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VOA-TV Interview with Reporter Deborah Block - 2003-03-21


VOA-TV host David Borgida talks with Deborah Block, who is reporting from Iraq.

Now joining us somewhere inside Iraq in a Humvee, VOA TV's Deborah Block, who is live with troops inside Iraq, as I just said.

Deborah, tell us what is going on there and what you are seeing.

I am currently in a Humvee with a Marine artillery unit. They're going to an undisclosed location in Iraq. Not long ago, I passed by the Basra area, where you could see the many oilfields on fire.

It's getting very dark here now, so it was very vibrant and very obvious that they were on fire.

Not too many hours ago, with the same group, we passed through the Kuwaiti-Iraqi border. We went through two berms, which are big ditches, basically dirt ditches, that were quite high.

And in order to let the military get through, some engineers from the military had to blow them up so that the vehicles could go through.

There was also an electric fence to go through. And so the military had to do all three of those before it could get over to the Iraqi border. Once we got to the Iraqi border, there were people there who were shouting "Welcome, America," and waving and giving us a thumbs-up. Others were simply just gawking at us.

We looked, I think, a bit curious to them, this convoy of Marines coming in. And then there were others who were just going along with their business.

Over the past 24 hours, David, U.S. military forces struck a major high point in southern Iraq. In fact, it's the highest point.

It's the 151-meter Jamal Shinam, also known as the Safwan Hill. I saw this firsthand as U.S. warplanes dropped high-powered bombs on the hill, causing huge craters.

And then this was followed by a barrage of artillery fire by the Marines. And then, once the U.S. forces pushed forward into Iraq-—and I'm with them now, as I mentioned to you—British forces are in Kuwait where they were relieving the Americans and also providing cover and support.

Debby, I want to interrupt briefly this wonderful commentary on what you're going through. Has your unit, though, seen any action? Has there been any fighting between your unit and any Iraqi troops along the way?

No, not so far. The battle on Safwan Hill pretty much looked like an American battle. The airplanes were dropping the bombs, the artillery units that I have been with were firing constantly barrages off and on, and no, there was no Iraqi fire that came back.

The hill was taken over by the Marines. And as I said, this is a major listening point in Iraq, so it was a major place for the Americans to try to get.

So, Debby, could you give us some assessment of the morale of the Marines whom you're traveling with?

David, the morale of the Marines has been very high. I think they feel like they have been successful in their mission.

They were well trained. They have spent a couple of months in Kuwait, in the camps at the border of Iraq, training constantly. In fact, they were quite anxious to either go home or get started with this war and get it over with.

I talked to several of them today, and although they are sad that the Iraqi people may be hurt by this war, they are glad to see that perhaps the regime of Saddam Hussein will be over.

VOA's Debby Block, traveling with a Marine unit somewhere inside Iraq. Debby Block was embedded with this unit, and she is doing courageous duty for VOA-TV. Deborah Block, thanks for joining us.

You're very welcome.