CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Centcom Downplays Importance of Palace Raid
Aired April 7, 2003 - 04:42 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL COSTELLO, ANCHOR: We're going to get a preview of what Centcom may say a little later, in about 15 minutes. Let's go to Tom Mintier, who is at Central Command in Doha, Qatar.
Tom, I don't know if you'll be able to answer this question, but we're hearing what may be an incident of friendly fire near where Martin Savidge is. Do you know anything more about that?
TOM MINTIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, we had not heard that here. Also, Reuters reporting that -- that U.S. officer says possible weapons of mass destruction storage site detected in central Iraq. Surely that will come on the agenda here for Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, who will be doing the Centcom briefing in less than 15 minutes.
As Kathleen Koch was saying from the Pentagon, a lot of the visuals are about message, that we can come into central Baghdad as we will. And you look at where they visited. They visited the presidential compound today and they also visited the Atomic Energy Commission of Iraq, a place where they probably wanted to go in and see if they could find any records that might still be there.
So there is, I'm sure, a very carefully laid out plan, one for emphasis and two for effect. One may be certain sites that they want to visit in downtown Baghdad, because there had been concern that these weapons of mass destruction or possible chemical weapons might be inside the city in an area that they'd have to search.
So I'm sure there is a great deal of methodology on target selection on the ground, coming in. And as we heard Captain Thorpe say earlier, this is a raid. And usually he word "raid" indicates in and out. So it says it's not about taking territory.
So we'll find out in about 15 minutes, hopefully, during this Centcom briefing, what the intention was with the foray into Baghdad that has been going on all day.
COSTELLO: Yes. To many observers it's, maybe, kind of surprising that Centcom is playing this down. You mentioned Captain Thorpe. He said it was just another day of trying to bring down the regime. Nothing special as compared to other days.
But was it? Was it not?
MINTIER: Well, I think what they're trying to do is downplay a bit the feeling that this is a TV miniseries that starts on Sunday and ends on Saturday night. So I think that, you know, they constantly come out with the message, day-by-day, that tougher days may lie ahead. And indication that possibly what's going on right now is simply a proof -- a preview of what may come in coming days and weeks.
That this battle is not going to be the end-all. They say it's about the regime itself, not any particular individual military objectives. As we heard, Chemical Ali, who was supposed to be defending southern Iraq, the man who was accused of using chemical weapons on the Kurds in the 1980s. He was also the governor of Kuwait after the invasion.
His body had been found by the British after an air strike on Saturday night. Now possibly as significant as the images of the tanks and APCs (ph) rolling through the streets of Baghdad, may be confirmation of his death.
COSTELLO: And is there any sense from Centcom as to where they believe Saddam Hussein is? And I just ask you that because of -- Go ahead.
MINTIER: That's the $64 million question. There had been indications that he two -- his disposable underground bunker, maybe underneath one of the palaces, maybe underneath a school, maybe underneath a hospital or a mosque. No one's quite sure where that location is.
So I doubt with the force that we saw going in today that they're going to have the ability to go in and do a thorough search underground, unless they stumble upon something, for what location he might be.
But again, they have played up many, many times in these briefings that this is not about Saddam Hussein. He is the leader of the regime, but it's eliminating the whole, the regime tag on people, and I think -- I heard Captain Alloqua (ph) talk about the people coming out in Basra once the regime had been eliminated there, coming out in the thousands to greet their soldiers as they were on the street.
So they look at that as as large a victory as any other military objective.
COSTELLO: All right. We're going to let you prepare for the briefing, the Centcom briefing which is coming up at the top of the hour, 7 Eastern time. And of course, Brigadier General Vincent Brooks will be the man talking.
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