JIM LEHRER: Now the opening of the war as described by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld at a morning briefing at the Pentagon.
DONALD RUMSFELD: Coalition forces hit a senior Iraqi leadership compound last evening. The damage assessment on the compound is pending. That was the first, it will likely not be the last. The days of the Saddam Hussein regime are numbered. We continue to feel that there's no need for a broader conflict if the Iraqi leaders act to save themselves and to prevent such further conflict.
What will follow will not be a repeat of any other conflict. It will be of a force and scope and scale that has been beyond what has been seen before. The Iraqi soldiers and officers must ask themselves whether they want to die fighting for a doomed regime or do they want to survive, help the Iraqi people in the liberation of their country, and play a role in a new, free Iraq. Do not follow orders to destroy dams or flood villages. Do not follow orders to destroy your country's oil, which is the Iraqi people's, and they will need it to rebuild their country when that regime is gone. Following such orders would be to commit crimes against the Iraqi people. See those orders for what they are, the last desperate gasp of a dying regime.
REPORTER: Mr. Secretary, do you have reason to believe that Saddam Hussein was at the compound that was struck last night, or his sons, for that matter?
DONALD RUMSFELD: We had what I would characterize as very good intelligence that it was a senior Iraqi leadership compound. We do not know what the battle damage assessment will be when that type of information is available to us.
REPORTER: Mr. Secretary, do you believe in fact that the man on the tape that was run on Iraqi TV last night was, in fact, Saddam Hussein?
DONALD RUMSFELD: There is debate about that. I have no inside information.
REPORTER: Have you seen any indication that his son, Uday, has taken control of the country?
DONALD RUMSFELD: No. Let me make a comment. I did not answer a question as fully as I might have about, do we have evidence that it's working? We are in communication with still more people who are officials of the military at various levels. The regular army, the special republican... the republican guard, the special republican guard who are increasingly aware that it's going to happen, he's going to be gone -- and what they are probably doing-- I can't do this perfectly, but as I try to put myself in their shoes -- they have to be fearful of that regime because that regime kills people every day to enforce obedience and discipline. So they have to be fearful of the regime.
On the other hand, once they are persuaded that that regime is history, it is going, it will not be there, in some reasonably finite period of time they will be gone, then their behavior begins to tip and change. And the... when I said we have good evidence, we have not only good evidence, but we have broad and deep evidence that suggests that there are people going through that decision-making process throughout that country today, and that is a good thing.