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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
This Week at War
Aired July 15, 2006 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello.
I'm Fredericka Whitfield.
Here's what's happening right now in the news.
After another day of air strikes all over the country, Lebanon calls on the United Nations for help. The Lebanese prime minister has asked for a U.N.-backed cease-fire in the cross-border conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon.
Meanwhile, Israel declared a state of emergency in northern cities after dozens more Hezbollah rocket attacks took place today.
The U.N. Security Council has unanimously passed a resolution demanding North Korea suspend its missile program. It also orders U.N. members not to supply North Korea with materials or technology for its weapons of mass destruction program.
North Korea's ambassador says Pyongyang totally rejects the measure.
The search presses on in Baghdad for a kidnapped Iraqi Olympic contingent. Men dressed as security forces abducted the head of Iraq's Olympic committee and dozens of officials, athletes and bodyguards today. Iraq's Olympic program has been the target of several insurgent attacks in recent months.
Ten years after the midair explosion of TWA Flight 800, questions remain. Coming up at 6:00 p.m. Eastern, we'll look back at the tragedy that claimed so many lives.
More headlines in 30 minutes.
JOHN ROBERTS, HOST: I'm John Roberts with THIS WEEK AT WAR.
As if the world didn't already seem dangerous enough, the Middle East blew up again. That was after new terrorist attacks in India and a terrible week of religious violence in Iraq.
Let's take a look at that what our correspondents reported day by day.
Monday, the U.S. military releases the names of additional soldiers charged with the rape of a young Iraqi woman and the murder of her and her family.
Tuesday, terrorists bomb commuter trains in India, killing more than 185 people, injuring more than 700.
Wednesday, the administration steps back from its plan to grant full Geneva Convention protection to terror detainees.
Thursday, open warfare in the Middle East, with fresh fighting in Gaza and along the Israeli-Lebanon border.
Friday, Israel hits the Beirut airport again, as well as ports and highways in Southern Lebanon.
THIS WEEK AT WAR.
Is the Middle East on the bring of a full blown war?
Joining us to talk about this, CNN's John Vause in northern Israel, in Nahariya. Paula Newton is in Jerusalem. And here in Washington, Shibley Telhami, senior fellow with the Brookings Institution.
President Bush spoke out on Thursday about the latest Mideast crisis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a sad situation where -- when there is a very good chance for there to be a two state solution enacted -- that is, two states living side by side in peace. It's really sad where people are willing to take innocent life in order to stop that progress. As a matter of fact, it's pathetic.
And, having said that, Israel has a right to defend herself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: John Vause, you have been in the thick of it since this all began -- where is it headed?
JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the big fear is that this is heading to a regional conflict that will drag in countries like Syria and quite possibly Iran.
We've heard from the Israelis over the last few days blaming Iran for providing the missile which hit the major port city of Haifa, a town of about 300,000 people.
So when those allegations are being made, also with the Israelis accusing Syria and Iran of sponsoring Hezbollah, this is also this big fear that somehow Syria, and maybe even Iran, could be dragged into this conflict and that Israel will be brought into a much bigger confrontation.
The question, though, is now will Israel be able to contain this military escalation just in Lebanon alone and how far is it prepared to go and how far is it prepared to risk Israeli civilians living here in the north of the country? The question is, is it on the brink of war?
Well, with 200 rockets, or more than 200 rockets falling on a very small number of Israeli towns and cities, it really does feel like war already.
ROBERTS: Shibley Telhami, there are more than a few people who believe that this is a proxy war for Iran, that Iran is mixing all of this up.
Do you believe that? Is it trying to flex its muscle in the region and, at the same time, trying to deflect attention away from its nuclear program?
SHIBLEY TELHAMI, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: Look, there's no question that Iran has influence with Hezbollah and they get a lot of -- they give them a lot of support and Hezbollah is dependent on them, in many ways.
Also, Hezbollah has been relatively independent, has their own view of the world and asserts itself.
The question is does Iran benefit from this, regardless of whether it's really pulling the strings or not?
I think, actually, it's a double-edged sword for Iran, frankly. I think, one the one hand, yes, it says, we have assets that we can exercise if, in fact, you are going to go to war with us. But at the same time, it focuses attention on them in a way that they don't want, not just the nuclear issue, but the role they play.
It also distances them from some of the Arab states. Frankly, the Saudis are not happy with this war. The Egyptians are not. The Jordanians are not. A lot of the key Arab countries are not happy with it and they're in -- and Saudi Arabia has blamed Hezbollah for this crisis. And that's highly unusual in the Middle East. And they see Iran as being tied to it.
So it's distancing Iran from a lot of key Arab countries.
ROBERTS: Paula Newton, we heard President Bush say that Israel has the right to defend itself, but at the same time he is also very concerned about weakening the Siniora in Lebanon.
What would be the risk if that government were to be weakened and potentially fall?
PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly Israel and the Israeli government has told me that, look, we don't want that to happen. But they, in fact, feel the opposite, John. They feel that if somehow Hezbollah can be weakened -- or, really, their goal is to, as they say in their words, break Hezbollah -- that, in fact, that will strengthen the Lebanese government. And that, for the Israelis, is the end game.
I mean look here, John, we've turned the clock back in the Middle East now at least by a decade. The Israelis now feel that they have an opportunity. They will tell you quite stridently that, look, we didn't go looking for this opportunity, but now that we have it, we will not stop for diplomacy until Hamas and Hezbollah are weakened or, at least, in the way they put it, broken.
And than at that point, they feel that there will be some common ground on which to forge some kind of cease-fire, if not peace.
ROBERTS: One of the sharpest responses from Israeli officials this week came from the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Daniel Ayalon, after those missiles fell on Haifa.
Here's what he had to say on Thursday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANIEL AYALON, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: This is a major, major escalation. We have been warning all along that they -- since we pulled out of Lebanon, they were building their arsenal, with the help of Syria and Iran.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: John Vause, the fact that Hezbollah now has missiles that can reach Haifa, how does that change the game in that part of the world?
VAUSE: Well, it now means that as far as Israel is concerned, it may as well go back into Lebanon and create that buffer zone, that 10 kilometer or six mile buffer zone that was in place before 2000, before it unilaterally withdrew from Lebanon.
What Israel will try to do is protect these communities so close to the border, essentially push Hezbollah back up into Lebanon, control that territory, push the Katusha rockets and other missiles, whatever Hezbollah has, out of the range of those towns.
So it is a dangerous escalation and will give Israel that option of trying to protect its civilians.
So the question now is will they go in, how far will they go and how long will they be prepared to stay there?
ROBERTS: But as Daniel Ayalon told me earlier this week, he said that at this moment, at least, Israel has no intent on reoccupying Southern Lebanon.
Shibley Telhami here in Washington, John Vause up there in northern Israel and Paula Newton, thanks very much.
Now let's check in with White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux, who is with the president in St. Petersburg, Russia at the G8 summit -- and Suzanne, has all of this Middle East crisis effectively pushed Iran off of the G8 agenda this weekend?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, John, it certainly has hijacked some of the issues that were prominent. And that's really typical of G8 summits. You see the news of the day really taking center stage. But even the cfcs, and, of course, the standoff with North Korea and Iran, are taking a back seat here to the crisis in the Middle East.
Already, Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, has said it's going to be officially on the agenda now. And we're already seeing some splits here, some divisions of Russia, the head of France. They're actually saying that they believe that this is something that the Israelis are responding in a disproportionate manner.
We heard from President Bush and his new best friend of Europe, Angela Merkel, saying that they're taking a much more measured tone in this, saying that they believe that Israel has the right to defend herself, but at the same time urging some restraint -- John.
ROBERTS: So what's the real message coming from the White House, Suzanne? Is it that Israel has got the right to defend itself or it needs to use restraint? What kind of line are they walking there?
MALVEAUX: They're walking a very fine line and very sensitive, if you will, because what they're trying to do is they do not want to necessarily take the lead in this. They're pushing forward with the United Nations. There's a team going forward. And they're also reaching out to regional allies -- Jordan, Egyptian, those who can really influence Hezbollah.
They know that they don't have any influence in that area. And they also want to, of course, bolster the government of Lebanon. This is something that they've invested in, the democratic reforms. They want to make sure that they say look, Israel, you need to exercise restraint. Lebanon, you need to come up to the table. And Egyptian, Jordan, other allies in the region, get tough on Hezbollah, get tough on Syria and then hopefully all those members will come together, that team will come together.
But this is not something that is really in their control.
ROBERTS: Yet another foreign policy crisis for President Bush. And he certainly has a full plate already.
Suzanne Malveaux at the G8 summit in St. Petersburg.
MALVEAUX: Thanks, John.
ROBERTS: From the Middle East to Iraq, a nation teetering on the brink of civil war. We'll check on the progress and the problems plaguing that country.
But first, a town in Tennessee welcomed back one of its heroes. Army Sergeant Kevin Downs returned from the war in Iraq having lost parts of both of his legs. The folks in Kingston Hills gave the sergeant a hearty salute.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: He kept on having all these surgeries and so every night we prayed for him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's kind of a local hero here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's a soldier. He just doesn't understand that he should get all of this attention. It's just what he does.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He would have slipped in here without anybody knowing if he had had his way, I bet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: U.S. officials suggested this week that Iraq is on the brink of civil war. But deadly religious violence in Baghdad suggested the term civil war may be just a matter of semantics.
Here to share their expertise, CNN's Arwa Damon in Baghdad, Brigadier General David Grange, U.S. Army, retired, and a CNN military analyst, and "Time" magazine's senior correspondent, Michael Weisskopf.
The Bush administration walks a fine line applauding the successes of the Iraqi government while simultaneously warning that it can't yet stand alone.
Tuesday, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, spoke out in Washington.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZALMAY KHALILZAD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: A precipitous coalition departure could unleash a sectarian civil war, which inevitably would draw neighboring states into a regional conflagration that would disrupt oil supplies and cause instability to spill over borders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: In a sense, Zalmay Khalilzad saying the only thing standing between Iraqis and civil war are U.S. soldiers.
Let's do a quick taking of temperature here -- Arwa Damon, is Iraq in a civil war, yes or no?
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's not really a yes or no answer, John.
If you look at the tit for tat killings, the attacks that appear to be sectarian and need for the conclusion to draw would be yes. When you ask average Iraqis, they cite examples of mixed marriages, of spending decades with neighbors, Sunnis neighbors with Shias over this entire time period. So a lot of people will say that that's a tough one to call right now.
ROBERTS: General Grange, what would you say to that question?
BRIG. GENERAL. DAVID GRANGE, U.S. ARMY, (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I'd say not yet. I would say that there's representation in the elected government. There are many parties involved, except for some of the most extreme criminal and terrorist groups. And I believe that most of this revenge killing and -- are posturing.
But I do not think it's a civil war.
ROBERTS: Michael Weisskopf?
MICHAEL WEISSKOPF, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, "TIME" MAGAZINE: I'd say it's something in between, John.
You certainly have sectarian violence. But you have splits even within the groups themselves. And so it's hard to say that there are clear lines of demarcation.
ROBERTS: The threats in Iraq seem to keep evolving, Michael.
First of all, we had the threat from foreign terrorists. Then we had the threat from the Sunni insurgency. Now we have religious violence. it seems that every time U.S. forces try to get a handle on one, another one pops up.
WEISSKOPF: And it raises big questions, John, about the strength of this national unity government. And this is a main challenge for Al-Maliki, the new prime minister, who is a Shia, of course. He has a great challenge and opportunity to show his strength in bringing together these disparate forces.
ROBERTS: General Grange, how do U.S. forces get a handle on the violence there? If these two religious groups want to kill each other, what can you do?
General Casey talked about, perhaps, more troops on the streets of Baghdad?
GRANGE: Well, I think they may put more troops on the streets of Baghdad in key areas that they want a, obviously, a force that has some more capability than the Iraqi forces. The Iraqi forces have the street sense. They have the knowledge of the locale. But they may not have the power in certain situations to stand somebody down.
And so the thing is you don't want to get -- just like in Bosnia, just like in Kosovo, you don't want to end up in the middle. And that's so hard not to do. You want to stay on the periphery but still have a big stick to warn people off.
ROBERTS: Arwa Damon, many analysts say that the real problem there in Iraq now are these militias, both on the Shia and the Sunni side. Is there any plan by the government to deal with these militias?
DAMON: Well, there's a plan, but it's a plan in words only. The government has said that it will set up a committee to decide what to do with the militias, that the militias do need to be disarmed or somehow absorbed into the Iraqi security forces.
But in terms of turning those words into real action, that has not happened quite yet. And that is exactly what the Iraqi people are waiting for. Many Iraqis, most Iraqis, when you talk to them, there is -- they are petrified of these militias and of their ability to carry out acts of intimidation or criminal acts against the population.
ROBERTS: The plan that is really being pushed right now is the plan for reconciliation by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki.
Here's what he had to say about that plan for reconciliation and what it means for the country, on Wednesday. He said: "The Iraqi government is determined to make national reconciliation plans succeed because it is the last resort."
Michael Weisskopf, that doesn't very encouraging, that this plan is "the last resort."
WEISSKOPF: No. And what Maliki has to be looking over his shoulder about is Hezbollah, which has -- has its armed strength and has autonomy almost within that political structure in Lebanon. It shows what happens when an armed militia decides to act, even without government imprimatur.
ROBERTS: General Grange, if this reconciliation plan fails, is there anything that the United States can do to stop the dissent into chaos?
GRANGE: Well, I mean it's truly a tough set. But, you know, just look at the warlords in Afghanistan and the militias there. There was no attempt to disarm them, except for major weapons. But not the individual weapons. And they were really co-opted into a loose alliance, you might say, a very loose alliance. And I don't think that you could disarm militia groups, but you definitely have to control them or it could slip into just like in Southern Lebanon with the Hezbollah.
And already the Hezbollah is influencing some of the Shia groups in Iraq itself.
ROBERTS: And Arwa Damon, where does the plan for reconciliation stand right now? With Baghdad slipping into this brutal sectarian violence, is anyone even talking about reconciliation other than the political leaders?
DAMON: Well, that's the big question, John. And, in fact, in that same parliamentary session where Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki spoke those words, he was being grilled by his own parliament. His parliamentarians asking him what are you really doing about this? We want answers. We want action.
For the Iraqi people, still, all they're seeing from their government is just words.
Again, what they want is action. The plan sounds great, they say. But at the same time, when is this going to turn into a reality to bring some form of stability and security to the streets of this country?
ROBERTS: More problems in Iraq. And, as Zalmay Khalilzad said, sectarian violence now the biggest challenge facing the Iraqi government.
General Grange and Arwa Damon, stay with us, because we're going to get back the you later on in the hour.
Right now, he was a tough soldier, a caring husband, a loving dad. Sergeant Dominic Sacco was an Army tank commander. He died last November in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRANDY SACCO, SERGEANT SACCO'S WIDOW: He was my best friend, my hero, my soul mate.
They patrolled the streets. He just tried to keep the community safe. That's basically what they did.
Nick was hit by a sniper underneath his arm and it ruptured his right ventricle in his heart and there was nothing they could do.
One of the things I miss about him the most is his eyes. And they kind of sparkled. He was a big guy with a big heart, you know? He tried to have a rough exterior. But once you broke it down, you know, that's all it was. He was mush.
The first night Nick was home on R&R I, you know, I told him, I said you're going to give your son a bath. And Anthony screamed the whole time. And then the next thing I knew, Nick's crying.
And I said, "Why are you crying?"
"Because he's crying and it hurts my feelings."
And he wouldn't like people to call him a hero because that's not -- that's not what he was doing. I used to tell him that all the time. I said, you know, you're my hero, you know, for doing everything that you've done. And he said no I'm not, don't say that. I'm doing my job. This is my job. I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. I'm not a hero.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: remembrances of Sergeant Dominic Sacco.
Michael Weisskopf, you suffered loss yourself in Iraq in 2003. You lost your right hand when you were traveling with U.S. troops and a grenade blew it off.
How do you feel when you see these stories like this three years later?
WEISSKOPF: Well, they break my heart, John.
I devoted a book to this subject, which is coming out in October, called "Blood Brothers." And I used that as a way of working through it. But every time you see a story like that, it brings it back for me. And this is a story that's told roughly 2,500 times now in this country, not to mention the number of families which have been badly battered by wounded soldiers.
ROBERTS: Michael, thanks for coming in.
WEISSKOPF: A pleasure.
ROBERTS: We really appreciate it.
Good to see you.
More ahead on THIS WEEK AT WAR.
Deadly terror attacks in India trigger tighter security here at home.
How vulnerable is the U.S. railway system?
ROBERTS: In the wake of the Mumbai bombings, could U.S. trains be targeted by terrorists?
Joining us in Mumbai, India, CNN's senior international correspondent, Satinder Bindra. And here in Washington, former Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Clark Kent Ervin. He's also a CNN security analyst.
This week, terror rocked the world's most populous city. At least seven bombs in a span of 11 minutes exploded on trains in Mumbai, India's bustling capital of businesses. At least 200 people were killed.
On Tuesday, CNN's Seth Doane filed this report.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
SETH DOANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For terrorists anywhere, a crowd is a prime target. And here in India's financial capital, Mumbai, the evening rush hour commuter trains provide massive crowds.
Of the seven or eight bombs choreographed to detonate in the space of 11 minutes up and down the railway line, some exploded here in the first class cabins. Look at how those explosions twisted and shredded the steel. Now you understand why so many people were killed. And with that deadly force, you can imagine how many more might have died here.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ROBERTS: Satinder Bindra, why Mumbai as the target and could this be the start of a new terror campaign in India?
SATINDER BINDRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, firstly, because Mumbai represents India's global aspirations. Mumbai is like the New York of India. It's a fast-paced, cosmopolitan city and its rail network, which carries some four million passengers a day, presented a very, very soft target for these terrorists.
ROBERTS: Now, the authorities have some kind of an idea of who might be responsible. The prime suspect is a terror group that's based in Pakistan called Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Is there some idea, Satinder, that this group is now connected with al Qaeda and that's how they're carrying out these coordinated attacks?
BINDRA: Well, this group has long had ties with al Qaeda and the Lashkar-e-Taiba actually means Army of the Pure. The Lashkar-e-Taiba has been battling Indian rule in Kashmir for several years and the United States, India, and even Pakistan, list this as a banned organization. This is a very dangerous organization. And in the subcontinent, especially, the Lashkar-e-Taiba has carried out many, many terrorist acts.
ROBERTS: Now, of course, any time we see anything like this, whether it be in Mumbai or whether it be in Madrid, we always think could it happen here in the United States?
Here's what the mayor of the City of New York, Michael Bloomberg, and the police chief, Ray Kelly, had to say about that on Tuesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAYMOND KELLY, NEW YORK POLICE COMMISSIONER: Was that event part of a worldwide operation, a worldwide plot? We don't know. But we're going to do what we think is prudent in this situation.
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), NEW YORK: Vigilance is just the reality of the post-9/11 world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Clark Kent Ervin, has enough been done here in the United States to protect rail and mass transit?
CLARK KENT ERVIN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST, FORMER DHS SECRETARY GENERAL: Well, unfortunately, John, the answer to that is almost nothing has been done. This is just the latest wake up call we've had to the vulnerability of our own mass transit systems. The good news is after every such incident, some measures are taken -- increased police presence, bomb sniffing dogs, random bag searches, greater use of surveillance cameras, etc.
The problem is none of these measures were institutionalized. They cost a lot of money and, of course, this comes against the backdrop of the Department of Homeland Security's cutting counter- terrorism funding that could be used for this purpose in New York and Washington and other top targets.
ROBERTS: Some $20 billion has been spent on protecting aviation security. About a quarter of a billion on protecting rail security.
But how practical is it to set up the type of security for rail and mass transit that we see at airports?
ERVIN: Well, it's absolutely impractical. We can't have exactly the same kind of system. It's a mass transit system with a huge number of people going through it.
On the other hand, the measures that I outlined could, in fact, serve as a deterrent and would serve to decrease the outcome of a terror attack if there were one. So we need to take the steps that we can take.
ROBERTS: But as officials have said, they need to get lucky -- we need to get lucky every time. The terrorists only need to get lucky once.
ERVIN: That's right.
ROBERTS: Clark Kent Ervin and Satinder Bindra in Mumbai.
Thanks for being with us.
Debating the rights for terrorism suspects -- is the White House sending mixed signals to Congress on how to amend the current system?
The fine line between due process and national security is straight ahead.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Daryn Kagan. Here's what's happening right now in the news. A united stand against North Korea. The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved the resolution demanding North Korea suspend its ballistic missiles program. North Korea's U.N. ambassador says his country plans to continue testing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAK GIL YON, NORTH KOREAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: The delegation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea resolutely condemns the attempt of some countries to misuse the Security Council for the despicable political aim to isolate and put pressure on the DPRK, and totally rejects the resolution which was adopted at the current meeting of the Security Council a while ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAGAN: To the Mideast, now where a state of emergency is now in effect in Israel. More than 75 Hezbollah rockets rained down on the region today. Meanwhile, Israel expanded its defensive against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, bombing areas in the north and south and near the Syrian border. Lebanon's prime minister is calling for a U.N.-backed ceasefire.
Kidnapped in Iraq. Police say as many as 50 of Iraq's Olympic athletes and officials were abducted today at a cultural center in Baghdad. Among them, the chief of the Iraq's Olympic committee. Officials say the kidnappers were dressed as Iraqi police or soldiers.
In southern California, two big wildfires merge, the flames scorching more than 100 square miles. Crews say that wind, heat and low humidity are now key concerns in fighting the fire.
The crew of the space shuttle Discovery prepares to return to Earth. Earlier, the shuttle undocked from the international space station. Discovery is scheduled to land Monday in Florida
More headlines in a half hour. Now back to THIS WEEK AT WAR with John Roberts.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: In THIS WEEK AT WAR, does the White House, which had sought to expand executive powers to deal with terrorism, actually risk losing power by overreaching on terrorism detainees?
In New York with more perspective, CNN's senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. On Capitol Hill, congressional correspondent Dana Bash. And here in the studio, senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre. Tuesday, Jamie McIntyre filed this report, explaining the very limited Geneva Convention protections.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Rebuked by the Supreme Court for failing to abide by the Geneva Conventions in its plans to try terror suspects held at Guantanamo, the Bush administration is now reluctantly extending some limited Geneva provisions to all detainees.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Jeffrey Toobin, originally, it looked like this was a retreat for the White House. But in recent days, not so much, anymore. They're reaching out to Congress for some changes.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, what's confusing about the situation is that what the Geneva Conventions require in terms of a trial is not entirely clear. Certain things appear to be required by the Geneva Convention that the administration doesn't want. The administration doesn't want the detainees to have access to all the evidence against them. They don't want the witnesses against them, the terrorists' cooperators, to be brought in to have to testify. Those are the kind of really hard issues that Congress is going to have to deal with.
ROBERTS: What are the concerns that the Pentagon has about giving these detainees full protections under Article 3 of the Geneva convention?
MCINTYRE: Well, you know, they've said all along that they abide by the spirit of the convention. But now they're applying the letter of the law, just this one small provision.
What they're worried about is some of the vagueness of the language. They're concerned that even approved reasonable interrogation techniques could be seen as inhumane under this very broad language that's in what's called Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.
ROBERTS: It could lead troops open to charges of war crimes?
MCINTYRE: Well, not so much for the troops who are operating under the countries that abide by the Geneva Conventions. But they are concerned that it's going to make it more difficult for troops to operate in the field because they're going to have to start worrying whether they have to act like police officers.
ROBERTS: Congress heard about this on Tuesday. Here's what Steve Bradbury, the acting assistant attorney general, had to say about some problems that the Justice Department has with Geneva Convention provisions, particularly on the issue of allowing hearsay evidence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BRADBURY, ACTING ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: It might acquire frontline troops to come home from the battlefield to participate in legal proceedings. So in other words, they'll have to fight the terrorist not only on the battlefield but also in the courtroom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Is Congress likely to give the White House and President Bush what they're looking for here, and that is some modification to the provisions of the Geneva Convention? Or does the United States risk blackening its reputation in the war by seeking some sort of out from these Geneva Convention provisions?
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think, in the end, it's likely that Congress will do something that modifies or at least tries to state a little bit more clearly what the U.S. policy is with regards to the Geneva Conventions. But the bigger issue here on Capitol Hill that was very, very interesting to watch is what the administration wants in general on a whole host of issues, specifically the big picture issue, which is how they want to go forward and prosecute these detainees given the fact that the Supreme Court, of course, two weeks ago dealt them a huge blow and said that the military commissions that they had set up were unconstitutional.
You had very different points of view from inside the administration. You and I covered the administration for a long time, John. You know that the hallmark was that they were very disciplined in their message. Not so much on this issue.
It's very clear that there are divisions within administration as to whether to go ahead and ask Congress for something that really sort of limits the rights of these detainees, something along the lines of a commission, or something along the lines of the Military Code of Justice, something that perhaps gives the detainees broader rights.
ROBERTS: Well, if Congress can't figure out what they're doing, it's pretty difficult to give them what they're looking for. Jeffrey Toobin, a lot of human rights groups are now considering lawsuits challenging the detention of certain detainees who are being held. Could this open the floodgates?
TOOBIN: Well, I don't think the detention itself is a problem, at least in the short term. But the administration knows -- President Bush himself has said he would prefer to close Guantanamo. He's got to do something with these 450 people.
He's either got to give them a trial of some court, in a court- martial or in a commission, or he's got to ship them home. But a lot of these countries don't want these people. So he doesn't really -- he's got to come up with a system.
I don't think any court in America, including the Supreme Court, is going to say, "Send these people home." But they are going to say, "You have to set up a procedure," and so far, the administration has struck out on setting a procedure that works.
ROBERTS: And Jamie McIntyre, bring us back around to where we started. The White House has sought to broaden executive powers in dealing with terrorism. Does it risk losing some of these powers because it overreached?
MCINTYRE: Well, indeed. And that's one of the reasons you saw them extend that one provision to all the detainees. They're trying to head off any challenges to other policies that might be based on non-compliance with that one provision that the Supreme Court cited. So that was more a legal maneuver than an effort to grant more protection to detainees.
ROBERTS: Jamie McIntyre, Jeffrey Toobin up there in New York, and Dana Bash on Capitol Hill. Thanks very much. Appreciate it.
From the legal and political battles in the United States to the war in Iraq, new responsibilities for Iraqi forces, new warnings of anarchy. We'll go to Baghdad and the Pentagon, straight ahead on THIS WEEK AT WAR.
ROBERTS: In THIS WEEK AT WAR, renewed questions as to whether the U.S. military is stretched too thin and stressed out. Bringing different perspectives to the topic, Arwa Damon is in Baghdad, Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon, and CNN military analyst and Brigadier General David Grange, U.S. Army retired, is in Chicago.
An Al Qaeda-linked group put out a new video on the Internet showing the two U.S. soldiers captured and killed last month near Yusufiyah. On Tuesday, senior international correspondent Nic Robertson reported on that.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This Al Qaeda banner and a few brief images is all we can show. Most of the rest is too gruesome. It reads, "This video is issued and presented as a revenge for our sister, who was dishonored by one of the soldiers of the same brigade that these two soldiers belonged."
What we can't show you is how the tape goes on, to explicitly show the two U.S. soldiers. The disemboweled and beheaded body of Private First Class Thomas Tucker from Madras, Oregon and the heavily mutilated body of Private First Class Kristian Menchaca from Houston, Texas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: So the message, allegedly, from Al Qaeda was that those two were killed and mutilated in revenge for the apparent rape of a young woman in Yusufiyah. General Grange, what do you think is going on here? Are terrorists, are insurgents, just trying to gain some propaganda value out of this?
BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Absolutely. I don't think it's related at all to the alleged rape of the Iraqi young woman. I believe that any excuse at the time, any kind of news, would have been used in its place just to make a point.
And again, it took a couple weeks to get this video out, and so it's just a tactic, a technique that terrorists, all terrorists use, the shock, the awe, horrific scenes on propaganda of showing something like this.
ROBERTS: Arwa Damon, is that the sort of thing that Iraqis buy into? Does it change minds about the U.S. military?
ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, in a case like this, John, people's minds are pretty much made up for them. For them, what's happened is cut and dry. U.S. forces have violated the honor and dignity of an Iraqi woman, or even perhaps a young girl. The reports on how old she was actually do vary. And, in fact, when you speak to Iraqis about this, whether or not the killings and murder were a revenge attack or not, what they're not necessarily looking for right now is revenge for what may have happened to Abeer Qasim.
What they're looking for is for those who carried out those attacks to be brought to justice. In fact, this has even caused the Iraqi prime minister to question the immunity granted to U.S. forces that are operating here, saying that immunity has emboldened them.
ROBERTS: Barbara Starr, is there any way for the U.S. military to counter this type of propaganda?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, what the U.S. military is doing, of course, is first and foremost going after the soldiers that they believe were probably responsible for that criminal activity, the rape and killing in that Iraqi family.
That, they believe, is their strongest weapon, is to pursue the military justice system against alleged perpetrators. As for the video, they say they have no proof that the two incidents are tied. But as Nic Robertson says in his report, that video is so brutal, it is so gruesome, that they hope, of course, the Muslim world will turn against it.
ROBERTS: Yes, I saw it myself, and it really is quite disgusting. Another issue that the military has been investigating is what of what happened in Haditha, when more than 20 Iraqi civilians were killed. On Monday, we got a report from General Bargewell, who was looking into who that incident was reported. Here's how Jamie McIntyre reported that.
MCINTYRE: The initial reporting of the incident was untimely, inaccurate and incomplete, that officers throughout the 2nd Marine Division failed to sufficiently and adequately investigate those reports, and that they missed red flags, including the payment of $38,000 in compensation to families of the victims.
ROBERTS: So it would appear, Barbara Starr, that proper procedures were not followed, according to the Bargewell report. What's going on here? Are U.S. troops stressed out? Have they been there too long? Are they making mistakes?
STARR: You know, there's a couple of things going on. The real headline here, John, is that 2nd Marine Division involved in Haditha. There is a good deal of concern as to what went on and how that incident could have been handled so badly by commanders, what mistakes were made.
But underlying all of that is the question about troop stress. It's one thing -- again, criminal activity, that's not stress. That's a crime. But are the troops separately from that -- the hundreds of thousands that served very honorably, are they also suffering from stress?
What we learned this week from the mental health part of the military is that a growing number of troops are reporting stress symptoms, and there are a significant number of troops that are taking some kinds of medication, anti-depressant medication, when they are on deployment and when they come back.
So one of the things we're learning from medical research is they may not know just yet. It may be something that evolves over time for them to fully understand how much stress the troops are under now.
ROBERTS: All right. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, General Grange in Chicago, Arwa Damon in Baghdad. Thanks very much.
From the war in Iraq to the standoff with North Korea, did the Mideast grab not just the headlines but hijack diplomacy, too, over the missile tests? More ahead or THIS WEEK AT WAR.
But first, a farewell to a fallen soldier. Those who new Private First Class Kevin Edgin described him as one heck of a good friend.
TREY MITCHELL, FRIEND OF KEVIN EDGIN: He would do anything for you. He'd give you the shirt off his back, the last dollar to his name.
ROBERTS: Kevin Edgin was killed in Afghanistan on July 6th. He was 31.
Here are some of America's other fallen heroes.
ROBERTS: THIS WEEK AT WAR, will the international community help the United States in holding North Korea accountable for its nuclear actions? And will the Security Council at the U.N. actually get tough on Iran's nuclear ambitions?
At the U.N. in New York, senior United Nations correspondent Richard Roth. And in our Los Angeles bureau, Mike Chinoy with the Pacific Council on International Policy. He's also a former CNN senior Asia correspondent.
Richard Roth, it looks like Japan and the United States aren't going to get the real tough measures that they wanted from the United Nations. Is, in effect, Kim Jong-il getting a pass here?
RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT: Well, he may buy some time by having competition inside the Security Council. As the week wore on, China and Russia were able to put up a good fight, even though they did give in and move towards their own version of a resolution as the week went on.
But in the end, the United States, France and Britain, China and Russia spent hours going at it in an attempt to try to get tough with North Korea. It's a bit of an improvement since, in the last time they launched a missile over Japan, they issued a simple statement to the press. So U.S. Ambassador Bolton has been able to ramp up action here.
ROBERTS: Mike Chinoy, why is China, which is a big trading ally of the United States, not giving President Bush what he wants?
MIKE CHINOY, PACIFIC COUNCIL ON INTERNATIONAL POLICY: The Chinese look at North Korea and they see more than just missiles or even a nuclear weapons program. They see a neighbor, a potentially fragile neighbor. They are very concerned that sanctions that would really hit home might possibly cause a collapse in North Korea, and they would be left with refugees, with a mess on their borders, with the possibility of loose nukes. So that worries them.
Also, they've made it clear for a long time that they don't feel coercion is the way to resolve this crisis. They've signaled consistently that they'd like to see the U.S. engage directly with North Korea. That's something the North Koreans themselves have been demanding. So the Chinese have made it very clear, they won't do something that involves real coercion aimed at North Korea.
ROBERTS: Ambassador Chris Hill spent a lot of time in the region, going back and forth between Asian capitals, trying to get some pressure against North Korea. He didn't come back with anything that he thought was going to be concrete from the talks between China and North Korea that occurred. Here's what he had to say about that on Wednesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER HILL, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: China has no interest in seeing North Korea fire off missiles. And, by the way, these were not missiles just aimed at the U.S. These were long range, medium range, short range. Frankly, there was a missile for everybody in that barrage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Mike Chinoy, do you think that China is going to be able to get North Korea back at the table at these six-party talks?
CHINOY: It's hard to tell. The indications are that the North Koreans haven't been very cooperative, and the Chinese are very frustrated. It's not clear what kind of price the north is demanding of China that to return to the talks.
But there's a broader question, which is even if the Chinese can convince the North Koreans to come back to the talks, where do we go from there? There's no evidence at this point that the Bush administration is prepared to get into the kind of nitty-gritty give- and-take wheeling-and-dealing negotiating that the North Koreans have repeatedly signaled they would be interested in if they were to put their missile nuclear programs on the table.
ROBERTS: And Richard Roth, quickly, if you would, China and Russia have agreed to take Iran back to the Security Council. Is anything going to happen there? ROTH: Stay tuned. I think it's amazing that Iran and North Korea have come back on a collision course to the Security Council. And analysts say nuclear affairs is of particular concern to many on the council.
It's an explosive thing, but the Security Council looks paralyzed, unable to do anything about it. The big ingredient this time on North Korea, Japan's presence on the Security Council. China worried that Japan will be gaining more power.
Japan has been pressing for years about a permanent seat on the Security Council. It's been Japan for two weeks that's really been pressing for the tougher resolution on North Korea, and the U.S. happy to go along this time as a sidekick.
ROBERTS: Richard Roth at the U.N. and Mike Chinoy out there in Los Angeles. Coming up, the role and potential threat of Iran in THIS WEEK AT WAR. Our national security correspondent weighs in with his predictions.
ROBERTS: Well, this week, we say goodbye to a familiar face here at CNN. National security correspondent David Ensor is leaving us to pursue new opportunities in Europe. But, before we let him go, a final chance to pick his brain.
David, there's all this talk that Iran is mixing things up in Israel and Lebanon now as a way of flexing its muscles in the Middle East. What are your intelligence sources telling you about that? What's the greater concern for that region if that is, in fact, what they're doing?
DAVID ENSOR, CNN AMERICA BUREAU CORRESPONDENT: Well, if that is what they're doing, that is a very serious concern, indeed. And it would be an example of Iran, and to a lesser extent Syria, making clear to the United States, to Israel, and to the world that you simply can't count them out.
They can make huge trouble for this country and for the West if they want to. And, clearly, if that's what they're doing, there's plenty of trouble to be had here.
ROBERTS: Does this tie in at all to the Iraq war? Iran is causing problems in Iraq. Are they now trying to get on the western side of that and mix it up as well?
ENSOR: I think the Iranians feel that the U.S. is bogged down in Iraq. And that, therefore, they have options. They can muscle their way into some situations that they might not have dared do in the past.
ROBERTS: Now, they're going to be taking them back to the U.N. Security Council on this issue. The intelligence sources that you talked to, how concerned are they that there has to be a very sharp response by the Security Council to try to bring Iran in line? ENSOR: I think the feeling in intelligence circles is that the Iranians are still a good long way from having a bomb. But they're racing towards it as fast as they can. And these opportunities to get the world together and do something don't come along that often. So they're really hoping that the world doesn't flub it this time.
ROBERTS: David Ensor, good to be your colleague. Ggood luck to you in the future.
ENSOR: It's been a pleasure.
ROBERTS: And we'll watch for these stories in the week ahead. On Monday, the end of the G8 summit. President Bush wraps up talks with Russian President Putin and other leaders about the Mideast, Iraq and North Korea.
On Tuesday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales defends Guantanamo Bay and the Bush administration's counter-terrorism efforts.
On Friday, VIPs from Pakistan will meet at Guantanamo Bay to discuss the custody of suspected Pakistani terrorists.
And, of course, we'll have complete coverage of the crisis in the Middle East. Thanks for joining us on THIS WEEK AT WAR. I'm John Roberts. Straight ahead, "CNN SATURDAY." Then, at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, "CNN PRESENTS: NO SURVIVORS" WHY TWA 800 COULD HAPPEN AGAIN."
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