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Democrats Begin Congressional Hearings on War; Bush Speaks at Fort Benning
Aired January 11, 2007 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Don Lemon.
Pitching the plan. Fireworks on Capitol Hill as a president's war adviser sells his new strategy. You'll have a front row seat to the debate live this hour.
PHILLIPS: Talking to the troops. President Bush meeting soldiers who will put his plan into play. Live remarks from Ft. Benning, Georgia.
LEMON: And on the front lines, U.S. troops already in Iraq react to the president's plan. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
PHILLIPS: From Capitol Hill to Ft. Benning, Georgia, and U.S. military communities worldwide, where the news of the day is not a speech, not a theory, but boots on the ground reality.
More U.S. troops are headed for Iraq, a lot more. Some are hearing about it directly from the commander in chief. You see Air Force One has just arrived in Georgia.
On the left side of your screen, on Capitol Hill, the new Iraq battle plan isn't setting well, even on the president's side of the aisle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: When you set in motion the kind of policy that the president is talking about here, it's very, very dangerous. As a matter of fact, I have to say, madam secretary, that I think this speech given last night by this president represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam if it's carried out. I will resist it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And it's been a longtime coming. Today's confrontation between an unpopular president's strategy for an unpopular war and a Congress now in the hands of the opposition party.
Our Andrea Koppel has been following the fireworks from the Senate foreign relations committee. She joins us now from Capitol Hill -- Andrea. ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, fireworks is the correct word to use here. In a marked shift from when Republicans were in control of this Senate, today, during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, it wasn't just the Democrats who came out swinging. In fact, there were at least three of the ten Republicans -- the hearing is still going on -- who sit on the foreign relations committee who openly broke with their president.
One of them, as you saw there, Senator Chuck Hagel from Nebraska, Minnesota's Norm Coleman who said he was just in Iraq a few weeks ago and that the cost was just too great to go forward with the president's plan, and Ohio's George Voinovich.
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SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH (R), OHIO: I've gone along with the president on this and I bought into his dream and I -- at this stage of the game, I don't think it's going to happen.
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KOPPEL: Now, not surprisingly, all of the Democrats on this committee have said that they can't and won't support the president's plan so far. But so far only one Democrat, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, went so far as to say that he thinks Congress should exercise its constitutional power.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN: Now Congress must use its main power, the power of the purse, to put an end to our involvement in this disastrous war. And I'm not talking here only about the surge or escalation. It is time to use the power of the purse to bring our troops out of Iraq.
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KOPPEL: Now, Senator Feingold's position there is by no means the consensus within his party. In fact, Democrats, both in the Senate and the House, are still trying to negotiate and decide, in fact what their position will be in the weeks and months to come.
We do know, Don, that next week -- it could be as soon as next week -- the Senate intends to offer a nonbinding, a mostly symbolic resolution, expressing what they say is their opposition to the president's plan.
They say that that they believe, at least the Senate majority leader says, he believes he has at least ten Republicans who are prepared to support this. But we also heard from, now, the Senate minority leader, that he is prepared to try to filibuster, to try to block this legislation.
This would be an embarrassment for President Bush if it passed. And it could show, certainly because there would be Republicans who cross over, that the president is increasingly isolated. So as you can see, the tension is building here on Capitol Hill in the immediate hours following President Bush's speech -- Don.
LEMON: Yes, I'll say. We've been watching the hearings all morning as you have. And it seems like the president's plan is getting a lot of opposition. Can we expect the same this afternoon? What can we expect from these hearings this afternoon, Andrea?
KOPPEL: Well, the hearings this afternoon -- this morning was over in the Senate. This afternoon, we're going to hear from the new defense secretary, Bob Gates, who will be testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, and we do know that there are a couple of Republicans who have expressed their frustration with what's happening in Iraq.
But it's unclear as yet whether or not any of those Republicans will go public with their opposition. You can bet, though, that there will be all of the Democrats on that committee who will be grilling Gates hard -- Don.
LEMON: OK, we'll hear from Gates. Thank you, Andrea Koppel.
I want to tell you, just now Ike Skelton, who's the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, just began speaking. Do you want to listen to that, or are we going to move on? Let's listen in.
IKE SKELTON (D-MO), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: ... thank you for making this your very first hearing in the Congress of the United States. General Pace, of course, is an old pro to this room, United States Marine Corps, leader of our joined forces.
As always, General Pace, we count on you for your candor and your good judgment in performing your constitutional responsibility for oversight, as well as your duty under the Goldwater/Nichols Act, which was passed in 1986, which you perform admirably. We wish to thank you for that.
Now, I understand, General Pace, you do not have prepared testimony today, as per we have discussed earlier. I notice, if I may, on page 5, Mr. Secretary, of your written testimony, you're going to turn to General Pace to provide the summary of the military elements of the president's plan.
That, of course, is a critical piece of what the president laid out last evening. And our committee is given the responsibility for oversight in that area.
Our understanding and arrangement with you and General Pace was that the only formal testimony would be presented -- would be by you, Mr. Secretary, and the general would be available for questions during our time for interrogation.
We, of course, had to waive committee rule 13, by virtue of the fact that the president speaks last night, which requires witnesses to submit their testimony not less than 48 hours before a hearing. And, further, the part that you will turn to General Pace for was not included in your statement or a proposed statement by him. And I'm sure it was a matter of miscommunication, but I did wish to bring that to the members' attention because I undoubtedly will receive inquiry on that.
But so we know, General Pace, when the secretary does turn to you, we will accept your testimony, as you had planned, despite the fact that it is not laid out. But hopefully you, Mr. Secretary, could provide us a summary at the end of the hearing so we could extend your remarks formally.
LEMON: And you're listening to the House Armed Services Committee hearings there, and that is Ike Skelton, who is a chairman of that. As soon as we hear from the joint chiefs head, Peter Pace, and also from the secretary of defense, Robert Gates, we'll check back in with that. We're monitoring this all day. You have a front row seat, right here in the NEWSROOM.
PHILLIPS: As we mentioned, President Bush is in Georgia this hour, visiting some of the soldiers who will carry out his new war plan. CNN national correspondent Bob Franken joins us now from Ft. Benning.
BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, the president is ironically coming here to seek support from the people who will probably most bear the brunt of the announcements that the president has made, members of the military.
And immediately upon landing at Ft. Benning within the hour, he went to a nearby hall, Freedom Hall, to have lunch with a large crowd of members of the U.S. Army who are stationed here at Ft. Benning, and members of their family. The president is going to be speaking. He's going to be talking about the extra burdens that this is going to be putting on the military.
Ironically, the 3rd Infantry Division has some of its unit stationed here, and ones from Fort Stewart, Georgia, in the same state, this year became -- this week became the only unit, thus far, that has had three deployments to Iraq. And they're also expecting that some of the elements, here, of that unit, in Ft. Benning, are going to also by April, be going up.
What the president's plan is going to mean is that there are going to be others who are going to be deployed and others who are going to have shorter turnaround periods at home. So the sacrifice is going to be coming here.
The members of the military here have been training for quite some time at Ft. Benning. They are getting ready for further deployments, so they've been going through some intensive training. And all of that is going to continue to mean that there are going to be more people who are needed under this new plan to go to Iraq. The president, as I said, is going to be making remarks this afternoon. Then he has some private time, private time with members of families who have lost loved ones in Iraq. A reminder that all of this, whether it's something that is supported or not supported, all this means huge sacrifice for the people who are in the military and their families -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: So you say these troops may be deployed by April. Are we talking Ft. Benning and other bases, as well? And do they know exactly where they're going to go -- going to go and what their missions will be?
FRANKEN: Well, we know in the case of the other elements from Fort Stewart. We know that they're going to the Ramadi area of Iraq, which is a very dangerous area, about 50 miles west of Baghdad.
The other units probably don't have specifics yet. They don't tell us when they get those specifics. But a lot of this is still in the planning stage, how much involvement is going to be with reserve forces, with the National Guard. All of this is being unveiled now.
Probably within the next couple of days, people are going to know a lot more, and in the military they're going to know a lot more about where they're going to be spending their time, whether they are going back to Iraq.
PHILLIPS: All right. Our Bob Franken there at Fort Benning. Appreciate it so much.
The president is actually stepping up to the mic. We're going to go ahead and take him live as he addresses troops and also participates in a demonstration with the paratrooper unit.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. I'm proud to be with you. I'm proud to be at Ft. Benning, Georgia, home of the infantry. I'm proud to be with those who have volunteered to serve our country, brave men and women who understand that the awesome responsibility of government is to provide security to the American people.
I applaud you for your efforts. I'm proud to be your commander in chief. And I'm honored to have lunch with you. I'm only sorry that my wife hadn't joined me. She's the better half of our deal. But she sends her love and her respect.
Speaking about families, I have the greatest of respect for not only those of you who wear the uniform but your families, as well. I fully understand in times of danger the military families make a significant sacrifice. And so on behalf of a grateful nation, I say thanks to the families of the soldiers here at Ft. Benning, Georgia.
Mojo, I'm glad your wife, Candy, joined us. We both married well.
I appreciate traveling here today with the United States congressman who represents this area, Congressman Sanford Bishop. Thank you for coming, Congressman.
And I am pleased that Congressman Lynn Westmoreland -- he's from the district right north of here -- has joined us today. Lynn, thank you for being here.
I appreciate the mayor of Columbus, Georgia, Mayor Wetherington. Mr. Mayor, thank you for being here, thank you for coming.
Mayor Hardin, Phoenix City, Alabama, has joined us. Mr. Mayor, appreciate you coming, thank you. I know you didn't ask -- neither of the mayors asked -- but sometimes I like to remind them, just go ahead and fill the potholes. I'm not suggesting there are any, just my advice.
I appreciate all the officials, local officials, who are here. I can't thank the commanders of the base who have arranged this visit -- I do want to thank Keith Lovejoy, Colonel Keith Lovejoy, garrison commander of Ft. Benning, and his wife, Carol; sergeant Major Doug Greenway, his wife, Joanne. We got a little bit of a following here.
I appreciate all the civilian personnel that have joined us to help make this base run. You know, our bases cannot run without the important contribution of civilians. And I appreciate your effort in helping this fine base survive.
This is a really important place. This is a place that has a long tradition of turning civilians into highly skilled soldiers. And I can't thank you enough for the contribution you're making to the security of this country.
A lot of history here at Ft. Benning, Georgia. A lot of folks have left this base to defend freedom and pass the peace. I appreciate the fact -- and I know you do as well -- that you're part of a long tradition of people who have made incredibly important sacrifices so that hundreds of millions of people would enjoy the blessings of liberty and freedom and the world would be more peaceful. And that's what we're here to celebrate today.
On September the 11th, our nation saw firsthand the destructive vision of a new kind of enemy. And, once again, the men and women of Ft. Benning answered the call to protect our country from that enemy.
You know, I knew that right after the attacks, the American psyche being what it is, people would tend to forget the grave threat posed by these people. I knew that. Matter of fact, I was hoping that would happen so that life would go on.
But the fortunate thing for this country is that those who wear the uniform have never forgotten the threat. You understand the stakes. You know, the Rangers from the 3rd Battalion of the 75th Regiment led the way when it came to upholding doctrine that said if you harbor a terrorist, you're equally as guilty as the terrorist, and helped liberate Afghanistan.
The first fight of this new war was in that far away place. Soldiers from Ft. Benning led the way. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division took up the sledgehammer to help liberate Baghdad. One soldier from Ft. Benning, Sergeant 1st Class Paul R. Smith of the 3rd Infantry Division, went into Iraq. He was there when they surprised about 100 of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard.
They were attacked. And Sergeant Smith manned a 50-caliber machine gun atop a damaged armored vehicle to protect his men. He continued to fire from an exposed position. He took a fatal round. He saved more than 100 lives of American soldiers. He received the Medal of Honor. That's the kind of remarkable courage found throughout the -- throughout the men and women on this base.
Troops from Ft. Benning are now serving in Iraq right now, helping to protect the troops and the Iraqi citizens, training Iraqi security forces. You've done something else remarkable here: rebuilding schools and helping to improve lives. Everywhere the warriors from this base serve, you leave your mark. And I believe it will be a legacy of hope and freedom and peace.
Last night, I talked about a new strategy for Iraq, and I want to share some thoughts with you about that. You know, in 2005, I was able to report to the country that nearly 12 million Iraqis had cast their ballots in a remarkable election. I hope you still remember the moments when people were proudly able to wave their fingers, saying we had shed ourselves from a tyrant and we're able to express our individual wills about the future of our country.
I believe that 2005 would have been a -- we would have completed a lot of the mission and that would have been training the Iraqis so they would be in the lead, that they would be in a position to uphold the wishes of the 12 million people that voted.
In spite of the remarkable progress, 2006 turned out differently than I had anticipated. And it did because there's an enemy there that recognizes that the advance of freedom is in contrast to their hopes and their dreams. They can't stand the thought of a free society.
Al Qaeda and foreigners and radicals took action, trying to spur sectarian violence. They bombed holy -- an important holy site. They killed innocent people. And they were effective at spawning sectarian violence.
The situation in Iraq is difficult, no question about it. It's a difficult time in Iraq, because the sectarian violence needs to be challenged and stopped in order for this young society to advance.
Yet it's important for our fellow citizens to understand that failure in Iraq would be a disaster for our future. And here's why.
One of the -- one of the wisest comments I've heard about this battle in Iraq was made by General John Abizaid. Smart guy, a great soldier. He told me, he said, "Mr. President, if we were to fail in Iraq, the enemy would follow us here to America." It's a different kind of war, in which failure in one part of the world could lead to disaster here at home.
It's important for our citizens to understand that, as tempting as it might be -- to understand the consequences of leaving before the job is done. Radical Islamic extremists would grow in strength. They would be emboldened. It would make it easier to recruit for their cause. They would be in a position to do that which they have said they want to do, which is to topple moderate governments, to spread their radical vision across an important region of the world.
Imagine what would happen if these extremists who hate America and our way of life gained control of energy reserves. You can bet they would use those reserves to blackmail economies in order to achieve their objective.
If we were to leave before the job is done, if we were to fail in Iraq, Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Our enemies would have safe havens from which to launch attacks. People would look back at this moment in history and say, "What happened to them in America? How come they couldn't see the threats to a future generation?" That is why we must and we will succeed in Iraq.
Our urgent priority for success in Iraq is security, especially in Baghdad. Only the Iraqis can end sectarian violence. That's their job. The Iraqis must secure their people. The government recognizes they've got to do so, and they've put forth a plan. I received their plan, their version of the plan, when I was in Jordan.
The prime minister came and said, "Look, I understand we've got to do something about this violence. And here's what I suggest we do." Our commanders looked at it, helped fine-tune it so it would work.
The plan basically calls for the government to appoint a military commander for Baghdad, which they have done. And they've got their city divided into nine divisions, in which there will be army -- 18 Iraqi army and national police brigades operating out of local police stations to set up checkpoints, knock on doors and take a census to let them know that there's an army presence in the neighborhood to protect them.
The commander is on the ground there in Iraq, people who I listen to -- by the way, that's what you want your commander in chief to do. You don't want decisions being made based upon politics or focus groups or political polls. You want your military decisions being made by military experts.
And they analyzed the plan, and they said to me and to the Iraqi government, "This won't work unless we help them. There needs to be a bigger presence." And there needed to be a bigger presence, because in the past we would go in with Iraqis and clear a neighborhood of extremists and terrorists, and then there wouldn't be enough troops to hold the neighborhood.
So our kids would do a lot of hard work, and insurgents and terrorists and killers would generally not want to engage our troops. It's probably a pretty smart decision on their part. And, but when they did, they would find justice. And then we'd go on to another assignment, and they'd come back in the neighborhood.
And it's frustrating to our troops. It's equally frustrating to the Iraqi citizens who want to live in peace. It's what they want. They want to be able to have a peaceful life.
And so our commanders looked at the plan and said, "Mr. President, it's not going to work until -- unless we support, provide more troops." And so last night I told the country that I've committed an additional -- a little over 20,000 more troops, five brigades of which will be in Baghdad.
They're going to work alongside the Iraqi units. They will be embedded in Iraqi units. They will help the Iraqis take the lead in securing the neighborhoods.
They're going to have a well-defined mission. I hear people say there must be a clear military mission. That's what the military people have said to me. The mission is to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help Iraqis protect the local population, and to ensure that the Iraqi forces that are left behind will be capable of providing the security necessary in the capital city of Iraq. That's the mission.
I asked General Casey, "Can we accomplish that mission?"
He said, "You bet we can accomplish that mission." It's got enough troops to accomplish the mission. But one other thing must happen, that our troops and Iraqi troops must have proper rules of engagement. In other words there can't be politics interfering with the action of our troops.
The American people said, "You tried it before." And we did. And they said, "What went wrong? What's different?" Well, what's new about this plan is there will be enough troops to clear, build and hold, and that our troops will be able to move alongside the Iraqis without political interference.
And that's very important. It's important for our troops to hear, and it's important for the American people to know this is new. This is something different that enables the military folks to predict that we will succeed in helping quell sectarian violence in Baghdad.
The other thing that's going to have to happen is that the government of Iraq must exhibit the will necessary to succeed. It's one thing to develop a plan. It's another thing to see it through.
The prime minister and I have had some -- some plain talking. I have made it clear that the patience of the American people is not unlimited, and now is the time to act. It's time to act, not only for our sake; it's time to act for the sake of people in Iraq. Shia and Sunni mothers want their children to grow up in peace.
The prime minister has pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated. He has said this publicly.
The new strategy is not going to yield immediate results. It's going to take a while. The American people have got to understand that suicide bombings won't stop immediately. The IED attacks won't stop immediately.
Yet over time we can expect to see positive results. And that would be the Iraqis chasing down the murderers; that there will be fewer brazen acts of terror inside of Baghdad; that there will be growing trust between the different neighborhoods.
In other words, you'll begin to see a society that is somewhat -- somewhat more peaceful. Daily life will improve. The Iraqis will gain confidence in their leaders. And the government will have the breathing space...
PHILLIPS: Just a night after his speech to the nation where he called for the deployment of at least 21,000 additional troops to Iraq, President Bush at Ft. Benning, Georgia, right now, continuing to sell that plan, but this time to the troops there at Ft. Benning.
About 2,000 members the 3rd Brigade Combat Infantry Division at Ft. Benning are expected to be deployed in the coming months.
Now, at the same time, there's the new secretary of defense, Bob Gates, also defending the new plan for Iraq. He's speaking to the House Armed Services Committee. Let's listen in.
ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: ... a number of selected guard and reserve units to be remobilized sooner than this standard. Our intention is that such exceptions will be temporary.
The goal for the active force rotation cycle remains one year deployed for every two years home station. Today, however, most active units are receiving one year at home before deploying again.
Mobilizing select Guard and Reserve units before their five-year period is complete will allow us to move closer to relieving the stress on the total force.
Fourth, I'm directing the establishment of a new program to compensate individuals in both the active and Reserve components who are required to mobilize or deploy early or to extend beyond the established rotation policy goals.
Fifth and finally, I'm directing that all commands and units review how they administer the hardship waiver program to ensure they are properly taking into account exceptional circumstances facing our military families of deployed service members.
It is important to note that these policy changes have been under discussion for sometime within the Department of Defense, and would be needed regardless of the president's announcement on Iraq last night.
Finally, I'm pleased to report that all of the active branches of the United States military exceeded their recruiting goals for the month of December, with particularly strong showings by the Army and the Marine Corps. Our nation is truly blessed that so many talented and patriotic young people have stepped forward to defend our nation, and so many service men and women have chosen to continue to serve.
A few words on the new Iraq strategy. Last night, the president described a new way forward in Iraq, a new approach to overcoming the steep challenges facing us in that country and in that part of the world. I know many of you have concerns about the new strategy in Iraq, and in particular are skeptical of the Iraqi government's will and ability to act decisively against sectarian violence, and are skeptical as well about a commitment of additional American troops.
The president and his national security team have had the same concerns, as we have debated and examined our options in Iraq going forward. And yet our commanders on the ground and the president's intended nominee as the new commander in Baghdad believe this is a sound plan, in no small part because General Casey and other senior military officers have worked closely with the Iraqi government in developing it.
Further, the president, Ambassador Khalilzad and General Casey have had prolonged and extremely candid conversations, not just with Prime Minister Maliki, but with other senior leaders of the Iraqi government, and have come away persuaded that they have the will to act against all instigators of violence in Baghdad.
This is, I think, the pivot point in Iraq, as the Iraqi government insists on assuming the mantle of leadership in the effort to regain control of its own capital. I want you to know that the timetable for the introduction of additional U.S. forces will provide ample opportunity early on and before many of the additional U.S. troops arrive in Iraq, to evaluate the progress of this endeavor, and whether the Iraqis are fulfilling their commitments to us.
With apologies for the miscommunication, Mr. Chairman, at the end of my remarks, General Pace will summarize the military aspects of the plan. But let me make just two points -- first, this strategy entails a strengthening across all aspects of the war effort, military and non-military, including the economic, governance and political areas. Overcoming the challenges in Iraq cannot be achieved simply by military means, no matter how large or sustained, without progress by the Iraqis in addressing the underlying issues dividing the country.
Second, we must keep in mind the consequences of an American failure in Iraq. Multiple administrations of both political parties have concluded that what happens in southwest Asia, the Gulf region and the Middle East is of vital interest to the security and prosperity of the American people.
As I said in my confirmation hearing, developments in Iraq over the next year or two will shape the future of the Middle East and impact global geopolitics for a long time to come.
Whatever one's views of the original decision to go to war and the decisions that have brought us to that point, there seems to be broad agreement that failure in Iraq would be a calamity for our nation of lasting historical consequence.
The violence in Iraq, if unchecked, could spread outside its borders and draw other states into a regional conflagration.
In addition, one would see an emboldened, strengthened Iran, a safe haven and base of operations for jihadist networks in the heart of the Middle East, a humiliating defeat in the overall campaign against violent extremism worldwide, and an undermining of the credibility of the United States.
The actors in this region, both friends and adversaries, are watching closely what we do in Iraq, and will draw conclusions about our resolve and the reliability of our commitments.
And should we withdraw prematurely, we could well leave chaos and the disintegration of Iraq behind us.
Further, governments in the region already are asking themselves if the Americans withdraw in defeat from Iraq, just how much further and from where else might we withdraw.
I would not have taken this position if I did not believe that the outcome in Iraq will have a profound and long-lived impact on our national interest.
Mistakes have certainly been made by the United States in Iraq, just like in virtually every war in human history. That is the nature of war.
But however we got to this moment, the stakes now are incalculable. Your senior professional military officers in Iraq and in Washington believe in the efficacy of the strategy outlined by the president last night. They believe it is a sound plan that can work, if the Iraqi government follows through on its commitments, and if the non-military aspects of the strategy are implemented and sustained.
Our senior military officers have worked closely with the Iraqis to develop this plan. The impetus to add U.S. forces came initially from our commanders there. It would be a sublime, yet historic, irony, if those who believe the views of the military professionals were neglected at the onset of the war were now to dismiss the views of the military as irrelevant or wrong.
Mr. Chairman, that concludes my opening statement. And with your permission, I'll ask General Pace to say a few words about the military plan itself.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You bet -- general.
GEN. PETER PACE, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Mr. Chairman, Mr. Hunter, members of the committee, thank you for this opportunity to be with you. I would like to echo the secretary's thanks to all of you for your very strong, consistent bipartisan support of all of us in the military. Thanks, too, to you, many of you, who have traveled overseas to see your troops and many of you who have gone to see our troops in the hospitals. Your attention to that, your concern, your concern makes a difference to all of us in uniform, and we thank you for that.
I'd also like to thank the incredible young men and women who serve in our Armed Forces. It's my honor to sit before you as their representative, as they continue to amaze us all with the way they strap on the duties that they've sworn to uphold and the way that they do it, and especially to their families. Every decision to deploy forces impacts families. And this one will as well. You know, our military families serve this country as well as anyone who's ever worn the uniform, and I'd like to thank them publicly.
The military man that's been developed has been developed jointly By General Casey and his U.S. commanders and his counterpart in the Iraq army and his commanders, and have worked it through in great detail in support of Prime Minister Maliki's initiative.
And the No. 1 most important difference between this plan and other plans is the political environment in which it will be executed. But to the plan itself, calls for the appointment of an Iraqi commander of all of Baghdad. That has been done. The assignment of two Iraqi division commanders, one for east of the river and one for west. The selection of those commanders was done jointly by the Iraqi ground forces commander and by General Casey. To have Baghdad divided into nine districts. Each of those districts will have an Iraqi brigade in it. Those brigades and their leaders, who were also jointly selected by the Iraqi and American leadership.
In support of each of those Iraqi brigades, will be a U.S. battalion. So that in each sector, as Mr. Hunter has said, they'll be several Iraqi battalions, plus a U.S. battalion. And in each sector there will be three or four police stations that will serve as the hub of operations from which the forces that are located there, which will be a mixture of Iraqi army, Iraqi national police, Iraqi local police, and U.S. and coalition forces, from which they will do their daily patrolling, the door-to-door work to let the population know that they're there, to take census-type information, and to provide the street awareness and presence that allows the security to come to fore.
From those stations will be conducted the raids that may be necessary, and from those stations will be the quick reaction forces should some of the Iraqi forces get into trouble.
In analyzing what we call troop to task, meaning what do you need to do and how many folks do you need to do it -- in analyzing that, General Casey and his Iraqi counterparts have determined that there are more forces needed, more Iraqi forces for sure. And the prime minister and his government have promised that they will allocate three more Iraqi brigades into Baghdad. The first of those is already moving.
The next two are scheduled within the month, that the commander will have freedom of operations to do what he must do to impose the rule of law on all, that there will be no political interference with those troops on the ground who are carrying out the mission that they've been given, and that the rule of law and the rules of engagement will apply to all criminals regardless of which community they come from, that mixed communities and Sunni communities and Shia communities will all be treated the same.
To do this, we're going to need additional U.S. forces. General Casey and General Abizaid have asked for those additional forces, as have the commanders below them. The additional forces will do what I've mentioned, which is to be able to have a battalion of our forces available with each Iraqi brigade.
But they will also strengthen the size of the embed teams that we have with each Iraqi brigade, battalion, and company, so that when the Iraqi units get into trouble or need fire support, we're able to provide it to them quickly and efficiently.
In addition, to reinforce success at Al Anbar province, the Marine commander out there has asked for and General Casey and General Abizaid have asked for, an increase of about 4,000 troops out there.
The Sunni sheikhs in that region have led the way in fighting al Qaeda. They have recruited their own sons in the thousands to join their local police forces. In fact, about 1,000 Sunni youngsters right now from Al Anbar are in Jordan at the police academy.
And these additional U.S. forces at Al Anbar will allow those sheikhs and the Iraqi armed forces that are out there to provide continuing security to take advantage of this window of opportunity that's been presented by the leaders out there.
So, collectively, military commanders, both U.S. and Iraqi, have asked for this increase, and those of us in advisory positions agree with their request.
Mr. Chairman, I will save any further comment about how I got to my own conviction about this to the answer, Q&A piece. But I do want to state for the record that I am of conviction that this military plan, properly part of new political emphasis and new economic plus- up, can provide the success we're looking for. Thank you, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General, thank you very much.
PHILLIPS: Well, you're hearing it live right there before the Armed Services Committee. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and also Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace laying out the policy changes after the president gave his speech to the nation last night.
And now you're seeing the chairman and also the secretary there before the Armed Services Committee, supporting that plan, going deeper into that plan, how they're going to implement what the president wants to do.
In addition, we're hearing for the first time Bob Gates laying out what he wants to change in the policy. And Peter Pace, the last comment there, "I am of conviction." He truly feels that the military can win this war in Iraq if, indeed, these changes do go forward.
Retired Major General Don Shepperd has been monitoring the hearings as well. He's joining us from D.C. And, Shep, I've made a list of the five policy changes, and I'm going to let you pick what you want to talk about, but I thought that was very interesting, Peter Pace, it sort of caught my attention, sort of paused, looked the chairman of the committee right in the eye and said "I am of conviction that if we follow through this time with these new changes, we can win this war in Iraq."
I don't think I've ever -- I can't recall a moment where he was so set on what he was saying with regard to success in that manner.
MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Kyra, that's a big statement and an important statement. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Peter Pace, who is a really, really fine Marine, a good man, is laying his credibility on the line behind this plan, saying he thinks it can make a difference. It can go wrong in many ways. It can also go right in many ways.
I think what I heard basically was there's going to be a commander overall, an Iraqi commander overall for Baghdad. There were going to be an east Baghdad commander and west Baghdad commander, I assume divided by the Tigris River running through there.
Nine districts with an Iraqi brigade -- that's 3,000 to 5,000 troops by our count in each one. And along with an Iraqi brigade in each of the nine districts will be an American battalion -- that would be somewhere between 700 and 1,500 troops, depending on how you configure it -- serving together.
And then the other key is three to four police stations out of which will be the hub for intelligence and activity in these joint moves. This is a big task to take on Baghdad.
And the other very important thing I heard was we are going to have the law apply to all, whether it's Sunni, Shia or a mixed neighborhood. That means, if you will, that it's illegal to carry arms other than personal protection arms, so that means that they will take on the militias. We'll have to wait and see if they do and if it works, Kyra.
PHILLIPS: OK, so that's how the Iraqis will be affected and the changes that we'll see among Iraqi commanders and brigades and the changes with the troops on the Iraqi side.
Now, U.S. troops -- what did you find the most interesting, the fact that National Guard troops will go over as units now, versus individually, the hardship waiver program, the new rotation policy where they'll be deployed for one year, come home for two -- because that hasn't been the case for a lot of these guys -- or is it the additional troop number being sent over there?
SHEPPERD: Well, the additional troop number is most significant because 4,000 of them are going to be going to Anbar province, which is the heart of the insurgency, and then the rest of them into Baghdad, deployed in the way that we basically discussed.
Now, from my reserve troop standpoint, remember, basically they are really being affected because what they're saying is we're going to use them one year every five, and now they're going to be using them probably, it looks like, two years, and this is going to have a big effect on the troops.
But I can tell you that they will like the idea of going as units as opposed to fillers and being broken apart to do various tasks. Organizations train as units in the Guard and reserve. You have a lot of morale tied to the history of that unit and working together.
So I think that's a very sound way to deploy reserve forces, even though the burden is going to be heavy on then, on their employers, and on their families, Kyra.
PHILLIPS: And with not enough troops right now, can you do this new rotation policy where you have them there one year and come home for two because they haven't been able do it in the past few years.
SHEPPERD: You can do it but it's a tremendous burden, particularly on Guardsmen and reservists. They have families, they have real jobs, and then there was supposed to be a strategic reserve that went and won the war, and then came home.
Now they're being deployed as an operational reserve. That's an entire change in the way we do. I've talked to the National Guard leaders. They think basically that they can do it as long as the American public supports the war. If the American public abandons the war, if this effort does not work, you'll quickly see this become a very, very unpopular policy.
PHILLIPS: Shep, I know you're going to continue to listen to the hearings, as are we, so we'll keep talking throughout the afternoon. Appreciate it.
SHEPPERD: You bet.
LEMON: There is a lot going on today. The president, the secretary of defense and also the chairman of the Joint Chiefs talking today, trying to push this new plan in Iraq. You can watch all of this coverage on CNN Pipeline. It's streaming now. Go to CNN.com/Pipeline.
Also, the president meeting earlier this morning, having lunch, rather, with some members and family members and military members from Ft. Benning. We'll continue to follow that. He's going to see a demonstration in a short while. We'll bring that to you live as it happens.
And we also want your e-mails on this. We want to hear from you. What do you think of the president's plan for Iraq? The address is NEWSROOM@CNN.com. Don't go away. Live coverage continues right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
PHILLIPS: Stay with us here on CNN. We're going to be continuing these hearings live all throughout the day. The House Armed Services Committee as Defense Secretary Bob Gates and also the joint chiefs chair Peter Pace will continue to take Q&A and talk about this new Iraq plan just a day after the president spoke to the nation.
LEMON: Item three in House Democrats' first 100 hours, more money for research on embryonic stem cells. The president is promising a veto which he's resorted to only once before -- on the stem cell bill the Republican passed in 2005, that's when that happened.
Opponents object to research that destroys human embryos. Supporters cite the prospect for new treatments, even cures for debilitating conditions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MAJORITY LEADER: I support stem cell research with only one exception. Research that requires the killing of human life. Taxpayer funded stem cell research must be carried out in a way that is ethical and in a way that respects the sanctity of human life.
REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D), COLORADO: Some suggest that it's Congress' role to tell researchers what kinds of cells to use. Adult stem cells, cord blood, so-called A.N.T., amniotic, or others. I suggest we are not the arbiters of research. Instead, we should foster all of these methods and adequately fund and have ethical oversight over all ethical stem cell research.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
And even with Democrats now in the majority, it's highly unlikely another veto could be overridden. Well, so far, stem cell research on a limited scale hasn't led to many new treatments. And time's not on the side of most patients. Some, therefore, are willing to try experimental, unproven alternatives.
Here's our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
JIM DUNN, PARALYZED: I believe I'll walk again. I believe this very firmly.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Six years ago, Jim Dunn, a former Marine and one of the most active guys you'd ever meet, was walking down the street. He was violently struck from behind on the spine with a steel rod by an unknown assailant. Suddenly he was paralyzed from the neck down.
His doctors didn't offer any hope so Dunn turned to help where many turn in desperation, the internet. He found a website offering an experimental procedure he saw as his only option. It would involve a trip from California to China and $40,000.
A neurosurgeon there, Dr. Huang Hongyun uses olfactory and sheathing cells. They are not stem cells, but they do come from aborted fetuses, which are readily available in China.
Hongyun believes these nose and brain cells can help nerve fibers recover and repair themselves. Doctor Hongyun says he's performed more than 1,000 operations directly injecting these cells into the brain or spinal cord. He has done it for ALS, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, strokes, cerebral palsy and, yes, spinal cord injuries.
Dr. Glen Dobkin, a UCLA neurologist, who has examined some of Hongyun's other patients criticizes his lack of clinical trials and follow up with his patients.
DR. GLEN DOBKIN, UCLA NEUROLOGY PROFESSOR: These patients that I saw came back with holes in the brain, holes in different parts the spinal cord, and no improvement.
GUPTA: CNN got an exclusive interview with Dr. Hongyun this past summer.
DR. HUANG HONGYUN, NEUROSURGEON: I never tell patients all treatment, all procedures, can cure them. I never tell them.
GUPTA: In China, Dr. Hongyun told the 68-year-old Dunn he would receive an injection of 1 million nose and brain cells into his spinal cord.
Before Dunn's surgery, hospital nurses shot this video of him. He had a hard time doing simple tasks. According to his sister's journal, the operation was dicey.
Dunn stopped breathing. He flat-lined, almost died. He was resuscitated. Awake, he reported feeling sensations in both arms that he didn't have before. And, later, some in his hands and fingers. Several months later, though, he still can't walk. Hongyun says he's not surprised.
HONGYUN: For Jim Dunn, I don't think he can recover to walk.
GUPTA: Jim was stunned.
DUNN: He never told me that. It seems kind of incongruous to think that he would take my money knowing that he wasn't going to be able to do anything for me, doesn't it?
GUPTA: Still, even today, Dunn holds out hope.
DUNN: I'm always going to believe that this venture that I have embarked upon is going to pay the dividends that I want it to. I got two parachutes left with about 6,000 jumps still left on them and I intend to get every one of them.
GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.
LEMON: And Sanjay also reports Jim Dunn undergoes very intense therapy so it's hard to say whether any movement he regained was from the surgery or from his own hard work in rehab.
PHILLIPS: Once again, live to D.C. We continue to follow the House Armed services Committee hearing as the new secretary of defense and also the joint chiefs chair Peter Pace, take Q&A and talk about the new plan for Iraq.
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