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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES 7:00 PM EST
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.
Live from Crawford, Texas, a mother's protest, a battle on the home front over the war in Iraq. It is 7:00 p.m. on the east coast, 4:00 p.m. in the west, and 6:00 p.m. here in Crawford, Texas. This special edition of 360 starts now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: It started out as a grieving mom on a lawn chair demanding to see the president. Now, Cindy Sheehan's speaking for the nation's anti-war movement. Tonight, we're live from Crawford, Texas, with Cindy Sheehan.
She lost her son to war. But so have thousands of other parents across the country who are still standing by the president. Tonight, a 360 look at how other military parents are mourning their fallen children.
What's a president to do when faced with a mother who lost her son in battle? Tonight, should the president have a second meeting with Cindy Sheehan?
And reality Iraq. How do the soldiers putting their lives on the line feel about Sheehan's protest and then facing the enemy every day?
Live from Crawford, Texas, this is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360, "Crossroads: Battle on the Home Front."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Good evening from the small town of Crawford, Texas, where President Bush is on vacation. The last several days, this tiny town in the heart of Texas has become the most visible front line in a nationwide battle over the war in Iraq.
The war here at home is a war, really, of words, of heart-felt emotions, of anger, and of loss. By now, you know about Cindy Sheehan, the mother who lost her son, Casey, in Iraq. She set up camp waiting to talk to the president.
She's not alone. There are reporters, TV trucks, political operatives, and public relations specialists. It is a media circus, some have called it. Let's take a look at what it looks like on a typical day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) COOPER (voice-over): Today, another press conference, more questions. Cindy Sheehan's protest continues.
CINDY SHEEHAN, SON KILLED IN IRAQ: This is the way I can honor my son's memory, by standing up and doing what I know is right, too, at whatever it costs me.
COOPER: It began just 11 days ago. A solitary mother camped outside the president's Crawford, Texas, vacation home. She vowed to stay until he met with her face-to-face, or until his summer holiday ended.
SHEEHAN: I want to ask the president, why did he kill my son?
COOPER: She wasn't alone for long. Within days, the numbers grew along this Texas roadside. Other parents who had lost sons and daughters to the war, seasoned antiwar protesters, political consultants, P.R. professionals, all made Cindy's cause their own. And, of course, the ever-present media there to cover it all. The story suddenly seemed to transcend Cindy Sheehan.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cindy Sheehan...
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, MSNBC: Cindy Sheehan.
BILL O'REILLY, HOST, FOX NEWS: Mrs. Sheehan bears some responsibility for this and also for the responsibility of other American families who have lost sons and daughters in Iraq who feel that this kind of behavior borders on treasonous.
COOPER: In these 11 days, Cindy Sheehan has gone from protester to public figure. According to Video Monitoring Service, her name has been mentioned 20,585 times in television news broadcasts. She's even starred in a local TV ad.
SHEEHAN: How many more soldiers have to die before we say, "Enough"?
COOPER: Some of the president's Crawford neighbors are fed up with the noise, the cameras that are now crowding country roads. Some have staged protests.
On Sunday, one landowner fired a shotgun in the air. And on Monday, another man was arrested for mowing down wooden crosses bearing the names of fallen soldiers with his pickup truck.
COOPER: There are so many opinions in the debate going on across the nation, so many thoughts about what Cindy Sheehan is doing here. Over the next hour, we're going to cover the story from all the angles, from all around the country, a full and fair report.
The battle on the home front, a battle reignited when one mother came to Crawford and demanded to speak to the president. That mother, of course, was Cindy Sheehan. She's now just holding a vigil. She's holding court to the media. Every day, Sheehan gives interviews and meets with supporters and helpers who make sure her message is received loud and clear.
Some call her a savvy political radical and a pawn for the left. Others say she's simply making a stand and deserves the help she's getting to get her message out. CNN's Dana Bash was with Sheehan before at dawn today and tried to keep up with her.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 5:45 a.m., pitch black, you can barely make out the trailer where Cindy Sheehan sleeps. But she's up. So is Michelle, the P.R. rep hired to coordinate her media push.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... like ten different stations. Part of why we agreed to do it early is at least it covers a few things.
BASH: Sheehan's schedule is scratched on a piece of notebook paper. Her office, a lawn chair on a dark Crawford field. The simple look belies a sophisticated effort to maximize what she calls her 15 minutes of fame.
Morning drive radio, Seattle.
SHEEHAN: I'm waiting for the president to come out and talk to me.
SHEEHAN: ... the war has got back on the front page of the news where it belongs.
SHEEHAN: I'm not being financially underwritten by anybody.
BASH: Over and over, she's asked whether liberal groups now helping her, like anti-Bush Moveon.org, are diluting sympathy for a grieving mother's cause.
SHEEHAN: Nothing is happening that's not aligned with the vision or the mission.
BASH: The sun's finally up, shower time at Crawford's Peace House, a liberal meeting place now coordinating Cindy's vigil. She logs in to read some of 1,500 e-mails and checks out one of many boxes sent by strangers, supplies and some roses.
Then off to the demonstration site, a five-mile drive towards the Bush ranch she's taken several times a day for nearly two weeks.
BASH (on-screen): Do you really think there's any chance at this point that he's actually going to come and meet with you? SHEEHAN: Well, nothing's impossible. The movement has taken hold. And it's going to go on with or without me, or with or without a meeting with George Bush.
BASH (voice-over): Here, Cindy does a lot of meeting and greeting.
SHEEHAN: Where are you from?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm from -- well, now, I'm from Figussa Springs (ph), Colorado.
BASH: Unsolicited offers to help, the ACLU this time. She declines.
SHEEHAN: Well, they've been really good about letting us express our First Amendment rights.
BASH: Thinner crowds. Only 30 or so people now, but she's savvy.
(on-screen): Behind me is something that happens every day. Cindy Sheehan holds a press conference at 10:30 in the morning to announce something or react to something. It's a primary tactic in her efforts to keep momentum of her story going.
(voice-over): So are the interviews around the world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And how long are you intending being here for?
BASH: The BBC, Mexican television.
SHEEHAN: ... memories of our fallen heroes.
BASH: It's a typical day and a pace she is determined to keep up until the president leaves. And a movement she hopes is even longer.
COOPER: Critics of Sheehan have made a lot of the fact that she's backed by Moveon.org, in one case by Ben Cohen, whose paid some of the expenses of a P.R. firm. Who is backing Cindy Sheehan?
BASH: Well, you just really named two of the biggest groups, if you will, that are behind her. And it's interesting to note that they actually weren't behind her before she came here. She really did come here as a grieving mother in a lawn chair with her sister.
And it was when the groups realized that she was here, realized that she was getting a little bit of attention, that they sort of jumped in and decided to help her. As a matter of fact, Ben Cohen's, it's called True Majority, they told me that they essentially have written a blank check to the P.R. firm that's helping her. They say they send us a bill, we'll pay it.
COOPER: And that's raise suspicions among a lot of conservatives, especially when we talk to some of them a little bit later on tonight. Dana Bash, thanks very much for that.
There are, of course, mothers all across the country whose sons and daughters were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. They, too, mourn the losses of their children. Unlike Sheehan, many of them support the war in Iraq still and they still stand by the president.
Tonight, CNN's Gary Tuchman with other mothers, other perspectives.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joshua Lucero was the oldest of seven children. The 19-year-old from Arizona was killed in an explosion west of Baghdad. Joshua's mother, like Cindy Sheehan, is devastated. Unlike Cindy Sheehan, Tina Lucero believes the president needs to stay the course.
TINA LUCERO, LOST SON IN IRAQ: She's handling it wrong and that her anger's toward our president. And that is something that's just bothered me.
TUCHMAN: As servicemen and women die, and as time goes by, parents' opinions about the war sometimes change day-to-day. Some grieving mothers don't know what to think. What they share is immense pride in their children.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me, he was my baby, my baby boy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had already told him he was a hero, and he was brave, and what a wonderful husband he was.
TUCHMAN (on-screen): What would you like people to remember about him?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, how brave he was and what a great person to serve our country, and that he was there and he believed in it.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): But there are many who believe Cindy Sheehan's viewpoint doesn't serve her son, Casey's, legacy well. One such person is the mother of slain serviceman Justin Johnson.
JAN JOHNSON, LOST SON IN IRAQ: I believe that we should stay the course. We need to be there. To me, in a way, she's disgracing Casey, because Casey was over there trying to serve his country and help the Iraqi people.
TUCHMAN: Their children were committed to the cause. That's why many of these parents say they need to be, too.
LUCERO: I feel that my son had a job to do, and he did it very well. And it was unfortunate that it came to this, but it was his decision going to Iraq, you know, joining the military.
TUCHMAN: The views differ. The heartache, though, is most similar.
Gary Tuchman, CNN, New York.
COOPER: So many mothers, so many fathers, so many brothers and sisters, so much loss. Coming up next on this special of 360, my one- on-one interview with Cindy Sheehan. We're going to cover a lot of ground, including some controversial remarks that she has reportedly made in the past. I'll ask her about them.
Plus, Sheehan now says the president was cold when they met in private. Other mothers tell a different story. We're going to take a look at what happens when the president meets with the families of troops killed in Iraq.
And a little later, Vietnam protests from the past. Now emotions are growing once again, this time over the war in Iraq. Are we approaching a tipping point? This special edition continues.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How dare anybody give her a hard time for her right to free expression, to a mother of a fallen soldier? She has absolutely the right to protest against this presidency and this war. Why can't we support the mother of a fallen soldier? It's just -- this is ridiculous.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I pray that President Bush refuses her request. How dare she! I think she should be arrested for disturbing the peace and creating such havoc.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
COOPER: Some 360 feedback. We've been asking you to call in with your thoughts about what is happening here in Crawford, and this debate that is going on around the country. The number is 866-NY-AC- 360. We'll play some of your comments throughout the program. Just leave your name and a recorded message.
Cindy Sheehan says that President Bush was cold to her when he talked to her about her son, Casey's, death last summer. Other parents who lost a son or daughter in Iraq tell a different story about their meetings with President Bush. They say the president was caring and comforting.
CNN's Elaine Quijano investigates.
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There are no official public pictures to illustrate the private moments, when President Bush meets with the families of fallen U.S. troops. The White House will only describe the visits as emotional.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I grieve for every death. It breaks my heart to think about a family weeping over the loss of a loved one. I understand the anguish that some feel about the death that takes place.
QUIJANO: The administration intentionally keeps those difficult conversations private, careful not to exploit or be seen as exploiting families' grief.
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president views that as one of his most important responsibilities, to visit with the families and provide them comfort.
QUIJANO: But Cindy Sheehan, the mother angry at President Bush over her son, Casey's, death in Iraq last year, does not remember feeling comforted when Mr. Bush visited with her last summer.
SHEEHAN: He came in very jovial, and like we should be, you know, happy that he -- that our son died for his misguided policies.
QUIJANO: Her recollection stands in stark contrast to others' memories. Frank Adamouski, whose son, Jimmy, was killed in Iraq two years ago, did not want to speak on camera, but told CNN, after his meeting with the president in 2003, he felt Mr. Bush was sincere in his compassion for the loss of life and added, "Nobody wants to end this more than he does."
Senator John McCain also defends the president, saying any charge of insensitivity on his part is false.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I've been with the president when he has met with the families. And he has expressed, I think incredibly, his sympathy, and his concern, and his love for the men and women who have sacrificed and their families.
QUIJANO: As for Cindy Sheehan, the president has said he sympathizes with her. The White House won't comment specifically on their meeting last year, but one official said the president has met with some 900 family members of 272 fallen troops and has always acted in a manner befitting his office.
Elaine Quijano, CNN, the White House.
COOPER: Well, we talked with Cindy Sheehan a little bit later on about her meeting with President Bush. We have a lot of news to cover tonight. Erica Hill from Headline News joins us with some of the day's other top stories in "The World in 360."
Good evening, Erica.
ERICA HILL, CNN HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: Anderson, we start off with a wave of bloodshed in Iraq. Two car bombs ripping through a bus station in Baghdad today. At least 43 people were killed, nearly 100 others injured. Another explosion was reported near a hospital. As of now, no group has claimed responsibility.
Meantime, in Gaza, forced out. This was the scene today. Israeli troops evicted Jewish settlers. The soldiers went house-to- house removing men, women and children. Meantime, in the West Bank, an Israeli settler shot three Palestinian laborers to death.
And in London, disturbing allegations about the shooting death of a mistaken terrorist. ITV News says the man gunned down by police in a London subway station last month was not wearing a heavy coat but just a light denim jacket. Also, the Brazilian immigrant reportedly didn't try to run from police and ITV states he was shot seven times in the head. The new details are based on independent police investigation documents leaked to ITV news.
And, Anderson, that's the latest from Headline News at this hour. We'll hand it back over to you in Crawford.
COOPER: Yes, really disturbing report out there out of London. We'll certainly be following that. Erica, thanks. We'll check in with you in about 30 minutes.
Still to come tonight in this special edition from Crawford, Texas, is Iraq another Vietnam? Are the antiwar demonstrations like the ones against the Vietnam War? Opponents like to draw parallels to the two wars and the two demonstrations. But how similar are they really? And are the protests now as strong as the protests back then? We'll take a close look.
Also tonight, the president's backers also demonstrating here in Crawford. We'll visit their camp and also talk with two people supporting the war who have personal ties to the conflict. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Miss Sheehan just utterly makes me sick. She should at least be original. She's ripping something out of John Kerry's 1971 playbook.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I support the cause in Texas. A lot of parents feel that way. I think a peaceful protest is important. That's what we did in the '60s and '70s. It did help bring the Vietnam War to a stop.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Some of the strong emotions on all sides of the debate from our viewers. We've been asking you to call in with your thoughts on what is happening here in Crawford and also the debate really raging around the nation about the war in Iraq. The number is 866-NY- AC-360. We'll play your comments throughout the program tonight.
When we hear about protests like the one here in Crawford, or reports about the president's low approval ratings, we're often reminded of the war that's become the benchmark of unpopular battles, the conflict in Vietnam. For all the similarities opponents may bring up, there are still some glaring differences between then and now.
CNN's Bruce Morton takes a look.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The emotion is there at Camp Casey. What's different is the scale.
Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to protest or defend the war in Vietnam. Hard hats battled students in the streets. Chicago police battled antiwar demonstrators at the 1968 Democratic convention. The Vietnam War tore America apart.
The Iraq War hasn't done that yet. It's a smaller war, for one thing. More than 1,800 Americans have died in Iraq. The black wall honoring the Vietnam dead contains 58,000 names.
It was different in scale and different in kind. During Vietnam, we had the draft. I can remember draftees looking at reporters and saying, "You guys are crazy. We have to be here. You don't." They did have to. Young men worried they might be called; parents worried about their sons.
Today's military is all-volunteer. Casey Sheehan joined it, knowing presumably that he might have to go to war.
In other ways, the war hasn't directly affected most Americans. The president has not raised taxes to pay for it, hasn't asked Americans to change their driving habits to lessen their dependence on Mideast oil. Still, emotions are growing in the country.
Former Senator Gary Hart remembers Vietnam and sees some parallels.
FMR. SEN. GARY HART (D), COLORADO: It's a cumulative matter. Certain public opinion-makers tilt from one side to the other against the project, the invasion, the war, whatever it is. And then activists in a particular party begin to follow. And then the public at-large gets involved. And I think that's exactly where we are in Iraq right now.
MORTON: In Vietnam, the consequences were dramatic, the end of a presidency.
LYNDON JOHNSON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I shall not seek and I will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as your president.
MORTON: Hard to imagine anything like that now. Camp Casey is still very small.
Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.
(END VIDEOTAPE) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: It started out as a grieving mom on a lawn chair demanding to see the president. Now, Cindy Sheehan speaking for the nation's antiwar movement. Tonight, we're live from Crawford, Texas, with Cindy Sheehan.
And reality Iraq. How do the soldiers putting their lives on the line feel about Sheehan's protest and then facing the enemy every day? 360 continues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: We are coming to you live from Crawford, Texas, which has become a flash point on the home front battle over the war in Iraq, a battle of words being fought every day across this country, in living rooms, on college campuses, in towns, large and small.
But really, for the last 11 days, this battle has been particularly strong right here in Crawford, just miles away from President Bush's ranch. This is where Cindy Sheehan, a mother who lost her son, Casey, in the war in Iraq, chose to sit by the road to protest the war and to ask President Bush to meet with her again.
Cindy Sheehan joins me now live. Cindy, thanks for being with us.
First of all, you have talked about moving this camp. Is that going to happen and when?
SHEEHAN: It's going to happen tomorrow. Yes, we're going to move it up the road a little bit closer to George Bush's ranch.
COOPER: There has been a lot of criticism for you. There's been a lot of support for you, as I'm sure you know, on the Internet, all around, on radios, on television. You've associated yourself with groups, Moveon.org, other protesters. Ben Cohen has funded some of the efforts here.
Do you worry about tainting your message by linking yourself with far-left groups or very liberal groups?
SHEEHAN: Well, actually, I think that became a little bit of a problem last week, towards the end of the week. But I have refocused on the message, and I'm trying to keep the media on point with the message.
They're not funding me. You know, I came here on my own dime. And people from all over the country, the donations are pouring in. And this is really a grassroots thing.
COOPER: And where is that going? That's going to, what, public relations groups to help you organize them? SHEEHAN: The funding from the people in the country is going for water, food. The only thing I'm aware of that Moveon is paying for is the P.R. firm.
COOPER: Do you consider yourself a radical? I mean, some have been calling you a radical. And clearly, some of the essays you've written -- I mean, you've called President Bush a terrorist, the worst terrorist in the world. You've called the war in Iraq blatant genocide. That's pretty radical.
SHEEHAN: I think I am pretty radical, but only on this issue. You know, this is my issue. I just want the killing to stop. I don't want any other mother to go through what I'm going through, Anderson, whether she be Iraqi or American.
And that's what keeps me going, is knowing that people are in harm's way for no reason. I can't stand that.
COOPER: And what happens to Iraq if the -- I mean, you want U.S. troops to pull out. What happens to Iraq?
SHEEHAN: There actually has been some studies that our presence there is fueling the insurgency. We need to pull back our military presence. We don't need a military presence in the country.
You know, if we were truly there to liberate them, you know, liberators leave when the job is done. Occupiers stay. And it looks like we're occupying, because there's bases of size of Sacramento, California, there.
COOPER: You know, Senator Joe Biden, who has been critical of President Bush for quite some time, he doesn't say we should pull-out. He says, in fact, it would be a mistake to pull-out. John Kerry says that it would be a mistake, as well.
Basically, their argument is, basically, handing Iraq over, whether you like it or not, Iraq is now the front line in the war on terror. Whether it was supposed to be, whether it was initially, they say it is now. Do you believe it is now, the front line in the war on terror?
SHEEHAN: No, I don't. You know, I believe that, like I said, our military presence there is fueling the insurgency. And there are studies -- a study from Saudi Arabia and a study from Israel -- that said that most of these people who have become suicide bombers or have become terrorists are actually just rising up against the occupation, and they never even thought of doing that before America invaded. So I believe a lot of the violence would stop.
COOPER: It's day 11. I mean, how does this go on? How long can you stay here?
SHEEHAN: It's going on, like I've always said, until he meets with me or until August 31st.
COOPER: But, you know, it's very unlikely at this point he's going to meet with you.
SHEEHAN: Well, you know what, Anderson? Miracles are happening every day at Camp Casey.
COOPER: Has it gone beyond that for you? I mean, does it matter to you, really whether you meet with him or not?
SHEEHAN: Well, what I know is that if he meets with me today, and we go home tomorrow, or if we leave August 31st, a movement has started. And it's bigger than me. You know, it's bigger than all of us. And it's going to continue. And that's going to be the peace movement until our troops are brought home.
COOPER: Cindy Sheehan, I appreciate you joining us tonight.
SHEEHAN: Thank you very much.
COOPER: In a moment, we're going to talk with some parents who have lost loved ones in the war, very different points of view. But first we wanted to show you a little bit behind the scenes, what it's like here at this place they're calling Camp Casey in this crossroads not too far from President Bush's ranch. This is what I saw in my reporter's notebook.
(voice-over): Eleven days camped out in Crawford, Cindy Sheehan's protest has developed its own routines.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We came to support Cindy and feed everybody some good veggie food.
COOPER: There's food on the grill, cases of coffee, and hundreds of crosses by the side of the road.
(on camera): I count about 90 or so pro-Sheehan protesters who are here. What's interesting about this camp, Camp Casey as they call it, is that even though this place has become a flash point in the debate over the war, it's actually pretty quiet here most of the time. I mean, there's no marching, there's no chanting. People who are here are sitting and talking. They just want to make their presence known.
(voice-over): Julie (ph) came to protest but now finds herself mourning. Her pen pal Rusty, a soldier in Iraq, was killed on Sunday.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's not my boy and I'm grieving deeply. And I know that he's not my son. But you know what? He's my son and your son and he's her brother. And we should all grieve deeply for our losses.
COOPER (on camera): You see a lot of women here with buttons, pictures of their children, some who died on 9/11, some who served in the war in Iraq, or Afghanistan. There are liberal groups and political operatives working behind the scenes helping Cindy Sheehan in part funding what she's doing here.
But most the people you actually meet in the camp are women who say they've never protested a day in their life before. They may have long opposed the war, but until Cindy Sheehan stood up, they said they really never thought about getting involved. Patricia Helke (ph) just arrived today. Helke is a schoolteacher who says she wishes President Bush had been in her seventh grade class.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would have loved to have taught him.
COOPER: You would have loved to have taught President Bush?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he would be a different man today.
COOPER: There are opposing voices here. This past weekend, a large number of pro-Bush demonstrators came. They're supposed to come again next weekend. But during the week, you don't see a lot of protesters supporting President Bush or the war in Iraq.
(voice-over): Today for a few hours, Bethany Berry (ph) came to show the president her support. She's 18 years old and her father is serving in Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't have to like Bush, but for me, to be an American is to support your leaders. It's to support your troops. It's to support your nation. And to me, they are not supporting him.
COOPER: For the most part, local residents like Bethany are tired of the protest. Even if they support Cindy Sheehan's right to be here, they wish the cameras would leave, along with this Camp Casey. They wish this whole thing would just go away.
(on camera): Well, as we always do on 360, we're working hard to present all sides of this story here in Crawford. We owe it to the people serving to do that. We owe it to the people here and across the country to do that.
There are a number of people here who, like Cindy Sheehan, have direct ties with the war. They don't agree with her. My next two guests fall into that category. Darrell Ankarlo is a radio talk show host in Texas. His son Adam was serving in Iraq, served in Fallujah. He's going back there soon. Also joining me is Gary Qualls, whose son, Louis, died in Fallujah last November at the age of 20. Gary, again, I'm so sorry for your loss.
GARY QUALLS: Thank you, sir.
COOPER: When you see this protest here, what do you think?
QUALLS: I think it's basically centered on a self-centered idea. And the functions that's going for behind that for supporting our troops is completely wrong.
COOPER: Do you think it's disrespecting the troops?
QUALLS: Yes, sir, morally. And underminingly (ph), yes, it can and will affect their morale.
COOPER: Because they say -- a lot of the protesters here and Cindy Sheehan will tell you, look, I want everyone to come home, and I'm working for the troops. You don't believe that?
QUALLS: No, sir, because after 9/11, and we've been hit by terrorists, like the same groups ever since the '70s, we've lost 200 here, a few hundred there, 17 here. And now all of a sudden they hit us in New York and we lost 3,000. And we can't afford to ever do that again.
COOPER: Darrell, the mood -- what a lot of people here tell you is, look, the mission is undefined. Why are U.S. troops over there? Do you feel the mission is undefined?
DARRELL ANKARLO, SON SERVED IN IRAQ: You know what? I think the mission is definitely defined, and I think the mission is going to take some time. Everybody keeps saying, well, we're killing so many people, we're losing so many people. We did not know who was winning World War I two years into it, World War II, two years into it, Vietnam War two years into it.
So what's going on is here we've got this groundswell. And that's why I have a problem with the message that's been carefully orchestrated with the PR firm who goes like this every time you come back on from the break. This is very orchestrated.
COOPER: It happens at every demonstration.
ANKARLO: Which is absolutely amazing to me, because what they're trying to do is, this is a campaign for representatives and senators and the upcoming elections. They're trying to take over with just one voice who turns into many to say this is a bad war, it's an unholy war, it's an incorrect war. I'm saying to the president, stay the course. You know what the mission is. I've got a son who's invested in it. And I'm going to stand by him.
COOPER: Do you -- you have lost a son. You have made a terrible sacrifice. Do you feel for Cindy Sheehan?
QUALLS: Yes, sir, I certainly do. As a single parent, I've raised two boys practically by myself. So I've had to play the dad, the father, and the mom role as well. And I know it hurt me deeply and it still does. And I've only got one son left. And he, too, wants to serve.
But if it takes the sacrifice of my whole family, to help protect the welfare of this country, to protect our way of life, and our freedoms of speech, then I guess as an American, I have to make that sacrifice. That's our duty for our country, and for this world.
COOPER: If your son who's 16 now -- is that right?
QUALLS: Yes, sir.
COOPER: You said he's a big guy, plays football. If he wanted to serve, you would want him to?
QUALLS: Yes, sir. I won't stop him. That's his freedom of choice. Cindy's son did the same thing. He put his best foot forward. My oldest son put his best foot forward. I did 28 years.
COOPER: Do you feel like you know what the mission is? Do you feel it's a good and noble mission?
QUALLS: Yes, sir. Our mission is to see to the health and the welfare and the security of our country.
COOPER: And you feel we're doing that in Iraq?
QUALLS: Yes, sir. By eliminating the terrorists, that will ensure the security of our country. We'll be a safer nation. We have to take that course.
COOPER: What do you think people don't know about protesters here about what's happening here?
ANKARLO: You know, Cindy came to Dallas back in March, and she was a part of the program called Eyes Wide Open. And they had booths out there that, by the way, were loaned to them, and shoes out there that were given to them. And they said, these are the boots of the dead. These are the shoes of the 100,000 civilians that we have killed.
How do you support your troops, yet call them murderers? And that's what she's doing. And that's my problem with this. How do you say, I'm here for you troops, I'm with you, I'm behind you. Oh, by the way, you're a murderer. That's what happened in Vietnam, Anderson.
In Vietnam we started aiming at the presidents and then we started going after the troops. It's not going to happen again. We had too many people spat upon too many people cursed at. It's not going to happen again. My son, whom I spoke with on Saturday, I said, do you have a message for Cindy Sheehan? And he's in the Marines -- oh-rah (ph).
And he said, here's the deal. You tell her that all of the brothers in Iraq and all of us stationed back here at home are tired of her undercutting the military expeditions here. She's getting people killed. That's from the Marines. That's not me politicizing something, that's a marine speaking his heart.
COOPER: Darrell, we're going to leave it there. Thank you for being here. Good luck to your son going over. And Gary, again, thank you for coming. I'm so sorry for your loss.
QUALLS: Thank you, sir. God bless America, and God bless George W. Bush.
COOPER: Many different opinions here in Crawford, Texas. Next on this special edition from Crawford, will President Bush possibly change his mind and meet Cindy Sheehan face to face once again? We'll here from a White House communications director ahead, and we're covering all the angles.
We'll also talk with Democratic strategist Joe Trippi to hear how he responds to critics who say that Sheehan is using sympathy for her son to push an agenda. All angles represented. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Listen, I sympathize with Mrs. Sheehan. She feels strongly about her position. And she has every right in the world to say what she believes. This is America. She has a right to her position. And i've thought long and hard about her position. I've heard her position from others, which is, get out of Iraq now. And it would be a mistake for the security of this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, that was President Bush not too far from here last Thursday when he commented for the first time on Cindy Sheehan's anti- war protest right here in Crawford, Texas.
Now days later, and with the demonstrators still here, is there a chance that President Bush will actually meet with Cindy Sheehan? Earlier I spoke with Nicole Devenish, the White House communications director. Take a look.
COOPER: Nicole, this protest has been going on for 11 days now. It's been getting a lot of attention around the world. Was it a mistake for the president not to meet earlier with Cindy Sheehan?
NICOLE DEVENISH, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: The president has met with Cindy Sheehan. And I think the president treasures the opportunity that he gets to visit with families who either have men and women serving in the war against terror, or in the more sad occasion, who have lost loved ones in the war against terror.
COOPER: What is the war against meeting with her? Does it send a bad message? Does it make the president look weak? What is the thinking?
DEVENISH: Well, you know, I'm not going to go into our decision for everything that -- every decision that's made here. But the president understands that Mrs. Sheehan is grieving for the loss of her son and she has a disagreement about our policies. And I think anyone that is trying to make a point, and she obviously, in addition to being grieving the loss of her son, is making a point. She can rest assured that we've heard that side of the argument. And in the consideration about the best way to protect America and keep people safe here at home, we believe that engaging the enemy in places like Iraq and Afghanistan is the best way to do so.
COOPER: I want to read you something that was in the "Washington Post." It was in a Robin Wright column, I think, on Sunday, an article. This quoting a senior official in policies since the 2003 invasion. I quote, "what we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground. We're in the process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in, and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning." That's pretty stunning. Do you agree that it was never realistic, that what you laned early on was never realistic?
DEVENISH: I'm not sure how to respond to an unnamed official. And I'm not sure who that is. I'm not sure you or I have any way of knowing with what expertise he or she speaks. But I can tell you, the president gets his -- takes his cues and gets his advice about what's happening on the ground in Iraq based on what his generals and commanders see and experience.
COOPER: Well, let me just try it a different way. I mean, do you believe that the White House -- does the White House believe they were completely realistic in their planning for the war and for after the war, for the peace?
DEVENISH: Well, I don't think after 9/11 that anyone had any delusions about the viciousness of the enemy we face, of the ferocity with which they were fighting.
COOPER: No, we're not talking about 9/11, I'm talking about the war in Iraq.
DEVENISH: We're talking about the same enemy. We're talking about the same enemy. We're talking about an enemy that shares an ideology that believes that our way of life and our freedoms here are diametrically opposed to their grim vision for recreating the Middle East to a terror base and launch attacks.
COOPER: But I was asking about the war in Iraq and you're talking about 9/11. I thought the 9/11 commission said really there was no linkage between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein?
DEVENISH: Well, I think everybody understands that those who attacked in London on the subway and those who attacked on 9/11 and many of the foreign fighters in Iraq share an ideology. Many of them share -- many of them are followers of Osama bin Laden. So, I don't think it's up for debate that they all share a goal of ending our way of life and of attacking Americans.
COOPER: 61 percent -- I mean, yeah, I'm sure you see these polls. "Newsweek" magazine says 61 percent of Americans are unhappy with the way President Bush is handling Iraq. New CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, some 54 percent of Americans think we should have never sent troops there in the first place. How concerned are you about this movement right now, about sentiment in the United States toward Iraq, toward the war?
DEVENISH: Well, it's obviously very important that our troops understand that Americans are 100 percent united behind them. And so, obviously, it's of concern when there's a focus on different views. But this is a discussion that I think we welcome.
COOPER: We don't take sides in this show. So from your perspective, when people see Cindy Sheehan out here, when they see the candlelight vigils tonight, what do you want people seeing this to be thinking? DEVENISH: Well, I think people should thank Cindy for the service that her son -- obviously he gave his life protecting this country. Her son is a hero in the war against terror.
COOPER: Coming up next, on this special edition of 360, live from Crawford, covering all the angles, Democratic strategist Joe Trippi response on to Nicole Devenish's comments on the demonstration here in Crawford.
Also a little later tonight, two former soldiers who served in Iraq, one is for the war, the other against. We'll hear their opinions ahead.
COOPER: Welcome back to the special edition of 360 "Crossroads: The Battle on the Homefront Over the War in iraq." These are live pictures of a vigil in Lafayette Park, across from the White House. One crowd supporting the war, right next to them, another vigil where the crowd is calling for president to withdraw troops from Iraq and supports what Cindy Sheehan is doing here in Crawford.
Now, we don't take sides on 360. We try to get all the angles. Let you decide. Before the break we talked about the protest in Crawford with White House communications director Nicole Devenish.
Now let's go back to Washington and talk with Democratic strategist Joe Trippi. Last week he hosted a conference call with Cindy Sheehan for liberal Internet bloggers. Joe, thanks very much for being with us.
I tried to get Nicole Devenish at the White House to answer the question why the president wouldn't meet with her. Let me ask you the flip side, why should President Bush meet with Cindy Sheehan? He met with her once before. He's met with many other mothers. He's down here in Crawford. He's on vacation. But he's also working. Why should he meet her?
JOE TRIPPI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think, you know, what's going on here, you'r show has shown this, is the amazing sacrifices of all these military families, those who believe in the president and support him and those like cindy sheehan who oppose the war and want to ask him questions about it.
When you think of it in those terms, and so little sacrifice by the American people, I think it's courtesy and common sense that the president would meet with a dissenting mom who lost her son in the war, and who, frankly, is asking questions that now a majority of Americans in the polls are showing have similar questions, similar concerns about this war, and similar questions that they want answered.
So I think if he met with her, it would be a very good thing for our democracy to have the president show he wants to meet -- that he's willing to meet with somebody who dissents from he's view.
COOPER: But Joe, as you know, Cindy Sheehan's critics will say, look, she doesn't want to meet to hear what he has to say, she doesn't want to meet to have her mind changed. She wants to meet, because she has a specific agenda and she wants the publicity and she wants to vent to the president.
TRIPPI: You know, I think Cindy Sheehan is exactly what she is, a mom who went to Crawford with a lawn chair, because she wanted to see the president and ask him some questions. I think -- I think when you put it in -- that's what this is about. Do you think the president of the United States should meet with a mom who lost her son who has questions about this war and her son's death. Yes or no.
COOPER: But in all fairness, he has met with her.
TRIPPI: He met with her over a year ago. And a lot has changed in that year. We have the Downing Street memos. We have the president saying that the mission was accomplished, the mission wasn't accomplished since then. We have Dick Cheney saying the insurgency is in its death throes. It's not in its death throes.
I mean, a lot of information has changed. And so, too, has the view of the American -- it's not just Cindy Sheehan, the American people have changed their opinions on this war and on this president from a year ago and where they are today. She has got legitimate questions. I think the president should have met with her. He should meet with her.
And this would all -- and then you'd actually -- what has happened here is, this woman stood up and said the president's wrong. And what that has created is this huge debate in this country, this discussion across the kitchen table, across the neighbor's fence and at work, and that's an amazing thing to have happened. We're finally having a debating about this war, a discussion about this war. And if that's all this woman did is accomplish, that's an amazing thing. We need to have that debate and discussion in this country.
COOPER: Do you advise Cindy Sheehan to stay here as long as she can?
TRIPPI: I think she should stay through the end of August, as she said. And I think she should continue to make her case as is her right as an American.
I mean, again, with so few -- so few Americans have been asked to sacrifice the way these families have. Her family paid the ultimate sacrifice. The least we can -- all of us can do who haven't sacrificed anything, got tax cuts during the war, and a bunch of other things, we go on with our lives every day, the president -- our sacrifice, hey, Mr. President, meet with this woman.
COOPER: Joe Trippi, we'll leave it there from your perspective. Thank very much.
We've got to find out what's coming up at the top of the hour in a few minutes on "PAULA ZAHN NOW." Hey, Paula.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, there are Web sites these days for just about everything. At the top of the hour, we're going to visit one I think a lot of you simply aren't not believe. It's especially for married people looking for a partner to cheat with. It's been a success since day one. And now both nearly 500,000 subscribers.
What's your spouse doing on the computer while you're not watching? We're going to catch up with a man who is behind this Web site and who claims, even though he's gotten rich off it, he's not promoting infidelity. You'll hear his story coming up at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Go figure, Anderson.
COOPER: I want to hear how he sells that one. That will be interesting, Paula.
ZAHN: I'm waiting for his explanation.
COOPER: I know. It's going to be a good one, no doubt. Paula, thanks. That's at the top of the hour.
Coming up next, though, on 360, two very different opinions on the war in Iraq from two former soldiers who were there who served. We'll talk with them.
COOPER: Well, it probably wouldn't be fair to spend all this time tonight talking about -- I should also just thank all the people who did call in just for a moment. Because we received just -- we were inundated with telephone calls. We haven't been able to obviously get them all in, but that was just one of the viewers you heard. But we've been airing them throughout this hour with different points of view as there are different points of view on this issue across the country.
But we wanted, tonight, to spend some time talking not just with demonstrators and protesters and people here in the home frost, but people who have served in Iraq, soldiers, veterans, brave members of the military who were there. Joining me now are two veterans of the war, William Epler is in Omaha, Nebraska, and Adam Righter (sic) is in Atlanta, Georgia. Adam, thanks very much for being -- Adam Reuter, I should say -- I'm sorry, Adam.
William, let me start off with you. You served in Iraq for six months. You support the president. What do you think of Cindy's protest? Has it crossed the line and dishonored her son and other troops like yourself?
WILLIAM EPLER, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: I don't have any problem with honest dissent. And I sympathize with her. Her son served, serve honorably, he wanted to go, he volunteered just like I did. But when you get to the point where you have extreme left fringe groups such as Code Pink and MoveOn.org, all of these people aligning themselves to this, connecting their names to it, it diminishes her message and marginalizes what she was trying to do originally.
COOPER: Well, her defenders will say, William, what is wrong with getting the message out? And if she's helping to get the message out? You say, what, you think she's becoming like a pawn of the left?
EPLER: I think she's getting exploited to some degree. And whether she's a grieved mother that is stricken down so hard with grief, or if she's a willing accomplice in this, I couldn't tell you. That's her -- only she can answer that question.
COOPER: Adam, let me get your perspective. You were against the war. You believe the country was misled about the reasons for going into it in the first place. But you don't agree with Cindy Sheehan in all of these things. She believes American troops shoudl get out immediately. Do you agree?
ADAM REUTER, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: I'm in big support of Cindy Sheehan. I think she's got a great message going on right now. And I'm really proud that she's down there speaking to other soldiers who are now getting behind Cindy's message. And as far as the exit strategy of where she thinks it would be best to pull all the troops out, that's where I differ in opinion. I don't think it's a win-win situation. I think no matter which way you look at it, people are going to die.
COOPER: And Adam, you're no longer there, but you would have gone back. You had to leave for medical reasons. But even though you don't support the war, you would have gone back?
REUTER: Correct. Yes, sir.
REUTER: During your deployment, you get such a camaraderie with your fellow soldiers, that you would -- I feel guilty now not being there. But at the same time, I'm glad I'm not, for my family's sake. I have a son. But...
COOPER: It's for the people you left behind you were serving with.
William, you know, put us in the perspective of someone who is there, over there. Do you think Cindy Sheehan's message is demoralizing to someone who is currently serving?
EDLER: No, I don't at all. I find it hard to believe that people are actually standing up and putting down a grief-stricken mother. I don't understand how people can come on television, or blog reports. And they're entitled to their opinions. But I just don't understand how somebody can sit there and criticize a mother who's paid a big sacrifice.
COOPER: Let me put the same question to William. William, do you think it demoralizes troops who are over there now?
REUTER: It can have that effect. I don't think -- because the troops on the ground, they know the reality of the situation. They know that progress is being made. And it doesn't get a lot of attention, because building schools, and helping the Iraqi people, all the stuff we do over there doesn't make news. Explosions, and troops getting killed makes news. And that's all we see back home.
What she can -- what effect she does have is here in the home front. She's demoralizing the nation. And when you see this 24/7, you see the anti-war protests, you see -- she gets so much media attention. There's a circus down there surrounding her, when that gets out...
COOPER: I appreciate you -- you think that is demoralizing.
William, I appreciate you coming in tonight. And Adam as well. We're out of time. I want to thank all the people who have made this special possible live from Crawford, Texas. Prime-time coverage continues now with Paula Zahn -- Paula.