CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
War in Iraq: Is U.S. Military Prepared for Battle for Baghdad?
Aired March 31, 2003 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
AARON BROWN, HOST: Good evening again, everyone. We begin with the story lines we expect will run through the next few hours of our coverage. There are tonight continuing questions about whether the force in place is big enough for the battles that lie ahead in Baghdad.
There is renewed focus on the fate of Saddam Hussein and his sons with the release of yet another tape by Iraqi TV, and there's the struggle on the ground to cope with the guerilla tactics of Iraqis. An incident today making it terribly clear the challenge that coalition forces, the Americans and the British, are facing in separating the innocent from the enemy. Some of the broad strokes. Now we start filling in the picture.
BROWN (voice-over): Bombs fell once again on the Iraqi capital. But as spectacular as the explosions looked, American military planners say it's what we can't see that is most effective. Over the weekend, they say thousands and thousands of bombs fell on Iraqi units across the country.
MAJ. GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTOL, JOINT STAFF DEPUTY DIRECTOR: We are seeing significant degradation of those forces. I won't put an exact number on it, but I'll say very significant weakening of the forces.
BROWN: While the main American forces, the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, and a large element of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Unit remain generally in place south of Baghdad, individual squadrons were engaged in what were described as pitch battles near the town of Hillah and Hindiya (ph). Speaking in Philadelphia, the president was upbeat on the war's progress.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Many dangers lie ahead. But day by day we are moving closer to Baghdad. Day by day we are moving closer to victory.
BROWN: In Najaf, where there's been some fierce fighting, American troops opened fire on a van which did not shop stop at a checkpoint. Seven Iraqi women and children died. This, in an aftermath of a bombing of a suicide bombing over the weekend, when four American soldiers died at a similar checkpoint.
To the south in Nasiriya, Marines went on patrol house to house; a foreshadowing perhaps of what things might be like in Baghdad one day. With language that to some is eerily familiar from past wars.
LT. TROY GARLOCK, U.S. MARINES: What we're trying to do is also win the hearts and the minds of the people. We're not here to totally, you know -- I mean what the Marines are known for with force, brute force, and take everything out. We also want to show the other side. That we're here to also help restore and help set a base for Iraq and for especially Nasiriya.
BROWN: Inside Nasiriya, Al-Jazeera Television broadcast these pictures of civilian casualties of the war. And for one of the first times, Iraqi television showed some of its troops, accompanied by uplifting music. All this, while Iraqi officials publicly called on American soldiers to surrender.
Coalition surrender was the furthest thing from the minds of this American Special Forces unit outside Basra. CNN's Mike Boettcher was allowed to show how the noise of tanks and American planes was a trick, a strategy called psychological operations, psyops.
MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Their strategy: Add one special operations Humvee with a loud speaker mounted on top to one British tank and four armored vehicles. And suddenly this tiny force sounds like an invading division.
BROWN: In the daylight, British columns maintained an uneasy control over Basra. More pictures of Saddam Hussein were pulverized, and more trucks filled with badly needed water arrived. But it was air power and the destruction it delivered that American commanders were counting on to shape the battlefield, as they say, to eliminate as much of Iraq's ground capability before the Army and the Marines move in.
BROWN: That's the big picture of the day. We'll start putting the little pieces together so they form that picture. In this hour, we'll talk to author Steven Brill, we'll talk to investigative reporter Sy Hirsch (ph), who has written a piece of the details of what he has found significant disagreements between the civilian leadership at the Pentagon and some war planners over the size of the force and the nature of the resistance.
And of course General Wesley Clark joins us as well tonight. So we have a lot to take care of.
It is this incident at this checkpoint, though, where seven Iraqi civilians died that is cause so many questions to be raised. So we begin there and we go to the Pentagon and our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre.
Jamie, originally, I saw a report that says warning shots were fired. And then I read a "Washington Post" from a reporter who seemed to be right there suggesting they were not. Do we know the answer to that?
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: No, we don't. All we have at this point, because we don't have any eyewitnesses at the scene, is the official U.S. military version of events. They claim it's one of those tragic accidents of war, that makes it so much harder to win the hearts and minds of civilians.
According to the U.S. version of events, soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division fired on a civilian vehicle carrying 10 women and children, killing seven of them. They say this happened at a checkpoint near Najaf, which is very close to where that other incident happened.
A release from the U.S. Central Command said the soldiers manning the checkpoint motioned for the vehicle to stop but were ignored by the driver. The soldiers fired warning shots, which were also ignored by the driver, and then fired shots into the engine, before finally firing shots into the vehicle.
Again, U.S. soldiers and Marines in that area are on very strict alert for possible car bombs. Something that was alluded to tonight by the nation's number two military officer, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Peter Pace.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. PETER PACE, USMC JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Certainly the soldiers on the ground will be very keenly aware of the people coming toward them. If they're wearing civilian clothes, they will not assume that those are really civilians. If they're driving a vehicle, they will not assume that that vehicle a friendly vehicle. They're going to be careful, as they should be, to protect themselves and their comrades on the battlefield.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCINTYRE: Again, this comes after the incident on Saturday in which a taxi carrying a car bomb exploded at a nearby checkpoint to where this one was, killing four Americans. Again, an investigation is underway, and the Pentagon says that they will be looking at all the aspects of this. But they do say that initial reports indicate the soldiers responded in accordance to the rules of engagement for self-defense -- Aaron.
BROWN: And again, just in this area where they are now, and this happens in the fog of war, as they say, "The Washington Post" is reporting in a very -- I must say a very vivid account, as if the reporter were standing right next to the captain of this unit and he yells out to his troops through the radio to fire warning shots and fire warning shots, and in this account, no warning shot was fired. Though that, too, is a little hazy. It does show the tension, I guess, that we now find after the car bombing of the other day.
MCINTYRE: Well, and that's true. And of course the other thing is they didn't find any evidence of any kind of a bomb or a threat in this vehicle. So it's -- without having the benefit of any eyewitness report, one of the questions that you have to wonder about is why would a vehicle of women and children approach a checkpoint like that and ignore warning shots, especially something that would be as clear as a shot to the engine, which is what one of the press releases said?
MCINTYRE: So this is something I think that will just have to be sorted out by investigators.
BROWN: Jamie, thank you very much. Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon, thank you very much.
As we said, it was another day of relentless airstrikes on Baghdad, and particularly around Baghdad, hitting Republican Guard positions outside the city. This is central to the strategy of this next week, as to weaken those Republican Guard units that surround Baghdad, 50 miles or so outside Baghdad, before moving into the city.
The day also brought some new images of Saddam Hussein into play. Nic Robertson joins us from Jordan. He is close to the border with Iraq. Nic, it's good to see you again. Good morning from there.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning and good evening to you, as well. I spoke to some reporters in Baghdad just around about midnight. And although they've had a couple of very loud explosions close to the hotel, they say they've been able to see what they suspect are some presidential palace areas being targeted. Most of the night seems to have been somewhat quieter. At least in the center of Baghdad than the previous night.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect to the day was President Saddam Hussein appearing on television with his two sons. The first time we've seen all three of them on television together since the war began. No indication when this particular picture was taken, but very interesting.
Sitting on his left-hand side, his elder son, Uday Saddam Hussein. He is in charge of the Fedayeen forces. Next to Uday, Qusay Saddam Hussein, the younger son of the president. He is in charge of the Republican Guard and that whole central swathe of Iraq from the Iranian border right over to the Jordanian border here.
A clear message for the Iraqi people, regardless of when this particular piece of video was shot. A clear message to the Iraqi people that the commanders of the Fedayeen, the commanders of the Republican Guard, the president himself still there, still firmly in control of the country. That is very much the message we've heard from the information minister as well, Mohammad Al-Sahaf, focusing today in his daily briefing on those volunteer volunteers, trying to emphasize that Iraq is relying on its volunteers at the moment, not the conscript army.
He talked about the Fedayeen fighters, he talked about the Ba'ath Party volunteer fighters, he talked about the tribesman. He also said that, as far as the forces in Iraq were concerned, they were not going to give the coalition forces a break. They were not going to let them sleep. Indeed, he said that they had some of the coalition surrounded in some areas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOHAMMAD SAEED AL SAHAF, IRAQI INFORMATION MINISTER (through translator): Our people headed by Fedayeen Saddam and our fighters and the Ba'ath Party fighters and the tribesmen, they started to find and discover these shelters of refuge or points.
QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) have conducted their own search of this and have discovered these shelters.
AL SAHAF: And now about three to four of these points now are surrounded. So some parts of the neck is being cut off. And one of those points was destroyed yesterday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: Perhaps one of the other points about President Saddam Hussein appearing on television, Aaron, is that despite the Iraqi TV station being knocked off the air by coalition forces a couple of times, it is now back up and running again, despite the coalition's best efforts -- Aaron.
BROWN: Is there in your part of the world, in the Arab world, this debate that seems almost daily in our part of the world about whether Saddam is, in fact, alive? Or is it generally accepted over there that he is alive and in charge?
ROBERTSON: It seems to be much more an accepted fact. The focus of a lot of the coverage around the Arab region is more on the civilians in Iraq and the suffering that they're having in the south, in the humanitarian crisis in Baghdad, the loss of life. That's where the focus tends to lie.
The attention is not really being turned on President Saddam Hussein, whether or not he's alive. At least the assumption seems to be that, if he's there on television, then he is still a force to be reckoned with -- Aaron.
BROWN: Nic, thank you. Nic Robertson near the border between Jordan and Iraq. Thank you.
Each day at about this moment we try and step back and let the sights and sounds of the day to do the talking. Najaf was also the scene of some of the most intense ground fighting in Iraq today. So here is some of what it looked like and sounded like.
In the early days of this war now, a week-and-a-half old, this is a city, Najaf, that's become an important place for the coalition to gain control. It helps keep the supply lines free for the forces who have been trying to get control there. It has not always been an easy task.
That includes members of the 101st Airborne, who rushed in to capture an airfield there early this morning. CNN's Ryan Chilcote filed this report a short time later.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A busy day for the 101st Airborne. Elements of the 101st Airborne 1st Brigade, also known as the Bastone Brigade, have gotten into the division's first fight, moving forces into the outskirts of the city of Najaf, a city in central Iraq very dear to Shia Muslims.
Now the 1st Brigade's 3rd Battalion took the airfield where I am right now earlier in the day. They took it without a fight and they took it without casualties. It is very important. The strip here, two miles long, can now facilitate U.S. helicopters and it can also facilitate U.S. military transport planes. Military commanders already talking about how they would like to use this airstrip to move humanitarian aid into the city of Najaf.
Now Najaf has been a problem for U.S. forces. There was a car bombing here just a few days ago that killed four U.S. servicemen. In general, this is a place that the U.S. military regards as a safe haven for Fedayeen fighters. Fedayeen fighters being the paramilitary group that is very loyal to President Saddam Hussein. They say they've come to this area to now safeguard it for U.S. forces.
Ryan Chilcote, CNN, in Najaf, Iraq.
BROWN: And, again, it is not far from there that there was the incident today where the civilians were shot at the checkpoint.
Moving south now to Nasiriya, where the Marines are hunting for the man known at "Chemical Ali," the southern Iraqi commander accused of gassing the Kurds now 15 years ago. And Marines went on patrol in the city itself. The scene of sometimes fierce fighting almost since the war began. They seem to be acting both as warriors and good will ambassadors.
CNN's Alessio Vinci went along.
ALESSIO VINCI, CNN ROME BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): A week ago, this area of Nasiriya was a firing zone. The so-called "Ambush Alley," where several Marines lost their lives in a fierce battle. Today, it is under the control of U.S. troops who have begun foot patrols.
LT. TROY GARLOCK, U.S. MARINE: Now basically we're trying to win the hearts and the minds of the people. We're not here to totally, you know -- I mean what the Marines are known for with force, brute force, and take everything out. We also want to show the other side. That we're here to also help restore and help set a base for Iraq and for especially Nasiriya.
VINCI: The first patrol began early in the morning, with Marines walking in tight formation, weapons trained (ph) on anything that moved. A civilian who approached the patrol handed over a letter he wanted to send to Washington to President George W. Bush. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It says "I'd like to have an appointment to meet you, sir. And this is a very important matter that can make all the people here happy."
VINCI: Others had less ambitious requests. They asked for water, food. The Marines say water and electricity will soon be restored, and food from nearby warehouses will be distributed.
(on camera): This section of the city at this time of day is largely deserted. And the few people who do come out in the streets appear to be largely sympathetic to U.S. Marines here.
(voice-over): Many civilians say they need the presence of U.S. troops. Some are in particular need of medical attention. Three- month-old Dahara (ph) was treated for mild diarrhea and an eye infection. A man identified as an Iraqi combatant told Marines he was wounded two days ago when his group of 15 came under helicopter gun ship attack. He says he is the only survivor.
STAFF SGT. ANTHONY GOODWIN, U.S. MARINE: Obviously we're trying to look at the overall picture. Trying to be as humane as possible. That's our goal. We want these people to know that we're here to help them, but it makes it difficult when the Iraqi military does what they do and (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
VINCI (on camera): People confirm that pockets of paramilitary combatants remain in town and threatened civilians.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But not see him, because he is dressed like to me. I can't see him. He is dressed like to me, and he comes -- tonight, he can kill me and my family.
VINCI (voice-over): So in this one little corner of Iraq people seem to feel safe enough to speak freely, but not too freely. Alessio Vinci, CNN with the U.S. Marines in Nasiriya, Iraq.
BROWN: It's a city we've heard about for a week, and we finally start to get a good look at it. So much was made of Shock and Awe, the idea of the massive bombardment that would shake the Iraqi government to the core. It's easy to forget that you don't always need bombs to create shock and awe.
The latest now on the psychological war that is being fought from CNN's Mike Boettcher, who is embedded with the Special Forces.
MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When the sun sets over Basra, and the temperature cools, the war heats up. Or does it? U.S. Special Operations Forces consider themselves a force multiplier, and tonight they will literally be.
Their strategy: Add one special operations Humvee with a loud speaker mounted on top to one British tank and four armored vehicles, and suddenly this tiny force sounds like an invading division. It is called psychological operations, or psyops; part of the U.S. Special Forces repertoire.
Their speaker blares the music of disinformation and confusion, broadcast at air-splitting decibels. The audiotape of recorded tank sounds plays for more than an hour. A show meant for the ears of Iraqi forces in Basra a short distance away.
Adding to the realism, flares are fired to illuminate Iraqi positions. And British tanks fire occasional rounds at Iraqi targets. The man orchestrating the racket, a 50-year-old special operations veteran who calls this war his last rodeo, turns the speaker in several directions to add to the illusion of a massive frontal attack. Occasionally, Iraqi combatants fire back with mortars, machine guns and artillery.
The coalition hopes this grand deception will force the Iraqis to move troops where they don't need to be moved, make them look where they don't need to look. Around Basra, the battlefield has become a true twilight zone, where fact and fiction are indistinguishable in the inky blackness of a moonless night.
Mike Boettcher, CNN, with U.S. Special Operations Forces on the outskirts of Basra.
BROWN: OK. A few of the day's puzzle pieces on the table now. We'll go to Washington D.C., where General Wesley Clark, retired, a former NATO supreme commander joins us. General, it's good to have you with us, as always.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It's good to be with you, Aaron.
BROWN: A couple of things that have come up. Let's work through three of them. The friendly fire -- or rather the civilian casualty incident is going to get enormous play around the world, including the United States. The cost of war?
CLARK: Well, it is, but it's set up by the terrorist attack yesterday at Najaf. And this is what happens when troops try to get standoff. What you have in a terrorist attack is not so much the losses, but it's the change in the method of operation which raised the risk to civilians in order to increase the protection level of the force.
This is all perfectly justifiable and in view of the laws of land combat. But tragic consequences can occur, nevertheless. What you have is two conflicting principles. On the one hand, noncombatants shouldn't be targeted and should be spared the cost of war. And on the other hand, the soldiers have the right to protect themselves.
And so when terrorism strikes, soldiers get the distance. They change the rules of engagement. They take fewer risks, considering that that force might be hostile, and the inevitable consequence is going to be occasional, hopefully not often, incidents like we saw today.
BROWN: "The Washington Post" reporting on this is that it appears that no warning shots were fired. And a sort of logical extension of that is a kind of jittery troops on the ground. Is that a reasonable conclusion to reach, if no warning shots were fired?
CLARK: Well, I wouldn't reach that conclusion.
CLARK: I think that's entirely a function of the environment, and it's impossible to judge, based on the account in the "Post," as to whether this was justified or not. But prima facie, it is justified. Because when troops are in a position and they feel they're at risk -- and a vehicle speeding toward them could have anything in the world on board -- they have the right to defend themselves.
So it may be that in the cold aftermath, people will go back and say, OK, now look, you really had 10 seconds. You could have fired warning shots. Or maybe they did fire warning shots. We're not quite certain yet on this.
CLARK: But you know at that point, OK, you can calibrate it. The troops are safe. Unfortunately, the women and children aren't. But this is the inevitable consequence, I think. And this is, of course, what the Iraqi government wants us to do, because this drives a wedge between the military force and the civilian populous, and it creates huge propaganda gains around the world for the Iraqi government.
BROWN: All right. One more question before we go to break. Do have you a sense, sir, that today was just another day in the grind, if you will, to Baghdad, or that there was something significant that happened in the day?
CLARK: Well, I think the significance of it is the grind.
CLARK: I mean it is the fact that, by all reports, the air is wearing down the Republican Guards. They don't really have an answer for it. Our troops are getting a better grip on the built up areas, Nasiriya, Najaf, Basra. There's no answer for that.
And we're continuing to move reinforcements in. In other words, that's the way this is going to play out, up to some tipping point, at which we decide, OK, the Republican Guard is down so low, it's time to go to Baghdad.
BROWN: So we're in the grind?
CLARK: I think we're are.
BROWN: The general will be with us for the next couple of hours. We'll check in the White House in just a moment.
We've got a long way to go. We're glad you're with us. We'll take a short break, and our coverage continues.
BROWN: We heard a lot in recent dates that the president, known as more of a delegater, has gotten deeply involved with the war, asking lots of questions, watching news coverage quite closely. If that's the case, he's surely heard the pointed questions about how the war is going and whether the battle plan itself was a sound one, whether it was fully and smartly debated.
Today the president attacked the questions head on. This story from our senior White House correspondent John King. John, it's nice to see you.
JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Aaron. No question this president is tracking the war very closely. No question he is well aware that some retired generals say the United States didn't send enough troops. Others question whether the administration grossly underestimated the resistance it would face from Iraq. Others perhaps think the administration overestimated how welcomed the coalition forces would be.
Mr. Bush in his speech today did not directly mention any of the critics, but he clearly had them in mind. He said every day more and more of Iraq is under coalition control. And in his view, the troops are performing brilliantly.
KING (voice-over): Three times in less than a minute, he noted it was just day 11 of the ground assault in Iraq. The president's way of rebutting all the second-guessing.
BUSH: Many dangers lie ahead. But day by day we are moving closer to Baghdad. Day by day we are moving closer to victory.
KING: Most scenes from the battlefield are tense. Not nearly as many warm welcomes for coalition troops as some top Bush advisors had predicted before the war. But Mr. Bush says oppression, not resentment, is the reason.
BUSH: Iraqis who show friendship toward coalition troops are murdered in cold blood by the regime's enforcers. It is understandable that fear and distrust run deep.
KING: This visit to the port of Philadelphia was to salute the Coast Guard for its modest role in Operation Iraqi Freedom and its much larger role on the war on terrorism here at home. Mr. Bush made the case it is all one fight.
BUSH: The dying regime in Iraq may try to bring terror to our 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: Senior aides describe the president as confident the war is on course, and as someone with little patience as to what he considers premature criticism of the strategy.
KING: Brushing aside those critics today, the president described the war effort so far as decisive. And he said if the Iraqi people have any doubt that the days of Saddam Hussein and his regime are numbered, that those doubts would soon be erased -- Aaron.
BROWN: A story that I'm sure you saw today in "The Post," that some of this criticism of the war planning is coming from old guard Republicans who argue that the president never really got the full range of debate before him, that it was presented to him too narrowly. Do you hear any of that grumbling around the White House?
KING: Well, you hear inside the White House grumbling that these former administration officials, some of whom are from the former Bush administration, finger pointing at the strategy. They don't take that too kindly here inside the Bush White House, some language we won't repeat on family television used behind the scenes here at the White House today on that account.
Within the administration, officials concede there is some tension and occasional tug-of-wars, but they say that everyone is on board with the plan itself and with the adjustments that are being made to the plan. Certainly this is a White House that prides itself on message discipline. No surprise, of course, for the president himself to say he agrees with the plan. It is his plan. But they don't take too kindly here at the White House to all the second guessing at this critical juncture in the war. They say a week from now, if you believe them here at the White House, they say a week from now, many of those outside the White House taking what they consider to be pot shots will feel differently.
BROWN: John, thank you. Our senior White House correspondent John King. It's slightly ironic that we talk about certain things we can't say on family television, and in the middle of it, we're showing a war. We'll take a break. Our coverage continues with an update and more. We'll be right back.
BROWN: It's amazing how much the war dominates not just our attention but the world's attention right now. Thank you, and we'll see you in a half an hour.
On now to the southern port city of Umm Qasr where the task is at hand continues to be clear -- maintaining security on the one hand, getting aid and supplies in as fast as possible. There's no shortage of Iraqis willing to do the job, but that also poses problems, and, of course, risks for the coalition forces. Reporting for us, CNN's Richard Blystone. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
RICHARD BLYSTONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Every day, the streets get busier, water and food more plentiful, foreigners more familiar. Some welcome the new faces. Others definitely don't.
There is a presence here that will take more than paint to erase. British troops this day have been called out to deal with another threat from die-hards of the Baath Party regime. Spoiling the first day of the first mission from the U.S. aid agency, which came to start the first of many assessments that will be needed before the aid pipeline is turned on full. One hundred and forty Iraqis came back to work at the port, and more come every day. A variety of jobs, and a variety of con jobs.
MAJ. ALAN POULSON, ROYAL LOGISTIC CORPS: Apparently, they're all the chief engineer, or they're all the second mate of the tug master. And they all want to be promoted, and they see this as an opportunity for them to do that.
BLYSTONE: There's checked out, signed up and go right on the payroll. Some used to earn as little as 25 U.S. cents a day. The new pay scale will be better, but not so much as to warp what remains of Umm Qasr's economy.
(on camera): But to have an Iraqi-run port, you need Iraqi bosses, and the problem is, most Iraqi bosses, willingly or not, are members of the Baath Party.
(voice-over): Small wonder then that these workers have come warily this far, but still don't want their faces shown.
Ali tells us how he fled the shelling in Umm Qasr, then the bombing in Basra, then the third town, and then figured he might as well die at home. "Good times or bad," he says, "the poor will always be poor." Off camera, we're told over and over two things -- they won't feel free until they know President Saddam Hussein is dead, and then they want the coalition to pack up and go.
Richard Blystone, CNN, Umm Qasr, Iraq.
BROWN: Back to the general for a second. General, when you're sitting beside me, I always look over, I see you scribbling on your notepad. I don't have that advantage, so I have some idea of what's your mind then. I don't know. We're a half hour plus into the night. Any stray thoughts you want to get on the table?
CLARK: Well, I was watching that report on the ports and thinking about the Baath Party. You know, there were lots of discussion around Washington and in the press, about how we were going to remain authority once we took over Iraq, and people were talking about, well, you know, you might replace the first 50 top guys, but you'll have to use the rest of the power structure because nobody else could do this. And it takes me back hearing Richard Blystone's reporting, it takes me back to the discussions about how we were going to work in Nazi Germany after World War II. And it was a huge debate, it was a huge issue. At least one general got fired over the issue, George Patton, who was taken out of his command position because he wanted to put the Nazis in charge to help run the cities. And this is an issue we're going to have to work through, because the simple fact is that the Baath Party is now seen in its true colors. It is a really vicious group of people, and lots of people belong to this party; some not by their own choice. So this is going to be one of the huge challenges that we face post war here, and actually sooner than that.
BROWN: We're about after the break to talk about this battle that's going on at the Pentagon or around the Pentagon and in the press about whether the force is big enough, and who made the decisions. You've literally written a book, "Waging Modern Warfare." I wonder if that's what this battle is essentially about, what the shape of modern warfare really needs to be.
CLARK: It is to some extent about that, and it's about the Powell doctrine, and whether you really need overwhelming ground force in the conventional sense, in the old time army sense before you can run an operation. I think that is part of it, but it's also a battle of personalities. It's a battle of the Air Force versus the Army. It's got many dimensions.
BROWN: Well, if we've learned anything in the last two weeks, it's that this thing has many dimensions. General, we'll get back to you. Sy Hersh, one of the great investigative reporters of our time, with us coming up after the break. We also have Steven Brill joining us in this half hour. So we have much to do. We need to take a break first, and we shall, and our coverage continues after that.
BROWN: We're joined in Washington now by one of the most distinguished investigative reporters in the country, Seymour Hersh, Sy Hersh of the "New Yorker." His latest piece focuses on the role that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld played in the Iraq battle plans and complaints that he made some key miscalculations. Mr. Hersh, it's always nice to see you.
Both or all yesterday we heard from Secretary Rumsfeld and Tommy Franks, General Franks. We heard from the chairman of the joint chiefs, they all say there was no dispute, no dispute, no dispute, so where was the dispute?
SY HERSH, NEW YORKER: You know, it reminds me of, I hate to go back to the Vietnam War, the light is always at the end of the tunnel, remember? The discrepancy is -- it's a pretty amazing discrepancy between what the brass is telling us about how well the war is going and how many troops they have and how everything is fine and what we see from not only the embedded correspondents but from people like General Clark and others who know the situation. Simply put, what I did was I simply went to the guys that do the planning, the guys actually who work in the joint staff of the joint chiefs of staff in Washington. This is the corps of men from all the services who wrote the war plan. It was -- 1003 was the number, and they presented it six times, at least six formal times to Rumsfeld, and each time he asked for what is called inside the building a redo. Too many forces, too many forces. And they cut it back, and cut it back and cut it back, and finally, they went with a lot less than a lot of people thought they needed.
BROWN: In the article, which has an enormous amount of detail about this planning process, you paint a picture of Secretary Rumsfeld as a man who you disagree with at some peril.
HERSH: Well, one senior general told his junior officers, they're generals, he told them, when you go see this guy, he said, you better go in there and be prepared to take off your stars and lay them on the table, because if you're not willing to do that, he's going to walk all over you. He's a very tough customer and he really, you know, he's always willing to hand wrestle with anybody.
BROWN: Also, as I read the piece, it might also be true, won't it, isn't it, Mr. Hersh, that Tommy Franks, General Franks could stand up there and say, I agree with the plan because the people you talk to were not -- it wasn't Tommy Franks who was disagreeing with the plan, it was people beneath him. Is that a fair assessment?
HERSH: Well, the plan that they present to Rumsfeld is the plan that's signed off. When they go in and present a plan of action Rumsfeld, it's been signed off. This is the military's plan. And you know, it's something I have to say, which is the guys I'm talking to are not four-star generals. They're what we call o-6 (ph), it's colonels and light colonels and majors. And for them, they're just a step away from being in the field. They want to be in the field. For them, the reason they're so angry, and I use that word, they're angry at what happened here in this war, because there's not enough forces there, and they feel that these are their children out there. They're in local parentis, in a sense. Any good officer cares about his troops, and we have a lot of wonderful, most of them, all of them in our service are fine officers and they care about the kids, and these guys are really mad because we don't have enough forces.
The guys out there right now can't get relieved. You know, those old movies you saw, World War II, where they send them back to take a shower, get some food, get a good night's sleep, have a hot meal and some ice cream, they're not getting it. They're just out there sitting in their Humvees and their tanks, sleeping a couple of hours a day, now day 11, day 12. It's a pretty rough ordeal.
BROWN: Mr. Hersh, the secretary, I think, makes two points on this -- he says, number one, it's very early to be second guessing, it's very early to be writing the history on this. And on the specifics, he says, and I think this is, in fact, correct, that more forces are coming all the time, that this is a rolling force that's coming in. Do you just want to comment on either aspect of that?
HERSH: Sure, if you believe that, I've got a bridge I want to sell you. The plan that they have did not include -- look, they keep on saying this is a great plan, that we have the plan we put in effect, the plan we wanted. So explain to me, if that's the plan we wanted, what was the 4th Division doing rolling off the coast of Turkey? Either they needed the 4th Division or they didn't. And the big fight, as you know, was when Franks stood up in a very dramatic way to everybody right before the war began and said, I can't do it without the 4th. I need another division. If it can't be in Turkey, it's got to be here, in country, coming up from the south. He didn't get it.
The fact is, they're saying publicly that the plan we have is the plan we wanted all along, which makes no sense if you think about the fact that the 4th was rolling off the water for two or three weeks waiting for the Turks to vote. We needed the 4th. We couldn't do it without the 4th. We're short people.
I'm not saying we're going to lose the war. That is the point -- the point is we have guys in the field who have no chance of getting relief, no chance of getting the rest they need. They can't be rotated out. We don't have the force as we need right now, and there's no other way of looking at it.
BROWN: Sy Hersh, piece is in this week's "New Yorker." It is always good to talk to you. Thank you, sir.
HERSH: Good to you.
BROWN: Thank you. Seymour Hersh, in this week's "New Yorker."
General Clark, I can't pass this moment by without bringing you in. In some respects, I think you would agree that the 4th would make, this very sophisticated infantry group, would make this very different. What do you make of all of this?
CLARK: Well, you asked me a week or so ago, Aaron, if we had done everything we could do to do this operation and do it with maximum effect and minimum risk, and I told you directly, no, that we needed more forces at the time, but I think you have to put this in the context of Sy Hersh's article.
In the first place, this civilian control of the Pentagon is lawful and it's vital, and so even though the civilian leadership respect the military professionalism, there's nothing to keep the civilian leaders from questioning it, from arguing it out, from challenging the assumptions and ultimately from changing their plans. And if the military feels that the plan won't be workable with those changes, the military has the option to put their stars on the table and walk away and say, get another general to do it or get another colonel.
But I think that's the balance, that's what makes a democracy democratic, is that the elected leaders are appointed civilian leaders are responsible for the military. And the plan has not failed. We are a long way inside. We've done a lot of very good things. The soldiers have performed magnificently, and you can't call this plan a failure. The only thing you can say about it is that some people didn't believe that the Iraqis would fight and other people apparently didn't foresee that they would fight in urban areas with irregular forces.
BROWN: But isn't there at its core here either a dispute or reality, and that is that the military side, the generals, particularly in the Army, sir, will always want more troops, will always want more, and the civilian side will be a little more, we'll say that it is thinking a little more creatively in how to do this?
CLARK: Well, they may, but there's nothing wrong with trying to minimize the risk. Another division would have minimized the risk. It would have given you the insurance policy you would have needed if something had gone disastrously wrong at the outset. I don't think it would make you get into Baghdad right now versus whatever we're going to do, because we've still got to work against the Republican Guards with air power.
I mean, the real question I had was, why did we leave the equipment for the 4th Division off the coast of Turkey? And why didn't we move the ships around and bring the next division? Let it sit off the coast of Turkey? And we were going to have one additional division. There may be reasons for that. It's very hard to second guess the chain of command from the outside. I know, because I was a commander in Kosovo. I had a lot of people second guessing me. A lot of people were saying, gee, you should have had a ground plan, you didn't have a ground plan. Some people say, hey, you should have quit because they wouldn't give you ground troops.
But the honest truth is, that you're put in a position. You work the issue and what you have to have is a fighting chance not to lose, and then you'll take it to a win. There will always be disputes within the chain of command, especially in war, because these are matters of life and death, and people have strong opinions and strong feelings and it's not science. It's art. It's experience and a sort of judgment and assumptions. And so we've got a good debate here, but the answer is going to judge the plan by whether it works at the end or not.
BROWN: Right, it does seem a little bit early to write the history of this, but it doesn't seem too early, apparently, to kick it around a lot. I suspect we're going to kick it around a lot, you and I, and the country for a while, I know. We'll get back to it still tonight. Steven Brill joins to us talk a little bit about war coverage and other matters. We need to take a break first. Our coverage continues after that.
BROWN: A lot of ground to cover tonight surrounding the media and the war, including stories involving two well-known reporters on the table today, Peter Arnett and Geraldo Rivera. We're joined in New York by Steve Brill, he's a journalist and entrepreneur behind Court TV, among other things. He has a new book out, called "After: How America Confronted the September 12th Era." And I suppose, Mr. Brill, that if it were not for the war we'd be talking a good deal about that, but that intervenes tonight.
What's your -- you know, one of the complaints out there is that the media, the American media in particular, and I suppose television in particular, has sanitized the war. Do you think that's true?
STEVEN BRILL, AUTHOR/JOURNALIST: I don't think it's been sanitized. In some ways it's been sensationalized through nobody's fault, because we have cameras and reporters who are on the front lines, and in other ways, it's been distorted by that, but I think, frankly, the same thing is going on at home, where there's kind of a distortion that I try to cover in the book as we try to fight on the home front, because we cover the threat and we're quick to find potential terrorist gaps, but we don't cover sort of the hard behind the scenes work that's going on.
BROWN: Let me -- we'll pick that up in a second. Let me go back to the war coverage. I think the argument that I hear a lot is that we have done a heck of a good job of showing troops rolling in. We've followed tanks and Bradleys and all the rest, but what we, American journalists, and television journalists in particular have shied away from is showing the reality that war really is, which is nasty and deadly and ugly.
BRILL: Well, I think, you know, everything's relative. If you compare this coverage to, you know, World War II or the Korean War or even the Vietnam War, I think we've shown a lot more on television, a lot more that is the reality. So I don't think I agree with you. I think the coverage would be more balanced if you and I could wave a magic wand and say, let's embed reporters with the troops on the other side, where apparently there's much more damage being done, but we can't do that.
BROWN: In truth, sir, I'm not accepting the argument, I'm asking the question here. It's a delicate balance, how much of the violence to show. Do you find the country -- would the support for this be markedly different had it not been for 9/11.
BRILL: Oh, sure. I think what 9/11 taught us, woke us up to, and this is, you know, what this year that I tried to narrate is about, is that we are no longer immune from what's going on in the world, that we're not safe at home. In fact, if we fight a war overseas, we suddenly have police officers who are stopping us, you know, where I live on 96th Street to check our cars. This is different from any war we've fought. It's different from anything you and I have experienced in our lifetimes, where we are afraid at home, and that fear, I think, has added to a willingness to take risks overseas.
BROWN: A lot of people say to me, people who live -- friends who live in other parts of the country that it is New Yorkers and, to a degree, Washingtonians who have changed, but that by and large, in Omaha and Cleveland or wherever, they are not quite so terrorism- obsessed as East Coasters are.
BRILL: I think that's true. I think you could go to places where I went on the northern border and see that the security forces, the border patrol customs are very much obsessed, as you put it, but you had to be here to go through this experience. I do think that it's inevitable that, in what I call the September 12 era that there are going to be attacks all over the country or in different places in the country, and the first time that, you know, someone decides to blow himself up in a shopping mall in the Midwest, the country's going to go through something really awful once again, even if there isn't the same kind of damage and the same kind of death count that we had on September 11, and I frankly, I hate to tell you, but I think that that is just bound to happen.
BROWN: Well, yes, I hate to even think about it. Mr. Brill, it's nice to meet you. Good luck. I hope you come back soon.
BRILL: Nice to see you.
BROWN: Thank you. Steven Brill. We'll take a break. We have a long way to go yet. Be right back.
BROWN: Baghdad on a Tuesday morning. It's almost 8:00 there. Baghdad went to daylight savings time, what they call summertime. Why the green night scope camera, we can't tell you but all of our cameras are a little fuzzy there tonight. Sounds of explosions, certainly a night of bombing, but it's the bombing you could not see, 50 miles outside the city on the Republican Guard that the Pentagon says is starting to change the field of play out there, shaping the battle to come, the battle for Baghdad. We'll take a break, update the headlines of the day. Our coverage continues. You're watching CNN.
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