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Israel Declares Gaza Gateway to Terrorism; Iraqi Prison Abuse Charges Widen

Aired May 18, 2004 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Tonight, Israel's biggest defensive in Gaza in almost 40 years. Israel declares Gaza to be the gateway of terrorism.

MAJ. SHARON FEINGOLD, ISRAELI ARMY: The Palestinians have been trying to smuggle very large-caliber weapons into the Gaza Strip.

DOBBS: Tonight, we'll have reports from Gaza and the White House. And we'll talk with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

Charges in the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal widen. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's frustration rises. We'll have the report.

"In Broken Borders," smuggling illegal aliens into this country in appalling conditions a multibillion dollar business.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The aliens were literally stacked one on top of each other.

DOBBS: Congressman Dana Rohrabacher introduced legislation to force hospitals help catch illegal aliens. He joins us tonight.

And tonight, I'll have a few comments about prime-time network television. How low can they go? You won't believe what Disney's ABC Network is planning for your home this fall.


ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT for Tuesday, May 18. Here now for an hour of news, debate and opinion is Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening.

Violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today escalated. We'll have reports for you from Gaza, the White House and we'll be talking with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Israeli tanks, bulldozers and soldiers today roared into the Rafah refugee camp on the border with Gaza and Egypt. Israeli troops killed at least 20 Palestinians in the massive assault. Israel declared Rafah the be gateway to terrorism. The Palestinians declared Israel to be trying to depopulate the entire area.

Matthew Chance reports from Gaza.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A tank-side view of the biggest Israeli incursion in years in the Gaza Strip. The Rafah camp near the Egyptian border is densely populated. Still, it's pounded from the ground and the air, essential Israel says to destroy secret tunnels militants use as gateways to smuggle weapons.

FEINGOLD: We are adamant in combating this phenomena of smuggling. We have information that the Palestinians have been trying to smuggle very large-caliber weapons into the Gaza Strip, specifically speaking about (UNINTELLIGIBLE) rockets. We know that they have to smuggle RPGs into the Gaza Strip, RPGs which are then turned against our forces patrolling the border.

CHANCE: But the humanitarian cost is high. Doctors at the tiny hospital in Rafah cut off by the fighting say they're struggling to cope. Amongst the dead are civilians and at least two children, a brother and a sister, just 10 and 11. They were killed in a rocket attack.

Civilians have been attempting to flee the fighting. But many are now caught in a strict Israeli curfew and can't leave. Others have had their homes destroyed by bulldozers and are surviving in the rubble.

LIONEL BRISSON, U.N. RELIEF AND WORKS AGENCY: Most of the people affected by these violations have nothing to do with what is happening in terms of the fighting between Israel and the Palestinian groups.

CHANCE: It is what the U.N. and human rights groups are calling collective punishment now being meted they say by Israel.


CHANCE: Well, Palestinian officials are calling for more international pressure to be put on Israel for it to stop what it's doing in Rafah. Israel, though, is shrugging off all the criticisms, saying its forces will stay exactly where they are until they've closed what they call the gateways to terrorism.

In the Gaza Strip, Lou.

DOBBS: Matthew Chance, thank you very much.

President Bush did not denounce the Israeli offensive, but he did call the violence in Gaza troubling. President Bush said Israel has every right to defend itself from terror.

Senior White House correspondent John King reports -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And, Lou, the president's comments coming in a speech to the strongest, one of the strongest political action committees in this country, the American- Israeli Political Action Committee, Mr. Bush delivering those remarks today, making clear, as you noted, that he finds the violence in Gaza troubling. But Mr. Bush also making clear that he believes the overwhelming responsibility and the reason for this violence is the failure of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people to demand new leadership. Mr. Bush again making the case that in his view Yasser Arafat is corrupt. You hear the applause for the president here. He said of course that it is critical that all parties including the Israelis try to end this violence and get back at least on the early steps toward a peace process.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Security is the foundation for peace.


BUSH: All parties must embrace democracy and reform and take the necessary steps for peace. The unfolding violence in the Gaza Strip is troubling and underscores the need for all parties to seize every opportunity for peace.


KING: An interesting day in which those public words of support from the president leaves very muted criminal. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan also saying Israel has given assurances to the United States that it will be careful as it conducts what it calls an operation against terrorists in Gaza.

Privately, though, other administration officials saying that Israel is not taking sufficient care, that civilians are dying and the Israel is destroying homes in the process. So, publicly, some support for Israel, although supportive words, and, Lou, privately some chiding, the administration hoping that this offensive will end soon -- Lou.

DOBBS: John, thank you -- John King from the White House.

The fighting in Iraq continues. American troops fought a fierce battle today in Karbala with gunmen loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr. Witnesses declared American soldiers killed nine insurgent gunmen. Battles like this one today in Karbala are one of the reasons Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz says it's impossible to say how long American troops will remain in Iraq.

Senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre with the report -- Jamie.

KING: Well, Lou, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today, the Pentagon's No. 2 civilian, Paul Wolfowitz, made a number of admissions of miscalculations, chief among them the fact the United States had acknowledged that the Pentagon had underestimated its foe in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PAUL WOLFOWITZ, DEPUTY DEFENSE SECRETARY: They may not be good in large-scale open battle, but they seem to have a dangerous capability for urban guerrilla tactics. And that's what we're up against.


MCINTYRE: Wolfowitz also admitted that the U.S. policy of de- Baathification was, in his words, too severe. He also said it would take at least another year and a half to stand up a credible, Iraqi security force. These statements were met with some skepticism from members of Congress.


SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN: There wasn't a serious plan. And I think at this point we're paying a serious price for it.


MCINTYRE: Wolfowitz said there was a plan and there was a lot of work put into it, although he admitted it was -- quote -- "not perfect."

Wolfowitz also said that the Pentagon now still insists that U.S. commanders have enough troops on the ground and they're working hard to make that turnover happen on June 30, which they are committed to, again, more statements of skepticism from members of Congress, Senator Joe Biden saying that the Pentagon was inflating its figure of 200,000 Iraqi security forces, saying that really there are only about 40,000 that would be ready. And that would take months for that to occur.

But Wolfowitz did stick by some of his prewar estimates of Iraq funding most of its reconstruction from oil revenues. He said oil revenue is actually up because production is a little ahead of what they thought. And also, oil prices have gone up. And he insisted that the United States is on track for that turnover of sovereignty on June 30 -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well, that is certainly good news.

Let's go through some of the things, though, that Wolfowitz addressed. One, another year and a half, at least, for American troops. Is there a projection of the total cost to the United States in money? Is there an estimate on projected losses of American troops?

MCINTYRE: Well, there aren't.

The current rate that the United States is spending is about $5 billion a month. So you can figure that out. It's about $60 billion a year. Now, Wolfowitz said regarding troops, there's no way to tell how long they were going to have to keep a large number there. They were asked, is it going to be 135,000 people?

(CROSSTALK) DOBBS: If we don't, how long, Jamie, how long we are going to be there, we don't know how many troops we're going to lose, how is Congress to ascertain the reward and the cost of making a decision and supporting a decision?

MCINTYRE: Well, I think the frustration that you're hinting at is -- was very evident in Congress this week, in fact, last week as well, about not getting any real numbers, not having any real budget figures and acknowledgment that the cost is going to be much higher than the administration said, but nobody being able to put any kind of even estimate on what that cost will be.

DOBBS: With more than 700 American lives lost, it looks as though, at least in my opinion, it may be time to get real answers from the administration on the policy in Iraq, that frustration, as you suggest, being evidenced by members of Congress today.

Jamie McIntyre, our senior Pentagon correspondent, we thank you, as always, for that excellent report.

Wolfowitz's boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, also on Capitol Hill today. Rumsfeld met with 12 senators at breakfast. One of those senators said Rumsfeld is becoming frustrated with the amount of time Congress is spending on the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal.

Congressional correspondent Ed Henry has that for us -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lou, Secretary Rumsfeld invited those 12 senators over for breakfast at the Pentagon, as you mentioned, and then he came up to Capitol Hill this afternoon.

At the private breakfast, behind closed doors, the Pentagon chief lashed out at these Senate prison abuse hearings. The secretary said that he believes the hearings are becoming counterproductive, they're dominating most of his time. And senators at the breakfast say that Rumsfeld was particularly upset that at tomorrow's Senate hearing, three of his generals will have to testify.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: He did express frustration that at some point additional hearings are counterproductive in terms of the optimal use of his time and the time of the commander in fighting and winning the war on terror.

HENRY (voice-over): Rumsfeld's sharp words about the investigation by Senate Armed Services Chairman John Warner helped sparked a rift among Republicans. Warner took heavy fire from his Republican counterpart in the House, Armed Services Chairman Duncan Hunter.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: By bringing leadership out of field, jerking out these battlefields commanders, including the theater commander, General Sanchez, and the sent CENTCOM, General Abizaid, who have problems stacking up on their desks right now and in their commands with respect to force protection, surveillance, deterrence of the enemy in a number of key areas, intelligence operations and prosecuting this war and protecting our troops.

HENRY: An annoyed Warner dismissed Hunter's criminal, saying the committee has bent over backwards to accommodate the generals. He came to the cameras to read a letter he sent to Rumsfeld last week.

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: Given that some witnesses need to remain in Iraq for operational reasons, we are open to exploring the option of video teleconferences for some of the hearings. It is all laid out very clearly in here.


HENRY: Lou, while Warner is starting to feel some private heat from conservatives on his own committee, he's also getting the support of a key Republican on that committee, Senator John McCain, who said today that he believes this prison abuse scandal is really undermining the overall war effort. And McCain said that Warner has to push with these hearings, because that's the only way to clear this, to get this behind the United States.

McCain said the key is to have aggressive hearings that make sure an investigation finally puts all this to rest -- Lou.

DOBBS: In the words outside Washington that might be serviceable, the quicker the better. Ed Henry, thank you very much, reporting from Capitol Hill.

Still ahead here, as Israeli tanks advance into Gaza, from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak joins us.

The U.S. military easily defeated Saddam Hussein's army, but it can't defeat Iraqi insurgents, at least not yet. It's time for a massive overhaul of our military. I will be joined by former Pentagon official and strategic thinker Thomas Barnett.

In "Broken Borders," smuggling illegal aliens into this country is big business. We'll have a special report. I'll be talking with Congressman Dana Rohrabacher about his radical plan to enlist hospitals in the fight against illegal immigration.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: As we reported, Israel today launched its biggest military offensive into Gaza since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Israeli forces killed 20 Palestinians, at least, and wounded dozens more in Rafah. Israel says the area is a gateway to terrorism and home other several tunnels used to smuggle weapons from Egypt. Tonight's raid comes as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has proposed a full withdrawal from Gaza.

My guest tonight preceded Mr. Sharon as Israel's prime minister, serving from 1999 to 2001. Ehud Barak joins us. The violence today, the assault, the idea that Rafah, Gaza, is a gateway to terrorism, how in the world then do you rationalize a plan to withdraw from Gaza?

EHUD BARAK, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Yes, we have no way but a compelling imperative to disengage from the Palestinians, to establish a fence beyond which we will have a Jewish majority for a long time.

But, you know, basically, the Palestinians pushed the -- cornered our government into a situation of no choice. Urban guerrilla is a tough business. You envisioned it right now in Fallujah, Najaf and Karbala. And try to think what it means to have it in Connecticut and New Jersey, rather than on the other side of the globe. That's exactly what we have.

DOBBS: The Likud Party rejected Prime Minister's Sharon's plan for withdrawal. What is the next step, even as Israeli forces are conducting this massive assault in Gaza?

BARAK: You know, the massive assault has to deal with the immediate issue of the mosquitoes, I call it. The Sharpton plan is the first step however hesitated towards draining the swamp of root causes.

It is quite frustrating for me to see that Likud supporters -- or Likud Party members did not vote for it. But that's reality. It is a major blow for Sharon. He will try to modify it. But, ultimately, he cannot end up with this limited plan. I personally believe that he should have much more coherent, far-reaching, comprehensive plan that would say, we are making a fence, security fence, around 7 or 8 percent of the West Bank, with 70 percent or 80 percent of the settlers, but simultaneously removing all the isolated settlement and bring them back into Israel, namely, not just pulling out from Gaza, but also from other settlements in the West Bank, and together, put an Israeli peace plan on the table which is understandable to ordinary citizens in the streets of the free world.

DOBBS: The Palestinians think they understand Israel very well. They say that this assault in Gaza is an effort, in their words, to depopulate the area. They say, further, the fence that you're talking about and that the Sharon government has been building is designed to completely prejudice and establish before negotiation the boundaries of whatever state emerges, both in terms of Israel's border and Palestine's. What is your reaction?

BARAK: My answer is that the Palestinians are trying to manipulate the world judgment.

They argue basically that it is all about occupation. I tell you bluntly, it is not about occupation. It is about terror. How do I know? I was there just 3 1/2 years ago, not 3 1/2 decades ago, with President Clinton. We put on the table by which by now we could already put an end to occupation and live side by side in two states for two nations. President Arafat rejected it even as a basis for negotiation and deliberately turned to terror. We will never, ever yield to this terror, period.

DOBBS: I don't think anyone doubts that. And there's very little doubt that the Palestinians are committed to terrorism. What is the solution? We have a very short time.

BARAK: It's -- as long as this leadership on the Palestinian side with Arafat at the helm, is there, there will be no agreement. And I believe that we have to leave the door open for negotiation, but at the same time, put a security fence and secure the citizens of Israel against suicide bombing in our streets. It is achievable, doable, and we have to do it.

DOBBS: Ehud Barak, former prime minister of the state of Israel, thank you.

BARAK: Thank you.

DOBBS: Still ahead here, building a stronger military from the lessons learned in Iraq and around the world. Former Pentagon official Thomas Barnett says it will take a radical overhaul. He is my guest next.

And "Broken Borders," Congress considering tough new penalties for smugglers who bring hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens into this country each and every year. We will also be joined by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher to talk about his radical plan to catch illegal aliens.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: Turning to gasoline prices tonight, the latest squeeze on the middle class, oil prices today retreated from their record highs, but gasoline prices now at a new record.

The average national retail price of gasoline stands at $2 and almost 2 cents a gallon. That's up more than 7 1/2 cents a week ago, the first time it's been above $2 a gallon. Democrats today called on the White House to take action. Presidential candidate Senator John Kerry said President Bush should temporarily stop filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to its 700-million barrel capacity.

Other Democrats, including Charles Schumer of New York, went further, calling on the White House to pull 60 million barrels of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The White House said the reserve will remain untouched.


SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: In the age of terror, the potential for disruption in supply is greater. The president made a decision following 9/11 that we should protect ourselves, to the extent we could, by fully filling the reserve. That's what we've been attempting to do. The reserve is not there just simply to try to change prices. (END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: The Energy Department predicts gasoline prices will peak next month and stay high throughout the summer.

One gasoline station in Menlo Park, California, however, has given up using numbers and prices to track these higher prices. The sign outside the store simply says a gallon of plus or premium-grade gasoline will just cost you an arm and a leg.

That brings us to the subject of tonight's poll. Should the Bush administration open the Strategic Oil Reserve to lower gasoline prices in this country? Cast your vote at We'll have the results later in the broadcast.

Tonight, America votes. Oregon not usually the first state that comes to mind when talking about political battlegrounds. But with less than six months now to go before the presidential election, voters there are largely divided. Senator John Kerry spent much of the day in Oregon campaigning with a former rival.

Political analyst Bill Schneider has the story.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): John Kerry is in Oregon for the primary. Say Oregon to people who follow national politics and they'll think tree huggers. The state does have a powerful environmental movement and a tradition of cultural liberalism. It has decriminalized medical marijuana, legalized assisted suicide and earlier this year, began granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the Portland area.

Oregon has voted Democratic for president in the last four elections. But Oregon voted for Al Gore by an extremely narrow margin, half a percent, fewer than 7,000 votes. It's actually a divided state. The coastal and urban areas vote like northern California, liberal for Gore. The rest of the state votes like Idaho, conservative for Bush, the state is politically polarized.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The consequence of all of that that these changes were economic which have reduced the employment base in the traditional industries and cultural have been to polarize politics in the state to move the Republicans to the right and the Democrats to the left.

SCHNEIDER: Guess who showed up in Oregon to campaign with Kerry this week.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You are looking for those qualities that brought Howard and myself and so many of the rest of us into the political arena.

SCHNEIDER: But one issue overrides the divisions, jobs. For most of the past three years Oregon has had the highest unemployment rate in the country. Last month it was still higher than the rest of the U. S. . The recession devastated both Oregon economies, wood chips and microchips.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The high tech is the largest single component of Oregon's economy and so when the high tech bust hit in 2001 it was quite devastating.

SCHNEIDER: So Kerry and Howard Dean come to Oregon and do a round table and a rally on the economy.

KERRY: And we are going to end this practice where American workers are subsidizing the loss of their own job. It's over.

SCHNEIDER: Recently, the job situation in Oregon has been looking better, at least on paper.

SUE HARVEY, CLAIMS SUPERVISOR: My sense is it doesn't feel better to us. We're still processing a high volume of claims.

SCHNEIDER: Will the recovery be fast enough to save President Bush? Maybe. One poll of Oregon voters this month shows a dead heat. Another shows Kerry with a two-point lead.


SCHNEIDER: Lou, Oregon is the only state in the country that votes entirely by mail. There aren't any polling places. People get their ballots in the mail. And then they have three weeks to cast their vote. One campaign manager said it's like the movie "Groundhog Day." It's an Election Day that lasts 20 days.

DOBBS: Bill, thank you very much -- Bill Schneider.

My next guest says the Pentagon must now quickly apply the lessons of the war in Iraq. And that mean restructuring the U.S. armed forces. Thomas Barnett says the military should be divided between what he calls a leviathan force for high intensity wars and a system administrative force to rebuild nations. He's the author of the new book, "The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the 21st Century."

Thomas Barnett served in the office of secretary of defense between November 2001 and June of last year and joins me now.

Good to have you here.


DOBBS: The lessons that you talk about not applied to this point in Iraq, nor by this military. Why not?

BARNETT: Well, you could say, in many ways, we've been learning these lessons going all the way back at least to Somalia, the reality that what we're facing in the post-Cold War era isn't so much the high intensity conflict that we are so well adapted to, but, really, what we call under this rubric military operations other than war, basically, the everything else. DOBBS: Tom, you are a gifted analyst, strategist, and writer. But when you say high-intensity war that we are so suited for, what high-intensity war have we demonstrated great success, strategic thinking in, in the last two or three decades?

BARNETT: I would argue the first Desert Storm conflict and I would argue what we did in Kosovo and what we did in, recently, last year in Iraq, meaning, when we're facing military forces on the ground, we know how to take them apart, basically dismember them almost at will.

But what we're not structured for is what comes after. Basically, we've been building for a high-end scenario for the last 10, 15 years, looking for a near peer competitor to appear on the strategic horizon once the Soviets are gone. We are really focused on say a China 20 years from now and not so focused on what happens in Iraq after the hostilities end.

DOBBS: Your writing in "Esquire" magazine reminded all of us of the Bush administration's fixation on China as not only a strategic competitor in an economic sense, but also a geopolitical sense.


DOBBS: Do you think that is eliminated?

BARNETT: I think it was eliminated by 9/11.

But I think what people have to understand with the Pentagon is, what the Pentagon basically does is, it spends its time thinking about, imaging future war and then building a force to fight that future war. And we basically decided around '95, '96, that China was that long-term paradigm that we were going to size our forces against. We have not gotten off that, which is why we're short on equipment and personnel and training. We just haven't rebalanced to meet the challenges we're facing in Iraq since May 2003.

DOBBS: As you talk about high intensity wars, there are those who would say deft, nimble, brilliantly executed in the war to seize Baghdad.

BARNETT: Right. Botched, pathetic and bungling in the period since. It's been a tough road. I would argue this force has the best capability of any military on the planet to do this kind of activity. Is it good enough to secure the kind of success we were hoping to get following the takedown of Saddam, absolutely not. More over, if we demonstrate that, we don't attract the coalition partners who want to join that aspect, the peace keeping more than the war fighting, because that's what they're built for.

DOBBS: The peace keeping they're built for instead of the war fighting, one might argue, Tom, that's of limited use to us. If it is to be our blood and treasure that is spilled around the world in the war against radical Islamist terrorists, having to mop up operations by a group of nations that we then attach to a coalition seems like more PR than substantive assistance and the work of real allies. BARNETT: I would disagree in the following sense. We lost about 150 souls in six weeks of combat. OK, I think we can do that well and keep our losses proportional to the gains we achieve. We have lost what 500, 600 and counts in the 12 months since the "End Of major hostilities in Iraq." I would argue most of the militaries around the world are built for that and eager for that sorts of opportunities. When I talk to foreign militaries and describe that back half force, that system administrator force, most come out of their seats and say this is what we can marry up with.

DOBBS: The two issues that arise with your considerations and the Pentagon's obvious valuation. One is, do we want to be a nation executing nation building as a matter of primary national strategy, a reflection of our national interests. And do we want to engage ground troops because those 736 Americans have died seemed like a high cost to all of us for a strategy that is unclear and an unclear goal. Don't you agree?

BARNETT: Well, I think it was explained badly. I think if you're going to deal with a global war on terrorism, if you are going to deal with foreign terrorist threat into the United States, there is a variety of ways you can approach this. You can try to firewall America off from the outside world. I don't think you can stop really anything. You can hunt down and kill terrorists as fast as possible. As Israel learns in the West Banks, you can't kill them faster than you can grow them. And the more you kill, the more they grow them. So, what you have to do is deny the enemy his strategic goal. And what Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda's strategic goal is to drive the West out of the Middle East so they can hijack the Middle East out of the world. That means we have to integrate the Middle East faster than they can disconnect it from the outside world.

DOBBS: We thank you very much, Thomas Barnett, for being here.

BARNETT: Thanks for having me.

DOBBS: Thank you.

The Pentagon's new map, the 21st century -- Timely.

Now, for a look at "Your Thoughts." Many of you wrote in about our poll question last night asking whether you believe Saddam Hussein's Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Blaine Peterson of Filer, Idaho, "It was proven by the actions against the Kurds that he did have WMD. Why do people have selective memory when it comes to these issues.

Phil of Woodstock, New York disagreed. "I do not believe Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Given his reputation, if he had any he would have used them when the United States went to war against him."

We love hearing from you. E-mail us at Later in the broadcast, we'll hear more of your thoughts on the murder and mutilation of American Nick Berg. Also ahead, a new Congressional push to stop illegal alien smuggling and prevent Americans from losing their benefits to illegal aliens. We'll be joined by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.

A new low for reality programming and possibly American culture and certainly the topic of my commentary tonight.


DOBBS: Tonight in "Broken Borders," illegal alien smuggle is a mutli-billion dollar business. Many illegal aliens pay thousands to be smuggled form Mexico into the United States. Entry is never guaranteed. Neither is their safety. Now, Congress is looking for a way to stop this dangerous and often deadly practice.

Kitty Pilgrim reports.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Large-scale criminal gangs are moving dozens of people at a time across the border. Some in Congress say it's epidemic.

JOHN TORRES, IMMIGRATION & CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT: Tens of thousands of men, women and children are entering the nation illegally each other. Undocumented, undetected and unprotected. This international criminal market is extraordinarily lucrative.

PILGRIM: Congressional hearings looked at a case last year where dozens were locked and abandon indeed a tractor trailer outside Victoria, Texas. Nineteen illegal aliens died. Federal agents have increased raids on so-called safe houses. Last month in L.A. they found more than 100 illegal aliens living in one small house.

REP. LINDA SANCHEZ (D), CALIFORNIA: They were living in the most inhuman of conditions. The house was in a state of squalor. There were no lights. The aliens were literally stacked one on top of each other.

PILGRIM: Agents say a new crackdown is working. On the southwest border, apprehensions of illegal aliens are up 58 percent in March alone and up 22 percent this year. Proposed legislation would boost the jail sentences for smugglers by 10 years if they endanger the health and life of illegal immigrants, and also offer rewards up to $100,000 to people who provide information on smuggling operation. The National Border Patrol Union is skeptical about new measures.

T.J. BONNER, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL BORDER PATROL COUNCIL: People are coming for the jobs. Until we make it illegal, truly illegal to hire people who have no right to be here and make those laws enforcible, we are going to keep shoving sand against the tide.


PILGRIM: Now, the proposed anti-smuggling legislation is gaining attention. There are more than 30 do-sponsors. And the recent horrible incidents where they are abused or killed by smugglers adds momentum to the issue -- Lou.

Kitty, thank you very much.

My next guest proposed legislation to help the government send illegal aliens back to their home countries. The legislation would have forced hospitals to report illegal aliens who seek emergency medical care. Hospitals not cooperating would have lost their federal funding. That bill was defeated over whelming in the House. Joining me now the sponsor of the legislation, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, Republican of California, member of the International Relations Committee. Good to have you with us, congressman.


DOBBS: The rejection today of your legislation, what's your reaction?

ROHRABACHER: There's some very powerful forces at work in the United States of America. That's why we have an out of control flow of illegals into our country. And even though we've got this -- and the American people are seizing, they're angry. They know this is bringing down their wages. They know this is putting strain on healthcare, education, and our criminal justice systems. Yet, our government is unwilling to do anything about it because you've got the liberal left on one side who are trying to use these illegal immigrants as political pawns and you got big business trying to keep wages down on the other. It's an unholy alliance. It was reflected today in this vote.

DOBBS: Unholy alliance. You neglected to mention your Republican president is calling for immigration reform that would create a guest worker program. Some suggesting it would effectively be an amnesty and that the Democrats, obviously, are pressing forward with a very similar reform. What in the world -- where does that leave us?

ROHRABACHER: Well, there are people on both sides of the aisle who I think are mistaken on this issue and some of them have very good hearts and some of them don't. I think the president has been thinking about, you know, a large number of illegal aliens here in our country who don't have the protection of law and are mistreated. I think he has a good heart and is thinking about the illegal aliens. I would respectfully say that that policy would hurt the rest of us and hurt the middle class in America.

By the way, just like today where I'm trying to say that our hospital money, our limited health dollars should go to Americans and not illegals. When the word gets out all over the world, which it has, all you have to do to get to the United States -- is get to the United States and your kids will get free healthcare and education, that's why they go through such torment to get here. That's why they're willing to go through the desert, take risks because we're offering benefits they could never get in their home country and we'll have the problem until we realize that. DOBBS: Congressman, it seems to me, if I may say, and I would like to pose this to you that if we're really serious, just as the Border Patrol Council suggested, if we want to get serious about illegal aliens, we might start with employers, those who hire an illegal alien, punish them, fine them, jail them, whatever is necessary and appropriate. If they want to get serious, there's the heart of the problem.

ROHRABACHER: It is illegal for them to hire them already. Let me note in my bill about healthcare, that we had a provision there that said if an illegal is treated in an emergency room, he has to tell us who his last employer was and if that employer did not take the precautions of making sure he wasn't hiring an illegal alien and hired them fully knowing that he was breaking the law, then that employer, in my legislation, would have had to pay for that healthcare for the illegal immigrant. It is not just employers. We've got to make sure we quit giving people free education, free healthcare and give them all the benefits of our society. Otherwise, they will keep coming. It is not just coming from Mexico. It's coming from China and all over the world.

DOBBS: Congressman, if I may say, I'm as insistent upon border security particularly in this era of the global war on radical Islamist terror as anybody in this country. But the fact that you would put the burden, as your legislation did, on some poor soul sitting in an emergency room, I have to tell you, that strikes me as difficult when it seems to me, at least...

ROHRABACHER: That's not a poor soul.


DOBBS: May I finish. It seems to me that if you put it on that poor soul who's hired a day care worker or employed 100 people to work in a plant and said, you're going to pay a price for trying to avoid paying a living wage to somebody in this country, you might have a different result. Don't you think?

ROHRABACHER: I did. That was in my bill. You are talking about something that was in my bill. My bill said, somebody who hires employees and does so without any regard to whether they're legal or not, doesn't try to determine that and then they end up in healthcare, it's the employer has to pay for that healthcare. That was in my legislation. It was still turned down.

DOBBS: Are you going to try again?

ROHRABACHER: I think that we need a national debate on this. We need the American people to see how their representative voted on HR- 3722, which was my bill. They need to hold their elected officials accountable rather than just having these powerful interest groups in Washington. Look, what could be easier to describe and to support not draining our scarce health dollars and giving them to illegals rather than using them for our own people? That is an easy argument. Yet, the Congress voted it down today. DOBBS: We're going to do our part. We'll put up the vote on your legislation on our website at so everybody will know how the vote went. And we'll also lay out exactly the elements of the legislation. We thank you for being here. We couldn't agree with you more about the importance of a national dialogue on this critically important issue.

ROHRABACHER: Yes, it is. It's vital.

DOBBS: Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, thank you.

When we continue. Bowling for success. One Kentucky company has found it does pay to stay in the good old U.S.A. We'll have that story.

And just when you think reality TV can sink no lower, network executives find a new and disturbing level of mindless TV. I'll have commentary, opinion and thoughts and a couple of emotions about that actually. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Tonight, made in America, our special report, recognizing companies that carry the "Made in the U.S.A." label. There are not many. Tonight we look at Ebonite International. Ebonite's a company that's been making bowling balls for more than a century right here in the United States. Lisa Sylvester reports from Hopkinsville, Kentucky.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Population 32,000 is the home of Ebonite International. Every 12 seconds a bowling ball rolls off the assembly line. Ebonite is the only bowling ball company that makes all of its own materials, including the shell and the sheen. The company also manufactures the Hammer line of bowling balls, has a line of accessories and carries a collector's item or two.

BRIAN HICKEY, EBONITE MANUFACTURING MANAGER: For the people at the plant, yes, it is a unique place to work. You're making a unique product. We're not making springs, bearings. We're making stuff you can play with.

SYLVESTER: But it is not all play. Making a bowling ball is about physics and chemistry. That's why the plant has its own laboratory. Any bowler will tell you the weight of the ball is one of the most important features. These scales were made by NASA for precision weighing. Maintaining control over quality is one reason company managers decided to keep production in the United States after flirting with the idea of moving overseas. Another reason is loyalty to its employees. Many have been with the company for at least 15 years.

ROBERT REID, EBONITE VICE PRESIDENT: This year we conducted a very expensive study that involved four different possible outsourcing markets in Asia. The conclusion to our study is we are, in fact, the world's low cost producer right here in the United States.

SYLVESTER: In fact, the company is a large exporter. 35 percent of their bowling balls are destined for foreign markets. The "Made in the U.S.A." label has become one of the company's biggest marketing tools. Avid bowler Kathy Swiger knows quality is behind the Ebonite name.

KATHY SWIGER, BOWLER: I don't have to do much effort to put it where I want to put it and get the results I want.

SYLVESTER: Ebonite has the formula for striking it rich, loyalty to its customers and its employees. Lisa Sylvester, CNN, Hopkinsville, Kentucky.


DOBBS: Tonight's thought is on America. "America was established not to create wealth but to realize a vision, to realize an ideal, to discover and maintain liberty among men." Those are the words of the 28th president of United States, Woodrow Wilson.

Now for a look at some of your thoughts about the fight for Iraq. Robert Coury in Pennsylvania. "The execution of Nick Berg shows the true nature of al Qaeda. It was a clear act that goes against everything that represents humanity and reason. Al Qaeda must feel the full weight of American justice. This video has only reignited my support for our just war against these inhuman brutal murderers.

Eugene Womack of Myers Flat, California. "It's unfortunate pictures were taken of the Iraqi prisoners but I didn't see anyone cutting a POW's head off. This is war, and intelligence must be gathered in any manner possible, if only to save lives."

John Perry, Tampa, Florida: "There were no policies governing what happened in the Iraq prison. But now they removed some policies that should not have been there in the first place."

And Richard Block of El Segundo, California: "Lou, I understand we have troops in over 100 countries. It appears with all the illegal immigration, we have them everywhere but where they are needed most, on our borders."

Send us your e-mails at We enjoy hearing your thoughts.

Still ahead, just how low can reality TV go? ABC has the answer.


DOBBS: Encouraging news from Wall Street, for a change. Stocks up from their lowest close this year. The Dow up 62 points, almost. The Nasdaq, 21. The S&P up 7.

No let-up tonight, however, in the squeeze on this country's middle class. Christine Romans has that for us -- Christine. CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNNFN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, the Bush administration has been boasting of 68 percent home ownership in this country. That's the highest on record. But buried in that positive statistic, more bad news for working Americans and workers in the middle class.

Home ownership among America's families with children is declining. In 1978, 62 percent of low- to moderate-income families with kids owned a home. More than two decade later, it is down to 56 percent. Even with double incomes, these families are having trouble getting by, never mind buying a home and investing in the future.

Still, Lou, some rare good news tonight. A CEO who isn't greedy. Best Buy CEO Brad Anderson is giving last year's stock options to his workers, all 200,000 of them. That's about $7.5 million. Best Buy had a pretty good year last year. Brad Anderson got about $3.1 million in salary and bonus. He's giving his options, just that year's options, to his workers.

DOBBS: Well, that's pretty doggone generous. And as you say, rare good news from the executive compensation suite. Thanks.

Television networks this week are presenting their fall line-ups, and so-called reality television is on every schedule. ABC, a unit of Disney, of course, which couldn't handle distribution of the Michael Moore film, has added a new show to its network line-up, entitled "Wife Swap," which, in my opinion, sets a new standard in lack of standards.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And this is disgusting. I'm sorry. I shouldn't say that, but it's disgusting.

DOBBS (voice-over): In the subtly titled "Wife Swap," two women switch places for 10 days.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These are all shoes?

DOBBS: Despite the show's title, the only thing they don't do is sleep with each other's husbands. There is nothing nuanced about the way ABC is touting its new program. "This intense new series taps into America's voyeuristic tendencies and desires to judge how others run their households, raise their children and treat their spouses."

We all remember the controversy over Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl and of course Howard Stern, and the high standards being set by the Federal Communications Commission.

So what does ABC promise? Well, ABC promises the new wife's rules are a radical shock to both families.

But what's really shocking, in my opinion, is the appetite of many Americans for this kind of low-brow entertainment.

MICHAEL SCHNEIDER, VARIETY: It's kind of shocking to see not only is reality TV popular with the masses, but it's popular with the upscale, educated, highly affluent masses. I'm not sure what exactly that says about viewers and the taste of American viewers. But clearly, they've spoken. And they want more of this reality TV. And the networks are giving it to them.

DOBBS: "The Bachelor" is also back, you'll be pleased to know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want to get more confidence in myself.

DOBBS: "Extreme Makeover" returns for another season of radical plastic surgery, all, of course, caught on camera.

PORTER BIBB, MEDIA TECH CAPITAL PARTNERS: I think we are a bottomless pit, a black hole of culture today, thanks very much to reality shows. Once you start seeing how far you can push the envelope in programs like "Extreme Makeovers," there's nowhere else you can go except off the air.

DOBBS: NBC is bringing back "The Apprentice", "Fear Factor" and "Average Joe" for another season. The entertainment networks, despite all that furor over Stern and Jackson, aren't hesitating to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You guys, I don't do this kind of manual labor. Come on.

DOBBS: At least the program can boast of originality.


DOBBS: Up next here, the results of our poll.


DOBBS: Now the results of our poll. Nearly two-thirds of those responding said the Bush administration should open the strategic oil reserves to lower gasoline prices.

Please join us tomorrow night. Governor Janet Napolitano of Arizona, calling for an investigation of soaring profits for energy companies. All of that and more tomorrow. Thanks for being with us. Good night from New York. "ANDERSON COOPER 360" is next.


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