CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
U.S. Drops Bombs After Intel Comes Through
Aired April 8, 2003 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Daryn Kagan updates the day's headlines. She joins us from Kuwait when we come back.
We'll check in at the Pentagon, the White House.
Jack Laurence, the former CBS and ABC correspondent who's over in Iraq covering for National Public Radio and "Esquire" magazine joins us.
So we have a lot to do. We'll take a break first. Our coverage continues in a moment.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Daryn Kagan live from Kuwait City. Let's take a look at what is happening this hour.
U.S. officials say top Iraq leaders, possibly including Saddam Hussein and his sons, were targeted in an American attack in Baghdad.
Central Command says that a B-1 bomber dropped four satellite- guided 2000-pound bombs on Baghdad's Mansour residential neighborhood.
A senior administration official in Washington tells CNN that intelligence suggested that senior Iraqi leaders were scheduled to be at a Baghdad area location for what's called a decent stretch of time.
The bombs destroyed an entire apartment building and a restaurant, killing at least nine people. It's unclear at this hour if the Iraqi president and his sons were among those casualties.
The Pentagon, meanwhile, says that U.S. superior firepower has just about obliterated the Iraqi war machine. It says that Iraq began the war with more than 800 tanks, but it is now down to what they say is only a couple of dozen tanks.
President Bush is in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He is there for talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair on the war in Iraq and also on peace efforts in the Middle East and Northern Ireland. One issue they're expected to take up: the role of the United Nations in a post-Saddam Iraq.
Amid all the fighting, talking, and planning, a third ship-load of aid is in Iraq today. The British auxiliary ship, the Sir Percival, steamed into the Port of Umm Qasr with about 200 tons of rice and tea today. The British say the food is bound for Iraq's neediest areas. Those are the headlines at this hour.
Aaron, toss it back to you for more on the coverage in Iraq. Good morning from Kuwait City.
BROWN: And good morning. It's nice to see you again.
Daryn will be with us the rest of the way tonight. Glad to have her with us, too.
A lot going on. As Daryn mentioned, the lead tonight clearly was this attempt to get Saddam Hussein that took place Monday afternoon in a Baghdad afternoon. It will be some time before we know whether it's successful or not.
But we have a fair amount of detail on how it went down, and we'll put those pieces together first in this hour, starting at the Pentagon and CNN's Chris Plante who joins us from there -- Chris.
CHRIS BURNS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Aaron.
That's right. It was at about 2:00 this afternoon Baghdad time, and...
BROWN: There we go, Chris.
BROWN: We had the wrong Chris there for a second.
CHRIS PLANTE, NBC NATIONAL SECURITY PRODUCER: A little glitch.
It was about 2:00 this afternoon Baghdad time when bombs struck the target. It was a residential neighborhood. We believe it was a house in that residential neighborhood.
The lead came from a variety of intelligence sources, including, we're told, human intelligence, which means people on the ground. Now people on the ground could mean that there was an individual close to the regime who was aware of this meeting taking place there, an Iraqi that passed the information along to U.S. Special-Operations forces or to U.S. forces on the ground there, or it may have been U.S. Special- Operations forces themselves.
We did get the news media reports of this strike in this neighborhood earlier today, and initial reports indicated that civilians were killed and probably only civilians were killed. The Central Command said that they were looking into the situation.
Now, if you look at the rubble, you can see that there is an enormous crater at this location, and there appears to be a good deal of heavy concrete, probably steel-reinforced concrete, which might indicate that there was a bunker facility at this location. But, obviously, a great deal of ordnance put on this site based on the size of the crater alone. What we know is that, once they decided to go after the target, which was slightly to the west of, say, Al Salam Palace, just about a mile outside of the heart of downtown Baghdad, a B-1B bomber was called in for the strike.
That is a heavy long-range bomber that carries a great deal of ordnance, and it, in fact, carries a heavier bomb load than the B-52 does in the current configuration, and four of these GBU-31 JDAM munitions -- that's a satellite-guided bomb -- were dropped on the target. A total of 8,000 pounds of explosive power in these four munitions with relative pinpoint accuracy.
If everything goes well with these munitions, it gets within just a few feet of the target, and they believe that all of the munitions did hit the target they had set out to hit.
The belief was that Saddam Hussein himself and his two sons, Uday and Qusay, who were in charge of major elements of the Iraqi military and security forces, were all present at this house at the time of the strike.
Now what we're told here -- or from a senior source in the administration that John King spoke to -- is that there is a sense of optimism that major players were present at the time of the strike.
Now they're not going to the point so far, Aaron, as to say they're a hundred-percent certain that Saddam Hussein himself was there or that his sons were there, perhaps because that's a limb that they just don't want to go out on at this point. There is a certain time delay between the time the intelligence is gathered, the time the air strike is called in, and the time that the bombs actually hit the target.
So, while there is optimism on the part of the U.S. administration that they probably got the people that they wanted, the target that they wanted, they're not willing at this point to say with a hundred-percent certainty that they were able to decapitate the regime, which is what this effort is all about, and, as you pointed out earlier, what they tried to do at the outset of this military campaign with cruise missiles and a couple of bombs in an effort to decapitate and avoid this type of military action that we've been seeing for the last 19 days -- Aaron.
BROWN: OK. Thank you.
Chris Plante at the Pentagon.
Now over to Chris Burns at the White House.
Chris, I have a feeling that your colleague, Mr. Plante, just took much of what you had been learning at the White House, but add to that what you can, and, also, add this component: The administration made it very clear that Saddam Hussein is a fair target, that whatever ban on assassinations there was in time of peace isn't in play. Fair?
BURNS: Absolutely. A senior administration official tells CNN that this was very much the same scenario as when the war first began when President Bush made a very last-minute -- literally last-minute decision to go ahead and change the war plans to attack what they had been seeing as a time-sensitive target where there could be senior Iraqi leadership.
A senior administration officials says that President Bush in this case -- he declines to say whether President Bush was informed in advance of this strike, however, says that, because of the very beginning of the war when the president gave the go-ahead to the military to strike at targets that would include Saddam Hussein as part of the offensive, that this was implicit, that they could go ahead and strike at that.
No word immediately on whether the president has been informed, but, according to the senior administration official, there is a sense of optimism that they have taken out senior leadership, possibly Saddam Hussein and his two sons.
In any case, the administration has been tempering the public opinion in the last couple of weeks. The spokesman -- the White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer being asked how does he define victory. Well, last week, he said that victory would be defined by regime change and by finding any weapons of mass destruction. Those were the two key objectives of this war itself, and that is how they will measure victory, not necessarily whether they actually kill Saddam Hussein.
BROWN: All right. Chris, let me just -- just hang in there for a second with me. I just want viewers -- to catch viewers up on what they were looking at.
That's an A-10. And -- General Clark, help me on this. That's some sort of close-air support because we saw it dive down in, right?
GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME COMMANDER: We saw it go in, Aaron, and you heard the 30-millimeter gun. You heard a brrrr (ph) going on.
CLARK: He hit something.
BROWN: And, when we talk about close-air support, explain again what that would mean, so viewers not familiar with the term know.
CLARK: So what he's doing is he's getting targets probably from troops on the ground who are reporting something around the corner, up the street, or something, and he is then marking their location so he knows where they are, he's diving in in a direction and shooting at an enemy target and taking a lot of care not to hit the friendlies.
BROWN: And that's the risk there because you're starting to work in close quarters. And is it going after -- it might be going after troops or it might be going after a vehicle of some sort, correct?
CLARK: That heavy cannon will do a number on a vehicle or troops. BROWN: And what's he -- were you able to see what it was dropping just there?
CLARK: That was a 30-millimeter gun. It's a seven-barrel Gatling gun, very high rate of...
BROWN: Now, General, look in the monitor for a second. It's...
CLARK: These are the anti-aircraft flares...
BROWN: That's the flares...
BROWN: Got it. And that deflects anti-aircraft fire...
BROWN: ... or confuses anti-aircraft fire?
BROWN: OK. Thank you.
Chris Burns, we interrupted you new in mid sentence, and we apologize. Go ahead.
BURNS: Well, that's quite all right.
Actually, to keep in mind also what is going to be happening on Tuesday, whether or not Saddam Hussein is dead or in whatever condition he is, President Bush and Tony Blair are meeting in Belfast, Northern Ireland. They will be discussing a number of issues, including and especially what regime -- what kind of government to replace Saddam Hussein with.
That's going to be a very big discussion. They do have to close ranks on that. They have perhaps some slight differences on what kind of U.N. role there should be, how -- what kind of mix of exiles -- Iraqi exiles and indigenous Iraqis there should be.
They also -- of course, the administration has been cautioning on making a decision -- not making a decision before they see what the situation is on the ground, how many bureaucrats that wouldn't be tainted by Saddam's Baathist Party, who would not be a Baathist loyalist or Saddam loyalist, what kind of mix you will have, trying to incorporate as many bureaucrats as you can to get the economy and get the government functioning again, especially the key services like water and sanitation and things like that, but also, of course, trying to get the oil industry cranked up again.
These are all aspects that they have to look at, how they will replace what had been a regime that was running a country of 26- million people. Very important.
They'll also be talking about trying to settle the Northern Ireland issue and also the Middle East peace process. Trying to jump- start that very important for Tony Blair especially in trying to justify this war against Iraq as part of a broader effort at trying to bring peace to the whole region of the Middle East.
BROWN: Chris, thank you very much. I think there might be some people who would characterize the difference between Mr. Blair and President Bush as more than slight on this question, but that's one of the issues they'll try and work out. Thank you.
Chris Burns at the White House.
General, I'm going to give you two last words here before you get away from me today. There is a certain -- you see this plane flying around the way it is? This is not the most nimble aircraft out there, by any means. There's a certain confidence about who owns the sky.
CLARK: That's exactly right. This is an aircraft that can take a lot of hits, but it's relatively low, and he's really looking at the ground. He's not being engaged as far as we can determine.
BROWN: And it's just -- it is an exclamation point to the fact that there is -- the Americans certainly believe there is just not much Iraqi air defense left to threaten a relatively slow-flying, low- flying airplane.
CLARK: Apparently not, although I read in the news reports in tomorrow's newspapers, Aaron, that there is still anti-aircraft fire in some portions of Baghdad.
BROWN: And just to finish that thought, the -- was it chaff that it was dropping off? Is that what's that called?
CLARK: No, they're called flares, and what they do is they...
CLARK: ... is they -- they distract the heat-seeking -- the heat-sensitive seeker on an air-to -- a ground-to-air missile like a surface-to-air shoulder-launched missile.
BROWN: So the crew felt there was something down there that was dangerous or there would be no particular reason to take that sort of evasive action.
Now, on the day itself -- I know you've got a busy day later today, and we're going to get you some rest before you do that. Put the day in perspective. Any -- the most significant thing in the day was?
CLARK: We're into the heart of Baghdad and holding. But the fighting's not over. We had a real fire fight at a clover-leaf intersection there, lost an ammunition truck, had some casualties on that. The Marines have fought hard to cross a canal southeast of Baghdad, but the 3rd Infantry Division is in there. It's delivering a hell of a wallop. The Iraqis are disorganized, but they're still resisting. BROWN: Let's -- let's talk about both elements of that. Did they seem to be resisting? Well, you said they're disorganized. From a Central Command point of view, they're disorganized, or are there just guerrilla fighters out there, bands of 10 or 20 out there on their own making decisions on their own?
CLARK: I think it's larger elements than that, based on my reading of all of the information that's available to us, Aaron, but what's clear is that the U.S. is outmaneuvering them with the tactic of driving through the cities with these armored columns.
When the United States forces stop, then the Iraqis close in around them, and, given four or five hours, they can bring a lot of fighters to bear. But, as the columns move through the cities, the Iraqis can't quite keep up, and that's why there's scattered resistance.
BROWN: But there is resistance out there, and any time there's resistance, there's danger. Is this -- since we don't -- there's no reason to assume for the moment that Saddam Hussein or his sons were killed in this attack. They may or may not have been. Is this...
BROWN: Is this the kind of thing, absent that, we are likely to see go on for a number of weeks?
CLARK: I don't...
BROWN: Are we likely to have days like today?
CLARK: I think we'll have a few more days like today, but I'd be surprised if it lasts a number of weeks.
One of the disturbing notes is that, apparently, at least according to one of the captured fighters, there are some 5,000 volunteers from Syria that are in there fighting with the Iraqis.
Now that -- the U.S. forces don't need that, and it's time for all of those people to lay down their arms, but my guess is that, within a few days, this fighting, at least in Baghdad, will taper off.
There are still other parts of the country that need to be looked at.
BROWN: Certainly the North. I don't know that I've ever asked you this. Do you think this will end in a kind of formal surrender or it will just stop?
CLARK: I'd be surprised if it ends in a surrender.
I guess it's conceivable that Saddam Hussein could say, OK, I give up, you can have my regime, just let me leave, but he knows what's awaiting him.
And the United States is probably not prepared to accept a surrender, unless it would be from a very low-ranking officer because the rest of these guys are part of the regime, and the United States doesn't want the regime.
So my guess is that this is going to be a wipe-out rather than a surrender.
BROWN: And just so that we're clear on the pictures we're watching -- I'm not sure if you were able to see them at the same time -- those are just flares that that plane is dropping, right? Those aren't...
CLARK: That's right.
BROWN: That's not any ordnance of any sort?
CLARK: No, that's protective measure. He doesn't know whether he's going to be engaged from the ground or not. Those flares are triggered automatically. He hits a button in the cockpit, and it releases a stream of them.
BROWN: They're triggered automatically by what?
CLARK: By the pilot.
BROWN: Oh, the -- oh, OK.
CLARK: He sends them out. He's got a big stockpile of those things, and, normally, they pop four or five on every climb out of a turn where they're going down low like that.
CLARK: That's when they're most vulnerable, when they're climbing up like that.
BROWN: And just again, the -- this is a plane that has many purposes or a number of purposes. It's a tough, old, not very pretty airplane, and the kind of -- you saw some more flares going there -- the kind of purpose it's serving now is to do what?
CLARK: He's probably attacking targets on the ground when he's coming in like that. He also is probably controlling other aircraft. He's probably in communication with some F-18s or F-15s up higher than he is. He's going -- flying down low. He's probably got a pair of stabilized binoculars.
It's a one-pilot aircraft, one crew, and so he's handling a pair of stabilized binoculars. He's rocking the airplane back and forth. He's looking down at the ground over the side of the cockpit, and he's got his 30-millimeter gun and probably some Maverick Missiles on board.
BROWN: So he is one -- or he or she is one busy pilot up there?
CLARK: He's handling multiple radios. He's got a map out. He is very, very busy. He's almost in task overload. BROWN: He's almost in task overload. He's...
CLARK: Task overload.
BROWN: He's got as much as he can handle.
CLARK: That's exactly right. We worry about that because these guys -- it just comes -- the information comes in, the radios come in, different call signs, different problems, simultaneous. You've got to listen to two or three conversations at once. It's very, very busy.
BROWN: General, as I say, I know you've got a busy day later. We'll let you go. As always, thank you for your help. Talk to you tomorrow.
CLARK: Good to be with you, Aaron.
BROWN: Thank you.
General Wesley Clark, The general is testifying for Congress tomorrow, so we'll let him get some sleep.
Marty Savidge is with us, has been keeping an eye on this. Marty's with the Marines, and they had a fairly active day of sort of sporadic fighting. Marty is in the video phone that you see on the left.
Marty, can you hear us?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Aaron. Yes.
Let me tell you where we are. We've passed over that canal and the small village around that canal which had been the scene of heavy fighting, including Marine casualties yesterday and the day before. We passed that about half an hour ago. We're continuing to push into the suburbs of the Southeast.
We've now come into what looks like a very large industrial complex of warehouses and factory buildings. Just off to our left, we can hear what sounds like a pretty strong fire fight is taking place. It sounds like -- I'm just listening now. It's small-weapons fire for the most part, but it's a -- it's a pretty constant staccato, and there is more and more of it coming. You can hear it snapping and popping in the distance.
You can see Marines here. Obviously, they are taking up perimeters. There are Marines also inside of this industrial complex. This isn't house-to-house. It's warehouse-to-warehouse type of fighting, and it's clearly taking place several hundred yards off to our right as we try to get out of the vehicle here.
You can't hear it because of the sound of the vehicles themselves, but there is a pretty steady amount of gunfire that is going up, and we have been told that this was something to be expected here. BROWN: I'd say, Marty, we are able to hear, assuming that that's not the vehicle -- it doesn't sound like it -- at least a bit of it. Is this the kind of thing that's been going on for your group of Marines off and on now for the last day, these sorts of operations?
SAVIDGE: Yes, it has. It has. It's not -- it's not constant engagement. It is just a constant threat of engagement, and they have been running across, especially in built-up urban areas embedded within the civilian population, apparently, those that are not ready to lay down arms and those that are not ready to run away either, and this is what they have been working to deal with.
Now you still have the main element of the Marines that are pushing forward. But, at the same time, those follow-on elements have to peel off and deal with trying to uproot whatever opposition is out there. We don't know exactly who they are fighting against. Is it regular Iraqi troops, is it remnants of the Iraqi Republican Guard, paramilitary? You don't know.
We just know they're fighting someone right now, and, obviously, to the Marine involved in that fire fight, that's all that matters. And they will continue to try to push forward, but, if this is their objective today, they can be very busy for a long time -- Aaron.
BROWN: Just stay with us a second. We'll just set the stage.
Martin Savidge on your left with the Marines, and they're outside of an industrial complex, as he's just been describing. On the right is a shot that we've been following for sometime.
Now we've lost sight of the A-10 that had been circling that area in close-air support as General Clarke described it, and those are the two pictures that you see.
And I wonder, David, if you might want to flip them for a second and put Marty's in the larger box there -- there we go -- and get a much better feel now of what the Marines are dealing with right now.
This is the kind of stuff, honestly, that, in our coverage, we always worry a little about. These are live pictures and, obviously, real bullets here, and we ought not think of this otherwise.
Marty, feel free to jump in.
SAVIDGE: There's also the rumble of artillery in the background that we can hear. The Marines have a very good system set up of support with artillery. So, regardless of where they travel within the complex zone, they can always call in artillery fire, if they have to.
Then the other thing -- what they bring forward very quickly on an advance like this is they have the mortar teams. Mortar teams are already set up in and around this complex so they can be tasked by those Marines who are closer up in the fighting to say look, we see something here, we see a machine gun that's there, and they can call in accurate fire that way as well. So it's all carefully orchestrated. It is not just a couple of Marines here pointing weapons in the direction of gunfire. This is sort of the back rear unit of the perimeter of this complex.
There are other Marines much closer in and much closer to the fight -- Aaron.
BROWN: Marty, did the Marines find the fire, or did the fire find the Marines? Did they go deliberately to this place looking for something, or did it find them?
SAVIDGE They went deliberately to this place looking for something, whether it was based on intelligence, whether it was simply based on the fact that this was a large facility and good cover for whoever might want to launch attacks or hide.
So this was an objective that was known there was the potential for a fire fight. They came in here prepared for it, and, from the sounds of things, they found it.
BROWN: OK. Marty, hang on a second. Just stay with us, if you can.
I want to go back -- if we can go back to the Baghdad shot for a second, Ron Martz is with "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution," "The AJC," and he's been watching this from somewhere around Baghdad.
Ron, you've had quite a day.
RON MARTZ, "THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION": It's been quite a day.
Actually, I was on the incursion that came in on Saturday, they took a day of rest on Sunday, and then, Monday morning, they came back in. This time, they set up shop, basically, in downtown Baghdad.
At the moment, I'm at a place called Zawra Park, which is on the west bank of the Tigris River. This is a large park. It has a reviewing stand where Saddam used to review his Republican Guard troops. It's got large cross sabers at either end of the parade field. There was a 30-foot statue of Saddam riding a horse directly across from the parade ground, which the troops blew up yesterday morning as sort of a symbol of defiance, the end of Saddam's rein.
At the moment, I'm looking roughly east across the Tigris River. I can't see the river from here, but I see a large plume of black smoke rising from over there.
In the last few minutes, we've had a number of A-10 strikes against some targets that are off to my left, roughly to the north here, somewhere in the vicinity, I believe, of the Al Rashid Hotel, and those strikes seem to have ended for the moment.
We've had some ongoing mortar fire. There's a mortar platoon here from Task Force 164, which I'm embedded with, and they have been firing out at targets in that same general vicinity. BROWN: How long has this been going on, Ron?
MARTZ: Well, the unit came in yesterday morning. They got here roughly about 7:00 a.m. local time, took over the park. They have been in the park -- they were in the park all day yesterday, took a lot of mortar fire during the afternoon, quite a bit of RPG fire from rooftops of surrounding government office buildings or apartment buildings, can't tell exactly what they are, some sniper fire during the day yesterday. You could hear it pinging off the buildings around us.
The evening -- the night was relatively quiet. I could hear some gunfire just to the east of us over toward the monuments of the unknown soldier, couldn't tell exactly what was going on over there. There was another unit over there that I know was kind of pressing forward.
Further to my south, there -- I know there was a presidential palace down there on the bend of the Tigris River that Task Force 464 took over, and I was told this morning they are occupying that particular palace, a beach that's there, on the river, and are in control of that area there.
BROWN: All right. Ron, I must say you've quite a two days. And you've done some terrific work for us today. We appreciate that. Thank you very much.
Let me bring one more voice now into this. And this ought to be actually a fascinating perspective. Jack Laurence was a young man when Vietnam was the war and was there for CBS News and did terrific work then. He's over now -- I mean, he's in Kuwait this morning, but he's been in Iraq covering for "Esquire" magazine and National Public Radio. He is also an author. Took him a while to get his memoirs of Vietnam out, but the book is called "A Cat from Hue." It's out in paperback now.
And Jack, it's hard to believe it's been a year since we talked about that. War coverage changed or essentially the same, the two wars?
JACK LAURENCE, ESQUIRE MAGAZINE: War coverage has changed dramatically as all of us can see from our hotel rooms, our living rooms, the places where we work, in such a dramatic way, that it draws the viewer in, so to speak, in a visceral way, I think Aaron, that we have not seen before.
Sometimes when we file that reporters, television or radio reporters from the scene in other wars, it had certain dramatic effect because the correspondent would be reacting as a human being, would be interviewing soldiers as human beings.
And one could feel the emotion of coming through their words and expressions. But here, we have much of it live or live to tape, that is within a few minutes after it was recorded. And because this has been such a conventional war in some respects, but a guerrilla one as well, it's possible to follow the flow of the battle and to have a sense of whether American and other forces are achieving the kinds of successes or setbacks that had been anticipated before it started.
What really fascinates me, though, is the way in which this type of new war coverage affects the viewer, and how they come to care about the well-being of their soldiers in the field.
It does remind me very much of 1965 to 1967 in Vietnam in two ways. The first is that the American public largely supported the war in Vietnam in that period overwhelmingly so, despite some protests. Whereas in this war, it has been much more unpopular at home at the beginning.
And the second real, sort of the comparison, rather than the contrast, is that in this war, I've been accepted and so have so many of the other embedded reporters by the unit I was embedded to, in my case, the 101st Airborne Division, almost as one of the family. It took a while. It took about 10 days for the troops in my platoon to accept me as one of them, but they did it because I slept out in the desert with them. One morning, it was 34 degrees Fahrenheit when we woke up and 85 degrees later in the day.
But because I went through the rigors with them, you know, digging foxholes and all the rest of it, and just by staying cool, and being accepted, I was able to get the kind of detail in the reporting, which will go into print of course, and some of which went into the daily NPR reports, that I wouldn't have had back in 1965 to '67 in Vietnam.
So you know, these professional soldiers are slow to accept you, but once they do, they show you everything. And that will be remarkable when we see it all in the magazine articles and the books, and in some of the already superb newspaper reporting that I've seen.
BROWN: All right, just hang on. I want to set the stage again, because there's a lot going on on the screen here for viewers to keep track of. In the lower left is a Marine unit that Marty Savidge is with, that's engaged in a fire fight in an industrial area. the big screen on the right, there have been A-10s flying over the city of Baghdad, engaged in close air support, a number of them we don't actually have the feeling, they have now pulled away based on what Ron Martz said, and just because we don't see them anymore. So I'm not sure there's a whole lot there to look at.
And then Jack Lawrence, former CBS correspondent in Vietnam and author, and is now working for "Esquire" magazine and doing some filing for National Public Radio.
Jack, I've got a couple more questions for you, but you're watching all this. You want to ask Marty something? Marty Savidge, our embedded reporter with the Marines?
LAURENCE: Yes, Marty. Are you able to have the kind of full access that you might want? Or are the Marines keeping operational details to themselves? That is, do you have full -- as full access to the news that you might like to have?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we don't get actually detailed outlines as far as what maybe event objectives. We get a brief, that is pretty cursory, where they just say well we're going to go into this industrial complex. Yes, we anticipate that there is going to be opposition. We aren't given in certain occasions like when we went into the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission headquarters there, there were a number of areas we were denied access with the television cameras apparently due to whatever the commander thought might be very sensitive material, and before he got the experts in to ascertain exactly what he had on his hands.
Otherwise for the most part, what you see, how we live and what the Marines do is everything we do with them. There's very few occasions where we are denied specific access. We're told you can't go there, or you can't ask that, or you can't see this. Only detailed maps of the things that they just aren't comfortable with us looking over their shoulder at.
BROWN: Jack, is there -- you talked about, and both of you, actually, we've had conversations about what's gained in the embedding process. Jack, I'm wondering, is there something lost in all this live reporting that comes from the field?
LAURENCE: Well, what I miss most are interviews with the GIs. That's something that is so important, not just for full and free and open information in the process of reporting the war, but I think for the folks back home, they'd like to hear more detail about the lives of the troops, how they're thinking, how they're fighting, how they're feeling, what they're fears may be perhaps.
In my 12 days with the 3rd Battalion, 187th Regiment, the Rakkasans of the 101st, I got to know these fellows in the one company very well. And they were telling me in a detailed way how they felt. I -- they even opened up about their dislikes and -- of some of the things that were going on.
But that wasn't breaking news. That's something for a more detailed report, maybe a book later on. But what I miss in the live television coverage is -- well, two things. Interviews with the GIs and secondly, less rumor mongering. I see an awful lot of that in one place. And it just is very -- it makes me feel uncomfortable to see someone broadcast something as fact, and then have to retract it an hour or two later because all it was was a rumor at the time.
BROWN: Just -- when you were reporting Vietnam, you would go out and you'd get on a helicopter, and you would go out to a unit someplace. And would you spend a day or an hour or a week or all of those?
LAURENCE: Whatever it took to get the story. And one is able to do that here as well, except if the unit is chosen for you.
In Vietnam, we could choose any unit we wished, virtually, except for the Special Forces, unless you spent a lot of time winning their trust and then being allowed to go out with them.
Here, you're using -- your unit is chosen. There's a degree of flexibility in the field. You can move to brigade -- from brigade to brigade. And sometimes I know in at least two cases, journalists have left one division, which was static, and moved to another division, which was going forward, and sent their newspaper reports back from their new division.
So the embedding process, while I think it has worked brilliantly from the strategic level, and also at a tactical level, too. That is, because everyone's able to file. In my case, all my equipment broke down and I had to come back here to Kuwait to get it replaced, and have now been waiting three or four days to get back up to the field.
It's a bit like World War II in that sense. These long lines of communications all going one way, but trying to hitch a ride aboard them can be quite complicated.
BROWN: Just so I want to help viewers out again. Abu Dhabi TV is on the right. And we believe that this is someone who has been wounded, neighbors or family trying to get help to that person. They're carrying him down the street. This is happening, obviously, in real time.
In the lower left, a Marine fire fight in a totally different location outside an industrial complex. And our Marty Savidge is there. At some point, we're going to run the risk, I guess, of information overload going on, but that is the technology we live with these days.
Jack, just a final question or two here. Did you ever imagine you'd be back writing war stories again?
LAURENCE: Honestly, after finishing the "Cat from Hue," I swore I would never cover a war again. But the truth is, I've been unable to write anything serious since finishing the book. And when the "Esquire" job came along, I thought that would be one of getting out of writer's block. I was trying to write a novel, and not getting anywhere. So my writer's block is definitely broken...
BROWN: I'll bet...
LAURENCE: ...in a very direct way.
BROWN: Jack, thank you very much. It's good to see you again. The book is called, "The Cat from Quay." And it's out in paperback and it's a terrific read. Always good to talk to you.
And the right side, we now believe the injured person is someone associated with Al-Jazeera Television. And that would explain them putting that person in a car that had a press sticker on it.
Quickly, we add another voice. Sheila MacVicar is in Damascus. There we are. There's Sheila in Damascus. And Sheila's been reporting on this convoy of Russians, Russian diplomats, who got caught in something nasty yesterday.
Sheila, good morning.
SHEILA MACVICAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Aaron. Well this is an incident that seems very likely not to improve those already somewhat chilly relations between the U.S. administration and the Russians. We're expecting to hear a little later on this morning from the Russian ambassador to Baghdad, who was caught up in this incident. There are a lot of unanswered questions.
Here's the basic gist of the story. On Sunday, the Russian embassy, the remaining embassy staff in Baghdad, along with a fairly large group of Russian journalists in Baghdad, made a decision to leave this city. They say that they discussed escape routes out of the city extensively with U.S. officials at CENTCOM. They told the U.S. that they would be traveling. It was to be a fairly large convoy.
Yet when they got to the outskirts of the city, they came under fire. Now the circumstances and what exactly happened and who was doing what to whom are still a little unclear, but the Russian ambassador to Baghdad says they confronted American armored vehicles, American tanks, and the American forces opened fire on them.
There have been suggestions elsewhere that perhaps they were caught in some kind of crossfire. Whatever happened, the Russians are adamant that it was American forces who fired on them. There were a number of people wounded in that convoy, including the ambassador's own driver, who had been left behind in Iraq in a hospital, where he had surgery late on Sunday afternoon.
Now the Russians say that the convoy was well marked. They were flying the Russian flag. They were in cars marked with diplomatic plates. And of course, they say they had discussed their route with CENTCOM.
They say they tried to signal to the Americans, who they were, to indicate to them that they were not Iraqi, not military, that they were these diplomats who were trying to leave, and that they still came under fire.
Again, as I said, there are still some questions about what happened, some suggestion perhaps that they were caught in crossfire, but the big question is, given the level of coordination, why is it the American forces on the ground didn't know there would be a Russian diplomatic convoy? Why when they saw that convoy, did they open fire? And why did they continue to fire?
BROWN: Sheila, we're going to lose your bird in a minute. So quickly, how close were the -- in the way the Russians tell the story, how close were they to the American soldiers when the firing started?
MACVICAR: Well, they were pretty close. And they certainly were within eyeball distance, because the Russians say they could clearly see American soldiers and American armor.
Now again, as I said, we're hoping to hear from the Russian ambassador a little later on this morning. And so, we're looking for more detail at that time.
Just how far away they were, was there any other -- anything else taking place? As I said, the suggestion that perhaps it was a crossfire between American forces and some form of Iraqi forces, but that is a question that we don't know.
The Russians say that they were clearly visible, and that they were in a convoy, which was clearly marked as a diplomatic convoy. Big question. And you could imagine, of course, the Russians have already made their displeasure pretty clear in Moscow.
Condoleezza Rice, the National Security Adviser of course in Moscow yesterday for meetings with the Russians. They have basically said that they are very sorry that this incident took place. The Americans at CENTCOM haven't been quite as forthcoming yet. They said that initially, of course, they said that they had no U.S. forces operating in the area. And now they're saying well perhaps there was something going on.
As I said, circumstances not clear. The Russians have a lot of questions. And believe me, they're not very happy about this -- Aaron?
BROWN: Sheila, thank you. We won't push our luck with the satellite there. Sheila MacVicar in Damascus, another strain to the story and another strain in a relationship between the United States and the Russians over the war in Iraq.
We have more to go. We'll take a break first. Our coverage continues in a moment.
BROWN: We're keeping an eye on the control room on this fire fight that Martin Savidge is reporting with the Marines. I want to give you a broader view of the day than just one picture, however. This is that picture. And obviously Marty and his group have moved since we last left them. That's a group of Marines. They are in an industrial area. And we'll get back to Marty in a bit.
To the south first. So there a number of things that happened in the course of the day that shaped the picture of the day and then shaped the picture of this war. The citizens in Basra have been living in this kind of never-never land for two weeks of who is in charge and when would the British come in, and would they come, and what was it like. So the view from there, from British pool reporter Tom Bowden -- David Bowden.
DAVID BOWDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Come with me and let me show you what Saddam Hussein has spent some of his smuggled oil revenue on. This, remember, just one of his palaces here in Basra.
We go through the big heavy front door and into a vast entrance hallway. On the floor, as everywhere throughout, marble flooring and intricate detailing.
As we move towards the stairs, you can see throughout the house, more marble, more beautiful woodwork, beautiful paneling. Every tread on the stairs is marble, as far as I can work out.
The detail on some of the paneling is magnificent. Somebody spent a lot of time and a lot of Saddam's money on detailing all of this beautiful, beautiful marketry.
As you move around the corner, the crunch of glass. When the military came in here, they wanted to know that there was no opposition. But when they got here, Saddam wasn't at home.
Again, perhaps ironic, given what's happened, is that a white dove of peace on Saddam's wall? Who knows?
Moving further up, again, you're taken in just by the vast size of the area of this place. But for me, the best part of this house, the most beautiful part is this delicate, almost dovecot like roof space. Beautiful stained glass, intricate tile work, pastel colors.
As you move through, again, the openness. There's not a stick of furniture in this house at all. Nobody has lived here certainly in the last few months I suspect. Probably never. But if you wanted to go to the loop while you were here, there's one for every room. And not just any old toilet. This is what passes as a WC in Saddam's house. I'm expert, but these fittings look at the very least to be made of gold plate, if not the real McCoy all the way through.
BROWN: That's British pool reporter David Bowden.
This is a city of two million people, where there's not enough food right now and not enough water and a fair amount of looting going on. We'll take a look at morning papers from around the country. A short break first. Our coverage continues.
BROWN: All right, time to check morning papers from around the country. And the headline seems to vary very much based no when they went to press today.
We'll start with "The Chicago Sun-Times," because it is the picture of the day. I suspect you will see this picture a lot around the country tomorrow. "Palace Coup" is the headline. And it's American soldiers sitting in one of the Saddam palaces and having their picture taken, very much having a good time in that moment.
"Dallas Morning News" uses the same pictures under the headline, "American Soldiers Have Foothold on Baghdad." Not sure when "The Morning News" goes to press, but if you go to press a little bit later, as "The Detroit Free Press" does, then I suspect your headline, if I can get to it, looks like that. "Bombs Target Hussein, son." That's clearly the lead of the day.
And down at the bottom, I don't know if you can get down there or not, there's a wonderful story. This is a terrific newspaper. "Marine Lucky until 15th Missile." It's a story of a young Marine who got shot. And he calls home, and he says to his wife, I've got good news and bad news. The good news is I'm coming home soon. And the bad news, he says, is I was shot. It's not very bad. He's going to be okay. That's "The Detroit Free Press."
"Albuquerque Journal" today, "Coming to Conclusion" is the headline. For the first time, we're pleased to have this. I think it's the first time. "The New York Times," all the news that's fit to print. "U.S. Blasts Compound in Effort to Kill Hussein" is the major headline in "The New York Times." And it'll be the major headline in a lot of places.
And we haven't done this one before, but this was interesting to me. This is "The Portland Press Herald." This is the newspaper for Portland, Maine. And the big story really isn't the war, "Baghdad Air Strikes Target Top Leaders," though it's obviously prominent. It's a local story, "Jet Fuel Spill reaches Cove, A Truck Accident" and the problems that it caused. So there's a quick look at a few morning papers from around the country today.
Now another in our series of still photographers, Tom Pennington this time. Mr. Pennington working for the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain. He was in northern Iraq months before the war began, stayed there to see the Kurdish fighters facing terrifying new enemy, the suicide bomber.
TOM PENNINGTON, KNIGHT-RIDDER PHOTOGRAPHER: My name is Tom Pennington. I'm currently located about 30 kilometers outside of Kirkuk in northern Iraq.
The landscape was just amazing. They have some of the most beautiful mountains in the world. I arrived in the region the third week of January. My second day in northern Iraq, I went out to the frontlines to begin to get to know the Peshmerga fighters. And I've really invested a lot of time with them. It's been quite amazing to see these guys in action. And they truly believe that it's their duty to liberate their homes from the Islamic extremists.
They know the area better than anyone. And I think that's why the U.S. has capitalized on their force.
That's actually a U.S. Special Forces sniper that was called in and utilized to neutralize some Ansar al-Islam fighters across a valley that were engaging a group of Peshmerga fighters. And the sniper was quite effective.
This was the first incident in which Ansar was able to penetrate the frontlines and effectively carry out a suicide bombing. So in many respects, it changed all the rules. So we rushed over there to find just a very chaotic, gruesome scene.
Unfortunately, grief is really a part of everyday life here. The people, as you can see from the photographs, are very open about their grief. It's obviously not a situation that we would be accustomed to in the States. It's been truly a fantastic experience getting to know the Kurdish people, getting to know a very warm, rich and loving people that has had to deal with some very, very tragic circumstances for many, many years.
I have shown them photos of themselves fighting and what not on my computer. And they seem quite amazed and in awe. And they -- I generally believe that they do understand that we are here to tell the rest of the world their plight and their struggle. And they're quite appreciative of that.
BROWN: The still photos of Tom Pennington. We'll take a break. Daryn Kagan updates the day's headlines. When we come back, we'll rejoin Martin Savidge, who's in the middle of something with the U.S. Marines. Break first.
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