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Inside Baghdad

April 8, 2003 at 12:00 AM EST
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MARGARET WARNER: John Daniszewski, welcome again. Has there been think any official Iraqi government response to yesterday’s attempted attack on Saddam Hussein?

JOHN DANISZEWSKI: No, there has not. There’s been silence about it. We don’t know exactly what happened there, only that there was a big explosion and the indications were when reporters went there that there is nothing very unusual about it. It was treated as a civilian casualty case. We didn’t see extra security or anything like that around the site, so I don’t know if that indicates anything, but it remains something of a mystery.

MARGARET WARNER: So in other words, it was presented to reporters, to western reporters, as another example of U.S. attacks in say civilian neighborhoods rather than an attempted assassination of their leader.

JOHN DANISZEWSKI: That’s exactly right. Although I haven’t been to the site myself, others who went there today say they noticed nothing special about the way the Iraqis were treating it. There were only a few civil defense people around and no special attention being given to the site.

MARGARET WARNER: Were you in the hotel when the one tank blast hit the Palestine Hotel?

JOHN DANISZEWSKI: I was outside the hotel in a neighboring hotel at the Sheraton, but even there we felt the building shudder, a very loud noise, and a short while later they started bringing down the journalists who were hurt and the ones who eventually died.

MARGARET WARNER: Now have you seen… as you know the U.S. Government says they were taking fire from the Palestine Hotel. Have you seen snipers or grenade launchers or any kind of shooting from the hotel out?

JOHN DANISZEWSKI: No, nothing like that. There’s really no military presence in this hotel at all. There were photographers on the roof at the time of the shooting. They all say there was nobody else up there with a gun or anything like that. And you know, in a hotel crawling with journalists, if there had been armed men shooting out from here, someone surely would have seen it. So I think the thinking here is that it was just a tragic mistake on the part of the soldiers.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, there are some Iraqi personnel also staying in the hotel, aren’t there?

JOHN DANISZEWSKI: Yes. Some people from the information ministry have moved in here, and also in the last few days civilians who are thinking that this is a safe place have been trying to get their families into both this hotel and the Sheraton Hotel across the street. So it’s not as though there are only journalists here, but it’s predominantly journalists. But I think, as I said before, there was no one firing from here as far as we could tell. Everybody was paying avid attention to the situation at that time. Everybody was focused on this battle.

MARGARET WARNER: The U.S. Government, as I’m sure you know, is saying that really the Iraqis… regime has lost effective control inside Baghdad. But then there are other reports that if you get off the big main roads and you go back in the neighborhoods, there are a lot of fighters back there, a lot of Fedayeen and so on. What can you tell us about that, about the sort of level of Iraqi resistance, and whether it appears just from the way you observe it to be coordinated at all?

JOHN DANISZEWSKI: I would say that over the last few days, you get a sense of deteriorating hold on the situation by the Iraqi government. You still see fighters scattered about and so on, but you also notice a lot of the positions are being abandoned, and a lot of people seem to be deserting. So I would say that gradually there is this erosion of control. That’s not to say that that there aren’t still die-hard fighters who are willing to die to give their lives for whatever reason.

MARGARET WARNER: I gather you had yet another briefing from the information minister. One of the quotes I read is he said “all is under control.” What is that like and what do you all say back to him?

JOHN DANISZEWSKI: Well, you know, it’s a sort of an Alice in Wonderland situation. You know, we pose the questions and he gives these answers, and everyone just sort of looks at each other with raised eyebrows. When you question him further, he often changes the subject or breaks off the news conference altogether.

MARGARET WARNER: Finally, tell us about the visit you made, I believe it was yesterday, to one of the hospitals in town.

JOHN DANISZEWSKI: Yes, the Kindi Hospital. That’s one of the main trauma centers, and I was out there again today. And, if anything, today was worse with even more people being brought in — both civilian and military, but a lot of civilian people. And they’re mostly being injured with fragments of explosives, abdominal injuries, a lot of amputations. It’s very depressing, distressing sight at the hospital these days, and the ambulances never stop coming. They’re coming every two or three minutes.

MARGARET WARNER: Aid workers are saying that some of the hospitals are running out of emergency supplies. Did you see that?

JOHN DANISZEWSKI: Yes, that is a problem. They’re going through their supplies very quickly. In some cases they’ve had shortages of body bags, of antibiotics, surgical equipment. They started out, I think, thinking that they were pretty well prepared, but they’re finding that their supplies are running low.

MARGARET WARNER: All right John Daniszewski, thank you again.

JOHN DANISZEWSKI: Thank you.