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CNN WOLF BLITZER REPORTS

"Newsweek" Retracts Quran Mistreatment Story; U.S. Calls Operation Matador a Success; British Newspaper: U.S. Manipulated Pre- War Intelligence; Former Defense Secretary Discusses North Korean Threat; Another Rough Hurricane Season Predicted

Aired May 16, 2005 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now, dramatic pictures of Operation Matador's aftermath are now in, and they show the U.S. military offensive's full dimension.
That's coming up next. Stand by for hard news on WOLF BLITZER REPORTS.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): Damaging words. "Newsweek" apologizes for any errors in the story alleging that U.S. interrogators defiled the Quran.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're going to have to continue reaching out to our friends in the Muslim world and asking them to help us make clear to people what we stand for.

BLITZER: Is it too late to undo the damage?

Killer hurricanes. Last year they slammed the East Coast. Are more on the way?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do what you can to prepare now.

BLITZER: We have this year's forecast.

Your health. Can you keep breast cancer from striking twice? We'll look at the latest research linking diet and disease.

ANNOUNCER: This is WOLF BLITZER REPORTS for Monday, May 16, 2005.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thanks for joining us. I'm reporting from New York City today.

There were -- they were just a few words in a brief item in "Newsweek" magazine, but the impact was earth-shaking. Allegations that U.S. interrogators desecrated the Muslim holy book sparked deadly riots half a world away.

Now "Newsweek" is backing off, the Bush administration is bearing down, and America is trying to repair its image abroad. Let's go live to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Pentagon is saying that "Newsweek" was wrong when it reported the military had confirmed allegations the Quran had been desecrated.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): Allegations so far unproven that U.S. military personnel desecrated the Quran at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have swirled around for months.

But then in its May 9 issue "Newsweek" magazine said, "Interrogators, in an attempt to rattle suspects, flushed a Quran down a toilet." That touched off riots in Afghanistan and Pakistan, leaving at least 15 dead.

Now "Newsweek" says they got it wrong, their source no longer certain about where he got the information that he told the magazine.

DAN KLAIDMAN, "NEWSWEEK" MAGAZINE: This was an honest mistake. We are obviously not very happy about it.

STARR: Across Washington the Bush administration striking back hard at "Newsweek."

MCCLELLAN: We find it very puzzling that they would, on the one hand, say the facts are wrong and then stop short of a full retraction.

RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: I mean, it's appalling, really, that an article that was unfounded to begin with has caused so much harm, including loss of life. And one would expect, as the facts come out of how this story was written, one would, in fact, expect more than the kind of correction we've seen so far.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: People lost their lives. People are dead. And that's unfortunate.

STARR: The military opened a new inquiry after the "Newsweek" article, publicly acknowledging it is looking into allegations of mishandling the Quran. But so far, officials say they haven't found any evidence of wrongdoing.

GEN. RICHARD MYERS, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: More than one detainee tore pages out of the Quran and put it in the toilet in protest, to stop up the toilet, but we've not found it where any wrongdoing on the part of U.S. service members.

STARR: But in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where tensions still are running high, the military is trying to make sure everyone knows its side of the story.

COL. JOHN YONTS, COALITION SPOKESMAN: Any disrespect to the Quran and any other religion is not tolerated by our culture and our values. That goes against our beliefs, and we do not tolerate that. (END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Wolf, the Pentagon's position remains that they will investigate all credible allegations, and they say as of now they haven't found any yet -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr, reporting for us at the Pentagon. Thanks, Barbara, very much.

We'll have much more on this story. Coming up this hour, the former defense secretary William Cohen and CNN special correspondent Frank Sesno. Both will join us. That's coming up later this hour.

From Baghdad to Baqubah, more blood and more bodies in Iraq today as insurgents stepped up their campaign of violence. But U.S. forces are taking heat for their recent offensive against the insurgents.

CNN's Ryan Chilcote reports from the Iraqi capital.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first pictures of Operation Matador's aftermath in Iraq's western al-Anbar province revealed new dimensions of the U.S. military's offensive.

The U.S. military called Matador a success. It claims they killed 125 insurgents and detained more than three dozen.

COL. BEN HODGES, U.S. ARMY: We severely disrupted an area that the enemy thought that they could use almost as a rear area or a sanctuary, where they could rest, refit, organize, plan to conduct operations against Iraqi security forces or coalition forces.

CHILCOTE: The Red Cross, though, said hundreds of residents have paid a price in the process, uprooted from their homes and returning residents seem to confirm that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The bombing was barbaric.

CHILCOTE: Some in the al-Anbar province, while they may have been unhappy with the insurgents, now appear to be angry with the U.S. military, and destruction residents say they caused.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This is a mosque. They destroyed the mosque and took all the people who were inside with them. Why do they not fear God?

CHILCOTE: Iraq's Defense Ministry announced Iraqi security forces are now banned from raiding mosques and other places of worship, even though they weren't part of Operation Matador.

The anger of Iraqis is not only directed at the U.S. and Iraqi militaries. An insurgent mortar fell on a Baghdad university Monday morning, spilling more innocent blood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We are students. What crime have we committed? This is the blood of a student who died.

CHILCOTE: in Baqubah an insurgent bomb attack directed at Iraqi soldiers killed five of them, wounding twice that. Among them, more civilians.

Authorities also said they found the bodies of 55 Iraqi men in six different locations.

The Iraqi government says the insurgents are trying to turn Iraq's many ethnic and religious groups against one another. Controversial Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr broke six months of silence to condemn the wave of violence.

MUQTADA AL-SADR, SHIITE LEADER (through translator): All terrorist acts, whether by the occupiers or others, are acts against humanity and Islam.

CHILCOTE: He told his supporters Iraq would do better policing themselves and called on coalition forces to pull out.

(on camera) After all the violence Iraqis are mostly just tired of the war, and ultimately many of them are blaming the U.S. and Iraqi militaries for their failure to stop it.

Ryan Chilcote, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And we're just getting this in. "Newsweek" magazine is now formally retracting, retracting its story about the Quran being desecrated -- desecrated at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, a story that reported a couple weeks ago that sparked huge unrest in much of the Muslim world, especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"Newsweek" apologized in a statement released yesterday, but now they're going one step further, saying the story is not true. They are formally, formally retracting that story.

We'll have much more on this story coming up. The former defense secretary, William Cohen, and Frank Sesno, our CNN special correspondent, will be joining us shortly.

We'll take a quick break. When we come back, though, a frightening prediction for another above-normal hurricane season. Is nature ready to deliver another powerful punch to residents along the east and gulf coasts? We've got the outlook for 2005.

Beating breast cancer. Why a woman's diet could be the key to winning the fight for good.

And later, go ahead and raise your glass. The United States Supreme Court gives wine lovers a reason to toast today. Our Mary Snow standing by with an explanation.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Welcome back.

A recent British newspaper report is reviving a long-running debate right here in the United States. It suggests that the Bush administration may have manipulated intelligence information to bolster the case for going to war in Iraq.

Our Brian Todd has been looking into this story. He's joining us now live in Washington -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the report came at a very challenging time for British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and it has put him and his closest global ally on the defensive.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): A British document made public just before this month's elections leads to more pointed questions about the rationale for the Iraq war.

The memo, leaked to the "Times of London" newspaper, details the minutes of a meeting between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his security team in July of 2002, before the Bush administration began making its public case for war against Saddam Hussein.

The notes refer to a British official's consultations in Washington that summer. Quote, "Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the policy." Later the minutes say, quote, "The case was thin."

Contacted by CNN, an official in Blair's office would not confirm the contents of the notes one way or another.

CNN asked White House press secretary Scott McClellan for his reaction.

MCCLELLAN: I don't know about the specific memo. I've seen the reports, and I can tell you that they're just flat out wrong. The president of the United States in a very public way reached out to people across the world, went to the United Nations, and tried to resolve this in a diplomatic manner.

TODD: The White House has not responded to a letter sent earlier this month from John Conyers, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, calling for the Bush administration to explain the British report.

REP. JOHN CONYERS (D-MI), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The president has to answer this. I don't think we can laugh at the "London Times" and British intelligence. We need to know.

TODD: But the administration gets critical backing from Republican senator John McCain. SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Yes, but I do not believe that the Bush administration decided that they would set up a scenario that gave us the rationale for going into -- into Iraq.

TODD: McCain was part of a presidential commission that concluded prewar intelligence on Saddam's weapons was not manipulated but was simply wrong.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Again, the British government is not disputing the reported contents of the memo, but an official with Prime Minister Blair's office encouraged us to look at two matters of public record after that meeting in July of 2002.

One, that the British government enthusiastically pursued diplomatic options before the war. And two, that Britain's own independent commission found that Mr. Blair had acted on good faith with the intelligence he had -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd in Washington. Thanks very much.

The Bush administration has seemingly drawn a line in the sand for North Korea, warning it will respond if North Korea carries out a nuclear test. The president's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, told me yesterday, quote, "Action would be taken -- action would have to be taken in the event of a North Korean nuclear test."

Does that mean sanctions? Military action? A vague threat but a threat, nonetheless.

Joining us now to discuss that and other flash points, our world affairs analyst, William Cohen, the former defense secretary. He's now chairman and CEO of the Cohen Group. He's based in Washington, but like me he's in New York today.

Mr. Secretary, thanks very much. What are the actions that the U.S. can or should take if in fact the North Koreans go forward with a nuclear test?

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, I think Steve Hadley kept it deliberately ambiguous, not wishing to tip off what the United States might do. There are several options open.

The notion of taking this to the U.N. Security Council, there have been Japanese delegates and ministers who have recommended that this should be referred to the Security Council for action. The North Koreans have said any recommendation to go to the Security Council would be, quote, "A declaration of war." Pretty strong words.

But the question about sanctions is really problematic. The two critical countries would be South Korea and China. South Korea does not favor sanctions at this point. China certainly doesn't. And China would be able to exercise a veto in the Security Council.

The South Koreans at this point prefer to try to negotiate their way with the North Koreans. So they would be important in terms of the imposition of any sanctions in terms of their enforcement. So the sanctions is more of a political statement rather than an effective one.

What they could do, what the administration might do, however is try to contain the North Koreans in terms of their shipment of goods out of North Korea, the proliferation security initiative. That would mean setting up road blocks, or sea blocks, so to speak, interfering or intercepting their ships coming out of their ports. This would be tantamount to a quarantine by another name. That also would be very serious action.

BLITZER: That could certainly be seen as an act of war.

COHEN: That certainly could be treated as an act of war and would not be easily or quickly resorted to.

Ultimately, there is always a military operation, which is, again, problematic and most extreme and unlikely to take place in the absence of a real serious provocation toward the South Koreans.

BLITZER: A military operation, given the fact the North Koreans have a million-man army only miles away from South Korea and all those U.S. troops, a conventional army that could cause an enormous amount of damage. The military option is a very, very unlikely option, at least in the short term.

COHEN: It's an unlikely option. It's there, but unlikely to be used absent a pre-emptive action being taken by the North Koreans in some form of military action against the South Koreans. But as you point out, almost a million men about 40, 50 miles north of Seoul could inflict huge casualties on the south.

BLITZER: All right. Let's move on, talk about this "Newsweek" report. "Newsweek" is now formally retracting its report. They're saying it was wrong.

Unfortunately, there are dead people out there as a result of that report. A lot of people in the Muslim world outraged that U.S. interrogators would supposedly take a Quran and throw it down a toilet to humiliate these Arab, these Muslim detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

I'm curious, as a former defense secretary, what's your take on this story?

COHEN: Well, there are two things that have to be done.

No. 1, the Pentagon has to continue to investigate this matter to make sure that nothing of the sort was done.

No. 2, it seems to me that "Newsweek" has to conduct its investigation to find out what sort of procedures are in place and have been in place to prevent this kind of a story from ever being printed. Because the consequences are so serious, so volatile.

Any action of this sort is calculated to produce the kind of violent reaction that we're seeing now. And our troops are paying a penalty for it. They are now going to be put in greater jeopardy than they currently are.

So there is a requirement on the part of "Newsweek" and all news media to make sure they have their facts before they ever run with them. Secondly, to, on the part of the government to make sure this type of activity, were it ever to have occurred, holding people accountable for it because this is something, again, that's going to complicate our entire operation, Abu Ghraib, this particular allegation itself. You can see how volatile it's been. It has impaired our ability to function more effectively than we have in Iraq.

BLITZER: You were just there, in Kuwait and the Persian Gulf. Give us your eyewitness account. What's the sense out there about what's going on?

COHEN: Well, actually, the Kuwaitis seem to be quite optimistic in terms of Saddam having been removed from power, that this has taken a great threat away from them. They now are in the process of trying to develop their economy, develop a trade center, financial center. And so they were quite optimistic, as were the other people who were attending this particular conference.

I tried to point out that there's a lot to be encouraged about, but it's still a very dangerous situation in which, unless we're able to really crush the insurgents that the persistence of that could undermine the security throughout the region, the stability throughout the region.

So a lot to be optimistic about, but as you've seen in the most recent insurgent activity, we still have to be very, very aggressive. And we have to have the Iraqi people on the side of the coalition forces. Absent that, it's going to be very difficult to bring about stability throughout the region.

BLITZER: Our world affairs analyst, William Cohen. Thanks very much.

COHEN: Pleasure, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll take another quick break. When we come back, words, consequences, and more problems for the news media. How one "Newsweek" article impacts journalists here in the United States and around the world and how it impacts the U.S. government. Our special correspondent, Frank Sesno, standing by in Washington with more on that.

Active season and a serious prediction. Major hurricanes expected once again to strike the United States in the coming weeks and months. We've got the official forecast.

Also ahead...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It scared the crap out of me. I mean, that's the last thing you'd want to do, is tell your soldiers to shoot yourself in the head.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Deserter diary. Two men who saw action in Iraq turn their backs on the U.S. Army and move to Canada. Their dramatic stories. A story you will see on CNN. All that coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

Remember last year's devastating Atlantic hurricane season? This year could be just as bad.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, known as NOAA, issued its forecast today. It calls for 12 to 15 named storms between June 1 and November 30, including seven to nine hurricanes, and three to five of those hurricanes could be Category Three or higher.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONRAD LAUTENBACHER, NOAA ADMINISTRATOR: We can't predict very accurately this far this advance how many will strike the United States, but with higher levels of activity the statistics favor more of them striking the United States. So we would say to be prepared for two to three of these to make landfall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Florida was ground zero for hurricane activity last year. As CNN's John Zarrella reports, memories of those storms remain vivid.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't mess with Mother Nature. That's for sure. My golly.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Between August 13 and September 25, four hurricanes slammed Florida and doled out their misery across a wide swath of the eastern United States. But it was the people of Florida who took it on the chin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire rescue.

ZARRELLA: Communities from the panhandle to south Florida were left in ruin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a red hat lady. I belong to the red hats. So I found my red hat.

ZARRELLA: Many people, like Mary Sue Davis, were hit more than once. First Frances, then Jeanne.

MARY SUE DAVIS, HURRICANE VICTIM: When I walked out yesterday, the door, I thought I'd never come back and even see walls again.

ZARRELLA: Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne were a collective test of how much the people of Florida could endure. By the numbers, state officials say 9 1/2 million people were evacuated. The storms were directly or indirectly responsible for the deaths of 117 Floridians. Storm victims received 78 1/2 million pounds of ice...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You need any more, T.T.?

ZARRELLA: ... fourteen million MREs and 9.8 million gallons of water.

Eight 1/2 million utility customers lost power. It's believed the four storms caused more than $40 billion in damage.

For hurricane forecasters and researchers, this mean season is one to be analyzed and dissected and written about for decades. For the people who lived through it, it is a season they would rather just forget.

John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Report fallout. We'll examine why a brief story in "Newsweek" that may have caused deadly demonstrations may now lead to further credibility issues for the United States inside the Muslim world.

Plus, strings attached. Find out where women are being permitted to vote for the first time.

And later, health news you won't want to miss. How you may be able to prevent cancer from striking twice. Important information. That's coming up. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from New York today.

Damaging words and now damage control. The report that may have sparked violent anti-American protests now formally retracted. The impact, though, felt around the world.

First, though, let's get a quick check of some other stories now in the news.

A U.S. Senate report accusing top Russian politicians of engaging in the illicit transactions with Iraq during the United Nations scandal-plagued oil-for-food program. Among those accused are advisers to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. The report says the Russians received millions of dollars in oil allocations from Saddam Hussein's government as part of an effort to end U.N. penalties against Iraq.

The search is on in Afghanistan for a kidnapped Italian aid worker. The Italian embassy in Kabul says the woman works for the international aid agency, CARE. She's been in Afghanistan three years and runs programs for widows.

Let's get back now to our top story, that "Newsweek" magazine report saying American interrogators desecrated the Koran, the story that we've just now learned has now been formally retracted by the magazine. The damage, though, has been done in the form of deadly riots in Pakistan, Afghanistan, elsewhere in the Muslim world. Our special CNN correspondent Frank Sesno joining us now in Washington to talk about this.

Only moments ago, Frank, "Newsweek" issued this terse statement. Let me read it to you and our viewers. "Based on what we now know, we are retracting our original story that an internal military investigation had uncovered Koran's abuse at Guantanamo Bay."

Give us your sense from the journalistic perspective how "Newsweek" has handled this truly explosive story.

FRANK SESNO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, actually, I'd say that "Newsweek" has handled this remarkably well. That being said, nobody wants to get into the business by making the mistake, however it's made, at all. But they've been transparent. There was a very detailed sort of tick-tock entitled "How a Fire Broke Out," written by Evan Thomas, that explains how the story was reported, how it was received.

Now you've got the retraction. They've been very transparent. That's the first rule in the sort of journalism of accountability, which is what really is the hallmark of journalism today, where so much is at stake, where the reactions are so instantaneous, as we've seen, and sometimes so deadly.

"Newsweek," though, is only beginning its investigation. They're going to have to go and look very carefully at how they handle stories like this, at how they handle sources, and what's going to be a periscope mention that can end up being a deadly confrontation.

BLITZER: Periscope, the items at the beginning of the magazine every week, in which they have what they call scoops. But what about the original item a couple of weeks ago when they made this report? We now know it was based on what they say was a single high-ranking U.S. government source, even though at the time in their story they quoted sources, which suggest they had more than one source.

SESNO: Well, this really goes to the sausagemaking part of journalism, Wolf, because they had one senior source, a source -- Michael Isikoff, who's a terrific reporter -- had a long-standing relationship with, so obviously trusted what that source told him, and had knowledge supposedly of what was involved in this investigation, including the Koran supposedly being flushed down the toilet.

They then showed that report -- another reporter showed that report to another senior official, who did not dispute it. Now, you and I both know, sometimes the public doesn't, but this is how it works. You can get very sensitive information from a source who says, you know, keep my name away from this, but this is good information. And you can show that to someone else who's going to give you the wink and the nod treatment. And the wink and the nod may not be an explicit denial. It may simply be a wink that that's true. I've had that happen. You've had that happen. And then you use your judgment as to whether you go with it.

They used their judgment. The judgment was wrong. The single source was wrong.

Wolf, we've seen this before. Very senior law enforcement officials, people at the very top told us back in the -- at the Oklahoma City bombing that officials were looking for two Arab men, or men of Arab descent. That's not the truth at all, but law enforcement was following a bum lead. That wasn't bad journalism. That was just the nature of the story. But it was the sources that were wrong, not the journalists.

BLITZER: Should "Newsweek" magazine, should those government source -- sources or source have been more sensitive to the impact of this allegation in the Muslim world?

SESNO: Probably. Both the sources and the journalists. I think one of the things that we now see, Wolf, and this is something that is very serious and relatively new, is that we're now in a global echo chamber. You know, if you report something on CNN, it's picked up by a talk show, it's picked up in print, it ricochets around the world.

Within days of this report, this little item in "Newsweek" -- there was a critic of the Pakistani president waving the magazine around in Pakistan, it was picked up by local radio, it went over the border into Afghanistan, and the public started hearing this.

One young Muslim was quoted as saying, "well, I heard this kicking around but I didn't know it was true until I saw it on television, and then I got really mad."

That's the danger that we're in here. And both journalists and people who are speaking at an official level have to keep this in mind while still getting the information out.

BLITZER: Frank Sesno, thanks very much for spending a few moments with us. Clearly, journalistically, politically, in all sorts of ways, a very, very explosive story.

Once again, recapping, "Newsweek" has now formally retracted that story.

Let's get a quick look at some other stories making headlines around the world.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): For the first time in Kuwait's history, women will be allowed to vote and run for office. Earlier today, Kuwaiti lawmakers approved a measure giving women political rights. But there's a stipulation. Women voters and politicians must abide by Islamic laws.

The situation in eastern Uzbekistan is still tense after last week's deadly clashes between Uzbek troops and anti-government protesters. Gunfire was reported again today in the city of Andijan. Last week's clashes killed several hundred people in Andijan. The unrest also spread to several other nearby towns.

Millions of French workers stayed home from work today, defying the government's decision to scrap a national holiday. French leaders had hoped the day's payroll taxes would generate more than $2 billion for health care for the elderly. The strike has disrupted public transportation, schools and businesses across the country.

And that's our look around the world.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Crossing the border, and possibly another tour of duty. It sounds like a story from the 1960s, but it's not. We'll hear from two American soldiers who say they've had enough of war. This is a story you'll see only here on CNN.

And new evidence linking your diet to cancer. How eating right may ward off breast cancer for good.

And later -- wine lovers, raise your glasses. You'll want to toast the United States Supreme Court decision that may make it easier for you to pop the cork.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A jury in California today recommended that the man convicted of kidnapping, molesting, and killing 5-year-old Samantha Runnion be put to death. Last month, jurors found Alejandro Avila guilty in Runnion's murder nearly three years ago. Runnion was abducted while playing with a friend outside her home. Her body was found less than a day later.

The Pentagon says almost 6,000 troops in the U.S. armed forces out of 1.4 million troops on active duty deserted last year. While most deserters stay in the United States, living underground, some also choose exile. In this report you'll see only on CNN, our Maria Hinojosa takes a closer look at two deserters who headed north of the border.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DARRELL ANDERSON, FORMER SPECIALIST, U.S. ARMY: Well, at first I was scared. You know, I'd only ridden a subway twice in my life.

MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Back home in Lexington, Kentucky, there aren't any trolleys or subways, but here in Toronto, Darrell Anderson is getting used to them. D. ANDERSON: So you know, I was like, what do I do, how do I go about it?

HINOJOSA: Clifford Cornell is also adjusting to life in the big city. He's from a small town in Arkansas. Now they both call Toronto home.

Clifford and Darrell willingly signed up to serve their country in the U.S. Army. Each had his reasons for wanting to join. Money for school was a big part of it. But enlisting held a special meaning.

CLIFFORD CORNELL, FORMER SPECIALIST, U.S. ARMY: The really biggest thing was to prove to me and to prove to my family, friends that I was able -- physically capable of doing it.

D. ANDERSON: Putting on the U.S. Army uniform, you're part of something bigger than most civilians are, so.

HINOJOSA (on camera): So you were a proud soldier?

D. ANDERSON: Oh, yeah. I was a great soldier. You know, I did everything that was asked of me.

HINOJOSA (voice-over): Darrell was a star baseball player, the kind everyone wanted on the team. Clifford was more of a misfit. He got teased a lot as a kid because of a speech impediment. He knew that chances were good he'd end up in combat. But Clifford struggled with basic training. After failing three times, he finally passed, just as his unit was to be deployed to Iraq.

Darrell served seven months on the front lines in Baghdad and Najaf. A gunner, he saw hand-to-hand combat. He was wounded by shrapnel, awarded a Purple Heart.

D. ANDERSON: I was eager to see combat. I was not afraid to kill somebody. I wanted to go in combat, and I wanted to see action.

HINOJOSA: Darrell's unit was on the cover of "Time" magazine and featured in the documentary "Gunner Palace."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want to get blown up, man.

HINOJOSA: But the turning point for this once proud soldier came one night in Baghdad.

D. ANDERSON: And I'm thinking, our procedures, if fired upon you open fire on anybody that's around. So I take my weapon, I point it at someone, and I'm aiming and I look, and it's just a 14-year-old boy running, scared, just like me, my fellow soldiers. And you know, it's -- who am I? Am I this monster? Am I this person killing innocent people? Am I this baby killer? Am I this, you know, this monster to these people?

HINOJOSA: Two all-American soldiers, once ready to give their lives for their country, now faced a decision. Clifford's turning point came, he says, when his captain told his unit what to do if they are captured in Iraq.

CORNELL: It scared the crap out of me. I mean, that's the last thing you want to do, is tell your soldiers to shoot yourself in the head.

HINOJOSA: The thought of suicide was too much for Clifford to bear.

Darrell was on leave, due back to his base in Germany, where his unit would be sent again to Iraq.

D. ANDERSON: You know, I finally put my foot down, I said, this is not who I am, I can't be a part of this no longer. I need to do something.

HINOJOSA: That's when Darrell began thinking about going to Canada and weighed the cost.

D. ANDERSON: It's so much to give up. I mean, if I were to put up for two more years, you know, if I come back alive or if I can live with myself after it, you know, I could go to college and I could have a house, I could have the American dream. But the other way is, I'll have my freedoms, I'll have my human rights.

HINOJOSA: Both men turned their backs on the U.S. Army. Each found friends willing to drive them north.

D. ANDERSON: I rolled my window down, and I crossed over Niagara Falls, and just the beauty of Niagara Falls and the freedom that Canada represented to me was just -- there was no fear, no regret, no nothing. It was just complete sigh of relief.

HINOJOSA: Darrell and Clifford finally met in the office of attorney Jeffrey House. House represents 10 deserters. He feels a kinship with them. He himself was a draft dodger who came to Canada to avoid the Vietnam War.

JEFFREY HOUSE, ATTORNEY: They will all tell me very quickly, well, there weren't even any weapons of mass destruction. The president said that the United States was under threat, and it turns out to be nonsense. And I'm supposed to go and kill people?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't even fathom the stress and the....

HINOJOSA: Darrell's world has turned upside down. As a soldier, he never spoke publicly against his Army or his government.

For Clifford, there is still fear.

CORNELL: And there's always the chance that you won't get a refugee status, and I'll be forced -- be forced to go back to the States. And once I get back to the States, then I'll be arrested and be prosecuted as a deserter, a traitor. So it's really not an easy choice to make. ANITA ANDERSON, DARRELL'S MOTHER: This is Darrell on the front page of our local newspaper.

HINOJOSA: Darrell's mother, Anita, may never see her son on U.S. soil again. And yet, she is at peace.

A. ANDERSON: To me, he's a hero. He has made me -- I mean, what mom wouldn't want their son to stand up and say, refuses to hurt innocent people? I mean, I can go to sleep at night.

HINOJOSA: While these former soldiers may for now be welcomed in Canada, they are haunted by these words -- traitor, coward, deserter.

CORNELL: And as long as I feel that I'm doing the right thing, that's all that matters to me.

D. ANDERSON: If you believe in this cause, you go, you go kill innocent people for this cause. You go lose an arm, you go lose a buddy. You go die for this cause.

HINOJOSA: Maria Hinojosa, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Maria. Very powerful story indeed.

Coming up at the top of the hour, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT." Lou is here in New York, as he always is. He's got a preview, Lou.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Only when we're lucky, Wolf. Thank you very much. It's 6:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN. We'll be reporting on "Newsweek's" decision tonight to retract its controversial story about Guantanamo Bay interrogation techniques, a story that set off, some say, riots in Afghanistan and other parts of the world.

Also, urgent new efforts to convince North Korea and Iran to abandon their nuclear programs. We'll have that special report for you.

And a showdown in the U.S. Senate. The battle over judicial appointments and filibusters will likely reach a climax this week. Just a matter of days away.

And extreme event. A massive solar storm, the most powerful possible, and how that storm could affect all of us.

A Pennsylvania school board election tomorrow that will likely be decided by a debate about intelligent design, evolution and creationism. Three advocates join us tonight to debate those issues.

All of that and more coming up at the top of the hour. We hope you'll join us. Now back to Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lou. A solid rundown, as usual. Let's get a quick look at some stories you may have missed this past weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): More than 100 Catholics were denied communion at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Minnesota because they wore rainbow-colored sashes denoting support for gay rights. The archbishop says people who protest church teachings cannot receive communion.

Runway runaway. A corporate jet landing in Atlantic City, New Jersey overshot the runway and ended up in a nearby bay. The pilot blames the mishap, recorded on amateur video, on a brake failure. All four people aboard were rescued.

Zoo protests. Animal lovers staged a protest outside Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo. They're demanding a criminal investigation following a series of animal deaths that began in October.

And that's our weekend snapshot.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And when we come back, diet and breast cancer. We'll take a closer look at a surprising new study. Important news for every woman and their families.

Plus -- toasting the United States Supreme Court. Literally toasting the United States Supreme Court. We'll show you why one man calls it the best day for wine lovers since the invention of the corkscrew. Our Mary Snow standing by with details.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The link between diet and good health is, of course, well-known. But there's now new evidence that's especially important to breast cancer survivors: A low-fat diet may actually lower the chance of breast cancer coming back.

Our medical correspondent, Christy Feig, has details. She's joining us from Washington.

Christy?

CHRISTY FEIG, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

The study is actually quite interesting because the goal was to see if women who are currently being treated for breast cancer can reduce the risk of that disease coming back by what they eat.

Angie Christian was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago. In addition to treatment, she started eating better to lose weight. That included a low-fat diet.

ANGIE CHRISTIAN, BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR: I'm always very conscious of turning labels around and reading what's what from sodium to the fat to the calories.

FEIG: According to a new study from UCLA, it might help keep her cancer from coming back. Researchers randomly assigned more than 2,400 women into two groups. One followed a standard diet; the other a low-fat diet of only about 33 grams of fat every day.

DR. ROWAN CHLEBOWSKI, HARBOR-UCLA MEDICAL CENTER: Instead of French toast or a sweet roll in the morning they'd have coffee with -- or they'd have cereal with milk. Instead of chips or cheese and crackers in the afternoon, they'd have popcorn.

FEIG: After five years of follow-up, those on the low-fat diet had a 24 percent reduction of risk their cancer would come back.

DR. MARC BOISVERT, WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER: It was the first randomized control trial that I'm aware of that shows any influence of diet on the recurrence of breast cancer.

FEIG: Now, of course, more studies are needed to confirm this finding. But if that happens it will be quite significant.

Get this, Wolf. The researchers told us that the benefit the women got from a low-fat diet was compared to the benefit you would normally see from medication. You certainly don't hear that very often.

BLITZER: All right. Potentially very important news. Thanks very much, Christy, for that.

We'll take another quick break. When we come back, a United States Supreme Court ruling that should have wine lovers in good spirits: why you'll soon have more choices and maybe even lower prices. Mary Snow standing by for the story. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Wine lovers should be toasting a U.S. Supreme Court ruling today that gives millions of them easier access to their favorite drink.

Our Mary Snow is joining us now. She has details of this wine ruling.

Mary, tell our viewers what's going on.

SNOW: Wolf, good to see you in New York. And wine lovers here are raising their glasses since New York is directly affected by today's ruling. As one of the victors puts it: This isn't just a case about wine, it's also a case about liberty.

Wine has always flowed freely inside the Millbrook Vineyards and Winery in Dutchess County, New York. But there's always been a cork on interstate sales of wine, preventing residents who travel to another state from having wine shipped to them.

Now a ruling by the Supreme Court could change that. Robin Brooks represented New York consumers in the case.

ROBIN BROOKS-RIGOLOSI: It's the best day for wine lovers since prohibition was lifted because now the entire market of wines opens up to anybody.

SNOW: After prohibition states gained wide regulations over liquor imports. But with the wine industry budding, with close to 4,000 vineyards in the U.S., there's been a push to strike down laws prohibiting vineyards from selling directly to consumers. The Wine Institute says 23 states do so, including New York and Michigan, which were at the heart of the Supreme Court case. The high court ruled that states cannot discriminate in favor of in-state vineyards.

TRACY GENESEN, DIRECT SHIPPING ADVOCATE: This case is really all about these small wineries' ability to live and grow. It's their lifeblood to access and build consumers around the country.

SNOW: Critics say out-of-state sales should be limited.

NIDA SAMONA, MICHIGAN LIQUOR CONTROL COMMISSION: The mom-and-pop argument is a sentimental one that can tug at your heart, but this isn't just about wines and small wineries.

SNOW: opponents say liquor being shipped out of state could lead to abuse.

SAMONA: Our biggest concern is that minors, those that are under 21 years of age, are able to purchase alcohol or to get alcohol without having to go through the very strict regulations that they need to go through.

SNOW: But lawyers for wineries disagree. Vineyard owners say by selling directly to consumers they can eliminate the middleman, who marks up prices and sells to restaurants and liquor stores. That means consumers will pay less.

But the high court's decision doesn't automatically open up direct sales. Now states will have to make the next move.

DAVID SLOANE, NATIONAL ASSOC. OF WINE: You can't have a local wine shipment business but exclude the out-of-state wineries. So legislatures are going to have to make a choice.

SNOW: While the wine institute says 23 states have an interstate ban on shipping wine, 27 don't. Those who favor lifting those bans say it's not only the consumer who wins, but the industry itself will benefit.

It's estimated that sales in the U.S. are about $23 billion.

Wolf?

BLITZER: Good news for wine lovers.

Thanks very much. Mary Snow, reporting. Remember, I'll be back in Washington tomorrow, same time, same place, noon and 5 p.m. Eastern. Until then, thanks very much for joining us.

"Lou Dobbs Tonight" starts right now.

Lou standing by with more.

Lou?

END

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