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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Republican Congressman Under Fire For Outburst Against President Obama; President Obama Presses Democrats on Health Care Reform; Live From the Battle Zone in Afghanistan

Aired September 10, 2009 - 22:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The action is definitely here in Afghanistan. We're at Marine Forward Operating Base Geronimo. It's now morning. The date is 9/11, eight years since it all began, the attacks on America, then the war here.

The war, of course, continues here. But it's a very different kind of war which is being fought, which leaves with -- Americans with a much more difficult battle on their hands.

We saw that firsthand today, Marines, with members of the fledgling Afghan national army, torn away during a visit to a nearby village by reports some sort of an attack, a flare thrown. They weren't sure what was going on. We gave chase, never found the bad guys. They melted away, it seems, a tough war to fight, as I said, and back home growing tougher to sell -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today, the top Democrat, for the first time doubting congressional support for the war, even though, to our eyes, the troops already here are making the best of a very challenging mission.

So, tonight, all the angles, Michael Ware on the original enemy, al Qaeda. Where are they? I will out be on patrol as the Marines try to turn the Afghan army into force that Afghans can trust to protect them.

And 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta following the amazing progress of a very lucky little Afghan boy saved by American doctors now on his way home.

Back home in Washington, though, that's where we begin tonight. President Obama, who now owns this war, trying to consolidate ownership of health care reform. The day after his landmark speech to Congress, he had Democrats over at the White House for some arm- twisting.

But that is not what everyone is talking about. As you know, they're talking about the GOP congressmen who shouted out two words about the president, "You lie," South Carolina Republican Congressman Joe Wilson, who quickly apologized -- President Obama quickly accepting his apology.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The reforms -- the reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.

REP. JOE WILSON (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You lie.

(AUDIENCE BOOING)

OBAMA: It's not true.

OBAMA: I'm a big believer that we all make mistakes. He apologized quickly and without equivocation. And I'm appreciative of that.

I do think that, as I said last night, we have to get to the point where we can have a conversation about big, important issues that matter to the American people without vitriol, without name- calling, without the assumption of the worst in other people's motives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The president saying apology accepted, but the controversy still growing. Who is Congressman Wilson? Who thinks he went too far? And who actually agrees with him?

The "Raw Politics" from Joe Johns.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Republican Congressman Joe Wilson. After last night, he's the man everyone wanted to hear from today.

WILSON: Last night, I heard from the leadership that they wanted me to contact the White House and state that my statements were inappropriate. I did.

JOHNS: Inappropriate? Not everyone agrees. In his health care speech last night, President Obama made a debatable claim that illegal immigrants would not be insured in his health care reform plan. It was more than Wilson could stand.

WILSON: You lie!

(AUDIENCE BOOING)

JOHNS: "You lie," that's what he yelled.

OBAMA: It's not true.

JOHNS: Democrats up in arms charging Wilson had disrespected the office of president of the United States. And, suddenly, Wilson's own office became the center of a storm. The phone lines in his office, Twitter and Facebook pages all flooded. His office Web site crashed because so many people offered opinions.

So, what were people saying? Wilson's staff said calls were 3-1 in support of Wilson, but not so much public support from leaders of his own party, even though he may have articulated some Republican anger. (on camera): What about the sentiment, though? There's anger. There's frustration. What about the sentiment?

MICHAEL STEELE, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I don't know about -- I don't know what -- what sentiment are you talking about?

JOHNS: The sentiment that the -- that the Democrats are shoving health care down the throats of Republicans.

STEELE: I think everybody's concerned right now about what the next steps are in health care. The congressman apologized for his outburst. I think we have all moved past that. Let's focus on getting a good bill.

REP. JOHN SHADEGG (R), ARIZONA: I'm not trying to excuse it. There is a frustration in America right now. And I think that frustration stems from the fact that president is pursuing policies quite different from what he campaigned on.

JOHNS: So, who is this guy anyway?

Joe Wilson is not the kind of congressman you see sticking his face in front of a camera here at the United States Capitol Complex, kind of keeps to himself, comes from a very conservative district in South Carolina. Known for handling defense issues, he's also the type of congressman who worked here on Capitol Hill before he actually ran for Congress.

He's an attorney as well, and a lot of people were surprised at this outburst.

(voice-over): But not shocked. He once lit into a Democrat on C-SPAN for claiming the U.S. gave weapons of mass destruction to Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, C-SPAN)

WILSON: That is absurd. And, you know, this hatred of America by some people is just outrageous. And we need to get over that.

(CROSSTALK)

WILSON: It is a hatred of America to say something like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: And today, after Wilson went after the president, some folks back in his home state of South Carolina said they didn't like it.

A Democrat running against Wilson even said he got $200,000 in donations overnight. But in a conservative state where Wilson is a fixture, he has still got support. And to cash in on those feelings, Wilson just this evening with a fund-raising video explaining what happened and asking for money.

So, did the president lie about illegal immigrants being insured under the Democratic reform efforts? The answer, technically, illegal immigrants would not be prohibited from receiving insurance under three of the plans passed by committees in the House, but they would have to pay for it on their own.

And the most important issue is who pays. The bills that have passed the three committees say the illegal immigrants cannot receive any government money, tax credits and the like, to pay for health care. So, several fact-checking organizations have said the president was not lying -- Anderson.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Joe Johns reporting.

Joe, thanks. A lot more to talk about, though, in Washington and across the country.

For that, let's send it over to Wolf Blitzer with a "Strategy Session" -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, thanks very much.

With President Obama working on Democrats, Republican leaders were trying to get past the job of the Joe Wilson flap. And they were trying to fire up their own troops, they and the conservative group FreedomWorks rallying on Capitol Hill. Joe Wilson, by the way, was not in attendance.

The House minority whip, Eric Cantor, speaking and hearing from Wilson supporters. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: Last night, we heard our president address this country.

(BOOING)

CANTOR: We -- we were listening -- we were listening for specifics. We were listening to hear something new. And we did not hear that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, let's get some more now with CNN's Candy Crowley -- she's joining us -- political contributor Roland Martin, and Obama opponent Mark Williams, an organizer of the Tea Party Express tour and co-director of the political action committee Our Country Deserves Better.

Mark, let me start with you.

Do you share the opinion expressed by Congressman Joe Wilson? MARK WILLIAMS, ORGANIZER, TEA PARTY EXPRESS: Oh, absolutely. And so many people do.

They also share his frustration and his anger. If he did anything wrong, it was the venue. That -- that, I have to give him a slap on the wrist for. But he absolutely spoke the truth.

Everybody seems to be leaving one very important thing out of this. And that is, the federal courts have spoken with regard to illegal immigrants or illegal aliens getting benefits, especially health benefits. We tried to bar them from doing that in California back in the '90s, and the federal courts slapped us down.

Even language specifically excluding them is not going to stand a court battle. So, whatever Obama believes -- and, for that matter, I don't even know what bill he was talking about. Does he have a proposal? Does he have a plan? What's he even talking about?

BLITZER: Well, let me bring Roland Martin into this conversation.

Congressman Wilson's heckling certainly does underscore the bitterness toward President Obama right now on this and other issues. Is this simply politics as usual here, Roland, or is there more to play?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. What you have here is, you have people who have absolute disdain for this president.

And the attitude of Congressman Wilson was unbecoming of a member of Congress, and even his own party members recognize that. Now, it's interesting that Mark would talk about, he didn't know what he was talking about.

Well, I will ask Mark this. Will he say on national television that Senator John McCain is a liar, who said today that there is no provision and the president was absolutely right? Well, he even called members of his -- members of the Republican Party liars.

The fact of the matter is, Joe Wilson was lying about this provision. And so it is ridiculous for a member of Congress to behave in this manner. And he should apologize to the House, because he brought the kind of negative reaction on them from his actions, and should not only apologize to the president, but also to his fellow House members.

BLITZER: All right, I'm going to let Mark respond in a moment.

But, Candy, before that happens, the fallout from what happened last night, does it help or hurt President Obama's chances of getting health care reform passed?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't know what it does to his chances of getting it passed.

I do know that, in these past, what, 24 hours, certainly, it has helped the president, because one of his aims last night -- you know, Wolf, going into this speech last night, there were Democrats thinking, boy, where is he on this? Why hasn't he really taken leadership of it? Why hasn't he hit back against his critics?

The polls were beginning to show an increase in people who thought the president was not reaching out to Republicans. And then along comes this. And what -- what it has done is really let the president be above all of this. He talked last night about petty partisan politics.

And now, you know, today, he can sort of magnanimously say, yes, I accept his apology. So, it has made the president look good. And that can't help but help the president.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to let Mark respond to Roland, in a moment.

Stand by, everyone.

We will be back with the panel shortly.

First, let's send it back to Anderson for a look ahead at the rest of the hour from Afghanistan -- Anderson.

COOPER: That's right, Wolf. Yes, that's right, Wolf.

Let us know what you think online. Join the live chat right now at AC360.com. We will go back to Wolf and that conversation.

Also just ahead, we're out on patrol with U.S. Marines and members of the Afghan national army. Remember, that's what the politicians are saying. It's all about training the Afghan national army. Well, we will show you how it's going. We will show you the mission and what happened today, chasing shadows, as somebody made some sort of an attack on the Marines, then melted away.

And, later, Michael Ware and Peter Bergen on the original mission, finding bin Laden. What's become of that mission and where is Osama bin Laden?

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back. We're at Forward Operating Base Geronimo in Helmand Province, deep in Taliban territory. We got a sign of that today when we went out on patrol. We will show you what happened.

First, though, we have breaking news on health care reform back home -- President Obama pressing moderate Democrats today for their support.

Dana Bash tonight catching up with some them, getting their late reaction.

Dana, what are you hearing? DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, earlier this evening, Anderson, I talked to several senators who did meet with the president today. It was a group of 17 senators. They were all Democrats and all conservative Democrats.

And that's quite telling, that this was the first group the president wanted to meet with after his big speech, because he knows that his health care plan really depends on what they can accept. And most of these senators are quite uncomfortable, in some cases, outright opposed, to what the president prefers, which is a government-run health care option.

Now, one of these senators, Tom Carper of Delaware, he told me that he really pressed the president behind closed doors to bend on that, and, specifically, to hold off on that so-called public option for several years. He said he wanted it -- to do it as a last resort, and only if other insurance reforms don't work. That's the so-called trigger.

And several of these Democratic senators told me that the president was quite clear, abundantly clear, that he is going to be willing to negotiate on that and several other things.

And that's why it was really interesting today. The other thing we saw on the other side of the Democratic divide on health care is a softening from liberal Democrats. Even the House speaker, who has said so many times over the last several weeks she can't pass a health care proposal without a so-called public option, she declined to say that in today's press conference.

So, there's a long way to go here, but we are starting to see a little bit of a softening of Democrats, and -- and them starting to climb out of their trenches on either side of this, what has been a very deep Democratic divide on health care -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. But the trenches -- yes, the trenches still -- the trenches still exist.

Dana Bash taking the pulse of Democrats tonight -- thanks, Dana.

A lot more to talk about. Let's throw it back to Wolf Blitzer in New York -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Anderson, thanks.

Let's get back to our panel talking strategy on health care reform and Congressman Joe Wilson's outburst, CNN's Candy Crowley joining us, political contributor Roland Martin, and Tea Party Express organizer Mark Williams.

We're going to get what Dana just reported. But, Mark, I want to give you a chance to respond to what Roland said, that John McCain himself agrees with the president that nothing in this legislation would give illegal immigrants in the United States the opportunity to gain from this proposed legislation. WILLIAMS: Well, Wolf, it doesn't have to, because the courts have already spoken on. And that they will speak again if -- if -- if it happens.

But this bitterness that supposedly is directed toward Obama, if I have learned anything in my work with OurCountryPAC.org, it's that it's not bitterness. It's outrage at the socialist policies being embraced by this administration.

MARTIN: Nonsense. It's bitterness.

WILLIAMS: And that goes -- that goes double for W., by the way.

And, as far as the Republican Party goes, it's no surprise to any of us working stiffs out here that they allow themselves to be a doormat for what is happening in Washington, D.C.

The fact of the matter is, the Republican Party, as a whole, is absent without leave from this debate. And our representatives, our elected representatives, are falling down on the job of upholding and protecting the Constitution. And that's why the American people are rising.

That's why I had almost 10,000 people outside Chicago at our tea party the other day. People are sick and tired of being abused and then being called a mob of Nazis because they object to that.

BLITZER: All right.

WILLIAMS: We're the people who pay the bills.

BLITZER: Roland...

MARTIN: Wolf, here's the deal.

BLITZER: ... let me bring you into this conversation.

You just heard what Dana reported, that moderate Democrats are encouraged by what the president is saying. But here's the question to you. Will these liberal members of -- of Congress go ahead and support legislation if it doesn't include the public option?

MARTIN: Look, I think the liberals and the moderates are going to have to give on the issue. But the most important thing is, they recognize they're going to have to get health care reform. The Democrats, this is in their plank. It has been in their plank for a number of years.

There is no way in the world that they are going to allow that this moment, when they're so close, to slip through their fingers, because they cannot blame the Republicans. They will have to accept the blame themselves. Democrats control the House, control the Senate, control the White House. They can't look to anybody else.

They have got to suck it up, come out, pick out their differences to move it forward. BLITZER: Candy, the political reality is, the president does have decisive majorities in both houses of Congress. In all likelihood, he's going to get what he wants, but not necessarily the public option, right?

CROWLEY: The public option is the one thing that even people at the White House have looked at and thought that perhaps it will have to go.

Much depends on what happens in the Senate. But it is a lot easier to see most of the liberals swallowing this and saying, OK, no public option this go-around, maybe we will see down the road if we need one, than it is to see conservatives and moderates accepting it. It just isn't going to happen.

BLITZER: Mark, is there anything...

CROWLEY: So...

BLITZER: ... your organization likes about the plans that the president is putting forward?

WILLIAMS: No. Where is the tort reform? Where is -- where is that at? That's the real problem. He doesn't want to take on the trial lawyers.

BLITZER: Well, he did say last night that he...

MARTIN: Wow. Nothing.

BLITZER: ... he would let a test go forward on -- on caps on medical malpractice.

WILLIAMS: Well, that doesn't help the tort reform. That doesn't do anything but -- but hurt me if I'm butchered by somebody not being able to be made whole.

No, he's taking us down a $9 trillion deficit path here that we have no business walking down. We have serious problems in this country.

MARTIN: So, Mark -- Mark...

WILLIAMS: We're in an economic -- we have economic issues. We have social issues. We have international issues. We're -- we're having problems in Afghanistan now.

All of these are major priorities. And this administration is watching its approval ratings drop through the 50s and eventually into the 40s, where it won't be able to accomplish anything. And it needs to accomplish much.

MARTIN: Mark, there's nothing in -- Mark, there's nothing in the bill?

Are you are telling me that you have a problem with the president saying that, if you have a preexisting condition, you're going to now get covered? You don't like that?

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: If I'm -- yes, I will find an insurance company that will cover me. I'm sure that was...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: You're not going to find them, Mark. They're not going to cover you.

WILLIAMS: Well, there is probably a good reason, because it's a bad risk.

MARTIN: Wow.

WILLIAMS: And if he's going to come to me and tell me that I must have insurance, or I'm committing a crime, and then fine me, I don't think so. We all have a right to health care.

MARTIN: Mark, I want you to admit...

WILLIAMS: I have also got a right to a gun. I'm not going to give him to $1,000 for a Glock.

MARTIN: Mark, I want you to admit...

WILLIAMS: I have got a right to free speech, but they're not telling me what to say and how other say it, are they?

MARTIN: So, Mark, if your wife got sick and had a preexisting condition, and the insurance company turned her down, you would say, you know what, honey, guess what, they need to make money, it's a smart move?

You would accept that?

WILLIAMS: If somebody has a record of DWIs, can they still get car insurance someplace?

MARTIN: No, no, no, answer my question, Mark.

WILLIAMS: I'm answering your question.

MARTIN: If your wife had a preexisting condition...

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: In the private sector, where competition reigns...

MARTIN: It's amazing.

WILLIAMS: ... a company would emerge that would take on those high-risk cases.

BLITZER: All right, guys, unfortunately, we have got to leave it terrorist there.

MARTIN: They don't exist now.

BLITZER: Roland Martin, Mark Williams, Candy Crowley...

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

BLITZER: ... thanks very much.

Certainly, we can expect a lot more on health care in the coming days and weeks.

For now, though, let's hand things back to Anderson. He's over at Forward Operating Base Geronimo in Afghanistan's Helmand Province.

Anderson, you guys are doing an amazing job out there.

COOPER: Wolf -- Wolf, thanks very much.

Just ahead, a routine patrol, we're going to take you out on it. It was a patrol where -- where routine, frankly, just doesn't last very long. The radio crackled. A report of trouble came in. You will see what happened next.

Later, the remarkable story of little Malik, once near death, now homeward-bound thanks to some American doctors. Sanjay Gupta is following his journey home -- when we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Coming up, we're going to take you on patrol with U.S. Marines as they train Afghan forces. Anything can happen on patrol at any time. And we will show what we mean.

First, Erica Hill has a 360 bulletin -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a suicide truck bomber hit a Kurdish village in northern Iraq just before dawn, killing at least 19 people and wounding at least 30 others. That attack also flattened a dozen houses. Officials said a second truck packed with explosives was stopped before its driver could detonate them.

Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill will be in New York tomorrow to mark the eighth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. The Bidens will take part in the memorial service honoring victims. President Obama will remain in Washington, where he will visit the memorial at the Pentagon.

A welcome dose of good news about the swine flu. Australian researchers have found, a single low dose of the vaccine may be enough to protect adults. The side effects, really no worse than those found with the seasonal flu vaccine. That study appears today's "New England Journal of Medicine." U.S. researchers, though, say they actually have similar findings, which they plan to report tomorrow.

A bold new guarantee from General Motors: Anyone who buys one of its vehicles and isn't satisfied can come back for a full refund within 60 days. The promise is part of a major new marketing push. GM says its products have improved so much, it can safely make that offer.

And a legal victory for comedian Jerry Seinfeld's wife -- a federal judge tossing out a cookbook author's claim that Jessica Seinfeld was a culinary copycat who stole the other woman's ideas for her own cookbook, which offers tips on getting more vegetables into children's diets.

The judge said the two books really had nothing in common. They're both bestsellers, but, other than that, they share just one thing, said the judge, their goal of hiding healthy food inside meals that kids like, Anderson.

And, as you know, we have been airing some taped messages.

COOPER: All right, Erica, certainly...

HILL: We have been airing some taped messages, Anderson, from service members in Afghanistan. You have helped collect some of them.

Among them is Lieutenant Sarah Tverdosi. I'm hope I'm pronouncing her name correctly. She is from New Jersey. And, last night, she said hi to her husband and her family.

Well, good news for Sarah and her dad, because he was watching. He posted a message on the 360 blog, where he wrote: "You make us all proud, Sarah. God bless you and keep you. See you real soon. Love, dad."

And we're happy that we could let dad see his little girl, Anderson.

COOPER: Well, that's -- that's certainly -- that's a good connection to make. And, certainly, parents and families in America have a lot to be proud of what the -- the Marines and -- and Navy and soldiers are doing over here, a lot of remarkable young men and women doing a very, very difficult job.

We will show you how difficult the job is on patrol next with the Marines mentoring Afghan troops and responding to reports of an attack -- an "Up Close" look at the extreme challenges.

And, later, the face of evil -- tomorrow is the eighth anniversary of September 11. It is already September 11 here in Afghanistan. The question is, where is bin Laden? Where is al Qaeda? Why is the U.S. in Afghanistan? Tough questions. We will some get answers from Peter Bergen and Michael Ware.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Hey, we're back live from the front lines in Afghanistan.

We are at Forward Operating Base Geronimo in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan. And earlier today, we went along with U.S. Marines on a joint patrol with Afghan troops. It began as a routine operation. But, as you will see, that all changed very quickly.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): It is, at first, an odd sight, U.S. Marines on patrol with the ANA, the Afghan National Army, and their U.S. Army advisers.

(on camera): What is the purpose of a -- a combined patrol like this?

1ST LT. ZACHARY BENNETT, U.S. MARINE CORPS: The mentorship is the -- the key piece, one. Two is showing the people that it's not just us. It's the ANA. It's their own government as well. You know, we weren't here -- we didn't come here as an invading force.

COOPER (voice-over): Assisting the Afghan national army, however, is a slow and often frustrating experience for U.S. forces.

It's not just the language barrier, which leaves both forces dependent on a limited number of interpreters. Afghan soldiers often lack training and discipline.

Today, 1st Lieutenant Zachary Bennett is bringing a new Afghan army lieutenant to a village to meet with elders. An IED went off here just the other day, killing one Afghan soldier.

(on camera): So, the Taliban is still around here?

BENNETT: Oh, they are, no doubt about it.

It's just a matter of, you know, they come at night. They come during the day, when the Marines are not around. If you ask the villagers, for the most part, they are going to tell you, "I have never seen any Taliban," or, "The Taliban have been gone since you guys got here."

COOPER: They all say that?

BENNETT: Yes, that's -- that's -- that's the usual song and dance.

COOPER: They're kind of on the fence about whether or not to fully support the U.S. or support the Afghan government...

BENNETT: Yes.

COOPER: ... because they don't know if you guys are going to stick around.

BENNETT: Yes. And, you know, they have been living here for as long as they have been alive. They know how to survive, which side of the table to play. So... COOPER: And often to play both sides?

BENNETT: Yes, to go with the strongest tribe.

COOPER (voice-over): Prayers are called as the patrol enters the village. Few people are on the streets, other than kids.

One man, however, approaches Lieutenant Bennett with information. We agreed to obscure his face for his own protection. He tells Lieutenant Bennett that the Taliban were here just yesterday, two men on a motorcycle looking for places to plant IEDs.

BENNETT: What I'm saying is, you need to come tell us when the Taliban are in the village, so that we can stop them before they try to get out of the village, and we can arrest them.

COOPER: Do you trust the Marines?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking foreign language)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes.

COOPER (voice-over): "Yes," he says. "But if the Taliban spies knew I was talking to you, they'd kill me."

(on camera) So there's spies around here?

(voice-over) "When the Taliban comes to the village," he says, "they talk first to the children about who gave information to the Marines."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got eyes on him?

COOPER: The meeting is suddenly cut short when Lieutenant Bennett gets a call on his radio.

(on camera) What happened?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Someone threw a flare, they're saying. We're going to stop pushing this way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) All clear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's up?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They threw a flare at us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Roger.

COOPER: This may be a joint patrol. But the Marines instantly take charge of the situation. Somebody flew a homemade flare at the U.S. forces. Now they're going to investigate this conflict.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't let anyone out of the village for the time being. Just knock on the door.

COOPER: For the Marines, it's a sensitive situation. They don't want to do anything to alienate the local population. At the same time, they want to investigate that guy's house. So they do a quick search. They didn't find anything, and now they're moving on.

It's also got to be a difficult situation. Because I mean, what you're trying to do here is build confidence with the locals and really win them over, get them off the fence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

COOPER: So you can't go charging into someone's house, you know, knocking down doors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

COOPER: That you would otherwise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.

COOPER (voice-over): Lieutenant Bennett reports the incident but thinks it may be somebody just trying to distract the patrol.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make sure your guys are being smart up front, too. Because I don't know if these guys placed something on the road down there.

COOPER: On the way back to base, Marines are especially cautious. One Afghan soldier, however, tries to sneak into the village and gets caught. But another Afghan soldier seems to have had more luck.

It's an incident which concerns Lieutenant Bennett.

(on camera) That's a minor incident. But it's important in a counterinsurgency, because you don't want to alienate the civilians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. The key is the civilians. That's what it all comes down to.

COOPER: Getting them on your side. Keeping them on your side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Letting them know that we're going to stay on their side. Not that we're going to stay here permanently, but we're going to stay as long as it takes to let the A&A and the Afghan national security forces stand on their own two feet.

COOPER: It's going to be a while, though?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't speculate on that. But it's not going to be next week.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: As we approach the anniversary to 9/11, already here it is 9/11. We're going to take a look at the -- at al Qaeda. That's the reason the U.S. got involved in Afghanistan in the first place.

Where is al Qaeda today? We'll take a look at that. And where is Osama bin Laden? We'll talk to Michael Ware and Peter Bergen.

We'll also follow the progress of that little boy, Malik, an Afghan boy whose life was saved by American forces. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back. We're at forward operating base Geronimo in the heart of Helmand province. This is held by the U.S. Marines, who go out on patrol every day. And they're helping retrain the Afghan national army.

We got involved in Afghanistan because of what happened on September 11. We're just a few hours away from the anniversary in the United States. Already here in Afghanistan, it is 9/11.

We wanted to take a look at where is al Qaeda today. You hear politicians in Washington talking about what's happening here as a hunt for al Qaeda. But you don't hear a lot of folks on the ground here talking about al Qaeda. We're going it talk about that with Peter Bergen and Michael Ware.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Michael, in Washington, you hear this war being presented as a war against al Qaeda, as a hunt for al Qaeda. But here on the ground, you don't really hear much about al Qaeda.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's because this is not a hunt against al Qaeda, Anderson. You don't hear the Afghans in the combat zones in southern Afghanistan or eastern Afghanistan, talking about al Qaeda.

That's why America originally invaded Afghanistan way back in 2001, because al Qaeda was given sanctuary here by the Taliban. America recognized that as a national security threat.

Well, that national security threat is no longer here. It's based in Pakistan. There's no al Qaeda training camps, and there's very little al Qaeda activity.

The bulk of the day-to-day fighting, the bulk of the bombings, the bulk of the shootings, almost all of them are being committed by Afghan Taliban. So this war now is not so much about Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network, Anderson.

COOPER: And the Taliban, Peter, is totally different than al Qaeda. I mean, there are linkages, especially in Pakistan. But what's the -- what's the linkage?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it's increasingly the Taliban. The Taliban were a very influential group of people when they ran this country. But they're (UNINTELLIGIBLE) jihad, operating very much like al Qaeda in Iraq. It's an IED war. It's a suicide attack war. So they've molded together ideologically and tactically with al Qaeda, which is part of the problem.

COOPER: But when -- when -- I mean, is it accurate for Washington to say that this is a battle against al Qaeda?

BERGEN: Certainly not here in Helmand, Anderson. As we've heard repeatedly, al Qaeda doesn't have much of a presence here. They are more of a problem in eastern Afghanistan. And the calculation is if international forces left, the Taliban would be back not, because you know, they're so strong but because the Afghan government is so weak. And if the Taliban came back, they would again offer safe haven to al Qaeda.

COOPER: Michael, I guess, that is the argument for the politicians. They say, "Well, look, if Afghanistan, you know, gets weaker, the Taliban takes over. Then this would be a home for al Qaeda."

WARE: Well, that is a possibility. But it assumes an awful lot. It assumes, firstly, that this government will fall apart to such a degree that the Taliban would come back.

Very few people actually can see that happening in the short- to medium-term future. And if you read the latest traffic between al Qaeda and the Taliban, you'll see that there are differences in their messages. And, indeed, one of the most recent Taliban messages stressed Pashtun representation and self-determination as its primary objective.

So the Afghan Taliban are fighting for one thing. Al Qaeda is fighting for another. Al Qaeda is fighting a transnational agenda. The Taliban are not.

And if the Taliban did get a toehold here in Afghanistan again, they probably won't be running the country. And it would be such a risk for them to bring al Qaeda with them. I'm not sure the Taliban goes that far down the ideological road with al Qaeda, especially when you talk directly to these Afghan Taliban -- Anderson.

COOPER: And Peter, the hunt for Osama bin Laden, do we know how active it is? Do we have any sense of the status of it?

BERGEN: It's very active. But since the battle of Tora Bora, in December of 2001, there's been no actionable intelligence about where bin Laden is. There are hypotheses that he's in the northwest frontier province of Pakistan in the tribal areas, somewhere up north. But these are important -- these are basically guesses. They're not intelligence.

COOPER: But the U.S. has had more success lately in hitting some of these -- these al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan with drones.

BERGEN: Indeed. I mean, the Bush administration amped up the drone program. There were 34 attacks under Bush in the last year of his administration. There have already been 36 under Obama. So Obama's actually ratcheted up this program, and they've taken out about half the leadership. They've been quite effective.

COOPER: All right. Peter Bergen, Michael Ware, thanks.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Up next, we want to get you caught up -- up next, we want to get you caught up on other stories making headlines tonight, including Bernie Madoff caught on tape, giving tips an how to fool the feds. Got to listen to that to believe it.

Plus, Michael Jackson's unseen video, the pop star's final days of rehearsals. Some new details on the upcoming documentary. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We'll have more from Afghanistan in a moment. But first, Erica Hill joins us with a "360 Bulletin" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, in a newly-released audio tape, convicted swindler Bernie Madoff is heard giving tips on how to outsmart SEC investigators. The 2005 phone call is with a person who's going to be interviewed by federal regulators about Madoff's investment firm.

Madoff started the call by saying, quote, "First of all, this call never took place." And then offered the following advice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERNIE MADOFF, CONVICTED OF FRAUD: You know, you don't have to be too brilliant with these guys because you don't have to be you are not supposed to have that knowledge and, you know, you wind up saying something which is either wrong or, you know, it's just not something you have to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: A Yale University graduate student who is supposed to get married this weekend has vanished. Anna Le was last seen on Tuesday. Her purse, along with money, credit cards, and her cell phone were all left in her campus office. Authorities are asking anyone with information to contact Yale University police.

A "360 Follow-up" tonight, a California state lawmaker who resigned after being caught on tape bragging about having sex with two lobbyists, denies that he had an extramarital affair.

Mike Duvall talked about skimpy underwear and how one woman likes to be spanked. He says his only offense was engaging in inappropriate story telling, adding, he does regret his choice of words.

And a preview of the upcoming behind-the-scenes movie about Michael Jackson this Sunday, you can see it during the MTV Video Music Awards. Sister Janet Jackson reportedly will open the show. The film, "Michael Jackson's This is It," was put together from some 100 hours shot during rehearsals for the King of Pop's planned London concerts. The movie will be released next month for a two-week engagement -- Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up, the question everyone around here gets asked and why you better know the answer. It's our "Shot of the Day."

But first, Malik is going home. The wounded 2-year-old Afghan boy who underwent surgery at a U.S. military trauma hospital. Three- sixty M.D. Sanjay Gupta follows his recovery and return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: You're looking at some photos -- you're looking at some photos taken by photographer Tim Worthington, who's traveling all week with us.

All this week, Dr. Sanjay Gupta has also been here in Afghanistan, reporting from trauma centers, air mobile medical units, talking to doctors, medics, showing you how they are saving lives every single day.

Sanjay has also been following the recovery of a 2-year-old Afghan boy who suffered a massive brain injury. The kid's name is Malik, and many of you have been profoundly touched by his strength and determination. Today Army Special Forces flew Malik back to a clinic closer to his village in Dalkundi province.

Sanjay Gupta made the trip with the boy. Here's his report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This was going to end well. But when we met Malik, he looked like this: bandaged, and broken and desperate. A toddler from a remote high mountain village, Malik had fallen down a cliff like this when a U.S. Special Forces unit found him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He ended up falling off the roof and landed on his head, causing a fracture. And he started to get a hematoma, which was causing the problems he was seriously having.

GUPTA: Army Special Forces, this is them at work. These guys are the elite, the invisible warriors. And this exclusive video shows how they got Malik out of the mountains.

By cover of night, they would chopper him to a military surgical hospital. It was the boy's only hope.

These guys are Special Forces, hard core. They've never been filmed before. They wouldn't even tell me their real names. But they made saving Malik part of their mission.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Didn't appear to see anything. He wouldn't track with his eyes. Couldn't get much of a response from his pupils. So it was a pretty simple case when we first came on him. Obviously, he didn't know. GUPTA (on camera): The Special Forces brought him here several days ago. He was brain injured. He was paralyzed on the left side of his body. He was in dire straits.

We have seen improvement over the last couple of days. But now the mission is to get him home. And Special Forces here will let us in on the trip.

(voice-over) Here at this Kandahar military surgical hospital, a neurosurgeon and his team operated to relieve pressure on the boy's injured brain. In time, they knew, the swelling would go down and his senses could return.

I visited every day as he slowly recovered. He was paralyzed on his left side. But he was gradually coming back.

And finally, with a little aid from his father, he was on his feet again. Now after a week of treatment, he is well enough for the journey back to his village.

(on camera) Malik is here now in the back of a helicopter. This is the way patients are transported in the middle of a war zone. He is wrapped in this blanket and headed home.

(voice-over) I'd expected a real homecoming. But Afghanistan is too dangerous and his village too high and isolated to fly him all the way. Instead, we brought him here, to a primitive clinic. We were greeted by Afghan police, who kept a close eye on us the entire time.

As for the toddler, Malik slept most of the way.

My first impression: we're a long way from that gleaming Army hospital. Here, water pumps instead of faucets, dirty floors, no bed sheets. But Malik is on his way home.

(on camera) One final exam on Malik. Still no smile. Can you push?

Can you kick it? Kick.

(voice-over) He still needs months to fully recover. His prognosis is bright.

Here's the thing: Malik's village is high up there. No place to land a helicopter. So his father and their new friends, the Special Forces, will walk through these mountains to carry the boy home.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: I'll tell you what, Anderson. I've seen surgical procedures of lots of different parts of the world, but nothing quite like this.

As you might imagine, the key now for him is going to be the care that he gets after the operation. That's what these doctors and medics are really focusing on. This idea that ultimately they will visit him in these remote villages to make sure that he's still cared for as well as he possibly can be -- Anderson.

COOPER: (AUDIO GAP)

... the latest on Congressman -- President Obama and a lot more ahead. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: For "The Shot" tonight, I'm joined by some members of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines.

Zachary Bennett, first lieutenant, you were in the story that -- the patrol we were out yesterday. Today it's 9/11 here already. Eight years into this conflict, what do you think? What's it like being here on 9/11?

BENNETT: You know, I think for a lot of us it is just a reminder of why we're here in the first place, why we joined. Not necessarily why we're here now. But it's a good thing to think about in the back of your head as you're living day to day out here.

COOPER: A lot of people probably don't understand the mission here very well, a lot of people in the United States. It's not just about hunting Taliban. You're really -- it's all about the local population.

BENNETT: Absolutely. It's -- there's more to this war than just shooting guns. It is the people. It's the people that matter here. And without them, we're not going to win this. And the government of Afghanistan is not going to be successful.

COOPER: What's your name?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mark Scozer (ph).

COOPER: And who's this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is my dog, Isabella.

COOPER: And she's an IED dog?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's correct.

COOPER: So what is she specially trained to do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She finds IEDs. Any type of ordnance that she's trained on. That's pretty much her only purpose out here.

COOPER: And what's your name?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kyle Campbell.

COOPER: How long you been here, Kyle?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been here since May. This is my third combat. Twice Iraq. This is my first time to Afghanistan. COOPER: What's it like for you being here on 9/11?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's something I wanted to do. Obviously, I wasn't around the Marine Corps around 9/11. But I mean, glad to be here. It's something I've always wanted to do.

COOPER: Your name?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shane Brandon.

COOPER: Is the mission a lot different than what you thought it was going to be?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, sir, I thought it was going to around -- you know, around the population, helping the people.

COOPER: Where are you from?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kansas, sir.

COOPER: Appreciate all you guys and what you're doing. You guys have been great with us the last couple days, and on the patrol yesterday. We've been getting a lot of e-mails and stuff from people saying thank you for what you're doing. So I hope you know that. I hope you know how much people respect what you're doing out here. Thank you very much. Appreciate it. Stay safe.

Members of the 1-5 Marines. We've been with them, really, all week here in Afghanistan, first Control Base Jaker, now here at Forward Operating Base Geronimo.

We're going to have more tomorrow night from Afghanistan. Our coverage continues right now. We'll show you out on patrol (AUDIO GAP). We'll also take you to Washington, where drama over the congressman who heckled President Obama continues today.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: The action is definitely here in Afghanistan. We are at Marine Forward Operating Base Geronimo. It's now morning. The date is 9/11, eight years since it all began: the attacks on America, then the war here.

The war, of course, continues here, but it's a very different kind of war which is being fought, which leaves Americans with a much more difficult battle on their hands. We saw that firsthand today: Marines with members of a fledgling Afghan national army torn away during a visit to a nearby village by reports of some sort of an attack, a flare thrown. They weren't sure what was going on. We gave chase, never found the bad guys. They melted away, it seems.

A tough war to fight, as I said. And back home, growing tougher to sell. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today, the top Democrat for the first time doubting congressional support for the war, even though to our eye, the troops already here are making the best of a very challenging mission.

So tonight, all the angles. Michael Ware on the original enemy, al Qaeda. Where are they? I'll be out on patrol as the Marines try to turn the Afghan army into a force that Afghans can trust to protect them. And 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta following the amazing progress of a very lucky little Afghan boy, saved by American doctors, now on his way home.

Back home in Washington, though, that's where we begin tonight. President Obama, who now owns this war, trying to consolidate ownership of health-care reform. The day after his landmark speech to Congress, he had Democrats over to the White House for some arm twisting.

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