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This Week at War

Week's War-Related Activities Recounted

Aired April 15, 2007 - 13:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR, THIS WEEK AT WAR: In a week where thousands of Iraqis demanded the end of foreign occupation, the U.S. Army got new marching orders, three more months in a war where there's still no end in sight. THIS WEEK AT WAR starts in one minute, right after a look at what's in the news right now.

ROBERTS: If there was an image that defined this week in Iraq four years ago, it was Saddam Hussein's statue falling. This week it was a suicide bomber striking in the very heart of the green zone. Four long tough years, but just because something is difficult, doesn't always mean that it's not worth doing. North Korea is on the edge of a nuclear deal, the result of patient diplomacy. Which are the problems that can be solved with more time, more effort and blood and sacrifice and which aren't? I'm John Roberts with THIS WEEK AT WAR. Let's take a look at what our correspondents reported day by day this week.

On Monday thousands of Iraqis protest against the American military presence. Tuesday intense negotiations bore fruit as the last barrier to a nuclear deal with North Korea. Millions of dollars in a frozen bank account fell. Wednesday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that all army units in Iraq would be extended 15 months instead of a year. Thursday in Baghdad a suicide bomber made it past at least five security checks and struck in the center of the green zone. Friday, a NATO soldier died in Afghanistan making this the bloodiest week in months as thousands of NATO troops battled the Taliban.

This week's key questions, can the military live with the strain? We'll go to Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Will the agreement with North Korea hold? In Santa Fe, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson just back from Pyongyang. If the green zone isn't safe, what is? We'll ask Arwa Damon in Baghdad. THIS WEEK AT WAR.

At 15 months, a baby is beginning to run, to give hugs, to talk. Imagine missing all of that. This week Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that all army units in Iraq and Afghanistan would serve 15 months instead of a year in combat. Will even this be enough, though and how will the military handle that extra strain? Arwa Damon joins us from our Baghdad bureau in Chicago. CNN military analyst Brigadier General David Grange, U.S. Army retired is with us and CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is at her post. On Thursday Arwa Damon reported on the bombing in the Iraqi parliament. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The panic and chaos painfully evident in these images as the camera man tries to make his way through the thick smoke and debris. The bomber would have had to sneak past U.S. checkpoints, Iraqi security forces and private western security companies and avoid detection by bomb-sniffing dogs and x-ray machines.


ROBERTS: Arwa Damon, how in the heck did that ever happen and what does it say about all these claims and some American politicians that things there are getting better?

DAMON: Well, John, in terms of how was something like this able to take place, that is the question that everyone here is asking and everyone wants answered and that is why such a massive investigation has been launched, but it really has served to underscore any sort of claim that the situation here is getting better. A lot of Iraqis that we are speaking with are saying that if the government is powerless to save itself and protect itself, how can it ever be expected to protect the people? Many people want the question answered as to how is this going to happen. Now the Islamic state of Iraq (ph), an umbrella group affiliated with al Qaeda Iraq has claimed responsibility for this attack, but the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government want to see the perpetrators brought to justice.

ROBERTS: It's just extraordinary. It comes just a few weeks after a vice president was attacked just outside the green zone as well. The other big piece of news for the week was that Robert Gates came forward and said that all U.S. Army units in both Iraq and Afghanistan as we said are going to be doing tours of duty of 15 months. Here's how General Peter Pace, who is the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, put that on Wednesday.


GEN. PETER PACE, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: This decision today does not predict when this surge will end. What it does is it allows us to provide to the nation, if needed, the amount of force that's currently deployed for a sustained period of time.


ROBERTS: General Grange, what were your thoughts when you first heard about that extension?

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE, U.S. ARMY, RET. This kind of extension, notification is disappointing to all the troops and their families. That's for sure. It's happened to me in past wars. It's really nothing unusual in conflict. I think it's better to put that type of word out up front, though it's disappointing, instead of piecemealing information month by month later on on little short pieces of extensions for this unit and that unit. This way the expectations are up front. People understand them, and then if you can put out good news later on, all the better. ROBERTS: Yeah, I remember riding with the 172nd striker brigade last fall and the disappointment that they had when they were extended for four months. Is this really a sign that the military is really stretched almost to the breaking point now?

GRANGE: It's a sign that the military is having some trouble, so the only thing that doesn't break the military right now John is its great people. It's the people. There's equipment issues. There's training issues and there are shortages of people issues, but what this does is it truly gives those back in the continental United States time to train up to rotate properly, to be prepared, which right now there's many units that don't have the equipment, don't have the training, and are very short on personnel.

ROBERTS: Another big piece of news this week, when Major General William Caldwell said on Wednesday that there's more evidence of Iranian involvement inside Iraq. Here's how he put it.


MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, SPOKESMAN, MULTINATIONAL FORCE IRAQ: The fact that we know they're being manufactured and smuggled into this country and we know that training does go on in Iran for people to learn how to assemble them and how to employ them, and we know that training has gone on as recently as this past month from detainee debriefs.


ROBERTS: Barbara Starr, Caldwell also said that not only is Iran arming Shiite resistant groups, but they're arming the Sunnis as well, which just plain doesn't seem to make sense.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was an astounding piece of news John. General Caldwell there, of course, talking about the long- standing American view that Iran is shipping those advanced explosives, those roadside bombs into Iraq. Several generals now saying openly that Iran has expanded its influence, is supporting Sunni extremist groups. Why would they be doing this? Because their traditional alliance, of course, is with the Shia. The feeling by the United States is Iran is doing it purely to cause chaos and trouble, to try and pin down U.S. forces in Iraq for months to come to try and get that civil war to be an ongoing problem in the country. John.

ROBERTS: Arwa Damon, do you really think that this is happening or is this just the military trying to foment some sort of backlash against Iran and Shiites at the same time too under the call of Muqtada al Sadr causing more trouble for the Americans with all these street-side demonstrations. Is that an indication of more resistance to come?

DAMON: Well, John, it really depends. I mean, Muqtada al Sadr is playing a very interesting game here, as he often does. He is telling his people to go out and demonstrate peacefully, but what these demonstrations are are a representation and a reminder of the masses that he is capable of rallying. Remember, the Mehdi militia since this new Baghdad security was put into effect essentially melted away from the streets, but the masses that he is able to bring together are definitely a reminder of his ability not just to rally them, but should he decide to arm them or further arm them, power that he commands.

ROBERTS: What about that question of the U.S. military saying that Iran is arming the Sunnis as well?

DAMON: Well, John, it really depends on what kind of specific evidence they do end up putting forward. Remember, this is Iraq, and it would not be entirely surprising if Iran was arming its Shia militias and then those weapons, technology ended up in the hands of Sunni insurgents. Remember, there is an ongoing battle in the streets here at all times. Militias are fighting one another at all times. If a Sunni group realizes that the Shias now have advanced technology in their hands, it would not be surprising for them to try to take it away from them directly and looking at it in that sense as opposed to it being Iran specifically arming the Sunnis.

ROBERTS: Hey, General Grange, we also learned this week that the White House is frantically looking for a quote war tsar. What is that all about?

GRANGE: I don't agree with that, that they should take -- develop this position, but I think I know why it's happening and that is because I think there's a lack of unity of effort in the interagency. In other words, as task come out from the National Security Council to the Department of Defense, Department of State other departments involved in Iraq as an example and Afghanistan, the war on terror, there is some lack of commonality, common purpose between the agencies and I think that in this case the president is saying, hey, we're one team. This needs to be one team, one fight. Not everybody is on board here working together in a synchronized manner the way I want it to be and so this talk about them putting someone in charge to coordinate those efforts. I mean, I would think that that's what you use your chief of staff for and maybe use him in that role by so much political type work. Obviously, it has to be synchronized.

ROBERTS: Isn't that what a commander in chief is for? Isn't that what the president is supposed to do?

GRANGE: The commander in chief, yeah, his job is to bring all this team together to get this unity of effort to accomplish the mission, and by the way, if you don't have unity of effort, you'll never win. So you have to do it somehow.

ROBERTS: Barbara Starr, retired Marine General Jack Sheehan says that the White House came to him for the job. He turned it down. Here's what he said about it. He said quote, the very fundamental issue is they don't know where the hell they're going, so rather than go over there, develop an ulcer and eventually leave, I said no thanks. I mean, real mocking tone to that. Is this an indication that the military leadership is losing faith in the political leadership?

STARR: Well, the question of losing faith would be a tough one to really answer because they're never going to acknowledge that they're losing faith, but what they are, John, is concerned. Every general I speak to, every senior officer I speak to now expresses the concern how to bring enough security to Iraq to stop so many Iraqis and so many troops from dying in that country.

ROBERTS: That's the overall question is how do you bring the security? Arwa Damon in Baghdad, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, General Grange, thanks very much all.

Straight ahead, Iran vows a dramatic speedup in its nuclear program. How close are they to an atomic bomb? And North Korea, which has already tested a bomb, agrees to step back from the nuclear brink. Will they keep their word this time? All coming up.

But first, a THIS WEEK AT WAR remembrance. Chief Petty Officer Gregory Billiter of (INAUDIBLE) Hills, Kentucky was killed last week in combat near Kirkuk, Iraq. Billiter was member of the Navy's explosive ordnance disposal, specialists in defusing bombs. His mother Pat says on their last family vacation, she had a bad feeling about his next deployment.


PAT BILLITER, MOTHER: I think I came home from Washington knowing that I had seen him for the last time.


ROBERTS: Gregory Billiter was on his third tour of duty in Iraq. He leaves behind a wife and a three-year-old son. He was 36 years old.


ROBERTS: $25 million frozen in a bank account in Macau is being returned to North Korea. In return, Pyongyang has said they will begin a shut down of their nuclear reactor. It looks like a success, but North Korea broke the last nuclear agreement. What's to stop them from cheating on this one? New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, was in North Korea on a mission to bring back the remains of U.S. servicemen when this deal was made and he joins us now from Santa Fe. Governor Richardson, good to talk with you, as always. The deadlines look a little soft, but in the big picture, what's your sense of this? Is it going to work?

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D) NEW MEXICO: In the big picture I think it will work. The North Koreans will shut down their reactor. They're going to take their sweet time. They're enormously difficult to negotiate. It's like negotiating with a moving target, but I believe they've made the strategic decision to shut down the reactor. In return, they'll get food, energy assistance, an agreement that they won't be attacked. It's in their interest, but it's going to be not easy to keep them on a path to verifying that they're sticking by their agreement. It's going to be enormous difficulties in the months ahead, but I think this whole agreement is moving in the right direction. ROBERTS: The ultimate goal, Governor Richardson, is to get them to dismantle their nuclear program. Do you think that this -- these initial steps will lead to more talks which could eventually lead to the dismantlement of their program?

RICHARDSON: Well, I believe they will, John, because the North Koreans told me. They said to me directly -- I said if you get your money, the $25 million in frozen assets, will you shut down the reactor? Will you continue the other phases of dismantling their nuclear weapons? They said yes. We will -- the day after. Now, they're not going to do that. Then they amended it to a few days after they would shut down the reactor. But you've got to keep an eye on them long range, John, because what they want to do is string this nuclear negotiation out, but if you have strong verifiable standards, if you produce what you say you're going to do, the six-party countries, then you have a chance of getting an agreement, but this is an isolated country. They don't negotiate like we do. They exist in a time warp. There's only one leader there, Kim Jong Il, who directs everything, so you got to be patient and you got to expect it to be frustrating, but it's in our interest because they've got six nuclear weapons. They've got a million man army. They've got an unpredictable leader. You've got to forge ahead and do the best you can.

ROBERTS: You're a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Do you think this is a good deal? Another former UN ambassador doesn't. Here's what John Bolton said about this whole thing on March the 8th.


JOHN BOLTON, FMR U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: In the case of North Korea, it is true that our pressure brought North Korea to the table which shows why it's a mistake to give that pressure up. We had them where we wanted them. We've let them out of the corner.


ROBERTS: So he thinks it's totally the wrong thing to do to be making these deals. What do you say about that statement?

RICHARDSON: I say is he's totally wrong and I'm working with the Bush administration that used to employ him and back him up. Now he has turned on him on what I believe makes foreign policy sense and what we are doing -- and why our trip was a success, it was bipartisan, Republicans and Democrats in our delegation saying to the North Koreans, look, you've got to dismantle your nuclear weapons and the pressure we've had on them is the fact that perhaps this $25 million in frozen assets, but you want to get something for your pressure and what we're getting them is to shut down their nuclear reactor. That is a plus. John Bolton wants to stay in this morass forever. He wants to feel good without accomplishing anything.

ROBERTS: He also, Governor Richardson, thought that it was wrong for you to go over there, accused you of conducting your own foreign policy. What about that? Was this presidential candidate, Bill Richardson, trying to score points on the international stage?

RICHARDSON: Well, he is so wrong. I went on an Air Force plane. The Bush administration approved the trip. They sent Secretary Anthony Principi (ph), a former VA veterans affair secretary under President Bush. The president's top Korea adviser was on the trip, so he is totally wrong. He lives in another world. He is like the North Koreans.

ROBERTS: Not sure how is he going for take that, but let me replay some words that came out of your mouth back in December 9th, 1997, when you gave an address to the National Press Club here in Washington. You said, quote, in North Korea international arms inspectors are ensuring that North Korea is unable to produce weapons of mass destruction. Our policy, buttressed by a strong U.N, America's policy is working there. That follows in the wake of the deal that you helped craft in 1994. My question to you is, didn't we turn the clock back to 13 years ago with this deal? Is the United States any further ahead now than it was in 1994 with the exception that this costs them a lot more than it did back then?

RICHARDSON: Well, the problem was, John, that the North Koreans then cheated on the deal, but for nine years, they didn't build any nuclear weapons. They didn't enhance any uranium or plutonium. Look, you're not dealing with an honorable entity. You're dealing with a regime that is isolated, that is difficult, that is trying to maximize its power that feels hostility towards us, so what you need to do is engage them. The last thing you want to do is what Ambassador Bolton wants is isolate them, squeeze them. Well, look, this man has been in office, Kim Jong Il, for years. He is a deity there, so you have to be realistic. What is essential is to get them to dismantle their nuclear weapons. There's got to be strong verification of anything we do, any agreement. We got to keep the pressure on them. We got to keep China and other countries on North Korea to insure that they look at this agreement and they abide by it, but it's going to be difficult. What the Bush administration is doing and what we did in our delegation jointly is working.

ROBERTS: Well, Governor Richardson, it's my fondest hope that one of these days I can get you and Ambassador Bolton on the program at the same time to debate this issue. But for the moment, thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.

Later on this hour, diplomats continue to talk, but in Darfur the innocent continue to die. Why is it happening?

And Iran announces that they are planning to produce nuclear fuel at a quote industrial level. Are they on the fast track to a nuclear weapon? Stay with us.


ROBERTS: To create highly enriched uranium, you spin uranium hexafluoride gas in a centrifuge. The more centrifuges, the more enriched uranium. Enough enriched uranium and you've got the guts of a nuclear bomb. So when Iran announced this past week that their plans were not to install 3,000 centrifuges but 50,000, well, it raises an obvious question. How close are they to producing a working bomb? Michael Rubin worked with the coalition provisional authority in Iraq. He is now with the American Enterprise Institute. David Albright was the UN weapons inspector and now is president of the Institute for Science and International Security. On Monday Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced a new achievement in Iran's nuclear program, declaring quote, Iran has succeeded in development to attain production at an industrial level. Our dear country, Iran, is among the countries of the world that produces the industrial level of nuclear fuel. David Albright, is he bluffing or do you think they can really do it?

DAVID ALBRIGHT, FMR. U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: They're exaggerating. It's their definition of industrial. From what we understand, from what I understand from the IAEA, they have about 1,000 centrifuges installed underground and they haven't enriched in those centrifuges. So they have a long way to go.

ROBERTS: Many experts, including yourself, are skeptical about this. Jean Meserve reported about this on Monday. Take a listen to part of her report.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Experts tell CNN that 3,000 centrifuges spinning perfectly for a year might produce enough material for one nuclear weapon, but first Iran would have to get these very sensitive devices working and based on what weapons inspectors have seen, Iran is not there yet.


ROBERTS: Not there yet, but Michael Rubin, how long do you think before they are there?

MICHAEL RUBIN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: Well, what the CIA had said in a national intelligence estimate was that Iran would be five to 10 years away, but the unknown question is what happens if Iran gets fissile material, weapons-grade fissile material from another source beyond just their indigenous nuclear weapons program? The long and short of it is we won't know and we'll never have perfect knowledge about just how far along Iran's program is.

ROBERTS: And will we ever have perfect knowledge until perhaps it exists, David, whether or not they really do want a nuclear bomb? Former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton insists that they do and says they've learned how to craft these hemispheres of uranium and plutonium as well, I think. And he says definitely they want to do it, but is there any proof out there that they do? They certainly say that they don't.

ALBRIGHT: Unfortunately, the evidence is ambiguous. I mean, Bolton is overstating the case. That's based on the available information, but we don't know for sure what they're intending to do. There's a lot of suspicions because they violated their commitments to the inspectors many times. They've lied. They've hidden facilities. So you have to wonder what they're up to, and so the idea is let's get Iran to give up these kind of capabilities, these uranium enrichment plants, the ability to make plutonium for nuclear weapons, at least for some number of years, five to 10 years.

ROBERTS: They're suggesting that they're not about to do that, so then the next question to be raised is what does the U.S. do about it? Max Boot (ph), who is with the Council on Foreign Relations in an editorial in "The LA Times" said earlier this week, quote, faced with such -- he says that the U.S. already has a long history of belligerent activity against it by Iran. He says faced with such a flagrant casus belli (ph), not to mention President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's blood curdling threats against our ally, Israeli -- the U.S. would be perfectly justified in hitting Iran now, attacking it before it acquires nuclear weapons. Is that even an option, Mike?

RUBIN: People say it's an option of last resort. The problem is there's consensus -- broad consensus among policy makers about what the negatives of a military strike would be. There's also consensus that at best, it could achieve a delay in the nuclear program. The question is what would the United States policy makers do with that delay in order to make sure that Iran doesn't reconstitute that program? It would be unfair in the extreme just to kick the can down the road by using military force and (INAUDIBLE)

ROBERTS: What do you do with a delay?

RUBIN: Well, there are all sorts of different -- the basic question we need to get to is the question about whether we are aiming for a regime change. Not through military action, but whether we're going to support independent labor unions, democratic opposition. I'm not talking about exile groups, but others outside to try to create a template where Iranians can change their own government.

ROBERTS: Hasn't the U.S. been doing that for years, David? Why would it suddenly work now?

ALBRIGHT: I'm skeptical it could work very well right now. I think -- I would argue that the strategy that the Bush administration needs to follow is one where they are trying to increase the pressure on Iran through sanctions, through close working relationships with the European Union, with Russia and that's sort of the way they've been headed, but add to that, they've got to start to talk to Iran. They really have to engage directly with Iran. If Iran after all that decides no, we're going it alone, we want nuclear weapons, then some of these other options like regime change can be looked at.

ROBERTS: Michael, let's say that Iran starts enriching uranium a couple of months from now. What do you do?

RUBIN: Well, ultimately, when the president, whether it's George W. Bush or any future president, has to make a decision, they're going to be making a decision among a great deal of unknowns. What's consistent is no president has all the intelligence at their hands that they wish for when it comes time to make a decision.

What I would argue, sure, perhaps you may want to engage. But at the same time, there's no reason why we need to limit ourself to one strategy at a time. We should be pursuing the Gdansk model. We should be augmenting pressure upon Iran at the same time and hopefully that will create greater compliance.

Instead of ratcheting up sanctions, in an ideal world, we'd impose more blanket sanctions and then relieve the pressure as Iran starts to comply.


But you've got Russia and China both saying well, those are (UNINTELLIGIBLE) do that.

RUBIN: Well, this is the problem, and when it comes to engagement and international consensus, it's always a matter of balancing the multilateral legitimacy with the fact that then you go into the lowest common denominator of effectiveness.

ROBERTS: No easy answers, no good options.

RUBIN: Absolutely not.

ROBERTS: Not a good place to be in.

Michael Rubin, David Albright, it's always good to see you.

Thanks very much.

In just a moment, we've talked about how tough it's going to be for soldiers to handle extended deployments.

But how do you handle it when you're just a kid?

And still ahead, a look at the vulnerability of a central component of any real progress in Iraq -- oil, this week at war.



ROBERTS: If there is anything that approaches a certainty about Iraq's future, it's that nothing, absolutely nothing will happen to build a unified society if the question of oil revenues isn't decided. But there won't be any revenues to divide if the oil can't make it to market.

Joining me break this all down is CNN military analyst, retired Brigadier General James "Spider" Marks.

He's taking us to the map again -- Spider, what have you got for us tonight?

BRIG. GEN. JAMES MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): John, let me show you the oil fields that are in Iraq. Certainly that was a key part of our planning in order to get ready to conduct combat operations in Iraq.

So let me -- let me try to show you some of the details. First of all, the oil fields in Iraq are in two primary locations, the south Ramaiah oil fields down here, and the Kirkuk oil fields up there. Also interesting to note, you've got oil fields right smack dab in the middle of Baghdad.

ROBERTS: And we should also note, too, to that this big swath out to the west here, Anbar Province, predominantly the Sunni part of Iraq, no oil.

MARKS: Nothing there.

ROBERTS: Which is why there's this problem.

MARKS: Exactly. Exactly.

Additionally, with these oil fields, you also have nine refineries and, as indicated here, you've got three export facilities and two gas-oil platforms that are down in the Gulf.

And in addition to that, obviously, you've got the network that ties this together, over 6,000 miles of oil pipelines that connect and take this refined and unrefined product out to market so it can get going.

ROBERTS: And to insurgents, a real target rich environment, as well.

MARKS: Incredibly target rich. I mean when you talk about it, how do you protect this?

You just don't line soldiers up along it and you just don't take a bunch of Iraqi security forces and have them hook arms. It is a very, very difficult task and it's one that's very vulnerable.

ROBERTS: And one of these pipelines down here in Ramallah attacked just last week.

MARKS: Absolutely. You should expect that again.

Let's get into one of those oil fields very specifically, down here in South Ramaiah. When you look -- when you stand before this and you look at it from a military guy's perspective, how do you secure that? What is the most critical piece of that that needs to be secured with military force?

Moving over to another one a little closer to Iran, this is another example of a very active oil field. Right now, you can see the gases are being burned off. This is an oil trench being burned off. Again, a very specific military task in order to protect that and to ensure its integrity so it can function.

ROBERTS: And what is the most important part that you're trying to protect as a military person?

MARKS: Yes, well, you need to define absolutely what defines that oil field. And it is the pumping capability and it's the storage. Then you've got to get it into the refineries.

Let me show you a refinery that exists up in the Haditha area.

The significance of this relative to an oil field is the size. This is a very, very large, very vulnerable piece of land -- of real estate that requires a lot of thinking and a lot of military physical presence on the ground. This is where the inventory is. And this is where it gets to the market. It gets refined here and then it takes off and gets into the market.

ROBERTS: As you can see, a very open area around it, one small fence or wall, a number of areas from which an insurgent could get inside.

MARKS: Absolutely. And the connection between the refineries, the oil fields and the rest of the network very vulnerable. It takes a lot of planning. It takes a lot of manpower.

ROBERTS: The Iraqi government pleading to increase Iraq's oil output by a third.

What is it now and what would that take it to?

MARKS: It's about 2.1 million barrels per day. The prewar level was about 2.2 million barrels per day. We want to get it up around about three million barrels per day. Certainly the capability exists. It's how you protect that network.

ROBERTS: And as they try to increase that, security becomes even more important.

MARKS: Absolutely. And it's numbers. Numbers do matter in terms of security forces.

ROBERTS: Spider, thanks very much.

MARKS: Sure, John.

ROBERTS: Always good to see you.

MARKS: Thanks.

ROBERTS: Take care, General.

Coming up, today's volunteer Army is very different from the draftee Army that fought in Vietnam. Now they have families and the families are under tremendous strain. We'll look at the home front in just a moment.

But first, one soldier's personal milestone.


SGT. MARK ECKER, U.S. ARMY: Just being able to walk, you know, I feel like I'm -- everything is, you know, like it's possible that everything will be back to normal. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Army Sergeant Mark Ecker lost both feet to a bomb during a raid in Iraq. This week, with his family looking on, Ecker's first steps were the culmination of five weeks of intense physical therapy.

Sergeant Ecker was the captain of his high school track and cross country teams and says his next goal is running.


ECKER: I want to go a little faster this time.


ROBERTS: An incredible comeback.


ROBERTS: Behind all the stories in THIS WEEK AT WAR on every week at war is a family story -- wives, husbands, parents, and the most vulnerable -- children.

Kiran Chetry has been speaking to the children of war for a series of reports that will air next week on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING" -- hey, Kiran, good to see you.


ROBERTS: So where did you, who did you talk to? What did you find out?

CHETRY: Well, we went all over the place. We were down at Walter Reed. We spoke to a young sergeant who had both of his legs blown off because of an IED in Iraq. We profile his courage and it's just unbelievable how optimistic he is about his future.

We also had a chance to talk to a woman who is opening a play on Broadway this week. Her husband is serving in Iraq.

And the we headed up to West Point and we met a family of seven boys and the mom who is left to raise these rambunctious little guys while their dad is serving his second tour over in Iraq -- John.

ROBERTS: You know, with so many people serving and this war going on for so long, you're going to find so many different stories from across the country.

Tell me about Major Joe Snel and his family.

CHETRY: Well, that's the seven rambunctious kids we were talking about. He has children ranging in age from 12 years old all the way down to 20 months. And we had a chance to sit down and just see what a day in the life of this family was like. It seemed that, really, the toll has been on the older boys. They are so much more aware and they were able to articulate to me just how much it hurt to know that their dad was going back to Iraq for a second time.

Let's take a look.


CHETRY: When he first told you he was going to Iraq again, how did he tell you guys?


CHETRY: Were you guys crying, too?


CHETRY: Your dad has been gone, it'll be nine months.

How has it been?


CHETRY: What is that you miss the most about your dad?

ZECH SNEL: Taking us bowling, to the pool or to the movies. That's mainly what I miss.

JACOB SNEL: Swimming. He taught me how to swim.

CHETRY: Do you worry about him getting hurt?


JACOB SNEL: Not really.

CHETRY: Why do you say yes?

ZECH SNEL: Because I've heard a lot in news stories and many people have gotten killed.

CHETRY: And you said you don't worry.

Why not?

JACOB SNEL: Because I know he'll be safe.

CHETRY: You just know that in your heart?



ROBERTS: You know, you get such different emotions talking to the kids. But here's the thing that I'm struck by. He's got a family of seven. He's got so many people relying on him, yet he's in the military and there's a chance he could go over there and not come back.

CHETRY: You know, they're a very deeply religious family, as well, and we had that a little bit from the older son, Jacob, saying I just know he's going to come back.

And I asked his wife, as well, you know, how do you cope day to day knowing there is a chance that you could be left and all of these children could be left without a father?

And she says she truly believes in her heart that he is going to come back safe.

ROBERTS: Boy, I'll tell you, I hope somebody is watching over him, because he has got such a huge commitment to that big family. You know, so many of these people have similar commitments, as well.

So it's a great looking story.

We're looking forward to it next week.

CHETRY: That's right.

And we're going to see the first part. We're going to see that story, actually, Monday morning on "AMERICAN MORNING," so we hope everyone tunes in, of course -- John.



We'll see you then.


ROBERTS: Be sure to watch CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING," where Kiran and I take up anchor duties beginning next week, Monday through Friday, starting at 6:00 a.m. Eastern.

Coming up next on THIS WEEK AT WAR, it's been nearly three years since Colin Powell famously declared the bloodshed in Darfur to be genocide. But the killing continues.

Can another U.S. diplomat in the region make any real difference?

That's coming up next.

But first, a look at some of those who fell in this week at war.



ANDREW NATSIOS, PRESIDENT'S ENVOY TO SUDAN: It is a very chaotic situation. One of the problems with the security situation at this point, it is not two sides fighting against each other. It's anarchy. The government has lost control of large parts of the province now.


ROBERTS: Powerful testimony on Capitol Hill on Wednesday from Andrew Natsios, the president's envoy to Sudan.

This week, the United States dispatched Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte to the war torn region to push for a robust peacekeeping force there.

But will waiting for diplomacy to work come at the expense of innocents caught in the crossfire in Darfur? And can Khartoum be trusted?

Let's ask the experts.

In Salt Lake City, Pierre-Richard Prosper. He served in the current administration as the U.S. ambassador at large for war crimes.

And here in Washington, Gayle Smith. She was the director for African affairs at the National Security Council in the Clinton White House. She's now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

Pierre-Richard, Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary- general, has asked the United States for more time to see if he can get a U.N. peacekeeping force into Sudan. The White House, meantime, wants to exact harsher sanctions against Bashir's government.

Why does the United Nations want to keep cutting him a break?

PIERRE-RICHARD PROSPER, FORMER AMBASSADOR FOR WAR CRIMES: Well, John, that's an important question and it really is not clear. I think there is frustration mounting at the slow progress of the United Nations in this area.

The only hope can be is that he is on the brink of reaching some sort of an agreement that would allow for the peacekeepers to come in and put an end to these atrocities once and for all.

ROBERTS: Gayle Smith, do you think that Bashir is playing for time here?

In an article that I recently read, you said: "There's plenty of evidence to suggest that when the U.S. says this is it, Bashir knows that they don't mean it."

GAYLE SMITH, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL ADVISER: Well, I think that evidence is there, John. This has been going on for four years now and the Plan B sanctions that Andrew Natsios testified about yesterday were supposed to have been imposed at the first of the year unless Khartoum had moved.

They still haven't moved and the sanctions still haven't been put in place.

PROSPER: Right. ROBERTS: Susan Rice, who was the deputy secretary of state in the Clinton administration -- no right now to Condoleezza Rice -- was testifying up on the Hill before the Foreign Relations Committee.

Take a listen to what she said on Wednesday.


SUSAN RICE, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: One has to wonder how the administration can explain to the dead, the nearly dead and the soon to be dead people of Darfur that at the end of the day, even after we declare that genocide is occurring, even after we repeatedly insist that we're committed to stopping it, the United States continues to stand by while the killing persists.


ROBERTS: Pierre-Richard, what about that Plan B that the State Department threatened that Gayle alluded to back on January the 1st?

Why hasn't that happened?

PROSPER: Well, again, the hope has been that the diplomacy would actually work. But we do see a situation where the Sudanese government continues to manipulate the international community. And we really have reached the point where we must -- the world must put these sanctions into effect.

But what is important is before, or as we move forward, is that you do have international consensus, if you will, and involvement, because with the international community being unified, then you will have some strength behind these measures.



So we heard from a Democrat, Susan Rice, who used to be in the Clinton administration, Gayle, as you were.

Let's hear from a Republican now, New Hampshire Senator John Sununu on Wednesday, at that same hearing said that the situation, as it is, is unacceptable.

Let's listen.


SEN. JOHN SUNUNU (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: The slow pace that we've seen is absolutely unacceptable and we need not just a proper response and an effective plan, but we need to understand what the reasons are for such a slow pace.


ROBERTS: Gayle, you heard Pierre-Richard saying that there needs to be a consensus, if there's a consensus then you have more leverage. But the United States intervened in Kosovo pretty much unilaterally, even though it was under the NATO umbrella, intervened in Somalia.

Why not here?

SMITH: Well, I think that's true. But I also think that with a bit more diplomacy, a bit more pressure on Khartoum, the U.S. can leverage the support and engagement of the United Nations and the European Union. In fact, most of the international community is moving toward tougher action on Darfur.

But we're still at the point of talk and no action, so Khartoum knows there's no price to be paid.

ROBERTS: Right. So how do you translate that, Pierre-Richard, into action?

PROSPER: Well, I think, you know, I think Gayle, you know, hit the -- hit the nail on the head, if you will, because what we need to do is really press all actors to increase the pressure on Sudan and begin to move forward.

I think we have gotten to the point where the Security Council must step up and really exert itself under its Chapter 7 authorities and begin to impose some of these measures on Sudan, because this is a situation that has gone on for several years and hundreds of thousands of people have died.

ROBERTS: Meantime, as the international community vacillates, there are some groups who are taking it upon themselves to try to make a difference. The National Holocaust Memorial Museum, for one, has launched the Crisis in Darfur Project using Google Earth technology.

Zain Verjee reported on that on Tuesday.

Let's take a quick look at what she said.


ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): ... pick on cameras to see pictures of the war and link to videos that have been taken by eyewitnesses. Darfur refugees say there's only one way to end their tragedy.

DAOWD SALIH, DARFUR REFUGEE: We need U.N. peacekeepers on the ground to stop the killing.


ROBERTS: Gayle Smith, with pressure like this mounting, can the international community sit on the sidelines in this crisis much longer?

SMITH: I don't think they can. And the interesting thing here is that the real pressure in this is coming from the world public, including in the United States, doing things like this. ROBERTS: Well, they see the government is doing nothing. So...

SMITH: Well, again, I think Khartoum knows that world governments are not going to act. But I think they're seeing that the world public is acting.

We saw another interesting this week with China starting to budge a little bit, not because we put pressure on them, but because they're afraid of public disparagement of the Olympics.

ROBERTS: Perhaps the first little hopeful sign.

Gayle Smith, thanks very much.


ROBERTS: Pierre-Richard Prosper, appreciate you joining us.

PROSPER: Thank you.

ROBERTS: In just a moment, we're going to explore how the world is responding to millions of Iraqis forced from their homes by years of conflict.

Stay with us.


ROBERTS: Now, some of the stories that we'll be following in the next week at war.

On Tuesday, the United Nations will convene a conference in Geneva addressing the humanitarian crisis of Iraqis displaced by four years of conflict.

And on Wednesday, Congressional leaders are expected to meet with President Bush at the White House to discuss military funding. That'll be an interesting showdown.

Thanks for joining us on THIS WEEK AT WAR.

I'm John Roberts.

I'll see you all next week, and for the foreseeable future, on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING." That's at 6:00 a.m. Eastern, Monday through Friday.

Straight ahead, a check of the headlines.

And then CNN Special Investigations Unit -- "Chasing Life," a how-to on increasing your longevity with Dr. Sanjay Gupta.