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PAULA ZAHN NOW
Military Trains Soldiers on Iraqi Culture; Assault Weapon Ban to Expire
Aired September 9, 2004 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Yet again, doubt, demands.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are hard, cold facts. And the president and only the president can clear it up.
ZAHN: And denials.
DAN BARTLETT, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: These recycled charges aren't true.
ZAHN: Tonight, the military records of George W. Bush.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The American public needs to know and understand that the assault weapons are coming and they're coming next week.
ZAHN: The return of the assault weapons and presidential politics.
ZAHN: Good evening. Welcome. Glad to have you with us tonight.
Tonight, a Thursday exclusive. From now until the election, Thursdays will mean the latest CNN Electoral College estimate. Based on the most recent polling in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, President Bush is leading in states that would give him 289 electoral votes, 19 more than he needs to win. Senator John Kerry is ahead in states that would give him 249 electoral votes. That is 21 short of the magic number.
Both campaigns are doing all they can to change voters' minds. Today, both Senator Kerry and President Bush are focused on domestic issues. But headlines across the country are zeroed in on Vietnam and the questions raised by new disclosures about George W. Bush's time in the National Guard.
ZAHN (voice-over): Mr. Bush joined the Texas Air National Guard in May 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War. Most Air Guardsmen didn't go to Vietnam and so it was a coveted position. Ben Barnes, a former Texas lieutenant governor and a Democrat supporting John Kerry, says in a CBS "60 Minutes" interview that a Bush family friend asked for his help in getting George W. Bush into the Texas Air National Guard.
BEN BARNES, FMR. TEXAS LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: I would describe it as preferential treatment. There were hundreds of names on the list of people wanting to get in the Air National Guard or the Army National Guard.
ZAHN: Barnes told the same story in a closed-door deposition five years ago. At the time, Mr. Bush said he was unaware of any help.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know if Ben Barnes did or not, but he was not asked by me or my dad. I can just tell you that, from my perspective, I never asked for and I don't believe I received any special treatment.
BARTLETT: The fact of the matter is, is, President Bush's record has been scrutinized. These recycled charges aren't true and it doesn't matter who they put on TV.
ZAHN: By 1970, Mr. Bush was a 2nd lieutenant flying military jets. He received good evaluation reports. But newly released memos indicate that Lieutenant Bush's commander, Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Killian, felt pressure from superiors to -- quote -- "sugarcoat his evaluations."
In 1972, Killian ordered Bush grounded for failing to take a flight physical. The White House says Mr. Bush didn't need the physical because he was no longer flying. Killian died in 1984. In June 1973, Mr. Bush made plans to move from Texas to Boston. He signed a promise to join a new Guard unit or face possible involuntary order to active dud duty for up to 24 months.
An investigation by "The Boston Globe" maintains that Mr. Bush didn't keep that commitment. "The Globe" says its analysis of those records show Mr. Bush's attendance at drill -- quote -- "was so irregular that his superiors could have disciplined him or ordered him to active duty in 1972, 1973 or 1974." The White House cites documents showing Mr. Bush was reassigned in October 1973 too inactive reserve status with an Air National unit in Denver, Colorado, and listed Harvard as his address.
BARTLETT: The official documents prove what President Bush did in the National Guard. And for whatever anybody else says about it, they can't deny the fact that he met his requirements or he wouldn't have received an honorable discharge.
ZAHN: Later, in 1973, Mr. Bush left the Texas Air National Guard.
ZAHN: So now, after weeks of attacks on Senator Kerry's Vietnam record, the spotlight in on President Bush's National Guard duty. Two experts join me to discuss what any of this has to do with 2004 and the next four years. In Washington is Bobby Muller. He is a former Marine and president of the Vietnam Veterans For America Association. And in Minneapolis tonight, Army veteran Joe Repya. He is a member of the National Veterans For Bush/Cheney 2004 steering committee.
Welcome, gentlemen. Glad to have both of you with us.
JOE REPYA, VETERANS FOR BUSH/CHENEY '04: Hello.
Colonel Repya, how do you think the Bush administration should counter this when everything they have said so far contradicts what has come out in this "Boston Globe" investigation?
REPYA: Well, you know, I don't think they should counter it at all. This is all hashed over, what, the fourth time now the Kerry campaign has smeared the president's National Guard service.
You know, there were 3,800 Guard and Reserve members that died in the Vietnam War. And I'm sure their families are finding it a little bit hard to take that their loved one's service is being diminished, as well as the president's.
ZAHN: Mr. Repya, are you saying there was nothing true in these "Boston Globe" pieces?
REPYA: You know, I don't know. I wasn't there. But what happened 35 years ago happened 35 years ago. The president got an honorable discharge. And so did John Kerry. He served his nation honorably.
The president's taken the high road the entire time, constantly saying that John Kerry served his country honorably. What we need to do is concentrate, in my opinion, on what John Kerry did once he came home and especially his 20-year dismal record serving in the U.S. Senate.
ZAHN: But, Mr. Muller, as you know, the focus has been on John Kerry's service in Vietnam. And while the Bush administration denies having anything to do with the 527 ads that attacked John Kerry and his service, that certainly has been in the news lately. Do you think there's really anything new to these allegations about George Bush's service here?
BOBBY MULLER, VIETNAM VETERANS FOR AMERICA FOUNDATION: These are not allegations. These are disclosures. And these disclosures are deeply disturbing. And it really requires the president to speak to them.
A few months ago, the president lied when he said that he was not given special privilege. I went to Vietnam in 1968. I know what 1968 entailed. The month that Bush ducked the war, 2,000 Americans were killed in that month. You did not get into the National Guard in Texas jumping ahead of hundreds of people just as an act of fortune. His family got him in. The fact that he lied months ago when he said he fulfilled his obligations -- he failed to report. He failed to not only take the physical, but he failed to meet the obligations.
So he's got to speak up and he's got to address this. And don't think -- my generation got called to war. This was a profound issue for all of us. Kerry had privilege, too, but he chose, like a lot of us did, with a sense of obligation to others, to go. He did his two tours. This guy ducked the war.
ZAHN: Colonel Repya, you said you don't know whether these disclosures or allegations are true or not. But if it turns out what the lieutenant governor, Ben Barnes, was saying is true, isn't at a minimum character an issue -- something that should be debated here?
REPYA: You know, Barnes is under oath saying that nobody in the Bush family asked to him do anything. This is all rehashed over in an attempt to make the president look bad.
ZAHN: But, in this piece, they say that, on two occasions, that Mr. Barnes actually said that, in fact, he was asked to help skip George W. Bush through the list.
REPYA: And in 1999 and again in 2004, Barnes said he was not involved.
But what really bothers me is the vitriol hatred that people are showing from the Democratic Party against George Bush. Let me show you something. I hope you can see this.
ZAHN: Quickly here.
REPYA: This was given out -- this is a bumper sticker that was given out in Minneapolis at the Democratic headquarters.
ZAHN: Well, I want to stick with the issue of these latest disclosures, Joe Repya.
ZAHN: Excuse me, Bobby Muller, you heard what Joe Repya had to say. A final thought on what you really think is at stake here.
MULLER: OK, what's at stake is character, integrity. And the most important discretionary authority the president had is in war.
When Kerry was attacked in Vietnam, in seconds, he turned his swift boat around and he assaulted the ambush and he prevailed. When George Bush was told that America was under attack, he sat there for seven minutes reading "My Pet Goat" to third graders. Let's look at the experience of war and how you want a commander in chief to respond.
REPYA: I'll look at the last four years of George Bush, and that's how I want them to respond. (CROSSTALK)
ZAHN: All right, gentlemen, we got to leave it there.
Bobby Muller, Joe Repya, thank you for both of your perspectives.
REPYA: Support our troops. Thank you.
ZAHN: Coming up, from the president's military record, we move on to a much more recent issue, Iraq and prisoner abuse. Is Abu Ghraib only the tip of the iceberg?
That story when we come back.
ZAHN: The Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal was the subject of not one, but two hearings today on Capitol Hill. And it appears that the patience of some lawmakers is growing thin.
They expressed frustration that they don't have all the information they need to determine where responsibility lies. Well, now one member of the Senate Armed Services Committee is actually joining a group of retired military officers in publicly calling for an independent investigation.
We turn now to Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island.
Good to see you, sir. Welcome.
SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: So already we have seen some 200 investigations, 50 reviews. What makes you think yet another investigation will yield what you really want to know?
REED: Well, all these investigations have revealed some facts, but they haven't got out the full picture of what happened. In fact, every time we get one of these investigations, we discover we have to have another investigation.
General Jones and General Fay reported today to our committee, but they said essentially they can't make any comments really on the ghost detainees because they've had no cooperation from the CIA.
ZAHN: What are you suggesting, Senator, that they're doing this and breaking it into these smaller investigations because it's a presidential year, or are you suggesting there's a cover-up here?
REED: No, I'm suggesting that whatever logic existed initially to look at this in small, little pieces no longer has any compelling logic behind it, actually, that we're not getting to some basic fundamental answers.
ZAHN: Are you saying that this process has gotten so bogged down in bureaucracy because of the weight what was we're talking about here or is someone playing a game?
REED: Well, I think the longer this is played out, the longer it appears to me that this is not inadvertent, that these multiple investigations, limiting them has some purpose. Now, I don't know, because of the sheer multiplicity of the investigations, is it just accidental or is there some type of coordinated effort?
I do know and do believe that we'll not get to the bottom of this unless we have an independent investigation by authorities that are not responsible to the people who are being investigated.
ZAHN: But what would the purpose of that be? Because even you pointed out in your testimony that there are policy issues at a higher level of the Department of Defense that you think need to be addressed here.
REED: Well, that's absolutely the case. And I don't think they're being addressed, because those policy issues are kept off the table.
The focus was initially on five or six renegade soldiers who clearly violated their obligations as soldiers. Then it's migrated up a bit to colonels. Now, based upon today's hearing, it appears that senior officers in Iraq might have been at least nonresponsive to information that they should have responded to. Yet, it hasn't gone up to the level of national policy-making. And I think that level has to be looked at also.
ZAHN: What do you say to critics of this process who are listening to you and the other generals who spoke publicly today and say, wait a minute, this just smacks of politics? Two of these generals have actually called for President Bush's defeat.
REED: This issue is vitally important because it goes to the character and the integrity of our military forces. So I'm not surprised that senior military officers, retired officers, appropriately, should call for an investigation.
ZAHN: And what about the fact that they've publicly called for President Bush's defeat? You can't ignore the politics of it, Senator.
REED: Well, I'm just looking at the facts of the situation as they exist. I think an independent investigation would make good, good sense. And of the two officers that have taken a political position, there are several other officers that have maintained no position politically.
They are soldiers, Marines, and sailors. Some of them themselves were judge advocate generals who have looked at the situation and are shocked not for the political consequences, but I think ultimately to the consequences to our military services.
ZAHN: Senator Jack Reed, thanks you so much for your time tonight. We appreciate it.
REED: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: And I'm joined now by a colleague of Senator Reed, Senator John Warner, Republican of Virginia, who is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He's in Washington tonight.
Welcome back to our broadcast, sir.
SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: Delighted.
ZAHN: So, Senator Warner, you probably heard some of what your colleague had to say tonight. He says he's very disturbed by the fact that investigators have had trouble not only talking with the CIA, but in some cases, there's been no cooperation at all. And he says it is no -- he doesn't think it's any accident that you have all these multiple investigations going on and he doesn't think they're getting anywhere. Your response.
WARNER: Well, I know jack Reed very well. He's on our committee.
But, in this issue, I strongly disagree. I'd like to go to the broader question of what the Senate Armed Services Committee has done and will continue to do. We've held a series of hearings. There have been 11 reports acknowledged to be issued. We have eight. We've examined those eight and we'll examine the other three.
And today, there was an outside panel that presented I think strong testimony to the committee not only of the Senate, but of the House of Representatives. It was headed by two former secretaries of defense, Jim Schlesinger and Harold Brown, both of them enormously respected all across our land on issues of national security.
To say what Jack Reed just said is really an indictment of their credibility. And I regret that that happened. I can assure you that our committee is looking at this carefully, objectively.
WARNER: We will finish our work and there is no need in my judgment for an outside group to be appointed. Now, on the one issue of the CIA
ZAHN: Yes, are you satisfied with the level of cooperation between investigators and the CIA?
WARNER: That issue was brought up. It was discussed today. And I indicated at the conclusion of the hearing that I would immediately look into it. And since the hearing ended at around 5:00, I have spoken to the acting director of the CIA and the former director of the CIA.
I'll be briefed tomorrow on this issue, and hopefully will be able to make a public statement, which I feel will begin to posture that issue of what we call the ghost detainees, so that our committee will be able to examine it in the near future and make a disclosure to the public.
ZAHN: Do you acknowledge there maybe has been a problem with communication between investigators and the CIA?
WARNER: Well, there was acknowledged a problem today by General Kern on the military panel and the two secretaries of defense, former. We'll get that. We'll solve that problem.
ZAHN: Let me move on to another issue Senator Reed raised.
ZAHN: And he said he's troubled by the fact that so far these investigations have dealt with the senior military officers, but he doesn't think the investigation has led to the senior policy-makers at the Pentagon. Are you troubled by that?
WARNER: We started these hearings with the secretary of defense and his principal deputies. It was a very thorough hearing. And they laid the foundation for the subsequent hearings of our committee. I think that our committee is doing a credible job. Senator Levin has been by my side. He's the ranking member.
And I must say, I think only Jack Reed among the 20-some-odd members has raised these questions, questioning the work of the committee in terms of its accuracy and thoroughness and fairness.
ZAHN: Senator Warner, we got to leave it there this evening.
WARNER: Thank you.
ZAHN: We very much appreciate your spending time with us this evening. Appreciate it.
The abuse scandal so far has focused on one place, Abu Ghraib. But was it much more widespread?
We'll take a look at that right out of the break.
ZAHN: Shortly after the prisoner abuse scandal became public, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld addressed a town hall meeting at the Pentagon. He called the scandal a body blow and he condemned those who -- quote -- "betrayed our values by their conduct." But is there more to the scandal than what's known so far?
Here's Jim Clancy.
JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Anyone who has seen the photos depicting the abuse of Iraqi detainees inside Abu Ghraib prison is moved to ask a fundamental question. Why?
SHAREEF AKEEL, ATTORNEY: This is a question that was in my mind going to Iraq on the plane and it's still on my mind coming back.
CLANCY: Detroit lawyer Shareef Akeel says it wasn't just Abu Ghraib and the abuse didn't end when the military investigations began.
Akeel represents former detainees in large class-action lawsuit against two contractors who provide translators and interrogators to the military. In Baghdad, he says he interviewed more than 150 Iraqi men, women and children held prisoner. Supporting documents Akeel showed CNN indicate the plaintiffs were held in prisons all over Iraq.
AKEEL: The detainees that we spoke with were not just from Abu Ghraib. They were from the International Baghdad Airport. They were in Tikrit. They were in Mosul. They were in various detention centers and the abuse was not limited to just Abu Ghraib. It was expansive and pervasive.
CLANCY (on camera): What did you find?
AKEEL: I mean, whatever the human mind can imagine, whatever sick acts you want to create, it seemed like it was an act without a limit.
CLANCY (voice-over): He says the evidence he gathered from victims in Iraq has led him to a harsh conclusion.
AKEEL: We basically hired a bunch of thugs who engaged in unspeakable acts and provided fruitless, I mean, just no information.
CLANCY: Each plaintiff had a release form from the U.S. military saying in part this: There is no reason for the continued detention of the individual and further investigation into the case is not required.
CNN independently spoke to two of Akeel's clients. This woman says she was herded and dragged from her home last winter and taken to one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces in Baghdad now used by the U.S. military. There she says she was told to look out to where her son was tied to a tree, bleeding and the clothes torn from being dragged on the ground.
They told me to say goodbye to my son. That was a very painful moment for me because I realized the rest of my children were left alone in our apartment with the open doors and no one to protect them.
This woman swears she had no information that could have been useful to the U.S. military. Despite that, she says, she was dragged on the ground until she passed out.
Two separate Pentagon-ordered reports indicate that most of the proven abuse was committed by a small number of rogue soldiers last fall, but a teenage victim in one of Akeel's files tells of abuse in July of this year.
AKEEL: I interviewed a 15-year-old child who lives in Casmia (ph). And he was made to scrub floors in the nude and he was sodomized from the back and asked to dance. This is not in Abu Ghraib.
CLANCY: The Pentagon points CNN to this paragraph from the Schlesinger report on prison abuse which cited 50,000 apprehensions and only 300 allegations of abuse in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo. Only some 60 cases have so far been substantiated, and of those about 1/3 occurred during capture rather than in prison.
One of the contractors targeted by the class action suit is a Virginia-based firm called CACI. It is the main supplier of interrogators to the United States military. CACI insists the report from retired Army General George Fay exonerates the firm.
Nothing in the Fay report can be construed as CACI employees directing, participating in or even observing anything close to what we have all seen in the dozens of horrendous photos.
But after traveling to Iraq, lawyer Shareef Akeel is convinced that the interrogators from CACI and translators for another firm, California-based Titan, were involved in some of the abuses. Titan declined CNN's request for an on-camera interview, but a company spokesman reached by telephone said this:
There has never been an allegation against Titan by the government. It violates company policy for any employee to either participate in or not report any of the abuses that occurred at Abu Ghraib.
AKEEL: You know, the appalling thing about this is that the contractors or the American personnel were well-versed and knew about the culture, knew about the Arab culture and that if they can engage in whatever sexual act they want to engage in, the American personnel, they know that they're not going to be reported because the victim won't say anything because of this religious cultural taboo.
CLANCY: This man says some of the translators he encountered in interrogations treated him worse than U.S. troops. Like others he remembers accents, Lebanese, Egyptian or Iraqi, and details about the appearance of interrogators and translators. In some places the victims even learn the names or nicknames of those who abused them.
AKEEL: Contractors right now are outside of the law. I mean look at right now, when you have so many American personnel undergoing court marshal proceedings, where is the -- how can you hold the contractor responsible? What motive -- why do they have to follow our Geneva Convention?
CLANCY (on camera): Was it all about money?
AKEEL: I believe that money was involved. I believe there was a profit motive involved here by the contractors to try to find a way to show results, to show information. What's one way to show results and information? Engage in some kind of -- to torture the individuals, try to squeeze out information.
CLANCY (voice-over): U.S. officials say the military does not condone torture because it is illegal and because, they say, it doesn't work.
MARK JACOBSON, FORMER DEFENSE DEPARTMENT OFFICER: Every trained interrogator is taught that torture, abuse, retribution, does not get you the information you want.
CLANCY: A point echoed by the alleged victims interviewed by Akeel .
(on camera): Then what's the point of putting them through all of this?
AKEEL: I can't answer that question. I don't know what we possibly gained by it. What we did not gain was to promote goodwill and to warm the Iraqi people's hearts.
CLANCY (voice-over): Statements reviewed by CNN show some of the victims say that after they were subjected to sexual abuse or humiliation they were never even asked any more questions, which brings us back full circle in the abuse story. Back to that fundamental question, then why?
ZAHN: That report from our own Jim Clancy.
The abuse at Abu Ghraib generated considerable hostility against U.S. forces in Iraq. But this confrontation with American troops isn't what it seems.
We'll explain right after this break.
ZAHN: Long before the Abu Ghraib scandal embarrassed the United States, the Pentagon was well aware of the importance of making sure American soldiers were properly trained to handle Iraqi civilians.
Well, tonight CNN contributor Ron Young, a former soldier who was a prisoner of war in Iraq, gives us a rare look inside that training.
RON YOUNG, CNN CONTRIBUTOR (voice-over): In the heat of conflict, tempers quickly flare.
This Iraqi woman says a soldier beat her daughter. The clash escalates. Soldiers take an Iraqi man into custody. They say he's causing trouble.
Then, as quickly as possible, the soldiers march out of town. But a group of civilians makes it almost impossible.
Up the road, anxiety at a checkpoint.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no, no, no. He's not allowed in the car. YOUNG: The situation is tense. It's supposed to be. In this village, the line between fact and fiction is blurred. Intentionally.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name, Hamid bin al-Jalsin (ph). Iraq, south Iraq Muslim.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name's Nicole Chisilia (ph), and I'm from Pentle (ph), Mississippi.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Basra, Nasiriyah.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Baghdad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Baghdad. Nasiriyah. Baghdad and Nasiriyah right here.
YOUNG: This is Iraq in the middle of Dixie, Camp Shelby, Mississippi.
A few months into the war, the military realized it needed to change the way it trained National Guard troops, so the Army hired people known in the military as COBs, or civilians on the battlefield. Many are Iraqis who fled after the first Gulf War.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've seen, you know, the riots in the streets. Of course, I've been over to Iraq...
OUIJA MILLER, PORTRAYING CIVILIAN: Here, it's just like there. We're doing our best to make them feel the things and, you know, do the mission as we are supposed to do.
YOUNG: The instructors are tough, for good reason.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did they tell you what to do? What are you doing? You aren't listening. You can't take over this place (ph).
YOUNG: Sergeant Ira Mack recently returned from Iraq. The only difference from what the actual COBs in the training are doing and actually going over there, is they've got real bullets.
YOUNG: When we visit the village of Trabille (ph), guardsmen from Tennessee and New Jersey are going through the drill. The soldiers' experience level varies widely.
SGT. LARRY HENDERSON, NATIONAL GUARD SOLDIER: Came back from Vietnam. That was my first war. Didn't realize this -- I'm going to retire before I get back from Iraq. So it will be my second war.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is brand new to me.
YOUNG: Specialist Melinda Cobain and her unit are learning about checkpoint surges. Here, Cobain is essentially a 911 operator on the battlefield. It's the first time her unit, made up mostly of college students from New Jersey, has run through the exercise.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She thought it was easy. First she say that's all I'm going to be doing?
YOUNG: Sergeant Felix Carrion is in charge of checkpoint training.
(on camera) How prepared do you feel like they're going to be once they get over to Iraq?
SGT. FELIX CARRION, TRAINER: The training that we give them is tough training. But they're going to be better prepared than when they came here. And that's the whole purpose.
SGT. MELISSA COBAIN, NATIONAL GUARD SOLDIER: I definitely am worried. I want to go there and come back and just hopefully come back alive. But with this training, I think it's going to help us.
YOUNG (voice-over): Meanwhile, down the road...
HENDERSON: We have a situation.
YOUNG: Sergeant Larry Henderson and his unit are caught up in house-to-house searches.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll be more secure at the back of the house right now with my security detail watching over you and your family.
YOUNG: And learning the delicate nature of dealing with Iraqi civilians, especially women.
CARRION: Iraqi people, they don't like being separated from their wives.
YOUNG: Sometimes, the scenarios get a little too real.
ROA MAEM, PORTRAYING CIVILIAN: Yes, like when they make you mad, when they push you, you just want to push them back.
HENDERSON: We had an incident where one of the COBs bit one of the soldiers. But the reason the COB bit the soldier is the soldier was choking him.
So we had -- you know, we wanted as much contact as possible to add to the realism, but we had to downgrade a little bit.
YOUNG (on camera): Starting to get too real?
YOUNG (voice-over): As I learned from my own experience in Iraq, preparing for combat is serious business, as serious as life and death.
SGT. IRA MACK, TRAINER: Some will come back either in a body bag or come back with a limb lost if they don't take this training seriously. And that's just the way I see it and that's just how it is. (END VIDEOTAPE)
ZAHN: And here with me now is another man who knows an awful lot about life and death and survival, Ron Young, CNN contributor and a former POW In Iraq.
Welcome back. Good to see you.
YOUNG: It's good to see you.
ZAHN: If you hadn't told us in that report that this exercise was taking place in Dixie, Mississippi, or Dixie, as you said, it looked realistic. It looked like it unfolded in Iraq.
YOUNG: Absolutely. They make the realism just that, as real as they possibly can, because they have to put these soldiers there in mind in order to get the reactions that they would have normally in combat.
If they don't do this, then they run the risk of set sending guys over there that are half prepared and who won't react under a certain situation the way they need to to be trained.
ZAHN: What kind of a difference do you think it will make to these women and men serving in the National Guard that are being deployed to Iraq?
YOUNG: Every one of them I talked to said that they think that it will make a huge bit of difference.
They say that this is the most realistic training they've ever had. This is the best level of training they've ever had.
So they're going to go over there. They're going to be more confident in their skills in dealing with civilians, and I think that you'll see that they'll be able to put down riots and to be able to conduct themselves as normal people should in the military.
ZAHN: The most amazing thing to me in just watching that short segment is you can see how quickly one of these situations can escalate out of control.
YOUNG: Absolutely. And that's most of their duty, is to keep this thing from escalating to -- to keep the balance where it is and then from there to cut off the level of escalation.
ZAHN: Ron Young, always great to see you.
YOUNG: Thank you.
ZAHN: I was just teasing you about Dixie. You know that.
ZAHN: See? He says it differently than I do.
Thank you for flying to New York for us tonight.
Now, from issues in security in Iraq to security at home, one policeman's life, the ban on assault weapons and the not so simple connection between the two when we come back.
ZAHN: Unless Congress acts, and that seems unlikely at this point, a 10-year-old federal ban on some kind of assault weapons will expire next Monday at midnight.
And there are passionate feelings and persuasive arguments on both sides. But there are also human faces in the middle of this controversy. And that's where we begin tonight.
Here's Chris Lawrence.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Officer Jake Laird's portrait will have a personal place at the Indianapolis police station as the first officer in 16 years gunned down on duty.
Laird was a U.S. Marine on the police force for four years and dad to 7-year-old Caley.
MIKE LAIRD, OFFICER LAIRD'S FATHER: It's his greatest accomplishment. I mean, no bones about it.
LAWRENCE: Mike Laird said his son had big plans for Caley and for his own career. But all that all ended on August 18.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This man next door is shooting his gun and he's shooting like crazy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, ma'am. I need you to be calm. Police officers are all over the place.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God! Oh, my God!
LAWRENCE: It was pitch black, middle of the night. And a man who had just killed his mother was shooting up this Indianapolis neighborhood, hitting police officers as they arrived.
TIM CONLEY, INDIANAPOLIS POLICE OFFICER: I've been shot. I've been shot. don't go down that street. Nobody go down that street. He fired several shots at me, in my car. I've been hit. I've been hit.
LAWRENCE: One round hit officer laird, high in the chest above his protective vest.
LAIRD: They told me Jake was shot in the line of duty. And four other officers were shot at the same time.
LAWRENCE: The other officers survived, but not before the shooter got off dozens of rounds from his SKS, a military-style, semiautomatic rifle he bought in a local gun store.
The SKS doesn't meet the federal definition of assault weapon. In other words, it's perfectly legal.
JERRY BARKER, INDIANAPOLIS POLICE CHIEF: There is just no place for that type of weaponry in a city.
LAWRENCE: Indianapolis Police Chief Jerry Barker says the federal ban is a good first step but would like to see the law expanded to cover weapons like the SKS.
Right now, the law bans 19 specific weapons and semiautomatic rifles with detachable magazines and more than one of five assault features: a pistol grip, a flash suppressor, a grenade launcher, a bayonet mount or a folding stock.
BARKER: The fact that you can completely avoid gun stores and buy these things in flea markets, gun shows, those are loopholes that need to be closed, I think.
LAWRENCE: A group called Hoosiers Concerned About Gun Violence has been supporting efforts to close those loopholes. They're driven by incidents like the one that killed Officer Laird.
(on camera) Is this a case of mentally unstable people who would have done this damage no matter what kind of weapon they had?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I think you could ask the offers who were under fire that night, would they rather be under fire from a hunting rifle or just a regular handgun or would they want to be under fire with the weapon, the SKS.
LAWRENCE: Some people say that this ban doesn't even affect the majority of Americans, that there's only a small percentage of people that actually even own a gun like this.
LAIRD: These so-called people that say one or two percent of the people only own those guns, so they shouldn't be outlawed, well, if it had been zero percent, my son would be alive.
LAWRENCE: For Jake Laird's family, one bullet has left a hole in all of their hearts. And at the police station, a space on the wall soon to be filled by his picture.
ZAHN: That story was from Chris Lawrence.
I am joined now by a gun store owner. His name is Don Davis. He owns Don's Guns in Indianapolis.
Welcome, sir. Glad to have you with us tonight. You have been in the gun business for some 30 years now. Yet you are a supporter of this federal ban. Do you really think it's been effective?
DON DAVIS, OWNER, DON'S GUNS: What's going to affect us, the ban? The ban hasn't worked. All these guns that supposedly we can't have under the ban, I've got them here in the gun store. I have never been without them.
Why don't we understand that for -- President Reagan's gone, God bless him, Brady is an old man. The Brady Bill did not work. Get rid of it. When something doesn't work, get something new.
If the Brady Bill worked I couldn't have this Uzi. I couldn't have these AK's. I couldn't have these SKS's with bayonets. I couldn't have those 200 or 300 clips over there for AK's that shoot 40, 50, 75 rounds. I couldn't have this in here that shoots 75 rounds. I couldn't have this if the Brady Bill worked.
If the Brady Bill worked, I couldn't have these pistols that shoot 15 times, 15 times, 20 times, 30 times and 32 times. Thirty- two. Fifty times. And some over in the corner that shoot 100 times.
ZAHN: All right. But Don...
DAVIS: Or I couldn't have this gun.
ZAHN: ... there are a lot of people in the law enforcement community who acknowledge that there are loop poles in this law, that clearly the law was flawed, but it is better than no law.
And there was a period of time where you didn't even sell guns for four years. You even went on national television and burned some of your assault weapons.
DAVIS: I burned them to try to wake up America, and nobody listened. I could see in 1993 that inexpensive pieces of junk like this were going to cause a problem to the gun community.
Subsequently, I burned 44 of them in favor of the Brady Bill. I even put a sign on Don's Guns, "Thank you, President Clinton."
But I'm sure if I talked to him today, he'd say, "We did the best we can, because they watered it down and it didn't work."
Now it doesn't take a very smart person with me, with all of this inventory that I sell every day and have sold for 10 years now, to understand the Brady Bill didn't work.
ZAHN: All right, Don. We've only got...
DAVIS: Fifty-five miles an hour don't work.
ZAHN: We've only have 20 seconds left. What is the answer then? If you don't think...
DAVIS: What is the answer?
ZAHN: ... the assault ban works, what do you think should be done?
DAVIS: What is answer is for the Congress and the Senate to get aboard, sit down and not be afraid of the Brady people, who are money people, after money. The NRA's after money.
Get some guys with some guts, sit down and come up with a bill of whatever you want me to do. You want me not to sell them, I won't. You want to let me sell them, I will.
I'm not telling America what to do, but everybody in America should have a gun. That's for sure. And they should have it in their home. They shouldn't be walking around with it.
ZAHN: All right. We have to leave it there it this evening, Don Davis.
DAVIS: I know.
ZAHN: You gave us a lot, an awful lot, to think about. Thank you so much for joining us tonight.
DAVIS: You're welcome.
ZAHN: Plenty of voices argue for and against the assault weapons ban. But few are coming from Capitol Hill. Gun politics and the human element when we come back.
ZAHN: We are looking at the ban on some kinds of assault weapons about to expire unless Congress does something. As we have said so far, it doesn't look like that's going to happen.
Here's congressional correspondent Joe Johns on why.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the assault weapons ban set to expire, gun control supporters say a decade of progress is coming to an end.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've seen the supply of these guns on the street dry up.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: We know that there is traffic between terrorists and assault weapons.
JOHNS: Underscoring that point, that terrorists could get easier access to more weapons, explosive newspaper ads by the Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence are set to run in New York and Washington, accusing the president of blocking a renewal of the ban.
But President Bush says he'll sign one. Democrats question why he hasn't pressured House Republicans to produce one.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: He only need pick up the phone and call Tom DeLay, and the bill would be on the floor.
JOHNS: One recent poll suggests an overwhelming majority of the public supports the ban, but congressional leaders say they have no plan to bring it up for renewal.
REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: It's a feel-good piece of legislation, and all it does is punish those -- those people that are -- that live by the law and does nothing to keep assault weapons -- assault weapons out of the hands of criminals.
JOHNS (on camera): If the president asked you to bring it up, would you put it on the floor?
DELAY: No I would not. There are not the votes to pass the bill. If the president asked me, I would tell him the same thing.
JOHNS: So why aren't the votes there if the ban has so much support? For one thing, members of Congress from areas where gun ownership is high, tend to be opposed to it, regardless of party affiliation.
And then there's the power of the National Rifle Association, which wants the ban lifted.
WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXECUTIVE V.P., NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: A majority of congressmen have learned that these guns aren't machine guns. They don't fire faster. They don't spray bullets. They don't make bigger holes. They're not convertible to machineguns.
JOHNS: The NRA has a lot of members, money and clout, especially in states with large numbers of gun owners. John Kerry is for renewing the assault weapons ban but also counts himself as a supporter of Second Amendment rights.
Kerry is expected to call for extending the ban, although few think it's now possible.
Will all this have any impact on the campaign? When CNN last polled on what issues mattered to Americans, guns ranked second to last.
ZAHN: That was congressional correspondent Joe Johns.
Police chiefs from all over the country are in Washington this week, campaigning to extend the assault weapons ban. Among them, William Bratton of Los Angeles. And we turn to him now.
Always good to see you. Welcome, sir.
WILLIAM BRATTON, LOS ANGELES POLICE CHIEF: Good to see you.
ZAHN: Majority leader Tom DeLay calls this assault weapons ban a feel-good piece of legislation. And said even if the president told him that he wanted it to be renewed, that he would allow it to expire.
If this was not happening during election year, would the outcome be different? BRATTON: I think it might be. The president has indicated that if the bill were to get to his desk that he would sign it, so it indicates that he understands the importance of it.
Our concern is that he is not doing anything to get that bill to his desk.
ZAHN: So is it your belief...
BRATTON: ... Mr. Delay's comments.
ZAHN: Is it your belief the president doesn't want this renewed?
BRATTON: Well, you almost have to believe that, don't you? And certainly, Mr. Delay's comments indicate the sentiments of some of the senior leadership of Congress. They're going to have to answer to the American people as the carnage in the streets of America begins to increase as these weapons become once again much more readily available than they have been.
ZAHN: What do you say to the gun dealers have told us that if you want to get your hands on these weapons, you have been able to, simply through loopholes in the legislation?
BRATTON: There is no denying that the bill that was passed in '94, which was part of a much larger initiative, the omnibus crime bill, Brady gun bill, hiring 100,000 police officers, all of these things together helped to make America a much safe place.
But to get gun legislation through on these specific 19 weapons, this was a flawed law. There's no denying that. But even in its flawed state, it had many benefits. And those benefits that many thousands of these weapons would have gotten into the hands of the wrong people did not.
ZAHN: But Chief, as you well know, the NRA is arguing that we have seen no difference in the crime rate. They say you even got the name of the bill wrong. These are not assault weapons. These are semiautomatic weapons, that there's no difference in their firepower, and in the millions of weapons that are already being legally used by hunters and sportsmen.
BRATTON: You have to consider the source, the NRA, the -- basically, the Academy Award performance of disingenuous comments.
In their own literature, they describe these weapons as assault weapons. They conceivably get that as part of the thrust of their arguments to downplay how horrific these weapons are.
The fact that these weapons you're capable of firing, 30 rounds in five seconds with a single pull of the trigger repeatedly, whether it's...
ZAHN: But that is only if these guns are equipped with the special clips, correct? BRATTON: That's correct. The idea that that's the other part of the problem, clips that hold 30, 50, 100 rounds. You're going to go hunting in the woods for a deer or a bear, with something that holds 30 rounds, you're either the worst shot in America, or you're being very disingenuous in your arguments.
ZAHN: Finally, want to give you a chance to rebut more one argument of the NRA. They claim these weapons are used in self- defense and that anyone can misuse any weapon.
BRATTON: Unfortunately, that's the truth. And since we have almost 30,000 homicides every year in this country involving firearms, there's obviously quite a lot of misuse.
It's now going to be compounded by the fact that you're unfortunately going to have thousands of people that want to run out and buy the latest available killing machine. And that's unfortunate.
ZAHN: Chief William Bratton, thank you for joining us tonight. We appreciate your time.
BRATTON: Great to be with you.
ZAHN: And we will be right back.
ZAHN: And that wraps it up from all of us here this evening. Thanks so much for joining us tonight. "LARRY KING LIVE" is next.
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