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CNN BREAKING NEWS

New Strikes Vital To American Control in Iraq

Aired November 12, 2003 - 13:47   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: As a matter of fact, General David Grange, retired Army, joining us on the line right now. And I'm hoping he had a chance to hear that. General Grange, you with us?
BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I'm with you.

O'BRIEN: All right, were you able to hear that sustained series of explosions?

GRANGE: I could. It seems like obviously it's a series of coordinated attack. You know there was a warning put out by American commanders that if the sustained assaults on Americans continued at 35 a day that there would be repercussions. That, in other words, the U.S. would take more offensive action. And it seems like a series coordinated attack against hind sights or cache sites.

O'BRIEN: Coordinated attack. We were told a little while ago that it was a specific individual building that was the focus of this. Sounded like a tremendous number of explosions for one structure.

GRANGE: Well it could be multiple strikes in a larger building like the warehouse. It could be simultaneous detonating munitions that have been stored at this site. And it could be when you hit one specific target quite often, you hit surrounding targets in order to isolate the objective area. And it could be that.

O'BRIEN: So the thought that if it were, in fact, an armory, obviously several additional explosions might ensue.

GRANGE: Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk for a little bit about the big picture here. As the U.S. escalates the reprisals as the terrorists have escalated their campaign, what are the risks for the U.S. military?

GRANGE: Well, it's not -- Miles, it's not just the reprisals. What I think it is, one thing we learned from operations in the Philippine, what the Brits learned in counter insurgencies in Malaysia, that you have to maintain contact with the adversaries.

And that in this case, it's not an army maneuvering on the battlefield but guerrilla cells here and there, it requires aggressive patrolling and pursuit. And so you've got to grab them by the nose, as they say. And so you have that going on, in a very aggressive manner. And think it's picked up in the last week, again, just to counter the pick up of the guerrilla pace. O'BRIEN: And so when you say maintain contact with the adversaries, in other words, it's important to get off the defensive?

GRANGE: Yes. See in other words, it's almost like 24/7. In other words, you don't say, well tomorrow we're going to do three raids, or five patrols. And then the day after we'll do another six, or whatever. You do them continuously at unpredictable times to keep the adversary off balance, to keep the adversary off-balance, to keep the adversary guessing.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) what the adversaries are doing to the coalition forces right now. In other words, you start pick the time and place, not this allowing the enemy to pick the time and place.

O'BRIEN: There has to be a concern that is weighed among the general officers when something like this is contemplated on the possibility of collateral damage. How is that weighed into a decision like this?

GRANGE: Always weighed in. Always weighed in. And it's a disadvantage, though morally correct, for military that works for a democratic nation like the United States, Great Britain, et cetera.

And so it -- it puts you at a bit a disadvantage, but you have to be cognizant of collateral damage, you target accordingly, and you're very concerned as well as to civilian casualties, the noncombatants in the area. And so sometimes your targeting is restricted and you have to live with it and adapt.

O'BRIEN: So what you're saying is, of course, the U.S. is playing by an entirely different set of rules.

GRANGE: Entirely different set of rule because one, the United States military abides by the rule of land warfare, the Geneva Conventions and Whatever the stated rules of engagement are for this particular campaign. The guerrilla forces have none, zero, rules of engagement, zero care about the Geneva Conventions, or the rules of land warfare.

O'BRIEN: To what extent is it factored in, not just the issue of collateral damage, but what collateral damage can lead to, which is a hardening of positions against the U.S. occupation?

GRANGE: Right. Because, physically if you destroy a coffee shop, a shoe factory, or something like that by mistake, the person that owns that really doesn't care that you're in a fight, in this particular case, you're in a fight with terrorists or with guerrillas. They're just concerned about their physical well being and their business. And so, yes, you alienate yourself from the population.

O'BRIEN: Having said all of that, is this the appropriate tact to take right now for the U.S. military, given all that has occurred over just the past few weeks?

GRANGE: There's no choice. With one hand, you show strength. And that is maintaining contact, aggressive pursuit of the guerrilla forces. The other hand, you show compassion and you rebuild the nation through the stability operations, through the aid, the situation with the -- supporting the infrastructure. You just have to do that.

O'BRIEN: It's an apparent dichotomy. And I wonder how this factors in to the stated desire on the part of the administration -- I hope -- do we still have you, General Grange?

GRANGE: We have you, go ahead.

O'BRIEN: I wonder how this fits into their stated desire to sort speed up the process of instilling Iraqi sovereignty?

GRANGE: Well, it will speed up the transfer. See, right now, we're in a transition period. It's a very critical period. The bad guys smell blood. They know, for instance, when the Chinook went down the other day, then a Black Hawk, the constant corroding effect on the American public of losing a G.I. a day and eight wounded a day, is starting to affect the will of Americans.

The same thing with the alienation of any Iraqis is starting to affect the will of the Iraqis to go the distance, along with the Americans' pursuit of a new democratic governance in this nation. So it's a critical transition period that requires robust response, both with a passion and force.

O'BRIEN: Retired Brigadier General David Grange, United States Army thanks for dialing in, we appreciate your insights in such a timely way.

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