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Official US Central Command Statement:

Journalists express skepticism at press conference

 

www.globalresearch.ca   6  April 2003

The URL of this article is: http://globalresearch.ca/articles/USC304A.html


CENTCOM Operation Iraqi Freedom Briefing ~ 05 April 2003

Presenter: Major General Victor E. "Gene" Renuart, Director of Operations April 5, 2003

complete text at:  http://www.centcom.mil/CENTCOMNews/Transcripts/20030405.htm

below Major General Renaurt Answers Questions, following his presentation.

This exchange suggests that mainstream war correspondents have doubts on the official narrative regarding the war as outlined by US Central Command.


Well, that completes the comments that I wanted to make. Let me open up for questions for you today. This gentleman was eager to get in early, so I'll start off right here.

Q Jonathan Marcus, BBC. General, could you give us some characterization of the events in southwestern Baghdad earlier today? And could I ask that -- they've been using a lot of precision-guided munitions. Some of the statements from press officers here today have been very vague -- talk about downtown Baghdad, U.S. forces in the center of the city.

We have people who are in the center of the city, and they clearly haven't been actually in the center. So could I ask for a little bit greater precision from some of the statements, but also some indication from you as to what has been going on?

GEN. RENUART: Well, I think the very first clarity of what was going on was riding in one of those tanks in the Second Brigade Combat Team, and it was one of the embedded reporters. So you probably can't see a better up-to-date report than what you saw there.

But I will try to put some context to what you saw. This was an operation conducted by two task forces of the Third Infantry Division. They, in fact, had been south of the city and conducted a raid through the city, proceeding north to the Tigris River and then continuing out to the west in the direction of the airport.

As to why your colleagues were not able to see that from the center of the city, I'm not sure. But I'm pretty comfortable that in some parts of downtown London you can't see what's going on in other parts of downtown London. So I can't give you any better answer than that.

I'm pretty comfortable I know where those guys were, and I'm pretty comfortable the reporters gave you an accurate picture of the scenes on the road.

It was, I think, a clear statement of the ability of the coalition forces to move into Baghdad at times and places of their choosing and to establish their presence really wherever they need to in the city. And those kinds of operations, I believe, will continue.

Yes, sir.

Q General, Jeff Reed (sp) from Sky News. At times, sir, your review sounded almost like a victory speech. Was it? Have you now reached the tipping point? And can I ask the daily weapons-of-mass-destruction question? They haven't been deployed. They haven't been discovered. Is this war going to make history by being ended before you've found its cause?

(Laughter.)

GEN. RENUART: That's a great question. Let me first say that in no way should any of the comments I made be taken as a victory speech. Victory will come, of that there is no doubt. But this fight is far from over. As we have said, we've been about to move into the area of Baghdad city. As you look at the map of Iraq, you'll note that there are many other parts of the country where we have not yet taken control of enemy forces in that region. And so the fight will continue. The fight is far from finished in Baghdad.

As to weapons of mass destruction, I think we continue to look at sites around the country. But I think as I mentioned last week as I was up here, many of the sites that we believe were most likely were in areas that we had not yet put troops. We're beginning to close down some of these areas and put troops into there, and we will in fact, over time, go through each of the sites where we believe to be -- that they may have stored, hidden or in some way cached any kind of weapon of mass destruction.

Tom?

Q (Inaudible) -- with CNN. You talked about setting up a base of operations at the Baghdad International Airport. Is the security such that that can be done now? And what about the runways? They were disabled for normal use, but will they suffice for your use?

GEN. RENUART: It's a good question. And I guess what I'd say in terms of a base of operation, as you know, you can create a base of operation in the middle of the desert where you secure a particular area and bring in your logistics forces. The airport gives us a fairly substantial area to operate from, and I believe we will continue to operate from the field. Whether we make it a main base of operation or not, time will tell.

With respect to security on the airfield, the 3rd ID folks, elements of the 101st have, I think, secured the airfield to a fairly good degree. That does not mean that there's not a threat from artillery from enemy forces who have continued to attack throughout the course of today to varying degrees and in varying sizes, but with no success. There are a number of sites on the airfield that we want to make sure we spend extra time to ensure there's not booby traps and those kinds of things. But we feel like we can operate on the airfield with ease.

In terms of, is the airfield functional, we believe that at least one of the runways is -- will be functioning very rapidly. Most of the obstructions there were dirt, so they can be cleaned off very quickly, and I think we will have that capability very rapidly. It appears the rest of the infrastructure on the airport was intact, and I think the -- well, the Iraqi government still today says we're not there, so clearly they weren't expecting us, so they left the airfield in a fairly operable condition.

Q Who disabled the runways, coalition forces, or did they put -- did they put obstacles in your way?

GEN. RENUART: Well, I think --

Q Yesterday it sounded like that you took out portions of the runway so they couldn't be used, and I don't think you could have put dirt in yesterday.

GEN. RENUART: (Laughs.) Even we're not that fast. No, we had -- Baghdad International Airport has two runways, two sides of the airfield. One of them is the military side, and we -- because there were some military-capable aircraft over there that we were concerned about, obstructed that one ourselves. On the other airfield, our intent was to leave that intact. The Iraqis, in fact, covered -- put dirt mounds in a number of places. I think they may have been worried that we were going to do some sort of an air landing or something, and they wanted to ensure that maybe that was not possible. I think they underestimate our capabilities. However, we will be about clearing those dirt mounds, et cetera, to get that runway functional very rapidly. And at the appropriate point, we'll start using it as we need to to bring in supplies or other items.

Yes, ma'am.

Q Jane Seck (ph) of Sky News. Can I just ask you, firstly, about the discovery of these bodies in Al Zubair? Do you have any information about that?

And secondly, were you surprised by the levels of resistance that you've faced so far going into Baghdad? Do you really think the Republican Guard is gone, or do you think they're waiting for you somewhere else?

GEN. RENUART: First, the question on reports in Zubair, I heard those really just coming over today. I can't give you any more specifics -- one, if the reports are accurate, or two, what the -- you know, what type of people these might be if they are accurate reports. So I'm afraid I can't give you too much more than that.

However, we have asked our -- in coordination with the land-component commander, to take these kinds of reports and try to run them to ground so that we can come up with some sense of truth. As you know, on the battlefield, many times, first reports are in some way inaccurate, and so we physically need to go there and find out, and we'll know more once we are on the ground.

Your second question was the Republican Guard. I think sometimes it's very difficult for people to understand the power of air power. I don't want to sound like I'm an airman beating the air power horn, but the integration of fires from both land and air --

STAFF (?): (Off mike.)

GEN. RENUART: I think it went off.

-- was substantial. And we were able to take advantage of superiority in the skies to prepare the battlefield. And as the forces moved through, they still found substantial Republican Guard capability, and in many cases those forces fought hard. But they were more isolated. They were not well organized. And I think you can -- that is a direct result of the combine-arms team that prepared that battlefield before the forces actually moved into the area.

Let me go over here. I'll come back in a minute. Kelly.

Q Hi, General. We have reports today of another suicide bombing at Baghdad airport. If you could address that. And secondly, do you have any indications there are substantial Republican Guard in Tikrit?

GEN. RENUART: I heard the reports about a potential suicide bomb at the airport. We've had a couple of reports of those activities that have been true over the last few days. The one today I tried to check just before I walked in. That has not come up on anybody's radar scope. Obviously, I think it was a media report. There have been a number of attacks out there. I would say some of them I'd term as suicidal in that very lightly armed forces trying to attack more heavily armored forces on the airfield. But I don't have what we would – what, at least, I would refer to as a suicide bomb attack that I'm aware of.

And I'm sorry, your second question?

Q Do you have of Republican Guard still substantial --

GEN. RENUART: In Tikrit?

Q Yes.

GEN. RENUART: Certainly through the conflict, we've seen a number of Republican Guard units in an around Tikrit. We continue to look in that area very carefully because certainly that's one of the key leadership nodes, we think, that tie to the Ba'ath Party.

As our forces drew closer to Baghdad, many of the Republican Guard units were sort of thrown into the fight, literally. And there certainly are some remnants of Republican Guard in that area. As to how large a force that is, we're still trying to get a little better intelligence on that.

Yes, sir.

Q Hi, General. Jeff Schaeffer, Associated Press Television News. Can you elaborate on your definition of favorable with regard to the strike on the leadership of the 21st? What exactly does that mean? And on the same track, can you talk -- can you give us your assessment of the Saddam Hussein video that was put out yesterday?

GEN. RENUART: Favorable means really good. (Laughter.) We hit exactly where we wanted to go, and we're pretty sure that one of the targets we were aiming at we got. Now, beyond that, I'm going to let it -- leave it there. Good try though.

And I think that goes to really your second question: Was this Saddam on the tapes yesterday? You know, I can't tell you. They are tapes, clearly. We know from intelligence that in the months preceding combat operations, a number of tapes were made to be used, some to be released locally; some to be released from other places in the world. I don't know. I truly don't know. But the fact of the matter is, it really doesn't matter. This -- the operation is to end the regime in Iraq, and we'll continue with that one. So whether that was or was not Saddam is truly not relevant to the plan. We'll continue until we complete the operations.

Yes, sir, back here. The gentleman from, I think, Qatari TV?

Q (Inaudible) -- from Kuwait TV.

GEN. RENUART: I'm sorry, Kuwait TV. I'm sorry.

Q Yes. Okay, I have a question, General. What is the problem which is the American army's -- (inaudible) -- in Baghdad now exactly?

GEN. RENUART: I'm sorry, could --

Q What is the problem which is the American army's -- (inaudible) -- in Baghdad now?

GEN. RENUART: Okay, so you're asking are we having difficulties with our Americans --

Q Difficult now exactly at the south of Baghdad. Thank you.

GEN. RENUART: I think -- I think our operations from -- that I described early that moved from the south through the center of Baghdad and out to the west are -- were very successful for us. The challenge with that were pockets of very intense fighting. As I mentioned, we had a task force that moved through the city made up of both Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and Abrams tanks. The fight through there was characterized by a number of irregular forces mixed with Republican Guard or Special Republican Guard infantry fighting positions, rocket-propelled grenades, nests of irregular forces and the technical vehicles that I described earlier and air-to-air artillery weapons that were used in a direct-fire mode against our forces, so 23 mm, 57 mm anti-aircraft cannons that were used in a direct-fire mode against our forces.

It was, as war reported, intense fighting in areas. On the other hand, in some areas, people were standing on the sidewalks waving to us. So clearly there is confusion in Baghdad. Clearly there is -- there is some chaos in terms of the command and control and ability of the military defending Baghdad. On the other hand, there are people who appear to acknowledge the presence of coalition forces favorably in that area.

Does that answer your question for you?

Q Yes.

GEN. RENUART: Okay, good.

Yes, sir.

Q I'm Matt Harrison with AFP. Can you confirm that the 3rd ID reached the center or the heart or the middle of the city today? And can you tell us where those troops are now?

GEN. RENUART: Moving wherever they need to. You know, I'm not sure I can tell you -- define to you what the center of Baghdad is. But I think someone described the Tigris River makes a pretty narrow bend at Highway 1 comes into what I would call pretty near the center of Baghdad and then turns out to the west. So our forces moved up into that area and then continued out to the west. And it's about as close to the center as I know how to define.

Yes, ma'am.

Q Thank you, General. I'm Martha Brant with Newsweek magazine. First of all, thank you very much for giving us that level of detail about Jessica Lynch. I had a couple of follow-up questions about her. We had been told that possibly "Chemical Ali," as he is called, may have been in that hospital. Do you know anything about that? Did you get him?

And secondly, the injuries she has, did she sustain them during the ambush, or did her captors inflict them on her?

GEN. RENUART: Let me go to your second question first, because I guess the answer to the first is, we think that he was there. He had used that area. But on the evening of the attack, he was not located in the hospital. That's not to say that we haven't been tracking him down at some other locations and will continue to do so until we're pretty confident that he's been eliminated.

As to her injuries, as I mentioned, arm injuries, leg injuries, she's undergone some back surgery as well. I don't have any way to determine if those were inflicted on her after her capture, and so it would be unfair of me to try to speculate on that. I just really can't say.

Q (Off mike.)

GEN. RENUART: No, I don't know of any other information to be more clear than that for you.

Yes, sir.

Q Adi Rival (ph), ABC News. The situation in Baghdad is such where the residents are getting mixed messages -- one message from the Iraqi leadership, the Information Ministry, that everything is fine; don't worry about it; they haven't taken over any of our command and control facilities; the coalition forces obviously presenting a different message. Now it seem the message, your message, the coalition forces' message is more important than ever. How are you getting through the Iraqi propaganda and talking directly to the people of Baghdad saying whatever you want to say in terms of issuing admonitions about, this is where we'll be, et cetera, et cetera? And why is the Information Ministry still broadcasting its propaganda?

Thank you, sir.

GEN. RENUART: It's a good question. As you know, the technology for broadcast is pretty sophisticated. And you can purchase satellite time on a variety of corporation satellites. And so as to how they're still being able to broadcast, while I'm not technically proficient to tell you how that happens, I can say that it appears that there are a number of satellite companies who have sold broadcast time to Iraqi National Television, and so we're trying to work in some way to encourage that not happen.

But I think more importantly is the question really of how do we get our message to the Iraqi people. We have a capability to broadcast on the Iraqi Channel 3, and we are continuing to do that. We're trying to expand our ability for Iraqis to broadcast on satellite television. And as we try to improve that capability and expand that capability, we will do so. We're beginning to see many more leaders in the communities of Basra and An Nasiriyah, As-Samawa, Najaf, even now towards Karbala, become much more supportive, openly supportive of the coalition forces as they see the threat from these other irregular troops go away. And some have expressed interest in helping to get that message out.

You have to be careful though. You have to be careful because it has to be an honest message from the Iraqi. And so we're sensitive to try to create the opportunity for Iraqis broadcast on their network.

Q You said that you want to broadcast on Iraqi TV, but there are reports that the electricity in Baghdad was off. Do you know if the electricity is back on? Obviously that causes some problems in terms of wanting the coalition forces to broadcast their message.

GEN. RENUART: You know, I can't tell you throughout Baghdad if it's on. I know we have reports in certain areas that there is electricity. Certainly Iraqi TV has electricity. So they've taken it away from their people, but they save it for themselves. But we are seeing reports that it is on in certain areas, and we are trying to develop that a little bit more. We are looking for ways to try to get that power back on as rapidly as we can.

Yes, ma'am, right here.

Q My name is Nora Garbi (ph) from Abu Dhabi TV. I'm just wondering about the coalition troops, they've been like sending messages through these notes -- asking, you know, people not to fight or to surrender. Do we have any reports about the Iraqi in the Republican troops or the Iraqi people have been surrendering yet, or --

GEN. RENUART: Yes, ma'am. Actually that's a very good question, because one of our real desires was to pass the message that it would -- for the future of the country it was -- it would be important for them to preserve their ability to be part of the future. We have now in custody some six and a half thousand Iraqi military members, many of whom surrendered without a fight. We also have reports of a number of units in the country who are -- who have expressed interest in that. But as we move through the country, we haven't been able to get to some of those yet to determine whether they will choose to fight or not. We will continue to work through step by step, continuing on our plan, and we hope that many of these units will make that decision.

I will tell you that many units that we have seen in some areas just left their equipment and went home. So they didn't surrender -- they just chose not to fight, and left and returned to their homes.

Let me see -- back in the back, sir.

Q (Off mike.) Sir, what was the purpose of the raid today? And, second question: If the troops move from the south towards the center and then back out west, does that mean that they are no longer in the area of the center of the city?

GEN. RENUART: Well, I'm really not going to speculate on where we physically have troops sitting at any one time. I will just -- I gave you the characteristics of this particular movement. Whether -- when and where and whether there will be similar movements, whether we have let troops behind -- I am just not going to speculate on that.

I think that the message though really is to in a way put a bit of an exclamation point on the fact that coalition troops are in fact in the vicinity of Baghdad, do in fact have the ability to come into the city at places of their choosing, and demonstrate to the Iraqi leadership that they do not have control in a fashion that they continue to say they do on their television. And I think we made that point.

Q Kind of testing the -- (inaudible) -- sir?

GEN. RENUART: I have a great mood. Over here.

Q General -- (inaudible) -- from the Independent in London. You said that there'd been some intense fighting in parts of Baghdad. Do you want to put a figure on what you estimate the casualties to have been on both sides in those engagements?

GEN. RENUART: I'd really not like to put a figure on it, and it's mostly because the reports of all of those operations are still being finalized. As you can imagine, taking a force like that and driving 20 or 25 miles at, you know, 30 or 40 kilometers an hour in those vehicles, there probably weren't a lot of people collecting their thoughts to put real numbers to that. The adrenaline was high, and the battle was raging. However, at the completion of those operations, the forces then began to put together what they believed to be the facts of all of that. And from that we'll get a better -- I think a better feel for what their estimates were of numbers and that sort of thing.

Yes, sir?

Q (Off mike.)

GEN. RENUART: I didn't give you a chance already, did I?

Q No.

GEN. RENUART: I got yelled at last time for letting somebody have two questions. (Laughter.)

Q No, no, I've had my hand up since the beginning. You've given us an idea obviously of how this mission was conducted this morning. But beyond saying that it was to send a message, you haven't really identified any strategic purpose. Had any ground been taken? Is any ground being held? Or are you just back at the airport, having sent a robust message?

GEN. RENUART: Well, I think on the battlefield, messages are critical to your strategy. I also said that I'm not going to tell you what we still have or don't have in terms of forces that are in the city. And I think it's probably fair to leave it at that. The point we continue to make is we are moving very, very well along the plan that we have laid out, and in due time and in due course, I think the message and the plan will be more clear.

Let me come back over here. Yes, sir, right here.

Q Yes, general, I'm Craig Gordon (sp) from Newsday. Along the line of messages, General Myers at the Pentagon I think a couple of days ago sort of painted this notion of you folks taking control of water plants, electrical plants, essentially sending the message to the Iraqi people that we sort of run the city now, not Saddam Hussein. Can you -- can you match that up with some of the military moves that you are making and put the two together for us, so we can understand how some of the military maneuvers fit into the strategic picture, but also into almost the psychological picture of sending the message that the United States is in charge, not Saddam Hussein?

GEN. RENUART: Again, a really good question. I think it's important to understand that it goes back to those two pillars I talked about. It's as important to demonstrate control of the battlefield as it is to demonstrate support for the people. A lot of speculation a couple days ago -- I think the power went out in Baghdad -- I'm just guessing -- I think it was, say, 5:30 or six o'clock in the evening. Within about four minutes I had 12 phone calls wanting to know what we had done. And in fact our intent was not to take the power out, and we did not take the power out in Baghdad. The Iraqi regime took that from its own people. Our intent is to try to put the power back on. And do we know where the power generation plants are? Yes. Is it our intent to get to those and get the power back on as we are able to? For sure. Is it our intent to ensure that water flows and there are utilities and normal services for the city of Iraq, or for the city of Baghdad, excuse me? Absolutely. But this is also a very complicated battlefield, and it will take time to make all of those happen. You'll recall that it -- 48 hours ago General Brooks was standing up here and we were still moving. So in a very short period of time we have moved very rapidly into the vicinity of Baghdad, continue to move forces to a number of areas around the city, continue to engage Republican Guard units outside the city to prevent them from moving into the city. And as we are able to create more stability, we will very rapidly try to return normal services to the people of Baghdad.

Yes, sir? I'll get you both here.

Q General, Chas Henry from WTOP Radio. It's unusual for a senior military leader to be relieved of command in the course of conducting combat operations. So a number of questions have been raised with the decision to do that with a Marine Corps regimental commander operating in Iraq. At the Pentagon they've said this is a question to be addressed by his chain of command. So I put the question here. Can you tell us why he was relieved?

GEN. RENUART: Really I am not going to discuss it. At every level of command, commanders have to make tough decisions about the nature of the leaders that they have under their chain. And, in this case this was a decision made by the commander in the field. I don't think it's fair for me to go into why or what his rationale may be. He made a decision he felt was right, and that's his decision.

Yes, sir?

Q Frederic Gastelle (ph), BBC French Service. Sir, first could you tell us the number of air sorties? Two, perhaps a naive question, but why this bold and dangerous move inside a city during daytime instead of nighttime where you have more night vision capability? And, third, any contacts with Iraqi military officials defecting or giving you insurance that you could move around the city with less fighting?

GEN. RENUART: First, to your last question I'd say it probably would not be a good thing for me to discuss how much or how little contact we have with any Iraqi officials. That's critical battlefield information, and I think that's better left in that category.

In terms of day or night, I think that it was very clear to the people of Baghdad that coalition forces were in the city. That image is important, and so I think being in the daytime was a very clear -- it was a very clear statement to the Iraqi regime as well that we can move at times and places of our choosing, even into their capital city.

And your first question was the number of air sorties for today?

Q (Off mike)?

GEN. RENUART: Oh, I think I'll be wrong, because I'm going to give you an estimate, but I think overall around the theater we flew something close to 3,000 total sorties. I think within the Iraqi, immediate Iraqi area probably about 1,500, and actual combat missions something under a thousand inside the country itself. That's a rough order of magnitude, but -- and that's a relatively typical day.

Way in the back, sir?

Q General -- (inaudible) -- International. General, you have told us in great detail about the rescue of Jessica Lynch. I'm just wondering can you give us a copy of this story, Saving Private Lynch, because CENTCOM posts the transcript of today's briefing? Because, you know, in order to report on this rescue.

GEN. RENUART: I'll just defer that to Jim Wilkinson (ph), and he'll do whatever he does in magic, because I -- I'm just a humble operations guy.

Q Another question. And there are reports from today there's U.S. -- I mean military commander Joe Dowdy sacked. Can you explain that and confirm that, please?

GEN. RENUART: Yeah, I think that was similar to Chas's question up here a moment ago. Yes, the reports are there that a military commander was relieved, but I am not going to speculate on the way. I truly don't know the reasons for that. That is a decision made by a commander on the battlefield, and I have to respect his judgment to do what is right for his situation on the battlefield.

Yes, sir, right on the out line back here.

Q General, Michael Kearns (ph), Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Will the coalition invite any independent analysis of suspected weapons of mass destruction?

GEN. RENUART: I really -- I am probably not able to tell you one way or the other. The battlefield is a pretty dangerous place out there right now, and so it's important for us to gain control of the country and to gain control of sites that might have weapons of mass destruction or evidence of those. And I think that once those are complete those will be, you know, made available in due course. And I am sure there will be thousands of independent people who will do analysis of that information. But right now I can't speculate on when or how that might occur.

Yes, ma'am, over here.

Q I am Mariel (ph) from Independent Television, Finland. General, I am sure you have some timing, some goals for the timing. How many more days do you think this war is going to take?

GEN. RENUART: (Laughs.) You know, General Franks has been up on a number of occasions, and I think we have all been consistent to say that the plan is very well put together, and it will take as long as it takes. Now, that's not an answer. We in our society want to know -- well, that must be four days or eight days or a hundred days. And I think it's just not fair to try to put a time to it. It's important that we are -- that we actually achieve all of the objectives that we have laid out in the operation, and to try to put a time to that would -- is really unfair. It's unfair to the military members on the battlefield to put them under a time constraint, and it's unfair to create an expectation that may or may not be realistic in public.

Yes, ma'am.

Q Hi, Nicole Enfield (ph), Associated Press. You've spoken a lot about the south of Baghdad. We know some coalition troops control the roads to the north. Can you tell us what you are seeing up there? We have reports that some residents are fleeing. Are you seeing that? Are you able to control that? Are you able to control or see if any reinforcements are coming down possibly?

And, second question: One of our embeds has reported some very kind of hand-to-hand combat in the southeast of Baghdad, including some foreign fighters -- Jordanian, Sudanese, Egyptians that were engaging the Marines. Can you speak about that? Is that the first time you've seen a significant number of foreign fighters who have come in to support the regime?

GEN. RENUART: Okay, two good questions, Nicole. Let me go to the second one first, and I'll come back to sort of the status of refugee -- potential refugee movements.

The southeast of the city and the east side of the city is the Marine zone, the first mech is operating in that area. They did have some challenging areas of combat over the last 36 hours, some of it what we would call dismounted combat, which some might call hand-to-hand, but that's basically infantry moving through positions on the battlefield. So I am certain that they probably had some very difficult engagements in that area.

I've seen the reports also of other nationalities fighting on the battlefield. I have no way to confirm that specifically. We certainly would like to get more of that information, and would continue to try to pursue that.

As to does that surprise me, well, we saw in Afghanistan Chechens and members of other countries fighting on the side of al Qaeda. So nothing would surprise me on a battlefield.

Q Back to the first part?

GEN. RENUART: And back to the first part, over the -- have we seen refugees moving out of the --

Q Reinforcements.

GEN. RENUART: And reinforcements. I think we really focus on two aspects both. We want to create a situation where reinforcements don't get into the city, so essentially isolation, if you will, and we will continue to operate with our forces around the city to prevent forces from coming into the city and challenging us.

I think with respect to refugees, we have had some reports of people leaving the city to the north and to the northwest. Again, sort of contrary to the information minister's comment about there's nobody about there -- it's all a virtual war. I think many of the people in Baghdad are concerned, because they know there are coalition forces, and we see reflections of that in some intelligence, that people are saying, ‘Hey, the Americans and the coalition are coming.’ I think there is some concern that they will be caught in a cross-fire. So it's understandable that people will try to leave to move out. We have not seen large numbers -- you know, hundreds of thousands of refugees moving. We have seen in some cases numbers of cars, trucks, et cetera, household goods. In fact, in the Marine zone yesterday we showed -- there was a picture of an elderly gentleman with his car and all of his household goods on the roof trying to leave the city to the southeast. The Marines took very good action to ensure that he was who he was, and that he was not threatening in any way, and allowed him to continue on. Many people in the Baghdad area have family in other parts of the country, and our intent would be to, obviously, to have folks stay in their homes primarily, and as if there is a number of folks that are displacing themselves to get away from the city, we'll try to accommodate that in a manner that doesn't endanger anybody on the battlefield.

Let's see, the gentleman back there in the blue shirt.

Q (Off mike) -- Finnish News Broadcasting Company. Do you have any signs that the Iraqi regime will use human shields to defend Baghdad? And what are the instructions in case a huge amount of civilian people are approaching the airport?

GEN. RENUART: I have not seen any indications in Baghdad that that has occurred. We have seen a number of cases well documented on the battlefield where women and children have been used as shields for some of these Iraqi forces.

Our forces are -- I mean, continue to train to deal with that kind of a situation, and I am confident that the commanders on the battlefield are able, if in fact they see something like that, to make the right decisions to preserve life and yet allow them to defend themselves if there is a need.

You got a question already I think. No? Okay, go ahead.

Q (Off mike) -- of Reuters. I wanted to ask you about Tikrit. We have heard that you sealed the road between there and Baghdad. Have there been indications that people have been moving up there, important people? What is the situation in the city itself, and are you still targeting things there?

GEN. RENUART: In the city of Tikrit? I don't know what the situation is in the city. And as to whether we have closed the road or not, I can't really tell --

Q -- have special forces --

GEN. RENUART: We have had special forces up in that area. I don't think I said we closed the road. I -- but we certainly are monitoring the traffic in the roads throughout the country, and so we will continue to do that.

In terms of have we had forces in Tikrit, I am really not going to talk about where we are moving forces, other than those I have already talked about today.

Q (Off mike) -- leaders moving up there?

GEN. RENUART: I -- in terms of leadership moving out of the city, I'd like to not speculate, and I think I'll leave it at that one.

Yes, ma'am, third row back here.

Q Thanks, general. Anne Barnard from the Boston Globe. Just to follow up on the situation inside Baghdad and the civilians there, more broadly than just the specific use of human shields, what's the situation when the forces entered Baghdad? Were people mostly staying inside their homes? Were civilians in the way in the cross-fire? And what do you know about the situation with water supply, sanitation and other problems affecting civilians?

GEN. RENUART: I don't have any information that would indicate the water supply has been turned off, or the sanitation system is not functioning. So I can't give you more than that. I do know -- we do know there power has been shut down. That will have some effect -- although most facilities have some backup power to continue to operate those.

In terms of what have the civilians been doing in the city, I think you saw a good characterization of that with the movement through the city. In some places the sidewalks are quiet. In some places there were people that appeared to be trying to have some normalcy in their lives. And I think that's probably a fair characterization of what we have seen in the city itself. So I -- I think we'll have to -- there will be just as the gentleman behind you asked, there's parts of the city that may not know we're there yet, and so their life probably continues about as normal as they can make it.

I think I have time for one more. The whole row over here is standing up to tell me that I'm about done. (Laughter.) Yes, ma'am?

Q (Off mike) -- USA Today. The conventional wisdom has been that if the regime felt cornered that it would use weapons of mass destruction. At this point the U.S. military seems to be sending the message that, You are indeed cornered. So could you give me your assessment of what the likelihood is that you think the weapons of mass destruction will be used? And, also, what's the situation with these unconventional attacks? How does that affect the way you will respond in Baghdad?

GEN. RENUART: Well, I hope you are saying that the Iraqi regime is cornered, not we are cornered.

Q Right. The message from the U.S. military is --

GEN. RENUART: Okay, I got that.

Q -- the Iraqi regime is cornered.

GEN. RENUART: There you go. I -- as with any desperate regime -- I don't have a lot of experience in many desperate regimes, but I think any person that feels threatened is likely to lash out in a way that might be unpredictable. So we would not in any way expect that this regime might not take the opportunity to do something desperate and to use a weapon like that, even in the area of its own city where its own people were.

So how does that affect what we do? We continue to have our forces prepared, and clearly they are well trained to operate under the most diverse and difficult situations, to include chemical or biological attacks. And I think that's probably a fair depiction of what I see there.

And then, I'm sorry, I forgot what your first part of it was.

Q The second part was the Iraqi minister has said that there would be these unconventional attacks --

GEN. RENUART: Oh, okay, yeah --

Q Maybe suicide bombing.

GEN. RENUART: Well, he said yesterday that there would be this amazing new attack last night, and I don't know what that was -- unless it was the videos. (Laughter.) You know, we really do prepare our forces for any kind of unusual or unconventional attack. We have seen a number of these technical vehicles, irregular forces assaulting our positions. We had a number of these forces take one of the fire trucks on the airfield in the early days and try to attack an Abrams tank. For those of you who have been out in the road in LA if you get in the way of, you know, a really big, heavy vehicle, you probably lose, and unfortunately this guy took a gamble that was not good for him, and the vehicle was destroyed.

So we will continue to see I think those kinds of tactics. But it does not affect the ability on the battlefield for us to continue to accomplish the mission. The forces that we have train against those unconventional kinds of enemies, just like we train against a conventional enemy. So I am really not -- I don't feel that will be a distracter for us.

Folks, thank you very much. I really appreciate your time today.

   


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