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War in Iraq: Four Large Explosions Rock Baghdad

Aired March 29, 2003 - 20:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: House by house, yard by yard, one by one. Chasing, capturing or killing Saddam Hussein's secret soldiers. Hello. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting live from Kuwait City. Tonight it's been quiet, unlike 24 hours ago, when a missile hit a popular shopping mall. But observers have counted nearly three dozen explosions over the last several hours in Baghdad. Let's get the latest from Aaron Brown, who's standing by at the CNN Center in Atlanta - Aaron.
AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, a couple of hours ago, at least four large explosions rocked what appears to be a residential area of Baghdad.

But it is not just any residential area of Baghdad. The area hit we would believe contains buildings where many government officials live, usually off limits to ordinary Iraqi citizens. And it is believed to contain underground bunkers and air raid shelters, so government leaders can stay safe in moments such as that. CNN senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, familiar with Baghdad until he was expelled a week ago, joins us live now. He's at the border between Jordan and Iraq. Nic, good evening again. It's always hard to tell early precisely what was hit, but it wouldn't be surprising giving the coalitions tactic here, to go after the leadership.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That would perhaps be the indication, and it is very, very difficult to tell, of course, even when we were in Baghdad exactly who would live in these particular apartment buildings. But suffice to say that the explosion does appear to be almost right inside that whole complex of buildings. Very close to there -- close, but perhaps a quarter, half a mile away, is the Ministry of Building, and about half a mile away, the Foreign Ministry. But, again, looking at the pictures, looking at what we've been able to see, it very much appears as if the explosion going off, Aaron, as you say, inside that area of government housing.

BROWN: And in the battle for public image, the Iraqis sent out one of their big guns today, and not leaving the task to an information minister.

ROBERTSON: Well, we saw President Saddam Hussein today meeting with his cabinet. And perhaps what was interesting about that particular meeting, not only did the president look incredibly serious, much more so than he has done recently, but he did seem to be incredibly well-dressed, if you will, over-dressed to a degree. Compared to some of the other officials, a deputy prime minister, some of the ministers in the room who had their shirts unbuttoned, the president had a huge great coat on and was very well muffled up. Now we know there was a bit of a cold snap passed through the region in the last few days, but perhaps an indication that the president was taken to wearing body armor. Of course, that's very difficult to see, but certainly he looked a lot more bulky than he normally does - Aaron.

BROWN: We're tea-leaf reading a little bit. The other thing I noticed is, in reaction to the suicide bombing, they sent the vice president out to do the commenting on that, rather than leaving that to the Information Minister.

ROBERTSON: Indeed, Taha Yassin Ramadan, the vice president, typically has the harshest and strongest rhetoric of all of Iraq's ministers. And he certainly wasn't holding anything back today. He talked about the suicide mission, praising the officer, saying that this was only the beginning. And one remembers back to a few weeks before the war, Taha Yassin Ramadan was the one who introduced this whole notion of suicide bombers. He mentioned it in an interview with a German magazine, and now, here we see him in the week into the war, now talking about it. It's happened already, and they're saying it will happen again, Aaron.

BROWN: Nic, thank you. We'll talk to you later tonight I hope. Nic Robertson. On the subject of the suicide bombing it killed four American soldiers on Saturday. It happened south of Baghdad in the city of Najaf. The dead soldiers are with the U.S. Army's Third Infantry Division. Notifications are still being made. They were at a checkpoint when an Iraqi taxi stopped, the driver appeared to beckon the soldiers to come closer, as if he needed help, they did, and he detonated the bomb.

Later, as we just said, Iraqi vice president said the attack was only the beginning. Pentagon officials clearly concerned:


MAJ. GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, JOINT CHIEFS VICE DIRECTOR FOR OPERATIONS: It looks and feels like terrorism, and what it requires is units to conduct force protection 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.


BROWN: It was a small moment in a long day, but it clearly changed the tone of the day. A footnote to all of this: Iraqi TV now reporting that President Saddam Hussein has posthumously ordered a pair of medals to the suicide bomber, who is described as an Iraqi officer, and said the man's family will receive the equivalent of 35,000 U.S. dollars - Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Aaron. Coalition forces in southern Iraq know that Saddam Hussein's fighters have discarded their uniforms and are trying to blend in with the civilian population. The British forces are going after them anyway. Correspondent Bill Neely takes us along on a harrowing but fruitful expedition.


BILL NEELY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In southern Iraq today, the boot's on the other foot. The Royal Marines are now in charge and in pursuit of the old regime. In dawn raids, they broke into dozens of houses, to hunt for the soldiers, the secret police. The gloves are off here, this is war. The protests are loud, but the Marines are acting on the tip-off of informers who've told them where to find the men who never hid before.

Among those arrested, a man the Marines say is an Iraqi Army General, who like the rest of his troops, discarded his uniform and tried to disappear into the civilian population.

The Marines now have a tight grip on Umm Qasr. Further north, towards Basra, they've taken the streets of a town of 30,000 people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a blue Isuzu Trooper.

NEELY: In Umm Qayal (ph) they put snipers on the rooftops and pick off men with weapons. Inside the car, with the flag, an armed Iraqi who took a potshot and paid for it.

Here, the population is wary, but resistance from Saddam's loyalists has been worn down.

MAJ. ROB MACGOWAN, BRITISH ROYAL MARINES: We sent in one of our companies of about a hundred 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.

NEELY: In buildings and homes, the marines are finding stocks of abandoned weapons. Here, hundreds of rocket-propelled grenades. Then it's on to the dusty streets of a town that rebelled against Saddam twelve years ago. A revolt he brutally crushed.

(on camera): Street by street, town by town in southern Iraq, the marines are imposing their will and their weapons. From now on, here, this will be a guerrilla war, in which the main threat is the sniper and the ambush.

This is Bill Neely with the Royal Marines in Umm Qayal (ph), southern Iraq.


BROWN: There is a report in today's "Washington Post" about specially trained CIA agents operating tonight under cover in Iraq. The sole purpose of trying to take out Saddam Hussein's elite inner circle. None of this should be particularly surprising, and we need to mention "The Post" didn't run wild (ph) with classified information, nor shall we discuss classified information, even if we had any. We are joined by Miles O'Brien, who is joined by Kelly McCann to talk a little bit about the details of these covert operations which are getting a lot of attention over the last 48 hours or so.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: There's a certain irony there, isn't there. The covert actions getting all this attention. As a matter of fact, the government having the opportunity, "The Post" went to them and said "Is there anything classified in here?" and they're saying "Go ahead and publish it." Why do you think that was allowed to be published?

J. KELLY MCCANN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Well, in this case, it's post-reporting, they've been in there. That operation has been going on for quite some time, and we had people in country months ago.

O'BRIEN: All right. In country, urban combat, you put that all together and you come up with a scenario where at some point in the future, U.S. or coalition forces could be going after the absolute home of power here, quite literally. Some of these palaces. And we use that term rather loosely when we talk about Saddam Hussein, but these are the places where those bunkers might be.

Let's run through a scenario here and talk about how urban combat might unfold. And, of course, when you say that, there are all kinds of things that can go wrong when you're fighting in a city. Let's move in on this animation to give you a shot of what we're looking at. This is our palace scenario here. Before anybody or anything moves in to try to seize a palace like that, what are you going to do, Kelly McCann?

MCCANN: You start to isolate and control it with eyes and ears on the target. You'd be listening to signals, you'd be putting the snipers out, and they would be basically covering all flanks of that building so you could totally isolate it and keep it safe and report on it.

O'BRIEN: Alright, somebody going in there kind of covertly before the helicopters go in, so to speak. All right, so next move you come in, obviously the Black Hawk helicopters come. What kinds of forces typically would be involved in something like this?

MCCANN: The first forces that would go into strongpoint defense and make a contained secure environment for doorkickers to come inside of. So they may post up, Miles, at major service routes, areas where a reactionary force could come to the rescue of the people inside the palace. Basically, they're the holding force, the blocking element.

O'BRIEN: All right, so some sort of perimeter is the idea here, and then some other team would be the one to pierce the perimeter in theory. Right, now let's move it in a little closer. You know you can't help but think of that "Black Hawk Down" scenario. There are so many things that can go wrong when you're in close combat in an urban setting. MCCANN: In this situation right now, there'd be a diversion, they might use mortar fire, they might use stun grenades...

O'BRIEN: Some kind of explosion up here perhaps, something like that...

MCCANN: ... you could use breaching charges, but as the breachers start to move up to their crisis points, there would be multiple breach points, and the way to describe it if you were inside that building would be trying to get out of the way of a locomotive that was coming down the train tracks. These men are highly, highly expert in the use of weapons. They move extremely quick, and the whole idea is violence of action, surprise of speed.

O'BRIEN: Speed, violence of action, what it does do in that scenario, though, is it undermines the key U.S. advantage, which is a technological advantage, when you're in close combat.

MCCANN: There is no technological advantages when you close with your enemy. It is literally hand to hand, and that's the key.

O'BRIEN: Alright, thanks very much Kelly McCann. Appreciate the primer on that. And we'll send it to Aaron.

BROWN: Thank you very much. I'll send it to Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much. Kuwaiti military officials say an allied Patriot missile battery destroyed an incoming missile earlier today. It was the fourteenth Iraqi missile fired at Kuwait since the start of the war. Earlier, about 24 hours ago, in fact, a missile hit a shopping mall here in Kuwait City, injuring one person. The mall was closed for the night.

Coalition troops are fighting one kind of war on the ground but another kind of battle is going on as well. Up next, a battle of perceptions, information and what some would even call propaganda.


BROWN: In this living room war that we are all going through, television is the weapon, and today the Pentagon began using videos of Iraqi atrocities to counter images that the Arab world has been seeing, saw yesterday of course, the civilian deaths in that market in Baghdad. It actually was an extraordinary event at the Pentagon briefing today. CNN White House correspondent, Dana Bash.


DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In a highly unusual move, Pentagon spokeswoman Tori Clarke, knowing it would be live on TV, unexpectedly started her military briefing with a girl describing her cousin's torture at the hands of Iraqis.

UNIDENTIFIED IRAQI FEMALE: They used to hang me by my feet...

BASH: And video from the 1988 attack by Saddam Hussein on Kurds in northern Iraq with chemical weapons, including an image of a woman's face nearly burned away, too gruesome to replay.

The president, in his radio address, struck a similar theme, saying the Iraqi regime brutalizes and executes its own people.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Iraqi people who refuse to fight for the regime are being murdered. An Iraqi woman was hanged for waving at coalition troops.

BASH: The Bush administration highlighting Iraqi torture is not new. But there has been a fresh, coordinated focus over the last few days.

BUSH: We had reports the other day of a dissident who had his tongue cut out. He was tied to the stake in the town's square.

DONALD RUMSFELD, U. S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: They left somebody in the center of Baghdad not too long ago with his tongue pulled out until he bled to death. They cut his tongue out.

BASH: White House officials privately admit detailing brutal acts helps explain while coalition soldiers are being met by Iraqis with gunfire, instead of open arms and mass surrender as some had predicted.

BRIG GEN VINCENT BROONS, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS: These terrorist squads, these paramilitaries that are out there.

BASH: And, say Bush aids, labeling Iraqi Fedayeen soldiers members of death squads guilty of war crimes helps maintain public support for the military campaign. Less prominent from the White House line, warnings that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction.

KEN POLLACK, CNN ANALYST: I think that they are trying to stress the brutality of this regime. Because this is an awful regime which does horrible things to its own people, recognizing that this kind of an argument has much greater resonance around the world than the weapons of mass destruction threat.


BASH: Bush officials now say that talking about weapons of mass destruction is superfluous, because they're focusing on the military campaign and toppling the Iraqi regime. Aaron?

BROWN: Well, obviously, it was somewhat controversial to use the Pentagon briefing for this display today. Who was the audience. Is it Americans that they are worried about or is it international opinion they're worried about, or both?

BASH: Both, absolutely both, I would say. First of all, because of in terms of Americans, all of the questions that we've sort of heard over the last couple of days as to why we were in day nine and we sort of had gotten some suggestions from some that we would see an immediate surrender by Iraqis and Iraqis coming up to the U.S. military soldiers with flowers and flags, and we didn't see that. So what they're trying to do is explain why, and because, they say, Iraqis feel very threatened. They won't do that until they know Saddam Hussein is gone because of all this cruelty that they have been graphically detailing over the past few days.

But of course, in any propaganda war, the audience is also the other side, and they are trying to potentially counter some of the images that we've seen over the past couple of days of some civilian casualties in the region. So it's a massive propaganda campaign, and the target definitely, I would say, Aaron, is both audiences.

BROWN: All right, thank you Dana Bash. I suspect in the editorial pages, in the Op Ed pages in the paper tomorrow, this will be seen as quite controversial, Wolf, to use a Pentagon briefing in that way.

BLITZER: I noticed that some of the international stations immediately -- were taping that briefing live, but immediately after that they dumped out. Presumably, feeling that they were being used for propaganda purposes. But that's another story. Syria, meanwhile, is responding to warnings from the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Yesterday, Rumsfeld warned Syria and another neighbor of Iraq, Iran, to prevent war materials and mercenaries from flowing over their borders into Iraq. He said the United States would hold the Syrian and Iranian governments responsible if that happened. An official from Syria's Foreign Ministry had this to say earlier today.


BOUTHAINA SHAABAN, SYRIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY OFFICIAL: I sometimes wonder what is behind these allegations. And he made (UNINTELLIGIBLE) allegations about how the war is going to go and how it is going to be quick, and how the Iraqis are going to meet them with flowers. So none of them proven to be correct. So why should this one be?


BLITZER: Coalition forces may not have changed the Iraqi leadership yet, but keep watching. CNN's Christiane Amanpour shows something else the coalition wants to change.


CHRISTIAN AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Removing the image and the influence of Saddam Hussein is a main objective for the Americans and the British in this part of Iraq.


BLITZER: Changing minds and loyalties when our special report continues.


BROWN: Carrying the port of Umm Qasr in southeast Iraq opened up twelve distribution routes for the delivery of food and water and supplies. Primarily they will go to Basra, where they are much needed. Umm Qasr is also secure enough now for coalition troops to walk the streets and to get a feel for what the people of that city are actually thinking as they see the coalition come in. But as CNN's Christiane Amanpour reports, securing the confidence of the Iraqis may turn out to be harder than securing the city.


AMANPOUR (voice over): Umm Qasr is a dilapidated little town. At the marketplace there is not much more than tomatoes onions and a lot of flies and opinions.

Saddam Hussein is our president, says this woman, we love him, but we're scared of him.

In fact, Ali, an anti-Saddam exile returning home with the U.S. Army says these women don't dare speak out against Saddam Hussein just yet.

(on camera): These people don't believe that the Americans can or will get rid of Saddam Hussein.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we've been hearing that every day that we've been here, and part of our job and our free Iraqi forces are helping us convince the people that we will stay until Saddam is gone.

AMANPOUR (voice over): As part of Army Civil Affairs, Colonel David Blackledge (ph) and his team interact with the people.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice to meet you. How old are you?

AMANPOUR: They are trying to gain valuable information and their trust, but it's a hard sell. This is Iraq's Shi'ite heartland, and memories are deep and bitter. They'll not easily forget what they consider America's great betrayal during the Gulf War 12 years ago, when they were encouraged to rise up, only to be left to the brutal mercies of Saddam Hussein. Still, there are increasing, if tentative signs that the people want to believe that this time is for real.

The Shi'ite flag is forbidden by the Baghdad regime, afluttering during this holy month of Muharram. People gather around U.S. soldiers, and they tell us they are looking forward to a new Iraq, one without fear of Saddam's reign of terror. "I want my freedom," says this man. "I don't want food or water, I just want my freedom."

But actually, food and especially water are very much on everyone's minds. "The Americans and the British promised to help us," they say "but when we ask them about the water, they tell us tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow."

This man tells us that all Americans want is Iraq's oil.

A sign of the danger still lurking here, these two men, who flagged down the American Humvee and asked to surrender. We can't show their faces because they've been taken as prisoners of war, but they say they are Saddam's Fedayeen militias. Sent down from Baghdad on pain of execution. Their mission: to conduct suicide attacks against American and British troops. By giving themselves up to these Americans, they said, they didn't want to die for Saddam Hussein.

(on camera): Removing the image and the influence of Saddam Hussein is a main objective for the Americans and the British in this part of Iraq, and they hope that by first stabilizing Umm Qasr, word with then spread northwards and have an effect on Basra and beyond.

(voice over): In fact, the British sent 11 of these Challenger tanks into Basra to crush Saddam's statue in the center. Meantime, a steady stream of civilians continues to leave. It's a portrait of war with thick black smoke billowing from the city they leave behind. Some are surrendering to the British forces, and some of the men want to go back after bringing out their families. And to the question the British ask every day: "When will the people rise up?" the answer many give us: the day they know Saddam is dead.

Christiane Amanpour, CNN, near Basra in Southern Iraq.


BLITZER: Still ahead, we'll update you on the latest developments in the war with Iraq. Plus, we'll check in with CNN's Frank Buckley.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're going to have the story of a young fighter pilot on his first aircraft carrier deployment also experiencing his first (inaudible). That story when we come back to the USS Constellation.


BLITZER: It's time now to get you up to date on everything that's happened so far today in Iraq. CNN's Miles O'Brien has been keeping an eye on the action.


O'BRIEN (voice-over): At 9:37 AM Eastern time, 5:37 PM in the Gulf, CNN's Alessio Vinci reports U.S. Marines in Nasiriya have recovered the bodies of more slain comrades missing since an ambush last week. They also searched house to house for other missing Marines, but found only personal belongings.

At 10:10 AM, hours after a suspected Iraqi missile injured two people at a Kuwait City shopping mall, air raid sirens sound again in that city. The Kuwaiti government says a U.S. Patriot missile intercepted an incoming missile from Iraq.

At 10:12 AM in Chamchamal in northern Iraq, CNN's Kevin Sites reports Iraqis are shelling a position from which they'd recently retreated, a position now occupied by Kurdish fighters.

At 10:19 AM, CNN's Art Harris reports from the scene of a firefight in Nasiriya as U.S. Marines encounter yet another pocket of resistance in the southern Iraq city. At 11:14 AM, Iraq's vice president praises the suicide bomber who killed four servicemen from the Army's 3rd Infantry Division early Saturday in Najaf. Taha Ramadan vows there will be more attacks like that one.

At 1:13 PM at the Pentagon, Major General Stanley McChrystal says the suicide bombing will not change U.S. tactics in the war, but he says the attack looks and feels like terrorism.


BROWN: A quick look at the day. Part of the day of every day has been the weather, the extremes of the weather in the Gulf, from the heavy sandstorms of a couple of days to the heavy heat that's coming in now. Orelon Sidney checks the weather now for us.

Good to see you tonight.

ORELON SIDNEY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Aaron, thanks a lot. It's quite a complex picture across much of the Middle East tonight. What you're seeing is clouds. A lot of this is just cold temperatures settling across much of Iraq. Now, temperatures down to the south are in the 50s currently, but if you head on into the mountains, there's actually a chance of some showers and snow a little bit later on tonight. That's mostly going to be outside, though, of the Iraq area.

Right now, hazy, 57 degrees in Kuwait. We're seeing temperatures generally in the 50s, but these are unusually cold temperatures. This is about 10 degrees below the average for this time of year. Of course, as we get into Iraq, no reports coming out of there. But as we head on towards the eastern portion of the Mediterranean, you start to pick up a little bit more cloudiness and some very, very chilly temperatures. In the north, you're in the 30s. Good thing Wolf Blitzer is not in Van this morning -- 16 degrees there Fahrenheit -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Orelon Sidney. LIVE FROM THE FRONT LINES. We'll be back right after this.


BROWN: As we approach dawn now in the -- in the Persian Gulf, in Iraq, it is the time that the fighter pilots are starting to come back to the aircraft carriers. Their work is done for a while. Frank Buckley's aboard the USS Constellation. He has been talking to pilots as they return, and he talks to us now.

Frank, good to see you.

BUCKLEY: Good to see you, Aaron. In fact, you're right. You may hear in a moment or two another strike aircraft landing. They are recovering strike aircraft here, aircraft that have gone over Iraq. Every one of these aircraft has a pilot or an air crew aboard that have family members back at home who are worried about them. We wanted to introduce you to one such pilot and his family.


(voice-over): The man behind the visor, flying an F-18 strike fighter, is Marine Corps Captain Chris Collins. He's only 28 years old, but he's already a veteran of war. He just got back from a mission over Iraq. Dust storms made it difficult to see, but he eventually dropped bombs on artillery pieces, maybe on people, Iraqi soldiers.

CAPT. CHRIS COLLINS, U.S. MARINES: I thought that might affect me, you know, when I first came out here, but they're trying to kill me, so -- they're shooting at me, we're trying to shoot at them, and -- you know, I guess that's what war's all about.

BUCKLEY: It's pretty intense stuff for a guy on his first aircraft carrier deployment. Collins is what they call a "nugget." To his friends, he is `Kitty (ph)," the call sign his squadron gave him when he showed up with the tough-guy call sign "Mad Dog."

To Jack and Barbara Collins, he is a son. Like the parents of so many young men and women in the Gulf, they watch for news about their boy whenever they can. We got word to them so they could watch when we interviewed Chris about the conditions pilots were facing.

COLLINS: So when we can't see the ground, obviously, we can't see the target.

BUCKLEY: They stay in touch by e-mail. Occasionally, they talk by phone. Chris knows his mom is worried.

COLLINS: I feel like every time she thinks -- she talks to me, it's going to be my last day to talk to her, you know, and -- so -- you know, she always wants to know what I'm doing, and then I tell her, and then she gets all worried, so -- you know, now -- now when she asks me, she's, like, Well, what have you been doing? I'm, Well, you don't want to know.

BUCKLEY: Chris's parents pray for their boy's safe return.

BARBARA COLLINS, MOTHER OF CHRIS COLLINS: I'm OK. You know, I think Christopher is highly trained, as are all the pilots. I think he'll be fine.

BUCKLEY: And at the moment, he is, doing what he was trained to do, to fly and fight.


The story of the Chris Collins family -- we want to thank them very much for letting us intrude into their personal lives.

We should tell you that during the most recent cycle of sorties from the USS Constellation, we are told, they had 40 strikes and attacked 40 different targets -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Frank Buckley aboard the Constellation. Thanks for that story. Appreciate it very much. Up next: Americans still determined to be heard, more pro and anti-war rallies across the United States. Plus, a day at the Pentagon told through the sketches of Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Mike Luckovich. This one is worth waiting for.

LIVE FROM THE FRONT LINES, we'll be right back.


BLITZER: Just as the war goes on, so do the protests, and today was no exception.

This is one of several rallies taking place across California today. Anti-war protesters focused on the massive amount of money being poured into liberating Iraq and how that money, they feel, could be better used here inside the United States. At one protest, demonstrators observed a moment of silence for those who have already died in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

And in Boston, it was the biggest protest in more than 30 years. A crowd police estimated to be about 15,000 strong walked through the streets chanting, "This is what democracy looks like."

Not far from Boston, a much different sentiment. About 2,000 turned out to show their support for U.S. troops in Massachusetts -- in Mashpee, Massachusetts. The statement, "This is not a war of conquest, it is a war of liberation," drew praise from the crowd, many of whom have loved ones fighting overseas. The rally took place just down the road from the Massachusetts military reservation, a division that definitely has sent troops to Iraq.

And in New York, perhaps that sign says it all. But at one point, there was a heated exchange between anti-war protesters and counter-demonstrators. Police suited up in riot gear. It's unclear if there were any arrests -- Aaron.

BROWN: Well, many of the friends and family members of soldiers fighting the war do say that the anti-war protests add another layer of stress they would gladly live without. They say they're worried the dissent could spread out all the way to the battlefield, creating a potentially deadly distraction.

Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where the 101st Airborne is based, it was time to live life a bit these days. Some fun and games held at the base today gave everybody a good chance to get outside and enjoy it all.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very hard, especially when you have children, and young children, to where you can't really explain to them what's going on. They keep asking, Where's Daddy? Where's Daddy?

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


BROWN: Sometimes even in these times, it's not a bad idea to smile a little bit. At least, it seems lightening the mood is not an entirely bad thing. The Pentagon perhaps thought so, as well. They brought in -- not bought in -- Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Mike Luckovich to spend a day with Secretary Rumsfeld, and he now spends a little time with us.

Nice to meet you. I told you. What'd, they call you up and say, Come on over?

MIKE LUCKOVICH, "ATLANTA JOURNAL/CONSTITUTION": Yes. I had actually done a couple of cartoons that Rumsfeld had requested. And this was the latest one that he requested. It's -- Bush is saying to Rummy, he's saying, "We need a longer list of countries that back war, so you're now officially the Republic of Don. Say hi to Cheneystan." Dick Cheney's there.

So he liked that cartoon, and so I sent that to him. And so Tori Clarke, the assistant secretary of defense, sent me an invitation to the Pentagon.

BROWN: You went out there, and they just said, Follow us around for the day, and you drew...


BROWN: ... they did, and we have some of the things you drew...


BROWN: ... talking about.

LUCKOVICH: We had -- the first thing in the letter to me, she said, We want you come up and spend the day. And we'd like you to compete in a one-arm push-up contest. And so I actually competed in that and beat the -- beat the Marine that I was involved with.

BROWN: Well, you're lucky you lived to tell about it.

LUCKOVICH: Yes, I know it. I know it. And -- yes, there it is, right there. And then -- and so the next thing was Bush showed up at the Pentagon, and that's sort of a rare thing. So I went to that briefing and...

BROWN: And he's -- he's someone who is a cartoonist's dream, isn't he, the president?

LUCKOVICH: Yes. You know, unfortunately, though, he's not out in front of people enough. Clinton you could never -- he would never go away. He was always out in front of the cameras.

BROWN: Yes. LUCKOVICH: Bush is more tightly controlled, so there are less -- there are less opportunities to really get to know his foibles, I think. But in this -- in this thing -- this was very scripted. They had all the generals there. And what they were doing before -- before the briefing began, is they had these White House advance team -- team -- they were putting down masking tape...

BROWN: Where he stands.

LUCKOVICH: ... names of the generals, where they -- where they stand. And they thought they were so self-important, these guys, as they did their masking tape routine. And then -- so the briefing ended, and it was sort of formal and -- and I didn't really get a feel of what was going on too much. But then -- but then things progressed a little bit and it got funner.

I was standing out in the hallway at the Pentagon, just wondering what I was going to do next. And I see Rumsfeld walking by. And with him was a number of aides, plus David Kennerly, who's a photographer and a friend of mine.

BROWN: One of the great photographers.

LUCKOVICH: And he says, Mike -- he said -- yes -- Mike, follow me. So I got in -- in behind all these guys. And Rumsfeld looked at me and he said -- he pointed at me. He said, What's he doing here? And I kind of -- I assume he was joking. But anyways, he took me to his office. Here I am -- he showed me some of the cartoons that he had on his wall, including a couple of mine. And then they -- then they shooed me out of the office. Like, he had better things to do...

BROWN: Thank talk to you?

LUCKOVICH: ... apparently. Yes. I couldn't understand that.

BROWN: Just do the -- the -- I think we got one or two more.


BROWN: This is a pre-briefing (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

LUCKOVICH: Now, the pre-briefing was one of the most interesting things because they brought in -- it's Tori Clarke, Joint Chiefs General Myers and Rumsfeld. And what -- what they do is, they try and anticipate the questions...

BROWN: Right.

LUCKOVICH: ... coming out of the briefing. And so Rumsfeld -- again, he looked at me as I came into this briefing, and he said, Hey, what's he doing here? And then after -- after that, as I started drawing, he said, I don't care how you make the rest of us look, just don't make General Myers look bad. So after I got the drawing done...


LUCKOVICH: ... I pointed to Rumsfeld and I said, Lookit, I made General Myers very pretty, so...

BROWN: I'll bet...

LUCKOVICH: ... I put his mind at rest.

BROWN: ... everybody likes -- even if they don't like it exactly, the love the idea that you've done it. You also ask people to do themselves from time to time, draw themselves, right?

LUCKOVICH: Exactly. Exactly. I went into Wolfowitz's office, and Wolfowitz had asked me to come in and draw some members of his staff. So I said, OK, I'll draw the -- I'll draw your staff members if you do a caricature of yourself. And it was so interesting because Wolfowitz is one of the architects of preemptive war and war with Iraq, and he was so -- he kept saying, Oh, jeez, do I have to do this? I can't draw. I can't draw. It was -- he was almost sweet and meek, in a way.

So this is the one that he did of himself. He eventually did it. And so it was so interesting because I was sitting right next to him at this little round table. We were both drawing cartoons during a war. And very interesting.

BROWN: It was an interesting day. Mike, nice to meet you.

LUCKOVICH: Thank you, Aaron.

BROWN: You do terrific work in the paper down here in Atlanta...

LUCKOVICH: Thank you.

BROWN: ... and around the country. Thank you so very much.

LUCKOVICH: Thank you very much.

BROWN: We'll be right back. Our coverage continues in a moment.


BLITZER: U.S. troops are finding a trail of weapons and gear in central Iraq left behind by Iraqi forces who either abandoned the battle or retreated to perhaps fight another day. CNN's Martin Savidge, who's traveling with the 1st Battalion, looks at what this might mean.


MASTER SGT. HENRY BERGERON, U.S. MARINES: Looks like a basic -- a basic soldier's uniform.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The tell-tale signs of a vanished army...

BERGERON: There's a gas mask container.

SAVIDGE: ... that could offer clues of a new kind of threat to U.S. military operations in Iraq.

BERGERON: These here look like old radio packs.

SAVIDGE: All around this newly established U.S. Marine position in central Iraq lays evidence of the Iraqi forces that were here before, who appear to have fled at the first sign of U.S. troops.

(on camera): This could be just a small indication of how quickly they left, a teapot down here with the tea still inside.

(voice-over): Master Sergeant Henry Bergeron walks me through the scene like a detective on the case -- boxes, helmets, canteens and other gear all cast aside. But to the master sergeant, it's the abandoned uniforms that say the most.

BERGERON: Looks like they took off all their military uniforms, left them in place, helmets in place, boots in place, probably changed into civilian attire. They'll blend in with the local population.

SAVIDGE: On the ride north, the master sergeant and other Marines remember seeing men beside the road in civilian clothes and bare feet. These clues point to an army that didn't fight or surrender but simply walked away. Clothing isn't the only thing abandoned. There are also weapons and plenty of ammunition, some of it brand-new, still in wrappers.

(on camera): Here's something else that got left behind, this motorcycle. You see a number of them around here. It might look innocent enough, if it weren't for the machine gun mount.

(voice-over): Marine commanders theorize the soldiers who were here have either voluntarily or been forced to join guerrilla units now attacking U.S. military positions, a paramilitary force that is difficult to find and fight and that's diverting American assets from fighting a war to protecting long supply lines.

The caches of weapons are simple to get rid of. But dealing with this new kind of Iraqi opposition, that appears to have sprung from a former army, may not be as easy.

Martin Savidge, CNN, with the 1st Battalion 7th Marines in central Iraq.


BLITZER: Embedded journalists are bringing us compelling stories and remarkable pictures of this war, as we just saw. When we return, some of the other action, as though you were there yourself. LIVE FROM THE FRONT LINES is back in 90 seconds.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There has been no need to put them to use, but no one here can afford to take any chances. BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Five huge explosions within the space of less than an hour, as these planes drop these massive bombs on the Iraqi positions behind us.

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was the first car bombing of this fight. Though U.S. military spokesmen have said that this won't change their strategy, they have described the attacks as the symbol of a dying regime, in reference to the regime of president -- Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, difficult days here for the U.S. Marines, as they begin to recover the bodies of some of their fallen comrades that were killed in action here last Sunday. Even under conditions of the front lines, the bodies are being -- are taken with respect and -- most respect, and they've been also -- there is obviously a chaplain here with this unit, who's been giving some prayers and uniting all the unit here in prayer for those Marines fallen last Sunday.

JASON BELLINI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Another day under the blazing sun out here in the desert. For some of these Marines, it's been a very good day. Finally, mail call. It's been quite a while since any of them received mail, and they got some packages in from relatives and friends. I'm Jason Bellini with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit in southern Iraq.


BLITZER: Aaron, that's it for me. Good night from Kuwait City.

BROWN: Thank you, Wolf. We'll see you again at 10:00 o'clock Eastern time. "LARRY KING LIVE" coming up next. And until 10:00, good night for all of us.


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