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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Airstrikes Target Insurgent Strongholds in Iraq; Mother and Child Separated by Hurricane Katrina Finally Reunited; Roe v. Wade For Men?
Aired March 16, 2006 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.
Almost three years since the first bomb fell on Iraq, and nearly just as long since the president declared major combat over beneath that "Mission Accomplished" banner, we are seeing major combat once again, not for the first time, either, but on the largest scale by air since the war began -- all angles tonight on Operation Swarmer, billed as a massive airborne assault on one of the most dangerous corners of Iraq, the city where we recently saw that mosque bombing, a tinderbox for Sunni-Shia violence.
The assault comes as Iraqis try to form a government, so far without success. The parliament was sworn in today, but absent agreement on a speaker, a prime minister, or Cabinet officials.
And, back in Washington, the White House unveiled the latest edition of its national security strategy. The 49-page document restated a commitment to launching preemptive wars, if needed, and contained a veiled warning to Iran -- more on all this tonight, along with the timing and the politics of it all.
First, though, CNN's Nic Robertson on the operation itself.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Iraqi and U.S. assault troops aboard a helicopter fly toward what the 101st Airborne describe as the biggest air assault since the invasion of Iraq three years ago.
UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: Go, go, go!
ROBERTSON: Operation Swarmer began at dawn Thursday, more than 1,500 troops, over 200 tactical vehicles, and more than 50 aircraft, some landing near Samarra, about 50 miles north of Baghdad.
MAJOR TOM BRYANT, U.S. ARMY: This is a possible suspected insurgent operating in the area. And -- and the Iraqi security forces are out front and -- and drove this operation.
ROBERTSON: All the video and pictures provided by the Department of Defense -- Iraqis living nearby describe the area as sympathetic to insurgents and say they have seen foreign fighters.
HOSHYAR ZEBARI, IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTER: The insurgents and the terrorists have been assembling themselves there, trying to create another Fallujah.
ROBERTSON: Troops fanned out to cordon a 10-square-mile area, hunting for insurgents, until the sun went down.
BRYANT: We want to do a pretty thorough search in hours of daylight, vs. the hours of limited visibility. So -- so, they will continue the searches in earnest tomorrow morning.
ROBERTSON: In this potentially lethal environment, so far, no shoot-outs and no casualties, and no reports of insurgents captured yet, the main goal of the operation. But some roadside bombs or improvised explosive devices found in the operation that is expected to last several days.
BRYANT: We know we have discovered a couple of different cachets (AUDIO GAP) secured artillery shells, some explosive material, some IED-making materials.
(on camera): Operation Swarmer is being touted as a successful Iraqi-led operation, at least so far. But with so many U.S. air assets, helicopters, and aircraft, that may be pushing the definition a little far. That more than half the troops involved are Iraqis does show that the Iraqi army is becoming more involved.
Nic Robertson, CNN, Baghdad.
COOPER: We're joined now by retired General Bernard Trainor. He is the author of the meticulously researched new book "Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq."
General, thanks for being with us. The book is a remarkable work.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL BERNARD TRAINOR (RET.), CO-AUTHOR, "COBRA II: THE INSIDE STORY OF THE INVASION AND OCCUPATION OF IRAQ": Thank you, Tucker (sic).
COOPER: This -- this is being billed as the largest air assault since the invasion. But Samarra was supposedly retaken from insurgents back in 2004. And, then, last month, there was another sweep through the city. What does it say about this war that we can't seem to hold on to major territory?
TRAINOR: Well, we don't know what the purpose of this operation was, much less what the result is.
People are touting it. You know, we never did have a helicopter assault during the -- during the initial invasion. And I think we have to see what the results of this are. What was the intelligence? And was there any danger, which I think is particular in -- in Iraq today, that some of the operational plans were leaked?
I mean, it was -- it was a nice demonstration. But, until we find out what was the goal and whether we achieved the goal, I think we should spend -- suspend judgment on how effective it is.
COOPER: In -- in your new book "Cobra II," you argue that the U.S. had enough troops to get to Baghdad in the initial invasion, but not really enough to occupy or nation-build in Iraq. Do we have enough troops there now?
TRAINOR: Well, I don't think that's -- that's an issue, that the American people will never support putting more people out there.
I think what we have to do is be able to pass it off to the Iraqis, which we have been trying to do for the last two -- two -- two years. Going in, we certainly had enough forces to defeat the -- the Iraqi army to get to Baghdad. But that wasn't the issue. The issue was, after you have taken care of Saddam Hussein, then what do you do?
And, in that instance, we certainly didn't have enough forces, and we knew it.
COOPER: But, I mean, again, I have to ask, though, I mean, do we have enough forces now, whether it's to train Iraqi troops or to hold on to cities that we have already been through?
TRAINOR: Well, I think we have enough troops right now to do the things that we're supposed to do, which is really to back up the Iraqi forces.
And the -- the focus of the -- the military at this particular point, other than providing a modicum of security, is to train the Iraqis to pick up the -- the burden of supply -- of providing the security and stability for their own nation.
COOPER: You have said that a history of this war is -- is really a case study in mismanagement and bad assumptions.
COOPER: Is the secretary of defense still making bad assumptions and still mismanaging?
TRAINOR: No, we all learn by experience, don't we?
And I think they -- they understand that -- that a lot of the assumptions that they made, upon which they based the original operation, were faulty. And I think, you know, being once burned, you're twice warned. And I think they're trying to do the best they possibly can to recoup some of the -- the -- the ground that was lost by some of the mismanagement at the outset.
COOPER: We're also joined by retired General Don Shepperd.
General Shepperd, good to see you as well.
If -- if U.S. troops do start pulling back from Iraq, as -- as it seems many here in the United States want them to, ultimately, some in the Pentagon have said there's going to be greater reliance on air operations, air support for an Iraqi troops. Can an insurgency be defeated from the air?
MAJOR GENERAL DONALD SHEPPERD, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: No, Anderson. It cannot be defeated from the air.
You're going to have troops on the ground. You are going to have to have operations like we're seeing right now in the area of Samarra. And the United States is going to have to provide the air support. And I'm talk about the helicopters to take them in, the helicopters to provide air support, and the fixed-wing for support.
But you cannot do it from the air. This has got to be done by troops on the ground. And, eventually, it has got to be done by the Iraqis themselves.
COOPER: And -- and are you -- I mean, you -- you have been there. How confident are you with -- with the tide of this war so far, or where we're at now, General Shepperd?
SHEPPERD: Well, in -- yes, I tell you what, Anderson. It's hard to put a -- a happy face on the war right now, no question about that.
I just got back in October. I got a chance to look at the Iraqi security forces, and -- and view their training and their equipment. They're a long way from being able to do what the United States can do. They will probably never be able to do that. On the other hand, they just have to be better than the insurgents.
And I'm confident that, with the backing and being teamed up with U.S. forces, that they can come up to speed in a reasonable period of time, probably in the next couple of years, and then we will be able to withdraw into cantonment areas outside the cities, and eventually into surrounding areas, and provide air support and logistics for -- probably for several years.
COOPER: General Shepperd, it's good to talk to you. I'm sorry we had the audio problems with you earlier.
And, General Trainor, as well, thank you very much. The -- the new book, as I said, is -- is "Cobra II." It is a remarkable work.
Twice this week, we have seen new polls with bad news for the Bush White House -- tonight, another poll showing the president now facing unprecedented public doubt. It's a CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll. Take a look. When asked how things are going in Iraq, 38 percent of people surveyed answered well. Sixty percent said poorly, a significant change from just three months ago.
And to the likely outcome in Iraq, 40 percent said a stable government. Fifty-five percent said civil war. David Gergen will be joining us to talk about it in a moment and how the president can turn things around, if he can turn things around.
But, before we talk to David, here's what the White House is saying tonight about today's battle, about the war, and potentially, at least, the next war.
With that, here's Elaine Quijano.
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The White House dismissed any suggestion that today's assault or the military's effort to publicize it was timed to coincide with this latest P.R. campaign, saying that the president's authorization wasn't required.
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He knows about the operation. He has been briefed on it. But this is a decision that is made by commanders who are in the best position to make the tactical decisions about the operations that are undertaken.
QUIJANO: The White House also released its updated national security strategy, emphasizing worldwide democracy as the best defense for America.
The plan says, the U.S. will strive to use diplomacy first, but does not back away from the doctrine of preemption, saying -- quote -- "To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively in exercising our inherent right of self-defense."
The national security adviser defended the doctrine.
STEPHEN L. HADLEY, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: And the president believes that we must remember the clearest lesson of September 11, that the United States of America must confront threats before they fully materialize.
QUIJANO: But some say, that staunch defensive preemption ignores the lessons of Iraq.
SUSAN RICE, SENIOR FELLOW IN FOREIGN POLICY STUDIES, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: We thought that we knew that Iraq was the most pressing threat, because it possessed weapons of mass destruction. It did not. We preempted. We're now in a long-term entanglement in Iraq. We need to do our best to ensure that it doesn't devolve into civil war and that the insurgents and the terrorists are put down.
QUIJANO (on camera): Administration officials insist, they have learned better intelligence is needed. They also argue, Iraq is not a preemptive war, saying 12 years of diplomacy preceded the U.S.-led invasion.
Elaine Quijano, CNN, the White House.
COOPER: Well, again, tonight, David Gergen is here, because we think no one is better when it comes to politics, policy and presidents. He served Democrats and Republicans alike. Current, he's at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.
David, good to have you on tonight again.
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Thank you, Anderson. Good to see you.
COOPER: Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was talking to Wolf Blitzer earlier today on CNN. And -- and she kind of talked about the coordination, or hinted at coordination of today's events, the military operation billed as a massive air assault, and then the release of the national security strategy.
If you believe these events were times, what -- what would be the strategy behind doing it all in the same day?
GERGEN: I doubt very seriously that they were coordinated.
The military has -- operates with a fair amount of latitude from the White House on things like this. You know, I -- I'm cynical about a lot of things, but not about the way the military carries out its operations. And I think they carry them out for their own purposes.
What possible use was this? Well, you know, Anderson, it -- it doesn't help the president, in a lot of ways, to see U.S. troops are still needed to put down things. As you reminded your audience just a couple minutes ago, you know, we had "Mission Accomplished" on that great big banner on the aircraft carrier, and here we are with another mission.
COOPER: Well, it's not just that. I mean, Samarra was a massive battle back in 2004. And, then, just a month ago, there was another sweep through the town. So, that now we are having to go there by air and -- and put troops on the ground again, I mean, that's -- that's very damning.
GERGEN: It -- well, it is. And I think that's -- that's exactly right.
So, that's why I don't think this is for P.R. purposes. What I do think it raises a question of, as -- as Iraq gets deeper into what looks like a civil war, and we then go -- go in with a lot of airpower against one side, do we look like we're taking sides in this civil war?
And I think that is going to be an issue that's going to be with us. You know, we have got very delicate and difficult negotiations going on to try to form a government. And we have been looking like we were trying to help the Sunnis get into the government.
But, you know, a lot of these insurgents are tied into the Sunnis. The Sunnis think the Shiites have been using their militias to kill them. Here we go in to -- to -- to kill more Sunni insurgents.
So, that's -- I think the -- the problem the administration has now, the hour is coming when they have got to get some resolution. You can't -- you have got to get a government formed and you have got to get American troops out of there fairly soon.
COOPER: It seems the only solution, really.
I mean, it does -- seems to me, though, that we're in very dangerous waters. The lack of credibility this administration seems to suffer from, rightly or wrongly, it taints the way people see ongoing military operations in Iraq.
GERGEN: Totally agree. Totally agree.
COOPER: And -- and -- and it's sort of a cascading effect.
You know, I have gotten tons of e-mails today from people saying, look, you know, why are there no embedded reporters in the airstrikes today? Why is it -- why are we only seeing Department of Defense footage?
You know, and those are good questions. Lack of credibility becomes corrosive.
GERGEN: That, I totally agree with.
And that -- the amount of secrecy, the -- kind of the -- the excessive spin, the periodic deception, I think, is really coming back to haunt the administration in its hour -- you know, hour of -- of real testing here.
You know, these next few weeks are going to be absolutely critical. And the president doesn't -- we talked about this in the last couple days. The president's honesty numbers are down. That is his -- his trump card, is, people think he's honest.
And when you have got people thinking the administration is not playing it straight, then, when they see these kind of pictures, they think, well, this is all a P.R. game, when, in fact, I don't think it is. But that's the way they see it. And I think it only -- you get into this vicious downward spiral.
COOPER: And -- and, I mean, just as an American, you hate thinking that, because there -- I mean, there are troops on the ground. And, you know, those guys aren't there for politics. They're there for their buddy standing next to him and to...
GERGEN: Well, that's for darn sure.
COOPER: ... and to win and get -- and get back.
GERGEN: ... darn sure. And they're -- they're putting their lives on the line out there.
David Gergen, again, thanks for being on. It was good to talk to you.
GERGEN: Anderson -- Anderson, good to see you again.
COOPER: The president reiterated today that the military decides how many troops are needed in Iraq. So, how does he explain the fact that some in military -- in the military have, all along, called for more troops? The difficult question of boots on the ground still being debated three years later -- we will look at the ahead.
And, in New Orleans, in the wake of Katrina, a very rare happy ending for one family -- a mother and child who thought they would never see one another again. Can you believe that, seven months later, finally, these people are being reunited?
Also tonight, if women can choose whether to be mothers or not, can men choose whether or not to be fathers? Yet another complication in an already complicated controversy -- they're calling it Roe v. Wade for men. It's a legal challenge.
We're taking your phone calls later on. The toll-free number is 1-877-648-3639.
This story is on our blog, too, if you want to get read up on it.
We will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down, and the troop levels in Iraq will not be decided by artificial timetables set in Washington, D.C., but by our commanders on the ground.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was the president tonight, though we have heard similar words before. In -- in some ways, war is a matter of numbers: how many of you vs. how many of them. That's what it largely comes down to, all other things being equal.
Where Iraq is concerned, you would think that part of the calculation, the numbers, would have been settled a long time ago, but it hasn't been.
CNN's Tom Foreman looks into it.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the start of the Iraq war, the question has been debated: How many Americans will have to fight there, and for how long? One assessment came before the first shot was fired from the then-Army chief of staff.
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: General Shinseki, could you give us some idea as to the magnitude of the Army's force requirement for an occupation of Iraq?
GENERAL ERIC SHINSEKI, FORMER ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: Something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are -- are -- are probably, you know, a figure that would be required.
FOREMAN: That comment was widely criticized as overly cautious, overly pessimistic, especially after the invasion force of 165,000 coalition troops took Baghdad in a few weeks.
BUSH: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.
FOREMAN: But, a few months later, the insurgency took off, fueled by longstanding ethnic differences, just as General Shinseki predicted. And, ever since, hopes for bringing significant numbers of American troops home have risen, only to fall.
Saddam Hussein was captured; American troops stayed the same. The interim Iraqi government took over; American troops stayed. A Constitution was written. Full elections were held. Tens of thousands of Iraqis were trained as soldiers and police officers. And each development brought calls for more American troops coming home.
REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Our military has done everything that has been asked of them. The U.S. cannot accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. It's time to bring the troops home.
FOREMAN: But the military, while talking vaguely of troop reductions now and then, has consistently kept around 130,000 to 150,000 fighting men and women in Iraq.
(on camera): Various military strategists have said, announcing a date for a troop reduction would be foolish, letting insurgents mount an offensive at a critical moment.
(voice-over): Furthermore, historically, predicting how many troops are needed for any war has been tricky business. And this is war.
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No one said that combat operations weren't ongoing. Those -- those operations continue.
FOREMAN: Nevertheless, nearly three years after combat started, that central question remains: How many American troops, for how long?
Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: Well, amid all this, a rare positive sign -- there may be reason to hope for the start of better relations between the U.S. and Iran. We will have that ahead.
But, first, Erica Hill from Headline News has some of the other stories we are following -- Erica.
ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson. That's right. Actually, for the first time, Iran has agreed to negotiate with the superpower it calls the great Satan. The proposed talks with the United States will be aimed at stabilizing Iraq. Now, the U.S. has accused Iran of sending fighters into Iraq and of providing materials for bombs. The Bush administration says the talk will not cover any nuclear issues.
Some new details tonight about yesterday's tragic shooting at a California Denny's -- police say the homeless man who killed two patrons before killing himself left behind letters in his car and storage locker. The contents could help investigators, who believe the gunman may have been mentally ill.
And you may recall, just last week, the FBI recently advising sports venues to be beware of possible terrorist activity -- well, today, in San Diego, a bomb scare before a scheduled NCAA tournament game between Alabama and Marquette. Explosive-sniffing dogs detected a suspicious package in a vendor's cart. Luckily, it turned out to be nothing.
By the way, Marquette lost to the Crimson Tide 90-85, if you need to update the bracket.
And pop star and tabloid fave Jessica Simpson in Washington today, plugging Operation Smile. It's an organization that provides reconstructive surgery to facially deformed kids. But she grabbed as much attention, or maybe even more, for what many say was a dis to President Bush. Simpson declined a chance to meet the president, because it would have happened at a Republican fund-raiser.
And she said her lobbying efforts were nonpartisan, and she didn't want that tainted. Her father insists, she is a big fan. She -- quote -- "loves the heck" out of the president.
COOPER: All right.
HILL: What an odd comment. But...
HILL: ... as long as...
COOPER: Glad that has been clarified.
The last Katrina child missing since the storm hit, every child watch group in America was searching for her. Well, one made an impossible reunion come true. You will see it.
Also tonight, triggered by your response, more about men becoming dads and then trying to get off the hook, the money hook. A lawsuit has been filed, hoping for just that. Some call it the male version of Roe v. Wade. We are taking your phone calls. Do -- do you think men shouldn't have to pay child support for a child they say they never wanted? Call toll free, 1-877-648-363, or log on to our blog at CNN.com/360.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, as you can see, tonight, a family torn apart by Hurricane Katrina is finally whole again. It is an incredible story about a child and a mother separated nearly seven months ago, finally reunited.
CNN's Rick Sanchez reports.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The baby!
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It begins with a scream. But we really need to freeze it there and take you back on this amazing journey.
Hurricane Katrina did something that is almost unbearable for families. It separated 5,192 children from their parents. Mothers and fathers agonized, wondering, where were they? Dead? Alive? Lost? Who knows?
Among the missing was this little girl. Her name is Cortez. This is her story.
CORTEZ STEWART, REUNITED DAUGHTER: They had a lot of water. And my Mima (ph) used to picking me up.
SANCHEZ: Mima (ph) is the woman seated next to Cortez and her mom. She is Cortez's godmother. And when Hurricane Katrina arrived, she took Cortez to what she thought was the safety of a hotel. But the waters rose and rose, and she ended up having to be rescued by helicopter, like this.
FELICIA WILLIAMS, GODMOTHER OF CORTEZ STEWART: It was just, like, unbelievable for them to have me clinging her with a string around my waist, pulling me up into a helicopter.
SANCHEZ: meanwhile, Cortez's mom had her hands full with her five other children. She was being rescued by boat and taken to the nearest piece of dry land, an interstate overpass, where she and her children slept on concrete for four days.
(on camera): And there you sit for four days.
LISA STEWART, MOTHER OF CORTEZ STEWART: Right.
SANCHEZ: With -- you couldn't take a shower?
L. STEWART: No.
SANCHEZ: You couldn't eat.
L. STEWART: No.
SANCHEZ: What they gave you and some scraps, basically, right?
L. STEWART: Right. Right.
SANCHEZ: That must have been hard.
L. STEWART: You know, it was. It was terrible.
SANCHEZ (voice-over): What made it even more terrible was, she was looking through the crowd to find her missing daughter. Where was she? Could she have drowned?
L. STEWART: Right, because the water -- the height of the water, the -- the water was taller than buildings.
SANCHEZ: Actually, Cortez was across town, at Louis Armstrong Airport, where she had been taken with her Mima (ph). They were dropped off by helicopter, put on a plane, and flown to San Antonio, where they contacted Felicia's relatives in Atlanta, which is where they ended up.
Cortez's mom, meanwhile, was picked up by a bus and driven to the Houston Astrodome, tired, hungry, sharing a small space with 100,000 people, all the while thinking she had already lost one child, and wasn't about to lose another one.
L. STEWART: I didn't trust the men -- men that was around, you know? They had predators.
SANCHEZ: Finally, Lisa got away and settled in Houston. Almost seven months had passed since that horrible night, where she was separated from her daughter, and still no trace of Cortez. She and her husband tried everything: FEMA, the Red Cross, Web sites galore -- nothing.
CHARLES TENNESSEE, FATHER OF CORTEZ STEWART: I left numbers where we was at, addresses where we was at.
SANCHEZ (on camera): Was it painful?
TENNESSEE: It was very painful.
SANCHEZ (voice-over): Painful and frustrating, because even the organization entrusted by the Justice Department to look for the missing children of New Orleans couldn't find her. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children was able to find 5,191 of the 5,192 that were missing, in other words, all except one.
So, Cortez is number 5,192?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
SANCHEZ: The family and Mima (ph) say they tried everything, but, somehow, they hadn't been able to find each other on the lists and Web sites.
Finally, one more check of the Web sites was successful. And, so, finally, after tears, and an anxious trip to the airport...
L. STEWART: Let's start looking around. Oh, my God.
SANCHEZ: ... this happened
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... the baby!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the baby.
SANCHEZ: A family reunited -- the last of the missing has been found.
Rick Sanchez, CNN, Houston, Texas.
COOPER: Of course, there are still so many people whose bodies have not been found yet, adults who are still out there. We will have more of that in our next hour on 360.
A lot of you have been writing in about a lawsuit that has been called Roe v. Wade for men. It's about this guy, a dad refusing to pay child support because he said he told his girlfriend he never wanted kids.
We will also be taking your calls. Dial toll free, 1-877-648- 3639. We will share some of your comments in our blog as well. You can go to CNN.com/360 -- more on this in a moment.
COOPER: Well, a couple of days ago we told you the story about Matt Dubay, a young man who got his girlfriend pregnant and is now suing her, claiming he shouldn't have the right to not pay child support since he didn't want to have a baby in the first place. This story is certainly hitting a nerve. A lot of you contacted us with your thoughts about it on our blog.
And tonight we're going to further explore the lawsuit that's been dubbed "Roe v. Wade for Men." We'll also take your calls, give you a chance to speak your mind on the matter, ask some questions about it.
First, though, a look at the case.
Here's CNN's Jonathan Freed.
JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Matt Dubay is 25 years old. He's single. And for now wants to keep it that way. But Dubay is also the father of an 8-month-old girl named Elizabeth. And that's the problem.
(on camera): Was filing the lawsuit a difficult decision for you to make?
MATT DUBAY, FATHER OF ELIZABETH WELLS: It was a long decision to make.
FREED (voice over): Dubay is suing his ex-girlfriend, 20-year- old Lauren Wells, because he believes he shouldn't be forced to pay $560 a month in child support.
DUBAY: During the time we were seeing each other I made it very clear to her that I was not ready to be a father, and she made it very clear to me that she was incapable of becoming pregnant because of a condition.
FREED: The ex-couple's battle here in Saginaw, Michigan, has become the centerpiece of a national campaign to allow men to reject the responsibilities of fatherhood.
A rights group called the National Center for Men is backing the lawsuit, calling its legal crusade "Roe vs. Wade for Men," after the landmark Supreme Court decision that gives women the legal right to an abortion.
MEL FEIT, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL CENTER FOR MEN: I want this to be a very narrow right, a very limited time in which a man can say to a woman, you knew I did not want to be a father, we have discussed this. And now, it is your body, it is your right to do with your body and your pregnancy what you want, but I am letting you know now that I choose not to be responsible. I will have no rights to this child, but I will also relinquish responsibilities.
FREED: Dubay feels he was shut out.
DUBAY: She was given the right to, you know, have an abortion, keep the child, put the child up for adoption. And whatever she chooses I have to ago along with. You know, under, you know, our laws, our Constitution, that doesn't seem right to me.
FREED (on camera): Matt Dubay saw his child for the first time a few months ago here at the Saginaw County Courthouse. It was for a blood test to establish if he was the father. And it is the only time he has seen his daughter.
(voice over): Women's rights groups insist men like Dubay are not being forced into parenthood, saying child support payments are a fair and modest alternative to the lifetime commitment of being a father.
KATHY RODGERS, PRESIDENT, LEGAL MOMENTUM: All I see in this from the men's point of view is, you know, they want to have all of the fun and none of the responsibility.
FREED: Dubay's lawyer insists the lawsuit isn't trying to create an escape route.
(on camera): So you're saying this is not an attempt to give men an easy way out of being careless during a one-night stand?
JEFFERY COJOCAR, MATT DUBAY'S LAWYER: No, not at all.
FREED (voice over): Jeff Cojocar says it's about trying to extend to men the freedom of choice the Supreme Court decision gave to women.
COJOCAR: Men should have the same rights. Men should have the equality under the law. Men should have certain choices that they don't have right now.
FREED: But while equality under the law sounds like a good idea, some say the law is very different once a baby is born.
RODGERS: It's been decided that both parents have to have responsibility, and that means the father in this case has to pay some money. And that's all he has to do.
BILL SMITH, LAUREN WELL'S LAWYER: Their 8-month-old daughter Elizabeth is a vibrant and healthy baby.
FREED: Baby Elizabeth's mother issued a statement through her lawyer.
SMITH: "My focus is on providing a nurturing home for our baby. I am disappointed that Matt has decided not to participate in Elizabeth's life so far.
FREED: The lawsuit also names state of Michigan. And Dubay's lawyer says if his side wins, he's hoping it will force state legislators to redraft the rules giving men and women the same rights.
DUBAY: For the child to be growing up in a broken home where the mother and father do not get along, you know, I just don't see that as a fit environment for a child to be raised.
FREED: If successful, the lawsuit could encourage similar court challenges in other states.
Jonathan Freed, CNN, Saginaw, Michigan.
COOPER: Well, as we told you before, we'll take your calls. The toll free number is 1-877-648-3639. We want to know what you think about the lawsuit.
First, though, let's discuss the case with ethicist Randy Cohen, a columnist for "New York Times Magazine," and Mel Feit, executive director of the National Center for Men, who you just saw in Jonathan Freed's piece.
We appreciate both of you being with us.
Mel, I want to start off with you. A lot of the responses we've gotten say, look, OK, Matt Dubay didn't want to be a dad, but he is a dad now and there's a kid who needs his help. Why doesn't he have an obligation to pay child support?
FEIT: Well, let me be clear about what the issue is. Matt Dubay is not the father of this child. This is not about a father not wanting to pay child support.
FEIT: No, no, no.
COOPER: Biologically he's the father.
FEIT: No. And DNA is not the measure of fatherhood. Matt Dubay had sex with a woman named Lauren, and together they created a collection of cells within Lauren's body which she had the right to sweep away or to take to term.
She chose on her own -- she chose, knowing all the while and knowing in advance that Matt did not want to be a father, she chose to bring that child into this world. And by that act she made a choice to be a single mother.
Now, I'm not criticizing her choice. But please, let us ask her to be responsible for a choice that she alone has made, let us not force another person to be responsible for her choice.
Randy, is it fair that women get to choose whether or not to become moms if they're pregnant but men don't get any say in the matter at all?
RANDY COHEN, ETHICIST: Well, men seem to get quite a lot of say. There's something called sex, and there's something called condoms.
I gather in this case that this was not a planned pregnancy by either person. Now that there is, once a woman is pregnant, what we have here is financial pressure being used to say, we will force you to have an abortion. That's not something I think any ethical code would recognize, or force you to give up your child through financial pressure. I know of no ethical system that would allow that.
FEIT: Well, first of all, parents are forced to relinquish their children all of the time when they cannot provide for them. Look, this is a reprehensible ethical argument that you're making, Randy, that he chose to have sex.
You know, it is the argument that was used against women a generation ago to try to prevent them from having reproductive choice. In fact, the lawyers for Wade, as in Roe versus Wade, told the Supreme Court that a woman did not need the right to have an abortion because she had the right not to have sex.
COOPER: Mel -- Mel, let me ask you -- you're basically arguing, though, that this woman should be either forced to have an abortion or swept -- sweep the cells away, I guess, to use your term.
FEIT: No, absolutely not.
COOPER: Forced to have an abortion or give up the child through adoption.
COOPER: Or just raise the child by herself, correct?
FEIT: What I want, I want Matt to have equal reproductive choice because I think every person should have that fundamental right. What I think -- I believe the state of Michigan should help Lauren with the child, but that ultimately, if a parent cannot support a child, cannot take care of a child, adoption is what's in the best interest of the child.
Let's not pretend that when we talk about Lauren's rights we're talking about the child's rights. Those are not the same things. Adoption is what might be best for the child.
COOPER: Randy, does the father have a moral and ethical responsibility to his biological child even in the case if he was duped?
COHEN: I'm sorry, I didn't think there was any suggestion that he was duped here.
COOPER: No, not in this case, but theoretically, even he was duped.
COHEN: Well, as much as he might like to avenge himself on this hypothetical woman who dupes him, he has a child and he has obligations for the child. He has ethical duties to his own children, yes, absolutely, under any ethical system.
FEIT: Well, let me ask Randy a question, because you said on this show the other day that you did not want to (INAUDIBLE) deception. But you neglected to say what penalty you think should be brought to bear on a woman who did deceive a man.
Do you think she should go to prison? Do you think she should -- what penalty do you...
COOPER: Are you saying that she deceived him somehow because...
FEIT: No, I am not. I am not saying that.
COOPER: ... she didn't know that she...
FEIT: No, that's -- we don't know whether she deceived him or not. But you asked the question of Randy, now I'm asking the question of him.
If a woman does deceive a man, what penalty should attach to that deception? Should she be forced to pay him damages in a civil suit?
COHEN: Do I get to answer at some point, or do you just want to talk on and on?
FEIT: Well, tell me what you think the penalty should be.
COHEN: What's tricky about such situations is you're proposing a measure that will punish not the mother, but the child. There's a child that needs care here, and both parents must provide it.
COOPER: Yes, what -- I mean, Mel, for the hypothetical and all the arguing about rights, there is a little baby here. Whether you acknowledge it as a collection of cells or actually a living being, it is a child who will grow up and one day will look upon this man and say, what kind of a guy are you?
FEIT: No, let me tell you how I know that DNA is not the measure of fatherhood. It's because the courts in this country have said that.
Men across the country, when they get divorced and they find out sometimes that the children that they thought were their biological children are not, they go to court, they seek to be absolved of the responsibility for paying child support. The courts say DNA is not the measure of fatherhood.
How can you now say that Matt is a father because there's a DNA connection? It doesn't make sense. And we will ask a federal judge to make sense of this.
COOPER: I guess it also begs the question of what is a man? I mean, is a man a person who abandons a child?
FEIT: Oh, no, no, no, no. You're not going -- no, no.
COOPER: Let's get a quick break. We've got a lot of questions from viewers, and I want to give them the chance to ask some questions.
So we're going too take a quick break and we'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COOPER: We've been discussing the lawsuit filed by Matt Dubay against his ex-girlfriend. He says he should have the right to decide whether to support a child he didn't want.
Here with me once again, ethicist Randy Cohen, columnist for ""New York Times Magazine," and Mel Feit, executive director of the National Center for Men.
We go to the phones now, Michael from Tennessee.
Michael, what's your question?
CALLER: My question is, if you don't want a child and your girlfriend is supposed to be on birth control and she -- you know, you guys break up, how is it that -- you know, if you don't want a child, why should you pay child support on a child you never wanted?
COOPER: Let's put the question to Randy -- Randy.
COHEN: No contraception is a hundred percent reliable. Sometime there are unplanned pregnancies. And what you're left with is two parents of a child. And that's just the nature of life. And both parents have a moral duty to support the child they conceive.
COOPER: Mel, do you want to jump in?
FEIT: But the question here is, and that's what the dispute is, that we do not think Matt is a father. I think fatherhood must be a choice. I don't think DNA is what makes a father.
Let me just say one thing, Anderson. You took a slam at Matt at the last segment. Let me just respond for him.
A real man stands up for what he believes in. And I believe that Matt has shown courage. And someday he will be a great father when he chooses to be.
COOPER: Carol Lee from Arkansas.
Carol, go ahead.
CALLER: Oh, gosh. Matt, he just didn't need to partake in the sexual union if he didn't want to accept responsibility for it.
I mean, after all, this is a woman that became pregnant as a result of the union which he enjoyed. And I do wonder if the situation had been reversed, if he was the one that had to bear the child, which I know is impossible, but if he was he might think about it. Would he not want anyone to be responsible for what he had to endure?
CALLER: Personally, I don't think he should be a father. I don't think he'll be a very good one. But he sure is responsible for that child.
FEIT: Well, I think he'll be -- he'll be a great father someday.
My point is that the argument that you're making was made against women to try to prevent them from having reproductive choice. That is, just don't have sex. But people do have sex for all sorts of reasons other than procreation -- for love, for intimacy, to give each other pleasure, and that right should be protected. They should not be forced to procreate if they have sex.
COOPER: Randy, go ahead.
COHEN: Well, they don't compel their sexual partners to have abortions. That -- it is the nature of biology now that since the woman -- it is the woman who becomes pregnant. So what you're proposing either compels her to have an abortion or compels a perfectly fine mother to give up her child. And neither of those things sound ethical to me.
FEIT: A woman who brings a child into the world, knowing that a man does not want to be a father and then cannot afford to support her child is not a perfectly fine mother. Sorry.
COHEN: She didn't trick him. She didn't plan to have this child. She finds herself pregnant and cannot be compelled...
FEIT: Well, we don't know.
COHEN: Well, we -- there's no reason to believe she's anything but honest here unless you have evidence to the contrary.
FEIT: We don't know. We don't know.
COOPER: An e-mailer, Patty from Pennsylvania, writes to us, "Isn't that what a woman is doing by having an abortion?" Excuse me. "Isn't that what a woman is doing by having an abortion, shirking her responsibility? Society basically eliminates the father until they want a paycheck. How fair that is?"
COHEN: No, that's not what a woman is doing when she has an abortion. She -- the mother has the right to choose whether she's in a position to have a child, whether she can raise a child, whether she is prepared to be a mother.
And people make this extremely difficult decision for all kinds of reasons, that it denigrates the experience of women, the emotional circumstances women face to say they're shirking responsibility.
FEIT: You know, Randy, in the state of Michigan, where this case is held, the statute allows a parent -- and you think Matt is a parent -- to take a newborn infant, abandon that baby anonymously and hold no responsibility. How would you feel if a father, a young man, took his newborn infant and brought it to the hospital emergency room and abandoned that child and walked way? The law would allow him to do that. How do you feel about that?
COHEN: Well, I notice that you keep constructing your argument around hypotheticals and you don't want to seem to want to address the problem that here's this baby, Elizabeth, that Matt fathered, that he has responsibilities for.
FEIT: He's not the father of the child.
COHEN: You're conjuring up all sorts of air-fairy circumstances but not dealing with this actual situation.
FEIT: He's not the father of this child.
COOPER: OK. We've got a call from Jay from Nevada.
Jay, go ahead.
CALLER: Hey, thank you very much.
While I agree in principle of equal productive rights for men, there is a baby there. And in my case, what I wanted to do when I divorced was have the probate court set up a trust fund where they can monitor the actual expenses and not have her mom indiscriminately spend money on things that aren't directly beneficial to the child. I think that...
COHEN: I certainly agree with that, that child support payments should be reasonable, should be spent to raise the child, and should be something the father can afford. But that's what all courts strive to do when they're assessing child support.
FEIT: This is a somewhat separate issue, but in no state is it a requirement that child support be spent on a child. It certainly should be a requirement.
COOPER: We've got another call from Kelli in Pennsylvania
Kelli, go ahead with your question.
CALLER: Hi, Anderson. I -- if this gentleman actually truly did not want to be a father, why didn't he have a vasectomy? If some time in the future he wanted to be a father that procedure is totally and completely reversible.
COOPER: Mel, what about that?
FEIT: No, it's not automatically reversible. He was a 24-year- old man. He might want to be a father someday. To suggest that his form of birth control was a vasectomy at 24 is just...
COOPER: But, Mel, isn't all birth control just, inherently -- you know, mistakes happen. It's not...
COOPER: ... it's not perfect.
FEIT: Right. And that's what...
COOPER: So -- and by having sex, aren't you entering into some form of contract that you're taking some form of responsibility for...
FEIT: If you're a man. Not if you're a woman. If you're a woman, you have choice, protected.
You know that you can -- what Roe versus Wade did for women was earth-shattering. It allowed them to separate sexual intimacy from forced procreation. It is unthinkable that there should be no corresponding change in the law for me.
COOPER: And just a final thought to Randy.
COHEN: Well, nearly every ethical system honors the sanctity of the body, that we don't allow someone to intrude on another person's body. You can't force someone to donate a kidney, you can't compel someone to have an abortion. And that's what this argument would require.
COOPER: It's nice to have a discussion with two smart people who are not yelling at each other. And I appreciate it.
Mel Feit, I appreciate you being on the program.
And Randy Cohen, as well.
Thanks very much.
COHEN: Thank you, Anderson.
FEIT: Thank you.
COOPER: We're going to go in a different -- by the way, if you want to continue to e-mail us on our blog, there's a lot about this. Feel free. We love to hear your opinions. We'll be reading them tomorrow as well.
We're go in a different direction next.
It's been more than nine years since -- well, since JonBenet Ramsey was found dead. Tonight, the young girl's killer is still at large. Are police any closer to arresting her murderer, or have they simply given up?
Tonight we go back to look at the unsolved crime rate in the United States. How many crimes actually ever do get solved? We'll investigate that ahead.
Plus, wildfires roaring in Texas. We take you inside the battle against the flames. See how it is being fought from the sky.
All that and more when 360 continues.
COOPER: We'll have more on the major military operation launched today in Iraq.
But first, Erica Hill from HEADLINE NEWS joins us with some of the top business stories -- Erica.
COOPER: I want to thank our international viewers for watching.
Coming up, the latest on Operation Swarmer. Hundreds of Americans now on some very hostile ground again.
Also, the bodies still being recovered in New Orleans, still being recovered, and the ones that may never be found.
That, and a cold case that once was a hot topic. Five years later, the question remains, who murdered Chandra Levy and who's still trying to find out?
Ahead on 360.
COOPER: And good evening to you.
Nearly three years after the war in Iraq began, a major combat and the war in Iraq goes on. And as far major combat, well, that does, too.
ANNOUNCER: Operation Swarmer: 1,500 troops, America's largest assault in Iraq since the invasion. Insurgents rounded up, weapons seized. So why are critics of the war already calling it a P.R. ploy?
A drug trial gone horribly wrong. Patients clinging to life. Witnesses telling stories of terrifying side-effects.
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