CNN LARRY KING LIVE
POW Jessica Lynch Rescued by Marines
Aired April 1, 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 an American prisoner of war is rescued, a 19-year-old woman. Her name is Jessica Lynch, private first class, U.S. Army, 507th Maintenance Company. Reportedly, Marine special forces found her in a hospital near Nasariya, and she has multiple gunshot wounds. Also, U.S. forces launched a major offensive on the Republican Guard. This could be the battle of the beginning of Baghdad. Plus, exclusive -- legendary anchorman Walter Cronkite on why he sees America's future as very, very dark. And counterterrorism heroes from special ops, one of them still such a target of terrorists, he can't show his face.
We start with Jamie McIntyre, our man at the Pentagon. Jamie, a lot of things seem to be happening at once. What's the big story there tonight?
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, of course, the big story is probably the beginning of the battle against the Republican Guard. But let's start a little bit with Jessica Lynch because that's a very intriguing story.
It turns out, as we're learning more about this, this was a U.S. Army special forces raid, with Marines providing security, as well. Apparently, the U.S. had developed intelligence a couple of days ago that Jessica Lynch was being held in this Iraqi hospital which was also being used as some sort of military facility. They developed a rescue plan to go after her and also target some other Iraqis that they were looking for, including this Iraqi commander nicknamed "Chemical Ali."
We don't really know who else they got, but we know they got Jessica out. She was suffering from more than one gunshot wound. Not clear exactly when she got those wounds. She's now receiving U.S. medical attention. I'm told that her injuries, at this point, don't seem to be life-threatening. But clearly, she's been through one whale of an ordeal since March 23, when her unit was ambushed and she fell into enemy hands.
KING: Any word, Jamie, on how they planned this and pulled it off?
MCINTYRE: Well, they planned it for a couple of days, and it was probably just -- there's battling going on around Nasariya, where the hospital is. But this is not something where they came upon her. They figured out where she was and where other people were, and they -- this was a helicopter assault mission, gunfire, forced entry into the hospital, classic special operations mission that has had some success.
KING: Thank you, Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon.
Joining us now on the phone is Ken Hainey. Ken is the principal of the Wirt County High School in Elizabeth, West Virginia, the high school where young Jessica Lynch graduated. What kind of student was she, Ken?
KEN HAINEY, PRINCIPAL, WIRT COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL: She was just a typical high school student, very conscientious about her work. Did everything she was asked to do, and did it in a very pleasant manner.
KING: Did you know that she was going to go right into the service?
HAINEY: She entered early enlistment, yes, when she graduated. Everyone knew that the military was something she was going to do.
KING: What did you -- how did you get the news today?
HAINEY: We were in a meeting with the board members and other administrators. My wife threw the door open and yelled, They have found Jessie!
KING: So you knew she was among the missing, then.
HAINEY: Oh, yes, sir.
KING: Have you been in touch with her parents?
HAINEY: No, sir, I have not spoken with them this evening, since we found out the good news.
KING: Well, Ken, I thank you very much. I guess you're a very, very happy man tonight.
HAINEY: Overwhelming joy, Mr. King.
KING: Ken Hainey, the principal at the Wirt County High School in Elizabeth, West Virginia. She's from Palestine, West Virginia, a neighboring city, where Jessica is safe and sound tonight, although has wounds, but not wounds that are critical.
Let's go now to the Jordanian-Iraqi border, to Ruwaysheid, where standing by is Nic Robertson.
Nic, now, what do you make of these stories countering back and forth about is Saddam Hussein alive or dead? What do you hear?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Larry, looking at the pictures we've seen today, the information minister coming out and giving a speech for the Iraqi leader -- is this because the Iraqi leader is unwell and incapable of delivering a speech? Is it because the nature of the speech, which had real religious connotations, he felt that this a subject he'd rather was dealt with by his information minister? Or was it because he fears his security and doesn't want to come to where the cameras are or thinks giving an interview to cameras may in some way give away his location?
What's really clear about the statement that was read out today, it was a very direct statement. We don't often get such clear-cut statements from the Iraqi leader. And this one was essentially a call to arms for the Muslims of Iraq, saying that fact that the country was invaded means, in the terms of the Quran, that once a foreigner sets foot on your soil, that means you should perform a jihad, that you should fight back the invaders. And that's what this was a call for. Not clear how widely responded or how widely people respond to that. Possibly a call out of desperation, the Iraqi leader Looking for a last-ditch hope of engaging his people in the conflict against the coalition forces. That's not clear, not clear, as I say, why it wasn't him that gave the message.
KING: We heard earlier today, Nic, that General Franks has now been given the go to -- when he decides it's ready to go to Baghdad, he calls the shots. Is that what you hear? And do you get any word as to when?
ROBERTSON: We don't get any word as to when. And when you listen to Iraqi officials, it just sounds completely the opposite. Every Iraqi official we've heard from -- and they've all been out there today, the vice president, the information minister, the deputy prime minister, a military spokesman -- they're all saying the same thing: We control the cities in Iraq. They say the coalition forces are in the desert. We control the cities.
Now, clearly, this is a message for the Iraqi people. The coalition have a completely different picture, and certainly, in Baghdad, they will be giving this great pause for concern, great thought at this time, knowing that there's nothing, essentially, holding back the coalition forces. And they will have heard over the last few days that heavy pounding south of the city. Now they have to wait and see when the action will be taken.
KING: Nic Robertson, our man on the scene, ever present, omnipresent.
Joining us now by phoner, embedded with the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne, is Colin Soloway of "Newsweek." And what do you tell us from your vantage point, Colin?
COLIN SOLOWAY, "NEWSWEEK": Well, the 101st, Larry -- the 101st is -- is -- has been involved in fighting in Najaf and north of Najaf over the past -- over the past few days. It looks like they've got control of a portion of Najaf at this point, and what they're -- from what they're telling us -- or what they're, rather, telling their own people, which is what we're hearing, is that the people of Najaf are pretty happy to -- are quite happy to see them, at least, a large portion of them.
They've been involved with some of the local leaders there, who asked them to bring in some food for folks. I was on a helicopter that went in and brought in some humanitarian aid there, to an airfield that they'd just taken the day before.
KING: Would you say there's a lot of optimism there?
We appear to have lost Colin. Of course, these are difficult times, and technical things don't always work. That was Colin Soloway, the excellent correspondent of "Newsweek."
Joining us now from Doha in Qatar is Martha Brant. She's also with "Newsweek." She reported a number of articles in the current edition of "Newsweek," including one on the impact of Al-Jazeera. And with her is Omar al Issawi, correspondent for Al-Jazeera, who's been covering the action at CENTCOM.
Martha, first, you must be overjoyed at learning that your "Newsweek" counterparts were released today and safely back in Jordan.
MARTHA BRANT, "NEWSWEEK": I'm happy to hear about all the journalists, and also Molly Bingham, the photographer who's gone missing, who I also know from Washington. And I'm glad to hear Colin Soloway, my colleague's voice. We had heard that he was having problems using his Thuraya phone, Larry. So nice to at least hear from him via your show.
KING: I mentioned that they were from "Newsweek." The people who got back into Jordan today were from "Newsday." They're your colleagues...
BRANT: "Newsday," right.
KING: ... although you don't work together -- yes, from "Newsday."
Omar, what is -- from your standpoint, is -- are we now at brink's edge here? Is -- are things starting to really going to happen?
OMAR AL ISSAWI, AL-JAZEERA CORRESPONDENT: It looks, Larry, like things are starting to unfold right now. The pace is picking up out there on the field. From the various reports that we're getting from the Iraqi battlefield right now, things are moving on several fronts. It seems that the resistance is also diminishing, and we're seeing more of Iraqi civilians who are apparently cooperating with coalition troops. This is from various sources, and they're out there and it's on the record. So looks like things are picking up, indeed, at the moment.
KING: Omar, did you read Martha's story about Al-Jazeera?
AL ISSAWI: Yes, I did, with great interest.
KING: And what's your reaction to it?
AL ISSAWI: She was fair. She was open-minded, which is what we're looking for, really. There were no stereotypes in there. She asked the right questions. She got the right information. And it's a pleasure, really, to be acquainted with somebody of her caliber.
KING: Martha, is -- you were with us the other night talking, before the article came out. Is Al-Jazeera as controversial as they're made to be?
BRANT: You know, Larry, again, as I said the other night, I don't speak Arabic, so it's really hard for me to sometimes give an honest assessment. We have people doing translations back home, and clearly, the White House is doing that. But I don't think Al-Jazeera is inflammatory, the way some other channels and some newspapers in this part of the world are. I think that they are just an easy target because they're the best known.
And I'm sorry to see that this week, Omar, who've a very -- I appreciate his comments because I really respect him as a colleague. And I -- he was not in some of the background briefings, as some of the other journalists had. And it seems like the strategy is what I had suggested, that they are trying to cut Al-Jazeera out of the loop. I'm not sure that's the smartest strategy, if they're trying to communicate to 40 million people who watch that channel.
KING: Who's cutting them out of the loop?
BRANT: CENTCOM. People have been disappointed by some of the questions, but they should be listening to Omar's questions. As I said last week, he's very balanced in his questioning, and it seems like they're just kind of -- they punish us all the time, Larry. I covered the Bush administration for several years, and they've done this with us. Right after 9/11 because they were upset about an article that I worked on, they wouldn't talk to me. So this kind of petty behavior happens all the time, this retribution from people in the Bush administration towards journalists.
KING: Omar, do you feel you're going to be cut out of the loop?
AL ISSAWI: Well, I'll tell you what, Larry. This is nothing new to us. We've experienced this from several governments in the region. I understand that sometimes people over here might be upset with the way that we report on matters.
I can tell you for sure that we keep at it. We try to keep our channels open to everybody, and we were quite pleased to see a Marine spokesman today on Al-Jazeera. That was quite refreshing, after an absence of a few days. So maybe this stuff that Martha is working on, other journalists are working on, reporting on Al-Jazeera -- there was something in "The New York Times" an op-ed under the title of "Why Al- Jazeera Matters." Maybe these things are getting through. And in the end, really, we've got an open mind to everybody and we have -- as I stated earlier on, or previously, we have no agenda, and we're basically just trying to reflect things as they are, or as they look to us on the ground.
KING: We're going to be asking all our guests tonight -- this is pure conjecture, but you have as much knowledge as anyone and certainly equipped to answer it. Martha, is Saddam Hussein alive, do you think?
BRANT: You know, I don't know, Larry. But it is amazing to me that Iraqi state TV is still up and running. Obviously, the minister of information was out again today. And what they're saying here at CENTCOM is that they're finally hitting the fiberoptic cables. They think that they're driving his communications aboveground, and they'll be able to track him more, which your correspondent was saying may well be true, that he doesn't want to appear on TV because they may be able to triangulate the signal and get him.
They think that despite the hitting of what they call C2, command-and-control, targets, that he probably has mobile satellite trucks. If we have them, he probably has them. He's reasonably sophisticated, and he may have the ability to throw up an instant backdrop. And whether it's him or the information minister, they can probably transmit from a lot of places. But it is pretty amazing that they're still out there on the airwaves, and I know that's been frustrating to people here at CENTCOM. They said last week -- somebody did -- to me that they thought it was one of their biggest failures of last week.
KING: Omar, what do you think about Saddam Hussein?
AL ISSAWI: I think it's very important to realize that, ultimately, it's not just a one-man show in Iraq. There are other important people that Saddam has delegated responsibilities to in this war -- most importantly, his sons, the eldest, Uday, and especially the youngest, Qusay, whom we don't hear a lot about. This is a very, very hard-working man. He puts in 16 to 18 hours a day. He's in charge of the Special Guards, the Special Republican Guards, and I think he has a hand in running part of the show, at the moment, in Iraq. You've also got Ali Hasan al Majid, who's running the show in southern Iraq.
So Saddam might be there, he might not, but there are other people of note and of importance that are quite vital to the survival of this regime.
KING: By the way, still to come, and we'll be meeting in a little while, a couple more journalists. At the bottom of the hour, we're going to meet five former military men, all of whom heroes in their own right. And we're going to close the show with Walter Cronkite. And among the guests tomorrow night will be the former secretary of defense, Harold Brown, the former secretary of state, Al Haig.
Martha, what do you make of the remarkable rescue of PFC Lynch?
BRANT: You know, it was obviously a great story for folks here. They were up all night, and they're clearly excited to have some good news to report. I'm hearing, as your correspondent was reporting, that it was a massive and risky raid, and I'm also hearing it's still ongoing. Clearly, we don't know a lot of details yet, especially if it is still ongoing. But, Larry, for me the fact that it's a woman is very interesting.
Clearly, the United States has never seen a lot of casualties among women. Women no longer -- you know, are not on the front lines. They aren't Rangers. They aren't Delta Force. But they are at risk more and more, flying Chinooks and in this case, obviously, a maintenance division that went awry. And I don't know whether the American people are ready to see women dying on the battlefields, as well as men. I know that the POWs are trained, women POWs slightly differently than men. They clearly have different issues to deal with, and it's nice to see that she's safe, and I hope that she's doing well.
KING: We'll take a break, have our other two journalists join us. We'll be taking your calls later, as well, in this jam-packed show tonight, this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. And we'll return right after these words.
KING: We're back. Joining us now -- well, let's introduce those remaining with us. Martha Brant in Qatar, the "Newsweek" correspondent who reported a number of articles in the current edition of "Newsweek," including one on the impact of Al-Jazeera. And with her in Doha, in Qatar, is Omar al Issawi. He is the correspondent for Al-Jazeera. And I believe we also have Tania Mehanna. She is with us from Beirut in Lebanon. We're also attempting to make -- we're checking in with Abu Dhabi -- we haven't yet -- with Jasim al-Azzawi, who's going to join us, hopefully, from Lebanon.
Tania, let's jump you right in on what we've been talking about. What do you make of the matter of Saddam Hussein, alive or dead?
TANIA MEHANNA, REPORTER, LEBANESE BROADCASTING: Well, I don't know. I mean, obviously, we all were expecting to see him on television and expecting him to give the speech that was announced earlier. We didn't see that. So I guess if he's alive or he's dead -- I mean, there is still opposition to the American and British attacks on Iraq. So it seems there is someone there who's organizing all this and there is someone there who's controlling what's happening on the ground.
KING: Do we know, Tania, who is next in line? Let's say, supposing he is gone. Does one of the sons take over?
MEHANNA: I don't think it's up to us -- I mean, I don't think we can even guess about that. I think it's going to be up to the Iraqi people to decide at that time, and it's still too early now to know who's going to be next in line, if it's going to be someone from his family or it's going to be someone else, a little bit like what we saw in Afghanistan. And I think it's always up to the Iraqi people then to decide.
KING: All right, Martha, are on we on the brink now of the impending raid on Baghdad? Do you think it's close?
BRANT: It certainly seems that way, with what we're hearing today, Larry. Obviously, they've been softening the Republican Guard with massive air sorties. It's been hard to get information about the air campaign because the Saudis wouldn't let journalists embed at Prince Sultan Air Base. And so we don't have a lot of good reporting about the impact of that campaign. But clearly, for the first time, we're seeing ground troops really in their first major battle with the Iraqi Republican Guard. So it does feel as if this is the start of the big push to Baghdad.
KING: Omar, do you think it's right around the corner?
AL ISSAWI: Well, it certainly looks like it. In addition to what Martha said, it's important to note that the U.S. is currently moving its Air Force planes that were stationed in Turkey to the region, possibly to airfields that are controlled now within Iraq itself. That's an important launching pad. Things certainly are looking up, although I wouldn't like to hazard a guess whether this is the final push towards Baghdad. But they are looking up.
I think it's important to note that when the coalition forces get to Samawa (ph), which is just beyond the Najaf and Karbala area, that's the gateway to Baghdad. Once we have concrete news that there are massive forces over there, then we know that Baghdad is close.
KING: Tania, what are they saying in Lebanon about all of this?
MEHANNA: Well, in Lebanon, they're very much opposed to what's happening in Iraq. I mean, we've seen it through the demonstrations that have been going down the streets. We've seen it with some incidents that happened, like throwing a bomb in front of the British counselor -- British council, excuse me. Or there was a man who also tried to blow himself up at HSBC (ph), which is a Hong Kong-based British bank who's also in Beirut. So the Lebanese are quite opposed to what's happening in Iraq, and they're trying through the demonstrations that we see almost on a regular basis, walking towards the U.N. house in Beirut -- trying to put a stop to the war.
KING: Yet, Tania, when you were in Iraq a couple of years ago, I believe, you reported that the Iraqis were a very unhappy people. Are you surprised, then, at their resistance to the coalition?
MEHANNA: In a way, no, I'm not really surprised because if you take the Arab pride and the way of thinking, they're not looking at the coalition as a liberating army. They're looking at it as an invading army. And as much as they wanted some change to occur because of all the hardship that's been going on for 10 years in Iraq, and everything going backward economically and socially in Iraq -- they wanted to see some changes, but probably not this way, not through the daily bombings that they've been going through.
KING: Martha, is there a lot of tension there at the CENTCOM briefings? And if so, why?
BRANT: Because reporters are naturally cantankerous, Larry. I mean, we're paid to be malcontent. We're paid to complain and be skeptical and be cynical, which is probably why a lot of Americans don't like us very much. And the military, frankly, the culture of the military is not one that likes to divulge information, and especially General Franks's shop here. He is very much a man of the Army. He doesn't like to draw attention to himself. We don't see him that often. When we do see him, I think he's come across as pretty modest and earnest, and he seems to have a very reassuring presence is what I hear people back in the States think of him. But he doesn't like to be in the klieg lights. And in fact, you heard General Dick Myers say this again today, they have nothing but disdain for the retired military who go on TV and yak about the war plans they've never seen. They really can't stand that. Norman Schwarzkopf, of course, was a very different style of briefer are than General Frank, and that's just how they like it. It almost feels like Schwarzkopf's a bad word around here at CENTCOM.
KING: As a journalist, though, do you understand their position?
BRANT: I certainly do, in the sense that operational security is a legitimate excuse. I sometimes feel that they use operational security as a blanket excuse, even when it's not legitimate. And I'll just give you a silly example from the other week. I called up to ask what General Brooks's first name was. This was a few days ago, before he was consistently briefing us. And they wouldn't tell me. They said they weren't authorized to tell me that his name is Vince Brooks, I looked it up on the Web. But that struck me as a ridiculous example of lack of information. And it's gotten a lot better in the last few days, I really should say.
KING: And Omar, how do you find them? Are they -- do you have a cantankerous time with them, or do they treat you differently because you're Al-Jazeera?
AL ISSAWI: Well, you can say that we have some sort of a special relationship with them, and it's understandable. There are no hard feelings. I mean, the guys will come by and say hello, and we'll sit and talk. Maybe they're reluctant to divulge to us what they divulge to correspondents from other networks. I've seen that happen, and I am sorry to see that happen because, really, we're not the enemy over here. We're still trying to work on this relationship.
However, at least they don't turn their backs to us, which is good. It's becoming something of an amicable relationship over here. But we'd like to get the information. We'd like to get the access. And I think when I say that, a let of other journalists and correspondents over here would want to see the same thing, too.
KING: We only have a couple of minutes remaining before we meet our five former heroes and get their thoughts, and then Walter Cronkite. We want to talk quickly with Jasim Al-Azzawi. He is in Abu Dhabi, anchor and executive producer for Abu Dhabi TV. We were late getting connection to him. He's a frequent guest, and we're sure he'll be on frequently, but...
What's your read on the events surrounding Baghdad and whether that's -- whether it's shortly going to come?
JASIM AL-AZZAWI, ABU DHABI NEWS ANCHOR: It doesn't look like it's going to come very, very quickly. The talk from the field, whether from the Iraqi side, as well as the American side, is going to take something like 10 days, maybe, to two weeks. The battle on the ground is going to determine many things. The 4th Division has just arrived in Kuwait. They are unloading. They are proceeding northwards. And the battle for Najaf, the battle for Nasariya, the battle for Karbala is going to play a big role to see to what extent the Americans and the British, they can push forward.
KING: Are you still surprised, Jasim, at the resistance?
AL-AZZAWI: It's surprising everybody. It's surprising Rumsfeld, surprising Tommy Franks, surprising even the Iraqis. Nobody anticipated this resistance, this hatred, if you like, for the invaders. This is how they are looking at it. Now, to what extent this is nationwide, nobody can tell. But to the extent that is unfolding for the past two weeks, it is a major surprise. This is one element of the plan, if you will, that nobody anticipated, and this is why perhaps Rumsfeld is in hot water right now.
KING: We've asked everybody else. We'll ask you. Do you think Saddam Hussein is alive?
AL-AZZAWI: If you're asking me, Larry -- because the sound is...
KING: Yes, you.
AL-AZZAWI: The audio is very faint.
KING: I'm sorry.
AL-AZZAWI: Indications are that he is. Indications are that he is, but to what extent, no one can tell. The fact that the information minister, Mohammed Said Sahaf, read on his behalf his speech, which is -- basically, was drumming up support for this war, it's in no way indicative that whether he is dead or alive. But judging by recent photos, by recent images of him with his eldest son, Uday, and most -- second most powerful man in Iraq, and that is Qusay, as well as the defense minister, only yesterday, it tells that he's still alive.
KING: Thank you very much, Jasim.
Before we go to break we're going to go to Alessio Vinci. He is near Nasariya, and we understand Alessio witnessed or was right near the rescue of PFC Lynch.
Before we go to break, we're going to go to Alessio Vinci. He is near Nasiriya and we understand Alessio witnessed or was right near the rescue of PFC Lynch. Do you -- do you -- check us out Alessio and what can you tell us?
ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Larry.
Yes, I watched the operation begin several hours ago. It was shortly before midnight local time here with Marine tanks and armored vehicles followed by several other military vehicles loaded with Special forces.
We're wearing night vision goggles entering the city in the cover of darkness. (UNINTELLIGIBLE), whom the Marines here refer to as Saddam Hospital and according to some military radio traffic that I was able to monitor along with those Marines, if you're in the U.S. Special Forces were met by what they describe moderate resistance. They did recover the -- the -- the remains of the private, but also the remains of at least -- sorry, the body of the private -- but also the remains of at least nine more bodies who apparently have been identified and also the remains of what Marines believe are two more bodies.
Now throughout this week U.S. intelligence officers have collected information regarding the whereabouts of these prisoners of war and many reports indicated that some of those prisoners were indeed inside this hospital and according to those military radio traffic that I was able to monitor, the PFC was -- was -- was recovered within the very first minutes of the operation....
VINCI: ... indicating that the special forces were working with very good intelligence. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) had spoken to many people in town.
KING: Are you saying, Alessio, that they recovered bodies in addition to recovering PFC Lynch?
According to the radio traffic monitored by the U.S. Marines here, they do have recovered the remains of at least nine bodies and also the remains of what they believe are two additional bodies.
Of course, this is still a very fresh operation. They're still trying to go over what they've found, but according to that radio traffic, in addition to the private that was found alive, they also recovered the bodies of at least nine other servicemen and what they believe may be also two more, so 11 in total.
KING: Coalition servicemen, Alessio?
VINCI: Yes. Yes. They're believed to be all Americans and they do believe that these are some of the servicemen that were first captured Sunday, a week ago, during a military ambush just outside An Nasiriya. That is actually an ambush that we ended up almost witnessing because we passed through with our own convoy of Marines only a few hours after that ambush and we saw the aftermath of the ambush with some of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and some of the vehicles that were hit by Iraqi fire still smoldering and still riddled with bullets. So, it is believed that these are all U.S. military personnel.
KING: Alessio, thank you very much.
All right. Get it that right. Alessio Vinci, on the scene, intercepts -- hears the people talking. They recovered the PFC Lynch. She's safe -- injured, but safe. And now he's reporting other bodies, apparently coalition bodies, American bodies of servicemen. That is new to us. We'll be checking it out further and keep you up-to-date.
We'll be right back with our four -- five former servicemen, all heroes, and then Walter Cronkite. Don't go away.
KING: Before we meet our retired military men, we're going to go back to the Pentagon and Jamie McIntyre.
Jamie, Alessio Vinci just reported on this program, about four or five minutes ago, that in addition to PFC Lynch being recovered, bodies were recovered. Do you have anything to add or know more about that?
MCINTYRE: Well, not much, Larry, except that I told that Jessica Lynch Was not the only objection of this mission, that there were other objectives as well. I was also told earlier on, when we were getting some indication that there might be some good news, that there might be some news that wasn't as positive as well. I didn't know what to make of that, but it's not inconsistent with what Alessio is reporting. I think we'll just have to see the scope of this mission and what they end up -- end bringing back.
KING: Thanks, Jamie.
MCINTYRE: As opposed to...
KING: Anything else? Yes.
MCINTYRE: Well, or the wider war -- I mean, what's happening tonight the so-called battle of Baghdad, although one U.S. military official said it would be more accurate to call it the battle with the Republican Guard. He described a strategy as especially punching through here, punching through there and then going for it. It looks like they're going to attack at least two Republican Guard divisions to begin with and that have been significantly degraded by air strikes. Some of that battling is already going on near Karbala and we're expecting another front to open fairly soon with the U.S. Marines -- a little bit to the east -- excuse -- a little bit to the east. So it does appear that the major ground offensive of this war is under way.
KING: Lots happening in this hour. Thank you, Jamie. Jamie McIntyre.
Joining us now in New York is Mark Bowden, national correspondent for "Atlantic Monthly." You may know him as the best selling author of "Black Hawk Down." He's a columnist for "The Philadelphia Enquirer."
Here in Los Angeles, Command Sergeant Major Eric Haney, United States Army retired, founding member of the U.S. Army's Delta force, author of "Inside Delta Force: the Story of America's Elite Counter Terrorist Unit."
In London and in shadows is Andy McNab, former member of the Elite Special Air Service, was captured and tortured by the Iraqis during the '91 Gulf War. He's an international best selling author.
In Chicago is Brigadier General David Grange, U.S. Army retired., former commanding general of the 1st Infantry division, also known as "The Big Red One," former Army ranger and Special Forces officer.
And, as per usual, Colonel David Hackworth, U.S. Army retired, affectionally known as Hack, the award winning military correspondent. His latest book is "Steal My Soldier's Hearts."
Gentleman, all -- I want you to all watch what General Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs had to say about former military men today and then we'll get your thoughts.
General Myers -- watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. RICHARD MYERS, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: It is not helpful to have those kind of comments comes out when we've got troops in combat because first of all, they're false. They're absolutely wrong. They bear no resemblance to the truth and it's just -- it's just harmful to our troops that are out there fighting very brave, very courageously.
I've been in this process every step of the way as well. There is not one thing that General Franks has asked for that he hasn't gotten on the timeline that we could get it to him and it wasn't because of a late signing. It might be because we didn't have a, you know, ship or something. But, I mean, it's not -- it's been for -- for mechanical reasons, not because of administrative reasons. I can guarantee you that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Sergeant Major Haney, do you think the criticism has been wrong?
CMD. SGT. MAJ. ERIC HANEY (RET.), FOUNDING MEMBER, DELTA FORCE: No, I don't think it's wrong at all. Any former military, particularly ones that's career and has served and worked at the top levels who are planning to take place, must be very circumspect of what you say in public.
Now I'm not really sure that any names have been named or people that General Myers is speaking of have actually been public.
KING: But you don't think it's wrong for yourself, let's say, to criticize an action.
HANEY: I'm not going to do it.
KING: No. You're not going to do it?
HANEY: I'm just not going to do it. No. No, sir,. And, in fact, in this case I feel that the war is unwinding in a brilliant fashion.
KING: Hack, it looked like he was talking about you.
COL. DAVID HACKWORTH, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, probably he was. But bottom line is I've seen so many young Americans over the last 57 years die because of the inadequate leadership up at the top that I feel that it's -- it is a trusted responsibility, especially someone whose military with media background, to bring the truth to the American people.
If -- for example, a lot of folks during the Vietnam era had not got the troops out, we might still be slugging it through that jungle looking for light at the end of tunnel.
KING: Let me get the thoughts together. Mark, as a journalist, which side do you stand on?
MARK BOWDEN, ATLANTIC MONTHLY, AUTHOR, "BLACK HAWK DOWN": Oh, I think the general is uncomfortable leading troops in a democracy. And a democracy is a big, messy, brawling thing and it is really difficult for, I think, military leaders to listen to criticism and analysis that contradicts what they're thinking, but I think it's an essential part of our government and our system and General Myers had just better get used to it.
KING: Andy, what do you think?
ANDY MCNAB, FMR. SPECIAL AIR SERV. MEMBER: Well, I agree -- I agree with Mark and Hack.
I think that, you know, we're living in a -- in a world now where the media is an integral part of warfare and the fact that certainly all of the, you know, the armchair experts, myself included, who have talked about this war never criticized the troops if they're talking about it. They're talking about things that affect the troops and I agree with Hack, you know. If the people are not speaking out and giving their opinions, which could be wrong -- but you know, the public need to know that the military guys' opinions and then they can form up their own opinions.
KING: And General Grange, what are your thoughts?
BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, the thing is is that I don't think it's a problem with the retired military service member giving their opinion on some issues about this current war that the coalition forces are in, but they have to qualify is it's that their opinion from their experiences and they know nothing about the plan because the plan is not shared with those that are retired.
KING: OK. We've gone full circle.
Major Haney, does nothing of what Mr. Bowden and Mr. -- and Andy McNab and Colonel Hackworth said impress you that this is a free society and...
HANEY: Of course, it's a free society. And every one of us here have shed our own blood in the support of that and the furthering of our free society. But so far we are veriy interest this. No one outside knows what the plans are. Let's watch it unfold. It's going along, I'm sure, pretty close to General Franks' overall plan. Nothing is ever perfect and never are. We still have a ways to go with this. So let's all keep our shirts on, be patient. It's not a 30-minute television program, and it's not scripted as a television program.
KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) if you don't know the plans how can you criticize it.
HACKWORTH: Well, that's a good point. The fact that you've been a soldier and you understand the rhythm of war and what's going on. In my case, my sources are in many of the headquarters, so I've been watching this plan develop. I watched the plan when General Van Ripper (ph), United States Marine Corps, was commanding the red force in a war game. And he beat the blue force which is essentially our force that's out there in the field now.
And General Van Ripper's war scenario was thrown aside by the controllers, because he was muddying up the game, but the things that he proposed, Larry, was precisely what's happening now. Guerilla attacks. Fast boat, missile attacks. All of the things we're seeing is what General Van Ripper brought out that the military dismissed.
KING: We will cover some other bases because we are limited on time. But I'm going to do as this war winds down, a whole show on this, have you all come back and debate this because it's a fascinating debate.
Mark, what do you think of the rescue today of that PFC.
BOWDEN: It's really exciting news, Larry. And I think it's come at a point where a the lot of people have begun to get frustrated and feel depressed about the mounting casualties and lack of any definable progress that they as see on their TV sets, whether or not it's happening in real life. This is obviously a wonderful story, and all of us feel very proud of the men who pulled off this mission and very pleased that this young woman has been -- is going to come home. You know, it's really wonderful news.
KING: Andy, what do you make of it?
MCNAB: Absolutely agree. I've been on both ends. I've been where Jessica has been where, you know, you are getting rescued and repatriated which is a fantastic feeling and it is just wonderful. I've also been part of missions where you're trying to get people back. And the determination of that and the fact that these teams have been successful is just a fantastic feeling for everyone.
KING: David, General Grange, have you ever been involved in a rescue operation?
GRANGE: Yes. Well, i've been involved in those that didn't turn out well. I've had prisoners or soldiers taken prisoner, and been part of organizations that specialized in hostage rescue. The key thing here is you had a mission go down that was joint. Marines and special operations forces that rescued one individual American soldier. I'm sure there was more to the operation than that. But just the result of getting one fellow comrade back is such a lift to the rest of the force. And that's what it's all about, is that you don't leave a fallen comrade. And so it's just a tremendous operation and something I think the Coalition force in America should be very proud of.
KING: Has Delta Force ever had to rescue people.
HANEY: That's part of the unit.
KING: Have you rescued people.
HANEY: I have rescued as recently in the last few years as a civilian, some of the thinhs that I do. But what's astounding about this, really is amazing, Larry, is the inovativeness and rapiditivity with which it was developed and brought off. Usually these are micromanaged on the backs of the Potomac.
HANEY: Most certainly so. Everyone from the top down is looking. In this case just the ability of the special operations unit working in conjunction with the conventional forces is something we're starting to do very, very well.
KING: We're going to have you back. Sorry for the limited time, but we had breaking news all around us tonight. We thank all of you gentlemen.
We're take a break and come back with Walter Cronkite. As you can well see, it's dawn in Baghdad. Don't go away.
KING: It's now a great pleasure to welcome to LARRY KING LIVE the legendary journalist, former anchor and managing editor of the "CBS Evening News," with an op-ed piece in "The New York Times" today. Headline "Speaking With the Enemy." He was writing about Peter Arnett.
How do you assess, though, before we get to that, Walter, thus far to this minute in its 14th day, the progress of this war?
WALTER CRONKITE, FORMER CBS ANCHOR: Well, I think that we clearly have made some progress. Whether we made the progress that the plan called for by this time, I think there's some doubt about that. We've clearly have had the problem with the town south of Baghdad that we had hoped to bypass. We haven't been able to do that.
And we've taken some casualties, lost some materiel, quite clearly. But it looks like we're just about to engage the main forces south of Baghdad and we will see how the war progresses from that point. KING: Before we continue, Walter, we're going to Ryan Chilcote. He is near Najaf and he has an up-to-the-minute report for us. Ryan, are you there and what can you tell us?
RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Larry, I'm with the troops in the city of Najaf in central Iraq. And we've just had initial reports of a surface-to-surface missile on the city of Najaf.
This would, to my knowledge, being a first Scud or surface-to- surface missile. Probably isn't a Scud. President Saddam Hussein hasn't used any Scuds up to this point in this conflict. Probably some other kind of surface-to-surface missile with a shorter range and a smaller warhead used on this city, just about 20 minutes ago.
As you can see I'm here with the troops. I was woken up by another soldier, standard Scud alert. He said put on your mask. We've had a Scud attack. And indeed the initial reports are that there may have been as many as two impacts in the vicinity of Najaf. I can't be any more specific than that for operational -- for the purpose of operational security for U.S. troops in the city of Najaf.
So far we just got the all-clear. We were just able to take off our gas masks. That is an initial indicator that that is what is called a clean bomb. In other words, was there no, apparently, at least according to initial reports, any chemical weapons laced into that warhead. So we're just waiting for more information, but initially a report of two surface-to-surface missiles perhaps coming from within Iraq into the city of Najaf, which itself is in Iraq. It's the Shi'a city. Obviously a very holy city. The Shi'a Muslims in central Iraq, home to some of the holiest sites in the Shi'a Muslim faith.
KING: Thank you, Ryan. Ryan Chilcote on the scene.
Walter, back to you. First on Peter Arnett. Were you in a sense saying he shouldn't have done it, but he had the right to do it and they shouldn't have fired him?
CRONKITE: No, I didn't say that in the piece. I said...
KING: I read the piece twice and I know you criticized him doing it, praised him as a journalist and so give it to me in your own words.
CRONKITE: Yes, did I. Well, I certainly think he should not have done it, and I think that the employers had a right to fire him for having done it. It was a very serious mistake and he should have had better judgment than to have indulged in such an interview and particularly in what he said in the interview.
I tried to explain, however, a little bit of what might have motivated him in that piece today. We journalists know that there's an old adage that a reporter is just as goods his contacts, his sources.
Well, he was really buttering up his sources by doing that program. His sources are the people in the ministry of information. They were the ones who invited him on to the air and put him on the air and did the interview with him.
He was clearly trying to show them that he could be friendly to them and with them so that they might favor him with some information and particularly favor him with not chasing him out of the country as he reported through the rest of the war which he hoped to do as he had done in the first Persian Gulf War for CNN.
He was a good journalist. He just made a very bum decision in doing that.
KING: It was tough for you to criticize the war and the administration? Even though you're not doing -- you're not doing daily journalism anymore, you still have an esteemed place. Was it hard for you to come out against it?
CRONKITE: No. Not before the war began. It wasn't at all. I thought that we who felt that going to war at this point in the fashion that we did, unilaterally, and with certain -- uncertain goals, that is to whether it was to get rid of Hussein or whether to liberate the people or whatever it was, I thought this was a mistake.
And before the war it was proper, I think for us to all stand up who believe that way in an attempt to try to influence the administration when we possibly could when we thought that the administration was wrong.
Now that the war has begun and we're committed to it, we're in the second week of it and we're about to apparently engage in the major battle south of Baghdad and into the streets of Baghdad, we have to be a little bit circumspect, I think, in further criticism.
That does not mean that we shouldn't hold our thoughts as we've always had them and we should not at the proper point to come back and suggest that perhaps this was a major mistake by the part on the part of our administration.
Meanwhile, we do support the boys and girls and the troops that are there, of course. They have nothing to do with the policy, the diplomatic -- failed diplomatic policy or any of the rest of the decisions to go to war. They're doing their duty for which they signed up and they're doing it very well, as nearly as we can see.
I think the reporting is exceptional. I applaud the military for having come to a decision as to how we could have reporters with the troops as opposed to the Persian Gulf War, the first war, which we have no history of at all because there was no correspondents permitted with the troops at all. That was a violation, I think, of the people's right to know under our Constitution, for heaven's sakes.
Now they've made -- found a way to really give us a play-by-play as the war progresses. And we've got some very courageous correspondents among those 600 who are out there and accredited to the forces, embedded, as the word is. I'm sorry about that particular word. It does sound too much like our reporters are in bed with the military. And no matter how you read that, whether it's a psychological or physical, it's the wrong them to be in bed with your sources.
But at any rate, they're doing a great job.
KING: What do you think, Walter, of former military men, we've had two on the program tonight, who were critical of military operations?
CRONKITE: I think that it's certainly their right to do so and in fact perhaps it's their duty to do so. I've heard it explained that they really in taking their oath of office in the military are, in a sense, made the critics of the military themselves. I don't know just how we justify all of that. I've forgotten just exactly what I read or heard. But I get that impression.
And at any rate it seems to me that we do need to know how well our troops are being led, how good the plan seems to be, whether we are carrying it out successfully or not. That is important information for the American people and we're entitled to it.
There is an aspect of it, however, Larry, which I -- which I dislike and I worry about a bit. We talk -- they talk about this criticism affecting the morale of the troops. Well, it's not going to affect the morale of the troops. I've been with the troops all through World War II and Vietnam.
And I know troops in war and they're going to grumble and grouse about the way the war is being run all of the time. That's part of the game. That's what kind of keeps you going. You kind of grumble about it and that's part of being a G.I. out there.
However, I wonder what the morale effect is on their folks back home, their parents and wives and mothers and fathers and that sort of thing. To hear that the war is not being run well in which their children or mothers, fathers, whatever are in danger, are putting their lives on the line, to be told that they're not getting the leadership and the support they should be getting from on top has got -- has got to cause a little dent, should I think in their morale. And I think that's most regrettable.
I think it would be well somehow or other if we could somehow isolate the criticism from the broadcast which most of these people are watching. CNN on the air all of the evening and all that kind of thing and all day practically. With the reports from the scene and the reports of the criticism.
If we could isolate that, if we could film all of that and if we could tape all of that save it for our history and for a post-war period of review of what went on with this war, its successes and its failures, a look at the leadership quality that we must depend on in the future as well.
It would be a very good thing at that time if CNN and others could put a great documentary that would examine that factor, that factor of leadership in both our civilian leadership and the military leadership of this war. We should know all that we're hearing in piecemeal now such as that very interesting discussion again tonight here on your program.
KING: Walter, as always, thank you very much. Continued good health.
CRONKITE: You bet. Take care, Larry. Good job.
KING: Walter Cronkite, honored just being in his presence.
We thank all of our guests for being with us tonight. We'll be back again tomorrow night and among our guests tomorrow night, Harold Brown, the former secretary of defense and Al Haig, former secretary of state. Be interesting to hear their comments.
As we go to break, Heidi Collins will have headlines for you and Aaron Brown is right around the corner hosting "NEWSNIGHT." I'm Larry King and for all of our guests and the staff here and everywhere, thanks for joining us and stay with CNN, the most trusted name in news. Heidi's next.
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