Michael Ware


AC: Recap of Ware vs. McCain, round 1

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Length: 5:12

ANDERSON COOPER: The vote today in the Senate was close, 50-48. And the debate leading up to it was fierce.

As the Senate debated, the bloodshed continues in Iraq, of course. At least 70 people died in attacks today across the country.

CNN's Michael Ware has been on the ground in Iraq since the war began. He joins me now from Baghdad.

Michael, earlier today, Republican Senator John McCain told Wolf Blitzer that the new strategy is working in Iraq, and, in some parts of Baghdad outside the Green Zone, Americans can walk around.

I want to play you part of what he said.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I know for a fact that much of the success we're experiencing, including the ability of Americans in many parts -- not all. we have got a long, long way to go. we've only got two of the five brigades there -- to go into some neighborhoods in Baghdad in a secure fashion.


COOPER: Is that true? You're on the ground there.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely not, Anderson.

Actually, the senator couldn't be further from the truth. I mean, the senator has been very solid on his Iraq strategy to this point. He's always been very cautious and very conservative when it comes to Iraq, warning people, despite the unpopularity, that the war needs more troops, not less, that we will have to stay longer, not shorter.

Yet, here, he's just gone way out on a limb. To suggest that out there, right now, are any streets where Americans could walk, without a Shia militia being tipped off, without a Sunni insurgency scooping you up, without al Qaeda snatching you, or without local gangs just seeing dollar signs and  taking you away, is ludicrous.

If he knows any part of this city where Americans can walk, then I'd appreciate the senator coming and telling me that, and we'll go and take that walk together.

He even suggested General Petraeus, the commander of all forces here, travels out almost daily without arms. Well, the American officers we spoke to were laughing about this. The general travels in a heavy, very well protected, multilayered bubble of security.

So, Senator McCain is way off base -- Anderson.

COOPER: But he's saying that two of the five U.S. brigades can travel in neighborhoods in a secure fashion. I mean, I guess that's open to interpretation what that means exactly, in a secure fashion.

What is your read on it?

WARE: Well, yes, there's two out of five of the U.S. brigades being sent for this surge operation are -- have arrived. The third is now in the process of arriving.

And, yes, where we can now send in thousands of troops throughout Baghdad and have them swirling about the city, it was very hard for them to do this before. Now they're actually staying in these neighborhoods. The direct result of that is that a particular type of violence is now down by as much as a quarter. That's sectarian violence.

Now, one of the big reasons for that is that the death squads and their facilitators are actually the police and the army forces themselves that the U.S. forces are with each and every night. So the death squads are being kept off the streets almost literally.

But at the same time, we're seeing violence displaced elsewhere, north of the city, further away from the city. So that brigades can move through the city is nothing new, nor is that revelatory, nor does that really tell us what Senator McCain would like us to believe it says.

COOPER: The Iraqi government says that the number of civilians killed in the capital was down by more than 80 percent. They say the number of kidnappings down by almost 90 percent, and a third fewer roadside bombs and car bombings. Do you buy that?

WARE: Yes, I do. I think a lot of those figures can be correct. Whether they're to those degrees, it's hard to say.

So far, the military is playing it very close to their chest. Here on the ground, they send a much, much more restrained message. They're saying, "There's lots of good initial indications, but we believe it's far too early to tell yet."

I mean, one of the big things that commanders say to us is that, "We know that many of the Shia militias are laying low, that the Sunni insurgents in Baghdad are doing what we -- they do every time we have a major offensive." They're laying low, or they have moved outside, such as to the province of Diyala, north of the capital, where violence has picked up so much since the surge began that General Petraeus has been forced to send a battalion of Strykers to that troubled province.

So, it's very hard to tell what's going on at this stage or to read too much into it long term -- Anderson.

COOPER: So, just to be clear, Michael, I mean, you have been covering this war since 2003. You don't live in the Green Zone. You live in a location outside the Green Zone.

Is there any place in Baghdad that you would go by yourself without security, and stay for more than, say, 10 or 15 minutes in one spot on the street?

WARE: No. I'm afraid to say there isn't.

It's very difficult moving about this city now at the best of times. Westerners have to move in very well-protected ways. It's hard to move unnoticed. No one would miss you on the streets. They'd spot you immediately. And the attention that you would attract on these streets would be fatal.

COOPER: Michael Ware, appreciate it. You have taken a lot of risks over the years. Appreciate it, Michael. Thanks.