CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Iraq: The Weapons Hunt
Aired November 24, 2002 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: An aggressive dictator now rules in Iraq. By his search for terrible weapons, by his ties to terror groups, by his development of prohibited ballistic missiles, the dictator of Iraq threatens the security of every free nation.
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CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, there is a tough job ahead for weapons inspectors. And as you just heard President Bush has some tough words for Iraq. President Bush is warning that what is at stake right now.
Well, the United Nations weapons inspectors are getting ready for a pivotal weapons inspection, which is going to be starting on Wednesday. Teams are just beginning to arrive on the ground. They will arrive fully tomorrow, on Monday.
Now, we've got a full team report coming up: Nic Robertson is going to be reporting live from Baghdad.
We've got Sheila MacVicar. She is live from the inspectors' staging ground in Cyprus.
And Frank Buckley is at the White House for us.
Good day to all of you.
But right now, we begin on page five in Baghdad where the Iraqi government, well, is grudgingly getting ready to be under the United Nations microscope again, with new inspections just days away.
Iraq's foreign minister has fired off a letter to the United Nations complaining about the Security Council resolution.
The latest from CNN's senior international correspondent now, Nic Robertson in Baghdad -- Nic.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Carol, that first inspection team arriving here in Baghdad in a little less than 24 hours. On that team, there will be 18 people, 18 scientists, 12 of them specialists in missiles, in chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction technology. The other six will be specialists in the nuclear weapons field. These teams are expected to split up into different groups to go about their work Wednesday.
Meanwhile, on the ground here preparations are already well under way to make their job begin smoothly.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Piling up at the door of U.N. weapons inspection headquarters, boxes of laboratory and computer equipment. In all, several tons have arrived so far, including a satellite dish.
With five more technicians starting work over the weekend, the pace of restoration at the long deserted offices picking up, providing opportunity for assessment of security.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very hard to tell for us whether the premises had been compromised or not. We'll do everything, of course, to make our premises secure.
ROBERTSON: Despite the possible breaches in security, the first team of 18 inspectors is due to arrive late Monday and start inspections Wednesday.
The inspectors still have much to work out. For example, when they'll expand their offices here in Baghdad, when they'll open bases in the north and south and exactly how they'll arrange to interview Iraqi scientists.
At a recent award ceremony in Baghdad, Iraqi scientists received honors for their work. But some here could face questioning by U.N. inspectors outside Iraq, and so far the details of how that is to be done have yet to be agreed with Iraqi officials.
In a letter Saturday to the U.N., Iraq's foreign minister, Naji Sabri, says Resolution 1441 contradicts international law, adding that claims Iraq has deployed weapons of mass destruction are groundless. And that any use of force against Iraq in the future requires permission from the U.N. Security Council.
None of these concerns, however, appear likely to delay the inspection process.
ROBERTSON: Now, we don't know exactly where the inspectors will first go to Monday, but U.N. spokesmen have been telling us it's likely going to be the sites that were inspected in 1998, where monitoring equipment was left behind by those inspection teams.
They'll be trying to establish a baseline, essentially bring themselves back up to speed with what's been happening over the last four years, Carol.
LIN: Nic, four years ago we saw fights break out at some of these sites between U.N. weapons inspectors and Iraqi security. What is the approach that the inspectors are going to be taking once they get to these sites now?
ROBERTSON: The inspectors will have security. The U.N. is not saying exactly how many people, security members, they will have on their team, will they be dressed differently, will we be able to see if they're different from inspectors. But they are saying they will have security.
When we asked a U.N. spokesman if these security members would be armed, he refused to say anything.
We also know that whenever these teams go out to a site, they won't have told Iraqi officials where they're going, but as soon as they leave their compound, they're going to be -- they expect to be picked up and tailed by what they're calling Iraqi minders, Iraqi government officials.
Now, these officials are going to be the people that will help facilitate the inspectors get into those sites when they arrive at a factory complex. These Iraqi officials that will have been tailing them will go to the Iraqis on the gate of the compound, tell them this is the U.N. inspection team and to let them in -- Carol.
LIN: All right. We'll see what happens. Thank you very much, Nic Robertson live in Baghdad.
Dozens of weapons inspectors are in Cyprus, where they're getting ready to head into Iraq. Of course, you just heard all of that.
CNN senior international correspondent Sheila MacVicar is with us now from Larnaca to talk more with about the makeup of the inspection team and some of the sensitivities involving their work. A very delicate dance on the ground, Sheila.
SHEILA MACVICAR, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, a very delicate stance. Indeed. We're hearing from weapons inspectors as they arrive here on their way into Baghdad tomorrow, talking about the seriousness of the mission. Talking about this being the most important weapons inspection mission that any of them have ever been on, fully aware of what is at stake here as they get ready to go into Baghdad.
Now, this group of weapons inspectors, the 12 weapons inspectors comprise scientists, lab technicians, ballistics experts, munitions experts, bomb disposal experts.
In addition to that, there's a six-member team of the International Atomic Energy Agency. They are the people who will be taking a look at Iraq's nuclear program and, of course, trying to decide or determine what exactly has happened with any of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs over the course of the four years that the inspectors have been absent from Iraq.
The composition of the team itself, where these inspectors come from, is something that has been quite sensitive, where we've had both the Iraqis and then the Arab league complaining that there weren't enough inspectors from Arab nations. Now, we know that of the total body of inspectors recruited so far, 100 or so, and there will be more added later, about 30, the largest single national group, are Americans. After that, there are French, Russians, Chinese and then some Arabs.
The Arab League saying that they wish that there were more Arab weapons inspectors on the team, and they've been told by the U.N. officials that there will be another recruitment and more courses being run for potential weapons inspectors in January. Being told that they're interested in increasing the number of Arab weapons inspectors on the team, inspectors from Arab nations. They need to get their CV's in to try to get on that training course.
Today here in Larnaca, as we saw some of these people arriving, as I said, very serious, very much aware of the importance of their mission.
Jacques Baute, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency team going into Baghdad, talked about the kind of seriousness that they are taking with regards to their mission.
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JACQUES BAUTE, IAEA: You know, I think what matters, whatever pressure we have, we're going to do our job seriously and be able to draw conclusions which will be credible for everybody.
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MACVICAR: And that indeed is the question, Carol. The issue of credibility.
LIN: There you go. All right. Thank you very much, Sheila MacVicar reporting live from Larnaca, Cyprus.
Well, just back from his trip to Europe, President Bush is keeping a close watch on what is going on with Iraq.
To the White House now and CNN's Frank Buckley for the latest from there -- Frank.
FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol.
The president is back here in the Eastern time zone, in the U.S., and back into his usual routine for a Sunday. We caught a glimpse of him as he went into church this morning.
And you're right. Of course, the president is very closely monitoring the situation in Iraq. The president returning from his NATO summit with additional political -- international political backing for the U.S. position on Iraq in the form of a declaration by the NATO nations to take action to assist the U.N. with its disarmament resolution.
The president, in his last stop of the overseas tour, reiterated to a crowd in Bucharest the U.S. position to use force if necessary. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The United Nations Security Council, and now NATO, have spoken with one voice. The Iraqi regime will completely disarm itself of weapons of mass murder or we, the United States, will lead a coalition of willing nations and disarm that regime in the name of peace.
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BUCKLEY: U.S. officials tell us that they are in the process of contacting 50 nations to see what level of support and participation the U.S. can expect if it, in fact, does lead a coalition into military action in Iraq. So far White House officials not saying who has said yes or what level of participation they are promising -- Carol.
LIN: Frank, you might have heard about the letter that the Iraqi foreign minister has sent to the United Nations, complaining that the latest U.N. resolution violates international law. I'm wondering if there's any reaction on this Sunday morning out of the White House.
BUCKLEY: So far no reaction on that particular letter, Carol. But the U.S. position and the White House position has been very clear. There is a zero tolerance policy.
The U.S. believes that the U.N. Security Council resolution is the 17th such resolution over the past 11 years. They say this time it's serious, that it is backed by the will of the international community and by military action, if required.
LIN: All right. Thank you very much, Frank Buckley live at the White House.
Well, coming up on "LATE EDITION" Wolf Blitzer sits down with Foreign Relations chairman, Senator Joseph Biden, and Senator Chuck Hagel of the Foreign Affairs Committee, to talk Iraq, the war on terror and the Homeland Security Bill. That's at noon Eastern time.
And tonight, we go inside Northern Iraq with Brett Saber. This series gives us a rare look inside Kurdish territory. That's tonight at 10 p.m. Eastern time.
And still ahead right here: as U.N. weapons inspectors gather to begin inspections, we are going to take a closer look at what they might expect.
And later, in the event of war, searching for Saddam Hussein may be harder than we think. We are going to show you why.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first ever U.S. military across-service training course of its kind for journalists. Today's topic, how to cover without getting hurt.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you see something like this, please let us know that, "Hey, that looks like a mortar."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We followed Marines into an attack, urban warfare, learned the basics of survival medicine, spent a night in the field. But none of us were prepared for day six.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LIN: We are actually going to show you what happened on day six when our Ryan Chilcote goes through basic training.
IRAQ: THE WEAPONS HUNT continues in just a moment.
LIN: International pressure is bearing down on Iraq. In France, for example, President Jacques Chirac called the inspectors' work essential in clearing up doubts about whether Baghdad is hiding weapons of mass destruction.
And in Moscow, Russian and Chinese foreign ministers called on Iraq to keep its word.
Former UNSCOM inspector Olivia Bosch joins us now from London to talk a little bit more about exactly what we can expect.
Ms Bosch, thanks for joining us.
OLIVIA BOSCH, FORMER UNSCOM WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Hello.
LIN: Right now, the focus on the ground seems to be setting up the bureaucracy, you know, getting the office space ready, basically returning to old sites, sites where these U.N. weapons inspectors had already been.
Is this really the way that these inspections should start off, do you think?
BOSCH: Well, the current team that's in there, as you say, setting up the logistics, making sure that the Jeeps are road worthy, that they're registered properly. They're also setting up the offices, including a new one that they plan to set up in the north, in Mosul.
Now in terms of the formal inspections, those are due to begin on Wednesday and it's at that point, then, that they'll be going to, as you mentioned, the sites that may have previously monitored, or at least that's one plan that they might have to go to some of these.
LIN: Right, but...
BOSCH: Prior to, in fact, the declaration.
LIN: Ms. Bosch, there was so much lead-up. Hans Blix has a list of 100 top sites that he wants to visit. This is an opportunity now to actually go in and inspect the presidential palaces, to go into places that the U.N. weapons inspectors were not allowed to go into before, after the Gulf War.
Why not challenge the Iraqi resolution to cooperate by going to the tougher sites that we know very little about?
BOSCH: Well, in the early stages of the inspections, it's more likely that they will go to some of the previous known sites. You mentioned the 100 top priority.
Going to the presidential sites may be further along the road and not something initially that they would go to. In fact, the presidential sites may be a little bit overrated. They are, of course, journalistically appealing, but if the Iraqis did hide something there, they'd have to make a calculation that in the event of a military operation, the presidential sites may be a target and therefore they would lose any kinds of material related to the weapons of mass destruction program.
So that particular -- the presidential sites are perhaps not as significant as some others may have indicated.
Well, let's talk about the change of technology on the ground, because lot of the equipment has really changed. Equipment that would have filled an entire room now actually handheld.
For example now there's a handheld scanner made in Britain. It's a $9,000 scanner called the Kencam Agent Monitor or KAM (ph). Weighs about four pounds and it uses the technology that we see in airports to detect explosive materials, but it can be used on the ground with a handheld device.
BOSCH: Right. In fact, the previous inspectors also had equipment. You're right to say that there will be upgrades of the version. It's been four or five years since that equipment might have been used. And of course, technology does advance.
Again, there is a little bit overrating of the technology in terms of the degree to which the inspectors will use such equipment.
When they do begin more comprehensively, they will, in fact, be perhaps adopting three kinds of approaches.
One is that they would like to interview military strategists, senior officials and some scientists who may have been involved in weapons of mass destruction programs.
Secondly, they will then visit sites. They will want to look at some dual use sites. They may even go to some missile production and testing sites, which are permitted.
And, thirdly, the inspectors would like to look at paperwork. It's not, of course, journalistically appealing, but the documentation that would be, for instance, of minutes of meetings in which management decisions had been made. And also, end user certificates of material and equipment that the Iraqis may have imported over the last four years. So the inspectors would want to see that documentation to make sure that the equipment is in the place where it's supposed to be and also used for the intended purpose.
LIN: Ms Bosch, be as specific as you can here. Where, in all of that, do you think if weapons inspectors have their greatest chance at catching Saddam Hussein in a lie?
BOSCH: Well, that's a tough question and everyone is speculating now.
I think the first opportunity, well, may be on the 27th in the first week. There will be -- one will want to assess a feeling of cooperation from the Iraqis.
Perhaps the true first time will be, though, when they make their declaration. Their deadline is by the 8th of December and in fact they have 30 days in which to prepare for this declaration. They only had 15 days in 1991 when then U.N. Resolution 687 required similar kinds of information.
So that declaration will be assessed against what the inspectors understand to have been unaccounted for in the past, and also it will be assessed against intelligence reports that will be provided from any state and country that would like to do so.
LIN: Interesting, all right, that the lie may be detected in paperwork and not necessarily on the ground.
Thank you very much, Olivia Bosch, former UNSCOM inspector.
Well, the search for support in the standoff with Iraq. Did President Bush convince foreign allies that Saddam Hussein has to go, and by force, if necessary? We're going to look at the president's summit.
And next half hour: bunker busters. The U.S. military rushes a new generation of weapons into play, weapons that might reach Saddam Hussein, wherever he hides, even if it's underground.
LIN: President Bush is back home in the White House after the NATO summit in Prague. The president and the first lady, Laura Bush, used the opportunity for a five-day tour of Eastern Europe, but it wasn't a tourist tour at all. In fact, it sounded more like a sales program.
CNN political analyst Ron Brownstein joins us to talk more about the goals of this trip.
Good morning, Ron.
RON BROWNSTEIN, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Good morning, Carol. LIN: Well, it seemed to me that the president's goal was really to get NATO on board. In his speeches yesterday in both Romania and Lithuania, he was comparing the tyranny of communism with the tyranny of Saddam Hussein.
Do you think he was successful in getting that message across to the newest NATO members, who could help in this war on terror?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think you're right about the focus. American foreign policy these days can really be reduced to one word and that is "Iraq." And on that front you'd have to say the president took steps forward, but not the final or decisive steps.
And what was most valuable for him out of the trip was the NATO declaration in support of the U.N. resolution authorizing the new inspections and ordering Saddam Hussein to disarm.
That's important, Carol, because one thing that's been clear in public opinion polling here in America from the beginning is that while Americans support the idea of military action against Saddam Hussein, they are much more willing to accept that if allies are involved and supportive. And so any time President Bush can demonstrate that kind of support, he reinforces his position with the public at home.
What is still out there, though, are going to be some tough decisions about when you move -- when and if you move from an inspection stage to a military action stage. And on that front there's still probably going to be issues with NATO allies.
LIN: Right. And it's still murky as to whether NATO would even have a role in military action.
But it also seems, by all the noise out of the Bush administration, that if push comes to shove and the international community doesn't move fast enough, President Bush still wants the opportunity to move unilaterally.
So doesn't it complicate it when you're trying to draw the NATO allies in, but you may not necessarily want or need their help?
BROWNSTEIN: Yes, I think that's right. I do think that from the beginning it's been very -- two things have been very clear.
President Bush is willing and perhaps even inclined to do this as unilaterally as possible, because it gives him maximum freedom of operation.
On the other hand, he recognizes the need, both domestically and even more importantly, in international opinion, to have as much support from other nations as possible. So that is the tension throughout.
Now, they are clearly willing to move without all of the U.N. authorization and without NATO. And indeed, it may be likely that NATO does not participate, as a group, because of the opposition from Germany, where Gerhard Schroeder ran his re-election campaign this year on insisting they were not going to be part of it. So that alone will make it very difficult.
But what the president is doing, really, is moving forward on two fronts. He's trying to bring in other nations, but he's also making very clear that he will act with whoever comes with him if these broad international bodies don't sanction the action.
LIN: Right. Which brings to mind that moment with President Putin of Russia. It was an embarrassing moment to me when President Putin was pointing out, "Look, you may want to go to war with Iraq but this war on terror, you haven't even caught Osama bin Laden." Pointing out where are your priorities here?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, he sounded a little like Al Gore this week. I mean, that was Al Gore's message in his blitz of the media in re- emerging from two years obscurity, was that the administration was shifting focus too quickly to Iraq and that the war on terror would suffer as a result. Putin was similar there.
Also saying that there ought to be more focus on questionable activities in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, two countries that we view as allies in the war on terror but which are also, obviously, compromised within those societies by the penetration of extremist elements.
So it was a different emphasis and one that you may see as we move down the road. When the question becomes, as I said before, at what point do you say Saddam Hussein is not cooperating, inspections are a dead end and, therefore, the world needs to move to a military option? The president may have very different views on that than Russia does or France does, and that is where the rubber is going to meet the road.
The NATO summit moved it forward a little bit, but those real decisions are still out there, somewhere further down the line.
LIN: You hit it right on the head. Thank you very much, Ron Brownstein. Good to see you this morning.
BROWNSTEIN: Thank you, Carol.
LIN: Updates on this hour's news alert are up next.
And then, if it does come to war, what will it take to take out Saddam Hussein? The U.S. military is working on new weapons that could get the job done. A look at bunker busters straight ahead.
And later this hour, the critical factor in any war, the weather. Coming up, we're going to talk to an Army forecaster. He's got some amazing pictures.
LIN: If the U.S. goes to war against Iraq, one of the first goals will be to cut off Saddam Hussein's communications with his troops. A strategy known as decapitation. The Iraqi leader is believed to have a communication setup in a bunker beneath one of his palaces. The Pentagon is now urgently trying to build massive bunker- busting weaponry to reach that area underground. CNN's Barbara Starr reports.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the first hours of a war, the U.S. military believes Saddam Hussein will run to a bunker deep beneath one of his presidential palaces. The Iraqis have built hardened bunkers designed specifically to withstand attack by current U.S. weapons. Innovative construction techniques shield key areas from blast waves.
CNN has been told by U.S. defense sources that one of those bunkers dozens of feet under central Baghdad has vital communications gear for Saddam to talk to his men while under attack. The U.S. they say can not quickly destroy it without risking killing nearby civilians. Inspectors may never even find it.
DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: They have tunneled underground dramatically. It's going to be very hard for the inspectors to find anything.
STARR: CNN has learned two new massive bombs, which could be carried on the B-2 and B-52 bombers are now being urgently designed in hopes they can be ready early next year. One proposed weapon, Big Blu, is a 30,000-pound bomb packed with 3,500 pounds of explosives aimed at penetrating 150 feet of earth, far deeper than the current 5,000-pound bomb which penetrates about two dozen feet.
The other proposed weapon, a 20,000-pound bomb packed with 18,000 pounds of explosives. This would replace the Vietnam era 15,000-pound Daisy cutter also used in Afghanistan. The bomb detonates in the air over the target, creating a massive air blast. The U.S. will use it to destroy hardened revetments protecting Iraqi scud missiles and weapons.
(on camera): The work on both these weapons is vital, say defense officials. But even if they are not ready in time for Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wants them in the inventory. Today, there are more than 1,500 deeply-buried military targets around the world.
Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.
LIN: A former Delta Force commander has more insight into how the U.S. military may actually go after Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Retired Command Sergeant Major Eric Haney is the author of "Inside Delta Force: The Story of America's Elite Counterterrorism Unit," and he joins us live. Hi, Eric.
SGT. MAJ. ERIC HANEY (RET.), AUTHOR, "INSIDE DELTA FORCE": Good morning, Carol.
LIN: All right, is it going to be man or machine which is going to go after Saddam Hussein underground, do you think?
HANEY: Well, we're going to use devices to go after him underground, that's for sure. The last resort is to have to send people in to do that. But it's going to be a combination of both once we get down to the brass tasks in the hunt for the destruction of that regime.
LIN: Well, consider this, then. When you go underground, if special forces were to be deployed around the area, you take a look at one of the weapons that Barbara Starr was talking about, this 20,000- pound bomb that uses a giant air blast to destroy things in its path. How does that affect the ground forces then that may have to go in?
HANEY: Well, there's no effect on the ground forces. They're not going to be anywhere near that device when it detonates. And you have certain areas that you always consider a safe zone. Remember, these are huge bombs. The blast wave that comes off those is just catastrophic. So you keep your troops well away from that.
LIN: All right, so paint the scenario for me then. They have the opportunity, they know Saddam Hussein is down there. He's got his command and control center, and all this communications equipment. How does this attack go?
HANEY: Well, it's been said earlier, our move is to decapitate the regime. And that's the greatest thing about the technologies that we've been able to develop, particularly in the last decade since the end of the last Gulf War. As now we're no longer so greatly concerned with the great clash of masses of men and that we can surgically target these areas, be they command, control and communications, or be they the point where Saddam Hussein and his closest supporters happen to be at any particular moment.
LIN: So you think that these bombs are actually going to be pretty reliable, then?
HANEY: Oh, without a doubt they are. This is actually nothing new. In fact, the Defense Department announced this slightly more than a year ago that the development was taking place. And when I read those reports, what that told me was the development had been completed, that we had successfully tested some of these and we were very happy with the results.
LIN: Does it get more complicated, though, if we know that Saddam Hussein is actually present at the target site?
HANEY: Well, we are not just going to rely on thinking that he is in one particular place now. That's something we know quite well, that he moves around. And I would give you this: The template will probably look somewhat like Operation Just Cause in the attack on Panama, which was to decapitate that regime. And in the immediate attack, although we didn't put our hands on Manuel Noriega for a few days, we had separated him from the command structure, and the Panamanian defense forces collapsed in the first night of fighting. I think we're going see something that's very close to that happen in Iraq, when and if the attack comes there.
LIN: Yeah, when and if. All right. I want to get your reaction to some fresh sound that we just got in from Senator Richard Shelby. He is one of the senior members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and this is what he had to say about the possibility of war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: I believe we'll be at war this winter. I do not trust in any way Saddam Hussein or his regime. I believe he will lie, as he has in the past. He will cheat. He will deny, and I think that we will find him in material breach, as we always have. And I believe that we have the leadership now under President Bush not to put up with that any longer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LIN: Pretty grim.
HANEY: Well, it is. Think of this. That's a man, a tyrant, a megalomaniac, who, rather than see the prosperity of his own nation and the good of his own people, has said, I will risk my life to have the weapons of mass destruction, be they biological, chemical or nuclear weapons. For whatever reason, for his grandiose schemes of his place in that region and in the world, it's worth it to him.
LIN: Eric Haney, good to have you. Thank you very much.
HANEY: Certainly. Good morning.
Well, forecasting war. Coming up, we are going to examine the crucial weather factor that determines any military action.
And later, members of the press are preparing for the worst. Do they have what it takes to graduate war school?
LIN: Weather conditions can play an integral part in planning any war. And recently, Secretary of State Colin Powell said winter would be the ideal time for a military operation in Iraq. He also said the U.S. should not be bound by any calendar.
This morning, we take a look at the climate of war, with our expert Jon Mercurio. Dr. Mercurio is director of the Army's Battlefield Environment Division. Good afternoon, or good morning, Dr. Mercurio, thanks for being here.
JON MERCURIO, ARMY RESEARCH LAB: Good morning, Carol Lin.
LIN: Well, let's talk about the worst case scenario. If there is a war and there is is -- Saddam Hussein does have weapons of mass destruction and he attacks with biological or chemical weapons, I understand that you actually are standing by a system here that can help our forces predict and plan for such an eventuality.
MERCURIO: That is correct. The normal weather scenario that we do for weather predictions is over here on the left. And we can see that there is a general northwest flow. That is at about two and a half kilometers resolution. But for a chemical or biological attack, that is not nearly sufficient to be able to predict where the plume is going to go or how the concentrations are going to react.
In order to do that, we have to get to much higher resolutions. We have to get to resolutions of about 100 meters. And this map here shows the same area that is inside that white box. And you can see that the wind actually stalls at this point, because of the fact that there are trees in the terrain, and also there's a slight hill there. And that would not show up at the coarser resolutions of our simulation.
In reality, in this next shot, what we will see is that most of the simulations that we have of chemical plumes are very smooth plumes, where in reality the plume is very fractious. And if we get into an urban domain, where the wind patterns are extremely complicated, then the cloud patterns become extremely complicated.
LIN: What does that mean to the troops on the ground, Dr. Mercurio?
MERCURIO: For the troops on the ground, that means that they're either going to have to be in protection, or that they're going to have to essentially know which direction the material is going in. Because if they're in the mop conditions, their mobility is cut down. So what we would like to be able to do is to determine exactly where the plume is going to go so that we can keep the troops out of harm's way.
LIN: And you're saying you can do that by wind patterns combined with topography, trees and buildings that might help disperse that cloud?
MERCURIO: That is correct. We've now brought up a simulation. And this happens to be right downtown Atlanta, in your area. And what we've done is we've done a simulation. This is done by our partners down at Clark Atlanta University of about a 30-minute release of a chemical agent. The red being the highest concentration, down to the lightest blue would be the lowest concentration.
And you can see that the plume does not just follow a simple pattern. So if we want to be able to determine, give the troops or -- in the case of a civilian hazard, it may be better to stay indoors than to try to escape the plume, because it's not going to go in a simple single direction.
LIN: And according to this mapping out that I'm watching, it seems like it's directional, so it would seem to me just by looking at that visualization that you could cut to the north or the south there and stay out of the danger zone.
MERCURIO: That's correct. But in this particular case, the simulation was relatively simple. It was a single wind. But as we know, the wind has a lot of variability, so the plume may not exactly stay along that course.
One of the things that we're able to do, I'd like to say that the computation for this particular scenario -- half an hour scenario -- took about 30 hours on a very high performance supercomputer. So if we were trying to do a prediction for an actual situation, we wouldn't be able to do it in real time. So what we've come up with, our alternate methodologies for providing the ability to provide an early warning to where the cloud may be.
LIN: So let me stop you there very quickly, Dr. Mercurio. So, for example, they're going into battle. You would need to know where those troops would be planning to be situated so that you could take a look at the topography and the weather patterns there in order to give them a predictive map, right?
MERCURIO: That is correct.
LIN: All right. So let me allow you to continue. I just wanted that to be clear. You need to know battle plans ahead of time in order to get these maps in play.
MERCURIO: Absolutely. We have to -- and one of the biggest problems that we have in terms of chemical and biological releases is we never -- we rarely know exactly where the release point is or what the strength of the source is. So it puts a very real unknown into the situation. So what we have to do is we have to run a large number of scenarios so that we get a footprint of what the situation is.
LIN: Interesting. All right.
MERCURIO: Can we go to the next slide?
LIN: Sure. What do you need, Dr. Mercurio?
MERCURIO: What we do is we've run those simulations as we've seen in the other illustration and we get an idea of where the cloud is going to go from different meteorological conditions. And what we can do is we can get a footprint and for given wind speed, low wind speed or high wind speed, we can lay out a plume and essentially lay it over the contour of the terrain, whether it's a city map or whether it's in complex terrain.
And we can do it for a large number of scenarios and build up these templates so if an attack occurs, we don't have to run the simulation, we simply have to lay over a template in order to determine where the material is going.
LIN: So, essentially, it sounds like the military would then have some sort of high-tech reference book or computer file that they can go to for different scenarios that they might find themselves in so that they can just play it out in their own minds ahead of time.
MERCURIO: That's correct. Until we have the computational capabilities on the battlefield to do these extremely computationally intensive situations.
LIN: Dr. Mercurio, it was fascinating to see some of your earlier work today on CNN and some of the scenarios that played out in Afghanistan, and in such an unpredictable place like Iraq, where high winds during the wintertime, as well as into the summer, could play into the battlefield plans. It would be good to have your technology. Thank you very much.
MERCURIO: Absolutely. Thank you.
LIN: All right, Jon Mercurio, Army research lab.
And up next, basic training for war reporters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How would you describe that to the uninitiated?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, the gas, pepper gas, whatever the heck it is, somehow got in. Maybe I didn't have a good seal, but it burns.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LIN: Harder than you think. We're going to take you behind the scenes in just a moment.
LIN: There's really nothing in journalism school that would prepare a war correspondent for the realities of battle. So the United States military is filling in the gap. It has just completed its first ever boot camp for journalists who want to ride along with U.S. troops in the potential war with Iraq. CNN's Ryan Chilcote is one of the graduates, and he shows us what he went through.
RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): By the time they started shooting at us at the Marine Corps' basic school, many of us were beginning to feel like we were a hardened group of combat journalists. We had been instructed on how not to become a target.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What a target indicator is is anything that you do or fail to do to reveal yourself, your position or your equipment to the enemy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you may want to come over the top, perhaps your cheekbones are reflective. Use the brown paint...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brown here and brown...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Perhaps on some of the sides here. You just want to break up any natural pattern.
CHILCOTE: And show them what it looks like when there is one. By day five, we had already been in a seven-ton truck, helicopter, a hovercraft, an amphibious attack ship, a submarine, a cruiser, a destroyer and a $3.5 billion aircraft carrier. At times, it seemed more like self-promotion, other times more real.
CAPT. MICHAEL GROOTHOUSEN, COMMANDER, USS HARRY TRUMAN: We are the surge carrier right now. And if we got the call from up north we'd be underway in short trip and heading wherever the president or secretary of defense says we need to go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're starting to do what we would actually be doing in the field. We're starting to having to walk with all our gear, plus our gear, you know what I mean? So this is starting to be real.
CHILCOTE: The first ever U.S. military across service training course of its kind for journalists. Today's topic, how to cover without getting hurt.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you see something that does not quite belong, please let somebody know, please let us know that, hey, that looks like a mortar.
CHILCOTE: We followed Marines into an attack, urban warfare, learned the basics of survival medicine, and spent a night in the field.
But none of us were prepared for day six.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to try to keep a lively, a fun day. Weapons of mass destruction are not a funny subject by any means.
CHILCOTE: Three hours of classroom instruction on the effects of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and the use of our suits and masks.
On to the gas chamber.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is crazy.
CHILCOTE: To prove they work, once inside, we take our masks off. Eyes closed, holding our breath, and put them back on. It's not easy getting a perfect seal.
(on camera): How would you describe that to the uninitiated?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, the gas, pepper gas, whatever the heck it is, somehow got in. Maybe I didn't have a good seal. But it burns.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two, three!
CHILCOTE (voice-over): Of course, it wouldn't be the Marines without physical training. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're looking forward to this challenge. We are going to do a few stretching exercises to get our body nice and warm.
CHILCOTE: At times it was like an aerobics class on steroids.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looking at some of them and don't take this the wrong way, but they won't be able to keep up with a unit that's five moving five, six clicks at one time.
CHILCOTE: The finale: A five-mile trek complete with the requisite ambushes, gas attacks and camera toting press. Only this time, they were covering us.
Ryan Chilcote, CNN, Quantico, Virginia.
LIN: Whatever it takes to get the story. Stay with CNN for up to the minute coverage of the showdown with Iraq, coming up in just 60 minutes. Senator Joseph Biden and Senator Chuck Hagel are among Wolf Blitzer's guests on "LATE EDITION," and that is at 12:00 p.m. Eastern, 9:00 Pacific.
And tonight, on 10:00 p.m. on CNN, we begin a special series: "Inside Northern Iraq." CNN SUNDAY continues in just a moment. I'm Carol Lin.
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