Return to Transcripts main page

John King, USA

Perception is Reality; Combat Brigade Exit

Aired August 19, 2010 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks, Wolf, and good evening, everyone.

Driving our debate tonight, an old saying, perception is reality. It confused a lot in politics. Say if you perceive the economy is in the tank that is your political reality. No matter what the government statistics or the president might say, for people in my business the idea that perception is reality, well that can be dangerous ground.

Take this question. Are combat operations in Iraq over? You might perceive that, believe that if you've been watching a lot of cable television in the past 24 hours. In just a minute a reality check.

And we all know President Obama is a Christian, right, apparently not. Nearly 20 percent of Americans think he's a Muslim. And more than 40 percent say they don't know what religion their president practices. If perception is reality, then our president has a bit of an identity crisis.

Evangelist Franklin Graham calls Islam a religion of hatred. Not too long ago he prayed with President Obama, his thoughts in just a few moments, but first Iraq by the numbers and what those numbers mean. Here to help in Baghdad CNN's Arwa Damon, with me in Washington Republican strategist John Brabender and Democratic strategist Paul Begala and from New York the GOP's Ed Rollins and "Democracy Now! Amy Goodman, safe to call her as antiwar as one can be.

I want to begin with Arwa and I want to walk over to the "Magic Wall" because I want to through the reality check of the numbers. We've seen some of the pictures of the troops coming out. Let's go back in time. The Iraq war started in 2003. February of 2004, the Bush administration then said major combat operations were over.

That was a long time ago and of course, they were not, troop levels then around 114,000. Then January 2007 the surge begins, 137,000. The peak of the surge, nearly 167,000 and then you see in 2009 as President Obama takes office 139 to 52,000 today.

Arwa Damon the question is this. The president's political promise to get to 50,000 within the next 10 or 12 days by the end of the month, how will Iraq be different on September 1st than it will be on August 31st?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what it really boils down to it's not going to that much of a difference baring in mind that the U.S. military has actually been drawing down for well over a year now. What is going to be different is how the U.S. military defines itself. It is going to officially be going from a combat role to a non combat role.

It will be advising and assisting the Iraqi security forces. What this means alongside the fact that we are going to be seeing this draw down to 50,000 troops is that the U.S. military will no longer have the oversight or the ability to actually impact day-to-day operations in Iraq. They will not have a say in how the Iraqi security forces are directly implementing their own missions about how they're going about securing the population.

And this is causing a fair amount of concern here because when we go out, we see the Iraqi security forces acting one way when the U.S. military is around, and acting an entirely different way when those American eyes are not on them, John.

KING: And Arwa, to that point, I want to show our viewers, and I'm not sure you can see this in Baghdad, but if you look at these blue dots, these were U.S. military camps and installations at the height of the U.S. deployment. As you can see, they are scattered all over Iraq and near all the major population centers.

I want to pull us through time and show us where the country will be now essentially under the current plan. Those six assist-and- advise brigades, as Arwa just mentioned, they'll be deployed this way. Two in north, Kirkuk, Tikrit, Diyala, up in that area, two in central Iraq, Anbar Province, one of the big hot spots there, Baghdad as well as, of course, and two down here in southern Iraq, Basra a hot spot for much of the war and other areas here.

So Arwa, the question is if you have these six assist and advise certainly capable of combat, but units spread throughout, is there a concern of a -- essentially that the enemy has been waiting for this moment, and U.S. troops will be at a level where there are not enough of them to be as effective as necessary?

DAMON: Most definitely, especially when you speak with the Iraqi commanders themselves, some senior Iraqi politicians, and the Iraqi civilians. The concern is that the U.S. military no matter what is going to be leaving behind some sort of a vacuum. And who is going to come in and fill that vacuum?

Now senior U.S. military officials will say that they do believe that with this residual force of 50,000 troops in country alongside the Iraqi security forces, they can maintain the current levels that we are seeing, bearing in mind that those levels do average around three to 400 Iraqis being killed per month. And for the population, that is absolutely not acceptable.

But the U.S. military does believe that it can do this and that this is the responsible course of action. The question really lies in whether or not the Iraqis are going to be able to stand up and actually perform. This is a very sensitive time. And they have to build trust between themselves and the Iraqi populations. There's really a lot of work lying ahead for them. KING: Arwa Damon for us in Baghdad. Arwa thank you. We'll check back throughout the hour if developments warrant.

Let's move on though to the political conversation back here in the United States as we see this play out and as we approach this moment and that's an important reality check. As we approach this moment, we are not at the point yet where there are 50,000 troops in Iraq. We are not at the point yet where the Pentagon has officially said combat operations are over.

I want all of you to listen. This is Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon spokesman. He was on NBC this morning saying, yes, it will be a key moment in Iraq but --


GEOFF MORRELL, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: They will be armed. They will be in -- have battle gear. Should it be necessary? The counter terrorism will still be part of their mission. So they very well could be in combat situations even after the end of this month.


KING: So Paul is this simply a definition. The Pentagon changes the name of the mission to Operation New Dawn, not Operation Iraqi Freedom and our troops are there, but we don't call them combat troops, but they may well be in combat.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: They may well be. What I liked it's unusual for lots of spokesman. It seemed to me that Mr. Morrell was telling the truth, which is we're not going to put up a mission accomplished banner. But when you go down from 166,000 troops to 56,000, and soon 50 that's I think in the eyes of most Americans a good thing.

And I think what Americans are saying is what is in America's national interest and I don't think they like after five, what, seven years almost of combat and almost 5,000 casualties, I don't think they're like overly worried about whether the Iraqis can take care of themselves.

I think they believe, look, there was never any need to invade, most Americans believe. It's why Barack Obama is president. Iraq was no threat to America. And now they're going to stand or fall on their own. And you know what, good luck to them.

KING: But one of the questions is what do we call it? If you have an end of a military operation and significant drawdown, what do you call it? No one is using the term victory except, at least not in the Obama administration, but here's a tweet from John McCain late last night.

Last American combat troops leave Iraq. Not exactly right there, but close. I think President George W. Bush deserves some credit for victory. John Brabender, is this a conversation the Republicans want to have -- want to declare victory in Iraq -- JOHN BRABENDER, PARTNER, BRABENDERCOX: No, I think that's totally the wrong conversation. I think the bigger conversation should be are we pulling out too soon and too quickly like a lot of experts say? Second of all, as you know, we're going to put the State Department now in charge.

They're going to bring in a lot of civilian contractors to be involved. The other question I would want to know is are we putting some people at risk too soon and don't deserve to be under that risk? That's what I think the real conversation needs to be about right now.

KING: It's a great point. I want to go back to the "Magic Wall" and illustrate the point John just made. We talked about the cost of this war. There's two ways to look at it. And number one, this is the most important way if you look through this out. These are the Americans killed in Iraq, more than 4,400.

And you see the peaks in the early days, the fighting in Falluja, November 2006, presidential election, (INAUDIBLE) I mean midterm election when public support collapsed. The surge, casualties spike then. They have been down, 2007, 2008, 2009 to the present moment. That is one somewhat encouraging sign there.

That's one way to look at the cost of the war. And then there's this way, $750 billion spent in Iraq so far. By the end of the current budget year it will be up over $800 billion and Amy Goodman, to you. John Brabender just made an interesting point. Most of the troops will come out, maybe all of them by the end of next year.

But one of the things the State Department is planning now is to essentially hire a private Army, contractors to spend billions more. Not as much as the Pentagon, but billions more. How do you define this moment in Iraq?

AMY GOODMAN, HOST, "DEMOCRACY NOW!": I mean, that's of grave concern. On the one hand it's very important to draw down. But if this is now going to be a war with private contractors, they're doubling the number of private contractors, they're the ones who are most unaccountable.

I mean there's a reason why Eric Prince, right, who founded Blackwater has just moved to the United Arab Emirates because there's not an extradition treaty with the United States when you think of what he could be held liable for. We're talking about possibly combat operations that are just now moving to those who are not accountable. And this is of grave concern.

KING: Ed Rollins, one of the things that's often missing when we have these conversations is context. Where are we?

ED ROLLINGS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I think we've accomplished all that we can. We can't put more of an investment in that country than we've already done. The State Department now shifts and has the burden and thousands of people there who are taking on a different role. My understanding is that the private security forces that protect them, not to basically combat. We will know fairly quickly. We'll know in the next six or eight months whether this new Army that we have built there, the new police force that still is not in place we built, they can do the job. If they can't do the job, then obviously the president, the Congress, has a very touch decision to make. I do not believe there's any will in this country to go back in.

And I don't think there's any will to have these -- most of these people who are the 50,000 that left are support troops, and even though they may have guns and they may have packs, they're there pretty much in support roles. So my sense is it's pretty much over. It's just a cleaning-up operation. And we'll see whether they can handle it or not. If they can't handle it, I think it's going to end up being their problem, not ours.

KING: Ask the panelists to stands by. We'll continue this conversation. And up next, we'll look at the other big political story of the day. Why the White House had to release a statement saying the president is not a Muslim. But before we go to break these words from one soldier -- sergeant on his way across the border from Iraq into Kuwait on what it's like to be at war.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean it wakes you up. You think that before you come here that you know you're an adult and you're a grown man, but this place will change you. (INAUDIBLE) friends die and you know been right there and had to carry the bodies, so (INAUDIBLE) this place will change you.



KING: Live picture there. Families gathered for a celebration at Ft. Benning, Georgia. Members of the Army returning to their post tonight, returning home from seven months in Iraq, from Delta base (ph) in (INAUDIBLE) Iraq, 200 of them are coming back. They were deployed last October.

We'll go back to that base if the celebration begins during this program. For now though a growing number of Americans believe President Obama is a Muslim. That's according to a new poll out just today. That poll prompted the White House to issue a statement repeating that he is a Christian. Why is the president's religion so important?

Let's get back to our panel and let's get straight to the poll numbers. This is a Pew Research Center poll. What is Obama's religion they asked; Now 34 percent say he's a Christian. That's down from March of 2009 when nearly half of Americans said that. Is he a Muslim; 18 percent of Americans believe that; up from 11 percent in March 2009; and 43 percent of Americans answered don't know when they're asked what faith is their president.

Paul Begala, you advised President Clinton. He was a president who talked often about his faith. George W. Bush talked often about his faith. This president did sometimes in the campaign. Since coming to White House not as much, is this -- I don't know if it's a problem, but is this an issue of his own making?

BEGALA: Mostly, no. You're right to just observe that as contrasted with Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter for that matter or certainly George W. Bush, this Christian president talks about his Christianity less. That perhaps makes him more like say George Bush's father, a devout Christian, a fine man who just didn't like to wear it on his sleeve as much as maybe some others.

No, in that survey, the Pew poll, most, the vast majority of people who think he's a Muslim. When you ask them why do you think that they say because of the media. And not to put too fine a point on it, they don't mean CNN, John. They mean the kook (ph) right wing media that has been attacking this president. It's fine to attack him on issues. But they're trying to attack him with any kind of crazy conspiracy theory they can.

KING: This was an issue back in the campaign. I want to show some footage that I picked up in southern Ohio in the final weeks of the campaign. We visited the Democratic Party Headquarters then and you see the question, flyers they were handing out there it said is he a Christian? And the Democratic Party spent a lot of money on these.

Is he a Christian? Yes. Has he sworn an oath on the Bible? They had to spend money on this and the president himself at several points during the campaign, knowing this was an issue made this point.


BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe in -- that Jesus Christ died for my sins and that I am redeemed through him. That is a source of strength and sustenance on a daily basis. Yes, I know that I don't walk alone.


KING: John, does it matter?

BRABENDER: Well I think it matters a little bit because now we're getting to the point of people having perceptions where the numbers are changing based upon his actions. But I think the more fundamental problem for the White House is how little people actually know about this president, which says to me that they voted for him for the hope of who he would be, not necessarily who they understood him to be. And you got to remember the only full time term that this president ever served before president was as a state legislator in Illinois. People really didn't know a lot about this president. They were voting for the hope they thought he would bring, but we now realize they don't know him very well.

KING: And Amy Goodman, how does it impact conversations about what I'll call values issues or judgment issues like say the mosque and Islamic center proposed at ground zero. That's in the middle of the national debate right now as we study these numbers. How does the perception many Americans have about their president's faith affect his standing or how they listen to him on those issues?

GOODMAN: Well, I think it's important, John that you're talking about values because it's painful to even have this discussion. When you have to say, no, the president is not a Muslim. I fear for every Muslim child in this country. That they think -- or Jewish child or Christian child -- that there is something wrong with that.

And I think it's being fueled by this fire storm around the Islamic center being proposed in lower Manhattan. This is a center of understanding. And unfortunately I think what's going on here is a rage that is filling some holes. The hole at ground zero that was never properly built as billionaire developers bicker over what to do. There's no proper monument there.

The hole in employment in this country, the August News Hole, and the hole in religious leadership and in community leadership around the country, Jewish and Christian leaders standing together with Muslim leaders and saying this discussion, this targeting is not acceptable.

KING: Ed, I want to read you a bit of the White House statement they put out today because this poll was released and people were asking questions. Nineteen months after taking office, I believe that's the right number, right around that point. The president of the United States had his staff issue this statement.

"President Obama is a committed Christian and his faith is an important part of his daily life. He prays every day. He seeks a small circle of Christian pastors to give him spiritual advice and counseling. He even receives a daily devotional that he uses each morning."

One thing that this president has done, though, is he has decided -- they had a debate about this inside the White House -- should he pick a church here in Washington, D.C. when he moved his family here from Illinois? Now we have seen them occasionally.

And I think we have some pictures of the Obama family back in 2009 going to St. John right across the street from the White House, a church where many presidents have prayed. But they decided not to pick a church. They do go to Camp David frequently, and the president says and I've been in his company when he has said this, he enjoys praying at the chapel up at Camp David. Ed, I guess you're a close counselor to President Reagan, how is a president supposed to handle these things and I guess how has it changed over time?

ROLLINS: President Reagan was a spiritual man, but he didn't go to church either. And I think to a certain extent, it's kind of hard to prove what's in your heart. And I think that the unusualness of this president's background, which is one of the great accomplishments of being elected president, both color of his skin and his heritage and where he came from, I think no one's got him very well defined.

I mean obviously if he had come to Washington, D.C., picked one of the great churches in Washington, D.C., and gone every week then I don't think the debate would be quite as rampant. He has an unusual name. He has an unusual background. I don't think any of it matters. I think in his heart and his soul he's a spiritual man and I take him at his word.

KING: Want to thank everyone for coming in tonight. It was an interesting conversation. We've got a lot more to come tonight as we continue this conversation. One of the things we want to talk about tonight as the White House began this summer promising it would be a summer of recovery, that the economy was starting to come back, but many Democrats campaigning for office, not just the Republicans, are asking this question, where are the jobs?

And we'll go "One-on-One" tonight -- we'll continue the conversation we've just had about this president's faith. We're going to talk to Evangelist Franklin Graham. He has prayed with President Obama. He also recently has stirred controversy by calling Islam a religion of hatred. We'll ask him about that.

And today's most important person you don't know well is Iraq combat really over? We will dedicate our most important person today to a gentleman in honor of all the troops who have served. We will visit with a man who took three combat tours in Iraq including storming into Baghdad at the very beginning; his perspective on Iraq then and now. Don't go anywhere.


KING: Welcome back. Let's check in with Joe Johns for the latest political news you need to know right now -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: John, a new report tonight says the massive plume of oil from the BP disaster in the Gulf was much bigger than first thought. Scientists from Woods Hall (ph) say they detected a plume of oil in mid-June at least 22 miles long. They say microbes are slowly eating up that oil, but the discovery raises new concerns about the safety of Gulf seafood.

And at a congressional hearing on that issue today, Congressman Ed Markey blasted the FDA saying much more testing is need. Meanwhile, the government's point man in the Gulf insists the food is tested enough and safe to eat.


ADM. THAD ALLEN (RET.), U.S. NATIONAL INCIDENT COMMANDER: Seafood that comes from the areas that have been open for fishing that have been subjected to the testing regime established by NOAA and FDA is safe. It is probably tested more than any seafood that is tested anywhere in the United States.


JOHNS: President Obama today again called on Republicans to stop blocking a jobs bill. The president says the opposition is playing political games.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: A majority of senators are in favor of the bill. And yet, the obstruction continues. It's obstruction that stands in the way of small business owners getting the loans and the tax cuts that they need to prosper. It's obstruction that defies common sense.


JOHNS: And John I got to tell you not good news on the job front at all today. Weekly jobless claims jumped to a new nine-month high. That takes us what, all the way back to November. We're right back where we were then. Not as bad as March, but pretty tough, huh?

KING: You just used the words take us back, is precisely the reason the president is so frustrated. You saw him today saying act on this jobs bill. He calls it obstruction, opposition, call it what you will. But Joe, I'm going to go to the "Magic Wall" because this is a big problem for the administration because they had billed this as the summer of recovery, the recovery summer.

Beginning that was the president's point man on the stimulus package. That's the vice president, Joe Biden, and early on as the summer was about to begin the vice president and many in the administration were convinced the economic news was about to get better.


JOSEPH BIDEN, (D-DE) VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're no longer at the bottom of the (INAUDIBLE). We're heading back up. And this act itself everyone will acknowledge is responsible for three million to 3.5 million people working today who would not otherwise had been working. And so in this summer we're going to accelerate that progress.


KING: So accelerate the progress. That was the vice president's view and he thought things would get better, but just look at this line. It tells you everything you need to know. At the beginning of the year 10.6 percent, look at that, it's almost a straight line, 9.6 percent. Down a little but that's still a very high unemployment rate especially for an administration that predicted its stimulus plan would get it down to around eight percent.

So that's one problem for the administration in what it hoped to be a summer of recovery. Here is another one. This is the recession and this is during the Bush administration. You see the economy in negative territory, well it started to come back in early '09 and this is what had the administration so happy, five percent growth in the fourth quarter of 2009. The administration thought good times were coming.

But look, the economy is still growing, but that growth has flattened out in recent months and that is adding to pessimism, even the possibility of a double dip recession. Now there are jobs some places in America. These are the top five places in terms of per capita population where jobs are available.

San Jose, California is number one. Right here in Washington, D.C., the Baltimore area, are two and three, Hartford, Connecticut, number four, Seattle, number five. But throughout much of the country and you know this out there better than we do here, jobs are still incredibly hard to find. And that is one reason that this is happening to the president at a time his party needs his leadership on the number one issue in the election.

This is an Associated Press poll. Do you approve of the president's handling of the economy? Only four in 10 Americans answer yes to that question right now and Joe Johns, if you are seventy- something days, just 70 days away from an election campaign, and your president has a 41 percent approval rating on the economy, the economy is the number one issue in the election, you are whether it's his fault or not in political trouble.

JOHNS: And we're still going to talk about letting the Bush tax cuts expire this year, too and we might make it a bigger issue than --

KING: We will have a taxes-and-spending-and-jobs debate when the Congress comes back right now up to Election Day.

When we come back, Franklin Graham, one of the nation's leading evangelicals, he's met the president. He's also made some controversial comments of late about Islam. He joins us live "One-on- One" after the break.


ANNOUNCER: It's time to go "One-on-One".

KING: Joining us now is Franklin Graham who together with his father the Reverend Billy Graham have advised presidents dating back to Harry Truman, but there's been some controversial comments about Muslims along the way. Franklin Graham joins us tonight from Calgary (ph). Good evening, sir. I want to begin with this new poll people across America woke up to today. A Pew Research poll saying that two in 10 Americans, 18 percent think their president is a Muslim and 43 percent of Americans don't know what faith Barack Obama practices. The president came, I believe it was back in April, he came to see your father. You joined that meeting. He came to see you as well. And my understanding is that you prayed with the president at that meeting back in April.


KING: Do you, sir, have any doubts about this president's Christian faith?

GRAHAM: Well, first of all, I think the president's problem is that he was born a Muslim. His father was a Muslim. The seed of Islam is passed through the father like the seed of Judaism is passed through the mother. He was born a Muslim. His father gave him an Islamic name. Now it's obvious that the president has renounced the Prophet Muhammad and he has renounced Islam and he has accepted Jesus Christ. That's what he says he has done. I cannot say that he hasn't.

So I just have to believe the president is what he has said. But he -- the confusion is, is because his father was a Muslim, he was born a Muslim. The Islamic world sees the president as one of theirs. That's why Qaddafi calls him "my son".

They see him as a Muslim but of course the president says he is a Christian and we just have to accept it as that.

KING: Well, how do you see him as someone who has shared a room with him in an intimate setting with your father and exchanged prayer with him? Do you see him -- do you believe him? I guess, I'm not sure I should be even asking that question, but do you believe him?

GRAHAM: Well, you know, you can be born a Muslim. You can be born a Jew. But you can't be born a Christian. The only way you can become a Christian is by confessing your sins to God, asking his forgiveness and by receiving Jesus Christ by faith into your heart.

That Christ died for our sins. Shed his blood on Calvary's cross and that God raised him to life. If you're willing to accept that and believe that, and let Jesus Christ be the lord of your life, God will forgive your sins, he'll heal your heart. And that's the only way you can become a Christian.

And so if the president has done that, then I would say he's a Christian if that's what he has done.

KING: In the statement the White House released saying, in response to this poll -- this is one of the things the White House said. "The president's strong Christian faith is what guides him through these challenges. But he doesn't wear it on his sleeve."

That is a personal choice. Every individual across the world makes a personal choice about whether they practice any faith.


KING: And then whether they demonstrate that they practice their faith in public. In your experience and in your experience around your father, who has obviously advised presidents back many decades, do you think that a president should be more demonstrable, more open about his faith?

GRAHAM: Well, that -- that's the president's personal choice. And I certainly wouldn't want to try to advise the president on how he should wear his faith.

For many people it's a very personal issue like it was with President Reagan. And I'm sure this is a very personal issue with the president.

I wish the president over the years have had a chance to be involved in a real strong bible-teaching church. I don't think Reverend Jeremiah's church was a place where he got all grounded in God's word.

It would have been better for him to -- you know, get into a good evangelical church. But I appreciate the president's sincerity. And -- that he's made it very clear. He's come out against it, saying he's a Christian. So I would just have to -- to let him speak for himself.

KING: You just mentioned that point about the president's church. Again, the family made a choice, and this is any family's choice, not to select a church here in Washington, D.C.

They do make a point and I'm told this by people who are around this president that when he goes to Camp David to the chapel he enjoys and prays frequently in the chapel there.

But you made that point -- you made the point about President Reagan. We judge our presidents often by their predecessors. George W. Bush was very open about his Christianity.

Compare the two, I guess, in terms of their public dealing in your view with faith.

GRAHAM: Well, I don't want to compare the two. Every person is different. All I know is I'm a sinner. And I was 22 years old when I asked God to forgive me of my sins. And I asked Christ to come into my heart.

And your god will forgive every person regardless of who you are. Whether you're a Jew. Whether you're a Muslim, whether you're a Hindu or Buddhist. Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world. And if you're willing to accept him by faith into your heart -- and it's my faith. If you're willing to accept him by faith, God will forgive you. And you can have that assurance of being with him for eternity in heaven.

And that's what counts, John.

KING: This poll came out in the middle of a national conversation about whether there should be an Islamic center and a mosque a couple of blocks away from Ground Zero. There are similar conversations and debates going on in several communities across the country. And these get controversial.

And you in the past and again recently -- just in recent days have said some controversial things about Islam.

I want to read what you said to "TIME" magazine or wrote in "TIME" magazine. "President Bush and President Obama made great mistakes when they said that Islam is a peaceful religion. It is not. There is no evidence in its history. It's a religion of hatred. It's a religion of war."

That's a broad brush against all Muslims. Is it not, sir? Is that not unfair to peace-loving Muslims across the world? GRAHAM: Well, first of all, I -- love the Muslim people and I have many friends in the Muslim world. And I care for them very deeply. And I've spent, John, a good part of my life helping Muslim people.

But I see at the same time what the religion does. And if you take the same "TIME" magazine -- and here's their cover -- just a couple of weeks ago of this young girl who had her nose cut off by her husband because she wanted to run away from home.

And she was being beaten. And because in the Islamic -- under the religion of Islam, this girl is his personal property. And he can do with her whatever he wants to do. He can rape her whenever he wants to rape her. If he wants to take his -- his knife and cut her nose off, he can do that because this girl is his personal property. She has no rights.

And this is unfair when you think of the religions of the world. This religion practices this kind of hatred toward women. And I care very much about the women of the world and their protection. And theirs is a religion where women have absolutely no rights.

And a woman in Saudi Arabia cannot drive a car. She has to be veiled. If the husband wants to divorce her, he just says it three times and she's out the door. She don't even get the kids and she goes back to being a slave to her brother or her father, and work in the household as -- doing domestic work.

And that's the life of a woman under Islam. So I'm not -- I'm not judging the people of Islam. I love them and care for them. And there are millions and millions of Muslim people who would like to get out of Islam but they cannot get out of Islam because it is the duty of the family to keep doing --

KING: We spoke --

GRAHAM: -- Islam --


KING: We spoke to an imam in California --

GRAHAM: They'll kill you. They'll kill you.

KING: We spoke to an imam in California the other day who said he is very proud and happy in his religion. And he is a peace-loving American who abhors what happens on 9/11 and condemns the people who tried to hijack his religion.

He does not have a right to practice his faith --


KING: -- say in a church next to yours?

GRAHAM: Of course. Of course he does. That's not the debate. The debate is, should the Muslims build a mosque right at the foot of the World Trade Center that was destroyed by Muslims in the name of Islam.

That's like -- listen, this is like going back to Auschwitz and the Germans wanting to put up in memorial to their fallen soldiers during World War II. The Germans can certainly put up a memorial to World War II soldiers that fell during the war, but to put it at the gate of Auschwitz would just not be appropriate. And there's sensitivity here.

And I think the Muslims -- they have a right to build it there. But I think the Muslims in the name of decency and respect for the New Yorkers that lost their families and their loved ones, they need to pull back and build the mosque somewhere else.

KING: Your father sat down with our Larry King a few years back. I believe it was in the middle of 2005. And at that time you had said some similar remarks about Islam. And Larry asked your father about it. I want you to listen.


LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Franklin once said that he was very critical of Islam. He called it evil and wicked. How do you react to that?

REV. BILLY GRAHAM, SPIRITUAL ADVISER: Well, he has his views, and I have mine. And they're different sometimes. I told him from the very beginning that there would be times when he would have to take his own positions. But he doesn't hold it -- that position now. I think he said it off the cuff somewhere, some years ago.


KING: Your father was wrong there, I assume, by what you've said with us tonight. That you do hold that position. A, is that correct that you do hold that position? And how does your father counsel you on this? Obviously the two of you disagree a bit.

GRAHAM: Well, I have quite a bit more experience in Muslim countries than my father. And I have traveled it far more extensively than he has. And when you talk about imam in California, saying he loves his religion, remember true Islam cannot be practiced here in this country.

You cannot beat your wife. You cannot do honor killing if you think your daughter has been misbehaved. You cannot kill her. And they're protected by the laws of this country. We're not under Sharia law. We're under the Constitution of the United States. And so we're protected.

And so --

KING: But many Christians --

(CROSSTALK) KING: Many Christians and members of other faith adapt somewhat to the different society, the different country they live in. And if you trace those faiths back through history, you could say that a Christian living in the United States isn't behaving like a Christian did in Europe or a Catholic is not -- in the United States is not following the edicts of the Pope verbatim.

That doesn't make them a -- a horrible Christian or Catholic. Does it? So if a Muslim wants -- say we're going to do it differently in the United States.

GRAHAM: But first of all --

KING: What's wrong with that?

GRAHAM: No, you have to go by the teaching of the bible. And there are many Christians that don't follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. They don't read the bible. They don't follow the bible.

However, the teaching of Islam is to hate the Jew, to hate the Christian, to kill them. Their goal is world domination and for Muslim peace means when all the other nations are subject to Islam, then we are at peace. The world will be at peace when the entire world is under Islam.

Well, I don't agree with the teachings of Islam. I believe with the teachings of Jesus Christ and there are many Christians, John, who don't follow the bible, who have misinterpreted it, who have twisted it for their own intent. And you have to go back and read what Jesus said for himself.

And Jesus never started a war. He never took anybody's life. He came to give his life. To shed his blood for our sins. And all we have to do is accept it by faith, John, and we can have that assurance of heaven.

For every Muslim watching, I want them to know that Jesus Christ died for your sins. And all you have to do is accept him by faith. And God will forgive you and heal your heart. And you can have that hope of eternal life.

KING: As you know well, there are many out there who disagree with you, sir, but we appreciate your thoughts and your perspective tonight, and your taking the time to join us.

GRAHAM: Thank you, John.

KING: Mr. Graham, take care.

GRAHAM: Thank you, John.

KING: Is the United States at the end of combat in Iraq? We ask one veteran of three tours of duty in the country. Just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: By the Pentagon's definition, U.S. combat operations in Iraq are winding down and will be over by the end of this month. But it's worth remembering some 50,000 troops will be left behind.

Also important to remember, nearly two million soldiers have rotated in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan since those wars began. More than 30,000 soldiers have been wounded in Iraq alone. And that number doesn't count the thousands dealing with some form of post- traumatic stress disorder or depression.

In honor of all of them and those who have paid the ultimate price in Iraq and Afghanistan, tonight's "Most Important Person You Don't Know" is a hero who knows the horror of war and the struggle of trying to put things together once back home.

Staff Sergeant Christopher Tucker served three tours in Iraq before being honorably discharged in 2008. He is now Officer Chris Tucker of the Savanna-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department in Savanna, Georgia, where he was named the 2010 Officer of the Year.

He was there at the beginning mounting a camera on his tank as the Army road into Baghdad back in 2003.

I first met this hero more than three years ago as he prepared for the third deployment. The Army sent him back even though he had lost hearing in one ear, had trouble walking, and was having nightmares about those early battles.

We spoke again last March. Officer Chris Tucker had a lot to celebrate then, including his new job and a new baby. But the war wasn't completely behind him.


CHRIS TUCKER, IRAQ WAR ARMY VETERAN: There are some nights, you know, I still, you know, have the nightmares and wake up and find myself downstairs. I don't know how I got there or whatever. But I mean it's something -- it's been so long, you kind of learn to deal with it, I guess.

KING: But -- is it any better that you've been home for a while or?

TUCKER: Not really, no. I still see the same thing and dream of the same thing.

KING: What is it you're seeing and dreaming?

TUCKER: A lot of times these faces, kids' faces. People that you -- you know, you've engaged or that you've had contact with or you -- you know, you shoot a house or shoot a car. You know, and -- in all line of work, you shoot it, you have to go past it. You can't just shoot and go the other way.

So you see those things. You know, you see your colleagues blown up. You know. Things like that. (END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: When we come back, Chris Tucker shares his thoughts on what's next in Iraq as the Pentagon prepares to declare combat operations over.


KING: Just a short time ago I reconnected with an old friend. Today's "Most Important Person You Don't Know", retired Army Staff Sergeant Chris Tucker. He was there at the beginning of the Iraq war. So I asked him, as the United States prepares now to get down to 50,000 troops and declare combat in Iraq over, whether he views this -- as a man who was there at the beginning -- as the end.


TUCKER: I don't. I don't think so. I believe that for a long time we're going to have problems there. I think we're still doing things. Just because we're taking troops out, we're taking -- 6,000 troops out, I don't think that's going to stop the problems that you have in Iraq.

KING: And so the troops that will be left --

TUCKER: It's definitely not going to be the end.

KING: Definitely not going to be the end. You said they called them advise-and-assist brigades. Some of them are striker brigades just like the brigade that's coming out in these days leading up to the end of the month. They will have their tanks, they will have their weapons.

In your view when the White House and the Pentagon said, combat is over, as someone who has served three tours in Iraq, if you're there in that environment, is combat over?

TUCKER: When you're deployed combat is never over. You're trained to fight. You're trained to deploy. It's never over. You're always preparing yourself for the worst part of combat. That's what we're trained to do.

I don't think it's ever going to be over. Just because you're withdrawing -- you're not -- you -- just for us withdrawing, we can't choose what the enemy is going to do. What they're going to bring toward us.

KING: When we had spoken in the past, you have raised the concern that perhaps politics is dictating some of the decisions about troop levels and deployments in Iraq.

Do you see that now? Do you see this as a military decision, mission accomplished in Iraq, bring the troops home? Or do you see it as a political decision, President Obama promised to get out and he's doing that regardless of the situation on the ground? TUCKER: I definitely think it's political, John. I don't think that the problem is fixed. I think -- no doubt things can be fixed on a short term.

KING: Senator John McCain tweeted late last night. Last American combat troops leave Iraq. I think President George W. Bush deserves some credit for victory.

Is this victory? Has the United States won in Iraq?

TUCKER: Pulling out I don't think is a victory. Maybe he thinks it's a victory. But we're still having issues in Iraq until it's completely up and running independently. I don't think that it's a victory. Until -- until everyone's home safely, not a victory.

KING: Some of your friends and colleagues with whom you served before you left the Army are still there. Have been deployed since you came back from your third deployment. What do they tell you?

TUCKER: Things are still happening. There's still enemy in the sector. There's still fighting. You know just a moment's notice. You can't -- bad things happen in a hurry. You can't dictate. Politics can't change the enemy. Regardless of what we think they should do, they don't operate on based on what we think.

KING: And as more troops do come home, whether you think that is wise or not, I want you to help me explain to the American people something only someone who has served like you can understand.

When we spoke last, you were a member of the Savannah Police Department, but the time before that you were preparing to go back to your third deployment. And the Army was asking you to go back even though you could barely walk because your feet were hurt from previous injuries.

You had a hearing problem in one ear because of your previous two deployments and you were having psychological issues, nightmares at night, waking up in sleeping, certainly PTSD -- post-traumatic stress disorder -- and yet you went back for a third tour.

Do you think the American people understand the generational challenge now as more of these troops come home and more are going off to Afghanistan on the care they will need for decades?

TUCKER: I don't think so. I don't think so at all. In the military we're trained every day regardless of what's going on. We train to go to war under combat. I don't think they put enough emphasis on returning back home, reintegration with your family, your friends, because you're not going to be the same. We never are.

KING: How about yourself? Use yourself as an example. Have you received the post-service care and treatment especially in the mental health department that you believe you need and that many of your brothers and sisters as they come home would need?

TUCKER: No, I don't think so. Like I said, I think that's where the military, the VA, fails our service members, our veterans. They make it so difficult for you to get anything done, to go anywhere with your -- your issues.

And, again, as a soldier, you -- as a veteran, you don't want to show your weakness. You want to show that you're tough. You're ready for any mission that we're having to face. So showing a weakness is something that we would very rarely do.

KING: If you could have a minute with the president of the United States now, as he marks what he believes to be a significant achievement -- getting down to 50,000 troops on a path to getting down to zero troops in Iraq by the end of next year, if you could have a minute or two with the president of the United States, what would you tell him about Iraq?

TUCKER: I'd tell him to take care of his troops. Be on the ground with your guys. Don't make decisions based off of what someone's telling you. You need to be there as a leader.

I understand you can't be everywhere. He has a lot on his plate. But you got to be there with your guys to be a good leader. And the guys will respect you more. The country will respect you more.

If you go there and you let them know, hey, I'm here for you. What do you think? Not just what I think.

KING: Officer Chris Tucker of the Savannah Police Department. He was Sergeant Chris Tucker when he left the Army after three tours in Iraq.

Chris, thanks for your time tonight.

TUCKER: Thank you.


KING: Live pictures there of a celebration. Look at those hugs. Fort Benning, Georgia, 200 members of the United States Army making their way home from Iraq as the United States draws down to 50,000 troops by the end of the month.

A celebration in Georgia tonight. Lovely to watch. Families reuniting. We'll be right back.


KING: Ground Zero, you know what it is, but where exactly is it? Is it the specific site of the fallen twin towers or the entire neighborhood?

We sent our Pete Dominick to find out.


PETE DOMINICK, JOHN KING, USA'S OFFBEAT REPORTER: That building there, that's where they want to do this community center, and we're walking now over to where everybody told us so far is Ground Zero.

Excuse me, where is Ground Zero? Do you guys know where Ground Zero is? It's over there? Thanks.

Where is it, ma'am? It's down there?


DOMINICK: Hey, do you know where Ground Zero is?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Around the corner.

DOMINICK: Around the corner?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's right around the corner that way.


DOMINICK: It's there or there? Thanks, man.

Hey, is this Ground Zero?


DOMINICK: Right here? It's around the corner?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go there. The whole neighborhood is Ground Zero.

DOMINICK: The whole neighborhood?


DOMINICK: This is not the way that most New Yorkers travel, but as "Pete on the Street", I get a special escort.

I cheated a little bit, but that is Ground Zero. That is where they are putting up the Freedom Tower. That is where the World Trade Center -- those two buildings -- stood.

Hey, where's Ground Zero, bro?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Up the side of New Jersey. Are you going there?

DOMINICK: Beside New Jersey?


DOMINICK: I'm not getting -- I'm not getting into your cab. (END VIDEOTAPE)

DOMINICK: There you go, John King, and I want these kids to say hi to grandma back in California. Now everybody knows where Ground Zero is. Right, guys?

KING: That was an emphatic yes. Pete Dominick, thanks.

That's all for us tonight. We hope you'll come back tomorrow. "RICK'S LIST PRIMETIME" starts right now.