Skip to main content
U.S. Edition


Return to Transcripts main page


Democrats Challenge Iraq War Strategy; Vice President Cheney Losing Influence?; Medical Mysteries

Aired March 8, 2007 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We begin tonight with some breaking news about a heartbreaking problem: people left homeless by tornadoes in Arkansas and thousands of mobile homes sitting empty nearby. That's right, FEMA mobile homes, the same ones that sat empty after Hurricane Katrina.
Tornado victims wanted them, but haven't gotten them because of red tape. We have breaking developments tonight.

CNN's Susan Roesgen has been covering the story from the beginning. She joins us now.

Susan, what's going on?

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT: Boy, Anderson, it's been a back-and-forth night. And I think some of it has got to be from pressure basically from CNN, finding -- trying to ask, what is the bottom line here? What's happening?

From what we understand, President Bush, as you know, did not declare Desha County, Arkansas, a disaster area. No one is quite sure why the president decided not to do that. But, without that declaration, FEMA could not, by law, provide some assistance.

And some of that assistance would have included, possibly, some of those mobile homes and some FEMA trailers. Now, however -- and, Anderson, forgive me. I'm just reading right off my BlackBerry.

FEMA spokesman Aaron Walker, whom I have been on the phone with all day today, says FEMA has reached an agreement to send 30 mobile homes and trailers to Arkansas, that FEMA with donate these, and that the state of Arkansas will pay to have them sent to Desha County.

Now, let me tell you a little bit about Desha County, Anderson. If you remember, there were 37 homes there that were completely destroyed. There were 50 homes that were severely damaged. There were some parks, some city substations, some government buildings, some different warehouses that were -- were damaged. A lot of people lost jobs there, because their -- their job -- their places of work were -- were destroyed.

So, this is something that they have been asking for. They want some federal assistance. They want some money. And they do want either a trailer or a mobile home.

Once again, Anderson, earlier today, director David Paulison, the head of FEMA, sent a letter to the governor's office that the governor sent to me just late tonight that said, basically: We have decided that there is not enough damage there in Desha County for us to help you.

And yet, on the flip side, Anderson, once again, Aaron Walker, the FEMA spokesman, says -- and the governor's office has confirmed with me -- that they have been working late into tonight to try to make some sort of arrangement to still bring 30 mobile homes and trailers to that area to help people out...


ROESGEN: ... even though the president hasn't declared it a disaster area.

COOPER: Well, that is certainly good news in bypassing the bureaucracy, a rare case of that.

And when you look at -- Susan, at those pictures of those hundreds and hundreds, I think -- I guess still thousands of mobile homes just sitting there in Arkansas -- I don't know if we have that picture there that we were showing early -- earlier -- it just boggles the mind that all of that stuff is still sitting there from Hurricane Katrina.

ROESGEN: And, you know, Anderson, we have been covering this story on your program for more than a year now. And I went back and looked at some of my old scripts on this story.

It was almost exactly one year ago today that President Bush himself said publicly in a speech: I want to know, from Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff, why those 11,000 mobile homes are still sitting there.

Now, some of them have been farmed out to other locations. But, right now, there are still about 8,000 unused mobile homes still sitting on that property in Hope, Arkansas. FEMA has said that they can't be sent to a floodplain, which means they can't come down here to the Gulf Coast.

Why they're not getting to Desha, Arkansas -- or maybe some will now -- we just don't know. But I think even the president, last year, a year ago, was talking about these mobile homes.

COOPER: Well...

ROESGEN: And they are still there.

COOPER: ... at least a couple families are going to get them in Arkansas, where they're needed from this -- from this tornado.

Susan, appreciate the reporting all day.

Now to a showdown with the White House, a major story tonight, a plan that, for the first time, sets a date for American troops to leave Iraq, August 2008. Now, House Democrats came up with it. The president says he will veto it -- that is if it ever makes it to his desk. It calls for increased funding for the fighting in Afghanistan and more money to care for wounded vets when they get home. That's not the controversial part.

The controversy, what some congressional Republicans say will endanger troops now in Iraq, is over the deadlines.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: By July of 2007, if progress is not demonstrated, if the president cannot certify that progress is made, we begin the redeployment of our troops out of a combat role in Iraq.


COOPER: So, if the benchmarks that they want the Iraqi government to meet are not met, that redeployment would be completed by March of next year. Even if the benchmarks are met, the legislation still calls for troops to be out, as I said, by the following August, the end of August 2008.

Again, the White House is threatening a veto. Not all House Democrats are signing on. And Senate Democrats have some of their own ideas as well.

More tonight on the politics -- we will also get a reality check from Michael Ware on the ground in Baghdad.

But, first, the politics -- CNN's John Roberts "Keeping Them Honest."


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Democrats in the Senate were anxious to finally take on Republicans over the Iraq war.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: The rubber stamp days are over. The days of no debate are over.

ROBERTS: Over in the House, though, the hope was to end debate between squabbling Democratic factions. Nancy Pelosi claimed consensus over her plan to bring troops home by the end of 2008. But the liberal wing of her party immediately stepped out to say: No, do it this year.

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D), ILLINOIS: No more chances, no more waivers, no phony certifications, no more spending billions of dollars to send our children into the meat grinder that is Iraq.

ROBERTS: It's the sort of thing that's driven Democratic leaders crazy for years. Unlike Republicans, who, until they imploded last election, were amazingly disciplined, Democrats are all over the map.

As Will Rogers once said: "I belong to no organized party. I'm a Democrat."

Republican Ed Rogers elaborates.

ED ROGERS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: It doesn't appear they have a leadership problem. They have a big followership problem. It's every man for themselves among the Democrats in Congress.

ROBERTS: Consensus should be easy. After all, Democrats are anti-war. Problem is, some are too anti-war, others not anti-war enough.

ANITA DUNN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think there's no question that Democrats want to build a consensus. And, understand, it may not happen overnight, but that you have to start somewhere.

ROBERTS: It has been a torturous road just to get to this latest disagreement. First, there was the so-called surge. Some Democrats wanted to cap troop levels. Some said cut funding. But that could be suicide at the polls in '08. So, they settled on a resolution with no practical effect.

Next, they wanted to strip the president of his authority to wage war. That went nowhere. Then, some stood up to say, let's end the war completely. But the idea involved that cutting-off-funding thing again. So, that, too, went away.

Democrats won the election on a platform to change the Iraq war.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: The mission in Iraq has changed. And, therefore, so must U.S. policy change.

ROBERTS: And, since they took power, they have changed nothing, it seems, exempt their minds.

ROGERS: And campaigns matter. And you pay a price. You get elected saying something, you get the authority that you asked for, and you do nothing, you pay a price at the next election.

ROBERTS: Granted, there's still plenty of time until the next election, plenty of time, say hopeful Democrats, to get something everyone can agree on.

DUNN: And I think Will Rogers would be quite surprised and probably pretty happy at the degree of consensus there is in the Democratic Party around this issue.

ROBERTS (on camera): But what's all the hand-wringing really for? Democrats know that these measures have little or no chance of ever reaching the president's desk. There just aren't enough votes in the Senate. So, for the moment, at least, it's about the appearance of doing something.

John Roberts, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Well, joining me now to talk about the realities in both Washington and Iraq are former presidential adviser David Gergen -- he's in San Francisco tonight -- and, in Baghdad, CNN's Michael Ware.

David, let me start with you.

Even if the Democrats all rallied behind around one plan, can they actually force the president to make benchmarks for the Iraqis? Can they make the money conditional like that?

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: It's unlikely that they can actually get a bill passed, -- Anderson. Even if they get it passed, the president is going to veto it. And they don't have the override votes.

But I will tell you something. I think they are -- in a very odd way, despite all their disarray -- and that sort of goes with being Democrats, I suppose -- they're actually giving a gift to the president.

COOPER: How so?

GERGEN: Well, the Republicans are properly going to squawk and yell and so forth. But they -- instead of handcuffing the president, as the Murtha bill would have done, this new bill will give a gift to the president in this sense.

It will strengthen his hand to go to the Maliki government in Iraq and say: Mr. Maliki, you have to do this, because I have got these people at home who are going to cut things off unless you act.

The president can now have a good-cop/bad-cop routine with the Maliki government. He can be the good guy. But he can always point to those Democrats back home, who control the Congress, who are going to really lower the boom on Maliki, unless he moves on some of these things.

And it will allow the president -- it gives him more leverage with the Maliki government. And I think that is actually healthy for the president.

COOPER: For Republicans, David, even if they successfully kill the Democrats' proposal, if the Democrats figure out one proposal, there's a risk for Republicans in that. And the risk is that the funding for troops runs out.

GERGEN: Absolutely.

And, for that reason, I think that they're not going to -- they're going to insist on some kind of funding. I can guarantee you that the funding is going to continue, however all this sort of folderol goes on, and the arguing back and forth, you know, unfolds here in the next few weeks.

But I think that the Democrats, the growling that they're doing against the war, does -- it puts pressure on the White House. But it also allows the president to put pressure on the Iraqi government. I think it pushes us toward the day when this is -- going to come home.

Now, it may be more difficult for General Petraeus. And he clearly, in his press conference today...


GERGEN: ... in Baghdad was making it clear: I may need more time. I may need more troops.

COOPER: Michael, I want to get your take on how the ongoing escalation or redeployment of troops is going. Here's what General Petraeus said today.

Let's listen.


GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. COMMANDER IN IRAQ: While too early to discern significant trends, there have been a few encouraging signs.

Sectarian killings, for example, have been lower in Baghdad over the past several weeks than in the previous month. There also appears to have been less sectarian displacement.


COOPER: That certainly sounds like good news. If it's true, Michael, do we know why it would be occurring? Is it the presence of U.S. forces in the neighborhoods? Or are sectarian militias simply laying low, trying to take the temperature?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, there's absolutely no question about it, Anderson. U.S. commanders here on the ground themselves openly admit that the militias, particularly the very powerful Mahdi militia of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, have gone to ground.

Yes, there's been a disruption of their options. Yes, there's been a disruption of their leadership structure, with some arrests. But, by and large, they're just standing back. This is precisely what most commanders expected them to do.

This plan has been so well-announced in advance, the insurgents and the militias knew it was coming and took precautions. I mean, yes, it's working in keeping certain levels of certain types of violence down. But is it working in fundamentally changing the nature of the dynamic of the problem here? No.

And no American commander is suggesting it is -- Anderson.

COOPER: Petraeus also was talking about that -- that military force is not going to be enough, the implication being political talks with militants would be necessary.

What is the incentive for insurgents, Michael, to talk at this point? And isn't this the same conversation that you and I have been having for the last three years? They have been talking about talking with insurgents for quite a while now, and it never seems to bear fruit.

WARE: Well, that's the thing. I mean, there's nothing that General Petraeus has told the world in his first press conference, since taking over this war in Iraq, that was new, strategically or in terms of any kind of timetable for U.S. troop levels.

There's just, you know, nothing that he's been able to add in that sense. I mean, America is tied down here, whether it likes it or not. And putting artificial deadlines, that only feeds into the insurgents. And, right now, the main winner is Iran, who are backing the central -- weak central government. There are many of the parties involved in it, and who are moving them across the board like chess pieces in a game.

COOPER: And, David, finally, you know, what we're hearing from Petraeus is all about resolve. And his timelines are lengthy ones. I mean, he's talking months, the implication being possibly years, not days and weeks. Is -- that's a tough sell for the American people at this point.

GERGEN: It is.

And the problem that General Petraeus has is, there's such a thing now as Washington time, the political timetables in Washington, and Baghdad time. And General Petraeus is on a different time scale. He probably does need more time.

But, you know, Anderson, if he can show enough progress over time -- Michael's right. They're just -- you know, these folks have gone to ground. A lot of these insurgents have gone to ground. These Shiite militias have gone to ground. But, if there can be a breathing space, you can get Maliki to do a few things, it's conceivable the politics in America might lighten up a little bit, and people might give General Petraeus a little time.

They have got a very narrow window now to get through. It's unlikely they will get through it. But, for the first time, there may be a window.

COOPER: David Gergen, Michael Ware, appreciate it. Thanks, guys.

GERGEN: Thank you.

COOPER: Interesting discussion.

Straight ahead tonight: the man who says the record in Iraq is one of -- quote -- "enormous successes," Vice President Cheney. The question now: Has he lost much of his clout inside the administration? We will look at that inside the White House.

Also: more injured vets saying the military is letting them down.


COOPER (voice-over): Adding insult to injury.

SERGEANT JANE SULLIVAN, INJURED SOLDIER: I'm asking, why does the Army do this to soldiers?

COOPER: Not just roaches and rats, not just Walter Reed -- new locations, new allegations about a system that's supposed to care for the troops. We're "Keeping Them Honest."

Also, you have never seen anything like it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have been eating cake.

ZAHN: She's also been unconscious, practically in a coma, for years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is all mystical. And I can't explain it.

COOPER: What they can't explain is why she suddenly woke up -- coming up on 360.



COOPER: Well, the Army's vice chief of staff and newly appointed commander of Walter Reed toured part of the facility today called Abrams Hall. There are the pictures. Patients were transferred there from Building 18, where substandard conditions, including mice and mold, were brought to light less than a month ago.

Walter Reed is just the tip of the iceberg. And it's not just about mold and mice, as we have been talking about for the last couple weeks. It's bureaucratic problems, of course. The Army plans to inspect 11 military hospitals, including Fort Lewis in Washington State, where wounded vets also are telling stories of shoddy care and these bureaucratic obstacles.

CNN's Dan Simon tonight "Keeping Them Honest."


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sergeant Jane Sullivan has lived in this sterile, bare-walled room for more than a year. But the hardest part of living here, she says, has been that her medical treatment has been just as cold and impersonal.

SERGEANT JANE SULLIVAN, INJURED SOLDIER: They make you feel small. They don't look at you as a soldier. They look at you as a broke individual.

SIMON: Sergeant Sullivan wasn't broke when she went to Iraq. She was 56 years old when her National Guard unit got called to active duty. She worked in vehicle maintenance, which means constantly lifting tools and truck parts. She says that, it hurt her back so much, that she can no longer walk -- also hurting, her spirit.

SULLIVAN: Emotionally, I'm asking, why does the Army do this to soldiers? And that's what I'm asking. Why? Why are they not fixing us?

That's what we live on.

SIMON: Sergeant Sullivan thinks she needs surgery for her back, but she says that doctors have conflicting opinions, so they won't give it to her. Also, she says, they haven't figured out what to do about her migraines. So, they just give her a steady diet of painkillers for her head and her back.

That wouldn't be so bad, but Sergeant Sullivan feels that she cannot leave here. The red tape involved determining her condition and the right treatment, she says, has gone on and on, long past the four months that the military says it should take.

And Sullivan isn't alone. For troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Senate testimony last year, determining diagnosis, treatments, and benefits, which the military calls medical hold, is taking double to triple that long.

SULLIVAN: My reaction to it? I looked them straight in the eye and said, that's like a slap in the face. Is this the way the Army does soldiers?

SIMON: She says, that's far too little, since she can't even walk. So, she's appealing.

SULLIVAN: ... because of this. You're not worth anything to the United States Army. Am I a worthless soldier? Or was -- before, when I was standing on the front line, in Iraq, was I not a soldier there? Have not I served America well? Tell me the answer.

SIMON: Several soldiers being treated here told us they felt the same disrespect. Most told us they wouldn't speak on camera, because they feared retribution from the Army.

(on camera): Face with a P.R. problem, commanders here at the base took a proactive step. They invited the media inside to take a look at how it conducts business. While officials admitted there are some problems, they said their goal is clear: to provide the best treatment possible for every wounded soldier.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We realize that each case is different. Each case must be given the time, attention and care it needs, so that soldier can -- can -- can recover and move on.

SIMON (voice-over): But, on a tour, our cameras found a couple cracking asbestos-wrapped pipes. The military says they pose no danger.

What you can't see is the care and treatment of wounded soldiers. But Colonel George Giacoppe says he welcomes an upcoming inspection by Army brass. COL. GEORGE GIACOPPE, U.S. ARMY: If people want to come and see what we do, I think we have a quality, efficient process that we have built up over the last three or four years. And it will -- it will stand up under scrutiny.

SIMON: Despite what she's been through, Sergeant Sullivan says she has no qualms about serving her country.

SULLIVAN: When I'm in a uniform, was proud to wear the uniform. I still am proud to wear it.

SIMON: She just wants to feel like the Army is proud of her as well.

Dan Simon, CNN, Seattle.


COOPER: What we're hearing over and over is, it's not an individual problem of doctors and nurses not doing their jobs. People are working hard, trying to do good, working long hours in difficult conditions. It's a system which seems to be overburdened, which just wasn't prepared for what they're getting.

We will continue to follow the story.

Next on 360: the Cheney factor, from the president's trusted adviser to what some are saying he's now the enemy within. That's coming up.

Also tonight: awakening. A woman practically in a coma for years suddenly speaks. But what happens to her next only adds to this medical mystery.


COOPER: There's no doubt about it. This has been a rough week for Vice President Cheney.

His former chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was convicted of lying to a grand jury, a verdict that cast a cloud over the vice president, according to the prosecutor.

Personally, the 66-year-old Cheney was diagnosed with a blood clot in his left leg. And, politically, his troubles may be growing. There's talk that Cheney's time has passed, and that he's doing more harm to the president than good. That's what some in Washington are saying.

CNN's Tom Foreman takes a look.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the moment he took the vice presidency, Dick Cheney brought experience to George Bush that few others could match: a businessman, a veteran of the Nixon and Ford administrations, the architect of the first Gulf War.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: President Bush had never been in Washington. He had never been in Congress. Cheney had been a whip in Congress. He had been a very important figure in the party. He knew the ways of Washington.

FOREMAN: But all that political weight may now be dragging him down. Only two in five voters likes how Mr. Cheney does his job. And his job, by most accounts, touches everything that matters in the White House: domestic and foreign policy, economic matters, the war, and, of course, now the conviction of the vice president's confidant, Scooter Libby.

STEPHEN HESS, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: This vice president has had his finger in everything. He truly is, and has been, the president's chief adviser. That's power.

FOREMAN: Mr. Cheney's personal life has seen ups and downs, too. He has bristled at questions about his accidental shooting of a friend, about his revolving-door hospital visits, and about his daughter, who is a lesbian.


RICHARD B. CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think, frankly, you're out of line with that question.


J.C. WATTS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Under normal circumstances, politics is hard to navigate. Under these circumstances, going to make it extremely challenging.

FOREMAN (on camera): The vice president has pretty much ignored public opinion throughout his time in the White House. And he can afford to. Unlike almost every other vice president, Dick Cheney says, emphatically, he does not want the presidency.

(voice-over): But other Republicans do want it. They're worried that he's becoming a liability to their party. And, even though the president shows no signs of pushing Mr. Cheney out, for the former Wyoming congressman, it is proving to be a long, cold winter on the vice presidential plains.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: There's a fascinating cover story of Cheney in the current issue of "TIME" magazine. It's written by the "TIME" assistant managing editor Michael Duffy.

The article says the vice president is now a major liability to his party and to the president.

I spoke to Michael earlier. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Michael, in your report for "TIME," you say that Cheney's hand has been weakened significantly and his time has passed.

How so? I mean, what are some of the examples of his declining influence?

MICHAEL DUFFY, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, "TIME": Well, you can start on foreign policy.

In the last six or seven weeks, the Bush administration has executed an unmistakable course correction on a bunch of fronts overseas. Obviously, there was the deal with North Korea, which this administration more or less castigated the Clinton administration for doing something very similar about a decade ago.

They have begun to talk to Iran, just a few months after they said they would -- it was never going to happen. U.S. intelligence officials, when they go up to Capitol Hill, are talking in much more ambiguous and uncertain terms about threats overseas. They have learned the lesson that it's not good to talk with such certainty.

I think that's a change from the height of the Cheney era. And I think, from our own reporting, we know that, internally, the -- the vice president is still very much part of these conversations, part of the debates. He's just not winning them as much as he used to.

COOPER: So, he's actually losing arguments to Condoleezza Rice, to Bolten?

DUFFY: I think, also, Anderson, and to the polls, and to the allies, and in the face of a fairly stark reality that what they were doing isn't working very well, when you have...


DUFFY: Go ahead.

COOPER: You write that: "Cheney has become the administration's enemy within, the man whose single-minded pursuit of ideological goals, creaking political instincts, and love of secrecy produced an independent operation inside the White House that has done more harm than good."

Is he such a liability? I mean, there's always been talk about, will Dick Cheney step down or be pressured to? I imagine that talk is still going on. But is it just that, talk?

DUFFY: Yes, I don't think this is ever going to happen. The president picked Vice President Cheney because he wasn't going to run for office some day, that he would keep his counsel secret, that he wouldn't put up -- wouldn't have long policy debates, the way some presidents and vice presidents did.

George Bush doesn't want to have that again. He doesn't want to pick someone now. I think the instinct inside the White House is very to just gut this out, make the best of the situation, not just with the vice president, but across the board.

And I don't think this is a president who is -- who -- and he's very loyal. I don't think he gives up on people.

COOPER: The Libby trial, you write that it was really only marginally about Libby. What did it teach us about the inner workings of the vice president's office?

DUFFY: Well, one of the things that Patrick Fitzgerald was trying to show -- this wasn't on trial, but it was very much a part of what he was prosecuting -- was that the vice president was more or less driving the campaign to discredit Joe Wilson, the man who stood up and said the prewar justifications weren't all kosher.

And he -- the vice president was, you know, sort of dictating talking points to Libby. He was pushing for declassification of certain facts in the national intelligence estimate, and was very much concerned about whether Libby was being made into a fall guy.

So, one of the things that the prosecutor said upon summation was, there's a cloud over what the vice president did. And what he meant by that is, it was hard for the prosecutor to tell just what the vice president's motivations were, when Mr. Libby was telling the stories he was telling.

COOPER: A fascinating look inside the White House.

Michael, thanks -- Michael Duffy.

DUFFY: You bet, Anderson.


COOPER: Ahead on the program: a face you probably know, one of our colleagues here, anchor Thomas Roberts, and the abuse he suffered for years as a teen at the hands of his priest.

Also, two medical stories that have doctors stunned.


COOPER (voice-over): You have never seen anything like it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have been eating cake.

COOPER: She's also been unconscious, practically in a coma, for years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is all mystical. And I can't explain it.

COOPER: What they can't explain is why she suddenly woke up.

Also, from legally blind to 20/20 vision. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're scientists. And it makes us a little bit uncomfortable when there's something that we can't explain.

COOPER: He can't explain it, but others can. They can tell you the name of the saint -- yes, saint -- responsible -- ahead on 360.



COOPER: Got some video from the front lines in Iraq, shot by CNN's Michael Ware. He's been covering the war now for years. Michael was even kidnapped briefly by terrorists linked to al Qaeda. Later, we'll talk with Michael about why in Iraq today it is so hard to trust anyone.


MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a part of the nature of this, like every war. The fog of war. What's true and what's not? There's so much that we're told by all sides. I mean, this is one of the universal features of this war as in all others, is that everybody lies.


COOPER: We'll have much more from Michael ahead. An unflinching look at the reality of Iraq, what he says are actually multiple wars being waged all at the same time. We've shown this piece before. At 11 p.m. we're reairing this hour. A lot of people say it is the best explanation they have ever heard about what is happening on the ground in Iraq, and I hope you watch that.

Also ahead, coming up right now. Christa Lilly, a woman who lives in Colorado. She isn't aware that the U.S. invaded Iraq four years ago. She hasn't seen the war unfold at all.

For six years now, she's been for the most part, unaware of her surroundings and unable to communicate. But then four days ago, something extraordinary happened.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a (expletive deleted) miracle.

COOPER: In the movie "Awakenings" patients who have been comatose for decades suddenly wake up.

WILLIAMS: Where are my glasses?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're on your face.

COOPER: The movie was based on a true story. And just days ago, in Colorado Springs, another miracle seemed to unfold.


COOPER: Three simple words that were anything but simple. Six years ago, Christa Lilly suffered a heart attack and stroke. Since then, she's been mostly silent, in a minimally conscious state.

DR. RANDALL BJORK, CHRISTA LILLY'S NEUROLOGIST: She was unresponsive. Her eyes were open. But she followed no commands.

COOPER: Then, last Sunday, the 49-year-old woman woke up and started talking.

MINNIE SMITH, CHRISTA LILLY'S MOTHER: Every morning, when I get up, before I go into the bathroom, and I go in and check on her. And we said, "Hi, baby. How are you doing?"

And she says, "Fine." And then I knew, you know, that she was awake.

COOPER: For three days, Christa Lilly was not only awake and talking but even feeding her sweet tooth.

LILLY: I've been eating cake.

COOPER: She fell into a coma back in November 2000. Bill Clinton was still in office. Her youngest daughter is now 12.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's kind of exciting.

COOPER: And Lilly is now a grandmother.

Her family says this isn't the first time Lilly's awakened. But this time, her doctor saw it for himself.

BJORK: I leaned up against the wall. And I had to just brace myself. She did not remember ever seeing me before. So, this was like a first meeting.

Can you read what that is?

COOPER: In the days after she awoke, Lilly was able to name objects, identify colors and answer questions. Her sense of timing, however, was a bit off. She thought it was 1986.

BJORK: This is mystical, and I can't explain it.

COOPER: Her doctor couldn't explain it. But what was clearly beyond a doubt, was the person she'd always been was back.

BJORK: Her spirit -- she was smiling. Here's a woman sitting in a wheelchair, total nursing care patient, with a feeding tube, who is smiling.

LILLY: It's wonderful. It makes me so happy.

COOPER: Sadly, Lilly's visit back to full consciousness was brief.

BJORK: I told her this week, I told her, please, stay awake and don't slip back. And she -- Christa said, bless her heart, that she would try to stay awake. But that night, she did slip back.


COOPER: She slipped back. Christa's doctors believe -- or they told us he doesn't believe she'll ever have a full recovery. But he does expect that she'll continue in this way, waking up and slipping away again.

360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta is a neurologist. I talked to him earlier about this fascinating story.


COOPER: Sanjay, I find this story fascinating. I didn't even know it was possible for someone to sort of wake up and then slip back into a coma and to have this happen repeatedly. Her neurologist said it's a mystery. How do you explain what happened?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, it is a pretty rare thing. There's no question about it. I wouldn't call it a miracle. But there seems to be something happening in the brain.

Anderson, I'm going to show you a brain model here for a second, just give you a sense. There's several different areas of the brain that could possibly be affected in a stroke.

This area of the brain, for example, is highly responsible for speech and your ability to understand speech, communicate the written word. If this area was affected where the cells live -- they didn't die. But they were just in a sort of nonfunctional state. They might be able to come in and out of it. That seems to be what's happening.

Over here, sort of control of some of the strength on the other side of the body. It could be that, in part, these cells never died. But they're just sort of in and out of function. And for some reason, because of some dose of neurotransmitters or some perfect combination of medications, it just stimulated the brain enough where she sort of had this sort of awakening, Anderson.

COOPER: She was described as being in a minimally conscious state. What does that mean, exactly?

GUPTA: Minimally conscious means that while you probably aren't -- you can't interact with the surroundings, the situation around you, you are aware of yourself. And you are aware of your surrounding.

It's hard to figure that out sometimes, which is why it's sort of a clinical diagnosis. You can't detect that by MRI or a blood test or anything. It's sort of more of a clinical thing. The person seems to be aware. But not able to interact.

COOPER: Why, though, would she slip back into her previous state?

GUPTA: Well, you know, if it -- for example, if it was this dose of neurotransmitters in the brain. Or if it was some combination of medications, if the combination fell off or she didn't have the right amount or concentration of neurotransmitters in the brain, she might slip off.

Or it could be that something is just triggering these cells, these cells that control speech, to sort of start firing again. And we don't know what that is. I mean, the neurologist, her neurologist said, you know, he was quite shocked by it, quite frankly, because it is so rare.

But there is something here, Anderson. There's something that people are starting to tap into.

COOPER: So she's in a minimally conscious state. How does that compare to Terri Schiavo's persistent vegetative state?

GUPTA: You know, it's very different. With a persistent vegetative state, you may look like you're awake. You may look like you're actually able to make eye contact, even react to stimuli, but you have no awareness: no awareness of self, no awareness of situation or surroundings.

For the most part, if you look at the brain, the brain stem is activated in someone who's in a persistent vegetative state, but nothing higher than that.

COOPER: So it doesn't seem like doctors are sort of driving this thing. How likely is it that they're going to be able to bring her back to fully functioning and speaking?

GUPTA: I think it's going to be very hard, because we don't know exactly what's driving this. There have been a few other cases, as you know, Anderson. We talked about it.

A fireman, for example, Donald Herbert, after 9 1/2 years, just started talking again. And there was the coma cop, as well, Gary Dockery. After about eight years, he just woke up, as well. But we haven't been able to figure out exactly what happened.

Now with Herbert, Mr. Herbert, his doctors believed that he just started pumping him full of various neurotransmitters. Gave him lots of dopamine, lots of norepinephrine, lots of serotonin. Didn't know it was going to work. But something worked. Something triggered it.

And therein lies the key, perhaps. Just giving people neurotransmitters saying fire, fire, fire. Let's try and make the brain work again in some way.

COOPER: Fascinating. Dr. Gupta. Thanks, Sanjay.

GUPTA: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Up next, some breaking news that the FBI broke the law. A new report saying it way overstepped the bounds of the Patriot Act when it comes to obtaining phone and financial records.

Also ahead tonight, another medical mystery. A blind man's prayers are answered. Suddenly he can see. Was it a miracle, as some are saying? We'll let you decide.


COOPER: We have breaking news out of Washington.

ABC News is reporting that the FBI virtually ignored key provisions of the Patriot Act. Those findings are apparently part of a report by the inspector general of the Justice Department. It's going to be released tomorrow.

ABC News says the report found scathing lapses by the FBI in how it failed to get court orders for phone and financial records.

FBI director Robert Mueller is expected to speak before lawmakers on Capitol Hill tomorrow. We'll have more on this story tomorrow, as well.

Before the break, we told you about a woman who woke up from a coma after six years. Now, another remarkable story about a man who is blind and can now see. Is it a miracle? The Catholic Church says yes.

We want to bring you the story and let you decide for yourself. Here's CNN's Jason Carroll.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nothing like this ever happened in Terre Haute, Indiana. Dr. Nick Rader examined the strange circumstances.

RADER: We're scientists. And as doctors, we like scientific explanation for things. And it makes us a little bit uncomfortable when there's something that we can't explain.

CARROLL: It's the mystery of what happened here in the church at St. Mary of the Woods College to this man, Phil McCord. For decades, he was legally blind. Instead of 20/20 vision, which is considered normal, McCord's was...

PHIL MCCORD, SIGHT RESTORED: Twenty-eight hundred to 21,000.

CARROLL (on camera): Excuse me, your vision was what?

MCCORD: Twenty-eight hundred in one eye and 21,000.

CARROLL: Legally blind is 2,200. Doctors diagnosed McCord with severe myopia and advanced cataracts. With the help of my photographer and producer...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So tell me. You said this is what it looked like in the beginning, right? CARROLL: McCord showed us what I would look like through his ailing eyes.

MCCORD: Toward the end, it was probably even a little darker than that.

CARROLL (on camera): So could you dim the lights just a bit?

MCCORD: Even actually a little blurrier than that, if you can believe it.

CARROLL: Even a little blurrier than what you're seeing here?

MCCORD: Yes, yes.

CARROLL (voice-over) (voice-over): His world was a dull, dark place of blurry yellow shapes and shadows.

MCCORD: You actually -- you get depressed. It's like being without light.

CARROLL: Surgery corrected his left eye but not the right. Doctors said he needed a cornea transplant. The procedure brought great risks that could have left him permanently blind in that eye.

MCCORD: I'd like to say I was a little anxious. My wife likes to say I was scared to death.

CARROLL: And yet McCord felt he had no choice. Until one day he says organ music drew him inside the church. Of course, he had been there often. He had worked at St. Mary-of-the-Woods College for more than eight years.

But this time was different. This time he felt compelled to pray to a special person, Mother Theodore Guerin, a highly revered nun from France who came to the United States to help the sick and poor. She founded the college in 1841.

MCCORD: I thought of Mother Theodore and said, "If you have any influence with God, if you could exercise it on my behalf, I would be very appreciative."

CARROLL: The next morning McCord woke up and felt better.

MCCORD: I noticed my eye looked a little different. The droop was gone.

CARROLL: His doctor got an even bigger surprise.

MCCORD: He looked and, "Oh."

And I said, "What?"

He said, "I think your eye -- your eye is better."

CARROLL: Doctors told McCord surgery wasn't needed, just a laser treatment to remove old tissue. The cornea underneath had healed itself. His eye now had 20/20 vision.

MCCORD: Everything I looked at was different. You know, looking at a stop sign, it was really red. Food looked different, which made it taste different.

CARROLL: This was not new for Mother Theodore. The Vatican had already attributed a miracle to her in the early 1900s. A nun was seemingly cured overnight of a malignant tumor.

For sainthood, the Vatican needs proof of a virtuous life, which they already have in Mother Theodore, and evidence of two miracles.

SISTER MARIE KEVIN TIGHE, SISTERS OF PROVIDENCE: The two miracles are simply -- this is my take on it -- God's seal of approval, because only God can intervene in the laws of nature.

CARROLL: The church formally investigated Phil McCord's case. Was it a second miracle? Theologians testified. So did doctors like Dr. Rader, leading ophthalmologist in Indiana, who told the Vatican he was baffled. There was no scientific explanation.

RADER: But I think that's part of the process. You have to look at the facts. I think that it's clear to us something that was going on there.

CARROLL: The Vatican would proclaim it a miracle. Pope Benedict XVI canonized Mother Theodore a saint.

McCord was there to see it. Though at times he still wonders if he's really living proof of a miracle.

MCCORD: There's a part of me that still thinks maybe there's something we don't understand. Maybe in a hundred years or 50 years somebody will say, "Oh, well, yes, now I understand how that happens.'

CARROLL: It's clear McCord sees his world in a different way. That includes his faith. He's a Baptist, but because of St. Mother Theodore Guerin, he's now converting to Catholicism.

Jason Carroll, CNN, Terre Haute, Indiana.



Still to come, a reality check on Iraq. More from Michael Ware, who says there are actually four wars being fought there, four hidden wars.

Plus, "The Shot of the Day". Take a look. Yikes. What is that? Not what you expect to see roaming through the town, perhaps. A play by play coming up. No bull. Be right back.


COOPER: Want to let you know about a report we've been working on now for quite a while. It's called "Sins of the Father", and it airs on Monday. It's the story of one of our colleagues, Headline News anchor Thomas Roberts.

He was abused as a young teen by a priest. It is an ordeal which has haunted him for years as he's continued to search for justice.


COOPER: When you heard that word, guilty, what did you think?

THOMAS ROBERTS, HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: For me, having Father Jeff say guilty was the biggest vindication. For him to admit the truth and stand up and take responsibility for his own criminal actions, that was a big deal.

COOPER (voice-over): Incredibly, later that same day, Father Jeff asked Thomas and his family to meet with him.

ROBERTS: I opened up and let him know exactly what he had done to a child. And how dare he take advantage of this kid that was put in his care for help? And why in the world would he take such great advantage of me? And sacrifice this kid, literally sacrifice this kid. And burden -- burden him. You know? With so much, at such a young age.

And he just sat there and listened. Couldn't muster up a tear. But he said he was, you know, just so sorry and just so upset by all this. And -- but I didn't see that day, a lot of remorse.

MICHELLE ROBERTS, THOMAS ROBERTS' MOTHER: I said that, "I had trusted you with my child. And you betrayed that trust. And you abused a child that had already been abused. And for that, I'll never forgive you. And you're going to burn in hell." That burning in hell's going to be the big one, when he faces God.


COOPER: One family's heartache, a young man's courage. More of Thomas Roberts' story, Monday night, in a 360 special: "Sins of the Father" at 10 p.m. Eastern.

Still to come tonight, "The Shot of the Day". Not what you expect to see roaming through the streets of your town, perhaps. A wild day in a Texas town, a steer on the loose.

But first, Kiran Chetry joins us with the "360 News and Business Bulletin".

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Where do you get all these animals? There's always some animal on the loose somewhere.

COOPER: That's right.

CHETRY: Well, let's you up to date, first of all, about President Bush. He arrived in Brazil this evening, kicking off his weeklong visit to Latin America. Not everyone happy about it, though. Earlier today, protesters filled the streets in Sao Paulo, as well as in Bogota, Columbia, where he'll visit on Sunday. Their riot police fired water cannons and tear gas to break up a demonstration.

Also, it was an up date on Wall Street. The Dow gaining 68 points. NASDAQ adding 13. The S&P up by 9.

But also rising, gas prices. In parts of California and Hawaii, drivers are paying more than $3 a gallon right now. The national average is about $2.50. That's up about 30 cents from a month ago. Even worse though, analysts say that it could hit the $3 mark in other parts of the country by the summer.

And to Georgia, next, where the resumes of the alleged Barbie bandits make for some steamy reading. The duo accused of robbing an Atlanta area bank, also apparently worked at a strip club. They're still behind bars. And two men who police say helped pull off the bank heist also face charges.

I don't know if that's a joke or not. Would you put strip club on your resume?

COOPER: Yes, sure. I think so. Why not?

CHETRY: It's experience. I guess.

COOPER: Exactly.

Check out "The Shot of the Day". A big steer roaming through the streets of Hurst, Texas, after escaping from its pen, the cops, animal control in hot pursuit. The big animal hoofed it more than five miles. Wit went through backyards, passed traffic, even going through the drive through of a McDonald's. A little irony there.

Not even a tranquilizer dart could stop it, but a lasso did the trick. Next stop for the cop who did the roping is perhaps the rodeo, or should be.

Want you to help us. Give "The Shot" a shot. If you see some amazing video, tell us about it: We'll put some of your best clips on the air.

In a moment, it is tougher than roping a bull. It's more like herding cats. Getting Democrats to agree on Iraq.

Also, why the war in Iraq is really four wars in one, each with its own complications. A 360 special, "The Hidden Wars", is next.


COOPER: Tonight, the many wars, not just one, being fought in Iraq.

But first, the war in Washington. Showdown against the White House. House Democrats today unveiling a plan to set benchmarks and pull American forces out by as early as spring 2008, if Baghdad doesn't meet them. And August 2008, even if it does. The White House is promising a veto. Some liberal Democrats are denouncing the bill. And Senate Democrats have some ideas of their own. Details now from CNN's John Roberts.


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Democrats in the Senate were anxious to finally take on Republicans over the Iraq war.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: The rubber stamp days are over. The days of no debate are over.

ROBERTS: Over in the House, though, the hope was to end debate between squabbling Democratic factions. Nancy Pelosi claimed consensus over her plan to bring troops home by the end of 2008.

But the liberal wing of her party immediately stepped out to say no, do it this year.

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D), ILLINOIS: No more chances, no more wavers, no phony certifications, no more spending billions of dollars to send our children into the meat grinder that is Iraq.

ROBERTS: It's the sort of thing that has driven Democratic leaders crazy for years. Unlike Republicans, who until they imploded last election, were amazingly disciplined, Democrats are all over the map.

As humorist Will Rogers once said, "I belong to no organized party. I'm a Democrat."

Republican Ed Rogers elaborates.


CNN TV E-mail Services CNN Mobile CNNAvantGo Ad Info About Us Preferences
© 2007 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines