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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

The War After the War in Iraq

Aired July 7, 2003 - 20:24   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: The sporadic violence that has become commonplace in Iraq has claimed the lives of three U.S. servicemen since yesterday.
Senior international correspondent Nic Robertson joins us from Baghdad with an update.

Nic, good evening.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Paula.

Well, those three soldiers, one of them was shot in the head at close range on Sunday. He died of his injuries today. The other two were involved in night patrols around Baghdad. One of them, his unit was engaged by small-arms fire. They chased down the group, shooting at them. One soldier was killed in that incident. And a few hours later, on another patrol elsewhere in Baghdad, another patrol was engaged by an explosive device.

Now, that explosive device went off and killed one of the soldiers. Another incident just outside of Baghdad as well, in the town of Ramadi, where there has been quite some tension recently between some of the townspeople who appear to be loyal to Saddam Hussein, or at least certainly put forward many of his views when we talked to them at the weekend, against the U.S. troops.

In that town, an explosive device again went off by a U.S. patrol, injuring four soldiers. So the incidents, the number of incidents over the last few days quite high. We have also seen tightened security around Baghdad. We have seen more helicopter surveillance patrols through the city. And, certainly, the troops we see on the streets manning their weapons much more attentively as they drive around the city.

And they appear to be much more aware of the dangers that are beginning to, perhaps, stack up against them at this time, Paula.

ZAHN: Nic, bring us up to date on this statement by the CIA that this purportedly taped statement by Saddam Hussein is more than likely authentic. What does that mean?

ROBERTSON: Well, it is certainly echoed by the people that we have talked to in Baghdad. The Iraqis say that they think the tape most likely is Saddam Hussein. They say it sounds like him, sounds like the same voice they have heard on television. Whether or not it is his voice or not, it certainly appears to be having an impact. It certainly resonates with people here that there is a potential for at least some of the Baath Party to come back. There is a fear, for example, in the community of translators who work with the U.S. forces, work with journalists here. A couple of them have been targeted recently. One of them was killed just late last week.

People are interpreting these acts of violence against people that cooperate with the United States as being clear evidence that these Saddam Hussein loyalists, whoever they are, certainly are a force to be reckoned with. And this is giving people here some cause for concern at this time. Even in some areas of Baghdad, there is had some pro-Saddam Hussein graffiti going up on the walls. And it has not been painted over -- Paula.

ZAHN: Nic Robertson, thanks so much for the update.

And some of that euphoria that families of U.S. service men and women felt at the end of major combat operations in Iraq has now given way to a renewed sense of anxiety. The post-war violence has also delayed many homecomings, but not all of them.

David Mattingly was on hand at Fort Stewart, Georgia, as some anxieties finally gave way to joy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There he is.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For hundreds of army families at Georgia's Fort Stewart, months of wartime separation ends with a single embrace, a huge relief to families after long, anxious delays.

TINA STEVENS, WIFE OF SOLDIER: He says, I don't know what you're seeing on the news, he says, but we still have a lot that we're doing over here.

MATTINGLY: Tina Stevens' husband is among hundreds of support troops that kept thousands in the Army's 3rd Infantry Division racing across Iraq. But, after the fall of Baghdad, their welcome-home plans were kept on hold, waiting for weeks in Kuwait for orders to finally fly out.

(on camera): But, while this support group gets the green light to come home with the satisfaction of a mission accomplished, the combat troops they were supporting have to stay behind, their reunions now delayed by a new prolonged mission of peacekeeping.

MICHELL YORK, WIFE OF SOLDIER: It was a big downer, and a big downer for us, too, because we were all getting ready and excited about them coming home.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Michell York is among spouses of combat soldiers who were counting on a rumored return of their battle-weary husbands in June. But recent letters from Baghdad revealed an unexpected morale-killing postponement.

YORK: He says, "But I don't think I'm going to call home anymore. I don't like being asked, when are you coming home, and all I can say is, I don't know."

MATTINGLY: In the meantime, months of war-related stress continues at home, with steady reports of American casualties, everyone trying to find comfort in scenes like this, hoping that a safe return of their own loved ones will come soon.

David Mattingly, CNN, Fort Stewart, Georgia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Joining me now to talk about the feelings on base, as well as in their own homes, are three military wives whose husbands are still in Iraq.

Kim Price, Lisa Nantz, and Theresa Nolan join us from Fort Stewart, Georgia.

Good of you to spend some time with us this evening. I know the wait has been very long for all of your families. Appreciate your time this evening.

Lisa, I want to start with you tonight. You had the opportunity to talk with your husband on a video conference. What did he say about his prospects of coming home?

LISA NANTZ, WIFE OF SOLDIER: We don't talk about it a whole lot. And in that particular session, it was -- 97 percent of it was for the children. They stole a lot of dad's time.

ZAHN: Did he give you a sense of how he was doing, or was it pretty hard for him to be honest with, of course, the main message going to the kids?

NANTZ: He's doing very well. He's tired. He's ready to come home.

ZAHN: And, Kim, what about your husband?

KIM PRICE, WIFE OF SOLDIER: He's very ready to come home. He's on the verge of retiring. And he's been gone for 19 months now. So, he did a tour in Korea before going to Iraq a month later. So he is very ready to come home.

ZAHN: Did you get the sense from him that he didn't think it would -- this deployment would go as long as it has?

PRICE: I think he expected to be there through the fall.

ZAHN: And, Theresa, what about you?

THERESA NOLAN, WIFE OF SOLDIER: Well, I also got the opportunity to speak with my husband via the video teleconference on Saturday. And he was all smiles and laughter, sticking out his tongue. And so I could tell that he was in good spirits. And when they left out of here, we were told they would be -- that they could be gone for up to a year. So anything shorter than that is a welcome blessing, in my opinion.

ZAHN: Unfortunately, though, Theresa, it was your husband's unit that faced some of -- one of the first deaths after combat was declared over. So, you, better than anyone, understand the dangers that these service men and women continue to face.

Just a thought to share with us this evening about what that is like, not only for your husband to live through, but you and your family and the rest of the families at Fort Stewart, Georgia.

NOLAN: Well, it was very difficult to suffer a loss in our unit. And the loss happened to be in his platoon as well.

And the information coming back to us was slow. So it was very hard not knowing exactly who it was and the circumstances surrounding what happened. It was a very difficult day. And, of course, his family was very concerned about how he was and was he OK. And, as soon as he got the chance, he called me to tell me that he was nowhere near that attack and that he was fine. He always makes sure that he tries to call to let me know that he is OK if something happens within his platoon or his unit or company.

ZAHN: That must seem like eternity between those calls.

Lisa, just a final thought about what it is like to be able to share your concerns and anxieties with so many other families that are up against the same thing that you are.

NANTZ: A final thought is, it has been difficult. I think that, with the war, it has been -- it would be best explained as a roller- coaster ride. But, at the same time, we have a good network of friends in our FRG group that -- we stay close. And we are kept informed as best we can be. And we make the best of it.

ZAHN: Well, I hope you feel the pride all Americans take in the hard work that your spouses are doing over there.

NANTZ: We do.

ZAHN: Kim Price, Lisa Nantz, Theresa Nolan, thanks for sharing your personal stories with us. And the best of luck to you and all the families there at Fort Stewart, Georgia.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Our pleasure.

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