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Indonesia: Epicenter of Earthquake and Tsunami Destruction; A Generous Donation?; False Alarm in India Panics Populace; Will Security Concerns Derail Iraq Elections?

Aired December 30, 2004 - 15:29   ET


ANNOUNCER: The youngest tsunami victims. How are they coping with the disaster that has cost so many so much?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are the vulnerable groups. And these are the future of the country, right?

ANNOUNCER: Offering condolences. But the Bush administration still is getting heat for its response to the catastrophe in southeast Asia.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: This is not the time to get into a bidding war with other nations. This is the time to make an assessment of the need.

ANNOUNCER: In search of relief. How much are the American people and corporations giving? And where is the money going?



KELLY WALLACE, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much for joining us. Judy is off this week. I'm Kelly Wallace in Washington.

Another very busy hour ahead bringing you the latest information on the tsunami disaster. And no matter how you describe that scene in southeast Asia, disaster, tragedy, catastrophe, the words don't seem to fully capture the enormity of what happened. But the numbers do tend to speak for themselves.

The death toll now has reached six figures. More than 116,000 lives lost. And as the casualty count has gone up, so have donations from around the world.

The World Bank is pledging $250 million for the tsunami relief effort. And Britain has increased its contribution from $30 million to $96 million. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says the international community now has pledged a total of about a half-billion dollars in aid.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KOFI ANNAN, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL: I'm satisfied with the response so far. The only thing I want to stress, that we are in this for the long term, and we need to help people rebuild their lives. We need to help the poor, who have lost everything, rebuild their lives and work with the government to make that possible.


WALLACE: And the secretary-general says the U.N. is preparing to make a global appeal next week for millions of dollars to fund relief efforts over the next six months.

Now we move to the epicenter of the earthquake and tsunami destruction, Indonesia, where the Indonesian health ministry says the death toll has risen to nearly 80,000. A conservationist says the west coast of hard-hit Aceh Province looks like it was hit by a nuclear blast with entire villages vaporized.

Dan Rivers is in Banda Aceh.


DAN RIVERS, REPORTER, ITV NEWS (voice-over): The first glimpse of what the Indonesians are calling their ground zero. The west coast of Aceh Province was hardest hit. This amateur footage shows the town of Molabo.

Officially, 3,000 died here. Unofficially, some think perhaps half the 30,000 residents have perished.

It is a town that's still cut off from the outside world, five days after this catastrophe. This is all that remains of Tenam (ph), not a single building left standing. And this is Chalong. It's been wiped off the map.

It was filmed by conservationist Mike Griffiths. He showed it to the deputy governor of Aceh Province today. He was horrified, unaware of just how bad the west coast now is. Later, we ventured down Aceh's nightmarish seaboard, driving through mile after mile of desolation.

(on camera): This is just typical of the scenes we've encountered on this road. The tsunami smashed its way through here. You can see before the tsunami came you couldn't see to the horizon. Now you can see all the way out to sea.

It deposited all this debris here. And after the wave had come through, the villagers say there were screams of people still trapped alive, hadn't drowned. The next day this entire place had fallen silent.

The people here are starving. This 60-year-old woman survived but will die unless she gets food. She told me she hasn't eaten for five days.

This woman has been found on a nearby hill. She's weak and has had no water since Sunday. We helped her into an ambulance bound for Banda Aceh.

(on camera): We've just given this woman 100,000 rupee, which is a few pounds. And they say it might make the difference between surviving and not surviving. They're taking her to the hospital. She's been up in the jungle for four days with no food and no water. And this example is just one of hundreds of thousands of people here.

(voice-over): This old man has been pulling corpses from the rubble without help, without water. We give him ours. He's too tired, too traumatized to talk. The bodies are everywhere, rotting in the road.

(on camera): It's just horrific.

(voice-over): Laid out without ceremony, grotesquely deformed. Mike had seen this from the air, but nothing could prepare him for experiencing it up close.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It does remind me of the pictures we see of Nagasaki or Hiroshima, where it was just I think one building, one cathedral standing, a gutted cathedral standing, and the rest was a leveled, a leveled plain of shards. And there's more to the situation here. We have one big building to our left and the rest is just nothing except debris.

RIVERS: These people are on their own. There's no aid here yet. They're walking to escape, but this road leads nowhere.

Dan Rivers, ITV News, Aceh.


WALLACE: The world communities watching stories like that one, still trying to come to terms with the scope of this catastrophe.

Meantime, here in Washington, the Bush administration said again today that its tsunami relief efforts are "just beginning." But questions keep coming about whether the United States' contribution of $35 million is generous enough, especially when compared to initial donations from some other countries and organizations.

Critics also say President Bush is missing a golden opportunity to win over hearts and minds and nations with key roles in the war on terror. The president's top advisers say that is not the case.


WALLACE (voice-over): A stepped-up public relations offensive. Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington at the embassies of Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka, signing condolence books and defending the administration's response to the tsunami disaster.

POWELL: This is just the beginning, and this is not the time to get into a bidding war with other nations. This is the time to make an assessment of the need and then to go forward and meet that need. WALLACE: But that has not silenced the critics. A cartoon in "USA Today" questions the initial U.S. aid, $35 million so far. Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy tells "The Washington Post," "We spend $35 million before breakfast every day in Iraq." Republican Senate Senator Richard Lugar says more money for relief is coming.

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R-IN), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: The efforts to appropriate money will be very substantial. And I think there will be a very decisive reaction early on.

WALLACE: But beyond money, critics say President Bush, who waited three days before public speaking out, missed an opportunity to show goodwill at a time of tremendous opposition to his policies in Iraq, especially in heavily-populated Muslim nations hardest hit by the tsunamis.

LESLIE GELB, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: I believe our country will pay a price for the three-day delay in his showing that he really cared about this situation.

WALLACE: Terrorism experts say the biggest concern could be the impact on the global war on terror, noting how al Qaeda has cells in Indonesia, the country with the world's largest Muslim population, and other south Asian countries. These experts say al Qaeda operatives could try to take advantage of the devastation caused by the tsunamis.

KEN ROBINSON, CNN MILITARY INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: The first thing they do is they reach out and they recruit everyone who survived, the children who no longer have parents, young people who no longer have a job, and they create a wedge that we will have to then fight that wedge of the next generation.


WALLACE: For a Republican response to questions about the U.S. response, I spoke earlier with House Majority Whip Roy Blunt and I began by asking him what he would say to critics to contend the president, by waiting a few days to speak out, missed an opportunity to show goodwill to other countries, especially those with large Muslim populations.


REP. ROY BLUNT (R), MAJORITY WHIP: And I think it's easy for critics to criticize, particularly to criticize a country like ours, that is always in the forefront of recovery efforts, of charitable giving, whether it's privately or in a governmental way. If you look at how this -- the scope of this problem has developed, you understand that whatever you might have said the first 24 hours would have been so quickly inoperable that probably a sign of measured leadership to say, of course we'll help, and then step back and see just what level of help is gone to be required. The amount of money we put in, in addition to the military commitment that -- that there's no price on, that's going to be substantial, and our commitment to lead in this effort at the end of the day will, once again, put the American people where they always are, and that's at the forefront of trying to help others.

WALLACE: But Congressman, do you personally wish the president perhaps maybe came out a little bit sooner and just expressed condolences on the behalf of the American people to the people of southeast Asia?

BLUNT: I don't think that the people of the effected area were paying any attention to who the condolences were coming from. What they're going to see are those C-130s coming in, the U.S. troops that are delivering supplies. Give this thing a few days, Kelly, and I think that, again, you've got remember, last year, of all the charitable giving in the entire world, Americans gave 40 percent of everything individually, not to mention what we do as a government.

WALLACE: But Congressman, you -- of course you've just traveled throughout the Middle East, also in Iraq. You know there is opposition to this president and his policies in Iraq. Do you think there is an opportunity here, the president's words and actions dealing with the tsunami disaster, in terms of curbing some of that opposition to his policies inside Iraq?

BLUNT: Yes, I think if you -- if you look at the Osama bin Ladens of the world, our -- some of our most vigorous critics in the world, no matter what you do it will never be enough. But every time we have a chance to reach out and show who we truly are, whether it's in bringing a democracy as we fight terrorism, opening the doors to trade, or in this case responding to provide this kind of assistance, we're doing that.

You know, we're leading the way in the fight on AIDS around the world. We've been doing that in Muslim countries for a long time, and not with much credit from the U.N. or anybody else. So I'm not sure we ever satisfy our critics, but who we really have to satisfy is the heart of who we are.

And in our heart we're an incredibly generous people, and we will be again as we lead this effort. And I'm sure we'll also be very involved in trying to come up with the scientific approach we need to take so that in the future there's more warning than people had this time that this was about to occur.

WALLACE: Talking about the initial U.S. response, $35 million so far. Your Democratic colleague in the Senate, Patrick Leahy, of the Appropriations Committee, telling the "The Washington Post" today, "We spend $35 million before breakfast every day in Iraq." And he wants additional money for the relief effort to be tacked onto any new spending measures for Iraq.

Do you agree with the senator?

BLUNT: Well, I think we have to look and see how this develops. You know, the death toll has -- has more than quadrupled in the last 72 hours. The American people themselves have already given $18 million -- $18 million out of their own checking accounts in the last 72 hours.

So we need to wait and see. We're going to have that bill here in a few weeks. We'll see what the situation and the need is at the time.

But again, I'm sure that we'll be leading the effort. And no matter how far you are in the lead, some people at home and abroad are always going to be critical that we didn't do enough. But, you know, the United States can't do everything. I'm sure we're going to do much more than what would be considered our fair share by any way you'd measure our response to this.


WALLACE: Our conversation earlier with House Majority Whip Roy Blunt.

A little more news about Congress. A congressional delegation is planning to get an up-close look at the tsunami disaster. There is word today that Republican Congressman Jim Leach of Iowa will head the delegation to Thailand and Sri Lanka next week. House International Relations Committee chairman Henry Hyde says the trip will be important in shaping legislation to provide aid to those tsunami victims.

We have much more ahead here on INSIDE POLITICS on the tsunami disaster.

Up next, a Democrat questioning the president's response. I'll talk with Senator Patrick Leahy.

Also ahead, Sri Lankan children who lost everything and everyone. Who is helping them now?

Plus, this disaster has brought many people from around the world together in sorrow and grief. So is there anything for Bay Buchanan and Donna Brazile to disagree about? The political questions surrounding the tsunami, that's just ahead.

And tonight, be sure to stay with CNN in prime time for complete disaster coverage, beginning with another special two-hour edition of "ANDERSON COOPER 360." That's at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

And at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, "NEWSNIGHT" exploring the difficult quest to coordinate relief efforts.

We'll be right back.


WALLACE: And welcome back.

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont is among those who say the U.S. government should have acted sooner and should be doing more to help people suffering from the tsunami disaster. I spoke with Senator Leahy a short time ago and I began by asking him what message he was sending when he told the "The Washington Post" that "The U.S. spends $35 million before breakfast every day inside Iraq."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: Well, I thought we gave the wrong impression to the rest of the world when it came out for the first couple of days that we were willing to spend $35 million to help the people who had been devastated by the tsunami. That's about half of what the little country of Spain is spending.

We're going to have to spend a great deal more than that. We should have been eagerly telling that part of the word, especially the Muslim part of that world, that we here in America are generous, a good people, and we are strongly committed to help them. And I think that's the way most Americans are. I mean, $35 million, we're going to raise a lot more than that in our churches, our service clubs, our offices and private donations.

WALLACE: Sure. Let me...

LEAHY: But we gave the really wrong impression to the rest of the world, that this might be all America is going to do.

WALLACE: Well, Senator -- Secretary Powell, Senator, speaking out today, saying this is just the beginning. That right now the U.S. needs to do an assessment, and that absolutely the U.S. will be as generous as it always is. Don't you believe that that will be the case?

LEAHY: Well, you know, assessments are already being done by the U.N. and by the Red Cross, Red Crescent and others. We ought to, if anything, send them money, help them do that assessment.

But certainly, that was not the impression given to the rest of the world. You had world leaders coming back from wherever they were to express condolences. Finally, after several days, the president expressed his.

Now, I'm sure he feels the same shock the rest of us do. But if you're the head of state, you should make it very clear that we feel this way.

I think it was an opportunity to tell this part of the world, the part of the world where America, for whatever reason, has not been very popular the last few years, say here we are. We're here to help. We're here to help with the kind of generosity that Americans are known for.

We missed an opportunity there. We'll make up for it, but it's going to be playing catch-up ball.

What I've tried to suggest is -- to the president, to the secretary of state, he can get a broad coalition of both Republicans and Democrats in the Congress to help move money. And he has the authority right now of his own to move about $300 million, $50 million a country for those that are affected. He could do that today.

WALLACE: We're hearing, of course, Republican Congressman Henry Hyde talking about on the House side, trying to push for an aid bill to the tsunami victims. How quickly will Congress be acting, do you expect?

LEAHY: Congress could act very, very quickly. But it also helps if the president wants to act very quickly.

As I said, he has the authority to move $300 million right now. We have billions of dollars that's being held in abeyance in Iraq for -- I guess to rebuild roads and bridges and all, may never be spent. But it's not going to harm anything to take some of that money today and use it here. We could always replace it later if we have to.

WALLACE: You know, Senator, we interviewed House Majority Whip Roy Blunt a little earlier, and he says that basically the president's critics are not rally giving him credit for what is he is already doing. He called it measured leadership, that he is mounting this international coordinated response and that his critics just never give him credit for what he's doing.

LEAHY: I'll give credit if credit is due. Right now, we responded very, very slowly. The wealthiest, post powerful nation on Earth. We are blessed with more resources than any other country on Earth. And if we're going to deserve those blessings, we ought to be willing to help those who have been damaged.

No, it has been slow response. It has not been the response this country's capable of. I think a lot of people in that part of the world see it that way.

I think it will change. I think the president, the secretary of state and the Congress will unite to get aid there. But I don't want -- I don't want that part of the world to think we're doing it grudgingly. That's not the soul of America to be grudging about this.


WALLACE: Our conversation earlier with Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

Coming up next here on INSIDE POLITICS, corporate America is joining the effort to assist tsunami victims. So how that next pound of coffee you buy could mean help for people in need. We'll tell you all about that.

Don't go away. INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.


WALLACE: Continuing our coverage of the tsunami disaster. U.S. corporations are joining the effort to assist people reeling from the aftermath of those deadly tsunamis.

CNN's Allan Chernoff is standing by in New York with more on how the business community is chipping in.

And Allan, thanks for being with us. So how generous has corporate America been so far? ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kelly, corporate America is certainly stepping up to the plate. Thus far, our tally of contributions stands at $70 million, and the actual number will be even higher.

The numbers are just adding up and adding up, and many companies aren't even putting a monetary value thus far on their contributions in both cash and goods and services. But the number certainly is increasing very rapidly.

Among the big givers, Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company. They're donating $10 million in cash, $25 million of medicine and supplies.

Exxon Mobile giving better than $5 million. Citigroup, Wal-Mart also big contributors. Wal-Mart is offering $2 million immediately to the relief effort, and they also are collecting from customers at their stores.

Now, other companies are giving their consumers alternative methods of helping out. For example, some of the airlines, well, they're letting people contribute frequent flier miles. Continental is doing that, Delta, Northwest as well. Frequent flier miles to companies that are going to be assisting.

And eBay is allowing people to sell their items and then take the proceeds and donate those very proceeds to the relief effort. Starbucks also, if you go to a Starbucks next month, and you buy any blend of the Sumatra coffee, for every pound the companies says it will donate $2 to relief efforts.

So Kelly, a whole way that many people can give assistance here. Many different ways to help out.

WALLACE: Yes, corporations being very generous. As you say, wait for consumers to give as well. Consumers might want to know, though, where does the money go. From Starbucks or the airlines, where does the money go in terms of the relief effort?

CHERNOFF: Well, you might say that every -- every corporation has its own favorite charity. Starbucks, for example, in the United States, the money is going to go to CARE. In Europe, the money will go to OXFAM.

Wal-Mart is giving its initial $2 million contribution to the Red Cross, and they say that they will determine, after they've collected an amount of money from the public over the next week or two, then they'll determine which relief agency is doing the best job, is really need most. And they'll send the money to that agency.

So it really depends on the individual corporation. But most companies are saying they're giving directly to these established relief organizations such as the Red Cross, AmeriCares, OXFAM, CARE.

WALLACE: Allan, thanks for the update. We appreciate it. Allan Chernoff reporting from New York. And important information now if you want to help and donate to the relief effort. Here are some organizations you can contact either online or by phone.

First, you can reach AmeriCares at 1-800-486-HELP. The number for Doctors Without Borders is 1-888-392-0392.

You can phone the Red Cross at 1-800-HELP-NOW, or CARE at 1-800- 521-CARE.

Other global relief organizations that are involved include OXFAM at 1-800-776-9326, and Worldvision at 1888-56-CHILD. And again, you can contact all of these organizations via the Internet as well.

Now, CNN has received hundreds of e-mails from people seeking news of friends and relatives in areas affected by the tsunamis. If you are looking for a loved one in that area, send e-mails to

Coming up next here, living in fear. After every aftershock, panic in the streets. Simple rumors cause people to flee for their lives, fearful that another deadly tsunami is headed their way. That story when we return.

Plus, will the daily violence in Iraq delay national elections planned for next month? We will get the take from the left and to the right.

That's all ahead on INSIDE POLITICS. We'll be right back.


WALLACE: As the markets close on Wall Street, we are joined by Kitty Pilgrim in New York with "The Dobbs Report."

And Kitty, I guess this is the second to last trading day for 2004?


And stocks stayed pretty close to the flat line today. Very, very light trading. Investors shied away from making any big moves ahead of the new year, and that's understandable.

Now, as the final trades are being counted, the Dow Industrials are down about 25 points. The NASDAQ slightly higher.

Crude oil futures ended slightly lower for the day but ended the year with a huge gain, 34 percent. Now oil trading is closed tomorrow, but the stock market, however, is open.

The U.N. is saying that billions of dollars are needed for tsunami relief efforts, and a growing number of companies, they're stepping in to do their part.

Pfizer says it will donate $10 million in cash, $25 million in products. And other drug makers, Johnson & Johnson and Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Abbott Labs, they're also donating money and medicine. Coca-Cola and Pepsi are sending bottled drinking water, very much needed, to the affected areas.

Let's turn to some other business news. Continental is the first major U.S. airline to place an order for Boeing's new 7E7. It's called the Dreamliner jet. Boeing says the deal for the 10 planes would be worth over $10 billion at list price, but airlines typically negotiate steep discounts.

Now this owner -- order could help Continental save some cash down the road and expand its international business. The 7E7 is a more fuel efficient aircraft than existing models, and that's partly because it's made of lighter materials.

A government agency will take over the responsibility for the pension funds of more than 14,000 active and retired United Airlines pilots. The pilots' pension plan is running a deficit of nearly $3 billion. So this adds another huge burden for the federal agency that's already operating at a $23 billion deficit.

Most pilots will see their benefits sharply reduced from what they were promised from the now bankrupt airline.

Well, coming up on CNN at 6 p.m. Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," our coverage of the tsunami aftermath continues. And Carol Bellamy, executive director of UNICEF, joins us to talk about global recovery efforts. We'll also talk to Barbara McCarish (ph), an American whose brother is still missing in Thailand.

And our "Made in America" series takes a look at baby products, the manufacturer Tough Traveler.

Well, we hope you, too -- you will join us later. But for now, back to you, Kelly.

WALLACE: Thanks, Kitty. We'll see you about two hours from now. Right now, INSIDE POLITICS continues.


ANNAN: In this particular instance, the response has been very good.

ANNOUNCER: World governments get a passing grade from the United Nations, but should the United States be doing more to help tsunami victims?

Terrorists target democracy. Will the daily attacks in Iraq force a delay in next month's elections?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know that some of the areas, the security situation is not sufficient to assure citizens to go out and vote freely.

ANNOUNCER: It's taken more than eight weeks and two recounts, but the Washington state governor's race is finally over, or is it?

DINO ROSSI (R), WASHINGTON GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: This election has been a total mess. A total mess.

ANNOUNCER: The losing candidate isn't going down without a fight.

Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS


WALLACE: Welcome back. And thanks again for joining us. I'm Kelly Wallace filling in for Judy this week. We are continuing our coverage of the tsunami disaster. And we have some of the latest information for you now.

The State Department says several thousand Americans still are unaccounted for after the tsunami disaster. Fourteen U.S. citizens are confirmed dead, a small fraction of the more than 116,000 people killed in Southeast Asia.

The Bush administration is expressing its concern about what happened, and its willingness to help.

Here in Washington, Secretary of State Colin Powell today visited embassies of countries in the disaster zone, signing condolence books and promising the U.S. would add to its initial $35 million donation to relief efforts.


POWELL: We now have to make a careful assessment of what that need is. And then, as the need is established and we work with the international community, we can be sure that the United States will be doing a lot more, as we have done in crises like this around the world.


WALLACE: Secretary Powell earlier today.

President Bush, for his part, is back behind closed doors at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, a day after making his first public comments about the tsunami tragedy.

Elaine Quijano is with the president in Crawford. She joins us now.

And Elaine, anything going on behind the scenes in terms of the U.S. increasing assistance? Doing anything more to help those victims in Southeast Asia?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we heard -- we haven't heard anything publicly on that front just yet, Kelly, but no doubt discussions are taking place as to what the next step might be. But yesterday, you mentioned President Bush coming out publicly. We heard the president talk about the formation of a core group of nations, including the United States, as well as Japan, India and Australia, to form a core -- a core group to help with coordination efforts.

And today the State Department said that that coordination process was up and running and active.

Now last night we understand that the undersecretary of state, Mark Grossman, participated in a 45-minute conference call with his counterparts from those countries. And we're told that that session was productive.

Now, as for the U.S.'s contribution to the relief efforts so far, here is a breakdown as we know -- as we know it stands right now. Six C-130 aircrafts going to Thailand. In Indonesia, of course, a country hardest hit, a C-130 filled with supplies scheduled to arrive today. In addition, two convoys of trucks headed to that area, of Banda Aceh, one of the hardest hit regions of that country. And relief supplies also expected to be delivered to Sri Lanka tomorrow -- Kelly.

WALLACE: Elaine, you've heard from some of the president's critics who say that by the president not speaking out so quickly and by controversy over the initial response from the American administration, that the president, his advisers, missing an opportunity to try and win over hearts and minds in Southeast Asia, important in the global war on terror.

What are White House sources telling you about that?

QUIJANO: Well, what we heard -- what we heard from Secretary Powell, at least, publicly today responding to some criticism saying that those people were responding to the initial reaction, the initial assessment phase, if you will.

In any disaster, Secretary Powell said, there is an initial assessment phase that takes place before the flow of supplies is sort of released. And we heard Secretary Powell say that right now the United States is just beginning to understand the scope of the situation and the magnitude of the problem, wanting to make sure that the relief supplies do in fact get to where they're going.

Behind the scenes, officials really aren't saying much. In fact, we know that the White House has gone out. And they made it a point to say early on this week that the president, in fact, was contacting leaders of the affected nations, not necessarily putting him out there publicly, but saying that the president was making calls and also writing letters.

WALLACE: OK. Elaine, we have to leave it there. Elaine Quijano, reporting from Crawford, Texas, thanks so much.

Four moderate tremors were reported today in Southeast Asia, bringing the total number of aftershocks to more than 70 since Sunday's earthquake and tsunamis. Indian authorities issued a new tsunami warning, but it appeared to be a false alarm. As Martin Geissler reports, the warning triggered panic on remote and devastated islands off of India's east coast.


MARTIN GEISSLER, ITV NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Panic. This was Port Blair on the Andaman Islands today.

"Run," shout these men. And hundreds did, fleeing for their lives. They heard another tsunami was coming. Some, though, couldn't move with the crowds. They weren't able. They could only wait, bewildered.

Here, a simple rumor can do this.

(on camera) And after the initial panic, confusion, some people are still fleeing this area. Others are coming back. No one knows what to expect.

There are still earth tremors here. The people here clearly think there is still a real possibility there will be further tsunamis.

(voice-over) And that is causing these islanders desperate, desperate concern.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We get the feeling that we might be swept out by the sea any time. So we're feeling very insecure because of this fear.

GEISSLER: The people on these islands feel exposed in every sense. Just a few hundred miles from the earthquake's epicenter, the Indian government has warned them one big aftershock could bring the seas upon them once again.

More than 10,000 are still missing here in one island cluster alone. It's a problem the authorities seem determined to keep to themselves. The media are denied access to the worst affected places, and so, alarmingly, are some of the world's biggest aid agencies.

One group interrupted a government press conference this evening to make their frustrations clear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From a medical humanitarian perspective, we would like to be invited to join any helicopter or boat trip going to any of these outlying areas in order to help and to look and to assess what is going on. Would you allow us to do that?

GEISSLER: "We'll think about it in the morning," they were told.

It will be weeks, if not months, before the world learns the full story of what has happened here. Sadly, time is something the worst affected on these islands don't have.

Martin Geissler, ITV News on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.


WALLACE: And one of the most heart breaking parts of this incomprehensible tragedy, the tsunami has left hundreds, if not thousands of children without parents.

Our senior medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is reporting from Sri Lanka. He is along the country's southern coast, where shelters are filling with children.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here are the consequences of the tsunami: a Buddhist temple suddenly turned to orphanage. And hundreds of new nameless faces. Vulnerable looks that only children can give.

(on camera) We're obviously surrounded by a lot of children here.


GUPTA: All displaced by the tsunami?

RANASINGAZ: Yes. For the past few days (ph), they have been here.

GUPTA (voice-over): Hard to believe they can smile. Some are still painfully shy. And most, for the time being anyway, oblivious as to just how much their future has changed.

(on camera) How many displaced have there been as result of the tsunami?

RANASINGAZ: We don't have the correct figures yet, but should be children -- children and the women.

GUPTA (voice-over): More than a million at least, and many of these families from some of the most deprived areas of the country, now more deprived than ever.

(on camera) What do you do for them here?

RANASINGAZ: Actually, now, what happens is here, we supply the food, the medicine, whatever the basic necessities they need at the moment.

GUPTA (voice-over): At a time when care and relief arrive in cargo planes, no amount of aid can ever give them back their parents.

But still, here's where the story gets a little hopeful.

RANASINGAZ: Any -- any children under 10 years who are without parents, just let us know, and we are -- we are willing to take care of them. And we will plan their future.

GUPTA (on camera): You can really tell how bad something is in a country by how the kids are doing, can't you?

RANASINGAZ: These are the vulnerable group, and these are the future of the country. Right?

GUPTA: Right.

(voice-over) And so by that measure, Sri Lanka is doing better than you might expect.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Sri Lanka.


WALLACE: Dr. Sanjay Gupta reporting on the littlest victims of this disaster.

With so much need and so much at stake, should the United States be responding to the tsunami catastrophe in a bigger way? Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan will take on that question next.

Also ahead, we will discuss the latest obstacles to elections in Iraq.

Plus, does Washington state finally have a governor-elect?

And at 6 p.m. Eastern, on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," the road to recovery, including corporate donations to the relief effort.

And another reminder, CNN will bring you in-depth disaster coverage throughout the evening, Anderson Cooper hosting another special two-hour program beginning at 7 p.m. Eastern tonight.

INSIDE POLITICS returns right after this.


WALLACE: And welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS.

Joining us now, former Gore campaign manager, Donna Brazile, and Bay Buchanan, president of American Cause. Donna, Bay, great to see you both.



WALLACE: Bay, let me begin with you. You've heard some of the criticism of the president. Some people are saying he's missed an opportunity to try and win over the hearts and minds, particularly in the war on terror. What do you say to that?

BUCHANAN: And you're talking about the -- his...

WALLACE: That he could have shown some good will, acting sooner...


WALLACE: ... coming out, thinking that this was an opportunity to win over some of his critics.

BUCHANAN: You know, the -- the criticism is completely unjustified. It's rash. What the key here is what the president does. And so they say, well, he should have spoken a day or two earlier or something. It's so ridiculous.

We have a terrible, terrible tragedy here, and we have liberals and critics of the president wanting to criticize him, rather than let's just talk about what we can do and get together and help the millions and millions of people that need help.

He has done an enormous amount. He -- we're going to spearhead this effort. He's put $2.4 billion in humanitarian aid this year alone, 40 percent of what the world has done. We are there always. And the government, the U.S. government will be there again.

BRAZILE: Well, many people are saying that it's, you know, two days late and billions of dollars short of what's needed to help the families over there recover and rebuild. Hopefully, Congress will come in and close the gap and to contribute so that we can contribute more.

Spain, which doesn't have our GDP, has contributed over $68 million to the relief effort. So hopefully, the country will respond a little bit more compassionate over the next couple of days.

BUCHANAN: That is so wrong, because we've got a number there and you say we've got to do more. We don't know how much. Just two days ago we thought the number was 50,000. Now we hear it's 115,000. We don't know the problems, and we have to add on. We have ships going over there, troops going over there. We have money going over there.

BRAZILE: We have a moral responsibility.

BUCHANAN: We'll do what we need to do, and we will be there.

BRAZILE: And this is an opportunity for the president to show leadership.

BUCHANAN: And there's no reason we don't believe...


WALLACE: You both know, and again, the political dimension so small, of course, we say, to the scope of the tragedy. But Bay, you know perceptions are important. You know that.


WALLACE: And there's a question, some of the president's critics say it almost seems sort of like grudgingly, that first it was $15 million. Then it became $35 million initial U.S. aid. But the president didn't come out until Wednesday. Just in terms of perceptions, is there a perception problem for the president in his initial handling of this crisis?

BUCHANAN: Sure, you know, you have the president of the United States and he's leader of the free world, and you'd like to see that maybe he would have responded on Monday or Tuesday. I agree. That might have been wiser, but that's not really what matters. It's what we do.

And he's going to be there. He was on the phones with the leaders of the countries. We hear now enormous tons of good going over there, sitting in airport hangars, because the governments aren't there to move the system. We need to make sure the system is in place and not just start sending stuff.

WALLACE: And Bay, yes, that's what the president is doing.

BRAZILE: But you know, it appears that those on the Internet, the bloggers have really -- they came within 24 hours, without even knowing the enormity of the crisis. They were out there raising money on the Internet., all of the bloggers, liberals and conservatives alike, started urging people to give resources, give money so that we can help these families.

And what -- what the critics are saying is that this president could have shown up a day earlier to show leadership.

WALLACE: Coordination -- you know, Donna, coordination is so key here.

BRAZILE: He's the face of the country.

WALLACE: The relief organizations say coordination is key. And what the president did do is create this sort of international coordinated team with Japan, India, Australia. So some say a coordinated response, taking time for coordination, is key.

BRAZILE: Well, that is important, as well. And I think that is where the United States leadership will be useful in the coming weeks as the U.N. and others, you know, rush to try to aid these people.

BUCHANAN: And let's not -- The U.N., we certainly don't want to send our money up to the U.N. They take 20 percent off the top. They have no right to criticize the United States. We will be leaders in this, as we always have been in major crises.

WALLACE: We're going to keep you here to talk about another important issue, and that is Iraq, where insurgents have focused their latest attacks on the city of Mosul.

Straight ahead, why the city's entire electoral commission has resigned. And the latest on a coordinated strike by armed gunmen.

INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.


With just a month to go before the scheduled Iraqi elections, the entire election commission in Mosul has resigned. A government spokesman says all 24 commissioners stepped down after armed men stormed their offices and threatened their lives.

Earlier one U.S. soldier and 25 Iraqi insurgents were killed in coordinated attacks on a military outpost in Mosul. Officials say two suicide car bombers rammed the site, and while more troops rushed to the scene, several dozen insurgents opened fire.

Earlier today on CNN, Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations acknowledged that in some parts of the country the security situation is, in his words, quote, "not sufficient to assure citizens to go out and vote."

We are continuing our conversation now with former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan, president of American Cause.

Bay, let me pick up with you. The Iraqi ambassador to the U.N. saying the security situation might be so bad they can't really assure safety to citizens who go out and vote. Is that going to derail the elections?

BUCHANAN: First of all, Kelly, that is in isolated areas. And there's no question, you look in some of those areas, it's going to be very difficult for those people. But the key here is the violence is going to continue until you have the elections.

Everybody now is coming together. They want to -- the Iraqi people want to vote for the first time in 80 years, and the sooner that happens, the sooner they know they're moving closer and closer to self determination in that country and you'll have more and more support for this -- for this very difficult effort.

But if you postpone it, what do you get? If you postpone it three weeks, is there going to be greater security? I don't see that happening.

WALLACE: Donna, some people say if you postpone the elections, you're just sort of giving a win to the insurgents.

BRAZILE: Well, I don't believe you can postpone the elections at this time, but perhaps you can make it a little bit more easier for Iraqis to vote, perhaps early voting, vote by mail, no-excuse absentee voting. So we're not just relying on voting sites and particular polling locations, where they don't have the sites, they don't have enough people trained.

So perhaps we should become a little bit more creative in Iraq and helping to expand, even, democracy in that country.

WALLACE: Bay, if you were advising this White House, I mean, what more do you think this president and his top adviser should be doing, again, to deal with the security situation and to try and ensure that these elections will be viewed internationally as legitimate?

BUCHANAN: Well, there's no question that they're working very closely with the Iraqi government. And they're going to have to put the Iraqi National Guard and army in all the places they can and set up something and have our military help them and support them.

We have to do what we can. But at the same time, this is high- risk. They're asking for their own independence, their own democracy, and the Iraqi people are dying for that today. And unfortunately, more are going to die before that happens.

BRAZILE: But if we -- but if we go back to the old school notion that we're going to have elections on one day at specific polling sites, you run the risk of alarmists and insurgents to control the day.

Again, go back to early voting, vote by mail. Give people many ways to cast their ballots so that you can spread democracy, educate people, cut down on the chaos, and give those third parties or insurgent parties and others an opportunity to participate.

WALLACE: All right. Donna Brazile, Bay Buchanan, we have to leave it there. Thanks so much and happy new year to you both.

BRAZILE: Happy new year to you.

BUCHANAN: Thank you.

WALLACE: Turning now to the "CNN Security Watch."

The Justice Department inspector general says the U.S. government still has not created a unified fingerprint database more than three years after the September 11 terror attacks.

In his report, the inspector general blames bureaucratic infighting for the delay in creating the database, a delay which the inspector concludes, quote, "creates a risk that a terrorist could enter the country undetected," end quote.

As always, we want to remind you to stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

Ahead here on INSIDE POLITICS, a certified winner in the Washington governor's race. Democrat Christine Gregoire is the governor-elect, but her Republican opponent still has a chance to contest the results. We'll have the latest right after this short break.


WALLACE: Time now to check the "Political Bytes" making news this Thursday.

The Washington secretary of state today certified Democrat Christine Gregoire as that state's next governor. After two ballot recounts, Gregoire defeated Dino Rossi by 129 votes out of almost three million ballots cast.

Rossi, however, has not conceded, and he can still contest the results in court. Last night Rossi urged Gregoire to join him in calling for a completely new election.


ROSSI: A revote would be the best solution for the people of our state. It would give us a legitimate governorship. If you and I were to join together and ask the legislature to pass a bill calling for a special election, the bill would pass quickly, as soon as the 2005 session begins. A revote could be held as soon as possible.


WALLACE: A spokesman for Gregoire dismissed Rossi's calls for a revote. Gregoire is scheduled to be sworn in on January 12.

Here in the nation's capital, the lobbying group for America's seniors, AARP, is preparing to launch a two-week ad campaign to oppose the Bush administration proposals to reform Social Security.

"The New York Times" reports the group will spend $5 million on full-page ads in 50 newspapers nationwide.

And that's "Political Bytes" for this Thursday. And that is all the time we have here on INSIDE POLITICS. For everyone at the program, thanks so much for joining us. I am Kelly Wallace in Washington. We'll see you tomorrow.

"CROSSFIRE" starts right now.


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