Skip to main content
Search
Services


 

Return to Transcripts main page

ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Al Qaeda Claims Responsibility For Failed Attack on Saudi Oil Refinery; Iraqi Leaders Try to Stave Off Civil War; Port Deal Politics

Aired February 24, 2006 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: A lot is going on all throughout this region of the country. Good evening again, everyone. Thanks for joining us.
We are in Waveland, Mississippi, where, for us, nearly six months ago, it all began, and where, for the people here in Waveland, their lives changed forever.

Just for a moment, I want to show you a live picture of Bourbon Street in New Orleans right now. The scene is Mardi Gras. It is Mardi Gras weekend, people throwing beads. There are thousands of people lining the streets. There are jazz bands, and noise, and noise-makers, and people yelling and cheering and happy.

Come back to Waveland now and just listen for a moment to the difference. This is what Waveland sounds like right now. There is silence here, because there is no one live for blocks and blocks and blocks. This area is still devastated.

Take a look. Six months, nearly six months since the storm, this is what Waveland, Mississippi, still looks like. I have got to tell that you, every time we come back, we're reminded of how long the rebuilding may take. And each time we revisit the story, we're struck by the red tape and, frankly, how badly certain agencies organizations have messed things up.

But we're also touched by the strength of the people here. And the people here are so strong and so brave, in spite of it all. So, we're bringing you their stories tonight.

But we begin someplace else, where the destruction did not happen, but, if it had, would have affected every man, woman and child, not just here in Waveland, but all around the world.

Tonight, on a Web site, al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attempted suicide bombing of a major oil refinery complex in eastern Saudi Arabia. Two cars packed with explosives tried and failed to get through the gates and destroy a facility through with flows about two- thirds of the country's oil for export.

With us now, Peter Bergman, CNN terrorist analyst and author of "The Osama bin Laden I Know."

Peter, how does this attempted suicide bombing fit into al Qaeda's broader strategy? PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, you know, Osama bin Laden has specifically called for attacks on Saudi and Iraqi oil facilities.

We have seen a lot of attacks on Iraqi oil facilities. And now we have seen an attack on a Saudi oil facility.

You may remember also, Anderson, that they're have been attacks on oil workers in the kingdom. So, this is something they want to do. They want to jack up the price of oil. They want to damage our economy. They want to damage the Saudi kingdom. And these kinds of attacks do all those things.

COOPER: In -- in a government which has such control as Saudi Arabia, how is it possible that these kind of things can happen? I mean, this is a -- a pretty repressive government.

BERGEN: Well, the Saudi government has actually done quite a good job of cracking down on al Qaeda in the -- in the post-May 2003 era, when there was -- attacks started in Riyadh, against the Saudi establishment, against Western residential sites.

And they have arrested something like 800 people. They have killed maybe 100 militants. And, actually, it has been quite quiet in Saudi Arabia. We haven't seen much activity from al Qaeda in the past year or so.

So, you know, eventually, they're going to get one through. It doesn't take a huge number of people to organize these kinds of attacks.

COOPER: Peter, stick around. We are going to get back to you in just a moment.

We want to move to Iraq, where, unlike Waveland, the destruction is entirely manmade. Right about now, begin in Baghdad are beginning to wake up another day under a curfew, a daytime curfew, this as political and religious leaders try to head off a civil war between Sunni and Shia Muslims, and others keep trying to start one.

More than 132 people have died in sectarian violence since jihadis blew up the Shia shrine in Samarra on Wednesday.

Today, President Bush weighed in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This senseless attack is an affront to people of faith throughout the world.

The United States strongly condemns this cowardly act of terror and the subsequent attacks on other mosques and holy sites in Iraq. We will do everything in our power to help the Iraqi government identify and bring to justice those responsible for the terrorist acts.

This is a moment of choosing for the Iraqi people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: "A moment of choosing for the Iraqi people."

For the most part, today, it was quiet, though gunmen fired rockets at a Shia burial ground south of Baghdad. But quiet is not the same as calm. So, even as clerics on both sides of the divide, Sunni and Shia, are preaching caution, there are militias. There are armed militias, because, in Iraq, clerics do have militias. They're getting ready for the worst.

Reporting on that tonight, here's CNN's Aneesh Raman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Clad in black, guns raised, these are the men who many say could bring civil war to Iraq. Unemployed, young, they're followers of anti-American Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

PROFESSOR JUAN COLE, MIDDLE EAST ANALYST, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN: The Mahdi militia is drawn mainly from yet -- ghetto youth.

RAMAN: Impoverished Shia youth born into a desperate situation, often looking for a fight, whether against the Americans, who they clashed with in 2004, killing nearly a dozen U.S. forces in the process, or against the rival Shia militia, the Badr Brigade, who they have battled repeatedly in the Shia south. They are, says an expert in the Middle East, committed.

COLE: The puritanism of the Muqtada al-Sadr movement gives them something to do in life. Certainly, the Iraqi economy is a mess.

RAMAN: Based in the slums of Sadr City, where the Iraqi security forces rarely go, the Mahdi militia has, up to now, not launched all- out war on the Sunnis, in large part because they have been told not to by Sadr and by the country's Shia spiritual leader, the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who have, up until now, told the Mahdi militia to show restraint.

But that is no longer the case. Wednesday's attack enraged Shia and set the Mahdi militia on the attack against their Sunni foes. And now the question is, are they beyond control, out of control, the force that could push Iraq into a civil war?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Aneesh Raman joins us now.

And, Aneesh, stay with us. We want to bring back in Peter Bergen, and also "TIME" magazine's Michael Ware, for a conversation on what exactly is going on.

Michael, is -- is this what the insurgency has wanted all along, the brink of a full-blown sectarian war? MICHAEL WARE, BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF, "TIME": Well, Anderson, this is what one particular part of the insurgency has wanted, that is, the al Qaeda element, driven by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

From the very beginning, even with differences to Osama bin Laden, he has tried to bring on this sectarian war. However, the bulk of the insurgency, the Baathists, the former Iraqi military, this is not what they are seeking, and this is not something that I think that they believe they can gain from. The only winners from this would be al Qaeda.

COOPER: Aneesh, imposing a daytime curfew has -- has kept tensions at a low today. But, I mean, long term, what is the strategy for a cease-fire?

RAMAN: Well, Anderson, there's none at the moment.

These extraordinary daytime curfew are quick fixes. They keep the sectarian tensions off the streets. They do not resolve them. Politically, there are battles among leaders, in terms of how to deal with this situation. The Shia leaders have called for calm, but they have also called for continued protests. They have stopped short of condemning the reprisal attacks against the Sunnis.

So, at best, this has set Iraq back months, in terms of bridging sectarian divides. At worst, of course, the violence will still escalate -- Anderson.

COOPER: Peter, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said today, "I do think there is concern that the sectarian tensions that outsiders are stoking in Iraq might try to stoke sectarian tensions in other parts of the region."

How realistic is that scenario?

BERGEN: Well, I think it's quite realistic.

I mean, we have already seen a kind of low-grade civil war in Pakistan between the Shia and Sunnis, which has going beyond -- going on for years. We have got hundreds of people dying in -- in Pakistan in these kinds of communal violence.

And the fact that these Shia sites, the holiest sites of all are in Iraq, and they're being attacked, I think is going to resonate around the Shia world. And a -- you know, the -- the oil -- the oil attack we just referred to earlier in Saudi Arabia, of course, is in a largely Shia area.

All the important oil facilities in Saudi are basically in Shia- dominated areas, in the east of Saudi Arabia. If it did spill over into a regional problem, we have got a -- a very large problem, not just a -- a huge problem in Iraq, but also around the region.

COOPER: Michael, if it turns out that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was behind the initial attack, does that drive a further wedge between the insurgents and al Qaeda, or is that just wishful thinking? WARE: Well, it -- it could play into that. It could very much be a factor.

I mean, the Baathists, for them, this is very much a political fight. They cloak themselves in nationalist garb. And we have seen in the past, in fact, particularly during the -- the heady days in the conflict in 2004, where we saw the Baathist insurgents cooperating and sharing technology and know-how with the Shia militia of Muqtada al- Sadr.

So, there has been common ground there before against a common enemy, being the U.S. forces. So, this could play into that divide. I mean, this is what Zarqawi has been screaming for. And this is what the old guard of al Qaeda has been telling him to calm down, to pull away from this brink. Clearly, he has no intention of doing that.

COOPER: Aneesh, a "Wall Street Journal" editorial suggests, the recent fighting might actually help Iraq in the long run, and they said -- and I quote -- "It could equally be that this week's glimpse of hell will be the medicine that pushes Iraq away from the brink, and the best revenge isn't further violence, but a successful government that progressively and permanently marginalizes those who have done them harm.'

Could this, ultimately, lead everyday Iraqis to rise up against this violence that they really, heretofore, haven't risen up against?

RAMAN: Well, it could.

But given what we have seen over the past few years, in all likelihood, it won't. The divides here are deepening on a daily basis. These are viscerally emotional outbursts by the Shia and by the Sunnis, not wholly rationally thought out.

And, so, if Iraq is able to keep itself from going off that cliff into all-out civil war, what happened on Wednesday in the reprisal attacks against Sunnis, those issues will simply go on the back- burner. They can be reignited at any moment. Between Tuesday and Wednesday, this country completely changed. And that can happen again.

COOPER: Aneesh Raman, please stay safe.

Peter Bergen, thank you.

And -- and, Michael Ware, from "TIME" magazine, as always, thanks for talking, Michael.

Playing politics with port security -- that is coming up. The president says a company owned by an Arab country should control six of the nation's busiest ports. But now the plan has been delayed. And it seems the White House wants it that way. We will tell you why.

Also, South Dakota is now just a signature away from banning virtually all abortions -- that's right, all abortions. Our own legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, calls it a potential legal earthquake. We will talk to him coming up.

And, tonight, Katrina's ground zero -- a return to Gulfport, Mississippi, to see what has happened since the eye of the hurricane passed over it -- we are in Gulfport -- and -- and also in Waveland, and New Orleans, and all throughout the Gulf tonight, and in the coming days.

From Mississippi and around the world, you're watching 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you're never prepared for this. We did a lot of our crying earlier. But there's a lot more crying to be done, because a lot of people lost their lives. They lost everything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: "They lost everything."

We have returned to Waveland, Mississippi, tonight. It has been nearly six months since Hurricane Katrina. And, as you can see behind me, time -- well, time has stood still.

The destruction that reduced much of this city to rubble remains, but so does the will to rebuild, both homes and lives. We will have more from Waveland in just a moment, including an interview with this woman, Pauline Conaway (ph). You may remember her.

When I spoke to her just three days after Katrina, we found her in a ditch, looking at the few things the storm had left behind. Her tears are something I don't think any of us will ever forget.

That was then. What is her life like now? We will have an update.

But, first, as bad as it was here, the full force of Katrina's fury was felt just about 30 miles east of here, in Gulfport. That's where the eye of the storm crossed over, obliterating nearly everything in its path.

CNN's Gary Tuchman in the in Gulfport then, actually in the eye of the storm. And he has returned tonight -- Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, hello to you.

And we come to you -- come to you from one of the destroyed businesses here in Gulfport, Mississippi, population, 71,000. On the morning of August 29, 2005, I stood right outside this business in downtown Gulfport, and we watched Hurricane Katrina come in, ruining a beautiful city.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TUCHMAN (voice-over): On August 29, the Mississippi city of Gulfport became part of the Gulf. No levees broke here. This was storm surge.

This city of 71,000 people was hit by the dangerous eastern side of Hurricane Katrina's eye wall. We chose Gulfport to ride out the storm, using our portable videophone, which makes it easier to escape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AUGUST 29, 2005)

TUCHMAN: You can see right here, this railroad crossing has gone down. Ten minutes ago, this was still up. Buildings across the way are losing their roofing.

Windows (INAUDIBLE) windows all over have started breaking. There is extensive damage here. And this is basically, right now, like hell on Earth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN (on camera): Six months later, I stand in the exact same place. Boats are no longer floating in the streets. The water isn't to our waists. And flying sheet metal isn't menacing us. But the city of Gulfport, Mississippi, is a much different place.

(voice-over): At least 95 people in Gulfport and surrounding Harrison County died in the storm. The beachfront on the coastal road U.S.-90 looks like a target site for bombings, even all these months after the hurricane.

The mayor of Gulfport is Brent Warr.

(on camera): Along the beach here, U.S.-90, it's like everything is gone.

BRENT WARR, MAYOR OF GULFPORT, MISSISSIPPI: Yes, sir. Yes. And that's not just Gulfport. That's the whole coast. You know, it's -- it's really about an 80-mile width where pretty much everything is wiped out.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Nearly 5,000 homes in this city were destroyed.

Ron Roland now lives in a FEMA trailer and broke his arm in several plates after falling from it. But he's still just grateful to be alive, after riding the storm out with his son in his heavily- damaged home near the beach.

RON ROLAND, RESIDENT OF GULFPORT, MISSISSIPPI: I kept asking for where the life preservers were. And he kept telling me, there's no life preservers. And I said, well, we are going to have to figure out a way, if the house goes over, to get out this window right here.

TUCHMAN (on camera): On the second floor.

ROLAND: On the second floor. TUCHMAN: And how high did the water get?

ROLAND: It got up about right here, about -- I guess about 10 feet.

TUCHMAN: I can still see the waterline.

ROLAND: Yes. Yes.

TUCHMAN: It looks like -- it looks like it's right here.

ROLAND: Yes. It got up over...

TUCHMAN: Yes.

ROLAND: It got up a little bit over this roofline here.

TUCHMAN: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AUGUST 29, 2005)

TUCHMAN: We have watched the dismantling of a beautiful town, Gulfport, Mississippi.

Many of the buildings near the beach are -- have no roofs anymore, have no windows.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And Gulfport's main business district is right near the beach.

(on camera): Much of downtown Gulfport has been cleaned up. But many parts of it look like they're frozen in time. This place is called the Club, the Home of the Blues, a very popular establishment when it was open. Beer and liquor bottles still sit on the side of a toppled bar, as they have for the past six months.

The sign still reads, "Happy hour seven days." There has not been a happy here in a long time, and there probably won't be.

And, right over here, you can still see a cash register, still sitting in the same place, minus the money. The fact is, many business owners in this area still haven't made the decision whether or not to come back.

(voice-over): Another business destroyed was the city's aquarium. Eight dolphins were washed into the Gulf of Mexico when the facility was inundated by 30-foot waves.

Amazingly, all the dolphins stayed together in the Gulf for more than two weeks and were rescued. They have now been brought to a resort in the Bahamas, where they're entertaining vacationers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AUGUST 29, 2005)

TUCHMAN: It feels like we have had to dodge artillery. And I want to give you a look at what has happened to our vehicle.

Our cameraman, Steve Sorkin (ph), is going to show, five minutes ago, a piece of wood crashed into our vehicle, crashed into the window. And it has put a hole in our window.

So it gives you an idea of what people are facing here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN: And, 10 minutes after that, a huge chunk of fence landed on top of our roof, destroying the back end of the SUV and totalling our vehicle. It seemed like a big deal then.

But that was before we knew the magnitude of what Hurricane Katrina did to communities like Gulfport, Mississippi.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCHMAN: So, for the 26th straight weekend, this blues bar is completely quiet, and so is all of downtown. Really, the only voices I have heard in downtown Gulfport tonight are my own and the CNN crew I'm with right now.

We were talking about time being frozen. Well, it's literally so. We saw a clock on the wall here. And this clock still has water in it. And it says 9:23 a.m. That's when the power went off here in downtown Gulfport on August 29.

The mayor of this city is telling us that, by the summer of 2007, he expects this city to be restored, and even better than ever. However, it's hard to blame people who live here, who, right now, have a tough time conceptualizing that -- Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Gary, I will never forget going to downtown Gulfport the day after the storm, and there was a seal in a parking lot that had been picked up and just dropped by the winds in this parking lot. A woman was there with water, pouring water over it, trying to keep the seal alive.

Finally, when she left, the police came and shot it twice in the head to put it out of its misery -- just one of those many images, I think, I will -- I will certainly never forget.

Gary, thanks for that report.

The controversial Dubai port deal now on hold, but the White House is still backing it. We will have the latest.

But, first, Erica Hill from Headline News joins us with some of the other top stories tonight -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Anderson.

It is all quiet in Phoenix, Arizona, tonight, after a seven-hour hostage scare there on Thursday. People were able to talk down the 42-year-old man who took nine people hostage at a high-rise government office. Now, police say George Curran pulled a gun during a legal proceeding -- his motives, still unclear.

In Green Acres, Florida, police have now found the body of an 8- year-old boy. His disappearance prompted an Amber Alert. Jared Jordan McGuire was found in a pond near his home earlier in the day. Witnesses reported seeing a man with a boy matching Jared's description getting into a van at a shopping plaza.

Rescuers at a collapsed Mexican mine today reached the area where 65 men were believed to be trapped, but they did not find any victims, either alive or dead. They did say, however, the air was unbreathable. Authorities have halted further searching, fearing, high levels of methane could cause a second explosion.

And check out this terrifying scene. Actually, basically, here's the bottom line, Anderson. We haven't had any animal video in a long time, so, on a Friday, mad gorilla rampage. Luckily, the handlers at this Japanese zoo were well trained in situations like this. They practice it once a year, you know.

There you go. You can see the results for yourself. That's right.

(LAUGHTER)

HILL: There's your animal...

COOPER: I -- wait a minute.

HILL: ... of the week, the gorilla.

COOPER: I...

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: I'm totally confused. That was a -- they were actually practicing for a gorilla escape by shooting a guy in a monkey costume?

HILL: Apparently, I mean, since it's probably tough to practice on the real gorilla, because they might not take direction very well.

(LAUGHTER)

HILL: There you go.

COOPER: Well, I guess it's good that they practice.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: You know, you never know when the -- when the gorilla is going to get loose.

HILL: You never know.

COOPER: There you go.

(LAUGHTER) HILL: And, you know, it's no smoking chimp, but, you know, that's -- that's all I got.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: It's pretty darn good for a Friday night.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Erica, thanks.

All right.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Back to reality.

When Hurricane Katrina destroyed the Gulf Coast, you know, a lot of people, organizations and countries, chipped in to help with the recovery, including the United Arab Emirates. Now that the Arab nation is set to take over some American ports, some are wondering whether the deal and the relief aid are connected. We will investigate that theory.

Plus, one city divided in two -- why is part of this city where I am, Waveland, getting better, while the other side remains -- well, still in shambles? We will show you around -- when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: The White House has been playing hardball with the controversial port deal, so, why is it welcoming a delay? We will explain the politics, live from Waveland, 360, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And you're looking at a live picture of Bourbon Street.

Being passed back and forth in front of the camera are beads being thrown up and down, a tradition there on Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras weekend. It is really just the beginning of what will be a very long weekend, indeed.

And let's get out of that picture before we see some body parts that we don't really want to see.

Of course, the picture here in Waveland, very different -- there are no celebrations, no jazz bands, no beads to be thrown. It is just -- well, block after block of devastation. We will talk -- we will give you a tour of Waveland, coming up shortly.

But we want to talk about what is happening in Washington and the United Arab Emirates tonight, a port deal that is now delayed, but is, by no means, dead.

Last night, during this program, CNN got word that Dubai World Ports -- or Dubai Ports World -- of the United Arab Emirates will halt its acquisition of six U.S. port facilities for the time being. Apparently, that's exactly what the White House wants.

Today, the Bush administration stood by its approval of the deal and its threat to veto any legislation that would stop it. It's hoping the delay will give congressional lawmakers a chance to change their mind.

CNN's White House correspondent, Dana Bash, reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... United States.

(APPLAUSE)

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The delay to buy more time, informed sources tell CNN, came after private White House appeals to allies like former Congressman Vin Weber, a lobbyist who represents the United Arab Emirates.

It delays a remarkable political confrontation, with ramifications well beyond the ports controversy -- a Republican president threatening a veto, if the Republican leadership in Congress tried to block the port deal.

STEPHEN L. HADLEY, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The president believes that additional time, which would allow the company and the administration to explain this, and provide more information to the Congress, is a good thing.

BASH: But a senior administration official admits, they are not out of the woods yet. Sources involved in talks with the White House and the companies tell CNN, Mr. Bush may have no choice but to accept a longer government review of whether the deal poses security risks.

So far, the administration is digging in, saying it will try to convince Congress, the 14-agency panel that approved the deal did extensive vetting.

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: There was no need for an additional 45 days or an investigation.

BASH: But that won't fly with key members of Congress, who say the White House broke the law. An attorney who helped write the statute agrees.

PATRICK MULLOY, INTERNATIONAL TRADE LAW EXPERT, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY: If it's a government-owned corporation which is doing the acquisition of the American company, the law says that there's a mandatory investigation.

BASH: Bush officials recognize, they're up against something else: raw emotion, especially from their own.

SCOTT REED, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: This is going to have some ramifications, not only nationally, but also on the local level, now in each one of these port towns. The politics has gotten almost out of control.

BASH: The president is suddenly the bad guy of talk radio.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why should we have a Middle Eastern dictatorship, or company associated with a dictatorship, controlling our ports?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That it's going to quite possibly -- quite possibly -- and maybe even probably -- cost the Republicans the next election.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BASH: That is exactly why you saw what amounted to a Republican stampede to break with a president they see as weak and on the wrong side of what was their winning issue, security.

And, privately, congressional Republican sources say, many are reveling in the split, because it was a long time coming, the result of years of what some called Bush arrogance and neglect.

REED: The problem is, a lot of this administration has taken congressional relations to be an oxymoron.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Dana, but, again, what happens now?

I mean, because that statement from Hadley at the White House seemed to be saying, well, this is really kind of breathing space to -- to convince Congress and inform Congress. But the -- the congressmen who I have talked to all say, no, this is a time to investigate this company.

BASH: Exactly.

COOPER: Does the White House plan to investigate?

BASH: That -- Anderson, you just hit the nail on the head. That's the key question.

The answer from the White House's point of view still is no. They still insist that the investigating that they did was plenty, that it was exhaustive. But there is still major difference, in terms of what the law really is and how much more is needed, in terms of really digging in to find out if -- if the security really is what the White House says it is.

The key is going to be to look for early next week. Congress has been in recess. They've been home with their constituents all week. They will be coming back next week, and that is going to be the time to look -- to see if the dynamic has changed at all. At this point, talking to Republicans, the leadership still in Congress even as late as today. They say that there still is a desire to get this legislation to the president's desk. We'll see what happens.

COOPER: Interesting. Fascinating. Dana Bash -- thanks.

The Bush administration has been trying to squash a theory that has cropped up concerning this port deal. See, there are a number of people think this deal was in a way a big "thank you" for something the UAE did for this country in response to what happened right here along the Gulf Coast.

CNN's Tom Foreman investigates.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The latest question about the takeover of six American ports by an Arab company is coming out of Hurricane Katrina. Three weeks after that storm struck, the United Arab Emirates, which owns the company in question, donated $100 million directly to the U.S. government for Katrina relief.

Our review of various records show almost a month later the company started talking to the Treasury Department about managing the ports. And last month, the deal was approved.

The administration says pure coincidence. A sign of good relations with an Arab ally, nothing more.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: It's a country that was very responsive to assist in Katrina. One of the early countries that did that.

FOREMAN: The $100 million donation is four times as much as all the Katrina relief money to the government from all other nations combined. But the small oil-rich Emirates have seen explosive economic growth in recent years and have been generous with many countries.

The UAE gave $20 million to help people caught in the tsunami, $100 million for Southeast Asia earthquake relief, $100 million to the Palestinians, $215 million for rebuilding Iraq. And the Emirates have given $15 billion in aid to other Arab countries.

So, at the State Department, the suggestion that the Emirates might have tried to influence the port purchase with the Katrina donation was slapped down in less than a second.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there any sense of a quid pro quo?

ADAM ERELI, STATE DEPARTMENT: Absolutely none.

FOREMAN (on camera): The port deal still faces plenty of challenges in the courts, in the public and in political circles. (voice over): But it is a measure of how little traction the Katrina donation angle has that even some of the deal's sharpest critics are giving it a wide birth.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, here in Waveland, in many ways this town was left divided by Hurricane Katrina. One half of the city is well on the road to recovery. The debris has been cleaned up. But the other is still digging out and waiting for the debris to be removed. We'll tell you why.

Also, the push to make abortion illegal. Lawmakers in one state approved legislation to do just that, but can they ignore Roe v. Wade? Senior analyst Jeffrey Toobin gives us the facts.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice over): September 1, Waveland, Mississippi. Pauline Conway (ph) is literally picking up the pieces of her life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's my chair. That's our grill.

COOPER: Her feelings of loss cut deep.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is from our room. It's from our room.

COOPER: It was a moment filled with emotion.

(on camera): People are just coming back one by one and finding the homes just completely gone. And it's -- it's devastating. I mean, actually, let's...

(voice over): Pauline Conway (ph) today lives 12 miles away in Diamond Head. She and her husband rebuilding his dental practice in nearby Bay St. Louis. Progress, but there is no much they will never regain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I tell my husband these are -- it's stuff. It is, it's just stuff. But it's our stuff. And that was 16 years of our life that we built together. And it's been really difficult moving on.

COOPER: Difficult, but amidst the pain there is also good news, a new granddaughter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lily (ph) is the miracle out of all the rubble. She was born two weeks ago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And a beautiful baby she is. You know, it's interesting when you come to Waveland. It's kind of startling at first because north of the town, north of the railroad track, a lot of the houses have been refurbished and the debris has been picked up. And then you travel south of the railroad tracks in this area where I am and a lot of the debris is still around.

The Army Corps of Engineers is picking stuff up. I went and talked to the mayor, and he said there's a reason for that divide. Take a look at what we found out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice over): In Waveland, nearly six months after Katrina, there are signs of progress. But for the people living here, the pace is far too slow. Block after block, acre after acre, debris remains piled up.

(on camera): And this area, which is south of the railroad, who's supposed to clean this up?

MAYOR TOMMY LONGO, WAVELAND, MISSISSIPPI: This area is being done by the Corps of Engineers.

COOPER: By the federal government?

LONGO: By the federal government, yes.

COOPER (voice over): That's Waveland's mayor, Tommy Longo.

LONGO: Well, it's been extremely frustrating. And we had a meeting last week with my -- my board. And the big term, you know, has been is that they're "ramping up." That's the terminology that's used.

And so I understand people being overwhelmed. But, you know, 60 days after the event, you should be ramped up. You should be getting the job done. Not six months.

COOPER: So far, the Army Corps of Engineers have removed nearly 300,000 cubic yards of debris from the southern part of Waveland. But Mayor Longo points out private contractors he hired to remove debris in the northern part of town have removed some 600,000 cubic yards, more than twice the amount of debris cleaned up by the federal government.

LONGO: With the private contractors, they work for us. The city has control. They work seven days a week. They work from dusk to down. They're -- they're getting the job done.

COOPER: The Army Corps of Engineers' spokesman told us essentially they're doing the best they can.

SGT. 1ST CLASS CARL CHILDS, ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: The only thing that we can do is just band together as a team and, you know, try to remove as much debris as possible, as quickly as possible. COOPER: Mayor Longo wishes he had the resources to hire more private contractors and is especially grateful for the hundreds of volunteers who've come to Waveland, rebuilding parks. And in the case of these Amish carpenters, building new homes.

LONGO: I don't think there has ever been a coming together of so many diverse faith-based organizations. And they're all there working for one common goal, and that's to get people's lives back in order.

COOPER: Amazingly, Mayor Longo says the Army Corps of Engineers has actually stopped volunteers from removing debris.

LONGO: We have volunteers from around the country that come with whatever they can afford, and they'll be stopped and told that they -- they don't believe they're volunteers.

COOPER (on camera): So volunteers are actually stopped by the Army Corps of Engineers from helping to clean up?

LONGO: It's happened quite often.

COOPER: Why would they do that?

LONGO: I guess there's value -- a value on debris.

COOPER (voice over): The Army Corps of Engineers insists they encourage volunteers, and when informed of the mayor's statement, they told us they'd investigate.

(on camera): When you see all this stuff still sitting out here, what do you think?

LONGO: I get angry about it and I get frustrated because I have a very resilient community, and they're wonderful, wonderful folks. But emotionally, you know, they're getting fragile.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And I went into the mayor's office earlier today, an office which is, by the way, a trailer because City Hall was blown down, and he has this big board with an artist rendering of what the new downtown in Waveland, Mississippi, is going to look like. And it's a beautiful artist rendering, and he says they have a plan, they are ready to go, they just need this debris to get picked up.

Another town here with limited resources, but now it has gone six months with no grocery store, little electricity and not much help. We're going to take you to Pearlington, Mississippi, coming up.

And a battle cry from South Dakota. Will the state's anti- abortion agenda turn into a federal case?

Next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we have learned is, is that if we open schools, parents and families return to communities. We have referred to schools as magnets of hope.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Another major story tonight, the strongest attack on legalized abortion in more than years. It comes from South Dakota, where the state legislature has approved a near total ban on abortion, a near total ban. The only exception would come where the mother's life, not just her health, is in jeopardy.

Not in cases of rape, not in cases of insist. And doctors who don't comply could get time in prison.

So how far could this go? I talked to CNN's legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin earlier tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So they did this in order for it to get to the Supreme Court?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Right. They did this to set up a court test. They know that under Roe v. Wade this law would be overturned, but their plan is that this will be presumably struck down by a lower court because a lower court has to apply the law in place now.

But when it gets up to the United States Supreme Court, the court will change and say, first trimester abortions can be banned, rape victims can be banned from getting abortions, incest victims can be banned from getting abortions. That's what they're betting. It seems like a long shot at this point, but that's what they're hoping.

COOPER: I mean, because the Supreme Court could decide just not to hear the case at all.

TOOBIN: They could. And frankly, I think that's what they probably would do because this is such a dramatic change from current law.

Also, there are still five justices on the Supreme Court, Anthony Kennedy, John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, who have all supported Roe v. Wade. There are only four justices who seem even likely to vote against Roe v. Wade.

So they really do -- do seem to be a little premature in getting their hopes up to have Roe v. Wade overturned. They really do seem to need another justice. But this just shows how much passion there is out there on the part of some people to get Roe overturned.

COOPER: So under this measure, what could happen to a doctor who performed an abortion that was not necessarily to save the woman's life? TOOBIN: Most of the abortions performed in the United States, 90 percent of the abortions, are fist trimester abortions. And if doctors did that in South Dakota, they could be subject to criminal penalties. Already now in South Dakota, there are no doctors willing to perform abortions. The one place in South Dakota where you can get abortions, they have to bring in doctors from Minnesota to perform them.

So it's not like it's easy to get an abortion in South Dakota now. But if any doctor did one for any reason, except to save the life of a mother, they -- that doctor could go to prison if this -- if this law goes into effect.

COOPER: Are there other measure like this that are going to pop up in other states soon?

TOOBIN: You know, I think that's an interesting question. There's so much pent-up demand in many parts of the country for outright bans of abortion, even the hint of a change on the Supreme Court is making them go for the whole ball of wax. You know, we'll see whether it happens or not.

COOPER: All right. Jeffrey Toobin, thanks.

TOOBIN: OK, Anderson.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, a country the U.S. was struggling mightly to hold together may be starting to come apart. Are we right now watching Iraq spiral into civil war? That's the question tonight. The signs are not good. A live report from Baghdad coming up.

And a town that was just barely on the map before Katrina digs in its heels so as not to disappear entirely from the Gulf Coast.

This is 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are days, I'll tell you right now, when the alarm goes off and you want to pull the covers up over your head and say, "Oh, forget it." And then you think, oh, no, I can't. I have four children.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, the town of Pearlington, Mississippi, is just barely on the map -- 1,400 people about 15 miles east from Waveland. It doesn't get many visitors. The one it did get some months back now named Katrina left the place utterly changed. But then that's how it is with small towns, they're out of the way but not out of harm's way.

CNN's John King reports. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Eight hours clinging to a tree and praying your grandson doesn't lose his grip is a memory that doesn't fade with time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I said now, "Son, still hold my hand." I said, "Don't fight the water." I said, "That water is going to rise."

All right.

KING: Over the years, many hurricanes, and Reverend Samuel Burton (ph) had stayed for all. But as Katrina approached it felt different, dangerous. He left his house, made for the safety of the trees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you run in that water and it just (INAUDIBLE). The lord heard my prayers.

KING: Now, six months later, there's new life here in tiny Pearlington. Nine new precocious puppies for the reverend's dog. And yet, Pearlington also seems a forgotten place as if it were frozen in the days after Katrina.

Rebuilding remains a distant dream. Just 40 percent of the debris cleared, compared to 90 percent statewide. Electricity and other basics only now coming back on line. The one grocery store still closed. And what was once a school still serves as Pearlington's lifeline for food, clothing, the bleach vital to fight the toxic molds, the spray to fight the swarming gnats.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yes, we've always been (INAUDIBLE). We call it the twilight zone.

KING: A place forgotten, the locals say, even after a storm whose mark was so unforgettable.

SAMUEL BAILEY, PEARLINGTON RESIDENT & VOLUNTEER: A lot of concentration, I personally feel, is going to the larger areas. And Pearlington is a small town of about 1,400 people. It's 15 miles from everywhere. It's actually 30 miles when you go round trip to get a tank of gas.

KING: Deputy state emergency management director Mike Womack concedes bigger communities tend to get help faster than hamlets like Pearlington, but say it's not all the government's fault.

MIKE WOMACK, MISSISSIPPI EMERGENCY MGMT.: It just has to do with where the storm came in. As we know, this was pretty much ground zero.

KING: Everyone here is mindful the calendar is working against them. Federal housing grants at least two months from arriving. The next hurricane season just three months away.

WOMACK: Eighteen to 24 months is going to be the earliest that we can expect to get any type of large number of houses built down here.

KING: As for the 78-year-old Burton (ph), he won't leave because this is home. Won't wait for the bureaucracy to decide whether or when he can rebuild it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put that board over there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over there?

KING: So, like so many around here, he relies on volunteers, like these high school seniors from New Jersey. Their work is grimy, with the occasional breaks to enjoy the puppies...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (SINGING): Amazing grace will always be...

KING: ... and the stories and songs of a man who nearly lost everything he owned...

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP (SINGING): And grace will lead me home.

KING: ... but not his faith or his voice.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Such beauty and such just total devastation.

A couple of things. You see the same frustration about the Army Corps of Engineers in Pearlington as it is here.

KING: It is, because you have debris. Much smaller scale because it's such a small town, but debris like this. And one of the great ironies is, the one time they've come through lately, they came through to try to tear down the reverend's house.

COOPER: No.

KING: And the reverend is a 78-year-old man, but his neighbors, including the volunteer you saw there said no. They said they took the gentleman from the court out back and they say they had a discussion. And they convinced them not to tear the house down.

And what they're going to do is, he wants his house rebuilt. He's an incredibly proud man. What they're going to do is, all of these volunteers and the church groups are going to take it apart board by board and then try to use as much of the existing lumber as they can to rebuild his house. It's really remarkable.

COOPER: That gets me to the other point, which is the volunteers in Pearlington and also here in Waveland. I don't think -- I mean, these places would not be where they are without these hundreds of volunteers who come down.

I mean, you saw kids from a high school. And people around the country wondering, well, what can I do, what can they do. People can come here and pick up debris, and it means so much to people here. KING: It's incredibly inspiring even for cynics from Washington and New York like us who get cynical sometimes. We are in that community center where they're giving out food still.

These people have -- there's no store. They have to drive forever to get to the store. Most of them have no money.

You have a woman from New York, she calls herself a liberal peacenik. You have a few women from Kentucky in there. The woman was saying, "We have white Baptists, black Baptists, Mennonites. We have Presbyterians. We have everybody." She says, "We even love the heathens."

And these people, they just keep coming back. They go home for a little bit to their families, but they keep coming back. And they've been connected to these communities.

And when people come in to get the food, they bring them little gifts. They bring them something. They have nothing, but they find something to bring to say thank you.

It is incredibly remarkable. And everyone says that town would not exist, those people would have to go somewhere else, they'd be forced to leave if it weren't for these volunteers.

COOPER: Incredible. Great story, John. Thanks very much.

We're trying to put as much focus tonight on these small communities all along the Gulf Coast here in Mississippi, as we did in the first days after Katrina. And that's where we've had Gary Tuchman, in Gulfport, John King in Pearlington, and we're here in Waveland.

We just don't want people to forget. And seriously, if there are people out there who want to do something and want to think of ways that they can help, if you can't give money, there is much to be done here on the ground. There's a lot of work and a lot of people here already working, and they could use some extra helping hands.

I want to thank our international viewers for watching.

Ahead on 360, we'll have more from the ruins of Katrina. We'll take you to a city of tents. That's right, a city of tents, people living in temporary homes still waiting for trailers.

How many times have we heard that? We'll show you what life is like for people living here.

Plus, a big story on our blog tonight, children living in fear, running to a shelter every night. What are they afraid of? The shocking story coming up.

And imagine waking up somewhere not knowing where you are, even who you are. It may seem like something from the movies, but this story is very real.

We'll have that and more when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

Search
© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by CNN.com
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines