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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
1,000 Days in Iraq, Debate Continues; Saddam on Trial; A Look at Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; Eyewitnesses Relate Final Moments of Stanley Williams
Aired December 13, 2005 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, again, from Iraq, where elections or not, it still comes down to an arms race where death almost daily is spelled IED.
ANNOUNCER (voice-over): Tracking down snipers in Iraq. Entering buildings blind. What are the clues to look for? Why looking for cigarette butts can save a soldier's life.
Her dream was skydiving, but her parachute didn't open.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I heard a snap and I started spinning. And I didn't know why.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Her backup parachute didn't open.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to die. I'm going to hit the ground. I'm going to die.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: And it wasn't just her life at stake.
And, he's 15, she's 37. She could go to prison for more than 20 years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If anything, he took advantage of me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Married and pregnant, Lisa Clark speaks out for the first time about her love affair with a boy who will be the father of her child.
This is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360. Turning Point in Iraq? Reporting live from Baquba, Iraq, here's Anderson Cooper.
COOPER: Good evening again, from Iraq. Just one day away from voting on its future. We are just north of Baghdad, about 35 miles north in the city of Baquba. Here U.S. troops are working closely with Iraqi forces to make the city safer. Just a few months ago, this was one of the most dangerous places in Iraq. Now commanders say it is a symbol of success, and the danger and the risks are still everywhere. More on that ahead. First, here's what's happening at this moment.
We begin with a political assassination in Iraq. A Sunni candidate in tomorrow's election, shot dead today. He and his two guards were ambushed. It happened in Ramadi, which is the capitol of Anbar Province, which continues to be a hotbed of the insurgency. Nic Robertson is there. We'll hear from him later.
The ashes of Stanley "Tookie" Williams will be scattered in South Africa. That, according to the "Los Angeles Times." Meanwhile, L.A. police are on alert for possible riots, due to Williams' execution early Tuesday morning at San Quentin prison. One witness said it took 35 minutes for the founder of the Crips gang to die.
And just moments ago we learned that Former President Gerald Ford was released from the California hospital. The 92-year old was admitted earlier today for routine tests. Ford suffered a slight stroke, you'll remember, back in 2000.
Whatever happens next in Iraq, it begins -- well it seems like a lifetime ago. It was 1,000 days. Will the past help us dictate the future? Will American troops be here for another 1,000 days or more? CNN's Brian Todd takes a look.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The plan is to end it quickly. Maybe even in one day. March 20, 2003, in Baghdad. A so-called decapitation strike, aimed at taking out Saddam Hussein, in the hopes the regime will collapse.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance.
TODD: But those missiles are off target. And on March 21, a massive air and ground assault, meant to shock and awe the Iraqi resistance, gets underway.
April 9, U.S. forces take control of Baghdad. Saddam's gigantic statute is symbolically toppled. But looters begin their own chaotic reign over the capitol.
May 1, a proclamation that will haunt the Bush White House.
BUSH: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.
TODD: On July 22, it takes a combat operation to take down two notorious brothers. Uday and Qusay Hussein, killed after a six-hour gun battle with U.S. troops in Mosul. August 19, the first major attack by a growing insurgency. A truck bomb explodes outside United Nations headquarters in Baghdad. The U.N. special representative among more than a dozen killed. The U.N. soon pulls out of Iraq.
December 13, 2003, from a spider hole outside his hometown, Saddam Hussein surrenders to U.S. troops without a fight.
April 28, 2004, the first in a series of grotesque images from Abu Ghraib prison are made public. Iraqi prisoners abused, humiliated. Images that provoke outrage in the Arab world and scandal in the U.S.
Early May, another horrifying image. Kidnapped American Nicholas Berg speaks just before he is killed. The first of several hostages beheaded. Berg's death establishes his lead captor as the face of the insurgency, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
June 28, 2004, in a surprise move, the U.S. hands power back to the Iraqis two days ahead of schedule. Civilian Administrator Paul Bremer departs under heavy security.
November 5, one of the largest and deadliest battles of the war commences. U.S. troops begin an all out assault on the insurgents' stronghold of Fallujah.
A new year brings fresh optimism. January 30, 2005, millions vote in Iraq's first free elections in half a century, selecting an interim parliament.
But through the spring and summer, insurgent attacks continue. Iraqi casualties build.
And on October 25, the number of American deaths in Iraq reaches 2,000.
The war that so many thought would end so quickly marks another important day just this week. On Thursday Iraqis will go to the polls again and select a permanent parliament. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: Well, there's another milestone here in Iraq. Two years ago today, American forces turned over Iraq, if you will, and pulled out Saddam Hussein. The story then and since then, from CNN's Aneesh Raman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got him!
ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A major turning point for Iraq. The top of the deck of those wanted by the U.S., Saddam Hussein caught December 13, 2003, by these U.S. troops, shown that night, just back from the raid. The former dictator, dragged from a hole, shown to the world disheveled, being searched by medics. An image that for Iraqis was shocking.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I saw Saddam, saw American soldiers putting his hand on the beard, it was a surprise. We were not expecting it. After that video, Saddam became nothing. He was a leader, he was something before. But now, we just laugh at him.
RAMAN: The anger of eight months earlier replaced by the ridicule of a former leader. Saddam became the butt of all jokes. Altered photographs passed around by e-mail -- real ones too. Saddam in British tabloids in his underwear, in custody. A far cry from the controlled images of strength during his time in power.
But now the image of Saddam is changing again. From his arraignment in 2004 to the start of his trial. A defiant Saddam of old is working his way back into the Iraqi psyche, challenging what he says is an illegitimate court, threatening a boycott last week because of the conditions in his detainment.
SADDAM HUSSEIN, ON TRIAL: All of these days are spent with this shirt and underwear and there's no room for us to smoke.
RAMAN: A boycott he followed through on, leaving an empty chair at the court's last session. Anger is still the overriding Iraqi emotion when you speak of Saddam Hussein. Each day of the trial, protests call for his immediate execution.
RAMAN: And Anderson, as his trial goes on and Saddam becomes more defiant, it is a powerful reminder for Iraqis of their past, a powerful reason why they want justice now -- Anderson.
COOPER: Aneesh, thanks very much.
Here's a heartbreaker. As many as one in six who serve in Iraq will show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. One in six when they get home. It's thousands, if not tens of thousands of people. People like Tyler Peters. CNN's Kelly Wallace now with his story.
KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 22-year old Tyler Peters thinks about how Iraq changed him just about every day as he drives along Iowa's countryside on his way to college, and thinks about it every time he looks at the ribbons. Two of them, inside his truck for two friends killed in combat.
TYLER PETERS, ARMY NATIONAL GUARD RESERVIST: I can't sit here and tell you about it, because you'd -- no matter what I told you, you would never understand the concept of somebody getting killed. Unless you were there with them.
WALLACE: How often do those images come back in your head?
T. PETERS: Quite often. It's now blood. Quite often. WALLACE: Ron Peters says his son was a Boy Scout, a good kid who never got in trouble with the law. But last year, shortly after the Army National Guard Reservist returned from Iraq, there were reasons for concern. Tyler withdrew from family, couldn't hold down a job and couldn't control his anger. It took a toll on everyone.
R. PETERS: Tired out the family. And it's just not Tyler. You know, I have been thinking about this -- all the families -- and you got lots of families. You know, if we can help just one.
WALLACE: And that is why Tyler wanted to share his story -- a difficult story to tell. Last September he was charged with assaulting his ex-girlfriend and spent 30 days in jail for violating a restraining order. Just about two weeks ago he was arrested again. This time for hitting his current girlfriend. He says he blacked out both times.
T. PETERS: I remember points of it and that's it. Until I had stopped and then it's just like you think to yourself why did I -- why did I just do that? You know.
WALLACE: After Tyler's first brush with the law, his dad wasn't sure where to turn. Then came a call from a Vietnam Veteran, who had heard of Tyler's troubles.
R. PETERS: Hew knew it was nothing to mess around with. You better get going. And he said, you know, the sooner the better. Let's get moving now.
WALLACE: Tyler ultimately went to a veterans hospital and was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. With counseling, medication and support from his family and his current girlfriend, he says he's working hard to manage his illness.
T. PETERS: But if you're going to have people standing beside you and pushing you along to go get help and to stay with you, you should be alright.
WALLACE: The Peters hope that other families learn from theirs, that post traumatic stress disorder is real.
(On camera): What do you want people to understand, based on your experience?
T. PETERS: That American veterans returning from Iraq, Afghanistan, wherever they are, are not crazy. They need help. Don't push them away, don't shun them, don't call them crazy, whacked, be supportive of them.
WALLACE (voice-over): Tyler is learning to live with it, hoping to help other veterans like himself along the way. Kelly Wallace, CNN, Spencer, Iowa.
COOPER: Well, here in Iraq, one perspective that is always worth looking at -- what U.S. soldiers see of the fight here, what they think that the war, and the war over the war back home. In this case, we'll talk to two women serving here in Baquba. Here's their heartwarming opinions.
When you take your life in your hands, it's nice to know you've got a backup system, preferably one that actually works. What happens when both parachutes have problems?
And a defiant wife who insists she has done nothing wrong in getting married, even if she is 37 and he's 15. She says he was the one who started it all. The law doesn't quite see it like that. We'll have their strange story ahead.
360, coming up next.
COOPER: More from Baquba, Iraq, coming up. But first, let's go back to New York for the day's other top stories with Heidi Collins. Hi, Heidi.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi Anderson. Thanks.
I want to let everyone know about this one. You will not believe it. If you've ever had one of those dreams where you grab wildly at the air because you have the sensation you're falling, well the woman you're about to meet found out what that sensation is like when you're not dreaming. And she certainly wasn't in bed.
COLLINS (voice-over): It had been Shayna Richardson's dream since she was 12. And on her 21st birthday, that dream came true.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You going to jump out of an airplane?
SHAYNA RICHARDSON, SURVIVED SKYDIVING ACCIDENT: I sure am.
COLLINS: That was May of 2005. By October, Shayna was on her 10th jump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you going to ID (ph)?
RICHARDSON: My first AFF.
COLLINS: AFF -- accelerated free fall. Also, her first solo jump. Her instructor taped it. There was trouble.
RICHARDSON: I heard a snap and I started spinning and I didn't know why. I didn't know what to do to fix it. I didn't know what to do to make it stop.
COLLINS: She cut the parachute off and deployed the reserve cute. But it didn't open all the way.
RICHARDSON: It's called your guaranteed open. That's what everyone refers to it as. To have a malfunctioning reserve happens one in a million. It just doesn't happen.
COLLINS: But it did happen. And Shayna was plunging to the ground at 50 miles per hour.
RICHARDSON: At the end, I just said, you know, I'm going to die. I'm going to hit the ground. I'm going to die.
COLLINS: She landed on an asphalt parking lot.
RICHARDSON: And in the hit, I egg shelled my entire face. And I broke my pelvis in two places and I broke the fibular in my right leg.
COLLINS: It's shocking she survived. And when she got to the hospital, another shock.
RICHARDSON: The same day in the emergency room, I found out that I was two weeks pregnant.
COLLINS: Shayna Richardson went through four surgeries, lost six teeth and had 15 steel plates implanted in her face. After two months, the pain is finally subsiding. As for her baby:
RICHARDSON: The baby is growing perfectly, right on schedule. The heart rate is perfect. The baby's perfect.
COLLINS: Shayna says she never would have jumped if she knew she was pregnant, and is staying on the ground until her baby is born. But, she won't be there for long.
RICHARDSON: I intend to jump just as soon as they'll let me. Obviously, they're not going to take a broken, pregnant woman up in the air, but if they would, I'd go.
COLLINS: Shayna's baby is due on June 25. She has said she'd like to be back skydiving in August, at which point most mothers would just be thrilled with a good night's sleep, I think.
Erica Hill, from "HEADLINE NEWS," joining is now with some of the other stories we are following tonight. Hi Erica.
ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi Heidi. You probably remember the so-called cell phone bandit. Well, now she's saying she's guilty. Today in federal court, 19-year old Candice Rose Martinez confessed to bank robbery, conspiracy and firearms charges. Now that security camera footage you're seeing here of Martinez holding up banks while talking on her mobile phone, helped catch her. She's going to be sentenced in March.
In Bergenfield, New Jersey, about 18 miles outside of New York City, an explosion at an apartment complex kills at least two people. We know at least four others are injured and as many as four people still missing. The cause of the fire at this point, still under investigation. Authorities, though, believe a contract worker may have hit a gas line while trying to remove an oil tank at the complex. And in Washington, maybe you remember these things -- those gold one dollar coins? Well, there's probably a good chance you don't actually. The Sacagawea one dollar coins were the government's attempt to get people to use them, but with little luck. So hey, second time's a charm. A bill awaiting the president's signature would create new one dollar coins. This time, they'll feature former presidents who have passed on, from George Washington to Ronald Reagan. Lawmakers hope the program might actually get people to use the coins. Not sure how switching the person on the coin changes that, Heidi, but hey. You never know. Worth a shot. Never know.
COLLINS: Worth a try. All right, Erica, thank you.
Well, she walked down the aisle with a boy for a groom. Now the woman who said "I do" to a 15-year old teenager is speaking out. And she says she's the one who was victimized.
Also, caught on tape, and caught in mid air, holding on for dear life. Tonight, the two window washers who survived this accident share their struggle.
Across America and the world, this is 360.
COLLINS: Tonight the woman from Georgia who married a 15-year old boy is telling her side of the story -- and what a story it is. In an interview with CNN, she insists he, the child bride, seduced her. And that's just the beginning. CNN's David Mattingly has more.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The day before their five-week anniversary, 37-year old Lisa Clark says her marriage to her 15-year old husband was all about their soon-to-be born baby.
LISA CLARK, MARRIED 15-YEAR OLD: I'm happy, but -- and he's happy. But, they don't want us to be happy.
MATTINGLY: Clark faces child molestation charges because of her sexual relationship with the boy who was a friend of her own teenage son. The two married after the groom's angry grandmother complained to authorities in Hall County, Georgia.
GRANDMOTHER: She's a pedophile and pounced on my grandson.
MATTINGLY: But Clark denies getting married to avoid prosecution. She says she fell for the boy after he pursued her.
CLARK: From the beginning, he told me and my children he was 17. And I didn't even want to date him then. And I told him no repeatedly. And, you know, I finally agreed. I wasn't even comfortable in public with him at first because of his age. And, but you know, we got along so well. Everything -- he was just so nice.
MATTINGLY: Speaking publicly for the first time since her marriage to her teen lover made sensational national headlines, Clark described her groom as mature. She said that their relationship was more than a physical attraction. And she is critical of the public opinion against her.
CLARK: Well, they have no idea what really happened, what went on. If anything, he took advantage of me because he knew how old he was. He knew what he was doing. And now I'm being, you know, burned at the stakes is what I feel it's -- like a witch hunt, like I'm being crucified because I fell in love with someone.
MATTINGLY: Now reportedly seven months pregnant, Clark says she still hopes to have a life together with her new husband and their child. But if found guilty, she could be sentenced to 20 years or more. And custody of the young father was recently turned over to juvenile authorities by relatives after disruptive behavior at home. The immediate future of his young life and his marriage has yet to be determined.
David Mattingly, CNN, Atlanta.
COLLINS: They went from cleaning windows to nearly dying. Tonight, the two workers whose lives almost came to an end high above Denver give us a blow by blow account of what went wrong.
And from Iraq, two American women, two heroes. How they went beyond the call of duty to save lives in Iraq.
COOPER: In a moment, she is back. Antiwar Activist Cindy Sheehan speaking out again. Not in the U.S. this time.
First, here's a look at what's happening at this moment.
In Iraq, four more American military fatalities. Victims of yet another improvised explosive device. The four soldiers, part of Task Force Baghdad were on patrol. The total number of U.S. fatalities, now 2,151.
A global vote for Iraqi democracy in 15 countries around the world, from the U.S. to the U.K., Sweden to Syria, Iraqi ex-patriots are casting their absentee ballots for the new parliament in Baghdad. They can vote through Thursday, election day here in Iraq.
And according to a new investigation, the United States is looking guilty of secretly transporting and torturing detainees in Europe. Information gathered by the Council of Europe claims to corroborate accusations about the CIA's treatment of prisoners, accusations the U.S. State Department has been steadfastly denying.
It's often said that war changes soldiers forever. The same is true for those they leave behind. Cindy Sheehan, a mother, has become one of the most visible critics of the war in Iraq. Her vigil outside President Bush's ranch in Texas last summer made her a hero to some, a target of hate for others. Criticism has not stopped her. She's taken her cause now overseas to England, where another mother is ready to take the baton.
Here's CNN's Paula Newton.
PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Her reception is warm, her cause passionately embraced. These British families not only share Cindy Sheehan's defiance, they share her loss. Sheehan brought her antiwar protest to Britain. And she says for her, it's now a crucial second front. She's backed by strong British resentment towards the war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was no war here, it was a simple invasion. And if there were bananas instead of oil, there'd be nobody there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our troops should be brought home.
NEWTON: It's what Cindy Sheehan has come here for, unqualified support. While some have questioned her motives and her tactics in the U.S., Sheehan isn't challenged on her opinions about President Bush, here in Britain.
CINDY SHEEHAN, ANTI-WAR PROTESTOR: It's like he says we have to kill more people because we've already killed so many. And when is the killing going to stop?
NEWTON: That message resonates with Rose Gentle. On a serene slice of Scottish turf, this mom lingers at her son's grave and indulges her grief.
But back at home, Gentle indulges her anger.
ROSE GENTLE, STOP THE WAR-UK: The man is nothing but a warmonger.
NEWTON: Most of that anger is reserved for President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Her son, 19-year-old Gordon Gentle, a British soldier, was blown apart by a roadside bomb in June of last year, just three weeks after he arrived in southern Iraq.
GENTLE: They tell you it gets easier; it doesn't get easier. How can it really get easier when you (INAUDIBLE) telly and it's telling that another boy has actually been blown up and killed? You're reliving it every day.
NEWTON: She wants all British and American troops out of Iraq now.
GENTLE: I'm not giving up.
NEWTON: And so she's joining forces with America's most famous bereaved mom. Gentle says she will stop Tony Blair a la Sheehan. She's already protested in front of his home three times. She hopes it will all lead to a change in policy.
CHARLES KUPCHAN, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: If Blair were to go wobbly, if he were to begin to say, it's time for us to begin to head for the exits, that would certainly increase the pressure on Bush to follow suite.
NEWTON: Just like Sheehan, Gentle has learned how to refine her message, but her grief, that's still raw. And so painfully obviously she says she'll be putting it on display for Tony Blair again and again.
She promises to begin an anti-war vigil here, in front of 10 Downing Street, sometime in the new year. But Cindy Sheehan hasn't ruled out joining her. They say they'll chain themselves to these gates if they have to. Anything to put a new spin on their anti-war message.
Paula Newton, CNN, London.
COLLINS: How and when to withdraw troops from Iraq continues to divide Americans. Here is how it breaks down, according to a new CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll: 48 percent of those polled said it was a mistake to send U.S. troops to Iraq. That's down from 54 percent a month ago. Half said it was not a mistake, that would be up from 45 percent last month. And when asked whether the U.S. should withdraw all or some troops from Iraq, just 34 percent said yes; 64 percent said no.
U.S. Representative John Murtha of Pennsylvania raised the issue of troop withdrawal to a new level last month and has not let up since. I spoke to him earlier today.
COLLINS (on camera): So, Congressman Murtha, the president said yesterday that terrorists want to drive U.S. forces out of Iraq to then use it as a base to launch attacks against America. Now, if the U.S. withdraws do you think that could make it more vulnerable?
REP. JOHN MURTHA (D-PA): I'll tell you what I say, Heidi, to an answer to that, the president confuses terrorism with insurgency. Terrorism is what we have in Afghanistan. Terrorism is what we had in The Towers, in London, in Spain. This is an insurgency.
And a very small proportion of the people that are fighting in Iraq are foreign fighters. The rest, at 93 percent or above, are Iraqis. And that small proportion of foreign fighters, that's Al Qaeda. There's no way, once we're out of there, once we redeploy, that he Iraqis will take care of the Al Qaeda themselves.
Al Qaeda is not going to dominate that country. This is a proud country with a long civilization, the history of their civilization, they'll get rid of -- they'll tell -- they know who the Al Qaeda is. They just think because we're occupiers, we're unifying people against us.
COLLINS: So, are you saying, then, that the you are supremely confident that if the United States withdraws from Iraq, Iraqis will no longer kill Iraqis? Insurgents will no longer kill Iraqi civilians?
MURTHA: I'm saying they won't kill Americans, Heidi. And I'm saying that they'll be less terrorism, less instability, in Iraq. I am convinced and the neighboring countries are convinced; 77 percent of the people in the surrounding countries, that is Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, say there is more chance of democracy if the United States gets out.
COLLINS: Congressman, who will protect the Iraq civilians?
MURTHA: This is a civil war already and they've got to work this out themselves.
COLLINS: But what about the military historian, Frederick Kagan, he wrote in the "Weekly Standard" this, and I want to put it on the screen for the viewers.
"One central argument Murtha has used to support a shrinking U.S. footprint in Iraq is that a reduction in American forces will incentivize the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own security. This argument would make sense if there were Iraqi military and security organs ready and able to take control of the fight against the insurgents, but there are not."
MURTHA: We have spent $277 billion in this deployment. We have $50 billion sitting on the table. They're going ask for another $100 billion next year. There is no question in my mind, we're losing the treasure, not only the monetary treasure, but the of human lives everyday.
The Iraqis have to start fighting for their own country. And they don't have to have a military as good as our military. They have to have a military that can control themselves and they can do that right now. They have had it before and they have to work out this thing. They have to start fighting for their own country.
COLLINS: But why not wait until more Iraqi forces are trained?
MURTHA: Just -- why not wait until more Americans are killed?
COLLINS: Congressman Murtha, before we let you go, talk to me a little bit about how important you think the Iraqi elections are this week?
MURTHA: Well, let me say this, we started -- we won the 1776 war, and then it was 1789 before we had a Constitution; and the consummation of that process was the Civil War. So it's going to take a long time before the Iraqis can win this for themselves. But they've got to do it themselves. We can't force a democracy on them. They're for democracy, they're against occupation.
COLLINS: Congressman John Murtha tonight from Pennsylvania. We send it back not to Anderson.
And as you heard him comment, Anderson, a very important week, but a long process there, that you are witnessing, in Iraq, as the civilians of that country go to make their votes.
COOPER: Heidi, thanks very much. With me are two members of the 3rd Infantry Battalion, Staff Sergeant Layla Elbell (ph), works as a linguist with the colonel we talked to earlier, Colonel Salazar. We met him earlier tonight. And Tiffany Katron (ph) is what the call a 91 Whiskey and Medical Specialist.
Why do they call it 91 Whiskey?
TIFFANY KATRON (ph), 91 WHISKEY & MEDICAL SPEC., U.S. ARMY: It's just a military term for my MOS, or military occupation.
COOPER: OK. You know there is so much debate back home, about the war, what do you want people to know about the war here?
LAYLA ELBELL (ph), MILITARY LINGUIST: What I would really like the people to know is all the success stories that are happening. We get to work with a lot of the general population on a regular basis. And they can't thank us enough for just everything we've done for them, how we're helping them.
COOPER: You've been here 11 months, you're going home next month. Do you feel -- I mean, there's been a lot of change in Baquba. A lot of success, the insurgency is way down here. I mean, this was a hotbed of insurgent activity last year. Do you feel like you've done good here?
KATRON: Definitely, I think that we can see improvements just riding down the streets. You can see how the streets have cleaned up. There is definitely a lot less activity. And I think their brigade has done a lot of good here.
ELBELL: When we first came here, we were going out to VEVID (ph) sites all the time, suicide bomber sites, other incidences that happened. And now it significantly decreased.
COOPER: You were both involved in an incident back, I think it was in October, where you were the first unit on the scene, some Iraqi -- was it Iraqi military who got hit?
ELBELL: Yes, it was Iraqis.
COOPER: And I mean, what you did was really heroic. You were really the first U.S. troops on the scene, you work with Colonel Salazar, but you guys were in the area. What was it like when you got there? I mean, an Iraqi military unit had been ambushed?
KATRON: Well, we rode up on them, an ambush of the Iraqi army and they were still under fire. It was definitely a unique (INAUDIBLE).
COOPER: And you're a -- you speak Arabic, you started directing Iraqi units in terms of repulsing the attack?
ELBELL: Yes. I'm the colonel's military interpreter. So, any command he gives or anything he wants to relay, I'm the way he relays it. So, yes, I was speaking directly with the battalion commander. I was speaking with his troops ensuring that they had their sections of fire down --
COOPER: So, basically telling them sort of where to return fire to?
COOPER: What was it like?
ELBELL: Well, it was exciting. I remember thinking a few times wow, am I going to get through this? It was an experience. But it was it taught me a lot. Katron was the medic on the ground, so just working with all of them, working -- getting them to actually -- getting them to get the injured people together. Having Colonel Salazar give orders to --
COOPER: What was it like trying to save people's lives, under fire?
KATRON: You know it is what I'm trained and conditioned for. I spent months of military training to be in the situation.
COOPER: It is different, though, when you actually see it on the ground.
KATRON: It is different. But you know, you depend and trust in the guys behind you on the gun trucks to take care of you. And all I worry about are the casualties on the ground.
COOPER: What you've done is just remarkable and I'm glad you're going home safe and I wish you well. And I hope you get some rest when you get back home.
ELBELL: Thank you.
KATRON: Thank you.
COOPER: All right. Thanks very much.
Just two of the soldiers here, just doing remarkable work here at Forward Operating Base, War Horse (ph).
As we told you earlier, not too far from here, northwest of Baghdad, four U.S. soldiers were killed today by a weapon known as an improvised explosive device, or IED. When we hear of troops being killed in the war, often and not (sic), it is at the hands of insurgents using these weapons.
IEDs have been effective and the disturbing thing is they are becoming more sophisticated.
CNN's Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr takes a look.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Iraq, insurgents take 120 seconds, two minutes, to set and conceal a roadside bomb, the infamous IEDs. Improvised explosive devices kill more U.S. troops than any other weapon.
The bad news is, they are getting even more lethal. This is one of the first images made public by the Army of the damage caused by a new and more sophisticated IED. It can penetrate U.S. armored vehicles, because it uses a so-called explosively formed projectile.
Brigadier General Carter Hamm, is a combat veteran of Iraq.
BRIG. GEN. CARTER HAM, DEPUTY DIR., JOINT STAFF: We are seeing greater degrees of sophistication, different techniques, different technological approaches and that's of great challenge for us.
STARR: The new armor piercing bombs focus the blast a the vehicle. In this case it badly wounded four soldiers. In May, two explosively formed projectiles hit the door and ripped through the armor. In this attack, a contractor's armored vehicle is pierced by two of the new bombs.
The technology to build them has been available for decades. None of the information we are telling you is classified. All the details were provided by the Army. These particular types of bombs first appeared in southern Iraq a few months ago. Now they are being seen as far north as Baghdad. Concern is at an all-time high.
When detonated the weapon becomes a lethal dart, flying at a rate of more than a mile per second. It can penetrate several inches of armor plate from a distance of more than 300 feet, according to the Army.
LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE, COMMANDING GENERAL, FIRST ARMY: When the energy is concentrated in a small area, it projects out that metal and that metal causes -- it can be effective against almost any army, including the M-1 tank.
STARR: U.S. and British military officials believe Iran and Hezbollah have aided insurgents in Iraq in making the more advanced bombs. A shipment was recovered recently, inside Iraq. Instructions in Arabic recommending placing the device in a sideways angle of attack, aimed right at target vehicles.
So as bombs get bigger and deadlier, the U.S. is going back to basics. Hit the people behind the bombs. Soldiers are now being trained in IED intelligence.
HONORE: Find the financiers, find the weapon caches, find the bomb builder, find the trigger men that are being positioned in areas to trigger the IED.
STARR: Soldiers are also being trained to look for IEDs on overpasses, on road curbs where their vehicles often slow down, anywhere insurgents may lay the bombs.
(on camera): So what can be done about all of this? Commanders say more armor isn't the answer. A big enough bomb can destroy any armored vehicle. So much of the classified IED work now focuses on detection technology. Finding the IEDs before they can explode and kill. Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.
COOPER: Coming up, the final moments of a life. The execution of Stanley Tookie Williams. Tonight, the men and women chosen as witnesses to his death, tell you what they saw.
Also ahead, mid-air collision: How cleaning windows nearly cost two men their lives. Tonight, they are speaking out, sharing their story for the first time.
COLLINS: Tonight the fight to save the life of Stanley Tookie Williams is over. The former gang leader was executed early Tuesday morning. He died by lethal injection. But he didn't die alone. CNN's Kareem Wynter reports on his final moments.
KAREEM WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hundreds of protestors gathered outside the gates of California's San Quentin Prison, as Stanley Tookie Williams prepared to die.
STEVEN LOPEZ, WITNESS: At no point did he seem to give any kind of resistance, whatsoever.
WYNTER: Williams was strapped on a table, his arms and legs secured, fastened by leather straps. When asked whether he had any last words, he did not. Just after midnight local time, he was given a lethal injection inside a barren execution chamber.
A group of observers stood in another room, where they watched his final moments through several windows.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it seemed like toward the very end, he was trying to keep his head up. Did you see this, too?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was trying to keep his head up as long as he could, until the first drugs hit him.
WYNTER: Several legal maneuvers during the last 24 hours, including an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court as well as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, failed. The former gang leader turned peace advocate was convicted of slaying four people in 1979. Williams has never admitted guilt or apologized for the murders.
Governor Schwarzenegger wrote in a lengthy statement, without any apology and atonement, for these senseless and brutal killings, there could be no redemption.
(on camera): Williams invited five witnesses to view the execution. One of them his close friend, Barbara Becknell (ph). He did not ask for a spiritual adviser.
At San Quentin Prison, I'm Kareem Wynter.
COLLINS: On the other side of the glass door, on the other side of the death chamber, a group of men and women watched Stanley Tookie Williams die. Each one with a very different perspective of why they were there and what they were witnessing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He raked his head a lot. He looked around. He did, in the beginning, look at his supporters -- supporters, Barbara and a woman next to her, were holding their hands in prayer. Another man lifted his right fist. His lawyers waived at him, nodded, smiled.
He nodded, sometimes at his supporters, often he shook his head slowly from side to side, with sort of a -- kind of a for-shame sort of look about him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was struck by what personal process it was and that all the people attending to him had their hands on him most of the time. One guard, near the right side of his head, in particular, was touching his upper arm a lot of the time, I think in a effort to comfort him.
COLLINS: It was a wild ride no one can forget. Two window washers holding on for their lives, as their platform swings from a building. Now, they're speaking out. We'll have the latest on the story. Coming up next on 360.
COLLINS: Remember the two window washers who nearly died when a gust of wind slammed their platform against a Denver high-rise? Well, they're not only thinking of suing their employer, tonight they're speaking out about what exactly happened when their lives were hanging by a thread. CNN's Sean Callebs reports.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Just looking at it again makes them physically sick and brings back the wobbly knees.
"Miedo," Hector says, "fear." Fear that the cables were going to break. And that they were going to fall.
On November 30, 20-year-old Hector Estrada, and 23-year-old Oscar Gonzales swayed wildly out of control more than 12 stories above the street below. Their window washing staged tossed about by gusting winds that suddenly kicked up in downtown Denver. They point to supporting cables they thought would give at any time.
Oscar says, he thought of his infant son, more than anything. Fearful he would never see the five-month old again. Oscar is married to Hector's sister and both of their families saw the frightening scenes broadcast on TV. The drama dragged on for the longest 20 or so minutes of their young lives.
And look at this, as firefighters stabilize the platform, momentarily -- Oscar says, "They grab the stage. And there I go walking across." But the safety harness gets caught for a moment and the drama continues.
Estrada and Gonzales say the worst moment -- was when it hit the building, sending glass flying. And they thought the platform was going to break.
Gonzales has been in the U.S. six years, Estrada, four. Neither speaks English. Both quite the company they were working for, Bob Pop Building Services. They say Pop offered them a dollar an hour raise, from $13.50 to $14.50, but only if they signed an agreement vowing not to sue the company.
Oscar says, they are still upset with their former employer, saying they called before the stage began swinging out of control, telling them conditions were unsafe, but say the company didn't help them. And right now, they are considering filing suit.
The Bob Pop company says it did nothing wrong. And says the claims made by the two workers are false. It believes authorities investigating the accident will clear them. When firefighters finally secured the stage, the two quickly climbed to safety. At that point it was all a blur.
Oscar saying, he was shaking, he thinks he might have even been crying. But he doesn't remember for sure.
Both Oscar and Hector are still washing windows, but for a new company, and neither ventures too far from the ground. Sean Callebs, CNN, Denver.
COLLINS: To be fair, Bob Pop Building Services reiterated today to CNN that the company told the two workers, conditions were unsafe that day and the claims of a deal with the two involving a raise in exchange for a promise not to sue are, quote, "absolutely not true".
We will go back to Anderson Cooper live from Baquba, Iraq in just a moment. Stay with us everybody.
COOPER: Well, exactly 24 hours from now the polls in Iraq will be open. Iraqis voting, voter turnout is expected to be high, throughout the country. We'll be bringing you all the action live, from Ramadi, from here in Baquba and from Baghdad, with correspondents all throughout Iraq.
Thanks for watching 360 tonight. Larry King is next.