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Planet in Peril; Child Soldiers in Sierra Leone; Reaction to Britney Spears' Buzz

Aired February 19, 2007 - 23:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: ... out of Washington and out of Afghanistan and Pakistan about an insurgent of al Qaeda. We'll get to that in a moment.
But first, a battle that is taking place right here, right now, in this part of Brazil's Amazon.

We spent the day with Ibama, which is the Brazilian equivalent of the environmental protection agency, except Ibama here are backed up by federal police.

This is really ground zero in the battle to save these rainforests, to stop the destruction of rainforests. And we're talking about major destruction that has taken place. Some 20 percent of these forests destroyed over the last 40 years. Environmentalists say that by the year 2050 some 40 percent more or 50 percent more of the forest could be destroyed at current rates.

Ibama is trying to stop that. Today we went on patrol with them in this area.


COOPER: On patrol, federal police and Ibama agents are very heavily armed. This is, in a sense, hostile territory. And secrecy is key to Ibama's operations in an area like this.

If word leaks out that Ibama is here, that they are starting to patrol, that they are going to start making arrests, the illegal loggers will simply disappear into the forest. That way, Ibama won't be able to confiscate any of their equipment. They will make no arrests. And probably most important of all, the illegal loggers will be free to move on to another part of the rain forest and stop chopping it down.

For Ibama officials and federal police, who are working together here in the rain forest, the -- the conditions are extremely difficult. They are living in these tent encampments. They will stay here for months at a time. And because of the nearly constant rain, everything is covered in mud. And, particularly, your shoes just get completely covered.

Ibama officials have just gotten some intelligence that there may be an encampment nearby, potentially of illegal loggers. They are going to check it out on patrol. Yesterday, on patrol, they came across this ancient musket, which was being used by a man who lives nearby to hunt illegally in the forest. So, they confiscated the musket from him.

We will see what happens on patrol today.

Ibama has been planning operations in this biological preserve for more than a year now. They already know the locations of dozens of illegal logging operations. This patrol is just one chance to get some intelligence on the ground before they launch a series of raids against the illegal loggers.

Time is short, though. Ibama officials tell us, two-thirds of this biological preserve have already been destroyed.

JEFF CORWIN, HOST, "THE JEFF CORWIN EXPERIENCE": To get to the core of biology of the magnificent nature that lives here, you have to take on some pretty unforgiving roads.

COOPER: And -- but you know, these roads, as -- as bumpy and -- and terrible as they are, what's -- what's even worse about them is that the roads are the conduit for the habitat loss.

CORWIN: This is basically the pathway for which the timber and the wildlife comes out. In fact, every five minutes, on the major expressway that connects this region of Brazil to the capital, Brasilia, there is a gigantic truck just laden with trees.

COOPER: The Ibama officials were telling me that, you know, it's the -- the -- the guys who are actually cutting down the trees are kind of a pawn in this game, that -- that, really, they are not making a lot of money off this.

It's -- it's wealthy landowners, it's cattle ranchers who are profiting from the timber...

CORWIN: Absolutely.

COOPER: ... who are profiting from the use of the land after the trees have been cut down.

And the guys who are actually doing the cutting, they don't even make the -- the -- the minimum wage in Brazil, which is $150 a month. They earn less than that.

CORWIN: They learn -- they -- some -- some individual out here who is slashing and burning at this material is maybe making $50 a month, at best.

COOPER: You really get a sense of how hard the -- the working conditions are for Ibama and the -- and the -- the federal police, who are here out patrolling, you know, every day.

We are dealing with these kind of roads. The mud is everywhere because of the constant rains. It just -- it soaks into anything, gets into your shoes, and bombings down your vehicles.

Just getting back from being on patrol -- they were out probably for about two hours, didn't really find much of anything. They did not find the encampment of the illegal loggers that they think is around here. Tomorrow, they will go out on another patrol, and they may start a series of raids, which we will -- we will take part in as well.


COOPER: So that's how we spent the day with Ibama. We'll be doing it again tomorrow and bringing you that tomorrow night -- Kiran.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, what are some of the punishments for people busted in these raids?

COOPER: It really depends on exactly what they have done. I mean, they confiscate all the equipment. The fines have been raised in the last couple of years. But, you know, often what the people they are catching are these low-level guys who, as we talked about in the piece, aren't really making any money off this. It's really these wealthy landowners, these people who have political influence in the region. And you know, there's a lot of corruption. There's a lot of sort of side channel deals going on.

So the idea is that this is a start and that more prosecutions will come down the road of some of the people who are higher up in the food chain in all this.

CHETRY: Yes, and another big question seems to be how the Brazilian government will balance the need for development to help their economy with the vital need to preserve this rainforest.

COOPER: Yes. You know, they have a lot of good laws on paper. There's -- you know, if you have a plot of land here, you can develop 20 percent of it. You can chop down trees on 20 percent of it. You're supposed to keep the rest of it, up to 80 percent of it as pristine forest.

On paper that's the law. Of course enforcement is a completely different matter and there's not enough enforcement officials here. There's not enough police to cover this huge amount of territory. I mean, we're talking about an area the size of the continental United States.

And you know, there are at best a few thousand agents working on this at any one time. So they've got a big job to do, and they've made some progress, but there's certainly a long way to go -- Kiran.

CHETRY: All right, Anderson. Thanks for bringing us that story.

Meantime, another eye opening story tonight in the war on terror. Just how much the U.S. depends on allies that really can't always be depended on. Allies like Pakistan.

Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda commanders are not only thought to be hiding in Pakistan's tribal region, but reports are they are actually rebuilding their forces there.

It's something I asked CNN's Nic Robertson about when we spoke earlier tonight.


CHETRY: Great to see you, Nic. There's new intelligence showing that al Qaeda has been able to set up new compounds and training camps within Pakistan. How is that possible given that Pervez Musharraf and the Pakistan government have been trying to stop them?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are probably two reasons, principle reasons for it. One is they're not able to control those areas, the tribal groups there, the Taliban who are there, the al Qaeda operators who are there are able to operate beyond Pakistani military influence by crossing backwards and forwards across the border to escape capture.

But according to other sources as well, source that I'm talking to have intimate knowledge of that border area. They say that the Pakistani intelligence services, the ISI, are turning a blind eye to al Qaeda, indeed on occasions helping them get out of trouble.

They point to one occasion last week where an al Qaeda operative was picked up by Pakistani security. He'd been going around to local barber shops, telling the barbers that, that if they cut people's beards, they would be targeted.

He was arrested -- this al Qaeda operative was arrested and then according to this particular source, he was then released by Pakistani intelligence officials who allowed him to get back across the border to Afghanistan. And it's this type of complicity, according to these sources, that allows al Qaeda to operate along this tribal border area. And they've been moving along it, expanding their area of influence some time now -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, it looks like the Pakistan government must be having some impact. I mean, there are stories like that, of course. But it looks like they have applied enough pressure that al Qaeda in some instances is moving northward. Is there any push back from the Afghan government and Hamid Karzai to try to stop that?

ROBERTS: Well there's huge tensions between the Afghan government and the Pakistan government about how to resolve this situation. The Afghan government says the Pakistanis are not doing enough. The Pakistanis tell the Afghans if you have specific information where al Qaeda are in Pakistan, then give it to us and we'll act on it.

So there is a breakdown in trust between the two countries. And of course, al Qaeda is able to profit from that breakdown in trust.

What's happened, we're seeing in south Waziristan, the Pakistani's crackdown there several years ago, then the al Qaeda and the Taliban moved their operations northwards to north Waziristan.

We saw the Pakistani government crackdown there. But what they did was put more troops out and then found that the tribes in that area were attacking their own troops so that they put their troops back in their bases. The Taliban then were allowed to self police the tribes in that area.

The attacks against U.S. troops across the border went up threefold. That was just September last year. And we've seen north of there, again in another tribal area in the Bajor area, the Bajor agency, al Qaeda able to operate there.

And last year there were two air strikes against what were ostensibly al Qaeda targets in that area. So they're able to move along that border. But nobody is shutting them down.

And again, it comes back to what these sources are saying, that at some level, Pakistani security and intelligence are complicit, allowing al Qaeda to operate.

CHETRY: All right, Nic Robertson, senior international correspondent, great to speak to you tonight. Thanks.

ROBERTSON: Thank you.

CHETRY: And from Afghanistan now to the mission in Iraq, and CNN's John King in Washington.

Hi, John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Kiran. And thank you. With the U.S. Iraqi security clampdown in full swing, people in Baghdad had been enjoying something of a lull in the violence, at least by Iraq standards.

Fewer bombings, fewer shootings. Not as many bodies tortured and dumped throughout the city. Today, though, that lull came to an end in a big way.

CNN's Michael Ware is in Baghdad and joins us once again tonight.

Michael, any explanation why at the end of last week some optimistic talk, a bit of a lull in the bombing. It seemed like perhaps a reason for optimism. Then, bloody violence again today. Any understanding of why today?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, I think part of the explanation is clearly people shooting their mouths off, speaking well before they should.

How many times do we have to see it in this war? The patterns of violence ebb and flow. There are fluctuations. I mean, there are chess pieces being shuffled across the board here all the time.

We've seen a step up in government operations against the insurgents here in the capital Baghdad. So for a couple of days, we started to see a lull. That prompts the trigger-happy -- rhetorically, trigger-happy Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to come out and declare the operation a dazzling success. Something the American general commanding Baghdad was not willing to do.

In a much more sober assessment, the general said, let's just wait and see what the results are. It's too early to tell if this is going to be a pattern. Or if in the more likely event that we've seen every other time there's been an offensive, the insurgents are just pulling back, sitting, watching, waiting, learning what the new methods are, adapting and re-attacking.

KING: And Michael, north of the capital, there was a brazen attack today against U.S. soldiers north of Baghdad, killing two soldiers. How did the insurgents carry out this strike?

WARE: Well, John, we've seen this on several occasions throughout the war. It's not a daily event, but it's certainly something we've become accustomed to or it is not a surprise. The use of suicide car bombs.

In this case, we're told there was one, perhaps three, that were used to plunge into the heavy fortifications protecting the band of U.S. troops in an abandoned police station.

This precedes a mass assault by what we're told today was as many as 50 gunmen. We've seen this several times before.

KING: Michael, you just heard Nic Robertson talking to Kiran about this al Qaeda resurgence inside of Pakistan. What about inside Iraq? Have you heard al Qaeda is also making a comeback there, including a push in Baquba? What can you tell us about that?

WARE: Well, al Qaeda hasn't had to make a comeback here in Iraq, nor has it had to do so in Waziristan. I mean, I've run through the mountains of Waziristan two years ago and al Qaeda owned them back then. Why are we surprised that they still own them now and the hierarchy is restructured?

Here in Iraq, despite any arrest, despite any pressure that you're able to put on the organization in this country, in this war, they regenerate. This is an organization built and designed for life. They're always ready to refill their ranks. And we see it time and time again.

Indeed, this is an al Qaeda organization that's under so much pressure, we're told, it feels fit to declare an Islamic state through a third of the country, which includes Baquba, Baquba in Diyala province, which has always been an al Qaeda stronghold.

Back in 2005, we saw them overrun a police station in Baquba and fly the al Qaeda flag, or the then Tawhid wal Jihad flag. That has been a part of their running ground, their range since the beginning.

And we're acting like it's a surprise that they are strong there. They're not reconstituted. They're just reappearing -- John.

KING: Michael Ware for us tonight in Baghdad.

Michael, thank you very much.

And now back to Kiran in New York for a look at more of what's still ahead this hour in 360. CHETRY: Stuck in chilling weather on a killer mountain.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's nice to have as many security blankets as we can carry with us.


CHETRY: How they survived, what they did right and how a black lab named Velvet truly was a climber's best friend.

Also, young, black and behind bars.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't really know what happened. It just -- it really got sucked there to the street life.


CHETRY: They are six times more likely to be locked up than white kids. And some say it's a good thing. Are prisons becoming the new inner city high schools? Ahead on 360.


KING: An aerial view there of Mount Hood and the kind of snow that piles up on it during the winter. Rescue crews took off in a blizzard this morning, going after climbers forced to spend the night more than 7,000 feet up the mountain.

CNN's Dan Simon reports from Timberline, Oregon, on how they lived to tell the tale.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They did everything right to prepare for disaster. That's why these are pictures of a successful rescue, not a recovery of bodies.

The group of eight set out on sunny Saturday, hoping to reach the peak of Mount Hood. The weather turned, and they turned back. But, on Mount Hood, the troop down can be as dangerous as the trip up, especially with whiteout conditions.

Trevor Liston was at the back of the pack.

TREVOR LISTON, RESCUED CLIMBER: Visibility was maybe -- I mean, I could make out -- I could make out the lead climber on a 40-foot rope, and I was at the end of the rope.

SIMON: Visibility was so bad, the two women and one man in front failed to see the dangerous next step they and the pet lab they brought along were about to take.

LISTON: I happened to be looking forward at that moment and just saw him just go from a walking position.

SIMON: One of the other climbers was lowered over the edge on a rope to look for their friends.

LISTON: Lowered him down. He just, you know, was yelling at me through the snow. It ended up, I couldn't see him, but we could still hear each other, you know, keep going, keep going, keep going. And, at one point, I could feel a slack in the rope, so I knew he was climbing back up, brought him back up, and he couldn't see or -- or hear anything. So, at that point, we knew -- we knew it was over our head and it was time to call for help.

SIMON: They put in a cell phone call for a rescue, but the cell phone signal placed them 2,000 feet below where they actually were.

What helped the rescuers pinpoint them, the electronic mountain locator units they were wearing, something the three climbers who were killed on Mount Hood in December did not bring along.

LISTON: With the group we were going up with this time, we just wanted another extra level of security, another kind of backup plan.

SIMON: As for the dog they huddled with...

LISTON: Ms. Velvet, she -- V-E-L-V-E-T.

SIMON: Velvet turned out to be a good traveling companion.

(on camera): The three climbers were able to protect themselves from these harsh elements by getting in their sleeping bags and huddling behind a large rock. Despite subfreezing temperatures and whiteout conditions, nobody was seriously injured.

Dan Simon, CNN, Timberline, Oregon.


KING: Just ahead, a world you often hear about, but rarely see. Young black men serving time. They're criminals, but they're also kids. What you'll hear from them may change the way you think about them.

Plus, the plight of the sloths of the Amazon. Slow moving, sweet and shy. They live at the top of the rainforest and they're in great peril. Anderson joins us again, ahead on 360.


CHETRY: Welcome back. At 360, we try to show you all the angles, including the ones that are often hidden, sometimes though in plain sight, other times behind closed doors.

And this week, starting tonight, we're going to take you literally behind closed doors, prison bars to be exact.

And our guide is the talented and award-winning Documentary Filmmaker Shola Lynch, who joins me tonight with a very eye opening piece about young people in prison.

SHOLA LYNCH, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: Yes. "Incarcerated" is a personal look at the 2.2 million people behind bars and hopefully it puts a face on some of the statistics. It's three parts. Tonight is the first part. And you'll meet two juvenile offenders. So let's watch.


LYNCH (voice-over): Black children compared to white kids with similar offenses are six times more likely to be incarcerated.

(On camera): I was particularly interested in this story of young black men because they are the statistics that we hear about. They're the ones that are getting caught up in the prison system younger and younger and younger.

(Voice-over): Chris Varner, 16 years old, used a nine millimeter handgun to settle a fight. He missed, injured a bystander and now he's in prison for two years for assault with a deadly weapon.

CHRIS VARNER, JUVENILE OFFENDER: I don't even know what happened. It just -- guess I got sucked into the street life.

LYNCH: And 17-year-old Brandon Marbury and his friends carjacked a woman, leading cops on a high-speed chase. And because someone in the car had a gun, Chris is in prison for seven years for armed robbery.

BRANDON MARBURY, JUVENILE OFFENDER: I ain't have all the things I wanted, so I went out there and did what I had to do to get it. And it was illegal things to do to get it.

LYNCH (on camera): The impression when you meet these guys is that you're going to be confronted with these tough guys, these hardened criminals, these juveniles that have been sentenced as adults. Then you meet them. And they are in so many ways kids.

(voice-over): Look at Chris's smile or Brandon's unguarded laughter. It's hard to reconcile their serious crimes and tough guy exteriors. They still melt when you ask about their mothers.

MARBURY: That's my heart right there. That's everything. I love my mom.

VARNER: Powerful woman, my ma, great woman.

LYNCH: Like Chris and Brandon, half the boys from major inner cities across the country don't finish high school. Among the dropouts, some six in 10 will spend time in prison. For many of them, prison provides a foundation they didn't have on the outside.

(on camera): It shouldn't be where people go to get structure and discipline and education.

(voice-over): At the D.C. Correctional Facility, an all volunteer book and poetry club is trying to help these kids on an educational track, calling their program, Free Minds. MARBURY: They say when you're in jail, your mind ain't free. So that helps a lot of us think outside of these walls. I also write poetry. That helps a lot, too. Express yourself on paper if you can't express by talking.

VARNER: As I sit in my room, I hear strange noise, someone calling me. I ask who is there. Somebody replies, me, your mind. We need to have a talk.

DEVON BROWN, DIRECTOR, D.C. DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS: We know that those who achieve educationally while imprisoned are more likely to succeed once they return to society. And indeed, they will return to society.

OK, good luck.

LYNCH: Devon Brown, director of D.C.'s Department of Corrections.

BROWN: Our tax dollars are directed towards maintaining prisons. And those tax dollars, I believe, could be better spent in other areas.

VARNER: Everybody needs an education to help you make it through this world. Who don't know right from wrong? Babies know right from wrong eventually. But it's more than -- you need to know more than that to make it in life.

LYNCH: Brown says the primary goal should be prevention, but once kids are locked up, we should focus on education and re-entry.

BROWN: The true ownership for their failures may not lie with them, but with us. That we have failed them. They should not have to come to prison to receive these services.

LYNCH (on camera): The statistics say these kids are going to fail. The situation is much more complex than we want it to be because it's so much easier just to write them off.

(voice-over): And Chris and Brandon know it.

MARBURY: They imagine I'm a criminal. I don't like to do nothing but hurt people and all that other bad stuff. I guarantee they sit down and talk with me, it's a different story.


CHETRY: Well, tell me, Shola, what some of your impressions were about how to stop that cycle. I mean, you talk about how expensive -- what is it, some $60 billion spent on keeping people incarcerated a year. You can't throw more money at it without trying to stem the root.

LYNCH (on camera): Right. Well, I think it's not just throwing more money, but actually where the money goes. I mean, what these kids are finding out is they are getting a GED, they're getting education in prison. Prison should not be the place for this. This should be happening well before this place.

CHETRY: And you said something interesting to me during your piece. You said that, you know, just like you and I and the people we know and beyond track in high school, to go to college, to study for S.A.T.s, their almost -- their environment is a track to go to prison.

LYNCH: Absolutely. I think we should keep that in mind. We -- everything in our environment says go to college, go to college. Well, in their environment, they talked about being able to find guns, seeing hustlers on the street, drugs. They are literally getting tracked for the cliche, dead or in prison. And it's not a joke. And these are real people behind these statistics, and that's what I wanted to see in talking to these two young men, boys.

CHETRY: We certainly saw that in your piece. And we're going to see many more -- you're right, boys.

Shola Lynch, thanks so much for being with us.

Also, the statistics on African Americans in prison so speak for themselves. The raw data tonight, blacks make up 13 percent of the total U.S. population, yet they account for about 40 percent of the prison population. One in 14 African American children has a parent in jail or prison. And for every three African American men in college, four are in prison.

Coming up tomorrow on 360, part two of the Documentary Filmmaker Shola Lynch's report, "Incarcerated." This takes a look at women in prison.


CHETRY: Somewhere high up in the Amazon canopy lives the sloth. At least they're supposed to. And a lot of people are doing what they can to protect these animals, to nurse them back to health , and to release them back into the treetops. Again, that's the idea.

As you'll see here, though, the best laid plans of sloths and men sometimes come crashing down to earth.

Here again are Anderson and wildlife biologist Jeff Corwin.


CORWIN: I think this is my favorite part of doing stuff like this, to actually see creatures like this, to see them be liberated.

Does this tree work?




CORWIN: Here? Right here?

Here you go, buddy. You get a firsthand demonstration of how great those claws work.

I will see you later.

He should have a little beret in his hand.

Thank you, America. Whoa.

COOPER: Not everything happens as planned. We released the first sloth and it grabbed on to this vine and the vine broke, it came crashing down on the ground. It probably fell about 20 feet.

CORWIN: Anderson, you feel his back. I mean, basically...

COOPER: Wow, it's hard.

CORWIN: Right here. Especially right here, if you feel the shoulder. I mean, that's like...

COOPER: It's like a shell, almost.

CORWIN: So when this creature falls -- and we feel the belly right there, it's soft. So, oftentimes, when sloths like this fall, they'll just fall on their back. And he'll get up and he's ready to go.

So you've learned your lesson. It's the first lesson you've learned. Now, remember, don't be like that joke. We don't want that joke, why did the sloth fall out of the tree? You know?

OK. We'll put him in this tree.

There you go.

No worse for wear.


CHETRY: Poor little guy, but tough. Tough as a sloth. Who knew?

We're going to have more from Anderson in the Amazon rainforest coming up tomorrow.

And now to another corner of the world, Sierra Leone, a West African country ravaged by a civil war that broke out in the early '90s and has raged now for more than a decade. Tens of thousands were killed and millions others forced from their homes and became refugees.

Many were children who fell into a nightmare forced by both sides in the conflict to become child soldiers, forced to do the unspeakable and to witness the unthinkable. The United Nations estimates that more than 250,000 children are now fighting around the world as child soldiers.

Tonight, CNN's Randi Kaye tells the story of one child.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): His name is Ishmael Beah. Growing up in Sierra Leone, he was a happy kid, loved to play soccer with his father and wrestle with his brothers. But in 1993, rebels looking to overthrow the government attacked his village.

ISHMAEL BEAH, FMR. CHILD SOLDIER: That day was the first day we really started seeing first hand what -- those people. There were -- there were, you know, women carrying their dead babies in their arms, fathers carrying their dead sons in their arms, a lot of bodies on the side of the street.

There were a lot of children running around screaming the names of their parents who they lost in the war. There were a lot of people with bullet piercings in them. The landscape that had been changed, that had been littered with dead bodies and rivers that were filled with blood.

KAYE: Ishmael's entire family was killed. He was just 12 years old. The jungle became home. Ishmael slept in the trees.

(on camera): Did you ever think that, you know, at your age that this -- this isn't what was meant to be?

BEAH: Well, at that time, when this was going on, there was not enough time to have this kind of reflection, you know, because...

KAYE: It was just about survival?

BEAH: It was just about surviving.

KAYE (voice over): After a year, Ishmael met government soldiers who fed him, protected him and then gave him a gun.

(on camera): But you were a child.

BEAH: Well, to them, that was not a question. If you're an able -- if you're an able body, you can carry an AK-47, they wanted you to become part of it.

KAYE (voice over): Ishmael had little choice, fight with the army or risk being killed by the rebels. His training lasted a week and included American action films like "Rambo".

BEAH: When you watch this film, you know, everyone wanted to go out and do those things that were being done in the film and kind of be like that, and hide behind a Bush, hide in the swamp, and kill a bunch of people, use a bayonet.

KAYE: Ishmael was forced to use marijuana and brown-brown, a mix of cocaine and gun powder, which kicks it up a notch. BEAH: You have this rush of energy. You can go for weeks, you know, and you're just running around. You don't even think that you could get killed. You were not afraid to advance anywhere and shoot anyone. Like, you know...

KAYE (on camera): So would you take this before you would go into battle?

BEAH: Before, after. We took this every time. If we're not in a war shooting or killing people, we were either taking these drugs or watching war films.

KAYE: What were you told you were fighting for? Were you ever told what you were fighting for?

BEAH: Well, yes. We were told, you know, that you were fighting for your country and you were fighting to stop other kids from losing their families like you have lost your families. You are going now to avenge the death of your family, and to kill the people who have made you an orphan.

KAYE (voice over): At 13, Ishmael had become a child soldier, a killing machine, so brainwashed he relished killing rebels, even those his own age.

BEAH: You lose your own humanity. I lost my own humanity at that time, and all the people who were around me did.

KAYE (on camera): Do you remember the first time you did have to kill someone?

BEAH: Yes, I do remember very much the first time...

KAYE: Do you remember what that felt like?

BEAH: ... because when you kill another human being, it does something to you. It traumatizes you. It changes you.

KAYE (voice over): In his new book "A Long Way Gone," Ishmael wrote about guarding rebel soldiers.

(on camera): "So we gave them shovels and demanded at gun point that they dig their own graves. We sat under the hut smoking marijuana and watched them dig in the rain. Each time they slowed down, we would shoot around them and they would resume digging faster. When they were done digging, we tied them and stabbed their legs with bayonets."

"Some of them screamed. We laughed and kicked them to shut them up."'

Is it hard for you to listen to me read that and hard for you to realize that that was you?

BEAH: Before I wrote it, I've lived with these memories and I will continue to live with these memories for the rest of my life. But as I said, I find a way to come to terms with them, to transform them.

KAYE: But I can still see, even as I read that, that it affects you.

BEAH: Yes, it affects me, of course.

KAYE: I can see it in your eyes, in your face.

BEAH: Of course it does affect me. You know, it's not a pleasant thing to remember. I'm doing this because I want people to be aware of it, to understand it, to know that the people it's happening to are as human as anyone else, that it's not some faraway people from some faraway place, that they're human beings just like anyone else and that it should be prevented.


CHETRY: And just ahead, we're going to hear more of Randi Kaye's conversation with Ishmael. And we're going to have more about the killing that he was forced to take part in and his eventually miraculous escape from Sierra Leone.


CHETRY: And before the break we introduced you to Ishmael Beah, a former child soldier from Sierra Leone. An estimated 250,000 children are fighting wars around the world today. They're forced to fight and kill without anyone to protect them.

Once again, here's Randi Kaye.


KAYE (voice over): By the time he was a teenager, Ishmael Beah had killed more people than he wants to remember. He was a child soldier in Sierra Leone, a 13-year-old trained assassin. The government army had become his family after his parents and brothers were killed by rebels.

(on camera): Did that affect you at some point?

BEAH: You have no time to think about it. You have no time to be remorseful, because if you did, you would get killed. You would die.

KAYE (voice over): Ishmael fought the rebels for more than two years. The government army fueled his rage with "Rambo" movies and drugs like brown-brown, a mixture of cocaine and gun powder. He was brainwashed into believing he needed to kill the rebels who made him an orphan.

He wrote about it in this book, "A Long Way Gone," published this month.

(on camera): "They were all lined up, six of them, with their hands tied. I shot them in the shins and watched them suffer for an entire day before finally deciding to shoot them in the head so they would stop crying. Before I shot each man, I looked at him to see how his eyes gave up hope and steadied before I pulled the trigger. I found their somber eyes irritating."

BEAH: Growing up as a little child I would have never imagined anyone in Sierra Leone would have that capacity, least to say myself.

KAYE: "My squad was my family. My gun was provider and protector. And my rule was, kill or be killed."

"The extent of my thoughts didn't go much beyond that. We had been fighting over two years and killing had become a daily activity. I felt no pity for anyone. My childhood had gone by without my knowing, and it seemed as if my heart had frozen."

You see at 15 you say your heart had frozen. That's not something a 15-year-old boy should feel.

BEAH: Yes, that's not something a 15-year-old boy should feel. But, you know, as I speak to you, there are a lot of 15-year-old boys who are feeling that way right now, which is why, you know, we shouldn't let that happen to anyone.

KAYE (voice over): In 1995, UNICEF members handpicked Ishmael for rehabilitation. It took nearly a year to wean him off drugs and hatred.

In 1996, he was invited to speak at the United Nations. On that trip, he met Laura Simms, a storyteller hired to help kids like Ishmael prepare for speeches. They stayed in touch after Ishmael returned to Sierra Leone.

LAURA SIMMS, ISHMAEL'S ADOPTIVE MOTHER: He said, "Look, if this war is over, if I get out of here, can I come to live with you in New York?" And I said, "Sure." And then he said, "Oh, no, you have to tell me the truth, because I will visualize it if it's true."

And then, like, every cell in my body -- you know, sort of a readjustment. And then I said, "Yes." And he said, "OK." And the phone line was cut.

KAYE: In 1998, fearing he'd get caught up in the war again, Ishmael escaped Sierra Leone. He used money hidden in his shoe to get to Guinea, the next country over, and eventually to the U.S.

SIMMS: When he came to hug me, I saw him like a 9-year-old child and I realized that that summer he was going to have his childhood and I was going to be a mommy.

KAYE: Ishmael was 17 when he began his new life in the U.S. Laura adopted him. He graduated from the United Nations high school in 2000 and later from Oberlin College. Ishmael now lives in Brooklyn.

(on camera): Why do you think you're one of the lucky ones? There are many like you who ended up back in the war. BEAH: Somebody must be looking out for me, I guess, you know? Because surviving a war like that in Sierra Leone doesn't have to do with being trained or being a good soldier. It's just pure luck.

KAYE: Have you been able to put this behind you? Will you ever be able to put this behind you?

BEAH: I know that those memories will always be there. This is part of my life. This is part of what makes me Ishmael.

My life before, my life during the war, my life now, that's what makes me Ishmael. I come with that full package. So it's not something I can put behind me.

KAYE (voice over): Now 26, Ishmael has recaptured his humanity and is helping others like him get that chance, too.

BEAH: You can only get to be a child for a very limited time in your life. You get to be an adult for the rest of your life. And those times everyone should cherish.


CHETRY: Wow. And it's amazing to see this man now change from that child soldier to what he's become.

How did that transformation happen?

KAYE: It really happened -- what really changed him was love and compassion. He was at that rehabilitation center for about a year.

When he first got there, he was fighting with the other boys, actually stabbing them. Some of the children actually died there. And these were child soldiers, so they weren't ready to listen to these civilians who were trying to take order there.

But one woman did earn his trust. He told me that she -- that he felt, "Regardless of what I had done, she was still willing to look at me as a child." And he so desperately wanted to be a child.

He wanted that compassion, that caring. And that's really what helped him turn the corner.

And he did have nightmares when he got here to New York, but his new mom -- his new mom had actually let him sort of be a child when he got here. Even though he was 17, he spent that summer fishing and running and swimming, and he was able to recapture at least some of that childhood, even at 17.

CHETRY: Well, Laura certainly saved his life.

KAYE: Oh, yes.

CHETRY: I mean, she did something that many people probably just would not be able to do. She took a huge risk, and it paid off.

Great story, Randi. Thanks so much.

KAYE: Thank you.

CHETRY: Up next on 360, was it a cry for help, an act of rebellion? And why is everyone talking about it? It's the frenzy surrounding Britney Spears' latest swipe at the headlines and her head, up next.


KING: Well, Britney Spears didn't want her hair, but you can have it, or maybe you can for a price. eBay has several auctions under way, each claiming -- claiming to be selling her shorn locks.

As for why she shaved her head? Well, we don't have a clue. But CNN's Jeanne Moos has some ideas worth sharing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): How do you like your head, Britney?

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Beneath that hood was the shaved head that launched a million headlines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And just call her Britney Shears.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A bold, bald new look.

MOOS: Forget to be or not to be. This was to be the question...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this a haircut or a cry for help?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was shaving off all her hair a way to blow off steam or a serious cry for help?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it is a cry for help.

MOOS: The last time there was this much hoopla over a haircut was almost a half a century ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bad news, too, for the long hair set this year. Recognize Elvis? He lost his hair to the Army.

MOOS: Some say Britney lost her mind to an army of press. Maybe only her hairdresser knows for sure.

ESTHER TOGNOZZI, HAIR SALON OWNER: I think maybe she's overwhelmed with all the paparazzi.

Oh my God, it was crazy. We locked the doors and we tried to close the curtains. But they would have charged in there if the door was unlocked.

MOOS: Other stars have shaved their heads. Demi Moore did it to play "G.I. Jane". And Natalie Portman shaved for "V for Vendetta". Melissa Etheridge lost her hair to cancer treatments.

Armchair doctors were quick to psychoanalyze Britney, hypothesizing everything from postpartum depression to outright mental illness.

JILL DOBSON, "STAR MAGAZINE": I think she's in the middle of a nervous breakdown, and all of America is witnessing it.

BETHANY MARSHALL, PSYCHOLOGIST: Britney may have felt that other people were controlling her through her hair.

DR. KEITH ABLOW, PSYCHIATRIST: We tend to consume these celebrities until there's nothing left of them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's hounded, and she's just a -- she's a person in trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She used to be someone that we could all look up to, and now it's just completely fallen down the tube.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm just so glad she's not my daughter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't really like her anymore because of what she's done.

MOOS: But what some don't like is the press.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't understand why she is covered at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have this crap, and it's just -- it's sort of -- it's sort of upsetting.

MOOS: But it's irresistible fodder for us, from "The View"...

JOY BEHAR, "THE VIEW": I just hope she doesn't start dating Anna Nicole Smith's lawyer.

MOOS: ... to "Regis and Kelly" showing themselves bald.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't really know what shape your head is until it's gone.

MOOS: It reminds us of the recent YouTube phenomenon -- psycho bride cuts off hair.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did you let me cut my hair?

MOOS: It turns out they were just acting, while armchair analysts seem to think Britney was acting out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not that bad.


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


KING: We'll be right back.


KING: That's it for us tonight.

A quick reminder, though. We want you to help us keep them honest. If there is a wrong that needs righting in your community, go online and tell us about it at

On behalf of Anderson and Kiran, good night. Hope to see you tomorrow.

Larry King is next.


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