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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Iraqi Ministers Speak Out

Aired March 20, 2003 - 01:00   ET

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

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Let me go back to General Clark for a second, if I can. General, what are -- what is Tommy Franks doing, General Franks doing? What are the planners doing right now? They have started something. What would you guess they're doing now?
RET. GENERAL WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it's daylight, so, first of all, they're all awake and working on this issue.

And, secondly, they may be trying to continue to adjust the timetable. There may be other targets of opportunity that they're after. They may have decided, since they've sprung it now, now they have got to have extra patrols airborne to take advantage of what's happening next. Or they may simply have told people, move it up.

They're also going to be concerned about how to synchronize the air and the ground. It's possible the ground forces could sit there for a while. But, normally, doctrinally, in an attack position, you would like to pause there for as little time as possible. And so there's probably phone calls going through back and forth, trying to figure out, OK, now they know we're coming. So how much tactical surprise is left and how do we play one side off against the other? And what does this unit do and that unit do now, and, if not now, then when?

So I think there are a lot of high-level conversations going on right now. And I think that the troops down at the bottom are cleaning their weapons and looking at their maps again and making routine pre-battle checks.

BROWN: Do you have any sense that those troops, those -- particularly the -- we have had this concern over the last couple of days -- we -- the United States government, has had this concern over the last couple of days that Saddam Hussein might launch a preemptive attack. Now that there has been these cruise missiles dropped on him, is it your view that the American forces, the British forces, are in any greater danger now than they were at 9:00 Eastern time tonight -- last night?

CLARK: Well, I think that's got to be a consideration. And, surely, we're doing everything we can to prevent his ability to execute an attack like that.

But, in fact, we did move. And even though this is a big wide open desert, he does not have spy satellites. He cannot see us. And he is having a hard time locating us. And Kuwait looks small on a map, but when you consider how the forces are laid out there, you can fire at a lot of empty desert and not hit anything. So I think we're safer for having moved.

BROWN: Just hang on a second.

Just to keep viewers abreast of sort of where in the world everything is at this moment, the Iraqi information minister is talking to reporters. We'll get a translation of that as we go. That's going on.

Now we can translate it, so we shall.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

MOHAMMED AL-SAHAF, IRAQI INFORMATION MINISTER (through translator): ... people in defiance of international law and international community, against the United Nations.

And, as I said before, we can't understand how to deal with these people. They are war criminals. They are mercenaries. The international law that applies to armed struggle does not apply to them. This is naked aggression and piracy. And this is what pirates and mercenaries do. This is what war criminals do. Therefore, international law does not apply to them. They are criminals.

This naked aggression will be met by Iraqi resistance. And the people of Iraq will defeat this aggression. I ask you to show the world the crimes of the Americans and the Zionists and the British. We will take you everywhere, so you can show the world. Feel free to show them these crimes.

Now I introduce to you the minister of culture, Hamed Yousif Hummadi.

HAMED YOUSIF HUMMADI, IRAQI MINISTER OF CULTURE (through translator): Today, the American administration has declared its bankruptcy. Today, that bankruptcy has become official before the entire world. And I'm not talking about the media side my colleague here has told you.

But I would like to tell the world that the pretext that was used by the American administration, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, that was changed to what is called a regime change. I would like you to go back to the month of December 1988, month of September 1988. On that day, senator...

BROWN: The information and culture ministers of Iraq talking to reporters. I'm not sure what the question was that launched that rhetorical attack, or even if there was one. But that is part of the moment and part of what goes on in these moments in an attempt to play to these multiple constituencies that General Clark was talking about a little bit ago.

I was a lowly seaman in the Coast Guard. I've interrupted a general twice tonight. I will pay for that at some point -- Christiane.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Aaron, clearly a concerted effort by the top leadership in Baghdad to come out fighting, if you like, at least rhetorically and at least with their presence.

If, indeed, this cruise missile attack, apparently, we're told, 40 cruise missiles launched at a so-called leadership target, well, then, the Iraqis are doing their utmost to show us that the top leadership is intact, Saddam Hussein giving that speech. And there you had the minister of information and the president of the Iraqi National Assembly talking and carrying on the rhetorical barrage against President Bush, against the U.S.-led action in Iraq right now.

Going back to Saddam Hussein's speech, looking at the transcript, at least some of it, he basically, as Wolf pointed out earlier, very cleverly alluded to the date today, 20th of March, 2003, in this part of the world. And he said: "Draw your sword. I'm not afraid." He went on to denounce President Bush and said that they would have no chance of winning.

What we know is that, from this end, anyway, what the U.S. and U.K. military planners have been talking about is a concerted and heavy aerial bombardment, bombs launched from planes and from sea- based craft, and then a ground offensive. What we also have heard is, from those analysts who are looking at what might be going on and how a battle might unfold, is, even if there is very little resistance all the way up until Baghdad, that Saddam Hussein may play the Baghdad card and may try to draw troops into either defeating Baghdad or draw them into fighting.

He alluded a little to that in his speech, talking about, let them come and let them see what we will deliver -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Christiane, thanks very much.

CNN's Rula Amin is standing by in Amman, Jordan, getting initial reaction from a moderate Arab state, a state friendly with the United States, namely that of Jordan -- Rula.

RULA AMIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the day here is just starting. It's about 8:00 a.m. in the morning. Kids are going to school. And there's very little activity in the town.

However, 40 minutes away, on the border between Jordan and Iraq, there are more activities there. Jordanian students, Jordanian families who were still in Iraq have been trying to leave. They were leaving the border, carrying their luggage, and very few cars going into Iraq. And, also, the Jordanian government and the U.N. agencies are trying their best to set up two refugee camps very close to that border.

However, very strong wind here and a sandstorm has crippled that work. The Jordan government here is trying to prepare for this war on more than one front. On one hand, security has been beefed up around embassies here, just in case there will be some kind of backlash as a result of this war. Jordan says there are hundreds of U.S. troops here, but they are only here to defend Jordan and to protect it. And that is creating some kind of a controversial issue within Jordan, because some opposition leaders and some of the public want to make sure and are calling on the government not to allow U.S. troops to use Jordan as a launching pad in case there is a war -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Rula Amin in Amman, Jordan -- thanks, Rula, very much.

CNN's Art Harris is in northern Kuwait. He's embedded with U.S. troops there.

Art, tell us what you are seeing and what you are hearing where you are.

ART HARRIS, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I'm with the 2nd Marines out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, here in northern Kuwait near the Iraqi border.

Their adrenaline is pumping. Their coffee pots are packed. And as one put it to me today, "We're loaded for bear." Their call sign, as Charlie Company Light Armored Reconnaissance Unit, is the gunfighters. And they do just that in their light-armored all-terrain vehicles, armed with everything from anti-tank TOW missiles. The 25- millimeter cannons blast through buildings, machine guns. They have got mortars that can fire more than a mile, Wolf, and rounds, rounds they call shake-and-bake.

When one of the men learned that cruise missiles had been fired at Iraqi military targets, he said told me -- quote -- "Now I'm really motivated" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What about the morale, as far as you can tell, over there, Art, among those Marines in northern Kuwait once that order is given to move into southern Iraq?

HARRIS: The morale is very high. They say that this is, in a way, similar to training. They have trained together in the desert in sandstorms and all sorts of conditions. And they say it's like muscle memory. They'll do what they have to do and that they feel very prepared.

So, there's also a sense that they're part of history and that, if the president calls on them to carry out his policies, that they will be down in the dirt and do whatever it takes to make it happen.

BLITZER: CNN's Art Harris, with the U.S. Marines in northern Kuwait, preparing to move into southern Iraq at some point -- Art, thanks very much.

CNN's Miles O'Brien is standing by at the CNN Center in Atlanta. He was telling us earlier, when we briefly interrupted him, about some of the hardware that's being used right now in this initial stage of the war -- Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're talking about the Tomahawk cruise missiles. According to the Pentagon, at least 40 of them were fired from ships in the Red Sea and in the Persian Gulf. Joining me to talk a little bit about the cruise missile, what it is used for, and how useful it is for the U.S. military, is Alec Fraser, retired captain in the United States Navy.

Alec, first let's get the lay of the land here. Using this map, you can point out where these cruisers were that would have fired off these cruise missiles and give people a sense of where they were headed. I think I'll draw on the map while you are doing that.

RET. CAP. ALEC FRASER, U.S. NAVY: Well, I think that you can see, from the map, that there are ships that could be in the Red Sea, back over in the Persian Gulf. But there are also submarines that can fire these missiles; 40 missiles coming from one destroyer, one cruiser, is a large number of missiles to come from one ship.

But they can come from two different locations, approach Iraq from two different areas, two different quadrants. And it makes it a little bit more complicated as far as discerning where the attack is coming from and sort of surprising the people on that end.

O'BRIEN: And the synchronicity of these attacks is what's very interesting. You could have 40 cruise missiles coming from all different locations. They can arrive at a specific location all at the same time, if need be.

FRASER: Right. And that's done by an order that goes out from the theater commander that sort of coordinates both the aircraft that are doing the attack and the missiles, so that, in general, the missiles that go in first to get people to turn off their radars or to lower their heads. And then the aircraft go in. It's a finely-tuned thing. It's timed down to the second. And it works.

O'BRIEN: The Defense Department released a little bit of tape tonight. I want to just take a look at this. This comes from the USS Cook, which is out here in the Red Sea, the USS Cook.

This launching that we see here, obviously, Alec, you want to clear the deck when this happens. What we're talking about is a solid rocket motor. Eventually, as it breaks away, what kicks in is essentially a jet engine, right?

FRASER: Right, the booster that gets it up into the air. And then the turbo fan engine takes over and flies at several hundred feet after that. And it's the fact that it's a turbo fan engine, it's just running at a very low speed, that will send it out to 700, 1,000 miles, long-range.

O'BRIEN: All right, and they fly fairly low. They fly about the speed of a commercial airliner, in the neighborhood of 500 miles an hour.

Let's take a look at this animation to give you a sense of the flight of a cruise missile. Typical scenario here. There's your cruiser. And there's your launch. And the trick here is to be something that cannot be easily seen by radar, cannot be detected by heat-seeking devices. And that's what the Tomahawk offers for $1.4 million per copy, right?

FRASER: Right.

But it can't seen because it's so low. And it can fly at a couple hundred feet. It can fly through valleys, fly down the rivers. It can do the things that can't be detected by radar. And the small engine is hard to detect by an infrared device that could be like a shoulder-fired missile.

O'BRIEN: Now, there was one other item in the arsenal that was used, according to the Pentagon, tonight. And that's the F-117 stealth fighter, the Night Hawk, as it's called.

And I'll tell you what. Before we do that, let's give you some particulars on the Tomahawk cruise missile. And then we'll move into the F-117, if we could just give you a sense of what it's all about and the specifications on it. BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile, about a 1,000-mile range, terrain contour, uses GPS, and launched from surface ships or submarines.

FRASER: Or submarines. And it has a warhead, a 1,000-pound warhead, which can be used like a bomb.

But it also has a warhead with cluster bombs. And the cluster bombs can be used to destroy aircraft that are parked along a runway. Or it can be used to put a number of bombs down a section of a highway someplace, if we knew someone was really traveling down that highway.

O'BRIEN: All right, now let's move into the F-117, the Night Hawk. It's about the size of an F-15, single seat, carries two guided bombs in it, most likely the GBU-27, which is kind of a mini bunker- buster, a speed of about 650 miles an hour, with a range of about 700 miles an hour. Of course, it can be refueled in midair, so it's not that important a number. Laser-guided weapons, the GBU-27.

Let's take a look at a scenario to give you a sense of how this operates. It's used early on, along the cruise missile. The cruise missile is used, obviously, because we don't put pilot's in harm's way. But this is a plane that's not easily seen by radar. These bombs that we're talking about, mini bunker-busters, with about a 500- pound warhead on them, designed with a time fuse, so they penetrate concrete and then, ideally, if they're working as they're supposed to, explode once they have made a penetration deep into a bunker.

That's the theory. We don't know that that GBU-27 was used, but that is typically what is on board an F-117, when you're talking about a guided precision weapon. And one thing to point out about these precision weapons, in the Gulf War I, about 10 percent of the weapons were precision or guided, either by laser or by satellites. This time around, it's just the opposite; 10 percent are so-called dumb bombs, 90 percent precision. It's amazing how the weaponry has changed over this 12-year period.

FRASER: It has.

And back when I was in the Gulf in '91, we didn't have GPS to the extent that we have it today. GPS has changed the way we do warfare. And we can be much more precise, get the exact location of a target and put a bomb right there. Back in the Korean War, it would take hundreds of bombs just to destroy one bridge. Now you can do it with one.

O'BRIEN: All right, having said all that, when you talk about 40 cruise missiles coming in, we've heard this talk about a decapitation effort here. It's almost impossible for us to assess how much damage was done. But given the accuracy you have told us about, we can probably surmise that they hit a lot of these targets that they were after.

FRASER: Well, absolutely, they hit the targets. But the targets, what they were is what we don't know. They could have been in the no-fly zone, radars. They could have been going after someone on a highway. What they were, we don't know. But whatever it was they were aimed at, they hit.

O'BRIEN: All right. We can say that with can fairly good certainty, I guess.

FRASER: Certainty.

O'BRIEN: All right, Alec Fraser, retired captain in the United States Navy, thank you very much for walking us through all this. We appreciate it -- Aaron.

BROWN: And that will be one of the great and important questions of the next 24 hours, I suppose, not simply what they were trying to get, but who was there, if they were trying literally to decapitate, a word that Jamie McIntyre used, an expression that comes out of the Pentagon, that they were trying to get some people. Perhaps, in the next 24 hours, we'll know who they got.

What we do know, actually, is who they didn't get. And the Iraqis have made a point of parading out government officials in the last 40 minutes or so to show that they are alive. Who we haven't seen, by the way, is Tariq Aziz, the deputy prime minister.

Nic Robertson, I'm curious. As you've listened to this, as someone who has been in Baghdad a long time now, many, many weeks, you undoubtedly heard emphasis that we might have missed, all of us. Just react to what the last 40 minutes in Baghdad has been like, on TV and in the streets.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think listening to Minister Al-Sahaf, it's what we have heard from a number of occasions from him.

And as it has drawn closer to this conflict, all government ministers who have talked on the issue, whether it be the foreign minister, the deputy prime minister, the information minister, all trying to point to the illegality of this aggression. And that's, I think, in part what Minister Al-Sahaf was trying to do, talking about the aggression of America. There is one thing here that officials in Iraq seem to take some satisfaction in, if you will. While they know there's nothing they can do at this time, or nothing they're prepared to do at this time, to head off a war, they continually point out that this lacks international support, that it lacks the support of the U.N. Security Council.

Very much listening to Minister Sahaf this morning on the same track, saying that, and also pointing out -- the culture minister pointing out that Iraq does not have weapons of mass destruction, that the theme, that the international drive has changed from weapons of mass destruction to regime change, trying to point out, again, to the international community something that they will likely try and build on in the coming days and weeks, Aaron, as Iraq tries to put its cause to the international community to try and bring international voices to bear against the United States and against Great Britain, as they have tried to do in the weeks and months leading up to the war, play to France, play to Russia, play to China, point out that the United States does not have broad support internationally.

It is likely a theme we'll hear a lot more of -- Aaron.

BROWN: Just, Nic, very, very briefly, does it surprise you we have not seen Tariq Aziz? He's someone we are all used to seeing in these moments.

ROBERTSON: At this time, no. He appeared late in the day yesterday. It would seem they fully expect this to be a long, ongoing situation. It was not a surprise at this time.

BROWN: OK. It's just someone who is so familiar -- thank you, Nic -- to I guess people around the world, who, not just from this period, but from the first Gulf war as well, the deputy prime minister, who runs foreign affairs, pretty much, Tariq Aziz. We have not seen him yet. And that may or may not mean anything.

I guess that's another question we'll answer in this day ahead -- Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Aaron, just a quick correction from my part. When I was describing the two ministers who were talking, I said one of them was the president of the Iraqi National Assembly. In fact, the second minister there was the culture minister.

We're going to go now CNN's Becky Diamond, who is on one of those warships in the Persian Gulf which launched some of those cruise missiles earlier this morning our time, evening your time -- Becky.

BECKY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I definitely like the water in the...

AMANPOUR: Becky, can you hear me there?

DIAMOND: Well, this morning -- yes, I'm on the USS Milius. We're in the northern Persian Gulf. At about 5:02 local time -- that's 9:02 Eastern time -- this ship launched eight Tomahawk missiles. Now, one didn't quite make it and its booster fell not too far from me in the Persian Gulf. But seven made it. And it was quite a sight. We were on the flight deck. And the mood was somber, but there was a sense of relief here on the ship that the -- that the ship has gotten started -- back to you.

AMANPOUR: Becky, thank you very much -- indeed, a little hard to hear everything. But, clearly, Becky was saying that some of those Tomahawk cruise missiles had been launched from where she was in the Persian Gulf.

We're going to go back to Aaron.

BROWN: Thank you.

That's the first time that I think we've seen that particular set of pictures. And they are -- you see these missiles being fired. And it's chilling to see. They are -- I mean, we all know the power of them. And we all understand the significance of what we are watching. But each time you see it, or each time we see it, we find it chilling and striking. It is the sign that this war is on, even as it started in a way none of us, honestly -- we don't kid you about this -- none of us anticipated it would start in quite the way it has started tonight.

We expected it to start, and, in many ways, were assured it would start in a huge manner. But, obviously, something happened. Somebody saw something. A satellite caught a glimpse of something. Human intelligence on the ground became aware of something. And there was a reason then to start in this limited way, if you will, the opening that the president described some hours ago now.

Chris Burns covers the White House as part of the team of CNN correspondents that covers the White House. And he has taken the duty across the street from the White House.

Chris, did you get any sense in your reporting today -- obviously, it's been very tense at the White House for the last couple of days. Any sense that today or tonight was the night?

CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting you say that nobody expected this to happen quite this way. And perhaps even President Bush didn't expect it to happen this way. He was in the middle of a second war-planning session -- this had been happening since the beginning of the week -- an afternoon session.

And in the middle of that session, he got some information from the CIA and other agencies telling him there was, in the words of senior administration officials, a major leadership target. Exactly who that is, they're not saying. Exactly where it was, they're not saying, but this given to him as an opportunity that should not be missed. And that is why the president decided, in the middle of that meeting, to go ahead and give the go-ahead to launch more than 40 cruise missiles against that major leadership target. The president, also in his speech, interesting that he addressed the aspect of human shields and civilian casualties, attacking early the regime in Baghdad, saying that they will be using civilians as human shields; they will be sending their forces, their military into civilian areas, in to defend themselves and to attack U.S.-led forces going in.

Here is what President Bush had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In this conflict, America faces an enemy who has no regard for conventions of war or rules of morality. Saddam Hussein has placed Iraqi troops and equipment in civilian areas, attempting to use innocent men, women and children as shields for his own military, a final atrocity against his people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNS: And the president also justifying, aiming to justify the offensive that has been launched, saying that armies of firefighters and policemen could be involved in addressing terrorist attacks. That is why the United States has to act now -- Aaron.

BROWN: Chris, thank you.

As we have talked -- and we have talked certainly for the last couple of weeks a good deal about how military-planner sourcing at the Pentagon have described to us how we expected to see this war begin. On the Iraqi side, there's a lot of speculation about how the Iraqis would fight the war. There's also been speculation, of course, whether the Iraqis would fight the war, whether they would lay down their guns or if they would surrender quickly at this shock-and-awe strategy.

But the tactic that concerns planners the most is that they would -- the Iraqis would bring all of their forces, or their best forces, the Special Republican Guard and the Republican Guard, that they would bring them into Baghdad or around Baghdad and they would make their stand in Baghdad. Baghdad is about 350 miles from the Kuwaiti border. That's a long supply line for the Americans to maintain. It's not an easy thing to do.

And then you get to Baghdad itself and you go through the worst and most difficult kind of combat, house-to-house urban combat. And in that situation, all these sophisticated bombs, all these satellites and this and that don't help you. It's man-on-man, literally. And that's where the casualties can occur and undoubtedly would occur, if it would come to that. And, in fact, there are calculations about how many casualties. I've never quite understood how they figure these sorts of things out. But there are calculations about the kind of losses that forces would take if it comes down to that sort of urban fighting.

Nic Robertson, I can't imagine sitting where you are this morning, knowing that it is very possible, and, indeed, in some respects likely, that this thing will end in the battle, a street battle, in Baghdad.

ROBERTSON: Indeed.

And what many people tell us here -- and this is clearly something that the government appeals to, trying, even if they cannot appeal to people to support it because it is the government and President Saddam Hussein is their leader, to fight because the country is being invaded, the very simple notion that Iraq is a notion and that the people of this nation should defend themselves from attackers regardless of who is the head of the nation. That is something we've been hearing in speeches.

And it is something we hear from people when we talk to them privately, away from cameras, where they'll say: Perhaps, we don't want this leader. Perhaps we could have another leader, but our country is being invaded. It is our duty to defend the country.

People here we've talked to talk about defending their homes and their houses. The pictures we see on television in the evening have been of urban training for urban warfare. It is difficult to know, however, how much of a heart people will put into that fight, what exactly forces, coalition forces, will find in terms of resistance when they arrive in Baghdad.

We do not see and we're not shown here large dispositions of forces in and around Baghdad. Certainly, they're there. Certainly, there are many military barracks. Certainly, there are other locations that the military does use to live in inside this city. When I was south of Baghdad a few days ago, it was clear that some defensive installations are being made along the road to Baghdad. Indeed, some areas appeared to be being prepared for battles ahead -- Aaron.

BROWN: Nic, it is, I suppose, how the Iraqis respond, how the Iraqi military responds, how the citizens, the five million or so citizens of Baghdad respond. If this becomes a fight for Baghdad depends a fair amount on what precedes the fight for Baghdad, how much damage is inflicted, how much intimidation is carried out by the American force when they ultimately do launch the large-scale attack, which is still to come.

Nic, I haven't said this and I probably won't say it again, but we all think it. Stay safe out there, OK? Nic Robertson, who is in Baghdad.

And we don't -- in truth, we don't make a big deal about reporters in these sorts of situations, because it's something they choose to do. It's what we do and we choose to do it. But we worry about them on nights like this a lot.

Wolf, you have had some time to think about and talk to people a bit about the Saddam TV address and whether we need to put Saddam in quotes or not, whether that was Saddam or not. I thought it interesting, though, the point that someone made a bit ago, that it is difficult -- it's one thing to look like somebody. It's another thing to really sound like somebody.

BLITZER: And there's no doubt that Saddam Hussein has a very precise voice, very recognizable in Arabic. So there's little doubt -- and I think there's virtually no doubt whether or not that was in fact Saddam Hussein.

Here is where the doubt is. He did say March 20, 2003. In this part of the world, it is now March 20, 2003. When those Tomahawk cruise missiles landed in Baghdad, it was already March 20, 2003. The question I think that's a fair question, that deserves to be answered, is whether or not this videotape of Saddam Hussein speaking out against what he called the criminal Jr. Bush was taped after the cruise missiles landed or before the cruise missiles landed, a significant question that we don't have the answer to.

But it certainly is one that will -- that intelligence officials around the world will be pondering to see if that U.S. strike, the decapitation strike, as they call it, going after, presumably, Saddam Hussein personally, was successful or unsuccessful. Based on the videotape alone, Aaron, I don't think we can reach that conclusion, because that tape could have been prepared before the strike with the date in it, only to be released after those first cruise missiles hit Baghdad.

So, there's still a little bit of a question when that tape was made.

BROWN: And I don't think either of us want to put too fine a point on this, because I think the chances are, it is Saddam Hussein. But was there -- as you think through the speech, other than the date, do you recall him saying anything in that speech that suggested what the attack was, that they had tried to get the leadership and failed tonight, anything specific enough to say, it had to be tonight?

BLITZER: There was no other specific reference, a date reference, or a specific reference to what exactly happened that would indicate that. That's why I'm suggesting the possibility -- we don't know this for sure -- the possibility that that was a prerecorded videotape to be released after the first bombs fell on Baghdad in order to reassure the Iraqi population and the Arab world, if you will, that Saddam Hussein is, in fact, alive.

I don't think we can reach that conclusion on that tape per se, because there was no other specific reference to precisely what happened, other than the date, March 20, that was released. I don't think there's any doubt it was Saddam Hussein, but we don't know when that tape was made.

BROWN: Before you throw it anywhere, just one other thing about the speech that I thought about as I watched it and now looking at the tape again. And this may or -- it may or may not mean a single thing.

He is reading off what almost looks like a steno pad, a notepad. And it all does look -- OK, it may not be, but it all does look very quickly put together. And, again, that may or may not mean anything. It's just one of those things we noted while we were watching it. It did not have the look of a very sophisticated, prepared speech which might have been recorded some other time to be played after the first bombs hit.

Just a thought -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right, Aaron. And there's no doubt that he was reading from various notebooks, if you took a careful look. He'd bring up various pieces of paper, as if the speech had been written in different parts.

Christiane Amanpour is here with me in Kuwait. And she's been reflecting on what we've seen over the past few hours as well.

AMANPOUR: Yes, well I leave it up to you -- basically, we've said all we can, I think, about this.

And you're absolutely right. There were various notebooks. It looked it was handwritten. He kept flipping his pages. Of course, we aren't just talking about all the U.S. and U.K. forces arrayed against Saddam Hussein here in Kuwait. But over there in the northern Iraqi area, where the U.S. had hoped to open a second front up there, there is potential military activity by Kurdish forces up there.

And that's where we find CNN's Jane Arraf, who is coming to us via videophone from Dohuk.

JANE ARRAF, CNN BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF: Christiane, we're about halfway here in Dohuk between the Turkish border and between the biggest city of Mosul, the second biggest city in Baghdad (sic). And there are Kurdish forces ranged behind us on the mountaintop that looks toward Mosul.

Now, we were on that mountain last night, a lookout for Kurdish forces. And it is known that it is a lookout point as well for select American soldiers operating in this region. Now, peshmerga soldiers, the Kurdish soldiers, were telling us that they had been seeing unidentified trucks, driving with their lights on, back and forth towards the line of Iraqi control last night. Those are believed to be military trucks.

It seems all quiet this morning, but they're certainly on watch here along the border, as they are along the Turkish border. Now, one of the concerns has been that Turkish troops would come in, and, instead of a second front of American soldiers here to fight the Iraqis, there would be fighting breaking out between Turkish and Kurdish forces. Now, that seems to have been defused, but there are still tens of thousands of Kurdish forces they say are ready to fight Turkish soldiers if they do come in too far -- Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Jane, I wanted to ask you a question on the issue of Saddam Hussein. You have been our bureau chief in Baghdad for many years and have observed him, at least on television. Did you hear his speech? And are you able to recognize the Arabic and whether you believe it was him or not, given what you have heard over the years?

ARRAF: That's always been a question, as you know, Christiane, whether it is really him. There's no indication that it wasn't.

Now, it may very well have been pretaped. But if it was pretaped in an effort to assure the Iraqi population, as one thing we all know as well, that the Iraqi population is not so easily reassured. And there is always a skepticism among Iraqis whether they are actually seeing their real president -- again, no indication that that wasn't the real thing. But there always is that element of doubt. And, certainly, there's the element of doubt in the mind of the Iraqi people as well.

Having grown up in that system, they all maintain a healthy skepticism about what they're seeing and what they're hearing, as you know, from their leaders -- Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Jane Arraf, thank you very much there in northern Iraq.

And we're going back to Aaron in Atlanta.

BROWN: Thank you, Christiane. You made a great point. Jane has been our Baghdad bureau chief for a long time. And it's tough duty and she has done terrific work.

We've gotten to see, I think all of us, on this, that war, believe me, is not a television program. And none of us here think of it this way. We've all wondered how, as we prepared for this, how some of these systems that have been in place, the embedding system, was going to work when it actually -- when the bell rang. And the bell rang tonight. And we have had a pretty good sense of how it works. We're able to go to some remarkable places. And, mostly, we're able to see it pretty well.

Becky Diamond is on board the USS Milius. And while sometimes these pictures get a little ragged, we work with them, because it's extraordinary to be able to get to them at all -- Becky.

DIAMOND: Well, Aaron, I'm standing on the USS Milius, a destroyer in the northern Persian Gulf, thousands of miles from where you are, on a videophone. This morning, about 9:02 Eastern time, 5:02 local time, this ship launched eight Tomahawk missiles. One didn't make it too far. Its booster fell not too far from me in the water right beside. But seven others launched successfully, reaching targets, which, of course, we don't know.

Now, this ship has an unknown number of Tomahawk missiles, does have more. The ship is waiting for its orders and we'll have to see what is next -- Aaron.

BROWN: Just give me -- this is one of those television questions. And I actually apologize. Just give me a sense of the mood there tonight, or this morning. Is there a sense of excitement? Is there a sense of anxiety? What do you pick up when you talk to the men and women on board?

DIAMOND: It's a fascinating, fascinating place to be right now. The mood when I arrived on board last week was anxious. There were a lot of people feeling a lot of tension. There was a lot of uncertainty. And that mood settled when the president spoke. And then there was a feeling of a mission. And no one is a war-monger on this ship. I don't feel that at all. But people feel they have a mission, they have orders, and this is their job and they're going to execute.

And this morning, I would say there was almost a sense of relief with an order being executed. But people are reflective and somber. It's not a task that they take lightly -- Aaron.

BROWN: Becky, thank you for your work today. And I suspect there's going to be some dramatic and difficult days for you and the crew members aboard that ship. Stay safe. Thank you, Becky Diamond, aboard the Milius out there.

Here is the context, in some respects, we have waited for, for many hours tonight. This is the lead in "The Washington Post." This is "The Washington Post" reporting. And, obviously, we're working pretty hard to confirm it, but it's hard sometimes because, in fact, we're on the air. And a lot of our correspondents are on the air. And they are not able to do as much reporting as I know they'd like to do.

Here is the lead in "The Washington Post" tomorrow -- today. "Shortly before 4:00 p.m. yesterday, director of central intelligence, George J. Tenet, offered President Bush the prospect, improbable to the point of fantasy, yet suddenly at hand, that the war against Iraq might be transformed with its opening shots." The CIA said -- Tenet said -- believed it had a fix on Saddam Hussein, Hussein and others in the most senior levels of the Iraqi leadership. And on the "Post" story goes.

So, we're careful with this. This is the reporting of "The Washington Post," pretty good reporters, they, that now, at least, we have some sense of what it was the Americans thought they had, why they felt they had a moment, an opportunity, "improbable to the point of fantasy, yet suddenly at hand," a nice little piece of writing.

Kelly McCann is among the groups -- among the individuals -- he is not a group. He's a person who works with us in special forces and understanding a lot of this stuff.

What's your take on -- that must have been a tantalizing moment, wouldn't you think, when the CIA director walks in and says, we think we got him in the crosshairs?

J. KELLY MCCANN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: It was, Aaron. And I watched you report it. And it always puts a hitch in your throat.

The bottom line is and the most tantalizing piece of it is, that's something that be confirmed by satellites. In other words, it clearly indicates people on the ground. It indicates human intelligence. BROWN: I think it was General Clark earlier, but it may have been someone else -- we have been at this a bit -- who said one of the things that might be unsettling to Saddam is the fact that if they, in fact, targeted him, somebody who knows him, somebody close to him, some human being, gave him up.

MCCANN: Absolutely, or that he has actual enemy people in his rear area right next to him and didn't know it. That would be even more fear-producing, especially with a person who loves to control things as much as he does.

In the last war, we know that he had at least 11 look-alikes. So, in order to prioritize the target list, to step out of the kind of -- at least the initial planning. We all know it goes south with the first shot. But the bottom line is, in order to act on that, they had to have direct eyes on the target and have reason to believe that, even with the time of flight of the missile, that they had a chance of getting it. And that's exciting.

BROWN: Boy, it sure paints that whole Saddam television speech in an entirely different light, doesn't it? There must have been, if the "Post" reporting proves out -- and there's no reason to believe it will not -- I, for one, have great confidence in their reporting -- there must have been, in American circles, military circles, intelligence circles a heart-dropping moment when they realized it didn't happen, they didn't get him, this "improbable to the point of fantasy" moment.

MCCANN: But, on the good side, Aaron, it gives rise to the run, rabbit, run, doesn't it?

As I watched you report it, I noticed that they were on again, off again, 10 minutes away, no, 20 minutes. That could be the rabbit that doesn't want to come out of his hole. And I think that, clearly, he looked a little bit distraught on television as well. So...

BROWN: I would -- I agree with that, that that was not -- again, you don't want to put too fine a point on some of this stuff, but that was not the sort of confident, almost jaunty, Saddam Hussein that we have seen very often over a long period of time.

MCCANN: That's right.

If you watch him in his normal composure, he's leaning back. He's smoking. He is basically talking to people on bended knee. This was leaning forward. He clearly had a long face. He clearly had not been sleeping well. And I think that, if you looked closely at the -- and listened to the way that he talked and the mannerisms he used, it was not his normal routine.

BROWN: He looks a lot older in that shot to me than he looked...

MCCANN: Yes, he does.

BROWN: Now, I'll tell you something. I don't imagine you sleep very well with 40 cruise missiles -- or half that many, if there were two targets -- half that many are raining down on where you were or where someone thought you were. That would keep me up at night.

MCCANN: And we're talking about a man who needed a food-taster. What kind of life is that? And now it's coming to a culmination here, where, literally, a superpower is hunting him. That's got to be a very terrible feeling.

BROWN: Kelly, terrific work there. Thank you.

Nic, I'm not sure if you are able to hear. I'm not going to read the whole lead again. But this notion that the CIA had Saddam Hussein, believed it had Saddam Hussein in its sights, and marry that off with the notion that Kelly underscored, which is, it had to be human intelligence that gave him up.

Nic? Well, that was a pretty good windup, Nic. I'll say that. I'm not sure we -- we may be having a little trouble with Nic Robertson's phone, which is, all things considered...

ROBERTSON: I think I hear you now. I think we had some interference on the line.

BROWN: There you go. There you go, Nic.

ROBERTSON: Aaron, it certainly fits into something that Iraqi officials have been saying that is going on here, part of a psychological war.

And when one thinks that the next phase of this campaign will be bombing on the scale that will shock and awe the people here, a psychological phase of buildup, of continuing to mount the pressure, that: We know where you are. We've targeted you. Perhaps only President Saddam Hussein knows how closely that targeting actually came to him. But, certainly, from a psychological point of view, shock and awe will have a much greater effect on an enemy who is already feeling the psychological pressure.

And one can see that building here, again, the quick response coming out on television. He did look older than he's looked in the past. It was hastily prepared. The psychological impact or the psychological component here does appear to be having some effect, at least -- Aaron.

BROWN: Nic, thank you.

Just a couple -- for our viewers here, a couple more pieces of detail out of "The Washington Post" reporting on this. The intelligence community believed -- well, the intelligence was unforeseen, according to "The Post," and perishable. So he wasn't going to be wherever he was very long, presenting what one administration official called a target of opportunity. There was no guarantee at all, Tenet said, that his whereabouts would be pinpointed again.

According to the "Post" reporting, he was in an anonymous Baghdad home. I'll just read it: "When President Bush signed the launch order at 6:30 p.m., it had been hastily prepared. The first shots would strike through the roof and walls of an anonymous Baghdad home and deep beneath it in hopes of decapitating the Iraqi government in a single blow."

So, when we talked earlier, perhaps an hour or so ago, about the idea that this was not the opening act of this war that any of us had been prepared for, that you had been listening to and about for many, many weeks, now you know exactly why. The CIA -- and I think Kelly makes great sense -- it had to be human intelligence -- believed they had Saddam Hussein, that they had him in a house in Baghdad, some nondescript home.

Anonymous is the way "The Post" describes it, an anonymous home in Baghdad. This is a guy who rarely sleeps in the same place, same bed, two days in a row. And they thought they had him. And they moved the plan up because they thought they could get him. And the fact is, it turns out they did not. But it's an extraordinary piece of news to be able to report that the intelligence on the ground -- and this bodes well, we must say, for everything that is about to follow -- that the intelligence on the ground was at least credible enough to the people who analyze this sort of thing that they believed that they could toss $40 million worth of weapons out there and maybe end this thing before it began.

We're trying to make some sense of the military moves that have gone on. I think that's what Miles O'Brien is able to deal with now -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Aaron, yes.

Let me -- first of all, I want to tell you a couple of things. We have got some satellite imagery of the greater Baghdad area, a city of five million people. And we can give you a sense, if you take a look at this imagery, of some of the targets of opportunity.

That's actually the wrong shot right now. They're trying to set up. Claude (ph), if I could have you go to 101, the keyhole graphic. And we're going to bring that up for you and try to give you a sense as we zoom in on Baghdad through the keyhole machine. If you could put that up for me, we'll get -- that's actually the wrong machine as well. One more try there and we'll try to get this on GR-101, for those of you keeping score at home, is what we're trying to get up on the air here.

You know what, Aaron? We're going to try to get that graphic together and we'll get back to you in just a minute.

BROWN: OK, thanks.

You know, we have had very few of these little glitches. And we have brought things in from all over the world and we have a glitch 30 feet behind me over in the corner. Go figure that.

It has been an extraordinary night, a night that none of us anticipated would play out in any way the way it has. But that's the nature of this, I guess. We anticipate things and then a piece of information comes and it changed the whole run-up, or layout, of this thing.

Christiane, that's a pretty remarkable piece of news to report, that the CIA thought they had the guy cold.

AMANPOUR: It certainly is.

And, of course, we remember back from the Gulf War that they tried over and over to do it then as well. There wasn't that open admission that he was a target back then. But it had been tried many, many times. And it failed back then. We still don't know exactly who was targeted and what actually happened in the pre-dawn attack on those locations in Baghdad today. So, we'll obviously have to wait and see what was the target and what or who if anybody was in fact caught.

But, certainly, in terms of what do we expect next, well, what do we expect? When will the actual first stage of massive aerial bombardment happen, if indeed it does happen? And when, then, will the ground offensive start? We've been told that the objective here is, although they're talking about such heavy bombardment, not to target and not to kill unnecessarily either Iraqi military or, obviously, civilians.

What they say they want to do is try -- try -- to go in as soft as they can, while going after legitimate military targets. And there are all sorts of possibilities that we've been told by senior officers here about what they may expect. We don't even know whether these 17 Iraqi soldiers who surrendered might presage hundreds, tens of thousands of Iraqis who might surrender in early hours. So we're really going to have to wait and see how this unfolds. And, as you've been saying, as we've been saying, it's unfolded slightly differently than we had been led to believe -- back to you, Aaron.

BROWN: Thank you, Christiane.

I remember General Clark saying to me in the early moments of the war in Afghanistan, back a year ago, that these things actually never do quite the way -- they never go quite the way you expect them. We just didn't expect to be unexpected quite so quickly, as it happened today.

Miles, you want to give it another go?

O'BRIEN: Yes. Let's give it another go, Aaron. I think we finally have found all the right buttons here. And, as you say, it is always the things closest to home that seem to fail us.

What I had to show you is some pretty interesting satellite imagery. This isn't stuff real-time. It's not like we're going to look at a bomb-damage assessment, which is the term the Pentagon uses. This is imagery which was shot a year ago of Baghdad.

And let's take that source and we'll zoom in on this region for you and give you a sense of some of the possible areas, some of the possible targets of opportunity in the Baghdad region. Now, I should give you the caveat. We don't know precisely where these 40 cruise missiles and where that F-117 was tasked to strike. But we can tell you where some of the lucrative targets are as we zoom right in there on Baghdad.

Take a look at this palace here. That palace is the main palace among Saddam Hussein's many, dozens of palaces, literally, lots of money spent over the years building shrines to himself all around this country. That's just one of many. That's a compound along the Tigris River. There's another palace that just went by there. You saw the blue dome, and yet another one right over here. These palaces -- as you have pointed out many times, Aaron, Saddam Hussein does not like to sleep in the same bed twice in a row.

A couple of other places that might be of great interest for targets: the Council of Ministers. This is where the Iraqi government, the people closest to Saddam Hussein, meet. It's actually an old convention center now, but a possible target as well. The Ministry of Information -- now, we know the Ministry of Information is standing. Why do we know that? Well, that's where that live picture that you have been seeing has been coming from. You've been seeing it. The shot that we're showing is actually looking out in this direction.

And if I move up just a little bit, you can sort of get a sense of what you're looking at there. There's that shot which you have seen many times in our pictures. There's that shot of the mosque. That mosque is right in this area. And then we had a shot looking down that bridge just a little while ago. So, the field of view of that camera is somewhere like this. Or, really, now that it's been panned over, it's something like this. So you can get a sense of where it is looking.

There's another very interesting potential target. And we're talking about regime targets here, regime targets. The goal is not to take out power plants and ruin the water supply, that sort of thing, to cause hardship to the people. The idea is to go after the regime. This is the ministry of military industrial -- the military industry industrial complex, if you will. This is sort of the headquarters for the weapons of mass destruction capability in Iraq, and has been over the years. And, finally, over here, right next to it, is where the Iraqi Parliament meets.

Interesting, when you are talking about regime targets, this is a place you might want to take a quick look at. This is the place where you've seen those pictures of Saddam Hussein constantly firing off pistols. That is -- every time you see that, that is shot right here. That's kind of the Lenin's Square, the top of Lenin tomb, I should say, the Kremlin, in you will, for Saddam Hussein. And that's where those parades occur.

Anyway, those are possible targets. We don't know that that's where they were striking. Nevertheless, that gives you a little tour of Baghdad -- Aaron.

BROWN: Thank you, Miles -- Miles O'Brien. He knows more than space, doesn't he? He knows the layout of Baghdad. We're going to make a couple of switchovers here for our viewers. On CNN International, first of all, thanks for being with us. And John Vause will continue the coverage there in a moment. For the rest of you, those of you here in the United States, Heidi Collins and Anderson Cooper will come in.

A lot of extraordinary work was done on an extraordinary day. And our thanks, particularly to Nic Robertson in Baghdad, to Wolf and Christiane in Kuwait, and to all our embeds who we heard from, all of our reporters, who -- to Walt Rodgers and Kyra and all the rest. I'm going to forget. I'll leave some out and feel bad.

We'll leave you, before we turn it over to them, with the president of the United States, who, at 10:15 Eastern time, announced the beginning of this war.

We'll see you tomorrow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: My fellow citizens, at this hour American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.

On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein's ability to wage war. These are opening stages of what will be a broad and concerted campaign.

More than 35 countries are giving crucial support, from the use of naval and air bases, to help with intelligence and logistics, to the deployment of combat units. Every nation in this coalition has chosen to bear the duty and share the honor of serving in our common defense.

To all of the men and women of the United States armed forces now in the Middle East, the peace of a troubled world and the hopes of an oppressed people now depend on you.

That trust is well placed.

The enemies you confront will come to know your skill and bravery. The people you liberate will witness the honorable and decent spirit of the American military.

In this conflict, America faces an enemy who has no regard for conventions of war or rules of morality. Saddam Hussein has placed Iraqi troops and equipment in civilian areas, attempting to use innocent men, women and children as shields for his own military; a final atrocity against his people.

I want Americans and all the world to know that coalition forces will make every effort to spare innocent civilians from harm. A campaign on the harsh terrain of a nation as large as California could be longer and more difficult than some predict. And helping Iraqis achieve a united, stable and free country will require our sustained commitment.

We come to Iraq with respect for its citizens, for their great civilization and for the religious faiths they practice. We have no ambition in Iraq, except to remove a threat and restore control of that country to its own people.

I know that the families of our military are praying that all those who serve will return safely and soon. Million of Americans are praying with you for the safety of your loved ones and for the protection of the innocent.

For your sacrifice, you have the gratitude and respect of the American people and you can know that our forces will be coming home as soon as their work is done.

Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly, yet our purpose is sure. The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder.

We will meet that threat now with our Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines, so that we do not have to meet it later with armies of firefighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities.

Now that conflict has come, the only way to limit its duration is to apply decisive force. And I assure you, this will not be a campaign of half measures and we will accept no outcome but victory.

My fellow citizens, the dangers to our country and the world will be overcome. We will pass through this time of peril and carry on the work of peace. We will defend our freedom. We will bring freedom to others. And we will prevail.

May God bless our country and all who defend her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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