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Panel Discusses Recent Safe Rescues of POW, Journalists; Interview With Matthew McAllester

Aired April 2, 2003 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, rescued POW Jessica Lynch is safe in a U.S. military hospital in Germany 24 hours after a dramatic commando raid got her out of an Iraqi hospital. We'll talk with her brother.
Plus, "Newsday" reporter Matthew McAllester, released yesterday after a week in an Iraqi prison. He'll tell us what his harrowing ordeal was like.

And U.S. troops are only 15 miles from Baghdad. We'll get the latest from the front lines on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE, and we begin with Nick Boettcher, our CNN correspondent embedded with special operations -- Mike Boettcher, rather, embedded with special operations forces on the outskirts of Basra. Mike, what can you tell us?

MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'd like to be Nic, Larry. He's a little better-looking than me, and so...


BOETTCHER: And probably might have a little better quarters right now.

Well, anyway, last night, Larry, in Basra, it was a very, very active night. There was salvo after salvo of what's called MLRS, multiple-launch rocket systems, heading from British positions in the outskirts of Basra into Basra. Now, that can indicate one of two things, Larry. Either there was an armored column spotted by forward observers and they fired on that column because this particular kind of munition explodes in the air and puts down cluster munitions that rains shrapnel that can shred through armor, or the British were trying to make more inroads.

Now, during the day, there were great inroads in the Basra area. The British and the Americans, the special forces supporting the British army, moved across the canal and into what is known as the oil-for-food warehouse here in Basra. Now, that is very, very significant because in Basra, food is power. And inside that warehouse, there is, they believe, 3,000 tons of food. Now, Basra is reported to have a food and water problem, and if the coalition controls that food, they believe that once they take Basra -- and they believe that they will -- that they believe be able to feed the entire city for several days, if not several weeks, until they get more food supplies in. Now, we are told by military sources here that the Fedayeen, Saddam Hussein's paramilitary, had used that food as a weapon, Larry, in terms of how they distributed it. That is the belief of the coalition, and now the allies have that. They want to use it as humanitarian (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

KING: Mike is cutting in and out. We thank him very much for that report.

Let's head right to the Pentagon. Jamie McIntyre joined Wolf at the top of the last hour with the story of a -- prophetic, in a way, Black Hawk down. What's the latest, Jamie?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Larry, we are confirming now that the U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter was apparently brought down by small-arms fire in the area of Karbala. This is where the U.S. has been engaged in some pretty heavy fighting in recent days. According to Pentagon officials, it's believed that seven U.S. Army personnel perished when the helicopter crashed. Four were eventually rescued of the eleven on board. We don't know much more about what happened in this incident, at this point, except that apparently four people have been recovered, seven dead in the crash of a Black Hawk helicopter, apparently, again, brought down by small-arms fire, not anti-aircraft fire -- Larry.

KING: Jamie, what's the record of the Black Hawk?

MCINTYRE: Well, there have been quite a few Black Hawk crashes lately, but the Black Hawk is a workhorse of the U.S. military fleet. It's used primarily by the Army, but all of the services have versions of them, and it is a very -- considered a very good helicopter. It has a very high lift rate. So it's good particularly in places where there's thin air and you don't have as much lift. It has -- really, those blades really beat the air. But you know, any helicopter, if it's hit by a projectile, particularly if it hits in the wrong spot, can be brought down. And it looks like that's what happened here.

KING: Thank you, Jamie. Jamie McIntyre on the scene at the Pentagon.

Let's go to Ruwaished at the Jordanian-Iraqi border. Nic Robertson is standing by, our CNN senior international correspondent. He was in Baghdad until being expelled from there.

Now, did Saddam Hussein speak today? Is that -- do we know that for a fact, Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he spoke, if you will, through his spokesman. He had a message for a Kurdish leader in the north of Iraq, and that was a message delivered by his minister of information, Mohammed al Sahaf, basically telling this Kurdish leader in the north, Jalal Talabani, Don't side with the coalition forces. If you do that, then you're a traitor to your country and not a patriot, and you're not thinking about greater Iraq, and there will be problems for you in the future. I think that's a warning, as well, for those Iraqi fighters in the north to not think about defecting and joining Talabani at this time.

And we had another message from the Iraqi leader, this time read again by an announcer on Iraqi television, saying that -- or praising, if you will, the Iraqi forces in the south, particularly Iraq's 11th Division and the Ba'ath Party fighters, President Saddam Hussein saying that they've done particularly well in An Nasiriyah. He also said that victory was at hand for the Iraqis and that Iraq had only committed one third of its troops to the battle so far, in comparison, he said, with the coalition forces, who put everything into the war so far and were now completely exhausted.

And we've also seen President Saddam Hussein on television meeting with some of his ministers, Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, who looked particularly serious at this meeting. But again, we're just not getting a real, true indication when these pictures were taken, whether or not President Saddam Hussein is well or not. And perhaps he may be playing his own psychological warfare game here with the Pentagon, who are essentially saying, If he's alive and well, why doesn't he come out and speak and make it clear that he's alive and well? Well, maybe he's just choosing not to do that because it suits his interests better to not give the game away about how he is or where he is -- Larry.

KING: And what's the latest, Nic, on when Baghdad becomes the central issue?

ROBERTSON: It's getting closer, but there still seems to be a way to go for some of the forces. They seem to have Karbala surrounded, but that's still an hour's drive from Baghdad, an hour when you don't have people shooting at you down the highway and embedded forces in the fields next to you. They do appear to be closer on the eastern side, or southeastern side of Baghdad, but again, it's still some way to go for those forces. The towns that they have taken or surrounded or bypassed so far are still active, still have Iraqi elements in there that are very aggressive and threaten coalition forces still. So it's getting there, but not there right yet, Larry.

KING: Thank you, Nic Robertson, on the scene at the Jordanian- Iraqi border.

Let's go to Kuwait City. Sir Trevor McDonald is joining us. He's going to be with us later in the show, as well. He's ITN's lead anchor. He's been there, host of news at 10:00 for years. He was in Iraq in January this year and 13 years ago, interviewed Saddam Hussein. In Cairo is Scott McLeod, the Cairo bureau chief of "TIME" magazine. He was in Baghdad in November of 2002.

Sir Trevor, since last we spoke, how goes this war?

SIR TREVOR MCDONALD, ITN NEWS ANCHOR: Well, Larry, it's a very interesting question. The great question now is when will the battle for Baghdad begin? Some military strategists had the view that what the coalition forces will do is that they'd advance towards Baghdad and then surround it and circle the city and wait for the moment to try to get in. The feeling is that once they do get in, there'll be a pretty -- there'll be pretty fierce urban warfare-type fighting, almost sort of hand-to-hand street fighting. But the way the coalition forces have been softening up some of the Republican Guard positions around Baghdad makes you question whether that might be necessary. It's still going to be very, very tough, but one really doesn't know exactly at this moment how it's going to pan out. But 20 miles outside of Baghdad and closing, that's pretty close.

KING: Scott McLeod, what's your read from the vantage point in Cairo?

SCOTT MCLEOD, "TIME" MAGAZINE" CAIRO BUREAU CHIEF: Well, so far, it hasn't been a very good war from the point of view of winning hearts and minds in the Arab world. We're seeing a lot of angry opposition, to some extent predictable, but I think that because the Iraqi regime didn't prove to be a house of cards and there was actually some -- there has been resistance, this has brought a lot of sympathy, much more sympathy to the Iraqi people from the Arab street than a lot of people were expecting.

KING: Sir Trevor, I know that we're going to be talking in a couple of minutes with Matt McAllester, the "Newsday" correspondent released. ITV still has two what, two reporters being held?

MCDONALD: Well, there are two -- two of our people, a cameraman and a translator, who are still missing. And we are really appealing to the American and the British governments to try to provide some more information because the coalition forces were at the scene south of Basra when the incident occurred. It now appears that their cars were hit by coalition forces from very, very close range and also by Iraqi forces. The Iraqi vehicles had flanked the cars by our colleagues, and they came under attack from coalition forces.

But what these families, Larry, really want to know is precisely what happened. There was a situation report. There always is in these cases, but for some reason, it's not been released, and this is causing great, great anguish to the families. And they'd really like both the American government, the Defense Department, and the British government to put out this report, to give us some idea of what happened to our people, who have not been seen since -- you know, for 13 days now.

KING: Scott McLeod, what do you make of Al Jazeera, two of their reporters being tossed out by Iraq?

MCLEOD: Well, Al Jazeera was performing a role that was beneficial to the Iraqi government by showing all of the pictures from the hospitals, and this has had, actually, a tremendous impact, I think, on Arab public opinion. But Jazeera hasn't been flag-waving for the regime, like the regime would have liked. I think that as the coalition forces get closer and encircle Baghdad, we're going to see a lot more of this kind of panic reaction by the regime there.

KING: Let check in now -- hold -- you stay right with us, Scott and Sir Trevor, because we'll be coming back to you. Let's go to Ben Wedeman, our CNN correspondent covering the retreat of Iraqi soldiers from the front lines of Kalak. He's visited to a nearby town liberated from control of the Saddam regime. He's in Kalak. What can you tell us, Ben? What's the latest?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Larry, what I can tell you is that just before sunset here in Kalak, we saw a group of people on the road above that Kurdish town, the road that leads from that Kurdish town to the Iraqi front lines. At first, we thought it might be Iraqi soldiers surrendering because there's been a fair number of deserters in this area. We rushed down there, and we discovered it was Peshmerga, Kurdish fighters, who were going up, walking in the direction of the Iraqi lines. They discovered that there was nobody up there, that the Iraqi soldiers had simply disappeared.

Now, we've heard from Kurdish commanders in this area that they have pulled back about seven kilometers in the direction of the Iraqi city of Mosul. Now, interestingly enough, we've also heard air strikes in that area this evening and actually throughout the night.

Now, in addition to the Iraqi forces pulling back from Kalak, we were in an area north of Mosul, where they also have pulled back about 20 kilometers, there after something of a fight between the Kurdish soldiers and the Iraqis. Also present there in that area north of Mosul were U.S. special forces, who were directing air strikes on the Iraqis in that area. We saw three Iraqi army trucks which were completely smashed and blown up by those U.S. missiles.

Now, one other thing we saw there, Larry, was that the local population, who are Kurds, not Arabs, it must be said, celebrated the arrival of the Kurdish forces and the Americans in that area. We saw U.S. special forces on the roof of a building, and they were clearly not at all concerned about the locals, as we have seen in the south. The local people, they cheered, they clapped when the Kurds were there. And one man came up to me and said that he was happy to see Saddam Hussein, the dictator, as he described him, leave their town -- Larry.

KING: Thank you, Ben Wedeman, as per usual, right on top of the scene. We've heard from Nic Robertson, Ben Wedeman, Mike Boettcher and Jamie McIntyre on the Pentagon, that breaking story of a Black Hawk shot down.

When we come back, we shall talk with Matt McAllester, Matt McAllester of "Newsday," one of the four journalists released after a week's detention in Iraq's most notorious prison. Matt McAllester is next right after these words.


KING: You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. We now go to Amman, Jordan, where Matt McAllester checks in. It's good to have him back. He's the correspondent for "Newsday," one of the better newspapers in the United States. He's one of the four journalists released after a week's detention in Iraq's most notorious prison. How were you captured, Matt? MATTHEW MCALLESTER, "NEWSDAY": I was in my hotel room in Baghdad, and there was a knock on the door. And there were about nine men, as I remember, who came in -- some in uniform and some not -- and there was no arguing with them at all.

KING: Wouldn't you expect that it would have been -- you're going to be expelled. Why were they taking you as a prisoner?

MCALLESTER: Yes. I mean, that's the question I'd love one day to have an answer to, I mean, why they didn't just expel us, like all of the other journalists that they've expelled. And I mean, in all the eight days that we were in their custody, they never gave an explanation. They never formally charged us or informally charged us with anything. So -- and there was no explanation as to why they released us. So there was no explanation at any point there. Their whole sort of mode was to ask questions, not to provide information.

KING: And you had Molly Bingham, a freelance photographer. And who else was taken?

MCALLESTER: There was a Danish photographer, a freelancer, as well, and an American peace activist, and of course, my colleague, Moises Saman (ph), photographer from "Newsday."

KING: Generally, how were you treated?

MCALLESTER: It's hard to say in a short sentence because we were -- we had our freedom denied. We were in solitary confinement. We weren't allowed out of our cells. We weren't allowed -- except to go to the bathroom or to be interrogated. And we weren't allowed to talk to each other. So on several fundamental levels, we weren't treated very well at all. On the other hand, we were never hurt, and they -- they were sort of disturbingly polite most of the time. So it was -- and they, you know, showed us some kindnesses about the second night. It was very, very cold, and so the next day, the chief interrogator made sure that we all had a third blanket to sleep with.

KING: Since you are not military, what were they interrogating you about?

MCALLESTER: They were asking me where I'd been, who I'd met, what stories I'd been doing. They never actually -- they did with some of the others, directly asked them if they were working for intelligence agencies, but the words CIA and Pentagon didn't come up with me until the third day, when things changed, and suddenly we were signing statements and writing out statements. But they were just probing and sort of -- they were definitely accusing me of not being honest, and at one stage, said that my future depended on my coming out with more honest answers than I was doing.

KING: Were you being honest?

MCALLESTER: Yes. I mean, when you're -- absolutely, being honest at all times. You had no question about it.

KING: Now, you must have wondered, What is "Newsday" doing to get my release? What's the outside -- I mean, when you're in a solitary situation like that, what goes through you?

MCALLESTER: Well, what goes -- I mean, I was making calculations all the time about that. The first 24 hours, I was assuming that they would hear somehow or they would just believe that we had been expelled, and they'd be waiting for a phone call from Damascus or Amman. And then, as the next 24 hours ticked by, they would start to get very worried. And then I decided that in the third day, their anxiety would have kicked in in a huge way. And at that stage, the organization would have moved into full gear and the -- you know, the wheels would go into motion, whatever those wheels were.

And we -- it's funny, I was sort of, you know, remembering back to people like Jesse Jackson, who were involved in securing releases of hostages in Kuwait in '91 and American soldiers in -- during the Kosovo war. And he was involved, and all sorts of other people were involved. I mean, our thanks to people in "Newsday" and beyond, throughout the whole journalistic community, people we've never met I know have just performed extraordinary feats of kindness and generosity and work on our behalf. And without -- I don't think -- I mean, I know that we wouldn't be here.

KING: And Matt, you weren't able to see the other people who were captured. So in essence, did they tell you they were treated the same?

MCALLESTER: We were in five cells alongside each other, so we couldn't speak during it. But on the sixth or seventh night, we were sort of shifted in a rather bizarre sort of scenario to another part, and that was the first time that we could talk. And so it was just -- it was a Godsend good to be able to actually communicate. And so then we -- you know, we could share information about the different kinds of things that we'd been going through. But we could actually see each other, and Molly and I were -- we had a wall between us, and we somehow started just tapping three times on the wall, and that meant, How are you? Are you OK? Are you there? A variety of things. And it was pretty reassuring for both of us, at times.

KING: How were you told you were released? Give us the situation. What occurred?

MCALLESTER: It was about 10:30, 11:00 o'clock in the morning on Monday, April Fool's Day, so we were a little suspicious, I think (UNINTELLIGIBLE) hadn't really entered our minds. A guard came along and told Moises -- and you could hear those conversations in the corridor, that pretty soon you'll be -- and he said, You go home soon. Maybe -- you know, Maybe today. And then he said, But Matthew -- Matthew problem. That wasn't very encouraging to hear.

So -- but then, shortly after that, another guard came along and opened all the doors, all our cell doors, and out we went. But you know, I didn't believe it until last night, when we were out of Iraq itself, because they'd lied to us consistently throughout the whole thing, from the beginning, you know, when they said that we were being expelled to Syria.

KING: Where do you live, Matt? MCALLESTER: I live in London at the moment.

KING: So did you call home first?

MCALLESTER: I called -- for my sins, I called my newspaper first, partially because I knew that, by that stage, they would have the network out. And then I called my sister. So I mean, the news spread pretty quickly from that moment onwards.

KING: Now, Matt McAllester, you'll stay there because we're going to be coming back to you. And when we come back to Matt, we'll be joined again by Sir Trevor McDonald, who we've already spoken with, and Scott McLeod -- Sir Trevor in Kuwait City, Scott in Cairo and Matt in Amman. And they will form a panel after we speak with Greg Lynch, the older brother of the released POW Jessica Lynch, and her friends, Nicki and Jennifer and Mariah.

But we're going to spend some moments, as we like to do as often as we can, almost every night, with Colonel Tom Bright of the United States Marine Corps. He's chief of operations. Thanks for joining us again, Colonel Bright. Any further information from your -- from where you are about this Black Hawk being shot down?

COL. TOM BRIGHT, USMC, CHIEF, CENTCOM JOINT OPS CTR.: Larry, the -- we are certainly confirming that we do have a helicopter that went down, and unfortunately, there are some casualties. And so we're going to continue with the investigation of that and the recovery of the aircraft. It's very unfortunate, but I don't have whole lot to report to you, other than we know it's down and we're going to retrieve the killed and wounded. And then we'll just take it from there, Larry.

KING: What is the latest, Colonel, that you have to report?

BRIGHT: Well, I think the last time I spoke with you, Larry, there was -- we were -- we were tightening up our rear area, our supply lines, and getting the Ba'ath Party under control down in the south. And while we were still maintaining contact with the enemy from over the top, using our air power principally, even though we were maintaining contact on the front lines, as well. But since that time, we've made tremendous progress. Before, in our last conversation, we were still south of the Tigris River and the Euphrates. And as you know, it's been reported that we're now north of both those rivers and making tremendous progress.

We've continued to destroy the enemy that he puts in front of us, one division at a time, as we confront them from the south. From the west, we have made unbelievable good progress in that area. The west is -- it really is, Larry, completely isolated from the regime. He has no way of communicating with the west. The west is completely dismantled in their ability to do anything as a consolidated front against us. So we really do -- have made tremendous progress in that area.

From the north, as you know, we've continued to put more and more combat power from the north. We are attacking his lines of communications, and we have increased our level of effort up in that area, as well. So he's certainly feeling the noose being tightened around him. We are close to Baghdad, and before you know it, we're going to be there.

Interestingly, we had one of my majors that works there on the JOC floor, the Joint Operations Center floor, offered a cigar to one of his buddies that's in charge of one of the tank battalions. And he said, Take this cigar with you, but don't smoke it until you get to Baghdad. My guess is he's probably going to get that opportunity here pretty quick.

KING: Pretty quick, meaning, like, how soon, Colonel, do you think?

BRIGHT: Well, I would hate to speculate on that, but I'll tell you, Larry, the enemy has been unable to stop us. The 6th Corps and the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force makes very good progress, and that -- those two ground units that are directly facing then enemy in the southwest and south of -- or southeast and south of Baghdad, along with our air power that we're bringing to bear on him, and along with those forces that we're hitting him from the north, my guess it's going to happen pretty quickly that we're going to be there.

KING: Any update...

BRIGHT: I'd hate to speculate to tell you a time. Go ahead, Larry.

KING: I got you. Before we talk -- we're going to talk in just a moment with some family members of Jessica Lynch -- family and friends. Any update on her?

BRIGHT: I don't have any to give you, Larry. We were very fortunate to get her out. That was an operation that we planned over a number of days, and we struck when the time was right. And we were very fortunate to get her out of the circumstances that she was in. We're real pleased. And I'll tell you, the soldiers and the Marines that went into that compound to pull her out did a -- were very courageous, and they -- my hat's off to them. I'll tell you, those folks in the field that have to face the enemy every day close in are doing a tremendous job, as you well know.

KING: Colonel Bright, we always thank you for being with us. We appreciate your taking the time.

BRIGHT: You're welcome.

KING: Colonel Tom Bright, United States Marine Corps, chief of operations, Joint Operations Center.

We'll come back with Greg Lynch. He's the brother of Jessica Lynch. And we'll meet three of her friends, as well. Then we'll assemble our panel of Matthew McAllester and Sir Trevor McDonald and Scott McLeod. And then, former secretary of defense Harold Brown, former secretary of state General Alexander Haig. That's what's ahead. What's immediately ahead is Heidi Collins with news headlines, then a word or two, and we'll be right back. Heidi's next.



KING: Welcome back.

Joining us in Palestine, West Virginia, is Greg Lynch, the older brother of rescued prisoner of war Jessica Lynch. He's in the Army, too, by the way. He's on emergency leave from Fort Bragg.

And then, in a couple of minutes, we'll talk to three of her friends, Nicki White and Jennifer Baileys and Miriah Duckworth. They're all there in Elizabeth, West Virginia.

Greg, why are you on emergency leave?

GREG LYNCH, BROTHER OF RESCUED POW JESSICA LYNCH: Larry, I got the call, you know, from Fort Bragg. My mother had told me that Jessica's convoy had been ambushed and immediately Fort Bragg was very cooperative and my chain of command down there at the 1st 159th Aviation Regiment, they immediately got me home as soon as possible.

KING: Tell me how you first learned that your sister was taken.

LYNCH: I'd received a call early that morning from my mother. She -- she had told me that Jessica had been classified -- an Army official had came to the door late Sunday night with a West Virginia state trooper and had informed them that she was one of the MIAs that was in the convoy.

KING: Now is it true that she joined the Army because you joined?

LYNCH: She -- she joined, Larry, I want to say not because of me, because -- because she wanted to.

She's -- she's a very outstanding young lady and I tell you what, her pride in herself. She just wanted to better herself not only to prove that she was strong to me, but to others as well.

KING: Greg, when no news was forthcoming during those days, did you ever think you might have lost her?

LYNCH: Larry, I never gave up hope. Every night we had prayer meetings here at the house for the family and through the churches throughout the community was the same. And not only through the community and the state and the nation, it was great support and the family never gave up hope and praying and miracles do come true, Larry I just want to tell you that.

KING: She's in Germany now. What can you tell us? What is Jessica like?

LYNCH: Very outgoing, Larry. I tell you she is -- she's one of a kind. You wouldn't think a 5'5" petite young lady would be in the armed forces serving what she's doing right now in Kuwait, but she's doing it and proving everybody that it doesn't matter, male or female, if you're going to do a job and you can do it right, it doesn't matter who you are.

KING: Did she like soldiering?

LYNCH: Yes. She loves being a soldier.

At first, you know, I didn't think she was going to like it. But she got in there and she got in the mood and, you know, she's training every day with the young men and women over there and now back at her unit in Fort Bliss. You know, sad things come too -- that come to us, but, you know, she knew what was going to happen and, you know, it's great that she's home -- or not yet home with us, but, you know, home -- home back in Germany.

KING: Have you spoken to her?

LYNCH: Yes, I have. She -- we had received a phone call from her at 6:30 at night at the house and, you know, it -- it was news to everybody. I mean, it was -- it was -- it was great. My mother, you know, she got to talk to her first and then my father and then I did. And it's just one of them things that you just -- you just can't believe and she was very tired and she was hungry and she wanted to get some rest. But, you know, she also wanted to let the family know that she was doing all right. And it's great news to hear from her.

KING: What did she tell you about her injuries, Greg?

LYNCH: She said that she had two fractured legs. That was all she told me.

Larry, she was -- she was so disoriented. Her voice was crackly and low. Sounded as if she was sick, but she said that she was fine. It was -- she was very weak and tired. You could tell by the -- she just wanted to get some rest. She didn't even know what time it was over there, Larry.

KING: When is she expected home, Greg?

LYNCH: They -- she told us that she was going to call us back tomorrow, Larry, and, you know, give us some more information on her stabability (ph) and more or less they're going to see -- I'm -- I'm just speculating to myself, I can't say what the officials in Germany are going to do -- the doctors over there, but I'm assuming, Larry, that they're going to make sure she's stable for travel and hopefully bring her home to the states to get better.

KING: And I'll bet the whole town of Palestine is going to be there for that.

LYNCH: I'll tell you what, Larry, the town of Palestine is growing. You know, it started out with a thousand and I bet there's a million here now.

KING: Greg, thank you for spending the time with us and give her the best from all of us at CNN.

LYNCH: I will, Larry. I will. Thank you very much.

KING: Greg Lynch.

Joining us now in Elizabeth, West Virginia, are Nicki White, Jennifer Baileys and Miriah Duckworth, all friends of Jessica Lynch.

Nicki, how did you -- how did you first learn she was missing?

NICKI WHITE, FRIEND OF RESCUED POW JESSICA LYNCH: Well, I was at school in and one of my friends told me while I was sitting in the lounge. So...

KING: Remember your first reaction?

WHITE: I just -- I didn't really believe it until I got home. So it was just unbelievable, really.

KING: Jennifer, how did you hear?

JENNIFER BAILEYS, FRIEND OF RESCUED POW JESSICA LYNCH: I was at work and I received a phone call from my sister. They had an assembly announcing it at the high school and she called me and told me the news and I was just really shocked and -- and I just prayed for her immediately.

KING: And Miriah, where were you?

MIRIAH DUCKWORTH, FRIEND OF RESCUED POW JESSICA LYNCH: Larry, I was sitting on my couch. It was about 9:30 in the morning. I was studying for an education exam and one of my cousins called me and told me the news. So I was just absolutely in shock. I didn't know what to think. I had to call the family right away because I had to know for sure. I couldn't go all day not knowing whether it was true or not.

KING: Nicki, were you all high school classmates?

WHITE: Yes, we were.

KING: Did you all graduate high school together?

WHITE: I graduated with Jesse, yes.

KING: And what about you, Jennifer?

BAILEYS: I graduated a year ahead of her.

KING: And Miriah?

DUCKWORTH: Two years.

KING: Greg just told us she was very outgoing and fun and spirited. Would you back that up Nicki?

WHITE: Oh, yes. She was very outgoing. Sweet, very tough, very strong. Very strong person.

KING: Jennifer, how did you learn she was released?

BAILEYS: I heard -- I heard the news come across that they had saved a soldier and I didn't know who it was and then I received a couple of phone calls and the information just started flowing after that and then we all met up together at Miriah's house and we were jumping for joy, overwhelmed with happiness.

KING: Miriah, Greg just told us you spoke to her tonight. She's feeling a little weak. She'll be home soon. I gather you're going to be right there when she arrives.

DUCKWORTH: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. I think the whole town will be there.

KING: Thank you all very much. Nicki White, Jennifer Baileys and Miriah Duckworth all close friends and all very happy tonight over the release of Jessica Lynch and again, her brother Greg telling us he spoke to her tonight from Germany at about 6:30 Eastern time and that she's doing well. A little discomboobulated (ph), as you might expect, suffering some injuries, don't know when she'll be home.

Now let's go back to our panel. Matt McAllester is still with us. He's in Amman, Jordan, one of the four journalists released after a week's detention.

In Kuwait City is Sir Trevor McDonald, the ITN lead anchor.

And in Cairo is Scott McLeod, the Cairo bureau chief of "TIME" magazine.

Matt, while you were incarcerated did you learn anything from your people holding you about the war?

MCLEOD: No, I mean, it was one of the strange things that we could hear the war because every night there was bombing all around the prison, and I wondered whether -- when I last heard the news eight days, you know, 10 days ago the American and British forces were supposedly in Karbala and maybe it would take two or three days in spite of the terrible dust storm that was kicking up at that stage for them to reach the outskirts of Baghdad which still hasn't happened. So I was expecting them to be outside Abu Grave (ph), the prison where we were being held at any moment.

But, no. Other than that I asked a couple of times the interrogators how's the war going? But I wasn't going to get an objective analysis of what was going on on the ground from them.

KING: Scott McLeod, you're a journalist. Why do you think they took these four people? Why was Matthew held?

MCLEOD: It's hard to say. I suspect that they suspected that something that they had done raised an alarm, that maybe they were spies, the Iraqis are extremely paranoid and suspicious. It's part of the culture of their political ideology. So that would be the first thing that comes to mind. I want to say maybe this was also a signal to the other journalists who were staying in Baghdad to be careful, watch what you write, watch what you say when you're on your broadcasts.

KING: By the way, we're having trouble connecting with Sir Trevor McDonald. As soon as we make a connection we'll go to him for some comments.

Matt, do you buy that? Is (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Scott's reasoning might be the reason you were taken?

MCALLESTER: It may well be. You know there are all sort of different theories as to why this happened. The one thing was the fifth person was a peace activist, he wasn't a journalist. And so again that was another logicality. And we'd been there for a month and Moises and I had been there for a month. Two other journalists had been there about a week.

There's no rhyme or reason to much of this. For example, they didn't open, as far as we can tell, we're pretty sure any of the laptop computers. Which obviously, if you're doing a thorough investigation you would sift through and look for incriminating evidence. And I mean, they had some other kind of relatively sophisticated intelligence and on other levels, just incredibly primitive and almost rather bad at their jobs.

KING: Scott, you'd been there. What are the -- does their resistance surprise you? What can you tell us about these people that we don't know? This culture?

MCLEOD: Well, I think that most of the resistance we're seeing is being carried out by the loyalists of the regime. I think that the group Saddam Fedayeen have been leading a lot of the sensational resistance that we're seeing.

My experience in Iraq is that the Iraqi people don't like Saddam Hussein. They want to see him go. I had lots of experiences, not so much on my last trip where I think that the caution was up a little bit more. But on a previous trip which was in 1995, I met a lot of Iraqis who in private when we would get into a taxi cab or something were pretty open about their disdain for the regime and their wish to see it go.

So I have no doubt that while we're not seeing all of the joy and the rose petals being thrown at the troops, that there will be a lot of joy when Saddam Hussein goes. I think that the problem we're seeing is that Iraqi -- there has been Iraqi resistance.

And for better or worse, this has reinforced the Arab opposition to the war. The widespread Arab opposition to the war. And so it had are has complicated matters in this question in the hearts and minds of the Arab street because the war now is being seen more by the Arab world as an occupation of Iraq. And unless in the very near future, Iraqis really are demonstrably overjoyed by this change of regime in Baghdad, I think that that is going to be an impression, this impression of an occupation that's hard to overcome. Especially because the American forces are going to have to stay there for a while.

KING: Thank you, Scott McLeod. Thank you, Matt McAllester. Congratulations on being safe and we're sorry we couldn't connect with Sir Trevor McDonald.

In a couple of moments we'll talk with Harold Brown, former secretary of defense. General Alexander Haig, former secretary of state.

Let's go back to the Pentagon. Jamie McIntyre with -- I assume has an update on the Black Hawk situation.

MCINTYRE: Well, Larry, just a quick update. It's often said that the Pentagon that initial reports from the battlefield are wrong. We don't know that's the case this time. But we do know we have conflicting reports.

The reports from the battlefield indicate that there were 11 people who were either killed or injured because of this Black Hawk crash. Seven dead and four injured. Apparently the Black Hawk helicopter, U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter brought down by small arms fire near Karbala in an area where there had been some intense conflict.

But we are now getting a statement from the U.S. Central Command that indicates there may have been only six people on the helicopter and they're not confirming any of the casualties. So we're going to have to sort this out.

Again, the initial report from the field, seven dead, four injured. It may be that some of the dead or injured were on the ground when the helicopter landed. We just don't know. So we'll get back to you as soon as we have clarity.

KING: You stay with CNN, the most trusted name in news. You're getting reports from Jamie all night long.

We'll take a break and we'll come back with Harold Brown and General Haig. Don't go away.


KING: We now welcome two familiar figures on the American scene. In New York Dr. Harold Brown, former secretary of defense in the Carter administration, currently a counselor for the Center for Strategic and National Studies.

And the very familiar General Alexander Haig, Unite States Army retired, former secretary of state of the Reagan administration and former supreme allied commander of the NATO forces in Europe.

All right, Dr. Brow, we haven't spoken in a while. What's your overview of all this? How goes it? DR. HAROLD BROWN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, I think there have been some surprises, unexpected things. Some of them good, some of them bad.

Certainly the resistance in the south of Baghdad from the Fedayeen Saddam and the harassment of the supply lines has been a problem. The population has not risen to oppose Saddam, understandable because last time they did it they were left to wither on the vine. So those are some problems.

On the other hand there are some rather good things. The oilfields are not on fire. Saddam has not been able to launch major missile attack on other countries. He's fired a few at Kuwait, but there the Patriot missiles have intercepted them pretty well which is better than last time.

KING: Let me get General Haig's thoughts. How goes it, Al?


KING: Good seeing you again.

HAIG: Larry, I'm very optimistic about the way things have been going. There are always glitches in warfare. Harold knows that, he ran the Defense Department and I was there for a good part of that and I'm a great friend and admirer of Harold's.

War is never an easy or what I call difficult-free operation and there are always surprises. But overall, this has been a magnificently done operation and I think we're beginning to see the beginnings of the crumbling that I anticipate will move more rapidly rather than more slowly.

BROWN: I think that's right. I think that -- that, you know, to have move 200 miles in five days and now to be 50 miles or less from Baghdad -- that's, you know, a rolling start. It rolled pretty fast.

Now they still have to smash the Republican Guard division, and they're in the process of doing that and then the really hard part comes. What do you do when you've invested Baghdad and have to somehow finish the regime off? That will cost some real difficult problems.

KING: General Haig, what do you make of the complaints by Secretary Rumsfeld and the Joint Chiefs about generals complaining about the war -- retired general, criticizing the effort?

HAIG: Well, you know, we retired generals are part of a club where we all wish we were back in charge, but that's not going to happen.

I think one of the big problems is that while there may be some -- some fire behind all this smoke, and some people were left with their feelings hurt, I do think that it's wrong-headed in a time of conflict to -- to be critical of your commander in chief, your president, your vice president and your -- and your secretary of defense, all three of whom were the really moving factors in the administration on standing up to this animal in bag -- in Baghdad.

And so, you know, there's more to this than just this disgruntled Army, ex-Army guys. There's some political -- political gamesmanship going on and there's always a press interest in keeping that stuff alive because it sells more newspapers. But I do wish that we'd rallied behind our commander in chief and if we got problems, let's go at them after the conflict has been won which won't be too long.

KING: How do you assess, Harold Brown, the job done by Secretary Rumsfeld?

BROWN: I think that he clearly has participated strongly in the formulation of what bids fair to be a successful campaign. I think you can't make the final judgment until that campaign is over.

I'm also quite sure that there were some strong arguments about just what the plan should be. The so-called time phased troop deployment list, is TIPFTL is the nickname for it and different people had different ideas. I think the results are showing that the outcome of those arguments, in which I'm sure the secretary of defense played a substantial part, are working pretty well.

Now there are always, within the Defense Department and within the government, different views. There are bureaucratic and institutional arguments. Clearly there's an argument about how much you should depend on air power and how much you need-- how big of a ground force you need.

But the answer to that will be seen when the campaign is over. Retired generals always attempted to criticize the civilian superiors. I seem to recall how they did it to me when he was retired.

KING: General...


HAIG: You aren't listening. It wasn't you, it was your leader.

KING: General Haig, what about -- will this strained relationship between the United States and Russia -- and you worked hard at ending that cleavage. Do you think that's too deep or is it reparable?

HAIG: Well, everything is reparable but I do think we've been on the verge of being somewhat naive about the former Soviet Union and its leadership. I'm not sure Mr. Putin has ever shown his soul. He may not even have one.


BROWN: We may have an easier time getting together with the Russians again than getting together with some of our Western European allies. That's the rift that really bothers me. The Russians, we can deal with one way or another,. But we need to get together with the Europeans again and that's going to be hard because the differences have crystallized as a result of the Iraqi events leading up to the Iraq war.

KING: Do you agree, General Haig?

HAIG: Well, in the first place, I don't think these troubles develop overnight. That's our tendency to look at everything as a snapshot in time.

Our current lack of credibility in the Middle East, for example, has been 30 years in the making and it began with a whole series of misjudgments by the leaders in both parties. I'm sorry to say and I was there for most of them.

Now, having said that, we have a situation in which a French leader, who is really the centerpiece of the problem. The fellow in Germany is not going to be around long. He doesn't represent the German people as successful political leader whereas Mr. Chirac views Europe as something different than the former partnership between North America and Western Europe. And, of course, you've added to that the complication of the new eastern members -- Eastern European members.

So I agree with Harold. This is -- this is not an easy problem. It's been years in the making. It was -- it was primarily triggered by want the collapse of the former Soviet Union. But I think we've got to be anything, but naive about the Soviet Union. After all, they are the power with the large inventory of nuclear weapons and they're not getting rid of them at the pace that I would like to have seen, nor are they cooperating in the way that we were all led to believe by the rhetoric of Mr. Putin that they would be cooperating.

KING: Harold Brown -- only have a minute left, Harold. So if you could comment on what he said in about 30 seconds. We expect to have both of you back.

Do you agree with General Haig?

BROWN: The Russians clearly have made troubles for us. They're making trouble for us in Iran and they haven't been sufficiently cooperative with respect to Iraq.

But we were used to dealing with them from an adversarial or semi-adversarial position. Dealing with the Europeans and the French..

KING: Yes. That's new.

BROWN: ...even the French from that adversarial position is new and they are very important because although the U.S. is preeminent, it's not omnipotent. We need help to do some of the things we want to do.

KING: Thank you both very much. Harold brown, former secretary of defense. General Alexander Haig, former secretary of state.

Heidi Collins is next with the news headlines. Aaron Brown is right around the corner with "NEWSNIGHT."

Among the guests tomorrow night will be senators Warner and Feinstein and a representative of Al Jazeera talking about some of their reporters being tossed out of Iraq.

Thanks for joining us. Heidi is next and then Aaron. Good night.


Interview With Matthew McAllester>

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