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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Battle for Hearts and Minds of Iraq; Iraqi Exiles Ready to Aid with Rebuilding

Aired April 5, 2003 - 00:03   ET

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(NEWS BREAK)

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you.

It's just past midnight now here in the East on a Saturday morning, and, for the first time, we can report -- first time in this war, we can report that American troops have entered at least a part of Baghdad. They are elements of the 3rd Infantry Division, and the reporting duty goes to Walter Rodgers, who joins us now again -- Walt.

WALTER RODGERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Aaron.

When the citizens of Baghdad awakened this morning, at least in a central portion of the city, the southern central portion of the city, they woke to quite a jolt. They saw U.S. Army main battle tanks rolling down their streets, despite the fiery rhetoric they heard from their information yesterday.

Again, elements of the 3rd Infantry Division are now rolling their tanks inside the center of Baghdad. What we can tell you about their progress so far is that it has been good, but they have met resistance from the Iraqis inside the capital.

This is not large tanks and other armored resistance. But what you're seeing is small units of Iraqis coming out with anti-aircraft guns, and those anti-aircraft guns are fired in a direct fire mode, which is to say, instead of being shot in the air at an angle, they're fired directly up a street at the oncoming U.S. tanks.

And, of course, that gives quite a jolt, quite a baptism under fire for some of the young soldiers in the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division because, for many soldiers, this is the first time they have been baptized under fire. They're seeing rocket-propelled grenades bouncing off their tanks.

Again, they are under fire. The progress is said to be good but slow at times. Again, elements of 2nd Brigade 2nd Calvary -- or -- excuse me -- 2nd Brigade 3rd Infantry Division are now inside the -- Baghdad itself, inside the city, and they are on what is called a reconnaissance mission.

But they are there in force. And, again, it really makes a mockery of any Iraqi suggestions that the Americans aren't close because they are in the heart of Baghdad itself.

BROWN: OK. I just...

RODGERS: Aaron.

BROWN: All right. Just -- I just want to make sure everybody understands what we're reporting and what we're not. You wrote down -- or I wrote down the Americans are in the center of Baghdad, and, by that, I assume you mean they are in Baghdad proper but not in the center of the city. Am I right?

RODGERS: That's close. They are in Baghdad proper. They are deep within the city limits. They are in the city. I'm not sure of the geographical heart of the city.

BROWN: OK.

RODGERS: It's been a long while since the Iraqis let me in. But, having said that, they are deep inside the city, close to the heart of the city. No question about where they are. I've seen the maps.

BROWN: Walt, thank you.

Walter Rodgers. And we'll keep watching that.

There is, actually, as Walt has told us, a fair amount known about what it is they are doing there, what they're after. But they're in the middle of trying to do it, and, until that's done and over, it's not going to get reported.

Those are the essential rules of embedding. That is clearly the lead of the night and going to be the lead of the morning to be sure, that American troops have entered the City of Baghdad. A lot else went on.

For those of you who are just joining us -- I know particularly on the West Coast, many of you join us around this time -- let's give you a broad view of what has been a complicated day.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): Bombs once again fell on Baghdad, but, for the first time, there were indications the assaults were not just from the air but shelling from the coalition's artillery, close enough now to inflict damage.

The airport was under control. That much seemed certain. The hulk of one destroyed Iraqi jetliner clearly visible.

But, in a way, the day's most arresting pictures came from the streets of Baghdad. Iraqi television broadcast these images of a man who looked exactly like Saddam Hussein tightly guarded but, obviously, in good health.

His image also appeared on state television, congratulating his fighters. To the Pentagon, it wasn't important.

VICTORIA CLARKE, PENTAGON SPOKESWOMAN: What really matters is not whether or not he's dead or alive, but the fact of whoever is left in this regime, whatever's left of the regime leadership, got up today and realized they have less and less control of their country.

BROWN: If the newly renamed Baghdad International Airport was considered secure, the immediate neighborhoods around it were not. Elements of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division celebrated as a watch tower on the airport's perimeter was destroyed.

To even get there, soldiers had to crawl up steep concrete embankments to gain the high ground. Fire fights between the Army and the Iraqi Republican Guard sent gunfire crackling through the trees.

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The battle rages through most of the day, but the deck is overwhelmingly stacked in favor of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division.

BROWN: On the opposite side of the Iraqi capital, CNN's Karl Penhaul watched as the Army's 82nd Airborne swept through an Iraqi town on the southeastern approaches to Baghdad, and, as on every day of the war thus far, American artillery continued its efforts to conflict as much punishment, as much death as possible on Iraqi troops.

Central Command, meantime, released this still photo of what it said was a collection of unidentified powder and liquids found near Baghdad. No confirmation about chemical or biological agents. Nothing here should be assumed.

JANE ARRAF, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There is a slow and steady battle going on here for control of the key bridge. It's a bridge over the river on the main road to Mosul.

BROWN: Far less intense fighting, but equally dangerous could be seen in the northern part of the country. CNN's Jane Arraf found herself in a clash between Kurds, their American allies, and the Iraqi army. American airpower was called in, the Iraqis subdued.

And Al-Jazerra television showed this woman, who said she was ready to be a suicide bomber, and apparently was. The network believes she was responsible for the suicide bombing attack that killed three American soldiers at a checkpoint north of Baghdad.

And in the central city of Najaf, American commanders felt it was safe enough to hold a field ceremony. Purple hearts awarded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's thank them all of them for what they've done for our country.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Big picture of the day.

Cleaning up one small part of the big picture, this still photo that was released of powder that was found. This photo -- when we wrote the piece and recorded the piece, it was unclear what it was. Now Reuters, the news agency, quoting Colonel John Peabody, who, as I recall, is with the 3rd Infantry Division.

But, in any case, Colonel John Peabody is saying that that powder has been tested and analyzed, and it is not chemical or biological material that could be used in chemical or biological weapons, and that is why we said in the piece, in fact, don't assume anything here.

When they find them, it will be more clear, but they haven't found them yet.

General Clark, a couple of last words from you. It seems to me there are issues today big and small.

On the big side, obviously, the Americans have moved into the City of Baghdad. It's hard to imagine anything can get bigger than that.

Of issues small perhaps shape the future. We had another suicide bombing today.

And we also had reports that foreign fighters have been found inside Iraq, non-Iraqis fighting on the side of the Iraqis. So that, too, portends a bit about the future.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME COMMANDER: It really does, Aaron. I think a couple of things.

Number one, there is a strategic sense of urgency about the campaign because we're at the two-plus-weeks point here, and, when it drags on over four, five, six weeks, we're going to draw in more animosity from the Arab world, more fighters. It's going to make the reconstruction tougher. So we don't have to seize Baghdad tomorrow, but it's a good move to be probing in there and closing in on it.

Secondly, there are things happening that we're not hearing anything about. For example, there's a large force of Special- Operations troops that have been operating in western Baghdad. We don't know where they are. They may already be in the city. We know there's some Special-Ops in there.

So we've got a combination of moves working against Baghdad now. We know the Marines are moving up. We know we've got the 82nd Airborne closing in from the Southeast. So we've got considerable forces in there. And it looks like we're going to squeeze and push and prod and use a variety of tactics and see if we can take Baghdad apart piece by piece.

BROWN: We've talked again and again -- sometime I'm not sure if people hear us, but we've talked again and again about not focusing too much on one snapshot and trying to keep broad context.

Take this snapshot of the 3rd I.D. tanks in whatever part of Baghdad they are now in and put it in the large picture. How -- how important is it? CLARK: Well, I think it indicates the real superiority of the American forces at the so-called point of the spear, and, when we run up against the Iraqi forces, it's not an even fight.

We were close enough to them. We were in danger. Every one of our troops was in danger in that fight and yet the score was 24 or so to zero in our favor, and that's an indicator of the enormous power of the American armed forces.

Now we're apparently penetrating into Baghdad. We're under fire. But we've got very good technology, we've got very good leadership, and so I think, again, it's not impossible that there could be some tactical reversals and some difficulties and some problems, and we've got to avoid the emotional swings of combat.

But, clearly, this campaign is moving very successfully to its conclusion.

BROWN: General Clark, thank you very much. Have a good weekend.

CLARK; Thank you.

BROWN: General Wesley Clark is back home in Little Rock, Arkansas, tonight. That's one of the pieces in play, the movement of the American 3rd Infantry Division into a part of Baghdad.

A closer look now at one of the more intriguing pieces of the day. A sight not seen by the residents of Baghdad in three years, if in fact -- it's a little hard to know, but if, in fact, that's what it was.

Here again, CNN's Nic Robertson.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Just what the president ordered, a walk-about on the streets of Baghdad. Not clear, however, if this is the Iraqi leader uncharacteristically giving high-fives to those gathered around him.

None shouting his praise, however, appeared to doubt this was their president, an impression reinforced by the presence of Abid Hamoud, President Saddam Hussein's personal secretary and key adviser.

This tour of a couple of the capital's western suburbs apparently designed to reassure Iraqis the leadership is alive, well, and firmly in control despite coalition advances to the city's main airport and Pentagon assertions the Iraqi leader could be dead or injured.

The public rallying backed by a TV appearance calling for support.

SADDAM HUSSEIN, PRESIDENT OF IRAQ (through translator): Hit them hard. Hit them with the force of the leaf whenever they approach you, and resist them, you the people of the brave, glorious Baghdad. ROBERTSON: During overnight bombing, reports of civilians leaving the capital seemed to indicate some not heeding the pleas from the leadership, apparently fearful of the fighting around the capital that Iraqi officials promised to be a fierce attack on coalition forces.

HUSSEIN (through translator): We will do something to them that will be a great example for those mercenaries.

ROBERTSON: As coalition forces consolidated their grip on the now renamed Baghdad International Airport, sources in Baghdad told CNN Republican Guard and Fedayeen forces were being called to new front lines near the massive airfield.

Nic Robertson, CNN, on the Jordan/Iraq border.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: The story of Saddam Hussein for the day. We'll talk to one of the principal spokesmen for CENTCOM in Qatar. We need to take a break first. Then our coverage continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(00:20)

BROWN: Well, we know, or at least assume, that things are extremely busy at the Central Command in Qatar, so we're always pleased that James Wilkinson, the director of strategic communications of CENTCOM can spend a few minutes with us. Jim is a civilian working there with the military command.

It's nice to see you again.

Walt Rodgers is reporting -- and you know this far better than I -- that some elements of the 3rd I.D. are already in the City of Baghdad. What can you tell us?

JAMES WILKINSON, DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, CENTCOM: Well, I don't want to get into too many details because we always want to protect the men and women in the field.

What I'll say is that we've had troops in and around Baghdad for some time now. I think you're now seeing it. But, as General Franks has said so many times, what you see on the battlefield is not always what's going on. There's much more happening.

So this is, if you will, a lagging indicator of what's really going on inside Baghdad, and, frankly, another place is in the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BROWN: Well, I would say that, while it's one thing to have Special-Ops people moving in and around the city, it's a whole other thing if you're either the regime in Baghdad or a citizen of that city to see an American tank rolling down the street. WILKINSON: You bet. I think it's certainly a psychological effect where, you know, the regime leaders have continued to lose control, and now they see tanks in their streets and these types of visuals, and then they see people in the military handing out food and water. That's a very big, deep, and not so good psychological impact for the regime.

BROWN: All the reporting that we've had over the last 24 hours is while the Iraqi forces may not be and, clearly, are not as technologically advanced, that they may not be as effective of fighters, there still seems to be in place a command and control function. Do you disagree with that?

WILKINSON: You know, I disagree with that. I'll make a couple of points.

First off, I know we all saw the tapes last night our time, I think by midday your time, of Saddam Hussein. What I'll say to your viewers is that no one in Iraq's seeing those because their communications have been so degraded.

We're seeing, in many cases, Aaron -- as a matter of fact, in a lot of cases, if not all cases, they're now having to transmit messages by courier just like the days of the Civil War, and so the regime's communications have been degraded. They've been forced to use other communications channels that I really can't go into now.

But we still have yet to see this military force make a coherent move, and we're watching them very closely.

I do want to point out there are still a lot of bad things that can happen. He could still use weapons of mass destruction against our troops. I briefed the press here yesterday on a potential bombing campaign in Shia neighborhoods and places in Baghdad that he would then turn around and try to blame on coalition forces.

So we're watching this very closely. They're still securing the airfield and other places. There's a difference between seizing something and securing something. When you secure an objective, you have to go room to room and search to make sure there's no boobytraps left for you and these types of things. So a lot of hard work left there to do.

BROWN: Also, have some reporting today that there is evidence of non-Iraqis, foreigners in the country, fighting on the Iraqi side, presumably young Arab men from the surrounding area. Do you want to confirm that, and do you want to put some context on it?

WILKINSON: Well, I haven't seen those reports yet. I can tell you that our forces on the ground are taking steps to interdict the major highways to make sure that these types of things don't happen.

As always, in the military, there's a saying that first reports are always wrong. I think we continue to see a lot of reports from the field that just turn out not to be true. I'll give you a perfect example. Yesterday, General Franks was briefed that the destruction of the Republican Guard in and around Baghdad was much more severe than even we knew. The destruction of equipment, the destruction of personnel was just much more than we could have ever known until our eyes were able to get there on the ground and see that.

And so we have so much more to learn about what's happening there, and we're doing so right now through our intelligence channels.

BROWN: I never would dispute the notion that the first reporting is wrong, but, in this case, the reporting seems to be coming out of the Pentagon and not out of the field, which does give it a little more credibility.

WILKINSON: Well, I think there are leaks everywhere. Again, I haven't seen the reports. I'll go to my morning briefing shortly here and maybe come back and tell you what I hear. But so many of these types of things are -- you know, can be overstated, and all I can tell you is I know of no large force (UNINTELLIGIBLE) coming in to help the Iraqi regime.

BROWN: OK.

WILKINSON: I do know of bus loads of people of the Iraqi regime who are trying to surrender, so...

BROWN: Any idea how many people have tried to surrender in the last 24 hours or so?

WILKINSON: You know, yesterday, we saw, you know, hundreds and hundreds more. You'll see more today. I think lot of them walked out to our forces and said, look, we'd just like to go home, if that's OK with you, and we said sure, we're not -- this is not a campaign against the innocent, and this is a nation and coalition that doesn't kill indiscriminately.

So we've taken thousands of prisoners of war, and thousands of others have just gone home. They realize that they probably would rather fight for the future of Iraq than fight for this dying regime, and so we continue to see more of that.

BROWN: Just one or two other things. Can you -- you mentioned this it's one thing to seize, it's another thing to secure. Any sense of how long it will take to secure the airport?

WILKINSON: I think they continue those efforts. There were tunnels, as you know, that were found that could be hidden weapons, hidden forces down there. So they're doing those actions right now. And that's going to be the case, I think, all in and around Baghdad for some time.

One important point to note for your viewers is that -- in terms of expectation, there is a lot of tough work yet to do. This is nowhere near over, and so I think our -- your viewers need to remember that there are real men and women on the front lines out there who are having to do tough duty, and so this is just going to take some time.

We're just beginning humanitarian efforts. We've been doing those for some time, but we're beginning to increase them.

We don't know why the lights went out in Baghdad, but we know that probably the regime could have done such a thing, knowing there are potential bombing campaigns in neighborhoods and other things. So there's just a lot of work left to do, and to actually secure the area is going to take a long time.

BROWN: All right, Jim. Thanks. Good to talk to you again.

Jim Wilkinson, who's helped CENTCOM people manage the information flow, if you will. And we appreciate his time from Qatar. He's a civilian employee who works on, I think, that's a fair way to put it, managing the message to make sure that everybody understands what it's OK to say it and how they want to say it.

It's Friday night. We'd like to think that, on Friday night, we'll get a little lighter, a little less grave, maybe on another Friday night, not in a war.

This Friday night comes after a week where the news could hardly have been heavier. The danger hardly greater. A look now at the week that brought forces literally into Baghdad.

Here's CNN's Michael Shoulder (ph).

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL SHOULDER (ph), CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the road to Baghdad, and here's some of what we learned this week on that road.

We learned that a military offensive, which seems bogged down on one day, can seem like a hundred-yard dash the next.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are moving in the direction of Baghdad, shooting targets no more than two to 300 meters away.

SHOULDER (ph): American troops tell us they want to move fast to Baghdad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think about sitting?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not too happy about it. We need to go.

SHOULDER (ph): They're not aching for a fight. They're aching to finish the war and go home.

"Dear Mom, Dad, Sam (ph), Tony (ph), how are things? I'm doing well. I can't wait to visit you guys and everyone in Colorado. It would be like old times." A post card written on the back of a meals- ready-to-eat carton from Marine Corporal Randall Rosacker. His last.

The road to Baghdad leads past foes in uniform and foes not in uniform. On the road to Baghdad, it's not easy telling friend from foe.

On the road to Baghdad, an Iraqi father lost his arm in a U.S. Air raid. His little boy lost his innocence.

Private First Class Jessica Lynch lost her way on the road to Baghdad. Now she is found. Greg Lynch has his daughter back.

Judy Childers will never have her son back. Neither will the mother of this Iraqi soldier.

While 4-year-old Alex Lucky (ph) got a hug from a real baseball player, his father, a fighter pilot, was flying missions over the road to Baghdad, and 6-year-old Tyler Jordan's father was flying home.

We learned that, in a proud Islamic city, American troops can, indeed, be greeted as liberators one day and as invaders the next.

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.

SHOULDER (ph): The city's supreme religious leader had actually invited the Americans in, but word never got to the crowd.

So, in an effort to transcend the language barrier, the Americans got down on their knees, pointed their weapons to the ground, and respectfully left town. That was the road to Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And that was Michael Shoulder's (ph) work. Taking a long and complicated week.

We'll take a break. We'll update the day's headlines, and our coverage continues in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BROWN: Fredricka, thank you very much.

Time to take a quick look at morning papers from around the country and perhaps even around the world, depending on how long it takes us to get around the country.

I think this is the first time we've had "The Washington Times," so we'll do the "Washington Times" first. One of the two major newspapers in Washington, D.C. There we go. Thank you for sending it to us. "Iraq loses division, levels new threat." That was the information minister saying that some sort of unconventional attack would be laid upon the Americans.

And they also on the front page put the appearance of Saddam or the Saddam look alike, which is pretty much the front page in lots of papers.

In the "Albuquerque Journal," "U.S. says Saddam is probably alive." Above the headline, "Iraqis stream out of Baghdad" is the headline.

And all of the newspapers using big color photos these days. Not long ago it seems black and white went away. "USA today" gets the credit.

"The Charlotte Observer," Charlotte, North Carolina: "Saddam urges violent defense of his capital" is the headline there. I think there was one other thing -- no, there wasn't. I just thought.

"Indianapolis Star," Indianapolis, Indiana. Also the first time we've had this newspaper. We got a note from them wondering how to send it in. We apparently were able to explain it. "U.S. advance sparks exodus" is the headline.

SARS is on the front page there, pretty prominently now. "SARS placed on the quarantine disease list" in the "Indianapolis Star." And once again we note that how much more coverage that would have gotten, that would have received -- no more grammar notes, please -- if it were not for the war.

"San Francisco Chronicle" -- how we doing on time? OK. "Iraq warns of new tactic." That's again the information minister.

And just a couple of the Australian papers in the last 30 seconds or so. This is the "Herald Sun," one of the Australian papers. "Routed" is the headline. SARS -- if I get my finger out of the way -- is on the front page there.

And down at the bottom of -- John Newcombe one of the greatest tennis players of all time and one of the great characters in Australian sport, hit by stroke. A mild stroke according to the story. And Mr. Newcombe will be OK.

And the "Daily Telegraph," also an Australian paper, "end game" is the headline. And look at the photo there. That looks not unlike the scene that Walt Rodgers brought us last night. I'm not saying it is the same scene. But it's not unlike it where that tank was hit and all of the ammunition on board exploded.

There's a look at morning papers from around the country and around the world. We'll take a short break. Our coverage continues after that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: With tanks of the American 3rd Infantry Division now in part of Baghdad, we'll take a look a few steps ahead, if you will, to one of the battles the United States will have to fight in terms of Iraq.

And not one of the coalition's most effective weapon satellite or laser-guided or heat-seeking is of use here at all. Not that sort of thing. That's because this battle doesn't involve fighting. It involves persuading and convincing and in the end transforming.

That's what's meant by that famous phrase that Jeff Greenfield has been mulling over.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: In the battle for hearts and minds in that region.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Winning hearts and minds.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One of the big hearts and minds there.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These images embody what that phrase means to the most basic level. For the U.S. and its allies a purely military victory would not be a victory unless the stated purpose of the war is met.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will not stop. We will not relent until your country is free.

GREENFIELD (on camera): But beyond that goal, what do we want those hearts and minds to believe? And are there dangers as well as opportunities to trying to wage that battle?

(voice-over) Here's one shining example of such a battle. Japan after World War II when, under the leadership of General Douglas McArthur a country that had never known freedom developed into a stable, prosperous functioning democracy within a few years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: United States Army medical personnel...

GREENFIELD: Here is an example of a notable failure, South Vietnam where the phrase "hearts and minds" was born.

For whatever reason -- the corruption of the government, the tenacity of the north, cultural chasm between west and east, the efforts to build a popular democracy in the south never took hold.

In Iraq, the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, the well-documented atrocities and repression, seem at first glance to make the appeal of democracy obvious. But the devil is in the details.

For instance most Iraqis are Shiite Muslims long chafing under the rule of the Suni minority. Do you win their hearts and minds if you insist on a democracy that protects the freedom of the Suni minority they hate?

In the north the Kurds have already established an effective governing structure. If we back their hunger for war autonmy, what does that do to our long term ally Turkey, which fears a similar hunger among Kurds within Turkey's borders. And finally, what about the hearts and minds of the so-called Arab street? If their grievances are rooted in America's support for Israel, does America try to win them over by creating distance with our most durable ally in the region?

And what if America's support for democracy threatens the stability of our long time friends in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia? Listen to what former CIA director James Woolsey wants the U.S. to say to those leaders.

JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: We want you nervous. We are on the side of those whom you, the Mubaraks, the Saudi royal family, most fear. We are on the side of your own people.

GREENFIELD (one camera): Win this hearts and minds battle, and a bright future beckons. Peace in the Middle East, the wellsprings of terrorism drying up, better lives for countless millions. Lose that battle and some of our worst nightmares may come true. It's hard to imagine any higher stakes.

Jeff Greenfield, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And of it's to happen, it will happen one step at a time and will start in Iraq. So shall we.

We turn now to that side of the story in Kuwait. "Newsweek" magazine's correspondent at large, Rod Nordland joins us. He's covered all the nasty places of recent times from Bosnia to Kosovo to Chechnya and more. Nice to see you with us. We just talked to Jim Wilkinson, who as you know, his job is to put the best place, the best spin on the situation. Reporters have a different task. You can get in around Basra, you've been in the south, you know the area. How is the hearts and minds battle going?

NORDLAND: Well, in a way it's almost -- hearts and minds is a little beside the point. I mean, obviously, it's important to get aid and so on to people and to try to win them over. But in fact, especially in the Shiite south, most people are already with us.

The problem is, creating a security environment in which they feel confident to express that. And that's what hasn't happened. And that's kind of left the field in places like Basra and towns around there. It's left the field to the hard liners. And these people have a couple decades of experience with the kind of control excised by that regime. And that hasn't been removed yet.

So it only takes a few people threatening people and intimidating them, to really prevent them from kind of expressing themselves and coming out on our side. And they can even -- I have seen this happen in town of Zubayr yesterday -- they can take a crowd that was friendly to the British soldiers in that town and within a few minutes whip that crowd up into kind of a frenzy simply of hatred for foreigners, simply because they're used to doing what they're told.

And the authority there is really still with the Ba'athists, who are underground but still exerting control.

BROWN: Talk about that one situation. How did they go about doing that?

NORDLAND: Well, just a little example. We went into a tea shop to chat with people. And they began by saying how happy they were that the Brits and Americans were there. And they just needed to get more aid to them and everything would be fine. And crowd kind of gathered as they tend to do in Iraq.

And pretty soon one person came in and said, you're just here to steal our oil. And then another guy. And these were sort of the better dressed people. They seemed to assert a bit of authority with the crowd. You're just here to take advantage of us and foreigners should leave Iraq. We have 1,000 Saddams if our Saddam dies. And things like that.

And it was extraordinary to watch. Within five minutes, literally, that crowd turned against us. And we felt kind of lucky just to get out of that tea shop in one piece.

BROWN: Are they -- do you find that people are resentful of the civilian casualties that have taken place?

NORDLAND: No, not at all. We each talked to people that had suffered some of that and they just recognized that as -- this is when we can talk to them quietly and without the party thugs around.

They would say that's just one of the costs of war. Can we please get it over with quickly?

They're also deeply skeptical because they don't see a big security presence in their community. They're deeply skeptical about whether we're staying or not and whether we intend to carry through, the way, you know, we did not do in 1991.

BROWN: Is the place just -- are these places just being, exist on rumor? Are there just one rumor after another floating around?

NORDLAND: Yes. They have very little information. Until very recently their only information came from Iraqi television and radio. More recently the coalition forces, they even have a new radio station called Two Rivers Radio, I think it is. And they're broadcasting the other side of that.

But these people are just skeptical. What they see on their own streets is a fairly small occupying force that isn't sufficient to weed out all the Ba'athist elements and people that have terrorized them for so long. And there are a lot of rumors swirling, you know, that we're about to negotiate with Saddam, he's going to cut another deal.

And it's just -- they've lived with this tyrant for so long, it's hard for them to believe in anything else.

BROWN: You've been in a lot of nasty places over the years. Similarities and differences with this one?

MORDLAND: Well, I think with the exception of Chechnya, it's probably more dangerous in Iraq now for foreigners than any other conflict that I can remember.

BROWN: Chechnya particularly nasty.

And just in the last 20 or 30 seconds, I don't know what expectations you had going into the south of Iraq, but what surprised you most?

NORDLAND: Well, I think -- I have in southern Iraq before, and I covered the earlier Gulf War. And I think I expected to see an uprising. Maybe not on the first few days but certainly within, you know, some days.

And now nobody's talking about the possibility of an uprising. They're talking about -- you know, those, the majority again are very much in favor of seeing Saddam taken out but they're talking instead, about, you know, getting rid of the Ba'athist elements so they can then see a government formed and all. They're not talking about an uprising.

BROWN: Rod, good to talk to you. Rod Nordland, "Newsweek" magazine. He's with us from Kuwait. We appreciate his time. We'll take a break Rod and our coverage continues in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Sometime the best things journalists can do is step aside and let their subjects tell their own stories.

CNN's Ryan Chilcote gave a video camera to Sergeant Chris Fleischman of the 101st Airborne, who then recorded his group's progress across the desert from Kuwait into Iraq.

In other words, this isn't a story about the 101st, it's a story by the 101st.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS FLEISCHMAN, 101ST AIRBORNE: Here's the guys breaking up a little while. We need to get as much rest as possible so that when we go on our ops, which could be three or four days long, continuously with no sleep at all, we can maintain and keep moving.

This is the least favorite job of the infantrymen, digging a fighting position. You can see differences in the -- come over here to the side and kneel down. You get on his level, you can barely see -- there's his head.

Out there's Duncan. He's our comic relief. That's our comic relief. It's all good.

Just waiting for some news. Imagine a lot more will be happening tomorrow as we're going across the border. So might talk to you again tonight, see what's going on, if we hear anything or see anything out of the ordinary.

How you doing? We're getting ready to leave in about 2 in the morning. We're still in our staging area.

Let's go. Let's get it done. Move! It's time.

We are 25 meters from the Iraq border. Drop your load. How does it feel to be in Iraq? You ready?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ready.

FLEISCHMAN: Just in case they didn't think we were coming in.

This gives you a different view of how much things we don't have. It's funny how quickly, you know, this vehicle becomes your home. You try to bring something that reminds or home. Or, I guess, ease the burden of every day.

Coming up on what looks like appears to be a little town. Probably abandoned for awhile.

I got six guys who are trying to depend on me to do the right thing, get them home safe. And I'm depending on them so they do the right thing so I go home safe.

Run! Run away. Go bye-bye. Leave our truck alone.

The locals really want that truck. So we're going to go back out there, keep them from taking it.

Don't hit anybody. Coming up behind you. Go up behind them. Over here to the right. Pull in front the truck. Pull in front of the truck.

All right. There's our truck getting beat to death. God dang it. Dashboard's gone, everything. Tires popped. They've tore this truck up.

We're farther ahead than we were last night to refueling already. So just see how far we can get today.

The topography's changed a little bit. Little rockier, hillier.

I am proud to serve in such a manner as this. I'm proud to be here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm from Chicago and proud of what we're doing here. Want to say hi to all my loved ones back home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, mom, hi, dad. Hope you guys are doing good. Tell my little brother and sister I said hi. Sorry I haven't called or wrote, but been busy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just knowing that we're safe out here and with a great group of guys. I feel confident about what we're doing. Don't forget we're here. FLEISCHMAN: That will be it for right now. Take care.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: How their journey has changed. And we can only wonder how they've changed over the last couple of weeks. The diary of the 101st.

We'll take a break and our coverage continues in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: We've been covering Iraq as a battlefield, as an oppressed nation, as a breeding ground of turmoil, as the domain of a tottering dictator and Iraq is all of those things. But it's also something else.

For one family and many others, Iraq is also a home, a home lost and longed for. One family's story tonight from NEWSNIGHT's Catherine Mitchell.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASAM AL-HUSSAINI, IRAQI EXILE: This is the -- where I live. It's pretty much maybe the highest house in the neighborhood. It's very nice. As you see, it's got a beautiful view.

CATHERINE MITCHELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Basam Al-Hussaini is living the American dream. He and his wife, Alaa, live in a comfortable home overlooking the town of San Dimas (ph), California.

They've built a life and raised two children in this picturesque southern California town. But their hearts are somewhere else.

AL-HUSSAIN: I never really left Iraq. Iraq has always been inside me. Iraq is always in my heart.

MITCHELL: The Al-Hussainis are American citizens but, like more than 100,000 others in the United States, they are also Iraqi exiles, unable to return to the family they miss and the land they left behind.

AL-HUSSAINI: That's my younger brother. There's two brothers; they disappear.

MITCHELL: Basam's mother and four sisters are still in Baghdad. His two brothers were arrested in 1980 and have not been heard from since. Their crime, refusing to join Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party.

AL-HUSSAINI: We don't know, really, what happened to them, whether they dilled them or not. I don't trust the Iraqi regime. I don't know if he's been feeding them each a piece of bread a day for the last 23 years.

Fearing he might be next, Basam fled the country, arriving in the United States in 1982. Alaa left Iraq to marry Basam seven years ago. She says she enjoys the freedom here, but still longs for her home land.

ALAA HUSSAIN, IRAQI EXILE: All the things I liked are over there.

MITCHELL: You miss everything?

A. HUSSAINI. Good morning.

MITCHELL: For Basam and Alaa their comfortable life in southern California is missing something.

AL-HUSSAINI: I want my children to have like grandma and grandmothe and aunt and uncles and cousins. We don't have anybody here. It's been very tough, you know, for us.

HASAN AL-HUSSAINI, BASAM'S SON: My grandma is from Iraq, she came here and when she left, I cried to sleep to sleep.

MITCHELL: You did? Did you want to go with her? Or did you want her to stay here?

H. AL-HUSSAINI: Stay here.

MITCHELL: Basam admits the adjustment would be difficult but he and Alaa insist that if Saddam Hussein is deposed they'd give up the life they made to return to Iraq.

B. AL-HUSSAINI: I would agree to do that. I think this bond to Iraq. I want to go back and be part of the rebuilding process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell them the inspector is here.

MITCHELL: Basam has been tapped by the State Department to help with the Future of Iraq project. He hopes that with his experience as an engineer for the state of California, he can contribute to building a democracy and to rebuilding Iraq.

B. AL-HUSSAINI: We have a beautiful country. We have the resources. We have oil. We have the natural gas. We have a fortune. We have enough money to build Iraq and make a nice country. Hopefully, I'll be part of that process.

MITCHELL: While ousting Saddam Hussein would be a dream for Al- Hussainis, along with most of the four million Iraqi exiles worldwide, the scenario is a catch 22.

Nobody wants war against the people. Everybody talking about the primary victims are the Iraqi people. We do not want to see war against the people.

MITCHELL: On this night just five days before the war began, the divide was evident among the Iraqi-American community at the Al- Hussainis' mosque. The exiles agreed that Saddam Hussein must go. But could not agree on how.

IMAM MORTADA AL-QAZWINI: If the war is against Saddam himself, the regime, yes. But if it is against the Iraqi people, no. No, no, no. We are against the war.

MITCHELL: the impending war weighed heavy at this service commemorating the martyrdom of Aman Hussein, an historical figure who Shiite Muslims believe wu killed for fighting against an evil tyrant, a parallel they draw against Saddam Hussein.

Throughout this timely celebration of freedom, there was a palpable sense that change is coming, a change that Basam continues to be a part of.

B. AL-HUSSAINI: I'm looking forward to the day to go back. First thing I'm going to do when I arrive in Iraq, I'm going to kiss the ground where I was born. I'm going to thank God.

Catherine Mitchell, CNN, San Dimas, California.

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



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