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Live From the Front Lines -- Day 20

Aired April 7, 2003 - 20:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: LIVE FROM THE FRONT LINES, the timeline that created today's headlines. Tonight, how the day unfolded on the war front.
Abandoned opulence -- U.S. troops take possession of one of Saddam's palaces, and find no one is at home.

The British take Basra after heavy fighting and say they found the body of Chemical Ali.

In central Iraq, Americans find a chemical stash. Could it be Saddam's smoking gun?


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening, I'm Paula Zahn in New York thanks for joining us.

You're looking at a live picture of Baghdad where U.S. troops are taking positions inside the city. Our timeline will show you how things developed during the day to get to this point -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, Paula and good evening to all our viewers. I'm Wolf Blitzer live from Kuwait City.

Also this hour, who's telling the truth about the war? is it all -- is it all out a war or just propaganda? We begin our look, though, at day 20 of the war in Iraq with the situation in the north at 3:00 a.m. eastern time.

Explosions rocked Mosul as American-led troops pushed forward on a northern front. U.S. forces holding a strategic ridge are trying to dislodge Iraqis between there and Kirkuk. Mosul is the biggest city still under Iraqi government control. CNN's Ben Wedeman reports that coalition air strikes have pounded it repeatedly over the last several days -- Paula.

ZAHN: Also overnight in southern Iraq, the British take Basra, gaining control of the city after days of intense fighting and they report finding the body of Chemical Ali. They say a bombing raid on Saturday killed General Ali Hassan Al Majeed in his home. The General was a cousin of Saddam Hussein. Chemical Ali earned his infamous moniker for allegedly using poison gas against Iraqi Kurds in 1988.

Then at 5:00 a.m. Eastern near Baghdad, a missile attack about nine miles south of the city kills two soldiers, a Spanish journalist and a German photographer. The journalists were traveling with the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division at the time. More than a dozen soldiers were wounded. Walt Rogers says a single person fired the missile.


WALTER ROGERS, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The casualty toll on that Iraqi rocket attack against a U.S. Army command post is now considerably higher than previously reported. We're told there are 15 U.S. soldiers wounded some of them quite seriously and we are also told there were four dead in that attack, two of the dead are said to be journalists. What apparently happened was that the 2nd Brigade 3rd Infantry Division command post was set up south of the city, this while other units of the 2nd Brigade rolled into Baghdad, again this morning.

An Iraqi approached the area with a missile, fired the missile and took a terrible toll on U.S. soldiers again with a single rocket. Of course this is in response to or the price that is paid for more U.S. tanks rolling into Baghdad. CNN has been told by U.S. Army sources there are now three battalions of the 2nd Brigade 3rd Infantry inside Baghdad and those three battalions are not there on a temporary foray as in the previous two days. Those three battalions intend to stay in the city and occupy it, this according to U.s. army sources.

Walter Rogers, CNN with the U.S. 7th Calvary on the outskirts of Baghdad.


BLITZER: And moving ahead a couple of hours to 7:00 a.m. Eastern in the siege of Baghdad. U.S. troops take over Saddam Hussein's main palace in the city and see what the Iraqi president left behind, along with getting a look at the conditions enjoyed by Saddam's elite Republican Guard.

Two key captures in and around Baghdad, two fascinating tours with revealing discoveries. In Baghdad, a captured palace, Saddam Hussein is said to have lived here off and on. Once the shooting stops, U.S. troops move inside, past a foyer with a huge chandelier into an opulent dining room. Elaborate drawing rooms with gold plated chairs, tables and mirrors, gold fixtures in the bathrooms, some of the windows that aren't broken are beautiful stained glass. Troops pause for a moment, reflect on their capture, but outside Baghdad, Saddam Hussein's Republican Guards lived differently.

At Baghdad International Airport a captured bunker, a unit of Saddam's republican guards once occupied this place, but appears to have left in a hurry. There are traces of luxury, but also remnants of a bleak existence including bottles of baby formula, lots of them, and a question. Could this have been all that was left to eat for Saddam's most elite troops?

ZAHN: Right now we're going to move ahead to the 11:00 hour, the outskirts of Baghdad. U.S. Marines do a little demolition work destroying the center span of a bridge over a canal near the Tigris River. It was damaged in heavy fighting on Monday. Martin Savidge was there.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I would say the concussive force just from this vantage point was pretty (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and now we are -- wait and see -- just to make sure nothing's going to come flying out of the blue onto our head. The smoke has completely obliterated the bridge site and the flash was so intense that I'm having a hard time focusing my eyes. But we will give it a few seconds here to wait for the smoke to clear. It got a cheer from the Marines; they obviously were impressed by that. Clearly the demolition guys didn't hold back on any of their charges on this, judging by the force of the explosion and the way we felt it here. Just waiting for the smoke clear, but I think you can probably safely say judging by that it's been a mission accomplished. Now, the idea was not to bring down the whole bridge, just bring down that center span and as the dust clears, I think you can start to see that they achieved just that.


BLITZER: CNN's Martin Savidge reporting.

An hour later, 12:00 p.m. Eastern, Baghdad, the Iraqi capital is rocked by a series of explosions. Fires from the blast light up the night sky. Few hours earlier, a separate round of explosions shook the city, filling the sky with smoke and adding to the black clouds already coming from burning oil trenches. Those factors along with the sandstorm that also hit the area limited visibility around the city.

Also in the noon hour this time in Basra, British forces say they're in control of Iraq's second biggest city, one that's been the scene of some of the fiercest fighting yet. British pool reporter Bill Neely was with the British Marines as they stormed the presidential palace there, he filed this report.


BILL NEELY, ITV NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A new dawn in Basra and challenger tanks rumble through the ornate gates of the presidential palace. The assault on Iraq's second city is less than a day old. The tanks and the Marines behind them aren't stopping.

This was said to have been the headquarters of the Fedayeen, Saddam's paramilitaries, but locals have told us that the palace is now empty of Iraqi soldier. The gates are open, so we're going to walk straight in. They push forward across the most symbolic ground in southern Iraq -- this palace, the seat of Saddam's power here, power that the Marines are smashing away. Different building, different way in, if a hammer won't do, try this. it is the Marines who hold power now in Basra. The next task, to hunt down the men who fought and defended this city for a fortnight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Room clear, exit one out to the outside. NEELY: The Marines were convinced that if Saddam's men were to make a final stand anywhere in the south, they would make it here, so orders were hushed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You two, straight in first on the left, go.

NEELY: Just 12 hours earlier, a soldier with another unit Basra was killed by a booby trapped bomb so they moved cautiously through a dozen echoing buildings. Building by building, floor by floor and there are a lot of them here, the royal Marines are clearing this presidential palace where Saddam Hussein has stayed and slept many times in the past. The Marines only too well aware he may have left men behind here to ambush them. But they found little inside, ornate bathrooms but no people, no furniture, nothing for these looters who the Marines rounded up. In the grounds just a few abandoned weapons, discarded helmets and uniforms; they even left behind the weapons they might have fought a guerrilla war with. The tanks poured in, but here at the presidential palace, not a shot was fired, not so a mile away.

Dive for cover as Marines opened up on a target. A man had stolen a jeep from the hospital; doctors shouted warnings to the Marines as he sped towards a tank. Marines believing he was a suicide bomber shot him, he died later in the hospital. They're taking no chances here. In all, three British soldiers have been killed in the assault on Basra. In the center and the south of this city, Marines now control the streets and bridges, backed up by 20 or more tanks. Saddam's power is being torn away; the fall of Basra, the beginning of the end of his brutal regime.

Bill Neely, ITV News, with 42 Commando Royal Marines in Basra.


ZAHN: Right after the break, our timeline picks up in the 1:00 hour. President Bush is overseas meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair in Northern Ireland. We're going to tell you what kind of progress they've made and a little bit later on, U.S. troops make an interesting find in central Iraq. Could it be proof of what President Bush has been looking for?

CNN LIVE FROM THE FRONT LINES continues in just a moment.


ZAHN: We pick up our timeline in the 1:00 hour. Northern Ireland, President Bush arrives in Belfast. The president is there for meetings with British Prime Minister Tony Blair it is the third face to face meeting between the two leaders in a little more than three weeks. This time around, they will discuss the future of postwar Iraq; they will also take a look at the peace process in the Middle East and in Northern Ireland. A white house spokesman says the president's visit is meant to lend support to Mr. Blair's efforts in Northern Ireland.

Moving ahead an hour now into the 2:00 Eastern time, near Karbala, U.S. forces may have found -- emphasis on may, have found chemical weapons materials in central Iraq. The discovery was made at an agricultural complex near Karbala. Members of the Army's 101st Airborne Division found what may have been a stash of nerve and blister agents hidden inside barrels in underground bunkers. Military officials say initial tests indicate the presence of non-weaponized chemical agents but more tests need to come.


GEN. BENJAMIN FREAKLY, U.S. ARMY: This could be either some type of pesticides because this was an agricultural compound and the literature inside the compound talked about dealing with mosquitoes and other type of airborne vermin and was right along the Euphrates River -- very close to the Euphrates River. But, on the other hand, it could be a chemical agent, not weaponized.


BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit more about today's the possible discovery of chemical weapons materials. I'm joined by Terry Taylor; he's a former weapons inspector, director of the think tank the International Institute for Strategic Studies -- the U.S. branch of that.

Mr. Taylor, thanks once again for joining us. You've had a time -- a little time to digest all of the evidence we have so far. What's your assessment right now?

TERRY TAYLOR, FRM WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Well, it is very hard to be definitive, of course. I think one's got to be very careful of this particular issue, as indeed the U.S. administration is being very careful in taking material away for a proper analysis in a proper laboratory. I think the problem here is the agricultural storage there, that you had the general referring to pesticides and so on, the family of compounds, chemical compounds that go to make up some pesticides are the organophosphorus compounds which is the same sort of family as you would find for chemical warfare agents or so-called nerve agents; sarin is one type, VX is another, and tabune (ph) is a third.

So one has to be -- do very careful analysis to be sure. This kind of thing would set off the kind of field alarms that you have, the detector paper, the chemical agent monitors and so on that you see the troops using in the field in some of the footage you saw earlier. So, it's too hard really, to come to a definitive conclusion. But, what I would say is this, this is not a stack of weapons, you know, weapons filled ready to use. What it could possibly be, and only possibly be, is a storage of bulk agent that might be used for filling munitions at some later stage. So, that's the possibility we're looking at here.

BLITZER: At the same time, Mr. Taylor, if it were just a simple agricultural complex pesticides, if you were, A. Would be buried in a bunker? And B. Would there be NBC suits right near by them, I'm not referring to the TV network; I'm referring to the nuclear, biological, chemical protective gear, all the formal suits as well as the gas masks. Why would the farmers need that? TAYLOR: Well, farmers wouldn't need that and I think the thing to be alert to here, I think there are two facilities we're talking about. There's a training facility which was also used for either some kind of special security organization and so on where the suits and the masks you mentioned were found. So that's why the site is suspicious and why it has to be examined very carefully indeed and so it is possible stored in the way you've described with it underground and so on. It certainly is suspicious and that's why it is being looked at very carefully. So, I think we...

BLITZER: I think there may be another reason why it is looked at so suspiciously beyond the material that was found around there as well as the alarm bells going off with the initial detection equipment. There's some sense I'm getting that the U.S. had intelligence to go out and look at this specific site. It wasn't just accidental that these soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division found it. If they did have advance intelligence there might be something suspicious there, that would certainly raise alarm bells for you, wouldn't it?

TAYLOR: It certainly would, and I think from the description I've heard that this training facility, if it is indeed that or a place where it's the sort of place where troops or members of the special security organization who are responsible for the control of chemical weapons. So, there is a connection here and I'm sure this site is being visited because they no doubt had intelligence -- there was some kind of special security organization here, maybe training, guerrilla fighters and so on and these are the kinds of people that might have connections with the control of chemical weapons or biological weapons for that matter.

BLITZER: Terrence Taylor. He's been very helpful to us all day. Thanks, Mr. Taylor, very much.

Paula, I suspect as the U.S. finds out more from defectors, if you will, there are going to be a lot more inspections coming up in the days and weeks to come. Paula back to you.

ZAHN: Sounds like a pretty sure bet. Thanks, Wolf.

Near 4:00 p.m. Eastern time, David Ensor reported on the U.S. investigation into a recent Iraqi television broadcast. David says voice experts concluded it probably was Saddam Hussein himself, not a double who delivered a speech aired on Friday. The speech called on Iraqis to fight a Jihad against coalition forces. The finding of course suggests the Iraqi president still lives, but the experts say the quality of the tape they examined was so poor, they can't be 100 percent certain of that conclusion -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Paula. After the break, our timeline picks up with what is going on right now. CNN's Gary Tuchman is standing by live at an air base right near the Iraqi border.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Wolf. At this air base, the United States Air Force flies A-10 attack planes like the ones behind me also, F-16 fighters. The U.S. Marines fly FA-18 Hornets and Harrier jets and the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom also flies Harrier jets. Well, they are all doing a lot of flying. The coalition now has a 24-hour air cover over Baghdad. Any of these planes could be over Baghdad at any time. a short time ago we talked with the U.S. F-16 pilot who was over Baghdad this morning and will be over Baghdad tomorrow morning and we asked -- I apologize, we're going to go to a break and then we'll be back with more right after this. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Now the final hour in our timeline. 8:00 p.m. Eastern. What's going on indeed, right now? The air campaign over Iraq, of course, continues with coalition aircraft now blackening the skies in the war zone 24 hours a day. Let's turn once again to CNN's Gary Tuchman. He's reporting from an air base right near the Iraqi border -- Gary.

TUCHMAN: Well, Wolf, sorry for being so wordy a few minutes ago. There is so much information here, we just wanted to keep giving it, I guess. But here is some more information for you right now. We're being told by the U.S. Air Force there are estimated to be 1,700 sorties between Monday morning and Tuesday morning, that's over a 24- hour period.

Now, I started telling you before about an F-16 pilot we interviewed a short time ago. One of the things we were curious about, we asked him this. Has there been a time during this air war where he hasn't dropped his munitions because he wasn't 100 percent sure of the target.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Allied pilots, they're flying in this war, really want to make sure we don't do any more damage than is necessary to the Iraqis. So therefore I had a mission where I've gone, I've seen targets, but given the location to buildings and to unknowns, wasn't able to drop.


TUCHMAN: We're told of the 1,700 sorties over the next 24 hour period, about 500 of them will be strike sorties using bombs or missiles. We are also being told by the Arab force that 36 million leaflets have been dropped in Iraq. Yes, the sorties are still being used to drop leaflets. We have one here. It's hard to see with the video phone but, this leaflet has a picture some of people returning home and it's directed towards soldiers or people who are fighting for Iraq and it says, "Return home so you will be safe." The other side has a picture of children on it. It says, "Please take care of your children." Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Gary Tuchman for that report. Paula, we'll turn it back to you in New York.

ZAHN: Thanks, Wolf. And we conclude our timeline with a look at the very latest casualty report. The Pentagon says there have been 89 U.S. forces killed; 73 hostile, 16 non-hostile deaths, and an unknown number of wounded, seven missing in action, seven prisoners of war.

From the British Ministry of Defense 30 dead; nine hostile, 19 non-hostile and two undetermined. The number of wounded is unknown. It is also not known if there are any missing British soldiers or prisoners.

And from state run Iraqi TV, 427 -- excuse me, 420 civilians killed, 4,000 injured. The Iraqi government hasn't released any information on military losses. Centcom says there are 7,000 Iraqis being held as prisoners of war.

There have been two wars going on since "Operation Iraqi Freedom" began; the one involving bullets, bombs and missiles and the one with words. When we come back, we will take an extended look at who's telling the truth. We'll also get a historical perspective. A look at the history of war propaganda is coming up. We'll be right back.




ANNOUNCER: U.S. troops in Baghdad: in the palaces, in the government offices, controlling the city.

BRIG. GEN. VINCENT BROOKS, CENTCOM DEP. DIR. OF OPERATIONS: The regime is not in control of all of the major cities.

ANNOUNCER: Or are they?

MOHAMMED SAEED AL-SAHHAF, IRAQI INFORMATION MINISTER (through translator): The Americans are not there. They're not in Baghdad. There are no troops there. Never. They're not at all.

ANNOUNCER: Coalition officials say one thing. Iraqis say something else. Who's telling the truth?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I personally would just like to know where he did his marketing degree.

AL-SAHHAF (through translator): We are stating facts with the utmost objectivity and accuracy.

ANNOUNCER: It is a war of military might, but also a classic war of words. Is it all a propaganda war? This half-hour: LIVE FROM THE FRONT LINES, day 20, separating fact from fiction.


ZAHN: And good evening. Welcome back.

The use of propaganda during a war is nothing new. Ever since sound was first put to pictures, propaganda has been a very powerful weapon indeed.

Our senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield, takes a look.


AL-SAHHAF (through translator): The Americans are not there in Baghdad. There are no troops there. Never.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST (voice-over): It is easy to label the comments of Iraq's information minister as propaganda. You just have to match his words with these pictures.


GREENFIELD: But is this propaganda?

CLARKE: We're going to show you a couple of clips here.

GREENFIELD: These video clips from Iraqi civilians talking about the horrors of life under Saddam Hussein were real.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They used to make me walk on broken glass.

GREENFIELD: But they were also propaganda weapons in the war of ideas, a war that has often been as critical as any military engagement.


NARRATOR: Poison gas and flame-throwers...


GREENFIELD: All through World War I, British and American papers carried stories of horrific German atrocities, killing babies, mutilating women. They were almost completely false. But as one British general said back then, to make armies go on killing one another, it is necessary to invent lies about the enemy.


NARRATOR: If you are Japanese...


GREENFIELD: Throughout World War II, the Office of War Information enlisted filmmakers like Frank Capra -- he made "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" -- to explain the war to America's military. For their part, axis powers also tried to talk to American G.I.s via the radio, with American-born voices. The Japanese, for example, had Tokyo Rose.

After September 11, with much attention focused on anti-American sentiments in the Muslim world, advertising executive Charlotte Beers was recruited by the government to develop a public-relations campaign. it featured American Muslims talking about their lives in the United States. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have co-workers who are Jewish, who are Christian.


GREENFIELD: Those weren't made-up pictures or actors. They're real people, as are these images of friendly G.I.s and celebrating Iraqis. But so are these pictures of civilian casualties in Iraq. As portrayed on many Arab TV outlets, it is these images that are offered as the central reality of this war.

(on camera): And if those civilian casualties become the focus of the Arab world, military victory will not bring with it the political results the United States is seeking -- just one more reason why this battle to define reality can be as critical as any military campaign.

Jeff Greenfield, CNN, New York.


ZAHN: So what parts of the war coverage are propaganda and what is the truth?

Joining me now to discuss the issue: an adviser to four presidents and director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, David Gergen; and the Washington bureau chief of the Arabic-language satellite news network Al-Jazeera, Hafez Al-Mirazi.

Welcome, gentlemen. Good to see you both of you.


ZAHN: Hafez, I'm going to start with you this everything.

You could see in Jeff Greenfield's piece, he used the example of some of what the Iraqi minister said and showed how it was completely contradicted by the live pictures that were being fed to CNN. What kind of context do you provide your viewers when you know something is absolutely not true, as shown by live pictures that are being fed to you?


We're broadcasting both footage and images. For example, we have been broadcasting the footage of the -- the same footage that you're carrying. And some of them we are identifying as CNN footage that for -- U.S. tanks in the suburbs of Baghdad and some areas in Baghdad, even close to the Information Ministry. And just today, for example, the information minister of Iraq, when you put a clip of him saying, no, they were not there, just two minutes after he finished, one of our reporters out of there in Baghdad said, no, I saw the tanks over there around Baghdad, but they left. But, in the meantime, we know that there is some kind of psychological warfare, because the tanks around Baghdad, close to it, but not full control. And that happened before during the siege of Basra in the south. The British troops said at the beginning that, we have control on Basra. There is a rebellion in Basra. And our reporter over there denied that. And later on, they took full control of Basra, but after two weeks of saying at the beginning that we have control on it.

ZAHN: David Gergen, weigh in on that, because I don't know how many examples you can come up with where maybe a military official got out in front of the information and then an embedded reporter either might have amplified it or discredited it altogether.

GERGEN: Well, I think the wonderful thing about this war is that we do have 600 journalists, most of them Americans, as embedded reporters. And they do, I think, keep the military straight.

It seems to me, for the most part, the American military has been extremely candid with the American public about this war. And they deserve enormous credit for the way they've conducted themselves. This is certainly a far better and a more honest military than we had, say, in the Vietnam War, when it was actually the political leaders or the military who continually lied to us about what was happening in Vietnam. This time, we have, in real time, I think a very graphic sense of what is happening in the war.

Even so, as what we're seeing with Al-Jazeera vs., say, CNN, there are different -- there are different versions of the truth. We see a very different emphasis in Al-Jazeera. As Jeff Greenfield said in his previous report, there is the central truth that comes across on Al-Jazeera is that of Arab suffering and that we are portrayed as the invaders or the colonizers, whereas, of course, the truth as we see it on American-based television is quite different: We're the liberators.

So I, frankly, Paula, at this point, think we ought to welcome Al-Jazeera to international broadcasting. This is the first independent Arab-owned station that really has been quite critical of Arab governments. And it is a taste of what democracy will bring to the Arab world. It will not always be what we like. Even so, even though we may object to some of the reports, I think, by and large, Al-Jazeera has been a major step forward.

ZAHN: But, David, let's talk about the use of language, specifically.


ZAHN: And I'll give Hafez a chance to weigh in on this, in particular.

When Al-Jazeera freely uses the term martyr for Iraqi casualties and invaders pretty much as a blanket statement for U.S. and U.K. forces, do you have a problem with that? GERGEN: I do. I have a very direct problem with the use of the word invaders. I think that's a loaded term and it loads it against us. That's why I say it is a pro-Arab view and it is a view that I think too often panders to the Arab streets.

And I do -- but from an Arab perspective, when we put Operation Iraqi Freedom or we talk about this in terms of liberation frequently in the U.S., one can understand why they don't necessarily see it that way. So I think we ought to be careful about going too far in our -- I think we all object to the "invaders." And I think we objected to Al-Jazeera showing very graphic picture of American POWs. I think we have objected to some of the graphic nature of some of their war coverage.

But, even so, I think we ought to be -- A, Al-Jazeera, as a basic proposition, is a healthy step forward. And, B, what the United States needs to do -- and I'm happy to say there are Americans like a fellow named Richard Fairbanks, a former ambassador to the Middle East, from America who are now trying to step forward and build an American-based television channel that will broadcast into the Muslim lands, a different form of television. That is to be welcomed. We ought to have Americans stepping in.

The Fairbanks initiative is one that, it seems to me, is the proper way for us to answer this, not just simply to sit back and criticize Al-Jazeera.

ZAHN: Hafez, though, would you react to a little bit of what David just said, about the use of loaded language in some of your broadcasts, referring to Iraqi casualties as martyrs and U.S. and British forces as invaders? You do understand why people find that biased.

AL-MIRAZI: Just one correction, Paula. We have never called the Iraqi casualties in this war martyrs. Yes, some other Arab TV stations do call them. But in this particular conflict, we have never called Iraqi casualties martyrs or American casualties anything but dead soldiers or dead civilian. Other than that, we did not use that.

For invading, yes, sometimes we say U.S., U.K. troops and other times we could use in there in the news language invading troops or invading forces. And this is a legal term. Also, as David mentioned, we are at the receiving end over there as an Arab satellite channel. This is an Arab land. And they feel foreign troops as invading until they leave. And then that would be proved as just a campaign and they left.

But as far as linguistically speaking, it is invading. And when you use, also, as David mentioned, liberating forces, you are also using very loaded language and you are putting judgment in using it.

ZAHN: A final thought, David. We've got about 15 seconds left. Who is winning the propaganda war?

GERGEN: We're winning the propaganda war. Our soldiers are winning it. But, more importantly, what is going to depend now, if we help to bring much better government to the people of Iraq, that is what is going to help win the propaganda war once and for all.

ZAHN: Gentlemen, we're going to have to leave it there this evening. David Gergen, Hafez Al-Mirazi, thank you both for joining us tonight.

And we go back to Wolf now in Kuwait City -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Paula.

The bombs pounding Baghdad can be heard in the background. But if you listen to the speeches of Iraqi officials, the war is actually going their way. Hard to believe? More of our look at who's telling the truth when CNN's LIVE FROM THE FRONT LINES continues.


BLITZER: Iraq's top spokesman continues to make defiant statements. But as the war progresses, his news conferences seem increasingly surreal.

CNN's Bruce Burkhardt looks at the things that are being said and the man who is saying them.


AL-SAHHAF: We will slaughter them all. Those invaders, their tombs will be here in Iraq.

BRUCE BURKHARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the public face of Iraqi defiance and credibility, or lack thereof. He is Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahhaf, minister of information. And with Saddam Hussein who knows where these days, he is virtually the last visible vestige of a government under siege.

Al-Sahhaf is spending his nights sleeping on the floor of the Ministry of Information, his days denying U.S. forces are already on his doorstep.

AL-SAHHAF (through translator): Nobody came here. Those America losers, I think their repeated frequent lies are bringing them down very rapidly.

BURKHARDT: Or is it the other way around? Just a few days ago, when the U.S. Marines reached the Tigris River...

AL-SAHHAF: It's not true.

BURKHARDT: Then this as the U.S. Army moved north.

AL-SAHHAF (through translator): They are not near Baghdad. Don't believe them.

BURKHARDT: By the weekend, with the U.S. Army now at the Baghdad Airport, Al-Sahhaf was dangling an empty promise of a guided tour.

AL-SAHHAF (through translator): Maybe, in a few hours, we can take you to the airport after we deal with the remnants of these troops.

BURKHARDT: His daily denials have become a yardstick of American progress in the war.

AL-SAHHAF (through translator): Baghdad is secure, is safe.

BURKHARDT: Al-Sahhaf began his government career as head of Iraqi TV, then served as ambassador to India, Sweden, Italy, and eventually became the foreign minister. CNN's Eason Jordan has met Al-Sahhaf several times before CNN from was banned from Iraq once the war began.

EASON JORDAN, CNN CHIEF NEWS EXECUTIVE: He is a tough, strident Saddam Hussein loyalist.

BURKHARDT: And defiant to the end.

His description of the U.S. Army presence inside Baghdad:

AL-SAHHAF: They pushed a few of their armored carriers and some tanks with their soldiers. We besieged them and I think we will finish them soon.

BURKHARDT: Or, again, might it be the other way around?

Bruce Burkhardt, CNN.


BLITZER: In many parts of the Arab world, news about the collapse of the Iraqi regime is viewed with a mixture of disappointment and disbelief.

CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson has had long experience in Baghdad. He's joining us now live from the border at Ruwayshid in Jordan.

Nic, here in Kuwait, it is clearly obvious the Kuwaitis support the United States. What about in Jordan, where you are? Do they believe the propaganda coming from the Iraqi regime?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they certainly have a lot of sympathy with the Iraqi people.

And since the last Gulf War, there has been sort of a lack of goodwill or a lessening of goodwill towards the Iraqi leader, President Saddam Hussein. There is a certain amount of distrust here on all the propaganda that they think that they're hearing. There is perhaps more distrust on the figures of American casualties, though, questions asked here about: Are these figures of American casualties and American gains, land gains, within Iraq, are they actually real? Are they playing down their own casualties? Are they playing up their gains?

And, certainly, people here will question what Iraq's minister of information is saying. I don't think people here are particularly misled by him. They're able to see what is happening on the ground. It is surprising them. But, at the same time, while they may question Iraq's spokesmen, they, at the same time, question American spokesmen as well. Are they playing down their own casualties?

BLITZER: Did they, actually, though -- were they hoping that Saddam Hussein could survive this U.S.-led drive to overthrow his regime, the average people on the street in Jordan?

ROBERTSON: I don't think there was any great hope on that issue. I don't think there was any great desire to see it happen. I think there was a certain realization that the Iraqi leader was not the best person for the Iraqi people. And the sympathy and the empathy has been with the Iraqi people.

But where the Jordanians would feel very united with the Iraqis is on the issue that they're a country under invasion. And they would look at Iraq being invaded by U.S. forces as much as they would empathize with the Palestinians, of whom there are many who live in Jordan and empathize with them. They feel that their land has been invaded by the Israelis. And, by default, they believe also the -- essentially, with the support of the United States. So there would be empathies there. That's how they would look at it, Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic Robertson describing a very complex situation, and certainly very complicated for King Abdullah of Jordan, a close ally of the United States -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks, Wolf.

The war on the Web: how information on the air in Iraq is being filtered across the information superhighway.

We'll be right back.


ZAHN: Welcome back.

There are countless stories being told about the war in Iraq and countless places to find them. That includes places where the information might need to be taken with a grain of salt.

Senior political analyst Bill Schneider joins me from Atlanta with more on that.

Good evening, Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Paula, you know, 12 years ago, the first Gulf War was a cable news war. But Gulf War II is becoming a war on the Web.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): What people are getting on the World Wide Web is an up-to-the-minute window on the war: new information constantly updated. Traffic and news information Web sites has, according to Web trackers, nearly doubled since the war began and is often processed on highly personal Web sites, like The Agonist.

SEAN-PAUL KELLY, EDITOR, "THE AGONIST": I have the BBC live feed on RealPlayer. And I'm watching CNN on the TV. And I have got all that going on at the same time that I'm constantly hitting the refresh button from time to time, see if there is a new posting on one of the or Fox News.

SCHNEIDER: Or the war on Iraq site maintained by this San Francisco journalist.

JEANNE CARSTENSEN, CULTURE EDITOR, SFGATE.COM: Every morning, I can read newspapers online in England, in Egypt, in Costa Rica, wherever I want to. I think that's really changed the way this war is covered.

SCHNEIDER: You can go to Web sites in English that look at the war from the Arab and Muslim point of view. You can read transcripts of the Pentagon's briefings, see photos of bombed civilian buildings, read a mother's e-mails to her daughter in the field.

CARSTENSEN: If you want to know how many Iraqi civilians have been killed so far in this war, there is a group that runs a Web site.

SCHNEIDER: There are over 100,000 Web logs, or blogs, on the Web, personal Web sites in which people analyze, opine, rant, report, and share.

CARSTENSEN: There is one blog that's called, "Where is Raed?" And it is written by a young 29-year-old man in Baghdad. And he is writing every day a diary of what it is like to be in Baghdad during the war.

SCHNEIDER: But the truth is, nobody knows if the person is real or not. That's the problem with the Web. Much of the information is unedited and unverified. But Internet users like it that way: unmediated, unfiltered information, democratic journalism.


SCHNEIDER: When the first newspapers appeared in England in the 1600s, an immediate result was that dragon sightings got further and further from London. The press checked them out. Well, the Internet is full of dragon sightings. Let the user beware -- Paula.

ZAHN: Very good warning, indeed. Bill Schneider, thanks so much.

And that wraps it up for Wolf and me this evening. Thanks so much for being with us.

Wolf, I'll be back here at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. And I know you have got more work do as well.

BLITZER: I'll be back tomorrow at noon, Paula. Good night to you. Good night to all of our viewers.


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