CNN INSIDE POLITICS
Saddam's Regime Gone, But No WMDs Found
Aired April 16, 2003 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: One week since Baghdad fell, the government of Saddam Hussein is no more. But Baghdad still smolders and victory is not yet complete. What's next for Iraq?
RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Quickly, you don't think that there's a smoking gun in those documents?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I sure don't.
ANNOUNCER: The war is nearly over, but no Iraqi weapons of mass destruction have been found.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't find them, we got serious issues.
ANNOUNCER: The next battle for President Bush, the economy.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Too many of our fellow Americans are looking for work, and that bothers me.
ANNOUNCER: President Bush tries not to follow in his father's footsteps.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. Thank you for joining us.
It is now seven days since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. In that time, Baghdad and other cities have fallen prey to anarchy and chaos. Looting still goes on, but it is lessening.
Let's go now right to the Iraqi capital and to CNN's Christiane Amanpour. Good evening, Christiane.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Judy, good evening from Baghdad.
As you say, it was almost exactly to the hour, a week since those Marine tanks rumbled into Baghdad, parked right outside the Palestine Hotel, pulled down that statue of Saddam Hussein and basically created the iconic moment of this war. And there has been a lot of chaos since. But in the last day or so, one notices a certain calming of tensions, a certain attempt to return to normal, a little lessening of the looting, except there was another big bank fire today. But there are more and more shops, although very, very slight and scattered throughout the town. Nonetheless, more shops open, some gas stations open, a few restaurants open. People attempting to go about their daily business, more people in the streets.
The Marines here who have basically been tasked with trying to get security and civil administration back, at least in a few steps forward, say that they have now brought 17 tons of medical equipment to one of the hospital centers that they have secured. They are attempting to help with the water. Less than half this city does have water.
In terms of electricity, people are still very worried and anxious about not having electricity, and that affects their basic feeling of security as well. Marines saying that perhaps in the next few days they may be able to bring a little electricity back to a few parts of the city. There have been a few police patrols on the street.
In other words, slowly, slowly, little steps, things are attempting to get better than they were, certainly over the last week. And, of course, there is much greater degree of freedom then there has been over the last 30 years here. People have been demonstrating in small numbers, but, regularly, certainly outside our hotel, where they know the press is, banners have been unfurled, people have been chanting for just about everything, including peace, security and utility.
There have also been demonstrations of freedom of religious expression. The Shiite community, which makes up the majority in this country but has always had its religious freedom curtailed under the Saddam regime, today out on the street marking one of the holy Shiite Muslim months, and one of the holy celebration days.
So things are sort of changing. One can see it, tangibly, under our eyes, but there is still tension in terms of sporadic fire aimed at Marines, and also sporadic looting that still continues, but things, as I say, attempting to get back on somewhat more of a calmer footing - Judy.
WOODRUFF: Christiane, you mentioned, we showed pictures of people demonstrating or rather protesting in the streets. Do you get the sense as you talk to the Iraqi people that they appreciate the fact that now they can do this whereas they couldn't before?
AMANPOUR: Yes, exactly. I hope I tried to make that clear that they do say that they are pleased to have this freedom. One person, several people have said to me, now at least we can breathe freely. We couldn't before. People made sort of these suffocating gestures, and you understand very much their body language. They are saying now at least now we don't have that on our heads anymore. And for that they are grateful. But everybody we meet, and to a man and a woman and a child, everybody says, we need security. We need electricity, water, medical supplies. There's some very basic amenities that people want, and without which they won't feel as if they've really made tangible progress in terms of bettering their lives, at least in the immediate.
WOODRUFF: And then one other thing. Do you get the sense that they understand that these things can't be restored right away, immediately, that it is going to take some time?
AMANPOUR: No, you don't get that sense. Of course, people are terribly impatient. They say, how come? Why isn't the electricity on? Why haven't -- they put a lot of the onus on the Marines or the soldiers. That may be unrealistic. They don't see it that way, and that's what's creating the amount anxiety.
WOODRUFF: All right. CNN's Christiane Amanpour. She's reporting live for us from Baghdad. Thanks, Christiane.
Well, now we move to northern Iraq and the city of Mosul, where passions run high and relations between citizens and U.S. Marines are in a word, tense. According to a Kurdish intelligence official, as many as 12 people were killed in Mosul as a crowd grew angry and the Marines opened fire.
CNN's Ben Wedeman has details.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The situation, the atmosphere in western Mosul is very tense indeed. That is the predominantly Arab sector of the city. Now, we were driving around there today, and were surprised to find that all the Kurdish checkpoints, all the Kurdish troops who have basically been controlling the Arab part of the city had disappeared. The only ones left are a garrison of about 200 Americans holed up in the governor's office there.
No patrols by the Americans whatsoever, and it seems that they are not venturing out of their area, because yesterday there was a firefight in front of the government's office, following a protest by local people against the American presence. Seven people killed in that incident, according to both Kurdish sources, as well as the U.S. Marines who are also here now.
Today, another incident of violence leaving three people dead. Emotions very much on edge in that city. Now, basically, in the western part is the predominantly Arab part of the city. That's two- thirds of the population. The other third is the eastern part, which is the Kurdish area. That's, by and large, a friendly zone. But in the Arab area, these are Arab Sunnis who traditionally have been loyal to president Saddam Hussein during the 1991, the uprising that followed the Gulf War. They did not revolt against the Iraqi leadership. So this area very much a hard core, pro-Saddam area, very much hard for the United States to control.
Now, we were watching this morning as U.S. helicopters were flying over the city very low. An obvious show of force to tell the population in that part of the city that the United States is the force in control. The problem is they control the skies and they do not control the streets in central Mosul.
WOODRUFF: That's Ben Wedeman reporting.
Well, from the winding down of the war in Iraq to another tense spot on the globe, word comes today that the United States and North Korea will meet next week in Beijing in talks that will be multilateral as demanded by the United States. It will be the first direct dialogue between the two countries in six months, but Chinese officials will also be present. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly will be representing the United States.
The main topic will be North Korea's nuclear weapons program and its expulsion of international inspectors. Pyongyang had been holding out for direct one on one talks with the U.S., but Washington had refused, claiming that that could facilitate, quote, "nuclear blackmail."
Well, on Tuesday, the president used tax day, that was yesterday as a backdrop for renewed calls for tax cuts. Today, the president took his message on the road to middle America.
John King joins us now from the White House. With John, a report on what the president had to say.
JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, the president now making his way to Crawford, Texas and the ranch for an extended Easter weekend. But as you noted, Mr. Bush traveling to St. Louis, just happens to be the hometown of one of the Democrats running for president, the House member Richard Gephardt, Democrat of Missouri. Mr. Gephardt among those harshly critical of this president on the economy, even as his popularity increases because of the apparent success at war.
So, Mr. Bush using this appearance at Boeing to put in a brief plug for his economic plan. The president's sustained lobbying, aids say, will being next week when he returns from his Easter break in Crawford, Texas, trying to salvage what he can of a tax cut already cut significantly by the Congress. Mr. Bush speaking to Boeing workers here. They make F-18s at this plant. Mr. Bush saying he was grateful to be around workers involved in the defense industry, those who helped win the war. But he also said that those workers needed to remember that many Americans do not have jobs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Seeing all the good workers here reminds me of one of the big task we have in America. And that is to make sure anybody who is looking for a job can find one.
Too many of our fellow Americans are looking for work, and that bothers me. So I sent some suggestions up to the United States Congress about how to stimulate job growth. And it starts with letting you keep more of your own money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now, the fight over tax cuts and the overall Bush approach to the economy will be the major domestic political battle when the president returns to Washington next week, shaping, of course, the lead up to next year, the presidential reelection year.
Mr. Bush spending most of his time, though, in his speech highlighting the war effort. Mr. Bush paid tribute to the U.S. troops. So far so good, he said, on the issue of bringing Iraqis together to begin to form and shape the future Iraqi, first a tentative administration, then an Iraqi government.
Mr. Bush also talking about his long-term view. He says he sees Iraq as a model, a Democratic state in the Middle East, something that not only the people of Iraq will celebrate. Mr. Bush believing people in other countries in the region will take notice as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We believe that people across the Middle East and across the world are weary of poverty, weary of oppression and yearn to be free.
And all who know that hope, all who will work and sacrifice for freedom, have a friend in the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: The president taking some time to visit the plant and tour the plant, as well. Shaking hands with workers after his remarks as well. Before leaving Washington for St. Louis, the president signed that nearly $80 billion emergency wartime supplemental bill. Money, he says, was absolutely necessary to fund not only the war already fought but the months and months ahead for U.S. troops inside Iraq.
And the president made note in his speech, as well, that now that the regime of Saddam Hussein is gone, it is time for the United States to lift the sanctions that have been on Iraq since the last Gulf war -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: John, to what extent is the White House prepared to deal with the fact that it was members of their own party, Republicans in the Senate, who gave them half of what the president wanted, with regard to his tax cut plan? How are they going to -- what are they going to do about that?
KING: Well, they are hoping the president, himself, can change some minds. We have seen in recent days, members of the Bush cabinet and sub-cabinet members traveling to some of those states, Maine among them, Ohio another one, where you had Republican senators who bucked the president on the tax cut plan. It is the president, himself, we are told who will lead the effort with the help of the vice president when he returns to Washington next week. The hope here at the White House is they can still get something in the area of $500 to $550 billion in tax cuts. But you have many senior Republicans who say, forget about it that the most this president is going to get is some $350 billion in tax cuts. So this will be the first big test of whether this president can transfer his wartime popularity to domestic priorities when he returns to Washington next week, and over the next several weeks as they try to hash this out.
WOODRUFF: And I gather part of the frustration is it was the Republican leadership in the Senate that was going along with this.
KING: There is a great sense of frustration here about that. They say, again, that the president believes he can salvage most of it. But many aids privately saying that to think you can get 550 might be too much.
WOODRUFF: OK, John King at the White house, thank you, John.
Still ahead, weapons of mass destruction. One of the stated reasons, we know, for going to war with Iraq in the first place. Where are they? A military analyst has some insight.
WOODRUFF: In Iraq, U.S. troops raided the Baghdad home today of Rihab Taha, the microbiologist who had been nicknamed Dr. Germ for her work with biological weapons. Well, now that combat has eased off in Iraq, the search for weapons of mass destruction may intensify.
With us to talk about all of this is our military analyst, retired Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy.
General Kennedy, first of all, since these weapons are not so easy to find, to put it mildly, are we looking, you might say, for the proverbial needle in a haystack here?
LT. GEN. CLAUDIA KENNEDY, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, Judy, we are. It's a hard target. There are a lot of places in the country of Iraq that we have not been. And coalition forces will eventually get to all these parts of the country.
WOODRUFF: How do you go about the job of finding these weapons at this point, General?
KENNEDY: Well, there is a list that has been developed of sites that we have strong suspicions about, that coalition forces suspect of being places where WMD weapons might be found. Those were developed by the inspectors from the last number of years, as well as by intelligence reports that are more current.
WOODRUFF: And with all the intelligence information coming in, how -- who, and where and how does that get processed?
KENNEDY: Well, there is a 75th Exploitation Organization that has been discussed today in the "New York times" and other places. And it's about to be beefed up to include a far greater capability, and will be called an inter-agency joint task force. And that task force we have listed there some of the agencies that will be part of the effort.
It will fall under the command of General Abizaid who will report to General Franks. And under General Abizaid will be the group headed by General Garner, doing reconstruction and humanitarian assistance. And then this JTF that has the exploitations capability that is three to four times larger than we have in the 75th.
WOODRUFF: General, we know that a number of finds, if you will, that we have seen so far, looked maybe in the first instance to be weapons of mass destruction, but they haven't actually turned out to be after tests were done. Is that pretty much what we can expect more of? Is there any way to avoid this happening or is this just inevitable?
KENNEDY: I think this is inevitable. And I think it should be viewed as a good thing. Wouldn't it be worse to have a false negative, that is, we think it's not chemical weapons and it turns out that it is. And, furthermore, the greatest number of people out there looking are our military troops.
Their equipment does a much broader scope, not quite so precise and refined, kind of an assessment. When they think they have got a positive result, then it gets turned over to the 75th exploitation group. And then, eventually, to greater and greater levels of expertise. So it's better to have, in my opinion, the broad brush. Let's sweep everything under the microscope that we think might be possible.
WOODRUFF: No question, General. Much better to have a false positive than the other way around. To think there's nothing there and find out that it was.
KENNEDY: That's right.
WOODRUFF: All right. Retired General Claudia Kennedy, thank you very much. Good to see you again.
KENNEDY: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: Well, back here at home, in the United States, war in the Gulf, it turns out, has been kind to presidential approval ratings. Up next, a look at the two Bush presidencies, and the parallels, as they both sought reelection.
WOODRUFF: It was the economy that helped lead to the first Bush presidency lasting just one term. Well, now can the second Bush presidency withstand another economic downturn? The question of the day.
Our Bill Schneider looks into the comparisons between the two presidents Bush. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Spring, 1991. President Bush wins a great military victory over Saddam Hussein. But the economy is weak. The president's victory glow quickly fades. Spring 2003. President Bush wins a great military victory over Saddam Hussein. But the economy is weak.
Will this president's victory glow fade as quickly as his father's did? Twelve years ago when the Gulf war ended, the nation's unemployment rate was 6.8 percent. And the economic growth rate was negative. The country was in recession.
Now, the unemployment rate is 5.8 percent, that's high, but not as high as it was 12 years ago. The economy is growing now, but very slowly. Some are calling it a jobless recovery. A slight difference, but one that shows up in the public's assessment of the nation's economy then and now. Then in 1991, despite all the good feelings about the war, a small majority of Americans said the nation's economy was in bad shape.
Now people are split. Exactly half say the economy is in good shape, just under half say it's in bad shape.
The first President Bush was criticized for being out of touch with ordinary Americans. Especially when he opposed extending unemployment benefits because he was concerned about the deficit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP -- JULY 2, 1992)
GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do remember a time or two in the past where I had to veto legislation that just would have gone wild in terms of spending. And I'm prepared to do that again if we have to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: The current President Bush is pushing Congress to pass an expensive program to stimulate the economy, namely tax cuts.
What about the deficit?
G.W. BUSH: The best way to reduce the deficit is with more growth in our economy.
SCHNEIDER: So, is this President Bush in a stronger position politically than his father was 12 years ago? Apparently not. The first President Bush came out of his war with a spectacular 89 percent job approval rating.
This President Bush comes out with 73 percent approval, very impressive, but not quite spectacular. Both presidents Bush enjoyed solid support with their Republican party base, even though the first President Bush had raised taxes the year before.
Here's the big difference. The first President Bush came out of the war with 80 percent approval from Democrats. This President Bush is at 61 percent among Democrats, almost 20 points lower. The current President Bush is a much more partisan figure than his father was. And this war has been much more partisan than the first Gulf War.
SCHNEIDER: 1991 was the era of good feelings. In 2003, the country is much more partisan, not just because of President Bush. It's also the legacy of the Clinton wars and the very divisive 2000 election.
WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Schneider.
And joining Bill and me now to talk about president politics and the economy is CNN political analyst Ron Brown Brownstein of the "Los Angeles Times." Ron, in your mind, listening to what Bill said, how different is the political and the economic climate today from what it was 12 years ago when the president's father was in office?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think there are some similarities, and there is one big difference. I think big difference is that Gulf War in 1991 ended, and for all intensive purposes, was over in the minds of the Americans. It had no really ongoing relevance.
This war is tied into a large story. Concern about terrorism at home, concern about keeping my own family safe. And in that way, I expect that victory in this war will be more valuable to this President Bush than it was to the first President Bush.
Now, having said that, having said that it's going to be more valuable, whether it is valuable enough to overcome dissatisfaction with the economy, if things don't improve, remains, I think, a very open question.
WOODRUFF: How is that going to be determined, Bill? Election day, obviously, but what in your mind is going to set this apart from '91?
SCHNEIDER: America's continuing presence in Iraq. We cannot leave Iraq. We're going to continue to have thousands, tens of thousands, maybe even over a hundred thousand Americans in Iraq, running that country, for probably a year, maybe more, right into the election season.
Well, tragically, there is the possibility that some of them could be the targets of terrorists. The involvement in Iraq could become deeply controversial. In the first few days, there are already Iraqis protesting American, quote, "rule" of their country.
So, this is ongoing in a way that the Gulf War was not.
WOODRUFF: And what does that mean for this President Bush?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, I actually think that the way this will effect the election and his future is going to be found much more at home than what happens in Iraq. I may be a little bit different than Bill on that. I mean, I think what we have is a split judgment on this president.
If you look at the polling right before the war, you had somewhere between 75 and 80 percent already of Americans saying they approved of the way he was handling national security and defending the country. But his ratings on the economy and health care were only about 40 to 45 percent. And if you would look at those numbers, traditionally, and, say, well, look, this guy is in trouble.
On the other hand, national security matters more than it used to. So, I think, the question we all have to wait for is which one of these is going to weigh more for the American people in 2004. And a lot of that may be driven by events.
WOODRUFF: Bill, how much credit is this President Bush going to get simply for trying to do something about the economy, whether he is successful or not?
SCHNEIDER: Well, that is very important, because his father was perceived as someone who really was out of touch. He didn't seem to have an economic plan. When he finally announced one in 1992, really it came too late. So, I think his indifference and his lack of a populist touch hurt him a great deal.
Remember Bill Clinton ran on empathy. He felt your pain. This President Bush has more of a populous touch, if only because he's a real Texan, and he has that way of talking. So, I thinks he communicates with people in a much more effective way.
BROWNSTEIN: Can I throw in a yes, but? I think it's similar to the question we asked before about foreign policy versus domestic policy. I think you do get points for effort on this, but only up to a point. This is a game, presidential elections that performance matters above all. And he really needs the economy to turn around, much more than he needs to be seen as trying to make it turn around.
The fact is that he is now at risk of being the first president since World War II to have a net loss of jobs over a full presidential term. Even his father had 2 1/12 million new jobs. Clinton had almost 23 million new jobs. Whatever thy try, they need something to work.
SCHNEIDER: That's right.
I think the bottom line is that Americans expect the president of the United States, unrealistically, in my view, to be commander in chief of the economy. Well, no one is commander in chief of the economy. But that's the expectation. And if we've lost two million new jobs -- even the president yesterday promised that, if his tax cut goes through, we'll have 1.4 million new jobs. But there have already been two million lost. And believe me, Democrats are not going to stop talking about that.
WOODRUFF: It's sometimes hard to find a general who can go into battle and conquer the bad part of the economy. OK, we appreciate it. Ron Brownstein, Bill Schneider, thank you both. Good to see you. Appreciate it.
On to more politics now. Democratic presidential contender Dick Gephardt didn't pass up the opportunity to critique the president's trip to his home town of St. Louis, Missouri, today. Gephardt called the economy a -- quote -- "mess" and accused President Bush of not being in touch with the real needs of Americans. He also said the president was -- quote -- "replicating the experience of his father," apropos to what we were just discussing. Gephardt spoke to reporters by telephone from the campaign trail in Phoenix, Arizona.
Well, meantime, a new California poll indicates that no one Democrat in the 2004 race is making a strong impression yet on Golden State voters. The Field poll taken earlier this month shows Senator Joe Lieberman the top choice among California Democrats at 22 percent. Senator John Kerry and Congressman Gephardt are the only other two candidates in double-digits.
And when registered voters were asked to pick between President Bush and an unnamed Democratic nominee, Mr. Bush came out on top, 45 percent to 40 percent.
And now we're going to take you live to Germany to Ramstein Air Base, where the American POWs, prisoners of war, who were just rescued by American Marines a few days ago are reaching Western European soil.
Our Matthew Chance is there at Ramstein -- hello, Matthew.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you as well, Judy.
And that's right. We've just had it confirmed. In fact, we've just watched the U.S. military C-141 transport plane that's been specially adapted to carry injured people from the Iraq fields to here at Ramstein U.S. Air Force Base here in Germany, a short distance from the Landstuhl medical facility.
The seven prisoners of war are on board that plane. The plane landed within the last few minutes. It will be taxiing around to this position just behind me in the next few minutes. There are some 48 people on board; 19 of them are combat injuries. On top of that, we have the seven prisoners of war. They'll be taken by ambulance, we're told, to the nearby Landstuhl medical facility, where they'll receive whatever medical treatment they may require or, indeed, in the case of the prisoners of war, at the very least, the kind of psychological counseling that is now routine for these kinds of people who have endured such an ordeal -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, Matthew Chance.
And, Matthew, we are going to wait for that plane to come around. And if they do come down and come out and talk to you and other reporters on the ground, of course, we're going to go to that live.
But, again, the seven prisoners of war, U.S. soldiers, five of them part of the 507th Maintenance Company. Two are them, Chief Warrant Officers Young and Williams, who were Apache helicopter pilots, are on the ground in Frankfurt, Germany, Ramstein Air Base. We're going to take you there live as soon as they come off the plane and when they start to talk.
Our coverage continues. We'll be right back.
WOODRUFF: This is the scene in Ramstein at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, near Frankfurt, where a transport plane carrying seven former American prisoners of war has just landed.
These five soldiers, who were part of the 507th Maintenance Company, along with two Apache helicopter pilots, were rescued just days ago in Iraq, where they were being held by Iraqi soldiers. They were taken to Kuwait for a couple of days. Now they are getting closer to home, again, their plane just having landed near Frankfurt, Germany, at Ramstein Air Base. We're going to keep watching the scene there. And if they come to cameras, we're going to talk to them.
Right now, let's go to Matthew Chance. He's on the ground at Ramstein Air Base.
Matthew, you are watching as we do. What are the plans for the seven former POWs there?
CHANCE: Well, I don't know whether you can still hear me, because this plane is pulling up right behind me (INAUDIBLE) I can certainly hear you, though, through my earpiece.
The plan for these seven prisoners of war is, at least in the first few minutes, they'll be met off the plane by senior military figures of the U.S. armed forces here at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. They'll be taken by ambulance, along with the 41 other people on board this plane, 19 of whom were injured in combat in the Iraqi theater. So they're very close by Landstuhl, the U.S. Army medical facility, just a few miles from where we're standing by now.
They'll been taken by road. That journey will take the best part of half-an-hour. What we're told will happen to them is that they will be given medical check-overs. They've already received some degree of medical attention. They've been, in the past few days, remember, in Kuwait, where they've received whatever medical attention the ones among them needed.
They've also started that long process of debriefing and the kind of psychological counseling that's become routine in the U.S. military when people have been through this kind of ordeal. And we are told by medical officials here that any further medical treatment will be continued here, that some of those on board may require further surgery. Certainly, they'll have to be checked over to see if everything is in order. And that process of debriefing those individuals before they can eventually be OKed to go back to the U.S. will be continued here in Landstuhl for at least a few days, we're told -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: And, Matthew, what sort of crowd is on hand there at the airport? Are you able to tell who is there to greet them?
CHANCE: Yes, it's actually quite a discrete affair. Certainly, there are a lot of journalists that have been allowed out here onto the airstrip of the U.S. Air Force base at Ramstein here.
We're told they'll be met by the commander of this air base, Erwin Lessel, who is a brigadier general. He'll be shaking their hands as they get off the back of that C-141 military transport aircraft.
What we are expecting over the course of the next few minutes is the back of that aircraft to lower down. And we're told that the first seven people to get off that plane will be the prisoners of war themselves. It's not clear whether we'll get a chance to speak to them. Certainly, we hope we will. But in the past, what's happened is that the injured people who get off the back of that plane, they are carried off. They are taken straight on to the awaiting buses or the awaiting ambulances and ferried, as I say, by road to the nearby Landstuhl medical facility -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: And, Matthew, while we're waiting for that to happen, we know that this plane or planes like it have been used during the war to bring wounded soldiers and Marines back to Germany and then even on to the U.S. for medical treatment. Isn't that right?
CHANCE: That's right.
Landstuhl, the medical facility a short distance from here, is the biggest U.S. military hospital outside of the United States. It's been the main transit point for all of the -- or for the vast majority, at least -- of the combat injuries and the other injuries that have been incurred in the Iraqi theater. Medical officials at the Landstuhl medical facility say they've had some 1,500 or more people pass through their wards, receiving medical treatment, most recently, of course, most prominently, Jessica Lynch, the former prisoner of war who was rescued so dramatically by U.S. special forces inside Iraq.
This journey of this C-130 aircraft -- or, rather, of the prisoners of war on board it has also been very long and arduous. Remember, these seven American prisoners of war were captured in Iraq in two separate incidents, the first one being the ambush of the convoy of the 507th Maintenance Company; the second when an Apache helicopter gunship was brought down south of Baghdad.
They were held for nearly two weeks, sometimes in isolation from their colleagues. And I think we all remember very clearly those disturbing images when the prisoners of war were paraded on Iraqi television. I remember Shoshana Johnson, one of the people who was held prisoner of war, looking absolutely terrified in those pictures. I remember that very clearly. I think a lot of people do -- before they were finally tracked down and rescued by U.S. forces in the region.
Now, as I have mentioned, they, for the last few days, have been in Kuwait, where they've been receiving medical treatment, psychological counseling. That will continue, we're told, here in Landstuhl.
WOODRUFF: Well, Matthew, as we watch these pictures of the plane, the transport plane, there on the ground and we wait for the door to open to see these prisoners of war, we want to talk by telephone with someone who has got to be very happy to see this live picture out of Germany.
Her name is Kaye Young. She is the mother of Apache helicopter pilot, Chief Warrant Officer Ron Young.
Mrs. Young, what are you thinking and feeling right now?
KAYE YOUNG, MOTHER OF FORMER POW: Pray that they are all all right and they are feeling well and that they'll have -- be able to come home soon.
WOODRUFF: When was the last time you spoke with your son, Chief Warrant Officer Young?
YOUNG: I spoke with him Sunday.
WOODRUFF: And, let's see, today is Wednesday. So it's been several days since you talked to him. When are you going to get to see him? Do you know yet?
YOUNG: I don't know. They still haven't told us. It depends on where they come into in the United States -- probably by maybe Saturday.
WOODRUFF: How did he sound when -- he's 26, is that right?
YOUNG: That's right.
WOODRUFF: How did he sound when you spoke with him?
YOUNG: He sounded good. He sounded like -- he was joking. He sounded fine. He told us he had lost 20 pounds. And he just was very friendly, very affectionate, said he couldn't wait to see us. He loved us. He missed us.
WOODRUFF: And what did he say about his experience? How much did he say about that?
YOUNG: Nothing. He really just -- they really didn't want us to ask any questions like that. So -- and it was like a five-minute phone call. So it wasn't really very long. But he just said that -- his daddy asked him if they fed him well. And he said: Not really. I lost 20 pounds.
And then I asked him if they treated him well. And he said that not -- that the last few days were all right, but, before that, it was pretty rough.
WOODRUFF: Well, I know you must be excited to be -- I assume you've got a television screen somewhere near where you are to be watching these pictures of your son about to set foot on German soil on his way home.
YOUNG: Well, of course I do.
WOODRUFF: That's one of those questions we have to ask, but we know what the answer is, Mrs. Young.
YOUNG: That's right.
WOODRUFF: We're going to ask you to stay with us for a moment as we watch this picture.
I also want to bring in to our discussion here Joseph Collins, who is the deputy assistant secretary of defense for peacekeeping and humanitarian affairs.
And, Secretary Collins, I, of course, want to talk to you about peacekeeping efforts in Iraq now. But before I do, you and everyone else at the Defense Department must be excited about these prisoners of war heading home.
JOSEPH COLLINS, DEP. ASST. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Judy, we are all excited. Those of us who are civilians and those of us who are in uniform are just tremendously excited. And we're delighted that they are home. And we salute our soldiers and Marines in the field who were able to rescue them in such an efficient manner.
WOODRUFF: While we're watching this transport plane about to open some doors and let the former prisoners of war out, I'm talking with the deputy assistant secretary of defense for peacekeeping, Joseph Collins.
Mr. Collins, I want to ask you about how many troops are going to be needed to keep the peace in Iraq, because, some weeks ago, the chief of staff of the Army, General Ric Shinseki, said it would be on the order of 100,000 or more, several hundred, perhaps. Now you have Defense Secretary Rumsfeld saying, we're reducing the force in Iraq.
How many do you think it's going to take?
COLLINS: Judy, the exact numbers and the fore-structure are being worked not so much back here in Washington, as they are by the people in the field, who have a much better sense of what the immediate threat are and what the requirements are going to be. I would think, in the initial months, it would be a very substantial force. And then, as time went on, it would be thinned out.
We also have to remember that this is a coalition operation and it won't only be U.S. forces. But it will be members of the coalition, many of whom are there right now, but also others who will come in and who will volunteer to send troop units for the stability operations phase.
WOODRUFF: Secretary Collins, a couple months ago, I believe you had said that it was going to be primarily civilian agencies in charge of the reconstruction, rebuilding and so forth. Now we know, of course, General Jay Garner, retired, has been appointed by the defense secretary to run all this. How long before we're going to see a lot of this handed over from the Defense Department to these civilian agencies?
The thing to remember about Jay Garner, first and foremost, is that the outfit that he's leading, which we call the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, that outfit is really an interagency task force. Most of the people who work for Jay are from different agencies other than the Department of Defense. He has a full representation of people from the State Department, the Agency of International Development. He has advisers from Treasury and whatever.
And his deputies are all civilian. His deputy for humanitarian assistance is Ambassador George Ward. His reconstruction director is Lou Luck (ph), who is a career USAID -- that's Agency for International Development -- official.
WOODRUFF: So you're saying it's a group of people from different agencies.
WOODRUFF: I do want to ask you one other thing, because we are watching this transport plane. We're waiting to see the former POWs come out.
There are a number of scholars who have talked about the emptying, the looting of the Iraqi National Museum. They are saying that they met with you and other Defense Department officials in the period leading up to the war and that they received assurances that this important museum would be protected. Did they get those assurances, Secretary Collins?
COLLINS: Judy, there were, in fact, a number of meetings. And what we were doing, essentially, was what we call humanitarian mapping. And it wasn't just archaeological sites and museums and whatever, but it was any number of sensitive facilities, from mosques and religious institutes, all the way down to diplomatic facilities and whatever that we were putting into a database that would be used by...
WOODRUFF: So no special request to protect the museum? Is that what you're saying?
COLLINS: Well, there were lots of requests for special protection from a number of different people. But we made it, I thought, very clear that we could make no guarantees about what would happen during or after the war.
And truth be told, a lot of things we would like to have prevented happened in Baghdad. And it is certainly regrettable that the museum was attacked, but this is a war. And in a war, things happen that are -- that range from unexpected to absolutely horrible. And, clearly, if our troops had an opportunity, they would have protected those facilities. But they were engaged in a lot of different tasks at that time, one of which was active combat in a number of different places in Baghdad.
WOODRUFF: Well, Joseph Collins, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for peacekeeping and humanitarian affairs, we thank you so much for talking with us today. I know we're going to be talking to you in the future, as these peacekeeping effort go forward. Thank you very much for talking with us.
COLLINS: My pleasure, Judy.
(INTERRUPTED BY LIVE EVENT)
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com