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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

War in Iraq: Humanitarian Aid Convoy Mobbed in Safwan

Aired March 29, 2003 - 19:00   ET

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

STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Stephen Frazier in the CNN newsroom, checking up on what we know at this hour.
For the ninth night in a row, Baghdad has been under fire from coalition bombs. At least one of the explosions reportedly hit again at or near Iraq's information ministry. A few hours earlier, Iraq's vice president spoke on state television about a suicide bombing that killed four U.S. soldiers. They died at a checkpoint in Najaf after a man in a taxi waved them over for help.

Iraq's vice president said he had been an Iraqi military officer and he warned of more suicide bombings to come, and not only in Iraq.

A convoy of humanitarian aid ran into trouble in the southern Iraq town of Safwan today. Since the war began, residents have been out of water and other supplies. And today, they were out of control. Perhaps more troubling for the coalition, some residents receiving the aid still said they support Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

Protesters of differing opinions continue to make their views known today. An antiwar rally ran into some opposition in Paterson, New Jersey. While in San Francisco, site of some of the biggest and rowdiest antiwar rallies, there was a smaller rally supporting the U.S. troops in Baghdad today. Protesters in Los Angeles turned out not just to criticize the U.S. war in Iraq but the president who ordered it.

In other news, severe acute respiratory syndrome, also known as SARS, may be spreading more easily than was first thought. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the rapid spread suggests the disease might be transmitted through the air without requiring face-to-face contact for infection. Plus, the type of virus it's suspected to be can live for hours on inanimate objects, such as tabletops.

That's a look at the headlines at this hour. War in Iraq, live from the front lines, begins right now.

ANNOUNCER: Baghdad under fire.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They are now fighting the most desperate units of the dictator's army.

ANNOUNCER: Including suicide bombers.

COL. WILL GRIMSLEY, U.S. ARMY: The driver detonated a bomb, killing himself and the four soldiers. ANNOUNCER: Defending against terrorism. But did the U.S. underestimate the Iraqis? Tonight, the military strategy.

MAJ. GEN. VICTOR RENUART, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS: We continue to work on plan. We continue to see the results that we would like to see on the battlefield.

ANNOUNCER: Plus, the Pentagon now turns to Iraqi civilians to help make a point.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One day, they took all of my clothes off and they threatened my parents that they are going to rape me.

ANNOUNCER: Will it work?

Live from Baghdad, Washington, Kuwait, northern Iraq, and cities around the globe, war in Iraq, live from the front lines.

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Just after 3:00 a.m. in Baghdad on a Sunday morning, night of explosions in the capital, the last round about an hour ago.

Several explosions followed by thick smoke rising from several parts of the city. About three hours earlier, an observer told Reuters there had already been 30 detonations, most on the outskirts of the Iraqi capital.

But it is another type of bombing, a suicide bombing, that tops the news this day. Terrorism in the midst of war.

Good evening again, everyone, from CNN Center in Atlanta. I'm Aaron Brown, joined again in Kuwait by Wolf Blitzer. Wolf, good evening.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening to you, Aaron, as well.

The explosion in Najaf today was a suicide car bombing, and Iraq's vice president says it's only the beginning, and there will be more. The bomber killed four U.S. soldiers with the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division. By videophone, here's a description of what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COL. WILL GRIMSLEY, U.S. ARMY: Earlier this morning -- of course, it's midafternoon here -- soldiers at a routine checkpoint stopped the civilian cars, as we've been doing, working hard to separate the difference between these combatants, 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 a clearly marked in Arabic that it's a roadblock. The driver beckoned them a little bit closer, and as the soldiers approached (UNINTELLIGIBLE) vehicles, the driver detonated a bomb, killing himself and the four soldiers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The U.S. military is obviously very concerned about the threat of new suicide bombings. Two Iraqi prisoners of war have told U.S. forces that members of the Saddam Fedayeen have been ordered under pain of execution to conduct suicide bombings against U.S. and British troops.

Is this a new dangerous turn on the battlefield, the act of a desperate regime? Let's turn now to CNN's senior national correspondent, Nic Robertson. He's joining us live from near the Iraqi border.

Before we get to the suicide bombings, Nic, another night of ferocious bombings going on in and around the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. It looks like there is no letup in sight. Can you tell at all from the pictures we've seen, the live cameras we have in Baghdad, what the targets might be?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It appears as if it's a target very close to the ministry of information again. One of the camera positions on the righthand side of the screen, a sort of large white blockish building, that was the ministry of information. Behind it a series -- an apartment complex that stretches back about a quarter to a half a mile.

The explosion appeared either to come from behind that apartment complex adjacent to the ministry of information, or indeed maybe even within that apartment complex.

Now, the two government ministries that are also adjacent in that area, there's the building ministry, perhaps about a mile, half a mile away, and the foreign ministry. The explosion appeared to come more towards the direction of the building ministry.

However, the -- we couldn't see that building in the picture, so possibly the explosion happening at another facility very close to the ministry of information. But clearly very, very close to the ministry of information again.

And this is the third night the bombing has happened all in that particular part of downtown, Wolf.

Also, we've heard today from Taha Yassin Ramadan, the vice president, speaking about those suicide bombings, praising the army officer he said was responsible, saying that he would get some medals, saying that coalition forces could expect more of this type of mission.

He went on to say that this was commendable, this sort of action was commendable, that Iraqi forces would be more of this. It was a new tactic. And that the army officer involved, he said, had actually killed five U.S. servicemen. And he praised that action, Wolf.

BLITZER: The U.S. says four soldiers were killed. As you know and remember, Nic, from the coverage building up to the war over these many months, the Bush administration made a major issue of the fact that Saddam Hussein was supposedly paying the families of Palestinian suicide bombers who became so-called martyrs in the struggle against Israel.

Do you sense that the Iraqi leadership, the Iraqi military, may have been learning from the Palestinian tactic against the Israelis now in trying to use these suicide bombers against U.S. and British forces?

ROBERTSON: It's certainly a new tactic. We heard the vice president, Taha Yassin Ramadan, who is a known hardliner when it comes to rhetoric, a few weeks before the war saying that they would use suicide bombers. Certainly President Saddam Hussein has aligned the people and taught them that their position is very much like that of the Palestinians, that they are going to be oppressed by the United States.

Maybe it's part of that same mindset. It is strange for such a secular country to adopt what in the past has been associated with more radical Islam, if you will. But Iraqi officials are saying that because they don't have weapons of mass destruction, because they don't have all those massive weapons, they will resort to this tactic, Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic Robertson, along the border between Jordan and Iraq. Nic, thanks very much.

And Aaron, of course, a lot of our viewers, and certainly you and I, will remember 1983, when a suicide bomber killed more than 200 U.S. Marines who were then peacekeepers outside Beirut. And that quickly resulted in the departure of those U.S. Marines from Lebanon. Perhaps, perhaps the Iraqi leader has the same thing in mind as he is promoting suicide bombings now, Aaron.

BROWN: Wolf, a different war and a different situation, but we'll see.

A busy night for coalition air crews as airplanes rumbling through the skies over Baghdad, and, we note, also importantly, over northern Iraq. Yet another sign the air war is growing fast.

CNN's Gary Tuchman with the U.S. Air Force near the Iraqi border, embedded there. Gary, good evening. What's going on?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, good evening to you.

And the fighters and attackers continue to roll out of this giant base. This base alone is expected to have 300 sorties between now and tomorrow afternoon. Overall, from all the bases, an estimated 1,500 sorties. Eight hundred of those are expected to be combat sorties, bombs or missiles, the other 700 support sorties.

And we went on a combat support sortie last night. The Air Force invited us to go along. And this was on an H-C130 refueling craft. Three people aboard of the 10 were called PJs, they're pararescue jumpers. They are to jump out of the plane in case they have to do a rescue on the ground. Didn't happen last night.

But what did happen was the plan mission, refueling an HH-60 helicopter. The HH-60 helicopter does search and rescue. It plows the skies over Iraq. And that's where we were, over Iraq, going 125 miles per hour with the helicopter, the helicopter 50 feet away from us, the rotor of the helicopter getting closer at times.

And after 10 minutes, the refueling was done. The crew aboard this aircraft over Iraq, with its lights out, can never lose its concentration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN: Does your mindset change across the border into Iraq?

MAJ. "TOOK," H-C130 CO-PILOT: No. Since I am in an area which I don't know where the enemy can be, from the time I get into the airplane to the time I get out of the airplane, I'm thinking the same way.

TUCHMAN: Which is?

"TOOK": The hair on the back of my neck, if it starts standing up, then something is going wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN: The plane flies very low, at an altitude of 500 feet, while it does its refueling, and about 2,000 or 3,000 feet the rest of the time to avoid Iraqi radar. As it gets across the border into Iraq, it zigzags, also to avoid the radar.

Now, while we were on the plane, they saw two targets on the radar, two blips. At first, the crew thought they were the helicopters they were supposed to refuel. They then heard on the radio the helicopters were a great distance away, so they didn't know what the blips were. You can't go on the radio and start identifying yourself and asking the blips who they are, because if they're Iraqi aircraft, you're identifying where you are.

So what they started to do was to take evasive measures aboard the plane we were on. They started turning circles, they started turning angles to see if the targets followed them. And indeed, for a short time, the targets started following them.

Now, as a civilian on the plane, we got a little paranoid about it. We didn't want to talk to the crew, because we were standing in the cockpit. We were watching them while they were doing this. Eventually the targets disappeared. The crew believed the targets were U.S. Army helicopters. I asked later if they were paranoid. They said, No, we didn't think they were Iraqi aircraft, but you have to be careful anyway.

But as a civilian, it's a whole different picture you get when you're standing in the cockpit.

Aaron, back to you.

BROWN: Gary, thank you.

In 11 minutes here the portrait of two different armies and two different tactics, one suicide bomber, and one sophisticated Air Force.

Iraqi troops have pulled back from another position in northern Iraq for the second time. Cargo planes are delivering tanks and other military equipment to a northern airfield that was claimed earlier this week by U.S. paratroopers. You saw that video.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is at one of those former Iraqi positions. He reports tonight from northern Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kurdish soldiers reflect on an accidental victory, the sudden disappearance of Iraqi forces from a 10-kilometer or six-mile stretch of road leading to the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

"We don't know why they retreated," this Kurdish commander told us, "but we're happy to move ahead."

In recent days, Iraqi forces have pulled back in several sectors of the northern front after being pounded by U.S. war planes. Left behind at this old Iraqi checkpoint, dozens of land mines -- defused, we were assured. A good thing, given the casual way they toss them about.

In the lush, fertile fields by the road, more land mines. Also left behind, an old Russian nightscope. Bits of battered metal sheeting, odds and ends, quickly commandeered by Kurdish fighters already trying to make themselves at home.

Despite the sudden Iraqi withdrawal, the Kurds are moving ahead cautiously and in modest numbers. They are massively outgunned by the Iraqi army, and few see the point of sticking their necks out without American support.

The Iraqis are gone, but they're not far away, having pulled back to the suburbs of Kirkuk and still holding the hills overlooking the road they once controlled.

(on camera): From here, it's about half an hour drive to Kirkuk, a city still under the control of the Iraqi army. Kurdish fighters are hesitant to move beyond this point for fear of being hit by American aircraft.

(voice-over): The risk of friendly fire and the lack of firepower holding these Kurdish fighters back.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, on the road to Kirkuk in northern Iraq. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: So ahead on the program tonight, U.S. war strategy facing some tough criticism.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And a day of well deserved R&R for the families of the 101st Airborne. I'm David Mattingly. I'll have a live report from Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: President Bush is keeping in touch with the war from Camp David in Maryland. This morning, he conducted an hour-long meeting with his war council via a secure video link. And he's getting regular briefings and updates. In the president's weekly radio address, there was no talk about a quick war, only a successful one.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, PRESIDENTIAL RADIO ADDRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're now fighting the most desperate units of the dictator's army. The fighting is fierce, and we do not know its duration. Yet we know the outcome of this battle. The Iraqi regime will be disarmed and removed from power. Iraq will be free.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BLITZER: And President Bush also contrasted the honorable conduct of the coalition forces with what he called the criminal acts and atrocities of the enemy, Aaron.

BROWN: Wolf, as you know, war planners in the United States coming under criticism for the basic strategy of the war so far, only a week and a half into it. Some of the heaviest criticism comes from former generals, among them retired General Merrill McPeak, who headed the Air Force during the first Iraqi war, the Gulf War. His critique came in the pages of "The Daily Oregonian" out in Portland, Oregon.

And General McPeak joins us tonight from San Diego.

It's nice to see you, sir.

Is it that air wasn't allowed to do its job long enough before the ground troops came in?

GEN. MERRILL MCPEAK (RET.), U.S. AIR FORCE: Well, my criticism was of the political and diplomatic run-up to the military campaign, which I thought had a sort of a slapdash quality. And, as a matter of fact, has left us without legitimacy in this operation, and, you know, decidedly in the minority. We don't have the overwhelming alliance we were able to put together in '91.

BROWN: Well, what was the -- general, what was the option to that? Should they have spent more time on the diplomacy, or simply ignored the diplomacy in the first place? MCPEAK: Well, in my judgment, if we cannot get a mandate from the United Nations, or if we can't put together a proper alliance, we ought to have deep questions about whether we want to do that kind of thing.

So in other words, I feel in the future we ought to put our military actions in a -- firmly in an alliance context. And that wasn't done here.

On the military side, I think our strategy has been very good. Our guys are doing great. And if I had any concern at all, it would be that we don't have enough land-based attack air in there. That, too, being a consequence of the fact that the Saudis and the Turks have not made bases available. In other words, it's an aspect of the political failure, not the military failure.

BROWN: Just going back, general, to this diplomatic question. It -- he -- the president's argument and the administration's argument and, I think, the sort of Wolfowitz-Perle argument is that the American government has to be free to operate in its own interests when it believes its interests are threatened, and sometimes particularly the Europeans are simply interested in being a counterforce to American power rather than sensitive to American vulnerabilities.

MCPEAK: Well, I think it's absolutely true that we should act in, you know, in our own interests. It's our national interest that the military establishment of this country is set up to defend.

But it's very difficult for me to see why we couldn't have put together an alliance to do this particular job. Now, we all hope and pray that America will be a preeminent world power for the next few centuries. If that's going to be true, it will only be because we avoid situations where we make our enemies many and our friends few.

BROWN: I assume you are dismissing as little more than public relations the notion that there are 45 or 47 or whatever the number is today other countries that are in fact supporting the effort.

MCPEAK: Well, we welcome the help from Latvia and Micronesia and so forth. But China, Russia, some of our newest allies, like Russia, some of our oldest -- our first ally, like France, Germany, these are airmen that I've worked next to for a career. They're good people. Believe me, we want them on our side.

BROWN: Final question, which is on the military side. And it's perhaps an unfair one to ask to an air guy. Do you worry that what the country -- what the coalition is about to get into is an unexpected counterinsurgency street war where air will be virtually ineffective?

MCPEAK: Yes. I think that street fighting in downtown Baghdad or even in Basra, any of the major cities, is a worst-case scenario, not because we won't win that one. We will. But because it will be seen -- picked up on Al Jazeera and every Arab medium and serve as a recruiting tool to work against our interests over the generations ahead.

BROWN: General McPeak, it's very nice to talk to you. Nice to meet you, sir. Thank you for your time.

MCPEAK: Aaron, nice to be with you.

BROWN: Thank you, sir, very much.

About 200 people rallied in support of U.S. troops today near Fort Stewart, Georgia, which has deployed some 15,000 personnel. Four of them died in today's suicide bomb attack inside Iraq.

In Los Angeles, a coalition of black community groups staged what they call a rally for peace and justice. There was at least one sign calling for the impeachment of President Bush.

And in Paterson, New Jersey, pro- and antiwar demonstrators clashed with each other. Police were on hand to keep the two sides apart.

Families of the 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, are taking a much-needed break. Today military officials at the fort held a minifair to boost morale and help the families relax.

CNN's David Mattingly says that's not an easy task, considering they have loved ones deployed in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After enduring another week of 24-hour coverage and all the ugliness war has to offer, families at Kentucky's Fort Campbell, home of the 101st Airborne, were in bad need of an afternoon off.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very hard, especially when you have children and young children where you can't really explain to them what's going on. They keep asking, Where's Daddy, Where's Daddy? And he don't really understand, you know, where he is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This one's handling it the worst. She wants her dad to come home.

MATTINGLY: Their anxiety is as deep as the feelings for the soldier spouses, but keeping up home front morale, they believe, is vital to battleground survival, particularly now that the 101st has entered the fight, successfully taking out an Iraqi armored column the night before, but crashing two helicopters in the process, injuring one soldier.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are constantly worrying, how are things at home? And as long as we assure them they're great here, then they have the gumption to go on and do their job, like they were trained to do.

MATTINGLY: Antiwar protests are particularly troublesome to these families, worried dissent could spread doubt to the battlefield, creating a potentially deadly distraction.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's not going to be as effective in his job. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) he'll make errors. He could lose his life or cause his other comrades to lose their lives. That could happen.

MATTINGLY: One more worry as the fighting in Iraq intensifies, making day-to-day difficulties even harder for Army wives and husbands. Robert Ward became a full-time house dad to his three children after his wife deployed.

ROBERT WARD, WIFE WITH DEPLOYED UNIT: It's real scary, you know, because, you know, nobody knows what's going to happen now.

MATTINGLY: But for one brief afternoon, it was time to relax, rebuild morale, and then get back to the jobs of supporting loved ones in battle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope you come back home, Daddy. I miss you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: And they are all missed tonight. There are two wartime fatalities associated with the 101st, both of them officers killed in that so-called fragging incident in Kuwait. Tonight, the Army confirms that the suspect in that case, Sergeant Asan Akbar, has been returned to the United States, where he is being held tonight in an undisclosed location, Wolf.

BLITZER: Any more information about this sergeant, what happened, what got him apparently -- allegedly to do what he do, namely, roll a few hand grenades, live hand grenades, into a tent with fellow soldiers, in this particular case some senior officers?

MATTINGLY: That continues to be the big question and the big mystery. People who knew him as a student, as a Muslim, and as a member of their family, all of them at a loss to explain how he could be accused of this kind of a crime. The FBI continuing to assist the military in this case, searching his apartment here at Fort Campbell, as well as a storage facility that he had rented.

At this point, we don't know if anything has been taken or any evidence has been taken in this case. Again, no one, at this point, having any answers why he might be accused, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, David Mattingly. Thanks very much.

Aaron, back to you.

BROWN: Thank you. And for those of you just joining us, we'll catch you up on the day's headlines in just a minute.

And then, what needs to change behind the lines to protect against suicide bombings like the one that claimed four American lives today? A short break first. You're watching CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FRAZIER: Now this look at the latest developments at this hour.

It's already Sunday morning in Baghdad, and the first coalition air strike of the day has taken place. It is believed that at least four explosions hit a neighborhood where government officials live.

Coalition forces didn't restrict themselves to Baghdad, though. Strikes also took place in northern Iraq.

U.S. commanders are denouncing a suicide attack near Najaf today as a terrorist act. Officials say a man beckoned soldiers toward his vehicle, then detonated a bomb, killing four Americans as well as himself. Iraq's vice president said the attack was, in his words, "only the beginning," and Iraqi television said Saddam Hussein will give the bomber's family about $35,000.

Kuwaiti military officials say an allied Patriot missile battery destroyed an incoming missile today. This was the 14th Iraqi missile fired at Kuwait since the start of the war. Earlier a missile hit a shopping mall in Kuwait City, which we're showing you here, injuring one person, but the mall was closed for the night.

In other news, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that mysterious and deadly respiratory illness that scientists are tracking is apparently spread more easily than was first thought. Scientists first believed severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, was only passed through close contact. It has killed 54 people in 13 countries.

And at midnight tonight, New York City's ban on smoking in all bars and small restaurants takes effect. Owners who permit their patrons to smoke face a $400 fine and the loss of their licenses. Advocates say about 400 communities nationwide have similar laws.

In the next half hour of CNN's coverage of the war in Iraq, insights into the Iraqi military, its tactics, and its weapons.

Another controversy, the U.S. decision not to show pictures like these from Britain, soldiers' bodies arriving home.

Also, why it's so difficult to get food and water to Iraq's civilians.

More news as it happens. And we'll be back with more right after this short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: The Pentagon says now more than a third of the U.S. coalition's 290,000 troops in the region have moved into Iraq. Officials also say the coalition has achieved air supremacy over most of the country, meaning they've taken out most of the Iraqi antiaircraft forces. CNN's Chris Plante is live from the Pentagon tonight. Chris, good evening.

CHRIS PLANTE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Aaron.

That's right, with clear skies over Iraq now, U.S. and British war planes are taking the opportunity to pound Republican Guard targets in and around Baghdad.

Also today, four U.S. soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division killed in a car bomb near the town of An Najaf. The situation occurred when a man arrived at the checkpoint in a taxicab and waved four U.S. Soldiers over as though he needed help. When they reached the car, he detonated an explosive device inside the car, killing himself and the four soldiers.

At the Pentagon today, General McChrystal said that it looked and sounded like terrorism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJ. GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, JOINT STAFF: It won't change our overall rules of engagement. It doesn't affect the operation at large. But to protect our soldiers, it clearly requires great care.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PLANTE: Also on the plate today, cruise missiles that have gone astray. Now a total of seven of the Navy Tomahawk land-attack missiles launched from ships in the eastern Mediterranean and in the Red Sea have gone astray, landed in Turkish territory, and now in Saudi territory over the last couple of days, never even making it into Iraq. The Navy, taking a look at the problem, has decided not to launch any more of the missiles for the time being until they figure out what the problem is, Aaron.

BROWN: Go back to the general on the subject of rules of engagement. Where civilians, or people who apparently are civilians, are concerned, how much of a threat do forces, coalition forces, need to perceive before they're allowed to defend themselves?

PLANTE: Well, that's a good question. And rules of engagement, the specifics of rules of engagement, are, of course, always kept a very tight secret, so that the enemy doesn't know exactly what they have to do to circumvent them.

But it is becoming an increasingly complicated situation for the troops on the ground there, having to deal with refugees and others in almost a policelike fashion as they come through U.S. areas. It's a situation that they are still adapting to, quite honestly. But they said that they will be making some adjustments as to how these troops will deal with the situations.

BROWN: Chris, thank you. Wolf, as you know from your days at the Pentagon, rules of engagement are very fluid things when you're actually on the front lines, when you decide to engage and when you decide not to.

BLITZER: And very often, Aaron, you don't have time to think about those rules of engagement if you think your life may be on the line.

Meanwhile, Iraq's vice president has warned that suicide bombing attacks against U.S. and British forces will become, in his words, "routine military policy."

CNN security analyst Kelly McCann is joining us now live to talk about this new and very disturbing threat on the battlefield.

Kelly, it looks they're serious about this, the Iraqis. What can U.S. soldiers, Marines do on the battlefield to prevent themselves, given the enormous number of civilians who are out there?

J. KELLY MCCANN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Well, of course, the biggest thing, Wolf, is going to be the intelligence cycle, making sure that we've got enough operators on the ground to make sure that we're getting inside the networks we need to, to -- if there is an ability to preempt it, send out direct action teams to target those people that would target us.

Physically, you'll see bigger buffer areas. You'll see the use of Jersey barriers, kind of serpentine, to slow vehicles down so that they can't build up speed. And then obviously, very intense learning. I don't think you'll see the coalition forces are going to fall for ruses. I understand that the taxi driver beckoned over to some of the officers, and they walked over to the vehicle, and they blew it up.

So I think you'll see that. You'll also see overwatch positions, where, again, there's weapons that are traced on the point of crisis and increased fixed point surveillance detection. In other words, to know who is looking at the lay of the checkpoint and things like that.

Bottom line, though, is, is, no battlefield can be terror-free. Our -- the coalition troops have experience in northern Ireland. They have experience in the Balkans. They have dealt with this problem previously. There is a force protection command that pays attention specifically to these kind of issues.

So I think the learning curve will be sharp, but they'll get it.

BLITZER: But there's already 100,000 coalition forces in Iraq, many more on the way. Given the fact that the Israeli military, who have had to deal with these kinds of suicide bombings for years, they still can't completely cope with it, and they've had a lot of experience dealing with it, most of the U.S. troops who are there have had no real experience in dealing with suicide bombers who dress as civilians, men and women.

MCCANN: Well, there's been a lot of joint learning as well, Wolf. As you know, there is memorandums of understanding between a lot of allied governments, where we do share lessons learned. And I can't remember the specific percentage. But the truth is that the vast majority of suicide bomber attempts do not succeed, and that some percentage gets through.

But, in fact, they've got quite a good understanding of what some of the preincident indicators are, the way that these things are purveyed, and, to the extent possible, they control it.

BLITZER: The Iraqi television is reporting tonight -- and I'll be precise -- that Saddam Hussein has given the suicide bomber in Najaf two medals, and said the man's family would receive 100 million dinars, which is about $35,000, from Saddam Hussein directly. That's going to send a powerful message out there to a lot of young people in Iraq.

But given the fact that Iraq is basically a secular society -- at least those most loyal to Saddam Hussein -- will it resonate with these young people who might want to become so-called martyrs?

MCCANN: Well, I think we saw a good example of that when two Iraqi soldiers gave up and surrendered to coalition troops because they said that they didn't want to die for Saddam Hussein. And I think that money was already available.

I mean, the fact is, is that that open declaration of awarding medals and also awarding money just basically publicizes what most of the global community should know, which is they seek asymmetry without regard to the law of land warfare.

And I think there is nothing more heinous than that.

BLITZER: Kelly McCann, our security analyst. Thanks very much for that analysis.

And we'll have much more on this issue of suicide bombings, everything else, including overall military strategy, tomorrow when I interview the Joint Chiefs chairman, General Richard Myers. He'll be my special guest on "LATE EDITION." That's tomorrow at noon Eastern, 9:00 a.m. Pacific -- Aaron.

BROWN: Well, some of Britain's war dead were brought home today. But you won't see flag-draped coffins unloaded in the United States. Coming up, the reason why, and the controversy around it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Sadness today in Britain as bodies begin arriving from the Gulf campaign. Ten fallen fighters were returned to British soil with full military honors. Two of the dead were killed by friendly fire. The other eight died in a helicopter crash.

The amount of media coverage being devoted to the war in Iraq is unprecedented in scope. However, there is still one thing you won't be seeing on any of your TV screens -- the arrival of U.S. war dead. And there is some debate over that.

CNN's Kathleen Koch reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Seared into our collective memory, the flag-draped caskets, the slow step of the honor guard. But just as during the first Persian Gulf War, the Pentagon has decided America won't see its war dead come home to Dover.

COL. SCOTT WUESTHOFF, WING COMMANDER, DOVER AIR FORCE BASE: It slows down the transfer, the trip home. The family might be compelled to spend limited resources to get to their loved one. Our goal, as I mentioned, is to just make this a quick but very thorough stop.

KOCH: Critics charge that now, as in 1991, the military is trying to preserve public support for the war.

STEVE ADUBATO, MEDIA ANALYST: When you show those 20 caskets or so, the military and the White House run the risk of losing public opinion. They run the risk of people truly beginning to see what war is really like beyond, quote-unquote, "Shock and Awe."

KOCH: For decades, open coverage was a tradition. Cameras recorded the return of the bodies of the 241 Marines killed in the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing, the sailors killed aboard the U.S.S. "Stark" in 1987, and the remains of the dead from the U.S.S. "Iowa" gun turret explosion in 1989.

ROBERT DALLEK, HISTORIAN: There is less, oh, I think, a feeling of closure that the whole country gets from seeing the return of these young men, women, who died in combat and sacrificed their lives for the sake of the country. And I think that is a kind of public function that television should be in on.

KOCH: The decision to close Dover to cameras during the first Persian Gulf War was made by then-defense secretary Dick Cheney and Joint Chiefs chairman Colin Powell. The Pentagon said, quote, "There would be too many ceremonies."

(on camera): In 1991, a coalition of media, military families, and veterans groups went to court to try to force the Pentagon to allow the coverage of arrivals here. But they lost. And so far, no legal challenges have been mounted this time.

(voice-over): The Pentagon says coverage will be allowed when the remains are returned to their bases.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: When they're buried, generally, or when they're brought back, that's known, and services for them around the country are known. And the -- there's no attempt to hide anything. It's a normal procedure.

KOCH: A procedure that some say has not kept pace with the new Pentagon policy for realtime coverage of the rest of the war.

Kathleen Koch, CNN, Dover, Delaware.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Well, the reality is, whether you see them come home or not, there is death in war. Fifty-seven coalition troops have now died in Operation Iraqi Freedom, as it has been branded by the Pentagon. Thirty-four come from the U.S. side, 23 from Great Britain. At least four -- 91 members of the U.S. military are hospitalized tonight with war-related injuries, 86 of them flown to the U.S. base in Germany for treatment. Five others have flown back to the United States.

In fact, about this time last night, we saw their arrival at Walter Reed Hospital.

State-run Iraqi TV says 357 Iraqi civilians have been killed. That's impossible to confirm. Injuries, they say, more than 3,600, likewise impossible to confirm. And Iraq is not reporting its military losses.

Many Iraqi citizens are without food and water, that is clear. No one questions that. When it does get a little tough to get to them, it gets a little tough getting it to them. As you can see, chaos. Coming up, what's being done to speed up the humanitarian aid. Our coverage continues after a short break on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: The coalition's effort to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, to be treated as liberators, not occupiers, is producing mixed results.

Martin Geissler of Britain's ITV News traveled with an aid convoy to Safwan, a town without water and very little food since the start of the war.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTIN GEISSLER, ITV NEWS (voice-over): As our convoy rolled through southern Iraq, the desperation of the people here soon become evident. In trucks and on foot they came to the town of Safwan. These people have been without food or water supply since the war began. Now they are desperate.

Within seconds, the Kuwaiti aid workers who had organized this trip were overpowered by the mob.

(on camera): These desperate scenes are exactly what the aid agencies wanted to avoid. This is survival of the fittest. Only the healthy and the strong can get to the food. The weak and the ill are left with nothing.

(voice-over): 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 (on camera): What do you think about Saddam's regime?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Saddam is very good man.

GEISSLER (voice-over): As the supplies ran out, the mood swung from frantic to ugly. Lorry drivers were threatened. One of the busses in our convoy was held up at knifepoint.

(on camera): 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 in to the people here, it is still a very, very volatile area.

(voice-over): Tonight here, the strong are eating. The weak still go hungry.

Martin Geissler, ITV News, Safwan, southern Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: In case you wondered what kind of impact a 500-pound bomb makes, take a look at this. CNN's Kevin Sites is standing inside a crater carved by a bomb in northern Iraq. Kevin reports the coalition bombing happened near the road going into the strategically important area of Kirkuk.

Television viewers in the United States are seeing a much different war than the one they're seeing in the Arab world. Stay tuned and see the differences. They could affect millions of opinions in the Middle East and beyond.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: In the information war, the Pentagon stepped up its campaign to show that atrocities are committed by the regime of Saddam Hussein during its Pentagon briefing today. The Pentagon showed two videos. In one of them, an Iraqi woman in the United States read a letter from her cousin, who had been tortured for nearly a year.

The letter says, after writing something about -- rather, writing something negative about Saddam in a notebook at school, the woman said some of her relatives were killed because of that. TV viewers around the world were able to watch that video as these briefings are carried around the world, in many cases certainly on the Arab TV channels.

CNN's senior assignment editor, Octavia Nasr, joins us now to talk a little bit about how this sort of thing is perceived in the Arab community around the world.

Is it seen as propaganda? Is it believed?

OCTAVIA NASR, CNN SENIOR ASSIGNMENT EDITOR: Well, first of all, in order to answer this question, let's take a look at how the Arab TV stations carried this press conference and this video. While some stations, like Al Jazeera, decided to take the full press conference, aired the video with translation in Arabic, so that their viewers were able to get the whole message translated in their own languages, other stations shied away, such as Abu Dhabi TV. Abu Dhabi TV showed only the press conference and did not run this video.

Now, a station like the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation chose to stay away from the entire conference, because they were holding their own special interview that they got with a Shi'ite leader out of Baghdad, and they decided to stay with that and snub the press conference.

So is it seen as propaganda? This is where the interesting question comes in. And you can only get the answer by watching the reaction to this press conference. Most people who commented on it said that that was it, what you saw was it. There was no reaction after that. No one talked about it. The video was not played again. That was the end of it.

BROWN: Let me, let me come back. The Pentagon also played a clip of a documentary about the nerve gassing 15 years ago in Halabja. Clearly, this was an attempt by the U.S. information managers to counter the images that the Arab world saw yesterday of the casualties in civilian areas.

Will Arab communities, do you believe, give the American argument a fair shake? Will they, will they -- will they believe, at least, in a kind of basic fairness here? Or are they predisposed? I'm taking a long time to ask a simple question. Are they predisposed to believe what Iraqis say versus what the Americans says?

NASR: Well, there are two elements to this question. Are they ready to believe? Yes. They know it. They know there were Iraqi atrocities. This was not a secret in the Arab street. Now, whether they're going to take the U.S. word for it or whether they're going to get the U.S. message, that's the bigger question.

And I think we already got our answer. They shrugged it off. They turned their backs. They said, That is not interesting. I don't want to hear it.

BROWN: Octavia, this is one of the more interesting parts of this story, I guess, how the entire world sees it. Thank you. Octavia Nasr, monitoring Arab reaction.

I guess, like most of you, given what you're doing, now you're spending a lot of time watching TV even on your weekend to keep informed of what's going on. Digesting the latest information about the war in Iraq and the rest, the pictures can be spell-binding at times, and sad at times. All of it, as we go across the hour here, some of the latest images from the front lines.

(VIDEO CLIPS)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Throughout this war, Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist David Turnley has been capturing images of the daily lives of the Iraqi people. Here's a look at Operation Iraqi Freedom through Turnley's photos and words.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID TURNLEY, CNN PHOTOJOURNALIST: Kifri is a town here on the eastern part of the northern front that is geographically configured between, on the one hand, to the south, Saddam Hussein-held Iraq, and then a bit further to the north and to the east has been the enclave of Halabja, which, of course, is where in 1988 Saddam Hussein lobbed some chemical weapons.

And it became a stronghold for the extremist group Ansar al- Islam, which is an Iranian supported ancillary group of al Qaeda, which was driven from that area yesterday by Kurdish Peshmergas with the help of coalition forces.

So they have found themselves for some time in the middle of a very complicated political equation. When we speak to people here, they say that in fact the Ansar al-Islam group has been for them more of a scourge than in fact even Saddam Hussein.

The people here in Kifri are accustomed to war. They have been on the front lines of conflict for many years. They are defiant people. They are very poor people. Apparently most of them make their living from smuggling kerosene and petrol from the south in Saddam Hussein-held Iraq.

It's very interesting, as I have traveled through Kurdistan from the west to the east, I have never encountered a group of people who enjoy being photographed as much as the Kurds do, and that is certainly true here in this enclave as well. They are very proud. They have dignity that just sort of jumps out of their eyes and from the expressions of their faces.

The people here collect at the end of the day toward sunset. They collect to find out what has happened, what kind of information the people around them can pass on. And they collect because this is their community.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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