CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Strike on Iraq: War Is Under Way
Aired March 21, 2003 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: The largest demonstrations, actually, that we are aware of that have gone on in the United States have gone on out West. In San Francisco, yesterday in San Francisco, as you continue to watch these live pictures down by the waterfront of Chicago, yesterday in San Francisco, more than 1,000 people were arrested.
There was another large demonstration there today. It was yesterday's -- I don't think as many people today were arrested, but yesterday, it was the largest number of arrests in almost a generation in the city of San Francisco. Protests aren't foreign to the folks in San Francisco. And there's been a lot of antiwar feeling building there for a long time.
Chicago is a more complicated place, politically complicated place. It's a Democratic city, but it's very much a blue-collar Democratic city. And one would suspect -- one would suspect, just as you're going to make a point, you lose the live signal. It happens almost every time in life. One would suspect there is much greater division of feeling in a city like Chicago than there might be out West in San Francisco.
In any case, around the country there are protests against the war, and there are protests in -- or there are demonstrations in support of the troops and in support of the president's policy. And as you look at these pictures of Baghdad right now, these are live pictures of Baghdad.
We mentioned this at the beginning that our crew, Nic Robertson, whose -- you don't mind if I boast here for a second -- whose stellar work over the first couple of days of this, that Nic and his team were politely asked to leave the country, or perhaps not so politely.
Now, it is very difficult to get out of there. It's a long drive. Essentially, the way out of Baghdad right now, the only way out, is to get out by vehicle, and you have to make your way to Jordan, to the border in Jordan. And ordinarily, under any circumstance, that's a long and aggravating and difficult drive. It is made more complicate and, we'll confess, more worrisome to us, because there's an enormous amount of military activity going on.
And, believe me, there's not a lot of traffic right now on the road from Baghdad to Amman, Jordan. And we just know that our guys, Nic and his team, are trying to make their way out. And that has impacted a bit on our ability to report the story. But fortunately we've been able to connect with all sorts of people who have been allowed to stay in, to give us the word picture to compliment the extraordinary look that our cameras have provided when those cruise missiles started to rain down about 9:00 in Baghdad earlier today, Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, you know, I just want to reassure our viewers out there, so many of whom have got to know our correspondents in Baghdad over these many, many months, Nic Robertson, of course, and Rym Brahimi, they are fine. They're moving out, they're trying to get out of Iraq. They've been ordered out together with our producer there, our senior executive producer, Ingrid Krominek (ph), as well as our photographer, Brian Pukati (ph), all of them, very, very courageous journalists.
And you know, Aaron, that Nic Robertson was working for CNN 12 years ago. He was in Baghdad on the first night of the air war, as well as stayed on, and Ingrid, of course, was there as well. So these are experienced journalists. It's a pity the Iraqi government has decided to kick them out right now. So they'll make their way out of the country and do some reporting elsewhere for us.
But they've obviously done an outstanding job, and not only us, but all of our viewers, I'm sure, are grateful to them for their hard work.
BROWN: Well, if I was their boss, I'd give them at least one day off before we send them somewhere to be doing other reporting.
It's just past 4:00, 4:03 now in Baghdad, makes it 8:03 here in the East. A new hour begins there and here. During this hour, we'll take a look at some of the questions that are being asked around the world.
Perhaps question A-1 on A-Day, is that man alive or not? And if he is alive, is he in control of his country? Are all of his lieutenants, is his government still alive and in place and functioning?
Perhaps there is no more critical question tonight to the American side, to the American military planners, civilian and military, as to whether the Saddam Hussein government is still intact and in control.
In parts of Iraq liberated by U.S. ground forces today, they were tearing down pictures of Saddam Hussein. American soldiers, in getting some help from locals, I suppose if you see the Americans coming and the forces they've come in, you want to look friendly to them, no matter what you might feel, if you got half a brain.
And they were warmly greeted. And in that part of Iraq, there's no reason to suspect they were anything but friendly.
Eight thousand-man Iraqi army division has surrendered tonight en masse, and we're trying to figure out precisely what that -- who they are and how that surrender went down, who they were talking to. Did the commanders surrender for them? All of that.
Tonight, the city of Baghdad has been paying the price in the most fearsome sort of way for the defiance of Saddam Hussein.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(sounds of explosions)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaks in Arabic)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaks in Arabic)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaks in Arabic)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaks in Arabic)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaks in Arabic)
(sounds of explosions)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaks in Arabic)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaks in Arabic)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaks in Arabic)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: You can hear the voice of the Al Jazeera correspondent, who was broadcasting at the time. These are pictures from Al Jazeera. They have a number of locations. Al Jazeera, as I think most of you know by now, some of you may not, is the Arab-language news channel broadcast throughout the Arab world. Source of some controversy. But they were courageous today in staying on the air and broadcasting during this.
What -- General Wes Clark is with me.
General Clark, that's got to be seven minutes of pure hell if you are anywhere near (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME COMMANDER: Those are big bombs. And even if you are not that near, you're going to feel it, you're going to feel the shock effect. And you're going to get the sense of being powerless. And that is, in fact, what it's designed to demonstrate.
The aircraft that dropped those bombs flew over Baghdad with impunity. The antiaircraft fire didn't touch them, the missiles didn't touch them. It's just sheer power.
BROWN: We've have had no reports that any of the American aircraft were hit by the antiaircraft fire, though it certainly was going up out there. Are you surprised at all by the way the Iraqis defended or failed to defend their capital? CLARK: Well, it sounded like, in the first pass, that the defense was kind of disorganized and scattered. But as I heard some of the Navy pilots talk, they mention some surface-to-air missiles that had been fired up, and so forth.
So we may not be getting the complete picture of it on this television view.
BROWN: That -- on the subject of the complete picture, do military planners now at Central Command, Tommy Franks, General Franks and his team, now know what they've hit and what they've taken out?
CLARK: They're just now finding out. They're not quite certain yet. It may take up to -- you get an initial sort of a hot wash BDA from the...
CLARK: ... battle damage assessment...
BROWN: Thank you.
CLARK: ... from the missiles that you can see going in on the targets. Now, in the case of these JDAMs, you would not -- they don't have a television in them. So when they go in, they just go in, and you don't know. So you're going to have to go back and make another pass with some other asset to determine whether you've actually hit the target, and what the impact is.
BROWN: Boy, you could -- you're throwing a lot of jargon in there...
CLARK: Oh, I'm going to monitor that.
BROWN: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we got assets, and BDAs going. Is that done by satellite? Will -- as daybreak comes, will satellite show them that, or do they have to fly over? And how do they find out what they've destroyed and what they haven't?
CLARK: Oh, it's going to be done by satellite.
CLARK: And the satellite makes a pass, and they know in advance when the pass is going to be, and they've got the satellite targeted to look at it.
BROWN: Every now and then you do that just to remind me you were a general, to...
CLARK: I keep trying. But, you know, it's hard to slip roles. And you try not to say certain things.
BROWN: General Clark, thank you.
Wolf Blitzer is with us again this hour. He's over in Kuwait -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Aaron.
Iraqi television keeps on showing the world pictures of President Saddam Hussein, but nobody seems to know when those pictures were taken. No one seems to know if Saddam Hussein is alive or dead, in control, or what's going on.
Our national security correspondent, David Ensor, has been trying to figure all of that out. He's got excellent sources in Washington. He's joining us now live -- David.
DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you say, Iraqi television showed pictures of President Saddam Hussein again today. But, again, the same question as before, are these pictures new? Or were they taken days and days ago?
ENSOR (voice-over): This time, Iraqi television showed Saddam Hussein with his son Qusay, saying he remains firmly in control. But U.S. officials said the pictures could just as easily be old. Such meetings are a staple of Iraqi TV.
U.S. intelligence officials say Saddam could be injured or even dead. Whether or not he's alive, Bush administration officials say his grip on power is slipping.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The regime is starting to lose control of their country. The confusion of Iraqi officials is growing. Their ability to see what is happening on the battlefield, to communicate with their forces, and to control their country is slipping away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Secretary, do you believe Saddam Hussein is currently in control of Iraq?
RUMSFELD: I don't know.
ENSOR: Sources say, since the strikes Thursday morning against Saddam Hussein's compound, intelligence headquarters, and a Republican Guard facility, there has been a marked drop in Iraqi leadership communications monitored by U.S. intelligence.
Saddam Hussein, a knowledgeable official says, is not communicating orders, and can no longer trust anybody. Even deciding where and whether to sleep at night, he said, is a fateful choice for the Iraqi leader.
As for the tape released hours after the attack on his compound, in which Saddam mentions the date of the attack, it is Saddam, the White House says. The question is, when?
ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The tape has been analyzed by the Central Intelligence Agency, and their analysis has led them to believe that the tape is indeed the voice of Saddam Hussein. But no conclusions have been reached about whether it was canned ahead of time or not.
ENSOR: A senior intelligence official tells me he believes Saddam Hussein was in the compound early Thursday morning, along with at least one of his sons, when the U.S. dropped tons of munitions on it. But the official says the U.S. at this point simply does not know whether Saddam survived, and if so, whether he's been injured.
Welcome, this official said, to the fog of war, Wolf.
BLITZER: David, the analysis by the CIA that that videotape was in fact Saddam Hussein, even though they don't know when that videotape was made, there had been so many -- so much speculation about body doubles, how many people impersonating Saddam Hussein there may have been. But the key was the voice. The Arabic, the inflections, the voice that the CIA studied more than any pictures, I take it. Is that right?
ENSOR: Well, that's right. The quality of the picture wasn't all that good, Wolf, but the voice was very clear, and they compared it. They have pretty good techniques over at the National Security Agency for comparing voice tapes with each other. And they're pretty well satisfied that, yes, it was Saddam Hussein on that tape.
But the key question is, when was the tape made? Some people believe that Saddam might have recorded a series of similar messages, including this one, that said that, you know, we were attacked on March 20, so that they could be released subsequently in case he was injured or killed.
So there's just an air of mystery about this still, Wolf.
BLITZER: And there was that story, you saw it, I'm sure, in "The Washington Post," the CIA supposedly getting in touch with a former mistress of Saddam Hussein, who now lives in exile. She thought that wasn't Saddam Hussein. But clearly the CIA thinks she was wrong.
David Ensor, our national security correspondent. Thanks very much. David, you want to make a point?
ENSOR: Well, just to tell you that the CIA actually wasn't very happy about that. They say they were never in touch with the mistress, and possibly the Pentagon was, but they weren't, and they don't believe, I guess, that she's a particularly credible source.
BLITZER: All right. David Ensor, thanks very much. She obviously wasn't very credible this time, since she got it wrong -- Aaron.
BROWN: One more reason in life not to take mistresses, Wolf, in my view. Thank you.
Just -- I know I'm about to throw our control room into a fit here. General Clark, David talked for a second about, there hasn't been much communication from Saddam on the normal frequencies, and you made a point to me earlier about why that would be.
CLARK: Well, it would be a normal -- it would be a routine procedure for a man like Saddam, who knows he's going to be attacked, to have set up a separate emergency channel of communication, paid the Chinese fiberoptic eyes to come in, never use it, never disclose it, until you absolutely have to.
This is probably not what's happening, but it is a possibility, and hopefully we're considering that possibility.
BROWN: Right, and I think, I mean, that's really the point of this, and we'll move on from it, is that sometimes things just aren't quite as -- the fact that we report something, it's not quite as simple as it might be. They have contingencies, just like the United States has contingencies in communications, and that might be what it is, and that's the only point we're trying to me. Though it -- well, we make the point.
Jamie McIntyre is over at the Pentagon. I know Jamie has a point to make, and he always makes it a whole lot cleaner than I just did -- Jamie.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: I don't know about that, Aaron. It's been pretty confusing these days.
One thing we're sorting out, though, is a key to the U.S. military strategy is getting the Iraqi military to surrender.
And up to this point, we've only seen relatively small numbers of Iraqi troops surrendering. But we got word tonight that the 51st Iraqi Mechanized Division -- this is a division that was down along the border with Kuwait, one of the first lines of defense -- has, in fact, surrendered, essentially en masse, although it's not clear exactly how many troops have turned themselves over to the U.S. military and how many are, you know, are just simply disappeared.
But the commander of the unit, the division commander and his deputy both formally surrendered to U.S. forces in the south, and some number of the division as well. So that's what the U.S. was hoping would happen with all of the Iraqi divisions. But at this point, this is the first significant one.
Now, we also have word that in the north, there are Iraqi troops who want to surrender, but there are no American troops there to surrender to. But they have already expressed a desire to surrender when U.S. forces come in. It's a little different political situation up there in the north.
But, again, too soon to say whether or not this is going to be the way it's going to play out, or whether, as U.S. troops get closer to Baghdad and they meet up with the Republican Guard, whether they'll actually meet stiff resistance there.
BROWN: And just to put a point on that, in the way the Iraqis have set their defense up, Jamie, their best troops are not the troops closest to the border with Kuwait, are they? MCINTYRE: No. Those, in fact -- some of the least well equipped and least well trained and the lowest morale troops are right along the south there. Essentially, Saddam Hussein's defensive strategy was to give up on the borders and to try to draw a tight ring around Baghdad and put in a last stand there.
The big question is, will his troops follow orders once they see that essentially a U.S. military victory is inevitable?
BROWN: Anyway, they've got some number, and perhaps it's 8,000, and they have to care for them once they get them in control.
I thought I saw a report -- well, I know I saw it, I'm not precisely sure where I saw it -- that in some cases there had been some surrendering of troops, and basically what happened is, the United States forces or British forces, Jamie, took their weapons and sent them home, not unlike that which happened in Afghanistan with some of the Taliban fighters.
Is that your understanding also?
MCINTYRE: My understanding is, whenever they think they can do that, whenever they think it's not a big threat, they will essentially take the weapons and send them back to their barracks or send them to some neutral place, so they can proceed without them. If they think they are a threat, they will take them into custody.
We do have reports of some prisoners actually being held in holding areas, some of them actually being handcuffed with those plastic handcuffs. But to the extent that they think the Iraqi troops aren't a threat, they're going to try to treat them as victims rather than the vanquished.
BROWN: And that is -- Jamie, thank you. That has advantages for the coalition forces, because that's -- those are people, then, that don't have to be controlled and cared for and fed and worried about. You just send them on their way, and they are no longer a problem.
But the numbers there are small to this point, Wolf.
BLITZER: Very, very -- very small, but who knows what's going to happen down the road?
Let's move on and talk about the coalition. They are moving U.S. and British forces, specifically, north into Iraq, securing oil fields in the south as they go. Several wells are still burning, but that's a far cry from the more than two dozen wells coalition commanders had worried were shooting flames and black smoke into the sky.
It's not clear if the fires were deliberately set, or an accident. Some of those oil field fires are even visible in Kuwait.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says all the fields in southern Iraq should soon, soon be secure.
We have a report now from CNN's Martin Savidge on what's happening in southern Iraq.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The onset of darkness here in southern Iraq brings about a new kind of night light that is distinctive by its orange glow -- oil fires burning.
We've seen a number of them. These are not oil wells that are on fire, but instead, what appear to be oil pipelines that have been damaged or destroyed in some way, shape, or form. Keep in mind, this whole region down here is so rich with oil processing that the oil pipelines literally crisscross around like a spider's web.
It's unclear whether these pipelines were damaged intentionally, or maybe it was just part of the aftermath of the bombing campaign, and the fighting that took place here, especially yesterday.
The fires, for the most part, are billowing and burning out of control. They are not a major environmental or economic impact. They are simply part of the background here.
For the Marines that are taking control of the oil fields in the southern part of Iraq, their primary concern is making sure that the oil facilities are under control, that there are no enemy forces, as they view Iraqi soldiers here in the region, and that dealing with those oil fires is secondary on their list.
We are told that oil firefighting experts are being brought in, and those that are experts in the oil industry in general will be coming into this region to help supervise the revival of Iraq's oil industry.
Martin Savidge, CNN, with the Marines in southern Iraq.
BLITZER: And British troops are taking up key positions to help protect those critical oil installations as the coalition forces move towards Basra in southern Iraq. The normally stoic British commanders have to be feeling pleased with their progress today.
Let's bring back CNN's Miles O'Brien and the former NATO supreme commander, General Wesley Clark, for a bit of perspective.
We learned today, Miles, very important, that the basic game plan was changed. The ground war started effectively, first specifically, to protect those oil fields in southern Iraq, the air war starting thereafter.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, and there's good reason for it, Wolf. If you recall, during the first Gulf War, there were some 700 oil well fires, mostly in the south. And it took several years and some $5 billion just to get that oil-producing capability back in and -- in good working order.
And so there's good reason to keep it preserved, because ultimately, when you start talking about rebuilding Iraq, that oil revenue is a key part of the picture.
General Wes Clark is here to tell us about what really is shaping up to be a textbook maneuver here in the south, involving British Marines in conjunction with U.S. forces there to seize and get ahold of a key pumping facility, in this port right near Basra.
Why don't you get -- lay out, lay it out for us, and we'll get a sense of the lay of the land in just a moment as we're talking.
CLARK: Well, Miles, the objective of this was to -- if I can use your pointer a little bit on this map...
O'BRIEN: Yes, please do.
CLARK: ... the objective right down is, this is the point at which all of Iraq's oil exports to the south go out into the Persian Gulf. So there's a pumping station, there's a couple of platforms offshore. And this is a strategic asset for Iraq. And if it were destroyed, it would be an environmental disaster for the Persian Gulf.
And so the coalition forces elected to take it. And it's a classic air, ground, sea operation. Special operating forces go in. We knew what -- the coalition forces understood what the enemy position was. They had excellent intelligence on the air defense sites. A Chinese surface-to-surface missile site in the area.
They used B-52s firing -- using drop -- or dropping JDAMs. They brought in AC-130 gunships. They came in by heliborne assault. They came in from the sea. They took the oil platforms, they went into the assault themselves, this force of probably several hundred Marine commandos and special operations forces, ended up opposed by about 1,300 Iraqis.
It took several hours to complete the action. No friendly casualties. Several dozen Iraqi killed and wounded. And ultimately, the surrender of the facilities. Mission completely accomplished, and the Iraqi force surrender as well.
O'BRIEN: Now, while you were talking, we zoomed in, courtesy of Earthviewer.com and Digital Globe. This is that facility you were talking about right there. The -- you know, the Iraqis don't have a great deepwater port down there, and that's part of the problem. They go -- they come in from the Shad Al Arab (ph) waterway, and they're able to do that offloading there. And that gives you a sense of what's going on there.
Let's talk about what the United Kingdom and the U.S. forces were using in the way of tools in all of this. First of all, U.S. A-10 Warthog aircraft, which is close air support, used a lot for armor, but also in these cases as well.
CLARK: That's right. Well, it really starts with U.S. intelligence, which has the overhead imagery, and so can see the battle. And then U.S. command and control to bring the air assets, ground assets, naval assets together. Then the A-10s. Then we had...
O'BRIEN: We had the AC-130 gunship.
CLARK: ... AC-130 gunship on...
O'BRIEN: That's the first time we've heard about that.
CLARK: That's exactly right.
O'BRIEN: What's its role?
CLARK: Well, it's orbiting around the area. It's got continuous visibility over the ground, got a 105-millimeter cannon, 40-millimeter guns, 25- millimeter gun, very heavy power firepower. Great ability to control and dominate an area, so they can actually see individual people walking on the ground at night. And if they are hostile, they'll take them under fire and engage them. It's a very effective platform.
O'BRIEN: Now, I don't know if you can see right here what it has. It has weaponry out the left side. It makes left turns in those orbits and is capable of laying down a tremendous amount of fire.
Also the A-64 Apache helicopter, attack helicopter, was put to bear on this textbook case, as you say. And we talked about this the other night. This -- it has all kinds of missiles and rockets that it can fire out. Why don't you tell us what we're looking at right (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
CLARK: We're looking at -- right here, this is the full array. This is a 30-millimeter chain gun. It's got a chin bubble that's got the night vision and thermal optics on it. You see Hellfire missiles. It's got also unguided aerial rockets. But you can vary the mix of ordnance depending on what the mission is.
O'BRIEN: All right. And we were told there was a mass surrender there of many of the Iraqi forces at this. What does that tell you about their morale and their commitment to this regime?
CLARK: Well, they were overwhelmed, basically. They could not stand up to the combination of firepower and skill on the ground forces. Not committed. Not effective defense of that area. They lost.
O'BRIEN: Do you have the nagging sense some of this is seeming too good to be true so far, the way it has gone militarily?
CLARK: Well, I think it's -- this is on track, is what -- the way I would -- I'd put it. This is what we would expect. We know these aren't top-quality forces. We expect to be able to do these operations. It's not easy to do them. This is an extremely complicated operation that was pulled off here. But it was pulled off well and it accomplished the purpose.
But don't be complacent. There's a long way to go.
O'BRIEN: All right. General Wes Clark, thank you very much -- Aaron. BROWN: Thank you very much. A lot of those soldiers almost certainly were conscripts, were drafted, and we saw, as Jamie McIntyre mentioned, many of them, at least in those pictures, we saw handcuffed with those plastic band handcuffs. Contrast that with the forces, the pictures, rather, of the way American forces were greeted by people in southern Iraq. A lot of pictures from cities around the world here, and not all of it favorable to the American position, to be sure.
Antiwar demonstrators in Cairo pelting police. This was a nasty affair in Cairo today. The police used tear gas and water cannons. Often the target here is the U.S. embassy. The protests, organizers, and police say drew about 10,000 people, many of whom chanting the now-familiar "Death to America" slogan and promising to burn the American embassy to the ground.
Similar protests from other countries in the Arab world. Yemen, things got so bad police fired live ammunition on the crowd. Again, always with a tight shot like that, it's hard to tell how many people are there, but that is a very nasty affair there going on Yemen today.
American officials very concerned about this sort of thing in the Arab world, that an invasion of Iraq could destabilize many of these governments. Government officials say two demonstrators were killed. A police officer was also killed. Seven other officers also wounded. That was in Yemen.
The next pictures come from Mexico. The war unpopular there. American flag we see burned. That's -- days like this, it's not easy to look at. But that's what happened in Mexico south of the border. That scene unfolded yesterday, we should tell you, in Mexico City.
Let's not -- we ought not necessarily assume that that's how most Mexican citizens feel. We don't know that, but many of them came out in the streets yesterday to protest their anger at the American policy.
In the United States, we do this sort of thing in a somewhat different way. Even in moments like this, we exercise our free speech rights. And they are doing it tonight in Chicago. I know that this sort of thing angers a good many of you, that you see it all as inappropriate in times like this, and that's understandable.
But this is also, in our view, if you don't mind, the beauty of the country, and the vibrance of the American democracy, that we are strong enough in these moments, these moments with our soldiers abroad and fighting, that we can countenance this sort of protest to government action.
It is a great American strength, even as it might be maddening to some.
This is the second night in a row of demonstrations in Chicago. Yesterday, more than 500 people were arrested. They clogged Lake Shore Drive down by Lake Michigan there. And this is going on now, courtesy of -- pictures courtesy of CNN affiliate WLS, good television station in Chicago, Illinois. In Maryland, about 30 antiwar protesters were arrested when they were trespassing on the federal courthouse in Baltimore, as they say. About 40 demonstrators staged a mock funeral procession at the University of Maryland campus.
There were demonstrations in Washington that led to more than two dozen arrests. People lying in the streets. Civil disobedience, peaceful protests, but you can't lie in the middle of the street and not expect the police to come and take you away. One person is still in jail for refusing to identify himself, which is a crime.
That's -- again, you know, these protests don't measure necessarily the middle. They -- protester demonstrations measure one end of the spectrum or another. A snapshot now, though, of public opinion.
The administration says things are looking good so far, and the country is certainly backing the president. The president's approval rating is at 67 percent, according to the latest ABC News-"Washington Post" poll.
Bill Schneider is next to me.
That's up, I guess, 7 or 8 points from the last time I looked at it.
CBS News has the CBS News-"New York Times," credit to both, has the president's approval rating at about 62 percent.
I'll confess Decapitation 101 was not a course I took in my brief college career. I gather we're going to talk about -- every now and then, folks. I gather we're going to -- Bill Schneider is here. We're going to talk a bit about how the country views the Saddam Hussein question, I gather.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You gather correctly.
BROWN: I'm not so bad sometimes.
SCHNEIDER: That's right. We do say that our goal is decapitation of the Iraqi regime, not, interestingly, assassination. And there's a reason. During the cold war, the CIA did get involved in efforts to assassinate other countries' leaders, like Ngo Dinh Diem in Vietnam, Patrice Lumumba in the Congo. And there were even plans to poison Fidel Castro's cigars.
When the news got out, Congress investigated, and they almost passed a law banning assassinations. But then President Gerald Ford issued an executive order heading that law off. The order in 1976 said, quote, "No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States government shall engage in or conspire to engage in an assassination." Now, the fact that it was an executive order, not an act of Congress, is important because it means the president controls the policy and the president can change it. And in fact, just after September 11, Secretary of State Colin Powell said the Bush administration was considering rescinding that executive order.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: Are there laws that need to be changed or new laws brought into effect to give us more ability to deal with this kind of threat? So everything is under review.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: But they did not need to change the law because it allows targeting an enemy combatant, if the United States is engaged in an armed conflict. A terrorist like Osama bin Laden is an enemy combatant because he masterminded an attack on the United States. So is Saddam Hussein because he's the commander-in-chief of the Iraqi armed forces. Targeting an enemy combatant is not an act of assassination, it's an act -- legally, it's an of war.
BROWN: Yes. In fact, a week or so back, Ari Fleischer, the president's spokesman, was asked specifically that question, Would the United States forces try and kill -- that's a good, clean word everybody understands -- kill Saddam Hussein? And he said, once war starts, fair game.
SCHNEIDER: That's right. And even if this isn't an officially declared war. Some people say Congress didn't declare war. The U.N. didn't sanction war. It's an illegal war. I spoke to several international relations -- international law scholars from all over the world today, and they all said it doesn't matter. The law of armed conflict says in any armed conflict, you can target any enemy combatant.
BROWN: And that answers the question -- I know I've gotten a bunch of e-mails on this question from people strongly opposed to the war. Under -- it's not a question of under American policy, it is a question of under international law, the rules of war, which is always, I think, one of those more amusing phrases in the vocabulary, it's a perfectly legitimate tactic.
SCHNEIDER: That's right. Yes. And there are those who say that maybe Bush could be charged with a war crime if there's an assassination. But there you have a question. Where would he be charged? The United States does not recognize the International Criminal Court. There have been a few cases, Aaron, recently of domestic courts in other countries claiming the right to indict leaders of different countries for violating international law. We all remember the case of General Pinochet. But as long as Bush remains president, he's immune from prosecution. After he leaves office, however, some court somewhere might try to indict him for an unlawful assassination. So I think he may need to be a little careful where he travels.
BROWN: Well, we'll find out.
BROWN: Thank you, Bill Schneider. SCHNEIDER: Sure.
BROWN: That's Decapitation 101 for those of you who, like me, didn't take the class.
Quickly, a look ahead at the next half hour. What are the rules for handling prisoners of war? We're talking about international law. The Geneva convention comes into play here and is in play now in the region. Coalition forces prepared for that responsibility, and it is a responsibility. We'll also give you another look -- for those of you who are just joining us now -- at how it looked and sounded in Baghdad today.
At 9:00 o'clock, we remind you "LARRY KING LIVE" will be talking to embedded journalists across Iraq for the latest on the war, as the sun comes up on Saturday morning in the Persian Gulf. And, of course, at 10:00 o'clock, you know I would do this. At 10:00 o'clock, "NEWSNIGHT," and we'll have four hours of "NEWSNIGHT" for you at 10:00 o'clock. That's a quick look at what's coming up ahead.
Here's Heidi Collins with a quick look at what has already gone on today.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Aaron. Here is the very latest now. Baghdad pounded by massive allied air strikes. U.S. officials say it is the start of an intensive campaign to instill "shock and awe" in the Iraqi leadership. Other Iraqi cities were also hit, and hit hard.
Of the many targets in Baghdad, one was the huge Republican palace complex, containing key command-and-control facilities. Earlier today, Iraqi television broadcast these pictures of what it says is bomb damage to a building in Baghdad. Iraqi officials say the building is the Peace Palace, which they say was used for visiting dignitaries. They also say a museum they call the Flowers Palace was hit in the bombing.
President Bush says coalition forces are making progress. You see the evidence of that on this map. Right now, allied forces control the southern Faw Peninsula and major oil facilities there, the port city of Umm Qasr and two key airfields in western Iraq. And nothing so far is slowing down allied ground troops as they continue their advance on Baghdad.
At this hour, Iraq still insists Saddam Hussein is alive. Iraqi television today broadcast pictures of what it said was the Iraqi leader meeting with his son, Qusay. But it is not clear when the pictures were taken or whether they are authentic. U.S. officials believe he was in a building that was bombed early Thursday, but they don't know whether he was killed or even wounded.
Allied officials say Iraqi troops continue to surrender. The Pentagon says the Iraq 51st Division gave up to U.S. troops today. The division likely has as many as 10,000 troops. The Pentagon calls it the most significant surrender to date. Iraqis in the southern town of Safwan, just across the Kuwait border, seemed to be overjoyed by the arrival of American Marines.
Thousands of demonstrators in Chicago are protesting the corporate involvement with the war in Iraq. They marched past the high-rise home of the man behind the Army's "Army of One" marketing campaign. They also marched past Boeing's corporate headquarters. Boeing is a major defense contractor.
Those are the stories making headlines at this hour. Now back to Wolf in Kuwait.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Heidi. It's still several hours before daybreak in Baghdad. Actually, not that long. We just heard the call for morning prayers here in Kuwait City. The light of the day, though, will bring into focus the devastating results of the massive aerial attack on Iraq. Without much let-up today, U.S. forces began to unleash the so-called promised "shock and awe" bombing campaign in punishing doses to try to soften up the enemy.
Let's give you a better summary of that air strike and the results of what that military dubbed "A-Day." Aaron, this has been an incredible day, by all accounts, and it may just be the beginning.
BROWN: Well, it's certainly not the end. The Pentagon has made it pretty clear that what we saw today will be followed up, as they assess -- General Clark was talking a short time ago about the need to assess now the damage that was done, and that will be...
That's the call to prayer in Baghdad this morning, Saturday morning. That call to prayer going on in all Islamic countries. Iraq is a far more secular country than many in the region.
Wolf, I'm sure you can hear what must be a similar call to prayer now going on in Kuwait City, about 400 miles from Baghdad right now. This morning -- it's Saturday morning now. The holiday, the holy day, has ended. It's just -- Wolf, just as I'm looking at this -- and you just -- you can't help but wonder now, people getting up at dawn, coming now about a half hour, 45 minutes from now -- what the people there are wondering what their day is going to bring. We all wake up and sort of know what our day is going to be. We're going to get up and have some breakfast and go off to work and go about our lives. If you're one of the five million residents in Baghdad, Iraq, today, and you wake up, you must wonder what the day is going to be, and I suppose, Wolf, what the night is going to be like.
BLITZER: Well, certainly, in Baghdad, this will be the opportunity. It will be an opportunity for people to go out and see the destruction, the damage that those Tomahawk cruise missiles, those 2,000-bombs caused in Baghdad, in the Iraqi capital. I have to tell you, a few minutes ago, when we heard the call to prayer here in Kuwait City, similar to almost exactly to what people are hearing in Baghdad, for a brief, split second, once again I thought, Uh-oh, here go those sirens, the sirens beginning to go off in Kuwait City. We just get a little jittery when we hear that. After a few seconds, though, you could hear the kadi (ph), the kadi beginning the call to prayers of the -- for the Muslims, for the faithful in this part of the world. It's been an incredible day, a devastating day, by all accounts. CNN's Miles O'Brien now has a look back at this awesome day.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Recapping the last few hours in the war in Iraq. At 12:05 p.m. Eastern time, just after sundown in Baghdad, air raid sirens go off, followed by anti-aircraft fire in skies over the Iraqi captain. At 12:15 p.m., CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports on the second and third combat casualty of this strike in Iraq. At 1:00 PM Eastern time, 9:00 PM in Baghdad, the full force of the coalition's "shock and awe" campaign is felt on a day the Pentagon is calling "A- Day" for "air assault." At 5:10 p.m. State Department correspondent Andrea Koppel reports senior members of the Iraqi Republican Guard are, according to sources, holding surrender negotiations with CIA and Pentagon officials. At 5:39 p.m. Iraq's U.N. ambassador rails against the U.S. and Britain and criticizes U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan for not preventing the attack. At 7:00 p.m. Eastern, Pentagon officials report that Iraq's 51st Division, up to 10,000 army troops, have surrendered to U.S. forces. Miles O'Brien, CNN.
BLITZER: Let's go up to northern Iraq once again. CNN's Jane Arraf is standing by. There's word that Turkish forces have crossed the line, gone from Turkey into northern Iraq -- Jane.
JANE ARRAF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, reports that about 1,000 troops or more may have crossed. Now, it may be a numbers game, at this point. The U.S. says that it would not approve of large numbers of Turkish forces coming through. One thousand is not a large number, but there are indications that there may be many more to follow. And as you know, this may be a huge problem in the making. Kurdish officials have warned that there could be clashes between Kurdish forces that they have deployed along the Turkish border and those Turkish troops. Now, according to Turkey, the troops are here to prevent a humanitarian crisis, waves of refugees. The Kurds just don't believe it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jane, you've spent a lot of time in Iraq. You were our Baghdad bureau chief. You spent a lot of time in Turkey over these many months, gearing up for what is unfolding right now. How do they resolve this issue? How do the Kurds convince the Turks that they are not going to seek some sort of independence, that Iraq will remain unified, a single state?
ARRAF: Well, they've been trying to do it, essentially, through the Americans, and the Americans have been trying to reassure both sides, reassure the Turks that the Kurds are not a threat to them, that they will make sure that Kirkuk and -- the oil city, Kirkuk, remains under American control and then is handed over to a unified Iraq. They're trying to reassure the Kurds that Turkish troops will not be a threat to them.
But there's very deep suspicion, obviously, historical suspicion on both sides. Now, the Kurds believe that Turkey is really just intent on making sure that they don't gain any more autonomy and has even been trying to suppress the autonomy they do have. So there's not very much trust that can be laid here. It just seems to be a matter now of making sure that these troops that are coming in, the Turkish troops, aren't the spark that ignites yet another war, another conflict within the conflict that's already going on -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We know over the years, there have been these Kurdish terrorist groups that have plagued -- that have attacked Turkish government positions. How significant of a factor is that in Turkey today?
ARRAF: It's still really quite embedded in the Turkish consciousness. No matter how many times European countries, for instance, try to tell Turkey that the Kurds here are not a threat to them, Kurdish independence is not a threat, there won't be any independence, that Kurdish autonomy -- and despite the fact that the terrorist group, as Turkey sees it, the PKK, which it has fought a long-running battle against, with tens of thousands of people dead, has essentially been wiped out, it's still very much up front in the Turkish military mind, certainly, and it's something they're afraid of.
They say that part of the problem over the last 10 years has been that after the Gulf war, when there was a vacuum, with Iraqi forces withdrawing, Turkish separatists, extremist separatists, armed ones, crossed the border. That's what they're trying to prevent this time. Now, the Kurds argue it's not going to be a problem. They're in control this time. They can handle things. And if they can't handle things, the Americans certainly can -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jane Arraf, reporting from northern Iraq on this complicated Turkish issue.
Aaron, it gets about as complicated as when you're dealing with the nexus of Turkey and the Kurds, the Iraqis, the Iranians and the other ethnic groups there, whether the Shia, the Turkmens, it's pretty much of an ethnic mess, I would say that.
BROWN: Well, that's -- it's a sort of Yugoslavia of the Arab world. It's a very complicated mess and -- well, "mess" maybe is not the best word, but it's why there's so much concern about what happens after a war. The war part was always thought of as -- while it's the deadly part, in some respects, the easy part.
Let's try this. This is a problem for the American military. It is also a problem for the State Department, this question of the Turkish troops crossing into northern Iraq. This was very much part of the negotiation of trying to draw the Turks into the coalition. a negotiation that dominated the news for such a long time. Andrea Koppel spent a good deal of time reporting on that over the weeks, and she's at the State Department, where she does her best work and joins us now.
Do they -- they obviously haven't persuaded Turkey not to send its troops in, though they tried very hard, didn't they. ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Aaron, there is quite a bit of confusion here at the State Department. In fact, this has been a day full of confusion, when it comes to the United States and Turkey. State Department officials tell me that they have no evidence that Turkish troops have crossed into northern Iraq. In fact, one official told me, he said, this is still being negotiated right now. They have been on the phone. Secretary Powell has spoken with a number of officials in recent days, senior Turkish officials, and they are really trying to work this out. Secretary Powell, in fact, told reporters earlier today that he had been in discussions with senior Turkish officials and there had been no resolution as yet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POWELL: At the moment, we don't see a need for any Turkish incursions into northern Iraq, and we are talking with the Turkish authorities to see whether or not there is some planning we should do with respect to any humanitarian needs that might arise along the border.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOPPEL: Now, of course, the confusion is that the Turkish government has signaled that, in fact, Turkish troops are moving south into northern Iraq, they say for humanitarian reasons, as we heard Jane Arraf lay out there. The U.S. obviously very concerned that if those troops move in there, the Pashmina (ph) in Kurdistan, in northern Iraq, might take some kind of action against them.
And the U.S. -- that's why they wanted the overflight rights over Turkey, so that they could move U.S. troops into northern Iraq and be sort of a physical buffer there, both preventing a humanitarian crisis, or at least, being able to tend to it, and also being able to maintain the territorial integrity of Iraq, making sure that there isn't any kind of autonomy in northern Iraq, making sure that Iran doesn't get a slice, that Syria doesn't get a slice and that Turkey doesn't get a slice. But as you pointed out, Aaron, this matter is still unresolved, and it is a really hot-button issue here today.
BROWN: Just let this graphic play out here for a second, to give you a sense of the Turkish role in all of this -- a Muslim country, a democracy, member of NATO, ally of the United States, certainly. And this long and complicated and I'm sure, for many Americans, very frustrating negotiation that went on, where billions of dollars in cash and loan guarantees were dangled in front of the Turkish parliament, which, as you know, originally rejected it all and then has backtracked some.
In any case, a large percentage of the Turkish population feels strongly in strong opposition to the American war in Iraq, and that was part of the reason why Turkish parliamentarians decided that first vote maybe wasn't such a great idea, much to the chagrin of American officials -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Very much to the chagrin of U.S. officials. Meanwhile, the watchword for the war from Washington is a very precise word, and that is caution. The more optimistic words are coming from the commander of one of the aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf. Rear Admiral John Kelly (ph), the commander of the USS Abraham Lincoln, the carrier battle group in the Persian Gulf, believes the war will be won swiftly. CNN's Kyra Phillips is embedded aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers said yesterday that the U.S. was approaching a large- scale operation. Well, welcome to "shock and awe" from the USS Abraham Lincoln. Let's take a look at these pictures from not long ago, when the first strikes began. Strike fighter pilots here have been training for massive air strikes, fast and furious after Tomahawk missiles were launched. Strike fighters engaged with targets, military sites, air defense systems, government buildings, Iraqi leadership compounds and air bases.
Two of those pilots that were on that massive air strike over the evening, Lieutenant Steve Gearies (ph), also Lieutenant Lucas Sadar (ph). Thank you so much for being with me. I want to get your insights. You guys just got back not long ago. Well, talking about the issue of collateral damage -- let's address that right off. A lot of people concerned about the Iraqi people. They see these air strikes, they see the explosions, you know, live on CNN. Lucas, let's start with you. Tell me what's done to prevent collateral damage, besides those precision weapons.
LIEUTENANT LUCAS SADAR: Well, we are -- we're taking it into account in our planning. We plan to minimize collateral damage -- minimize collateral damage (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to the civilians of Iraq. Also, if it's a PID (ph) issue and we want to minimize -- minimize (UNINTELLIGIBLE) our biggest concern is not -- to prevent the fratricide situation that (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
PHILLIPS: And how about you? What did you see? What were you feeling as soon as you got in country?
LIEUTENANT STEVE GEARIES: I was amazed at the sheer size of this operation, the number of people talking on the radio, but also, from the -- for the hour prior to us getting in country and dropping our bombs, explosions, as far as I can see, going to off problem two or three every second for a full hour. It was quite amazing. I've never seen anything like it.
PHILLIPS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) did you realize -- at what point did you realize what Operation Iraqi Freedom is all about? What is it all about to you?
GEARIES: The regime. We know they have weapons. We (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to think that those weapons couldn't fall into the hands of somebody that wouldn't -- that wouldn't think twice about using them in New York City or Washington or Los Angeles or some place back home. And I'll be damned if that's going to happen again, and sure as hell aren't going to let those weapons get back to the United States. If we can end this now, then now is the time to do it. SADAR: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we keep on the track, we will. Operationally, I think we're going to -- we're going to see progress that's on schedule, if not ahead of schedule. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the planners, as far as how long it's going to take to happen. We're just here to execute and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) did tonight, so...
PHILLIPS: Lieutenant Lucas Sadar and Lieutenant Steve Gearies, gentlemen, thank you.
And we'll continue to stay here aboard USS Abraham Lincoln, continuing to cover the campaign, as it goes on down through the day and through the night out here in the Persian Gulf. Back to you.
BLITZER: CNN's Kyra Phillips aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. Those aviators clearly pumped, their adrenaline moving along. They're very excited, clearly proud of the job that they have just done. But, Aaron, there's another part of this story, as well.
BROWN: There is. That, too, is the nature of war. There are successes and great successes, and there are also great tragedies. And there were -- there have been tragedies, as well, in this on the American side. Thelma Gutierrez at Camp Pendleton, is -- a Marine base in California, southern California, and the home of some of the Americans who have already died in this conflict -- Thelma?
THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Aaron. I can tell you that the mood here at Camp Pendleton has been somber, to say the least. This is home to some 40,000 Marines, some of whom were the first to cross over into Iraq. Now, yesterday we talked to some of the wives. They told us that they were on pins and needles, just waiting for this ground war to begin. But today they're faced with this very somber news that 14 coalition forces, or troops, are now dead.
(voice-over): The flag at Camp Pendleton flies at half staff, a reminder of the reality of war.
DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We are certainly grateful for their lives, their courage and their sacrifice, and our hearts go out to their families.
GUTIERREZ: The first coalition casualties in Iraq, four Americans and eight British died when their Children-46 transport helicopter crashes and burns near the Iraqi border, officials say caused by mechanical failure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were scared that...
ALYSE BEAUPRE, VICTIM'S SISTER: This would happen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... something like this would happen. GUTIERREZ: The pilot, 30-year-old Captain Ryan Beaupre, was based at Camp Pendleton, California, and is mourned by family in his home town of Bloomington, Illinois.
BEAUPRE: He did always want to fly. He thought that he could do more as a person, and said that he was going to join the Marine Corps.
GUTIERREZ: Also killed in the helicopter crash, 36-year-old Major Jay Oben (ph) of Waterville, Maine; 25-year-old Corporal Brian Kennedy (ph) of Houston, Texas; and 29-year-old Staff Sergeant Kendall Watersby (ph) of Baltimore, Maryland.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George Bush, take a good look at this man because you took my only son away from me!
GUTIERREZ: His father angrily blames George W. Bush.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You lose your only son and child, you don't really know what's really going on but what they tell you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When anyone loses a member of their family, it's not something that's taken lightly, and we mourn the loss of these Marines.
GUTIERREZ: Before the end of the second day of the ground invasion, two more Marines were killed in action. Their names have not yet been released. At this family diner in Fort Stewart, Georgia, military families, many with relatives serving in the Gulf, watch nervously as the war unfolds, hoping there will be no more casualties and somehow knowing it will not be the end.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just hope they get back safe, do a good job. I know they've all been trained to do it and just do your job and get back home safe.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get it over with and bring them home.
GUTIERREZ: And that's exactly what all the families here at Camp Pendleton are hoping for. You look around this base at the cars and businesses and homes, and you see yellow ribbons tied around some of the cars and the mailboxes and the trees out here at Camp Pendleton. Aaron, back to you.
BROWN: Thank you, Thelma. Your heart goes out to that father, and you understand his sorrow and his pain, as well. Thank you, Thelma Gutierrez, Camp Pendleton.
Some of the best photographers in our business, in the world of journalism, are in Iraq or trying to get into Iraq. Believe me, not all of them are carrying television cameras. Many -- and we have great affection for still cameras and the photographers of the Associated Press and others. Before we go to "LARRY KING LIVE," take a moment to show you some of their work, moments of war quite literally frozen in time. Some of the still pictures of the -- shot by the men and women of the Associated Press. Powerful stuff that. And that concludes STRIKE ON IRAQ: THE FRONT LINES, this two hours. "LARRY KING LIVE" coming up in just a second. I'll see you again on "NEWSNIGHT," 10:00 o'clock Eastern time. Day will have broken in Baghdad by then. Larry's coming up. For Wolf Blitzer, who's had a long day in Kuwait, we'll see you again at 10:00. Heidi Collins has the headlines up next.
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