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The Toughest Battle: Healing Heroes; Soldiers of Heaven; Interview with Sen. McCain; Interview with Sen. Clinton; Target: Iran; Talking Tough

Aired January 29, 2007 - 23:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening again. This is a place where the toughest battles are fought. It is where America's finest men and women come to put their bodies and lives back together.
More than 22,000 troops have been wounded so far in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hundreds have lost limbs. Hundreds have sustained life threatening burns and head injuries. Many come here to Brook Army Medical Center, to this newly dedicated edition, the Center for the Intrepid. It is privately funded, paid for with donations of more than 600,000 Americans.

Senators John McCain and Hillary Clinton attended the dedication. So did John Mellencamp, a slew of generals and scores of wounded vets now on the mend.

It is a remarkable place, as we've said, this new facility. Computer-assisted rehabilitation simulators, people and equipment to rebuild bodies and souls.

It's odd, perhaps you might expect a lot of doom and gloom. That is not the case here really. There is some anger, yes, and pain, but always hope. This is a surprisingly optimistic place. I

And in the hour ahead, we're going to give you a look around. We'll also talk about why in the middle of a war it took private funds to make this a reality.

We begin, however, with the reality behind all of this, the war. A fierce weekend of fighting in the holy city of Najaf on one of the most sacred days of Shia Islam. A battle, as CNN's Arwa Damon tells us, designed to bring chaos, bring forth a messiah and bring on the end of days.


ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As dust from a sandstorm settles over the battlefield, the identity of the gunman comes into focus.

Iraqi officials say they call themselves the soldiers of heaven, a predominantly Shia messianic cult. The group is little known, but was plotting a massacre in the holy Shia city of Najaf, hoping the brazen attack would bring the return of their savior.

Iraqi and American forces battled about 600 gunmen more than 24 hours to regain control. The enemy they face so fierce, Iraqis had to ask U.S. forces to take the lead.

The gunmen planned to carry out their strike during Ashura, the holiest Shia religious ritual, with thousands of pilgrims there to be slaughtered, along with top clerics, including grand Ayatollah Ali al- Sistani, called by many the Shia pope.

The cult's apparent goal is to create more chaos to accelerate the return of the Shia messiah and bring about judgment day.

U.S. and Iraqi forces say they killed hundreds of cult members in the fighting and detained hundreds of gunmen. They're also investigating reports the cult leader was killed.

(On camera): Some officials are calling this group insane; others, lamenting that the level of death and destruction in Iraq has convinced some Shias that the end of days are coming.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Baghdad.


COOPER: Two American soldiers were killed in the fighting in Najaf. Their helicopter, apparently shot down by insurgents.

Last week, Vice President Dick Cheney told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in no uncertain terms that there have been great successes in Iraq. If you missed it the first time, take a look.


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's problems, ongoing problems, but we have in fact accomplished our objectives of getting rid of the old regime and there is a new regime in place. It's been there for less than a year, far too soon for you guys to write him off. Bottom line is that we've had enormous successes and we will continue to have enormous successes.


COOPER: As Arwa reported, U.S. troops had to take the lead in Najaf yesterday, a reminder that Iraqi security forces are not ready to go solo yet.

I talked about that with Senator John McCain. Here's more of my interview.


COOPER: This weekend, there was a big attack in Najaf. How do you read that? What does that tell you about the situation in Iraq?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I'm not sure exactly how to read it. It shows, I think, that they're capable of assembling hundreds of insurgents. I think it's also good that we attack them before they orchestrated an attack. In other words, as a preemptive strike, which means that our intelligence may be getting better. But I don't -- all of us know, that are familiar with it, that this is very long and very difficult.

COOPER: The president said it was perhaps a sign, or at least the early reports were a good sign. He says that the Iraqis are beginning to show me something. He said that to NPR, based on what happened in Najaf. Do you see signs of progress in terms of the Iraqis' ability to stand up?

MCCAIN: I see some signs, but it's by no means conclusive yet. I don't think we're going to know for a number of months whether the Iraqi military is capable and motivated.

On several previous occasions over the last three and a half years, we have thought that was the case, only to be disappointed. So I'd rather wait and see. And whether the Maliki government is truly invested in this effort.

COOPER: Do you trust al-Maliki? Vice President Cheney said he did.

MCCAIN: I don't think he's been strong. I've been disappointed in some of his decisions, such as the release of people we had captured, the lifting of the checkpoints around Sadr City at one point.

I think he is showing some signs of improvement. And I -- we'll know -- again, the -- you know, I'm not sure how quickly we're going to know whether we're winning militarily, but I think we'll know fairly soon in the next several months whether the government, the Iraqi government is doing what's necessary -- passing a law on the oil revenues, provincial elections. There are several things that are going to have to happen.

COOPER: Is there any scenario in which withdrawing troops would be acceptable to you? Or redeploying them?

MCCAIN: Not until we have the situation under control to the degree that the Iraqi government can exert its influence through most of the country, that you start with the -- that you move forward with a political and economic process.

COOPER: So success is crucial before the U.S. can pull out in any meaningful...

MCCAIN: That's my view. And that view, by the way, is held by the majority of experts that I know about the region.

Now, if you want to pull out and set a date, one week, five months, six months, whatever it is, then I think you have the obligation to say what happens when we leave.

We hear all the talk about leaving, but I never hear about -- in those that espouse that position -- and I respect it, but I'd respect it more if they said, and then what's going to happen. Everything going to be quiet and peaceful? I don't think so. And I think that, again, that our national interest, our vital national security interests reside in the Middle East certainly at this time.

COOPER: Senator Clinton is proposing, as are several others -- Barack Obama -- a cap of troops. She wants the cap the troop levels in January 1st. I think Barak Obama's talking about January 10. Does that make any sense to you?

MCCAIN: First of all, I don't -- I, I think I'm fairly well versed in military matters and tactics and strategy. I've been involved in it literally all my life in one way or another. But I can't tell you how many troops exactly are needed. I can't -- I think it's pretty clear the number of troops we have isn't getting the job done. I think there's almost universal acceptance of that. So you put a cap on it so that the status quo remains, which is a steadily deteriorating situation.

Again, intelligence sources tell me -- by the way, public, not classified -- that if this present situation continues, within six months, you'd see absolute chaos in Iraq.

So you put a cap on the number of troops? There's a certain lack of logic associated with that position. But I respect it. And I think we need to have a respectful dialogue and debate on this issue.


COOPER: Well, the dialogue is happening tonight.

I also talked to Senator Hillary Clinton about the battle in Najaf and other developments, such as President Bush's latest comments on Iran.

She had some sharp words for both President Bush and Vice President Cheney.


COOPER: What's your take on what happened this weekend in Najaf, some 200 insurgents killed. It seemed to be hundreds of insurgents involved in a massive operation.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Anderson, I think there are hundreds and thousands of insurgents who are willing to fight us and engage in sectarian warfare in Iraq. One of the reasons I oppose the escalation is that I don't believe that, you know, putting more American troops into Baghdad is going to really stem this insurgency. The Iraqis have to do it themselves.

COOPER: The president looked -- talking about this Najaf operation, told NPR that he sees some positive signs in the Iraqi response. He says, quote, "The Iraqis are beginning to show me something." Are the Iraqis beginning to show you something?

CLINTON: No. You know, within a week we had Najaf.

We also had Karbala, where we had insurgents posing as Americans, but hardly looking like Americans, being waved through police and army checkpoints, going into a conference of American military, essentially capturing five or so of our soldiers, taking them off, again, back through the same kind of checkpoints and murdering them.

We had the fight that has been ongoing in Haifa, where a lot of the Iraqis who were supposed to be there fighting side by side with our forces either never showed up or when they did, you know, hardly participated.

So, yes, there are isolated instances you can point to. And I'm well aware of those and very grateful for them. But overall, we do not have the level of commitment and the real dedication to mission that we have to have.

COOPER: Vice President Cheney said last week to Wolf Blitzer, he trusts al-Maliki. Do you?

CLINTON: No. But I also don't trust Vice President Cheney, so I really think it's fair to say his assessments have been wrong consistently. He has been unwilling to deal in a straightforward factual based way with a lot of what's been going on. He continues to make assertions that have no foundation in fact and reality. I don't think the American people are listening to him any longer.

COOPER: Senator Durbin called him delusional. Do you think...

CLINTON: Well, I'm not going to -- I'm not going to, you know, put labels on it, but I am going to say that his efforts to continue to put the best face on what they have so terribly mismanaged in Iraq no longer has any credibility attached to it.

COOPER: You said this weekend the president is responsible to extricate the U.S. from Iraq before he leaves office. You said it would be irresponsible for him not to. Do you mean that U.S. troops should be pulled out of Iraq by the time the next administration comes into power?

CLINTON: Well, what I mean is it is the height of responsibility for the president to say, as he said on several occasions, he's going to leave this to his successor. This is his war. He conceived it poorly. He executed it incompetently. He's pursuing a strategy that is really more of the same.

COOPER: The other criticism that's made -- Senator McCain made it today -- is that what you're not addressing is what happens when the U.S. redeploys or pulls out. If there is a genocidal bloodletting in Iraq, what then?

CLINTON: Well, this is a kind of a curious argument because we need a comprehensive strategy. Everyone that I know of who has studied this believes there is no military solution. There has to be a political component and an international component. I see very little evidence that the administration is making progress pushing the Iraqi government on the political front. So I don't see how we can expect just putting more troops in to really get us where we can avoid any kind of bad outcome, because we're not on a path to achieve that. COOPER: Today, the president told NPR, if Iran escalates its military actions in Iraq to the detriment of our troops and/or innocent Iraqi people, we will respond firmly.

CLINTON: Well, you know, we're playing a very dangerous game of chicken here. For domestic political consumption, the Iranians believe that they can, you know, continue to be belligerent and make outrageous claims against Israel, the United States, interfere with what's going on in Iraq. We're standing back here, you know, threatening and pointing fingers. And I think we're hearing a lot of the same rhetoric we heard before the president's decision to launch a preemptive war in Iraq.

COOPER: Do you think this president is preparing the ground for some sort of military action...


CLINTON: I don't, I don't know. I don't know. I think that we and the Congress are going to have a lot of questions about that.


COOPER: Senators Clinton and McCain, we know where they stand on the war in Iraq. Where do they stand on other issues?

Let's check the raw data. On abortion, Clinton supports abortion rights, McCain does not, except in the case of rape or to protect the life of the mother.

On taxes, Clinton is against President Bush's tax cuts. McCain wants them extended.

And on same sex marriage, both Clinton and McCain oppose it, but Clinton would support civil unions.

Up next, more on the Iran factor. Tough words from President Bush today. The question is, is there more to it than that? I'll talk with CNN's Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour.

Also ahead tonight, the long journey home for some U.S. troops.


COOPER (voice-over): Beachfront living, but it's not what you think.

CPL. JOE RAICALDO, IRAQI WAR VETERAN, NATIONAL GUARD: I never thought I'd be here. This is my clothes closet here.

COOPER: The trunk is your closet?

An Iraq war vet living out of his car. And he's not alone. Hundreds of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, homeless. A look at what's been done to help them, when this special edition of 360, "The Toughest Battle: Healing Heroes," continues. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


DR. REBECCA HOOPER, CENTER FOR THE INTREPED: This is a virtual reality simulator. It's called the CAREN, computer assisted rehab environment. And it's much like any other military simulator. But we use this for rehab.

COOPER: So it feels like you're standing on a boat?

HOOPER: Absolutely.

COOPER: If someone has an amputation, this is to help them learn balance?

HOOPER: Absolutely. Balance and propriception. Propriceptors are located in the joint. And if you don't have a couple of your joints, your ankle or your knee, you're going to need to compensate for it in any other ways.

COOPER: How state of the art is this?

HOOPER: This is the only kind in the world right now.


COOPER: It is a remarkable facility. That's just one of the high tech pieces of equipment here at the Center for the Intrepid. This facility built by private funds, some $50 million over the past two years.

The ribbon cutting was today. They're going to start accepting clients in the next couple of weeks. It is a truly state-of-the-art facility.

Some of the troops here may have been wounded in Iraq by IEDs, which were supplied by Iran, placed by insurgents trained by Iran. That's the allegation, at least.

Today, President Bush, today, jacked up the pressure one more notch on Tehran. He's already threatened to catch or kill Iranian agents inside Iraq. Now another warning.

Here's CNN's Barbara Starr.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush's strongest warning to Iran about its involvement in Iraq made to national public radio.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If Iran escalates its military action in Iraq to the detriment of our troops and/or innocent Iraqi people, we will respond firmly.

STARR: His new defense secretary, even more blunt.

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: If you're in Iraq and trying to kill our troops, then you should consider yourself a target.

STARR: Earlier this month, CIA Director General Michael Hayden said Iran is shipping weapons into Iraq that are killing U.S. troops.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, CIA DIRECTOR: EFPs are coming from Iran. They are being used against our forces. They are capable of defeating some of our heaviest armor.

STARR: Hayden is talking about explosively formed projectiles, sophisticated manufactured explosives capable of penetrating even a battle tank.

There is more. U.S. officials say in recent raids in Iraq, they detained suspected Iranian operatives and found IEDs, rifles, mortar launchers, weapons with Iranian markings, maps and shipping documents.

GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: It's clear that money is coming in through their intelligence services, training is probably being conducted inside Iran through various surrogates and proxies.

STARR (on camera): The U.S. is looking for other signs of Iranian involvement. But the evidence already in hand has played a crucial role in the decision to go public.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


COOPER: Well, some added perspective now on what Senator Clinton earlier in the program termed a dangerous game of chicken that seems to be unfolding.

Joining us now, CNN's Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour, who joins us from Tehran.

Christiane, in an interview with the "New York Times," Iran's ambassador to Iraq confirmed that Iran is trying to expand military and economic ties with Iraq. Are you surprised he was so forthcoming?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, because it's two days of official mourning here, we have not been able to get official confirmation of that. However, there has been some statements about it saying that Iran, at the request of Iraq, has agreed to expand its already significant ties with Iraq.

It's interesting the timing of what the ambassador said in Iraq itself. It is not terribly, terribly new, because as everybody has known, since the beginning, since the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iran has had a close cooperation with Iraq, whether its financial and whether it's in some of the security areas.

We've had the leaders of Iraq going to Iran and vice versa. What is clear, though, is as you say, this game of increasingly public belligerent chicken is having an effect. And here people are concerned.

The first thing -- I've been on the ground two days now -- and the first thing everybody asks me, because I speak the language, is is the United States preparing for war against us. They're very, very concerned.

COOPER: And the U.S. -- or the president of the United States, obviously, responded today, saying that America will act firmly if Iran escalates its military actions in Iraq. How do you expect Tehran to react, given their past reactions to this sort of thing?

AMANPOUR: Well, the issue of reacting firmly, in my mind, is a mission statement. I mean, as you heard, the defense secretary say, if in Iraq the United States comes across forces of whatever nature who are threatening their troops, then they will take the appropriate response.

So to my mind, that is a simple military fact. But if that does happen, and it has happened as you've seen over the last several weeks and months, there have been instances where the United States has gone after Iranian operatives inside Iraq.

For a while, the policy apparently was detain and release. And the Iranians have not made a big deal about it publicly. There is quite a lot of pressure on the Iranian president right now because of some of the belligerent public and provocative public rhetoric he has employed over the last several months.

So, in terms of their public reaction, not entirely clear what the public reaction would be. But they do have the means to take action, as they've threatened before.

COOPER: Even though some of these statements have been said by Iran in the past, it does seem like there is a new willingness to be public about it.

In that same interview with Iran's ambassador told the "New York Times" that Iran is going to open a bank in Iraq soon, that they already have permission to do that. What kind of an impact do you think that's going to have on the relationship between Iran and Iraq?

AMANPOUR: Well, Iran and Iraq have a very close relationship. As you know, this very, very close now forging of ties between two Shiite forces. The Shia dominated Iran and now the Shiite dominated leadership in Iraq. Iran and Iraq have had a very close relationship in that regard, even before Saddam Hussein. Many of the Iraqi leaders who are now in power were in exile and under the protection of Iran for many, many years.

In terms of economic ties, Iran has been doing this ever since the fall of Saddam Hussein and they are, in a way, sort of, if you like, putting a finger in America's eye because what they're saying is, we know how to do reconstruction. Look, we had an eight year war with Iraq and we have reconstructed after that. Let us help if America can't do it. And it's a bit of a finger in the eye of the clearly failed reconstruction efforts by America and the West since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

COOPER: Well, ratcheting up with the war of words.

Christiane Amanpour from Tehran. Thank you Christiane.

Coming up, teaching medicine on the front lines and the golden hour that medics have to save a life. That is coming up.

Also tonight, from hero to homeless, from fighting in Iraq to living in a car, the long and difficult road home for one soldier facing a whole new battle next, on this special edition of 360.



COOPER: That is John Mellencamp, performing here today at the opening of the Center for the Intrepid.

It was really a remarkable day. For many troops returning from battle, it doesn't mean coming home exactly.

According to the government, there are as many as 200,000 homeless veterans in America, including the man you're about to meet. We first told you his story last year. And it shows just how hard it is to come back from the war and how easy it is for some to lose their way.


COOPER (voice-over): There are two things National Guard Corporal Joe Raicaldo never dreamed he'd see -- the sun setting over Iraq and the sun setting over his '98 Plymouth, the car he now calls home.

CPL. JOE RAICALDO, IRAQI WAR VETERAN, NATIONAL GUARD: I never thought, like after the ball was dropped, you're out here in this parking lot. I never thought I'd be here.

COOPER: The long road to get here, a parking lot in Jones Beach, New York, began two years ago in Iraq.

(On camera): So, you were in the sling here?

RAICALDO: Yes, actually in that top piece, in the gun turret.

COOPER (voice-over): Joe was the gunner in this humvee, when his vehicle took a sharp turn and flipped. His body was nearly crushed underneath.

RAICALDO: I just remember I couldn't move anything. I couldn't breathe. I was bleeding. You know, I just felt blood all over me, my face.

And I squeezed out the words, you'd better get a medevac fast, because I thought that was it.

COOPER: Joe suffered traumatic brain injury, broke his back, all his ribs and shattered his left arm. He was unconscious for days.

RAICALDO: They told my sister they were going to fly her out there, I wasn't going to make it.

COOPER: But to the surprise of his own doctors, he survived. Over many months, doctors pieced him back together, using metal rods and screws to fuse his spine, and metal plates to hold his shattered arm together.

(On camera): So you got a lot of metal in you?

RAICALDO: Yes, a lot of metal. You could probably build a small Eiffel Tower with the hardware I've got.

COOPER (voice-over): Today, every step hurts. But Joe remembers when he could run on this beach for miles.

RAICALDO: Me and friend, we used to go eight miles that way.

COOPER: Joe can't lift more than 10 pounds, so he couldn't go back to being an auto mechanic. Instead, he took a job with the National Guard patrolling Penn Station in New York. He says he lasted six months before landing in the hospital again with back pain and a bone infection.

RAICALDO: And at that point I gave up. I simply gave up. I know I can't work. I have no income coming in. I'm finished.

COOPER: What he had coming in was $218 a month from a disability check. So, it wasn't long before Joe, at age 50, ended up homeless.

RAICALDO: This is my clothes closet here.

COOPER (on camera): The trunk is your closet?

RAICALDO: Yes. Forgive me, the maid never showed up this morning. I'm going to fire her when I get a hold of her.

COOPER (voice-over): Joe says he's looked for part-time work, with no luck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Joe. how are you?

COOPER: He has one sister and a few friends who have offered to help, but he's too proud to accept it, and too proud to stay in a shelter. So he spends most days alone, a stranger in his hometown of Hicksville, New York, on Long Island.

One possible reason for his withdrawal -- Joe was recently diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.

RAICALDO: I just don't belong. I don't feel I belong anywhere around here. COOPER: Joe is one of an estimated 600 homeless veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. That's not many compared with the 200,000 or so from all wars who are currently homeless.

But these vets are showing up even more quickly than after Vietnam, a war that left nearly 70,000 homeless, an even greater number than died in combat.

CHERYL BEVERSDORF, NATIONAL COALITION FOR HOMELESS VETERANS: If the experience with Vietnam is any predictor, I am very worried about the numbers of homeless veterans, or people at risk of being homeless, who are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

COOPER: The Department of Veterans Affairs is working to avoid a repeat of what happened after Vietnam.

JIM NICHOLSON, SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: There was a delayed effect with a lot of veterans after Vietnam. We know that. We've studied it. We've learned from that.

And so, that's why we're trying to intervene now, right away.

COOPER: The V.A. spent more than $1 billion on homeless programs last year, but some veterans still fall through the cracks -- misclassified, as the V.A. now says Joe was, unable to receive full compensation.

(On camera): Do you feel sort of like you got lost in the system?

RAICALDO: Absolutely, lost. I'm still lost. I'm still dizzy for what happened.

COOPER (voice-over): And sick and tired of fighting for benefits. Last month, though, Joe's persistence began to pay off. His disability status was raised from 20 percent to 60 percent, or $873 a month.

But as Joe puts it, in New York that is just enough to either afford an apartment or eat -- not both.

RAICALDO: I'm disgusted. And it's not because I'm a veteran or a soldier, or somebody who served. That means nothing. You know, we choose to go. No one forced us to go.

I'm just saying, we should be treated like a human being, for God's sake. That's all I want.

And I think about the other veterans from other wars, and they're still fighting to this day. And it's just -- it's horrible. And I had to live it.

COOPER: It was only after CNN made repeated inquiries about this case, that the V.A. called to inform us that Joe would finally be granted full, 100 percent disability status, retroactive to March, and worth $2,600 a month, meaning he may actually get to sleep in a real bed very soon.

When we called Joe with the news, he said he'll believe it when he gets the first check.

The war in Iraq may have broken his body, but it's the fight here at home that's come close to breaking his spirit.


Well, we have an update on Joe tonight. The news is encouraging. Since our report first aired, we have learned he rents a room in a house, but he's still worried he may once again fall through the cracks. We wish him well.

Back to the war zone, next. Saving the wounded. When every second counts. 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta shows us the training for that close up.

Also tonight, this.


COOPER (voice-over): Katrina outrage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were we being honest when we said we'd do whatever it takes, that we'd stay as long as it takes. We should be ashamed if we forget.

COOPER: Demanding answers in New Orleans. Why is the recovery effort taking so long? We're keeping them honest, when 360 continues.


COOPER: We are here at the Center for the Intrepid, the $50 million center built in the last two years by private funds. The wounded heroes who will get treatment in the Center for the Intrepid have already benefited from cutting edge medicine on the battlefield long before they ever got to this rehabilitation facility.

Far fewer troops are killed in action today than in Vietnam, thanks to life saving medical advances.

These days, healing heroes begins the moment a soldier falls.

360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta spent time in combat medic training at Fort San Houston, which is not far from here. Take a look.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A combat medic treats a wounded soldier, airway secured, shaky hands, an IV inserted. Location coordinates radio to a medevac chopper. A lifetime is now measured in seconds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One, two, three. GUPTA (on camera): I want to give you a sense of what's happening now. They've actually moved this patient to an evacuation area. One of the hallmarks of that evacuation is actually setting up a perimeter. This is a potentially dangerous area.

They're continuing to survey the patient, but they really need to get him out of here.

(Voice-over): To save the wounded, it's no longer be as fast as possible. Now medics have a precise timeframe -- 60 minutes. Precisely 3,600 seconds. They call it the golden hour.

CAPT. BRIAN KRUSTCHINSKY, U.S. ARMY COMBAT MEDIC TRAINING: Objective on the battlefield is to get the soldier from point of injury to definitive surgical care in one hour.

GUPTA: The military is investing unprecedented amounts of money in training, new gear and research, all focused on buying more time. They actually want to extend that golden hour.

COL. JOHN HOLCOMB, M.D., U.S. ARMY INSTITUTE OF SURGICAL RESEARCH: Wars always cause improvements in trauma care. And that goes back thousands of years.

GUPTA: Scientists at Massachusetts General are working on suspended animation, actually cooling a casualty's body down and slowing the body processes.

At the Wake Forest School of Medicine, amazingly, they're working to regenerate body tissue like skin or fingers. It is for the battlefield, but ultimately, of course, for civilian medicine. Millions of military dollars to add time to treat an injury.

GUPTA (on camera): What do you think has been the biggest -- some of the biggest changes in military medicine?

HOLCOMB: I think the emphasis on training. Training is all important. You can have all the best devices and products in the world, but if you don't train folks at all levels, medics, nurses and docs, level one through level five, how to use the products and concepts, then it's all nor naught.

GUPTA: And the Army trains its medics more rigorously than ever before. They learn to treat patients under extreme conditions, blindfolded, in little to no light, under simulated gunfire.

(On camera): Coming under fire. Lots of dust blowing around. See how they hang onto each other? They don't actually put their hands inside the vehicle, and they get those bodies out of there as quickly as possible.

(Voice-over): The equipment is efficient. Wound dressings that can actually clot blood. Tourniquets that a medic can apply with one hand. Simple and standard issue with these packs.

Each medic is expected to be as good as a doctor or a nurse at treating battlefield wounds. All of that, with just 16 weeks of training.

(On camera): This is an example of the training that we're talking about. There are 13 casualties, supposedly from a convoy bombing, a suicide bomber. There are eight medics that have come in here, trying to stabilize these patients as quickly as possible.

It is dark. There's a lot of noise. And sometimes they can't tell exactly what the injuries are. A lot of communication back and forth to try and figure out how to best take care of these patients.

(Voice-over): Yes, it's fake blood and simulated situations. But the pressures are urgently realistic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You walked away from a guy that still had a heartbeat.

GUPTA (on camera): If you look at civilian society, to learn as much as they're learning in 16 weeks would typically take how long, do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something like this, probably at least a year. They think they know a lot. They just haven't figured out how to process it all at one time. And this -- they leave here, they feel bad about themselves. That group walking out of here, they're going to go outside and cry.

GUPTA (voice-over): Though the medic boot camp is intense, it's working. The killed in action rate today is almost half that of the Vietnam War.

HOLCOMB: Really pretty amazing when you consider that the wounding agents are exactly the same. The U.S. military has the time and the effort and the -- really, the time to focus on these casualties and improve our system.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Brook Army Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas.


COOPER: We've been showing you the Center for the Intrepid, which was built with private donations from individuals and corporations.

Also, two fisher houses, which houses the families of those who are getting rehabilitation here were built and were opened today. But there are more fisher houses that still need to be built around the country.

If you're looking for ways to help wounded heroes and their families, you can find a list of organizations on our 360 blog. We post the information there for you. You'll find it at You'll find out about fisher houses. You'll also find out about the Center for the Intrepid and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. What's holding up Katrina recovery on the Gulf Coast? Members of the Senate's Homeland Security Committee went to New Orleans to find out. Tonight, we're keeping them honest.

And, one of those Senators is exploring a run for the White House. His supporters are already campaigning on YouTube. But will these unusual ads help or hurt Senator Barack Obama's potential campaign? That story, when 360 continues.


COOPER: Less than a week after President Bush faced criticism for not mentioning Hurricane Katrina relief in his State of the Union address, members of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, including one Senator who may want to be president, went to New Orleans to find out why Katrina victims still don't have the money they need to rebuild.

CNN's Gulf Coast Correspondent Susan Roesgen, tonight is keeping them honest.


SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Some of America's top political talent looked around New Orleans and tried to figure out what's gone so wrong.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: This money that has been allocated is still not reaching ordinary folks here in New Orleans and in Louisiana. And until it does, all the numbers and the meetings and the planning that's being done is inadequate.

ROESGEN: This hearing of the Senate's Homeland Security Committee was the first to focus on Katrina recovery since Democrats took control of Congress. And the senators grilled federal officials in charge. Then they took a tour through miles and miles of New Orleans that are still devastated, stopping to check repair work at one of the levee breaks that flooded much of the city.

(On camera): The senators got to see the rebuilding of the levee. But if their busses stopped here, right along the levee, they could have gotten a firsthand account from a Katrina victim of how hard it is to rebuild a home here.

AMY SIMS, HURRICANE KATRINA SURVIVOR: you work, you work, you work. Then you get up the next day and you work all over again and nothing seems to get accomplished.

ROESGEN: Amy sins says she and her husband were forced to rebuild because they're still paying a mortgage and they're afraid no one else would buy their home so close to the levee that broke.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These doors are actually blown out of the wall. And we don't know if it was from the wind, from the water. We don't know. ROESGEN: Seven feet of water poured through the house, leaving a foot of mud behind. For months the power company and the water company refused to restore service to the neighborhood and mail service still hasn't come back. What would you like to tell the Senators on that bus?

SIMS: Help. Get things done. Cut the hurdles. Make it happen.

ROESGEN: The Senators said they share that frustration. Listening to hours of explanations and excuses, a hearing that ended with a promise.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The federal government has put $110 billion on the table, a generous response. We'll probably have to do more in the future. But too little of it has gotten to the victims. And we're going to stay on top of this until we make sure hat more of it does more quickly.

ROESGEN: But how to get money to the Freedom Victim's Morgue, quickly. Still no answer to that.


COOPER: And Susan, I mean, those questions -- these are the questions we've been asking now for, you know, 16 months. What seems to be the bottleneck that's stopping money from getting to New Orleans?

ROESGEN: Well, believe it or not now, Anderson, many people point to the state. They say that the State is holding up some of the federal money coming down because federal rules require the state to be accountable for the way local towns and cities like New Orleans here spend the federal dollars. But even state officials are saying, look, by making us the gatekeepers, you're adding an extra level of bureaucracy that is really slowing the federal money down. And they would like the rules to change and let the local towns and cities be responsible for their own spending the money wisely or not wisely, Anderson.

COOPER: Well allegedly, the money is in the pipeline. Let's -- we'll keep on it.

Susan, appreciate it.

Coming up, it could be the campaign of the future, supporter of a candidate turning to YouTube to reach voters. It's happening in the Obama campaign, but as you'll see, not all of the clips, even from his fans, are flattering, 360 next. Stay tuned.


COOPER: Well, he hasn't officially said he's running for president. But ads supporting Senator Barack Obama are already making the rounds on YouTube.

As you might imagine, these aren't your typical campaign spots. CNN's Jeanne Moos reports.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Barack Obama is still just exploring the idea of running for president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mightier than a roaring hurricane.

MOOS: And already, there's something...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Up in the sky, look.



MOOS: It's a campaign commercial. A homemade Obama for president ad. One of two dozen or so floating around on YouTube. This one is called "The Good, the Bad and the Rest of Us." The Senator is showing facing a gun slinger with a twitchy trigger finger. But the only thing Obama draws is his hand, offering a hand shake.

This spot by a Chicago graphic arts director sort of remind us of the real ad Bill Richardson appeared in when he was running for governor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over 400 meth labs shut down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give me a milk.

MOOS: Who would bother to make homemade ads like these that hardly anyone sees? Some political junkie in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm ashamed to admit it. I've never voted in my entire life.

MOOS: Dailey Pike (phonetic sp.), 55-year-old comedian and small-time producer says he's inspired by Obama.

Now these little homemade O'Bama commercials are supposed to be complimentary. There are certain themes that a professional O'Bama campaign staff would probably not want to advertise. For instance, the pot spot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In high school my girlfriend, Ann, and I went around with Jim and Bob. They both smoked pot. That's jag talk for Marijuana.

MOOS: Obama admitted in his first book using a little blow, in his words, and smoking pot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And, yes, he did inhale.

MOOS: Whenever Dailey Pike hears something he doesn't like said about Obama, he just whips up a new ad. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: African Americans...

MOOS: For instance, when Rush Limbaugh and other commentators used Halfrican to describe half white, half black Americans, like Obama...


MOOS: Dailey Pike laid his commentary over theirs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I get offended and I know I have many black friends who get offended when he stands in front of that black audience, talking like he's from the hood.

MOOS: Radio Host Brian Sussman , by the way, did apologize for his insensitive comments.

Here's a guy, trying to create a little potluck for Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sure everybody knows Barak's story, born in the wagon of a traveling show. Mama used to dance for the money they'd throw. Papa'd do whatever he could. Oh, wait a minute. That's Cher.


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


COOPER: Little Cher.

On the radar tonight, feedback on our visit, on the troops, on their battle back from serious injuries. A lot of people are moved to write into the blog, many to comment on my interviews with Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain on the war and the president's strategy.

Betty Anne in Nakadocious, Texas, writes, what is John McCain smoking? I don't want any, she says.

Cecilia in Houston, has this to say about Senator Clinton. She says Bush shouldn't leave Iraq to the next administration. Whey doesn't she talk about what President Clinton left for Bush to deal with.

Maritza, in San Diego, and San Jose wants to know, can any single candidate running for office offer a clear understanding of what a real threat Iran represents.

And Missy, in Fairfield Connecticut brings it all home. "Thank you for spending some time on this, she writes. No matter what one thinks of war, these brave men and women deserve our support." Here, here.

And as always, we welcome your point of view. Just go to Drop us a line. There's also information on the blog about how you can help the, the Fisher houses and also this center right here, the Center for the Intrepid.

Up next, sinking trouble. A local TV news station makes it's own headline. That's our shot of the day, when 360 continues.


COOPER: Coming up, the shot of the day. A local TV tech in Wisconsin becomes part of the story he was covering. Wait till you see this. But first, Tom Foreman joins us with a 360 bulletin -- Tom.


Here in Washington, a former White House press secretary on the witness stand. Ari Fleischer testifying in the "Scooter" Libby trial. Libby, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff is accused of lying in connection with the outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame. He has told investigators he first learned of Plame's secret identity on July 10th, 2003. Fleischer, however, testified Libby spoke about her three days earlier. But under cross-examination, he admitted he could not remember whether Libby called her by name. Yes, you're going to need a chart to keep track of this one.

To Las Vegas, there she is, Miss America, Laura Nelson. Miss Oklahoma won the coveted title tonight. The aspiring Broadway star was crowned by last year's winner, who also represented Oklahoma. A pageant juggernaut.

And the world's oldest person has died just four days after getting the title. The shortest reign every. Emma Faust Tillman was born to former slaves and lived to see 21 American presidents. She was 114. A woman living in Japan, who is also 114, is now believed to be the world's oldest person. And if I reach that age, I shall not be competing for anything -- Anderson.

COOPER: That is true. Did you say that Oklahoma was now a beauty pageant juggernaut?

FOREMAN: Yes. Two, two times in a row. They're lining them up out there...


FOREMAN: They're lining them out there, and next year, they're going to be back.

COOPER: All right.

FOREMAN: It'll be a great plain.

COOPER: That'll be a three piece. Yes, all right Tom, thanks.

Now our shot of the day is an example of do as I say, not as I do. An employee of the CBS Affiliate in Milwaukee was covering a story about the dangers of thin ice. Yes, you guessed it. He drove onto the -- with the station's live truck, onto a frozen lake. It turns out the ice was too thin to support the weight of the truck.


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