CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Iraqis Wake to New Era
Aired April 10, 2003 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone. I'm Heidi Collins in the CNN newsroom.
Here's what's happening at this hour. After a night of celebrations, Iraqis are waking up to a new day and a new era. These are Kurds in the north where opposition to Saddam Hussein has always been strong. But for the first time in decades Wednesday, Iraqis in Baghdad were free to make their feelings known about their apparently former head of state. U.S. officials warned that there is still fighting yet to be done.
The "Washington Post" today reports that Lieutenant General James T. Conway made the call to send tanks into the heart of Baghdad Wednesday, rather than just chip away at it after he got vital intelligence about the city. That intelligence was video of Iraqi Shias celebrating in the streets. General Conway saw it on CNN.
Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi addressed fellow Iraqis in Nasiriya today. His message, Iraqis will decide who runs Iraq. Still, he did suggest a role for the U.S. and the U.K., complaining they had yet to restore water and electricity.
Some Arab-Americans celebrating the liberation of Baghdad in Dearborn, Michigan, turned their thoughts to media criticism today. Hundreds crowded around a crew from Al-Jazeera, chanting, down, down Al-Jazeera, accusing Al- Jazeera of failing to report Hussein's crimes.
In other news, the European space agency sent an Adrian 5 rocket into space today from French, Guyana. The rocket put two communications satellites in orbit four months after the last Aryan 5 veered off course and had to be destroyed.
Russian officials say 28 children died in a fire today. It occurred this morning at a boarding school in southern Russia. Alarms did sound but few people heard them. The school is a school for the deaf.
Those are the headlines at this hour. Now back to Aaron Brown and more of the coverage of the war in Iraq.
AARON BROWN, HOST: Heidi, thank you. It's a tough way to end an update.
BROWN: Thank you for your work tonight. It has been, for those of you who have been around much of the day, looking at your TVs at work or all night long, it has been a remarkable ride, literally so for some into Baghdad. We've been able to follow along as U.S. troops made their way in.
The report comes from John Irvine of Britain's Independent Television News.
JOHN IRVINE, ITN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To venture right was a calculated risk, but an irresistible one. We'd heard no gunfire and there were enough Iraqi cars on the road to give us confidence. One of the first places we reached was an office used by Saddam Hussein's secret police. Here his numerous portraits were going up in flames. At last, ordinary Iraqis were showing their true feelings towards their leader. When people saw our camera, they couldn't hide their delight at the turn of events. Further on, we spoke to some civilians who told me how they felt.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Saddam gone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Saddam gone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am happy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Feeling free.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Freedom. Freedom.
IRVINE: Then, all of a sudden, the United States Marines showed up.
(on camera): This is one of those extraordinary moments, something I never really thought I would see on the streets of the Iraqi capital.
(voice-over) The Americans gestured for us to come and meet them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing?
(on camera): My name is John Irvine from ITN.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice to meet you.
IRVINE: Sergeant, did you say?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.
IRVINE: Welcome to Baghdad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
IRVINE: How does it feel to be here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It feels pretty good. It's nice to represent the Marine Corps here. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) California.
IRVINE: The Marines were destroying Iraqi weaponry they found in the back of the lorry. The soldiers appeared relaxed, some were clearly exhausted, but others were keen to talk about their experiences.
What sort of response have you had from ordinary civilians you've come across?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actually, civilians have been very cooperative. They are pretty cheerful that we're here. And we haven't had any conflict with them whatsoever.
IRVINE (voice-over): Several marines were guarding the hotel that had been the base for the U.N. weapons inspectors in Baghdad. Looters had been here, and the Americans rescued U.N. cars before they were driven away. At one point, the soldiers thought they were coming under fire.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Behind the white truck.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sniper's got eyes on it, sir. You're looking right now.
IRVINE: The snipers with eyes on were two Marine sharpshooters on the hotel roof, but they weren't needed. Eventually, the Marine commander decided that the Iraqi gunfire was probably more celebratory than aggressive.
Just a few hours later, the U.S. Cavalry rode straight into the city center unopposed. A war of three weeks has brought an end to decades of Iraqi misery.
John Irvine, ITV News in liberated Baghdad.
BROWN: It's a somewhat more complicated picture if you look at the country as a whole. There is war going on in some places. There is celebrating going on in others. There's desperation in a lot of places. People have been oppressed for a long time, may not know quite what to do with themselves when this oppression they've been living with comes to an end, which is another way of saying, sudden freedom can be an explosive thing.
British journalist Bill Neely reports from Basra.
BILL NEELY, ITV NEWS (voice-over): The news from Baghdad reached Basra fast. Saddam is finished, they cried. Apart from one last stand.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Saddam should not go from Iraq. Kill in Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He will die in Iraq?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He will die here now. Saddam is end in Iraq, in Baghdad. No go.
NEELY: Iraqis here are astonished even by news from their own city. There is now no law, little order, and lots of looting here. Half a dozen huge warehouses, stripped today of soap, sugar, flour, anything these people could haul out.
(on camera): If British troops are needed anywhere, they're needed here. But they're nowhere to be seen. Their judgment is they're not a police force. But there's a fine line between that judgment and complete anarchy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need police and the supplies to now give the people this food.
NEELY (voice-over): Across the city in the banking district, there were British troops and there was mayhem.
The man is terrified. He's part of a crowd that attacked a bank with rocket-propelled grenade. The looters carrying one of their own who was killed. The crowd is small, the troops are nervous. This is a city teetering on the edge of anarchy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is from Iraqi people. Why broken these? Why broke?
NEELY: The troops check the vault behind the safe door for looters or loot. But there's nothing.
CAPTAIN JUSTIN PROWSE, BRITISH FORCES: In an attempt to gain entry into the vault, firing grenades into it, they've actually incinerated all of the money that they are after in the first place.
NEELY: There's no Iraqi police, no Iraqi army. Do you feel you're in control?
PROWSE: Yes, we are. We're fully in control at the moment in the city.
NEELY: But they're not sure where the thieves will strike next.
MARGARET HITCHCOCK: You've got the ammunition, you've got the position to do something.
NEELY: Well, next target is leafy, residential suburbs. And Margaret Hitchcock, originally from Plymouth, is furious.
HITCHCOCK: They're frightened from the people breaking into their houses, breaking into their houses, hurting them, causing trouble.
NEELY: Who are these people?
HITCHCOCK: These people have been let out of prison. They're people from places away, not here. We want to restore some order here. You can do it, you've got the guns, you've got the machines.
NEELY: East Basra, where the Saddam Hussein grain warehouse is about to disappear.
(on camera): So, if this in part is Basra today, will it be Baghdad tomorrow? A people fired up, a regime up in flames, a country out of control.
(voice-over): The most senior British officer in Iraq is not concerned.
AIR MARSHALL BRIAN BURRIDGE, BRITISH FORCES COMMANDER: On that, I've just been in all over downtown Basra and I actually don't see any looting, one or two isolated bits.
NEELY: Bits everywhere. It's not robbery, but revenge at the headquarters of Saddam's Baath party where Iraqis look for records of their relatives the regime has murdered. A new Iraq is being born tonight. But here and in Baghdad, it is a difficult birth.
Bill Neely, ITV News, Basra.
BROWN: An idea of what's ahead.
There is in New York City tonight now a man who finds himself in what must be the oddest imaginable position for a diplomat or perhaps anyone else. He is Mohammad Al-Douri, Iraq's representative to the United Nations, and apparently now a man with no government to represent. A CNN producer caught up with him outside his residence today.
MOHAMMED AL-DOURI, IRAQI AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: My hope now is peace, for everybody.
This is what I have. I have no more.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since you're only going to say it once, just let us just get it set up. Since we're here, let me just ask you ...
AL-DOURI: No, I have no -- I cannot speak with you. I told you, the game is over. I hope that peace will prevail. And that the Iraqi people at the end of the day will have a peaceful life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you mean that the game is over, sir?
AL-DOURI: The war I mean.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you're convinced the war is over?
AL-DOURI: Yes, yes, yes, it's over.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the situation with Saddam Hussein?
Al-DOURI: Well, I don't know. This is -- perhaps as Americans know, I have no relationship with Saddam so I can't tell you. I am here like you. OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Explain to me sir, what do you mean you have no relationship with Saddam? What does that mean?
AL-DOURI: I have no communication with Iraq. I am here, so I know nothing about what is going there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you make sir of the pictures you've seen of him?
BROWN: I just can't imagine what his life must be like right now, what he is thinking, what he is wondering, what he thinks now about his future. In any case, Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations. If there is an Iraqi government, it's not his anymore.
I want to get more reaction from the Arab world. We're joined from Cairo tonight by Mohammad Kamal, professor of political science at Cairo University. Nice to see you. Let's talk for a minute about two different parts of Arab society or Egyptian society. Is there a split between educated Egyptians and how they view this, and the rest of Egypt?
MOHAMMED KAMAL, CAIRO UNIVERSITY: I think so, yes. You have split. You have mixed feelings about the very powerful images we saw on TV last night. You have people who see this as the beginning of Iraq's liberation, the liberation of the Iraqi people. And you have people who see it also as the beginning of the occupation by the U.S. of Iraq. You have people who are excited to see the end of this regime and what it stood for. And you have people who are also disappointed in this sudden collapse of the regime.
Those are the people who were led to believe by some media outlet who covered the war here, that Iraqis are fighting a tough fight. This is going to be a second Vietnam for the U.S., and the Iraqi resistance is actually winning the war. And those are the people who also saw the pictures of the Iraqi civilians who were killed and wounded because of the war. So they feel angry. They feel disappointed at the U.S., and also at the Iraqi resistance. So you have mixed feelings here tonight.
BROWN: And in this group that saw this as another Vietnam, when they see the Iraqi welcoming of the Americans today, what is it that they think then?
KAMAL: I think it's going to silence many critics of the war in this part of the world, because after all, we cannot be more Catholic than the Pope, as they say. We cannot speak for the Iraqi people. One lesson we should learn is we shouldn't speak for the Iraqi people. They Arab people or the U.S. should not speak for the Iraqi people. Let the Iraqi people speak for themselves. Let them govern themselves. We shouldn't impose our words or our will on them. Either Arabs or Americans.
BROWN: Do you think that in other Arab capitals today, including your own, that there are very nervous governments about what this has started?
KAMAL: Well, I think -- I don't want to use the word nervous. But this is actually a turning point in the history of this part of the world. This is a turning point for Arab-American relations. For many years, people wanted the U.S. presence here to be like the wind, to be a powerful but unseen. Now the U.S. presence in the area will be very visible. Either you're going to call it occupation or presence or whatever, the U.S. is going to be part of this world. So everyone will be watching carefully whatever the U.S. says, whatever action the U.S. makes.
And I think my advice here is, the U.S. has to be very careful about what it does in the post-Saddam era. No one has ever doubted that the U.S. was going to win this military war. But it's not just -- this war wasn't just about winning the military battle, it is about winning the political war. Winning the hearts and minds of the Arab people. And there is still a long way to go. The U.S. has to act, I would say with modesty, rather than with arrogance.
It has to act as a liberator rather than an occupying power. It has also to listen to the advice of its friends and allies in this region who knows the area very well. And it has also to take the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Arab-Israeli peace process more seriously. People have high expectations of the U.S. in this regard. So it's about time that the American administration heal the wounds of the Iraqis and of the Arab people. And this is how the U.S. will be judged in this part of the world.
BROWN: The president, President Bush talked about the road map in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process just before the war. Do people in your part of the world generally believe that he was serious, that he's going to engage next in that matter?
KAMAL: Yes. Yes, I can. I can. Hello?
BROWN: Yes, are you still able to hear me, Mohammed?
KAMAL: Yes, I am. I can hear you.
BROWN: Do people in your part of the world believe that President Bush is serious about engaging fully now in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict?
KAMAL: I think people are still skeptical about that, because it's not just a matter of words. People want to see some action. And let me remind you that during the previous Gulf War, the Arab people were told that once the war is over, we're going to end the Arab- Israeli conflict. There were some steps but they were not completed. So, this time people are waiting for action, serious commitment, not just words coming from the administration.
BROWN: Mohammad Kamal, it's good to talk to you. Thank you for your time tonight. It's helpful to understand how your part of the world views this day's events.
KAMAL: Thank you. BROWN: As pleased as it must have been with the news of the day, the Bush administration has been very careful all day long to say more needs to be done.
Where CNN's Brent Sadler is located more is being done.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, three, three eight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
BRENT SADLER (voice-over): In the north of Iraq, a view to a kill. American special forces take aim at positions of Iraq's collapsing army.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire!
SADLER: Holding a network of bunkers surrounded by palm trees, Iraqi troops blocking this road to Baghdad, 19 miles away. Sixty- millimeter mortars lay a barrage on those positions across the front line. The targets beat a hasty retreat. Iraqi soldiers jump into that white pickup truck to escape the onslaught. But Kurdish fighters wait to pounce and seize the moment. Pouring fire at the speeding truck as it runs a gauntlet of lead. The Peshmerga follow in hot pursuit, under cover of American bombs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire!
SADLER: The Kurds charge in. Shooting at the backs of fleeing soldiers and clearing bunkers. The portraits and the power of Saddam Hussein are being torn to shreds. And the secrets of his disintegrating army are being exposed, hill by hill. This is as far as the Peshmerga have pushed in three weeks, as a result of heavy air strikes from U.S. aircraft. And today, for the first time, we saw that mortar fire from U.S. special forces. Now moving forward, these Iraqi Kurds chasing Iraqis who were just occupying this position a few minutes ago.
SADLER: And another volley of gunfire.
(on camera): This gives you a sense of what it's like at the very edge of the front line that's just fallen to these Iraqi Kurds. They know the news in Baghdad. The very grip of Saddam Hussein is being loosened. And they are ecstatic.
(voice-over): The war may not be over, but this battle has been fought and won.
Brent Sadler, CNN, near Kalar (ph) in northern Iraq.
BROWN: We'll take a break and our coverage continues in just a moment.
BROWN: Sultan Sleman is a correspondent with LBC, the Lebanese Broadcasting Company, and he joins us from Baghdad this morning.
What's the city like today?
SULTAN SLEMAN, LBC REPORTER: This was the first calm, relatively calm night for Baghdad. We didn't hear a lot of shootings or bombings. It's just separates bullets here and there. But it was calm, it was dark. You know there is no electricity in Baghdad since a few days, and no water. We could hear also the tanks patrolling the roads and the streets of Baghdad. But no heavy shooting at all. Just a few separate shootings here and there, because of the pockets of resistance that still in the narrow streets of the popular streets of Baghdad.
BROWN: And this morning as you look out on the city, are people going about their business?
SLEMAN: They started -- yesterday, we saw a lot of chaos and mess regarding the public institutions that were robbed and burned by the mobs. But today, I think it will be less, because there is no more public buildings to be burned anymore or to be robbed or stolen. So, that's why I think that this will be less action today. But people started since early morning going to their work, opening their shops, trying to check if they lost something. But still, they are still cautious, because weapons are in the hands of the people. Everybody here has a weapon. The regime, before the collapse of the regime, they distributed weapons to everybody. In addition, that the social system here feels proud. Everyone feels proud to have a Kalashnikov or a gun at his home. So this also needs time to say that the situation is completely under control and completely calm.
BROWN: Where were you when the statue came down? Were you in the area? Were you somewhere else?
SLEMAN: Yes, I was in the area here, exactly.
BROWN: What were you thinking as you watched all of that happening?
SLEMAN: We spoke to many Iraqis here. Even those who were happy to see Saddam Hussein's monument being brought down, they said that we are happy to see the regime collapsing. But we are not happy to see it collapsing by this way. We are not happy to see our country going under occupation. We don't know when the Americans will be leaving. We know that the Americans are not a charity that will liberate the country and give it back and go away.
We have really -- we are very concerned that what the future will be. This is still a very, very, let us say, very grave with respect to them. They consider that what happened was as a result of what the regime did. The regime led the country from one war to another war to another war. They are in war since 1980. It's 23 years of wars. They are fed up. They are very tired. They wanted to get rid of this regime, but as I told you, they feel very cautious that the Americans would not leave the country soon.
BROWN: Sultan, it is good to talk to you. We appreciate your time this morning. You're in a fascinating place on the planet earth today, thank you very much.
Martin Savidge has been in a fascinate place for quite some time. He is traveling with the Marines and the Marines are traveling again.
Marty, we're glad you're safe and sound.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Aaron. We are in Baghdad. This is day two for the Marines, at least for the 1st Battalion 7th Marines, being in Baghdad. They arrived yesterday afternoon. And they established immediately a base that they are operating, which is the same base Baghdad University where they took a lot of heavy fire yesterday. Now what is happening as patrols went out through the night, securing the streets as best they could. The colonel who was in charge here, Colonel Conlin is now going about inspecting his troops, inspecting the positions that they have taken up.
And this is going to be sort of a travel log of the day or early- morning hours here in Baghdad. Some of the points of interest, we expect you'll see along the way here, aside from the people of Baghdad itself, we are told there's at least one presidential palace we will be paying a visit to. They've warned us already it's not in the best of shape. It got hit with one of those high-explosive bunker busting bombs.
And, also, the home of Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz. We're told he is not at home, but the patrol wants to go by and see the house as well. One of the things they are looking for, and probably not expecting to find, if there is any remaining leadership of the Iraqi regime that may be in hiding or may still be in their offices, as highly unlikely as that may seem. So, it is a day that promises perhaps a lot of interest, some intrigue, and certainly for the Marines, a sense of job accomplishment.
BROWN: For those of you who have matched a lot of TV over the last 18 hours or so, you know that Marty and his unit were involved in the nastiest of fighting around the city. Marty, is there a huge difference in the way the marines feel today? Do they feel that the worst of their fighting is over?
SAVIDGE: They hope the worst of their fighting is over. They certainly -- I think beyond the fight, the thing that impressed them most yesterday was the jubilation, the reception they got from people on the street. And still, yet, there are not as many people on the street this morning, but there are still people out here still waving, still cheering, still greeting this military convoy as it moves along. Yesterday, there were throngs and throngs of people.
And I think for many of these young marines, it was a moment that they will probably carry with them for the rest of their lives, probably even more so than that fire fight. They have been in fights before. This was sort of their payoff. This is something that they really had hoped was going to happen, and it appeared before their eyes. So it's a sense of gratitude that seems to be coming legitimately from the Iraqi people. And I think that is the burning image that will remain with them.
BROWN: Are sergeants and officers going up and down and reminding these young marines to stay vigilant?
SAVIDGE: They are. This particular unit has not lost a single individual, to combat or even to action. There have been injuries but they have not lost a single person. That is quite remarkable, considering the engagements that they have had. There are other battalions that have suffered and some have suffered significant losses. And so - just driving away from the bruit (ph) in the road. it is not forgotten on the commander here, on the colonel, that he promised to bring all of his men home safe.
And so far, he has delivered on that promise. But he also knows that this is a dangerous time as well. Perhaps you're not going to have the big battle. Perhaps there is not going to be a major engagement. It could be a sniper. It could be a couple of people with AK-47s sitting in an alley. It could be a surprise that comes, of course, when you least expect it, especially when your guard is let down. So, it is driven into these young men that, now is not a time to relax, now is not a time to forget discipline, now is not a time to forget that you are still in a potentially hostile area -- Aaron.
BROWN: Marty, thank you. Martin Savidge, and to your photographer Scott McQuinnie, terrific job earlier today. That was some experience.
We'll keep track of you for the next half hour or so.
We'll update the day's headlines. And our coverage continues in just a moment.
COLLINS: Hello everyone, I'm Heidi Collins with the latest developments at this hour.
Street celebrations in downtown Baghdad Wednesday marked the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime. Kurds in northern Iraq in the city of Erbil were also cheering the fall of the government. But coalition forces say it is still not known whether Saddam Hussein is alive or dead.
Iraqi-Americans joined in celebrating the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. In Dearborn, Michigan, home to the largest Iraqi population in the U.S. some 2,000 people waved U.S. and Iraqi flags, some signs too. One of them read, "Saddam, gone with the wind."
In central Iraq Wednesday, soldiers from the 101 Airborne secured Hillah, just one day after facing fierce fighting there. This time they were greeted by cheering Iraqis lining the streets. Hillah is the site of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
The U.S. has moved the MOAB to the Persian Gulf. The 21,000- pound bomb seen here was successfully tested last month in Florida. The MOAB or massive ordnance air blast is the largest conventional bomb in the U.S. military's arsenal.
A bill before New York's legislature would extend the deadline for families to file wrongful death suits in the September 11 attacks, by six months. New York originally put a two-year statute of limitations on suits. Families must choose between filing lawsuits or claims with the Victim Compensation Fund.
Those are the headlines at this hour. We're going to take a quick break and we'll be back with more of our coverage of the war in Iraq and Aaron Brown.
BROWN: In the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, Marines are on the move, moving through the city. Just another sign that despite all the celebrations of yesterday and all the headlines in the papers today and on television as well, there is still work to be done.
A reasonable way to get in to Jim Wilkinson, who is the director of strategic communications for CENTCOM in Qatar, he helps the generals deal with the press and sometimes joins us to show them how it's done.
Jim, it's good to see you. We'll get to the serious stuff in a minute. But just tell me, was General Franks watching the statue fall on television as it happened?
JIM WILKINSON, DIR. STRATEGIC COMM., CENTCOM: You know, General Franks' thought right now are with the men and women on the front lines, there's a lot of tough fighting left to do. And he knows that. He's also concerned about those prisoners of war that are missing. And he also would pause and take a second to think about those in the United Kingdom, and the U.S. and others, who have given the ultimate -- who have paid the ultimate price for this -- for what is looking like, could soon be the liberation.
There's so much more tough work to do in Tikrit and other parts of the battlefield up in the north, also Baghdad. So, while the images were certainly positive yesterday, at CENTCOM we don't get to celebrate. We're here to do what the secretary of defense asks to us do with our military objectives. And General Franks is focused on that right now.
BROWN: I understand that. Did he watch?
WILKINSON: You know I haven't spoken to General Franks about the specific visuals. We do so many meetings and video teleconferences and discussions with front line commanders that not really any of us had time to sit and watch it for any lengthy period of time. Again, there is a lot of the things happening on the battlefield. At the same time the statue was being pulled down and people were celebrating, in other parts of Baghdad our troops were under fire. And so, General Franks is always going to focus on those who are in harm's way. And you know there's plenty of time to celebrate when this is all over. But this is not over yet. We've got so much more work to do. And there will be time for to us to sit around, think about that later.
BROWN: Does he have a plan yet to go to Baghdad?
WILKINSON: You know I never discuss General Franks' travel plans. I will remind you that he represents the area of responsibility that includes Afghanistan and the great work that's being done out there to help them rebuild that nation after the Taliban terrorist regime has been removed. He also oversees operations in the Horn of Africa in addition to the Iraq operation. He'll continue to travel around his region often.
As you know, we went to three stops in Iraq two, about three days ago. He was cheered in the streets of an Najaf with little kids and women and men approached the motorcade to thank him and thank the coalition for liberating them. He'll continue to do that, I predict. I predict he'll go to several spots in Baghdad -- excuse me, to several spots in Iraq, including Baghdad at some point. But it's just way too early. We'll see what happens.
BROWN: You have seven POW's somewhere in Iraq. Can you talk at all about how you're dealing with that?
WILKINSON: You know I wouldn't want to get into specifics because our first concern is with their lives. I will say on a day like yesterday when the images are s positive, General Franks' thoughts are with those families who he knows are probably loosing sleep at this very moment worried about their men and women out there. And so, we're focused on it. It's something we don't have time to celebrate here, because we do have POW's, our brothers and sisters who are out there, and we'll continue to work on that.
BROWN: Jim, it's good to talk to you. Jim Wilkinson, director of strategic communications at CENTCOM. He helps them fashion a message and manage the message. And you got the message, that the work is not done and there is still danger out there. And we don't know yet if General Franks saw the images on television or not.
Walt Rodgers is on the phone. Walt is traveling with the cavalry. It was about 24 hours ago, maybe 23 hours ago, Walt, that you reported to us military officials had told you that most of the Iraqi army, that which was left seemed to have up and disappeared. What a difference the day makes.
WALT RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That indeed was the case. And that report was spot on, Aaron. I have dis-embedded with the 7th Cavalry. CNN's crew and I have moved into the heart of Baghdad, which is where we are now. We're about a mile from the Iraqi Information Ministry. There's been some shooting here this morning, not a lot. We did run something of a small gauntlet this morning, some small arms fire about us. But we came up on our own; we're in the heart of Baghdad. As I say now, when I got here, I was listening over in the direction of the Al Rasheed Hotel, some 20-millimeter anti-aircraft fire, small arms fire. Not heavy, not anything like what we've seen with the 7 cavalry. But having said that, the Army stopped us at a checkpoint by the Memorial for the Unknown Soldier and told us we can't cross the Tigris at this point, the Marines are still doing some mopping up on the other side of the river.
We're trying to get to The Palestine Hotel, which seems to be the journalists' hangout. Having said that, we're about two miles from there. Again, in the center of Baghdad, sporadic fire and that terribly misleading euphemism, "pockets of resistance" -- Aaron.
BROWN: We have, as you know, literally followed your path from the moment you crossed the border and then for the last several days you were camped out, your unit was camped out outside of Baghdad itself not far from the airport in this flanking maneuver. And now finally, the troops that you've been with got into the city of Baghdad. Did they celebrate that moment? Was there a clear sense of accomplishment in that moment?
RODGERS: Actually, Aaron, I had to leave the 7th Cavalry. They are working south of the city again. Their assignment today is that air support found 100 T-72 Iraqi tanks. They're going in there to disengage those tanks. That is to say, they're abandoned; they want them temporarily put out of action because the commanding general said yesterday, don't destroy all the Iraqi tanks. The new Iraqi government is going to need something to rebuild its army with. Those are the instructions.
Now having said that, in answer to your question, we left the 7th Cav. this morning and we're now with the 2nd Brigade 3rd Infantry Division in the heart of Baghdad. And those soldiers have seen some heavy fighting. They've had several soldiers killed on the way. We saw evidences of very severe fighting in the southern suburbs of Baghdad where the 2 Brigade pushed through. These soldiers are much more sober. I would not say they're celebrating at all. They've seen very heavy fighting; they've seen stiff Iraqi resistance in the past week. And I would say their mood this morning was only sober -- Aaron.
BROWN: So there's no sense in looking at the troops that you're looking at, that they are done with their work?
RODGERS: Absolutely not. And as I said, just a mile from us, we need to cross the Tigris River to get to the other bank, and we can hear -- we're told that the reason we're being held at this Army checkpoint and can't advance is because the Marines have not finished cleaning up over there -- Aaron.
BROWN: Walt, thank you very much. Walt Rodgers who is in the city of Baghdad and will make his way to the hotel. That's one advantage the reporters clearly have over the troops. Walt will get to the hotel at some point. Bob Franken will not. He's out in Iraq not far from the border with Iran.
Bob, welcome. What can you report?
BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're down the Tigris river in the town of al Amarah, which is a large town, al Amarah about 330,000. And it is predominantly Shia.
The 10 Armored Division of the Iraqis were supposed to put up a very, stiff resistance here. But when the Marines have come in, they find nobody but jubilant townspeople. This as I said, predominantly Shia and they've taken over the town. The Marines in fact, have had any number of consultations with townspeople.
One of the -- One of the bits of information I got takes us to where we are now, which is outside soccer stadium in the town where it turns out the Iraqis had hidden an al Samoud missile. I'm sitting here right now, standing here looking at the missile. The military -- the Marines say they are not quite sure if it's illegal or not.
These missiles as you know, have a range of about 150 kilometers. They're not quite sure whether the distance from here to the Kuwait border would make the missile illegal. Nevertheless, it was hidden in the stadium. There have been any number of receptions that have been given the Marines, all of them extremely enthusiastic. There are literally thousands of local residents out here at the stadium. They're oftentimes (AUDIO GAP)
BROWN: Well, we lost Bob. Let's see if we can get him back.
Bob, are you able to hear us?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please try again later.
BROWN: Well, I guess not. From a long way away, you can still get a recorded message.
Anyway, Bob Franken talking about the kind of receptions that the Marines are receiving, a very warm reception indeed.
The missile he talked about, the al Samoud missile, was the missile that got so much attention in the waning days of diplomacy. They were these missiles found by the weapon inspectors and Hans Blix ordered them destroyed. And there was some back and forth about whether or not they were in fact illegal. The Iraqi government claiming they were not, but then the Iraqi government started to destroy them and all that came to an end when the diplomatic process broke down.
We'll take a break and our coverage continues in a moment.
BROWN: You often hear and we've often said that getting rid of the bad guys in power is the easy part. It's building a fair and free society that is the hard part. This isn't a matter of opinion; it's a matter of history.
Here's CNN's Bruce Morton.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In Iraq, the statues of Saddam are tumbling down, but replacing the dictator with a real working democracy, that's not so easy. Look at Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai and promises elections but...
LEE HAMILTON, WOODROW WILSON INT'L CTR.: We did some good things. We let little girls go to school. And yet, it's clear I think, that we're not prepared for the long haul in Afghanistan. And the warlords are increasing their power and Taliban...
MORTON: Iran, the Shah was forced into exile in 1953 by Mohammed Mossadegh, who wanted to nationalize Iran's oil. A CIA-led coup put him back in office but he was no democrat. Rules supported by a tough secret police until Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini overthrew him in 1979.
Nicaragua, Ronald Reagan's administration backed the Contras, rebels against the left-wing Sandinista government. They had elections in 1990 and neither side won. They elected a moderate, Violetta Chamorro. Some violence still, but democrats may be taking hold.
The Philippines, maybe.
ROBERT DALLEK, HISTORIAN: We spent 48 years there and even then, we didn't quite manage to carry it off. It wasn't until Reagan in the '80s that you got rid of Marcos. South Korea took 35 years to get anything resembling democracy.
MORTON: In Haiti, the U.S. restored Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power in 1994. But democracy? No way.
HAMILTON: Haiti is not Sweden. You can build democracy in Sweden. We've not been able to build democracy in Haiti. And it's only a few miles away from us.
MORTON: Japan and Germany after World War II? Yes.
DALLEK: But they're so different from Iraq. You know, Japan and Germany had a sense of homogeneous societies. Not the kind of ethnic and religious divides you find in Iraq.
MORTON: The U.S. invaded the Dominican Republic in 1965; restored President Joaquin Balaguer to power but few would argue democracy has taken hold there.
South Vietnam, the U.S. backed a series of leaders, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was the first but none won popular support and the communists conquered Saigon in 1975.
Building democracy isn't easy. HAMILTON: It's awfully hard in American foreign policy to stay focused on one country. Just because there's so many crises that come along. And I often ask myself the question, whether my former colleagues in the Congress, five years from now for example, will vote $5, $6 billion a year for Iraq. I doubt if they would.
MORTON: President Woodrow Wilson said World War I would make the world safe for democracy.
DALLEK: Well, here it is, 2003. And this was back in 1917 Wilson was predicting that. And we've come nowhere near close to it.
MORTON: Changing regimes is painful but the United States over the years has been good at it. Growing democracy is much harder. And the U.S. hasn't been as good at that.
Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.
BROWN: We'll take a break and when we talk with Chris Dickey, the Mid East bureau chief for "Newsweek" magazine about democracy and more. We'll break now.
BROWN: Chris Dickey is the Mideast bureau chief for "Newsweek," he's been with us before and he joins us again from Amman.
Chris, good to have you with us. How do you think governments in your part of the world are reacting today? Have they been nervous by the new American foreign policy?
CHRIS DICKEY, MIDEAST BUREAU CHIEF, "NEWSWEEK": Oh, I think the governments are very nervous. I think they'll be nervous if this project starts to work, and I think they'll be nervous if it starts to fail. I don't think there's really anything that will calm them down right now. They're just trying to ride with the tide at the moment. And hope for the best as far as they're concerned.
BROWN: Their nervousness if it succeeds is what?
DICKEY: Well, look, if this project succeeds in Iraq, you really will change the Middle East, probably very much for the better, but it will be tremendously threatening to all its neighbors.
Iraq has everything going for it if you can hold it together and make it democratic. Water, oil, arable land, good population, very smart, not too many, not too few of them. And if you add to that a workable democracy, it is a powerhouse in the region, it transforms the region and threatens all the dictatorships around it.
BROWN: They worry that they'll fall? That they'll be next in one-way, shape, or form?
DICKEY: Well, that's right. I mean that's a sort of ideal scenario from an American point of view is that Iraq leads by example. The other fear of course, is that it will descend into chaos and the regimes will be threatened all around the region by the terrorism and chaos that emerges from a fractured Iraq. And I would say realistically, that is what most of them are most concerned about.
BROWN: I was interested; you said to one of our staff today, that there might be a sense of humiliation in the Arab world by the events of today. What did you mean by that?
DICKEY: Well, there is a sense of humiliation. There's a sense among Arabs that they are constantly putting their faith in the wrong people for the wrong reasons. I mean before this war started, people had basically forgotten about Saddam Hussein. They didn't think he was powerful, they didn't think he was just. They certainly thought he was evil in many cases.
But when the war started and he stood up to the west for a couple of weeks, all of a sudden there was all this misplaced enthusiasm and support for him. Somebody was standing up to the super power. Now he's gone again. They're going to write him off like a bad check. But what lingers with them is a sense of humiliation. We screwed up again, we backed the wrong guy again, we're colonized again, occupied again. And that's the source of all the anger out here, or most of it.
BROWN: Twenty seconds or less, was there also some sense of joy at looking at the pictures today?
DICKEY: Not outside Iraq. I think among the Iraqis and especially among the Shias in Iraq there was.
BROWN: Chris, good to have you with us. Thank you as always. Christopher Dickey, the Mid East bureau chief for "Newsweek" magazine.
We're going to join "CNN INTERNATIONAL" for the rest of the morning. They'll carry you the rest of the way.
It's one of those mornings where it's hard to know where things are going to go. There is some gunfire in the air. There is still clearly some danger out there. On the other hand, Baghdad is a very different city and the country of Iraq is a very different place than the one we left you with 24 hours ago.
We'll see you again tomorrow.
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