CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
War in Iraq: Chemical/Biological Threat
Aired April 3, 2003 - 04:16 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: As Army and Marine units advance toward Baghdad, there are heightened concerns that Iraq might use chemical or biological weapons.
Miles O'Brien has more now on that threat.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As coalition forces move ever closer to Baghdad, there is heightened concern the Iraqis might turn to chemical weapons in their defense.
To talk a little bit more about this and its ramifications, we turn now to our security analyst Kelly McCann.
Kelly, we've seen some pictures now of the 101st Airborne guys getting their gear ready, getting ready to put that stuff on. It's very bulky, very cumbersome, it's hot in the desert. How effective a fighting force can it be if you're wearing all that gear?
KELLY MCCANN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Well, as a force, of course, they'll be effective, albeit they'll have to watch their heat exhaustion and that kind of thing. However, to a rifleman, it's very important because it cuts down your peripheral vision. It reduces your situational awareness. So that means now that you can't hold the weapon the same way you would without a mask on. It also means that you've got to do increased head sweeping. It makes things a little bit more difficult.
O'BRIEN: All right. Let's talk about this red zone concept, and then I want to show an animation to folks. This red zone line, I think people perceive almost a line around Baghdad. That may not be the way to think about it. The idea is that as the defenses go down and as the coalition comes nearer and congregates, the likelihood of chemical weapons being used goes up, right?
MCCANN: Absolutely. Right now we have atrided (ph) forces here and here just south of Baghdad, some say to 50 percent of combat ineffective. What that means is is that now that we are getting into the range of the delivery systems, the 155 millimeter, the 130 millimeter, 122, that they are going to have to come up with some kind of force multiplier, a way so that they can strong point defense enough in depth to kind of balance the frontage we're presenting them with.
O'BRIEN: All right, a grim force multiplier it is. Let's take a look at an animation, which shows one scenario, one possible way of delivering these chemical weapons. We've depicted Baghdad under some smoke here. These are just a couple of artillery pieces, not necessarily the way this would be depicted. You say perhaps times six or eight even, right?
MCCANN: Absolutely. The battery in depth, and to be most effective because you'd want the widest dispersion possible down range.
O'BRIEN: All right. You want to kind of clump them together, in other words. OK. So off goes the artillery, these shells, some sort of chemical agent in the tip. It could be VX, it could risin, it could be...
O'BRIEN: ... mustard, who knows. The idea is here, of course these troops that we depicted here, you don't see it, but presumably they'd have their gear on as they draw ever closer.
All right. And what happens is when these shells come down, they explode above the ground creating this dispersal. How wide an area can they spread out over?
MCCANN: Depends on the -- on the size of the projectile, you know whether it's 150, 130 or 122. But generally talking 75 meters coverage, 100 meters coverage and then in battery depth.
O'BRIEN: All right. So it can cause a big wide area. Now we have put in here a possible scenario with reprisal. F-18 Hornet flying over that cloud of smoke. How do they see this battery is what we're trying to depict. Using a scout helicopter and a laser designator, which would be right here on the top,...
O'BRIEN: ... they can home in on this thing and send in the coordinates to that F-18. Down goes some sort of bomb to do that, some laser guided, whatever the case may be. The question is, as you retaliate to these things, the possibility arises of creating another chemical cloud in return. Is that an issue?
MCCANN: Well from the ammo storing (ph). As we said that,we just talking just a little while ago, of course you know where the likely emplacement of these is going to be, it's going to be near religiously significant spots, schools, other place. So absolutely, it is a problem. However, the goods news is that as those bombs detonate, most of the chemicals could be incinerated.
O'BRIEN: All right. That is the only piece of good news I heard out of this. Let's hope this all stays in the realm of animation.
O'BRIEN: Kelly McCann, thanks very much. MCCANN: Pleasure -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: Back to you.
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