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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

The Toughest Battle: Healing Heroes; Interview With New York Senator Hillary Clinton; Interview With Arizona Senator John McCain

Aired January 29, 2007 - 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.
Senator John McCain said it best today. Americans disagree about the war, but not about the troops. And you can see that sentiment all around me tonight, in bricks and mortar, help and hope.

We're inside the newly dedicated Center for the Intrepid at the Brooke Army Medical Center here in San Antonio, Texas. This is a state-of-the-art rehab facility for troops recovering from amputations and burns and other serious injuries. This is a privately funded addition, along with two new homes for visiting relatives nearby, Fisher Houses, they are called.

More than 600,000 Americans made this center possible. Their donations, some $50 million in all, were recognized today by a parade of leaders and lawmakers and celebrities.

But, frankly, the true celebrities were the service members themselves. The facility includes exercise equipment, a running track, a climbing wall, and some truly 21st century tools to help the wounded get to the point where running laps and climbing walls is a possibility again.

We're going to have a lot from this center tonight. Sadly, in Iraq, the fighting and the dying goes on, at least two more soldiers killed over the weekend. Their chopper went down during a pitched battle near Najaf -- U.S. and Iraqi forces on one side, a cult-like band of mostly Shia militants on the other, apparently trying to slaughter clerics, in order to bring the return of their savior.

Reports are, as many as 200 insurgents were killed in the fighting. And that battle raised warning flags here at home. Why, for example, did Iraqi forces need so much American help? What does it say about President Bush's faith in his new plan or in Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki?

Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain came for the dedication here in San Antonio today.

This afternoon, they sat down with me.

I began by asking each about what happened in Najaf.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: This weekend, there was big -- a big attack in -- in Najaf. How do you read that? What -- what does that tell you about the situation in Iraq?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I'm not sure exactly how to read it.

It shows, I think, that they are capable of assembling hundreds of insurgents. I think it is also good that we attack them before they orchestrate an attack, in other words, as a preemptive strike, which means that our intelligence may be getting better. But I -- all of us know that, are familiar with it, that this is very long and very difficult.

COOPER: What is your take on what happened this weekend in -- in Najaf, some 200 insurgents killed, seemed to be hundreds of insurgents involved in a mass operation?

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Anderson, I think there are hundreds and thousands of insurgents who are willing to fight us and engage in sectarian warfare in Iraq.

One of the reasons I oppose the escalation is that I don't believe that, you know, putting more American troops into Baghdad is going to really stem this insurgency. The Iraqis have to do it themselves. And, unfortunately, they have been given an open-ended commitment.

That's why I have called for capping troops and putting more pressure on the Iraqi government to begin to take the actions we expect them to take on their own behalf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And that is the question, of course. Can Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki deliver? Can he be trusted?

Again, Senators McCain and Clinton:

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Do you trust al-Maliki? Vice President Cheney said that he -- he did.

MCCAIN: I don't think he's been strong.

I have been disappointed in some of his decisions, such as the release of people we had captured, the lifting of the checkpoints around Sadr City at one point. I think he is showing some signs of improvement. And I -- we will know. Again, the -- now, I'm not sure how quickly we are going to know whether we are winning militarily, but I think we will know fairly soon, in the next several months, whether the government, the Iraqi government, is doing what's necessary.

Passing a law on the oil revenues, provincial elections, there are several things that are -- that are going to have to happen.

COOPER: Vice President Cheney said last week to Wolf Blitzer he -- he trusts al-Maliki.

Do you?

CLINTON: No.

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: But I also don't trust Vice President Cheney. So, I really think it's fair to say his assessments have been wrong consistently.

He has been unwilling to deal in a straightforward, factual-based way with a lot of what's been going on. He continues to make assertions that have no foundation in fact, in reality. I don't think the American people are listening to him any longer.

COOPER: Senator Durbin called him delusional.

CLINTON: Well, I'm not going to...

COOPER: Do you think he's delusional?

CLINTON: I'm not going to, you know, put labels on it.

But I am going to say that his efforts to continue to put the best face on what they have so terribly mismanaged in Iraq no longer has any credibility attached to it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: You are going to hear from both senators more -- a lot, in fact -- in this next hour ahead.

But, first, a hero's story. Like so many soldiers and Marines wounded in Iraq, he survived injuries that might have been fatal in past wars. Combat medicine has improved to the point that more than 90 percent of the wounded now survive.

They survive, though, to fight the toughest battle of their lives. Well, you ought to stay right here. Some of what you will see tonight may be tough to watch.

Senator McCain had an answer for that today. He said -- and I quote -- "We can only offer you our humility," he said of the wounded. He went on to say, "If it is hard to look at for some people, this is what we have done to scores of young men. So, pay attention."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): For Master Sergeant Daniel Robles, life has become a series of before-and-afters, before and after the attack, before and after he was again able to walk on his own.

MASTER SERGEANT DANIEL ROBLES, U.S. ARMY: I was able to stand up. And it just, like -- you know, just you showed me that this is the -- right now, the sky is the limit. You know, you just got to work at it.

COOPER: It's been nearly 10 months since Sergeant Robles' Humvee was hit by an IED, a roadside bomb, in Baghdad. Shrapnel ripped through the vehicle, shredding and badly burning both his legs.

ROBLES: I kind of looked down at my leg and seen that the -- that it was inside out, pretty much. And I kind of realized what had happened. I just remember thinking that I didn't want to die, and all I only wanted to do was see my family again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whoa.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Doctors were forced to amputate both his legs below the knee. His future, at first, seemed only dark. And, yet, Master Sergeant Robles says his family kept him going. He also says the staff here at the Brooke Army Medical Center would not let him quit.

ROBLES: I remember being in the hospital some days, you know, and just hitting rock bottom, you know, thinking that all I was going to be able to do was lay in bed and look at the clock on the wall.

And, you know, the people here, the therapists and everybody, they didn't let me sit there and do that.

LIEUTENANT COLONEL JENNIFER MENETREZ, U.S. ARMY PHYSICIAN: We don't dwell, necessarily, on what is gone, what's not there anymore. It's what we can do, what they can still do. And we have to maximize that by whatever means.

COOPER (on camera): The doctors here at the Brooke Army Medical Center have cared for more than 2,400 service members from Iraq and Afghanistan. Most have either severe burns or multiple amputations.

Many of these service members would not have survived their injuries even 10 years ago. But, thanks to advances with battlefield medicine, they are able to make it home alive, but with life-altering injuries.

(voice-over): As a survivor, Sergeant Nathan Reed considers himself lucky. He was searching a car at a Baghdad checkpoint, when a bomb exploded, ripping through his right leg. It was amputated above the knee.

SERGEANT NATHAN REED, U.S. ARMY: Oh, it really hurt me, in a sense, because I felt like my family and my soldiers needed me to be at 100 percent. So, hearing the fact that I had to have my leg amputated kind of took a lot out of me.

COOPER: But, with physical therapists here and a new prosthetic leg, Sergeant Reed now walks, bikes, even runs. His family stayed at one of the Fisher Houses on base during his recovery. And, like many wounded soldiers, he has decided to stay in the Army.

REED: For me, it just made me stronger and made me want to complete my goal even more.

COOPER: As for Sergeant Robles, he also wants to stay on active duty, possibly becoming an instructor at the new rehabilitation security on base, the Center for the Intrepid.

On Sunday, he was honored with a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. He also got his wish.

GENERAL RICHARD CODY, U.S. ARMY VICE CHIEF OF STAFF: Master Sergeant Daniel Robles, who has lost his leg in combat, has asked to stay in the Army.

You have my commitment, as vice chief of staff of the Army, that we will keep you in the Army as long as you want to stay.

All right?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

COOPER: For all that's happened, Robles says he's not bitter. He's simply thankful to be alive.

ROBLES: Consider the alternative. At least I'm here. I get to see my family grow. You know, it's nobody's fault. It's just something that happened. It's war.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go fast, daddy.

ROBLES: Yes.

COOPER: A war that has left more than 23,000 service members wounded, men and women who will need this country's care for years to come.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Two American heroes.

The number is only climbing, of course.

One more note on Fisher House, where Sergeant Reed's wife, Belinda (ph), stayed during his rehab: Two more were dedicated today, making four Fisher Houses here at this facility, homes away from home, literally, so that family members, already with enough to worry about, don't also have to worry about finding or paying for someplace to stay.

There are hundreds of amputee veterans returning home. Here's the "Raw Data."

We called the Pentagon, and here's what they told us. As of last month, amputations have been performed on 839 deployed troops. Seven hundred and thirty-one were from the war in Iraq. Of those, 480 service members suffered a major limb amputation. And the military defines that as losing a hand or an arm, a foot or a leg. The sad fact is, they will not be the last. Patients arrive here every day. It is a fact of war. There are allegations tonight that our leaders and lawmakers did not see it coming, that they treated their sacred duty to America's wounded as if it were business as usual.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Senator Clinton on supporting wounded troops.

(on camera): I want to read you something Paul Begala was quoted as saying. He said, "It's an obscenity that a government that can find billions in no-bid contracts for Halliburton and billions in tax cuts for the wealthy cannot find a few million dollars to bind up the wounds of its heroes."

CLINTON: And I say, amen. You know, there's no oversight, no accountability. It's the first time we have had a war where, literally, the government has been given a blank check and the Congress didn't do its job.

COOPER: But she's in Congress, too. So, how does she plan to be part of the solution, not the problem? -- ahead on 360, "The Toughest Battle: Healing Heroes."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: This is a shooting simulator. It's a high-tech way for soldiers who have been given prosthetic limbs to relearn how to shoot using these specially adapted rifles.

CAPTAIN SCOTT KULLA, U.S. ARMY: This is an M-4. It's the same thing they're using out on the front lines. As a person gets prepared to engage the targets...

COOPER: Right.

KULLA: ... I would give the commands from the chamber to lock and load and prepare to watch the scenario.

COOPER: OK.

KULLA: As they watch the scenario, they have to then pick out from the crowd who the shooter is...

COOPER: Mm-hmm.

KULLA: ... and who the next viable target is. And, as they do, they would draw on this weapon.

There you go. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Just one of the many high-tech rehabilitation tools here at the Center for the Intrepid. It really is a remarkable facility. It cost some $50 million, all of it from private donations, some 600,000 Americans giving what they could, some schoolkids giving $1 here or there, other corporations giving, obviously, much larger sums.

As we said, Senator Hillary Clinton took part in today's dedication ceremony for the Center for the Intrepid. This -- this state-of-the art facility that is a reminder, really, that more than 22,000 Americans have been wounded in Iraq, many of them severely.

Senator Clinton is, of course, running for president in 2008.

And, yesterday, at a town hall meeting in Iowa, she stepped up her criticism of President Bush.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: This was his decision to go to war. He went with an ill-conceived plan and an incompetently executed strategy. And we should expect him to extricate our country from this before he leaves office.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, Senator Clinton didn't mince words yesterday. And she didn't hold back today either when we talked.

More now from my interview with her, starting with the dedication ceremony earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: How moving was it for you to be here today?

CLINTON: Well, it was extremely moving, because we had several hundred wounded warriors from Iraq and Afghanistan who were really not only part of the ceremony, but the reason we are here.

This Center for the Intrepid is going to provide the highest rehabilitation services available, really, anywhere in the world, to our young men and women who have been wounded and come here to do everything they can to heal, regain as much mobility they can, and -- and lead as productive a life as they can.

COOPER: The center cost $50 million, raised by private funds, American citizens, some giving $1 here or there, others, large donations, this Fisher House also by private funds.

It says a lot about the American people. What does it say, though, about the American government? Why -- why are private funds needed to build a hospital like this?

CLINTON: That's a really good question, Anderson.

Obviously, we are unique in America, because we have the partnership between our government and our citizens, unlike anyone anywhere in the world. And we do meet needs that are not going to be met.

But this doesn't relieve the government of responsibility for doing everything we can to fund the VA, to make sure that, you know, every VA in the country is ready to prepare, welcome with the services that are necessary. So, one of the reasons why I fight so hard to get the VA funded is because that is a national obligation.

COOPER: You said this weekend the president is responsible to extricate the U.S. from Iraq before he leaves office. You said it would be irresponsible for him not to.

Do you mean that U.S. troops should be pulled out of Iraq by the time the next administration comes into power?

CLINTON: Well, what I mean is that it is the height of responsibility. For the president to say, as he said on several occasions, he is going to leave this to his successor -- this is his war. He conceived it poorly. He executed it incompetently. He's pursuing a strategy that is really more of the same.

COOPER: But using the word extricate, does that mean that you think U.S. troops should be out?

CLINTON: Well, you know, it's problematic to set a deadline. But I would like to see a process. I would like to see a strategy that is moving toward us beginning to move our troops, as I have called for, for more than a year-and-a-half.

COOPER: You have called for now a cap on the -- the number of troops, I think, the cap from January 1. Senator Obama called for a cap from January 10. Critic say, if -- if you believe that there haven't been enough troops heretofore, what does capping the number of troops do?

CLINTON: Well, the cap is meant to sent a signal to the president, as is our efforts to get a resolution of disapproval, that he no longer has political support in the country and the Congress for pursuing this policy.

The cap is to literally cap the number of troops, so that we can begin, you know, redeploying them out of Iraq. And we have got to start somewhere. And this gives us a -- a way of making the argument that this president should not be adding troops. He should begin subtracting troops.

COOPER: Critics say, the signal that a cap and that this nonbinding resolution would send is a mixed signal to U.S. troops. Senator McCain says, whether or not it emboldens the enemy or not, it sends a mixed signal to American forces. CLINTON: Well, I respectfully disagree with that.

You know, I have spoken with a lot of our young men and women in uniform, and talked to a lot of them here today. The ones who have been there, they have been in battle. They have been wounded, many of them. They have seen the difficulties of trying to work with the Iraqis, who have not yet decided that they want to, you know, live in a peaceful, secure state, with everybody having a role and rights within it. What I hear is very different from what.

COOPER: The other criticism that's made -- Senator McCain made it today -- is that what you're not addressing is what happens when the U.S. redeploys or pulls out. If there is a genocidal bloodletting in Iraq, what then?

CLINTON: Well, this is a -- kind of a curious argument, because we need a comprehensive strategy.

Everyone that I know of who has studied this believes there is no military solution. There has to be a political component and an international component. I see very little evidence that the administration is making progress pushing the Iraqi government on the political front.

So, I don't see how we can expect just putting more troops in to really get us where we can avoid any kind of bad outcome, because we are not on a path to achieve that. We need to put more pressure on the Iraqi government, which is why I have said, if we are going to cut troops' funding, let's cut the funding for the Iraqi troops, or threaten to do so, to get their attention focused on what they have to do.

And, finally, we have to have an international process that looks at how to prevent what's happening in Iraq from spilling over. That means not only bringing the countries together that we already have relations with and we are engaged with, but it means being engaged with countries that our president will not engage with.

You know, I don't understand this philosophy that you don't talk to bad guys. You know, we talked to the Soviet Union all during the Cold War. I think you have to engage with people who are your enemies, or your potential adversaries, in order to figure out what's on their mind.

COOPER: The president has said he looked in Vladimir -- Vladimir Putin's eyes, saw his soul. He has -- he has said al-Maliki is a stand-up guy; he's -- he's taken the measure of the man.

Do you think the president is a good judge of character?

CLINTON: I think the president has made a lot mistakes, and his judgment in the undertaking in Iraq, certainly, has not been borne out.

Obviously, he's also not brought the world together. We were united after 9/11. We have lost that unity. So, I regret deeply that he continues to go down the course that he has set, when there seems to be not only very little support left for it, but very little chance of it being a successful strategy.

COOPER: Final question, which again is on this point with Iran: Today, the president told NPR, "If Iran escalates its military actions in Iraq, to the detriment of our troops and/or innocent Iraqi people, we will respond firmly."

CLINTON: Well, you know, we are playing a very dangerous game of chicken here.

For domestic political consumption, the Iranians believe that they can, you know, continue to be belligerent and make outrageous claims against Israel, the United States, interfere with what's going on in Iraq.

We are standing back here, you know, threatening and pointing fingers. And I think we are hearing a lot of the same rhetoric we heard before the president's decision to launch a preemptive war in Iraq.

COOPER: Do you think this president is preparing the ground for some sort of military action against Iran?

CLINTON: I don't -- I don't know. I don't know. I think that we in the Congress are going to have a lot of questions about that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: I also sat down with Senator John McCain, who has a very different view of how long American troops should remain in Iraq. What does he really think about the advice President Bush is getting from Vice President Dick Cheney? My interview with Senator McCain -- next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: The war in which you have fought has divided the American people. But it has divided no American in their admiration for you and from our obligation to you. We all honor you.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That was Senator John McCain earlier today at a truly remarkable dedication of the Center for the Intrepid here in San Antonio.

A lot of the peopled in the audience were wounded vets who will benefit from the state-of-the-art rehabilitation center.

Senator McCain is, of course, considering running for president in 2008. He has formed an exploratory committee to raise money. He's also a veteran and a former POW who has long advocated sending more troops into Iraq, rather than pulling them out.

We have more now from my interview with the senator.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Do you think the full cost of this war is really known, in terms of what it has done to -- to young Americans, to -- in terms of loss of limbs, PTSD?

MCCAIN: Probably not, because the good news is that our ability to save lives is -- is enormous. And -- and, yet, it leaves us, obviously, with -- with many, many people who are -- are injured permanently.

But, again, when you look at some of the state of the art on artificial limbs, it's pretty remarkable. And they are able to do many things that, even a few short years ago, they weren't able to do. And the indomitable spirit is -- is -- is incredible.

COOPER: There have been some who argue, though -- I think I most recently read it on Andrew Sullivan's blog -- the idea that, perhaps, if the U.S. is taken out of the equation, then, this becomes a -- it becomes a Sunni and Shia war, basically, and the war happens, and it happens, and at least the U.S. is not the central focus of it.

MCCAIN: Well, maybe. That's what we decided in Rwanda.

COOPER: So, you think a full-on genocide is possible in Iraq?

MCCAIN: I -- of course. Of course. I think there would be ethnic cleansing on a massive scale.

But, as importantly, when you see the Iranians asserting their influence in the region, which is already significant, when you see the Sunnis, and particularly Saudi Arabia, feeling they have to do something to protect the Sunni, when you see Turkey becoming more and more nervous about what happens with the Kurds, you have a very volatile situation, and not to mention the Syrian involvement, as well.

So, the scenario is not good.

COOPER: Is there any scenario in which withdrawing troops would be acceptable to you, or redeploying them?

MCCAIN: Not until we have the situation under control, to the degree that the Iraqi government can exert its influence through most of the country, that you start with the -- that you move forward with a political and economic process.

COOPER: So, success is crucial before the U.S. can pull out in any meaningful way?

MCCAIN: That's my view. And that view, by the way, is held by the majority of experts that I know about the region. Now, if you want to pull out and set a date, one week, five months, six months, what -- whatever it is, then, I think you have the obligation to say what happens when we leave.

We hear all the talk about leaving. But I never hear about in those that espouse that position -- and I respect it. But I would respect it more if they said, and, then, what is going to -- what is going to happen. Everything going to be quiet and peaceful? I don't think so.

And I think that -- again, that our national interests, our vital national security interests, reside in the Middle East, certainly, at this time.

COOPER: Senator Clinton is proposing, as are several others, Barack Obama, a cap of troops. She wants the cap -- the troop levels of January 1. I think Barack Obama is talking about January 10.

Does that make any sense to you?

MCCAIN: First of all, I don't -- I think I'm fairly well versed in military matters and tactics and strategy. I've been involved in it literally all my life in one way or another. But I can't tell you how many troops exactly are needed.

I think it's pretty clear the number of troops we have isn't getting the job done. I think there's almost universal acceptance of that. So you put a cap on it so that the status quo remains, which is a steadily deteriorating situation?

Again, intelligence sources tell me, by the way, public not classified, that if the present situation continues, within six months you would see absolute chaos in Iraq. So you put the cap on the number of troops? There's a certain lack of logic associated with that position. But I respect it. And I think we need to have a respectful dialogue and debate on this issue.

COOPER: Vice President Cheney told Wolf Blitzer last week that there had been enormous successes in Iraq. Is that your belief?

MCCAIN: No. No, it's not. I think we've had a failed strategy which I bitterly disagreed with for more than three years, because we didn't control the looting, stop the looting, have enough troops. But all of the things that have been well chronicled in books like "Fiasco" and "Cobra 2" and others.

Had there been some success that you don't have a dictator who likes to drop napalm on villages, who complains about a shortage of mustard gas or sarin to kill his own people, whose deputy just testified this week that he was involved in the murdering of thousands and thousands of people. Of course, we were successful as compared to that.

But as far as bringing about the objectives of the initial military strike is concerned, then the -- I cannot say that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: We're going to hear more from Senator McCain and Senator Clinton later on in the program.

Coming up next, two heroes on the road to recovery. Up next, their thoughts on the war and this hospital and getting on with the rest of their lives.

Also tonight, a much different kind of battle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER (voice-over): A mountain lion like this one attacks and two hikers fight back.

JIM HAMM, MOUNTAIN LION ATTACK SURVIVOR: She was beating him the whole time. So he just wants to pin me down and start eating. He doesn't care.

COOPER: Tonight, the remarkable story of survival next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: At the Center for the Intrepid, a lot of soldiers you'll be seeing, of course, are burn victims, but also soldiers needing prosthetics devices and this is where the prosthetics are made.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It takes about six to eight minutes to carve the full mold. Our patient evaluation rooms are tied in electronically to our chroming (ph) system.

And so now I would go over here and I would pull up that very same limb. And now I have that image of the patient's limb on the screen. Now I can do all of my manipulations right here on the screen.

This one I actually programmed with a PDA, and so I wired right into the knee. And it gives me how many steps he's taken. It gives me how much resistance at each point of the gait and it really tells me a little memory of how he's been walking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Now we are coming to you from inside the Center for the Intrepid. Truly a remarkable facility, state of the art rehabilitation facility for the heroes who survived catastrophic injuries, amputations and burns from Iraq and Afghanistan.

This facility is $50 million cost is what it cost to build it, all of it from private donations. And I'm honored to be joined now by two of the service members who will be receiving treatment at this facility when it finally opens its doors.

On my left is Corporal Aaron Mankin, who's a Marine who was wounded in al Anbar province, burned over 25 percent of his body. And sergeant -- Staff Sergeant Daniel Barnes is a soldier, obviously, who will be receiving treatment here. He was wounded -- he was in Baghdad, correct?

STAFF SGT. DANIEL BARNES, U.S. ARMY: Yes.

COOPER: Right. And your wife Gretchen was kind enough to join us, too. Aaron, what is it like seeing this facility finally opening its doors?

CPL. AARON MANKIN, MARINE: Well, I know that when I arrived here in May of 2005, Brooke Army Medical Center took care of me -- took care of me at the very beginning. And I've seen this process going on close to two years now.

And to finally arrive at a place that's not just a building or facility or a rehab center, but it's a dream that over hundreds of thousands of people have contributed to, and that's the reason why we're here.

COOPER: How are you -- how were you injured?

MANKIN: I was wounded with an improvised explosive device. Covering as a combat correspondent, covering 325 Lima Company in Ubeti (ph), north of the Euphrates River.

COOPER: And then you were -- it was an RPG which hit your vehicle?

D. BARNES: Yes, sir. I was on a mission, road clearance mission at night about 2100 when my vehicle was struck by an RPG.

COOPER: And did you know that your legs were gone at that point?

D. BARNES: I knew that I couldn't move out of my seat and I knew that something was bad, because I couldn't move at all. I didn't know the extent of it, but I knew that it was really bad.

COOPER: And Gretchen, when you first heard what had happened to Daniel, what went through your mind?

GRETCHEN BARNES, WIFE OF DANIEL BARNES: I thought, well, he's alive. I knew that was the best part. But I knew it was bad because he didn't call me. The Army came to the door.

COOPER: What do you want people to know about you, Aaron, and about the other Marines and soldiers who will be here?

MANKIN: This facility is not just about the service members that are here. It's about the ones that are coming through the door, the ones that have yet to be wounded. And they can rest assured knowing that the facilities are here. They're available to them, and they will be taken care of to the best of any country's standards. This is state of the world.

COOPER: And your wife is a Marine. She's also living on this base with you, and you have a brand-new baby daughter.

MANKIN: I do, yes.

COOPER: That's remarkable. And what is it -- I mean, this is really your family life has changed. This is not just something that has happened to you. This happened to your entire family.

MANKIN: We picked up and moved here.

D. BARNES: Two kids and one going through school. And my wife now they moved right down here. We had to get back on track.

COOPER: Do people look at you differently? Do people treat you differently?

D. BARNES: Yes, but it's not all bad. It's good. People try to help you out if you're in the store or you need something off the shelf and you can't get it, you know, they'll help you out. But there are some people who give you that crazy look, like, you know, don't know what to say or don't know what to do for you.

COOPER: Like you're suddenly a different person.

D. BARNES: Yes. You get it everywhere you go, I think. I do.

COOPER: Is he a different person?

G. BARNES: No. Minus the legs, but no.

COOPER: What do you want people to know about you're going through, about what the other soldiers who will be coming here are going through?

D. BARNES: Well, like the corporal was saying, you know, it's not just about us now. It's about the soldiers over there fighting or even the ones just going through basic. If they get sent over somewhere, to know that they have somewhere to come to where they can get state of the art advanced technology, you know, and be taken care of.

Even though, yes, you may not have legs or you may be all burnt up, but you're still normal. You're going to walk again, you know. You're going to get the best care possible around the world.

MANKIN: When a wounded service member arrives here, there's a barrage of emotions that take place. What kind of person am I going to be? What am I going to be capable of? And here now the optimism in the air is just -- it's just thick.

I know that wherever I go, whatever I decide to do, if I wake up tomorrow and have a new dream of what I want to be, in these walls, I can live that dream.

COOPER: You're 25 years old. You have your whole life ahead of you. What do you want to do? You were a combat photographer. Do you want to stay with photography? MANKIN: I always had a heart for photography. I enjoy it. But I may pursue something in the private sector with public affairs, with media relations. It's what the Marine Corps trained me to do, and it's what I'm doing here. I enjoy doing it. And if I'm so blessed to be -- to be given an opportunity to do something, I will take it.

COOPER: Daniel, how about you? What do you want to do?

D. BARNES: Eventually, if I decide to obviously, get out of the military and retire, medically retire, I'd like to still work for the military as a civilian. I'm 29 years old.

COOPER: So you want to work for the military, maybe as a civilian contractor?

D. BARNES: A contractor. You know, still dealing with the military and dealing with soldiers, because I really do love the military. I was going to stay a full 20 years but, obviously, I may not be able to now. But I still want to work for the military in some kind of capacity as a civilian somehow.

MANKIN: We have that option to stay in.

COOPER: Right. And a lot of troops I've met, a lot of the amputees I've met, want to stay in. Plan on...

D. BARNES: A lot of the amputees, most of them may be one, you know, single leg below the knee or above the knee.

COOPER: Right.

D. BARNES: They might have a better opportunity than myself, you know, a double above-the-leg amputee. But I'd probably still have the opportunity to stay in. It's just I still won't be doing the same -- I was a combat engineer, so I was kind of, you know, up there on the front lines. So that's what I'm used to. I don't think I could sit behind a desk every day.

COOPER: Guys, it's a real inspiration and honor to meet you. I appreciate you spending some time with us. Thank you very much. Daniel Barnes, Aaron Mankin and Gretchen, thank you so much. It's fantastic.

If you want to know more about the Center for the Intrepid or the Fisher House you can go to our blog. It's -- what's the blog? It's CNN.com/360blog. Yes, I remember it. There it is. CNN.com/360blog. A lot more information there online.

We'll be right back. A lot mere here from the Center for the Intrepid.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: War heroes facing the toughest battle. Amputees learning to face a new life. Other veterans have a much different fight. They are back home but homeless. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm disgusted, and it's not because I'm a veteran or a soldier or somebody who served. That means nothing, you know. We choose to go. Nobody forces us to go. I'm just saying we should be treated like a human being for God's sakes. That's all I want.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: A homeless vet living in his car. Why are hundreds of veterans without a home? We asked the V.A. Its response in the next hour of 360.

But up first more of this brand new state of the art rehab center, with its rock climbing wall, wave pool, much more. It's cost $50 million to build. Every penny came from private donations. A detail that some politicians are talking about.

Today I asked Senator Hillary Clinton about it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: I want to read you something Paul Begala was quoted as saying. He said, "It's an obscenity that a government that can find millions for Halliburton and billions in tax cuts for the wealthy cannot find a few million dollars to bind up the wounds of its heroes."

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: And I say amen. You know, we're going to try to get to the bottom of these contracting abuses and the waste and the fraud that has gone on in these wars. There's been no oversight, no accountability.

It's the first time we've had a war where, literally, the government has been given a blank check, and the Congress did not do its job. So we're going to try to begin to find out what really happened.

But the fact is that, you know, if we owe anyone anything, it is these young men and women, and we should make sure we put whatever resources are needed into their care and their support.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Wounded veterans will have unprecedented support at the Center for the Intrepid as the president of the nonprofit, Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, Bill White, worked hard to get this facility up and running. He joins me now.

Bill, congratulations on getting this. You've been working on this for a long time.

BILL WHITE, PRESIDENT, INTREPID FALLEN HEROES FUND: We have, just about two years. We got this built in just -- just over a year, which is record time. We thank Arnold Fisher and all of the supporters of the Fisher House Foundation.

COOPER: Because it's not just this center. You also built two new Fisher Houses.

WHITE: That's right. The biggest we've ever had. We used to have eight-room houses, but now there's a need for larger houses. So both of those are 21-suite houses each. They're all ADA compliant. The elevators all the way up to the second floor. And they're beautiful.

COOPER: And there was a waiting list for the Fisher Houses. I mean, there's waiting lists for Fisher Houses around the country.

WHITE: That's right. We had a 90-person waiting list here. When we were building the center, Mr. Fisher had met a soldier in the elevator. He lost one of his arms and part of his leg. And he said, "What can we do for you?"

And he just said, "I wish my family could be there." So that was where the Fisher Houses were born, to put two of those out there and to make them the biggest ones that we could have.

COOPER: The Fisher Houses are bought and paid for, basically, by the Fisher family and their fund. This center was $50 million in donations from corporations and even individuals, school kids giving them dollars here and there. Why didn't the government do it?

WHITE: That's a great question. We get this all the time. And actually, the Fisher House Foundation/Falling Heroes Fund raised about $50 million. We also got a $22 million anonymous contribution in addition to that, that we're using to build additional houses.

They ask us that and they say, "We want to do this. We want these service soldiers and service members to know that the American people care about them." And they expect those kind of things from the government. We wanted them to know when that they walk in this building we love them, we care about them and we respect them.

COOPER: But there is a need, it seems, certainly, for this kind of facility and a need that wasn't being met by the government.

WHITE: Well, they actually had a great rehab center here at Brooke Army Medical Center and Walter Reed. But if you think about how New Yorkers do things, they do things big and bright...

COOPER: And faster, too.

WHITE: That's right. And Mr. Fisher wanted something really to be more of a monument. This could have been built out of brick and lumber, and it's made out of granite and limestone.

COOPER: Where do you go from here with the Intrepid Fund?

WHITE: Well, this is where we are very happy to be here with you about. Because you know, we're looking to do more things for the service members and their families, and people can know that they can support us and still have their issues with politics. Leave that aside. This is about how you support the troops.

COOPER: What else still needs to be done? What do you need done here?

WHITE: Well, we've got to build about 21 more Fisher Houses by 2010, and so can come to our web site at FisherHouse.org or TheFallenHeroesFund.org and see how they can get more involved in doing something great like this.

COOPER: Bill White, appreciate it. Remarkable work.

WHITE: Thanks.

COOPER: Congratulations.

WHITE: Glad to have you here.

COOPER: It's been an honor to be here.

We're going to have a lot more from the center. We're going to show you a lot more of the troops who are here.

First, Tom Foreman joins us from Washington with the "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Anderson.

The government says nuclear power plants do not have to defend themselves against 9/11-style attacks. Those were their plans. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved a new rule today describing the types of attacks that these plants will have to prepare for.

The commission specifically rejected the idea of putting shields around sensitive parts of nuclear facilities to protect them from air attacks. The rule, however, does contains provisions for multiple, coordinated attacks, suicide attacks and cyber threats.

A coalition of public interest groups says the decision, quote, "jeopardizes the safety of millions".

Investors' optimism about a new microchip technology gave the Dow and NASDAQ a slight boost today. The Dow gained almost four points and NASDAQ rose nearly six points. The S&P 500 fell a point and a half.

Microsoft will unveil its much-anticipated Vista operating system tomorrow. Vista is the new and improved version of Windows. And it costs between $100 and $400, depending on the version and whether the user is upgrading from Windows XP.

And after an eight-month ordeal that prompted an outpouring of support from all across the country, Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro was euthanized today. The horse was suffering from complications from a broken leg at last year's Preakness. Barbaro's owners say they decided to put the champion down because he was just in too much pain. Sad news there -- Anderson. COOPER: Thanks very much, Tom.

You have heard his incredible story. Now hear from the man himself. A 70-year-old hiker describes how his wife saved him from the jaws of a mountain lion, next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: The 70-year-old California man who survived a mountain lion attack is recovering in a San Francisco hospital tonight. He was moved to the hospital yesterday from a smaller facility after he developed an infection.

You may remember Jim Hamm was ambushed by a mountain lion while he was hiking last week with his wife. This weekend, he talked about the attack and about how the brave actions of his wife saved his life.

CNN's Chris Lawrence has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bandages can't even begin to cover the puncture wounds and torn scalp, but Jim Hamm is only alive because of his wife, Nell.

NELL HAMM, WIFE: His life was in jeopardy. And we were fighting for his life.

LAWRENCE: Nell is 65 years old. Jim is 70. They go hiking two, three times a week but had never seen a mountain lion before last week, when a lion like this one pounced on Jim.

JIM HAMM, SURVIVED MOUNTAIN LION ATTACK: So he just wants to pin me down and start eating. He doesn't care.

LAWRENCE: It knocked Jim flat on his face.

J. HAMM: Then he got me in the mouth, and I got my thumb in his eye. And I jammed my thumb into his eye up to my knuckle.

LAWRENCE: Nell grabbed the biggest log she could lift and hit the animal's head as hard as she could.

J. HAMM: She was beating him the whole time. She was worn out from beating him. She said she didn't think she could beat him anymore. She was exhausted.

LAWRENCE: Finally, the jaws loosened and let Jim go.

(on camera) So did she do the right thing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She did exactly the right thing. That was to fight back. Not give up.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Park ranger Maury Morningstar (ph) says you can't outrun a mountain lion. Sightings like this one in residential areas are increasing. Attacks are still extremely rare. But three years ago a lion killed a biker who may have been kneeling down to fix a flat tire.

(on camera) We're more of a target...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

LAWRENCE: Because we're smaller.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. We're smaller. We look about the type of size of their type of prey. So that's the idea of we want you to stand up. Put your hands above your head and start yelling and screaming at it.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): The cat that attacked Jim was shot and killed. On examination, it looks like it hadn't eaten in weeks.

N. HAMM: I feel very blessed that Jim is alive, and I'm so very thankful for that.

LAWRENCE: Nell says they fought side-by-side, the same way they've done everything for the 50 years they've been together.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, Eureka, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Wow, 50 years together. Remarkable.

Back to Iraq in a moment, including a look inside the fight for Najaf. One of the strangest battled of the war so far. American and Iraqi forces against people trying to bring on literally the end of the world.

And later, what the battle says about President Bush's planning to send more troops to rely on Iraq's prime minister. What Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain make of that.

From the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, from the Center for the Intrepid, this is a special edition of 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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