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Iraq: Five Questions

Aired November 17, 2002 - 20:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN PRESENTS. In the showdown with Iraq, five key questions to consider -- if the goal is regime change, should the United States try to assassinate Saddam Hussein? Would it be a violation of U.S. law?

ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA FIELD AGENT: We intend to get rid of Saddam. We intend to kill him. Whether we call it an assassination or a coup d'etat or a simple invasion, he's going to end up dead.


ANNOUNCER: Does Saddam Hussein have chemical and biological weapons? And are U.S. troops prepared?


REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: That hearing clearly illustrated we're not ready yet.


ANNOUNCER: What if Iraq strikes Israel and Israel strikes back?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Also unconventional?

BEN-ELIEZER: We would response.


ANNOUNCER: Pentagon technology, are the smart bombs really smarter? And finally, what about your wallet? Will a war threaten the economy? All ahead in this special report, SHOWDOWN IRAQ: FIVE QUESTIONS.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST: I'm Wolf Blitzer. It is not certain if the showdown with Iraq will lead to war. But President Bush has made it clear -- he is ready to use force if necessary to bring about regime change in Iraq.

Tonight, we explore five key questions in this ongoing crisis. The first one is a delicate issue, one that raises difficult, moral and legal questions. Should the United States try to assassinate Saddam Hussein? Wouldn't that be far less costly to the United States and the Iraqi people? We looked into that question and found a man who says he once knew about an assassination plan.


BAER: This general was proposing to kill Saddam Hussein.

BLITZER (voice-over): Bob Baer, retired from the CIA after serving as a field agent in some of the world's hottest spots for more than 20 years. One of them was Northern Iraq in the mid 90's. A defecting Iraqi general close to Saddam's inner circle pitched him a plan.

BAER: His plan was to wait for Saddam's convoy to come from Baghdad going to Tikrit. Saddam has a couple of houses around Tikrit. And when the convoy got the bridge, it goes into Samarra. They were going to block up both ends of the bridge -- Saddam's car in the middle -- and proceed to shoot it up until nobody moved in his convoy.

BLITZER: There's just one little catch. Under Executive Order 12333, that would seem to be illegal. Section 2.11, "No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States government shall engage in or conspire to engage assassination."

RICHARD K. BETTS, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Well, the executive order issued by President Ford and reaffirmed since then, after the investigations in the intelligence community in the mid 1970s that had revealed past involvement of the United States in plots to assassinate some important leaders.

BLITZER: Betts is referring to the Church Commission Investigation. Some of its findings smacked at pulp fiction. The CIA tried to arrange an underworld hit on Fidel Castro. And it hatched a plan to kill Congolese leader, Patrice Lumumba because he was feared to be a communist. The idea, inject poison into his toothpaste. But Lumumba was toppled by a coup and eventually killed. The plan was never implemented.

Nonetheless, in 1975, for reasons both practical and moral, the Church Commission condemned assassination as a tool of foreign policy. The executive orders followed.

BETTS: If you go after foreign leaders and they find out, you can't be surprised if they come back and try to get at your leaders. So the concern about the danger of retaliation or quid pro quo is another reason to make that sort of a tactic in the minds of many people a last resort if ever.

JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: It's quite clear. It effectively takes assassination off the table as something that the United States government can do in peacetime or in normal times.

BLITZER: James Woolsey served as CIA director from 1993 to 1995, but not when Bob Baer was operating in Northern Iraq. The CIA chiefs at that time, Admiral William Studeman and John Deutch declined to speak with us.

Baer says he was well aware of Executive Order 1233, so he pushed the defecting general in another direction.

BAER: So I went back to the general and I said, "You know the CIA has a problem with assassinations. This government, as you know, its public diplomacy wants regime change in Iraq, or it wants -- they want somebody else in power. So if you're intent upon getting rid of Saddam, go back to your colleagues in the military and do a traditional coup d'etat. And once you've got something planned, come back to me and I'll transmit that to Washington."

BLITZER: So what's the difference between an assassination and a potentially deadly coup?

BETTS: There's controversy about this since some worried that a successful coup or rebellion in which the leader was killed and which involved U.S. financial support or advice or other assistance might be interrupted as inconsistent with the executive order. But I don't think there is any consensus on that.

BLITZER: The president could authorize a CIA covert action by signing what's called a "presidential finding with lethal status."

WOOLSEY: If he does, it's not a violation of American law for him to sign out a finding, which goes to the Congress and says that the United States, through the CIA, would support a coup. And when you have a coup attempt or a so-called lethal finding, sometimes people get killed.

BLITZER: This month, the CIA fired a hell fire missile from an unmanned predator drone to assassinate a suspected al Qaeda leader in Yemen. It was legal, U.S. officials said; because the president had signed an intelligence finding last fall that allowed the CIA to engage in legal, covert operations against al Qaeda. In other words, there seemed to be loopholes in the ban on assassinations.

In 1986, the U.S. bombed Libyan leader, Moammar Gadhafi's house, missed him, killed his daughter. The U.S. Air Force attempted to target Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf War.

BETTS: Killing someone with a rusty knife in a dark alley, it's clearly against American law and the United States doesn't do that. If you mean the military operation to kill an enemy commander, then we've done that.

BLITZER: If it's a military action, it's not an assassination. It's called "targeting military command and control." If it's a coup, well, that's not clear. To at least one CIA agent out in the field, these are legal distinctions that don't matter in real life.

BAER: The question is do you use one bullet, do you use a tank, do you use an airplane. Whether we call it an assassination or coup d'etat or whatever you want, or a simple invasion, he's going to end up dead. I think the question should be -- is how many other people are going to die. BLITZER: Baer believes a U.S. led invasion would result in thousands of Iraqi casualties and an assassination would result in fewer deaths.

BAER: If we go into a war, we're going to end up bombing cities; we're going to end up -- we're going to kill a lot of civilians. We're going to cause chaos in the region.

BLITZER: But any forced regime change, assassination, coup or invasion could have unintended consequences.

BETTS: There's always the problem that you don't know what the results will be. Very often, the problems in an enemy government that you're unhappy with are not just the results of one person, a dictator, but are more deeply rooted. And getting rid of that dictator may not solve those problems. There's also the problem that you can create resentment and reactions and counterproductive effects by killing a foreign leader.

BLITZER: Baer believes the risks must be calculated differently today.

BAER: The Americans through the Cold War did not want a CIA that was out assassinating people, running row coups, spying on Americans. After September 11, the whole world arena has changed. And I think we need to define our position on assassination. It's got to be very clear to the people involved and to the Defense Department and Central Intelligence as to what their orders are. Right now, it isn't.

BLITZER: The debate over assassination could be a mute point. Even if the U.S. wanted to kill Saddam Hussein, some believe it could never get close to him.

KENNETH POLLACK, FORMER CIA ANALYST: The biggest problem we have with assassinating Saddam Hussein is not the will but the way.

BLITZER: We'll explain why when CNN PRESENTS returns.




BLITZER (voice-over): Assassination, a threat always on Saddam Hussein's mind.

AMATZIA BARAM, ISRAELI HISTORIAN: He, of course, is very fearful.

BLITZER: Amatzia Baram is an Israeli historian who has studied Saddam Hussein for more than 20 years.

BARAM: Even paranoids have enemies sometimes. And yes, he's paranoid. He's the most paranoid leader in the modern world. But he also has many enemies. BLITZER: How does Saddam Hussein avoid assassination by his many enemies? It is impossible to know for sure, but to try to get a glimpse inside his formidable security operation; we talked to members to the U.S. intelligence community and a number of former Iraqi officials who have since defected.

ABASS AL-JANABI, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY FOR UDAY HUSSEIN: There are huge attempts to assassinate him.

BLITZER: For 15 years, Abass Al-Janabi had access to Iraq's inner circle, serving as press secretary and private secretary for Saddam Hussein's son, Uday. He defected in 1998.

AL-JANABI: If you calculate how many assassinations attempts against Saddam Hussein, you would find -- you would find declared wars, there was about 15.

BLITZER: The biggest problem facing those who want to kill Saddam Hussein, finding him. Ahmed al-Samarrai served in the Iraqi military, rising to the rank of general before defecting in 1983.

AHMED AL-SAMARRAI, FORMER IRAQI GENERAL: He never stayed in one place two nights, never. Even sometimes, he changed his place the same night. He is very, very careful. He would never trust anybody, even his son.

WOOLSEY: He has several doubles. He stays rarely in the same place every night. He travels with an entourage, but so do his doubles.

BLITZER: A common technique of deception, decoy, multi-car convoys each heavily guarded even for the most every day appointments.

Another defector, Mr. Solay (ph), as he asked to be called, now heads an Iraqi opposition group based in the United States. Solay (ph) says he made numerous trips to presidential palaces before he defecting in 1994.

SOLAY (ph) (through translator): One of his own bodyguards talked to me once. He said to me, "When Saddam Hussein wants to go to have lunch, so we had a decoy inside the presidential palace." Each group needs seven to eight Mercedes vehicles with the protection forces.

BARAM: There are three positions of cars. So nobody know, even the bodyguards, even the people inside the cars, which are supposed to follow the procession. They don't know where is the president and nobody can say for exact. Only one person who is the one who is driving with him.

POLLACK: In the Gulf War, he went a step beyond that. He drove around in a taxi. He drove around in an RV. He drove around in a van.

BLITZER: Kenneth Pollack was an Iraqi analyst for 15 years at the CIA and the National Security Council. POLLACK: He started having many of his most important meetings in the homes of private citizens, knowing full well that the United States would never bomb a residential district in Baghdad on purpose for fear of civilian casualties.

BLITZER: Saddam Hussein sometimes even travels with his own food protected by special guards.

SOLAY (ph) (through translator): He has special bodyguards guarding the food. They bring many persons in to taste the food. He has a mobile hospital accompanies them. Some vehicles carry livestock. Some other cars have fish pools, live fish, accompanying him.

BLITZER: Solay (ph) says everyone close to Saddam Hussein is closely watched at all times, from the people who do his laundry to his personal tailor.

SOLAY (ph) (through translator): He said that I'm afraid somebody -- while making a suit for me, he might put something inside it.

BLITZER: So even if an assassination were legal and the U.S. wanted to give it a try, it is clear that Saddam would be a hard man to reach.

POLLACK: The biggest problem we have with assassinating Saddam Hussein is not the will, but the way. He has built a Stalinist police state that has made it impossible for 34 years for anyone to get to him and kill him. And while it's always possible that someone could do it in the future, it is highly unlikely.

BLITZER: Up next, chemical and biological weapons. Are U.S. troops prepared to face the threat?

SHAYS: We weren't prepared to go into the Gulf War and protect our men and women from chemical and biological agents in 1991. The question is are we going to make that same mistake this time.



BLITZER: If the U.S. goes to war in Iraq, the Pentagon has to consider this key question -- does Saddam Hussein have chemical or biological weapons? The Iraqi leader says he does not. But if he does and chooses to use them, are U.S. troops trained and equipped to handle them? A recent congressional study suggests they may not be ready.


BLITZER (voice-over): Nine o'clock Sunday morning, soldiers from the 82nd Airborne wait patiently for the opposing force to invade their territory. For 28 days, these soldiers train at the Mojave Desert at the National Training Center to prepare for war. And with Saddam Hussein as the enemy, that means preparing for a chemical and biological attack.

MICHAEL O'HANLON, SENIOR FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: In this war, Saddam may very well use chemical weapons because he knows he has nothing much to lose. We're coming after his head anyway.

BLITZER: What that means for U.S. soldiers is facing weapons that can paralyze a man in seconds, possibly kill him in minutes. As part of their training, soldiers react to simulated chemical attacks like this release of tear gas.

STAFF SGT. JESSIE CRIFASI, U.S. ARMY: The MBC threat here being as high as it is, we're forced to use the equipment and train with them more if the enemy that we face always presents a high chemical threat.

BLITZER: Some of the most lethal weapons in Saddam Hussein's suspected arsenal are biological.

DR. RICHARD SPERTZEL, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: You can think of anthrax spores. You can think of smallpox as a virus.

BLITZER: Then there are chemical weapons, which are even quicker to kill.

SPERTZEL: The nerve agents, the body responds within seconds. Ultimately, it has a much more devastating effect, not unlike radiation effects.

BLITZER: Saddam Hussein has used these weapons before. During the Iran-Iraq War, he unleashed saran and mustard gas on the Kurds and Iranian soldiers. Several thousand were killed and injured.

O'HANLON: In the Persian Gulf War, he chose not to use these because he was warned that if he did, we would overthrow his regime. His calculations would be much different in a future war.

BLITZER: After the Gulf War ended in 1991, U.N. inspectors destroyed some weapons of mass destruction, including more than 13 million pounds of chemical weapons. Since then, Iraqi officials vehemently deny that they have been actively developing weapons of mass destruction.

TARIQ AZIZ, IRAQI DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: They are telling wrongly, the American public opinion and the world, that Iraq is reproducing weapons of mass destruction. That's not true.

BLITZER: But what Saddam Hussein has stockpiled since the U.N. pulled the inspectors out in 1998 is anyone's guess.

SPERTZEL: Generally speaking, what -- I suppose others consider that they have would be anthrax spores, weapons-grade dried smallpox, mustard gas, you can expect there, so-called binary saran and undoubtedly, VX. But knowing where they are or how many they might have is pure guesswork.

BLITZER: Combating that uncertainty is the job of the Army's Technical Escort Unit. Here they train in an old highway tunnel in West Virginia.

STAFF SGT. MATTHEW ROTMARK, TECHNICAL ESCORT UNIT: We sample for chemical, biological agents to have analyzed by a lab to confirm or deny that individuals are making chemical or biological weapons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There have some grindings over there.


BLITZER: Soldiers are trained to detect agents in labs...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This has got to go too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are now entering a cave.

BLITZER: ... and caves, like they might find in Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And this is most likely bio.

BLITZER: But despite the extensive preparation, lawmakers on Capitol Hill have pointed to inadequacies.

RAYMOND DECKER, GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE: Do you solemnly swear or affirm that the testimony you will give before the subcommittee will be the truth?

While we found that DOD has made some improvements in equipment, training and readiness reporting, we are continuing to have concerns in each of these areas.

BLITZER: At the hearing, the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, reported problems like equipment shortages and ignorance of the condition of existing equipment.

SHAYS: That hearing clearly illustrated we're not ready yet. We have a number of challenges. We need to make sure the suits, the gloves, the boots, the masks are at the units that need them, when they need them, where they need them, that they have time to train with them.

BLITZER: But DOD's Dr. Anna Johnson-Winegar says the military has made improvements.

DR. ANNA JOHNSON-WINEGAR, ASSISTANT TO SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, CHEMICAL-BIOLOGICAL DEFENSE PROGRAMS: We have now what is called is "JS List Suit." It's improved technology. It's lighter weight, so that the individual members can wear them for a longer period of time. All of those are improved factors that have led us to put the JS List Suits as a high priority to provide to our individual service members.

BLITZER: But the Department of Defense itself says it may not have enough for the new state-of-the-art suits.

JOHNSON-WINEGAR: The requirement is for four per person. We have not had enough to issue four per person currently. So we're working again with the Joint Staff and the services to do some potential move-around so that the people that are the highest priority, you know, get theirs first and the people that are in lower priority or lower threat areas maybe only have one or something like that.

SHAYS: Ironically, we had too many of this equipment sent to some units and some units had none. It's shocking to think that's the case, but that was the case.

BLITZER: DOD is trying to get up to speed to face weapons that haven't been used against U.S. troops since World War I.

JOHNSON-WINEGAR: I think that we are better prepared and more aware than we have ever been in the past. Now, please do not interrupt that as saying that she says that everything is perfect because no, everything is not perfect.

Do I feel confident that we are prepared? I feel confident that we are -- that we are pretty well prepared, is the way I'd like to characterize that.

BLITZER: The question is -- is pretty well prepared good enough?

SHAYS: We weren't prepared to go into the Gulf War and protect our men and women from chemical and biological agents in 1991. The question is are we going to make that same mistake this time. If we do, we are playing Russian roulette because there's every indication this time Saddam will use the chemical or biological agents.

BLITZER: When we come back, if there is war in the Gulf, what happens if Iraq strikes Israel?

BEN-ELIEZER: It's going to create a hell of a problem because Israel is not going to sit aside.



BLITZER: What if Iraq strikes Israel and Israel strikes back? That's one of the wild cards in a possible U.S. showdown with Iraq. Iraq denies having missiles with the range to hit Israel, but many experts believe Iraq hid some of its scuds from U.N. inspectors. If used against Israel, would they set off a chain reaction of conflict throughout the region?


BLITZER (voice-over): January 1991, within hours after the Gulf War began, Saddam Hussein lashed out at Tel Aviv and Haifa. He had threatened to burn half of Israel.

MOSHE ARENS, FORMER ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER: We didn't know what kind of damage would be done by the next scud or maybe the possibility the scud having a chemical warhead. BLITZER: The U.S. desperately wanted to keep Israel out of the war, to keep Arab nations in the anti-Iraq coalition. But as the attacks continued, Israel's patience ran out. Israeli officials say that had the war not ended quickly, they planned to hunt down the hidden scuds themselves, that Israel was on the verge of invading Iraq.

ARENS: I don't want to go into operational detail, but it would have been a significant force that we would have landed in Western Iraq.

BLITZER: In the latest crisis, Israel has made its policy clear -- it will strike back.

BEN-ELIEZER: If we will be hitted by Iraq, definitely by non- conventional warfare from missiles, it is accepted that Israel will response.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What kind of response?

BEN-ELIEZER: We'll response.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Also unconventional?

BEN-ELIEZER: We would response.

BLITZER: Turning the other cheek, Israeli officials say, could invite future attacks.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER: I think that people feel that if Israel fails to respond for the second time, if it is struck by ballistic missiles, this would very, very seriously jeopardize Israel's deterrence posture.

BLITZER: If Israel joins the fight, what consequences are likely in a region already torn by nationalism, ethnic and religious rivalry, economic disparity and anti-American sentiment?

RAMI KHOURI, JORDANIAN SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: You might unleash all of these forces and you don't know what could happen.

BLITZER: Many experts worry about igniting a wider conflict in any of three flashpoints.

Some Israelis worry Palestinian radicals will use war as an opportunity for more suicide bombings against civilians. Some Palestinians worry Israel might use war as a cover to expel Palestinian leaders or seize land in the West Bank and Gaza.

The stakes are also high in Northern Israel, just across the border in Lebanon. Posters and yellow flags announce the presence of Israel's about enemy, the fundamentalist group, Hezbollah, the Army of God.

Israeli general, Mahir Cleffi (ph) is responsible for security along 100 miles of the border. His soldiers watch for infiltrators, but their biggest concern now is from rockets like these. Israel says Hezbollah has thousands of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) rockets and that some can hit Haifa, population nearly 300,000 40 miles away.

Where does Hezbollah get its weapons?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Most of those with the longest range that threaten the interior of Israel come from Iran through Syria to Lebanon.

BLITZER: An attack by Hezbollah could pit Israel against those three countries.

BEN-ELIEZER: Now, if this would happen, there is no doubt it's going to create a hell of a problem because again, here, Israel is not going to sit aside.

BLITZER: Public opinion throughout the Arab world is another flashpoint.

LABID KAMHAWI, JORDANIAN POLITICAL SCIENTIST: If the Israelis take part in any military operation against Iraq in conjunction with America or any other state, then it will reconfirm the general impression in the region that American is doing this job on behalf of Israel.

BLITZER: Add to the mix, anger over American support for undemocratic Arab rulers.

KAMHAWI: The majority of the people believe that these regimes were able to exist because of American support and nothing more.

BLITZER: So if Israel goes to war, many experts predict massive street protests.

KHOURI: But I don't think it's likely that these demonstrations are going to threaten any regimes. The real concern there is not the Arab street, but it's the Arab basement. It's these few people who've broken off from the street demonstrators and gone to make bombs and have turned to terror to express themselves.

BLITZER: Not everyone thinks the radicals will come out on top regardless of Israel's actions.

If an American led war toppled Saddam Hussein, Israel's new foreign minister predicts it will lead to political reform in the region and democratization.

NETANYAHU: It's not that people won't have the resentments. It's not that the extremists won't be angry with the United States, but in the balance of opinion and in the balance especially expectation, the moderates will say, "Ah, we have a chance. So these regimes can go down." That's a revolutionary development.

BLITZER: In Israel, officials say they hope to stay out of the war. This time, they're armed with a new weapon, the arrow missile, designed to shoot down incoming scuds at high altitudes. ARENS: It is operation-deployed and we have a high degree of confidence in it.

BLITZER: But not 100 percent confident. Israeli hospitals have been conducting emergency drills for mass casualties. Fifteen thousand health workers are being vaccinated against smallpox just in case and assembly lines have been making gas masks for the Israeli public, running 24 hours a day. So while Israel is hoping for the best, it is once again preparing for the worst.

When we come back, new weapons in the U.S. arsenal. Are the Smart Bombs really smarter?

COLONEL DOUG RAABERG, COMMANDER, 509TH BOMB WING: It's like throwing a quarter on the earth, a coin and saying, "We can strike that quarter."



BLITZER: The so-called Smart Bomb, it grew famous during the first Gulf War but just what are Smart Bombs and how far have they progressed since the 1991 conflict? Pentagon officials say precision- guided weapons will play a key role in any new war with Iraq. And yes, they say, their Smart Bombs have grown far smarter since the first showdown in the Gulf.


BLITZER (voice-over): Nineteen ninety-one, the Persian Gulf War, a TV star is born.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep your eye on the crosshairs.

BLITZER: Precision weapons become nightly news.


BLITZER: The bombs appeared brilliant on TV, but the picture was slightly deceiving. Precision-guided weapons, the so-called Smart Bombs, accounted for less than 10 percent of the ordinates dropped in the Gulf War and they were far from perfect. For example, they fared poorly in bad weather.

JIM HASIK, CO-AUTHOR, "THE PRECISION REVOLUTION": There were quite a few nights during the war where there just was no bombing in Central Iraq because no one could find their targets.

BLITZER: In the Gulf War, most of the precision weapons were laser-guided. A pilot's saw a target, aimed a laser at it and the bomb followed the laser to the target. But laser beams cannot see through obstructions like low clouds or smoke.

If there is war with Iraq today, Smart Bombs will account for most of the ordinates dropped, including a newer Smarter Bomb. The JDAM, Joint Direct Attack Munition is an inexpensive device that packs a powerful punch. Unlike the earlier Smart Bombs, the JDAM relies on satellites not lasers.

KIM MICHEL, BOEING'S JDAM PROGRAM MANAGER: It's a guidance tape we strap onto the back of the bomb. It has a guidance control unit in it and that consists of a computer that has a processor similar to what you find on a laptop PC. It turns a dumb weapon, 1,000 or 2,000- pound bomb into a precision-guided weapon.

BLITZER: The target's location is programmed into the JDAM. Once released form the plane, the JDAMs computer plots a course to the target based on data it's receiving from satellites.

MICHEL: If the weapons loses contact with the satellites or never establishes contact with the satellite system, what we've seen in tests, is it'll still hit within about 10 or 15 meters of the target location.

BLITZER: JDAMs, which came on the scene in the late 1990s, are a favored weapon for more than their accuracy in all-weather capability. They're also relatively cheap.

MICHEL: It's $20,000 per tail kit. Actually, it's just over $20,000 this year. The price goes down from here on out. It will be less than $20,000 next year.

BLITZER: That makes JDAMs far more economical than laser-guided bombs, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Another advantage, more precise bombing means fewer bombing runs and fewer airmen at risk.

ANNOUNCER: The most powerful invasion air force ever launched.

RAABERG: In World War II, we're talking 11,000, 12,000 airmen in the air at any one time to target. Desert Storm of 1991,about 130 to 150 airmen to do a very significant, precision strike on targets throughout Iraq.

BLITZER: Today, a decade later, precision strikes require just two airmen in one stealth B-2 bomber.

RAABERG: The accuracy is very, very tight. As I tell people a lot of times, it's like throwing a quarter on the earth, a coin, and saying, "We can strike that quarter."

BLITZER: It's accurate, but the JDAMs are not full proof. For example, could the satellite signals be jammed?

RAABERG: Frankly, that is something that we will always look at. Let's not forget that nothing is perfect, nothing is invulnerable.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: First though, we want to bring you up-to- date on late breaking news coming to us from Belgrade.

BLITZER: And the JDAM is vulnerable to human errors. HASIK: They managed to misidentify the building as a warehouse that was indeed actually the Chinese embassy and dropped five JDAMs on that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We deeply regret the loss of life at the Chinese embassy last night in Belgrade. We did not target that building. The bombing was an error.

BLITZER: Human errors also resulted in deadly mishaps involving JDAMs in Afghanistan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A targeting error occurred as that F-18 Hornet dropped a 2,000-pound JDAM. Instead of hitting a helicopter, it hit a residential area about a mile away from the Kabul Airport.

HASIK: It's never really released by the military, but it seems that he probably transposed two of the digits because the bomb fell quite close to the helicopter, but not that close.

BLITZER: But in the end, the Smart Bomb was key to success against the Taliban.

HASIK: With a couple of thousand JDAMs along a front, up in the Panjshir Valley, they managed to cause the collapse of the entire Taliban army.

BLITZER: And that same power and precision could be brought to bear in any conflict with Saddam Hussein.

HASIK: It is downfall that people would be thinking about attacking Iraq with a few tens of thousands of troops unless U.S. military were certain that they could destroy large quantities of Iraqi military equipment very quickly with the same sort of operational concept they employed in Afghanistan -- Special Forces troops on the ground, designated targets, air power bringing in massive quantities of precision weapons.

BLITZER: Coming up, the price of war. How much would it cost and how will affect an already shaky economy?



BLITZER: What would war do to an already fragile economy? Once predicted budgets surpluses have turned to deficits, once stable jobs now look insecure and once healthy investor portfolios are now depreciated. The economic signs look bleak, which raises this question -- how would this war affect your wallet?





GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Aggression is defeated. The war is over.

BLITZER (voice-over): In war, victory is priceless. But every war has its price -- lives lost and billions spent. Budgeting for battle is always a gamble and the numbers are never low. The Pentagon estimates a year of military operations in Afghanistan at $12.6 billion and counting.

The 1991 Gulf War price tag, more than 75 billion in today's dollars, a war tab picked up mostly by U.S. allies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two, three.

BLITZER: Compared to other wars in the last century, these wars could be called bargains. Longer, bloodier battles like Vietnam rate in the $800 billion range in today's dollars. Five years of fighting in World War II costs more than $4.5 trillion.

DAVID WYSS, CHIEF ECONOMIST, STANDARD & POOR'S: Small wars are cheap. Big wars are still expensive. This doesn't mean wars are good. It doesn't mean that wars are good for the economy even in the short-term. But it does mean that small wars can be born by a large economy without major disruption.

BLITZER: The hefty U.S. economy can be measured by totaling the sum of everything produced within a given year. Today, that number is approaching $10.5 trillion, the nation's gross domestic product or GDP. A sizable wealth that makes the cost of another war against Iraq more manageable even in spite of the slow economy.

WYSS: The direct costs are likely to be small, in the order of 50 to a $100 billion. I mean that's not exactly trivial to most of us but in terms of the national economy, you're talking about less than one percent of the country's GDP.


BLITZER: But what percent of that comes out of taxpayers' pockets. Using estimates form the Congressional Budget Office, deploying a heavy ground force for six months would cost around $66.5 billion. That does not include a post-war occupation. This war scenario would cost American taxpayers a little more than $500 each. But don't count on President Bush to raise taxes to pay for the war. He may cut back on federal spending or just run up the deficit.


BLITZER (voice-over): What no one wants is another spike in oil prices like during the Iranian hostage crisis. From 1979 to 1980, the average price of gas soared by 45 percent nationwide.

WYSS: Let's look at the most likely bad scenario, which is that we go in, but it takes longer than we think. Oil supplies are disrupted. The adjoining states, Iran, Saudi Arabia, either can't get oil to us or decide to have some kind of an embargo, then you probably see oil up around 50 to $75 a barrel for an extended period of time.

BLITZER: At the pump, that's about a $1 a gallon more than Americans pay today. Why so high? American depends on Middle East oil for about 12 percent of its supply, especially Saudi Arabia, which now pumps an average of eight million barrels into the market a day. Any major disruption would deal a serious blow to the U.S. and world economies. The question is -- how likely is that scenario?

BAER: The ability to take out the oil of Saudi Arabia is simple. I mean I could it with 50-kilos of explosives because all you have to do is hit a few sensitive areas. I mean what we would do if oil hit $150 a barrel?

LARRY GOLDSTEIN, PRESIDENT, PETROLEUM INDUSTRY RESEARCH FOUNDATION: If in fact Saudi facilities or anyone else's facilities have been vulnerable, there's no reason to believe that those governments are not aware of that vulnerable. And there's no reason to believe that our government hasn't been in consultations with those governments to prepare for any eventuality.

BLITZER: In case of an oil emergency, the United States has strategic petroleum reserves, oil stockpiled in salt caverns along the Gulf Coast. Last November, President Bush ordered the reserves to be filled to their 700 million barrel capacity. But that level won't be reached for at least two more years and its questionable how long the reserves can meet America's appetite for oil.

The uncertainty of war usually works its way into the markets. Take the oil prices before the Gulf War as an example. Oil prices were highest in the weeks and months building up to the war. Soon after the first bomb hit Baghdad and a clear, easy victory seemed more likely, oil prices plummeted.

We see hints of the same today. Crude oil futures are dropping over time, a sign that traders are counting on lower oil prices when the war is over and Iraq's full oil potential is past.

SCOTT HESS, OIL TRADER, G&H COMMODITIES: I think if those pickets are ever opened up, then we're going to see crude oil at 10 or $15 lower than we're seeing today.

BLITZER: Wishful thinking, perhaps, as no one can predict a war's end nor how it will affect your wallet.

WYSS: If you have to fight a war, you better be able to afford it. If we really think that Saddam Hussein is a threat to world peace, to our safety, to our lives in the long run, and we have to go in and get him, then for heaven sakes, a $100 billion shouldn't deter us from doing that.

If battle plans work out, it's no problem. But battle plans always have a way of not working out. And if oil prices soar, if the war drags on, if we see terrorist attacks, then you are probably talking about another recession, probably a much bigger one than you saw last year.


BLITZER: Perhaps this latest conflict with Iraq will end without a war. President Bush says he wants the Iraqi leader to disarm. And Saddam Hussein now says he'll abide by the latest U.N. resolution and allow inspectors back into Iraq. One thing is certain -- the showdown with Iraq is far from over and there will be many more questions to answer before it is resolved.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. Thanks for joining us.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This epidemic has swept the country.


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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I lived on tacos and quick food places.

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ANNOUNCER: How did they succeed and how close are we to a medical breakthrough? CNN PRESENTS, FAT CHANCE: THE STRUGGLE TO LOSE WEIGHT hosted by Aaron Brown next week only on CNN.


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