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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

War on Iraq: Analyst Of What Mentality Is Learned In U.S. Armed Forces Training

Aired March 29, 2003 - 01:05   ET

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

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Daryn, thank you very much.
Let me turning to General Clark first before we move on. Because we are both moved, I think, by the Candy Crowley piece just before the top of the hour. It changes you, I think, you are not the same when you come back as you were when you left.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.). U.S. ARMY: I think that is true. Now, there were four very prominent Americans who talked about being in a position to kill people. I think two other points need to be made about this. Number one, there is something about being in the armed forces that, you learn not to have certain feelings. You learn to repress these feelings. And that, after all, is what training and discipline is about. You don't act in ways that are best for you, you act in ways that are best for the team, or the mission or each other. It's why people do things like jumping on grenades in combat.

And it takes people who have gone through this, sometimes years afterwards to get back to their normal feelings. And the other thing is, people carry an enormous amount of guilt after war. It is not only guilt from having killed, but it is guilt from people who were under your command who died, or were injured, or lost legs, or orders you should have given and didn't give. Order you gave and shouldn't have given, or couldn't you have done it -- And these feelings come bubbling up, different for different people, it depends on the circumstances. But often, it takes a very long time to sort through these emotions.

BROWN: I thought the other day that we sometimes talk about the war as if it is something that was planned in the Pentagon, and then they push a button, and it unfolds. In fact there, are a thousand or 5,000 or 10,000 decisions made every day. Decisions made by sergeants, or lieutenants or sometimes admirals, but sometimes petty officers that can literally be life or death at some point or another. And it is a human exercise, even though we talk about it so often in terms of high tech. It is. I think the more people you have it in, the more people who are directly involved in it, the more the decisions are distributed. And the more the guilt goes down.

So, when dealing with fighter pilots, dealing with one man in combat. So that when you are dealing with fighter pilots, you're dealing with one man in combat. When you're dealing with a unit like the 3-7 Cav, and those guys have been through all of that, every one of those soldiers in that unit is going to think, at a certain time, if my weapon jammed, was it because I didn't clean it? If I didn't turn right and that RPG hit the tank, should I have done that? Those feelings will come back.

BROWN: A week ago Sunday, there was -- at least what we think what happened with the 507 of that group, they made a wrong turn. There are five POWs that will live somebody forever.

CLARK: Lots of people.

BROWN: A wrong turn.

CLARK: Sure, lots of people. Someone will try to sort that out. How could it have happened? Why didn't they have a map? Why didn't they have a radio? Who was supposed to have been there? All those questions are being asked, and they have to be asked.

BROWN: Baghdad on a Saturday morning. Going through another day. Smoke on the horizon, and the rest. And in 50 or so family, it is a day to mourn. That, too, is a reality of war. Earlier today, images of civilian casualties dominated the air ways, ours and the Arab media, too. Different degrees, I suppose, because of an incident in a Baghdad neighborhood. Now, what precisely happened here depends on who you believe. In fact, the Information Ministry in Iraq says it was an American bomb that caused these 50 deaths and many injuries. The Central Command believes otherwise. The Central Command says the damage may underscore, may have been caused by an Iraqi anti-aircraft missile that has gone astray. Whichever version is correct, there is one reality that doesn't change, and that's that 50 families have lost somebody in the incident. Here is CNN's Nic Robertson.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A brilliant flash illuminates the area around the information ministry in Baghdad, as what appears to be government buildings in the center of the city are targeted. Only a few hours earlier, crowds gathered around a crater in a suburban neighborhood. Impossible to see how deep it is or what caused it. According to Iraqi officials, they rushed journalists to the site just after dusk. The damage caused by a coalition bomb. In a nearby hospital, the injured being still being brought in, many clearly in pain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Around 6:00 p.m., an enemy aircraft attacked the neighborhood while we were in the hospital, assisting the wounded from this morning's attack. This coward aircraft attacked a popular market filled with residents.

ROBERTSON: According to the hospital staff, at least 51 people were killed and more than 50 injured. From these pictures alone, it is impossible to verify the number of casualties. Several children, however, seemed to be victims. Within hours of the blast, Iraq's information minister lambasted coalition forces.

MOHAMMED SAEED AL-SAHAF, IRAQI INFORMATION MINISTER: My explanation is that this is a heavy aggression on civilians to cover up for a series of defeat that our army caused them in the desert and different neighborhoods in Baghdad. ROBERTSON: Coalition forces said they could not confirm an attack in this neighborhood. In a war whose images seem increasingly split between civilian casualties and frontline conflict, this latest incident looks set to widen the divide.

Nic Robertson, CNN, on the Jordan-Iraq border.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Now from Baghdad to the people of the city of Basra. While British forces are fighting Iraqi militants, Iraqi civilians, according to the British, at least, they are fighting something more basic. They are fighting hunger, and thirst and fear. Many are trying to get out of the city. But for some of them, getting out is proving to be just about as dangerous as staying put. Reporting for us is Diana Muriel.

DIANA MURIEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): More than a thousand women and children, escorted by some men tried to make it to safety from the city of Basra across from one of the main bridges to the southern side where British forces are encamped. About 9:00 in the morning, as the main group tried to make it across, a 4x4 vehicle drove onto the bridge, behind it was mounted a machine fire that opened fire at what appeared to be the civilians on the bridge, and the British forces at the other end of the bridge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been hearing stories of this kind of brutality, but this is the first occasion in which we have actually witnessed it.

MURIEL (voice-over): A British tank came onto the bridge and fired at that vehicle, destroying it and killing three of the Fedayeen or local militiamen who were on and driving that vehicle. About 200 or 300 of the civilians went back to the north side of the river. The others made it across the basin, although some casualties were taken. The British managed to cover one young woman who was injured in the cross fire, and brought her to safety on the other side. Over the past few days, refugees have been trying to leave the city. The Fedayeen, according to British military sources are patrolling that bridge, and trying to prevent people from making it across.

Diana Muriel, CNN, southern Iraq.

BROWN: On the subject of humanitarian aid, Christiane Amanpour is talking to British officials. We expect to hear from her shortly. Other embeds reporting in too. We'll take a short break and catch up, and our coverage continues in a minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: All right, check of morning papers from around the country and around the world, although I think most of them from around the country in this case. This is the "Times Herald Record" of upstate New York, the Catskills. That's the headlines, escape from Basra. But what we note especially here is the picture. That's the picture you will see, depending on the news, well, it will be in the newspaper tomorrow, I guarantee you. It may be big, it may be small, but that's the picture of this family trying to get out of the city.

A few more, the "Detroit News and Free Press," because this is Saturday, the two Detroit news papers publish together. "Air effort soars. Ground war slows." One of the reasons I like to do this, to see if the headline writers, the editors of the newspapers around the country find a theme. It is not hard in Spartanberg, South Carolina, for the "Herald Journal" to find a theme for its coverage, because one of its own is missing. "Marine Family Awaits Word" is their big banner in "Herald Journal" in South Carolina.

The "Miami Herald", under siege from all sides. Again, as General Clark was just saying when we were in the break, we've really been in a pause in some respects for a couple of days, so it is hard for the editors to focus a story for the readers that is in some respect not moving. I want to do a couple more, again, the picture we showed you right at the beginning, same picture.

This is I think a Reuters picture, but I will look again. "Civilians find path perilous." There is something compelling for newspaper editors and for TV editors, too, about the plight of these civilians, people caught in the middle, that always makes for good copy, as they say. And it's one of the reasons it ends up on the front page. And that picture was taken by Chris Helgren of the Reuters news agency.

"Cincinnati Inquirer," the big headline is, "U.S. targets Republican Guard." But the big picture is the ballpark. They opened a new ballpark in Cincinnati, Ohio last night. I think Cleveland was there to play the Cincinnati Reds. And so, they put their brand new ballpark, which is named, I don't remember, "Great American," I think, named after some company or other, probably Great American Company. And the big story on the front page that, like all things in the spring, the owner of the ballpark is optimistic about how the season will go.

I think all of us in the country will be glad when our focus goes on things as lovely as summer night in a baseball game. But we are not there yet. Sometimes it's hard to get a grasp of the big picture in Iraq. And it turns out we are not alone. Some of the reporters at Central Command in Doha, Qatar say they are struggling as well. And military officials aren't making that part any easier for them. A common complaint reported tonight by Tom Mintier.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM MINTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the Vietnam War, they were called the "5 o'clock follies." But that was a different time. Besides, these briefings are usually held at 3:00.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The plan is working. And we are one day closer to achieving our objectives. We are confident we will accomplish our objectives. We remain on, and we are confident that we will accomplish our objectives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coalition forces are on plan to achieve our objectives. MINTIER: The message sounds the same, and it is no accident. From a one-star general to four-star generals.

GEN. TOMMY FRANKS, CMDR. U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: The progress toward our objections has been rapid and, in some cases, dramatic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At that particular outpost, this is Sergeant Paul Wheatley. Sergeant ...

MINTIER: It may be difficult here to depict dramatic. The embedded journalists reporting from the battlefield seemingly are doing a bang-up job of that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good-bye. We have got to dive (ph) for vehicles with think. See you, bye.

MINTIER: Reporters away from the frontlines here at Central Commands briefings centers are left looking for the big picture.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) official is quoted as saying that the buffing of elements of the 173rd in the north was the opening of the northern front. What does that mean for the war as a whole? How does that fit into the mosaic, the big picture?

MINTIER: No matter the question, there is never a direct answer when it comes to operational security. In recent days, the questions seem to be more direct, more pointed, even bordering on hostile. Michael Wolf, a "New York" magazine columnist, seemed to apologize in advance for this question.

MICHAEL WOLF, "NEW YORK MAGAZINE": I mean no disrespect by this question, but I want to ask about the value proposition of these briefings.

MINTIER: Apparently, it was to be the question of the day. What seemed to be on many reporters' minds at this media briefing center. Here, you are only allowed to ask one question, if you are called upon. But everyone seemed to chime in when Mr. Wolf finished.

WOLF: About what's the valve to us for what we learn at this million-dollar press center.

[APPLAUSE]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have gotten applause already. That's wonderful. I appreciate that. First, I would say, it's your choice. Now, we want to provide information that is truthful from the operational headquarters that is running this war. There are a number of places where information is available, not the least of which would be the embedded media. And they tell a very important story. The Pentagon has a set of information they provide as well. If you are looking for the entire mosaic, then you should be here.

WOLF: I think, end of the day, nobody knows what's going on. I think, certainly, we are all sitting here and we are saying, saying, well, on the one hand, it could be that victory is certain. On the other hand, it could be that this is an utter fiasco.

JIM WILKENSON, STRATEGIC COMM. CENTCOM: In our daily briefings, we discuss information that's happened in the past. We show as many visuals as possible. But we don't discuss each operation, because there are real men and women out there on the front lines.

MINTIER (on camera): The balance between information that is coming directly from the battlefield and here at the Command Center is, indeed, a tricky one. Reporters may be interested in the big picture, but most often that involves coalition strategy, or the battle plan, something officials say is not going to be discussed. Iraq, they say, would be getting the information at the same time as the rest of the world.

Tom Mintier, CNN at Central Command headquarters Doha, Qatar.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Well, General, you are one of the few people who have literally been on both sides of this. I have only been on one side of this. Did you sit down and plan the briefing, what you would say, what the message of the day was?

CLARK: Not exactly. But, you know, there really are two sides to this. On the one hand, the press, of course, wants information. That's the job of a reporter. And if he's not getting that information his boss, you know, they are asking, what is he doing there? Why is he not doing? He must be relaxing. But, on the other hand, the commanders out there know that they are being looked at by the enemy. They are being judged. In the Kosovo campaign, we knew Saddam Hussein, sorry ...

BROWN: Milosevic.

CLARK: Milosevic, that's okay was looking at every briefing. We believe Saddam Hussein is looking at every briefing. He is looking at Tommy Franks. He wants to see if Tommy Frank's nerves are holding up. They are. He wants to see how strong Vince Brooks. He does look strong. He wants to see whether our resolve is going to faultier. This is a show and tell.

This is war presented with a face of the commander. You know, Charlemagne never had to go on television when he was fighting his enemies back in the middle ages, and present his face to his adversaries. And yet, we are asking our commanders and their staff to do that. So, there is a natural - not only a natural tendency, but an actual requirement to stay with the plan on this. The kind of candor that you might like to have in an off-the-record discussion, you can't have.

BROWN: That makes perfect sense. I think everybody understands you can't stand up there and say, okay, at 10:00 on Thursday, we are going to move this unit. But help viewers understand how the at 3:00 in the morning, when these briefings go on, if they are up watching them, what should they listen for? What is the valve of them to the viewer watching them? CLARK: Well, you get a little bit of information on the big picture hopefully. You'll get a feeling for - and I haven't seen one of these briefings from start to finish. They are changing all the time. But, hopefully, you will get a picture for where the contacts were. You'll get a general feel for where the movement of the forces have been, a general feel for what the center of effort of the command is. That helps you see the big picture.

Now, those of us who have been on the inside can put all the details underneath it. We can feel what is going on in that command. And it is, obviously, more difficult if you haven't been it. But, I think, in terms of credibility, I want to stress something, because I am quite concerned that what I am detecting from of the press questions is that people are questioning the command's credibility.

BROWN:

CLARK: Right. Well, you know, the command is not going to say anything that's dishonest. But, on the other hand, would you want to hear the commander say, dammit, they woke me up at 2:00 a.m. And, you know, we got big trouble here. And I was really worried, but I got it solved. Maybe he does think that way. Or maybe he just said, "Don't bother me," but he goes back and he worries about things. We don't want to know that. He is a commander. He is responsible. He has got the right to go through a decision-making process, with his staff.

BROWN: We will get that in his memoirs.

CLARK: Exactly. OK. Let me ask one more question, though. Does it necessarily mean anything at all, if General Franks comes out and does the briefing? I assume no decision is spontaneous in that regard. Is there something to be read into that?

CLARK: Not necessarily, Tommy Franks has, historically, not liked to do press briefing. Some people do it and like it. They feel like it is part of the mission. He has always said, he said, my business is a secret business. That was his line he used a long time ago. He hasn't seen the value of the public diplomacy part of the military in the past. They put a White House guy out down there to help Vince Brooks do this communication. But, basically, CENTCOM, is not carrying the load of the media effort. It is going back to the Pentagon, and back to the White House and Ari Fleischer in this war.

BROWN: And Vince Brooks is the young general that has to stand up there ...

CLARK: Exactly, great young officer.

BROWN: And deal with reporters who are cranky sometimes. We will take a break.

We'll take a break. Our coverage continues in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: We have seen quite a bit of the U.S. Marines. Britain's Royal Marines have been busy as well, clearing the waters of southern Iraq, what used to be Saddam Hussein's navy. Here is pool reporter Bill Neally.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL NEALLY, POOL REPORTER (voice-over): They gathered in the dead of night for the night naval commando mission of the war. They has invaded across the desert, now marines and munitions were packed into 10 speed boats. Their target, Iraqis fleeing Basra and the remnants of Iraq's navy. By sunrise, with four hovercraft leading them in, they reached Iraq's main naval base. Heavily armed, they boarded gun boats, long abandoned by the crews. And without a single hammer, began dismantling the Iraqi navy. These boats helped Saddam fight three war, this will be their last.

Pushing north, the marines check for sea mines and the Iraqis who might have laid them, but the bunkers are empty. Not so the hidden creeks of this polluted waterway, more gunboats dealt with in the same way. Saddam never had much of a navy, he has got even less of one tonight.

(on camera): The marines now are clearing this waterway all the way to the Basra line. Inside the besieged city, which is smoldering on the horizon, Iraqi troops are trapped by land and now by sea.

(voice-over): On the sand banks, more smoking gun boats. And more explosions. The arms and ammunition that kept Saddam's grip tight here is disappearing fast. The Royal Marines are destroying his power by land and by sea.

Bill Neally with the Royal Marines on the Shat al Basra in southern Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: We are looking at scraps of paper of, unfinished thoughts that have gone on the last three and a half hours. At some point, I think it was Michael Kagan earlier who talked about the forces half the size of the first Gulf War. And I saw you scribbling.

CLARK: Well, I have been, I have been called by reporters all day asking about this issue of, "Is there enough force there?" What I've said is there may well be. I trusted the command but, if it was up to me, I would like an insurance policy there. So, I went back after what Mark Kagan said and started adding this up. And here's what I found. During the Gulf war, we had the first armored division U.S., the 3rd U.S. armored division, the 24th Infantry Division, the 101st Airborne air assault and the 1st U.S. Cavalry Division. Along with the 2nd armored cavalry regiment, and a brigade from the U.S. second armored division, and the U.S Marines on the ground. I count that up to be around, approximately, 1,500 tanks and around 1,500 armored fighting vehicles. It was a substantial force.

Today, in place of those one, two, three, four, five U.S. divisions and two additional brigades, we have two U.S. division. One of the U.S. divisions has no tanks. So, instead of like 1,500 tanks and 1,500 Bradleys, when we add in the marines today, we may be 300, 350 tanks, and something smaller than that in terms of Bradley fighting vehicles. So we have a force in terms of ground combat power only, that is not less than half. It's much less than half, it is more like a third or less.

BROWN: And ...

CLARK: That's the way I am counting it here now. I haven't gotten a four structure briefing from the Pentagon.

BROWN: OK, but somebody is going to make the argument that that's, because someone did make the argument, that is plenty enough to get the job done.

CLARK: And that is the right measurement.

BROWN: And the reason it is plenty enough in their vision is what? What makes up for the fact that they have 350, as opposed to 1,500?

CLARK: Well, the air power is much, much better today.

BROWN: Much more precise.

CLARK: Much more precise, better intelligence, better ability to tie together the air power, the attack helicopters, the artillery and the ground force. And that ought to help. The problem with it is you get into circumstances like in built up areas, where you can't quite apply it the same way, where it just soaks up manpower. You just walk those two extra Bradleys to sit there and guard that bridge. And you don't have it.

BROWN: You don't have it.

We still await Christiane, who is in a briefing with British military officials.

We will update the headlines for you in a moment.

Our coverage continues on CNN.

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