Skip to main content
Search
Services


 

Return to Transcripts main page

CNN PRESENTS

Battles, Bloodshed and Politics From the First 1,000 Days of the Iraq War

Aired December 11, 2005 - 20:00   ET

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


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Fredricka Whitfield, with a look at what's happening right now in the news.
Death row inmate "Tookie" Williams will have to wait until tomorrow to find out if he will be executed on Tuesday. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's office says there will be no decision today on Williams' request for clemency.

Iraq has imposed a security clampdown and closed its borders as it gets ready for Thursday's elections. U.S. Ambassador predicts large numbers of Sunnis will participate in the vote. He says their participation could reduce the level of insurgent violence in Iraq. Is it a turning point in Iraq? CNN's Anderson Cooper will anchor from Iraq all week as part of our extensive coverage of this week's vote.

Up next on "CNN PRESENTS: 1,000 DAYS IN IRAQ," as voters prepare for this week's historic elections, CNN correspondents reflect on the battles, the bloodshed and the politics of the last 1,000 days.

And at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, it's "LARRY KING LIVE." Tonight, Heather Mills McCartney and Alec Baldwin. They're speaking out against the slaughter of dogs and cats for fur.

And coming up at 10:00 Eastern, "Killer Flu: A Breath Away." CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes you to the front lines in the fight against bird flu.

And I'll see you at 11:00 p.m. Eastern, with the latest up to the minute news on "CNN SUNDAY NIGHT." I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

ANNOUNCER (voice-over): Marking 1,000 days of war in Iraq, days of bloodshed, days of progress. In January, people in Iraqis made history, voting in their first democratic election.

JANE ARRAF, FORMER CNN BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF: I was really struck at how much the point of this whole process seemed to be to go out and vote.

ANNOUNCER: Now it is back to the polls for another crucial vote.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN BAGHDAD CORRESPONDENT: Politics in Iraq is essentially all about building compromise.

ANNOUNCER: But progress is measured in small steps, purchased over the past 1,000 days with tears and blood.

ARRAF: The loss of his family is the price that he has been willing to pay for the future of Iraq.

ANNOUNCER: The outcome, still uncertain. The insurgents, still fighting for control.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The insurgents are powerful enough to go to strike when they want, where they want.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got innocent civilians intermixed in the battle.

ANNOUNCER: Here at home, eroding support for the war. An embattled president in a tough spot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So the war has become this ugly Patina (ph) that has colored George Bush's approval ratings across the board.

ANNOUNCER: Over the next hour, our CNN correspondents give us their insights from all fronts.

RAMAN: When you get the chance to go out and really see Iraqis as they live their lives, it's always an incredible opportunity.

ANNOUNCER: As Iraqis prepare to vote for their first real government, CNN PRESENTS: 1,000 DAYS IN IRAQ.

ARRAF: Those elections in January were after covering this story for so long, after being there under Saddam and dealing with all of that misery that Iraqis went through. This was the first thing I had covered where people were happy. It was extraordinary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It means the future for us not to live in (inaudible) life.

ARRAF: Election officials had feared that hardly anyone would show up. But first the women came to check it out and this is when there were threats. There were mortars in some parts of this city. No one really knew that if you went out to vote, you would come back home at night. But they came. And then when they realized it was safe, they would call back to their friends and family and even more of them came. And some of them started singing.

(on camera): It has been relatively quiet here in (inaudible).

(voice-over): So I was trying to do live shots.

(on camera): Artillery and a few explosions.

(voice-over): Live, using a videophone from those polling stations.

(on camera): And I just received a call from the mayor of Baghdad.

(voice-over): And I'm sure through half of it, no one could hear me because the singing was so loud.

(on camera): I'm sorry, Charles, can you (inaudible)

(voice-over): It was like a party. It really was.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just look at me. Today's like my birthday. I'm 47 years old and this is the first time I've practiced democracy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very, very happy today. Very, very happy.

ARRAF: But it's been several months since then. It's been a lot of attacks, a lot of setbacks. They're not expecting a lot. They still think that Iraq will get better, will get safer. But it's going to be a long way down the road.

When they go to the polls in December, they will be electing a full-fledged government. No excuses this time. This is a government that is going to have to steer Iraq towards the course that it wants to take for the future.

RAMAN: The biggest question that people have who are watching this political process is what kind of Iraq do Iraqis want? The question is what coalition is formed? Who's at the top of it? And that will determine whether Iraq is a theocratic state or secular one.

ARRAF: If you ask someone politically how they identified Iraq, they will very often identify themselves as Shias and vote and identify and follow Shia religious leaders who have turned to politics.

The same goes with Kurds. Not so much with the Sunnis. It's because the Sunnis are quite fragmented and they have not developed the same sort of political process.

Sunnis have realized, to some extent, that they made a mistake. That they should have participated in the political process that they are the losers.

One of the reasons they didn't go out and vote last time in huge numbers was that the Sunni clerics told them that they should not vote. So now there is recognition among politicians, among ordinary Sunnis, among Sunni religious leaders, that they're not going to benefit from staying out of the political process.

One of my favorite interviews in thousands of interview in Iraq was a woman who was waiting in line in Mosul, waiting for fuel and heating oil, which they never had to wait for before. And she said, we wanted democracy, but now we've changed our minds. And she said now what they wanted, they wanted fuel, they wanted bread and they wanted the American soldiers to leave. And that kind of sums it up.

RAMAN: The Baghdad mayor was the one guy I met involved in Iraqi politics who every day was dealing with the basic needs of the people, dealing with the electricity, dealing with the water, dealing with the security, on a very basic level, on a street level, on a person-to- person level. And a really telling moment came when I was interviewing him at his home. This is the mayor of Baghdad, the country's capitol. And I'm at his house, talking with him and the lights go out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, MAYOR OF BAGHDAD: Such an activist.

RAMAN: A sign that really everyone here is affected by the lack of infrastructure and basic needs that still exist.

Another really poignant moment came as we were touring around his house, and his family lives outside of Iraq because of the security situation, and we stopped in his room and he had a picture of his son.

Do you think you'll create the Baghdad one day that he'll want to move back to?

MAYOR OF BAGHDAD: I hope. I hope.

RAMAN: The fact that he ended by saying, I hope, shows the difficulty that all of the people who are trying to build this country face. They all have incredible desires for Iraq to move forward. They just still need a figure to convince them that Iraq can be what they imagine it to be.

ANNOUNCER: Next.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yankee four, Yankee six, what's going on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, we're taking incoming rockets.

ANNOUNCER: Fighting the illusive enemy in Iraq's wild, Wild West.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: April 1, 2003, in a daring raid by U.S. Special Forces, Private First Class Jessica Lynch is rescued from a hospital in Nasiriyah.

April 9, 2003, U.S. Marines topple Saddam Hussein's statue in Fardus Square, symbolizing the fall of Baghdad.

JENNIFER ECCLESTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We saw the most activity that is U.S. Marines whom we were traveling with. These were Marines based out of Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Where this anti-insurgency movement that the U.S. forces were conducting in western Al-Anbar Province. And on the very first day we saw the heaviest fighting of the entire embed.

The Marines were taking fire on an hourly basis. They were not able to advance further into the city as fast as they wanted to because they were under fire. And given the nature of the insurgency, that they were moving around so much,

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you got somebody to shoot at, that's a done deal. Do it. ECCLESTON: The Marines weren't actually able to call in the heavy fire power because they actually couldn't get positive identification on the insurgents. So they were basically stuck.

LT. COL. DALE ALFORD, U.S. MARINE CORPS: They sit in an open battlefield where you got the bad guys and the good guys lined up against each other.

ROBERTSON: One of the principal challenges is with fighting an insurgency, it's difficult to identify who the insurgents are because they don't wear a uniform. You could say hello to them on the street and you wouldn't know.

Estimates of real active fighters are very hard to come by. Tens of thousands seems to be a reasonable estimate. Estimates of how many people are willing to sort of support the insurgency network is a hope (ph).

ARRAF: I spent a long time in western Al-Anbar, which is known in Iraq as sort of the Wild West. And it really is, in a sense. That is that untamed part of Iraq that may never come under control. And particularly there, it's very, very hard for the Marines.

There aren't a lot of them. They keep going into battle in places they kill or capture insurgents and then have to come back again several months later because it's all happened all over again.

ROBERTSON: The insurgents are power enough to go to strike when they want, where they want. Now the U.S. military, the Iraqi military are finding weapons caches, are able to disrupt some attacks, but that isn't stopping the insurgents.

ABU OMAR, INSURGENT: We have plenty of weapons and money and men. And our belief in God is great.

ROBERTSON: It was very interesting talking to these two insurgent commanders because it was my first real opportunity. It was scary because you don't know if they're setting you up to be captured, if they're setting you up for an ambush when you leave. They saw the reason that they wanted to fight the U.S. led occupation as nationalism. Although, they didn't believe in Saddam Hussein, but they did believe in getting the U.S. led occupation, as they said, out of Iraq. They did want to see that happen very quickly. And they said that they were prepared because this was war, to see civilian casualties.

ARRAF: These Marines and soldiers are just being asked to do things that you never would have imagined.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So if you can ID an enemy, by all means shoot.

ARRAF: And how they deal with it and the things they see are just incredibly moving. There was Josh Casias (ph) from Tennessee; and I noticed that in his tourit (ph), he had etched some names.

JOSH CASIAS (PH), SOLDIER: This is Doc Hollicourt (ph) from (inaudible), and he was our first medic down here, a good friend.

ARRAF: And he explained to me that a lot of the guys had passed on, but these guys in particular rode around with him.

CASIAS: They just rode around with me in the tourit (ph), watch over me.

ARRAF: These guys had died, but they were still there and they were protecting him. And they were as real as his buddy he could feel and touch.

Talafar was a city where insurgents had taken hold of a neighborhood called Surayad (ph). It was a place that was so dangerous that American soldiers wouldn't go in in humvees, they would only go in in tanks and other heavily armored vehicles because they would essentially be attacked any time they went in. And the tragedy of that was that there are always people who get caught in the crossfire.

We met a young boy at the police station who had come with his father and he had been hit by shrapnel. His father was afraid to take him to the hospital. And the Army commander said, well that's okay, I'll take you. I'll take you in one of our armored vehicles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can take you to the hospital and then we'll bring you back.

ARRAF: And they were still afraid.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They think there's an IED buried where? In the actual pavement or?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's in the rubble over there.

ECCLESTON: The true menace to the U.S. Marines was the IED. These are improvised explosive devices -- hidden bombs. They are buried. They are concealed by dirt. They are concealed by trash. They are hidden in the roads. They are sometimes buried under pavement.

When a tank would drive over it, it would trigger -- or it was remotely detonated through a cell phone, trigger an explosion, which are devastating and indiscriminate. This one specific incident that we referred to here as IED alley was nicknamed that because on one street alone, within the first 20 minutes of being there, we found several dozen IEDs. And luckily, they were detonated by the Marines.

ROBERTSON: In some places the insurgents attacks have gone down. And that is because of an efficient and strong U.S. military, an efficient and ever-increasingly stronger Iraqi police and Iraqi military. But at the same time, when I talked to people close to the insurgency, I get the impression from their rhetoric that the insurgents feel that they're getting stronger, that they're getting more determined.

ECCLESTON: I think once the Iraqi people feel that they are in control, that they are the ones that are operating a country. They have ownership in their country. They will be more inclined to stand up and to fight and to feel that this is their country, they have it now.

ANNOUNCER: The people working behind the front lines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was remarkable how basic the operation was. There were no radios for any of the ambulance drivers.

ANNOUNCER: Life as a Baghdad emergency doctor. The highs and lows. Coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the Iraqi interim government will assume and exercise full sovereign authority on behalf of the Iraqi people.

ANNOUNCER: June 28, 2004, the U.S. secretly transfers power back into the hands of the Iraqi people, two days ahead of the deadline.

January 30, 2005, despite deadly attacks and intimidating threats by insurgents, millions of Iraqis cast ballots in their first democratic election in half a century.

October 15, 2005, Iraqi citizens returned to the polls for a national referendum on the draft of Iraq's new constitution. It is approved by an overwhelming majority.

RAMAN: When you get the chance to go out and really see Iraqis as they live their lives, it's always an incredible opportunity.

There was a week in September where seven teachers were executed, essentially, by insurgents; six of them in this one village if Mwelha (ph). So we decided to go to Museva (ph) Elementary School, a school that's in the capitol, to try and gauge from the teachers how this was impacting them. And the first thing you notice is that they're setting up barricades on the street in front of the school.

We found out that this school was set to become a polling station in the October constitutional referendum. And the principal, when we talked to her, she was essentially in an impossible situation. The government was saying we need this school as a polling station, given the geography of where people live. And she said parents are going to stop sending their kinds -- some of them out of fear that attacks will happen. So in the end, it was the kids that lost. The kids that had to stay home.

We've spoken to principal since, and the election went incredibly well. There was no violence and they have drawn an incredible amount of inspiration from that.

We talked to one teacher who lived in Doral (ph), which is an incredibly violent area of Baghdad. And she told me how every day when she drives to work, she's not sure if she's going to make it there alive because of the attacks that happen, the random attacks that happen along the road. But she comes every day. And I asked her, especially given that seven teachers have been killed the week before, why she does it. And with all the teachers, the answer was so simple. It was as basic as, these kids are the future of the country. And I have to teach in order for the country to have a future.

GASAM ALAALDIN, KURDISH BUSINESSMAN: You see all these area are new. They all new. They all

ROBERTSON: Gasam Alaaldin, a Kurdish businessmen, who I met a couple of years ago -- he moved to the north, up into the Kurdish controlled area, which is where he's from, and went back to his hometown, went to the mayor there, found some green field site, had some ideas for factories and started building those factories.

ALAALDIN: This is about 8,000 meters, you know, so we are working hard.

ROBERTSON: When he was going back to his home town and employing people in his hometown. And this particular town had been very seriously and badly abused by Saddam Hussein's forces. It was one of those towns that's always seen as the sort of the heart of the Kurdish resistance, and that's why Saddam's forces always went in there hard.

Gasam, being a Kurd and going back to his roots really showed the north -- the north of the country, the Kurdish controlled part of the country, was an area where business could be done there.

ALAALDIN: In my opinion, Kurdish now will be lying the Sillican Valley (ph) for all industries of Iraq. Kurdistan is the gateway to Iraq.

ROBERTSON: Gasam was really optimistic about what could be done.

ALAALDIN: Within two weeks, we got (inaudible).

ROBERTSON: He's still optimistic. It's a little more guarded than it was before. When he travels around the country now, he will fly to Baghdad, rather than drive, just because of the dangers.

He hopes to lead by example that by investing in the country, you can boost and help the economy in your area. And many people will agree that part of the problems here would go away if people had enough money in their pocket. They perhaps wouldn't turn to the violence and the numbers that they also fought. For Gasam, it's not just personal gain, though; it's personal pride, it's professional pride. There are many, many things that play here for it.

RAMAN: When I first met Dr. Savad (ph), I was immediately taken aback by his just outlook on life. He's a guy that immediately laughs at everything almost. And it's infectious. You start laughing with him. And it's even more remarkable once you start to realize what he was confronting on a daily basis. He was the head of Iraq's emergency response; and specifically, that of Baghdad.

It was remarkable how basic the operation was. There were no radios. So those who were driving were using cell phone, and cell phones would sometimes go out. The response room, where they would determine where to send ambulances, was essentially this room no bigger than a couple of closets put together with one TV on that was playing the news. And so the news would report an incident and then they would send the ambulance there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And this is what you need the most?

DR. SAVAD (PH): Yes.

RAMAN: He had only about 40 ambulances. He needed well over 100. But with what little he had, he was doing as much as he could. And he was doing it all with the best outlook possible. I finally said, how do you do it? How do you keep fighting? And instead of angry response, he just started laughing. And I started laughing. And he said, what am I going to do? I write, I call, I can cry. This is what I have and this is what I do.

We've since talked to him and he said that there are radios in almost every ambulance, that they're getting over 100 ambulances by mid next year. And so clearly, things are moving forward.

After years of running Baghdad's emergency response, he said it was simply time for him to step down. Personally, he's come under attack by people who have bound and gagged his families. They stole things from his house. Doctors in Iraq often come under attack. They're often targeted for kidnappings. So he's decided to retire. Given how many hurdles he faced on a daily basis, his ability to laugh and his ability to stay sane was amazing and it's something that will stick with me undoubtedly forever.

ANNOUNCER: Next, on 1,000 DAYS IN IRAQ.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know Americans ask the question, is the sacrifice worth it?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His administration is inextricably linked with how this whole war comes out from Iraq.

ANNOUNCER: CNN correspondents take an inside look at President Bush's year.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Hello, I'm Fredricka Whitfield, with a look at what's happening now in the news.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's office says there will be no decision today on "Tookie" Williams' request for clemency. He's the California death row inmate scheduled to die Tuesday.

Iraq has closed its borders in advance of Thursday's elections. The U.S. Ambassador is predicting a large Sunni turnout. He said their strong participation could reduce the level of insurgent violence.

Is this a turning point for Iraq? CNN's Anderson Cooper will be there all week. His live reports start Monday at 10 and 11 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up in 30 minutes, on "LARRY KING LIVE," Heather Mills McCartney and Alec Baldwin. They're speaking out against the slaughter of dogs and cats for their fur.

And coming up at 10 eastern, a CNN prime time special, "Killer Flu: A Breath Away." CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes you to the front lines in the fight against Bird Flu.

Now back to "CNN PRESENTS" as voters prepare for this week's elections.

CNN correspondents reflect on the Iraqi people and their difficult journey over the last 1000 days.

And I'll see you at 11 p.m. Eastern, with the latest up the minute news on "CNN SUNDAY NIGHT." I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

June 15, 2003, coalition forces launch Operation Desert Scorpion. The two-pronged mission goes after remaining pockets of resistance and delivers humanitarian aid.

January 26, 2005, the single deadliest day for U.S. forces in Iraq. Thirty-one troops lose their lives when a helicopter crashes in bad weather in western Iraq. Six others are killed in insurgent attacks.

October 25, 2005, the American casualty count in Iraq hitting a grim milestone, 2000 U. S. troops have been killed.

BUSH: President of the United States...

WILLIAM H. REHNQUIST, FORMER CHIEF JUSTICE, U.S. SUPREME COURT: So help me God.

BUSH: So help me God.

REHNQUIST: Congratulations.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There was really this air of invincibility from the president and from the White House. Everyone was very excited.

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: In the meantime, the war in Iraq raged on and people were still saying that American troops were getting killed, and the insurgency, the terrorism in Iraq was actually still increasing. BUSH: Our generational commitment to the advance of freedom, especially in the Middle East, is now being tested and honored in Iraq. We will succeed, because the Iraqi people value their own liberty, as they showed the world last Sunday.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: There was an election January 30, 2005, and Americans were encouraged by that.

Remember the purple fingers, the State of the Union speech, when Iraqi's were present. American's admired that exercise in democracy and they were hopeful. The Iraqi's may be getting their own government, which means they can run their own country, which means we can begin to think about getting out.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: I think that the level of activity that we see today, from a military standpoint, will clearly decline. I think we're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.

BASH: They were talking about how wonderful things were in Iraq. But it completely did not match what the American people were seeing on their TV screens, in terms of the violence.

MALVEAUX: When his legislative agenda, social security reform, the centerpiece of his agenda, crumbled, it opens the way for other issues to become much more important. And that's why you saw this seizing on Iraq.

BASH: The White House started hearing from some fellow Republicans on capital Hill saying, "Wait a minute. You've got to focus on this. You've got to take control of the bully pulpit when it comes to Iraq."

BUSH: Like most Americans, I see the images of violence and bloodshed. Every picture is horrifying. And the suffering is real.

Amid all this violence, I know Americans ask the question, "Is the sacrifice worth it?" It is worth it. And it is vital to the future security of our country.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The sort of daily drum beat, as they refer to it in the White House, for, you know, five Marines, three Marines, two Marines. It is -- It is water torture to an American public that doesn't like to see American men and women killed for something that has become increasing unclear what it's about and, more importantly, when it will end.

So the war has become this ugly patina that has colored George Bush's approval ratings across the board.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: All we are saying is give peace a chance.

CINDY SHEEHAN, MOTHER OF SOLDIER KILLED: My name is Cindy Sheehan. My son was killed. My son, Casey, was killed in Iraq on April 4, 2004. MALVEAUX: There are some inside the White House who believe that, early on, this whole thing could have been diffused if the president had simply done the southern thing and invite her to have a cup of tea at the Crawford ranch. It didn't happen.

BASH: She got a lot of attention because there was this underlying current that was growing about questioning the war.

BUSH: I can hear you.

SCHNEIDER: This president is widely admired as a man of resolve, and that was terrific after 9/11.

BUSH: The people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.

SCHNEIDER: That was a show of resolve and the whole country, the whole world responded to that. But the other side of resolve is stubbornness. It's an unwillingness to hear criticism, an unwillingness to take it into account, an unwillingness to be self- critical. And that, to a lot of people, is the biggest fault of this president now.

MALVEAUX: That benchmark, the 2000 American dead, really stood out for a lot of people. And the Republicans themselves started to publicly ask questions of this administration.

SCHNEIDER: There's going to be a lot of pressure now from Congress, from the Republicans in Congress, because they do not want to face the voters in November, 2006 without an exit strategy in hand, and without signs that the United States is on the road to withdrawal from Iraq.

REP. JOHN MURTHA, (D) PENNSYLVANIA: Our military that's been asked of them. The U.S. cannot accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. It's time to bring the troops home.

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is no peace activist. This is no anti-war activist. This is somebody who has served in Korea, served in Vietnam, a military man who voted for the war in Iraq, but now says, "I've had a change of heart."

MALVEAUX: They were comparing him to Michael Moore, the filmmaker, who basically is public enemy number one for the White House. And it was absolutely stunning when that happened. Because then you knew that they were totally on the offense here. That they were not going to let this go.

HENRY: There's a widespread feeling on Capital Hill that Murtha is not alone. He was the first one to speak up, but that he's giving voice to concerns that people in both parties on Capital Hill have, but also giving voice to concerns that some at the Pentagon, some commanders on the ground have. But they haven't been able to speak out publicly for fear of retribution.

CROWLEY: His confidence that he is right about Iraq is what keeps American policy the way it is. You hear him time and time again. He will say, you know, "We are not leaving until the job is done so long as I am president."

MALVEAUX: His administration is inexplicably linked with how this whole war comes out in Iraq. Whether or not you think of it as a quagmire or you think of it as some sort of noble cause, some sort of vision. That is what his legacy is going to be.

NARRATOR: Coming up next, a view from Iraqi's. Stories of courage and hope through unbearable pain.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NARRATOR: July 22, 2003, Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay, are killed by U.S. forces in a firefight in Mosul.

December 13, 2003...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got him.

NARRATOR: Saddam Hussein found in a so-called spider hole in Tikrit and captured by U.S. forces.

July 1, 2004, 200 days after his capture, Saddam Hussein makes his first court appearance in Iraq. He is charged with a number of crimes during his reign of terror, including the slaughter of Kurds at Halabja.

BASAM AMAAD (ph), POLICEMAN: They're just searching the two passengers. They will stop this one, I think, it's one.

ROBERTSON: Basam Amaad (ph) is a policeman that I met here a couple of years ago. When I first met him, he was a major in the Iraqi police force.

AMAAD: Most dangerous IP's. Be careful.

ROBERTSON: And, you know, and he felt torn because he could see what the occupation was doing. He felt that the occupation was making mistakes.

AMAAD: You didn't understand what those people said. Here's the Iraqi war. Why he's holding a stick. Why he's trying to... (ph)

UNIDENTIFIED U.S. SOLDER: It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter.

AMAAD: No.

SOLDER: Forget about the doggone stick. That's not what we're dealing with. We're dealing with 7000 people...

ROBERTSON: Meeting Basid Amaad's (ph) family was an incredibly humbling experience. Here was a man who was putting his life on the line for his country and for the U.S. forces everyday.

AMAAD: This is Fort Knox. ROBERTSON: There was candlelight because the electricity was out. And he was even living in a protected house in the green zone.

AMAAD: Yes, I told him...

ROBERTSON: The kitchen was very bare. It was a simple plastic table and chairs. And his wife very kindly cooked and prepared dinner for us.

AMAAD: They were thirsty.

ROBERTSON: You know, one of the interesting things that we discussed was, you know, what does your wife say to you when you go out in the morning? When you go to work?

AMAAD: Before the war, when I used to leave my home to my office, she asked me, "What do you want to have for lunch, for dinner." Or, "Are we going to go tonight or tomorrow to my family or to your family?"

Now, and today, I think most of the wife's they didn't ask this question. All what they do is to prey that their husband or their sons or their children will return back safe.

You know this black...

ROBERTSON: For the policemen that have died?

AMAAD: Yes.

ROBERTSON: How many friends have you lost?

AMAAD: The last month I lost three.

ROBERTSON: In the last month?

AMAAD: All in the last month, yes.

ROBERTSON: In the last two and a half years?

AMAAD: Twenty, 25. Those, the people who used to talk to me, who used to encourage me, who were worried about me.

ROBERTSON: He doesn't think the U.S. forces are going to leave any time soon. He doesn't think it's a good idea. He thinks that there would be much greater bloodshed if that was to happen right now.

AMAAD: I think the world needs to help the Americans to find a political solution for them. Because they are in a bad situation now.

ROBERTSON: You know, right now Basam Amaad (ph), has been promoted from major to a lieutenant colonel. And because of the studies that he's put in before, he's now studying criminology at a university in England, the University of Leister.

KEVIN FLOWER, CNN BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF: I've been managing the bureau here for about the past two and a half years. There isn't one person who works here who has not been touched in some way by the events here since the invasion.

There are people on staff who's relatives have been killed by insurgents, people who's friend, other family members have been caught up in car bombs and murdered.

In the beginning of 2004, we went through the nightmarish scenario of having two of our Iraqi employees killed in an ambush south of Baghdad. And that event was jarring and a complete another wakeup call to, not only for CNN and us here in the bureau, but for journalist -- all journalists operating here.

The worst possible moment, for me, was telling the father of one of our employees that he had been killed in this attack. And I'll never forget it. It was the hardest conversation I've ever had to have here, and one that I never want to have again.

ARRAF: In the heart of the Sunni triangle, we ran across one of the most heartbreaking stories that I've seen, and there have been a lot of heartbreaking stories.

This was a man, Latiff Aloe (ph), who was the electricity administer in Dealo (ph) Province. He yearned for the day Saddam would be gone and Iraq would have a future and his family would have a life.

LATIFF ALOE (ph), ELECTRICITY ADMINISTER: The area with the floor. She dreamed that some day Iraq could become as this picture.

ARRAF: When fighting with insurgents broke out on June 24, Latiff sent his wife and six of their children to Baghdad in a car. Aloe's nephew, Ahmed (ph) was driving.

He seems to take a wrong turn and he turns down a street where there are American tanks.

UNIDENTIFIED U. S. SOLDIER: Apparently the driver may have been scared, thinking that it was insurgent's firing at him.

ARRAF: So he had to speed up to go to the safety of the Americans. The tanks shot at the car and, as that car was burning, his wife managed to escape. His wife managed to get out that burning car where her children were burning, and run to the American soldiers and say, "Don't shoot us." And they shot her.

We went to see the soldiers that did this and they were so traumatized.

SOLDIER: There's not a place that I will go for the rest of my life, that I will not have a picture of Latiffa (ph) on me.

ARRAF: These were extraordinary by any standards. They played music and they read poetry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE CHILD (through translator): I don't like the news that talks about death. I ask myself, why don't the grownups think to teach me instead of fighting?

ARRAF: Latiff Aloe, despite all this, seems to harbor almost no trace of bitterness. It's a tragedy. He believes it should not have happened. They should have been more careful. But he isn't bitter. And he actually says that the loss of his family is the price that he has been willing to pay for the future of Iraq. An absolutely extraordinary man.

ECCLESTON: Nothing in Iraq is black and white.

NARRATOR: A nation where progress and adversity share common ground.

Coming up, CNN correspondents on the front lines. Their views on what's next for Iraq.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NARRATOR: July 9, 2004, a Senate committee releases a report about pre-war intelligence in Iraq. It is highly critical of U.S. intelligence agencies, saying the overstated evidence about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

January 12, 2005, the White House announces the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is over. No WMDs were found.

RAMAN: This is a scenario, perhaps, unparalleled in history, the challenges that this government faces as it comes in in mid December. They have to create infrastructure in a country that is still battling a raging insurgency.

They have to create faith in a people that are desperately looking for hope in this country's future. And they have to create that future for this country.

FLOWER: I think the biggest questions marks are about what kind of government is going to emerge here next year in 2006. And is this a government that the majority of Iraqi's are going to be able to say, "Yes, this government represents me and I'm willing to back this government." And that it will convince enough members, or people who are supportive or active in the insurgency to lay down their arms and say, you know, "Politics is the way to do it. This is the way we want our voice to be heard."

ARRAF: One of the things I think we should stay away from believing about this election and the road forward in Iraq is that, if there is a full-fledged democracy, it's going to result in a country that likes us.

This is not necessarily going to be an Iraq that's pro-western, pro-American.

ROBERTSON: Progress in this country is still very spotty, but different areas have different problems.

Saddam Hussein had this country in a sort of pressure cooker with a lid on for a long time. The lid's been taken off.

There's a lot of pent up frustrations. There's a lot of anger. There's a lot of grappling for power. You need a very mature political process to defeat the insurgency. You need that maturity, and I don't feel that that maturity and the willingness for compromise is there yet. And that gives me cause for concern.

FLOWER: The insurgency here is probably going to go on for any number of years but, I think, it's going to be a good number of years before I can walk into central Baghdad and have a cup of coffee without some sort of security escort.

BUSH: We will never back down. We will never give in and we will never accept anything less than complete victory.

CROWLEY: This is not a president who blinks. This is not a president who, at the core of it, has had serious second thoughts about whether he should have gone into Iraq. He believes that. He believes that eventually he'll be proven out by history.

BASH: I understand that the underlying problem, the fundamental problem is the Iraq war. It is the elephant in the room. It is something that the American people still, as much as the White House tries to explain it, still don't necessarily understand it.

ARRAF: People tend to say, outside mostly, Iraq isn't really a country. There's never been a sense of national identity. That is not true.

There are many people who believe that they have a long and glorious history in that country and that eventually they will again.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: We are Iraq.

ARRAF: It's been fractured and tortured and battered and beaten, but there are still people who are trying to put it back together. And the elections, they think, are a small part of that.

RAMAN: There's an incredible will to create a future for Iraq. And they do it in small ways. They do it by continuing to live their lives. Not giving up and maintaining hope.

ECCLESTON: Nothing in Iraq is black and white. It is a permanent shade of gray. And this is what makes it such a challenge to cover, to report, to witness, and also what makes it quite exciting, because there are no certainties. You're watching history.

The next thousand days could be more of the same. It could be more of the positive. It could be more of the negative. But this is a story that's worth watching. And it's worth keeping an eye on and covering. It is a critical part of our near future and our near history.

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