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tv   60 Minutes  CBS  November 15, 2009 7:00pm-8:00pm EST

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>> pitts: what skill does it take to do your job? > parsons: honestly, i'm from michigan, so i love to hunt, and that helps a lot. >> pitts: so, whether it's hunting deer in michigan or hunting i.e.d.s in afghanistan, same skill set. >> parsons: roger. >> pitts: one of his commanding officers told us deer hunters like parsons make the best bomb hunters. with his sharp vision, he was able to find one with a trigger smaller than his index finger; it was a clothespin. 30 meters away, you're moving at what speed? >> parsons: about 10, 15 k. >> pitts: and you saw the clothes pin and thought what? >> parsons: i thought at first... when i thought trip wire right away. and so i just started looking more, and i saw the wire.
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>> pitts: thanks to guardsman parsons, the bomb was destroyed. the devices can be triggered by clothespins, but the blasts are often massive. that's why paladin teams travel in these specialized highly armored vehicles. each one costs nearly a million dollars. this one, called a buffalo, has a large, claw-like arm that can dig for bombs in the road. another can snag trip wires lying across the road. thomas lafave, captain of the national guard unit, says the vehicles are targets every time they leave base. >> captain thomas lafave: they know what my purpose is when i roll out with that buffalo. and they've watched it enough to know exactly what that vehicle does. >> pitts: you leave the gates and people are watching you, you think? >> lafave: roger. yep, every time we leave. >> pitts: every day, they're going to be out there trying to kill you. >> lafave: every time we leave. >> pitts: their job was to clear a road so the base commander could drive safely to a meeting with a local official 12 miles away. outside a village, the buffalo, the most highly-armored vehicle
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in the convoy and the biggest target, stopped to dig for a bomb because the squad was attacked here just the week before. >> clear. no bomb. >> pitts: the convoy moved on. but six minutes later... >> buffalo hit. >> secondary [no audio]. >> pitts: the buffalo filled with smoke as two powerful bombs buried in the dirt road exploded, engulfing the vehicle in a huge cloud of dust. despite their training and experience, the squad never saw it coming. >> 3-6, 3-6-6, we're good, we're good. >> 10:00, there's a guy running. 10:00 west, 10:00, about our vehicle. >> look at the tree line, watch the tree line. >> shoot them sons of bitches. >> pitts: two bombers got away. the buffalo, which collapsed in a huge hole, lost its wheel and driveshaft. but all three soldiers inside survived. one of them, sergeant daniel deroche-- that's him with the driveshaft-- was relieved but frustrated. >> sergeant daniel deroche: same god damn spot it happens every time we roll up here. >> pitts: how many times is that for you?
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>> deroche: this is my second hit. cat got the mouse this time, i guess you could say. >> pitts: sergeant cabrera found the detonation wires buried in the road. easy to do here because there are so many dirt roads in afghanistan. cabrera and his partner, specialist joshua gross, told us the first bomb hit its target, but the second one, 30 yards away, missed. >> cabrera: this right here was the first explosion that went off. this right here was the second one. >> pitts: in this instance, did the trigger man make a mistake or were you guys just lucky? >> cabrera: trigger man made a mistake. >> specialist joshua gross: and we were lucky. we were lucky he made a mistake. >> pitts: lucky, because it's usually the second bomb that causes the most casualties. after the first explosion, men like sergeant cabrera go to investigate. and that's when insurgents often set off the second bomb. something with your name on it? >> cabrera: yes, sir. >> pitts: meant to maim or kill you? >> cabrera: yes, sir. >> pitts: roadside bombs are also meant to prove to afghans the united states, with its superior military, still can't
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protect its own troops or them. how much do you think it costs to make an i.e.d. in afghanistan? >> cabrera: maybe ten u.s. dollars. >> pitts: ten dollars? you could lose your life over... >> cabrera: ten dollars. >> pitts: one soldier we talked to had been hit by i.e.d.s on the same road, within a half kilometer, three times. >> jarkowsky: right. well, the enemy is relentless in the way he employs these. and so, you can't stop. ours is a fight of constant, consistent pressure where we have to be relentless, just as that enemy is. this is not a fast fight. >> pitts: it's warfare at a snail's pace. we stopped so often, we averaged just two miles an hour. captain foster thought there might be a bomb hidden in this field. the local farmers seemed friendly enough, but a bomb wire was found on their land.
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>> it's still sitting here all on the spool on the east side of the road. >> foster: we're pulling security on the east side of the road. >> pitts: you're watching their back now. >> foster: roger. >> pitts: one of the vehicles dug for explosives but couldn't find any. with darkness falling, it was up to sergeant cabrera again. so he put on his 80-pound bomb suit and took what soldiers call "the long, lonely walk." the road appeared safe. but to be sure, he set off two explosive charges. turns out there wasn't a bomb connected to the command wire. the convoy presumed the road was clear enough to move on... >> ( explosion ) >> pitts: ...when another bomb exploded behind us. >> foster: looks like we got out of there in time. >> pitts: just before midnight, we made it safely to an old farmhouse turned military outpost. while his men slept, we talked with captain foster about a difficult 17-hour day. so, did you accomplish your mission today? >> foster: yes sir. >> pitts: so, after mortars, i.e.d.s, this was a good day?
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>> foster: yes, sir. everybody came home safe. >> pitts: you seem a bit somber. or just exhausted? >> foster: no, it's... at the end of the day, knowing that all my soldiers are safe, that's when i sit down in a quiet time and thank god for watching over them. >> yeah, roger that. he said to pull forward. >> pitts: hours later, near the end of their mission, captain foster's men were attacked again. >> i.e.d.-- lead vehicle's been hit. >> pitts: around that bend in the road, the smoke in the distance meant that a massive bomb had exploded under the lead vehicle, just two miles from base. the vehicle appeared to have been totaled. all three men on board were injured. within minutes, soldiers climbed ridges on both sides of the road, looking for the bomber. >> foster: they went looking for the trigger man. >> pitts: but your expectation is that someone had to be eyeballing this convoy in order for it to go off. >> foster: yes, sir, that's the
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initial expectation. >> pitts: several men and a child in a car nearby were questioned and released. in our two days on the road, the bomb squad encountered five bombs. three soldiers were injured, two others shaken up. one u.s. vehicle was damaged, another wrecked. not a single bomber was captured or killed. you've been briefed on the mission we went on. was it successful? >> jarkowsky: overall, yes. it was successful in that that force was able to find i.e.d.s. >> pitts: did they find the i.e.d.s, or the i.e.d.s find them? >> jarkowsky: some of both. some were found and rendered safe. i think we destroyed them, and at least one of them. others, we found the hard way. >> pitts: for the american people who see those scenes of the explosions, vehicles being damaged, who say america just got its butt kicked that day, you say what? >> jarkowsky: not at all. a vehicle getting blown up, doing what it was designed to do to absorb that blast is not us
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getting our butts kicked; it's us removing that threat. >> pitts: do you ever think this is a fight you can't win? they go out, they place a bomb, you remove it, the next day, they put out another bomb. >> gross: right. i mean, i try not to think about it too much because it doesn't really help anybody, you know? >> pitts: what do you think? is this a fight you can win? >> cabrera: beats me. >> gross: i guess... i guess winning, to me, is going home, really, after our deployment's done. >> cabrera: exactly. >> gross: is going home. >> cabrera: going home alive. >> pitts: that's how you measure success in afghanistan? >> cabrera: yes, sir. >> cbs money watch update sponsored by:. >> good evening. more than a third of u.s. saab dealers will close after general motors completes its sale of the swedish brand. >> and an auction in new york city bernard madoff's watchs along with his wife's jewelry and other items brought in $1 million. and a 2012 won the weekend box office.
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i'm russ mitchell, cbs news.
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>> stahl: there is something about dinosaurs that captures the imagination-- giant, mysterious animals that roamed the earth for millions of years, now gone forever. all they've left us are their fossils, the dried-out mineral remnants of the creatures they once were, with the organic material that gave them life long gone. or so everyone always thought, until b-rex, a 68-million-year- old tyrannosaurus rex who was dug up and named by a paleontologist from montana state university, whose unorthodox approach to dinosaurs may be changing the whole dino ballgame. think dinosaur, and most of us think this-- the 1993 classic film "jurassic park," with its
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dinosaur resurrection experiment gone wrong, and its embattled hero, famed paleontologist alan grant. you consulted on that movie. >> jack horner: i did consult on all those movies. >> stahl: and they said that the guy, alan grant, was you. >> horner: yes, well, fortunately, he didn't get eaten. >> stahl: meet jack horner, the real-life alan grant. he's one of the most prominent and controversial paleontologists in the country, a dyslexic macarthur foundation genius who never finished college, and who says he doesn't care why dinosaurs went extinct. to him, the important part is how they lived. >> horner: i'm trying to figure out the biology of dinosaurs and what they were like as living creatures. >> stahl: you want to know what their behavior was, how they treated their young? >> horner: i want to know everything we can know about them, and make one if we can. >> stahl: make a dinosaur? the things jack horner says make him a maverick, but the finds he's made, including more t. rexes than anyone else in the
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world, make him a legend. >> horner: see if you can tell me what these are. >> stahl: oh, my gosh. are these teeth? >> horner: yes. >> stahl: look at that. and not just any teeth-- the teeth of the oldest t. rex ever found. >> horner: this little pocket right here in the teeth is where the next tooth sits. dinosaurs replace their teeth throughout their life, and t. rex replaced all of their teeth every year. >> stahl: but horner is most famous for discovering a kinder, gentler side of dinosaurs. here in the badlands of montana, he and his team uncovered the first dinosaur nesting ground in the world, a vast landscape full of eggs, nests, and babies that helped change our image of dinosaurs. thanks to horner's influence, "jurassic park" showed that most dinosaurs were social animals who lived in colonies, and he's found evidence they actually
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cared for their young. >> horner: this is the tibia, the shin bone. and this is a little less than a month old. and here, here is the same bone. >> stahl: of an adult? >> horner: of a one-year-old. >> stahl: a one-year-old. ( laughs ) horner figured out that such rapidly growing baby dinosaurs couldn't walk at first, meaning that their parents were bringing food back to them in the nest, like birds. his discoveries lent support to a then-controversial but now widely accepted theory that dinosaurs actually gave rise to modern birds. if a little kid today who studies all this in school, and they look up in the sky and see a bird and turn to mom and say, "you know, that's a dinosaur." >> horner: they're right. >> stahl: they're right.
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>> horner: they're right. >> stahl: jack horner told us that birds are dinosaurs. do you agree with that? >> sean carroll: absolutely. >> stahl: sean carroll is a professor of molecular biology and genetics at the university of wisconsin. >> carroll: so, really, dinosaurs never went extinct. >> stahl: dinosaurs never went extinct. but we all think they did. >> carroll: there was an asteroid event that took out a lot of life on earth, including t. rex and all the most famous dinosaurs. but this other group, what we call birds, made it through, and of course, there's thousands of species of birds still around today. >> stahl: the dinosaur-bird connection is largely settled now, but that hasn't stopped horner from using unusual means to make unusual discoveries. and he's found the perfect partner in his protége, mary schweitzer, a professor at north carolina state who studies the internal makeup of ancient bone. she let us in on the paleontologists' trick for telling dinosaur bone from rock. you don't just look at it. >> mary schweitzer: touch your tongue to that. >> stahl: she actually wanted me to lick it. >> schweitzer: it's supposed to stick like velcro.
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>> stahl: ah, ew. it did. >> schweitzer: that's bone. >> stahl: that's how you can tell? >> schweitzer: yeah, because the bone's filled with... with little capillaries. and when you put your tongue on it, the moisture from your tongue sucks out the capillaries... >> stahl: this is 80 million years old and it can do that? >> schweitzer: yeah. >> stahl: oh, my god. >> schweitzer: rocks don't do that. >> stahl: the tricky thing about schweitzer's work is that she needs to get her hands on the insides of dinosaur bones, which means literally breaking the bones apart, and sometimes dissolving pieces of them in acid. most paleontologists won't let her near their precious finds. >> schweitzer: jack is the only paleontologist out there who lets me dissolve his dinosaurs. >> stahl: dissolve his dinosaurs. >> schweitzer: yes. >> stahl: you mean ruin them. >> schweitzer: yeah. >> stahl: isn't that considered a little sacrilegious to... >> horner: yes. >> stahl: ... take one of these precious artifacts, fossils that have been in the ground for 68 million years, and crack it in half? >> horner: we found the first
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dinosaur embryos, the first babies inside of eggs. and it was just from breaking eggs open and looking inside. i mean, people had always thought that eggs were so precious, they didn't want to break them and look inside. and yet, they're like presents. you know, i mean, it's like having a christmas present and never unwrapping it. >> stahl: did you ever, though, have a moment where it was kind of heartbreaking? you know, "i'm..." >> horner: no. >> stahl: "... i'm destroying..." never? >> horner: no. glue is cheap. >> stahl: horner's practice of breaking dinosaur bones apart and sending the insides to mary schweitzer has landed the two of them at the center of one of the biggest controversies paleontology has seen in years. it started back in 2000, with a series of coincidences. a member of jack's team, bob harmon, wandered away from a dig site one day to eat lunch, and noticed a small piece of bone sticking out of the side of a 50-foot cliff. >> bob harmon: i could tell pretty much what it was from where i was sitting. it was a t. rex metatarsal. >> stahl: how was it sticking out? you mean, it was a... here's a cliff, and it was like a... little jutting out? >> harmon: yup, exactly.
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>> schweitzer: he got a folding chair and he stacked it on these rocks, right there. and you can see that this is on the sheer side hill of a cliff. >> stahl: this is not possible. is he attached to anything? >> schweitzer: no, he's not. that's bob. >> stahl: jack named the t. rex b-rex-- in bob's honor-- and made the decision to dig it out. >> horner: this was under 50 feet of rock. i mean, this was in a terrible place. there was no road to it. there was no access to it. and so, for the next three summers, we sent out climbing crews, people that could rappel down cliffs with jackhammers. i mean, it was a horrendous undertaking. >> stahl: the site was so remote, the bones had to be lifted out by helicopter. but the giant cast containing b- rex's thigh bones was too heavy; the chopper couldn't get it off the ground. so after all that excavating, jack gave the order to cut one of b-rex's femurs in two. now, that was heartbreaking. >> horner: no, no, not really.
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i mean, you get a chance to see inside. >> stahl: he shipped the bone fragments that fell out to mary schweitzer. >> schweitzer: so the first piece i pulled out, i picked it up and i looked at it. and i said, "it's a girl and it's pregnant." >> stahl: that's the first time, as i understand it, that anyone had ever been able to identify gender in any dinosaur. >> schweitzer: yes. >> stahl: mary recognized a specific type of bone called medullary bone, which female birds produce when they're about to lay eggs. no one had ever found it before in a dinosaur. it was yet another link to birds, and it meant that b-rex was definitely no "bob." so she calls you up and she says... >> horner: she calls up and says, "we have medullary bone." >> stahl: oh, now, this had to be thrilling. >> horner: yes. very exciting. and that wasn't all. >> stahl: what happened next happened by mistake. mary put some fragments of the bone in acid to dissolve away the outermost layer of mineral.
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but the acid worked too fast, and all the mineral dissolved away. being a fossil, there should have been nothing left, but there was, and it was elastic, like living tissue. >> schweitzer: this is...this is the piece. >> stahl: no. she showed us video she took under the microscope. that's really what happened? that's the dinosaur bone? >> schweitzer: yeah, without mineral, now. that's what was left. >> stahl: it looked like the soft tissue she would've expected to find if it had been modern bone. this was impossible. this bone was 68 million years old. so you see this and you think what? >> schweitzer: i didn't want to tell anybody. >> stahl: you'd be ridiculed. >> schweitzer: yes. and so i... i said to my technician, "okay, do it again. i don't believe it." >> stahl: and yet, in sample after sample, they were there-- things that looked suspiciously like flexible, transparent blood vessels. she finally mustered the courage to tell jack.
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>> horner: she said she dissolved the bone away and there were blood vessels. and, you know, i was, like, shocked. >> stahl: "how could that be?" >> horner: how could that be? that's right. >> stahl: the things mary was finding inside dinosaur bones-- blood vessels, and even what seemed to be intact cells-- pose a radical challenge to the existing rules of science; that organic material can't possibly survive even a million years, let alone 68 million. mary, jack, and their team published their b-rex findings in a series of papers in the journal "science," and were promptly attacked. critics said their samples might have been contaminated, or that the supposed blood vessels were actually something called biofilm, a type of slime. but as mary showed us, she has been able to replicate her findings. these are pieces of an even older dinosaur, a well-preserved 80-million-year-old duckbill. when she dissolved it away in acid...
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>> schweitzer: let's put this under the scope. >> stahl: well, look. is that a blood vessel? >> schweitzer: this is a blood vessel. >> stahl: you're kidding. >> schweitzer: you see the branches right there? look at all of them. it's so consistent, over and over and over again. we do this bone and it comes out and i get excited every time. i can't help it. i mean, 80 million years old. >> stahl: mary published her new results last spring, and while some of her critics have been swayed, the controversy still rages. and the stakes are high-- if blood vessels can survive 80 million years, what about dna? jack horner is looking. his crews are now wearing surgical gloves, unheard of in the world of paleontology where no one used to worry about getting skin cells, sweat, even an occasional spilled beer on fossils. jack is skeptical that the full dinosaur dna sequence will ever be found, but that hasn't stopped him. he's come up with a whole new idea for his dream of making a dinosaur.
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> horner: the best way is just to use a modern dinosaur-- the chicken. because evolution works, birds are actually carrying ancestral dna. >> stahl: horner has written a new book proposing a plan to mine that ancestral dna as a way to reverse-engineer a chicken into what he calls a dino- chicken. it may seem improbable that this is carrying dna from something like this. but when you think about it, birds, like the dinosaurs they evolved from, still walk on hind legs, most have three toes pointing forward with one in the back, and they even all have wishbones. as for dinosaur features you don't see in modern chickens, like long tails, horner's contention is they can be brought back, since you can still see them in embryos as little chicks grow. >> horner: as the chicken embryo develops, it does develop a
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fairly long tail before a gene kicks on and destroys it. so if we can stop that gene, we theoretically can get a chicken to hatch out with a relatively long tail. >> stahl: so you're not saying actually change the gene... >> horner: just switching a gene on or switching a gene off. >> stahl: he says picture a chicken with a long tail, teeth, and little claw-like hands instead of wings. so, maybe there will be a dino- chicken. >> horner: i am sure there will be a dino-chicken. >> stahl: you're sure they'll be a dino-chicken? >> horner: i think we'll be able to make a dino-chicken within the next five years. >> stahl: boy, i see a new movie coming out of this. >> horner: this time, i could get eaten. ( laughter ) it was may 1st. that's when i'd had it with heartburn. it was supposed to be the night i would hook mr. right. i mean look at him - he is really bringing it. and look at me - i'm blank. i got nothing.
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>> pelley: it turns out saddam hussein did possess a weapon of mass destruction, and he used it in a slaughter that few people have heard of until now. after the gulf war in 1991, saddam spent untold millions on a weapon designed to exterminate an ancient civilization called the ma'dan, also known as the marsh arabs. they lived in iraq between the tigris and euphrates rivers, where many biblical scholars place the garden of eden. but if this was the place where man fell from grace, saddam showed just how far man can fall. in a spectacular feat of engineering, he used water in a strike against his own people that not even an atom bomb could match. recently, we journeyed there with an american engineer who's resurrecting this magical land that was turned to dust by saddam's secret weapon.
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>> azzam alwash: we're now officially inside the marsh. and you can see the reeds getting denser and denser, taller and taller. >> pelley: azzam alwash grew up in the water world that the greeks named mesopotamia, "the land between two rivers." i've got to tell you, this is not like any part of iraq i've ever seen before. >> alwash: right? i mean, you... when you say "iraq," it's a desert, right? it's... it's burning oil. it's magical is what it is. this is magic. >> pelley: it's been more than 30 years since he pushed through the reeds with his father, who ran the irrigation office here. >> alwash: so i have very warm memories of this place. >> pelley: in 1978, alwash left to study in america, and became a partner in an engineering firm. >> alwash: i achieved the american dream, scott. >> pelley: you'd been living in the united states for 25 years. you're an american citizen, you married an american woman. your children are as american as they can be. >> alwash: and i'm as american
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as can be. >> pelley: why did you imagine going back to iraq after the life you had built? >> alwash: i realized, at some point in time, that money and success and the american dream is not everything. working on passion, on something that drives you is everything. >> pelley: his passion is a world where mother nature meets father time. it's the cradle of civilization outlined by the tigris and euphrates, the likely birthplace of agriculture, the written word and the wheel. but once the ancients set civilization on its course, the ma'dan stayed behind. their villages are primitive. they weave a life out of the reeds of the marsh. they bind them into homes, feed them to their water buffalo, and burn them to bake their bread. there's not much in the way of electricity, education, or health care. >> ( speaking in arabic )
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>> pelley: but elders, like sahi salay, told us they did just fine until 1991, when they suffered their own kind of holocaust. that was when the u.s. and its allies invaded southern iraq to throw saddam out of kuwait. >> president george bush: but there's another way for the bloodshed to stop. >> pelley: the elder president bush urged iraqis to overthrow their dictator. >> bush: to take matters into their own hands... >> pelley: the ma'dan and other shiites in the south supported an uprising to topple saddam's regime. the marshes, known for ages as a smuggler's paradise, turned out to be a perfect place for the rebels to hide, with their endless maze of waterways, like these on the iranian border. but in 1991, when the allies withdrew, saddam turned eden into hell. >> alwash: the united nations environmental program called it the biggest engineered
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environmental disaster of the last century. >> pelley: saddam tried to wipe out the marsh arabs by destroying their world. he built six canals to divert the waters of the tigris and euphrates out into the desert and the persian gulf. in a five-year project, 90% of the marshes were drained, an area of more than 3,000 square miles. >> alwash: as an engineer, i'm telling you, drying of the marshes is definitely not an easy task. it's a monumental engineering project. he put every piece of equipment available in iraq under his control at the services of the projects needed to dry the marshes. >> pelley: saddam was using water as a weapon? >> alwash: you know, the world was looking for weapons of mass destruction. and it was... the evidence was right under its nose. >> pelley: this is a ma'dan village shot by "national geographic" in the 1970s, when the marshes were the middle east's largest wetland. and this is what most of the region looked like after the manmade drought. to get a sense of the scale of
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the engineering project, we went to have a look with the illinois national guard's 106th aviation wing. that's one of saddam's canals. it was designed to capture the water, carry it past the marshes, and dump it in the persian gulf. one embankment runs through the middle of the picture, but this manmade canal is so wide, you can hardly see the other side more than a mile away. in fact, its wider than the euphrates itself. it's an unbelievable engineering achievement. >> alwash: this is my first time seeing it from the air this close up, and it is... it is spectacular. >> pelley: no one will ever know how many lives were lost and how many families were left in misery by the genocide that followed. >> alwash: they didn't even wait for nature to... to die a natural death. as soon as the embankments were finished, they put light to the reeds of the marshes. >> pelley: set fire to the reeds. >> alwash: set fire to the reeds.
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>> pelley: the cradle of civilization. >> alwash: where eden was. >> pelley: was desiccated. >> alwash: dead. >> pelley: we met some of the survivors, like sheikh hassan, returning to the rubble left by saddam's army. what happened to the village after everyone was ordered out? i mean, what happened to this house? >> sheikh hassan ( translated ): the government gave us three days to get out before the tanks came and crushed our houses. they destroyed about 180 houses in the area. >> pelley: hassan told us that many of his tribesmen were found in mass graves. across the region, thousands were killed; about 100,000 were forced from their homes. but then, 12 years later, when saddam fell, azzam alwash helped launch a counterattack on the fortress of drought. >> alwash: we're coming to it right there. >> pelley: oh, this is where you knocked a hole in the... >> alwash: that's right. >> pelley: ... in the dike. so, you brought heavy earth- moving equipment in and... and knocked a hole in what saddam's
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engineers had built? >> alwash: indeed. i got the last laugh. ( laughs ) >> pelley: it was the beginning of his group called nature iraq, that has developed a plan to restore the marshes. >> alwash: the thing is, it was... it was a small hole. as the water started flowing, it started digging its own passageway. >> pelley: you just had to break it. >> alwash: just... just let the water start going. >> pelley: so, the... the euphrates just pushed its way through there once you broke it? >> alwash: yes. once... once you let the water go in, it just makes its own way. >> pelley: alwash's travels can be dangerous. this is still a war zone. we traveled with a security team lent by the italian ministry of foreign affairs and with a squad of iraqi police. >> alwash: oh, the i.p. is following us. >> pelley: they found us, yes. alwash wasn't sure that just re- flooding the barren earth would resurrect what was lost, but when we traveled deeper into the marshes, we saw what's sprung up since the waters returned in 2003. >> alwash: there. >> pelley: ah, look at that.
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look at that. we have entered another time. >> alwash: this is the water world in the middle of the desert. >> pelley: wow. all these houses built with nothing but reeds? >> alwash: without reeds, you can't have this way of life. reeds are the skeleton of these people's lives. >> pelley: the house of reeds is called a mudhif. alwash wanted one as a meeting hall for his project, and we were there to watch the construction. it's made of nothing but reeds bound by reeds. the arches are planted in the ground and pulled into shape. then, woven mats cover the top. alwash's mudhif is 15 feet tall and 70 feet long. it's where we did our interview and where one of the village elders came to entertain us. ♪
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have a look at the mudhif, and compare it to this 5,000-year- old carving. turns out, they do build them like they used to. near the marshes, the sumerians erected this temple at the city of ur. the sumerians thought the marshes were so important, they wrote a story about them. the story goes that the gods grew angry at man, so they sent a deluge to cover the earth. one of the gods thought that was a terrible idea, so he warned one man to build a boat and save all the animals. the people of this region came up with that story hundreds of years before the old testament gave us noah. the city of ur is said to be the birthplace of abraham, the father of judaism, christianity and islam. now, his descendants are returning to a life that he might have recognized. >> alwash: this cluster behind
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us is a cluster of about three islands built by generations, over generations-- dirt, reed, dirt, reed. every time it settles, they add a new layer. >> pelley: and that's how they make their islands? >> alwash: yes. >> pelley: that's the sumerian creation story, that god laid down reed mats and created man, and created the world. >> alwash: indeed, indeed, exactly. it was... they took it from their lives, and you know, of course the gods lived the way they do, you know. and this is eden. >> pelley: what's happening now is sort of a second creation story. thousands of marsh arabs have returned to this land since the re-flooding began, and the ma'dan are rebuilding their islands, with a few changes that abraham would not have imagined. >> alwash: these people are restoring the marshes, not because they're tree huggers, like i am. they're restoring the marshes because they are trying to live. it's not because they love the birds flying or... or the reeds look nice.
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it's about... it's about livelihood. >> pelley: we saw that when we came up on a reed market. families were bringing their harvest to a place where the new waters spelled the end of saddam's road. what is your hope for this place? >> alwash: my hopes? i see the marshes as a destination for ecotourism. i see the marshes as a destination for archeological tourism. >> pelley: but, you know, that's a very nice picture, but this is a country at war. >> alwash: yeah, okay. so? the war is not going to last forever. "if you're going dream, dream big. it's free." >> pelley: alwash is lobbying parliament to make his boyhood home iraq's first national park. but no matter how big the dream, the marshes will never be what they once were. upstream, as far as turkey and syria, there are more than 30 dams diverting water. there's a serious drought right now.
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and oil has been discovered here; exploration will surely follow. still, about 30% of the marshes have been re-flooded. the land of civilizations past has a future again. >> hilo, everyone, welcome to the cbs sports updated. i'm james brown in new york with scores from the nfl today. cincinnati sweeps the steelers for the first time since '98. new orleans stays perfect at 9 and 0. denver drops its third straight while san diego moves into a first place tie with the broncos. dallas's four-game win streak ends. minnesota faced three games in front in the nfc north and arizona overcomes a 14 point deficit in its win. for more news and scores log on to cbs sports.com.
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>> kroft: an update on a story we called "sabotaging the system." last sunday, the f.b.i. told us about one of the most sophisticated bank robberies ever involving computers. $10 million was stolen in less than 24 hours by emptying a.t.m. machines on three different continents. this week, the f.b.i. broke the case, which involved russian and eastern european hackers. now, a few minutes with andy rooney. >> rooney: the united states takes in more people than any other place in the world. everybody still wants to come to america. those of us who were born americans know how lucky we are, i think. i'd hate to be on the outside, now, trying to get in.
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in 2008, a little over a million people became u.s. citizens. that's a lot, but a lot more wanted to get in and didn't make it. it isn't easy, now. to begin with, you have to fill out a ten-page application and pay $675 to the department of homeland security. they take your picture, fingerprint you, and interview you. they give you a reading and writing exam, and a test on american history. in 1996, i did a piece about immigration, and i wanted to compare the exam they gave then to the new one they're giving to anyone who applies now. you only have to answer six out of ten questions. here are some examples from the old test. what are the colors of the american flag? hmm, i don't think there's any green in it. where is the white house? well, i know there are several white ones in the town i live in. what are the two major political parties in the united states?
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let me see. i don't think the answer is the communist or fascist party. here are some of the new test questions, though, which seem harder to me. the federalist papers supported the passage of the u.s. constitution. name one of the writers? i'm not sure. was ernest hemingway alive then? the house of representatives has how many voting members? i don't know! what territory did the united states buy from france in 1803? gee, i don't know that, either. new jersey? actually, of course, it was louisiana. you can only take the oath after you've passed this test, but my requirements for becoming a citizen would be easier. first, recite the pledge of allegiance. second, promise to pay your taxes. third, sing the "star-spangled banner." and fourth, name the winner of the last super bowl. if you can't do all four, pack your bags and get out. >> kroft: i'm steve kroft. we'll be back next week with another edition of "60 minutes."
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