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Iraq Votes

Aired January 28, 2005 - 19:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: Good evening, live from Baghdad. I'm Anderson Cooper.
Days of high risk for Iraqi voters and American forces on the ground. Will the reward be worth it? A CNN Special Report, Iraq Votes, starts now.

ANNOUNCER: They're determined and dangerous, vowing to massacre anyone who participates in Iraq's democratic elections. Tonight, hospitals are getting ready for the worst. Anderson Cooper takes you to Baghdad's ground zero for the wounded, where preparations are being made for what might be the busiest and bloodiest day in Iraq.

Iraqis worldwide take to the polls. More than a quarter-million expatriates living abroad, exercising their new rights. Tonight, we take you around the globe, where voters armed with patriotic pride are casting their vote for the future of Iraq.

And a story of ultimate sacrifice. She was only 18, the youngest female soldier to die in Iraq. Tonight, a mother's heartbreak of losing her only child to war. Now, only a diary to keep her baby's memories alive.

This is a CNN prime-time Special Report, Iraq Votes, with Anderson Cooper and Christiane Amanpour in Baghdad, and Paula Zahn in New York.

COOPER: Hello once again from Baghdad.

It is early, very early, Saturday morning here, a little bit more than 24 hours until Iraqis go to the polls, many for the first time in their entire lives. Will they have a free choice? Will they have a say in their own future?

It is still, however, an explosive situation in Baghdad. Violence continues to rock the streets of Iraq as insurgents launch attacks across Baghdad, targeting polling places with car bombs like this one in the run-up to Sunday's election.

It is a day of fear here, but no doubt it is also a day of hope, Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, HOST: And Anderson, a day of celebration as well, as tens of thousands of Iraqi expatriates begin casting their votes at polling places from Iran to Los Angeles, and all over the world today. One expat voter said it was like being reborn. We're going to have much more on this thrilling day for so many Iraqis who fled Saddam, Christiane.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Paula, still the big question here is whether Iraqis in their own country will be able to put aside their fears and come out to these polling booths for the first time in a generation.

And security is on everyone's mind, especially the people and the security forces. Iraq has sealed its borders and its airspace. A nationwide curfew has been extended, and is now in effect from 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.

And meanwhile, insurgents have issued yet another warning to those who participate in the elections. They call it their final warning, with a vicious pledge to wash Baghdad's streets with the voters' blood, Anderson.

COOPER: And blood was spilled in Baghdad today. Two separate bombing attacks a short time apart took the lives of two American soldiers.

Today was a day it felt like two steps forward, one step back. The two steps forward part, the announcement of three high-level arrests of men believed to be linked to the terror network of this man, Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi. One of the men is alleged to be the head of Zarqawi's Baghdad operations. Zarqawi's group, of course, said to be behind many of the car bombings that have hit this country.


COOPER (voice-over): But there was one step back today as well, more of those car bombings in Baghdad, these outside a police station and polling center.

The first bomb killed four people and wounded two others at the police station. Two and a half hours later, a second bomb exploded down the street, outside a school to be used as a polling place on Sunday. No one was hurt there.

In the volatile city of Ramadi, U.S. jets hit suspected insurgent positions after a U.S. base was attacked with mortars, and the bodies of several kidnapped Iraqi soldiers were found.

Across the country, the effort to protect polling places has intensified, with U.S. troops rolling concrete barriers into place and closing off streets.

MAJ. WILLIAM EDWARDS, U.S. ARMY: I'm confident that with the help of the Iraqi security forces that are distributed throughout the Baghdad area, that they will be able to maintain a secure environment, and we're just there to support them.


COOPER: There was another stark reminder today that U.S. forces are not just battling insurgents, they are battling desert elements, the environment itself. For the second time in three days, a U.S. helicopter crashed. The status of the two-person crew is not known, nor is the exact cause of the crash. There were no shots fired in that area, those according to early reports, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: And Anderson, of course, the U.S. is going to need all the personnel it can get to help secure these elections. The voting booths open at 7:00 a.m. in the morning Sunday and close at 5:00 p.m. local time. There are about 14 million Iraqis in this country registered to vote, and, of course, the big question all along has been, will they come out? Will this be a successful turnout?

People here are afraid, of course, but they also do want to vote, even though they don't all know the nuts and bolts of what they're going to have to do on Sunday.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Iraq's election commission members display the voting boxes, and show how people should cast their ballots in private, behind these booths. That's if they dare to show up. With all this violence, Iraq looks more like it's preparing for war than elections, with people waiting in long lines to stockpile everything from fuel to bread. "They're buying more, because they're afraid," says Ahmed the baker. "All the shops will be closed for three to four days."

A strict election lockdown is about to be enforced, so people are buying up basics, essential foods and water.

It's happening at hospitals too, with doctors preparing to spend the nights in their offices, preparing for possible widespread bloodshed.

(on camera): The roads are already virtually deserted ahead of the election lockdown to prevent suicide car bombers. But in some Baghdad neighborhoods, these anonymous leaflets are being dropped. They give, quote, "a final warning" to voters to stay away from the polls. They claim to have rockets, mortars, and explosives ready for every polling station.

(voice-over): But in some parts of Baghdad, you sense a spirit of defiance as the election draws near. "This is important for all Iraqis, for us to have democracy," says this man. "We are not afraid of the dangers. We must vote."

With two days to go before the vote, election workers and party political agents are coming out of hiding, hooting, honking, and handing out leaflets, even though their colleagues have been threatened and killed during the election campaign.

Newspapers have only just printed the names of all 7,000 candidates after weeks of official secrecy because of fears they would be assassinated. And so people now are eagerly digesting what amounts to a crash course in what to do at the voting booth.

"We support the election," says Hamid. "This is the only way for our country to be stable."

"Iraqis need some strong medicine to cure the violence and chaos that have plagued them since the war," says Shaikh Saad al-Ubaidi (ph). "Since when do we live like this?" he said. "We are the richest oil country. We need to vote for someone to represent this country, and to protect its people."


AMANPOUR: And in that last man's voice, you could hear the anger, the anger of what they've had to go through, with the violence and the anarchy in the last two years since the fall of Saddam, and the anger at those who are trying to intimidate them (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

COOPER: And there is fear of anarchy for the next 24 hours if not longer than that. The American commander in charge of security in Baghdad says he fears on election day, or in this 24-hour period before, a spectacular attack by insurgents.

That, of course, is the fear by everyone here, not just American troops, not just Iraqi troops and Iraqi police. Doctors as well, as Christiane mentioned, the second-largest hospital here in Baghdad, Yarmuk (ph) Hospital, is gearing up. They are working long shifts. Their doctors aren't going home. They hope be ready for a possible massive influx of wounded.


COOPER (voice-over): In the halls of Yarmuk Hospital, Baghdad's second biggest, doctors are preparing for a busy, bloody weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is cases of multiple bullet injury, this is not the first one. The other one is in the operation room. And there is another one lying there are. There are some superficial injuries, which we treated them, and discharged.

COOPER: Dr. Rana Abdul Karim (ph) will stay here all weekend, working round the clock.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are here in emergency condition. And you can see from morning till now, there are many cases, and we are expecting to be increasing in the coming two days.

COOPER: In preparation, hospital staff are sweeping the halls, stockpiling medicine, washing the blood off stretchers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a stressful condition, especially seeing such number of patients. People, they are dying without any cause.

COOPER: A gunshot victim is wheeled into surgery. Moments later, another wounded man takes his place.

(on camera): The ER in Yarmuk Hospital in Baghdad is the busiest in this city. Already, it's 1:00 p.m., and they've had five people brought in from a car bomb this morning. One of them has died. This man has just been brought in with a leg wound.

(voice-over): He was shot while driving his car, caught in crossfire. Often, doctors don't even know the names of the patients they're working on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are trying to record all the name of the patient, and some of them we don't know their ID. But we can (UNINTELLIGIBLE) write (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that someone arrived dead or someone arrived with a critical condition.

I am reading here, this is a bullet injury, this is explosion, this is a trauma, this is a bullet injury.

COOPER: Car bombs are a constant threat. Outside the hospital, Iraqi police keep a close eye on passing cars. In November, a suicide bomber targeted the hospital. Six people were killed, 22 wounded. They don't speak about peace in Yarmuk's ER. Here, it's a struggle simply to hold on to hope.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We hope that there will be peace after the election, but really, I couldn't say. For many years, maybe after 10 years we will have some peace. But not (UNINTELLIGIBLE). After 10 years, maybe.

COOPER (on camera): So do you think this ER's going to be busy for a long time to come?



COOPER: The doctors and nurses in Yarmuk Hospital are the unsung heroes of life in Baghdad today.

Let's go back to New York and Paula Zahn. Paula?

ZAHN: Thanks, Anderson. They certainly make it sound like they expect a lot more of their important work to come.

From victims of Saddam's chemical warfare, to dancing in the streets, Iraqi Kurds get ready for an historic election.

Nic Robertson is in the region. We'll go there live.

Plus, the ultimate sacrifice, the youngest female soldier to die in Iraq. Hear her story of bravery, honor, and duty, through the words of her mother.

Also tonight, from Los Angeles to Iran, Iraqi expats from around the world cast the first ballots.


COOPER: When visitors from here in Baghdad, or anywhere in Iraq, go up to the Kurdish north, the Kurds like to say that they are leaving a state of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a state of emergency and entering an emerging state.

It, of course, has not always been like that. Who can forget these brutal images from the reign of Saddam Hussein? Back in 1988, it was in March Hussein dropped bombs filled with nerve and mustard gas on the Kurds, killing thousands of men, women, and children.

Tonight, the election just two days away, there is much anticipation in the Kurdish north, and that is where Nic Robertson is now.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): In the countdown to voting, Kurdish journalist Alan Attoof is busy. With a little help, his internationally backed independent newspaper is boosting its coverage for the elections, deploying newly trained reporters across Iraq.

ALAN ATTOOF, JOURNALIST: The notion of democracy is very new, but there should be some believers to work for it. And I could find myself as a believer in journalism, because it has a very good impact on people.

No, no, no, today's 27th, yes?

ROBERTSON: He sounds every bit as optimistic as a 26-year-old might, but as our conversation continues...

ATTOOF: There's a generation like that, actually, like me, which is split between fear and courage, hope and pessimism.

ROBERTSON: On a taxi ride across town to meet his father, I sense his fear.

ATTOOF: If you've gone through a safe situation in Iraq, especially, doesn't mean that you will remain safe and safe forever.

ROBERTSON: It's a message reinforced by 60-year-old Attoof. He explains how he took his son, Alan, who was 12 at the time, and the rest of his family and fled to the mountains as Saddam Hussein crushed the Kurds' 1991 uprising.

Alan translates.

ATTOOF: One of the other bitter memories, actually, is that we saw dead woman...

ROBERTSON: Listening as his parents recount the Kurds' persecuted past, I better understand Alan's dilemma.

ATTOOF: It's important to go vote, because it's -- the country is democratizing, but that the first time we shouldn't forget our injuries.

ROBERTSON: Around a table with younger friends from work, the conversation -- in English, for my benefit -- is equally revealing. (on camera): How old were you when Halabja happened?


ROBERTSON (voice-over): Mariwan (ph), from the Kurdish town gassed by Saddam, is now 25.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I can put that memory behind me. But when I read my rights, when I get my rights, then the people of the Halabja can (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

ROBERTSON: It's what they expect, repeated across the country, Iraqis voting for their own religious or ethnic group.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I vote for the Kurds, Shi'as vote for the Shi'a, and Sunni, if they do not boycott, they will vote for the Sunni. So what does it mean? It is to divide Iraq to three parties.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It doesn't mean necessarily to divide Iraq. You can combine and combine all these three different identities into a federal Iraq.

ROBERTSON: Even among themselves, they admit this is a rare conversation. And no surprise, they have no answers.

ATTOOF: This country has kept quiet by dictatorship, not by democracy. So can a democracy keep it quiet as a dictatorship could?

ROBERTSON (on camera): Can it?

ATTOOF: I am not sure.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Uncertainty is in greatest supply, optimism edging towards a close second.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every change will be in the hands of the Iraqis' influence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course. That's the most important for every (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we, as the Iraqi, we should be optimistic.

ATTOOF: I'm optimistic, but optimism is not workable every time. Pessimism sometimes is workable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, what I mean optimistic vision works for that.

ROBERTSON: Back at their office, that's what they do, getting out election news, working for a better future.

ATTOOF: I'm more optimistic that at least elections will do something for the Kurds.

ROBERTSON: Not Western democracy, but a step. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON: And all the Kurds we talked to here say they're very grateful to United States for just giving them the opportunity to vote. They're really embracing the idea, getting ready to get out to vote, Anderson.

COOPER: Voting the first step. Ultimately, don't the Kurds want independence?

ROBERTSON: There is certainly an independence movement here. The main leading politicians all say that they're working for a united Iraq, but the sense here is that if civil war were to break out in the rest of Iraq, then this would give the Kurds the perfect opportunity to withdraw themselves from Iraq and go for independence.

They see that they need strong international support. They see that they need the backing of the United States, that they need powerful international friends, because they're a small group of people. And for that reason, they're saying, they are playing the game, if you will, staying in the mix of a united Iraq.

But certainly there's a very big eye on independence as a possibility in the future, Anderson.

COOPER: Nic Robertson, thanks very much.


AMANPOUR: Well, the Kurds, of course, owe everything to the U.S., Which has been protecting them ever since the first Gulf War. It is not same in the Sunni triangle. We've heard so much about it, a really tough nut to crack, the heart of the anti-American insurgency.

A few months ago, the Americans went in to clear it out and prepare it for elections. But it isn't that easy.

CNN's Jane Arraf is there.


JANE ARRAF, CNN BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): A moment of shocking violence in what was billed as a day of peace. Former insurgents, local and tribal leaders and coalition officials, gathered for reconciliation talks ahead of the elections.

As we waited for the governor to arrive, gunfire rang out after a huge explosion shook the building. A suicide bomber detonated his car at the intersection outside, as an Iraqi police patrol passed by. A police lieutenant was killed. Four wounded policemen were rushed to hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, set this up. I need a couple guys.

ARRAF: Evidence of why U.S. and Iraqi forces are on high alert for attacks ahead of Sunday's voting.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE): There are a lot of opposing forces in the city, and it's not clear who has the upper hand -- the insurgents who just carried out the suicide bombing next to this building, or the Iraqis inside discussing reconciliation.

(voice-over): The Iraqis were unfazed. None of them left the meeting.

After only a brief delay, Deputy Governor Hasan al-Patran (ph) began the conference, saying they were inviting everyone to work together, because their country needs them.

In the audience, former Ba'ath Party leaders, Sunni and Shi'a shaikhs, and former insurgent leaders who had agreed to end attacks.

The top U.S. military official here made a promise.

COL. D. PITTARD, COMMANDER, 3RD BRIGADE, 1ST INFANTRY DIVISION: If you pledge that, in fact, if you will stop the violence, renounce the violence against the Iraqi citizens, Iraqi street forces, as well as coalition forces, and continue to do that pledge, that we will pledge to you that we will no longer seek to detain...

ARRAF: This province will be a key test of the Sunni Muslim vote. Local leaders here have obtained an exemption from Sunni clerics who have been calling for a boycott of the election. This is expected to be the only province where Sunnis are sanctioned by religious leaders to vote.

"It's in the benefit of the Islamic parties and the Sunni parties to participate as a balance," says Hafez Abdul Aziz Jama (ph), who's running for the Iraqi Islamic Party.

As for the violence outside, Iraqis expect that to continue as an element of the country chooses bombs over the ballot box.

Jane Arraf, CNN, Baqubah.


AMANPOUR: Watching the Sunni turnout in that triangle will be key to the success of this election.

Now back to you, Paula, in New York.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Christiane.

From a rough neighborhood to the dangerous roads of Iraq, the youngest female soldier to give her life. Her mother shares her story.

Also tonight, an American hostage kidnapped in a gun battle in Baghdad. One family's desperate plea for his freedom.

And a little bit later on, fighting the insurgents. Find out what else is being done to stop them from disrupting Sunday's election.


ZAHN: The U.S. death toll in Iraq now stands at 1,423. But for the families you just saw, the only number that matters is one, the one son, the one daughter, the one sister or brother who won't be coming home.

Tonight, we're bringing you the stories of these American sacrifices.

Jason Carroll reports on one young woman who survived the rough city streets, but died in Iraq, doing what she always wanted to do.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Leslie Jackson was everything to her mother, an only child who knew early on what she wanted to do with her life.

VIOLA JACKSON, MOTHER: That's all she talked about. She was already in JROTC, and that's all she talked about, was being -- going into the Army. I'm going into the Army, you know. And I was hoping that maybe she would change her mind, but...

CARROLL: She never did.

Leslie kept a journal and wrote letters about her experiences. One reads, "This place is hell. I don't know, we got here. Is the Lord punishing me? What did I do wrong?"

The words written May 20, the day Leslie was killed when her truck hit a roadside bomb. She was 18, the youngest U.S. female soldier to die in Iraq.

JACKSON: She always told me, Mom, don't worry about me. Unless you see two uniformed personnel standing on the door, on the doorstep, she said, don't worry, about me. (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And when I saw them, I knew.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): I once was lost...

CARROLL: Leslie Jackson grew up in a rough section of Richmond, Virginia. When word spread of her death, the community came together and mourned. At her high school, her principal...

EARL PAPPY, PRINCIPAL: Let's get out of the halls, let's go. Come on, you all, let's go.

CARROLL: ... a man known for keeping order...

PAPPY: You better find somebody's class, man. You better find it now.

CARROLL: ... remembers how Leslie kept him in line. PAPPY: When I came in, she took me under her wings to kind of let me know what she expected out of a principal for Judgeworth (ph) High School.

CARROLL: That was Leslie Jackson, age 16.

At 15, already a member of the school's ROTC program, her peers voted her battalion commander. She often spoke of going to Iraq with her ROTC teacher.

SGT. EARL WINSTON, U.S. ARMY INSTRUCTOR: When we talked about it, about her going to Iraq, and we talked about people dying in Iraq prior to her going, you know, she said it was OK. She would still not hesitate to do what she could do.

CARROLL: The school keeps her Army uniform. It's too painful to have at home.

But her mother has her memories, the last call she got from Leslie the day she died.

JACKSON: And she said, Mama, I don't know when I'll get a chance to talk to you again. And I just wanted to let you know that I love you. And I said, Leslie, I love you too.

CARROLL: And there are always her daughter's letters.

JACKSON: "Today was OK. I only heard one boom, and it was outgoing. I wish every day could be like this, quiet and peaceful and normal. I slept most of the day. I talked to my mother and Samantha, and it made my day even better. Anyway, another day gone, another day alive. Thank God.

CARROLL: Jason Carroll, CNN, Richmond, Virginia.


ANNOUNCER: Iraqis worldwide take to the polls. More than a quarter million expatriates living abroad exercising their new rights. Tonight, we take you around the globe where voters armed with patriotic pride are casting their vote for the future of Iraq.

CNN's special report "Iraq Votes" will continue in a moment.



BUSH: Sunday's election is the first step in a process that will allow Iraqis to write and pass a constitution that enshrines self- government and the rule of law. This history is changing the world, because the advent of democracy in Iraq will serve as a powerful example to reformers throughout the entire Middle East.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ZAHN: And against this backdrop, at least 3 Americans are being held hostage in Iraq. One of them is Roy Hallums, who was kidnapped way back on November 1. There has been virtually no word about him or his welfare until a videotape surfaced on Tuesday. His daughter and ex-wife have seen it and they talked with me about it a little bit earlier.


ZAHN: And joining us now Susan Hallums and her daughter Carrie Cooper. Thanks so much for being with us tonight.


SUSAN HALLUMS, EX-WIFE: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: I know your feelings are so raw at this point. We certainly understand that. But you think it's very important for the American public to see your husband being held hostage and to hear the desperation in his voice. We now are going to air a small part of his plea.


PAUL HALLUMS, HELD HOSTAGE IN IRAQ: I'm please asking for help, because my life is in danger, because it's been proved that I worked for American forces. I'm not asking for any help from President Bush, because I know of his selfishness and unconcern for those who have been pushed into this hellhole.


ZAHN: Susan, besides the terror you can see in his face, what else do you read into what your husband is saying?

S. HALLUMS: I read that he's been tormented, and it's just been a horrible situation, that he's lived since November 1. And that he needs our help. He's making a cry for help.

ZAHN: Do the words he used sound like anything he would ever say?

S. HALLUMS: Parts of it -- a small amount of it does.

ZAHN: What rang true to you? What might he have said without pressure?

S. HALLUMS: I think when he pleaded for help, that I'm sure he'd use the words hellhole. That it has been a living hell.

ZAHN: Which part do you think he was forced to say?

S. HALLUMS: I believe in my heart about our president, President Bush.

ZAHN: Carrie, when you looked at the videotape, you're looking at it through basically 2 different sets of eyes -- the eyes of a daughter, and the eyes of a clinical psychologist. What did you see when you saw those horrific images of your dad?

COOPER: I see my dad -- it seemed like he's aged 40 years in a few months. And it's just one of the hardest things to see. He looks like he's near death in the video.

ZAHN: What has the government told you about his status?

S. HALLUMS: We've just been told it was classified and they were working on leads, and they really weren't at liberty to share any information with us, which has been a living nightmare.

ZAHN: You have spent many months waiting for even a little sliver of information.

S. HALLUMS: Begging.

ZAHN: Begging.

S. HALLUMS: Begging.

ZAHN: You got nothing? And then this tape comes along. Why do you think this tape surfaced?

S. HALLUMS: I feel because of the election. I feared that something would surface. I mean, we had mixed feelings of -- I feel he's alive and that this tape is recent. We have no proof that it's recent, but I feel in my heart it is. But we were worried about his health. He takes medication that he hasn't been able to take.

ZAHN: Carrie, what kind of a man is your dad?

COOPER: He's wonderful. Whenever I needed anything, he was there for me all along the way. So, you know, whenever I need assistance in whatever way possible, he was there for me. And he always has been.

ZAHN: If there's even a remote possibility that one of his captors could even hear this message, what would you like to tell your husband's captors?

S. HALLUMS: Please release him. He's a kind and wonderful person and a loving father and grandfather, and please release him. Have mercy on his life.

ZAHN: Carrie?

COOPER: I just hope that they find it in their hearts to release him, so he can come back home and, you know, and be with us.

ZAHN: Well, we know this has been many months of waiting and waiting. And we hope you get some positive information from the U.S. government soon.

S. HALLUMS: Thank you. ZAHN: Thank you. Good luck to your family.

S. HALLUMS: We appreciate it, Paula. Thank you so much.


ZAHN: In the meantime, the Hallums have set up a Web site for anyone wishing to contact them, including the kidnappers. The address is

One other note earlier this week, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi appealed to the captors to free Roy Hallums.

Let's go back to Christiane and Anderson. I guess the thing that has stunned the Hallums is the fact that not only did these kidnappings take place, but it seems that it's big business right now in Baghdad, isn't it?

COOPER: Yeah. I mean, that's one of the things that's so surprising. There's so many different factions, so many different groups involved in this insurgency, some of them are just thugs, gangs, who are in this as a business enterprise and kidnapping can make them money.

AMANPOUR: With prices on people's heads. But I'll tell you very frankly, Anderson and Paula, anybody who comes here, any non-Iraqi, any, quote, foreigner, whether it be a journalist or a contractor is terrified of the possibility of kidnapping. It's something that really plagues our day. We try and we hope that it will never happen to us. But we know there are prices on journalists' head, prices on a U.S. soldiers' head, there's all sorts of, as you say, not just the political terrorists, the insurgents, but those simply in the business of kidnap and ransom.

COOPER: And Paula, often, sometimes we've heard cases of gangs who have kidnapped somebody and then actually sold them to an Islamic group, an insurgent group once they sort of gotten too hot to handle. So they're actually sort of moved up the terror chain, which is just -- I mean, it's just a horrific thought.

AMANPOUR: And obviously we've been so happy and rejoiced when members of our profession, the 2 French journalists, were released. Of course, there's another one still in captivity. We don't know. We haven't heard about her.

And then it's just so awful when you see the worst of the worst, the way a kidnapping can play out in somebody's death.

COOPER: I interviewed a journalist who had been kidnapped several months ago. And one of the things she said is that she was amazed, in her time in captivity, and of course she survived, thank goodness -- she was amazed at how everyone in the neighborhood in which she was being held knew she was being held. And she had always thought of the insurgency as this sort of small pockets. What she learned while being kidnapped was that whole neighborhoods kind of know about it and are in on it in some ways. That's a very frightening thing for anyone who is being held, or like us, of course, fears to be held. Let's go back to Paula in New York.

ZAHN: I was going to say, Anderson, the interesting thing about the Hallums, they know that if history is any guide, usually when these videotapes surface, it is not good news, but they're holding on to hope that Roy Hallums is still alive, and they are praying that they get some positive news soon.

Coming up next on "Iraq Votes" a CNN special report, Iraqi- Americans cast their ballots, expatriates calling it the greatest day ever as they do their part to change their homeland.

Plus, voices of Iraq. Hear from a 15-year-old schoolgirl. She's too young to vote, yet she shares her hopes and her dreams with us.

And enemy number one, we've been talking about it all night long, the insurgents, what exactly is being done to keep them from causing harm on election day.


COOPER: From Los Angeles to Southgate, Michigan to women in chadoors in Iran, across the world in 14 countries, more than 280,000 Iraqi expatriates went to the polls. In the United States, polls opened at 7:00. Some 28,000 Iraqi-Americans will be voting for the future of this country here in Iraq. Nowhere is the Iraqi-American population in the United States larger than it is in Dearborn, Michigan, and that is where we're joined tonight by Aaron Brown -- Aaron.

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, thank you. I think both the Muslim and the Christian Iraqis here, they're both good-sized populations in the Detroit area. We'll tell you. They're somewhat disappointed at the registration numbers. About one in 10 expats will vote, or at least registered to vote. In part they blame a cumbersome registration process, in part they blame the weather. There's a pretty good-sized snowstorm on the big registration push weekend. In part they say there are too few polling places and there are other more complicated reasons as well, but in the end, the truth of the matter is this was not an easy election to organize.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people who are coming here are of Iraqi descent, all of them, Chaldean and Muslims. About two-thirds of the community are Chaldean. One-third or less are Muslim. Predominantly Shia Muslim.

BROWN: The Shias, of course are the majority inside Iraq, but the Chaldeans, Christians are dominant here in Dearborn. And while they may be in parts of Iraq under siege, here they are trying to work together.

IMAM HUSHAM AL HUSAINY, DIR., KARBALA ISLAMIC CENTER: It's important to us to build the bridges of good relationship between the east and the west, between Muslim and Christian, between Iraq and American, because so many politicians abuse their relationship and so many politician ruin the relationship and they burn the bridge. So we are here to build the bridge.

BROWN: As for today's voting, the man in charge on the ground says even if the turnout is lower than expected, what's important is what lies ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it's the first time they've ever been involved with elections, so we have to look at all the forms and every single minuscule detail to make sure everything is filed perfectly so they learn from this experience and the next elections coming up maybe there would be other out-of-country voting operations. So this is not only an election now but a lesson learned for future elections.


BROWN: I think the headline tomorrow will no doubt note the numbers of people who voted or didn't vote, but we ought not lose sight of the fact that those who did, it was something to behold. I wouldn't compare it exactly -- Christiane will remember this, what it was like in South Africa, when South Africans voted in the first free election but there was this tremendous power that people felt when they walked into the voting booth, they dipped a finger into this bowl of ink to note that they were officially voting, and then took this giant ballot into a voting booth and cast their ballot, in what for them was an extraordinarily powerful moment. When they were done, they dropped that ballot into the ballot box and received a round of applause -- Anderson.

COOPER: I remember actually standing in line in Soweto with a young man voting for the first time in 1994. And that line took hours and hours and there was no one who left that line. Everyone wanted to vote. Is there optimism there in Dearborn about the future of Iraq? Do people you talk to seem optimistic?

BROWN: I think they are optimistic today, they are optimistic that if this election -- and part of the reason I think people came out to vote today is they want the result to be seen as legitimate, that this is a legitimate government that is elected. And if Iraqis believe that they have elected a legitimate government wherever they live, then they think there's a great prospect for peace ahead. Maybe not tomorrow, but ahead. If it's not seen as legitimate, then all bets are off.

COOPER: All right, Aaron. Thanks very much. In Dearborn, Michigan. We'll see you on "NEWSNIGHT" a little bit later on tonight. Let's go back to Paula Zahn now in New York.

ZAHN: Anderson, she's too young to vote, but this election could determine her future. Coming up next, meet Nora, a 15-year-old schoolgirl with high hopes. A teenager's thoughts on a new Iraq.

Also tonight, inside the insurgency dead set on ruining the elections. Can polling places really be secured?

And remembering a hero who died in Iraq trying to help make history happen. The dad of a fallen soldier on his son's bravery and patriotism. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANPOUR: The children of Iraq who have been become adults much quicker than you would expect, they've lived a lifetime of war, of sanctions and deprivation. They obviously are too young to vote, like the teenager you're about to meet, but they do have strong opinions, and they are not afraid to share them.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Nora is a 15-year-old schoolgirl from the outskirts of Baghdad. In many parts of Iraq, schools and education facilities are still a little dilapidated, but Nora is lucky, because she attends one of the new private schools that have sprung up in the last year.

NORA (through translator): Before the war, I used to just read as a hobby. Now it's different. We're in tune with technology. They have introduced computers and Internet connections. And this helps me keep up with fast developments in the world.

AMANPOUR: Many of Nora's friends are afraid these days leading up to the elections, knowing that bombs might go off at any time in the streets or near their schools. Many schools will be used as polling stations. And their parents could be targets on voting day.

NORA (through translator): I definitely think my parents should vote. Because their voices are going to determine the future of Iraq, and give us freedom and democracy. I like politics, and I would very much like to represent my country in a way, or maybe occupy a position in the government. I would like for serve my country and take part in shaping its freedom and independence.

AMANPOUR: Whatever government takes office after the elections it'll have to deal with the legacy of occupancy and the many, many years of Saddam's tyrannical regime. Nora, like many Arabs, is afraid of the violence in her country and what it's done for the image of Muslims around the world.

NORA (through translator): I hope people in the west don't get a wrong image of Islam. What they see of Iraq now is not Islam. Islam is about forgiveness. What the West sees on television, the throat- cutting, is not Islam. Islam would not permit such terrorist acts.

I wish I could see the American and British forces leave. And I would wave them good-bye, as I was waving at them when they entered.


AMANPOUR: So children, teenagers like Nora, are so politically aware. They've been at the cutting edge of all the events in their country, which really have taken the whole world in, and they are very, very aware, much more mature than perhaps children you may find in the West, Paula.

ZAHN: Well, children basically without a childhood. Christiane, thanks.

As the Iraqis get ready to vote, the families of some U.S. troops that made the ultimate sacrifice remember their fallen heroes and their bravery.

Also tonight, the battle against the insurgents, more on what's being done to stop them so democracy will prevail.

And band of brothers, across generations heard from World War II and Iraqi vets on the fight for freedom and whether they think getting an election in Iraq was worth the cost.


ZAHN: So many American men and women are serving in the military out of love of their country. Some have made the ultimate sacrifice, but they do live on in the hearts of others. And with respect and honor, we offer remembrances of just a few of them.


ZAHN: He was ready to, to go to the homecoming. And (UNINTELLIGIBLE) he was my big boy, you know.

That's Diego right there. Now that's a picture of my baby in his beautiful uniform. I miss my baby big time. I miss Diego.

One day he was playing Nintendo, the next day he was in the middle of the war.

They are not ready to do things like this, they are just young, he wants to have fun. But Diego, no, Diego was doing something for everybody in this country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I, Diego Fernado (ph)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: solemnly swear...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: solemnly swear...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He decided to go into the Army, because after what happened on September 11, you know, in New York changed his life, I think. And he said, dad, I have to do something for my country. It's my country to defend. There's nothing that I -- I don't want to be here sitting around waiting for somebody to kill us here, you know.

If he was in the middle of nowhere. It was raining, you see here. And he was smiling. No matter what, he was happy all the time. And you know why he was happy all the time? Because he was doing that for you, America, for us and for everybody. This is Diego right here, see that face right here?

I was asking, why you don't go up to the Army and be in the kitchen.

He said, no, let me go to be in the floor (ph). And I said, no, I need to be -- I want to be with the best ones.

Coming to this country, giving everywhere, not even being a United States citizen and giving his own life for this country was -- only heroes do that, you know? And he died with Diego the same day.

But no matter what, I'm strong. And I'm going to be OK. I don't want to take my son out of the picture of my life. He's going to be in the picture of my life forever. And I'm praying for every single family in Iraq. And not only that, because they deserve to live a free life, and they deserve to have a free country, like we have here in the United States.

For me, every single red country in this flag is the blood of my son. This is not for free. We pay for this. And we pay this big time, you know, only to give some people a nice country to live.

STACEY SAMMIS, WIFE OF KILLED U.S. SOLDIER: I remember, I sat up on the couch and I stared up at this big lieutenant colonel with these big blue eyes and he was -- tears coming out of his eyes.

And they were reading this all this military technical term. And I just stopped the captain for a second. I said, did the bad guys get him? And they said, yes. And that was all I needed to know.

He had a heart that was so big. He just loved everyone. He was very intelligent and he had big dreams for his life. Big dreams. He wanted to be a dad. He wanted to the best officer he could be. He was funny as anything. He could do voices from "Shrek" and the Klumps from "The Nutty Professor." So, he was always there with a laugh and he would smile.

Every time I would cry like that, like now, he would just say, Stacey, just smile. Just smile. And he was always there to pick me up, too. I miss everything about him. I miss making dinner together. I miss waking up next to him. I miss the e-mails. I miss the future that we'll never have, the children we'll never have.

He used to say all the time -- we would go for walks and say, we're going to be 80 years old in our matching little sweat suits, sitting out here feeding the pigeons. And that sounded great to me. So I miss that. I definitely the center of his world and he was the center of my world. And we were a great team. He used to call us team Sammis.

He was my best friend. I would just come right up to him and put my head right in the crook of his neck. And he would just give me a big bear hug and just hold me so tight. So, maybe that's what I miss the most, just being able to be held and protected, because I just felt so safe in his spot. He just would hold me so tight. I just knew nothing bad would happen if he were with me.

RONALD SLAVENAS, FATHER OF KILLED U.S. SOLDIER: My name is Ronald Slavenas and I'm the father of 1st Lieutenant Brian Slavenas.

Most parents praise their children to high heaven. But I think Brian was a very unusual person. He was generally known as the gentle giant. He stood about 6'5. He accomplished quite a bit. While he was going for his engineering degree at the University of Illinois, he also took aviation. He received this flight instructor certificate. Also played beautiful piano.

And he enjoyed flying all the way up to the end in his letters. He was flying over historical sites in Iraq, over Babylon. And it just came to a tragic end. Basically, he was flying troops from one place to another. The Chinook was hit by a shoulder-fired missile. I think they did the very best to crash-land it; 20 people survived; 16 died, but 20 did survive. Some were badly injured. But maybe their skills helped to reduce the casualty.

It's painful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lieutenant Brian Donathis (ph) Slavenas.

SLAVENAS: You have to go on and make the best of the situation. And by reaching to others, that has been helpful to me. I'm Lithuanian-born. And I went through some rough times, Second World War and what have you. And I know what it is to lose a country and what it means to live in a democratic country, as compared to oppressive dictatorships, like Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia.

So, when I came here, I thought I owed this country something. So I joined up. Unfortunately, I wish I could take Brian's place. I should be the one that crashed, not Brian. That's how I feel. I would gladly give my life, exchange it for his life, which is unusual, to lose a child. It's extremely painful.

Maybe we'll have a free Iraq some day. That would be my wish. Then, maybe some of the losses are not that much in vain, you know? The loss can never be replaced. The pain will always be there. But maybe there will be some what of a comfort to know, a free Iraq, a democratic Iraq.


ZAHN: Certainly not the way it's supposed to be, with parents outliving their children. The loss of so many young lives so difficult to accept, Anderson and Christiane, on so many different levels.

COOPER: Yes. There has been so much sacrifice in this country and in our country, in the United States, and in countries around the world who have had troops serving here, so much sacrifice on the part of Iraqis as well.

AMANPOUR: Yes. You know, Paula said it wasn't meant to be like this. It really wasn't meant to be like this.

Many, many people blame the disastrous lack of a plan for postwar Iraq. Many, many people have died because of that. Iraqis have outnumbered American casualties by 10 or 20 times more. And every casualty, American or Iraqi, really sticks in the gut, because people say, you know, hopefully, it will all be worth it. And at every milestone, whether it was the transfer of sovereignty, whether it was the putting Saddam in his first court hearing, and now these crucial elections, they hope that the cost will be worth the final result.

COOPER: It's also so easy I think when you're here and also especially I think when you're back in the United States to kind of just -- you hear this daily death toll of Iraqis, 10 Iraqi policemen killed in Mosul, two Americans were killed today in Baghdad, and it's -- after a while, you start to -- you think of it as just numbers and it sort of loses meaning.

When you hear, of course, the relatives and the family members and the loved ones, both here in Iraq and back in America, it should never be just numbers. It should never be something that gets lost in the daily headlines. It's something we should all remember and honor every day.


ZAHN: And Christiane and Anderson, one of the things so interesting about some of the men and women we have profiled tonight, you will talk to the occasional parent who is quite bitter about the mission their child was asked to participate in Iraq. But for the most part, these parents talk about their children being extremely committed to what they were doing. We've even talked to a number of injured veterans saying, if they were allowed to go back to the battlefield, they would.

AMANPOUR: Well, yes. And you heard that father in that remembrances piece there saying, hopefully, there will be a free and democratic Iraq. Hopefully -- Americans and Iraqis hope that this massive cost that they've had to pay will be worth for it the long term.

COOPER: And it's so much about honor and sacrifice of an American soldier sacrificing for his buddy in the Humvee next to him and, just as we saw last night, so many people who have been wounded over here who are casualties back in the United States. They want to come back, not because they want to be back to Iraq. They never wanted to be here, but they want to be here with their buddies, because their buddies, their battalions, their platoons are still here. You hear that over and over again from U.S. troops here in Iraq, Paula.

ZAHN: Yes, a comradery to salute.

Christiane and Anderson, thanks so much. We'll see you in a little bit.

Fighting the insurgents. They're threatening every voter who shows up to the polls, threatening to hurt them after they leave the polls. Find out what's being done to stop them from getting in the way of democracy.

Plus, he was there when they pulled Saddam out of his hole. Find out his dream for a new Iraq.


ZAHN: The insurgents, of course, the wild cards in Sunday's upcoming election in Iraq. It could be a day of widespread violence, the Pentagon fully expecting it, but not if the U.S. military can help it.

Earlier, I asked Army Brigadier General Douglas Lute of the U.S. Central Command about their level of concern.


BRIG. GEN. DOUGLAS LUTE, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, CENTCOM: I think the insurgents are dead-set against these elections being successful. It is absolutely against everything that they stand for to see the Iraqi people stand up and voice their preferences in a peaceful, democratic way.

We need to understand the nature of our enemy. He is ruthless. He will strike innocence. He will kill women and children to make his point.

ZAHN: How successful do you think they'll be?

LUTE: I think they'll be successful in localized attacks. I think that we can expect violence on Election Day. It won't certainly be a Western standard of safe and secure electoral proceedings. But I also think we can expect the Iraqi people to prevail and to speak their voice, to have their voice heard on Election Day.

ZAHN: Some of the threats these insurgents have made have been absolutely gruesome. You just shared a little of that with us right now, but, basically saying, if you go to the polls, we're going to see your blood running down the street.

And now they're actually circulating a flyer in Baghdad that says this: "To those of you who think you can vote and then run away, we will shadow you and catch you. We will cut off your head and the heads of your children."

How worried are you about what might happen to some folks after they vote?

LUTE: Paula, the level of intimidation in Iraq is exceptionally high, especially in several provinces. Actually, four of the 18 provinces in Iraq suffer from high levels of intimidation.

We should put this in context. First of all, in the other 14 provinces, things are relatively secure. In those provinces, there are only several attacks, on average only several attacks a day. But in these four troubled provinces, we can expect the kind of intimidation that that announcement or that brochure advertises.

On the other hand, our contacts with the Iraqi people, the Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi government indicates that the overwhelming majority of Iraqis intend to cast votes on Sunday and are just as serious as the insurgents about being heard. ZAHN: General, give us a sense of the kind of measures that will be in place on Election Day to try to protect voters.

LUTE: Well, the Iraqi government has taken a number of very prudent steps, to include a combination of impeded traffic, curfews, restrictions on firearms, closing of the borders and so forth. And all those measures are backed up by the 150-plus-thousand coalition forces who, in the background, will be prepared to support our Iraqi partners.

ZAHN: General, you now have the top American commander in the field, General Casey, saying he is not confident that Iraqi security forces can defeat the insurgents. What does that mean for U.S. troops?

LUTE: The elections are not going to be sort of the silver bullet that defuse the insurgency. It will persist thereafter.

So, immediately, I don't think there's going to be any change in what we see in Iraq in terms of the role of the U.S. forces. But, increasingly, in 2005, I think we can all expect that we will find that our Iraqi security force partners will begin to step up to the point where they overtake us and assume the lead in the counterinsurgency.

ZAHN: Brigadier General Douglas Lute, thank you so much for your time. And good luck.

LUTE: Thank you. Thanks, Paula.


ZAHN: General Lute giving us a very clear idea of what lies ahead for U.S. and coalition troops.

Hope and freedom. A man who was there when they pulled Saddam Hussein from his hole, well, he casts his vote for a new Iraq. His story still to come.

Also tonight, band of brothers, veterans from two generations on the fight for peace.

And a little bit later on, reporter's notebook. Anderson Cooper takes us inside his perilous journey into Iraq.


ZAHN: It's a world-famous photograph showing a man in military camouflage holding Saddam Hussein down on ground. What you may not know is that that man actually lives in the Saint Louis area. He was working with the U.S. military as a translator when American forces discovered Saddam's secret hiding place. Well, he ended up being the first person to grab Saddam as he crawled out of his spider hole.

Samir -- we're not using his last name -- is now one of the many expatriates casting his vote in this election before heading back here to Iraq for another tour of duty.

Candy Crowley has Samir's voting moment.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What kind of moment is this for you?

SAMIR, IRAQI-AMERICAN: The voting moment?


SAMIR: We felt like, the same way you guys feel in America. That's what it felt like. It's first time. I'm very excited about it. And just the feeling of it, driving to Nashville to vote, it's the feeling -- maybe we feel it more than you guys do.

CROWLEY (voice-over): The trip from Saint Louis to Nashville takes five hours, but the journey has been so much longer than that.

SAMIR: This is my village. This is the place I was born and raised. This is the Euphrates. That's my city right here.

CROWLEY: Nineteen-ninety-one, Saddam Hussein's forces were fleeing Kuwait, pushed back into Iraq by U.S. and coalition forces. In Nasiriyah, a 20-year-old begins to believe.

SAMIR: I was involved with the uprising against Saddam and his regime. We thought we going to make it. We're going to get help. The U.S. force is here. Let's do it. It's a perfect time. But we couldn't make it.

CROWLEY: Mission failed, Samir lost hope and ran for his life, landing in a Saudi refugee camp for three years before gaining political refugee status.

This is Samir's town now, in the heart of the U.S., hugging the Mississippi River. This is Saint Louis, where he found work, taught himself English, married, started a family and, as a 32-year-old U.S. citizen, got to see his Iraqi dream come true.

CROWLEY (on camera): That's the famous picture?

SAMIR: Yes. I was very excited, very excited. The moment we pulled him out and I look at him, it was Saddam.

CROWLEY (voice-over): Working as a translator, Samir was with U.S. special forces the night Saddam was captured.

SAMIR: I was yelling, that's Saddam. They didn't believe me. I was yelling two times, that's Saddam. That's Saddam. They yell at me back and they said, you need to ask him his name. You need to ask him his name. We want him to say his name. We want to hear him saying his name Saddam.

So I yell at him and say, that's your name? And he said, I'm Saddam. And I said, Saddam what? What's your full name? He said, I'm Saddam Hussein.

CROWLEY: At first, they didn't want him to take the picture.

SAMIR: I do it and I said, boss, this is like a dream coming through to me. This is the man who destroyed my life. This is the man who destroyed my country. And I want to have that picture to prove it. I want to talk about the story.

CROWLEY: And so he has. Registering to vote in Nashville, Samir was swarmed, pressed for details, as though they still don't quite believe.

(on camera): You're like a rock star to those people.

SAMIR: They want to hear more about what happened. They all shake my hand. And they're happy.

CROWLEY (voice-over): It's been more than a year since Saddam's capture. And as Samir waits word of his third trip to Iraq as a translator, he finds himself hoping like an Iraqi that peace and freedom will come and hurting like an American when every soldier dies. But, mostly, he finds himself believing as much as he once believed the tan omnipresent, omnipotent dictator could be brought down.

SAMIR: I believe the Americans are there to free the country, to have better life for the Iraqis. I believe that with all my heart. And that's a big, big hope to me. America, they're working so hard to free Iraqis. And it takes time. It's a matter of time. That's all.

CROWLEY: Early this morning, Samir took off from Saint Louis for another trip to Nashville. There, he voted as an Iraqi in a very American kind of way.

SAMIR: When I vote, it's one number, but to me, I feel like it's going to be -- change a lot, because it's every vote that will count.

CROWLEY: The journey continues.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Saint Louis.


ZAHN: And what a dramatic journey it's been.

There are polling places in just five U.S. cities, so it's quite a journey for many Iraqis here who are determined enough to have a say in their country's future.

Thelma Gutierrez follows one family's trek.


THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the heart of Portland, Oregon, Iraqi-Americans prepare for one of the most important journeys of their lives. LINA AL-ABBAS, VOTER: It is the first time in my life, especially in my life. I never heard about voting.

GUTIERREZ: Within the next few moments, these people will leave on a 1,700-mile trip to Los Angeles and back just to register to vote.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you have a boarding pass, you can step (INAUDIBLE) at this time. Thank you.

GUTIERREZ: For them, voting in the coming Iraqi election is much more than a civic duty. It's about family honor and personal sacrifice. This is the Al-Abbas family, Ali, his mother, Basaad, and his sister, Israa. They were forced to flee Iraq after the first Gulf War.

ALI AL-ABBAS, VOTER: We're all going to L.A. for voting.

GUTIERREZ: Portland is now home, but they say nothing will stop them voting for a new Iraq.

(on camera): Your lives are here. You have made your life here in America.

A. AL-ABBAS: I want them to have better life, better health. That's what I'm doing for them.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Ali says it's what his father would have wanted, too.

A. AL-ABBAS: We are raised only with mom. You cannot believe what we're missing inside.

GUTIERREZ: Ali says his father, Khadum (ph), worked for Iraq's department of education. In the early days in Saddam Hussein's rule, he criticized the regime until the secret police came to his home and took him away. Khadum was never heard from again.

His wife told me, Basaad, told me she struggled to raise six kids on her own. It was more than 20 years ago, but her pain is still fresh. And she blames Saddam.

BASAAD AL-ABBAS, VOTER: He took a dear, a dear person, the dearest person from our family.

GUTIERREZ: At the mosque where the Al-Abbas worship, others have similar stories of loss and the same determination to make a difference.

L. AL-ABBAS: I'm not in Iraq. I'm out here, but I feel I'm doing something for my country and for the future of our kids. We are doing something.

GUTIERREZ: Ali owns a small limousine company.

A. AL-ABBAS: I'm heading to L.A.

GUTIERREZ: And he has worked furiously to organize the Iraqi community here in Portland.

A. AL-ABBAS: It's very tough for us, but I think that's our duty. We have to do it.

GUTIERREZ: On top of running a business and a family of his own, he's put together travel plans for 30 struggling people who will vote for the very first time ever, Mike Hazam Shumari (ph) and Saad Alsaedy, who are about to drive 16 hours one way to California just to register.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will see you tomorrow morning.

GUTIERREZ: Then they will have to drive or fly back a second time to actually cast their votes. For Hazam and Saad, the financial sacrifice is enormous. Hazam lives paycheck to paycheck. And Saad is out of work.

SAAD ALSAEDY, VOTER: In 1991, the regime take my mom to the jail.

GUTIERREZ: Saad never saw his mother again either.

ISRAA HASSANI, VOTER: Sometimes, you think, should I do it, should I not? And the answer comes right there. No, you have to do it. There is no choice.

GUTIERREZ: Ali says, when word got out about the group, calls started coming in. But he was moved by one person in particular.

A. AL-ABBAS: A lady, she called me. She's an old lady. And she say her two son in Iraq.

GUTIERREZ: The mother of those two U.S. soldiers sent Ali this check for $5.

A. AL-ABBAS: That's all she can afford.

GUTIERREZ (on camera): What does that mean to you personally?

AL-ABBAS: It means to me she believe the cause and she want to help her own children to come back here.

GUTIERREZ: After a lifetime of waiting, the day has finally come for the Al-Abbas family to help democracy get started in Iraq. After a short flight to Los Angeles, they drive another hour to this registration site. It is one of five in the whole country.

As they join up with Iraqis who have made the same sacrifice and journey from other states, they can barely contain their excitement. Ali's I.D. is checked. He, his mother and sister are now officially registered to vote in Iraq's election.

A. AL-ABBAS: Yes. We have done it.


GUTIERREZ: The whole thing takes just minutes.

A. AL-ABBAS: It's a very simple piece of paper, but mean a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We did it. We made it.

GUTIERREZ: But unleashes a lifetime of emotion for Ali's family.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And now she has hope for our children, for all Iraqis to have a democracy and to have a freedom.

GUTIERREZ: Something their father prayed for, but never lived to see.


GUTIERREZ: Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, El Toro, California.


ZAHN: When we come back, a hero from the greatest generation depicted in the HBO series "Band of Brothers," hear about his story, his sacrifice and his views on the war today.

Plus, it's certainly not your typical flight. Anderson will give us a firsthand look at his wild and dangerous ride into Baghdad.


ZAHN: It has been nearly two years since the invasion of Iraq's swift victory followed by nearly continuous battles and skirmishes. A special bond forms between soldiers in combat. One so strong that they become a band of brothers.

And tonight, Bruce Morton takes a look at that bond. He begins with a soldier from another time, and another war, but with the same sense of spirit and duty.



BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bill Guarnere joined the paratroopers, Easy Company 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, the company profiled in the HBO series "Band of Brothers."


MORTON: He jumped into Normandy on D-Day, lost a leg at the Battle of the Bulge.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE, "BAND OF BROTHERS": Whatever you say, doc. Whatever you say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, "BAND OF BROTHERS": Over here. Take this man. Ain't got old Guarnere this time.

GUARNERE: I'm lucky. When you look back on it, or you reflect on it, I would say it was so cold, it was frozen. If it wasn't frozen, I would have probably bled to death within two minutes. So the cold probably saved my life.

MORTON: Bill -- "Wild Bill" they nicknamed him -- Guarnere learned about combat, about being a brother to the men he fought with.

GUARNERE: You would gladly give your life for your fellow soldier. There was a bond that you couldn't explain unless you'd been there. Something bonds you together. If you could explain it, you'd be a genius. It's a bonding that will stay with you the rest of your life. And that's true with all combat soldiers.

MORTON: It said with Bill alright. This is a photograph when he was back home in south Philadelphia in 1945. Has he kept in touch? Oh, yes.

GUARNERE: I went to a reunion in 1947 (UNINTELLIGIBLE). That's 50 some years. And we still get together every year. So that bug (ph) is something. There's a bond there that will never be broken.

MORTON: His war was different he says from today's.

GUARNERE: That was a good war in a sense. Well, there's no good wars, though. We had -- we had an objective and we obtained it, the Japanese and the Germans, yes. Entirely different.

MORTON: He is not optimistic about today's war.

GUARNERE: I think he opened a can of worms. I think he opened a can of worms. They've been fighting for so many years, you're not going to change them.

It's not a war. I don't know. I can't explain it.

You'll be fighting there forever if you're there. They're not going to give up on people. You can't things on people they don't want.

It's proven today, they keep fighting and fighting and killing. And look at the course it's going, what the course is going to be. Take the course.

People don't realize it. You'll be paying from now till forever. You cannot control the whole world. You can't do it. You can try to, but you cannot do it.

MORTON: Bill was in a group of World War II vets who went to Europe two months ago to talk to with Americans who served in Iraq.

GUARNERE: They're the best fellows I ever saw in my life. They're the best boys I ever saw in my life. They're true Americans.

MORTON: Bill Guarnere is 82 now. Family and a band of brothers fill his life.

GUARNERE: I'm lucky I'm blessed. I'm very lucky. Extremely lucky.

I always say to myself, "Why am I here? There's got to be a reason for it" I want to keep these boys that can't speak for themselves, I want to keep their memories alive, too.

MORTON: And yet, sitting in the small house where he's lived for 60 years, surrounded by the past, the old Wild Bill warrior spirit still burns.

GUARNERE: If I were that young, I'd be in Iraq. I'd be right over there with them kids.


COOPER: Well, wars change, of course. So do politics and so do strategies. But the bonds between brothers in arms do not. You just met a band of brothers from World War II. Now, Bruce Morton introduces us to a band of brothers from the war in Iraq.


MORTON (voice-over): A Washington restaurant named Fran O'Brien's offers free meals to Iraq vets on Fridays. Most are recovering from their wounds at the city's Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and they are upbeat about what they did. Sergeant John Keith, who lost a leg.

SGT. JOHN KEITH, IRAQI VETERAN: I think we're bringing a little bit of our way of life over there. And hopefully, that's what they want. I hope that's what they want.

MORTON: Have they made a sacrifice in going? Not all think so. Marine Sergeant James King.

MARINE SGT. JAMES KING, IRAQI VETERAN: I don't think I really sacrificed anything. I mean, this is what I joined to do seven years ago. I mean, was to serve my country.

You know, this was -- I mean, I did exactly what I was -- I signed up and was told to do. I did my job. That's -- I mean, cut and dry, that's it.

MORTON: Specialist Ramon Guitard (ph) agrees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just doing my job, you know. I came in the military knowing that one day I would have to go and serve overseas to protect another nation, you know, to keep them from things that are happening that are wrong to them. Had to, you know. I can't look back. I can't go back and say, "No, I don't want to do it."

MORTON: They're happy to be here but they miss the guys they served with who are still in Iraq.

KEITH: I'm really worried about my guys. You can ask my wife. When I woke up, the first thing I asked was how was my guys, because I was real worried about my guys.

I have six soldiers over there. They've got somebody else leading them right now because I had to go. But they're still always going to be my soldiers.

MORTON: Staff Sergeant Joseph Bowser (ph), who lost a leg, agrees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No regrets. I'm not mad about anything. I'm glad I'm back home and alive. The only regrets I ever had was not being with my guys that are still over there right now.

MORTON (on camera): Wish you were back there?

KEITH: One little part of me says, yes, and the part that's listening to my wife is glad I'm here and I'm alive.

MORTON (voice-over): That's one reason Private 1st Class Oscar Alden (ph) welcomes the election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see it as one step closer towards being out of there. And the closer we get there, the happier I am, because after that I know my -- it's one step closer for my buddies. You know, they're like my brothers.

They're going to come back and be safe here. I don't want -- what happened to me I don't want any of my buddies to go through.

MORTON: Staff Sergeant Christopher Bane (ph) reimburse meeting his brother just before he was hit. He has a damaged arm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I went over and I looked up on top of the tank, there was a soldier looking at me, and I asked him what he was looking at. He had all this gear, his Kevlar, and glasses and everything. So he took it off. It was my twin brother. It's pretty neat.

MORTON: Is their war like the big war, World War II?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every cause is different. But our sacrifice, it all counts. We all fight for the same thing, for democracy, freedom.

KEITH: No. Those guys -- those guys made the ultimate sacrifice. Those -- everybody calls me a hero. No, I'm not a hero. Those guys are heroes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some things, little details are different, but the majority of it's the same.

MORTON: Ramon Guitard (ph) remembers a prayer while he was waiting for the helicopter after getting hit. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next thing you know, an Iraqi local national civilian, he was driving one of the trucks and sat down beside me. He held my hand and started praying for me in Arabic. And I felt so good. He started praying for me. And as he was praying, at the end, he said, "Allah will be with you."

MORTON: Most agree with the Staff Sergeant Brian McGuff (ph) that folks back home have been supportive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even though a lot of people don't support the war, I haven't seen anyone trying to put down our sacrifice or say we've done a bad job or are horrible people. So I think that now people can see that the war, they don't have to support it. But as long as they support us for what we've done, that's fine.

MORTON: But maybe the most impressive thing about these men is the strength, the confidence with which they approach the future. Joe Bowser (ph), a mailman in civilian life who lost a leg.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to get me an ultra classic Harley Davidson, you know, go out there and ride. And one of my other goals is to get back out on the ice and play hockey again. You know? So that's two of my biggest goals right there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm happy with what I've done. I gave a little bit, gave a little that's still over there. And that's OK. Maybe it's time for me to move on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I mean, I can't just decide, hey, I want to go play a game of basketball or, hey, I want to go play a game of football. I haven't -- there's a few things I haven't learned how to do yet that I will eventually learn to do again. And I really don't think that there's anything I was able to do before that I won't be able to do again. It's just going to take some time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It all gets a little frustrating. But, you know, you can't sit there and cry about it. You just have to pick up your leg and go on. You know?

If you sit around and whine and cry about it, all you're going to do is push away the people that are trying to help you away from you. You know, you just have to adapt and overcome. That's it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm grateful to be alive. And I'm not alive just for one more chance. I was given a second, a third chance to live, twice.

And that's all I care about is coming home and seeing my newborn, who was three weeks when I left. And she's now seven months. See my wife again. You know, spend time with them. Make you feel good to be here.

MORTON: And there they were, Ramon's (ph) wife and baby girl, the other vets with their eyes fixed on the future. And the room suddenly seemed full of sunlight.


COOPER: When we come back, part three of Bruce Morton's look at "Band of Brothers." You'll meet two veterans, two warriors, two very good reasons to admire America's band of brothers.

Also tonight, reporting Iraq, the stuff you don't normally see on TV. My "Reporter's Notebook."

Be right back.


AMANPOUR: "Band of brothers," our series on warriors and how they bond in war, continues now with the story of two soldiers tested under fire in two very different wars, World War II and Iraq. How do their experiences compare? Our Bruce Morton tells us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is bad, but, you know...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bad enough, huh?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. After a while, you get used to that.

MORTON: Clancy Lyle (ph), 80, is watching not for the first time an HBO series called "Band of Brothers." It's the story of his World War II unit, Easy Company 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. They jumped into Normandy on D-Day, fought through the Battle of the Bulge, and on until the Nazis surrendered. He won a lot of medals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see you've got three Purple Hearts. You can run for president.


MORTON: His friend is Larry Hill (ph), 44, an ex-Marine and National Guardsman, now recovering from a leg wound he got in Iraq. We asked them to talk about their different wars. Or were they different?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think any war is different. You know, three common things I always found. You die, you bleed, and you fight for your friends. And that's -- I think that's a commonality throughout all the wars we've had.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And, you know, and things that doesn't change, you still sit around and you poke fun at your chain of command, you hang out with your NCO's. You just do what has to be done. It doesn't matter where you're at or what the conflict is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just a different place, different time. Same concept. (UNINTELLIGIBLE). You bring home -- you change. The first day that you go to combat, you change for life.

You know, you never get rid of it. And that's any war. It's all the same.

MORTON: How did he change?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, you get into combat. And you see all this propaganda before, and all that stuff. And you've got to do this and that.

You get there and all of a sudden you find out that you're scared to death. Depending on the ferocity of the battle, artillery and the like, it does make you get those -- scared. And it stays with you. You can hear it all the time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You never get involved with the day-to-day politics. You know, we don't have time to sort out, hey, are you a red state or blue state, or what are your personal views? You're given a job to do, and you just go and have to do what's got to be done.

And there's a lot of times that all you have is each other. You know? You know, you're not fighting a war for anyone but the man next to you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's all you have. You talk so much about the band of brothers, but we had band of brothers back in the civil war and everything. That's a unit of cohesion. That's all it is.

And you'd -- you'd rather get shot than, you know, let your buddy be prone to a shot. You'd take a shot for him. That's just how close you are. And to the day, we're the same, to the day. I'm sure his unit is the same.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes. It's the same.

MORTON: They talked about fear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's only two things that happens to a combat soldier. Either he's frightened to death or he's totally bored.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Or he's a liar and says he was never scared.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, right. I mean, I peed my pants a couple times, like all the rest of us. But you're scared to death while you're in the action, and all that stuff. But when you go back into a rest area or something like that, you haven't got anything to do. So you either go out and get drunk, get in a fight with each other, or you're totally bored.

MORTON: They talked about memories, about dreams.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I always used to dreamed about it. Not so much the artillery and arms aid, all that crap. We hit a concentration camp in Leesburg. We never heard about concentration camps or work camps.

And I was so callused, I could (UNINTELLIGIBLE). So, you know, that didn't bother me. When I got in there and seen what I saw, I wept. And that stayed with me, I don't know, two or three years. I could smell the bodies and I could -- you could always smell the battlefield.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. And that's -- you know, I felt the same way with the gravesites in Iraq.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, with the mass graves. I mean, until you exactly see that -- you know, if you're a soldier on the battlefield and you die or you get hurt, you kind of expect that. But, you know, when you see, you know, skeletons that aren't any longer than this dining table, that you know they were kids or children or small women, or just -- or whatever, then you're not that callused. You know, and it bothers you.

MORTON (on camera): The smell stays with you?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even to this day.


MORTON (voice-over): They fought in different times and different places, but they are both members of a band of brothers that stretches across many battlefields. If you haven't been there, they know things you don't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I know (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and I would have a lot more in common than me trying to talk with a supply clerk who's never been out of the United States. You know, there's certain -- certain real life incidences that you have to deal with, and it bonds you with people that have seen and done it. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we all had that.

MORTON: Two brothers, two warriors who have much in common.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You would think he went somewhere and did something.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You would think so.


AMANPOUR: And it is incredible how people who have gone through these extremes of experiences find it very difficult to talk about it except amongst each other, who have had the same experiences, the same kind of fears, hopes, dreads, and thank god that they're alive -- Paula.

ZAHN: Yes. It's a very special fraternity. Christiane, thanks so much.

Larry King now joins us with a preview of what's coming up at the top of the hour.

Hey, Larry, did you know it's Friday?

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Oh, yes, TGIF, except we're all working Sunday.

ZAHN: I know. We're going to be doing wall-to-wall election coverage.

KING: Wall to wall. Tonight, we're going to talk about strokes, the third biggest killer in the United States. Every 45 seconds someone dies of a stroke.

Cindy McCain, the wife of Senator John McCain, and two terrific actors, James Woods and Robert Guillaume, and Leean Hendrix, the former Miss Arizona, and Dr. Larry Goldstein of Duke University will be here to discuss it and take your phone calls.

Strokes is the topic at the top of the hour.

Back to the beloved and beautiful Paula Zahn.

You like that?

ZAHN: Oh, Larry, make my night, make my week, make my year. Thank you. Hey, Larry, can you do me a favor?

KING: Yes, anything.

ZAHN: Will you put a little pressure on Cindy McCain tonight? Tell her that we're trying to get her husband, the senator, booked on the state of the union night?

KING: Do you think John could do Paula on the state of the union night?


KING: She's going to tell him definite do it.

ZAHN: Thank you, Larry. I needed your help.

KING: Anything we can do.

ZAHN: We have a public record of that request now.

KING: You owe me.

ZAHN: Have a good show.

KING: You owe me.

ZAHN: I do. And I'll be watching your show. You've got some important information to share with us all tonight.

When we come back, U.S. soldiers do what it takes to bring a little of home to Iraq.


COOPER: Welcome back to Baghdad. One of the things that's frustrating for -- as a reporter when you come to a place like Iraq is that there's so much that you see and you hear and you experience that doesn't fit into a nightly news story. We started carrying around little small DVD cameras, home video cameras, trying to record some of those experiences. So here tonight is my "Reporter's Notebook."


COOPER (voice-over): The flight to Baghdad starts off like any other flight. You fly high above the clouds. Endless stretches of sand far below. It's only when you're right above Baghdad, you realize, this is not a normal flight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The final part of our descent will be from overhead the airfield in a spiral fashion. It may feel a little uncomfortable on the body, but nevertheless, it's due to safety and security.

COOPER: The plane turns sharply, spiraling downward. A corkscrew to avoid taking fire. Though the insurgents know the maneuver.

Not everything goes as planned, however. Suddenly, fighter jets appear underneath. There's fighting at the airport. It's too dangerous to land.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are returning back to Amman, and we will take it from there, depending on how long the military operations will last here in Baghdad.

COOPER: The next day, another flight. The plane finally gets permission to land.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, we will shortly be landing at Baghdad International Airport. Kindly return to your seats and make sure that your seatbelts are securely fastened. Put your seats in the upright position.

COOPER: The road into town from Baghdad's airport is considered one of the most dangerous roads in the world. You drive fast, constantly aware of people passing by, cars getting too close, buildings insurgent spotters could use to target your car. Sometimes, however, you simply get stuck.

(on camera): We're stuck in a traffic jam, it seems. It seems like a traffic jam, which is such an ordinary occurrence. All of a sudden, that's a security threat, because, you know, someone could just come up alongside the vehicle, another car could just slam right into you. You're sort of a sitting duck.

(voice-over): Election posters are all around. It's too dangerous for candidates to appear in persons.

Some days you wake and don't want to go outside. You ask yourself, "Do I need to take my vest? Do I need to wear my helmet?" The answer is almost always yes.

Even if you don't go out, you can't escape the violence. All day long, e-mails from Iraqis, from soldiers, from people you don't even know, a steady stream of death and progress, suicide attacks, schools built, police killed, insurgents caught, shrapnel and bullets, bombs and ballots. At times, it all seems surreal.

In the Green Zone, a young soldier drives an SUV. For a moment, the music makes it feel like home.

Hitching a ride on a chopper, you rise above the dirt and dust, fly low, shaken by the power of American might, the rotor slicing the morning air. In Iraq, Americans rule the sky. But on the streets it's another matter.

On a night patrol, an American platoon checks up on Iraqi soldiers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How you guys doing?

COOPER: Riding along in a pitch-black Humvee, you can't help but admire these guys. Reporters can leave, fly home when they're done. These guys are stuck for the long haul. Night and day, day and night, they work round the clock, countless patrols, no end in sight.

Outside a polling station, an Iraqi National Guardsman masked and alone stares out into the darkness. Gunshots echo in the street. Police look like insurgents, insurgents dressed like police. The nights and days in Baghdad seem very long indeed.


COOPER: Well, as we have been telling you over the last two hours, a little bit more than 24 hours now, Iraqis will go to the first polls, the first polls they've ever gone to in their lives in which they actually have freedom of choice. How many will turn out? Will the insurgents strike? There are so many questions that have yet to be answered, questions we'll continue to be covering in the next 24 hours -- Christiane.

AMANPOUR: I was struck by what you said, reporters can leave. These people can't leave. They don't have bulletproof vests or helmets. They don't have armored cars. And they're going to get all their courage together and go pretty unprotected to these polls tomorrow. And they don't really all know what it's all about. According to a survey done by an American group which is helping this democracy building, apparently something like 40 percent of Iraqis think they're going to be electing a president, which is not the case. They're going to be electing a national assembly.

COOPER: It is -- it's a very confusing ballot. I mean, there are so many different parties. And it really wasn't up until, you know, 48 hours ago that actually the names of all the candidates were actually revealed.

AMANPOUR: That's right.

COOPER: So people didn't even know who was running for a lot of these offices. It is going to be very confusing. And yet you hear it wherever you go. There is hope, there is optimism.

A lot will depend on the security situation as people poke their heads out Sunday morning to see what is happening on their street. Is it safe enough to step outside, is it safe enough to vote?

AMANPOUR: And we were told by American commanders in some of these areas, Baghdad, Tikrit, elsewhere, that the first few hours will be critical. If there is a heavy turnout in the first few hours and no violence, it will encourage many, many more people to vote. If there's problems and violence in the first few hours, it could cause a problem.

COOPER: And around the clock coverage is going to continue all weekend long. Stay with us -- Paula.

ZAHN: And Anderson, quickly, in closing, in spite of the fear that you talk about these voters having, was there any sense of relief that some key arrests were made in Mr. Zarqawi's network, the guy who's widely believed to be responsible for most of these car bombings we've seen?

COOPER: Yes. Those arrests were actually made several days ago. They were just announced today.

You've got to think, though, politics does play a role. It can't be a coincidence that just the day before Iraqis go to vote, the government or Prime Minister Allawi announces this -- these dramatic arrests. Politics is politics no matter where you go -- Paula.

ZAHN: Anderson Cooper, Christiane Amanpour, thank you both. And thanks to all of you for joining us tonight. Have a safe weekend.

"LARRY KING LIVE" is next.


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