Tuesday, January 30, 2007
The writer's block: Interesting e-mail about Iraq
I'm the early writer this week. It's my job to be in the newsroom at 11 a.m. for the "senior" call. That's when executive producer David Doss and the senior staff discuss what stories we're working on for the show.

It's a preliminary rundown and always subject to change, but it's a good jumping off point. (This conversation begins on Blackberry and phone around 7 a.m. everyday, and the show is not on until 11 or 12 hours after the senior call.) My job is to offer editorial suggestions, work on early scripts and take notes and e-mail them to the rest of the writers. New ideas are always welcome.

Usually, one person does most of the talking on the morning call. Today it was senior producer Barclay Palmer. He started things off with Iraq. There was an attack on Shiite pilgrims. Barclay said two CNN correspondents, Arwa Damon and Michael Holmes, had a couple of reports on violence in Iraq, and in particular, the Shia resurgence. That got us talking about an e-mail note another senior producer, Ted Fine, had sent earlier. Here's what Ted wrote:

"Reading Arwa and Holmes makes me wonder: Didn't the U.S. KNOW what would happen when they kicked out Saddam? I mean seeing this now, how could people in the know NOT know that Iran would fill the power vacuum in Iraq? It seems like such a huge mistake and bad planning."

Ted's note got us thinking: With centuries of sectarian hatred in Iraq, how could the White House not anticipate this would happen?

Our Baghdad correspondent, Michael Ware, told Anderson recently that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shiites fled to Iran during Saddam Hussein's regime. When it fell, they returned, backed by Iranian forces. Michael had much more to say. We're going to air the interview tonight, breaking it up into several segments. I've got to run. David's asking me if I'm done with this blog already.
Posted By Gabe Falcon, CNN Writer: 1:20 PM ET
  43 Comments
I'm confused. One the one hand the US administration is saying that Iraq has a constitution, has elected a President and Parliament, etc. On the other hand, that same administration is openly announcing that they will shoot to kill Iranians who they believe are wanting to do harm to the US mission.

So is Iraq a soveriegn nation or not? is al-Malaki or Bush making the calls? Or does this depend on who the audience is?
Posted By Anonymous Chris Deegan, Chicago, IL : 2:56 PM ET
I normally love the blog, but I can't take anymore about the mistakes our government has made in the Iraqi War. The whole damn thing is a mistake, so lets just stop. We could nit-pick at this for centuries to come. Just get our troops out of there already!
Posted By Anonymous Ted, Malvern PA : 2:58 PM ET
I think you already know that Bush had tunnel vision on this one. He was responding to the 9/11 attacks and probably believed he would be remembered as the Hero President. Now billions of dollars later and no weapons of mass destruction found makes him look like he's got egg on his face.
Posted By Anonymous Nicki, Calgary, Alberta : 3:01 PM ET
The way I see it, the deep dirty secret of this war plan was never to "construct a modern democracy" or rebuild Iraq. It was to create that "void" and the ensuing arab on arab violence to deflect them from jihad against the west; if only for a while. It's called pay-back; post September 11th style. Set Sunni against Shia, and let Shia have more power. It totally makes sense taken the viewpoint that Saudi Arabs (a Sunni country) were behind the Sept. 11th attacks. It's a game of chess, on a ruthless scale. This is the ugly truth of our world today.
Posted By Anonymous george, new york, NY : 3:13 PM ET
When you take into account bush told his cabinet to keep his daily briefings, "as short as possible-I dont like to read more than necessary", it is hardly a surprise. The man prefers "Pet Goat" and other far more intellectualy stimulating material. If he had the common sense to pick up a history book he would have known the key differences between Shiite and Sunni. But he doesn't let silly little things like "facts" get in the way of his quest for global domination....he's "the decider" after all! This administration sought out any reason they could to justify invading Iraq, much the same way a bad cop with tunnel vision cannot allow himself to accept any other suspects after he's "got his man". They manipulate facts to fit their horrendous policies. G Dubya will go down as the absolute worst president in the history of the United States.
Posted By Anonymous nathan karczewski, junction city, KS : 3:22 PM ET
"Ted's note got us thinking: With centuries of sectarian hatred in Iraq, how could the White House not anticipate this would happen?"

Gabe, this is a very interesting question, and one that has been burning to be answered for a long, LOOOONG time.

How do you explain the level of denial that took place in the run-up to the Iraq war? Greeted as liberators, war will pay for itself in oil revenues, stand-up Iraqi forces in six months - at every decision point on every question dealing with this misadventure, the White House believed what they wanted to believe.

How, in a modern, enlightened, wired society could this level of refusal to face reality have been allowed to persist?

And what role did the media play or refuse to play?
Posted By Anonymous Arachnae, Stterling VA : 3:23 PM ET
Hi Gabe~
Huge mistakes and bad planning would be a perfect slogan for the Bush administration. We all know our government was aware of the consequences by invading Iraq. What is the REAL reason we are in Iraq? OIL? A vendetta from the previous Bush presidency? Or, just a macho need to kick ass? Whatever the reason, I am sure it was not in the best interest of anyone except a chosen few at the top. Does Bush really think the American people are that stupid, vice versa, or both?
Posted By Anonymous Betty Ann, Nacogdoches TX : 3:31 PM ET
Lot's of people talked about power vacuums and sectarian civil war and creating instabliity in the whole Mid-East region, but those voices were riduculed as bieng "soft on terriorism'. That's why the Bush/Rove machine scheduled the Congressional Authorization to Use Force vote just weeks before the Mid-Term Elections. Pretty neat little political two-step huh?
Posted By Anonymous Alex D. Chapman,Jr. Ville Platte,La. : 3:36 PM ET
How about the positive things that are being done. How about the major victory in Najaf? How about showing what the 180,000 Iraqi troops already trained by the US are doing. How going province by province showing exactly what is going on. The violence in Baghdad makes everyone assume the entire country is experiencing sectarian violence. How many regions have been turned over to Iraqi forces so far? Just tell us all of the facts. ALL OF THEM
Posted By Anonymous Jim E. Bolingbrook, IL : 3:39 PM ET
I'm befuddled: why would anyone think this administraion would heed any warning signs about anything????? They probably never thought Iran would turn out as screwy as Iraq. Go figure.
Posted By Anonymous Debbie Darby, Denham Springs, LA : 3:40 PM ET
Um, whoa! Basically everything you just wrote has been running through my head for quite some time now, but in all honestly I never expected CNN to be brave enough to actually say it. Now hold on to your hats guys because you're about to get slammed with hate mail.

I absolutely loved the Michael Ware interview and could tell it was chopped up, so I'm looking forward to seeing what we missed. In regards to Iran, I'd be interested to hear more about Ahmad Chalabi's role. Did he orchestrate the whole thing by playing the US?

Great blog Gabe.
Posted By Anonymous Stacy, St. Louis, MO : 3:40 PM ET
It's difficult to understand how these supposed "leaders" didn't know what would happen when they decided to go on their little excursion into Iraq.

Is it that people like Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush, Condi and Pearl - the ones making the decisions - were incapable of any sort of foresight whatsoever? They're not that stupid, are they?

It could be that Bush and his cronies really and truly believed that their faith in Jesus would lead them to victory. They're not that stupid, are they?

Most likely, they simply didn't want to hear the truth. When people told them of the potential consequences for disaster - and I'm sure many people did - they all put their hands to their ears and started yelling "La, la,la,la,la,la...I can't hear you...na, na, na, na, na, na".

Come to think of it, they are pretty stupid, aren't they.
Posted By Anonymous Bill Buckley, Portland, Oregon : 3:48 PM ET
Who is making huge amounts of money on the troops and supplies and ammunition for the troops? And who is making all the money on oil, which has risen to its current rates, no doubt, as a result of this war?

Haliburton? Which was owned by who? Vice president Cheney. And Bush was a Texas oil man. Sure they knew. But they're getting rich on it.
Posted By Anonymous Bill W, Coatesville, PA : 3:51 PM ET
Gabe,
Thanks for the sneak peek at the inner-workings of the show. What powerful but simple words in that email. It's great to know there are some people who still think logically re: Iraq/Iran. Having said this, get ready for some hate mail from our friends on the "other" networks!
Posted By Anonymous Kelly, San Francisco : 3:52 PM ET
There were warnings; but Cheney was beating the war drums so loud and Bush was yelling "9/11 changed everything" so loudly that war fever overtook reasoning.
Posted By Anonymous Alex D. Chapman,Jr. Ville Platte,La. : 3:56 PM ET
I had the very same question when the coverage, was on Saddam Hussein's execution. I don't agree with Saddam Husseins tactics, especially gassing and murdering thousands of innocent people just because he could, but one cannot ignore the brutal nature of some of the people of that region. My feelings for this intensified when I learned that the sectarian violence included beheadings and drillings. It is possible that Saddam Hussein had to be as brutal as he was to undercut the brutality that already exists. An even greater question that has to be answered, especially when it comes to this part of the region is, can peaceful leadership and negotiation carry any credence in the region when violence and brutality has reigned for so long? This question is crucial because it indirectly answers the question can peace prevail in Iraq? and Can the United States win a civil democracy in the region? The latter question calls into question the reasoning of the Iraq war and whether we should have ever sent troops there in the first place.

Didn't the U.S. know what would happen when they kicked out Saddam? Possibly so. What they did not bank on was the botched execution of Saddam, how the people in the region would react to the botched execution, and the fact that the people really followed to brutal leadership whether they consciously realized it or not. Now we have to see if another more brutal leader will rise from Saddam's fall.

It is amazing that a 10 pm broadcast begins it's conception at 7am with an e-mail. I always wondered how these broadcasts were put together. I thought it was done so differently.
Anyway, keep up the good work.

Madeliene Bolden
Posted By Anonymous Madeliene Bolden, Atlanta, Georgia : 4:02 PM ET
As with anything this administration has attempted they only see one step ahead. They seem not to think outside of the box and as a result things get way out of hand. If they had looked at all the angles and seen where things might have gone things might not be what they are now. But it seemed they stopped when the words "Mission Accomplished" were spoken. That was not the end it was only the beginning of a long road to nowhere. It's very had to reason why a government doesn't look beyond tomorrow, could it be they live life in a tunnel, but there is no light at the end of it. And as a result 3000 plus of our service men have died and countless innocent Iraqi citizens.

Can't wait to hear Michael's report tonight.
Posted By Anonymous Marcia Warren, MI : 4:14 PM ET
Had the White House 'anticipated' anything, we would not be in this mess. They also ignored advice from the entire world advising them against
going into a part of the world that they knew nothing about. I guess that's what's called a learning experience.
Posted By Anonymous Anna Danihr Hackettstown, NJ : 4:21 PM ET
As much as I dislike the war, I do remember the rationale for supporting the Shiias before the war. Remember their uprising after the first Gulf war? When we let Saddam crush it? Remember the stories on the poor Shiias of southern Iraq who were having their water environment drained? At that point, many people felt guilty about our non-action, and sort of saw the Shiias as underdogs.

I imagine that the story was supposed to be that these people where going to be so grateful that they would actually support us, and be a buffer against Iran. Pro-American Shiia. Great idea. Almost worked? Probably the Administration still is hoping that is how it will turn out.
Posted By Anonymous David Fields , Worcester MA : 4:23 PM ET
In the first Gulf War, the elder Bush's government sent out all these images that the Iraqi people welcomed the American "liberators" and then felt let down when the Americans withdrew without ousting Saddam. The junior Bush's government just figured we'd be welcomed again with open arms -- hence a low number of troops. It turned out quite differently.
Posted By Anonymous Susan, Croton on Hudson, NY : 4:26 PM ET
does anyone else find it interesting, that with an approxmately 44yr supply of oil left in the middle east, the worlds largest oil consuming nation(the U.S.)has managed to get treaties and troops stationed for the long term in almost every oil producing nation in the region. i don't think any of this was short sided! we put ourselves in a postion to ensure that WE WILL HAVE oil as supplies diminish and we begin the gargantuan task of changing our countries entire infrastructure away fron oil dependency to other energy sources. while muslim religious factions fight amongst themselves, and shake their fists at us we are rapidly gaining a military trained in desert and urban warfare, filled with combat veterans who know the region and how the enemy fights. in short our enemies are training us for the real battle ahead.
Posted By Anonymous Bruce, Franklin Square , NY : 4:35 PM ET
You make the comment that "hundreds of thousands of Shia Iraqis fled to Iran prior to the Iran/Iraq war" -- but remember thousands fought the Iranians as well. It isn't as simple as Shia against Sunni -- much has to do about protecting your own neighborhood. Iraqis with power in current Iraqi territory will allow and in fact encourage violence when it is expedient, but will turn off the switch when things shake out. An Al Queda member now roaming free in Iraq will be tossed out of Iraq, like yesterday's garbage, the second they're not useful anymore. The same thing could very well happen to the Iranians -- unless of course Cheney, Bush, et al go completely insane and light up the entire Middle East.
Posted By Anonymous Matt Bend, Oregon : 4:42 PM ET
Thanks for the insight as to how the show gets put together. That is really interesting!

Linda
Boulder, Colorado
Posted By Anonymous Linda, Boulder, Colorado : 4:45 PM ET
When will people and the media wake up to the real dangers? Going to Iraq was a win-win scenario for the Administration. Either everything went great (WMDs found, democracy established, etc) or everything went horribly (commander-in-chief can break laws, can issue signing statements to cancel or modify laws, achieves a long-term military posture in Iraq for Oil, rewards corporate/defense buddies with much riches, and next on the horizon can pick a fight with Iran to continue above.) We must look beyond the words and stated objectives to the actual deeds of the President. The Administration is running the same playbook for Iran now that they used about Iraq and the question is WHY? WE must learn the answer before it is too late. And probably, the best way to learn those answers is for Impeachment proceedings to occur. If the Republicans impeached for lying to a grand jury, they should be all for impeaching over breaking of laws, indefense of the Constitution, and deception to the American people.
Posted By Anonymous Amos, Oklahoma City, Okla : 4:48 PM ET
One motive for the war was almost certainly to interrupt the inexorable movement towards a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Iran and Iraq were the two most likely beginnning participants; Iraq was a more attractive candidate for military intervention and Iran for containment through political means. Once a Shiite state goes nuclear it is only a matter of time until someone in the Sunni world goes nuclear and an arms race in the Middle East has far more potential to lead to nukes in the hands of an unstable regime or extremist group than does such a race between India and Pakistan, or the U.S. and Russia or China. When and if Iran goes nuclear it is time to eat drink and be merry...
Posted By Anonymous Joseph, New York, NY : 4:48 PM ET
The thing is you have a whole lot of people, who like the Decider have managed to 'do' and 'do' and 'do' and always avoid the usual consequences. Just cuz they've said it was so or just cuz some one would bail them out, they think if they said it they could sell it and control it.
Posted By Anonymous linda, bella vista,ar : 4:57 PM ET
When Michael Ware speaks I listen. I wish your President did as well.

The thing is, most of the world knew what apparently Bush and your Congress didn't or disregarded, on purpose. This invasion would only lead to destabilization in the Middle East. Get rid of one bad guy there is always another one to take his place. And democracy isn't born because someone else wants it. The people of Iraq have to want it and I don't think they are at that point yet.

The right place to be was and still is Afghanistan to take care of al Queda. They were the perpetrators of the World Trade Center horror. But the US isn't really in Afghanistan and the troops that are there are fighting Taliban. Al Queda really did get away with murder.

I am afraid that Iraq is lost to the radical Shiite, the moderates, Sunni, Shia have left. Iran has consolidated her influence, her enemy having been taken care of by her other enemy, the US"
Posted By Anonymous Robin, Montreal, Canada : 4:59 PM ET
Hey Jim. I completely I agree with you. These boneheads in the media only report the most compelling and consequential news when they should be reporting ALL OF IT!

I'll give you an example: Back in 2001, Our President, who this network has consistently maligned, took time out of his busy schedule to READ TO SCHOOLCHILDREN IN FLORIDA. CHILDREN WERE LEARNING!

But all we heard about for weeks on end was the brutal murdering of thousands of American citizens. THAT'S JUST IN ONE CITY!

You guys only report the news that fits your personal biases!
Posted By Anonymous Serge, Austin, TX+ : 5:01 PM ET
I think that it's about time that the media started talking about the number of Iraqi civilian deaths since the invasion began. Also, the number of seriously wounded American soldiers I sometimes wonder if the media is afraid of the Bush administration.
For years the media was afraid to confront the administration on these points It is very important; these are real people
Posted By Anonymous BGoetz, New York,NY : 5:03 PM ET
I am truly amazed at the way different people in different areas of this great country looks at the Iraq war so differently. Have you forgot 911 and what the terroist want to happen to us in this country? Where do you think the terrioist would be if they were not fighting the American troops in Iraq? Do you think they would be hinding in the caves or in the waste land they call home? No they would be doing all they could to enter this country to do our citizens harm.
The American people need to wake up and understand this is a war of the world and if we don't take the war to them they will be bringing it to us in this country.
The congress and senate do not live in the real world, they are all trying to be re-elected to enjoy the life styles most Americans have no idea about. And the sad thing is they are doing it with our hard earned tax dollars.
AMERICA WAKE UP
Posted By Anonymous Larry Shepard, Dublin, Georgia : 5:05 PM ET
Gabe: Since we got a some of Michael Ware's take on Iraq, how about an in-depth interview with Arwa Damon? It would be interesting to get a woman's point of view on the conflict in Iraq since she's actually there experiencing it first hand also.
Posted By Anonymous Jolene, St. Joseph, MI : 5:26 PM ET
Larry, I see you are from Dublin, Georgia, a pretty big target for terrorist activities. How do you explain the fact that the people in the places most likely to be attacked (the Metropolitan area and certain parts of the west coast) did not vote for Bush and do not support this war? Many people who voted for Bush live in states no terrorist would ever want to step foot into. The fact remains that even though New York City was attacked, the people in New York City do not support this war. And maybe, just maybe, the terrorists and many Muslims don't like America because we have been bombing the heck out of their countries for years. So until you've experienced opression or have been affected by a terrorist attack you have no standing.
Posted By Anonymous Greg, New Providence, New Jersey : 5:33 PM ET
Larry:

I understand you have a distincly conservative view of the way the world and international terrorism works, which you are absolutely entitled to. But let's recap:
1:9/11 had absolutely nothing to do with Iraq. Bush lied and you bought it.

2:The "terrorists" regard us as a zionist regime, and have always, and will always, hate our way of life, regardless of what country we destroy. Bush made it much worse!

3:To categorize their homes as "caves and wastelads" smacks of racial insensitivity, at best, outright racism at worse. I have been to both Afghanistan and Iraq, and met many very pleasant people that lived in neither cave nor wasteland.

4: You say we should "take the war to them" because they dont like us. So I guess we might as well jump on over to N. Korea, Iran, heck, the French and most of the EU dont like us either, lets just blow em all away right?!

In conlcusion, sir, it may be you and the rest of the neocons that need to wake up! Waging war and murdering tens of thousands of people does not make our once great country any safer. It only intensifies the hatred and distrust other countries have for us and our way of life. We need to stop the war while we still have a country left!
Posted By Anonymous nathan karczewski, junction city, KS : 5:36 PM ET
Perhaps President Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld should have read �The Art of War� (500BC) by SUN TZU. It predicts the dilemma the US finds itself in Iraq:

�It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.�

Which of these three outcomes do you think we have realized?
Posted By Anonymous Kate, Bakersfield, California : 5:44 PM ET
That would be assuming this administration had an ounce of understanding about the way things actually work in the world which, given their outrageously inaccurate predictions regarding ease of battle, cost (off by BILLIONS!), and how we would be greeted as liberators, clearly they have not.

I am grateful for Mr. Ware's safe return and pray for the safety of all the reporters, troops, and innocent Iraqis stuck in this mess.
Posted By Anonymous Norah, West Chester, PA : 6:00 PM ET
After reading, "State of Denial", by Bob Woodward and ,"Imperial Life in the Emerald City", by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, I think I understand how this administration got it so wrong. No one cared or understood the cultural history of Iraq and those appointed to run the reconstruction of Iraq were awarded their jobs according to their political loyalty to Bush. The experts and the experienced were dismissed in favor of an inexperienced loyalist. Yikes, the stupidity and arrogance was so rampant in the Green Zone that I doubt there is any solution now.
Posted By Anonymous Judy Stage Brooklyn, MI : 6:51 PM ET
What amazes me is that people like Larry from Georgia honestly believe the whole "If we don't take the war to them, they'll bring it to our doorstep" argument.

Sorry, Larry, but you have been duped.
Posted By Anonymous Jerry Manning, Omaha, Nebraska : 7:08 PM ET
I thought up to and after Desert Storm in 1990/91 that Saddam was OUR guy to keep Iran contained. We gave him support including weapons. Our ambassador met with him regularly. Saddam even asked her what the U.S. position would be if he attacked Kuwait before he did it. That was one reason why, as I understood it, the U.S. did not remove Saddam back then...and we knew about the crimes he committed in the 1980s even then and chose to ignore them. He was a snake when we picked him up and he stayed a snake the whole time. But, at one time, he was OUR snake. And he was useful. Whatever he may have been, Saddam understood the people he controlled and they understood him. It is clear that WE don't and we don't seem to be learning much about those people now. Someone else said that democracy only works when the people want and understand it. Even then it doesn't always workout. There is recent proof of that in the world if you look around. It is also not an exact science. Even if democracy by invasion takes hold, the people get to have a say and they just might not say what you wanted them to. It would seem like that if a country like the U.S. wanted to remove someone like Saddam there would be options other than blasting away at people who have no power. Someone called the attack on Iraq a "game of chess". If so, it seems like an inefficient and game-like way to go about a very serious business. Why not hit the one who hit you if that's the way to keep him at bay...and leave his neighbor alone... especially if the neighbor is holding him at bay, as well. What the U.S. did by invaiding Iraq could (and has) backfire just like it sometimes does for peace officers making a domestic violence call. The people fighting each other often band together and fight against the peace officers.
Posted By Anonymous Emma, San Angelo, TX : 7:25 PM ET
Thanks for the peak into what's going on behind the scenes. Its interesting to hear about how what we end up seeing on air actually gets there.

I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of the interview with Michael Ware.
Posted By Anonymous Bridget Ann, Baltimore, MD : 9:28 PM ET
Gabe/AC360:
Maybe, just maybe this has never been about Iraq. Maybe it has been about containing Iran from the beginning. Just one conspiracy theory I guess. But by knowing a civil war would be ignited by the US invading Iraq, the predictable "power vacuum" would obviously come from Iran.

I have been reading European online newspapers the past few hours. Some papers are reporting a build-up of naval ships in the Gulf. Of course, the naval fire power would not be for "insurgency" targets. Is President Bush threatening to strike Iran as part of his "war on terrorism" agenda or as a nuclear deterrent? It has the EU worried.
Posted By Anonymous Sharon D., Indianapolis, IN : 9:34 PM ET
I think Bush et al., new exactly what the consequences of invading Iraq would be... without providing for enough troops to secure the streets, kicking the Iraqi army and Baath party out of their jobs, failing to provide enough support to rebuild a country impoverished from over 10 years of sanctions... it would be absolute chaos. Why? Oil is of course a big factor. Saddam was on the verge of changing the country's oil trading currency to the euro. But the anti-war slogans "no blood for oil" might be backwards: it's blood for no oil. As long as chaos rules in Iraq, the world's third largest oil supply will stay right where it is: in the ground, thus keeping oil prices high with the tighter supply. As Bagdad burns, the oil companies are making record profits. It's all going exactly as planned.
Posted By Anonymous Benjamin, Seattle, WA : 8:03 PM ET
It seems we would be better off today with Saddam in power for he kept a lid on the sectarian violence between the Shiites and Sunnis. It seems like a classic case of the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Posted By Anonymous Tim Yearneau, Minneapolis, Minnesota : 9:51 AM ET
Hasn't anyone ever play chess? You can come with a strategy, but you opponent has his/her own. You must be able to remain flexible and change accordingly based upon the actions of your opponent. Americans are starting to sound like defeatists, which is by the way exactly what the opponent (Iran, Al-qaeda, Iraqi Shiites) wants.
3000 dead over 4 years and we a shouting to throw in the towel. Clearly demonstrates to me that America is saying to the rest of the world that we are not willing to go the distance!
Posted By Anonymous Jeff Miller Great Falls, Montana : 9:53 AM ET
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