rain prevented forces on all sides from fighting and allowed the U.S. military to deal with some civilian casualties. Some of them have been (UNINTELLIGIBLE) because U.S. military commanders believe they may be members of a paramilitary group to whom they attribute the stiff resistance against U.S. forces in Nasiriya.

(on camera): U.S. military commanders here say among Iraqi forces on the other side of the front line are so-called Saddam's Fedayeen paramilitary group. They are a concern to U.S. forces here because one of the tactics of the Fedayeen is to mingle among civilians. And the U.S. Marines here say they want to avoid as much as possible killing civilians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The commanders have identified that certain civilian vehicles with certain markings and certain colors have been deemed as re-supply vehicles, and that's the way these guys work, you know? They'll stage or cachet weapons and ammunition out here. So we've been authorized to engage certain civilian vehicles.

VINCI (voice-over): Marine commanders say the driver of this truck refused to stop and drove through a checkpoint at high speed. A violation of the current rules of engagement, so they shot at it. They say such vehicles may carry hidden weapons and perhaps even fertilizer, which can be used as an explosive. For now, though, they have been too busy fighting to verify the contents.

Alessio Vinci, CNN, with the U.S. Marines in Nasiriya, Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Iraqi troops are said to be surrounding Baghdad, pulling closer to the city in a ring around the city, as U.S. forces and coalition forces generally move closer to the city as well. The battle of Baghdad. CNN's Miles O'Brien and our military analyst in this hour, General Don Shepperd, join us now to map out the strategies of the toughest of all forms of warfare street to street -- gentlemen.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Aaron. First of all, let's talk about where action is going on right now, Don Shepperd. Right in this area, Karbala, is the place where we have a lot of focus. We haven't seen any pictures, haven't heard from our embed reporter there, Walt Rodgers, but here's what we know.

GEN. DON SHEPPERD (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Karbala and Najaf reportedly either contact with the southern elements of the Medina Division, which is south of Baghdad, or perhaps Fedayeen irregular militia. I don't know which. Reportedly, two to 300 casualties inflicted by the Marines, and no Marine losses.

O'BRIEN: All right. Steep battles in here, but once we get to Baghdad, once the U.S. gets to Baghdad, who knows what lies in store. Let's take a look at a scenario here which we can tell you a little bit about urban warfare and give you some -- this is a 101 version. Maybe a little less than 101, but go ahead and we'll give it a try.

First of all, we're trying to show you a scenario where the object is a building inside downtown Baghdad. What are we showing here?

SHEPPERD: Well basically you're showing that they have protected the building with tanks that are close to a mosque. We do not want to hit the mosque. It's very difficult. That's something we have to deal with.

O'BRIEN: All right. Up and over the mosque we go, and here we are depicting a typical scenario on an important place where somebody of the ilk of Saddam Hussein might be guarded by snipers. And then on top of the building -- excuse me -- anti-aircraft, which can also be used as anti-tank and anti-personnel.

SHEPPERD: You bet, can shoot down as well as up. This is protected by snipers and by troops surrounding the building. It's perhaps a palace or a bunker of some type of leadership target.

O'BRIEN: All right. And here's the scene that is reminiscent from "Black Hawk Down" in some sense. We've got the Apache helicopters, Black Hawk helicopters escorting a convoy of armored personnel carriers, Bradley fighting vehicles. And as they approach those Apache attack helicopters, lay down some fire, and then they -- what's the key in all of this, Don Shepperd?

SHEPPERD: The idea is, basically, the helicopters are there to support the ground elements. We are trying to show not tactics, but the difficulty of warfare. There could be snipers on all of these buildings.

You've got air support from helicopters. You can bring in air support from the Air Force, Navy and Marines as well. This is difficult stuff in downtown Baghdad; something that we do not want to do, Miles.

O'BRIEN: It is the thing you want to avoid perhaps more than anything in all of this. It may be inevitable.

SHEPPERD: It may be inevitable. You've got three divisions surrounding Baghdad right now, with four others that can be brought into Baghdad to defend it. This will be a tough fight if it goes to downtown Baghdad.

O'BRIEN: Don Shepperd, thanks very much -- Aaron.

BROWN: Thank you, gentlemen. We've seen a good deal just in this last half hour of how the coalition side is fighting this war. We have to this point seen very little of how the Iraqis are viewing this, but these are pictures broadcast on Iraqi TV.

Iraqi troops with grenade launchers. Much of the world has seen these pictures as well. They're being broadcast, of course, throughout the Arab world, taking defensive positions behind the bunkers. That's what you see them doing there.

Not the most sophisticated of weapons, of course, but there's a re-supply operation going on. Ammo being delivered, food supplies being delivered. All of this going on on the Iraqi side of the line.

When you compare the level of the sophistication of the coalition side to the Iraqi side, there's an enormous difference. But bullets don't know technology. They just kill, and they can kill as easily from the back of that truck as anywhere else. Our coverage continues in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Pictures of the soldiers and tanks enduring an intense sandstorm seemed to be the images of the day. But the rough weather is also affecting the coalition air campaign. CNN's Gary Tuchman is embedded with U.S. Air Force personnel near the Iraqi border. He's joining us now live with a videophone report. Gary, tell our viewers why air power is affected by the weather.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's hard for me to hear what you were saying to me, but let me just start by saying that the air war has slowed down quite a bit today, and it's important because they do protect the ground troops. But it slowed down not because of any tactical reasons, but because of the weather.

We've had very, very windy conditions, heavy rains, thunder and lightning. And because of that, planes, like these A-10 attack planes behind me, haven't been going out as much as they were the previous four days.

We are at a base near the Iraqi border. We were seeing 10 to 15 flights on an average; an hour over the past four days. Today it's been three or four because of the weather, but it's expected to pick up again once again tomorrow.

We are told by Air Force officials here that the Iraqi government still has -- there's a plan landing right now as we speak, or actually taking off as we speak. So it gets very loud. One more is coming now, too. You'll take a look at it.

It gets very loud when those planes take off. So we can't even talk. You can imagine just standing here and hearing these 10 to 15 times an hour and what it does to your ears. Anyway, I will continue. People here, the officials, the Air Force officials here are saying the Iraqi government still has 300 fighter planes in Iraq, but not one of them has taken to the sky over the past four days. The Air Force says it has complete control over the Iraqi skies.

Nevertheless, they're also saying that 80 percent of the planes that have taken off from here have had anti-aircraft fire or missiles shot at them. That's what they're also saying, but none of those missiles or AAA-anti-aircraft artillery has hit any of the planes.

Now a short time ago, we talked with the pilot of an F-16 fighter plane. She told us that she has been shot at by a missile -- it didn't hit her, obviously. She also says, today, when she flew on a mission to Iraq, lightning struck her plane, but her plane is OK. And then she told us about today's mission.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN: You just came back a couple of hours ago from Iraq. A lot of people also may not realize that F-16 pilots fly by themselves. You're the only one on that plane, you drop the bombs, you fly the plane. Where did you go and what did you do?

THUMPER, F-16 PILOT: We went up into northern Iraq in support of some of the Army forces, and they were calling us in with our JDAM series targets, our GPS-guided weapons to put the bombs on a road intersection which was right in the middle of an engagement they were having with the enemy. And they said that the bombs that we put into that place actually ended up ending the conflict there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN: She doesn't want to say her name on television. But right now we're going to get one more plane taking off, so we're going to have to be quiet for a second. And another one is following it.

They go in twos and threes all of the time. Never by themselves. See those planes taking off to the sky, they're both heading to Iraq.

We want to tell you her name, that pilot, her call sign, her nickname that she wears on her suit is Thumper. She's from San Antonio, Texas. Her husband is also a fighter pilot, but he's in the United States right now. Just incase you didn't know, women are allowed to be combat pilots. They can fly any Air Force plane a man flies.

We want to add to you we are being told by Air Force officials there are now over 2,000 aircraft being used in the air war against Iraq. In addition, you've heard about the leaflets being dropped in Iraq. You've heard about it before the war started. They're still doing it.

They have dropped over the last five weeks, 26 million leaflets over the nation of Iraq. There are 25 million people who live in Iraq. That gives you an idea. That's more than one leaflet for every person who lives in the country. Wolf, back to you. BLITZER: Gary Tuchman. He's at an air base not far from the Iraqi border. A very busy air base and still continuing to be busy, Aaron. I'm sure it's not going to ease up anytime soon. Back to you.

BROWN: No, I don't think so. Even against the night sky and even with the graininess of the videophone, there is something remarkably powerful about seeing that plane take off, whether it is the live videophone pictures or live satellite pictures. There are a number of ways to show the power and -- of this war.

One of them is through the still photographers. The still photographers of news organizations have been turning out some truly remarkable images that set the scene in ways different from the way video cameras do. One of the best is Vincent Laforet, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer for "The New York Times." He spent the early part of the war aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln and has filed this series of stills for "The New York Times."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VINCENT LAFORET, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Hi. My name is Vincent Laforet. I'm a staff photographer for "The New York Times" and I'm out here on the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Persian Gulf documenting the lives of the sailors and aviators out here during the war.

They've been out here for nine months. It's one of the longer deployments. And, you know, I mean living here is kind of living (ph) groundhog day every day. They're incredibly focused. The carrier (UNINTELLIGIBLE) has been called one of the most dangerous. I think it's 400-yard (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of the world.

And it's really easy to get seriously injured, if not killed in attack if you don't always keep your wits about you. They're very professional; everyone knows their place. They know where to go and where not to go.

Obviously, you can't hear anything on the decks. Everything's done through visual signals, hand signals. You have these huge jets taking off from zero to almost 200 miles an hour in a matter of seconds and landing in less than two seconds. And so it's actually a very small deck when you're on it.

One of the big challenges of a photojournalist is to not only show pictures of jets taking on and off, but to give the people back at home a sense of what it's like to live on a carrier with 5,000 other people. These people have very little privacy. They have, you know, 10, 15, 20 minutes a day where they spend in total silence by themselves reading a book or, of course, sleeping.

But they live in these living quarters with up to six people stacked on top of one other another. So whenever they can, when everything has slowed down, they try and take a little nap here or there.

I was just amazed at how mature, how professional, how hardworking they really are. I mean try to find an 18 or 19-year-old anywhere in the world that will work seven day weeks for nine months straight and be in charge of guiding a $20 or $40 million jet across the deck. These are really impressive people.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Plenty of odd items have come out today. Wall Street has decided to pull the plug on Al-Jazeera, the Arab news channel. The New York Stock Exchange has barred Al-Jazeera from broadcasting on the trading floor. The Nasdaq has done the same.

Stock exchange officials say they are kicking Al-Jazeera out because they don't have room. They deny the move is in retaliation for Al-Jazeera's airing a video of dead and captured American troops over the weekend. A quite graphic and disturbing video.

A spokesman said they needed to limit the floor to, "responsible journalists." So limiting Al-Jazeera was for them an easy choice -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting story. In the Middle East, meanwhile, some of the region's biggest protests since the war began took place today. In Damascus, Syria, for example, schools, universities and official government institutions closed so that half a million people could take part in anti-war protests.

Banners labeled U.S. and British leaders as international terrorists. Over in Lebanon, more than 10,000 people demonstrated outside the U.N. house in downtown Beirut to protest the war. At one point they tried to storm the British embassy, but they were held back by riot police.

Meanwhile on the subcontinent, hundreds of activists marched through the streets of Kolkata, India, formerly known as Calcutta. Demonstrators chanted "peace" and "no war" as they burned U.S. and British flags and spat on pictures of President Bush.

Americans have heard a lot of tough news about the war in Iraq over the past few days. So how are they reacting? CNN's Maria Hinojosa is in New York. She's been spending the day talking to the people there about the latest news out of the Gulf -- Maria.

MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, well there were no demonstrations in Times Square either for or against the war today. Something of a respite, after this has become really quite the spot for people to come and protest. But across the country, many people having very strong and very mixed feelings about this war.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HINOJOSA (voice-over): The news is inescapable. War is in the air. In bright, quick streaks across the Times Square zippers and big black type on the pages of the daily newspapers, people can't seem to keep their eyes off it. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel personally that there's propaganda that exists on both sides. U.S. spin, as well as Iraqi spin. I just hope it gets over quickly and our guys get home.

HINOJOSA: Now that those fuzzy green images have been replaced by the all too clear images of war, real war, by the sad, scared faces of civilians caught in war, by the frightened looks of American POWs and soldiers racing into danger, and of ordinary people caught in the crossfire and on the run.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's kind of comes to home. It's personal now. And when you see people, initially it's easy when the war is not here to think that the war is almost like a game, like a video game. But now that you see people are involved, you see names, and this is our families. They are mothers, fathers, children, wives, so it becomes personal.

HINOJOSA: All feeding the war at home, the constant debate on both sides.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I expect that in war there will be casualties and POWs. AndI think it's a price that America needs to pay. And hopefully we won't have to pay dearly, but it will -- we will incur those costs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know war was bad before and we know war is bad now. And unfortunately we knew there would be some casualties.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The fact that all this is happening is even more disturbing, because it's almost like -- I think a lot of people thought that this was going to happen. So now that it's happening...

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HINOJOSA: Now polls indicate that support around the country is still strong for this war. Sixty-seven percent saying that they are in support of this war; 31 percent saying they're opposed. The strongest part of that support comes from the geographic center of the country, with 72 percent there saying they're in support of this war, with only 41 percent on the East Coast saying they're in support of this war. But, Wolf, 67 percent of Americans say they are closely watching this war -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Maria Hinojosa, I know that there are huge numbers watching this war. Thanks very much, Maria, in New York. Back to you, Aaron, at the CNN newsroom.

BROWN: Thank you very much. There's a lot to watch. When we come back, we'll show you the mine sweeping operation that's going on. It's critical for a variety of reasons. They can't get the humanitarian aid in.

Never before in human history have so many people been able to see a war unfold from their living rooms. You're watching it now on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Members of the Royal Irish Regiment are also in southern Iraq helping American and other British forces out in the desert. As you can see from these pictures, they're in hot, harsh conditions surrounded by packs of camels. The British troops are patrolling the area and cordoning off dangerous landmine zones. They're also keeping watch over recently captured Iraqi soldiers and their weapons.

Coalition forces grabbed control of the port of Umm Qasr the first day of the war. But possessing the war isn't without risk. And now, and with the second largest city, Basra, in dire need of food and water. CNN's Richard Blystone says making sure the port is free of mines is even more urgent.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD BLYSTONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The desert, the heat, the dust. This doesn't help either. As the human minesweepers try to ready Umm Qasr part for tens of thousands of tons of food aid, waiting on ships far out in the Gulf. Australian frogmen are getting wet anyway beneath this fast-flowing cocktail of sewage, mud and crude oil, with visibility the length of your arm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All you can see in the distance is a dark object. So you have to swim up on it and then actually use your hands to work out what it is.

BLYSTONE: No booby traps so far, but they found four sea mines on a sunken mine laying boat just there. They say Umm Qasr is now secure, but troops say the sound of gunfire has been spoiling their sleep. British Marines drove journalists into Umm Qasr to show that their campaign is not all bombs and bullets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a huge port that can take a huge volume of ships. And what we hope to do is to get those ships on an end (ph) good (ph) order so that we can get the humanitarian supplies ashore, onto trucks, and out to the people who so desperately need it.

BLYSTONE: But this is only a snapshot. People have been putting (UNINTELLIGIBLE) from here for as long as there have been ships. Iraq's other big port, Basra, looks straight across its waterway to its long time adversary, Iran. And the path to the sea from here runs under the lead of Kuwaiti territory. Result: decades of friction and clashes.

(on camera): This port was wrecked in two wars: the Iran-Iraq War and Desert Storm. But the British say it's still in reasonable shape.

(voice-over): Until the threat of war shut it down, Umm Qasr brought in two-thirds of the food that fed two-thirds of the Iraqis under the U.N. Oil for Food Program. Now one berth is ready, and the Marines won't wait for the rest to be cleared before turning on a promised torrent of supplies. Richard Blystone, CNN, Umm Qasr, southern Iraq. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: It's hard to imagine at this time last year anyone would have thought that what's going on in Afghanistan would become such a small part of the news. The end of an hour, for example, but American forces are still there. They are still fighting the war on terror and occasionally and sadly they still take casualties.

Today, six Air Force airmen who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday were honored by their fellow servicemen. It is unclear exactly what caused the chopper to go down, though the military says it was not enemy fire. We are told the six airmen were trying to rescue two Afghan children when their helicopter crashed.

(NEWS ALERT)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: It seems that anyone with any sense of what's taking place recognizes the complexity of this task, the importance of it. They're not things that are done easily.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Coalition forces fighting not just the enemy and the weather, but the critics at times. Pentagon officials insist they are making good progress.

Good evening again, everyone. From CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Aaron Brown.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, from Kuwait City, I'm Wolf Blitzer. The war's top story at this hour, a major land battle in central Iraq. For the latest, let's go immediately to CNN senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I think we cautioned you early on that the initial reports from the battlefield can often be incorrect. And now it appears that the number of Iraqis killed in this skirmish is far fewer than we were initially told.

According to the latest reporting coming back to the Pentagon it now looks like somewhere between 150 and 200 Iraqis were killed in a confrontation with soldiers from the U.S. Army's 7th Cavalry. Again, still a significant bit of ground combat there. But not quite number of deaths we were told initially.

At this point, the Pentagon is insisting that despite the sandstorms, despite what may seem a plotting pace at times, the war plan is on track and on schedule.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MCINTYRE (voice-over): The blinding sandstorms that blanketed southern Iraq clearly hampered some U.S. ground and air operations.

MAJ. GEN. VICTOR RENUART, DIR. CENTCOM OPERATIONS: It's a little ugly out there today.

MCINTYRE: But the military was quick to argue the bad weather was having little effect on the overall warplane.

RENUART: It's been not a terribly comfortable day on the battlefield. However, that hasn't stopped us.

MCINTYRE: In fact, according to CNN's Walter Rodgers, elements of the 7th Cavalry used the cover of sand to outflank Iraqi troops, securing a key bridge across the Euphrates while continuing toward Baghdad.

At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his top military adviser fended off criticism that five days in the U.S. war plan was suffering from lack of forces and foresight.

GEN. RICHARD MYERS, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I think the plan is finally formulated and has put together by General Franks with some help and some advice but by General Franks and his commanders is a brilliant plan. And we've been at it now for less than a week. We're just about to Baghdad.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) you may have created the impression in the public mind this is going to be over in four days.

RUMSFELD: I thought I answered that. I certainly did not. General Myers certainly did not.

MCINTYRE: The Pentagon took particular exception to criticism from analysts and retired generals that the rapid advance of U.S. troops has left a vulnerable supply line that stretches over 200 miles of Baghdad.

QUESTION: ... been too lightly defended as critics charge?

MYERS: In my view no.

(CROSSTALK)

RUMSFELD: ... total dominance of the air. And it is not air superiority, it's dominance. They've not put an airplane up.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) shipping away, it seems at...

RUMSFELD: And these are ones and twos, and that's you're going to live with like we lived in Afghanistan. That's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) some major cities in the United States.

QUESTION: Are plans being put -- are plans in place to deal with those onsies and twosies. MCINTYRE: Even with the bad weather, the U.S. continued to used satellite-guided bombs to soften up Republican Guard positions. Here, a U.S. Air Force F-15 takes out a Medina Division tank south of Baghdad. And over the last tow days, U.S. warplanes trumped Iraq six GPS Jammers by taking them out with the very satellite-guided bombs they're designed to thwart.

RENUART: I'm also pleased to say they had no effect on us. In fact, We destroyed one with the GPS Jammers with a GPS weapon. Ironic.

MCINTYRE: U.S. satellite photographs showed that Iraqi troops have set large oil trenches afire around Baghdad in what the U.S. says is another futile gesture.

RENUART: I would say that the -- those oil fires burning are more a hazard to the people living in Baghdad than they are an impediment for us to conduct operations.

MCINTYRE: In Basra Iraqi tactics have forced a change in the U.S. strategy to avoid cities. Members of Saddam Hussein's Shock Troops, the Fedayeen Saddam, are terrorizing Shi'a population, preventing anyone from leaving or welcoming coalition troops. So now British forces are moving to take out the regime loyalists and liberate the strategic port city.

COL. CHRIS VERNON, BRITISH ARMY SPOKESMAN: Part of the strategy clearly is to delink the regular army, probably the softer of the targets, the irregular forces, and the Ba'ath Party regime and drive a wedge between that and the people.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: And the Pentagon is accusing the Iraqi military again of more violations of the Geneva Conventions and the War of Armed Conflict saying they were using a hospital near al Nasiriya as a staging paramilitary troops. U.S. troops secured that hospital, found no civilians there, took 170 fighters into custody, and found notably about 200 weapons and 3,000 chemical suits and nerve gas antidote, yet another sign, the U.S, military says, that Iraq may be considering using chemical weapons -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jamie, just touch up a couple loose ends. Still no sign, and correct me if I'm wrong, the Iraqis to date have had any of their aircraft up in the skies and threatened U.S. planes. They're clearly afraid to take off because those planes or helicopters presumably would be shot down right away. Is that right?

MCINTYRE: Not a single aircraft has taken off although every aircraft the United States has flown has been subject to ground fire from anti-aircraft artillery or missiles.

BLITZER: And still no evidence whatsoever the Iraqis have used any or let alone -- the U.S. has seen any evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction? MCINTYRE: No, the search is on for those chemical and biological weapons. They have some sensitive sites that they're looking at. But the U.S. has not yet found evidence of any chemical weapons and obviously if they haven't found them they haven't use of them either.

BLITZER: And no Scud missiles as opposed to shorter range missiles have been fired yet. Is that right, also?

MCINTYRE: That, I am not sure about. I know that they've had missile firings that they haven't completely identified the missile involved. So I have to say I'm not entirely sure whether any Scuds have actually been fired.

BLITZER: Some of the top ranking military officers here in Kuwait have told me yet no evidence of Scuds, Al Samoud, other shorter range missiles, but not Scuds. All right, Jamie McIntyre, at the Pentagon. Thanks very much.

Joining with us with a little bit more on how these powerful sandstorms are hampering the allied advance is CNN's Ryan Chilcote. He's in Iraq with the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division.

RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The entire fleet of the 101st Airborne has been grounded. So in terms of, and this is an air assault division. They specialize in moving troops to the battlefield with their helicopter. They obviously can't do that right now.

In addition to that, a lot of when this kicked up, the sandstorm began, and I don't know if you're getting an idea, but it's just snowing sand right now.

When this began, it came up so quickly and violently that a lot of the pilots that were out there, they had to put the helicopters down on the ground right away, wherever they were, inside Iraq, whether it was secure the area or not a secure area. And then they had to send troops out to those helicopters to secure them because obviously a big helicopter on the ground sitting there, it's a sitting duck and it's a perfect target for an ambush.

So it's been just a real logistics nightmare. The entire offensive capability of the 101st Airborne has been pretty much been paralyzed by these sandstorms.

I know that the Pentagon has said that the timeline is being held and this isn't holding it up, but it is hard to understand here on the ground how can you do much of anything in this weather -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Ryan Chilcote. He's with the 101st Airborne Division doing some excellent reporting for all of us.

Coalition forces keep pushing north toward Baghdad despite these blistering sandstorms which produce winds of up to 60 miles an hour at times and reduced visibility to about five feet. So how much longer will the troops have to endure the dangerous storms? Let's check in with CNN meteorologist Orelon Sydney. ORELON SYDNEY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Wolf, thanks a lot. I've got good news, it looks like the beginning of the end of this big storm system that started in the eastern Mediterranean yesterday.

The upper low level pressure system is right about here. Can you kind of see the twist in the clouds there? The surface front is just about to make its way into Basra, right now. Just about that area you can see where the thick white clouds are. And then you get some clearing here as the area of the cold front.

SIDNEY: The surface front is just about to make its way into Basra right now, just about the area you can see where the thick white clouds are and then you get some clearing here as the area of the cold front.

And coincidentally or strangely, I guess, most of the sand comes in behind the cold front, so as this low pressure system continues to move eastward, things are going to get a heck of a lot better. Warm winds out ahead of it with some rain have kept most of the dust down in place like Kuwait City. Also had some thunderstorms there earlier today. But the dust expected to continue to expected across Iraq moving, its way eastward and southeastward throughout tonight and into what is already Wednesday in Kuwait.

Now go back to the west, you will notice that things are quite a bit clearer and it looks like the winds are also dying off. Incirlik, five-mile-an-hour winds. Damascus still 30 miles an hour. Amman's winds are two miles an hour and they are definitely increasing as you head on into center of the storm. But the back edge of the storm, the winds are starting to dying down.

This is what your Wednesday looks like then. Skies will become partly cloudy as this area of low pressure pushes off now into Iran. The cold front itself is going to start dying out pretty well and you'll start to see partly cloudy skies. Unfortunately, because of the dust being so light, it's probably going to stay in the air for awhile. But I think the next 24 hours are going to be much better than the previous 24 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Orelon Sidney, thank you very much.

Weather an important issue and an important problem for the U.S. troops but there are other, potentially much greater problems. For example, do Saddam Hussein's forces have chemical and biological weapons? If they don't, why are coalition forces finding thousands of Iraqi protective suits and gas masks? We'll check in with our national security correspondent, David Ensor.

Also, watching the war. From Iraq's U.N. ambassador to homes around the globe, it seems everybody's tuning in.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Well, much has been made about the military technological that had been made since the Gulf War of a dozen year ago. Playing a key role is GPS technology, global positioning technology.

CNN's Miles O'Brien has joined us again to review how that affects the ability of the military to carry out its mission -- Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Aaron, we're also going to talk a little about smoke and the pall of smoke which is over Baghdad right now. GPS and smoke -- you would think the two might have a problem, smoke perhaps impeding those GPS-guided (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

Not necessarily, as Don Shepperd will explain. First, of all, look at these images which came across today, Central Command briefing. Huge vats of oil on the outskirts of Baghdad already set alight, an apparent attempt to thwart an attack. But maybe not as effective as one would think, right Don Shepperd?

MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: That's true, Miles.

Basically, what it amounts to is smoke does obscure visibility of some body who's just looking to it visually with the eyeballs. The biggest problem it's going to cause is a lot of people -- making a lot of people cough in downtown Baghdad.

We've known about smoke; we've known about dust; we've known about obscured visibility on the battlefield for a long time. And over the years, we've worked lots of ways to work around it and underneath it.

O'BRIEN: All right. Let's take a look at an animation we've put together here -- it's a hypothetical scenario from Baghdad, city of six million people. There's that smoke we just show you to give you a sense of what's going on. It could -- of course that's just one fire we show you. If others were lit, it could be more of a serious problem.

There's your F-16 trying to find a target.

SHEPPERD: Yes. Looking down through it with a visual eyeballs, you can't see through it and you can't see the target. So there's other ways.

O'BRIEN: So there's one other way to do it: you send down special operations, for example, one way to do it. And they come down with a group of people, because you don't want to be down there alone, but the key person in this is one guy and he has a special device.

SHEPPERD: Yes, he's the air force -- ground air controller if you will -- the forward air controller on the ground. He's got a laser device, and what he's doing with the laser is measuring the distance to the target, and now he's going to convert that into coordinates and relay those coordinates up to the F-16.

O'BRIEN: Is that manual or automatic?

SHEPPERD: It's manual.

O'BRIEN: OK. So he's got to know his number well.

He sends it on up. The coordinates arrive and J-DAM is properly vectored into the target, in this case a palace.

SHEPPERD: Yes. Indeed.

O'BRIEN: That makes it look simple. It's not that simple.

SHEPPERD: No, it isn't. Satellite guided weapon.

Now basically, what it amounts to is, this is one way of working around the problem. In other words, if you can get some one to mark a target underneath the smoke, you can rely thee coordinates and you can hit it with a satellite assisted weapon such as a J-DAM.

O'BRIEN: All right. A little later we'll explain about this GPS jamming we've heard so much about.

But that's for another segment. Thanks very much, Don Shepperd. We appreciate it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Miles, and General Shepperd.

U.S. fighter pilots, meanwhile, are engaged in one of the most intensive bombing campaigns ever, dropping more than 2,000 precision -- precision-guided bombs on Iraq since the war started.

But today, bad weather slowed the speed of what's being called "shock and awe."

CNN's Frank Buckley is with the strike pilots on the USS Constellation. That's a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf. He's joining us now live.

What's happening tonight aboard the Constellation, Frank?

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf rain is the -- rain is an issue for the strike fighters here on the "USS Constellation" tonight, making the night landings on an aircraft carrier that much more unpleasant.

Still, flight operations are continuing, and the flight operations are evolving more and more into close-in air support missions that we were able to sit in on a briefing of such a mission as members of the desk rattlers, the Marine Corps squadron on the aircraft carrier were headed to provide support to advancing coalition troops, close air support.

They go over where they're going. They call that a kill box. That's the area that they're going to be responsible for when they arrive. En route, they get specific instructions what to attack when they're there. We talked to the division leader from this squadron after they returned from Karbala. He said the calls for close air support were coming in rapidly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CAPT. TRAVIS KELLY, U.S. MARINE CORPS: All I can say is it sounds like it's intense because they were using so many guys for close air support, so many aircraft. I would say if they weren't using many aircraft, it would be probably not so intense. But the fact they were using a lot, I think is probably pretty intense up there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCKLEY: Meanwhile, from the "USS Constellation", a bit of navy history was made from the S3 Viking. That's the aircraft that was born as an anti-submarine jet, a submarine hunter, more recently it's been used for midair refueling above the carrier, the carrier fleet when the carrier planes take off. They usually give a little gas on their way to the target or a little bit of gas on their way back home. And the S-3 has been primarily involved in that.

We learned that yesterday, for the first time in its 30-year history, that it received its tasking orders for overland strikes on naval targets near Basra, and for the first time ever, fired a laser- guided missile in combat, helping to take out that Iraqi naval target -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Frank, we're heard all sorts of reports that other U.S. aircraft, whether helicopters or planes have returned to their bases with -- riddled by antiaircraft fire, although the planes returned safely. Have any planes returned to the Constellation, as far as you know, damaged because of Iraqi antiaircraft fire?

BUCKLEY: Well, as far as we know, Wolf, not a single aircraft has been damaged. They tell us that the air-defense systems, while they do encounter triple A, while they do see the surface-to-air firings from time to time, generally speaking, without giving away too much in the way of tactics, these fighter aircraft are able to operate at a significant altitude, even when they're providing the close air support. They're able to use some of the weapons, particularly the GPS-guided weapons and the laser-guided weapons, that once a target is designated, they can release those weapons, often at some altitude out of reach or out of the way of triple A fire or the surface-to-air firing.

BLITZER: All right. Frank Buckley aboard the "USS Constellation" doing some good reporting, as usual. Thanks, Frank, very much.

Aaron, back to you.

BROWN: Thank you.

A wonderful shot the pilots writing on their hands some of the notes they need to keep in mind. As one of the pilots said it's very intense up there, it is not just the Constellation it is the Abraham Lincoln, they're sending pilots into the sky.

Kyra Phillips is embedded with the carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln and filed from there today. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Flight operations continue on the USS Abraham Lincoln and extreme focus on the troops on the ground in Iraq, a lot of concern about the safety of the troops about the POWs, strike fighter pilots want to prevent any additional POW situation. The mission CAS, Close Air Support. These missions are taking place through the day, through the night. Luangwa Commander Scott Snow, has been flying the missions throughout the day today. We're going to talk about the most recent one that he had. The CAS mission that you had. The objective today with regard to protecting the troops on the ground as they've been moving into Iraq?

LT. CMDR. SCOTT SNOW, U.S. NAVY: Yes, today we are heading just north of the one of the southern cities and clearing a path for our troops to work their way up to Baghdad.

PHILLIPS: We're going to pause for just a minute had a Prowler safely land coming back from flight operations as they continue. Tell meet communication that goes on between you and the troops, the forward air control, the facts on the ground and how you try to prevent a potential threat to troops on the ground?

SNOW: We talked to the forward air controller, he tells us where the friendly's are, the threat the enemy order of battle. You have target he would like taken out. Descriptions a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and any restrictions for run-in, and what types of ordnance he would like to use on that. If he has any marks artillery rounds or anything he can throw into the area to show us closer where it is. And go ahead and prosecute targets on his approval at that point.

PHILLIPS: I have to ask you when the news came out about the POWs, how did it affect you, personally, how did it affect the pilots on the USS Abraham Lincoln?

SNOW: At first, it angered me quite a bit and still does. And also (UNINTELLIGIBLE) my resolve to be there to the very last bullet is expended and the very drop of my gas is expended, to protect the lives of the guys on the ground.

PHILLIPS: Will the support air missions continue and will they increase?

SNOW: Yes, they'll continue, they'll increase. It's better for us to take the targets out from a more survivable position from five to 10 to 20,000 feet instead of the helicopters down low where they're vulnerable to AAA fire.

PHILLIPS: Lieutenant Commander Scott Snow, thank you very much.

SO, the flight operations continue off the USS Abraham Lincoln, extreme focus of protection on the ground.

The weather, of course, is a problem. The sandstorm picking up in Iraq. Also storms out here in The Persian Gulf. Lightning and rain has been taking place, but it doesn't stop the missions that come off this carrier. It also doesn't prevent the -- one moment please, as we have a landing coming in here. A Prowler landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln. Once again the weather is not effecting the drops of ordnance, JDAMs, GPS-guided weapons. The advantage of those weapons is that they can combat any type of weather. Flight operations once again continuing off the USS Abraham Lincoln.

I'm Kyra Phillips, back to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: You can't imagine how noisy it is aboard an aircraft carrier when those planes are taking off and coming back.

There are new concerns tonight as there have been for the last three nights now about Iraqi chemical weapons. There are reports that chemical weapons are in the hands of Republican Guard in the Baghdad area with authorization to use them to U.S. forces cross a line.

CNN's national security correspondent David Ensor now has had about 24 hours to work through this story.

David, what are you able to report tonight?

DAVID ENSOR, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, as you know, if a military unit wants to use chemical weapons against its enemy, it has to protect its own forces. And its evidence that that protection is being done by the Iraqis to prevent some blow back if the wind should change that is causing all the concern among U.S. officials.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ENSOR: The evidence is accumulating that Iraq may be planning to use chemical weapons. Gas masks, turning up in abandoned trenches. In Nasiriyah in a building marked as a hospital, U.S. Marines found weapons, atrepine (ph) antidote kits and that's not all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They found over 3,000 chemical suits and gas masks as well as a number of Iraqi military uniforms.

ENSOR: The findings are heightening concerns among Coalition forces approaching Baghdad, since as the Iraqis should know, U.S. and British forces do not use chemical weapons. U.S. officials say some intelligence indicates a red line may have been drawn around the capital with Republican Guard Units ordered to use chemical weapons once U.S. and Allied troops cross it. There is also intelligence officials say suggesting Republican Guard units have been issued artillery shells contains chemical agents.

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: There has been intelligence scraps, who knows how accurate they are. Chatter in the system, that suggests that the closer that Coalition forces get to Baghdad and greater the likelihood and that command and control arrangements have been put in place.

ENSOR: In Baghdad, Tariq Aziz, repeated his government stand that does not have any kind of weapons of mass destruction.

TARIQ AZIZ, IRAQI DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: When they started to talk about the weapons of mass destruction, we know and we always knew that that was fabrication and lies.

ENSOR: Experts say Saddam Hussein's forces will likely try to hold out in Baghdad for as long as possible without using the weapons his government insists it does not have, hoping to build international pressure on the U.S. and Britain to back down.

KENNETH POLLACK, CNN ANALYST: In that sense any use of chemical weapons would be counterproductive testify Saddam because it will only galvanize international opinion around the United States.

ENSOR: But if the Coalition forces cannot be deterred that way. Then says Ken Pollack all bets are off.

POLLACK: And he will use chemical warfare to prevent the United States from taking Baghdad and to inflict as many casualties as he can on U.S., and hope that that will convince the United States to stop the war.

ENSOR: But U.S. and Allied forces are well equipped and trained against chemical weapons.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ENSOR: The chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Myers said in the event the Iraqis should use chemical weapons, the U.S. does have a military response plan. He was no more specific than that -- Aaron.

BROWN: David, thank you. David Ensor.

We've seen the pictures over the last couple of days two young American helicopter pilots who were taken POW on Monday. More that story has emerged today. The story of how their comrades tried to rescue them. Coming up later.

Next, the battle over the dollar and has turned into a political fight of sorts between the president and the Congress. Our coverage on the WAR ON IRAQ continues here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: As U.S. forces battle for the upper hand in Iraq. President Bush begins fighting for his supplemental war budget. In the meantime, an unexpected set back to for his latest tax cut proposal. For details on both of these stories lets bring in our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, President Bush is urging Congress to pass that emergency spending bill in three weeks before the Easter recess. There are two things to keep in mind about the supplemental. First it only covers six months in expenses. And secondly the cost is going to be picked up 100 percent by the American taxpayer. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): President Bush unveiled his much awaited cost estimate of the U.S. War with Iraq. Nearly $75 billion over a six-month period.

BUSH: The wartime supplemental is directly related to winning this war. And to securing the peace that will follow this war. I asked Congress to act quickly, and responsibly.

MALVEAUX: The total emergency spending bill is $74.7 billion, $63 billion of that for the prosecution of the war, $8 billion for international operations, relief and short-term reconstruction, including aid for U.S. allies, and $4 billion for homeland security. But the Pentagon cautions, this figure could dramatically change.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The budget figure the president announced up there is not the cost of the war. The budget figure he announced up there is the cost -- that's the money the state needs, the money the CIA needs, the money that homeland security needs. If you can't tell how long it's going to last, you sure can't tell what it's going to cost.

MALVEAUX: Unlike the Persian Gulf War, which was paid almost exclusively by U.S. allies, 100 percent of the cost of this war will be picked up by U.S. taxpayers.

But in a clear message to the Bush administration, some in Congress are concerned about how the U.S. will pay for this war. The Senate voted to slash of the president's $726 billion tax-cut package by more than half.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: The House passed Mr. Bush's version. In all likelihood, with the Senate and the House conference committee, it will in between that figure of $350 billion to $700-plus billion for that tax-cut package. As for the supplemental, it is expected to pass in the three weeks that the president has given Congress.

There are members of the Democratic Party, of course, who would more money for homeland security. It's also expected that members of Congress will throw in some of their pet projects. So it's probably going to more than $75 billion.

And, Aaron, when it comes to long-term expenses and when it comes to reconstruction, they're looking for Iraqi oil to pay for that, as well as the frozen assets from the Iraqi regime as well -- Aaron.

BROWN: Suzanne, thank you -- Suzanne Malveaux at the White House covering a couple of strains to the story.

Saudi Arabia today called for the war to end, the Saudi Press Agency saying the country's foreign minister wants a solution to the crisis that -- quote -- "is within the international legitimate framework." U.S. officials deny reports that the Saudis have offered any formal peace proposal. And, in any case, the White House says that any plan that would leave Saddam Hussein in power in Iraq is not workable.

Surprising news from the pilot -- or the father, rather, of one of the two American pilots captured by the Iraqis after his upon chopper went down the other day south of Baghdad. Ronald Young says U.S. Army troops tried to rescue his son not once, but twice. Two men were knocked down, Ronald Young Jr. and David Williams, a Floridian.

Their Apache helicopter was one of more than 30 engaged in a battle with the Iraqis on Monday south Baghdad. Heavy Iraqi ground fire from Republican Guard troops prevented both attempts from succeeding and caused one of the rescue helicopters to catch fire. The Army told Young -- Mr. Young, that is -- that both pilots eluded Iraqi troop for some time before they were finally taken prisoner -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Aaron, the bodies of the first two U.S. Marines who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country are returning home. Lance Corporal Jose Gutierrez was killed in action Friday in southern Iraq. His body arrived at Dover Air Force base earlier today in Delaware. And so did the remains of 2nd Lieutenant Therrel Childers.

Whatever your feelings about the war in Iraq, you can't deny the courage and heroism of these Marines.

More wounded coalition troops are arriving in Germany for medical treatment; 15 injured soldiers and Marines were flown into Ramstein Air Force Base earlier today. More than a dozen other troops are already there being treated for blast injuries, not gunshot wounds. CNN's latest count shows that 23 Americans and 20 British troops have been killed since the war began; 20 of those coalition deaths came in combat. One American died in a grenade attack allegedly by a fellow soldier. The other deaths are the result of accidents -- Aaron.

BROWN: Wolf, an update coming up of the headlines just ahead. And then we'll return with our embedded correspondents with coalition forces around the theater.

As we take a break, some of the pictures that tell the story of this war in its first week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, everyone. I'm Heidi Collins at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

Here's a look now at headlines this hour. Elements of the U.S. 7th Cavalry were in a massive battle about 95 miles south of Baghdad. The Pentagon says U.S. troops killed Iraqi foot soldiers, possibly 150 to 200 of them.

Coalition control of the skies over Iraq is total, according to U.S. Air Force officials. They're calling the entire country a no-fly zone for Iraq, saying none of its 300 fighter planes have taken off. Sources tell CNN that coalition launches will be intensified. Unarmed Black Hawk helicopters and Citation jets have been added to the fleet of aircraft patrolling the skies of New York. The Department of Homeland Security says there's no intelligence about a specific threat and pilots can call in Air Force fighter jets if a situation arises.

Republican Senator Trent Lott is questioning whether airline security has gone too far and is costing too much. The chairman of the Aviation Subcommittees says the air marshal program needs to be examined. He says he's not sure if all flights needs pilots with guns, stronger cockpit doors and air marshals.

Coming up in the next half-hour: getting the war into your home. We'll look at the worldwide media coverage.

Also, a breakthrough in high-tech warfare that's become a flash point in East-West politics.

And at the top of the hour: Scott O'Grady, the F-16 pilot who was shot down and rescued in the former Yugoslavia is among the guests on CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE."

Those are the headlines at this hour -- more coverage of the war in Iraq begin right now.

BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting live from Kuwait City. We're awaiting more details about a massive land battle, probably the biggest firefight of the war. It took place about 95 miles south of Baghdad in the Valley of the Euphrates River.

Between the cities of Najaf and Karbala, coalition forces encountered a large Iraqi ground force. The battle happened during a sandstorm that prevented U.S.-led forces from calling in air cover. Still, the Pentagon reports that 150 to 200 Iraqis were killed.

That's the very latest. But for those of you who are just getting home trying to catch up on what's happened today, here's CNN's Miles O'Brien.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Recapping developments in the past few hours.

5:44: CNN's Walter Rodgers, traveling with the 3rd Squadron 7th Cavalry, says elements of the 7th Cav have crossed the Euphrates River through a fierce sandstorm and under Iraqi fire.

6:00 a.m.: The British military says the city of Umm Qasr and its port are now firmly under coalition control.

7:00 a.m.: British Prime Minister Tony Blair announces he'll visit the U.S. tomorrow to meet with President Bush and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

8:45 a.m.: Dr. Sanjay Gupta with the Marines Devil Docs says two huge medical tents have been blown over by fierce sandstorms.

9:00 a. m.: U.S. Central Command says trenches in Baghdad are being filled with oil and set aflame in an apparent attempt to provide cover against coalition attacks.

1:22 p.m. Eastern, 9:22 p.m. in Iraq: British pool reporter Richard Gaisford, embedded with United Kingdom troops in Basra, reports a popular uprising by Shia residents against Iraqi troops. U.S. officials say it's more like chaos than anything else.

1:30 p.m.: Dolphins trained to hunt for mines at the Coronado Naval Base in California arrive in the port of Umm Qasr to support U.S. Navy demining operations.

1:55 p.m.: Eleven U.S. troops injured in Iraq arrive for treatment at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: A quick look at some of the events of the day.

One of the storylines of yesterday was concern that Russian companies were sending to the Iraqi government equipment that could jam GPS systems, the global positioning system that is used on so many of the American weapons.

Miles O'Brien, who we work pretty hard around here, I must say, is over at the table with General Shepperd to work through that question as well -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Yes, used the GPS to get back here to the map table once again with Don Shepperd.

And it's interesting. The GPS jammer is not as complicated as it might seem to be. You literally can find how to do it on the Internet. I'm not telling you how to do it, but can you find out how to do it on the Internet. It will cost you about $2,000 to make a GPS jammer.

Let's explain how GPS can be jammed and how it might be thwarted by showing you an animation our friends at Analytical Graphics have put together. First of all, the GPS constellation, 24 satellites.

Take it away, Don Shepperd.

RETIRED MAJOR GEN. DONALD SHEPPERD, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Twenty-four satellites, up to four spares up there, maybe 28. It would cost you 2,000 bucks, maybe even 200 for your GPS, but $12 billion for the satellite constellation that does it.

A bunch of satellites, they generate pseudo random codes tied to timing devices in both the GPS receiver and also the satellite. The idea is highly accurate positioning of things on the ground, so you can guide to those things. This is essential for vehicles, for navigation, for aircraft and for navigation for weapons to final destination. O'BRIEN: Yes. We depicted a jammer scenario there on that yellow dome.

SHEPPERD: Here's a jammer in downtown Baghdad, putting up a cone of jamming, designed to confuse GPS weapons.

Now, the things about these weapons are, they are not GPS-guided. They are GPS-assisted. The GPS updates the INS, inertial nav system, in the airplane. It updates the weapon. The weapon is just dropped. And then the weapon gets GPS updates to updates its INS. So if the GPS fails, it reverts to INS on the bomb. Instead of maybe a 10-foot bomb, you get a 40-foot bomb. So GPS jammers decrease accuracy, but they don't decrease your ability to bomb.

O'BRIEN: All right.

But the theory is, the GPS signal is fairly faint. So the jamming signal doesn't have to be that strong to cause problems. And jamming is a lot like if you and I were having a conversation here and somebody was yelling at us, trying to overpower our conversation.

SHEPPERD: If I shout louder than you do, I'm jamming you.

O'BRIEN: OK. There you go.

So, GPS jamming, just another little factoid we have uncovered throughout the course of all this, yet another tension point between the U.S. and Russia at the moment, but, nevertheless, something that isn't as hard as you think it might be.

SHEPPERD: No, it does not degrade accuracy, but it does not keep us from dropping bombs. We knew about it in the very beginning. We've designed things around it, hardware, software, and tactics as well, Miles.

O'BRIEN: Don Shepperd, thanks -- Aaron.

BROWN: Miles, we have one or two other things we'd like to you do before you leave tonight, too. Thank you very much, Miles O'Brien.

British forces are tied up in the battle for the important southern Iraqi city of Basra, the second largest city in the country. CNN's Christiane Amanpour, traveling with the coalition forces, reports from there, as CNN's coverage of the war on Iraq continues after this short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Well, British commanders say it is possible that there is a possible -- it is possible there is a popular uprising against the ruling Baath Party in the important city of Basra. British troops have been trying to secure the city, so that much needed humanitarian aid can be delivered and so that all the troops moving past it are safe.

CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour is in northern Kuwait, where she filed this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The British army has been forced to change tactics around Basra, because it is encountering much stiffer than expected military resistance. Both from irregulars like these, Saddam's Fedayeen and elements of the Iraqi Army 51st Division.

Their commanders have been taught to surrender and disband but, instead, they have pulled back into the city, along with tanks and heavy artillery. And they are engaging the British arrayed outside. These British troops rest after fierce tank and artillery duels. And the officers say they are now entering a difficult and high risk military operation to destroy Iraqi army resistance.

And this is exactly what British forces had hoped to avoid. They do not want to get sucked into street fighting. And they want to avoid killing Iraqi civilians.

COL. CHRIS VERNON, BRITISH ARMY SPOKESMAN: When seizing fleeting opportunities, as he brings his tanks out to the rear outskirts, engaging with direct fire tanks and, indeed, artillery, but only on to the outskirts where we're pretty clear we're not going to inflict actual damage on civilians.

AMANPOUR: The British had hoped to be welcomed into Basra. And they want to deliver humanitarian aid. Now, they hope to speed that up by finally taking control of the port of Umm Qasr after several days of military operations against Iraqi army elements who had held out to the end. Supply ships may start entering the port as soon as the channel is swept of mines.

BRIG. JIM DUTTON, ROYAL MARINES: But not in Basra. And Basra has very little food, electricity and water. We're going to have to find other ways of getting supplies down there, which is what's occupying our minds at the moment.

AMANPOUR: In the meantime, massive supplies of humanitarian aid are stacked up in Kuwait, and they may be driven in.

(on camera): Destroying the Iraqi armed resistance around Basra will take much longer than the British army had expected, and British officers now admit that the Iraqis are trying to fight this battle on their own terms, trying to draw the British into urban warfare, knowing that they cannot defeat superior force in the open desert.

Christiane Amanpour, CNN, with the British divisional headquarters in northern Kuwait.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And coalition convoys are rolling toward Baghdad. The U.S. 37th Cavalry is at the front lines battling Iraq troops in Iraq's hostile landscape, which included, of course, as we all know by now, major sandstorms. CNN's Walter Rodgers is embedded with the 37th and files this view from the front lines.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What we're showing you is the convoy in which we're riding heading north again, in the general direction of north, in a very strong sandstorm.

It's like being in a blizzard except, unfortunately, the sand doesn't melt as the snow does. Now this gives some temporary military advantage to both sides, although the greater military advantage falls to the Iraqis.

The American advantage in crossing the Euphrates River bridge this morning was -- it was like a smokescreen. The sandstorm was like a smoke screen and so they couldn't begin shooting at us very accurately and consequently under those circumstances they didn't have a chance to reload, re-fire, reposition, re-aim.

The 7th Cavalry literally had to run something of a night ambush on both sides of the road last night, crossing one of the canal bridges that preceded the Euphrates River and that fight, was as I say, more than significant. There were machine gun tracer bullets going out on either side of the road. Every Bradley -- every tank was firing.

Imagine looking out into total darkness in an agricultural area. You can't see more than 40 or 50 meters without night vision goggles and you know there are people out there. We had no idea how many people were out there, but it turned out to be several hundred, 300, 400 Iraqi dismounts, that's infantry soldiers were out there shooting at the 7th Cavalry's convoy last night.

What I did was change microphones, one which would give you more ambient sound, as opposed to the direct sound of my narration. Again, we're traveling in a convoy in the general direction north from the Euphrates River. The commander of the 7th Cavalry gave us permission to say that we had crossed the river after indeed that was a fait accompli.

The U.S. Army's 7th Cavalry has just taken three Iraqi prisoners of war. Actually, they're very close, that is to say, no more than 40 yards away. But the dust and sand are blowing so badly, you're getting these vague images. They were captured by the U.S. Army up the road not very far ahead of us. They were driving a truck load of weapons and that's when the Army apprehended them.

They've had their arms tied. They're lying in the sand now. No evidence of any hostility on their part now. But I should point out that as the 7th Cavalry has moved forward for the past, oh, four or five hours, the Calvary has taken plenty of small arms fire and mortar fire.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BROWN: That's Walt Rodgers. We've been following the 37th for a week now, from when their entrance into Iraq was a cakewalk, to today, when it's anything but.

Back during the Vietnam era, the chant was -- or at least one of them -- "The whole world is watching." It wasn't exactly true then, but it is certainly true now.

In a minute, we'll see exactly what the world is watching, as CNN's coverage of the war on Iraq continues, but, first, a short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Anger over the war in Iraq spilled into city streets across the world today. In the South Korean capital of Seoul, protests turned violent, as anti-war protesters and police came to blows near the National Assembly Building.

Meanwhile, in Jordan, a relatively small number of people turned out in a snowstorm to protest the war. Various opposition groups chanted anti-U.S. slogans and pledged solidarity with the Iraqis.

A U.S. helicopter shot out of the sky, prayers punctuated by bombs, and British troops handing out candy to Iraqi children, those are just some of the stories people around the world saw today when they turned on their TVs to watch the news.

CNN's Bruce Burkhardt takes a look at the world view of the war in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE BURKHARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The evening news in Russia and this report about the donned Apache helicopter. The reporter tells us -- quote -- "The Christian who shot down the helicopter has already received his $25,000 reward."

In another piece, the reporter describes fierce fighting in Umm Qasr and makes the personal observation that the coalition forces do not seem to be in control of the city. This is TF1 from France. At the mosque, according to this reporter, you can hear the prayers punctuated by the bomb, part of extensive TF1 coverage that includes reports from several embedded reporters.

(on camera): In the world of Arab television, there's a couple of networks other than the one we hear about all the time, Al-Jazeera. There's Abu Dhabi and Al-Arabiya. And like Al-Jazeera, both are privately owned and profess to be moderate and objective. And though they don't always tell the story the way Washington would like it told, they also don't tell it the way Saddam would like it.

(voice-over): This report from the Abu Dhabi network describes the road to Basra littered with burned-out U.S. and Iraqi military equipment, a British soldier shown handing out candy to Iraqi children, but also this: a report on the damage to civilian neighborhoods of Baghdad; and this being read on behalf of Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the highest Shiite authority. He calls upon all Iraqis to defend their country and their religion.

On the competing network, Al-Arabiya, an interview with an Iraqi opposition leader who argues that Saddam must go. "Iraqi people have suffered," he says, "for more than 35 years."

Bruce Burkhardt, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Literally, around the world, people are watching this. If you're in the Arab world, they're watching Al-Jazeera. But Al- Jazeera will not be reporting from the New York Stock Exchange, at least for the time being.

The stock exchange today confirmed that it had banned Al-Jazeera from reporting from the trading floor. In a letter to the network, the spokesman cited a need for space. He denied that the network's war coverage, which included on Sunday some extraordinarily graphic pictures of war dead and interviews, long interviews, with POWs, played any role in it at all.

Few would say war is a funny business. It certainly isn't. But that doesn't mean political cartoonists are sitting on the sidelines.

CNN's Jeanne Moos gives a sampling from around the country and around the world of what the cartoonists are doing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Saddam Hussein's recent TV appearances are drawing fire from those who draw for a living. "But you had the makeup artists executed," says a cartoon in the "Honolulu Star-Bulletin." From "The Cincinnati Post": "Victory will be ours. How was that take?"

Several cartoonists were taken with Saddam's resemblance to Groucho Marx. If you're hooked on the war coverage, you'll appreciate Walt Handelsman's view: "Mom and dad are embedded with the troops." Al-Jazeera and Saddam Hussein make for not such strange embedded fellows in the "Oregonian," while Al-Jazeera is portrayed as a buzzard by cartoonist John Cole because the Arab network showed footage of dead American soldiers.

As for all those embedded reporters rattling off military lingo...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Returning Iraqi AAA.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The CAS missions, the close air support missions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then, at a distance, we could see the MLRS rockets. MOOS: Cartoonist Stuart Carlson depicts a jargon-spewing reporter, with a viewer's laconic comment, "Good to see he hasn't been co-opted."

Overseas, "The Daily Tribune" in the Philippines showed a missile with the caption, "Say hello to American democracy." The French paper "Le Monde" portrayed Iraqis greeting coalition tanks by waving skulls. The caption reads: "The overjoyed crowd." And from "The Christian Science Monitor," a kid watching the bombing says, "Gosh, I sure hope nobody ever liberates us." "USA Today" showed Oscar spitting on American POWs.

The Dixie Chicks drew fire from "The Dallas Morning News." "Using pigeons to test for poison gas is bad enough, but calling us Dixie Chicks, that hurt."

As for filmmaker's Michael Moore's anti-war comments...

MICHAEL MOORE, DIRECTOR: Shame you on, Mr. Bush.

MOOS: "The New York Post" depicts Moore as a missile: "Incoming!"

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Wolf, the Kuwaiti newspapers, the two English-language papers play the war pretty straight?

BLITZER: They do, indeed. I wake up every morning, read those papers. And they have a lot of wire service, news agency reports, pretty straight, the editorials pretty much in line with the Kuwaiti government, which, as you well know, Aaron, strongly supports the U.S. government.

BROWN: Wolf, thank you for tonight.

And thank all of you.

We'll be back at 10:00 Eastern time, Michael Moore -- speaking of Michael Moore -- among our guests tonight.

And our coverage continues after a check of the top stories, the war in Iraq, of course, "LARRY KING LIVE." And we'll see you again at 10:00 Eastern time.

We leave you with images of the war shot by the photographers of the Associated Press.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com



Most Intense Yet; U.S. Air Force Officials Say Coalition is in Control of Skies>


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