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THIS WEEK AT WAR

"The War of Words" at the U.N. Torture in Iraq Worse Now Than Under Saddam Hussein. An Extended Tour of Duty for U.S. Troops in Iraq. Bush, Senate Compromise on Detainees' Rights, French Report bin Laden Dead.

Aired September 23, 2006 - 18:00:13   ET

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


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Carol Lin. And here is what is happening right now in the news.
New and conflicting accounts on whether terror mastermind Osama bin Laden is dead or alive. It began this morning with a French newspaper citing a leaked intelligence report. It claims bin Laden died a month ago from Typhoid. Saudi officials say their best information has bin Laden ill, but not dead.

In Iraq, death takes no holiday, even with today's start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. A Baghdad car bomb killed 34 people earlier today. Another 29 were wounded.

The highlighted section of this new insurgent video purportedly shows the new leader of al Qaeda in Iraq. Turkish officials say that the man is Abu Ayyub al-Masri, who rose to position after a June coalition air strike killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

I'm Carol Lin. I'll see you in a half hour or for breaking news as it happens.

But up next, "THIS WEEK AT WAR" with John Roberts.

CNN, the most trusted name in news.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN HOST: Torture in Iraq, is it worse now than under Saddam Hussein? The United Nations thinks so.

And when will the U.S. troops be coming home? Not any time soon.

At the United Nations this week, a war of words. Who's winning and who's losing?

And the Middle Ages meet the modern day, igniting protests worldwide.

I'm John Roberts with "THIS WEEK AT WAR."

Let's take a look at what our correspondents reported day by day this week.

Monday, the top U.S. general in the Middle East squelches talk of reducing the number of U.S. troops in Iraq at least until next spring. Tuesday, Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, slammed the U.S. and others for, in his words, "causing war to expand their domination and wealth."

Wednesday, a U.N. report says 6,600 Iraqi civilians were killed in July and August. And more than 8,000 wounded. That puts the civilian death, so far this year, at more than 20,000.

Thursday, Republican senators announce an agreement with the White House over how the U.S. interrogates and prosecutes terrorism suspects.

Friday, President Bush and Pakistan's President Musharraf at the White House say they are on the hunt, together, for Osama bin Laden.

"THIS WEEK AT WAR."

This week, U.S. officials changed their tune on Iraq yet again. Now, U.S. troops may not start coming home until well into next year.

So what is behind the delay? And does the military have a plan to win the peace? Joining me now from Baghdad is correspondent Arwa Damon, in Denver, CNN military analyst Major General Don Shepperd, U.S. Air Force, retired. And with me here in Washington, CNN's senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre.

A pretty bleak report came out from the United Nations this week. It found nearly 6,600 Iraqis were killed during the months of July and August.

And take a look at this assessment as well from Manfred Nowak, the U.N. special investigator on torture, who said, the situation as far as torture is concerned in Iraq is now completely out of hand. The situation is so bad that many people say it is worse than in the times of Saddam Hussein."

Arwa Damon, in Baghdad, that's a pretty bleak and harsh assessment. Is that really the case there, that it is worse now than it was when Saddam was in power?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, when you speak to a lot of the Iraqis here, they will tell you that overall the situation is actually worse than when Saddam Hussein was in power, and security is the number one factor for that. And sectarian violence is everyone's concern.

And in that reports, as detailed there, a lot of these victims are victims of sectarian violence. Unidentified bodies that show up at the morgue with acid burns, you know, their eyes gouged out, missing bones. And the Iraqis are very well aware that they could become the victims of the sectarian violence. That's their number one concern. It petrifies them and it entirely paralyzes their lives.

And that is where a lot of the sentiment is coming from on the ground, that the situation right now, when it comes to being a torture victim, being a victim of sectarian violence, yes, it is perhaps worse than it was under Saddam Hussein.

ROBERTS: Well, that is a really incredible statement coming out of the United Nations.

Jamie McIntyre, the United States has thrown its whole support behind Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki. But just this week, an interesting development that they started to question whether or not he had enough decisiveness, enough commitment to try to bring peace and stability to Iraq, to be able to deal with the militias, to be able to deal with the violence. Did they saying anything at the Pentagon about this?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, you will hear a lot of people talking about it publicly, but privately there are some concerns.

I mean, he is the elected leader. They have to kind of go with him. But they're trying to light a fire under him. And they are worried that he is a little too worried about offending the Shia.

And what the Pentagon feels that Iraq needs, in the words of President Bush, "is a uniter, not a divider."

You keep hearing that the solution in Iraq is political reconciliation. The Sunnis have got to see something in the future. And they're worried that that's really the linchpin with the policy in the future.

ROBERTS: General Don Sheppard, you sort of surprised us in last week's program by being somewhat critical of the situation in Iraq from a military standpoint now, saying that there are not enough forces on the ground.

And it looks like the forces on the ground are going to be staying in Iraq, at their troop strength now, for a while longer.

Let's take a quick look at how Jamie McIntyre reported this on Tuesday.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE (voice-over): The top U.S. commander for the Persian Gulf region says the plan to make big cuts in American forces in Iraq is now on hold until spring, the earliest.

In fact, General John Abizaid tells CNN troop levels may increase in the months ahead. The plan to draw down U.S. troops in Iraq was always conditioned on things getting better. But everyday brings fresh evidence -- like this car bomb attack on a Baghdad factory -- things are not getting better.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: So General Shepperd, we had believed that U.S. forces might be able to start drawing down at the end of the year. That's now pushed back to March. Are you expecting that, when we get into 2007, that time frame will be pushed back yet again?

GEN. DON SHEPPERD, CNN MILITARY ANALYST, U.S. AIR FORCE RETIRED: That's hard to say. If the security situation is not under control, clearly, you're going to have to keep troops there.

As Jamie said in his report, we had hoped that troops were going to be coming home. Troop levels may actually increase.

The problem is, John, that I don't think that there are any reasonable number of U.S. troops that you can put into Iraq that can stay for any reasonable length of time that will keep the people in Iraq from wanting to hate and kill each other more than they want a future.

If they don't want a future, we can't put enough soldiers in there to do any good. So I think we're going to have to wait. And I think 2007 will clearly be a critical year.

ROBERTS: And Arwa Damon, in terms of what is going to happen in the near future, Ramadan is upon people there in Iraq. Do you expect that the amount of violence is going to go up?

DAMON: Well, that is pretty much what is expected before every period of Ramadan. And there are security measures being put into place to try to prevent that from happening.

But I do also need to add that, from my experience here, people here do want democracy. They do want civility. And they don't want to hate each other.

And in fact, you constantly hear people that speak about having Sunni neighbors or having Shia neighbors, people that have mixed marriages.

I think a lot of the issue here, in terms of security and stability, is not so much Sunni and Shia hating each other, but just people not quite being able to believe in the future, not quite seeing this future of security that has been promised to them. And that is why, perhaps, they are not able to step up and take security into their own hands just yet.

ROBERTS: Well, whether or not Sunnis and Shiites, at large, hate each other is one question. But certainly certain groups seem to be able to kill each other pretty efficiently.

Jamie McIntyre, keeping 145,000 troops in Iraq until at least spring of next year, how is the Pentagon going to wrangle it?

MCINTYRE: Well, you know, they have been planning for that all along, believe it or not. A worse-case scenario, maintain the current level of troops really forever.

Now, obviously, you hope to never have to implement that worse- case scenario. And now they're finding they may have to, for some time. And it is putting a lot of strain on the force.

But ultimately, they still believe the answer is more Iraqi -- we heard the commander in Baghdad this week say that he needed 3,000 more troops to help implement the strategy there. But they were Iraqi troops he need, because they are using this, you know, clear-hold- build strategy. And in order to get to the end point, you need Iraqi troops. And that they remain the key.

ROBERTS: And General Shepherd, a study out of the Pentagon found that 75 percent of Sunnis in Iraqis now support the insurgency. That's up dramatically from what used to be around 30 percent. What does that mean for the future?

SHEPPERD: Well, it means clearly that the Sunnis are not yet joining the political movement which was the great hope, that they could a central government that the Sunnis could support, even though it is a Shia majority. And it appears that that is not happening.

I don't know how people can get these polls and place any face in the accuracy of it. But clearly, the Sunnis in the western part of Anbar Province are not joining the political process which, in the end is the key. It's not a military solution. It is a political solution.

Until the Sunnis are satisfied they can join, you're not going to have peace in Iraq.

ROBERTS: Well, certainly, regardless of what the polls say, there do continue to be serious problems in Iraq.

Arwa Damon in Baghdad, General Don Shepperd in Denver and Jamie McIntyre here in the studio, thanks.

From Iraq to Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the world stage this week. What he had to say about Iran's nuclear goals, Israel and the United States.

But first, family and friends of Sergeant David Weir, one of the 101st Airborne, said good-bye on Wednesday. They gathered on the Cleveland- Tennessee high school football field, where he used to play.

Weir was killed last week doing security sweeps in Baghdad when enemy forces attacked with rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire.

His brother, Chris, said, David had a dream.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WEIR, BROTHER OF DAVID WEIR: He loved this country. He had always wanted to go into the military. It was exactly what he's always wanted to do. So it's pretty fortunate that he had the opportunity to do exactly what he wanted to do. Not all of us get that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Weir's football number, 24, will be kept in retirement unless his 18-month-old son Gavin wants to join the team when he gets to high school.

Sergeant Weir would have been 24 years old on Friday.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A nuclear weapon in the hands of Iran in the middle of the Middle East would be a very destabilizing and a troubling occurrence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: That is President Bush on Wednesday talking with my colleague Wolf Blitzer about Iran. Will Iran agree to abandon its nuclear program or simply ignore another deadline?

Joining me now, Ray Takeyh, he's the senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. He's also the author of the book "Hidden Iran: Paradox in Power in the Islamic Republic."

And joining us from the United Nations in New York, correspondent Aneesh Raman, who has been reporting recently from Iran.

Ray Takeyh, start us off here. The United Nation's Security Council now says Iran's got until October to negotiate meetings on ending its nuclear program. Are they just going to keep dragging this on and on, deadline after deadline?

RAY TAKEYH, MIDDLE EAST SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, it is starting to look like the North Korea situation where deadlines are imposed and then they laps. It does reflect there's no international solidarity. There's no unity among the P-5 on how to approach Iran.

And it does reflect some success of Iranian diplomacy. Every time they are about to go to the Security Council for contemplation of sanctions, they immediately come up with another offer of potentially an interim suspension as a means of facilitating negotiations.

So a combination of Iranian diplomatic adroitness and an inability of the United States to craft a consensus means we're in a process of prolonged and quite possibly fruitless negotiations.

ROBERTS: So, Aneesh Raman, these diplomatic maneuvers that Ahmadinejad is engaging in and his speech at the United Nations, where he really was sort of saying, not overtly, but pretty overtly, that the United States is the bully of the world, it wants to run the world. Is he trying to drive a wedge between the U.S. and the rest of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council? And is it working? ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He is. And it is, for the moment.

I mean, the U.S. says, if they do have a lot of European countries on board pressuring Iran. But Russia and China are the key swing countries, if you will, in the U.N. Security Council, that are uneasy about immediate confrontation, via sanctions, with Iran.

But Ahmadinejad thinks things are going pretty well. He's got influence throughout the region. He's got doubt in the mind of some as to whether he's pursuing a nuclear weapon. He continually denies it.

And he's taken a softer tone here in the U.S. And he really follows the polling data in the U.S. closely. And every time the poll data suggests that Americans aren't approving of President Bush, it gets extensive coverage in Iran.

So he came here this week with a media blitz. He was everywhere, speaking to everyone, hoping to get to the American people and present another argument about Iran.

ROBERTS: Yes, the Americans were hoping to keep him bottled up. But it sort of got out of the bottle, doing all kinds of interviews, public appearances, press conferences.

On this subject of what Iran's nuclear program is all about, he does continue to deny.

Here is what he said in the U.N. speech on Tuesday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): All our nuclear activities are transparent, peaceful and under the watchful eyes of the IEAE inspectors. Why then are there objections to our legally-recognized rights?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Ray Takeyh, you know, we have talked to former weapons inspectors, like David Kay, about this. There is no really good intelligence that tells the United States what Iran is up to. What does your gut say?

TAKEYH: Well, I think there is a widespread perception that Iran is trying to build a nuclear infrastructure that, although may have uses for civilian purposes but, in due course, will offer Iran the option of having a weapon as well. So this is a problem with nuclear technology, is the compatibility between civilian nuclear use and military use, that duel-use technology.

ROBERTS: Do you think they are going for bomb?

TAKEYH: I think this is a program designed to offer them weapons options should they decide to cross that threshold, yes. ROBERTS: And, Aneesh Raman, on the negotiating front at the United Nations, President Bush dialed back a little bit in his speech saying that he has no objection to Iran having a truly peaceful nuclear program.

Ahmadinejad, just the other day, said he would be open to negotiations to suspend their enrichment programs if it was a fair process. Are they just looking for some face-saving measure for Iran here?

RAMAN: I think they are. But as Ray mentioned, President Bush is saying we have no problem with the nuclear program, but essentially it can't be on Iranian soil because of the reasons that Ray suggested, because it could be used for dual use.

And so Iran's president really is eager to get this, you know, to be like North Korea, to have it languish with debate.

And I can't see a scenario where Iran can back down on this nuclear program, where it can suspend legitimately for a significant period of time because the hype within Iran has been so much about this being a national program, that no deal really could be created to get them to stop.

ROBERTS: Yes, Iran has got to be looking at North Korea as well and saying they are getting all of these plums. Why isn't Iran getting anything except whacked over the head with a stick.

Also brought up this week, the idea of military action against Iran. If Iran doesn't agree to suspend the uranium enrichment, might the U.S. go in there and bomb Iran?

Here's what Jamie McIntyre reported on that front on Monday.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE (voice-over): The military options, preemptive air strikes by American stealth bombers, strike aircraft and cruise missiles, using the latest bunker-busting munitions in an air assault lasting several nights and dropping of thousands of bombs.

The potential targets, more than two dozen nuclear facilities spread across Iran, some secret, some deep underground and some in populated areas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Aneesh Raman, would a U.S. attack against Iran really just be playing into Ahmadinejad's hands?

RAMAN: It would. Iranian officials really think that it is not a realistic scenario that they will be attacked. It would engulf the entire region into flames.

And they have broadcasted many reports within Iran -- broadcasted reports that originated out of the U.S. that the Israeli-Hezbollah war was used as a way to see how it would work with Iran, if they were to have air strikes, how well it would success. That was not considered to be a success. And Hezbollah is still standing.

So Iranian officials have felt a bit more emboldened by that. They really don't think that the U.S. has the strength in the region to come against Iran, given what is happening in Iraq. And they continually like to remind subtly the world that they have influence everywhere there. So to attack Iran is to then really broaden the struggle immediately and open up a Pandora's Box.

ROBERTS: And Ray Takeyh, you had an opportunity to meet Ahmadinejad at a Council on Foreign Relations meeting that was staged. What was your impression of the guy?

TAKEYH: He was very similar to his public profile. He was assertive. He was defiant. He was determined and, in some cases, rather condescending to the audience. But I didn't see that much of a gap between what he says publicly on issue of Israel, holocaust and their right to have nuclear technology, and what he says publicly. So for a politician, there was a refreshingly lack of gap between public perceptions and private declarations.

ROBERTS: But unfortunately that's frustrating for the diplomats who are looking for a different position in private than they are in public.

TAKEYH: Sure was.

ROBERTS: All right. Ray Takeyh for the Council of Foreign Relations, thanks.

And Aneesh Raman at the United Nations, as well.

From diplomatic maneuvering to political mudslinging, our "War of Words" looks at how the U.N. speeches went to hell and back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: The speeches at the United Nations this week had their share of headline-grabbing insults, but when all the showboating stopped, who gain and who lost?

Joining me now for our "War of Words" segment, White House Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux and Senior United Nations Correspondent Richard Roth in his usual post.

President Bush and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were never in the same room, yet they did debate each other in a way.

Here is a quick look at what was said at the U.N. on Tuesday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: We look to the day when you can live in freedom and America and Iran can be good friends and close partners the cause of peace. (END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AHMADINEJAD (through translator): The advancement of nuclear weapons and other instruments of war by some powers has taken the place of respect for rights of nations, and the maintenance and promotion of peace and tranquility.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: President Bush, speaking directly to Iranian people there. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad complaining to the world about what he saw as U.S. bullying.

Richard Roth, was there a clear winner this week?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT: There was no clear winner, because nothing was settled on the nuclear issue. The clear winner might be the media which got a big piece of President Chavez, a big piece of Iran. Media stars, that's what they are.

ROBERTS: Right, which it is sort of unusual for the United Nations to be that exciting in a single week.

Suzanne Malveaux, President Bush, in his speech, was far more conciliatory than he has been in past speeches when he railed against the United Nations or made the case for war in Iraq. What was his goal this week?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN White House CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it's so fascinating because really what he did was, he kind of cloaked himself, dressed himself in this cape, this rhetoric of peace, and this freedom agenda. And, of course, the tone very different than what we saw years ago when he said the United Nations was essentially irrelevant going with or without you the international body.

What he really was trying to do here is frame his debate. And he was pitching his war on terror, selling it those overseas, but also to those at home.

He is hoping that American voters are watching as well, and they are keeping their focus on the war on terror and not the Iraq war.

ROBERTS: Richard Roth, there was this tremendous fascination, particularly among the media, with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He has said, and continues to say, what many people believe are outrageous things. But on some issues, does he make a valuable point?

ROTH: Well, he wants Israel to not have nuclear weapons and says there's a double standard in the region, and why should the U.S. and other big countries have nuclear weapons and tell others not to have them when they talk about disarmament at the U.N. So he can have a position and a point in those areas, and things like that.

ROBERTS: Right. Well, he seems to come at it from a position of the Arab street. And they look at the United States' dominance in the world and they say, well, perhaps this is not such a good thing for world.

I mean, what is the reaction to that at the United Nations?

ROTH: Well, diplomats thought he went too far. I mean, of course, they are diplomats.

Others, though -- you heard a lot of chuckles and some applause in the hall, certainly for Chavez. They love the fact that, on one week, small countries, other countries can speak on the same level as the United States and really present a case.

This is the only even forum, even playing field. And then, of course, things change after these weeks.

But Venezuela has got oil. Who knows what Iran's got with any type of nuclear program? So they are speaking from a position of strength. And the so-called street likes that.

ROBERTS: Right.

Susan Malveaux, on the subject of Hugo Chavez, let's take a quick look at what he said in his speech on Wednesday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUGO CHAVEZ, VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Yesterday, the devil came here. And it smells of sulfur still today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: So Hugo Chavez from Venezuela poking a finger in President Bush's eye. He did it the next day when he appeared up in Harlem giving away discounted Venezuelan oil.

Is he just a blowhard, Suzanne, or is the White House really worried that this guy could cause some trouble for them in the South America?

MALVEAUX: Well, he is a threat in a sense that, you know, the extent that he gets together with other allies, when he gets together and provides support for Ahmadinejad and radicalizes other countries in South America. But they didn't really see this as very serious. They didn't take it very seriously. They had this concerted effort to kind of blow it off and say we're not commenting on this.

I think what was much more interesting and significant, at least for the White House, was what happened with Ahmadinejad and Iran. A lot of the theater, of course, but behind the scenes, quietly the United States coming around at much closer to the European's position here. And that is what they are supporting, these kind of quiet talks that are going on with Iran, and hoping that they are closer to negotiations. Because the bottom line is, they've realized that very little appetite for sanctions. ROBERTS: And what Hugo Chavez said at the United Nations, perhaps, the worst thing that's been said about an American official since 1960 when Fidel Castro called then presidential candidate John Kennedy an illiterate and ignorant and millionaire.

Suzanne Malveaux at the White House and Richard Roth at the United Nations, thanks very much.

There was disagreement at the U.N. this week. But in Washington, after weeks of bickering, a deal on detainees. What does it mean legally and politically? That's coming up on "This Week at War."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LIN: Good evening. I'm Carol Lin and here's what's happening now in the news.

New questions over the health of Osama bin Laden. A Saudi intelligence source tells CNN that bin Laden has some kind of water- borne illness, while a French newspaper claims the al Qaeda leader is dead.

And it's the start of the holy month of Ramadan, but it doesn't mean less violence in Iraq. Thirty-four people were killed today in car bombing at a Baghdad gas station. And in northern Iraq, the heads of nine policemen were found. No further details on that.

The Islamic web sites are showing a chilling new video purported to be the execution of a Turkish hostage. Information with the video identifies the executioner as the new leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al Masri.

I'm Carol Lin in Atlanta. Coming up tonight at 10:00 Eastern, a special "CNN Presents" investigation "In the Footsteps of bin Laden".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The agreement clears the way to do what the American people expect us to do: to capture terrorists, to detain terrorists, to question terrorists and then to try them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Bush in Orlando, Florida, on Thursday following the announcement that his administration and three powerful Republican senators had reached an agreement over terms for the interrogation and trial of terror suspects.

But as Senate Armed Services chairman John Warner put it, it's not a done deal until Mr. Bush signs the legislation. Is this compromise best for national security? Here to talk about it, A.B. Stoddard -- she's the associate editor of "The Hill" newspaper -- CNN White House correspondent Ed Henry, and in New York, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Jeffrey Toobin, start us off here. On the issue of the Geneva Convention, interrogations, the CIA prisons, decipher this agreement for us, because it is very complicated.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think the gist of the agreement is -- what the three senators most objected to about the earlier administration plan, was that it suggested some sort of change in the Geneva Conventions that would be unilaterally imposed by the United States.

What the senators agreed to was that the executive branch, the president, could interpret the Geneva Conventions, not change them. I think that really amounts to a victory for administration, because an interpretation can really amount to allowing these vague terms to be interpreted the way the president wants. So I think that was a pretty big win for the president.

ROBERTS: Well, on Thursday, Senator McCain said he believes that the agreement is fully in keeping with the provisions of the Geneva Conventions, and he also thought that they gave President Bush what he was looking for as well.

Here's what McCain had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: Let me just say the agreement that we've entered into gives the president the tools that he needs to continue to fight the war on terror and bring these evil people to justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

So, A.B. Stoddard, it seems, on the surface at least, that the president got everything that he was looking, didn't he?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, "THE HILL": No, we heard John McCain say that the agreement keeps the integrity, the letter, the spirit of the Geneva Conventions intact. That's a victory for his side.

What the administration got was very important, and that is some protection from legal jeopardy, retroactively for the CIA agents who conduct the interrogations. And that's the clarification that President Bush was asking for so strongly last week.

ROBERTS: And Ed Henry, what does this mean for techniques like water-boarding, that we've heard so much about, is that out, or could it still be in?

ED HENRY, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is supposed to be out if you listen to John McCain and Lindsey Graham, some of the architects of this compromise. And they feel they got something because they feel now the president does not have carte blanche. But as Jeffrey Toobin said, let's see where the interpretation is, does the administration end interpreting that they could do water-boarding? I would suspect, obviously, they'll have a big problem with some of these Senate Republicans, but there's a broader political issue here, obviously for the president.

But also, that audible sigh you heard this week was from John McCain. His presidential campaign was going to take a hit if he continued to be seen as this maverick taking on the president. For months now, John McCain has been courting the Bush loyalists to show, look, I am not always the maverick anymore. I am on board with the war on terror, and here is a case where he was really battling the president. He needed that behind him.

ROBERTS: Yes, but having, I guess, the backing of Warner and Graham also helped him out.

HENRY: Absolutely.

ROBERTS: So how do the American people feel about this whole issue of detainees and what rights they should have? A new "New York Times" - "CBS News" poll this week found 63 percent of people asked said that the United States should follow the international agreements.

Now, one of those agreements that still is a point of controversy, Jeffrey Toobin, is on this idea of allowing classified evidence to be presented at trial, and whether or not it should be provided to the defense. What did this agreement do on that?

TOOBIN: Well, to me, John, this is the most important part of the agreement, and this is something Lindsey Graham kind of made his cause. The agreement says that if any evidence is presented to the jury in these tribunals, not earlier -- I mean, obviously there's going to be lots of classified information in the background here -- but anything that's presented to the jury has to be shown to the defense.

And I think that is absolutely essential. And you can never predict what any court will do, but I cannot believe that any court in the United States would sanction an execution, which is what a lot of these tribunals are about, based on evidence that the defendant didn't see. So, yes, there can be summaries, yes, the defense won't get to see the all the original evidence, but if it goes to the jury, the defense gets to see it. And I think that is absolutely essential.

ROBERTS: And another potential legal hurdle that has arisen is the Senate Judiciary Committee wants to take a look at the lack of provisions for what are called habeas corpus rights, for a detainee to able to challenge their incarceration. So we are going about that next week.

In terms of who is gaining out of this, let's take a look at a what a "Los Angeles Times" - Bloomberg poll found. Republicans now lead Democrats on the issue of who would do a better job at handling national security and terrorism, 49 percent to 32 percent.

So A.B. Stoddard, now that this rift is healed between the Senate and the White House, is all forgiven, is this another potential bombshell off of the election year plate?

STODDARD: They really had to go home -- Congress is leaving at the end of next week, and they really had to go home and campaign for reelection, campaign to keep their majorities in the House and Senate unified. And their most important issue right now is the issue of terror and securing the homeland. So leaving with a big win on this legislation is really important for them.

ROBERTS: So there are still differences though, Ed Henry, between the Senate and the House versions of this bill, and what do you -- do you expect an agreement there? And what do you expect Democrats to do?

HENRY: Well, Democrats are finally going to have to really have to enter the fray. They have been on the sidelines watching the Republicans battle. And I think that is one of the biggest forms of relief for this White House, is that it is no longer the president battling maverick Republicans. That is almost off of the table, we have to see the final details.

But secondly, the White House is feeling good, because they feel like they are going to box Democrats in on these kind of terror issues. Now that the Republicans have come home, they're really going to try to put the Democrats in a box: do you want to give the president these tools to fight terrorists or not? That's how they want to frame it.

ROBERTS: You don't expect Democrats to stand in the way of this, do you A.B.?

STODDARD: I think it would not be wise for them. The interesting thing about the poll that you just cited about -- a few months ago, I think before the summer, in some polls the Democrats enjoyed a lead on the issue of terror. They came to parity and then surpassed Republicans on this most important issue. Now it is something like 15 or 16 points behind.

ROBERTS: Yes. Not so much anymore.

STODDARD: That is right.

ROBERTS: A.B. Stoddard, Ed Henry and Jeffrey Toobin, thanks very much. Appreciate your time.

Up next, a holy mess. The pope tries to spark dialogue and instead stirs up a world of protest. Can the Catholic and Islamic faiths get along next on "This Week at War".

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Protesters in Basra, Iraq, burn an effigy of Pope Benedict XVI on Monday. The Pope is extending an olive branch to Muslim leaders. He has invited them to his Summer home at Castle Gandolfo next week. The Pope's remarks, quoting a Medieval emperor who described Islam as violent and inhuman, ignited a global fury on Muslim streets and in Mosque. Can the rift between the Pope and the Muslim community be repaired?

Joining us from Rome, CNN's faith and values correspondent Delia Gallagher. Delia, what's on the Pope's agenda? What does he hope to accomplish meeting with these Muslim leaders?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN FAITH AND VALUES CORRESPONDENT: Well John, we don't have an agenda, but it is clearly that this is an important diplomatic step for the Vatican, calling the ambassadors to the Vatican from Muslim countries to meet with the Pope, and probably, you know, John, this Pope is not one to kind of gloss over the difficult points.

So I would be looking for him to kind of discuss a little bit more in depth some of the points that he hinted at in that talk which caused such consternation, mainly this idea, you know, is there some connection with violence and God, either in Islam or in Christianity. He has written many times before about the connection of violence in Christianity, the crusades and so on, which he calls a disease of Christianity.

So I think that he will try, yes, to offer the olive branch. He will certainly say that he has great esteem for Islam, but I think this Pope's idea of dialogue, John, is that we talk also about our differences and that we shouldn't be afraid to talk about our differences. But in order to do that we have to have a self- assessment. We have to understand what is our identity, what is our history, where does our authority come from.

ROBERTS: All right, and Delia, we know that you are going to be watching that very closely and we will hear more about that as the days progress. Thanks very much Delia in Rome.

Joining me now Father David O'Connell. He's the president of Catholic University here in Washington and Ahmed Younis, who is the national director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. So the Pope, again, reaching out to Muslim ambassadors to the Vatican, trying to explain his comments more. Let's rewind a little bit and Ahmed Younis, what happened here? Why such an eruption among the Muslim faith?

AHMED YOUNIS, MUSLIM PUBLIC AFFAIRS COUNCIL: I think the eruption is because there has been an excuse to engage in an eruption, very similar to the Danish cartoons.

There are two fundamental world views in the Muslim camps, 1.4 billion people around the world. One is the clash of civilizations world view, that there is a crusade against Islam, a war on Islam, and when folks in the West mistakenly refer to ideas or the analysis of those that believed in the clash of the civilizations and the clash of faiths, as we saw on the screen, they bolster the ideology and the identity of the extremists.

So what we see on the streets, these are not protests for the west, these are protests for their fellow country persons, telling them our world view is winning, our world view is dominating, look even their Pope is engaging in an analysis that is anti-Muslim. ROBERTS: Father O'Connell, why do you think the Pope chose that particular quote from a 14th century Byzantine emperor?

FATHER DAVID O'CONNELL, PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY: It is hard to say. You know, even the Pope said, you know, as I was reflecting on this notion of reason and faith, this text came to mind. It is something that he had been reading. And I think probably the relationship between Christianity and Islamic faith is something very much on his mind.

From the earliest days of the Papacy he talked about reaching out and entering into this inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue. So he is probably trying to read a great about the historical rift between the two religions and it's probably in the context that this came to his mind.

ROBERTS: So historical a historical rift back in the year 1300 and change, but now on the streets, obviously, there's rift as well. Ahmed Younis, is this eruption on the Muslim street an indication of just how much tension remains between Muslims and Christians?

YOUNIS: No, I don't think so. I think what is being offered as a refutation of what the Pope said is being used as a proxy of the West. I don't think it's being used as a proxy of Christianity. Bubba Shenouda, the head of Egyptian Coptic Church, has made it very clear that he believes that the Pope should apologize, but it is very important, again, to say the apology should not be for the people on the streets.

This engagement with government leaders, having a dialogue, hopefully seeing a dialogue with nongovernmental institutions and community leaders globally. That's where we need to move, not insisting on a mere or simple apology.

ROBERTS: Let's take a look at what the Pope said about this on Wednesday in an apology. He said "I did not in any way wish to make my own the negative words, which were pronounced by the Medieval emperor in this dialogue. And his contained polemic did not express my personal convictions." So Father O'Connell, the pope has apologized repeatedly. He's got this summit with Muslim ambassadors at the Vatican on Monday. What else does he need to do?

O'CONNELL: I don't know what else he needs to do. You know, from the beginning the Pope's spokesman issued an apology or a statement of regret. Cardinal Bertoni, the head of the secretary of the state, first day on the job and what a first day it was for him, issued an expression of the Pope's regret. The Pope offered an apology at Deangelis (ph). The Pope offered an apology on Wednesday. He's now extended, in a sense, the olive branch to the Muslim community and the Muslim leadership. I don't know how much times he has to apologize.

ROBERTS: Here's what's coming from the Muslim community, at least a segment of the Muslim community. Iranian Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi on Wednesday said, I thank his holiness for making us understand his words were not intended to offend anyone. He seems to have to have accepted the apology. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, was also asked about it. He seemed to be comfortable with the apology, so Ahmed Younis, why aren't some people in the Muslim world letting this go. Protests continue even now.

YOUNIS: Because they are domestic political actors that are politicizing what they are claiming another example of why there is a clash between Muslims and the west. And the way to fuel their fires is to allow this conversation to continue without a true engagement, without a real dialogue between these civilizations.

I completely agree, we don't need anymore apologies and the Pope what is sufficient in order to make it clear that those were not his opinions. But let's move along in the analysis. Let's get more substantive in the interaction between these two world views, these two great civilizations and I think, as a Muslim, the Pope is my leader. He is a faith leader of all moderates and I expect him to back me up when I say that the tradition of the prophet is one of engagement, not one of violence.

ROBERTS: And one other issue popped up late in the week. Mehmet Ali Agca, who shot Pope John Paul II sent a note to the Vatican saying Pope Ratzinger, listen to someone who knows these things very well. Your life is in danger. You absolutely must not come to Turkey, talking about the Pope's upcoming trip to Turkey. Father O'Connell do you take these threats seriously?

O'CONNELL: I think we have to take any threats seriously in these days. However, the Pope is looking, the Pope has a different agenda in mind. I don't think that his holiness is fearful of his life at all. He wants to reach out. He wants to enter into serious dialogue at great depth. His interest is in faith and in God and in really the spreading of the gospel and the living of a life of charity. His first encyclicals letter was on charity and tolerance and care.

ROBERTS: And in terms of that lack of fear, we do see him traveling around St. Peter's Square in an open Pope-mobile, unlike the bulletproof one that John Paul drove around in. Well, we certainly hope that this does spark a dialogue of reconciliation. Father O'Connell and Ahmed Younis, thanks for being with us, appreciate it.

Straight ahead, tragedy stalks a striker brigade. It's tour was extended, it's luck ran out.

But first, following up on one of our stories from last weekend, my discussion with Hollywood actor and activist George Clooney, the African Union has decided to keep it's peace keepers in Darfur through the end of the year. The African Union met on Wednesday to extend the mission of some 7,00 troops. Sudan's president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir supports the African force, but he continues to insist on African troops only and to block mobilization of a United Nations force to the area, where an estimated 200,000 people have died and 2 million have been uprooted from their homes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROBERTS: For members of one U.S. Army unit, like so many others, their tour in Iraq was marked off day by day. When their year was up, they were ready to go. Some were packed up, waiting for a plane to go home when they found out that the year was stretching a few months more. And that's when their luck ran out. Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr had this on Wednesday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: These soldiers should have been home by now, back with their families. But the Army's 172nd Stryker Brigade drew the ultimate short straw. Just as they were headed back to their base to Alaska last month from a year-long tour of duty, they were ordered to stay in Iraq. Now they are patrolling and sometime's dying in Baghdad's toughest neighborhoods.

Sergeant Joey Davis was killed when his Stryker vehicle struck an IED. Now Joey's brother Andy will meet his new sister-in-law for the first time at his brother's funeral.

ANDY DAVIS, BROTHER OF FALLEN SOLDIER: I got a e-mail, said, hey, I got married, right before he shipped out.

STARR: Andy knew his brother was in danger.

DAVIS: I guess the last time my mom spoke with him two weeks ago, the part of the city where he died, he was telling her that he was going there, and he described it as the ghetto, one of the worst places to be.

STARR: Candace Jordan was hearing the same thing from her son Corporal Alexander Jordan after the unit was ordered to stay in Iraq.

CANDACE JORDAN, MOTHER OF FALLEN SOLDIER: I think that's where I really became alarmed.

STARR: Alexander's e-mails were grim.

JORDAN: He wrote me an e-mail about a week ago. And he said, mom, he said, I hate to tell you this, but he says, those people are trying to kill us.

STARR: She knew what had happened when there was that knock at the door.

JORDAN: I know exactly what to expect. I know who to expect. And that was my worst nightmare. I think it would be any mother's nightmare. I never, ever expected to see them at my door.

STARR: And Staff Sergeant Eugene Alex, killed on patrol in Baghdad. Three soldiers scheduled to have been back home with their families, ordered to stay in Iraq, killed in the last three weeks.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ROBERTS: The fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan will be on President Bush's agenda when he greets allies at the White House next week. Who is coming? I'm back on THIS WEEK AT WAR after we look at some of the others who fell.

(VIDEO MONTAGE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: When I was embedded with the Marines during the Iraq War, a complaint I heard again and again from commanders was, we have enough forces to defeat the Iraqi military, but we don't have enough to secure the country. In forgettable little towns in the south, like Shattra (ph), Rafai (ph) and Ha'ith (ph), the bad guys would disappear as American troops arrived, then come back to take their revenge when the Americans moved on. It was so bad that village leaders begged the Marines not to leave.

That part of the country is relatively quiet now, but in other areas like the insurgent hot bed of Anbar province, west of Baghdad, Marine commanders still say they don't have enough forces to deal with the violence. And with Baghdad consumed with sectarian killings, the projected date to begin withdrawing U.S. troops has been delayed again.

As Iraq continues to teeter on the brink of civil war with U.S. forces caught in the middle, those observations from almost three-and- a-half years ago appear remarkably prescient.

Let's take a look now ahead to events coming up next week. Tuesday, President Bush meets Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai at the White House. That's followed up on Wednesday when Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf joins both Mr. Bush and Mr. Karzai to discuss their goals on fighting an Afghanistan and a search for Osama bin Laden. And Thursday, NATO defense ministers begin informal meetings in Slovenia, another chance to talk about more troops, helicopters and other equipment to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan.

I'm John Roberts. Thanks for joining us on THIS WEEK AT WAR.

Straight ahead, a check of the headlines. Then, Christiane Amanpour hosts a special "CNN PRESENTS", "In God's Name: A Global Summit with President Clinton"

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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