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THIS WEEK AT WAR

Encore Presentation; Entire Middle East Region Embroiled in War, But Diplomacy, Hope Continues as Israel Accepts Cease-Fire Bid by Palestinians, Cheney Meets With Saudi Arabia's About Iraq

Aired November 26, 2006 - 13:00   ET

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


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SR. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Why is violence in Iraq spiking higher? Would the United States bring back the draft and what are the war photos that we remember? THIS WEEK AT WAR begins in one minute, but first a check of what's making headlines right now.
(NEWS BREAK)

ROBERTS: The deadliest coordinated attack on Iraqis since the war began. Can anything prevent the slide into all out civil war? Political assassination in Beirut reminds us how fragile and interconnected that troubled region has become. And is there anything the Bush administration can do to calm things down? Or are they just seen as part of the problem?

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, police in Baghdad find 60 bullet-riddled bodies. Government officials are targeted. Even a television comedian is killed.

Tuesday assassination in Lebanon. Industry minister Pierre Gemayel, a popular anti-Syrian politician shot to death. Wednesday Marine Commandant General James Conway says Iraq and Afghanistan are placing an unacceptable burden on the few, the proud and the brave.

Thursday, coordinated car bombs in the space of 30 minutes kill more than 200 people and injure hundreds more in Baghdad's Shiite stronghold of Sadr City. Friday, mortar attacks on Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad appear to be revenge for the Thursday killings.

Among our elite THIS WEEK AT WAR troops Michael Ware joins us in Baghdad, Brent Sadler in Beirut, a country in uproar and Suzanne Malveaux at the White House. THIS WEEK AT WAR.

Another week of deadly violence takes Iraq another step closer to the break, even as Iraq's neighbors show new interest in bringing peace to the war-torn nation. Joining me now correspondent Michael Ware in our Baghdad bureau. Here in Washington, CNN military analyst Brigadier General James "Spider" Marks, U.S. Army retired and in Los Angeles, former "Washington Post" Baghdad bureau chief Rajiv Chandrasekaran. He's also the author of "Imperial Life in the Emerald City, Inside Iraq's Green Zone." Michael Ware, start us off here. This coordinated series of attacks in Sadr City on Thursday, more than 200 people killed.. Any idea what's behind this dramatic escalation in the violence there and is there any way to keep a lid on the reprisal violence that's probably certain to follow?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is part of a broader offensive. This is a Sunni strike deep into the heart of this Shia population. Simultaneous with a coordinated raid on the ministry of health, again controlled by the same Shia militia and political faction whose people live in Sadr City and were the targets of these bombings. We then saw in the day that followed retaliatory attacks, entire neighborhoods being mortared by the Shia. We then have reports of Sunni mosques being burned and hit with rocket-propelled grenades. Wild unconfirmed reports of Sunnis being brought from their house, doused in flammable liquids and set alight. So it's very difficult to stop and this is not necessarily an escalation. This is just another punctuation in a long chapter of what really is civil war John.

ROBERTS: Quite an exclamation point though, Michael. You had a terrific report on Wednesday. We sent our cameras to the Baghdad morgue to take a look at how the sectarian violence is affecting rank and fire Iraqis. Take a look at how Michael reported that story on Wednesday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WARE (voice-over): Viewing bodies is impossible in the crush, so a large video screen has been installed with photographs of the dead scrolling slowly past. With many of the images still bloodied, barely recognizable, we agreed not to show the screen. Inside, women hold worn photographs, as men peer at the screen, a wail rises up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Spider Marks, when you see images like that, it really drives home what this means for Iraqis and sometimes the statistics become very impersonal for us when you hear the numbers. It doesn't really drive it home. Why is the U.S. military so powerless to be able to stop this sectarian violence?

BRIG. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I don't know that they're completely powerless, John.

ROBERTS: Spider, 3700 Iraqis killed last month. That seems powerless.

MARKS: I think what it is, it's a combination of U.S. and Iraqi forces have got to be able to increase that type of cooperation. So I mean, you can't just put this at the -- the blame is not entirely the United States'. The Iraqis clearly as we've discussed many times have got to step it up and take responsibility as has been described many times. And Michael describes it very, very well. This is a description of the loss of the center in the Iraq population, especially in Baghdad. And what you have is the devolution, if you will, of neighborhood fights, as you said families upon families. You lose the center, it is now a matter of protection and to exact some degree of protection on your family and some vengeance against those that mean you harm. What has to happen is you've got to be able to develop sources, people who are willing to talk, who are willing to come forward and take great risk to get ahead of what is the inevitable ensuing violence that's going to occur. So it's a combination, John.

ROBERTS: I know the U.S. military is trying to do that. But it seems so difficult to be able to get ahead of the game there. Rajiv Chandrasekaran, let's take a look at these latest statistics from the United Nations. I mentioned 3700 dead during the month of October. When you look at it, the month of September and October, the numbers get even worse. In July and August there was 6,599 deaths of Iraqis. September and October, that number rises to 7,054. We don't know what to call this anymore. Is it civil war? Is it ethnic cleansing? Is it tilting, as some people have suggested, toward this word genocide?

RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think it in some ways it's a combination of all three. I think we in this country risk getting drawn into sort of a debate over semantics that really takes the eye off of the most important challenge, which is trying to fix our failed policy there. I think what we saw on Thanksgiving Day just once again highlights the real -- very real problems with the Bush administration's current strategy in dealing with Iraq. Because it is based on having multi-ethnic, multi-religious security forces maintaining order. That was a fine strategy when we were just dealing with the Sunni-led insurgency. Now that you're dealing with what some will call civil war, others will call genocide, ethnic cleansing, you name it. You're in a situation where you've got rival groups in the country after each other and the U.S. security strategy just is not cut out to fit that kind of civil strife.

ROBERTS: Michael Ware, President Bush is trying to get a handle on this, trying to gain the upper hand. He's got this meeting set up with al Maliki. They announced that earlier in the week. By the end of the week, Muqtada al Sadr had been saying if you had that meeting, I'm pulling out of the government. What are the pressures that Maliki faces as he tries to forge an independent way forward here?

WARE: What is this government? It's essentially a composition of varying militia forces and their political factions. So Maliki's government as such in many ways doesn't exist. And what there is of it relies on two divergent sources of power in fact, opposing sources. One is the U.S. administration that in terms of security and other measures is propping him up. But politically, locally, he's drawing his constituency and his place as prime minister from the Mahdi army political faction, that loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al Sadr. So his sponsors are diametrically opposed. And somehow he needs to try and keep them both happy, which is an impossible task and only threatens to see things implode.

ROBERTS: When you try to keep everybody happy, very often nobody's happy. Michael Ware in Baghdad, Rajiv Chandrasekaran in Los Angeles, "Spider" Marks here in Washington. Thanks.

We're going to keep turning back to Iraq over the course of the hour, including the debate over whether a draft is needed in the United States to keep up with pressures on the U.S. military.

Coming up, new upheaval elsewhere in the region. Political assassination in Lebanon. But first, a THIS WEEK AT WAR remembrance. A final good-bye to a fallen Marine, Lance Corporal Ryan McCaughn was laid to rest Monday in Manchester, New Hampshire. A member of the first battalion, second Marine expeditionary force, McCaughn had been in Iraq for only two months when he was killed by a roadside bomb on November 7th. At a funeral mass, family and friends said that McCaughn always wanted to serve.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LISA MORIARITY, FORMER CLASSMATE: My last memory of him is him at graduation, the principal asked if everyone would stand up and if you were going into the service and he stood up. And I turned around and looked at him and he's the bravest one out of all of us.

JACOB WORCHEL, FRIEND: That's what he wanted to do, you know? So we're all proud of him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Lance corporal Ryan McCaughn, was 19 years old.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For the sake of peace, the free world must reject those who undermine young democracies and murder in the name of their hateful ideology.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: That's President Bush in Hawaii on Tuesday condemning the assassination of Lebanese politician Pierre Gemayel. Will the killing of this anti-Syrian figure tip that part of the world back to chaos? Helping us to sort it out our Beirut bureau chief Brent Sadler and here in Washington, Salameh Nematt. He's the Washington bureau chief with "al-Hayat", an international Arab daily. He's also with LBC, the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation. Let's start off with a quick look at how Brent Sadler reported on the assassination and its aftermath on Wednesday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Politicians from all sides scrambled to contain the fallout from this assassination, urging calm amid fierce of an outbreak of brutal violence between Lebanon's sharply divided religious communities that sparked a civil war here during the 1970s and '80s.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Brent Sadler, there may not be any hard evidence, but plenty of people believe that Syria or agents operating on Syria's behalf are behind this assassination. What do they stand to gain from it?

SADLER: This was a ruthless Mafia-style hit against the young minister, silenced weapons, rammed vehicles. And it is only Syria, say anti-Syrian leaders here, that would have the kind of intelligence network from 30 years of being in Lebanon before the withdrawal only a couple years ago, would have the ability, the network to pull this sort of killing off. What do they gain by this? It's alleged that Syria's prime objective supported by Iran would be to try to torpedo, to sabotage an international court under U.N. auspices to try suspects in a series of six killings over the last two years. Some of those suspects are Syrians or linked to Syria.

ROBERTS: Salameh Nematt, the Lebanese government appears to be on the verge of collapse yet again. If it does go down, what are the implications of that, not only in Lebanon but for the broader region including Iraq?

SALAMEH NEMATT, "AL-HAYAT": I think if we look at the big picture, we've got an alliance with Iran, Syria, with some terrorist organization, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories. They're on one side and the American, the moderate Arab states and the democratic states on the other, including the democratically elected government in Lebanon. So I think if the government in Lebanon failed and we see that in Iraq that is, the government teetering on the brink of collapse, then the message will be that democracy doesn't work in the region. The forces opposed to it are much more overwhelming than the forces trying to advance on that front. And, of course, this is going to be a free-for-all. It is going to be the terrorists and the fundamentalists and the extremists setting the agenda for the countries in the region, the regimes ruling there, as well as the people.

ROBERTS: Not a good outlook. There was a tremendous outpouring of support for the idea of democracy during Gemayel's funeral on Thursday. Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese packed the Martyrs Square as they said good-bye to their industry minister. It was also a show of defiance against Syrian forces and against Hezbollah. Brent Sadler, Hezbollah was supposed to have a demonstration that same day. They decided not to come out on the streets, but certainly Hezbollah does have grander designs on the Lebanese government, does it not?

SADLER: Yes, it does. Before this assassination, Hezbollah was threatening to try to bring down the western-backed government of Fouad Siniora by street protests, by launching a campaign of disobedience, if you like, to paralyze the affairs of state. This assassination turned those plans on their head. But Hezbollah is still threatening to go ahead with those demonstrations. Now, if that were to happen in this volatile situation, there are many people who fear that this will lead to violence on the volatile street. Passions are running high.

People here, John, are talking about the possibility of a return to a sectarian-fueled civil war, the like of which I have not heard, have been living here for the last 10 years. This has reached a new dimension, this power struggle between Iran and Syria backing Hezbollah and the United States and other western nations backing the Siniora government. This is really coming to a very dangerous showdown that many, many people here could fear that it will lead to the kind of destruction that Lebanon had back in the '70s and '80s and again trying to restore stability in this country which has become a strategic interest to U.S. policy in the Middle East for this government, embattled government to survive.

ROBERTS: Salameh Nematt, for a country that's suffered so horribly during the war with Israel in the summer, a country still recovering from a civil war, what does all of that portend for the future?

NEMATT: I think it's going to further weaken the Lebanese state and its ability to actually act on the region. It is a very, very important confrontation taking place now in Lebanon. It mirrors something happening in Iraq. And I think it is no coincidence that whenever we have a democratically elected government, we have a failed state simply because the forces trying to undermine the democracy project, whether in Lebanon, whether in Palestine or in Iraq, are being successful because they use this destructive means of basically terror.

ROBERTS: Not a bright outlook when fledgling democracies are becoming failed states. Salameh Nematt, thanks very much as well, Brent Sadler, our bureau chief in Beirut, appreciate it.

A simmering Middle East and the demands on manpower from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have rekindled the debate over whether the U.S. needs a military draft. We'll tackle that controversy straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Home for Thanksgiving. Around 1,000 soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division landed at Kentucky's Campbell Army air field this week after a year in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thanksgiving was particularly special for First Lieutenant Rosanna Vazquez Brown and her husband Master Sergeant Mark Brown.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

1ST LT. ROSANNA VASQUEZ BROWN, U.S. ARMY: The first time that we're all going to be together since before 9/11. One of the toughest things was when we got our deployment orders and we would both knew that both of us were going to deploy and we were going to have to leave her behind. They tend to call soldiers the heroes, but really I think it's the kids who make the sacrifices.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Their six-year-old daughter Elisa lived with friends for 10 months while her parents were deployed.

Volunteers all of them. And they're coming home as a new debate erupts over whether to bring back the military draft. Congressman Charles Rangel, Democrat of New York, says the draft makes military sense and it's a fairer way of carrying the burden of Iraq. Joining me now from Los Angeles is an expert on this whole topic, Professor Charles Moskos' at Northwestern University. And in Phoenix, Arizona, CNN military analyst Major General Don Shepperd, U.S. Air Force retired. Charles Moskos, why do you believe the United States needs a draft? CHARLES MOSKOS, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY: We need a draft for both practical and moral reasons. Without a draft, what we're going to see happening in terms of recruitment is offering bigger bonuses for soldiers to join. We'll be dropping standards. We'll be hiring more and more civilian contractors at historically high costs. And I think down the road, you're going to see also hiring more and more foreigners. I think that's going to be the next step without conscription. I speak, by the way, as a former draftee. And a 21st century draft should have at least three tiers: Military draft like the old days, homeland security needs which are not being met and third civilian options as well.

ROBERTS: And on the moral point that you make here, here's how Charlie Rangel put it on Monday when talking about the draft.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D) NEW YORK: And where they are recruiting is in the poorest communities and the communities of highest unemployment. I'm saying this, if my great country is being threatened by anybody and has to be defended, let everyone make some sacrifice. That's it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Well General Shepperd, what about that? Is the burden being fairly shared here? By having an all voluntary military force, are you disproportionately drawing from poorer, lower economic income communities than you would be had you had a draft as you did during the Vietnam War?

MAJOR GEN. DONALD SHEPPERD, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET): Clearly, the war is being shared more by the lower classes than if you had a draft, a fair draft, such as Dr. Moskos is proposing. What Dr. Moskos is proposing in my opinion is a concept of national service that I would buy into. But as Congressman Rangel is proposing, just a military draft. Number one, it's not needed right now in the numbers that we're facing. It is not wanted by the military. I served in a war and in a military where people didn't want to be there and the nation didn't support the war and it was a disaster John.

ROBERTS: General Shepperd, what about this notion though that if the country is at risk, if the country is being threatened, then everyone needs to play a role in addressing that risk?

SHEPPERD: Absolutely it does and again, back to the concept of national service where you have options, one of them being the military which means it's a quasi-volunteer military. I really buy into that. But right now, the nation does not feel threatened. War is not about social engineering. War is about victory. In World War II where we had 16 million people, you needed every man available in the United States, either in civilian industry or in the military to win. Right now for the struggle we're in, we don't. It depends on how long we're at it and how wide it gets John.

ROBERTS: President Bush certainly has high praise for the all- volunteer force. Here is how he put it when talking with American troops in Hawaii on Tuesday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: I appreciate the fact that you have volunteered to wear our uniform in these troubled times, that you have volunteered knowing the dangers into which you might be sent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Professor Moskos, what about this idea that somebody who has volunteered to take on the military as a career will perform better in battle than someone who has been conscripted into service, forced to fight?

MOSKOS: Well, that's a lot of baloney. Studies have shown that in World War II, the war in Korea, the war in Vietnam, draftees had a lower AWOL and desertion rate than did volunteers. It is also important to note that in World War II starting in late 1943, you could no longer volunteer for the military. Why? Because too many of the greatest generation were trying to get into the Army Air Corps and the Navy to stay out of ground combat arms. That is starting in early 1944, only draftees were brought into the American military, even in World War II.

ROBERTS: How would you make this work? How would it look in today's society?

MOSKOS: I would try to start the military draft at the top of the social ladder. I give it an example. My Princeton class of 1956, being a member of the depression era babies, we had a higher proportion of our cohorts serving during the Vietnam War. Out of my class of 715 males at Princeton, well over 400 served. This past June at Princeton, 1100 class graduates male and female. Only nine served. It's a scandal when only a hand -- Congress votes to send kids to war and only a handful of Congress have children in the military.

ROBERTS: Well, so far, no indication that proposals to bring back the draft are going to go anywhere. It's been defeated in Congress twice, won't be brought up again in the next session. But going forward, who can really tell? Charles Moskos in Los Angeles, General Shepperd in Phoenix, thanks very much.

Getting enough boots on the ground has been a struggle for NATO forces in Afghanistan. That's our next stop in THIS WEEK AT WAR.

But first, a look at those who fell.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We have got to stay committed for as long as it takes, for our own security, not just for the sake of the Afghan people. ROBERTS: That's British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Kabul on Monday.

Is the world getting the job done in Afghanistan? Are NATO forces managing to choke off the new strength of the Taliban? CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr is in Afghanistan. She joins us over the telephone now from Bagram, north of Kabul.

And contributing writer for "The New York Times Magazine," Elizabeth Rubin, recently had two articles about her travels in Afghanistan. She joins us now from New York.

Barbara Starr, winter beginning it's onset there, in Afghanistan, what's the prediction for the situation there in the next few months? A little bit more temperate than it has been in the past few?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT, THIS WEEK AT WAR: Well, John, that's what they do think. With the cold weather typically the number of attacks by the Taliban do decline. They sort of go to ground for the winter months.

But make no mistake, the fighting still remains relatively heavy along that eastern border with Pakistan and as well in the south. And military commanders here tell us that one of the things they're continuing to see are these suicide bomb attacks. They expect this year to wind up with more than 100 suicide bomb attacks.

That is a tactic they haven't seen that in this country until recent years. In the last three months alone, they busted up six cells of suicide bombers here in Afghanistan.

ROBERTS: Relatively odd, too, given the amount of violence, death and destruction there has been over the decades in Afghanistan that suicide bombs are something relatively new.

Elizabeth Rubin, what do you expect when the snows recede, when the weather starts to get better in a few months' time?

ELIZABETH RUBIN, CONTRIBUTOR, "THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE": What the commanders on the ground and what the Taliban themselves are saying is you can expect more fighting, even more serious fighting than you saw this past spring and this summer. It actually gives the Taliban time to regroup, to assess their losses, to get more funds, and more weapons; and to also start recruiting people.

This is actually the time when I think the government has to step in and try to win over the people, so that these months will not be further recruiting time for the Taliban.

ROBERTS: Barbara Starr, Afghanistan is going to be topic a at next week's NATO summit. Obviously, there are concerns as to whether or not NATO forces are getting the job done there in Afghanistan, whether they're as efficient as the U.S. forces who went before them?

STARR: Well, we're traveling with General John Abizaid, the head of the U.S. Central Command. And he tells us that he is more than satisfied with the performance of NATO forces.

But the NATO troops, clearly, when they first got here, earlier this year, were a little surprised, you could say, by the strength of the Taliban fighters. Some of the country's a bit taken aback by the level of violence and the attacks that they have seen.

Now the top NATO commander here in Afghanistan wants more flexibility to move his troops around so NATO can respond faster when these Taliban attacks emerge. So NATO's still finding its feet, trying to get on that footing to go after the Taliban whenever they do pop up.

ROBERTS: A big part of the equation, as well, is Pakistan and its commitment to fighting terror in cross-border incursions. On Friday, General Abizaid seemed to have praise for Pakistan in those efforts. Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, CMDR., U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: The Pakistanis have done a great deal, especially in the areas away from the mountains, to get after Al Qaeda, to capture their operatives, and make it difficult for them to conduct operations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: However, General Abizaid went on to say that there are still safe havens in Pakistan that require some work.

Elizabeth Rubin, you really focused on this, in your recent articles in "The New York Times Magazine". How big a role is Pakistan playing in these cross-border attacks by the Taliban? And are they really as good partners in the war on terror, on that particular front, as General Abizaid suggests they are?

RUBIN: Definitely not. I don't think they even want to go after the Taliban. Many commanders will tell you that they have not arrested a single major Taliban leader in Pakistan. All of the leaders do live there. They go back and forth. All the Taliban that I met were in Pakistan. They go to Afghanistan for a few weeks, go back and rest in Pakistan. The Pakistanis see the Taliban as a possible asset for them to use in Afghanistan against Indian influence in Afghanistan.

ROBERTS: Barbara Starr in Bagram, in Afghanistan, Elizabeth Rubin in New York, thanks very much.

Coming up, how events in Afghanistan and Iraq echoed through the political debate here in Washington. Our "War of Words" segment.

But, first, what CNN photojournalist Bethany Swain saw recently in Afghanistan and how playing along in a war zone can sometimes make friends.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. MELISSA STEVENS, U.S. AIR FORCE: Will you lead us over there? All right.

Soccer Friday is something that a couple of our soldiers came together and decided they really wanted to help with the local community. The kids love it. They keep asking us, is this soccer Friday? Can we come play? Can we come play?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They love soccer. And we love to play with them.

STEVENS: Just a great way for the kids to kind of interact with the soldiers. See that we are all here helping you, we're all having a good time trying to make this place, to make Jalalabad and Afghanistan a whole safer, happier place for you guys.

PVT. TYLER RINALDI, U.S. ARMY: The impact is great. Not only does it improve our morale as soldiers here, but it also has a great effect on the kids, like their friends, basically. Just like broken English speaking friends.

STEVENS: There are places, I'm sure, that aren't as secure as this place, but we luckily have their help. They actually help us. Something looks a little out of place, they'll come to us and they'll tell us.

RINALDI: Almost everybody out there in that village knows my name.

Cut your finger, Ramo? We're going to have to get you some first aid for that.

STEVENS: They keep us safe and we keep them safe. It's a very mutual relationship.

RINALDI: We have a little kid named Tupac, he seems to be everybody's favorite.

STEVENS: There are a lot of airmen that are doing a lot -- a lot tougher assignments.

I guess I kind of lucked out with getting to play with these guys every Friday. I feel fortunate to have been selected to come here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's not the first time, by the way, where people have showed up and expressed their opinion about my policies. And that's what happens when you make hard decisions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: President Bush in Indonesia on Monday saying that he has come to expect protests against those, quote, "hard decisions."

What is the president's position at home, and in the world, as he presides over a debate over where to go in Iraq? Helping us in this week's "War of Words" segment, White House Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux and our Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider.

As the president was making his way back from the APEC summit in Vietnam, he was greeted by a new CNN poll showing that a majority of Americans think the Iraq war has morphed into the Vietnam war. Here's what they said: Has the war in Iraq turned into a situation like the Vietnam war? Yes, 58 percent, no, 37 percent.

What's more, the president still experiencing great opposition on the war, 63 percent of Americans asked said they opposed the war. Only 33 percent favor it. Suzanne Malveaux, just as those numbers come out, the White House is revving up a new diplomatic offensive. What's on the horizon with that?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John, you're absolutely right. It is a very aggressive offensive. What you're seeing is Vice President Cheney in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia with King Abdullah. Also the president, of course, meeting with Nuri Al-Maliki, in Jordan on Wednesday, and Thursday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also in the region as well. All three of them very much engaged in what is happening here.

Publicly they're trying to build up and bolster Maliki's government saying, yes, they're still confident in his abilities. But privately, John, there's a lot of frustration, a lot of doubt whether or not he has the political weight, and the will to turn things around.

ROBERTS: What about that, Bill Schneider? Does he have the political weight and the will to turn things around? And I've lost count of how many diplomatic offensives they've had in this war in Iraq. Why would this one be any different?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, because the president has a new mandate, which is a mandate for change. The American people just voted no confidence in this president, his administration, its war policy, Donald Rumsfeld is out.

So clearly he's got to communicate to Maliki this has to change. We're just not going to be there with the same mandate we had before. This has to change. The policy has to be different. Clearly one of the directions they're going to go is to enlist more regional aid in trying to stabilize Iraq.

ROBERTS: You say he has a mandate for change based on the outcome of the election, but when you look at those poll numbers, he doesn't seem to have a lot of support behind him for going in there and being the one to fix Iraq. It looks like the American people want somebody else to change it.

SCHNEIDER: There's only one president. He's still the president. What Americans were saying is get Congress involved to go in a new direction. We want to change course. And we want to begin getting out. Americans didn't say we just want to walk out of Iraq. All our polls show that. But they want to begin getting out. And to tell the Maliki government, we ain't going to be there forever. And you stand on notice that you've got to get your act together.

ROBERTS: Suzanne Malveaux, the "War of Words" is typically between Republicans and Democrats over Iraq. But now it seems increasingly between the White House and players like Muqtada Al Sadr, Iran, and now Syria, since it has re-established diplomatic ties with Iraq.

Is the president concerned that he's being pushed aside by these players both inside Iraq and in the surrounding region?

MALVEAUX: Well, here's what they're doing. Essentially, to try to downgrade the influence of Sadr and others, they're trying to bolster al Maliki. So what you see is a two-pronged strategy here, from outside in. They're working with Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Turkey, to try to give him more power. And noticeably absent, of course, Iran and Syria.

They're also working from inside out. You are going to see those studies come out the next couple of weeks, the bipartisan commission, inside the White House from the Pentagon, trying to figure out a strategy to help Maliki within his own government train those Iraqi forces and bolster his security.

ROBERTS: Bill Schneider, we've also got a new incoming secretary of Defense. The Gates hearings open up just a couple weeks from now. What do you expect? Will he get a pretty easy ride from the Democrats? Will this turn into a debate about his qualifications or about the direction of the war?

SCHNEIDER: I'll take answer B, it will be about the direction of the war. The Democrats are clearly going to use this as a platform to express all of their frustration and anger over the Rumsfeld policy. They'll are going to criticize what went wrong. They are going to call for new direction.

They're going to make it clear to Mr. Gates that he was nominated and will be confirmed because people want a new direction. I don't think they'll have a lot of questions about his qualifications. There's so much relief among Democrats that Rumsfeld is gone, I think his confirmation is very likely. But they won't pass up this platform.

ROBERTS: Quickly, to you Suzanne Malveaux, let's take a quick look at a couple of other poll numbers. When asked whether or not the U.S. can win the war in Iraq, 54 percent of Americans said yes, they believe the U.S. can win. But will the U.S. win, 56 percent said, no.

President Bush was famous for recently saying, before the election, that people will stick with you as long as they believe you have a plan to win. It would appear they don't believe he has a plan to win. Does that demand a radical change in direction not just tinkering around the edges? MALVEAUX: Well, you would certainly think that that indicates a radical change in direction. Whether or not we'll see that remains to be determined, of course.

But you may see more of a radical change in language, in rhetoric. We do expect that the Iraq study group will talk about the need for an international conference bringing folks together. We see already see the Bush administration reaching out to some of Iraq's neighbors, which is significant, by the way.

But you might hear a little bit of a change in the language so much. We're not really sure if you're going to hear something that is dramatically different in policy.

ROBERTS: All right. Well, certainly we're going to be hearing a lot about it as the political side of this revs up in the next couple of weeks. Suzanne Malveaux at the White House, Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

For many of us, our sense of war is formed by key images, whether from D-Day or Vietnam or from Abu Ghraib. Coming up, those powerful pictures, all ahead on THIS WEEK AT WAR.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: What are the images of war that stick in our minds? Help us boil down these big sprawling life and death events? A few frames serve as historical markers, whether its the D-Day invasion, the flag raising at Iwo Jima, which was the focus of the new Clint Eastwood film, or mistreatment at the Abu Ghraib prison. CNN Entertainment Correspondent Sibila Vargas files this report on war photography.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIBILA VARGAS, CNN ENTERTAINMANT CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A soldier facing death on Omaha Beach.

TIM WRIDE, L.A. COUNTY MUSEUM OF ART: It's a chilling evocation of fear.

VARGAS: The silent scream of a napalmed girl.

NICK UT, PHOTOGRAPHER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: I saw the girl running. And she opened her mouth. And she, help me! Help me! Too hot! Too hot!

VARGAS: Images burned into the American mind. From the Civil War on, photographers have documented the country's military conflicts, but of all the images taken, just a handful have come to define each war. From World War II, the D-Day photos of Robert Capa, who risked his life along with the troops.

WILLIS HARTSHORN, DIRECTOR, INT'L. CENTER OF PHOTOGRAPHY: He positioned himself next to one of the metal barricades that the Germans had put into the water. VARGAS: The blur in his pictures was caused a lab technician who inadvertently destroyed most of Capa's D-Day work.

HARTSHORN: Of all the film he shot, only 11 frames actually survive. They've become the archetypical pictures of D-Day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, you're going to want to see this.

VARGAS: The movie "Flags Of Our Fathers" tells the story of another unforgettable image from World War II, the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People on the street corners, they looked at this picture and they took hope.

WRIDE: That photograph became a linchpin around which ideas of the war, ideas of who we were in the world, kind of coalesced.

VARGAS: War photographer has always tested the idea of what is appropriate to show the public? Before 1943, the government censored all photographs showing dead American soldiers. That changed with the publication in "Life" magazine of George Strack's (ph) photo of the Boona Beach (ph).

WRIDE: The idea of appropriate photograph certainly has shifted. The idea of a standard of decency, you know, has shifted as our social contract shifts.

VARGAS: By the time of Vietnam graphic images were regularly disseminated. Photography arguably played a key role in turning American public opinion against that war.

WRIDE: In 1968, you have the Eddies Adams photograph of the execution of a Vietcong captain. It is emblematic of a spinning out of control.

VARGAS: On June 8, 1972, the AP's Nick Ut photographed a napalm attack on a South Vietnamese village. He would win the Pulitzer Prize for a shot of a badly burned girl running in agony.

(On camera): Did you know then, when you were taking this picture, that you had captured something extraordinary?

UT: Yeah, I knew right away. The picture will be everywhere the next morning.

VARGAS: Photographers in Vietnam, like those in World War II, operated with few restrictions.

UT: You can go everywhere you want. You have freedom to travel with the soldiers, but now they stop everything.

VARGAS: Since Vietnam, the Pentagon has limited photographers' access to the battlefield. Perhaps for that reason, the most memorable images from the first Gulf War were taken from a distance, or in the aftermath of battle. And what are the defining images of the Iraq war? WRIDE: I don't think you can get away from the Abu Ghraib photographs.

VARGAS: Pictures of Iraqi prisoner abuse that triggered a scandal. They were taken by military personnel who never expected them to be made public.

HARTSHORN: That photograph of the man, with the bag on his head, standing on a box with wires coming off his hands, I would predict will be the iconic picture of this decade.

VARGAS: Another key image has become politicized.

WRIDE: Our "Mission Accomplished" picture from Iraq. That should have been the Iwo Jima photograph, if this would have been a hugely supported moment. It now becomes almost draped in a very disconcerting irony.

VARGAS: With war in Iraq and Afghanistan ongoing, the most memorable image most conflicts have yet to be taken. Sibila Vargas, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: The images of war.

Still ahead, a mix of war, religion and diplomacy, what we'll be looking for on our next WEEK AT WAR. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: This weekend marks the official start of the holiday season, but you have to wonder just what kind of season it's going to be. The attack on Shiites in Baghdad on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, that killed more than 200 people, will no doubt touch off an intensified round of reprisal killings, threatening to further draw the country toward a dynamic where sectarian violence could spiral downward to the point of family against family.

That's when, experts say the term "civil war" will be indisputable.

At the same time, Lebanon is on the verge of falling apart again. The tug of war between the United States, Iran and Syria for influence there has some analysts calling it the focal point of a new cold war.

Cold wars, hot wars, there is no shortage of trouble around the world. Peace and goodwill in this season of joy remain elusive.

Checking on what we'll be focusing on for our next "Week At War". Monday, the second trial of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein resumes in Baghdad. Tuesday, President Bush meets NATO allies in Latvia, with Iraq and Afghanistan high on the agenda. Wednesday Mr. Bush meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki in Jordan.

Thanks for joining us on THIS WEEK AT WAR. I'm John Roberts. Straight ahead, a check of the headlines. Then "CNN PRESENTS: We Were Warned," a look at how vulnerable the world's remaining sources of oil are.

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

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