CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
War in Iraq
Aired March 30, 2003 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Daryn Kagan live in Kuwait City where it is just after 8:00 a.m. on Sunday morning. Here is what we know at this hour. Centcom tells us that two more U.S. Marines have died. Both were in vehicular accidents, one of which occurred in a fire fight.
And Iraq's vice president warns that a suicide bombing that killed four U.S. soldiers will not be the last. A driver beckoned for help from soldiers in the 3rd Infantry. They went to help and the driver killed them by blowing himself up. Iraq said that will happen again. U.S. officials say soldiers will have to treat apparent civilians with greater caution.
U.S. troops in and around Nasiriya have made several chilling discoveries. Residents pointed them to shallow graves where they found the apparent remains of two Americans killed in last week's Iraqi ambush and U.S. battle fatigues, main tags gone, splattered with blood were also found, along with a metal cot and a car battery, possibly implements of torture.
A mission of mercy turned into a mess in the Iraqi town of Safwan. Residents formed over an aid convoy making off with emergency supplies before the convoy's escort could get it to the sick and the infirm. There is some good and disturbing news about those (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of this war.
Three Arab journalists, once embedded with U.S. troops, went missing last week. They are back to state, they are back there in Kuwait. So what happened to them remains unclear at this point. Also unclear, but more dire today is the fate of news journalists from New York News Day, Matt McAllester and Moises Saman disappeared while in Baghdad at the same time that Iraqi officials reportedly were asking about their activities.
Their editor believes that have been detained. In other news, Asia may hold a vital clue for American researchers studying the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome. The Senator of Disease Control and Prevention said that SARS, as it's called, spread through part of Asia so quickly that it might be airborne spreading without face-to-face contact. CDC is still investigating.
CNN's coverage of the war in Iraq continues right now with Aaron Brown. Aaron, good morning from Kuwait.
AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Daryn, good morning to you. It's nice to see you again and we'll get to the newspapers in your part of the world and lots of other things over there. (UNINTELLIGIBLE), thank you very much. Nice to see you. And for those of you who are just joining us, we try and give you not just the headlines, but then take it down to the next level, sort of the events in the pictures and the moments that shake the day.
BROWN (voice-over): The casualties came in early Saturday morning after a car bomb exploded killing four from the Army's 1st Brigade. The bomb detonated near the central Iraqi town of Najaf after an Iraqi suicide bomber driving a taxi pulled up to a coalition checkpoint waving for help. The bomb went off. The tactic was praised by the Iraqi vice president who said in a news conference, "It will not be the last."
TAHA YASSIN RAMADAN, IRAQI VICE PRESIDENT (through translator): This is only the beginning. You will hear more good news in the coming days. These bastards will be welcomed at the level and in the way they deserve.
BROWN: President Bush again in his weekly radio address warned about war crimes and warned about the consequences.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Given the nature of this regime, we expect such war crimes, but we will not excuse them. War criminals will be hunted relentlessly and judged severely.
BROWN: Day 10 of the war also saw coalition forces attempting to tighten a hold on Basra. U.S. war planes use laser-guided missiles to destroy a building where 200 Iraqi paramilitary fighters were believed to have dug in. The Iraqi Republican Guard Units were also targets on Saturday, as American-led forces dropped a 1,000 pound bomb on their location near Nasiriya.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Our air power is putting enormous pressure around Baghdad on the three key divisions of the Republic Guards and so this is not time that's wasted. This is time that's being very effectively utilized to grip the Republican Guards and degrade them.
BROWN: Also in Nasiriya, a grim discovery. Marines uncovered a number of bodies that were Marines who died in the fighting for the city. CNN's Alessio Vinci reported from the scene.
ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: U.S. Marines here in Nasiriya are spending a considerable amount of time in trying to recover some of the bodies of the falling comrades who were killed in action here last Sunday during a bloody fire fight between Marines and Iraqi forces.
BROWN: Nasiriya has been seen with some of the fiercest fighting of the war. Art Harris has been embedded correspondence (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
ART HARRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The answer (ph) for you this morning being counter-resistance. Some of the resistance they encountered included Iraqis with AK47s and human shields.
BROWN: At the Pentagon briefing, the Joint Chief's Vice Director, Major General Stanley McChrystal, said the coalition clearly controls the skies.
STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, VICE DIRECTOR, JOINT CHIEFS: We claim air supremacy for most of the country except for a small part around Baghdad, but we fly effectively in Baghdad every day and night.
BROWN: But the U.S. will have to wait to use a portion of the Tomahawk Cruise missiles in the theater after Saudi Arabia complained that some of those weapons fired from U.S. ships had mistakenly landed on Saudi soil.
MAJOR GENERAL VICTOR RENUART, CENTRAL COMMAND: Basically we have a situation where the Saudis have said, can you see if you can figure out what has caused this and we do not want in any way hazard the people of Saudi Arabia or any of the other countries where these may transit.
BROWN: Humanitarian aid continued to flow into Iraq. U.S. Special Forces providing protection so 2,000 daily rations and 3,000 bottles of water could be handed out. It is just the start.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, hopefully we gave the local leader an element that would provide his people with a little hope. We told him this will not be the last time we do this, but he's got to cooperate and his people have to cooperate or it becomes a very hazardous for everyone.
BROWN: As day turned to night, explosions rocked Baghdad again, targeting again the center and the outskirts of the city with repeated bombings. And in the north, CNN's Ben Wedeman reported hearing a series of intense explosions, apparently coming from the important northern city of Mosul.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Five huge explosions within the space of less than an hour as these planes drop these massive bombs on the Iraqi positions behind us.
BROWN: That's the broad strokes of the day. We'll start to put the pieces of the puzzle together, one piece at a time, and the first piece in this hour comes from Alex Perry, who's an embedded correspondent, a reporter with Time Magazine. Alex, I'm not sure where you are so tell us what you can about your location and report to us what you can about what you see.
ALEX PERRY, TIME MAGAZINE: Well, for the last few days, my unit, the 3rd Battalion (UNINTELLIGIBLE), have been putting convoy security, we've been taking check points on bridges ensuring that the convoys can get through. That task now seems to be (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We've moved out with a vast column of the 3rd IV and started to push towards Baghdad. We're now about I guess 100 kilometers south.
BROWN: And over the -- over those three days, has the situation changed? Was it dicier three days ago and now it's pretty stable?
PERRY: It's -- well, you know, we're stable now. We're not under threat at the moment with such a vast force around us, but the last three days have been interesting in the sort of dynamics that the American forces are facing. My unit yesterday was attacked by Iraqi irregulars dressed in civilian clothes. They came under mortar fire, AK47 fire, perhaps even a rocket from piled (ph) grenades as well.
It took them -- it took them a full 25 minutes before they could respond simply because in the town where the fire seemed to be coming from, two kilometers away, there were children on the roofs waving white flags as the fire was coming towards us. They really have a very difficult job trying to pick out who is hostile and who perhaps might be surrendering or who is just incidental civilians passing by.
BROWN: Do you sense any frustration growing in the people you're traveling with, the tactic that -- or tactics that the Iraqis are throwing at them?
PERRY: There is frustration, yes. There's a lot of frustration. The one thing that can be said is the Americans have on their side is they, you know, have incredibly protective armor, so they can sit there in these situations and take fire and try and work out how to respond. But it is -- it is in no way a conventional war right now.
They're facing a guerrilla force and they've been given instructions that any civilian that approaches them is to be treated as suspect until proved otherwise.
BROWN: And what does that mean in terms of how they're treated?
PERRY: Well, that means, let's say if a car would approach checkpoint, it would be asked to stop 50 yards back and the occupant will be motioned to get out, put their hands up and lie on the ground and then men will approach. You know, we've got it ready. You know, if there's children are in the car, the same treatment is (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
It may seem a little harsh and then yesterday, there was this car bomb which killed five soldiers, so you know, the soldiers realize they have to do this. But it does certainly get in the way of any -- developing any sort of feeling of empathy between perhaps the civilian Iraqi population and the soldiers because when they first meet, they have to treat each other as enemies.
BROWN: When -- how was -- how was the news received of this car bombing? Did that change the attitude of the soldiers and officers you're traveling with?
PERRY: I think yes. Well, it sort of built on the outrage that was sort of felt in the ranks when the Marine maintenance crew was captured and then paraded on TV. I think there was -- there was a huge amount of outrage at that and particularly with the unit I'm with, they were trained for combat. At the time they were pulling security, essentially, sort of a policing mission.
BROWN: Alex ...
PERRY: You know, they were getting pretty itchy.
BROWN: I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt. Thank you. Call us back any time. Alex Perry, who will file as he can for us and for Time Magazine. Thank you very much. David, do I have time to talk to the general for a minute? OK. We're going to cut you loose tonight so you can get some rest. You've been working all day too.
This -- let me -- I just want your thoughts on one thing here. This tension that seems to be developing between whether or not the plan was right, there were enough troops there, whether the expectations were reasonable. A lot of the hit now is being taken by General Wallace, Lieutenant General Wallace, for saying, it looks like we're going to be here for a while. Right?
CLARK: Sounds like he's having a rough time down there and he's one of the absolute top generals in the United States Army. He's smart and he's capable. He's objective. He's incredibly thorough. He knows this operation inside and out and I -- he's one of the guys I would listen to if I were in uniform.
BROWN: Let me just ask for you opinion on this and -- what is so terrible about saying to the American people at this point or through a reporter at this point, look, this is trickier than we imagined it would be and it's going to take longer than we suspected it might be. Why -- if that is so, what's so terrible about saying that? Why come down on him?
CLARK: Well, I think there are many, many factors in the war. I mean, obviously part of war is appearance and gaining and maintaining a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) over the enemy convincing him of the inevitability of defeat. And so it's only natural that the leadership doesn't want to show any chinks in the armor, it doesn't want to admit any surprises or anything like that. And this of course is at war with reality and this is where credibility gaps come in.
So you're playing to different audiences here. To be honest with you, I think that, you know, there are several different factors at work here. I mean, one of them is that war is also about people's reputations and it's about their futures and people are very sensitive about this and so when there are inevitably compromises, there are people who will come out of this war with enhanced reputations, there are people who will come out of it with diminished reputations.
And there is concern because that translates into political support for the war, so there are many, many dimensions of this. But I think the fundamental dimension is that for the United States to succeed in this war, the Iraqis must be convinced that their defeat is inevitable, that the United States will do whatever it takes, however long it takes, whatever changes in methodology, however many forces, we're in this. We're not going to lose it. We're going to win.
BROWN: Have a nice early break. Always good to have you here.
CLARK: Good to have been with you. BROWN: I'm not quite sure how I'll get along without you for a while, but thank you. General Clark. We'll take a break David, we'll take a break and our coverage will continue in just a moment.
BROWN: The last time we talked to Terry McCarthy, the Los Angeles bureau chief for "Time" magazine, he was trying to get into Iraq. He has been on the border as a non-embedded reporter as I recall and has been trying to get in. He has been in and he's back in Kuwait and Terry joins us now. It's good to literally see you. We can. You are in Umm Qasr, is that right?
TERRY MCCARTHY, TIME MAGAZINE: We crossed into Safwan. We drove down the road to Umm Qasr and got stopped by gun fire and then we headed up the road to Nasiriya. And there was a lot of insecurity on those roads there and I think it's going to take them a while to clean that up. A lot of fear Aaron too.
BROWN: I'm sorry. Go ahead. I didn't hear the last thing.
MCCARTHY: I was going to say there's a lot of fear too. I was listening to your previous guest talking about getting the confidence of the Iraqis. A lot of the Iraqis we have talked to would say, what happens when the Americans and when the British leave? And they're still not convinced that they are going to stay.
BROWN: So this notion that the Pentagon has been, in fact, talking about that they have to convince the Iraqi people still that this is the real deal, that Saddam is gone, it's a matter of time. Because the Iraqis, particularly in the south, looking at 1991, don't really believe it?
MCCARTHY: Yes. I think there's a psychological hump they've got to get over there, which is to persuade a rump of the population in the south to start -- that they're there to stay. What's been happening is the American and British columns have been blasting through these small towns heading up north and once they're gone, you know, Saddam's security operator is still intact.
And they're coming back and they're taking retribution on people who seemed to be too keen to welcome whoever comes through. Perhaps one of the markers there would be if they could take the southern city of Basra. That would be a tangible truth that they are there to stay and they mean business.
BROWN: Did you get all the way -- did you get all the way to Nasiriya?
MCCARTHY: No. We were heading up that road and actually there was an ambush on that road while we were on the road. There was a British armor personnel carrier went over some kind of a land mine. It blew it off the road. And that actually stopped the road. The entire convoy was stopped for about three hours.
This is the main supply route all the way up to the troops up in the north. We then had to turn around and come back on a miner road because they closed that road down for the duration.
BROWN: Do you get the opportunity -- have you had the opportunity to hear the briefings both -- the briefings in Qatar and the Pentagon briefings and give me, if you have, give me your sense of the credibility that your -- or at least compare your experience with what you're hearing?
MCCARTHY: I think probably the biggest difference between what we are experiencing on the ground and what we're hearing from these briefings is that the notion that they have taken the south. We see these maps where they say, well, we have all -- we're controlling all the territory.
Well, it's true that there are British and American troops that have rolled through that territory, but they're far from controlling it and when you go into these villages, people there are scared because the operative, Saddam Hussein's security operation has not been dismantled yet. I think the soldiers when they come in armored columns can move.
Of course, they're not being opposed but once they've gone, you know, then the Muybiaf (ph), the Baathist Party, they're still there. No one has taken them out.
BROWN: Is it possible to tell from your experience how the Americans and the British will be received once the people feel more secure?
MCCARTHY: I think slowly we're seeing in areas where there has been a significant investment of military time and pacification. People are slowly starting to come out of their shells. I know yesterday I was talking to one of my colleagues who is embedded further north.
They went into a town, they had an Arabic speaking interpreter with them and they asked the local people, where were the Baathists, where were the security agents and they said nothing, nothing, nothing and then one of the town residents came up to the American Arabic speaker and he said, listen, if you guys are really going to stay, I'll tell you where all these guys are. But if you're not going to stay, we're not going to tell you anything.
So I think there is -- there is still that peak of fear deep down in a people who after all have been ruled by fear for the last two decades. They're not sure whether they can really come out of their -- out of their psychological bunkers yet.
BROWN: And on a humanitarian side, do you find people who are desperately in need of food and water? Or are they getting along OK?
MCCARTHY: I think in Basra there's a desperate need for water because the water pumping system there broke down last week. I think what they're more looking for was medical aid. A lot of civilians were being hurt by the various bombings and shootings going on. They had no medical facilities to go to. Often they were cut off from the major towns because of the military action. It seems that people are certainly not starving yet, but they are obviously keen to take whatever handouts they can get.
BROWN: Terry, one final question. Have you found it advantageous or disadvantageous or neither to be a non-embedded reporter working in the area?
MCCARTHY: I would say for the time being, Aaron, it's very difficult to work in the south of Iraq as a non-embedded reporter, purely because we don't have the protection of military armor. We're driving around in soft-skin vehicles and in an insecure situation, that can be quite hazardous. However, as the security situation hopefully improves in the south, that should give us some latitude to report in ways that the embedded reporters will not be.
After all, the embedded reporters by definition are traveling with military at their shoulder and that might make it difficult for them to talk to the Iraqi people. We're hoping that once the security situation allows us to move around independently, we will be able to get better feedback from the Iraqi people themselves.
BROWN: Terry, it's very good to see you. It seems a long time ago that we were here in Atlanta together. We're glad to see you looking well. Take care of yourself. Terry McCarthy.
BROWN: Thank you. The Los Angeles bureau chief for "Time" magazine back on location in Kuwait. As Terry just mentioned, the battle for the confidence of the Iraqi people has clearly not yet been won. More on that with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Umm Qasr is a dilapidated little town. At the marketplace, there's not much more than tomatoes, onions and a lot of flies and opinions. Saddam Hussein is our President says this woman. We love him, but we're scared of him. In fact, Ali, an anti-Saddam exile returning home with the U.S. Army, says these women don't dare speak out against Saddam Hussein just yet.
These people don't believe that the Americans can or will get rid of Saddam Hussein.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been hearing that every day that we've been here and part of our job and our free Iraqi forces are helping us to convince the people that we will stay until Saddam is gone.
AMANPOUR: As part of Army civil affairs, Colonel David Blackledge and his team interact with the people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice to meet you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice to meet you. How old are you? AMANPOUR: They're trying to gain valuable information and their trust, but it's a hard sell. This is Iraq's Shiite heartland and memories that are deep and bitter. They'll not easily forget what they consider America's great betrayal during the Gulf War 12 years ago when they were encouraged to rise up only to be left to the brutal mercy of Saddam Hussein.
Still, there are increasing if tentative signs that the people want to believe that this time is for real. The Shiite flags forbidden by the Baghdad regime are fluttering during this Holy month of Mo-Haram (ph). People gather around U.S. soldiers and they tell us they are looking forward to a new Iraq, one without fear of Saddam's reign of terror.
I want my freedom says this man. I don't want food or water. I just want my freedom. But actually, food and especially water are very much on everyone's mind. The Americans and the British promised to help us they say, but when we ask them about the water, they tell us tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.
This man tells us that all America wants is Iraq's oil, a sign of the danger still lurking here, these two men who flagged down the American Humvee and asked to surrender. We can't show their faces because they've been taken as prisoners of war, but they say they are Saddam's Fedayeen militias, sent down from Baghdad on paying of execution. Their mission, to conduct suicide attacks against American and British troops.
But giving themselves up to these Americans, they said they didn't want to die for Saddam Hussein. Removing the image and the influence of Saddam Hussein is a main objective for the Americans and the British in this part of Iraq, and they hope by first stabilizing Umm Qasr, word will then spread northward and have an effect on Basra and beyond. In fact, the British sent 11 of these challenger tanks into Basra to crush Saddam's statute in the center.
Meantime, a steady stream of civilians continues to leave. It's a portrait of war with big black smoke billowing from the city they leave behind. Some are surrendering to the British forces and some of the men want to go back after bringing out their families.
And to the question the British ask every day, when will the people rise up? The answer many give us, the day they know Saddam is dead.
Christiane Amanpour, CNN, near Basra in southern Iraq.
BROWN: We'll take a break. We'll update the headlines with Daryn Kagan in Kuwait City and our coverage continues in just a moment.
KAGAN: I'm Daryn Kagan live in Kuwait City. Let's check the latest developments. At least four big explosions rocked a residential area in Baghdad northwest of the Information Administration. That happened early Sunday morning. CNN Nic Robertson said that underground bunkers are believed to be in that vicinity.
Meanwhile, in Basra, coalition troops continue the effort to uproot Iraq's ruling Baath Party, blowing up Iraqi weapons and taking out a building along the way. British troops are taking no chances in their search for Iraqi troops in Umm Qasr. They say they are increasingly finding land mines and booby traps in the port city as well as in Basra. British officials say that the booby traps include hand grenades linked to trip wire triggers.
So Boston now, where about 25,000 people marched to protest the war in Iraq, protesters looking to speakers and musical acts on Boston Common before marching to Boylston (ph) Street for a so-called die in where they acted as mock war victims. In San Francisco, it was a different scene. About 500 people gathered at City Hall for a pro- troop rally.
A mysterious illness that has sickened more than 1,500 people worldwide may be spreading more easily than first thought. The CDC says a rapid spread of the disease know as severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, suggest it might be transmitted through the air, plus it could be able to live for hours on items like table tops. The disease has killed 54 people in 13 countries.
And some have called a symbol of a male-dominated culture has come down at the Air Force Academy. A sign with large letters reading "Bring me Men" was taken down Saturday. Nearly 60 female cadets have reported being sexually assaulted over the last 10 years at the academy.
And now, back to Atlanta and Aaron.
BROWN: And Daryn, you got newspapers yet? Have they come in?
KAGAN: I have two newspapers for you. They're right here.
BROWN: OK. This is the time.
KAGAN: We're up on a perch. It's a little windy here today, so we're up on a perch there. My two for you. First, the Arab Times. Remember yesterday you asked me at the shopping mall, if the missile at the shopping mall had made the headlines. It happened at 1:30 in the morning two nights ago, so today it's a picture and you get an inside look at the Sharq mall, but also the headline about the suicide bomber killing the four Marines.
BROWN: And I don't know -- wait, wait, wait. Stop a second Karyn. Go back to that one.
KAGAN: Hold on.
BROWN: Go back to that one.
BROWN: Are they making a word play or is that seriously, is that just a misspelling of mall?
KAGAN: Oh, shopping mall?
KAGAN: I think it is. It's a little pun. They tend to like to have fun with the pun -- fun so to speak, I mean, take that in the right context with their headlines here. And then this paper, the "Kuwait Times," they seem to like alliteration. So they've gone with Silkworm Shocks City. Not that easy to say, but there you have a picture. You have to be careful with that one.
You have a picture inside the mall. I think what also is interesting here at the bottom fold, I know you can't see this, but this is a story about SARS, that respiratory disease, so even as war is just 50 miles away, other news around the world is starting to make the front page of the "Kuwait Times" here in Kuwait City, Aaron.
BROWN: You know what's -- actually what is interesting to me about that is, I was just looking at some Sunday papers from around the United States, and by and large, the front page is still dominated exclusively -- excuse me, by the war pretty much. We'll see you in a half an hour. Thank you Daryn Kagan.
KAGAN: You got it.
BROWN: OK. We're joined now by Colonel Dan Ball, who's the I believe -- Colonel, I hope I get this right. He's the commanding officer of the Five Corp., the Army Five Corp. and he's out there in the desert somewhere. Sir, and it's nice to see you. Tell us what your unit has -- or your group has been involved in and how you all are doing?
COLONEL DAN BALL, V CORPS. 11TH ATTACK HELICOPTER REGION: Well, let me make a quick correction. I'm nowhere near the Commander of 5th Corp. I'm Commander of an attack helicopter battalion called First Attack out of 1st Calvary Division, Fort Hood, Texas.
BROWN: OK. We'll give you the promotion, but you go ahead.
BALL: Well, you give me the promotion. I'll let somebody else give me the money.
BALL: We're doing great out here. The battalion was in some heavy combat the other day and currently, we're back in our assembly area refitting and making sure we're ready should we get another mission to go back forward and attack. The soldiers are in good spirits. The helicopters are being maintained and currently, as force protection measures, working down to just harness missions in and about the assembly area. BROWN: Colonel, some of your guys I suspect were in Desert Storm and some were not. How have they -- how have the rookies if you will, handled it all?
BALL: Well, they're doing great. I was a company commander during Desert Storm, and I've got guys not only in Desert Storm, but some of my guys actually flew in Vietnam. So we've got a wealth of experience in this battalion and together with their experience, and the young guys, it's a great team. It's a first team and I'll tell you what, everybody here is proud to be here and we're looking forward to doing whatever our President wants us to do.
BROWN: Colonel, have you had to deal with casualties? And how have your men dealt with it if you have?
BALL: We personally have not had any casualties. When we went forward in fighting the other day, all of our helicopters sustained damage, rotor blades, engines, fuselages, wind screens, but everyone but one came back and that one as we've heard and they've reported to the chain of command, they are captured as POWs but as we know it right now, they're doing great and our prayers are with them.
BROWN: Our prayers are with them also. When something like that happens, when you become aware that they are being held POW, how does that change or does it change in any way the way the people of your unit think?
BALL: Well, not really. They grow closer together. Anytime something like that happens, the team bonds even better and they're more determined and resolute to accomplish the mission and to get of course their friends and teammates back.
BROWN: Colonel, were you surprised and were your men surprised or your pilots and weapons officers, I'm not sure if they are all men, were they surprised by the level of resistance they faced that first night?
BALL: Well, quite honestly, yes. Much different than the last time we were here. Heavy gunfire, both small arms, machine guns, anti-aircraft and surface to air missile, but I'll tell you what, there's a lot of brave patriots here. They did their jobs. They stayed in the parade until they accomplished their mission and they came back and are ready to do it again, should they be called on to do so.
BROWN: I don't believe anybody doubts that. I was out in the desert with one of those units when they were training as I think you know, and one of the things I came away with was a sense that they felt the Iraqi side would not be as tough to deal with as they thought 12 years ago. I gather no one thinks that now?
BALL: Roger. But what can you expect? These people have -- it's their homeland and they're protecting their capital so yes, they're going to fight, they are fighting, but we're fighting back and we're winning all the time.
BROWN: Colonel, take care of yourself and give our best to your men out there. Thank you sir.
BALL: OK. Thank you very much.
BROWN: Thank you. Colonel Dan Ball, who's in charge and not of the whole group, but of an Apache group out there and you'll recall if you follow this day by day by day, several days ago, a correspondent, Karl Penhaul reported on video phone about this nighttime attack on one of the Republican Guard units where they found much heavier resistance and we thank the colonel there for being straight away on that.
Sometimes that doesn't happen and we appreciate that, that it was much stronger than they anticipated it would be, but they mostly -- well, they all got back except for the two were taken POW and their prayers are with them and I'm sure that's true of all of you as well. It's been a while now since we've seen or heard from those two men and the five others that we know of who have been taken prisoner.
On now to the northern front which appears to be growing day by day. Some heavy bombing again. In fact, some heavy bombing just moments ago. CNN's Ben Wedeman had the duty there and he joins us now.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning Aaron. Well, what you're seeing now is the smoke dissipating from a blast that just occurred three to four minutes ago on this ridge behind me here at Kalak, of course on the front lines between Iraqi and Kurdish forces. I can still hear a plane overhead.
Basically within the last 10 minutes, two bombs have fallen on this area and we expect more. Usually a minimum of four fall within about a half hour to 45 minute period. Last night, -- OK, I heard another thump (ph) in the distance, but it isn't in this particular area. Anyway, last night they dropped another five on the ridge behind me and really, what we've seen in the last basically day and a half, 36 hours, is a real intensive vacation of the bombing in northern Iraq.
Not only did we see bombs fall on most -- in the direction of Mosul, but also to the south and the north in addition to this front line position. Aaron?
BROWN: Has it grown dramatically day by day or is it a kind of constant -- I don't mean constant as in it goes on all the time, I just mean that each time like the day before?
WEDEMAN: Well, basically Aaron, what we've seen is every day there have been one or two incidences shall we say, half an hour, 45 minute periods of bombing and that was about it. But really what's happened in the last day and a half is that they've really come with surprising regularity and intensity, so this -- really I think we can say that the bombing has picked up and I think I hear another plane overhead now.
It's hard to tell when exactly they're going to hit, but they've hit twice already. Two bombs on the ridge. We expect at least two more within the next few minutes.
BROWN: Do you know what's on the ridge?
WEDEMAN: Well, we know that there -- basically the Iraqi trenches are up there and we've been watching them very closely for the last few weeks. Several hundred men along this ridge line that extends north to south. They do have mortars for instance, heavy mortars, anti-aircraft guns, and some anti-tank guns as well.
Now we've been told by the Peshmarga (ph) and a Kurdish fighter that they expect this line to start to fall, at least the troops to fall back and this coincides with what we saw for instance yesterday on another area not too far from here on the road from the Kurdish city of Kirkuk, or rather Erbil, through the Iraqi controlled city of Kirkuk and we saw that the Iraqi forces basically, without any notice of any sort, just disappeared, pulled back about 10 miles from their position and the Kurds went and occupied it.
But we expect that sort of thing. At least, the Peshmarga (ph) expect that to happen here at some point given the intensity of the bombing. Aaron?
BROWN: From what you can tell, do these American planes fly with impunity? Is there any anti-aircraft fire thrown up at them?
WEDEMAN: There's occasion very light. I think they do fly with impunity. They're flying so much higher than the anti-aircraft -- normal anti-craft guns could reach, so it does appear -- I mean, for instance last night at about I think it was 10:00, 10:30, we did see one large flash in the sky above us, which appeared to be some form of anti-aircraft, but those planes are flying so high, that I don't think they could be hit.
BROWN: Ben, let's check back with you. Once again, thank you. Ben Wedeman, who's been up in that area now for -- Ben, how long -- just before you get away, how long have you been up there?
WEDEMAN: Well, we've been in Erbil now five and a half weeks, and in this area of Kalak, we've been coming on a regular basis and now, we've moved here. And we have a house and everything that comes -- goes along with that for about basically since the bombing began.
BROWN: All the comforts of home, not. Ben ...
WEDEMAN: Well, not quite.
BROWN: Not quite. Thank you Ben Wedeman, who is in northern Iraq, part of the team with Brent Sadler and Jane Arraf and Kevin Sites and other CNN correspondents and producers and obviously camera crews who are up in that part of the country as the coalition tries to form a northern front which is still in its early stages.
This war theater would look a lot different if the Turkish Parliament had allowed the Americans to bring -- and the coalition to bring their troops into the north. That didn't happen so the formation of the northern front continues to build on a sort of day- by-day basis. Our coverage continues in a moment.
BROWN: By and large, both embedded and non-embedded journalists have pretty much had a good relationship with the military. There haven't been many issues, but there was one and we're going to deal with that now. Phil Smucker, of the "Christian Science Monitor," was I think a polite way to say it, was asked to leave the country, the country of Iraq by the U.S. Military and Phil joins us now from Kuwait City.
And I'm a little confused honestly whether you were an embed or not. It was my impression you were not an embed but I could be wrong.
PHILIP SMUCKER, JOURNALIST: That's correct Aaron. I was moving through the country in fact with the help of the U.S. Marines, MP units and 1st Battalion of the 5th Regiment of the 1st Division, so we were unilateral reporters moving to the front and prior to our unfortunate incident, we were all getting along quite well.
BROWN: And you want to explain what happened?
SMUCKER: Well, yes. In fact I gave Q&A to CNN and I was talking about our relative position in relation to Baghdad. There's only one main highway leading up towards Baghdad. It's not entirely finished, but it's between the Tigris and Euphrates and I gave a rough estimate of our location, I said about 100 miles from Baghdad.
Unfortunately, that turned out to be rather precise by no fault of my own I suppose. In any case, the general in the rear flagged this and told the colonel that that gentleman could be compromising operational security.
Now this is above my pay scale at the moment and I have both the editors of the London Daily Telegraph and the Christian Science Monitor as well as your own producers who have reviewed the transcript and decided that categorically, it did neither compromise operational security nor the lives of American soldiers, of course, which none of us would ever want to do.
BROWN: And that's right. I mean, that's the problem. I mean, do you -- no one deliberately tries to give anything up here. Of course, monitors are trying to do this in a way that they can report the story and not endanger anyone and I think this is the only instance where anyone's been asked to leave the country. How did they get you out? Did they just say, get out of here? Or did they walk you away?
SMUCKER: Well, I was treated -- I was joking with a couple of the Marines as a security threat number nine. On a scale of 10, I was basically -- my phone was taken away and I was at one point marched at gunpoint and then I was shipped down through convoys south. But since then, it's been -- you know, I've had some conversations with people. It's been resolved at least here in Kuwait City and I feel that certainly this won't balloon any further. BROWN: And I hope nothing we do makes it any worse, but we ask away. When you got a hold of your editors, did your editors get a hold of the Marines? Is that what happened in any start management level negotiations and discussions?
SMUCKER: Well yes. It turns out that it was -- it was a decision by the U.S. Marine Corp. and the Pentagon was -- although we have very strong relationships with the Pentagon, the Pentagon was at the moment engaged in a war and a little too busy to get involved in my case. So inevitably, the order of the general was carried out.
I was disappointed because it took me seven weeks to get across the border because I had been trying to get in northern Iraq through Syria and I'd been kept out there. Then I finally got in. We had to go -- it was very difficult. They're not letting in -- the beef I really had with the military here is that they don't want unilateral reporters here. They want only the embedded reporters. And so by hook or crook, you have to get a truck.
I'm on an assignment. My job I've been doing 16 years and, you know, my mission is to get across that border, so it's a little unfortunate that we're kind of vying to get around one way or another and fight our way into Iraq, because once we get there, ironically a lot of the units are very happy to help us and very friendly and we certainly try our best never to put anybody's life in danger.
BROWN: Do you have a problem with the embed process?
SMUCKER: No, I don't. In fact, the only reason that I never signed up for it is because my assignment from the London Daily Telegraph was to go north and slip across the Tigris River into northern Iraq and I was actually caught in the process, put under house arrest by the Syrian government for two days. And that sent me eventually down to Kuwait City to try to get across this border.
BROWN: I'm just curious how you feel. You must be -- you must be going crazy in a way. I mean, I think of our Nick Robertson who was expelled from Baghdad and I know Nick's going crazy, not being able to do the work that he's prepared to do and wants to do. Are you going a little nuts now sitting in Kuwait, not getting to do your job?
SMUCKER: Well, you know, Aaron, I'm thinking about, you know, getting back, but I'm also thinking about the big picture here. This is a very difficult war to cover. Ideally, we would be entirely independent and the sides would have to come to us if they wanted to get their story out. Unfortunately, in this war, we have to go to them, both in Baghdad and down here, down south. So it's a very difficult war to cover.
I don't believe that the embedded program has produced the kind of news -- the kind of news coverage that we can really say this is a war as such and that we're seeing the real killing, the bloodshed, the violence of war that really makes people think about a conflict.
BROWN: So in that sense, you are critical of the embedding process? SMUCKER: No, I'm not. I'm just saying that given the situation now, the security situation, it's absolutely impossible to give the viewer a complete picture, the reader in my case, a complete picture of this war and I think that that is absolutely essential. We've got to try harder.
It's, you know, ideally we can be completely independent and we can get this war across, but that's an ideal and so we've got to strive towards that. And we may succeed. We may fail. But nevertheless, there's a story to tell here.
BROWN: There is a story to tell. So it's good to talk to you. Thanks for your time tonight and we'll talk to you again soon, I hope. Thank you. Phil Smucker was on assignment, a freelancing assignment for Christian Science Monitor, and I think he said the Telegraph of London, when he ran into some problems.
There haven't been many of those problems and we're thankful for that and the embedding process probably does have some limitations and we'll live with that because there are also, as Phil referred to them, unilaterals, Terry McCarthy we talked to earlier being one of them in the country and ultimately the picture will get painted. It may not get painted in a week or three weeks or a month, but ultimately it gets painted.
During the war, this embedding process that we're talking about has given all of us, I think, and all of you a unique view of a lot of the aspects of military operations.
Last night, Gary Tuchman of our staff, who's embedded with the Air Force, went along on a nighttime refueling mission and this is what he saw.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As they get ready to head over hostile territory, 10 men aboard this Air Force HC130 search and rescue and refueling plane start to feel their adrenalin rushing. Who looks out for the unlikely prospect of Iraqi aircraft and the more likely prospect of Iraqi missiles or artillery.
(on camera): Does your mindset change across the border into Iraq?
MAJOR TOOK, CO-PILOT: No, since I am in an area which I don't know where the enemy could be from the time I get into the airplane to the time I get out of the airplane, I'm thinking the same way.
TUCHMAN: Which is?
MAJOR TOOK: The hair on the back of my neck, it starts standing up, then something's going wrong.
TUCHMAN: As a precaution, the crew starts turning the huge plane in circles to see what the targets do. Ultimately who discover the targets are U.S. combat helicopters. Minutes later, the search and rescue helicopter arrives for its refueling. Watch the flash from my night vision camera as the plane's fuel line connects with the chopper. At times, they're only 50 feet apart, with the chopper's rotor blades even closer.
Looking with the naked eye out of the plane, the helicopter is impossible to see. The pitch black maneuver ends after 10 minutes. What stops though? We know the Iraqis have fired sand missiles and fired Triple A and aircraft all throughout this war. They haven't hit anybody. But isn't it risky flying so low knowing they have that ammunition to fire at you?
MAJOR TOOK: Again, we know where we're going. We know where they're at, so we simply avoid them. And if for some reason they do get off a lucky shot or they do see us, we have defensives on board here, airplanes to defeat their ammunition.
TUCHMAN: We all fly with bullet proof vests in case the plan goes down. We also fly with parachutes in case we need to get out before the plane goes down. But three airmen aboard this plane parachutes for a different reason. They are the para-rescue jumpers or PJs who jump off the plane for rescue missions.
DOUG, PJ TEAM LEADER: It's probably the most -- the best feeling in the world to really get -- your purpose is really to find a dead homey (ph).
TUCHMAN: No rescues were necessary on this sortie. The plane arrived back to base safely. Do you have any fear?
MAJOR TOOK: Everybody has a little bit of fear, but I think it's a good thing in this circumstance.
TUCHMAN: This crew could be back on another mission in as few as 24 hours. Gary Tuchman, CNN, aboard an HC130 over Iraq.
BROWN: Correspondence Gary Tuchman's experience. A couple of morning papers, maybe we'll do these in two batches, when we have a minute or two to work with. The Times Herald Record, the Sunday -- this is in upstate New York in the Catskills, I haven't heard of this paper. They do a nice job on the front page and I don't know what the rest of the paper is like but it's probably good.
Witness to Hell is the headline that will land on the doorstep. This morning now in the east in upstate New York as bombs rattle her Baghdad hotel room, bombs rattle her Middletown. A Middletown New York woman becomes a witness to hell. They put a -- they always put a big picture on the front page. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on time.
The "Sunday Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News," a combined newspaper, place the suicide bombing as their lead, but picked up a story from the "New York Times." I gather this will be in the Sunday "Times." Troops hardly across section of the United States, the "Times" and now reprinted in the "Denver Post." I'm sure other papers has done an analysis of what parts of the country and I gather the demographics of the hundreds of thousands of American servicemen overseas.
The "Sunday Journal," which I'm almost sure is Albuquerque, New Mexico, but it might be Santa Fe, in this case I apologize. Iraq will Use any Means. The Iraqi vice president said we can kill 5,000 people at one time if we want to today which made me think that's a warning that they're talking about chemical weapons. Whether they'll make good on it, we're not in that business, the prediction business, but that's what he said and maybe that's what he meant.
We'll take a break. Our coverage continues with Daryn Kagan and the headlines after a short break.
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