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Shiites, Sunnis Join Forces Against Coalition; Military Families Await News of Casualties; Appeals Court Hears Arguments on Rush Limbaugh Case

Aired April 7, 2004 - 13:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS: Fallujah firefight. Marines in a serious battle against Iraqi insurgents.

BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT, U.S. ARMY: The offensive operations will be deliberate. They will be precise, and they will be powerful. And they will succeed.


PHILLIPS: Star witness Condoleezza Rice. What will the 9/11 commission ask her? And the two words she apparently will not say.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: They're spending money like a drunken sailor.


PHILLIPS: Pork and politics. Who wins the prize for spending the most of your tax dollars?

From the CNN center in Atlanta, I'm Kyra Phillips. Miles is off. CNN's LIVE FROM starts right now.

Our top story this hour, the fight for Iraq.

Right now, U.S. troops battling a growing insurgency across the country. Normally at odds, the Shiite and Sunni Muslim factions have apparently joined forces against the coalition.

In Fallujah, the center of the volatile Sunni Triangle, U.S. Marines are try to restore order. Earlier, U.S. aircraft took out the wall of a mosque compound, a base of operations for insurgents.

Meanwhile, U.S. forces say they are in firm control of the western city of Ramadi. Last night, 12 U.S. Marines were killed in a long gun battle with Iraqi insurgents.

It's a different story in Najaf. Militant Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Medhi Army is in control. The militia also has strong support in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood. It's been the scene of fierce fighting between coalition forces and Shia militia. CNN's Jim Clancy, standing by live from Baghdad -- Jim.


Listen, we have been following this story throughout the day. It is changing faces. It is certainly a change from what we have normally seen.

Normally, we've seen ambushes on U.S. troops or coalition forces, as well as the roadside bombs. This is really a battle for the cities this day.

Let's go first to Fallujah. That's where U.S. Marines have driven from the perimeter of the city into its heart. Along the way, they have had to brave the fire coming from rocket propelled grenades and small arms. They, of course, coming in behind M1-A1 Abrams tanks as they carry the battle to the insurgents.

The Marines say they're in no trouble, no hurry rather. They are taking their time as they steadily move forward to fight the insurgents and to pacify Fallujah, a longtime trouble spot in the heart of the Sunni Triangle.

Elsewhere across Iraq, the radical young Shia Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr creating problem all over for the coalition. We understand now in Kut, where Ukrainian forces battled his private militia called the al-Mehdi Army, those forces have now pulled back, leaving the city to Moqtada al-Sadr's men, that is the police stations and the government buildings.

In Karbala, Polish forces holding their ground after being attacked by the al-Mehdi Army and Moqtada's men.

In An-Najaf, coalition forces said to be outside the city, but it is not clear whether they will make a move to go into that town. Al- Mehdi Army forces, Moqtada al-Sadr's men, again, on the streets there.

So we have a mixed situation here, where we really have someone who is appealing to Iraqis all across the spectrum to join him in an insurgency against the U.S.

But are there ties between the two sides now? Between, say, the insurgent in Fallujah and Moqtada al-Sadr? Highly unlikely. That simply is not the case, because the Sunni Muslims, in Fallujah, typically in that region, don't trust Moqtada al-Sadr. He has already called for the one thing they do not want to see in this country, and that is an Islamic republic -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Jim Clancy, live from Baghdad, thank you.

The Pentagon is weighing its options in light of the escalating violence. We're joined now by Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, when you go back and look at that map, the fighting now taking place across Iraq, it pretty much shows the picture across all of these cities of what the Pentagon, what the U.S. military is trying to deal with in fighting a number of insurgencies, both with the Sunnis, west of Baghdad in Fallujah and other places across the country.

Now one of the key things the Pentagon is looking at is what is the strength and influence of Moqtada al-Sadr, the Shia cleric? How many fighters does he have? Are they really responsible for all of this going on in the Shia communities?

Or is his strength growing? Are people coming to his side? They don't know yet. It's one of the key questions they're looking at.

In Fallujah, the fighting goes on. A very key incident earlier today. The U.S. dropped a 500-pound bomb on a wall surrounding a compound where there was a mosque. They do believe they did not hit the mosque, the nearby mosque, but they destroyed the wall to breach it to get through to insurgents who were fighting them.

A real indication of the kinds of house to house, street to street urban warfare fighting going on with U.S. forces and insurgents in Fallujah now, the very kind of fighting, Kyra, they thought they would face in Baghdad when they entered that capital city over a year ago. It didn't happen then. It by all accounts appears to be happening now.

A Marine on the ground spoke about just how difficult the fight is in Fallujah.


LT. WADE ZIRKLE, U.S. MARINES: The general people that are shooting with us -- that are shooting at us are terrorists. And they dress like the local population. And that's the nature of the insurgency. You know, they fight like cowards and they fight amongst families. And that's what's difficult about -- in an insurgent fight.

But when we get fired at, we have positive identification on our enemy targets and we take them out and we do away with the terrorists and protect the families at the same time.


STARR: And we are told, Kyra, the U.S. Army now gearing up for another round of fighting in Sadr City, that Shia suburb of Baghdad where there has been so much unrest over the last several days. The U.S. Army assembling some weapons and some troops to go in there and try and deal with the insurgency there.

The Pentagon says it is all under control. They say this is the challenge they knew they would face in the final weeks and days, since the countdown to the June 30 turnover to the Iraqis of political sovereignty. They felt there would always be violence and jockeying for position and power amongst various factions.

They do want to make sure, though, that it doesn't all slip out of control. General Abizaid speaking to the president earlier today about the situation. No readout on that meeting. But, of course, what people are waiting to see is whether general Abizaid feels he needs additional troops -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Barbara Starr, live from the Pentagon, thank you.

Well, there's no question the situation in Iraq has become more volatile in the past week. But coalition forces say they are going to, quote, destroy this insurgent uprising by being precise and by being powerful.

Joining us from Chicago, retired Army general and CNN military analyst David Grange.

General, good to see you.


PHILLIPS: Let's talk about the way the insurgents are operating. And I was telling you earlier that I had talked to some Army Rangers just back from Baghdad, and I asked about the way the rules of engagement are for insurgents. Obviously, not rules of engagement that the U.S. military operates by.

But they said to me if, indeed, they operated like these insurgents, well, they could take them all out. Within Special Operations, you've told me about this toolbox with these type of tactics that are just as lethal but they're legal.

GRANGE: Yes. There's certain things that the U.S. military and other coalition forces will not do, that insurgents, terrorists use, techniques that they use. Because it's, one, illegal, against the land warfare -- rules of land warfare.

But there are some savvy techniques that Special Operations use and other U.S. forces can use to discredit enemy leaders, to instill fear in the enemy, to trick the enemy on who the friend and foe are. In other words, split faction, different things like that.

And I would hope, and I'm pretty sure it's happening, that some of these techniques are being used.

PHILLIPS: Well, take me inside that toolbox. Give me a couple of examples.

GRANGE: Well, for instance, not to be too specific, but let's just say that an enemy leader is taken out by a sniper and it looks like the weaponry was used of a -- another insurgent faction to split those factions. That would be an example.

Or to use propaganda, to use disinformation, to make a situation appear other than it is to lose the support of the local people, or that particular insurgent stronghold in a particular part of the city.

PHILLIPS: You mentioned weaponry. You've been looking at the video. And we were talking about how we noticed it's completely different with regard to what the insurgents have now, the types of weapons.

Let's also talk about that and also where you think these weapons are coming from.

GRANGE: Yes, you still see an abundance of some of the old AK- 47s and the other weapons systems.

I've also picked up new -- new weaponry, newer stuff, whether it be sniper rifles or assault rifles, that either were hidden all this time in cache sites or brought in across some of the porous borders from, let's say, Iran or Syria.

So the insurgents are armed fairly well.

PHILLIPS: Now, the talk now about more troops coming in to help with this insurgency. Some other generals have said, no, we don't need any more troops going in there; it's just more sitting ducks. There will be more deaths.

But you take a different approach. You say the psychological warfare is far more important, and that's why more troops are needed.

GRANGE: Well, it's no doubt that 110,000 or so American troops and coalition forces that are there can handle the current situation. I truly believe that.

But as the insurgents right now are turning up the heat on the coalition, as the transition to this new government takes place, I think that the coalition should do the same thing. In other words, turn up the thermostat to surge at times so you don't leave other areas in the country uncovered for certain parts of the time as you move more forces to troubled spots.

But give additional forces to reinforce, to give flexibility, to show that you can do it, you will do it, that you have the resolve to reinforce and take -- crank this up another notch, so there's no perception you may pull out. Because I think some of the people over there now that want this transition to happen are very nervous of the outcome of these type of operations that are ongoing right now.

PHILLIPS: Well, in order for Iraqi police and Iraqi military to succeed, they have to know that they still have a backup at this point.

GRANGE: They have to have the backup. It's just like, for instance, in the Balkans, the international police task force had to have IFOR, SFOR, NATO troops, to back them up, to back down some of this Genghis Khan type mentality. Insurgents, they respect power.

And so you have to have the military to back up the police, especially a fledgling police force like they have in Iraq.

PHILLIPS: Retired Army General David Grange, thank you, sir.

GRANGE: My pleasure. PHILLIPS: Well, yesterday was one of the deadliest days yet for U.S. troops in Iraq. Twelve Marines killed in the western city of Ramadi, and that's left families at Camp Pendleton in California holding their breath.

Let's live to CNN's Thelma Gutierrez, who's at the military grounds.

Hi, Thelma.


You're right; it's been a very tough day for families out here. In fact, here's very little information coming out of Camp Pendleton about yesterday's casualties. In fact, they won't officially say at this point whether or not any of those people, the 12 people, were actually based here at Camp Pendleton.

But in the nearby town of Oceanside, California, residents and military families fear the worst. Of the 25,000 Marines now in Iraq, 19,000 are actually from Camp Pendleton.

The Marines that we talked to told us that the news of the recent wave of violence and 12 Marines' deaths has affected nearly everyone in this tight-knit community.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only thing that worries me is just how my family feels about it. They're the ones that worry the most, not us. It's our families. It makes me worry, thinking what they're thinking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's scary. It's upsetting. Makes me sad, makes me angry. But it also makes me think of the guys who died and honor their sacrifice.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): The children of the servicemen and women now in Iraq hunted for Easter eggs yesterday. It was a way for military families to be together, and a way for kids to have a little fun, just as news was coming in that the Marines had suffered heavy casualties.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, you just deal with it as it comes. You have your good days and you have your bad days. And you just deal with each one as they come.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My heart drops because I just wait every day for that knock on my door, for somebody in uniform to just tell me that my husband is gone. So every day that goes by is a great day, that I don't have to hear that.


GUTIERREZ: And, again, the Marines are being tight-lipped about yesterday's casualties. They say it's all part of a new policy to give families at the very minimum, 24 hours to grieve before the names are made public.

Kyra, back to you.

PHILLIPS: Thelma Gutierrez, live from Camp Pendleton, thank you.

Well, the only man convicted in connection with the 9/11 attacks is walking free. Mounir el Motassadeq was released today from German custody.

Motassadeq will be retried beginning in June. He was convicted last year of helping the 9/11 hijackers. But an appeals court overturned that conviction. It says he didn't get a fair trial because the U.S. denied him access to a key witness in its custody.

And don't forget, tomorrow National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice will testify under oath before the 9/11 commission. CNN will have complete coverage. We'll bring it to you live, beginning at 9 a.m. Eastern.

And what are the political implications of Rice's testimony? Well, we'll go in depth with political analyst Carlos Watson in just a few minutes.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Susan Candiotti outside the Fourth District Court of Appeals in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Today a legal battle over radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh's medical records. Will prosecutors be able to use them in a possible case against him? I'll have a live report, coming up.

PHILLIPS: And from the peep shows to the potholes, Times Square hits a milestone. We'll give your regards to Broadway later on LIVE FROM.

ANNOUNCER: You're watching LIVE FROM on CNN, the most trusted name in news.


PHILLIPS: A lot is at stake today for radio commentator Rush Limbaugh. A Florida appeals court is considering whether his medical records were obtained legally. This decision could ultimately put the case to rest.

CNN national correspondent Susan Candiotti is live in West Palm Beach with the details -- Susan.


The courtroom battle is over how prosecutors seized Rush Limbaugh's medical records last December in their case looking into possible felony charges of illegal doctor shopping for prescription painkillers.

Now, a three-judge panel heard from both sides today, both Limbaugh's attorney, criminal defense lawyer Roy Black, as well as the prosecutor who is leading this investigation.

Now, Limbaugh's attorneys are arguing that prosecutor should not have used a search warrant to seize those medical records, because they are arguing that it was the intent of the Florida legislature, in order to protect one's privacy, to, instead, use a subpoena. If they had used a subpoena, Roy Black argued, the defense lawyer, then Rush Limbaugh would have been able to challenge that.

In other words, he says, the legislature wanted authorities to use the least intrusive way to get a look at your medical records, to avoid investigators being able to look at everything.


ROY BLACK, RUSH LIMBAUGH'S ATTORNEY: With a search warrant, you go in with police, you can search every document in the office to find the one you want. There's the issue of intimidation and fear, and you drive a wedge between the patient and the doctor.

Can you imagine going back to that office, dealing with the doctor and staff after police have been in there, seizing their records?


CANDIOTTI: Now, prosecutors counter argue that in a criminal investigation, it would be very odd to give a heads up, a warning, to a possible target of the investigation about what they're looking for.


JAMES MARTZ, STATE ATTORNEY'S OFFICE: Well, the heart of the issue is, has Florida lost its right to use a search warrant when they're investigating criminal conduct? Has it now been reduced to, we have to notice the target of an investigation that we want to look at the evidence of the felonies he's committed? I don't think so.


CANDIOTTI: Now, arguably, the questions that the three judges ask the two attorneys seem to favor both sides. It was very difficult to tell which way this panel might be leaning.

The decision in all this is probably a few weeks away. And, by the way, those medical records that are at issue here, they're under lock and seal here at the courthouse.

Back to you.

PHILLIPS: Susan Candiotti, live from West Palm, thank you.

Well, it's back to square one for the wife of former Enron CFO Andrew Fastow. Lea Fastow withdrew her guilty plea today after a federal judge balked at the terms of her deal. Fastow had agreed to plead guilty to helping her husband hide illicit funds in exchange for serving five months in prison. Fastow now plans to plead not guilty. Intriguing testimony in the Terry Nichols trial. Nichols' former wife, Lana Padilla, testified that he used a prepaid calling card the prosecutors say is linked to the Oklahoma City bombing. Nichols, who is serving a life sentence on federal charges, is now facing state charges. His current wife is taking the stand later today.

The infamous juror at the center of the Tyco mistrial is speaking out about the tumultuous case. Ruth Jordan told CBS' "60 Minutes 2" she would have acquitted both defendants on all charges. Jordan also responded to questions about whether she flashed an OK sign to the defense.


RUTH JORDAN, TYCO JUROR: No. I would never do that. I mean, it's -- I don't do that. First of all, it's completely contrary to what I was supposed to be doing there as a juror, to be making an impartial decision based on the evidence and not on something outside.

DAN RATHER, CBS NEWS: You didn't do it?

JORDAN: I did not do it, no.


PHILLIPS: Well, the pressure is on for a stellar performance for President Bush advisor Condoleezza Rice. Will she rise to the occasion? We'll talk about it ahead on LIVE FROM.

War and politics. Will events in Iraq throw a monkey wrench in the campaign strategy for both parties? We're in depth for you here on LIVE FROM.




PHILLIPS: Well, the stink aroma of bacon permeates over Capitol Hill today, thanks to Citizens Against Government Waste. The group claims that it was a record year for congressional pork barrel projects, and they are ready to roast the biggest offenders.

CNN's congressional correspondent Joe Johns chews some political fat and explains why there's usually more of it during an election year.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Congress is pigging out on taxpayers' money, according to Citizens Against Government Waste.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a bipartisan spending party going on in Washington at the taxpayers' expense. JOHNS: The most eye-popping pork project: $50 million to build an indoor rainforest in Iowa corn country, money secured by Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley.

But this year's undisputed champion of pork and winner of the Whole Hog Award, Senate appropriations committee chairman Ted Stevens of Alaska.

Stevens brought home a whopping $524 million in projects, including $5 million that goes almost into thin air, to an Alaska research program on heating the upper atmosphere; and $2 million to North Pole, Alaska, home to just 1,500 people, for recreation facilities.

Stevens is unapologetic. He says federal restrictions on growth in Alaska without adequate reimbursement justifies seeking money from almost every available source.

And it's not just Republicans. Senator Daniel Inouye is the Democrats' top pork producer, bringing $494 million home to Hawaii, including three quarters of a million for fish research.

Anti-pork crusader John McCain says enough is enough.

MCCAIN: And they're spending money like a drunken sailor. I've often said, I've never known a sailor, drunk or sober, with the imagination of these people.

JOHNS: But in an election year, bringing home the bacon works.

STUART ROTHENBERG, POLITICAL ANALYST: It's really important for incumbents to be able to go back home to the voters and say, "Look. Look at the projects I'm bringing you. Look at the jobs I'm bringing you."

JOHNS (on camera): So spending $200,000 for the National Wild Turkey Foundation or $2 million for the World Golf Federation during an election year is simply par for the course.

Joe Johns, CNN, Capitol Hill.





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