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CNN INSIDE POLITICS

Coalition Troops Penetrate Outskirts of Baghdad

Aired April 5, 2003 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: A Republican Guard barracks blasted. A Saddam statue toppled. A portrait of war as U.S. Troops push deeper into Baghdad. Secrets uncovered at an Iraqi school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These chemicals (UNINTELLIGIBLE) throughout this school house.

ANNOUNCER: A family mourns. A nation pays attribute to the first U.S. service woman to die in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's our hero. We're going to hold that in our hearts forever. And she will not be forgotten.

ANNOUNCER: 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN HOST: Thank you for joining us.

Well, some officials here in Washington have been reluctant to overstate the progress of the coalition push into Baghdad. But after U.S. forces made their first probe into the heart of the city, a Pentagon official says the war plan for freeing the capital is, indeed, under way.

Here on the home front, the commander-in-chief is gaining more ground in the battle for public opinion. We'll discuss where and why.

Also ahead...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: ... in the battle for hearts and minds in that region.

MICHEL MARTIN, ABC NEWS: ... the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... winning hearts and minds.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: ... and one of their big hearts and minds (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

WOODRUFF: Our Jeff Greenfield will explore a catchphrase in war coverage. How can the U.S. win the hearts and minds of Iraqis?

Let's go now to my colleague Wolf Blitzer, who is, as he has been for the last few hours, in Kuwait City -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Judy.

Within the past hour or so, more explosions were seen and heard in and around Baghdad. You're looking now at some live nightscope pictures of the city. Coalition forces have opened a new phase of their assault on Saddam Hussein's regime.

Indeed, only within the past few minutes, Reuters is reporting heavy artillery fire has been heard in the direction of southwest Baghdad, not far from the international airport, what used to be called Saddam International Airport, now renamed Baghdad International Airport. Heavy artillery, according to Reuters, shaking southwest Baghdad right now in the direction of the international airport.

We're watching to see what's going on. We know that U.S. forces are in control of that airport right now. We'll get some more details and get them to our viewers as soon as we can.

For the first time, U.S. troops have moved from the city's outskirts into the heart of the capital. Commanders say the mission was designed to send a message to the regime of Saddam Hussein and get information about Iraqi forces.

Iraqi officials insist the tide of the war is actually turning in their favor. Iraqi TV showed video of people dancing on top of what they said were U.S. armored vehicles destroyed in battle.

In northern Iraq, CNN's Brent Sadler reported enormous explosions as U.S. forces dropped bombs on Iraqi fighters. At one site, 28 bombs weighing 7,500 pounds each reportedly were dropped in a single hour.

Faced with U.S. firepower, Iraqi fighters reportedly have blocked the main roads into Baghdad tonight. And black-clad members of Saddam Hussein's Fedayeen militia are said to be prowling the streets.

Harry Smith of ITN has more on the battle for Baghdad.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HARRY SMITH, ITV NEWS (voice-over): It's the fight they've been waiting for, the tanks of the American 2nd Brigade taking the war right to the heart of Saddam's much-vaunted defenders, to the Republican Guards, holed up in their barracks in the southwestern suburbs of the Iraqi capital.

And on the other side of Baghdad, in the southeast corner, U.S. Marines close in on another division of the Republican Guard as the noose around the capital tightens.

Today's assault followed another night of heavy bombardment in and around Baghdad as shells rained down on units of the Republican Guard and other military targets.

American military planners continue to warn that there could still be tough fighting ahead, but tonight they're closer than many believed they would be to the center of Saddam's regime.

Harry Smith, ITV News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And this important programming note. Tomorrow, on a special edition of "LATE EDITION" at noon Eastern, I'll have an interview with the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff over at the Pentagon, General Peter Pace. He'll be my special guest. That's at noon Eastern Sunday, 9:00 a.m. Pacific.

Judy, I'll be back in one hour for two hours of a special edition of "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Much more coverage live from here in the Persian Gulf. In the meantime, back to Judy in Washington.

WOODRUFF: Thanks, Wolf. And we will see you then.

Well, as coalition forces push ahead in their bid to capture Baghdad, big questions remain about Saddam Hussein and his whereabouts. It is still not clear, looking at the latest tapes of the Iraqi president, whether he's dead or alive.

CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson, who was expelled from Baghdad, is with us now from the border of Iraq and Jordan, on the Jordanian side, to talk about what's happening in the Iraqi capital.

Nic, we're getting information in bits and pieces about the incursion by coalition land forces, about air flights over the city. Help us pull it all together.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, from what we hear from sources in Baghdad this evening, it had been mostly quiet in terms of bombing throughout the day in Baghdad.

Then there was a large explosion not far from the hotel journalists are staying in in the center of Baghdad. Along the riverfront there, there are a number of Ba'ath Party houses and buildings that appear to be -- have some sort of military function. It's not clear exactly what the target was.

What we're hearing from Iraqi people in the capital today is that they know and they have seen coalition forces in the southwest of the city, in the southeast of the city. They say they have also seen coalition forces and believe coalition forces have a checkpoint on the northern outskirts of Baghdad as well.

So as far as the Iraqi people are concerned, they are very aware that coalition forces are right on the perimeter of the city. Our sources are also telling us that Iraqi forces are massing artillery pieces and tanks at a number of locations on the southwestern edge of the city. These locations, actually, very close to the center of Baghdad and appear to be forming something sort of front line against the coalition forces.

Now, Iraq's minister of information today said that the coalition did not have control of the airport, that this was some sort of contrived video from the first day, and that, in fact, hundreds of coalition soldiers had been killed, and their graves were now at the airport. He did promise to take journalists to the airport, however, he never made -- he didn't make good on that promise throughout the day.

The information minister also read a statement from President Saddam Hussein today, the Iraqi leader calling on people to be resolute, to be strong, and saying that if they put up a good fight, then the coalition would eventually back down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOHAMMED SAEED AL-SAHAF, IRAQI INFORMATION MINISTER (through translator): But to harm the enemy more and more, go against the enemy and destroy the enemy and follow the plans that you got in writing. God is great. May the criminals lose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON: Now, representatives of the committee -- the International Committee for the Red Cross, who have been to some of the hospitals in Baghdad, report higher-than-usual numbers of casualties coming into those hospitals.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROLAND NUGUENIN-BENJAMIN, INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS (on phone): We had a chance in the morning to go to the main hospital, which is called Yarmuk (ph), and we found there has been a steady flow in of hundreds of casualties, all over the night and through into the day, casualties -- I mean, war wounded had to be sent over, dispatched to other hospitals, because this Yarmuk was just totally overwhelmed by the sheer number of people coming in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON: Now, these Red Cross representatives say that most -- that two-thirds of the casualties they've seen in this particular hospital are, in fact, military casualties. And Iraqi officials promise to take journalists to this particular hospital, the Yarmuk Hospital, that is now located, it's on the southwest of Baghdad, and it appears to be pretty much between the position of where coalition forces have been seen and where Iraq now has a militarized front-line position.

Now, when journalists were taken to see that hospital, twice they were turned around and told that they weren't actually allowed to go inside that hospital, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Nic, when you say Iraqis are seen now putting artillery pieces out and around the city, are you saying out in the open, where they can -- where they are vulnerable, or are they making any attempt to hide them? Give us clearer picture of that.

ROBERTSON: One of the areas where I understand they're locating tanks and artillery pieces is the Zawara (ph) Park. This is fairly central in Baghdad on the edge of a government area. It is a garden -- it is a large garden-type area for people to take their children to go and play. It's -- there's a small zoo there as well.

It is, if you will, on the -- facing towards the southwestern area of the city. It faces off against the highway that leads out to the airport. Now, that is not in a residential area. It is a clear, open area, apart from trees. The other areas that we understand where Iraqi officials are placing tanks and blocking off streets are in more residential areas, Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Nic Robertson, giving us a better understanding of exactly what the Iraqis are doing to prepare for any further moves by coalition forces. Nic, thank you very much.

Well, as American forces do push ahead toward the Iraqi government's key center of power, British forces are keeping up their work to the south of the Iraqi capital. ITN reporter Juliet Bremner is embedded with British forces in Iraq's second-largest city, Basra, where the fight for control goes on.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JULIET BREMNER, ITV NEWS (voice-over): Dominating the city gates to Basra. Saddam Hussein and his henchmen still claim to control this southern port. But the British want to send a powerful symbolic message. Soldiers are here to tear down the regime and all it stands for. By the time they leave Iraq, they're determined Saddam and his Ba'ath Party will have bitten the dust.

The approach can seem frustratingly slow, but day by day, the Desert Rats are exerting more control. Checkpoints meant to filter out Iraqi hardliners.

(on camera): They're well within striking distance of the mortars and rockets of the Fedayeen militia, but they're prepared to take that risk to try and persuade the people of Basra that they won't desert them, that they'll stick with this however messy it gets.

(voice-over): Drastic action is need to convince a dubious population.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get down, get down!

BREMNER: We watched a nighttime raid on the homes of Ba'ath Party officials and Fedayeen militia. These are men singled out by locals and believed by army intelligence to be behind much of the brutality and corruption. Most are not accused of specific crimes but suspected of being part of the state-sponsored climate of fear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), get up!

BREMNER: The party's influence extends to every corner of Iraqi society. In two small communities, we witnessed more than 70 people being rounded up. Some are clearly terrified of what lies ahead, uncertain of their fate, overcome by nerves.

But as it ended, there was no British apology for the scale of the operation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We came in firm, we came in fair. There was no shots fired. We gave a good warning before we came in. We've been playing warnings to people to stay in their houses, and we've only lifted those people we've got very good intelligence on.

BREMNER: This is not a tactic that can be regularly repeated, or the British risk being accused of installing their own rule of terror. Despite the discomfort of a few, there's a conviction that this is a night's work that will benefit the majority.

Juliet Bremner in Basra.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Well, there has been a terrible discovery by some other British troops in southern Iraq. Up next, evidence at a makeshift morgue points to mass executions by the Iraqi regime.

But first, more scenes from today's fighting in Baghdad.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Seven-eleven a.m. Eastern, 4:11 p.m. in Iraq. At its daily briefing, U.S. Central Command says Operation Iraqi Freedom is far from finished in Baghdad, even though U.S. forces are inside the Iraqi capital.

Eight-fifteen a.m. Iraq's information minister reads a message he says is from Saddam Hussein urging Iraqis to step up attacks against coalition forces.

Eight-thirty-six a.m. Walter Rodgers reports according to Army sources, Iraqi officials are fleeing Baghdad in droves, using civilian convoys top avoid being targeted by coalition air strikes.

Eight-forty-three a.m. CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr reports coalition troops entering Baghdad were met with fierce fighting, and there were casualties on both sides.

Nine-oh-six a.m. CNN's Martin Savidge, embedded with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, reports the unit has reached the extreme southeast suburbs of Baghdad, adding to forces the U.S. says now encircle the city. Twelve-thirteen p.m. At the Pentagon, Barbara Starr reports officials say today begins a new strategy in the skies over Baghdad. The coalition air force will begin providing urban combat air support over the city. Now the operating plan includes both ground and air missions.

Twelve-twenty-one p.m. CNN's Wolf Blitzer reports according to an eyewitness, a bomb has hit central Baghdad only a few hundred meters from the Palestine Hotel. The Palestine Hotel is where much of the international press corps is based.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Well, U.S. forces entering Baghdad do face the prospect of urban combat, a type of battle they have trained for, but, of course, they would prefer to avoid.

For more now on the unique challenges posed by urban combat, let's go back to Atlanta and join the man whose voice we just heard, Miles O'Brien. Hello again, Miles.

O'BRIEN: Hello again, Judy.

I'm joined by J. Kelly McCann, our security analyst, a man who's spent a lot of time learning about urban combat. You know, just those two words together, I think, scare a lot of people because of all the things that can go wrong. You know, I'm impressed, looking at this map, it almost looks like a chess game, kind of sterile. That is -- couldn't be further from the truth, could it?

J. KELLY MCCANN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Absolutely not. This is very clean and it's very orderly. Suddenly when we show the videotape and we start to go there, you'll see just how conflicted an environment that is.

O'BRIEN: And all happening so quickly.

MCCANN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

O'BRIEN: Let's roll some tape. We're going to kind of play it and stop it, and Kelly's going to walk us through, I guess, Urban Combat 101. What are we seeing here?

MCCANN: Just there, I mean, just getting the door out of the way, you can see where the weapons have to go. Now, you just see this soldier right here, he's going to his sidearm to make a little bit more mobile. And he's got to be careful of his muzzle pointing at his partner right here. Now, he's going to go that direction, because that room is clear. Go ahead and stop the tape.

As you make every entry, Miles, there are two dead spots, one, of course, in this direction right here, which you can't see from the doorway, the other in this direction right here, and that's always the problem, because as you come in here, you've got to be able to get in there quickly and make sure that this person here doesn't get shot in the back. So... O'BRIEN: All right. Now, what about this, this armor? Tell us how they're equipped with armor there.

MCCANN: Level 4 armor, this is not just for frag. This will also stop bullets. And there's a difference. The normal flak jacket will stop fragments from grenades, et cetera. This is a plate that will actually stop and deform a bullet.

O'BRIEN: All right. Let's roll tape and continue on here and talk about -- Now, I notice his hand -- his sidearm is attached to him. That's for...

MCCANN: Exactly...

O'BRIEN: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

MCCANN: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) retention, for retention capability. So he goes down the hallway, and you can see once that's called clear, straight trigger finger, in case there's any sympathetic muscle tightening, there's no problem.

You'll see another person come right up here, and he'll hold on this door, because that's not been cleared space yet, again, straight trigger finger, but ready to shoot if he needs to.

O'BRIEN: Sort of ready but not quite (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

MCCANN: Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

MCCANN: Immediately making entry with the thing, and then pying (ph) the room out, getting angles of vision as they clear it. But look at that, a dark space from a lighted space. Who knows what's in the recesses?

O'BRIEN: All right. Let's roll that second tape quickly, and we'll show you a couple more tips from Kelly's perspective. So far, what we're seeing is pretty much textbook.

MCCANN: Absolutely. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'BRIEN: All right. Now, this is a rural setting, but this could be applied to urban combat, yes.

MCCANN: Very different circumstance. Same thing when you come into a building. But stop the tape right here...

O'BRIEN: Oop, we missed it, we missed it...

MCCANN: ... if you would, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- It's all right. You can see all this area...

O'BRIEN: No, just roll it.

MCCANN: ... out here. Just go ahead and roll it. All of that has to be accounted for as well, not just the space in here. Your back is not covered. Many angles you've got to watch for. Now, you see right here, he's got a sidearm, he's calling the team in. All the rear is -- Now, stop the tape.

O'BRIEN: Yes, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

MCCANN: Imagine a person that is concealed anywhere in here. I mean, you could have anyone with a rifle back in these areas here...

O'BRIEN: Up in this area here, here...

MCCANN: ... in any of these recesses back over here.

O'BRIEN: Oop.

MCCANN: I mean, you know, you're looking at -- he wouldn't have a bomb (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'BRIEN: No, he wouldn't have that. But let me ask you this. Also that the garb, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) there's a cultural issue here. That provides a lot of cover for weapons if need be, right?

MCCANN: Absolutely. And someones might say, Well, why put their hands on their head like this? Because, you know, you -- the hands hurt. And I won't be able to determine what you're doing with your face. Where are your hands and what do they hold?

O'BRIEN: All right. Let's roll it real quickly and we'll make a few more points, if we could. A lot of fear in their faces here. You see, by the way, they all have radios, I notice they have, like, a little headset there. That allows them to communicate (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

MCCANN: Immediate communications, absolutely. You see them having their sectors of fire. All these areas up in here, you know, could be subjected to people hiding, et cetera. Now you've got people coming down that have already been cleared. Look at the fear on the faces. They don't understand what's going on.

O'BRIEN: And you want to keep them calm, and...

MCCANN: Very calm, reassure them that this isn't about them.

O'BRIEN: Wow.

MCCANN: Now, here's a little bit more aggressive stance. Exactly. Go ahead and stop tape...

O'BRIEN: Stop it right there. Oh, we missed it again.

MCCANN: ... if you can. Obviously, that person is doing something that that soldier didn't appreciate.

O'BRIEN: I would say aggressive is a good word for that...

MCCANN: Absolutely. O'BRIEN: ... the business end of that M-16.

All right, Kelly McCann, thank you for some insights. And that -- compound that by a city of 5 million, it kind of boggles the mind and really gives you a sense of what lies head for U.S. and coalition forces. Thanks very much for your insights.

MCCANN: Pleasure, Miles.

O'BRIEN: Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thanks, Miles and Kelly. I've always wondered what happened -- who covers the last man or woman in one of those operations, but that's something for your next conversation.

O'BRIEN: Absolutely.

WOODRUFF: Thanks very much.

An investigation is under way at a makeshift morgue in southern Iraq after a gruesome discovery by some British troops. Tim Ewart of ITN News reports on evidence of atrocities at an abandoned Iraqi military base.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TIM EWART, ITV NEWS (voice-over): It was a discovery that horrified the soldiers who made it. The remains of hundreds of men were found in plastic bags and Unsealed hard-board coffins. British troops found the bodies at an abandoned Iraqi military base on the outskirts of Azubayr. The evidence suggested it was the scene of appalling atrocities.

The teeth in many of the skulls had been broken, and bones appeared to be wrapped in strips of military uniform. It's not clear how long the bodies had lain here, but they were clearly not from this war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You come to expect everything in war fighting. The coffins were there. It was a bit more of a surprise when I discovered the bags with the human remains inside.

EWART: Inside a neighboring building, there was evidence of cells and a catalog of photographs of the dead. Most had died from gunshot wounds to the head. Others were mutilated beyond recognition, their faces burned and swollen.

Outside, soldiers discovered what they described as a purpose- built shooting gallery, the brickwork behind it riddled with bullets.

Identity cards revealed the names of some of the dead. Forensic specialists will now visit the scene and hope to establish the truth of what happened here and when.

(on camera): Today's discovery seems to provide shocking evidence of atrocities under Saddam Hussein's regime. Most people are afraid to talk openly about what's been happening here. But when they do, British soldiers believe, more horrors will come to light.

Tim Ewart, ITV News, Azubayr.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Well, from a gruesome finding to a dangerous one in central Iraq. U.S. troops work to clear that area of Iraqi weapons, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: We've been hearing about the situation in northern and southern Iraq. Now to central Iraq, where coalition forces say they are now in charge. And they are coming across some major munitions finds. The caches were apparently abandoned by retreating Iraqi forces. One such cache turned up in the city of Karbala, a strategic military point about 60 miles to the south of Baghdad.

CNN's Ryan Chilcote is embedded with the 101st Airborne Division, and he has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Can you show us what you've been finding today?

SGT. 1ST CLASS LARRY CLARK, U.S. ARMY: Roger. Well, this is about the third cache we've found today. We've been finding them nonstop, and it's a really tedious affair. I've got an assortment of weapons right here, ranging from AK-47s, to over here, behind them, you'll see mortar sights, 60-millimeter and 81.

Off on the far left, you'll see a second-generation starscope, kind of outdated, but still works. If you keep shifting over, you'll see stabilizer fins for mortar rounds. On the back here, you'll see both 60- and 82-millimeter mortars.

CHILCOTE: These are well equipped.

CLARK: Well, they're very well equipped. Definitely put up a fight. Rocket-propelled grenades. Been finding a lot of these lately. These could take out a Jeep or a Humvee in a heartbeat.

CHILCOTE: Now, is this a -- you said you'd seen a lot of weapons caches recently found.

CLARK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CHILCOTE: Is this a large cache?

CLARK: No, I'd say this is about a medium cache. What...

CHILCOTE: This looks like a lot of weapons.

CLARK: It looks like a lot of weapons, but it's really not. This -- technically, this would probably would outfit a platoon, a platoon of (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CHILCOTE: OK.

CLARK: Keep going on. This is a little bit more advanced, these are 25-millimeter shells, and each one of those silver boxes you see behind them hold 50 of these shells. That's a little bit above us. That's actually going into mechanized and armor.

CHILCOTE: All right. And you were talking about the makers, where some of these weapons are coming from, and you were expressing surprise to me.

CLARK: Roger. A majority of these are coming from -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on this box, but Jordan and France. We have a very scattered, limited, and Russian equipment, but like I said, France and Jordan are the main suppliers right here.

CHILCOTE: Now for your guys, this is dangerous work, finding...

CLARK: It's -- yes, it's extremely dangerous, because once you enter these buildings, we found, actually, enemy, you know, guarding these sites. Don't know if they're going to be booby trapped. Don't know what -- what's going to be there. So it's very tedious, it's -- got to be careful about it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Well, we've heard a whole lot about Iraq's use of human shields in defending key sites. Coalition fighters, though, use a different kind of shield.

In a CNN exclusive, CNN's Kyra Phillips offers us a ride-along over the city of Baghdad with some airborne bodyguards.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We won't consider the mission a success unless the Marines are happy with the product.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They are coalition bodyguards over Baghdad, an airborne shield to U.S. Marines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let them know what's coming. Let them know if anything is coming back behind them on their franks to close off the supply lines.

PHILLIPS: You're now airborne over Iraq with Commander Steve Kroto's (ph) Gray Knights, the Navy's P-3 eyes in the sky.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any kind of forces that look like they may be threatening the Marines, you know, we want to let them know. And we have the capability to send pictures or actual video, and then they can make (UNINTELLIGIBLE) if they want to maybe avoid that area or go ahead and go out and engage those folks.

PHILLIPS: Dodging missiles and triple-A fire is something new to this squadron. However, protecting forces on the ground isn't.

(on camera): These men are about three hours into their mission, and the sun is starting to set. They've just come across one of the Marine convoys that they need to track, so they're watching every move that the Marines make as they move towards Baghdad, making sure they don't come across any type of threat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're getting closer to it.

PHILLIPS (voice-over): Also on this mission, Marine Colonel Jim Lukeman (ph) and Sergeant Emilio Hernandez. They are tracking and talking to their fellow Marines on the ground...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two vehicles move across the bridge...

PHILLIPS: ... making sure they don't get ambushed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm looking for enemy positions out to the front. We'll look at the routes ahead of where our guys are going to go and try to see what enemy is there.

PHILLIPS: Lukeman is warning his troops about a bridge ahead. He doesn't like what he sees. The Gray Knights fly closer and grab a clearer picture.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's some vehicular traffic, so that we know the bridge is still intact. They may be Iraqi military. So now that the Marine division on the ground has that information, they'll take that action -- they'll take action tactically on it.

PHILLIPS: These flights can last up to 15 hours, but it's the minutes of realtime intelligence that completes the mission.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you're on the ground fighting, every piece of information you've got about what you're coming up against is golden.

PHILLIPS: Commander Steve Kroto brings his crew home after locating enemy positions and surface-to-surface missiles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It keeps the Marines safe. And one more safe Marine is one more Marine that can continue on north to Baghdad.

PHILLIPS: Flying over Iraq, Kyra Phillips, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Coming up, we are going to go live to Fort Bliss, where the name of that base is a far cry from the mood there today, after confirmation that more of their own were killed on the battlefield.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: A sad milestone has been passed in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now more than 100 coalition service men and women have died in the war. Sixty-two Americans have been killed in combat, 13 by friendly fire or in accidents. Most of the 27 British troops who have been killed were victims of nonhostile fire.

Iraqi officials, for their part, have not updated their casualty tally. It states that 420 civilians have been killed. U.S. Central Command now saying more than 6,000 Iraqis have been captured by the coalition. We also know that eight, or rather, seven Americans are known to be held prisoner of war in Iraq. Eight Americans are listed as missing in action.

Well, now that U.S. officials have confirmed that the bodies of nine missing soldiers were found in Iraq earlier this week, those confirmations bring to an end the waiting and hoping for the military community in El Paso, Texas. That is the home of the 507th Maintenance Company.

CNN's Ed Lavandera joins us now live from Fort Bliss. And Ed, this has just confirmed their worst fears.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No question about that, Judy.

Seven of the nine bodies that you just mentioned, those were soldiers that were part of this 507th Maintenance Company. There are 15 soldiers in all that were involved in this search and this ambush that took place near Nasiriyah almost two weeks ago. It happened on March 23.

Seven of those soldiers had been listing -- had -- eight of those soldiers had been listed as missing in action. Jessica Lynch, we've heard so much about since Wednesday, was discovered alive and rescued. And in that search and rescue operation as well, they discovered nine other bodies. The rest of those were the soldiers from the 507th Maintenance Company that were listed as missing in action and are now listed as killed in action.

And as many of the family members have been holding out so much hope that perhaps even though some of the other soldiers, five of the 507th, are being held as prisoners of war and that turned up on Arab television, many of these family members have been holding out hope that perhaps in some way that they might also be alive as well.

But here, officials passing on the word to many of these family members that their worst dreams had come true. So many of these family members preparing for an emotional week.

We're told here on the base that there will be a church service tomorrow, which is regularly scheduled, which, of course, will focus on what has happened to this base in particular over the course of the last two weeks.

And there will also be a special memorial service held next Friday. The exact time and location of that memorial service hasn't been released just yet, but they do say it will happen on Friday.

And here on this base, we've seen flags at half-staff, and also other ways of expressing the emotion that many of the military members of this military family have been feeling.

And in particular, for Lori Piestewa, who was one of the three females in this 507th Maintenance Company. She was one of the seven that was discovered dead. Her family is from Tuba City, Arizona, and they say that even though she is not with them right now, that she is in a peaceful place, and they are very proud of what she had been doing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WAYLAND PIESTEWA, LORI'S BROTHER: We ask -- we also ask you to continue to pray for all the troops, all the service men and women, and the world leaders around the world, so that our children will know what it is one day to live in a world of peace, and that there will be a quick end to this conflict.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAVANDERA: Judy, let me just give you a quick breakdown as well so that we don't get confused. There is 15 soldiers from this 507th Maintenance Company. Five of them are prisoners of war. The seven that we've been talking about here that were discovered dead are all -- are part of that list as well. There were also two confirmed deaths previously, before the news of this has broken.

So nine of the soldiers in this 507th Maintenance Company have passed away, and they will all be remembered here later on this Friday.

And one final note. If you look at the ages of all of these soldiers involved, the youngest being 18 and the oldest being 38. But a lot of young members of this 507th Maintenance Company, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Yes, a lot of young ones, and a lot of heartache across the Fort Bliss community. All right, Ed Lavandera, thank you very much. He's been reporting from there for the last few days.

Meantime, we're learning more details about the dramatic rescue of Private Jessica Lynch. U.S. officials say that Iraqis held her for prisoner for 10 days after ambushing her unit near Nasiriyah. We're told the soldiers that rescued Lynch used their bare hands to recover the bodies of those nine other U.S. soldiers who were buried nearby.

A Central Command spokesman filled in the gaps of the dramatic rescue today for reporters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJ. GEN. VICTOR RENUART, JR., U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: As the team entered the hospital room, they found Private Lynch in a hospital bed. The first man approached the door and came in and called her name. She had been scared, had the sheet up over her head, because she didn't know what was happening. She lowered the sheet from her head.

She didn't really respond yet, because I think she was probably pretty scared. The soldier again said, "Jessica Lynch, we're the United States soldiers here, and we're here to protect you and take you home."

She seemed to understand that. As he walked over, took his helmet off, she looked up to him and said, "I'm an American soldier too." The team members carried her down the stairwell out to the front door to the waiting helicopter. Jessica held up her hand and grabbed the Ranger doctor's hand, held onto her for the entire time and said, "Please don't let anybody leave me."

It was clear she knew where she was, and she didn't want to be left anywhere in the hands of the enemy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Quite a story. Lynch's family flew to Germany today to be by her side at a military hospital where she is receiving treatment.

Since that rescue, U.S. Marines have established a foothold in the area around Nasiriyah. A unit found Private Lynch's dog tags in a home. close by. It is believed to be the residence of a Ba'ath Party leader.

CNN's Jason Bellini is embedded with the Marines Expeditionary Unit, and he bring us up to date.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JASON BELLINI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm standing in front of Saddam Hospital. Saddam Hospital is where Jessica Lynch, the American POW, was rescued by U.S. special forces just a few days ago.

Today, the Marines we're embedded with, with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, they recovered her dog tags. They recovered these tags from what they believe is the residence of a Ba'ath Party member. They found it in this residence along the river as they were looking for arms, various types of munitions that they also recovered in that same position.

As the Marines make these discoveries, and they've made quite a number of these arms cache discoveries, in fact, they say it slowed them down from doing the rest of the work that they want to do, because there's so much of these arms here for them to deal with. But as they do that, they're operating in a very changed climate and a changing climate.

People here in some quarters are giving them quite a reception. We had an opportunity earlier to speak with some Iraqis who were thrilled by their presence in the city.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No like.

BELLINI (on camera): No like Saddam?

CLARK: No like Saddam.

BELLINI: You like Bush? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe, maybe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Bush.

BELLINI: What's that? Bush, you like Bush?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe.

BELLINI: Marines, U.S. Marines?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good, good. Good Bush.

BELLINI: U.S. Marines good?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bush good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bush good.

BELLINI: Bush is good?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good. Maybe good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good Bush.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good Bush.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes, USA! Yes, yes, USA!

BELLINI (voice-over): In juxtaposition to those Iraqis that you just saw, earlier we spoke with some Iraqis who are inside Saddam Hospital. There's some images we're showing you here of Iraqis who were injured in aerial bombardments.

We spoke with one, a 20-year-old, who said he was eating cereal in the kitchen of his home when he heard helicopters overhead, then a loud explosion. His father was killed in the blast, and he's been in the hospital and will likely be in this hospital for quite a long time with his injuries. Some very tragic injuries witnessed inside of that hospital, and some very tragic stories, tragedy that's come with this war.

I'm Jason Bellini, CNN, Nasiriyah, Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Those pictures hard to look at inside the hospital.

Well, President Bush is away from the White House this weekend, but he's keeping a close watch on the war in Iraq. We'll tell you what Mr. Bush has to say about the war's progress when we return.

But first, we leave you with more scenes from the battle for Baghdad.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: We're going to show you now some video just in to CNN. This was shown on Iraqi television within the hour. These are pictures newly released from Iraqi television of a man who appears to be Saddam Hussein, said to be with his two sons, Uday and Qusay, and some other top military commanders or military advisers.

As always, we're not able to tell you when this video was shot or where. The most important question, of course, being when, because almost daily, Iraqi television has been putting out video of the Iraqi leader in the last few days, and everyone wants to know, number one, is this Saddam Hussein, and number two, were these pictures taken, was this video shot after the war began?

But we are showing you what Iraqi television is showing its viewers just in the last few hours.

Well, as we were just telling you, President Bush is at Camp David, the presidential retreat, today, but he is keeping a close eye, we are told, on the latest events in Iraq.

Let's check in now with our CNN White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux. Hello, Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy.

President Bush is spending the weekend at Camp David. He started his day making a phone call to Russian President Vladimir Putin. It's a clear sign the administration continues to reach out to those who are against the war. Also, looking forward, a post- Saddam regime, looking to the future here.

The president received his intelligence briefing. He also had a meeting with his national security team through a secure video link. On that call, Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary Powell, the deputy secretaries of State and Pentagon, just to mention a few, getting the latest updates on the war. The president also put in a call to a staunch ally, Spain's Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.

The president's focus really today in his weekly radio address to give an upbeat, a positive assessment of the war with Iraq, not only addressing the American people but also the Iraqis as well.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, PRESIDENTIAL RADIO ADDRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: By our actions in this war, we serve a great and just cause. Free nations will not sit and wait, leaving enemies to free to plot another September 11, this time perhaps with chemical, biological, or nuclear terror. We will remove weapons of mass destruction from the hands of mass murderers.

And by defending our own security, we're ridding the people of Iraq from one of the cruelest regimes on earth. The United States and our allies pledged to act if the dictator did not disarm. The regime in Iraq is now learning that we keep our word.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: But Judy, the administration's optimism also tempered by the reality that as those allied forces approach the center of Baghdad, there could be some nasty battles ahead.

The president this weekend also preparing for a two-day summit with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Belfast, Ireland. They're really going to be focusing on the post-Saddam regime, what role will the administration have, as well as the role of the United Nations.

The two leaders do not eye to eye on this. Blair as well as many European leaders want a broad role for the United Nations in reconstruction, humanitarian aid, and administration. But the White House does not see it that way. They want more of a limited role, and administration officials have been saying over the last couple of days that those who have shed blood should be the ones who take the lead role when it comes to Iraq's future, Judy.

WOODRUFF: And Suzanne, why are they saying the meeting is in Northern Ireland? Have they said -- have they given a reason for that?

MALVEAUX: Well, this is a -- part of it, too, of course, is symbolism, with the peace effort in the conflict in Northern Ireland, and the British as well, that this is something that has a certain deal of symbolism. As well, they're going to be talking about the Middle East peace process too, Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Suzanne Malveaux at the White House. Thank you.

Well, we've seen several recent polls showing renewed support for President Bush since the beginning of the war in Iraq.

CNN's political analyst, Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times" is with me this Saturday afternoon now to talk a little bit more about the war and its impact.

And Ron, you have written in "The Los Angeles Times" about it. There's a new poll that the newspaper has done. Tell us what it shows about the support for the president.

RON BROWNSTEIN, "THE LOS ANGELES TIMES": Well, not surprisingly, the degree of support for the war has jumped up considerably since the troops have been in battle. About 57 percent of Americans in our polling say they would support an attack right before. We're now up to 77 percent. That's not surprising. There's a tradition of initially supporting -- rallying around the flag, supporting the commander in chief.

I think, Judy, but when you look at the totality of the poll, I think what is surprising is, it underscores how thoroughly the September 11 attacks have really changed the psychology of America. Americans see this as a dangerous world, and they are willing to take some risks to attack those dangers and confront those dangers.

We saw not only support for the war, but very high support for an American peacekeeping role in Iraq after the war, which, as you know, is unusual. People are often resistant to that. And we even found half the country in our poll said they would be willing to take military action against Iran as well, if they continue to develop nuclear weapons.

All of this to me underscores that in the post-9/11 environment, there is a lot of latitude for a president to move public opinion toward an aggressive foreign policy if it is seen as dealing with a threat of future terrorist attacks.

WOODRUFF: Well, we also know, Ron, that the president's father, the first President Bush, had sky-high approval ratings during the first war in the Persian Gulf with Iraq. Is there any way of looking at these numbers and knowing if they are going to last, if they're going to stay with this president?

BROWNSTEIN: I think the support on the national security side will last and will be important. But you're right, that the overall support for him and what it says about 2004 is really a different picture. In our polling, like in the CNN-Gallup-"USA Today" polling, President Bush's approval has spiked upwards during the war, up to 68 percent in our poll, but that's not nearly as high as his father got in 1991. We had him going up to 85 percent.

And the reason it's not as high is, you still have a lot of polarization in the country about his broader performance and broader agenda, a lot of resistance to the tax cut in this poll. And it's still, I think, an open question how voters will weigh the national security side against the economic, healthcare, other domestic issues where they may not give as high a marks in 2004.

WOODRUFF: Well, and what about is, if you break this out by political party, what do you see? I mean, we assume the president is getting enormous support among Republicans. What about among Democrats?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, among Democrats, it's gone up. But as I said, it does not -- did not go up nearly as much, I think, as it did among Republicans. You still see underlying polarization. I mean, the dominant story before the war was that Bush had consolidated his base to an extraordinary degree, 90 percent-plus approval ratings among Republicans on a consistent basis, higher than Ronald Reagan.

But he's dealing with very high disapproval among Democrats, and even independents are sharply divided between those who are more conservative and those who are more moderate. The big question coming out of the war is, does the country still unify, or do we revert back to that pattern over time that existed before the war?

My guess is, by the fall, it looks more like it did before the war, where you have domestic divisions and a broad consensus on his foreign -- on his handling of national security. WOODRUFF: All right, Ron Brownstein with "The Los Angeles Times," giving us a better understanding of the public support for the president now since the war has been under way, two and a half weeks.

All right, Ron, thanks very much.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Good to see you on the weekend.

BROWNSTEIN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), (UNINTELLIGIBLE), yes.

WOODRUFF: Well, the mystery illness known as SARS continues to claim victims around the world. When we return, a look at identifying the disease and what can be done to prevent it.

Plus more on the war in Iraq.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The latest now on the mystery illness known as SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. The World Health Organization now confirms more than 2,400 cases, resulting in the deaths of 89 people worldwide. Sixty-three cases have been reported since Friday, an increase of a little more than 2 percent.

CNN's medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has more on the SARS investigation and the search for a cure.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the culprit, a never-before-seen strain of the coronavirus. Coronaviruses are everyday, even boring to scientists. All they do is cause the common cold and stomach problems in babies.

But his strain of the coronavirus is highly unusual. Virologists were shocked when it grew in a culture that other strains of the corona never grow in.

Now the challenge, to figure out if this new, bizarre bug will respond to antiviral drugs. Many viruses don't. And so far, this one hasn't.

Eleven labs around the world, from Hong Kong to Atlanta, are working around the clock to solve the mystery of SARS. In one week, they went from not even knowing what causes SARS to identifying the virus that probably does, and coming up with a diagnostic test.

DR. JULIE GERBERDING, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL: The scientific achievements that happened within the first week of virus laboratories receiving specimens are just truly unprecedented.

COHEN: Also unprecedented, she says, international communication. The 11 labs share information on a secure Internet site and get together regularly for videoconferencing.

GERBERDING: The question is, is it happening fast enough to keep pace with this respiratory virus? We have a lot of challenges here to really identify and contain this epidemic. So I think it's good news- bad news, and we just have to be really vigilant and keep at it.

COHEN: Part of keeping at it, figuring out where this virus came from in the first place. Genetic sequencing being done now at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will help answer that question. One prevailing theory is that genetic material from a pig virus and genetic material from a bird virus combined to make a whole new strain of virus, and then made the leap to humans in China.

And here's another thing that's strange about SARS. Many viruses that jumped from animals to humans, like West Nile, do not then spread person to person. But the virus that causes SARS does.

And perhaps the saddest mystery of all, SARS has a relatively low death rate, only about 3.5 percent. But why are many of those who die young and healthy?

With time and lab work and communication, maybe someday scientists will be able to answer that question and many more.

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Frightening, fast-moving phenomenon.

Coalition soldiers trying to win the support of the Iraqi people. When we come back, a look back at the history of winning over hearts and minds around the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Since coalition forces invaded Iraq, an important goal has been to win the support, as we know, of the Iraqi people.

Here's CNN's Jeff Greenfield with a look back at the history of winning over hearts and minds around the world.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

BROKAW: ... in the battle for hearts and minds in that region.

MARTIN: ... the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... winning hearts and minds.

AMANPOUR: One of the big hearts and minds (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

(END VIDEO CLIPS) JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These images embody what that phrase means at the most basic level. For the U.S. and its allies, a purely military victory would not be a victory at all unless the stated purpose of the war is met.

BUSH: We will not stop, we will not relent until your country is free.

GREENFIELD: But beyond that goal, what do we want those hearts and minds to believe? And are there dangers as well as opportunities in trying to wage that battle?

Here's one shining example of just such a battle, Japan after World War II, when, under the leadership of General Douglas MacArthur, a country that had never known freedom developed into a stable, prosperous, functioning democracy within a few years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): ... United states army medical personnel have been...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREENFIELD: Here is an example of a notable failure, South Vietnam, where the phrase "hearts and minds" was born. For whatever reason, the corruption of the government, the tenacity of the North, a cultural chasm between west and east, the efforts to build a popular democracy in the South never took hold.

In Iraq, the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, the well-documented atrocities and repression, seem at first glance to make the appeal of democracy obvious. But the devil is in the details.

For instance, most Iraqis are Shi'ite Muslims, long chafing under the rule of the Sunni minority. Do you win their hearts and minds if you insist on a democracy that protects the freedom of the Sunni minority they hate?

In the north, the Kurds have already established an effective governing structure. If we back their hunger for more autonomy, what does that do to our long-term ally, Turkey, which fears a similar hunger among Kurds within Turkey's borders?

And finally, what about the hearts and minds of the so-called Arab street? If their grievances are rooted in America's support for Israel, does America try to win them over by creating distance with our most durable ally in the region?

And what if America's support for democracy threatens the stability of our long-time friends in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia? Listen to what former CIA director James Woolsey wants the U.S. to say to those leaders.

JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: We want you nervous. We are on the side of those whom you, the Mubaraks, the Saudi royal family, most fear. We are on the side of your own people.

GREENFIELD: Win this hearts and minds battle, and a bright future beckons -- peace in the Middle East, the wellsprings of terrorism drying up, better lives for countless millions.

Lose that battle, and some of our worst nightmares may come true.

It's hard to imagine any higher stakes.

Jeff Greenfield, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Jeff Greenfield reminding us what a difficult battle it is.

That's it for now. I'm Judy Woodruff.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com




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