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Smart Pressures Congress For AMBER Alert Legislation

Aired March 13, 2003 - 22:00   ET


AARON BROWN, HOST: Good evening again, everyone. There is an "Alice in Wonderland" quality about the last couple of days. The return of Elizabeth Smart on the one hand, the pending war with Iraq on the other.
Perhaps on any day in it, any time, the Smart case would have been a winner. But coming as it did, after weeks of such difficult news, and the prospects of even more difficult days ahead, seems to make the Smart case even more wonderful than it otherwise would have been.

It's not just that we are on the edge of war, and that like any war we are going to lose some good young men and probably some young women, too. It is also that we seem on the edge of a profound change in the country's international alliances. And while we Americans can and often do play down such things, we ought not kid ourselves either. These relationships are important and they need tending.

It is a whole lot more fun and satisfying to talk about the return of a 15-year-old to her family. Even with all the questions still to be answered about this child, it beats talking about war. In that regard, we've earned a reprieve of the last couple of days. The Iraq debate is still going on, and we still report it, but the earth has shifted at U.N. in the last 24 hours.

The same characters are making the same arguments; we didn't miss a thing and won't. Nor will we apologize for reporting the Smart case. It's simply not just a matter of interests, it is interesting. And if it doesn't have the huge implications of war, it has importance of its own.

It reminds us all that, in a cynical world, hope still has its place. And sometimes maintaining that hope is rewarding. Not a bad lesson.

It's the Smart case that leads The Whip once again. You probably figured. Jeanne Meserve in Salt Lake City tonight. Jeanne, a headline from you.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, today, a story of near misses. Elizabeth Smart held just miles from her house for months. Elizabeth and her alleged captors walking the streets of Salt Lake City, unrecognized. One of Elizabeth's alleged captures picked up by sheriff's deputies in San Diego, California, and then released because no one knew who he was. BROWN: Jeanne, thank you. Back to you at the top tonight.

The Smarts have also gotten involved in a political fight in Washington. Jonathan Karl has that from Capitol Hill tonight. Jon, a headline from you.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Elizabeth Smart's father stoked that very strange political fight here on Capitol Hill by lashing out at a Republican congressman for not quickly creating a nationwide Amber Alert program. Democrats jumped on the bandwagon, and that congressman held firm.

BROWN: Jon, thank you.

Iraq now, and what's become of another U.N. resolution. Richard Roth has that for us. Richard, a headline.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, many arguments are between two people. Broaden it to 15 and you have got the U.N. Security Council. Tonight, hopelessly deadlocked on a variety of Iraq issues -- Aaron.

BROWN: Terrific, Richard.

And the White House strategy now. Chris Burns has the duty. Chris, the headline from you tonight.

CHRIS BURNS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, some intense dialing for diplomacy here. In fact, so intense the president had to cancel at the last minute one of his appearances today. And while the White House is now fudging on President Bush's vow to carry out this U.N. vote come heck or high water, they are making crystal clear that the president does see the authorization to move against Iraq militarily with existing U.N. resolutions -- Aaron.

BROWN: Chris, thank you. Back with all of you shortly.

Also coming up tonight, Thursday the 13th of March, Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense, and his habit of making headlines with a small but blunt comment. We will look at whether the defense secretary and his straight talk causing diplomatic trouble at a time when the country has its hands full.

And a visit to Kent State. Feelings about a new war at a place where the legacy of an old war remains etched in our memories. That's "Segment 7" tonight.

Lots to do in the hour ahead. We begin with Elizabeth Smart and something unfortunate that crept into the coverage today, the question: Why didn't she try to escape? There's something faintly accusing about that, putting the burden not on the culprits, but on a child who was stolen from her home, from her bedroom. And as her dad said today, appears to have been brainwashed.

The key questions on our minds are these: How is she doing, really doing? What has she been through? Who's responsible? And was something missed that could have and should have brought her home sooner? We begin with CNN's Jeanne Meserve.



MESERVE (voice-over): A reunion so joyous, Elizabeth's grandmother called it Thanksgiving in March. Family members say they are not jeopardizing the celebration or Elizabeth's mental health by pressing her for details of what she has been through these past nine months.

SMART: I think that what is going to come out is going to come out. And I just -- I don't have it in me to try and make this harder than it is for her.

MESERVE: Helicopters roared over the mountains behind the Smart home, locating the campsite where police say Elizabeth was held for two months after being taken from her bedroom at knifepoint by David Brian Mitchell. One of Elizabeth's aunts says a panhandler approached her within a day or two of the abduction as she picked up fliers to be used in the search. She believes the man was Brian Mitchell and that he may have recognized her.

ANGELA SMART DUMKEY, ELIZABETH'S AUNT: He was with a woman and her hair was tied back in a little light scarf. And they were in the garb.

MESERVE: The woman might have been Wanda Barzee, identified Mitchell's wife. Elizabeth wasn't with them. But the trio did come back to Salt Lake later, staying for a time at this apartment and shopping at this store. A salesperson found the relationship of the women to Mitchell unusual.

ERIN JOHNSON, GROCERY STORE CLERK: Very, very passive. I have never heard them speak a word. And they always walk behind him.

MESERVE: For several months, the three camped out near San Diego. In February, Mitchell was arrested for breaking into a church and held by the county sheriff for six days. By then, Salt Lake police had identified the man known to the Smarts as Emmanuel as Mitchell, but they had not issued a bulletin and Mitchell was let go.

CHIEF RICK DINSE, SALT LAKE CITY POLICE DEPT.: In hindsight it's 20-20 vision. If we had to go back over it again, that decision by the investigators, I think every and each one of them would say, I wish we had gone public with that photograph sooner.

MESERVE: But Sandy Police say initially Elizabeth identified herself as the daughter of Mitchell and Barzee. And although she was often in public, she apparently never tried to escape.


MESERVE: Chief Dinse says he believes he knows whether or not Elizabeth Smart was sexually abused during her captivity, but he isn't telling the media. He also says that Mitchell, as part of his religious beliefs, believed in polygamy. But, again, he will not tell the press whether or not Mitchell viewed Elizabeth as one of his wives. Back to you, Aaron.

BROWN: Well, to the extent that that question becomes important, the eventual charges that I assume will be filed will answer that. Tell us what you know and what you have been able to find out about the moment that police came upon her. What she said, what they said.

MESERVE: Well, I just talked to a couple of the officers from Sandy just a few moments ago. They had gotten a 9/11 call. A woman who I spoke to earlier today said she recognized him immediately because his picture has been in the news here recently. Never thought to look at the women or digest whether one of them might be Elizabeth.

The policemen came, one of them said he immediately recognized the man. The other police officer said he immediately recognized Elizabeth as Elizabeth, because her face has been everywhere in this city for the nine months since she disappeared. They say that, at first, she identified herself as Augustine, a daughter of the two people who we now know are Mitchell and Barzee. It was only late in the interrogation when they sort of separated her from then when she told them who she really was, that she was Elizabeth Smart.

BROWN: Jeanne, thank you. Jeanne Meserve in Salt Lake tonight. Thank you.

An enormous amount of mystery still on this story. We will get more on it tonight from a local reporter who has been covering since it began nine months ago. Pat Reavy writes for the "Deseret News". We talked with him last night. He joins us again tonight.

Pat, it's good to see you. Add to what Jeanne reported on the moment that the Sandy Police officers came upon Elizabeth and the others. What do you know about what transpired? What she said? How she said it?

PAT REAVY, STAFF WRITERS "DESERET NEWS": Well, I know that she was evasive. She didn't really say, hey, it's me, it's Elizabeth or rescue me. She actually acted like one of them speaking in verse, actually. She said to the officers, I know you think I am Elizabeth Smart, or I know you think I'm the girl you're looking for, but I'm not.

The officers said, no, look, we know who you are. You're Elizabeth Smart. And then she would say things like thou say it, or things that -- I guess in scripture or in verse is the way she would talk to them.

BROWN: I assume you have been talking to everyone that you can get on the phone today. I assume you have been talking to police. Did they give you any sense of what brainwashing means in this case?

REAVY: Not really. I mean, questions have been asked. Was she drugged? Was it the Stockholm Syndrome? Was it psychological impairment, I guess is what we have to believe. But why she went along with it for so long. And it seems obvious she had chances to escape. When Mitchell was in jail for six days in San Diego, obviously it would be one time. It seemed like he wasn't watching her.

She had plenty of time to escape. It seems like she, I guess, became one of them. And for a lack of a better word, I guess, what is being used by both her father Ed Smart and police is brainwashing. How that occurred, I think that's not known yet.

BROWN: Someone suggested, having watched the press conferences last night, that the police taking credit for this moment is a little bit like a barking dog take credit for the full moon. Is there unease, if you will, between political authorities, between the Smart family, and the police who investigated the case?

REAVY: I think by now it's pretty well been documented that the Smarts and the police maybe were, say, tense or tensions were growing in the days leading up to finding Elizabeth. They felt that more emphasis should be put on this Emmanuel or Mitchell character. Less emphasis on Ricci.

Maybe they felt police had blinders on or they were too narrowly focused in on Richard Ricci as opposed to putting more manpower or effort into Mitchell. Today, both sides seem to have buried the hatchet. Members of the Smart family even coming out and joining police with their news conference this afternoon.

So I think if there was anything ill feelings (UNINTELLIGIBLE) toward the Smart family and the police, that's been buried now. And I don't be think you are going to hear anymore of that. They're just happy for the end result.

Now there are others, however. There are rumors speculating about maybe some other city officials felt that this wasn't handled in the best way. There is a rumor that the mayor of Salt Lake City may call for an investigation into his department, into his police department, maybe why wasn't this handled better? Why wasn't more emphasis put into Mitchell, after so many weeks on the Smarts saying, look at this guy, look at this guy.

Now I talked to the mayor's spokesman late this afternoon, asked him about that. All he would say is that the mayor will make a statement when the time is appropriate. And I asked him whether he was happy with his police department or dissatisfied. Again, the only answer was at some point the mayor plans to release a statement. For now, he just feels now is not the time.

BROWN: Well, we will wait and see what he has to say. Pat, thank you. Pat Reavy of the "Deseret News" who has been covering the story and helping us out as well.

We were struck by Elizabeth's father yesterday that in this joy, in this extraordinary moment, there was also rage. It was aimed squarely at the U.S. House of Representatives for failing to pass a bill to make Amber Alert a national law. We'll admit, we were surprised this was even a thorny issue.

The wisdom of a nationwide system to spot missing children seemed to us like a no-brainier. But then again, this is a no-brainier, too. Politics is never simple. Here is our congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl.


SMART: It's real.

KARL (voice-over): Amidst the euphoria, Ed Smart lashed out angrily at Congress for not yet creating a national Amber Alert program to help find missing kids. His anger was directed specifically at the Wisconsin congressman who chairs the Judiciary Committee.

SMART: I am asking all of the constituents of Wisconsin to call Jim Sensenbrenner to know that this has got to come standalone legislation. That it is not something that can wait one more time day. Lives are lost, and the blood of those children is on someone's head.

KARL: Flanked by House Republicans later in the afternoon, Sensenbrenner stood firm.

REP. JIM SENSENBRENNER (R-WI), JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN: Now I am not prepared to let go the improvements in the law relative to child abductions.

KARL: The Senate has passed the standalone bill Ed Smart demands, but in the House, Sensenbrenner favors Amber Alert as part of a comprehensive bill, including measures to crack down on crimes against children.

SENSENBRENNER: We want to make kids safer. One of the ways to make kids safer is to get them back home when an abduction takes place. But given the very, very high recidivism rate of those who commit sex crimes against children and who abduct children, we'll make kids much safer by preventing those crimes from taking place to begin with the other provisions in the bill.

KARL: Those other provisions include a minimum 20-year sentence for kidnapping, a two strike and you're out provision mandating a life sentence for twice-convicted sex offenders. And a $20 million grant for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The head of that organization jumped to Sensenbrenner's defense.

ROBBIE CALLAWAY, NATIONAL CENTER FOR MISSING AND EXPLOITED CHILDREN: I know the Smart family. I happened to feel very bad this morning, though, when Ed Smart chose to direct his anger to Capitol Hill. It's not where the problem is. And if you are watching, Ed, you know me. The problem is not here.


KARL: But the problem, in a sense, is here on Capitol Hill. The Congress -- the Senate has twice passed unanimously the standalone Amber Alert bill. And the House last year passed overwhelming with almost no dissent Sensenbrenner's more comprehensive bill, which also includes Amber Alert. But, Aaron, it's Civics 101. Until both chambers pass the same bill it can't become law.

BROWN: Do the Republicans or does Congressman Sensenbrenner feel like he s been hurt pretty bad badly like this, or it's a day or two story and it goes away?

KARL: Well he has certainly felt the sting. I mean this was a highly unusual event for him to come out and hold this press conference flanked by all of these people. He certainly wasn't intending on doing that until, once again, Mr. Smart came out and attacked him.

So he's clearly feeling the heat on this. And the House has moved up his more comprehensive bill. It was something they were going to do as part of a theme week later in the month. They're now going to do it next week and hope to pass that more comprehensive bill yet again next week and then put the pressure back on the Senate, saying, if you want Amber Alert, take up this larger bill.

BROWN: Jon, thank you. Jonathan Karl on Capitol Hill tonight. It's funny how they move those things up, though.

Ahead on NEWSNIGHT, the latest on the Iraq situation, as the diplomats and military planners make what could be well their final moves before a war.

And later tonight, we'll look at whether Donald Rumsfeld's off- the-cuff comments -- if they are off of the cuff -- about Iraq are getting him in hot water. This is NEWSNIGHT on CNN.


BROWN: On to Iraq now, and in one sentence: It's a mess. The resolution to impose a deadline of March 17th, that would be next Monday, may not get voted on by next Monday. It isn't clear what the Security Council will actually consider, but it does seem clear it won't cast a vote this week.

And after all that has gone on this week, after all of the phone calls, all the arm-twisting, the wordsmithing, all of it, it is not out of the question tonight, despite the president's assertion of a week ago, that there may not be a vote at all. We have a series of reports on Iraq tonight, beginning with CNN's Andrea Koppel.


ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Diplomatic disarray, as the Bush administration reverses course on a timetable for U.N. action. Secretary of State Powell saying the U.S. might not call for a U.N. vote after all.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: The options remain, go for a vote and see what members say, or not go for a vote. KOPPEL: Just last week, President Bush insisted that Security Council members, including those opposed, France, Russia, and China, would all have to show their cards.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And yes, we will call for a vote. No matter what the whip count is, we are calling for a vote.

KOPPEL: The White House defended the sudden shift.

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What you are seeing is the president going the last mile on behalf of diplomacy.

KOPPEL: Among the reasons for the mixed messages, the U.S. is still at least one vote short of the nine necessary to pass a second resolution. Chile and Mexico remain undecided. A desire to accommodate British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who desperately wants more time to get U.N. cover ahead of any war with Iraq. An explicit threat a French veto no matter what, including a French rejection ahead of Iraq of the latest British proposal to offer Baghdad benchmarks to test its willingness to disarm.

POWELL: Instantly, one member of the Council, one of the permanent members, dismissed it out of hand. They said they will veto anyway. They're going to veto anything, any language. Anything that comes along they said they would veto. And shortly thereafter, Iraq rejected it.

KOPPEL (on camera): But Powell also indicated the U.S. isn't sold on the British proposal either. Now with only days away from the March 17 deadline, diplomacy has reached a fevered pitch. French officials say there was no breakthrough when a phone call between French Foreign Minister de Villepin and Secretary Powell on Wednesday, both sides stressing the importance of Council unity, hoping to avoid a veto and a Council showdown, but for very different reasons.

Andrea Koppel, CNN, at the State Department.


BROWN: At the Pentagon today, orders went out authorizationing the movement of warships from the Mediterranean into the Red Sea. Those ships carry cruise missiles, which are likely to be used in the opening days of a war, should it come to be. And at the White House now, President Bush today made his first public appearance of the week.

You just saw a moment ago the first pictures we've seen of him without a phone in his hand. CNN's Chris Burns has the duty tonight. We go back to the White House. And Chris, good evening.

BURNS: Good evening, Aaron. Yes, the president managing to put the phone down to meet with Bertie Ahern, the Irish prime minister who managed to actually make a plug for a peaceful resolution through the United Nations. Moments later, the president was to take a motorcade to Congress to celebrate a little bit early St. Patrick's. However, that motorcade was scrapped. At least he sent his vice president on his way in his stead, as the president continued with this telephone diplomacy, trying to win over possible votes on the U.N. Security Council, even though it looks less and less likely. Will there be a vote? The White House is increasingly saying it may actually go without it. That this is actually the diplomatic end game, according to Ari Fleischer.


FLEISCHER: The end is coming into sight, and there are numerous routes to reach that end through the diplomacy the president is pursuing. And the president has said that he seeks a vote, and we seek a vote.


BURNS: Meanwhile, the National Security Council meeting with the president in the morning. Among them, of course, Secretary of State Colin Powell there, obviously talking about Iraq and the question of whether they should go ahead with this vote or not.

Now, the question also, will the U.S. go ahead with a war against Iraq without that U.N. resolution? That is quite possible. The argument made by Ari Fleischer earlier today, saying that there are existing U.N. resolutions authorizing the president to go ahead to attack Iraq, to disarm it. In his words, "There is no question the president has the authority" -- Aaron.

BROWN: Chris, thank you. Chris Burns at the White House tonight.

It was another day of consultations at United Nations. A great deal being said about Great Britain's proposal, but also we're hearing inklings of an alternative proposal being discussed by the undecided members, the non-aligned countries of the Security Council. CNN's Richard Roth has been following developments on that score. So we go back across town to the U.N. -- Richard.

ROTH: Aaron, another round of consultations and another round of deadlock. They're hopelessly wandering in the Security Council. The room, though, was packed. Described at fire safety levels.

Here at the Security Council, it was Britain's day, as the U.S. and Russia walked in. Britain getting the responses from governments around the world to their benchmarks ideas. Six ideas to give Iraq tests of cooperation on disarmament issues. But the response was very lukewarm. Opponents of the benchmarks, including Chile and Mexico, those undecided members, were dominant inside the room, while the U.S. just kept the warnings coming.


GUNTER PLEUGER, GERMAN AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: In the center of the discussion was a British proposal. And at the end, I think it turned out that this proposal has not majority support in the Council. JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIERE, FRENCH AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: What we have said very, very clearly is that we say no to any resolution authorizing the use of force in the current circumstances, because we consider that progress can be made toward the goal of disarmament.

JOHN NEGROPONTE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: We're willing to go the extra mile, but at the same time, I would have to say that time is really running out.


ROTH: Another U.S. official said the reaction in the room to the British benchmarks was minimal. Chile, Pakistan, Mexico are going to continue on some of their own ideas. They'd like to incorporate the so-called benchmarks of Hans Blix, who was already due to present them in a matter of weeks. That'll be accelerated.

His ideas, the British ideas are going to collide. There is no idea that the United States is going to wait around for this. They're still tied up in knots -- Aaron.

BROWN: Then, just take the last scenario, that the United States is not going to wait around for this. How, then, does the end game play?

ROTH: Well, the U.S. could say, that's it, the deal is over. The deal that President Bush promised, we're not going to put this resolution, the existing one on the table with a deadline of Monday for Iraq to cooperate. They can just take it off of the table.

They could run the gauntlet, get the veto, claim a mortal victory as trying. But they don't even have the nine votes yet on that, so it may not even become a resolution to be considered. You need nine. That's what could be headed down the road, or days more of diplomacy, if these benchmarks are maneuvered around and there is a compromise on it. The U.S. may give it on that and they may need more time to get forces in the area.

BROWN: Richard, thank you. Richard Roth at the U.N. tonight.

Coming up on NEWSNIGHT, we'll continue our look at the situation with Iraq. We'll talk with (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of "The Washington Post" in just a moment for his insights on all of this. They're considerable. Short break first. Around the world, this is NEWSNIGHT.


BROWN: Iraq again or Iraq still -- every Thursday and Sunday, you can open up "The Washington Post" -- a lot of papers around the country, too -- and get a piece of Jim Hoagland's mind. His domain is foreign affairs. His voice has been especially forceful on Iraq, what to do and why. We are pleased to have Mr. Hoagland join us tonight from Washington.

Nice to see you. Let's start with this one. Does it matter? Does it really matter if there is a vote on this resolution or any resolution at the U.N. at this point?

JIM HOAGLAND, COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, it matters very much to Tony Blair, the British prime minister.

When Ari Fleischer was saying in your film clip earlier that the president is going the last mile, what he really means is, the president's going the last mile to try to help Tony Blair gain some legitimacy and credibility against very strong public opinion and against members of his own party, who are not enthused about going to war with Iraq.

So, this is about British domestic politics, to a great extent. Blair seems to think that his problems would have been eased by this second resolution. I wonder if, today, he doesn't think it was a miscalculation and we would have been better off, from his standpoint and from President Bush's standpoint, not to pursue this time- consuming and very convoluted procedure now.

BROWN: I understand why President Bush might feel that way. Why, given the politics that Mr. Blair finds himself in, would he feel that way?

HOAGLAND: Well, here's the squeeze that he faces.

If we cannot get nine votes, if he and President Bush cannot get nine votes for their position, the resolution fails. And he, then, is faced with having to admit that he tried to get a second resolution, couldn't. It also may affect his legal position. Britain takes a very serious view of the legal basis for going to war. He has to get a favorable opinion from his attorney general.

And the confusion that's been created around the question of authority for staging military attacks now probably hurts him as much as it helps him in the long run.

BROWN: I hate to sound as cynical as I'm about to, but I've had this feeling for a while that what we are seeing over at the U.N. is theater. It's a kind of dance, that everybody knows where this is going, everybody's positions are clear, and they are just playacting.

HOAGLAND: I agree with that assessment.

Minds are not only made up at the U.N., but they are closed. You're not going to move France. You're not going to move President Bush. I think we're two weeks, perhaps a maximum three weeks, away from war. And I think many people in the United States are beginning to feel that it's time to get on with it.

It's interesting. You see polls now showing people blaming the U.N. for mismanaging the situation and saying that they support -- the majority of Americans now seem to support President Bush going to war without U.N., a second resolution. It's important to emphasize that the administration contends -- and I would say legitimately so -- that it has authority in Resolution 1441, but also really in all the resolutions, the one in particular, 686, that established the cease- fire, that Saddam Hussein has broken time and again. BROWN: We've got about a minute.

You've written recently about the military's view of this, the commanders' view of this, how they were not exactly thrilled at the prospect of going back. They are prepared for it now. You talk a bit about why you believe that pulling out is an unacceptable end to this.

HOAGLAND: Well, the costs of pulling out have become very, very high now, not only monetary costs for having gone this far, the political costs for George W. Bush in backing off, but the way in which it will -- an American retreat at this point would strengthen Saddam Hussein's hand.

Economic sanctions would have to come off if we are saying that he is not a threat. There would have to be a great increase in the Iraqi sales. He would have more money. He would become, again, a very strong threat to U.S. interests in the region and perhaps globally.

BROWN: Jim, it's good to talk to you again. I hope you will come back again soon as this thing continues to play out. Jim Hoagland, who writes in "The Washington Post" and is syndicated in lot of papers around the country, thank you.

HOAGLAND: Thank you.

BROWN: Still to come on NEWSNIGHT: desert weather and the Marines, dealing with it. That's what they do. We will take to you the front lines; and the secretary of defense under fire.

Stay with us. We have more. This is NEWSNIGHT from New York.


BROWN: And next on NEWSNIGHT: the sand vs. the Marines. We'll take you to the front lines in Kuwait.

A short break first.


BROWN: Well, as I guessed you've figured out, another now in our series of bulletins from the front lines.

Embedding is the word the Defense Department uses to describe it. In this case, though, embedding has less to do with where the correspondent is stuck than what's stuck in the correspondent, and the Marines, and just about everything and everyone else exposed to the elements -- the elements in this case, sand.

Here's CNN's Martin Savidge.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Our first night in the desert with the 1st Battalion 7th Marines and it was all hands on deck. A powerful sandstorm ripped into the camp and threatened to tear our tent apart. Marines inside and outside worked to reinforce poles and stitch up holes. The desert was winning and pouring in so heavily, the leathernecks had to put on goggles and surgical masks just to see and breathe. Fighting the elements is a nonstop battle for the marines.

As they worked, raids are used to talk to the guards outside to see how they are riding out the storm. That's yours truly settled down for the night.

Daylight didn't change things much. For the thousands of marines based here just 30 miles from the Iraqi border, life still has to go on. Ours wasn't the only tent that had suffered in the night. And this isn't the first one they faced, and not likely to be the last. And since many of them trained in the California desert, some say there are a lot of things here that remind them of home.

(on camera): The winds are supposed to remain like this for the rest of the day. After that, though, the weather forecast changes. Remember all those holes in the tents? Tonight they're predicting rain. For the marines, it's just another day in the desert.

Martin Savidge, CNN, northern Kuwait.


BROWN: Years ago, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld laid out a set of rules to live by. One of the rules went like this: Don't divide the world into us and them. His critics say he has broken that one with Iraq, that things he has said have divided the world into us and everyone else, causing a serious falling-out with old friends. His supporters say, hey, lighten up. It's just Rumsfeld being Rumsfeld. Either way, those drab-sounding Pentagon briefings have definitely become must-see TV for much of the world.

Here's CNN's Jamie McIntyre.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With his penchant for ironic understatement, even Donald Rumsfeld might concede some of his recent remarks have been minimally helpful.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: So, it would be not like me to jump in and be critical unfairly.

MCINTYRE: Take Tuesday, for example, when Rumsfeld casually suggested, it didn't really matter if Great Britain was on board to go to war with Iraq.

RUMSFELD: To the extent they are not, there are work-arounds and they would not be involved, at least in that phase of it.

MCINTYRE: At question time in the British Parliament, Tony Blair took the heat. IAIN DUNCAN SMITH, CONSERVATIVE PARTY LEADER: The prime minister's big tent surely is not big enough to include both the international development secretary and Donald Rumsfeld. Surely, it's time for him to choose. Which is it?

MCINTYRE: And Rumsfeld recanted. No way to treat an ally, critics say.

MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: I think Mr. Rumsfeld in this situation has been a bit a loose cannon. It's just not been constructive in any meaningful way.

MCINTYRE: Loose cannon or straight shooter? This shoot-from- the-hip response angered two European allies.

RUMSFELD: Now, you're thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don't. I think that's old Europe.

MCINTYRE: The old-Europe label was lampooned in editorial cartoons, while the 70-year-old Rumsfeld insisted, at his age, old was a term of endearment.

A few weeks later, protests greeted Rumsfeld's arrival in Germany, where headlines called for his resignation. The offense: In congressional testimony, he lumped Germany in with Libya and Cuba as countries not supporting war against Iraq. "I was just answering a question" was Rumsfeld's unapologetic defense.

CHARLES DOLAN, COMMISSION ON PUBLIC DIPLOMACY: Calling countries old Europe and comparing them to Cuba -- these are our allies. These are our friends. Sticking our finger in their eyes is not a great way of making more friends.

MCINTYRE: Some do find Rumsfeld's bluntness appealing. And he often complains that way too much is made of what he intends as innocuous observations.

RUMSFELD: Now, the last time I was asked this, I responded to a question. And the headlines across the world said terrible, terrible things had come out of my mouth, none of which ever came out of my mouth.

MCINTYRE: If Rumsfeld is causing trouble for his boss, he insists President Bush hasn't complained to him about it.

(on camera): While some seem to believe that Rumsfeld may be playing the role of Bush administration hatchet man, cutting opponents of U.S. policy down to size, aides close to him insist it's simply Rumsfeld being Rumsfeld and that his undiplomatic musings may fit the classic Washington definition of a gaffe: accidentally telling the truth.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BROWN: A few more stories before we go to break, starting with the controversial vote in Congress today: The Senate voted to outlaw a specific kind of late-term abortion, a procedure that's come to be known by its critics as partial-birth abortion. The vote was 64-33, the measure expected to sail through the House.

If it does, it would be the first time Congress criminalized a specific form of abortion. And a Supreme Court challenge looks like a certainty. The court knocked down a Nebraska law that was quite similar to the bill passed by Congress today.

Over at the House side, lawmakers approved a bill capping medical malpractice damages for pain and suffering at $250,000. The White House strongly supports the measure. It faces a tough fight in the Senate.

A judge in Los Angeles today ordered Robert Blake tried for murder. His former bodyguard will stand trial for conspiracy. That ended a long pretrial hearing, but not before the judge set bail for Mr. Blake, $1.5 million.

And actor Christopher Reeve may be soon breathing full-time, without the aid of a respirator. He underwent experimental surgery recently, doctors implanting a kind of pacemaker for the muscles that control his breathing in the diaphragm. He can now go two hours without help. His voice is coming back, his sense of smell coming back, too. He put it this way at a news conference today: "I can now wake up and smell the coffee."

Ahead on NEWSNIGHT, we'll check tomorrow morning's papers from around the country and around the world.

In segment seven tonight: a new generation, a new war at a place marked by Vietnam, Kent State University.



BROWN: Next on NEWSNIGHT, you'll want to watch, too, tomorrow morning's papers from around the country and around the world.


BROWN: OK, time again for morning papers, tomorrow morning's papers from around -- well, you know -- around the country and around the world. How many times do I have to say it?

Everybody in the states that we've seen is basically leading the same, OK? "USA Today": If you are on the road tomorrow, this is what you will get at your hotel front door: "Elizabeth's Journey" up at the top. And that's one of the number of pictures that have been released. It's a nice one. "Teen Camped Out Near Home, Wore Veil in Public." And they also put Iraq on the front page. Go ahead. "Bush Signals He May Skip U.N." That's "USA Today." Now, "The Boston Herald", a tabloid up in Boston: "She Heard Our Calls: Utah Teen's Bizarre's Life on the Run." They also put Robert Blake on the front page. I don't know. Is that a front-page story? I don't know. Anyway, that's "The Boston Herald." I guess they will probably now cancel my subscription.

"San Francisco Chronicle": "Girl Was Hidden in Plain Sight," Elizabeth Smart story. And Iraq is their big-banner story: "France Rejects British Plan." They also have a nice little story down in the corner on Bush, President Bush: "Calm, Secure in His Decisions on Iraq: Analysts Debate Whether He is Resolute or Reckless." I did that with my glasses on. I'm pretty proud.

"Chicago Sun-Times": "Happy Reunion We Were Praying For." And, again, that's a great family picture, isn't it? Isn't that nice?

OK, the story in "The Detroit Free Press" that's terrific -- anyway, first of all, they lead big with Elizabeth Smart: "Amid Celebration, Questions Intensify." They certainly do. But up in this corner -- how are we doing on time, by the way?


BROWN: Thank you.

"Attendant is Charged With Spiking Tot's Juice." A 19-month- year-old was crying on an airplane. And it is alleged the flight attendant put a Xanax in the juice to calm the kid down. You can't be doing that to children. Anyway, she's in the -- the flight attendant -- I think it's a she -- or he, whatever it is -- is in big-time trouble.

Two pictures, OK? Let's try and do them both. The first one: the guy in the doghouse, OK? The guy in the doghouse, OK? There is the guy in the doghouse, OK? This poor guy, Curtis Robins Sr. (ph) -- well, I am not so sure that I feel that sorry for him -- has been ordered by a judge to spend time in a doghouse because he was convicted, or pled guilty, of beating up on his kid.

And this also in Texas: A bunch of sheep got on the road. I don't know why I picked this one. I just sort of liked it. And I am reasonably sure it will be in the papers somewhere tomorrow, as will all of these.

Still ahead: Kent State University, a place burned in our history by Vietnam, how is it looking at the possibility of war with Iraq?


BROWN: Finally from us tonight, yesterday meets today.

In this case, yesterday was 1970, a different war and a different time. For one thing, the casualties from Vietnam had been coming home for years. For another, there was a draft back then. The war protests in 1970 were not simply large. They were often angry and sometimes violent, and none worse than Kent State. Four people died, shot by the National Guard.

We sent Beth Nissen back to Kent State.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think war is wrong.

BETH NISSEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The most recent anti-war protests on the Kent State campus: a 48-hour hunger strike last weekend involving some 30 students. Like most recent anti-war protests here, the strike drew some attention from the 22,000 students on campus, although most hunched against this winter's sharp cold and walked by. Patrick Bravo was one of the hunger strikers.

PATRICK BRAVO, KENT STATE UNIVERSITY: But, unfortunately, still, there's a silent majority that hasn't spoken that I think needs to come out and be heard.

NISSEN: The silence of Kent State's majority surprises many senior faculty members, given what happened on this campus 33 years ago. National Guard troops opened fire on students protesting the Vietnam War. Four students were killed. Sociology Professor Jerry Lewis was teaching at Kent State on that day, May 4, 1970.

JERRY LEWIS, PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY, KENT STATE UNIVERSITY: The current anti-war activists don't seem so concerned about the legacy of May 4 as I thought they would be. I expected to see the famous poster of Mary Vecchio at rallies, and it hasn't occurred. The level of protest on our campus is very small.

NISSEN: Reporters for the campus newspaper say Kent State students aren't apathetic; they're distracted.

BEN FISCHER, EDITOR, "THE DAILY KENT STATER": Students at Kent State are more concerned about financing higher education and their own pocketbook than the war, at least at the moment.

NISSEN: Rising tuition, heavy student loans, no jobs: Those are the concerns more often voiced by students here.

JEREMY CALDWELL, STUDENT, KENT STATE UNIVERSITY: I think that is in the back of everyone's mind: What's going to happen with me getting a job? How am I going to pay off these loans?

NISSEN: The poor economy has affected campus anti-war sentiment in a another way. A growing number of Kent State students are funding their educations through the military: the National Guard and the Army and Air Force ROTC.

KATIE FECHKO, STUDENT, KENT STATE UNIVERSITY: ROTC is very big on our campus. There's a lot of students involved in it.

ADAM HERMAN, STUDENT, KENT STATE UNIVERSITY: I don't think you could find a student that would say they don't know someone in ROTC.

NISSEN: That's made it hard for some Kent State students to speak out against the war, especially as students they know go off to fight it.

GREG JARVIE, DEAN OF STUDENTS, KENT STATE UNIVERSITY: The last that we looked, we had approximately 50 of our students that have been deployed, have been called up.

NISSEN: As war seems to grow more imminent, day by day, more voices are being raised in protest. This week, Kent State's faculty senate voted more than 2-1 for a resolution opposing a preemptive U.S. war against Iraq want.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The resolution passes.

NISSEN: The student anti-war committee drew its largest crowd yet this week to plan protests likely to draw wider campus support: peace rallies, teach-INS, a die-in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What a die-in is, is that, like, basically, people, like, lie on the ground motionless for a while and just act like they are dead.

NISSEN: Another idea won more immediate approval: an organized walkout of class on the day after the war begins. That is when many here expect to get a true measure of anti-war sentiment at Kent State in a new era.

Beth Nissen, CNN, Kent, Ohio.


BROWN: Good to have you with us tonight. We'll see you tomorrow at 10:00 Eastern.

Good night.


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