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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Interview With Paul Bremer, Jalal Talabani; Interview With John Edwards
Aired November 16, 2003 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's noon in Washington, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 5:00 p.m. in London and 8:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for "LATE EDITION."
We'll get to our interview with Ambassador Paul Bremer and Jalal Talabani in just a few minutes. But first, let's get a quick check of the hour's headlines.
BLITZER: We're getting word right now of a new audiotape that has aired on Arabic television, a tape purportedly from Saddam Hussein. CNNArabic.com's Caroline Faraj is joining us now live on the phone from Dubai, where this tape has just aired on the Al Arabiya television network.
Caroline, tell our viewers around the world what you hear.
CAROLINE FARAJ, CNNARABIC.COM: Well, Wolf, Al Arabiya has aired the tape a few minutes ago. They say they believe it is Saddam Hussein. And the tape that was less than 10 minutes, he started his speech by basically greeting his people for Ramadan and also wishing them happy Eid after Ramadan, which is, in a way, he is indicating that it was basically recorded during Ramadan. He concluded his statement (ph) as well by giving the date, by saying it was recorded in the middle of Ramadan, November 2003.
He also greeted his people and, mainly, the military people in Iraq by saying -- by basically welcoming the way that they're fighting the occupiers and that strong position and opposition.
He also said that the month of Ramadan is the month of victories, so he is pretty sure, according to the tape, that they will be victorious, as well.
The Axis of Evil, he called the U.S. and U.K. and Zionists, according to the tape, he called them Axis of Evil. And he said that they thought they can occupy Iraq and steal its goods and its resources, but they will be defeated.
Also, Wolf, he said -- he called President Bush and Prime Minister Blair liars who are now seeking military help from the world. He also called for the war -- he said that they called for the war thinking they are coming here for a picnic and for destroying the weapons of mass destruction, as generally (ph) cover for their great crime.
He also called on his people to continue their jihad and their struggle until they force the occupiers to leave Iraq. And he said no chance for the withdrawal of the occupiers, but through confrontation and jihad.
He reiterated that he had the right solution for his people and for the victory of the Iraqi people and freeing Iraq.
And also he hinted in the speech that is attributed to him according to Al Arabiya, he hinted that whoever is elected by the occupiers are basically not Iraqis and should be immediately set aside. However, the Iraqi people should elect their leaders from those who had served them for several years. If they did some mistakes, it is acceptable, but it should be chosen freely after the withdrawal of the occupiers.
So, in other words, Wolf, he is basically saying that he is hinting that he should be going back to power.
BLITZER: All right, we'll be checking back with you, Caroline Faraj of CNNArabic.com, in Dubai.
We'll get some more information on this tape, presumably how Al Arabiya managed to get it in the first place. CNN's Caroline Faraj reporting from Dubai.
Faced with increasingly sophisticated attacks by insurgents in Iraq, the Bush administration is making a major strategy shift with proposals to speed up the transfer of power to the Iraqi people. Iraq's U.S.-backed Governing Council is pushing a plan that would establish a sovereign provisional government by next June.
Just a short while ago, before this Saddam Hussein purported tape was released, I spoke with the U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, as well as the Iraqi Governing Council's president, Jalal Talabani.
BLITZER: Ambassador Bremer, Mr. Talabani, thanks so much for joining us on "LATE EDITION." Lots to discuss today, lots of important issues at hand.
First to you, Ambassador Bremer. What do you know for certain about the downing, the crash of these two Black Hawk helicopters near Mosul?
PAUL BREMER, U.S. CIVILIAN ADMINISTRATOR IN IRAQ: Well, Wolf, at the moment, the only thing we know for sure is that they collided in midair. They were on separate missions, so they were not flying together in formation. And at the moment, that's all we know.
We're waiting to hear the, you know, investigation of the military at this point. It's obviously a very tragic thing that happens, and it does remind us we're at war against terrorists here.
BLITZER: Mosul is in the northern part of Iraq, which had been considered relatively safe, just like Nasiriyah is in the southern part of Iraq, outside the Sunni triangle, where we saw that huge terrorist attack against the Italian forces.
Is this resistance, as some call it, escalating outside the Sunni triangle?
BREMER: Well, on a statistical basis, no. At the moment, we still have about 95 percent of the attacks against our forces are in the rather restricted area from Tikrit down to Baghdad. But we do face a sophisticated terrorist enemy, that is for sure. And we are seeing more sophisticated tactics over the past couple of months.
BLITZER: General Abizaid, the commander of the Central Command, says there are some 5,000 well-organized, well-financed, well-armed insurgents out there. How reliable is that number?
BREMER: It's hard to know, because in intelligence matters of this kind, it's never very precise. But we are certainly faced with a determined number of terrorists here.
And one of the things we're working with the Iraqis on, and one of the important things of yesterday's agreement, was to give the Iraqis more authority and responsibility for their security and for their political development. And we believe that will help with our security in the months ahead.
BLITZER: Do you believe Saddam Hussein is personally involved in planning these attacks against the U.S. and coalition forces and their allies?
BREMER: There's no evidence to suggest that he is. We believe he's still alive. We believe he's in Iraq. And we will sooner or later capture or kill him, and that will be a very good day for Iraq and for America.
BLITZER: Mr. Talabani, let me bring you into this conversation. You're the president, the rotating president of the Iraqi Governing Council right now. I'll read to you a quote that was in The Washington Post on Thursday from Major General Charles Swannack Jr., U.S.:
"I believe Saddam Hussein always intended to fight an insurgency, should Iraq fall. That's why you see so many of these armed caches out there in significant numbers all over the country. They were planning to go ahead and fight an insurgency, should Iraq fall."
Do you agree with General Swannack?
JALAL TALABANI, PRESIDENT, IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL: Well, I think Saddam Hussein is alive, as Ambassador Bremer said. But I don't think he is so brave or so strong to arrange all these things.
There are activities from terrorist organizations coming from outside the country. And I don't think Saddam Hussein has any chance or any future for Iraq. He's finished.
BLITZER: Why is it so hard, therefore, to find him?
TALABANI: Because Saddam Hussein was -- when he was president, he was living in disguise. He was always planning to have different places to hide himself from, from the people. He was afraid from the people, even from people who are surrounding him. He has lots of places for hiding himself.
Second, because the -- Iraq is a wide country. You have many places that some person can hide themselves for a while. But I don't think he will be able to hide himself forever.
BLITZER: Do you believe, Mr. Talabani, that Saddam Hussein has changed his physical appearance, his face, for example?
BLITZER: On the basis of what do you say that?
TALABANI: That's true. Because we have some friends who got information from three people close to Saddam Hussein, and they saw that.
BLITZER: Mr. Bremer, let me bring you back. There was a major shift, as you obviously well know, in U.S. policy over these past few days, a shift that is now calling for a new Iraqi government to come into being by next June, long before there's a new Iraqi constitution.
This is a 180-degree shift in policy. Explain to our viewers in the United States and around the world why the administration accepted this major shift.
BREMER: Well, first, there's no major shift here, Wolf. The president's strategy and objectives in Iraq have been clear all along. He wants to have a democratic Iraqi government at peace with its neighbors and without terrorists.
We had preferred, as you suggest, that that democratic government come into being after a permanent constitution was written. As it turns out, the Governing Council informed us about a week ago that they had come to an impasse on the best way to get a permanent constitution written and that this would probably take another two years.
Both the Governing Council and the United States government felt that that was simply too long to wait. And so we've arrived at a position that is perfectly consistent with the president's strategy. We're going to have an interim constitution.
I think they'll call it a fundamental law here, but basically an interim constitution which will embed in it a lot of the principles that we would like to see in a permanent constitution: a bill of rights, equal opportunity for all people, equality of all individuals, freedom of worship.
And that will then be the platform on which a new Iraqi provisional government will be elected in the summer.
BLITZER: Next June, this new provisional government will take over. What does that mean, practically speaking, for the number of U.S. troops who will have to remain in Iraq beyond then?
BREMER: When we talked to the Governing Council in the last week or so about this, we also pointed out that we would like to negotiate an agreement that provides for the continuation of coalition forces here to help Iraq with its security.
We intend to negotiate that agreement in the same timeframe between now and June. And it will, as Mr. Talabani has said to me privately, change the American occupation to an invited presence. And that's what we'll be doing with him and his colleagues here in the next six months.
BLITZER: So will there still be a need for, let's say, more than 100,000 U.S. troops on the ground after this provisional government is established?
BREMER: The number of troops on the ground is not related directly to the coming into power of a new Iraqi government. It will be related to the security situation on the ground.
We will still have a fight against terrorists here that we have to fight with our Iraqi friends. So the number of troops will not be determined by the fact that there's a new government. It will be determined by the conditions on the ground.
BLITZER: Mr. Talabani, as you well know, Operation Iron Hammer is now under way, a major U.S. offensive going after the insurgents. Some Iraqis fear, though, that this new U.S. offensive could turn out to be counterproductive in alienating rank-and-file, average Iraqis.
Are you and the members of the Iraqi Governing Council fully onboard with the military strategy of the U.S. right now?
TALABANI: Well, let me tell you that all Iraqis, including members of the GC, are grateful to the American brave Army who came to liberate us. And we are in full cooperation with them in the war against terrorism.
Their strategy is, of course, decided by them. We think that they are going on the right way. And they have done a lot for Iraqi people, taking in consideration the special situation in Iraq.
BLITZER: There's a poll, Mr. Talabani, that was in The Wall Street Journal, NBC News poll with The Wall Street Journal that came out in recent days: "Did the Bush administration underestimate the situation in Iraq?" Sixty percent of the American people said they believed the administration did underestimate it; 37 percent believed they did not underestimate.
Do you believe the U.S. and you, the Iraqi coalition partners, underestimated the ability of Saddam loyalists and others to cause this kind of reaction, this kind of resistance? TALABANI: No, I don't believe that. I think the United States' policy was correct and our policy was correct. But what happened, many terrorists came from outside the country.
And, let me say, the Americans are so democrats in dealing even with the enemy. For that, I think the main policy of the United States of America was correct. And we have the same estimation.
But the terrorist activities, which is in special parts of Iraq, not all over Iraq, is mainly done by the enemies of Iraqi people coming outside, like al Qaeda and some extremist Wahhabis coming from outside to do this.
BLITZER: Mr. Talabani, are you relieved -- you're the leader of the Kurds, one of the leaders of the Kurds in northern Iraq. Are you relieved that the Turks have decided, at least for now, not to accept the U.S. invitation and send troops into Iraq?
TALABANI: Well, let me say that we are considering Turkey as a friendly country. We have no kind of animosity with Turkey. What we say that, we think that Iraqis are able to assure -- to achieve peace and stability in their country. And we are not in need to having neighboring countries' forces in Iraq. Not only Turkey; Iran, Syria included also, and that is only the reason.
BLITZER: Mr. Bremer, we're going to get ready to wrap up. Two very brief questions to you.
First of all, there's an important article in the Weekly Standard, a magazine here in Washington, just out, quoting extensively from a memorandum that Doug Feith, the top Pentagon official, wrote to the chairman and the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, making the case for a direct linkage for more than a decade between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.
Have you seen this memo? And what can you tell us about it? Is it true?
BREMER: I haven't seen it, Wolf, so I can't comment on the memo. But having spent some time myself in the counterterrorist field in the last decade or so, I don't think anybody should be surprised if there were contacts between al Qaeda and the government in Iraq. We've known that for some time.
And as Mr. Talabani said, since liberation, we have seen an increase in al Qaeda and its affiliate, Ansar al-Islam, two very important terrorist groups coming into Iraq. We are on the front line of the war on terrorism here now, and we've got to defeat them here.
BLITZER: One final question. One of your aides, Dorren Smith (ph), formerly of ABC News, has spoken publicly about establishing what some are calling a Baghdad-SPAN to get briefings, to get information from Iraq directly to the American people without the so- called filter of the national news media.
You're very familiar with existing law, State Department restrictions, Voice of America, USIA, that that kind of so-called propaganda can't be sent back to the United States. How are you going to get around existing law on that front?
BREMER: We're not going to break any laws, Wolf. We're going to use all the media that are available to us, print and film, to get the good news story back to the American people. There's a lot of good news here.
It is a, I think, a structural deformation of the news that bad news is what makes news. There's a lot of good news here. Certainly, we have bad days like today when we had this helicopter crash. But there's been an enormous amount of progress here. And we intend to tell that story any way we can. And we'll do it legally, don't worry.
BLITZER: Should the American taxpayer, though, fund that kind of operation?
BREMER: We are going to tell our story as well as we can, Wolf, and we won't break any laws. We've got access to all of you here. We talk to you regularly. We have many, many journalists here. We'll use all those outlets to tell the story.
BLITZER: Ambassador Bremer and Jalal Talabani, thanks to both of you for joining us. Appreciate it. I know how busy both of you are.
BLITZER: Coming up, a son of the South -- is that the key to John Edwards winning his party's nomination and the presidency? We'll have an exclusive interview with the North Carolina senator and Democratic presidential candidate.
Then, searching for al Qaeda, a conversation with Saudi Arabia's foreign policy adviser, Adel Al-Jubeir, about what his country is doing to clamp down on the terrorist network.
And later, Kobe Bryant back in the courtroom. Two prominent attorneys examine the basketball star's strategy as he fights a sexual assault charge in a Colorado courtroom.
"LATE EDITION" will continue right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And George W. Bush wants to shift the tax burden in this country from wealth and the wealthy to those working-class families. Their backs are already breaking. They can't stand it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: North Carolina Senator and Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards addressing his fellow Democrats last night at Iowa's annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner, a key political event on the Democratic Party circuit.
Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
Joining us now from Des Moines, Iowa is Senator Edwards.
Senator, thanks so much for joining us.
EDWARDS: Glad to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: You probably heard Ambassador Paul Bremer suggest this new timetable for getting a provisional Iraqi authority in place, an Iraqi government in place, by next June is the way to go.
Is it the way to go?
EDWARDS: Well, first, I'm glad that Ambassador Bremer and the administration have recognized that their policy is failing and they have to make a change.
The problem is, they're now still missing the most critical element, which is international involvement. I mean, we need the United Nations involved in this process. I also believe we need NATO involved in providing security in Iraq.
But this thing will never be successful so long as it has an American face on it. And we have to make that transition from an American operation to an international operation, and that should be done immediately. In fact, it should have been done a long time ago.
BLITZER: I interviewed one of your Democratic rivals, Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor, earlier this week, and he said you and your Washington colleagues, Democrats, are in part responsible for the mess the United States is in now in Iraq. Listen to what Howard Dean said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We wouldn't be in Iraq today if it hadn't been for people like Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards, Senator Lieberman and Richard Gephardt, because they all supported the president when they should have been asking the tough questions last October.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He's referring to your vote in favor of the legislation authorizing the use of force in Iraq. What do you say to Governor Dean?
EDWARDS: I say to him, I did what I believed was right, and I stand by it. But what I did not authorize is what this president is doing right now, which is a policy that has no chance of success.
I said back then, Wolf, that it was critical, in order for this operation to be successful, that we have a clear plan for what would happen now, number one, which this president did not have, and, number two, that there be international involvement, that we could not do this by ourselves.
Unfortunately, the president has failed on both those fronts, and we're seeing the consequences of that right now.
BLITZER: Do you regret that vote last October?
EDWARDS: Oh, I haven't changed my mind about that, but what I do believe is, the right thing to have done and the right thing to be doing right now is to take the American face off this operation. It is the only way -- we have real potential for doing good in Iraq if we do this thing the right way. I mean, we can establish a democracy, a foothold for democracy in a part of the world where we desperately need one. We can establish or at least move toward a democracy in an Arab nation where we also need one.
I mean, we can do a lot of good. The operation itself can be very effective and help secure that region of the world if it's done the right way, which the president's not doing.
BLITZER: Do you regret the vote that you cast in favor of the PATRIOT Act shortly after 9/11 that former Vice President Al Gore condemned in recent days as a bitter blow to civil liberties in the United States?
EDWARDS: Well, I think actually Vice President Gore and I are pretty much in the same place on this. There are provisions in the PATRIOT Act, Wolf, that should stay in place, that don't get any attention. Things like provisions that allow us to go after money- laundering operations, provisions that bring our law up to date with existing technology, solving some of the information-sharing between the government and law enforcement that existed before September the 11th. Those were all good provisions. They need to be there.
But there are provisions that need to be changed, for example, the sneak-and-peek provisions which allow searches without notice to the people who are being searched without, I believe, adequate safeguards, with the provisions that allow the attorney general to go into book stores and libraries, again, I believe without adequate safeguards in place. So there are things in the PATRIOT Act that clearly need to be changed.
And I also think that there are other issues that aren't directly related to the PATRIOT Act, such as the administration's policy on enemy combatants, that allows them to arrest an American citizen on American soil and put them in prison, keep them there indefinitely and they never see a lawyer or a judge, never get a hearing, never get a chance to prove that they did nothing wrong. I mean, these kind of policies go to the heart of what America is about.
BLITZER: So you're saying Jose Padilla, who's been held as an enemy combatant, a United States citizen, should be allowed to meet with a lawyer.
EDWARDS: Absolutely. I think any American citizen arrested on American soil, even someone like Jose Padilla -- I mean, you always have to look at the big picture, and the question is, 20, 25 years from now, how will we feel about whether we were strong enough and had the backbone to stand up for the very rights and liberties that make America great?
And that is the test at the end of the day, and I believe these kind of policies and some of these provisions in the PATRIOT Act run contrary to that.
BLITZER: So why did you vote for it?
EDWARDS: Because I think it had some good -- remember, the timing of this is, the vote was about 30 days after September the 11th. We did need to move quickly to fix some of these problems that existed in the law, the things that I talked about a few minutes ago.
But that doesn't mean, Wolf, that there aren't provisions that need to be changed. There are.
BLITZER: Let me show you some numbers. And as I show you these numbers, some recent polling numbers, Senator Edwards, I want to remind our viewers that the most recent Democrats who have been elected to the White House have all been from the South, whether President Johnson or President Carter, President Clinton.
In this Gallup poll, you're only at 7 percent nationally as far as registered Democrats' choice for a nominee. In Iowa, as far as the Iowa caucus is concerned, you're at 5 percent, well behind Dick Gephardt and Howard Dean, as you can see on the screen there. And in New Hampshire, the most recent WMUR poll shows you also only at 5 percent, way behind Howard Dean and John Kerry.
Why are you doing so poorly in all these respective polls?
EDWARDS: Oh, I don't think I'm doing poorly. I think I'm doing very well.
First, to put this in historical context, I think in all of those places, including the national polls, if you go back to 1991, when Bill Clinton was running -- who, we all know, won the nomination and became president -- he was actually in worse shape in most, if not all these polls, that I am now.
Number two, you mentioned the poll in New Hampshire. The people who did the poll specifically said the guy to watch in New Hampshire is John Edwards. Because if you look at the way voters are reacting to him -- favorability, whether they'll consider voting for him -- he's the one who's moving up dramatically.
Exactly the same thing's true here in state of Iowa, in the polling that's been done here.
And, of course, what you're not talking about is the third week, which is South Carolina, where, based on all the polls taken together, I believe I have a double-digit lead.
So I feel good about what's happening in Iowa. We're clearly moving up here, and we have huge momentum. In New Hampshire, voters are responding terrifically. And in South Carolina, we've got the lead.
BLITZER: Senator Edwards, we'll leave it there. We'll continue this conversation down the road. I appreciate it very much.
EDWARDS: Thanks, Wolf. Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: Thank you.
Up next, we'll go back to CNN's Andrea Koppel for a quick check of the hour's top stories.
Then, the United States shifting strategy in Iraq. U.S. senators Mitch McConnell, Chris Dodd debate the pros and cons.
And we want you to weigh in on our Web question of the week: Will Operation Iron Hammer put an end to terrorist attacks in Iraq? Go to cnn.com/lateedition to cast your vote. We'll tell you the results later in the program.
"LATE EDITION" will continue right after the headlines.
BLITZER: President Bush says the United States won't cut and run from Iraq, but realities on the ground have forced the administration to change its strategy. It's a move that will be getting lots of attention from U.S. lawmakers.
We're joined now by two of them, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate's second ranking Republican; Democratic Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Senators, welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
Senator Dodd, the shift in Bush administration strategy to get a provisional government in place by June, allowing Bremer's work to be over with, is this a good strategy?
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: Yes, I certainly agree with it. I wish they'd done it earlier. It has the odor of panic; that's what I worry about here. And there's a concern that this may be the first step of sort of to cut our losses and pull out of here altogether.
So we started out by going it alone. Now we may leave Iraq alone, and I'm worried about that, the ramifications if we do do that.
We see polls at least being done in Iraq that indicate that there's a growing hostility. They no longer see us as liberator but occupier here, and this poses some serious problems.
Obviously, the difficulties we're seeing, the tragedy occurring in Turkey, the bombing attacks in Saudi Arabia, the continued deterioration of the U.S. presence in this part of the world is a matter of deep, deep concern.
BLITZER: There's some arguments -- some cynics will say and a lot of Democrats are saying it's domestically politically driven, this new strategy, to try to reduce the U.S. involvement in time for next November's presidential election.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY WHIP: Well, first, Wolf, I think it's hard for a lot of Democrats -- I don't think Chris would be in this group -- but hard for a lot of Democrats to sort of admit that they really are glad that Saddam Hussein is gone. That's the first point.
Number two, figuring out exactly how to handle Iraq in the wake of his departure was never going to be easy. Hindsight is 20/20, and I think the strategy, particularly of the Democratic presidential candidates, is to pick at every single aspect of this.
What the administration is trying to do at the earliest possible time is to put the Iraqis' future in the hands of the Iraqis, and if they can do that with a Governing Council or whatever it's called in June that has the credibility of the Iraqi people so that we can concentrate less and less on running the country and more and more just on the security aspects of it, why would that not be a good idea?
BLITZER: All right. Do you want to respond?
DODD: Well, no as I said -- first off, the Democrats -- I don't know a single Democrat that doesn't applaud the departure of Saddam Hussein. That's not the issue.
The issue for many of us, of course, is how would this reconstruction phase be run? It has been mismanaged, by any calculation. I don't know how you possibly conclude otherwise.
Our concerns are here obviously that you're not going to have a government chosen by the Iraqi people, one, rather, imposed by the United States. There's a danger in that, in terms of their ability to build the kind of local support that's necessary.
I want this to work. The problem is it's taken them a long time to get to this point, and it took tragedy after tragedy to drive them to it, rather than understanding this issue.
This administration needs to make the international equivalent of a 911 call, and we better get other people involved here quickly if we have any hopes of this working.
BLITZER: President Bush told David Frost, the British interviewer, the following: "The Iraqi citizens need to hear that. They need to know that we won't leave the country prematurely. They need to know two things. We're not going to cut and run, and, two, we believe they have the capacity to run their own country."
How concerned are you, though, that the security situation seems to be getting worse and that the CIA itself, in an assessment this week, said it's not just in the Sunni triangle around Baghdad, Tikrit, but in the north and in the south, it seems to be getting worse, in Mosul and Nasiriyah, where we saw those terrorist attacks only in recent days?
MCCONNELL: There was a good New York Times article just today about how much progress has been made outside of the Sunni Triangle. It is considerably more secure outside of the Sunni Triangle.
The Sunni Triangle is a problem. But other places are a problem. Attacks in Saudi Arabia, attacks in Istanbul.
Terrorism is on the move. And the only way to go after terrorism is on offense. And we're there, and we're chasing them down, and we're hunting them, and we're going to bring as many of them to justice as we possibly can.
BLITZER: Operation Iron Hammer, is that the way to go to come out with a real major military offensive?
DODD: Well, look, I -- in fact, I wish some of the blue suits at the Pentagon had let the uniformed services do their job. Too often we get the civilians at the Pentagon dictating to the uniformed services, the Joint Chiefs, how to conduct a military operation. And I'm not competent to tell you whether or not this is a right military move to make or not.
What worries me is that the epicenter of international terrorism was Afghanistan. We're walking away from Afghanistan. That situation is deteriorating by the hour in that country. And there is a great fear we're having here that it is moving. While the epicenter was Afghanistan, it may be moving to Iraq. It certainly wasn't there to begin with. That's a huge problem.
BLITZER: All right, very briefly.
MCCONNELL: Yes, I was in Afghanistan six weeks ago. It's not deteriorating rapidly. They've got a new constitution coming out. They're going to have elections in June. They've made dramatic progress in Afghanistan.
BLITZER: All right, but still no job resolved yet. The job has not been...
MCCONNELL: Well, this is not going to be done overnight in either country.
BLITZER: All right, let's move on. We're going to take a quick break, though.
First, something occurred in the past week that hadn't happened in a very long time. I'll ask both Senators McConnell and Dodd about that.
"LATE EDITION" will continue right after this.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." We're continuing our conversation with U.S. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, U.S. Democratic Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut.
The whole issue this past week of Medicare is coming to the forefront right now. Medicare is about to go, if the Republicans have their way in the Senate and the House of Representatives, in perhaps the most dramatic expansion of Medicare, including prescription drug benefits for seniors, in recent history.
Tell us exactly what you've heard from your Republican leadership, where this plan is going.
MCCONNELL: Well, we expect to have bipartisan support for a Medicare reform bill that has elements of choice in it, but most important for most seniors, is a prescription drug benefit for the first time in the history of the program. It's an exciting new benefit that seniors have wanted for a long time...
BLITZER: How much is it going to cost?
MCCONNELL: It's going to cost $400 billion over 10 years. It's a major investment, the largest change in Medicare and the largest addition of benefits to Medicare since the program came in in the '60s.
BLITZER: Democrats have wanted prescription drug benefits for seniors for a long time. Will you go along with this Republican plan?
DODD: Well, we're going to look at it. But my suspicions are, we're looking at a bit of a Trojan horse here. I mean, there is the prescription drug benefit, which seniors need. But there's a -- this idea of sort of, of privatizing Medicare, having a program here that really will force people off Medicare, as many as 10 million people will be pushed into a privatized system.
Medicare has been one of the most successful, popular programs since its inception. And there's a danger in this bill that you're going to do great damage to a wonderful program.
And the lure is going to be, of course, the prescription drug benefit. But people ought to keep their eye on the Medicare provision. I think there's great damage being done to Medicare, real damage in increased premiums. The estimates are a 77 percent increase in premium cost over the next several years, as well as many seniors being pushed off altogether, and private plans dropping their own employees...
BLITZER: Sounds like Senator Dodd is not going to be one of your supporters.
MCCONNELL: Probably not going to be one...
DODD: There's going to be -- this is going be a -- people have to watch this carefully in the future...
MCCONNELL: I don't think the bill he describes is the bill he's going to be voting on.
BLITZER: Well, that's going to be released, presumably later today. We'll find out.
There was a huge talkathon in the United States Senate this week. You were involved, deeply involved, in this -- judicial nominees.
Let me put some numbers up on the screen. Take a look at the screen. You'll see these numbers, compiled by The Washington Post.
During the Clinton administration, 248 judicial nominees were considered. Sixty-three were blocked by Republicans. During the Bush administration, so far, 172 have been considered, meaning up and down votes. Six so far have been blocked.
What's the point -- what was the point of 30 or 40 hours of nonstop talk on an issue where you've gotten almost everything you've wanted so far?
MCCONNELL: Well, first of all, 63 judges were not blocked during President Clinton. He had almost as many judges confirmed as President Reagan over an eight-year period. And he had a Senate in the hands of the opposition for six of those years.
What's really going on, the Wall Street Journal, I think, summed it up pretty well Friday with an editorial saying he is Latino. The Democrats are selectively targeting minorities and women to defeat, Miguel Estrada being a perfect example of it, these...
BLITZER: Not Judge Pickering?
MCCONNELL: No, these leaked memos from Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, when they were in the majority, confirm that they were targeting Miguel Estrada because he was Latino.
What they found particularly...
BLITZER: Well, that's a serious charge. So let's let Senator Dodd respond to that.
MCCONNELL: Well, let me just finish. What they're doing is targeting conservative women and conservative minorities.
DODD: Well, no, this is -- first of all, it's sad to see this. The Senate is a unique place, obviously, and undermining the ability of the minority to be heard on these issues -- 172 nominations, no other president in the history of this country in this time frame has had as many judicial nominations confirmed as this president has.
And the fact that six of them have been stopped, where there are serious reasons being raised about their qualities to serve, having nothing to do with gender or ethnicity.
And the fact that we tie up the Senate for 30 hours...
BLITZER: How many of those six are minorities or women? DODD: You know, I don't even know. I know that Miguel Estrada was one of them. I think there are two other women involved.
The point is this. Here we are at a time when we've got a raging war going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, we've got unemployment with a manufacturing sector of 2 1/2 million jobs being lost. We spent 30 hours in the waning days of this session to spend talking about four or five people who have jobs, by the way, they're doing fine economically. It seems to be a terrible waste of the Senate's time.
I hope we can get behind this. The partisanship is hurting the Senate.
BLITZER: All right.
DODD: We shouldn't be doing this.
MCCONNELL: Four of the six are minorities or women. They have chosen to do this, that is, filibuster on the floor of the Senate, for the first time in the 220-year history of the republic. It's never been done before, and probably will always be done after this, and I think it's an unfortunate precedent that we've set.
DODD: That's completely false, in a sense. There have been all sorts of filibusters on judicial nominations.
MCCONNELL: To advance the nomination, never to kill a nomination, ever.
DODD: No, no, because you didn't succeed. But they tried filibusters. The test is not whether you won the filibuster, it's whether you conducted one. And filibusters have been conducted on numerous occasions over the 200-year history...
MCCONNELL: And cloture has been...
DODD: You failed in every one of them.
MCCONNELL: Cloture was invoked on a bipartisan basis in order to move the nominations forward.
DODD: That's not the test.
MCCONNNELL: That's absolutely wrong.
BLITZER: I don't think we're going to resolve it one way or the other.
But I think this debate is going to continue. We're all out of time.
Senator McConnell, thanks as usual for joining us.
MCCONNELL: Thank you. BLITZER: Senator Dodd, thank you very much.
DODD: Thank you, Wolf, very much.
BLITZER: Up next, what do our "LATE EDITION" viewers think about the news coming out of Iraq? We'll read some of your e-mail.
Plus this, getting to the roots of terror. The former United States secretary of state, Lawrence Eagleburger, and the former CIA director, James Woolsey, offer insight into what the United States should be doing.
Much more coming up. "LATE EDITION" will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back. Time now for some of your e-mail.
Warren from Florida writes this: "I want to know the total number of dead and wounded soldiers in Iraq. We always hear how many soldiers died, but we also should realize how many thousands of troops are being injured."
Warren, we're keeping track of those numbers as best as we can. So far, 422 U.S. troops have died since the start of the war, and according to the Pentagon, as of Friday, 2,336 troops have been wounded.
George writes from North Carolina: "There are some success stories in Iraq, and television reporters never mention them. The president is doing the best job he can, and the American people have a right to know the whole story."
We always welcome your comments. Our e-mail address, email@example.com.
And if you'd like to receive my weekly e-mail, previewing the program, go to cnn.com/lateedition. That's where you can sign up.
We'd also like to know your thoughts on our Web question of the week. Will Operation Iron Hammer put an end terrorist attacks in Iraq? Go to cnn.com/lateedition to cast your vote.
"LATE EDITION" will continue right after this short break.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We'll talk with the former secretary of state Lawrence Eagleburger and the former CIA director James Woolsey about the war on terror, where it stands, just a few moments.
We're also standing by to hear directly from President Bush. He's back at the White House from Camp David. We'll get to all of that, but first let's get a quick check of the hour's top stories.
(NEWSBREAK) BLITZER: Only within the past few minutes President Bush has returned to the White House from Camp David. Upon his return at the South Lawn of the White House, he spent a few moments answering reporters' questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. Today I spent some time in prayer for our service men and women who are in harm's way, prayed for their families. I prayed for those who are still in harm's way, whether it be American troops or coalition troops.
The sacrifice that our folks are making in Iraq will serve our nation's interests in the short term and long term. It's best to defeat the terrorists in Iraq so we don't have to defeat them here.
As well, a free and stable Iraq in the heart of a part of the world where there is frustration and anger, where the recruiters of hatred are able to find terrorists, a free Iraq will be a transforming event.
And I appreciate the families who are making the sacrifices along with our troops.
As well, in Iraq, it was a tough week, but we made progress toward a sovereign and free Iraq. The Iraqi Governing Council has laid out a timetable for the transfer of sovereignty. We're pleased with that timetable. We think it makes sense.
On the one hand, the politics is moving on. On the other hand, we're going to stay tough and deal with the terrorists.
I also talked to Prime Minister Erdogan over the weekend and expressed our deep condolences for the senseless death caused by bombings in Turkey. He assured me that he would fight the terrorists and bring the terrorists to justice. Told him we'd help and we're grateful. But it's just a reminder that the war on terror takes place on different fronts.
At home, I'm pleased with the progress made on the energy bill and on Medicare. I want to thank the leaders in the House and Senate for coming together on two important pieces of legislation.
On Medicare, it looks like there's agreement in principle to provide our seniors with a modern Medicare plan, and that's very positive news. I urge the members of the House and the Senate to take a look at it, vote it and get it to my desk as soon as possible.
BUSH: And I'm pleased that we're finally developing a national energy plan, so we're making good progress on the domestic front here at home.
Let me answer a couple of questions, then...
(CROSSTALK) QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)
BUSH: I haven't seen the specifics. I suspect it's the same old stuff. You know, it's propaganda.
And, you know, we're not leaving until the job is done, pure and simple. A free and peaceful Iraq -- it will be a historic event.
And I'm sure he would like to see us leave if, in fact, it's his voice, and I know the elements of the Baathist Party, those who used to torture, maim and kill in order to stay in power, would like to see us leave.
We will do our job.
QUESTION: What information do you have about the chopper crash?
BUSH: No more than you have, but sad. It is a sad day when we lose life. It doesn't matter whether it's in a chopper crash or an IED, the loss of life is sad.
BUSH: Well, it depends on what is taking place on the ground. I mean, somebody told me -- he said, well, this means that there's going to be less troops. Politics is going to go forward. The political process will move on. And we'll adjust our troop level according to the security situation in Iraq.
QUESTION: Are you concerned at all about the protests that you're going to be facing in London?
BUSH: No, not concerned at all. Glad to be going to a free country where people are allowed to protest. Not the least bit.
QUESTION: Do you see the use of surface-to-air missiles as an escalation of (OFF-MIKE)
BUSH: Well, it's symptomatic of the fact that there was a lot of weapons lying around. And we just got to bring these killers to justice, which we will.
And the military's adjusting. You've been reading about the fact that they're adjusting their strategy and their plans. And that's exactly what the command --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Unfortunately, we lost some of that tape from the president. We'll try to get that -- get the remarks that he made in that Q and A session with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House. The president just back from Camp David.
The president referring, though, to this just-released audiotape purportedly from Saddam Hussein, saying it's the same old stuff, propaganda, in his words. The president also speaking about the latest developments in Iraq, as well as in Turkey.
In Turkey, the search is continuing for those responsible for yesterday's bombing of a synagogue. Some 20 people were killed. More than 300 others were wounded.
CNN's Chris Burns is on the ground for us now in Istanbul. He's joining us with the latest developments.
Chris, a pretty gruesome site. What's the aftermath of what's going on?
CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. Well, investigators are saying that they are getting more clues as to the viciousness of these two bombs. They say both of them weighed as much as 400 pounds.
And according to a security source talking to our sister station CNN Turk, says that the bombs, the bombmaking material, it seems to have come from outside of Turkey. That seems to support what Turkish officials are saying, are these bombs and this plot came from abroad, possibly al Qaeda.
Look over my shoulder, again, at the viciousness of that explosion. That is just outside the Naveh Shalom (ph). That is the biggest synagogue here in Turkey, and that is where some 12 people died in that street. There are still the carcasses of a number of cars and the other vehicles that are out there.
Today, there were appearances by both the Israeli and the Turkish foreign ministers together, hand in hand today, showing that, despite these two explosions, that will not shake the close alliance between the two countries, and also a ceremony today for the policeman who was killed outside the other synagogue.
Prime Minister Erdogan saying that this calls for solidarity of the country, to hold together to fight what he says is terrorism, and to fight what he says is terrorism coming from abroad.
Now, at the same time, Silvan Shalom, the Israeli foreign minister, saying this attack was aimed at trying to destabilize a pro- Western democracy. That is what they're trying to fight.
Now, keep in mind, however, that Mr. Erdogan heads a party that used to be -- that has had fundamentalist roots, Muslim fundamentalist roots. And that, perhaps, means perhaps that there could be some sort of factions within his party or within the country that oppose his more moderate views. That has to be kept in mind, but at the same time the officials here are saying that it is coming from abroad, that plot for those two bombings.
Back to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: CNN's Chris Burns in Istanbul with the latest on that horrific twin synagogue bombings in Turkey. We'll get more information obviously throughout the day here on CNN.
When we come back, what's next in the war on terror? What's next in Iraq? We have two special guests standing by, the former secretary of state Lawrence Eagleburger and the former CIA director James Woolsey.
"LATE EDITION" will continue right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
President Bush says it's time for the United States to rethink its policy in the Arab and Muslim world, to make democracy a top priority. But there are other huge concerns about the impact involving the situation in Iraq, the goal in the war on terrorism and much more.
Joining us now, two special guests: the former secretary of state Lawrence Eagleburger. He's joining us from Charlottesville, Virginia. And the former CIA director James Woolsey. He's joining us from Palm Beach in Florida.
Gentlemen, thank you very much for joining us.
I'll begin with you, Secretary Eagleburger. The horrific pictures we've been seeing out of Istanbul and Turkey, the twin synagogue bombings. Last weekend we were focusing in on Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the residential compound there.
Is there any way that the U.S. and its partners can deal effectively with al Qaeda, assuming these are the works of al Qaeda?
LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Boy, that's a tough question. Yes, there are ways we can deal with them. But it requires an absolute commitment in terms of resources and in terms of going after them wherever we find them. And it's a tough job, and it won't be solved quickly, and it won't be solved at all unless we're prepared to commit the resources necessary to make it a success.
BLITZER: Same question to you, Director Woolsey. What's the most important step that the U.S. should be doing right now to deal with what appears to be an escalating spread of terror?
JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Getting friendly Iraqis into that Sunni triangle so they can tell us who the bad guys are -- the Baathists, the Tikritis, the al Qaeda, the few, I guess, that are in there -- so that we can move precisely against them and do so quickly.
We would have had a lot more Iraqis go in with us early if we had trained them ahead of time, which Congress provided the money for back in 1998, but wasn't done.
BLITZER: Secretary Eagleburger, it looks like there was a lot of planning going on at the State Department, a building you used to lead at one point in your life, as far as a postwar Iraq situation is concerned, but people in the Pentagon weren't paying much attention to that.
Take a look at the situation for us right now and give us your assessment. Was there enough advance work done to understand this postwar environment?
EAGLEBURGER: Not at all, Wolf, not at all. I think, if you analyze the situation, I think the military operation itself was brilliant, and the planning for whatever was to come after that was abysmal. And I don't think we've gotten a hold of it yet, although I think Jerry Bremer is doing a superb job getting things under control.
But I have to tell you, I do not understand how professionals could have so badly misjudged what was going to be necessary after the victory, military victory itself.
And that's not to say that I think we should have been able to see all of the fighting that's now going on. That may have been legitimately a surprise. But there's no question we weren't prepared for the aftermath.
BLITZER: Do you agree with that assessment, Director Woolsey?
WOOLSEY: A slightly softer version of it. There were a number of things that we planned for and were prepared for, like massive oil well fires, massive humanitarian crises, that didn't occur precisely because of the rapidity of the military victory.
But we didn't really have enough forces there, partially because the 4th Division was kept out of the north by the decision by Turkey. We didn't really have enough forces in the immediate aftermath of the war to repress these Baathists and people in the Sunni Triangle. We've got to do that, and we've got to do it quickly.
But I think it's important to realize this is about 15 percent of the country. And the people who are really doing this, the Baathists, a lot of whom are Tikritis from Saddam's own clan, is maybe 1 or 2 percent of the country.
Nonetheless, we have to get the job done. It should have been done earlier. But the key people, as I said, are Iraqis to help us and go in with us and tell us who we need to precisely move against.
BLITZER: Secretary Eagleburger, there is a new audio tape that's just been aired on the Al Arabiya network presumably, purportedly from Saddam Hussein himself. More of the same in terms of his vows, in terms of his own rhetoric.
But this ability for him apparently to be speaking out, to getting his message across and to remain at large, that has to be one of the most frustrating elements for the U.S.
EAGLEBURGER: Oh, there is no question about that either, Wolf. I must say, sort of following up on Jim's earlier comment, I don't think we've had sufficient military force in the country for some time. I think we still need them. I think particularly we need them in terms now of trying to be extremely nasty against these attacks on us that are taking place now.
But, and there is no question, as well, that until we find Saddam Hussein there is a point around which all of these people can rally, and we will continue to see serious problems. If and when we get him, I think we begin then to see an end to -- if not an end to, at least a diminution of the attacks on us, and I think it becomes far less a dangerous situation.
But I think we have to be much tougher, frankly, than we have been so far.
BLITZER: Secretary Eagleburger, though, the point that you're saying is that you want the U.S. military to get even nastier than it is right now. Operation Iron Hammer under way. There is a pounding going on of suspected targets.
If you get further of the aggression -- the aggressive nature could be counterproductive, according to some Iraqis.
EAGLEBURGER: It certainly could be. But all I can tell -- and by the way, this most recent attempt at some military activity, I think is a good thing.
But, Wolf, having said all of this and recognizing it could be counterproductive, I simply do not believe that we can continue to take two or three casualties a day. Mind you, this isn't war and we need to understand that this sort of thing happens. In a real war, we would have a lot more dead than this. But I'm not sure how long the American people are going to be willing to take this sort of one or two or three dead a day with no end in sight.
And there again, I think the issue has to be that the administration and the American military have got to make it clear that we're going to stay there as long as necessary and we're going to be as tough as we have to be to make this thing work.
BLITZER: When we speak about casualties, Director Woolsey, we'll put some numbers up on the screen, 422 U.S. troops have been killed in hostile and non-hostile action since the war began way back in March, and you can see how that's broken down.
Is Secretary Eagleburger right that the American public is simply not going to understand for this nearly daily, sometimes twice-a-day, three-times-a-day body count, if you will?
WOOLSEY: I think the American people will put up with the casualties, which, you know, our hearts go out to the families of these men and women that were killed. It's terrible. But I think the American people will put up with this if they see a clear objective...
EAGLEBURGER: That's correct.
WOOLSEY: ... and see us moving toward success.
And to my mind -- I think Larry's right about getting Saddam Hussein. But to my mind, the point is not just being tough, but being tough and smart.
And the things that we did and -- I'm saying this as a former chairman of Yale Citizens for Eugene McCarthy in '68, OK? -- the things that we did right in the Vietnam War, such as the Marine combined-action platoons up north, we did right by having a few Americans in with local militia, working together with them, living with them, fighting and clearing out areas. None of those areas that the Marines dealt with that way were ever taken back by the Vietcong.
And I think that if we move in a smart counterinsurgency way, by getting the right Iraqis working with us, and get in there so we know who to arrest, where to attack, maybe the strikes they're doing now with Iron Hammer, the helicopter gunships and so forth, that -- I assume that those are reasonable targets, but we aren't going to be able to do this largely from afar with helicopter gunships and C-130s. We're going to have to be on the ground, in there with Iraqis who know the territory.
BLITZER: Secretary Eagleburger, earlier today, I spoke with the Iraqi Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, who was very firm in insisting that despite the casualties, despite the terrorism, the overall situation in Iraq is clearly improving. Listen precisely to what Talabani, who is now the rotating president of the Iraqi Governing Council, told me. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TALABANI: There are very good news in Iraq which is published in your country. There is freedom, democracy, the level of life increases too much, the people are enjoying free life and with good situation. Please focus on these facts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What about that, Secretary Eagleburger?
EAGLEBURGER: Everything I've heard, Wolf, and I've talked to a number of people -- Jerry Bremer is a friend of mine. I haven't talked to him recently. But all of these people say that, with the exception of this area around Baghdad and Tikrit and so forth, right up in the north there, that things are really in very good shape in Iraq.
And I am not at all arguing that they aren't. I am simply saying that there are some problems that really must be solved. But by and large, I think, with the exception of this one area in Iraq, the conditions within the country are really quite good.
What worries me a little bit right now is, I am beginning to worry that what the administration is now talking about is -- I won't say cut and run, but I'm afraid the tone of what we're hearing now, except from the president this morning, sort of sounds as if we're getting ready to leave sooner than we probably should.
I'm not at all sure that's what's going to happen, but I'm nervous about the noises that I hear, including the fact that there may be a general in waiting who is going to go out and replace Jerry Bremer. I don't know if any of this is going to happen, but I know they're talking about it.
BLITZER: Let me go -- Director Woolsey, wrap up this segment for us. There's an article in the Weekly Standard that came out, referring to a memo that Doug Feith wrote, a top Pentagon official, to the chairman and the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, suggesting that the linkage, the evidence, the intelligence evidence involving al Qaeda's relationship with Saddam Hussein, goes back more than a decade.
Are you convinced that there has been a close relationship between Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's regime throughout the '90s?
WOOLSEY: Oh, definitely. It had been all along. George Tenet wrote a year ago October to the Congress and told them that, said there'd been a relationship going back a decade. Training in -- by Iraqi intelligence of al Qaeda in, quote, "poisons, gases and explosives."
This memo expands on that. It's a different question whether Iraqi intelligence had something to do with 9/11. That is certainly arguable. It is a different issue.
But a relationship between Iraqi intelligence and al Qaeda, this memo -- and I've seen this on the Web -- puts flesh on the bones of what George Tenet wrote a year ago.
And I would say, after reading this piece in the Weekly Standard, anybody who says there is no working relationship between al Qaeda and Iraqi intelligence going back to the early '90s, they can only say that if they're illiterate. This is a slam dunk.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to have to leave it right there.
Director Woolsey, as usual, thank you very much for joining us.
Secretary Eagleburger, always a pleasure to have you on this program as well.
EAGLEBURGER: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And up next, we'll get a quick check of the hour's top stories. CNN's Andrea Koppel standing by for that.
Then, Saudi Arabia targeted by terrorists. We'll talk with Saudi foreign policy adviser Adel Al-Jubeir about how his country is fighting back.
Plus this: A judge loses a battle over the Ten Commandments. We'll go inside the courtroom with our two legal experts.
And Bruce Morton has the last word on the U.S. experiment to export democracy to Iraq and beyond. "LATE EDITION" will be right back.
BLITZER: Despite a push for change in the Middle East, the region continues to be engulfed in terrorism and turmoil. We're joined now by the foreign policy adviser to Saudi Arabia's royal family. Adel al-Jubeir is in Washington.
Thanks very much, Mr. al-Jubeir, for joining us.
A week ago at this time, everyone was very, very upset about what happened in Riyadh. You're just back from Riyadh. What's the latest in your investigation? You've said this was the work, this terrorist attack, of al Qaeda.
ADEL AL-JUBEIR, FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER TO SAUDI ROYAL FAMILY: Right, yes, the way it was planned, the way it was executed, the al Qaeda has the motive to do so. They have as one of their declared objectives the destruction of the Saudi state. And so we're not surprised.
We have broken up over a dozen terrorist cells in Saudi Arabia since the May attacks in Riyadh, and we've discovered a common link between all of these groups. We have no doubt it was al Qaeda, and we also have -- we want to leave no doubt that we are determined to pursue them vigorously and without mercy until we crush them.
BLITZER: And have you rounded up any suspects, any collaborators?
AL-JUBEIR: There has been some questioning of individuals. There are some bodies we still need to identify from the explosions, based on DNA in order to ascertain their identity, but in terms of having someone in jail as of this time directly linked to this, no.
BLITZER: How much support does al Qaeda have from average, rank- and-file Saudis?
AL-JUBEIR: I would imagine very little support. We estimate that this is a small number of individuals that are around the country. They have common experience of having fought in Afghanistan and possibly Bosnia. They come from dysfunctional families. They are very radical in their outlook and, as a consequence, are a part of this entity.
They were two public opinion polls taken in Saudi Arabia over the past summer, which showed that over 90 percent of the Saudi public does not support or condone what bin Laden is doing or the positions...
BLITZER: But 10 percent -- 10 percent could be a lot in terms of creating opportunities for Osama bin Laden's remnants to score points, to kill people in Saudi Arabia. AL-JUBEIR: No, I wasn't saying that if 90 percent support him, that 10 percent would not support him. Most people -- most of the 10 percent did not express an opinion. They just didn't know.
If you look at the numbers, for instance, in Europe, you would find that the -- I would imagine the numbers for Europe would be much different than from Saudi Arabia, in that the Europeans probably would be more undecided when it comes to this issue than our people are.
BLITZER: Of supporting al Qaeda?
AL-JUBEIR: Not so much al Qaeda, but if you ask people about bin Laden, they may say, "I don't know. I don't have an opinion." In our case, over 90 percent say absolutely...
BLITZER: Osama bin Laden is, of course, a Saudi himself.
AL-JUBEIR: We stripped him of his citizenship, but he was a Saudi citizen at one time.
BLITZER: And 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis.
BLITZER: That's generated a lot of concern. Listen to what the former NATO supreme allied commander, General Wesley Clark, now a Democratic presidential candidate, had to say this week.
Well, let me read it to you.
"I would press Saudi Arabia to join U.S. forces in creating a U.S.-Saudi commando force to work the Afghan-Pakistani border where bin Laden is thought to be hiding. The Saudi regime is as responsible as anyone for the rise of al Qaeda."
AL-JUBEIR: Well, I think, with all due respect to General Clark, who I have tremendous respect for, I believe that our ability to conduct commando operations 2,000 miles from our home territory is a capability that we don't have. I wish we had it.
We have been working closely with the Pakistani government and with the United States and with other countries in trying to determine where bin Laden is, so we can capture him and bring him to justice. We have as much interest in doing so as any country in the world, because we and the United States are the two main targets of Osama bin Laden.
With regard to the responsibility for the rise of Osama bin Laden, it goes back to the time of war that the mujahedeen in Afghanistan fought in order to eject the Soviet Union from Afghanistan in the 1980s.
The United States and Saudi Arabia were the two main sponsors. We contributed each over $500 million a year for support the mujahedeen in their effort. And the mujahedeen succeeded in ejecting the Soviets from Afghanistan. Bin Laden emerged out of that. I don't think that it serves a purpose to try to point fingers or assign blame. We all had something to do with it.
BLITZER: What are your intelligence services, your security services, telling you right now about future -- about any imminent threats, terror threats, in Saudi Arabia?
AL-JUBEIR: We are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. We still have some cells that we need to unravel. We still capture people. We still capture munitions and arms caches.
We are going after the financiers of terrorism. We are looking at bank accounts. We have set up two joint task forces with the U.S. We have set up these on relationships with other governments.
We cannot discount the possibility of another attack, unfortunately.
BLITZER: On November 6th, President Bush spoke out about the need to promote democracy throughout the Middle East, the Arab world, the Muslim world. Listen to this excerpt from what the president said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe. Because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty.
Therefore, the United States has adopted a new policy, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Among the countries he was addressing was your country, Saudi Arabia, the kingdom.
What are the prospects of real democracy ever, ever developing in Saudi Arabia, including the right of women, for example, to vote?
AL-JUBEIR: I would imagine very real. Saudi Arabia has been on a path of reform since the first Gulf war in 1990. We set up a consultative council. We streamlined our government departments. We offered an agenda for reforming the Arab position that includes broadening political participation, opening up the economy, attracting investment.
We have done, in the last two years, tremendous things in the economic area. We have done things in terms of building institutions: a center for national dialogue, a journalist association...
BLITZER: But that's all men, basically. Do women have any rights in Saudi Arabia? AL-JUBEIR: In the -- for example, in the chambers of commerce, women are members and they have the right to vote, just like the men members. We have opened up opportunities for women in terms of jobs. Women have access to education. Over 50 percent of our students at the college level and above are women.
As our society develops, more women will enter the job force because we need to have...
BLITZER: When will women be able to get driver's licenses in Saudi Arabia?
AL-JUBEIR: This is a question that I have no idea. I would imagine that...
BLITZER: Why can't -- what's wrong with letting women drive cars?
AL-JUBEIR: That's a good question. I ask myself this question every day. There are a number of Saudis who feel women should drive. It makes it easier. It makes it more practical.
There are Saudis who believe that women should not drive. And I believe that this is an issue that has to be worked out within our society. And in time, it will be worked out...
BLITZER: Is it true that women can't even sit in the front seat of cars in Saudi Arabia?
AL-JUBEIR: No, that is not correct. If you go to Riyadh, you can see women sitting in the front seat. I would imagine if a woman decides to sit in the back seat, that's her prerogative, or in the front seat, that's her prerogative...
BLITZER: Because when we were there, when I was there in -- almost a year ago, we were told no women sitting in the front seat.
AL-JUBEIR: If you were driving in my car, I wouldn't mind if you wanted to have your crew sit next to...
BLITZER: But you could envisage the day where the Wahhabi religious leadership of Saudi Arabia will give women these kinds of rights?
AL-JUBEIR: I would imagine. It's a function of our society. Personally, I think yes, eventually it will happen. I can't tell you when. I can't tell you how it will play out. But you cannot have a society that moves forward into the future if half of your members are dysfunctional or can't participate.
BLITZER: That's an accurate point.
Thanks very much, Adel Al-Jubeir, for joining us.
AL-JUBEIR: You're very welcome. Always a pleasure. BLITZER: And just ahead, the big legal stories of the week, including, among others, Kobe Bryant, Scott Peterson and more. We'll get analysis from two prominent attorneys.
"LATE EDITION" will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
From Kobe Bryant back in court to an Alabama judge ousted from the bench over the Ten Commandments, there were major legal developments here in the United States over the past week.
Joining us now to help sort through some of them are two courtroom veterans: in San Francisco, the former prosecutor Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom; in Philadelphia, the attorney and CNN contributor Michael Smerconish.
Good to have both of you on the program.
KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE NEWSOM, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Thank you.
BLITZER: What did you make of the decision of this Court of Judiciary in Montgomery, Alabama, Kimberly, to go ahead and to remove Justice Roy Moore as the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court because he disobeyed a federal court order in demanding that the Ten Commandments be removed from a building in Alabama?
NEWSOM: Well, I think it was appropriate. I think it was the right decision to make, and I don't think it was that much of a stretch. I mean, basically, he did violate -- willfully violated a federal court order in refusing to remove that monument. I think the judiciary panel was well within their authority to have him removed from office. It was appropriate. He shouldn't have placed himself above the law.
BLITZER: Michael Smerconish, that's what his peers said: He placed himself above the law, and that's why he was removed.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think it was the right outcome for Justice Moore to be removed. But I'm surprised that the panel actually did this. You know what's ironic, Wolf? They first started their proceedings with a prayer and then they go onto the business of whether they should throw him out of office because of the flap over the Ten Commandments.
These folks were, some of them, laypeople, not all lawyers, and it had to be unanimous. You look at the polling data down in Alabama, there is strong support for this guy. So I am just surprised that they were able to get a unanimous decision to chuck him.
BLITZER: There is another important legal case. A lot of Americans fascinated by the Scott Peterson murder -- the murder preliminary hearing that's been going on in Modesto, California. Kimberly, you were there. Were you surprised that the prosecution decided not to ask Amber Frey, his mistress, to come before the proceeding to testify?
NEWSOM: Well, I think it was unusual that they were going to put her on the stand anyway. For a preliminary hearing with a witness like that that is controversial, it gives the defense such a huge opportunity to be able to nail her testimony down, find inconsistencies and delve into other areas.
What I saw in the courtroom firsthand was at the point when Mark Geragos was cross-examining Detective Al Brocchini about whether or not Amber Frey had been surreptitiously taping Scott Peterson prior to the disappearance of Laci.
That was a big moment. Brocchini denied any knowledge of any tapes or of that situation going on. At that point, he saw one of the D.A. assistants talk to the prosecutor, and I think it was at that point that they decided, you know what, this is a problematic area, we're not going to put her on the stand.
BLITZER: Michael, there is some suggestion that Mark Geragos, the defense attorney for Scott Peterson, may try to get her on the stand as a witness for their side.
SMERCONISH: That would be very unusual if the defense, in a preliminary hearing, were to call witnesses of any kind, but I don't put anything beyond Geragos. He's a very risk-taking lawyer. And I say that in a positive way.
But in this particular case, I don't know why he would, Wolf. I don't think that Scott Peterson can win at the preliminary hearing stage. I think he's held for trial, and that's a no-brainer.
If they think they have something that can really do harm to Amber Frey, I would imagine they'd hold that for the trial instead of unloading it now.
BLITZER: Kimberly, the other trial that's fascinating a lot of Americans involves Kobe Bryant -- not a trial yet, a preliminary hearing that went forward. He was in court this week.
They decided he wasn't going to make a formal plea, but the judge in the case, the new judge, suggesting that once the trial begins, it could be two to three weeks. Who has the upper hand right now?
NEWSOM: Right now, I would say it appears that the defense does. A lot of points were made against the prosecution's case, because the victim did not testify at the preliminary hearing.
What I thought was interesting was that family members of the victim were present at this first appearance for Kobe Bryant. And I think they wanted to send a message that there is a real victim here, that you haven't heard all the facts yet from her mouth, so wait and see and have an open attitude, an open mind. BLITZER: Michael, what went through your mind when you watched this first encounter, if you will, between the victim, the alleged victim, the accuser, her family, who were in the courtroom, and Kobe Bryant, who was in the courtroom this past week?
SMERCONISH: I think that it's absolutely the prosecution that is, as Kimberly puts it, on the defensive in this particular case. It's amazing.
You know, we talk about, well, why not bring out Amber Frey in the Peterson case? All you need to do, Wolf, is look at the Kobe case and see that a preliminary hearing can go south for a prosecution, and that's what happened in the Kobe case. They came out of that thing looking worse, the prosecutors, than before the entire episode had started.
What was interesting to me is, he has not yet, Kobe has not yet entered a formal not-guilty plea. They don't want to start that clock running, and I can't help but think, they have their eye on the NBA timetable come the spring.
NEWSOM: You're right, Michael, absolutely. That's a deliberate move on their part to stretch this out, to beyond, I think, even playoff season, because I think the Lakers have their eye on winning another NBA title.
BLITZER: Well, we'll see about that.
Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom, Michael Smerconish, two of our favorite legal analysts, as usual, thanks very much for joining us on "LATE EDITION."
SMERCONISH: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And just ahead, the results are in on our Web question of the week: Will Operation Iron Hammer put an end to the terrorist attacks in Iraq? We'll tell you how you, our viewers, voted from around the world.
Plus, Bruce Morton's last word.
"LATE EDITION" will be right back.
BLITZER: Our Web question of the week is this: Will Operation Iron Hammer put an end to terrorist attacks in Iraq? You've been voting; let's get the results.
Look at this: Only 4 percent of you say yes, Operation Iron Hammer will put an end to terrorist attacks in Iraq. Ninety-six percent of you say no. Remember, this is not a scientific poll.
Time now for Bruce Morton's last word on the long, tough job of building a democracy.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Bush made a visionary speech recently. The vision was of a democratic Middle East.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: A democratic revolution that has reached across the globe will finally take root in the Middle East.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORTON: The trouble was, the speech offered very few hints on how to get there. And voters following the news this past week could well be confused.
Months ago, when our retired General Eric Shinseki suggested it might take several hundred thousand America troops to keep the peace in Iraq, administration officials pooh-poohed this. But with the guerrilla war getting hotter by the day, it's at least possible he was right.
Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld says, no, no, in fact, we're cutting back on U.S. troops. The Iraqis, he says, are taking over.
But then, reports from Iraq speak of Iraqi forces with just a few days' training, and surely that's not the way to do the job.
And the Iraqi council that's supposed to be figuring out how to write a constitution hasn't, so now there'll be some other new Iraqi body, and maybe it will, but it's hard to be sure. Hard to be sure even whether anybody has a real plan for how all this would get done.
It might help if the administration were candid with the voters and said exactly what it's planning and doing. But this administration tends toward secrecy, not candor.
And the Democrats, of course -- the nine who want Mr. Bush's job -- don't agree. Dr. Dean is at least consistent. He thinks the whole thing was a mistake from the start. Wouldn't have invaded, wouldn't be in this fix.
The others have other positions. Senator John Kerry -- yes, he is still running -- voted for the war but against the $87 billion tab, allowing critics to say that he's leaving the troops in the lurch.
That's silly, of course. If the $87 billion bill had lost, debate would have started at once on another version -- $88 billion or $72 billion or whatever. Nobody in Congress would vote against funding the troops.
Still, it makes for a difficult debate. There are good questions. Do the voters support a foreign policy that says, yes, sometimes the U.S. strikes first, invades a country with or without allies or the U.N.? How sold are they on building democracy in countries that don't have it? Do they think that's worth American lives, and if so, how many?
Lots of good questions. But the administration doesn't always disclose what it's doing, and the Democrats speak with nine voices, not counting the ones in Congress, and that makes them hard to listen to.
The campaign isn't about clear choices yet. Let's hope it eventually is.
I'm Bruce Morton.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Bruce.
"LATE EDITION" will be right back.
BLITZER: That's your "LATE EDITION" for Sunday, November 16th.
Coming up next, "People in the News." That's followed at 3:00 p.m. Eastern by "In the Money" and at 4:00 p.m. Eastern "CNN Live Sunday."
Please be sure to join me next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.
I'm here Monday through Friday, twice a day at both noon and 5:00 p.m. Eastern.
Until then, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
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