AAM: "You broke it, you've got to fix it now."
KIRAN CHETRY: Well, as the political rhetoric over the war in Iraq heats up in Washington, who better to break down the security situation there than two CNN journalists who just returned from the country. CNN anchor Kyra Phillips and correspondent Michael Ware join me now.
Thanks to both of you for being with us, and we talked a little bit to Kyra in the last hour, so Michael I want to just ask you, because there's been some talk and some debate about whether or not the picture we are getting from some of the officials is really what's going on on the ground. So we're going to hear right from General Petraeus about what he said when he gave his assessment yesterday. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER, MULTINATIONAL FORCES IN IRAQ: As you know, literally over the last two months, Anbar has gone -- or certainly over the last six months -- from being assessed as being lost to a situation that now is quite heartening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: The Anbar province, one of the most deadly, Michael.
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Look, I know General David Petraeus personally and he is a straight shooter. In fact, what he is saying there is true, but what we are not hearing is how that was achieved. Anbar province, the violence is coming down, al Qaeda is under a lot of pressure. It's not because of U.S. forces. The Marines last year admitted they didn't have enough troops. The way they've done it is they've cut a deal with the Baathist insurgents and unleashed the insurgents from Iraq on the foreign al Qaeda fighters. They cut a deal.
CHETRY: So you're saying that it's Baathists that are fighting the insurgency?
WARE: Yup. Yup.
CHETRY: So wouldn't that be characterized as sectarian violence?
WARE: No, because it's Sunni on Sunni. One of these is secular Baathists -- this is essentially Iraq's version of former West Pointers. These are men who never had a religious agenda. So what they were fighting was the U.S. occupation. They never had an alliance with al Qaeda per se. So the Americans have said to them, okay, we'll empower you locally, we'll give you ammunition, you can launch your own operations. When I asked Ambassador Khalilzad as he was leaving the country, how do you address the perception that this isn't an assassination program backed by multinational forces, he sat back and smiled and said we have no love lost for the struggle against al Qaeda or for the killing of al Qaeda.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's actually a pretty brilliant idea if you think about it, because they are giving the power back to the locals, as he said, the Baathists, the tribal sheikhs, they were going after U.S. troops and now they are going after al Qaeda. It's a brilliant idea and Michael, you and I have talked about this. This should have been happening a long time ago. This is one province. There are what, 18 provinces in Iraq? That's the goal. If they can achieve this in all the provinces, hey, they have hit something.
CHETRY: This is the irony too, the de-Baathification that took place. The Baathists were the ones who were Saddam Hussein's henchmen. They were the ones that were told to go home and were not getting a paycheck in the early days of the war.
WARE: Which is widely accepted by every war planner, every politician, every diplomat right now as the greatest gaffe of the war, disbanding the Iraqi military and disbanding the first four tiers of the Baath party. i mean, the Baath party is essentially a pan-Arabist nationalist organization. It doesn't share any kind of al Qaeda-like agenda. Yet these were the people who ran the country. These were the public servants.
CHETRY: Weren't they the people who kept down the Shia?
WARE: Back under Saddam, the sectarian violence occurred but it was more of a political measure. Why did Saddam attack the Shia? Because they were uprising and resisting his regime. Don't forget, Saddam had a Christian in his cabinet. He had Shia at the senior levels of his intelligence service, Shia in the senior ranks of his military. Saddam wasn't sectarian per se. It's just if you threatened him politically, he would kill you. Sunni, Shia, Kurd -- it didn't matter.
CHETRY: Kyra, you talk about a fear, a significant fear that people talked about Saddam and his regime.
PHILLIPS: Yeah, I mean just talking to the Iraqi people, talking to U.S. military, but even more so the Iraqis. I asked them, I said look at least your life was calm, there wasn't any chaos. He was a tyrant. He was crazy. He killed innocent people. How do you feel about your life now and all this violence? They agree. They said he had to go. He was a tyrant, but they have said to me time and time again, our life was so much more calm. At least we had a job. We were making money. So they are conflicted because they are seeing what they used to have, AKA a peaceful life, and now they're struggling with this violence. But they don't want Saddam back. They knew that he was a tyrant.
WARE: But they just want to return to normalcy. They want to be able to walk to the market without having that market blow up and butcher everyone there. They want to send their kids to school.
PHILLIPS: Of course. They don't have flak jackets. They don't have the kind of security Mick and I would have or the U.S. military would have.
CHETRY: You call him Mick, not Michael. This is what confused me at the beginning. Kyra Phillips, Michael Ware, great perspective from both of you. Thank you so much. John.
JOHN ROBERTS: Also, back from Iraq -- CNN's Kyra Phillips and Michael Ware join us and answer you questions about what it's really like in Iraq for people who live there and what it's like covering the war. American Morning, coming right back.
KIRAN CHETRY: And we're back now with CNN's Kyra Phillips and war correspondent Michael Ware. They both have just come back from Iraq.
Kyra and Michael, thanks for being with us once again.
And we asked you before to give us your take on some words from General Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq. He spoke yesterday on the Capitol. Let's hear one more statement from him yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER, MULTINATIONAL FORCES IN IRAQ: What I would like to see Iraq end as, of course, is a government, a country that is one Iraq, with a government that is representative of and responsive to the people, all the people of Iraq, that can defend itself, at peace with itself, and ideally an ally in the global war on terror.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: That's a lot. I mean, that's a lofty goal. Is it possible, Kyra?
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have to tell you, I heard that quote. And I thought, okay, General, would you stop being so PC and stop saying what everybody wants?
Of course everybody wants peace in Iraq. And I even sent him an e-mail this morning. We've been having correspondence. And I said, "Give me a break. Tell me what you really were saying."
And he said right here -- he said, "I'm not going to lie. I talk about the setbacks as well. There have also been the sensational car bomb attacks, the tragic loss of the combat outpost three days ago, and the challenges in Diyala province, which, understandably, have tended to overshadow the sense of slow progress on the ground in Baghdad, Anbar and some other locations."
He's a straight shooter. You've just got to know what to ask him and how to pick at him.
This is -- this was such a PC answer. And I know you spent a lot of time in Diyala province. You know he's a straight shooter, too. And he's making a good point about the setbacks in that area.
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, Diyala is now the new frontline against al Qaeda. I mean, to be honest, it's a tragically bloody affair.
The brigade that was there last year lost 19 troops in 12 months. The brigade there now has lost 50 in six months.
And you listen very carefully to what General Petraeus says. He says, this is what we would like to see, a representative government.
When I was in Diyala province, I interviewed a two-star general on camera for CNN, and he admitted for the first time from anyone in the military that they are now prepared to accept options other than democracy. Now, this is what this war was sold to the American public on. Yet, they are saying now democracy isn't mandatory, it's an option, and that they are prepared to see a government that can protect itself, give services to its people, and it doesn't have to be democratic.
In fact, the general said most of our allies in this region are not democratic. So that fundamentally addresses the root cause of why America says it went to war. And now the military is saying, well, we may not get there.
CHETRY: Well, the problem is, is that it's left into the hands, it is up to the Iraqis if they want democracy. I mean, at the beginning it was to clear the way so that could be the path. If that's not how it goes for them, we can't force it.
WARE: No. But I mean, remember, the vision for Iraq was to establish this shining model of democracy that it was hoped would then spread throughout the region. Well, the security situation has become so bad, Iranian influence has become so strong, Iran is much stronger because of this war. Al Qaeda is much stronger because of this war.
And as military men, not diplomats, not politicians, they're saying first is security. And if another kind of government that is not democratic but is strong and is an ally of the U.S., we will accept that.
CHETRY: Let's answer some questions that our e-mailers asked us this morning. One of them was about how Iraqis live.
"How do Iraqis live and go about their ordinary lives? Where do they eat out and where do they shop?"
PHILLIPS: They don't. I mean, you don't go to a coffee shop and have a Starbucks. You don't go to the movies. You don't just cruise the -- stroll along the main strip on -- in the evening.
There is no normal social life in Iraq. And it's hard for Iraqis, because this was the heyday decades ago.
WARE: Yeah. Yeah.
PHILLIPS: I mean, especially under Saddam. I mean, you could party and have a great time. And so they have just become accustomed to that. They just hope they can get up and walk to work, whether it's their dress shop or their pharmacy or whatever it is, and just make it there alive, make some money, make it back home to their family, and cook dinner.
WARE: I'll give you an example. I mean, there's an area of Baghdad where I used to live. And at night it was alive with Iraqi families going out to restaurants, shopping, boys on the streets trying to meet girls at ice cream parlors.
This same area now is a battle zone. All the buildings are destroyed. American troops continue to die and get hurt there.
And indeed, one of my dearest Iraqi friends just two days, three days before I left the country, his father, his uncle and two of his cousins went to the shop. Luckily, his father got out of the car, walked into the shop. While he was in the shop, a car bomb detonated and he lost his uncle and both his cousins.
CHETRY: Yes, and it's tragic to hear about this. And as we talk about solutions, and we talk about -- would all of us, all the American troops pulling out help the situation?
PHILLIPS: No. No way.
WARE: Gee, no.
PHILLIPS: It would be a disaster. I mean, I had a chance to sit down with the minister of defense, to General Petraeus, Admiral Fallon, head of CENTCOM. I asked them all the question, whether Iraqi or U.S. military.
There is no way U.S. troops could pull out. It would be a disaster. They are doing too much training. They are helping the Iraqis not only with security, but trying to get the government up and running.
I mean, this is a country of let's make a deal. There's so much corruption still. If the U.S. military left -- they have rules of engagement, they have an idea, a focus. It would be a disaster.
WARE: Well, even more than that, I mean, if you just want to look at it in terms of purely American national interest, if U.S. troops leave now, you're giving Iraq to Iran, a member of President Bush's axis of evil, and al Qaeda. That's who will own it.
And so, coming back now, I'm struck by the nature of the debate on Capitol Hill, how delusional it is. Whether you are for this war or against it, whether you've supported the way it's been executed or not, it does not matter. You broke it, you've got to fix it now. You can't leave, or it's going to come and blow back on America.
PHILLIPS: The U.S. owns this. And that's a very interesting point that you bring up about Iran.
Everybody keeps talking about a timeline. Is the U.S. winning this war? They have to start talking about other issues, like the influence of Iran.
I mean, every single day there are munitions and training and advice and support coming from Iran. I mean, they do not want the U.S. to have any presence there.
CHETRY: And we could talk about this all day. It is such a fascinating conversation. Unfortunately, we are out of time.
Michael Ware, Kyra Phillips...
PHILLIPS: The two of us never stop talking. Right?
CHETRY: I know you don't. Well, you do long enough to cut his hair, because I heard you were his barber in Iraq. So now he's going to be in a pickle if he goes back.
PHILLIPS: And thanks for the bottle of wine. I appreciate it.
WARE: I didn't want to get blown up on the way to the hairdresser.
ROBERTS: Yeah, I've been there. The question is, where in Iraq do you go for a haircut? Where can you go?
PHILLIPS: You go to me, John. I did a really -- can't you tell? I did a great job.
WARE: Yeah. That's how desperate I was.
ROBERTS: You did a lovely job, Kyra.
And it's great to see you back stateside, Michael, although I don't know if New York City is going to be able to handle you after four months in Iraq.
WARE: Put it this way, it was a long night, mate.
ROBERTS: All right. Good to see you.