CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Aired April 15, 2003 - 07:04 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIGADIER GENERAL VINCE BROOKS, CENTCOM SPOKESMAN: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.
Today is the 26th day since coalition forces entered Iraq to initiate Operation Iraqi Freedom, and we're moving ahead with our efforts to return Iraq to the Iraqi people.
Iraqis are gaining confidence in their safety from the previous regime and its oppression. The Iraqi people have gone beyond celebrating their newfound freedom to beginning to work with the coalition to repair the infrastructure, the government and public works in their country.
Even as we make daily progress, our men and women continue to make sacrifices. And as always, we remember the lives lost during this campaign and we extend our sympathies to their loved ones.
The focus of the coalition's operations in the last 24 hours has been on eliminating the remaining pockets of resistance, locating key regime leaders and increasing military contributions to humanitarian assistance.
Special Operations forces have been active in expanding security in the northern Iraq areas of Mosul, Irbil and Kirkuk. And you have seen those pointed out before. Again, just as a reminder, Mosul, Irbil and Kirkuk.
All the oil fields do remain secure in the north, and the oil well fire I reported yesterday has been extinguished. At this point, there are no burning oil wells in Iraq.
Special Operations forces met with tribal and local leaders in former regime strongholds to secure letters of compliance. That work is ongoing.
The cooperation by local populations is enhancing the activities of Special Operations forces, and in one case near Arupa (ph), off in the west, we found that our coalition forces were led to a group of three former regime death squad members that had infiltrated into the area, and it resulted in the capture of these three death squad members.
Humanitarian assistance is flowing also with the Special Operations forces, and this next video I'll show you shows some coalition Special Operations troops distributing supplies to a remote community in the west. And you've seen images like this over the last several days -- over many days, for that matter -- and there's always good, positive interaction, especially out in communities where the regime no longer has any influence whatsoever.
Direct-action missions are also ongoing throughout the country. These actions are intended to locate regime leaders and also to search former regime facilities. In our reconnaissance operation Special Operations Forces found 80 SA-2 or SA-3, surface-to-air missiles, hidden in a revetment within a ravine. And so, as we continue to move around in different areas, we find more and more vestiges of the regime and weapons, as well.
Coalition maneuver operations remain focused on increasing security in urban areas throughout Iraq, while also assessing and addressing humanitarian needs. We're seeing a steady decrease in looting and lawlessness as more communities organize themselves with coalition support.
The deliberate work of clearing sectors in Baghdad and Tikrit continued yesterday. Coalition forces regularly find large weapons and ammunition stockpiles with the assistance of the Iraqi people. In circumstances very similar to what I described in the finding of the surface-to-air missiles. In one example yesterday within Baghdad, 5th Corps forces found a weapons cache with 91 cases of TNT and plastic explosives, six homemade bombs, 23 cases of rocket-propelled grenades and then they were led by Iraqi people in the area to 10 small caches of ammunition and weapons in a different sector. And so, it's with the assistance of the Iraqi people that we find these different stockpiles, and it helps to remove some of the threats not only to our forces, but also to the Iraqi people.
While this important clearly work is ongoing, it also reminds us that there are still hazards lingering throughout the country of Iraq, and our coalition forces are active in improving the conditions throughout the country. Coalition forces are working closely with emerging leaders and religious leaders in several areas to assist the formation of local governmental structures.
In Diwaniyah, for example, local administrators are working to create a city council, get it started and get underway with local government. Two former generals in that same area have volunteered to organize a local police force, and they are being considered at this time. In the town of Karbala a local leadership council has formed. In al-Samawah a local police force has formed with over 150 volunteers.
Those were selected out of 1,500 that showed up for consideration.
So everywhere we see citizens becoming more active throughout all areas of Iraq in helping to restore order, and the coalition will continue to work very closely with them.
Electric power and water supply remain the key needs and they are also interrelated. In most cases, water capacity is limited by a lack of power. Power is limited by either destruction or some sort of mechanical malfunction of the power production plants. We have current assessments ongoing that indicate the restoration of power will also improve most of the other functions immediately. And so it remains one of our focuses.
Reestablishing electrical power in many communities has to be done in what we call a stepped process. As these photos show you, we have some recent efforts in An Nasiriyah, in the An Nasiriyah district, and they show that first we've got to secure areas before we can do additional work.
Coalition teams then conduct assessments to determine problems and the best solutions to the problems. And these assessments are often done in close cooperation with local experts and workers, as you see in this case meeting on the hood of a vehicle inside of a power plant.
I have some other examples of where we stand on restoring function in different urban areas. And this is something we track within the coalition headquarters and the subordinate commands on a daily basis in a number of regional areas, 26 different regional areas, looking at food, water, medical supply, governance, infrastructure as areas of consideration.
So as an example, currently the power station in An Nasiriyah is mechanically ready to resume function. However, it requires what is essentially a jump-start from another power grid in order to get the generators within it operational.
This jump start will happen, we believe, within the next several days, from Al Basra. The two of them are connected by power lines. The lines in fact are down right now, and when the lines have been restored and repaired between the two cities, power can move from Basra to Nasiriyah and begin the function there.
A similar process is ongoing in az-Zubayr, Al Samuwa (ph), Al Dinyaniah (ph), Al Hilla, Najaf, Karbala and of course Baghdad.
With the restoration of power comes the production of fresh water to meet the broadest humanitarian need. We have some images to show you water treatment work as well.
First, we reestablish the flow of fresh water through the existing Iraqi water systems, and this requires the same process of securing the sites first, making an assessment and then coordinating with local experts and workers. Through coalition and humanitarian efforts, the water supply in Umm Qasr and Safwan have been returned to their pre-war levels.
In those areas where we cannot quickly reestablish any existing systems, direct delivery of fresh water remains the chosen alternative. You can see holes in this one from combat damage. This is a water tower.
Water buffaloes you've seen distributed throughout the area.
They continue to provide a source of supply for people in communities, and they're restocked with fresh water as time goes on.
We also truck water to areas, including An Najaf (ph) and Karbala, at the current time, and also in the north. Kirkuk within the last few days has received over 700,000 liters of water, and they were able to distribute the first 35,000 just yesterday.
And this will continue until we've gotten to the point where the existing water structures have been restored and a permanent flow of water is reestablished.
A similar need is in medical. Our cooperation with communities is key to our daily successes in medical are. I have a video to show you of a coalition medical service support group with attached Navy doctors. And it also has an Iraqi doctor that you see at the beginning of this. Other civilians as well work with the coalition force at these military facilities to provide their support.
Let's go ahead and roll the tape.
Hundreds of Iraqis visit this particular facility daily, and they come in for a variety of treatments. Injuries that require a greater level of care are taken to the Tallil air field, and then they're evacuated to other locations. There's also a combat support hospital right there at Tallil that may be able to take care of additional needs.
Many of the medical care problems we see throughout Iraq are due to regime neglect or regime use of the hospitals as military centers. Today, five of the 11 hospitals in Basra, for example, are in need of significant repair as a result of combat damage, and also neglect.
But there are examples in other areas where hospitals are being restored to operational capability. In Baghdad, for example, there are two hospitals that have been secured by coalition forces, and they've been reported returned to service. Recently, a coalition group escorted a team from the Italian embassy to a hospital in Baghdad to deliver two generators and restore local power right there.
Hospitals are also open for treatment in An Najaf (ph). We also recognize, though, like in An Najaf (ph), that with the restoration of capability, there's often a need for medical resupply. These photos are of civil affairs units and Free Iraqi Forces delivering medical supplies to a village hospital near Ashottra (ph), and this is north of Nasiriyah.
In the northern cities of Irbil and Dahuk (ph), medical conditions are as they were before the war began. They're in pretty good shape there.
Finally, our maritime component continue their efforts to expand access to the inland ports within Iraq, and this enables the free flow of commercial vessels, as well as humanitarian supplies.
We've spoken before about the efforts focused in the Korabella (ph) from the northern Arabian Gulf into Umm Qasr. And that's the area right here where it ultimately ended up into the port of Umm Qasr. Work is currently ongoing north of that area into the yellow box to the point of az-Zubayr.
The next image shows you what is in our way at this point. Each one of these dots represents a derelict vessel. These are vessels that are no longer functional. In some cases they're partially sunken or completely sunken. In some cases, they're afloat but there's no owner. There are 36 of these derelict vessels between the port of Umm Qasr and the port of az-Zubayr. And our efforts are now ongoing to clear those out.
Each one of them has to be examined, removed of any potential demolitions or unexploded ordnance, cleared for mines in and around it, and the 16 that you see highlighted here have to be physically moved in order to create a channel into the port of az-Zubayr. This work is ongoing. It will be very important when it's completed.
The coalition will continue its military efforts in close cooperation with expert Iraqis and with various organizations to speed Iraq on its way to a stable future.
And with that, ladies and gentlemen, I'll take your questions.
QUESTION: Regarding fugitive regime leaders, there are reports now that some of them may have left Iraq to go into Syria and other countries. Is there a rewards program set up for every single member of the top 55? And also, do you have DNA of most of these regime leaders at CENTCOM.
BROOKS: There is a rewards program that's out there for information that would lead to the capturing or even clarifying the condition of those leaders and others. People that have knowledge of the weapons of mass destruction program, for example, may be rewarded if they provide information about that program.
So it's not just about individuals. It's about a variety of things that are of interest to us. People that might have information about terrorist activities inside of Iraq and connections to terrorist organizations, there can be some rewards there. There may be some rewards also for turning in of weapons.
And so there are a number of things that remain available to us to provide enhancements and enticements to those with information.
I don't want to comment on exactly what forensic material we have. Frankly, I don't know the full scope of what we have. I do know that we have some capability and we'll bring that capability to bear when we have someone we want to confirm. Whatever that happens to be, whether it's forensic information at that site that would link any remains found with a specific individual, or whether it's other sources of information that might be made available to us out there, anything we can make use of, we will make use of to get positive confirmations in each case that's reported.
QUESTION: You mentioned the process of rebuilding in Iraq, and obviously it's going to be important to get people to come back to many of the old jobs they occupied before. But given that a lot of those will have been Baath Party members, what's the cut-off point? What would exclude someone from your wanting them to be involved in the rebuilding work?
And the second question is about DNA. You've mentioned you've got Saddam Hussein's DNA. Do you also have Bashar al-Asad's DNA?
BROOKS: Let me first comment on the rebuilding efforts. We know that it's going to be a very deliberate process, and it's one that will also entail a degree of risk. And this is something we think has to be done in order to get the Iraqi people back to work.
Many of the structures were extended appendages of the Baath Party, and we're certainly well aware of that. I don't know that we have a fixed cut-off line. I would not say that we have a fixed cut- off line as to who's OK and who's not.
I think we have to use good judgment as we get information about specific individuals. We certainly know that anyone that's in the top 55 would not be acceptable for any service in the future, and there are others as well that we believe were strongly associated with the activities of the regime throughout time, not just during this operation. We'll have to rely heavily on what the population tells us about these individuals and we'll also have to rely on any additional information we may have about individuals, but the bottom line is Iraqis need to go back to work.
The things that were functional as appendages of the Baath regime we'll keep in place. So, for example, the distribution of food from the oil-for-food program, parts of that program were extended from parts of the Baath Party. It was a functional distribution system. There's value in using it. Some of the port workers may have been paid by the Baath Party. We need to get them back to work to run the port. They won't be paid by the Baath Party anymore. So I think we'll use good judgment on that as well as we can.
And again, on DNA, I don't know who all we have DNA on. I don't have that level of knowledge. And so, I wouldn't comment on who we may or may not have at this point.
QUESTION: We have seen the pictures of the looting and destruction that has occurred in Baghdad. And while there are efforts to rebuild and reconstruct, there is also apparently an effort to look into the past -- some of the historical artifacts, museums that have been looted. The secretary of state in comments to the Kuwaiti foreign minister said that the U.S. government would, indeed, assist with the recovery of some artifacts. Now apparently he has volunteered the services of the Pentagon's Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs to help restore the catalogues and things like that.
What's being done about Iraq's past that has been looted and pillaged, as well? BROOKS: This is something that has always been a concern to us, and as I showed you in images throughout the war, there are so many rich antiquities inside of Iraq and such a long history that's important not only to the Iraqi people, but to the world that we wanted to try to protect that wherever we could, certainly in the nature of our military operations. It's most unfortunate that some Iraqis found it efficacious to take away some of these antiquities from museums in downtown Baghdad when there was a void in security. We are hopeful that that can be restored, that those antiquities have not left the country, they have not gone on black markets, and we have efforts underway to prevent that from happening. And we would also ask those that have knowledge on it would provide that knowledge so that the antiquities can be returned. The important aspect of this the riches of the Iraqi population are of interest to the world, and it's something that we honor and respect and we want to see that continue.
There have been a lot of public statements about the importance of that to the United States -- the United States government, and we have work underway with the Iraqi population to try to get these things back. I don't know that there will be a formal rewards program established, but that's certainly a possibility that we're giving some consideration to. Most importantly, we want people to take responsibility for the items and provide them back so that the world can have access to them.
You mentioned the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, as we sometimes refer to as ORHA. That's a body that's been formed. It's an interagency group led by a former Army officer, General J. Garner, with others as well, that have expertise in a variety of areas to help organize Iraq to be turned back over to the Iraqi people. They work very closely with and in conjunction with Central Command and coalition force headquarters and primarily our land component that have been conducting operations inside of Iraq. It's a partnership inside of there.
For now, the way the work goes is through CENTCOM and the coalition land component command. In time, we'll transition some responsibilities and activities to ORHA. And in even further time, those responsibilities and activities will be transitioned to the Iraqi people by way of an interim administration.
So we are very closely partnered with that organization already. They've already made assessments in a number of areas. They have teams in place in the south and also in the north. And just within the last two days, have done assessments in Najaf and Karbala to extend the places where they're able to begin doing their work even further, and that's done, as I mentioned, in close partnership; in fact, integral partnership with the military actions that are ongoing for humanitarian assistance.
QUESTION: Can you please comment on our reports that the Iraqi army's western Anbar command surrendered today to U.S. forces? BROOKS: I don't have a report that confirms that, so I cannot say so. But I will tell you that there are a number of places where there are still former commanders of regime forces that we're having dialogue with, who have chosen not to fight anymore, and we're seeking any final surrenders that may be out there.
These are not large pockets of military resistance, so I don't want to create the impression that there's some large Republican Guard division that's still out there. Military capability throughout Iraq has been destroyed or simply walked away.
But there are still some places where there are leaders that we're in contact with, and we'll seek to take them into our custody, if necessary, or to discuss what the future might be with them. These are ongoing at a variety of locations and areas, east, north and west primarily, and as it develops we'll have more information to provide you.
QUESTION: Just following on from what you said just now, there's been a lot of talk about working alongside the police force, trying to get police back on the beat in cities. You talk about the army. I mean, is it too early to talk about putting bits of the Iraqi army back together again, making them functional, making them a viable security presence in the country? Is that jumping the gun by a long, long way? And do you have details of an incident reported in Mosul which may have involved fatalities and possibly involved American forces?
BROOKS: We'll look at a number of options as to who should return back to work and what role they might play in the future structure of Iraq. We know that there were a number of military formations that chose not to fight for the regime, and there should be due consideration regarding that. And so I certainly anticipate that there will be some former military members that will have a role in the future of Iraq, that it's too early to be able to say in detail what those roles would be.
As to Mosul, there are only initial reports. I've not seen any military reports at this point, so I can't confirm anything that you may have heard (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
QUESTION: Not to beat a dead horse, but to return for a second to the DNA question, you said you do have samples of DNA material from the Hussein family. Please tell us where, when, how and from whom they were obtained.
BROOKS: I can't do that. I mean, I just can't do that. I think it would be inappropriate to talk about the sources of any material or information we have that we would use for forensic purposes. We wouldn't do this if it were a trial in the United States, we wouldn't do it if we were a police force, and it certainly wouldn't be appropriate for us to do that given what we have right now.
In many cases the types of things that are done to gain military intelligence information or operational intelligence information puts people's lives at risk, and so it's just something I'm not going to comment on.
QUESTION: We have reports that you are searching sites, this is fairly constantly raised, for weapons of mass destruction.
QUESTION: Will you be bringing in or inviting in any impartial body to help you with the search, possibly the U.N. weapons inspectors?
BROOKS: Without being precise on who might be invited, we certainly would make available any samples that we retrieve as we're doing our searches. Right now, our searches are done under military control and it's not appropriate to add anyone to that equation. But when things are found, I think we certainly would intend to keep that as open as possible, and that's the way we intend to approach it.
QUESTION: You talked a lot about switching the power back on, and consequently the water supplies, today.
Can I just take you back and can you say how much of the power grid across Iraq and, indeed, consequently the water system, were actually damaged by allied bombing or by combat, or indeed by Iraqis switching it off? I mean, can you give us some kind of breakdown of the causes of that damage?
BROOKS: I don't know that we have a specific number at this point. What I think we're finding in our -- we are finding in our assessment is this. First, that our targeting remained focus throughout the operation. We knew that the infrastructure would be very important to the aftermath of combat operations. And so it was rarely, if ever, targeted. And if it was targeted, it might have been for a temporary purpose alone.
We did see some indications of damage where some of the Iraqi workers may have thrown the switches off and caused generators to go out. And then when additional power systems went out, it takes a lot more work to get those restored back on.
Certainly, we would anticipate that there were some results of combat action from direct fire engagements that occurred in and around water-treatment facilities, although I don't have a specific number that's associated with that.
We also know, though, from our assessments that much of the dysfunction that we're seeing in the power grid, in power stations and in some of the water systems was simply from a lack of attention to it over the years. As money from the oil-for-food was diverted into opulence and palaces and weapons that were not to have been developed, the water supply system, the power system, things that would take care of the Iraqi people, these things were neglected. And we know that that's the case as well. Where we are right now is, "How do you fix it? What do next?" And we're making as many assessments as we can, committing resources wherever we can, to try to solve the problem and make sure that the burden does not continue to rest on the backs of the Iraqi people.
QUESTION: What is the price on Saddam's head? BROOKS: Well, let me describe it like this. We've said a number of times that there are a number of leaders from the regime that we're interested in knowing the status of. We have targeted leadership of the regime. We have targeted leadership capability throughout the operation. There may be rewards associated with information leading to the condition, status and verification of members of the regime. There is no specific price tag that I'm aware of. And I doubt that there will be a specific price tag.
Information that's provided, when there's a reward that's exchanged for that information is dependent upon what information that comes at that time. It's not predetermined.
QUESTION: Back on the question of surrenders of Republican Guard commanders. Can you confirm this report around that the commander of the Republican Guard in Baghdad reached an agreement with American forces to surrender and get his men to quit and go home in exchange for a transfer via an Apache helicopter to an undisclosed safe haven?
And if that's correct, how significant is that and how typical has that been with the secret war you fought to stop it being a military campaign and a more strategic defeat?
And a second question, on the children of Baghdad.
QUESTION: We've seen some very disturbing pictures lately from hospitals of maimed children who are dying. Can you not airlift these children to Germany and other places using your planes and get them to Western medical care rather than dealing with them here in Iraq where the situation is fairly dire?
BROOKS: I'm not aware of any deals that have been struck with any commanders for transport on helicopters or anything close to that. So I don't have any report that's like that.
When we do deal with leaders that are out there, either local leaders, tribal leaders, religious leaders, or in some cases military leaders, former military leaders, it's a discussion that talks about how to end hostilities and how to begin the future of Iraq.
These things are discussed at low levels and they result in exactly what's described there: cessation of hostilities, steps toward the future of Iraq, what roles might be played and what conditions need to be set. And very shortly thereafter we tend to arrive with humanitarian assistance because there's people in every one of these areas that need something, and that's the way we tend to approach it right away.
You've seen a number of images. I've shown you a great number of images of children being cared for by military medical facilities, children being evacuated, wounded Iraqi civilians being treated all over the battlefield, being moved to field hospitals. I've told you about movement to the best care we actually have available in the theater, which is the Comfort. And I've also stated that on no occasion do we pass someone that requires medical care, we never pass that up. The images you've seen, we don't have access to those individuals. And when we encounter people, we provide treatment to them.
What treatment is to be provided is determined by health professionals, medical professionals. What we know, though, is we provide whatever care and treatment we can with what we have available at the time.
And so that's really our -- that's our approach to it. That's a consistent approach to being humanitarian in our efforts, using military resources when they're available, or moving to civilian resources when they're available to take care of whatever the requirement happens to be at the time.
QUESTION: Actually, I've just been back from southern Iraq, up to Nasiriyah, and I've witnessed the humanitarian efforts, and they were going up -- I mean (UNINTELLIGIBLE) slowly. And actually can you give us some sort of a breakdown as to how much human aid have you injected into that area, what was taken from Iraqi warehouses, from the stocks of the oil-for-food, what did you provide yourselves?
And on the medical sort of thing, do you have all the answers to all the cases that are there?
BROOKS: What I can tell you is in general terms, I don't have the specific numbers of exactly how much has moved into those areas.
First, any supplies that we found that were taken from the Iraqi forces, first, we've redistributed. And I've shown some examples of that. And there certainly were some stocks in and around An Nasiriyah and in other areas as well.
We've produced significant amounts of water in and around Nasiriyah, some with military capability, reverse osmosis water purification units that can go into any water source and provide fresh water. From Nasiriyah we've moved to other areas as well with those supplies. We've done work in the hospitals in and around An Nasiriyah. We've worked on the power. I've shown some examples of that as well. Medical supplies have moved in there. Field hospitals have been established there and care has been provided as well.
Some of the stocks in the oil-for-food program we seek to have distributed by those who are involved in the oil-for-food program, and we have indeed found some large stocks of oil-for-food program foodstuffs, but it's further north. I don't know that we've found any in and around Nasiriyah. I believe Karbala was the area where we found large numbers of stocks. Those also will be distributed. So that nothing is withheld from the population. We found some in Basra that were part of the oil-for-food program had not been distributed. Those were distributed right away. And we've shown a number of examples of that.
That will continue to be the approach that we have. As I mentioned, each town, each one of the 26 metropolitan areas or urban areas is being examined, and each one of those different subcategories of food, water, medical, the structures of governance, and also the infrastructure. And we work on that on a daily basis. We've got civil affairs teams that are out there very active; one extremely active team in and around Nasiriyah, where some of our best work is being done.
We also know that, based on the security environment, the area's been declared what we call permissive, which means that more and more humanitarian organizations can move into the area now. That's just within the last few days. And of course the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance has already passed through Nasiriyah and finds it certainly worthy of additional activities by other organizations.
So there's a lot of great work that's happening in that area and other areas of the country. Nasiriyah's a key hub, just based on the place it's located geographically. That's part of why the fighting was so significant there. It's also why it's important to be able to move in the area to the east, to the north, to the northwest and also from the south where the key ports are. That's how we're doing our work.
QUESTION: Can you give us a sense of the scope and the scale of the coalition's effort to hunt for weapons of mass destruction? How many people are involved in this effort? Dozens, hundreds? And how are they focusing their efforts?
BROOKS: This is a good question, and let me just describe a bit of how we approach the entire WMD program.
First, we remain convinced that there are weapons of mass destruction inside of Iraq, and we remain unwavering in our view of that. We know that there are systems that could deliver it. Many of those have been destroyed. Some have been taken into our custody.
We also know that there are people who have knowledge of the program and that it would take time before we get access to these people. Some of them we have access to. More we'll have access to over time.
The way we've organized for the work is first to have a number of mechanisms that let us do initial checks when we think we might have found something. These are unit-level detectors and monitoring equipment. And that may give the first indication that maybe there's something that's chemical, maybe there's something that's radiological.
We then take it to another level. We have other organizations that have been brought in, military units that have the capability to do a more detailed examination and confirm an agent, specifically what it might be.
If we find a confirmed agent of some sort, we may evacuate it further for yet a better confirmation. Each one of these things provides us greater fidelity on what it might be.
We've also organized some units to do this and embedded in other units, for example within some of our Special Operations units and some of our forward-operating units, the ability to do what we call sensitive site exploitation, the ability to go into a place, to examine it in detail with the right knowledge, with the right equipment, related to weapons of mass destruction.
An entire brigade has been devoted to that, an artillery brigade, changed from its normal mission of delivering fire support, trained it to do site exploitations in small teams. And so we can cover a number of areas.
But the key part is that we have to get information that leads us to the areas for the work to be done. And that's very deliberate. We have to be very patient about it. We knew that much of that would unfold as we got into Baghdad, and indeed we're beginning to get more and more pieces of information that has to be joined together in this mosaic that I've described to find out really what the picture is.
The efforts are ongoing. We have some preliminary examinations that have occurred that did not prove to be weapons of mass destruction. We found some things that were potentially agricultural. And so that's why we've not been loud and boisterous about every find that occurs, because we have a structure for getting a very deliberate read and being conscious about it. Nevertheless, we remain convinced that we're going to find something as time goes on.
QUESTION: Given the emphasis in the beginning of the campaign on eliminating weapons of mass destruction and getting rid of Saddam Hussein, if coalition forces are unable to capture or verify that Hussein is dead, either using DNA or some other process, and if they're unable to find unambiguous weapons of mass destruction, will the campaign have been less than a success?
BROOKS: Well, we've certainly said that this regime had to be removed. The regime had to be removed so that the nexus between terrorism and this regime could be broken, so that threats to neighboring countries, threats to the Iraqi people and threats to our own nations in the coalition could be removed.
Those are the first and most important measures of success. We know that the regime has indeed been broken and will not return.
As to the individuals inside of it, we have a process that's ongoing to try to find out what their status is so that they can be brought to justice for the deeds done over many years against the Iraqi people.
Weapons of mass destruction, the same thing. Removing weapons of mass destruction from this regime's hands and eliminating the threats from emerging again in the future are part of this operation. The efforts to get it done are ongoing and we believe that we'll be successful in that.
The fact that they've not been used yet is a success story. It's not the story of failure by any means. And we've been able to keep this from weapons of mass destruction being delivered against our forces or being delivered against neighboring countries. Now the work of removing the weapons of mass destruction can begin in earnest. And that work is ongoing as I speak.
QUESTION: I had two questions. One was, getting back to the antiquities issue. Asking people to return things now is kind of like shutting the barn door after the horse has bolted.
QUESTION: Why did the coalition, when it went to great lengths to protect oil facilities, not go to any lengths at all apparently to protect some of the museums in Baghdad that had great antiquities?
My second question is, we're hearing some reports of anti- American demonstrations in Nasiriyah in conjunction with the political meeting going on there. Do you have any comment on that?
BROOKS: Let me go to the second question first. I've not heard of any reports that are happening there. When liberation occurs, people have the right to express their opinions on a number of things. We certainly know in the countries that contributed to this coalition that there are protesters or demonstrators who are expressing their opinion, and we believe that's a good news story even here. We certainly would want there to be no civil unrest, any violence, but the right for them to express their opinion is something that we believe is a good news story and a trend, perhaps, for the future.
The efforts to secure antiquities. First, as we entered Baghdad, we were involved in very intense combat, and our focus was the combat actions necessary to remove the regime, any of its appendages. In removing the regime there is a vacuum that is created. That certainly did occur. And the vacuum will be filled as time goes on. I don't think that anyone anticipated that the riches of Iraq would be looted by the Iraqi people. And indeed, it happened in some places.
So while it may now be after the fact that that looting has occurred, it's still important to try to restore it as much as possible. It's simply not useful to speculate as to why we did, did not, what could we have done differently; we did what did and our operations were focused on objectives at hand at the time, and we believe that as time goes on, we'll be able to sort out this issue as well.
There are riches. They are important to not only Iraq, but the world and we have to count on others as well at this point now to assist in trying to bring that back to a degree of closure and protecting those antiquities for the future.
QUESTION: Two questions, if I may. One, yesterday you came close as Tikrit was falling. Do you, today, declare the major military operations in this war finished? And secondly, back to weapons of mass destruction. We've seen a lot of pictures of regular ammunition. It seems every corner you turn, there is a pile. Or every school has them. And people are giving you tips and pointing you to regular ammunition. Does it not defy logic that if there were -- if Saddam was going to use them against your troops that there would have been some residue, that something would have turned up by now? I know you've got a lot of sites to search and you've said the big chunks of the country. But if they were about to be used, there would be some evidence by now? You know what I mean?
BROOKS: I certainly do know what you mean.
First, let me say, Tikrit is one of a number of areas where there still was a potential for regime stronghold, regime activity and some military presence. We have not been in every area of the country yet. There are operations that are ongoing right now in areas we think that there still may be some. So it's not time to say that that's the last military action. Even if we have identified all remaining pockets where there is some capability that still exists -- in some cases we find that there are formations that have been abandoned, but nevertheless, on initial look, there appears to be military capability.
Even when all that is done, we still have individuals, we have regime death squads, we still have 80 suicide vests that are unaccounted for that may have been distributed for use, and there's still a military hazard that exists. All these weapons that we found in piles, in caches, in a variety of places say that there's capabilities still out there that hasn't been removed from those who might seek to gain access to it and use it. And so, our military work is not complete. It's still ongoing.
As to the weapons of mass destruction. We have to always remember that this regime has had a good period of time since the last war to be very deliberate about how it deceived and denied the existence of a program, just like they did deception and denial operations to say that there were weapons that were not being developed, and we found some of those weapons used. The efforts to try to hide are very deliberate and they've been ongoing for a number of years.
It's almost embedded in the culture of the regime to deny and to deceive. And so I think we have to be very patient as we do our work to find these things.
The advantage we have is that we can enter a place by force if need be. And we've already done that in some areas. In some cases, we found conventional munitions. Those were not being hidden from view.
Other things were being hidden deliberately. We've seen a number of indications of items being buried that are not logical. So when you ask, "Doesn't it defy logic? Burying things that we've found is not logical. Why would we bury airplanes?" We found buried airplanes. We've seen airplanes being buried, jets, MiG fighters.
There are other things like that as well, and we'll examine each one of those to find out what it is that's there and trace the logic that caused the deception and denial. And I believe that we'll be successful in due time. That's how our efforts are ongoing. It will take time to uncover things that are deliberately hidden. And with the assistance of those who have some knowledge, I think we'll get pointed more accurately to those things.
QUESTION: With more than 50 Iraqi leaders who are captured or who surrender, what happens next with them? Is there a trial, is there a sentencing? And how long does that process take, how will it work?
BROOKS: Let me say it like this. The 55 top leaders that we're looking for are of interest to our government, and so there will be additional governmental decisions that are made when they're taken into our custody or are confirmed dead, whatever the outcome should happen to be in that regard. And so I shouldn't speculate on exactly what will happen to them when they're taken into custody. We'll see when that occurs.
The statuses of others will be governed by law. In some cases, for the most part, the military leaders we've taken are governed as prisoners of war and we treat them that way. And their status has not changed. There may be others out there as well that fall into a different status as we encounter them.
QUESTION: Can you say what's happened with the two who have already either surrendered or been captured?
BROOKS: Right now they're still under coalition control. Their status has not changed. We are maintaining dialogue with them. We are treating them properly, treating them with respect. And that really is about all I can tell you about at this point in time.
QUESTION: Can I ask what the situation is along the Syrian border? I know in the past you've said you control at least one of the border crossing. Do you control a whole border? Is it possible for leaders to cross over there? Is there evidence that they are doing so, or that weapons of mass destruction are being taken over there?
BROOKS: We have forces that are located in a number of places along the Syrian border with Iraq. I mentioned the border checkpoint at Highway 11. That's currently under our control. Highway 10 also we have vehicle checkpoints that are located along some of the key routes. In the northwest area, al Qaim is an important area for us. We have a presence there at that very important crossing point.
We are located in other areas as well that I would not want to be too specific about at this point. We believe that we are having success on preventing free movement by regime leaders out of the country, or others into the country, for that matter. And our operations will continue.
But of course we're not arm in arm, inch by inch, and so there may be places that we have not found yet. And we have other methods to try to determine whether there's activity there. Thus far we're not seeing that, and we believe we're being successful.
I have time for one more.
QUESTION: Can you tell us more about the three death squad members, as to what their nationality is, if they had any of the suicide vests?
QUESTION: And then also there was a report yesterday about some trucks buried, I mean some containers -- mobile, chemical, biological, labs. Are you now going to use some sort of subterranean mapping equipment to locate more buried stuff?
BROOKS: First, the three regime death squad members were identified by the local population. We had been operating in and around that area. The population made contact with us and said these are bad guys.
I don't know anything about their nationality at this point. I have not seen any reports to confirm that or what equipment they may have had with them. That certainly will come as additional military reports come in.
The way they were described, they're most likely akin to some of the regime death squad members we've seen in other places. And so, nationality will be determined in time and that I don't know.
As to the methods we use to locate other things that may have been buried. We have a number of methods we use. All of them will be brought to bear to try to point us in the right place.
This is at it is on any other part of the battlefield for any other function. We want to get as accurate a picture of information we can gain before we take action and then act in such a way that it's appropriate for whatever it is we seek. So in this case, if we need to dig something up, need to locate something, then we'll use what we have to tell us that.
BROOKS: We do have some special equipment that can help us and it has to be used in a focused way, but we do have equipment that can help us to locate some items that may be buried.
Thanks very much, ladies and gentlemen.
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