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AMERICAN MORNING

Bodies of Two Dead U.S. Soldiers Found in Iraq; World Refugee Day

Aired June 20, 2006 - 08:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: New information on those two missing soldiers in Iraq. We're going to bring you the very latest just ahead.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Debate could get heated in the Senate today as the Senate considers two separate plans calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq.

S. O'BRIEN: President Bush is taking his own plan for Iraq's future on the road today. The president on his way to meet with European leaders in Vienna.

ROBERTS: Also, major storms leaving parts of Houston underwater this morning and more rain is on the way.

But in Arizona, wildfires have broken through fire lines, putting hundreds of homes in danger there.

S. O'BRIEN: And we're taking a special look this morning at World Refugee Day and millions of people who are left searching for what many of us take for granted -- a safe place to live. Their dramatic stories all ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

And good morning.

Welcome back, everybody.

I'm Soledad O'Brien.

ROBERTS: And I'm John Roberts in this week for Miles O'Brien.

And it turns out that that the news is not very good this morning.

S. O'BRIEN: No, no, really tough news to get to this morning.

And, in fact, reports out of Iraq that those two missing soldiers are dead. The Iraqi defense minister says their bodies have been found and he says the bodies show signs of torture.

The U.S. military, at this point, is only confirming that the bodies have been found in the search area, but those bodies have not yet been identified.

Let's get right to Barbara Starr at the Pentagon -- Barbara, good morning. BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Soledad.

What we do know, as you say, is that a short while ago, the Iraqi Ministry of Defense made a statement that two bodies had been found and that they certainly believed it was the two missing U.S. soldiers.

Now, the Pentagon is not confirming anything at this point and as we've been discussing all morning, this is an extraordinarily sensitive issue because there are two sets of families involved waiting for definitive word on news of their loved ones.

What we do know is that the U.S. military will conduct or is conducting DNA testing on these two sets of remains. We're not very clear at this point from our sources as to whether the two sets of remains are already in U.S. hands. But nonetheless, DNA testing will be conducted to make an absolutely positive identification of the sets of remains. That is very standard procedure for the military, certainly in terms of making any family notification.

The military has mobile pathology labs, identification type labs, in Iraq that can quickly get to any scene where remains may be found that they want to test and determine who those people are.

The procedure typically will be once an identification is made, families will be notified and then there will be a 24-hour waiting period before there is public notification in order to, of course, as one can understand, give the families some privacy in the initial hours following any announcement of such an event.

But with the Ministry of Defense making this statement this morning, grabbing the world's attention by the statement they made, it's not entirely clear how things are going to sort out in the hours ahead and whether we will get some sort of official announcement one way or the other -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, that word coming to us in wire reports where an Iraqi military official was quoted as giving this information. So it's unclear exactly how that happened.

Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us.

Barbara, thank you.

There's a briefing coming to us out of Iraq this morning at 8:30 a.m. We're going to take that live and see if there's an update on this situation.

More deadly violence to tell you about in Iraq today. Bombs exploded on two markets in Baghdad as people were shopping. At least nine people were killed. Dozens of other people were wounded.

In Basra, a suicide bomb detonated inside a home for elderly women. It killed at least two people.

Three American soldiers are now charged with murder in the shooting deaths of three Iraqi prisoners back in early May. The soldiers, from the Army's 101st Airborne Division, originally said the Iraqis were trying to escape. The prisoners were killed north of Baghdad, near Samarra. The soldiers could face the death penalty if they are convicted. The men are also accused of threatening to kill a fellow soldier who witnessed the shootings -- John.

ROBERTS: We may get a pretty heated debate in the Senate today. Democrats have proposed two resolutions calling for troop withdrawals to start this year. One plan calls for an open-ended redeployment. A second plan, co-sponsored by Senator John Kerry, sets a July of 2007 deadline for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq.

But President Bush emphatically dismissed any plans for early withdrawal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: An early withdrawal, before we completed the missions, would say to the United States military, your sacrifices have gone into vain. There will be no early withdrawal so long as we run-the Congress and occupy the White House.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: President Bush is on his way to Vienna this morning. He will attend a one day summit with European Union leaders. High on the summit's agenda is the nuclear issue in Iran. The president will then travel to Budapest to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian uprising against the Soviet Union.

S. O'BRIEN: Flood warnings in effect this morning in southeast Texas. More than 10 inches of rain fell yesterday in Houston. Fire officials did say they answered nearly 500 rescue calls, some coming from people who were stuck in waist-deep water. Texas Governor Rick Perry is going to survey the damage later today.

Opposite problem out West, where it's hot and dry. Firefighters had their hands full with wildfires in Arizona and Colorado and New Mexico-and California. Five hundred homes threatened by a wildfire that's creeping into Arizona's Creek Canyon. Officials say only about 5 percent of that fire is contained and a team that specializes in serious fires is going to take over this morning.

That brings us right to the forecast at six minutes past the hour.

Chad at the CNN Center -- hey, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Soledad.

(WEATHER REPORT)

ROBERTS: Today CNN covers World Refugee Day with reports from across the globe.

The United Nations declared World Refugee Day six years ago as a step to help bring attention to the anguish of millions of men, women and children who are forced to flee their homes. The United Nations says there are 15 million people currently in the world without a home. That includes 8.4 million refugees worldwide -- people who have fled either violence or political persecution to another country.

The good news is, though, that is the smallest number in more than 25 years. But the number of people displaced inside their own countries is growing. Nearly seven million people fall into that category. Nearly 21 million are listed by the United Nations as "people of concern."

Pakistan and Iran host the most refugees. The United States, by the way, ranks fifth on that list. Nearly half of all displaced people come from just five nations. Afghans make up the largest group, followed by Colombians and Iraqis.

Our special programming dedicated to the worldwide refugee crisis tops the stories that CNN correspondents around the world are covering today.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Arwa Damon in Baghdad.

There are at least 100,000 displaced Iraqis, refugees in their own country. Nearly double the number of two months ago, as much of the country splits along sectarian lines. There are hundreds of thousands of more Iraqis who have fled to neighboring countries. But they are the lucky ones.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Paula Hancocks at the Bahasha Refugee Camp in the West Bank.

More than 12,000 Palestinian refugees live in this particular camp in overcrowded conditions. The vast majority are living below the poverty line and employment is scarce. But this is a fraction of the problem.

There are more than 4.3 million Palestinian refugees across the region and conditions have been getting progressively worse in the past six months. Since Hamas won the Palestinian election in January, the United States and the European Union have been withholding millions of dollars in aid to the government and Palestinians are finding it increasingly harder to travel to Israel, where jobs are easier to come by.

S. O'BRIEN: Our special coverage of World Refugee Day will continue this morning.

CNN's Anderson Cooper is going to be with us with a look at his exclusive interview with U.N. goodwill ambassador Angelina Jolie.

ROBERTS: Also ahead, a young Rwandan's emotional journey back to a homeland ravaged by genocide. He'll talk to us about his remarkable documentary.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh my god, it's amazing, isn't it? And an activist who spoke out against the atrocities in his native Liberia became the victim of torture for telling the truth. We've got his powerful story coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING.

A short break.

We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: In Liberia, years of civil war has forced hundreds of thousands of Liberians out of their homes. But ever since the new government took over in January, many are starting to return.

Earlier this morning, I spoke with Liberia's new president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. ELLEN JOHNSON-SIRLEAF, LIBERIA: Well, it's their home and we've got support systems here. They have their families, their relatives, their associates, their communities to which they would be returning. That in itself gives impetus to those to whom they have returned.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

S. O'BRIEN: impetus, in fact, for Liberian refugees who are scattered around the world.

This morning, the story of one man, a Liberian refugee here in the U.S. who was a victim of torture and continues to try to help his fellow countrymen.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

S. O'BRIEN (voice-over): A slight man of modest means, soft- spoken, reflective. But back in his native Liberia, Jacob Massaquoi had the stature and the strength of a giant. A human rights activist, Massaquoi says he took on former strongman Charles Taylor, whose guerrilla army fought a brutal seven year civil war.

JACOB MASSAQUOI, AFRICAN REFUGEE: These are some of the...

S. O'BRIEN: When Massaquoi was 18, soldiers shot and killed his older brother, mainly because he came from a tribe suspected of siding with the rebels. Massaquoi witnessed it all, but said nothing.

MASSAQUOI: He looked at me and I looked at him and I -- and I began -- and I walked away because we had an agreement, if I had identified with him, they would have killed me, too.

S. O'BRIEN: He was not deterred. He spoke out against violence and the use of child soldiers, making him a target.

MASSAQUOI: If you listen to the radio station in Monrovia, they will consider you as a spy.

S. O'BRIEN: Once, he says, security forces shot him repeatedly, shattering his leg. He also says he was jailed and tortured by Taylor's forces for three days. Even that wasn't enough to stop him. With his battered right leg now inches shorter than the left, Massaquoi hobbled through Liberia, reaching out to villagers devastated by poverty and war.

In 2002, Massaquoi narrowly escaped an assassination attempt and fled to the United States -- to Little Liberia, a Staten Island neighborhood that's home to 8,000 West African refugees and immigrants.

There, Massaquoi founded African Refuge, a small agency affiliated with Columbia University's International Trauma Studies Program. His group provides new refugees with information about housing and health care and other services.

MASSAQUOI: They offer free legal services.

S. O'BRIEN: They can also talk about the pain they suffered back home, about betrayal and torture, often by people they knew.

MASSAQUOI: You tend to suspect everyone of being after you.

S. O'BRIEN: Volunteers like Jennifer help the refugees voice their fears.

JENNIFER: Hi, Floressa (ph).

Will you help monitor?

O'BRIEN: This woman worries she'll be told to stop selling vegetables on the street.

UNIDENTIFIED REFUGEE: And this is all that I do to send money to support my family.

S. O'BRIEN: The goal for her and other refugees, to adapt and begin a new life in their new home.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, we continue our focus on World Refugee Day as CNN's Anderson Cooper stops by. He's got a preview of his interview tonight with Angelina Jolie and a focus on what she is doing to help ease the refugee crisis.

Then later this morning, a group of young children known as the night commuters -- every night they make a frightening journey under the cover of darkness, seeking safety from a deadly threat. We'll tell you their story, just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Actress Angelina Jolie plays an important role in trying to ease the world refugee crisis. She's a United Nations special ambassador.

Anderson Cooper sat down with her last week for an exclusive interview.

He's with us this morning for a preview.

Nice to see you.

Good morning.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

S. O'BRIEN: Early for you.

COOPER: I know. It's a little...

S. O'BRIEN: Early now.

COOPER: I know. I'm a little bleary-eyed.

S. O'BRIEN: Don't fall off the stool or anything.

What -- tell me a little bit about how this came about. I mean, obviously, it's her passion and, to a large degree, your passion, as well, from a journalist's standpoint.

COOPER: Yes, I mean I've spent a lot of time in Africa over the years. And I think they knew that. And so they actually approached us about doing something on World Refugee Day. And, you know, it -- we weren't pursuing it, but it sort of fell into our laps and it seemed like a good idea.

O'BRIEN: She seems genuinely personally committed to it...

COOPER: Yes.

O'BRIEN: ... as opposed to sort of the spokesperson who's kind of plunked in the middle of it all.

COOPER: Right. Yes, she knows a huge amount about the issues and has been to like 20 different countries around the world over the last several years.

I was really impressed by the degree to -- I mean her passion, it's clear to anyone who sits down with her, you know? And even though she's in the middle of this sort of cult of celebrity, she really is -- I mean she's very like funny and smart and self- deprecating, but also just very focused and wants to use whatever attention she's getting on issues she feels important.

And one of the things we talked about is the first time she went to a refugee camp and how it really changed her life, how she had sort of grown up in Hollywood and how she felt different afterward.

I think we have a clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Had you ever seen anything like that before?

ANGELINA JOLIE, ACTRESS/ACTIVIST: I hadn't seen anything like that. And I don't think any -- I mean it was just a -- it was the most -- it was one of those things where you, in so many ways it was, I was so grateful to of having had that experience and I knew I was changing as a person, I was learning so much about life and I was -- so in some ways it was the best moment of my life...

COOPER: Right.

JOLIE: ... because it changed me for the better and I was never going to be -- never going to want for more in my life.

COOPER: How did it change you?

JOLIE: Well, I was young and I grew up in Los Angeles, and I'm an actor so everything is, you know, is very focused on certain things in life. And then suddenly you see these people who are really fighting something, who are really surviving, who have so much pain and loss and things that you have no idea.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

S. O'BRIEN: She used to tell a funny story about how someone said, "What can we get you to drink, Miss. Jolie?"

And she said, "Oh, I'll take a Diet Coke."

And everybody sort of stopped, you know, and it sort of dawned on her at that moment like they don't have that here. And it was kind of alike an eye-opening moment for her.

COOPER: Yes, that first trip was to Sierra Leone. And I mean she talks in the interview about meeting a 13-year-old boy who ended up dying while she was there and how that was really the first time she had sort of seen that -- that death, that reality up close and how it -- it really just, I mean it changed her perspective. She talked about then going back to -- on the red carpet and kind of seeing it all differently and sort of having this surreal, you know, thing of one moment being in Africa and hours later being on a red carpet.

S. O'BRIEN: Really life changing.

COOPER: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: Did you ask her about Namibia and that whole process?

COOPER: No. No, I didn't.

S. O'BRIEN: Right.

COOPER: No, of course I did. Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: I'm like really? Wow!

COOPER: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: I thought...

COOPER: Yes, no. I mean, sure, you know, that was sort of part of the conversation. She talked...

S. O'BRIEN: You're funny for being so like tired.

COOPER: Yes, it's kind of early.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes.

COOPER: I liked your reaction, too, like well, you're an idiot, what, you didn't ask her?

S. O'BRIEN: I know.

COOPER: No, I mean it was four days since she got back and, you know, I couldn't help but ask a couple of questions about it. I mean -- and she was very open. I mean what's amazing, too, is the degree to which this family which she is building is a reflection of her passion about refugees and her passion around the world.

I mean her daughter is a horror from Ethiopia, is an AIDS orphan. Her mother died of AIDS. And Maddox, she talked about what his life might have been like had he not been adopted. And she also talked about what it was like in the delivery room for this -- for her first child, her first biological child.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

JOLIE: Because you're there for the birth, which I wasn't for my first two kids, you're just suddenly terrified that they're not going to take a first breath. That was my whole focus. I just wanted to hear her cry. And I was sure everything would go -- at the last minute I became the mother that was sure everything was going to go wrong.

And she's healthy and it was amazing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: And she also talks about her desire to have more children and adopt another child and that they're already thinking about where that child should be from and the race of the child.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, they really bring so much attention to the region when they -- I mean they do amazing things for a community when they say this is where we're going to get our child from.

COOPER: It changes a lot of things, yes.

S. O'BRIEN: It really, really does.

All right, that's tonight.

We're looking forward to that.

COOPER: Yes, it should be good.

S. O'BRIEN: She looks good.

COOPER: Yes, amazing, isn't it?

S. O'BRIEN: Man, she just popped out a baby. That girl looks good.

Anderson, nice to see you.

Go back to bed now.

COOPER: OK.

S. O'BRIEN: You can catch all of Anderson's conversation with Angelina Jolie in a special edition of "ANDERSON COOPER 360."

That's tonight beginning at 10:00 p.m. Eastern time -- John.

ROBERTS: Our special coverage of World Refugee Day continues in just a moment.

We're going to meet a young survivor of the Rwandan genocide who's now living in America. He's going to tell us about his remarkable documentary tracing his emotional journey back home.

Plus, children seeking sanctuary from a brutal fate at the hands of rebel forces. We'll look at their nightly trek under the cover of darkness, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Same-sex marriage is the subject of intense political debate in this country. Attitudes abroad, though, are different.

Could they be a cultural model for America?

Miles O'Brien now with a Welcome To The Future.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK: It's not until you find the right person that you realize OK, this is how it's supposed to be.

GARY: Nick and I have been together for eight years. We bought a house together. We became a normal married couple in my mind. We're going to do everything married couples do, whether it's banned or not. So it really comes down to legal and financial aspects of it and a civil union obviously would be wonderful. If that's the baby step that I get to see in my lifetime in the South, that's great.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Nick (ph) and Gary (ph) live in Georgia, where the law does not allow for gay marriages or civil unions. In the U.S. only seven states and the District of Columbia recognize any sort of same-sex unions.

But overseas, it is a different story.

(voice-over): Lee Badgett, research director at the Williams Institute, a sex orientation think tank, studies gay marriage outside the U.S.

LEE BADGETT, WILLIAMS INSTITUTE: Now we're starting to see the more conservative countries -- Germany, France, Spain lets same-sex couples marry; Italy, Ireland; I mean countries that are very tied to the Catholic Church are considering this.

The change has been very rapid in the last five years.

M. O'BRIEN: Badgett says same-sex unions abroad have limited effects on society. Birth rates and marriage statistics remain unchanged.

But in the U.S. there is still strong opposition to the idea of same-sex marriage.

BADGETT: The public opinion polls still show that the people are reluctant to endorse full marriage rights. They're much more likely to say yes, you know, we think that gay couples should have civil unions or marriage. The process of change is hard to predict, but I do think that there will be a tipping point where things will start changing very rapidly.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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