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THIS WEEK AT WAR

Week's War-Related Events Reviewed

Aired November 24, 2007 - 19:00   ET

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


TOM FOREMAN, CNN ANCHOR, THIS WEEK AT WAR: Violent attacks in Iraq have dropped to their lowest levels in more than a year. Does this trend signal a turning point or are insurgents just waiting out the departure of U.S. troops?
And can the success against al Qaeda in Iraq be duplicated in the danger zones in Pakistan? THIS WEEK AT WAR right after a look at what's in the news right now.

TONY HARRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, everyone. I'm Tony Harris. Southern California, here we go again, wildfires out of control in Coral Canyon and Malibu, 34 homes gone today, 2,000-plus acres black and the weather is helping zero. Winds are strong and steady, gusting at times up to 60 miles per hour. Firefighters call the situation dangerous and dynamic. Fire advisories are in place as far south as San Diego. Several firefighters are reported hurt. No word on any civilian injuries.

New developments in the case of Natalee Holloway. Joran Van Der Sloot is now back in Aruba from his native Netherlands. He now joins two other young men who have been rearrested in connection with Holloway's disappearance. Van Der Sloot is to appear before a judge on Monday. Authorities want to hold all three men while they continue their investigation into the American teen's disappearance in 2005. Those are the headline this hour. THIS WEEK AT WAR with Tom Foreman starts right now.

FOREMAN: Here is where things stand in THIS WEEK AT WAR. Something to be thankful for, new signs of dramatically improved security in Iraq for both U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians, but is the counter-insurgency strategy in Iraq the blueprint for success against al Qaeda strongholds in Pakistan? A down arrow as record high oil prices pinch American wallets and create leverage for U.S. adversaries.

The United States makes a new push for Israeli-Palestinian peace, but the road map remains very sketchy.

And the massacre that wasn't. One of the Haditha Marines speaks out exclusively to us about trying to rebuild his life. That's how things stand.

Here's where we're going to find out what's coming next. Michael Ware is in Baghdad. We'll ask him what it will take for this downward trend in violence to be sustained.

Nic Robertson is following the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban. Can the U.S. military enlist Pakistan's tribal leaders against these terrorist groups?

And Ben Wedeman is in Jerusalem. What are Israelis and Palestinians expecting from the upcoming U.S-sponsored Middle East peace summit? All that, THIS WEEK AT WAR.

Whether you were ever for the war in Iraq or not, everyone ought to be thankful for what is happening there right now, a dramatic drop in violence, with attacks against U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians at their lowest levels since February of last year. By any standard this is good news, but can it continue? CNN's Michael Ware is in Baghdad. Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon and with me in Washington "New York Times" chief military correspondent Michael Gordon. He's also the co- author of "Cobra Two," a well regarded history of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Let me start with you Michael Gordon. Right now we have what almost everyone says is real progress of a sort. What do we need critically now to keep it going?

MICHAEL GORDON, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right, there's been a clear trend towards diminution of violence in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq, although Iraq is still a very violent place. The key question now is what needs to be done to sustain it, lock it in and drive the levels down further and I think a number of things need to be done, there's not any one factor. A big part of it is, one reason the violence has gone down is a lot of the people who used to be insurgents and were fighting the Americans are now working with the Americans, these Sunni volunteers at Anbar, Iskandariyah (ph) and Diyala and there's an effort afoot to basically institutionalize these arrangements and get these people on the books as police, have them work with and for the Iraqi government and that's a work in progress. There's some real problems there and getting these Sunni volunteers who are working with American troops institutionalized as police, getting the Shiite-dominated government to kind of buy in on that is something that hasn't yet been fully accomplished and needs to be done in the months ahead.

FOREMAN: Michael Ware, is there any sense that that government is finally, finally moving toward really addressing this? You've said so many times no.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it depends on who you talk to. You speak to some people, for example in the U.S. embassy who are very close to this internecine political setup that we have here and they like to think that, yes, they are seeing a few positive signs from some of the factions within this government. Nonetheless, overall, even if that is true, there's no real drift towards reconciliation. Indeed, we've been speaking to some of the key power brokers in the major factions within this government, the Shia bloc particularly and none of them are rushing towards reconciliation. None of them are supportive of the American-Sunni militia program and indeed I've been out with the Sunni militias. Now when you go out to visit these militias, if you're with the American military, you'll get a certain sort of answer but we've been going out there alone at their request and meeting them on the streets, by themselves, and they give a very frank answer. They are deeply opposed to the Iraqi government, which is what the government feared and now America had 72,000 essentially former Sunni insurgents working for it. 45,000 of them are on the U.S. government payroll and most of them are opposed to this Iraqi central government, Tom.

FOREMAN: Let's take a look at these numbers and why they're impressive. It's a little bit confusing but here is what you need to look at. This is the period of time before the mosque was bombed that started this giant spate of violence. Look at how low violence had generally dropped. The mosque bombing occurred about in here and things went up and up and up, but here's where we are now, back to about the same point as then. Barbara, when people in the Pentagon look at these numbers, they have to be very happy and very concerned about precisely what Nic was talking about.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, very happy, I don't think so, not just yet, an awful lot of caution about it, because of all the things that Michael is mentioning. Top commanders, you haven't heard anybody go out there really and, you know, sound a cheering horn or, you know, carry balloons about all of this. They are very cautious. They are very concerned and I would follow on what Michael said even further. I think the silence about the Maliki government is absolutely deafening. A few months ago we were hearing the president, Secretary Gates, everyone talk about really pressuring the Maliki government to get moving. You don't hear any of that anymore. All the chips are with this local effort and if that does not work over the long-term, it's difficult to see what will happen.

FOREMAN: Michael Gordon, you've used a phrase to describe what's happening now, accommodation without reconciliation. What does that mean?

GORDON: Well, it's not really my phrase. It's the new mantra you get from the Bush administration and indeed from the American military in Iraq and the military in particular is very pragmatic. They understand that there's not going to be a full-fledged reconciliation between these disparate groups in Iraq, the Sunni, the Shia and the Kurds in the foreseeable future. So in a sense, they're lowering their sights. Democracy in a unity government can be a generational objective in Iraq. What they're hoping to accomplish is some, maybe some of the steps that the legislative steps that would ease the tension. If you could do a few of those, let's say, get de- Baathification or maybe provincial elections, get a few of those done over the next year, take the edge off the animosity. You'd have a state where these groups wouldn't necessarily be happy with each other. You wouldn't have reconciliation, but they'd stop resorting to car bombs and death squads to settle their differences. That's accommodation without reconciliation.

FOREMAN: Michael Ware, can that stay, making progress, can we continue to make progress on that, if we don't have this central government force come to the table and say, we're going to take up our responsibility?

WARE: Well, indeed, I've been talking to key U.S. strategists, both military and diplomatic here in Iraq, precisely about that. The people who run this country, the power interests, don't have it on their agendas to seek reconciliation. It's not in their interests. Now, America knows that. So what they're looking at is what's happening on the streets, where you're seeing neighbor accommodate with neighbor, reconciliation happening literally street by street, or block by block, and they want to see that grow, and that foster. So rather than what we've seen in other conflicts, where you have national political leaders bring their people to the table, what they're hoping here is that the people power will force this government to eventually change and the political players in this country to eventually move closer together.

FOREMAN: Barbara, does this change? If that's the view of what is happening right now, that you can't really count on the central government making it happen, but maybe the people can make it happen, does that change the military strategy? Briefly.

STARR: Well it does not at the moment, but here's the dilemma in the months ahead that commanders know is only going to grow. If you are talking, as Michael says, reconciliation street by street across Baghdad, across Iraq, is that the mission for U.S. combat troops? Is some soldier or Marine going to be the last man to die in Iraq for reconciliation street by street, Tom?

FOREMAN: Michael Gordon, very quickly, the last word all together on this. All of that said, with everything we're looking at now, what is the end of this war? What is the goal now?

GORDON: If you ask the military, it would be something they call sustainable stability. It would be a process where you get stability in like Anbar, or what used to be the triangle of death here, Iskandariyah, perhaps in Baquba.

FOREMAN: Not necessarily democracy, not necessarily everyone getting along, just not killing each other.

GORDON: Well, a situation where the level of violence is down, the terrorism is down, the government plods along at some pace and the American forces stay there, I would say for years to come and protecting the population in backing up the Iraqi forces, who they are hoping to push in the lead over the next year.

FOREMAN: Thanks so much for coming in. Michael Gordon, Michael Ware as well and Barbara Starr, we appreciate all of your insights. Let's hope progress continues.

Next, can this strategy that appears to be working in Iraq a bit, also work against terrorists in Pakistan? We'll look at that.

But first, a THIS WEEK AT WAR remembrance. Army Private Marius Ferrero was killed late last week in Baquba, Iraq. The Miami native surprised his family when he came home to attend his grandfather's funeral. He died just days after his return to Iraq. His mother recalls how her son tried to reassure her that he would be fine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARIBEL FERRERO, MOTHER: He was telling us that, mom, don't worry about me. I'm going to be OK. I'm going to come back.

(END VIDEO CLIP) FOREMAN: The attack that took Marius' life occurred on a playground where he and other soldiers were handing out candy and toys to local children. Private Ferrero was 23 years old.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: This time last year, Iraq's Anbar province was considered an al Qaeda stronghold, but in a matter of months, the area's tribal chiefs turned against the terrorist group and aligned themselves with U.S. troops, creating a model of success against insurgents. So if this can happen in Iraq, what about the frontier areas of Pakistan, where al Qaeda and Taliban fighters are embedded? Senior international correspondent Nic Robertson joins us from London and in Chicago, retired Brigadier General and CNN military analyst David Grange. Nic, let me start with you. Is this a reasonable idea to take the ideas from Iraq and try them out along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what made the tactics successful in al Anbar province was the fact that the tribes there had seen that al Qaeda had come in and had wanted to dominate them, they wanted to rule them and they weren't going to put up with that. There's also been a business modal applied. U.S. troops giving business contacts -- contracts to significant tribal leaders so there have been several things that have made al Anbar and other parts of Iraq now successful by bringing on board tribal leaders. What's different in the Pakistan border regions with Afghanistan is the tribes there are not as sophisticated as the tribes in al Anbar. They have never, ever been defeated by a foreign army. They are not governed by their government in Islamabad by General Musharraf and it seems to me that persuading them to swing behind U.S. policy in an area where the religious outlook is much more akin to al Qaeda than the tribes in Iraq is going to be a strong uphill struggle.

FOREMAN: I want to take a look at a map here and give people an idea of what we're talking about. This is Iraq over here. This is al Anbar province out in the west. We pull out and fly over Iran here and show you what we're talking about. This is Pakistan. Over here is Afghanistan and this is the tribal region we're talking about. General, it seems to me what from what Nic is saying, it comes back to a very basic premise of the military, know your enemy and this enemy is different.

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Very much so and it's very similar to when we had the fight in Afghanistan right after 9/11 and tried to do some things similar to that in Iraq. It didn't work because it was a different type of adversary, different terrain, different conditions, different tribal customs, folklore, et cetera and I think it's the same thing here. But I do think there are some things that being done along the border where you can influence, using some of the techniques from the Anbar province. For instance, I think we should get into the drug trade, legal drug trade, out buy those that use poppy as an example to influence the locals. I think we should get in the animal trading business.

FOREMAN: Hold on General, I'm confused. You said get into the legal drug trade and out buy them. You mean we should be buying the opium crop?

GRANGE: Absolutely. Right now, we spend more money interdicting than we do in an option like this. And buy it and use it for the medical reasons, which a lot of the opium crop of course is used for medical reasons, not just elicit drug use but out buy them. Right now there's not a cohesive, I don't think strategy for counter-drug in this area. For instance, this is different than Anbar province. This is the poppy crop and the heroin business that's tied to Taliban and al Qaeda, as an example.

FOREMAN: Nic, let me ask you about that then. These are different-type people with different views. Would they buy into such an idea?

ROBERTSON: Well, what General Grange is talking about here is classic counter-insurgency. There are so many different opinions in Afghanistan right now how to deal with the drug issue. The United States is pushing the idea of spraying crops which is, according to many people, absolutely counter-intuitive to winning hearts and minds, which is essentially counterinsurgency. What General Grange is proposing is an idea that's been proposed by some other groups, essentially you legalize the poppy growth in certain villages, certain areas. The communities there self-police the amount of poppy cultivation that they've been licensed to grow and you work with them, rather than work against these farmers by destroying their crops. So in essence, this is one solution, but -- and it works, if you will, in a counter-insurgency environment which is what the battle in Afghanistan and the border of Pakistan would be all about. But there are so many different ideas. The British want to help the farmers. The UN wants NATO to take a bigger role. There just aren't enough NATO troops to do the job they're doing at the moment, never mind get in and police poppy crops. So the international community has a whole plethora of ideas and after six years, still can't agree and the poppy production this year was gone up about another 20 percent, 8,200 tons of opium produced this year.

FOREMAN: He raised one other interesting point here. The number of people involved, look at this graph about troop levels. U.S. troops in Iraq, 164,000 of them, U.S. troops in Afghanistan, 25,000, in Pakistan, 50, and there's a Pakistan frontier corps that could possibly be trained to help out, 60,000 people. General, is this just enough people to accomplish any of this?

GRANGE: It's tough but the border issues, whether it be Afghanistan and Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, the Kurdish issue in northern Iraq and Turkey, I don't think we're taking on these border issues in a very innovative way. There's ways to deal with special forces camps, a little bit more expansion than we have right now to influence the hearts and minds, to do the poppy thing I was referring to, to open schools, to live almost like natives, to trade horses and goats and do those type of things. You're not trying to put little America or little coalition force in these areas. What you want to try to do is put something in that looks, touches, smells like local personne, and then start chipping away at it, to include the use of information through these camps, surrogate broadcasting, into virtual world, which can go back and forth across the border without any issues of conflict.

FOREMAN: General Grange, thanks so much, Nic Robertson as well.

Coming up, we'll look ahead to the U.S.-sponsored Middle East summit and whether we can expect anything different from past peace efforts there.

And later, why some wounded war vets are thankful for the game of golf. But right now, let's take a look at the pictures that combat photographers brought to us in THIS WEEK AT WAR. Musadiq Sadiq (ph) captured a French soldier teaching children in Afghanistan about the dangers of land mines as they stood near an unexploded device (INAUDIBLE) . A symbol of calm in the war zone as students of the Baghdad music and ballet school perform during a class in this photo taken by Hadi Misban (ph), imagine that in Iraq now. Israeli soldiers take positions during an army operation in a Palestinian refugee camp in the west bank and an anonymous photographer for the Associated Press captured this father grieving over the body of his 11-year-old son, at a hospital morgue in Baquba, Iraq. That child was killed in a suicide bomb attack.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: The date is set, the invitations sent. On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are among the leaders expected at a U.S.-sponsored peace summit not far from here in Annapolis, Maryland. So the United States is taking the lead again in trying to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Why now and what are the expectations? CNN's Ben Wedeman is in Jerusalem with us now and State Department correspondent Zain Verjee is here in the studio. Ben, let me start with you. What are the expectations over there?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The expectations are fairly low, actually. Most people don't really expect an awful lot to come out of this conference, but nonetheless, opinion polls on both sides, among Israelis and among Palestinians are that they support the idea of a peace conference. They just don't feel that, at this point, a lot is going to come out of it, because all the main leaders involved, the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian authority and President George W. Bush all seem to be unpopular and fairly weak leaders but nonetheless, most people do want to see progress made towards some sort of lasting settlement of this conflict. Tom?

FOREMAN: Zain, let's take a look at the map and give people a reminder of just where we're talking about. This is where Israel is. So it looks like what we'd be talking about is a baby step of some sort. What kind of step? What would they start with?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been to the region, shuttling back and forth between both sides, about eight times. She's really laid the groundwork for this moment to happen. It's been very difficult. It was only up until six days ago that they issued invitations.

FOREMAN: Even to get people to the table.

VERJEE: Even to do that, it's been incredibly difficult for the U.S. So what Secretary Rice is saying that she hopes that this is actually going to be some sort of kick start to future negotiations toward a Palestinian state. So it's significant that, for the first time in seven years, the United States is actually putting its weight behind negotiations, but it says it will lead.

FOREMAN: OK, Ben if they want to kick start things, what is the issue that must be addressed? Everybody sits down around the table and somebody says who wants to begin? What do they begin with?

WEDEMAN: There's a variety of issues that are very major stumbling blocks in this process. The question of the fate of the Israeli settlements in the west bank, the question of the final status of Jerusalem, the question of the right of Palestinian refugees to return to what is now Israel. All of these are really considered the core issues and issues upon which the Palestinians and the Israelis have not been able to agree upon, even on how they're going to be addressed at the Annapolis summit. In fact, we know that they haven't agreed on a final joint statement or declaration signed by the Palestinians and the Israelis. So it's going to be up to the Americans, Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of State, and of course, President George W. Bush, to really bang heads together to get some sort of statement of agreement of principle to come out of this summit in Annapolis, and as yet, they haven't even reached that.

FOREMAN: As we know, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is in the region, supposed to be working on all of this. Ben, listen to what Mr. Blair said the other day and then I want to hear your reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY BLAIR, INTL QUARTET ENVOY: Without total prosperity (INAUDIBLE), I'm giving people an economic stake in the future, and that is for ordinary Palestinians improving their lives. (INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: So Ben, he's essentially saying unless Palestinians have some kind of economic hope for reasonably stable prosperous lives, forget about it. Nothing you talk about will work. Is that a fair statement?

WEDEMAN: That's really the core of the matter at this point, is that Palestinians have to be shown that there's some benefit to engaging in negotiations with the Israelis and really what they're focusing on is trying to ease some of the travel restrictions that exist in the west bank. For instance, the city of Nablis (ph) is losing more than $1 million a week as a result of Israeli checkpoints around the city. So what Mr. Blair is trying to do is to make the west bank at least a viable and economically viable entity and at the moment, it's not really because of these road blocks, travel restrictions and other difficulties in getting around the west bank, many Palestinians say a two-state solution simply isn't viable, given the reality on the ground in the west bank.

FOREMAN: Zain, Condoleezza Rice has said really that all you can really do is give your best effort here, but give me the reason the State Department, the United States international relations have really become a mess in recent years. Do they feel like they are giving their best effort going to the table here or do they feel like they're fighting from the ropes?

VERJEE: Well, Secretary Rice says that she is. She's going to give it her best effort and the United States is going to take front and center stage issues. The truth is, they haven't been involved in this process at all for the last seven years. A lot of Arab governments are pretty skeptical about this saying, why all of the sudden is the U.S. getting involved in this, if they haven't been so interested? One of the reasons many tell us is, basically, that the Arabs are saying you've got to show some sort of traction on the Israeli-Palestinian process if you want our support on a coalition in Iran, against Iran and support in Iraq.

FOREMAN: Doesn't that make people in the hallways of the State Department say, yeah, it's nice that we're having a conference but this is a pipe dream, that anything good is going to come out of it?

VERJEE: Well the expectations are low as Ben said. When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, most people are pretty pessimistic, for a reality check, many people that we've spoken to, they say, number one, if you want to see any kind of success here you've got to get the United States seeing this process right the way through, to be tough, as well as to reassure both parties when necessary. Secondly, the Israeli and Palestinian leaders need to take the risks and make the painful concessions and that's not clear whether that's going to happen and finally what they tell us, too, and this is important, Hamas is not involved in this process at all. They're just dealing with Abbas and Hamas controls Gaza. It represents about 1 million Palestinians and it could ruin the process, because it doesn't believe in it.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN, ANCHOR: Unless you can somehow resolve this, the whole region will not never quite reach this point. We have to wrap it up there. Zain, thanks so much. Ben, we got a lot more to talk about but we'll save it for another day.

Straight ahead, we'll turn to the price you're paying at the gas pump and whether those are allowing the U.S.A.'s oil-rich enemies to flex political muscle. It's an interesting debate, "This Week at War."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TONY HARRIS, CNN, ANCHOR: And hello, everyone. I'm Tony Harris. Southern California, here we go again. Wildfires out of control, in Coral canyon and Malibu. Take a look at the pictures for yourself. 34 homes gone today. 2,000-plus acres blackened. The weather is helping zero. Winds are strong, steady, gusting up to 60 miles per hour. Firefighters call the situation dangerous, and dynamic. Fire advisories are in place, as far as south of San Diego. Several firefighters are reported injured. No word on any civilian injuries.

Richard Roberts, President of Oral Roberts University and the son of its namesake has resigned. It's effective immediately, of course. According to the schools Board of Regents, Roberts' resignation comes as he battles a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by three professors. The lawsuit accuses Roberts and his wife of lavishly spending school money on themselves. Those are the headlines this hour. Now back to "This Week at War."

FOREMAN: 38 million Americans are on the highway this thanksgiving weekend, and if you're one of them, chances are you've had to stop for gas and pay a lot more than you once did. High gas prices are burning holes in a lot of wallets, but how are they affecting oil-rich U.S. adversaries like Iran and Venezuela. CNN business correspondent Ali Velshi is where he should be, among all of the holiday shoppers in Long Island, New York. And in our New York Bureau, David Sandalow, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Guys, before we do anything else, let's listen to this comment by Venezuelan Hugo Chavez from a few days ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. HUGO CHAVEZ, VENEZUELA (through translator): If the United States does the crazy thing of invading Iran or attacking Venezuela again. The barrel of oil is not just going to reach $100, it can make it to $200.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: David, do you think Chavez can be throwing around this kind of talk if oil wasn't already very high?

DAVID SANDALOW, AUTHOR, "FREEDOM FROM OIL": No, he couldn't. And you know, Tom, look, it's been 25 years since U.S. diplomats were held hostage by Iranian revolutionaries in Tehran. But today, all Americans still are hostage to the continuing dependence of our cars and trucks on oil. And this is conferring extraordinary power on people like Hugo Chavez and the leader of Iran, Ahmadinejad.

FOREMAN: We'll take a look at a graph real quick here and show you how much it's risen. This is from November '03, $28 a barrel and now all the way up to $95 now. Ali, this kind of climb really does give an enormous amount of economic punch to certain people, doesn't it in.

ALI VELSHI, CNN, BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, people are feeling it in America and as a result of this climb in oil prices, and the resulting climb in gas prices, I think the attention of Americans is on the world and those places where we know we get a lot of oil from, like Venezuela and Iran. The thing is, while we talk about pulling back on our consumption of gasoline here in the United States, Tom, the fact of the matter is, this demand for oil and gasoline is not just an American thing. It's India, it's China, it's much more robust growth in the rest of the world than the United States. So it's not a U.S. problem. It's a worldwide problem. In fact, our gas prices are cheaper in the United States than in so many other countries.

FOREMAN: And it's not just Venezuela we're talking about here. Listen to what Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president had to say "we would never want to use oil as a weapon or take any illegal actions but if America takes any action against us, we would know how to reply." That's what he said. David, here's a question. What did the other OPEC nations think of this kind of talk, though? Sure, Iran likes it, Venezuela likes it, but what about the others?

SANDALOW: Well, there was a lot of debate in the OPEC meeting last week about this, and the Saudis take a very different view. You know, they've got a lot of assets that are denominated in dollars right now and so they have a different set of concerns about this issue. But still, oil exporters have a significant hold on the United States, that has big implications for our national security.

FOREMAN: Let's take a look at who the OPEC nations are and how it came to be this way because I think it's worth remembering at all times. It was created back in September of 1960 with the objective to coordinate and unify petroleum policies in order to secure fair and stable prices for petroleum producers, that's what they said. The members include Iran, Iraq, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Certainly, some of these, Ali, really do not want further disruptions in oil or in oil prices because they must fear international recession perhaps.

VELSHI: They don't want to talk about $150 oil, they don't really like talking about $100 oil. Most economists think that oil based on supply and demand, should be in the $60 range but of course, it doesn't matter what they think oil should be priced at because right now it's close to a $100. But even at $3 per gallon of gasoline in the United States, we do know demand does start to (peter) up. People do start to make other choices. That's not good for OPEC countries. That's not good for the rest of the world. But as David will tell you, since OPEC formed, things have changed in the world. There are a lot of non-OPOEC countries that supply the United States with oil, Mexico and Canad. These are countries that are very friendly who would like the price of oil to be high enough for them to make money but not so high that Americans decide that they're looking for alternatives to oil.

FOREMAN: David, is this a bit of a false threat from these countries though? Because the truth is Iran and Venezuela, if they tried to disrupt the international flow of oil, would hurt as well, very quickly.

SANDALOW: I don't think it is a false threat. They don't have to play the oil card to send jitters to international financial markets. Prices rise and that worries leaders. And look at what's happening in the dynamics right now, in negotiations over the nuclear program that Iran is pursuing. We have a harder time putting together a multilateral coalition because of the fear of playing the oil card from Iran and Venezuela.

FOREMAN: So, do you feel then, David, that this is something that can we address it? What can we do about is it? We need the oil and they've got it.

SANDALOW: I think we can. I think there are break-through technologies right now. And I tell you the most important one is connecting cars to the electric grid. It's the next step beyond the hybrids, like the Prius that people are diving around today. I've been driving on of these cars around for the past couple of months. I go home every night. I plug my card into a regular extension cord in my garage. I get 30 miles on electricity and then after 30 miles I switch over to a gasoline engine. This is the type of technology that can dramatically transform our relationship with oil exporters like Iran and Venezuela. We need to get these cars out in the market immediately.

FOREMAN: And Ali, do you think this is the end of it? I think, has the jump been made by consumers yet, though? There are those who support those types of cars that David is talking about but largely for ecological reasons or because they feel like it's a good idea. A lot of people haven't made that connection.

FOREMAN: Yes, they're starting to, at $3 at a sustained level of gasoline you'll actually see that. You see the drop-off in truck sales. We see more people. We see every Prius that can be sold is being sold. I think David's exactly right. People are making the economic jump to non-oil fuels much more than the ecological jump. It used to be it was cool to have a Prius. Now it's smart.

FOREMAN: All right. Ali Velshi thanks so much and David Sandalow. I think we'll be talking about this again as time goes on here.

Imagine being falsely accused of slaughtering innocent civilians. When we come back, the story of one marine and his family's effort to cope with that terrible burden. You do not want to miss this story.

But first, as we always do, please join us as we have a final salute to some of those who fell in "This Week at War."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: This is a story you may have heard. Two years ago this week in the northern Iraqi town of Hadithah, two dozen Iraqi men, women and children there were massacred by rampaging marines. Marines later charged with crimes and reviled by war critics. What you may not have heard, however, is that almost all the charges are being dropped, and military investigators now say the story of a slaughter is simply not true. Our Sean Callebs caught up with one of these young men for an exclusive interview this week and he found a family thankful, yes, but troubled by the lingering accusations about Hadithah.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My life for the last year and a half...

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: As long as anyone can remember, Justin Sharratt wanted to wear fatigues. TERESA SHARRATT, MOTHER OF JUSTIN: He just liked everything military.

CALLEBS: His parents, Darrell and Teresa, hoped he would go to college, but 9/11 cemented his plans.

DARRELL SHARRATT, FATHER OF JUSTIN: We knew there was no turning back at that time.

CALLEBS: By November of 2005, Sharratt was a battle-hardened marine. On his second tour in Iraq, leading a column of humvees into Hadithah in the early morning cold, when disaster struck.

JUSTIN SHARRATT, FORMER U.S. MARINE: I turned around and looked up and there were smoke clouds about 500, 600 yards up high in the air.

CALLEBS: A roadside bomb had instantly killed Sharratt's former roommate, Lance Corporal (Miguel Torasus) but what happened over the next four hours has caused the incidents of that day to be investigated, reported, and wildly disputed over and over again. The marines spread out, searching for insurgents. Sharratt followed some suspicious Iraqi man into a house, one raised a rifle. Sharratt's own rifle jammed. He then ducked into a doorway and came back out with his pistol.

SCHARRATT: Then, he popped back out with his AK-47 so I shot at him and killing him. So I rushed across the hallway into that room and I saw three other Iraqi men, and they were pretty much semi- together, but all I saw was the first one, and he also had an AK-47. So I shot him, and then the two males that were behind him, because the first two guys had guns, you know, the last two must have something.

CALLEBS: The last two turned out to be unarmed, but as Sharratt and the other marines left the scene at 10:30 that night, they thought the incident was over. Then months later, this videotape emerged from the Iraqi community, showing the aftermath of all the gunfire in another house in Haditha during the same search. "Time" Magazine broke the story of a possible cover-up, a military investigation followed, and widespread condemnation, too.

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Our troops overreacted, because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood.

CALLEBS: Four marines, including Sharratt, were charged with murder. Four officers were charged with covering up the incident. Darrell Sharratt drained his retirement account to pay for his son's defense.

DARRELL SHARRATT: For 18 years, we have protected him, and when this happened, i couldn't...

CALLEBS: He's a tough kid.

DARRELL SHARRATT: I thought I was a tough guy, too, until, man, until you go through what he went through.

CALLEBS: Wasn't there a part of you that said this is completely unfair, I am really mad?

SHARRATT: There was, but I mean that part of me never really showed face.

CALLEBS: It took months, but eventually, after all the testimony, investigators concluded that, while yes, many Iraqis died, they fell in the course of a chaotic and running battle. There was no slaughter. Sharratt was completely cleared. The authority in the case, Lieutenant General James Mattas even raised Sharratt's restraint, saying "our nation is fighting a shadowy enemy who hides among the innocent people and routinely targets and intentionally draws fire towards civilians." Sharratt's father appreciated the comment but appreciates the facts even more.

DARRELL SHARRATT: It was not General Mattas that exonerated my son. It was the evidence.

CALLEBS: In all, five of the marines charged in Hadithah have been cleared and at this point, there are doubts whether any of the marines will be convicted. Justin knows critics of this war will never accept the findings of the investigation, and that rumors about the incident may follow him for years, but he, at least, is intent on putting Hadithah behind him.

SHARRATT: No one's going to stop me from doing anything I want to. I mean, it's my future, not anyone else's so I'm going to take control of my life.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: Sean Callebs joins us now from New Orleans. Sean, this is an amazing story. Did these young people ever have the sense of they'll be able to get out from underneath this shadow?

CALLEBS: I think Justin Sharratt is totally convinced he is going to be able to get out from underneath this shadow. He says he asks when he applies for a job or tries to go to school, people are going to ask him, weren't you the guy from TV, weren't charged with? But then he said he's going to look them in the eyes and say, "yes I was charged and I was completely exonerated, I did nothing wrong."

FOREMAN: An amazing story and one that we need to cover further aggressively, considering how aggressive the original charges were. Thanks so much, Sean Callebs for joining us here.

Straight ahead, why golf is more than just a game for some war wounded veterans. You must stick around for it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: Surviving war is of course never easy, but for soldiers who have to face life without the arms or legs they once had, the challenge is even more daunting. A CNN photojournalist Bethany Swayne discovered some war wounded vets are now using the golf course as part of their road to recovery.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: January 21st, 2004, I lost my leg at about 9:30, 10:00 at night. A 120 millimeter mortar landed three feet away from me, right at the corner of the Sunni triangle at the Diyala province, not a very good area, and it's literally by a miracle of god that I'm still alive. You know, I came from playing rugby, and football and baseball, you know, very physical sports. I hated golf. A bunch of guys out there trying to hit a little white ball, any number of times, with a crooked stick and then they pick it up out of the hole and do it again. I thought it would be like the easiest thing in the world, not even challenging, and I was wrong. Really, really wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The IED shot up my back, and what we're trying to do is make it to where every wounded veteran is able to play golf, you know, learn the game of golf and play for free.

JIM ESTES, SALUTE MILITARY GOLF ASSOCIATION: Our mission is to provide facility access to our soldiers so that clubbers can approach the ball at a fairly steep angle, as well as golf lessons and golf equipment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, give it a swing.

ESTES: I think they all are in better spirits.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That looks perfect.

ESTES: They look forward to getting out of that hospital setting, which is a pretty long time. Recovery for most injuries is life-long.

STAFF SERGEANT CHARLES EGGLESTON, PROGRAM PARTICIPANT: I always enjoy coming to the course. And I just like golf now.

Golf clears my mind 100%. I mean, I'm out here trying to do this on one leg. It's not really hard anymore, but it sure is heck was to begin with. If seeing me gives them the inspiration to get out, you know, and try something, someone with a disability, then I'm doing okay.

FOREMAN: A terrific program. Please check out their website, golfsalute.org, and see if you can help.

In just a moment, being thankful for those who fight for us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: Many of us were able to take time out this week to be with family and friends and think about all the things that we are thankful for, but U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan didn't have that luxury. They were on the job. Now they weren't forced into it, and they don't complain about it, they're just doing their jobs, often heroically. It's a job that can come with a heavy price, long separation from loved ones, broken minds and bodies, even death. It's so easy to get caught up in whether or not the United States should have gone to war, but regardless of where you stand, this country has many and women who are putting their lives on the line for us, every day. And for that, we should all be grateful. Turning now to some of the stories that we'll be following in the next week at war.

On Tuesday, the U.S. sponsored Middle East Peace Summit begins in Annapolis, Maryland. The meeting is intended to re-start intensive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

And on Wednesday, the CNN youtube republican debate takes place in St. Petersburg, Florida, the war of words. Thanks for joining us on "This Week At War." I'm Tom Foreman. Straight ahead, "Larry King Live."

HARRIS: And hello everyone, I'm Tony Harris.

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