CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview With Bob Simon
Aired April 8, 2003 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: Is Saddam Hussein dead or alive? Was he a victim of yesterday's targeted bombing? And three journalists killed in Baghdad by United States fire, one of them from Al Jazeera. The Pentagon denies the Arabic network's claims that it was deliberately targeted. We'll talk with Al Jazeera's correspondent at Central Command.
We begin with Christiane Amanpour, CNN's chief international correspondent, until recently, reported from the field. She was recently in London, now she's in Kuwait City. What do you make of this Saddam story? Would the betting change, Christiane? Do you think he's dead or alive?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, it's so difficult to tell, Larry. And of course, this has been the issue since the beginning of the war, with that first so-called preemptive decapitation strike two days before the ground war started. It's difficult to tell. It's a question everybody wants to know. Certainly, the information minister in Iraq is waging a one-man resistance campaign to sort of prove that the regime is still alive, and that defiance continues. Clearly, though, the reality on the ground is that the Americans tighten their grip a little bit every single hour.
KING: Christiane, would you say that the end is -- how would you describe it? I don't want to put words -- is the end near?
AMANPOUR: Well, it seems that it's going, you know, very, very quickly, with Marines coming up and seizing the airfield on the east, we were told yesterday, and the ring of U.S. armor around a lot of the city. There are still Republican Guards positions, we're told, on one side of the bank of the River Tigris, and it's not completely over. But it's certainly going a lot faster this week than it was the previous week.
KING: We'll be talking with a correspondent from Al Jazeera, but what do you make of that death of their journalist today and then blaming it on the United States?
AMANPOUR: Well, Larry, I actually think that there needs to be a serious investigation as to what happened. I believe that it goes to the very heart of the issue of civilian damage and civilian casualties, and that a balance has to be assessed when you're conducting warfare in an urban society, in an urban situation. Was the risk that was perceived to come from that hotel, whether it was Al Jazeera's office, Abu Dhabi's offices, or the Palestine Hotel -- was the risk of apparent sniper fire, which journalists there deny that they ever heard -- but even if there was sniper fire coming there, aimed towards massively armored tanks, was that risk commensurate with the risk of civilian casualty by firing a tank shell into the Palestine Hotel or firing some kind of explosive into the Al Jazeera office? That is a very serious question which needs an urgent answer.
KING: Christiane Amanpour is with us in Kuwait City. We'll be going to her frequently throughout this hour.
Let's go to Amman and Rym Brahimi, our CNN correspondent. What do you make of that story of the journalists killed today, Rym?
RYM BRAHIMI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Larry, first of all it's a very, very sad event, as you can imagine, for everybody. But it does raise enormous questions as Christiane was saying, the question of how far do you go when you're conducting urban warfare. Initially, there were -- there was a lot of concern among journalists who made that decision to stay in Baghdad throughout the war, even before the war began, because there was so much publicity that this was going to be a Shock and Awe campaign, and many journalists made that choice to remain, despite everything.
That said, it does pose a lot of questions. If there is -- a lot of journalists that I've spoken to since that event, Larry, are really wondering -- these three -- it happened in three different hits. First of all, the Al Jazeera hit by a missile, then the Abu Dhabi building hit by a tank shell, and then the Palestine Hotel hit by a tank shell, as well. So a lot of people are asking questions. And they're saying, Well, the alternative is -- if we have to leave because we are not safe here, then only the embedded reporters or the Iraqi local journalists will be able to cover, and not people who may be more in between and who have seen the story from a different angle -- Larry.
KING: Back to you, Christiane. And I'll get back to you, Rym. Don't journalists accept this as the fortunes of war? We discussed this the other night. They know they go into where people fear to tread.
AMANPOUR: As I said, Larry, it's a question of balancing risks. Journalists had been, I would say, warned, if not threatened, by the United States that they would not be safe there. They moved from what may have been a prime target, the al Rashid Hotel, the Information Ministry. They moved over to the Palestine Hotel. It was well known by everybody in the community, not only in Iraq, but around the journalistic community. And no doubt, all our organizations have passed on the information that all of the journalists were in the Palestine Hotel.
And therefore, as I say, you have to ask a very serious question. First of all, was there fire coming from there? The U.S. military spokespeople are all over the map on that. Yesterday we heard varying different variations of what allegedly happened. But even if there was some sniper fire coming from any of those locations -- by the way, which the journalists there say that they have no evidence of -- even if that was the case, then the question remains, was that a proportionate response? Was it a proportionate response? And I believe that is a serious question.
We do know the risks. People did leave what they thought was to be a prime target. They did go to somewhere where they thought it was safer. And the question remains, is it OK to target that kind of structure, knowing who is there, in a situation where civilian damage could be grave? And it was. We lost two colleagues there. People were wounded.
I'm not talking about it just because we're journalists and we lost journalists, but it's a question of the civilian and collateral damage. And in my view, this administration has waged an admirable campaign to try to limit collateral damage. That's all they've been saying the whole time. And it goes to the heart of, you know, the conduct, I believe, of this war, when they've been talking about the whole collateral damage issue.
And it's not all right for us to be told that journalists were warned not to be in Baghdad. I'm sorry, but that is the job of the journalists to be there, and it's not all right for us to be told that only those people traveling with the United States forces are somewhat safer, perhaps, than those being in other places. In the first Gulf war, there were threats and concerns, as well. Journalists stayed, and the al Rashid hotel was off limits.
KING: Rym, do you agree there should be an investigation when this is done?
BRAHIMI: I absolutely agree with Christiane. There definitely should be an investigation. Again, I mean, a lot of questions are being asked by the journalists over there and those that are here in Amman, watching events, as I am. And a lot of questions because of these three separate incidents in the same day. Also, the Al Jazeera and the Abu Dhabi houses -- I remember very well being there just a few days before the bombing, Larry, and they had prepared huge sheets on which it was written in very, very big letters, Abu Dhabi TV and Al Jazeera TV. And the Palestine Hotel, as Christiane pointed out, was known to everybody that that this was the hotel where all the international media was staying.
So there are really serious questions to be asked at this stage, and it does pose a question of civilians. These journalists now, thanks to maybe people in the media, have a voice. Their stories can be publicized and voiced out. Think of the people that are caught in the middle of all this crossfire that don't, that don't have an access to a phone, that don't have access to proper care because the humanitarian situation is terrible because of this urban warfare situation, basically, Larry.
KING: Let's go to -- thank you very much, Rym. Let's go to Gary Tuchman. He is at an Air Force base near the Iraqi border. The first U.S. Air Force plane was shot down by enemy fire on Tuesday. The pilot ejected. What can you tell us about that, Gary?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Larry, it's wartime, so it shouldn't be a big surprise that things like this happen. But the campaign -- the air campaign has been so successful, it was somewhat surprising.
A pilot at this very base took out his A-10 Warthog aircraft right behind me, flew on a mission to Iraq and was shot out of the sky. His plane crashed to the ground, but he got out before it crashed to the ground. He ejected, parachuted down in the desert south of Baghdad and was rescued by U.S. Army personnel. He's from Battle Creek, Michigan. He was brought back here. He's at this base tonight. He is in good condition. His name hasn't been released.
Two other planes that were traveling with him also shot by a missile, but both those pilots got back safely. One of the pilots landed his plane here, and we have a picture of the other plane that actually landed at a base in southern Iraq, in the town of Talil (ph). That's a coalition base that was taken over 10 days ago. There was a big hole in the right engine of that plane where it was shot by the missile, but that pilot, too, is OK.
But one sad story out of a different base. An F-15/E Strike Eagle -- that's a two-seater plane with two men aboard. The Pentagon has just told us that plane has been missing since Sunday. They're not sure if it was shot down. They're not sure if it was an accident or pilot error. But they continue to search for two men based out of North Carolina who are missing right now -- Larry.
KING: Thank you, Gary Tuchman, at an air base near the Iraqi border.
Let's go to Steve Nettleton. Steve is with the 173rd Airborne in northern Iraq. What can you tell us, I understand, about the arrival of tanks and weaponry there, Steve?
STEVE NETTLETON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Larry, we're at the Harir airfield, where two weeks ago, of course, U.S. paratroopers came in and secured the airfield. Now it's a much different story. We're getting armor arriving here, so tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, M113 (ph) armored personnel carriers are here. These are what they call the Herk (ph) and the Murks (ph), the heavy-rated (ph) company being the tanks, the medium-rated (ph) company being the Bradley fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers.
These are coming from Biltek (ph), Germany, the 1st Infantry Division, the 1st Battalion (UNINTELLIGIBLE) armor. They are bringing these in. They believe this is the first airlift of an Abrams tank into a combat zone in history. Now, this Abrams tank weighs 70 tons, so it fills up the entire capacity of a C-17 cargo plane, as is one that is coming in behind me here on the runway.
What this does -- what this armor package does is it gives the 173rd Airborne Brigade, a light infantry unit which is up here at the Harir airfield -- it gives them firepower now. Instead of just securing an area, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) stabilization in northern Iraq, now they have offensive capability. They can take on an armored brigade. They can take on an Iraqi mechanized division. They can consider moving south or west into Iraqi territory -- Larry.
KING: Thank you, Steve Nettleton with the 173rd Airborne.
Let's go now to Doha in Qatar. Omar al Issawi is there. He's been with us frequently. He's a reporter for Al Jazeera television. His colleague, Al Jazeera correspondent Tareq Ayoub, died today when an air strike and tank artillery hit the network's Baghdad headquarters.
Tell us about Mr. Ayoub and about the incident, Omar.
OMAR AL ISSAWI, AL JAZEERA TV CORRESPONDENT: Tareq was a nice young man, a hard-working journalist, father of a 14-month-old girl. The actual attack itself -- the information that we've got is that he was just sitting on the roof with his cameraman. And he'd been asked to come down, and he said, No, there's some action here that we'd like to film. And then the air strike took place.
What we know for sure is that two months ago, Al Jazeera communicated to the Department of Defense the exact GPS coordinates of our bureau in Baghdad. And as Rym Brahimi correctly said, it's a two- story villa. It's just a residential neighborhood. We did that -- the letter was addressed from our managing director to Victoria Clarke at the Department of Defense.
I think you mentioned that Al Jazeera has accused the United States of deliberately targeting our bureau over there. I'd just like to add, Larry, that I think one of our correspondents in Baghdad said that in the heat of the moment, and understandably, because he was quite moved by the experience of seeing a colleague killed over there.
However, the official viewpoint of Al Jazeera is that we expect an investigation into what happened, and we're not prejudging anything. If it was a mistake, we'd like the U.S. military to come out and say, It was a mistake, and we're sorry.
KING: I'm told that, Omar, by the way, was also a correspondent at CNN at times, and our colleagues (UNINTELLIGIBLE) say he was a very hard-working journalist. He loved his profession. He leaves a wife and a daughter, who is 1 year old.
All right, if you're not blaming the government, what are you thinking, Omar? You're not -- you're not saying yourself -- do you think anything deliberate was involved here?
AL ISSAWI: Larry...
KING: I mean why?
AL ISSAWI: ... from the pictures that we've seen -- Abu Dhabi TV had a camera. They're next door to us, Abu Dhabi TV. There's a hundred yards between our villa, which we use as our bureau, and theirs. They had a camera on their tripod, and you can see a tank on the bridge across from them. And I think their camera was unmanned. And you can see pieces of concrete flying, and then you see the camera fall over. And then somebody tried to re-erect it again.
I think that they saw some movement, just like they saw at the Palestine Hotel, and they started shooting at it. That's my conclusion. I can't go out and say, Well, no, they knew that it was us, and they decided to shoot at us. That would be unfair. However, I can almost guarantee you that there was no gunfire coming from that area, from that vicinity. We broadcast 24 hours a day. We've got live cameras there, and everything in that region, audio and video, is audible and visible to all, including our viewers. And we'd know if there was gunfire coming out from that area.
We just don't accept it, and I think the Committee to Protect Journalists and the journalists at (UNINTELLIGIBLE) organizations have asked for an investigation to be launched, and I think that would be fair.
KING: Let's go to Jasim al Azzawi now. He is in Abu Dhabi. He is Abu Dhabi's TV anchor and executive producer. Abu Dhabi's TV offices in Baghdad were also hit today.
And by the way, before we talk with him, his Abu Dhabi TV colleague in Baghdad appealed that he and his team were surrounded by hostile fire in a basement and pleaded for help to get out. Watch this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We are surrounded, actually, and shells are everywhere. We are the only civilians available (ph) in this. I am appealing one more time to the Red Cross, to Mr. Ronald Hugen (ph), who is listening to us now, to coordinate with the Iraqi authorities to provide a six-wheeled (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ambulances.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
KING: Jasim, was this an accident?
JASIM AL AZZAWI, ABU DHABI TV NEWS ANCHOR: Well, according to our bureau chief, the guy you just heard his voice, Shaker Hamid (ph), perhaps it isn't. They are in the crosshairs, according to them, as well as many Western journalists. No fire was emanating from the building, whether it's from the lobby or from the top of the building.
If you listen to General Vincent Brooks, he is quite categorically saying that there was fire coming from that building and from the lobby of the hotel towards the tank at the top of the bridge. I doubt very much that the U.S. would target media people on purpose. But at the same time, all indications are there was something wrong.
KING: We'll be right back with Omar and Jasim. They'll remain with us. We'll be joined by Bob Simon of CBS "60 Minutes II" and Martha Brant of "Newsweek," and Christiane Amanpour will remain, as well, through this half hour. We'll return with all of them. And then later, we'll be meeting General Wesley Clark, General Randy Gangle and Major David Dilegge. We'll also be including phone calls. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be right back.
KING: We're back. Christiane Amanpour remains with us in Kuwait City. She's CNN's chief international correspondent. Joining us from New York is Bob Simon of CBS "60 Minutes II." Bob, by the way, has a piece on "60 Minutes II" tomorrow night, a profile of Saddam Hussein. In Doha, Qatar, is Martha Brant, the correspondent from "Newsweek." And with her is Omar al Issawi, the reporter for Al Jazeera. In Abu Dhabi is Jasim al Azzawi, Abu Dhabi TV's anchor and executive producer.
Before we talk with them, let's go to Mike Boettcher. He is embedded with special operations forces in central Iraq. What's this story about the free Iraqi fighters, Mike?
MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we arrived here this morning, and there were quite a number of them, in the hundreds, gathered here at the special forces base. Now, they are from all sectors of Iraq. They are Shi'a and Sunni, there are Arab and Kurd, and those who are exiles and those who have lived here a long time, and today they gathered here. They were brought into here, and they received uniforms, received boots, and most of all, they received weapons -- machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons.
They expect to be deployed very soon in the Iraqi theater. They will be escorted to the various locations. They will be going by U.S. special forces. Before that, however, for the next few days, Larry, the special forces will be assessing their abilities. They will also give them training in human rights and instruction on U.S. rules of engagement.
So it's quite interesting. They are very frustrated that they have not been in the fight yet, but they believe that in the next few days -- not measured in weeks, but in the next few days, they will be in the fight, Larry.
KING: Thank you, Mike Boettcher with special operations forces in central Iraq. We have people, of course, as you know, everywhere.
Bob Simon in New York has this piece on Saddam Hussein tomorrow night. What's your reaction to the killing of the three today, Bob?
BOB SIMON, CBS NEWS "60 MINUTES II": Larry, I can't believe that it was deliberate. I refuse to believe it. But I would hasten to add that, in many parts of the world, it will be totally believed. I've just spent more than a month in the Middle East and Europe, and just coming back to the States, you feel that you're watching a different war on television, not only compared to the Middle East, where, of course, anger against the United States is rising by the day, but also in Europe, where television, even British television, is far more skeptical about what's going on, far more skeptical about American war aims, far more skeptical about the number of civilian casualties, about exactly what's happening. Here you see advancing American troops, mainly from embedded reporters. You see retired American generals. These are the dominant themes on American television. It's an entirely different picture overseas, and I'm sure that the way this war is being portrayed overseas, the idea that the Americans targeted journalists will appear far more credible than it does here.
KING: Martha Brant in Qatar for "Newsweek," would you agree with what Bob just said?
MARTHA BRANT, "NEWSWEEK": Bob is absolutely right. When I talk to my friends at home about what they're seeing on TV, it's very different from what we're seeing here, lots of images of civilians dead. And people are going to take this, conspiracy-minded as it may sound, as a direct target on Al Jazeera. Remember that Al Jazeera's offices got hit in Afghanistan, Larry, and people are going to put those two together.
It's not lost on the people here at CENTCOM. For the first time ever, they finally have some Arabic speakers that they've brought in, and they brought them out a couple hours after we got news of the attack to express condolences on Al Jazeera in Arabic. I don't know how far that went in mending things. I really -- I guess we'll have to see. But here -- it's very perplexing. Not only have they not confirmed that it was, indeed, an air strike, but every day at briefings, Larry -- behind me, I don't know if you can see these expensive plasma screens -- we have images of mosques that were avoided, schools that were avoided, in fact, a case where they were receiving fire from within a mosque and they didn't hit the mosque, to preserve this historic structure.
So it's confusing why, if they can do it in those instances, they weren't able to do it at the Palestine Hotel or, indeed, Al Jazeera, which as Omar says, was well marked.
KING: Christiane Amanpour will be leaving us in a couple minutes, at the bottom of the hour, so I want to check on the point that Bob Simon made because you hopscotch the region. Is he right? Is there -- do you see it differently -- do they see it differently in Europe and the Middle East than they see it in the United States?
AMANPOUR: Well, I think, absolutely, and he pretty much summed it up perfectly. It is like two different wars. And you've heard Martha talk about it, as well. Watching it and seeing the television coverage from this region is just a completely different story. And I was also in Europe last week, and again the same thing.
You know, it's a different situation because in America, as you know, you're watching our air in the United States, it is almost entirely, if not entirely, from the perspective of the embedded reporters. And there's very little civilian damage shown. There's very little -- where are all these Iraqis who have been killed or surrendered or whatever? In other words, there's very little of the other side that comes across on the current American coverage.
And as, you know, Martha's also said, the whole conspiracy theory notion, whether it's right or wrong, has a lot of traction in the Arab world and in many countries outside of the United States, and particularly since Al Jazeera is considered the voice of the other side, showing the civilian casualties. Sometimes, as you know, it's lambasted for, quote, being too much the "voice of the regime" and the other side. And because of what happened to Al Jazeera in Afghanistan, it's simply going to add up in people's minds, even though I also don't believe that Americans deliberately target journalists.
On the other hand, as I say, it does raise a significant, significant question of proportionality and whether the policy of the military is to respond in a civilian area to alleged sniper fire, which we still don't know was the truth, with tank fire.
KING: Christian Amanpour, thank you, as always, for your terrific journalism. And Christiane, of course, is with us practically around the clock. And we'll continue with Bob Simon, Martha Brant, Omar al Issawi and Jasim al Azzawi. And then we'll meet later General Clark and Colonel Gangle and Major Dilegge.
To Omar -- you've been hearing that they see the world from two different viewpoints, depending on where you are. In a sense, Omar, are both viewpoints correct?
AL ISSAWI: Well, it depends what side you're looking from. You have to remember that here in this region, in the Middle East, we're broadcasting from our own backyard, and the war is going on in our own backyard. People know friends. They have relatives in Iraq, and therefore they would want to see exactly what's going on in which street, in which neighborhood. On the other hand, people watching from the United States are going to want to see their boys and make sure that the boys...
KING: So what I meant was -- I don't mean to interrupt, but what I meant was you're seeing it from two viewpoints. Both are correct. The tanks we see in the United States moving forward are correct. The view you see from the Al Jazeera standpoint in the Middle East are correct, right? It's just two viewpoints.
AL ISSAWI: Well, yes, of course. I mean, essentially, they are, Larry. They are two viewpoints. It's just a question actually of marrying them together and getting the right balance. And that's where I think people's opinions differ, where they want you to see things one way or concentrate on one thing rather than the other. And this is, I think, where the problem is.
I'd also just like to point out here, Larry, that all of our reporters, all of our correspondents in Iraq are running into trouble. We've had our two guys in Basra. They've had to pull out because they did not feel secure over there. They're on their way out. We've got our guy who is embedded with the Marines. He was actually threatened in Nasiriyah, took his case to one of the Marines, where the Marine said, I can't do anything about it. And we're pulling him out. We're worried about the safety of our guys in northern Iraq, and they're heading out. And unfortunately, we can't even get the body of our fallen colleague, Tareq, out of Baghdad. We are running into trouble on all sides and aspects over here.
KING: Jasim, from a reporting standpoint, what would you change? How could you correct this?
AL AZZAWI: Well, it is too late to correct. Almost everybody's going into this war is going with a different perspective, with a different background, whether American, European or Arabs. It is very, very difficult to say at this late stage in the game, when the endgame is almost nearing, that you're going to report differently.
KING: Bob Simon, is it tough, when you've got some reporters who are behind enemy lines going one way and some are behind lines receiving it, going the other? Both sides are showing film. The film on both sides are correct, aren't they?
SIMON: Sure. And therefore, it's imperative that both sides be shown. And it's all a question of which side is getting more play. And when you're in the Arab world today, the television pictures you see are almost exclusively of what Americans call "collateral damage," which is really a euphemism for dead people. And when you're in the United States today, I'm just amazed by the extent to which all you see is the American viewpoint, the advancing American troops, and very little in the way of collateral damage.
But look, this is a war, and you're seeing it from the sides that various governments and administrations want you to see, with a few exceptions. So the point is that with this atmosphere in the United States, I think reporters are very cautious about being critical because they can be perceived as being unpatriotic. The administration would certainly accuse reporters of being unpatriotic if they're overly critical of American war aims. And of course, it's equally the case, if you're broadcasting from Al Jazeera, which is, of course, not a government network, and the reporters at Al Jazeera, the ones I know, are excellent journalists, but they're no more responsible for their networks' viewpoint than some American reporters are for their networks' viewpoints.
KING: Well said, Bob. Our panel will return. We'll talk about a some other things, and then we'll meet our former military advisers. We'll break now, and Heidi Collins will have the news headlines, and then a word or two, and we'll be right back. Here's Heidi.
KING: We're back.
Before we get back with our panel, let's go to the Pentagon for an update from Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Larry, the latest thing we've heard from the Pentagon is the acknowledgement this evening that a U.S. Air Force F-15 went down over Iraq on Sunday. No mention was made at the time while the search and recovery effort was under way for the two pilots of the plane. At this point, the pilots are still list as missing. Pentagon sources confirm the plane went down near Tikrit, which know is is an area that the United States does not have as much control over as it does other parts of Iraq.
Meanwhile, in Baghdad, the fighting continues. The U.S. is still meeting some fairly stiff resistance, even though they classify it as pockets of resistance. I talked to a senior defense official today who said he'd hoped by now they might have been able to say that Basra -- that Baghdad had fallen, but he said it looks like we're not quite there yet.
And in the south, in Basra, the British forces now report that they control 80 percent of the city and they say there's no organized military left in Basra -- Larry.
KING: Thank you, Jamie McIntyre.
Bob Simon, you're doing a profile piece on Saddam Hussein tomorrow night on "60 Minutes II." Do you think it is it is the late Saddam Hussein?
SIMON: Larry, we don't know that. There's no just way of knowing and I realize it's a burden of around the clock coverage that you're supposed to provide answers to questions that you can't possibly know the answer to.
But we spoke to a gentleman who's been studying Saddam Hussein most of his life, Saeed Aburish (ph), who is a Palestinian scholar who once worked for Saddam and knows him personally. And the most interesting thing he told me was that he convinced that Saddam is not going to try to escape. That he is going to accept his fate as his destiny and that what he's looking for is to be killed by the Americans, because what he's looking for is to be -- to go down in history that he already has his -- his sights beyond survival as a human being to the extent to which he is human, but his survival in Arab history and he wants to be the next Saladin. He wants to be remembered by the Arabs a thousand years from now as the man who stood up to the modern-day crusaders and looked them in the eye and fought them while all of the other Arab leaders were cowering in their palaces. This is what he wants and there's no reason to believe he's not going to get it.
KING: Does that mean he would not be taken prisoner?
SIMON: Saeed Aburish said categorically that Saddam would never permit to be taken prisoner. He also wouldn't commit suicide because Saddam has undergone this fascinating transformation in the last decade or so from being a secular Ba'ath Party revolutionary to being increasingly religious, or at least wanting to be perceived as increasingly religious, referring to himself not only as a holyman, but as a direct descendant of Mohammed. And of course, once you cast that role for yourself you can't commit suicide. It's against Islam.
KING: Martha Brant, there's -- the reporter -- AP -- there's an audiotape purportedly around bin Laden calling for suicide attacks everywhere possible. What do you make of that?
BRANT: Well, that -- well, we've been expecting that, obviously. I'm surprised it didn't happen earlier. And obviously, they're still looking for links between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. They think they've found definite links in the north of the country between groups up in the north in al Qaeda, but whether they can connect the dots back down to Saddam Hussein they're not sure.
I heard one official say that they think that maybe just on the brink of war there was evidence of that, but leading up to it, they just weren't sure. So remains to be seen whether they can draw those parallels.
KING: Omar, you've got good connections at Al-Jazeera, what do you make of purportedly that tape?
AL ISSAWI: It doesn't mean, Larry, that bin Laden tells us things that he tells no one else. But I -- I don't -- I don't think it's -- it's going to affect things very much in the short run and especially not inside Iraq.
Iraq is completely different. Iraq is a secular country. We have to remember that. There isn't a big power base in the country for these sectarian groups over there because Saddam Hussein would not let such groups take hold or take root in that -- that country.
I think the most important thing or the thing to worry about in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the central government in Iraq is the power vacuum and what sorts of problems you're going to get over there. I'm talking about revenge killings, I'm talking about bloodletting over there. I think that is what's going to be expected and we have to worry about that part. I think that maybe we're going to have a few month of relative quiet in which people can try to sort things out in Iraq.
Now in the Middle East in general, in the Middle East as a whole, so far things have been contained. We have seen demonstrations, although I don't think they're as massive as people expected them to be. They looked good on television. They look big on TV, but if you compared them to the population, the actual population, the figures, they're not that big. They're contained to universities or certain streets and they have certainly not forced the government to change their policies, vis-a-vis, this war.
KING: Jasim, is -- in your opinion, is the end in sight?
AL-AZZAWI: It looks like it. It looks very near, almost the rest of the country is in the hands of the British or the Americans in one way or another. The battle of Baghdad, many people think it's almost over.
Now if it turns out to be that Saddam Hussein is dead, which is, up to this moment is not confirmed neither Pentagon nor people on the ground think he's dead.
But nevertheless, a big portion of Baghdad is taken. There is a strike at will, if you like, by the Americans, by the British. The northern sector of Iraq is also -- is coming very, very close. They are going to get into Kirkuk and Mosul very, shortly. I can't see how --how it can be prolonged.
Now you mentioned just a few minutes ago that they are training some Iraqis to come in for street fighting. Perhaps that's the model the U.S. employed in Afghanistan,. Whether it's going to be employed in Baghdad very, very soon, we will have to just wait and see. But what from what we hear, from what we see so far, that organized resistance, that vaunted much talked about the Republican Guards, although overrated, so far we have not seen it in Baghdad. Perhaps the energy was dissipated in the south, but the Baghdad is the last battle and all indications are it's not going to be for long.
KING: Thank you all very much. Bob Simon, Martha Brant, Omar Al-Issawi and Jasim Al-Azzawi.
And when we come back, we'll meet generals Wesley Clark and Colonel Randy Gangel and Mayor David -- and -- I'm sorry Major David Dilegge and we'll have a major talk about the military aspects of all of this. And don't forget Bob Simon's profile with Saddam Hussein is on "60 Minutes II" tomorrow night.
You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
KING: As always every night we have distinguished former military officers with us. They're all in Washington tonight. General Wesley Clark, United States Army, retired, was supreme allied commander from July 1997 to May 2000. He wrote about his experiences in a wonderful book called "Waging Modern War." He also served as commander in chief of the United States European Command and he's a CNN analyst.
Colonel Randy Gangle, United States Marine Corps, retired, executive director of the Center of Emerging Threats and Opportunities. Prior to joining CETO was senior adviser to Experimental Operations at the Marine Corps War Fighting Lab. Was commanding officer of the 5th Marine Regiment during Operation Desert Storm.
And Major David Dilegge, United States Marine Reserve Corps retired, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Intelligence office, an expert on urban military operation, served as a member of the 1st Marine Division during Operation Desert Storm.
General Wesley Clark, is there -- do you see an endgame? Is There going to be a V.I-Day?
GEN. WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think that we'll probably declare one, Larry. But I see three possible endings to this. Number one is that somebody comes forward who professes to have control and says we unconditionally lay down our arms and most of the fighting stops. Or that the fighting just dies away because no one is really in charge of it. There's just a lot of venom left. Or third, that it really just tapers off, it never really dies away and we end up with a sort of West Bank situation where there's still sporadic violence, but we thin out our forces over time.
KING: And what, Colonel Gangle, is the best bet?
COL. RANDY GANGLE, U.S. MARINE CORPS (RET.): I'm inclined to think that we are going to some protracted action. I'm concerned that Saddam has been in power for 30 years, he's built multiple layers of support and we need to go in and clean that out in order to take this veil of oppression off of this country.
KING: Major Dilegge, doesn't it appear to be going very, very well?
MAJ. DAVID DILEGGE, USMC (RET.), URBAN WARFARE EXPERT: Yes, Larry. From the perspective of someone who's been working urban operations since 1997 almost full time, I'm very, very, very, very pleasantly -- not -- I don't want to say surprised but pleased how well it's going. A lot of us have said, though, winning the peace may be tougher than winning the battle for Baghdad.
KING: General Clark, what are your thoughts on the killing today of those three journalists and the Al-Jazeera feelings that maybe there was a maybe deliberate action on the American part?
CLARK: Well, I think it's just not correct to thank this was a deliberate action. The Americans are in there, they're fighting the troops on the ground are fighting for their lives. There's a direct fire battle going on. I doubt that the guys in the tanks even knew precisely what building it was they were shooting at. They wouldn't have been able to read the sign. If they could have read the sign, it wouldn't have made a difference. They don't have any sense for the significance of it.
I think it's a case of a very unfortunate accident of war. People were in the wrong place at the wrong time. But this is a combat zone. It's dangerous and why you can't tell the troops that they can't shoot back when they're being shot at. This is war in Baghdad and we wouldn't deliberately kill -- the United States wouldn't deliberately kill journalists, on the other hand, it's just a dangerous operation.
KING: Colonel Gangle, is it the nature of the beast, so to speak, that there is always friendly fire fate abilities?
GANGLE: It is. In fact, if you look at the history of warfare, we find that I think in this war we've seen far fewer casualties, non- combatant casualties because we've switched our train to try to avoid it.
I would echo what General Clark has just said. You know, these Marines and Soldiers have been out in the field for 14 days. They haven't been watching television. They don't have radios. How would they know that that building was occupied by journalists? They wouldn't. They took fire. They returned fire. And it was an unfortunate accident, in my view.
KING: Major Dilegge, how much urban fighting is still going to go on? Senior U.S. officials are telling CNN Iraq had only 19 tanks out of a pre-war fleet of 800 have only 19 tanks left. How long can they hold on like this?
DILEGGE: You know, that's a good question and I -- a lot of us have been asked this a lot. There's no way to tell how long this is going to last. There's a lot of speculation on. The fact is the urban expertise -- you've got a lot of experts that are -- a lot of talking heads on the shows. The expertise is out there.
A lot depends on the population, it depends on those pockets and what both General Clark and Colonel Gangle just said. You just can't say -- be definitive about it (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But it's going very well.
The regime is not in control. That is one of the biggest goals. I think President Bush put it very well today that fist that was clenched. The hand may not be chopped off, but a lot of the fingers are missing and control is slipping very much. So it's going well.
KING: General Clark, do you envision the aftermath of maybe being worse than the math?
CLARK: Well it depends from one perspective, Larry. One of the big problems we've always been worried about is getting control of the weapons of mass destruction. So provided we can go in there and get the scientists, get the weapons out and they don't find into the wrong hands, we could accomplish that goal. But we don't have that in hand yet. That may be a six week to six month process.
And then there's the issue of what happens to Iraq afterwards. As the Islamic charities come in, they're going to have embedded in those charities recruiters for both Shiite and Sunni fundamentalists. And they'll be recruiting and looking for potential terrorists. And they may be successful.
And over a period of time we may be lucky, we may have a democracy that emerges there and people may really thank us. But also we could be in a situation where we're quickly viewed as occupiers, and what we view as trying to help Democracy and put stability in the region is viewed by some of the people there as a hostile occupation that has to be ended by violence. So it's unpredictable at this stage.
KING: Is there going to be a lot, Colonel Gangle, of PR involved here? Of selling the occupation?
GANGLE: That's a difficult question. I don't think I would use the term PR. I think as General Clark has eluded to, I think we have a window of opportunity during perhaps 60 days where we need to establish security, get some sort of government in place and then try to exit as quickly as possible.
In fact, I was reading an article recently by at work by a former Israeli officer who's now a professor at Trinity College. And he talked about the Shiites welcoming the Israelis and their initial incursion into Lebanon and how quickly that changed. And he pointed out that within that religion, that branch of Islam, there is a scripture that says they may not live under non-Muslim rulers.
Now, we ought to take that to heart when we think about ruling this country for any period of time.
KING: Do you think, Major Dilegge -- we're going to take a few phone calls here in a moment -- that there's an enormous amount of casualties on the other side?
DILEGGE: You know there's a lot of speculations and I'm not about to do a body count on this side. Yes, as both General Clark and Colonel Gangle said, this is war. There's going to be casualties. This is urban war. It's very complex.
You know you've got an asymmetric threat with the Fedayeen and some of the Republican Guard that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) into Baghdad and other urban areas. They are purposely using civilian populous as the shield. They are using hospitals and schools as shields.
The thing is we always say we're not going not fight our last battle. We're not fighting our last battle. Now I think Hussein made a mistake. He is fighting our last battle and then he thought that he was going to have a series of Mogadishus say in Basra and Nasiriya, all of the way up into Baghdad. He didn't have that. We played this smart.
Again, there's going to be casualties, but it's not the mass casualties that you saw in Grozny. My God. You know, the Russians in 1995 did something very similar. They cordoned off of Grozny, they did leave a little escape route to the north to let civilians escape. Of course, the Chechens used that to come back in.
They made a three-pronged approach into the city. One was to, again, a presidential palace, for (UNINTELLIGIBLE) at his headquarters. In one column of Russian tanks, of 105 tanks and APZs, almost all of them were destroyed. Eight hundred of 1,000 Russian troops were killed. That's not wounded. That's killed.
Now, if you want to compare apples and oranges, I'd say we're doing pretty good and the casualties in this type of complex warfare is not that extreme.
KING: Take a call. Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Hello.
CALLER: Hello. Hi, Mr. King.
CALLER: I'm calling. I think it's very unfortunate what has happened to the journalists. I'm very, very sad to see somebody have to die, but we are at war.
KING: What's the question? CALLER: The question, sir, is are the journalists now that I'm hearing on TV, they seem very mad and they're upset. Are they upset about the ruling that our government has placed on them?
KING: General Clark?
CLARK: I think the journalists are upset because from their perspective what they see is a policy of the United States. They've never -- most of these people from these Arab countries haven't supported our actions against Saddam Hussein. They viewed it as an aggressive war rather than what our government described as a war of liberation. And so then it's natural that they don't support the legitimacy of what we've doing in Baghdad. So it's a small step to assume that because they don't support us, because we know they don't support us, that we would deliberately target this hotel, but I'm convinced nothing could be further from the truth.
KING: Morgantown, North Carolina. Hello.
CALLER: Hello, Larry.
CALLER: I'm somewhat confused here and I hope the panel can offer some enlightenment. We keep hearing that our troops are able to move freely around Baghdad even to the point of hearing troops say we can go where we want when we want. Given that, why can't our troops go to this big crater, and try and determine whether or not we got Saddam and his sons.
KING: Colonel Gangle?
GANGLE: What you have to remember is there are a lot of tasks that need to be accomplished. First off, we have a lot of our troops conducting a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) outside the city. And there are a limited number available to do activities inside the city. And at this point it is far more important that we take out those remaining pockets of resistance than it is to go over and check a crater and see if Saddam Hussein was in fact even there or not. So I think the appropriate action is being applied. Keep the pressure the enemy that's trying to kill you. Don't worry about somebody that might be dead.
KING: Major, what about these free Iraqi fighters and using them?
DILEGGE: Think it's an excellent idea that we're beginning to do this. Not to second guess. I wish we had the capability to do it sooner. Colonel Gangle has worked on a program where we're looking at things that we've done in the past. We need programs that are similar to the old Marine combined action of a program in Vietnam, where we used people from the country that we were liberating, we were providing security to and embedded them with U.S. troops. That type of thing. I think this will go well.
KING: Tampa, Florida, hello. CALLER: Yes, Larry, my question for your panel. After the first call for 6,000 Iraqi POWs were brought over to the United States, at the cost to taxpayers of $70 million. What does the panel feel that should be done with the POWs from this war.
KING: General Clark?
CLARK: Well, they'll be screened for their connection to Ba'athist Party, and how committed they are to being against the change of regime in Baghdad. If they're deemed to not be a threat they'll be released back into the population.
KING: By the way, I asked General Clark this, I'll ask Colonel Gangle this. Do you think there will be a (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
GANGLE: I don't think there will be. I think it will be difficult to know when this is truly over. And we have to be very careful about declaring victory prematurely. I think we need to really get rid of the remnants of this regime very amply and very thoroughly before we say we've achieved victory. Otherwise we could have a very, very warlike peace on our hands.
KING: What Major to you -- what will be victory?
What has to happen?
DILEGGE: Victory? I'd like to see a stable government in Iraq. That's the bottom line. What more could you ask for?
KING: OK. Well put. Jefferson, Georgia, hello.
CALLER: My question is my husband and I were watching the TV this morning and we saw a lot of flashes coming from this hotel. Now, is that outgoing fire? Is it fire going into the building? Just what was it?
KING: Is that the hotel where the journalists were killed, ma'am? We lost her. General Clark, do you know what she is talking about.
CLARK: I couldn't see the hotel, but we've been showing the CNN, this shot with the flashes up against a tall building. Those were bullet strikes against the hotel. There's some dust coming in, so maybe that's where the tracer hit. It's not tank round against it because it would have blown a hole in it, but these are small arms fire, probably machine gunfire up against the building.
KING: How, Colonel Gangle, to this point, would you assess the enemy?
GANGLE: Well, I think there are several enemies out there. We've seen some of a very imaginative enemy. The ones who have gone to what they call asymmetric tactics. We've seen other units that put up resistance and were rolled over like they weren't there, similar to the first Gulf War. And then we have these thugs that are out there that have been issued arms and have been terrorizing the populous, and they will resort to any means whatsoever in order to try and thwart our troops and preserve the government that they have now.
KING: How much fighting left Major Dilegge?
DILEGGE: How much fighting left?
KING: Do you think?
DILEGGE: Pretty much we're getting to the end. You will find both what the general and the colonel have said earlier today. We're going to see pockets of resistance. We will respond to those very quickly and we'll remove them. You are going to have some elements, be it criminal where people just are taking an opportunity to take advantage of a situation. Also what I'm worried about is outside influences. I think the administration was very correct in giving warnings to the Iranians and Syrians. We need to have the Iraqis run Iraq, and we need to get out of there as soon as possible when they're stabilized militarily.
KING: Thank you all very much for an illuminating 20 minutes.
General Wesley Clark, United States Army, retired, CNN military analyst.
Colonel Randy Gangle, United States Marine Corps, retired.
And Major Dilegge, United States Marine Reserve Corps, also retired.
And we thank the earlier guests as well.
We are staying on the scene. That's why we're the most trusted name in news at CNN. We are very proud of the work we do. We try to bring you the best information we can 24 hours a day. Heidi Collins will be following this program with news headlines to get you up-to- date on what's happening, not only in Iraq, but elsewhere, big stories are occurring. And then Aaron Brown will host "NEWSNIGHT" around the corner. As we go to break, fallen United States soldiers, good night.
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