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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

America's Top Commander on Capitol Hill; New Developments in Polygamist Ranch in Texas

Aired April 8, 2008 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: America's top commander and all three presidential commanders. We're going to show you what was said today on Capitol Hill about the war and the troops. Some of it you may find stunning.
And then we're going to go beyond and look at the facts on the ground and the "Raw Politics" at home so you can decide for yourself.

CNN's David Gergen is here with me. Michael Ware and Candy Crowley are in Washington and Nic Robertson is in Baghdad tonight.

We're also for the first time learning the shocking allegations that led to the massive raid on Warren Jeffs' polygamist kingdom. Beatings, strangulation, forced sex all when the alleged victim was just 15 years old.

CNN's David Mattingly is live with the latest on that. A new arrest and 416 children now under state protection.

But we begin tonight with Iraq and news for anyone who thinks that five years and more than 4,000 deaths since it began, that the war is close to being over. Well, it's not. That's what General David Petraeus said today on Capitol Hill. He said he cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel and wants to keep troops at pre-surge levels, about 130,000 to 140,000 at least into September and possibly longer.

In fairness, he did also talk about some of the progress that is evident on the ground. But also the continuing political weakness of Baghdad's government. General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker said what they said to a group of senators, including one who almost certainly will be president; by the general's own testimony today a war-time president.

CNN's Tom Foreman is keeping them honest and joining us now -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Campbell, the big headline today, the number of American troops in Iraq will drop to pre-surge levels this summer, but then it will be frozen while the military considers if further reductions are wise. That's the kind of guarded optimism the general and the ambassador brought to D.C.

What is going right? Well, they say despite flare-ups, overall violence remains way down. Iraqi security forces are much bigger and more capable than they were a year ago and are now in charge of half of the nation's provinces. Political plans to share power and oil wealth are gradually being approved.

They insist the Iraqi economy is also growing and the U.S. burden for financing reconstruction is dropping dramatically. However, when a senator suggested the future remains cloudy, General Petraeus said that is a fair statement.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER, MULTI-NATIONAL FORCES-IRAQ: It is very fair, senator and it's why I have repeatedly noted that we haven't turned any corners, we haven't seen any lights at the end of the tunnel. The champagne bottle has been pushed to the back of the refrigerator and the progress, while real, is fragile and is reversible.

RYAN CROCKER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: I remain convinced that a major departure from our current engagement would bring failure and we have to be clear with ourselves about what failure would mean.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: So what are the challenges according to these two men? Progress does continue to be uneven, slow, and fragile. Iran and Al Qaeda are still quite influential in Iraq and there is no clear end in sight for U.S. involvement. All that prompted Senator Joe Biden to sound off.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D) COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: 15 months into the surge, we've gone from drowning to treading water. We're still spending $3 billion every week and we're still losing, thank God, it's less, but 30 to 40 American lives every month.

We can't keep treading water without exhausting ourselves. But that's what the president seems to be asking us to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: So both parties still clearly see these facts very differently. As Senator Joe Lieberman said, Iraqi politicians, for all their failings, may be achieving more agreement on the real issues of Iraq than the U.S. Congress is, at least for now -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right Tom. Tom Foreman thanks.

As we said at the top, we are keeping them honest. Commanders, officials and candidates alike. The candidates now from CNN's Candy Crowley.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: General David Petraeus met his next commander-in-chief today, maybe John McCain, an unyielding supporter of the war that most Americans are against. SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're no longer staring into the abyss of defeat and we can look ahead to the genuine prospect of success.

CROWLEY: Or Hillary Clinton, who voted for the war but grew increasingly critical as time passed and an election neared.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D-NY) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And for the past five years, we have continually heard from the administration that things are getting better, that we're about to turn a corner, that there is finally a resolution in sight. Yet each time, Iraqi leaders fail to deliver.

CROWLEY: Or Barack Obama who opposed the war before it started but did little early on in his senate career to try to bring it to a halt.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I continue to believe that the original decision to go into Iraq was a massive strategic blunder.

CROWLEY: The men and woman who would be president came to the table with an Iraq war history and a mission. John McCain voted yes on the Iraq war resolution. Pushed for additional troops from the beginning, opposes early troop withdrawal. For him, today was about balance, hope for Americans who still want to succeed and realism for those who think he's glossed over the hard parts.

MCCAIN: What's the lesson that we're to draw from that? The 1,000 Iraqi army and police deserted or underperformed?

CROWLEY: Hillary Clinton voted yes on military force. Early in her campaign, that prompted boos from the anti-war base of her party.

CLINTON: I do not agree that that is in the best interest of our troops or our country.

CROWLEY: Eventually, Clinton voted to withdraw troops and oppose the so-called surge. They cheer her anti-war credentials now. She sports them daily.

CLINTON: I think it's time to begin an orderly process of withdrawing our troops.

CROWLEY: Barack Obama spoke against the war before it started but since arriving in the senate, he had a voting record nearly identical to Clinton's. For him, the day's mission was to show he is commander-in-chief material, with knowledge of the subject and a plan to move forward.

OBAMA: Nobody is asking for a precipitous withdrawal, but I do think that it has to be a measured but increased pressure and a diplomatic surge that includes Iran because if Maliki can tolerate as normal neighbor-to-neighbor relations in Iran, then we should be talking to them as well. CROWLEY: In the end, the day was like the campaign trail with lower voices and no yard signs. Nobody thought the Petraeus report would change minds and it didn't. That goes triple for the presidential contenders.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And Candy is joining us now along with CNN's Michael Ware and Nic Robertson each of whom has spent the better part of a career on the ground in Iraq. And then with me here tonight David Gergen in the studio. Welcome to everybody.

Candy, let me start with you. The candidates seem to be indirectly sparring with each other in the hearings today. How do you think each of them is going to use today's testimony from Petraeus and Crocker as they try to move forward in this campaign?

CROWLEY: I think for the Democrats, it will be definitely a part of the repertoire that they add now when they talk about the Iraq war. I can see them saying General Petraeus can't tell us when this is going to end. He can't give us any measurement as to what success would be. So that's going to be incorporated into the Iraq speech.

I think John McCain, you'll see the same things for very much the same reasons that Tom Foreman was talking about. There were things in there that you could take out and say there is political progress being made. The Iraqi troops are beginning to stand up and that was what John McCain need.

So they all come away with something from that testimony that they can use on the campaign trail.

CROWLEY: And that's kind of my question to you, David. I want you to follow up what Candy that General Petraeus made this point, significant progress, his words, but progress that is fragile and reversible is the language that he used. Does that, do you think, benefit McCain because he did talk about progress or any of the other candidates in terms of the way that the situation was defined?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, certain, General Petraeus is much closer to McCain in his perspective of the war. But it's almost as if we were looking at two different wars today.

One side McCain is saying that the glass is more than half full. And the other side is saying the glass is less than half full and leaking. So McCain comes along and says success is within reach. That's interesting, I mean, it had echoes about pieces of hand. I remember that way back in 1972 with Nixon in Vietnam. It took a long time to get to peace in Vietnam. But yet there's a lot of ammunition that McCain has.

On the other side, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are very, very close together. What I found really interesting though on the Democratic side, even as I said the glass is less than half full. There's no push for timetables in this hearing. There's no push, and indeed, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were talking about -- Barack saying a measured withdrawal. Hillary Clinton was saying an orderly withdrawal.

Both I think are now setting themselves up to be the president, the commander-in-chief who would push to get us out. Whereas John McCain would leave us in there as long as it takes with no real push. I think that is beginning to become the battle line between the two.

BROWN: Everybody trying to strike a balance in their own way.

GERGEN: But not to be irresponsible but to have a stance. Clearly the Democrats want to push, push, push to get out. But they're no longer saying we have to do it in six months. We don't have to do it like that. I think they're being more sensible in that sense. I think voters will find that more appealing.

BROWN: Michael, McCain said calls for a rapid withdrawal are reckless. That was his word. When Clinton said it was irresponsible to continue the policy that has not produced results and called for an orderly process of withdrawing our troops. Based on your time in Iraq, your knowledge of the area and the people involved, what do you think about what you heard today versus, you know, where things stand right now?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In terms of the military and diplomatic picture that was painted by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, by and large, subject to certain detail, and different conclusions, it's a fairly accurate broad brushstroke. Are they glossing over a lot of things? Yes. Are they failing to admit certain glaring realities? Of course. But this is the nature of warfare.

What struck me sitting in these hearing rooms today is, if it was the lack of probing questions really from the members of the panel. In terms of the three presidential candidates as they stand right now, I mean, obviously today was more about their campaigns than actually about the war itself.

Now, I've come almost directly from the war. I mean, some people are living this thing. It is not a campaign event. So to hear people and see the way people are actually using this, it really does create discomfort in me. I don't know how the ambassador and general feel. This is a reality of war. War is an extension of politics by any other means but it still hits homes.

BROWN: Yes. Nic, let me go to you and ask you about Iran, which was the other big issue today. You had Obama arguing for diplomatic talks with Iran, Petraeus citing Iran is playing a destructive role. Are diplomatic talks realistic?

NIC ROBERTSON: Well, the Iraqis say they are. I asked their Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki this over the weekend. I said look, what are you doing about the Iranians that are arming and equipping these special militia groups that are firing rockets into the Green Zone, by the way, which is where the Prime Minister lives in Baghdad. So he's just as vulnerable as well. He said we recognize that Iran and the United States have historic differences. He also said don't think that just because they're targeting some of these weapon systems against the U.S. troops here that Iraqi troops aren't being killed as well, they are.

He said what Iraq is willing to do is sort of try and get the United States and Iran and bring them together. Because Iran has expressed and he says that Iran does have a role in Iraq's future. It is a neighbor and he sees Iraq as being able to bring Iran and the U.S. together over this issue.

So for him it is a keenly felt issue. His troops are dying, his house is under attack along with other houses in the Green Zone but he sees Iraq as more of a moderator in this fight, if you will.

BROWN: All right. Nic, Candy, David and Michael, everybody stick around.

Next, we are going to focus more closely on conditions inside Iraq, including Basra, one of the areas highlighted today on a map, showing progress made since the surge began. Progress, and then, more recently, a major insurrection the Iraqi government nearly lost. We are going to talk about that and more, the good, the bad, the ugly.

And today's shocking new developments from the polygamist ranch in Eldorado, Texas -- when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETRAEUS: We haven't turned any corners. We haven't seen any lights at the end of the tunnel. The champagne bottle has been pushed to the back of the refrigerator. And the progress, while real, is fragile and is reversible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: And that is the sound bite of the day from General David Petraeus, fragile and reversible and complicated, on the one hand, fewer insurgent attacks, but, on the other hand, on the streets of Basra and Sadr City, an out-and-out war.

More to talk about from our panel tonight, CNN's Candy Crowley, Michael Ware, Nic Robertson, and David Gergen.

And let me start with you, Michael. And you touched on this a little bit early -- I want -- earlier. And I want you to expand on it. Having been at the hearing today -- because it's not a place where you normally are. You are in Baghdad -- it was -- you had a different sort of perspective than, I think, many of us. What did you think of it? Were you surprised by anything you heard or really didn't hear?

WARE: Oh, enormously. I mean, in any ways, I found it a galling experience, to see the war so dismembered and -- and so sterilized. I mean, but, obviously, that's something one has to deal with, and that's something that 1.6 million of your troops have to deal with when they eventually come home. That's how many have passed through Iraq and Afghanistan.

And a lot of the big issues weren't touched upon, or weren't touched upon in depth. And there's a lot of focus on side issues. I was surprised, though, pleasantly, to the degree to which Iran was discussed. But there's still a lot of things that aren't accepted. I mean, there's lots of gloss over the nature of the relationship with this Iraqi government.

The way you're hearing people talk about Maliki, that's not the reality on the ground and the nature of the American and Maliki relationship. There's all sorts of things that were jarring for me. And it's just difficult to separate the perspective of being on the ground with what you're seeing.

But the grandstanding and the politics is what really hit home most. I mean, essentially, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker are right. For or against this war, whether you liked it from the beginning or not, that's irrelevant, folks. This is the war you have got, and you have to take responsibility for this, either out of self- interest or out of some moral responsibility, and you have got to get on with this.

He's right. Put the champagne at the back of the fridge. You're in for the long haul. Otherwise, it's disaster for the Iraqis, who will die, and the Americans, who eventually will -- their strategic interests will suffer.

BROWN: Nic, General Petraeus brought a lot of charts, a lot of graphs with him today.

And let's take a look at one that was pretty striking, I thought. This is showing how much of Iraq is being controlled by Iraqi forces now vs. one year ago. Some senators, though, pointed to those recent battles in Basra as proof that the government there doesn't have it under control, despite what these charts are suggesting.

Let's listen to what Senator Carl Levin had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: In your judgment, was the Iraqi government operation in Basra properly and carefully planned and were the preparations adequate? Could you give me a direct answer?

PETRAEUS: Sir, the answer is, again, it could have been much better planned. It was not adequately planned or prepared.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Nic, what's your takeaway from this? Does Petraeus have confidence in the Iraqi government forces to do what they need to do? ROBERTSON: I think he has a much more realistic assessment of what the Iraqi security forces can do than Iraq's prime minister right now. Iraq's prime minister, by General Petraeus' testimony, even by what the prime minister himself has said, has really rushed into the situation in Basra.

He told me over the weekend that he didn't expect the militias there to be so strong. He had come to the conclusion that he had to do something there, because the militias were controlling the ports. He was losing control of the city. When the British pulled out a few months ago, they essentially ceded the city of Basra to the militias, who got stronger and stronger.

The prime minister freely admits now that he didn't know how strong they had become. So, I think General -- General Petraeus is very deeply and keenly aware of what Iraq's security forces can do here in Baghdad. He knows his troops have to back them up and encourage them to get into the fight.

And he also knows the fact of the matter on the ground in Basra right now is, Iraqi security forces, whatever the prime minister says, certainly do not really control the whole city, because the militias are still there, living in houses, with their weapons under their beds or in cupboards. And, hey, nobody knows who is a militiaman and who isn't. But if they're called out on the streets, they will be there, and they will be facing off government troops who are not able to take them down.

BROWN: Candy, anything said today by the candidates that you think is going to significantly change policy on Iraq immediately? We know what their goals are, but that is a -- that -- you know, to what extent, I guess, are their hands tied?

CROWLEY: Well, their hands are tied because they're not in charge. I mean, that's the bottom line. They understand that.

I mean, you came away with two things politically from these hearings today. One is that, in fact, David Petraeus did see his next commander-in-chief in one of those three people. And they saw that one of them is going to be the person responsible for bringing all the troops home that were there to begin with.

Most of them do not believe there will be, beyond pulling back the surge troops, there will be any withdrawals, and, if so, they will be minimal. So, they know, when they walk in, in January -- and I think this goes to David's point -- that you are now beginning to hear not a moderating of a position, but now they are beginning to talk more about the fact that Barack Obama used to say, we need to get out as carefully as we were careless getting in.

You're hearing much more emphasis on that now, as they move toward when this just might get real for one of them.

BROWN: And that was a big point today, David, that Ambassador Crocker made, saying, essentially -- by saying, we're not giving you a timetable for when we're going to get out of there, we need to work out a long-term agreement with Iraq in terms of our presence there. This is all landing in the lap of the next president, and whoever that may be.

GERGEN: Absolutely.

One had the sense, Campbell, that, as opposed to the last set of hearings about six months ago, when there was a great deal of drama and there was -- Democrats still felt they could stop this, they could force -- as they had promised in the elections of 2006 -- to get out of Iraq. And there was this drama, could they do it or not do it? And, then, of course, it didn't work, and the surge went forward. And the surge then seemed to work better than anybody expected.

Today, there's very little sense of drama.

BROWN: They're all getting a reality check, aren't they?

GERGEN: There's a reality check and a real sense, you know, the next president that is going to come into office, there are going to be at least 100,000 troops still there...

BROWN: Yes.

GERGEN: ... probably closer to 130,000, 140,000. And the next president is going to -- especially if you're a Democrat, is going to face a dilemma, because you have promised the voters you want to get out. But, yet, as you look at it, you see, you know, if I get out too quickly, this whole thing could cave in, and you could be the president who lost Iraq.

BROWN: Right.

GERGEN: And then your presidency could come unraveled.

On the other hand, if you don't get out, then you have -- you have misled your voters.

BROWN: Right.

GERGEN: So, it's a bait-and-switch situation.

So, I think that reality is setting in. And I think that's why both of the Democrats, to go back to Candy's point, were echoing each other, I think, did modulate -- I'm not saying moderate -- but they did modulate their tone, and they are not promising six months, eight months, or anything like that.

There are no timetables in this. And there's also a sense in the country, you know, we're really pretty stuck here right now, aren't we?

BROWN: Yes.

All right, David Gergen, tonight, along with Candy Crowley, Michael Ware, and Nic Robertson, our thanks to everybody. With the hearings under way, an emotional ceremony was taking place at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue -- a teary-eyed President Bush presenting the Congressional Medal of Honor to the parents of Petty Officer Michael Monsoor, a Navy SEAL who was killed in Iraq when he threw himself on a grenade to save his comrades.

Coming up next: airport misery across the country, nearly 500 flights canceled by one airline, more expected tomorrow -- what you need to know coming up.

Also tonight, new details on the raid on the Warren Jeffs' polygamist compound. We have got the court documents that reveal why cops took action.

Plus, an attack caught on tape -- eight teens, mostly girls, accused of beating another teen. Wait until you hear why the sheriff said they did.

That's when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Coming up: new information on the raid at a polygamist ranch in Texas -- tonight, details released about what a 15-year-old said happened to her, details that led authorities to raid the compound. Her shocking allegations are ahead.

But, first, Erica Hill joins us with a 360 bulletin.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: And, Campbell, I hate to say it, but possibly some tough news for travelers.

If you have a flight booked on American Airlines tonight or tomorrow, you may want to make other arrangements. The carrier says it canceled about 500 flights today and more cancellations are expected tomorrow. The FAA has ordered more inspections on the wiring of hundreds of MD-80 planes. That's the same reason American grounded more than 300 flights last month.

Eight Florida teens are accused of beating up another teen on camera, so they could post the video on YouTube and MySpace. That's according to police. Now, some of the teens can actually be heard laughing on this tape. The video never made it online. The victim suffered a concussion, several cuts, and bruises.

And a real-life drama for actor Rob Lowe -- he and his wife are now suing their former nanny, claiming she told lies about their family. There are no specifics on the allegations in court documents, but we do know they are seeking at least $1 million in damages, Campbell.

Not really something anybody wants to deal with, with their nanny.

BROWN: No, definitely not.

All right, Erica Hill, thanks very much.

And, then, still ahead: the ugly secrets of polygamy revealed. Tonight, new details about the chilling call for help from a child bride that led to the raid of a polygamist compound in Texas.

Plus, news about the price of gas that could change your summer plans.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: More victims in what may be the largest children's welfare raid in U.S. history.

And with the search for more victims comes new and horrific charges involving the polygamist compound in Texas. Tonight, we know the details of that phone call that triggered the massive investigation.

In a sworn statement, a teenage girl said she was raped and choked by her husband, a man old enough to be her grandfather.

CNN's David Mattingly has the very latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To the rest of the world, they might look like children. But to the polygamists at this West Texas compound, they are allegedly something else: wives and mothers, some as young as 13 or 14.

The story of one still-missing girl spells out the painful details in black and white. In a call to a family violence center that led authorities to raid the compound, she claims she was wife number seven, married at 15 to a 49-year-old man. She was a mother at 16, with another already on the way.

In a state affidavit, she claims that her husband beat and hurt her, and forced himself on her sexually. She said he punched her in the chest, choked her, while another woman in the house watched and held her baby. Once, the beating was so bad, she said she went to the hospital. The last beating was Easter Sunday.

(on camera) And though she desperately wanted to run away, this girl allegedly said she was being held at the compound against her will, and told that if she tried to run, that she would be caught and locked up.

She actually called the family violence center back, this time in tears, saying that she had also been told that outsiders would force her to cut her hair, wear makeup and have sex with lots of men. She then said to forget about her report.

(voice-over) But state officials raided the compound anyway. Court documents described how investigators found several teenage mothers and pregnant teenage girls. They described a widespread pattern and practice of young girls conditioned to marry and accept sexual activity with adult men. Young boys were expected to marry when they became adults, sometimes to underage girls.

The state decided this places all of the children at the compound, both male and female, to risk of emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse.

MARLEIGH MEISNER, TEXAS CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES: Child Protective Service investigators have now left the ranch, and we are now working on the issues pertaining to these children that are in care.

MATTINGLY: Four hundred sixteen children, ages 17 and under, have been removed from the ranch. But so far, the state has only been able to name 38 mothers or fathers. Many children are described as unwilling or unable to name their biological parents.

Texas authorities believe they now have all the children removed from the ranch. But they have yet to find the girl whose call set off this massive action. State officials have had no comment about her husband.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And David has there been any comment from the compound itself about the allegations?

MATTINGLY: Campbell, a source close to the leadership at the compound tells us tonight that they question the evidence that the state had to go into the compound. They want to know why the state felt like they had the authority to take all of the children, based on the story of this one girl.

Also, the church elder Merrill Jessop was quoted in "The Salt Lake Tribune" today, saying, "The hauling off of women and children makes any -- matches anything in Russia or Germany."

So clearly, they're feeling like they're under attack and that their families have been wronged.

BROWN: All right. CNN's David Mattingly. David, thanks.

Up next, we'll talk with reporter Michael Watkiss, who has been covering the sect for years.

And also ahead, this is not the first time authorities tried to save children from inside a secretive polygamist compound. We're going to tell you about another raid with a much different ending, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: And the creepy song stylings of Warren Jeffs. Right now, 416 children from his sect are in temporary shelters. The state says all were in imminent risk of harm. Texas officials still have not located the one girl who said she was raped and choked by a polygamist husband.

From the new legal documents to the men still inside the ranch, this story is getting bigger and stranger by the day.

For more on the investigation, let's bring in reporter Mike Watkiss now.

And Mike, we're learning more about this girl, the 16-year-old girl who made the phone call that triggered the raid. And she was brought to the ranch about three years ago and became one of several wives to a man who she says forced himself on her sexually, beat her, even broke her ribs and choked her, all of this abuse happening while the other women in the house would take care of her baby.

Is this kind of story common in FLDS?

MIKE WATKISS, KTVK REPORTER: Shocking you would say, right? You know what, I've been reporting on this for a long time, Campbell, and sadly, I'm not a bit shocked. These are stories that we have been telling for better than a decade now. This is so typical of so many stories of the young women who are born into that community.

It's cruel for both the young girls and the boys. The boys are used as slave laborers, and they're cast out. One man can't have eight wives and have an equal number of men and women.

So this thing is -- I wish I were shocked, really, from the bottom of my heart. I wish my reaction was shocked, because it would mean that I'd heard this story for the first time. But we've been reporting on this for so long, hoping that state officials in Utah and Arizona would heed the cry of these girls.

It took a long time. They finally did. It's really what drove Warren Jeffs here so he could continue to practice business as usual, as it has been along the Utah-Arizona border for generations.

BROWN: And, you know, 133 women have voluntarily left the ranch. Are you surprised that they would willingly leave?

WATKISS: No. I mean, I think mothers are mothers, and I think that these women have grown up in that culture. And the one thing that women are told to do, that your role is to be an obedient wife to your assigned polygamist husband and take care of your kids.

So I'm sure that many of these women are very good mothers, and they're here to attend to their kids' needs. They're terrified, like their children are, you know.

But it all comes down to the men. There's a handful of men in this culture that have concocted this cockamamie theology that is made up by men for the benefit of men, that they have utilized through decades and generations to oppress women and children. And it's time we all address this issue and confront guys like Warren Jeffs.

He lives lavishly while his -- many of his followers are impoverished; starving. But they continue to send their daughters and most of their dollars to him because in this theology, he is their only avenue to heaven. They have to appease him, do what he says, because without him, they can't get into the highest realm of heaven, the celestial kingdom. And it's this sort of whammy that has been put on all of their heads for so long.

There's no doubt the people here in Texas have a daunting job to break down the barriers that now exist between them and the kids in there.

BROWN: Right.

WATKISS: But I laud their efforts. It's high time. They had to do this.

BROWN: And David mentioned this just before the break. That Merrill Jessop, the presiding member of the ranch, told the "Salt Lake City Tribune" that -- that, quote, "there needs to be a public outcry that goes far and wide. What's coming we don't know. The hauling off of women and children matches anything in Russia or Germany."

WATKISS: Yes.

BROWN: And these men are obviously upset with the situation, but what are they likely to be doing right now?

WATKISS: Well, they're probably scared. They always send women, usually, out to defend them. You know, these guys are cowards that hide behind their religion and usually have hidden behind their women, who go out and defend the practice.

Merrill Jessop, you read his ex-wife, Carolyn Jessop's excellent book "Escape," you see what a brute he is. He talks about Russia and Germany. You know what? This guy's a jerk. And he can come out and defend them all he wants; but he's a coward and he's an abuser. And you know what? Bring it on, Merrill. I hope that -- I hope that he ends up in jail, just like his polygamist prophet, Warren Jeffs.

It's really high time we all sort of -- because of the religious issue, we can't touch these guys. You know, that's nonsense. This is a religion that is premised -- nobody is attacking polygamy. If this was adult men and adult women, women who had had education and made choice, none of us would care. This would be a two-day lifestyle story in the news cycle.

But that's not what it is in a place like Colorado City. Underpinning their polygamy is the twin pillars of incest and child- forced marriages. And that's what prosecutors are after, not polygamy. If it was adults, consenting adults, nobody would care.

BROWN: All right. Michael Watkiss. Mike thanks.

WATKISS: Thank you, Campbell.

BROWN: For the children, the greatest challenge may be ahead of them. Kathy Jo Nicholson went from sewing her own wedding dress as a young polygamist bride to struggling for survival on the outside. She joins us live, next.

And later, from freedom to fear, how another raid on a polygamist community backfired.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: They are not allowed to laugh, banned from wearing certain colors, and are taught to believe that convicted felon Warren Jeffs is God's messenger. And those are just some of the rules that members of Jeffs' polygamist church must obey. That education begins at an early age.

But what happens when they leave their polygamist kingdom behind and enter our world? At this moment, that is the reality facing scores of people in Texas. So what do they do now?

Let's ask someone who actually knows. Kathy Jo Nicholson was raised in a polygamist household. Warren Jeffs was her schoolteacher. She eventually escaped that life. And Kathy Jo Nicholson is joining us right now.

Kathy Jo, welcome to you.

KATHY JO NICHOLSON, FORMER POLYGAMIST SECT MEMBER: Thank you.

BROWN: You know, according to the affidavit, investigators at the compound observed a practice in which female children determined to have reached child-bearing age at just 13 or 14 years old are then, quote, "spiritually married" to an adult member of the church. As a former member, is this at all surprising to you?

NICHOLSON: No, not at all, not in recent years. Since Warren took over for his father, it became more and more prevalent that that was the way things were done.

BROWN: This is pretty typical?

NICHOLSON: Very typical. And Merrill Jessop has, I understand, taken the reigns now while Warren is in jail. And Merrill was notorious for giving his daughters up to the prophet.

I know several of his daughters, very young, beautiful women, were given to Rulon Jeffs when he was basically on his deathbed, just to seal their place in heaven. Then those women were inherited by Warren when his father passed the monarchy down to him.

BROWN: Also, according to this affidavit, children are apparently denied food. They're forced to sit inside closed closets as punishment.

When you were in FLDS, you know, Warren Jeffs was not yet the prophet, but he was your teacher. Does this sound like his brand of discipline?

NICHOLSON: Definitely. He was -- he was not the prophet. But he did send down his decree of "Today we fast. OK, we're going to fast again tomorrow." I mean, there were some times -- I remember thinking to myself that it's so much easier after the third day to ignore your hunger.

He -- he would beat the boys and close the girls in. This did not go on in my private home. But at school, we were to mind the headmaster, and the fasting did take place throughout the community.

BROWN: I know the raid was the result of a 16-year-old girl's phone call to a family violence shelter. And when she called, she used someone else's cell phone. She spoke in whispers. And she was told that if she ever tried to leave the ranch, that he would be found. She'd be locked up.

And you escaped. What did you think would happen to you if you were ever caught?

NICHOLSON: You know, they -- when I was growing up -- and I imagine even still, they tell these children and young women that they are free to go. I know that that's always something that I was told: "You're free to go if you'd like, but you'll never see us again. You'll never have any support from us" and what not.

You're not free to go when you have no resources, no outside information that you've been able to study and become familiar with. There are virtual walls up. Yes, you can step across the border, and you can be free, which is what I did. But those virtual walls and the walls of the threat of hell and eternal damnation are very strong. And it's scary to these -- to these women.

I only hope -- I'm so grateful to Texas and to Utah for, in the first place, convicting Warren. And the young Wall girl who stepped forward and now this other girl who has yet to be determined. But I'm so grateful that Texas has taken -- has undertaken this huge task and done it so diplomatically so far. I'm hoping that the other communities, because there are -- there are still other communities. I know there's Colorado. I believe there's the Dakotas.

BROWN: Right.

NICHOLSON: Still definitely on the border of Utah and Arizona, Colorado City.

BROWN: Right. Glad they're taking these kind of actions.

NICHOLSON: Oh, definitely. And they are still under the rule of Warren.

BROWN: Right.

NICHOLSON: My sister, I believe, is in Colorado City. And I have many, many family members that are -- that I don't know where they are. And I cry out if anybody knows of the Nicholson family, sisters and brothers...

BROWN: We would love to see you be able to reconnect with them. We really appreciate you coming on and talking with us tonight. Kathy Jo Nicholson, thanks so much for your time.

NICHOLSON: Thank you. It was a pleasure.

BROWN: And up next, a raid on a polygamist compound that didn't go exactly as planned. Gary Tuchman takes us inside the special mission.

Also ahead, how high will gas prices get? New predictions that may make you want to invest in some good walking shoes. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Did you know -- miss? Sir, can I ask you a quick question? Yes, I just -- sir?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Looking for answers, getting nothing but closed doors. That was CNN's Gary Tuchman last year on his eerie trip to the heart of Warren Jeffs' kingdom. It straddles the Arizona-Utah border. And it is a journey straight into the twilight zone.

The showdown in Texas - that is happening now. It's not the first time authorities have tried to save children from polygamy. Decades ago, the mission was to liberate. The outcome, anything but.

Gary Tuchman gives us an up-close look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Her name is Suzy. She was 6 years old in 1953 when her world changed.

SUZY: I was literally ripped from the arms of my father and my family.

TUCHMAN: Ripped from her family in a raid conducted by Arizona law enforcement over a half century ago. Suzy's father was one of more than 100 husbands and wives arrested in an effort to eliminate polygamy from the state. It happened in the town of Colorado City, which was then known as Short Creek.

(on camera) Were you scared?

SUZY: Terrified. Terrified. Terrified.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Little known to many Americans, that raid still affects the lives of polygamist families. Dozens of women and more than 260 children were placed in state custody.

Suzy and these friends, all polygamists today, were some of those children.

Fanita (ph) had four mothers and 22 brothers and sisters when her father was taken away.

Fanita: We knew that the object was to take us away, adopt us out, and that we would never be back to our homes.

TUCHMAN: The July 1953 raid was reenacted in a made-for-TV movie called "Child Bride of Short Creek."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay where you are. We are here under special orders from Attorney General Roth and the governor of Arizona. We have warrants for your arrest on charges of unlawful cohabitation.

TUCHMAN: The children of the raid said they did not know what the police were going to do. Neither, apparently, did many of the adults, including Fanita's (ph) elderly great-grandfather.

FANITA: He stepped forward and said, "If it's blood you want, take mine."

TUCHMAN: But what police wanted was to take the polygamists to jail. Fanita went to say goodbye to her father as he was taken into custody.

FANITA: And so I went over to try and talk to him, and the guard pointed his gun at me and told me to go away.

TUCHMAN (on camera): You were a 7-year-old girl?

FANITA: Yes. And I said, "I just want to talk to my dad."

And he said, "Well, you can't. So go away."

TUCHMAN: Most of the polygamists stayed in jail a short time but had to promise never to see their families again.

Edson (ph), like many of the fathers, would secretly visit his family, though. His wife became pregnant during one of his visits. The baby was Priscilla.

(on camera) Your mother had to hide her pregnancy.

PRISCILLA: Absolutely.

TUCHMAN: No one could know she was pregnant?

PRISCILLA: No one could know.

TUCHMAN: Because they would know that your father...

PRISCILLA: She was saying that she had had nothing to do with my father. And obviously, she had something to do with my father.

TUCHMAN: Obviously.

(voice-over) Marlene's (ph) mother also gave birth to a baby when her father wasn't supposed to be around. If her mother was seen with the baby, it could mean being arrested. So... MARLENE: They put the baby's sister in the suitcase and took her out to the car, because she would have definitely been evidence.

TUCHMAN: The raid led to bad publicity, but it still took years before most of the families got back together.

(on camera) Was there ever a time where your mothers said, "You know what? It's time to have a marriage with one person, find a new person, start a new life, make it a lot easier for ourselves?"

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Never.

TUCHMAN: Most of the children had fake birth certificates to protect their families. Suzy did not get a real one until well into adulthood.

SUZY: I remember sitting out in the car, looking at my real name on a birth certificate, and I wept. I wept because, for the first time, I saw my identity as it really was.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Do you feel the same thing that happened to your father in the 1950s could happen to your husband today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe that's a possibility.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): A half century has gone by, but the children of the raid have never stopped looking over their shoulders.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Colorado City, Arizona.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And Erica Hill joining us again with a "360 News and Business Minute" -- Erica.

HILL: Campbell, the Olympic flame, which we've been covering so much, turns out it's in hiding tonight somewhere in San Francisco, but in hiding because protesters are gearing up for the U.S. leg of the torch relay tomorrow. That run in San Francisco, the only U.S. stop on the 23-city global tour, which of course, has been marked by protests aimed at China's human rights record.

Brace yourself: those gas prices, we're told, could surge as high as four bucks a gallon this summer; that coming from the Energy Department. Right now the average for a gallon of gas, already 55 cents higher than it was a year ago.

And in London, a real-life "Star Wars" battle. The man who made these storm trooper helmets for the original 1977 "Star Wars" movie now being sued by Lucasfilm for copyright violations. It seems he's making replicas, according to the suit, from the original mold, and telling them for up to 1,000 bucks.

BROWN: For our international viewers, CNN Today is next. Here in the states, Larry King is coming up.

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