31 March 2003
Central Command Briefing Transcript
(Military update on Iraq operations) (8490)
Army Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, CENTCOM deputy operations
director, briefed the media March 31 at CENTCOM's forward headquarters
at Camp As Sayliyah near Doha, Qatar.
Following is the transcript of the briefing:
CENTCOM Operation Iraqi Freedom Briefing
Presenter: Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, CENTCOM Deputy Director
Monday, March 31, 2003
BRIG. GEN. VINCENT BROOKS: (In progress) -- entered Iraq to remove the
regime. The coalition remains robust, with 49 countries supporting
Operation Iraqi Freedom.
We continue to remember those who have lost their lives, and their
The coalition attacked regime targets over the last 48 hours in
Baghdad and several cities throughout the country. Additionally, there
were precision attacks against surface-to-surface missiles and
Republican Guard forces. Our efforts are focused on every aspect of
the regime. Here are some examples of recent attacks, and they
illustrate our approach.
First, we attack the regime directly. This is a strike against an
Iraqi television service building in Karbala, and it was attacked two
This is a Ba'ath Party headquarters building in al-Hillah.
This is a military headquarters building in western Iraq.
And this is a communications building in western Iraq.
These are all attacks against the regime directly.
We attack forces defending the regime. This first image is a tank in a
revetement north of An Nasiriyah.
The next image is an air defense radar in the western desert near H-3
As the next video clips show, we also attack the logistics that make
it possible for the Iraqi forces to be sustained, and we prevent them
from being sustained. The first image is a fuel truck in a revetement
near al Kut. The second one is an ammo truck near An Najaf. And the
final one is an ammo storage area near Baghdad.
Coalition special operations forces continued their operations and
actions throughout Iraq. They're facilitating attacks against regime
targets and death squads within urban areas. These attacks are enabled
by information provided by the local populations. Special operations
forces have also been effective interdicting movements into or out of
Iraq, and movements into or out of Iraq, and movements within Iraq by
Iraqi commandos, missile units, or others.
This is an example of an encounter that occurred along the highway
west of Ar Ramadi. Coalition special operations forces destroyed two
convoys of vehicles, including 10 tanks.
We also used special operations gunships with great effectiveness
against regime targets and also targets of opportunity, as this next
video shows. This is H-2 airfield in the western desert. It had
aircraft dispersed on it. Special operations forces observed it,
called in AC-130 gunships and destroyed the aircraft on the ground.
Our land component developed the situation on the ground in several
areas, seeking out concentrations of terrorist death squads and
paramilitaries to further reduce their effect while also attacking
divisions of the Republican Guard.
U.K. forces fought near Basra to eliminate enemy positions and
succeeded in capturing several hundred enemy prisoners, and attacking
some Iraqi gunboats nearby.
The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force conducted raids into Al-Fajar (sp),
south of al Kut, which you see on the map. They were able to capture
several Ba'ath Party members, several weapons caches, destroyed air
defense equipment, and exploited a number of documents found nearby.
Near Tallil airfield, southwest of An Nasiriyah, the 1st Marine
Expeditionary Force seized a large weapons cache, about 40 buildings
worth, containing ammunition, chemical decontamination equipment --
and that includes a Samala (sp) decontamination vehicle, chemical
suits, and unidentified artillery munitions.
Fifth Corps conducted attacks near An Najaf, near positions east of
the river, and captured three small weapons caches. Additionally,
Fifth Corps concentrated air attacks and artillery fires against the
Medina Division's tanks, artillery systems and command posts.
We continue to see brutal acts by the regime and the forces loyal to
it. An example came from an outpost in front of 1st Marine
Expeditionary Force a day ago. And the story goes like this. During
daylight hours, two vehicles rapidly approached the Marine checkpoint
at a high rate of speed. When they failed to stop, having been
signaled by a psychological operations loudspeaker team present at the
site, they were taken under fire by the checkpoint. The lead vehicle,
a sedan, immediately halted, and the second vehicle, a truck,
rear-ended it. And adult male, an adult female, and two children
exited the sedan. Two Iraqi soldiers exited the truck with weapons and
one of the soldiers shot and killed the adult female. After a brief
firefight, both Iraqi soldiers and the three surviving civilians lay
wounded. As the Marines approached, one of the wounded soldiers pulled
out a weapon and was killed on the spot. The Marines evacuated the
remaining wounded, and upon searching the truck found 120 millimeter
mortars, and mortar ammunition.
The land component continues its efforts to destroy any forces that
are encountered, and also any forces that would threaten the supply
Our maritime component continued its work of keeping open the
waterways and did find some mines in the shallow waters of Khor
Abdullah as we continued expanding the channel way. All those mines
have been destroyed.
Also, in an effort to increase the security of the ports, the maritime
component is searching any vessels that remain to ensure that there
are no threats. And this short video shows a boarding party doing that
work. This is a search aboard the deck, and then you'll see them
attend -- ascend to clear the rest, the remains of the boat. Dangerous
work, but important work, and it's necessary to ensure that anything
that's in the ports is safe.
The coalition continues to push information to the Iraqi population,
and at this point we've now pushed our ground-based communications
capability further forward by moving a ground base into Iraq. Up until
this point in time, it was in neighboring countries.
Our coalition forces also continue efforts to preserve Iraq's future
resources, and that remains a very, very good news story, and I have a
few things to highlight from our actions in that regard.
First, the oil well fighters we've talked about for the several days
were successful in extinguishing one of the three fires burning in the
Ramallah oil field. The video that I'm about to show you is the moment
of truth and mission accomplishment as you see the fire extinguished
and then the well being capped. With that -- that one's over. Our
efforts continue to extinguish the last two fires in the Ramallah oil
field, and we are confident that we will be successful on that in the
Additional good news, fresh clean water began flowing through the
pipeline from Kuwait to Umm Qasr yesterday. The pipeline construction
project makes it possible now for over 625,000 gallons of clean
drinking water to flow daily. The coalition escorted aid convoys to
Umm Qasr, As Zubair, and Safwan, and a local school and market are due
to reopen today in Rumaila (?) after a period of closure.
Finally, our civil affairs teams are continuing their assessments
amongst the population in the south. These teams provide useful
information, training and assistance to the Iraqi people. And they
also help to assess the most vital needs of the population. And, of
course, they act as the initial goodwill ambassadors on behalf of the
With that, ladies and gentlemen, I'll take your questions. Please,
Q: Hi. Donna -- (inaudible) -- of USA Today. You have made a point --
or actually the U.S. has made a point of saying that you want to be
liberators and not invaders or occupiers. Today there are reports that
4,000 suicide bombers have come from all over the Arab world into
Iraq. And what does this say to you about U.S. efforts to win the
hearts and minds of the Arab world? BRIG.
GEN. BROOKS: Well, Donna, first, you're exactly right, we have come
here and liberation is in our minds as we destroy the regime and
proceed to remove the weapons of mass destruction from Iraq.
Liberation is the action that will occur by way of what we're doing in
this campaign. The potential threats of others coming in from external
countries tells you that the problem is not in Iraq, the problem is
the regime and trying to protect itself.
We remain convinced from what we're seeing throughout the country, as
we are having more and more success, that the Iraqi people are
welcoming the departure of the regime and its destruction. Where we
attack regime complexes and Ba'ath Party headquarters buildings, the
towns people are helping us, and in fact they're very pleased about
that. There is, truthfully, still a degree of "let's wait and see." We
have to understand that for decades these people have been severely
brutalized by this regime, and they have taken risks before that have
not proven to be safe for them to do so. And so there's a degree of
caution still that's out there and is entirely understandable, but we
mean what we say and we're going to continue with that mission.
Q: (Inaudible) -- ABC News. Regarding the suicide attack which
occurred a couple of days ago, did the commanding office on the ground
there, did he violate any protocol, any rules of engagement, by
allowing that civilian vehicle to make its way so close to the
checkpoint? And the second question is regarding Iraqi POWs. Is it
possible, sir, that some of them might end up in Guantanamo? And if
so, does that mean that they would be denied POW status and instead be
designated as battlefield detainees? Thank you. BRIG.
GEN. BROOKS: First, regarding the checkpoint, we don't second-guess
what's happening out on the ground. There's dynamics that happen out
there that we will not know, and we leave it to subordinate commanders
to look into the circumstances surrounding any losses that happen
within their force. And we are confident that that's ongoing at this
point in time.
What we do know is when we conduct checkpoint operations, the
checkpoint itself provides security to other parts of the force. They
are pushed further out along roads to prevent someone from getting in
close on to the actual outfit that's being protected. That's what we
believe happened in this case, certainly with the checkpoints. I'm
familiar with the outfit. I was in command of that outfit not too many
months ago, and I certainly can vouch for their training.
As to the prisoners that have been taken, right now, at this point, we
are treating all those that we take into our custody as enemy
prisoners of war. Any additional decisions made with regard to
ultimate status determinations would be a policy decision not done by
Q: Do you think it's possible they could end up in Guantanamo, sir?
GEN. BROOKS: I wouldn't want to speculate what the ultimate decisions
will be made, but that's really a question for Washington.
Q: Hello, General. Kelly O'Donnell from NBC. Earlier you remarked that
Special Operations forces are trying to keep control of who's coming
in and out of Iraq. Now that we know of this report of 4,000 potential
suicide bombers coming in, are Special Operations forces specifically
And can you give us any indication, without the security issues that I
know you would avoid, of what those missions are like and how actively
they're looking for those sorts of people?
GEN. BROOKS: Let me describe it like this. First, as I mentioned, we
have Special Operations forces operating throughout the country. What
is occurring primarily in the western desert, where routes lead into
Iraq, is something that can be characterized as area denial. We are
eliminating freedom of action and freedom of movement from anyone that
would pass through there.
And so if we see someone coming in on roads, we may stop and check and
see who they are. In some cases along borders we have encountered
people and turned them back, first because it's dangerous and they
should know they're going into an area that's under combat operations.
We do that on the ground. We provide notice to airmen. We provide
notice to mariners, to let people know that there's war going on, for
Within Iraq, Special Operations forces have a robust capability that
lets them identify first, operate at night, if need be attack and
destroy things they find, like this convoy of multiple vehicles,
including tanks. And so I would simply characterize it as we are
denying freedom of movement throughout the western desert and are
being very effective at that.
Third row, please.
Q: (Inaudible) -- able to verify whether the aircraft you've taken on
the ground was a real one or it was just a decoy and whether you've
been able to identify the type of the aircraft? Thanks.
GEN. BROOKS: Well, I'm not able to identify the type of aircraft. I'm
simply not trained to do so. But I can tell you that our targeteers
are very skillful at examining anything that we are deciding to strike
in advance or, in the post-strike images, what it is we hit.
We're comfortable that we hit legitimate targets in this case, but I
think that I'm not in a position to say one way or another beyond
GEN. BROOKS: They were indeed in the open. They were in the open and
they were attacked. We want to ensure that there's no capability that
would come up, especially from western airfields, to attack coalition
forces. And it's better to err on the safe side and destroy it than to
Q: (Inaudible.) How will the new security measures, which I assume you
are going to put into effect after the car bombing, affect your
relations with the Iraqi civilians? Is it possible your forces will
treat them with more suspicion in the aftermath of this attack?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, first let me say that we haven't changed the
procedures per se. We've already been maintaining security of our
forces. And this attack occurred at a security checkpoint.
There's no question that someone on the line that's in close contact
with the population, and also in close contact with a set of regime
players who will quickly put themselves in civilian clothes, hide
weapons, do things that are inconsistent with the laws of armed
conflict, exhibit brutalities against civilians, that there would be a
heightened awareness to anyone that's encountered. That we can count
As to how we will encounter Iraqi civilians, I think we still will
make determinations on the ground whether a threat is posed or not. In
some cases, like the example I gave you, there may be a threat and a
non-threat in the same action coming toward you; very, very difficult
to sort that out.
Our forces are disciplined, though. They're alert. And they are
primarily focused on protecting civilian populations, not destroying
them. We'll continue with that.
Q: Tom Mintier, CNN. A two-part question concerning the media. It's
our understanding that the domestic version of Iraq TV did not come on
the air this morning. Was this a result of targeting in the air
strikes last night?
And secondly, there was discussion about Voria (ph) phones and some
commanders not allowing embedded journalists to use those phones. Have
you had any problems with the embedded journalists violating any
GEN. BROOKS: Well, let me start with the second question. The Voria
(ph) phones, we talked about that a few days ago and the importance of
making sure we're maintaining operational security. We don't have
something we've applied as a blanket across the battlefield. We
continue to look at whether it's necessary or not to do that.
The good-news story associated with the parts of the battlefield where
we've decided to do that is, in many cases, embedded media reporters
have pulled together and shared assets. And also the organizations
they're covering have made it possible to ensure stories get
transmitted even using military equipment. So that's working out very,
very well at this point.
What was the first part of your question again, Tom?
Q: Iraqi TV.
GEN. BROOKS: Right. I understand that report that Iraqi TV
domestically did not come on. We certainly have been doing things that
would affect the possibility of Iraq TV to be coming on. We'll
continue to do that. We think that the domestic population is not
seeing very much of the Iraqi regime at this point in time, and we'll
continue our efforts to make sure that's the case.
Please, third row.
Q: (Inaudible) -- from Hong Kong. We all know that once urban fighting
starts in Baghdad, the number of casualties, military and civilians,
is most likely to increase. So my question is, is urban warfare
inevitable? And is coalition troops prepared for the possibility to
engage urban fights?
GEN. BROOKS: We will conduct military operations in a way that we
believe is necessary to conduct them, all the while remaining focused
on our objectives and also carrying with us the effort and the
responsibility of trying to maintain a balance in how we respond
inside of any military circumstance, particularly with regard to the
potential for damaging civilians or other structures around them.
You've already seen some examples of how we do some of our work in
urban areas. We're very selective about where we go. And frankly, the
Iraqi people are telling us exactly where to go.
When we go in to do something against a Barth headquarters, for
example, it's based on intelligence or other information that's been
provided that can be turned into action. And the action is related to
that purpose. And in some cases we leave. In other cases we may go in
So I wouldn't want to predetermine exactly what the circumstances
would be in Baghdad. There certainly is potential for very intense
fighting. We should all anticipate that and be prepared for it. But
our tactics will let us do this in a way that we think can save lives
as much as possible.
Q: (Inaudible.) We've been hearing accounts today from the crew of a
British Scorpion light tank that was attacked, although it was clearly
marked, by an American A-10 aircraft. How much of a concern is that
for U.S. Central Command? And also, what does the situation in Basra
tell you about what may lie ahead on the streets of Baghdad?
GEN. BROOKS: When we have reports of potential fratricides, we always
examine it deeply. And certainly whenever there is a coalition
involvement there where two nations are involved, we try to respect
the sensitivities of the countries involved as much as possible.
We have a number of things that we're examining right now to make sure
that we have not had or that we have had a case of fratricide or
blue-on-blue type of actions. When those things are complete and their
investigations are complete, we will then provide additional
information. We'll be forthcoming about it. But it's important that we
are thorough in examining all the circumstances that surround any
incidents like that.
I would just say that we know that there's a lot of fog and friction
on the battlefield, and accidents do happen. There are still humans in
the loop and mistakes can occur. We haven't gotten to the point where
warfare can be waged in perfection at this time.
The situation in Basra and what it tells us first is that the Iraqi
people are still in some cases under the boot of the regime. And where
that boot is applied, there's a great want, a great desire, to have
the boot removed.
We are receiving assistance and information from people in Basra, and
it localizes our attacks very effectively. And the UK forces have been
outstanding in that regard of conducting operations where needed at a
time and place of our choosing.
It also says, though, that there's still work to be done. We wouldn't
say that Basra is completely under coalition control, but we continue
to increase the degree of control over top of that. As we do our work,
we'll remain in close contact with as many Iraqi leaders, resistance
leaders and others out there that can give us additional information
and assistance. And they ultimately will be the inheritors of Basra,
On the left.
Q: Jeff Schaeffer (sp), Associated Press Television News. General,
what's your current assessment of the Iraqi air force? And why do you
suppose that they've pretty much been keeping their planes grounded
since the war's begun?
GEN. BROOKS: Jeff, it's as simple as if they fly, they die. It's as
simple as that. If they come up, we'll destroy them. And, as you see,
if we find them, we'll destroy them. We've destroyed aircraft in
cemeteries or near cemeteries. We've destroyed aircraft outside of
protected areas. We've destroyed aircraft on the ground at H-2.
We think that they know not to come up and fly against us. And
certainly we're prepared to respond to that if we choose to.
Q: (Inaudible.) General Tommy Franks has told us last week, early last
week, that there have been contacts between the U.S. military and what
he described as commanders of some of Iraqi units. In the last 10 days
we haven't heard about this. Have they failed, the contacts? Or where
do they stand now? Can you tell us, please?
GEN. BROOKS: Contacts continue on a variety of levels. I won't be too
specific about where they're occurring or who we have contact with. I
would tell you that we have contacts with civilian leaders. We have
contacts with military leaders.
We have a number of military leaders that have been taken under our
control as a result of combat actions or by raids. They're providing
useful information in a number of cases that we are then taking and
taking action on. So if we find that it is something that can be acted
upon, we'll go in and deal with that and try to take advantage of it.
As General Franks mentioned, we do our work in a way that in some
cases is sequential. In some cases it's simultaneous. And what we're
seeking is a broad effect on this regime. But we can operate in a
variety of areas, with a variety of (effects?), the time and place of
our choosing. And that's working very well.
Q: (Inaudible) -- BBC. Two questions. One of the great benefits of
briefings like this should be able to give us a little bit of the
overview and perhaps share with us some of the intelligence picture.
In that regard, could you tell us something about the level of
(attrition?), level of damage that you think you're doing to the
Republican Guards in several days now of air strikes?
Could you also give the points you raised about the decontamination
vehicle and more chemical suits being found? Could you say a little
bit about what all this evidence about the preparedness for chemical
weapons or chemical weapons environment tells you about likely Iraqi
GEN. BROOKS: The Republican Guard forces command is one of our key
targets. We know that they're part of the solid defensive structure of
the regime. That's what the regime relies on heavily for traditional
And so we're targeting them. And we're destroying a number of them.
We're taking away their capability to fight. But I'm not going to tell
you what the number is at this point in time. It just wouldn't be
appropriate to make that assessment, first because it's not a precise
In much of that, we use as much intelligence as we can to make a
determination of where they stand, what their strength level would be,
whether we've created vulnerabilities, whether we have advantages. And
that's (art?) at that point, once you get beyond there.
And so while I would not be specific about where we see the Republican
Guard forces command, I can say that there are a number of
organizations within the Republican Guard forces command that are in
serious difficulty at this point in time, and we continue our efforts
to put them in greater difficulty and danger.
Go back to the second half of your question; I'll pick that up.
Q: You say you found a chemical decontamination vehicle, more suits.
What does this tell you about the likelihood of the Iraqis having
GEN. BROOKS: It's one more tile in the mosaic. We still cannot
determine what the regime will do. We've seen a number of things that
tell us there are desperate men that will go to any extreme to protect
themselves. We've seen that exhibited before this war started, and
it's been reaffirmed since this war started.
We know that there has been equipment positioned in places to provide
protection to the Iraqi forces. Protection from what? I don't know; we
don't use the chemical weapons. We see this in a variety of different
locations. Whether it means there's going to be an intention to use or
not, that's for the Iraqi regime to determine.
Our efforts will be to prevent that from happening if we can, by
identifying the leaders that would make such decisions; by warning
military organizations that might pull the trigger what the cost would
be and reminding again that no one benefits from the use of weapons of
mass destruction; by attacking the systems that would deliver it when
we find them, and the places where they might be stored, and at the
same time, seeking addition information of where might they be; who
knows, and what can we do about it.
So those actions are ongoing. We have to wait and see what's going to
happen, but we won't be benign as it goes along.
Q: Paul Hunter from Canadian Broadcast. Back to the suicide, the
effect of the suicide attacks and the threat of another 4,000. Were
coalition soldiers told ahead of time to prepare for that type of
fighting? And what had been the effect of it becoming a reality on the
morale of soldiers? And secondarily, how many times would you say
Iraqi civilians have been killed after being targeted by coalition
soldiers because there was the threat they might be suicide attackers
or they were driving where they should be and didn't stop?
GEN. BROOKS: I think first the degree of sensitivities out there is a
heightened awareness. We always new that there were threats of suicide
bombers. We'd seen things that have been reported, just like these
reports of thousand coming in that want to be suicide bombers. So we
certainly know that in a regime that is linked to terrorism that
terroristic practices might be exhibited.
Whether we look for that in every case, different story. And that's
something that's determined on the ground. But I can certainly say
that there's a heightened awareness to it.
I would not want to characterize what the morale is. I think the
morale inside of a military organization comes from a whole lot of
things. First is the ability to bond with on another and know that you
have a common goal and that you're taking care of each other as well
as you can. They had losses that occurred because of that attack in
that specific outfit, but that unit would not want to stop because of
that attack. I know this to be true.
I think as we see additional threats on the battlefield, as it relates
to civilians, we will still encounter then in the right way that we
want to, that is in a way that does not brutalize, that tries to
protect as much as possible. I don't have any numbers that I can give
you in terms of cases where coalition forces have attacked civilians.
I'm not aware of any where we've deliberately -- I'm certain that we
have not deliberately attacked civilians under any circumstance.
Whether we've had true civilians, noncombatants, innocents caught up
inside of a firefight where someone is pushed out in front of an
irregular force, that I cannot say. I know the regime would like to
have that number escalate beyond count. We see that even today,
actions that are ongoing as we speak. Along a bridge in the north
between Karbala and Al-Hila (ph). Irregular forces trying to get
across a bridge that's rigged for demolition. They know it's rigged
for demolition; the did it. And pushing women and children in front of
them. One woman tried to break contact and escape, and as she ran, she
was shot in the back and thrown into the river.
So the encounters with civilians out there are certain. We know
they're going on. We're not targeting them. No one's killing more
Iraqis right now then the regime.
Please, you had a question.
Q: There were elements of the Nebukadnezar Division of the Republican
Guard reportedly discovered in some of the town in the fighting out
there. Could you explain the significance of that and explain the
significance of why we are seeing so much fighting in these little
towns to what appear to be the northernmost reaches of where the
coalition fighting forces is located?
GEN. BROOKS: Okay. First, the initial report is that some of the
people we've taken into our custody as a result of recent operations
say they're from the Nebukadnezar Division. So we're not certain
indeed that they are. It's possible. If it is true, then it's -- it
may reinforce some of the movements that were in and around some of
the defensive positions that we've seen. It may be reinforcements. It
may be replacing losses as a result of the actions that we have
inflicted upon the Republican Guard forces.
As to why they're where they are, I think it's really military
terrain. When you can anchor onto something that might provide you an
advantage terrain-wise, you may choose to defend there. We have
awareness of where they are. It doesn't protect them. And I think that
they may seek to draw us into places where we would be perceived as
not ready to fight. We're able to fight anywhere on this battlefield.
That's already been shown, and it will continue to be shown.
Second row, please.
Q: (Off mike.) It's often said about the U.S. military that they own
the night. Have you seen any evidence that the Iraqis obtained their
own night-vision goggles and are fighting back?
GEN. BROOKS: We have reports that there have been some night-vision
devices provided to different parts of the regime. I have not gotten
any reports that any of them have been found at this point. So it's
all speculative at this point. Even if that's the case, we would still
own the night.
Q: Nick Spicer (ph), National Public Radio. I was wondering, sir, if
you could tell us if landmines are being used by American forces along
the road leading to Baghdad? And if that answer is yes, what does that
say, in military terms, about -- about strategy? Is it hunkering down
of any kind?
GEN. BROOKS: What we're seeing, actually, is landmines that have been
left by the regime forces. We found those in a few areas. We have had
some wounded as a result of landmines. Any landmines that we would use
are retrievable. They're under our control at any given time. They're
used for temporary protective purposes, and then they're recovered,
and they go with us.
That is not the case of what we're seeing on the behalf of the regime.
They're left out there. Anyone can run into them, military forces, the
civilians who are trying to escape their brutality inside of towns.
That's what we're seeing on the battlefield at this point.
Q: (Off mike.)
GEN. BROOKS: I don't know specifically what's happening down inside of
tactical units. We do have some landmines that are available to us,
like the Claymore antipersonnel mine, that's a put-in-place-and-remove
type of mine. We take it with us, and we use it for protection.
So, yes, we do have them. But in terms of the specific tactical
actions, I don't know where they're being used and where they're not.
Q: General, Cammie McCormick (ph), CBS News. Could you tell us what's
happening just south of Baghdad in (Hindia ?)? Are Republican Guard
units being engaged? Is there street fighting going on there?
GEN. BROOKS: I don't have any reports of any street fighting going on
involving coalition forces. I don't know whether the Iraqis are
fighting in the streets at this point.
We are in contact with forces just south of Baghdad, and we know where
they are. They're in contact. I don't want to characterize too much,
because it's an ongoing action, and some of your embeds are doing a
great job of reporting what's going on right now from the
We're going to continue to work against the Republican Guard forces
that are defending Baghdad. Our efforts are going to go to the regime.
We've made that clear. Where the regime is, we're coming. Where the
regime is, we're coming.
Please, in the third row.
Q: Hi, General. Anne Bernard (ph) from the Boston Globe. I know the
action is still ongoing, but is this the first clash between
Republican Guards and U.S. forces on the ground that's going on right
And my second question is about the Fedayeen. At the beginning of the
war, the estimates of their numbers ranged from 10,000 to 100,000.
What's the latest intelligence that you have about how many there are?
And since they've been characterized as dead-enders and sort of
informed that their only future is as prisoners of war -- or, I'm
sorry, as possible defendants in war crimes trials, what is their
incentive to surrender? And why wouldn't we end up in a situation
where each one of those individuals would fight for his life until the
GEN. BROOKS: Well, certainly the Republican Guard has met coalition
forces before. We've been attacking them in a variety of ways for a
number of days. So this is not the first contact that they have
experienced from us, nor will it be the last.
As to the desperation of regime members who know that they have no
future, first, they can be certain of it. We'd be happy to guarantee
that they have no future. We've made that statement clearly a number
of times, and we'll continue to say that. There is not future for the
regime or anyone that supports it.
Will they fight to the death? Probably. We're seeing that in a number
of places. Those who have everything to lose will lose it.
Q: And how many of there are there?
GEN. BROOKS: I don't know what the number is at this point. It's a
difficult number to count when someone wears civilian clothes and
comes out of a bus with a weapon. You can't count that.
Actually, let's go in the second row over here, please.
Q: If thousands of suicide bombers do show up on the battlefield,
what's the military significance of that? Are they a serious threat?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, certainly if they're able to detonate an explosive,
it's like any other weapon that encounters a force. And it's very
difficult to achieve any kind of degree of mass with that. That's a
tactic of terror. When losses occur inside of military formations, the
military formations consolidate, reorganize, reestablish any
capability, and they continue to fight. It's not a very effective
military tactic at all. It's a terror tactic, and it won't be
effective. We're continuing operations right now. We had a car bomb
explosion within days, and our operations are still continuing beyond
where that car bomb explosion occurred. It will not stop us. It will
not stop us. So --
Please, fourth row.
Q: (Inaudible) -- Russian state television. General, could you talk a
little more about your humanitarian operations, and specifically how
the distribution is conducted, because on TV, we have seen pictures of
the crowds surrounding military trucks, which doesn't look like very
effective. Do you receive any help from local communities in the
distribution process? Thank you.
GEN. BROOKS: Okay, thank you for the question. There are a number of
organization that are involved in providing humanitarian aid. As each
day goes by and more terrain is secured, even more organizations come
in. Some of them are international organizations, some of them are
governmental organizations, and others are military organizations. We
did see some early images when some of the first convoys went into the
southern area of what appeared to be more chaotic than we believe it
should be. A lot of lessons have been learned. The actual
organizations involved -- we don't need to characterize who they were
or what their roles were in that, but we certainly know how to
distribute supplies in an organized way.
We've seen some recent images of very controlled distribution points
that have lines, that have a means of causing people to move down into
a single row to receive what stocks they need, and to proceed on. It's
very orderly, and it's going very well right now. I think what we saw
coming off the Sir Gallahad was a very orderly distribution. The water
distribution -- there will be 12 points that will be built up. It will
be controlled distributions. So we don't want to create chaos in what
we are doing, and we won't. We'll do the best we can to prevent that
and maintain control, and also do it in a way that people realize life
is going on, things are going to be okay.
In the back please.
Q: Kevin Donough (ph) of ITV News. General, going back to the friendly
fire incident in which a British soldier was killed, his colleagues
have said they've found it inconceivable that the pilot of the A-10
was unable to identify the British armor, and he has said to make not
just one, but two passes over the column. In fact, they've described
his actions as being that of a cowboy. What do you say to the family
of the dead soldier, and what action will be taken against this pilot?
GEN. BROOKS: I should first address the family of this dead soldier,
and any others who have lost their lives. And we regret their loss at
any time under any circumstance.
In this particular case, because there may a blue-on-blue incident
involved, we have to investigate it and let it go its full course. So
I can't say anything else about the circumstances surrounding it at
Off on the far side, please.
Q: Could I ask you -- there was a statement -- from the Irish Times --
a statement issued the other night from CENTCOM about an Iraqi stock
of missiles and launchers in Baghdad, 300 feet from people's homes,
which was attacked by your people. Is this going to be a continuing
problem that you are going to have Iraqi missiles located in civilian
areas? And is this going to affect your strategy, given that you have
declared your desire to avoid civilian casualties as much as possible?
GEN. BROOKS: It's a continuing and in fact a growing problem. The
regime continues to position things that would bring threats into
populated areas. We have seen heavy equipment transporters with tanks
on their back moving into housing areas. It just doesn't make any
tactical sense. We are seeing more and more of that. We've seen oil
fires. Many of you have seen the skies of Baghdad beginning to turn
black. Those are oil fires that were deliberately constructed, and the
oil trenches have been set on fire. All these things are threatening
the Iraqi population. They have no tactical significance whatsoever.
Will it change our approach? I think it causes us to always redouble
our efforts, as we already have, of looking at targets very
selectively, finding the best way to attack those targets to eliminate
them as a threat, and at the same time doing all we can to prevent, or
to at least minimize the potential effect on civilians, noncombatants
and other structures we don't want to hit. We'll continue our efforts
in that regard.
Second row, please.
Q: General, Pete Smallwood (ph) from Knight Ridder. Can you comment on
where you think the Iraqis are getting their night goggles from? And
also, with some of the chemical suits that have been found, and the
gas masks, is there anything like an expiration date that would prove
how long they've had it and not -- and eliminate the possibility that
perhaps they've had it since the Iran-Iraq war or even since the first
GEN. BROOKS: Well, again, I don't think we have any report having
actually found any night vision equipment. We have reports that there
may be some that have been pushed in, and there may be some in their
possession, but I am not aware of any reports that some have been
said. So I couldn't say where they're coming in or who is providing
them, what country.
The chemical suits are items that are under what we call exploitation
at this point. We try to gather up any materials, documents, suits --
anything else we happen to take in our possession, and find out
everything we can about them. At this point I don't have any
additional information on that, because the exploitation is ongoing,
and perhaps we'll have some information to share when we have more to
Let me go all the way in the back.
Q: (Off mike) -- Australia. Sir, over the past few days you and all
the other briefers have said you are on plan and that you expected
this level of resistance. Do you concede that expectation wasn't
conveyed to or absorbed by the commanders in the field, political
leaders and members of the public? Because they certainly seem to be
GEN. BROOKS: Well, I don't concede that at all. I would say that we
had a broad understanding of the types of threats that might exist in
this conflict. All of those are considered. As to when they arrive on
the battlefield, when they become exhibited, that's always unknown.
That's the variable. Can tactical surprise occur at a given point in
time where suddenly a capability that we knew existed suddenly show up
and we didn't expect it at that time and that place? Sure. That's the
nature of the dynamics of battle out there. But that doesn't mean we
didn't know there was the potential for it, or that we hadn't given
some consideration on how we would deal with that. So I think that
that's really the dynamic of what you're seeing. There will be
tactical surprises that happen on the battlefield. We are going to
deliver a whole lot of them. And there may be some that come our way
as well. But the key to a force that can adapt itself to the realities
of the battlefield is knowing what could be happen and be able to deal
with it when it does happen, and ideally to cause the circumstances to
be advantageous to us before they happen. That's the way we do our
work, and we'll continue to do it that way.
Let me go in the fourth row -- one, two, three, four, five rows.
Q: Kevin Diaz (ph) from the Minneapolis Star Tribune. What's the
latest on the missiles in the civilian areas in Baghdad? And have you
heard these reports -- I think they are coming out of the United
Kingdom -- that there were shards or pieces of metal with
identification numbers on them -- have you heard those reports? Is
there any validity to those reports at all?
GEN. BROOKS: That is an ongoing investigation still. I think we are
starting to come to a high degree of closure on it. We are still
accounting for every weapon system that we released into the Baghdad
area. And once we've gotten to closure on that, I think we will be
able to say one way or another what role we may have played, or not,
inside of this.
As to shards of equipment, given the amount of munitions we have
delivered precisely inside of Baghdad, it would not be difficult to go
to one of those locations and pick up debris. So I would not want to
speculate what that might mean. We do indeed account for our weapon
systems. We have a number of methods to do that. We are deliberate and
precise in our targeting process from the start, and we follow through
after the attack to make certain we hit what we wanted to hit, and
that we know as well as we can if there was any other additional
Let me go on the side here.
Q: General, Chas Henry (ph), WTOP Radio. When you are determining what
supplies flow up into Iraq, is there ever a competition between
humanitarian supplies and, say, tactical supplies for troops,
ammunition or food? -- Asking this in the context of having heard
reports in recent days about troops only having one meal ration. How
do you prioritize what goes where?
GEN. BROOKS: There are priorities that are established by commanders
at every level, what it is they want, what they need, depending on
what their mission is at a given time. Where there are competitors for
resources, the commander that owns both resources or those resources
will make a decision as to what the priority is. Our first priority is
sustaining the force and being able to continue the fight. So I would
not way -- we have not had any problems at this point where we have
committed assets away from our primary purposes in a way that created
a problem for us. That's a commander's decision done at each level,
and all commanders establish their priorities and make them known to
their commanders and their commanders' commanders, so we have
visibility across the board.
And I think we have time for one more question. You had your hand up.
Q: General, Jim Wolf (ph) of Reuters.
GEN. BROOKS: Two questions, but you can have only one.
Q: Okay, thanks. You just said that you couldn't confirm that the
Iraqis had obtained night vision goggles and other equipment. But
isn't it in fact precisely such shipments that prompted the warning
from Secretary Rumsfeld to Syria to stay out of the war? How do you --
or, if not, what was it, as far as you understand, that prompted
Secretary Rumsfeld to issue his warning to Syria?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, I wouldn't want to speak for the secretary of
Defense, and he certainly will, if he wants to comment on that, will.
But what I know is that we have not, to my knowledge, seen any at this
point in people we've encountered on the battlefield. I am just not
aware of any that have been encountered.
I think the governments that are involved in this coalition have been
clear about preventing interference from external countries now that
the battle has been joined, and that that should be the case
throughout the operation. Anything beyond that really is a matter for
capitals, not for this command.
I'll take one last question. Please?
Q: I'm Nicole Enfield (ph) from Associated Press. Going back to the
issues of POWs, by calling the paramilitaries "terrorist death squads"
-- that's a very loaded word. It in the case of Afghanistan can carry
some legal implications about people in Guantanamo who are considered
terrorists, enemy combatants, not POWs. Is there any concern that by
kind of demonizing the Iraqis in this way that the American POWs
currently in custody on the Iraqi side might also be treated
differently than you would like to see under Geneva Conventions?
A second question, a follow up to the issue of the Iraqi aircraft. You
said there was no indication, I think, that the Iraqis were flying.
There was a report a few days ago in the Army Times that at least two
ultralights were seen flying over some units. These would be the kind
of planes that could spread chemical or biological weapons. So can you
confirm that these aircraft were sighted; yet, they weren't shot down
by American forces on the ground?
GEN. BROOKS: Let me go to the second half, and then we'll come back to
the first part of your question.
I've heard reports also by ultralights. I have not seen anything to
confirm it, and I don't know what decisions were made on the ground,
so I really can't go much beyond that. Any threat that is perceived by
a unit commander is dealt with as that commander sees fit. Whether
they've been flying ultralights or not I honestly don't know. I've
heard the report.
Let's go back to the first part of your question one more time, if
you'd repeat that -- at least just the topic area, and you'll prompt
Q: Using the term "terrorist death squads" --
GEN. BROOKS: Okay, I've got you.
Q: -- very loaded, possible legal implications, American POWs.
GEN. BROOKS: Right, okay. (Laughter.) That's good. That brings me
right back. We characterize them with terms that describe their
behavior. It doesn't necessarily put them into any particular legal
category from the perspective of this command.
I think our government has been clear that there will be
accountability for the violations of the Geneva Convention. There will
be accountability for failing to live up to the obligations one has
when prisoners of war are taken in. We can't account for what this
regime will do with our prisoners of war. We hold them responsible for
what they do with our prisoners of war. We have seen that they are
very unreliable in terms of protecting lives of people, even their
own. And so what will happen next, we just don't know. I think that
any characterization we make will not influence the Iraqi regime at
all. Their behaviors are a function of their choices, not a function
of our actions. But there will be accountability when it's all said
Okay, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)