CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interviews With Former Military Commanders, Families of POWs
Aired March 25, 2003 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Thank you, Heidi, we are here with CNN's continuing coverage of the war in Iraq.
Today, reports of some 150 Iraqi casualties in what the Pentagon says may be the big of the ground battle of the war so far. We'll have the latest on that and all of today's developments and we'll talk with the families of American POWs and soldiers missing in action. What are they going through as they wonder about their loved ones and what they're going through?
Plus, Bob Simon, an Iraqi prisoner himself for 40 days while covering the '91 Gulf War for CBS. Some of what he has to say about the Iraqi people may surprise you.
Plus, a U.S. pilot who was shot down and MIA for nearly a week in Bosnia and a British pilot who was a Gulf War prisoner of war, squadron leader John Peters and lots more.
We start off with reports stationed at or near -- with reporters, rather, stationed at or near the front lines of battle.
And we begun with my man Nic Robertson, the CNN senior international correspondent. He and three other CNN news people were expelled from Baghdad last week. He is now near the Jordanian Iraqi border and what can you tell us from your standpoint, Nic?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Larry, I've been listening to the political rhetoric coming from Baghdad today and they're really stepping up the campaign, fielding all the top politicians, it seems information.
Minister Mohammed Al-Sahaf trying to put down rumors that there could be a revolt, a popular revolt in the southern city of Basra. Of course, this is critical because following the 1991 Gulf War, that's where the Shiite upraising began and got a hold, so critical for the government to put down those rumors.
We've heard from Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, who hasn't been -- who's been seen very little since the beginning of the war. He was criticizing coalition leaders, suggesting even that coalition forces really aren't making much progress because they're not taking on the citizen towns.
We've heard, too, from Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, saying that President Saddam Hussein is firmly in control of the country. Of course, that the most critical message for the Iraqi leadership to deliver. They don't want the Iraqi people thinking that they're not strong and not in control of the situation at this time.
We've also heard from President Saddam Hussein. A news announcer on state-run television in Iraq said that president Saddam Hussein was calling on all the Arabs and the tribesmen and the Shiites in Iraq to join the fight against the U.S. forces.
Of course, this again a critical move if the Shiites -- and they make up some 60 percent of the population in Iraq -- if they do choose to move against the government this will send a very undermining signal to the population in Baghdad, of which two million are Shiites. And if they rise up against the leadership -- no indication yet that that's happening -- but if they do, that will be a fight from inside of the city while the Iraqi leadership is trying to fight off coalition forces.
So the Iraqi leadership really try to put down all those rumors tonight, Larry.
KING: And Nic, is that sandstorm affecting you and where you are?
ROBERTSON: Right on this border, Larry, it's freezing. The wind is really cold. There's rain in the air. There's dust blowing around us here.
For the troops and we understand not far from where we are, just inside the west of Iraq there are U.S. special forces around a couple of airstrips, H-2 and H-3. Right where they are in the desert it must be absolutely freezing tonight, Larry.
KING: Thank you, Nic Robertson, as always. We check in with Nic every night.
Now let's go to Tel Aviv, Bob Simon, correspondent with CBS News and to "60 Minutes" and "60 Minutes II," was captured by Iraqi forces. We're going to talk with him later when we talk with prisoner of war families about what it was like to be captured by the Iraqis. He was held for 40 days.
But in this little segment, Bob will be with us throughout the program.
What are they saying in Tel Aviv about all this and especially about the strength that the American forces, the coalition forces are running into?
BOB SIMON, CBS NEWS: I think in Tel Aviv as in Washington they're a bit surprised at the extent of the resistance so far.
The people here say that the Americans may have made a fundamental mistake in judgment, that they confused the fact that the many, if not most, Iraqis are really very un-fond of Saddam Hussein. They'd like him gone, with the fact that they would welcome the Americans. We just spent a week with the Shiite opposition that Nic was just referring to in Iran. These are the leaders of the Shiites who've been in exile in Iran. We were doing a story for "60 Minutes" which will be on on Sunday.
And those guys, of course, detest Saddam Hussein. They want Saddam Hussein out. Saddam Hussein is their enemy, but within seconds after saying no Saddam, they're saying no Americans. No American occupation. They would have loved it if the CIA had gone and put a bullet in Saddam's head, but the idea of an invasion of Iraq by American forces, they find very unsettling and the idea of Americans staying and governing the government of the country for any period of time they find intolerable.
KING: Is it a stretch, Bob, to find a similarity with Bay of Pigs, where they expected major opposition?
SIMON: I think the closer analogy to me, just perhaps because I was there, was Lebanon, where the Americans were greeted with open arms. The American Marines in 1982 were greeted as liberators and only a year later the Marine barracks were blown up in Beirut by Shiite terrorists.
KING: Bob, you hang with us. Bob will be with us throughout the program. He'll be with us shortly when we talk to POW families.
Let's go to Frank Buckley, the CNN correspondent embedded with the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Constellation in the Persian Gulf. What is the role of the Constellation in this, Frank?
FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, Larry, the story of the day more and more is close air support. This aircraft carrier is providing strike aircraft to go in either ahead of coalition troops to try to take out Iraqi artillery or tank positions or troop positions, or to help troops that are in the heat of battle and to bring in some air power to help those troops in the heat of battle.
That's really giving a lot of the pilots some personal satisfaction, because they know that their efforts can actually help directly some of the troops on the ground.
The strike aircraft from the Constellation are also still hitting some of the fixed targets, but we're told by the rear admiral here, Barry Costello, who's the battle group commander, that a higher percentage now of the flights that are leaving -- the sorties that are leaving from the carrier are directed to close air support -- Larry.
KING: Thank you, Frank Buckley doing yeoman-like work with the U.S. Navy.
Now let's go to Gary Tuchman, our CNN correspondent embedded with the Air Force at the air base near the Iraqi border. Any impact from the sand storm there, Gary?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Larry, the Air Force says it has complete control of the sky, however the air war slowed down today because of that weather.
We had winds at this base near the Iraqi border of up to 55 miles per hour. The rains were coming down heavily. There was lightning and there was thunder and because of that the 250 to 300 average sorties we saw a day here for the last four days turned into a lot less than that, the exact figures are not known yet. We anticipate it's half of that.
But some flights did go up. There are A-10s, behind me. There are also F-16s that are flying here. FA-18s, which are Marine planes, and Harriers and with us now is an A-10 fighter pilot. He goes by the nickname or call sign, they wear it on their shirts, because they don't often like to use their names, this is Hootie. Hootie's from South Bend, Indiana. He flew in Desert Storm. He's flown six missions now.
How are you feeling right now? Do you get nervous when you go in the sky?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you always get apprehensive, but it's hart part of the job.
TUCHMAN: Your most recent mission was yesterday. Tell me where you went and what you did.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We flew up over parts of central and southern Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was the mission? What did they send you out for? Every time you go for a different reason, what was it yesterday?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Going out to support the Army and the Marines and the ground endeavors.
TUCHMAN: Now did you drop bombs? Did you fire missiles?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I didn't get a drop last night, so...
TUCHMAN: How is it decided whether you will fire your ordnance?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just depends, you know, upon what's needed and where you're at and a lot of other circumstances.
TUCHMAN: When is your next mission? How do you find out when you're flying again?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Next one is probably tomorrow.
TUCHMAN: How do you find out?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a normal scheduling process.
TUCHMAN: Do you ever fly in fear that you'll drop a bomb or drop a missile and it won't go exactly where you wanted it to? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not in fear of it, but you hope you do your job the way you've been trained to and that will take care of all the other problems that will come along.
TUCHMAN: Finally, you were telling me you have a wife and you have three children at home. Is it hard for you? How old is your Youngest child?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My baby Elijah just turned one the day before I left, so I'm sending him letters and pictures home so he can see them.
TUCHMAN: Elijah probably doesn't understand as well, but your other two children are older. How do you explain this to them when you get on the telephone, what you do?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're very mature for their age and I write them e-mails and we talk about it and the good thing is that our church has a good support group and they actually bring it up and send prayers and everything over to the troops. So...
TUCHMAN: Are you homesick?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very homesick.
TUCHMAN: Hootie, thanks for talking with us. Appreciate it.
Larry, Air Force officials here are telling us there are more than 2,000 Air Force aircraft flying sorties over Iraq.
They're also telling us they're continuing to drop leaflets over Iraq. They have dropped 26 million leaflets over the last five weeks. There are 25 million people who live in Iraq. That's basically more than one leaflet for every person who lives in the country -- Larry.
KING: Thank you, Gary Tuchman with the U.S. Air Force at an air base near the Iraqi border.
Let's go state side to the Pentagon, where our man Jamie McCarty -- is standing by, it's been -- Mr. McIntyre. Forgive me, I've had something else on my mind. Jamie McIntyre, who's a CNN veteran at the Pentagon -- and tomorrow night, by the way, General Peter Pace, the vice chairman of the joint chiefs, is going to be our special guest.
Jamie, what is the view there as to how this war, overall, is going?
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Pentagon insists it's going very well. according to plan, but there's a lot of defensiveness about this at the Pentagon briefing today.
Already some armchair generals, Monday morning quarterbacks questioning the Pentagon's strategy, particularly, do they have enough armor, heavy armor on the ground? Are the supply lines too long? Do they -- Are they equipped well enough to go after the Republican Guard? What about that northern front that they promised to open up? And the Pentagon's answer to all of that is patience, patience, patience. They are only five days into this. They stress we don't know the war plan. They're not sharing with us the war plan and they thought about all these things. They spent a lot of time working this plan up. They're confident that it's a good plan.
In fact, General Myers today described it as a brilliant plan, and I think we're just going to have to watch as it unfolds.
Now they did suffer a number of casualties, especially yesterday, but the Pentagon says that was really because of the treachery of the Iraqi fanatical Saddam -- Fedayeen Saddam fighters, who basically tricked the United States in a number of occasions, posing as either surrendering civilians or Iraqi soldiers.
So the Pentagon insists the plan's going just fine. They're making good progress. They are pounding the Republican Guard divisions. And they say just be patient and watch how this unfolds. Victory, they claim, is virtually assured; it's only a question of how long it will take.
KING: Jamie, a couple of other things. Do you sense any area of disappointment on their behalf for what's happened? In any area?
MCINTYRE: Well, clearly, they're disappointed that they've had any of these casualties and that they've been taken in by some of these ruses and they there are POWs in Baghdad, but on the other hand, that's to be expected.
Tonight there was a pitch battle at one location where they ran into Iraqi forces, and the U.S. believes they killed somewhere between 150 and 200 Iraqis near An Najaf. Of course, we're never quite sure until we get the real reports from the ground.
And the U.S. at the same time took no casualties. So that's the kind of unfair fight that the U.S. military likes to conduct.
KING: Thank you, as always, Jamie McIntyre. I'll never get that name wrong again, now. Thinking of something else. Jamie McIntyre at Pentagon.
Let's go to Kevin Sites now by video phone. Kevin is in Chamchamal in the Kurdish-held northern Iraq. What can you tell us from that side, Kevin, what's happening there?
KEVIN SITES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Larry, we're about 40 kilometers from the strategically-important city of Kirkuk. It's a really rainy, miserable night here. You're seeing us by nightscope.
We're literally about a thousand meters from the Iraqi front line here. It's a lightly defend front line. There are Dushke (ph) Russian-made heavy machine guns outside there and anti-aircraft fire.
Yesterday collision forces hit this line. It's not a heavily fortified line, as I said, but lines like this on the road to Kirkuk are going to have to be rolled back if there's going to be a coalition advance against that city.
There's been a lot of bombing that's gone on here in the north in the last few days in Mosul and in Kirkuk. There's been talk about opening up a northern front and that U.S. special forces have landed up here and are liaisoning with Pesche Morde (ph) fighters. It literally means those who face danger or those who face death.
The Pesche Morde are the Kurdish fighters who have been facing off against the regime of Saddam Hussein for years and years here. They are absolutely no friends of Saddam. They support this military action.
But there's a lot of thing going on here, Larry, on the geopolitical dynamic that have to be resolved to get full Pesche Morde support in this fight. Number one, the current situation with Turkey, the Pesche Morde, the Kurdish fighters, are concerned that Turkish troops may come down and actually occupy Kurdistan.
The Turks say they're concerned about the Kurds actually setting up a free state here. They're also concerned about refugees from the war. So that has been a problem.
And now there's another front on the Iranian side, where Ansar al-Islam, that's the fundamentalist group that Secretary of State Colin Powell says is the link to the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. He says that is the al Qaeda link, and the Pesche Morde have been fighting on that front for a long time. as well.
The U.S. would like to see the Pesche Morde concentrate all of their forces against Kirkuk and Mosul and cities here in the north to open up this northern front and to make it effective in the drive to Baghdad eventually.
But like I said, there are a lot of things in play, a lot of dynamics going on here so they have their work cut out for them -- Larry.
KING: Thank you, Kevin. As per usual, outstanding reporting. Kevin Sites.
We'll show you an interesting video we just got from Abu Dhabi TV. This is apparently an Iraqi broadcast site, Iraqi TV headquarters being blown up. Watch.
We'll be right back and meet some families of prisoners of war and others who were former prisoners of war. We'll talk about what that experience was like.
We'll also, later on, include your phone. Also get the military approach as well. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
KING: If you missed that explosion in the left hand corner of your screen, here's the aftermath of the blowing up of the Iraqi broadcast center. This is from Abu Dhabi TV. Let's now meet our panel of guests. In Lithia Springs, Georgia, Robert and Kay Young, they are the parents of Chief Warrant Officer Ronald D. Young Jr., one of two Apache helicopter pilots captured by the Iraqis.
In Salem, Oregon, Arlene and Norman Walters. They believe their son, Army Sergeant Donald Walters is missing in action. Sergeant Walters is a member of the Army's 507th Maintenance Company. At least ten people from that company are missing or captured.
Remaining with us in Tel Aviv is Bob Simon, himself a prisoner of the Iraqis for 40 days.
Joining us, as well, is Scott O'Grady. He's in Dallas. Former United States Air Force pilot, shot down over Bosnia back in 1995.
And in Manchester, England, is squadron leader John Peters, royal Air Force retired. His Tornado fighter bomber was downed on January 16 during the first wave of air strikes in the '91 Gulf War.
We'll begin with Ronald and Kay Young. How, Ronald, did you learn that your son Ronald D. Young Jr. was missing?
RONALD YOUNG, FATHER OF POW: Well, I came home from work and I noticed that there had been an Apache Longbow helicopter that had been shot down. And I had come in the house to talk to my wife and she said that they've been airing it on TV. And when we looked at the helicopter we noticed it had the insignia of his unit on it.
We didn't know at that time that it was him, but we was hoping and praying it wasn't. But it later on during the day the Army came out and notified us that he had been -- he was missing in action.
KING: Kay, one advantage of Iraqi television showing them is that you do know your boy is alive, right?
KAY YOUNG, MOTHER OF POW: That's right. I was really not wanting to see that. I told them I didn't want to see it. I had seen the other ones, you know, the day before and I just -- all day I cried. I couldn't stand the idea of seeing my child's picture and his name across the screen, but he looks good.
KING: Ronald, have you been in touch with other -- the other families of the other Apache pilots downed?
R. YOUNG: Yes. I talked to David Williams' wife today and she sounded good. She's holding up real well, but she's chosen not to speak to reporters about anything, so whatever we talked about, I'd really rather not disclose.
KING: Let's -- Stay right with us, Youngs. Let's go to Salem, Oregon, Arlene and Norman Walters. They believe their son, Army Sergeant Donald Walters, is missing. What do we mean, Arlene, by you believe it?
ARLENE WALTERS, MOTHER OF MIA: Well, the military has not officially notified us, but they came to my daughter-in-law's house in Kansas City, a chaplain I believe, and a military officer, and they said that he was unaccounted for.
But as far as the military, we -- us, personally, we have been given no information.
KING: And what, then, Norman, what does that mean to you?
NORMAN WALTERS, FATHER OF MIA: Well, we really don't know what to think. We don't know whether he's alive or what his status is, but we're very concerned about it and we'd like to be informed about what has happened.
I realize that an awful lot is going on and that they're unable to gather the information as fast as we'd like, but it seems like we could be given an official opinion.
KING: Bob Simon, what can you say to these two families about what it was like? You were held 60 day, not as a military man, but as a journalist, being held by the Iraqis?
SIMON: It's very unpleasant and I -- I've kept in touch with many of the pilots who were shot down and who, in fact, were in the same prison I was in. And we had pretty much the same experience which we wouldn't want to relive.
But I think the thing to bear in mind is at this point for the Young family, is that we survived, all of us survived. It was very rough, but they treated us poorly. They did not observe the Geneva Convention, but we all got out alive.
And I think this is what the Young family should be thinking of now, that their son is not having a good time, but if historical precedent means anything, they'll see him again.
KING: And what does the Walters family do with their kind of confusion, Bob?
SIMON: I don't know, Larry. I just don't know.
KING: Yes. Let's check in with John Peters, squadron leader, Royal Air Force, retired. What can you tell them about being captured by the Iraqis, Squadron Leader Peters?
SQUADRON LEADER JOHN PETERS, ROYAL AIR FORCE, (RET.): I have every sympathy for the families because, obviously, my family has been there, but I would concur with Bob. Yes -- One, we mustn't jump to conclusions with the treatment they're having, but at the same time we all got out.
You know, I'm sitting now in a studio in Manchester and I was a prisoner of war and certainly the lack of information is to be expected. The most painful part for families is no information, which at the end of day all my friends and colleagues who were prisoners of war have all got out and no one expected them to do so.
So it's just holding their resolve and they will see their sons and daughters, hopefully, as soon as possible.
KING: Scott O'Grady, you were fortunate enough to not be captured by anyone, but to survive for six days. But your family had to be concerned. What can you tell the Youngs and the Walters?
SCOTT O'GRADY, PILOT SHOT DOWN IN BOSNIA: My thoughts and prayers with them. I can just only speak for what happened with my incident. My family was notified that I was missing. My whereabouts were unknown and six days later I showed up and I returned home.
So I'm not able to know exactly what your service members are going through, but I know that they'll uphold their honor of their family and an honor of this country and they should be proud of them.
KING: Ronald and Kay Young, Ronald, for you, how are you coping? How do you deal with this minute-to-minute?
R. YOUNG: Well, I haven't had to cope a long time with it so far, but it's not -- there have some real difficult times so far and I don't think it's going to go away. I think it's going to be something that I'm just have to kind of settle in with and hope for the best.
I don't know that there's a real positive or set rules for coping with it. I think it's just something you have to start learning, you're going to have to deal with. And just do it a day at a time just like you do with every other thing that hard, any task that's difficult.
KING: What goes through you, Kay?
K. YOUNG: I've been really afraid that once everybody goes home, which is what we need to do now, we need to settle down and be quiet, because it's been -- it's been wonderful all of the outpours, but it scares me to be alone. When I get alone I feel too much and then I feel like -- like I'm going to fall apart. Like the anxiety is so bad I can't stand it, but it's getting better. It's going to get better. He's coming home.
KING: You're terrific people. Arlene and Norman, Arlene, do you contact the service, do you call them up and say what do you hear about my boy, Donald?
A. WALTERS: I've tried that, but I get nowhere. So I just have to rely on his wife. She calls me every day and, you know, says no more news.
KING: Were you surprised, Norman that they haven't been more attentive to you?
N. WALTERS: Very much so. It -- it astonishes me, to tell you the truth. I can't believe that we haven't -- nobody has taken the time to even inform us that he's unaccounted for.
KING: Scott O'Grady, what do you make of that?
O'GRADY: It's very strange, to be honest with you. I'm very surprised about that. My family was notified immediately. We had contact personnel that were always in touch. We had the ability to call 24 hours a day to be able to talk to commanders, to get real access to information about what was truly happening. So my family was well informed.
KING: Thank you very much, Scott. Ronald and Kay Young and Arlene and Norman Walters, on behalf of all of us at CNN, we wish you Godspeed with regard to Young Ronald and Young Donald and hope they return home safely. And Godspeed with any kind of a heart to express that. And we'll keep in touch with you and we hope you get information real soon, Walters.
Ronald and Kay Young, Arlene and Norman Walters. Scott O'Grady and Squadron Leader John Peters will remain with us. We'll be joined by Colonel David Hackworth, by Air Vice Marshall Tony Mason of the Royal Air Force, retired. Bob Simon will remain with us.
We'll go to break and as we go to break, Heidi Collins will be delivering news headlines. We'll have a message and we'll be right back.
KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE.
This -- CNN in Baghdad. Several explosions were heard in Baghdad early Wednesday morning around 4:55 a.m. Baghdad time. Abu Dhabi Television reported the area hit contained Iraqi TV and Iraq's Ministry of Information.
Iraqi TV has lost -- there you see it -- woah. Iraqi TV lost its signal around 4:00 a.m., but a senior Pentagon official did know the reason. The official told CNN that the Iraqi TV building in Baghdad was not targeted Tuesday by conventional weapons or electronic weapons. In other words, there wasn't a target, but something hit them and that is the Iraqi television building burning in Baghdad as dawn is around the corner.
Let's introduce our panel. They'll be with us through this half hour. We'll include your phone calls.
Remaining with us in Tel Aviv, Bob Simon, correspondent for CBS News.
In Dallas, Texas, Scott O'Grady, former U.S. Air Force pilot shot down over Bosnia.
In Manchester, England, squadron leader John Peters, Royal Air Force retired, Tornado Fighter bomber downed January 16 during the first wave of air strikes in the '91 Gulf War.
Joining us now from London is Air Vice Marshal Tony Mason, Royal Air Force retired, one of Britain's leading air power experts. He served more than 30 years in the RAF. And in New York, our regular now, Colonel David Hackworth; "Hack," as he is fondly called, United States Army retired, the highly decorated veteran, award-winning military correspondent, syndicated columnist. His column is called "Defending America" and best-selling author of "Steal My Soldier's Hearts."
We'll include phone calls for this panel.
Let's start with Air Vice Marshal Tony Mason. As you see this battle from the London perspective, how goes, it in your opinion, Mr. Mason?
AIR VICE MARSHAL TONY MASON, ROYAL AIR FORCE (RET.): Good evening, Larry.
MASON: There are two wars taking -- there are two wars taking place out there. There's the one we are wanting to fight and there's the one that Saddam Hussein wants us to fight. and the one that we are fighting is using high tech and precision to erode his power base, going off his conventional forces as quickly as possible with minimum casualties, and quite clear either that the one he wants us to fight is as long as possible inducing casualties among his civilians, using irregulars on hit and run tactics, ambushing and making no distinction from people carrying guns and other civilians in urban warfare.
KING: And Vice Marshal, whoa's ahead on points in this different waging of war?
MASON: Well, I think the balance has tipped a little bit this last 24 hours, Larry, because it looks as though resistance is easing in Basra. We have those reports that the civilian population, are actually taking actions themselves. But I think we've got a long way to go as far as the urban warfare aspect is concerned because I believe we're seeing tactics which Iraqi Fedayeen first used in Chechnya and Grozny in 1995 and they've been practicing them since then.
KING: Hackworth -- General -- Colonel Hackworth, any change since your thoughts from last night to tonight based on the events today?
COL. DAVID HACKWORTH, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, war, the four major factors are the mission, weather, terrain and enemy and the weather has really acted up since we spoke last night and basically put the ground operations on hold.
The dust storms are so thick that you just can't even see your hand in front of your face. It's very much affected the use of close air support, use of fighter aircraft and helicopter. It hasn't affected that big stuff that's flying way above it B-1, B-2, B-52 that is pummeling the main line positions of the Republican Guard. So once the weather lifts, Larry, it's going to be slam, bam, good bye Republican Guard and on towards Baghdad.
KING: Bob Simon, what are the military officials that you talk to in Israel say about how this battle is going?
SIMON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the difference between Israeli military officials and the Americans is that the Israelis live in the Middle East and know how things work here and work and learned with great pain in Lebanon the limits of military power. They won a war in Lebanon. They occupy West Beirut and they got kicked out several years later after suffering intolerable casualties, intolerable from the Israeli point of view.
Colonel Hackworth talks about slam, bam, good bye Republican Guard, I'm sure he's right about that. This is going to happen sooner or later because of our overwhelming power and then what? Vice Marshal Mason talked about our high tech precision war that we're fighting where the Iraqis are fighting a war of guerrilla tactics, treachery and, if you will, terrorism.
OK, to certain point, our high tech precision war ceases to be relevant. Saddam will be gone one way or another or will disappear and then we'll be in Iraq and we'll be faced with governing Iraq, occupying Iraq -- choose your word. It will be one or the other. The Iraqis will not be happy about this. The Iraqis are fiercely nationalistic, very tough people.
It will take days or weeks before they get sick and tired of the Americans being there and yet the Americans will stay there because they're not going to let the place collapse into chaos. Winning the war is one thing, but what happens afterwards is another story altogether.
KING: Before I get Scott O'Grady and squadron leader Peters to respond, I'd like to hear the response of Vice Marshal Mason and Colonel Hackworth.
First you, Tony.
MASON: Yes, I think that's a very important point, Larry.
I think it's extremely important that we get humanitarian aid and other kinds of easing of the situation. We've got to try and convince the Iraqi public that the circumstances really are going to improve and that the United States and the coalition forces are only going to stay there for a very, very short time.
Of course, I do agree, if we give the impression of being an occupying power, then we'll very, very, very, very quickly lose any goodwill that we got by toppling Saddam.
But I don't have the doom and gloom view. I don't think we're in for any kind of intifada, because the circumstances are different between Israel and Palestine on what is happening in Iraq and I think there is a potential for a peaceful settlement. But we really must not stay there very long and as I said earlier, we've got to contain and winkle (ph) any opposition, any residual guerrilla within the cities and it won't be easy.
KING: And Hack, how would you respond to what Bob said? HACKWORTH: Oh, we've got the toughest fight ahead. As soon as the battle is joined and that is with the Republican Guard divisions, then we're entering our most dangerous period, because this is the time that the Republican Guard, the leadership of Iraq could well decide to use chemical weapons, maybe biological weapons.
They have delivery systems, artillery, mortar, rockets, land mines. So we're entering into a bad period.
I agree with Bob. We should learn the lessons of Chechnya and Lebanon and certainly not enter the city of Baghdad and get into that kind of situation that we very wisely avoided in Vasra.
KING: Scott O'Grady, there are reports of a chemical ring around Baghdad -- the possibility of chemical warfare entering this. Do you fear that? What will be the results if it happens?
O'GRADY: Well, first of all, it will show the world that Saddam , if he does use chemical weapons, that he is in possession of weapons of mass destruction and he'll just be showing his true colors.
It will, of course, will obviously set us back, but we'll be able to operate and clear out that area and we'll still be successful. Failure is not an option in this campaign. We will topple the regime and then we'll have to take care of setting up a new government. And with that, not being an expert in these areas, I just have full faith in our president and his cabinet and our military leaders to execute this and I know that they'll get the job done.
KING: About nine minutes ago we showed you the first films we got from Abu Dhabi, of that Iraqi broadcast center being blown up, although the United States, the Pentagon tells us they didn't did it. Somebody did it because it is -- and we're seeing it on the screen now, the aftermath of the smoke and this happened earlier when it blew up.
We'll go down now to Nic Robertson. He is somewhere near the border of Iraq and Jordan. He does not see the pictures we're showing you, but he does have information as to what happened here. Nic, what can you tell us?
ROBERTSON: Well, Larry, a few minutes ago I was looking at the picture that Abu Dhabi Television was providing.
Now when they gave us the wide picture, was there a very tall building on the right hand side. That's the Mancimilia (ph) Hotel. There was a low block building on the left hand side. That is a department store. Behind that there was another building that was perhaps, 12, 13 stories high. That building, I believe, is the Ministry of Information and it was behind that building that the flames were coming from, at least this is the assessment that I believe I can make while the picture is still are at nighttime.
But it is behind the Ministry of Information which is where Iraqi Television is, but from what I can see, the flames seem to be very, very close to the back of the Ministry of Information. Immediately at the back of the Ministry of Information there is a small church. On the other side of that, there is a theater and about 100 or 200 yards back from the Ministry of Information, that's where Iraqi Television's studios are.
Quite a large complex, perhaps over about a mile square. It's a complex not only of Iraqi television studios, but also quite a defensive position for Iraqi forces. They have had a number of forces there, armored personnel carriers, heavy machine guns for the last few weeks, at least -- Larry.
KING: Nic knows Baghdad as well as anyone. If the military is not taking credit for this, what do you make of that, Nic?
ROBERTSON: Well, it's possible that it would be an attack by another force, but an explosion of that nature and that size, it begs the question who in Baghdad could do that?
To get close to that building on the checkpoints right on the road junction by the Ministry of Information, by that hotel, when I left a few days ago there were still at least three different forces, a police force, a military force and a paramilitary force to get down the road to the television station. There was a heavy machine gun in placement, a bunker in placement and at the television station itself several armored personnel carriers. It would be difficult to imagine anybody getting in there to place any kind of explosive.
So very, very difficult to try engage. What appeared to be happening, it appeared to be a huge fire, perhaps maybe some type of incendiary device. But very difficult what would be burning so close to the back of the Ministry of Information because immediately behind the Ministry of Information there is a small church. Then on the other side, a theater. Then on the other side of that the television studios themselves. So a lot of questions still here, Larry.
KING: One other thing, Nic, possibly of sabotage from inside Iraq?
ROBERTSON: It can't be ruled out. There are groups that would very much like to do this. The television station would be a perfect place to start if they could do it.
How would they get that close to the buildings? There is some dead ground, if you will. Perhaps it was nighttime, they had cover of darkness. They were able to get around the Iraqi forces there, maybe place some explosives.
But one would imagine from the size of that fire it would have to be a very large explosive. Not the sort of thing that can be carried in, perhaps something that would have to be delivered by vehicle. But too soon to say here, I think -- Larry.
KING: Nic Robertson, who certainly stays up around the clock. Anything further comes in, he'll bring it to you, whether on this program or with Aaron Brown that follows.
We're going to take some calls for our panel. We'll come back, we'll get Squadron Leader John Peters thoughts on all of this and take your calls as well on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. First these words.
KING: One of the strange aspects of this is if it were the broadcast center that was hit, how come this camera is still working which is on top of the Ministry of Iraq's broadcast information, the Ministry of Information broadcast center?
So if the building's gone, how's the camera still working? Maybe we can out the puzzle all together and check in the Pentagon with Jamie McIntyre. What's the story, Jamie?
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Larry, I can't tell you how that particular camera's working. I'm not familiar with how they set it up.
I can tell you, however, that Iraqi Television, which has been bit of a thorn in the sides of the Pentagon, both because it continues to show what the Iraqi government wants to portray which is that their leaders are still in control and still in charge and also display U.S. prisoners of war, has been targeted by a U.S. airstrike.
No one here at the Pentagon can confirm whether or not the strike was effective, what exactly was hit. But we can tell you that based on Pentagon sources, Iraqi Television, which was apparently always one of the targets that they were going to work their way to, has been targeted for an air strike today -- Larry.
KING: Thank you, Jamie, as usual right on top of things.
Squadron Leader Peters, what do you make of all of this?
PETERS: Well, I think it's to be expected. I mean, this is not a PlayStation war or indeed a television war. It is a real war. And I for my part don't think the real war has actually started. That will happen when we get to Baghdad.
I understand that we've got an overwhelming level of force, but I think it's going to be a very different war when we start getting into Baghdad. And that's -- and real wars, people die, people get caught and I think that's the nature of war and I think we need to anticipate that and accept that. But, ultimately, I think we will prevail.
KING: General, I neglected to ask you when we were talking with the families of the prisoners of war, but what kept you going during your imprisonment?
PETERS: The expectation that we were going to go out. And the other thing I'd say to the families is, you know, whenever you're a prisoner of war you never give up fighting. You're still serving your country, you're still part of the military. And it's your job not to give in and you can't fight them if you're dead.
So you just give in -- well, you refuse to give in and you look to the future. As long as you don't think about the walls and the beatings, but where you're going to be in the future, you will ultimately succeed and win.
KING: Let's include some calls for our outstanding panel.
Nashville, Tennessee. Hello.
CALLER: Yes, good evening. My question is this, once we get to Baghdad, how do we get to Saddam? And if he is taken alive, how do we bring him to justice with the world watching?
KING: OK, let's start with Colonel Hackworth.
HACKWORTH: Well let's hope that Saddam is dead or is dying. What we've go to be very careful about is approaching Baghdad is don't get hung up as we did in Beirut, the Israelis. And make sure that we just put a noose around that city and put a stranglehold on it.
The thing that Jamie McIntyre brought up which is my greatest concern, Larry, is do we have sufficient force on the ground? The Turks really screwed us by not letting the 4th Mec Division come in from the north. And I worry that the Powell Doctrine which has put enough force on the ground to do the job has been badly stretched by the secretary of defense.
KING: Bob Simon, what's your read on getting to Saddam and what happens if he's captured?
SIMON: It would be very interesting to hear what Colin Powell says about the Powell Doctrine. He's going to be on "48 Hours" tonight.
The Israelis did put a noose around Beirut, but they couldn't hold it. The Israelis put a noose around and invade Ramallah whenever they feel like it, and they invade Gaza and Geneva whenever they feel like it. But they pull out and then they have to go in again.
Colonel Hackworth spoke about the most important period, the most dangerous period being when the Americans face the Republican Guard. That's obviously true, but I think the most dangerous period will be the next ten years or so.
This war was undertaken as part of our war on terror. I am desperately afraid that it's going to make our war on terror -- that it is going to increase terrorism against the United States.
When you think about it, in fact, our war on terror, before this invasion was going fairly well. We were recovering from September 11 and we hadn't been hit again. We were capturing the most important members of al Qaeda, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed recently. And when he was caught it was revealed that in fact when they decoded his computer there wasn't that much in it. The codes weren't that sophisticated. In fact, al Qaeda was in disarray.
We were winning, I think. But now we're going to be, as an occupying force, providing so much motivation for Iraqis who are going to get very angry with us very quickly. They'll be hitting us in Iraq and they'll be all sorts of motivation for other Arabs who are incensed by our invasion.
And I see them every day. You can see the level of hatred and anger rising in the Arab world. There will be all sorts of motivation for them to go after us again. I think this is a desperately dangerous period and it's not going to be over for a long time.
KING: And, Vice Marshal Mason, before we take the next call, about Saddam Hussein. Do you think the forces would like to have him captured and see a trial?
MASON: I certainly thing we've got to capture him. We've got to get him one way or the other, Larry. What I'd be looking to with example to the first strike, when there seems to be a combination of human intelligence on the ground and electronic intelligence. We came that close once. If everyone's careful, once we get close to Baghdad. Once we're encouraging the population a little bit more, the chances that human intelligence will increase. We could get closer to him and answer the question of locate and move in very, quickly. I wouldn't despair of capturing Saddam, although probably it would not be easy and I'm not quite as pessimistic in the about the long term as (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
KING: San Diego, hello.
CALLER: My question is for the hero, Scott O'Grady and the squadron leader. I understand he said there are certainly things that happen in war and that's why he has no ill will toward his captors. My question is how do you handle a situation as terrible as the American airmen who attacked his own troops. And how would a female POW be treated differently in his experience over there.
KING: Scott O'Grady will take the first part and Squadron Leader Peters the second -- Scott.
O'GRADY: Well, there are like three questions in there, but basically, the issuance of having ill will. War is not something I take personally. As a soldier, as an airman when I was in harm's way and I had people that were threatening my life, on more than one occasion had very good chance of killing me, I still didn't hold any or harbor any personal ill feelings. War is war and you're a soldier, you're doing your duty and you're serving your country with honor and that's what you're thinking about. Now, as far as the service member that might be -- the individual that threw a hand grenade into a tents that killed other American soldiers, if that happened and he truly is guilty, he is a traitor. And military law should take over and he should be treated.
KING: Squadron Leader Peters, what about the treatment of a women POW.
PETERS: Being a prisoner of war is not good for anybody. And I find myself really saying that someone in the military is in the military, and, yes it may be more disturbing that it's a woman, but she's still a military personnel. And they have to hold themselves just as a male does. If they are receiving abuse, it's terrifying whether you are male or female. Sex is not the issue there.
KING: Los Angeles, hello.
KING: Go ahead.
CALLER: I was wondering if we know where the POWs are being held at all and if they're in a government facility, what's the chances we might hit that facility?
KING: Bob Simon?
SIMON: It's very interesting because we were held in a -- in the intelligence headquarters in Baghdad, Colonel -- John Peters was there as well. And I don't know if it's still around because we heard that one of the intelligence headquarters was hit recently. They have a prison on the upper floor. That's where we were. And we were bombed while we were there, we were bombed by the Americans.
And I've spoken to the Americans who bombed us since then and it appears that they had -- they were acting on Saudi intelligence which might be an oxymoron and did not think we were being held there. The Saudis told them we were not being held there and it is an incredible miracle that we survived. Some in fact, some of the other prisoners who were not -- did not survive that attack.
KING: Squadron Leader Peters, when you're being held prisoner and you hear bombs coming down that you know are being sent by your side, what is going through you?
PETERS: I hope the bombs hit the target. I'm sorry similar to Scott. I'm quite dispassionate about the affair. We were held in military and political headquarters so you really expect to be targeted. And throughout our times, I've been blown up five times so similar to what Bob was saying. We had one night when you could hear the bombs coming off the rails and they came in. But the target was pretty specific. My understanding is they knew prisoners were there.
They knew we were being interrogated and abused and they thought well maybe they're doing us a favor. But they took out the operation center in the floor below us. And to show you how accurate they were they killed the Iraqi guards below us. In fact all of the prisoners on the first floor survived. But it's not the experience, and I am sure Bob will concur with this, it is not an experience you want to go through. It is the most terrifying experience, just waiting for your arms and legs to get ripped off, but fortunately, we're both sitting here talking to you.
KING: Vice Marshall Mason, we have a couple of minutes left. What do you think is going to happen?
MASON: Think the next 48 hours, Larry, are going to be critical. Because it's quite clear there's a massive firefight building up south and southwest of Baghdad. I think what we should be looking for is to see how those Republican Guards behave as the battle carries on. Are they going to cut and run as they did in -- excuse me, in Gulf War I or are they going to withdraw into Baghdad?
If they start to withdraw any kind of order into Baghdad, then the kind of scenario we've all been identifying this evening, we are going to go into a new and dangerous phase and have to think very, very carefully. Because we must not go bull headed and we must not go with artillery and air power, otherwise we should not be going there on a humanitarian or rescue effort. We should turn more civilians against us and kill more civilians and that's not the name of the game.
KING: I want us up to date on the story. Several loud explosions were heard in Baghdad and at least one loud explosion, a dramatic flash and a plume of spoke was seen in Baghdad. It's not clear what the location being hit in the tape was. But it is not in the area where Iraqi TV is. Smoke and flames are being seen coming from a building in Baghdad, live on Arab TV stations in which they and CNN's Nic Robertson say is in the area where Iraqi TV is housed.
The lights in one section of Baghdad went out. Iraqi TV is still on the air, repeat, Iraqi TV is still on the air intermittently on satellite, but is off the air in Baghdad on the terrestrial signal. So a lot of question marks here. Iraqi TV is still on the air intermittently on satellite, but is off the air in Baghdad on the terrestrial signal. I'm sure as the day unfolds, we'll get a lot more information on that.
I'm going to take this moment to thank all of our contributors tonight, the families of the POWs for appearing with us. Bob Simon on hand correspondent with CBS news. Air Vice Marshall Tony Mason, Royal Air Force retired, colonel David Hackworth, United States Army, retired. Scott O'Grady, former U.S. Air Force pilot shots down over Bosnia. And Squadron Leader John Peters, Royal Air Force, retired.
Tomorrow night among our guests will be General Peter Pace, vice chairman, Joint Chiefs. Heidi Collins follows with headlines. Aaron Brown is right around the corner. I'm Larry King. See you tomorrow.
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