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New Explosions in Mosul, Baghdad

Aired March 29, 2003 - 16:00   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone. I'm Heidi Collins in the CNN newsroom in Atlanta. At this hour, Baghdad reels from another round of coalition bombing. The latest air strikes got underway just a couple of hours ago. The targets were in central Baghdad and on the outskirts of the city.
CNN's Alessio Vinci reports the Marines in Nasiriya have recovered the bodies of a number of missing comrades, missing since Sunday and he says seven bodies were retrieved from Nasiriya's outskirts and one or two more from inside the city itself.

CNN's Art Harris reports the fighting in Nasiriya continues.

A U.S. special ops unit has been attacked in southern Afghanistan. At least two American soldiers were killed and another wounded today when their recon patrol was ambushed by machine gun fire and rocket propelled grenades. The convoy was in an area known to be friendly to the Taliban.

A mystery disease may be easier to catch than health officials thought. SARS or severe acute respiratory syndrome has already spread to more than 1500 people worldwide. Now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the disease may be airborne meaning you don't have to have direct contact with someone who's sick to catch it.

Coming up this hour here on CNN, an unconventional enemy, are U.S. and British forces successfully adapting? Some military analysis just ahead.

Flushing out pockets of resistance, coalition forces go house to house in search of Iraqis. A report from the front lines is coming up.

Plus survival of the fittest, the strong get the food, the weak go home hungry. A shocking scene from central Iraq.

CNN's coverage of the war in Iraq continues right now.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Judy Woodruff in Washington with our continuing coverage of the war. The Pentagon says nearly 100,000 coalition troops now are inside Iraq, more than one third of the fighting and support force in the Gulf region.

On the home front, some Americans are showing their support for servicemen and women in the war zone. We're going to go live to a rally in San Francisco.

And we will watch a military wife get a televised glimpse of her husband overseas.

UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: To my wife, we'll be home soon and I love you.

WOODRUFF: And that was emotional for all of us to watch.

First let's go to my colleague Wolf Blitzer. We find him in Kuwait City. Wolf ...

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Judy. We've been getting reports of new explosions in and around the northern Iraqi city of Mosul within the past hour as well as new blasts in Baghdad as well. Reuters reporting now 30 explosions heard late tonight. It's just after midnight in Baghdad, only within the past few hours.

Meanwhile on the ground, the United States says Saddam Hussein is facing the world's most awesome military practically on his doorstep, some 50 miles outside Baghdad. Iraqi television says these are new pictures of Saddam Hussein meeting with his top officials but we certainly cannot verify that.

U.S. military officials say a suicide car bombing near Najaf today looks and feels like terrorism. Four American soldiers were killed in the attack at a military checkpoint. Iraqi's Vice President, Taha Yaseen Ramadan (ph), says this is only the beginning of suicide attacks on coalition forces.

The Pentagon says more than 50 Iraqi troops were grabbed at a surprise attack on a commando headquarters in Iraq. U.S. forces also confiscated weapons, ammunition, gas masks and communications equipment.

The Pentagon says coalition forces are now in control of the airspace over most of Iraq except for a small section around Baghdad. For another update on the air war, let's check in with CNN's Gary Tuchman. He's one of our embedded journalists. He's in an air base here in the Persian Gulf. Gary ...

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's a little loud here, hard to hear you because we have A-10s taking off over our heads right now. I do want to tell you though the last time we talked with you about a half an hour ago right in the middle of our live broadcast an air force plane was coming down the runway and fire was shooting out of the bottom of the fuse lodge (ph). We have since talked to a mechanical expert, the production supervisor of the A-10 aircraft behind us. He tells us it was a C-130 transport plane and what it was were flares; flare weapons that shoot out of the bottom of the plane as a defensive measure. They use those flares in case a missile's shot at the plane. They shoot the flares out. The missiles look for heat. They go to the flare instead of the plane.

So while it was very unusual to see fire shooting out like that, it wasn't inherently dangerous. We don't know if the plane came back and made a touch and go and landed here again but this mechanic we talked to, this expert, suggests that it would have been a good idea for the plane to come back because it reduces its defensive capability but it was not inherently dangerous, the fire that we saw on live television shooting out of the bottom of the plane.

Now talking about those C-130s brings us to our next topic, the HC-130, a cousin of the C-130. That's a refueling plane and last night CNN was given the opportunity and this is a very different war because we're able to sleep with the troops, live with the troops, eat with the troops. I said sleep with them, actually we're in the tents together and we really are all living together and that's how we get to know so much about them but we're actually able to fly with them now too and we went last night on a sortie.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): As they get ready to head over hostile territory, 10 men aboard this Air Force HC-130 search and rescue and refueling plane start to feel their adrenaline rushing.

Who looks out for the unlikely prospect of Iraqi aircraft, and the more likely prospect of Iraqi missiles or artillery.

(on camera): Does your mindset change across the border into Iraq?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, because I am in an area which I don't know where the enemy could be and I might get to the airplane, by the time I get out of the airplane I'm thinking the same way.

TUCHMAN: Which is?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The hair on the back of my neck starts standing up, then something's going wrong.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): As a precaution, the crew starts turning the huge plane in circles to see what the targets do. Ultimately it's discovered the targets are U.S. combat helicopters. Minutes later the search and rescue helicopter arrives for its refueling. Watch the flash from our night vision camera as the plane's fuel line connects with the chopper.

Both aircraft fly at 125 miles per hour gingerly over enemy land. At times they are only 50 feet apart with the chopper's rotor blades getting closer. Looking with the naked eye out of the plane, the helicopter is impossible to see. The pitch-black maneuver ends after 10 minutes.

(on camera): What stops though - we know the Iraqis have fired sand missiles and fired AAA at aircraft all throughout this war. They haven't hit anybody, but isn't it risky flying so low knowing they have that ammunition to fire at you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Again, we know where we're going. We know where they're at so we simply avoid them and if for some reason they do get off a lucky shot or they do see us, we have defensive systems on board the airplane to defeat their ammunition.

TUCHMAN: We all fly with bulletproof vests in case the plane goes down. We also fly with parachutes in case we need to get out before the plane goes down.

(voice-over): But three airmen aboard this plane have parachutes for a different reason. They are the Pararescue jumpers, or PJs who jump off the plane for rescue missions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean it's probably the most - the best feeling in the world knowing that your purpose is really defined at that moment.

TUCHMAN: No rescues were necessary on this sortie. The plane arrived back to base safely.

(on camera): Do you have any fear?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody has a little bit of fear but I think it's a good thing in this circumstance.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): This crew could be back on another mission in as few as 24 hours.


TUCHMAN: This is a very busy base. We want to give you a look right now at the aircraft coming in for landings. It looks like LAX on a Sunday night and this is what it's been like for the past 11 days. We have just watched multitudes of warplanes land, multitudes of warplanes take off and this may be the busiest night of the campaign. They're expecting a total at this particular base near the Iraqi border of 300 sorties in a 24-hour period ending today according to the Air Force total from all the bases and there are more than 30 bases in 12 different countries in the Middle East according to the Pentagon. They're saying there will be 1500 sorties in a 24-hour period ending tomorrow. Eight hundred of those sorties will be strike sorties using bombs and missiles so there is no slow down in the amount of air power being used over Iraq.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: That's a lot of bombs and missiles. Gary Tuchman in an air base near the Iraq border, thanks very much, Gary Tuchman.

This programming note, tomorrow at noon Eastern I'll have a special interview with the nation's top military officer, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. General Richard Myers will be my special guest on a special late addition. That's at noon Eastern, nine A.M. Pacific tomorrow. That's Sunday and I'll be back Judy and at the top of the hour for Wolf Blitzer Reports. We'll have a complete wrap of all the day's late breaking developments. In the meantime, back to Judy Woodruff in Washington.

WOODRUFF: We'll be watching you both times at the top of the hour and certainly for late edition on Sunday. Thanks Wolf.

Well, as coalition forces push north, they are encountering a unique problem of combat, getting rid of the weapons captured from the enemy. Some of the 40,000 British troops are kicking up a lot of dust in the Iraqi desert making sure that nothing is left behind them that could hurt them. Greg Milam is with the U.K. forces in southern Iraq.


GREG MILAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Seemingly deserted, these battered buildings hold a deadly threat to British forces in Iraq.

SERGEANT GEOFF BANHAM, ROYAL ENGINEERS: This is what we're coming across a lot of these, 30 mil, 60 mil, 80 mil, even 120 mil. So there's plenty still out there that will have to be recovered because they can be used.

MILAM: Do you know when this place was last used? I mean do you know (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

BANHAM: I'm not too sure but judging by some of this, it's been here quite a long time so whether it's been used recently by them - there was an Intel upbeat saying that they were possibly coming back to try and get this to use against them.

MILAM: Grenades, mortars, all sorts of ammunition abandoned by Iraqi soldiers but there for the taking. The job of these Royal Engineers is to clear this and many other mountains of armaments and destroy them. Some are too unstable to be moved and have to be blown up on the spot. The rest is carried way out into the desert.

And today's parts in this conflict, this kind of work becomes more and more important. With the coalition forces moving forward the last thing they want is weaponry like this lurking behind them.

CAPTAIN ANDY GOOCH, ROYAL ENGINEERS: With the amounts of ammunition and weapons left about, if they'd used those systems, that amount of weapon it would have given us a considerable amount of trouble trying to take the positions.

MILAM: With much of this weaponry there is only one safe thing to do. No one in the British forces here is willing to take any risks.

Greg Milam, Sky News, Southern Iraq.


WOODRUFF: That's something to look at.

Today the Pentagon is comparing suicide bombing attacks on coalition forces in Iraq to terrorism. Four U.S. Army soldiers were killed when a suicide bomber attacked a military checkpoint today in Najaf.

CNN's Chris Plante is chasing all that down for us at the Pentagon right now. Hello Chris.

CHRIS PLANTE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy. That's right. Four U.S. soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division manning a checkpoint near the town of Najaf killed today in an apparent suicide bombing. A man driving what appeared to be a taxicab came to the checkpoint, waved soldiers over, appeared to be having mechanical problems of some kind. As the soldiers approached, the man detonated explosives in the car killing all four of the soldiers. This is something that Iraqi Vice President Ramadan had said would take place. He said this long before the conflict ever began. He reiterated today in a press conference in Baghdad that this would just be the beginning of this that they would plan on killing thousands of U.S. troops with suicide bombing similar to this.

Also, in southern Iraq today near Basra, two members - claimed to be members of Saddam's Thataeen (ph) group surrendered to U.S. troops saying that they had been ordered to carry out suicide bombings down there but that they didn't want to die for the regime so they were surrendering.

At the Pentagon briefing today, General Stanley McChrystal said that it looked a lot like terrorism.

MCCHRYSTAL: It looks and feels like terrorism and what it requires is units to conduct forced production activities which they are prepared and do all the time but clearly when you see a tactic like this, it requires strict adherence or adjustments to your tactics, techniques and procedures to ensure that places like checkpoints are not vulnerable. So it won't change our overall rules of engagement. It doesn't effect the operation at large but to protect our soldiers it clearly requires great care.

PLANTE: So certainly an unpleasant development today Judy and another item on the docket over here today is the failure of a number of cruise missiles. Tomahawk land detect missiles being from launched from ships in the eastern Mediterranean and in the Red Sea have suffered a number of failures. The Pentagon says a total of seven of the cruise missiles have failed crashing in Turkey and in Saudi Arabia. No injuries reported. The missiles are programmed so that they don't detonate until they reach their target. If they go astray, then the warheads never arm but claiming that it's about one percent of the warheads. They've fired 675 or so tomahawk land detect missiles from ships and seven of those have failed.

Judy ...

WOODRUFF: Chris, very quickly, new information from the Pentagon today about any concerns they have about Saddam Hussein's ongoing air defense capability?

PLANTE: Well, no major concern. The Pentagon says that they do have air dominance as they now call it over the vast majority of the country that there are certain areas and only certain areas of downtown Iraq where battle management radars linked to surface to air missiles are still in tact. The reason that they're still in tact according to today's briefing was that they had not turned them on and as long as they don't turn them on, the U.S. has trouble locating them. They assure us that as soon as they do start turning on these radars that they'll take those out too and finish the job in terms of airspace over Baghdad.

Judy ... WOODRUFF: All right. We're paying attention to all those details for us, Chris Plante at the Pentagon. You're looking at live pictures of Baghdad where there have been more strikes, more bombs dropped, more missiles this evening and of course as always, CNN keeping a close eye, a close watch, a close listen on what's going on in Baghdad.

Coming up, coalition forces control several parts of southern Iraq but they still face some serious problems including pockets of resistance. That story when we come back.

Since marching into Iraq, coalition troops have engaged in some fierce battles with Saddam Hussein's forces. A serious problem they still face though, pockets of resistance. Reporter David Bowden is with the British forces in Umm Qasr in southern Iraq.


DAVID BOWDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: House clearance Royal Marine style, troops from (UNINTELLIGIBLE) commando task to seek out the last pockets of Iraqi resistance in Umm Qasr go in hard to arrest suspected regime sympathizers and search for weapons. It's not pretty and there's no please and thank you but for the Marines, every door potentially hides a gunman and when your life is on the line, manners go out the window. The Iraqis arrested looked bemused (ph) and plead innocence but with many militia here, pretending to surrender only to open fire on their captors later, first impressions can be deceptive and lethal.

This patrol did find hidden weapons. They're not the first and they're unlikely to be the last.

The Marines believe they have a firm hold on Umm Qasr right now but they can't afford to slack in their grip and allow those who are hostile to the coalition forces to regroup and begin again their cycle of violence.

The Marines with their snipers have now snipers have now spread their area of operations north to include the town of Umm Kiou (ph). As in Umm Qasr before it, they're here to clear out the opponents to regime change. A man in this vehicle took a pot shot at the commandos. It was a painful and bloody mistake.

MAJOR ROB MACGOWAN, ROYAL MARINES: We sent in one of our companies of about 100 men in here this morning and we took about 12 or 13 prisoners, three or four enemy were injured and they've now been flown out and we're treating them including a man who is almost dead with a gunshot wound to the chest. We've now evacuated them out and the enemy now have either fled or they've been captured.

BOWDEN: The Royal Marines are satisfied they are in control of this small corner of Iraq. Their task now is to keep it that way.

David Bowden in southern Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WOODRUFF: That report filed just a short time ago.

Well, CNN analyst Ken Pollack who is with the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution is with me now. He is an expert on the Iraqi military and its tactics and weapons. Ken Pollack, that resistance that we just saw the British troops dealing with, you and I were talking earlier today. The story the last few days has been the surprising level of resistance but you're telling me your sense is that the coalition forces are beginning to adjust to that.

KEN POLLACK, CENTER FOR MIDDLE EAST POLICY, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Right. I mean we're seeing one of the great advantages of U.S. and British forces now, Judy, which is that they're superbly trained troops. They have training in a whole variety of different missions and they're adapting. They recognize now they went in with some false assumptions about the kind of reception that they were going to face. The plan that was implemented had some inherent risks in it, risks to the supply line, risks in terms of not clearing cities and they're shifting. They're changing and the troops are trained well enough to be able to deal with that. You've seen U.S. Central Command bringing up additional forces like the 82nd Airborne Division to better deal with these long supply lines, get control over the cities and so I think that U.S. and British forces are beginning to stabilize the battlefield.

WOODRUFF: So as an onlooker, as somebody who's studied the Iraqi capabilities, is it your sense that the coalition can continue to adjust to whatever they deal with?

POLLACK: Absolutely. One of the things I think we're likely to see is that the Iraqis are going to have a tougher time adapting than U.S. forces are. Typically what you've seen in the Iraqi armed forces is the change has to come from the top. It doesn't come from the ground up. You don't have ground commanders calling back and saying hey, we'd like to try this tactic or this seems to work. Tell everybody else to do the same thing. Instead the high command has to identify a problem, come up with a solution and transmit it down. Chances are the Iraqis are going to continue to stick with what we've seen before, irregular forces blending in with civilians trying to attack U.S. forces, some more of these suicide attacks which are going to be problematic for our troops. There's no way around that but U.S. forces, British forces are beginning to adapt to it.

WOODRUFF: I want to ask you about you mentioned coalition forces going in expecting more support from ordinary Iraqi people. I just interviewed a gentleman, native of Iraq, who talks to his family there all the time and he says they live in Baghdad 20, 30, 50 of them and he said they do the view the Americans as invaders. They hate Saddam Hussein. They don't like what he's doing but they don't think the Americans are the answer.

POLLACK: All right. Well, this is something that we've been trying to get a grip on for years, exactly what the Iraqi people feel and also that I think the best evidence that we had before the attack began was that Iraqis do, they despise. They are desperate to be rid of him but by the same token, they don't like another country coming into their country to overturn the government and beyond that, I think it's probably most important for most Iraqis is they're deeply suspicious of the United States. They remember that the United States betrayed them in 1991. The U.S. didn't finish Saddam then. President Bush - then President Bush called on them to rise up and then the U.S. did nothing and so they're deeply suspicious of what we have in mind.

WOODRUFF: Which raises questions going forward. One last thing, Ken Pollack I want to ask about this British officials saying that they have information that Saddam Hussein has fired his air defense chief. What's the significance of that?

POLLACK: Well, if it's true and obviously we don't know just yet but if it's true, it is very significant because it's effectively the Iraqis admitting that many of the civilian casualties that we've seen over the last few days may in fact have been caused by Iraqi surface to air missiles falling back to ground in residential areas.


POLLACK: Exactly, in that market and I think it was pretty apparent when you looked at the video of that market, if that had been a U.S. bomb or a U.S. cruise missile, that market would have been obliterated. Chances are it was an Iraqi surface to air missile.

WOODRUFF: Fascinating if he's already making adjustments in his military leadership.

POLLACK: Feel bad for that guy.

WOODRUFF: That's right.

POLLACK: When he makes adjustments it's usually ugly.

WOODRUFF: You're getting fired - I wondered if that was a euphemism for something else. All right. Ken Pollack, thanks very much. We appreciate you coming in to talk with us always.

POLLACK: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: With Iraqi troops using gorilla tactics and suicide bombers as we've just been discussing to attack U.S. led forces, the question is are coalition commanders prepared to deal with a down and dirty fight? How do they prepare and what should they expect? We're going to get some of that perspective on the other side of this break.


WOODRUFF: We're going to go quickly to northern Iraq now where we find CNN correspondent Ben Wedeman. There's been some action in that area. Nick (ph) - I mean - I'm sorry. Ben, we can make you out just barely but tell us what you've been seeing.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Judy, you're seeing us through the night scope because basically for the last hour we've been watching as this ridge behind me in Kalak which of course is the front line between Iraq and Kurdish (ph) forces, we've been watching as planes, planes we can hear but cannot see, have been bombing the ridge line behind us. Five huge explosions within the space of less than an hour as these planes drop these massive bombs on the Iraqi positions behind us. Not just Iraqi positions behind us, in addition to that in the direction of Mosul as well which is a major northern Iraqi city about 28 miles to the west of me. We've also seen some massive blasts to the south as well so it appears that this bombing in this area continues and we have really seen the most intense bombing of the war in this area in the last 24 hours.

Judy ...

WOODRUFF: Ben, what is your best understanding of what it is on the ground that the coalition forces are going after there?

WEDEMAN: Well, basically on the ridge itself it is the most forward Iraqi army positions and we've been watching them very closely for the last month prior to the war to the outbreak of the war and basically these are the positions that control this entire valley. Up there they have heavy machine guns. They have mortars. They have anti-tank guns, hundreds of men along this very long ridge that basically runs from the north to the south. In addition to that, we know that further back behind those lines in the direction of Mosul there is heavy artillery and tanks as well, this according to the people here in this area, the local Kurds who have been going across the lines for many years basically engaged in smuggling. Now precisely what they're hitting to the south of us is unclear but my understanding is that there are further Iraqi positions in that direction as well.

Judy ...

WEDEMAN: Ben Wedeman describing coalition hits in the area where he is, the town of Kalak in northern Iraq. He just called in and we wanted to get this report to you right away. Ben, very - we thank you very much for that and we'll be coming back to you as the night - as the night wears on.

We're getting close to the bottom of the hour. We're going to get some headlines at the hour right now with Heidi Collins.

COLLINS: Hello everyone once again from the CNN Newsroom. These are the headlines making news at this hour.

Another night of bombing in Iraq, at least two waves of explosions shook Baghdad in the last couple of hours and we are getting reports of blasts echoing in northern Iraq near Mosul.

The British government says Saddam Hussein has fired his commander of air defenses after Iraqi surface to air missiles malfunctioned and landed in residential areas of Baghdad. Iraqi television says these are pictures of Saddam meeting with top aides today but there is no confirmation of that.

Iraqi officials say at least 357 Iraqi civilians have died from coalition strikes so far and they say more civilians died Friday when coalition warplanes hit a civilian bus on the outskirts of Najaf. Iraqi TV showed the charred hull of the bus. CNN has no confirmation on the Iraqi figures.

In Basra last night, two U.S. fighter jets fired laser guided missiles into a building where 200 members of Iraq's ruling Baath were meeting. The strike destroyed the building but left undamaged a nearby Christian church.

A spokesman for the British military says a new focus in Basra is to eradicate the Baath party.

And President Bush may be waging a budget battle with Democratic lawmakers. Senate Democrats say they'll give the President the money he needs to fight Iraq but they also say the President's proposed tax cuts could lead to one of the biggest budget deficits in history.

CNN's coverage of the war in Iraq continues right now. Let's go back to Judy in Washington.

WOODRUFF: Thanks Heidi. One of the more disturbing developments today was the suicide bombing in central Iraq near Najaf that resulted in the death of four U.S. soldiers and for a little bit more better understanding of what that involves and how U.S. coalition forces can protect themselves, let's turn to our colleague - my colleague Miles O'Brien in Atlanta. He's there along with Retired General Wesley Clark.

Miles ...

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much Judy. Along with Wes Clark, at the Pentagon briefing not too long ago, General Stanley McChrystal said you know it looks an awful lot like terrorism. The tactic in response to U.S. military tactics is perhaps terrorism and is that something that the U.S. military is properly trained to deal with?

RETIRED GENERAL WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO SUPREME COMMANDER: Well, we will know how to deal with this. We'd rather not have to deal with it because it's going to be devastating to the Iraqi people but the basic principle here is to protect our troops from getting too close to the Iraqi people. So we'll have to set up the right kinds of checkpoints so we've got stand off distance. We'll have to have interpreters there and we'll have to move them out of a lethal radius as much as possible.

O'BRIEN: Of course what that means is a lot of effort spent on the rear echelon here perhaps sacrificing forces that could be closer to Baghdad.

CLARK: That's right and somewhere around a third maybe of our infantry strength and armor strength right now is engaged in Basra and Nasiriya and Najaf and other places but you know as we saw with the strike on the Baath party headquarters, we're using our superiority to take the kinds of actions that will make a difference there I believe.

O'BRIEN: All right. Let's get a few more details on the specific incident. We'll hear from a Colonel who is on the scene there, I believe a former colleague of yours, Colonel Grimsley.

COLONEL WILL GRIMSLEY, U.S. ARMY: Earlier this morning, of course it's mid-afternoon here, soldiers in a routine checkpoint stopped a civilian car as we've been doing working hard to separate the difference between these (INAUDIBLE) if you will in civilian clothes and other things who have been using a variety of vehicles trying to separate them from the local civilian population here. They stopped the vehicle at the roadblock that has it clearly marked in Arabic that it's a roadblock. The driver beckoned them a little bit closer and as the soldiers approached (INAUDIBLE) vehicles, the driver detonated a bomb killing himself and the four soldiers.

O'BRIEN: To what extent, General Clark, are along these supply lines are the forces in them, the people driving the trucks, the checkpoints, to what extent are they sitting ducks?

CLARK: Well, they're moving ducks is the worst case but we do have security elements in this and we're focused on these areas of resistance around the built up areas. So generally in the open desert we're flying a convoy cover with aircraft. We have vehicles that are armed moving in and are dispersed among the vehicles. Then in the built up areas, we're controlling the built up areas at least in so far as they can engage the convoy. That's the intent and then the idea is to work deeper and deeper and deeper and eventually clear through the built up area.

O'BRIEN: Do you have the sense that the sprint was too fast?

CLARK: No, the sprint was the appropriate tactic because when you can gain ground like that especially in the case of the 3rd Infantry Division where the 3rd Infantry Division was able to move through the open desert and make some 200 miles penetration into Iraq, you should take it. It was given. It should be taken and then we'll worry about the rear as we have to.

O'BRIEN: Specifics on the 3rd Infantry right on your screen there, Fort Stewart and Hunter and a story part of the U.S. Army and obviously very critical to this particular thrust.

One final word, 4th Infantry, we've heard a lot about it. It's not going to be in place for another couple of weeks. Do you think they'll - the Pentagon will wait until ...

CLARK: No, we're not waiting - I shouldn't say we. The Pentagon, the Administration, is not going to wait. What they're going to do is maintain continuous pressure against the Iraqis and the idea here is to use air power, to use the Apache raids like we saw last night from the 101st and to use special operations forces and continue to use reconnaissance elements and probe and push and continue to grind away at the defense. At the same time we're working the rear areas and building up the strength, what we call setting the force with fuel and ammunition and food and water so we can kick the big offensive off into Baghdad but there's no pause in the sense of not doing things. It's just a difference in the nature of the activities.

O'BRIEN: All right. It sounds a bit like the long haul to me. General Wesley Clark, thank you very much. Judy ...

WOODRUFF: We always understand more after we hear from the two of you. Thanks very much, Miles and the General.

When we return, their long deployment has taken them around the world but their work is not over yet. We're going to visit some U.S. Marines who have just arrived in Kuwait to take part in the war with Iraq.

As we reported, more than a third of coalition forces in the Gulf region are actually inside Iraq. Others still are in Kuwait gearing up and when they can, getting a little sleep.

CNN's Daryn Kagan talked with some of the Marines just arrived at Camp Patriot in Kuwait.


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: When you're a Marine serving all around the world, you grab a few winks and anywhere, anyway, anytime you can even if your mattress is a pile of gravel.

CORPORAL ANTHONY CAPPUCCIO, U.S. MARINE CORPS: That's kind of the norm for us, gravel, sand, swamp, mud. It doesn't matter. You sleep when you can sleep.

KAGAN: They are Marines from the 24th Expeditionary Unit. You might say they've seen it all. They deployed from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina last August. They went to Kosovo as part of the peace support mission. They also did exercises in Kenya, Jabouti, somewhere in the Gulf region and most recently the horn of Africa but they haven't seen war.

These Marines were close to the end of their deployment possibly days away from going home when orders came to head to Kuwait. They arrived early Saturday morning, clearly exhausted yet ready to serve.

CORPORAL SIBLEY MATCHETT, U.S. MARINE CORPS: We know we've been on a long deployment but now it's time for us to serve our country.

KAGAN: The Marines we spoke with don't know exactly what they'll be doing or where they're going. Chances are they'll soon be in Iraq guarding the supply columns, bringing food, fuel and ammunition to troops on the southern approach to Baghdad. That has been especially dangerous, Judy, for coalition personnel. These Marines believe their long tour has led to this assignment.

CAPTAIN W.A. HERON, JR., U.S. MARINE CORPS: We've been very fortunate, been very blessed to have participated in a number of real world operations, not just training exercises but real world operations and as long as you're working a Marine knows he's contributing, his moral is high.

KAGAN: The Gulf War could be the last real world operation for these Marines before they head home for a much needed rest in their own beds. Daryn Kagan, CNN Kuwait.


WOODRUFF: I hope they get a little rest.

When we come back, one of the many sad aspects of this war, humanitarian aid rushed to people who need it but not everybody gets what they came for.

Slowly humanitarian aid is rolling into southern Iraq but dramatic scenes like this one of a crowd tearing into the supplies on a convoy truck only underscores how desperate the need is. Correspondent Martin Geissler files this report from the Iraqi town of Safwan.


MARTIN GEISSLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As our convoy rolled through southern Iraq the desperation of the people here soon became evident. In trucks and on foot they came to the town of Safwan. These people have been without food or water supplies since the war began. Now they are desperate. Within seconds the Kuwaiti aid workers who had organized this trip were overpowered by the mob. These desperate scenes are exactly what the aide agencies wanted to avoid. This is survival of the fittest. Only the healthy and strong can get to the food. The weak and the ill are left with nothing.

Despite this effort to help the Iraqi people, resentment is never far away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We hate U.S. We hate British, England. We hate any state in war here.

GEISSLER: What do you think about Saddam's regime?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Saddam's very good man.

GEISSLER: As the supplies ran out the mood swung from frantic to ugly. Delivery drivers were threatened. One of the buses in our convoy was held up at knifepoint.

The troops have moved into Safwan. We, as a consequence, have had to move out. It's simply too dangerous. This is a clear indication that despite the coalition reassurances that this part of Iraq is safe and despite the aid being brought into the people here, it is still a very, very volatile area.

Tonight here the strong are eating. The weak still go hungry.

Martin Geissler, ITV News, Safwan southern Iraq.


WOODRUFF: So many different pictures we are getting from across that country. Well, they are making their voices heard at home and abroad. When we return, Americans this weekend are marching against the war and in support of the troops. We'll check out some of the demonstrations.

Here in the United States this weekend just as they did last weekend, anti-war protesters taking to the street. In Los Angeles, the International Black Coalition for Peace and Justice is sponsoring a rally for peace today. Congresswoman Maxine Waters was among those scheduled to attend.

In the meantime further north in California, San Francisco is the setting today for a rally aimed at boosting the moral of the American troops in the Persian Gulf region. CNN's Rusty Dornin is with us from San Francisco. Rusty, what sort of crowd is showing up there?

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Judy, this is the largest group really we've seen of the support the troops rallies that have been over the last few weeks. Of course this is the home of the anti- war demonstrations stemming back to the Vietnam War but there are close to between 500 and 1,000 people. I'm getting various estimates on the crowd. We did want to show you an interesting thing here. Some folks are showing some solidarity with the speakers here. You're looking at some of San Francisco's police department's officers. I did ask them why they did that. They said they were wearing skullcaps so they decided to adopt this to show solidarity. They said the department has not made any statement about whether they think that's all right or not. This has been a very peaceful demonstration. As I said, the officers did tell me that this is the largest pro-troops demonstration that has ever been in San Francisco since the Vietnam War. So far, very peaceful. As I said, there have been a few verbal exchanges but one of the most enthusiastically received speakers here was Bessam Al-Husaini, an Iraqi American. He's with the Iraqi American Council. How do you feel about supporting the troops? How does the Iraqi American Council feel?

BESSAM AL-HUSAINI, IRAQI AMERICAN COUNCIL: Well the Iraqi American have been waiting for this liberation and they want to get rid of Saddam so bad and they will have to take it the way it's been offered to us.

DORNIN: How do you feel though seeing pictures of civilians injured in the bombings?

AL-HUSAINI: We get reports that these civilians especially in the (INAUDIBLE) population have been attacked by the Iraqi regime themselves so they can't blame the American and said look what the American doing to us. He would love to see this and would draw on this emotion from the Arab world and the European country.

DORNIN: Now you said you did talk to your family in Baghdad as well and they also are somewhat suspicious of the Americans.

AL-HUSAINI: Well, I mean the Iraqi people have been the primary victim from the whole thing. Yeah my family, you know, still in fear. You know they stay in one room. They boarded all the - all the windows and they built with a brick one of the windows facing the street. I mean yes, you know, my prayer to them but we can only do so much. Hopefully it will be a short war. It will be attack the Iraqi regime. We can live in liberty and freedom soon.

DORNIN: Now I understand some of the people here have been threatened by anti-war protesters. Have you had anyone either threatening you or ...

AL-HUSAINI: No, no problem. This has been a very peaceful demonstration.

DORNIN: OK. Thank you very much.

AL-HUSAINI: Thank you.

DORNIN: Bessam Al-Husaini here and it has been a very peaceful demonstration. It is wrapping up this afternoon and it looks like the civil disobedience acts by the anti-protesters are scheduled to get underway once again next week. Judy ...

WOODRUFF: And Rusty just to be clear, the people who have been coming out for the last week or so against the war, are they saying they are against the troops as these people saying I think there's some confusion in think on the part of ...

DORNIN: There is a mixture. Most of the anti-war protesters that come out say they support the troops but there are definitely fringe elements who are angry about the troops being over there. What you have in San Francisco is a lot of - a huge, you know, coalition of groups who have a lot of varying ideas of why they are against the war.

WOODRUFF: OK. Rusty Dornin covering the pro-troop rally today in San Francisco. Thanks very much Rusty. We appreciate it.

When we return, troops on the move and their families' lives up in the air. We're going to watch a serviceman and his wife enjoy a brief long distance reunion.


WOODRUFF: It was in northern Iraq today that an eight artillery round hit the site occupied by Kurdish fighters near Chamchamal. It happened near an area abandoned earlier by Iraqi forces.

CNN's Kevin Sites is in northern Iraq.


KEVIN SITES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the road to Kirkuk. A day ago it was controlled by Iraqi troops and packed with these land mines but now we can drive far enough to see the outskirts of Kirkuk. That's because coalition fighter jets pummeled this Iraqi position on the hills above Chamchamal and Iraqi troops made a hasty retreat. This is what the hilltop looks like now, craters 15 feet deep, busted bunkers and twisted metal, scattered ammunitions and tattered clothing, a helmet, a tube of toothpaste. Kurdish Peshmerga fighters took their place. I'm glad to see them go this one says. They killed a lot of our people in Chamchamal but I feel bad for them too. Some of them were only conscripts.

Some Kurds took advantage of the Iraqi retreat right away. This one took a bulldozer to a concrete portrait of Saddam Hussein. It took about 20 minutes but finally it came toppling down. He says after finishing the job he hopes Saddam Hussein himself will fall too but despite the exuberance of Kurds in the area, it's clear it's much too early to celebrate. Although the Iraqis retreated from this area, at dusk they fired what observers say were seven artillery rounds back at their former stronghold creating new fear and potentially new casualties.

Kevin Sites, CNN Chamchamal northern Iraq.


WOODRUFF: All right and when we return, waiting here on the home front, a very special reunion between a Marine and his wife.

There is no greater gap probably than that between the troops overseas and their loved ones here at home. CNN helped bridge that cassum (ph) at least temporarily between Sergeant Craig Martin of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and his wife Kaycee Martin in California. They talked by videophone this morning.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You're eight months pregnant I believe. How has this been for you?

KAYCEE MARTIN, WIFE OF SOLDIER: It's been difficult. It's hard without him. I'm doing OK but it would be much better if he was home with me.

COOPER: If I could just ask, I mean and you know I don't want to pry so anytime I ask something you don't want to say just tell me to shut up but what is it like for you watching all this coverage? I mean watching, you know, the access. The pictures were seeing are really historic in what we are able to see. Is it more - does it make it more difficult? Does it make it easier?

K. MARTIN: It's very difficult. It's hard. The whole time though you're just sitting there trying to catch a glimpse just to see if maybe one of the people on TV is him but you know he tells me don't watch, don't watch. You know, it's going to be difficult but like I said, it's just too hard. I want to be able to see just to make sure that he's OK, just catch a glimpse of him.

COOPER: How does he look to you right now?

K. MARTIN: He looks all right, but dirty.

SGT. CRAIG MARTIN, 15TH MARINE EXPEDITIONARY UNIT: I lost my tooth. K. MARTIN: Beautiful. Thanks. Thanks for showing me.

COOPER: How'd you - how'd you lose your tooth?

C. MARTIN: Sorry.

COOPER: Can I ask? How did you lose your tooth?

C. MARTIN: When we came across the bridge, the enemy launched some 155 artillery rounds at us. It came pretty close and the concussion knocked my tooth out.

K. MARTIN: Great.


K. MARTIN: It doesn't sound like you're being too careful.

C. MARTIN: It was fun though. We're all right.

COOPER: Sergeant Martin I don't know if you see, your wife's sort of shaking her head.

C. MARTIN: Careful as I can be. It's all good.

COOPER: Sergeant Martin, is there anything else ...

C. MARTIN: I love you.

COOPER: Is there anything else you would like to say either to your wife or to all the people who are watching this? I know this awkward, you know, doing this on TV and I hate to put you in this position but feel free.

C. MARTIN: Yeah. I've got a couple of things real quick. To my old man, this is not a distraction. To my wife, we'll be home soon and I love you. That's all I've got to say.

COOPER: Well that says a lot. Kaycee, anything else you want to say?

K. MARTIN: I love you very much. I miss you very much. Everyone is praying for you and I just want you to come home safe and soon so you could see our new baby.

C. MARTIN: One more thing, you look really beautiful right now.

K. MARTIN: Thanks. I'd like to say the same to you.

C. MARTIN: That's stylish. Don't worry. We'll take it home.

K. MARTIN: Well, just come home soon.

C. MARTIN: Without a doubt.

K. MARTIN: Well, just come home soon. C. MARTIN: I'll try baby.


WOODRUFF: A little embarrassing for us to watch. It's got to be difficult talking to your loved one in front of thousands and thousands of people on television, millions. Well, in addition to the baby on the way, the Martins also have a three-year-old daughter.

And that is it for this hour. I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. Wolf Blitzer's report starts right now.


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