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Marine Firefight One-Sided as Republican Guard Holds Fire; Search-and-Rescue Operation Under Way for Missing F-18

Aired April 3, 2003 - 00:00   ET


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: A Wall Street analyst was quoted today as saying that between the war and the outbreak of SARS, it would be very damaging to the global economy. The SARS story, which has not gotten as much attention, as, clearly, it otherwise would have, because of the focus on the war, is an enormous global story, or at least has the potential to be that.
There are a couple of major strains of the war story we are following as they are happening right now, the first of which is a small piece in a large puzzle, if you will, that Marines are engaged in -- a group of Marines are engaged in an artillery fight.

"Fight" is probably not the right word because Martin Savidge, who is our correspondent embedded with this group, says there's no return fire coming back from a unit of the Republican Guard out in the distance.

And, in fact, this picture that you do see of the group that Marty is with -- the artillery is being fired by Marines behind him quite some distance. They have just taken an airfield -- an Iraqi airfield, and they are firing this long-range artillery over the heads of Martin's unit to a Republican Guard position.

Also, as Daryn mentioned, a search-and-rescue operation is under way for an F-18 that is missing, launched off the Kitty Hawk, one pilot on board, and it's a little bit -- this has been going on for a while. We've known about it for several hours.

It is now reportable that the search-and-rescue is on. What part of the country and the rest, we do not know, and, obviously, if the search-and-rescue operation were still in place, if we knew, we could not and would not report it.

Those are a couple of things that are play at this hour. If you're just joining our coverage, we also want to stretch the broader strokes of what is an important day.

A piece of sobering news broke late tonight, as we just, the loss of this fighter.

And, in a conversation earlier tonight with Michael Gordon of "New York Times," there is the feeling now at the command that the Iraqi regime has made a decision to pull its forces back into the city of Baghdad, the way the day -- and fight it out in the streets. The way the day shaked out was this sort of rush to Baghdad, and, in some respects, it seems that both sides now are rushing to the city.

Here is how the day looked.


BROWN (voice-over): As American artillery pounded away, week two of the war in Iraq began with reports of unqualified success. Some elements of the Army and the Marines had pushed to within only a few dozen miles of Baghdad and had effectively destroyed two divisions of the Iraqi Republican Guard. Significant progress for U.S. forces, to be sure, but the Pentagon was quick to raise a cautionary flag.

VICTORIA CLARKE, PENTAGON SPOKESWOMAN: As much as we are making good progress -- and we are -- the toughest fighting could lay ahead. The likelihood that they might use chemical weapons is in front of us now. So I just want to calibrate everybody. We are not underestimating how tough it could be going forward.

BROWN: The battlefield news is important because Karbala is only 50 miles from Baghdad and was thought to have been a major confrontation. It was not. As a result, three large American forces who are close to encircling the Iraqi capital, facing far fewer Iraqi soldiers.

From all the approaches to Baghdad, there were signs that American military units were converging. CNN's Walter Rodgers is with the 3rd Division of the Army's 7th Calvary.

WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have seen huge convoys of supply troops moving ever northward. Indeed, all the arrows on the Army's maps seem to be pointing in the direction of the southern suburbs of Baghdad.

BROWN: Evidence of last night's battle was clear. This Apache helicopter practically disappeared from view as it landed in a desert not far from Karbala, but you could still see bullet holes in its skin and in the window glass.

Then very late in the day, world of a Black Hawk crash. The helicopter brought down near Karbala by small-arms fire.

CAPT. BRIAN MCCOURT, U.S. ARMY: It's a very quick-moving, very fluid battle. The armor and mechanized infantry and artillery pieces and personnel on the ground are moving at rapid speeds.

BROWN: Members of the 101st Airborne were on patrol in the central Iraqi city of Najaf where there's an important Shiite mosque, a mosque that reportedly has been used as a headquarters for some Iraqi fighters, for the time-being, undamaged by the battle.

In the Iraqi capital itself, two new statements on behalf of Saddam Hussein and a taped appearance as well, but, once again, there is no indication of when this tape was recorded.

An Arab television network broadcast these pictures of what it said were fighters from Yemen coming to the defense of Baghdad. Even as 19-year-old Private First Class Jessica Lynch arrived in Germany for treatment, there emerged more details of her extraordinary rescue. It took place here in Nasiriyah, and, according to "The Washington Post," it was a combined operation by both the CIA and four different Special Forces teams.

Those teams also recovered bodies from the same general location, and it seems probable they are the remains of American soldiers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In all of regime, our life was very bad. We can't say anything.

BROWN: And in various parts of Iraq, there were clear signs that the residents were not only welcoming coalition troops, but they were helping them as well. In the South during a night-time operation, a local man helped the British identify members of a guerrilla group, the Fedayeen.

It seemed clear that along a very broad front, from Basra in the South to Najaf in the center of the country, and on the edges of Kirkuk in the North, that the progress on the ground in general was going the coalition's way this day.


BROWN: A broad look at the day. Now some small pieces. A small piece from CNN's Martin Savidge. Marty's with a Marine unit and -- the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. Marty, for those viewers who have just joined us, why don't you fill us in again on what it is they are seeing and hearing.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right. Well, Aaron, we are obviously in central Iraq. That's about as specific as I can get.

The 1st Battalion 7th Marines were able to seize and secure Al Numinirah (ph) Air Force Base. That was formerly an Iraqi Air Force Base. They did that late yesterday afternoon.

We have pushed on from Al Numinirah (ph). and we are moving in the general direction of forward and north, as most of the other military units.

Now, this morning, just a short while ago, there's been a heavy barrage of outgoing Marine artillery, and it has been going off a couple of kilometers, about a mile and a half behind us here. They are using what they called rocket-assisted projectiles.

So you hear the explosion of the guns going off, and then over- head you hear what sounds like jet airplanes flying, and that's when the jet engines or the rocket engines kick in, and then, about eight seconds later, you hear the explosions. It has died down now.

It appears that much of artillery was focused to the east of us. It's believed that what they are aiming at -- could be remnants or portions of the Baghdad Republican Guard and that they are trying to continue to reduce their fighting ability. Now the Republican Guards in general have been struck very heavily from the air. But now, as ground units have moved forward into position, now they can also be attacked from the ground using artillery. So it's a double whammy they're getting hit with. And, eventually, I'm sure the goal is that they will have to be engaged with ground forces as well.

I was told that the Baghdad Division had been degraded by about 50 percent or 40 percent, and, with each salvo, of course, there could be a greater reduction in their ability to carry on the fight. It remains to be seen right now how they are going to push forward.

But there's no doubt -- yesterday, we moved with very little opposition, even when they went on this airfield, no opposition whatsoever that was either received from regular Iraqi Army units or from paramilitary units.

We did see a number of Iraqi casualties, the killed in action. But, aside from that, though, there was no heavy gunfire, no heavy opposition today. All of the artillery is outgoing. Nothing has been returned -- Aaron.

BROWN: Marty, thank you.

Martin Savidge with the 1st Battalion in the 7th Marines. We'll keep an eye on that.

But, as long as there's nothing -- nothing changes in that situation, we can leave it now.

To the Pentagon. Chris Plante is there. Chris has been keeping track of the search-and-rescue operation that's under way for this missing plane and pilot -- Chris.


Yes, there's a lot that we don't know, but an F/A-18C model, which is a single-seat fighter jet, flying from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk in the Persian Gulf, down either in Iraq or in the Persian Gulf, we don't know specifically where. They're not saying specifically where.

A single pilot. Indications are that he ejected. Search-and- rescue efforts are under way. And that is more or less all that we know about the F-18. It's not clear whether it was downed by hostile fire.

But, again, the plane is down, pilot probably ejected, and search-and-rescue efforts are ongoing. This happened a number of hours ago, actually, about 3:45 p.m. Eastern Time, and, while search and rescue was under way, we weren't really talking about it much, as you know, Aaron.

BROWN: OK. And just one quick question. If my memory is right -- and it may not be -- this would be the first plane that's been lost in this, isn't it? PLANTE: Well, there it was an S-3 Viking that went off the deck of the Constellation the other day. It was not a combat casualty, as it were. It was an accident. And there is a Harrier, which is the vertical takeoff Marine Corps, also...

BROWN: Right.

PLANTE: ... also went down the day before yesterday, also, if I remember this correctly, not as a result of hostile fire, but two fixed-wing aircraft down, a number of helicopters down.

This is the first fighter attack aircraft that may or may not have gone down as result of hostile fire. It may be as a result of hostile fire, but we're still waiting for further details.

BROWN: Chris, thank you very much.

Chris Plante at the Pentagon.

When you think of how many flights have been made -- how many sorties have been made, that's a pretty remarkable record in all of this.

Art Harris is embedded with the 3rd Battalion 2nd Marines. He's been in and around Nasiriyah, and he joins us now by phone.

Art, it's good to talk to you again.

ART HARRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Iraq's most wanted, the infamous Chemical Ali, cousin of Saddam Hussein, who is governor of southern Iraq.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) Marine sources are telling us that he has met with the Fedayeen, the paramilitary units, Iraqi military in the same hospital where Private Jessica Lynch was rescued the other day.

That's where he was been conducting meetings in Nasiriyah. He uses the ground floor or the basement, the Marine intelligence folks were told, and the informant who told them this actually drew out a schematic, Aaron, diagram of the hospital showing them all the rooms, the basement, how secure it was, and advised them that they were trying to kill anyone in the basement, including Chemical Ali, they would not be able to do that with artillery, with bombs. They would have to go in with a force to do that on foot, on the ground.

I'm told by the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance unit, who took information from this informant, along with military intelligence, that the informant's information was corroborated by others, that he has been a good supplier of information, and it is unclear whether this information got to these Special Forces units that went in in the combined operation and rescued here, but I'm told that it was gathered in time to be passed up the chain and to be useful for that operation.

Aaron, I'm also told that Chemical Ali dresses up in plain attire to blend in with the population, that he moves frequently between small towns around Nasiriyah, and that he's believed to be driving a 1979 red possibly Nissan truck or car. And this is someone the U.S. Marines want very badly to capture. And the hunt goes on -- Aaron.

BROWN: Art, thank you.

Art Harris is with the 2nd Marines.

If that -- I mean just think about it for a second. If the informant's information is true, they know that somewhere out in Iraq, there is a 1979 red Nissan with Chemical Ali in it.

Diana Muriel is one of our embedded correspondents. She's with British troops, the Desert Rats, and she joins us now -- Diana.


(UNINTELLIGIBLE) bombardment continued once again last night in Basra. Last night, too, they also used what we call (UNINTELLIGIBLE) which are large (UNINTELLIGIBLE) flares which light of the night sky and, of course, lights up the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the city itself and the smaller town slightly to the east of it, Zubair.

The military sources I spoke to last night told me that it provides two purposes. The first one, of course, is to provide better information for the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and to see better back to the gun battery's position here (UNINTELLIGIBLE). They're able to get a better, more accurate reading of their targets. They're also able to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) moving targets at night, as a consequence of using those flares.

But, also, they said, very importantly, it has a psychological effect. It demonstrates to the militia, to the Fedayeen in control of Basra that they can see even at night. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) told me that it would seem as if it were daylight inside Basra as a consequence of those flares.

Each one lasts between eight and 10 minutes, and a barrage of them went up over the course of half an hour or so. After that, the guns continued firing for some hours into the city. Again, no new details as to what precisely they were trying to target and what their success rate was.

But sources have told me that, within the city, more and more people are trying to leave, Aaron, and that Fedayeen and militia have evicted some people from certain areas of the city. They've told them that their houses would be in the direct line of fire. Well, that would indicate that they believe the British are about to mount some sort of concerted attack on the city, but there is no indication from senior British sources as to when that might be.

They continue to play the waiting game. They're consolidating their position outside of the city. They say they do not want to risk unnecessarily British lives (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in Baghdad and some sort of hand-to-hand street fighting within Basra and that they will take their time and go in when they judge that time to be right -- Aaron.

BROWN: Diana, thank you. Diana Muriel who's with the British forces, the British forces responsible now for those two major areas in the South of the country, while the Americans push north toward Baghdad.

We'll be joined by General Wesley Clark who's in -- out West tonight. He'll be with us for a moment.

We need to take a break first, and our coverage continues after that.



BROWN: We're joined tonight again, as always, I think we can say, by retired General Wesley Clark, the former NATO supreme commander. General Clark is out west in Las Vegas tonight.

And, General, it's nice to see you.


BROWN: I don't imagine you heard Michael Gordon's reporting a bit ago, but Michael reported that the command now believes that the Iraqi Republican Guard is retreating to Baghdad itself and that the intent is to finish this thing, however it's going to be finished, in an urban environment, the most dangerous kind of protracted battle, I guess you could say, of this.

Does that surprise you? Did they have any options?

CLARK: I don't think they had any options. We said maybe a week and a half ago that, if they defended out in the open on the outskirts of Baghdad, as apparently they have, they'd be pounded to pieces by U.S. air, as soon as we had identified the positions, and it was my expectation that they'd some built-up areas to hang on to out there. It doesn't sound like it.

It sounds like they used standard Iraqi tactics, the kind that were used against us in Desert Storm or against the Iranians, which were adopted from the Soviet Union, with the prepared fighting positions bermed positions for tanks and infantry trenches and so forth, and, if that's the case, they would be absolutely destroyed by U.S. airpower. So that might account for the rapid advance.

On the other hand, they would have a hard time pulling back, too, because of the air superiority. So it's unclear how much of their equipment they could have recovered. We may be fighting mostly a dismounted infantry battle inside Baghdad.

BROWN: I actually abhor sports metaphors when we're talking about this, but, if you're the Iraqis and you've retreated into the city, how do you -- how do you get on the offense? Is there an offense there, or is it essentially a defensive position you try and kill as many Americans as you can but know in the end you lose? CLARK: It's sort of an operational defense/tactical offense. In other words, you would take positions, you would establish killing zones or ambush sites. You'd want to draw the Americans in. Then you'd want to be able to encircle them, strike them from above, or come up from underground, and go in behind their columns. You'd want to get -- come back out at night and get to the supplies and so forth.

Of course, all of this is going to be very difficult for them because not only do they have -- do we have fire power superiority, but we have technological superiority. We're the ones with the nightvision goggles, not the Iraqis. We're the ones with the unmanned aerial vehicles that can see what's on the tops of roofs, not the Iraqis.

So we've got so many technology advantages. They're going to have a very hard time. They'll fight, but they won't succeed.

BROWN: Do they have any advantages? Is it -- I was going to -- I probably -- well, they probably know the city better, though I'm not actually sure that that is precisely true either.

CLARK: They probably do know the city better, and they've certainly had the chance to prepare the ground.

So let's say they've dug in some very large explosive devices under the streets through putting them inside culverts and so forth and -- or maybe they have prepared demolition pits, as we used to have in Germany, so you could blow up the road underneath the lead American tank.

Maybe that would be an advantage, but -- and they'll be there. So they'll have the communication. They'll know how the rooms of the buildings are laid out. But, in general, that's a pretty transitory advantage.

BROWN: Is this, do you think, in the regime -- the -- all right. Now you have to think like the Iraqi regime. I apologize. Is this sort of one part military strategy because it's the only one available and one part political strategy, hoping either the Americans don't have the will to take casualties that this kind of warfare entails?

CLARK: I think that's -- it's political and military. In other words, Aaron, I think the -- there are three dimensions by which the Iraqis will measure their success.

First of all, how long they can hang on in Baghdad. Secondly, how much destruction they can impose on us. And, third, how much destruction they can make us impose on them, both physical destruction and killing of innocent civilians.

And with those -- those are the three dimensions they'll measure success by, even if ultimately we take Baghdad.

BROWN: So this -- you know, Michael's description of it was really interesting in that -- to me in that he -- the whole conversation today has been about this rush by the Americans to Baghdad, that they're racing towards it, they've degraded the Republican Guard, all of that.

And what Michael Gordon, the chief military affairs writer of "The New York Times," the Michael we're referring to here, says is that all -- at the same time, the Iraqis were actually the ones racing to the city as well, and we -- the U.S. side could stop them with airpower?

CLARK: Well, if they're moving in identifiable military vehicles, hopefully, we have stopped them with airpower. If they're in buses and civilian cars, it's going to be hard. Someone's going to have to make a call from the air and say that's definitely military. We don't want to strike innocent civilians if we can do it.

And -- and so I think there is a political strategy here, Aaron, and I think it's this, that it's to make this the sort of Alamo of the Iraqis. In other words, if you hold on for a long time, you make the Americans look bad. If you kill a lot of Americans, you make the Americans look bad. Or destroy equipment. And if you force the Americans to level large portions of Baghdad and if you can force the Americans to kill a lot of innocent women and children, well, then you make the Americans look bad.

So, even if they can't win, at least as long as there's some grip on the forces by the Iraqi regime, there's a political strategy that they may pursue.

BROWN: At least two other questions that this raises. There's always -- there's the Republican Guard, and there's the Special Republican Guard. The Republican Guard considered not quite so loyal to Saddam Hussein as the Special Republican Guard.

What is the -- what is the view of the military as best you know it of the willingness of the Republican Guard to take -- take orders at this stage of the fight?

CLARK: Well, it's really hard to say without getting inside the intelligence information, which we presumably have, we'd have a pretty good feel for that, it's hard from the outside, though.

But, traditionally, we haven't let -- we haven't seen the Republican Guard being allowed into Baghdad because they weren't loyal enough to be trusted that close to the palace. Now they're coming back in. They're shattered.

But there's probably lots of people in there all being assembled and organized by the Special Republican Guards.

BROWN: And -- 30 seconds. And we've never talked -- you and I -- we have never discussed the -- how long this might may take, not one time that I recall, but I'm going to do it here. Is this the kind of fight that could go on for weeks and weeks and weeks?

CLARK: I guess it could go on for a few weeks. It really depends on the Iraqis and the care that we take not to do a lot of excessive damage. But we are eventually going to have enough forces in there to completely encircle Baghdad, to cut it off, to prevent any communications and reinforcements from the outside. Right now, we probably don't have those kinds of forces there, but we will have. And then we'll work block by block and section by section against it.

It really depends on the Iraqis. They're the ones who will set this, and my guess is they'll fight pretty hard, but that, ultimately, large portions of that city will rally to us.

BROWN: That's an area we didn't actually get into. We'll pick that up the next time we talk.

General Clark's with us tonight the rest of the way.

Daryn Kagan joins us in a moment to update the day's headlines.

We take a break first. Then our coverage continues.


DARYN KAGAN, ANCHOR: I am Daryn Kagan live in Kuwait City on this Thursday morning. Let's go ahead and take a look at the latest developments.

U.S. military officials say a search and rescue operation is underway for the pilot of a U.S. Navy FA-18B Hornet. Looking at video of an FA-18 Hornet. The plane from the carrier Kittyhawk went down over Iraq early Thursday.

Central command is withholding the name of the pilot until the family or her family is notified.

There are conflicting details following the downing of a U.S. Black Hawk helicopter near Karbala on Wednesday. Small arms fire brought the aircraft down. The Pentagon said seven people were killed and four injured. However, central command in Qatar says that six people were on board, it would not confirm any casualties at this point.

A Reuters crew says that Peshmerge military forces moved into former Iraqi positions near Satura (ph). That's in northern Iraq. The abandoned position is near the village of Katic (ph). Once there, the Kurdish forces found gas masks and abandoned weapons.

The BBC says one of its cameramen has been accidentally killed in northern Iraq. Freelancer Kava Goulestan (ph) died after stepping on a land mine while getting out of his car. A BBC producer who was part of the four-man team was also injured.

Now with that, Aaron, we will toss it back to you in Atlanta.

BROWN: Got the morning papers? Give us one if you've got it. And we'll take the other one in the next half hour.

KAGAN: OK. We'll give you this one. This is the "Kuwait Times." Two interesting pictures. You have the child picture, that is almost always featured on the front page of the papers here. This is on Hira (ph), Iraq; it's about 60 miles south of Baghdad. That is a woman carrying her daughter, awaiting information about relatives outside the hospital, the same hospital we showed you yesterday, where the child was sleeping on the ground.

And then is Chris Reubens (ph), my partner here, can just pan over to this one. This is interesting, clearance kiss. Caption reading, Aaron, an Iraqi man kisses the cheek of Private Garrett Allman (ph) of Palm Deck (ph), California. The man was searched and was allowed to pass this Army checkpoint yesterday. Showing his gratitude there.

This here from the "Kuwait Times."

BROWN: Daryn, the picture everybody ran into today, talked about, was the one you had of the prisoner of war with the bag over his head, holding his young son that was in one of the two newspapers there yesterday. It was an unbelievably powerful picture.


BROWN: Thank you, Daryn Kagan.

KAGAN: We'll bring it to you, Aaron.

BROWN: Thank you. I'd actually like you to bring it to me. It'd be nice to have that, if you still have it around. Thank you very much.

KAGAN: You know what? I will pack it in my suitcase later today; you got it.

BROWN: Thank you very much. Daryn will join Anderson Cooper and anchor through much of the morning in a little bit. We've got a ways to go before then.

The pictures you are about to see look as though they were shot through a keyhole. It does not matter. The story of the rescue of Private First Class Jessica Lynch packs an emotional punch that comes through in living color, as reported here by Wolf Blitzer.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): It was a classic extraction mission last night in Nasiriyah, involving elements of the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines,

According to the U.S. military, it started with a diversionary attack elsewhere in the city, and coming in under cover of darkness, a team of Army Rangers and Navy SEALs flew into the Saddam Hussein Hospital in Nasiriyah on Air Force MH-60 special forces helicopters.

They came away with Private First Class Jessica Lynch and 11 bodies, possibly American casualties.

CNN military analyst General Don Shepperd says it probably went down like this.

GEN. DON SHEPPERD, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: This appears to be a typical joint forces special operation seizure of an individual. Probably had a couple of days of intelligence to confirm that intelligence. Then, most likely a diversionary attack by the Marines. Insertion by Air Force special operations helicopters, security of the facility, in this case, the hospital, by Rangers. Then rescue of the individual by Navy SEALs. Also supported by close air support by AC- 130 gun ships and probably fixed wing aviation standing by.

A classic operation and very successful.

BLITZER: With the necessary forces on hand, planning for this mission was likely formulated in less than a day, and Shepperd says was likely comprised of more than 100 Army Rangers and more than 40 navy SEALs. Centcom announced that there were no coalition casualties on the mission.

Lynch had not been heard from since she and 14 of her comrades of the 507th Supply Company took what's been described as a wrong turn near Nasiriyah on March 23. Fiver were POWs and showcased on Iraqi television. Two were killed, and the other eight listed as missing, Jessica among them.

Wolf Blitzer, CNN, Kuwait City.


BROWN: We're moved to see one dad reacting to Private Lynch's rescue today, the father of Shoshanna Johnson, who's still a POW in Iraq, saying he was very glad that Jessica Lynch -- very glad about it, that it gave everyone hope, all of the families hope.

Certainly Private Lynch's family and neighbors had mentioned their concern for the other POWs several times since she was rescued. The rest of the time, they're smiling and they're celebrating.

CNN's Jeff Flock reports from Palestine, West Virginia.


JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The yellow ribbons are everywhere, and the signs, and the flags, and the joy.

That's Jessica's parents, Dee and Greg Lynch, after watching the green, grainy images of their daughter's daring rescue that even they couldn't believe.

GREG LYNCH, JESSICA LYNCH'S FATHER: I just figured this was just an April fool's deal.

FLOCK: It happened on April 1, but it was no fooling.

DEE LYNCH, JESSICA LYNCH'S MOTHER: I love her. And she's been so badly missed.


FLOCK: At the Methodist church, a service of thanks. At the courthouse, a tree full of ribbons. In her yard, a POW/MIA flag. She's been both in the last week.

GREG LYNCH JR., JESSICA LYNCH'S BROTHERS: It's outstanding, it just brings tears to my eyes and a smile to my face.

FLOCK: Jessica's brother, Greg Jr., watches first pictures of his sister arriving in Germany on CNN.

G. LYNCH JR.: It's good news that she's on her way home.

FLOCK: And when she gets home, the 19 year-old, who had enlisted in the Army to help pay for college so she could become a teacher, will get her wish.

GOV. BOB WISE, WEST VIRGINIA: There will be a full scholarship for her, whenever she wants to go to college.

D. LYNCH: Thank you. Thank you very much.

FLOCK: We listened as West Virginia's governor, Bob Wise, tells her parents the state wants to show its thanks.

WISE: The people of the state of West Virginia are going to make sure she goes to school. And over at the high school where Jessica graduated at the high school not two years ago, her old principle says they will hold a job for her.

KEN HEINEY, PRINCIPAL, WIRT COUNTY: To be able to stand in front of a classroom, whether it is kindergarten students or high school students. What an event; what a story she's going to be able to tell. Here is a hero in our midst.

FLOCK: Jessica Lynch wanted to be a teacher, not a hero. When she gets home to West Virginia, she's going to be both.

I'm Jeff Flock CNN, Palestine, west Virginia.


BROWN: She's probably the best known private first class in the country right now, Private First Class Jessica Lynch.

The nature of the fight ahead in Baghdad is a crucial question tonight. We've talked about it a fair amount. We will suspect to talk about it for many nights to come.

For more on the possibilities, the ways the Republican Guard -- I'm sorry, you want me to go to break here? OK, I'll do that. We'll take a break and then we'll tell you that story in just a moment.


BROWN: Thursday morning in Baghdad, moving toward 10 in the morning, a hazy Thursday morning there. Reporting that Republican Guard troops are pulling back into the city, if they can. American air power will try and stop that.

The reporting is that the Republican Guard, that the regime of Saddam Hussein, will makes its last stand in the streets and the apartments and the office buildings of that city, in an urban war that will end this some day.

How that might play out, how those -- how these last days, or weeks or months, even, will play out, has been subject to considerable talk over the build-up to the war. And it certainly was one of the things that Miles O'Brien has taken a look at for us tonight.


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: As coalition forces move toward Baghdad, the question is, what lies in wait for them? The Republican Guards. They are the elite portion of the Saddam Hussein military regime. But how elite are they and what sort of equipment do they have?

Gen. Dan Benton joining us now, retired U.S. Army, to talk a little bit about that. It's good to see you.

First of all, in the general sense of it, we say "elite" to talk about the Republican Guard. Is that a bit of a misnomer?

LT. GEN. DAN BENTON, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, that's a name they've given themselves. And it has to be do with the echelon made up their units, their regular divisions.

Then the Republican Guard divisions in those so-called palace guards and the elites, it's a name they've given themselves.

O'BRIEN: All right. They are better equipped. Let's start with their main battle tank, the T-72 battle tank. This is an old Soviet block design, which dates back some years now but is a fairly formidable foe for the coalition tank leading the way, the Abrams tank.


O'BRIEN: Tank for tank, who wins?

BENTON: Well, tank for tank, Abrams wins. You know, when I did my analysis for this, I looked back at the various weapons systems they've got, and it's almost looking like you're looking back at the Soviet army of the '60s.

This tank is actually a vintage '60s era tank. And I've seen you do many high technology presentations here at CNN. At a time, this was high technology, but it's not any more. They've got about 700 of them.

And having said that, let me just say that a tank round made in 1965 is just as deadly as a tank round that was made last month somewhere. So in no way do I want to under-emphasize the deadliness of this vehicle.

After the '91 war, I had the chance to drive in these, some of our captured T-72s, fire the weapons. And Miles, I would not want to be in one of these things when we start fighting these Republican Guard divisions when the Air Force comes in.

O'BRIEN: Perhaps they will feel the same way. The MP-2 is a small piece of armor used in their repertoire. What is its use, to carry troops or just smaller weapons?

BENTON: Yes, the BMP is not actually a fighting vehicle. It's really used to get entry forces to the battle field, then they dismount and they fight. It has an automatic weapon on top of it. But again, the Air Force will see these things from the air, our own aircraft will see these things. It will be a death trap for anybody that stays in them.

O'BRIEN: All right. Let's look at RPGs. Everybody saw the movie "Black Hawk Down" is familiar with the potency of them. Are there a lot of rocket propelled grenades in the...?

BENTON: A lot of rocket propelled grenades, RPG, very, very important to the people who fight in close. It is not accurate like our own system, it has no guidance. It's the so-called eyeball is the only thing that guides this system. But it will do a lot of damage. I heard today, we had an unfortunate incident where an RPG fire on a truck. And I think we had a KIA (ph) out of that.

As you said, somebody can fire against a slow-moving helicopter with an RPG.

O'BRIEN: All right. I want to talk about one other thing: what lies in store in Baghdad. Big wide shot, satellite image. Let's get down a little bit closer and look at a brand new image which came to us off the satellite just today. And actually it was captured on April 1.

Take a look at this image. Now this image is an overlay, which shows you the latest -- I just want to show you sort of the before version of this. And while we're talking about this, tremendous number of fires, and look at that band of fires all along that highway there, particularly to the south. Huge amounts of smoke and a lot of smoke there. Is that of any strategic significance? Or is that just a bother. I'm toggling out so you can see the difference. That's kind of before and after.

What does that mean to people on the ground there?

BENTON: Well, when you compare it to the oil fires I saw that were burning after the '91 war, it really have no strategic interest. It might have tactical interest, particularly if there are oil flows, a lot of puddles or fields of oil. Because you remember, the forces that are amassing in Baghdad are coming in from this direction and they're coming in from this direction.

But right now, the prevailing wind is blowing south. I've seen really no tactical problem caused by this small number of fires.

O'BRIEN: So perhaps no coincidence that those fires are on that southern line there?

BENTON: No I think it probably -- certainly planned to be that way.

O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you very much. General Dan Benton, appreciate it. Back to you.

BROWN: And thank you, Miles, it is astounding, and -- well, it is -- believe it is astounding. It is astounding what some of the British forces have found in their work through the southern part of Iraq. We'll show you some of that; we'll take a break first. Our coverage continues.


BROWN: U.S. and Britain have argued that Iraq's record on human rights is one of the reasons behind the war, and there are very few people, even the war's strongest opponents, who do not see the regime of Saddam Hussein as among the most brutal in the world.

Coalition forces today say they have discovered evidence which proves that point, that at the hands of Saddam Hussein regime, torture was routine. The story's reported by British pool reporter Clive Maury.


CLIVE MAURY, BRITISH JOURNALIST (voice-over): Outside a police station in southern Iraq stands a mural of this country's leader. Saddam Hussein's dreaded internal security police were based here.

This cabinet is locked.

Saddam Hussein's portrait adorned every room. Not any more.

And downstairs, cells. This one, barely four feet by eight, with no windows and a filthy pillow and mattress.

In other rooms, hooks hang from the ceiling. This room is bare, but for two old tires and an electricity cable. We are later told a torturer might use the tires to stand on while water is poured on the floor, the prisoner electrocuted.

And in this room are the identity cards of scores of Iraqi men, aged between 20 and 40. It's a crime here not to have your I.D. card with you at all times. Why do these men no longer need theirs?

We later found one man who didn't want to be identified, who gave up some of the secrets of the police stations. He tells me there was a tariff system. If you committed a crime, but paid enough money, you wouldn't be tortured.

We spent days trying to find more people willing to speak on the record about torture in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. This man would only talk to us within the safety of a Royal Marines commando base.

And if he was a prison guard and Saddam Hussein walked into his jail?

I'd cut him into 50 pieces, he tells me.

In the distance, the smoke rises from the battlefield. Iraq's tools of repression are being taken away.

Clive Maury, Abu Al Khasib (ph), southern Iraq.


BROWN: Back to General Wesley Clark, who's in Las Vegas tonight.

General Clark, given the way the last few days have gone and given where the fight has been, does it surprise you that the Iraqis have not used chemical weapons?

CLARK: Well, not really. First of all, they don't have the mass of U.S. troops that they would need to use the weapons on effectively.

To use those weapons, they would want to stabilize the U.S. positions and draw us in close. So, if that was the intent of the Republican Guards, they've obviously -- they're failing, because we're moving through them and overrunning positions apparently.

But secondly, there's a question as to whether he really wants to use these chemical weapons. First, he forfeits his -- a huge propaganda advantage by admitting that he has these weapons. And if he can delay us and force us to destroy much of Iraq, if we take losses, well, maybe he figures that in the long run, two and four years from now, and he survives, he wins that way.

So you know, I think it's a close call whether chemical weapons will actually be used or not.

BROWN: General Clark, we will check with you again. When we -- we take a break here. When we come back, we'll check in on Martin Savidge. Martin is with -- Mary is with a Marine unit, and there they are. They've been -- they have taken an air base. And we'll find out, they seem to be on the move again, so we'll find out, towards what, though it must be Baghdad. A short break first.


BROWN: For the last hour or so, we've been following the progress of a Marine unit that Martin Savidge, the 1st Battalion 7th Marine Marty is with. They have taken an air field. They were engaged in, or at least behind them, there was some artillery going on. And now they are on the move -- Marty.

SAVIDGE: Yes, Aaron, the artillery stopped about 45 minutes ago. The reason for that became pretty obvious, when we saw the artillery pieces now hitched to the back of Marine trucks and moving down the road, the same road that we are now looking at, in which you are seeing the AAV's, the amphibious assault vehicles and the support vehicles, heading in the general direction that the artillery fire was going towards, as well.

This was a heavy barrage of what they call rocket-assisted projectiles, coming from 155 millimeter Howitzers, that's a very big gun, firing directly over our heads, as you can hear the rounds passing over us and then several seconds later hear the loud clap as they impact on what was believed to be Republican Guard -- a Republican Guard division that may be dug in or in place out there.

We can only speculate at this point. But since the vehicles are heading off in that way, they're going to investigate to see what remains of that fighting force. We were told they were representatives of the Baghdad Republican Guard, and that they have suffered on their casualties, significantly as a result of the on- going air bombardment.

So that has been the situation. The guns are moving forward, so that means they are going to set up and be prepared to support whatever action may come. The air field that yesterday that grabbed by the 1st Battalion 7th Marines, was Al Mania (ph). This was a former Air Force base of the Iraqi regime. And now it is no longer, it is in the hands of the coalition. It remains to be seen how they will use it, but probably for the staging of aircraft or at least helicopters in this region -- Aaron.

BROWN: Marty -- Thank you, Martin Savidge. And we'll follow the progress of that group throughout the rest of the morning.

We've asked all of our embedded correspondents to help us, the "NEWSNIGHT" staff to prepare journals of their experience, which in many ways are their experience. But more so the experience of the units they are working with.

And here is the journal of reporter Martin Savidge.


SAVIDGE (voice-over): Usually, the scariest moments are the moments you did not anticipate at all. One particular case, this is supposed to be a routine mission. We did find a team of demolition experts that were going about trying to blow up some abandoned Iraqi tanks and armored personnel carriers, lurking behind a small village.

It was milk toast as could be. Suddenly, out of an alleyway, bam, here it comes, an RPG and just fizzles through the air. We have been trying to get a live report out all morning with no success. Soon as the shooting starts, bingo, the satellites all kick in and now we're going live in the middle of what was a fire fight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's getting hot, let's go. That looks like the armored personnel carrier. We're going to keep moving back because these also have ammunition inside of them.

There goes your tank, down the end. And the secondary explosions that are -- you're all right, Jed (ph), keep coming back. Full back. So, the concern, obviously, that RPG as it came from the village, and now who fired it. And do they have another one, obviously. Which is why we're not going to linger too much longer.

Trying to stay close with the military units. And we're trying to carry on a normal narration to people who are sitting in their living rooms back home and around the world, perhaps, explain what's is going on. And it's a very bizarre situation to be in as a journalist.

(on camera): I volunteered to be an embed, I wanted to be in a unit as close to the front or as close to the action, as we say.

Commanders with the 1st Battalion 7th Marines who we are embedded with say that, yes, they have had a problem with guerrilla attacks that have been employed against the supply lines.

(voice-over): This is our vehicle. This is a civilian version of a Humvee. It has been nicknamed by our crew here, Warrior One. You might see it painted on the side. It has become a fixture, at least as far as with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, the crew and the vehicle have been adopted. It has a satellite dish that is up and operating. There is another on the other side, what we call a tracking satellite. This does allow us the capability, when moving, and not under some sort of black out condition, communication-wise, to show movement driving down the road.

We are riding with them, this is our vehicle in conjunction with the convoy, heading west now. Leaving Basra behind us. And the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) objective that they captured yesterday.

Those are our backpacks. Usually, we would be laid out at night, sleeping there on the open ground. Sometimes we're in fox holes, sometimes we're not, but it is just basically lay your bag in the dirt, climb in the dirt with the bag and then wake up the next day and do it all over again.

And then of course, over here, every day, we have a fox hole.

(on camera): So the reason we're in the hole like this now is because about 10 or 15 minutes ago, we were warned that there was perhaps a SCUD incoming. So the prudent action was to climb inside our fox holes here and wait. It's officially about 5:45, the war hasn't begun, but that could change in a hurry.

(voice-over): Many military conflicts, it's about 90 percent of frustration or doing nothing.

(on camera): What have you been doing?


SAVIDGE: What do you think about sitting?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not too happy about it. We need to go. SAVIDGE (voice-over): There is a friendship, obviously, that develops. There is a camaraderie, not in a military sense, but in the sense that we are in this together. There is an avenue of trust that has to be involved here, that perhaps does stretch the boundaries when it comes to true journalism.

And what I mean by that is we are in as much danger as the military force with which we are embedded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have anything knives or anything on you?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How's it going, Mary?

SAVIDGE (on camera): Well, I think we've got time to get it down. Five to eight hours to be here. I figure five to eight hours, I'll be done. Which means we'll then just drive off and leave it.

By far we're probably the most blacked out of any military embed. We can film and videotape during these black-outs, we just cannot file, which is our case, means live reporting or beaming some images back to Atlanta. The worst part of it is not just the professional side, none of us can talk to home. I'd really like to call my family now and then just to let them know we're all right.

So it's a hard thing; it's depressing both professionally and also personally. When you come out, it's like a black cloud has been lifted and bingo, let's get to work.


BROWN: The correspondent Martin Savidge with the Marines. We'll take a break, update top headlines with Daryn Kagan in Kuwait. Our coverage continues in a moment.


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