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Interview With Dr. Jim Tulloch of WHO

Aired April 10, 2003 - 08:49   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: The Saddam dead or alive issue: what effect does it have on U.S. military strategy? For more on that, we're joined from CNN Center by Air Force Major General Don Shepperd, a CNN military analyst.
Good to see you again, sir.

So what do you make of all these conflicting reports about where Saddam Hussein is today?

MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it's not irrelevant that they're looking for him. Clearly, the coalition would like to have Saddam Hussein, would like to be able to present him, Tariq Aziz, other of the high level people in the regime, but quite frankly, they don't know where he is, they don't know whether he's dead or alive, and they don't know whether his sons are dead or alive. So although the regime is becoming irrelevant from the standpoint of being able to command and control the forces remaining, clearly, we would still like to have him -- Paula.

ZAHN: So let me ask you about how you go about finding him. The "New York Times" reporting this morning that he was -- a Marine unit surrounded a house in northern Baghdad where they believed Saddam was. Another report saying he had run off to a mosque near his hometown of Tikrit. Explain to us the process that's being used right now to track down any of these theories.

SHEPPERD: Well, basically, you're reacting to intelligence, what you call actionable intelligence, people that you believe in. The CIA has flooded this area for a long time. Special Forces are operating in many places, particularly around the area of Tikrit, which is Saddam's ancestral home, and where much of his regime would likely be congregating for -- quote -- "a final battle," if you will.

So it is the intelligence sources that are quickly reporting, and then trying to verify that before you put troops at risk and launch. Not a good day, by the way, to be a Saddam look-alike, I suspect, wherever you are in Iraq -- Paula.

ZAHN: Yes, that could rub you out, couldn't it? Let's talk a little bit about what you think might be left of Saddam's command and control structure. There was one report, surfaced this morning, suggesting that it's possible that the top leadership could have congregated -- or could be congregated right now and have something up their sleeves.

SHEPPERD: Yes, they probably could have something up their sleeves in final plans and what have you, but their ability to issue an order is probably still there, over radio, telephone, whatever. But their ability to carry it out, to move forces, is simply not there. Whatever they move is going to be hit by air. It looks like the final battle may be shaping up around the Tikrit area. Rumors that there are between 60 and 80,000 forces left of remaining Republican National Guard and regular army forces probably concentrating north of Baghdad between Tikrit and Mosul all being attacked by air power, and of course, watched by Special Forces. The outcome, again, is not in doubt -- Paula.

ZAHN: So, whose job is it specifically to search for Saddam and his sons?

SHEPPERD: Well, I assume that whoever is nearest, when they get an intelligence report is who is going to be sent in, but you can bet that Special Forces and CIA are working hand in hand throughout the country to get the intelligence, and then pass that to Central Command headquarters, who will decide what force then goes after him, or whether to launch a Special Forces operation with helicopters, gunships, etcetera.

ZAHN: Based on all of the information you've been given from your sources and everything you've read, do you think Saddam Hussein is still alive?

SHEPPERD: I'm exactly like you. I simply do not know. All these reports about he was there, he was in the restaurant, big bombs went off, I simply don't know, and we're not going to know until we find him. I hope we don't have an imperfect ending where we own the entire country and nobody has seen Saddam and we simply don't know, but that could be the outcome, Paula, just like we are with bin Laden right now in Afghanistan.

ZAHN: Yes. In fact, we've talked with a number of administration officials who say they very much believe that that mystery could always be alive. Major General Don Shepperd, as always, good to see you. Thanks so much for your time.

SHEPPERD: Pleasure.

ZAHN: Back to Daryn now in Kuwait City.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Paula, want to go ahead and focus on the big push to help the Iraqi people right now. There is an enormous humanitarian effort underway. It is in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, but relief agencies are having trouble getting food and medical aid to the people who desperately need it.

Doctor Jim Tulloch is with the World Health Organization. He is with us right here in Kuwait City, and he is here to talk about the effort by the World Health Organization to get medical help to the people of Iraq.

Dr. Tulloch, thanks for being with us. What is the No. 1 biggest challenge right now in getting medical help to the Iraqi people who need it? DR. JIM TULLOCH, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: I think the real problem right at the moment is the instability, and that means that access to people is limited, and we're very concerned about the deteriorating conditions in hospitals in Baghdad and other cities where from the information we have, the conditions are really bad now.

KAGAN: Just in terms of the safety feature here, I had a chance to talk with a representative of the International Red Cross earlier, and he said they have actually halted services within Baghdad because they don't think it's safe for their workers to be there.

TULLOCH: Well, I think that underlines very well the situation, and the United Nations international staff will not be able to go back until there is a level of security, and I'd like to emphasize, also, that security is not only important from the point of view of international staff, but, obviously, for health workers, health professionals in Iraq who are trying under very difficult circumstances to do their jobs.

One of the main problems that the health services are facing from the information we have is the shortage of staff, and partly that's because in a situation of total insecurity, people will have to stay home, try to protect their houses, try to protect their families and not be able to go and provide services for patients also, just getting to the health services will be more difficult under the current circumstances.

KAGAN: What about the issues of supplies, getting into doctor's offices and hospitals in Iraq?

TULLOCH: Until now, until a few days ago, the supplies was not the main issue. In fact, the health services in Iraq, who had quite well prepared in fact, in stockpiling supplies, had not been reporting shortages.

Of course, if the looting that is going on -- we've heard mention of looting of some government warehouses, if that extends to warehouses where drug supplies are kept, drug supplies for several months are kept, and they are looted, then, of course, shortages of drugs will also become a problem over the next weeks.

KAGAN: And then, also, an important fact not to overlook is that half the population of Iraq is under the age of 18. What does this mean for medical care for the children of Iraq?

TULLOCH: Well, obviously, children are particularly vulnerable. Women, pregnant women are vulnerable too, so there needs to be a particular focus on women and children. Children, for example, are very vulnerable to diarrheal disease. They can die quickly from diarrheal disease, and under the current situation where water supplies is a major issue in some parts of the cities, then diarrheal disease will be increasing. Also, in the hospitals, dealing with trauma and perhaps burns to children, injuries to people of all ages for that matter, dealing with them under unhygienic conditions is also very difficult. KAGAN: You have a lot of work ahead of you. When it's safe to go in, to bring more of your workers in, we wish you well with your work. Dr. Jim Tulloch from the World Health Organization. Thank you very much.


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