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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Government Warns of Al Qaeda Attacks; U.S. Drought Threatening Food Supply?

Aired May 26, 2004 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Tonight, the faces of radical Islamist terror. The government offers no specific information, but says al Qaeda plans to attack the United States within months.

JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: This disturbing intelligence indicates al Qaeda's specific intention to hit the United States hard.

DOBBS: One of this country's leading terrorism experts says today's terrorist warning could be a political ploy. The RAND Corporation's John Parachini is my guest tonight.

American troops kill 70 insurgents in Iraq. The former head of Central Command, Marine General Anthony Zinni, accuses the Pentagon's civilian leaders of dereliction of duty. Authors of the new book "Battle Ready," General Zinni and Tom Clancy, join me.

In water wars, six years of drought in the West is creating not only water shortages, but also threatening our food supply. We'll have a special report.

And America's free trade giveaway. The Bush administration pushes yet another free trade agreement, but critics say Central American nations are so poor, they can't afford to buy American products.

JOHN MACARTHUR, AUTHOR, "THE SELLING OF FREE TRADE": There is no market in Central America. These are dirt poor countries;

DOBBS: In "Face Off" tonight, two very different views on the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Congressman Christopher Shays and Congressman Xavier Becerra join me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT for Wednesday, May 26. Here now for an hour of news, debate and opinion is Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening.

Tonight, the government says al Qaeda is determined to attack the United States in the next few months. The FBI says it's looking for seven terrorist suspects. Attorney General John Ashcroft today said those suspects present a clear and present danger, but Ashcroft offered no specific information about the nature, nor the timing of the threat.

Justice correspondent Kelli Arena reports from Washington -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Lou, the attorney general made several key points.

The first, that there is intelligence from multiple sources indicating that al Qaeda plans to try to attack in the U.S. in the next few months, that there is intelligence suggesting terrorist groups may try to influence the U.S. elections by staging an attack like they did in Madrid, and that the U.S. government has no specifics, no time, no target, or method.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ASHCROFT: Ideal al Qaeda operatives may now be in their late 20s or early 30s and may travel with a family to lower their profile. Our intelligence confirms al Qaeda is seeking recruits who can portray themselves as Europeans. Al Qaeda also attracts Muslim extremists among many nationalities and ethnicities, including North Africans and South Asians, as well as recruiting young Muslim converts of any nationality inside target countries.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ARENA: So here's what's being done. The FBI has established a new task force to deal specifically with the summer threat. Agents have been directed to go back to sources for updated information, and the FBI director says nationwide interviews will be conducted seeking intelligence information.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: Information about persons who may have moved into the community recently, persons who seem to be in a community without any roots.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ARENA: The FBI also issuing a new "be on the lookout" alert for this man, Adam Yahihyi Gadahn. He is a U.S. citizen and he's wanted for questioning regarding possible threats made against the United States.

Alerts were also reissued, Lou, for six other individuals. Now, all this, the government says, to make sure that citizens are safe just as several high-profile events are nearly upon us, starting with this weekend's dedication of the World War II memorial here in Washington, D.C. -- back to you.

DOBBS: Kelli Arena, thank you very much.

Attorney General Ashcroft said the new threat could be tied to the upcoming Democratic Convention that will be held in Boston and the Republican Convention in New York. But the police departments in both of those cities today said the federal government has not informed them of any heightened threat. New York's police commissioner, Raymond Kelly, issued a statement saying -- quote -- "We are receiving highly sensitive intelligence information on a regular basis and there is nothing to indicate a specific threat or looming attack against New York City."

Kelly went on to say the New York Police Department has and will continue to presume New York to be a possible target of al Qaeda. The police departments in Los Angeles and Philadelphia also said they've not been advised of any new threat. And the federal government itself says it has no plans to raise the national terror alert level. That alert level is at yellow or elevated, the midpoint on a five-point scale.

New York City, however, retains an orange, or high alert. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said the government cannot afford to take any chances.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: For the past several months there has a threat reporting stream that, not surprisingly, from some credible sources and some incredible sources, say that America is the target of potential terrorist attacks. Sometimes there's a time period associated with them. There's no specific information as to who, what, when, where, and how.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: A number of Democrats today questioned the timing of today's announcement because the president does face low poll numbers. But the White House insists there were no political motives in the warning about a possible al Qaeda attack.

Dana Bash reports from the White House -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, the White House does flatly deny that there are any political motivations here. They say it is simply about the intelligence that they are getting.

But officials are well aware that there may be a perception that they are trying to deflect the bad news coming out of Iraq. One official I talked to about that earlier today calling about Iraq said, why are you calling me, sarcastically, of course, don't you see that we're trying to change the subject?

Well, in terms of the politics of a potential attack, Lou, Bush campaign aides say they don't have a clue how it would cut politically, whether it would hurt the president because people would think he hasn't done enough to protect them or maybe it would help because it would remind them of the way they felt about him after September 11.

But certainly fighting terrorism is still the president's No. 1 asset. If you look at the latest poll numbers from the Quinnipiac College -- they came out today, it shows that terrorism does top the economy and the war in Iraq by nine and 10 points.

However, the president's approval on fighting terror is sinking, just like other issues. It is down eight points you see there in just five months. The Bush campaign had already started to try to fight back. This week they are running ads against John Kerry, saying that he is now against the Patriot Act. That of course is a piece of legislation the president signed and is pushing because he says it has helped fight terrorism -- Lou.

DOBBS: Dana, thank you very much -- Dana Bash from the White House.

My guest tonight says today's announcement about the possibility of an al Qaeda attack could be political in nature, but, at the same time, he says it's good to have the public support the search for suspected terrorists.

John Parachini is policy analyst on terrorism and weapons proliferation at the RAND Corporation, joining us tonight from Washington.

Good to have you with us.

JOHN PARACHINI, RAND CORPORATION: Nice to be with you.

DOBBS: John, these suspects have been known to the United States, to authorities, for some time. What is your best analysis as to why the alert today?

PARACHINI: Well, there may have been bureaucratic discussions going on within the Bush administration for a number of months trying to decide when was the right and appropriate time to release these. And it may have just happened now.

It is always useful to make these types of photographs available to alert a wider audience around the country that these are people that law enforcement intelligence authorities are looking for.

DOBBS: The public, all of us, have to wonder, if there is a heightened threat that would draw the attention of the United States attorney general and result in this kind of warning, why in the world then would we not be raising the national terrorist alert color and signal?

PARACHINI: Well, there's a very specific set of events that trigger the movement of the alert system up and down. And, apparently, the information that authorities have at this point just don't cause that to happen.

I would be looking in the coming days that if, indeed, more information is garnered, that, indeed, they may reevaluate where the alert system is at the moment.

DOBBS: John, let's talk as straight as we possibly can. The heads of the police departments in Los Angeles and New York say they have received no directives or alerts from the federal government. What does this say about what is going on here?

PARACHINI: Well, I think it says as much about the difficulty in really getting precise information about what the al Qaeda movement or global jihadist movement is doing.

They're talking about lots of things all the time. But how do we evaluate the real implications of that for security here at home in the United States or for American companies and government officials around the globe or, indeed, for our armed forces in Iraq? I think it is just a very difficult problem to sort through the information to figure out what it means.

DOBBS: And what do you make of the fact that Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge took an entirely different tone than did Attorney General John Ashcroft on this very same issue?

PARACHINI: Well, I think that shows you the difficulty that government officials, even very senior government officials, have in interpreting how to best respond to this.

They are human like the rest of us. They are trying to sort through what's most important. I think it is useful that, on a periodic basis, we keep our guard up. Al Qaeda operates according to its own calendar, not ours. And so it is hard to know when we really need to be vigilant and protect against their actions.

So, periodically, if indeed it is an imperfect alert system or an imperfect time for them to make a decision, I think that's not necessarily a bad thing for us as American citizens.

DOBBS: And for us as American citizens and you as a leading authority on terrorism, tell us what you perceive tonight to be the principal threat to our public safety from radical Islamist terrorism.

PARACHINI: Well, I think we have an ongoing problem, Lou, that is probably a decade-long problem. Somewhere between 20,000 and 120,000 people went through al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. It is going to take us a decade to track these people down. We're going to have to be vigilant when information comes, as it seems to have come for authorities now, but not only now, but for probably the next decade.

DOBBS: Thank you very much, John Parachini, RAND. Thank you very much.

Senator Kerry today said he can wage a more effective war on terror than President Bush. Senator Kerry in a speech at a shipping terminal said the United States deserves a president who does not make homeland security a photo opportunity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Why is it that in our ports all across this country, we still do not have inspection of containers that are coming into our nation? Why is it that our trains and other forms of transportation don't the protection that we know would make us safer? Why is it that chemical plants and nuclear facilities still don't have the plans in place and the protections in place that are necessary?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: In another campaign development, Senator Kerry tonight issued a statement saying that he will, after all, accept the Democratic nomination at July's convention. Some of his advisers had suggested that he delay accepting the nomination so that Senator Kerry would have more time to spend campaign money that he has raised privately.

That brings us to the subject of our poll tonight: Do you feel more secure today against terrorist threats than you did two years ago, yes or no? Please cast your vote at CNN.com/Lou. We'll have the results later in the broadcast.

One of the biggest concerns for counterterrorism officials is the possibility that radical is Islamist terrorists may acquire nuclear weapons. Today, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham launched a new initiative in Vienna to collect nuclear material around the world. That initiative is designed to prevent nuclear material falling in the hands of terrorists in rogue states.

Still ahead tonight, free trade giveaway? Critics say the new Central America Free Trade Agreement will do nothing to help American workers and businesses.

Authors General Tony Zinni and Tom Clancy join me to talk about their new book, "Battle Ready," and General Zinni's criticism of the war in Iraq.

Storms in the Caribbean kill at least 500 people. U.S. troops helping rescue efforts there. We'll have a report.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Tonight, we continue our series of special reports on the high cost of free trade, on the Bush administration's push for yet another trade agreement, this one covering Central America. There are nations so poor, it is unlikely that they will be able to buy American products, but their labor costs are so low, U.S. companies are said to be lining up to send jobs south.

Peter Viles reports on the trouble with CAFTA.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETER VILES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Trade deals. You talk about access to new markets and to new consumers.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: New markets for America's entrepreneurs and manufacturers and farmers to create jobs for American workers.

VILES: But what if those consumers are so poor they can't possibly afford your goods?

MACARTHUR: There is no market in Central America. These are dirt poor countries. I've been to these countries. I've been to Nicaragua and Honduras. And they don't have the money to buy American consumer goods anymore than the supposedly burgeoning Mexican middle class.

VILES: In fact, Mexico is richer than every CAFTA nation. Mexico per capita GDP, $8,900 a year. Costa Rica is close to that. But other four CAFTA nations, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, lag far behind.

The region doesn't buy America, but it sells to America and it sells cheap labor. Wages in the apparel industry in the region, $1 an hour if you have fast hands, in Honduras, 60 cents an hour, in El Salvador and in Nicaragua, 29 cents an hour. Yes, some American goods to these countries, but they are false exports because they go there with a round-trip ticket.

ALAN TONELSON, U.S. BUSINESS & INDUSTRY COUNCIL: What we send to Central America is overwhelmingly fabric. The fabric gets sewn in Central America and not consumed in Central America, but sent back here to supply the U.S. market, where people still have enough income to buy it.

VILES: Another weakness, crushing government debt. Nicaragua and Honduras both qualify for special debt relief from the IMF, because their debts are so high and their economies so poor.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VILES: Combined, there were 36 million people in the CAFTA nations. But that is somewhat misleading. In purchasing power, this entire region has about as much clout as a small-size American city, like Orlando, Florida -- Lou.

DOBBS: Incredible. Thanks a lot, Peter Viles.

A little later here, we'll be taking two very different looks at CAFTA. Congressman Christopher Shays and Congressman Xavier Becerra will face off on the issue of CAFTA.

Now for a look at some of your thoughts on this subject.

Patricia James of Jonesboro, Arkansas, wrote in about my interview yesterday with Congressman Kevin Brady, one of CAFTA's leading supporters. "Ask Mr. Brady, what are we supposed to trade with other countries? We don't make anything here anymore?"

Mike Arant of Newark, Delaware: "If CAFTA is passed, the only products we'll be shipping to Central America is the remaining factory machinery that wasn't already dismantled and exported due to NAFTA."

Don in Northridge, California: "To whoever wrote in asking whatever asking to the government of the people, by the people, for the people ,come to California. We bypass politicians and crooks and put it on the ballot. Even got us a new governor."

Send us your thoughts at LouDobbs@CNN.com. We'll share some more of your thoughts later here.

Tonight, an 8th grader from Kansas now has a huge head start on his college fund. Earlier today in Washington, D.C., Andrew Wojtanik won a $25,000 scholarship and the title 2004 National Geographic Bee champion, all that for answering this final question correctly: Peshawar, Peshawar, a city in the northwest frontier province of Pakistan, has had strategic importance for centuries because of its location near what historic pass?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEX TREBEK, MODERATOR: Congratulations. That's $10,000 for you. The Khyber Pass.

And that means that Andrew Wojtanik from Kansas, congratulations, young man. You are the 2004 -- stand up -- you are the 2004 National Geographic Bee champion. Well done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: We add our congratulations. This remarkable student beat out 10 finalists and five million students. He prepared for the competition by writing a five-pound book about all 193 countries in the world.

And tonight's thought is on education: "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance" -- those are the words of former Harvard University President Derek Bok.

Just ahead, from NAFTA to CAFTA. The Bush administration says its new trade deal will open markets and strengthen democracy. Critics, however, say it will destroy jobs here in America. We'll have a debate in tonight's "Face-Off."

And lying, incompetence, corruption, just a few of the charges leveled against the current U.S. government and its civilian leadership in the Pentagon. We'll hear from the authors of "Battle Ready," Tom Clancy and retired General Tony Zinni.

New warnings tonight for flooded areas in the Midwest, now a disaster area for some communities in northern Illinois. We'll have that report for you.

And later here, our series on the nation's Western drought. Tonight, we take you on a trip down the Colorado River to the ranch lands of northern Arizona, where an entire way of life is being threatened and the region's food supply as well.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: The debate over CAFTA at the center of our "Face-Off" tonight. Joining me now, Congressman Xavier Becerra of California. He says the trade agreement will lead to the loss of American jobs as more companies move production to Central America, joining us tonight from Los Angeles.

Congressman, good to have you with us.

Congressman Christopher Shays from Connecticut, he says there are some jobs Americans simply won't do, says it is better to ship those jobs to Central America and Mexico, rather than to Asia.

Congressman Shays joins us tonight from Riviera Beach, Florida.

Congressmen, good to have you with us.

(CROSSTALK)

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: Good to be with you, Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you.

Let me address the first question to you, Congressman Shays.

We've had a 10-year experience with NAFTA. What is so terrific about the experience that would suggest that CAFTA is the right thing to do?

SHAYS: Well, what we've seen is, we've seen trade double in the last 10 years with Mexico and Canada, and we've also seen jobs created in all three countries.

And it's interesting to me that your promotion at the beginning was so negative, Lou. There are two aspects to this. There are jobs and there's democracy. The United States is always criticized when we do bad things. And here, we're helping to create more jobs in an area close to our country where we have a lot of immigration problems, and let's give a pat on the back to caring about what happens in Central America.

DOBBS: I think that's a wonderful point.

Congressman Becerra, is it persuasive to you?

REP. XAVIER BECERRA (D), CALIFORNIA: I think Chris is right that we need to recognize the importance of Central America. But this deal won't do it.

It is just a prescription for expanded job outsourcing, not just out of America, but out of the Americas to Asia. And it doesn't really do the trick of trying to make sure that we keep jobs here and help keep Central Americans keep jobs in Central America.

DOBBS: One of the obvious issues, as you raise it, Congressman Shays, is aid and trade sort of melding together, the politics and commerce becoming one. In Mexico, we have seen a government put in place that has not been able to push through any reforms of any kind, in point of fact, still considerable corruption throughout that country, lower wages as a result over the course of the past 10 years. Manufacturing wages in Mexico have declined. Is that really what we want to export here?

SHAYS: Oh, we're not exporting that.

And I think it is almost silly to imply that. You are making an assumption that it would have been different without NAFTA. I think it would have been worse without NAFTA. But what's important to realize

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: Well, that's a fair point.

SHAYS: No, but what's important to recognize in this negotiation is that there's significantly improved anti-corruption laws, much more transparency.

And remember, with the Caribbean Basin Initiative, already, a lot of the Central American countries can already export their products to us at very low tariffs.

DOBBS: And, Congressman Becerra, the fact of the matter is, the issue of jobs here is critical, is it not?

BECERRA: Absolutely. And trade agreements aren't bad by themselves. We need to have trade with countries.

What we don't want is to write into law through our trade agreements that we can allow workers to be exploited, companies to abuse so that they have these advantages over the U.S. and its companies and workers that are not based on natural consequences. So if we can make sure we have a trade agreement with Central America where it's natural advantages -- it grows coffee and bananas better than we can, but we can't let it have an advantage because it pays its workers 50 cents on the hour, when we pay our manufacturing workers $15, $20, $30 an hour.

What you don't want is to create advantages that aren't real, because getting rid of tariffs and quotas as artificial trade barriers are good. But if you're allowing other artificial barriers to exist, you are not doing anyone any good. You are just helping export jobs to countries that are low-wage and it is a race to the bottom about who will pay the least amount to be able have the most -- least expensive product.

DOBBS: Christopher -- Congressman Shays, your response to that?

SHAYS: Well, first, it's not a race to the bottom.

You could make that argument against any trade agreement with any country because we pay higher wages. The issue is, when will countries overseas pay more? And they will start to pay more when they start to have jobs. And then you will start to see their salaries go up. We have special agreements as it relates to the environment here and with labor practices.

But I do agree with you. We've been disappointed with what we have seen happened in Mexico. We haven't seen some of the reforms that we would like to see. And it remains to be seen if we'll see those reforms in Central America. I do want to point out that we export $11 billion to Central America. We import $12 billion. So we don't have an insufficient or insignificant economic relationship.

BECERRA: Lou, there's a problem here.

Mexico did see expanded exports into the U.S. It saw tremendous increase in the amount of U.S. investment in Mexico. All of that over the last 10 years has resulted in wages for Mexican workers actually decreasing and the minimum wage actually decreasing. So while we saw wealth created, it didn't trickle down to the workers, and we never saw the Mexican middle class created, which could then buy the American products that we sell.

And as a result, you don't want to make the same mistake with Central America. Central America, this trade agreement, simply says the following with regard to labor laws. And we know there are abusive labor laws in some of these countries. Enforce your own laws. What kind of deal is that? Do what you're supposed to be doing to begin with. That's no trade agreement. There's nothing, no bargain there. We got nothing from them.

DOBBS: Congressman Shays, I would like you to respond to that. And, at the same time, free trade is starting to take on a very simple, straightforward, synonymous connotation worldwide. Free trade equals cheap labor.

SHAYS: Well, it is to you.

DOBBS: Well, you can be as insulting as you want, Congressman. Go ahead. But what I'm saying to you is very simple.

(CROSSTALK)

SHAYS: No, I'm not being

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: That's fine. But please address this question, if you would, Congressman.

Free trade equals cheap labor. That seems to be driving so much of what we're looking at here.

SHAYS: That's what you think. I don't agree with that. I think free trade equals to a country like the United States that has massive economic power, tremendous economy and the hope and expectation that any country that wants to grow and prosper has to have technology that we offer. And so, yes, I'm not going to judge NAFTA entirely on the last 10 years. None of the terrible things have happened that people have suggested about NAFTA. None of the extraordinarily good things have happened that we suggested. It's somewhere in between. And that's the reality of it.

DOBBS: Is it really in between? Congressman Becerra, I would like you to address this. Is it in between when we've seen our trade deficit with Mexico and Canada explode? We've got a half trillion trade deficit, three trillion dollars in trade debt. And we continue to hear the discussion we have to have free trade at any cost. The cost -- we now see the bill. Three trillion dollars, half a trillion a year. And we continue to lose jobs. We still have to carry tremendous debt. We are a debtor nation. It looks now in propriety if we continue these policies, are we not?

BECERRA: And, Lou, that's because we are forging trade agreements with these international trade partner that simply say to them, open up your market so we can send companies or other countries that can be as exploitive as your own companies have been of the labor there, thereby producing cheaper goods that we can bring back to the U.S.

What we should do in these trade agreements is say, look. You can't get these kind of advantages that is aren't natural or hard work made. And if we were to do that in the trade agreements, if we were to have protections for labor, the way we have for intellectual property. in the CAFTA trade agreement we say if you violate our intellectual property, if you try to pirate one of our videos or pirate one of our CDs, we can prosecute and impose sanctions. We don't say that with regard to the most precious capital we have, which is human capital. You can exploit human capital, but don't you dare take advantage of our videos and CDs. If we were to treat labor the same we treat CDs and videos, what we find is that these countries would have to share the wealth which could have given a Mexico a chance to have a middle class that could then purchase the products from the U.S., which would have meant we wouldn't have had this massive imbalance of trade occur with Mexico. Because while they can send to us because it was cheaply produced, they couldn't buy from us because they didn't have a middle class to purchase our product.

DOBBS: Congressman Shays, you have the last word tonight.

SHAYS: Our production in the United States has gone up significantly. We've seen industry produce in the last -- since NAFTA, it has gone up 44 percent. When you talk about losing jobs, I think we've lost some jobs and gained some jobs.

DOBBS: Congressman Shays and Congressman Becerra, we thank you both for being here. We appreciate your time and your thoughts.

New developments in the storms in the Caribbean, and they are devastating. Officials say flooding and landslides have killed more than 660 people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Soldiers are searching now for hundreds of other people missing.

In the town in the Hemani (ph), in the Dominican Republic, more than 100 bodies were buried in a mass grave. Meanwhile, U.S. troops in Haiti, are working to help some of the country's hardest hit regions. The floods are just the latest in what has been a string of disasters for Haiti. The poverty stricken nation just endured an armed revolt in February that forced former President Jean Bertrand Aristide from office. And the flooding continues.

U.S. Government forecasters warned American farmers in the Midwest serious flooding after heavy rains in recent days. In Illinois today the governor declared a disaster area for flooded communities along the Des Plaines River. Flood waters are receding in some parts of the Midwest, but still rising in others. Residents of the city of Des Plaines, are still bracing for a rise in their flood waters. The National Weather Service says, the river should crest 4 feet above flood stage.

Still ahead, American troops in Iraq have arrested a key lieutenant to radical Shiite Cleric Muqtadal Sadr, we'll have the latest for you.

Former CENTCOM Commander General Tony Zinni blasts the Pentagon Civilian leaders over their planning and handling of the post-Saddam period in Iraq. We'll have my conversation with General Zinni and Tom Clancy. Their new book, "Battle Ready" next.

And our special report, "Water Wars," years of drought in the west now threatening the food supply. That and more ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: All this week we're reporting on the severe drought that has devastated much of the Western United States, a drought that has lasted six years now, and some say could be the worst drought in more than a century. Tonight, in our special report, "Water Wars," we continue down the Colorado river. Tonight through the Grand Canyon to the ranches of northern Arizona where the drought is forcing many ranchers and farmers to sell their property. It is a trend that is endangering not only their way of life, but, perhaps, the region's food supply as well.

Casey Wian reports from Kingman, Arizona.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John Neal's ancestors staked their claim after the civil war. The Arizona cattle rancher once had more than 500 head here. Now, because of the drought he's down to a few dozen.

JOHN NEAL, CATTLE RANCHER: We've had a real shortage of water through spring water, through rain water that fills our tanks that we stock tanks from. It's been a severe impact. It's made us make drastic cuts in our numbers.

WIAN: The expense of hauling water from remote locations or drilling for wells is making it unprofitable. The drought lingered for so long even the cactus here is dying. Five generations of Neal's family have raised cattle on this land. But to survive the drought, he's decided to diversify by subdividing 1,800 acres for residential development. He's trying to preserve some of the ranch for his children. NEAL: It's not a decision I really wanted to make. When I looked at the books and seen what was coming, there was one thing to do. It went back to my dad's advice before he passed away 10 years ago. He said whatever you do, don't fall in love with this land to the point that you hurt your family or hurt yourself. So, he said if you have to sell some off to keep going, go ahead and do that.

WIAN: Since 1978, Arizona has lost nearly one-third of its farm and ranch land, nearly 12 million acre,s 57 acres an hour sold to developers. Farmers are being paid not to grow crops. And because agriculture uses about three times as much water in the west as urban developments, it is a tempting target to expanding cities.

NEAL: I am worried about the future agriculture in this country. It is easy to say we could grow our food in South America and ship it in. However, that's not necessarily a viable option. What would happen is, in my opinion, we would be controlled by another part of the world. Food is paramount to everything else.

WIAN: For now, Neal's lots are almost sold out as the water wars between agricultural and urban users play out literally in his backyard.

Casey Wian, CNN, Kingman, Arizona.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: We continue water wars tomorrow. We look at the city most devastated by the drought and facing the greatest risks, Las Vegas. It is the fastest growing city in the nation, and it is now taking extreme measures, emergency measures trying to conserve water. That report tomorrow night. We hope you'll be with us.

Still ahead here tonight, former Marine Corps General Tony Zinni has accused the Pentagon civilian leadership of dereliction of duty over the war in Iraq. General Zinni, author Tom Clancy, they join me next. We'll be talking about their new book, "Battle Ready." Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: In Iraq today, coalition forces killed at least 70 gunmen loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr. Fifty militia members were killing in over night fighting in Najaf, 20 more were killed in Sadr City in Baghdad itself. The Najaf raids also led to the capture of al-Sadr's brother -- his brother-in-law -- who is also one of his top aides. U.S. officials say the man will be handed over to Iraqi authorities.

In Baghdad, insurgents attacked a bus carrying Russian contractors. Two of the Russians were killed, 5 wounded.

Let's turn back to our poll tonight, the question, "do you feel more secure today against terrorist attacks in this country than you did 2 years ago?" Yes or no. Cast your vote at cnn.com/lou. We'll have the results coming right up. A former commander of Centcom is sharply critical of the Pentagon civilian leadership for its handling of Iraq. Retired marine General Tony Zinni says in the lead up to the war, he witnessed what he called negligence, irresponsibility, lying, incompetence and corruption. And he's written a book about it with best-selling author Tom Clancy.

Earlier I talked with General Zinni and Clancy about the book, "Battle Ready." I asked General Zinni about comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEN. TONY ZINNI (RET), FRM. COMMANDER, CENTRAL COMMAND: There were a lot of differences between Vietnam and Iraq. And we have to be careful in using comparisons. But I think there were strategic and policy lesson that, unfortunately, we keep relearning. One is to make sure the strategy has it right. You know, the old domino theory in Vietnam proved not to be right. The idea we can change the Middle East by this intervention by flexing our muscles was wrong. So, we had the wrong strategy. We didn't understand it enough and bring people in that understood the culture and the area to say this is not the correct strategy.

In addition to that, you have got to make sure you're telling the American people straight up while you're going in. We had the talk in Vietnam. We have the WMD in association with terrorism that is not panning out. So the people feel betrayed, mislead.

The CPA, the coalition provisional authority, it's a pick-up team thrown in. The guy in charge is changing mid stream. They are making decisions as they go along that anybody that knows the region knows it is disastrous: disbanding the army, debaathifying down to the people that know how things work, that have no blood on their hands, buying into the exile story, beaming them into this Ahmed Chalabi and company are now hanging...

DOBBS: The Iraqi National Congress and the idea that an uprising could be had on the cheap.

ZINNI: He sold at the (UNINTELLIGIBLE). He sold it to us starting in '98 with the Congress and the Iraqi Liberation Act. Some of us at that time testified to that effect. You're going down the wrong path. He is telling you something that isn't true on the ground. And he's leading you into a situation on the ground that isn't as rosy and as welcome as you think it's going to be.

DOBBS: You are a historian as well as novelist, Tom. When you hear General Zinni say this, does it concern you to think about a military that would have such a broad portfolio and responsibility?

TOM CLANCY, AUTHOR: The military will do just about any job we give to them because they're good people and they know how to think creatively. Thinking creatively -- I was -- in '01 I was doing something with the defense department. And so I said, we need people to think outside the box. One of the guys around the table said, the trouble with the government is you tell people to think outside the box, what happens is they build you a better box.

DOBBS: General Zinni, as you talk about this broader portfolio, the idea of the military taking on this additional burdens at a time when we have also a CIA director who says it will be five years before we have an effective covert force in our intelligence community. Doesn't it give you pause?

CLANCY: Lou, hold on that thought. Then some dumb senator said, what if you don't have five years. A woman takes nine months to deliver a baby. Three women can't do it in three months. Some things just take time. If they take time, you got to spend the time.

DOBBS: You a George Tenet fan?

CLANCY: I've never met the man, OK? But we can't make that happen in less than five years.

DOBBS: You really believe that?

CLANCY: When a guy graduates from law school and passes the bar, does he know as much as the guy who has been in legal practice for ten years? No. Why? They have ten years of experience.

Now, as a matter of law, he may be able to practice law as they are. But you can't legislate time. It takes time for people to learn their jobs. There's no way around it. Are you a better reporter than you were ten years ago?

DOBBS; You are the master of metaphor and analogy. And that is your art. But the fact is, I don't see any parallel whatsoever Tom, if I may in all respect, between gestation periods and a national crisis in a war against global radical Islamic terrorism and the urgency to create a highly effective covert force. I think perhaps...

CLANCY: Where are they going to come from, Lou? If you don't take the time to train them, where will they come from?

DOBBS: I think probably the same questions were posed in 1941 when a nation mobilized to go to war.

CLANCY: It was a couple years before the OSS was worth a damn.

DOBBS: I'm sorry?

CLANCY: It was a couple of years before the OSS was worth a damn.

DOBBS: It did, indeed. It did, indeed, a couple of years.

General Zinni, going back to the point, if I may. The criticism that you're leveling right now against what, effectively, turns out not only to be a policy but, also, military leadership. What should this country be doing? What should we be focusing on, in your judgment, to achieve, one, the realization of our national interest goals and, secondly, the reasonable purpose of inculcating American values throughout our foreign policy worldwide? ZINNI: Well first, we ought to take a deep breath and look at this post Cold War world. We have not done that. We are, what, 15 years into this period. The world is reordering and changing. The threats are different. We're just -- it took 9/11 to bring us to some realization of that.

When you look at this new world, you have to redefine your interests, your strategic approach. We need to start thinking about how we're going to operate in this part of the world, protect our interests, ensure our survival, our well-being. What kind of military do we want?

The question you ask, only the American people can answer that. Do you want a military that fights the in addition's battles end of discussion? Because if that's what you want, that's not what you're telling it to do.

Now, if you want it to take on other responsibilities, you are changing the nature of the military. You can argue either way. Maybe it is best equipped. It will do more than fight battles. It's going to reconstruct countries, it's going to deal with humanitarian issues, environmental issues, political issues. I'm not sure we want that. If we don't want it, we had better create the counter part capability somewhere else.

We, unfortunately, went into this war despite the fact of my disagreements of going into it the wrong time, wrong place, wrong threat, wrong priority. We went into it ill equipped because we went into it with a pie in the sky best case. We bought into what ever the exiles were selling us, and what we wanted to believe: flowers in the street, to go in and score a quick victory and this would turn almost automatically.

A handful of people from the Pentagon going in trying to reconstruct the country, pulling together the CPA from embassies around the world and dragging people in that weren't cohesive part of an organization like the military, that have worked together that understand the problem.

You can see the results we've got. If you disagree with me or if anyone disagrees with me, tell me you're satisfied with the planning, the strategy, the decisions that have led us to this point. We are about to have our 800th kid killed out there. I believe we're at 799 today. We have had 4,500 kids wounded, injured, maimed, some of them, tragically, severely.

We are about to approach $200 billion of our treasure. Where are we for all of that? I think the American citizens have to ask that question. For someone to tell me it's unpatriotic to question this while our troops are out there doing this and to see what is happening to our image and our reputation around the world, I think it is unpatriotic not to ask these questions and not pose these challenges.

DOBBS: Would you both prefer that this discussion were taking place in a year in which we did not have a presidential election? ZINNI: Absolutely. That clouds the issue and makes it more difficult. You know, if I voice these concerns and if I voice these opinions, I'm accused of being political. I don't know how many people -- I was accused the other night on one of these shows of being a liberal, a Democrat, an anti-Bush. I'm a Republican, registered. I voted for this administration. I support it. I was part of this administration. This administration entrusted me with one of the most important missions it has, the Middle East peace process. I don't want it to fail. I have no agenda that's political. That's always going to be the challenge in this environment, that people are going to suspect political shadings. The other problem is, no decision can be made without a political aspect to it.

DOBBS: Tom Clancy is a well-known fire-breathing wide-eyed liberal.

CLANCY: I'm trying to be reasonable, Lou. If it works, it's good. If it doesn't work, it's bad. That's simple.

DOBBS: To make it work in this election year, have you gentlemen both decided on who you're going to vote for president?

CLANCY: It is a long way from the election.

ZINNI: I'll be honest with you. I'm going to have a hard time if the leadership at the Pentagon, civilian leadership is the same.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: General, thank you very much. Tom, thank you. Tom Clancy, General Tony Zinni. The book is "Battle Ready." It is a terrific read if I do say so myself.

The 16th annual Fleet Week began today in New York City. The celebration of maritime services began this morning with a traditional parade of ships into New York harbor. 14 ships representing four countries sailing up the Hudson River today. Those ships will be open to all of us throughout the Memorial Day weekend. More than 150,000 people are expected to step aboard those terrific ships. Fleet week.

Still ahead, we'll share some of your thoughts about the U.S. strategy in Iraq. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Well, the stock market today was mixed. The Dow down nearly eight point, the NASDAQ gained 11.5, the S&P 500 up nearly two. Taking a look at some more of your thoughts about U.S. strategy in Iraq. Robert Taylor in Franklin, Tennessee. "After listing President Bush's five-step plan, it was quite obvious he still no plan but is taking five steps to come up with a plan."

Jack in Kalamazoo, Michigan. "The president's speech did not say a word about when life will return to normal for so many of us. My grandson does not have school books yet we're building new schools in Iraq. I've had to use my retirement money to pay my property taxes yet we're going to build a new prison in Iraq. When did our country stop caring about hardworking Americans?"

And Tom Jones in San Clemente, California. "Lou, I just wanted to know now that President Bush is asking Chirac for help in Iraq, is it OK now to order French toast?"

Send us your thoughts at loudobbs@CNN.com.

Still ahead, the results of our poll tonight. A reminder, check our website for the complete list of companies we've now confirmed to be exporting America. More than 700 of them and still climbing. CNN.com/lou.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: The results tonight of our poll. 8 percent of you say that you feel more secure today against terrorist attacks than two years ago. 92 percent of those responding to this poll say they do not. Well, thanks for being with us tonight. We hope you'll be with us tomorrow. Bestselling author Arianna Huffington will be here talking about her new book, "Fanatics and Fools." And we continue our special report, "Water Wars." Tomorrow, the drought in western states has a surprising upside for at least some Las Vegas residents but for 25 million people, a definite threat against their way of life. For all of us here, good night from New York. "ANDERSON COOPER 360" is coming up next.

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