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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Family of Soldiers; Military Mental Health

Aired June 30, 2004 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Duty, honor, country, and family.

ERIC PRUETT, IDAHO ARMY NATIONAL GUARD: We're a tough bunch and we'll be all right.

ZAHN: Five sons and their dad all in one war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My mom is an amazing woman. She's -- I don't know how she does it.

ZAHN: Tonight, the Pruetts of Pocatello.

And stress at war.

SGT. DANNY FACTO, U.S. ARMY: You're just always intense.

ZAHN: Stress at home.

JOHN HENRY PARKER, FATHER OF FACTO: Like a live grenade. They throw you out in civilian life and say you're now a civilian and thanks for your service.

ZAHN: Tonight, the Army's first study on the mental health of our men and women who fought in Iraq. The findings are astounding.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Good evening and welcome. Thanks so much for joining us tonight.

There are nearly 140,000 American men and women now serving in Iraq and for each, before deployment, there was a painful goodbye to family and friends. But, tonight, we're going to introduce you to members of one Idaho family that has endured that painful farewell six times. Their commitment to serving their country is truly extraordinary.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have learned it from you, grandpa.

ZAHN: The Pruetts of Pocatello, defining what service means.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, look over here. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We never thought that all of us would go.

ZAHN: Father and five sons, two in desert tan just back from Iraq, three in olive drab.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The veterans already.

ZAHN: Heading out and one already deployed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's nice that we have all our family here. We wish that my brother Evan (ph) wouldn't have had to ship off early.

ZAHN: Captain Leon Pruett, otherwise known as dad, and his son, Specialist Aaron (ph) Pruett, train Iraqi firefighters.

CAPTAIN LEON PRUETT, IDAHO ARMY NATIONAL GUARD: We've had close calls just with Aaron and I over there.

SPECIALIST AARON PRUETT, IDAHO ARMY NATIONAL GUARD: My dad is my commander. I'm kind of glad he was with me and kind of helped in aspects where you needed talk to somebody.

ZAHN: Younger brother Jeff is a private 1st class.

JEFF PRUETT, IDAHO ARMY NATIONAL GUARD: They're going to put us all in the same camp when we're over in Iraq. So it sounds like we'll all be together, so -- and that will help a lot.

ZAHN: Older brother Greg (ph) is a specialist.

GREG PRUETT, IDAHO ARMY NATIONAL GUARD: Soldiers are dying but that's war. And we're willing to that take risk. We love our country. We're a very patriotic family. I'm sure you saw my brother's car over there, painted it red, white and blue. And we're all willing to go over there and do what we have to do over there.

PRUETT: This is the guy in charge right here.

ZAHN: Eldest brother Eric is a 2nd lieutenant.

E. PRUETT: We passed down that we should look after each other and we'll continue to do it through until we get done with this.

ZAHN: Their mother, Tammy, holds on to hope.

TAMMY PRUETT, MOTHER OF SOLDIERS: Our odds are a lot higher than most families. And, yes, it would be horrible to lose one of my sons. They're all, I think, prepared to make that sacrifice. And it would be horrible. I'm not going to kid and say, oh, I could really get through that easily, because I couldn't.

L. PRUETT: Sure, there is a dangerous side, but somebody's got to go do it and somebody has got to help those folks. And so, if it's our sons, then it's going to be our sons.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is a smile. ZAHN: It might have been seven Pruetts serving. Daughter Emily (ph) was in dad's unit, but opted out of the family business.

EMILY PRUETT, FORMER U.S. SOLDIER: Be grateful for what they do for us and for going over there and fighting for us. So we just pray, pray that they'll be OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When it comes to the important people, get in the picture, we're here.

ZAHN: Final photos and jokes.

L. PRUETT: Still didn't really shave. Look at all that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was kind of...

(CROSSTALK)

L. PRUETT: Speedy method?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have still got more hair on the chin than Eric has got on his head.

(LAUGHTER)

E. PRUETT: That's because I got a fresh shave today.

ZAHN: Family fun over. Military muster begins. Four members of the Pruett family now activated, members of the Idaho Army National Guard heading to Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stand at ease.

E. PRUETT: I'm in charge of 16 guys, four tanks. And that's my first priority. But, at the same time, you know, my brothers are going to be there. And I'm just going to be just as worried about them and trying to check up on them just as much as I can and as much as I'm allowed to.

ZAHN: Six members of one family defining sacrifice.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And joining us now from Pocatello, Idaho, mom and dad, Tammy Pruett and Captain Leon Pruett.

Thank you so much for joining us tonight. Boy, do we salute your commitment from here to our country.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Leon, how did everyone in your family end up in the Idaho National Guard?

L. PRUETT: Well, it's something that I started 21 years ago. I've got 21 years of service and it's nothing that I pushed on to our sons. I just said, here is an opportunity for you boys to go to school at a reduced price and be able to do some other things and train to do something else besides just being a civilian in life. And they all liked that challenge and took it.

ZAHN: They, obviously, had no idea that that path would lead them to Iraq. They've never had a second of doubt in their mind?

L. PRUETT: You know what? When you sign on that line, it's something that you always think about, but until it really happens, you don't dwell on that type of thing, but it's part of the job.

And so they train you well and you're willing to do that job and you go and do it when you're called upon.

ZAHN: Tammy, we heard you talk a little bit earlier on about the magnitude of what it means to have four of your sons in Iraq at one time. Try to be as candid as you can with us tonight. Did you, in your heart of hearts, want to discourage any of them from following through with this commitment?

T. PRUETT: No, I didn't. I know that they're all very committed. None of them would turn their back on a responsibility that they've been given.

And they're just very dedicated young men. They enjoy the work that they do in the National Guard and they enjoy the camaraderie that they have with their other members of the units. And I would not take that away from them and expect someone else's son to go in my son's place just because I felt a little uneasy about them being over there. So, no, that was way down on the list of worries and concerns that I had, was trying to make them stop.

ZAHN: What does it mean to you as a mother to know that four of them might, at some point, end up together, or at least see each other, in Iraq during their service? Is that all comforting?

T. PRUETT: Oh, tremendously. It was such a relief when Aaron and Lee (ph) were in Iraq together to know that, even though they were a long way from home, they had each other, that, even if it was only just five minutes out of a day that they could separate from everybody else and say hello to each other, you know, how you doing, I heard from mom on e-mail or I heard from Eric on e-mail, it just made it so much easier for them, which, in turn, made it so much easier for us back here, knowing they had some comfort other than just, you know, their fellow unit members, which is close, but not the same as family.

So with the other four going, it's going to be great.

ZAHN: But, Leon, you've been in Iraq. And your just mentioned -- or Tammy just mentioned your son Aaron was in Iraq as well. So you know how dangerous it is over there. What is your chief concern now as you watch four of your sons serve their country from there?

L. PRUETT: Well, you don't dwell on the dangers. That's just part of the job. And it's hard to say that, I guess, or for people to understand that. But for them to be there and do this and they have other soldiers in their units to count on as well. And they're all professionals. And they'll help each other. It's a team effort. And they're part of that team and they enjoy it.

ZAHN: What kind of advice have you given your sons?

L. PRUETT: Just to pray a lot. You know, heavenly father is out there and he'll help you and he'll help you get through all this and the sacrifice that you're doing with your family and being apart. That's the strongest thing, I guess in anything that I would tell anybody else is to do that and count on everybody else that's there to help you and help them.

ZAHN: Because you have served there yourself, you have obviously been exposed to the hard-core reality of what your sons face. Is there any other piece of information you passed along to them that you think might help them?

L. PRUETT: I think the thing that I keep telling them and telling a number of folks, there's a lot of positive things that are going on over there. We trained 38 Iraqi men to be firefighters. Some day, one of those firefighters will save someone's life.

And so you look at those positive things and you try to pick up on those and don't dwell on the negative parts of things that happen in war. And so that's what I try to tell all of the people I deal with and tell about Iraq.

ZAHN: I know, Tammy, that you all talked a little bit earlier on, it seemed just to be a natural thing for all of the members of your family to serve in the Army National Guard there in Idaho. But is there a part of you that understands when people listen to this story tonight, they're absolutely captivated by your story and so inspired. Do you even focus in on that?

T. PRUETT: Well, not really. I mean, I'm glad it inspires people and I hope that it does inspire people to look for the good that we're doing in Iraq, because, like Lee, I think we're doing a lot of wonderful things over there for the Iraqi people.

And so if we can inspire people that way, then I'm very happy about that. It's, you know, just normal for us. We haven't lived any other way. From the time Lee and I have been married, he's gone to National Guard one weekend a month and two weekends in the summer. And the kids just grew up seeing that. And then, in turn, all of them at 17 took that same step and so they've just done it, some of them for more years than others, but it's just a natural part of what we do.

So to us, it's not out of the ordinary at all.

ZAHN: Well, it is very special to those looking from the outside. Your family sets one remarkable example.

Captain and Mrs. Pruett, thank you and our thoughts will be with your family.

T. PRUETT: Thank you.

L. PRUETT: Thank you very much, Paula.

ZAHN: And when we come back, the psychological perils of war, what is inflicting our veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: For many troops, the return home is not the end of the war. They suffer flashbacks, nightmares, deep depression and other mental health problems.

A U.S. Army study appearing in tomorrow's "New England Journal of Medicine" says 12 percent of troops who return from Iraq suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. That is double the percentage of those who return from Afghanistan with the condition. What may be even more disturbing is that more than half of these troops do not get help.

Here is our senior medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There is a cost of sending young men and women to war. Sometimes, they pay with their lives. But for many who do survive, there can be troubling emotional and mental changes.

FACTO: His squad and my squad were working together on the 29th of September when he went down. Yes, I was there on the day that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) got shot.

GUPTA: Sergeant Danny Facto is just 24 years old and has already learned a lesson.

FACTO: And you're just always intense. You're always super serious. And, you know, you lose your temper over little things and, you know, you're definitely different. You're not the same person that deployed.

GUPTA: Collectively, many doctors call this post-traumatic stress order or PTSD. It is common among those who see combat. About one in 10 will suffer from it. But what is not common is getting treatment. Danny is one of the few to do so.

COL. CHARLES HOGE, U.S. ARMY: Soldiers and Marines who have mental health concerns frequently don't seek treatment and the reason for that is because they perceive that they'll be stigmatized if they do.

GUPTA: Now Dr. Charles Hoge is the author of a new study in "The New England Journal of Medicine" that acknowledges the psychiatric cost of war and the changes in diagnosis and treatment.

HOGE: The military is a culture of individuals who are probably not likely to seek help for mental health concerns.

GUPTA: For the first time, military personnel are being examined for the physical and mental impact of combat while the fighting continues. And the Department of Defense is requiring that every soldier be briefed on mental health before, during, and after deployment. There are also an unprecedented number of treatment programs available. Still, programs alone can't be the answer.

STEVE ROBINSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL GULF WAR RESOURCE CENTER: You can't just say, I got 100 programs; therefore, I've done my job. And this study indicates that the sickest veterans who need the most help won't go to those studies, so what good are they?

GUPTA: The legitimate concerns about stigmatization and loss of career advancement remain. And it's a great price to pay, especially for career military offers.

Danny's father, a former Marine, agrees.

PARKER: Like a live grenade. They throw you out in civilian life. You always wonder yourself, even if they're not saying it to you, are they looking at me different if I was to go get counseling?

GUPTA: But even that is starting to change, slowly, but surely.

MAJ. PAUL MORRISSEY, CHIEF OF MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES, FORT DRUM: Soldiers are concerned that coming to see us might harm their careers. I can say to them sincerely, honestly, that not coming to get some assistance will harm their careers.

GUPTA: In Danny's case, that positive attitude towards treatment displayed by his commanding officers, family and fellow troops helped him overcome any stigma and get into the group therapy he needed.

FACTO: When I go to group and I talk with guys that are just like me, it helps a lot because I can, you know, discuss with guys that have been in combat, guys that have been shot at, guys that have lost their friends in combat, you know, guys that have killed other people.

GUPTA: Danny says that therapy has made him a better father, soldier and husband.

FACTO: When I came back, I was me, but I was different because of my experiences. And mental health and, you know, therapy really helps to understand everything that I've been through.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us now from Atlanta.

Always good to see you, Sanjay.

GUPTA: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: You spent a lot of time with Navy doctors on the front lines in Iraq. And I'm sure that you have a better understanding than most why this stigma still exists.

GUPTA: There is an incredible culture in the military that does not really allow for the processing of unresolved feelings. There are a lot of feelings. Obviously, all of the images, all the pop and booms we see, there are consequences.

Most troubling, we talked to a lot of veterans about this, is sometimes those unresolved feelings that could be PTSD are sometimes confused with cowardice as well, which is very troubling for a lot of people. Physical injuries, Paula, are easy to measure. You see a gunshot wound. But mental injuries, emotional injuries are going to be much more difficult. And I think that's part of the problem, Paula.

ZAHN: We just heard from that one young soldier about how effective he thinks the treatment is, but, in general, does it work?

GUPTA: It's getting a lot better. There's lots of different ways to measure the effectiveness.

First of all, there are group sessions people go through. If that's not working, one-on-one sessions sometimes may be applicable. Medications now coming into vogue specifically for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. But everyone says a couple of fundamental things. You need to get treated early if you're going to get treated at all. If it lasts more than four months, there's a good chance it's going to last a lifetime. And if it's interfering with your life, that is a good reason to go see somebody about it, Paula.

ZAHN: We hope they're listening to the good doctor tonight. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you.

GUPTA: Thank you. Thank you.

ZAHN: Coming up next, meet two American soldiers who survived the war and are now struggling with their own inner battles.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Before we went to the break, we heard the results of troubling new study on post-traumatic stress disorder among U.S. soldiers who had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And with us now are two men who have firsthand knowledge of the mental costs of war.

Philip Goodrum and Andrew Pogany both served in Iraq. They're both being treated now for post-traumatic distress disorder.

Thank you for joining us tonight.

ANDREW POGANY, U.S. SOLDIER: Thank you as for having us.

ZAHN: So, Andrew, it was three days after you arrived in Iraq that you were exposed to a shattering experience that changed your life forever. What did you see? POGANY: Well, it was actually on the second day. I was briefly exposed to an Iraqi who had been killed. And shortly thereafter, unfortunately, I experienced a what I at that time saw as a nervous breakdown or a neuropsychiatric event, which in my case unfortunately was also introduced by a drug that I had to take for malaria prophylaxis.

ZAHN: At what point did you seek help?

POGANY: I struggled pretty much throughout the entire night. I was trying to scope with the symptoms. I was trying to figure out what was going on because it was so foreign to me. I had never had experienced anything like that before and it was pretty severe. So I struggled throughout the entire night to figure out what I'm going to do.

Obviously, in your mind, you think about how your comrades and fellow soldiers are going to react, how your leadership is going to react, especially because it happened so fast, like I said, on the second day.

ZAHN: Does that make you paranoid?

POGANY: No, it doesn't make you paranoid. It just -- you struggle within yourself to figure out what's going on, why am I having this?

ZAHN: Because you don't want to be considered a coward.

POGANY: Correct. But, in my case, I had to come to the conclusion that I wasn't functioning. I was having physical symptoms. I was having a behavioral reaction. And the conclusion I came to was that the only thing I could do was inform my leadership as, you know, the only responsible thing, because, if we do go out on a patrol or something happens and I do freeze up, that could have consequences, too, so there was a responsibility to inform them that I was not functioning.

ZAHN: And once you informed them, what did they say?

POGANY: Well, it was not received very well.

ZAHN: Now, what do you mean by that? What did they say?

POGANY: Well, they pretty much were in disbelief as to what I was saying. And they wanted me to think about what I was saying and think about my career and pretty much go...

ZAHN: Was it that overt or was it more subtle than that?

POGANY: Well, it was a little more subtle, but...

ZAHN: But the message was?

POGANY: The message was...

ZAHN: You're a wimp?

POGANY: Correct.

And the message was, hey, you know, you're a coward. You're acting like a coward.

ZAHN: So how did you internalize that?

POGANY: I didn't. I tried to think about it for a couple of hours and then I went back to some of the coping skills that we do have, such as compartmenting information and moving on and trying to put things into perspective. And it didn't work.

And, unfortunately, months later, I found out that the reason it didn't work is because I was having a toxic drug level that was affecting me. And, subsequently, I've been actually diagnosed with permanent brain stem damage as a result of that drug toxicity.

ZAHN: The Lariam that your originally took to help fight malaria.

POGANY: Correct.

ZAHN: Now, Philip, you were actually in Iraq when you started having pain in your hands. And it was so bad at one point, you didn't even think you could handle a weapon.

PHILIP GOODRUM, U.S. SOLDIER: Correct. Yes.

ZAHN: So what did you do?

GOODRUM: I went through the medical process.

The first diagnosis was that I was exposed to possible radiation, returned stateside for surgery on both wrists, had surgery on my left wrist, still planning surgery on my right. When I returned is when my issues started to surface.

ZAHN: And what were those issues?

GOODRUM: I could not turn off my mind basically from the environment I came out of.

ZAHN: And what were you thinking? What were you seeing? What were you hearing?

GOODRUM: When I was in Iraq, you go so hard, 18-, 20-hour days. The danger is 360 degrees, and it's a very intense environment. I was -- it's been very difficult for me to turn that off once I returned stateside, a lot of flashbacks, nightmares, issues with my sleep, severe panic attacks.

ZAHN: Were you made to feel inadequate when you would express that this is what you were experiencing?

GOODRUM: Under the stigma of being a behavioral health issue or patient, it came to a point...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: What were you most fearful of?

GOODRUM: Being labeled, but not being fully treated, and my career.

ZAHN: And you later sought the treatment? Has it worked?

GOODRUM: I have up and downs, but seeking treatment is the best thing that I could have done for myself. It got to the point where I became totally -- or to the point of dysfunctional. So, yes, treatment was the best thing for me.

ZAHN: Was it obvious to people who were around you that you were a changed man?

GOODRUM: Yes. The ones who knew me prior to deployment definitely noticed a tremendous change in myself when I returned.

ZAHN: And do you think your career has been compromised because you were forthright and said, I know I'm not nuts, I know what I'm thinking, I know what I'm seeing, I know what I'm hearing, help me?

GOODRUM: Without a doubt.

For example, I've been charged with AWOL for seeking medical treatment from a civilian doctor. So, yes, my career has suffered a tremendous impact on coming forward, saying, yes, I need help.

ZAHN: Are you bitter about that?

GOODRUM: Disappointed and hurt. I've served 15 years. I'm a combat veteran of two wars and I'm very disappointed and very hurt.

ZAHN: It breaks my heart to hear these stories, particularly after you both served your country.

Andrew, what is it that you think the nation needs to learn from your two powerful stories?

POGANY: Well, the thing that needs to be learned is that there are hidden costs, or unseen costs, and the most important thing is that trauma or trauma that is experienced whether it's in combat or anywhere else in life needs to be looked at as an injury to the mind.

And an injury to the mind needs to be treated just like an injury to the leg, whether you have shrapnel wounds or gunshot wounds. It needs to be treated. And I'm hoping that by, you know, us publicly speaking, which is not an easy thing to do, because it's not easy for one to admit to yourself that you're having a problem, and, you know, being in the military environment, the stigma, the career -- my career has been tremendously impacted.

My military career is probably at an end. I've had my security clearance suspended, revoked. And I'm still -- I'm still struggling to get things, you know, set straight as far as what happened and get an understanding.

ZAHN: Well, I know it hasn't been easy for either one of you to open up old wounds here for us this evening, but I think it's important that we all are exposed to your stories. And thank you for your candor and your sensitivity.

POGANY: Thank you for having us.

GOODRUM: Thank you.

ZAHN: My pleasure, Philip Goodrum and Andrew Pogany.

Coming up next, a humanitarian crisis on a frightening scale, more than one million people homeless, tens of thousands dead. Will we turn a blind eye?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: The east African nation of Sudan has long been racked by civil war. The conflict exploded again last year when rebels attacked government property, accusing the government of neglecting the mostly black population in a region called Darfur, while favoring those of Arabic descent.

Human rights groups says Sudan's government responded by calling on Arab militias in the region, known as Janjaweed, to put down the rebellion. Well, these militias are now accused of waging a campaign to cleanse black Africans from the vast and remote section of the country.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): Violence. Starvation. Tragedy. The pictures tell the story.

Human rights group have decried what many call an ethnic cleansing campaign this in a region that has left the nation devastated. Tens of thousands dead and more than a million displaced, 350,000 expected to die before year's end. Four hundred villages already destroyed. Starvation and malnutrition running rampant in refugee camps throughout the country.

The sickening crisis is what brought Secretary of State Colin Powell and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to Sudan. They hope to persuade the Sudanese government, which the U.S. has accused of supporting the brutal attacks and using starvation as a weapon of war, to end the violence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The government of Sudan has put, in effect, obstacles on visas for humanitarian workers coming into the country, on travel permits for any travel outside of the main cities in Darfur.

ZAHN: Kofi Annan says the crisis borders on ethnic cleansing, yet, before Annan and Powell arrived today, it has gone largely unnoticed.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: We have a very difficult situation here. It's a humanitarian problem, a serious one, but it's really a security crisis. They have to do everything they can to bring the Janjaweed under control, so that people are no longer living in fear, so they can return to their villages.

ZAHN: This is not the first time in Africa that the withholding of food has been used as a political weapon. Who could forget those searing images of Ethiopia in the mid-1980s? Seven million were affected.

When the haunting images of starving children first surfaced, the world reacted with outrage and compassion. The world's biggest celebrities led the charge with their names and their voices.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are the world; we are the children.

ZAHN: And although the crisis in Sudan is well over a year old, the situation is tragic, compounded by indifference.

So why the indifference? Are the pictures too difficult to look at? Why have we become desensitized to these scenes of horror so far away?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Joining us now, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Elie Wiesel.

Always an honor to have you with us. Welcome.

ELIE WIESEL, NOBEL PEACE PRIZE WINNER: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: So you have as many as 30,000 people killed, more than a million people displaced. How has the world allowed this to happen?

WIESEL: Well, indifference is a disease, a contagious disease, seductive at times. And we have seen it in parts of the world occasionally that knows how to be indifferent. I wish I could change it.

But Sudan has become the world capital of human suffering, and not to be sensitive to that suffering is a mark of shame to all of us.

ZAHN: Do you think the world cares less because these victims are black?

WIESEL: I hope not. They are human beings.

But when we say the world, the world, of course, is a generalized concept. There are people who do care. For the last few years, people came to see me from Sudan and from Washington, actually discussing the situation and that I know that there are NGOs, there are humanists all over the world who do care.

But those in power, that's the question. Why don't they use their power to stop it? Just once and for all to stop it?

We cannot allow those children to die every day from starvation, from hunger, from violence, and their parents either dead like them or looking on. It's our fault.

ZAHN: You said you believe there are governments capable of stopping this. Why haven't they?

WIESEL: I don't know. Maybe they are busy with other tragedies. There are so many tragedies in the world, but everyone should be a priority.

But, on the other hand -- on one hand, you must say that I think this week, we have Secretary General Kofi Annan and Secretary of State Colin Powell, they are in Sudan, which is good.

For the first time, we have two men of such position, of such prestige, and they will see the tragedy with their own eyes. And they do have power. They can do something. They can at least alert the world.

ZAHN: So are you saying that the United Nations should play a lead role in this process with the United States?

WIESEL: If the two entities work together, they are unstoppable. Nobody can resist both the United Nations and the United States.

ZAHN: You mentioned earlier on there have been a number of other crises around the world for people to worry about. Is this a case of compassion fatigue?

WIESEL: Maybe. I hope not. There should never be an end of compassion.

When I think of the past, the recent past, Rwanda. We could have stopped Rwanda, maybe 600,000 to 800,000 men, women and children were massacred. And we had the means to stop that massacre. We didn't.

ZAHN: Are you pessimistic or optimistic, now that you have the U.N. secretary general making a statement and Secretary of State Colin Powell that things might get better?

WIESEL: I think they must. Again, these two men are men of conscience and of morality, and they speak on behalf, I think, of the United States or the United Nations or both. And therefore, I think by being there, they have given a statement that must be heard, that it will be heard.

ZAHN: You have been exposed to a lot of trauma and tragedy through your work. How do you view this in Sudan?

WIESEL: Oh, as you say, some people became tarnished (ph), when you see every single day, people killing, people dying, children starving. At one point, you say it's enough. And your mind turns away. But you know very well there are certain images that must be shown, certain words that must be heard, and it's our duty as educators.

I'm an educator. I'm a writer, but an educator and involved in human rights, meaning we must do whatever we can so sensitize as many people as possible in the world that they should know that if the victims are alone and forgotten, then we are guilty.

ZAHN: Elie Wiesel, we appreciate your perspective tonight. Thank you for joining us.

WIESEL: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: And coming up next, more on the crisis in Sudan from model Alek Wek, who fled the country when she was a teenager. Please stay with us. You'll hear her story.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: The crisis in Sudan may be getting a lot of attention now, but there are some people who have been working for years to raise awareness about it. One such person is Alek Wek, the model once named one of "People" magazine's 50 most beautiful people, was forced to flee Sudan when she was just 14 years old. And she joins us now.

Welcome.

ALEK WEK, MODEL: Thank you. Pleasure.

ZAHN: What did it mean to you today to hear Secretary of State Colin Powell refer to the crisis in Sudan as horrific and catastrophic and then the U.S. -- U.N. secretary general saying it is the greatest humanitarian crisis on Earth?

WEK: True.

ZAHN: Did you feel like you were finally heard?

WEK: Every single one of these is true. And I think it's great. I think definitely we are about to recognize that, yes, and it's been going on for a long time.

I mean, 21 years from when I was a child to when I lived at home before fleeing to the village, coming into town. And this is not the situation even to what we're talking about. So we're talking about like it being like escalated down.

I think that finally it's great that the light has been shining onto it, but I think there's been always this attention on it and then off of it. But I really hope something can be done this time around.

ZAHN: Do you think it will make a difference?

WEK: Yes. Because it's bigger than it's ever been, and I think genocide being committed, as we talk, women getting raped, I mean, people fleeing from like where they lived because there's nothing left they have, and they're getting taken, you know, as themselves. I just think that it couldn't get any worse.

And, if anything, I think I am a member of the international community in a way, and it really hurts me to see what's been going on, not just the memory and even going back six years ago.

But I think that that's something that it's really clear, and I think, if nothing is getting done, that really kind of shows us what kind of a world we live in.

ZAHN: The Sudanese government saying this isn't genocide, that you have just said that at the very root of this is...

WEK: Let me just explain...

ZAHN: ... overt racism.

WEK: Yes. I'm not into politics and that's why I never accept to come into interviews. But this is very clearly not about even politics. Not about the government. But you can't deny what somebody is going through and experiences in this stage, and this moment, there is a lot of crisis. There's, like, one million displaced people. You cannot deny that.

I mean, we could all go there, but we don't need to all go there to see what's going on. Obviously, there's so much that's going on, which is people and -- I mean, slavery is something in history and it's happening as we talk. That's huge. You know?

ZAHN: So why do you think the world has turned a blind eye?

WEK: I don't think the world has turned a blind eye, excuse me. I think it is up to us to what we feel like we could really go ahead and make it a difference.

And, for me, that's why it's long-term. It's not like you go to a job and you do it. There are aid workers that put themselves on line to try to make a difference, like Doctors Without Borders.

But they can't do their job when there is a constant, you know, group that are attacking people -- and then now what? You're going to send the people back down north? It's like telling somebody to walk from New York to Los Angeles. Come on, give me a break, you know?

So it's not about hiding. It's about coming to the plate and accepting responsibility. And this is happening because somebody is not doing their job.

And I'm getting very emotional because it's a very deep thing. It's been going on for so long. People are suffering! Nobody is doing anything! Why?

Why is isn't the United Nations doing something? To see people die in such stages? Animals don't even die like that, you know? That's terrible. ZAHN: But...

WEK: That's terrible.

ZAHN: Despite the horror of...

WEK: You know? That's terrible.

ZAHN: ... what you have been exposed to...

WEK: ... to see the kids, what they go through, dying every single day and then on top of it -- like how would you feel if somebody came, shot up in your house, killed your mother, your grandfather, your child, taken all your money and all the rights you have?

The police look at you like we can't do anything. What are you going to do? You're going to be, like, where am I living?

Obviously, that can't happen here, and that's why I appreciate the freedom and everything that I have. But it's not fair that nobody should be able to tell what is going on in Sudan.

What's going on in Sudan has been going on for too long. We cannot turn a blind eye on it. That's like turning a blind eye on something that's happening at home. That's not -- that's not cool.

And somebody needs to stop and step up to the plate. The government of Sudan need to do something about it. You could lie all you want, but you can't lie all the way. Because if you're saying you're there for the people, the people are suffering. And they've been suffering for a long time.

And going back six years ago, they're looking at me like I'm going to do something to them, I'm going to help them. I can't help them. But we could all do something. You know?

ZAHN: Well, I know you feel like it was a very important that Secretary of State Powell and Kofi Annan said they did...

WEK: It is very important, and I'm sure he felt what he saw when he went down there. And that's why we have to make a difference.

ZAHN: All right.

WEK: We have to step to the plate and really try and do something.

ZAHN: We know this is...

WEK: Excuse me. I get very emotional.

ZAHN: We can't possibly understand, having seen your family ravaged by this, but...

WEK: It's really hard. Because it's so simple. Something needs to be done. Once it's taken care of it, which it just needs to be the one main story and really follow it through. It does not need to be put aside.

ZAHN: Well, thank you.

WEK: It's too much. It's too much suffering.

ZAHN: Thank you for sharing your story.

WEK: Thank you. Thank you so much.

ZAHN: Appreciate your time.

WEK: Thank you.

ZAHN: We're going to take a short break here. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Did independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader get some help from the Republican Party? Well, a liberal watchdog group says he did.

In its complaint to the Federal Election Commission, the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington claims two conservative organizations helped in Nader's effort to get on the ballot in Oregon. The complaint says the Bush campaign also participated.

The conservative groups in question don't deny helping Nader, but they say they did it on their own. So is this a big deal?

Joining us now to discuss that, in Watertown, Massachusetts, form -- former, that is, Al Gore spokesperson Doug Hattaway and in Washington tonight, Republican strategist Rich Galen.

Good to see both of you.

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Nice to be with you.

ZAHN: So is this much to do about nothing, Rich?

GALEN: Well, no, it's not. No, it's actually pretty important. This particular case is probably not important at all. Anybody -- anybody can file a complaint. It doesn't mean it's true, and trying to prove that an independent organization had contact with one of the campaigns is really difficult.

ZAHN: Do you think it's true?

GALEN: Oh, no, no. I doubt it because, everybody is so nervous about being the first people hauled out, you know, before the FEC.

In the olden days, which is to say two years ago, there were no criminal -- there were no criminal penalties for a violation of an FEC rule or law. It was a civil case.

Now there are criminal penalties, so everybody is very careful. It would shock me to find somebody making that kind -- that kind of a minor league mistake.

ZAHN: Well, what do you think, Doug? Do you think that's what the intention was?

DOUG HATTAWAY, FORMER AL GORE SPOKESMAN: Yes, I think they've been pretty blatant if you look at the Web site of this front group, saying that the whole purpose they're trying to get people to come out and sign petitions to get Ralph Nader on the ballot in Oregon, specifically to get George Bush elected. I think that's where they run afoul of the law.

I think it is a big deal if they succeed.

GALEN: Well, but that's...

HATTAWAY: Nader's pulling enough -- Nader's pulling enough that he could tip the balance in some of these close states. I think it shows how unprincipled he is, that he's going to accept this sort of help.

The fact is, he actually did it in 2000. Republican groups were running ads for him. So on one level this isn't new.

ZAHN: Why are you laughing, Rich?

GALEN: Well, because Ralph Nader is unprincipled.

The fact is, I wonder, Doug, last in 2000 why Nader ran a 50- state, more or less, strategy instead of focusing on two or three states like Maine and Michigan and Oregon or something like that?

And I actually met him here at the CNN bureau here in Washington and we chatted in the green room. And it was specifically because he wanted to drive up the vote in enough states so the Green Party could get ballot access, as they will in 22 states.

But if he would have -- if he would have only targeted his message, I think he could have held the reins of power. And it would not surprise me to find out as we move through this that the Democrats' efforts during the Green Party convention last weekend, to nominate Cobb out of California, instead of allowing Nader to be their standard bearer, is not a Pyrrhic victory. Because Nader will, I suspect, if nothing else out of spite, focus his efforts on a couple of states and...

ZAHN: All right. So Doug, I guess my question to you. You said it is very clear to you that this was a well-orchestrated effort, with help between these independent groups and the Republican Party.

If that is true, does that mean the Bush campaign is panicking?

HATTAWAY: I think they understand that they're in a very weak position for an incumbent president. They thought they'd be sailing into this election year, and Bush is tanking.

I think these Republican front groups obviously will go to any lengths possible to see that he wins.

And they saw what happened in 2000. It's not rocket science. Nader pulled enough votes from Gore in enough states, even big ones like Florida, to hand them to Bush or bring him close enough -- closer than they would have been. And I think they want that to happen again now.

I think what's different in this case, in 2000 Nader got himself on the ballot through the Green Party. And you actually had Republican groups like the Republican Leadership Council running ads promoting him.

This time because the Greens were smart enough not to put Ralph Nader up front, I think they care enough about their issues that they really don't want to see George Bush reelected.

ZAHN: Rich, I saw...

HATTAWAY: They're having to put him on the ballot for them.

ZAHN: I saw you laughing when Rich Galen (sic) said the president's campaign is tanking. You can't put a positive spin, can you, at this hour, this evening about where the campaign is in these poll numbers, particularly on the issue of Iraq?

GALEN: What do you think, Doug and I are new at this? Of course I can.

ZAHN: Let me hear it.

GALEN: Well, because...

HATTAWAY: Good luck.

GALEN: Because three weeks ago, the Gallup/CNN poll had -- had Senator Gore (sic) ahead by seven points. The poll that was released yesterday has Senator Gore (sic) and president -- Senator Kerry, I'm sorry, Senator Kerry and President Bush tied.

So although it is tied, if you look at the motion over just the last three weeks, the president has gained seven points. But that's kind of...

ZAHN: All right. But Doug, you're going to spin that entirely differently? And we're counting on you to do that.

HATTAWAY: Well, let's look at the big picture. Look at the erosion in Bush's support over the months. Everybody knows polls and how to read these and understand that the real value is in tracking trends over time, not what it said last week or the other day.

And Bush came into this, particularly as Paula mentioned, around support for Iraq. He staked his presidency on this and on fighting the war on terror. And a lot of people who supported him on that now do not. He's lost credibility.

ZAHN: All right.

HATTAWAY: And I think that the overall trend is clear.

GALEN: I think it -- I think it...

HATTAWAY: That's why it's a real race.

ZAHN: Real quickly, Rich, five seconds.

GALEN: I think it speaks to the value of the man that he's willing to stake his presidency on what he thinks is right.

ZAHN: The man can take a cue. He can spin and take a cue. Both of you guys, well trained. Rich Galen, Doug Hattaway, thank you both.

GALEN: Nice to be with you.

HATTAWAY: Thank you.

ZAHN: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And that wraps it up for all of us here this evening. Thanks so much for dropping by.

Tomorrow night, the mother of all perp walks. The world gets its first look at Saddam Hussein in months as he faces his arraignment in an Iraqi court. We will have all the latest details on that and a preview of what his trial might look like.

"LARRY KING LIVE" is next. Again, thanks for joining us tonight. Have a good night.

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