CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
U.S. Central Command Briefing in Qatar
Aired March 31, 2003 - 07:03 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: We should get the Central Command briefing any moment right now. And we're told that Brigadier General Vincent Brooks is now entering the room, and as he does, we'll take you live now to Qatar at Central Command.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
BRIGADIER GENERAL VINCENT BROOKS, U.S. ARMY: ... Iraq to remove the regime. The coalition remains robust with 49 countries supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
And we continue to remember those who have lost their lives and their families.
The coalition attacked regime targets over the last 48 hours in Baghdad and several cities throughout the country. Additionally, there were precision attacks against surface-to-surface missiles and Republican Guard forces. Our efforts are focused on every aspect of the regime.
Here are some examples of recent attacks, and they illustrate our approach.
First, we attacked the regime directly. This is a strike against an Iraqi intelligence service building in Karbala, and it was attacked two nights ago.
This is a Baath Party headquarters building in Al Hillah.
This is a military headquarters building in western Iraq.
And this is a communications building in western Iraq.
These are all attacks against the regime directly.
We attacked forces defending the regime. This first image is a tank in a revetment north of An Nasiriya.
The next image is an air defense radar in the western desert near H-3 Airfield.
And as the next video clips show, we also attacked logistics that make it possible for the Iraqi forces to be sustained, and we prevent them from being sustained.
The first image is a fuel truck in a revetment near Al-Kut.
The second one is ammo truck near An-Najaf.
And the final one is an ammo storage area near Baghdad.
Coalition special operations forces continued their operations and actions throughout Iraq. They are facilitating attacks against regime targets and death squads within urban areas. These attacks are enabled by information provided by the local populations.
Special operations forces have also been effective interdicting movements into or out of Iraq, and movements within Iraq by Iraqi commandos, missile units or others. This is an example of an encounter that occurred along the highway west of Ar Ramadi (ph). Coalition special operations forces destroyed two convoys of vehicles, including 10 tanks.
We also used special operations gunships with great effectiveness against regime targets and also targets of opportunity, as this next video shows. This is H-2 Airfield in the western desert. It had aircraft dispersed on it. Special operations forces observed it, called in AC-130 gunships and destroyed the aircraft on the ground.
Our land component developed a situation on the ground in several areas, seeking out concentrations of terrorist death squads and paramilitaries to further reduce their effect while also attacking the divisions of the Republican Guard.
U.K. forces fought near Basra to eliminate enemy positions and succeeded in capturing several hundred enemy prisoners and attacking some Iraqi gunboats nearby.
The 1st Marine Expeditionary force conducted raids into Al-Fajr south of Al-Kut, which you see on the map. They were able to capture several Baath Party members, several weapons caches, destroyed air defense equipment, and exploited a number of documents found nearby.
Near Tallil Airfield southwest of An-Nasiriya, the 1st Marine Expeditionary force seized a large weapons cache, about 40 buildings' worth, containing ammunition, chemical decontamination equipment -- and that includes a Samara decontamination vehicle -- chemical suits, and unidentified artillery munitions.
The V Corps conducted attacks near An-Najaf, near positions east of the river, and captured three small weapons caches. Additionally, V Corps concentrated air attacks and artillery fires against the Medina Division's tanks, artillery systems and command posts.
We continue to see brutal acts by the regime and the forces loyal to it. An example came from an outpost in front of 1st Marine Expeditionary force a day ago.
The story goes like this: During daylight hours, two vehicles rapidly approached the Marine checkpoint at a high rate of speed. When they failed to stop, having been signaled by a psychological operations loudspeaker team present at the site, they were taken under fire by the checkpoint. The lead vehicle, a sedan, immediately halted, and the second vehicle, a truck, rear-ended it. An adult, an adult female and two children exited the sedan. Two Iraqi soldiers exited the truck with weapons, and one of the soldiers shot and killed the adult female. After a brief firefight, both Iraqi soldiers and the three surviving civilians lay wounded.
As the Marines approached, one of the wounded soldiers pulled out a weapon and was killed on the spot. The Marines evacuated the remaining wounded, and upon searching the truck found 120mm mortars and mortar ammunition.
The land component continues its efforts to destroy any forces that are encountered, and also any forces that would threaten the supply lines.
Our maritime component continued its work of keeping open the waterways, and they did find some mines in the shallow waters of Karbala. As we continued expanding the channelway, all of those mines have been destroyed.
Also in an effort to increase the security of the ports, the maritime component is searching any vessels that remain to ensure that they are no threat, and this short video shows a boarding party doing that work. This is a search aboard the deck, and then you'll see them ascend to clear the remains of the boat. Dangerous work but important work, and it's necessary to ensure that anything that's in the ports is safe.
The coalition continues to push information to the Iraqi population, and at this point we have now pushed our ground-based communications capability further forward by moving a ground base into Iraq. Up to this point in time it was in neighboring countries.
Our coalition forces also continue efforts to preserve Iraq's future resources, and that remains a very, very good news story. And I have a few things to highlight from our actions in that regard.
First, the oil well fighters that we've talked about for the last several days were successful in extinguishing one of the three fires burning in the Rumaylah oil field. The video that I'm about to show you is the moment of truth of the mission accomplishment. As you see, the fire extinguished, and then the well being capped. With that, that one is over.
Our efforts continue to extinguish the last two fires in the Rumaylah oil field, and we are confident that we will be successful on that here in the coming days.
Additional good news: fresh, clean water began flowing through the pipeline from Kuwait to Umm Qasr yesterday, and the pipeline construction project makes it possible now for over 625,000 gallons of clean, drinking water to flow daily.
The coalition escorted aid convoys to Umm Qasr, Al-Zubayr and Sefwan, and a local school and market are due to reopen today in Rumaylah after a period of closure. Finally, our Civil Affairs teams are continuing their assessments amongst the population in the south. These teams provide useful information, training and assistance to the Iraqi people. And they also help to assess the most vital needs of the population, and of course they act as the initial goodwill ambassadors on behalf of the coalition.
With that, ladies and gentlemen, I'll take your questions.
Please, second row.
QUESTION: Donna Meinwan (ph) with "USA Today." You have made a point -- actually, the U.S. has made a point of saying that you want to be the liberators and not invaders or occupiers. Today there are reports that 4,000 suicide bombers have come from all over the Arab world into Iraq. And what does this say to you about U.S. efforts to win the hearts and minds of the Arab world?
BROOKS: Well, Donna (ph), first you're exactly right. We have come here, and liberation is in our minds as we destroy the regime and proceed to remove the weapons of mass destruction from Iraq. Liberation is the action that will occur by way of what we're doing in this campaign.
The potential threats of others coming in from external countries tells you that the problem is not in Iraq. The problem is the regime in trying to protect itself. We remain convinced from what we're seeing throughout the country as we're having more and more success that the Iraqi people are welcoming the departure of the regime and its destruction. Where we attack regime complexes and Baath Party headquarters buildings, the townspeople are helping us, and in fact they're very pleased about that.
There is truthfully still a degree of let's-wait-and-see. We have to understand that for decades these people have been severely brutalized by this regime, and they have taken risks before. They have not proven to be safe for them to do so.
And so there's a degree of caution still that's out there, and it is entirely understandable. But we mean what we say, and we're going to continue with that mission.
QUESTION: Arnie Revall (ph), ABC News. Regarding the suicide attack, which occurred a couple of days ago, did the commanding officer on the ground there, did he violate any protocol, any rules of engagement by allowing that civilian vehicle to make its way so close to the checkpoint? And the second question is regarding Iraqi POWs. Is it possible, sir, that some of them might end up in Guantanamo? And if so, does that mean that they would be denied POW status, and instead by designated as battlefield detainees? Thank you.
BROOKS: First, regarding the checkpoint. We don't second-guess what's happening out on the ground. There are dynamics that happen out there that we will not know, and we leave it to subordinate commanders to look into the circumstances surrounding any losses that happen within their force, and we are confident that that's ongoing at this point in time.
What we do know is that when we conduct checkpoint operations, the checkpoint itself provides security to other parts of the force. They are pushed further out along road to prevent someone from getting in close onto the actual outfit that's being protected. That's what we believe happened in this case and certainly with checkpoints. I'm familiar with the outfit. I was in command of that outfit not too many months ago, and I certainly can vouch for their training.
As to the prisoners that have been taken right now, at this point we are treating all those that we have taken into our custody as enemy prisoners of war, any additional decisions made with regard to ultimate status determinations will be policy decision, not done by this command.
BROOKS: I wouldn't want to speculate what the ultimate decisions will be made. That's really a question for Washington.
QUESTION: Hello, General. Kelly O'Donnell from NBC. Earlier, you remarked that special operations forces are trying to keep control of who is coming in and out of Iraq. Now that we know of this report of 4,000 potential suicide bombers coming in, are special operations forces specifically targeting them? And can you give us any indication, without the security issues that I know you would avoid, of what those missions are like and how actively they're looking for those sorts of people?
BROOKS: Let me describe it like this: First, as I mentioned, we have special operations forces operating throughout the country. What is occurring primarily in the western desert, where routes lead into Iraq, is something that can be characterized as "area denial." We are eliminating freedom of action and freedom of movement from anyone that would pass through there.
And so if we see someone coming in on roads, we may stop and check and see who they are. In some cases along borders, we have encountered people and turned them back. First, because it's dangerous, and they should know they are going into an area that's under combat operations. We do that on the ground. We provide notice to airmen, we prove notices to mariners, to let people know that there is war going on for their safety.
Within Iraq, special operations forces have a robust capability that lets them identify first, operate at night, and if need be attack and destroy things they find, like this convoy of multiple vehicles, including tanks.
And so I would simply characterize it as, we are denying freedom of movement throughout the western desert and are being very effective at that. This row, please.
QUESTION: Hali Talama (ph) from (UNINTELLIGIBLE). (UNINTELLIGIBLE) if you have been able to verify whether the aircraft you've taken on the ground was a real one or it was just a decoy? And whether you've been able to identify the type of the aircraft? Thanks.
BROOKS: Well, I'm not able to identify the type of aircraft. I'm simply not trained to do so. But I can tell you that our targeteers are very skillful at examining anything that we are deciding to strike in advance, or in the post-strike images what it is we hit.
We're comfortable that we hit legitimate targets in this case, but I think that I'm not in position to say one way or another beyond that.
BROOKS: They were, indeed, in the open. They were in the open and they were attacked. We went in sure that there was no capability they would come up, especially from western air fields, to attack coalition forces and it's better to err on the safe side and destroy it than to do otherwise.
QUESTION: Mel Housen (ph) with AFP.
How will the new security measures which I assume you're going to put into effect after the car bombing affect your relations with the Iraqi civilians? Is it possible your forces will treat them with more suspicion in the aftermath of this attack?
BROOKS: Well, first, let me say that we haven't changed procedures per se. We've already been maintaining security of our forces and this attack occurred at a security checkpoint. There's no question that someone on the line that's in close contact with the population and also in close contact with a set of regime players who will quickly put themselves in civilian clothes, hide weapons, do things that are inconsistent with the laws of armed conflict, exhibit brutalities against civilians, that there would be a heightened awareness to anyone that's encountered. That we can count on.
As to how we will encounter Iraqi civilians, I think we still will make determinations on the ground whether a threat is posed or not. In some cases, like the example I gave you, there may be a threat and a non-threat in the same action coming towards you. Very, very difficult to sort that out.
Our forces are disciplined, though, they're alert and they are primarily focused on protecting civilian populations, not destroying them and we'll continue with that.
Please, sir? QUESTION: I'm Tom Mintier with CNN.
A two part question concerning the media. It's our understanding that the domestic version of Iraq TV did not come on the air this morning. Was this the result of targeting in the air strikes last night?
And secondly there was discussion about the Thoria phones (ph) and some commanders not allowing embedded journalists to use those phones. Have you had any problems with the embedded journalists violating any rules?
BROOKS: Well, let me start with the second question. The Thoria phones, we talked about that a few days ago and the importance of making sure that we were maintaining operational security. We don't have something we applied as a blanket across the battlefield and we continue to look at whether it's necessary or not to do that.
The good news story associated with the parts of the battlefield where we've decided to do that is, in many cases, embedded media reporters have pulled together and shared assets and also the organizations they're covering have made it possible to ensure stories get transmitted even using military equipment. So that's working out very, very well at this point.
What was the first part of your question again, Tom?
QUESTION: Iraq TV domestic.
BROOKS: Right. I understand that report, that Iraqi TV domestically did not come on. We certainly have been doing things that would affect the possibility of Iraq TV to be coming on and we'll continue to do that. We think that the domestic population is not seeing very much of the Iraqi regime at this point in time and we'll continue our efforts to make sure that's the case.
Please, third row.
QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with Bamiksali TV (ph) from Hong Kong.
We all know that once urban fighting starts in Baghdad, the number of casualties, military and civilians, is most likely to increase. So my question is is urban warfare inevitable and is coalition troops prepared for the possibility to engage urban fights?
BROOKS: We will conduct military operations in a way that we believe is necessary to conduct them, all the while remaining focused on our objectives and also carrying with us the effort and the responsibility of trying to maintain a balance in how we respond inside of any military circumstance, particularly with regard to the potential for damaging civilians or other structures around them.
You've already seen some examples of how we do some of our work in urban areas. We're very selective about where we go and frankly the Iraqi people are telling us exactly where to go. When we go in to do something against a Baath headquarters, for example, it's based on intelligence or other information that's been provided that can be turned into action. And the action is related to that purpose and in some cases we leave. In other cases we may go in and stay.
So I wouldn't want to predetermine exactly what the circumstances would be in Baghdad. There certainly is potential for very intense fighting. We should all anticipate that and be prepared for it. But our tactics will let us do this in a way that we think can save lives as much as possible.
QUESTION: James Caron from Sky News.
We've been hearing accounts today from the crew of a British Scorpion light tank that was attacked -- although it was clearly marked -- by an American A-10 aircraft. How much of a concern is that for U.S. Central Command? And, also, what does the situation in Basra tell you about what may lie ahead on the streets of Baghdad?
BROOKS: When we have reports of potential fratricides, we always examine it deeply, and certainly whenever there's a coalition involvement there, where two nations are involved, we try to respect the sensitivities of the countries involved as much as possible.
We have a number of things that we are examining right now to make sure that we have not had or that we have had a case of fratricide or blue on blue type of actions. When those things are complete, when the investigations are complete, we will then provide additional information. We'll be forthcoming about it, but it's important that we are thorough in examining all of the circumstances that surround any incidents like that.
I would just say that we know that there's a lot of fog and friction on the battlefield and accidents do happen. There are still humans in the loop and mistakes can occur. We haven't gotten to the point where warfare can be waged in perfection at this point in time.
The situation in Basra and what it tells us first is that the Iraqi people are still, in some cases, under the boot of the regime. And where that boot is applied, there's a great want, a great desire to have the boot removed. We are receiving assistance and information from people in Basra and it localizes our attacks very effectively and the U.K. forces have been outstanding in that regard of conducting operations where needed at a time and place of our choosing.
It also says, though, that there's still work to be done. We wouldn't say that Basra is completely under coalition control, but we continue to increase the degree of control over top of that. As we do our work, we'll remain in close contact with as many Iraqi leaders, resistance leaders and others that are out there that can give us additional information and assistance, and they ultimately will be the inheritors of Basra, we believe.
On the left?
QUESTION: Jeff Schaeffer, Associated Press Television News. General, what's your current assessment of the Iraqi Air Force and why do you suppose that they've pretty much been keeping their planes grounded since the war has begun?
BROOKS: Jeff, it's as simple as if they fly, they die. It's as simple as that. If they come up, we'll destroy them, and as you see, if we find them we'll destroy them. We've destroyed aircraft in cemeteries or near cemeteries. We've destroyed aircraft outside of protected areas. We've destroyed aircraft on the ground at H2. We think that they know not to come up and fly against us and certainly we're prepared to respond to that if they choose to.
QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) News.
Do you know how Tommy Franks have told us last week, early last week, that there have been contacts between the U.S. military and what he described as commanders of some of Iraqi units. Since the last 10 days we haven't heard about this anymore. Have they failed, the contacts, or where do they stand now? Can you tell us, please?
BROOKS: Contacts continue on a variety of levels. I won't be too specific about where they're occurring or who we have contact with. I will tell you that we have contacts with civilian leaders. We have contacts with military leaders. We have a number of military leaders that have been taken under our control as a result of combat actions or by raids. They're providing useful information, in a number of cases, that we are then taking and taking action on. So if find it is something that can be acted upon, we'll go and deal with that and try to take advantage of it.
As General Franks mentioned, we do our work in a way that, in some cases, is sequential, and in some cases it's simultaneous. And what we're seeking is a broad affect on this regime where we can
Operate in a variety of areas with the variety of effects, the time and place of our choosing, and that's working very well.
QUESTION: Charles Marcus, BBC.
Two questions. I mean one of the great benefits of briefings like this, they should be able to give us a little bit of the overview and perhaps share with us some of the intelligence picture. In that regard, could you tell us something about the level of attrition, the level of damage that you think you're doing to the Republican Guard in several days now of air strikes? And could you also, given the points you raised about the decontamination vehicle and more chemical suits being found, could you say a little bit about what all this evidence about the preparedness for chemical weapons or a chemical weapons environment tells you about likely Iraqi intentions.
BROOKS: The Republican Guard forces command is one of our key targets and we know that they're part of the solid defensive structure of the regime. That's what the regime relies on heavily for traditional military work. And so we're targeting them and we're destroying a number of them. We're taking away their capability to fight, but I'm not going to tell you what the number is at this point in time. It just wouldn't be appropriate to make that assessment.
First, because it's not a precise science. In much of that we use as much intelligence as we can to make a determination of where they stand, what their strength level would be, whether we've created vulnerabilities, whether we have advantages and that's art at that point, once you get beyond there. And so while I would not be specific about where we see the Republican Guard forces command, I can say that there are a number of organizations within the Republican Guard forces command that are in serious difficulty at this point in time and we continue our efforts to put them in greater difficulty and danger.
Go back to the second half of your question and I'll pick that up.
QUESTION: Yes, you just, you say you've found a chemical decontamination vehicle.
QUESTION: More suits. What does this tell you about the likelihood of the Iraqis having chemical weapons?
BROOKS: It's one more tile in the mosaic. We still cannot determine what the regime will do. We've seen a number of things that tell us there are desperate men that will go to any extreme to protect themselves. We've seen that exhibited before this war started and it's been reaffirmed since this war started.
We know that there has been equipment positioned in places to provide protection to Iraqi forces. Protection from what I don't know. We don't use the chemical weapons. We see this in a variety of different locations. Whether it means there's going to be an intention to use or not, that's for the Iraqi regime to determine. Our efforts will be to prevent that from happening, if we can, by identifying the leaders who would make such decisions, by warning military organizations that might pull the trigger what the cost would be and reminding, again, that no one benefits from the use of weapons of mass destruction, by attacking the systems that would deliver it when we find them and the places where they might be restored and at the same time seeking additional information of where might they be, who knows and what can we do about it.
So those actions are ongoing. We have to wait and see what's going to happen, but we won't be benign as it goes along.
QUESTION: It's Paul Hunter from Canadian Broadcasting.
Back to the suicide, the effect of the suicide attacks and the threat of another 4,000. Were coalition soldiers told ahead of time to prepare for that type of fighting and what has been the effect of it becoming a reality on the morale of soldiers? And secondly, how many times would you say Iraqi civilians have been killed after being targeted by coalition soldiers because there was the threat they might be suicide attackers or they were driving where they shouldn't be and didn't stop?
BROOKS: I think, first, the degree of sensitivities out there is a heightened awareness. We always knew that there were threats of suicide bombers and we've seen things that have been reported, just like these reports of thousands coming in that we want to be suicide bombers. So we certainly know that in a regime that is linked to terrorism that terroristic practices might be exhibited.
Whether we look for that in every case, different story, and that's something that's determined on the ground. But I can certainly say that there's a heightened awareness to it.
I would not want to characterize what the morale is. I think the morale inside of a military organization comes from a whole lot of things. First is the ability to bond with one another and know that you have a common goal and that you're taking care of each other as well as you can. They have losses that occurred because of that attack in that specific outfit, but that unit would not want to stop because of that attack. I know this to be true.
I think as we see additional threats on the battlefield as it relates to civilians, we will still encounter them in the right way that we want to, that is, in a way that does not brutalize, that tries to protect as much as possible. I don't have any number that I can give you in terms of cases where coalition forces have attacked civilians. I'm not aware of any where we've deliberately -- I'm certain that we have not deliberately attacks civilians under any circumstance.
Whether we've had true civilians, non-combatants, innocents caught up inside of a fire fight where someone is pushed out in front of an irregular force, that I cannot say. I know that the regime would like to have that number escalate beyond count. We see that even today, actions that are ongoing as we speak along a bridge in the north between Karbala and al-Hillah. Irregular forces trying to get across a bridge that's rigged for demolition. They know it's rigged for demolition, they did it. And pushing women and children in front of them. One woman tried to break contact and escape and as she ran, she was shot in the back and thrown into the river.
So the encounters with civilians out there are certain. We know they're going on. We're not targeting them. No one's killing more Iraqis right now than the regime.
Please, you had a question.
QUESTION: There were elements of the Nebuchadnezzar Division of the Republican Guard reportedly discovered in some of the towns in the fighting out there. Could you explain the significance of that and explain the significance of why we are seeing so much fighting in these little towns to what appear to be the northern most reaches of where the coalition fighting force is located? BROOKS: OK. First, the initial report is that some of the people we've taken into our custody as a result of recent operations say they're from the Nebuchadnezzar Division. So we're not certain, indeed, that they are. It's possible.
If it is true, then it's, it may reinforce some of the movements that were in and around some of the defensive positions that we've seen. They may be reinforcements. They may be replacing losses as a result of the actions that we have inflicted upon the Republican Guard forces.
As to why they're where they are, I think it's really military terrain. When you can anchor onto something that might provide you an advantage terrain wise, you may choose to defend there. We have awareness of where they are. It doesn't protect them. And I think that they may seek to draw us into places where we be perceived as not ready to fight. We're able to fight anywhere on this battlefield. That's already been shown and it will continue to be shown.
The second row, please.
QUESTION: Martha (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
It's often said about the U.S. military that they own the night. Have you seen any evidence that the Iraqis have obtained their own night vision goggles and are fighting back?
BROOKS: We have reports that there have been some night vision devices provided to different parts of the regime. I have not gotten any reports that any have been found at this point. So it's all speculative at this point. Even if that's the case, we would still own the night.
QUESTION: Yes, Nick Spicer, National Public Radio.
I was wondering, sir, if you could tell us if land mines are being used by American forces along the road leading to Baghdad. And if the answer is yes, what does that say in military terms about strategy? Is it a hunkering down of any kind?
BROOKS: What we're seeing, actually, is land mines that have been left by the regime forces. We've found those in a few areas. We have had some wounded as a result of land mines. Any land mines that we would use are retrievable. They are under our control at any given time. They're used for temporary protective purposes and then they're recovered and they go with us.
That is not the case of what we're seeing on behalf of the regime. They're left out there. Anyone can run into them, military forces, the civilians who are trying to escape their brutality inside of towns. That's what we're seeing on the battlefield at this point.
BROOKS: I don't know specifically what's happening down inside the tactical units. We do have some land mines that are available to us, like the Claymore anti-personnel mine that's a put in place and remove type of mine. We take it with us. We use it for protection.
So, yes, we do have them, but in terms of the specific tactical actions, I don't know where they're being used and where they're not.
QUESTION: General, Kathy McCormick, CBS News.
Could you tell us what's happening just south of Baghdad in Hindia (ph)? Are Republican Guard units being engaged? Is there street fighting going on there?
BROOKS: I don't have any reports of any street fighting going on involving coalition forces. I don't know whether the Iraqis are fighting in the streets at this point. We are in contact with forces just south of Baghdad and we know where they are. They're in contact. I don't want to characterize too much because it's an ongoing action and some of your embeds are doing a great job of reporting what's going on right now from the soldier's eye view.
We're going to continue to work against the Republican Guard forces that are defending Baghdad. Our efforts are going to go to the regime. We've made that clear. Where the regime is, we're coming. Where the regime is we're coming.
Please, in the third row.
QUESTION: Hi, General.
Anne Bernard from the "Boston Globe."
I know the action is still ongoing, but is this the first clash between Republican Guards and U.S. forces on the ground that's going on right now?
My second question is about the Fedayeen. At the beginning of the war, the estimates of their numbers ranged from 10,000 to 100,000. What's the latest intelligence that you have about how many there are? And since they've been characterized as dead-enders and sort of informed that their only future is as prisoners of war -- or, I'm sorry, as possible defendants in war crimes trials, what is their incentive to surrender and why wouldn't we end up in a situation where each one of those individuals would fight for his life until the last minute?
BROOKS: Well, certainly the Republican Guard has met coalition forces before. We've been attacking them in a variety of ways for a number of days. So this is not the first contact that they have experienced from us, nor will it be the last.
As to the desperation of regime members who know that they have no future, first, they can be certain of it. We will be happy to guarantee that they no future. We've made that statement clearly a number of times and we'll continue to say that. There is no future for the regime or anyone that supports it.
Will they fight to the death? Probably. We're seeing that in a number of places. Those who have everything to lose will lose it.
QUESTION: And how many of them are there?
BROOKS: I don't know what the number is at this point. It's a difficult number to count when someone wears civilian clothes and comes out of a bus with a weapon. You can't count that.
Actually, let's on the second row here, please.
QUESTION: If thousands of suicide bombers do show up on the battlefield, what's the military significance of that? Are they a serious threat?
BROOKS: Certainly if they're able to detonate an explosive, it's like any other weapon that encounters a force. And it's very difficult to achieve any kind of degree of mass with that. That's a tactic of terror.
When losses occur inside of military formations, the military formations consolidate, reorganize, reestablish any capability, and they continue to fight. It's not a very effective military tactic at all. It's a terror tactic, and it won't be effective. We're continuing operations right now. We had a car bomb explosion within days, and our operations are still continuing beyond of where that car bomb explosion occurred. It will not stop us. It will not stop us.
Please, fourth row.
QUESTION: Dietrich Stoflin (ph), Russian State television. General, could you talk a little bit more about your humanitarian operations, and specifically how the distribution is conducted? Because on TV, we have seen pictures of a crowd surrounding a military truck, which doesn't look very effective. Do you receive any help from local communities in the distribution process? Thank you.
BROOKS: OK, thank you for your question. There are a number of organizations that are involved in providing humanitarian aid. And as each day goes by and more terrain is secured, even more organizations come in. Some of them are international organizations, some of them are governmental organizations, and others are military organizations.
We did see some early images when some of the first convoys went into the southern area of what appeared to be more chaotic than we believe it should be. A lot of lessons have been learned. The actual organizations involved, we don't need to characterize who they were or what their roles were in that, but we certainly know how to distribute supplies in an organized way.
We've seen some recent images of very controlled distribution points that have lines, that have a means of causing people to move down into a single row to receive what stocks they need and to proceed on. It's very orderly, and it's going very well right now.
I think what we saw coming off of the Sir Galahad was a very orderly distribution, water distribution, there will be 12 points that are built up. It will be a controlled distribution. So we don't want to create chaos in what we're doing, and we won't. We'll do the best we can to prevent that, maintain control, and also do it in a way that people realize that life is going on, things are going to be OK.
In the back, please.
QUESTION: Kevin Doan (ph) of ITV News. General, going back to the friendly fire incident in which a British soldier was killed, his colleagues have said or found it inconceivable that the pilot of the A-10 was unable to identify the British armor, and he is said to have made not just one, but two passes over the column. In fact, they described his actions as being that of a cowboy.
What do you say to the family of the dead soldier? And what action will be taken against this pilot?
BROOKS: Well, I should first address the family of this dead soldier and any others who have lost their lives, and we regret their loss at any time under any circumstance.
In this particular case because there may be a blue-on-blue incident involved, we have to investigate it and let it go its full course. And so I can't anything else about the circumstances surrounding it at this point.
Off on the far side, please.
QUESTION: Can I ask you, there was a statement at (UNINTELLIGIBLE), a statement issued the other night from CENTCOM about an Iraqi stock of missiles and launchers in Baghdad 300 feet from peoples' homes, which was attacked by your people. Is this going to be a continuing problem that you are going to have Iraqi missiles located in civilian areas? And is this going to affect your strategy given that you have declared your desire to avoid civilian casualties as much as possible? Thank you.
BROOKS: It's a continuing and, in fact, a growing problem. The regime continues to position things that would bring threats into populated areas. We've seen heavy equipment transporters with tanks on their back moving into housing areas. It just doesn't make any tactical sense. We're seeing more and more of that.
We've seen oil fires, and many of you have seen the skies of Baghdad beginning to turn black. Those are oil fires that were deliberately constructed and the oil trenches have been set on fire.
All these things are threatening the Iraqi population. They have no tactical significance whatsoever.
Will it change our approach? I think it causes us to always redouble our efforts, as we already have, of looking at targets very selectively, find the best way to attack those targets, eliminate them as a threat, and at the same time doing all we can to prevent or to at least minimize the potential effect on civilians, noncombatants and other structures that we don't want to hit, and we'll continue our efforts in that regard.
Second row, please.
QUESTION: General, Pete Small (ph) from "Knight-Ridder." Can you comment on where you think the Iraqis are getting their night goggles from? And also, with some of the chemical suits that have been found and the gas masks, is there anything like an expiration date that would prove how long they've had it and eliminate the possibility that perhaps they've had it since the Iran-Iraq War or even the first Gulf War?
BROOKS: Well, again, I don't think we have any reports of having actually found any night-vision equipment. We have reports that there may be some that have been pushed, and there may be some in their possession. But I'm not aware of any reports that some have been found, and so I couldn't say where they're coming in or who is providing them, what country.
The chemical suits are items that are under what we call exploitation at this point. We try to gather up any materials, documents, suits, anything else we happen to take in our possession, and find out everything we can about them. At this point, I don't have any additional information on that, because the exploitation is ongoing, and perhaps we'll have some information to share when we have more to say.
Let me go all the way in the back.
QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Australia. Sir, over the past few days, you and all of the other briefers have said you're on plan, and that you expected this level of resistance. Do you concede that expectation wasn't conveyed to or absorbed by the commanders in the field, political leaders and members of the public, because they certainly seem to be surprised?
BROOKS: Well, I don't concede that at all. I would say that we had a broad understanding of the types of threats that might exist in this conflict. All of those are considered. As to when they arrive in the battlefield, when they become exhibited, that's always the unknown. That's the variable.
Can tactical surprise occur at a given point in time where suddenly a capability that we knew existed suddenly show up and we didn't expect it at that time and that place? Sure. That's the nature of the dynamics of battle out there. But that doesn't mean we didn't know that there was the potential for it, or that we hadn't given some consideration on how we would deal with that.
So I think that that's really the dynamic of what you're seeing. There will be tactical surprises that happen on the battlefield. We're going to deliver a whole lot of them, and there may be some that come our way as well.
But the key to a force that can adapt itself to the realities of the battlefield is knowing what could happen and being able to deal with it when it does happen, and ideally to cause the circumstances to be advantageous to us before they happen.
That's the way we do our work, and we'll continue to do it that way.
Let me go to the fourth row -- one, two, three, four, five row.
QUESTION: Kevin Diaz (ph) from the "Minneapolis Star Tribune." What's the latest on the missiles in the civilian areas in Baghdad? And have you heard these reports, I think they're coming out of the United Kingdom, that there were shards or pieces of metal with identification numbers of them? Have you heard those reports? Is there any validity to those reports at all?
BROOKS: Well, that is an ongoing investigation still. I think we're starting to come to a high degree of closure on it. We are still accounting for every weapons system that we've released into the Baghdad area, and once we've gotten the closure on that, I think we will be able to say one way or another what role we may have played or not inside of this.
As to shards of equipment, given the amount of munitions that we have delivered precisely inside of Baghdad, it would not be difficult to go to one of those locations and pick up debris. So I would not want to speculate what that might mean. We do indeed account for our weapons systems. We have a number of methods to do that. We're deliberate and precise in our targeting process from the start, and we follow through after the attack to make certain that we hit what we wanted to hit, and that we know as well as we can if there was any other additional influence.
You go inside here.
QUESTION: General, Chas Henry (ph), WTOP Radio. When you're determining what supplies flow up into Iraq, is there ever a competition between humanitarian supplies and, say, tactical supplies for troops, ammunition or food? I'm asking this in the context of having reports -- heard reports in recent days about troops only having one meal ration. How do you prioritize what goes where?
BROOKS: There are priorities that are established by commanders at every level, what it is they want, what they need, and depending on what their mission is at a given time.
Where there are competitors for resources, the commander that owns both resources or those resources will make a decision as to what the priority is. Our first priority is sustaining the force and being able to continue to fight. So I would not say that -- we have not had any problems at this point where we've committed assets away from our primary purposes in a way that created a problem for us.
That's a commander's decision done at each level, and all commanders establish their priorities and make them known to their commanders and their commander's commander, so we have visibility across the board.
And I think we have time for one more question. You had your hand up. QUESTION: General, Jim Wolf (ph) of Reuters.
BROOKS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) but you can have only one.
QUESTION: OK, thanks. You just said that you couldn't confirm that the Iraqis had obtained night-vision goggles or other equipment. But isn't it, in fact, precisely such shipments that prompted the warning from Secretary Rumsfeld to Syria to stay out of the war? How do you -- of if not, what was it as far as you understand that prompted Secretary Rumsfeld to issue his warning to Syria?
BROOKS: Well, I wouldn't want to speak for the secretary of defense, and he certainly will -- if he wants to comment on that will. But what I know is that we have not, to my knowledge, seen any at this point on the people we've encountered on the battlefield. I'm just not aware of any that have been encountered.
I think the governments that are involved in this coalition have been clear about preventing interference from external countries now that the battle has been joined, and that that should be the case throughout the operation. Anything beyond that really is a matter for capitals, not for this command.
I'll take one last question. Please.
QUESTION: Nicole Field (ph) from Associated Press. Going back to the issues of POWs. By calling the paramilitaries terrorist death squads, that's a very loaded word. It, in the case of Afghanistan, can carry some legal implications. We've got people in Guantanamo who are considered terrorists, enemy combatants, not POWs. Is there any concern that by kind of demonizing the Iraqis in this way that the American POWs currently in custody on the Iraqi side might also be treated differently than you would like to see under Geneva Conventions?
Second question, a follow up to the issue of the Iraqi aircraft. You said that there was no indication, I think, that the Iraqis were flying. There was a report a few days ago in the "Army Times" that at least two ultralights were seen flying over some units. These would be the type of planes that could spread chemical or biological weapons. So can you confirm that these aircraft were sighted, yet they weren't shot down by American forces on the ground?
BROOKS: Let me go to the second-half, and then we'll come back to the first part of your question.
I've heard reports also about ultralights. I have not seen anything to confirm it, and I don't know what decisions are made on the ground, so I really can't go much beyond that. Any threat that is perceived by a unit commander is dealt with as that commander sees fit. Whether they have been flying ultralights or not, I honestly don't know. I've heard the report.
Now let's go back to the first part of your question. One more time if you would repeat that, at least just the topic area, and you'll prompt me again. QUESTION: Using the term terrorism death...
BROOKS: OK, I got you.
QUESTION: ... squads, it's a very loaded possible legal implications, American POWs.
BROOKS: Right, OK, that's good. That brings me right back.
We characterize them with terms that describe their behavior. It doesn't necessarily put them into any particular legal category from the perspective of this command. I think our government has been clear that there will be accountability for the violations of the Geneva Convention. There will be accountability for failing to live up to the obligations one has when prisoners of war are taken in.
We can't account for what this regime will do with our prisoners of war. We hold them responsible for what they do with our prisoners of war. We've seen that they are very unreliable in terms of protecting lives of people, even their own. And so what will happen next, we just don't know.
I think that any characterization we make will not influence the Iraqi regime at all. Their behaviors are a function of their choices, not a function of our actions. But there will be accountability when it's all said and done.
OK, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.
HEMMER: Just about 50 minutes in length down at Qatar Central Command, Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, a wide-ranging briefing today on this Monday.
Two things that caught our eye especially, though. The whole question about how they're finding Baath Party officials in these towns as the coalition forces move to the ground up through south central Iraq. He indicated today for the first time that "Iraqi people are telling us where to go," his words, from General Brooks, a short time ago.
Also, relative to the reports we had prior to the conflict developing when it was said that there were high-ranking members of the Iraqi military that had contact and had communication with the U.S. and the coalition forces. Again today, there are -- quote -- "contacts with some Iraqi leaders that are ongoing." As to whether or not they're yielding much, we do not know, and nonetheless that word from General Brooks today.
To our viewers throughout this briefing keeping a very close eye on this situation on the ground and in the air in Baghdad, we have noted throughout the day today explosions rippling throughout the Iraqi capital, starting really at dawn earlier today. And there was one rather large explosion that Reuters is now reporting was targeted for the presidential palace of Saddam's, Qusay. It was a large, white plume of smoke, somewhat of a mushroom cloud as it works up into the afternoon air and the afternoon sky there in Baghdad, another clear day today over the region.
Now, we do not know what was exactly targeted here, but again the word we have is that the son, Qusay, of Saddam Hussein, one of two, and his presidential palace was the target of this attack.
This would follow in line with a similar report we had at the break of day today, at dawn local time, where we were told again that Qusay's palace had been targeted by coalition aircraft.
All of this follows, again, the word from Central Command earlier today that the strike fighters flying over Baghdad are now going in and attacking targets at a much lower altitude. In talking with a colonel at Command Central a couple of hours ago, he indicates that the anti-aircraft is not nearly as formidable as it has been in the past, and perhaps their radar defense systems are not nearly what they were earlier in the first, say, 10 or 12 days of this conflict.
As we watch the image in Baghdad, we want to bring in Major General Don Shepperd, our military analyst, to talk the very latest to ask him about what he picked out of this.
And I think, Don, if we went to the very part of that briefing, they showed this videotape, as they have, of tanks being blown up on the ground in Iraq. But also again today, they showed an aircraft from the Iraqi air force. I'm curious to know, what is significant about showing this aircraft, knowing that no plane, as far as we know right now according to Central Command, has taken to the skies during this war thus far?
MAJOR GENERAL DON SHEPPERD, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Bill, it makes good TV, but the thing that caught my eye is, my question was: Why would the Iraqis leave an airplane out in the open like that at this stage of the conflict, knowing that it certainly would be hit?
There's a possibility it could be a decoy. General Brooks was asked that question. He said, no, they have people that diagnose these pictures to make sure that they are indeed targets. But I found it very odd that this aircraft would be out there. It almost looks like a Hunter aircraft, a British-type aircraft.
So -- and that looks like a MiG right now that's being hit there and re-shown.
But I found that it didn't look like they exploded it, which kind of surprised me as well.
HEMMER: All right, General, hang on a second here. We want to get more insight from you, but Scott Nelson from "The Boston Globe" is embedded, I believe, with the U.S. military. He's just popping up on the phone right now.
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