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American Morning

Iraq: Three Years Later; Drug Trial Terror; The Other Miles O'Brien>

Aired March 17, 2006 - 07:30   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Details for you. The shooting just coming days after a lunch time murder and suicide at another Denny's in the state. A man opened fire killing two men and wounding a couple before turning the gun on himself. Still no word of a motive in that shooting.
Bad news from the world's largest automaker. General Motors says it lost more money last year than previously thought. About $2 billion more. That means the company lost a whopping $10.5 billion in 2005. GM blames this for job cuts and helping out its bankrupt subsidiaries Delphi Corporation.

Slobodan Milosevic was not poisoned. The toxicology report results came in earlier this morning. It shows traces of prescription medications but not in toxic levels. Doctors say Milosevic died of a heart attack. His body is on public display in Belgrade. His funeral is set for tomorrow.

A growing scandal in Miami over teachers who paid to get credit for courses they never took. The school fired six teachers and accepted resignations from 26 others. At issue, a private company that claimed to offer continuing education classes, but the company only sold transcripts without requiring any academic work. Hundreds of teachers in the school area now being investigated.

The mayor of Newark, New Jersey, could run for a sixth term. Sharpe James dropped off his 10,000 signatures Thursday and he did it in style, as you can see. The 70-year-old James had pedaled in on a bicycle and you see he's wearing a straw hat and sunglasses. And that sexy tank top. The petition will secure his spot in the race. He'll have until May to decide if he will actually run.

And back together for the first time since Katrina hit. The last child missing in the wake of the hurricane is back in her mother's arms. The reunion happening on Thursday. So what's next for the family? We'll ask them when they join us from Houston in the next hour of AMERICAN MORNING.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: My God, can you imagine the emotion patched into that reunion, Carol?

COSTELLO: Yeah. A cute little girl.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. I'm looking forward to hearing from them. We're glad they're together.

Three years after it all began, the U.S. occupation in Iraq is clearly not going as expected. In fact, the Pentagon did not each foresee the raging insurgency and the deep-seed sectarian violence which keeps Iraq perpetually on the brink and U.S. troops stuck in the stand. A new book offers some insights on what went wrong at the outset. It is titled "Cobra II: The Inside Story Of The Invasion And Occupation Of Iraq." The authors are joining us now, Michael Gordon and General Bernard Trainor from Washington. Michael Gordon has covered the war for "The New York Times."

General, I want to begin with you. Let's talk about what's going on in Iraq right now. This operation that we see right now. It kind of a sense of back to the future or deja vu here that three years later we're talking about this massive air assault. Is there a sense here that not much has been accomplished as you see this unfold?

GEN. BERNARD TRAINOR, "COBRA II": Well, Miles, first of all, this operation, which is getting an awful lot of hype, somewhat puzzles me because it really is, from a military standpoint, a very modest operation and so far the results seem to be very modest. But I think it's being hyped primarily because that both the Iraqis and the Americans are participating in it.

But this is something that certainly the administration didn't anticipate happening three years after they marched into Iraq. No. A lot of things went wrong. There were a lot of erroneous planning assumptions and then there was inadequate resourcing for the operation, particularly in the post-Saddam period.

M. O'BRIEN: Michael Gordon, why do you think the U.S., the Pentagon in particular, the administration, was unable to foresee, in particular, this sectarian violence, which we've seen spiralling out of control just over the past week or so in particular?

MICHAEL GORDON, "COBRA II": Well, Miles, there's really no one reason why the insurgency developed, but there were warnings about the sectarian violence from the CIA and others. I think the Pentagon simply had a series of optimistic assumptions. You know, as American troops closed in on Baghdad, the Pentagon started to cut the flow of reinforcements. It cancelled the deployment of the 1st cavalry division. This was done right at the time when it would have been a little better to have some more forces to keep a lid on the situation in Iraq and prevent sectarian tensions and prevent the rise of an insurgency.

M. O'BRIEN: General, as you look back on it and as General Myers said a little while ago, that's part of the business, is looking back on things. He referred to the fact that there's been all kinds of mistakes that were made. But as you look back on it, was there a key moment, a key decision made which sent the U.S. down to more difficult path?

TRAINOR: Yes. I think the key error was made not in terms of the invasion or the operation itself going to Baghdad, but what followed, the so-called phase for the stability and security phase of the entire campaign. The plan was to get American forces in there, get to Baghdad and then get them out as quickly as possible and leave Iraq to the Iraqis themselves to reconstitute with the assistance of the international community, which they figured would participate in the restructuring of Iraq. That was a basic error and it had terrible consequences as we see today.

M. O'BRIEN: So a fundamental assumption about the mindset of people. Michael Gordon, would it have been as simple as having additional troops? There were those, General Shinshecki (ph), who ultimately lost his job as a result of saying it, who said 700,000 is a good number of troops required to provide that kind of security after an invasion. Would that have made the difference?

GORDON: Well, Miles, there is no one factor, as I said. I think General Shinshecki said several hundred thousand. And I think that certainly you need more forces for the occupation than you need to take down the regime. I believe there are adequate forces to take the regime. But that was just one component. You also need adequate nation building policies. I mean we need -- I was there as an embedded reporter. You needed to be able to fix the electricity, provide the essential services, provide law and order in Baghdad so that you wouldn't lose the support of the Iraqi population.

And, lastly, a huge mistake was made when Ambassador Bremer dissolved the Iraqi army. Because if you didn't have enough American troops and then you dissolved the Iraqi army, you didn't have American troops or Iraqi troops and the combination of those two deficiencies created a huge security vacuum which the insurgency moved to fill.

M. O'BRIEN: General, let's finish up here, sort of back where we started on what's going on right now. It seems to me, I'm curious if you think this sort of operation that, as you say, has been hyped, if it really is an effective way to go after a deep-seeded insurgency in the first place. And secondly, when you get to the whole issue of winning over hearts and minds, just something like this, this kind of blunt force type attack, does it, in some way, create more harm than good?

TRAINOR: Well, obviously, if you use a heavy hand, you're probably going to have a counterproductive situation. In this instance, this is really a cordoned search operation trying to trap any of the insurgents and discover some of their caches of weapons and equipment. It's in a fairly remote area. No, I don't think that this particular type of operation, the way it's being conducted, is going to have a negative effect on the relationship with the Iraqi people. Except as part of the overall operation and occupation, which the Iraqi people don't seem to particularly care for and certainly the residuals and the old regime and the outsiders don't care for either.

M. O'BRIEN: Are you pessimistic then the U.S. will be in there for quite sometime then?

TRAINOR: Well, I think the United States certainly, even in the best outcome, will have to be there some time. You know, see a Pottery Barn business. We broke the pottery and now it belongs to us. So even under the best of circumstances, we're going to have to have American support there for their rather fragile government and the fragile military that emerges from this confrontation. M. O'BRIEN: And you're talking about for many years?

TRAINOR: Yes, yes. It doesn't necessarily mean they're all going to be combat troops, but there will be support, particularly logistic support, perhaps air support and so forth. But, no, until the Iraqis are fully capable, not only of self-governance but also of self-defense and internal security, we're going to have to lend a hand.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, gentlemen, thank you very much. The book is called "Cobra II." We didn't really do the book justice today. It's very interesting. Has all kinds of fascinating anecdotes and insights into decisions that were made in the run-up to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. We invite you to check it out. It will offer you a lot of understanding.

Michael Gordon, retired General Bernard Trainor, thanks for being with us.

GORDON: Thank you.

M. O'BRIEN: Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Time to check the weather. Chad Myers has got that.

What are you looking at, Chad?


S. O'BRIEN: Gerri Willis is "Minding Your Business" just ahead.

What you got for us?

GERRI WILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, another warning about possible ID theft. This one coming from a credit card operator. We'll have more AMERICAN MORNING after this.


S. O'BRIEN: Critical trials for new drugs go on all the time and generally you don't really hear about them unless something goes wrong. As it turns out, one has gone wrong, very wrong in England. The results have been disastrous and horrifying too. Robyn Curnow has more from London this morning.


ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Although he didn't know it at the time, Raste Khan was incredibly lucky because the medication he took in the drug trial was a placebo. He and one other volunteer got placebos. Six volunteers actually got the test drug.

RASTE KHAN, MEDICAL VOLUNTEER: The gentleman on my left started screaming, saying his head was hurting and he was hot and he couldn't breath and he was hyperventilating and they had like an oxygen mask on him. And then it was like somebody was stabbing him in his back because he was screaming that his back was hurting.

CURNOW: British newspapers labeled the volunteers human guinea pigs. In fact, Khan described it as "a horror film with the other convulsing into fevers, pain and vomiting. So tonight, here at this London clinic, two men are in critical condition, four others remain in serious condition. Doctors say they're consulting specialists in the UK and around the world looking for an antidote.

GANESH SUNTHARALINGAM, DOCTOR: The exact sequence of what's happening here is unique because no one's had this particular agent before and so not had this reaction to it before.

CURNOW: A German pharmaceutical company, Tegenero, manufactured the drug and says it used it successfully in drug trials with animals.

THOMAS HANKE, CHIEF SCIENTIFIC OFFICER, TEGENERO: We are devastated about these developments and it was absolutely unpredictable.

CURNOW: An American company, Parexel, ran the trial and it says it followed the guidelines for the trial and cases like this are extremely rare.

Being involved in clinical drug trials is relatively common here in the United Kingdom. In fact, magazines like this one openly advertise, targeting students and travelers and other people who want to make money by being involved in tests for new drugs.

Guy Dickerson was unemployed two years ago when he signed up for a kidney drug trial run by the same U.S. firm Parexel. Here earned nearly $4,000 for three weeks in a hospital. Dickerson says he was made aware of the risks.

GUY DICKERSON, MEDICAL VOLUNTEER: We were given the time to read through the information, but I certainly didn't give it a huge amount of thought, a ridiculous amount of thought. And whether, you know, the other people who were doing it did or not, I don't know. But I think it was all about the money.

CURNOW: In the meantime, doctors are trying to understand why this week's trial went so badly wrong. Was it a result of the drugs themselves or something else? A new drug that doctors admit is taking them into unchartered medical territory.

Robyn Curnow, CNN, London.


S. O'BRIEN: Four of those involved in the tests appear to be getting better. The Germany company that's made the drug has apologized to the families of the patients involved in the test. A tough story.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, Gerri, what's your pin number? WILLIS: Well, I'm not telling you.

M. O'BRIEN: Oh, you're not saying, huh?

WILLIS: No way. We don't want to give that away. And, guess what, there could be a problem with pin numbers getting out and about. Here's the deal. Visa has said that a popular software used on cash registers can be used to collect personal information. Your credit card number, your debit card number, your debit card pin number which is a real problem. They say they don't know if data has been stolen, but apparently one retailer has been keeping some of this data. And I don't have to tell you guys how dangerous this is. Retailers aren't supposed to hang on to this stuff at all. But at the end of the day, if somebody steals the pin number on your debit card, they can immediately take money right out of your account. And unlike a credit card, there's no recourse.

M. O'BRIEN: See, I was always under the assumption retailers do not even know the pin number.

WILLIS: Well, that's what most people assumed. But this software allows them to keep some of this information.

S. O'BRIEN: So the one retailer who was keeping this information, have they released the name of that retailer?

WILLIS: We have no idea. We have no idea. There's not a ton of information. Most of the news right now coming from Visa that's saying, hey, this is a possibility, it could be a problem.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, but what do you do with that information? So now I don't use my . . .

M. O'BRIEN: Don't use your debit card.

WILLIS: Well, debit cards are the problem.

S. O'BRIEN: I love my debit card.

WILLIS: I know, I do, too.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, interesting. All right.

What about vacation homeowners? News coming from Florida.

WILLIS: In Florida. Well, here's what's going on there. In the state of Florida, there is a state backed insurance company that offers homeowners insurance and right now they're charging a 25 percent surcharge for coverage. This is happening because they're trying to keep the insurer of last resort, that state insurer, from going broke after all of the storms we've had in the last couple of years. You know how this is, guys. Tough to get those insurers to make money in those areas. They're struggling. And difficult to find a system that really works.

M. O'BRIEN: So these are coastal homes that would be subject to the hurricanes?

WILLIS: Second homes. Retirement homes. You name it.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Gerri Willis, thank you.

WILLIS: You're welcome.

S. O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, a pretty amazing family reunion. Did you guys see these pictures? Oh, it will make you cry. Seven months after Hurricane Katrina. The little girl, the four-year- old who's kind of right there in the middle of that huge, reunited with her parents after seven months when they could not find her. We're going to talk to her, her parents, her godmother who was with her the whole time. They'll share their pretty amazing story. The little girl.

M. O'BRIEN: Oh, my goodness. Can you imagine the emotion? Oh my gosh.

S. O'BRIEN: No, no, I cannot.

M. O'BRIEN: I'm about to cry now. I imagine what they're going through.

All right. An O'Brien reunion of sorts. This is A. Miles O'Brien. That's Andrew Miles O'Brien. We actually have a lot in common. We were looking for Miles O'Brien's and we couldn't find -- well, we found A. Miles O'Brien. All right. Leave it at that. We'll introduce you to him shortly.


M. O'BRIEN: Boston, 1737. First St. Patrick's Day celebration. They're just getting over the hangover there. You know, this all start with you, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: It did?

M. O'BRIEN: This idea.


M. O'BRIEN: You ran into the other Soledad O'Brien . . .

S. O'BRIEN: I did. Yes, that's true.

M. O'BRIEN: On the streets of New York and she's not very happy about being the other Soledad O'Brien. We're going to get into that in just a little bit when we meet her. So then we thought, well maybe let's find another Miles O'Brien. So we did a little hunting and it took us to Long Island. Meet A. Miles O'Brien.


A. MILES O'BRIEN, THE "OTHER" MILES: Hello. I'm A. Miles O'Brien. Also known as Andy Miles O'Brien. Growing up I was always called AOB or hey, OB, what's happening. Even my gym coach called me OB. And later on in my life, they found out my middle name was Miles O'Brien and people were saying, hey, are you at all related to Miles O'Brien on CNN? And I'd come back with, well, no, not really, but I'd like to have his money.

My dad, Miles O'Brien, he passed away in 1991, was named after his uncle who was a very distinguished gentleman, Miles Hubbard. And then when it came time for them to name me, they -- my mom allowed my father to choose Miles as my middle name.

When he grew up, he went to Georgetown, graduated class of 1946. The my father, once he got out of the service, he went to work for TWA. It was in the infancy of flights. And he was fascinated by the air travel and the industry and he just thought it was a booming industry.

Growing up, I was always very proud of what my dad did in the airline industry. But I chose more of a technical field. One of the funny things that my friends have come to know me as is inspector gadget because I've always got some sort of new gadget, a GPS or something, a fish finder to catch fish.

Thinking back when I was younger, remembering my father, I remember he used to enjoy life and he instilled that in his whole family, how we can enjoy life and not let things bother you and roll with the punches.

I enjoy talking about heritage and my family enjoys that. And I'm very proud to be Irish and enjoy it on this St. Patrick's Day.


M. O'BRIEN: That was AOB.

S. O'BRIEN: He loves gadget.

M. O'BRIEN: It's interesting, there's a little . . .

S. O'BRIEN: Gee, who does that remind us of? All this little technology.

M. O'BRIEN: It just kind of weaves through.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: There's a certain genetic thing there, I think, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: That is pretty interesting.

M. O'BRIEN: Anyway, we're going to meet him in just a little while. He's going to come in and we're going to talk a little bit more about the common bonds. The O'Brien that runs between us.

And then you. Tell us what you got in store. S. O'BRIEN: Yes, I mean, come on, how hard can it be to find Miles O'Brien? But imagine if you're trying to finding Soledad O'Brien.

M. O'BRIEN: That's a tough one.

S. O'BRIEN: Finding another Soledad O'Brien.

M. O'BRIEN: That's a tough one.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, believe it or not, there is another Soledad O'Brien. We found her. Maybe the only other Soledad O'Brien in the . . .

M. O'BRIEN: Safe to say.

S. O'BRIEN: Safe to -- actually . . .

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, I think so.

S. O'BRIEN: Maybe. We're not even sure. We talked about that yesterday. We have met before. We actually have -- our paths have crossed many times. And we ran into each other once and had a little chat in the street. She's a little maybe peeved. I said, oh, it's so great to meet you. She's like, you've ruined my life. But that's a funny story.

M. O'BRIEN: That's a great conversation starter right there, isn't it?

S. O'BRIEN: Exactly. She's Puerto Rican and Irish and I'm Cuban and Irish. But we do, we intersect as well. So we'll talk to her coming up in our 9:00 hour.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, this will be fun. It's old home and old family week here on the all O'Brien morning program.

In a moment, our top stories including this, the U.S. troops in the midst of that big air operation. Biggest since the beginning of the Iraq War three years ago now.

Firefighters claim progress containing three major wildfires in Texas. We'll bring you up-to-date on that.

Toxicology tests now show Slobodan Milosevic was not poisoned.

In business, mortgage rates hit 3 « year highs.

And a terrible highway crash in New York. No life threatening injuries, but as you can see, it was caught on tape with a new device, a camera which you might want to have in your car or maybe in your 16- year-old's car.

Stay with us for more AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) M. O'BRIEN: Good morning. I'm Miles O'Brien.

S. O'BRIEN: And I'm Soledad O'Brien.