Return to Transcripts main page

American Morning

Lebanese Refugees Return to Devastation; U.S. Military Recruiters Face Pressures to Meet Quotas; AIDS Summit Takes Place in Toronto

Aired August 15, 2006 - 08:00   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. I'm Miles O'Brien.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Carol Costello, in for Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Israel is pulling out of southern Lebanon. The pace picking up today, but Israel also issuing a direct warning to Syria: don't interfere in the Lebanese government.

CNN's Paula Hancocks, watching things from Jerusalem -- Paula.


Well, the Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, was up in the north of Israel this Tuesday, and she did give that very direct warning to Syria, saying they must not, in the future, intervene in Lebanese affairs. She is saying that no longer will they be able to use Hezbollah militias in order to try and influence the Lebanese government. And she also said, quote, "Syria must understand that Lebanon is taking off, or is at least meant to take off in a different direction without them."

Now, she also knows that, with this warning, she does have the support of the United Nations within this Resolution 1701. Israel has been blaming Syria and Iran for some time for supporting Hezbollah and for rearming them.

Now, we know that, in just a few hour's time, Tzipi Livni will be on her way to New York. She's going there this Tuesday evening Israel time to go and meet Kofi Annan, the U.N. secretary-general. And she'll be discussing with him exactly how to implement this resolution.

Now, as you say, the troops -- the Israeli troops are on their way out of south Lebanon. The pace is picking up this Tuesday. We're seeing more crossing the border from southern Lebanon into Israel. The speculation now is exactly how long it will take U.N. troops and Lebanese troops to actually replace the Israeli troops so that they can all leave.

Now, we have seen the sparks and clashes overnight. We know that there were some mortar attacks that landed in southern Lebanon, according to the Israeli military, so they didn't retaliate. But once again, Tzipi Livni said about that that she believed that was a violation of the resolution. But these kind of sparks and clashes were expected between the Israeli troops and Hezbollah, really showing the fragility of this particular cease-fire -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Well, it seems as if they're just one rocket firing away from this all unraveling?

HANCOCKS: This is what many people are worried about. And this is why the Israeli military want to try to get out of southern Lebanon as quickly as possible. The longer Israeli troops are stationed in southern Lebanon, only not using offensive military operations, just defensive military operations, the more chance there is of a severe clash or of a rocket being launched. So they really want the U.N. troops to move very quickly to take their place.

Now, we do know from a U.N. spokesman that U.N. forces are in place already. There are further troops on their way down over the next coming days, is all the details they will give us. And we also know that U.N. forces are currently trying to detonate any unexploded devices and clear out any land mines in the area, as well. So we are moving forward in that sense -- Miles?

O'BRIEN: Paula Hancocks in Jerusalem, thank you -- Carol.

COSTELLO: And knowing all of that, they're still going home. The return for many Lebanese to the war-torn southern part of their country is certainly not easy. Thousands are trying to cross the Litani River. That's some 20 miles north of the Lebanese/Israeli border.

CNN Beirut bureau chief Brent Sadler is near there. He says the devastation is widespread. He joins us live to tell us more.

Hello, Brent.

BRENT SADLER, CNN BEIRUT BUREAU CHIEF: Yes, hello, good morning, Carol.

I've been spending the last day and a half following this flood of refugees, trying to get back to their homes in south Lebanon. And I've been watching some desperate scenes as people try to (INAUDIBLE) back, because their main routes have all gone, certainly along the eastern sector of the front line. Bridges have been blasted. Roads very difficult to get through. It takes hours and hours and hours to go the shortest of journeys.

Now, one of the problems over the Litani River is that there are no bridges at all to cross. So what people have been doing is finding a shallow part of the river, about two, three feet deep, and they've been driving the vehicles through that. Many vehicles old, just not capable of making it. Other vehicles getting stuck in there.

I saw one woman bailing out water with her shoes as water level inside the car was rising. She was worried about her children. I saw another middle-aged woman carrying in her arms, struggling to walk over the stones at the bottom of the river as the current was threatening to take her legs from underneath her. All the while, people trying to pull everybody out of the water to get to their homes.

And even when they get to their homes, many of them find that there are no homes left so they then have to go and rely on their extended families or friends to find shelter. It really is an emerging chaotic problem. I'm now on one of the main highways south. I've just emerged from the front line areas. And I can tell you, the main highway south, jammed with countless thousands of people. This is an enormous problem and there's more real government or institutional control to help these people. And this is getting desperate by the hour -- Carol.

COSTELLO: But that also makes you wonder. I mean, this is a fragile cease-fire. What if the shooting starts again?

SADLER: Well, there's a feeling, a sense, that after Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's chief, made the speech, promising that Hezbollah would fund their homes, would fund their temporary accommodation, effective in Nasrallah telling everybody that he is the state in the south, if you like. So we're not seeing any deployment in any major form at all of Lebanon's own institutions in the south.

I have seen some Lebanese Red Cross vehicles going through for the very first time, Carol, along villages that border Israel. I followed them through. And they had the grim task of recovering corpses. And I saw a family of four, their remains being collected, decomposed bodies that had been there for more than two weeks. And you do get the sense -- because no one else is moving around those front line (INAUDIBLE) yet -- you do get the sense that anything could go wrong. And if it did go wrong, it could spark off even bigger trouble.

But there is, I think, a sense here that the big action is over and that's why we're seeing so many people heading home. Whether it's premature, we're going to have to wait and see -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Brent Sadler, joining us live this morning. Thanks.

O'BRIEN: Kathleen Koch monitoring developments in the Middle East. She's joining us live at the White House with more.

Hello, Kathleen.


Well, certainly a topic of great discussion around the world right now, with this cease-fire barely a day old, is who won this conflict? Was there a victor? And here is -- obviously, this debate was prompted in part by the declaration by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah they had won a historic victory over Israel.

Well, here is how the White House weighs in on that. Yesterday, White House spokesperson Tony Snow said that what the administration hopes is that is the people of Lebanon who eventually emerge the victors from the bloodshed. President Bush himself yesterday came out again condemning Hezbollah for starting the conflict. And he insisted that this was no victory for the terrorist organization. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When Hezbollah's rockets killed innocent Israelis, they celebrated. I think when people really take a look at the type of mentality that celebrates the loss of innocent life, they'll reject that type of mentality. And so, you know, Hezbollah, of course, has got a fantastic propaganda machine and they're claiming victories and -- but how can you claim victory when, at one time, you were a state within a state, safe within southern Lebanon, and now you're going to be replaced?


KOCH: President Bush warned Syria and Iran to stop arming, to stop training Hezbollah. And President Bush pointed out this since Iran has vowed to destroy Israel that this would have been a much more dangerous conflict if Iran had the nuclear weapon that most of the rest of the world believes it is seeking -- Miles.

COSTELLO: Kathleen Koch at the White House. Thank you very much -- Carol.

COSTELLO: The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan go on, and it's getting harder and harder to get volunteers to fight. Military recruiters are facing more and more pressures to meet quotas, and now there is evidence that some of the recruiters are breaking the rules.

CNN's Barbara Starr, live at the Pentagon to tell us more.

Good morning, Barbara.


Well, probably the first thing that should be said is a lot of people may not realize it, but right now, the military is actually meeting its recruiting standards. They are getting plenty of young people to sign up for military service. But a new report from the Government Accountability Office says there are irregularities in military recruiting, plenty of them, and nobody is really too sure how bad the situation may be.

What are we talking about? What do we mean by irregularities? Well, that's anything that a recruiter may do to get someone into the military service who would otherwise not qualify. The new report from the GAO has a number of statistics. Let's just look at a couple of them that illustrate the problem.

Substantiated cases of wrongdoing. Lots of allegations, of course -- not all of them are substantiated. But the ones that they have come up with, back with in 2004, 409 substantiated cases. Now, 2005, the year that this report covers, 629. Of those criminal violations of recruiting standard things, such as sexual harassment or falsifying medical or criminal records. There were 30 cases back in 2004 and in 2005, 70 cases. So why is all of this happening? Well, of course, the Pentagon says irregularities -- anything against the law or the rules in recruiting is not acceptable. Recruiting is tough. They have said for some time now it's hard to recruit people in a good economic environment. It's hard because -- a lot of people may not realize this -- half the population, age 16 to 21 -- simply doesn't qualify for military service. And, of course, Iraq, Iraq, Iraq. A lot of young people are very concerned about volunteering for military duty, knowing the chances are they will be sent to the front line -- Carol.

COSTELLO: So what is the military doing to root out these recruiters who are, you know, doing something wrong?

STARR: Well, all of this falls under, of course, the military justice system. When there are allegations, they are investigated. And if they do rise to the level of criminal wrongdoing, recruiters are prosecuted. One of the things the GAO points out is all of the different military services -- the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force -- sort of all have their own reporting standards. They want there to be a standard way that all of these cases are reported so people can get a much better handle on exactly how significant the problem may be.

COSTELLO: Barbara Starr, live at the Pentagon this morning. Thanks.

O'BRIEN: Let's get a check of the forecast. Chad Myers at the CNN Center. Hello, Chad.


O'BRIEN: Coming up in the program: the money trail, the alleged plot to blow up planes flying to the U.S. We'll tell you why money meant for Pakistani earthquake aid might very well have ended up in the hands of terrorists.

COSTELLO: Also, a possible breakthrough in the war against AIDS. Dr. Sanjay Gupta looks at a new treatment that could save the lives of millions of women.

O'BRIEN: And later, lost in space: the master tapes of the first moon landing. That's something you would want to keep right? It's missing -- boxes of them. That's ahead on American morning.


O'BRIEN: Here's a sick twist on that alleged airliner bomb plot. A check you might have written to help people left homeless by an earthquake in Pakistan might very well have lined the pockets of some would-be terrorists who wanted to blow up some airliners.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick, joining us live from London, with more.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Miles. Normally money that's collected for relief efforts are sent to one single organization or different organizations, charity organizations, but in this case investigators are looking into three bank accounts that received large sums of money, all in the Pakistan region.


FEYERICK (voice-over): As Americans raised money to help victims of last year's deadly earthquake in Pakistan, the same relief effort was under way in Britain. The difference? British investigators now believe some of the money raised in the UK went not to victims but to several of the terror suspects to carry out the jetliner plot.

The money was reportedly raised by a Pakistani charity that funds Islamic militants. A spokesman for the group, Jamaat al Dawah, denies the charge and tells CNN they never sent anyone to Britain to raise donations.

John Conyngham spent years investigating money laundering.

JOHN CONYNGHAM, GLOBAL DIR., CONTROL RISKS GROUP: It may well be, of course, that many or the vast majority of funds that were raised for this earthquake donations were coming from genuine people with genuine motivations wishing to help. We're talking about a very small percentage here who may have decided to divert some of the funds for very different reasons.

FEYERICK: And it's not just the money that's under scrutiny.

Lord Nasir Ahmed, a member of parliament, is a leader among Britain's Pakistanis. He tells CNN at least four of the alleged plotters traveled to Pakistan, telling their families they were going to help the earthquake victims.

LORD NASIR AHMED, MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: Anything could be possible. We don't have any facts. What is truth is that these young people went to Pakistan to help with a charitable cause. They were young, they may have got involved with something which is illegal, they may not. So only God knows what happened.

FEYERICK: Experts on Pakistan say it would have been virtually impossible for the young Brits to avoid making contact with Islamic militants, since they were the ones running many of the rescue operations.


FEYERICK: Now, I spoke to a security analyst this morning with very well-placed sources. He tells me this is now looking as if it was less al Qaeda central and more al Qaeda-inspired. Miles?

O'BRIEN: Thank you very much. Deborah Feyerick in London.

Still to come on the program: the war rages on in Iraq. Is the U.S. making any progress at all? we'll ask a top general.

Plus, fighting aids with gel. It's a possible breakthrough that could save the lives of millions of women. Dr. Sanjay Gupta in the house, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


COSTELLO: People on the front lines in the fight against AIDS are now meeting in Toronto. Around the world, an estimated 6,000 women a day are infected with HIV, sometimes because they are unable to protect themselves from the virus. But new research presented at the Global AIDS Conference is focused on AIDS prevention for women.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta has more for you.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Sacubi's (ph) story can be hard to hear. She says she was sold into sex work by her family at age 15 and she spent the last 20 years as a prostitute in Mumbai, India.

Health-wise, she's been relatively fortunate. She is still HIV negative, but she also lives in a world where she has to convince her partners to use a condom.

Life may soon change for Sacubi (ph) and many other women around the world. Sacubi (ph) has just found a couple of strong, new advocates. In fact, they're two of the richest people in the world, Bill and Melinda Gates, who are using the huge platform of the international AIDS conference in Toronto to talk about and fund what they believe is the most recent and biggest development in the fight against AIDS, microbicides.

BILL GATES, GATES FOUNDATION: We believe that microbicides and oral prevention drugs can be the next big breakthrough in the fight against AIDS.

GUPTA: Now, microbicides is just a fancy name for gels or creams a woman can insert to block HIV infection. Large studies of their effectiveness are expected out next year.

DR. ZEDA ROSENBERG, INTERNATIONAL PARTNERSHIP FOR MICROBICIDES: If they're 30 percent effective, depending on how many women actually use it and how quickly it gets rolled out, but you could save several millions of lives in the first three years.

GUPTA: And already, newer, exciting products are being developed. One clever idea, make these gels out of medicines now used to treat HIV. One of the most intriguing is a drug called Tenofovir.

DR. JUSTINE JUSTMAN, COLUMBIA SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Using Tenofovir as a microbicide is a really interesting idea. As you probably already know, Tenofovir is now used as a pill, and it's part of the cocktail that patients with HIV take as part of their treatment.

GUPTA: And elsewhere, other researchers are testing the same medicine, Tenofovir, and some other drugs in a pill form to see if women who aren't infected can stay that way by taking a pill before sex. Although the research on all of these approaches is still in the early stages, it's also steps closer to give control back to women, like Sacub (ph), keeping them from getting infected with HIV.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.


COSTELLO: Along with Bill and Melinda Gates, former President Bill Clinton is at the AIDS meeting, providing a mix of science and starpower they hope willing a magnet for world attention.

O'BRIEN: Coming up, violence on the rise in Iraq. We'll ask a top U.S. general if Iraqi forces are any closer to standing up and taking over security.

And later, the mystery of the missing moon tapes. Took more than one small step out of the grasp of NASA archivists. Seven-hundred boxes of great tapes, I mean this is historic stuff, it's gone! We're going to do our own sleuthing ahead.