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Iraq Warns of Unconventional Counter Attack Tonight; Saddam Sends Message Suggesting he is Alive, Still Defiant

Aired April 4, 2003 - 16:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: Under the gun. Iraq warns of an unconventional counter attack tonight. And Saddam Hussein sends a message suggesting he is alive and still defiant.

SADDAM HUSSEIN, IRAQI PRESIDENT (through translator): Hit them hard. Hit them with the force of (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

ANNOUNCER: In control. Coalition forces hit the Baghdad airport, but Iraqi fighters aren't far away.

WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Iraqis are out there, sometimes in force, sometimes with tanks.

ANNOUNCER: Bangs and confusion. U.S. forces in southern Iraq get more of both than they bargained for.

CNN live this hour, Judy Woodruff reports from Washington with correspondents from around the world, a special edition of INSIDE POLITICS, the war in Iraq, starts right now.


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us. The White House says it doesn't matter if the latest videos appearing to show Saddam Hussein are authentic or not. Spokesman Ari Fleischer says the Iraqi regime is coming to an end either way. More on those tapes ahead.

Plus, Rumsfeld and Powell. Our Candy Crowley will look at these big guns of the Bush administration and liken them to Hatfield and McCoy.

And I will ask Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar to share what he knows about whether Saddam Hussein is alive.

The United States is keeping a close watch, of course, on the latest developments in Baghdad, including those new videotapes that appear to show Saddam Hussein. Let's check in with our national security correspondent David Ensor. David, what are your sources telling you? DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, obviously the tape we're looking at right now is of great interest to U.S. officials. For one thing there are a couple of shots in that tape where you can see smoke in the sky, and then it pans to the man who is either Saddam Hussein or his double. So suggesting there that, assuming it is Saddam Hussein, that he is still alive and well, despite the very determined effort to kill him on March 19.

WOODRUFF: So, what is still there, David, to suggest that he might not be alive? Why wouldn't this just be, you know, the answer once and for all, it's Saddam Hussein? What is holding them back from drawing that conclusion?

ENSOR: Well, there's two other issues. One is, is it a double? Is it really him? And the other is there's that other tape, also released today, where he speaks to the nation, to the Iraqi people, calls on them to fight against the invaders. And refers to an incident that occurred on March 24, five days after the bombing attempt to kill him, in which an Apache helicopter came down and Iraqi television said that a specific farmer, a specific villager had shot it down with an old Bolt-Action rifle. Now, he would have to be alive after the 19th to have known about that. So, now they're doing voice test analysis on that first tape, the one we're looking at here, to see if that really is his voice. That may take a day or two. But at first listen, people who know his voice well say it does sound like him.

WOODRUFF: So the belief tilts in the direction of saying this is Saddam Hussein? He's still alive, despite all those early stories that he might be dead, might be wounded?

ENSOR: That's right. That's right. They had mixed intelligence up until now. I would say now that you're probably going to hear in the next day or two, that the weight of evidence points to him being still alive and still in charge.

WOODRUFF: All right, David Ensor is our national security correspondent.

So, Wolf, that's the latest on the assessment of whether that is Saddam Hussein or not.


Here in the war zone and around the world, people are waiting to see how and if the Iraqi regime makes good on a threat issued by the information minister earlier today.


MOHAMMED SAEED AL-SAHAF, IRAQI INFORMATION MINISTER (through translator): This evening, we will carry out something that is untraditional against them, not conventional.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: New explosions rock Baghdad after dark. Witnesses say they heard blasts around a presidential complex in the center of the city. Meantime, the U.S. reportedly has hundreds of troops poised to reinforce the Baghdad international airport, now under the control of American troops. A source tells CNN's Nic Robertson, some Iraqi Republican Guard forces are gathering close to the airport. Columns of coalition forces keep pressing north and tightening the noose on Baghdad. CNN's Central Command says some 2,500 Republican Guard forces surrendered, that is, between Kut and Baghdad.

Now, the latest on the fight for control of Baghdad's International Airport. While coalition forces say they have secured the facility, that's not the case in the surrounding area. ITN reporter James Mates was with the U.S. forces when they moved in to secure the airport.


JAMES MATES, ITN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a showpiece of his regime. Now Saddam International Airport is controlled by coalition troops and, tonight, it has a new name, Baghdad International. These pictures were taken on the runway just moments after the coalition attack. A passenger jet burned out on the tarmac. Wreckage burning in a hangar as U.S. troops rush in. At dawn this morning, U.S. tanks and infantry had rolled in to claim their biggest prize of the war so far.

Building by building, they swept the terminal complex, then moved on to secure the runway. The fall of his airport is a humiliating blow for Saddam. It lies just 12 miles from Baghdad and will be a key forward base for U.S. troops as they prepare for a push on the capital. More than 300 Iraqi soldiers have been left dead. Some Republican Guard troops fought fiercely on the northern side of the airport complex.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hopefully, this is a sign that we're able to send to the residents of Baghdad that we're here and they can rise up and deal with the regime appropriately.

MATES: Outside the airport, the fighting was fierce, but the battle unequal. Here, the remains of an Iraqi armored car, and by its side the body of an Iraqi soldier, all that remains of a column that pushed up the airport road last night in a final effort to defend the airport. U.S. troops are now knocking on the door of Baghdad. But the final push into the city could yet prove to be the toughest fighting of all.

(on camera): The patchy, somewhat disorganized defense of the airport last night has left coalition commanders with several questions. Have they done so much damage now to Iraqi command and control centers that they can no longer put up a proper fight, or are the best troops simply withdrawing into the city, to fight there street by street? The answer to that could well decide how quickly they make a final push into the city.

James Mates, ITV News, with the U.S. marines, south of Baghdad. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Attacking on the ground and calling in air strikes, Kurdish fighters and U.S. troops have dislodged stubborn Iraqi soldiers at a key bridge in northern Iraq. Iraqis pulled back on the road to Mosul as CNN's Jane Arraf reports from the battlefield.


JANE ARRAF, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A few miles further to Mosul, Kurdish militia and their flags speeding to a town abandoned by Iraqi forces. After a day of fighting, the Iraqis were driven back five kilometers, about three miles down the main road west towards Mosul from the Kurdish city of Erbil. Soldiers were Kurdish, but the special forces calling in air strikes on Iraqi positions were American. As U.S. warplanes dropped bombs near the town, Kurdish fighters moved forward.

(on camera): There's a slow-and-steady battle going on here for control of the key bridge. It's a bridge over the river on the main road to Mosul. The Iraqis are firing artillery like that in response to the Americans are calling in air strikes. The Peshmerga are just down the road, and the Iraqis have retreated, but they're still holding on to the bridge.

(voice-over): That blast turned out to be a rocket-propelled grenade, but there's plenty of artillery and mortar fire to come.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you coming here?

ARRAF: Less than 20 minutes later, with Iraqi defenses pounded by the bombing, they no longer held the bridge over the Khoser River. In this vehicle, the only Iraqi casualties we saw. Their military radio and guns indicating they were combatants.

(on camera): It's still smoldering, this truck with three Iraqi soldiers. It was either shelled or bombed. Now, it's a small part of this battle for the bridge just behind us. These were lying on the ground next to the truck. Somebody picked them up. It's an I.D. card, presumably for one of the soldiers. The only thing you can really tell from it is that he was 27 years old. And a snapshot from when his life was still ahead of him.

Other evidence of a hurried retreat amid the smoldering vehicles, a discarded gas mask. Military documents. Notebooks with verses from the Koran. Kurdish fighters planted their flag and left it waving in the smoke of the bombed-out Iraqi truck. The village of Manguba (ph), just 32 kilometers, about 23 miles from Mosul is now in Kurdish hands. One Kurdish soldier did the honors of tearing up a poster of Saddam Hussein. Not just the poster, but the frame and cardboard backing as well. They've been waiting a long time.

Jane Arraf, CNN, on the bridge over the Khoser River in northern Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Judy, dangerous assignment for all of our reporters, our embedded journalists. And one of them, not from our CNN, but from a very close friend of all of ours, Michael Kelly, paid that price. The first American embedded journalist to have gotten killed in covering this war. We'll have more on him at 5:00 on our special edition of "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Until then, thanks, Judy, back to you.

WOODRUFF: Thanks, Wolf. And we'll be watching. Michael Kelly, of course, with "Atlantic Monthly," and a columnist for the "Washington Post."

Well, at least three U.S. service members were killed today in an apparent suicide bomb attack at a checkpoint near the Haditah Dam northwest of Baghdad. Those deaths are not yet included in the official casualty count. At last report, though, 41 Americans had been killed by hostile forces, 13 others by friendly fire or in accidents. Of the 27 British troops, in all who have been killed, at least 19 of them were said to be victims of friendly fire or accidents. The official Iraqi casualty figures remain the same this day, including more than 400 civilians killed, Iraqi authorities say.

And U.S. Central Command says more than 4,000 Iraqis have been captured, but British officials believe that figure is much higher. We know that seven Americans are known to be held as prisoner of war in Iraq. Another 15 Americans listed as missing in action.

Well, funeral services were held today in Colorado for 21-year- old Marine Corporal Randall Kent Rosacker. He was killed in action in Iraq. His story is especially poignant. His father is a navy commander. He received word of his son's death within hours after the submarine that he was assigned to returned home from an extended deployment.

The Iraqis promise an unconventional attack on U.S. troops tonight. Do they mean guerilla warfare, as in Vietnam? We're going to ask our military analyst. That's coming up.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): 3:30 a.m., CNN's Walter Rodgers and his crew send back live pictures of a dramatic rescue. An Iraqi soldier, who had been lying injured in a ditch, was spotted by the CNN crew and given first-aid by a U.S. army medic.

7:08 a.m., U.S. Central Command says coalition forces are now in control of Saddam International Airport and have renamed it Baghdad International Airport. Brigadier General Vincent Brooks confirms that an apparent suicide car bomb killed three coalition troops near the Hadita Dam last night. He also confirms troops found boxes of unidentified powder, and liquid and other materials in an industrial facility outside Baghdad. 9:27 a.m., the Iraqi information minister says U.S. forces will face, "something that is not conventional" tonight. He said Iraq won't use weapons of mass destruction, but threatened widespread use of martyrdom.

10:25 a.m., Saddam Hussein addressed the Iraqi people. In his talk, he mentioned events that occurred after the strike aimed at killing him. U.S. intelligence sources say this is the strongest evidence he survived the attack on March 19.

12:23 p.m., new pictures of Saddam Hussein debuted on several Arab television networks. No word yet on how old the material is.


WOODRUFF: Iraq's information minister, meantime, says that U.S. troops will be attacked, as you just heard, in an unconventional way. He mentioned commando and martyrdom operations, raising speculation about Vietcong-style guerilla tactics or more suicide bombings. CNN's Renay San Miguel, whom you just heard, is with our military analyst this hour, retired Major Patrick Gallagher, who has studied unconventional warfare -- Renay.


And whether you call it unconventional, or asymmetrical warfare or guerilla tactics, it is apparently going to be awaiting coalition forces if the threats from the Iraqi information minister are any guide. Joining us is Major Patrick Gallagher, U.S. Army, retired. Major, the Iraqi information minister said it wouldn't be weapons of mass destruction but it would involve martyrdom. So, what do you think it is, suicide attacks on a scale we haven't seen yet?

MAJ. PATRICK GALLAGHER, U.S. ARMY (RET.): I think so. I got to thinking in the last piece, referencing suicide attacks. And seeing kamikaze pilots during the second World War in the South Pacific, and that's kind of what this equates to as far as our frame of reference as westerners is concerned. It's also something we've seen within the Muslim and within the Arab world for decades as the Arabs have confronted the Israelis.

SAN MIGUEL: Does it also, in your mind, conjure up innocent civilians being used in this process somehow as well?

GALLAGHER: Well, sure, we saw in the last several days suicide bus attack, as well as a suicide car attack at checkpoints where the bombers have used pregnant women, children, other Iraqi civilians as either shields or some type of catch to lure the U.S. service members and/or coalition members into a closer range where they could detonate the explosive.

SAN MIGUEL: You heard the information minister bring up the ghost of Vietnam and all the baggage that brings with us of quagmire and unpopular war. A psychological factor involved there as well. But, when it comes to the guerilla tactics that were used by the Vietcong, can those be applied when you have got an ultramodern force with high tech tools like those being used by the coalition?

GALLAGHER: Well, simple tactics apply a lot of times. And in this case, this doesn't necessarily change any because we have a technological advantage. Simple tactics then may catch us off guard, in that sense of the word, because we either A, become complacent or B, we are relying on our technology. In this case, because of the suicide attacks, and as we've seen one every day or so, in different places, and with the threat to ramp them up this evening, we're liable to see more of them. And it creates a psychological effect for U.S. forces, but then it puts them on a higher state of alert, because now they've constantly got to be aware of their surroundings and those unsuspecting locations where an attack may come from. It may be the lady walking down the street. It may be the children playing in the street, or it may be an old couple standing in front of a store that become a threat as coalition forces move in and around urban areas.

SAN MIGUEL: Let's just take one location in particular. The newly renamed Baghdad International Airport. If you're dealing with conventional and unconventional attacks, what are the special challenges presented in defending an airport of that size?

GALLAGHER: Well, given the size of that airport, it's as large as most are our commercial airports in large cities here in the U.S. So, you've got quite a bit of real estate that you have to contend with. You have runways that are in excess of 12,000, 13,000 feet long. So, when you push a force out around there to guard that, not necessarily putting a perimeter around it, you are putting strong points in and/or observation positions where you can see potential threats coming in.

One thing we have to remember is that the guns, artillery guns that the Iraqis have in the capital of Baghdad can reach the airport. So, aside from trying to root those out, you also have to push those strong points beyond mortar range, beyond anti-tank round range, beyond heavy weapons range in order to protect the force and protect whatever activities are going on on that airfield.

SAN MIGUEL: Retired Army Major Patrick Gallagher, thanks for your insight. We appreciate your time.

GALLAGHER: You're welcome.

SAN MIGUEL: Judy, we'll throw it back to you.

WOODRUFF: Thanks Renay, that is something to think about, the fact that those mobile guns can reach the airport. We know that coalition forces have to be very much aware of that.

Up next, two cabinet heavyweights fuel the Washington rumor mill. Our Candy Crowley reports on secretaries Powell and Rumsfeld, and their much talked about rivalry to shake U.S. policy.


WOODRUFF: The two most important architects of U.S. military and diplomatic policy are also two of the most high-profile White House cabinet members in recent history, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell. The two men have strong beliefs which are sometimes known to collide and, at times, Washington is full of stories pitting one against the other. CNN's Candy Crowley has more.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SNR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is the subplot of nearly every story involving U.S. foreign policy.

QUESTION: Secretary, how are you and Colin Powell getting along these days?


CROWLEY: They are the beltways version of Hatfield and McCoy in an alpha-male struggle clearly laid out in the days just after 9/11. Rumsfeld, the warrior-civilian.

RUMSFELD: I'm inclined to think that if you're going to cock it, you throw it and don't talk about it a lot.

CROWLEY: Powell, the diplomatic warrior.

POWELL: It isn't always blunt force military, although that is certainly an option. It may well be that diplomatic efforts, political efforts, legal, financial, other efforts may be just as effective against that kind of an enemy.

CROWLEY: When war with Iraq became an open option, it began again. They differed first on whether and then on how and when to topple Saddam. Now it's about what to do after he's gone. A State Department source says a recent Rumsfeld memo rummygrams (ph) they call them at the State Department, envisioned a major military role in aid distribution to Iraq. Powell fired off a response noting the various entities within the State Department that deal with aid distribution and report to Powell. Friends of the secretary of state say friends of the secretary of defense are the ones stirring up that nasty discussion about how Powell has failed as a diplomat.

POWELL: Well, I don't believe I'm a symbol of failing U.S. diplomacy. So, I don't accept your premise.

CROWLEY: And the Rumsfeld camp suspects the Powell camp of pushing those suggestions that Rumsfeld undermanned the war on Iraq.

RUMSFELD: I don't think there's ever been a war where there haven't been people opining about this, or speculating about that or second guessing on something else.

CROWLEY: Neither of the principals has ever copped to the friction, at least to the intensity it's described by others.

POWELL: Do we have differences of opinion? Well, what fun would it be if you didn't have differences of opinion? How would it serve the president if all of us thought the same thing about every issue all the time?

CROWLEY: People who know them both say their differences are not personal. Maybe so, it does look like Powell was only kidding the day he called Rumsfeld a "show-off" and pretended to take a swing at Rumsfeld's injured hand, but wouldn't you love to know the thousand words that went with this picture?

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: Wouldn't you?

Well, for more now on the war in Iraq and U.S. policy and plans for when the war ends, I'm joined by the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Richard Lugar of Indiana. Senator, the Iraqi representative, spokesman, is saying they may be using unconventional means as early as tonight to go up against coalition forces. But other than that, Senator, what we have seen appears to be almost a melting away of Iraqi defenses. What's happened to the Republican Guard?

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R), INDIANA: Well, it's pretty clear that the degrading that has been described day by day has worked. That is, that our coalition has taken out tank by tank, car by car, and I suspect inflicted extraordinary casualties on the personnel. So that, in fact, the Republican Guard is crumbling, at least, in the suburbs of Iraq.

WOODRUFF: So, is all they have left in your assessment, and based on what briefings you've received, is all they have left suicide martyrdom-type attacks?

LUGAR: I think there's plenty of Republican Guard left, but some divisions encountered them outside of the Baghdad area have suffered greatly. Some, I suspect, have hunkered down in Baghdad, plus the Fedayeen and others. But the policy of encirclement appears to be in vogue now, and I'm encouraged to be working. At least for the moment, as you've observed, the momentum is clearly in favor of the coalition.

WOODRUFF: We saw the new videotape, Senator, today of Saddam Hussein. A lot of speculation since the war began about whether he's dead or alive. I know you did an interview on CNN shortly after the war saying you had seen the reports that perhaps he'd been injured in those air strikes the first night. What's your best information about what's happened to him?

LUGAR: I have no more information than we're all watching. It's certainly important to the Iraqi leadership if he is alive to display him, to have him talking or appearing in some way because if, in fact, he is dead and so are many of the other leaders, that could be a morale factor that's very substantial.

WOODRUFF: Have you had a chance to look at the video today? What do you make of what we're seeing today? Pictures of him among a small crowd of people in what appears to be Baghdad today or since the war began.

LUGAR: Well, I would say as almost every other responsible person has said, we need to find the interpretation of the experts and try to take a better look than we can just as -- citizen amateurs at those photos.

WOODRUFF: Do you agree, Senator, with what the Bush administration officials and the Pentagon is saying, namely, that it's irrelevant whether he's alive or dead, that the coalition is on the verge of victory. And whether Saddam Hussein is alive doesn't matter.

LUGAR: Well, I think it doesn't matter whether he's alive or dead. I think that's a big issue. But, in fact, the coalition is going to win. I suppose the hope is that if Saddam is not alive, if, in fact, the leadership has perished, that that victory will come sooner rather than later, and probably with many fewer casualties, because people who are fearful in Baghdad of the wrath of Saddam and his people will have much less to fear and will be more cooperative.

WOODRUFF: But I'm sure you've seen the talks, I'm sure you've been briefed, the administration is talking in terms of a rolling victory, where, in essence, at some point, the coalition would declare victory, even short of having complete control of the city or even knowing where Saddam Hussein is, and just proceed from there. Is it a victory if he's still around?

LUGAR: Well, I'm not going to try to define victory or rolling or stopping. I would guess that so long as there's military action going on that's significant. It's very clear that the coalition is going to win, but it's also important whether there is still military activity or some activity in Basra, for example, or in various other places along the trail, or in the northern part of Iraq, that really has to be quieted before there can be a successful civil administration and Iraqis get back to the business of rebuilding their country.

WOODRUFF: And Saddam Hussein's whereabouts may still be undetermined when all that's happening.

LUGAR: They could be, but my guess is, it will not be. I think, in a few days, even Saddam's situation will be much clearer, as will be the termination, I would pray, of military action everywhere.

WOODRUFF: Senator Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, we appreciate your talking with us, Senator. Thank you very much.

LUGAR: Thank you, Judy.


WOODRUFF: We have a development to tell you about, that mystery illness we've been covering for days, SARS, severe acute respiratory syndrome, President Bush has signed an order now adding SARS to the list of those communicable diseases for which a person can be quarantined. And for the very latest on all this, let's go to our medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen -- Elizabeth.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Judy, the federal government can already quarantine for disease says like smallpox and yellow fever and cholera.

And now they've added SARS to the list. SARS has not reached the point in the United States where federal officials want to quarantine. At least that what the CDC says now. But I talked to someone at the CDC. And he said: But we want to be able to quarantine if we need to. And so that's the executive order that President Bush signed today.

Let's take a look at the numbers in the United States, which will help explain why the CDC says, right now, they do not plan on quarantining. In the United States, 109 people have traveled from abroad to the U.S. and now have SARS. Now, out of those, from those 109, another six people have become ill, bringing the national total to 115. So what that tells you, when you think about those numbers, is that not many people have gotten SARS within the United States.

In other words, the disease has not spread very far. Almost everyone who's gotten SARS has gotten it because they have traveled. That's why you see -- these are people here at O'Hare Airport who are wearing masks, because they're nervous about getting SARS. So, again, what the CDC says is, right now, they do not need to quarantine everyone, but they want the authority to do it, just in case they have to, if the outbreak gets worse -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: So, now, Elizabeth, we know that this is -- the source of this disease or illness has been Asia. What other countries are they most concerned about now?

COHEN: Well, it's now in about 16 different countries, Judy. The newest country is Spain. The biggest concern is from mainland China, for Hong Kong, for Singapore and Vietnam. That's where they've seen the most deaths from SARS. That's where they've seen the most cases of SARS.

What we're looking at right now is an apartment complex where they had to quarantine more than 200 people. So they have had quarantines here in Hong Kong. What they're doing is, they're putting healthy people in these gowns and these masks. And they are putting them on buses and sending them away to what's being called a holiday camp.

Now, let's talk a little bit about what a quarantine is. A quarantine is when you take healthy people and you put them basically in another place and you tell them, don't come out of your home or don't come out of this camp. You need to be alone in these quarters and you are not allowed to leave.

And, again, you do this with healthy people who you think are under suspicion for possibly having the disease. In that apartment complex in Hong Kong, hundreds have had the disease. And those people are all in the hospital or at home recovering. They've taken the healthy people and put them in quarantine, for fear they, too, might be infectious -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, our medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, explaining that the Bush administration has signed an executive order adding SARS to that list of diseases for which a person can be quarantined. She just said, the need isn't there now, but the need could come along.

Elizabeth, thank you very much.

Up next, we are going to turn to southern Iraq. U.S. troops have been on the ground for more than two weeks, but there still is plenty of gunfire and plenty of confusion.


WOODRUFF: We turn now to an Iraqi -- first of all, before we tell you about this story we were going to, these are live pictures from Baghdad. There's been some activity in the last few moments. It looks like some tracer fire we're looking at, anti-aircraft guns firing at what they sense as some sort of threat coming from the skies.

Baghdad has had sporadic episodes of this tonight, no major explosions that we're aware of, but just, apparently, in the last few moments, there has been activity. You can see it there just now. We've been reporting, the city has begun to see its electricity turned back on. We don't know that all of it is back, but at least some of it is. We also know that, 12 miles southwest of the city, coalition forces remain largely in control of what was formerly Saddam Hussein International Airport, now renamed by the coalition Baghdad International Airport.

But the coalition is quick to point out that they do not have control of the area immediately surrounding the airport. Again, this is -- these are live pictures of Baghdad, where it is well into the night. We're, of course, going to keep monitoring the situation there and bring you up to speed on anything we learn.

But right now, we want to turn to an Iraqi town where some of the war's most fierce battles have been fought: Nasiriyah.

Our Jason Bellini is embedded and with the 15th Marines Expeditionary Unit. He reports on situation there.




JASON BELLINI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A loud bang followed by confusion, the pattern of life day and night in Nasiriyah. This time, the bang came from a cluster bomb, unexploded until a Marine steps on it, setting it off. It destroys two of his toes. A couple hours later, a set of staccato bangs from the other side of the river. Bullets hit the Marine compound. At least 15 Marines answer back with their M-16s, firing in what they believe is the direction of the attackers. At least one civilian apparently wounded in the crossfire. He's carried away.

Iraqi people here admit they know little about what the booms and bangs mean. This man says he doesn't even know whether Iraq's president is dead or alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't know. From news, finish to Nasiriyah.

BELLINI: Clear, though, to the Iraqis here, there is no electricity, no running water. That means they have to do just as their ancestors did at the birth of civilization, fill their buckets down at the banks of the Euphrates.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want you tell the officer, your officer, your captain, water electric very important.

BELLINI: We asked these young Iraqis in broken Arabic if they think the Americans are good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, fifty-fifty.

BELLINI: Fifty-fifty is about the odds most young Marines give to Nasiriyah becoming quiet and resistance-free any time soon. They find large caches of weapons here every day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard shots over there earlier, too.

BELLINI: In this city where 18 Marines died, no one anticipated so many bangs or so much confusion.

Jason Bellini, CNN, An Nasiriyah, Iraq.


WOODRUFF: That report indicating once again that there are large parts of Iraq that remain to be secured by coalition forces.

Again, we are looking at live pictures of downtown Baghdad, where there's been some activity in the last few minutes. We've seen tracer fire from the anti-aircraft weapons. We haven't seen major explosions, but there has been some activity, as we know coalition forces draw ever closer to the capital city.

Our coverage continues in a moment.


WOODRUFF: As we continue to monitor developments in Iraq and the skies over Baghdad, as you see in the live picture next to me, we turn our attention to the White House, where President Bush met today with a group of Iraqi exiles. That meeting comes as the administration prepares to lay out its plans for a post-war Iraqi government. With me now for more on all this: CNN senior White House correspondent John King.

And, John, we know there has been a vigorous debate inside the administration about all this.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Inside the administration, Judy, and certainly around the world as well.

President Bush left the White House a short time ago. It's up to Camp David for the weekend, where he will prepare for a summit next Monday and Tuesday in Northern Ireland with the British prime minister, Tony Blair. And what to do inside Iraq once the shooting stops is a primary focus of those talks between the president and the prime minister, White House officials trying to give some clarity today to what a post-war Iraq would look like.

They say, first and foremost, in, the immediate days after the fighting stops, General Tommy Franks will be in charge still. Beneath him will be a retired Army general, Jay Garner. He will run the new civil administration. And virtually every agency of the U.S. government will pitch in to help. There are Treasury Department experts already working on plans to revive the Iraqi economy and to get the Iraqi currency back in use.

There are Justice Department teams that will help with security and legal reforms. The State Department will take a lead role in humanitarian supplies. At the beginning, it will be a U.S.-led effort. The administration says it will get an interim Iraqi authority up and running as soon as possible. That authority, the president's national security adviser told us a short time ago, will be broad-based, some exiles, some dissidents, some Kurds from northern Iraq, Sunni Muslims from southern Iraq, as many Iraqis as possible from the existing bureaucracy of the Saddam Hussein government, so long as they are not Saddam Hussein loyalists.

That is what the administration says it knows. Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary today, though, stressing that some questions simply cannot be answered in the middle of a war.


ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No, I just think for the structure of the government-to-be, it is too soon to say. And this is why I keep wanting to remind everybody -- just days ago people were saying we were bogged down and now they're saying, "Describe for us and give us the names of the government that's going to be running Iraq in the future."

We're still in the middle of a war. So these things still are early, they're still unknowable. We are thinking about them, but we don't have answers yet and we couldn't be expected to have precise answers at this stage.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Now, Mr. Bush did meet inside the White House today with a group of Iraqi exiles, seeking their advice and perhaps their assistance down the road, when it comes to a post-war administration inside Iraq, a similar meeting across the Atlantic at 10 Downing Street, Prime Minister Blair also meeting with Iraqi exiles to hear their stories of life inside Iraq under Saddam Hussein, also to receive their advice on how the United States and Great Britain could get the Iraqi administration back in the hands of Iraqis as soon as possible after the war.

Again, the prime minister and president will meet next Monday and Tuesday to talk about this. There is broad agreement, U.S. officials say. But there is certainly also significant disagreement, especially on the issue of the role of the United Nations, Condoleezza Rice making clear a short time ago that the Bush White House wants the United Nations involved. But she says, especially in the early days and weeks after the fighting, the coalition, led by the United States, will take what she called the leading role.

Prime Minister Blair and the Europeans have urged for the United Nations to be more involved more broadly from the get-go, so some disagreements between Washington and London as we prepare for this summit between the two leaders early next week -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And, John, separately, the secretary of defense arguing more for Iraqi exiles, people who have been fighting Saddam Hussein from the outside, to play a key role in the new government, whereas we understand, at the State Department, Secretary Powell saying, there should be some role for people who have been fighting Saddam Hussein from within.

Talk for a moment about that separation.

KING: Well, the administration believes it is critical, for this interim authority to have any legitimacy, that it include people who have lived in Iraq and are living in Iraq now.

There are those, Dick Cheney, the vice president, Secretary Rumsfeld, who want the Iraqi National Congress to have a leading role, Condi Rice making clear, yes, it will have a leading role, but that it cannot just be exiles for this to be legitimate. It must include those living inside Iraq now.

WOODRUFF: John King at the White House, thanks very much.

Well, some Republicans are criticizing Senator John Kerry, a Democrat, for a wartime remark aimed at the commander in chief. When we return, Kerry responds to all the fallout. Our Jonathan Karl caught up with the Democrat running for Mr. Bush's job.


WOODRUFF: Almost 2:00 a.m. in Baghdad and, as you can see, these live pictures of the Iraqi capital, lights flashing, some activity there. We don't know the nature of it. We know there have been some explosions in the last few minutes, lights flashing. Again, this is a city where the electricity -- parts of the city have had the electricity turned back on. We can see a little bit more of what is going, but still much of the metropolitan area remains in the dark. We're continuing to watch closely as coalition forces battle ever closer to the city central.

Well, as we were telling you a moment ago, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry is not backing down from some controversial comments he made this week. As we reported yesterday, Kerry said that the United States, like Iraq, needs regime change.

Our Jon Karl caught up with Senator Kerry.

John, what is he saying and what are the critics saying?

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, this was a coordinated assault against John Kerry for those comments by virtually every major political figure in the Republican Party, with the exception of the president and vice president.

There were statements that came out critical of Kerry from the leader in the Senate, Bill Frist, from the speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, from the majority leader in the House, Tom DeLay, from the chairman of the Republican Party, Marc Racicot calling his remarks desperate, petty, partisan, and on and on.

I caught up with John Kerry just a short while ago after a speech he gave before a teacher's union here in Washington. And, as you said, there is no way that he's backing away from those remarks.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MS), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They're trying to shift this, in the phony way that they often do. And they're making some kind of false claim about patriotism. And I'm not going to be questioned in my patriotism by the likes of Tom DeLay, when they are cutting money for veterans in this country, when they are reducing the money for the V.A. Hospital, when they're reducing money for housing for veterans' families in America.

The real test of patriotism is in how you make America stronger. And we fought for the right to be able to talk in this country about real choices. And they come along with these phony claims. I'm not going to be deterred by it. And I'm not going to be pushed around by them.


KARL: Now, two quick points about this, Judy.

One is that Kerry's aides privately say that they actually relish this criticism. They think that, in a Democratic primary, it's not a bad thing to be in a fight with Tom DeLay and other top Republicans. And it also points out the fact that John Kerry is one person in the race that has war experience. He's a veteran, of course, of the Vietnam War. And the other thing is that Kerry, although he supported the president's right to use force in Iraq, has not been shy about criticizing the president's war planning and handling of diplomacy. If you remember the remarks that got Tom Daschle in so much trouble right before the war, John Kerry was actually more critical than Tom Daschle on that day. He said, "President Bush has clumsily and arrogantly squandered the post-9/11 support and goodwill of the entire civilized world." That was Kerry's criticism way back two days before the war started.

WOODRUFF: Jon Karl, and something else that the Republicans got upset about, Senator Kerry saying that the country needs a president who has traveled to more than two countries before assuming the presidency.

All right, Jon Karl, thanks very much and thanks for catching up with the senator.

Still ahead: As the war progresses, guarding the homeland is costing a lot of money. The bills are mounting. Who is going to pay them, Washington or your hometown?

We'll have a report.


WOODRUFF: With U.S. troops literally at the outskirts of the Iraqi capital, these are live pictures from Baghdad, as we approach 2:00 in the morning. Explosions, you can see them off in the distance there. They've been going on for several minutes now, throughout the last few hours. We are not able -- we don't have much more information about where they are, but we are watching the night as it unfolds in Baghdad.

Well, back here at home, the threat level is high, probably for the duration of the war in Iraq and possibly longer. Cities like Baltimore are wondering where they are going to get the money to keep citizens protected.

Details on this new dilemma now from CNN's Jeanne Meserve.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the water, in the air, as well as on the ground, Baltimore police have stepped up patrols of critical infrastructure: the port, fuel tanks, chemical plants, rail yards, bridges, tunnels and highways.

KEVIN CLARK, BALTIMORE POLICE COMMISSIONER: Our budget is off the Richter scale right now.

MESERVE: At threat level orange, the city is spending $35,000 a day on homeland security, a bill of more than $400,000 since the war in Iraq began.

Since 9/11, the city calculates it has spent close to $15 million on homeland security. It has received $2.5 million from the state and federal government, less than half of that appropriated since September 11.

MARTIN O'MALLEY, MAYOR OF BALTIMORE: We cannot do more unless our federal government helps us.

MESERVE: The city's mayor, Martin O'Malley, has been waging a war of his own to boost the federal contribution. Otherwise, he says, the current freeze on city hiring may not be enough to balance the budget.

O'MALLEY: As strange as it sounds, we asked our fire and police to figure out how they can cut 2 percent to 4 percent off their budget at the very same time we're trying to put more fire and police out there and to better equip them. So it's a real Hobson's choice that we have at the local level.

MESERVE: At a central Baltimore firehouse: a sampling of the weaponry for the war on terror.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have Tyvek suits for exposure, rubber gloves, the infamous duct tape.

MESERVE: Weapons of mass destruction kits carried on every piece of equipment, radiation detectors from the 1960s refurbished and recalibrated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty much, if that detects something, we're in deep trouble.

MESERVE: A trailer full of supplies for a mass-casualty incident, decontamination tents, all of this obtained since 9/11 with donations, general operating funds and a small amount of grant money.

Administration officials say state and local governments are going to have to shoulder some security costs, but more federal funds are on the way. Chief Goodwin jokes, he'll probably be retired by the time the money makes it through the government bureaucracy.

WILLIAM GOODWIN, BALTIMORE FIRE CHIEF: If I told you that your paycheck was going to go to that person over there, he'll take his cut out of it and decide how much you get and where you can spend it, that's what we're facing.

MESERVE: Police Commissioner Clark, a member of the New York City Police Department when the World Trade Center was hit, urges everyone to remember that lives, as well as money, are at stake.

CLARK: We have to have the right stuff in place. This costs money. This money has to come from somewhere.

MESERVE: The question is, from where, Washington or Baltimore?

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Baltimore, Maryland.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WOODRUFF: As we watch the picture here at home, we want to show you more live pictures from Baghdad. We're being told that Arab news networks are reporting heavy shelling in the eastern part of the city. We're also hearing about massive explosions in the city center, as coalition forces draw ever closer to the Iraqi capital.

That's our coverage wrapping up this hour. I'm Judy Woodruff.


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