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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

CNN Examines War in Iraq

Aired April 12, 2003 - 12:36   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Amid all of the tensions, all of the fallout from the war in Iraq, President Bush is cautioning Syria about the situation in Iraq. White House Correspondent Dana Bash is joining us now live. Dana, tell us what's happening.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, that's right. The President had some pretty strong words yesterday before he left for Camp David about Syria, making clear that he does hope that they understand that they cannot be harboring any senior Iraqi leaders. It was pretty strong language from the President.

But now, he is at Camp David for the weekend. He will be there through tomorrow. He's there -- been there every weekend since this war began.

But meanwhile, back in here Washington, across the street at the Blair House, there has been a very important meeting going on this morning with the President's Treasury Secretary, John Snow and Alan Greenspan, the Fed chairman, with members of the G-7 finance ministers, trying to discuss -- figure out and discus what to do financially about Iraq after the fighting stops.

The thing that they discussed, according to a Treasury spokesman, is the need to have dialogue about the very sticky issue of Iraqi debt. The Iraqis do owe large sums of money, nobody knows how exactly much, to countries of France and Germany and Russia and others. The U. S. hopes that those countries will forgive that debt, and that money can be helped to go -- pay for -- reconstruction of Iraq.

And the other issue they talked about is trying to hunting down Saddam Hussein's assets around the world. That's another figure that nobody knows how much it is, even where it is.

But lastly, they also discussed the fact that there will be a UN resolution. They will back a UN Security Council resolution to deal with Iraq economically. Unclear exactly what that resolution will say, what exactly they will seek, but they did broadly discuss that they will go to the UN to deal economically with Iraq.

Aside from that, domestically, Wolf, there is another big economic issue happening in terms of the President. That is his tax cut. Of course, he asked for a $726 billion tax cut a couple of months ago. Yesterday, the U. S. Congress passed a budget which allowed for $500 billion.

But in the Senate, they slashed it even further. Senator Charles Grassley, the finance chairman, very well respected, went on the Senate floor and made a promise that he would not let a tax cut get through that's more than $350 billion. That was a concession to some of the moderate Republicans.

The White House, as you can imagine is not very happy about that. The President is saying he's going to do what he can to make the tax cut larger. This is really causing a major schism between the Republicans, even on Capitol Hill and certainly between the moderate Republicans in the Senate and the White House. So, that is a problem that the President has in terms of his domestic economic agenda. Wolf?

BLITZER: Dana, thanks very much. Dana Bash, our reporter at the White House, appreciate it very much.

Let's move now back to the war here in the Gulf, in the Persian Gulf, specifically northern Iraq. CNN's Ben Wedeman has just returned from the city of Mosul, and he is joining us now live from neighboring Irbil. What's happening up north right now -- Ben

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, we went to Mosul today. Situations very unstable, very uncomfortable. A lot of nervous people, a lot of upset people.

Now, despite that, the city does seem to be slowly recovering from this orgy of looting yesterday. Hundreds, probably thousands of people went on a rampage. Now, when we went there this morning, there were still several key buildings on fire in addition to an oil storage facility that was sending a huge cloud of black smoke over the city.

Now, today the looting does seem to have tapered off a bit. We saw scattered incidents of it. But one of the why it's tapered off is that local people, basically took matters into their own hands. They set up road blocks They're manning those road blocks with knives, with clubs, with guns. It's very disconcerting when you're driving through this city in shambles, and you come across these fairly chaotic road blocks manned by people who are very angry. Nonetheless, fortunately nothing happened to us at least.

Now, when we spoke to the people of Mosul, a lot of anger there as well. Now some people very angry at Saddam Hussein, calling him a dictator. Somebody who deprived them of the wealth of Iraq and tortured and imprisoned thousands of people.

But there are other people who are still loyal to the Iraqi president. We have to remember that Mosul is a predominantly Arab Sunni city that has been loyal, by and large, to Saddam Hussein throughout the years. But some of the people were angry, for instance, that Saddam Hussein had abandoned them after all his rhetoric of defiance heard in the weeks and months that preceded the war.

Also, a good deal of anger at the United States for allowing their Kurdish allies, the Peshmerga, to come into the city. And they -- many of the people said the Kurds were behind a lot of the looting that we saw yesterday coming from there. Now, order at this point is being maintained to certain extent by this Kurdish force of several hundred in addition to a much smaller force of U. S. troops. Now, we did see three cars with American soldiers in them. They had a loud speaker on top announcing in Arabic that the coalition forces had arrived and would try to restore order. But it's still seems, Wolf, that there's a long way to go before they can actually achieve that.

BLITZER: Ben Wedeman reporting from northern Iraq. Ben, thanks very much.

The widespread looting and general anarchy has left many of Iraq's cities simply ransacked. The International Committee of the Red Cross says medical care has been especially undermined, as we see in this report from James Mates in Baghdad.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMES MATES, ITN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The worst of the fighting may be over in Baghdad, but battle casualties, many if not most, civilian continue to be rushed into the city's main hospital. They are brought here in the belief they'll get medical care. What they find is primitive, basic, dirty. Care in name only.

Most of the hospital staff have been too frightened or simply unable to get to work. Those who are here are struggling with limited power and water and a dwindling supply of drugs.

They rely on relatives to do the most basic tasks. This child holding a drip for his wounded sister. With just one anesthetist, the operating theater works only intermittently. These patients are lying in a corridor waiting for amputations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her limb is all crushed. So, it is also waiting for amputation. Amputation and now she is bleeding. You know, the dressing now is wet. It is all wet with blood.

MATES: Lots of blood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

MATES: Doctor Fadibanam (ph) takes us from patient to patient. This man's arms smashed by shrapnel. Boiling with frustration at how little he is able to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She want to have the operation (INAUDIBLE), but in a bad condition. Later on, a few hours later, this morning she just died.

MATES: She was just six years old. Zanar Karif (ph) is still alive but only kept so by the unrelenting efforts of her family. For 36 hours now, they have kept air in her lungs by squeezing this bag.

MATES (on camera): What we have seen today bears only the faintest resemblance to a hospital, and yet the staff here assured me this is the best that Baghdad has to offer, which is why however little they can do for anybody in these filthy, primitive conditions, people keep on coming here.

MATES (voice-over): We wondered, therefore, how bad things must be elsewhere. The presence of a U. S. tank outside should have given us a clue because the Americans are protecting this hospital. Where there are no troops, we found this, the Olympia Hospital in downtown Baghdad stripped bare by looters.

They were still there when we arrived, shamelessly grabbing a few final items. Two young boys even removing the light bulbs. An air conditioning unit was proving stubborn, but it would soon be gone. The Red Cross here are furious the Americans have not stepped in prevent this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We consider that it is the duty of the occupying power to do so. And we hope that they will be in a position to actually protect activity and medical activity and access to medical facilities.

MATES: If they are angry, many ordinary Iraqis are angry, too. Sights like this are not going to win hearts and minds.

James Mates, ITV News, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And this important development happening right now in Washington, D. C. The House of Representatives has just passed an $80 billion supplemental budget proposal that would provide President Bush with what's being described as a down payment to pay for this war in Iraq, as well as increased expenditures for homeland defense counter terrorism, as well as some additional funds to help bail out the airline industry.

Eighty billion dollars -- the Senate passed the identical piece of legislation on Friday. It now goes to the President's desk. He is expected to sign it very soon. Eighty billion dollars, a down payment, largely to pay for the war in Iraq.

CNN special overage of the war in Iraq will continue with our military analyst, Retired Air Force Major General Don Shepperd.

We will take a close look at the place where Saddam Hussein might be making his last stand if, indeed, he's still alive. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(VIDEO GAP)

MAJOR GENERAL DON SHEPPERD, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: ... and the Turks have sent liaison officers. It's important to keep the Turks and the Kurds separated here. And that leads down to Tikrit where, as you say, could be a final battle, a last stand, if you will, of Saddam loyalists. This is home country for Saddam in this area. Ba'ath party, a heavy Tikriti clan and tribes in this area. But we don't know if there's going to be a battle or if, indeed, it will just melt away because all of this area is being hit hard by coalition air power.

Further off over here in al Qaim on the Euphrates River, Special Forces went in there today into a phosphate factory, a training factory, an air defense headquarters, and they found two drones in that area but have closed off an important exit into Syria on the Euphrates River.

The story in the south down here is the Fourth Infantry Division lead elements across the border into Iraq and are moving north. That allowed the 82nd Airborne to continue clearing rear area security here, the 101st Airborne to move into Baghdad and free up the Third Infantry Division, and the Marines to move north into Tikrit if, indeed, there is a final battle. But there are a lot of battle and cleaning up to be done between Baghdad and Tikrit and perhaps in Tikrit, Wolf.

BLITZER: What about the search, General, for POWs? I know this is the highest priority for the Marines, for the Army, the Navy, Air Force. They want to find those American POWs. I think there are five officially listed as POWs. There are others listed as MIAs. There was great disappointment, they went to that one prison where they suspected the POWs might be held outside of Baghdad. They weren't there. What can you tell us about that?

SHEPPERD: Wolf, I can tell you it's the highest priority of every serviceman involved in this theater right now. Whoever has information, if they bring it to the U. S. forces, it would curry great favor. It's the very highest priority for the U. S. forces.

BLITZER: General Shepperd, as usual, thanks very much for your analysis. I can tell you from speaking with U. S. Military personnel here on the ground and the Gulf, nothing, nothing is higher than finding those POWs and MIAs.

One journalist makes his way from Saddam Hussein's hometown to Baghdad. When we come back, we'll see the journey through his lens.

We're bringing you complete coverage of the war on Iraq on CNN. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: CNN photographer, David Turnley, has made the trip from northern Iraq to Baghdad. Turnley documented the trip with his camera. He's joining us now live from the Iraqi capital to share some of his experiences through his photographs. David, thanks very much. Talk about this first picture that you took and tell us what it is.

DAVID TURNLEY, CNN PHOTOJOURNALIST: Wolf, we started yesterday from the northern front on the eastern side of the country. It's a rural setting, very much like being in the middle of Kansas. And this first photograph was a young shepherd with his flute leading sheep down the road.

We continued south, and things changed. For quite some time, we would go through towns, and we were treated as if we had been the liberators. It was actually a bit embarrassing. We saw cheering crowds when they would see us. We'd photograph them. They were clearly exhilarated by the turn of events. We got a bit further south, and suddenly we encountered on the side of the road apparently what people were saying were Iranian Mujahideen, who were firing on people passing through.

A man was brought in an Army jeep who had been shot in the chest four times. We took care of his wounds, got them sealed, got them bandaged with my colleague, Pete Hornet (ph), and got him in a truck and got him raced to a hospital.

We then continued south. We got about an hour of north of Baghdad when we hit a town called al Kalas (ph). As we were driving through town, I suddenly realized there was something different. The murals on the walls of Saddam Hussein had not bee defaced, as they had in previous towns. People were not smiling. They were not cheering. We suddenly realized we were in the middle of a town that had not been liberated.

We pulled up behind a cue of automobiles, and suddenly about 20 men with AK-47s appeared with Iraqi flags around their -- over their shoulders -- and opened fire on our vehicle. It was a scene out of a bad movie. We had to basically jam it down the highway with a foot to the pedal and dodge automobiles.

We got south of the town, and we realized we were in probably not a good situation because we assumed that everything else would be the same further south. We then got a navigator and realized that, in fact, there were no more towns below this town all the way to Baghdad.

It was a straight shot, 40 kilometers the south. We hit the northern suburbs of Baghdad where we could see on the horizon buildings on fire. And then we ran into a contingent of U. S. Marines. As we entered town, we saw people with their belongings on their -- carrying their belongings on their head.

Today has been another story. I've seen scenes of looting, we went to a marketplace, and everyone has a message they want to send. Wolf?

BLITZER: David Turnley, not only are you a great photo journalist, but you are a very courageous photojournalist. We are going to show our viewers some more of your stunning pictures. Thanks so much for sharing some of our experiences. Thanks very much.

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