tv PBS News Hour PBS December 26, 2011 7:00pm-8:00pm EST
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> ifill: the republican presidential hopefuls shift into full gear eight days before the iowa caucuses. good evening. i'm gwen ifill. >> warner: and i'm margaret warner. on the newshour tonight, we get the latest from the campaign trail with stu rothenberg and susan page. >> ifill: then, we update the deadly christmas day bombings in nigeria, as a radical islamic group claims responsibility. >> warner: tom bearden reports on a colorado law that requires teaching schoolchildren-- even preschoolers-- about fiscal responsibility. >> they're starting to learn. i actually have to give something to get something back in return. while it does seem like it might be too much, those are
really the basics that kids in pre-school need to start learning about. >> ifill: ray suarez talks to former npr reporter eric weiner on his search for god and faith. >> warner: and jeffrey brown gets four iraq war veterans' takes on the cost and impact of the nine-year war. >> ifill: that's all ahead on tonight's newshour. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> intelligent computing technology is making its way into everything from cars to retail signs to hospitals; creating new enriching experiences. through intel's philosophy of investing for the future, we're helping to bring these new capabilities to market. we're investing billions of dollars in r&d around the globe to help create the technologies that we hope will be the heart of tomorrow's innovations. i believe that by investing today in technological advances here at intel, we can make a better tomorrow. >> and by bnsf railway.
>> the william and flora hewlett foundation, working to solve social and environmental problems at home and around the world. and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> ifill: after a quiet holiday weekend, republican presidential candidates prepared to descend on iowa in earnest this week in a flurry of bus touring, pheasant hunting, and endorsement courting. for the latest on the republican field's final push toward the january 3 caucuses, we are joined by stuart rothenberg, editor and publisher of the "rothenberg political report," and contributor to roll call newspaper, and susan page, washington bureau chief for "u.s.a. today," reporting from iowa. hi, susan. let's go back four years ago.
mitt romney came in second to mike huckabee. this year he said he wasn't going to compete in iowa at all. how is he doing? >> well, he stayed away for a while but he is all-in now. he'll show up in the state starting tomorrow night, do four days here. he's bringing his wife, three of his kids, chris christie, the governor of new jersey, john thune from neighboring south dakota. it's clear to me that mitt romney has decided he has a shot at winning iowa this time. winning iowa and then presumably winning new hampshire and being an unstoppable force to the nomination. >> ifill: the word out of iowa, the cliche, political cliche is organization is all that counts. is that what is happening here? is mitt romney incredibly organized? >> he does have organization from four years ago. but remember as you pointed out beings gwen, he didn't initial decide to compete here. he was going to by-pass it because he knew there was a ceiling for him in this kind of state with so many social conservatives and evangelicals.
i think it's more a combination of events. nobody else has emerged as the conservative alternative to mitt romney. while four years ago he came in second with 25% of the support of caulk yous there's a chance now that he could get again the same 25% but this time win the caucuses. it would create a very different dynamic. >> ifill: susan, last week we were talking about gingrich's big rise. is he still rising in iowa? and is he still keeping his pledge not to go negative on other candidates? >> well, it's very hard when a candidate is being attacked to not be negative going back. we saw his campaign hit back against mitt romney on the question of who is conservative and whether romney has the credentials of a conservative businessman. he hasn't unleashed negative tv ads we've seen angled against him partly because i suspect he doesn't have the money to finance them. you know, gingrich has definitely come down. who knows exactly where they stand now. there was an a.r.g.poll out a
couple days ago, the late he have one that showed a eye in iowa between ron paul, mitt romney annuity gingrich but clearly he's fallen from the point where he was the frontrunner nationally and in iowa. and then that's for romney sees his opening. >> ifill: let's talk about the organization piece. when it comes to newt gingrich, he didn't even manage to get on the ballot in the state where he currently lives right now, virginia, last week. does that say something about his campaign? or does it tell us more about virginia? >> i think some of each. gingrich was not the only republican to fail to get on the ballot in virginia. in fact, it's just ron paul and mitt romney there so the others had problems too. virginia has a burdensome requirement in terms of statewide signatures but also signatures and individual individual congressional districts but i think he would have to say that newt's failure to get on the ballot in virginia is at least an embarrassment and more than that it's a reflection of the fact that he hasn't built an organization. remember, early on, you can
focus just on iowa and maybe just on new hampshire. but after that, they start coming in flurries. if you have six or eight contests, primaries and caucuses on a individual today, you need some organization. you need a depth of a campaign that newt gingrich doesn't have. so i think what happened to him in virginia reflects a broader problem that he has. >> susan, let's turn to ron paul who is the third of the cluster of the three at the top at least in the most recent polls. he has also come under new scrutiny by befits the coming of an almost frontrunner. it's about work that he did that was published under his name in news letters because a couple decades ago which is widely seen as being anti-religious, racially tinged. how is that resonating on the ground in iowa? >> you know, ron paul has the most dedicated supporters of anybody in the field especially young people drawn to his libertarian message. i don't think those voters get shaken by these stories that look into these racist and
offensive writings in ron paul's name from the 1990s. but i think it probably puts a cap on his head. i makes it hard for him to expand his universe to some of these undecided voters. we know half or more of the voters in iowa continue to say they could change their mind by january 3. i think it makes it harder for him to expand his universe of support. >> are you seeing it the same way? >> i agree. i don't think it will shake people who are dedicated ron paul supporters. they bought into his message. and who he is. and they believe he is a trust worthy, honest, honorable conservative libertarian person. but i think it makes it more difficult for his message to get out to get to the larger republican audience. >> ifill: keeping in mind that john huntsman is not competing in iowa, the other three who are now fighting for-- depending on how you look at it, second, third or fourth place-- santorum, bachmann and perry. who is in the best position. >> bachmann is in the least best position right now. it appears to be there's considerable buzz about san
san forum and a possible key endorsement he might be able to get from steve king over the next few days. we don't know if that will happen or not. rick perry continues to make a major commissionment. he has a new ad up beating up on everybody who is or was ever a member of congress and running against congress. those two seem to be the people who may have some momentum. it's kind of leading the tea leaves. >> ifill: current or past members of congress but not mitt romney in that mix. who would you say of those three stands the best chance right now, susan? >> i say the fact that we're talking about all three of them still being in the mix is great news for mitt romney. he really... he needed all these people to stay in the race and to continue to get a share of the vote because that meant, as stu said, he could be in a position to win in iowa with just about the same proportion of the vote he got last time. >> ifill: susan, final question. i'm curious whether looking back ear 2011 you have had any occasion to think to yourself, boy this was quite a political year or this wasn't much of a political year. what's your sense of it?
>> hey, we've seen these candidates come out of nowhere, go to the top of the field and crash and burn. i was down in orlando for the florida straw poll. there was a debate the night before going into the night, rick perry was the hot flavor. he was coming with a big storm. he didn't perform very well in that debate. you could feel the air going out of his tires when the debate was over. the next morning when the straw poll came up, you could see voters coming in, didn't know who they wanted to support. herman cain was there talking to him. i heard aate low of voters say, herman cain seems like a guy with a lot of ideas. his candidacy got inflated. this is all in the space of 12 hours. >> ifill: this is true. this has been a roller coaster. >> there's always uncertainty going into the caucuses. it's very hard to poll these people and figure out who is going to participate and who they're going to support but this has been absolutely nuts, this roller coaster of up and down, who is there today and who is there tomorrow? the process is nothing like i've seen before. some of it has to do with the debates. some of it has to do with the candidates. but this is a very, very
fickle, unhappy electorate. they're going to have to settle on somebody in iowa. >> ifill: they'll be voting in a week. stu rothenberg, susan page, stay warm out there in iowa. thank you both. >> thanks, gwen. >> warner: still to come on the >> warner: still to come on the newshour, the deadly bombings in nigeria; teaching financial literacy; searching for god; and four veterans assess the iraq war. but first, the other news of the day. here's hari sreenivasan. >> sreenivasan: a key member of iraq's coalition government called for new elections today, amid political turmoil and new violence. the party loyal to radical shiite cleric muqtada al-sadr cited growing instability in the country. last week, prime minister nouri al-maliki called for the arrest of the country's sunni vice president on terrorism charges. meanwhile, iraqi forces stepped up security measures today after a suicide bomber killed seven people and wounded another 32 outside the interior ministry. that followed a series of bombings in baghdad that killed up to 70 people last week. the arab league sent monitors
into syria today, even as the opposition reported new killings. amateur video showed government tanks firing shells in the city of homs. activists also reported machine gun and mortar fire, and said 23 people were killed. the opposition says government forces have killed 275 civilians in the last week. fighting between soldiers and army defectors has claimed another 150 lives. a government report in japan today depicted a cascade of confusion and mistakes after an earthquake and tsunami overwhelmed a nuclear plant. the fukushima dai-ichi nuclear reactor lost power and cooling when its backup generators were destroyed. that triggered core meltdowns, radiation leaks, and hydrogen explosions. the interim report concluded that plant workers had not been trained to handle such a crisis. it also found the government delayed giving full accounts of how bad things were, and how much radiation was being released. the military had little public reaction today after computer hackers claimed they stole the confidential client list of stratfor, a security firm.
its clients include the army, the air force and the miami police. members of the loose-knit group anonymous said they had gained access to more than 4,000 credit card numbers, passwords, and addresses. one hacker said the goal was to steal funds from individual accounts and donate the money to charity. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to margaret. >> warner: the people of nigeria faced new uncertainty today after christmas day attacks on christian churches that killed at least 39 people. the worst attacucame jst 35eut c tsialapheer, ite wh we killed.we four more died in jos, and overall more than 50 were wounded. >> warner: some were distraught, others were furious today, outside st. theresa's catholic church near the capital abuja. christmas decorations still hung over the entrance, but burned bibles and a crucifix lay in the debris. the bomb crater just beyond the building testified to the power of the blast that hit
worshippers as they emerged from christmas mass. the attack was one of three aimed at christian churches sunday in nigeria. an oil-rich african nation of 160 million people split between a muslim north and a predominantly christian south. in rome today, pope benedict xvi denounced the killings. >> our land continues to be drenched in innocent blood. i have learned with deep sadness the news of the attacks. even this year on the day of the birth of jesus, grief and pain has been brought to some churches in nigeria. i wish to express my senior and affectionate closeness to the christian community. >> warner: a radical muslim group, boko haram, claimed responsibility for sunday's attacks. the spokesman said there will be no peace until full sharia law is enforced throughout
nigeria and democracy and the continues sfugs are suspended. boko haram, which means western education is forbidden, also struck on christmas eve of 2010 with bombings that killed 32 in the city of jos. the group has mounted multiple attacks since including bombing the u.n. headquarters in the capital abuja last august killing 24. sunday's attacks bring this year's total killings, blamed on boko haram to more than 500. late sunday, president good luck jonathan condemned what he called the dastardly attacks, but he predicted the group will not last forever. but mohammed dubuhari a former general from the north who lost the presidential election last april sharply criticized jonathan. he said in a statement, "this is clearly a failure of leadership at a time the government needs to assure the people of the capacity to guarantee the safety of lives and property."
the government has tried using police and security forces against boko haram. some have criticized their neighborhood raids as repressive and ineffective. for more on the bombings in nigeria, we turn to paul lubeck, a sociology professor and director of the center for global, international and regional studies at the university of california, santa cruz. he was in northern nigeria researching islamist movements this past summer. professor, thank you for being with us. tell us about this boko haram group. what is it they're seeking? >> thank you for inviting me. boko haram is a nickname given to this movement by journalists because the leader, mohammed use saf advocates a strict interpretation of sharia law and rejects anything that contradicts the kran.
the movement is made up of a radical splinter group in northern nigeria, influenced by saudi arabia. they had a conflict with the police in july, 2009, resulting in the extra judicial murder of their leaders by the police and the army, a blood bath. after that, they have become an insurgency group demanding a return to true sharia law as they envision it and a demand for release of their prisoners, a demand for the end of democracy and westernization in northern nigeria. >> warner: do yesterday's coordinated bombings represent a step-up in their capabilities? >> it is a continuation of a campaign since 2010 marked by very sophisticated prison release prison breaks, robbing
banks, attacking the police. it went in several phases. initially they attacked the politicians who they held responsible for the blood bath in 2009. and then they attacked symbolic targets. the national police headquarters and the u.n. headquarters august 26. >> warner: are they linked to al qaeda? there's been some talk of that but is there real evidence of that? >> there's no evidence showing operation coordination between the two. the general that's head of afri-con and others state that there is contact. every security person i interviewed from the west believes there's contact between an al qaeda group called al qaeda in the islamic magren, a.q.i.m., in mali and algeria. what's important is that they are modeling themselves after
al qaeda. they're engaging in only what could be called terrorist acts. they are attempting to mobilize unemployed youth and impoverished children and school dropouts who cannot find employment in nigeria. it's clear by the ability to elude the national police, the national security and the army for over two years that they have support locally. in order to deal with them, they will have to be a... there will have to be an economic and social redevelopment issue... initiative in northern algeria or else we'll have the same conflict and if it's not this group, it will be another. >> warner: are you saying that so far the government's response has been ineffective, one? are you saying that? and two, are you saying it's been too focused on security measures rather than going, you know, trying to bring the north up to some financial level more commensurate with the south?
>> both are true. the security effort has alienated members of the community. there's widespread human rights reports of abuse by the police and the military. everyone agrees that the security forces have been ineffective. the newspapers are full of articles both from christians and muslims denouncing and ridiculing the leadership and capacity of the security forces to actually deal with security. secondly, this is the most impoverished region of nigeria. it is experiencing a demographic explosion. every muslim woman in this region has 7.4 children on average. there's widespread poverty. the streets of the cities are filled with abandoned children, with unemployed youth, demanding access to the vast
petroleum wealth that's in nigeria and has been taken up by the political elite. this is an attack on the political elite. >> warner: that brings me to the united states' stake here. as you pointed out, this is, one, the most populous country in africa. but, two, has huge oil reserves. what's the u.s. interest here? >> the u.s. has an interest in maintaining the territorial integrity of nigeria. if thp communal violence continues-- and it's also christians attacking muslims in jos. if this continues, it threatens the territorial integrity of nigeria. this is the largest cup country in africa, as you stated. and this is a major source of petroleum and natural gas for international markets especially for the u.s. because it's outside the persian gulf. it's close to american refining, and it's of a particular quality of oil that
many gallons of gasoline can be developed from every barrel of oil. >> warner: jay carney, the white house spokesman, issued a statement today saying that the u.s. has been in touch with the nigerian government about what happened and is going to assist in trying to track down or bring to justice whoever did yesterday's attacks. is there close security cooperation? >> i've interviewed leaders in security cooperation. the u.s. has trained special forces groups there and the nigerian army does not take advantage of them according to my sources. there's a concern that the nigerians fear losing control over the territory if american trainers are given wide powers. there's a fear that if american trainers are prominent, it will just stimulate sympathy for the insurgents. there must be a reconciliation, there must be resources to
bring about some degree of hope and opportunity for tens of millions of youth. the population is young and very poor. >> warner: professor paul lubeck of u.k. santa cruz, thank you very much. >> thank you for inviting me. >> ifill: the big post-holiday sales rush began today, as retailers served up deep discounts and easy gift exchanges to lure shoppers back to the mall. but in the state of colorado, school-age children have been prepped somewhat differently for the shopping season. schools there are trying to teach children about the realities of spending and financial discipline. newshour correspondent tom bearden explains. >> reporter: a care free winter day on a pre-school playground in a denver suburb. three- to five-year-old children who are many years away from the realities of
adult life. or are they? >> i am going to buy a dog. >> you're going to buy a dog. >> reporter: these kids are learning about money, drawing coins and dollar bills, simulating buying things from the classroom store. acting as cashiers to make those sales. in 2009 the colorado legislature mandated a change in state educational standards requiring that personal financial literacy be part of public education from pre-school through high school. the state schools had to begin teaching to that mandate this fall. ruth is an early childhood coach for the jefferson county school system. she says they were skeptical of the whole idea at first. >> we didn't want to make these kid materialistic. it was a shift in thinking for us as an educational staff to think that's not what this is all about. we're just helping them to know another fact of life. >> let's clean up our books. >> reporter: amanda is a pre-school instructor. >> well, i think it's important to teach responsibility. i think it's responsibility to teach them to appreciate
things. that we all work hard in life. when you do... when you work hard, you're rewarded. that's how you get the things that you want. >> people sell houses to earn money. >> reporter: sitting in on the class this day, christina. she's not an kador. she's an executive at great west insurance, one of the country's larger financial service companies. when the legislature passed the mandate it didn't provide any additional money for it. in fact colorado has been forced to make massive cuts in the education budget. great west decided to step in and help. this woman runs the company's financial literacy program which last fall awarded 25 $5,000 grants to individual teachers all over the state. >> we're already seeing that these grants are having a huge and tremendous impact on student knowledge and just really empowering teachers to teach personal finance in the classrooms. >> reporter: she says the grant applications proposed many different approaches. >> they set up the classroom. there were bakerees and coffee shops and hair salons.
and you have to go to those, you know, different shops and get them fake money. they're starting to learn, i actually have to give something to get something back in return. while it does seem like it might be too much, those are really the basics that kids in pre-school to start learning about. >> make sure you have a notebook and your pencil ready to go. make sure your banking statement is up date. >> reporter: and these fourth graders in douglas county. the teacher got a $5,000 grant and used part of the money to buy ipad tablet computers which the children used for everything from simple calculations to internet financial research. she serves them a steady diet of fiscal responsibility. >> what do i want to buy? why do i want to buy it? why is a really important question. that's what's gotten people in lots of trouble with their money because they bought things they really didn't need. they really didn't know why they wanted it. they just bought it to have it. >> reporter: her classroom has a store, stocked by parents.
students use the simulated money they earn in class to buy things. the purchases are deducted from their classroom bank accounts. >> remember that's one. okay. you wanted gum. gum is popular today. >> reporter: a student economist evaluates supply and demand and adjusts the store's prices accordingly. >> they'll also tell me what we're running low on because of supply and demand. my kids have also had lessons on supply and gannon and raise and lowering of prices. they got to watch that haen in the stores with the christmas and holiday season around. >> if you buy a gum, you'll be the last person to get this. >> reporter: she says the children have mastered some surprisingly sophisticated concepts. >> i've learned about banking and how you save your money to do things. and i learned what interest is. >> some kids see their parents going through tough times at home and come to school with
questions about what is going on with negative money situations. >> reporter: 60 miles north, sixth graders at walt clark middle school punch a time clock before class begins. teachers linda pfeiffer and chad custer say that's designed to reinforce the idea that going to school is an actual job. students have simulated outside jobs. they learn how to total up their income, deduct taxes and monthly expenses and figure out what they could afford to do with what's left over. >> you need to decide: can you afford to go to the movies this friday night? can you get popcorn, if you can go afford to go to the movies? >> reporter: some students find out the consequences of not being prepared to work. >> we're going to ununemploy you and let you go from this position. so you are now fired from this job. so good luck to you. this boy, a great kid, but came to class unprepared and not ready to work. he had this behavior quite
often. when that type of behavior happens, we let them go from their job knowing if you don't come to work and ready to work, chances are you're going... not going to keep that job. >> reporter: they handed out good, bad and ugly cards re-life curve balls like unexpected car repairs. did you get a big wheel today? >> yeah, it was $400 for my car needs new brakes. cylinder thing. >> reporter: ouch. >> yeah. >> reporter: is this going to be hard to pay? >> yeah, kind of. >> we've seen kids really starting to have those aha moments of, "wait a minute. doing a minimum wage job is not going to get me to where i want to be in life." they're starting to understand that their parents are struggling. it's tough to make ends meet, even having had an education. so they're seeing that the education is huge. >> reporter: the teachers we spoke to all said the children's parents were on board with teaching their kids about money. that most were quite
enthusiastic. they planned to pass on the lessons they learned this year to fellow teachers leveraging the grant money to further develop financial literacy education throughout all of the state's public schools. >> warner: during a season which, for many, centers on religion and spirituality, ray suarez talks to one author about his search for divine meaning. >> suarez: keeping with this country's appetite for inventing and reinwitting yourself, today's americans choose their own religion in much higher numbers than ever before. writer eric weaner who calls himself an agnostic by default set out on a worldwide personal quest about his own beliefs and shares what he found in his book "man seeks got: my flirtations with the divine." as we enter the final stretch of this holiday season, eric weiner joins me now. welcome. >> thank you. >> suarez: as many of these
stories over the years, this one begins with a health scare. how would you describe your religious posture before the beginning of your journey? >> i didn't have much of a posture. i was raised as a secular jew. we maybe went to synagogue once a year. i like to think of us as gastronomical jews, about the food and not really about god, not about religion. and essentially whatever religious or spiritual inklings i had were suppressed for most of my life. >> suarez: what did you head out looking for? what did you think you were doing when you first got started? >> i knew i was looking for something. because i found myself in the hospital with a well meaning nurse who asked me this question: have you found your god yet? that was her question. essentially i tried to answer her question as seriously as i could. and as broadly and ecumenically as possible so i
wasn't just looking for the god of the jewish people or the christians but really the broad spectrum of religious options available to us. it is a huge spectrum. there are some 9,000 religions out there. >> suarez: you've spent much of your adult life immersed in other cultures and reporters are kind of sociologists on the fly. you must have come at this with already a smattering of religious knowledge, no? >> just enough knowledge to get in the way. because i was a foreign correspondent for a number of years for national public radio. to be honest, i saw a lot of religion at its worst, covering suicide bombings, scandals involving in catholic church. i was not particularly predisposed toward religion. but i did have these spiritual yearnings. that's what i was trying to satisfy. >> suarez: you're trying to do something, i think, very difficult in this book which is write seriously about the content of various faiths not your own but also keep it
light. >> right. >> suarez: flirtations. they really are flirtations. >> chester ton said the good of a good religion is whether we can make fun of it. i think there's something to that. nowhere is it written that religion and spirituality have to be so dour and serious. look at the dalai lama one of the most respected religious leaders in the world and he has an incredibly infectious laugh. this is a joyful being. i did approach it with a light touch but i took the journey seriously. they are flirtations in the sense that i was trying to test out very various religions. if you think about it, when we're trying to find a partner for life, a spouse, we engage in a sort of flirtation. where we're sort of trying on the relationship. that's what i was doing in this book. >> suarez: you know, immersion journalism is not an easy thing to do because by habit reporters keep things at least one arm's length.
how do you get yourself in there and suddenly find yourself part of the story? >> well, you have to suppress the journalist in you, to be honest, because that was exactly my natural inclination was, you know, observe but don't participate. i made a concerted effort from the outset to do more than that. to actually participate and get involved even if it meant making a complete and utter fool out of myself by attempting to pray in a catholic mass which i had no experience doing or attempting to meditate in kathmandu with my instructor and i had no experience doing that. so if we're going to take this spiritual search seriously, we need to make ourselves vulnerable. and i did make myself extremely vulnerable. >> suarez: again and again in the book you come to small words that mean big things to the people who are in this religion. grace. joy.
silence. stillness. and i think you made a sincere attempt to be with those people and understand them. i suspect you also admired some of them and liked them a lot. >> i did. and i have to say that was a bit of a surprise in the sense, ray, that as a sort of cerebral east coast journalist, i always thought that religious people were somehow more narrow minded or not as expanseive in their world view as secularists. i totally changed my mind about that. i found people of all religious stripes who, in fact, are filled with not only intellectual curiosity but a kind of deep doubt that nourishs their faith. let me tell you what i mean. we normally think of doubt and faith as being polar opposites, they're not compatible. in fact, i found that some of the most religious people who i admire quite a lot have this doubt that actually motivates
them and that actually lives quite comfortably within their faith. >> suarez: but again and again even when you got a glimpse of what joy really meant, of what stillness really meant, it was like you couldn't make that last step. >> i would get 7/8ths there. that was about it. it's that last leap that it's a cliche a leap of faith, to make that last move, that is the hardest. there was always something holding me back. what i think that something is, is my skepticism. this is where i think the whole notion of the spiritual journeys or religious seeking is so tricky. because we need to maintain a certain skepticism or we might be lured into something dangerous. i mean, let's face it. there are dangerous cults out there. history is replete with these stories so we need that september sism but in order to have that moment of grace, as the christians would call it, or a glimpse of nirvana as perhaps the buddhists would put it, you need to drop your guard.
you need to make yourself vulnerable and actually be devoid of all skepticism. that's what i was wrestling with and what i'm still wrestling with. how do you approach this journey skeptically but also open to the possibility of grace, for instance? >> suarez: it seemed like some of the toughest times for you were... came when you were going full circle and back amongst jews to do a fuller investigation into jewish mist sism. >> yes. because, let's face it. we always bring some baggage to any religion that we approach. i probably brought the most baggage to my own faith judaism because of my history or lack of history, whatever feelings of guilt i may have had. and so i decided to dive into the mystical arm, if you will, of judaism which is kabala and i traveled to israel. i wasn't expecting to find much. again, i was surprised by the
deeply spiritual lives, the kabalists i met were leading. these were people who had sort of cobbled together a kind of free lance judaism that was very impressive. >> suarez: so we spend 300-plus pages as your elbow as you go through a smorgasboard. are you still hungry? where are you at now? >> i'm less hungry. i'm somewhat less confused. but i don't have a hollywood ending for you. i don't walk off into the sunset with the diety of my dreams or anything like that. and i think, in fact, the question that set me off this search "have you found your god yet? -- is not exactly the right question. god is not a destination. it's not a train station or an airport that we arrive at. the austrian poet said god is a direction. and i quite like that. we don't arrive at a direction s we head in a direction. and that's where i am right now. heading in a direction. not there yet.
>> suarez: eric weiner, thanks a lot. >> thank you so much, ray. >> ifill: we have more of ray and eric weiner's conversation on our website including his take on religious tolerance in america. >> ifill: finally tonight, a look back at the iraq war, now that all u.s. combat troops have been withdrawn. last week jeffrey brown had this conversation with four american war veterans about their experiences. >> brown: more than a million men and women served in iraq and the armed forces over the past nine years. in a war that will have lasting impact on them and on the nation. we talk about that with four veterans. army staff sergeant greg baumgartner was a operational specialist who left the military after two tours in iraq. major p.r.ewing is in the marine corps reserves and currently on active duty recovering from war-related injuries. he served as a civil affairs team leader in anbar prove in.
sergeant kelly daugherty of the colorado army national guard served as a military police woman helping guards supply convoys in iraq. after leaving the army she helped found iraq veterans against the war. and marine corpse lieutenant wade zircle did two tours in iraq including the first battle of fallujah. he left the ma reens in 2005 and founded vets for freedom an advocacy group that promoted the surge. i want to welcome all of you to the newshour. i would like to start with your own experience first. greg baumgartner, start wu. how did serving in iraq affect you, change you? >> i think the first thing that comes to mind is before we actually went across the border in 2003, we were all pulled together into a hangar in an air base in kuwait. we were given a talk by a military chaplain. one of the things that he said was, we're about to embark on
something that was going to be the most important thing that we were going to do in our lives. i think for the most part that holds true for me. other than, you know, the birth of my daughter and marrying my wife, it is the most important thing that i've done in my life. it's shaped me. it's changed me. very deep and very personal ways. i think that iraq is something that i live with every day. it continues to shape how i do things even to this day. even five, six years later. >> brown: what about for you? >> i couldn't agree more. it became a defining moment in my life. there is me previous to iraq and me post iraq. aside from the injuries that i'm still dealing with, my personal outlook and my whole... my whole persona is different. what greg said about this being the most important thing
we might do in our lives, to date that was true. i know that i had an impact on the lives of several iraqis and on the soldiers and marines. they had a significant impact on me. so i would agree 100%. >> brown: it was, of course, a very controversial war. kelly daugherty, as we said, your experience led you to become an advocate against it. tell us about that. >> right. well, going over to iraq initially i was not supportive of the invasion but i thought maybe we would be able to do some good. so i tried to look on the bright side of things. my experience definitely did transform me. it showed me the reality of military invasion and occupation and what effect that has in people's lives. and then returning home, you know, iraq is a life- transforming event to take part in a war and an occupation. while the actual deployment was very... has been very
central in my life, what i've done post that, my work with other veterans in trying to advocate for an end to the war in iraq and the afghanistan and support a veterans rights has been totally life changing. >> brown: wade, you came to a very different conclusion about the war after serving there. link up your own experience to what your view of the war became. >> sure, jeffrey. i think i served early in the war 2003 for the invasion and then in fallujah in 2004. i and my fellow marines, most of them i felt like the war was not being prosecuted the way it should much we weren't doing the things we were supposed to be doing. we didn't have enough troops. we weren't employing the right tactics and the right strategy. so we came home and we really advocated to increase the troop levels and to fight this war to win it. we also wanted the war to end
but we wanted to end in honor and also in success for u.s. forces. >> brown: can i start with you on that kind of big question that the nation asks: was it worth it? was it worth it based on your experience? >> i do. i think military members and veterans were biased because we want it to be worth it. we've invested a lot of time and effort and periods of our lives towards a mission. so i think there's a natural proclivity to want the mission to be worthwhile. so for me it was worth it. and i think the history books will really judge it in the long run, was this the right strategic move to make for the u.s. in 2003? but i think if you look where iraq is now, where the iraqi people are now, and where they were under a lifetime of saddam hussein's oppression, i think iraq is better off. i think the middle east is
better off. i think the world is better off. >> brown: greg baumgartner. is this an easy question for you if i ask, was it worth it question? >> it's a little bit more difficult tore me to answer that question. i have a very complex feeling about it. i certainly want and i certainly believe that what we've done in iraq, i'm hoping that the blood and treasure that we've spent on this is going to be worth it. you know, today's and even recent events with bombings in baghdad immediately after we leave, i certainly am pessimistic about that. however, i am so proud of the work that my fellow soldiers, marines and airmen did in iraq. i think that iraq right now has the best chance it's ever had or it's ever going to get. it really depends on what the iraqis want to do with it now. again i'm very pessimistic about iraq's future.
>> brown: kelly daugherty, chime in here or pick up on what you started with your work after leaving the service. >> right. well i was actually on the same program about six years ago in 2005, and the question was the same. was it worth it or is it worth it? and i would say the same thing i said then which is absolutely not. i think the question itself is a little bit of a strange question because the reasons for us ininvading iraq were supposedly weapons of mass destruction which i believe were totally lies basically we went into iraq based on lies. so many people have been killed, injured, traumatized. there's been so much damage done that we cannot ever really quantify the amount of damage that has been done. i think for someone like myself, it is definitely not been worth it. it may have been worth it for someone like an oil executive or a defense contractor, but i think for the majority of the actual human beings affected by the invasion and occupation,
it has been a huge mistake. >> brown: mr. ewing, you were talking about your own feeling like you helped people there. >> yes. >> brown: when you look at the bigger picture, what do you see? >> well, i have a couple of viewpoints on it. from the bigger picture, there is increased stability in the region. there is a working democratic government there now. and the people there are experiencing a level of freedom they hadn't ever in their history experienced. from that standpoint i think it was worth it. that dove tails off my own personal experience. my family on my father's side is from guatemala. that country has suffered a lot of unrest, a lot of rule under military hunas and corruption and things of the same nature that we removed in iraq. i can remember times when... i can remember seeing on tv before i deployed the throngs of people that were happy to see saddam be removed from
power. when i was there in 2004-2005, i remember specifically before the battle for fallujah the people asking us whenever we went out on patrols, the people asking us when were we going to get rid of the insurgents because we want to live, we want freedom. i heard that a lot. that was my own personal experience. that shapes my viewpoint. it absolutely was worth it. >> brown: what about the question for all of you about now and in this country. after all these years we have thousands of soldiers and marines who, with this experience that you've all had and they're now come home. first of all, was it hard to come home? wade we'll start with you. was it hard for you personally to come back to real life, so to speak? >> it was and it wasn't. i was wounded on my last tour and was evacuated so i spent about six weeks in the hospital recuperating before i was released into civilian
society to finish rehabilitation. so i had some time to decompression. i think i had a little bit of different experience than your average soldier or marine who one week is in iraq fighting insurgents and the next week is in the barroom dealing with civilians. i had a decompression time that most people didn't. but i think it's a hard adjustment. this has been talked about a lot. i think my other fellow veterans probably feel this way that are on the program. this evening. very, very small fraction of this country is invested or is sacrificed in this war. it's less than 1% of the overall population. and there's a real disconnect between those who have fought these wars and those, the rest of america who has been largely disconnected and disassociated from it. i think there's... within the veterans' community there's the sense that the rest of society doesn't really understand or doesn't appreciate as deeply what has
happened in these years since 9/11. >> brown: that's a very important subject. let's continue on that, greg baumgartner do you sense that disconnection between the veterans who served and the rest of us? >> i wholeheartedly agree with what was just said. there's 2.5 million americans that have fought in iraq and in afghanistan. that's less than 1% of the population. america has much less skin in the game. i know people have said that before. but it really holds true when a veteran comes home and realizes that they are in a very, very tiny minority. you know, the only other veterans that i really had to talk to in my area of new jersey were vietnam veterans. and they were very helpful to me. they got me through a really tough time but still there's a generation gap between my father's generation which fought in vietnam and my generation which fought here.
the good news about that is though is that my generation is the facebook generation so i'm in contact with a lot of my, you know, my army buddies that i fought with in the al anbar province. but the flip side of the coin is that there's nobody here on my right and left here in southern new jersey and the philadelphia area that i know who has this same or similar experience that i did. it makes it a little difficult. >> brown: you had a hard time coming back? >> i think so. i think so. i felt that i had a difficult time adjusting from the al anbar province of 2005 to peacetime southern new jersey. they were two completely different environments. >> brown: i saw you nodding when you were listening to that. >> absolutely. i am a reservist. when i first came back, i had, of course, my injuries to deal with. they were addressed but not completely. some of the after-effects didn't manifest right away. >> brown: you have injuries in the neck and back.
>> in my upper spine and shoulder and back. i've had part of my neck fused and i'll have the rest fused in january. but as a reservist, you come back and the whole unit disperses. you're literally left alone. your family and your friends can't relate to it. and the camaraderie that you found in your unit, it's missing because everybody has road trips back home and is going through their own thing sort of in isolation. it was very difficult to come back. >> brown: what do you think about this question of shared sacrifice or lack of it, the disconnect that we were talking about between those who served and the rest of the country? >> i would agree there is. there is a great deal of that. i think it's evidenced by the fact that oftentimes the only acknowledgment i get is somebody handing me a handshake and saying thank you for your service. i personally feel if you are
really grateful, go do something for a vet. volunteer for a charity. go start one. go help in some capacity. i do feel that disconnect. >> brown: kelly daugherty, do you feel that disconnect as well? do you feel it's a problem for us as a nation? >> yes, and i think all of my fellow veterans really hit the nail on the head with this is the common experience of veterans returning is that disconnect. feeling like people, one, don't care about what's happening and are so disconnected and uninformed about what's happening in iraq and in afghanistan and in the military as a whole. so when we talk about the war being over there's a whole other war that veterans are facing and when they return to get care for post traumatic stress disorder, military trauma, traumatic brain injury and other physical and mental injuries that they suffer. it's a huge problem. i mean it's a huge suicide epidemic among veterans and
active duty service members. they're coming back to another low economy? recent history. there's a lot of problems that veterans are trying to deal with coming back from a war zone. >> brown: let me just ask you all-- and i'll ask for a brief answer, starting you with kelly daugherty-- would you do it again? >> well, i don't know. it's not really a brief answer. i wouldn't necessarily change things because i feel like my experience, i've been able to lead it into something positive. but i wish that we had never invaded iraq in the first place. >> brown: wade, would you do it again? >> yes, sir. >> brown: that's a short answer. greg baumgartner? >> i would have to say no, i would tend to echo kelly's feelings on that. i just... not again, no. i was offered a third tour.
it just wasn't in the cards for me. i wouldn't want to do it. >> brown: p.k.ewing. >> i'm in lock step with my fellow marine. wade, i'd be right there with you. >> brown: p.k.ewing, kelly daugherty, wade zircle and greg baumgartner, thank you all very much for joining us. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> thanks. >> ifill: again, the major developments of the day. with eight days left until voting in iowa, republican presidential hopefuls began shifting back to full campaign mode. nigeria faced new uncertainty after christmas day attacks targeting christian churches. at least 39 people were killed. and the arab league sent monitors into syria, as the opposition reported government troops killed 275 civilians in the last week. and to hari sreenivasan, for what's on the newshour online. hari? >> sreenivasan: on our making
sense page, we have a slideshow of some items that are driving sales growth for both luxury and dollar store retailers. on art beat, jeffrey brown looks back at the best and worst movies of the year with "new york times" critic a.o. scott. we also spoke with erik martin, general manager of reddit, about the online community's attempt to host the world's largest secret santa gift exchange with 40,000 people in 114 countries. that's on the rundown. and on our homepage, check out a slideshow of presidential pets during the holidays. all that and more is on our web site, newshour.pbs.org. margaret? >> warner: and that's the newshour for tonight. on tuesday, we'll look at russia, now roiled by protests 20 years after the collapse of the soviet union. i'm margaret warner. >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill. hesereu one an, td again here tomorrow evening. thank you, and good night. , major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
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