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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Strike on Iraq: Oil Wells May Be on Fire Near Basra, Iraq

Aired March 21, 2003 - 02:00   ET

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

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Amazing pictures as U.S. troops push into Iraq. Tanks with the 7th Cavalry roll virtually unopposed deep into the Iraqi desert.
Good morning, every one. It is Friday, March 21. From CNN's Global Headquarters in Atlanta, I'm Anderson Cooper.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Carol Costello. It's 2:00 a.m. on the East Coast, 10:00 a.m. in Iraq, where at this early hour, at this momentous moment, the strike on Iraq continues.

The 7th Cavalry, as Anderson just said, is racing through the desert. The target: the regime of Saddam Hussein -- at least, we think so. And, of course, Saddam Hussein's status at this hour still much the topic of debate. With U.S. forces in the field, we will be here all morning long, taking you live to the battlefield.

COOPER: That's right. And we are going live, at this moment, to Christiane Amanpour, who is somewhere near the Kuwait-Iraqi border.

Christiane, what's the latest? Where are you?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we're here at British Divisional Field Headquarters in northern Iraq. And let's bring you up to date with what they are trying to do, both U.S. and British forces in terms of consolidating presence in southern Iraq.

Now, what we're being told by military spokesmen is that last night the U.S. Marine Corps launched across the border for the Ramaylah oil fields. They are trying to go there and take them and make sure that they can keep them intact, because, of course, that is the wealth of Iraq, in terms of those oil fields. Some 60 percent of Iraqi oil comes from those oil fields, and they are determined to keep those and try to get them intact.

Now there have been reports of some wells, perhaps minimal numbers on fire and certainly we've seen smoke over here. And there are reports from our people who are embedded and further forward that they have seen significant smoke in that sort of area.

But, moving on, they're also with U.K. Royal Marine, the British Royal Marines, yesterday, launched across on to the Fore Peninsula. Again, that being very important strategically to get that. That is where all the oil goes out and then it is pumped into the sea and put onto tankers and taken out. They want to do as much as possible to preserve all of Iraq's economic riches and economic strategic resources here, because, of course, if those are damaged it takes an enormous amount of time and effort to regenerate those.

So, we're told that they land push forth -- the Fore Peninsula is still under way. It's going well. It was supported by aerial bombardment, artillery and also, we're told, naval gunships.

Now we're also being told here that the objective in all of these military operations is to give the Iraqis as much time and as much room as possible to surrender. So far, yesterday, of course, we noticed here, those who were here, at this position, that they did not take that opportunity as much as officers would have liked to have seen. Of course, we've heard many reports about how here they had missiles lobbed into these regions, although they didn't cause any damage or casualties, it did send the soldiers and the journalists up here running to the bunkers. And that happened, also, about an hour ago. There was a SCUD alert. Every body had to don their protective gear -- or rather, their respirators, and get into the trenches.

So, as I say, they're encountering minimal resistance so far. We're being told that major urban centers such as Basra, for instance, are not necessarily targets. What they're hoping to do is to be able to neutralize any resistance around those urban centers and to wait for any capitulation of forces or, indeed, to see whether the people are going to welcome them before moving in.

We're told that the next likely target will be Umkasa, which is Iraq's biggest commercial port, and that is basically just across the border from northern Kuwait into Iraq. And that, they say, is important because that is where they will bring all the humanitarian aid that they need in through that port. So that, we understand, is the next objective here in this region -- Anderson.

COOPER: Just a couple questions for you. Are you seeing, or are the troops there seeing, any -- any smoke from -- from any oil fires in the distance?

AMANPOUR: Well, what we're seeing here -- we did early this morning -- a wind has come up now. So it's dispersed somewhat. But it was a big, black cloud over here, which certainly looks man made rather than from rain above. And what we've been hearing from some of our people who are embedded with troops further forward, that they are also seeing significant smoke.

But when we ask military officials here, they're saying that the number of wells or the amount of -- of -- of oil wells on fire, we're being told, is minimal at this point.

COOPER: This is obviously British operation you're with -- British forces. How are they integrated into the overall U.S. command. Are you -- are there U.S. troops with them?

You also mentioned the artillery air support. Is that British artillery, British air support or is that American? I'm interested in the integration. AMANPOUR: OK. There's several different locations. The Al-Fore (ph) Peninsula was taken by U.K -- British Royal Marine, we're told, with British artillery and naval gun ships support. But when it comes to the -- the Ramalyah oil field, those are the U.S. Marines who are launching across there to try to secure those oil fields, which are quite near Basra. So that's a U.S. operation.

And then the next likely target, we're told, is Umkasa, which, again, is that port -- Iraq's biggest commercial port. And that, we understand, is going to be an operation by the U.S. Marines, the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. So, they're very much integrated to an extent, certainly in some locations north. But they have their own strategic objectives that they're going for.

COOPER: Question Christiane -- I know you're busy.

Obviously, we've had the report of the first casualties in this conflict, four Americans, 12 British commandos down in a helicopter. Seems it was an accident, not the result of any enemy fire. Any reaction from the British troops you are with to the death of their comrades?

AMANPOUR: Well, obviously, sadness.

But, you know, the rules are somewhat different. We are actually not being told officially by the military spokespeople over here that that has happened, because they don't release those details until each and every family member has been identified. So they are still holding back on that information. But, of course, as you know, that has been confirmed by the Pentagon and sources in Washington.

COOPER: All right. Christiane -- Christiane Amanpour, thanks very much -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Well, Anderson, we know there has been a lot of action in southern Iraq with the 7th Cavalry rolling north, maybe towards Baghdad. We're just not sure, and even if we were, we wouldn't want to give that away, for the safety of the troops's sake.

Want to head top northern Iraq now to check in with Brent Sadler to see what action he's seeing.

Good morning to you, Brent.

BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol.

It's not quite what we're seeing in terms of the drama of the 7th Cavalry charge in the south, but what we are seeing here are some pretty extraordinary scenes. This is an area controlled by Kurdish forces. It's their frontline.

If we swing the camera to the bridge behind me there -- if I were to walk across that bridge, several minutes' walk to the far end, I'd walk straight into Iraqi soldiers and would probably not come back. They have been occupying that side of that bridge, the Kurds on our side of the bridge, for the past many, many months, if not years. And what we have here is two sides, neither side showing any hostile intent. This situation of no gunfire between these two forces, really continuing, even though there have been two U.S. air strikes against Iraqi troop concentrations around Mosul, two air strikes in the past five hours. One, just before dawn; the second one just about three hours ago in the early part of daybreak.

Now if I can take around the front Iraqi lines behind me, behind the bridge in those rolling hills, you'll see Iraqi troops. A lot of activity over the past few hours. We're not really quite sure what we're doing. But there was enough activity there to spark the interest of senior Kurdish commanders, who just left here a few moments ago. And they were using their field glasses to try and work out what the Iraqis are doing. They may be laying some explosives in that road which leads up to the hills behind me. They may well have been checking on the morale of their men. There was a report from the Kurdish side that a unit had indicated to the Kurds that they were preparing to surrender. The Kurds say that unit, which was guarding the other side of the bridge, has been replaced, and activity, which we've seen going on over there over the past few hours, indicates there have been some changes.

But it is extraordinary to stand here, the only place we can see Saddam Hussein's loyalists, if you like, going about their military business while we've had two air strikes and no hostile fire between the two sides, when they can really eyeball each other. Quite extraordinary situation here -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Boy, you really have that right. It is extraordinary. We saw lone soldier guarding the bridge on your side of the bridge. Of course, that picture is probably misleading. What does it look like on your side?

SADLER: Well, on my side -- I don't know if we can get these shots. Let's try with the shooter -- if you can come back, Christian (ph), to where I am -- this side. This is the Kurdish side. And you'll see here, this is the guard post of the Kurdish Democratic Party and, you know, there's a couple shy Kurdish guards there, not particularly happy with us taking a picture of them. But pretty relaxed. And other guys -- one or two journalists just really hanging around here.

There was some interest when about 20 Peshmurga -- that's the name of the local guerrilla force, Peshmurga -- it means those who face death. When their commanders came along and took their field glasses out to look, there was a lot of interest. I've only heard one shot in the last six or seven hours -- a gunshot, not a hostile shot. As I say, aside from the two very brief air strikes, just really nothing very dramatic happening here, apart from the fact these two sides, the Kurds and the Iraqi Army, Saddam Hussein's men, can eyeball each other.

One other point that's worth mentioning. This might all change, of course, now that the Turkish government in Ankara has given the green light for U.S. forces to use Turkish air space. We may see a deployment in the next day or two of U.S. forces into this region. If that happens, if there are aggressive movements by the Kurds, under the coordination of the United States, any aggressive moves in conjunction with air strikes against Mosul and Kirkuk -- and these are the two cities behind those hills, behind me, then you could see the situation change dramatically here.

But at the moment, the Iraqis are holding their territory, the Kurds are holding this, and no hostile intent shown towards each other at this stage -- Carol.

COSTELLO: You know, I know, Brent, a little earlier the Kurds were worried that Turkish troops would come in and complicate things. Is there still that worry?

SADLER: Absolutely. Great concern that the Turks, which the parliament in Ankara has given the go-ahead for the Turks to deploy military forces just across the border, primarily, to come into Iraqi Kurdistan, as it's known here.

Now the Kurdish political leadership and the military leadership here amongst the Kurds, have made it abundantly clear if the Turks come in, that could lead to bloodshed. So if the Americans come in here to try and coordinate action to move south towards Baghdad, protect Kirkuk and Mosul at the same as the Turks come in from the north, you could basically have two fronts: Kurds striking Turks and Kurds fighting Iraqi soldiers loyal to Saddam Hussein.

But there is an expectation here, there has been communication, I'm told, between Kurdish intelligence and Iraqi intelligence that we may see surrenders here. There's only been a handful, as we know, before the invasion got under way in the southern end of Iraq. But here they're expecting surrenders, too. It happened back in 1991. I was here then during the March uprising by the Kurds. I saw this area, tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers giving -- giving themselves up.

But you have this very tense situation. When the Turkish army comes in, the Kurds will resist. Of course, they can't stop the Turks. The Turks are too powerful for that. It is a NATO army, after all. But certainly you would have a very disturbing, distracting situation with the potential for Kurdish-Turkish hostilities at the same time as you might have Kurdish-Saddam Hussein force hostilities.

Very complicated, very complex. It seems pretty quiet and under control at the moment, almost -- almost routine, you might say. But there is a sense that that will chance, sooner or later, as this invasion takes shape, moves on -- Carol.

COSTELLO: You stay safe. Brent Sadler bringing us extraordinary pictures. And beside him, you can see that picture of Baghdad looking peaceful about 10:14 a.m. in Baghdad. And, of course, the bombing, for now, has stopped -- Anderson.

COOPER: It's so strange. When you see these pictures where everything looked calm and we see that live picture of Baghdad...

COSTELLO: ...and traffic. COOPER: At that moment, it seems as if every thing is going on as normal, and yet you realize that elsewhere in the country, things are happening. Things -- you know, it's away from where the cameras are. We can't necessarily see them.

But we know they're going on. We hear accounts of, you know, some -- over a hundred air Sorties over the last 24 hours. That came from Bob Franken. We know Walt Rodgers is with the 7th Cavalry moving very rapidly across -- or heading toward Baghdad. We know other elements of the U.S. military elsewhere in the country, as well as the British, as Christiane Amanpour. So it's odd to look at that picture and yet to know there is a lot going on at this moment.

COSTELLO: Well, and you know, things are terribly tense in Baghdad because they're waiting for the next wave of bombing, which will certainly come. And, of course, they're also waiting for that big "shock and awe" campaign that we've heard so much about that has not come as of yet for many reasons. And we're going to talk to our military experts about that a little.

But keep in mind Baghdad has a population of -- what? Five million people? So, the traffic you see is very sparse in comparison to normal time.

COOPER: That's right.

COSTELLO: We're also going to go live to Baghdad a little later in this hour.

COOPER: Right now, let's check in with Daryn Kagan, who has been in Kuwait City now for -- for a couple days. Daryn, a lot of activity in the last 24 hours or so, even a lot of activity in the last hour or so. I remember a hearing a siren just -- I think about an hour ago. What's the status now, Daryn?

DARYN KAGAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the status is, for right now, things are calm, Anderson.

That last siren came almost about 45 minutes ago. We'll talk about the siren in just a moment.

First, I want to pick up on something that Christiane Amanpour was talking about, and that is the potential, or the possibility that there are some oil fires. And while we haven't confirmed this, but it's possible that there are some oil fires in southern Iraq, near Basra. In fact, the Kuwaiti National Guard is saying that 15 oil wells are on fire there.

I want to show you the skyline of Kuwait City. And we can take this other picture here. Now you can see the haze. It has been hazy here for the last three days, but that was because of the sandstorm, and that haze was a very different color. I'm not sure if you can tell from your television screen there -- this has a more blackish, dark tinge to it.

Now we're not able to confirm that that would be from oil fires in southern Iraq. But as we said, the Kuwaiti National Guard saying that there are some oil wells on fire in -- near Basra. And we are not that far away. We're about 50 miles away from the Iraqi border.

Also wanted to share with you the morning papers. It is 10:15 in the morning here in Kuwait City.

This one is "The Arab Times." These are the two English papers that we get here in Kuwait City. This one, the headline reads, "America Invades Iraq." Now I'll show you the full picture here. The caption on this is "The first Tomahawk Missile to be fired into Iraq launched from USS Bunker Hill." That's this paper.

And then this one is a bolder, perhaps a more celebratory headline from "The Kuwait Times." It says: "It's War At Last: Tomahawks at Baghdad, Iraq Retaliates, Basra Oil Well Blazes." So this paper also reporting that there might be some oil wells on fire near Basra.

And just one other note I want to make about both these papers. Here it is a significant day in the history of the country; both making time -- space at the top their paper still to mention sports. "The Kuwait Times" mentioning cricket, and "The Arab Times" mentioning soccer.

So, interesting times in Kuwait City, Anderson.

COOPER: It certainly is.

In the last 24 hours or so -- in the last 12 hours, let's say, how many air raid warnings have there been. I mean, were you woken up throughout the night?

KAGAN: Yes.

Let's see -- I think it's the last -- in the last 24 hours there have been seven or eight warnings. First one happened probably around -- just about 24 hours ago, daylight like this. And then as we got into night time, they almost started coming hourly at midnight, at 1:00 and at 2:00. And each time, you're either woken up by the siren, or we have a pretty good system here, where we're staying, with the big CNN group of how we alert each other and it's kind of just a big pounding on your door or a call of your cell phone.

But no matter what it is, you pick up your things and we head to the basement and you wait for the next siren, and that is the all clear siren. And then -- and then you're free to go.

The first one's disconcerting. By the eighth time -- you have to take all of them seriously, but you kind of get more into the drill, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. The -- the abnormal, I suppose, becomes normal, in a sense. Daryn Kagan,...

KAGAN: It definitely does.

COOPER: ...thanks very much, live from Kuwait City -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Yes, you heard Daryn Kagan and Christiane Amanpour talking about the oil wells set on fire. Just word from CNN wires -- and we get information from all over the place. Sometimes they don't have the same access that we do because we have an amazing -- look at our resources out there.

COOPER: Yes.

COSTELLO: Just truly amazing.

But this is from -- this is from CNN wires. It says, "Iraqi troops set fire to 15 oil wells in southern Iraq, believed to be deliberate acts." That's according to the Kuwaiti National Guard. Now, of course, you may remember that yesterday Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said three to four oil wells were set on fire.

Let's go live to the Pentagon right now and check in with Chris Plante to see if there's any update from the Pentagon on that.

Good morning, Chris.

CHRIS PLANTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol.

The headline from here, sadly, is the first U.S. and British casualties in this conflict -- the crash of that U.S. Marine Corps helicopter, a CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter crashed inside of Kuwait, south of the town of Umkasha. Every one aboard killed.

These are the first, as I said, allied casualties. Certainly casualties have been sustained on the Iraqi side before this incident. And, in the meantime, it appears that the plan is moving ahead with ground troops, as we've seen from Walt Rodgers, and other reporters in the field, darting across major sections of the desert in Iraq toward targets unknown.

But the "shock and awe," which I heard you discussing a couple of minutes ago, air campaign, is still expected at some point. We don't know exactly when. Predictably it happens after nightfall. We don't whether it will be after nightfall tonight or the day after or the day after that.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has said that he is still hopeful that there may be some way to topple the regime without having to go to all-out war with Iraqi forces and without having to seize the city of Baghdad to topple the regime. He's suggested that communications are taking place with Iraqi forces and leaders on all levels through all modes, somewhat cryptically.

But as of now, the ground campaign is off and running and we're standing by for whatever happens next. One thing is for sure and that's that we can expect a lot of surprises before all is said and done - Carol.

COSTELLO: Yeah. We've had a lot of surprises so far. Chris, let me ask you this, has the method of war changed? Because there is word that Saddam Hussein may be injured in that first initial attack of Baghdad. And that because he is injured, kind of the battle plans are in disarray in Iraq, and that it might not be necessary to go to that "shock and awe" campaign.

PLANTE: Well, I wouldn't say disarray. I'd say that the plan certainly has changed a number of times from the initial plan that General Tommy Franks, who commands the forces in the region, brought to the Pentagon sometime ago. Initially they had planned, of course, to put the 4th Infantry Division in Turkey and move into northern Iraq, creating a pincer move on the city of Baghdad. That fell apart when the Turkish parliament didn't OK it.

The CIA, as we now know, came up with a situation yesterday, day before yesterday, depending on where you are, where they thought they knew the location of Saddam Hussein and a number of his senior leaders. They took a chance, launched cruise missiles and a couple of stealth fighters at the targets.

And that, once again, changed the situation. Iraqi forces in the south started firing ballistic missiles and artillery at allied positions inside of Kuwait. And that surely prompted some alteration again in the plan.

So it is a fluid situation. It is evolving still. We are assured that "shock and awe" is on the agenda if the regime does not collapse before that becomes necessary. But surely surprises ahead - Carol.

COSTELLO: Chris Plante, reporting live from the Pentagon. And just to make sure everyone understood, I did not mean to say the United States military plan was in disarray, but that Saddam Hussein's military plan is now in disarray.

COOPER: And that is, of course, the question at this hour, which, according to a variety of sources, the U.S. government is still trying to figure out. Is Saddam Hussein dead or alive? There is no confirmed word either way.

COSTELLO: And that strange video tape. We should talk about that, and we will talk about that in the coming hours. But that strange video tape, apparently they did voice-matches.

COOPER: Right.

COSTELLO: And they think it's Saddam Hussein. But according to "The Washington Post," they also got one of Saddam Hussein's mistresses to look at the tape. And she says it's not Saddam Hussein.

COOPER: Which is a very odd method of identification, but apparently according to this article in "The Washington Post," she has in the past been able to rather successfully pick out...

COSTELLO: More than once.

COOPER: ... more than once who was a body double and who was actually Saddam Hussein. So again, there is also the question, well, even if it was Saddam Hussein in that video, according to "The Washington Post," that he had pre-recorded several messages. And so there is the very distinct possibility that that was a pre-recorded message. He did mention dawn and he mentioned an attack before dawn - or around dawn, but then again, that is a very general statement.

COSTELLO: Well, the other thing is it's the way he looked. He looked to be in poor health. He didn't look like the guy smoking the cigar in previous press conferences. There was nothing calm about him at all. He was referring to his notes which was also unusual.

So we are reporting that there was a call for medical help for Saddam Hussein. In fact, we intercepted that information somehow. So they think that he may have been injured and that's why his appearance looked as it did.

COOPER: Right. And of course, the significance to all this beyond just it's interesting to talk about - beyond just it's something people will be discussing for days, perhaps, to come, is that clearly there seems to be some alteration in the U.S. military plan in the last 24 hours. The "shock and awe" which we had heard so much about, which we had been told to sort of anticipate, to look for, has clearly not begun. It may not begin depending on what planners decide is the current status of the Iraqi leadership.

Is it in complete disarray? Is Saddam Hussein alive? Is he dead? Is he injured? Is he able to call the shots still, or is he in fact irrelevant even if he is alive?

COSTELLO: And the thing is it would be great if the United States military did not go to this "shock and awe" campaign because it would certainly cut down on casualties. And world opinion would be much more positive about the United States.

COOPER: Obviously something we'll be watching in the coming hours right here on CNN. We're going to go right now to Kevin Sites who is in northern Iraq, has been for quite some time now.

Kevin, what are you seeing, what are you hearing?

KEVIN SITES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I'm still in Chamchamal (ph), at the border point here. This is the last Kurdish- patrolled city between Salamaniya (ph) and the Iraqi-controlled city Kirkuk. In fact, the road behind me leads to Kirkuk. And there have been reports that this will be a major battleground. It's an oil-rich city.

Now this morning we're hearing some small arms fire, possibly some mortar fire. In fact, just about a minute ago we hear what sounded like a mortar. And we saw a puff of smoke come up from a village, Apupre (ph), which is just about three kilometers away from where I'm standing. That's a Kurdish-controlled city. We don't know if it was mortar. We don't know if it was actually hitting that city. But it looked like a puff of smoke emanated from there shortly after the concussion of a mortar.

This is also the New Year's here in Kurdistan. People are celebrating. There are firecrackers going on every once in a while. People are burning tires. But there has been mortar fire. Yesterday the Iraqi position here which is just two kilometers away from us, they're dug into the hills, they fired an artillery round and three mortars.

We looked around, we couldn't tell whether they hit any population centers. There are no reports of them hitting a population center. We checked with the mayor of Chamchamal yesterday. No reports of casualties there or any damage. It may just have been harassment fire. There are a lot media in the area. And they may not have been comfortable with them being so close. At one point we were only about a kilometer away.

Now there have been reports this morning that the city of Kirkuk is being bombed by allied forces. We can't confirm that. We're 40 kilometers away from Kirkuk. We can't hear any bombing. And also we had some of our Kurdish sources call their family members in Kirkuk this morning. And they said they couldn't confirm that there was bombing going on there. They may have been far away from it, or again, they may have been afraid to talk. Our Kurdish sources say that those phone lines are tapped that Iraqis can listen in on them. And perhaps they were just afraid to talk. But so far we can't tell if there is bombing in Kirkuk or not. We don't have a confirmation.

Now the road to Kirkuk here, reports are that - PUK people are telling us that the road has been mined. So although there have been talks about Iraqis capitulating once the bombings begin, we really can't tell at this point because right now it looks like they're digging in on this hill - Anderson.

COOPER: Kevin, we have reports - just to clarify with our audience, we do have reports of bombing in Mosul, which is obviously in the north, and Basra in the south. We're looking into the information on Kirkuk. I've not heard anything on that at this point from our end. What is the mood among the Kurdish fighters who you are with? Do they want more to happen sooner or are they pleased with the pace of things?

SITES: Well, Anderson, it's very similar to Afghanistan in some ways. I was with the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, and they were very anxious for U.S. bombing to begin. The same situation here with the Peshmurga (ph). That is what the Kurds call their fighters, Peshmurga, "those who face death." These are hardened fighters. They've been in a struggle with Saddam Hussein for a long, long time. They are anxious to see his regime go by the wayside. The more bombing the better.

Now added to that, many people have family in Kirkuk. Many people still have homes in Kirkuk. They want to get back to those homes. So they want to see U.S. bombing beginning in earnest so they can actually make that trip back and reclaim their home - Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Kevin Sites, live in northern Iraq. Thanks very much.

It is 2:30 here on the East Coast of the United States. Over the last several hours we have been showing you video taken by Walt Rodgers and his crew traveling with the 7th Cavalry, traveling at a great rate of speed, through, heading toward Baghdad, we can say. Pentagon officials have been watching these tapes along really with the rest of the world. It is an extraordinary vision of the battlefield. It is probably the first time we have seen these kind of pictures in any conflict the U.S. has been involved with.

Let us take a look at some of what Walt Rodgers has been reporting for the last several hours.

WALTER RODGERS, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The pictures you are seeing are absolutely phenomenal. These are live pictures of the 7th Cavalry racing across the deserts in southern Iraq. They will - it will be days before they get to Baghdad, but you've never seen battlefield pictures like these before.

Immediately, in front of our cameras, an M1A1 Abrams tank. We're sitting 30 -- we're sitting about 30 meters -- now about 40 meters off the back of that tank.

A short while ago, perhaps 30 minutes ago, this unit took some incoming fire -- never came within more than half a kilometer of the 7th Cavalry. But there you can see these tanks rolling along. The Army says these are the most lethal killing machines on the Earth, and when you see those 120-milllimeter guns go off, there's no doubt about it.

As you look at the soldiers atop the tank, the one nearest us -- on the left side of the tank is the loader. He is responsible for loading the 120-millimeter shell -- gun shells into the tank when it engages in hostile combat. That has not occurred. That is, the tanks have not fired, to the best of our knowledge, so far today.

The other soldier on the right side of the turret, his head sticking up too, is the commander of the tank. You have to realize they've been riding along, bouncing along in these tanks for probably six or more hours now.

We should tell you that some of the -- some of the squadron is now completely fanned out. This is the Apache troop. Earlier in the evening, when we crossed the border with Kuwait, we were in a single column, the reason being we stayed in a single column because there was concern about minefields. But now we are well past the danger of minefields. The entire Apache troop of the U.S. Army 7th Infantry -- 7th Cavalry is spread out in this giant fan across this desert plain.

All -- early this evening, also, we -- we think an unknown of tanks were hit, no more than three or four. But that was really little more than a skirmish. It held the 7th Cavalry up at the border briefly until the lane of passage through the border burm could be cleared. Once that border burm was cleared, they moved through very, very quickly.

If -- if you can stay with us just a little longer, we're coming up on another skeleton of another war, another old, Soviet vintage tank that the Iraqis would have used, probably during the Gulf War. You can see it -- you're just about to see it on the ground there. The turret is (AUDIO GAP). It would have been knocked by allied forces in the 1991 Gulf War. And look at that old Soviet tank and then pan over and look at the M1A1 Abrams if you want to see how the history of mechanized warfare has (AUDIO GAP) in the last 15 years.

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