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Strike on Iraq: Two Iraqi Women with Different Perspectives on War; Republican Guard Has Home Field Advantage if it Stays Hidden; Did Peter Arnett, Geraldo Rivera Cross the Line?

Aired March 31, 2003 - 19:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: The baiting game: dealing with an enemy that shoots and hides and runs away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) as we're seeing in Basra is difficult and it's slow.

ANNOUNCER: Fighting back by car bomb. It's happened in Iraq and Israel and now, Tehran. Where will it happen next? And can it happen in the U.S.?

Geraldo gets the boot. So does Peter Arnett.

PETER ARNETT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Clearly I misjudged the firestorm.

ANNOUNCER: Reporters telling the audience and the enemy too much.

Live from Baghdad, Washington, Kuwait City, southern Iraq and cities around the globe, "War in Iraq: Live From the Front Lines."



You're looking at a live picture of Baghdad where it's just after 3:00 a.m. We have seen and heard explosions throughout the night. President Bush says -- quote -- "day by day we're moving closer to Baghdad."

And good evening from New York. I'm Paula Zahn. My colleague Wolf Blitzer is standing by in Kuwait City -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, Paula, and good evening to all of our viewers.

Just a few minutes ago we had another scare here in Kuwait City. An Iraqi surface-to-surface missile launched from some place in Iraq was successfully intercepted by a Patriot air defense missile, a Kuwaiti Patriot system burst up into the skies and blew up that Iraqi missile. This is number 15 by our count; 15 attempts the Iraqis have sought to fire missiles into Kuwait. Only one caused any damage, that the other night at an upscale shopping mall here in Kuwait City. The others all successfully destroyed by Patriot air defense missiles are falling harmlessly into the desert sands or into the waters into the Persian Gulf.

But once again, only within the past few minutes a Kuwaiti Patriot air defense system has knocked down an Iraqi missile, a ground-to-ground missile firing -- launched towards Kuwait. We're going get some more details, have some more details on that and as we do, we'll bring them to our viewers.

But let's move on now to our top story. U.S. forces today fired in a van that wouldn't stop at a checkpoint in southern Iraq. It turns out the van was only carrying women and children and seven of the passengers are dead.

For details, let's go CNN's senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is one of those incidents that makes it harder to win the so-called hearts and minds.

It happened at a checkpoint near Al Najaf where U.S. soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division fired on a civilian vehicle after they say they warned it several times to stop, both by first motioning at it and then firing warning shots and trying to shoot into the engine of the car.

It turned out that the U.S. -- that these soldiers had killed seven people in the vehicle that was filled with women and children -- 13 altogether, two were also wounded in that incident.

The soldiers though, were operating under rules of engagement that have been in place since Saturday's car bomb in which a taxi exploded, killing four Americans in the same general area. The pentagon says that because of that, it is requiring soldiers to stop cars approaching checkpoints well before they reach them and have the people get out. In this case, they apparently didn't follow directions and it is not clear if there was a communications problem or whether perhaps they were somehow being coerced into taking this action.

Investigation is under way, but at this point the U.S. says the soldiers involved did follow the rules of engagement -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon with that disturbing development. Thanks very much -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Wolf.

It seems that the rules of engagement in Najaf were clear. The van didn't stop. U.S. soldiers were within their rights when they shot to kill. After all, it could have been a suicide bomber.

But given today's tragedy, do the rules of engagement need changing? Let's put that question to CNN military analyst Major General Don Shepperd. Good to see you again, General.


ZAHN: First question to you: do you believe these rules in engagement need to be changed in any way?

SHEPPERD: I don't, Paula.

Now, this incident is just one more in a long list of tragic things in this war and all wars. I think Jamie McIntyre covered this about as well as you can -- as you can cover it.

There is no information about what was going on in that car, whether the people were being forced to do this, whether there were explosives on board, no indication of that. But when the vehicle does not stop after all the things that have happened in this area now, including the four soldiers kill here, earlier this week, these type of things are going to happen. I don't think you can cover this with rules of engage, Paula.

ZAHN: s there any other way to stop, hit-and-run guerrilla attacks?

SHEPPERD: Well, I think you can basically put -- put the barriers out there that these vehicles have to run so they can't come straight on.

But it takes time to do that. These concrete barriers are big. It just -- that's one more thing you have to move around and get into. The ports and then into the front lines and then on all these roads. So until you get this area stabilized, it's going to be very difficult and this type of thing could happen. This is a terribly unfortunate incident, Paula.

ZAHN: I think almost anybody looking at this tragedy would have to acknowledge this threatens the campaign's political objective, which is to win over the trust of the Iraqi people. How do you strike any kind of balance here?

SHEPPERD: Well, word of these things spreads and, of course, word of these things plays across the international press. It zaps the support of the American people and, of course, puts us further in trouble internationally.

You just have to put your head down and try to improve things and do better, Paula. But there is no solution to suicide bombers. Israel hasn't found it with Palestine. It's a very difficult problem and military's just going have to work through it, try to make sure that people know that they cannot bring vehicles up to checkpoints.

ZAHN: General Shepperd, thanks so much. Always appreciate your insights.

Back to Wolf now in Kuwait City. Wolf, I have a question for you. Did the sirens ever go off tonight? BLITZER: OK. Thanks, Paula.

Now back to Baghdad where U.S. airstrikes are concentrating on Republican Guard positions around the city. CNN's senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is keeping track of all of these developments. He's joining us now live from near the Iraqi border.

First of all, Nic, how much access do journalists have to these sites that have been bombed in and around Baghdad?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I was talking to a journalist who is still in Baghdad at this time. He told me that the restrictions on journalists now are perhaps tighter than they have been for some time. Each journalist, when they want to go out, has to go out with a government official. Now, they're not being taken to military targets, to sites that the coalition have targeted, inside presidential palaces, in military compounds, in other such tactical installations.

Where journalists are being taken is to see civilian casualties. Either to hospitals, to funerals, or today they were taken to a neighborhood in Baghdad where Iraqi officials said four people were killed and seven were wounded. We don't have independent confirmation of those figures but the restrictions that journalists are operating under from what I am being told now are even tighter than when we were there and before the war when it was mandatory to have a government official with you.

Now it is mandatory, I'm told, even if you're not leaving the hotel, to go out to work, you to have a government official with you -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic, what about the appearance today of Saddam Hussein and his sons on Iraqi television? What, if anything, does that mean?

ROBERTSON: Wolf, we hear the coalition and spokesman for the coalition talking a lot about President Saddam Hussein, where is he? We haven't seen this son. He we haven't seen that son. This appears to be a direct response to that.

Again, we don't know from these pictures whether when they were taken. But what we're definitely being shown and perhaps more importantly what the Iraqi people will read into this because this is what they're saying on their television sets, they're saying President Saddam Hussein with his elder son, Uday Saddam Hussein and this is the first time Uday Saddam Hussein has been seen since the beginning of the war. And let's not forget he's in charge of those Fedayeen fighters that the coalition is talking a lot about, that Iraqi officials are talking about a lot as putting up a lot of resistance.

Also at that table was Qusay Saddam Hussein. Not only in charge militarily of the center of Iraq, Baghdad all the way from the Iranian border to Jordanian border, but also in charge of the Republican Guard units. So by putting all these people on Iraqi television, with President Saddam Hussein sends a very clear message to the Iraqi people, the president is in charge. His sons are behind him. The Fedayeen forces still have their commander. The Republican Guard still has its commander. And the center of Iraq still has its military commander. Therefore the impression is that the leadership is intact at this time -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic Robertson monitoring all these developments in Baghdad for us. Nic, thanks very much.

Baghdad, of course, isn't the only focus of the coalitions energy. In the suburbs of Iraq, southern port city of Basra, British commandos destroyed Iraqi tanks and artillery pieces. The British also say Iraqi paramilitary forces are indiscriminately firing mortars.

And some of the fiercest battles Monday were around the more central Iraqi city of Najaf. Troops from the 82nd Airborne Division engaged significant numbers of Iraqi irregulars near Najaf, killing more than 100 of them.

And elements of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division secured an air field on the outskirts of Najaf without a fight -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Wolf. As you mentioned earlier, coalition warplanes are pounding targets in Baghdad. The air campaign is expected to get even more intense as U.S. and British forces form a tight ring around the capital city.

For more on the air campaign, let's turn to CNN's Bob Franken standing by at an air base near the Iraq border. Good evening, Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Paula. And in fact it is getting more intense. A very steady increase in the number of sorties that have been flown.

The average had been about 1,000 to date. There have been about 18,000 as a matter of fact since the entire campaign began. Well, They went to 1,800 a couple of days ago. And now the last 24 hour reporting period had it at 2,000 sorties. And from the indications here, the constant parade of jets taking off and some landing, it is going to probably grow a bit more.

And of course that seems to be the trend in this particular war. This is sort of the reverse of what the first Gulf War was when it began with very heavy emphasis on the air campaign and then reverted to the ground campaign. This seems to be working the other way.

And much of the air support is aimed not at just bombing Baghdad and other cities, but in providing support for the ground troops. And this particular air base is really a key to that. This is one of the homes of the A-10 anti-tank planes which have become such an important part of this effort. They're constantly flying.

From here behind me is one of their almost assembly line-like maintenance areas where they come in. They're turned around in about 15 minutes, sometimes, and then they go out again.

The problem is that the pace is getting so intense that the people who work the maintenance lines are getting very tired. What are they going to do about it? As one said, we're going suck it up and keep it going. We have a war going here -- Paula.

ZAHN: Guess they don't have many choices, do they? Bob Franken, thanks so much.

Later, some high-profile reporters in hot water. Did Geraldo Rivera show his viewers too much and possibly endanger American troops? Also danger at home.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: I'm Kelli Arena in Washington. I'll tell you how concerned U.S. officials are about the possibility of suicide bombings on U.S. soil.


BLITZER: Syria's responded to pressure from Washington to choose sides in the war with Iraq. Today its foreign minister says his country would back the Iraqi people and characterized the war as an illegal invasion. The United States has accused Syria of selling night vision equipment to Iraq and warned both Syria and Iran against supporting terrorism or face the consequences.

The British embassy in Iran was the scene of a car explosion earlier today. The British Foreign Office says a car filled with gasoline cans crashed through the gate of the embassy in Tehran and blew up. The driver was killed. No one was at the embassy at the time and it is not clear whether it was a suicide bombing attack -- Paula.

ZAHN: All ready, Wolf, a suicide bombing killed four U.S. soldiers in a stark reminder of the many reasons the United States remains on high alert for a potential terror attack.

But how great a threat are such attacks on American soil? Let's turn to our own Justice correspondent Kelli Arena who is in Washington, D.C. tonight. Good evening, Kelli.

ARENA: Good evening, Paula.

Well counterterrorism officials have been warning about the possibility of suicide bombings since the September 11 attacks. But the bombing this weekend in Iraq underscored the very real threat of such an attack on U.S. soil.


ARENA (voice-over): U.S. officials say the suicide car bombing that killed four U.S. soldiers in Iraq underscores the threat of a similar bombing on American soil. Terrance Gainer is responsible for protecting the U.S. capital.

CHIEF TERRANCE GAINER, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: Just watching what is going on in Iraq, how they've attacked our troops lends some credence to the fact of what al Qaeda or other terrorists can do to us.

ARENA: Suicide bombing is not a new threat. But as the war with Iraq intensifies, so does the concern.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Al-Jazeera network and other Arab television have been highlighting civilian casualties in Baghdad, Iraqi civilians who hat have been killed and it is generating high emotions in the Middle East.

ARENA: The FBI has warned state and local law enforcement about the threat and all agree it is nearly impossible to defend against.

GAINER: We've instructed all our officers in the risk of this. We put out bulletins to how to try to identify some of the characteristics of a suicide bomber. And how to respond to that.

ARENA: Other steps include increased security perimeters around possible targets, more random searches of vehicles going into building garages and over bridges. And perhaps most important, officials are urging public vigilance.

TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY SECY.: I think here is where the public's awareness, the public's alertness, its sensitivity to its own surroundings could be of assistance.

ARENA: But as evidenced this past weekend in Israel, even the most alert society will fall prey to suicide bombers.


ARENA: Now that's because they typically act alone. There is usually no advance intelligence, no warning and they have a very high success rate -- Paula.

ZAHN: Kelli Arena, thanks.

Chilling words coming out of Lebanon today where Arab men are actually volunteering to go to Iraq and do whatever it takes to kill Americans, and their families are supporting them. Here is part of the sound we translated from interviews with people on the streets of Lebanon.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Two of them. They're going to Iraq.

QUESTION (through translator): You have two sons going to Iraq?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes. I have two.

QUESTION (through translator): Do you encourage them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes. I encourage them. I love you all. I love all of them. They're going fight for their country and the Arab nation. May god destroy colonialism and may god destroy America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): My brother went to Iraq. He arrived there, and god willing my other brother is on the way to fight for Muslims and the Iraqis. He's been there for about ten days now. He did not call, but we know that he arrived.


ZAHN: One Lebanese man said all mothers should encourage their sons to go to Iraq with the intent to die for the Arab people. Not what military planners want to hear right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's all pretty scary stuff, pretty chilling. Whether it is the war on Iraq or protect the United States against terrorism, President Bush is making the case that the fight is one and the same. He took his argument on the road today to Philadelphia and remains supremely confident about its outcome.

Our senior White House correspondent John King is joining us live with more -- John.

JOHN KING, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the president never mentioned the criticism, never mentioned the skeptic. Those who are calling in to he can the U.S. war plan, but three times in less than a minute, the president used the term just 11 days to say the ground offensive in Iraq was just under way. The president said in his view the troops were performing brilliantly, the Coalition forces were making steady progress.

His audience in Philadelphia was more than 700 members of the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard traditionally protects the U.S. coastline, something all the more important now because of the focus on the terrorist threat here at home and homeland security. But the Coast Guard also has a modest role in "Operation Iraqi Freedom." So Mr. Bush speaking on the one hand about Coast Guard operations overseas, on the other hand about efforts to protect Americans here at home. The president making the case all the more so now it is very much the same fight.


BUSH: The dying regime in Iraq may try to bring terror to our shore shores. Other parts of the global terror network may view this as a moment to strike, thinking that we're distracted. They're wrong.


KING: The president also tried to rebut those who were questioning why more Iraqi are not pouring into the streets and welcoming coalition forces. Many senior Bush administration officials and advisers had predicted a much more welcome environment than we have seen in the pictures coming out of Iraq so far. But Mr. Bush said it was repression, not resentment of the U.S. Forces, but repression from the Saddam Hussein regime that was keeping the Iraqis from being more openly welcome of the U.S. and British forces inside Iraq. Mr. Bush said he had a message to the Iraqi people that the U.S. and British forces would not give up until Saddam Hussein was gone from power.


BUSH: I give this pledge to the citizens of Iraq. Where he coming with a mighty force to end the reign of your oppressors. We are coming to bring you food and medicine and a better life. And we are coming and we will not stop, we will not relent until your country is free.


KING: Again, not once did the president specifically mention the critics and the skeptics of the war plan in that speech, but he clearly had them in mind. Mr. Bush at one point saying he's been watching the war very closely and in his view the acts so far has been decisive -- Wolf.

BLITZER: John King at White House. Thanks, John, very much.

Up next, an important story that isn't related to the war in Iraq. We'll get an update on that dangerous new respiratory disease called SARS.

And later, new pictures but the same old questions. Is Saddam Hussein still alive?

Stay with us.


ZAHN: Some new details and new cases are emerging about that severe flu-like disease. Health officials are concerned that SARS or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, is even more contagious than they first thought. In Hong Kong they have sealed off an entire apartment complex where 92 new cases were found. So far, nearly 60 people have died from this mysterious illness.

Let's turn to Elizabeth Cohen who is standing at CNN center with more details on this story.

First off, are officials any closer to understanding what causes this illness?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Paula, in fact they are much closer. They think that, at the CDC, they think this virus is caused by something called a corona virus, that a strain of virus -- a strain of the corona they have never seen before.


COHEN (voice-over): In Hong Kong, doctors descend upon an apartment complex, quarantining 241 residents. In Singapore, they've shut down some schools. In Canada, they've also had quarantines and some high school students wear masks. All because of a disease no one had even heard of until about a month ago. It's called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now the disease continues to expand internationally. We're seeing more cases in Asia and a few more cases in the United States. Our concern is that it can be spread very efficiently like most common respiratory viruses so it could get much worse before it gets better.

COHEN: However, so far that has not happened in the United States. Of the 62 Americans who had it, almost all had traveled to a country where SARS is rampant. There has been very little spread of the disease in the U.S. and no deaths.

So why hasn't it spread in the U.S. like it has in other countries?

One major reason, the centers for disease control has been handing out cards to people flying in from SARS-affected countries, telling them if they get a fever and a cough, they may have to be isolated. There has been a call to go further. An editorial Monday in the "Wall Street Journal" argued, "The most effective way to halt the spread of the disease would be for other countries to suspend all travel links with China." So far that hasn't happened. Although the CDC does recommend travelers consider postponing trips to mainland China, as well as, to Singapore, Hong Kong and Vietnam.

The CDC says they may be zeroing in on the cause of SARS, a never before seen strain of a virus that also causes common colds. And that gives them reason for optimism. Also the fact that even though there is no treatment for SARS, most people recover. Worldwide about 3.5 percent of SARS patients have died, including Dr. Carlo Urbani, the World Health Organization doctor who first identified the disease. He was 46. And one of the great mysteries of SARS is that those who die are often, like him, young and healthy.


COHEN: Now, as I mentioned, most people in the United States who have gotten SARS got it abroad in another country while they were traveling. Only five people got it who did not travel, and those five people lived with people who had traveled. Another two doctors got the disease when they were taking care of SARS patients -- Paula.

ZAHN: So, Elizabeth what is the bottom line for those of us that haven't traveled outside of this country?

What are our chances of getting this?

COHEN: Well, CDC folks will tell you your chances are very, very low. If you haven't traveled to one of those countries or you're not connected, you're not in contact with someone who has traveled to one of those countries, you are most likely in perfectly fine shape. Most likely you are probably never going to get SARS. Again, the people who get SARS are those who travel or those who are in close contact with those who have traveled -- Paula. ZAHN: Well, at least you got some folks breathing a sigh of relief out there. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks very much.

COHEN: Thanks.

ZAHN: For those of you just tuning in we are going to update the hours head lines in a minute. And then some picture that got the whole worlds attentions, but didn't answer many question in the process. And journalist Peter Arnett won't be asking questions for a while because of some answers he gave on Iraqi TV. We'll explain why.



ZAHN: And welcome back. Heavy allied bombing over Baghdad knocked Iraqi TV off the air for several hours today. It later returned with what it claims was some new video of Saddam Hussein meeting with his two sons. U.S. officials say it doesn't prove Saddam or his sons are alive, well, or even injured. And they say new intelligence reinforces earlier belief that Saddam was in the leadership bunker heavily bombed in that decapitation strike the first night of the war.

Other reports indicate family members of very senior Iraqi officials might be trying to flee the country, while so far the people of Iraq are making no mass exodus from their country. Does this indicate strong support for Saddam Hussein or deep Iraq patriotism?

Let's ask two Iraqi women with very different opinions on this war. Both are living in the United States and both with families in Iraq. Rend Rahim Francke is the executive director of The Iraqi Foundation. She joins us tonight, along with Intissar Alkafaji. She chairs the National Association of Arab Businesswomen.

Thank you very much for joining us. Good to see both of you. Renn, I'm going to start with you tonight. Tell us, when is the last time you had contact with any of your family in Iraq?

REND RAHIM FRANCKE, THE IRAQI FOUNDATION: We had contact with members of the family about five days ago. And at that time we understand that they were well. It is not easy to make contact, and it has not been possible since then.

ZAHN: What do they tell you about living through this long period of bombing?

RAHIM FRANCKE: You know it is very difficult to talk for any length of time. And everybody says the same thing, that bombing is frightening, that bombing terrifies them. They don't know what is going to happen. They see the fires and so on.

So they live in this constant state of anxiety. And in addition to that, they're terrorized by all the regime's agents that control the cities that hold them hostage in their houses so that people can't actually get out of the city. There is -- there are Fedayeen; there are Ba'ath militias roaming the streets, manning checkpoints at street corners. So in addition to the fear of war, there is also the terror that Saddam imposes upon the civilians.

ZAHN: Now Intissar, Rend believes that in spite of this bombing, and in spite some of the civilian deaths we have seen, that war is the right thing to do to get rid of Saddam Hussein. Tell us why you and your other family members are so opposed to this?

INTISSAR ANN ALKAFAJI, OPPOSES WAR IN IRAQ: We're so opposed to this war, Paula, for many reasons. One of the reasons is that we have never really pursued our options for peace before attempting to go ahead and bomb the city of Baghdad and the rest of Iraq.

The people of Iraq -- if we can imagine for one moment New York, the city of New York being bombed constantly for the past 12 days, you have women, you have children that are living in Baghdad and all over Iraq, but specifically Baghdad, where my family is.

I have a niece that is four years old. I was there visiting them last December. I was talking to them just three days ago, and they were telling me about what has happened to her when first the bomb started. She cried so hard, they thought, you know, something happened to her because there was no sound coming out of her.

You have children in Iraq. When we go ahead and throw those precision bombs, and you have shopping centers that are being hit, with the so-called precision bombs, how can anybody condone this war? How can I support this war? And...

ZAHN: Intissar, let me ask you this: Do you think your family members are better off with Saddam Hussein in power or better off without him gone? And I need about a 10-second response, because I've got to give Rend a chance to chime in here.

ALKAFAJI: Paula, this is really not the issue that we have to be concerned about. This is for the Iraqi people to determine. The Iraqi people are the ones who are -- who can say who their president would be or would not be? It is not for me.

I am an Iraqi-American. I have been here for three years. Can I finish?


ZAHN: Rend, jump in here.

RAHIM FRANCKE: Yes. I think the Iraqi people are infinitely better off without Saddam Hussein. They have lived in a nightmare, in a concentration camp for 35 years. They have tried many times to get rid of Saddam Hussein. It is not as if they've never tried.

They're not content with this regime. They want to get ritt of it. They have not been able to. And by the way, it is not true that Saddam was not given peaceful options. For 12 years Saddam had peaceful options.

ALKAFAJI: So why now -- Rend, why now? Why now? Why did we wait for 12 years? Why did we...

RAHIM FRANCKE: Because the U.N. Security Council gave him an ultimatum.


ALKAFAJI: But why did Rumsfeld in 1980 (ph) give him the weapons of mass destruction?

RAHIM FRANCKE: This ultimatum expired in November. There was an ultimatum that Saddam did not comply with. The world is not going to wait for Saddam to play games with it.

ALKAFAJI: And what is happening all over the world right now? What is happening all over the world right now?

ZAHN: All right. Rend, hang on. Let's just Rend finish her quick thought. And then, Intissar, you get the last word -- Rend.

RAHIM FRANCKE: What I want to say is Saddam has killed Iraqis for 35 years. Iraqis have lived in a terror regime. And the world gave Saddam Hussein an ultimatum on November 8th. He forfeited every chance of peace that he has had.

ZAHN: All right. Rend, we have to leave it there with you.

RAHIM FRANCKE: Enough is enough. Iraqis need to be freed.

ZAHN: Intissar, you get the last word.

ALKAFAJI: I don't think it is for us as Americans to dictate to other people of the world who their leader should be or should not be. We cannot liberate the people of Iraq all the way to heaven, which where he doing right now by bombing them constantly for over 12 days.

And we did that to them. We have decimated the entire country of Iraq and the people of Iraq for the past 12 years. 1.5 million Iraqi people have died, and we sat down without doing anything.

Now we think let's go ahead and decimate them more. This is wrong. War never solves anything. You know the American people...

ZAHN: Intissar and Rend -- sorry to cut both of you off, because we really need to move on. You clearly are entitled to both of your opinions, and we really appreciate your dropping by to share your views with us tonight. Rend Francke and Intissar Alkafaji, again, thanks. Back to Wolf now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Paula. Very strongly felt opinions, but those opinions are being played out around the United States.

Let's go to Voorhees, New Jersey right now. That's where there's a rally underway. A pro-troops rally, but specifically for one of the American POWs, one of seven POWs, Sergeant James Riley. He was with the 507th Maintenance Company that was captured on March 23rd. He's 31 years old, has served in the U.S. Army for 13 years. He's the oldest of the seven American POWs. People in Voorhees, New Jersey expressing their strong support for him, hoping he'll be freed soon. Also expressing their strong support for U.S. troops serving in the Gulf.

We'll continue our discussion of what is happening in Iraq. Is Saddam Hussein in or out? That's coming up in the next hour. Our David Ensor will explore new intelligence on the possible fate of the Iraqi leader. But coming up next, the baiting game on the battlefield.


BLITZER: Coalition forces are engaged in a deadly game of cat and mouse with Iraq's Republican Guard. U.S. and British troops want to draw them out of urban areas so they can fight without hurting Iraqi civilians. But the elite guard has a home field advantage if it stays hidden.

For a look now at how military commanders plan on dealing with this kind of strategy, let's bring in CNN's Renay San Miguel. He's in the CNN newsroom in Atlanta -- Renay.

RENAY SAN MIGUEL, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Wolf. There is indeed a high-stakes game of "I dare you" going on about 60 miles south of Baghdad. Here to talk about the baiting game and the tactics involved here is our military analyst, retired Army General David Grange.

General, thanks for being with us. Bear with me while I show our viewers exactly the area that we're talking about here. It is about 60 miles south of Baghdad, a town called Hillah, just east of Karbala. And it is on the leading edge of the coalitions push to Baghdad.

So, General, just how important is it for the coalition to play this just right and not be drawn into this area, and not be drawn into the urban warfare combat?

GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Renay, this is all about positional advantage. It is all about trying to create an advantage when you're at a disadvantage. There is an old infantry saying, Renay, that's "Dirt is a combat multiplier." Dirt, it's an infantryman's friend.

Well, in this case, to the Iraqi military, urban areas, built up areas, houses, buildings are a combat multiplier, and it enables their survivability and their capability to fight coalition forces much greater than if they're in the open desert. So of course they're going to use built up areas, and it is going to be tough to draw them out.

SAN MIGUEL: And you would think, though, that the coalition with troops that are better trained, better equipped, with better artillery and the helicopters and planes to provide the close air support, that they would have the advantage in urban combat. So what is it about Hillah that kind of levels the playing field out specifically for the Republican Guard there?

GRANGE: Well, if you knew exactly where the Republican Guard units were, let's say a particular block of buildings or a certain factory, whatever the case may be, yes, the coalition forces are better trained at urban fighting. The advantage that the Iraqi troops have is that they're dispersed throughout the city, mixed with civilians, and they know the neighborhood.

SAN MIGUEL: They know the neighborhood, they know where the historic buildings are, where the mosques are, which the coalition are trying to avoid as well, right?

GRANGE: Exactly.

SAN MIGUEL: And also the height of the buildings, the width of the streets that we're talking about. We have some animation that we're going to run to show what urban combat in Iraq might look like. But the height of the buildings, you know the roofs and the widths of the streets can make a big difference?

GRANGE: It makes a big difference. Also, below the street, the subterranean structures, where they have the sewage, the gas lines, electric lines, a lot of those passageways are big enough for people. If you look back at urban battle throughout history, beneath the roads, beneath the buildings is a big battle going on there as well.

So it is beneath the street, on the street, and above the street, with multiple story buildings made of different construction materials, wood, concrete, brick. Different ballistic effects from knew missions fired by either side, a lot of smoke, a lot of confusion. And, of course, the big multiplier, the big concern is civilians on the battlefield.

SAN MIGUEL: The Medina Division has been hammered pretty hard by coalition airstrikes. Tell me what you know about this particular division of the Republican Guard and whether or not they may be close to the breaking point. And this indeed may be their last stand here in Hillah.

GRANGE: Well, the coalition force hopefully will know how to figure out if they're close to the breaking point. The better trained an organization is, the more losses they can absorb and still not break. And in this case, the Republican Guard divisions are better trained than some of the other Iraqi forces. Not their special forces, but their regular army units.

And so that has an effect. And it's going to be tough to determine. But I would say that below 50 percent probably now. But to know that takes a little -- probably a little more information gathering.

SAN MIGUEL: They're going to have to just draw them out and see just how degraded they are. General David Grange, retired Army general, thanks so much for your time. We do appreciate it.

GRANGE: Thank you, Renay. SAN MIGUEL: That's the latest from the military desk. Wolf, back over to you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Renay. Thanks to General Grange as well.

Coming up, we'll take you to northern Iraq, where our Ben Wedeman brings you face to face with Iraqi deserters.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CAIRO BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): For weeks we've been watching Iraqi soldiers manning their front line positions. And now we finally met some.


BLITZER: And later, two well known war correspondents were reporting from inside Iraq: Geraldo Rivera and Peter Arnett. Now they've had their wings clipped. We'll tell you what they did wrong. Stay with us.


ZAHN: Welcome back. A number of Iraqi troops are deserting their posts on the battlefield and are telling harrowing stories of being forced to fight. CNN's Ben Wedeman talked with some of them and brings us this report.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): For weeks, we've been watching Iraqi soldiers manning their front line positions. And now, we finally met some. Five Shiite recruits from southern Iraq, deserters, surprisingly young men afraid to show their faces on camera. Afraid to tell us their names for fear of retribution against their families.

After almost a week of hellish coalition air bombardment, they abandoned their positions just before sunrise Monday and fled to Kurdish-controlled territory. "We ran away from the bombing," says one. "For six days we were bombed. For six days we couldn't sleep. We had to save our lives."

After seeing too many comrades killed and wounded, they decided enough was enough. This soldier told me more troops would like to flee, but government execution squads have strict orders to kill all would-be deserters. Their officers confiscated their radios, so they didn't know U.S. and British forces had invaded their country. But the sudden, intense bombing said it all.

I asked if they had received training in chemical warfare. "No," replied one, "but we were recently given gas masks." These men will be handed over to the Red Cross and will have to keep their faces hidden until this conflict ends. Ben Wedeman, CNN, Kalak, northern Iraq.


ZAHN: Still to come tonight, Geraldo is on his way out of the Gulf region. We'll tell you why. But first, some of the most striking images of the day from The Associated Press.


BLITZER: We're getting late word tonight that Geraldo Rivera may not be kicked out of Iraq after all. Originally, the Central Command said the veteran Fox News correspondent was being expelled because he compromised the location of the unit he's been embedded with. Now a spokesman from the Central Command is saying -- and I'm quoting -- "Frankly, we have bigger and more important things to do."

During a live broadcast, Geraldo drew a map in the sand showing the location of the unit in relation to Baghdad. He says he's not aware he's being expelled, but says if so, it is because some bitter former colleagues of his at MSNBC blew the whistle on him.


GERALDO RIVERA, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: It sounds to me like some rats at my former network, NBC, are spreading some lies about me. You know they can't compete fair and square on the battlefield, so they're trying to stab me in the back. It is not the first time.


BLITZER: The Central Command on the other hand says Rivera is being kicked out of Iraq because "he gave away the big picture stuff." All of this now under review, whether or not Geraldo stays or goes. We'll continue to monitor that front on the story.

Meanwhile, another veteran war correspondent is being fired for his controversial conduct in Iraq. NBC is terminating freelancer Peter Arnett for statements he made to the Iraqi media. We showed you those statements yesterday. You'll recall how Arnett said the coalition's first war plan had failed because of Iraqi resistance. Today, he appeared on NBC's "Today" show and he said he was sorry.


ARNETT: I want to apologize to the American people for clearly making a misjudgment over the weekend by giving an interview to Iraqi television. Now I said in that interview essentially what we all know about the war. There have been delays in implementing policy, there has been surprises.

But clearly, by giving that interview to Iraqi television, I created a firestorm in the United States. And for that I am truly sorry.


BLITZER: Arnett had been covering the war for "National Geographic," which also fired him, as TV reports were given exclusively to NBC and MSNBC. We're getting late word in from London now that the tabloid "The Daily Mirror" has just hired Peter Arnett to be its correspondent in Baghdad.

But the question remains: Did Peter Arnett and Geraldo Rivera cross the line, or were they within their rights as reporters? We pose that question to Michael Wolf. He's a contributing editor for "New Yorker" magazine. He's a media columnist and has an important article in the new issue of "New Yorker."

He's joining us now live from Qatar. What do you say to the question, Michael?

MICHAEL WOLFF, "NEW YORKER" MAGAZINE: Well, you know I think I'm going to -- there is nothing you can say about what Peter did. Peter made an enormous blunder. But nevertheless, let me take a second to, if not excuse him, try to explain what might have happened here. Because, you know, quite honestly, I think the world needs more Peter Arnetts rather than fewer.

Peter was in Baghdad, he was not an employee of NBC. He was actually, I think -- I mean you can imagine entirely alone, entirely working on his own. The kind of ultimate freelancer, completely exhausted. And I think he got himself into a situation in which he made a horrendous mistake. And that is it, I think.

As for Geraldo...

BLITZER: Was "National Geographic"...

WOLFF: Well, I don't know.

BLITZER: Let me just pick up on Peter for a second. Was NBC and "National Geographic" right to fire him?

WOLFF: Probably. Well, I mean I think you have to go back there and just make the slight distinction that they never really hired him. But, yes, I think at this point they have no choice. They have to say, yes, this was a big mistake and, you know, we've got to sever our connection, yes.

BLITZER: And what about Geraldo?

WOLFF: Well, you know in this -- this is a moment in which the whole world seems like a mess, but the whole world seems like it is going to hell. But suddenly you have Geraldo doing a Geraldo thing, and for a moment you kind of feel like at least -- at least with Geraldo, everything somehow remains the same.

BLITZER: You know because the first thing they teach you when you go out with these units as an embedded journalist is you have to protect operational security, specifically future war plans. And when drawing that little diagram, he seemed to be suggesting to anyone who might be watching where that unit might be heading next, risking potentially not only the lives of the troops he's covering, but his own life as well. WOLFF: It is also worth pointing out that Fox News has accused Peter Arnett of being a traitor, and it is their reporter who has given away the positions of U.S. troops. But at the same time, I mean, I think we are so used to seeing Geraldo grandstanding that this is -- you know, this is a kind of set piece of this particular media event.

BLITZER: I enjoyed reading your last piece. We'll be watching you in Qatar. You've been asking some tough questions of the briefers over there. Michael Wolff, thanks for joining us.

Paula, this media controversy I don't think is going to go away.


Republican Guard Has Home Field Advantage if it Stays Hidden; Did Peter Arnett, Geraldo Rivera Cross the Line?>

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