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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Live From the Front Lines: Troops Close in on Baghdad

Aired April 2, 2003 - 19:00   ET

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

ANNOUNCER: Tightening the noose around Baghdad and Saddam's Republican Guard.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIG. GEN. VINCENT BROOKS, CENTRAL COMMAND: First they're in trouble. Two, they're under serious attack right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: When will the battle begin and how costly it will be?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VICTORIA CLARKE, PENTAGON SPOKESWOMAN: The toughest fighting could lie ahead. The likelihood that they might use chemical weapons is in front of us now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: The anatomy of a rescue. The inside story of how commandos saved Private Jessica Lynch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The men and women that went in that building and brought her out, they're heroes in my book.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: He's a popular wartime president, but how long can he stay above the political fray and questions and criticism?

Live from Baghdad, Washington, Kuwait City, southern Iraq and cities around the globe. WAR IN IRAQ, "Live From the Front Lines" with Paula Zahn in New York and Wolf Blitzer in Kuwait City.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening and welcome. You're looking at a live picture of Baghdad right now where it's just after 4:00 a.m. There have been reports of explosions there only in the last few minutes. Over the next hour we'll take a look at the latest on the march toward the Iraqi capital, plus another statement from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein including a response to of all people, his niece.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Also ahead, the anatomy of a rescue. Just a couple of hours ago, rescued American POW Jessica Lynch arrived at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany for medical treatment. A little later we'll speak with her family and take a closer look at the daring operation that produced her safe recovery, but first the push into Baghdad.

Coalition field commanders say U.S. troops are now within 15 miles of the Iraqi capital. They say their forces today beat back Iraqi Republican Guard units as part of the two-pronged advance on the city. Army commanders tell CNN's Karl Penhaul U.S. troops could be in Baghdad southern outskirts by early Thursday.

However, the Pentagon is down playing the idea that an invasion of Baghdad is imminent for the second straight day. Iraqi television, meanwhile, has broadcast a statement from the Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. However, despite the appearance of Saddam Hussein in what was said to be new footage, the statement itself was read by an Iraqi news anchor wearing a military uniform.

U.S. officials say they aren't sure whether the Iraqi president is still alive. Regardless, the statement praised Iraqis who have fought coalition forces. It was said to be Saddam Hussein's response to a letter from his niece.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): God bless us with people who will fight for their belief including my daughter (UNINTELLIGIBLE). May the enemy be defeated and there will be thousands of fighters who defending belief -- defending the land of the prophet and holy land.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: And for the latest news out of Baghdad including more on that new statement said to be from Saddam Hussein let's turn to senior international correspondent Nic Robertson. He joins us live from Ruwaished, Jordan where he's been following the day's events. Good evening, Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Paula. Well, for the second straight day President Saddam Hussein having a message read out on Iraqi television by the information minister, Mohammed al Sahaf. This message had a very clear recipient in mind, Jalal Talabani, one of the Kurdish leaders in the north of Iraq.

Yesterday's message focused apparently on the Shia community in the south. Now focusing on the Kurds in the north. That message very simple, don't back the U.S. coalition forces. A message also apparently to Iraqi forces in the north of Iraq, casting the Kurdish leader as not being patriotic, for not being an Iraqi and for backing the coalition forces. A very stark warning coming from the Iraqi leadership.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It is my duty and my moral duty and my constitutional duty is to warn you how dangerous is this game. If you surrender and continue this path, regardless how the problems and differences between our two people, we have one history and one country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON: Not the only message from the Iraqi leader as well, this day. Another statement read on Iraqi television by a news anchor dressed in a military uniform. This one saying that victory is close at hand for the Iraqis, saying that so far Iraq has only put one-third of its Army into the battle, but the coalition forces have already spent all their force in Iraq. They've already committed all their forces to it and they still haven't won.

Also a message, perhaps designed for the Iraqi people. Pictures played on Iraqi television of a ministerial meeting. President Saddam Hussein with his vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan, with his Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz. The Iraqi leader looking somewhat more relaxed. He was in military uniform. But when one looks for insights into this videotape, when was it shot? Does it represent the Iraqi leader as he is now?

Is he alive and well? We can't help but notice that the quality of this material appears to be shot on a much lower grade camera than pictures we have seen the Iraqi leader shot with recently. Perhaps even a D.V. camera rather than some of the big studio cameras that he's often used in the past. So, perhaps that an insight into his ability to communicate, if you will, at this time.

We've had statements, as well, from the information minister of Iraq saying that coalition forces aren't close to Baghdad. That is an illusion created by the Pentagon. He also said that 186 people have been wounded and 24 killed in Iraq in the last day. Those figures cannot be verified. One interesting insight into the casualties in Iraq, though, the International Committee for the Red Cross sent a representative to a hospital in the town of Hilla, about 100 kilometers south of Baghdad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROLAND HUGUENIN-BENJAMIN, INTERNATIONAL CMTE. OF THE RED CROSS (via phone): I'd just like to mention that we have been very much shocked yesterday by the discovery of the terribly high number of civilian casualties at the hospital in Hilla, which is 100 kilometers south of Baghdad and that hospital where we had a chance of traveling with our own surgeon was absolutely overwhelmed by hundreds of civilian casualties brought in just over 48 hours and there were lots and lots of dead bodies that were practically dismembered by the violence of explosions they had been subjected to. This was a horrific sight, very difficult to put up with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON: Now, and these days when the Iraqi people seem to be inundated with messages from their leadership, a decree from President Saddam Hussein saying that people should turn in spies, people who are spying for the coalition forces and that there will be a reward for anyone doing that - Paula.

ZAHN: I guess they were actually asked to turn in their cell phones and their satellite phones to help out in flushing the so- called traitors out. Final question to you tonight, Nic. There is a report that Al Jazeera has suspended all of the work of its correspondents after Iraq banned one of its correspondents. How significant of a move is that?

ROBERTSON: Quite significant. Tayseer Alluni has been expelled from the country. Diyar al-Umari, another reporter based in Baghdad has been told to stop broadcasting. Essentially Al Jazeera now saying that because of this move by the Iraqi authorities, they've decided to suspend the work of their reporters in Basra and in Mosul, in the north of the country. It is very critical for Iraq as well at this time. Al Jazeera has been given, perhaps better access throughout Iraq than any of the other broadcasters based in Baghdad at this time. Al Jazeera have decided that from now on they will only broadcast images and pictures, the statements from Iraqi officials, the pictures they get from the hospitals around Iraq, but they will not have their reporters comment at all - Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Nic. Back to Wolf now in Kuwait City - Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Paula. You have to watch this story every moment because it keeps on changing. The Pentagon now says two of the strongest units of Iraq's elite Republican Guard, the Medina and Baghdad divisions, are no longer credible forces. Army sources tell CNN soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division fought and defeated troops from the Medina division at Karbala, which is about 50 miles south of Baghdad.

Meanwhile to the east of Karbala, U.S. Central Command says U.S. Marines destroyed the Baghdad division in a battle at Kut. The Pentagon says that means the division is no longer able to effectively maneuver or defend.

In southern Iraq, coalition troops say they've seized a giant food distribution center from the paramilitary Fedayeen Saddam in Basra. The center had been used by the U.N. oil-for-food program. Troops found several hundred tons of food inside the facility as well as cash, weapons and documents relating to the food distribution system. Coalition forces say they hope the material will help alleviate the food shortage problems in Basra if and when they take control of the city.

Let's go back to Baghdad now. Allied bombing continuing today in and around the Iraqi capital. U.S. officials say the emphasis was on what they call leadership and command and control targets. CNN's Bob Franken is embedded with the U.S. Air Force. He's joining us now live from an air base not far from the Iraqi border - Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) your discussion just a moment ago about the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the sound of music. And of course, it is a tune that has been playing just constantly for the last several days. I was wondering about the Republican Guard, some numbers which might illustrate - that affect the Air Force bombardment it's been having on that.

There have been about 1900 flights again in the last 24-hour period. Nine hundred of them have been actual combat missions and of that, 600 have been aimed at the Republican Guard. Obviously, a very heavy emphasis and the idea is, of course, that as the fighting goes on in the ground, the air power will be used to debilitate the Republican Guard to zap its strength and the planners here say that, in fact, it is having that effect, that the Republican Guard is getting clobbered so much from the air that it has much softened up for the fight the ground.

It is something that has been going on steadily. The numbers haven't changed over the last couple of days. About four days ago, the number of bombing runs, the number of runs, military missions in their entirety doubled and they've kept up at that pace, quite an intense pace that they continue -- plan to continue as the fight is taken out of the Republican Guard and the march on Baghdad continues on the ground.

There's been an emphasis on that. There's about 50 flights a night that is used - that are used to bomb command and control centers and the like. All, of course, supplementing what's going on in the ground - Wolf.

BLITZER: Bob Franken at an air base not far from the Iraqi border. It's going to be another hectic night, Paula, by all, all accounts.

ZAHN: Thanks, Wolf. As we have been reporting for much of the last couple of hours, coalition troops are now clearly closing in on Baghdad, in some cases within 15 miles of the southern edge of the city, but as we told you earlier, the Pentagon is cautioning that the push into the Iraqi capital may not come any time soon.

CNN senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre is live from the Pentagon now and he joins with us more. Good evening, Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well good evening Paula. The Pentagon is being very cautious not to get too euphoric about these early victories, but in the last 24 hours, the question about whether the Republican Guard would fight or fold has been answered with mostly they're folding. Taking a look at the map, over the last 24 hour, the 3rd Infantry Division was able to punch through Karbala and move along Highway 9 to within about 25 miles of Baghdad in 24 hours.

They're closer to that now. At the same time, Marines from the 1st Division secured a key Tigris River crossing near Al Kut. And they reported to have destroyed the combat ability of another division, the Baghdad division. They're Highway 7 headed north toward Baghdad. Again, as they get toward Baghdad, the most dangerous part of this campaign -- Paula. ZAHN: Let's talk about this so-called red zone that the government is very worried about that they believe Saddam Hussein has set up and once crossed, perhaps weapons of mass destruction will be unleashed. What is the level of concern about that?

MCINTYRE: Well it's very -- it's a very high level of concern. This red zone, which, of course, is not an actual geographic zone on a map. It's more a region close to Baghdad where the U.S. believes Saddam Hussein has given his commanders authority to use chemical weapons and the Pentagon said today that they consider that a real threat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLARKE: As much as we are making good progress and we are, the toughest meeting could lie ahead. The likelihood that they might use chemical weapons is in front of us now. So I just want to calibrate everybody, we are not underestimating how tough it could be going forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCINTYRE: And one indication that they're not underestimating that, we are getting reports that some of the troops that are very close to Baghdad now are operating already in their chemical protection gear - Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon. U.S. Central Command says U.S. Marines found two Iraqi Al Samoud 2 missiles on Monday. Officials say they were found on a farm near Fila (ph) in central Iraq. Iraq was ordered to destroy all of its Al Samoud 2's in the weeks before the war. The U.N. said they exceeded the range limit of some 93 miles.

Clearly military casualties are one of the most difficult things for all of us to have to report. The Pentagon says today 49 American service members have died since the Iraq war began. The British government, meanwhile, says 27 of its troops have been killed, many of them in accidents - Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks, Wolf. With coalition units less than 15 miles from Baghdad in some cases, the noose is tightening around the capital city. To help us understand how the battle may play out and what kind of warfare we can expect from now on, let's bring in retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters in Washington. Thanks so much for joining us sir.

LT. COL. RALPH PETERS, (RET.) U.S. ARMY: I'm delighted to be here with you Paula.

ZAHN: Our pleasure as well. I don't know how much of Jamie McIntyre's reporting you just heard from the Pentagon, but he said the Pentagon is being quite cautious in talking about any time line at which troops will actually go into Baghdad. What are your thoughts about that?

PETERS: Well that's very important. First of all, we don't want to give the Iraqis a timetable. Also, there isn't a firm time -- I cannot speak -- there isn't a firm timetable yet because we don't know how the situation will develop. And so they'll be watching intelligence indicators very, very closely to see if opportunities arise and there was a comment that we're not going to rush precipitously into Baghdad - we're certainly not. I mean, Saddam Hussein would love for us to do something foolish and rash.

Time is on our side. Our forces, they're not performing a textbook operation. They're beyond all the textbooks. They're improvising as they go and it's with tremendous success. Today Jamie, I think it was, mentioned that the 3rd I.D. pushed through the Karbala gap, very important on the approach to Baghdad.

And a team, the air ground team from all services supporting this, it's a level of jointness, a level of cooperation that really takes warfare to an entirely a new level. Now as far as a battle of Baghdad goes, Paula, I don't believe there's going to be a bloodbath in Baghdad unless Saddam inflicts one on his own people. We are going to take our time, do it wisely, intelligently and as humanely as possible, but there's no doubt about the outcome.

ZAHN: So, if you don't envision a bloodbath, what is it that you do think will happen once coalition troops go into Baghdad?

PETERS: Well before we go into Baghdad - I mean, it's quite possible that General Franks will decide to close that ring about Baghdad or perhaps, even let what the military used to call a golden bridge. One part of the ring around Baghdad open, so anybody can flee - the small potatoes guys, the small timers, the thugs fleeing, get out of there if they want to. He may close it, but once we've got basically our troops ringing Baghdad, suddenly you can focus our nation's intelligence assets on one city.

You can focus all our troops, all our air power, precision strikes, special forces, CIA teams that are doubtless already in the city, Iraqi agents. We're getting fantastic intelligence right now from Iraqis who are coming to us and volunteering information. They'll help us target. The more prisoners we take, the more Iraqi generals and colonels give us information about where the real hidden bunkers are.

So we'll be able to methodically dismantle any defense of Baghdad if it doesn't collapse in the meantime and remember, Paula, as you know very well, a regime like this, it can hold out in a bunker for quite a while, but it can also collapse very quickly -- the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Mussolini model. So there are a lot of variables, but the one thing in which I'm personally confident is this campaign that's been going so marvelously is not going to suddenly falter at the gates of Baghdad.

ZAHN: And that's certainly a prediction shared by the folks we heard out at a bunch of briefings today. Lieutenant Colonel Peters, thank you so much for your insight today, appreciate your dropping by.

PETERS: My pleasure.

ZAHN: Still to come, she was missing for more than a week in Iraq, but now she's safe and sound. Coming up, the anatomy of a rescue. We're going to take you inside the dramatic rescue of Private First Class Jessica Lynch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) special forces operation, in this case, very successful.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: U.S. soldiers are facing their missions with a unique sense of accomplishment today, fueled by the successful rescue of Private First Class Jessica Lynch. The former POW arrived at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany just a couple of hours ago. She's suffering from broken bones and bullet wounds, but she is expected to recover. Commandos freed her from an Iraqi military command in a daring covert operation.

It was a classic extraction mission last night in Nasiriyah involving elements of the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines. According to the U.S. military, it started with a diversionary attack elsewhere in the city and coming in under cover of darkness, a team of Army Rangers and Navy SEALS flew into the Saddam Hussein Hospital in Nasiriyah on Air Force MA-60 (ph) special forces helicopters. They came away with Private First Class Jessica Lynch and 11 bodies, possibly American casualties.

CNN military analyst General Don Shepperd says it probably went down like this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD, (RET.) U.S. AIR FORCE: This appears to be a typical joint forces special operation seizure of an individual. Probably had a couple of days of intelligence warning, they confirmed that intelligence, then most likely a diversionary attack by the Marines. Insertion by Air Force special operations helicopters, security of the facility, in this case, a hospital by Rangers, then rescue of the individual, by Navy SEALS, also supported by close air support by AC-130 gunships and probably fixed-wing aviation standing by. A classic operation and very successful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: With the necessary forces on hand, planning for this mission was likely formulated in less than a day and Shepperd says was likely comprised of more than 100 Army Rangers and more than 40 Navy SEALS. CENTCOM announced that there were no coalition casualties in the mission. Lynch had not been heard from since she and 14 of her comrades of the 507th Supply Company took what's been described as a wrong turn near Nasiriyah on March 23. Five were POWs as showcased on Iraqi television, two were killed, and the other eight listed as missing -- Jessica among them.

There were screams of joy when word of Lynch's rescue reached her hometown of Palestine, West Virginia. Needless to say her family is relieved to know she is alive and safe and they are thankful to the brave troops who risked so much to bring her home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREG LYNCH, JESSICA LYNCH'S FATHER: It takes a very brave bunch of people to risk their own lives to go in and free a hostage. We didn't even know she was captured, you know. It was -- last we heard she was just missing in action. So that was a big shock when we found out she was captured.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: CNN's Jeff Flock is with the Lynch's family in Palestine, West Virginia. He's joining us now live -- Jeff.

JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Wolf, and we can bring you the very latest from Jessica Lynch from her own lips. She spoke by phone for the first time to her parents not far from where we stand in her hometown just a short time ago. We spent a good bit of time today with the Lynch family watching with them as they watched the first pictures of their daughter. Here is what she told them.

They tell us that she said she's in good spirits. She kept saying she was hungry apparently. As for her condition, she confirms to her parents that both her legs are broken and her right arm is broken, but nothing on the report that perhaps she had been wounded in the rescue of her. She didn't say anything about gunshot wounds, so we're not able to confirm that.

Indeed, it has been a very special day here in her hometown in and around her hometown. You know, we've been in a lot of places with yellow ribbons over the years for various reasons, but this has got to be one of the all-time records. There are signs, yellow ribbons, American flags, all sorts of celebrations about Jessica's return here.

They look at it as kind of a miracle here in West Virginia. And you know, one final note, Wolf. This took place just a short time ago. Jessica, you know, had joined the military in part because she wanted to pay for her college education so she could come back home here and teach school. Well, we were able to listen in just a short time ago when the governor visited her parents here in her hometown and told them that she would not have to worry about school -- paying for school again. Let's listen -- a little bit hard to hear, but we were listening in as the governor made an announcement to her parents. Give it a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to assure you on behalf of the state of West Virginia, there will be a full scholarship for her whenever she wants to go to college.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Thank you so much. (END VIDEO CLIP)

FLOCK: Perhaps the least they can do for Jessica Lynch who has given so much. They are joyous back here in West Virginia. That's the latest from here, Paula. Back to you.

ZAHN: Jeff, I guess what I was struck by earlier today in talking to one of her brothers on the air, she said - or he said it took his father many minutes to realize that this wasn't some kind of a cruel April Fool's Day joke that someone was playing on him when they made this call to say that they had Jessica.

FLOCK: It happened on April Fool's Day and that was his first thought. It truly is a miracle here. Something they really couldn't believe happen -- pretty amazing.

ZAHN: Thanks for sharing that celebration with us, Jeff.

Meanwhile, former President George Bush is adding his encouragement to U.S. troops. He visited the Marine Corps Air Station in Cherry Point, North Carolina today. The former president says the thing he misses most about being the commander-in-chief is dealing with the U.S. military because of their dedication and their pride in country. Mr. Bush also expressed confidence in his son's ability to handle the war in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH, FMR. PRESIDENT: Usually these days, the speaking role goes to one of our sons. That would be the current president of the United States...

(CHEERING)

BUSH: ... but I can tell you that he is staying the course. He is not going to back down (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of his responsibilities and he's going to see this through to victory.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: And now the current President Bush is expected to head to North Carolina tomorrow himself to visit U.S. troops at Camp LeJeune.

A little bit later on, criticizing a wartime president. Is there a point when it becomes unpatriotic? We're going to hear from "CROSSFIRE's" James Carville and Tucker Carlson.

But next, the frightening disease known as SARS. How do you protect yourself? We're going to speak with a doctor who is waiting to find out if he's got it. He's quarantined now. That's just 60 seconds away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS ALERT) ZAHN: Welcome back at 31 minutes after the hour. A big push is on for the CDC to understand that mysterious flu-like disease that's been spreading all over the world. Health officials are making progress with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, but have yet to find a cure.

Right now in the United States there are 85 suspected cases of SARS. Seventy-eight people contracted the disease while traveling abroad. They are believed to have spread it to seven others, five in their homes, two healthcare workers.

Now in the wake of a SARS scare on an international flight from Tokyo yesterday, flight attendants are asking the FAA to help them reduce their chances of getting the disease. They want to be issued masks and latex gloves. By the way, the passengers on that flight from Tokyo were checked out. Apparently none of them had SARS.

Joining me on the telephone tonight, Dr. Donald Low with Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto. He is Canada's leading expert on infectious diseases. Low treated a patient believed to have SARS and is now in isolation himself at home. But he is working the phones for us tonight.

Dr. Lowe, thanks so much for being with us. Do you know for sure if you have SARS?

DR. DONALD LOW, MT. SINAI HOSPITAL, TORONTO: No. We're taking the caution. And the decision was made I had a significant exposure. And the medical officer of health felt that -- and I listened to her decision that I should be home in isolation for 10 days in order that I don't put anyone else at risk.

ZAHN: So when will you get symptoms if you end up getting them at all?

LOW: Well typically the patients that I've seen -- and I've seen about 25 patients with this disease -- is that after exposure, symptoms come on about four to seven days afterwards. And I'm about four days right now. I feel fine. I have no temperature, no muscle aches. So I'm keeping my finger crossed.

ZAHN: And when you treated this particular patient, did you have a pretty good idea what was wrong with the patient?

LOW: Well, actually, no. This was the problem. It was exposure to somebody that was actually incubating the disease and wasn't recognized at the time.

And that's been the real challenge for us, is it's not the patient that we know about. We know how to protect ourselves and protection other healthcare workers and patients. It's the patients you don't know, and that's where the break occurred. And that's where the exposure occurred.

ZAHN: So if you end up having it, how are you going to be treated? LOW: A lot of prayer. There's not much really that we have to offer patients. We've been looking at -- we've treated most of our patients with a drug called Ribovirin (ph), which is an antiviral drug used to treat Hepatitis C and those patients with pneumonia. I'm not really convinced it's making any difference.

So we need new drugs. We need better drugs and we need them pretty quickly.

ZAHN: So are you saying it's going to be fatal in most of these case, or if you have a strong immune system you can ride it out?

LOW: What we've seen is that most of the deaths that we've experienced here in Toronto have been older patients with underlying disease. They're at greatest risk for dying, but you know this is clearly a very important new emerging pathogen that is causing a disease in not only patients that travel to China but also people coming back, and healthcare workers. And the healthcare workers are at greatest risk right now.

ZAHN: So just a final word of advice to any Americans and Canadians worried about possibly having been exposed to SARS?

LOW: Well I think we have to be vigilant. We really have to -- it's a wake-up call in how we manage patients in a hospital. I think our initial case, it was clear a patient with pneumonia that was thought to have just a regular community-acquired pneumonia. And we didn't recognize it, and that was unfortunately the mistake that occurred. And as a result, we've got over at least 129 cases in the Toronto area.

ZAHN: Well, we are pulling for you and hope if we check in with you this time next week you will be just fine. Thank you for sharing your story with us tonight.

LOW: Oh, thanks, Paula. Bye.

ZAHN: Dr. Low, good luck. Back to wolf now in Kuwait City -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Paula. That's a pretty scary story. We'll continue to monitor it.

(WEATHER)

ZAHN: Just ahead, hot weather may be a burden on the troops if they have to use heavy gear in response to a chemical weapons attack. CNN's Miles O'Brien will take a live look at that -- Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Paula, as coalition forces draw nearer to Baghdad, there is great concern about the possible use of chemical weapons. We'll explore that issue and look at the possible ramifications after a brief break. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: The heat could make things tough for U.S. and British troops, especially if they're wearing protective suits as they approach Baghdad. They're already well within the so-called red zone around the city. That's the area military officials are concerned could trigger the Iraqis to launch chemical or biological weapons.

We turn now to CNN's Miles O'Brien in the CNN newsroom, and our military analyst, Kelly McCann, to get a bit of a perspective on this dangerous possibility -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Thanks very much, Wolf. Kelly, good to have you with us.

First, I want to ask you about this red zone. I think people have this sense like there's almost like a red ring around Baghdad. And I think that might be a little bit misleading. The point is, as the coalition draws near to Baghdad, first of all, they're going to be gathering together in one place, that's one thing.

Secondly, the defenses of the Republican Guard are diminished. And does that raise a possible chemical weapons scenario?

KELLY MCCANN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: It absolutely does. As we've caused attrition on their side and they have less combat effectiveness, as we approach on a wide frontage, them not knowing exactly where the access of advance is going to come from, then the bottom line is they have no choice to strong point. And perhaps contaminate an area, thereby thinking they've taken it off the board, is a possibility.

O'BRIEN: All right. Now we've already seen some pictures. The 101st Airborne today, they were testing out their gear. And this gear, it's bulky, it's hot, the temperatures are rising. And yet it is obviously something that these troops have to keep nearby. How ready are -- can a force be to fight and to wage a fight when you're wearing all that heavy protective gear?

MCCANN: As a force, very effective. However, at the rifleman level your peripheral vision is cut down about 40 to 50 percent, meaning that now the rifleman has to conduct head sweeps to be able to see to his left and right and maintain that situational awareness that he's taught is so important in combat.

O'BRIEN: And then throw the heat in there, and you've got all kinds of factors to consider. Let's take a look at an animation. This is a scenario that our folks have put together.

This is a scenario of a Baghdad scene. We put a couple of pieces of artillery there. Is artillery the likely thing that would be firing off a chemical warhead of some kind?

MCCANN: It is. And also, it would be a battery in-depth. In other words, instead of one tube, as we demonstrated here, it might be six tubes, it might be eight. So when down range dispersal area is much wider and much deeper.

O'BRIEN: You want to go for a wide dispersal range. All right. Let's continue this animation.

Off goes a chemical weapon, we depict this. And what happens is, these warheads, they tend to explode just a bit above the ground. Right?

MCCANN: Above ground, because it has to be controlled how high because of the dispersal of the agent as it comes down.

O'BRIEN: All right. Down it comes. Presumably these people in the Humvee have their gear on. The dispersing occurs, and with the gear on they're safe and sound, right? In theory.

MCCANN: Yes. They have to be decontaminated, as does all their equipment, but they are safe.

O'BRIEN: All right. Now, we put in a reprisal scenario here. You've got an F-18 Hornet in the fight there despite the smoke. They're using some help from a scout helicopter there, laser- designated target, because they would be able to identify it after the firing. And off goes the missile to take care of that. Now what my point is here is, as you take out a chemical weapons battery there, artillery or whatever, do you -- in and of itself, do you create a chemical cloud there?

MCCANN. Some. And some contamination will occur. But a lot of it will be incinerated with the detonation, because a lot of these agents are fairly volatile.

And the one thing that we didn't show here is the early warning system. They would have warning -- hopefully minutes, maybe -- before it's fired and counter battery fire. In other words, U.S. artillery that might be able to engage that batter as soon as they open out -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right. Kelly McCann, appreciate that. Hopefully that's a scenario we'll never see in person. We'll just leave it in the realm of animation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Miles and Kelly.

Voices critical of the war in Iraq seem to have been growing louder in recent days. Just ahead we'll be joined by the hosts of CNN's "CROSSFIRE," James Carville and Tucker Carlson. They'll take a closer look.

Also ahead, this isn't the first time a president has heard criticism during a war. We'll have some historical perspectives.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back. President Bush met with his top national security advisers today. He is keeping a low public profile right now. The White House says Mr. Bush has no intention of giving military commanders advice on tactics and/or the timing of operations in Iraq. Senior White House correspondent John King has the very latest from the White House tonight. Good evening, John. JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good evening to you, Paula. Constant questions we are told from the president, but no micromanaging. That is the message the White House tried to portray.

One key example of this, of course, the dramatic developments of the past 24 hours, that rescue operation that brought Private First Class Jessica Lynch out of Iraq. White House officials says the president was updated on that rescue operation this morning. The White House provided us a photo of one of the president's sessions with his national security team.

It was at a similar conversation yesterday that we were told the president was given what his press secretary calls a hint of what was to come. Other senior officials telling us the president received a general briefing that there was a possibility of a rescue operation. Ari Fleischer, the press secretary, saying today that that is not the type of decision that Mr. Bush grants authority for. He says the field commanders have brought authority to conduct missions, including dramatic rescue missions and risky rescue missions like this if the commanders in the field see fit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the president had generalized information. But again, the tactical information was a decision about what to do and what to do (ph) that was made by commanders on the ground. The president had some general awareness that something might be happening, but not the details.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Two days now since the president has held the public event, but we will see him tomorrow. Mr. Bush leaving Washington early in the morning to go to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, a key Marine training base there. Mr. Bush, we are told, will give quite an optimistic assessment of the war effort, but he will, as troops get closer and closer to Baghdad, make the case that the most dramatic battles still lie just ahead.

Mr. Bush also will take some time in private to meet with family members of U.S. servicemen killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Meetings like that, one of the reasons the White House (UNINTELLIGIBLE) all the celebration of the release and the rescue of this one American prisoner of war today. The White House says the joy is tempered by the fact that some families are losing their sons and daughters in this conflict -- Paula.

ZAHN: A troubling contrast. John King, thanks so much. Back to Wolf now in Kuwait City.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Paula. There's of course a history of American presidents being criticized during times of war. Here's CNN's Bruce Morton.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): War goes on, and so does the arguing. Is the plan working? Is it the right plan? Its defenders resent its critics.

GEN. RICHARD MYERS, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: It's one thing to have an opinion. It's another thing to express such dissatisfaction with, "the plan," that it's just not very helpful. I mean you have troops in combat. As most senior military would know, that's not the time to start putting different opinions, especially from senior people, on the table.

MORTON: They've criticized the bombing. "The bombing raids have dropped too many bombs and too few." "Air raids have managed to kill enough civilians to stoke fires of protest throughout the Muslim world, but failed to take out the regime." "The Kansas City Star" from -- wait a minute -- from November 4, 2001. They were criticizing the bombing about two weeks into the Afghanistan campaign, not this one. The regime they said the bombing hadn't changed the was the Taliban.

Tommy Franks, the chief planner, the question is whether he is the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time. Army specialists in unconventional warfare think he is. But wait again. Columnist and CNN commentator Robert Novak wrote that about Franks' command role in the Afghanistan War, November 12, 2001.

A retired officer, Rear Admiral John Stufflebeam: "I am a bit surprise at how doggedly they're hanging on." Not Saddam's men, but the Taliban. He was quoted in November 2001.

All the elements of the opposition are not yet identified, let alone united. "The Washington Post" writing not about Kurds and Shiites, but about anti-Taliban guerrillas, October 21, 2001. A couple of weeks into that war, remember, Kabul hadn't fallen, even Mazar al Shareef hadn't.

The criticism then, as now, started early. Critics are sometimes right, of course. Most would now agree the U.S. blundered in Vietnam. They are sometimes right, but they are almost always early.

And wars are unpredictable, of course. But Dwight Eisenhower, who command the allied invasion of Normandy during World War II, may have had it right. "War plans are fine," he said, "until the fighting starts." Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: So the question is, at what point will it become politically correct to criticize President Bush? Who better to bat that one around than the hosts of CNN's "CROSSFIRE"? Joining us from Washington, James Carville and Tucker Carlson. We're keeping them separated tonight. Good evening, gentlemen.

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Good evening, Paula.

ZAHN: Let me start out with you, Tucker, tonight. When you have the commander of the ground forces in the Persian Gulf raising questions about the possibility of having underestimated the strength of these paramilitary forces, and even questioning the timetable, do you have a problem with any of the pointed questions that followed from the press and retired members of the military?

CARLSON: No. I think they're all completely valid questions. I mean, there are men in uniform fighting this war who have similar questions. There's nothing wrong with the press racing (ph).

There's nothing wrong with criticizing the president's judgment or his actions now or any time (AUDIO GAP) war started, Congressman Pete Stark, sitting member of Congress, accused the United States government of committing an act of terrorism by beginning this war. Nobody said anything. So the idea that somehow there's a clamp down on critics of the president or of the war, I just don't see it. Maybe it exists, but it's hidden.

ZAHN: Do you think the administration has been too defensive about all of these questions?

CARLSON: Well, I'm not sure too defensive. You can understand. I mean, look, the point that General Myers was making that it's not helpful is obviously true. It's not helpful. But that doesn't mean it's illegitimate.

I mean I think both sides have a good point. I mean there's nothing wrong with literally armchair generals critiquing a war. That's their right. And there's again, nothing wrong with the administration being uncomfortable with it and pointing out that it's not helpful.

ZAHN: James, what kind of job do you think the administration has done in managing expectations here? I see that got a chuckle out of you, what Tucker just had to say.

JAMES CARVILLE, HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Well, you know some people have done a better job. Other people have not done so good a job.

I think Rumsfeld is just thin-skinned. I mean he was way out front criticizing the Kosovo war. And right in the middle of the war he said it was a mistake to allow ground troops. Well, he happened to be wrong.

Maybe some of these generals who are being critical now might be wrong. We'll have to wait to see until after the war is over. But if you are scared of criticism or you've got thin skin, being secretary of defense at a time of war is not a place to be.

I don't know how good a secretary he is. I guess history will judge that. But he is the thinnest skinned cabinet member I've seen in a long time. And my advice to him is just, toughen up, fellow. Everybody gets second (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CARLSON: Well, wait a second. I mean, for -- if the secretary of defense is so thin-skinned, one wonders why the Pentagon allowed members of the press to travel with troops into battle? I mean I'm not sure -- and good for them, by the way, but Donald Rumsfeld, of course, signed off on that.

That was the idea of this administration. So if it was so thin- skinned, I don't think they'd allow CNN to tag along.

CARVILLE: You must have missed his press conference yesterday. But at any rate, he was big enough, and I don't care. He was critical of the government during the time of war. He shouldn't be surprised if people will come out and say something.

I actually think that they're going to win this war. I never thought it was going to be a particularly difficult war to win. The peace I'm a little more skeptical about. But, hey, I'm (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I'm not qualified to second-guess anybody on this.

ZAHN: Tucker, finally tonight, this may be a tough one for you to put yourself in the shoes of the Democrats. But if you were the Democrats, what would you be talking about right now?

CARLSON: I would probably be saying as little as possible. I guess I'd probably be denouncing Pete Stark for accusing American forces of committing acts of terrorism. That would probably be high on my list.

I'd also ask probably Congressman Charlie Rangel to take back his claim that American force were, "killing women and children indiscriminately." For the most part, I think Democrats have been doing what they should do. They've been broadly supportive of troops on the field.

Good for them. I'd probably continue doing that, and hope the war ends soon so the campaign can begin.

CARVILLE: Yes. I think it's in everybody's interest for this war to end as quickly and successfully as possible. I said that before it started; I certainly believe that now. And I hope the next time I'm on this network it will be after it's over.

ZAHN: Well, a lot of people would be clapping if that were the case. James Carville, Tucker Carlson, thank you both. Nice to see you, even though we don't have the two of you sitting side by side tonight.

Just ahead, you will probably know by now that by flipping through the channels you are liking look to get a different view of the war. But what about folks in other countries? Bruce Burkhardt will take a look.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Al-Jazeera TV is getting out of Iraq. The Arab language network decided to pull its correspondents out of the country after the Iraqi government banned a couple of them from reporting. But Al-Jazeera says it will keep airing live and recorded pictures of the battles.

So how is the war playing on TV sets around the world? Here's CNN's Bruce Burkhardt.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE BURKHARDT, CNN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: After the opening niceties, "Hello my name is," the very first thing this Russian TV anchor said in the evening news is "American and British forces are starting to realize that the Iraqi people do not see them as liberators, but as invaders." And then he adds, "In other words, shoot now, ask questions later." The mocking attitude is unmistakable.

Like so many other international TV outlets, Russian war coverage is heavy on the civilian casualties, including some images that are simply too graphic to show here. But they're images that much of the world is seeing. And if the coalition is winning the war on the ground, they very well might be losing the war on the airwaves. Here the anchor says, "The main topic of our program tonight will be the innocent civilians killed in Iraq."

This is a report from state-owned Iranian television that was submitted to "CNN WORLD REPORT," a program that showcases the work of international broadcasters. It's a story about media coverage and the rise of the Arab networks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Regional and Arabic TV channels are playing a direct role by launching counterattacks against the biased coverage of the war by the Americans, and have Arab footage of the casualties of the invading forces.

BURKHARDT: On China's CCTV (ph), English-speaking newscast, the first Iraq story is not about civilian casualties, but chemical weapons.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Iraq has once against denied possessing chemical weapons. The country's vice president, Taha Yassin Ramada, says the coalition countries may try to manufacture evidence that Iraq has illegal armaments.

BURKHARDT: That's a slice of the war from China, Iran and Russia, as seen on TV. Bruce Burkhardt, CNN, Atlanta.

ZAHN: A slice of the world. That's interesting to see.

Oftentimes pictures can tell a story better than words can. Coming up, some of the vivid images from the dramatic rescue of American POW Jessica Lynch. Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back. Pictures don't have to move to tell compelling stories. Especially the ones you're about to see. They're not about the battles or bloodshed in Iraq, but about courage and honor. They're about finding a wounded comrade and bringing her home.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ZAHN (voice-over): Saving Private Lynch. A daring nighttime raid by special ops frees an American prisoner of war. She's injured but alive. And that much closer to home.

These images show Jessica being carried on a stretcher, rescued more than a week after a maintenance company made a wrong turn and came under fire from Iraqi forces. In Palestine, West Virginia, a nervous and anxious father receives a call. At first he thinks it's an April fool's joke.

Then the reality sets in. His daughter is safe. The Lynch family celebrates. Friends and family gather in the darkness. It's a time to rejoice, but also a time to remember.

Those who liberated Jessica also found the remains of 11 bodies, some believed to be Americans. Still, this is a moment to savor. On the first of April, this is no cruel joke. Private Jessica Lynch is no longer a POW, not longer missing in action. Days of worry transformed in an instance.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: That very brave Jessica Lynch went into the military so she could be educated, and we found out tonight, Wolf, from the governor of her state, when she comes home, she has a full scholarship waiting for her.

BLITZER: Well, good for her. We all want to see her home safe and sound. She's now at a military hospital in Germany.

We're going to spend the next hour recounting this day as it happened. We're going to get to that right after a quick check of all the latest developments.

(NEWS ALERT)

ANNOUNCER: Live from the front lines, the timeline that created today's headlines. Tonight, how the day unfolded on the war front.

The noose tightens around the Iraqi capital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've moved to within 30 miles of Baghdad. But there remains tough fighting ahead.

ANNOUNCER: Is this the eve of a battle for Baghdad?

The decoys and the U.S. rescue mission behind enemy lines to save Private Jessica Lynch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The men and women that went in that building and brought her out, they're heroes, in my book.

ANNOUNCER: A new sighting of Saddam Hussein, but it's not live. Is he?

Plus, will he succeed in triggering a new jihad against America? Did the president underestimate Iraq? Is the war plan off course, or right on target?

Live from the front lines, day 15.

ZAHN: And welcome.

You're looking at a live picture of Baghdad in the predawn hours there. As usual, there have been reports of new explosions overnight. But today is different. Today, the front line of the war is just a half hour drive away, some 15 miles down the road.

Good evening. I'm Paula Zahn in New York. My colleague, Wolf Blitzer, joins me from Kuwait City -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good evening, Paula.

In the next hour, we're going to take a close look at how today's military developments unfolded rapid-fire in the field, and how those developments put U.S. troops virtually on Baghdad's doorstep.

Plus, critics of the war plan. They're not just in the news media. Some of them are on the front lines. Did the war plan go off course, or will victory in Baghdad prove it right on target -- Paula.

ZAHN: And Wolf, as we move through the timeline of day 15, you'll be watching our three top stories develop. Coalition ground forces are getting ever closer to Baghdad. U.S. troops now within 15 miles of the southern edge of Baghdad. And there are some new pictures of Saddam Hussein, but the same old question, is he really alive? And will Muslims heed his call for a holy war?

And there are also questions back at the Pentagon and in Washington. How sound is the coalition battle plan, and are there enough forces to do the job?

BLITZER: Those are all important questions.

Let's move on and get to the early hours of the morning. We learned from our embedded correspondents that the pace to Baghdad had indeed quickened. U.S. Army troops from the 3rd Infantry pushed through the town of Karbala, while some 100 miles to the east, U.S. Marines took a bridge across the Tigris River near the town of Al Kut. Karbala is roughly 40 miles from Baghdad, Al Kut roughly 100.

We begin in the 7:00 hour with our Walter Rodgers in the red zone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Throughout the day, as the U.S. Army's 7th Cavalry punched northward in the general direction of Baghdad, we have seen huge convoys of supply troops moving ever northward. Indeed, all the arrows on the Army's map seem to be pointing in the direction of the southern suburbs of Baghdad.

Earlier in the day, the 1st Brigade of the 3rd infantry Division took Karbala with a minimum of fight. And then the 3rd Brigade of the 3rd Infantry division secured the town of Karbala. Additionally, the 7th Cavalry has pushed onward in the general direction of Baghdad.

Yesterday, we were about 50 miles from the southern suburbs of Baghdad. We have perhaps halved that distance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Also during the 7:00 hour, a traffic report. News of a major traffic jam. What's new about that? Just this. The traffic jam was on the road to Baghdad.

And as CNN's Martin Savidge reported, it was all coalition military.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All day long, we have been on the move, pushing about 80 kilometers from our last position in central Iraq. It's not hard to guess that we are moving north, pushing northward, not just the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. We take a look at the roadway in the distance there.

The reason that progress has been so slow is the fact that the roadway is utterly jam-packed with military hardware.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Well, the traffic jam was impressive, but the highlight of the 7:00 hour came during the Central Command briefing in Doha, Qatar. Military officials released a short videotape of the daring rescue of prisoner of war Jessica Lynch. The green, grainy nightscope video showed Private First Class Lynch being carried on a stretcher to a waiting Black Hawk helicopter. Lynch had suffered several gunshot wounds and broken bones when she and members of her company were ambushed and captured back on March 23.

U.S. special forces rescued her last night after discovering she was in a Nasiriyah hospital.

It didn't take much time to get reaction from her family. They, of course, are thrilled. And here is some of what Private Lynch's brother Greg told me during our 8:00 hour earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREG LYNCH, JR., JESSICA LYNCH'S BROTHER: We were so (UNINTELLIGIBLE) by the news that everybody was in shock, Paula. Everybody was in shock. But, you know, we want to, we really want to think that just because my sister made it home safely, and she's on her way, hopefully, we still have others missing, and, you know, lives are being lost, and we're -- you know, we're astounded by the news, but yet we're still looking forward to hear of good news about the other families as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: And they're certainly waiting for it. Greg Lynch, Jr., mentioned the other POW families. As you've just heard, many of them are at Fort Bliss, Texas, and that's where we find Ed Lavandera tonight.

Hi, Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Paula, it's a windy west Texas evening. And as many of the families here and the community, the family community here at Fort Bliss, has been celebrating the recovery of Jessica Lynch.

There are still many families here holding out for news of their own family members, and it is a difficult wait.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Hope and war are an emotionally dangerous mixture. For Jessica Lynch's family, hope turned out to be a powerfully rewarding force.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's about all we've got to hold onto, is faith and hope. If we lose faith and hope and quit praying to the Lord, there's no hope. So you've got to keep us soaring high.

LAVANDERA: Families of the other soldiers in the 507th Maintenance Company are finding momentary comfort in the excitement of Lynch's rescue. It reinforces the possibility that dreams can come true.

CLAUDE JOHNSON, POW'S FATHER: And I think it is great that she is back. And that gives everybody hope that...

LAVANDERA: Claude Johnson can't stop thinking of holding his daughter again. A banner awaits Shoshana Johnson in the family's front yard in El Paso, hopeful preparations for a hero's homecoming.

JOHNSON: As I have said previously, it's not just about Shoshana, it's about all of the prisoners that are over there. And I hope and pray that each and every one of them can come home safe, just like Jessica did.

LAVANDERA: Some families have seen their loved ones on television. That has helped. But the families of those soldiers still missing in action have little to hold onto at this point. Army counselors know this is a grueling test of emotional strength, especially for young family members.

PEGGY BROWN, FAMILY ASSISTANCE CENTER: A lot of the children are having difficulty in school. They're having difficulty sleeping. Some of them are having problems with their own siblings, fighting and lashing out. Some of them have shown signs of depression. And those are all being addressed.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: Now, Fort Bliss officials say that there is a team of counselors that have been helping all of these family members through any kind of a need that they might have at this point. And they do say that they have been in contact.

And one interesting note to pass along, one of the members of the family readiness group here at Fort Bliss was talking to the Jessica Lynch family yesterday, just moments after they had found out the news that she had been recovered safely. And the family readiness counselor here was saying that all that she could hear in the background was celebrations and laughter and a lot of joyous occasion in the background.

So a sense of -- that a lot of these other families here associated with the 507th Maintenance Company would like to experience as well. But the family counselors here know that perhaps that might not be the case for all of them.

And that's why they're on hand to do the difficult job that they have before them.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: And our heart, Ed, goes out to all of those families.

The next stop in our timeline, 9:00 a.m. over in Amman, Jordan. We hear from a group of journalists. They've been missing inside Iraq for a week. It turns out they had been held in prison. Expelled from Iraq, safe in Jordan, they finally tell their story.

CNN's Rym Brahimi listened.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RYM BRAHIMI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From their separate cells, the journalists said they could hear the intensive bombing outside and antiaircraft artillery nearby. They said they also heard the moans and cries of other prisoners.

MATTHEW MCALLESTER, "NEWSDAY" REPORTER: We could hear screams, especially at night, but I don't think exclusively. I think I may have heard -- it becomes a bit jumbled, the memory. But I think I may have heard it during the day. But specifically, we were in a cell block...

BRAHIMI: Freelance photographer Molly Bingham recounted her fears while in captivity.

MOLLY BINGHAM, FREELANCE PHOTOGRAPHER: We didn't know what they were going to do with us. And as I said, they often -- they took us away individually, blindfolded. I mean, you have no idea where they're taking you or what they're going to do to you.

And so, you know, absolutely, you know, every other moment of every day it was like, you know, Are they going to kill me, or are they just going to ask me more questions? And are the questions going to be something I can answer? Or, you know, how is this going to come out?

BRAHIMI: They say they were never formally charged with anything. They were frequently interrogated, at times even blindfolded. But "Newsday" correspondent Matthew McAllester acknowledged they may have stretched Iraqi reporting rules at times.

MCALLESTER: Did we push the envelope sometimes? Yes. And why? Because this was a story that Moises and I had thought about, discussed for hours, days. We discussed it with our editors And we felt that it was our -- it was a personal choice.

BRAHIMI (on camera): Scores of journalists remain in Baghdad, trying, under increasingly difficult circumstances, to report the war. Four of them, at least, will never forget their last week in the Iraqi capital.

Rym Brahimi, CNN, Amman, Jordan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And now our timeline moves to 10:00 a.m. Eastern, and Iraq's holiest city. Najaf is the burial place of the Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law, Ali.

Iraqi paramilitary forces are hiding out in his shrine, because they know, or they think they know, the U.S. won't attack it. But when the Iraqis venture out, that's a different story, as CNN's Ryan Chilcote showed us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The fight continues. And I'm sure you can see those huge black plumes of smoke behind me. Let me show you them a little bit better.

What we understand that to be, and this is according to initial reports, is, just a short while ago, and this is within the hour, several pickup trucks, blue pickup trucks even, we know, were moving through an intersection in the city at the same time a U.S. military convoy was.

And they had a chance encounter. The pickup trucks, apparently being driven by Fedayeen paramilitary fighters, opened fire on the U.S. military convoy with Russian assault rifles, AK-47s. The U.S. convoy stopped, did a head count. Once they were sure everybody was OK, they called in those Apache attack helicopters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: CNN's Ryan Chilcote. He's one of our embedded journalists covering this war.

Within the 10:00 hour, an announcer on Iraqi TV read a statement. It's supposedly a letter from Saddam Hussein to his niece.

Here's a portion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE (reading, through translator): "God blessed us with people who will fight for their belief, including my daughter Thraya (ph) and Akhlam (ph). May the enemy be defeated, and there will be thousands of fighters who, defending belief, defending the land of the prophets and holy land, our homeland, they would not let them stay in Baghdad, they will fight them until they are defeated and return to their countries."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And in an earlier statement, an announcer proclaimed, "Victory is at hand." The statement singled out an Iraqi unit at Nasiriyah that has, quote, "exhausted the enemy invaders." This is the second statement in two days that Iraqi state TV says is from Saddam Hussein.

On neither occasion did the Iraqi leader himself appear. That's raising new speculation Saddam Hussein is either dead or severely wounded. He was targeted by a coalition air strike on the first night of the war two weeks ago.

CNN's senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, is keeping up with all of these latest developments, including the debate over Saddam Hussein. He's as close to Baghdad as the Iraqis will let him get right now, along the border between Jordan and Iraq.

Nic's joining us now live -- Nic.

ROBERTSON: Wolf, it would be easy, one would think, for President Saddam Hussein to appear on television and put down the rumors that he may be injured, incapacitated, or even dead.

However, maybe he's playing a psychological game of his own with the coalition forces. While they continue to speculate about whether or not he is still around and on the scene and in control, he can stay behind the scenes and send his messages out.

And that's what's been happening today. We've seen a meeting, again, President Saddam Hussein at that meeting with his top ministers, Tariq Aziz, the deputy prime minister, the vice president, Taha Yassin Ramadan. Even the -- even President Saddam Hussein looking somewhat more relaxed than normal.

Again, no indication when these particular pictures were taken. What is interesting, the quality, lower-grade than what we've seen recently. Grainy, maybe even shot with a sort of a home camera, a D.V. camera, maybe. Certainly not the quality we've seen in past days and weeks, even, where it's shot with a much more -- a better-quality camera, broadcast-quality camera.

Again, limited insights into exactly when this was shot.

Also, a message being read out by President Saddam Hussein's information minister, Mohammed al-Sahaf. That, today, to the north, to the Kurds in the north. There was a message yesterday which seemed to be addressed to the Shi'as in the south. Today the information minister warning one of the Kurdish leaders, Jalal Talabani, not to side with the coalition forces, warning him that that was a bad path to follow.

This may, in fact, be a warning too to Iraqi forces in the north of Iraq not to defect, not to join the Kurdish forces. And this statement set out to say that Jalal Talabani was not being patriotic by supporting the coalition forces, he was not being an Iraqi, not thinking of Iraqi nationalism at this time.

Again, another message from the Iraqi leader, this time stating that the coalition forces are not doing well, that Iraq has only deployed one third of its army so far. The Iraqi leader through a spokesman praised the country's 11th Brigade, and the 11th Division in the army, praised the Ba'ath Party fighters fighting around An Nasiriyah in the south, and said that the coalition forces were a spent force.

But all these messages coming from other people. One would think it would be easy for the Iraqi leader, Wolf, just to appear on TV.

BLITZER: Nic Robertson, he's monitoring what's happening in Baghdad. Very busy along the border between Jordan and Iraq. Nic, thanks very much -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks. When we come back, we will pick up our timeline at 11:00 a.m. with some Iraqi forces that did not get away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Retreat cut short.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: The war's northern front when live from the front lines continues. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We've been showing you how the day unfolded, but the southern front was not the only front line shifting today. In the 1:00 hour came word from CNN's Ben Wedeman in northern Iraq that Iraqi government troops had abandoned a ridge near Kalak, east of Mosul.

That ridge had been pounded hard by coalition air strikes in recent days. The Iraqis appear to have pulled back about four miles closer to Mosul and the Kurdish guerrillas in the region -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Wolf.

A couple hours later, the nation heard from the Pentagon while some of our correspondents on the front line report being little more than 10 miles from Baghdad. Pentagon officials said there was still 30 miles to go.

And as CNN's senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre reports, the Pentagon reminded everyone today at 1:00 that the toughest work lies ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE (voice-over): As U.S. troops close in on Baghdad, they're facing less resistance and finding more friendly faces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... that our soldiers were applauded, cheered, and chanted very positively this morning as they patrolled in the city.

MCINTYRE: But the Pentagon is under no illusions about what's next.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The Republican Guard that pretty much rings Baghdad at the present time will probably represent some difficult days ahead and dangerous days ahead in terms of fighting.

MCINTYRE: In less than 24 hours, the u.s. 101st Airborne Division drove Iraqi Fedayeen fighters from the key city of Najaf, while other forces pushed north in a two-pronged attack. The Army's 3rd Infantry Division punched through Karbala, meeting only light resistance from the Medina Republican Guard Division, and moving along Highway 9 to within 25 miles of Baghdad.

At the same time, Marines from the 1st Division secured a key Tigris River crossing near Al Kut and are reported to have destroyed the combat ability of the light infantry Baghdad Division.

The Marines are now on Highway 7, headed north.

MAJ. GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, JOINT STAFF: We are expecting, or at least planning for, a very difficult fight ahead. We are not expecting to drive into Baghdad suddenly and seize it in a coup de main or anything like that.

MCINTYRE: The U.S. troops have now also entered the so-called red zone around Baghdad, where it's believed Saddam Hussein has authorized his troops to use chemical weapons.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As much as we are making good progress, and we are, the toughest fighting could lie ahead. The likelihood that they might use chemical weapons is in front of us now.

MCINTYRE: The U.S. continues to use its high-tech advantage to maximum effect. In another combat first, the Pentagon says new sensor-fused cluster bombs like these were used to stop an Iraqi tank column in its tracks.

And Monday night, the U.S. seized a key dam in Iraq that, if sabotaged, could have flooded the Euphrates and slowed the advance of U.S. troops through Karbala.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: And while the U.S. is pushing ahead with the major ground assault, it's not letting up on the air campaign, either. Today we learned that in one bombing incident in Baghdad, the U.S. put 40 separate 2,000-pound satellite-guided bombs on a single target. It was described as a secure storage facility being used by the special Republican Guard, Paula.

ZAHN: Lot of firepower you're talking about. Jamie McIntyre, thanks for the update.

Our timeline now moves forward with a look at a bump in the road for the Arab television network Al Jazeera.

And then also ahead at 3:00 p.m., President Bush 41.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Usually these days, the speaking role goes to one of our sons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: What the first President Bush had to say about the first war with Iraq and the son who picked up the torch (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Those powerful images of war.

Twenty-five minutes past the hour here. Our timeline continues with a lighthearted moment today courtesy of a familiar face from the first war with Iraq, the commander in chief during that war.

And at 3:00 hour, President Bush spoke to a crowd of military families in Cherry Point, North Carolina today. He said he didn't miss the politics or the press, but he does miss dealing with America's military men and women. He cheered on the efforts of the current commander in chief.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Usually these days, the speaking role goes to one of our sons. That would be the current president of the United States. Because that...

(cheers and applause)

BUSH: But I can tell you that he is staying the course, he is not going to back down in terms of his responsibilities, and he's going to see this through to victory.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: And then two hours later, an important step on rescued POW Jessica Lynch's road home. It was 5:00 p.m. Eastern time. That's when Private Lynch arrived at the air base in Ramstein, Germany. She was loaded onto an ambulance, taken to a nearby medical center. The 19-year-old supply clerk will be treated for multiple gunshot wounds, two broken legs, a broken arm.

She is said to be in stable condition after a week-long ordeal that began when her convoy took a wrong turn into an Iraqi ambush and ended when special operations led yesterday's successful daring rescue mission.

The White House says President Bush shares in the hometown elation we told you about earlier, while he is still mindful of those killed, captured, and still missing after that ambush -- Wolf.

BLITZER: At 5:30 p.m., Paula, surprising news from Baghdad about the news about Baghdad. The Al Jazeera network announced it's suspending the work of all its correspondents in Iraq. The reason, the Baghdad government expelled Al Jazeera's Baghdad correspondent without cause. Iraq has also expelled CNN's journalists from Baghdad.

And the Pentagon has bounced some embedded correspondents from other news organizations.

If you thought Al Jazeera was biased against the United States, you may wonder why Iraq would expel its Baghdad correspondent. We wondered the same thing. So we have Al Jazeera's Washington bureau chief with us now to help us understand what's going on, Hafez al- Mirazi.

Hafez, thanks for joining us once again.

What is going on? Why is Al Jazeera closing up its operation inside Iraq?

HAFEZ AL-MIRAZI, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, AL JAZEERA: Thank you, Wolf.

Actually, we're not closing it down for now. We are suspending any kind of coverage or reporting taken from our reporters in Baghdad, southern city of Basra, and the northern city of Mosul.

All reporters who are accredited by the Iraqi government, we are not taking any reports from them until the Iraqi government and the Information Ministry rescind and reconsider their decision to suspend the accreditation of our chief correspondent in Baghdad, Diar al-Omari (ph), and also to reconsider expelling one of our reporters that we sent recently to Baghdad, Taseer al-Louni (ph).

This is not the first time we had problems with the government of Iraq in regard to the coverage and our reporters. The same one who is our chief reporter over there, Diar, has been suspended before, about eight months ago, for one week. And at that time, Al Jazeera decided not to take any work from Baghdad until all the reporters are allowed to report freely.

So they rescinded the decision, or reconsidered it, two days, and in this case we resumed. So we don't allow -- we don't want any government to interfere in our work, with whether an Arab government or a Western one.

BLITZER: Hafez, what excuse did the Iraqi government give you in telling you your Baghdad correspondent couldn't report anymore?

AL-MIRAZI: Well, nothing official. But what some of us were told is that they are not happy with the coverage, they are not happy with the questioning of our chief reporter, that he is using -- that was the excuse, at least, in the previous time, eight months ago -- that he is using the language of the Western media and their propaganda, like "the Iraqi regime," like "the Iraqi president," without saying his name, the kind of question that he fired during press briefing, especially for the information minister. They were not happy with that.

And also for our reporter, Taseer, who was sent recently to Baghdad, that he was trying to report freely and talk to Iraqi families without the escorting of the Iraqi information ministers.

BLITZER: Hafez, one final question before I let you go. Your stationary cameras that we've been using ourselves on CNN and other international news organizations, are they going to remain and show us those pictures?

AL-MIRAZI: We announced that we will keep carrying from our live cameras all over Iraq, and also any press briefing over there from their officials that we can carry live. We will continue to do that. Also, we'll continue from our headquarters to carry the Baghdad and the Iraqi point of view, as fair as we could.

Because this is the same case with us and Kuwait, for example. We are not allowed to work in Kuwait, and even, I think, in the Western media in Kuwait, they have restrictions on them not to report on Kuwaiti politics and only on Iraq.

And we refused this kind of restriction before and preferred to stay out of Kuwait.

BLITZER: Hafez, Al-Mirazi, the Washington bureau chief of Al- Jazeera -- thanks for joining us, Hafez.

And, Paula, we're getting a bulletin in from the Reuters News Agency. Reuters reporting that Republican Guard units are going south from Baghdad to block U.S. military moves towards the Iraqi capital. We're watching what's happening.

But once again, Reuters reporting that Republican Guard units - there are still four according to the Pentagon that are operational - moving from Baghdad to the south to try to block advancing U.S. forces. We're watching what's happening on the battlefield - Paula.

ZAHN: And, of course, Wolf, what's a little confused this evening are the various accounts we've heard how close in U.S. troops are to the southern edge of the city. Our own embeds saying 15 miles away. The Pentagon, at this hour, saying as much as 30 miles away. Thanks, Wolf.

Our timeline now takes us up to the present. And when we come back, we'll turn to the war plan.

Was the president overconfident or did the rapid advance of a stunning invasion get lost in the fog of war? We're going to ask a former presidential adviser.

We'll also look at it from the military end. Is the war plan off course or on target? That's in our next half-hour when LIVE FROM THE FRONT LINES returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. Questions about the war plan's successes or failures have been fueled, in part, by the perception of a split between the Pentagon's civilian leadership and the military brass, namely, that the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, wants the U.S. to start fighting a new kind of war while the Army and the Air Force, the Marine Corps, the Navy would like to concentrate on winning.

CNN's senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, looks at that and other divides creating questions about the war plan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Just before the war, Vice President Cheney made these comments about how U.S. forces were likely to be received in Iraq.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The read we get on the people of Iraq is there's no question but what they want to get rid of Saddam Hussein, and they will welcome, as liberators, the United States when we come to do that.

SCHNEIDER: The press started asking some pointed questions, even of President Bush.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are we to assume that this is going to last - could last months and not weeks and not days?

SCHNEIDER: But the president's answer was kind of testy.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: However long it takes. That's the answer to your question. And that's what you've got to know.

SCHNEIDER: The administration is particularly irritated at the way the press went from the Persian Gulf War model in the first couple of days, quick and easy, to the Vietnam War model when the going started to get tough.

DONALD RUMSFELD, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We have seen mood swings in the media from highs to lows to highs and back again, sometimes in a single 24-hour period.

SCHNEIDER: The flap over strategy has to do with the number of troops required to do the job. This week "The New York Times" quoted an unidentified colonel at the 5th Corps Headquarters as saying of Rumsfeld, "he wanted to fight this war on the cheap." "He got what he wanted."

GEN. RICHARD MYERS, CHRM. JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: My view of those reports - and since I don't know who you're quoting, who the individuals are - is that they're bogus.

SCHNEIDER: Secretary Rumsfeld sees Iraq as a war of the future, one that can be fought with precision weapons, high-tech intelligence and lighter, more agile forces. Many army leaders argue that to seize and hold terrain, protect supply lines, and fend off paramilitary attacks, you need a lot more ground troops.

Rumsfeld may be right about wars of the future, they argue, but they have to fight a war of the present.

(on camera): Critics accuse the administration of arrogance. They point to the much-touted Shock and Awe campaign that didn't seem to shock or awe many Iraqis - Paula.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Bill Schneider - thanks so much.

By all accounts, President Bush has betrayed not a single sign of doubt in his decision to wage war or his war plan, at least in public. That's standard procedure during wartime.

But other presidents secretly have harbored doubts. What is the reality of waging war? David Gergen has served in administrations of both parties, including roles as special adviser for President Clinton and communications director for President Reagan.

He joins us now from Boston, where he is now the director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

Good to see you again. Welcome, David.

DAVID GERGEN, DIRECTOR, KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: We talked a little bit about your having served four presidents. How isolating of an experience must this be for President Bush right now?

GERGEN: Well, I think that it's more isolating for him than perhaps for others because he is - he is not a man who, like President Clinton, was always on the telephone or President Johnson. You know, Jack Valenti said that the telephone was his excalibur, his sword. He reached out to everyone.

And President Bush is a little bit more of a - you know, he's an individually who does not try to - he is not in constant contact. So I think it's somewhat isolating. But I do think this is quite a different experience for President Bush than, say, the Vietnam War was for President Johnson and President Nixon.

For Johnson, Vietnam was an agony. He wanted to spend all his time on the great society and at home. And he called Vietnam his - you know, his bitch mistress. He just didn't - he felt it always dragged him away, and it just gave him enormous headaches.

And President Nixon, of course, felt he was dragged down by Vietnam, and he wanted to deal with the larger picture of the Russians and the Chinese and larger strategy. And he wanted to wrap up Vietnam in the best way he could, but to get out of it.

And President Bush, by contrast, is very determined, resolute. I don't think he sees this as a long-term struggle. I'm sure he's extraordinarily irritated at the dissension coming up from - not just from the press, but especially from within the ranks. That rankles him, I'm sure, more than anything else.

But he has not - there's been no sense of indecision and uncertainty, agony. This is a man with a mission. He's going to see it through, just like the Marines in the military on the ground.

ZAHN: He reportedly is a man who very much values tension among those folks who are giving him advice. And according to "USA Today" - and the reporter interviewed a number of people about how he has acted during a lot of tense meetings - basically said he never gives away anything to his staff. Is there any comparison you can draw with other presidents?

GERGEN: Well, a number of presidents have been reserved during times of war. George Washington, as our first, you know, commander in chief, was extremely reserved and kept his own counsel, listened to his advisers and then made basically his own decisions.

President Lincoln confided in very, very few. I think President Bush probably confides to some friends. That's what some of the friends have told me, that occasionally he'll confide in them. But he doesn't - he holds his own counsel.

I do not think it's correct to say that he values tension and division within his own ranks. This is an administration that has prided itself on unity, speaking with one voice. And there's been some cracks, of course, in that front here in the last months.

And now, even as the war proceeds, there are some obvious divisions about who ought to run post-war Iraq. Should that go through the Defense Department or through the State Department? How deeply involved should the U.N. be? That sort of thing.

I think he's got some real head knocking to do here, Paula, in the next few weeks, even as our troops, today, seem to be moving smartly in the temper and spirit of all this. I think it's going to be - it's much more upbeat today than it was, say, 48 hours ago. ZAHN: I guess the characterization of his value on tension comes from the "Washington Post" piece where they talk about the president actually liking to keep members of his staff off guard.

GERGEN: Well, I think there's a difference between keeping people off guard about what you're going to do next versus wanting to have a unified front once you proceed, not liking to have - neither he nor his father - this is very much a Bush trait, if you will.

They don't like a confusion or disunity spilling out into the public press. They like order. They like to proceed with calm and dignity. His father, obviously, was an extraordinarily dignified man and did bring everybody together.

And I think it's been a surprise, frankly, that in the Bush administration we've seen these deep cleavages develop between the moderate conservatives, like Colin Powell, and the hard-liners, such as the vice president and the secretary of defense.

I think it's been a real surprise, and I'm sure this president, even as he likes to keep people guessing, is not enchanted, to understate it - is not enchanted by the divisions that are spilling out into the press. I just don't think that's a -- that's not the Bush way to govern.

ZAHN: David Gergen, we always appreciate your perspective. Thanks so much for spending a little time with us.

GERGEN: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: Our pleasure. Back to Wolf now.

BLITZER: Always good to get David Gergen's insight, Paula. Thanks very much to you and to David.

Joining us now to help us get a little bit more focus on the war plan itself, we have Lieutenant General Dan Benton, retired U.S. Army. In fact, he spent 33 years in the U.S. Army, including a stint as assistant division commander here in Kuwait in 1991. He retired as chief of staff of the U.S. European Command.

General, thanks very much for joining us. Perhaps the most stinging criticism came from an Army general out here in the field in Iraq himself, General William Wallace, who says this really wasn't the war that the U.S. had war-planned for. What do you make of that kind of criticism from a commander inside Iraq right now?

LT. GEN. DAN BENTON, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, Wolf, I don't like it. And let me say, I have not seen this war plan; I haven't read it, nor do I doubt that any of my colleagues that are commenting on the war plan have seen it either.

But let me say the war plan they are talking about is the strategic level war plan, which essentially is designed to identify the types of forces you need and the flow of those forces into the theater. What we have going on right now are tactical operations. These are tactical battle plans. We're spending entirely too much time talking about something in the past. Those things will be debated for years, probably, in our nation's war colleges. We ought to wait at that time and debate them then. Right now, we need to focus our commanders on fighting battles.

Now, these battles they're fighting, I think they're doing the right thing. You know, they come up with a situation; they react to it. If they have problems in securing the supply lines, they bring in forces; they secure those supply lines.

So tactical battles are meant for military units to react. And I think we're doing that. I think they're doing a superb job of reacting to those.

BLITZER: Well, do you get the sense that, in this particular war plan, they're calling a lot of, to use a football analogy, audibles at the line of scrimmage? Because there have been surprises, as opposed to the Gulf War 12 years ago, where you fought and where there was a plan. It was basically followed according to the original game plan.

BENTON: Well, as I said before, we do have a lot of armchair quarterbacks. I don't want to be one of them, not at this time. We can do that maybe a year from now.

But I think, as I said before, what we've got to do is focus our core commanders, focus the colonels who work for core commanders on fighting the battles of today and tonight. And those are meant to do something, have a reaction from an enemy, and to change your plan and get on with business.

And that's what I think our forces are trying to do. And I just don't think it's very useful for us to continue to debate these things.

I believe what Mr. Gergen said before me there, we need some continuity; we need some consistency from our senior people in this country.

BLITZER: General Benton, we're going to have to leave it right there. Thanks very much for your insight. Appreciate it very much.

We have more coverage coming up. When we come back, he oppressed millions of Muslims and killed thousands more. So why is Saddam Hussein now asking for their support and indeed getting it? Did the war plan take this into account? We'll find out from a man who's chronicled the clash of Islam and the West. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back. We're focusing on the U.S. war plan, which might well have anticipated President Saddam Hussein asking Muslims to defend him, but did it foresee thousands of expatriate Iraqis pouring back into Iraq, not to overthrow a dictator, but to stop coalition forces from doing so? Or the militant group Islamic Jihad sending kamikaze to help Hussein? Did the war plan factor in that some Muslims might not see this as - or actually might see this as a holy war?

Fawaz Gerges is the author of "America and Political Islam, Clash of Cultures or Clash of Interests," and he joins us now. He's a professor at Sarah Lawrence College.

Good to see you again.

FAWAZ GERGES, AUTHOR, "AMERICAN AND POLITICAL ISLAM": My pleasure.

ZAHN: We have heard a number of Iraqi officials call for a jihad against coalition forces. Isn't the truth, though, that most Muslims and Arabs think the world would be a better place without Saddam Hussein?

GERGES: Yes, absolutely. I think many Arabs and Muslims agree that Iraq and the region would be a better place - that is without Saddam Hussein.

ZAHN: So what's the double standard here?

GERGES: I think what they don't really buy, the American narrative that this war is designed or meant to liberate Iraqis and bring democracy. I think they suspect that the United States has hidden agenda, to dominate the region and control its resources, oil.

So the fact is there are very few buyers of the American narrative in the Arab and Muslim world.

ZAHN: How effective do you think this call for jihad will really be at the end of the day?

GERGES: Well, I think...

ZAHN: Will these folks who were so oppressed in Iraq, who are coming back into the country, really fight or really die for Saddam Hussein?

GERGES: Well, let me make one point very clear. This is more of a nationalist and geo-strategic struggle than a religious one. I think the new calls for jihad serve, Paula, as a rallying point to really recruit young men in order to assist the Iraqi counterparts in resisting American invasion. But I think we should not exaggerate the operational value of the new calls for jihad.

ZAHN: And what does that mean?

GERGES: That means, at the end of the day - at the end of the day, I think young men are outraged by the images, shocking images of the destruction and death they watch on Arab television stations. And also, they're responding to calls by moderate clerics to assist their Iraqi counterparts in resisting the American invasions.

I don't think they care about Saddam Hussein. I think they care very little about Saddam Hussein. I think, at the end of the day, they are motivated by nationalist or religious sentiments or a combination of both.

And I think, unfortunately, they perceive this American invasion as an attack on the Arab nation and Islam itself.

ZAHN: So as you see it, is there anything that could be done in the reconstruction of post-war Iraq that would change any of these young men's minds?

GERGES: Well, Paula, at this stage really, the challenge is how to limit the damage and minimize the costs. Civilian casualties must be avoided at all costs. Iraq...

ZAHN: You have no doubts that that is the case, do you?

GERGES: Well, even though that Arabs and Muslims are seeing hundreds of civilian casualties on Arab televisions in the last few days in particular, the challenge is really the longer the war continues, the angrier the public response will be.

The challenge is for American policy makers to help Iraqis themselves to govern their country and reconstruct their country socially and politically.

And as important, American policy makers must double their efforts to help resolve the festering Palestinian-Israeli tragedy. This is still the fundamental vital issue that resonates in Arab and Muslim political imagination.

ZAHN: Is that just convenient to say that, or do these Arabs and Muslims really care that fiercely about what...

GERGES: They...

ZAHN: ... because it was sort of like Osama bin Laden at the last minute suddenly caring about the Palestinian question.

GERGES: It's not a gimmick. It's not a justification. It's not an excuse. Everything that we have seen, everything, all that is say, the Arab-Israeli conflict remains the most fundamental issue that resonates in Arab and Muslim political imagination.

ZAHN: And from what you've heard...

GERGES: And American policy makers must double their efforts to help resolve the festering policy and tragedy.

ZAHN: And from what you've heard from the prime minister of great Britain and President Bush during their last series of meetings, do you have faith that that will be the case?

GERGES: Words are not enough, Paula. Deeds speak louder than words. The administration in particular, the Bush administration, must invest considerable political capital in order to match the Palestinians and the Israelis back into the negotiating table. And at this stage, actions speak louder than words.

ZAHN: We always appreciate your spending time with us to analyze all of this - Professor Fawaz Gerges. Thanks again.

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Paula.

Still ahead, the sights and sounds from the front lines on a day that may have changed - may have changed - the course of history and this war. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Today, April 2, 2003, might someday be the day historians point to as the first step in breaching Baghdad's defenses. CNN's embedded reporters, as always, were on the front lines today recording the sights and sounds that will become a part of that history.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The speed of the push to Baghdad has been gathering pace. Indeed, it's been much more rapid than U.S. commanders here seem to have expected.

We can't say exactly where we are, but what is roughly our relation to the capital, Baghdad?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say that we're pretty close and Saddam can hear us knocking.

MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Food is power in this particular unconventional war in Basra. So now the coalition controls that 3,000 tons of food. They want to use it to get it to the people inside.

SAVIDGE: We take a look at the roadway on the distance there. The reason the progress has been so slow is the fact that the roadway is utterly jam-packed with military hardware.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The coalition took over this base last week. It's now a major staging point. And you know you're in Iraq when you drive down the road coming into the base and you see the portrait of Saddam Hussein.

HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As combat troops move forward, the support people are right behind them. As one general put it, logistics never won a war, but they sure can lose one.

Harris Whitbeck, CNN, in southern Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And we're just getting disturbing word in now from the Pentagon about a U.S. Army Black Hawk Helicopter going down. We're standing by. Our Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, will be joining us in a moment.

What we can tell you, the Associated Press quoting Pentagon officials as saying a U.S. army Black Hawk helicopter was shot down in southern Iraq just a little while ago.

Jamie McIntyre is with us right now.

Jamie, provide us the details. This is an important story, obviously.

MCINTYRE: Well, we don't have a lot of details, but we have confirmed that a U.S. Army Black Hawk Helicopter was apparently brought down by small arms fire near Karbala.

According to a Pentagon official, seven U.S. Army soldiers were killed, four were rescued. We did have word of this earlier today, but we were waiting to see whether anyone would be rescued from this helicopter crashing before we reported anything on it.

At this point, the rescue mission has been completed. The Black Hawk Helicopter can hold up to 12 troops. And it is used by all branches of the service, in various configurations.

But again, this is an area where there had been some heavy fighting at some points yesterday. You know, a helicopter can be brought down, even sometimes by a stray round if it's a lucky shot that hits in the right spot. But we don't have any details about exactly what happened and how this came about.

But again, just to recap briefly, a U.S. Army Black Hawk Helicopter brought down in southern Iraq, apparently by small arms fire. Seven U.S. combat deaths in that incident, and four people were rescued after the helicopter crashed - Wolf.

BLITZER: And we know, Jamie, there was some intense fighting around Karbala earlier. The U.S. moving through that so-called Karbala gap on the road to Baghdad.

A lot of Black Hawk Helicopters, Apache Helicopters, Cobra Helicopters providing that kind of close air support for advancing U.S. troops. That's what they would be presumably used for, is that right?

MCINTYRE: Well, these are mostly - these Black Hawks are mostly used for moving troops around. You know, the attack - they do have guns, and they are used for supporting troops on the ground, although the attack helicopters are primarily for that mission.

But this is one of the - you know, it's a workhorse of the U.S. fleet, the Black Hawk Helicopter. In this case, it apparently was carrying some troops around because, as I said, there were 11 on board. That's nearly a full complement.

BLITZER: All right, Jamie. I know you're going to be working on this story, and we're going to be getting more information, of course, throughout the night. Paula, that's it for me in Kuwait City. I'll see you tomorrow.

ZAHN: I will be here.

And just one quick footnote: we learned from "TIME" magazine that Iraqi commanders were actually distributing copies of the book "Black Hawk Down," that chronicled what happened in Mogadishu, to their troops as a training possibility.

That wraps it up for all of us here. We go back to Heidi Collins at the top of the hour and then to "LARRY KING."

Thanks so much for being with us.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com




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