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PAULA ZAHN NOW
Colorado Professor Defiant; Iraq Exit Strategy?; Sergeant Prepares to Return to Iraq; Soldier Says Good-Bye to Family; Asia Celebrates Year of the Rooster
Aired February 9, 2005 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, a defiant professor, angry words and a campus controversy gets even hotter.
ZAHN (voice-over): Another battle in the war of words at the school that tried to keep him quiet. Supporters gave him a heroes welcome. From the man who compares 9/11 victims to Nazis, no regrets.
WARD CHURCHILL, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO: I'm not backing off an inch. I owe no one an apology, clarification...
ZAHN: Ward Churchill goes on the offense.
And they have already fought in Iraq. Now they are signing up for another tour of duty.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are losing soldiers every day. And that's your motivation.
ZAHN: While the next rotation heads in, does anyone have a plan to get them out?
ZAHN: Good evening. Welcome. Thanks so much for joining us tonight.
So, tonight, we consider the power of words, how they can inflame, enrage and do a lot of harm. You might remember, last Friday, I spoke with Ward Churchill, the University of Colorado ethnic studies professor. His essay about 9/11 set off a firestorm because of the words he used to describe victims at the World Trade Center.
He called them little Eichmanns, referring to the infamous Nazi war criminal. Well, last night, Professor Churchill got a chance to try to explain himself in public at an appearance that was nearly canceled because he is so controversial.
As Sean Callebs shows us, Churchill is not backing down.
SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The University of Colorado initially said Ward Churchill couldn't speak here. Administrators said they were worried about death threats against the professor. But after an outcry from students, the school relented and Churchill addressed an overflow crowd decidedly in his corner.
His opening salvo fired at the state's governor, who demanded the university regents fire Ward Churchill.
CHURCHILL: Bill Owens, do you get it now?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CALLEBS: Churchill, an ethnics studies professor, is under fire for saying victims of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center were not innocent bystanders. He called them little Eichmanns, after the man who instituted the Nazi genocide of Jews during World War II.
Churchill is not retreating from that position, though he did offer what he calls a clarification.
CHURCHILL: No, I did not call a bunch of food service workers, janitors, children, firefighters and random passersby little Eichmanns.
CALLEBS: Churchill says that distinction belongs to those in the Trade Center towers who were what he calls technician of empire, well- paid workers, he says, who stimulated distrust and anger against the U.S. government. And that ultimately led to the organized attack on the nation's financial nerve center.
Ward Churchill's comment have fueled fury here and around the nation.
CHURCHILL: I had every right, indeed, the obligation, not only as a citizen, but under the terms of my contract and as a human being. I'm not backing off an inch. I owe no one an apology, clarification.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CALLEBS: The professor says, like or dislike his comments, he's protected by free speech.
CHURCHILL: This institution needs to be protected from the ravages of the rabid right wing. The board of regents should do its job and let me do mine.
CALLEBS: I sat down with a handful of students to gauge their reaction?
Twenty-one-year-old Isaiah Lectowicz (ph) is head of the campus Young Republicans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What he is saying isn't simple freedom of speech. It's hate speech. It's a pro-terrorist view of America. It's him cheerleading for these people who wish us harm.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I came in here trying to be open-minded.
CALLEBS: Ben Bell (ph), a civil engineering and a poli-sci major, says he wanted to hear where Churchill was coming from.
(on camera): What did you think when Dr. Churchill said that the media is just getting it wrong; he didn't mean that everybody who died on 9/11 in the U.S. were little Eichmanns?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't connect the technocrats with Eichmanns, because I think Eichmann had a realization what he was doing, whereas I think what Mr. Churchill is trying to get at is the people that worked in the World Trade Center towers didn't realize that they were in this machine.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's nothing wrong with the freedom of speech, but he shouldn't be using the university as his soapbox.
CALLEBS: Adam Basocenti (ph) is a 21-year-old, a supporter who had earlier introduced Churchill to the crowd.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really feel that what he said, you know, his statements are just self-reflection. He wants everybody to self- reflect.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do I think? I feel energized by academics tonight, because I feel like a great discourse has taken place. To shut this discourse down would be a true injustice.
CHURCHILL: You all give me hope. Power to the people.
CALLEBS: Churchill says he won't give an inch. But he has resigned as chairman at the University of Colorado's Ethnic Studies Department. And the school is considering firing him altogether. Ward Churchill wanted debate and he got it. But that debate could eventually cost the professor his post.
ZAHN: That was Sean Callebs reporting for us from Boulder, Colorado.
Now, Ward Churchill has become a lightning rod wherever he goes or doesn't go. A speaking engagement at an upstate college in New York was canceled last week. He was supposed to speak at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater in a couple of weeks, but officials there are now telling us they are taking a lot of heat for that. They now say his visit is no more than a 50/50 shot.
We're going to take a closer look now at some of the words that sparked this controversy and how Professor Churchill tries to defend them. His essay described the 9/11 attacks as chickens coming home to roost, as retribution, he said, for the half-million Iraqi children who died because of the first Gulf War and the U.S. economic sanctions that followed.
Here's what Churchill wrote about the victims of September 11: "The Pentagon building and those inside comprised military targets, pure and simple. As to those in the World Trade Center, they were civilians of a sort, but innocent? Give me a break. They formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America's global financial empire, to which the military dimension of U.S. policy has always been enslaved. And they did so both willingly and knowingly. If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the Twin Towers, I'd really be interested in hearing about it."
Now, when I talked with Professor Churchill last Friday, he was completely unapologetic both about what he had written and about the outrage it provoked. He told me the only thing he would change would be to clarify exactly who he was referring to with the term little Eichmanns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCHILL: The people who perform the technical functions that results in the impoverishment, immiseration and ultimately the deaths of millions in order to maximize profit. and I don't believe that there is any reasonable definition by which food service workers, firemen, janitors, children, random passerby fit that definition. And it is clearly articulated. You just read it.
But I would have gone further to explain the Eichmann reference to be a framed by Hannah Arendt that Eichmann was essentially a bureaucrat, a technician. He killed no one, but he performed technical functions with a great degree of proficiency and full knowledge that the outcome of his endeavor would be essentially mass murder.
ZAHN: Well, let me just say this. Tonight, I think you're more clearly laying out what you in your judgment constitute victims on 9/11. Do you think you owe an apology to the families who read the same essay...
ZAHN: ... I read who thought that you were referring to their loved ones, the waiters in restaurants, the janitors in the building, as somehow being responsible for kind of fueling the military industrial complex?
CHURCHILL: I don't believe I owe them an apology, because I don't believe I included their families, the people you're talking about, in. I think some other people have very conscientiously attempted to put those words in my mouth. And I think it may be that quite a number of people who have been impugning things to me that I didn't actually say could well and truly owe an apology. Media sources that have me calling for the deaths of millions of Americans. Nowhere in there do I do that.
My object is to figure out if we're going to solve this problem, how to go about it. And first thing is to understand the nature of the response. And my thesis basically was that any people subjected to the kind of degradation, devaluation and dehumanization, say the Iraqis, or say the Palestinians, will either respond in kind, or people will respond in their name in kind. And it doesn't matter whether they're Arabs or they're Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: I also asked Professor Churchill if he thought he would end up being fired because of this controversy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCHILL: Actually I don't.
ZAHN: All right, so what is the truth tonight?
CHURCHILL: I will contest the firing.
ZAHN: You will contest the firing. And would you sue the university?
CHURCHILL: I would contest the firing, certainly. Of course, I would sue the university, for breech of its own rules.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: All right, so, tonight, you have heard again from Ward Churchill. Coming up next, the man who wants him fired.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BILL OWENS (R), COLORADO: I think that every American under the First Amendment has the right to say almost anything, but I think most of us understand that you don't have a right under the First Amendment to yell fire in a crowded theater.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Colorado Governor Bill Owens when we come back.
ZAHN: Welcome back.
We continue to talk about freedom of speech, especially when the speech is inflammatory and repugnant. As we said earlier, Colorado's governor wants the university regents to fire Professor Ward Churchill because of what he has said and written about 9/11. Last week, the regents started an investigation. They also apologized to all Americans for Churchill's writings.
A short while ago, I talked with Colorado Governor Bill Owens. We began by looking at something that happened during Professor Churchill's talk last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCHILL: Bill Owens, do you get it now? (LAUGHTER)
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CHURCHILL: I do not work for the taxpayers of the state of Colorado. I do not work for Bill Owens.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Your reaction, Governor?
OWENS: You know, my reaction is you just have to consider the source.
If you agree with Ward Churchill that the victims of 9/11 had it coming, if you agree with Ward Churchill that the United States should cease to exist, or that in fact more 9/11s are necessary, then you probably agree with him about, you know, Bill Owens. I'm very comfortable with my position. I'm very comfortable with the fact that the vast majority of Coloradans agree with me on this issue.
ZAHN: So, as abhorrent as you find his message, does he or does he not have the First Amendment right to say these things?
OWENS: You know, Paula, I think that every American under the First Amendment has the right to say almost anything. But I think most of us understand that you don't have a right under the First Amendment to yell fire in a crowded theater.
The question is, is, does a professor have the right to yell fire in a crowded theater? In many cases, he comes close to advocating violence. In fact, he himself said that he's been a member of the armed struggle in the United States for more than 20 years. Very good people, even First Amendment scholars, may believe that he has the right to say this, but other people believe just as equally that he doesn't, that you don't have the right to call for more violence, even in a democratic country.
ZAHN: The ACLU has issued a statement, also, weighing in, saying -- quote -- "This governmental interference with the content of Mr. Churchill's constitutionally protected opinions tramples on fundamental American values."
So, why don't you see firing him as an infringement on the professor's First Amendment rights?
OWENS: Because he can still speak as an American. We in fact provided him a venue last night at the University of Colorado to speak. He has every right to speak as an American.
But when he accepts that professorship at the University of Colorado, he certainly also signed a contract that said he'd act in a manner of integrity, that he actually would be competent in what he taught. And if, in fact, the record shows that he wasn't competent, that he didn't act, in a sense, with integrity, we have every right to discipline him. And that discipline could include firing.
ZAHN: Is there a slippery slope here, if you go through with this and have some sort of chilling effect on other professors, who will be afraid to say politically unpopular things?
OWENS: No, I don't think so. I think that, even if we are successful, even if he is terminated, he's going to be a hero. He's going to be able to go on the lecture circuit. He'll be toasted in Europe. He'll receive awards from the ACLU and Amnesty International.
He won't be chilled in any way in terms of his ability to express himself. He just won't be doing it courtesy of the Colorado taxpayer.
ZAHN: Governor, let me share with you University of Colorado's guidelines for dismissing a professor.
The offenses include incompetence, neglect of duty, insubordination, conviction of a felony or any offense involving moral turpitude, sexual harassment or other conduct which falls below minimum standards of professional integrity. On what grounds could you possibly fire this professor?
OWENS: Well, certainly on the grounds of falling below the grounds of professional integrity or competence.
There are scholars in Texas, scholars in New Mexico who are calling into question his competence as a scholar. They are alleging plagiarism. There are also scholars who say he has made up his background as having partial Indian heritage.
I think, in the areas of integrity, in the areas of competence, those are certainly the areas that the University of Colorado is going to look at. That's where I think you will find in fact the reason to release him if those factors are there, as I believe they are.
ZAHN: But, Governor, you know doubt have been exposed to another point of view, which says that basically you are trying to fire this guy because he doesn't have an acceptable political point of view, as evidenced in this editorial that we found in "The Chicago Tribune," which reads: "Unless the professor has failed to fulfill his obligations as a teacher and scholar," some of which you just pointed out now, "he should be retained in the post regardless of his personal opinions. The state doesn't have to operate a university, but, if it does, it can't punish or reward academics according to the acceptability of their political views."
Is it your position that states and the elected officials running them should sanction all of their universities because they find the views of a professor politically unacceptable?
OWENS: No, I don't believe we should sanction universities. And I don't believe we should certainly do this, except in the rarest of cases.
But I don't believe that simply being a professor, particularly a professor at the institution that I have something to do with, has a right to call essentially for genocide. I don't believe that a professor has the right to call for armed struggle. I believe that, in fact, to be a professor of the University of Colorado, you accept some responsibility towards academic integrity and in fact professional competence. And I believe the U.S. Supreme Court has so ruled.
ZAHN: Do you potentially see this case moving out of your state all the way up to the Supreme Court of the U.S.?
OWENS: You know, it could, because it is such a clear-cut case between the question of what's defensible speech under the First Amendment and under what auspices does a state or a state university have the ability to terminate employment?
And, again, that's assuming there's a termination. There's no reason to believe that the University of Colorado will take that step. That's what they are going through right now to make that decision.
ZAHN: Colorado Governor Bill Owens, thank you so much for your time tonight.
OWENS: Thanks, Paula.
ZAHN: And on to yet another war of words tonight. A big-city mayor compares the president's budget cuts to the 9/11 attacks and sets off a firestorm of his own.
ZAHN: This week, the Bush administration unveiled its new budget, which proposes to cut back or eliminate more than 150 government programs, including ones that affect cities. The deep cuts provoked a controversial reaction from the Democratic mayor of Baltimore.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN O'MALLEY (D), MAYOR OF BALTIMORE: Back on September 11, terrorists attacked our metropolitan cores, two of America's great cities. They did that because they knew that that was where they could do the most damage and weaken us the most. Years later, we are given a budget proposal by our commander in chief, the president of the United States. And with a budget axe, he is attacking America's cities. He is attacking our metropolitan core.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Well, it's no surprise that Mayor O'Malley is catching a lot of flak for what you just heard. However, city officials across the country are alarmed by the proposal to cut block grants.
In Detroit, it would eliminate a key source of money for tearing down abandoned homes and building new ones.
Keith Oppenheim shows us who would be affected most.
KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When John George walks out his front door, he's already at work, trying to save his neighborhood.
JOHN GEORGE, FOUNDER, BLIGHT BUSTERS: I don't mind getting my hands dirty for a good cause. So, this is how I dress, because it's directly related to what I do.
OPPENHEIM: What he does is run Blight Busters, a community-based organization that builds mostly single-family homes on Detroit's northwest side. Everything he wears and drives is covered with logos and slogans.
GEORGE: You have to understand that affordable, clean, decent housing, I believe, is almost a God-given right.
OPPENHEIM: George is proud of his success stories, like Lavonne Bingman, a single mom who, with her four children, moved into a house built with the help of federal grants.
LAVONNE BINGMAN, DETROIT RESIDENT: My kids, all four of them, they haven't had no troubles over here.
OPPENHEIM: But ride farther with John and the subject changes to this, demolition. And you will hear his frustration.
GEORGE: A neighborhood should not have this. Would you live around this?
OPPENHEIM (on camera): No.
GEORGE: Would anybody live around this mess? Well, why should we have to? Because we don't have a lot of money? That's why we have to live next to this?
OPPENHEIM (voice-over): In Detroit, there are thousands of eyesores like this, abandoned homes on a waiting list to be torn down. Until they are, the rotting buildings can stop growth and present a major safety hazard, especially to kids.
GEORGE: They could get hurt. They could get raped in here. Nothing ever good happens at an abandoned crack house or an abandoned home.
OPPENHEIM: Groups like Blight Busters have relied on community development block grants to pay for demolition and reconstruction. George says, if those funds in Detroit are cut by more than half, as the president's budget proposes, the blight will stay put.
(on camera): What's in it for other Americans who sometimes look at cities like Detroit as unfixable, or where lots of money has been spent and they don't see it being better?
GEORGE: Well, you know, what they have to understand is, people that live in Detroit are people. We're living, breathing human beings. And we're Americans. if you have people that are living in squalor, what kind of children, what kind of people do you think that would help produce?
OPPENHEIM (voice-over): Blight Busters in is better shape than other groups, because it relies more on private and corporate dollars and less on government money to make a difference.
TYRAN GRISSOM, NEW HOPE COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT: This area has been severely blighted for years.
OPPENHEIM: But Tyran Grissom of New Hope Community Development faces a more difficult future. His organization helped restore 40 homes and build six new ones. And he estimates more than 25 percent of the funding came from federal grants.
(on camera): What happens to your group if block grant funding essentially dries up? Will you keep doing what you're doing?
GRISSOM: Oh, no. Oh, no. It would be -- if we were to continue what we were doing, it would be really tough, straining, and could force our doors to close.
OPPENHEIM (voice-over): The impact of budget cuts can be widespread, but, in Detroit, community organizers and city officials are especially alarmed. For a city that's been struggling for two generations to regain its balance, any loss of money is a threat to improvement. And those who have worked hard to make things better, like Tyran Grissom and John George, see these proposed cuts as a major blow.
GEORGE: It's one thing to cut fat. But when you cut muscle and bone, you're going to kill the very thing you are trying to help or save. It just doesn't make any sense to me.
ZAHN: So, about 1,000 cities or communities use the block grant program, which for 30 years has targeted areas with high rates poverty and unemployment. The president believes, however, that a smaller block grant program with money targeted to boosting economic development would not only improve neighborhoods, but also the lives of the people who live in them.
Coming up next, the war in Iraq and the way out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I remain puzzled
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel very optimistic.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: This is the beginning of the end. And there's many, many hurdles, many difficulties, many sacrifices that have to be made.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: The search for an exit strategy when we come back.
ZAHN: In Iraq today an American soldier died when insurgents attacked a military convoy just 50 miles north of Baghdad. With that soldier's death 1,451 members of the U.S. military have died in the war. Right now, there are about 150,000 American troops in Iraq. And now that the elections are over there the Pentagon plans to bring that number down to about 135,000 over the next few weeks. As for how long it will be until they all come home, that's another question.
(voice-over): It's one of the administration's most difficult challenges in Iraq.
DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: There is going to be a discussion, no one wants to keep -- we certainly don't want to keep our forces in any country longer than we have to. That's our last choice.
ZAHN: Getting the troops out, a top priority, but at this point the Bush administration's Iraq exit strategy is more an outline than a plan.
Senator John McCain, a strong supporter of the war with equally strong opinions about how the exit should be executed.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARMED SERVICES CMTE.: It's very simple. We continue to beef up and train the Iraqi police and military so they can take over the responsibilities for their own security. We gradually withdraw in conclaves and then withdraw from Iraq.
ZAHN: On the surface it sounds simple and it tracks with what the president wants, but how does it break down?
Step one, recruit and train the Iraqi army to take over its own security.
MCCAIN: The reality is that the estimate that we had a year ago of trained Iraqi military was wrong. They collapsed under the pressure of the insurgents. We are now trying again and doing a better job.
ZAHN: Retired General William Odom once ran the ultra-secret National Security Agency, was the head of military intelligence and served on Jimmy Carter's national security council. He says banking on the Iraqi army alone is foolish.
LT. GEN. WILLIAM ODOM, FMR. NSA DIRECTOR: This notion that we somehow can train up the Iraqi army which will then let us off the hook there is an illusion, one I lived through in Vietnam. The problem is, it's not very good for your health to join the Iraqis because you become a target of a lot of your fellow Iraqis who do not want the U.S. there. You've essentially joined the United States if do you that.
ZAHN: Retired General David Grange, a former Green Beret and ranger, who once commanded the army's first infantry division says training up the Iraqis will only work if their mindset changes.
BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: The hardest thing to train the Iraqi police and Iraqi military to understand that they are responsible and that they serve the Iraqi people, the people do not serve them which is what the culture was before the takedown of the Saddam regime.
ZAHN: Step two, pull U.S. troops off the front line and use them in an advisory role with the Iraqi forces. The word for this is embedding and it is fraught with danger.
MCCAIN: There's no doubt that infiltration of Iraqi forces by insurgent forces is a serious, serious problem. And probably the first one we are going to have to eliminate.
ODOM: If you look at the insurgents they are a military organization. They don't seem to have a morale problem or if they do they know how to cope with it. They don't have any U.S. advisers telling them how to do it. The issue is whether they feel loyal and committed to the political goals of the government or leadership that is using them as a military.
ZAHN: Bottom line, the plan won't work unless the new Iraqi government has genuine popular support. Ink-stained fingertips aside, the success of the election does not automatically mean Iraq will become a stable democracy.
ODOM: I remain puzzled as to why the leaders of our country and very sophisticated people in high places think that rooting a constitutional system that will be stable and effective in Iraq is an easy thing or a thing that can be accomplished in two or three years.
GRANGE: I feel very optimistic. That doesn't mean everything is going to be hunky-dory overnight. This is going to be still a tough road ahead. There's going to be a lot of blood-letting.
MCCAIN: I'm optimistic in the long run. But this is the beginning of the end and there's many, many hurdles, many difficulties, many sacrifices that have to be made. I think American troop presence will be there for a long period of time.
ZAHN: And I recently talked with Brigadier General Douglas Lute, the director of operations for the U.S. Central Command which is responsible for Iraq and I asked him about one of Senator McCain's point that insurgents have worked their way into Iraqi forces.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BRIG. GEN. DOUGLAS LUTE, DIR. OF OPERATIONS, CENTCOM: Well, Paula, this goes very much to our primary effort for 2005 and that is to enhance the quality of Iraqi forces. You know, we need to keep this in perspective. But in seven months ago there was no Iraqi army, there were no Iraqi commando battalions. There was very little that could be called an Iraqi police force. We've made a great deal of progress in the last seven months. But this is still an immature emerging force. Things like infiltration by insurgents, things like sharing intelligence, developing their own intelligence, and developing a coherent chain of command are all things that we're working on for this calendar year.
ZAHN: So how long do you think it will take for those troops to operate at a level that you would consider satisfactory?
LUTE: Well, Paula, the most capable Iraqi formations are already operating independently at battalion level, this is 5 to 600 soldiers operating independently sometimes also operating on their own developed intelligence. So on the one end of the spectrum we have very capable Iraqi forces, some today. But not enough to sustain the fight against the counterinsurgency country-wide. That process will take all of calendar '05 and probably into calendar year '06.
ZAHN: Sir, given the fact that just over the last couple days alone 40 Iraqis have lost their lives, what does that suggest to you about the impact of the election on this population?
LUTE: Well, first of all, it suggests that there's no immediate impact. That is that the elections themselves were not a silver bullet or a panacea that we were going to solve the insurgency. The other thing it suggests to me, Paula, is just the bravery and the incredible willingness to step forward on the election day itself which we witnessed by millions of Iraqis moving to the polling places. And further more, the support by the brother Iraqis, the security forces, in securing over 5,000 election places. It suggests to me in sum that it's still a dangerous place, but the Iraqis have demonstrated they are willing to step up. They deserve our respect and our support for that.
ZAHN: Brigadier General Douglas Lute, always appreciate your input. Thank you.
LUTE: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: And as for the results of the Iraqi elections officials had hoped to release them by tomorrow, but there is a delay as they investigate complaints of voter irregularities.
When we come back, soldiers who did their duty once, get ready to do it again. The next rotation into Iraq.
ZAHN: As we mentioned, in the next few weeks the number of U.S. forces in Iraq will go down to about 135,000. But even as they come home, 25,000 men and women of the 3rd Infantry Division have been getting ready to ship out to relieve troops whose tours of duties are over.
Well, tonight Michael Shoulder introduces us to two Americans who are heading back for a second tour of duty.
CHRIS TUCKER, U.S. ARMY: Looking forward to doing what we're about to do: making part of history. Who knows, we'll see.
MICHAEL SHOULDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The night before the U.S. invaded Iraq. Chris Tucker, a 20-year-old tanker and ammunition loader is preparing for his first battle.
TUCKER: This is it. This is the big day. We're leaving now and going across the berm into Iraq. Here we go.
We've got to make history. We're here on this side of Iraq. Later I'll make it home to tell you all about it. I hope so. We'll see.
SHOULDER: Chris Tucker did make it home.
TUCKER: The whole time, it was like an emotional roller coaster. It definitely takes you back.
SHOULDER: Now he's heading back to Iraq with a big promotion and a deep appreciation of the horrors of war.
TUCKER: Big firefight out here, right outside of Baghdad.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're so proud of him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll be praying for you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've been praying for you. We're very proud.
SHOULDER: They are proud of Chris Tucker in his hometown in Jasper, Georgia. It wasn't always so.
TUCKER: For some reason, everywhere I went I just kept getting in trouble. I would pick on people. I'd beat people up. I was -- I was like a big bully at school. I -- I got involved with drugs. I was going in the wrong track.
SHOULDER: It was the wrong track in many ways.
TUCKER: Throughout life I was in and out of foster homes. And I stayed in a lot of trouble.
SHOULDER: Then Chris Tucker got a break. A youth minister took him into his home. And when the minister got married the wife agreed to make Chris part of their family, even naming their son after him. TUCKER: Shoot the basketball, Tucker.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a wedding picture of me and Steve and Chris, and people look at that wedding picture, they ask, well, who are you married to, just because Steve is seven years older than me and Chris is seven years younger.
SHOULDER: Tucker's high school football coach saw the evolution, saw the hard work that number 42 put in on the field and off.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forty-two comes up with it. He wasn't the most talented kid in the world but he worked hard at it and he had a good attitude. And he gave us everything he had. And that's all we could ask.
TUCKER: I got out of high school, I wanted to be a police officer. And everywhere I went, everyone said, you don't have any experience. You don't have any experience.
This is basic training. This is my first MRE.
SHOULDER: The police force said no; the Army said yes.
TUCKER: I joined after 9/11 because after the terrorist attacks in September 11 it -- it makes you -- you're like, I'm an American, that's my job.
SHOULDER: Private First Class Tucker was one of the first Americans to enter Baghdad.
TUCKER: I was the fourth tank back in the E column (ph).
SHOULDER: His commanders credit him with saving many soldiers' lives. He earned a fast track promotion, skipping a rank to sergeant. The former bully is now the protector.
TUCKER: Now I have two soldiers that are under me that pretty much their life depends on me doing my job and training them to know their job inside and out.
SHOULDER: As we said, Sergeant Tucker has a deep appreciation of the horrors of war. He doesn't talk much about the details that weigh on him, only the effects.
TUCKER: I can't sleep at night at all. My job and things I've seen will be running through my head. Or I see a certain scene or, you know, a certain situation that -- that just horrifies, stuck -- sticks in your memory forever. I've been through counseling and everything like that to try to deal with it.
SHOULDER: Sergeant Tucker received his honorable discharge in November after three years of service, but his story does not end there. He struggled with whether to reenlist. Heavily factoring, the Pentagon's stop loss program, under which it can send members of the armed services back to Iraq even after their enlistment period is up. TUCKER: Me and some of my buddies we sat down and thought about it, we're like, hey, we might as well reenlist, because we'll get a bonus now. We'll get duty station of choice. It's either that or get nothing and still go.
SHOULDER (on camera): What was the bonus?
TUCKER: It was $7,000.
SHOULDER (voice-over): And so with an extra $7,000 in the bank, Chris Tucker and his buddies are packing up for their second tour of duty.
(on camera) Do you still feel that 9/11 connection to the mission now? Or is it something else?
TUCKER: September 11 motivated me to join the Army and to do something more with my life, but going to Iraq the first time, it was like it was part of your job. And then you lose a friend or something like that over there, and then your motivation is totally different. I mean, it's like, OK, well they're going to keep killing our people. We're losing soldiers every day. And that's your motivation.
SHOULDER: Tucker relishes his role as leader, and he tries to hide the psychological burdens of his first deployment from those under his command.
TUCKER: I don't want them to know that hey, when I come back, I'm going to be messed up, and I won't be able to sleep. And I'll be having dreams and all this. Because then it might affect how they do their job.
And so my job is to make sure, hey, I come to work. I'm the same person every day. And they think everything is just great.
SHOULDER: The brave face of Sergeant Chris Tucker.
ZAHN: And what an example he sets for all of us.
In the spring of 2003 the 3rd Infantry led the charge to Baghdad. Their mission this time: replacing a unit that has averaged 12 dead a month.
Time to look ahead to later tonight. "LARRY KING LIVE" coming up in just about 14 minutes from now in your home, if you're looking at your digital clock as I am right now.
How are you doing tonight, Larry? What's up?
LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Pretty good. Quite a show tonight, Paula. We've got members of the band Great White. Nearly two years ago they were in that nightclub with the pyrotechnical problems. The fire went off, 96 people were killed then; four later died of injuries. We're going to have members of the band on, their attorney, and victims of that event, all tonight on "LARRY KING LIVE." It's exclusive. Should be quite an hour. And it's at the top of the hour, Paula.
ZAHN: Thanks. Larry, I vividly remember being called in in the middle of the night, and just trying to understand the horror of what happened there. Wow. It's hard to believe two years has passed since then.
Larry, we'll see you at the top of the hour. Thanks.
ZAHN: Coming up our next soldier story of the night. A father leaves his son with a special memento before heading off to war again.
ZAHN: During his last deployment to Iraq, Major Terrence Sanders had an emotionally draining job, to say the least. His assignment was to identify American casualties from the 3rd Infantry Division, fellow soldiers and friends.
That's one dimension of this officer's sacrifice. This is the other. We call it Major Sander's bedtime song, for reasons it will be very clear. Again, Michael Shoulder.
JOWANDA SANDERS, WIFE: Hello, Garfield. Who sits there in the movie that you like with the fish? Nemo.
MICHAEL SANDERS, SON: Yes.
MAJOR TERRENCE SANDERS, U.S. ARMY: This is pre-training for my wife if I don't come back.
SHOULDER: Major Terrence Sander has spent the last year preparing to say good-bye.
T. SANDERS: Our love for each other goes beyond what we visually see, but in our hearts we know that we were the ideal person for each other.
SHOULDER: Major Sanders is leaving for his second deployment to Iraq. The Sanders have a 3-year-old son, Michael, but it is 14-year- old Brandon that makes the deployment to Iraq particularly hard on the family.
T. SANDERS: He has cerebral palsy.
BRANDON SANDERS, SON: For my knee.
SHOULDER: While the wheelchair is temporary, the result of a knee injury, Brandon's cerebral palsy presents a constant challenge.
T. SANDERS: I want you to understand that people are not going to always feel sorry for you. I told him to be the man of the house. And to whatever degree that is, just to support my wife.
B. SANDERS: Can you say north?
M. SANDERS: North.
B. SANDERS: Atlantic.
M. SANDERS: Atlantic.
B. SANDERS: Ocean. And where you going to next? To Iraq.
M. SANDERS: Yes.
SHOULDER: Now there's only one day left for a father to reinforce the lessons of a lifetime.
T. SANDERS: Don't allow yourself to go to school and not be smart. The key is to read and to read. Going to school and doing your work and listening to your teachers and...
B. SANDERS: Following instructions?
T. SANDERS: ... following instructions, that's one of the big ones.
SHOULDER: Only one day left before a father loses the power to protect his son.
T. SANDERS: He's going to high school next year, so I'm...
B. SANDERS: Eighth grade right now.
T. SANDERS: So I'm really nervous, because high school kids can be not as caring. And there are big kids at school that could try to take advantage of him. And Dad is not there to be the protector. That concerns me.
SHOULDER: Taking care of Brandon and Michael without her husband is only one aspect of this family's sacrifice. Terrence and Jowanda have been together since college. We arrived on their 18 wedding anniversary.
T. SANDERS: Eighteen beautiful years.
SHOULDER: Their 19th year will be spent apart.
J. SANDERS: Hopefully it will be a year. I don't think any further than that. I don't let my mind go past the other.
And I think of it for my boys, just them missing their father for that long. Not having his input and not having the role model of their father at home. I constantly talk about him all the time, because I want them to know the sacrifice he has to make for us to have the things that we have.
SHOULDER: With 24 hours left before he leaves for Iraq, Major Sanders goes to the Fort Stewart Library to videotape bedtime stories for his children.
T. SANDERS: Hello, Brandon, Michael. This is Dad. Just want to read a couple of stories to you while I am gone to Iraq.
I miss you when have you to go to work. And that's where Daddy is. Daddy is at work.
SHOULDER: He will leave them with a song.
T. SANDERS: And remember, what we do when it's time for bedtime. We sing our favorite song and that song is...
SHOULDER: All the training in the world cannot prepare a family for this.
T. SANDERS (singing): God you're so good. God you're so good. You're so good to us.
ZAHN: What a great dad. But somehow I have the feeling Joanna (ph) is in very good hands right now at home with her two sons.
Major Sanders reached Iraq safely. But as he put it in an e-mail to us, not without incident. He said his plane was shot at as it descended into Baghdad International Airport. That and continued mortar attacks are, he says, reminders for him to make sure his soldiers remain vigilant.
We will keep on following Major Sanders and Chris Tucker's stories as their tours of duty continue.
When we come back, peace and harmony in the new year, celebrations and superstitions for the year of the rooster.
ZAHN: Finally tonight, a new year that carries hope for peace and prosperity. Millions of people across Asia are ringing in the lunar year of the rooster. That's 4072 by the traditional Chinese calendar.
Here is Stan Grant in Beijing.
STAN GRANT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Yes, the year of the rooster is here. A time to put aside old enmities and, we're told, embrace a new era of peace.
RAYMOND LO, FENG-SHUI CONSULTANT: People are more flexible, more easy to negotiate, more easy to compromise. So that's why this year we expect a lot of peace talks and not as turbulent as the year of the monkey.
GRANT: Hong Kong at midnight, a race to be the first to win the blessings of the new year. In Beijing, exactly 108 ceremonial gongs on the city bell.
Yes, the lunar new year is about superstition. Couples in China, rushing to get married before the end of the year of the monkey. The new year falls outside the beginning of spring under the lunar calendar, a bad sign. They call this a widow's year.
Still, others say the rooster is in fact lucky for love.
Whatever. Superstition aside, it's all about family. Hundreds of millions of Chinese packing trains, planes and cars to get home. In Beijing, flocking to this park to the annual new year fair.
He thinks he's on a winner.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I hope everyone in the new year will get rich.
GRANT: Others have their priorities a little more in order.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We are going to have a baby soon. So we hope to have a healthy baby.
GRANT: China's president, Hu Jintao now has the year of the monkey off his back. He enters the year of the rooster as top dog. Oh, that's right, year of the dog. We're getting ahead of ourselves. That's next year.
ZAHN: Oh, Stan, don't get ahead of yourself there.
You probably didn't know this, but the lunar new year is celebrated in many different ways with many superstitions, including avoiding haircuts for the first month of the year. So you had that excuse last month.
Thanks so much for joining us tonight. We'll be back tomorrow night for candid conversation with baseball's Jason Giambi. We'll be talking steroids.
"LARRY KING LIVE" is next. Have a good night. Thanks again for joining us.
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