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Showdown: Iraq: War Talk Today

Aired October 10, 2002 - 12:12   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: For and against, they're lining up in both the U.S. House of Representatives as well as the Senate as debate winds down and a vote nears on a resolution giving President Bush authority to became war against Iraq.
Standing by to bring us the very latest this hour, Kate Snow -- she's on Capitol Hill; Nic Robertson -- he's in Baghdad. We're going to be having extensive coverage on this story.

A vote in the house is expected within a matter of hours. In the Senate, though, the debate goes on, getting very intense amid some procedural voting that has already occurred. First, let's go to our congressional correspondent Kate Snow to tell us about this earlier vote, the significance of it -- Kate.

KATE SNOW, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a key procedural vote. It basically says they want to move on now fast towards the end result of voting for this resolution. That key vote came last hour. The vote was 75-25. It's a good indication of how many senators in the U.S. Senate ultimately will side with the president, giving him the authority to use force in Iraq.

That, after you just heard Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle deliver some powerful arguments on the Senate floor supporting the resolution this morning. Mr. Daschle did have a word of caution for the administration, though. He said they need to be careful moving forward. they need to make sure they're honest with the American people about what they're doing and why against Saddam Hussein, and not jeopardize the broader war on terrorism. Senator Daschle saying if the administration doesn't pay attention and do the work required, that the situation could get worse in Iraq and for world security.

Democratic Bob Byrd was even more forceful than Senator Daschle. He's been a strong opponent of this resolution. In fact, this morning, he called it a piece of rag.


SENATOR ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: This is a Tonkin Gulf resolution all over again. Let us stop, look, and listen. Let us not give this president, or any president, unchecked power. Remember the constitution.


SNOW: Senator Byrd has been trying to, in his words, Wolf, slow this train down. But the train has left the station. As you mention, the House expect expected to vote within a matter of hours. And the Senate will follow suit.

BLITZER: I don't know if you checked this, Kate, but among those 25 members who voted in favor of stopping the vote from going on, allowing the debate to continue, were there any Republicans among them?

SNOW: Yes, there were; there were two. Those would be those who voted against essentially the resolution. Two Republicans, Arlen Specter from Pennsylvania and the other one was Lincoln Chafee from Rhode Island. We do expect Lincoln Chafee to vote ultimately against the resolution on the final vote. We don't know about Arlen Specter. He indicated he might change his mind and vote along with the White House later on, when it gets to that point.

A couple more thoughts about the numbers, Wolf, we wanted to tell you. The way we see this all breaking out in the House and the Senate. I think we have a graphic that will illustrate this. In the House, we do expect about 300-plus member of the House to vote for the resolution authorizing the president to use force, and about 90-plus Democrats will vote against in the House, which is what we expect. In the Senate, ultimately, we expect around 75 to 80 members of the Senate to vote for and about 15 to 20 Democrats, including independent Jim Jeffords to vote against. And as I just mentioned, one Republican, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island expected to vote against.

Wolf, we're keeping an eye on it up here. The House vote expected mid afternoon this afternoon.

BLITZER: We'll have extensive live coverage of that as well. Kate Snow, thanks very much.

With (UNINTELLIGIBLE), Iraq has invited U.S. officials and, indeed, the international news media to tour some of the sites in question.

Let's get the view from inside Baghdad, inside Iraq. Our CNN international correspondent Nic Robertson has arrived. He's on the scene; he's already working hard in Iraq.

Tell us what happened today -- Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, well, Iraqi government officials took us today to see the site at Al Nasser (ph); it's a factory complex about 10 kilometers north of Baghdad. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) there were many different units, different areas. It's about six kilometers square. There were several thousands of people working there. What the Iraqi officials did was take us to a machine shop. It was a mostly deserted machine shop, but there were a couple machines, milling, cutting down metal, heavy, large pieces of metal.

This equipment was controlled, the milling equipment controlled, by computer controls. And apparently, that is one of the items that is at the center of accusations, that Al Nasser (ph) has been a site, is a site, that is used as part of Iraq's program to pursue its weapons of mass destruction, to produce material useful in making components in the making of nuclear weapons.

Now, the center of that is the fact that these instruments, these machines, computer-controlled, and can work to precise tolerances.

Also, at that same big, sprawling factory site, we were taken to a foundry, a metal working shop, where workers appeared to be making metal sheds and lamp posts. From what we could see, very, very difficult without specific, technical knowledge to be able to say for sure exactly what we saw, exactly what it could be used for and to try and match the claims by the Iraqi government that they were doing nothing at this massive facility, of which we only saw a small part, to match their claims that they were doing nothing to advance weapons of mass destruction -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic Robertson, he's on the scene already for us in Baghdad. We'll be checking in with you periodically.

And of course in any showdown with Iraq, military bases throughout the Middle East, throughout the Persian Gulf region would play a vital role. A base in Turkey could be a major staging area for planes flying over Baghdad.

Our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre joining us now live from Turkey with more -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we spent the whole day today at the Incirlik Air Base. We're now, with the coming of nightfall, have been forced to leave the base. We're in nearby Adana, Turkey. Earlier today, we did really what we're told by base officials was an unprecedented first live television broadcast, the first one permitted since the beginning of Operation Northern Watch, the enforcement of the northern no-fly zone.

The key thing about Incirlik is that it is a key base because it is only about 600 miles from Baghdad, a little more than 1 1/2 hours flying distance for a combat aircraft. So Incirlik would be key if the United States does, in fact, go to war with Iraq.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): Several dozen U.S. and British war planes roar into the skies from the Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey on what has evolved in recent years into a full fledged combat mission, patrolling the U.S. imposed no fly zone over northern Iraq.


MCINTYRE: There are Turkish planes supporting the operation, as well. But no photography of those planes is permitted. Nor can CNN take pictures of the buildings at Incirlik Air Base, or any of the Turkish military personnel. While a close ally of the United States, Turkey remains skittish about advertising the extent of its support for the ongoing U.S. war with Iraq.

The U.S. commander at Incirlik calls it no fly zone enforcement, not war. But to the pilots, it's every bit as dangerous.

SCOTT: We have to be on the top of our game every day that we go in to the operating area. Saddam Hussein only has to get lucky once.

MCINTYRE: These U.S. F-16s were among those that bombed a surface to air missile site near the northern Iraqi town of Mosul. The attack, the first in more than a month in the north, occurred as CNN accompanied U.S. and British planes on patrol Wednesday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Smile, you're on CNN.

MCINTYRE: U.S. commanders say the rules of engagement have not changed in the no fly zones, but recently the Pentagon ordered more aggressive strikes to send a message to Iraqi gunners to back off. U.S. military officials say while allied planes were not fired at or actively targeted Wednesday, the very existence of an anti-aircraft missile system in the no fly zone was deemed a threat.

SCOTT: Based on that assessment, we were able to send that up through our chain of command and receive approval to respond against that target, which we did.


MCINTYRE: Wolf, right now, the United States and Great Britain have about 45 combat planes here, about 1,500 military personnel. That could easily double if the U.S. goes to war. Plus the United States would probably have to ask Turkey for access to other bases as well -- Wolf.

Jamie McIntyre, on the scene for us in Turkey. Thanks for that good reporting.


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