The Web     
Powered by
powered by Yahoo!
Return to Transcripts main page


Credibility of Footage of Saddam in Baghdad Questioned on Authenticity; Baghdad Threatens Coalition as U.S. Forces Hold Airport

Aired April 4, 2003 - 19:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: High fives from a fearless leader or from somebody else? And is the same man? And is he really in charge?

MAJ. GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, JOINT CHIEFS STAFF: We find it interesting that Saddam Hussein if he is alive feels the need to walk in the street to prove that.

ANNOUNCER: And who is going to run Iraq after the real Saddam Hussein is gone?

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: We are anxious to move quickly now that the day of liberation is drawing near.

ANNOUNCER: And tonight's debate, embedded reporters. More trouble than they're worth or in bed with military propaganda. Live from Baghdad, Kuwait City, Washington, and cities around the globe; War in Iraq, Live from the Front Lines with Paula Zahn in New York and Wolf Blitzer in Kuwait City.


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening and welcome. It is just after 4 a.m. in Baghdad, much of the city still without power tonight. Throughout the night we've seen antiaircraft fire flashes on the horizon and what sounds like the detonations of bombs. For the past few hours one of the night vision cameras has been focused on nearly continuous flashes of light on Baghdad's skyline. But what we have not seen so far is anything like the non-conventional attack that Iraq's information minister promised would come sometime tonight.

My colleague Wolf Blitzer is watching and waiting in Kuwait city tonight. Hi Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Paula. The coalition forces are saying they have secured Baghdad's airport. But the battle for the city is far from over. The airport is littered with the burned out wreckage of Iraqi aircraft. U.S. officials said the airport, which has been shut down throughout the war could be up and running soon, perhaps even within a day.

The area surrounding the airport has been a sight of fighting between U.S. lead coalition forces and Iraqi forces throughout the day. And a source in the city is telling our CNN's Nic Robertson that some of Iraq's Republican Guard militia forces are gathering close, very close to the airport.

The Iraqi information minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf says the U.S. forces at Baghdad's international airport are in his words, and I'm quoting, "an isolated island". As for what the Iraqi's may be planning al-Sahaf says, "The coming attack won't be military and won't use weapons of mass destruction".


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


BLITZER: Al-Sahaf hinted the attack may involve the widespread use of what he called martyrdom. But again there's no sign of anything unusual. The night though is far from over, it's still continuing -- Paula.

ZAHN: Well to another intriguing story out of Baghdad today involves new television pictures of Saddam Hussein or at least somebody who looks like him. Whoever it was he was doing the last thing you might expect, which is why CNN national security correspondent David Ensor checked with the experts if this Saddam is the real one.


DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Clearly the Iraqi regime wants its people and the world to know that despite all the questions Saddam Hussein is alive and in command. The questions on this tape for U.S. intelligence; when was the tape made and is it really Saddam?

KEN POLLACK, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: It's entirely possible that this isn't Saddam Hussein, that this is one of his doubles.

ENSOR: Saddam Hussein is known to have used look-alikes in the past, particularly for appearances in public not requiring him to speak. As to whether the tape is recent there is a shot that shows Saddam Hussein or his look alike and then pans to show the smoke around the city. Even as the tape first played on CNN the White House spokesman was downplaying its significance.

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: In the bigger scheme of things it really doesn't matter because whether it is him or whether it isn't him the regime's days are numbered and are coming to an end.

ENSOR: More significant to U.S. intelligence is the other tape broadcast shortly before of Saddam Hussein or his double calling on the Iraqi people to fight the invaders. The reason, he refers to an incident March 24, when an Apache helicopter was shot down and Iraqi television claimed it had been done by a single farmer with an old rifle.

SADDAM HUSSEIN, PRESIDENT OF IRAQ (through translator): And maybe you remember the villager, the Iraqi villager, how he downed an Apache, the American Apache with the old weapon bear no (ph).

ENSOR: That incident took place five days after the massive American bombardment of a leadership compound that U.S. officials had hoped might have killed or wounded Saddam Hussein.

POLLACK: Saddam's broadcast earlier today is clearly intended for his loyalists to tell them that he is still alive and they should continue to fight for him and also to the rest of Iraq's people that he is still alive and they need to continue to fear him.

ENSOR: There is of course the question of how many Iraqi's will have seen the broadcast given that the power was out in most of Baghdad.


ENSOR: U.S. officials tell me that on balance they think this tape does seem to indicate that Saddam Hussein is alive. But they say that voice analysis tests on the tape, which will answer that question more definitively, may take a few days -- Wolf.

BLITZER: David Ensor, our national security correspondent. Thanks, David, very much.

Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is keeping track of all of the developments from the Jordanian/Iraqi border. He's joining me now live -- Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, certainly we know that these pictures were taken in Baghdad. There were monuments there, a particularly unique statue on the west and outskirts of Baghdad. But it certainly locates the pictures of the Iraqi leader or the person who appears to be the Iraqi leader in Baghdad.

There does seem to be some dirty clouds in the sky perhaps indicating that this has been taken during bombing. And certainly the Iraqi people around the person who would appear to be President Saddam Hussein reacting as if he was the Iraqi leader.

Indeed President Saddam Hussein's personal secretary, Abed Halu (ph) also in the picture but some things certainly uncharacteristic with the Iraqi leader, that is standing up above all the people there giving them high fives, very strange for the Iraqi leader. Everyone who meets the President Saddam Hussein says he deports himself like a president. He is very focused and he is very resolute and determined in his moods, not the sort of person one would imagine giving high fives.

Also we know that the Iraqi leader whenever he meets with everyone insists that they wash their hands, goes through scrupulous searches and even to the degree of having their hands disinfected. This person on the street today was shaking hands with people, so perhaps an indication that this wasn't after all the Iraqi leader. But of course as David reports so accurately, what the Iraqi leadership is trying to do hear is show that it is firmly in control. And that was backed by a statement on television a little earlier in the day when President Saddam Hussein called on people to stand up in defense against the coalition and if they showed themselves to be firm then they would prove to the coalition that they wouldn't be beaten, that the coalition would essentially go away -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So the bottom line, Nic, I think you're coming around to this conclusion, I think I am as well, that the video tape of him speaking was probably authentic but the person in that crowd was probably an actor.

ROBERTSON: That seems to be the way it appears to be at this time, Wolf. There's too much that doesn't gel with what we know about the Iraqi leader. We also know of course as David says that he uses body doubles often in situations where he doesn't actually speak.

So it comes as no surprise if you will that when he needs somebody to go out on the streets to show the people that he's alive and well that it probably wouldn't be him. But when it comes to speaking the people of Baghdad, and a few of them have begun to get their electricity back this evening, when they're watching these pictures on television and they listen to his voice, perhaps for them a little more convincing that this really is him.

But this is a decision time for the people of Baghdad whether or not they believe that this is the Iraqi leader. Whether or not they believe that they want to sit through what could be a battle for Baghdad. And we're being told by our sources there tonight, some people already leaving the capital -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic Robertson watching all of this for us as he always does.

Paula, back to you.

ZAHN: Thanks, Wolf.

What is it like to be in the middle of a battle? We want to show you some remarkable pictures from today's fighting in and around Baghdad's airport. A cameraman followed some U.S. troops as they used shoulder launched Javelin missiles during a firefight with some Iraqis. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm giving you an order to shoot that thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shoot that thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The javelin will not lock onto them. Can you see it from here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That one's closer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need to move up closer. All the way to the guard rail. Go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dennis (ph), closer.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can see it over here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go to the guard rail. Right over the top of that pole, next to that right of that guard tower, that's where they are. Let's go. Get him. Can you see him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on baby. She's right there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We already hit one of them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What? Hey Munez (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's something wrong with the missile.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, bring that one up. We need ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey. We need a missile. Hey Munez (ph) put it down. Bring it over here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey! This one's messed up!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get over here. Hey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put that one down. Green (ph) you move up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey. Come on. Let's go. Do you got a sign on it?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey. This one's jammed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't have a clue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're moving. They're moving.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you see that split between those two trees, just to the right of the guard tower; that's where they are. Do you see them Ford (ph)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see them. Get that clook (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here's a Javelin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get that other Javelin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't see it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where's the Javelin at?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Let's engage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who's shooting us?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go baby go. Go baby.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right pig to blue one, that target just went about 200 meters in the air. There were three next to him. I don't know what the hell happened to him. We shot the shit out of him.



ZAHN: That video again, that's an excellent idea of how head first, how vulnerable that U.S. soldier looked.

With tonight's bombing raids on Baghdad and the looming battle it looks like the rule of Saddam Hussein may be into it's last days. But these hours could prove the most desperate and dangerous for coalition forces. Let's go straight to the Pentagon where senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre is standing by. Good evening Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Paula, a real eye-opener about what the actual combat looks like close up rather than how we report it here from such a distance at the Pentagon. You can only imagine what's going on at that Baghdad airport tonight. Job one for U.S. forces is to secure the airport, extend the perimeter, clear out this massive complex, which includes underground tunnels and all kinds of bunkers that have to be cleared out.

Meanwhile the bombing of Baghdad goes on unabated. The U.S. is continuing to target so called regime targets that help the Iraqi regime hold on to power. The U.S. says it did not target the power system in Baghdad. I can't explain why the lights are out. I may have been inadvertent bomb damage or it may be the regime turned it off.

Whatever is going on on the ground though the Pentagon continues to express optimism that the outcome is inevitable.


VICTORIA CLARKE, PENTAGON SPOKESWOMAN: Whoever is left in this regime, whatever is left of the regime leadership got up today and realized they have less and less control of their country. They have less and less control of just about everything in that country and that's what's significant. And what we're focused on is ending the regime.


MCINTYRE: Meanwhile the U.S. is continuing to consolidate its forces around Baghdad, moving more forces into the area, the Marines coming from the East, the third infantry continuing to move from the west. The idea is to encircle the city, consolidate the positions and then be in a position to launch commando raids into the city. In fact there may be also moving some Apache attack helicopters to that Saddam International airport, which of course has now been renamed Baghdad International by the U.S. forces -- Paula.

ZAHN: Jamie, thanks so much for the update.

Back to Wolf now in Kuwait City.

BLITZER: Thanks, Paula.

At least three U.S. service members were killed today in an apparent suicide bomb attack at a checkpoint near the Hadifa (ph) dam north of Baghdad, northwest of Baghdad to be precise. Those deaths are not yet included in the official casualty count.

At last resort, at last report that is 57 Americans have been killed, including 45 by hostile forces and 12 by friendly fire or in accidents. Of the 27 British troops in all who have been killed, at least 19 of them were victims of friendly fire or accidents. The official Iraqi casualty figure remains the same, including more than 400 civilians killed. U.S. central command says more than 4,000 Iraqis have been captured but British officials believe the figure is much, much higher.

Up next, SARS. Unmasking what experts know about this deadly illness and why the government is now talking about quarantines.

And what are the President's plans for a post-Saddam Iraq? We'll have details in 60 seconds.


BLITZER: It's been another night of bombing in and around the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. Once again going through the targeting by the U.S. air force we're watching what's happening in and around the Iraqi capital as well as outside the international airport there.

We'll get back to that story in just a moment or two but first we want to update you on some other important news beginning with the case of Zacarias Moussaoui. The judge overseeing his trial says prosecutors are operating in a "shroud of secrecy". U.S. district judge Leona Brinkema is questioning whether Moussaoui's trial can indeed proceed. She's disturbed that so many of the pleadings, orders and court opinions have been classified by the government. Moussaoui's charged with conspiracy in the September 11 attacks -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks, Wolf.

Now on to the latest on the global threat of SARS. In the last 24 hours alone 15 more people of the United Stated are reported to have the deadly disease. It has prompted President Bush to give health officials more power when it comes to controlling the spread of SARS. Let's go straight to medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen who joins us from Atlanta (ph) with the details. Good evening, Elizabeth.


Today President Bush met with Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and gave Thompson the authority to quarantine people because of SARS. There you see Thompson leaving the White House with CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding.

Now he did not tell Thompson that he should quarantine people. Instead what he said was, You have the authority if you feel that you need to in the future. Thompson has said on the record that he does not think quarantines are necessary now, but apparently he wanted the authority because he said the outbreak could get worse and he may want that authority in the future.

Let's take a look at some of the quarantine able diseases in the United States. Legally speaking the federal government can quarantine people because of Cholera, Diphtheria, Infectious Tuberculosis, Plague, Smallpox, Yellow Fever, Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers, that it would include Ebola and now Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS.

Now they have had the need to quarantine people in some other countries. What you're looking at right here is some 200 people were quarantined in Hong Kong because they lived in an apartment complex where there had been an outbreak of SARS. And so they took these healthy people and the put them on a bus, they sent to what they called Holiday Camp so they would not infect the rest of the population if indeed they were sick.

Quarantine is an interesting word, lots of confusion. Healthy people are quarantined and they're quarantined just in case they might get sick and become infectious. Now the reason why Thompson says there's not a reason, the need for a quarantine right now, is that the numbers in the U.S. are very different than they are in Hong Kong.

Let's take a look at the numbers in the United States. In the United States 106 people have traveled, or a 109 rather, have traveled from abroad, mostly to Asia and come back with the disease. Now six other Americans who did not travel were infected by those travelers, bringing the total to 115.

Now if you look at those numbers what's really striking is that out of those 109 people who brought it to the U.S. they only gave it to six other people. In other words there has not been very much transmission of SARS within the United States and that certainly is good news -- Paula. ZAHN: There was a lot of talk about how tough it was to decide how you treat SARS. Has any progress been made on that front, Elizabeth?

COHEN: They have not made a lot of progress, Paula. What they have done is they're looking at different things. They have discovered the virus that they believe causes SARS. You can see it right there. It's a never before seen strain of the Coronavirus. Now that they've done that they're working on a vaccine and they're working to find an antiviral agent that might possibly work against SARS. So far they haven't found that agent -- Paula.

ZAHN: Well we wish them a lot of luck. It's certainly making a lot of people very, very sick. Elizabeth, I appreciate it. Thanks.

Back to the war now; when the last mortar fall, the final missiles hit; what will happen to Iraq? Who will be in charge of the country? How will it be run? Well the White House is sketching out a plan and it's expected to be the subject of talks next week between President Bush and British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Senior White House correspondent John King has a preview.


JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The President's summit with Prime Minister Blair early next week will include an urgent focus on how to run Iraq once the shooting stops.

POWELL: We are anxious to move quickly now that the day of liberation is drawing near.

KING: The immediate plan is for General Tommy Franks to be in charge with a new civil administration headed by retired Army general, Jay Garner.

Virtually every agency of the U.S. government will have a role. State Department officials with humanitarian issues, Treasury Department experts to help with Iraq's economy and currency, Justice Department officials to assist with security and legal reforms.

A new interim Iraqi authority will be formed as soon as possible and include a mix of Iraqi exiles and dissidents, Kurds who have had semi-autonomy in northern Iraq, but also a mix of indigenous Iraqis who held key civil service posts in the Saddam Hussein government but are not considered regime loyalists.

POLLACK: One of the great unknowns out there is the extent to which the Iraqi bureaucracy truly is a functional, technocratic system or how much of it is actually contaminated by Saddam Hussein, his flunkies, his cronies, his corruption.

KING: The White House promises broad-based Iraqi involvement from day one and to phase out the U.S. administration as soon as possible. But it also says some questions cannot be answered at least until Baghdad is in coalition hands. FLEISCHER: 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.

KING: Mr. Bush sought advice from a group of Iraqi exiles at the White House. And Prime Minister Blair held a similar session at 10 Downey Street.


KING: Now the post-war role of the United Nations remains a source of some disagreement between Washington and London. Prime Minister Blair (ph) and other European leaders want a broad U.N. role as soon as possible while here at the White House they insist no shedding the blood should take the lead role when the shooting stops and that the post-war voice of the United Nations be limited at least in the short-term -- Wolf.

BLITZER: John King at the White House. Thanks, John, very much.

The mercury in this part of the world is rising, especially in Iraq and it couldn't come at a worse time for coalition forces inside Iraq. Let's turn to our meteorologist Orelon Sydney in Atlanta for a look at the forecast in this part of the world -- Orelon.

ORELON SYDNEY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Wolf, I think I've got some good news for you and I've got some good news for the troops. There's a little good and bad, I'll show you in a second. This is what I think we'll be seeing over the next couple of days, which is temperatures just about four to five degrees cooler than earlier forecasts; the reason for that some cloudy skies moving into Baghdad by Sunday.

It's going to cut the temperatures just a little bit. It'll actually get a disturbance with a chance of rain on Monday. So you're looking at upper 80s there. That is still hot if you're in one of those chemical protective suits. Also those suits as they get water logged tend to be very heavy and very unwielding. But certainly if it rains the troops will be taking cover.

This is what the situation looks like for Saturday. High pressure still in control; it's still going to be hot. But I did kind of cut off again about two to three degrees from each temperature. I just don't think it's going to get quite as hot as earlier forecast. This is plenty hot though, 99 degrees both at Nasariya and in Kuwait, 96 for Baghdad and 98 degrees also in my forecast for Basra. The good news is this does start to get a lot cooler by Monday. Bad news is with air temperatures like this, if you're in one of those protective suits it can be extremely hot; with heat index 136, heat stroke can be a problem -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Orelon Sydney, thanks very much for that weather forecast of particular interest to me and a lot of other people over here.

Someone who has worked for Saddam Hussein has a warning for U.S. forces.


SATINDER BINDRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You should be prepared for suicide bombers, booby traps and even civilians who will fight long and hard.


BLITZER: Next, will the Iraqi's make a last stand?

And later, are Arab networks and journalists painting the wrong picture of the war? Stay with us.


BLITZER: Baghdad once again being pounded by U.S. aircraft, bombs, missiles. Various targets in and around the Iraqi capital, especially close to the international airport, where U.S. troops are now in control. We're watching what's happening in Iraq, especially what's happening in Baghdad.

Once the battle for Baghdad really heats up a retired general who trained with Iraq's Elite Forces says don't look for things to go well for the U.S. lead coalition. He tells CNN's Satinder Bindra in the city of Baghdad the Iraqi's will have the advantage.


GEN. K.S. RANDHAWA (RET.), INDIAN ARMY: Cover me to the safest place.

BINDRA (voice-over): The man who trained the Iraqi army and still treasures these autographed posters of Saddam Hussein predicts once the battle for Baghdad begins it'll last for weeks. There will be heavy American casualties and the Iraqi president will never leave but would rather die with his boots on.

RANDHAWA: He will die in his bunk if he's alive like Hitler died.

BINDRA: Randhawa is a highly decorated general retired from the Indian army who says he's met Saddam Hussein several times. He says he shot this video in Saddam Hussein's own mobile military command vehicle just on the eve of the first Gulf War.

Randhawa says the Iraqi Republican Guard, which protects Baghdad, has an (UNINTELLIGIBLE) accord and battle pride and regimental honor will prevent many from waiving the white surrender flag.

For all his friendship in Iraq, Randhawa tells he is neutral in this way. But he's warning Washington the Iraqi population is seething with anger because American bombs have killed dozens of civilians and many Iraqis are now rallying behind their president.

RANDHAWA: What is happening is all these casualties, I'm (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the determination of the Iraqi people to last.

BINDRA (on camera): Once U.S. forces enter Baghdad General Randhawa says they'll lose their technological superiority because he believes most of the fighting will be at close quarters and will involve mainly small arms.

The general also says U.S. soldiers should be prepared for suicide bombers, booby traps and even civilians who will fight long and hard.

(voice-over): Probably led, Randhawa says to the very end by their leader himself.

RANDHAWA: But as far as he is concerned, don't expect them to be saying prayers over it. He will try until the very last minute to keep up the morale.

BINDRA: Another major impediment for U.S. forces in Baghdad, says General Randhawa, will be tons of rubble.

RANDHAWA: It gives cover to the defender. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) no left or right. Every five weeks the joker is hiding behind them.

BINDRA: Randhawa says U.S. forces will eventually take Baghdad. But he says the Iraqi strategy should be clear not to use chemical or biological weapons which could hurt Baghdad's cause internationally, but to inflict heavy casualties on U.S. troops so that public support for the war in America begins to crumble.

Satinder Bindra, CNN, New Delhi.


ZAHN: And we are seeing explosions across the front lines in and around Baghdad. Witnesses are reporting cruise missiles and anti- aircraft fire in a massive, stepped up attack. Let's take a look at what's going on right now with retired Army Lieutenant General Dan Betton, who joins us from CNN Center.

Good evening. Thanks so much for joining us, sir.


ZAHN: First off, we know coalition forces are in control of that all-important Baghdad International Airport, as it's now being called. What next?

BENTON: Well, what next is very important. Right now the coalition forces, quite frankly, hold all the cards in this operation, with the exception of one, and I'd like to talk about them second. But if we could look at the map right now and just refresh the viewers about what the situation is. Let me give you some scale.

From the center of Baghdad, out to the newly named Baghdad International Airport, it's about 20 kilometers, about 12 miles. That's important because this is about where the so-called red line is. The red line being the area of the most threat from artillery- delivered chemical weapons.

This is the emblem right here for artillery units. We do not know exactly where they are, but until we find them, the threat from these artillery units to fire chemical weapons out to units inside this red line are very, very important. That's about the only card that I think that the Iraqis hold.

Right now we've got the troopers from the 3rd Mechanized Division from Fort Stewart, Georgia out in the area around the airport. The Screaming Eagles of Fort Campbell, Kentucky down south of the city linked up with the 3rd Division around to the south and to the southwest. And we have the elements of the 1st Marines coming up from the southeast.

Down to the south, we have elements of the 4th Division that are not yet in the fight. As you know, they've been unloading their equipment, and they'll be moving up to join and strengthen the coalition forces in the Baghdad area very, very soon.

The important thing we have to think about is the north. There really are no coalition forces in the north. That's why the attack -- the tank-killing, A-10 Warthog aircraft will be patrolling these roads coming out of the north to make sure that we do not have these escaping forces like we had in 1991. I will tell you the military commanders remember that, and they are not going to let these armored divisions escape freely.

Right over here, the important thing is we have the JSTARS aircraft. They're going to be monitoring everything that goes on in this entire theater of operation with their tremendous radars and the communications capabilities they have to control everything that goes on. So the coalition forces are getting postured very well, Paula, right now.

They do not have to do anything right now. Time is on our side, and I don't think they need to rush to judgment on this.

ZAHN: General, evening isn't over yet, although the Iraqi information minister promised an unconventional attack tonights which has not materialized, thankfully. What do you make of that threat? What is it that coalition troops are prepared for?

BENTON: Well, as you said, Paula, the night is just about over. And I think the statement he made, quite frankly, was for the consumption of the Iraqi people. We haven't seen anything happen. They can't do anything.

Any attack coming out of Baghdad, coming to the west, would surely be defeated before it even got outside the city limits. So I think that's just bravado for the purposes of their own public relations or psy-ops campaigns.

ZAHN: We hope that's exactly what it is. Lieutenant General Dan Benton, good to see you. Thanks for your time tonight.

BENTON: You're welcome, Paula. ZAHN: There's an old saying that the first casualty in war is the truth. If that's so, what are embedded journalists showing us? Well, the hosts of CNN's "CROSSFIRE" will debate that in a little bit.

And then a little bit later on we will lay in the grass and listen to the artillery.


BLITZER: "Washington Post" columnist Michael Kelly is the first American journalist to die in Iraq. Kelly was embedded with the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division. Reports say he was killed in a Humvee accident Thursday night.

Over the years I covered many stories with him. He was a friend of mine. He did a brilliant job covering the first Gulf War a dozen years ago. His columns in more recent years were, as far as I was concerned, must-reading reporting, was his passion, and his work will be sorely missed. Michael Kelly was only 46 years old.

Let's go to Washington now, where our CROSSFIRE host, Paul Begala, is waiting to talk about the role of embedded journalists -- Paul.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Wolf, thank you very much. Even before we got word of Michael Kelly's death, the role of embedded journalists in the Iraq war was controversial. Both Peter Arnett and Geraldo Rivera got in hot water because of things they said and did.

So are embedded reporters not only risking their lives, but also the objectivity of their coverage, and maybe even the lives of our troops? Joining to discuss this issue, Tim Graham, director of media analysis for the Media Research Center, and Matthew Felling, he's the media director for the Center for Media and Public Affairs -- Bob.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Mr. Felling, Michael Kelly was one of the really great young reporters in America that will be terribly missed. But the fact that he was an embedded reporter in this war, it's irrelevant to the fact that he was killed. I mean people used to run around war zones on their own, as I often did in past years when I was a little younger. There's just as much chance to get killed as being an embedded reporter. Isn't that a fact?

MATTHEW FELLING, CENTER FOR MEDIA AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Yes. And furthermore, Michael Kelly today, his unfortunate incident did not really arise from combat. He wasn't shot at. At least not in the reports that we have thus far.

I think that what my main issue with embedded journalists and all of the objectivity issues aside is not just their security, but these people have been empowered with a lot of access. They have a lot of information.

I saw an article where a reporter was quoted as saying, "I know our tactics. I know our objective. I'm not allowed to say it, but I know." These people have a lot of information and they have about a five-day boot camp worth of training, where they probably did something like sit-ups and push-ups and some vocabulary lessons. I think if they were taken prisoner of war, then we would have a huge boondoggle on our hands because they have not been trained as to how to respond under duress, and that could make Arnett and Geraldo seem like small potatoes by putting our men in danger and the entire mission.

BEGALA: In fact, Tim, let me ask you about one of those. Geraldo Rivera, a veteran correspondent, he's covered many wars, but allegedly -- not allegedly -- according to Pentagon spokesmen, he gave away crucial details of where our troops are located, where the 101st Airborne was going. Why hasn't Fox, the right-wing network which flaunts its phony patriotism, fired this guy?

TIM GRAHAM, MEDIA RESEARCH CENTER: I don't think it's a firing offense.

BEGALA: Putting in danger American troops in a war is not a firing offense? What is?

GRAHAM: They removed him from the theater of operations. That's good enough for me. Look, what Peter Arnett did was much worse.

BEGALA: He endangered lives?

GRAHAM: Yes he did, because he prolonged the war by going to the enemy's propaganda channel and saying, hey, keep fighting, guys. Go ahead, you can win. You get enough protests in the American streets and you can win this thing.

FELLING: Peter Arnett certainly did contribute a lot to propaganda. I mean they're going to be looping that video for weeks for as long as this war takes place.

NOVAK: He was not an embedded reporter. Let's get that straight.

FELLING: No, he was a unilateral, pardon me. But Geraldo Rivera, I mean even when the Supreme Court rules on freedom of the press, they always have an asterisk, a caveat staying you do not divulge the information of troop movements. And we all know that Geraldo might not always know where exactly he is at any given moment. He's had trouble with that in the past. But just to give an outline, I think that was way beyond the pale, and I think that he should have been censured.

NOVAK: You know this doesn't just happen with embedded reporters, Mr. Felling. I used to go to Vietnam every year. Sometimes I would travel with U.S. forces, sometimes on pacification helicopters, sometimes on my own.

I knew a lot was going on. Now if they ever caught me, boy, I would have talked, because I'm rough on torture. But the idea they're embedded doesn't mean there's always a problem when you have war correspondents there. Because war correspondents know a lot of what's happening.

FELLING: Yes, they knew a lot of what's happening, but they haven't -- I mean not since World War II were they actually alongside the troops. And these people have been given remarkable amounts of access and they're going right alongside. They're wearing the equipment, and they're going back from the field.

I mean they're giving us scatter shot coverage, but I really think that we have not thought this through enough. The Pentagon hasn't thought this through. I got an e-mail back this week from a Pentagon person who said, "Well we expect the reporters to be treated under the Geneva Convention."

I mean it's a good thing we don't have the GW audience in front of us tonight, because that would give us a laugh track right now. I mean that's a ridiculous assumption to make.

BEGALA: Well Tim, let me (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I don't really know Geraldo Rivera, I know him a little bit. He seems like a very nice guy.

GRAHAM: He was very nice to your boy, Bill Clinton.

BEGALA: He was certainly very nice to President Clinton when he covered that administration. But despite that, I think that what he did was bordering on criminal. He put our troops' lives at risk. And you represent a conservative media watchdog.

GRAHAM: Right.

BEGALA: Geraldo Rivera now works for a conservative network, the right wing cranks over at Fox. Could that be that, perhaps, that that's why you're not pitching a fit here?

You love to impugn the patriotism -- your group does -- of, say, Peter Jennings at ABC, who's never revealed troop movements. Are you going easy on Geraldo because he works for a right wing network.

GRAHAM: No. In fact, I think you could argue that Geraldo is hurting the fine work of the other embeds that Fox Network has out there. And our group criticized Roger Ailes and Fox for hiring him in the first place.

They know his record. They know Al Capone's vault. They know he took butt cells and injected them into his forehead.

They know the whole story, and they hired him anyway. I didn't think that was a great move. All I'm saying is, this, what he did, was in no way comparable to what Peter Arnett did.

NOVAK: Let me ask you about Peter Arnett, Mr. Felling. Here is a guy who gets on -- in the first place, he is just about the last American broadcast journalist who was left -- who was permitted in Baghdad. He gets on the air with a guy in uniform. He looks like he's part of the whole establishment.

It wasn't so much what he said. It was -- isn't that the height of stupidity to let himself be compromised in that way?

FELLING: Yes. I mean if you're looking for somebody to defend what Arnett did, you're looking in the wrong direction. I'm really sorry. No, I mean I realize that he confessed, he apologized to NBC, to god, the world and everybody.

NOVAK: You wouldn't have fired him?

FELLING: I'm saying that what he did was far inferior, because he did not explicitly give away troop information. He did not explicitly put Americans at risk. Arnett, what he did was silly.

I mean he went even so far as to call this a failure, which nobody, not even Donald Rumsfeld's worst enemy who is an unnamed source will ever go so far as to say this is a failure. What he did was just reckless, and it's the equivalent of...

NOVAK: It's propaganda for the Iraqis, wasn't it?

FELLING: Yes, it's the equivalent of somebody who covers a presidential campaign, going -- like a "New York Times" correspondent who covers the campaigning day to day going on live with Judy Woodruff and saying, "You know what? This president doesn't know what he's doing."

GRAHAM: Be careful. You can't compare a presidential campaign to Saddam Hussein.


BEGALA: Both of you seem to agree that what Arnett did and what Geraldo did are dissimilar. You happen to think what Arnett did is worse. Explain to me, because I'm -- no, don't. Explain to the moms and dads of the men and women who Fox News put their lives at risk that that's not as big a deal as spouting propaganda for this regime.

GRAHAM: I don't know how serious Geraldo's...

BEGALA: The Pentagon says he gave away crucial details.

GRAHAM: And they removed him, and that's fine. What Peter Arnett did...

BEGALA: Tell those moms and dads why that's OK for Fox News to tell where our soldiers are.

GRAHAM: What Peter Arnett did was not just a firing offense once he went to Iraqi TV. It should have been a firing offense while he was on MSNBC. It should have been a firing offense when he was on CNN.

He doesn't care what the truth is. He didn't care what the truth was before. He just goes out there and he tells people whatever the Iraqi miners tell him to say.

So it's a good thing he's dismissed. And the only guy left is Richard Engel at ABC, and he is no better. The stuff that he is doing right now out of Baghdad is the same kind of stuff. Interviewing oppressed people on the street as if they really have an opinion.

So we can't trust American television reporters in Baghdad to tell us the truth. We learned that in 1991. We learned that before.

BEGALA: That will have to be the last word. Tim Graham from the Media Research Center, thank you very much. Matthew Felling, as well, from the Center for Media and Public Affairs. We're going to now go back to Paula Zahn in New York City -- Paula.

ZAHN: Hey, hey, Paul. Thank you.

There is at least one big difference between the way U.S. media is covering the war and what Arab networks are showing: blood. We're not going to show you any of the gory pictures that are played repeatedly on Arab TV throughout the day, but we want to look at a bigger issue. Are the Arab networks showing the whole truth or slanting the news? We're going to talk to someone who should know when LIVE FROM THE FRONT LINES returns.


ZAHN: Welcome back. Except for the embedded reporters with coalition forces heading into and around Baghdad, few journalists are actually covering the war from the city because they don't have Iraq's blessing or approval. But Al-Jazeera TV does. Iraq has dropped its ban and allowed the network's correspondents to return to the city, but are they and other Arab TV outlets bringing their viewers the truth?

Joining me now to look at Arab TV's coverage of the war is Fawaz Gerges. He is the head of The International Affairs and Middle Eastern Studies at Sarah Lawrence College. Welcome. Good to see you again


ZAHN: How different is the war that Americans are watching on TV from what Arabs are watching on TV?

GERGES: Paula, there is what I call a clash of two narratives. That is, Arabs and Muslims are getting an entirely different attitude (ph) from (ph) American counterparts. Let me illustrate what I mean.

While the American media focuses on the technologically advanced American military armada, the Arab media show the destruction and death that this armada visits (ph) on Iraq and the Iraqis. While the American media focus on the so-called surgical (ph) air strikes, surgical (ph) -- I mean nature of strikes, the Arab media zeroes in on civilian casualties inflicted by the air strikes.

While the American media celebrate America's military prowess, the Arab media shows Iraq at the receiving end as a devastating military onslaught unleashed by this, you know, technologically advanced military industrial (ph) complex. So you have two different, what I call clash of narratives. One Arab and Muslim and one American.

ZAHN: And it's interesting the role the Arab TV anchors play. Because they don't try to be too inflammatory themselves, right? They often use a third party to do that kind of work. Explain how that is played out.

GERGES: Well, I mean I think what we need to realize is that the Arab media do not pretend to be neutral, a neutral spectator in the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) drama. I think they're trying to show in advance, an Iraqi narrative.

And I think, as you know, like their American counterparts -- I mean whether you want to know how the American military is doing, American soldiers -- Arabs and Muslims are very hungry to know how Iraqis are coping with the Americanization. The extent of death and loss of a weathering American storm.

So what the Arab media are trying to do is to satisfy the hunger and thirst of their audience. There's really no conspiracy involved here. And the same way that the American media would like the American audience to know what's going on for their sons and daughters, the Arab media is basically satisfying the hunger and thirst of Arabs and Muslims that would like to know how Iraq and the Iraqis are doing at this moment.

ZAHN: That may be true in some cases, but isn't there an awful lot of lying that goes on and is allowed to not be challenged?

GERGES: What has happened -- actually, what has happened is that I think the Arab media show shocking pictures, horrible images of civilian casualties, particularly children and women. And I think these images, the focus hammering away at the shocking images, inflame public range and anger.

But Paula, there's also critical coverage of the war in the serious Arab press. Let me give you an example. Yesterday, an editorial in the leading Arab newspapers, Al Hayat -- I mean, in fact, he reminded his audience of the crimes of Saddam Hussein and said, "You must take into account the fact that the Arab world really failed to help the Iraqis out of their particular tragedy." And he said there's much blame to go around.

So while the Arab television stations hammer away at the shocking images, visual images, I think there is serious discussion in the serious Arab press on a daily basis.

ZAHN: You don't see that as a lone voice? You think the coverage is pretty balanced?

GERGES: I think the minority. And I think there is no balanced discussion of the situation. And, in fact, it's a shame that no balanced discussion of what the Iraqi regime has done.

That of course the American war is inflicting great damage on Iraq and the Iraqis, but there also should be a balanced discussion of what Saddam Hussein has done, what the Ba'athists have done, the crimes of this particular regime. And I think also the American media I think have not -- I think it's perceived in that part of the world that the American media is at tool of the U.S. government, that the American media is a cheerleader for the military.

So this is -- there's a sense, like Al-Jazeera said, the American media would like to silence Iraqi voices. They must not be silenced. And I come back, Paula, to the clash of two narratives. And unfortunately, both audiences are losing in the process.

ZAHN: Fawaz Gerges, I'd like to argue that point when it comes to U.S. journalists always representing the point of the government. I think...

GERGES: That's how it's perceived.

ZAHN: I think the Bush administration would dream that to be the case. Great to see you.

GERGES: Thanks.

ZAHN: You might as well just stay there. We'll probably call you again to join us tomorrow night as a permanent fixture here at CNN.

We're going to take a short break. We'll be right back.


ZAHN: Have you ever been awed by the sheer power of a fighter jet as it roared off the deck of an aircraft carrier, or touched the cold metal plating of an Abraham tank, or felt a lump in your throat as you watched soldiers caring for their own? They're all part of the latest compelling images from the front lines.


ZAHN (voice-over): The dawn of war. The crew of the Theodore Roosevelt launched the first mission of the day. A new morning in Baghdad. Armor arrives at Saddam International Airport. U.S. forces seize the airport, but it's not totally secure.

Here, U.S. soldiers take cover in their Bradley fighting vehicle. Backup is on the way, and soon officials are calling this airstrip Baghdad International, gateway to the future of Iraq.

To the north, Kurdish fighters make their way to the front lines by foot, by truck, looking on as coalition air strikes repel an Iraqi attempt to retake a bridge on the road to Mosul.

The casualties of war. U.S. forces unload their wounded through a waiting ambulance in Spain. For others, it's too late. An Iraqi flag drapes the casket of a 16-year-old boy. His coffin is being lifted on to the top of a car outside of Baghdad.

Images of death, images of duty. Both snapshots from the both war in Iraq. (END VIDEO CLIP)


Authenticity; Baghdad Threatens Coalition as U.S. Forces Hold Airport>

International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.