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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

War in Iraq

Aired March 30, 2003 - 21:00   ET

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

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Baghdad on fire. Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard pounded by more than 400 coalition air strikes south of Baghdad.
And in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, coalition troops destroy a massive terrorist facility, possibly tied to al Qaeda.

The latest on all that and more with reporters at the front lines.

Plus a former member of the elite Special Air Service who was captured and tortured in the '91 Gulf War.

And the ambassadors to the United States of Jordan, Kuwait, and Syria.

We start off, as we always do, with Nic Robertson, our CNN senior international correspondent, on the scene in Ruwaished, that's on the Jordanian-Iraqi border.

We understand lots of action over Baghdad during the night, and a shopping center on fire. What's the latest, Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Larry, significant bombing to the south of Baghdad today, very much the route that advancing coalition forces will likely take in the near future, very heavy bombing reported there, very heavy bombing also reported to the east of Baghdad.

And a little after nightfall, right in the center of Baghdad, a huge oil fire. Not clear if this is one of the oil trenches that Iraqi officials have been lighting to cloud the sky, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), to block the view of coalition aircraft flying over the city, or whether or not it was a fuel dump that had been hit by a coalition air strike.

What was clear a little later, just behind a department store, the 28th of April Shopping Center, on the 28th of April Street, just close to Iraq's ministry of information, a street, incidentally, named, and shopping center named after President Saddam Hussein's birthday, a big fire burning there, not clear what was hit, but this the third night that targets around Iraq's ministry of information have been hit.

We've seen the ministry of information hit, the apartment complex behind the ministry of information hit, and a big fire burning in that same area tonight.

Also, we've heard from officials from the International Committee for the Red Cross, who say they believe about 100 Iraqis are being injured every day in Baghdad. They say they've been to the hospitals, they've seen men, women, and children injured. And they say they believe that Iraqi officials at the moment have enough medical supplies to cope with the casualties they're receiving, Larry.

KING: Nic, from your standpoint, is the coalition's bombing beginning to pay off?

ROBERTSON: It's beginning to have a tremendous impact around the city. Talking to reporters who are allowed by Iraqi officials to remain in Baghdad, they say perhaps the heaviest that they've seen. They say the antiaircraft response to the bombing raids has been very limited. They also say that some of the bombing raids have not been signaled by the antiaircraft defenses and by the air raid sirens going off.

So perhaps that an indication that Iraq's ability to predict these attacks within the capital is being degraded. But certainly the area south of the city today, we're told, taking a very heavy pounding indeed, Larry.

KING: Thank you, Nic Robertson.

Let's go to Jane Arraf, the CNN correspondent in Kalak, northern Iraq.

General Franks says that a major encampment was taken out in your area of the proceedings. Jane, what can you tell us?

JANE ARRAF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Larry, it appears to have been an encampment of an al Qaeda, possibly an al Qaeda-linked group called Ansar al-Islam. Now, the Kurdish faction here, the PUK in that part of northern Iraq that controls that part has been fighting this group for some years, without any help, they say.

Well, they have gotten help. There was heavy bombardment of this camp and surrounding areas. Kurdish officials say 120 people were killed. And they're calling it a major victory against this group, which has had a stronghold there in northern Iraq.

Here where we are, there's been very heavy bombardment this evening of the ridge behind us, which is Iraqi-controlled, explosions strong enough to shake the windows here. And it goes along with heavy bombing of the cities of Kirkuk and Mosul.

Now, around Kirkuk, the front line appears to be shifting in northern Iraq. Peshmerga, those Kurdish guerrilla forces, have moved in in the wake of retreating Iraqi forces, taking over some 10 miles of territory closer to the city of Kirkuk.

Now, they're not likely to go any further, the Kurdish forces, without the U.S. That is the agreement. And as for the U.S. presence here, they're slowly building up forces on the Harir (ph) air strip. And we've been talking to people in that town of Harir to find out what they think about the American soldiers.

KING: Thank you, Jane. By the way, we asked Nic the same question, we'll ask you. Does the tide appear to be turning in that area?

ARRAF: Too early to say, Larry, according to officials here and according to local people who are keeping a very wary eye on this. The people we talked to were saying that they don't know why it's taking so long. Essentially, there had been a feeling, obviously very unrealistic, that this war could be over very soon, in a few days. And now we're seeing it quite complicated, turning very complicated in the south, the scale of it not quite what people had expected.

Certainly there are some victories here against Ansar al-Islam, that al Qaeda-linked group, as well as on the front lines. But there aren't really the number of forces here in the north to provide a credible attack from the north. And the feeling is, it is going to take some time, Larry.

KING: Thank you, Jane. Jane Arraf in Kalak, northern Iraq.

Let's go to Frank Buckley on board the U.S.S. "Constellation." We're joined as well by Captain John Miller, the commanding officer of the U.S.S. "Constellation."

Frank will have a question or two for the captain, and so will I.

Frank Buckley, we'll start with you and Captain Miller.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Larry, right now Air Wing Two once again very active. You can probably hear the engines spooling (ph) up behind us. The strike aircraft on this aircraft carrier are going into Iraq every night. One of the primary missions right now, close air support.

Here to join us to talk about that and other subjects, Captain John Miller, the commanding officer of the U.S.S. "Constellation."

First, sir, you've been a gracious host to about 30 journalists for the past month or so, and thank you very much.

How has that affected your ability to fight, if at all?

CAPT. JOHN MILLER, U.S.S. "CONSTELLATION" COMMANDING OFFICER: Well, it really hasn't affected our ability to fight at all, but it has been, I think, a great event for us and for the American people, because it's been an opportunity to bring "Constellation"'s story to the American public, and I think that's been a great benefit.

BUCKLEY: I know Larry has questions for you as well.

Larry, Captain Miller here.

KING: Captain, thanks for joining us.

MILLER: Hello, Larry. KING: What in the -- Hi. What in the action so far, if anything, has surprised you?

MILLER: Well, I don't think really we've been surprised by anything. We've been very successful here on board "Constellation." The air wing's doing great work. We knew that it would be a difficult road to hoe, but I think things are going pretty much as we'd anticipated they would, Larry.

KING: How well is the equipment performing?

MILLER: Well, the equipment is performing very well, and that's because the crew is doing an absolutely outstanding job. Morale is very high, the crew's very focused. They know that what they're doing is extremely important to the ground troops ashore. And so we're doing a great job, I have to tell you, of generating sorties and getting ordnance on target.

KING: There are some complaints back home that this is going slower than expected. Does that mood at all prevail among your officers and men?

MILLER: No, I don't think so. And in part, people think it's going slower than expected because of all the extensive media coverage that we've had. But we realize that these things take time, and we have a very deliberate plan, and the plan is being carried out as we had hoped it would be.

KING: Captain, have you in your past been involved in any military action with an enemy, or is this your first time out?

MILLER: Well, we have a whole variety of experience here on board the ship. I have seen some combat in my younger days. The air wing commander flew extensively during Operation Desert Storm. In fact, he had a MIG kill during that evolution.

And then right down to the very junior sailors on the ship who haven't had any experience in combat before, and this is their first taste of it.

Fortunately, we're very well trained, and the activity that we've been seeing and the missions that we've been carrying out are very similar to what we saw in training.

KING: And finally, captain, before we turn it back to Frank, what is it like for you to -- I know you've been in battle, as you said. What is it like for you to command in battle?

MILLER: Well, it's a great honor, really, to command this ship and to provide the services that we provide and a platform for Air Wing Two. I couldn't be any prouder of the crew, I couldn't be any happier with the support that we get from the families back at home.

And I'm surrounded each and every day by young, very enthusiastic sailors who are committed to doing a great job. And so it makes it a great honor to be here. KING: Thank you, captain.

Frank Buckley, if you have an additional question or a windup to the report, we'll turn it back to you.

BUCKLEY: Yes, Larry, one more question, and that is, in the coming days, captain, the close air support will become more and more important, especially as coalition forces move on Baghdad. That's an urban arena. How effective will close air support be when you have possible civilians, buildings, all of those things, where you're seeing that sort of combat? Will close air support work?

MILLER: Well, one of the hallmarks of this conflict thus far has been almost exclusive use of precision-guided munitions. And having those precision-guided munitions are going to allow us to do close air support in that urban environment. It's challenging. I wouldn't want to tell you that it's not challenging.

But we have the equipment and we have the training to do that, do it successfully, with the absolute minimal civilian casualties.

BUCKLEY: OK. John Miller, thank you very much, captain, we appreciate it.

And Larry, I really have to say that the captain and Rear Admiral Barry Costello, the "Constellation" battle group commander, have been gracious hosts, have really taken on this idea of taking journalists aboard and have given us a great deal of access and let us do our jobs while we've been aboard this ship.

KING: Thank you, Frank Buckley, doing outstanding reporting.

We're joined now in New York -- rather, in Qatar, in Doha, Qatar, by Martha Brant. Martha is with "Newsweek." She recently spent an afternoon at the headquarters of Al Jazeera, the controversial 24-hour Arabic news channel, and has filed a report for "Newsweek" on that.

Also, in Amman, Jordan, is Christian Chesnot. Mr. Chesnot is correspondent for Radio France International, covering the war from Amman. He's co-author of "Iraq of Saddam," recently published in France. He's been to Iraq several times, the last time in October. He's based in Jordan. He travels extensively in the Middle East with frequent trips to the West Bank.

Let's start with Martha Brant first on Al Jazeera. Spent a day with them, filed a report. We're anxious to read it. What, if anything, surprised you about Al Jazeera, Martha?

MARTHA BRANT, "NEWSWEEK" MAGAZINE: Well, it's been obviously a very controversial week for the -- what they like to call the Arab CNN, at least that's what they're striving to be, Larry.

I got to have an interview with the executive director, Mohammed Jassan al-Ali (ph), on Saturday. And I was looking for how this struggling network is trying to balanced. They say that they're vetting their footage. Obviously a lot of controversial footage this week, POWs and dead American soldiers and British soldiers, a lot of complaints from the podium behind me from top-ranking generals.

And I was sitting in his office when their Baghdad reporter, one of eight they have in the country, actually, started showing still photographs, very gruesome, very gory photographs, jumbles of bodies, even a severed head, believe it or not. And the executive director started, after telling me that they are being very careful about their footage, got on the phone and ordered those pictures off the air. Clearly the Baghdad reporter had not cleared them with the higher-ups.

And I thought that was a good microcosm of the struggles within the network to try to be balanced. It wasn't the gore that bothered them. There's a lot of that in this region. It was the fact that they hadn't been cleared and they hadn't been verified.

So I thought that was an interesting little example there.

KING: We're going to go back and forth, and you two will be with us throughout the rest of this half hour and most of the next half hour.

Christian, what -- Amman, Jordan, must be in a unique spot there, right on the border. Are they treading lightly?

CHRISTIAN CHESNOT, RADIO FRANCE INTERNATIONAL: Well, you know, in Amman it's still quiet now, but, you know, the kingdom is between Palestinian, where there is the intifada, and now this war in Baghdad, in Iraq. And so the authorities are afraid that refugee will come, that the kingdom will be destabilized.

So it's -- the feelings is rather hot.

KING: Martha, Al Jazeera's power in the Arab world, how influential?

BRANT: Well, they have more than 35 million viewers. It's a little hard to track, because they don't do ratings like they do in the United States. And they've doubled their subscribers in Europe. It's free here in the Arab world, but they pay for it in Europe.

So clearly, they're trying to expand their market and hope to come out of this war with an expansion.

What's tricky, Larry, is that the administration, at least, Bush administration, feels that they speak out of two sides of their mouth. On the one hand, here at CentCom, their reporter -- in fact, I believe you had him on, Omar al-Asawi (ph)...

KING: Yes.

BRANT: ... is very balanced. His questions are very reasonable. He's not inflammatory at all. He speaks great English, in fact, was schooled in the United States. Their Washington bureau chief is the same.

But while Omar is very balanced, sometimes their news presentations aren't, and that's the trick, is -- in fact, some of the folks here at CentCom report back some of the questions they've been asked. One Marine was asked, Why is the United States taking civilian hostages?

And so clearly there's a disconnect between sometimes the face they put on Al Jazeera here at CentCom and in Washington, and how they're communicating to the Arab world. And it's worrying the administration so much that they're considering maybe not providing people like Colin Powell. He was on the network on Wednesday. And they've been trying to reach out. They're thinking of maybe cutting off that access.

KING: Christian, we got to take a break in a minute. But how has Saddam Hussein survived all these years, with battles with Iran and the '91 Gulf War, and -- is it all through power?

CHESNOT: Yes, you know, Saddam is a survivor. He is -- all his life was about struggling, was about fighting. You know, Saddam in Arabic means collision, the man who clash. So he is -- on his last battle, he knows he wants to put his name on the historic books. He wants to appear for the Arabs as the man who said no to America, who resist to America, and who fight until the last bullet.

So he is on a mood of someone who will not surrender and who will fight until the last moment.

KING: We'll be right back, and we'll be joined by Andy McNab, a former SAS member who commanded an eight-man team in the famous Bravo Two-Zero Patrol, our regular here, Colonel David Hackworth, the United States Army, retired.

We'll also meet Admiral Archie Clemins, United States Navy, retired, former commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. And Christian and Martha will remain with us as well. We'll include some phone calls around the corner.

And later, we'll meet the ambassadors from Syria, Kuwait, and Jordan to the United States.

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: As we come back, we report that explosions have just been heard in Baghdad. It's approaching dawn in the capital city of Iraq.

Staying with us is Martha Brant. She's in Doha, Qatar, of "Newsweek" magazine. In Amman, Jordan, is Christian Chesnot of Radio France International.

Joining us now in London is Andy McNab, former SAS member, commanded an eight-man team, the famous Bravo Two-Zero, worked inside Iraq in '91, was involved in a fierce firefight and was captured and tortured for six weeks.

In New York is Colonel David Hackworth, U.S. Army, retired, highly decorated veteran, award-winning military correspondent, syndicated columnist, and best-selling author. The latest is "Steal My Soldiers' Hearts."

And in Boise, Idaho, is Admiral Archie Clemins, U.S. Navy, retired, former commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. He also served as commander of the Seventh Fleet, once commanded some of the carriers now in the Gulf, the U.S.S. "Kitty Hawk," the U.S.S. "Constellation," we just spoke to their commanding officer, and the "Lincoln."

Andy McNab, why are you in shadows?

ANDY MCNAB, FORMER SPECIAL AIR SERVICE MEMBER: It's because I'm still put at risk, I still get death threats from the first Gulf War, as recent as this December.

KING: What kind of captors were the Iraqis?

MCNAB: Well, you know, Larry, they're -- they treat their captives very basically. There's -- they don't adhere to the Geneva Convention. You know, they've got (UNINTELLIGIBLE) interrogation centers in Baghdad, which I, you know, spent a lot of time in. And all of the -- certainly all the horror stories that you hear, you know, I certainly believe.

My experience of the -- in the time in the interrogation center was quite brutal, because what they wanted was that real-time information of what we were doing on the ground so they could get out there and get other members of the Special Air Service.

KING: You then were a prize catch, were you not?

MCNAB: Yes, we were, yes, because we were -- we had tactical information. The -- certainly the -- seeing the American prisoners of war paraded on the TV last week brought a lot of it back to me. They -- even the smell of the room that they would be in.

But if we could extract something good out of that, is at least they know their families know that they're alive, and obviously their governments know they're alive. And that's such an advantage for them.

Certainly my experience was that I was missing in action, and then my family was told, I'm presumed dead. And it wasn't until the Red Cross found me in Baghdad that people realized that I was alive.

So if anything can be sort of extracted that is good out of what we saw last week -- and there isn't that much -- is that we know that they're alive.

KING: Colonel Hackworth, the Pentagon sources are telling CNN about 18, 800 sorties were flown by U.S. planes Sunday, more than 60 percent aimed at downgrading the Republican Guard. Does it appear to be turning a little?

COL. DAVID HACKWORTH (RET.), U.S. ARMY: What's going on now, from what I'm gathering, is that we're really hitting the defensive positions of the divisions south of Baghdad, and bringing a lot of smoke and hurt on them. What we're faced with here, Larry, is two wars. I said initially, 10 days ago or so, it was Mike Tyson versus Woody Allen. And I've maintained that. But Woody Allen's got brass knuckles, and those are the guerrillas.

So bottom line is, we've got two wars going on, the conventional war and the guerrilla war. We'll have no doubt winning the conventional war. There's no nation that could take the United States on with our awesome power.

We're -- our problem will be fighting the war with the guerrilla. We're going to have to fight smart. We're going to have to learn from the lessons of the Israelis in Lebanon and the Russians in Chechnya, or we're going to go down a very hard, rocky road.

KING: Admiral Clemins, are the actions of the enemy surprising to you?

ADM. ARCHIE CLEMINS (RET.), U.S. NAVY: Not really, Larry. I think that when you look at us like General Grange said earlier today, we're nine days into this war, and actually things are going better than I would have expected.

KING: But Colonel Hackworth has said there are not enough men there, and he's been critical of the way the action has gone. Do you think there are enough men?

CLEMINS: Well, I think you're seeing it being fought a total different way this time. And where there's been a lot of speculation, is there enough artillery, are there enough tanks there? I think that you're seeing that air power with the precision-guided munitions is making up for that.

And just like we saw in Afghanistan versus Desert Storm, that in Desert Storm, almost 90 percent of the sorties were defined before the planes started their mission. And in Afghanistan, that we've seen over 80 of them, the people didn't even know the targets before they took off.

So now when you look at what's happening now as the preparation for the battle of Baghdad takes place, and then just like you heard Captain Miller on the "Constellation," the planes are going after close air support, and to be available to support the troops on the ground, they're using the assets available to bring the force where it's needed, when it's needed.

KING: Martha, is Al Jazeera reporting all this objectively?

BRANT: You know, I don't speak Arabic, but we do have people who've been reading the transcripts. I know the White House is definitely paying attention and doing translations.

For example, Omar, who I mentioned, the reporter here, did report the chemical suits found in the hospital in An Nasiriyah. But on the news broadcast, they made very little of it. So it's a question of, you know, who you're listening to at a particular time. One thing I wanted to say, Larry, just listening to your guests, I feel like a hotel warrior. That's what we call ourselves here in Doha, because we're living in the Sheraton and the Ritz, and these guys have seen real combat.

The one interesting question that's come out of CentCom this week is, why didn't the coalition forces take out Saddam Hussein's capacity to speak to his people, his propaganda machines? And Nic Robertson was reporting that the ministry of information was hit again hard tonight.

And -- but the state TV is still running. And one thing they're saying here is, I think they anticipated getting in faster and using that infrastructure. We hear a lot about them trying to preserve infrastructure with precision bombs, et cetera. And they hope to use that very infrastructure to communicate to people, medicine, where you can go to get food, and that there'll be a new government.

And now they're realizing it's not going to be that fast, and so they're bombing again to try to get him off the airwaves.

KING: Andy, how about taking out the communications source?

MCNAB: Well, I -- you know, I agree with Colonel Hackworth about -- the fact is, I'm a big sort of a supporter of the Powell doctrine. And one of those first things I certainly would have gone for was the civil communications, and then just cut that completely. If you need to get any communications into the local population, well, you can do that with the facilities that you've got.

Let's just cut that form of communication that Saddam Hussein's got to his people. Then we can -- may hopefully cut some of the fear. Then we can give the message as opposed to him.

KING: Colonel Hackworth, you agree?

HACKWORTH: Oh, you've got to agree with those great SAS guys.

I'd like to just say something that the admiral said, that granted, during Desert Storm, the smart weapons were 10 percent and the rest were dumb weapons. And now that we are looking at 90 percent smart weapons, they're doing a hell of a job. But smart weapons do not win wars by themselves. It's the combined team. And that team on the ground has to be adequate to do the job.

And my argument has been, and a whole bunch of folks have been sounding off about this, we need more muscle on the ground to fight these two different wars I described.

KING: I'll have the admiral respond when we come back. And we'll be back with our entire panel. We'll include your phone calls. Sophia Choi will have the news headlines. We'll have a message or two. And as we go to break, here's Colin Powell addressing the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee just a couple of moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: Our thoughts cannot help but be with the brave young men and women from the United States, from Britain, from Australia, and other coalition partners who are laying their lives on the line to liberate Iraq from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(NEWSBREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Before Admiral Clemins responds to what Colonel Hackworth said, I want to ask Christian Chesnot in Amman, Jordan, are the protests still going on there in Amman against the war?

CHESNOT: Yes, it's continuing especially in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in south Amman. You know the emotions are very high. Everybody is looking at the TV at the program and so it's very embarrassing for the government which, as you know, is very close to the United States.

So, in the next days, in the next weeks, if the war is continuing maybe there will be strong and big demonstration and it will be very uneasy for the government to manage this.

KING: Christian are there any voices in France speaking out in favor of this in the media or elsewhere?

CHESNOT: Excuse me?

KING: Are there any voices in France?

CHESNOT: In France, you know, as you know...

KING: Yes, go ahead.

CHESNOT: In France, you know, in France you know the people, 80 percent of the people are against the war. Chirac, you know, has said from the beginning he's against this war because we thought there is no legitimacy for this war, but of course everybody is sad for the American GIs and the soldiers, the British soldiers will die in this war. But at this moment, it's difficult for France to speak loud in this period of a big struggle in Iraq. So, France is waiting now.

KING: Admiral Clemins, do you want to respond to what our friend, Colonel Hackworth said?

CLEMINS: I'd make two comments on that, Larry. I'm sure General Franks would have liked to have had more American forces in the north but that did not turn out to be the case.

I also know that he had a backup plan to make due with what you have and he's had to adjust both the ground forces and the air power according, and I'm sure that's been -- is what you have seen on what they attack and when they attack and what goes to close air support. All of that's been taken in to consideration.

KING: Martha Brant, I'm told that you're working on a psy ops story. What is that all about?

BRANT: Well, this is really ground zero, Larry, of the information war, the public opinion war and that's not just the message that they're trying to get out through the press but it's the old-fashioned term of psy ops. They now call it information ops.

Here is where you have the people who distribute the leaflets and the radio broadcasts and as of late last week they now have one television channel in Iraq, Channel 3. They're actually broadcasting.

I think it's from Commando Solo which is a big plane that they have that flies over southern Iraq. It's fairly unsophisticated at this point. It's just the leaflets that are saying the same things over and over again about stay home, do not be on the roads for your safety, or don't use biological or chemical weapons which is, of course, meant for the troops and they hope that eventually they'll actually be able to get an Arabic speaker on to address the people directly.

So, that's the kind of psy ops that's going on, at least that we know about. Of course, clandestinely there's all sorts of other stuff going on the CIA and Special Ops are doing. Your other guests probably know more about that than I do.

KING: Yes. Let me ask Andy, the Pentagon acknowledges, Andy, that Special Ops forces are in the north, west, and south of the country. Is that encouraging to you?

MCNAB: It's very encouraging, Larry, in the fact that they were probably in country a month before the main attack happened because what it's all about is real time information you know. The military planners, you know, they've got the main targets there in Baghdad. They've got the main military units but what they want is that real time information.

So, as the troops come rolling in, the commanders can plan and adapt and I think that it's been working. I think that we, you know, we shouldn't be surprised about the guerrilla warfare. We shouldn't be surprised about the suicide bombings. What we should be surprised about is the rapid rate of advance towards Baghdad.

KING: Let's include a call, Richmond, Virginia, hello.

CALLER: Yes, sir. This question is for Andy. Commander Speicher, I believe the naval aviator that was shot down during the '91 conflict, is there any chance that he could still be alive?

KING: Andy?

MCNAB: It's -- unfortunately I think it would be unlikely. Certainly, the way that the Red Cross started to round up prisoners like myself, what wasn't handed over in the initial prisoner handover were very thorough. And these people are very brave and they were holding out with Iraqi prisoners and Algerian medical staff and they said you supply me, you know, every name of every prisoner, where they are, when they were captured, and we will start to hand over the medical staff and the remainder of the Iraqi prisoners.

And, at that time, Baghdad was looking like there was going to be a coup because the soldiers really wanted to get back home. They just wanted medical care, so unfortunately I don't think that would be the case.

KING: Hack, Peter Arnett granted an interview to Iraqi television. He's covering the war for "National Geographic" and NBC, and he said on Iraqi television that the first war plan failed because of Iraqi resistance. Now they're trying to write another war plan. Clearly the American war plan has misjudged the determination of the Iraqi forces. Is that in your opinion wise?

HACKWORTH: Wise for Peter to say that?

KING: Yes, on Iraqi television.

HACKWORTH: Well, I guess you would have to ask Peter. You know, he -- I've known him since Vietnam, a very brave reporter there, and he has a mind of his own. In terms of have the high brass misread the level of resistance that we were going to meet by the guerrilla on the ground, absolutely, and that is one of the great considerations of this fighting.

I got a report tonight from one of my sources from over there just before I came in. I checked with him just before your show and he said there's terrible house-to-house fighting going on now behind our lines fighting these very same resisters that Peter reported on.

KING: Admiral, I guess the question related -- we'll ask Admiral Clemins, do you find any offense to an American or a British journalist talking on Iraqi television about reaction back home?

CLEMINS: No, I don't think as long as it's objective and both sides, and when you look at the polls that have been taken and that the percentage of people that are in support of the war, I think that's a very positive comment.

KING: Phoenix, Arizona, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry, how are you?

KING: Fine.

CALLER: I have two questions really. My first question is basically how the handover process happens when the war is actually over and my second question is I'm actually kind of curious what's going to happen politically and maybe Martha can answer this question, if we find no mass destruction weapons at the end of this war or when we get into Baghdad?

KING: All right, let's start first with the admiral. Admiral, how does the handover work?

CLEMINS: I'm not sure I know the answer to that, Larry, because I know the United States has planned for that to take place and they have people set up. I've read the same thing that other people have said but I don't know the details of that for Iraq, Larry.

KING: Martha, what if there are no weapons?

BRANT: I can -- you know every single briefing, Larry, that question comes up, what about the WMD? Where is it? We haven't found it yet and clearly they feel the pressure here. In fact, completely on background one of the top press people here said to me how quickly do you think we're going to need to come up with the stuff before you guys in the press start hounding us?

And, I said what time is it? Because I really do think since that's the primary justification for the war that everybody is waiting with bated breath to find examples of it. They thought they might have had a lead early on in the war but it didn't turn anything up.

They obviously now have teams that are searching and then they decided to have reporters with some of those teams and you can bet that as soon as they find it and they still believe that they really will, they weren't expecting to find it in the outlying areas as much as around Baghdad.

They say that there's evidence of abandoned gas masks and chemical suits on the field and they think that that's proof that they were going to use them against us. The Iraqis, of course, say no just the opposite. So, as soon as they find something they're going to fly reporters in and show it off to the world. You can bet on that.

KING: Andy, let's be frank about it. Is one of the missions of the Special Ops to take out Saddam Hussein?

MCNAB: There's certainly (unintelligible). There always has been but I think it's certainly days at the moment to get, you know, Special Forces crews into Baghdad to do that mission. At the moment, it would be extremely difficult. There's the capability but it's real time information, where he's going to be at that moment and obviously it's a difficult call for politicians to make because if it becomes a failure it becomes a huge political and PR failure.

But I think that once we start getting around the edges of Baghdad and the so-called ring of steel starts to crumble, we can start projecting SF crews in there to start looking at potential targets and there will be target packs already prepared. So, if we know where he is crews will go in and try and do something about it.

KING: Christian, you know the Iraqi people very well. Are you surprised at the resistance?

CHESNOT: Not really, Larry, because you know yesterday I've talked to an Iraqi lawyer an opposition man and he told me to explain this resistance, he said remember Stalin in the last century. Stalin was one of the worst dictators in the world. He has killed millions and millions of his people and when Germany invaded Russia, all the Russian people were ready to sacrifice their life not for Stalin or for the regime but for their country and their homeland. And, he said to me, this is the same feelings now regarding the Iraqis.

So, the Iraqi are very proud of their country. They said they have 8,000 years of civilization, of culture and history, so they are fighting for their homeland. So, I think the Americans have misunderstood this very important point.

KING: We were just handed this from Reuters. Two big blasts have rocked central Baghdad and apparently have hit the palace. Any comment Hack?

HACKWORTH: Well, there's no question that our...

KING: We're told that -- well, let me read a little further. Two large explosions rocked central Baghdad as dawn broke Monday hitting the presidential palace used by President Saddam Hussein's son. That's from Reuters. We jumped off our seat said the correspondent. Want to react Hack?

HACKWORTH: The essence of this operation which began Wednesday a week ago was to decapitate the leadership and I'm sure that's still a very, very high objective. What we have to remember down on the ground, Larry, that it's a very dangerous place and that our warriors there have got to treat each individual they encounter as a hostile.

And, also I think that the president and Secretary Rumsfeld have got to listen to their generals and don't try them when somebody like Wallace the other day sounded off and said things aren't going so well. They've got to listen to the generals. That's what didn't happen in other wars and we've got to profit from that.

KING: Admiral, what do you make of this bombing of the presidential palace of Hussein's son?

CLEMINS: Well, I would just add one comment to what Colonel Hackworth and Andy said there. While it's very dangerous in Baghdad right now, I don't believe that we would -- we the United States would pass up any opportunity that we had to go after Saddam Hussein or his sons. So, if we do have information I would say that you can count on us acting on that information.

KING: St. Louis, hello.

CALLER: Yes, I was just wondering why the ambassador of Iraq is allowed to stay in New York with the comments that he has all the time.

KING: Martha, do you know why? We're at war with them. I guess usually aren't ambassadors expelled.

BRANT: I assume you're talking about -- well, if we're talking about the ambassador to the U.N., I think it doesn't come under the jurisdiction of the United States government. So, but beyond that I think it does also get to the fact that there does seem to be a breakdown of the public information war, Larry.

This administration, we talk about Saddam Hussein as another Hitler, Saddam Hussein as another Stalin, but here in the Arab world that message just isn't getting out and the recent attacks or missile strikes on the Baghdad market it's amazing to read the Arabic newspapers here.

First of all, they call us invaders, and the headlines are the United States attacks Baghdad market, kills 50 civilians. The message that the United States is trying to get out that that, in fact, may be an errant missile that Saddam Hussein himself shot off is nowhere present.

KING: Right.

BRANT: And I think that there is an attempt to bend over backwards to please the Arabic press even to the point, Larry, that they're scheduling the briefings around the Muslim prayer time. They translate them into Arabic and in fact they're going to have a private room here for Arabic, Muslim reporters to pray and yet they're trying to patch over a relationship that's for so long been built on mistrust. It's just not, it's not working.

KING: And the Iraqi ambassador is ambassador to the U.N. so he's not ambassador to the United States and I don't think the U.N. expels ambassadors.

We thank Andy McNab, Hack, Colonel David Hackworth, Admiral Archie Clemins, Martha Brant in Qatar, and Christian Chesnot in Amman.

When we come back the ambassadors from Kuwait, Jordan, and Syria to the United States, they'll be our guests and you stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We now welcome on this Sunday night three distinguished ambassadors to the United States, from Jordan, Ambassador Karim Kawar, from Kuwait Ambassador Salem Al Sabah, and from Syria Ambassador Rostom Al-Zoubi.

We'll start with the ambassador from Kuwait, Ambassador Al Sabah, do you feel more attacks on Kuwait like the missile attack of a few days ago?

SALEM AL SABAH, KUWAITI AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: Well, yes Larry. We fear it a lot. I mean as you know the Iraqi regime ever since the war started has been adamant in its pursuit to hit civilian populated areas in Kuwait and the last missile attack was actually the 15th in the past 11 days.

So, yes we are very worried about that and we are very worried about that missile getting through. We were very, very confident in our air defenses. Actually the 15 missiles that were lobbed against us, we were able to intercept and destroy most of them but apparently we weren't ready for the last missile because it was a Silkworm class missile that is a sea skimming missile usually used for ships.

But as we speak now my government is in the process of putting up the necessary equipment to detect these missiles and hopefully destroy them. So, hopefully we'll be safe from them in the future.

KING: Ambassador Kawar, concerning the bombing in Israel today, the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad said the bombing was a gift to the Iraqi people from Palestine and said it had sent Kamikaze brigades to join the fighting in Iraq. What do you make of that?

KARIM KAWAR, JORDANIAN AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: Larry, we always said that the two issues that have to be addressed, the concern, the crisis in Iraq as well as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as long as we do not push forward with the road map we can anticipate further violence there and that has a ripple effect on Jordan and on the rest of the region and therefore we are quite concerned with those serious developments.

KING: And Ambassador Al-Zoubi from Syria, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has accused your country of helping the Iraqis, said Syria shipped military goods including night goggles across the Iraqi border in defiance of U.N. sanctions and Rumsfeld said, "We consider such trafficking hostile acts and will hold the Syrian government responsible." What is your response?

ROSTOM AL-ZOUBI, SYRIAN AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: Indeed (unintelligible) untrue and unfair. I tell you frankly, Larry, that I wasn't surprised when I heard the statement because I have read, I had read the same accusations in an Israeli newspaper (unintelligible) earlier the same morning.

I wonder whether the statement is meant to divert the attention from the huge number of casualties from the Iraqi civilians and the casualties from the American and the British forces.

One thing I may assure you that Syria as a member of the Security Council made a tremendous effort in order to find, in order to solve the Iraqi issue peacefully and this is well known either in the United Nations or the international forums.

Therefore, Syria is very careful about the stability, about the security of the region and at that same time I assure you that Syrian Arab Republic is well known all over the world. I think that this accusation came as a response to the position of Syria opposing the war against Iraq as many of the countries all over do.

KING: So, you are denying, Mr. Ambassador, unequivocally you are saying Syria did not ship military goods, did not ship goggles across the Iraqi border in defiance of the U.N. sanction? That did not occur.

AL-ZOUBI: Yes. Yes, I do. It did not occur. We respect and we are committed to international legitimacy and Syria doesn't and will not do anything violating the international legitimacy.

KING: Do you have any comment on that Ambassador Al Sabah?

AL SABAH: Well, actually the ambassador of Syria is here with us and if he says that's the position of his country, then that's the position of his country.

KING: And is your response the same, Ambassador Kawar?

KAWAR: Certainly, Larry, but this is where our concern is to make sure that this war comes to an end in the shortest time possible.

KING: And what is the prospect of that do you think? We'll start with Ambassador Al Sabah. Is this going longer than you thought?

AL SABAH: Well, I don't think so, Larry. I think what we have here is a case in which the media actually raised the expectations of the public by using phrases as fast and furious or Shock and Awe.

But I can tell you in all honesty in all my deliberations with U.S. officials over the past weeks and months, I never heard an official use that word, those phrases. I actually heard officials very, very concerned about the gravity of the task at hand, about how dangerous it was and how much time it's going to take.

And I think it's worthwhile to remind your viewers that President Bush at the outset of this war said that it's going to be more difficult and longer than people predict. And, actually President Bush said that when the television screens were showing a very rapid advance in the war.

So, I think the U.S. officials were very clear from the beginning that this is going to be a tough task. It's not an easy, it's not a walk in the park.

I also would like to join the voices that say we hope it's a short war and it's over with quickly because in that sense we'll decrease the number of casualties and destruction in Iraq.

KING: Ambassador Kawar, what do you think of how well or not well it's going?

KAWAR: Larry, I think the biggest concern is how this war is being perceived by the Arab population throughout the Arab and Muslim world and I think here the challenge is whether this is being perceived as liberation versus occupation, and I think here the images that have been carried by regional broadcasts do not add or do not contribute to the efforts in resolving the crisis that we face in Iraq.

People in the Arab world see casualties among the civilian population. They see the suffering of the Iraqi people. This is certainly adding another complicating factor to this war.

KING: And, Ambassador Al-Zoubi how goes it from your viewpoint? AL-ZOUBI: I think that the war is going to be longer than what had been predicted before due to the perception of the Arab people. They think that this war is not only against Iraq, it's against the Arab world in general. Therefore, the resistance will take place and I think it will be longer than what was expected before.

KING: Ambassador Al Sabah, are you surprised at the resistance?

AL SABAH: Well not really, Larry, because we know that this regime is fighting for its life and we know in our experience at least in Kuwait, we know it's a very ruthless regime that will use any tactic to prolong its sovereign power. So, it's going to be a tough fight because these people are fighting for their own survival but we are very confident of the outcome.

KING: Ambassador Kawar, many thought, many said that many Iraqis would give up. Did you expect that to occur?

KAWAR: Larry, I think here there are some people who are being pushed, you know, to act in a certain way by the Iraqi regime but also those people are fighting, you know, to protect their land.

They do not necessarily receive the same message that's communicated to others, especially the American audience here so there's a different perspective all together there. There are people who are genuinely fighting in resistance. They want to be liberated from the Iraqi regime but not necessarily by the Americans.

KING: Ambassador Al-Zoubi, how is Saddam Hussein viewed in your country?

AL-ZOUBI: Indeed usually we don't speak about Saddam Hussein. We are concerned about Iraq itself, about the Iraqi people, about the integrity of Iraq and the sovereignty of Iraq. We don't pay any attention to Saddam Hussein or to the leadership. We're only concerned about the unity and the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Iraq. That is what we are concerned about.

KING: Ambassador Al Sabah, do you fear that Saddam Hussein the longer this goes could be a hero in the Arab world?

AL SABAH: Well, I think a lot of the Arab people know Saddam Hussein, know his ruthlessness, but yes there is a danger of that if the war is going on for a very, very long time. But, I mean his track record is very well known in the Arab world especially among the leaders and the people of the Arab world. Ever since he took power, Iraq has been plunged into crisis after crisis.

KING: No secret, yes.

AL SABAH: Yes, so it's no secret really.

KING: Thank you. Thank you all Ambassadors Kawar and Al Sabah and Al-Zoubi from Jordan, from Kuwait, and from Syria to the United States. We also thank all of our earlier guests. Sophia Choi will get us up to date on all the late news headlines and Anderson Cooper is in right around the corner with an extended version of "NEWSNIGHT." We'll see you tomorrow night, good night.

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