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Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates Face Lawmakers and Their Concerns

Aired January 11, 2007 - 09:00   ET


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, David, on the first point, obviously this is a country that has had years and years of tragedy in which certain people were oppressed by other people. And it's perhaps not surprising that the passions and the anger runs pretty deep. And sometimes it expresses itself in ways that I think are not appropriate, but it expresses itself.
The Saddam trial was extremely unfortunate -- the Saddam hanging was extremely unfortunate.

But, of course, we have to keep in mind, too, the victims, and remember them first. But these passions do get expressed.

But as to whether the Iraqi people want to live in peace, I think that 12-and-a-half million of them went out and voted against terrorist threats because they wanted a single Iraq. I think that you have to look at the way that their leaders are trying to work together. One of the things that's interesting about this national -- this national oil law, to which they are opposed, is that that's a very good sign of overcoming sectarian differences for a larger political purpose.

And it's not as if they are not sacrifice for this unfolded Iraq. Tariq al-Hashemi, who is the leading Sunni leader, has lost two brothers and a sister, not actually to sectarianism, but to insurgents who want him -- do not want Sunnis to be a part of the process. And yet he remains a part of the process.

So I think both at the level of the population and at the level of the political class, you have people who are intent on staying together in Iraq, trying to overcome their differences with these fragile new political institutions and who are being buffeted and challenged in that by violent people on the extremes who are using sectarian purpose to kill increase Iraqis.

And what the Iraqi government has to do is to demonstrate firmly that it is fully committed to the protection of all Iraqis, it is fully admitted to the punishment of any Iraqi who is engaged in killing innocents.

And I think then you will begin to see more room for the kind of national reconciliation process that's been going on, but I think has, frankly, been undermined by the sectarian violence since '06, since February of '06.

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I think a source of frustration for both Iraqi and American forces in the past has been political interference during clearing operations. And there are a number of instances that we've heard about of someone being detained and then a call being placed from some office in the government and all of a sudden that person is released because of political influence.

I think one of the most commitments that the prime minister has made is that in this offensive, the military will have the authority to go after all lawbreakers. There are no exceptions. I'm not going to hang specific targets on specific people, but all lawbreakers are susceptible to being detained in this -- or taken care of -- in this campaign.

QUESTION: But, sir (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Muqtada al-Sadr, because he has a long history here in this conflict of being on the most wanted list of the United States. Then the Iraqis persuaded the U.S. not to arrest him. He leads the Mehdi Army. I mean this is the bad guy that the United States makes clear is helping to bring down this government.

So why not commit to what our posture is with regard to him now?

GATES: What I'll say is all parts of Baghdad are going to be involved in this campaign, including Sadr City.

QUESTION: Can we ask the chairman questions?


JAMES ROSEN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: We have heard repeatedly over the past year -- thank you.

James Rosen, Fox News.

We have heard repeatedly over the past year, and President Bush was fairly explicit about it last night, that Iran has been supplying ordinance that has been killing American troops.

If this is so, why are we not matching Iranian force with force of our own and why are we content to continue issuing statements of displeasure.

What do we think that's going to accomplish? And have you made any recommendations along those lines?

GEN. PETER PACE, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: What we've been doing and will continue to do is to track the networks of individuals, regardless of their nationality, inside of Iraq, that are providing weapons that are designed to kill our troops.

I think it's inconclusive that in the last couple of weeks, two of those raids that we conducted to go after these folks that are providing those kinds of weapons, two of those raids had police stop Iranians.

So it is clear that the Iranians are complicit in providing weapons and it's also clear that we will do all we need to do to defend our troops in Iraq by going after the entire network, regardless of where those people come from.

QUESTION: Are you going after...

QUESTION: Are you going into Iran? Why not go to the source?

PACE: We can take care of the security for our troops by doing the business we need to do inside of Iraq. And there are other methods, especially the kind that Secretary of State Rice has outlined, to deal with government to government relationships with Iran.

But with regard to those who are physically present trying to do harm to our troops, regardless of nationality, we will go after them and defend ourselves.

QUESTION: One last attempt at this. Let me take one last...

COLLINS: Good morning, everybody.

You are now, in THE NEWSROOM.

We've just come from the Eisenhower Executive Building, where we saw Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and you just saw there the chairman of the joint chiefs, Peter Pace, discussing the new plan for Iraq that the president outlaid last night.

Meanwhile, you are in THE NEWSROOM.

I'm Heidi Collins. Good morning to you.

HARRIS: And I'm Tony Harris.

Here's what's on the rundown for you.

For the next three hours, watch events unfold on this Thursday, January 11th.

COLLINS: Hard sell -- President Bush's war advisers pitching more troops for Iraq. The American people and a Democratic-held Congress the target audience.

HARRIS: The cost of the Iraq War purely in dollars. What the president's new strategy might add to the bottom line.

COLLINS: Young people and the war -- CNN alum Judy Woodruff is here to talk about her new documentary, "Generation Next," in THE NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: The president's plan -- today, selling it to the public. That includes a skeptical Congress. President Bush offered few surprises in this prime time address -- more troops and more money for Iraq. That means more grumbling on Capitol Hill this morning.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates face lawmakers and their concerns.

CNN White House correspondent Elaine Quijano joins us now -- and Elaine, we heard the president admit for the first time that there weren't enough forces in place to secure Baghdad previously.

What is he saying will be different with this new plan?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning to you, Tony.

The plan said essentially what is different is that there is a deeper level of commitment expressed by Iraq's prime minister, Nouri Al-Maliki, that he has said he will come through on promises to deliver the required Iraqi forces to get the job done.

Now, the president also said that the rules of engagement have now changed so that those Iraqi forces will be free to go after Shia militias.

President Bush, also, though, acknowledged that sectarian violence certainly has overwhelmed Iraq's political progress and he took responsibility for errors in the conduct of the war.


GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people and it is unacceptable to me. Our troops in Iraq have fought bravely. They have done everything we have asked them to do. Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.


QUIJANO: And President Bush there acknowledging in stark terms the level of violence there on the ground in Iraq -- Tony.

HARRIS: Elaine, 20,000 more U.S. troops to Iraq, mostly to secure Baghdad.

What did the president say will be their mission?

QUIJANO: Well, the president basically said that mistakes were made in the previous operations, that there weren't enough forces, Iraqi and U.S. So, what the president said is that now these troops did have a well defined mission, the U.S. forces, to help the Iraqis, essentially, clear and secure neighborhoods; to help them protect the local population; and to help ensure that those Iraqi forces that are left behind will be able to provide the kind of security that Baghdad needs.

Here is Defense Secretary Robert Gates for just a few minutes ago.


GATES: The term surge has been used in relation to increasing U.S. troop levels, and an increase certainly will take place. But what is really going on and what is going to take place is a surge across all lines of operations -- military and non-military, Iraqi and coalition.


QUIJANO: And Secretary Gates also, just a few moments ago, we should mention, Tony, announcing he would like to see an increase in the size of the overall military over the next few years, specifically some 92,000, when it comes to the Army and Marines. That announcement coming just moments ago from that briefing you're watching -- Tony.

HARRIS: And, Elaine, one other quick question, if I could. You know, there was a great deal of skepticism about the ability of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to deliver on security and political benchmarks.

What did the president say about that?

QUIJANO: Well, President Bush essentially tried to cast this plan as an Iraqi initiative, one that does include, as you noted, political and security benchmarks. And the president said that he made very clear to the Maliki g that America's commitment in Iraq is not open-ended. But, of course, the president did not set any timetable.

As you know, though, there is a good deal of skepticism among the American public. The president today is going to try to build support for his plan. He's heading to Fort Benning later today -- Tony.

HARRIS: Our White House correspondent, Elaine Quijano.

Elaine, thank you.

And, once again, Elaine just mentioned that a few months ago, Secretary Gates offered a number of recommendations. And among them, an additional 92,000 soldiers and Marines to be added to the overall size of the military.

Here is Secretary of Defense Gates a short time ago.


GATES: I am recommending to him a total increase in the two services of 92,000 soldiers and Marines over the next five years 65,000 soldiers and 27,000 Marines. The emphasis will be on increasing combat capability.

This increase will be accomplished in two ways. First, we will propose to make permanent the temporary increase of 30,000 for the Army and 5,000 for the Marine Corps. Then we propose to build up from that base in annual it comes of 7,000 troops a year for the Army and 5,000 for the Marine Corps, until the Marine Corps reaches a level of 202,000 and the Army would be at 547,000.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS: And with respect to the plan, the new plan for Iraq, the secretary said we will know early on whether the Iraqis are doing their part in the effort. And he added, "This is viewed as a temporary surge, but no one knows or has a clear idea of how long this might be."

COLLINS: Now, straight to Iraq, where plans on paper meet with the reality on the ground.

Let's find out how some of the troops already there are reacting now to the president's plan.

We go live to Baghdad and correspondent Arwa Damon -- Arwa, is the plan for a troop surge going over well with the troops already in Iraq?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Heidi, they do know actually very little details about the specific -- about the specificities that the plan is going to be involving. Remember, the speech took place, first of all, at 5:00 in the morning. Most of the troops that we spoke to did not actually see it. And it was a plan that outlined really broadly what the president would like to see accomplished here in Iraq.

These troops have heard these sorts of debates in the past and how it actually translates into action on the ground often ends up being very different.

But, for the most part, it was well received. One of the soldiers we spoke to saying that he appreciated the fact that the president had admitted to some of the mistakes that had been made.

Here what -- here's what some of other soldiers that we spoke to had to say.


STAFF SERGEANT ROY STARBECK, U.S. ARMY: I just a lot more of the responses to the presidential address than I actually saw of the presidential address. And it just -- it's really aggravating just listening to all of these people that have never been over here and half of them really don't even know what's going on over here, just either not supporting the war because they don't like the president or not supporting the war just because they're Democrats or supporting the war just because they're Republicans. And none of them are taking the time or the energy to, you know, find out what's actually going on over here, maybe come over here and take a look at this what's going on.

SERGEANT MICHAEL CASPER, U.S. ARMY: Really, I mean, we haven't really thought about it that much. Just mostly about it's trying out something new, another strategy. I mean if it works, it works. If not, we'll just have to figure something -- something else out.

LT. CHARLES MOFFIT, U.S. ARMY: I think it's a great idea if they utilize them properly. The more people to cover our backs, the more eyes we have on the streets, the less likely insurgents can successfully emplace them. We've seen from past operations, brigade sized operations, that the more troops we have on the ground during that operation, the less likely we are to -- to get hit while we're searching for our -- our targets.


DAMON: The vast majority of the troops that we spoke to do realize that there is not going to be a military solution. They realize that a lot of it lies in the hands of the Iraqi government. And as to whether or not Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki will actually live up to the commitments that he made, especially when it comes to targeting the militias.

But when it comes to dealing with the sectarian violence, the U.S. troops here do feel that their presence does make a difference. They realize that when they are in areas where the sectarian violence is at its highest, that does tend to decrease.

They also realize the many benefits of having increased U.S. troops here on the ground working with the Iraqi security forces and that that will actually help speed up training the Iraqi security forces so that eventually everyone can go home.

But, again, Heidi, this is Iraq and oftentimes plans laid out on paper at senior governmental levels play out very differently on the ground.

COLLINS: CNN's Arwa Damon coming to us live from Baghdad.

Arwa, thank you.

HARRIS: He has given the marching orders. Today, President Bush visiting some of the troops called on to carry out his new Iraq plan during his trip to Fort Benning in Georgia. He's also meeting with families who have lost loved ones in the war.

More now from national correspondent, Bob Franken.


BUSH: Now is the time to act.

FRANKEN (voice-over): They are avid supporters of the president. So David and Deborah Tanish's reaction to his speech last night was no surprise.

DAVID TANISH, SON KILLED IN IRAQ: I support him 100 percent on what he said tonight. I support -- supported him 100 percent when he sent my son to war. And I still support him 100 percent even though my son died over there.

FRANKEN (on camera): And those are his medals, right? You've got them right there.

DEBORAH TANISH: Those are. FRANKEN (voice-over): Their son, 33-year-old Army Sergeant Patrick Danish, was killed by a roadside bomb near the Baghdad Airport almost three years ago.

DAVID TANISH: Not a day goes by I don't think about him.

FRANKEN: But unlike many who share their indescribable pain, they say their loss has strengthened their support for the war and the president, unlike many others who now believe their loved ones lives were lost in a war that's a folly.

DEBORAH TANISH: It was not a folly and we have to have stabilization in that part of the country now. And even if it were a folly, we are there now. We can't keep looking to the past. We've got to look at where we are now.

FRANKEN: Later today, David and Deborah Tanish will come to Fort Benning and drive past the young soldiers who are in training now, most of whom will soon go to combat in Iraq. They'll be among those having a private meeting with President Bush.

DAVID TANISH: I'm going to tell him that I support him 100 percent, that I will back him in any way possible that I can.

DEBORAH TANISH: And I'm going to say, Mr. President, we by no means blame you for the death of our son.


HARRIS: And Bob Franken joins us live from Fort Benning -- and, Bob, man those words from the Tanish family will certainly lift the spirits of the president, to be sure.

They are obviously promising to welcome the president.

I have to ask you what kind of reception can he expect from others in the Fort Benning area?

FRANKEN: Well, the combination of a lot of people who are supporters of the president -- there will be in this meeting, certainly, some parents who take an opposite view and feel like their loved ones were lost because of an unnecessary war.

If you talk to the soldiers, both here and at Fort Stewart in Georgia, where we were a little bit earlier this week, there's a combination of they need to do the job. In addition to that, however, there's a real weariness on people, who feel like the war has really taken such a toll on the military and their families.

HARRIS: And, Bob, some of President Bush's troop surge for Iraq will come from Fort Benning.

How is that news being received?

FRANKEN: Well, of course, not happily. As a matter of fact, we're told that some members of the 3rd Infantry Brigade, will be -- the 3rd Infantry Division, excuse me, will be leaving from Fort Benning. This is a vestige of the ones at Fort Stewart. They'll be leaving from here in April.

And, of course, there are going to be any number of people, as we've just found out, who are going to be informed that what they didn't expect is they, too, are going to be deployed.

HARRIS: CNN's Bob Franken for us.

Bob, appreciate it.

Thank you.

COLLINS: CNN is the place for continuing coverage on the president's plan. It's already facing tough questions from lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled Congress. Next hour, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appears before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and three hours later, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the chairman of the joint chiefs appear before the House Armed Services.

Our crews are in place on Capitol Hill.

Stay with CNN throughout the day for unfolding details.

HARRIS: Know your enemy -- U.S. troops going into Iraq under fire.

Who's behind the attacks?

A check in THE NEWSROOM. Targeting the terrorists responsible for the U.S. Embassy bombings in Africa.

Did the al Qaeda suspicious get away or were they even there in the first place?

Details on U.S. air strikes in Somalia coming up.

COLLINS: Looking for hope in embryonic stem cells.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe I'll walk again. I believe this very firmly.


COLLINS: More federal money for stem cell research. It's on the House agenda today.

And young, naive and oh so lovely -- a Massachusetts moose abandons the wild to hang out with the humans. A beastly tourist attraction in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: On this morning after the big speech, the big push on Capitol Hill. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and defense chief Robert Gates appearing before lawmakers. The reception from the Democratic-controlled Congress less than enthusiastic, some would say.

CNN Congressional correspondent Andrea Koppel joining us now -- so, Andrea, some of these Democrats now happy with the plan.

But just how much real resistance can they offer to its execution?

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Heidi, you know, depending upon what they choose to do, quite a bit. At one end of the spectrum, there's always the power of the purse. They could cut off funds for the war, something that Democrats say they've taken off the table for the existing troops in Iraq. But they could do so for future troops.

Then you could also have what Senate Democrats are considering doing next week, and we expect them to do so, which is to introduce a resolution which would be mostly symbolic, but would criticize President Bush and show Congressional opposition to his decision to move more troops in.

And then you could have what's happening today and tomorrow, and that is, you have Senate hearings and House hearings. And, in fact, one of those who is going to be leading the hearing next -- tomorrow in the Senate Armed Services, Carl Levin, spoke to CNN a short time ago, and he said rather than boosting the number of troops in Iraq, we should be drawing them down.


SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The present course is a disastrous course, getting in deeper is a greater disastrous course. Everybody wants to succeed in Iraq, obviously. The president's course is not the road to success.


KOPPEL: You also have public statements that Congressional leaders can issue. Yesterday, following the president's speech, there was a joint statements from Democrat leaders in the House and the Senate in which they said we will demand answers to the tough questions that have not been asked or answered to date. The American people want a change of course in Iraq. We intend to keep pressuring President Bush to prove it.

Now, Heidi, even though they're united in opposition to President Bush, there is still a lot of debate behind the scenes as to exactly what they should do next.


What about Republicans, Andrea?

What are their reactions to all of this? KOPPEL: Republican leaders are still united behind President Bush. But you are seeing increasingly more of the Republican rank and file who are breaking with their president. Last night, in fact, there were several of them, a couple of moderate Republicans from Maine, Olympia Snow and Susan Collins. And then, of course, Chuck Hagel from Nebraska -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right, Andrea Koppel coming to us this morning live. And I'm sure we will check back with you a little bit later as the day goes on.


HARRIS: World War II -- the greatest generation. The Iraq war and generation next. Coming of age and coming to terms with the losses -- a preview of an upcoming documentary in THE NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Know your enemy -- U.S. troops going into Iraq under fire.

Who is behind the attacks exactly?

We'll take a check on that in THE NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: Just about half past the hour.

What do you say, Heidi, we get a check of weather.

Chad Myers in the CNN Weather Center for us -- chad, good morning.



MYERS: You remember who said "Whoa Nelly!" Keith Jackson, college football.

HARRIS: Yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. I mean yes, I do.

MYERS: I think he was talking about this cold front. Wait until you see this.



COLLINS: And there you have the opening bell this morning, this Thursday morning. Folks from iShares, as you can see. Let's see, yesterday, the Dow Jones closed at 12,442. It rose about 25 points or so, so that's some good news. Big story today, we're going to be talking about it here, Cisco Systems, you remember Tony yesterday, the big announcement. The i-Phone?

HARRIS: Hello?

COLLINS: Steve Jobs. Well, Apple kind of in trouble a little bit. We'll see how it all pans out. But Cisco is suing Apple now for trademark infringement. They say, hey, that was our name, give it back. So we'll be talking about that as well.

For now though, the president's new Iraq plan, it's under scrutiny on Capitol Hill today. Democrats and some Republicans ready to do battle over any troop increase. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that is, next hour. And last hour Rice appeared with the president's national security team to build support for the new strategy. She says its success depends on the Iraqis themselves.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: Among Americans and Iraqis there is no confusion over one basic fact. It is the Iraqis who are responsible for what kind of country Iraq will be. It is they who must decide whether Iraq will be characterized by national unity or sectarian conflict. The president has conveyed to the Iraqi leadership that we will support their good decisions but that Americans' patience is limited.


COLLINS: President Bush laid out his new strategy in a primetime address last night. It calls for sending more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq. Most will be sent to Baghdad to help Iraqi forces clear and secure neighborhoods.

HARRIS: An uphill fight on Capitol Hill, just hours after President Bush outlined his plan in the prime time address. His top lieutenants will face questions from skeptical lawmakers, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will appear in congressional hearings today. One lightning rod, Mr. Bush has called for more than 20,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.


SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D) MAJORITY WHIP: Troops are not enough to end this civil war in Iraq. There are too many lives to put at risk. He didn't address that particular issue. I don't think very many people dispute the fact that this is a civil war, one that finds its roots in 14 centuries of sectarian strife.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: I thought it was an excellent speech, the president acknowledged that the strategy has failed, it's a new strategy, an emphasized strategy because before we would clear and leave and insurgents would return and take over the neighborhoods. Now, this was the counter insurgency strategy of clear, hold and build, so that the economic and political process can move forward.


HARRIS: The additional troops are scheduled to be deployed in phases. The first deployment is expected to arrive in Baghdad within a week. CNN is the place for continuing coverage. On the president's plan, it is already facing tough questions from lawmakers in the democratically controlled Congress. The Democrat controlled Congress. Next hour, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appears before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, three hours later Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff appear before the House Armed Services Committee. Our crews are in place on Capitol Hill. Stay with CNN throughout the day for unfolding details.

COLLINS: Separate agendas, shared enemy. CNN's Michael Holmes looks at the groups targeting U.S. troops in Iraq.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Any combined U.S. Iraqi sweep of Iraq's problem areas will encounter a complex array of groups with often vastly different agendas, but one common enemy, the United States of America. Here is a list of who is likely on Haifa Street, shooting at American and Iraqi soldiers this week. Ba'athists who want to return to power, the Conquerors Army, Sunni extremists, 20th Revolution Brigades, Ansar Al Sunna, the Islamic Army in Iraq, the Jihadi Groups of Iraq, Al Rashideen Army and of course al Qaeda. It's a dizzying list of enemies and that's just on Haifa Street. Go elsewhere, say Sadr City and you have the Mehdi Army led by the firebrand cleric Muqtada al Sadr. The Americans took them on in 2004 with some success. In 2007, they would face a very different Mehdi Army, one whose fighters the U.S. says have trained in Iran and in Lebanon with Hezbollah. They are better armed, better prepared for a fight.

If the Mehdi Army represents the greatest homegrown threat, al Qaeda is the war's most dangerous import. Its money, training and influence are unmatched. The irony for America being that the group didn't exist in Iraq before the invasion and was hated by Saddam Hussein. Many ordinary Sunni civilians and leaders who once entertained talks with the government now distrusted so much, especially in the wake of Saddam's disorganized execution, that they are turning to al Qaeda for security and leadership and doing so in numbers. Here, just last month, al Qaeda linked fighters show up as Sunnis mourn their dead, offering vengeance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Listen you infidels, we tell you the blood of the martyrs will not go wasted and we with God's help are coming.

HOLMES (on camera): As Hezbollah has done in Lebanon, al Qaeda in Iraq is providing social services on the ground in many places, fuel, generators, medical assistance, even house repairs, services the government can't provide.

(voice-over): At street level, there are home-grown neighborhood groups, vigilantes, if you will, protecting their streets from Shia sand Sunni death squads, trusting no one except their own. Different groups, different aims, nuances that vary literally from suburb to suburb, province to province, nuances some American officers admit they still don't understand. GEN. GEORGE CASEY, U.S. ARMY: It's a much more complex environment and it's one that will be resolved primarily by Iraqis but with our full support.

HOLMES: And an increase in U.S. troops, say observers could lead to an increase in insurgent violence.

ZAKI CHEHAB, AUTHOR: It's already been worries and fears that any American action or American role would be targeting such militias. The same thing for Sunni insurgency. We got a call last night from the leader of al Qaeda and Iraq for all his members to be ready to attack any steps or actions taken by both the American forces and the Iraqi government.

HOLMES: It is literally, a bloody mess, where there are no easy choices, more Americans may come but they will find a better prepared, better armed and more determined enemy. Michael Holmes, CNN, Baghdad.


HARRIS: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid now on the Senate floor.

SEN. HARRY REID, (D) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: -- this conflict I think he's on the verge of making, Mr. President, another mistake. As I made clear in a letter to the president last Friday, along with the Speaker of the House Pelosi, I oppose his new plan because it sends the wrong signal to the Iraqis, to the Americans and to the rest of the world. President Bush is the commander in chief and his proposal deserves serious consideration by this body and we will give it serious consideration. In days ahead, we'll give his proposal in the overall situation in Iraq a thorough review. I received a call late last night from one democratic senator who has a proposal, early this morning from another democratic senator who has some ideas. We heard yesterday from Senator Coleman, he opposes a surge. Senator Brownback is in Iraq and issued a press release, saying that he opposed the surge. But we're going to have hearings, those hearings are starting today, on the war that's raging in Iraq.

Tomorrow, there will be further hearings by the Armed Services Committee. In those hearings experts will be asked about his proposal, and when the process is complete, we'll have a vote in the Senate. As to when that will be under the Senate schedule, sometimes it's difficult to determine that but we will have one. I'm not prejudiced on the outcome of the vote on the president's plan but I say this, putting more U.S. combat forces in the middle of a civil war is a mistake.

In November, voters all across the country spoke loudly for change in Iraq. That was the issue. In overwhelming numbers they delivered their vote of no confidence on the president's open ended commitment and demanded we begin to bring this war to a close. Last December, the Baker Hamilton Commission, a respected panel of foreign policy experts who studied the law patriots all echoed the voters call for change. The commission which included both Democrats and Republicans determined the time has come to transition our forces out of Iraq while launching a diplomatic and regional strategy to try to hold together this destabilized region. But last night, the president in choosing escalation, ignored the will of the people, the advice of the Baker Hamilton Commission and the significant number of top generals, two of whom are commanders in the field. In choosing to escalate the war, the president virtually stands alone.

HARRIS: There you have it, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promising serious consideration of the president's proposals, promising Senate hearings today and again tomorrow. Harry Reid saying that putting more combat troops into a civil war is a mistake. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, along with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Peter Pace will be testifying shortly, 10:00 a.m. eastern time before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. We will bring you that discussion in the NEWSROOM and again another hearing this afternoon featuring Defense Secretary Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Peter Pace.

COLLINS: What about young people and the war? CNN alum Judy Woodruff is here to talk about her new documentary, it's called "Generation Next." We'll tell you about it coming up on CNN. You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


COLLINS: World War II, Korea, Vietnam, it seems every American generation has their war. The Iraq conflict falls on the shoulders of "generation next," those people between the ages of 16 and 25. A new PBS documentary looks at them and the changing world around them. You know our first guest, long time CNN anchor Judy Woodruff. Judy, great to see you.

JUDY WOODRUFF, EDITOR, PBS'S "GENERATION NEXT": Hi Heidi, thank you for having me.

COLLINS: You bet, you are now the executive editor and host for "Generation Next, Speak Up, Be Heard.". She is also a special correspondent for "The Newshour with Jim Lehrer" of course. And profiled in the documentary our second guest Adora Mora, she's a freshman at Harvard University. Adora thanks for being with us. Judy, I want to start with you, just simply because of course Iraq is on the top of people's minds today, maybe more so than usual just because of the president's speech last night. Let's go ahead and start there with a clip from your special that pertains to the topic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WOODRUFF (voice-over): The war in Iraq was a key issue for young voters in the 2006 mid-term election. Nearly two-thirds said it was very important or extremely important in deciding their vote. Here are a few comments from our interactive kiosk.

UNIDENTIFIFED MALE: I think the United States made a poor decision of using military force in Iraq. We have lost more than a thousand troops already. How many more do we need to lose.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it's sad to see that we have so many young children who are my age, 21 to 22, who are over there fighting a war in Iraq who are being killed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a brother actually in the army and he's set to go next year and I got to be honest with you, I'm scared to hell about it. You know people die there everyday and it's real.


COLLINS: Judy, curious to know, where does the Iraq war rank among these kids' concerns?

WOODRUFF: It is one of their major concerns Heidi. They did turn out in surprisingly high numbers both in 2004 and the 2006 elections, Iraq along with education, other issues, high on their agenda. And most of them, even more of them than the older generation don't like the war and believe U.S. troops should come home. But at the same time, I just want to say, we talked to young men and women in the military. We talked to a young man in Colorado who has done two tours in Iraq. He believes passionately that the United States is doing the right thing. So it is very much a complex picture when you look at the entire 42 million of them.

COLLINS: Yeah, its complex, I mean the kids are complex. But all of the people that we heard the sound from there seem to be anti- war. So I was curious to know if there was a percentage of those who are against it, versus those who are for.

WOODRUFF: Our poll, which was done in November, showed that 63 percent of the younger generation, 25 and under, believe the war is wrong and believe about that many believe the troops should come home right away. And that was a higher percentage than the older generation.

COLLINS: Let's ask someone who is in "Generation Next." This is Adora Mora who we introduced just a moment ago. Adora, your thoughts about Iraq? Where does it play in your everyday life?

ADORA MORA, HARVARD STUDENT: I see Iraq as definitely a force to be reckoned with. We see my peers out there in the ground, working with the citizens in Iraq. It definitely hits close to home to us when we see our friends, we see our families, we see those dear to us being injured, being killed, really. We see the effects of war. Consequently, we are getting involved in our local communities and trying to express how we feel about it, especially through voting.

COLLINS: Adora, did you get a chance to watch the president's speech last night?

MORA: Briefly.

COLLINS: What were your thoughts about it? Did it clear anything up for you or make you feel better about the situation or worse?

MORA: It definitely made things a little bit more vague, considering that we already have troops over there, if sending close to around 20,000 troops, is that enough? Will that solve the problem? I think it's just feeding the fire at this point. I think there needs be a better strategy to solving the problems already existing in the country.

COLLINS: Judy, you're used to wearing many hats after having worked at CNN. Let's get you to put your other one on now and your reaction as someone who has covered the president for years and the political arena, your reaction to the speech.

WOODRUFF: Well I think the president put forward as passionate as I've seen George Bush deliver. His belief that this war has got to continue to be a priority for this country. But I think from everything I know and everything we've been hearing from the Democrats and the Republicans, the president knows that he faces an uphill battle right now. And Heidi if I could just bring it back to the younger generation. As you heard from Adora, this is the generation that is fighting the war. There are 900,000 young people between the ages of 18 and 25, who are serving in the armed forces or in the National Guard and reserve. They are the ones who are doing the bulk of the fighting and the dying. We looked at the numbers. More than half of those who've lost their lives in Iraq are 25 and under. That's why this generation is so passionate, I think, about the war.

COLLINS: Sure, and it's always amazing at the bravery, so many of them go back for a second, third and sometimes fourth tour of duty as well. We can see how it plays out for their generation. In fact, let's go ahead and get back to the special if we could. We have a clip here now, this one is from you, Adora. Let's listen.


MORA: I feel like our generation kind of has ADD, in terms of we can't just sit down and you know let's relax. Ok. You know, let's say quick, fast, in a hurry is pretty much our motto. We want it, we want it now.


COLLINS: Ok, so that's true. I see that all over the place, even with my 5-year-old who's not in this generation yet. But boy, it's coming, because he's on that computer, he can't wait for the iPhone or whatever they're going to end up calling it. Do you ever feel overwhelmed Adora by all that's coming in to you every second?

MORA: Definitely. The flow of information is traveling with great -- with the power that information allows us, and the technology that exists, we feel as if we're responsible and we have the opportunity to reach heights that never have been reached before. It definitely is overwhelming. But there's definitely a need to find balance between thinking we can do everything and realizing that there are limits to us.

COLLINS: Judy, you have such a unique perspective on this generation, having three children in it. How do you best characterize what is so different about this generation?

WOODRUFF: Well some things I think probably aren't so surprising. They're the most diverse generation in American history, 17 percent Hispanic, 14 percent African-American. But what a lot of people may not realize, is one in every five of this generation has a parent who was born outside the United States. Adora is herself emblematic of that. Her parents came to the United States from Nigeria in the early 1970's, they've raised all eight of their children to get a fabulous education. You see Adora is a young woman who's at Harvard University having worked very, very hard. She's emblematic of this immigrant generation.

The other thing that's emblematic I think of them is that they are close to their parents. You know we think of young people as being rebellious and wanting to go off on their own. You ask these young people who do they look up to, most of them, if they name anyone they will say a parent, a mother, a father, an aunt or an uncle, maybe a teacher or a minister. It's something that --

COLLINS: I like that. Sorry, Judy. Just wanted to throw that in there, that's the part that I really like. That's something that has been missing with some other generations. So all of your three kids looking up to you, we certainly appreciate your time here today, Judy Woodruff. And once again, the documentary is called "Generation Next" on PBS. And Judy, always a pleasure having you and Adora Mora coming to us from Boston, she's a Harvard student there. Appreciate your insight as well Adora.

WOODRUFF: Great to see you, Adora.

HARRIS: Just another reminder for you, CNN is the place for continuing coverage on the president's plan. It's already facing tough questions from lawmakers in the democratic controlled Congress, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid just moments ago promising serious consideration of the presidents plan. Next hour Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appears before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, three hours later Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff appear before the House Armed Services Committee. Our crews are on place on Capitol Hill. Stay with CNN throughout the day for unfolding details.

And still to come, the power of words, we know what the president said, how well did he say it? A former presidential speechwriter weighs in ahead in the NEWSROOM.

And Jason Dunham made the ultimate sacrifice.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no greater thing than what Jason did. To be willing to give up his life, so that other people can go on and have life.


HARRIS: An American hero honored in the NEWSROOM.

And right now, we want to take you to the White House for the Medal of Honor ceremony, honoring Corporal Jason Dunham, posthumously for his bravery and selflessness in Iraq. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let us pray. Gracious and good Lord, today, we remember Corporal Jason Dunham. He walked into the Marine recruit depot a number of years ago, a singular young American. He did something noble and great. He lived his life well as a marine, as an American. And so this day, we honor him. For that one crucial incident, which he did something not only noble but something that launches him into eternity. He wears a Medal of Honor, a medal of honor that is worn over the heart to remind us that not with just our minds but with our hearts, we lead, we serve and support this nation. He, like many in this room today who received this honor, led with their hearts, may this highest and great honor be with him and remind all of us of the importance and the profoundness of our calling of our nature and our citizenship, we ask this in your gracious and holy name. Amen.

BUSH: Welcome to the White House. The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor a president can bestow. The medal is given for gallantry in the face of an enemy attack that is above and beyond the call of duty. The medal is part of a cherished American tradition that began in this house with the signature of President Abraham Lincoln. Since World War II, more than half of those who have been awarded the Medal of Honor have lost their lives in the action that earned it. Corporal Jason Dunham belongs to this select group. On a dusty road in western Iraq, Corporal Dunham gave his own life so that the men under his command might live.

This morning, it's my privilege to recognize Corporal Dunham's devotion to the corps and country, and to present his family with the Medal of Honor. I welcome the vice president's presence, Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, Senator Ted Stevens, Senator John McCain, Senator Craig Thomas. I don't know if you say former marine or marine. Marine. Congressman Bill Young and his wife Beverly, Congressman Duncan Hunter, Congressman John Kline marine, Congressman Randy Cool, Corporal Dunham's family, a United States Congressman is with us. Secretary Don Winter, General Pete Pace, General Jim Conway and Annette. Sergeant Major John Estrada, sergeant major of the Marine Corps.

I appreciate the Medal of Honor recipients who have joined us. Barney Barnham, Bob Foley, Bob Howard, Gary Latrell, Al Roscone, Brian Thacker. Thanks for joining us. I appreciate the Dunham family, who have joined us and will soon join me on this platform to receive the honor on behalf of their son. Dan and Deb Dunham, Justin Dunham and Kyle Dunham, brothers, Katie Dunham, sister and a lot of other family members who have joined us today. I appreciate the chaplain for the navy -- excuse me, for the Marine Corps. Didn't mean to insult you. I thank Major Trent Gibson, he was Jason Dunham's company commander. First Lieutenant Brian Robinson, who was his platoon commander.

I welcome all the Marines from Kilo 3-7. Thanks for coming and thanks for serving. Long before he earned our nation's highest medal, Jason Dunham made a name for himself among his friends and neighbors. He was born in a small town in upstate New York. He was a normal kind of fellow, he loved sports. He went to (INAUDIBLE) Central School and he starred on the Tiger basketball, soccer and baseball teams and by the way, he still holds the record for the highest batting average in a single season at .414. He was popular with his teammates and that could be a problem for his mom. You see she never quite knew how many people would be showing up for dinner, whether it would be her family or the entire basketball team.

He grew up with the riches far more important than money. He had a dad who loved to take his boys on a ride with him when he made his rounds on the dairy farm where he worked. His mom was a school teacher. She figured out the best way to improve her son's spelling was to combine his love for sports with her ability to educate. So she taught him the words from his reading list when they played the basketball game of horse. He had two brothers and sisters who adored him. He had a natural gift for leadership and a compassion that led him to take others under his wing. The Marine Corps took the best of this young man and made it better. As a marine, he was taught that honor, courage and commitment are not just words, they're core values for a way of life that elevates service above self.

The Marine Jason was taught that leaders put the needs of their men before their own. He was taught that while America's founding troops are self-evident they also need to be defended. By good men and women willing to stand up to determined enemies. As the leader of a rifle squad in Iraq, Corporal Dunham lived by the values he had been taught, he was a guy everybody looked up to. He was a marine's marine who led by example. He was the kind of person who would stop patrols to play street soccer with the Iraqi school children. He was the guy who signed on for an extra two months in Iraq so he could stay with his squad. As he explained it, he wanted to make sure that everyone makes it home alive. Corporal Dunham took that promise seriously and would give his own life to make it good.

In April 2004, during an attack near Iraq's Syrian border, Corporal Dunham was assaulted by an insurgent who jumped out of a vehicle that was about to be searched. As Corporal Dunham wrestled the man to the ground, the insurgent rolled out a grenade he had been hiding. Corporal Dunham did not hesitate, he jumped on the grenade, using his helmet and body to absorb the blast. Although he survived the initial explosion he did not survive his wounds.


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