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Live From the Front Lines: Lights Go Out in Baghdad

Aired April 3, 2003 - 19:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: The power's out in Baghdad, bombs are falling, the coalition is closing in.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The regime has been weakened, to be sure, but it is security threat level lethal, and it may prove to be more lethal in the final moments before it ends.


ANNOUNCER: Are Saddam's days numbered?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Iraqi regime has, no longer controls about 45 percent of Iraq.


ANNOUNCER: The end game for Iraq, is it a prelude to a larger war? Who will be the enemy? And where will the battles be fought?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Spreading democracy in this part of the world, they will say, you make us very nervous. Our response should be good.


ANNOUNCER: The newest face of courage is female.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And thanks to their skill and courage, a brave young soldier is now free.


ANNOUNCER: What do the heroics of a rescued POW say about women in combat?

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 live pictures of Baghdad right now, where the power is out. It is just after four o'clock in the morning there and in the past few minutes, loud explosions have rocked areas around the city and more bombs are falling. Over the next hour, we'll look at the advance of coalition forces around the Iraqi capital for what could be the biggest battle of the war.

Good evening, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, Paula.

We're going to have all of those developments. But we're going to begin with a potentially major development unfolding right now.

U.S. intelligence officials are raising serious doubts that Saddam Hussein is, indeed, alive. Intelligence officials are reaching that conclusion after reviewing recent tapes of the Iraqi leader.

Our national security correspondent David Ensor is joining us now live from Washington with more on what's going on -- David.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the developments on this story today underscore how much the U.S. government cares about each of these tapes and whether or not Saddam Hussein is alive or not, and it points out that different officials looking at the same evidence may draw slightly different conclusions.


ENSOR (voice-over): A senior Pentagon official said U.S. intelligence analysis has concluded that all the videotapes of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein shown on Iraqi television since the war began were taped prior to March 19, the day the U.S. attempted to kill the Iraqi leader by hitting a leadership bunker where U.S. officials believe he was.

However, in a rare note of public disagreement, a Central Intelligence Agency spokesman said the CIA has "reached no such conclusion," though he said, "We think it is quite likely."

Why the difference? U.S. intelligence officials say they were surprised by the Pentagon's statement and simply cannot say for sure that it is right, although it may well be. In recent days, Pentagon officials have been making an effort to goad the Iraqi leader, if he is still alive.

VICTORIA CLARKE, PENTAGON SPOKESPERSON: The coalition bombed Saddam's headquarters at the very beginning of the war. The world has neither seen his hide nor hair, only tapes.

ENSOR: One tape, the first one after the bombing, of Saddam Hussein in big glasses, had definitely never been seen publicly before, officials say, though it could have been one of a number of recorded tapes made before March 19. That's what many U.S. officials believe. But the CIA spokesman says they just don't know for sure.


ENSOR: One official points out that even if the appearances are all pre-taped, that does not prove necessarily that Saddam is dead or wounded. It simply suggests it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: David Ensor with the latest on Saddam Hussein from Washington.

Thanks, David -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks, Wolf.

For reaction from a long time Baghdad observer, let's go to our own senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson. He joins us tonight from along the Jordanian-Iraq border -- good evening, Nic.


Well, certainly, Iraqi officials would look at this as part of a psychological warfare program against them. They have said that on a number of occasions in the past. We have seen whenever there's been a challenge, essentially, from the coalition to prove the Iraqi leader is still alive, each day on Iraqi television there are pictures of President Saddam Hussein and he was there again today. He had his vice president, Taha Yassin Ramadan, at his side, a large number of people meeting around the table, ministers and military officials with him. No indication of when the picture was taken.

But for the Iraqi government, hugely important to keep showing every day to the Iraqi people that the leadership is still there, that they are still in charge and still in control. So for them, at least, for the Iraqi people, the pretense that this is, in fact, the Iraqi leader and these pictures have been taken recently. And certainly the Iraqi leader may be choosing, if he is alive at this time -- and that's certainly not clear -- he may be choosing to ignore these apparent efforts or what Iraqis at least would read as apparent efforts to get him to appear on television, because he knows that may give away his location, his whereabouts, may tip off more people as to where he is, people who might actually spy on him.

The developments we've seen in Baghdad today, for the first time the power going off in the city at night after 14 days of air campaigns against Baghdad. During that time, when Iraqi officials left the lights on over the city. Tonight the power going off. No lights in the offices. No lights in the homes. No street lights on about the city.

Iraqi officials say it wasn't the bombing that took out the electricity and the coalition said it didn't target the power stations. So quite possibly Iraqi authorities choosing to shut down the power in Baghdad, possibly because they fear as the coalition force getting close, that this may give them some sort of tactical advantage. Other changes also in the city of Baghdad tonight, sources telling us that the checkpoints on the outskirts of Baghdad for the first time being closed, not allowing civilians in or out of the city of Baghdad. And another development, close to the Saddam International Airport, about 12 miles southwest of Baghdad, the airport coalition forces have this evening arrived in. We are told by sources in Baghdad that government officials are driving around that civilian neighborhood near the airport, telling civilians that they should leave their houses and move towards the airport -- Paula.

ZAHN: Nic Robertson, thanks for that update.

And I know you've been working a lot of sources. I guess you learned that these lights went off at different times in different sectors of the city, which, as Nic just said, pointed to the fact that someone probably did it selectively.

On to another issue now, the Army's 3-7th Cavalry is leading one of two columns moving in on Baghdad. They are facing resistance from Iraqi troops on the way.

CNN's Walt Rodgers is with the 3-7th Cav and files this report on the fighting he saw.


WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We cannot give you precise times or locations, but we are moving in the direction of Baghdad. We're taking small arms fire to the right. For the past 15 or 20 minutes, our tank in front of us has been firing its 120 millimeter gun off to the right of us, shooting targets no more than 200 to 300 meters away. The Bradley fighting vehicles have also been firing on at least one side of the passageway we are using at this point.

Earlier, as we crossed the Euphrates, we could see burned out vehicles, Iraqi cars, pickup trucks. Some of them appeared to have been old Soviet vintage BMPs, that is, armed personnel carriers. Those vehicles badly charred. We have come across more than a few dead Iraqi soldiers lying beside the road. We believe those were casualties taken by the 1st Infantry Division, which -- excuse me, the 3rd Infantry Division.


ZAHN: Now that was Walt Rodgers reporting with the 3-7th Cavalry.

As U.S. forces converge on Baghdad, coalition pilots are flying hundreds of sorties in Iraq on both strike missions and efforts to take out Republican Guard troops.

Bob Franken is embedded with the U.S. Air Force at an air base near Iraq -- good evening, Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Paula. And a full 85 percent of all the combat missions that have been flown in the last 24 hours, 85 percent were directed at the Republican Guard units. Obviously, of course, that has become the focus. Not only are they going after the Republican Guard units now in an effort to help the ground troops that are on the attack, they also now are going after those same units to make sure that they don't reform and conduct some sort of counterattack.

Now, the standard operating procedure for the A-10s, which have really become the primary weapon of attack, particularly at this air base near the Iraq border, the primary way that they operate is that they will oftentimes just go up, fly around, perhaps refuel, looking for targets of opportunity, use part of their ordinance, the rockets and the bombs and the bullets that are part of their arsenal and then come back. Oftentimes much of it unused.

They're coming back now with most of it used up and they're coming back even more quickly. And the reason for that is they have a very clear idea when they set out exactly what it is they're going to hit. Their assignments are very clear from the moment they leave and they're able to expend most of their deadly arsenal before returning, refueling, turning around and going back again, as the ground war heats up with intensity, the air war continues to get more ferocious -- Paula.

ZAHN: Bob Franken, thanks so much for the update -- back to Wolf now.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Paula.

U.S. Marines take positions near Kut. That's the ancient city. That's also a strategic location only about 40 miles south of Baghdad. The 1st Battalion of the 7th Marines secured two positions on the outskirts of the city. The fighting began this morning with a barrage of artillery on Iraqi positions.

CNN's Martin Savidge, who's embedded with the Marines, says there were indications of a short fight before Marines took a suspected Republican Guard base and an Iraqi air field, leaving behind scores of damaged or destroyed Iraqi equipment.

Coalition forces are inside the so-called red zone and closing in on Baghdad. What kind of time line does the Pentagon anticipate when troops will eventually reach the city?

Our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre is joining us now live -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, at this point, Wolf, we can tell you that Pentagon officials confirm that U.S. forces are at the Saddam International Airport in the process of securing this strategic military objective. Securing the airport would give the United States a base of operations where it could conduct raids into other sections of Baghdad to fulfill its strategy to take over key strategic facilities and then isolate the Saddam Hussein regime. But today Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld again warned that the end game could be the most unpredictable time.


RUMSFELD: The most dangerous fighting may very well be ahead of us. And by its conduct in this war, the Iraqi regime has shown that there is no depth to the brutality to which they will not sink. The regime has been weakened, to be sure, but it is still lethal and it may prove to be more lethal in the final moments.


MCINTYRE: They've moving quickly, the United States closing in on Baghdad. Pentagon officials insist the strategy is not to occupy the entire city, but to simply seize those key objectives. Today, General Myers, the joint chiefs chairman, said that the idea was to isolate Baghdad, isolate some of the regime members and then start working on things, to be patient, not to have an overhaul siege of Baghdad, but instead to isolate the leadership and make them irrelevant.

And Defense Secretary Rumsfeld today also repeated his condition that the U.S. would accept no end to the war except unconditional surrender. There's not going to be a deal, he said. No chance. And he also added it doesn't matter who proposes it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon.

Jamie, thanks very much.

Paula, decisive hours right now unfolding in this war in Iraq -- back to you.

ZAHN: Thanks, Wolf.

We will continue our coverage live from the front lines in a moment, including what could be next if the battle for Baghdad becomes a door to door shootout inside the city. And a remarkable stand-off as the 101st enters Najaf.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no more striking example of the sensitivities that the U.S. soldiers face here than what is taking place on this street right up from the Ali Mosque (ph) right now.



ZAHN: Welcome back.

Seventeen minutes after the hour.

Now that U.S. troops are on the outskirts of Baghdad, the question remains what's next? Pick the regime apart from a distance? Enter the city and risk drawn out house to house combat? Where's the safest place to be if there is a chemical weapons attack?

For a look at what the U.S. does now, we've got Miles O'Brien along with Lieutenant General Dan Benton, veteran of the first Gulf War and former chief of staff of the U.S.-European command.

Good evening, gentlemen.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks very much, Paula.

We're going to talk a little bit about a concept for seizing something like a presidential palace and then we'll look at the real thing.

First of all, let's look at the animation, Dan Benton, and give people a sense of exactly what we're talking about when we're looking at -- actually, that's not the right one. We're going to be able to show the animation of the seizure of the palace. There we go.

Black Hawk helicopters coming in and across, along with Apaches. Black Hawks carrying troops, Apaches, the attack helicopters.

Dan Benton, in addition to what we have depicted here, would there be people on the ground?

LT. GEN. DAN BENTON (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Yes, most likely, Miles. You're probably going to have some special operations force that would have infiltrated in there. They're going to be beaconing those aircraft in and also providing intelligence as to whether or not there are any weapons in the area, you know, masses of troops roaming around in case they have to wave the mission off.

O'BRIEN: All right. And also at one point we depicted this as daylight for clarity purpose. It probably wouldn't happen like that, right?

BENTON: Yes, the viewer's got to have to recognize this looks like it's daytime. But this could be pitch black. It probably was pitch black. These Apache helicopters have extraordinary night vision devices. They can see things just like it's day time.

O'BRIEN: All right, now, we have depicted them all kind of politely going through the front door. That's probably not exactly the case. We probably would see in the real thing, you'd probably have soldiers on the roof, for one thing, right?

BENTON: Yes, these troops here, it shows them converging. They're actually going to spread out. They're probably going to look at all the entrances there just to make sure that all these entrances are blocked and nobody's going to be coming out.

O'BRIEN: All right. Multiple entrances.

BENTON: That's right. Yes. O'BRIEN: And then finally there we show them going in the other side. Now, we showed it there for just a moment. Let's show the real thing. And we'll show the seizing of the Tharthar Palace, the second largest in Saddam Hussein's big collection of palaces.

Take a look at this gunship video as you come in. If you could freeze that shot right there, I just want to point out something right there. This is a Chinook helicopter here. That's that twin bladed helicopter...

BENTON: Right.

O'BRIEN: Able to carry a big force of people. I assume that's why it was used.

BENTON: Yes, it carries over 20 troopers and they are fully combat loaded, yes. So that's a big bird.

O'BRIEN: All right, let's advance it as we come along here and we'll show you what happens. Apparently what's worth pointing out here is there wasn't much resistance that they were met with. The palace empty. They were able to walk away with some documents. There you see that Chinook helicopter just sitting there in the middle of the courtyard there, apparently unmolested. What does that tell you if the coalition forces can go right to the second largest palace in Saddam Hussein's large collection of palaces and go in there with impunity?

BENTON: Well, what this says is that we're in charge. It says that I'm in your house and we're going to come in there and we can kick the door down and do what we want to. This has got to be extraordinarily disheartening to the people there that see this happening. But we're in his house doing whatever we want to do.

O'BRIEN: All right. The Tharthar Palace just one of the targets and apparently the Special Operations effort going off without a hitch. No injuries on the coalition side and apparently, although no numbers of the regime, some regime documents which they hope will find...

BENTON: These troopers doing the thing are the real world Rambos of the United States Army and Air Force. These are tough, tough young kids.

O'BRIEN: All right. General Dan Benton, thanks very much, appreciate it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Miles.

A meeting between U.S. troops and an Iraqi religious leader almost spun out of control today. It's probably one of the most remarkable scenes in the war so far taking place as the 101st Airborne moved directly into the city of Najaf. CNN's Ryan Chilcote was there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is no more striking example of the sensitivities that the U.S. soldiers face here than what is taking place on the streets right up from the Ali Mosque right now. Chaos as the crowd apparently believes the soldiers want to approach the shrine.


CHILCOTE (voice-over): Clerics appear with the message from the Grand Ayatollah, but the message is drowned out.

The colonel instructs his men to stay calm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They've got to understand he wants us here.

CHILCOTE: His soldiers take a knee (ph), their weapons brought down from the ready position. They'll do everything soldiers can to appear less hostile. But the potential for confrontation remain, the commander makes a decision.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turn around! Just turn around and go!

CHILCOTE: He orders their men back to their compound to await cooler heads.

Ryan Chilcote, CNN, with the 101st Airborne in Najaf, Iraq.


ZAHN: hat report giving us a very good idea of how murky things can get.

Ahead in our special report the commander in chief visits the troops and the families of American casualties.

And a little bit later on could the war in Iraq turn into World War IV? One former CIA director says so. We'll be right back.


ZAHN: President Bush today fulfilled two important roles for any wartime commander in chief. During his visit to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, he rallied the troops and members of their families. But for the first time since this war began he offered solace personally to some families who will never see their soldiers again.

Senior White House correspondent John King now joins us from the White House this evening. Hi, John.

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Paula. And those two faces on display within a matter of moments. On the one hand the president in public warmly greeted at Camp Lejeune offering an optimistic pep talk to the troops telling them the war was going exceedingly well and that their comrades were performing brilliantly.

Then moments later in private the president consoling face-to- face for the first time for the parents and family members of the Marines killed in action. One aid called his most difficult duty.


KING (voice-over): Twelve thousand Marines in a crowd of 20,000, the commander in chief comforted victory will soon be at hand.

BUSH: Having traveled hundreds of miles, we will now go the last 200 yards. We're on the advance. Our destination is Baghdad and we will accept nothing less than complete and final victory.

KING: The president is receiving constant updates on the push toward the Iraqi capital, but aides say still leading the tactical decision to the generals.

BUSH: The vice is closing and the days of a brutal regime are coming to an end.

KING: More than 17,000 Marines from Camp Lejeune are deployed to Iraq. Thousands more soon to follow. The price already paid here, a dozen Lejeune Marines killed in action and another handful missing wait on both the president and his audience.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We mourn for each other and are there for each other. But as far as ups and downs, I think we're doing pretty good.

KING: Mr. Bush spoke of good Marines lost in a high calling.

BUSH: No one who falls will be forgotten by this grateful nation. We honor their service to America and we pray their families will receive God's comfort and God's grace.

KING: The president and first lady took time for lunch at the Marine mess. And then the most difficult part, an emotional private meeting at a base chapel with about 20 family members of five Marines killed in combat.


KING: He is in heaven, the president told one parent during what aides described as a teary-eyed very emotional 30 minutes with the Marine families. In addition to those parents also on hand one active duty Marine whose brother was among those killed in combat in Iraq. Also several young children in the room including a 1-week old baby and two week-old twin girls, children who will never know their father -- Paula.

ZAHN: Clearly, it's got to be one of the tougher aspects of this job right now.

John, finally tonight, help us understand the mindset of the president. Here he is almost two weeks or a little over two weeks on the heels of this campaign on the heels of second-guessing about the war plan, even criticism coming from commanders in the field. What are you hearing from insiders about how the president is holding up?

KING: We are told the president is doing just fine. Obviously today was a very difficult day. Aides describe it as very similar to the very difficult moments of meeting the families of the victims of September 11 and spending time one-on-one with them in the session. So today was a draining day, aides said.

But overall they say the president is very focused and very confident in the overall battle plan. They say he is not someone who's going to come out and say I told you so, but that the White House has had confidence in the plan from the beginning.

Already acceleration for planning from the post-war Iraq here at the White House. A meeting with the president and some Iraqi dissidents tomorrow here to highlight those plans. But the White House also cautioning us, Paula, and you get this even more intensely from the Pentagon, that yes, the troops now are in a ring near Baghdad. There is progress being made, but with the progress comes the prospect of the most difficult fighting in the days and hours just ahead.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, John.

Turning to some evening other news, there is angry reaction to a speech by Democratic presidential contender John Kerry earlier today at an appearance in New Hampshire. The Massachusetts senator said President Bush had alienated U.S. allies so much before the war that only a new president can rebuild those ties.

Kerry said, quote, "What we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States." And a statement from House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, he called the statement desperate and inappropriate -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Paula.

Secretary of State Colin Powell talk said about who should be involved in a post-war Iraq as questions arose about the role of the United States as an occupying nation. At a NATO meeting in Brussels, the secretary said the coalition supporting the war would have the leading role in post-war Iraq while the nature of the United Nations role has yet to be determined. A U.N. official had questioned long- term control over Iraq saying the Geneva Conventions would prevent an interim U.S. administration from making anything except day to day decisions.

Still ahead, a man who could be involved in the reconstruction of Iraq says the end of the fighting in Iraq might not mean the end of the war.


JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: This fourth world war, I think will last considerably longer than either World Wars I or II did for us, hopefully not the full four-plus decades of the Cold War.




ANNOUNCER: CNN's continuing coverage of the war in Iraq. What might the battlefield be like when coalition and Iraqi forces clash? Will the battle for Baghdad mean door-to-door urban combat?

And, at 10:00, Aaron Brown looks at details of rescued POW Jessica Lynch's clash with the Iraqis and how she fought to save her own life. Stay with CNN, the most trusted name in news.


BLITZER: You're look at a pictures of Baghdad where there's been a couple hours now, at least two hours of virtually non-stop explosions rocking the Iraqi capital, the center of the city as well as the outskirts, including near the Saddam International Airport, now at least partially under U.S. military control.

Explosions at various targets around Baghdad, Baghdad now in the dark, the power gone, unclear precisely why there's no electricity, why there are no lights in the Iraqi capital. This is the first time there has been a darkened Baghdad since the start of this war, now more than two weeks ago.

We're continuing to monitor what's happening in the skies over Baghdad as well as on the ground. It should be getting light there fairly soon. We'll have continuous coverage, in the meantime, more and more pounding of various targets in and around the Iraqi capital.

Meanwhile, doctors have operated on the former POW, Jessica Lynch's back in Germany and today the Pentagon is releasing this new video of her rescue. It shows U.S. troops carrying her out of that Iraqi military compound where she was being held. Her family says despite earlier reports about her injuries, Lynch wasn't stabbed or shot.

CNN's Jeff Flock is with the family in Elizabeth, West Virginia. Jeff, first of all, what are they saying? How is Jessica Lynch doing?

JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, she had surgery today, Wolf, on her back. Apparently discs in her back needed to be realigned. She also has a broken forearm and two broken legs, surgery on that scheduled for tomorrow.

But perhaps the headline is something we thought we knew and perhaps didn't know. That goes to the dramatic account of Jessica Lynch's capture by Iraqi forces. We've been all day trying to run down a "Washington Post" report, a fairly compelling account of Jessica Lynch "fighting to the death" against the Iraqi forces, emptying her weapon, sustaining herself several gunshot wounds, and then ultimately being stabbed as she was taken into custody. We thought -- we were trying to confirm that report through our sources at the Pentagon as well as at CENTCOM, were unable to do so, and then late in the day we finally talked to Jessica's parents after she talked to them by phone. It appears that that account is just not true.


GREG LYNCH, FATHER OF PFC. LYNCH: We have heard and seen reports that she had multiple gunshot wounds and knife stabbing. The doctor has not seen any of this. He looked for the gunshot wounds, for the knife stabbing, and there is no entry whatsoever.


FLOCK: Now, obviously the story of Jessica Lynch's capture certainly is probably a dramatic one. The fact is though, Wolf, tonight we don't know exactly what it was. Her parents don't even know. They've talked to her and they say they suspect it will come out at some point, but right now we don't have it -- back to you.

BLITZER: Jeff, I know that her parents must be dying to get over there and to see their daughter, to touch her, to kiss her, to reassure her. Are there any plans for the military to take these family members over to the Landstuhl Hospital near Ramstein in Germany and let them be with their daughter?

FLOCK: A couple of factors on that. One, they say themselves that they want to go over there when Jessie is ready to see them. It's also possible that she'll be transported back here to the United States, perhaps to Walter Reed Medical Center, so they may be waiting on that.

Also, though the military not saying this, there are a number of people that have been injured in this war so far. If you begin to ferry all of the families overseas, it may set a precedent that you don't necessarily want to have. They say they're ready to go. Someone has offered them plane tickets over, so it's not -- that's not the issue, but at this point they want to go at Jessie's pace they say -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And are they -- how are they coping? They came out. They spoke to reporters earlier today. Obviously they're relieved that their daughter is alive but you're spending a lot of time with them. What are they saying to you?

FLOCK: It's amazing to see how folks even who have had losses or people injured in this war, a family still very much behind the war effort. You know, I think having talked to her twice today they really felt like they've made connection with her again, so they feel a lot better about that.

But, you know, she's got a brother who is also in the service and a younger sister who is a senior in high school who has already enlisted in the armed forces. Her mother asked today how does she feel about that daughter picking up that commitment, she said I support her 100 percent. That's what she wants to and that's what she's going to do.

BLITZER: What an incredible story. What an incredible family. Jeff Flock, he's in West Virginia for us, thanks very much, and Jeff even as you were speaking we were hearing yet more explosions in Baghdad.

This has been a continuous pounding going on now for the better part of two hours, various targets. We're not exactly sure. We know several of those loud explosions have been heard in downtown Baghdad, others in the outskirts, especially the southern parts, the southwestern part near the Saddam International Airport.

We're also hearing a lot of antiaircraft fire being fired in the sky, as Iraqis apparently are hoping to shoot down some sort of U.S. aircraft, dropping bombs or launching missiles at various targets.

We're watching all of these developments in Baghdad. As daybreak comes, people will be able to see what's going on. As you know by now, the power has been turned off. There are no lights in Baghdad. The next time there will be light is, of course, when the sun comes up and it could be a hot sun over the Iraqi capital in more ways than one -- Paula.

ZAHN: And, Wolf, about the best guidance we can get at this hour from our own military experts at CNN Center is that most of the remaining air strikes will be tactical and by that they mean the coalition forces are actually targeting Republican Guard troop concentrations in and around Baghdad.

That is just a very good hunch on their part and they've been studying this since before this war began.

As Jeff just mentioned there have been some new details about Jessica Lynch's capture that are beginning to emerge. The "Washington Post" reports that she showed true courage firing at Iraqi forces who ambushed her unit until she ran out of bullets. She was fighting for her life not wanting to be taken alive. Her heroism may make her an unwitting symbol for the emotional debate about women in combat.

Should women be on the front lines? Elaine Donnelly says no. She happens to be the president of the Center for Military Readiness, the group that studies women in combat roles. Elaine joins us from Southfield, Michigan tonight. And then, the former Undersecretary of the U.S. Air Force believes women should be allowed on the front lines. Antonia Chayes joins us from Boston tonight, good to have both of you with us. Welcome.

Elaine, I'm going to start with you this evening. You believe women should not serve in combat roles. Is that is it your belief that women simply can't have the same set of skills as men?


ZAHN: Or the same qualifications as their male counterparts?

DONNELLY: No. First, let me say I'm so happy to see that Jessica Lynch is safe. She's coming home. So proud of her, proud of the soldiers who rescued her but the military really can not make policy regarding all women in the military based on a singular story.

When the presidential commission on which I served in 1992 studied this issue, we found overwhelming evidence that women do not have an equal opportunity to survive or to help fellow soldiers survive in a close combat environment. However, in 1994, the rules changed contrary to the recommendations of the presidential commission.

And now, under the new rules, which are surprising to many people, young women like Jessica, like the two other women who are still missing, they are now serving under conditions of greater risk. Risk of capture is no longer an option in where they are serving, even in support units.

Now, this policy change was made quietly in '94. Congress paid no attention. I wrote about it at the time and now we're seeing played out in a way that I hope everybody will think about the consequence of what we mean when we say that women should be put at equal risk with men in a combat situation.

ZAHN: Antonia, do you believe that combat poses enhanced risks for women? Elaine just brought up the point of capture and then also the risk of sexual abuse.

ANTONIA CHAYES, FMR. UNDERSECY. OF USAF: The risk of capture was always there. Nurses in World War I were subject to capture. What women want indeed is equal opportunity. They finally have it. Equal opportunity to be in the front lines means equal opportunity for promotion. There has been a revolution in military affairs, the secretary of defense who is much behind that, and that has changed the look of the battlefield.

DONNELLY: Well, all the technology in the world and transformation of the military can not change the fact that women do not have an equal opportunity to survive in a close combat environment or help fellow soldiers survive. I find it very unseemly for a civilian feminist or a few ambitious female officers to decide for young women, like Jessica, like Shoshana who's still missing, and Lori Pastawa (ph) still missing. These young enlisted women I think have been somewhat not fully informed...

CHAYES: Oh, that isn't true.

DONNELLY: ...that they are now at greater risk. It's not just a career opportunity to them. It's not a matter of whether they're going to be promoted to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

This is a serious issue. It's not just another career opportunity and there will be many stories that will come out of this war. We need to watch them very closely. Not all of them will have a happy ending. But we don't use women even in non-lethal combat such as the Army/Navy Game. We know there are physical differences that matter. We can't (unintelligible). CHAYES: Oh, come on.

ZAHN: Let's give Toni a -- let's give Toni a chance to respond...


ZAHN: some of what you just said. Go ahead, Toni.

CHAYES: Right. I really believe that these women are fully prepared for all these eventualities. Jessica Lynch was well trained and tested for capture. Don't think for one moment that they're led down a garden path. They understand the consequences. All of these things have been explained. This is an all volunteer force. They go in with their eyes open. They know what they're getting in for and they welcome it.


ZAHN: What I'd like to do now is give you both 20 seconds a piece for a final thought for the audience to think about.

DONNELLY: Sure. Shoshana Johnson signed up to be a cook but the rules were changed and she was assigned to a unit close to a close combat unit in a condition of greater risk of capture than she knew. Her family admitted that they didn't expect this.

We need to make policy that is best for the military but also respect women. To say that they should be put at equal or greater risk than men, as if this is of no great consequence, I think is a step backwards for civilization and not a step forward for women.

ZAHN: Toni, you get the last word tonight.

CHAYES: The prejudice is one of real threat that women will take the place. It's also part of the culture that men feel if they don't have women to protect and they're competing with them, they're not comfortable and it goes against their culture.

But just like the integration of Blacks and other minorities in the armed forces, it takes a while but they're really getting used to it and all I've heard is high respect for the women's capability.

ZAHN: Elaine and Toni, we're going to have to leave it there. I think you laid out some pretty powerful arguments on both sides. You're going to give all of us something to debate further tonight. Thanks again for your time, back to Wolf now.

BLITZER: Thanks, Paula, good debate and an important debate.

Right now, I want to show our viewers live pictures of Baghdad, once again darkened pictures, no electricity, no lights tonight in Baghdad, the first time since the start of the Gulf War.

Retired U.S. Lieutenant General Dan Benton is with us. We're hearing all of these explosions. We're seeing fires. What do you sense is going on right now, General Benton?

BENTON: Wolf, we've been watching this fire here in the newsroom for some time now and I guess, first of all, let me say what I think it's not. We don't see explosions coming up, you know, a lot of flares and things like that, so it most probably is not some sort of munitions dump.

The way I'm seeing the burning patterns, it looks to me like it's something very, very white hot. I have seen tank turrets and armored vehicles burning extremely hot the way that one's burning. It could also be perhaps a fuel dump or something like that, but it's not exploding. It's purely burning, so that's the most of what I can say is probably what it's not.

BLITZER: Abu Dhabi Television is reporting four missiles have apparently hit one target. We don't know what that target is. We heard from Reuters' correspondents who were on the scene that at least 14 to 16 explosions have actually been heard over the past couple of hours.

But you're suggesting that if the U.S. targeted some sort of weapon stockpile or depot that could create the kind of fire that we're seeing, is that what you're suggesting?

BENTON: Yes. We're not seeing explosions. What I'm seeing here, it looks like it's just consistent burning, pulses are burning. There are no explosions. There's nothing going off in the air so it would indicate to me that it's probably something like a fuel bunker or perhaps an armored vehicle that's caught fire that's burning extremely hot, just don't see any explosions.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to watch throughout the night. We're going to watch what's happening in Baghdad. General Benton thanks for that analysis. We'll be getting back to you for more when we return.

Could the war in Iraq be the first phase of a new world war? A former CIA director says yes. Stay with us.


ZAHN: Welcome back. For all the talk about U.S. troops on Baghdad's doorstep, perhaps the question after this conflict is resolved is this, what's the next step? President Bush has said if you're not with us, you're against us.

Well, 50 years from now, will the war in Iraq be seen as just the first battle in a larger war to spread democracy and could that pit the U.S. against some of its own allies?

Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider joins me now from Atlanta with some analysis, hi Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Paula. What happens after Iraq? Will the United States emboldened by success in Iraq press for regime change in other countries? Well, why not some ask?


WOOLSEY: This fourth world war I think will last considerably longer than either World Wars I or II did for us.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): A fourth world war, sure. Former CIA Director James Woolsey calls the Cold War, World War III. In his view, World War IV will pit the United States and its allies against dictatorships in Iraq and Syria, the religious rulers of Iran, and Islamic terrorists like al Qaeda and others.

WOOLSEY: We will make a lot of people very nervous and we will hear, for example, the Mubarak regime in Egypt, the Saudi royal family, thinking about this idea that these Americans are spreading democracy in this part of the world.

SCHNEIDER: Egypt and Saudi Arabia are not democracies. So what is the U.S. makes them nervous.

WOOLSEY: Our response should be good. We want you nervous.

SCHNEIDER: Woolsey is one of a group of conservatives who have considerable influence in the Bush administration, like Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, and Defense Policy Board member Richard Perle.

Some of them urged President Bill Clinton in 1997 to go to war with Iraq; 9/11 made their case for a new world order based on the predominance of American power and the superiority of American values. President Bush has always been careful not to portray the war on terrorism as a clash of civilizations, the West versus Islam.

BUSH: When it comes to the common rights and needs of men and women, there is no clash of civilizations.

SCHNEIDER: No clash of civilizations? Angry crowds have been turning against the U.S. in many Muslim countries. The danger is that all this talk about World War IV and remaking the Middle East by force could turn the entire Muslim world against the U.S.


SCHNEIDER: Bold agendas like that make Americans nervous too. Most Americans have no ambition to dominate the world. They just want to feel safe -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider thanks very much.

And what Bill is just reporting raises some important questions of whether there could indeed be a wider war. That's a debate that's being taken up by the hosts of CNN's "CROSSFIRE," Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson -- Tucker.

TUCKER CARLSON, "CROSSFIRE": Thanks, Wolf. Could we really be headed toward a world war? Joining us to explore this frightening question Samer Shehata, Adjunct Professor of Arab Politics at Georgetown University, and former Assistant Defense Secretary Frank Gaffney, who is now President and CEO of the Center for Security Policy -- Paul.

PAUL BEGALA, "CROSSFIRE": Frank Gaffney, we are at war. How is it helpful to that war effort to say that we're heading into a world war against a variety of Muslim countries?

FRANK GAFFNEY, CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY: I think actually we are in a world war. This is actually old news. It was a war in effect declared on September 11, 2001. President Bush has talked about it as a global conflict.

It involves multiple fronts and we are going to confront them whether they're Islamists who are waging war against us or terrorist sponsoring states as in the case of Iraq, and I think we're going to have to confront it on a global scale and it's critical that the American people understand the character of it.

CARLSON: Mr. Shehata, thousands of Americans have been killed by Islamic terrorists over the last 20 years. What's wrong with acknowledging that it's a real conflict and saying, as Mr. Woolsey did, that democracy in the Middle East is a good idea?

SAMER SHEHATA, ADJUNCT PROF. OF ARAB POLITICS: Democracy in the Middle East is a good idea but the comments today weren't only about Islamic extremists or people who have killed Americans. They put Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and al Qaeda in the same camp.

So, if we don't want the Arab world to think this is a war against Islam, we better not make comments like that. The comments were irresponsible and also wrong.

WOOLSEY: And actually some of those are the people who did do the killing on September 11.

CARLSON: And this comes on the heels of Secretary Rumsfeld only a few days ago threatening Iran and Syria. Does this administration want to lead us into a wider war in the Middle East?

WOOLSEY: No. I think what Secretary Rumsfeld was very clearly trying to do was to prevent Syria and Iran from helping our enemy and giving rise to conditions under which we would have to take action against them for doing so. This is about trying to prevent this problem from getting worse.

BEGALA: He didn't threaten Russia who is allegedly arming our enemies in Iraq.

GAFFNEY: We are clearly sending signals to the Russians, including the president of the United States himself calling Vladimir Putin and saying you better cut this out. There are lots of messages being sent but the most important message I really believe, Paul, is that people understand there are enemies of this country all over the world and many of them are actively engaged now in waging war against us. CARLSON: But Mr. Shehata, you implied a moment ago really that the owness of responsibility if on the United States and Mr. Woolsey has made it worse. I'm wondering, though, and I found it interesting after 20 years of these attacks on Americans you haven't seen apologies really from the Arab world and you haven't seen real efforts to deal with the root causes of this terrorism. There is to this day not a single democracy in the Arab world still, so why?

SHEHATA: Well, that's correct. There are a couple of things that need to be said immediately and the first thing is that the United States has not been interested in promoting democracy in the Arab world. We have consistently backed authoritarian regimes.

CARLSON: It's America's fault?

SHEHATA: No. That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that if Mr. Woolsey is genuinely concerned about promoting democracy he should look at the history of our foreign policy towards the Middle East. There are reasons domestically as well as internationally why there are no democracies in the Arab world. We need to acknowledge the shortcomings of the Arab world but we also need to put blame accurately where blame is.

And if we really want to talk about the root causes of terrorism directed at the United States, we need to look at authoritarianism in the Arab world but we also need to look at specific American policies towards the Arab world, our bias in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and our failed policy towards Iraq. Those things mobilize people. They make moderates radical and they make radicals militant and those policies have been a tremendous failure and we need to reexamine them.

WOOLSEY: We need to promote democracy in both Israel...

BEGALA: Case in point though...

WOOLSEY: ...and I think in the Arab world.

BEGALA: Let me pick up on this point. The grand sheikh of the Al-Azur (ph) University Mosque in Cairo, the leading Muslim cleric in the world, was the first to condemn the September 11 attack. He described Osama bin Laden as a fraud. Now, this week, he said it is a binding Islamic duty to wage jihad against America. Aren't you now alienating, as the professor says, alienating all the moderates in the Middle East with this kind of talk of a world war?

WOOLSEY: I think there's been a lot of alienation but some of it at the very least has been done at the hands of the Saudi government, which is funding an awful lot of this terrorism around the world, and the Egyptian government which is allowing its government-controlled media, Paul, long before this fatwah was issued, to vilify the United States.

This is a country we're giving $2 billion a year in aid to and yet their daily sermons from the government-controlled mosques and their press are incessantly (unintelligible) against the United States and encouraging their people to see us as an enemy. That's not helpful.

CARLSON: Mr. Shehata, I was not at all surprised to hear you blame Israel and the United States for the bad perceptions of the U.S. in the region. I'm wondering, though, if you could specifically tell me what say Saudi Arabia needs to do, what Egypt needs to do, and pick up on what Mr. Gaffney said that maybe those governments bear much of the responsibility, maybe most for terrorism.

SHEHATA: No, I think that's fundamentally wrong. I think that you're right that authoritarianism when people can't express themselves politically leads to political extremism and in some case terrorism, but we have to ask why is it directed at New York and Washington as opposed to Stockholm or Paris?

And, that implicates the United States in the larger question of the root cause. You're incredibly right that there needs to be more democratization in the Arab world. That's what I and my colleagues have been trying to do for years and we're going to do it more. The question is how do you do it?

Do you do it by making these inflammatory remarks or waging wars and bombing civilians or do you do it constructively by possibly putting some strings on aid packages as it were?

So, we have to think about this. Promoting terrorism doesn't mean putting Syria and al Qaeda in the same camp or saying that Egypt and the Egyptian government have been promoting terrorism. Egypt and Egyptians and the government have been victims of terrorism as you well know throughout the 1990s and the government...

GAFFNEY: They're trying to do what the French and the Swedes are doing which is buy them off.

BEGALA: That will have to be the last word. Frank Gaffney of the (unintelligible) thank you very much for joining us. Professor Samer Shehata of Georgetown University thank you as well -- Wolf, back to you in Kuwait City.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Paul and Tucker, very good debate on an important issue.

We're watching what's happening in Baghdad right now. For the past two hours there have been continuous air strikes, poundings, explosions going off. This is a significant story on this first night after two weeks of warfare where the power is off in the Iraqi capital, no electricity, as you can see no lights. There will be lights there though soon when the sun rises.

We have much more coverage coming up in the next hour. When we return, we'll take you through one of the most important days of this war and show you exactly how it unfolded in our timeline of Day 16 of the war in Iraq -- Paula.

ZAHN: And we'll find out exactly what it means now that U.S. troops have gone beyond the so-called red line. Is a chemical attack now a real possibility? How will American soldiers take the Iraqi capital? And what will be Saddam Hussein Hussein's last stand?


ANNOUNCER: Live from the front lines, the time line that created today's headlines.

Tonight: how the day unfolded on the war front. For the first time, a look at U.S. ground troops taking the war inside one of Saddam Hussein's palaces.

A flash point in Iraq: one of Islam's holiest shrines. But was the face-off in Najaf just a misunderstanding?

Two mothers whose sons went off to war. Now they've come home, scarred for life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His spirits are good. He's very concerned about his fellow Marines out in the field.

ANNOUNCER: Plus the invisible line that changes everything. U.S. troops now inside the red zone. How and when will they take the capital? And will Saddam Hussein make a final stand?

Live from the front lines, day 16.

ZAHN: Good evening and welcome. It's just after 5 a.m. in Baghdad. Aside from the occasional coalition bombing and Iraq anti- aircraft fire, it's darker than usual in the capital at this hour. The power has been out for several hours now as coalition troops continue to close in.

At last word, the Pentagon said troops were within 10 miles of Baghdad.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Paula Zahn. Joining me from Kuwait City is my colleague, Wolf Blitzer. Good evening, Wolf.

BLITZER: Good evening, Paula. Thank you very much.

In the next hour, we'll take all of our viewers back through all of the developments that brought us to this dramatic point today.

Also, we'll go in-depth about what is really happening behind the so-called red line. That's the perimeter drawn some 50 miles around Baghdad. What can the coalition expect once its forces move forward -- Paula?

ZAHN: Thanks, Wolf. First, though, this very busy day began with U.S. Central Command's morning briefing, 7 a.m. eastern time, Doha, Qatar.

CENTCOM says special forces have gone in and seized several bridges, as well as a dam that had been wired for explosion. However, a spokesman for the coalition forces were able to stop that from happening. Meanwhile, CENTCOM also says U.S. special forces raided Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's second-biggest palace. The Tharthar Palace is located some 56 miles outside of Baghdad. And it is a known residence of the Iraqi president and his sons.

No Iraqi officials were found there but documents were confiscated.

Despite the progress, though, U.S. military officials say the war's end is not necessarily near.


VINCENT BROOKS, CENTCOM SPOKESMAN: We don't think that the fighting is over yet. And so there are still options available to the regime, including the use of weapons of mass destruction. We take that very seriously. We take it in a sober fashion. And at the same time, we remain prepared to continue our operations.


BLITZER: Also at 7 a.m., U.S. troops entered Iraq's so-called red zone, an area circling Baghdad in which U.S. officials think Iraq could resort to using chemical or biological weapons.

CNN's Walter Rodgers is with the Army's 3rd Squadron of the 7th Cavalry. He filed this report from inside the red zone.


RODGERS (voice-over): For the past seven hours, 7th Cavalry, along with its parent unit, the 3rd Infantry Division, has crossed the Euphrates River, moving in the general direction of Baghdad.

(on camera): That totally contradicts the information minister's claim that U.S. Army movements are not anywhere near Baghdad. We cannot give you precise times or locations. But we are moving in the direction of Baghdad.

We're taking small arms fire to the right. For the past 15 or 20 minutes, our tank in front of us has been firing its 120 millimeter gun off to the right of us, shooting targets no more than 200 to 300 meters away.

The Bradley fighting vehicles have also been firing on at least one side of the passageway we are using at this point.

Earlier as we crossed the Euphrates, we could see burned-out vehicles, Iraqi cars, pickup trucks, some of them appeared to have been old Soviet vintage BMP's, that is armored personnel carriers. Those vehicles badly charred.

We have come across more than a few dead Iraqi soldiers, lying beside the road. One troubling thing that we did discover on the corpses of the dead Iraqi soldiers that we witnessed, virtually every single one of the Iraqi soldiers was carrying a gas mask. Having said that, there's been no evidence of anything of that sort at this point. Again, the pictures we're showing you are of an M1-A1 Abrams main battle tank. We have to show it fairly tight so we do not reveal any of the geographical surroundings in which we -- through which we are passing. Those are the Pentagon's rules.


ZAHN: And a remarkable view of the 3-7th Cav as they head towards Baghdad.

Now as coalition troops closed in on Baghdad, U.S. Marines secured a key route over the Tigris River. The assault took place at around 8 a.m. eastern time on the outskirts of Kut, about 40 miles south of Baghdad.

The 1st Battalion of the 7th Marines led the attack with a barrage of artillery fire on a suspected Republican Guard base and its bunkers. Once the base was under their control, Marines walked bunker to bunker, searching for Iraqi soldiers and gathering intelligence on the Republican Guard.

From there, Marines approached an abandoned Iraqi airfield and inside, they found a huge cache of weapons with enough uniforms and other gear to outfit hundreds of troops. They also found documents, ledgers, notebooks, and records.

The Marines suffered no casualties in the assault. Reports indicate fewer than a dozen Iraqis were killed or wounded -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Paula. The U.S. Army says it's taken control of Najaf and has isolated Iraqi forces in that area. But that's not to say everything has gone smoothly.

At around 10 a.m., the Army's 101st Airborne Division ran into a bit of a snag with the locals. But what was really extraordinary was how the troops on the ground managed to defuse the situation.

CNN's Ryan Chilcote was there.


CHILCOTE (voice-over): A tip leads the Baston (ph) Brigade's No Slack battalion to this parking lot in Najaf, where the Fedayeen are said to have stashed weapons. The search turns up nothing. The only resistance comes from a Volvo.

The Shiite population seems curious and friendly. But they don't get too close. This man agrees to be interviewed, as long as his face isn't shown. Iraqi government, he says, has satellite TV. Anybody could be an informer and punish us for talking to you, even my family, he tells me in Arabic.

The troops also keep their distance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very uneasy out here. Don't know who's who.

CHILCOTE: Sergeant Rod Sutton from Indiana on the corner of a street leading to the highly sensitive Imam Ali shrine, one of the holiest sites in the world for Shiite Muslims.

Does it make you nervous you're, like, so close to the Ali mosque, that you're, like, tramping on -- holy ground?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To some extent I feel fortunate that I'm here. Because his is something I never would have seen before. And now that I see it, I kind of understand some of the history behind it. So it makes me more appreciative of it. But to the same extent, I don't want to be invasive with these people here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I don't want to trample on their holy ground. And I want to respect that as much as I can.

CHILCOTE: Word comes from the Grand Ayatollah Sistani that he is willing to meet the American commander. But he asks first for soldiers to secure his compound, located halfway down the road to the mosque. But no one explains that to the crowd.

(on camera): There is no more striking example of the sensitivities that the U.S. soldiers face here than what is taking place on this street right up from the Ali mosque right now.

(voice-over): Chaos as the crowd apparently believes the soldiers want to approach the shrine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are Christian. You don't want to let inside the holy shrine of Iman Ali.

CHILCOTE: Clerics appear with a message from the Grand Ayatollah, but the message is drowned out. The colonel instructs his men to stay calm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got to understand, he wants us here. Smile, relax.

CHILCOTE: His soldiers take a knee, the weapons brought down from the ready position. They do everything soldiers can to appear less hostile.

But the potential for confrontation remains. The commander makes a decision.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turn around. Just turn around and go.

CHILCOTE: He orders his men back to their compound to await cooler heads.

Ryan Chilcote, CNN, with the 101st Airborne in Najaf, Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ZAHN: Ryan exposing us to some major contrasts in that report.

Now while U.S. troops were running into some problems in Najaf, Secretary of State Colin Powell was wrapping up meetings with NATO allies, also in the 10 o'clock hour.

Those talks centered around the rebuilding of Iraq once war is over. The secretary says the U.S.-led war coalition should play a leading role in post-war Iraq but he says the U.N.'s role has not been decided yet.


COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: We are still examining the proper role for the United Nations. I'm not surprised that there is not consensus yet, because the debate and the discussion has just begun. And so we had a very healthy dialogue.

We all understand that the U.N. must play a role. The president has said so. He's said it clearly. The nature of that role and how it is to be played remains to be seen.


BLITZER: In northern Iraq, U.S. officials say Iraqi troops have been pushed back to perimeter positions. This morning, allied jets began pounding the town of Mosul with bombing runs that continued into the night. The town of Kirkuk was also hit early on.

Along with pushing back the Iraqis, coalition forces were also successful in clearing the area for Kurdish fighters.

Meanwhile, a new era of cooperation may -- may be on the horizon. U.S. military commanders are said to be in talks with Kurdish political leaders and members of the Iraqi opposition. They're said to be exploring the option of joining forces against Saddam Hussein.

At the same time in central Iraq, U.S. Marines opened fire on a car when it failed to stop at a checkpoint. Four people were inside, including a 2-year-old child shot in the head.

CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta ended up in a unique position as being with a group of doctors trying to save the child's life, and as the only neurosurgeon present, he was asked to help.

He filed this report.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are here in the operating room of Bravo Surgical Company. Just to my left, an operation is going on for a gunshot wound to the leg. And just behind me, another operation going on for multiple gunshot wounds to the abdomen.

It's been like this all day. Helicopters coming in, bringing patients, both coalition and Iraqi. Both of these patients over here, Iraqi, getting their operations now.

Just earlier today, another incident brought patients here to this particular surgical company, as well. A car, a taxicab, traveling through a Marine checkpoint with four passengers. In the driver's seat was a taxicab driver and in the passenger seat on the front was an adult male, in the back seat a mother and child.

This car, according to Marines and the medics who brought the patients in, passed through the checkpoint without stopping. This drew the fire of the Marines at the checkpoints, killing both passengers in the front seat, the taxicab driver and the adult male, and critically wounding mother and child.

Mother and child were both brought here. The child had a significant head injury and was brought to the operating room. I actually assisted in that particular operation.

The mother was also operated on for significant abdominal injury. She is in critical condition.

It's been an interesting experience for me. Certainly, being a journalist, also a doctor, a neurosurgeon. When I spent some time with the Devil Docs earlier, one of the things that they had told me was they didn't have any neurosurgical capability and they said if an occasion were to come in where they needed such an operation, would I be able to help?

They asked me that question. Today that actually happened. There was, just a few hours ago, they came up to me and said a 2-year- old child has a gunshot wound or a shrapnel wound of great significance to the head, would I be willing to take a look at the patient and take the patient to the operating room?

Medically and morally, I thought that was the right thing to do. The operation was a brain operation, basically to decompress the pressure on that child's brain.

This child was in what we call in the medical lingo extremist, meaning at the time that I saw the patient, a few minutes really only to live. The outcome of the operation was that the child did die after the operation, despite our efforts. But this was something that we attempted to try and save the life of this child through the operation.

I was asked to help out. Medically and morally, I thought it was the right thing to do.


ZAHN: And once again, that was Dr. Sanjay Gupta, reporting for us a little bit earlier on today.

President Bush voiced confidence during a visit to a Marine camp in North Carolina.

In a 10 a.m. speech at Camp Lejeune, Mr. Bush said the U.S. will accept nothing in Iraq but complete and final victory.


BUSH: We hear all Iraqis who yearn for liberty, and the people of Iraq have my pledge. Our fighting forces will press on until your entire country is free.


ZAHN: And while they were at Camp Lejeune, the president and first lady met privately with the families of Marines who have lost their lives in Iraq.

When we come back, our time line moves on into the 11 o'clock hour.

Their soldier sons have returned as heroes from the war in Iraq, but their near-death experience will change their lives forever. You're going to meet their moms. Please stay with us.


ZAHN: The shared experiences of war can form life-long bonds. Often it's between fighters in the same unit. But sometimes it goes beyond that.

We pick up our timeline in the 11 a.m. hour. Marine Sergeant Eric Alva and Navy hospital corpsman Brian Alaniz became friends during the buildup to the Gulf War.

When Alva was injured in an Iraqi minefield, Alaniz went after him and Alaniz himself was injured by another mine. Well, each man lost a leg beneath the knee, and both are being treated at the Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland.

At a news conference there, the mothers of both men say their families have been brought together by this horrible challenge.

Lois Alva says her son has been thinking about his fellow Marines.


LOIS ALVA, MOTHER OF INJURED MARINE: His spirits are good. He's very concerned about his fellow Marines out in the field. And he keeps asking, you know, have we heard anything? And he's watching TV. That's his main concern, his fellow Marines out in the field.


ZAHN: Well, both Sergeant Alva and Corpsman Alaniz have received purple hearts. I'll be talking live with their mothers in just a few minutes. Back to you now, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Paula. Iraqi officials, meanwhile, continue to show public defiance. At noon eastern in Baghdad, Iraq's information minister dismissed reports that coalition troops were approaching Baghdad, calling those reports illusions. Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahaf told a Baghdad news conference Iraqi forces will be victorious.

Despite the defiant statements of Iraqi officials, the Pentagon says U.S. forces have reached Saddam International Airport. That's in southwestern Baghdad.

CNN senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, picks up the story from there. He's in his listening post in Ruwayshid, Jordan -- Nic.

ROBERTSON: Wolf, a number of changes in the capital of Iraq tonight. The lights in Baghdad, the street lights, office lights, lights in people's houses, all gone out.

Not clear what has taken the electricity down in Baghdad. The coalition says it's not been targeting the power grid. Iraqi authorities say that they -- say that it wasn't a coalition air strike that damaged electricity. Possibly the Iraqi authorities deciding to switch off the power in the city.

Certainly, we know that on the perimeter of the city tonight, there's been another change to checkpoints that allow civilians in and out of Baghdad. On the main highways leading to and from the city have been closed. Civilians cannot leave Baghdad tonight.

We also understand from a source in Baghdad that in the civilian neighborhood close to Saddam International Airport the coalition forces are now moving into, that civilians there have been told by the Iraqi government that they should leave their homes and head towards the airport.

Now these are all changes that are taking place tonight. The fact that the power has gone off, something we haven't seen so far, despite 14 days of aerial bombardment in the city, Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic, thanks very much. Thanks for that report -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thank you.

What happens next in Baghdad? There was a Pentagon news conference at noon. The defense secretary and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff discussed the war plan.

And our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, reports.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): The battle for Baghdad is being fought simultaneously on several fronts.

Here, a U.S. special operations snatch team descends on the Tharthar Palace on the outskirts of the capital. It's one of Saddam Hussein's residences, but it's been abandoned.

At the Saddam International Airport, southwest of the city, barracks of the special Republican Guard were taken out with smart bombs. Sources say the U.S. has left the runways untouched so it can use the airport as a base of operations.

As the U.S. seems to be rolling over ineffective Iraqi resistance, the Pentagon is brimming with confidence about the progress of U.S. troops.

RUMSFELD: They've taken several outlying areas and are closer to the center of the Iraqi capital than many American communities are from their downtown offices.

MCINTYRE: Rumsfeld says what's left of the six Republican Guard divisions that ringed Baghdad are either retreating, going home, surrendering, or reinforcing.

Baghdad is now in the dark, the power either inadvertently knocked out by U.S. bombs or turned off by the regime.

And events are moving so fast that the maps the Pentagon uses to show how close the U.S. troops are to Baghdad are outdated before they are shown.

Apache tank killing helicopters are devastating Republican Guard armor. And as the Iraqi forces move to reinforce, they become even easier targets. Sources say as part of the Atnan division moves south from Tikrit, U.S. air strikes took out an entire armored brigade, including dozens of tanks.

The U.S. says its strategy is not to occupy the entire city of Baghdad but to seize key objectives and render the regime irrelevant.

MYERS: They're going to have Baghdad isolated, you're going to have half the population that probably wants nothing to do with the folks of the oppressive regime, and then you'll start working at it as you can. One of the things you can do is be patient about that. So this notion of a siege, and so forth I think is not the right mental picture.


MCINTYRE: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said once again the U.S. will accept nothing short of unconditional surrender to end the war. So any suggestion that there might be a deal, Rumsfeld said there wasn't even the remotest chance, he said, of any kind of a deal, no matter who proposes it -- Paula.

ZAHN: So if the idea is not to have a siege and isolate Baghdad, as your report just said, and try to render the leadership of Saddam Hussein's regime rudderless, what is it that the troops are actually prepared for, if that doesn't work and you end up having to have some kind of urban combat?

MCINTYRE: Well, there may still be urban combat, because the strategy doesn't require you to occupy the entire city. But it does require to seize strategic objectives, including perhaps some buildings. There may even be snatch missions, trying to get some senior Iraqi leaders.

But what they're not going to do is circle the city and then slowly try to occupy the whole thing. This is a much more surgical effort. But it has, according to sources, has a series of options as things progress, to put more and more pressure on the regime.

Eventually, they believe what could happen is the leaders could simply be isolated in a small part and not be in control of anything.

ZAHN: And finally tonight, Jamie, is anybody characterizing for reporters exactly where the campaign is?

MCINTYRE: No. They are saying it will take as long as it takes. They're making what they consider to be remarkable progress. They're not seeing any of the resistance that they've expected so far. And they haven't seen chemical or biological weapons.

But they continue to caution us that this could be the most dangerous time as they get closer to the end game.

ZAHN: Jamie McIntyre, thanks so much.

When we come back, we're going to pick up our time line at the 4 o'clock hour when we hear -- or actually heard from the parents of Jessica Lynch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Basically, we're doing everything already that they're suggesting. You know, we're showing good support.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just being ourselves. What we've done with her before she went.

ZAHN: An update on the 19-year-old 5'4" supply clerk, rescued from an Iraqi hospital in a daring mission. We're going to update you on her surgery when LIVE FROM THE FRONTLINES returns.


BLITZER: Welcome back.

The American soldier rescued from Iraqi custody earlier this week has had surgery in Germany. Private First Class Jessica Lynch is recovering from a fractured disk, two fractured legs, and a broken arm.

The Defense Department released these dramatic pictures today of Lynch's rescue. Special forces led a team that fought its way into a Nasiriyah hospital, where Lynch was being held, then carried her to safety on a stretcher.

At 4 p.m. eastern earlier today, Lynch's parents met with reporters in Palestine, West Virginia. We wanted to let this tape run to give you a taste of a mother and father whose prayers were answered.


LYNCH: The doctors has completed one surgery on her back. They have released the pressure on a nerve and realigned all the disks. And put plates and stuff in it. And that was because she didn't have any feeling in her feet. So he's pretty sure right now that that will relieve the tension and her feet will be able to move.

Also, we have heard and seen reports that she had multiple gunshot wounds and a knife stabbing. The doctor has not seen any of this. He looked for the gunshot wounds, for the knife stabbing and there is no entry whatsoever.


BLITZER: Jessica Lynch was in a maintenance company convoy that took a wrong turn and was ambushed by Iraqi troops -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks, Wolf.

A few moments ago, we told you about a Marine sergeant and a Navy medical corpsman and the bond their families have formed. Staff Sergeant Eric Alva stepped on a land mine and lost part of his leg. And then just a short time ago got out of surgery in Bethesda, Maryland, for those injuries. Now, Corpsman Brian Alaniz came to his friend's rescue and suffered a similar injury.

Joining us now from Bethesda, Maryland, are their mothers, Lois Alva and Liz Alaniz.

Welcome to both of you. Our thoughts are with both of your families this evening. Thanks so much for joining us.



ZAHN: Lois, I want to start with you tonight. I know Eric has been in surgery much of the day. How is he doing?

ALVA: He's -- right now, he's -- he -- they gave him some extra pain medication. He had been in a lot of pain. He came out of the surgery really well.

ZAHN: And what are the...


ZAHN: ... doctors tell -- yes, what are they telling you about the extent of his injuries?

ALVA: He -- today, he had gone back, because they had already amputated one leg. And what they did was go back and take off a couple more inches so that they could form a flap to cover the muscle and make like a flap to cover the leg and start closing it up.

And then they also worked on his arm. They had to -- he had some extensive injuries on his right arm. So they had to go and get a skin graft and put it on his arm. And then they had to -- on his left foot was broken. So they had to go and recast his foot.

ZAHN: So he...

ALVA: But he's coming along very well.

ZAHN: Yes, but he clearly has a long road ahead of him in terms of recuperating from all of this. Have you had the opportunity even to talk to Eric about the circumstances surrounding his injury, how it happened?

ALVA: I've talked to him. I've gotten little bits and pieces from him. He hasn't told me from beginning to end. He's -- every day we talk about it. I've gotten some pieces from Brian too, Mrs. Alaniz's son. He's filled me in on some spots.

But we're starting to get the whole story together as we go. Day by day, we hear something new, something new and frightening that I probably -- you know, if he had told me all at once, I wouldn't have been able to handle it.

ZAHN: Yes, some, somehow, that all is brought out in the appropriate bits, isn't it?

Liz, how is Brian doing?

ALANIZ: Brian's doing very well tonight. There was a little concern yesterday because he had a high white blood count, and he had spiked a fever. But overnight, his blood count, his white blood count went down and the fever stopped. So today, he was able -- he was -- they were able to take him up to ward five, which he was before he was in ICU. So that -- he's done very well today.

ZAHN: And I understand in spite of Brian's physical challenges, his fellow soldiers are a lot on his mind. What has he told you about the next phase of the campaign, and how worried he is about the colleagues he's trained with?

ALANIZ: Well, Brian, we were talking just this evening, and he was telling me that he's -- that he would like to be able to go back and be with his fellow soldiers, with the fellow brothers that he has out there. But that he wishes to thank all of them for all the help that they did give him when he was out there and needed it, and to wish them that they would a fast homecoming and a safe one, and that he -- they remain in his prayers.

ZAHN: And Lois, I understand Eric feels much the same way.

ALVA: Yes. I asked him if he wanted me to pass on a message to his fellow Marines. And he just wanted to tell them -- he was barely -- he wasn't talking too much because, you know, he just got out of surgery. But he said, "Tell them that I'm thinking about them, and my heart is with them."

ZAHN: Well, your sons have two generous spirits. And it is through their experience that the two of you have met each other. And I know you're providing a lot of support to each other.

Thank you for sharing your story with us this evening, Lois Alva, Liz Alaniz. We'll be rooting for your family.

ALVA: Thank you very much.

ALANIZ: Thank you.

ZAHN: Now our timeline ends on that compelling story of two moms and brings us up to this moment. When we come back, a look at a possible end game. American troops are inside Baghdad's red zone, where all bets are off. What will the Iraqis do now? As U.S. troops are squeezing Baghdad, will there be a final assault? We'll get some answers inside the red zone when we come back.




BLITZER: Welcome back.

Now we move to an in-depth look inside the so-called red zone as coalition troops slowly crawl into the perimeter. The red zone is an area encompassing about 50 miles around Baghdad. U.S. officials say that's the area in which Iraq could use chemical weapons.

CNN's Walter Rodgers, who is embedded with soldiers inside the red zone, says he saw the bodies of about 20 dead Iraqi soldiers equipped with gas masks.

As coalition troops approach toward the heart of Baghdad, the stakes, of course, get higher, and the tactics change.

CNN's Miles O'Brien is at the CNN newsroom in Atlanta -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Thank you very much, Wolf.

I'm joined by retired General David Grange, who's going to kind of walk us through how treacherous these last few miles will be inside the so-called red zone.

David Grange, this term "red zone," is that really an accurate reflection of tremendously increased risk, in particular, relating to chemical weapons?

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I don't really think so, Miles. I think it's just the fact that if you get so close, that's a last-ditch effort that maybe Saddam would use.

You know, these reports about finding Iraqi dead -- dead Iraqi soldiers with atropine and other kind of chemical equipment on them, it's a couple of things here. One may be that it was a deception, a -- just to psych American and British fighters out, that, in fact, there was indications that there were going to be chemicals used.

The other is to psych out their own troopers. In other words, Hey, don't worry, attack the Americans, attack the Brits, we're going to use chemicals on these guys, you're going to be OK.

So it's hard to say what -- why they had that stuff. But just because you're closer to Baghdad doesn't mean he's going to use it unless it's a last-ditch stand. But some of the weapons make it difficult for him to use it that close.

O'BRIEN: Well, that's interesting, how that psychological aspect of all that might come into play.

As we look at some of the 101st Airborne wearing these so-called MOPP protection, how much does that diminish the fighting ability of any force? It obviously is cumbersome, obviously going to slow you down, especially with the heat.

GRANGE: Well, it degrades your capability somewhat. Hard to talk on a radio, hard to communicate left and right, a little difficult to breathe, running and moving and shooting at the same time. It makes it a difficult to do a lot of body functions that you need to do throughout a 24-hour period, let's say. Tough to eat, drink, everything.

But the units can operate with that stuff on. You'll want to operate in it if you think there's a threat of chemical use. Some units are trained better than others. But it will not stop the fight.

O'BRIEN: All right. Dave Grange, let's move in and talk about the first toehold inside the red zone, Saddam International Airport. This is now in control of -- by coalition forces, we're told by the Pentagon.

I want to walk viewers through it very quickly here. In addition to being a civilian airport, down here, lower left, what you'll see is one, two, three, four hardened bunkers, presumably to protect fighters. At the other end of the field, the same story.

I'm curious, how do you secure this field, keep it secure, and use it as a staging point? And how significant is it?

GRANGE: Well, it's very significant, because it provides a launch location for some of the weapons systems that the coalition forces may want to use. The other is it has, again, a psychological impact that this icon outside of Baghdad, it would be like taking O'Hare down outside of Chicago. It has an effect on the Iraqi leadership and the people in Baghdad itself.

But to secure an airfield doesn't mean you line up around a runway or on either end of it or just secure the tower. What it means is, you have to have depth. You have to be able to protect the airfield from mortar fire, from rocket and artillery fire. So you have to really go out farther than the airfield in order to protect it with both direct and indirect fires.

O'BRIEN: All right. It's a sprawling complex. It's going to take a lot of manpower just to do what you say. And it is, as we just pointed out, kind of the first toehold inside this red zone.

David Grange, thank you very much for your insights. Appreciate it.

GRANGE: My pleasure, Miles.

O'BRIEN: Paula.

ZAHN: Good to see you, Miles, thanks.

Earlier in this hour, we told you about the U.S. troops who had secured the Iraqi town of Najaf, but not without some challenges. The scene was extraordinary. We wanted to show it to you again.

Residents were alarmed when they thought the Americans were approaching the Imam Ali shrine, one of the holiest sites for Shi'ite Muslims. However, the troops were just trying to secure the Grand Ayatollah's compound, which was about halfway down the street.

Well, the situation was defused when the man leading U.S. troops held up his gun, barrel facing down, and had all his men go down to one knee. Then the crowd quieted down, and then the U.S. soldiers pulled back.

It seems like this the troops are likely to face more often than not.

And we are now joined by retired Army Ranger and special forces commander Pat Gallagher. He's familiar with events like that which we saw unfold in Najaf. He joins us now.

Good to see you. Thanks so much for joining us.

What is it that we should...


ZAHN: ... learn from what happened in Najaf today?

GALLAGHER: American troops, coalition troops, are going to find more of that, I think, as they go into Baghdad, As they deal with the local populace and deal with the Iraqis in the city, there's going to be those kinds of uprisings and cultural miscommunications that are going to occur between what the coalition's intent is and what the Iraqi people feel that intent is, and/or how they feel about their area.

ZAHN: Ryan Chilcote showed us the huge contrast with this scene. At one point, there were pro-American demonstrations in that same town. And then minutes later, that. How do you train troops to deal with these contrasts? GALLAGHER: You know, in the last decade or so, the United States Army and the Marine Corps both have spent more time training conventional forces to deal with those kinds of uprisings. They deal with riot control, they deal with civilians that are upset, that don't like our presence there, et cetera.

And they spend a lot of time and effort in being able to deal with those kinds of things. That unit commander on the ground did a very smart thing today in defusing the situation. I think we're going to see more of that as U.S. forces and coalition forces move into Baghdad.

ZAHN: We're beginning to learn a little bit more about what comes next in the campaign. We're told by the Pentagon the strategy is not to occupy the entire city of Baghdad, but, in the words of the Pentagon, seize key objectives. What exactly does that mean?

GALLAGHER: Seizing key objectives will allow the U.S. coalition forces to move in and help control the city. If they seize a key objective, it denies the Iraqis the use of that facility or that location, or it allows us a strategic advantage in being able to either train weapons in a certain area, have better fields of fire, or just observe what's going on in the city a little better.

ZAHN: So what is it you think U.S. troops and British troops will be up against when they go closer into Baghdad?

GALLAGHER: A lot of uncertainty. As they get into the city, or as they get into any built-up area, there's more dangers inherently involved in those kinds of operations. There are many more places to hide, many more places to be attacked from. And just general ugly warfare (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the entire time.

ZAHN: Major Patrick Gallagher, we're going to have to leave it there this evening. Thanks so much for your insights.

And Wolf...

GALLAGHER: Yes, ma'am. Thank you.

ZAHN: ... back to you now in Kuwait City.

I think it was interesting that Jamie McIntyre pointed out, as we try to figure out why the electricity went out in Baghdad tonight, that perhaps some are speculating it's for a tactical advantage on the Iraqis' part.

BLITZER: And Paula, as you were speaking (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and with your guest, there were yet more explosions in Baghdad. This has been going on now for about three hours. I think a lot of people have lost count so far not only in the outskirts of Baghdad, but in center city and the central part of Baghdad as well, continuous.

Maybe some of the loudest explosions we've heard in some time, although this, of course, has become a nightly event. Should be getting daybreak, daylight pretty soon in the Iraqi capital. And remember, this is the first night since the war started, no power in Baghdad. It's dark there. The electricity has been shut down for some reason. We don't know why.

Inside the red zone, as we've been mentioning, has the potential for urban warfare, a very, very disturbing proposition. We asked our terrorism expert, Kelly McCann, to show exactly some of what coalition troops might be encountering. Take a look at this.


J. KELLY MCCANN, CNN TERRORISM EXPERT: You see this man right here? Stop the camera, or stop tape right here. You saw a sniper up there. And he's basically getting an overview of the whole area so that this man on the ground level has less to worry about. In other words, he has a better vantage point than the man on the ground.

Go ahead and roll the tape.

As you start to proceed down the street here, you'll see that they're sweeping their heads left to right. Go ahead and stop the tape. Now, the things they're concerned with is target discrimination. We know the Fedayeen, you know, the irregulars, are in there without uniforms. So if you look at this crowd of people, they're looking for very furtive movements, they're looking to try to determine intent.

You see this man right here, you can't see his hands. You can't see what's going on. The same thing with this man right here. The kind of cultural clothing, you don't know what weapons are -- can being concealed. All of concern.

Go ahead and roll the tape.

So as they continue down the roadway, looking left and right and trying to maintain some kind of control, you'll see the -- stop the tape -- the tactically advantageous positions they've got to be concerned with are places like this, where it would make sense to have a medium or heavy machine gun sniper positions in a place of religious significance, a mosque that would be less likely to -- you know, people would want to return fire to. This area right here immediately overhead.

Now, what you would see these forces do if they were engaged suddenly is very intuitively, perhaps these men right here would drop down, get in a position of cover, and return fire, suppressive fire, while another unit very intuitively would maneuver under cover of fire along to get to a close point here, at which point these people here would stop their firing, and then, of course, they'd attack the area.

So it's all very careful balance.

Go ahead and start the tape.

All of these things happen so quickly, and there are so many areas to look at, and there is always the ever-present danger that you could have somebody come from an area you don't expect, these dark hallways.

Now, this area here, if you would, you'll see that they make a decision, OK? They make initial entry. Stop the tape. And what you saw right here was, this man was OK with his shoulder-fired weapon you can see sticking out here. But this man right here made the decision to go to his sidearm. You'll see his pull his pistol. So he has greater mobility.

Go ahead and roll the tape.

As they enter into the room, one man is going to cover down on a danger area. He's going to identify it, open the door, and then immediately cover it with his muzzle.

You -- what you just saw was an example of initiative-based tactics. Once he knew it was clear, the other man turned around and actually went to another immediate danger area.

And then they press the attack, clearing through the building, making sure they've covered all the areas. I mean, it's a very...


ZAHN: Chilling look at urban warfare from CNN terrorism analyst J. Kelly McCann.

We are now keeping our eyes on downtown Baghdad. We have to remind you, this is a small sliver of a shot we're looking at. Over the last three hours, a number of news organizations have reported hearing anywhere from 14 to 16 separate explosions.

It's hard for me to make out from this screen right now whether we are seeing any antiaircraft fire. There were certainly reports of that earlier in and around the airport, which now, the Pentagon tells us, is partially under the control of coalition forces.

We will keep you posted on what we think is going down in Baghdad.

We're going to take a short break. We'll return right after this.


ZAHN: Welcome back.

With U.S. troops now said to be within 10 miles of Baghdad, within the so-called red zone, the focus of this war is increasingly turning to the Iraqi capital and to the fate of Saddam Hussein. But is he even alive?

For more on that, we turn to Andrew Cockburn. He is the author of "Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein."

Good to see you. Welcome, Andrew.


ZAHN: First off, you probably heard that U.S. intelligence concluded today that Saddam Hussein tapes we have seen airing since the beginning of the war were actually taped, they believe, before March 19. What do you make of that analysis?

COCKBURN: Well, it's possible. I don't entirely believe it. I'm not sure that they've -- the -- Saddam's high command was that crafty, to spend, you know, days preparing all these tapes to, you know, to take care of every eventuality.

But it could (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- assuming that's true, it doesn't necessarily mean he's dead or wounded. What he will be very concerned about is not giving any help to the U.S. in tracking him. Remember, our, you know, number- one foreign policy objective is to kill him.

And he knows that perfectly well. So he'll be doing his best to stay so out of sight, he probably doesn't even want any contact with, you know, the TV, with people ferrying tapes back and forth. I think that's entirely possible.

The last war, after all, he spent, most of his time he spent living in an (UNINTELLIGIBLE) an ordinary middle-class house in an inner suburb.

So I think if that's true, that these tapes were, you know, preprepared, prewar tapes, I think it may be part of Saddam's defense mechanism.

ZAHN: You have spent countless years studying Saddam Hussein's life, how he strategizes. If he's still alive, give us a sense of what he might be doing right now.

COCKBURN: Well, trying to stay alive, of course.

But he -- his strategy, the only strategy he's got, the only possible one for him, is to try and spin this thing out. And he's, you know, he's not done that bad. He's done better than expected already, in, you know, there was all those sort of projections that the war could be over less than a week.

So he's -- he may feel he's not doing as badly as some people thought he would. But his only hope is to try and prolong it, try and get the Americans, the allies, involved in street fighting in Baghdad.

And most of important of all, to keep the Iraqi people thinking that he's got a chance. I mean, that's what's happening in those other cities, that people like the gentleman who wouldn't show his face to CNN earlier, he -- they're scared that Saddam will come back. They don't want to take that chance.

I mean, they may not be that glad that they're under a foreign occupation, but they're also worried about what will happen if the allies go away, and there is full control established in southern Iraq again.

ZAHN: Before we let you go, are you inclined to believe he's still alive?

COCKBURN: My bet is yes. I could be wrong. But, I mean, you know, he's been in tight spots before, very tight spots, and he's always come through. That's why he's an optimist. I think at the moment he's thinking, he's thinking he may come out OK.

ZAHN: Andrew Cockburn, thank you very much for spending some time with us tonight. Appreciate your dropping by.

Coming up next, more on the bombing over Baghdad happening right now. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: On this day 16 of the war here in the Persian Gulf, intense explosions heard over the past three hours in and around the Iraqi capital, including the central part of the city, as well as in the outskirts, especially near Saddam International Airport, now at least partially in the control of U.S. military forces.

U.S. military Marines, Army soldiers, they're moving rapidly. They're advancing towards Baghdad.

Paula, this has been an incredible day here as we watch and listen for these continuous explosions on this first night that the Iraqi capital is without lights, without electricity, Paula.

ZAHN: Yes, this is one of those days where you stepped away from the story for 20 minutes or so, it seemed that it had dramatically changed.

Wolf, it's been great working with you. That wraps it up for the two of us. Thanks so much for being with us tonight. A lot more coverage ahead right here on CNN. Have a good night.


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