Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer

Interview With Senators Specter, Lahey; Interview With Robert Bork; Interview With Andrew Natsios

Aired July 03, 2005 - 12:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, GUEST HOST: It's noon in Washington, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 5:00 p.m. in London and 8:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us on "LATE EDITION."
I'm Suzanne Malveaux. Wolf is away this week. We'll talk with two top members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in just a few minutes but first let's get a quick check of what's in the news right now.


MALVEAUX: Now more on a developing story. Within the last hour, CNN has learned a member of a special ops reconnaissance team missing in Afghanistan since last week has been rescued. CNN's Kathleen Koch is at the Pentagon with details -- Kathleen.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, this is very, very welcome news obviously for the families of these special operations servicemembers who have been missing there in this very harsh, mountainous region since Tuesday.

A U.S. official tells CNN that this ops member, quote, "evaded the enemy and has been successfully rescued by U.S. forces."

The official, however, would not give details about the other team members who are still missing there in that region near the Pakistan border.

You'll remember this was the special forces team that on Tuesday had called for reinforcements prompting the dispatch of four Chinook helicopters. One was hit by enemy fire, crashed to the ground killing all 16 aboard.

The same official also would give no precise details about the circumstances of the special ops team member's rescue, though he did say that he was in good shape.

So right now, the search does continue in this mountainous region, both U.S. and Afghan forces participating in the search. Obviously they may now have better information to act on with this team member's rescue.

So this, a weekend of mourning for the families of the 16 men killed in the helicopter crash, but, Suzanne, obviously a weekend of renewed hope now that this one servicemember, the special ops team member, has been found.

The families of the missing men obviously now with a little bit more hope.

MALVEAUX: Kathleen Koch, thanks so much for some good news.

Now on to the summer of surprise here in Washington, the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Whoever President Bush nominates to replace her could very well determine the court's balance of power. The stakes are high for both the president and Senate Democrats.

Joining us now are the two men who will lead confirmation hearings for the next Supreme Court nominee. In Long Beach Island, New Jersey, is the Republican chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, Arlen Specter, and in Burlington...


MALVEAUX: ... Vermont, the committee's top Democrat, Patrick Leahy.

Senators, welcome to "LATE EDITION."

Let's start with you, Senator Specter, you have sat through now nine Supreme Court confirmation hearings, some obviously rougher than others. What are you going to expect from this one?

SPECTER: I enter this confirmation process without an expectation. There are predictions that it's going to be a tough battle. If it is, we're prepared for it.

What I think we need to do is to have a professional hearing. Senator Leahy and I have been talking about this confirmation process for weeks now, and as soon as we learned that Justice O'Connor had stepped down on Friday, he and I talked again.

The president called both of us and is going to be consulting with us just as soon as he gets back from his trip to Europe, bringing in the Republican leader Bill Frist and the Democrat leader Harry Reid, and we intend to make this a very professional proceeding right down the middle.

MALVEAUX: Now, Senator, you say that you probably would hold these hearings some time in late August or early September. There are already some conservatives who are saying they think it's a bad idea. It gives the Democrats all summer, essentially, to beat up on the president's candidate. When are you going to begin the process?

SPECTER: Well, I'm prepared to start at any time. We know what to do. We have to have a nominee obviously first. And then we have to prepare, which is very, very thorough. If it's a court nominee from a circuit, we read hundreds of opinions. Where they have made speeches, and almost everybody has, sometimes we read hundreds of speeches. If they've written law review articles, we read all of those. And we analyze those views across the continuum of constitutional law.

But I'm flexible. I think Pat Leahy and I agree that given an adequate time to prepare and given an adequate time for those who are going to be commenting and for witnesses in the proceeding to prepare, we could go in August, we could go in September. The one deadline date which we have which we'll meet is the court reconvenes the first Monday in October. And it is our duty to have a justice in place at that time. And we will meet that obligation.

MALVEAUX: We'll get to Senator Leahy in just a moment. I want to first show a sound bite here. This is from Senator Ted Kennedy. He already is talking before the process has even begun, saying that this is going to be a very tough battle. Let's take a listen.


SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: If the president abuses his power and nominates someone who threatens to roll back the rights and freedoms of the American people, then the American people will insist that we oppose that nominee. And we intend to do so.


MALVEAUX: Well, I guess the question for you, Senator Leahy, is really whether or not the Democrats here acting in good faith? We have heard Senator Kennedy talking about: this is a tough battle ahead.

You have been invited already by the president, along with Senator Specter, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid to meet with President Bush at the White House after the Senate returns from its recess to discuss all of this. Do you believe that the president is being sincere here or do you think it is just show?

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: Well, I've talked to the president a couple times before. I take him at his word that he sincerely wants to consult. Senator Specter and I have, as Senator Specter said, we've discussed this at some length already, about how to have a fair and complete hearing. I really wish everybody would relax a little bit and let the process carry out.

You know, if it was Sandra Day O'Connor being nominated today, I'm afraid what we'd have. On the left, we'd have groups saying, "Well, we can't have her, she's a conservative Republican," which of course she was. But then we'd have on the right, we'd have people saying, "Well, we can't have her because she is one who seeks consensus and end up a moderate," which of course she was.

Now, all these groups will agree today that she was a very good justice. All this depends really upon the president, initially. He's the one who has to make the nomination. I'm not about to prejudge who the president's going to nominate.

He could very easily nominate somebody who would unite us and not divide us. This is, after all, a Supreme Court justice who is there for all Americans, all 280 million Americans. And it would be a great signal to send to the country if we had somebody that all of us could agree on, as we did on Justice O'Connor.

Every single senator who voted on the O'Connor nomination voted for her. And so she went on the court with that amount of credibility. Everybody says that President Reagan made a very good decision when he nominated her.

What I said to President Bush is this is part of his legacy. He could do the same thing that President Reagan did: nominate somebody who would unite us and not divide us. That's what I'd like to see.

And I have total faith in Senator Specter, that he will run a very fair and open hearing. We have members on that committee who go across the political spectrum. We'll have ample opportunity to ask questions of whomever it is. But we have a duty to ask them. This is not for the 100 senators. This is for 280 million Americans who want...

MALVEAUX: Let me ask Senator Specter...

LEAHY: ... to be sure this is going to be somebody who will represent all of them.

MALVEAUX: Let me follow up and ask Senator Specter this question.

You were asked in November, "If there was a Supreme Court vacancy, what would you do if the president nominated someone who opposed abortion?" And you said then that that just wasn't going to happen. Your comment, of course, then caused a lot of controversy. How would you respond to that question today?

SPECTER: Well, I have a record of having voted for nominees who are pro-life. I voted for Justice O'Connor, for Justice Kennedy, for Justice Thomas, for Chief Justice Rehnquist.

Suzanne, what I think we need to really keep in focus is each of our functions. We have a separation of power. It's the president's job to make the nomination. It's the Senate's job to decide on confirmation...

MALVEAUX: But is there going to be a litmus test here? Do you believe there is going to be a litmus test for this nominee?

SPECTER: No, no, no, I don't think it's a litmus test. I've never used a litmus test and wouldn't, but let me finish this basic point because I think it's very fundamental. And then the nominee, the justice makes his decision.

But you've had a lot of justices who have surprised people. When Casey versus Planned Parenthood was decided in 1992 to test Roe v. Wade, you had three justices who wrote the opinion in the majority who were appointed by Republican presidents, and two of those justices had been known to be strong pro-life. Justice Kennedy, Anthony Kennedy was very solidly pro-life. As was supposedly Justice O'Connor. Justice Souter, you weren't quite so sure about. But if you take your own role and don't try to usurp the president's role and don't try to usurp the justices' role but stay within the constitutional confines, I think our system works out very well.

MALVEAUX: Senator Leahy, do you think it's important for the seat to go to a female or minority?

LEAHY: Well, I would like to see the court represent America. I think of the Senate when I first came to the Senate and actually when Arlen first came to the Senate, there were nothing but men in the Senate. Since then almost every election we've added women to the Senate. We've been much better for that.

I'd like to see us represent, be representative of America. I'd like to see more women on the Supreme Court. I'd like to see an Hispanic, at least one on the Supreme Court if not more, and I'd like to see more African Americans on the Supreme Court. Eventually, that will be the norm and we'll be better off for it. They should be, the Supreme Court should represent and reflect America. Not the extremes but America.

MALVEAUX: And very quick here, I mean, obviously the filibuster fight over judiciary nominees was seen as many as a dress rehearsal potentially for this fight. Would you consider using the filibuster, that nuclear option, as a compromise called for under extreme circumstances for a Supreme Court nominee?

LEAHY: Well, let's at least step back and wait and see who the president nominates. I'm hoping the president will nominate somebody who will unite us and not divide us. Again, this is a nominee who should be there to represent all Americans, not just...

MALVEAUX: But that would be an option that the Senate would use, I'm assuming.

LEAHY: Well, but we haven't reached that point yet. We're going to have all our options, every senator. There's 100 of us. We each have all our options. But the best option would be the one exercised by the president. I would hope that he would exercise it by sending like somebody like President Reagan did.

MALVEAUX: Now, of course, Senator Specter, you have been criticized by both the left and right for your performance on the judiciary committee. Liberals who were put off by some aggressive questioning of Anita Hill in the Clarence Thomas hearings.

Conservatives who felt like you let Robert Bork out to dry, from what some people said. Have you learned anything from your previous experiences? Will you go in with a different mindset or a different tone when you move forward on these hearings?

SPECTER: I've learned a lot, Suzanne. I've learned to study hard, to be prepared and to make up my mind about what questions ought to be asked. I've been criticized a lot for questioning Judge Bork on one session for an hour and a half, and he had views which were different from anybody who had ever been nominated before.

He had original intent, and if his original intent stood, we'd still be segregating the United States Senate with African Americans on one side and Caucasians on the other side. And I read what Senator Bork has written about me, and he came into Pennsylvania last spring to campaign for my primary opponent, but I think a fair analysis, and a number of scholars have read my questioning of Senator Bork and thought it was right. Let me finish the answer...

MALVEAUX: I have to cut you off here. We actually have just run out of time. I am so, so sorry to interrupt here.

SPECTER: Well, just a sentence, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Senator Leahy and Senator Specter, thank you...

SPECTER: If you read my questioning of Professor Hill you'll find...

MALVEAUX: OK, go ahead, go ahead. I'm sorry. Finish your sentence. Go ahead.

SPECTER: Well, it's your question and it's my answer.

MALVEAUX: Go ahead.

SPECTER: This is like a Supreme Court nomination. If you read my questioning of Professor Hill and many, many people have done it, and I had an opponent run against me the year after. She couldn't find one question which was out of line. So, I've learned quite a lot, and that is to trust my own instincts and my own judgment, and I think history will vindicate me.

MALVEAUX: OK, well, I hope this isn't, I hope it's going to be a little bit easier with these Supreme Court...

LEAHY: This doesn't seem very fair here.

MALVEAUX: ... hearings as well. Thank you very much, both of you, Senator Leahy, Senator Specter.

SPECTER: Thank you, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: It's going to be a very busy summer. Just ahead, perspective on what we might expect from the upcoming confirmation hearings from someone who's been in the hot seat, former Supreme Court justice nominee Robert Bork.

Then, the world rallies for aid to Africa. We'll talk with the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development about how the Bush administration plans to help the struggling continent. And later, go with Wolf Blitzer behind the lines in Iraq. Are Iraqi troops ready to protect their country? "LATE EDITION" continues after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The nation also deserves a dignified process of confirmation in the United States Senate characterized by fair treatment, a fair hearing and a fair vote.


MALVEAUX: President Bush on Friday indicating that he doesn't want a Senate fight over whomever he nominates to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." Joining us now here in Washington is someone who was at the center of a confirmation battle back in 1987, former Supreme Court nominee, Robert Bork. He is now a fellow with the Hudson Institute.

Judge Bork, welcome to "LATE EDITION."

Now, in all fairness, I do want to put this out here that Senator Arlen Specter, on the program just moments ago, if you wanted to respond, said that if you had it your way, if you were on the court, we'd see a segregated court: blacks on one side, whites on the other, women, men.

Do you care to even respond?

JUDGE ROBERT BORK, FORMER SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: Oh, yes. I know Specter and the truth is not in him. I have written and he must know it that Brown against Board of Education, the case that ended segregation, was a correct decision.

So he knows that, and I don't know why he's making a claim like this at this time.

MALVEAUX: So tell us about your own experience. You spent five days before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the hot seat. There was an opportunity here to replace a centrist. Many people see the same opportunity for President Bush, as well.

Are we looking at perhaps a cultural war in America over this nomination?

BORK: We've been having a culture war in America over the court for a long time and the court is part of the war.

The problem is the court has made itself into a political institution. It's now gone well outside anything that's in the constitution and begun to decide matters according to their preferences.

When that happens, when it becomes a political institution, it becomes a political prize and both sides will fight for it. If this were a court composed of lawyers who stuck to the law there wouldn't be this kind of fight.

MALVEAUX: I want to take you back, if we could, July 1st, 1987. Senator Ted Kennedy -- Let's take a quick listen to...

BORK: (inaudible)

MALVEAUX: I'm sorry, we have to take you back.


KENNEDY: In Robert Bork's America there is no room at the inn for blacks and no place in the Constitution for women, and in our America there should be no seat on the Supreme Court for Robert Bork.


MALVEAUX: Now, that was years and years ago. This is this morning. This is Senator Kennedy this morning on ABC.

BORK: Oh, that again.


KENNEDY: Can we imagine what this country would be like today if Judge Bork had gone on to the Supreme Court with his views about civil rights and other issues?


MALVEAUX: This is 18 years later. Why is there such bitterness still over your nomination battle?

BORK: Well, I think they recognized what they did and they have to keep justifying it. And they have to keep misrepresenting me.

Because the only thing I said was that a judge ought to apply the constitution and the statutes according to the people -- the understanding of the people who wrote them and who ratified them, which is quite true, and that does not lead to any of the horribles that either Kennedy or Specter are talking about.

MALVEAUX: And your nomination, of course, sparked a fierce debate over the role of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Senate, in actually taking a look at the backgrounds of judicial nominees.

In your book, I'm quoting here of course, you wrote in your book that -- "The Tempting of America: The political seduction of the law," about your experience where you say, "I was a symbol that the liberals needed to destroy. They needed to prove that a liberal imperialistic court is legitimate and that any other view is outside of what they insist is the mainstream."

Do you believe that that is the environment in which we are under right now?

BORK: Oh, yes... MALVEAUX: Particularly that is what the nominee is going to face?

BORK: That's exactly the truth. I couldn't have said it better than I did then.

As a matter of fact, the difference between now and then is that then there was no groups -- there were no groups in my support. The White House, in fact, actively discouraged conservative groups from getting involved, but now they -- the conservatives have understood what's at stake and they're geared up.

I hate to use the word conservative because the real distinction is between judges who stick to the constitution and those who don't, the activists. And if you stick to the constitution, it doesn't matter whether you're a liberal or conservative.

MALVEAUX: In your own experience, the failed nomination here, I mean, you didn't have that kind of support that you needed. How important is it, though, for President Bush at this time to reach out to the minority, to come up with a consensus candidate, to consult so that whoever is in that seat doesn't face the same kind of lack of support that you did?

BORK: If Bush does that, he will, I think, have neglected his duty. His duty is to find somebody who will make a fine judge, not someone who is a compromise candidate with Teddy Kennedy.

MALVEAUX: Does the president need -- does he owe the conservatives a conservative judge on the court?

BORK: He owes the country a judge who will interpret the constitution as it was originally understood, the principles as they were originally understood and not go off making up new constitutional law. That's what he owes the whole country.

MALVEAUX: There are some conservatives, however, who say that, if you don't put in a conservative Republican, a conservative judge, that this president is going to pay for it later on down the road.

BORK: I think, by "conservative," they mean what I'm talking about. They don't mean -- I don't want a conservative activist either. But they want somebody who will stick to the Constitution.

MALVEAUX: But clearly the president is in a very delicate situation here, because he needs to put someone forward who is going to win over the moderates. He needs to put someone who is a moderate conservative. At the same time, his base is saying, we want certain candidates...


BORK: When you say "moderate," if you talk about -- I don't know what a moderate is. That's a political term. It has no business when you're interpreting in a legal document. A moderate tends to be somebody who swings back and forth, one day voting sort of in a liberal direction, another day not, but not adhering to the Constitution.

I wish we could drop these political terms for the court, because the court is all too political now, and that one of the main tasks is to get it back from being a political organization.

MALVEAUX: But do you not believe that there's at least maybe a litmus test for some of the conservatives who are going to look and say, some of these nominees are acceptable because of their views on abortion, on affirmative action...

BORK: Oh yes, oh yes...

MALVEAUX: ... on free speech.

BORK: It's not abortion. It's whether you're for or against abortion, you ought to be against Roe against Wade, because there's nothing in the Constitution that supports that. There's nothing in the Constitution about abortion one way or the other. And that should be one of those topics that should be left to the legislatures and to the American people.

MALVEAUX: One of the things that perhaps hurt your candidacy was the fact that so many of your views, provocative views were a part of essays, and it left a paper trail. There are some who are saying that, for the president, it's better to pick someone who doesn't have a lot of paper behind.

Do you think that, in this -- that's important? And secondly, how is it going to change this process in the age of 24-hour cable, Internet, blogs?

BORK: Well, you know, if you don't have a paper trail, it may suggest that you haven't been thinking about the topic much.

Now, for example, I predicted in "The Tempting of America," the book you mentioned there, that the next nominees were likely to be people who didn't have a paper trail, because nobody would know what their -- and that's exactly what happened with Justice Souter. He was a stealth candidate. Nobody knew what he was going to do, and now we found out.

MALVEAUX: Any words of wisdom for the next person who's going to be sitting in that hot seat?

BORK: Brace yourself, and know what's going to come, and don't let it bother you.

MALVEAUX: And are you aware -- I don't even know if you're aware that the term "Borking" now has come to mean in Washington to derail or prevent...

BORK: Well, it's in the dictionary, you know, some dictionaries.

MALVEAUX: That's right.

BORK: And they define it as "to attack with unfair means." And I'm not worried about that, because, as I said before, to have your name become a verb is to achieve a certain form of immortality.

MALVEAUX: You are immortal. Thank you.


MALVEAUX: Thank you very much for joining us here on "LATE EDITION."


MALVEAUX: Appreciate your time.

Still ahead, living on just one dollar a day, our own Christiane Amanpour looks at the plight of an Ethiopian village.

Then we'll talk with the head of the U.S. international aid agency, Andrew Natsios, about efforts to help the African countries.

"LATE EDITION" will be right back.


MALVEAUX: The leaders of the world's eight richest nations are preparing to meet in Scotland, with aid to Africa at the top of their agenda. The continent's tremendous potential is hampered by a number of problems, including pervasive poverty. Christiane Amanpour looks at one Ethiopian village's daily struggle for survival and how hopes for a brighter future rests with its children.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's early morning in Koraro (ph). A mother gets up to start her day. Young girls start off to fetch water. A shepherd tends his flock. And fathers start another day breaking rocks for building. This is a place where 5,000 people live in abject poverty -- poverty measured not in income but in hostile soil, hunger, disease and dirty water. Marza (ph) and her children have walked an hour to fetch water from this rain hole. It's where they wash and where their animals drink too. Is this clean water? Is it good water?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It's very bad.

AMANPOUR: Do you get sick?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Yes.

AMANPOUR: But it's all they have.

What would make your life better?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Clean water.

AMANPOUR: Marza (ph) heaves the dirty water onto her back, ties it around her shoulders and walks another hour home. She does this four times a day. That's what all Koraro's (ph) women do every day: fetch water, grind maize by hand, try to provide for their family.

Latai (ph) prepares an engera, traditional Ethiopian bread. This will last her and her five children all day.

Are your children hungry?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Yes.

AMANPOUR: And they usually go to school hungry. At the school, I asked them about their diet.

Raise your hands if you have three meals a day.

No hands go up. Nor when I ask about two meals.

One meal? How many of you are hungry?

Why are they laughing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we are hungry. That's what -- we are hungry.

AMANPOUR: This is normal?


AMANPOUR: But even on empty stomachs, they come to school.

Haftume (ph) teaches seventh grade outdoors because Koraro (ph) doesn't have enough classrooms.

Put your hands up if you want to go to eighth grade.

But there is no eighth grade here. How far away is the next village or the next school that has an eighth grade?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three or four hours from here.

AMANPOUR: Three to four hours walking?

The village has no vehicle. The children spend only half a day in school and the rest at work. Even the smallest ones, after class they run down the hill to the riverbed, where slowly under a burning midday sun, they fill sacks, tins and whatever they can find with sand to make mortar for the new schoolrooms their fathers will build from the rocks they crush every morning. On the way back up the hill, seven year-old Arizeer's (ph) bag breaks, and for a moment he's at a loss.

Is it hard work?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes.

AMANPOUR: Do you think it's normal for a seven year-old boy to work like you do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes.

AMANPOUR: We asked young Amachal.

What do you think you're going to be when you grow up? When do you think you're going to get married?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I don't want to get married. I want to be a teacher.

AMANPOUR: Why don't you want to get married?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It's bad. When you are a child and have a baby, it's a bad situation.

AMANPOUR: Amachal (ph) is only 9.

Do you think your parents will force you to get married?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I don't know.

AMANPOUR: Typically, parents marry off their little girls when they can no longer afford to feed them. More than half of Koraro's 1500 children are severely malnourished. A simple illness or mosquito bite can kill them. Life expectancy in Koraro is 40. Latai (ph) is 37. The bread she showed us earlier will also be dinner for six. When was the last time you had meat or you gave your children meat to eat?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Three months ago. It was a holiday and we had chicken.

AMANPOUR: I asked her oldest son, "Is this enough for you, this little piece of bread?"

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) whether it's enough or not.

AMANPOUR: How much do you think we eat in America for dinner?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Until they are full.

AMANPOUR: Until they are full.

But Latai's (ph) 14-year-old daughter thinks she'll have a better life.

What do you want most in the world?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): To finish school.

AMANPOUR: After a long day of chores at dawn, school and more chores, this is how the children of Koraro (ph) end their day, doing homework by the light of a kerosene lamp.

Christiane Amanpour, CNN in Koraro (ph), northern Ethiopia.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MALVEAUX: What can the United States and the world be doing to help save Africa? We'll hear from the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Andrew Natsios.

Then "LATE EDITION's" special "Behind the Lines": U.S. Navy pilots talk about the pride and perils of protecting troops on the ground in Iraq.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our greatest challenge is to get beyond empty symbolism and discredited policies, and match our good intentions with good results.


MALVEAUX: President Bush saying the United States and other wealthy nations are committed to helping Africa overcome devastating poverty and illness. Earlier today, I spoke with the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development about the importance of this mission.


MALVEAUX: Thank you very much for joining us on "LATE EDITION." As you know, of course, Live 8 held concerts around the world. Do G-8 leaders, essentially, do they pay attention to that type of thing? They want them to go ahead and look at trying to help Africa in getting rid of poverty. Does that really make a difference? Does that work?

ANDREW NATSIOS, DIRECTOR, USAID: We actually had a discussion, Secretary Powell with the president four years ago to do more work in Africa. This was before any concerts and any G-8, and the decision was made very early in 2001 to increase dramatically our assistance to Africa, so the decision was made a long time ago. There are conferences that you try to prepare for and announcements that you make, but the fact is that these decisions were made a very long time ago.

MALVEAUX: This is a huge event, though, and it was specifically targeted for the summit that's coming up in Scotland.


MALVEAUX: Obviously, the president has been under some pressure to move forward when it comes to giving more aid in Africa.

NATSIOS: Let me just say that the African aid budget has been at the same level through four presidents. The first president to dramatically increase assistance to Africa was President Bush. I've been doing this sort of work for 16 years now. We've had the same budget until four years ago. There's been a tripling of assistance, and then the president will double it again over the next few years. So this is billions of dollars of increased aid.

But you know, it's not just how much money you give. Money is not sufficient to eliminate poverty. There has to be reform in southern countries. In addition, you have to make changes to the capacity of governments to manage programs, to write the right laws, to have the rule of law. If you don't have those other conditions, you can put huge amounts of money into aid programs and they'll be ineffective.

MALVEAUX: Now, let's talk about the timing of this, because we've heard a lot from the president. Recently, he talked about giving more when it comes to emergency food relief...


MALVEAUX: ... debt forgiveness, as well of course the major malaria initiative. All of this really on the heels of the G-8 summit in Scotland. Why now? Is this a way for the president to say, look, we've stepped forward and allowed British Prime Minister Tony Blair essentially to save face, because he has been asking for the president to commit much, much more than he's giving?

NATSIOS: Well, the humanitarian crisis in Africa I don't think was timed by weather for the G-8 summit or the Live 8 concerts. The fact is, we're facing very severe drought conditions across the (INAUDIBLE). This is one of the worst crises we're facing in Ethiopia in many years, and the president watches these things, and he called me in earlier this year and he said, "Andrew, is this happening again?" And we told the staff in the White House, the president, that it was happening again. We needed to do something about it, and so he provided the extra assistance.

The notion that we invented the famine and the food emergency in Africa in order to be timed for the G-8 doesn't kind of make a lot of sense.

MALVEAUX: But respond to those advocates who say that, look, we understand, and we appreciate what the president, the administration is doing, but perhaps it is not enough. Irish rocker Bono here of course saying President Bush feels he has already doubled and tripled aid to Africa, which he has, but he started from far too low a place. He can stand there and say he paid at the office already. He shouldn't, because he'll be left out of the history books.

NATSIOS: Well, I think once again, Bono and many other very well-intentioned people have really never actually run aid programs and seen what happens. If you put too much aid too quickly into weak institutions, where there isn't capacity, you have corruption, and the programs don't work.

And we've had this cycle over the last 50 years, of putting aid in, having failures, and then we stop giving aid, and then things get worse. So what we now have to do is to focus attention not just on how much we're giving, but what we're doing with the money. You've got to do both those things. And none of the discussion at the concerts or the G-8 is on the quality side, on the issue of corruption.

If you ask Africans the most serious problem in Africa, they don't say there isn't enough aid. They say, you're not dealing with corruption enough, the ministries aren't providing the services they should provide, and there isn't the rule of law.

The most important thing, for private investment to take place, which is how you reduce poverty. You don't reduce poverty through aid. You reduce poverty through private-sector growth that produces jobs. You have to have the rule of law, and many countries have a weak judicial system in the southern areas.

MALVEAUX: But there is a robust debate that is taking place about just how much the United States is giving, particularly when it comes to the proportion of its gross domestic product here.

Just some figures to throw out here, as you know, comparing it to other European countries, if you look at it, Norway, .87 percent; Denmark, .84 percent; France, .42 percent...

NATSIOS: Excuse me, they have much smaller economies than we do. And in fact, the European economies are stagnant.

MALVEAUX: But the United States is .16 percent, .16 percent...


MALVEAUX: ... of gross domestic product.

NATSIOS: The United States has never used in 50 years -- that's the standard that goes back to the late '50s -- no government in the United States, Democrat or Republican, has ever endorsed using a percentage of the gross national product, so far as I know, to do anything, domestically or internationally. This is a standard that Europeans created basically for their own purposes, which is legitimate, but it's not part of the debate in the United States.

When the president took office, the aid program -- let me just finish here -- the aid program of the United States, when he took office in the year 2000, was $10 billion. Last year, it was $19 billion. It will go up to $24, $25 billion.

MALVEAUX: Right, but how...

NATSIOS: This is the largest increase in foreign aid since Harry Truman.

MALVEAUX: How do you respond to your critics, particularly your European allies, who are saying, look, Blair has been privately lobbying the president...


MALVEAUX: ... to up that to .7 percent. Why not commit more than .16? NATSIOS: If we did .7 percent, the aid budget would go from $19 billion to $91 billion. We couldn't spend that money if we wanted to. Most of the people advocating this have never done the mathematics. Our economy is so huge compared to the rest of the world that the aid budget would -- they would call it imperial aid. In fact, when we did the tsunami response, we did a massive response, we had people in the United Nations privately saying, this is imperial aid, you're dominating the whole system, you're completely taking over the whole aid system. They were criticizing us for providing too much assistance.

So you can't have it both ways. I had someone at the World Bank say, you're increasing aid so much that you're going to get bigger than we are. We're at $19 billion now; the World Bank is $22 billion. Shortly, we will be bigger than the World Bank. So let me just go back to this. This is the largest increase since Harry Truman was president of the United States 55 years ago.

MALVEAUX: Now, one thing that people are always talking about is, at least President Bush has said, we are not going to just throw money here unless there is some sort of accountability, but Christiane Amanpour did a wonderful piece in which she actually looked at people, and it seems as if the people who are hungry, who are not in charge, are suffering the most because of these perhaps dictators or corrupt governments. Should the United States be focusing on trying to change those institutions, not support those regimes?

NATSIOS: We made a decision about 10, 12 years ago in USAID to change our business model, and instead of going through governments, we go -- we work with them, but we don't put our money through them, because there was too much corruption. The Europeans are taking their aid, and they're putting more and more of it through governments, thinking they can reform them. And there is a legitimate argument for that, but we go through NGOs, private universities, farmers' cooperatives, women's groups, private businesses. We work through what I call the civil society model. We had very little corruption, if any, in our programming, and, as a result of that, I think we're more effective.

The Europeans are putting much of their aid through governments, and the problem with that is, if the institutions are weak, and they don't have capacity to spend the money well, the money may be wasted.

MALVEAUX: Thank you very much for your time, appreciate it.

NATSIOS: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: Thanks again.


MALVEAUX: Up next, the Supreme Court battle and the war in Iraq are the topics of "LATE EDITION's" Sunday morning talk show roundup. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MALVEAUX: And now in case you missed it, let's check some of the highlights from the Sunday morning talk shows.

On ABC's "This Week," Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy talked about the upcoming Supreme Court nomination and the opportunity for President Bush to unite the country.


KENNEDY: This is up to the president. If he wants to pick a judge, we want to be able to support him. But if he wants to have a fight about it, then that's going to be the case.


KENNEDY: I think all of us very much want to make sure that we get the very best and to bring this country together. It's a golden opportunity to do so.


MALVEAUX: On "FOX News Sunday," former White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray said the Supreme Court nomination could be an expensive battle for both liberal and conservative interest groups.


C. BOYDEN GRAY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I don't think they have $20 million. I think it could get up to that. But from my vantage point, what we're trying to do is play defense, simply get on a level playing field or try to get on a level playing field Nan Aron and with Ralph Neas and People for the American Way who've been at this business now for 20 years. We're sort of newcomers to it, and we're just trying to counter balance what they're doing.


MALVEAUX: On CBS's "Face the Nation," Ralph Neas, the president of People for the American Way discussed what his group plans to do if there is a battle over Bush's Supreme Court nominee.

On NBC's "Meet the Press," Congressman Duncan Hunter and Senator Chris Dodd debated the president's policy of staying the course in Iraq.


REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: Stay steady -- if we stay steady, we're going to make this hand-off, and we're going to have achieved a lot in the Middle East that will benefit future generations. It may not have an immediate impact but will benefit future generations of Americans.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: We're willing to stay the course on all of this but asking these young men and women to put their lives in jeopardy every single day without doing what needs to be done to make sure the policy is working right, I think poses some serious threats.


MALVEAUX: And those are some of the highlights from the Sunday morning talk shows.

And that's your "LATE EDITION" for Sunday, July 3rd. Up next Wolf Blitzer goes behind the lines with U.S. troops in Iraq, stories of daily sacrifice and courage in the effort to protect a country and each other.

For our viewers in the United States, have a safe and happy Fourth of July. I'm Suzanne Malveaux in Washington.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: This is a special LATE EDITION: "Behind the Lines."


BUSH: At this time when we celebrate our freedom, let us stand with the men and women who defend us all.

BLITZER (voice-over): On this Fourth of July weekend in the United States, a visit with the troops.

GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: These young people that are out here fighting are amazing people, and the country is blessed to have them.

BLITZER: We go behind the lines of the war in Iraq, to meet the men and women in harm's way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It sounded like a tire blowing out, except somewhat louder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Blew our windshield out. Ballistic glass on the door stop.

BLITZER: We'll go inside the training designed to fight the insurgents.

ZANE ZANENGHI, NORTH CAROLINA NATIONAL GUARD: My anxiety is still way up. My stress is still way up.

BLITZER: And show you what happens when things go wrong on the battlefield.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The insurgents themselves are really close to our guys, so it takes very, very precise airmanship.

BLITZER: The Navy's top guns talk about supporting the troops and defending the skies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch out! BLITZER: And Iraqi security forces locked and loaded, and eager to take over defense of their country.


BLITZER: Welcome to this special "LATE EDITION: Behind the Lines." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

On this Fourth of July weekend, the United States celebrates the 229th anniversary of its independence. Iraqis just marked a much more recent milestone this week: The one-year anniversary of the handover of sovereignty. There is a new Iraqi government in Baghdad. Still, U.S. and other coalition forces very much remain on the scene, fighting the insurgency and training a new Iraqi military.

For the next hour, we'll take you behind the lines of the current U.S. military effort in Iraq. You'll meet the troops fighting the war, and hear their incredible stories.

But first, let's get a quick check of what's making news right now.


BLITZER: Thanks very much. On this Fourth of July weekend, we're taking you behind the lines of the war in Iraq. Recently, I joined the commander of the U.S. military Central Command, General John Abizaid, on a visit with the troops in Iraq. We went to Baghdad, Fallujah, Mosul, Balad and the southern port of Umm Qasr.

I also traveled to Kuwait, Qatar, and into the Persian Gulf to meet other American forces, men and women supporting the military effort.

More than two years into the war, Iraq's fledgling democracy has a new government, and a permanent constitution is being drafted, but insurgent attacks remain a deadly event.


BLITZER: The violence in Iraq is unrelenting for U.S. troops, but it's become especially deadly for Iraqis, security personnel and civilians. Over the past year, since the handover of sovereignty, some 900 American troops have died. There is no official count of the Iraqis killed in a rash of insurgent bombings and assassinations, but Iraqi officials say more than 1,200 have been killed during the past three months alone.

U.S. Army General George Casey is the commander of the multi- national force in Iraq.

GEN. GEORGE CASEY, COMMANDER, MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE: There are long-term developmental challenges and more to be done. And Iraq's steady progress will be contested.

BLITZER: With attacks numbering about 500 a week, U.S. and Iraqi troops remain on the offensive against Iraqi insurgents and their allies.

ABIZAID: In terms of foreign fighters, I believe there are more foreign fighters coming into Iraq than there were six months ago.

BLITZER: Iraq's new prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari recently told me his country can secure the country in time.

IBRAHIM AL-JAAFARI, IRAQI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We've faced tremendous difficulties of forming the government recently. And we managed to overcome them, so I believe we can overcome the obstacles ahead of us.

BLITZER: In his nationally televised prime-time address to the U.S. troops at Ft. Bragg, President Bush insisted the U.S. will not impose a deadline.

BUSH: Setting an artificial timetable would send the wrong message to the Iraqis, who need to know that America will not leave before the job is done.

BLITZER: That means U.S. troops will remain on the scene for the foreseeable future.

(on camera): A huge challenge for those troops in Iraq and for the thousands of men and women supporting them in the region is certainly those IEDs, or improvised explosive devices.

It's a major concern for the so-called Iraqi Express, the U.S. convoys of more than 850 trucks a day traveling in and out of Iraq to supply the troops.

(voice-over): It's one of the simplest and at the same time, most dangerous jobs in the U.S. military in Iraq. The job: Driving a truck; the danger: Avoiding getting killed or injured by a roadside bomb, a rocket, small-arms fire, or a suicide car bomber.

BRIG. GEN. WILLIAM JOHNSON, U.S. ARMY: There are attacks every day in someplace in Iraq.

BLITZER: Here at Camp Navistar at the northern Kuwaiti border with Iraq, U.S. troops are preparing for what they call the Iraqi Express: a 30-vehicle convoy that will head more than 400 miles deep into Iraq.

SGT. WENDY ORDWAY, U.S. ARMY: Enemy situations today. As you guys well know, stuff is getting a little hot and heavy down range. I'm headed north on ASR Detroit. Receive small arms fire, mortar fire and indirect fire. All right. We had some soldiers get hurt on that one. That's not good. We don't want to go there. We're going to make this a tight ship. We're going to make it happen and we're going to get everybody back safe.

BLITZER: Staff Sergeant Wendy Ordway is in charge of this mission.

Are you nervous? ORDWAY: It's all about the soldiers. If I'm scared, then they're going to be scared. Take them up and take them back and make sure they're safe.

BLITZER: The troops Staff Sergeant Ordway commands are certainly aware of the dangers.

Have you come under attack on any of those missions?


BLITZER: What was it like?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gets scary at times. You get a big old adrenaline rush and you keep moving on.

BLITZER: Are you a little scared?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I'm not scared.

BLITZER: Nothing wrong with being scared.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. There's no need to. You don't have time to be scared.

BLITZER: You're working all the time?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. You have to constantly be alert.

BLITZER: Have you been attacked?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My last time over here, yes, we were hit.

BLITZER: And what happened?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had an IED go off in a convoy. We handled it the proper way we that were trained, went to the rally point, and assessed the situation and kept rolling on with our mission.

BLITZER (on camera): A typical mission lasts eight or nine days. Unfortunately, many of the soldiers working the Iraqi Express have come face to face with IEDs. Here are some of their stories.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They had them buried in the asphalt and had actually painted over the line on the side of the road where they had buried them. So there was no clue that they were there at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A fellow got hit by a truck, and my ears were ringing, and it was really wild.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It sounded like a tire blowing out, except somewhat louder. And we really didn't have time to react too much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They had a level two armor. And I augmented that with some ballistic steel on the undercarriage myself, which helped a lot. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The cab of the truck, or the Humvee rather, was engulfed in a small fire. A split second later, all you could see out the front windshield was flames.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Blew our windshield out, ballistic glass on the door stop, all the door stops.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The level two did its job. It was penetrated, but with the 155 millimeter shell at 11 feet, you know, there's not much you can do.

BLITZER: Does your family know what happened to you, back in Guam?


BLITZER: What did they say?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're just happy that I'm alive and well and still standing here today.

BLITZER: So what saved your life?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably the good Lord and a lot of luck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would have to say without the up-armor kit, level two, we probably wouldn't be here today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My motivation when I go out there is home. So that's what keeps me alive out there.

BLITZER: So how does the U.S. military prepare the troops for such an encounter? Commanders have constructed elaborate training grounds in the hot Kuwaiti desert, just south of the Iraqi border. Realistic exercises mean everyone knows what to expect on the dangerous road to Baghdad and beyond.

(voice-over): Bullets flying all over the place, the training exercises here at the Udari (ph) range can themselves be quite dangerous.

BRIG. GEN. MIKE MILANO, U.S. ARMY: Things don't always go well during this. And that's the purpose of the after-action review. They talk about what was the plan, how'd you prepare for it, then what happened during execution.

BLITZER: The best way to prepare the troops for the dangerous drive through Iraq is to simulate on this training range what they might eventually encounter. To do that, the troops drive through a nearly 10-mile course, during which they come under simulated hostile fire.

MILANO: The whole principle here is, if there's a threat, return fire and get out of the area as quickly as possible.

BLITZER: It's a three-day program of instruction. On this day, I'm in the front seat of an armored Humvee, and our driver explains that one vehicle has come under attack and has been disabled.

MAJOR MATT FATH, U.S. ARMY: It's going to be a hasty evacuation. We have to get him in a vehicle and get him out of the kill zone. After you do that, then we'll recover the vehicle. Same thing, it will be a hasty recovery, throw a strap, and tow strap on there, pull it out of the kill zone, all while somebody else is suppressing the enemy, and then continue to move.

BLITZER: The military has built an overpass to show drivers how to evade grenades that could be dropped into their vehicles.

The key, I'm told, is to swerve rapidly either to the left or the right just before going underneath. Even though the insurgents already know this maneuver, it makes it tougher to hit the target.

At the same range, U.S. troops practice firing at an incoming vehicle, trying to maneuver it through barricades at the entrance to a camp. The objective is to avoid another Beirut, a reference to what happened in 1983, when a suicide truck driver simply approached the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon, killing 241 Americans.

On this day, they assess how the trainees did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a big lag from the time that thing started moving until your first round comes out right. You've got to remember, that vehicle's coming at you, he's trying to blow through your checkpoint, you've got to stop it.

BLITZER (on camera): Still to come on our special "LATE EDITION: Behind the Lines," a downed pilot in dangerous territory.

ZANENGHI: It was the real deal. It still is the real deal.

BLITZER: We'll show you his incredible rescue.

Then -- Iraqi troops in training. They say they're eager to take over defense of their country. How are they doing? And the U.S. Army captain who survived a roadside bomb attack in this Humvee. And he's making history right now. You'll meet him later on this special "LATE EDITION: Behind the Lines."

ABIZAID: I wonder why Americans are so arrogant as to think it can't happen here. It can happen here. It will happen here. The world is too interconnected. People want to live a better life. It won't be American-style democracy. But it'll be more participatory than they've ever seen before in an era where leadership of local nations will be held accountable. I'm certain of that.


CAPT. KEVIN DONEGAN, U.S. NAVY COMMANDING OFFICER, USS VINSON: Well, our responsibility for the Carl Vinson as a ship is to ensure that we're in the right place at the right time to launch the airplanes over the beach, so that when the troops are on the ground, if they need help, we're there all the time to help them for as long a period of time as we can be. BLITZER (voice-over): Up next, I'll take you aboard the USS Carl Vinson, where I talked with the Navy's top guns, the aviators risking their lives every day to patrol the skies over Iraq and protect the crucial shipping lanes of the Gulf.

The ready room is where naval aviators prepare for war: Intelligence assessment, mission analysis, course of action development, and, when they return from combat missions, debriefs.

But it's also a place to relax. There are reminders of home and pictures of loved ones on the wall. Each seat is designated for a naval aviator. But you don't want to be the one sitting under this. The bolt hangs over the head of the latest bolter, the aviator who, while attempting to land on the aircraft carrier, failed to catch the arresting wire and had to bolt off the flight deck back over sea.


BLITZER: Flying Blackhawk helicopters out of Balad Air Base north of Baghdad are the proud pilots of Alpha Company, First Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment of the Rhode Island National Guard. I have a special bond with them. They call themselves "the brotherhood of the wolf."

(on camera): The honorary member of the wolf pack is...


BLITZER: I can't hear you.

CROWD: Wolf Blitzer!

BLITZER: Thank you.


BLITZER: Good work.

Flying the Blackhawk, though, is serious business indeed. The Balad Air Base is the largest helicopter facility in the region. With hundreds of aircraft going in and out, there are bound to be some close calls. Earlier this year, one helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing. Here now is the incredible story of the rescue.

(voice-over): The Blackhawk like this one was on a routine mission in Iraq when it began to experience transmission problems. It was forced to make an emergency landing in hostile territory. There were 14 U.S. and Iraqi troops on board.

LT. COL. CHRIS CALLAHAN, U.S. ARMY: We made a conscious decision to land the aircraft, because eventually it would become unflyable if the transmission seized.

BLITZER: The 14 troops were quickly joined by reinforcements to guard the helicopter and its sensitive technology. CNN has obtained this nightscope video from the U.S. military, pictures that captured the recovery of the Blackhawk during a complicated and dangerous operation.

CALLAHAN: So what we ended up doing was putting together a mission where we would use one of the CH-47s, which is the Army's heavy-lift helicopter, to come in and literally pick it up off the ground and fly it back up here to the lot.

BLITZER: You can make out the much larger CH-47 helicopter lifting the damaged Blackhawk and literally carrying it back to the Balad Air Base, a flight that took about an hour and 15 minutes.

CALLAHAN: And I used what we call a long line, and they hooked it and very gently picked it up and brought it back.

BLITZER: The operation had to be carefully rehearsed. And a separate unit of commandos was sent in to secure the area. They were backed up by Apache attack helicopters, from which these pictures were taken.

CALLAHAN: And then what we see on the camera film, we see two snippets. Specifically, one is just simply the enormous length of the rope and how it flies, and then one is, as it comes in to touch down, where the crew did a real nice job of, between the ground crew and the flying crew to set the aircraft back here on its, you know, right side up, and no further damage, you know. And that was good news.

BLITZER: The mission was successful.

(on camera): Helicopter pilot Zane Zanenghi was on that Blackhawk when it made the emergency landing in dangerous territory. He's keeping an audio diary of his tour of duty for his hometown radio station. Here is his dramatic account of waiting to be rescued.

ZANENGHI: We're still here, and right now we're waiting on a Guard team, which is the maintenance team, to try to determine what they're going to do with the aircraft, try to get us out of here.

But it was the real deal today. And it still is the real deal. But I just felt like I should get some audio. It's still kind of reeling through my head. And my anxiety is still way up. My stress is still way up.

BLITZER: And several days later, after he had a chance to catch his breath, he reflected on the experience.

ZANENGHI: That first hour that we were there in Karbala was probably the longest hour I've ever had. I was away from the helicopter, which is not good, and I was lying down on the ground with a rifle, just waiting for someone to come after me. And I had really had never thought about that situation, and, yet, I was put in that situation.

After a few hours, after actually about an hour and a half, the quick reaction force came, which is also known as the QRF. And they were able to secure the site for us. We were there for another four or five hours on the ground, waiting to be picked up.

The maintenance team actually flew in and determined that the helicopter was not flyable out.

So it was actually sling-loaded, which means it was put underneath another helicopter and flown back to Balad, which was a sight, and of course they had to do it under the cover of darkness for security reasons, and it was done about 24 hours later. But it was a very stressful day, very tense night. I'm still kind of coming down from all the events and reeling from all the tension, but I'm doing better.

BLITZER (voice-over): Zanenghi is currently serving with the North Carolina National Guard. In civilian life, he flies a helicopter for the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

(on camera): While those troops in the Blackhawk were stuck on the ground, there were U.S. fighter pilots most likely on standby, to fly in close air support if necessary. I spoke with the Navy's top guns, on board the USS Carl Vinson. They were candid in discussing the challenges they face every day.

(voice-over): Their mission is incredibly dangerous, even under the best of circumstances. These are the Navy and Marine Corps top guns, the pilots who take off from and return to these giant aircraft carriers. Simply put, these aviators are the best of the best.

(on camera): These planes behind us, they have two missions, combat support in Iraq. These pilots are flying over Iraq all the time. Also, what's called maritime security in the Persian Gulf, protecting shipping lanes, especially the oil shipping lanes.

(voice-over): I met with several pilots after they just returned from a mission over Iraq. Their nature is to play down the dangers.

(on camera): So how do you feel doing this, flying over Baghdad? Because, potentially, you're in harm's way. You're in a war zone.

LT. IAN PADDOCK, U.S. NAVY: Well, we're not nearly as threatened as the guys are on the ground, so we're kind of just there to support them.

BLITZER: So you're not scared?

PADDOCK: I don't know I'd go and say that we're scared. Yes, there's definitely some apprehension. And more tension than in a normal training mission. But it's not like I saw in the earlier phases of this conflict.

BLITZER (voice-over): The carrier-based aviators usually don't land in Iraq. Usually, but not always. Lieutenant Commander Chris Ford had to make a quick refueling stop during this most recent mission.

LT. COMMANDER CHRIS FORD, U.S. NAVY: We only do it when we need to, usually to get fuel or some other, for some other reason. Normally, we try to do all of our refueling in the air.

BLITZER (on camera): So how do you feel flying over Iraq?

FORD: The mission we're doing, supporting the guys on the ground, the ones that are doing all the hard work. And we're there to help them.

BLITZER (voice-over): This is Lieutenant Commander Ron Candiloro's fourth tour of duty in the region. He insists things are getting a little better.

LT. COMMANDER RON CANDILORO, U.S. NAVY: I would say they're not as dangerous, in the sense that there's not as much of a threat out there as there was, especially when Iraqi Freedom started back in '03.

BLITZER (on camera): Because they had surface-to-air capability.

CANDILORO: Yes, sir. They still have the capability out there. We're never going to underestimate that, but based on the training we have received and the intelligence that we get, we have minimized it to the point where we feel fairly secure the places we're flying and the altitudes we're flying and the tactics that we trained to.

So that we're pretty sure we're going to come back. But if it came down to it, whatever it takes to help the guys on the ground, I mean that's what we're here for.

BLITZER: Not long after I visited the USS Carl Vinson and spoke to those aviators, a tragic accident. I was jolted when I heard that two F-18 jet fighter pilots were killed in a collision over Iraq in bad weather.

Marine Major John Sparr was 42 years old, from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. It was Major Sparr's second tour of duty in Iraq. Friends remember him as an exceptional athlete. He leaves behind a wife, Diane, and 8-year-old daughter, Chandler.

And Marine Captain Kelly Hines was 30 years old, from Woodbury, Minnesota. The son of a former Navy pilot, Captain Hines leaves behind his wife Molly and 7 month old daughter Abby.

There's much more ahead on our special "LATE EDITION: Behind the Lines." The latest technology to counter the insurgent threat -- we'll show you the latest devices helping to protect U.S. troops on the battlefield.

Then, my trip to one of the war's biggest flashpoints, Fallujah. What's going on there now? Stay with us.

LT. GEN. JOHN SATTLER, U.S. MARINE CORPS: It's a completely different town, with smiles on the faces and a lot of enthusiasm and hope for the future.



BLITZER: Here's a first-hand look at the new Army combat uniform in the field. The U.S. Army is switching to a digital camouflage pattern similar to what the Marine Corps fielded nearly two years ago.

The new pattern is a mix of muted green, tan and gray. Unlike past patterns, there's no black. Experts say it will help soldiers blend into woodland, desert and urban environments better. Black boots are out, tan desert boots are in. Every soldier should be wearing the new uniforms by 2007.

From new uniforms to new technology. Welcome back to our special "LATE EDITION: Behind the Lines."

(on camera): The U.S. military is always working on ways to give the troops the best tools possible to fight the insurgents. Here's a look at what's called Operation Iron Claw.

(voice-over): The U.S. military is fighting back, often very creatively with what it calls Operation Iron Claw.

(on camera): What is the Iron Claw mission?

LT. DAVID SWISHER, U.S. ARMY: We are a team that's here to counteract the IED threat in the Baghdad area. We interrogate sites, we find the IEDs and we keep them from hurting anybody.

BLITZER (voice-over): I got a good demonstration at an American military base near Baghdad.

SWISHER: Today we're going to be talking about Task Force Iron Claw, how we interrogate a suspicious IED. As you can see, ladies and gentlemen, the device has been exposed.

BLITZER: It's a huge armored vehicle designed to withstand huge blasts. What's critical is its reach: a mechanical arm that can inspect mysterious packages.

(on camera): It's one thing to see something that looks suspicious, a bag or a box or some can on the side of the road. You can go and check that out, but what if these IEDs are buried a little bit under the ground and you don't see anything, what happens then?

SWISHER: Well, that's where we have faith in our equipment. It's why they give us the buffalo, that's why we're able to dig up the dirt, look for the wires, see if anything leads into the hole. And if it's there, we'll find it.

BLITZER (voice-over): But while the buffalo makes American troops safer, operating the buffalo is a dangerous job.

(on camera): Came into that buffalo?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hit right below the window.

BLITZER: From the buffalo?


BLITZER: Did it get close to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It went through five layers of the window, five out of seven layers. So I was counting my blessings that day.

BLITZER (voice-over: U.S. sappers use a high-tech metal detector to hunt down hidden explosives. The combat engineers are armored with a chest protector known as the "sappy plate" that breaks up the rounds of fire, and shoes that are especially designed to dissipate the impact of a blast. Sappers are always on the lookout for suspicious terrain, piles of dirt and trash where insurgents can hide bombs.

(on camera): This looks like one of the most dangerous jobs anyone could ever possibly imagine. You realize how dangerous this is?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. It should be all right. I mean, as long as you don't step on it, then you should be OK.

BLITZER: It was more than a year ago when the world saw some very disturbing scenes from the war. Iraqi insurgents celebrating over the bodies of American contractors in Fallujah, a stronghold for the insurgency. I visited there with U.S. Marine Lieutenant General John Sattler to see what's going on now.

(voice-over): U.S. Marine Lieutenant General John Sattler led the battle against the insurgents called Operation Vigilant Resolve. I asked him how many were killed.

SATTLER: I will throw out the number of somewhere around 2,000. I'll just put that out as a benchmark.

BLITZER: The battle was intense and complete.

General Sattler says those insurgent who survived the Marine attack fled the area. The city, badly damaged during the fighting, is now making a comeback. Nearly one-third of the city's 300,000 people have returned.

Sattler insists that Fallujah today is one of the safest places in Iraq. But don't be misled. He and other U.S. commanders say the insurgency in Iraq is far from over. The Saddam loyalists, the Abu Musab Al Zarqawi terrorists, the foreign fighters and the common criminals continue their attacks, especially their increasingly sophisticated use of improvised explosive devices.

SATTLER: From types of cell phones, radios, there's multiple ways that, as we figure out how to jam them or how to pre-detonate them, they continue to try to enhance their technology to get around it.

BLITZER: Top planners hope that a new Iraqi government and a new Iraqi military will increasingly take charge of events in their country and give the U.S. and its other coalition partners a chance to scale back and eventually leave. That will take time.

This note: Lieutenant General Sattler left Iraq the day after that interview. He and the 1st Marine Expeditionary force he commanded in Iraq are now back home at Camp Pendleton in California with their families. But already, they're preparing for a return deployment to Iraq.

(on camera): Next on our special "LATE EDITION: Behind the Lines," Iraqi troops in training -- when will they be ready to take over? I asked the top Iraqi commander at one of their strategic military bases.

And then, a bird's eye view of what could be the terrorists' top target in the region. Stay tuned to find out why this platform is so crucial to Iraq's future success.


CAPT. PETE GUMATAOTAO, U.S. NAVY COMMANDER, DESTROYER SQUADRON 31: I remind my sailors a lot that this isn't just a regular day working out in Southern California where you're cutting circles in the water. This is a place where there's a potential, obviously, for things like what happened to the Cole might happen. So we must always keep our guard. And that's the focus with the watch when we do that, is to maintain the guard.


CASEY: Since the elections, the Iraqi security forces have gotten even more involved, and the Iraqi people have gotten more involved in giving us tips and telling us where insurgents are and where, insurgent weapons storage sites and things like that.

BLITZER: The question of when those Iraqi security forces will be ready to completely take over is foremost on the minds of U.S. military leaders. I toured the strategic Iraqi port of Umm Qasr in southern Iraq, and saw some Iraqis in action. Getting there was easier said than done.

(voice-over): Imagine flying into Iraq's southern port city of Umm Qasr sitting between two U.S. Navy helicopter gunners. As we approach the coastline, the pilots engage in evasive maneuvering, flying low and fast and zig-zagging to avoid sniper fire from the ground.

It's a harrowing experience, one made all the more nerve-wracking with the helicopter doors and windows wide open and the gunners' fingers steady on the triggers, poised to open fire. They are looking for insurgents who might feel lucky enough to take a shot at the incoming helicopter.

At the Umm Qasr base, we're met by Iraqi troops who last year took charge of this facility.

They're deeply proud as they take us on a tour. (on camera): These are Iraqi soldiers. They're being trained by Iraqis themselves, but also U.S. and British forces. They're here. They're instructors. They're giving these guys behind me their first opportunity to train in security protection. They'll be the security force for the Iraqi base commanders here at Umm Qasr.

(on camera): So, what's your bottom-line assessment? How is it coming along where we are right now on this base?

CAPT. GILES WALGER, U.S. MARINE CORPS: They're doing a fantastic job, sir.

BLITZER: And how long do you think it will be before they really can take charge?

WALGER: I don't have an estimate of time on that, sir. It's not my job to determine that. But they're coming along a lot faster than we had probably anticipated.

BLITZER (voice-over): The Iraqis take us on their fast patrol boats through the port.

(on camera): We're heading out from the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr on one of these small patrol boats into the harbor. This is an area that's going to be incredibly important to Iraq's future economic development. This port of Umm Qasr is the major Iraqi port in the southern part of the country.

(on camera): It's pretty empty now. But one can see the huge potential for growth. One day, Iraqis say, this harbor will be bustling with traffic. But not yet, largely because of the continuing insurgency.

Colonel Abil Yasin Al-Zadi (ph) is the Iraqi base commander. He had served in the Iraqi navy under Saddam Hussein, but is now loyal to the new Iraq. As a result, he and his troops know they're targets of the Iraqi insurgents, but they vow to fight on.

They hope it won't take long for the new Iraqi government to become strong and for the new Iraqi military to increasingly take charge of their security, enabling the Americans and the other foreigners to leave. But that for now is only their hope.

(on camera): Iraqi troops are hoping to soon take over responsibility for what is certainly a most attractive target for terrorists: two huge oil platforms in the northern part of the Persian Gulf. Together, they process 80 percent of Iraq's oil exports, worth billions of dollars. Here now, a visit to what many call Iraq's economic engine.

(voice-over): As we approach the USS Rushmore, following a 45- minute flight, we spot the Al Basra oil terminal. It's our first glance of this critical source of income for Iraq.

On this day, three huge oil tankers are filling up, all anxious to move Iraqi oil around the world. After landing aboard the ship, we board a fast speed boat for the quick ride to the terminal. It's huge -- 1.2 miles from tip to tip. But the walk, complete with the ups and downs of the jagged course, makes it seem even longer.

(on camera): We're inside Iraq right now, inside Iraq's territorial waters. Only about 11 miles behind me, Iraqi land. About 5 miles in this direction, Iran, Iranian territorial waters. This is a very, very sensitive part of the Persian Gulf, critically important to Iraq's oil pipeline. This oil terminal so valuable to Iraqi oil exports.

(voice-over): As a result, it's also become a very high-value target for insurgents.

LT. COMMANDER PATRICK FULGHAM, U.S. NAVY: Basically, all the money revenue that Iraq needs to rebuild flows from this terminal.

BLITZER: U.S. Navy Captain Michelle Howard knows security is priority number one.

CAPTAIN MICHELLE HOWARD, U.S. NAVY: This is the economic engine for the country right now. As they continue to build their infrastructure up on land, it will have less importance. But right now, this provides the money for them to fund everything they need to fund.

BLITZER: It was only about a year ago when insurgents launched a suicide boat attack against this Iraqi oil terminal and its sister terminal a few miles away. That attack killed three Americans and shut down the flow of oil for 24 hours. Two U.S. Navy sailors and one Coast Guardsman were killed when they tried to intercept the three small fishing boats packed with explosives.

The 2004 operation resembled the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000; 17 American sailors were killed in that incident.

U.S. troops live aboard this terminal and are largely responsible for security, though Iraqi civilians operate the facility. It's a cooperative venture.

For the U.S., the more Iraq exports oil, especially during times of high prices, the less money it will need from the U.S. and coalition partners.

It isn't easy living on the Al Basra oil terminal. In the northern part of the Persian Gulf, Marines and sailors live on these metal containers stacked three high during their six-month tour. Not many comforts of home here, but there is a muscle beach with an incredible view.

Up next, an inspirational comeback. A U.S. Army captain back in action. We'll tell you why his return to the battlefield is making history.

Plus, some special messages from the troops I met. Please stay with us.

HOWARD: I think we forgot how long it took us to go from the end of the Revolution to Constitution. And they've outstripped that measure. But we're here at their request, and we'll be here as long as they need us.


BLITZER: Although focused on their challenging mission, the warriors on the front lines never forget their missing brothers in arms. In many mess halls, a table is set to honor and await the return of POWs and MIAs.

An inverted glass is symbolic of the fact that those missing are unable to raise their glasses in a toast. The single rose is in honor of their families and loved ones.

(on camera): We close our special "LATE EDITION" with a story of a man redefining the role of the wounded warrior.

U.S. Army Captain David Rozelle is back commanding his troops in Iraq, despite losing his right foot to an anti-tank mine in 2003, during his first tour of duty there. I caught up with him in Kuwait, just days before he left to go back into combat.

What's different now as opposed to then?

CAPT. DAVID ROZELLE, U.S. ARMY: It's actually really hard to tell what's different now than then. Because I'm in much better shape now. I've completely focused myself on being stronger and smarter. And because of all the physical activity that I've done and all the sports rehabilitation, I'm actually much fitter in a lot of ways.

There is a little bit of hindrance, I admit, especially in this kind of terrain with sand and rocks. Just for you to walk, it's difficult. It is even more difficult for an amputee.

So conducting operations, I have to consider things more, like what condition is my stump in and being able to change my stump socks, and things like that. Which is all pretty easy.

And you just become adaptive. It's like anything. Learning to shower again was hard at first. So, you know, it's going to take a few months. But I'll figure this thing out.

BLITZER: You're committed to keeping this career in the Army?

ROZELLE: Yes. You know, I took an oath of office. And I don't think an office of office is something that just lasts a couple years. This is how I can serve the American people and my country. And as long as I continue to do and serve like I am, I will continue to serve.

BLITZER: Troops you command, they know you are an amputee?

ROZELLE: Oh, yes. Sometimes I surprise them. I'll show up to P.T. formation and challenge them to a run. And that gets them interested. They see me day to day. And hopefully I inspire them.

BLITZER: And you want to go work, eventually, with some other amputees?

ROZELLE: That's right. Actually, I have a great job. You know, if I get up here and do well, they're going to send me back to Walter Reed to be the program manager for the new amputee center which they're building, which should open sometime in the fall.

And I'm looking forward to getting back and basically just continuing to command, helping my fellow amputees make decisions on whether or not they want to go back and contribute in civilian life, or continue to serve. And I can be a role model for them.

BLITZER: David Rozelle, you are a role model for a lot of people.

ROZELLE: Hey, thank you very much Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks for your good work.

ROZELLE: Absolutely. My pleasure.

BLITZER: Captain Rozelle wrote about his experiences in his book, "Back in Action."

Thanks very much for joining us for this special "LATE EDITION: Behind the Lines." On this Fourth of July weekend, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

We leave with some special greetings from the troops.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, my wife Roxanne (ph) and my children, Samantha (ph), George (ph), Cody (ph), and my niece and nephew Mike (ph) and Stef (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to say, hi, mom, and I love you, and I'll be coming home soon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like to say hello to my family, especially my daughter Jalissa Henderson (ph). Hi. I'm all right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd like to say hi to my wife Joy (ph) and my kids in Virginia. I'm safe out here. And everything is fine. I'll be home soon. I love you guys.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, dad. Hi, Andrew (ph) and Carrie (ph), I love you all very much and I miss you. I'm going to come home soon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, mom. As you can see, I'm well and safe. I'll be home sometime in August.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd love to say hi to my wife and my children and my church family back in (INAUDIBLE), North Carolina. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing, mom, dad, my wife Milly (ph), my new baby coming soon. Everybody in Newport News, Virginia, hello.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, my name is Ellen Wong Martinez (ph), I'm from Whitter, California, and I just want to say hi to my baby girls back home. I miss you. And my husband.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, my name is Janay Fone (ph), I'm from Rocksford Glening (ph). I want to say hello to my family back home, and also to my husband Travis (ph) and my daughter Lexi (ph) in Pinello (ph), California. Hi, I love you guys and I'll be home soon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello. My name is Ricardo de la Cruz (ph). I'm from Florida. And I want to say hi to my mom and dad, and my brother, Felix (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Hi. My name is (INAUDIBLE) Lucas Felons (ph), I'm from (INAUDIBLE), Illinois. And I'm enjoying this fine Navy chow on the Bonhomme Richard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am Steven McDonald (ph) from Kattahe (ph), Wisconsin. Just wanted to say hi, mom, hi, dad. I love you. And to the gang at the Harpin Chamrock (ph), voice one for me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I'd like to say hi to my son in New York, Mazir (ph), my family and friends, and everybody watching.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want to say hello to my mom and my dad, and to say I miss you, and I'll see you guys soon. And of course, a special shout-out to my little baby boy, Darian (ph), and mommy loves you.