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Interview with Keith Rosenkranz

Aired September 16, 2002 - 14:41   ET

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


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: It's hardly a secret that the Pentagon is preparing for a possible war with Iraq. What's far less clear is how the conflict would be conducted. In the last war with Iraq, U.S. air power punished Iraq before American ground troops pushed the Iraqi army out of Kuwait.
Joining us now, a pilot from that earlier war. Keith Rosenkranz is author of "Vipers in the Storm: Diary of a Gulf War Fighter Pilot" -- welcome aboard.

KEITH ROSENKRANZ, AUTHOR, "VIPERS IN THE STORM": Thank you very much.

PHILLIPS: So what do you think? Are we headed for a war against Iraq?

ROSENKRANZ: I believe we are, and it is going to be a different war this time. I know in my heart that air power won the last war. This time, it won't be the same. You are going to have to use ground forces and air power will start the war. There will be some strategic targets that will probably be hit, taking out air defenses, but the Iraqis are no match for my friends who flew with me and continue to fly now.

PHILLIPS: Why is it so different now?

ROSENKRANZ: It is different now because you are going after an individual, and that individual is Saddam Hussein, and to take him out, you are going to have to find him, and to do, you will have to use ground forces.

Before, we came close a couple of times of getting him, but he is going to hide in civilian neighborhoods, and we're not going to bomb civilian neighborhoods, so you are going to have to use ground forces.

PHILLIPS: Now, I had done some training with some of the fighter pilots a number of years back, and a lot of them just returned from the Gulf War. They were Top Gun instructors at the time, and we talked about Saddam Hussein and threat.

Many of them told me we had the chance to take him and we didn't. Do you think you had the chance to take him, and you didn't?

ROSENKRANZ: We were told after the war that a Maverick missile took out one of his vehicles that had 12 of his bodyguards in it, and there was another incident where F-117s bombed a building that he was in, injured him a little bit, but did not kill him. PHILLIPS: Did we let him go?

ROSENKRANZ: It is not that we let him go. It is just that he is hiding constantly, and moving around constantly, and he knows we are not going to bomb civilian neighborhoods, and so if President Bush knocked on your door tonight and said "I am sleeping here," nobody would find him.

So, eventually, we are going to have to use ground forces, and in doing so, it is a matter of when, not if.

PHILLIPS: You have flown over the territory, you know what he is capable of. Why does he need to go?

ROSENKRANZ: I believe that he is a viable threat, not only to the Middle East but to the people of America. If President Bush had come to the people of America prior to 9/11 and said Osama bin Laden is a viable threat, and we are going to launch a preemptive strike to take that out, people would have been apprehensive as they are now.

But knowing what happened, that would have been the right choice. I believe now the same thing applies to Saddam Hussein. Why sit back on our hands and wait for him to make a move, when we can go in and take care of things the way they need to be taken care of.

PHILLIPS: Can the U.S. do it alone? Last war, there were a lot of international allies participating in the Gulf War. Can the U.S. go at this alone?

ROSENKRANZ: This whole thing about lead, follow, of get out of the way. The Americans will lead, and the U.S. will win that war. If the other countries are willing to join in and be a part of that, then come on with us. If not, just sit back and we will take care of everything.

PHILLIPS: How long would it take?

ROSENKRANZ: It is going to be a long-term thing, because not only will you have to find Saddam Hussein, but then you are going to have to help rebuild the country afterwards. So when you are thinking about airstrikes and bombing, you have to be careful of what you bomb, because you are going to have to turn around and help rebuild it. So chances are his own people will probably turn against him when the heat gets on, but eventually we'll find him and we'll take him out, and his time will come.

PHILLIPS: Real quickly, weapons inspectors not the answer here?

ROSENKRANZ: He is not going to let them in, and even if he did, they wouldn't find anything, in my opinion. You are looking for a needle in a haystack, and he is not going to let you go to the right places. They can move things around, hide things easily. I think it is more of a show for political or world support.

PHILLIPS: Keith Rosenkranz, thank you. I have a feeling we will be talking again. ROSENKRANZ: Thank you very much.

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