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Anxious Waiting for Hostages in Iraq; Trail of Terror

Aired April 19, 2004 - 07:30   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Army Private Matt Maupin is one of at least seven non-Iraqis currently held by insurgents. A report from the soldier's hometown, Matavio High (ph), east of Cincinnati about 15 miles, in a moment here.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Also this morning, Osama bin Laden's big disappearing act. We're going to talk with a reporter who was at Tora Bora in Afghanistan. He has now written a book called "Al Qaeda's Great Escape." And he says scores of al Qaeda fighters were able to walk right out of Afghanistan. He's going to tell us how they did it.

HEMMER: Also with a spring offensive plan, quite possibly, whether or not this time they can be successful. We'll get to that.

Top stories again here at the half-hour.

In Iraq, U.S. administrator Paul Bremer says coalition forces will still be in Iraq past the June 30 handover. Ambassador Bremer says Iraqis will not be able to handle their own security after the power handover. The U.S. says it's disappointed with Spain's planned pullout from Iraq. On Sunday, the new prime minister announcing that the country's forces would return home as soon as possible. Jose Zapataros says that that decision was made after it became clear the U.N. would not take charge of Iraq after the June 30 handover.

The Islamic militant group, Hamas, is vowing revenge now for the death of Adel Rantisi (ph). Hundreds of Palestinians thousands taking to the streets yesterday, mourning Israel's killing of the Hamas leader. Many Palestinians also blame the U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that the U.S. had no prior knowledge of that attack this weekend.

In this country in North Dakota, hundreds are mourning the loss of a young college student. Candles marked the end of the search for Dru Sjodin. Her body was found Saturday in Minnesota. The 22-year- old student had been missing after disappearing from a shopping mall last November. Police are holding a suspect in connection with that case.

Also from Connecticut, Huskie mania reaching new highs, 300,000 on hand to celebrate the first dual championship in NCAA Division I history. They lined the streets to cheer on UConn's men's and women's basketball teams. The men beat Georgia Tech in San Antonio. The women beat Tennessee in New Orleans. It's the largest parade they've seen in Connecticut since World War II. And what a good reason for it, too. Congratulations. O'BRIEN: Absolutely. That looks like a lot of fun. A little good weather thrown in.


O'BRIEN: The White House now is downplaying the possibility that the Reverend Jesse Jackson will try to help secure the release of American prisoners in Iraq. Jackson says he is reaching out to the family of contractor Thomas Hamill and also that of Private Matt Maupin. And he says he's willing to travel to Iraq to negotiate, but only if he knows whom to talk to and where to go.

Meanwhile, in Ohio, the family of Matt Maupin waits for news about their loved one. Chris Lawrence is now in Union Township, Ohio, for a look at that this morning.

Chris -- good morning.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Soledad.

This morning, the family is still together at their home right down the street. They've been dealing with all of this privately, but we're told they do appreciate all of the public support they've been getting.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): For Matt Maupin's friends and family, Monday marks another week, a new day in the same old feeling. Many have tried to help his mother cope with what's happened, but are helpless to change it.

BETTIE MAXWELL, ATTENDS MAUPIN'S CHURCH: We just can't say, OK, we're going to pray for you. It's going to be all right.

LAWRENCE: But they try. At church services Sunday, hundreds of people said prayers for Carolyn Maupin.

MAXWELL: She goes to bed hurting. She gets up hurting.

LAWRENCE: But she doesn't do it alone. The Army has assigned a team of people at the family home, including counselors specially trained to deal with hostage situations.

REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW-PUSH COALITION: We're reaching out to Mr. Maupin's family.

LAWRENCE: The Reverend Jesse Jackson is offering to help, based on what he heard in this videotape released Friday. In it, Maupin's captors offered to trade him for prisoners being held by the coalition in Iraq. U.S. officials say they don't negotiate with hostage-takers, but that's not stopping this private citizen from getting involved.

JACKSON: And I think that in a situation like this, they need to get back to the table in Fallujah. The issue of negotiation and prisoner swap must not be out of the picture. LAWRENCE: But until Maupin is released, even the oldest songs have a different meaning here...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): And the home of the brave

LAWRENCE: ... when one of their bravest isn't free to come home.


Former POW Jessica Lynch has a good idea what he's going through, and she called Maupin's mother last night. They talked about 10 minutes, with Lynch really encouraging her to stay hopeful. Jessica Lynch's mother also called Carolyn Maupin, telling her what to expect when -- not if -- her son, Matt, comes home -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Chris, I'm curious to know the Maupin family reaction to Reverend Jackson's offer to go to Iraq and do some negotiations on their behalf.

LAWRENCE: So far, they're keeping all of their options open. They are open to any kind of help that they can get. They obviously want him to come home. And some of the Army personnel who are stationed with the family inside their home told us just on that Jessica Lynch phone call that they see her as a kindred spirit, and after waiting very nervously for the phone to ring, it was nice to get a phone call like that.

O'BRIEN: Yes, one could imagine that's very thoughtful, I think, of both that young woman and her mom to do that. All right, Chris Lawrence is in Union Township for us this morning. Chris, thank you for that update. And, of course, we're going to continue to check in with you and maybe hopefully get some good news from you as well -- Bill.

HEMMER: About 24 before the hour.

A new book gives a disturbing account of the American campaign against terror in Afghanistan. How did Osama bin Laden and scores of followers slip away from the U.S. military? The book is called "Al Qaeda's Great Escape," and the author is Philip Smucker, a veteran foreign correspondent with us now here in New York to talk about it.

Good morning to you. Nice to have you here with us.


HEMMER: You talk about -- you retrace the path of Osama bin Laden of how he escaped. How did you know which route he took?

SMUCKER: Well, this is -- let's go back just a step. This is the one time right after 9/11 when we had actionable intelligence that we had him in the crosshairs. There was intelligence coming out of Jalalabad, particularly after a meeting bin Laden had had with his associates and the local tribal leaders, where he had handed out packets of money. And then there was a discussion between the al Qaeda fighters whether they wanted to fight an urban battle, like Mogadishu, in Jalalabad, or go to the mountain Redout (ph) of Tora Bora. They chose to go to Tora Bora.

Now, the intelligence on that was around November 23 when we got it. The warlords that we were working with had it on November 20. The actual battle of Tora Bora didn't ensue until December 4. But bin Laden had gone to ground there, and it was noted by the administration. Dick Cheney popped out of his own underground bunker to tell us that bin Laden had gone to ground at Tora Bora.

HEMMER: Well, what we know is that the Afghan fighters went up into that region and not the U.S. military. Why was the decision made not to send the U.S. military, like they did in Operation Anaconda about late January or February of the following year?

SMUCKER: That's a very interesting question, Bill. I think it needs to be revisited, because if you recall the Clinton plan to hunt bin Laden was something that came out of George Tenet's time with the Clinton administration around 1996. They thought of a plan to use Afghans to go after bin Laden. And, in fact, they didn't have a plan to invade Afghanistan right when 9/11 happened. They took the old plan off the shelf. Ironically, used the Afghans to do the job that the American public wanted the American military to do.

HEMMER: Let's stick to the situation here in Tora Bora. Let's stick to the whole idea of Osama bin Laden and how he got out or did not get out. Did he escape without the help of warlords in that region?

SMUCKER: No way. Absolutely not. These warlords were on his pay. He, in fact, had reinforced his caves and bunkers with their help. He had financed the rebuilding of Tora Bora and had actually crossed their palms with silver at the meeting in Jalalabad prior to his exodus into Tora Bora.

HEMMER: So then that's two and a half years ago. Now in 2004, if there is a spring offensive launched, how will the U.S. military now be equipped to get him if, indeed, he is still there?

SMUCKER: Well, I'm afraid to say, in some respects it's a little bit too late, because at this point bin Laden can have one foot in Pakistan and the other foot in Afghanistan. And the problem is you don't have the right to cross -- conventional U.S. forces cannot cross. That's why Tora Bora historically will be seen as the lost opportunity when we could have cut off the mountain passes and surrounded and taken our quarry.

HEMMER: That is, if you don't get Osama bin Laden to date. Here we are in April of 2004, correct?

SMUCKER: Well, my book is a little bit historical, and I'm looking at when we didn't get him. And, importantly, the planning for the next war began right at this juncture. When bin Laden slipped away into Pakistan, Woodward's book makes very clear a plan of attack that the planning for the next war began immediately. The American public didn't know, but I think there's a connection here. HEMMER: Philip Smucker wrote the book, "Great Escape." Thanks for sharing with us.

SMUCKER: You're welcome. It's a pleasure.

HEMMER: All right, here's Soledad yet again -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Well, they called them the last Confederate general -- funerals, rather. Thousands in Civil War garb on Saturday helped to bury the remains from the crew of the confederate submarine, the Hunley. The Hunley sank near Charleston, South Carolina, back in February of 1864 after becoming the first submarine in history to sink an enemy warship. The Hunley wreck was found nine years ago. It was raised in 2000. Dozens of relatives of the crew members were in Charleston for those funerals.

HEMMER: About 20 minutes now before the hour. In a moment here on AMERICAN MORNING, journalist Bob Woodward's controversial book about President Bush's war plan for Iraq. How will that play with the public? Back in a moment on that -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: And it is tough being fired. We're going to take a look at life for Donald Trump's dropouts after "The Apprentice.? You know what? They're not doing so bad. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us.


O'BRIEN: Ready or not, it is time for "90-Second Pop." Today, "The Restaurant's" second helping. Life after "The Apprentice" and Bill kills at the box office.

Here to discuss it is Andy Borowitz, who just (UNINTELLIGIBLE) piece that aired yesterday in "The New York Times."



O'BRIEN: That does deserve a little applause. It was very funny.

Also, "New York" magazine contributing editor Sarah Bernard joins us. And Toure, contributing editor for "Rolling Stone" magazine, who is supposed to be on a panel tonight, but he's bailing out.


O'BRIEN: I'm outing you. Yes, I know. Sorry.


TOURE: Well, on a more positive note, Salmon Rushid (ph) got married over the weekend, so congratulations to him.

O'BRIEN: And Salmon Rushid (ph) got married. Congratulations to him.


O'BRIEN: Let's start with the restaurant.

BERNARD: "The restaurant," I know, it debuts tonight. Second season.

O'BRIEN: And behind the scenes is so much even more interesting than in front of the camera.

BERNARD: It is. It totally is. There's a feud going on between Rocco DiSpirito, the star of the show, and Jeffrey Chadrow (ph), who is his backer. Now, what's interesting about this is last year when Rocco started doing this, he said this is either going to make his career or be the biggest mistake of his life. And...


BERNARD: Well, it's actually kind of both. I mean, you can say now that he is arguably the most famous chef in America. His pots and pans on QVC have sold $3 million, but at the same time he has lost respect in the culinary world. His other crown jewel restaurant has been demoted to two stars from three.

O'BRIEN: After apparently he let "The New York Times'" magazine reviewer wait an hour and 40 minutes for her meal.

BERNARD: Wait an hour and a half or their meal. Not a good idea. But also, what can solve this? A very good second season with a lot of drama. So, I do believe that they are suing each other. They obviously have problems.

O'BRIEN: I love a woman who looks for a solution in a television show.

BERNARD: But they're really amping it up, and they're playing out their feud on TV. So, if it's a successful season and it brings people in to the restaurant, maybe they'll make up in the end.

TOURE: Well, you know, it's getting dissed every week on this show and getting sued and you suck and you're losing money and the service is slow.

O'BRIEN: And then "The Restaurant" is not really doing that.


BOROWITZ: This is why I go to Applebee's, because, you know, check out a restaurant like this, and everybody is suing each other. You're lucky if you ever get your bread.

O'BRIEN: Olive Garden all the way.

BOROWITZ: Unlimited breadsticks.


O'BRIEN: The blooming onion at Outback.

BERNARD: Well, this is interesting, because this is actually our cover story in "New York" magazine this week, and what Rocco said is even he doesn't know what's real anymore. He said he was surprised that they were suing each other. But, you know, he's going to...

O'BRIEN: The word was that the players would only show up when they were taping.

BERNARD: When the cameras were on, right? Like their anger got much more intense when the cameras were on them. So, it's interesting. It's the whole reality show thing. You don't what's real anymore.

O'BRIEN: It's a little weird, a little crazy. It's right around the corner from where I live, actually. And I have to say, it's often not full.

BERNARD: Have you been in there?

TOURE: Have you been in there?

O'BRIEN: Well, first it was too full. So, we didn't go, because you know I don't like to wait in line. And no. But I would go now just to try it.


TOURE: Like I wouldn't go to The Restaurant, like (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

O'BRIEN: I don't want to be on camera eating dinner.

BOROWITZ: The food is OK. The lawsuits are great.

BERNARD: The lawsuits are great.

O'BRIEN: All right, let's talk about "The Apprentice."

TOURE: It goes on and on and on.

O'BRIEN: Doesn't it? And the losers, apparently, are doing all right. You know...

BOROWITZ: The losers are the winners. It's like a presidential election or something. It's so strange. But, no, I mean, I guess Kwame has got a big deal with KFC. That seems to be...

O'BRIEN: Right.

BOROWITZ: So, they're all, like, all of the guys who were the rejects are doing really well. I guess Omarosa (ph) I heard is going to be named to the axis of evil.

BERNARD: I want to know why the loser guys are getting job offers and the women are getting offers to pose in their underwear.

TOURE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), hello, bad idea.

O'BRIEN: Well, you know, I was going to say, it's not like they accidentally showed up and someone had them take their clothes off and they took a picture.

TOURE: Exactly.

BERNARD: They had no idea that was happening, totally not.

TOURE: What made them think the FHM thing was a good idea?

O'BRIEN: I know. It was...

TOURE: It was a bad idea. The only reason they won when they were winning on the show was because of sex and this just furthers that; that all they have to offer in a business thing...

O'BRIEN: It doesn't scream businesswomen when you're there in your underwear.


BOROWITZ: It's also such a reversal, because usually women like posing in their undergarments and then they get involved with Trump. So, it's like (UNINTELLIGIBLE) it's such a kind of -- there's a disconnect.

BERNARD: It could work both ways. He doesn't mind if it's afterwards, you know.

O'BRIEN: Can we talk about "Kill Bill: Vol. 2?"


TOURE: How much time do we have?

O'BRIEN: You loved it.

TOURE: How much fun was this?

O'BRIEN: You be the first one.

TOURE: Daryl Hannah's greatest moment in film ever.

BOROWITZ: That's big.

BERNARD: Like better than "Splash?" Better than "Splash?"

TOURE: It better than "Wall Street." It was better than everything. Better than the fight with JFK in the street, everything.


TOURE: I mean, they... O'BRIEN: That wasn't a movie. It was real life.

TOURE: Oh, they made it a movie, though.

BERNARD: It felt like...


O'BRIEN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) saw it the other day. He said it was very good. He said...

TOURE: No, this is great. I mean, we're mixing, like, Japanese traditions, Chinese traditions, American western film traditions.

O'BRIEN: How was Uma Thurman the second time around?

TOURE: Uma is great, and Quentin's love affair with Uma is so much fun to watch. So much of the film is Uma like this, you know, filling up the screen.

BERNARD: Just her face?

BOROWITZ: Do you know what I did to enjoy this film even more? In the scene where Uma and Daryl are fighting, I pretended they were fighting over me it, and it was really enjoyable.

TOURE: But at the end of their fight...

O'BRIEN: Did that work? Did you enjoy it?

BOROWITZ: It worked for me. I'm going back.

TOURE: At the end of their fight is the greatest, but I won't ruin it, but if you haven't seen it, like just -- like, oh, like, the greatest end to a fight ever.

O'BRIEN: Wait. Can we talk about the fact that "The Passion" was not in the top five? Toure, you should be very happy about that.


O'BRIEN: It was a very good weekend for Toure.

TOURE: "The Prince and Me" is better than "The Passion!" I'm happy.

BERNARD: I had a great weekend.

O'BRIEN: Well, I am -- then I'm happy if you're happy. And just because you're dissing me and not going to be on the panel with me, as long as you're happy...


O'BRIEN: Oh, it feels so good.

TOURE: And if you had to go interview Eminem, what would you do?

O'BRIEN: I would tell Eminem that I have a panel that I have to do, and I made commitments. But we can talk about that...

TOURE: Oh, my goodness!

O'BRIEN: As always...


O'BRIEN: Andy wants to add something.

BOROWITZ: Tell him I said, hi, by the way.


O'BRIEN: Yes. You guys, as always...

BOROWITZ: And it's been too long.

O'BRIEN: Way too long, right? Thank you. As always, I appreciate it.

Bill -- back to you.

HEMMER: What (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is the exit off 8 mile over there, Toure?

Let's get a break here. In a moment, Paul Bremer indicating the Iraqi government may change on June 30, but the role of U.S. troops will not be much difference. Back in a moment with that. Also, Jack is back with e-mails right after this.


O'BRIEN: We start with Mr. Cafferty and the question of the day.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Mrs. O'Brien.

Paul Bremer, America's top guy in Iraq, said yesterday that the Iraqi insurgents must -- quote -- "be dealt with." There's been no progress in talks with the rebels in Fallujah and Najaf. Bremer suggested U.S. troops need to end the standoff. This comes as the death toll of American troops continues to accelerate over there.

The question is this: Is it a mistake to try to negotiate with the insurgents in Iraq?

Todd in Gross Ile, Michigan, says: "If we're true to our long- standing policy, we should not negotiate with these people. They've been branded as terrorists, and as such, we have a policy against negotiating with them. We need to clean them out of the affected areas as soon as possible. The cease-fire is only allowing them to regroup."

Claudia writes: "How could you possibly suggest the Israeli model is one to follow? Each violent response a violent attack causes the next round of violence. Someone has to stop. Decades of violence in Israel has accomplished nothing. Please, surely, there is a better model."

Tim in Lebanon, New Hampshire: "We should carpet bomb the place for weeks on end. Make that city an example of what happens to those who resist. We did it in World War II. We should do it now. It is a proven effective strategy."

And Mike in Allen, Texas: "Negotiate with people who celebrate by firing guns into the air? Hello. Someone needs to wake up, smell the roses, the coffee, the gun powder or something."

HEMMER: Over the weekend on some of these talk shows some of the members of the administration say Moqtada al-Sadr has been basically neutralized, because he's in Najaf and he hasn't moved since then. And this militia has been severely crippled, shall we say, based on the fighting.

But then you have this incident out near the border with Syria. We haven't even talked about the situation near the border with Syria. You've got a handful of Marines dead. They're saying there may be as many as 300 insurgents in this small town and we haven't even discussed this yet.

O'BRIEN: Each group gives more power to the other group.

HEMMER: There you go.

O'BRIEN: Whether that's actually linked in any way shape or form...

HEMMER: So, if you take that argument...

O'BRIEN: ... when you say people or even I think ideologically, they don't necessarily have to be linked to see what's going on, and they take strength from that.

HEMMER: Which makes me wonder, as we sit here, if this is what is happening in that small town near the Syrian border, what else is waiting to go off in this country?

CAFFERTY: Well, and who says that the guys -- the forces have been neutralized? They control two big cities over there. They haven't been neutralized at all. They're running the cities. We're not. We're on the outskirts waiting to go in. We're on the outside looking in. I've been there most of my life, actually.

HEMMER: Thank you, Jack.

We're going to get a break here. In a moment, some words said to be from the CIA director about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction among the many points of a new book out today. Bob Woodward wrote it. We'll talk about it at the top of the hour in a moment here on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, the killing of the leader of Hamas brings promises of revenge against Israel from the Palestinians. The possibilities for cooling the situation just ahead. Stay with us. We're back in just a moment on AMERICAN MORNING.


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