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Week's War-Related Events Reviewed

Aired August 5, 2007 - 13:00   ET


TOM FOREMAN, CNN ANCHOR, THIS WEEK AT WAR: Just one day in Baghdad, dozens die as suicide bombers explode a tanker truck. Four U.S. soldiers fall in battle. The largest Sunni party pulls out of the unity government and yet there are those who say this war can be won. Is this possible amid all of this or like the weapons of mass destruction, will it turn out to be a seductive but deadly mirage? THIS WEEK AT WAR right after a look at what's happening in the news right now.

FOREMAN: I'm Tom Foreman and here is where we are going in THIS WEEK AT WAR. Arwa Damon is in Baghdad reporting on how the war is affecting Iraqi civilians, a crisis that is getting worse with four million men, women, and children going hungry. What can be done? Our State Department correspondent Zain Verjee is looking at the United States' very confusing relationship with Saudi Arabia. Whose side are they on?

We'll go to the Pentagon and Barbara Starr with a look at how badly they have handled the Pat Tillman story. In their rush to create a hero, did they lose track much the truth? We'll ask military weapons expert John Pike about the increasing number of major arms sales. Should the U.S. really be the world's biggest arms dealer? But first, retired Brigadier General David Grange will weigh in on a very unclear situation in Iraq, but claims of real progress are being met with open disbelief. THIS WEEK AT WAR.


MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: I walked through the streets of Ramadi (ph) a couple days ago without body armor. That city has turned around, 95 percent reduction of violence because the Sunni sheiks are with us now against al Qaeda. That's going to break. The sectarian violence much less resolved so far, but at least we've put a bit of a cap or a lid on it with our greater troop strength.


FOREMAN: That was Brookings Institution analyst Michael O'Hanlon on this program last week. Then he co-wrote an op-ed piece in the "New York Times" on Monday titled "A War We Might Just Win." It set off a firestorm of criticism. Is it possible that we're so used to failure that we simply can't admit the possibility of success? In Baghdad CNN correspondent Arwa Damon is with us, CNN military consultant Brigadier General David Grange, U.S. Army retired is in Chicago and with me in the studio is former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb, now with the Center for American Progress. Let me start with you here in the studio. You don't buy it that this is getting better and that this could be won.

LAWRENCE KORB, FMR. ASST. DEFENSE SECRETARY: I don't buy it because even in the O'Hanlon Pollack (ph) piece which set off this firestorm, people said, you know, these were critics of the war. No, they supported the invasion. They supported the surge. The next thing is the whole purpose of the surge is to get the Iraqis to make the political compromises necessary to stop the violence. They are nowhere near it. Even Mike and Ken in their article admit that there's no political progress. The whole idea of the surge assumed that if you got things under control, the Iraqis would make political progress. If things are under control, why aren't they making it? Secretary Gates on his way back from the Middle East said we had no idea how tough it would be for them. Where have they been? That's the real problem there.

FOREMAN: So you're saying because there's no political progress, it doesn't matter if there's military progress. It's going nowhere.

KORB: That's right. I don't buy how much military progress. I think they gave us a selective snapshot of how much military progress. But even if you assume that, then why is there no political progress? I'm also concerned that we're basically making common cause with Sunni insurgents who don't support the government of al Maliki so in a sense you're arming people who are opposed to the government in Iraq.

FOREMAN: I want to get back to that, but first let's look at some numbers here. U.S. fatalities in Iraq. Look at how the numbers have changed. April, 104. May, 126. June, 101. July, 79, not a gigantic drop but a real drop. General Grange, when you look at these numbers, what do you think is happening? Are we really making progress? Is this winnable now? Can we talk about that?

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE, U.S. ARMY (RET): Well, I think that there is a bit of a defeatist attitude out there because of past engagements our nation has been involved in, but I do think there's some progress and I say that because of my interaction with commanders in different areas so it's not a snapshot but different areas throughout Iraq that talk about the troop morale and believe in the mission. They think there's progress. The attitude of the population and their locale how they correspond and give information to our military, the integration of some of the Iraqi units are indicators. But number of deaths is an indicator, but it's not finite and I personally don't like to use that as a major indicator.

FOREMAN: Arwa, you're in Baghdad. Last week you said there's not much of a sense on the street that things were getting a lot better. Do you have any greater sense this week?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There has been a certain amount of optimism that spilled over from Iraq's win in the Asia cup last Sunday, but much of that has really dissipated. I mean Iraqis still have yet to see any sign of progress. They're living without the basic necessities of life, very little power, no water and also if we're going to be talking about numbers, the number of Iraqi casualties and the number of casualties among the Iraqi security forces actually went up for the month of July, not down.

FOREMAN: So, Lawrence, let me come back to this, though. You can't measure obviously a war by saying if we've absolutely won then we can say it's good. It's all about some progress. Do you see no progress in this war?

KORB: No, I don't. In fact, if you go back, you take a look at July's casualties, for example. The casualties in July, American casualties, even though they were lower than the previous three months, are higher than July of 2006, July of 2005 and as has just been pointed out, the life of Iraqis is getting worse not getting better. So that's the progress you should be looking for. Look, until the Maliki government makes the political compromises necessary to develop an Iraq that people are willing to serve, willing to fight and die for, doesn't make any difference. We're going to turn over some of these areas supposedly after we pacify them to the Iraqi security forces. They're nowhere near where they should be. I mean, General Dempsey pointed out in Baquba we want 11,500 to show up, 1,000 came. And even Mike and Ken's piece said the police are nowhere where they need to be. They will never be that until you make the political compromises. Look, if you were willing to send another couple hundred thousand more Americans, stay there for 10 years and could be guaranteed at the end of that time you'd have security forces, you know, that would be loyal to the government, have a government make the political compromises, maybe there's hope. We don't have that many troops. This surge, whether we like it or not, is going to end next spring unless the president wants to go to a draft.

FOREMAN: General, a lot of people here I've heard raise this notion, particularly military families. They've said, look, Lawrence in all deference here, that that is a big part of the problem. Too many people saying here is everything that's going wrong and ultimately that's demoralizing and difficult for any army. Do you buy that or do you think it's not about that?

GRANGE: Well, I do buy it. It bothers me as well. Reports on the Iraqi army, it's amazing. You look at some of the ones that are doing very well now and the integration of Kurds, Shia and Sunni in these particular formations, I look back at the United States army when we couldn't integrate some of our demographics into our army until -- into or after World War II and yet we criticize the speed of some of this integration of people that have some very big prejudices against each other. Yes, the political process will make the decision but the biggest enabler is a secure and safe environment so that people can get on with their life and I think there's progress there. I am optimistic about it because again of the commitment of some of our people and it will force I think the people will force some of the change in political process. I'm talking about the Iraqi people. So I think it affects the troop morale right now and they're going to go ahead and do well no matter what we say back here. That's the honor of it all.

FOREMAN: Arwa, briefly the last word goes to you. If you walk on the streets of Baghdad today and you said this war is winnable. We can move toward a stable Iraq. What would people say to you?

DAMON: I think they would actually probably start laughing at this point in time. I think for most Iraqis they're really just trying to get through the day and they can't really see a better life for themselves because life right now is just so difficult. I mean, I was speaking with a few Iraqis earlier about this very fact and they said that the only thing that they really wanted -- and their standards have completely changed. Originally they wanted the freedom that America promised them when it invaded Iraq. What they want now, put simply, is just a little bit of power and a little bit of security and they don't even think that they're going to be able to get that.

FOREMAN: All right. Arwa, thank you so much. General and also you Lawrence, thank you for stopping in here, a complex situation, not going to be easily sorted out soon.

As complex however, as the politics in Iraq are, it's nothing compared to figuring out who are our friends in the broader Middle East. Take Saudi Arabia. They're essential to almost every U.S. policy in that region, but are they working with us or against us? A full report on that in just a moment.

But first, we're going to take a THIS WEEK AT WAR remembrance. Army Specialist Daniel Enrique Gomez was killed last month in Adania (ph), Iraq when his vehicle was hit by an IED. Last week in Laguna Heights, Texas, his family gathered to remember the last time they saw this young man.


ELAINE GOMEZ, COUSIN: He came back for R&R not even a month ago and you wouldn't even know he was away doing army stuff. He came back, he was all laughing and joking and stuff, just real happy.


FOREMAN: Specialist Gomez comes from a military family. His father served in the Air Force and his sister is currently in the Coast Guard. Our thoughts, of course, are with his family. He was 21 years old.


FOREMAN: Let's take a look at some of the other hot spots all around the globe. In Sri Lanka the Tamil (ph) tiger rebels have declared that they will begin guerrilla attacks against economic and military targets. This after a series of setbacks on the battlefield. 70,000 people have died in the war there with no end in sight.

The fighting between the Pakistani army and Islamic militants in the lawless region of Wazeristan (ph) continues to escalate. On Tuesday, the army claimed that over a dozen militants died in an attack on a checkpoint. In the city of Ramallah (ph) on the west bank, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that Israel was prepared to discuss fundamental issues in an upcoming summit. Earlier Secretary Rice got the Saudis to tentatively agree to attend the summit making it the first time since 1991 that they will sit across the table from the Israelis if they show up and that is far from certain, which makes it pretty typical of the complex relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia. Just listen to Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman.


REP. JANE HARMAN (D) HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: Saudi Arabia continues to fund the terror movement in the Middle East. They continue to try to get -- wreak havoc inside with the civil war in Iraq.


FOREMAN: So with friends like these, does the U.S. really need enemies? To help me decipher all of this, Zain Verjee, CNN's State Department correspondent and David Schenker, a former Defense Department official and now a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East policy. Zain, right now, does the State Department think Saudi Arabia is helping us or hurting us in the Middle East?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Secretary of State Rice was in Saudi Arabia and she says Saudi Arabia is an old friend and a close ally, even though we do have some differences and there is a major issue right now between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. U.S. officials have said, look, Saudi Arabia is just not being helpful when it comes to Iraq. It's undermining the Shia-led government of Nouri al Maliki, they say and also helping fund and support Sunni insurgents in Iraq. They're really not helping the U.S. efforts. They say Saudi Arabia needs to step up and help.

FOREMAN: Let's take a look at a map real quickly here and talk about what we're saying here. This is Saudi Arabia down here, to give everybody a point of reference. Israel is over here. Iraq up here, Iran over here. This is the border and this is the Sunni area that Saudi Arabia has said they will help especially if things start falling apart there. Is this just a reality for them there? Is this a threat against us pulling out? What is this?

DAVID SCHENKER, WASHINGTON INST. FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: A significant threat. They are looking at a population of 10 percent Shiite population in Saudi Arabia on the border with Iraq. They're concerned about this, about the loyalty to the state and they're concerned about what's going to happen to their Sunnis they want to protect in Iraq should Iraq fall and should the United States leave, whether retribution will be taken against these people.

FOREMAN: Do you see Saudi Arabia as a good fit with the United States or many things about the way they run their society, the way they view government that is not at all like ours.

SCHENKER: In addition to governance, it's really a mixed bag in terms of foreign policy. On Lebanon, for example, they support the March 14th movement, the good guys. They put pressure on Syria. At the same time Saudi institutions and companies are investing incredibly in Syria. The same thing that goes for Palestine and Israelis. They are helping on perhaps on the Arab peace accord, but they also brokered this terribly unproductive peace accord between Hamas and Fattah earlier this year, so they're really a mixed bag for the United States.

VERJEE: And if I could add oil, that's the major relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. And so that adds to the mixed bag and the more complicated relationship.

FOREMAN: When you consider all those things, Zain and the comments of Secretary Rice this week, do you have a sense that the United States trusts Saudi Arabia or that we're simply uneasy bedfellows?

VERJEE: I would err on the side of uneasy bedfellows although they realize that they need Saudi Arabia for an important strategic relationship. I mean, just this week the U.S. announced basically a billion dollar armed sales agreement with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, but still dealing with specifics and trying to nail down exactly what they're going to sell to the Saudis.

FOREMAN: Is that why they like us, David? Is it primarily economic? Is it over oil and arms?

SCHENKER: No, fundamentally I think it's because we provide them with some element of security. We buy oil, certainly, but we provide them with security against predatory neighbors like Iran and that's the primary reason.

VERJEE: And Secretary of State Rice also said this week that, you know, they want to give that kind of armed sales deal to the region simply because they want them to feel a lot more secure because they're worried and a little bit nervous, very nervous, about the growth of Iran in the region so this is to help them make them a little more secure. One other thing that was raised at the State Department, a lot of reporters said, look, is this a quid pro quo? Are you giving them this deal so you guys can help us in Iraq because we need you to do that? The State Department saying, no, that's not the case, but they're saying we do expect the Saudis, though, to step up and be a lot more helpful than they are.

FOREMAN: Another big issue here for many Americans is this, this link, however tenuous it may be between Saudi Arabia and terrorist groups. The notion that the Saudis, our pals, aren't doing nearly enough to control it within their own borders. Can they, David? Are they capable of it?

SCHENKER: They can. They've proved that they can. I think the government policy in Saudi Arabia has gone through a transition. They were, as the government supporting these madrathas (ph), al Qaeda in general.

FOREMAN: Extremist Islamic schools.

SCHENKER: Teaching ideologically the al Qaeda view of the world. It's a big problem for us. I think after the attacks started on Saudi soil, they changed their tune as a government, but you still have the problem of these loyal family members who are ongoing supporting these institutions and supporting al Qaeda and it remains a terrible problem for U.S. policy.

FOREMAN: One last question briefly here, one of the real issues continues to be whether or not we can get everything settled in Israel between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We have little nibbles here about what Saudi Arabia might be. Very briefly, each of you, will Saudi Arabia actually be a player in this latest round of talks and will they be a player for good?

VERJEE: Well, Saudi Arabia is definitely a player. The U.S. wants Saudi Arabia to play a big part in a conference that they proposed sometime in the fall of this year where Secretary Rice will chair it. The signals from the Saudis were, we'll attend it, but we don't want it to be a photo-op and it needs to have substantive issues discussed on the table. They do want to see a breakthrough or some kind of process involved with the Israeli Palestinian conflict. They've been pushing the U.S. to do that, but whether they'll show up and sit face-to-face across the table from Israel, who they don't recognize, is another story.

FOREMAN: And, David, very quickly.

SCHENKER: The Saudis have essentially supplanted the Egyptians as the most important Arab state and in that role, I think they are pushing for some sort of progress and like my colleague said, the degree to which they will push, they will sit across the table from the Israelis is an open question.

FOREMAN: I have a feeling U.S. officials will be watching very, very closely. Zain, David, thank you both very much for being here.

Telling friend from foe isn't just a diplomat's role. It's a deadly reality for soldiers as well. Coming up, a case of friendly fire that continues to wound friends, family and the reputation of an entire chain of command. THIS WEEK AT WAR. Stay with us.


FOREMAN: When former NFL star Pat Tillman died on a remote hillside in Afghanistan, the first reports were that he died a hero, killed by an enemy's bullet and given a silver star for valor. There is no doubt that he was a hero but all the rest was false. His mother made it crystal clear how she felt when she spoke to "The Arizona Republic" last week saying, quote, the problem with the situation is that they told us a lie, not to spare us, but to spare themselves. And not only did they withhold the truth, they concocted, fabricated a story for their own purposes.

So was this an error or a deliberate cover up? Georgetown professor of military law Gary Solis is with here in Washington and Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is at her post. Barbara, we heard the testimony this week. Did it smell of insincerity or incompetence? BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, perhaps the second, perhaps confusion, perhaps lack of memory as to certain events. There have been more than half a dozen military investigations into the friendly fire death of Pat Tillman. No one has found criminal conduct or criminal wrongdoing. Plenty of confusion, plenty of bad judgment, plenty of not reporting the facts to the family or the American public as soon as anybody suspected it was friendly fire, something that the military is still paying the price for all these years later in terms of lack of its own credibility. That seems to be the bottom line, Tom.

FOREMAN: Gary, how is it possible that the military decided to pursue this course? We keep having hearings trying to figure out and it still doesn't seem clear why they decided to go this way.

GARY SOLIS, MILITARY LAW PROFESSOR: At a relatively low level, some commander decided that rather than risk the embarrassment of admitting that they had killed -- friendly fire had killed Pat Tillman, they decided to give another story and to verify the story and to fancy it up, award a silver star, too, which certainly is the most cynical aspect of this case as far as I'm concerned.

FOREMAN: Don Rumsfeld spoke this week about this during his testimony and basically he said there was no high-level cover up. Listen to his words.


DONALD RUMSFELD, FMR. DEFENSE SECRETARY: I know that I would not engage in a cover up. I know that no one in the White House suggested such a thing to me. I know that the gentlemen sitting next to me are men of enormous integrity and would not participate in something like that. So, of course there's a difference between error and cover up.


FOREMAN: Barbara, whatever happened to the buck stops here, the notion that people at the top saying they set the tone for how people convey the truth and that that was partially responsible here?

STARR: Well, let's be very clear. One three-star general was held accountable for this situation, Lt. General Philip Kensinger (ph) was censured. He has retired. He is most likely to lose retirement pay and one of his three stars for allegedly being deceptive to investigators about what he knew and when he knew it. Is that enough? Probably not. The Tillman family simply has made it very clear they are at the point of such distress they simply don't believe anything that the government tells them and, you know, this case is still one, as I said, where the public has a great deal of skepticism. The tone set at that hearing by the highest levels of command, although they're all retired now, wasn't really a good one. It was either they didn't remember, they didn't recall, something about it all being somebody else, somebody other than them, Tom.

FOREMAN: Gary, does this undermine our military overall when you have people at the top levels on something as critical as this saying essentially not my fault, not my area, I shouldn't be blamed?

SOLIS: Sure. Can't help but undermine the military and the public's perception of its integrity especially when you have a former chairman of the joint chiefs say, well, it wasn't my responsibility to tell anybody. Technically, of course, he's right. It wasn't his responsibility but he is a senior officer in the military and he only had to pick up a phone to make something happen and he didn't do it. To make so callous a statement on television struck me as very surprising.

FOREMAN: Do you think that the difficulties of this war make this kind of thing just much more likely, the sense they're having trouble selling it to the public anyway, so there's more of a sense throughout the officer corps saying just don't bring bad news in?

SOLIS: No, I don't think it's particularly that. I think it's something that's been going on for hundreds of years in all militaries. We had blue on blues in Vietnam in my unit. There was always a hesitation to let the facts out. So it's something that you're going to have in every conflict today and in the future.

FOREMAN: Barbara, what is the military going to do about this? So one guy gets censured, there's some issue he may not get retirement pay. Is there something throughout the Pentagon though, where they're saying we must stop this and here is how we'll stop it?

STARR: Well, on the issue of friendly fire, they have revised some of their policies. If they even suspect it's friendly fire right from the beginning, no matter how tough it is, they have to tell the families, they have to tell the survivors that they are at least looking into it. That seems to be the fundamental critical mistake that happened here. Nobody told the Tillman family so nearly a month after a memorial service for Corporal Tillman. That seems to be pretty unforgivable and perhaps if there's another lesson, they're struggling with the fact that many in the military that they need to get past what the message is that they want to put out and more to what the facts are, Tom.

FOREMAN: Gary, do you think we've heard the end of this now? Do we know the truth?

SOLIS: I suspect that we do know the truth and I don't think we have heard the end of it because there are going to be some other general officers who are going to be some other general officers who are going to be censured. But in my view this sort of thing isn't going to end until we have a general officer court-martialed, or a field grade officer court-martialed.

FOREMAN: For being more worried about the image than the truth?

SOLIS: Exactly.

FOREMAN: Well, thank you, Gary, and you, too, Barbara. We'll explore the world the international arms sales in just a moment.

But first, I said at the beginning of the segment that there is no doubt that Pat Tillman was a hero. That's because all of those who serve our country are, of course, heroes in their own right.

Here's a last look at some of the other heroes who fell in THIS WEEK AT WAR.



FOREMAN: It was just a classic snafu. The Government Accountability Office revealed on Thursday that over 1,000 parts for the F-14 Tomcat fighter were sold in February. The only problem is there's only one nation still flying the F-14, Iran. And they are, indeed, in the market for spare parts. But when the U.S. sold those planes to Iran long ago, the Shah was in charge, they were our friends, a strong ally in the Persian Gulf.

This week the U.S. announced a new series of arms deals to Arab nations. Will those come back to haunt us as well? John Pike (ph) is founder of the and a longtime analyst of the international arms trade.

John, let me start with a basic question here. Every time we sell arms to another nation, is it just a financial deal or is there a political deal attached to it?

JOHN PIKE, DIRECTOR, GLOBALSECURITY.ORG: Well, there's obviously a political deal attached to it because we're trying to support certain policies and we're trying to help Israel defend itself. We're trying to maintain a military balance between China and Taiwan. We're obviously not going to sell to countries that are hostile to us.

FOREMAN: Is it an explicit deal that we write down, or is it just an implied deal that says...


PIKE: Some of it's written down. Some of it is done in political side deals. Some of it is just done as a handshake.

FOREMAN: Let's look at the sheer volume we're talking about here, because this is interesting. The world's weapons suppliers, we are far and away the biggest, $11.5 billion in 2005, the United Kingdom behind it, $3.1 billion.

PIKE: Absolutely.

FOREMAN: Russia, $2.8 billion. But we're way out front of everybody else. Why is that?

PIKE: Well, we're way out in front of everyone else I think for a couple of reasons. One, our military -- our military spending, our defense industry, is bigger than the rest of humanity put together. So you're going to go to where you can get the best weapons, and America's weapons are better than anybody else's. And the United States has more friendly countries around the world than any other major supplier. So it only makes sense that the United States is going to be the major source.

FOREMAN: If we look around Iraq, these are some of our big clients over there: Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan. In many cases, we have very complex relationships with these governments. We're not sure what their future holds.

PIKE: Absolutely, absolutely. Right.

FOREMAN: Is it wise for us to be pouring this level of weaponry into countries where we may not know where we stand in five years?

PIKE: Well, there are always some restrictions on how the technology is supplied. I mean, in the case of Iran, one of the reasons they've been so hot to get F-14 Tomcat spare parts is because when the Shah fell, we turned off the supply and suddenly they were having a very hard time maintaining their aircraft.

We continue to have restrictions on what sort of operating systems, software is going to be transferred to some of these countries. So even if these countries do go sour on us, don't necessarily assume that they're going to be in a position to turn those weapons against us.

FOREMAN: What do we sell to these people and what will we not sell to them?

PIKE: Well, we're going to sell to them weapons that we have sold to other countries with which we have similar political relationships. There are going to be some types of weapons that we're -- like an aircraft carrier, that we're not going to sell because nobody else needs any...


FOREMAN: Nuclear weapons, we won't sell.

PIKE: We're not going to be selling nuclear weapons. We're not going to be selling nuclear attack submarines, for instance. The F-22 fighter, our best air superiority fighter, like the Tomcat at one time, we haven't sold it to anybody else. The Japanese alone are thinking about buying it.

FOREMAN: Let's look very briefly at one other map here that I think is pretty interesting. This shows who Russia and China are selling to. This is us over here, Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan. Here is Russia selling to China, Iran, India. And China selling to Iran, Pakistan, Egypt.

Some people, when we announced some of the deals that have been done and the deals that these countries have been done, have said, oh, we better watch out because Russia or China will start building much stronger relationships through their arms deals.

With the disparity in the amount of sales, is that a reasonable claim? PIKE: Well, you have to look at these different countries. On the one hand with China, Russia and China have definitely over the last 10, 15 years built a political relationship that they did not have during the Cold War with arms sales being the basis of it. During the Cold War, arms sales was the basis of a political relationship between Russia and India.

But with the end of the Cold War and more recently with the rapprochement between -- the growing strength of the friendship between India and the United States, you're seeing a lot more American arms going to India and a lot fewer Russian arms heading in that direction.

So all of these things change over time.

FOREMAN: Very briefly, considering the technological advantage we have, why don't we just stop doing this and just say, we will have such a vastly superior military and we'll sell none of our weapons, that that's where our security will come from?

PIKE: Because it's not America's military alone that's the basis of our security. It's the stability and confidence of the Saudi government, of the Egyptian government. It's the regional balance between Taiwan and China that is sustaining stability in those regions, and we can't do it alone.

FOREMAN: Thanks, John, very much for your insights.

In many ways this discussion of arms sales is abstract, but for far too many of those returning from Iraq, the consequences of modern weapons are all too real. More on that when THIS WEEK AT WAR continues.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say it was a myth that I was really here, and I don't know what to do about it.


FOREMAN: Twenty-seven members of the Arkansas National Guard were welcomed home this week after a year-long deployment in Iraq. The 449th Service Aviation Battalion was greeted by family and friends at the Little Rock airport. For the Feltcher family, their son Michael's return marks the first time in more than three years that they have had all their children home from war.


ROBERT FELTCHER, FATHER OF RETURNING SOLDIER: We had a daughter deployed to Iraq who came back last year. And there's nothing more to a parent than having their child been gone come home.

(END VIDEO CLIP) FOREMAN: Michael Feltcher walked out to meet his parents. Not all of those who returned from Iraq, however, are so lucky. Many go through great struggles. And this week we have a unique look at that. Barbara Starr was with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Peter Pace, when he visited the wounded as they were recovering in Germany.


STARR (voice-over): Landstuhl Region Medical Center in Germany is the first stop on the way home for the most badly wounded troops.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got a gunshot wound to the chest.

SPC. COLIN PEARCY, U.S. ARMY: Got a big old chunk of my left arm that's out, other than that, my legs got kind of peppered and a little bit on my face. But nothing severe except for the arm. But I'm good to go.

STARR: Landstuhl is talked about on the news often, but cameras are rarely permitted inside. CNN recently was allowed to follow General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, when he pinned a Purple Heart on 26-year-old Specialist Colin Pearcy. Just three days earlier Pearcy was hit by an IED in Iraq.

PEARCY: Probably within a few hours of it happening I was -- they put me on the phone with my father.

STARR: Modern technology keeping the wounded and their families in touch. But some things never change. Ask this young soldier what he wants to do next.

PEARCY: I would like to go drink a cold beer. That's what I'd like to do.


FOREMAN: A cold beer. A clear sign of recovery. We wish him and all the troops there well. When we come back, the human stories too often forgotten in the chaos of war-torn Iraq. We'll tell you the extent of the civilian crisis and what you can do to help THIS WEEK AT WAR.


FOREMAN: On Wednesday members of the Hanna (ph) family were reunited with other family members in Detroit. For them it was a moment of joy, an escape from war and difficult lives as refugees. But they are only a handful out of millions of people displaced and in trouble right now because of the war in Iraq.

This week some 40 international aid organizations signed an open letter appealing for additional help. One of those organizations was Refugees International, headed by Ken Bacon, who joins me right now in Washington. And over in Baghdad, Arwa Damon joins us again right now.

Arwa, let me start with you. Day in and day out, how much do you see Iraqis who have been pushed out of their neighbors, pushed from their homes, struggling to make it in that country?

DAMON: Well, you see them just about everywhere, Tom, whether it's in these makeshift refugee camps that have been set up where there is basically very little sanitation, no water and no power, or you see them having swapped homes with families of a different sect.

You'll see Sunni families swapping homes with Shia families, trying to survive. I mean, the situation is very dire, very difficult for Iraqis here. Essentially they're lost in their own country and I think the sentiment amongst the internally displaced people here is best summed up by what one what woman said to us a few months ago, displaced herself.

And she said while she was cooking that sometimes she thought about putting poison in the food because the way life was, it just wasn't worth living for her or for her family.

FOREMAN: Ken, that's a terrible, terrible thought. Are these people being driven mainly by the violence? Mainly by economic problems? Mainly by what?

KEN BACON, REFUGEES INTERNATIONAL: It's mainly violence and the general uncertainty of life in Baghdad and other major cities today in Iraq. There are not many public services. People are afraid to go to school, the hospitals are crashed, frequently they have a hard time getting food and there's massive unemployment.

FOREMAN: Let's take a look at some of the numbers we're talking about here, about 4 million people, according to our numbers here, regularly cannot buy enough to eat; 18 million are without adequate water supplies; 28 percent of children are malnourished there.

Ken, is this normal fare for wars or is it more intense in this circumstance?

BACON: Well, it is sadly normal fare for wars. What is sad about this is of course that Iraq was a fairly functioning country three years ago, four years ago. And that has fallen apart and despite our efforts we haven't been able to rebuild it.

Two things are happening. One, people are escaping bad conditions, of violence, insecurity, and lack of human security. But also there's de facto ethnic cleansing going on. People are separating from integrated neighborhoods and moving to separate Sunni or Shia neighborhoods.

FOREMAN: Let's look at the people who have fled the country altogether. Syria, 1.2 million Iraqi refugees. Jordan, 750,000. Down to Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Turkey.

Arwa, when people flee to these other countries, is there a sense that they are being welcomed there at all or are they really perilously adrift when this happens?

DAMON: Well, it's an incredibly difficult situation. I mean, when we've run into Iraqis and spoken with Iraqis that are living outside of their own country, to some level they are being welcomed into this host nation. But, remember, they are dealing with those massive numbers that you just mentioned.

And a lot of the times the Iraqis are telling us they really feel like they're being treated like second-class citizens. They feel that they are a burden on the host country. They feel that people are discriminating against them, that are trying to isolate them. They have problems finding work, putting their children into school.

I mean, really, this is a temporary solution for a long-term problem. And they're also really plagued by the thought, the notion that they might not ever be able to return home.

FOREMAN: Obviously, Ken, there's problems getting anything into a war zone. In this case it does seem like there are so many competing interests fighting over resources, whenever they come into that country. I guess it's why a lot of the aid that might be offered is not getting to anyone.

BACON: Well, the problem in Iraq for the 2 million displaced people is that the violence prevents an adequate distribution of aid. But more than that, many Iraqis depend on a food rationing system called the public distribution system, and that system pretty much breaks down if people leave their homes and move to...


FOREMAN: You're talking essentially about a state welfare system.

BACON: Yes, talking about a state food distribution system.

FOREMAN: So if you move out of your neighborhood, you're off the list.

BACON: If you move out, you are off the list and you can't get food. This has been enormously disturbing to many of the internally displaced people because they are cut adrift from the social safety net that supported them before they left.

FOREMAN: Arwa, is there any sense that this is going to be reconciled within the country soon? Is anybody talking about fixing this?

DAMON: Tom, in all honesty, I mean, there's very little that the government can do here, is capable of doing or even is willing to do. We've seen its efforts thus far and it has not really been able to help its own people in general and especially not the displaced people.

When you go to a lot of these makeshift camps that have been set up and you ask people who's helping them, it's not the government. It's various militias, sometimes even the insurgent groups, neighborhood watch groups, that are the ones that are bringing forward aid. The government is paralyzed. It is essentially caught up in its own internal bickering. It isn't able to turn towards the people. I mean, they really have very little, if any, hope.

FOREMAN: Well, Arwa, Ken, thank you for your insights onto this.

As we told you earlier, there is a way that you can help. Go to and click on the "Refugees" tab. There is a list of organizations working to help Iraqi refugees. I know many of you want to help and those working on many other causes as well. Remember, that's

When we come back, a guy who violated that time-honored military motto, "never volunteer." A story you want to hear. Stick around.


FOREMAN: You know the real problem with stories like those of Pat Tillman -- stories that are twisted and tainted by politicians and military bureaucrats, the real problem is that you may get suspicious and cynical and miss some of the really great true stories out there. And here is an example.

It starts with something we hear about all too often, a roadside bomb exploded last month and injured a 23-year-old Marine corporal, shattering his heel. According to The L.A. Times, the young Marine stopped the Corpsman carrying him to the hospital and asked for a favor.

Surprised, his commanding officers agreed and after a shortened version of the usual ceremony, Corporal Gareth Hawkins (ph), lying in a stretcher, raised his hand and re-enlisted for another four years. He's facing months of surgery and rehabilitation, but already planning to get back to his squad in the 3rd Battalion 1st Marine Regiment. I'm sure they'll be very happy to have him. You can't make up stories like that one.

Turning now to some of the stories that we will be following in the next WEEK AT WAR. On Thursday, tribal leaders from Pakistan and Afghanistan are scheduled to hold a jurga, or grand council. They are expected to discuss security concerns along their shared border.

Also on Thursday, the U.N. Security Council will discuss the political aspects of the humanitarian disaster in Darfur. This comes after this week's agreement to send over 25,000 peacekeeping troops to that troubled region.

And on Friday, will mark the start of the court hearing for six men accused of plotting an attack on Ft. Dix.

Thanks for joining us on THIS WEEK AT WAR. I'm Tom Foreman. Straight ahead, "CNN'S SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT," "Road to Ruin: Are We Safe?".