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As Number of U.S. Fatalities Nears 1,000, Military Struggling to Deal With Changing Tactics of Insurgency; Questions Whether Tragedy Will Galvanize Country Against Terrorism, or Expose Problems in Government

Aired September 7, 2004 - 08:30   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everyone. It's Tuesday here on this AMERICAN MORNING.
Kelly Wallace helping us out yet again today. How are you?

Soledad still resting and Heidi is moving.


HEMMER: Yes. She's coming to New York.

WALLACE: Boxes, boxes, boxes.

HEMMER: She's been here for a while, but she's just making it official -- so.

WALLACE: Oh, moving. Good luck, Heidi.

HEMMER: She was looking for someone this weekend to help her out.

WALLACE: All right, all right. You call me and I'll get back to you.

HEMMER: I'm busy.

Listen, we're going to get back to Iraq in a moment here. The fighting continues in Baghdad claiming the life of a U.S. soldier. That's the 12th American killed in the past two days.

In a few moments we'll look at the tactics the insurgents are using and how the U.S. right now is learning from this war. We'll get that from the Pentagon and Barbara Starr in a moment.

WALLACE: All right, so, Bill you know this. Everyone out there knows it's not just the issues that drive an election.

In a few minutes Bill Schneider will look at the emotional impact that comes from just being a good guy.

HEMMER: And we'll get to that also. Betty Nguyen first now on the news at the CNN Center. Betty good morning.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Bill. Thousands of people in Moscow are preparing this hour to march in a protest against terrorism. The gathering is set to begin about 9 a.m. Eastern time as hundreds of family members and neighbors pour out to bury the victims of the children at the siege at a school near the Chechen border.

Coming up a guest live in Moscow on Russia's fight against terrorism.

The official campaign for Afghanistan's first ever-presidential election getting underway this morning. The favorite among the 18 candidates is current president Hamid Karzai. He's been supported by the U.S. since the U.S.-led coalition got rid of the Taliban regime in late 2001. Afghanistan holds its first free presidential elections on October 9th.

The U.S. presidential campaign heads to the battleground Midwest this morning. President Bush is crisscrossing his way through Missouri. Senator John Kerry is traveling to Ohio. Along the way he'll rally with supporters in North Carolina. Now in 15 minutes we'll see how voters are reacting with a look at the newest poll numbers.

And three million homes and businesses in Florida are still without power from Hurricane Frances. This is what is left of a marina at Ft. Pierce near where Frances came ashore. Now Floridians are keeping an eye out for Hurricane Ivan.

It's barreling toward the Windward Islands with winds of 110 miles an hour. Back to you Bill.

HEMMER: All right Betty, thanks.

Twelve U.S. troops have now died in combat incidents since Monday in Iraq. The latest death happened this morning in Sadr City where American forces there are battling supporters of the cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr.

As the number of U.S. fatalities now nears the 1,000 mark, the military is struggling to deal with the changing tactics of the insurgency.

From the Pentagon now, here's Barbara Starr.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Hundreds of U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq, victims of car bombs, mortar attacks, and improvised explosive devices.

COL. LARRY SAUL, CTR. FOR ARMY LESSONS LEARNED: The one thing we have learned over the last 16 months since the end of the major ground combat operation on or about the first of May of 2003 is that we're fighting a dedicated, committed end.

STARR: As the insurgents continue to change their tactics, the Army is still looking at what it has learned in Iraq and scrambling for new ideas.

The Army says it still needs to improve in at least ten areas, including added armored protection, new weapons to counter insurgent attacks, and a better urban combat training.

Soldiers remain vulnerable. To help reduce casualties there are new shoulder protectors for soldiers, especially those in high-risk convoy operations.

CAPT. BRIAN SPURLOCK, U.S. ARMY: And keep in mind that these are additions that were asked for by soldiers in the theater who said look, these are the problems that we're seeing over in the theater now.

STARR: The Army is testing new weapons to destroy rockets, artillery and mortars before they strike. A new laser weapon shot down multiple mortar rounds for the first time in a test last month.

In basic training, soldiers are now immediately put into an urban environment, learning to deal with civilians who may not welcome them.

But it is still the improvised explosive device that is the deadly symbol of the Iraq tour of duty. IEDs have been hidden in trash, buried in animal carcasses, and stuffed behind political posters.

CAPT. DOUGLAS CHIMENTI, U.S. ARMY: You go and rip that poster down and there is an explosive device behind it.

STARR: The ultimate lesson learned? Still the simple one. Keep your eyes open, see what is going on around you, and...

CHIMENTI: If you did not drop it, do not pick it up.

STARR: Barbara Starr, CNN, The Pentagon.


HEMMER: Also the total number of U.S. troops who have lost their lives in Iraq since the start of the war now 998 -- Kelly.

WALLACE: Thanks, Bill.

Friday's school massacre may prove to be a defining moment for Russia, but as Russians mourn the dead today, there are questions whether the tragedy will galvanize the country against terrorism, or expose the problems in its government.

The director of studies at Moscow's Carnegie Center, Dmitri Trenin, is with us now from Moscow.

Let me first ask you will what happened in Beslan be for Russia what September 11 was for the United States in terms of mobilizing the country and the government to fight terrorism?

DMITRI TRENIN, CARNEGIE MOSCOW CENTER: Russia is a very different country from the United States. One would hope that what happened in Beslan, what happened elsewhere in the last two weeks, would give a push toward galvanization, consolidation, of the Russian people.

However, the sad truth is that Russian society today is highly atomized and that is a very serious obstacle to real popular consolidation.

WALLACE: And Mr. Trenin, as you know, yesterday on state television the Russian government acknowledged misleading the Russian public about the number of people being held hostage in that Beslan school.

Are you surprised by this and by the admission?

TRENIN: Well, I am not surprised by the fact that the state- controlled media were giving very -- very doctored information about what was happening, but I think that it is very important if the president means that he wants to have society as a partner for the state in the struggle against -- they should be telling the people the truth and the whole truth.

WALLACE: And you know as well, Russian President Vladimir Putin with some controversial comments criticizing the U.S. government, saying some U.S. officials had been meeting with some Chechen separatists and says they are basically undermining the effort to defeat terrorism. What's your reaction to that?

TRENIN: Well, this is not surprising; this is not the first time that the president has made this comment. I think he is -- he is very concerned that there is what he calls double standards with regard to Russia's war in Chechnya.

He wants the world, the international community to consider Russia's effort in Chechnya as part of the international war against terror.

And that is why the comment has been made.

WALLACE: And you, of course, a member of the Russian military for some 20 years -- as you know lots of criticism of how Russian military officials handled the siege in Beslan. What's your sense of how the military responded?

TRENIN: Well, it's not -- it's not only the military, it's not primarily the military. I would say that what was very sad was the low level of coordination among the various security services on hand in the area of the hostage taking.

And I think that this is exactly what the president has meant when he said that Russia is weak and people who are weak get all the blows.

WALLACE: And when you say Russia is weak or when President Putin says that, talk to us a little bit. What's the state of the military and other officials behind the scenes in terms of fighting terrorism and protecting the Russian public from what most experts believe will be more attacks in the months to come?

TRENIN: Well, I would support that view of the expert community. I would say that in order to be able to wage the war on terror and eventually to win that war, Russia would need to revamp its state, to give civil society a chance. Essentially, Russia must be changed before we can talk about serious successes in the war against terror.

In fact, this challenge is very much -- goes very much to the heart of the societal system, the heart of the state system. Also, it requires -- but within the state system it requires a fundamental revamping of the security services, intelligence, counter intelligence services. Also the military.

It also calls for the battle of -- for the hearts and minds of the Chechens and the people of the north Caucuses so that the terrorists cannot have favorable environment in which they can operate.

WALLACE: Mr. Trenin, we have to leave it there this morning.

Dmitri Trenin with the Carnegie Moscow Center on a story that has really captured the hearts and minds of the world, really -- Bill.

HEMMER: All right, Kelly. Twenty minutes now before the hour.

Want to get a check again on Frances. Now a tropical depression, but still all over the southeast, the map is now blue. Frances has turned colors.


WALLACE: Well, still to come on a very busy AMERICAN MORNING, Andy Serwer is "Minding Your Business." He'll tell you how one publisher just made it a little easier to cheat on book reports.

HEMMER: Also, President Bush and the former president, Bill Clinton, may not seem to have a whole lot in common on the surface, but one shared trait may have saved Bill Clinton's presidency. It might do the same for the President Bush. Back in a moment.


HEMMER: Fifty-six days now before the November election and a new poll showing President Bush has gained two points, making him the choice of 52 percent of likely voters.

Democratic opponent John Kerry slipping to 45 percent since about a week ago. That CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted last week after the Republican Convention.

Meanwhile, both candidates continue their focus on swing states. Yesterday in Missouri the president defending his decision for the war in Iraq, saying ousting Saddam Hussein was, quote, right for America.

John Kerry meanwhile greeting supporters Monday in Pennsylvania saying Iraq was, quote, the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time. Today the president continues his tour of Missouri. John Kerry will visit North Carolina.

In many ways, President Bush could not be more different from his predecessor President Bill Clinton, but in this campaign year, they share one important quality. Bill Schneider explains that this morning.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POL. ANALYST: Bill Clinton and George W. Bush share one important quality. It saved President Clinton's political career, and it may save President Bush's.

Legions of Clinton-haters dogged the former president throughout his years in office.

EUGENE DELGAUDIL, PROTESTER: The obvious full-scale lawlessness, rampant independent administration.

SCHNEIDER: Clinton-haters thought they hit pay dirt when the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke. The talking heads in Washington were ready to declare his presidency over. Then Clinton gave a State of the Union speech and saw his job rating soar.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to address the real reason for the explosion in campaign costs, the high costs of media advertising.

For the folks watching at home, those were the groans of pain in the audience.

SCHNEIDER: Clinton's secret weapon? He was likable. Especially in comparison with adversaries like Newt Gingrich.

Viewers wondered how can people hate a man who had so much, well, heart.

CLINTON: Yitzhak Rabin was my partner; he was my friend. I admired him and I loved him very much. Because words cannot express my true feelings, let me just say Shalom, Haver, goodbye friend.

SCHNEIDER: These days, Bush hatred is a huge political force.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bush! Bush! People die!

SCHNEIDER: Like his predecessor, Bush is a divisive figure, but also like his predecessor, Bush knows how to turn on the charm, as he did last week in New York.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some folks look at me and see a certain swagger, which in Texas is called walking.

SCHNEIDER: Bush's secret weapon? He's likeable. Americans listen to Bush and wonder how can people hate a man who has so much charm?

BUSH: Maybe it's because I talked too much last night, you know? I enjoyed giving that speech last night.

SCHNEIDER: The vote for president is the most personal vote Americans cast; after all, they've got to live with this guy in their living rooms for the next four years.

Bill Schneider, CNN, Washington.


HEMMER: Thank you Bill. Next hour -- in fact about 15 minutes away, we'll talk with the communications director of the Bush-Cheney team about the latest on the campaign, and the numbers out too, from yesterday. That comes about 30 minutes from now, 9:15 a.m. Eastern time -- Kelly.

WALLACE: Bill, from politics to robots. That's right, robots are invading AMERICAN MORNING. Still to come, a special cyber edition of the "Toure Experience," plus a look at business news just ahead. Stay with us.


WALLACE: Attention all you students out there. CliffNotes are going hi-tech. Andy Serwer is here; he's "Minding Your Business" but Andy, first, we all know them as CliffNotes.

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Yes, I always thought it was CliffNotes, too, but I've been saying it wrong all these years, Kelly. It's CliffsNotes.

It's named after -- the company is named after a guy named Cliff Hillegass. He started the company at the University of Nebraska Bookstore in 1958.

And it's named after the -- here he is -- Cliff. Anyway, the real story this morning, though, Kelly on Cliff's Notes is the bane of professor's everywhere is now on the web for free. You can go to their Web site and look at all these books for free. You're supposed to pay $5.99 to download them.

We were downloading some of the pages, though, for free. Here's "Tom Sawyer." Aunt Polly finds Tom in the pantry where he has been eating forbidden fruit -- jam that is, sorry.

And anyway you've got 180 books on there for free. I'm surprised some of these are CliffsNotes. Are you surprised the "Joy Luck Club" by Amy Tan? I'm surprised. "Snow Falling on Cedars"? CliffsNotes?

WALLACE: They need CliffsNotes for those?

SERWER: "Fahrenheit 451," Ray Bradbury, CliffsNotes.

"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." "The Hobbit." "Lord of the Rings." Come on! Read these books, people!

WALLACE: Read, read, read. SERWER: No more of those yellow and black things in there, right?

WALLACE: Why didn't they have these when we were in high school?

SERWER: Yes, right.

WALLACE: All right, day after Labor Day. What about the market?

SERWER: Well, let's take a look backward at the week, first of all. And you can see here a mixed picture.

The Dow was up; the Nasdaq was down. This morning futures are up, though, Kelly. Everyone back to work on Wall Street this morning. Price of oil down a little bit and that is helping the mood and we will see what happens at 9:30.

WALLACE: All right, Andy. Thanks so much -- Bill.

HEMMER: And they are coming back, aren't they? Out for August, out for the Republican National Convention last week. And you're back too.

SERWER: Migration, Bill.

HEMMER: No "File" today with Jack Cafferty. He's at home watching this version of AMERICAN MORNING, I guarantee it.

SERWER: Hey Jack.


HEMMER: Not when you're here my friend.

TOURE: All right, good answer. You're on such a game now.

HEMMER: Thirty minutes ago, I wasn't.

TOURE: There you go. So let me talk about something new-ishin (ph) society kidult. It's a newish word. It means a middle-aged person who continues to participate in and enjoy youth culture.

It's a mixture of kid and adult, a word that reflects the extended adolescence we see in some people today. People like me. Big kids.

The ultimate latest toy for kidults is the robosapien. This one is named Swill (ph).


HEMMER: I like the goss (ph).

TOURE: He's just cool. I mean you just play with it. It's just a toy, people. But this is one of the first robots for the home. There are others. ASIMO is one being made by Honda, seen here, hopefully waiting on customers at a Tokyo department store.

There's another one called Ivo, a robotic dog. For now they're just super toys but the industry is preparing us for a future where home robots are coming. Soon they'll do household chores, like the Roomba intelligent vac...

SERWER: This is great.

TOURE: I know, wait, you got to see. You put it on the floor, the Roomba, and it does your dirty work -- what more could you want from a robot but how long before they're ruling the world?

Is this a step toward the Jetsons where robots live with us and help? Or -- remember "The Matrix"? Will they start...

WALLACE: Oh, yes.

TOURE: Will they start to take over the world? He likes Kelly -- watch.



HEMMER: Hey good looking. I'll be back later.


WALLACE: Girl power, girl power. Where's the female robot here?

TOURE: She's coming next.

SERWER: Easy, easy. OK, don't get too friendly.

HEMMER: This remote control is complex with this thing here. I mean you have one -- you have 20 different functions on it.

TOURE: There's 67 different things he can do and...

WALLACE: He's dancing now.

TOURE: A NASA engineer helped with him.

SERWER: I mean, come on.

WALLACE: Go, Andy.

HEMMER: Well done. Hey, you know, I think Toure -- I think you're just having too much fun around here aren't you? But do you mind if I just kind of take this here and -- was that a burp?


HEMMER: Come on.

TOURE: Yes. SERWER: Come on. Manners my man, manners.

WALLACE: Oh, it's Monday morning.


HEMMER: We need a break here. In a moment...

SERWER: Stop. Desist. Cease.


HEMMER: We'll get to President Bill Clinton's heart in a moment. His doctor joins us in a moment live here after this.


HEMMER: Good morning, the drill is familiar yet again in Florida. Coping with a statewide hurricane disaster for the second time now in a month.

How close did the former president Bill Clinton come to having a major heart attack? This morning we'll talk to one of the president's surgeons.

And on the campaign front...


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: George W. Bush. And the W stands for wrong.

BUSH: My opponent woke up this morning with new campaign advisers and yet another new position.


HEMMER: Even on a Labor Day weekend, the campaign heating things up on this AMERICAN MORNING.

ANNOUNCER: From the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, this is AMERICAN MORNING with Bill Hemmer and Soledad O'Brien.

HEMMER: And good morning. Nine o'clock on a Tuesday here in New York after the Labor Day holiday. Good morning. Soledad is out; Heidi is out; but Kelly Wallace is helping out.

Good morning.

WALLACE: Good morning to you.

HEMMER: Good to have you here. We continue now with more talk about what is happening in Florida.


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