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THIS WEEK AT WAR
Encore Presentation: Week's War Activities Discussed
Aired February 4, 2007 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR, THIS WEEK AT WAR: The congressional resolution on the troop build-up, a huge embarrassment to the president, but will it actually affect the plan on the ground. Our panel of generals weighs in on that. John Burns from "The New York Times" joins us with his take on what is ahead in Iraq. And are the winds of war blowing towards Iran? THIS WEEK AT WAR is just one minute away after a check on what's making headlines right now.
ROBERTS: Can President Bush withstand the pressure from Capitol Hill? Will the troop build-up still go ahead? Tens of millions of your tax dollars literally thrown down the toilet in Iraq. What's going on? And with Iraq in chaos, is Iran next? I'm John Roberts with THIS WEEK AT WAR. Let's take a look at what our correspondents reported day by day this week.
On Monday, the Shiite holy day of Ashurai (ph) is met with bombs and blood. Two dozen Iraqis killed in the violence, 22 more bodies dumped across Baghdad. Tuesday, new questions whether Iran was behind a sneak attack in Karbala killing five U.S. soldiers. Wednesday, British authorities claim counterterrorism raids halted a plan to torture and behead a British Muslim soldier. Thursday, General Casey, the outgoing U.S. commander in Iraq says Baghdad could be secured with only half the additional troops that President Bush wants to send. Friday, a new national intelligence estimate reports the U.S. has little control over where Iraq is going and warns that further deterioration may lie ahead.
Among our elite THIS WEEK AT WAR troops, Christiane Amanpour on Iran's role in Iraq, "The New York Times," John Burns on what's ahead for the Iraq war and Barbara Starr on military equipment. Is there enough to go around? THIS WEEK AT WAR.
The big news about Iraq this week was Iran. Just how much influence and involvement does Iraq's former enemy have? Correspondent Arwa Damon is in Baghdad and Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is at her post at the Pentagon for us today. Arwa, let's begin first of all with the findings of the new national intelligence estimate that was released just on Friday. It found that the U.S. has little control in Iraq, that there is risk of further deterioration, Iraqi on Iraqi violence has surpassed the risk from al Qaeda. Any surprise in that?
ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not at all, John. In fact, this is what we have been reporting from here for quite some time. Now it is what word on the street has been and even word among U.S. military and the Iraqi government, the acknowledgement of those facts. Perhaps for those that are over here on this side of the story, the interesting thing is the acknowledgement of all of these major issues facing Iraq. We -- that we have not really heard in the past. But for people that have been living through this every day, the sectarian violence it just continues to increase. The lack of ability of the Iraqi security forces, the weakness of the Iraqi government, none of this is new on the ground over here.
ROBERTS: Of course one of the growing concerns in Iraq is what part Iran is playing in supplying weapons to some of these extremist or insurgent groups. Here's what Lieutenant General Ray Odierno, the number two commander in Iraq said about that in "USA Today" on Wednesday. Odierno said quote, we have weapons that we know through serial numbers that trace back to Iran. Barbara Starr, is that conclusive proof that Iran is at least the source for some of these weapons what does the Pentagon plan to do about it?
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well you know John, it's as conclusive as it gets at the moment. What General Odierno is talking about is in the number of recent raids, the U.S. military has seized weapons with serial numbers and shipping documents that indicate they are manufactured in Iran. Why haven't you really seen the formal announcement of this kind of very explosive information? That's because the Pentagon, the State Department and the White House at this time, want to make sure they're right. They don't want to -- have even the slightest chance of people accusing them of making another slam dunk that turns into an air ball if you will. They want to make sure they're right. But behind-the-scenes, the CIA, the Pentagon, the military, they all believe that they do have that evidence.
ROBERTS: That intelligence on Iraq that led people - led the United States into war back in 2003 has certainly left a bad taste in a lot of mouths. Nuri al-Maliki was the subject of an interview this past week with our Michael Ware. He interviewed him on Wednesday and al Maliki certainly seems to believe that there is something going on between the U.S. and Iran on Iraqi soil and he says he wants none of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NURI AL MALIKI, IRAQ PRIME MINISTER (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): We have told the Iranians and the Americans we know that you have a problem with each other, but we're asking you please solve your problems outside of Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Arwa Damon, what are we to make of that? Please solve your problems out of Iraq. Wasn't it the Iraqi government that invited Iran in in the first place and what about the moral equivalents that al Maliki gives President Bush and Ahmadinejad?
DAMON: Well, look John, first off, this is something we have heard before perhaps not from the prime minister himself, but we've heard it from his foreign minister. That blank statement of we want Iran and America to solve their problems outside of this country. Iran's involvement here, Iran's influence on certain militias. There's intelligence that directly implicates that Iran is linked to funding, training and arming the militias. That exists, that is a reality here. There is Iranian involvement and American forces are here. It is a lot easier for both countries to try to fight their battle out on Iraqi soil.
However the prime minister is trying to get that specific aspect of the conflict here to come to an end, maybe to further himself. But at the same time, he is playing a very delicate game. He's putting out a warning, such as that one that we just heard. But he cannot afford for either side - the Americans or the Iranians -- to become one of his foes. He has to keep both of those countries on his side. It's a very delicate balance that he is walking right now.
ROBERTS: And of course one of the big concerns with suspected Irani involvement in Iraq is that these insurgents and extremist groups are getting more sophisticated weapons being able to defeat U.S. tactics and countermeasures. Here's what Admiral William Fallon said about that in his confirmation hearing on Tuesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADMIRAL WILLIAM FALLON, US NAVY: Equipment that was we thought pretty effective in protecting our troops just a matter of months ago is now being in fact challenged by some of the techniques and devices over there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Barbara Starr, what is he talking about? Is it mostly these explosively formed penetrating IEDs, these very sophisticated IEDs or is it other weapons as well? Four helicopters have gone down in the past couple weeks as well.
STARR: John, he is talking number one about those explosively formed projectiles indeed. Those are manufactured machines, factory made in Iran. They are very deadly. And the Pentagon now openly saying that those Iranian weapons can basically shred an Abrahams tank. Just a few months ago we all knew that, but it was very classified information. Now it's out in the open. As for the helicopters, the Pentagon now with four helicopters down in two weeks, that's where it stands. They are very concerned. They are reviewing all of their tactics and techniques for flying helicopters in Iraq.
ROBERTS: And I'll tell you, Barbara, I have seen the effect of one of the EFPs up close and personal. They really are just evil devices as the military says they are. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, Arwa Damon in Baghdad, as always, thanks much.
More on the influence of Iran and what the U.S. can and might do coming up. But first, a THIS WEEK AT WAR remembrance. Army Captain Brian Freeman of the 412th civil affairs battalion was liaison between coalition forces and the government of Karbala. He was killed when insurgents disguised as U.S. forces attacked in late January. Back home in California, Freeman's wife Charlotte tells how their three- year-old son comforted her when she got the terrible news. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLOTTE FREEMAN, WIFE: He just came up to me, put his arms around me and said it is OK, mommy. Daddy is coming home soon, having no idea what I was even crying about. And then I tried my best to explain that his dad had passed away and -- to this day he still says to me "but he's not gone."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Freeman graduated from West Point in 1999 and served five years on active duty. Then as part of the individual ready reserve, he was called back up last year.
ROBERTS: All of the saber rattling towards Iran, is it just to sell the troop build-up in Iraq? Or is this other member of the president's axis of evil next on his hit list? And does President Bush have the authority to attack Iran? Joining me now is chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour. She's in the Iranian capital of Tehran. CNN Middle East correspondent Aneesh Raman is at his home base in Cairo and constitutional law expert, Jonathan Turley joins at George Washington University us today from Denver. Is Iran attacking U.S. forces in Iraq? Iraq's prime minister says yes. Here's what he told our Michael Ware in an exclusive interview on Wednesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL-MALIKI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): And we will not accept Iran to use Iraq to attack the American forces but does this not exist? It exists and I assure you it exists. It is based on the struggle between the two countries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Christiane Amanpour, is there any doubt at this point that Iran is actively involved in Iraq and is shipping weapons to Shiite militias, insurgents, other extremists?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Well, if you took it from the perspective of the Iranian officials here, yes, there is very much doubt. In fact they deny it outright. That's what the Iranian officials say. And when I pressed them on the fact that U.S. officials are saying that they have evidence of shipment of weapons and training et cetera to Iraq, they say we must see that evidence. That is not our policy.
On the other hand, some analysts here are saying that, yes, Iran and the United States are at odds and do have a struggle over various issues such as Iraq and also of course over the nuclear issue. There is a great fear here in Iran of war from the United States. Everybody has been asking me about it since I arrived here in the last few days. And what these analysts are saying is that perhaps some Iranians are suggesting that it might be better to try to keep America occupied inside Iraq than sort of fight that battle away from Iranian territory, rather than inside Iranian territory. ROBERTS: Aneesh Raman, in recent weeks Aneesh, the president of Iran Ahmadinejad has almost been daring the United States to attacks? Is he still full of that much bravado these days?
ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting. We're seeing perhaps a slight shift, certainly when it comes to Bush. Ahmadinejad has come to define himself as someone willing to push the limit on the nuclear front, on US. Policy in the Middle East, on Israel. His comments have certainly helped fuel fears over Iran. We have seen over the past few weeks emerging public dissent from within Iran, within a number of political corners, calling on the president to stop focusing on foreign affairs with such bellicose at times statements and instead focus on domestic issues like an economy that needs drastic improvement.
That by the way was the backbone promise of his electoral victory in 2005. In the past few days, we have seen Ahmadinejad again perhaps interestingly, reminding his cabinet that not he, but the country's supreme leader is the final word when it comes to foreign policy and especially in this nuclear dispute. It is a known fact, it's not a surprise by any means, but the fact that he is stating it suggests perhaps he's getting the message from a growing sense within the country that he should refocus his efforts back home.
ROBERTS: Now of course President Bush continuing to talk tough on Iran. Here's what he said in an NPR radio interview on Monday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If Iran escalates its military action in Iraq to the detriment of our troops and/or innocent Iraqi people, we will respond firmly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Jonathan Turley, Joe Biden at the Foreign Relations Committee a couple of weeks ago warned Condoleezza Rice, do not go into Iraq without coming to Congress first. What authority does the president have to attack Iran?
JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: He has a great deal of inherent authority and Joe Biden is kidding himself if he thinks rhetoric in a committee hearing is going to prevent him from using that authority. The president does not need the approval of Congress to respond to an attack or even an imminent threat of an attack against U.S. forces. And so it will take much more than rhetoric. They would have to deal with the original authorization they gave to go into Iraq which is unbelievably generally worded. And also, they would have to use the power of the purse strings to restrict this president in how he uses U.S. personnel and more importantly the funding of U.S. personnel.
ROBERTS: Christiane, this Karbala incident couple weeks back in which five U.S. troops were killed. The Pentagon says it has a theory that Iran may be behind it or somehow involved in it, but it's only a theory. Yet it's making the rounds in the media. Is there a chance here that the media may be being manipulated to make the Pentagon's case for it?
AMANPOUR: Well it is possible. And of course today the defense secretary, I have read reports of a press conference that he had along with the chairman of the joint chiefs and basically saying about that incident, we do not yet have credible proof that Iran was involved. So I don't know whether they're trying to warp that back after leaking it to the press if that's what they were doing. Certainly from here they're denying that they had anything to do with that.
And I do think you raise an important point because, and I've said it many times before. I do believe the media was in part an enabler in the run up to the war in Iraq. And so from my perspective, I think it is really incumbent upon us in the media to make sure that this time we dot every I, and cross every T and ask every possible question before any such precipitous action can be taken in the future no matter what the facts are.
ROBERTS: An important point Christiane. If President Bush were to try to attack Iran, he couldn't have a repeat of the way that he went into Iraq I would imagine. He would really have to have substantial proof this time.
RAMAN: He would. There is a credibility gap especially in this part of the world when it comes to the United States because as Christiane was mentioning in the build-up to the Iraq war, the claims of weapons of mass destruction proved to be untrue. When we talk about Iran's involvement in Iraq, keep in mind for some time now, U.S. officials have charged that Iran is arming, funding and training Shia factions inside of Iraq. We've already seen some evidence they put forward some time ago of weapons that were manufactured in Iran. But they've stopped short of proving a direct link between the government in Tehran and attacks that are taking place in Iraq. That is what gave so much momentum to these latest investigations especially that taking place in Karbala. Was it a direct link, was purportedly being looked into between the government and attacks on U.S. soldiers. We are seeing them I think walk back a bit. We are seeing delays in terms of the evidence being presented, because a number of people are telling according to reports within the region, the U.S. that this isn't yet an airtight case.
ROBERTS: And Jonathan Turley you have theories that the president may be actually trying to provoke Iran to attack United States assets and therefore give him full license to go in in whatever way he wants.
TURLEY: Well, I'm not so sure if he is trying to provoke it, but he's certainly creating a circumstance where he might have justification under hot pursuit or an attack, to go in without congressional authority. He's putting a lot of ships, a lot of people in a close space. If anything happens, he can respond. And if Iran responds, you could have a rapid acceleration. And then Congress is not going to be able to get this cat to walk backwards. And I think that they don't realize how fast this can happen. The constitution gave shared authority in war making to the president and to Congress. They wanted there to be tension. But the president knows quite well that he has the inherent authority to respond quite aggressively if he sees an attack or if he sees any aggressive move towards U.S. interests.
ROBERTS: Certainly the president is denying that he has any intention to go into that country. But there are a lot of people who are wondering if Iran is next. Christiane Amanpour, Aneesh Raman, Jonathan Turley, thanks much. We are back on the Iraq story and one of its most eloquent observers, John Burns of "The New York Times" on THIS WEEK AT WAR.
ROBERTS: The reporting of "New York Times" correspondent John Burns in Iraq has been a must read before, during and after the war in Iraq. We welcome him here. He's on a couple of weeks of home leave. Good to have you here John.
JOHN BURNS, "NEW YORK TIMES": A pleasure.
ROBERTS: John, you have been in Iraq longer than most other correspondents, longer than most military people as well. What's your assessment of where it's all going and particularly, how this so- called surge of 21,500 troops fits in.
BURNS: I think it's - if you'll forgive the cliche, it's five minutes to midnight. This really is it. This is the last throw of the dice. It may work. The question is, how long can it be made to work given the exhaustion of political will in Washington, D.C. I think what happens here is now as decisive as what happens in Baghdad. There's no doubt that you put more American boots on the ground, you have a stabilizing effect. And we're going to see that in Baghdad. I think that's pretty well certain.
ROBERTS: Now when you say it's five minutes to midnight, it's the last chance. During his confirmation hearings for army chief of staff yesterday, General Casey suggested that there is a plan B if this doesn't work or I guess you could maybe call it a plan D, F or G or whatever. So he seems to think that there's yet another fall-back position. But you don't?
BURNS: John, you're in a much better position to judge this than I. But I do know that the American commanders in Iraq, General Odierno certainly is very alert because he was here the last two, three years as an aide to Condoleezza Rice, very aware of the sands of time are running out politically. They feel that they can work in effect, possibly a significant effect, but they think the progress has to be sufficient to make a major change in American public and political opinion.
ROBERTS: How long do you think they have?
BURNS: Well, I know what they think they have. What General Odierno was talking about that he wants to see an effect by mid- summer. And that, I think they believe they don't have beyond the autumn to show an impact. Of course, what will that impact be? They may stabilize the neighborhoods, but you may see American casualties arising. Or you may see a melting away of some of the bad guys, the Sunni insurgents, the Shiite sectarian death squads and they may cause trouble elsewhere outside Baghdad. So you may stabilize Baghdad only to see other areas and other cities further destabilized.
ROBERTS: Our Michael Ware whom you know well, had an exclusive interview with Nuri al Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister on Wednesday of this week. Maliki seemed to think that this program may work and in fact he might be open even more U.S. forces. Take a quick look at that part of the interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL MALIKI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): We believe that there exists (ph) a number with a slight addition will do the job. But if there seems to be more need, we will ask for more troops.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Of course, John, troops are only part of the equation. There's got to be a big political commitment on the part of al Maliki here and even on the troop thing though, he seems to be all over the map here.
BURNS: He's very hard to read. This is not the same Nuri al Maliki that we were hearing from only six or eight weeks ago when he was saying he didn't want more U.S. troops. He wanted Iraqi troops to take over in the city of Baghdad. At the time it was very hard to understand what he was talking about unless what he meant was what some of his officials say, which is that the end of this war will not come until the minority is defeated. That is to say the Sunni minority is decisively defeated. It's kind of a sectarian concept, absolutely alien to the American road home which is to stabilize the city and to find a place for the Sunnis in the political process. So it's difficult to understand exactly what's happened with Prime Minister Maliki. Maybe, maybe he's -- he has begun to read the bones now more effectively and to understand, an unfortunate phrase. But maybe they have (INAUDIBLE) We know that the president from reported from this city, has spoken very bluntly indeed to Mr. Maliki. You'll perform or you're out. And who knows, maybe that message has got through.
ROBERTS: And where do you think this increased idea of involvement by Iran in Iraq, the saber rattling by the United States towards Tehran, President Bush talking so tough about Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders? Where do you think it's all heading?
BURNS: Well, I think it is the kind of talk that does impact. I think you have to remember that it's a pretty brutal, violent neighborhood, always has been and the tough talk by the president of the United States will get peoples' attention.
ROBERTS: But do you think this is setting up for maybe cross- border raids against Iranian targets?
BURNS: Well, I would think that from everything I've been hearing from this city that there are early limit to what can be done. For one thing, it's an extremely porous border. I went up there with General Casey back last autumn and I could see he was not at all pleased as we traveled to several points along the border to see how thin was the Iraqi border police presence. It was vestigial. You and I could drive a camel train across that border loaded with weapons and we would have probably a better than even chance of getting across, especially if we paid the right people. So it's going to be extremely difficult to deal with this in terms of sealing the border, extremely difficult to deal with it once those weapons and that money and those agents came into Iraq because they have a natural home with Muqtada al Sadr and his Mehdi army. As for cross-border operations, your guess would be as good as mine. But I would have thought that the politics of this country and the politics of the Middle East were pretty strong against them.
ROBERTS: Certainly there's a lot of warnings from Congress to the administration, don't go into Iran without at least coming to us. John Burns, thank you very much, appreciate your time, good to see you.
BURNS: A pleasure.
ROBERTS: Have a safe trip back.
We'll take a closer look at accusations that Iran is supplying weapons to extremists in Iraq. What they are and what they do and what they're capable of, that's coming up next.
JOHN ROBERTS, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Pentagon claims that it has a lethal list of explosives and other equipment that Iran is funneling to extremists and militias in Iraq.
In our Weapons of War segment, we're going to take a closer look at what's being used against U.S. forces.
Joining me now is Ivan Olerich of the Federation of American Scientists.
Ivan, the first thing that we wanted to talk about are these improvised explosive devices called EFPs...
IVAN OLERICH, FEDERATION OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS: Yes
ROBERTS: ... explosive formed projectiles, because these, according to some U.S. military sources, are responsible for as much as 70 percent of all the deaths among U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
So what are they?
OLERICH: They're very simple. What it is is just a pipe with some exclusive in it. And the key thing is this -- what you see there is actually a shallow bowl made of a soft steel. And the exclusive force in that pipe is able to form this -- deforms this bowl into a slug. And you can see here this is a plastic model that's showing these steps about a thousandth of a second apart.
And the disk of metal is formed very rapidly by the exclusive force into this long slug...
ROBERTS: Something like a bullet.
Now, I saw...
OLERICH: Like a...
ROBERTS: I saw...
OLERICH: Like a bullet.
ROBERTS: I saw up close and personal in Iraq the results of these against a Humvee. It penetrated right about here, with enormous exclusive force. It blew the turret off, literally disintegrated the soldier who was sitting in that seat and killed the driver. And there is the slug right there.
ROBERTS: It was left after it knocked the driver's door off. It's the slug, this piece of metal, cooper, whatever, that's suspected of coming from Iran.
ROBERTS: Another weapon that is suspected of coming across from Iran is the RPG-29. We've heard -- we've seen these rocket propelled grenades that people have on their shoulders...
ROBERTS: ... and we know that they're all exclusive force and what they're capable of doing.
But what is the RPG-29?
OLERICH: The RPG-29 is a more advanced (UNINTELLIGIBLE). There is a seven that just walked by in that graphic. What is different about this is that -- you'll notice it has this extra little lump on the end. That's an -- that's a small warhead that blows away the reactive armor, which is a defensive mechanism against these small weapons.
So it has a two stage warhead. If it can do what the manufacturers claim it can do, it can penetrate up to two feet of steel armor...
ROBERTS: So that would...
OLERICH: ... which is quite remarkable.
ROBERTS: That would defeat any of the American -- of America's heaviest armor...
OLERICH: Well, not a...
ROBERTS: ... including Abrams tanks.
OLERICH: ... not a frontal tank -- not a frontal attack on an Abrams tanks. But it certainly would -- we're not using tanks typically in these urban environments, we're using armored personnel carriers and...
ROBERTS: And a range of about 500 yards, so it's a fairly good standoff weapon for urban combat?
OLERICH: Yes, it's very -- and in urban combat, 500 yards doesn't sound like much, but in an urban area, 500 yards is a long, long way.
ROBERTS: Iran also suspected of supplying what are known as Katusha rockets.
ROBERTS: I guess more and more broadly, artillery rockets. And we saw a lot of these in Israel during the Israel-Hezbollah conflict of last summer.
OLERICH: Yes. Yes, Katushas, there's no such thing as a really, something that's specifically a Katusha rocket. It describes a whole family of these cheap rockets that are launched from these multiple rocket launchers. They're not particularly accurate, but you can launch them very rapidly. So I can get off dozens of rounds in literally just a few seconds and then get way.
ROBERTS: Does that represent a real escalation in the insurgent capabilities?
OLERICH: Oh, absolutely. If these -- if, in fact, it turns out that these are being imported in Iraq, this would be a major escalation.
ROBERTS: Now, during the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict, we talked about the inaccuracy of these.
ROBERTS: Would they be accurate enough to fire them from as many as 15, 20 miles away and hit the green zone?
OLERICH: Well, with some training you could probably do that. They are not extremely accurate. It's not like you could hit a particular building in the green zone. The green zone is a large area and so if you're using things like these free flying rockets, you could hit something like that.
ROBERTS: And the last piece of equipment Iran is suspected of giving to insurgents and other extremist groups are these .82 millimeter mortars.
OLERICH: Yes. These are based on a Russian design. A lot of countries are building these for -- or, you know, derivatives of them. The key about this is that they're small enough that you can break them down. A single person can carry them. You can fit them easily into the back of a -- the trunk of a car, for example. And the mortar rounds only weigh 10 pounds or so. So I can carry those in a backpack. I can carry a significant number, a couple of people could carry those in a backpack.
ROBERTS: So, a very portable type of weapon.
OLERICH: Very -- and very difficult to track and...
ROBERTS: I've been in the green zone when it's been mortared and the alarm has gone out...
OLERICH: Oh, I'm sure it was an exciting (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
ROBERTS: ... and everybody runs for the basements. So people are afraid of these.
OLERICH: But it...
ROBERTS: Ivan, thanks very much for sharing your expertise.
OLERICH: My pleasure.
ROBERTS: I really appreciate it.
From the weapons of war to the warriors -- our three generals. CNN military analysts coming up on THIS WEEK AT WAR.
ROBERTS: Well, it's not often that you get three retired generals in the same place at the same time, so we thought that we would take advantage of this rare alignment to drill down farther on the new troops and new commanders for the Iraq War.
Joining me now all in Atlanta is Major General Don Shepperd, U.S. Air Force, retired; and Brigadier Generals David Grange and James "Spider" Marks, U.S. Army, retired.
The man tapped to take command of all of the U.S. forces across the Middle East, Admiral William Fallon, was in the hot seat before the Senate Armed Services Committee. On Tuesday, he carefully dodged questions from Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, about how many troops it may take to bring peace.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADMIRAL WILLIAM FALLON, U.S. NAVY: I don't know how many troops are going to be necessary to effect the outcome that we want, but General Petraeus, in my conversations with him, indicated that he believes he needs these troops now to -- to get moving (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: And if he said he needed more, you would support him? FALLON: I don't know, sir. I haven't been there yet and I'm not in a position to make that judgment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: General Shepperd, why don't we start with you, because you had a meeting at the Pentagon the very next day.
What do you make of Fallon's comments there?
He's not exactly jumping on board in support of the president's plan.
MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, I think General Fallon -- or Admiral Fallon is a straight talking, tough Navy admiral. I think he's telling it like it is and I don't think he knows if this strategy is going to work or not. So I believe he's just looking straight in the camera and saying it may work, it may not, I don't know. When I get there, I'll try to make it work.
ROBERTS: General Grange?
BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE, U.S. ARMY (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, the same thing. I don't think he's done all his evaluations yet, at least at the time of the testimony. I do believe, though, that if General Petraeus says he needs more troops that Admiral Fallon would fight for that.
ROBERTS: General Grange, you're an intelligence man. The National Intelligence Estimate came out on Friday. It said that there is risk of further deterioration in Iraq, that things are not going well there, that if the United States were to pull out, the Iraqi security forces probably could not survive as a non-sectarian entity.
Any of that surprising?
GRANGE: No. It's really not, John.
The fact of the matter is the judgment, the primary judgment that comes out of the NIE is that the primary violence that we see today is this sectarian violence. That doesn't surprise us.
What is mentioned and needs to be highlighted is the root cause of that is former Baathists, Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda In Iraq. That needs to be addressed, as well.
However, the challenge is you've got to stop this sectarian violence. And the real challenge clearly remains in order to accomplish that is how do you get the Iraqi government to step up and get out of their -- kind of what I would call their DNA marking, which is to identify exclusively with the tribe, and really try to establish a national vibrant government that's going to handle this.
ROBERTS: Gentlemen, it looks like next week in the Senate, at least, this resolution opposing the troop increase may pass. We've been seeing some ads that have been on the air in the last few days from an organization called VoteVets.org, also voicing their opposition.
Let's take a look at that advertisement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM IRAQ VETERANS' AD, COURTESY VOTEVETS.ORG)
JOSHUA LANSDALE, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: Veterans like us all opposed to the escalation.
ROBERT LORIA, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: On the other hand, there's George Bush, who supports escalation. If you support escalation, you don't support the troops.
ANDREW HORNE, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: Join the troops. Stop the escalation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: General Grange, what about that?
GRANGE: You know, I really hate this type of debate really getting on the commercials, the political -- being used in a -- for political means. I mean, I know that's the reality, but it really bothers me.
Here's the thing. There's troops in harm's way right now. And if the assessment is that they need to have reinforcing of troops in certain areas of Iraq, that's what we ought to do.
Are they -- does that mean there's more people that could be injured?
Of course. But is also means that it provides for protection and it also provides better synchronized effort with those that are already there.
And so you've got to be careful when you argue about escalating and withdrawing because of those that are already engaged.
ROBERTS: General Shepperd, do you believe that these resolutions, or the one that's expected to pass, the Warner-Levin Resolution, will have any effect on the upcoming deployment?
SHEPPERD: No, I don't think they'll have any effect on the upcoming deployment, but they are a really bad idea, John.
I've seen this movie before. I was involved in a war in which the country abandoned the warriors in the field, in which we made promises to our allies and then we cut and ran and cut off the funds.
It is a bad idea and it's very confusing to the soldiers and their families who are being deployed.
Are we serious about this or not? What should they do?
They're being shot at every day. It's a bad idea.
ROBERTS: General Marks, concern being raised -- and it was highlighted in a "Washington Post" article on Tuesday -- about the amount of equipment that these troops will have to operate with. It said: "President Bush's plan to send five additional U.S. combat brigades into Iraq has left the Army and Marines scrambling to ensure that the troops could be supported with the necessary armored vehicles, jamming devices, radios and other gear. Trucks are in particularly short supply."
General Marks, do we risk another situation as we saw when the insurgency began, that these new troops will go in and they won't have the protection that they need?
BRIG. GEN. JAMES MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: No, that won't happen, John. That's a lesson that we learned. These soldiers will be prepared. I think the thrust of that article is what's the downstream effect? do we have enough for these soldiers?
And the short answer is yes, we do, and we're not going to employ soldiers or Marines without the requisite firepower, protection, intelligence, logistics support.
The concern is where is the Army in terms of its end strength and how much more do they need?
The Army is going to grow. The Marine Corps is going to grow. So the point about this article is it doesn't affect my nephew, who is in harm's way right now.
General Grange, the Congressional Budget Office issued a report near the end of stating that the 21,500 troops is not the complete picture, that you need at least as many support troops, that the total number could be somewhere near 48,000 that would have to be sent into Iraq for this so-called surge.
Is the White House not coming clean about what the real numbers would have to be?
GRANGE: I mean -- yet -- well, maybe. I don't know for sure. But, yes, you need support troops to handle the combat troops that are going to be put on the ground.
Can they go ahead and just tag onto the current infrastructure that's there?
Possibly. Keep in mind, a lot of this is also civilian contract that's not in the account either. I mean if you count over 100,000 security and logistics people that work for private firms, I mean you can imagine the numbers that are really involved in this -- in this whole effort.
So, yes, it's going to need a logistics tail.
How much of that's already in place and how much more will have to be added is hard to say.
ROBERTS: Generals, another issue that I want to bounce off of you here is the nomination for General George Casey, the former commander of troops on the ground in Iraq to be the Army chief of staff.
Some people opposing this nomination.
Here's what Senator John McCain had to say about Casey before the Armed Services Committee on Thursday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: While I do not in any way question your honor, your patriotism or your service to our country, I do question some of the decisions and judgments you have made over the past two and-a-half years as commander of Multi-National Forces in Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: There's a concern by some senators that if they were to confirm General Casey, that could be giving him a pass for "all of the mistakes," that they believe that he should be held to account for in Iraq.
What do you think?
SHEPHERD: Look, John, I think General Casey is one of the finest men that's ever put on an Army uniform. If I had a son or daughter serving in Iraq, I'd want them to serve under a man like General Casey. He's thoughtful, he's caring, he's wise.
Has he made some mistakes?
Possibly. But a lot of people in America, including the politicians that are questioning him, have made plenty of mistakes. I think he's the right guy for chief of staff. I hope he's confirmed.
ROBERTS: All right, good to have you all in the same place at one time, albeit on three separate cameras.
General Shepperd, General Grange, General Marks, thanks.
From fighting the war to rebuilding Iraq -- and tens of millions of your tax dollars wasted.
Why is it still happening?
We'll ask the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, coming up next.
But first, some of the fallen in this week at war.
ROBERTS: How do you pick up the pieces after a war?
Well, apparently not the way that is being done right now.
Millions of dollars wasted. Millions more spent just to keep projects from getting blown up. And excesses like an Olympic swimming pool when basics are scarce?
Joining me now is the fellow who is watching over it all, Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.
Welcome back, Stuart.
STUART BOWEN, INSPECTOR GENERAL FOR IRAQ RECONSTRUCTION: Thanks, John.
ROBERTS: Good to have you again.
Your latest quarterly report, tens of millions of dollars in reconstruction funds wasted, out the window, down the toilet, however you want to put it.
How outraged should taxpayers be that this continues?
BOWEN: Well, again, the majority of the projects we visit do meet standards. But part of my job is to shine a light on the problems and I've done that again in this latest quarterly. And specifically the report you referred to has to do with a security camp that was being built in the green zone. It got started, quickly was concluded or terminated by the government.
However, the contact got paid, a thousand trailers were purchased but were not used and are in storage at the Baghdad airport.
ROBERTS: Right. And, also, there was an additional 20 trailers in that that the Iraqi government ordered for VIPs that it shouldn't have, and they built an Olympic sized swimming pool.
BOWEN: That was the unauthorized work that we identified in the course of our audit, $4 million were spent. It was ordered by the Ministry of the Interior, not by the U.S. government, and, thus, should not have been accompanied.
ROBERTS: So how does -- how does this happen that the U.S. is in charge of the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund, American taxpayers fund it and yet the Iraqi government is wasting it?
BOWEN: Well, a simple axiom we have identified in the course of our work is that if you provide good oversight of a contractor performing a project, you get a good outcome. If you don't, this can happen.
ROBERTS: Hey, here's something that you identified yet again, the Baghdad Police College. In your report, you say: "We documented the existence of urine and fecal matter dripping from the ceiling. It's apparent the contractor did not take any corrective actions. As a result, the unsanitary conditions continue." How egregious an example is this of a contractor shirking their -- their commitments and their responsibilities?
BOWEN: This is the most frustrating project I've visited since I started three years ago in Iraq. And I have to tell you, it's frustrating because this is the largest police academy in the world. It was the central -- it will be the locus for police training in Baghdad, a place that is in dire need of well trained police.
Again, contractors were not overseen properly, and, as a result, the project fell off the rails.
ROBERTS: You also reported -- and here's another little bit from the report -- "$36.4 million in weapons and equipment could not be accounted for, including armored vehicles, body armor and communications equipment."
How do they lose track of that much of that type of equipment?
BOWEN: Again, that's part of the DynCorp review that we did of the training academy. And we actually have some investigations going on related to those issues.
ROBERTS: And electricity. Let's take a look at this, in terms of the Iraq Reconstruction and Relief Fund, 23 percent of the money -- that's a little more than $4 billion -- was spent on electricity. Yet you also reported that there's only an average of 12 hours of electricity across Iraq daily, six-and-a-half in Baghdad.
What's going on?
BOWEN: Well, what's going on are the insurgents are hitting the Baghdad grid. They're taking out power lines and it's very difficult to repair them. The minister of electricity told me he's afraid to send his repair teams out because they get shot at.
And, as a result, you see the average hours per day in Baghdad dropping.
ROBERTS: If security is still such a problem, as you identify it in this quarterly report, the president's plan to increase the number of provincial reconstruction teams, can that have any effect as long as the security situation remains the way it is now?
BOWEN: Given the security situation, the targets for this new funding are the right targets. The provincial reconstruction team program is the most important capacity building program in Iraq, and it's nationwide. It's about getting local governance -- governments working.
The CERP -- the Commanders Emergency Response Program -- is about enabling Army units, U.S. Army and military units, to exercise and execute quick reaction, quick turnaround projects.
ROBERTS: Well, certainly there's a lot of people who hope that something can happen with this, because the way the situation is now and the way you've painted it, it's obviously not a good one.
BOWEN: That's what's difficult.
ROBERTS: Stuart Bowen, thanks very much.
Good to be with you
It's always good to read your reports, too.
BOWEN: Thank you, John.
ROBERTS: Appreciate it.
Just ahead, what we'll be looking for in the Iraq debate next week.
Stay with us.
ROBERTS: With all the saber rattling toward Iran and so much Congressional opposition to the president's plan to increase forces in Iraq, it's worth considering what kind of standing President Bush has in the region.
Shibley Telhami, a professor at the University of Maryland, who also appears from time to time on this program, conducts an annual poll of attitudes in the Arab world. In his last survey, President Bush was the second most disliked leader, behind Israel's Ariel Sharon. Fifty percent said they disliked Sharon the most, 32 percent said President Bush.
Well, in Telhami's latest survey, President Bush is the most disliked leader, with an average of 42 percent among the six nations polled, followed by Ariel Sharon -- though he's been in a coma for almost a year -- at 10 percent, and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at eight percent. The fact that an American president is more disliked in the Arab world than the leader of Israel is an extraordinary finding.
Could that change with significant improvements in the Iraq situation?
Well, perhaps. But the public relations and perception problems for this administration go far beyond Iraq's borders and will take much more than establishing peace there to fix.
A quick look now at what we're looking for next week at war.
On Monday, we could see the first vote in the U.S. Senate on a bipartisan resolution against President Bush's build-up of U.S. forces in Iraq.
Wednesday, the Senate Select Intelligence Committee closes its doors on the public and holds private hearings on Iraq.
And six party talks on North Korea and its nuclear plans are set to get back on track in Beijing on Thursday.
Thanks for joining us on THIS WEEK AT WAR.
I'm John Roberts.
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