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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Status of Hussein Still Unclear

Aired April 9, 2003 - 00:00   ET

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

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Daryn Kagan live from Kuwait City on what is now Wednesday morning. Let's look at what is happening at this hour.
U.S. intelligence sources say they still do not know whether Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was buried in this rubble during Monday's missile strike on Baghdad.

Sources tell CNN that an eyewitness thought that he saw Hussein go into this building with one or both of his sons. But there's no confirmation of a British report that U.K. intelligence believes he then left the building prior to that bombing.

U.S. officials say that coalition forces have now hit Iraq with more than 15,000 SMART bombs precision-guided munitions. More than 30,000 sorties have been flown, including more than 1,700 in the last 24 hours.

British troops Tuesday sent 10 tankers of fresh water on to the streets of Basra. Water and other necessities have been scarce in Iraq's second-biggest city, and there has been looting.

British officials say they control 80 percent of the city, and the looting will subside as remaining resistance is wiped out.

U.S. soldiers yesterday gave Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's enemies something they've waited a long time for. That's weapons. U.S. special forces armed pre-Iraqi fighters in central Iraq handing over assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, and machine guns. They also get guidance on rules of engagement and human rights.

And back in the States, Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahoney says that U.S. military personnel should not have to die to become U.S. citizens. President Bush has given naturalized citizen rights for U.S. -- to U.S. fatalities. Mahoney is calling on the president to change U.S. policy and naturalize all non-citizens who are now wearing a U.S. uniform in the war with Iraq.

In other news, police in Bogota, Colombia, pulled off a rescue Tuesday that reunited a 3-year-old boy with his family and cheered a nation that was horrified by his kidnapping just a week ago. The boy had been abducted from his school bus and held for $170,000. Colombia averages more than one child kidnapping every day.

Those are the headlines from here in Kuwait City.

Aaron, we'll toss it back to you. As you're ready, as you have time, we have the morning papers ready to go.

BROWN: Thank you. We'll get to those. Nice to see you. The story out of Columbia -- that is some story.

KAGAN: I'm telling you.

BROWN: Thank you very much.

KAGAN: Yes, I hadn't heard that. Thank you.

We'll start the hour with Walter Rodgers who's embedded with the 3rd Infantry, 7th Cav, which has been a lead element into the drive into Iraq. Walt joins us again -- Walt.

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

A senior Army officer has just told CNN, quote, "The majority of Iraqi forces have now given up." He went on to say that the cordon around Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, is tightening. As you know, 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division is occupying the heart of the city.

More U.S. forces are moving toward the Iraqi capital. 101st Airborne's coming here. There's another brigade, which I don't think I ought to identify, just outside the city. It's going to be moving into the city.

Now there are intelligence reports that suggest there may still be upwards of 28,000 Fedayeen fighters, that is militants who would like to draw American blood, still perhaps inside the city, but, again, there is a suspicion that number may have been overestimated at this point.

We're also told that, along the Iraqi border with Syria and with Jordan, there are at least 10 bus loads of Iraqis or other Arabs, perhaps Syrians, who want to come in this -- into Iraq, fight with the Fedayeen, and actually fight the Americans. They are being checked at the border.

One totally unconfirmed report, but it is making the rounds here. There is a report that Saddam Hussein's wife and one of his sons has found safe refuge in Damascus. We're told that's unconfirmed, but, again, it is making the rounds of Army radio here -- Aaron.

BROWN: Let's -- OK. Let's just work through some of this. A majority of Iraqi troops have given up. Is there something that -- was there a mass surrender or is this, over a period of time, this military official has concluded that a majority of Iraqi troops have surrendered?

RODGERS: I think "surrender" is probably not the right verb. I think "deserted" is the more accurate word. We have seen large-scale desertions.

In a short while, units of the 7th Cavalry are going out to blow up even more vehicles which the Iraqis just park in groves of trees and literally desert them. Many of these, by the way, are Soviet- vintage T-72 tanks said to be in pristine condition. They leave their uniforms. They just flee. Often, we find gas masks.

And, yesterday, we were out with Apache Troop 7th Cavalry, found many, many atropine injection needles that the Iraqis had in their possession. They obviously thought there was going to be some nerve gas used in the combat.

That has not happened -- Aaron.

BROWN: All right. A couple more quick ones. Are we talking about within the Country of Iraq, or are we talking about within the City of Baghdad, when you talk about most of the Iraqi troops have given up or deserted?

RODGERS: I think we're talking about in the City of Baghdad, but, remember, the operative quote yesterday was there is any longer any organized military resistance here. That is to say the Iraqis -- the Iraqi army has not put up any real show.

There were a couple of company-on-company, force-on-force confrontations with the Republican Guard units. There is a substantial Iraqi force north of Baghdad in Tikrit. But, again, in the Baghdad area, the operative quote today is "The majority of Iraqi forces appear to have given up."

There remains sporadic fighting. There are elements -- renegade elements still out there putting up resistance. But the military situation is looking so good now, the Army is moving yet another brigade to occupy the city, and more troops are headed toward the city from other U.S. Army units -- Aaron.

BROWN: OK. Walt, just stay with us here. Let's bring General Clark into this conversation.

General, take what you've just heard and give it context.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME COMMANDER: Well, I would sort of rate it C-3. It's from a usually reliable source on information that might be plausible, but it's not assured that we really know how many forces there are or what's left out there fighting or whether the people who have deserted have simply taken off their uniforms and are going to be there in formed up in civilian clothes in some small numbers. We just don't know.

What we've got to do in this case -- put it in context -- is -- remember the cycles of elation and despair we talked about at the beginning. So, you know, now we're about ready to hit another elation cycle. As we start to see the resistance crumble, the news looks optimistic, it looks hopeful. But we've still got American soldiers and Marines at risk. We've got pilots at risk overhead on this battlefield, and so what we've got to do is maintain steady.

It's welcome news. Let's hope it's all true. But, in the meantime, got to keep the guns loaded, got to keep the supply chain moving, and got to keep our armed presence in the city and continue to sort of troll for resistance and take it out.

BROWN: Well, we can go back -- without, in any sense, trying to minimize what's being reported here -- it's what an official said -- we can go back to the earliest days literally of this, and we've had reports of entire divisions breaking off and going home, and sometimes those things prove to be true, and, in other cases, what happened is they simply circled back and became problems all over again. So, as always, with first reporting, you want to be careful.

CLARK: Exactly. Exactly. I mean what we've got out of this -- this sounds hopeful, and we can -- you know, based on all the evidence we've had, it looks like the end is in sight.

So this is good. It shouldn't change anything we're doing, and it shouldn't change any of our precautions or bringing the forces in, and we just go steady, steady, and work the problem.

BROWN: And, Walt Rodgers, do you see any signs that this news will affect, in any sense, what your group -- the group you're traveling with has to do, is expected to do, and is prepared to do.

RODGERS: Not at all, and I would totally associate with -- what I reported with what General Clark said. There is one amusing footnote, which may give you a chuckle.

We were out with 7th Cavalry yesterday having -- mingling with the civilian population in southern Baghdad here, and some of the Iraqi civilians came up and said can we use our guns now, can we start killing the Fedayeen, the Fedayeen, of course, being the Iraqi militants, the ones who are putting up the resistance.

They're now asking the U.S. Army if they can start killing the Fedayeen -- Aaron.

BROWN: OK. Walt, just stay -- stay around.

General, stay around.

We'll bring one more voice in. Ron Martz is a reporter with "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution," "The AJC," and Ron is on the phone.

You've been listening to all of this. Add to it, as you can.

RON MARTZ, "THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION": Right at the moment, I'm on a highway overpass about one kilometer from the Tigris River.

The unit that I'm with, Charlie Company of Task Force 164 of the 3rd Armored -- or I take that back -- the 3rd Infantry Division, has set up a blocking position here. They cleared a stretch of this particular highway, which is a little west and north of the big part that they took on Monday. This particular stretch of highway was very heavily defended yesterday by Fedayeen and deserting Iraqi troops. As I'm looking up and down the highway, I see a number of uniforms that have been discarded.

During the trip in yesterday, there was a constant barrage of RPGs fired at both the tanks and the other armored personnel carriers.

Now our -- the personnel carrier I was in was hit a glancing blow by one RPG. It took off a lot of equipment on the side of it. Nobody was hurt. We took two near misses yesterday with the same APC. A number of the tanks were hit by RPGs also.

The troops are now clearing several government buildings in this particular area here. We have added some infantry troops, dismounts, as they refer to them, from Task Force 164, and they are going through these government buildings room by room to see if there's any holdouts in here.

Also, as I'm looking up and down the street here, I see a number of wrecked civilian vehicles. The troops tell me that several of them came at them yesterday afternoon. They apparently contained explosives because they did not -- the vehicles did not stop when warning shots were fired. They went through traffic cones, through concertina wire, aimed directly for the tanks, and, when they were hit with a few rounds, they blew up.

There are a number -- I'm assuming that those were the Fedayeen that were manning those particular cars, but, as I mentioned, I see a number of uniforms that have been discarded. Soldiers are telling me -- soldiers -- that the Iraqi soldiers were discarding their uniforms, taking their personal weapons with them, mingling with the civilian population, and firing RPGs and small arms, and trying to disappear into the neighborhoods here.

BROWN: Ron, thank you.

Ron Martz with "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution."

We appreciate your contribution there.

So take what Walt Rogers has report reported, that a U.S. military official has told him or has told CNN that a majority of the Iraqi soldiers have given up in the area of Baghdad, take that, add to it what Ron Martz is reporting that there's a distinct difference on what he's seeing from yesterday to today in terms of resistance, and that's the story line we seem to be working with now.

We'll add one more voice to it. Lisa Rose Weaver is out at the Baghdad airport.

Lisa, contribute here as you can.

LISA ROSE WEAVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Aaron, last night, it was very quiet here at my position, which is just on the outer perimeter of Baghdad International Airport.

The fighting, in contrast to the dramatic fighting of the day before, was visible last night as sort of a pulsing orange glow on the horizon, but, obviously, much farther away than the night before, much less dramatic.

Meanwhile, late yesterday, there were reports of sporadic pockets of resistance south of Baghdad having some contact with infantry. No reports of any injuries on the U.S. side. These were relatively minor contacts. No reports so far of that occurring today.

Now, this morning, the scene here around me at the Patriot missile battery with which I am embedded is the air-defense people here literally digging in, building berms, big mounds of dirt. In other words, the troops are filling sandbags. Tents have been up here for a couple of days.

And, eventually, what's going to happen is that several batteries -- air-defense batteries will be camping out in the general area around the capital. This is their final resting spot, and this is really what Patriot missile batteries are meant to do. They're meant to be static, and they're meant to descend from afar.

The purpose of them being here is to defend from missile attacks from farther afield, meaning outside Baghdad itself. Patriot missiles field best with the distance, when there is considerable distance between them and missiles that they are trying to intercept -- Aaron.

BROWN: Lisa, thank you.

Lisa Rose Weaver, who's out at the airport with 52nd Air Defense.

Walt, I know you need to get away. So let me give you a last word here on what this news might mean.

When they talk about most of the soldiers having given up, implicit in that is that they have much more freedom to operate in the City of Baghdad itself. Is that your impression also, that they can go anywhere in the city they want, and would that mean they could go, for example, to that neighborhood that was bombed yesterday in this attempt to get Saddam Hussein and go and look and see if the body is there?

RODGERS: I'm not sure I could -- I would be quite that strong, but what's important is the quote which I gave you from a senior Army officer saying, "The majority of Iraqi forces in the area of Baghdad have now given up," and remember the punch line that follows that, which is very important, is there are other very large U.S. Army units moving into the city as well now.

So far, it's just been three battalions of the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division, plus some Marine units on the fringes, but we're talking about another whole brigade coming into the city, 101st Airborne coming up from Najaf and Al Hillah. That city is going to almost double in the terms of the size of the U.S. military presence in the next 48 hours or so -- Aaron.

BROWN: OK. Walt, thank you. Walt Rodgers. We appreciate your reporting on that.

Let's add a Pentagon reporter to the mix here. Chris Plante has the duty tonight.

Chris, Walt's reporting does not alter the fact that there are still areas in the city that are troublesome.

CHRIS PLANTE, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY PRODUCER: Well, that's right, and we're expecting to see that for some time to come actually with small pockets of resistance there.

It doesn't take a significant number of Iraqi forces to cause trouble, stir up trouble. We saw today at the Palestine Hotel what appeared to be, according to the U.S. reports, one sniper firing at -- apparently at tanks and armored vehicles, led to a situation where the U.S. responded with tank fire, and, if that's sporadic resistance, that's the kind of resistance that can lead to a lot of trouble, a lot of damage to infrastructure. A significant number of civilian casualties can result from that sort of resistance.

And, you know, the pattern has been, from the Iraqi forces, to take up positions like the one in the hotel that is effectively designed to draw coalition fire that would inflict the maximum number of civilian casualties. In this case, press casualties, very high- profile, perhaps more high profile than the average civilian casualty episode would be, but, if these tactics continue to be employed, it's a difficult thing to throw water on.

There was never a good deal of organized force-on-force resistance, that is large numbers of Iraqi troops and/or armor confronting U.S. or coalition forces, but this hit-and-run type of aggression -- and there are a lot of people certainly in the Iraqi forces, special security forces, the Special Republican Guard that have nothing to lose. All is lost for them when the regime tumbles. So you may see a lot of desperate-looking acts coming from small numbers of people.

And it was mentioned, also, I think, that there may be some civilian response to a lot of this action and revenge killing. So probably a lot of violence certainly still to come -- Aaron.

BROWN: Chris, thank you. Chris Plante over at the Pentagon.

And, General Clark, before you get away from us tonight, let's do two things here, take a little bit of what we've been talking about for the last 20 minutes and give it context, and then let's look more broadly at today. Why don't we start with the first?

CLARK: Well, with respect to what's going on now, of course, the Iraqi Republican Guard Divisions, the armored elements, tried to defend south of Baghdad. They were unsuccessful in doing so, in part because they could not move, they could not prepare defenses in the open without being targeted by the Air Force.

When they were under the palm trees in these defenses, they got outshot by the gunnery and superior soldiery of the U.S. Army forces that they encountered, and so they pulled back, and, eventually, recognizing their situation as hopeless, it looks like the morale broke, lots of the equipment was deserted in good condition.

Not surprising. These were good troops. They weren't great troops. They weren't capable of staying on the battlefield. That leaves the hard-core cases of the Republican Guards who've blended into the civilian population and the Fedayeen. If Iraq was an effective police state and if Baghdad was an effective police state, there is still a local grip on the population from the Baath Party and Saddam's secret police. And, as these soldiers go back home in civilian clothes, they'll be turned in to the authorities. Someone will want them to continue to resist.

And so Chris Plante's warning is well-taken. There is still the possibility of tough fighting ahead. We can hope that there isn't, but, as we always say, hope's not a method, hope's not a plan. We've got to proceed right on course with this. So it's wise to bring these other divisions in.

Meantime, we've got the rest of the country. Because we don't have ground troops in the other area, we really don't know the condition of the morale, the fighting fitness of these forces, and, pretty soon, we -- we're going to need to move some forces out to do the armed reconnaissance up north for Tikrit into Mosul, determine the level of resistance, find and locate them, strike them from the air, get under the palm trees, into the buildings, and take them out, too, or accept the surrender or see them melt away.

The trouble with the melting-away scenario is you don't know what you've got in terms of civilian population. Just as Chris said, there's liable to be some people that are pretty angry, have nothing to lose, and will wait for a certain period before striking out again. That's the most dangerous and difficult scenario for the American forces to deal with in the post-war period.

BROWN: General Clark, we'll talk again tomorrow. Thank you, sir.

General Wesley Clark, who's been in Washington.

We'll take a break. We'll talk with Nick Kristof of "The New York Times" when we come back. But the break comes first.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Nicholas Kristof is a columnist for "The New York Times," and Mr. Kristof joins us. He's been in Iraq. He's back in Kuwait tonight.

It's good to see you, Nick.

When you were in the South of Iraq, were people much concerned about what government comes next and who put the government there and whether the U.N. is involved or not involved?

NICHOLAS KRISTOF, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes. I think they're enormously concerned about what comes next.

I must say that most of the people whom I talked to were farmers, and they were much less concerned about issues like, you know, U.N. involvement or the structure of a national government and much more concerned with really fundamental things like, you know, can they get water, can they get food, is there going to be order, is there going to be, you know, on the other hand, looting.

They were really concerned with those sort of practical questions.

And there was some apprehension that, while they were hopeful things were going to get better, in the, you know, last of couple weeks, their material life has gone down a little bit.

BROWN: Do they believe the Americans and, in the case of southern Iraq, the British -- do they believe that they are there to stay or at least they will stay until Saddam is gone?

KRISTOF: I think that they're coming around to that, and I think that the Brits in the South have done really an excellent job in winning hearts and minds.

Among a lot of the Iraqis in the South, there was, A, a feeling of betrayal, as you suggested, from their abandonment in 1991, but also a deep suspicion that the U.S. and the Brits are really after Iraqi oil and that that's their agenda.

I think that the British, by going in very carefully in the South, by setting up checkpoints and really treating everybody with a great deal of respect, you know, gradually won over the local population to some degree and helped to kind of build some trust that will be a foundation for, you know, where we go from here.

BROWN: This may be an awkward question. Do you think, in some sense, it is easier for the British to win the hearts of people than it is for the Americans to win the hearts of people, that the Americans come with some baggage?

KRISTOF: Yes. I think that is true. I think it's true on two counts.

First of all, Iraqi propaganda was never very good at promoting Saddam Hussein, and people just didn't buy that at all, and there is, you know, deep resentment toward him.

On the other hand, the Iraqi propaganda was pretty effective at, you know, discrediting the U.S., if you will, during the era of sanctions, and there are an awful lot of Iraqis who you talk to who blame the U.S. for those sanctions and just the toll it's had on economic life.

And, while the Brits were largely spared from that and the other aspect of that is that an awful lot of Iraqis talk -- you know, whenever you raise any kind of global issue, they talk about Palestinians, and the U.S. is much more associated with Israeli policy than the Brits are.

And I think, on both counts, it is fair to say that the U.S. Comes with somewhat more baggage, although, again, I think it is something that we can overcome, provided we can deal with these sort of humanitarian issues around the country.

BROWN: All right. You mentioned propaganda, and I want to talk about that. But just one question before -- you've lived a lot of the last decade or so abroad. You've traveled a lot. As you entered this, you must have had some sense of what you would find. I'm curious what, if anything, has surprised you in your reporting from Iraq?

KRISTOF: I think what -- I mean maybe it shouldn't have surprised me, but it did. But it's the kind of lack of dogmatism, if you will, among the Iraqis.

You know, in the U.S., I think we have a lot of people who just are convinced that, you know, the Iraqis want this or want that, and, you know, on the left, it tends to be people convinced that Iraqis are outraged at us.

On the right, it tends to be people convinced that Iraqis regard us as liberators. And, you know, in fact, it seems to me that Iraqi opinion -- and, again, this is really based on, you know, some small glimpses of one part of the country, but it seems to me that Iraqi opinion is very diverse, that you go and talk to a group of people, and you get a full range of opinion.

And you also find a lot of ambivalence, people who, on the one hand, are happy that Saddam is gone and yet apprehensive that the U.S. is going to swipe their oil. And it -- you know, it's a reminder that the Iraqi people are mosaic, as much as any other country.

BROWN: I just -- we're not going to quite do this justice in the time we have, but you told a story in your column today about sitting next to a Chinese journalist in Qatar at the briefing, and -- just tell the story quickly.

KRISTOF: Sure. I was in Doha at the Central Command briefing, and I was next to a Chinese journalist. I used to live in China, and I asked him about the success of the U.S. getting its message across, and he said something along the lines that, well, of course, this is propaganda. I grew up in a propaganda country, and I know it when I see it, and they actually do propaganda pretty well. You know, we in China can learn from this. And that was his assessment of the U.S. effort.

BROWN: You were somewhat less impressed with how the Americans were handling message management, if you will.

KRISTOF: I have a mixed sense of that. On the -- I think that message management is enormously important. It is something that the U.S. traditionally neglected. I think the Bush administration really gets this. I think they're really trying hard to get the message across, especially to the Arab world, and I commend them for trying hard. I think they get an A for effort.

I think the execution, though, has actually been pretty dismal, and I think a lot of that is that we try too hard, it's too earnest. We -- you know, we talk about having the biggest coalition in the world, and, you know, I mean Iraqis know that that's not true. The people in the Arab world know that's -- it's almost as if we're overreaching and, thus, sometimes discrediting the message that we're trying to send.

BROWN: Nick, good to see you.

Nicholas Kristof, "The New York Times" columnist, who is in Kuwait.

We'll take a break, update today's headlines. Our coverage continues in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAGAN: I'm Daryn Kagan live in Kuwait City. Let's take a look at what is happening at this hour.

Coalition forces take aim at sporadic resistance in Baghdad, but our Walter Rodgers quotes a senior U.S. officer as saying a majority of Iraqi troops have given up in the capitol city.

A significant fire fight today in Hillah. That is about 50 miles south of Baghdad. Three U.S. soldiers were wounded, but only one required treatment at a field hospital.

The British military says that it now controls about 80 percent of Basra. That is Iraq's second largest city. British military spokesmen say there is no formal Iraqi army left in Basra, but only small pockets of resistance remain.

In other news today, two people were found shot to death at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. One of the victims was Dr. Brian McGovern, an internally known cardiologist. Boston police are still investigating, but hospital officials say the two victims were the only people involved in that shooting.

Two small planes owned by the same charter company crashed within hours of each other. It happened in Ohio. Three people died when a plane went down on approach to Toledo Express Airport. And later, another plane owned by Grand Air crashed into the Mississippi River. Two people from that plane were hospitalized.

The FAA says that both crashes are under investigation. Much more of our coverage of the war in Iraq with Aaron Brown after this. Right now, this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Those of you who might be just joining us, we'll get you quickly caught up on the main storyline of the night. It comes from Walter Rodgers with the 3rd Infantry 7th Cav.

Walt, lay it out.

WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, a senior officer with the 7th Cavalry has told CNN, and this is the quote, "a majority of Iraqi forces have now given up." We believe he's referring to the area of Baghdad. He went on to say the cordon around the Iraqi capitol continues to tighten. Recall that for three days now, all the entrances and exits from Baghdad have been pretty much under the control of the U.S. Army and the United States Marine Corps.

Now there does continue to be resistance inside the city, but it's relatively small. It is sporadic resistance. There are confusing estimates as to how many Fedayeen and Iraqi Republican Guard units are inside the city. We're told it may be upwards of 30,000, although again, senior Army officers seem to pour cold water on that number and suggest it is not that high.

Mostly what they're seeing is small pockets of resistance. Sometimes it's very intense. It is still very dangerous there, but again, within the 24 hours, the headline is that the number of U.S. troops inside the city, now one brigade is going to double to two brigades greatly enhancing the strength and position of the occupying forces, and even more U.S. forces. 101st Airborne Division are on their way up from the south -- Aaron?

BROWN: Walter, thank you. We'll check with you again at the top of the hour and broaden this out a little bit.

Rod Nordland is with "Newsweek" magazine. And he is embedded out there somewhere. And I'm not sure precisely where. So why don't we start with that, Rod? And tell us-- report to us what you can?

ROD NORDLAND, "NEWSWEEK": Well, actually, I'm not embedded. I've come unilaterally to Basra, which as you know, fell to the British on Sunday. And I've been here since yesterday.

This is an amazing scene, really. We've been able to get around the city a lot more than people can get around Baghdad. So we have a bit more of a sense of how Iraqis feel about all of this.

BROWN: What are you finding?

NORDLAND: Well, it's amazing to see...

BROWN: Well, let's see if we get it back. All right, let's...

NORDLAND: ...they're all cheering for Bush.

BROWN: Umm..

NORDLAND: You still have me there?

BROWN: We just got you back. So why don't you start the thought again?

NORDLAND: Okay. Yes, we went to prison, for instance. And prisoners were cheering for Bush and denouncing Saddam, and kind of dancing in their former cells. And then, you go to another part of town, you find the angry crowd that has not received humanitarian yet, that doesn't have clean drinking water, and is also deeply suspicious of the coalition presence. You know, the thing you hear most often is that they're here for our oil and so forth.

So it's a very mixed picture. A lot will depend on how quickly they get aid in, and how quickly they're -- how convincingly they're able to reassure people that they're not here for that purpose, and that they're here to hand the country over to the Iraqis.

BROWN: Are you surprised by that, that you would find prisoners who are happy that Saddam is gone and lots of other people who are considerably suspicious of the American intention?

NORDLAND: I'm not, because I've been working in this area, I've been already. And it's just the same kind of picture we've seen elsewhere. They're very mixed views. And the hearts and minds campaign is going to be a difficult one. It's not going to be enough to get aid to them, and not just enough to get rid of Saddam and his henchmen. It's a lot -- going to be a lot more complicated and a lot more difficult than that. And it's really kind of a matter of persuading people that the coalition's intentions are good.

And the most important thing here is also providing them with security. There's been looting. And yesterday, we watched the Sheraton Hotel burn and people took the furniture out of it. And there's no -- you know, there aren't enough troops here to be policemen. And all the policemen ran away on the first day.

So people are quite upset about that. And they're not safe in their homes. I mean, I slept on the roof of a hospital last night with a team of British snipers who were just basically shooting at looters, you know, shooting warning shots usually to make them go away. But also, guarding the hospital because some of the looters have even come into their own hospitals and tried to strip equipment out and so on. They barricaded the doors last night to try to prevent that.

But there aren't enough British troops to do that at every hospital and generating station and water pumping facility and so on. So it's a pretty dire situation for most people here.

BROWN: Not anarchy, but something less than desirable, it sounds like?

NORDLAND: I think this comes pretty close to anarchy.

BROWN: Okay.

NORDLAND: There's no law at all. I mean, the British can protect their physicians, and they can, you know, and they've chased away the Baathists and so on, but there's a substantial number of people that are probably going underground. And some of them are these people we see in the crowds riling up everybody else about oh, they're here to steal our oil and so forth.

And getting, you know, getting rid of those people is going to take a kind of civil administration and a police force that just doesn't exist now.

BROWN: Ron, thank you. It's always good to hear from you. Rod Nordland, who writes for "Newsweek" magazine.

When you ask the question how is the war being fought, the answer often depends on what channel you're watching and where in the world you are watching it. And today, the big story, it was a huge story around the world, was the loss of innocent life in Baghdad, not just the civilians. This time, of course, it was journalists as well.

First, a survey of it all from Bruce Burkhart.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE BURKHART, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the story in much of the world today, not the targeting of Saddam Hussein, but the alleged targeting of journalists.

This Russian anchor starts the newscast by saying "here is the most important event at this hour, which will be the major topic of our program, an American tank shot at the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad where the journalists are staying." And a few moments later, in introducing their reporter in Baghdad, "an American tank took dead aim at the Baghdad hotel where journalists are staying."

The Russian reporter said he was only one floor away from the explosion and gave a detailed account of the chaos and the carnage in the hotel and added this. "I want to point out that this was not the first strike against journalists today the Americans have probably carried out. This is only the latest which we saw with our own eyes. This morning, we learned that America carried out an air strike against the offices of Al-Jazeera."

And then, there was more. An interview with Al-Jazeera's Moscow bureau chief, a profile of a Ukranian cameraman who died in the mishap.

The view in France was much the same. Here, the anchor says a building that has been deliberately targeted by a U.S. tank, when everyone knows that only journalists were staying at this hotel.

And in Baghdad, the reporter had this account. "On this balcony, a couple of moments before, a cameraman was filming a tank on the Liberty Bridge. And this tank, here it is, right at the moment it aims at the hotel."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ...Saddam. And three journalists die in U.S. attacks. The U.S. Central Command claiming it is too early to say what happened.

BURKHART: From China's CCTV, the English language newscast, a much subdued reaction. That seems to be consistent with what we've seen there since the war began.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Pentagon said Iraqi snipers were believed to be operating near the Palestine Hotel, where the full Reuters staff were injured after a blast to strike an upper floor of the high rise.

The Pentagon said it could not say if U.S. troops were responsible for the blasts.

BURKHART: But in Germany, as in Russia and France, viewers got this view of the story.

A reporter described how the hotel was occupied by most of the journalists and how everyone knew that. And then said, "why was the building fired on anyway?"

This is how the military explained it. "We only returned the fire that was coming from the lobby of the hotel," the translator quotes General Brooks. Then the reporter adds, "Why then, of all things, was the 15th floor hit?" That remains unclear.

In the propaganda war being fought on TVs across the globe, this one has to go down as a loss for the U.S.

Bruce Burkhart, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: We watched much of that incident play out to the cameras of Abu Dhabi TV. And we're joined now by Abu Dhabi's TV chief news editor, Nart Bouran.

Good to see you. Do you -- well first of all, you must, when you look at this, thank your lucky stars that you didn't lose colleagues in this because your colleagues literally were within inches of one of those barrages?

NART BOURAN, CHIEF NEWS EDITOR, ABU DHABI TV: That's true, Aaron. We are extremely lucky so far because the situation hasn't -- is not over yet for our guys over there. But one of the shells that was visible from one of our cameras leaving the tank and hitting our building was just a couple of minutes after we took small arms fire from the same tank, and where our reporter was on the roof telling us exactly the scene on the Jumhuryia Bridge, that U.S. tanks were going down the bridge. We took the small arms fire and he ran downstairs. And then shortly after, we saw that incoming onto our office, live on TV in front of everybody.

But the situation is not over, because ever since we have 25 people stuck in that office after they ran downstairs to the basement. That was -- that's become the front line of the -- of fighting. And they are stuck in the basement, 25 of them. And 27 actually. There's about 22 of ours and five from Al-Jazeera who are in the neighboring office, running to us when they're office was hit first.

BROWN: Nart, let me ask this question in two parts. Try and answer both. Do you believe that the Americans deliberately targeted journalists, part 1. And do you think your viewers believe that Americans deliberately targeted journalists?

BOURAN: Well, let me -- I mean, it's a very difficult question to answer. From what we saw yesterday, everybody was extremely nervous and very, very worried. But if you look at it, the main three news items that were running yesterday was the attack on Al-Jazeera office first, the attack on Abu Dhabi TV, and then the Palestine Hotel, where all the journalists are.

So it's very hard to try to imagine, you know, where else the story was. What other were they doing than those three main stories? I believe that we were on the roof just a couple minutes. Our correspondent was on the -- just a couple of minutes on the roof, reporting to use live.

And there was nothing happening there. We know the office. There's nothing there. And then, all of a sudden, we felt the small arms fire coming at us. And then from the tank, directly, because we'd have that all on camera.

And then, they ran downstairs. There was nothing around us to indicate that there was anything suspicious going around us. Otherwise, how did all of our correspondents be on the roof reporting at the time?

As far as the other question is concerned, I think it's very difficult to convince people that this was not a deliberate act against journalists in that area. I think it's going to be very, very difficult, because like I said, there were three main stories of today.

BROWN: Yes.

BOURAN: And those three were -- the headlines were reporters.

BROWN: Is it not a reasonable explanation that these tank commanders and soldiers on the ground see activity on the roof? They're nervous. They think sniper. And they take action?

BOURAN: Yes, I guess the answer to that is yes and no. Because you can see our cameras. I mean, literally, our camera was targeted straight into the camera. We have been operating there for 2.5 years. This is not like it is a secret location. Everybody knew where we were.

We've been broadcasting those live pictures to the whole world during the last almost three weeks now. I would assume anyone going to that kind of an operation in that kind of an area with all these position targeting smart bombs, and hitting specifically rooms where they think that people are -- that they would know that this is an Abu Dhabi TV and al-Jazeera TV. And to be perfectly honest, in that vicinity, nothing else was hit except those two offices.

BROWN: Nart, please come back. There are a whole range of issues having to do with how the Arab world is seeing this, that we would love to talk with you about. Much of the world has seen the coverage that your cameramen in particular have provided. It's been extraordinary and we thank you for your time tonight. Thank you very much, Nart Bouran, the chief news editor of Abu Dhabi TV.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CROWLEY: ...to that end, the U.S. has called a meeting in Nasiriya next week, bringing together newly freed and formerly exiled Iraqis, and will discuss the make-up of a kind of quasi government and interim authority.

And here's where it starts to get tricky.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But if we put our thumb on the scale, if we try to dictate who will be the leader, even in the interim phase of Iraq, we may fail. And that would be a terrible tragedy after all this blood and treasure's been expended.

CROWLEY: Case in point, some in Washington think the Pentagon dropped this man, Ahmad Chalabi and 600 other Iraqi exiles into Nasiriya in advance of next week's conference to give Chalabi a leg up into the interim government. The Pentagon denies that.

Until they can piece his together, post-war Iraq will be run by the Pentagon. Retired Lieutenant General Jay Garner, holed up in a Kuwait hotel with dozens of other Americans, will move into Baghdad and take over various essential Iraqi departments, finance, oil, and intelligence.

At the State Department on Capitol Hill and at the U.N., there are those who think the military is ill-suited for the kind of soft touch needed to build a democracy in a region skeptical of U.S. motives.

International involvement, they argue, will remove the made in the U.S.A. tag on a new Iraqi government.

SEN. TOM DASCHE (D), MINORITY LEADER: Well, I think that there ought to be a role, not only for the U.N., but of course for the international community in large measure with U.S. and British leadership.

CROWLEY: A coalition of the interested, it is also argued, would ease U.S.-European which hit the break point over Iraq. Beside stability, reconstruction and democracy are man power intensive and very expensive.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: It's going to cost us $20 billion a year just to keep American boots on the ground. I'd like to share that opportunity with the rest of the world out of our own naked self interest.

CROWLEY: It is down to a matter of proportions. There is general agreement the military has to be in charge until there is peace. And there is even agreement that there's a role for the U.N. But the U.N. is unlikely to want to operate under the direction of the U.S. And the president is equally unlikely to give up the driver's seat.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When we saw viable role for the United Nations, we mean viable role for the United Nations... CROWLEY: It may come down to what you're definition of vital is.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: We'll take a break. Our coverage continues in a just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Coming up in the hour ahead, we'll check in with Walt Rodgers and the reporting he's been doing on desertions, I guess would be the right word, of Iraqi troops. We've got Daryn Kagan to check the headlines, mornings papers from around the country. Much more in the hour ahead, as you take a look at Baghdad this morning. We take a break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAGAN: I'm Daryn Kagan live from Kuwait City. It is 8:00 a.m. Wednesday morning here. Let's take a look at what is happening at this hour.

A U.S. Army official has told CNN's Walter Rodgers that most of the Iraqi resistance in Baghdad is no longer resisting, although most Iraqi troops there are thought to not yet laid down their arms, fierce fighting does continue as small Iraqi units not sporadic, uncoordinated attacks on forces.

Coalition jets have flown more than 1700 sorties in the past 24 hours. Army sources tell CNN that targets include the Iraqi information ministry and headquarters of the Republican Guard, the special Republican Guard, and the Baath Party.

The Pentagon said that U.S. forces were firing in self defense at Iraqis when they mistakenly killed three journalists on Tuesday. Journalists at the two locations said they heard no gunfire prior to the U.S. attacks.

And some journalists outside of Iraq, such as these holding a vigil in Beirut, are calling on the U.S. to prove that it is actually returning fire when the three journalists were killed in Baghdad.

It all went up in smoke in southeast Baghdad. That's where U.S. Marines found and then blew up a stash of enemy weapons and artillery found abandoned near a military field.

The U.S. has now put heavy armor on the northern front in Iraq. Our Steve Nettleson with the 173rd Airborne reports the Air Force has started bringing M1A1 Abrams tanks to the Premiere Air field in northern Iraq.

Back in Washington, top Democrats want an investigation of the company that Vice President Dick Cheney once headed. They want the General Accounting Office to look into whether Halliburton received special treatment in getting defense contracts over the last few years.

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