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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

U.S. Carries Out Another Leadership Strike

Aired April 10, 2003 - 23:00   ET

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

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. I'm Heidi Collins in the CNN newsroom. Here's what's happening at this hour.
U.S. Central Command says it carried out another strike aimed at Iraq's leadership. This time, it was in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, where Saddam's adviser and half-brother was believed to be living. Whether he still is remains unclear.

In the hunt for other Iraqi leaders, U.S. Marines killed, captured, and wounded several Iraqi paramilitary and other fighters. The Marines were investigating a reported meeting at a mosque when they came under fire. Twenty-two Marines were injured, one died.

A dramatic example today of the kind of threat still present in Baghdad. A man strapped explosives to his body, walked up to a U.S. checkpoint, and blew himself up. Four Marines were seriously wounded and were flown out of Baghdad for treatment.

Preventing Iraq's former leaders fleeing into Syria is the U.S. Army's job, not Syria's. So says Imad Mustafa (ph), Syrian deputy ambassador to the U.S. He tells CNN the U.S. Army controls Iraq's border with Syria and can decide who crosses. He declined to say whether Syria might offer Saddam Hussein or his lieutenants a safe haven.

The Red Cross and World Health Organization are voicing concern about possible health crises in Iraq. The possible causes, not just warfare but looting and shortage of food and medicine. Basic health services may also be in jeopardy, because staffers are afraid to leave home and go to work.

To other news now. Russian officials say 106 children remain hospitalized after yesterday's fire that killed 28 of their fellow students at a southern Russian boarding school for deaf children. The children were unable to hear instructions from rescuers who went from bed to bed trying to save them.

Those are the headlines at this hour. Now back to Aaron Brown and more coverage of the war in Iraq -- Aaron.

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Heidi, thank you.

And we'll begin our portion of the hour with a portrait of Baghdad in all the day's complexities. British reporter John Irvine toured the city and found plunder and payback and very cautious acts of public relations.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN IRVINE, ITV NEWS (voice-over): Getting acquainted. Very deliberately, the U.S. Marines are trying to strike up a rapport with the people who are now their responsibility.

But there are still problems bringing control to Baghdad, particularly at nighttime. In the pitch black of a city without power, these soldiers manning a roadblock became nervous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), stop, back up!

IRVINE: When a car fails to stop, it's the cue for a violent gun battle. Bullets are sprayed everywhere.

In parts of Baghdad that the Americans haven't yet reached, there has been looting. This man took the horse from a stable at the home of Uday Hussein, Saddam's eldest son. We found the house a large, gaudy structure, a place that just a few days ago people don't even look at for fear of their lives.

This indeed was one of Uday's homes. Here the ruling family could look out over the Tigris.

People have wasted no time clearing the house and wrecking what couldn't be easily taken.

(on camera): They haven't quite worked out just how to reach this chandelier yet, but other than that, they have stripped this place bare in less than 24 hours. Call it plunder, if you will, or perhaps payback.

(voice-over): These Iraqis were rifling a home of a senior member of the Mukabarat (ph), Saddam's dreaded secret police. It also seemed to be some kind of monitoring station. There was sophisticated equipment here.

In the basement, we found burning archives and evidence of electronic surveillance. This had been a nerve center for spying, a place from where the bully boys kept tabs to keep control.

(on camera): We're now in the bowels of a secret police monitoring station. Look at all this gadgetry. Quite sinister, really, part of the apparatus of Big Brother.

(voice-over): These people are stealing from a shopping center. It has become widespread, but it's not being done with total impunity. These thieves are trying to flee the German embassy, having been shot at by a guard.

John Irvine, ITV News, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Someone at CENTCOM today said that Baghdad is an ugly city. The pictures seem to support that.

Jason Bellini has gone wherever the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit has gone. The 15th's in Baghdad, which means Jason is as well.

It's good to see you.

JASON BELLINI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good to see you, Aaron.

So far, it's a quiet and beautiful Baghdad morning here. The streets are not yet teeming with people, as they surely will be if it's anything like yesterday.

But last night, the Marines got a very painful warning that they cannot grow complacent dealing with the people here. A suicide attacker detonated himself right at one of their checkpoints, injuring four of them very badly.

One of the things we're looking for today, Aaron, one of the things that was talked about in your last report, was this looter situation, which is an enormous problem. As we were coming into the city yesterday, we saw them.

And we saw them in Nasiriya, and now we see them here, many of them outside of government buildings. They will take every -- they'll take anything they can get their hands on. We see people loading up trailers with furniture, people taking the light bulbs from the ceilings, just about anything that they can get their hands on.

One of the commanders that I spoke with with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, I asked him about the looting situation. And his answer to me was a little surprising. He said, Let them have some of this stuff. They've been robbed their entire lives for the last 30 years by the Saddam -- by Saddam's regime. Let them take what is theirs.

That was their response -- that was his response. But it's a growing problem, and it's going to make it all that much more difficult, of course, for them to rebuild this country, for them to get government back into business, Aaron.

BROWN: Jason, do the Marines you're with have any interest at all in being police officers right now?

BELLINI: It's a good question. Now, we've disembedded from our Marines. They are now continuing to do their work, which is effectively policing.

And for the moment, they are OK with it, because it's still a rather exciting enterprise. They are being told by people where there are still arms caches, and they are finding enormous arms caches everywhere they go.

It's slowing down their policing work, because every two steps they take, they are told of another arms cache, and they have to go do -- they have to go investigate, they have to look -- they have to consolidate the armaments, and then make arrangements to destroy them.

That's been an ongoing enterprise with Nasiriya and now here. In fact, last night, we heard loud explosions. I went to the window of the hotel room here, looked outside, and saw this big explosion, big fire. Turned out, as we found out later, that it was them detonating more of these explosives.

It can be kind of scary, and you hear the bullets, you know, rattling away. It's just bullets they are blowing up.

BROWN: Jason, thank you. And thank you for your good work over the last three weeks. We're proud of you. Thank you very much. Jason Bellini, who made it to the Marines to Baghdad and told some terrific stories along the way.

From Baghdad, the main road leads north to Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit.

If the war was won in Baghdad, it may come to an end there, but many expect not without some difficulty.

CNN senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre following this and the rest of the day's developments from his post at the Pentagon.

And Jamie joins us tonight.

Jamie, good evening.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Aaron.

Well, the war is still in full swing in the north of Baghdad, even as there's sporadic fighting in the city. The U.S. is pounding the area around Tikrit with air strikes and also launching limited special operations, operations on the ground, all to try to prepare the battlefield for what is apparently shaping up as the potential last battle of the war in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE (voice-over): A day after the Pentagon warned the toppling of a statue of Saddam Hussein did not mean the war was over, Baghdad can seem deceptively calm, birds chirping in one spot, while bullets fly a few blocks away.

As Baghdad remains unsettled, U.S. military planners are focusing on Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, 90 miles to the north, which could be his Baath Party's last stand.

GEN. DAN CHRISTMAN (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Thanks to these investments that Saddam has made in that city, have made Saddam himself both popular and, in many respects, the boy of Tikrit. They're -- the population there, very, very loyal to him.

MCINTYRE: The Pentagon says the remnants of a Republican Guard division, as well as the last significant formations of regular Iraqi forces, are in the north, and could fight to the death.

MAJ. GEN. STAN MCCHRYSTAL, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: But I think we are prepared to be very, very wary of what they may have, and prepared for a big fight.

MCINTYRE: Once Baghdad is secure, the U.S. can squeeze Tikrit from all sides, using troops in the north from the 173rd Airborne Brigade backed by armor flown in just this week. And from the south, commanders can call on U.S. troops now in Baghdad or fresh reinforcements from Kuwait.

MCCHRYSTAL: The 4th Infantry Division is largely flown into Kuwait now. On very short order, they'll be ready to start flowing north. So it gives us even more options, either to use the forces in the vicinity of Baghdad, to use forces from the north, or some combination, which is, in the end, probably what will happen.

MCINTYRE: As it did before taking Baghdad, the U.S. has been using air strikes to pave the way. This photograph shows a strike against a Republican Guard barracks near Tikrit, and this sprawling complex was a VIP guest house the U.S. says was being used for command and control.

CHRISTMAN: So a very, very important battle unfolding. The final center of gravity, the final phase of this campaign, critical to the successful execution of this entire campaign.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: Other thing that's critically important to the execution of this campaign is accounting for or taking out or capturing the senior leaders, including Saddam Hussein. Tonight the Pentagon launched another strike targeting a senior regime leader, this time Saddam Hussein's half-brother, who was believed to be living in a house about 55 miles west of Baghdad.

Again, satellite-guided bombs were called in, six of them delivered on the building. At the same time the intent was to kill Barzun Ibrahim Hassan al-Tikriti (ph), again, a half-brother and a presidential adviser to Saddam Hussein, Aaron.

BROWN: Is there any concern that the momentum of the last week or so, a little more than a week, actually, will be lost while they wait for the 4th Infantry to get from Kuwait into Iraq?

MCINTYRE: I don't think so. I think because they believe they have the option of even breaking off some forces that are already in Baghdad and bringing more forces in from the north. This whole military strategy has been an opportunistic one that is based on taking advantage of breaks as they come. And so far they have shown an amazing ability to be able to do that.

BROWN: Jamie, thank you. Senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre tonight.

To Basra now in the south, where British forces are doing what U.S. forces are trying to do in Baghdad, struggling to keep civil control. It's a job we wouldn't wish on anyone, being a soldier, a diplomat, a beat cop, all at the same time. Here's a look at things from Bill Neely of ITV. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL NEELY, ITV NEWS (voice-over): You're watching the impossible, or at least it would have been last week. "Down with the Baath Party," they chant. Saddam's men would have shot them within five minutes. Now Saddam's men are no more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Government of the president Saddam Hussein is go from my country, that all the people is very happy.

NEELY: Saddam's men are no more, and his yacht is no more. This was his presidential palace at sea, or the place for his helicopter to land. It had every luxury, until this week, when the people of Basra looted and burned it.

(on camera): Even a few days ago this would have been unthinkable, because for 30 years here in Iraq, Saddam has been untouchable. Now his ship, like his power, is destroyed. And only the man himself still evades the fury of his people.

(voice-over): Fury, barely controlled.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stay. Get up. Stay on there.

NEELY: A very young female soldier trying to stop an Iraqi mob from robbing a bank. The whole unit was having a hard time.

But they are catching looters, catching thieves, and catching robbers. These five tried to steel an ambulance. They are finding weapons, lots of them, of every kind except one, weapons of mass destruction. Remember that? Not a single one has yet been found.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't comment on the intelligence which led the States to believe that they had it, but there is some time to go, I think, before it will be found, and I believe it will be.

NEELY (on camera): And the other hunt, of course, is the hunt for Saddam Hussein and the hunt for members of his regime. Are you still part of that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

NEELY (voice-over): The Royal Marines are now beginning a slow pullback through the south they captured and out and back to Britain in a month. They lost not a single man in combat. Theirs has been a huge success. They decimated the Iraqi army that faced them.

Rebuilding Iraq will be tougher. Water, democracy, freedom, and responsibility -- tough tasks for a poor, shattered country. A hard road ahead.

Bill Neely, ITV News, Basra.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Well, it's poor in some respects, but it is also quite wealthy in others. It has a lot of oil, Iraq does.

Quickly to General Clark. Does your instinct tell you that there will, in fact, be a battle of Tikrit?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It's really hard to call that, but, yes, I think there will be fighting in Tikrit. And I only base that on the fact that we haven't seen any movement out. We haven't seen any effort on the part of the Iraqi forces there to come and surrender. We've lost sight of the Iraqi leadership.

Yes, I think those are indicators that point to a fight for Tikrit.

BROWN: And is it a big battle? Is it -- I mean, what is the dimension of the battle, then?

CLARK: You're asking me to go way out on a limb for an old commander who doesn't have any intelligence officer. But, Aaron, I guess my instinct would tell me that it's going to be a very brittle Iraqi defense there, that it may fire some rounds, it may put up a strong front, but after getting clobbered a couple of times by the forces, it's going to collapse quickly there as well.

BROWN: Do you suspect that there is still in -- these forces still have lead -- you know, officers, senior officers, leading them?

CLARK: I guess in some cases they must. But no one knows exactly who is in charge. At least, they are not making it clear, or what's motivating the continued resistance.

BROWN: I mean you were the general. I was just the seaman in all of this. But if I know that the capital's been taken, I know that the south has been taken, I know that essentially the war has been lost, I'm not really that eager to go to war.

CLARK: Well, that's the theory. I mean, this is not a state that is full of fanatics, at least that was the thought. But is there something known as Arab nationalism or Iraqi nationalism that would be such a powerful force that people would resist an outsider? Certainly in the culture of Islam, over a period of time, that's been the case. According to public figures, some 5,000 Syrians came to lay down their lives in Iraq.

So there's something out there beyond Saddam Hussein. How strong it is, how much it will push these forces to hang together and resist the Americans, not clear yet. But I think there will be a fight.

BROWN: General, thank you. We'll be back to you, and we'll be back to you as well. We need to take a break first. Our coverage continues in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Simon Robinson of "TIME" magazine is on the phone talking for a minute or two here. Simon, we've seen all these pictures of looting. But pictures can be a little deceiving sometimes. How widespread? Over how much of the city does this seem to be going on?

SIMON ROBINSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE (on phone): Well, it seems to follow wherever the Americans -- when they push through and clear an area, the looters follow. Sometimes it's fairly kind of industrious looting, and sometimes it's much more low key, and people will just walk in and take whatever they can find from offices or -- it does seem to apply to both private property and government buildings.

The most kind of enthusiastic looting, I guess, is of Baath Party headquarters, and anything to do with the government. But also some private companies are being hit. And obviously that's a problem for the people who are in that or (UNINTELLIGIBLE), especially if it's houses or...

A lot of Iraqis left parts of Baghdad when the fighting was bad, or when the bombing was bad, and they moved out into the countryside. They are now coming home, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in some cases, they are coming home to find property has been taken.

BROWN: Is it, from your view, a more dangerous city to be in now...

ROBINSON: I think it's becoming safer. I think that it's becoming safer. It's very difficult to tell. Last -- yesterday, there was sniper fire through the day in the area in the east around which the Marines have secured. So obviously still dangerous from that perspective. And as we've heard, there was a suicide attack on a Marine position last night, which injured four Marines.

So it's still a lot of dangers, but overall, compared to a few days ago, I would say that it is becoming safer.

BROWN: Just in 30 seconds, not so much from the military standpoint, but just as you walk the streets of Baghdad, is it a safer city today than the day before?

ROBINSON: People are out on the street, but they're still worried and they are still scared. They are not sure that this -- the end has come. So -- and the fact that there are looters, ordinary Iraqis are worried about that, and worried that it might escalate into all-out civil chaos.

NEELY: Simon, thanks again. Simon Robinson of "TIME" magazine, who's in Baghdad on a Friday morning there.

There's an Arab proverb that says, Beware of answered prayers. This means that getting your heart's desire may prove to be as much of a curse as a blessing. More complicated, more difficult, with many more unforeseen circumstances than you could have possibly imagined.

We seem to have gotten what we wanted in Iraq, and maybe more than we wanted as well.

Here's CNN's Beth Nissan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BETH NISSAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are the signal themes of a regime change.

CHAPPELL LAWSON, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, MIT: We're seeing, first of all, tremendous jubilation at the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. We're also seeing a generalized breakdown of law and order, which could be followed by anarchy. Both of those events represent major challenges to the United States.

NISSAN: For many watching on television, these scenes signal an end or coming end to the war. But for American military and political leaders, they mark the crucial beginning of the daunting work ahead.

LAWSON: The first challenge is to restore some kind of law and order, some kind of public security, in the wake of total government collapse in Iraq.

NISSAN: That will not be easy, as the situation in the city of Basra proves. British troops have been in control there for several days, yet looting, civil unrest is still widespread.

In Baghdad, battle-weary U.S. troops now have the almost impossible task of functioning as combat units and as police, restoring order, and eventually as peacekeepers for a war-rattled civilian population. The military knows from experience, first-day jubilation doesn't always last.

LAWSON: We're seeing some reticence about the presence of the U.S. troops, some concerns that the United States might stay too long or might do things that aren't popular with the rest of the Iraqi people. Achieving a democratic government in Iraq could take years or even decades, while the pressure for the United States to withdraw could come in months or at most a couple years.

NISSAN: In other recent efforts at regime change, the U.S. has not always struck the right balance between getting out soon and getting the job done. Example, Haiti. After a threatened U.S. military invasion returned that country to civilian government in 1994, there were also scenes of jubilation, then unrest, which U.S. forces only partly quelled.

LAWSON: It was of only mixed success. The government in Haiti didn't survive in any democratic sense after the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

NISSAN: There were jubilant scenes in Afghanistan too, after a U.S.-led invasion last year removed the Taliban from power. But the U.S. has not committed enough troops over time to yet secure that fractured country.

LAWSON: Currently, the Afghan government controls only a portion of Kabul, and has really limited reach across the rest of the country. NISSAN: How quickly, how completely, and with what sensitivity the U.S. military establishes order in Baghdad and the rest of Iraq will determine so much -- how fast the U.S. can get humanitarian aid flowing, how soon the U.S. can secure the goodwill of the people, and when the U.S. can begin the long, hard work of helping the Iraqis build a free nation.

Beth Nissan, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: More now on the struggle to bring order and freedom to Iraq.

We're joined by Eric Schwartz of the Council on Foreign Relations. He's in Washington tonight.

It's good to have you with us.

Let me ask a small-picture question that may -- you may or may not be able to answer. If I wanted to buy a loaf of bread in Baghdad today, is there a currency that will be accepted?

ERIC SCHWARTZ, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: I don't know the answer to that question. But I think it's that -- it -- the question itself points up the basic issue of the critical importance of reestablishing some semblance of public security and stability in the postconflict environment.

BROWN: I mean the fact that we -- I mean, it is -- the fact that we ask the question in and of itself, I think, says what a mess the place is, what a mess the country is. Obviously, security is the first thing that has to be done. What's the second thing?

SCHWARTZ: Well, I would -- if I may, stick with security for a quick second...

BROWN: OK.

SCHWARTZ: ... because security is the enabler, public security is the enabler for so much else that needs to happen. And what that means is, for better or worse, U.S. troops and coalition troops will have to play the role not only of being -- of responding to military threats, but essentially responding to civil violence, and essentially playing the role of cops on the beat.

And that is a -- that's a responsibility that's going to go on for some considerable period of time, and it's going to be a responsibility that's going to involve thousands of American troops.

Where we go from there, it seems to me, is to begin to develop institution -- public security institutions in Iraq that can do the job for Iraqis. But that is not going to happen very quickly.

BROWN: Americans have a reputation, fair or not, of having a very short attention span in matters of -- overseas matters, at least. Does -- do you believe that the American people and the Congress, American political system, have the patience to commit the dollars and the time?

SCHWARTZ: I think it's an unanswered question right now. The jury is still out. But I think it is very important that the president, his administration, explain to the American people the rationale for a long-term U.S. engagement in postconflict Iraq, an engagement that may amount to a commitment of resources of $20 billion or more a year for several years, which would include U.S. peace stabilization deployments of 75,000 or more over time.

This is not going to be a situation that we're going to be able to get out of after several months. And if we want to have won the war, we really do have to win the peace.

BROWN: Mr. Schwartz, we appreciate your time tonight. Thank you, sir, very, very much. Eric Schwartz with us.

We'll take a break, update the day's headlines. And when we come back, proof there is still a war, a complicated war. Break first.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: We talk quit a bit about the fog of war. This next piece is about what's to the squad of Marines in the darkness of war. A checkpoint in Baghdad. Geoff Thompson of Australian Broadcasting filed the report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEOFF THOMPSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Baghdad's day of celebration can become another place by night. Fear of attack enough to make the Marines in this convoy point their weapons at any civilians who get too close. Vehicles too fast approaching are also in their sights.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get it back! Back! Back!

THOMPSON: Later, what could look like a wave from a car at night is backed up with a warning shot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (expletive deleted) back! Back up!

THOMPSON: But some civilians don't seem to be understanding the seriousness of these Marines' intent. Then this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back!

THOMPSON: Suddenly the Marines believe they are also under attack from the side.

After five minutes it's over and the convoy is away, and the young Marines seem a little confused as to what it was all about.

PFC. PATRICK PAYNE, U.S. MARINE CORPS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a tree right by us, I saw a round hitting the tree coming at us so I know for a fact there was Iraqis shooting at us.

CPL. JESSE MUSIC, U.S. MARINE CORPS: The tracers that was coming toward us were green and white tracers and we use red.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I saw flashes, I'll say that and I saw tracers, I don't know whether they were white or green, whatever color, I can't be certain of.

THOMPSON (on camera): It's impossible for Michael Cockseria (ph) to say exactly what happened during that firefight or whether it was a firefight at all. But we do know this, a civilian car approached quickly and was shot at and the occupants were almost certainly killed. We also saw Marines firing a lot of rounds across the street.

(voice-over): There were incoming tracers. These were American red.

(on camera): So it is possible that this fire was actually coming from other marines?

CPL. DAN CORRALES, U.S. MARINE CORPS: Oh, yes. That's something that we're going to look at very carefully.

THOMPSON (voice-over): As for the shot-up car it was carrying three Iraqi civilians, now dead.

CORRALES: I think if we killed three civilians that's pretty bad. And it's happened before and I hope it doesn't happen again.

THOMPSON: Such are the dangers of Baghdad by night.

This is Geoff Thompson in Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: General Clark, the fog of war indeed.

CLARK: It is. It's the difficulty in combat. These guys are under orders to protect themselves. They've got to do this. There's a lot of uncertainty in combat, especially at night. We saw the tracers come in. Yes, they were red. Some saw them as green and white. Maybe it was different tracers.

And hopefully the lessons learned here were they went back, they deaconflicted where other people were and they didn't forget about this and pull something out of it. But that's what war is.

BROWN: What struck me -- you've been through this on the ground. What struck me is the chaos in it all. Obviously adrenaline is pumping. People are trying to do what they're trained to do. They think they are being shot at. They must be somewhat afraid, also. Does it all play out in slow motion or does it all play out really fast?

CLARK: Well, you're very much conscious of it as it's going on and you'll remember every sensation and every instant and every fragment of thought as you replay it in your own mind. But when you're doing that, you're mostly observing it as your body does it. You're doing what you were trained to do and your body sort of takes over if you've had good training.

BROWN: It's hard -- I'm sure for anyone who hasn't been in it, it's hard to imagine what it must all be like. General, thanks. We'll get back to you in a bit.

Our pollsters -- we were interested last night in whether the country feels safer given the events of the last couple of days. We'll talk about that with Bill Schneider. We need to take a break first. Our coverage continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: ... bad guys. As we reminded our respondents of 500 people we spoke to tonight, there is belief in the United States that Iran and North Korea and Syria, each of them is either helping terrorists or attempting to develop weapons of mass destruction. Should the U.S. now go to war with them? And the answer is, as you can see, no, no, and no.

Only about a quarter of Americans are ready to expand the war to other countries, including those two others on the "axis of evil," North Korea and Iran. Peace, yes. The public supports a renewed effort to pressure the Israelis and the Palestinians for a peace agreement. Something Tony Blair has been pressing the Bush administration to do. This would be seen as a significant, positive result by Europeans and Arabs who have been critical of the war, and by anti-war Americans. I think it would soothe a lot of the resentment made from this war, both at home and abroad.

I would say that the United States right now is in an unprecedented position of influence in the world. If it can use that position to broker a new peace deal in the Middle East, I think it would be a bigger achievement for President Bush even than ending the regime of Saddam Hussein.

BROWN: It would be something if, in our lifetime, that happened, too.

SCHNEIDER: Well, you know, after the first Gulf War, there was significant steps toward peace, Madrid and Oslo, that didn't amount to anything, but there was a lot of progress, so we're going to be looking for the same thing now.

BROWN: Thank you, Bill. Bill Schneider with us tonight. We'll take a break. Our coverage continues in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Here's an example of how complicated things are in Iraq. Today, in the city of Najaf at a mosque known around the world, a well-known Shiite Muslim leader was shot and stabbed to death. It's not clear who killed him or precisely why. We do know, however, that the shock from his death was felt a long way from Najaf.

Here is CNN's Jamie Colby.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE COLBY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In Dearborn, Michigan, home to the country's largest Iraqi community, festivities celebrating the end of Saddam's regime where canceled when Shiite Muslims heard of Thursday's assassination of Cleric Sayed Majid al-Khoei in Iraq.

IMAN HUSHAM AL-HUSAINY, DIRECTOR, KARBALAA ISLAMIC CENTER: It's a great loss of a good, devoted spiritual leader, Sayed Majid al Khoei, bless his soul. But that loss is not only Shiite spiritual loss, it's the loss of the victory and loss of the liberation because that reflects how tragic, how fragile could be -- how fragile the victory could be.

COLBY: Two months ago, the beloved cleric game to Dearborn and recruited 12 men to return to Iraq to help rebuild. One of them was killed today along with the cleric.

Diaa Altamimi is worried. Though he was unharmed in today's violence, his brother was also with the cleric. It had been a sweet victory for Diaa Altamimi. Only 34, he suffered under Saddam Hussein's regime until he left during the 1991 failed uprising after the Gulf War.

DIAA ALTAMIMI: I was born in 1968, when Saddam took power in this year, and then Saddam he call the revolution people, we are born 1968, and then we've been all this life waiting for freedom.

COLBY: Diaa may only be 34, but he has already lived a lifetime.

ALTAMIMI: I've been in a refugee camp for four years. We have no life. We're just in a camp. We can't leave nowhere. We can't go. We have about 30 or 40 people...

COLBY: And it has been 12 years since he has seen his family in Iraq, and these days it is virtually impossible to contact them. As the father of three remembers those who have lost their lives, he says freedom in America has been a blessing. One he prays he will soon share with loved ones still living in Iraq.

Jamie Colby, CNN, Dearborn, Michigan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: More on the implications of this murder or assassination, it's not precisely clear what it was. With us now from Philadelphia, Trudy Rubin, who writes the world view column twice a week for the "Philadelphia Inquirer" -- glad to have you back with us.

TRUDY RUBIN, "PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER": Nice to be here. BROWN: Do you have a feel for what it was?

RUBIN: I think that this really was a big blow for American hopes for bringing democracy to Iraq. It's quite a serious thing. There's a great possibility that it was more than just a murder. The man who was killed, Sayed Majid al-Khoei was the son of a very famous ayatollah who died in the early '90s and who had a school of thought that believed in separation of mosque and state, and Sayed Majid came back to southern Iraq with the help of the Americans, and the idea was that he would help them identify leaders in the south, and that he would promote his father's school of teaching, which really was a school that believed that democracy could be coexistent with Islam, and that you would not have clerics ruling, as there were in Iran.

BROWN: This is one of the complicated realities of this moment. We know just in looking, for example, at Kuwait after the first Gulf War, that one of the things that happened in Kuwait is that the fundamentalists, because they were better organized politically, took advantage and are now more powerful than they were even before, and if Iraq is going to be a secular state, it needs clerics to sanction it that way, doesn't it?

RUBIN: Yes, it does, because Shi'a are the majority in Iraq. They make up 60 percent of the population, and they've been repressed, really, since the founding of the state. It's been controlled by Sunnis. Saddam Hussein is a Sunni.

And this is the first time that Shi'a have a chance to express themselves politically. And religion will play a part in that. And the school of religious thought, the cleric whose school of thought is followed the most closely will make a big difference in the way that the Iraqi political situation turns out.

BROWN: Do you suspect that at whatever point there actually is an election in Iraq, whether that's a year or two or five, who knows, that we'll see fundamentalists assume more power than they had in what was essentially a secular government of Saddam Hussein?

RUBIN: You won't see fundamentalist in the same way as you see them in Iran. However, the two schools of thought that are most in evidence here, Ayatollah Khoei school of thought carried on by his son was by far the one that was most conducive to promoting democracy and allowing it live side by side with Islam.

Now there's all kind of speculation about who might have been behind the murder of Sayed Majid. And I certainly don't have the answer but some people say it might have had to do with another ayatollah, Mohammed Bakarah Hakeem (ph) who was based in Tehran or maybe there was Iranian influence behind it. The Shi'a in Iraq are Arabs, they're not Persians but Iran might want to show that it still has to be taken into consideration, especially since the Americans have been making clear that they think Iran will and should have no influence.

BROWN: It struck me today that if it is something other than a random act of violence, it didn't take long. RUBIN: No, it didn't take long. There's also another point here. Saeed Majid was very courageous. He came in with American help. The Americans had hoped that he was going to be very influential in the south. And it raises the question if one associates openly with the Americans there is a risk there.

Just before he was killed, American and Western journalists were being brought in by the Marines and he was going to give a press conference advocating cooperation with the Americans and reconciliation. And that was the moment he died.

BROWN: Trudy, it's good to talk to you again. Nice to have you on the program. Thank you very much. Trudy Rubin of "The Philadelphia Inquirer." We'll take a break. Our coverage continues in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: The latest now in our series of still photographers. Tonight, the work of Jack Gruber who shoots for "USA Today." He's been traveling with an Army engineer battalion all the way from a dusty camp in Kuwait to an opulent palace of Saddam Hussein.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JACK GRUBER, PHOTOGRAPHER, "USA TODAY": I'm Jack Gruber, I'm photographer based out of San Francisco with "USA Today" newspaper and I'm embedded with the 3rd Infantry Division. But more importantly, the unit that I'm with is (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Task Force. It's called Speed and Power. And they're an armored unit.

So basically their mainstay is the M1A1 Abrams tank. These are a group of guys I've actually sort of been adopted by. They are the engineers with the task force. They the are the 11 Battalion Alpha Company. They are the ones that are always at the very start of it.

Meyers (ph) had his 23rd birthday, he blew out his birthday cake. And then a few hours later we were in suddenly chemical MOPP gear because of Scud alert and suddenly we were driving north to the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and going across into Iraq.

All those fires you see in the pictures will be artillery pieces or vehicles or armor personal carriers or tanks, Iraqi that have been destroyed.

The first bridge was really not a major objective. It was a big fight that just never went away. Most of the population moved out and it was clear and apparent that was Iraqi military now. It seemed like they were trying to stall on keep the tanks from coming.

Well what it turned out that had happened was that they had blown section of the bridge and the rest of the explosives had not gone off. There were many, many American soldiers that had lost their lives laying there along the road. They only stopped for fuel and to reload and a couple tactical pauses, and when they did that that's when the guys -- basically after driving for 24 hours, drivers would basically fall asleep in their seats.

Their next big mission was to head to the Karbala Gaffe. Everything has to travel through that one road (UNINTELLIGIBLE) tunnel. And it's a perfect place to be attacked. And if there was ever going to be a chance that chemical weapons were to be used against them by the Iraqi military, it was going to be there.

That is shot from the bunkers -- the Iraqi bunkers looking back down to where we had come from, Baghdad International Airport, I guess the crown jewel mission where the task force was to be the first and to point going into that airport.

And at almost all points of this journey these guys were always saying, you know what? We're the furthest north of anybody coming from the south. And every day you woke up knowing that no one else was ahead of you. These guys were always at the front of it. And it was pretty interesting at times knowing that there's nothing else but Iraq in front of you and no American forces ahead. So everything up there was your journey. You were going to take it.

The only time I felt a little skiddish or apprehensive was the day we finally got to the Baghdad International Airport. I actually was in the first Bradley to knock down a wall to go into the airport.

That's the memorial service for the 1st Sergeant Wilbur Davis (ph) and he was the driver that was driving with Michael Kelly, the journalist that was killed the night we were heading to the airport. That's on the airport grounds. All these guys, they are hardened individuals but they are really soft inside. Just tore them up.

Right now we're -- I'm sitting right next to a pool at Saddam Hussein's palaces near the Baghdad airport. This is basically our headquarters now. It's just like the San Diego Zoo. It's just huge and all these buildings and you have these big palaces. It's really absurd.

And there was one section, small section of the palace that was totally destroyed. I followed the squad up all these flights of stairs and they got to the top and had cleared everything and made their way to the very large balconies overhanging these bedrooms out of the top floor of the palace. And these guys got to the edge of the wall and looking down they saw their buddies down there in Bradleys that were securing the perimeter.

For a brief second this one soldier gave up his fingers and gave up a victory sign. And that was it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Jack Gruber shooting for "USA Today." Those are fabulous pictures.

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