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CNN PRESENTS: War Stories From the Front Lines

Aired March 14, 2004 - 20:00   ET


CAROL LIN, CNN HEADLINE NEWS, ATLANTA: I'm Carol Lin at the CNN Center in Atlanta. CNN PRESENTS "War Stories from the Front Lines" is next, after a look at the headlines.
Spain's Socialist Party is celebrating a stunning victory in today's parliamentary elections. The Socialists trounced the reigning Popular Party, which has been heavily criticized for its handling of the Madrid train bombing probe. Many Spaniards have accused the government of covering up evidence in Thursday's attack, which killed 200 people.

A possible payback for twin suicide bombings today in Israel. Just over an hour ago, Israeli helicopters fired several missiles in Gaza City. There's no word of casualties. The attack came hours after suicide bombers killed 10 people in Israel's port city of Ashdod.

Attorney General John Ashcroft is now at home recovering from gall bladder surgery. Ashcroft was released from a Washington hospital today, five days after undergoing surgery. There's no word on when Ashcroft will return to work.

Honoring Iraq's war dead. Demonstrators marched in front of Dover Air Force Base today in memory of the U.S. troops killed in Iraq. Coming at 10 o'clock, I'm going to be talking with one of the participants, a mother who lost a son in the war.

I'm Carol Lin. Now, CNN PRESENTS.

ANNOUNCER: This is a special presentation of CNN PRESENTS.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT, IRAQ: North of the Euphrates River, we have seen probably 20 or so Iraqi soldiers dead, lying close to the road.

WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT, IRAQ: It turns out that one of those soldiers is still alive.

RODGERS: All of a sudden, this guy sits up. You know, it's like one of those bad movies, where everybody in the morgue is dead except one guy who sits up under the sheet. And they were just horrified.

SAVIDGE (IN IRAQ): The Marines continue to drive into the southeastern suburbs of Baghdad. The 1st Battalion 7th Marines has been tasked with the job of cleanup. It is house-to-house searches sometimes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come outside! Everybody in the house needs to come outside. Keep your hands up.

SAVIDGE: Your heart just aches. You want to run up and grab those children and let them know, it's all right.

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was clear that inside that city, there were the bodies of several Marines still there, still lying there. And the commander of our battalion made it top priority to go back and recover those bodies.

And that's when I saw one of the most incredible scenes of that entire experience - the U.S. officers digging with their bare hands the ground, digging up body parts of their fallen comrades.


ANNOUNCER: These stories and more ahead on "War Stories from the Front Lines."

AARON BROWN, HOST, CNN PRESENTS: It is - or was - the most televised war of all time, a conflict covered like no other.

Welcome to a special edition of CNN PRESENTS. I'm Aaron Brown.

It was a year ago this week that the war with Iraq began. And so on this anniversary, we want to take you back to the front lines. For if that war with Iraq yielded one thing, one word, that word was "embed."

Hundreds of journalists rolling right along with the troops all the way to Baghdad and beyond, transmitting 24 hours a day, live via satellite through the course of the war.

Over the next hour, we'll bring you some of those moments, some of the perspective from those who were there.

This is not, of course, the entire story of the war. These are just some moments, some events - some big, some small - that help bring the conflict into sharper focus.

And so we begin at the beginning, a mad dash through the southern desert of Iraq.

CNN's Walter Rodgers and photographer Charlie Miller, embedded with the Army's 7th Cavalry. And we warn you, this is war. And some of what you are about to see is graphic.


WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT, IRAQ: A giant wave of steel sweeping northward across the Iraqi desert. And imagine that hourly, the size and scope of that wave of steel increases.

RODGERS: I knew that we were making history there, because we were broadcasting real-time pictures of the push towards Baghdad, albeit with the 7th Cavalry.

So, I tried to impress the viewers with this sense of history. Folks, you're seeing this first-hand. You've never seen anything like this before.

RODGERS (IN IRAQ): And that steel wave seems to grow in momentum and power with every hour, as more forces coalesce and move towards Iraq.

RODGERS: And I described it as a wave of steel, because it fanned out across the horizon. There were Bradley fighting vehicles, and M1A1 Abram tanks.

RODGERS (IN IRAQ): The situation here appears to be increasingly tense. A few moments ago, out on the horizon, not very far ahead of the U.S. Army's 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry, we heard more than a few explosions.

CHARLIE MILLER, CNN PHOTOGRAPHER: When we broke through into Iraq, it was still dark. We drove through the night. Got to a refueling point. And it was only then I began to appreciate how big this unit was, when you saw it spread out across acres and acres of desert.

So, you know, I would have a tank, you know, 200 meters or 200 yards to my right. And then I would swing the camera to the left, and there was a Bradley vehicle coming up on the side. And then behind us, there would be other vehicles. And it was just an amazing ride.

RODGERS: At one point, I could see bullets, you know, hitting the dust beside us, 20 feet out on either side of the car. We could hear the RPGs going overhead. We could see the antiaircraft 20 millimeter going over our head.

At first it was exhilarating. And it remained exhilarating throughout the whole experience. That is to say, we were on an adrenalin high.

I love to quote Winston Churchill who once said, there's nothing so exhilarating as being shot at and missed. And that's true.

RODGERS (IN IRAQ): We have been under heavy fire for the past couple of miles, mostly small arms fire. But the sandstorm has enabled the Iraqis to come very close to the road. And if I sound a little nervous, it's because we're in a soft-skinned vehicle, and everybody else is in armor.

RODGERS: It was a sandstorm of Biblical proportions. And there were more than a few. It cut your eyes. The sand cut your eyes. And your tear glands just dry up. They can't possibly keep all the dust out.

And I remember awakening one night in the middle of a sandstorm - and we were sleeping right out in the middle of it - and my tears had formed a mud cast, and I couldn't get my eyelashes open, because the tears and the mud sealed your eyes closed. So you had to pick the mud off your eyelashes, so you could open your eyes the next morning.

PAUL JORDAN, CNN SECURITY ADVISOR: One particular night, we were leading - we were driving up to Najaf, to secure three bridges on the northwestern side.

Driving through the night about nine o'clock, we saw - I saw the tracer rounds coming in, bouncing off the tank. Somebody in the car said, is that a flare? And I said, no. We're in an ambush. We're being shot at.

RODGERS: They went through the uncharted road. There was the north - northern bank of the Euphrates. And there were a lot of palm trees, date palm trees there. It looked just like Southeast Asia - rice paddy type things and big tall palm trees.

And the tanks couldn't move their 120-millimeter guns if they came under fire. And no one had scouted the road. And the first tank across the bridge collapsed the bridge - pancake, boom. And then we're all trapped there.

Now, if the Iraqis were anything other than a fifth-rate army, if they were the Vietcong, we would have been cut up that night.

We were sort of trapped there, but we weren't under fire at that point. That could have been a very messy, ugly situation.

RODGERS (IN IRAQ): North of the Euphrates River, we have seen probably 20 or so Iraqi soldiers dead, lying close to the road, all of them obviously injured, with bullet holes.

RODGERS: There were many, many dead Iraqis lying in fields, and particularly on the side of the road. We would see scores of them, just lying there in the road. And there was no - I think one of my most unpleasant experiences was when we went to our final staging position south of Baghdad, and there were more dead Iraqis in the road.

RODGERS (IN IRAQ): They say dead people have the look as if they're asleep. There was none of that. This was the look of death by contortion and violence.

RODGERS: I saw somebody look very avariciously at a silver watch on a dead Iraqi soldier. And I gave that individual a stiff lecture. You never take from a dead man.

RODGERS (IN IRAQ): Earlier in the morning, of a burned out armored personnel carrier and a burned out Soviet T-72 - Soviet vintage T-72 tank, we had seen a number of bodies there. But as one of our crew was walking by, it turns out that one of those soldiers is still alive. We're not sure of the condition.

JORDAN: And I looked around, and one of the Iraqis that we had presumed was dead, did move.

RODGERS: All of a sudden, this guy sits up. And he jumped. You know, it's like one of those bad movies where everybody in the morgue is dead except one guy who sits up under the sheet. And they were just horrified.

JORDAN: I ran to him and I was concerned that he might have a weapon, but he didn't. He put up his hands. He broke down.

He started crying. He started praying. We started treating his wounds and stabilizing him.

But he survived the night and got better. And it was just one of those uplifting experiences that we all needed at that point in time, because we were surrounded by death. If we couldn't see a dead body, we could smell it.

MILLER: The strongest feeling might have been the sadness I felt for, you know, some of the dead bodies, the individuals that I knew had died a violent and, you might think, a senseless death.

RODGERS: My counsel to anyone who's ever been in the situation - and I would tell the soldiers this - never look them in the face and never get a fixed image of a dead Iraqi in the road, because it - the camera in your mind will keep it with you for life.


BROWN: The battle for Nasiriya wasn't supposed to be much of a battle at all. But this town in the south-central part of Iraq became the scene of one of the fiercest fights in this short war.

CNN's Alessio Vinci and photographer David Allbritton were with the 2nd Marines.


ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What really struck me when we arrived on the outskirts of Nasiriya was that there was no sense that we were at war. All those - this huge convoy with trucks with their headlights on, driving unchallenged and undisturbed in the middle of the Iraqi desert.

Nobody had thought that there was going to be a fight.

The following day, we encountered what was the first reality of war. And that was a maintenance unit of the U.S. military that was ambushed, just outside of Nasiriya.

DAVID ALLBRITTON, CNN PHOTOGRAPHER: You could see two of the vehicles from the convoy - the Army convoy - were just burning, I mean, just bright orange flame.

And behind them was an oil refinery, and some of the pipes had been ruptured. And there was this black, thick smoke coming out. And it just looked like a scene out of, you know, Dante's Inferno. It was just this (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

VINCI: At that moment, early in the morning, two senior Marines officials arrived at the scene. And they said, you have to keep that supply route open. You have to open up. We need it by today. Now, the plan was to leave the city to our left, meaning to, you know, to just bypass the city and keep just the main supply route open.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (IN IRAQ): We're turning around right now.

ALLBRITTON: He went and made our turn into the side. Basically, this is out at the outskirts.

VINCI: Now, what happened is, was that the companies, the other companies at this time, were behind us. And especially one of them, the Charlie Company, they went straight instead of, so, instead of following us to the east, they went straight. And they went straight into the city.

And so, and they basically pushed forward until they start being, you know, they were met by a barrage of RPGs - or rocket-propelled grenades - and all kind of incoming.

And that's when the real battle of Nasiriya began, if you want.

ALLBRITTON: I mean, they basically ran into the jaws of the beast. I mean, it was horrendous. And you hear that they were just, you know, fighting for their lives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (IN IRAQ): We've got Marines outside.

ALLBRITTON: I mean, literally, they were maybe half a kilometer away from us, or a kilometer away from us. And they were in this nasty fight, and we're bogged down on this side. So we couldn't even get there to help them.

VINCI: We arrived there several hours later, and it was clear that something horrible was going to happen.

ALLBRITTON: I had my camera and I looked down, and see them carrying a body past me.

You know, and one of the worst jobs that you have to do as a cameraman is take pictures of dead bodies.

So, they were reverently carrying this guy and - and somebody's husband, somebody's brother, somebody's son is not with us anymore.

VINCI: When you lose 18 colleagues in a firefight of that magnitude, I mean, I think that it has to have an impact.

On the following day, the commander of our battalion made it top priority to go back and recover those bodies. And this is a very, very important thing, especially in the Marine Corps. You don't leave anybody behind, nor dead, nor alive. And then, so they wanted to get those bodies back.

And that's when I saw one of the most incredible scenes of that entire experience. And this was U.S. officers digging with their bare hands the ground, picking up body parts of their fallen comrades. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (IN IRAQ): Lord, our God, the death of our brothers ...

VINCI: None of the Marines ever considered that the battle for Nasiriya, you know, losing 18 Marines was some kind of a defeat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (IN IRAQ): Just like to say a few words (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ...

VINCI: You know, to them the mission was controlling the bridges, controlling the main supply route. Mission accomplished, mission successful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (IN IRAQ): All those Marines laid down their lives for us here today. They'd do it again in a heartbeat, and they're all watching us. They've got our backs.

VINCI: It reinforced them, the belief that this is something that's, you know, they know that when they go to war, when they leave the United States to go to war, dead or alive, they're going to come back.


BROWN: The Marines have a saying about taking a city. It goes like this. Be polite, be professional and be prepared to kill everyone you meet.

Such is the nature of urban combat, where every door and every balcony is a potential death trap.

CNN's Martin Savidge and photographer Scott McWhinnie and Gerard Cain (ph) were with the 7th Marines as they secured towns, raised fears and fought for their lives, all the way to Baghdad.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (IN IRAQ): All right, I'm popping this corner. And they've got a door. Looks like it goes into like a shed.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This was closer to Baghdad. This is when we started to get into the urban areas. And this is where it gets dangerous for the Marines, because it is now house-to- house kind of searching.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (IN IRAQ): Can you see in it?


SAVIDGE: Alleyways and a doorway or a balcony - any of those could be lethal for a Marine unit on foot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (IN IRAQ): See the one with the blue tarp on it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (IN IRAQ): Yes, I've got it. I see it. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (IN IRAQ): That's the (UNINTELLIGIBLE). <00:03:05>

SCOTT MCWHINNIE, CNN PHOTOGRAPHER: We were being fired at from in the fields at the back. So, had to go in. And they see two people move down from walls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (IN IRAQ): We've got a window to the right.


SCOTT: So, we go into the house, kick in the door.

SAVIDGE: And Marines go in. And they're shouting in English, and they're knocking on the doors. And there's a lot of commotion. And the family inside is obviously afraid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (IN IRAQ): Come out. Come out. Open the door. Open the door. Get your hands up and come outside. Come outside.

Everybody in the house needs to come outside. No, keep your hands up. Everybody come outside.

SAVIDGE: So the father comes out initially, and he seems to be sort of trying to say that his family is inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (IN IRAQ): Out here in the yard. Out here in the yard. Keep going. Keep going. Keep going.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (IN IRAQ): Yes, clear the house now.

SAVIDGE: And the look on his children's face, and his wife, are just horror. They're terrified. And you want to run up and grab those children and let them know it's all right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (IN IRAQ): Hey, let's sweep on down straight.

SAVIDGE: And then what we'd feel is sort of very angry at the Marines, because of the trauma that they're inducing on a family.

And you forget that, you know, they're trying to clear a village, a town. And they're trying to control a population, and that there are embedded within that population, people trying to murder them at that moment.

So there are a lot of emotions that go through.

The day had come where units were getting into Baghdad. And this seemed like the grand finale, the big finish.

One of the biggest problems we had throughout our whole ordeal was our vehicle, which we relied on for transportation and transmission, broke down. And some days it was starting OK, and other days it would quit. And we had to - we began to understand that it would quit at the most inopportune times, usually when the fighting started. So we were then towed - one Humvee up front, tow bar in between, and our Humvee immediately following.

Crossing that canal, that bridge, was the tripwire that we were actually in Baghdad.

GERARD CAIN (ph), CNN PHOTOGRAPHER: We go across the bridge - Tigris, the big one - (UNINTELLIGIBLE) against Baghdad center. And it's really weird, because we were sort of - we had listening to the radio, and it was like, quite quiet. And, you know, you think this is a bit weird. And the guys were like, it's unusually quiet.

So, we go over the barrier, turn around, and then a boat on the river like opens up and starts firing at us. So I'm trying to climb out the car to film. The car is still moving.

And I get out and start trying to film, and the bullets are just pinging off the car.

So I'm trying to get back in the car, and then the car goes without me. So I'm running to try and get in the car.

SAVIDGE: And then suddenly off to our left, there were several explosions.

SAVIDGE (IN IRAQ): We also have another photographer in the top of an APC, which is right beside us. And that is Scott McWhinnie, also with CNN.

SAVIDGE: I see an Amtrac with Scott the photographer in it, and the command are shooting from up there. And it goes running into a wall, knocks a wall down of the university. And that's when the driver of the Humvee that was towing us said, we are going in. Hang on.

And I thought, going in? Going - you mean in there?

SAVIDGE (IN IRAQ): So, we climb the curb, over the fence (ph).

SAVIDGE: We're getting hurled into the air. The vehicle's getting thrown here and there. And I can barely, you know, all of us in the vehicle were just trying to hang on. I thought for sure we'd lose the connection, because it was just so crazy.

It was like Toad's wild ride.


SAVIDGE: Once we got into the alfalfa field, we're right in front of this battle, we got bogged down. And the driver of the Humvee towing us was trying to get rid of us. He was trying to like just, I think shake us loose, as if we were a fish that was too big, and you had to get him off your fish line. And he couldn't do it. He was backing up, ramming forward, backing up. And finally, we're screaming at him, just take the tow bar off. Leave us.

CAIN (ph): We went through the wall, but then you run across the field. And then you get run into this ditch.

There was anti-aircraft guns and stuff like that, and positions. Have to take those out, even though they looked unmanned. But, obviously, there was someone there five minutes ago.


CAIN (ph): And by the policy, if you hear gunshots, you go - you hit back like 10 times harder than they're hitting at you.


CAIN (ph): So, and you stand in this ditch. And this guy is like rattling his gun off. The guy next to him is rattling his gun off. So, it's pretty chaotic.

SAVIDGE: We saw quite a few dead people. And whether they were all soldiers, it's hard to tell.

Looking at bodies, seeing a life that was, and knowing that that was somebody's baby that had been held in their mother's arms, regardless of how old they are now. Somebody who had dreams. Somebody who has probably a family. Someone who has people wondering, what happened to him?

And he's laying at the side of the road. And we're just driving by.

And then many times that I've wanted to, to really show you the grotesqueness of it, the physical deformity and the savagery of what it does to the human form, because it might make people think twice about doing it.


BROWN: The fall of Baghdad, and the image that seemed to say it all, as the statue toppled over cheers and jubilation. But the euphoria of that moment did not last long. Soon Baghdad descended into anarchy. Law and order for the most part non-existent.

Looting became epidemic. Nothing seemed sacred or safe. CNN's Christiana Amanpour was on the ground in those frantic days after the fall of Saddam.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I ARRIVED IN Baghdad about 24 hours to the minute, after that statue of Saddam Hussein was pulled down in Ferdo (ph) Square. It was an extraordinary sight for one who had covered Iraq in the past to see the center of the city teaming with American tanks and Marines.

People were pleased obviously, gratified to see the end of the heated loathed tyranny.

(on-camera): But what disappointed them, and made them afraid all over again, was the outbreak of violence and looting.

(voice-over): There were the obvious targets of looters, the palaces, which you could account for people's revenge, people's wanting to take it out on the regime who spent so lavishly on themselves, while the people suffered so horrendously under the Saddam regime.

There were the ministries. Again, you could account revenge for that.

(on-camera): And people would come up to us in tears, and tell us that the hospital had been looted.

(voice-over): Doctors would be almost crying, in fact some were, that they couldn't get staff to come, because the staff were to afraid.

We went to the Baghdad version of the CDC (ph), which is a public health research lab. Vials of samples containing potentially infectious diseases were simply stolen or dumped, or liberated into the environment by people who wanted the fridges, or the air conditioning units.

It was wild that first week.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECREATRY OF DEFENSE: The images you were seeing on television, you were seeing over and over and over, and it's the same picture of some person walking out of some building with a vase. And you see it 20 times. And you think my goodness, were there that many vases? Is it possible that there were that many vases in the whole country?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anarchy and lawlessness (ph) are (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

RUMSFELD: Absolutely.


AMANPOUR: I did not know what the Secretary of Defense was talking about. Clearly he hadn't been on the ground.

(on-camera): Because, everything that we saw, and everything that our colleagues saw, and everything that the Marines saw, and the soldiers saw, confirmed a massive citywide orgy of looting. And that was the fact.

(voice-over): And even the Marines that we spoke to, even the soldiers that we spoke to were quite stunned by what they had seen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I figured I would let them have at it. The only other way I could have stopped it was to start using force. And it wasn't -- I'm not going to start using force on these people. I think they have had enough of that.


AMANPOUR (on-camera): The reason that it wasn't stopped, A because they didn't anticipate it. But B, they didn't have enough troops. That's' not a secret.

(voice-over): They simply didn't have enough troops to put by every hospital, by every ministry, by every valuable installation (ph).

(on-camera): And let's talk about the National Museum. That was not protected. And after several days of calling and begging and pleading for military protection, only after several days did it arrive.

(voice-over): Basically, they hadn't expected it. At least not to that extent. And they didn't expect all the Iraqi security organizations to melt away. But I can tell you one thing, even though they were really pleased, and there was a lot of waves, and a lot of thumbs up, the Iraqi people's first week of the presence of American troops was deeply colored, and deeply tainted by what happened.


BROWN: In the chaos and confusion of war, it's easy to cross signals. Potential flash points are everywhere, even in cities where the firefight is all but over. The 101st Airborne nearly found that out the hard way in the Joth (ph), one of the holiest sites to Shia Muslims.

As the 101st entered the city, a misunderstanding almost erupted into combat. CNN's Ryan Chilcote and Photographer Greg Danilenko were on the scene.


RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDEN: The commander says it's time top meet the Shia leader, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and ask him for his advice on how we should behave in this city.

He says, I'm ready for this meeting, but you need to secure my home, and provide me with security. Because he was concerned. American control hadn't been established.

So the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is in his house half way down the road from where these soldier are, to the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Mask. Which probably the most sacred Mask shrine for Shia Muslims.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does it make you nervous that you are so close to the Ali (ph) Mask? And do you feel like you are tramping on Holy ground?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want to be invasive with these people here. And I don't want to trample on their holy ground. And I want to respect that as much as I can.

CHILCOTE: No one had told the crowd apparently, that the soldiers intent was just to go down to the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) house to protect him. I'm not even sure that would have been OK with them. But certainly no one had told them that. And they thought that the soldiers were going to the Mask.

GREG DANILENKO, CNN PHOTOGRAPHER: No matter how grand the force, or how grand the scheme is, things go wrong.

CHILCOTE: This perfectly friendly crowd, slightly reserved, all the sudden just goes berserk. In the course of 30 seconds. The crowd starts throwing up barricades, starts chucking rocks, starts yelling (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Saying no infidels towards the Mask. And all the sudden wow, you have people pushing and shoving, and just real flare up of emotion.

DANILENKO: Initially there was just so much chaos; it was very hard to read what was going on. But after about a minute or so, I was able to see the guys who were trying to keep peace. Kind of separate the guys in my own mind who were trying to make trouble.

But the majority and the officer in charge Colonel Hughes (ph) with the 105th (ph) Airborne, he was able to read the situation a lot faster.


I remember him yelling smile, keep smiling.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have to understand, (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Smile.

DANILENKO: He was telling this to 19, 20-year-old kids who have never been in this environment, and I saw a lot of tension.




DANILENKO: They all get down on one knee, and then he says, try and appear friendly, as friendly as you can with a weapon. People in the front rows kind of sat down. But not everybody sat down. So finally he was like, let's let them deal with their own mess. And he pulled them out. And I thought that was pretty amazing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to withdraw back out of the situation. Let them defuse it themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get in formation, we have to move. Turn around. Just turn around and go.


CHILCOTE: Now it's kind of breaking the rules. Because he was putting his own men in danger by making them turn their backs towards the crowd, because he couldn't have known what was going to happen. But he took that risk. And it worked.

DANILENKO: I think the Colonel understood the situation long before they even got to Najaf (ph). I don't know through what training, or through what experience, but he knew exactly what he was dealing with trying to adapt to the environment around him.

CHILCOTE: It was better to lose this battle, then to lose the war with the locals. There's a fine line. And when you feel when you are walking into cities, and you are not fighting anyone, I think they were getting the impression that maybe there is no limits.

But there are limits. And they saw that right there. Whoa, there's a limit. Try and go close to the Mask.

DANILENKO: For me what kind of told the story was when the Colonel, once they started pulling back, he went out towards the crowd, bowed to them, waved, and just walked away. Kind of again, without saying anything. Just saying sorry, we screwed up. But no hard feelings. Let's do this another time.


BROWN: It's fair to say that the military and the media worked together in Iraq like never before. But that is not to say there were not difficult moments. Moments of contention. Military did not always like what was being reported, and the media didn't always agree with the restrictions. As CNN's Jason Bellini can attest.


JASON BELLINI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A car came rushing into the compound. Someone who had been injured, I happened to be there, and so I began shooting this. I knew that they had these injured civilians, and I wanted to get this on tape.



BELLINI: We are allowed to be here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need to get out of here.

BELLINI: Why is that? I am an embedded journalism; I'm allowed to be here. The rules are that we're allowed to be here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well I don't like you taking pictures of dying people. Now move back.

BELLINI: I'm not showing any dying people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are allowed to be here, but you can be over there, OK? Now move out of the way.

BELLINI: I'm allowed to be here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back up. Back up. Back up. You are interfering right now. Back up. Yes you are, back up.


BELLINI: I'm allowed to be here.


BELLINI: They did not want me to see that image. They thought that that was the wrong image for the public to see.


BELLINI: I'm not putting this camera down. I'm getting it on tape; I'll show this to PAO's (ph). This is -- I'm allowed to be here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you such a ghoul?

BELLINI: I'm not such a ghoul. I'm a journalist, and I'm here to report.


BELLINI: The feeling I got right there, was that they felt they had something they needed to hide. That was troubling to me, trying to do my job. And I think that it was also really troubling to them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now everybody right here, he does have a right to be here. He is attached to our unit. The Pentagon says he has every right to be here, so you can't stop him. All right, even better, him seeing this, us helping Iraqis is better for us, all right?


BELLINI: There was a sense of shame there. At that moment, they weren't they good guys. They had hurt innocent Iraqis, and they knew it. I don't think they realized that in some ways it was good for the public to see that they were helping these civilians. That they were treating them as they would treat their own.


BROWN: Many of them are fathers. One was a single mother. For weeks their families and their country agonized over their condition, their safety, their whereabouts. Seven American troops captured and missing in Iraq until they appeared on CNN.

Their rescue and their first steps of freedom were beamed around the world by CNN Correspondent, Bob Franken, and Photographer, Jerry Simonson. They broke the story of the seven American POWs, and this is their first hand account.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Vice President has said that Iraq has some POWs, and that they will appearing on Iraqi TV.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: I am concerned about our troops. We expect them to be treated humanly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE CORRESPONDENT: Let's go to Bob Franken now. He is embedded with the Marines. Bob, do you have new information for us?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we are awaiting the arrival of the six here.


FRANKEN: It was by accident being at the airbase that became the first place that the freed POWs were sent to. When I heard that they had discovered the POWs, and they had been freed, I just asked, are they going to land up there? And was told yes.

And I said, I have to have video of that, I was informed that no, that would violate the rules. And I would not be allowed to do that. We went back and forth for a while, and I might have to brag about the argument that I made to the Marines that just got them.

And that was to say to the Marines, you have been telling me all week, that you can turn on a dime because you are Marines. This is the dime. It got them.

JERRY SIMONSON, CNN PHOTOGRAPHER: Bob says, grab your camera, we have to go right now. I didn't know where we were going. And then he said there are seven American POWs on their way in. And I was like, don't miss this shot. You knew instantly it was going to be an important shot.

We get to the airfield, and we don't know where they are going to come in the airfield. And there is a lot of -- every time choppers came in -- was that their chopper, was that their chopper, was that their chopper? No, no it's not their chopper.

So then these two choppers land and I'm like is that their chopper? No, that's not their chopper. And so it's wheeling down kind of towards us, and this guy just grabs me by the shoulder, and says get in there son, that's them.

And so I run up to the -- it all kind of happened really quick. I ran up, and the first guy comes off. And you instantly knew it was him, because he had many days growth of a beard on him.

FRANKEN: I was allowed as a reporter to be within just a foot or so of them. What was remarkable to me was how unfrightened they looked. What I saw are some people who are probably in their 20s or early 30s with a lot of strength of character.

They looked like they had just returned from a football game almost, where their side had won. The first five who got off the plane were literally running. Pumping their fists in the air. Only one had his arm in a sling. But he was clearly in good health.

Big grins on their faces. The other two were hobbling a little bit, but again, they were clearly people who had this huge weight lifted off their shoulders.

SIMONSON: You kind of felt -- am I intruding on this moment? These guys have had a really hard time. Am I intruding on this moment? And then there is this one moment where one of them gets up in the truck, and they are so happy. And they just give me the thumbs up. And then you knew it was OK.

There was five that were in the back of one truck. And then the same guy who had grabbed me from the beginning says, there's two more. So I had to sprint a full sprint down to get the female soldier, and the other gentleman who were getting in the truck.

I was really concerned about getting all seven. I wanted to make sure I got all seven. Because you knew that people were watching back home, and you didn't want to leave somebody out.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were you able to tell if possibly the woman that you did see was African American?

FRANKEN: As a matter of fact she was. I was right next to her...


FRANKEN: I knew her, I could not say for a fact it was her. One of the things you are always mindful of is that her family would be listening back there, and I would hate to have been the person who said this is (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and then it turned out it was not. So all I could do was describe exactly what I was feeling.

When the POWs came off, and as they drove down this line to go from their helicopter to the plane that would take them to Kuwait, there was this line of applause. It was just -- everybody was on cloud nine.

Nobody more so of course than the freed POWs who had gone from a life that they did not know if they would ever have a life, to suddenly freedom again, and a return to all the things that they probably by now considered impossible.

SIMONSON: I could only get one phone up, which means you don't have a great connection. And it keeps dropping out, and it keeps dropping out. But I got it up, and I said -- talking to the guy -- just roll tape, just roll tape. So I start feeding it into the camera.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seven American service members...


SIMONSON: They were like, this is great stuff. And I'm like OK, I'm going to fast-forward, and they said no, don't fast-forward. You are live. You are live on TV right now.

I was like; they are showing this stuff live, right now? And they said yes, just let it roll. Just let it roll.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These are pictures that have come to us from Bob Franken.


SIMONSON: Most of the time during the conflict, you are taking images that bring a lot of despair and grief back to people, and that is just the reality of what you are doing.

But in this particular moment, the images you brought brought back a lot of joy and happiness, and it made you feel good that in just doing your job, you were able to shine another emotion other than what war normally brings.


BROWN: Images of joy, of celebration, of firefights, of death, destruction. Scenes of close calls and chaos, these are the images of war. Snap shots to be certain. Not meant to be the whole story.

In fact that short dash to Baghdad turned out to be just the opening chapter in what has been a full year of struggle in Iraq. And it is a struggle that promises to continue for some time to come.

That's this special edition of CNN PRESENTS. Thanks for joining us. And we'll see you next week.


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