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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Dramatic Military Rescue Frees Soldier

Aired April 2, 2003 - 01:00   ET

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

DARYN KAGAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Daryn Kagan live in Kuwait City where it is 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning. Let's take a look at what is happening this hour. Bright streaks from a missile launch light up the Iraqi night sky near Karbala. The U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division pounds two Iraqi Republican Guard divisions in a major offensive. That could be the start of the battle of Baghdad, which was rocked by more air strikes overnight.
A dramatic military rescue has freed army soldier Jessica Lynch from an Iraqi hospital in Nasiriya. She had been missing since March 23 when her supply unit was ambushed near Nasiriya. Word of her rescue spread quickly through her hometown of Palestine, West Virginia, where jubilant family and friends gathered to celebrate.

South Korea may send troops to the U.S.-led war in Iraq. President Kim Dae-Jung is urging parliament to dispatch noncombat troops to Iraq to cement ties with Washington. There have been protests in South Korea against such a move.

Let's check out other news today. The FBI has launched a preemptive move that it said could be an element of surprise in the war against terrorism. It warned that Al Qaeda may be recruiting and training female terrorists. It has issued a bulletin for a female Pakistani neurological expert wanted for questioning.

The deadly illness with flu-like symptoms have struck again in Canada. The death of two elderly Canadians are now being blamed on severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS. And that brings the total SARS death in Canada to six.

Those are the headlines at this hour, now back to Aaron and more with the war on Iraq - Aaron.

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Daryn, thank you. We'll see you in half an hour. And Daryn will be along with Anderson most of the morning, tonight, too, most of the morning tonight, most of the morning to take you on through the day here. And it promises to be a major day in the war with Iraq. The battle of Baghdad, the beginning of the end game, if you will, for however it plays out is under way. Just hours ago, the Pentagon announced that armored elements of the army and the marines have begun attacking Republican Guard divisions. That Guard, the approach to Baghdad. Those Iraqi units have been blasted from the air for several days now. And now they will be engaged in a ground fight. And it will answer a lot of questions.

There are reports that marine units have crossed the Tigris River as well. This is a story that we'll be following, updating throughout the day. That is what is in front of us. Here is a bit of what has gone on already reported by Wolf Blitzer.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): In the crosshairs of allied forces, Iraq's two largest cities, Baghdad and Basra. First, Baghdad. The allies are focusing on the Iraqi capital. CENTCOM officials say battle plans call for a move in the city in the coming days and weeks. Walter Rodgers with the U.S. Army 7th Cavalry less than 60 miles away says that unit is being reinforced by other troops freed up from elsewhere to join the push. But Pentagon officials say Iraqi Republican Guard divisions are also being reinforced, shoring up defensive positions south of the capital. CNN is told General Tommy Franks, the top allied commander, has been given the authority to decide when to move toward Baghdad.

In Basra, flares go up over the city. At least one large explosion is reported. CNN's Christiane Amanpour reports fierce fighting between British and Iraqi forces around the city. The British are operating in the southern and western outskirts. But resistance is intense. In south central Iraq, U.S. forces still trying to root out pockets of resistance around Nasiriya. With door- to-door searches by marines, and special operations forces destroying buildings believed to house local commanders.

In the north, Biara (ph), near the border with Iran. New pictures of the capture of a compound allegedly belonging to Ansar al- Islam, a group linked by the U.S. to Al Qaeda. It's the first major battlefield operation where Kurdish forces fight side by side with U.S. special operations troops. An American in that unit claims a startling discovery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have found various documents, equipment, etcetera, that would indicate a presence of chemical and/or biological weapons.

BLITZER: In western Iraq, an Iraqi official claims the U.S. warplane fires on two buses carrying human shields, including Americans. The Iraqi says many are injured. U.S. Central Command is investigating.

Wolf Blitzer, CNN, Kuwait City.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: That's the overview. Back now to what is certainly the best story of the day. The best story of the day is not necessarily the most important story of the day, but certainly the most compelling story is the rescue of 19-year-old Private First Class Jessica Lynch. Private Lynch and other members of her group, 507th Maintenance Unit, were attacked last week in Nasiriya, when apparently they took a wrong turn. There are a lot of unanswered questions about this. And there are also eight people in that company now. In that group, who are still listed as missing in action. Ms. Lynch was apparently wounded in that attack. Private Lynch was wound in that attack, was in a hospital in Nasiriya. She was rescued by special force troops, with the help of marines. She is back now in a hospital getting treatment, and getting debriefed. And no doubt, answering a lot of questions about what happened on that first Sunday of the war. A couple of hours ago, her parents talked about finding out that their daughter was alive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREG LYNCH SR., JESSICA LYNCH'S FATHER: That she's safe in a hospital. And they would debrief her, and she's in good health.

QUESTION: Nine days of not knowing. What was the feeling when you got the word?

G. LYNCH: Oh, joy. I can't express what it was. I couldn't talk. And we're just glad it happened.

QUESTION: We had talked previously about you have not allowed yourself to think any negative thoughts. That obviously had to be very difficult, and yet now on this side of it, how can you look back at your ordeal about the way faith and hope brought you through it?

G. LYNCH: That's mainly what we had to keep up was a lot of hope and faith. We couldn't look towards capture at that point. We believed, still believe that she was hiding out. And she wasn't a capture. But, you know, that is wonderful news that we heard tonight.

QUESTION: We haven't talked to Dee much, because Dee hasn't been able to talk. Dee, what are your thoughts about what's going on this evening?

D. LYNCH: I'm just so excited. I'm just speechless.

QUESTION: You've got a lot of friends and neighbors and family that strolled up here unannounced. What does that tell you about the community support that you have?

D. LYNCH: I love their support. I think they've been great. Prayer. I knew it couldn't go wrong. I knew it had to be good news.

QUESTION: Greg Jr., special forces guys went in, rescued her, you're a military man, what do you think about the success of an operation like this?

GREG LYNCH JR., LYNCH'S BROTHER: They did a wonderful job out there. I knew they were going to bring her home safe. But I didn't realize that it was going to be this soon. And it's extremely good news.

QUESTION: And, finally, Brandy, we haven't talked with you much, just quickly, how are you feeling tonight?

BRANDY LYNCH, LYNCH'S SISTER: Overwhelmed. Extremely overwhelmed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's excellent. And Brandy's also, of course, signed up to ...

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: That's Jessica Lynch's family. She lives in a small town in West Virginia about 900 people. Someone from there told us tonight that when the word spread that she had been rescued, everybody in town came out. Everyone was on the streets celebrating, as they had worried together since that terrible Sunday when the war -- after the war started when word the 507th and spread across the country. So there's good news out there.

There was a lot of activity in Baghdad overnight. You can still see the smoke. We assume that's smoke and not clouds. I think it is. Different camera location. On a Wednesday morning in Baghdad, a little bit past 10:00.

What we never see, and is harder to know, is when these bombs drop, what precisely they hit and who precisely does not survive. Rym Brahimi is keeping track. She is in Amman, Jordan. Rym, good morning to you.

RYM BRAHIMI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you Aaron. A lot of missile bomb firing apparently overnight, according to people I've spoken to in Baghdad. It only started apparently last night at 3:00 a.m., not at about 10:00 or 1:00 p.m. as usual. But a lot of missile firing from what I understand. A lot of assessment needs to be done again this morning inside the Iraqi capital. Aaron, I just would like to mention, I spoke to the international committee of the Red Cross, and the doctors have been able to get out of Baghdad for the first time to a little city to the south of the Iraqi capital.

It's about an hour's drive, a place called Hillal. And they were apparently shocked to find, in their words, that this little hospital that can only take at the most 280 people was filled with hundreds of wounded people, mostly women and little children. And in another area, in that hospital, hundreds of corpses, dismembered, not in very good state. No idea for now of where that may have come from, what these casualties -- what was responsible for these casualties. But we'll bring you the latest, of course.

As you can imagine, Aaron, in this kind of atmosphere, the finding journalists who had gone for a whole week is something of a victory, I imagine, for the journalist community. As you know, four journalists, or three journalists and one peace activist that has been missing for one entire week in Baghdad turned up safe and sound in Jordan last night - Aaron.

BROWN: Do we know yet what happened to them?

BRAHIMI: Well, it's not very clear. What we know from what they've told reporters upon arrival and what is putting together what their parents have said, what their news organizations have said is there were two "Newsday" journalists, one photographer, Molly Bingham, who comes from a prominent family of newspaper people, and also a peace activist, a photographer, Danish peace activist. Now, they apparently disappeared on March 25. They say they were held in Abu Ghraib prison. This a prison that it's on the outskirts of Baghdad toward the Saddam international airport. They said they were detained in rough conditions, but were not mistreated physically at all. They were interrogated, however. The overlying feeling, according to one of the journalists, is they may have been perceived as spies at one point.

However, after a week, eight days in detention, they were released and they made it safely through the road from Baghdad to Amman, and through the border at Trebil and into the Jordanian capital last night. Rym - Aaron.

BROWN: Rym, thank you very much. I suspect a "Newsday," which is one of the New York papers, will get the -- eventually get a more detailed story of what that experience was for those reporters.

We'll get the latest on what's going on in the northern part of Iraq. Now Jane Arraf is reporting for us there today. Jane, good morning.

JANE ARRAF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Aaron. Well, it's been another night of bombing. Even until just a few minutes ago, we're hearing explosions in the direction of Mosul, one of the key cities in the north. There are planes starting to fly overhead. They've been circling and dropping bombs on that ridge just behind us, the Iraqi front line. This is, though, not the tact that this war in the north was originally expected to take.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARRAF (voice-over): This was supposed to be the second front in the war on Iraq. The ground invasion which would force the Iraqi military to fight in the south and the north. But again, Tuesday, the campaign in the north finds itself limited to the air. U.S. bombing near the strategic cities of Mosul and Kirkuk. U.S. warplanes also seem to be targeting Iraqi bunkers on the ridge separating Iraqi from Kurdish-controlled territory. At the rear airfield, in northern Iraq, U.S. forces continue to secure the perimeter of the airstrip and move in equipment. But the shift in strategy after Turkey refused to allow U.S. land troops to use its bases. Several thousand troops have either parachuted or been air lifted in. But so far, the large numbers of troops and heavy armor needed to attack Iraqi forces from the north just aren't there. Despite the intimidating security, soldiers landing in this Kurdish-controlled area have received a much different reception than in the south.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to say this is a beautiful country. The people here are great. I mean, here we are, you know, some of them hardly have got nothing, but they just want to help us. They give us bread and stuff. So they're so nice. And they're great people. So I love it here.

ARRAF: Although it seems tranquil away from the frontlines, Kurds aren't entirely out of danger. On Monday, Iraq launched at least two missiles into Kurdish-controlled territory. This one falling in the small town of Kura. The target was believed to be the regional administrative center of Sallah a-Din (ph) just a few kilometers away. It damaged a house and showered the area with missile fragments. The occupants of the house were awake for pre-dawn prayers and escaped unhurt. In this town, though, where many people had fled from the cities, fearing that bigger centers would be attacked, it was a reminder that almost nowhere is safe. And a reminder that this war could take many more unpredictable turns.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ARRAF: All of this, of course, has Kurdish fighters calling to be given heavy arms and to actually get further into the fighting. Something that the U.S. is now trying to keep at bay that call, while it tries to mediate between Turkey and the Kurds - Anderson.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Almost. Aaron. Is there an awareness ...

ARRAF: Sorry.

BROWN: Not a problem at all. You've got the hard duty these days. Don't worry. Is there an awareness there that the battle of Baghdad seems to have started well to the south of them?

ARRAF: There's an awareness, but a wariness as well, I would say. Given the twists and turns that we have seen, and the previous expectations that this would be over quickly, people aren't really counting on this push to Baghdad to go straight through quickly or easily. So, obviously, people are keeping a very close eye on it when you walk into cafes and teahouses here. People are glued to the television. It is wall-to-wall coverage watched constantly.

And even on mountain tops, people are listening to the radio constantly trying to get the latest developments. But there isn't a real clear feeling here that this is the final push. The feeling is, among the Kurds, who have been let down and quite a lot before, that this could take awhile, and could take many more twists and turns - Aaron.

BROWN: And like the people in the south, is there in the Kurdish community concern that the United States really doesn't have the willingness to stick it out to the very end, to get the job done completely? Or do they believe that this is the end of Saddam Hussein?

ARRAF: Probably even more than in the south. This, as you know, is a region that historically has been made immense promises by the international community, early in the last century when it was actually promised its own state, Kurds were, and then let down, up until the 1991 Gulf War, when the U.S. told them to rise up. And they feel abandoning them, leaving them without air support. So, there's an ingrained feeling here that they can't really count on any promises. Now, because this is a different point in time, because the U.S. needs the Kurds, there's more optimism that they will follow through. And the Iraqi regime will fall.

But still, there is a very deeply ingrained sense that they can't believe anything. And they can't believe any promises from the U.S. or anyone else, or any commitments to take any action until they actually see it - Aaron.

BROWN: Jane, thank you. Jane Arraf, our longtime Baghdad bureau chief who is now in the northern part of the country as the major fighting moves toward Baghdad.

There's still plenty of work to be done in the south of the country. Basra, second largest city, is still not taken. And even the towns that are there is work as well, that have been taken over as well. Daniel Muriel is outside Basra this morning. And she joins us live. Diana, good morning. What is it like there?

DIANA MURIEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Aaron, the long-range artillery bombardment of Basra from the very British batteries which are drawn up on this plain to the south of the city continue a pace. More bombardment last night, in fact, in the last few minutes I've heard another round from the batteries being fired off. They are hitting military targets, they say, within the city of Basra itself. As well as targets like Baath party headquarters and other compounds. We're not given any indication as to the success rate of the bombardment, but we did see last night three, what appeared to be three large fires coming from Basra, which is situated just a few kilometers behind me.

In the meantime, as you say, the British are doing their best to secure the area to the south of the city, in particular, the town of Az Zubaya, which has been the focus of trouble for British soldiers over the past few days. There have been exchanges of machine gun fire and attacks on British soldiers. And, now, they are concentrating on the humanitarian effort. And certainly the level of British forces confidence is high.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MURIEL (voice-over): Out on the streets, wearing soft caps and without body armor for the first time, British soldiers patrol Az Zubaya. This town of around 35,000 residents has been a trouble spot for British forces since the war began. Now, a group of senior officers is led out by the Lieutenant Colonel Mike Riddell-Webster, commander of the 1st Battalion the Black Watch.

LT. COL. MIKE RIDDELL-WEBSTER, CMDR. 1ST BATT. BLACK WATCH: As soon as possible we need to reassure the local population that we are very much on their side, not frightened of them and that we're trying to help. And that's precisely what we're aiming to do.

MURIEL: Despite the smiling faces, poverty is evident everywhere. Local people complain the British aren't doing enough to help them. Water is the main priority. But it's taken the British ten days to locate this, the town's main water chlorination and distribution plant. The al-Bidal (ph) processing plant was switched off just before coalition forces swept across the Kuwaiti border by frightened workers, fearing an allied attack or reprisal by their own.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURIEL: Now, the British are supplying six tankers of water per day to Az Zubaya , But that's not enough for the 35,000 residents. And many have to make a 4 1/2-kilometer trek each day to the water processing plant of al-Bidal (ph) to fill their own canisters. Now, the British engineers, together with international Red Cross engineers are working on that processing plant. I understand that some water has now been turned on to the water main supply in the town of al- Zubaya, and that flow will increase during the course of today and tomorrow - Aaron.

BROWN: Diana, just quickly, the same question I asked Jane Arraf in the north. Is there a growing confidence that in this case the British and the Americans are there to stay, or is there still this concern that they won't see it to the end?

We apparently lost the videophone there. So we'll move on. We'll take a break and our coverage continues in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Continuing to try and get a sense of what's going on in the south of Iraq, in Umm Qasr, and Basra and the rest. An enormous amount of work to be done, supplies to get in, still some risk to be taken certainly. David Ignatius is a columnist with the "Washington Post." He has been working his way through the south of Iraq. He joins us this morning from Kuwait. David, nice to see you. I'm not sure if you can hear the Diana Muriel piece that we just had, but she was talking about water. I guess there are all sorts of weapons to fight a war, and water in this case, if they can get it to people, is one of them.

DAVID IGNATIUS, COLUMNIST, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, I've written, Aaron, that water bottles may be as important as cruise missiles in this next phase of the war. And I think in terms of bringing a sense of ordinary life, and security and stability, being able to help feed people, give them good drinking water is crucial. Where I've been in the south, I've been struck by the intensity of fear that ordinary Iraqis still have for Saddam's regime. While I was in Umm Qasr over the weekend, there was a program to give jobs to young kids from the town, and they kept looking over their shoulders that the people they suspected were the Baath party informers of the group. And one of them said to me, you know, if you Americans and the British leave here, they'll hang us. We're dead. Another one talked about the magic that Saddam has to somehow survive, and survive, and said, we won't sleep well at night until we know he's dead. That's what I see in the south. And until that continuing mood of fear changes, I think you're going to see this reluctance to really fully cooperate.

BROWN: Does anything change that other than Saddam's literal death? Not the falling of the regime or the falling of Baghdad, but that somehow the sense that the man himself is gone?

IGNATIUS: You know, I think in the end, it really will take the man himself going, and people being certain that it's really over. They've had the experience before of Americans coming, saying they were going to liberate them. You know, every Iraqi you talk to in the south remembers 1991. And they remember it, because after the Americans went away, after encouraging them to rise up, they, or their brothers or their cousins were taken in, tortured, and in many cases executed. And they just are not going to do that again. So I think they'll need to see that it's really over, that this power that's so dominates their life is really finished.

BROWN: Just one more question on this. Christiane Amanpour was talking to the commander of the British ground forces, and he said, it's like we're on probation here. Speaking about the residents. They're not -- even though we're here, even though we're in control in some spots, even though we've got water or food, they are not yet really ready to buy in.

IGNATIUS: Well, that's a good way to put it. I think probation, that sort of tentative acceptance, you know, these are nice kids, and they want a better life so much. I think, you know, these next weeks will test whether Iraqis hate Saddam. And I think that ordinary Iraqis do hate Saddam, more than they love their country. I mean, you know, Iraqis are patriotic people. Even under this terrible ruler, it's still their country. And they don't like to see foreign tanks occupying their towns and cities. So, you know, that's what will make these next few weeks hard. Each individual Iraqi, village by village, will make a choice, and it will add up to the score of this war.

BROWN: Do they think that the Americans and the British will leave soon? I mean, I don't mean before Saddam is gone, I mean after Saddam is gone. Or do they anticipate an occupation of some time?

IGNATIUS: You know, I think they're very conflicted about that. On the one hand they tell you, you must stay. You must stay here to protect me. You know, they'll kill me if you're not here. On the other hand, they don't want their country occupied by a foreign power. They have memories of colonialism. The Baath party has ruled by constant reference to the evil days of the British and other imperialists. So I think Iraqis are going to feel very conflicted in the coming months after the regime falls as to whether the Americans should stay or go.

BROWN: David, it's nice to talk to you. David Ignatius, a columnist with the "Washington Post," who's working the southern part of Iraq. We appreciate your time.

Many of the cruise missiles being used against Iraq come from submarines on patrols hundreds of miles away. More so even than the plains, the big B-2s, and the rest. They are the ultimate and the original stealth weapon. We have this report now from James Furlong aboard the HMS Splendid.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, fire one ...

JAMES FURLONG, SKY NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Beneath the waters of the Persian Gulf, the nuclear powered submarine HMS Splendid and the final moments before a cruise missile is launched. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Execute.

FURLONG: The coordinates set, the target, many miles over the horizon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Discharge. Missile on the way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: DCB (ph) correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Missile seen (ph) to fly. Missile separation, transition to cruise.

FURLONG: HMS Splendid, one of two Royal Navy submarines in the region. The lives of the 120 men on board and the work they do, for the most part, beneath the waves and out of the spotlight. Their exact position on any day, strictly classified.

(on camera): The nickname the silent service is well deserved, because despite all the coverage of this conflict, this is the first time that any cameras have been allowed on board any submarine, British or American, since the start of the war with Iraq.

(voice-over): Also, classified is the number of cruise missiles she has launched. But on the opening day of the war, three American ships and two submarines between them fire a total of 50.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A submarine it today's battle cruisers. We have immense fire power, whether it's from Tomahawk precision strike weapons, or from torpedoes or even anti-surface weapons, we can pack a strong punch.

FURLONG: Often submerged for weeks at a time inside the cramped confines of the hull, it is a lifestyle chosen by only a minority in the Royal Navy. In the engine room, the temperature regularly hovers about 40 degrees centigrade.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These boats are getting on now, and they're working very tough waters. We've done well with it. But the atmosphere, we feel it.

FURLONG: It's claimed every cruise missile fired from HSM Splendid so far has found its intended target. And with coalition strikes intensifying in and around Baghdad, there will in the days and weeks to come, be many more launched from beneath the waters of the Persian Gulf.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: First look at a submarine in all of this. Let's take a break, we'll update the day's headlines. Daryn Kagan does that. Our coverage continues in just a moment.

KAGAN: I'm Daryn Kagan live in Kuwait City. Let's check the latest developments.

And there is a late-breaking development this morning suggesting that coalition forces have started their advance on Baghdad. U.S. Marines took control of the key bridge over the Tigris River in central Iraq. Reuters quotes an officer as saying, quote, "That is the last big bridge we needed for an advance on Baghdad."

Reporter Scott Nelson of "The Boston Globe" is embedded with one of the units. He said just an hour or so ago, and this is a quote from him, "The Marines here feel the battle for Baghdad has begun."

An American soldier who was wounded and captured during an ambush last week is now recovering at a coalition hospital after being rescued by special forces. Private First Class Jessica Lynch is a 19- year-old Army supply clerk from Palestine, West Virginia.

In the city of Najaf, about 500 U.S. troops from the 101st Airborne Division went door to door today looking for Iraqi fighters. They reportedly encountered no resistance and suffered no casualties.

Meanwhile, near Basra, coalition forces continue to exchange fire with paramilitaries. Those troops near Najaf were forced to put on their gas masks today as a precaution when two Iraqi surface-to- surface missiles were fired in their direction. A CNN reporter with those troops says the missiles missed their targets.

Other news to look at today, a half-day-long hijacking drama that started in Cuba ended in Key West, Florida, on Tuesday. Apparently, a Cuban national on board threatened the pilots with what turned out to be fake grenades, ordering them to fly to Florida. He was quickly arrested when he got off the plane. He had a small child clinging to his leg.

And with that, Aaron, before we blow away here in Kuwait City, I'm going to toss it back to you.

BROWN: Thank you. Have a good morning out there.

KAGAN: Thank you.

BROWN: Thank you very much for your work tonight.

Baghdad on a Wednesday morning now. It's coming up towards 11:00, half past 10:00 in Baghdad. Smoke hovering over the city. And as Daryn mentioned, outside the city, perhaps 50 miles or so, the end -- or the beginning of the end seems to be underway. Marines and the Army's 3rd Infantry Division engaged in -- engaged with Republican Guard divisions in what is expected to be the crucial beginning battle for the capital of Baghdad.

How that battle will play out, whether it will end in the worst- case scenario, street-to-street, house-to-house urban warfare, we don't yet know. But the first stage of the battle of Baghdad now seems to be on. And we are, what, two weeks into the war.

There was a most unusual briefing at the Pentagon today, one that featured a dust-up over the battle plan. It's been a story in the making for some time. The secretary of defense was there, so was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, defending themselves against criticism that the war plan made some significant miscalculations.

Here's a bit of the briefing, followed by a discussion we had with General Wesley Clark a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Yes?

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could I ask you once again about criticism from current and former officers, about the flow of forces for the region? And also, whether there are sufficient forces in Iraq? And there were those that say that you're too enamored with air power over ground forces. I wondered if you could just comment on...

RUMSFELD: Well, why don't I...

GEN. RICHARD MYERS, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Can I comment?

RUMSFELD: Sure.

MYERS: I would love to comment.

My view of those reports -- and since I don't know who you're quoting, who the individuals are -- is that they're bogus. There is -- I don't know how they get started, and I don't know how they have been perpetuated. But it's not been by responsible members of the team that put this all together.

They either weren't there, or they don't know, or they are working another agenda for -- and I don't know what that agenda might be.

It is not helpful to have those kind of comments come out when we got troops in combat. Because first of all, they are false, they're absolutely wrong, they bear no resemblance to the truth. And it's just harmful to our troops that are out there fighting very bravely, very courageously.

I have been in this process every step of the way as well. There is not one thing that General Franks has asked for that he hasn't gotten on the timeline that we could get it to him. And, you know, it wasn't because a late signing. It might be because we didn't have a, you know, a ship or something. But, I mean, it's not -- it's been for mechanical reasons, not because of administrative reasons, I can guarantee you that.

Every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff signed up to this plan and the way it was executed from the first day. And they'll be signed up till the last day, because we still think it's a good plan.

Every member of General Franks' component commanders signed up for this plan as it was changed over time, and as it finally came down to be the one we went to war with. And they all stood up, and they gave a thumbs-up to the plan.

So there may be others that have other ideas of how we should have done it. And I -- and, you know, God bless them, that's a great sport here inside the Beltway. And I suppose if I -- when I retire, I will probably have my comments too. Gee, they ought to have more air power.

I wish the secretary would say we need to be more air-power- centric, perhaps. But I've never heard him say that. No, he hasn't said it, and he -- and he -- that's not what he -- that's not -- I'm not going to speak for the secretary, but that's not the kind of comments that he's been making in this whole process.

So that's -- it's just been interesting, but it's not very useful to this discussion. You know, we went in there with some very sophisticated objectives. We had diplomacy under way at the United Nations. We wanted to deploy a sufficient force, but not the kind of force that would make it look like diplomacy that didn't have a chance to work. So we had to work that piece.

General Franks, and for the benefit of our troops, wanted to protect tactical surprise. How do you protect tactical surprise when you have 250,000 troops surrounding Iraq on D-Day? How do you do that?

Well, you do it by the method he did it, by having the types of forces. You do it by starting the ground war first, air war second. Do you think there was tactical surprise? I think there was. Do we have the oil fields in the south? About 60 percent of the oil wealth has been preserved for the Iraqi people, you bet.

Have we had a Scud fired against Jordan or Israel yet? No. Why? Because we went in very early, even before the ground war, to secure those places.

Do we have humanitarian supplies flowing into Umm Qasr now? Yes. Why? Because we put the ground forces in there early.

Were we 200 miles inside of Iraq in 36 hours? Yes.

RUMSFELD: So Tom Franks...

QUESTION: ... must get his way in the end? Did he get what -- exactly what he wanted out of it?

RUMSFELD: He seems to tell the president and me and Dick Myers that he thinks this is the plan he wants, and we have agreed to it. And we participated in it. And we like it. And no one's backing away from anything.

(CROSSTALK)

RUMSFELD: And the fact that people have been writing this stuff over and over and over again and misinforming the world is really not terribly important. What's important is what we've said, and that we're winning this activity, and it is going to end, and it will end with Saddam Hussein gone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: A taste of the briefing today.

General Clark, what was going on there tonight -- today?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK, (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Aaron, a lot of things were going on. First of all, I think -- I think Dickie Myers has a very solid point when he says if you're not on the inside of the plan, you really can't understand the tradeoffs, the diplomatic and military tradeoffs, that were done to make the plan come out that way.

And as we talked before, my experience in Kosovo, it's very difficult, it's really impossible to criticize a plan when you haven't been on the inside of it, and look to the tradeoffs, because you just don't know what is going on on the inside.

Secondly, as far as the people who have been offering comments, those people have been offering with the best of intent, not in criticism of the soldiers and airmen that are in there, but in their support, in response to questions about their own professional judgment. And the intent has been wholly constructive. Nobody is criticizing the magnificent performance of the men and women in uniform.

Third, I think it's a great thing to see the teamwork between the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the secretary of defense, because I think that is very important.

Fourth, I think there is a certain sense in which the criticism of the assumptions that underlay the plan, that were political assumptions, has sort of been rolled into criticism of the military decision-making in the plan and so forth.

And I'm not sure that there's any reason for anybody in -- on the team that's on the inside running this war to feel defensive about anything. They made some assumptions. If the assumptions work out -- had worked out, it would have been a brilliant plan. It would have been a coup de main (ph). It would have been over.

As it is, the forces are up there, they're apparently beginning the main attack on Baghdad. We haven't had any significant reversals, we haven't had lots of people lost to casualties or accidents or problems.

So the proof of the plan is in the execution, and, really, that's the only way a plan could be judged from the outside. We always say there's two kinds of plans, Aaron, there's plans that might work, and there's plans that won't work. You have to pick a plan that might work, and then you have to make it work.

And that's what Tommy Franks and the team is doing over there. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: That was General Wesley Clark a short time ago.

We'll take a break. When we come back, the view from the Arab world and the view from Iraq. We'll talk with CNN's Martin Savidge, who's embedded. That and more as we continue in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Martin Savidge is embedded with the Marines, and they're making their way. They are on the move.

And Marty joins us now on the videophone. Marty, tell us what you can about your location and where you -- where you're headed, as you can.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, those are both issues really which I cannot tell you, other than we're in central Iraq, where we have been for some time. And we are on the move for the first time in a number of days.

As you know, the 1st battalion, 7th Marines, for whom we're embedded, has by primarily tasked with the job of security, both with trying to make sure that the supply lines stay unhassled by the paramilitary units, and also trying to track down these paramilitary units, or death squads, Iraqi death squads, as they have been referred to by the Pentagon.

That may or may not be changing. We are not sure exactly where we are headed, other than the whole battalion is on the move.

And we should point out that this particular highway which we are on has been the major supply route. And all through the night and all through the past few days, it has been almost bumper-to-bumper with nonstop materiel headed north.

And obviously, if there had been indications coming at least from the Army's side of things that they were short on supplies, there's no indication of that on the Marine side of things. It has been a constant pipeline of everything you can imagine, from ammunition, food, and fuel, moving up the highway headed in the direction of Baghdad.

And now it appears we've joined that movement, along with everyone else, Aaron.

BROWN: Has the problem of the harassment of the irregulars, or whatever word we want to use, does that seem to have subsided, or not?

SAVIDGE: It does seem to have subsided, at least in this particular area, or the region of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, who are responsible for it.

They went on a number of what they thought were going to be raids. They actually turned out to be more like visits into areas of nearby villages and towns, of course, going in with a high-profile security posture, anticipating that these could be potential hideouts for those involved in the paramilitary units.

When they got into those towns, they found nothing more than just civilians, civilians in need, deep need, of humanitarian assistance, especially fresh water.

They have not run across or had any fire fights with paramilitary units. In fact, most of the people, most of what we have seen indicates that whoever left here left in much of a hurry. A lot of ammunition laying about, a lot of mortar tubes left unmanned, lot of equipment that appeared to have been abandoned in midflight, as if whoever was along this highway, and it does appear at one point this highway was prepared to be heavily defended, left in a real hurry, Aaron.

BROWN: Is there much awareness with the Marines that you're with of what's ahead of them, that this battle for Baghdad appears to have now started?

SAVIDGE: Well, they have always known that there was going to be a battle for Baghdad. And these Marines have always wanted to be a part of it. Are they going to be? I can't tell you that. And to be honest, I don't really know that answer yet.

BROWN: Now, I...

SAVIDGE: So it is always been the belief that in order to go home -- which is, of course, the first priority of these Marines, that's what they want to do -- Baghdad is the key to doing that. So the sooner something happens regarding Baghdad, the quicker they can get back to their families, which is what they want.

BROWN: Let me ask the question again, because I probably didn't say it quite right. There seems now to be both the 3rd Army Infantry Division and a -- and Marines who have begun the battle for Baghdad up the road from you, well ahead of you. Do your Marines, the Marines you're traveling with, know that that has started? Or would that be news to them?

SAVIDGE: I believe that would be news to them, Aaron. I don't think that any of us, prior to coming on the air, knew that there had been any sort of official start of the battle for Baghdad. So that would in fact -- it's not only news to us, it would indeed be news to the Marines.

BROWN: Right. Well, I mean, the sense of this is that 50 miles outside of Baghdad now, there are these Marine and Army units who are engaging the Republican Guard, and that the sense is, this is the beginning of the opening stages of that part of the ground battle.

SAVIDGE: Well, it had always been understood that the movements on the part of the military, in particular the Marines, have been in direct correlation to movements they have seen of Iraqi forces. And clearly, what they want to do is take advantage of what they may see as any weaknesses, any openings that occur as a result of the movement of those Iraqi forces.

So is this is this the final push to Baghdad, or is this considered to be opportunities that are now being taken advantage of? I think it's a little early for any of us to decide that matter.

BROWN: Marty, thank you. Martin Savidge, literally on the road this morning with the Marines in central Iraq.

Our coverage continues in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: The United States, of course, is extremely concerned about how the citizens in Baghdad and in Basra view the war effort. But there are other cities they are concerned about as well, places like Cairo and Amman and Jakarta, some of the capitals of the Islamic world, where many of the citizens view Americans more than Iraq as a rogue power that needs to be stopped.

Here's CNN's David Ensor.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They are some of the biggest demonstrations ever seen in the Arab world. In Egypt, in Jordan, governments are allowing people to vent their anger at the U.S. while working hard to retain control.

SEN. JOHN ROCKEFELLER (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I'm more than concerned. I think that there's -- we're on a very close edge in places like Egypt and Jordan and even Indonesia, other places, where the size of the demonstrations are about to overwhelm the ability of the government's police to control them.

ENSOR: A new factor this time is Al-Jazeera, Abu Dhabi TV, and the other satellite channels in the Middle East. They play and replay dramatic images of civilians presumably hurt by American forces.

GEOFFREY KEMP, NIXON CENTER: The danger to these regimes, I think, grows the longer this conflict goes on on television, day in, day out, throughout the Arab world. They're pretty well protected. But this is their worst nightmare, a protracted war on television, with the Arab street in uproar.

ENSOR: Some argue the Arab media, much of it under government influence or control, is trying to inflame opposition to the U.S., because other Arab governments, all of them undemocratic, do not want to see Saddam Hussein's regime fall. They don't like the implications.

AZIZ AL-TAEE, IRAQI-AMERICAN COUNCIL: There is a feeling in this government that if this dictatorship goes, we could be next. And so they're putting all their energy -- they don't show us on that TV, but all Syrian dictator, Egyptian, Saudi Arabia, all of them, putting a lot of resources in the media to try to prevent the fall of Saddam Hussein. ENSOR (on camera): Most expect neighboring governments to stay in power. But some worry about the cost if this war goes on for long, governments friendly to the United States may have to consider increasingly repressive measures to retain control.

David Ensor, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: More now on how the Muslim world is reacting to the war.

We're joined by Baria al-Amuddin. She's the foreign editor for the Arab-language paper "Al Hayat" in London tonight.

It's nice to see you.

BARIA AL-AMUDDIN, FOREIGN EDITOR, "AL HAYAT": Nice to see you, Aaron.

BROWN: Has the tone of the coverage, particularly the television coverage on the satellite channels, Al Jazeera and the rest, changed over the course of the war?

AL-AMUDDIN: Yes, indeed it has. I think it's reflecting more of the views of the people in the streets.

However, I think one should make a distinction between some of these channels. They're not all as inflammatory as I think Al Jazeera and others. There is a huge feeling now amongst the intellectuals in the Arab world, and perhaps amongst the more moderate Arabs, that this is leading us nowhere.

And, you know, the more you go towards the road of making these offensive remarks against Americans, and against the West, indeed, is not going to help the cause at large at the end of the day.

So there is moderation on one part. But also on the other part, there is this very emotional, very inflammatory media coming out from different outlets. And I hope this doesn't continue. And I hope it does not accentuate the huge difference between what you see in the States and what you see in the Arab countries.

BROWN: Is it reporters who are making the inflammatory remarks, or is it commentators, guests that they're booking, who are making these remarks?

AL-AMUDDIN: Well, I think the people that -- you know, all these reporters that are in Baghdad, as you know, they are always with government minders anyway. And I think also, you know, we as Arabs, we're always very emotional people, and we always express ourselves in very emotional ways.

But I would have thought as reporters, we should stay clear from our emotions as much as we can, and report the truth. But I'm not sure these reporters, for example, in Baghdad and Basra and Mosul are able to report only that. But this is not saying they're not reporting actually what they're seeing inside.

Because, you see, you talk about the Iraqi people knowing what's going on. I don't think the Iraqi people know exactly what's going on. Most of them didn't even hear that the war started except after a few days.

So the media that is inside Iraq is very restricted, very limited. Most people don't have satellite outlets. They don't have satellite channels. And even Iraqi radio, I understand, not too many people have radios now, or even TVs. And I understand also because Iraqi TV and radio have been hit regularly by the allied forces, many people don't have access to that as well.

So they don't know exactly what's going on.

BROWN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

AL-AMUDDIN: Sometimes only through some Arab channels.

BROWN: I'm sorry. Just a final question. If ultimately what happens here is that the Americans take Baghdad and Saddam Hussein is gone, do you think there will be a wave of anti-Americanism in either the Middle East or in America itself?

AL-AMUDDIN: I'm sorry to say, but it seems that the Americans and the British are losing this battle for the hearts and minds of the people in the Arab world and the Muslim world at large.

They are not seen to be even-handed. They are seen to be treating Iraq in a way, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in another way, while Israel is allowed to have all the chemical weapons it wants, and the nuclear weapons and these, they're seen that, why are they after Iraq?

This is not -- you know, we promised them the road map will be, for example, published. It is not published. Until this injustice is, I think, addressed, people will feel this way. And I hope and pray that this effort will start, and will start very quickly, to mend the bridges between the Arab street and, indeed, the American people.

Because initially, you know, the Americans are seen as friends. I mean, many, many people I know have graduated from American schools, American universities. They're seen to be allies, not enemies.

But unfortunately, since the 11th of September, this hasn't been the case. It has been escalating. And the war on Iraq hasn't helped a bit.

BROWN: Baria, it's good to talk to you again. Thank you very much. Baria al-Amuddin...

AL-AMUDDIN: Thank you, Aaron, nice to be on your show.

BROWN: ... of "Al Hayat," which is published out of London.

We take a break. Our coverage continues in a moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: We step aside here. Anderson and Daryn take you through the morning.

We leave you with a journal, if you will, of one of our embedded reporters. You'll be reading a lot about Jessica Lynch and her rescue. Our Jason Bellini reported one part of that story from Nasiriya. That's where the Marine group that he's traveling with created a diversion, and then the special forces went into get Private Lynch.

It's the latest stop in Jason's journey. He's traveling with members of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. He's had quite an experience, and this is his journal.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JASON BELLINI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've been traveling by helicopter, and that's not a bad way to go. I know they're dangerous, but you get such a great view when you fly in. They fly those helicopters very low. When we first entered Iraq, we saw villagers waving towards us. That was the very first thing -- one of the very first things we saw entering the country.

They went in with tanks, with machine guns blazing. They used suppression fire. They fired up on the place for about 20 minutes before entering.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)! Yeah!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah!

BELLINI: I remember what excited me about the opportunity to be an embedded reporter, and that was, covering this war, being able to be at the ground level, get to know the Marines who I'm with, get to live this experience with them.

Right now I'm here with the first lieutenant, who was part of the taking of this port a little while earlier.

You were here, and you encountered some of that -- you encountered some small-arms fire, is that correct?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we did. We encountered...

BELLINI: You're eating the same food they are, you're sleeping under the same conditions they are. You're waking up at the same hour that they are. And I think that earns you respect. It earns you trust.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're taking gunfire from them!

BELLINI: We're going to get things raw, the way things really are out here. And that's what we're really out here seeking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know what? We don't want this to be seen, all right? You need to stay back.

BELLINI: There are very strict rules under which we operate. In the event of a casualty, we're not going to show the person's face. We're not going to give the person's name until the next of kin is notified. And you have to respect that.

We have a job to do out here. We're here to be witnesses. We are here to report what's going on as accurately as we can.

We can't tell you specifically where we are, other than to say we're outside Umm Qasr.

The first few days, they were very polite to us. They were very accommodating, they welcomed us in. As time has gone on, they've started talking to us less like civilians and more like Marines, especially when we mess up. For example, they'll yell out, Bellini, turn off your computer, you're going to get us killed! You're not supposed to use your computer at night in the dark, because that could give away their position.

And they won't say politely, Jason, will you please turn off your computer, and here's why. They'll just yell at you by your last name. I haven't been yelled at by my last name since I was in PE class back in high school.

But one of the things that's added to the richness of this experience for me personally is the fact that my father was a Marine. He served during the war in Vietnam. And from the moment he heard that I was to be embedded with the Marines, he became very excited.

So I try to do him proud in my reporting, in my behavior out here in the field. I just got an e-mail from him earlier today, and he said, "Sometimes these guys are going to need some encouragement, they're going to need a pat on the back from you. They're going to need to hear some news from home. Be good to these guys. They need it."

Down here we have some Marines who are listening to the radio trying to get a sense of the big picture in this war. It's often difficult when you're out here, when you're only hearing about your own mission, to know where you fit into the larger picture.

The Marines at first had been -- had seemed to us rather cavalier. They were excited about using their weapons, very proud of all the firepower that they had.

In the last day or two, there's been a much more somber tone. The captain told them that there's a likelihood, a likelihood that they will take casualties, that their fellow Marines will be injured or killed on this next mission.

And I think after that, it began to hit home to them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what it comes -- what it comes down to, in my mind, at least, is, we're through [expletive deleted] around.

BELLINI: You're going to hit home that that this is really a war, that this is not a video game, going out there and shooting inanimate objects. You're going out there, and you're going to be putting your life on the line in a very serious way. And that's been sobering in the last 24 hours.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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