Monday, September 10, 2007
Back in Iraq: Prison population surges
Iraqi prisoners arrive at Camp Cropper, a U.S.-run prison home to more than 4,000 detainees.
It's a bit surreal to be sitting in a U.S. military trailer in Baghdad as I watch General Petreaus and Ambassador Crocker testify back in Washington, DC. Outside, a Blackhawk helicopter just whizzed by, momentarily drowning out the sound from the TV.

I spent all day at Camp Cropper, a U.S.-managed detention center where more than 4,000 Iraqi detainees are being held. It's run by Major General Douglas Stone, a hard-charging Marine. He is now responsible for all detainees in Iraq -- more than 24,000 of them -- a population which has surged because of the so-called surge.

In past years, detention centers were prime recruiting grounds for extremists. In fact, if you know anything about the history of Islamic extremism, you will know that prisons have always been places where radical ideologies were born and spread. (For a great history of al Aqaeda you should read "The Looming Tower" by Lawrence Wright.)

Anyway, Major General Stone says he is waging a "battle of the mind" inside the detention centers. He is trying to separate moderate Iraqis from the influence of extremist detainees. We'll show you how he is doing that tonight, and you can judge for yourself how successful you think it will be. He is certainly motivated, and the troops working under him are dedicated and impressive.

Tonight, of course, Iraq will be our main focus. We have a number of reporters stationed throughout the region. Michael Ware will join us, as always. So will Gary Tuchman, who is reporting on efforts to train Iraqi police. Also, Nic Robertson is reporting from Saudi Arabia on a reformed jihadist who now tries to convince others not to join al Qaeda.

It's good to be back in Iraq. It's only my fourth trip here, but I'm looking forward to going out on patrols the next couple days. One thing I hope to see is how U.S. troops are working with Sunni tribal groups against al Qaeda in Iraq. Of course, the attempt to work with former Sunni insurgents raises lots of questions; we'll examine some of them tonight and all this week.

This time last year, we were in Afghanistan. We will also have reports from there this week.

I hope you join us tonight, as we report live from Baghdad. See you then.

-- By Anderson Cooper
Posted By CNN: 4:04 PM ET
Don't forget to report the Democratic point that the surge is working "in spite" of our troops not "because of" their work. That sentence pretty much sums up for me the liberal mindset about Iraq!
Posted By Cary - Lowell, IN : 4:21 PM ET
Why do some Americans believe Congress and not the military?
Posted By David H., Lake Barrington, IL : 4:23 PM ET
General Petraeus is an honorable military man and he handled the criticism of his honor with ease.
Posted By Jo Zajak, Memphis TN : 4:32 PM ET
Hi Anderson,

Thanks for keeping us informed while you over in Iraq.

My prayers are with you and 360 crew there. Glad that you guys made a safe trip there. Be Careful.
Posted By bluediamond (Jennifer) : 4:33 PM ET
There are still issues of getting Malaki to work out his disagreement with the Sunnis, but we should let General Petraeus continue with his mission.
Posted By Sam C. , Dallas, TX : 4:41 PM ET
I'd like to know what life is like for average Iraqis. Is there anything approaching a functional economy? Do people still go to their jobs? Get paid? If not, what do non-farmers do for food and other necessities?

How can anything work with the utilities so unstable? I read that the electricity is available x number of hours a day in Baghdad, but there's no context - does that mean there's a limited supply so they roll it thru neighborhoods, the opposite of a rolling blackout? Or is it an average and you just never know if the power's going to be on or not? Does the average include the private entrepeneurs running their own neighborhood utilities?

And I have a question for Michael, whose reporting, by the way, has been superb throughout. He is quick to debunk the rosy scenarios of the administration, and from all impartial accounts it seems like an unmitigated disaster, but he also says a US pullout would mean a bloodbath. What's the solution, then, if any? Stay and suffer the death of a thousand cuts and hope that somehow somewhere peace can be discovered, perhaps through sheer exhaustion? leave and know we're responsible for a potential genocide? or pour more (non-existant) troops in to do the job right?
Posted By Arachnae, Sterling VA : 4:44 PM ET
Can't Democrats pursue their goals of surrender without appearing to insult our military and its leaders? Just a rhetorical question.
Posted By xtina - chicago IL : 4:54 PM ET
Anderson. there's nothing like actually being there to get a handle on what is actually going on with the surge.
As always I'm sure we can rely on your reports to be honest and not your assessment through coloured glasses.
All the best, and take care PS A spade is a spade is a spade.
Posted By Bev Ontario Canada : 4:55 PM ET
Glad you finally made it back to Iraq! I was wondering if you ever would!? Seems everybody else has been there but you! LOL

I can't wait to see all of y'alls reports from all of the embeds! That sounds really interesting...more than just one side of the story! That is what 360 is supposed to be about!

Hope you all stay very safe!! And better wear that helmet and flak jacket at all times...PLEASE! We want you to tell the story not be the story!

Cynthia, Covington, Ga.
Posted By Cindy : 4:57 PM ET
It's not a matter of believing the Congress or the military. The facts on the ground tell the story of Iraq.

After 4 plus years of American occupation, Iraq is nowhere close to being a peaceful nation capable of governing itself.

To remain at even it's present state of near civil war will require an American presence for the foreseeable future.

As for trying to win the hearts of moderate Iraqi Muslims from the more radical Iraqi Muslims, how will that be possible when the U.S. is occupying Iraq, resulting in the deaths and mutilation of so many innocent people?

Think of it this way. If the U.S. had been invaded and occupied by Iraq, resulting in many civilian deaths, would anyone here ever forget or even be able to forgive? I know I couldn't.
Posted By Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA : 5:00 PM ET

In my dreams I see fields of poppies.

This week I'll be afraid to sleep.

God be with you.
Posted By Anonymous : 5:01 PM ET
Do they have toilets in that prison? Or, do they just "go on teh sand", kinda like the *ultimate litter-box*, eh?!?
Posted By Gabe, Atlanta, GA : 5:02 PM ET
Don't those protesters in the Iraq hearing know that you're not supposed to wear white after Labor Day?
Posted By Sheri G., Portland, Or. : 5:04 PM ET
Hey Anderson - I'm looking forward to the program tonight, especially the report on the reformed jihadist. I didn't know there were any in existence. It should be interesting.

I'm glad to hear you arrived safely. Maybe my bedtime prayers actually work! Be careful over there and come home safe. God Bless!
Posted By Christina, Windber, PA : 5:07 PM ET
I see this as Democratic sympathizers wanting us out of Iraq before the Presidential election so it will look like a decision that was pushed by them, therefore helping their election chances.
Posted By Mark S. , Springfield, Ma. : 5:17 PM ET
Who the heck made Senators military experts to be held above Generals who have served our country for decades?
Posted By Robin S. - Franklin, Tn. : 5:23 PM ET
I've got news for you naysayers; it's America that is fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan- not the Republican Party! Are you on board with America or not?!
Posted By Jeffrey, Kenner, LA. : 5:26 PM ET
Anderson and Team

I am very excited to get your first hand reports on the progress and lack of progress that is happening not only in Iraq but Afhganistan as well as other regions in the area.

Please stay safe while your over there. No matter how much security you all have, you can never be too safe.
Posted By Megan O. Toronto, ON, Canada : 5:29 PM ET
Dear Anderson..

Iwish you a safe journey.
I will be looking forward to your forthcoming vivid reports.

See you tonight....
Posted By Anonymous : 5:38 PM ET
Can't Congress get funding passed for better quality audio equipment?
Posted By Dan DeLeese- Bellingham, Wa. : 5:39 PM ET
After reading the Brookings Institution's Iraq Index report, I'm actually glad 360 is there and reporting. I found this report to be very interesting and would like to know if the 360 team is getting similar information while there. What captured my attention was that IED's continue to be the highest cause of death to our troops. It is estimated that $56 Billion is needed to reconstruct Iraq with only $3.2 out of the $15.2 Billion pledged having been disbursed. The # of refugees is over 1 million with 200,000 migrating to the Gulf States. However, the report did not provide too much data regarding the training of Iraqi forces and their ability to secure their own country which begs the question as to why. Oh, and let's not forget the 112 journalists which have been killed over there since 2003. With that being said, my thoughts and prayers are with all of you and our troops to stay safe. Looking forward to the reports and your show this week.
Posted By Jolene, St. Joseph, MI : 5:45 PM ET
Hi AC, I'm looking forward to the shows from Iraq. I trust you and your reports more than our government's reports. I have the book you referenced and I should make time to read it. Keep those helmets and vests close and please be safe!
Posted By Kathy Chicago,Il : 5:46 PM ET
Dear Anderson,

Glad to hear that you have arrived safely and are already preparing the stories for this evening. I am very anxious to hear what you have to say and in spite of the danger, I am thrilled that you are there to get to the bottom of this mess.

Frankly, I am quite intrigued by your comments regarding General Stone. He sounds like a fine soldier and his head and heart seem to be in the proper place. He faces a daunting task however. I am interested to hear his story and learn how he goes about it.

Funny that you mentioned "The Looming Tower". I had purchased it last year and am just now reading it, (with the anniversary of 9/11 and all). Clearly it has educated me to an emormous degree already - I cannot wait to finish it. Amazingly written book.

Clearly you are fortunate to be back in Iraq at this time. I would love to be there myself. Yeah, I know, I must be crazy!

Please be safe and enjoy your time there. Cannot wait to see 360 this week.

All the best!
Posted By Pati McMillan, Camp Hill, PA : 5:49 PM ET
Anderson sounds like this is going to be a great week on 360. And as always you and your crew always bring us those stories no one ever seems to think of, ie working with the Sunni tribes against al Qaeda. I know we will not be disappointed.

Just be careful guys you never know whom you can trust.
Posted By Marcia, Warren MI : 5:52 PM ET
I'm pretty skeptical of how much anyone can really do to stop this breeding of hatred and extremism. It's brainwashing combined with hate and that's always lethal. I think that's an impossible endeavor. The problem is that we've had a presence there for so long that now it seems that Iraq is destined for failure if we leave and maybe even if we stay. The only credible opinions on what good we're doing there will come from the people who are actually there and not some fat cat sitting pretty on Capitol Hill.
Posted By Debbie, Denham Springs, LA : 5:55 PM ET
The future of Iraq is dependent on winning the battle of the mind. The battle of the mind is not limited to separating Iraqis from the influence of extremists. It is so much more. Educating the entire country that radical Islam is a political ideology equal to or similar to the great totalitarian ideologies of the past is a key component in this battle. It has failed throughout history. We need them to understand this ideology has subjected many populations in history to hellish conditions marked by plenty of hardship. They need to know our ideologies will provide at the very lest the basic necessities they struggle to get each day. Let them know that speaking freely and offering constructive criticism is encouraged and can be done without enduring intimidation tactics that can lead to death. We should foster unity through better communications and improve their living conditions. This can be done by many resources such as schools and law enforcement. The different groups residing in Iraq need to be represented by leaders whose primary purpose is to work together towards understanding the needs of each group. They should also educate each other on their respective groups. By knocking down the fences each group has built around them, they can come together as one and be a role model for the rest of the Middle East. If you remove the prejudice instilled in some then many will develop a sense of dignity and self worth. In the grand scheme of things the battle of the mind will be won and our troops can come home.
Posted By Louie Bonnecarre, New Orleans, La. : 5:55 PM ET
I'm really looking forward to your coverage this week, particularly your conversations with Michael Ware.

I'm confident that the integrity of your reporting will, as always, give a new perspective on the harsh realities of a war our government continues to try to spin.

Thank you for returning to Iraq, and stay safe.
Posted By TW Martin - Boston, MA : 5:59 PM ET
I have the greatest respect for all of our brave men and women fighting the global battle on terrorism. My thoughts and prayers go out to them.

My concern is these regional factions have been killing each other for centuries. Now they’re killing Americans too. The surge is not going to be a permanent solution to a century’s long problem. What happens after the surge ends?? Or after we leave (if that ever happens)?
Posted By Cheryl, Johnston RI : 6:12 PM ET
Response to Debbie of Denham Spr.

So, what do we do? Sigh and say ,"Oh well, we can't DO ANYTHING about this hatred and extremism-- let's go shopping!"
Yes, we live free, but we didn't get this far because we threw up our hands and let genocide and dictatorsips flourish. Somebody has to stand against fascists. What about saying the same thing about genocide in Darfur, "we can't do anything about it..." That's what the Clinton admin, did, but this admin. is actually going after the bad guys.
Posted By D.C. - San Diego, Co. : 6:14 PM ET
Anderson, glad to see that you and the 360 team arrived safely, settled into your assignments, and are ready to roll with the kind of news that CNN does best - live, onsite coverage of current events.

Being a member of the international audience, I find that your coverage helps explain issues that I would otherwise find confusing (following my own government's politics is enough to give me a migraine, let alone the twists of the US political process). It's a valuable thing, to be presented with information and then be allowed to make up one's own mind, instead of having to rely on spin doctors.

As I mentioned in Gary Tuchman's post, I know you folks won't do the kind of things that will give your security people headaches - but we'll still be praying very hard for you and your team's safety. It looks like a regular 360 alumni gathering!

Stay safe and keep them honest!

Cynthia M. Genato
Makati City
Posted By Starshadow : 6:16 PM ET
Hey AC:
Please be safe!! I will be watching 360 all this week. I am a huge fan of yours as well as a trained journalist. YOur crew and CNN deserve the title" most trusted name in news".
Posted By Anonymous : 6:27 PM ET
Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true.

--from the wisdom of Homer Simpson.
Posted By Kevin D. St. Louis, MO : 6:28 PM ET
I hope that CNN will investigate the facts that Bin Laden pointed out in his last video that the Soviet Union, a superpower at the time, went bankrupt due in part to their war with Afghanistan.

He is a man obsessed with US History and culture and I think it is worth bringing in some economists and investigating how much they spent in Afghanistan and how far in debt we are going into in Iraq.

Be safe.
Posted By Anonymous : 6:45 PM ET
Wouldn't be an ac360 from Iraq without Michael Ware telling us that we just can't win. The take-home message is always, liberal stand-down - YES; US military - NO.
Posted By Sullie D., Orangeburg, S.C. : 7:46 PM ET
You mention in your blog the phenomenon of reformed Jihadists who try to convince others not to join Al Qaeda. That reminds me of former gang members who have gone straight trying to convince kids not to join gangs. Sounds like an uphill battle, but one worth fighting and I wish them all the best.
Posted By Peter J., Austin, Texas : 7:49 PM ET
I'm not sure about "The Most Trusted Name in News" but you guys are definately "The Bravest Reporters in the News"

This should be an interesting week in the ME, can't wait to hear the aftermath of the General Petreaus and Ambassador Crocker hearings both in DC and in Iraq. Good luck to you and your crew.
Posted By Shelly, Tiburon, CA : 7:52 PM ET
"The Looming Tower" is a must-read because the author tells us about the many "myths" to do with Al Qaeda, one of which is that they (and Bin Laden) have unlimited money. That can't be true, although the organization does seem to have "state sponsors", mainly Syria and Iran, don't you agree? Have you also read Mark Steyn's "America Alone?"
Posted By xtina - chicago IL : 8:21 PM ET
Who exactly is 360 aiming to be "keep honest" there? The Iraqi government elected by its own people? The President of the US? The Marines fighting in the camp you'll visit? Congress? please explain
Posted By Bill L., Nashua, N.H. : 10:22 PM ET
I have just been watching the first 20 minutesof 360. It is laughable watching Mr. Cooper try so hard to make this all seem bad. Even after his guest indicates that there are success's Mr Cooper continues to put a negative tone on the Whole situation. I just watch the segment about the detainees. Mr Cooper, why did you have to say that "there is nothing waiting for the youngsters when they get out"? Why not finish what appears to have been a positive report, if you read between your comments -Oh no, someone may lose an eye..., what a comment like; maybe these young men will learn in their civic class that democracy could be good for their early democracy.
Posted By Steve Gillan : 10:34 PM ET
Hi Anderson and 360,
I may be in the minority, but I think we should listen to our military leader's assessments.
I just wish we could stop this vicious cat-fight of American against American here at home and give our "Undivided" attention to the men and women on the ground of Iraq.
Sometimes I think we forget that our troops are on the battlefield and we do them no service to battle each other at home. I've given a comment of this type last year, I feel sad that a year later, nothing has changed. Debate is one thing, but is this slamming of our Generals a debate? I don't think so. Take Care
Posted By Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 11:45 PM ET
As the wife of a soldier who is due to come home soon after a fifteen month deployment, it's time for the American military's involvement in Iraq to end. I understand the desire to "complete the mission" and the importance of trying to leave a relatively stable, unified nation. However, the current plan doesn't actually seem to be doing that. Maybe it will if we are there for ten more years. But our current military can't do that. If you support the current policies, start supporting a draft. Give our soldiers who have done two or more tours for 12 or more months a break. Give your policy a chance to actually happen. It's time for the entirety of our nation to either feel the burden of this war or end it. Finally, with all due respect, my message to both the American and Iraqi politicians: shut up and do something!
Posted By Melanie : 12:27 AM ET
I have to say that it was disturbing to see the Iraq insurgent teenagers at the detention center. They should be playing soccer (also shown in the segment) instead of fighting a war.

I also have to say that the whole re-education, re-programming of insurgents is rather disturbing as well. I guess the idea of young impressionable minds being re-educated is psychologically uncomfortable for me and sad, though necessary, I guess.

Thanks for bringing part of the war we don't always think about or see.

Stay safe.
Posted By Sharon D., Indianapolis, Indiana : 9:19 AM ET
Hi Anderson, sounds like the dangers you and Gary have described with your assignment (the road from airport to Baghdad, rockets that could have hit your helicopter, etc.) are along the lines of...well...giant flying carp and simulated car bombs...hmmm...where's David Mattingly when you need him? :)

Edmonds, Washington

P.S. Just kidding...your assignment now is WAY more dangerous than giant carp...please take care and stay safe. :)
Posted By Lilibeth, Edmonds, WA : 7:35 PM ET
Dear Anderson & CNN team in Iraq,

Hello, gentle kind greetings from the rainy seaside. It’s obvious from the thoughtful caring notes on this blog that our family is not the only one who feels a sense of anxiety to see you all there. Oh dear me, please be careful.

Please, please, please take care and please stay safe. Keeping you all in my thoughts and heartfelt prayers too.

caring thoughts, Areti Gina & family by the sea in Canada

Life is beautiful........
“God is for us a refuge and strength, A help that is readily to be found during distresses.”
(Psalm 46:1)
Posted By Anonymous : 7:56 PM ET

Please be safe. Take care of yourself. I'll be praying for you and your crew to come home safe. =D
Posted By Claire J- Birmingham, AL : 10:46 PM ET
Dear Anderson.

Kind of scarey, aren't things there. CNN you are serving your country well by being in the center grounds of war. If people could see that war beats others out of there lives and is and will never be any good for anyone.But of course war has always existed since the beginning of time. It's the ultimate expression of life to have countries being a killing field to one another. Hate will always produce chaos. Simple to me, "don't be involved with hateful actions." Will things ever calm down? Seems to be getting worse and more shocking to people nowadays. I feel so thankful for the military protecting us, where would be without them. Be careful over there CNN-Anderson Cooper. J
Posted By Elanna : 1:09 AM ET
Anderson, are you witnessing any evidence that Iraqis have any patriotism? Is Iraq considering a military draft? Are Iraqis only loyal to their religion? Is there a Iraqi "Pledge of Allegiance"? Do they celebrate a Indepence Day? Does Iraq have a national anthem? Are they proud to be Iraqi? What do young people do with their time?

Stay safe!!!
Posted By Stan Gorski : 5:32 AM ET
Anderson, I have to tell you that when I watched the program last night, the most heart-wrenching thing for me was the remembrances of the 9/11 victims. It brought tears to my eyes and chills down my spine. Not a day goes by without me remembering that day and mourning for those who perished. My thoughts and prayers are always with them and their loved ones who lost them.

Thanks and be safe out there,
Edmonds, Washington
Posted By Lilibeth, Edmonds, Washington : 10:08 AM ET
Hi Anderson

AC360 is my morning cuppa, i'm thrilled you'r doing overseas assignment, its something you do so naturally. We don't get to hear alot of American internal news so watching your show we got both @360.
The past mornings was very interesting and looking forward to the rest of the week.

Take care and my prayers are with you and the crew.
sylvia,kuching,borneo island
Posted By Anonymous : 3:06 PM ET
It was a year ago next week I met Gen Stone at his previous command, there to welcome home a certain young Marine whom I have the honor to also call my son. It was there, and with some research, I learned Gen Stone has the experience, the tactical knowledge and the special skills for the position in which he has been placed. I pray for his continued safety and success. I was in that same place a couple of weeks ago as my son, my Marine, left once again to join Gen Stone in their shared mission. He too has my continuous prayers for his safety and the success of his mission. Thank you, Anderson, for giving us a chance to see the results. Please give us truth, not politics, as you go.
Posted By Anonymous : 4:55 PM ET
Mr. Cooper,

Many thanks to you and the team for coming to Iraq this week. The reporting so far has been outstanding and informative – hopefully many back home are reaping the rewards of these insightful postings.

As some probably noticed from my first line, I’m currently deployed in Iraq. I even had the honor of briefly meeting you earlier in the week. I can attest to the accuracy and fair representation your reports have given regarding the situation on the ground here. Many of us had wondered about the statement “Keeping Them Honest” and questioned just who it was that you were going to keep honest – the politicians, the military, or perhaps the journalists themselves. Regardless, you are commended for risking your safety while traveling to a war zone to be the eyes and ears of the world.

Keep up the great work, stay true to yourself, and may the remainder of your trip be a safe as possible.

Will - Baghdad, Iraq
Posted By Anonymous : 11:33 AM ET
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