HEADQUARTERS UNITED STATES CENTRAL COMMAND
7115 South Boundary Boulevard
MacDill AFB, Fla. 33621-5101
Phone: (813) 827-5894; FAX: (813) 827-2211; DSN 651-5894
April 1, 2003
Release Number: 03-04-08
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TRANSCRIPT OF 4/1 CENTCOM BRIEF
UNITED STATES CENTRAL COMMAND DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
BRIEFER: GEN. VINCE BROOKS, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS
LOCATION: DOHA, QATAR
TIME: 7:04 A.M. EST
DATE: TUESDAY, APRIL 1, 2003
BRIG. GEN. VINCENT BROOKS: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. (Inaudible) -- marks the 12th day since coalition forces entered Iraq to remove the regime. The plan remains sound and effective.
We remain committed to the objectives of the campaign while remembering those who have lost their lives in pursuing those objectives.
The coalition attacked regime targets over the last 24 hours in Baghdad and areas throughout the country. Precision attacks against surface-to-surface missiles and Republican Guard forces also continued. The coalition remains focused on every aspect of the regime.
Here are some before and after examples of how we attack the regime directly.
This is a regime command and control facility near al-Kut. In this case, only one building of the complex needed to be attacked. This is the after-shot, post-strike, and a comparison of the two.
The next image is a regime command and control facility in Tikrit. In this case, there are two target impact points, one on the lower right and one in the top center. The post-strike image, and the comparison, a split.
The next videos that I am about to show you will show attacks against the regime and the forces that support the regime. We'll start with Iraqi tanks at Al-Amarah.
The next clip is a tank at Al-Assad.
As I mentioned yesterday, we also attack the logistics targets to prevent the Iraqi forces from sustaining themselves. The first image is of an ammunition storage facility near Baghdad. The next is a fuel truck near al Kut.
Our coalition special operations forces remain very effective in targeting regime concentrations with the aid of local populations. In An Nasiriyah, special operations forces controlled aircraft destroyed numerous buildings, numerous vehicles, and five regime buildings, including the director of general security headquarters. In the western desert, two suspected Iraqi intelligence service agents were captured at a special operations checkpoint.
The land component conducted operations throughout the zone of action that runs from Basra in the south, to al Kut in the east, and Karbala in the west. And you can see that outlined on this map. Basra in the south, al Kut in the east, and Karbala in the west.
There were several successful delivered raids against regime death squad locations in Ba'ath Party headquarters. These also, like with the special operations forces, were assisted by local populations, who are increasingly willing to provide information against the regime. And examples include the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force conducting attacks near Ad Diwaniyah and As Shatra (sp), which is just north of An Nasiriyah. Approximately 100 tribal men joined with coalition forces in these attacks and resulted in the captures of enemy prisoners of war, weapons, the destruction of bunkers, and the removal of explosives from a bridge -- and there were no friendly casualties.
Additional examples are U.K. operations in the Basra area resulting in the destruction of a considerable amount of Iraqi tanks and armored personnel carriers along Highway 6, north of the city. Operations there also resulted in the recovery of two Kenyan men who had been held hostage near Al Zubair, west of Basra.
Finally, 5th Corps actions included simultaneous, limited objective attacks near Al Hilla, Karbala, and As Samawa. And these attacks were intended to create vulnerabilities in the Republican Guard defenses, and also to isolate the remaining pockets of resistance for destruction at a time of our choosing. The attacks were very effective, and resulted in the capture of an Iraqi general with very valuable information, an airfield, and a training camp for regime death squads.
The maritime component continues its work and is completing the clearance of the old port of Umm Qasr, the old portion of the port, and they're extending their efforts to clear the newer part of the port to the north.
And the coalition continues to push information to the Iraqi population at various levels. Radio and TV broadcasts continue across Iraq. And recent captures of enemy prisoners of war say that the broadcasts are readily accessible and they are also very popular. The coalition remains focused on efforts to begin the future of Iraq in the Iraqi people.
I have a short video to show you that demonstrates a free Iraqi force member with a coalition civil affairs officer interviewing a man for employment in the port of Umm Qasr. I mentioned a few days ago that we invited people who had previously worked in the port to come back and begin work again. I'd also add that the port manager himself, and Iraqi officer who was captured by coalition forces in the early days of the war, has asked to resume running the port, and we're giving that serious consideration.
Now, you've seen the results of our work in civil affairs throughout the south. We've shown that over the last several days. But I would say also that it's ongoing in every other area we secure. I have an image to show you of a team in the Third Infantry Division area, much further forward, doing the same kind of work. So, this is a civil affairs team with the free Iraqi force member encountering the civil population, forward as well as in the south.
And I also have a video clip I want to show you. This is a clip of civil affairs operations in the vicinity of the Ranger attack I showed you a few days ago. If you recall, there was a night attack to eliminate a commando outpost and command center in the west. This clip will show you what came in the wake. (Video is shown.) Civil affairs member instructed the population on the rations -- passed out boxes of water. But they were also escorted to buildings in the town.
(From video clip.)
SOLDIER: RPG, water -- they've got a little of everything in here, don't they. Instructions --
BRIG. GEN. BROOKS: Chemical mask instructions.
(Video still rolling.)
BRIG. GEN. BROOKS: Ammunition carried outside, and then ultimately destroyed. What I would highlight from this is first the equipment you saw was inside of a building that had been used as a hospital inside of this town, forcibly taken over by regime forces at a preceding time. The coalition was assisted by the local population, told what was in these buildings, escorted to the buildings, and the actual population assisted in carrying the ammunition and weapons out and in the destruction. The facility has now been returned to the villagers.
With that, I'll answer your questions.
Q (Inaudible) -- speak generally about the rules of engagement, specifically for troops who are manning vehicle checkpoints, and have they changed in light of recent events? Thank you.
GEN. BROOKS: Well Rob, I will start off by saying at first, in all cases whether at checkpoints or otherwise we always maintain the right, inherent right of self-defense. And that's the start point for any of our rules of engagement.
Without getting too specific about rules of engagement, what I would say is that at checkpoints, obviously as I described yesterday, we are trying to get some separation between a potential threat and the force that's being protected, or the area that's being protected. Our checkpoints have to remain alert and vigilant to any type of threat that would approach that which is being protected and secured.
We have not had a change in rules of engagement in recent days. There is increased vigilance because of the tactics that we've seen used throughout the battlefield by the regime and the death squads that are out there, examples of multiple vehicles rapidly approaching -- that's happened in a few places. One of the vehicle usually has non-combatants in it, and we're aware of that. There will be occasions where civilians will be put into harm's way. We make every effort to warn, to try to cause a halt to the potential danger before it escalates beyond a point at which it can be controlled. And we've had some incidents in recent days that relate to that. We believe that we are still following our procedures well, and in any case when there is a loss of potential non-combatants, investigations begin, so we have investigations that are ongoing.
Please. In the fourth row, back here.
Q Yes. Iraqi information minister -- (inaudible) -- says coalition forces have targeted an Iraqi bus with American human shields on it. Can you confirm that?
GEN. BROOKS: I am not aware of any reports of human shields. I've heard about these broadcasts that have come out of the north, and I cannot confirm that, and don't have any information on it at all.
Q (Inaudible) -- with ABC News. Don't you think it will be hard to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqis when every civilian and every car must be treated with suspicion? In Israel, they certainly found this be nearly impossible. And also, a second question if I may. You now have found lots of munitions and gas masks and things that you've shown us, many of these things with markings of country of origin. Can you tell us what some of these countries are? And more importantly, are there any dates of when these munitions and things came to Iraq? Thank you.
GEN. BROOKS: Our efforts to remove the regime, and we believe that when the regime is removed the people will be very satisfied with the conditions that follow. That's what we're after. As we approach the population of Iraq, we are very sensitive to the potential of damage to the civilian population, leaving long-lasting impacts that are undesirable. And so our efforts are designed to try to prevent those wherever possible. We think we're doing very well at that, and being very consistent with it.
We know that the regime would like to see as much difficulty placed between our efforts and their eventual departure and demise as can be made. And if they can put the Iraqi population between themselves and us, we've seen repeated occasions that they're willing to do that -- in fact, this regime has shown that it will go to just about any extent to protect themselves -- that's what we believe we're seeing out there.
The reality is, though, as the regime is removed, as the boot is removed from the neck of the people, they are very satisfied. Some of the films we've shown you demonstrate that. The recent examples of military operations, supported by tribals and people in Iraq, demonstrates that. So, we're very comfortable that we're headed in the right direction in that regard. We always regret the loss of life of any civilians on the battlefield, but that unfortunately is something that still has not been eliminated from war.
The second part of your question, as to countries of origin, there are a variety of countries that over years have provided military equipment or other things to the Iraqi regime. We're quite aware of that. There are not surprises in that regard. I don't want to list them out at this point -- I don't think it would be valuable -- but there aren't any surprises as to what we're finding out there in different places in the battlefield.
Q Yes sir, Tom Mintier with CNN. We saw pictures of the psychological operations in Basra where in the middle of the night loudspeakers were being played into the city. I've also heard that new leaflets may be soon prepared to deal with the checkpoint problem. How can you get the word out to the Iraqi population to try to prevent them from being used in front of forces that are combative?
GEN. BROOKS: First, we again have a variety of methods in place to try to communicate with the Iraqi population. I mentioned that we have five different radio frequencies that are ongoing 24 hours a day. We cover all of Iraq. We have one television station that's ongoing. The U.K. has begun broadcasting on a new radio station from southern Iraq. We have leaflets that we drop. Everything we can do to inform the population of what they should do to protect themselves we're trying to do. As we see a need to make adjustment, we'll adjust messages to make that as clear as we can as well. The most important message, though, is that the regime will continue to put them at risk on a daily basis, and they should do what they can to protect themselves from the regime and those risks that come on a daily basis. And we'll do what we can to protect them also.
Let me come to the left side, please.
Q Hi General. Jeff Schaeffer (sp), Associated Press Television News. I have two questions for you. The first question is a follow-up on that question. I'd like to know, with all of the psych-ops that you've been doing since the war started, before -- leaflets, e-mails -- why do you -- why have there not been more high-level defections from the regime? That's one question. The second question I have is every day we hear from this podium that the command and control sites have been eroded, have been degraded. Can you just, in laymen's terms, spell out a bit what are the tangible consequences of this?
GEN. BROOKS: Okay. Let me start with the second question first. When we say we are eroding the command and control, in general terms what that means is if we are aware of a particular system that is used to communicate, that joins telephone with other transmissions, a network that moves information to the Iraqi regime forces, to different areas, to different Ba'ath Party headquarters, and we have awareness of that, we may seek to sever those links. And we have a variety of methods to do that. When we know that there is a facility that houses those who make decisions, those who would issue instructions, we may target that. When we know that there is something that generates power information, we may attack only a portion of that, the amount necessary to turn the power off so that it can't produce something. So, it's a very deliberate process, without getting too much more specific, that we go through to analyze what will have the intended effect on the regime.
Now, this -- this regime is very effective at building redundancies, but redundant means are not as good as primary means, and so where we can cause a loss of a primary means, the beginning of a redundant mean, the loss of another redundant means, into secondary, tertiary, quaternary means, the regime loses its effectiveness. That's what we mean by that description.
Now, let's go back to the first question. If you could just reiterate a portion of it for me.
Q Yes. I would like to know, with all of the e-mails, all of the psych-ops, leaflets, why do you feel there hasn't been more high-level Iraqi defections from the regime?
GEN. BROOKS: Because the regime won't let them. I mean, the regime is still present in many areas, and it is the regime and the brutality of the regime that keeps many people from taking the steps that they would like to take. As they have pressures brought against the regime, they're more willing to take those steps. You have to understand that this is a very high-risk proposition for military leaders who would decide they're not going to fight for the regime, or civilians that would rise up against the regime. There is tremendous danger in that, and they know that. There is also tremendous success occurring, and they know that as well.
So, the boldness is increasing in military leaders, and we do have a number of military leaders that are in our possession either by way of capture or by way of surrender, and we also now know many things from the population that we're encountering.
So, we think that the work is ongoing and effective. We don't overestimate our ability to have the population just walk out towards us without any danger. We recognize the danger they're under and we're deliberate and patient about how we're going to get the job done.
Fourth row, please.
Q Adi Rival (ph), ABC News. The report on the ground today in reference to the checkpoint incident said that U.S. officials offered financial compensation to some of the relatives and family members of the victims. Is that now official government policy and military policy, to offer financial compensation to family members and victims of possible accidental attacks or something along the lines that happened yesterday, or it up to the discretion of the commanding officer? Thank you.
GEN. BROOKS: Really, a variety of options that are available out there. In some cases, we can make, when we believe it's appropriate, down to the lowest levels, there's immediate compensations that can be made to families. That can happen. And we do that all over the world, not just here where we're in combat operations. And that's at the commander's discretion, to decide whether there is some immediate compensation that just says we're sorry, that we can do.
Beyond that, there are policy and legal considerations that are undertaken, and those are really not appropriate for this command to be able to discuss. I'd refer that back to Washington.
Q Peter Graff (sp) from Reuters. In today's New York Times, there's two divisional commanders from the first Gulf War -- General McCaffrey and General Griffith -- who both say that if they were planning this war, they would have wanted to bring two to three more armored divisions and more artillery. And here's General McCaffrey. He says, "Their assumptions were wrong. They went into battle with a plan that put a huge air and sea force into action with an unbalanced ground combat force." Now, you guys keep saying that the plan, as it stands now, is sound and effective, but that doesn't mean it couldn't be better.
Wouldn't it be easier for you guys if you had two or three more divisions in Kuwait who were already ready to roll instead of where we stand now, waiting for them, with the weather getting hotter and the guys at the front line under the pressures of combat without that reassurance of a couple of divisions at their back?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, I think General Franks has been very clear that we're comfortable with the forces that were made available. The timing to start the operation was something under his consideration and his control. He's liked with his boss as to what the conditions should have been before we started operations. We have the forces that we need to do the work that's been designed in this operation to date and the operation that's ahead, and we remain comfortable in that regard. And I know that there are variety of opinions out there -- those are fair -- but only this command is prosecuting the war at this time.
Q James Forlong (sp) from Sky News. Do you accept, given the footage that we saw today of the hearts and minds operations going on, the immense damage to that that incurs when incidents such as this checkpoint shooting take place? And do you also accept that a contributory factor to that may be that U.S. forces on the ground simply don't have enough experience of this sort of policing operation within an area like this?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, I don't accept the second part. I think we have considerable experience on that, and throughout the coalition there is experience. Many of the forces that are out there have conducted operations throughout the Balkans and other areas over the last several years, so we're not at all unfamiliar with the types of threats that would come in what seems to be a benign environment but really is not. In this case, we know it's not a benign environment. We know it's a very threatening environment. And we also know that we're dealing with a regime that will push civilians out in front, that will push babies out in front, that will shoot women in the back on bridges. We know that we're dealing with that. And so I think that there's an awareness of it.
There is certainly a challenge when one looks at those types of events in isolation compared to a single point of successful winning hearts and minds, as you described. That's not the whole scope of the picture, and we should always consider that there's much more work happening throughout a variety of areas than these isolated incidents that occur out there that are under investigation. And that's the best way for us to determine it.
The first part of your question -- would you please repeat that?
Q You've answered the first -- that was the immense, the sort of damage this does in a general sense to the operation intended to persuade people that this is a force of liberation rather than an occupying army.
GEN. BROOKS: Okay. It indeed is a force that will liberate, and our efforts may result in the loss of lives, civilian, and they clearly will result in the loss of Iraqi military lives, and that's no -- there's no doubt about that. While we regret the loss of any civilian lives, at this point they remain unavoidable, as they have been throughout history.
Q Danelle Balfour , CTV News, Canada. You were saying about this information that you're getting from the locals, help from the local you to Ba'ath Party interests, that you've got senior military from the Republican Guard. Is any of that information coming in leading you to sites of weapons of mass destruction or even indicating that weapons of mass destruction exist in Iraq?
GEN. BROOKS: Information comes in and we use it in a variety of ways. There have been some cases where we've captured leaders that had information about a particular ammunition storage depot. We have entered those depots and looked inside of them.
In some cases we did not find weapons of mass destruction. We found thousands of rounds of artillery, some of which were very old. We found a variety of other things as well, like some of the examples of what's been found in hospitals, the N-B-C protective equipment.
Where we find information at the tactical level, we seek opportunities. Where the opportunities take us, there may be new information. And that's how the picture begins to unfold. At this point we have not found any weapons of mass destruction, but we continue to find evidence that it is available, that there is a will to use it. And we certainly have seen that historically.
But we haven't found the actual items themselves. We'll continue looking for it very patiently. That's one of the objectives of this operation, to begin the disarmament and ultimately lead to the final disarmament of Iraq. And that work will take time and will take a patient effort as we go along.
Let me go to the front row again, please.
Q (Inaudible) -- Al Jazeera. Regarding the situation in Najaf and Karbala, did you give any special -- (inaudible) -- to coalition forces not to destroy mosques and Islamic buildings and Islamic historic buildings?
And second question: Media -- (inaudible) -- expressed deep concern about the way many reporters are being treated by coalition forces. What's your comment, General?
GEN. BROOKS: We are very aware of the religious sites in a number of areas, but certainly in Karbala and Najaf; very aware of that indeed. And our forces seek to reduce, minimize or avoid damage to religious sites, cultural sites.
We've seen the regime be far less willing to protect those, as I've shown you on a number of occasions, positioning military equipment in some cases beside mosques, deliberately doing so, and putting those at risk. At this point we find ourselves far more sensitive to those concerns than the regime is, and we will remain that way as we conduct our operations.
The second part, referencing Doctors Without Borders and the reported treatment of reporters, we have not gotten negative reports about the treatment of reporters, especially those that are embedded with our organizations. It's working very well, probably better than we expected, and perhaps better than even the media organizations themselves expected. So I certainly don't support any comment about negative treatment in this case.
Q (Inaudible.) Can you be more specific about the Republican Guard and how coalition air strikes have damaged their capabilities? And what percentage of the Republican Guard would have to be taken out before U.S.-coalition forces are willing to go into Baghdad?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, I'll answer the question a little bit differently than the way you asked it, because that would be a bit too specific if I answered it directly. But let me say this. Republican Guard forces, we know, are the primary conventional structure of the Iraqi regime. We expect them to fight. And in some cases they've already fought.
We also know that they're reinforced in some cases by regime death squads, by Ba'athist loyalists who are ensuring that they fought.
In any military operation, we seek to create conditions of advantage, and that comes by way of making a vulnerable spot inside of an organization, reducing its strength, seeking a position of advantage. All these things are part of the military art form.
The Republican Guard forces that we're aware of, we are doing a number of things to. And that includes reducing their strength, preventing their ability to command and control their forces, seeking positions of advantage. That's the way we approach our operations.
I won't describe how far we've taken them or at what point we believe they would be at the greatest disadvantage. But our operations will continue until we're satisfied with that, and we'll attack at a time and place of our choosing.
Q Are you seeing any moves on the part of the Republican Guard forces that would indicate they have any practical communications with their command and control or that they have any good intelligence about where the U.S. forces are positioning themselves?
GEN. BROOKS: We are seeing some movements of Republican Guard forces, mostly either repositioning for survivability within defensive areas or, in some cases, reinforcement by other units from different areas. That may well be coming as a result of the damage that we've inflicted upon those forces, or they may be choosing a different tactical set.
We have a good awareness at this point in time of what is being done physically on the ground. I don't know that the Republican Guard forces command has the same awareness of what we're doing. They certainly are aware of the contact that they've had, and they're aware of the pressures that are being brought to bear on them. But what their picture is, I don't know.
We certainly try to, as much as possible, including in even these sessions, preserve the operational security of future operations. We don't discuss them, and we also don't reveal them to our opponent in any way that we can try to avoid that.
We're comfortable with the position we're in at this point in time with regard to the Republican Guard forces command. And we believe that when the fight is joined, we'll be in good condition for the operation.
Q Hello, General. Kelly O'Donnell from NBC News. Could you speak to the effectiveness of the suicide bomb attacks? Four soldiers, four Marines, were killed on Saturday. In just a couple of days, more than twice the number of innocent civilians, unarmed civilians, died.
Can you speak to how that is affecting U.S. troops from the concern of their own potential to be harmed and their concern to potentially harm civilians? One of the people who was reported on the ground in one of these incidents said, "I thought it was a suicide bomber." Can you speak to that?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, I can say that first, as I mentioned yesterday, in isolation, any one of these events does not have tactical significance. It may have an impact at that particular place where the detonation occurs, as in the case that resulted in the loss of life. But tactically it doesn't change the battlefield.
Psychologically there can be impacts, and the impacts would generally be an increased awareness. Because we know the regime is using a specific set of tactics, we take those tactics into account. And whether that's how they're using their artillery, whether they're flying airplanes or not, or whether they're pushing human shields out in front of their formations, these are tactical decisions that are being made by the regime.
I can't speak for the view of people up on the line. I suspect that from my own experience they would have a heightened awareness to it and anticipate that everything that approaches could potentially be a threat. If things before had not been considered so, now it's very clear the regime will do about anything. And so there should be no surprises on the battlefield.
Our forces that are out there are disciplined. They're well-trained. They're experienced. And they will react at the right place and time, based on what they know on the ground when the circumstances occur. And we have to rely on that first.
I don't accept that there's an increasing number. I accept that there may be some increasing reports, but I don't know that it's an increasing number. We certainly know that there's an increasing willingness on the part of the regime to use more and more civilians. And these are not civilian men. I think those have already been pressed into service somewhere else. We talked about that before. These are women and children. And they're on the battlefield; we know that.
Q May I just follow up quickly? Are you suggesting -- (inaudible) -- were, in fact, human shields and not simply mistaken or unaware that they needed to stop? Are you saying they were specifically used as human shields?
GEN. BROOKS: In this case, I don't know enough to be able to say that. I can't make that judgment. I know that we've seen those types of circumstances in other parts of the battlefield. The investigation has to reveal what the real circumstances were in this case.
Second row, please.
Q John Broder (sp) with the New York Times. You mentioned in your opening remarks that you had captured an Iraqi general. Can you tell us who, when, where, and what he's told you so far?
GEN. BROOKS: No, I can't tell you all that. What I can tell you is he's an Iraqi general that had some information about tactical dispositions. We're using that information, and advantage will come to us as a result of that. When is within the last 48 hours; I'll put it in that general set. Where I will not describe.
Third row, please.
Q (Inaudible.) Back to the tragic incident in Najaf, we're hearing reports from (the ground?) that the soldier manning the checkpoint was late in firing the warning shot. Can you comment on that, please?
And secondly, we are also hearing reports that in the north the U.S. has been arming some of the militia, the Kurdish militia. Are we going to see in the north a front similar to (what happened?) in Afghanistan? Thank you.
GEN. BROOKS: Let me start with the second part of the question, if I may. We have coalition Special Operations forces throughout Iraq at this point in time. And it should come as no surprise that some of those coalition Special Operations forces are working closely with Kurdish groups in the north.
At this point there have been no unilateral Kurdish actions, and we don't anticipate that there will be. In fact, we have a fairly high degree of stability that's occurring in the north as a result, we believe, of our presence and the close cooperation that's ongoing.
We have moved coalition forces into spaces that have been evacuated by parts of the Iraqi regime in some of their defensive positions, simply to maintain contact so we can continue to attack them. That is ongoing.
The first part of your question, if you would go back there, please.
Q (Inaudible) -- soldier manning the checkpoint was late in firing the warning shot and may have led the civilian -- (inaudible) -- the checkpoint.
GEN. BROOKS: Again, I don't know enough about the specific circumstances and wouldn't want to predispose anything that actually happened on that checkpoint. There are rules of engagement. There are tactical decisions that are made on the ground. We have to investigate those thoroughly to find out exactly what the contributing circumstances were.
Right beside, please.
Q (Inaudible.) Again on the checkpoint killings, how can you explain the discrepancy between what CENTCOM said about seven people dying and what eyewitnesses said about 10 people dying?
GEN. BROOKS: I think it's probably easily accounted for as just the fog of war. We've seen reports throughout this war and every other war in human history, and even things less violent and confusing than war, that initial reports are often wrong and it requires subsequent investigation, examination and review before you can come up with a final answer. And that's the way we approach these things.
I would not try to square the two of them. We'll find the ultimate truth when it's at the end of the course of examination, not at the beginning.
Please, second row.
Q (Inaudible) -- Time Magazine. You mentioned in your opening statement that 100 local men helped with the U.S. attack, 100 tribal men. Can you tell us how that came about, how long it took to have them come on your side and help you? And did you arm them?
GEN. BROOKS: We've operated in a variety of areas, including in close contact with tribal leaders and tribal members. This alludes to a bit of our approach. And I don't want to get too specific about the tactics we use or when we make contact or how that would occur, since people go into harm's way to make that happen.
What I would say is where we can find an access point or find someone who is interested in contacting us, we'll pursue that. And when we have the opportunity to take a greater advantage, that becomes the next step.
In this case, I don't know whether they were armed or not. I honestly don't know the answer to that question. The key is, their will contributed to the successes last night. And we think we're going to see a whole lot more of those in the coming days. It's beginning to show up in a variety of areas.
As I mentioned before, as the regime is pushed back, peeled back or destroyed, people are seeking freedom for themselves. And we're going to assist that as it goes along.
Second row, please.
Q (Inaudible) -- from the Los Angeles Times. Two questions. You mentioned at the beginning -- I think you said Fifth Corps captured a death-squad training camp. What does that mean, death-squad training camp? Who was using this training camp?
And second, you've mentioned a couple of times your informational radio broadcasts being heard across Iraq. Does that include Baghdad? And the same for your television broadcasts.
GEN. BROOKS: The training area is one we suspected had been used by these outfits we're calling regime death squads, where they receive some military training. It was captured by one of the Fifth Corps divisions as it moved through that area. It was in the vicinity of An Najaf.
They were successful in taking that area and bringing it under control. There was a small battle that occurred there. We don't know if it was with those death-squad forces or others who were still operating in the area.
Q (Off mike.)
GEN. BROOKS: The paramilitaries. We've used a variety of terms to describe them, but that's who we're talking about in this case.
And the second half of your question was?
Q (Off mike.)
GEN. BROOKS: You asked whether or not we were reaching Baghdad. Yes, we are reaching Baghdad. And we are able to cover all of Iraq with our broadcasts at this point, particular radio broadcasts. We've also extended the range of our television broadcasts that come in on Iraqi channel number 3. That's ongoing right now. And so we do have very good coverage to try to get as much information out as we can to the Iraqi population.
We also remain in a position to talk to the Iraqi military forces. And as I mentioned, some of the enemy prisoners of war have said that it (was accessible?) and is very popular.
Okay, right behind her, please.
Q Thank you, sir. (Inaudible.) When you show us these impressive satellite footage and video clips, you probably want us to believe that, A, your bombs are accurate; B, you do not target civilians. If that is really the case, I'm just wondering, how can you explain the death of between 500 to 700 civilian Iraqis and injuring many more thousands? And how do you find this consistent with Geneva Convention?
And when you use those villagers to carry out weapons and munition outside the house in order to destroy it, how (moral?) you find this?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, first, again, our approach has been and will continue to be one that tries to minimize the impact on civilian populations and other structures that we don't intend to affect. We are very satisfied with the precision of the work that has been undertaken thus far.
The numbers that you've provided, I cannot account for. I don't know the source of those numbers and I don't know what the veracity of those numbers would be. There are clearly deaths that have occurred on the battlefield.
That will continue to occur, unfortunately, because it's a result of combat action. It's also a result of decisions being made by the Iraqi regime to use civilians as shields. This is a certainty. We've seen it in too many places to think of it as circumstantial.
Because that's the case, there are probably some numbers of deaths on the battlefield, but our view is the blood is on the hands of the regime for their decisions and their willingness to use their population this way.
As to the morality of having people carry weapons and ammunition outside of a hospital inside their town, I think I would have to go back to the original circumstances that brought them in there in the first place. If there's a question of morality, it really should go back to the regime, not those who seek to rid the regime from their towns and villages.
Q (Inaudible) -- National Public Radio. I believe the BBC was quoting a number between 500 to 700 civilian casualties. I'd like to actually come off of that question and ask, given that there have been under 100 casualties amongst American and allied troops, that provides a ratio of about five to one.
And if, as CENTCOM officials have been saying, allied troops are prepared to pay a heavy price in taking Baghdad, what does that say about the total number of civilian casualties we'll be willing to accept in order to win this war? Will it be a high number?
And if I can have a follow-up question, when can we have the results of the investigation into the attack or the bombing on the marketplace, and also the investigation at the checkpoint shooting yesterday? Can we have a date on that?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, I can't give you a date. I mean, it takes as long as it takes. And it ought to be thorough. We're not going to waste time with them, but we are going to be thorough about the work that's being done.
Let me ask you to just restate the first question. I want to make sure I address it the right way.
Q Just a question about the level of civilian casualties that you'd be willing to accept, since it's been about a five-to-one kill ratio if you look at the number of allied casualties to civilians killed, according to -- well, it was on the BBC web site this morning -- what that will mean if we have to expend a lot of troops in taking Baghdad, for instance. Will this five-to-one ratio continue?
GEN. BROOKS: We don't make a ratio like what you've described. I mean, you can join any set of numbers together and create a ratio, but that's certainly not part of the calculus we have in designing the plan.
Our designs are to minimize the casualties to civilians as much as we can. We'd like to see that be zero. That is not something that's ever been achieved in warfare. We believe that our efforts have driven it as low as it has ever been driven in warfare.
I cannot account for the other circumstances of the battlefield, where people have been taken out and shot. We have plenty of reports that indicate that in towns and villages, Ba'athist Party members, regime death squads, paramilitaries, whatever term you want to use, are threatening people. And, if they don't do what they're told to do, they're being shot on the spot. Some of them are being hanged.
You had the story of the woman who was hanged for waving at coalition forces. These are numbers that should be rolled up also. They have nothing to do with coalition action.
I think the number is something we can't get our hands around, but it's a number that the Iraqi regime has a pretty good grip. They're contributing a tremendous portion of this number, whatever it happens to be.
We remain convinced that our efforts are effective. We will remain focused on trying to drive those numbers down wherever we can, when it's in our power to prevent any damage. And that's the approach we're going to take.
As to the whole number and the willingness to shed blood for the objectives, in this case we also try to protect our forces who are doing our work. We want to drive the number of our own casualties down to zero as well. The objective is what we seek, not death.
Second row, please.
Q Martha Brant with Newsweek Magazine. A couple of days ago there were reports that POWs have possibly been executed. There were bodies found in a mortuary. A team was going to go investigate it. I wonder if you have a report back from them yet. And along those lines, there were also reports of possible torture of American POWs. Is there anything more you have on that?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, I think you all saw the brutal and unacceptable films that were shown early on after the initial capture apparently occurred. There are, as with many things, reports on the battlefield of remains that have been found. And when we have those reports, we send out a mortuary affairs team.
And if there's a suspicion there may be more to it, we may also send out a mobile exploitation team that has a bit more capability to examine the circumstances at that scene. That has occurred. Their results have not come in yet. We're still looking for those to find what their final assessment is of what they found.
We do know that there is some confusion in the reports, and we have to be patient to find out what that final word is to make a determination who it might be, whether they were U.S. service members or not, and what the circumstances were associated with the remains that were found.
Q (Inaudible) -- USA Today. U.S. troops made an extraordinarily quick journey to Baghdad. The troops moved very quickly, and U.S. troops chose not to secure some cities, such as An Nasiriyah. And now they seem to be in position near Baghdad, but the attack on Baghdad hasn't occurred. So my question would be, what was the rush to move so quickly through the country without securing supply lines and such?
GEN. BROOKS: Well, General Franks has described that we sometimes do operations sequentially. Sometimes we do them simultaneously. In the case of the initial base of the operation, we had a very rapid movement that happened outside of towns to get into a position that began to threaten the Republican Guard forces command and continues to threaten the Republican Guard forces command without being hung up, if you will, in some of the deliberate work that's necessary to clear a town from any threats that are inside of it.
That's deliberate work that requires patience, requires skill, the kind of skill you're seeing exhibited in Basra, in Nasiriyah, in other areas ongoing. It also is best done in this case with the support of the people who are in it.
And so, rather than going sequentially, town by town, and all the things that might come along with such an approach, we moved more quickly to a position where we can threaten the regime, attack the regime in-depth, and deal with the circumstances in those towns under a manner of our choosing, by the plan, by design.
You're seeing that occurring even as we speak. And we believe it remains a very effective plan for how to get the job done, while minimizing losses to our forces and also while minimizing loss of civilians that might be inside of those towns.
Please, on the left side.
Q (Inaudible) -- Irish Times. Sorry.
GEN. BROOKS: You're first.
Q Okay. Just two-part question. Can you give us any idea, subject to your operational considerations, of what are the rules or guidelines for what must be an almost unprecedented situation of young soldiers dealing with cars which may be innocent or may be containing suicide bombers or may be fronting for suicide bombers?
And secondly, since this could be described as a policing operation, perhaps not, have you given any consideration to the use of non-lethal force, since there are a variety of other means available? Stun guns, tear gas, et cetera.
GEN. BROOKS: Well, we give consideration to a lot of things as we design our operations. And I don't know that I would characterize this as a policing action at this point. This is still very clearly conventional combat happening; there's unconventional warfare ongoing; there are traditional strategic strikes ongoing. The entire spectrum of warfare is engaged as we continue our operations, and we're prepared to deal with those things.
We use a number of means also to try to prevent the rising to lethal force. Some of the options you described are not necessarily in place here, whether you're talking about stun guns or other traditional policing options, but that doesn't force us to go straight to lethal means. So things like a tactical psychological operations team putting out a broadcast and giving instructions to stop is a method of a non-lethal action. Putting out protective wire to increase the distance between where physical contact would occur is a non-lethal means of trying to prevent the opportunity of going to a lethal step.
So those are part and parcel to what we're doing in our operations. Whenever we have the circumstance that requires us to respond with force, we seek to do it in a way that's proportional to the threat that occurs and also that is controlled and disciplined. And that only comes by way of having a force that's well trained, that's well led and that's very capable. And we remain comfortable that we have that force out there on the battlefield right now.
GEN. BROOKS: One more, please.
Q Nicole Enfield (ph) from the Associated Press. Just to follow up on that last bit, are you saying that there have been, since this increased vigilance at checkpoints as a result of the suicide bombing, have there been specific leaflets, broadcasts put out in Iraq saying, "You must stop at checkpoints. Don't go fast." Are there these wires out there? Were they out at Najaf?
And related, if indeed this is a new tactic of the Iraqis to use these human shields to rush the checkpoints, don't you guys also have to maybe recalibrate the way you deal with it, not just increasing your vigilance, but, okay, assuming we're going to get human shields coming at us, maybe we have to not pull the trigger as fast as we might have if it is just a basic suicide bomber. You say you try to avoid targeting human shields when you know that they're surrounding a weapons factory, why can you be -- recalibrate your increased vigilance if you know now that human shields are going to be used at checkpoints?
GEN. BROOKS: Let me start with the second -- second part of the question. The activities that happen out on the ground are results of the dynamics of battle as they occur around the forces that are in contact. There are a number of decisions that are made that only the people on the ground can make, and they're the only ones who can know. I think increased vigilance causes one to go through a process of thinking what do we need to do to make sure we can accomplish our mission, protect the force and do it in a way that's consistent with the approach that we sought out undertaking from the beginning and even to the present. So there are always recalibrations -- to use a term that you described, and that term is fine -- recalibrations of our approach on a daily basis, all tactical aspects.
Now, to go to the first part of the specifics about the checkpoints and those sorts of things, I can't give you -- I don't know. What I would say is those are the approaches that a military organization would take to consider, how do you increase your separation? How do you provide more protection? Those types of things are ongoing.
I think our investigation will determine what the specific circumstances were on each one of these incidents that have occurred.
Q Just to follow up then. So isn't it possible that perhaps these people who might have been fleeing Najaf, where there was a lot of fighting yesterday, might not have been around to listen to the radio to hear that they were supposed to stop at a checkpoint? Might they be afraid and trying to get out quickly, because behind them, there's a lot of fighting? I mean, how effective are these communication efforts in the middle of a war when people are afraid?
GEN. BROOKS: It's a very fair question. I certainly can't presuppose what decisions are being made or what decisions were made by the people in that vehicle. What we do know is that we've been broadcasting now for a good period of time, since about the 17th of February, 24 hours a day on five different frequencies. And consistent throughout that time have been messages that say, "Avoid coalition troops. Avoid the places where combat is going to occur. Don't position equipment near protected sites, things that should be sacred to you culturally, religiously." These types of messages have been consistent throughout. We don't need to change that message. That message still remains. And so it's not something new that's required.
The degree of threat being imposed upon the civilian population here is extraordinary, and I think is not well accounted for. Yes, people are scared. No doubt about it. And people are also bold. And they're becoming bolder by the day, as they see the successes of the coalition, as they see the regime getting pealed back, as they begin to take action on their own.
Were these fleeing? I don't know. I think we can't say, and we may never be able to say. Would there be some trying to flee on the battlefield? Perhaps there will be and perhaps there have been. We've not seen large flows of numbers of displaced persons internally displaced from their homes to other places. They've been very, very small. And we think that has to do at least partially with the message that we've communicated, that it's better to stay, and we'll be there soon, and that hope will come and there will be liberation.
Ladies and gentlemen, thanks very much.
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