Monday, August 07, 2006
Tracking Hezbollah with a Puma
I can't say where I am exactly. Actually, I don't have any idea where I am, so even if I was allowed to, I couldn't tell you.

I know it's southern Lebanon, because as soon as we crossed the border, my Blackberry got a text message welcoming me to a new cell service.

I am in what the IDF calls a Puma, a kind of armored vehicle, which sounds sleek and fast, and it may be, but right now it is crammed with soldiers. Literally, when one person moves, we all have to adjust our position.

Cameraman Neil Hallsworth and I are embedded with a unit of combat engineers operating inside southern Lebanon. I can't talk about the mission until it's over, but safe to say, the unit we are with is targeting Hezbollah positions.

It's just before midnight. The Puma has no windows, so you can't see out. Riding in one can be kind of disorienting.

It's an armored vehicle, but the soldiers know that doesn't guarantee their safety. Hezbollah has been very effective at using anti-tank weapons, RPGs, and IEDs.

In some ways, Hezbollah is a double threat for Israeli forces. On the one hand, they have the zeal of jihadist guerrillas. And on the other hand, they have at least one state sponsor, Iran, and support from another, Syria, so they have money and plenty of modern weapons.

"They are tough," one Israeli soldier said to me. "They have courage, but they are just people."

I think about that a lot. He meant of course, they are human beings, not supermen, not phantoms. They can be located, shot and killed.

That's what the unit I'm with now is hoping to do -- find the enemy and kill them. This embed is only supposed to last about eight hours. It's a pretty direct mission, but you never know what can happen. I'll write more later.
Posted By Anderson Cooper: 7:55 AM ET
  32 Comments
Anderson, it's terribly refreshing to see an embedded report coming from the conflict. Interested in doing one with Hezbollah when your Puma-powered presentation is completed? Thank you for the meaningful vicarious experiences you so aptly provide. Be safe.
Posted By Anonymous Jonathan, New York, New York : 8:36 AM ET
Courage is the word to describe so many in the region. The Soldiers (their families), the Journalists and of course their families, too. The Citizens, many who have lived with this threat for more than 50 years. I am proud to be American born...I am involved...my brother and husband are involved...somehere near Bahgdad
I am disappointed, to put it mildly, in our current Administration and have been for quite some time. My husband was USMC enlisted in Gulf 1, and is now a USMC Officer and neither rank nor unit makes him any more special to the many who have and who are serving, in whatever way they can. If I can help it, after this tour, he's hit his ceiling as CW05...that man is going to retire and run for public office! Thank you Anderson Cooper and CNN for your dedication to the News and to humanity.
Posted By Anonymous Lori, Washington,DC : 8:41 AM ET
Yes they (hezb) are tough. I guess they were given a chance to grow. They were given a chance to grow politically too. Now they have a medium to address the country and the world..there parliament. Funded or not funded, they have the will and the feeling they are right.
Posted By Anonymous Moni, Trivandrum, Kerala, India : 8:47 AM ET
What are you crazy?

Seriously though, I always felt like I should be there fighting along with theses brave and I mean BRAVE soldiers. I was born in and have lived in America for 31 years. I remember my mother always telling me one day all the Jews will be called back to Israel and to me it was just silly.(I think she meant at the end of the world) I always asked her how or why and she just said, "You will just know.".

I cannot say this is the time or if I will even be alive bye then if it is true but part of me wants to be there doing my part right now but part of me is getting married on September 17. The thing is this. I am Jewish but I don't pratice or haven't practiced in many, many years but even so I feel connected somehow. More than I felt when the Iraqi war started. I too felt I should help but it isn't quite the same as now.

The Israeli soldiers and I don't sound the same or even live near each other but I at least feel like they are closer than ever.

Thank you and let them know people like me are always thinking about them.

Danny
Posted By Anonymous Danny, Port Richey, Florida : 8:57 AM ET
Anderson and Neil - Stay safe - May your 'big cat' keep you and everyone else it in safe. Please remember - as you said - "They can be located, shot and killed." - and this works both ways. Look forward to your report tonight.
Posted By Anonymous Lyn, London, Ontario Canada : 8:57 AM ET
I'm tired of seeing the news from the Isreali point of view. Why not imbed someone with Hezbollah?
Posted By Anonymous George Anthony -Athens, Greece : 9:00 AM ET
Anderson, the wonders of technology. You're embedded, crammed into an armored vehicle and still blogging - talk about multi-tasking! Stay safe, you guys.
Posted By Anonymous Christine, Canton, OH : 9:07 AM ET
What the hell is the matter with this world?! I'm scared for my niece and nephew because they're so young and the world is just getting worst. I'm scared for myself, being 18. I never thought I'd say this, but I wish I was at least 60. At least 60 year olds have lived and enjoyed life. I don't have much hope for my generation's future. Then again, past generations have face crises. We're far too advanced now. Technologically anyway, still not intellectually,regardless of what some say. Who is to say that the "extremist" Republicans and Democrats in Washington, who supposedly "represent" us,are any better that these radical extremist Mr. Cooper is reporting about. (Amazingly reporting, if i may say so)They, in a way, are causing a civil war within our country, putting red state against blue state as much as possible. I don't know what my point is. I just know not only am I frustrated with anyone who thinks violence solves anything, but I'm petrified for my future. Pessimistic. And I'm in a safe surburb of Mississippi. I feel selfish. The people Mr. Cooper are reporting on have to figure out how to survive from day to day. We, as Americans, are worried about what to wear? Does he like me? Mel Gibson said what? How dare we? We are doing nothing while the world spirals out of control!
Posted By Anonymous Cindy, Tupelo,Ms : 9:11 AM ET
Anderson:

Hezbollah is made of of "humans" who choose to hide behind innocent people to further their own propaganda. They have a belief, a cause, perhaps. But they use innocents as bait. Is that really human or inhumane?
Posted By Anonymous Debbie, Baton Rouge, Louisiana : 9:11 AM ET
Good luck to you, I don't think I could travel confined like that (although some airlines are probably not much better !!)

What is the mood like amoungst the soldiers, do they have a vision for the future?
Posted By Anonymous Sarah, Canterbury, UK : 9:14 AM ET
Please, let us know what happens....
Posted By Anonymous J. Simons, Denver CO : 9:15 AM ET
I cannot even imagine living in a war zone. I get scared just reading your blog or watching Michael Ware duck after an explosion in Beirut. It seems that the longer CNN covers this crisis the better the reporting is. I am excited to see what happens with the unit that you are traveling with and what images you will be able to bring back. As hard as it is to watch the images on television, they are often the only way to make the war real to people outside the war-zone.
Hezbollah may be using the pictures of dead women and children to stir emotions in the Arab world, but I certainly hope that they will also stir the United Nations into action to bring this conflict to an end. I believe that the United States is the only country with the influence to force Israel to agree to any resolution that the United Nations votes on. Unfortunately, that would require our President to actually call Israel's Prime Minister, something I'm not sure he'll ever do. It also seems that as completely unreasonable Hezbollah was in sparking this current conflict, that they might actually suspend the fighting if Israel would do the same.
I hope that you and Neil, as well as the troops that you are embedded with return safely and thank you for all of your hard work.
(Isn't it amazing that even in a war-zone your Blackberry never stops working?)
Posted By Anonymous Kimberly Miller, Lancaster, PA : 9:17 AM ET
Anderson, you and your crew continue to impress me at the lengths you go to to get all angles of the story. While I look forward to the coverage, I remain concerned for your safety. Please be safe!!!
Posted By Anonymous Judy, Hatfield, Pa : 9:20 AM ET
It is not surprising that an Israeli engineer referred to Hezbollah fighters as human beings. Only George Bush's propaganda machine would attempt to call an enemy of the American and Israeli people, who also a child of God, a heathen.
Posted By Anonymous Jim Harrison, Big Spring, TX : 9:21 AM ET
Wondering how it feels to know you're surrounded by a pack of humans whose only intent right now is to murder. Sure, you can dress them up in uniforms and call it a war with the enemy. But in the end it's still just murder. And you're along for the ride to watch the bloodbath. I dunno, you've got to tell the stories but it seems just the same as hitching a ride with Bundy knowing what he's going to do. Isn't that just a bit disturbing?

At least it's you doing it instead of some bubbleheaded botoxed blowdried blowhard smiling ever so widely to show off those perfect veneers while babbling about the death toll being too self involved to realize those are real people their talking about instead of props in their personal movie set.

So get us the story and be safe.
Posted By Anonymous Coco, Ann Arbor Michigan : 9:26 AM ET
Hezbollah leaders say they are "noble warriors" and other similar phrases; it is sad that they use civilians as shields and won't stand up and clearly declare where and who they are. If they are so great and noble, why must they hide among civilians? It is a part of the growing problems that countries have with terrorist groups - groups have no clear facilites, command and control or uniforms.
Posted By Anonymous S. Stein E. Brunswick, NJ : 9:28 AM ET
Anderson,

What is left to say? Whenever I turn on my television, and see that there seems to be no end in sight to this crisis, I cringe. I don't know how you can be there in the midst of all this. You are a much braver person than I am. I pray every day for you and your colleagues, for the people directly involved in this conflict, and for all of this to end peacefully and soon. I'm sure you are tired of hearing people tell you to be safe and come home soon, and that we are praying for you. It seems all we can do. In the meantime, I will continue to watch you every night. Thank you for your insight and compassion for both sides of this conflict.
Posted By Anonymous Brenda, Phillipsburg, NJ : 9:42 AM ET
Why kill? I don't think God would allow this, and the Bible would allow this! Israel soldiers are human beings, Hezbollah also human beings, why kill?! I just saw the news of Haifa, for people of both sides, hurt is just the same. What I can prey is, cease the fire, and stop all the mess!
Posted By Anonymous Shirley Yu, Yantai, CHN : 9:44 AM ET
Anderson,

I'm a bit confused. It's been stated several times that IDF doesn't allow access to their operations, and that included embedding. So, when it was announced last night around midnight, that CNN had a reporter embedded, I pretty much called the lady a liar. So tell us, exactly how did someone convince them to allow the two of you to be there?

Guess you aren't claustrophobic, just somewhat less than enthused about heights! Enough time has passed that I no longer hold my breath when I know any of you are in great danger, (which is pretty much all the time) but I certainly wish every one was home. I can't begin to imagine how those who live there feel. The WTC still hurts, (no, I won't be seeing the movie) losing my family and most of my country would take a lifetime to forget.

TCSS,
Maggie

Neil, try to keep Anderson away from flames, okay?
Posted By Anonymous Maggie, Grain Valley. Mo : 10:07 AM ET
Be safe Mr. Cooper. I don't know if it is wise to be that close to the combat. May Allah keep you safe.
Posted By Anonymous Amber, Brooklyn. NY : 10:10 AM ET
"...but they are just people." When all is said and done, that is what it all boils down to, isn't it? I am appalled by the lack of concern for human life on both sides of this conflict, so many dead and wounded and yet nothing has been resolved. So many innocent people whose lives have been torn apart, and still the fighting continues. When and if there is any kind of cease fire, what will have been accomplished? Both sides will claim victory, and sadly, both sides will have lost more than they have gained.
Stay safe Anderson, as much as we all appreciate your comprehensive reporting, we appreciate you and your crew a lot more!
Posted By Anonymous Phyllis Miller Lancaster, PA : 10:27 AM ET
Please stay safe.
You had the chance to meet and talk to Israeli soldiers; can you please ask them: What is the best way to make peace in the area?
How to they truly vision an achievement of peace.
I still can not believe that killing and destroying the infrastructure of Lebanon will bring peace to their country.
I understand the idea of defending their country, but I still do not understand the atrocity of the killing.
They keep reminding people that they have already send leaflets to leave.
But leave where and how?!!
Many civilians did not have a mean of transportation and if they did it was too dangerous, cars were being bombed and hit on the roads, or there was no roads left!
I still do not get it, how they justify the killing of civilians.
I still do not understand how they can justify the bombings of bridges in East Beirut and Northern Lebanon.
For your information, even during non-war days, Hezbollah did not dare bring weapons through those areas.
This party does not have any support on those areas at all.
Unfortunately, what Israel had done right now is increasing the support to Hezbollah unintentionally.
I can not understand how to we talk about peace while civilians have lost not only one family member but sometimes 2 to 5 minimum.
If they did not die, a mark was left on their bodies reminding them of the war!
Can you eliminate this issue?
This issue is like:
a man (Israel) molested his neighbors children (Hezbollah), those children (Hezbollah) grew up and started molesting his children (Israeli)
If we do not stop the molestation on both part, it will never stop, it will stay a vicious cycle of violence.
Can you please cover investigate what kind of weopans are the IDF using?
Is true the phosphoric kind that is illegal to use on civilians?
One million civilians have been misplaced, that is more than 25% of Lebanon's population.
Is not this a disaster?
What about the aftermanth?!
I prefer not to think about it!
Posted By Anonymous Danielle, Marshville, NC : 10:38 AM ET
"They are tough," one Israeli soldier said to me. "They have courage, but they are just people."
Every single person involved in this war is just a person like you and me. I just wonder if this war can be won.
Each will fight til the death and there are more behind them to do the same thing.
Posted By Anonymous Rachel-Albuquerque, NM : 11:02 AM ET
Seek and destroy missions in wartime. Someone is gonna die. Why can't we all get along?
Posted By Anonymous Robert, Robbinsville, NJ : 11:09 AM ET
Funny, if these two sides think of each other as human beings, you would think they could find a better way to settle things. But, I am not them and I can't understand their struggles.
Posted By Anonymous Brandi, Lincoln, NE : 11:10 AM ET
I recall all the reports from the embbeded reporters in Iraq. Great for their ego. Totally devoid of information content.

Experiencing the bombing in Tyre, or Sidon, might be more informative, all around.
Posted By Anonymous AM, Vienna, VA : 11:14 AM ET
Wow, that's very interesting! Are you able to communicate with the soliers in the Puma (do they speak English)? I wonder what goes thru their minds as you get closer to the intented battlefield.
Posted By Anonymous kelly, san francisco, ca : 12:00 PM ET
I watched the special this weekend on Hezbollah. It cleared up a lot of confusion as to their mission and who is with them...and who is not. Nonetheless, everyone is still pointing fingers at everyone else.
Posted By Anonymous Genevieve M, El Paso, TX : 1:07 PM ET
Humans don't use women and children for shields. Humans don't treat each other as less than humans. Humans don't use intimidate and fear to get what they want. Humans act like civilized people not vindictive animals. Anyone who acts like a sub-human deserves to be treated as a sub-human.
Posted By Anonymous Em, Toronto, Ontario, Canada : 1:55 PM ET
To Em in Toronto -

Israelis have commented on the tragedy of women and children dying in Lebanon during attacks while "justifying" the action by saying that bombs meant for Israeli children were destroyed. Who is devaluing life in situations like that? There is no difference between an Israeli child and a Lebanese child. Both are innocent, both are trapped in an unthinkable situation.
Posted By Anonymous Rhonda, Chapel Hill, NC : 3:48 PM ET
Their (Hizballah) country is attacked and you call them "terrorist"

To me, they are Heroes. Heros who fight for those who can't. May Allah keep them safe. And they will not be defeated. Why? Because Allah is with Hizballah!!!!
Posted By Anonymous Shukri, Seattle WA : 7:48 PM ET
Americans have, for the most part, become complacent about terrorism since 9/11. On almost every other continent, living with terrorism is a daily reality. It is nothing short of miraculous that suicide bombers haven't simply walked into one of our shopping malls or restaurants, as happens in Israel routinely, so there is no surprise that another plot was unhatched -- only relief that this particular one appears to have been defused. We can only hope that this shakes complacency sufficiently to get us to focus our efforts on Homeland Security versus Iraq Security.
Posted By Anonymous Jonathan Bernstein, Sierra Madre, CA - President, Bernstein Crisis Management : 5:27 PM ET
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