CBS Plays Story of U.S. Soldiers' Heroism With Neglected Iraqi Children
CBS’s Lara Logan performed a rare act: Reporting a story of heroism among U.S. soldiers. Both the June 18 edition of "The CBS Evening News" and the June 19 edition of "The Early Show" ran an extensive story some members of the 82nd Airborne rescuing neglected Iraqi orphans.
The soldiers discovered malnourished children living in extremely unsanitary conditions. Logan then gave played sound bites of several U.S. soldiers describing the horrific conditions and even gave a human face to those serving their country.
Captain Jim Cook noted he "got a little angry" and Logan reported the children are now being cared for at another facility. At the end of the report, the CBS even ran footage of soldiers playing with and nurturing the children. The entire transcript from "The Early Show" is below.
RUSS MITCHELL: Four years of war in Iraq has taken many innocent lives. But last week, U.S. Troops saved some two dozen special needs children who apparently were victims of their caretakers' greed. We should note that some of the pictures in the following report are fairly graphic. CBS News chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan is live in Baghdad with this exclusive story. Lara, good morning.
LARA LOGAN: Good morning, Russ. Well, after our story aired on CBS, we're told by Prime Minister Maliki's office that he met with his senior advisers. He has ordered personally two separate investigations to be carried out by the Ministries of Health and Labor. He knows that he has to act quickly in this situation. This was a very distressing scene for both the Iraqi soldiers and the American soldiers who made this terrible discovery. This was the scene that shocked battle-hardened soldiers, captured in photographs obtained by CBS News. On a daytime patrol in central Baghdad, just over a week ago, a U.S. military advisory team and Iraqi soldiers happened to look over a wall and found something horrific.
STAFF SERGEANT MITCHELL GIBSON, USA: They saw multiple bodies laying on the floor of the facility. They thought they were all dead, so they threw a basketball, tried to get some attention and actually one of the kids lifted up their head and tilted over and looked and then just went backdown. So they said, "oh, they're alive" so they went into the building.
LOGAN: Inside the building, a government-run orphanage for special needs children, they found more emaciated little bodies tied to the cribs.
STAFF SERGEANT MICHAEL BEAL, USA: I saw children that you could see literally every bone in their body, they were so skinny, had no energy to move whatsoever, no expression on their face.
LIEUTENANT STEPHEN DUPERRE, USA: Kids were tied up, naked, covered in their own --
DUPERRE: Waste. Feces.
LOGAN: It didn't stop there. The soldiers found kitchen shelves packed with food and in the stockroom, rows of brand-new clothing still in their plastic wrapping. Instead of giving it to the boys, the soldiers believe it was being sold to local markets. This is the man in charge, the orphanage caretaker. His well-kept office shown in this photo, a stark contrast to the terrible conditions just outside this room.
CAPTAIN JIM COOK, USA: My first thought when I walked in there was shock. And then I, I got a little angry that they were treating the kids like that. And then that's just when everybody started getting upset.
LOGAN: Nothing more emotional than finding this boy who Army medics didn't expect to survive. For Staff Sergeant Gibson that was the hardest part.
GIBSON: Seeing this boy that was here where we're standing with thousands of flies covering his body, unable to move any part of his body. You know, we had to actually hold his head up and tilt his head to make sure that he was okay. The only thing basically that was moving was his eyeballs, flies in the mouth, in the eyes, in the nose, ears, eating all of the open wounds, from sleeping on the concrete.
LOGAN: In this boiling sun here?
LOGAN: I mean, it's well over 100 degrees.
GIBSON: 120 or so, yes.
LOGAN: Hard to believe that this is the same boy one week later. Now clean and being cared for, along with all the other boys in a different orphanage, located only a few minutes away from where they suffered their ordeal. When we visited the orphanage with the soldiers, it was clear the boys had been starved of human contact as much as anything else. Some still had marks on their ankles from where they were tied. Since only one boy can talk, it's impossible to know what terrible memories they might have locked away. This is a tough test for the Iraqi government. How a nation cares for its most vulnerable is one of the most important benchmarks for the health of any society. Lara Logan, CBS News, Baghdad. When we watched this story with some of our Iraqi colleagues and friends here, Russ, they could hardly look at the pictures. And they found it very difficult to come to terms with the fact that this could happen to their own children inside their own country. Russ.
MITCHELL: Lara, it is very hard to watch. Let me ask you something. What happens to these kids at this point?
LOGAN: Well, they're now being housed temporarily in this other orphanage which is a much better facility. The conditions are far better. As you saw there, the children are clean. They're being fed. Their basic needs are being taken care of. But they're only there temporarily. This orphanage lacks money, just like everything else in Iraq. They're worried about security. They lack the resources and proper medical resources to take care of these children properly. And so they're desperately in need of help and hoping the Maliki government will be able to give that to them. So really, the future for these boys is quite undecided at this point.
MITCHELL: You've seen a lot obviously in your time in Baghdad. What was your reaction when you went to that orphanage and saw these kids after viewing those horrible pictures?
LOGAN: You know, it's the only thing that you can cling to is the fact that they're in a much better situation. I just -- I couldn't believe how much better they were doing. When you think that it was only a week before that they were really on death's door. And the recovery that they made, just on having food and water and being treated like human beings, was nothing short of a miracle. But what was quite overwhelming was how forgiving the children were. They wanted human contact and attention more than they seemed to want anything else, Russ.