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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Iraq: A Week at War
Aired June 25, 2006 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: That's it for this LATE EDITION. And remember, "Iraq: A Week at War" coming up. Let's go to Fredricka Whitfield for a quick check of what's in the news right now first.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Wolf. Hello, I'm Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN Center in Atlanta.
Now in the news, kidnapped and now killed, an al Qaeda-linked group says it has executed four Russian diplomats. The men were abducted three weeks ago on a Baghdad street. In a Web site statement, insurgents said they beheaded three of the men and shot one to death. That claim was accompanied by a graphic video.
Two U.S. soldiers in Iraq face a possible court-martial. They're charged in the shooting death of an unarmed Iraqi civilian near Ramadi in February. Both are also charged with obstructing justice for allegedly trying to make it appear the victim was an insurgent planning an attack.
The "New York Times" says there could be sharp reductions in U.S. troop levels in Iraq by the end of the year. It says the first cuts could come in September. About 7,000 troops would rotate out of the country without being replaced, and more would follow if the insurgency tapers off. One-hundred twenty-seven thousands American troops are currently serving in Iraq.
More headlines in 30 minutes. Now to "Iraq: A Week at War" with John Roberts.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm John Roberts. This is "Iraq: A Week at War." Let's take a look at what our correspondents reported day by day.
Monday the bodies of two missing two U.S. soldiers were found. Tuesday, Japan announces its troops will return home from Iraq. Wednesday, insurgents killed one of Saddam Hussein's defense attorneys. Thursday U.S. senators debate and reject a withdrawal date for U.S. troops. Friday, Miami terror suspects in court and new fears of homegrown groups imitating al Qaeda and the threat this week of a North Korean missile launch. This is "Iraq: A Week at War."
In Dallas correspondent Ed Lavandera, in Chicago CNN's military analyst, retired U.S. Army Brigadier General David Grange and here in Washington, senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre. This was a week where the vulnerability of U.S. forces was brought into sharp focus. Two young soldiers kidnapped as they manned a checkpoint south of Baghdad. Tuesday, word that their bodies had been recovered.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, SPOKESMAN, MULTINATIONAL FORCE, IRAQ: The bodies of those two soldiers did show signs of severe trauma, that the nature of this anti-Iraqi force element we're facing is one of a brutal nature.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Jamie McIntyre, there were 8,000 American troops looking for these two service men all weekend long, and yet insurgents were able to put their bodies out there in plain sight and put IEDs around the bodies and also booby trap the bodies. How could they do that with all those ...
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The bodies were found at 7:30 at night, so that means that this was all done during the day. At a time when there were spy planes were overhead and an intense search going on.
What we were told it was it was also in a very isolated area near a power plant where there was a lot of debris on the ground, places where people could hide and where they could hide bombs. And we were told there were as many as 20 bombs.
And what they did was they brought ordnance deposal people in to work through the night to clear all those bombs without anybody being hurt and recover the bodies by dawn the next day.
ROBERTS: Genral Grange, they had gone out with a group of humvees, but according to the military on the bridge at Yusufiyah, at that checkpoint there was only one humvee and these three soldiers. Were they stretched too thin? Were they spread too thin?
MCINTYRE: Well, they were vulnerable at that time, obviously, with one vehicle. I've experienced that in my career where a vehicle was attacked. We had three soldiers actually taken prison in Macedonia in a single humvee.
So why they were split up, in this case I don't know. Usually they work at least in pairs. There may have been a deception by the enemy that caused them to break contact with the main force. I don't know.
ROBERTS: Question still to be answered by the military. Two more troops killed in Iraq and two more families here at home coping with terrible grief. On Tuesday Ed Lavandera talked with the families.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The details of army Private First Class Kristian Menchaca and Thomas Tucker's last moments alive are so horrifying, Menchacha's family could not restrain their anger for the killers.
MARIO VASQUEZ, UNCLE OF PFC MENCHACA: Make them pay for what they did. Don't think it's just two more soldiers. Don't negotiate anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Ed Lavendera, that's the thing you would expect to hear from a parent but not the sort of thing that you'll always from the parent of a service man or woman who is killed in Iraq. Obviously, the emotions worn very much on their sleeves.
LAVENDERA: Well, they knew from the onset as soon as they got the word Kristian Menchaca was one of the ones missing, I think the family just had bad vibes all weekend long. There was no point where I think this family thought there was going to be a good outcome to this story.
ROBERTS: General Grange, has does something like this affect morale in the military?
BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE, U.S. ARMY (RET): I tell you, emotions are running high. Revenge runs through the veins of the soldiers that are in this unit, the 101st Airborne Division unit. Though we hold ourselves to a very high standards and will not break the rule of land warfare in regards to this situation, my feeling is that they will get those guys that did it. They'll be taken out.
ROBERTS: Certainly that's something that Kristian Menchaca's family would like to see. Ed Lavendera what struck you the most about the time you spent down there in Houston with Menchaca's family?
LAVENDERA: I was really struck by how this family -- first of all, this young man had spent less than a year, essentially, in the army, and they had last seen him at the end of April, early May when he had come back for a brief vacation. I was struck and touched by the way this family talked about how this young man had changed in the last year of his life. His uncle said to me that they had seen him join the army as a boy, and when they saw him a month and a half ago, he had came back as a man acting much differently. It was fascinating to hear them talk about that evolution of this young man.
ROBERTS: Jamie McIntyre, anytime anyone goes to war, there's always the chance that they are not going to come back. We even faced that when we went in with the invasion in the imbeds. But something about the way these two soldiers died really strikes a very raw nerve.
LAVENDERA: Of course, they died at the hands of terrorists. They were brutally murdered, and of course the point of terrorism is to terrorize people. They're trying to show that they still have the ability to inflict these kind of casualties, and it's part of the brutal warfare the U.S. is up against. ROBERTS: General Grange you were on a hostage rescue team for a while. Tell me some personal stories about when a serviceman or woman is taken hostage, what's the response like?
LAVENDERA: The response is immediate. The key time is the first 24 to 48 hours to do some type of response to try to seal the area, to begin searching right away, gathering intelligence, first hand intelligence. And drills are in place right now in Iraq, they've been in place for when one of these types of situations happens, it really does surprise me of the report of where they found the bodies, the time that the enemy had to booby trap the bodies.
I mean, it sounds like Vietnam. It sounds like Somalia. It's one of those types of brutal undertaking, and I'm truly surprised they weren't found in that area, but I can assure you that immediate response was put in place.
ROBERTS: I tell you, it touches a nerve in anyone who is following this story, and certainly hits the families really, really hard. Fighting back tears, the family of Privatre Thomas Tucker tries to put their grief, their loss, into words.
TAVYA TUCKER, SISTER OF PFC TOM TUCKER: He was into everything. I mean, he played tons of music and instruments, and he was into motorcycles. He was a grease monkey, and I mean in my eyes, my brother knew how to do everything.
WES TUCKER, FATHER OF PFC TOM TUCKER: He was always wants to have fun. He didn't like down things, things that was going to make somebody sad. He did not like it.
MEG TUCKER, MOTHER OF PFC TOM TUCKER: When he called home, he always kept it sugar and nice for me, because he knew I'd be scared to death. But he told his dad everything. Every time he called I knew it was him, because he'd say I love you mama.
TOM TUCKER, DIED IN IRAQ (on phone): I love you, mama. I love you too, dad.
M. TUCKER: I was supposed to just believe he was on this long vacation.
TOM TUCKER: I'm going for vacation, and I'll be back before you know it.
M. TUCKER: When I was feeling, you know, like I wanted to hold him or hug him or something, I would just go push the button and listen to him.
TOM TUCKER: I'm going to be OK. Everything's going to be okay. I'm serving my country. Be proud of me. I love you guys. I'll talk to you later. Bye-bye.
(END VIDEOTAPE) ROBERTS: General Grange, as Jamie McIntyre was saying not only did these troops lose their lives in Iraq, which is a tragedy anytime it happens, but they were taken hostage and they were so brutally murdered. When a troop is taken hostage, is the response by the military almost more dramatic than if they had been killed?
GRANGE: Absolutely. I would say anytime you have a soldier missing in action, MIA or known PW, it's probably the most hard- hitting report that you receive. The enemy knows this, and the enemy like Jamie said earlier, psychologically, that's the prize, is to get a hostage.
In fact, I'm surprised that they were brutally murdered as quickly as they were and not held for a longer period of time, which tells me that probably coalition Iraqi forces were hot on their tail to some extent. They were getting scared about getting caught. The hardest part in this thing is for the military, is the commanders, the immediate sergeants and young officers in charge and then maybe even higher up the chain of command to report, to talk to the parents about what happened. Tough duty. Very tough duty.
ROBERTS: I can't imagine having that duty. Army Privates First Class Menchaca and Tucker were not the only U.S. deaths in the Yusafiyah checkpoint attack. A third soldier was killed at the site. He was Specialist David J. Babineau of Springfield, Massachusetts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONDI BABINEAU, WIFE OF SPC BABINEAU: He was a great person. He was a great dad. He was a very, very good father. So the kids are really going to miss out.
SAMANTHA BANINEAU, DAUGHTER OF SPC BABINEAU: He was nice, and I missed him. I loved him very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Jamie McIntyre, did Specialist Babineaux's death kind of get lost in all of this.
MCINTYRE: As David Grange said, when there are people captured and there is a hostage is taken, that's where the focus is. But yeah, he did get lost a little bit. We're going to see I think his burial service at Arlington National Cemetery, and again, one of the three soldiers who were involved in this incident.
ROBERTS: Ed Lavandera, how would you sort of sum up this whole week? You were sort of close with the family.
LAVANDERA: We met them the day before they had gotten word that the bodies had been found, and it was really tough to see -- I've done so many interviews in the last couple of years with families who have lost loved ones. At some point a lot of people hold out hope that something good might happen, but this poor family knew from the onset that the hope and expectation of finding their loved one alive was minimal, as the brother said, basically I'm at the mercy of terrorists and I don't have a lot of faith in that. So they've been rocked hard this week.
ROBERTS: Boy, I tell you, it's just impossible not to be touched by this story. Ed Lavandera, thanks. Jamie and General Grange stay with us. Coming up, more violent days in Iraq and the impact on soldiers and civilians.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPC TOBY BRACE, VERMONT NATIONAL GUARD: Everybody is so much bigger. Everybody has grown so much on me. It's been a difficult time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: That Specialist Toby Brace talking about his two children who he hadn't seen in more than a year. He's one of 170 members of the Vermont National Guard that secured the battle-torn city of Ramadi. Not everyone made it back. Six of Brace's colleagues died in battle.
This is "Iraq: A Week at War". Joining me in Baghdad, correspondent Arwa Damon. In Ramadi, Iraq, senior international correspondent Nic Robertson, retired U.S. Army Brigadier General David Grange is in Chicago. And Jamie McIntyre joins me here in Washington.
This was a week of new violence in Iraq against both U.S. forces and Iraqis and a new push in Ramadi, capital of the Anbar Province west of Baghdad.
Nic talked to an Iraqi captain about how people there are wondering whether or not to flee. They are suspicious of both government forces and the insurgents. Here's that report from Tuesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are confused, who to believe, the got government or the terrorists? Because they lose the trust for both, the terrorists and the government. They lose the trust. That's the main issue.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is one of the checkpoints back into the city of Ramadi. Although the number of families leaving the city has dropped off significantly, Iraqi army officers here at least say so far they're not seeing any of those families coming back just yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Nic Robertson, you spent the entire week in Ramadi. You've talked with people there. Do you have a sense that they believe that life is ever going to return to normal in Iraq, particularly in their part of Iraq. ROBERTSON: They certainly want it to. I think in Ramadi people really are wondering what is going to happen next. The violence cycles up, it cycles down. In the area we've been in, the troops have pushed in and set up a new checkpoint. Now the streets are very quiet. Most of the residents in this area staying indoors. Insurgent activity in this particular area has gone down. What's happened, it shifted over into the next military sector, the attacks are noticeably up, insurgent attacks noticeably up there.
So in one part of the city the population gets to breathe easy for a little while and in the other part of the city the attacks erupt. They're in greater danger again. So as far as Ramadi is concerned, the steps that has been taken with the security this week is a step in the right direction. But the population here really knows that the situation remains confusing, it remains dangerous, but they know what's happening, that the Iraqi army is coming in is really the only way that they are going to get their security back, John.
ROBERTS: But if they don't know whether or not to trust the Iraqi army, Nic, how do they live their lives day to day?
ROBERTSON: Very, very cautiously. They're in some areas of Ramadi and that's why these new outposts have been put in. They are under - they are awed by the insurgents. There's nothing they can do against the insurgents. The only way that they can -- that the situation will change is with the new Iraqi army checkpoints and the people building trust in the Iraqi army. That's up to the Iraqi army to behave in a manner and respond to insurgent attacks in a way that is not detrimental to the local population, that the local population are not caught in the crossfire, that they are not killed by the Iraqi army in mistaken shootings.
So it's how they react in the coming weeks that's going to determine whether or not the local population can put trust in them. This is a very slow situation to develop. It's a very slow evolution, but these steps are all necessary. That trust has broken down so fundamentally, John.
ROBERTS: Issues of trust with the Iraqi military and perhaps the U.S. military as well. Troops charged with killing, kidnapping and conspiracy. The military accuses seven marines and a sailor in the shooting death of an Iraqi civilian. Wednesday a Marine Corps officer deliver this is statement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COL. STEWART NAVARRE, USMC: The Marine Corps takes allegations of wrongdoing by its members very seriously and is committed to thoroughly investigating such allegations. The Marine Corps also prides itself on holding its members accountable for their actions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Jamie McIntyre, a surprise that there were eight charges of premeditated murder here? MCINTYRE: Well, it's a surprising indent, but the military makes a point that a complaint came about -- from the complaint from local Iraqis that happened at the end of the April. They investigated it. In just over a month, they came back with charges. They put the seven marines and one navy corpsman involved pretrial confinement. They took it very seriously, they investigated it right away. And what they're saying is that this shows the U.S. has completely different standard the conduct than the brutal enemy it's fighting.
ROBERTS: General Grange, is it a surprise something like this alleged to have happened in an occupation that's lasted some three years now?
GRANGE: Well, if you think about the hundreds of thousands of soldiers and marines that have been in the country during this operation since April of 2003, you think about all the incidents that have happened here and there, good and bad. A couple that are brought to trial is really a low number.
Now that doesn't make an excuse for the actions that happened, if, in fact, they did, but the military is very good, I believe, from my experience, in following through on an incident to see if there is, in fact, guilt. It will be a very thorough process.
A bullet-ridden body, one of Saddam Hussein's lead attorneys is killed after being abducted by his home by men in police uniforms on Thursday. Kamizal Ubeidi (ph) becomes the third member of Saddam Hussein's defense team to be killed. Arwa Damon, how many more members of his defense team are left, and can his trial go forward?
ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not too many, John. As you just mention, he was the third.
And when we spoke to the members of his defense team, and now a number of them actually reside outside of the country, he had chosen to stay in Iraq which he said that he loved so much.
But when we spoke to one of them, Dr. Najiv Nareimi (ph), who resides in Qatar, he is the former Qatar minister of justice, he was speechless when I called him on the phone. The fist words out of his mouth were, why are they doing this to us? We're so close to the end. Why are they doing this? What is the point?
And I actually asked him what the defense was going to do next, and he very openly just said I don't know. I honestly just don't know. I think at that point overwhelmed by -- overwhelmed with grief and with what he and his fellow defense lawyers were going through. But he did say that he believed that this was meant to be a message for the entire defense team, flat out saying do not come to Iraq, do not come to court on July 10th and do not present your closing arguments.
ROBERTS: Troop withdrawals were also in the news this week. Defense secretary Don Rumsfeld turned aside the latest questions about reducing the numbers of U.S. military personnel in Iraq Thursday in the Pentagon briefing room.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: As the Iraqi forces continue to take over bases and provinces and areas of responsibility and move into the lead, we expect that General Casey will come back and make a recommendation after he's had those discussions, which he has not yet had.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Jamie McIntyre, do you think we are going to see any significant withdrawal of American troops in the near term? Next few months, before the end of the year?
MCINTYRE: I think before the end of the year. Won't be a withdrawal per se, and they won't tell troops you were supposed to stay here another month but you get to go home now. We'll know it's happening as soon as we see some of the units that were identified last year as rotating into Iraq this year, when they don't go, that's how the reductions are going to be accomplished.
ROBERTS: Right. Jamie McIntyre here in Washington, General Grange in Chicago and Nic Robertson in Ramadi. Thanks.
Arwa, we're going to get back with you in a couple of minutes, so stay with us.
When we come back, we're going to turn our attention to the home front where this week the face of terror was not that of a stranger but that a neighbor. But first a look at some of those who fell in this week at war.
ROBERTS: This week the FBI raided a warehouse in Miami and arrested seven men, accusing them of engaging in homegrown terrorism, part of a phenomenon that we have been referring to as al Qaeda 2.0. On Friday attorney general Alberto Gonzales described how the face of terror has changed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALBERTON GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The convergence of globalization and technology has created a new brand of terrorism. Today terrorist threats may come from smaller, more loosely defined cells who are not affiliated with al Qaeda but who are inspired by a violent jihaddist message. And left unchecked, these homegrown terrorists may prove to be as dangerous as groups like al Qaeda.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Joining us here in Washington, homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve and in our New York bureau, former assistant director of the FBI's New York office, Pat D'Amuro. He's chairman and CIA of Giuliani Security and Safety. Jeanne Meserve, you were the first correspondent to get a hold of the indictment. You spent a lot of time reading through it. It looks like this group of people, if what's alleged to have happened is true, were pretty committed to trying to carry out an act of terror in this country.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURY CORRESPONDENT: But it doesn't look like they got very far. They talked about this with this person they thought was a member of al Qaeda. They gave him a shopping list of things they wanted, that included things like machine guns, money and bullet proof vests. And they got cameras and they went out and did surveillance. There's no indication they got their hands on explosives that they would have needed to carry out the plot.
How credible do you think the threat was, or if not how credible, how urgent do you think the threat was?
PAT D'AMURO, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think the FBI and the Department of Justice made it very clear they dent have any explosive material, they did not have any weapons. There was no imminent threat. But this is clearly a situation where individuals conspired and talked about committing acts of terrorism against the citizens of the United States. That itself, proving material support, is a crime. The conspiracy to conduct these attacks is a crime. They are clear that they've pledged their allegiance to bin Laden, to al Qaeda and wanted to conduct these attacks.
ROBERTS: What does it say about the new face of al Qaeda? This group wasn't an al Qaeda group but it wanted to behave in the fashion of al Qaeda. Is it kind of like a big game of whack a mole, that you get them in one area and they pop up somewhere else?
D'AMURO: Well, this has been on the scope of FBI for some years now, these homegrown terrorists, the different types of organizations here that are affiliating themselves or identifying with bin Laden's cause, with the cause of Sunni extremism. So I think we're going to see more and more of these type cases in the future.
ROBERTS: Jeanne Meserve, some people have remarked that perhaps this group was a bunch of novices, as I had, al Qaeda wannabes that perhaps without this undercover agent who was pretending to be al Qaeda they would have been nowhere. But as we have seen before, with the case of Timothy McVeigh, novice homegrown terrorists can be extremely dangerous.
MESERVE: And what law enforcement officials were saying is that this investigation started after the leader of this group made a threat. He said he was going to stage an attack, and it's at that point that they put an informant in there and gathered more information. So if what they're saying is correct, they were initiating this.
ROBERTS: Pat D'Amuro, this sounds very similar to the case of the Lackawanna Six in which they had been accused of providing material support to al Qaeda. But there's a difference, though, isn't there, between the group that was arrested in Buffalo and this group?
D'AMURO: There is a difference. The group in Buffalo actually traveled to Afghanistan and participated in terrorism training. This particular group, from what we know now, did not travel overseas to affiliate itself with any of the al Qaeda camps.
ROBERTS: But it sounds like this is the sort of thing that we can expect to see, as you said, Pat, pop up again and again as this new face of al Qaeda makes it's presence known.
Pat D'Amuro in New York and Jeanne Meserve in Washington. Thanks.
When we come back, we'll turn from questions about fighting terror at home to a look at a week of increasing danger signs abroad.
But first, another moment in this week at war. On Monday near Saginaw, Michigan Company B, 125th Infantry of the Michigan National Guard came home to cheers, hugs and children. But it was a bittersweet homecoming. This unit served a tough year in the Sunni Triangle and six did not make it home alive. Sergeant Joshua Youmans was one of the fallen. But his wife Katie, his widow now, was there to honor his memory.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATIE YOUMANS, HUSBAND DIED IN IRAQ: My husband never got to finish his deployment, so it falls on the fallen soldier's families to be here, show our support for these guys because our guys lived with them for so many months and they're part of their family, and their part of ours.
WHITFIELD: Hello, I'm Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Now in the news, in Iraq a group linked to al Qaeda says it has executed four Russian diplomats. That claim was made on a Web site used by insurgents. The Russian diplomats were kidnapped about three weeks ago after their vehicle was attacked on a Baghdad street. A fifth Russian diplomat was killed in that attack. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta. Now back to "Iraq: A Week at War."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, it would be a very serious matter and indeed a provocative act should North Korea decide to launch that missile.
ROBERTS: Monday secretary of state Condoleezza Rice signaling Bush administration opposition to the threatened test of a North Korean missile that could reach parts of the United States. And it was a week of disagreement about just what North Korea was planning and why and what the U.S. could do about it.
Helping us on this, national security correspondent David Ensor and Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. Barbara, let's go to you first, Barbara. What could the United States do about this after a missile launch? I talked to one person in the NSC who said beyond a pretty strongly worded statement expressing our displeasure, not much.
BARBARA STARR, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, John, the first thing the U.S. military is going to try to figure out within seconds of a launch is whether it's an attack. Now, to be clear, nobody really thinks North Korea is about to attack, so they will look at the trajectory of the missile and try and determine what's going on.
If for some reason it does appear to be on an attack path towards the United States, the Pentagon has a limited missile defense capability. It has 11 interceptor missiles spaced out in Alaska and in California. They can always try and shoos it down. But at this point, nobody thinks it's an attack.
ROBERTS: David Ensor, does anybody believe this represents a real threat?
DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's not a good thing when a company you don't trust at all is launching missiles that could eventually reach the United States and might one day be equipped to carry a nuclear weapon. But U.S. intelligence says it doesn't think North Korea has that capability now by any means. It's something they watch, they worry about, but they're not getting hot under the collar.
ROBERTS: There have been calls from the Democratic side, people who used to work in the Department of Defense who said, you should have a cruise missile to take it out before it has a chance to get off the launch pad. That's not something that the administration would consider, is it?
ENSOR: I thought it was interesting to see Democrats saying that, and Vice President Cheney saying that would be going too far. We think we're on a better track with diplomacy. Sort of a contrast.
ROBERTS: Let's move across the map over to Afghanistan where it was a week of hard fighting and new U.S. casualties. Plus, a reminder that al Qaeda tries to be a moving target, changing, updating. Call it al Qaeda 2.0. Wednesday we saw a new video message from second of in command of al Qaeda, Ayman al Zawahiri, urging his supporters and university students to fight on. Barbara Starr, you just recently spent a lot of time of Afghanistan. The Taliban is resurgent there. Does Zawahiri perhaps have a sense that things could be reaching critical mass? All it needs is a kick from him?
STARR: I don't know if -- That might be what he'd like. Certainly the U.S and NATO has enough firepower to deal with any resurgence of the Taliban. But my sources are telling me this video is viewed again by them as an appeal by al Qaeda to try and reassert its influence in Afghanistan. Whether they are able to really do that, I think, remains very problematic.
ROBERTS: Of course, part of the way that the United States tries to intercept terrorism is to track them around the world, and one of the ways they do that is that they track the funding of terrorism operations. We learned something new about that. That the Treasury Department has been tapping into an international banking database. David Ensor, some controversy about this, but it seems to be quite different than the NSA eavesdropping scandal.
ENSOR: This is quite closely pinpointed. They have to have a name or account number to go in. I use the Swift system to send money to relatives overseas or receive it. So there are a lot of Americans that do, but it would have to be the name or account number. So it's not a big data mining operation according to U.S. officials.
ROBERTS: And Barbara Starr, when it comes to actually fighting terrorism, doesn't the Pentagon believe drying up their source of financing is one of the keys to get them out of business?
STARR: Absolutely, John. The expression you hear around here is the long war, the long war against terrorism is what you hear, and officials believe it's not going to be won with that firepower. It will be won across a broad range of activities. Financing is just one of them.
ROBERTS: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon and David Ensor here in the studio. Thanks.
We're going to turn back to Iraq and look at what's been accomplished this week. But first, another moment in this week of war. A bit of good news for the children in the town of Yusufiyah. The U.S army reported on Monday that coalition troops along with their Iraqi counterparts finished a month-long project and restored one of the city's playground. In appreciation, local kids presented the troops with gifts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MARK SANFORD, SOUTH CAROLINA: Whether one agrees or disagrees with what's going on in Iraq, what absolutely stands out is how these South Carolinians when asked to do a job have done it remarkably is frankly the harshest of conditions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Big props from governors visiting the war zone. That was South Carolina's Mark Sanford praising his National Guard troops stationed around Tikrit. Sanford and his counterparts from Alaska and North Dakota were in Iraq this week saying thanks to the fighting men and women from their states who put their lives on the line every day.
Now for a check on this week's progress in Iraq. I'm joined here in Washington by Stuart Bowen. He's the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. And with us from Baghdad again, CNN's Arwa Damon. Let's start with you, Stuart.
You just recently got back from Iraq and you have been on the phone all week with your people over there. Give us an assessment of how you think things are going? And this is great because you have got to give us a realistic assessment because you're the inspector general.
STUART BOWEN, IRAQI RECONSTRUCTION INSPECTOR GENERAL: That's what we've done in every one of our nine reports. The last one which came out at the end of April, as it points out, is a mixed story. There are successes, significant progress in certain sectors and some challenges. They're driven primarily by two overlays, the security issues and corruption issue.
ROBERTS: What was the most significant thing that got done this week?
BOWEN: This week my staff was up visiting one of the provincial reconstruction teams. This is part of Secretary Rice's and Ambassador Khalilzad's initiative to build capacity at the local level in Iraq to ensure Iraqis can manage the next phase of the reconstruction problem. It's going to be a long process before the infrastructure is back.
ROBERTS: But they're kind of getting their act together?
BOWEN: They're making progress.
ROBERTS: You said there is some progress on oil as well?
BOWEN: There has been progress. Over the last three weeks, we've seen oil production move from 2.1 million barrels per day to 2.4 million. The prewar standard was 2.5. That's the goal. So clearly the work in the oil sector is beginning to pay off.
ROBERTS: Arwa Damon, In Baghdad, you talk with rank and file Iraqis on a regular basis. Did they get a sense that things are progressing on the ground in terms of the reconstruction?
DAMON: That's a tough one, John. When you put that question to Iraqis here, actuallyt they kind of look at you and laugh, and not to detract from any of the reconstruction projects that have happened thus far. I just think right now they're happening on a smaller scale. For an average Iraqis living especially in an area like the capital, Baghdad or some of the more violent areas of the country, what they are seeing around them is all the destruction and the devastation that the isolated reconstruction projects, or renovation projects, be it schools for bigger projects, when they are actually happening, they're not really brought to anyone's attention or if they are they're not taking away from the daily hardships and the daily death and destruction they're seeing all the time.
ROBERTS: That's what we're trying to do is trying to bring it to people's attention albeit mostly in the United States. You said progress and oil, but electricity and water remain a problem?
BOWEN: They do. Water is difficult to measure because of inaccurate prewar numbers. Electricity, demand is enormous, and it's driven mostly by the subsidies that currently and still exist in Iraq. When those subsidies are gradually brought down and more electrical projects are brought on line, you will see more hours of electricity provided per day to the average Iraqi.
ROBERTS: We had a story here on CNN of you visiting a prison that was being built near Baghdad. And you seem to think things were going well. And then this past week we hear that the Pentagon has canceled the contract with the contractor saying they're cutting their losses here. The two things don't seem to add up.
BOWEN: Well, it's a good point. The fact is the work going on in Nasiriyah, which I visited three weeks ago in south central Iraq, is up to modern standards. But I raised when I visited there two significant issues, one why was it a year overdue? And two, why had the costs greatly outstripped the original budget. There was a third issue I was concerned about and that is it was supposed to be for 4,400 prisoners and was reduced down to 800. As a result of those issues, I think it was canceled.
ROBERTS: Are the contractors on the up and up for the most part, or is there still a lot of corruption there?
BOWEN: When I talk about corruption, I'm talking about within the Iraqi government. Corruption is not a pervasive component or issue within the current U.S. reconstruction program.
ROBERTS: Although it was at the beginning.
BOWEN: We have 80 cases ongoing, and 70 percent of them have to do with problems that arose during CPA's period.
ROBERTS: Arwa Damon, what are the Iraqi people looking for right here and right now?
DAMON: A lot, John, but mainly number one security. The comfort -- the ability that most people that don't live in a place like Iraq have to walk out of their home, and knowing that barring an accident happening, they can get to the bank and withdraw money safely. If their child is ill they can go to the grocery store and buy them milk if that's what they need or go to the pharmacist to get the medication. They want electricity. The summer here is scorchingly hot, it's suffocating.
Sweat pours down a person's face just to walk 10 meters outside. To live in conditions like that without power, without the ability to air-condition your home, it's incredibly difficult. And of course, there's even talking about the fuel issue.
The irony of the fact that there are fuel queues here to cause Iraqis to get into line at 4:00 in the morning, sometimes they're not done until 2:00 p.m., 4:00 p.m., 12 hours waiting in a line in a country like Iraq that says so oil-rich. The irony of that and the frustration of that is not lost on anyone here.
ROBERTS: And Stuart Bowen, very quickly. Until there is security all over Iraq, is reconstruction going to continue to be problematic?
BOWEN: Yes, it will. ROBERTS: Thank you. Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction and Arwa Damon in Baghdad.
Coming up next we are going to turn to Capitol Hill in a week where the war of words escalated and politicians were forced to take a stand. This is "Iraq: A Week at War."
ROBERTS: This is "Iraq: A Week at War." On Capitol Hill it was a week of sharp exchanges over the war in Iraq, as President Bush fielded questions on Iraq at the European Summit in Vienna, Austria. Here to talk about the war of words on both sides of the Atlantic, Dana Bash on Capitol Hill and Suzanne Malveaux who is at the White House.
Let's listen to part of the debate on Capitol Hill over a pullout plan. At the capitol on Thursday Democratic Senator Kerry and Republican Senator Jon Kyl made their cases.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY, (R) MA: Let me say it plainly. Redeploying United States troops is necessary for success in Iraq. And it is necessary to be able to fight a more effective war on terror.
SEN. JON KYL, (R) AZ: They are now mutilating and killing American soldiers and Iraqi citizens. What do the terrorists have in mind if we pull out?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Dana Bash let's start with you. Could it be said there were winners and losers in this debate?
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I hate to fall back to saying something that probably we all should say a little more often on, which is we'll see what happens in November. But I can tell you that the Democrats probably by the end of the week just after those votes were taken, it was probably the first time they felt that they got a leg up on this issue, because for the most part even though ironically they were the ones pushed for this debates, it's the Democrats had the two proposals. Because they really did focus on whether or not there should be a timeline or a date certain for them to come home. They were for the most part on the defensive this week on this issue.
ROBERTS: They have a number of different areas on when troops should come out. So say stay the course and some say begin at the end of the year and some say get them all out by July 1st of next year.
But they do say that what they're united of is you can't have a policy of stay the course which they say is President Bush's policy. Suzanne, the times that I have accompanied the president on overseas trips particularly to Europe, the reaction from protestors there has been somewhat visceral and world leaders don't seem to be in any kind of agreement with him, in fact in opposition to him. Has anything changed?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There was this one moment that was extraordinary. We were in Vienna, Austria in this 16th century castle in the ballroom where Beethoven actually unveiled his Eighth Symphony. Amazing moment of really discord if you will. President Bush starts off saying to the E.U. president Wolfgang Schuessel, well, I call him Wolfgang and he calls me George W., like many other press conferences, we thought that would be the tone.
But then not one European journalists but two asked him simply about the incredibly low opinion Europeans have of him. Saying, look, it's you, President Bush, they believe is the greater threat than Iran. President Bush very impassioned, emotional, saying that's absurd, that's absolutely absurd and then went on to make his case.
So clearly in that moment you got a sense here that a lot of the Europeans still have a low opinion of the president. But clearly the E.U. leadership wants to move forward.
ROBERTS: Interesting difference of opinion there. Dana Bash, you mentioned Democrats on the defensive. Let's take a listen to what Vice President Cheney said in an exclusive interview with John King about the issue of troop withdrawal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT: The worst possible thing we could do is what the Democrats are suggesting, and no matter how you carve it, you can call it anything you want, but basically it's packing it in and going home, persuading and convincing and validating the theory that the Americans don't have the stomach for this fight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: So the unspoken words there, cut and run. And it was interesting to me that during some of those floor speeches, Democrats actually used those words. They said this is not cut and run. You talk about them being on the defensive. I don't know anybody who has ever won a debate point by starting off on the defensive and starting off with a negative trying to sell their plan by saying it's not this and further down the road saying this is what it is.
BASH: That's right. Well, the bottom line is they've been to this rodeo before, the Democrats, John. They know what the Republicans' talking points are because they used them in the last election. So they knew that even by broaching the subject in a full- fledged debate that that's going to be exactly what the Republicans use against them, cut and run, and it's exactly what they did.
But you're absolutely right. It's one thing I noticed it at the beginning of the week, that they were more emphatic, even, more emphatic those that didn't want a specific date certain for troops than come home than saying that than actually saying in many ways what they're for when it came for the policy in Iraq.
ROBERTS: So Suzanne Malveaux, we have this split on Capitol Hill between the Democrats and the Democrats and the Democrats and the Republicans over what to do. President Bush reaching out on European allies to try to get some support for his plan going forward. Is it your opinion that he may get that, or do you think that they're still going to be resistant to his plan as they have been for these last three years?
MALVEAUX: Well, John, there certainly wasn't any commitment when it came to money. You heard the president made quite ado about reaching out, some $13 billion pledged by allies. Three billion that they've come through with. He said that he was going to go ahead and push them but senior administration officials say there wasn't really any movement in that direction. It's really sitting down one on one with leaders.
I think what did happen, however, is that he got what he came for when it came to North Korea and Iran. And that really was a united front, if you will, a statement from all of the leaders saying, look, we believe in this. We're going to help you out on this one, and quite frankly we pleased you're coming to our side willing to talk to the Iranians and move forward diplomatically with North Korea.
ROBERTS: Issues that perhaps are far less political than the issue of Iraq. Suzanne Malveaux at the White House and Dana Bash at Capitol Hill. Thanks.
In just a moment we're going to take a look at next week and I'll have comments on the week just passed. This is "Iraq: A Week at War."
ROBERTS: It was a difficult week for military families or anyone for that matter with children of age to go into battle. The deaths of Privates Thomas Tucker and Kristian Menchaca are a stark reminder that the most horrible things imaginable can happen in war.
Any death in Iraq or Afghanistan is a terrible tragedy, but the way Tucker and Menchaca died with no doubt bound their families deeply and forever. We wish them strength in what must be extraordinarily hard times and our prayers are with them.
Here's a look at what we'll be keeping an eye on in the coming week. On Monday former President George H. W. Bush will host the U.S. Arab Economic Forum in Houston, Texas.
On Tuesday helicopters and ground equipment will be the subject when the army chief of staff and the commandant of the Marine Corps appear before the House Armed Services Committee. And on Thursday, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will meet with President Bush. Certain to be on the agenda, the war in Iraq and that North Korean ballistic missile.
The two of them will also visit Graceland together. Koizumi a big Elvis fan. Thanks for joining us for this edition of "Iraq: A Week at War." I'm John Roberts. Up next, a check on what's making news right now, then stay tuned for "Welcome to the Future."
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