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Selling the Plan; Shooting Rampage: Brian Nichols in Court; U.S. Raid in Somalia

Aired January 11, 2007 - 08:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Selling the plan. President Bush vows to fix a mistake and commits more troops to Iraq. We'll hear from his secretary of state and top general in this hour.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: A vaccine debate. Should shots be required for all girls to prevent cervical cancer? Surprising answers in some states this morning.

S. O'BRIEN: And "Words That Changed a Nation." A look this morning at Dr. Martin Luther King's acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize for Peace and why it was far from the end of his struggle.

Those stories and much more ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

M. O'BRIEN: Good morning to you, Thursday, January 11th.

I'm Miles O'Brien.

S. O'BRIEN: And I'm Soledad O'Brien.

Thanks for being with us.

M. O'BRIEN: We begin in Iraq, and President Bush and his new war strategy.

In his primetime address, the president acknowledged for the first time that he had not sent enough troops to secure Iraq, calling the situation unacceptable. About 20,000 more U.S. troops will be sent into Iraq at an extra cost of about $5.5 billion.

Elaine Quijano is at the White House. Arwa Damon embedded with the U.S. Army's 3rd Stryker Brigade in Baghdad. Andrea Koppel is on Capitol Hill.

Let's begin with Elaine.

Good morning, Elaine.


Well, the White House is well aware that Americans are running out of patience. President Bush last night tried making the case for why he believes this new Iraq plan will be successful.

The president began by acknowledging in stark terms that sectarian violence has overwhelmed any progress on the political front for the Iraqis. At the same time, the president took responsibility for errors in the conduct of the war.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people, and it is unacceptable to me. Our troops in Iraq have fought bravely. They have done everything we have asked them to. Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.


QUIJANO: Now, as expected, President Bush announced that he plans to send more than 20,000 U.S. troops to Iraq to partner with Iraqi troops there. The centerpiece of that plan, of course, focusing on quelling sectarian violence in Baghdad.

Now, the goal is eventually to have Iraqi forces take over security for their country by November. But the president last night, speaking of failed past attempts to pacify Baghdad, the president conceded that there were not enough Iraqi and U.S. troops to secure neighborhoods and said there were too many restrictions on the troops that did fight. But the president said that those mistakes have been addressed and that Iraq's prime minister has promised not to tolerate sectarian or political interference.


BUSH: The troops will have a well-defined mission to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security that Baghdad needs.


QUIJANO: Now, the president sought to cast this latest Iraq plan as an Iraqi initiative. That includes meeting political and security benchmarks. The president said that he made clear to the government of Iraq's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, that America's commitment in Iraq is not open-ended. But the president did not set any timetables.

He will now try to build public support for the plan. He'll head to Fort Benning, Georgia, later today -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you very much.

Elaine Quijano at the White House -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: All right. So the plan is announced. Now the additional troops will start heading into Iraq.

CNN's Arwa Damon is live in Baghdad with some troops reaction from there.

Good morning, Arwa. ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.

And actually, most of the troops that we spoke to had not heard the president's speech. It did take place at 5:00 in the morning here in Iraq. At that point in time most of the soldiers were either out on mission, getting ready to go out, or resting, having just come back from one.

But here is what some of those who we did speak to, this is what they had to say.


STAFF SGT. ROY STARBECK, U.S. ARMY: I just saw a lot more of the responses to the presidential address than I actually saw of the presidential address. And it's just -- it's really aggravating just listening to these people who have never been over here. And half of them really don't know what's even going on over here.

Just either not supporting the war because they don't like the president, or not supporting the war just because they're Democrats, or supporting the war just because they're Republicans. And none of them are taking the time or energy to find out what's actually going on over here. Maybe come over here and take a look at what's going on.

SGT. MICHAEL CASPER, U.S. ARMY: Really, we haven't really thought about it that much. Just mostly about -- it's trying out something new. Another strategy. I mean, if it works, it works. If not, we'll just have to figure something -- something else out.

LT. CHARLES MOFFITT, U.S. ARMY: I think it's a great idea if they utilize them properly. The more people to cover our backs, the more eyes we have on the streets, the less likely insurgents can successfully place them. We have seen from past operations, brigade- sized operations, that the more troop we have on the ground during that operation, the less likely we are to get hit while we're searching for our targets.


DAMON: The vast majority of the soldiers here do realize that the solution to Iraq is not just going to be a military one. They are very aware that a lot of it lies in the hands of the Iraqi government. It is up to prime minister Nuri al-Maliki to fulfill the commitments that he has made.

Also, a lot of these soldiers are on their second, if not third, tours of duty here. And they have heard plans being made at senior government levels in the past. And on paper, they say those plans sound good. But when it comes down to implementing them on the streets of Iraq, well, that is an entirely different story -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Arwa Damon is in Baghdad for us this morning.

Thanks, Arwa -- Miles. M. O'BRIEN: Democrats on Capitol Hill began their opposition to the president's plan even before he revealed it. Today they'll get to grill key members of the administration.

CNN's Andrea Koppel live for us on the Hill with more.

Good morning, Andrea.


Yes, no surprises there. Even before the president had spoken, we knew what the Democrats were going to say. And after he spoke they sought to present a united front and told the president they would not support his new plan on Iraq.

Just a short time ago on AMERICAN MORNING, the new chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said, instead of talking about building up troops, the president should be talking about drawing them down.


SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: The present course is a disastrous course, getting in deeper is a greater disastrous course. Everybody wants to succeed in Iraq, obviously. The president's course is not the road to success.


KOPPEL: Now, even though they are united in their opposition to the president, they are divided as to what to do next. We've already reported that as soon as next week, Senate Democrats could introduce a resolution which is mostly symbolic, expressing their opposition to the president's plan.

Today, Senate Democrats are going to kick off, both in the House and Senate, the first of what they expect will be a series of hearings on Iraq. Among those who will be testifying, the new secretary of defense, secretary of state. They can expect to be raked over the coals by these Democrats who feel they got a mandate in November from the American people to bring about change in policy in Iraq.

In a statement, in a joint statement from both House and Senate Democratic leaders, they said, "Escalating our military involvement in Iraq sends precisely the wrong message and we oppose it. We will demand answers to the tough questions that have not been asked or answered to date. The American people want a change of course in Iraq. We intend to keep pressing President Bush to provide it."

But of course the biggest difference now, versus just even a few months ago, is the fact that you have -- even though Republican leaders are still in lockstep with the president, you have more Republican rank and file who are, in some instances, just not saying anything in support, but in other instances, Miles, they are actually coming out openly opposing their president -- Miles. M. O'BRIEN: Andrea Koppel on Capitol Hill.

Thank you -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Jury selection begins today in the trial of Brian Nichols. You'll remember he's accused of killing four people, including a judge, during a courthouse shooting rampage in Atlanta back in March of 2005.

CNN's Thomas Roberts is live this morning at the Fulton County Courthouse for us.

Good morning, Thomas.


The process will be taking place at the courthouse behind me to seat the 12 jurors and the six alternates. Thirty-five hundred people have been summoned, and the first several hundred are expected here this morning to fill out the questionnaires about what they know about the case. And if they've lived in Atlanta over the past two years, it's hard to miss the story of Brian Nichols.


ROBERTS (voice over): On the morning of March 11, 2005, Brian Nichols was in custody in Atlanta for retrial on rape charges. But on his way to the courtroom, he broke free and allegedly went on a killing spree. It lasted for 26 traumatic hours.

Nichols was being moved from a holding room when police say he overpowered a sheriff's deputy and took her gun. Police say Nichols then burst into a crowded courtroom and opened fire, killing a judge and a court reporter. While trying to get away, police say Nichols shot and killed sheriff's deputy Hoyt Teasley. Later that day, a U.S. Immigration and Customs agent was shot and killed and his truck stolen.

That night, Nichols managed to hide out in a house belonging to Ashley Smith. Police say Nichols approached her in her parking lot and took her hostage. During the next several hours, the pair formed an unlikely bond. Smith says she was able to gain the trust of Nichols by talking about religion and family.

ASHLEY SMITH, ALLEGED HOSTAGE: He said he thought that I was an angel sent from god, and that I was his sister and he was my brother in Christ. And that he was lost and god led him right to me.

ROBERTS: The next morning, Nichols allowed Smith to leave the apartment and she called 911. Authorities arrived at the house a short time later and Nichols surrendered by waving a white towel.


ROBERTS: Now, we have to point out this is a death penalty case. And legal experts have said that while it's important to find people that may have an impartial idea about Nichols' guilt, it's more important to find out their feelings about the death penalty, because, Soledad, in this state it will take a unanimous decision from the jury to convict Nichols to a death sentence.

S. O'BRIEN: Thomas Roberts for us this morning.

Thanks for the update.

Ahead, a big chill is about to pay a visit. Severe weather expert Chad Myers has the forecast for us.

And a vaccine debate. Should a shot to prevent cervical cancer be required like a shot for, say, measles or mumps? Not everybody is agreeing with one city's decision.

We'll tell you what they're doing.

And Dr. Martin Luther King's Nobel acceptance speech in his own handwriting. A rare look at words that changed a nation and a world.

You are watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is right here on CNN.


S. O'BRIEN: Getting this news just in to CNN. We want to turn to the situation in Somalia.

Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr has just come out of a briefing in Kenya, where U.S. officials are telling her about the details of that raid that happened on Sunday by U.S. forces in Somalia.

Barbara, good morning to you. What's the very latest?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Soledad, we have just come out of a background briefing by a senior U.S. official in Kenya who says the United States now believes that they did not get any of the three high-value al Qaeda targets they were going after when that AC-130 gunship Sunday night into Monday morning launched its air strike into southern Somalia. The officials specifically said that as far as the U.S. knows, the top man they were looking for, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, long believed to be one of the masterminds of the U.S. embassy bombings here in East Africa in 1998, the official said, "As far as we know, he is not dead."

And he also said, as far as they know, that the other two high- value targets that they had been seeking, a man named Salih Ali Saleh Naban (ph) and another man named al-Sadani (ph), also affiliated with al Qaeda attacks here in East Africa, they are believed to still be alive. The senior U.S. official said all three men, in his words, "are still of intense interest to us. We are still in pursuit."

He did say that they believe that they have killed eight to 10 al Qaeda-affiliated personnel, but he could not identify them. He said that he -- that the U.S., based on intelligence, believes that they did not kill any civilians. He said there's no indication that U.S. Special Forces are on the ground in southern Somalia, but he would not discuss whether U.S. Special Forces may be on the ground in northern Kenya -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Barbara Starr with an update.

We heard reports that, in fact, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed had been killed, high-value target there. But as Barbara Starr is telling us, reporting from Nairobi, Kenya, in fact he was not killed, along with two other high-value targets. All of them not killed in that attack.

A quarter past the hour. Let's turn to weather now.

Chad, good morning.



S. O'BRIEN: All week long we have been look at the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Words that changed a nation. The King estate gave CNN access to Dr. King's private papers in the library of Morehouse College, which is Dr. King's alma mater.

Now, within those papers was Dr. King's speech accepting the Nobel Prize for Peace. A peace that was yet to be won.


S. O'BRIEN (voice over): While blacks were being reviled in the South, the world was taking notice of Dr. Martin Luther King's peaceful protest movement.

DR. DOROTHY COTTON, SO. CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP CONF.: The day the announcement came down, we were running up and down the sidewalk there on Auburn Avenue saying, "We won." We knew he had been nominated. "We won. We won the Nobel Prize."

S. O'BRIEN: These are outlines and drafts of Dr. King's Nobel acceptance speech and lectures.

DR. ANDREW YOUNG, FMR. U.N. AMBASSADOR: He usually went off by himself for three or four days to do his writing. He was a poet. And poets work on speeches until every little syllable is right.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: I accept the Nobel Prize for Peace.

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: I think his heart, his soul, his gut came out in this speech.

DR. WYATT TEE WALKER, KING'S CHIEF OF STAFF: He didn't take it as a personal achievement. He accepted it for the people, many of whose names were never known.

KING: I am mindful that only yesterday in Philadelphia, Mississippi, young people seeking to secure the right to vote were brutalized and murdered.

S. O'BRIEN: January, 1965, just weeks after accepting the Nobel Prize, the fight for the right to vote put Dr. King back on the front line, this time in racially-torn Selma, Alabama.

LEWIS: It was a sheriff by the name of Jim Clark. He wore a gun on one side, a nightstick on the other side. He wore a button on his left lapel that said "Never."

S. O'BRIEN: In just a few days' time, more than 3,000 protesters were arrested, including Dr. King. While in jail, he jotted down this to-do list on Waldorf-Astoria stationery. The purpose, to keep national attention focused on Selma.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "No. 3: Make personal call to President Johnson urging him to intervene in some way."

S. O'BRIEN: Still, there was no letup in the violence.

On February 18, 1965, Alabama state troopers fatally shot 26- year-old Jimmy Lee Jackson in Marion, Alabama. Dr. King delivered a passionate message in Jackson's eulogy to all who remained on the sidelines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "He was murdered by the indifference of every minister of the gospel who has remained silent behind the safe security of stained glass windows."

S. O'BRIEN: Jimmy Lee Jackson's funeral was the inspiration for another protest march. On the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Alabama police violently pushed the marchers back. It's what became known as Bloody Sunday.

This telegram is the result of the sacrifices of Selma, an invitation from the White House for Dr. King to attend the signing of the Voters Rights Act. President Johnson pushed hard for its passage, and his words in a nationally televised address had a profound effect on Dr. King.

LEWIS: I remember so well sitting with him on the night of March 15, 1965, as he listened and watched Lyndon Johnson. And before he concluded that speech, he said...


LEWIS: I looked back at Dr. King and I saw tears coming down his face. He was crying. He was so moved.


S. O'BRIEN: With the Voting Rights Act of 1965, blacks in the South would have the power of the ballot box to drive out politicians and lawmen who defended segregation.

Tomorrow, the last stop in Dr. King's journey for civil rights, Memphis. We'll hear from the people with him and his dramatic final moments, and see the handwritten slip of paper that Dr. King carried with him until the very day he died.

You can learn more about Dr. King's life and mission and take a look at some of the documents yourself. Just click on the "specials" section at Or you can go to

Coming up, a vaccine to prevent the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer. One state is offering it for free. Another city might make it mandatory.

We'll tell you about the debate straight ahead.

Plus, 300 diamonds, 100 sapphires, 100 rubies. Now, we're not talking about the crown jewels. We're talking about one Pepsi can. And it could be yours.

We're "Minding Your Business" straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


S. O'BRIEN: Companies looking for a captive audience are advertising to people waiting in security lines at the airport. That is a captive audience, isn't it.

It's coming up at 25 after the hour. Stephanie Elam is "Minding Your Business" this morning.

Is it working?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I guess that's one thing. It's captivating if they're actually paying attention if they're early for their flight, I guess. That's one way to look at it.

But what's going to happen here is that those bins where you put all your stuff to go through the security points, well, yes, that's going to -- they're now going to have ads in there. The Transportation Security Administration has actually been testing this out at Los Angeles International Airport for about six months. And they are expected to unveil the actual full guidelines for companies wishing to advertise there today.

And so one of the things that they are saying there is that the ad firms will actually go ahead and pay fees to the airports, and then the ad companies would supply the TSA with those trays, tables and other non-electronic items used at security checkpoints to get -- to get you right through there. Now, the airports have always been looking for ways to go ahead and increase their way of bringing in non-airline revenue, so this is one way they're looking to do that.

So -- and ads in a new place.

Now, something else to tell you about. What about a $100,000 jewel-studded soda can? It sound interesting? Well, that's what Pepsi is giving away during the Super Bowl, the 41st Super Bowl here in a couple of weeks.

It's actually sterling silver. There you go, you can see it there, with 300 diamonds, 100 sapphires, and 100 rubies.

It's inspired by past Super Bowl rings, as well as the Vince Lombardi Trophy. And as one Pepsi exec put it, "It's all blinged out."

Of course, when corporate executives start referring to things as "blinged out," you probably shouldn't say that. But before you think that this is just a completely stupid idea, the real cool part of the gift, I think, is that you get two Super Bowl tickets for the rest of your life.

Pretty darn cool if you ask me.


ELAM: So, you could register for that, and then on February 4th find out if you get a can that doesn't even have Pepsi in it -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: I was going to say, does it have Pepsi in it, or do you just spend your morning prying sapphires and diamonds...

ELAM: Yes. I think you take the can and then you go ahead...

S. O'BRIEN: To the jeweler.

ELAM: ... and you go, "Can I get a ruby pendant?" That's what you do.

S. O'BRIEN: Pretty cool. And you get the Super Bowl tickets.

ELAM: The tickets I think is a really cool part of that.

S. O'BRIEN: Good gig.

All right. Stephanie, thanks.

ELAM: Sure.

S. O'BRIEN: Top stories ahead.

We are waiting on this briefing about Iraq from the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and the Joint Chiefs chairman, Peter Pace, and the defense secretary, Robert Gates. We're going to bring it to you live when it happens.

Plus, the president has laid out his plan for Iraq. We'll hear what veterans who've actually taught there think.

That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is right here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) S. O'BRIEN: President Bush vows to fix the mistake, sending more troops to Iraq. We're going to hear from his secretary of state and the defense secretary in this half hour.

Those additional troops will help clear violent neighborhoods in Baghdad. We're going to hear what veterans of the Iraq war think of this new plan.

And a shot could help girls from ever getting cervical cancer. Now states are weighing in with some surprising recommendations.

Those stories and much more on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Welcome back, everybody, Thursday, January 11th.

I'm Soledad O'Brien.

Miles has made his way to jury duty this morning, so he's gone, but thanks for being with us. We're awaiting a news conference on the new Iraq strategy. Let's look at a picture right now from the Eisenhower Executive Office there, it's next to the West Wing of the White House and we're expecting to see and probably can see some arrivals coming in the next few minutes. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, joint chiefs chair General Peter Pace, they'll all be testifying before a congressional committee today after this news conference. So let's begin with a look at just what the president's plan could mean for the military. CNN's Kathleen Koch is at the Pentagon and will break it all down for us. Good morning Kathleen.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning Soledad. The defense secretary wasted no time dotting his I's, crossing his T's. Robert Gates last night signing the package of deployment orders to execute this new plan right after the president's speech.


KOCH (voice-over): The bottom line -- 21,500 more U.S. troops will be serving in Iraq. Five brigades will be sent to Baghdad with the first to arrive within a week.

BUSH: These troops will work alongside Iraqi units and be embedded in their formations.

KOCH: Four thousand marines will be sent to Anbar Province. Some of the increases will be new deployments, other forces will see their tours of duty extended. Iraqis are expected to up their force levels as well, three new Iraqi brigades or just over 10,000 troops are due to be deployed in Baghdad. One in place by February 1st, the other two by the middle of the month. There will also be a shift in responsibilities. Iraqis will take the lead. U.S. troops under U.S. command will support them. In Baghdad specifically there will be an overall Iraqi commander with two deputies and a commander for each of the nine districts in the city. A U.S. army battalion of four to 600 troops will work closely with the Iraqi forces in each district. The U.S. forces will live in the neighborhoods they help protect and no area will be off limits. In other words, no safe havens for insurgents or those carrying out sectarian violence.

BUSH: In earlier operations, political and sectarian interference prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence. This time Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter those neighborhoods.

KOCH: The expectation that Baghdad will be stable by summer. U.S. troops would then pull back to areas outside the capital with Iraqis in control of security in all 18 provinces by November.


KOCH: The first to move in the 82nd airborne already in Kuwait. The Pentagon will put out a press release in an hour detailing which other forces will be deployed and when. Soledad?

S. O'BRIEN: Kathleen Koch at the Pentagon for us this morning. Thanks Kathleen. What do veterans of the Iraq war think of the president's plan? Christian Bagge served as a staff sergeant in the U.S. army. He lost both his legs when the humvee he was driving was blown apart by a roadside bomb. And you might remember him best from this, his jog around the White House lawn with President Bush back in June. He's in San Antonio this morning. Rose Forrest served in Anbar Province with the National Guard, she's pregnant, could be called back to Iraq in two years. She's in D.C. this morning. And Jake Schick is a former marine reservist, lost his right foot in Anbar Province back in the fall of 2004 when a mine exploded. He's in New Orleans this morning. Thanks to all of you for joining us, appreciate it. I would like each of you to weigh in on our first question, which is this, the cornerstone as you know of the president's plan is to increase troops by 20,000 or so. What do you think of that idea? Let's begin with you, Rose.

ROSE FORREST, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: Well my big concern Soledad is where those troops are going to come from. A lot of those troops are going to come from extensions of soldiers and marines that are already over there, or they're going to come from soldiers who just got home. They're going to be turned around and go right back and that's my first concern.

S. O'BRIEN: How about you Christian?

CHRISTIAN BAGGE, U.S. ARMY (RET.): You know, I have to just say that, you know, I've always supported the president. I've always wanted to believe that it's going to work and this time, I just -- I don't think it's going to work. We have 21,000 troops to come in and secure that part of the country, right? Now what happens when we pull out? The same thing that's happening now. We know that the solution lies in the Iraqi people to secure their own country, not in the number of troops that we put there.

S. O'BRIEN: Jacob what do you think? Do you agree with Christian that it's just not going to work?

JACOB SCHICK, FORMER MARINE RESERVIST: I absolutely agree. I agree with Christian. It's -- we have to totally change our tactics. It doesn't matter how many troops we send over there. We need to know what mission we need to accomplish, we need to be told what we need to do and I don't think it matters whether we send 20,000, 40,000, 60,000. Until we change our tactics and we get a chance to go over there and do what we're told and we've been trained to do, I just don't think it's going to make a difference.

S. O'BRIEN: Rose, you were an adviser. You worked with the Iraqi security forces and as you know this plan now relies very heavily on a lot of involvement from the long-promised Iraqi forces that need to stay on the job and do a good job. Do you think the Iraqi forces can do it?

FORREST: I do. I think they still need to have some assistance. The year that I was there, the Iraqis improved a lot. A lot of their troop strengths, a lot of their brigades are still only 40 to 50 percent of what they should be. They still have a lot of logistical problems, moving troops, supplying troops, medical attention for troops. But I think that by President Bush's plan to increase the mentorship and the advisers with the Iraqi army will benefit the situation.

S. O'BRIEN: Let me get Jacob to weigh in, because while you were talking, I saw him sort of laughing a little bit about what you were saying. Do you disagree? Do you think that the Iraqi forces -- what Rose mentions is sort of the logistical issues, but as you know, there are political issues that involve the Iraqi forces and of course in many cases they just ran off the job. Do you think it's going to be possible to really change what they do in Iraq?

SCHICK: Yeah, I just think that the thing with the Iraqi forces, when you're talking about the ING, the Iraqi National Guard and the IP, the Iraqi Police, it's all about which ones of them can you trust and which ones of them can't you trust? As far as their training goes, we have a language barrier over there because as you know, the American troops are trying to train them. It's not working. I mean that's blatantly obvious, if you have been watching over the past month in Baghdad, and we've turned the streets loose to Iraqi soldiers and Iraqi National Guard, it's not working. Their tactics are obviously not up to par and their training is definitely not up to par.

S. O'BRIEN: Christian, we heard the president say in his speech, and Rose we'll get back to you in one second. We heard the president say in his speech, even if this new strategy works exactly as planned, so best case scenario, he says the deadly acts of violence will continue. We must expect more Iraqi and American casualties. As someone who gave both his legs to this conflict, I'm wondering how you feel about your sacrifice and if you think the president fully understands the consequences of what he's asked for now.

BAGGE: Sure, you know, I think he does. And that's hard to stomach for me and every other American, every other family for wounded and dead soldiers. That's hard. But this is a part of it. All we can do is give the Iraqis the tools they need to secure a working democratic government. And if they don't stand up and embrace it and take charge, it's not going to work. But we've tried, we're continuing to try. That's all we can do and we can just hope for the best. But it's up to them now.

S. O'BRIEN: We didn't hear, Rose, a lot from the president on the sort of what if it fails. He gave a lot of it has to work, it has to work, but what if it fails? What are the options if in fact U.S. troops end up pulling out and they have not yet secured the region, do you think?

FORREST: Well if I could go back for a minute. The language barriers that we have working with the Iraqi security forces is certainly there, but that language barrier is something that the Iraqi security forces don't have with the Iraqis. Whether they're Sunni or Shiites, in whatever sort of neighborhood, they are still much more able to talk to the people, gather intelligence, encourage people to do certain things because they can communicate with the populous, which is something that we can't do.

S. O'BRIEN: But there's got to be fears, Rose, I'm going to give you the last word. There's got to be fears about dropping more troops into the middle of something that looks at least from where I'm sitting to be shaping up into -- and other people have said the same thing -- into a civil war. Dropping more American troops, even if they speak the same language, there are very deep sectarian divisions.

FORREST: I've always felt that the solution in Iraq is a political solution and not just a military solution.

S. O'BRIEN: That's going to be our final word this morning. Though we could talk for hours about this. Rose Forrest and Christian Bagge and Jacob Schick, three Iraq war veterans. Thanks for talking with us this morning, really appreciate your time.

BAGGE: Thank you.

SCHICK: Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: Any minute now we're expecting to hear from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and some other top officials as well, on the president's new plan for Iraq. You're looking live at the briefing room right there. We're going to carry that live when it happens. We're waiting for that.

Plus, a vaccine to prevent a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer. One state's offering it for free. Another city says it should be mandatory just like a vaccine for measles and mumps. We'll take a look this morning at the debate. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is right here on CNN.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: -- all Americans know that the stakes in Iraq are enormous and we all share the belief that the situation is currently unacceptable.

S. O'BRIEN: Secretary of State starting her briefing this morning, she's there along with the Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the chairman of the joint chiefs, General Peter Pace. Let's listen in.

RICE: -- that relies on three main points. First and most importantly the Iraqis have devised their own strategy. Political, economic and military and our efforts will support theirs. Among Americans and Iraqis there is no confusion over one basic fact, it is the Iraqis who are responsible for what kind of country Iraq will be. It is they who must decide whether Iraq will be characterized by national unity or sectarian conflict. The president has conveyed to the Iraqi leadership that we will support their good decisions but that Americans' patience is limited. Second, we will further decentralize and diversify our civilian presence in Iraq to better assist the Iraqi people. Iraq has a federal government. We must therefore get our civilians out of the embassy, out of the green zone and into the field across Iraq to support promising local leaders and promising local structures. This will enhance and diversify our chances of success in Iraq. The mechanism to accomplish this is the provincial reconstruction team or PRT. The logic behind PRT is simple. Success in Iraq relies on more than military efforts. It requires robust political and economic progress. Our military operations must be fully supported and integrated with our civilian and diplomatic efforts across the entire U.S. government to help Iraqis clear, hold and build throughout all of Iraq.

We in the State Department fully understand our role in this mission and we are prepared to play it. We are already trying -- we are ready to strengthen, indeed, to surge our civilian efforts. We plan to expand our PRTs in Iraq from 10 to at least 18. In Baghdad we will go from one PRT to six and in Anbar Province from one to three. Because local leaders are taking encouraging steps there to confront violent extremists and to build hope for their people. To oversee our economic support for the Iraqi people and to ensure that it is closely integrated with our political assistance and our security strategy, I am pleased to announce today that I am appointing Ambassador Tim Carney to the new position of coordinator for Iraq transitional assistance. Ambassador Carney was formerly our ambassador to Haiti. He has enormous experience in post conflict stabilization and reconstruction and development. He will be based in Baghdad where he will coordinate and work closely with his Iraqi counterparts.

Finally, we are anchoring our efforts in Iraq within a regional diplomatic strategy as the Iraq study group recommended. We are supporting the Iraqi government in crafting an international compact with the international community based on mutual obligations. And we are working with Turkey and Iraq on concerns about terrorism from the Kurdish workers party. Iraq is central to the future of the Middle East. The security of this region is an enduring vital interest for the United States. And our continued leadership in this part of the world will contribute greatly to its stability and success. Our regional diplomacy is based on the substantially changed realities in the Middle East. Historic change is unfolding in the region, unleashing all grievances, new anxieties and some violence. But it is also revealing a promising new strategic realignment in the Middle East. This is the same alignment that we see in Iraq. On one side are the many reformers and responsible leaders who seek to advance their interests peacefully, politically and diplomatically. On the other side are extremists of every sect and ethnicity who use violence to spread chaos, to undermine democratic governments and to impose agendas of hate and intolerance.

Our most urgent diplomatic goal is to empower reformers and responsible leaders across the region and to confront extremists. The proper partners in our regional diplomacy are those who share these goals, our allies, Israel and Turkey of course, but democratic reformers and leaders in places like Lebanon, the Palestinian territories in Iraq, and the responsible governments of the gulf states, plus Egypt and Jordan, or the GCC plus two. Tomorrow I leave for the Middle East to continue consultations with our partners. Two governments have unfortunately chosen to align themselves with the forces of extremism, both in Iraq and across the Middle East. One is Syria despite many appeals including from Syria's fellow Arab states, the leaders in Damascus continue to support terrorism and to destabilize Iraq and their neighbors. The problem here is not a lack of engagement with Syria but a lack of action by Syria.

Iran is the other. If the government in Tehran wants to help stabilize the region as it now claims, then it should end its support for violent extremists who destroy the aspirations of innocent Lebanese, Palestinians and Iraqis. And it should end its pursuit of nuclear weapons. I repeat an offer I've made several times today. If Iran suspends its uranium enrichment which is an international demand not just an American one, then the United States is prepared to reverse 27 years of policy, and I will meet with my Iranian counterpart any time, anywhere. Thus we would have the possibility to discuss every facet of our country's relations. Until then, the international community must continue to hold the Iranian government accountable. Syria and Iran should end their destabilizing behavior in the region. They cannot be paid to do so. That would only embolden our enemies and demoralize their friends, both in Iraq and across the region, all of whom are watching to see whether America has the will to keep its commitment. The United States will defend its interest and those of our friends and allies in this vital region. Now I'm happy to turn the podium over to Secretary Gates who will talk about the military aspects of the plan.

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Thank you, Secretary Rice. This afternoon General Pace and I will appear before the House Armed Services Committee to discuss the military aspects of the Iraq study and strategy announced by the president last night. Tomorrow we will before the Senate Armed Services Committee. The security plan is designed to have Iraqi forces lead a campaign with our forces in support, to protect the population of Baghdad from intimidation and violence instigated by Sunni and Shia extremist groups, and to enable the Iraqi government to take the difficult steps necessary to address that nation's underlying issues. This means above all strengthening those in Iraq who are prepared to address its problems peacefully against those who seek only violence, death and chaos. The term surge has been used in relation to increasing U.S. troop levels and an increase certainly will take place. But what is really going on and what is going to take place is a surge across all lines of operations, military and nonmilitary, Iraqi and coalition. The president's plan has Iraqis in the lead and seeks a better balance of U.S. military and nonmilitary efforts than was the case in the past. We cannot succeed in Iraq without the important nonmilitary elements Secretary Rice just mentioned. The increase in military forces will be phased in. It will not unfold overnight. There will be no D-day. It won't look like the gulf war. The timetable for the introduction of additional U.S. forces will provide ample opportunity early on and before many of the additional U.S. troops actually arrive in Iraq to evaluate the progress of this endeavor and whether the Iraqis are fulfilling their commitments to us. This updated plan builds on the lessons and experiences of the past. It places new emphasis on and adds new resources to the holding and building part of the clear hold and build strategy. At this pivotal moment, the credibility of the United States is on the line in Iraq. Governments in the region both friends and adversaries are watching what we do and will draw their own conclusions about our resolve and the steadfastness of our commitments.

Whatever one's views on how we got to this point in Iraq, there is widespread agreement that failure there would be a calamity that would haunt our nation in the future and in the region. The violence in Iraq, if unchecked, could spread outside its borders, and draw other states into a regional conflict. In addition, one would see an emboldened and strengthened Iran, a safe haven and base of operations for jihadists networks in the heart of the Middle East, a humiliating defeat in the overall campaign against violent extremism worldwide and an undermining of the credibility of the United States. Given what is at stake, failure in Iraq is not an option. I would like to conclude my remarks with two announcements -- first, the president announced last night that he would strengthen our military for the long war against terrorism by authorizing an increase in the overall strength of the army and the Marine Corps. I am recommending to him a total increase in the two services of 92,000 soldiers and marines over the next five years, 65,000 soldiers and 27,000 marines.

The emphasis will be on increasing combat capability. This increase will be accomplished in two-ways. First, we will propose to make permanent the temporary increase of 30,000 for the army and 5,000 for the Marine Corps. Then we propose to build up from that base in annual increments of 7,000 troops a year for the army and 5,000 for the Marine Corps until the Marine Corps reaches a level of 202,000 and the army would be at 547,000. We should recognize that while it may take some time for these new troops to become available for deployment, it is important that our men and women in uniform know that additional manpower and resources are on the way. Second, for several months the Department of Defense has been assessing whether we have the right policies to govern how we manage and deploy members of the reserves, the National Guard, and our active component units. Based on this assessment and the recommendations of our military leadership, I'm making the following changes in department policy.

First, the mobilization of ground reserve forces going forward will be managed on a unit instead of an individual basis. This change will allow us to achieve greater unit cohesion and predictability in how reserve units train and deploy. Second, from this moment forward, from this point forward, members of the reserves who are -- who will be involuntarily mobilized for a maximum of one year at a time. In contrast to the current practice of 16 to 24 months. Third, the planning objective for guard and reserve units will remain one year of being mobilized followed by five years demobilized. However today's global demands will require a number of selected guard and reserve units to be remobilized sooner than this standard. Our intention is such exceptions be temporary. The goal for the active force rotation cycle remains one year deployed for every two years at home station. Today most active units are receiving only one year at home station before deploying again. Mobilizing select guard and reserve units before this five-year period is complete will allow us to move closer to relieving the stress on the total force.

Fourth, I'm directing the establishment of a new program to compensate individuals in both the active and reserve components who are required to mobilize or deploy early, or extend beyond the established rotation policy goals. Fifth, I'm also directing that all commands and units review how they administer the hardship waiver program to ensure that they are properly taking into account exceptional circumstances facing military families of deployed service members. It is important to note that these policy changes have been under discussion for some time within the Department of Defense, and would be needed independently of the president's announcement on Iraq last night. And there will be a hand-out afterward on the details of these changes since they are a little complicated.

Finally, I'm pleased to report that all active branches of the United States military exceeded their recruiting goals for the month of December with particularly strong showings by the army and the Marine Corps. Our nation is truly blessed that so many talented and patriotic young people have stepped forward to defend our nation and that so many service men and women have chosen to continue to serve. Thank you, and we'll be happy to take your questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Gates, how long do you expect to maintain the surge in Iraq and what happens if the Iraqis do not live up to their commitments?

GATES: Well, as I indicated, we're going to know pretty early on whether the Iraqis are meeting their military commitments in terms of being able to go into all neighborhoods, in terms of the Iraqis being in the lead, and carrying out the leadership and the fighting. And for there not to be political interference in the military operations that are going forward. As I say, this is going to unfold over a period of time and so I think that as I indicated in my remarks before very many American soldiers have been sent to Iraq, we'll have pretty good early indications of their performance. We'll have to see in terms of the length of time, it's really hard to say at this point. It's viewed as a temporary surge but I think no one has a really clear idea of how long that might be.

S. O'BRIEN: It's viewed as a temporary surge but nobody has a really clear idea of how long that may be. That is the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, he's just finished a briefing along with the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The question that he was answering right there was what do you do if in fact the Iraqi government and the Iraqi forces do not live up to the commitments that were laid out in President Bush's speech that need to be met last night. And basically what he said, well they'll know early on, they'll be a pretty clear indication, the troops that the president mentioned yesterday, the 20,000 plus troops won't all be going in one immediate block, they'll be slowly over time. And that way they'll be able to tell if the Iraqi forces and if the Iraqi leadership is actually keeping up their end of the bargain. That was a briefing, we're going to continue to monitor that and get back to you if there's more information coming out of that briefing and those questions that follow. We're going to take a short break, AMERICAN MORNING is back in just a moment. Stay with us.


S. O'BRIEN: Back to the briefing now that's taking place in the Eisenhower Executive office building. Condoleezza Rice is answering a question about this two pronged strategy of military approach and also a political strategy to try to improve things in Iraq. Let's listen in to what she's saying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you look at what's happened in Iraq, even recently, I mean the spectacle of the execution of Saddam Hussein, the trouble in the police ranks and there's other examples. Why should the American people believe at this point that the Iraqis want reconciliation and a stable democratic government as much as the United States wants it for them. And for Secretary Gates, I have a tactical question, is the United States military and or the Iraqi government prepared now to arrest or kill Muqtada al Sadr as part of this new increase?

RICE: David, on the first point, obviously this is a country that has had years and years of tragedy in which certain people were oppressed by other people. And it's perhaps not surprising that the passions and the anger runs pretty deep. And sometimes it expresses itself in ways that I think are not appropriate but it expresses itself.


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