CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Politicians, News Correspondents Discuss Oncoming War in Iraq
Aired March 19, 2003 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, time's up for Saddam Hussein. His deadline to leave Iraq has passed. What's next and when?
As the world waits for the bombs to drop, we'll ask Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, decorated Vietnam War veteran and member of the Arms Services Committee; CNN's Christiane Amanpour on location in Kuwait; and in Tel Aviv, Bob Simon of CBS News, who was held prison by Saddam Hussein for 40 days during the '91 Gulf War.
In Boston, Brigadier General John C. Reppert, U.S. Army retired, former director of the On-Site Inspection Agency, responsible for inspections under all arms controlled treaties America signs.
Then back in Washington, Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein, ranking member of the Subcommittee on Technology and Terrorism; Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, member of the Select Intelligence Committee; Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman of California, ranking member of the Permanent Select Intelligence Committee; and Republican Congressman Chris Shays of Connecticut, chairman of the National Security Subcommittee.
All next on LARRY KING LIVE.
A couple of quick notes. Because of this, of course, ongoing story, the editions of LARRY KING LIVE normally on the weekend which are taped will be live. We'll be live throughout this entire crisis. So we'll be with you on Saturday and Sunday and how long it takes. And one of our guests tomorrow night will be General U. (ph) Shelton, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
We begin tonight with Christiane Amanpour in Kuwait, Bob Simon in Tel Aviv.
Christiane, what can you tell us at this point, at this juncture as America awaits this beginning of a war?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the deadline has passed and all is quiet. We don't know when this is going to start. We were told, as you remember, in that televised address, that it will start at a time of the U.S. choosing. And so we still wait.
But certainly there has been little bits of news today. The Pentagon and CentCom, based in Qatar, nearby, have confirmed that at least the psychological warfare seems to be paying a few dividends. We understand 17 Iraqi soldiers have surrendered already and they are apparently in Kuwaiti custody. They surrendered up there in northern Kuwait, you know, along the border between Kuwait and Iraq.
Also, we understand that U.S. and British aircraft have been in some action. They have taken out, we are told, 10 artillery pieces in the southern part of Iraq, the southern no-fly zone area, which were deemed, apparently, to be threatening towards Kuwait. And that is the military news, if you like.
There's been a lot of wind and a big sandstorm here. And others have said that that may have hampered some of the operations, at least, as people march and get ready to move their equipment closer to the border. But we're still waiting, Larry.
KING: Bob Simon is a correspondent for CBS News "60 Minutes II" and a contributor to CBS News regular edition of "60 Minutes" on Sundays. He's in Tel Aviv. What is the mood there? What are the Israelis saying, Bob?
BOB SIMON, CBS NEWS, CAPTIVE OF IRAQ IN 1991 GULF WAR: Well, Prime Minister Sharon told Israelis today to carry their gas masks with them, and to be pretty careful.
There doesn't seem to be enormous concern among the people here, though. The last couple of days have been Purim, which is a party holiday and people are walking all over Tel Aviv with funny clothes and blue wigs and having a good time. I don't think people are terribly, terribly worked up about this.
And one of the reasons is that the Israeli military and Israeli defense and intelligence establishment has been predicting all along that the likelihood of Saddam showing any SCUDs this way, this time around is very unlikely, that he doesn't have much capability, that the new Israeli defense system could deal with it. And that, in fact, he probably doesn't have the desire.
So generally, it's-- people are expect ant now. It's enough already with waiting. This has been a very divisive and a very acrimonious and long wait for a war. Israel is just about the only country you can go to outside of the United States and the United Kingdom where there's any support for this war. And I think the general Israeli attitude is, Let's get on with it.
KING: The senior scene, which we've been showing all day, is of downtown Baghdad. It is in the early morning hours.
Christiane, in that regard, as Bob just pointed out, everyone saying, imminent. Is there a feeling of imminence there? Is there any -- are there lots of rumors going around about when?
AMANPOUR: Here in Kuwait, there are some rumors, yes. And also, this is probably one of the only other countries, Kuwait, which actually supports this war more than 100 percent. The Kuwaitis have lost no time in telling us over and over again that because of what happened to them 12, 13 years ago, when Saddam Hussein invaded this country, and then the U.S. liberated this country, that they are fully behind it. They want it to happen. And they want Saddam Hussein finally removed.
There's been a little bit of, not panic, but a little bit of hurry to get to the airport. It's about to be the last day that people can get out today. And there were charters laid on for any of those who wanted to get out. And, of course, people have been stockpiling certain food items and things.
There aren't as many gas masks as they have in Israel here. They haven't been provided with them. And there -- many people are complaining about that, because people do feel that if there is going to be any retaliation, it will be here because there are , you know, tens of thousands of U.S. and U.K. forces in northern Kuwait.
KING: We're going to be learning a lot more about the Iraqi army as the days go on ahead. But Bob Simon is unique. He was captured by them and held for a number of days, 40 days in all. How were you treated? What were they like?
SIMON: Oh, the treatment was pretty rough, which is one of the reasons I opted not to go back to Baghdad this time around. Once was enough.
And I also think that it's going to be very dangerous this time around for journalists, mainly because there's bound to be a some period, whether it lasts for hours or days, when Saddam isn't in control anymore, and the Americans aren't either. And it's during a period of chaos such as that that I think it would be really risky for journalists, particularly for American journalists. So it will be -- it could be a very rough ride this time around.
Ironically, in the past, Saddam was the journalist's best protection in that he was -- he kept the place in order. And as long as he kept it in order, unless he wanted any particular journalist taken, it didn't happen. We were taken because we were not in Iraq with proper visas.
We were captured in a no-man's land between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. But journalists in the past who have been covering the war in Iraq, or wars in Iraq, have been -- have gotten along pretty well.
KING: Are you going -- are you going to stay fixed, Christiane, or will you be moving on?
AMANPOUR: Moving on, Larry. You know, it's a -- it's a -- it's a fluid situation, as they say. I'm going to be here for perhaps the first hours, and then I'm going to move on just as soon as I can.
KING: That's Christiane Amanpour. We thank her very much, on the scene in Kuwait. Bob Simon, we'll call on him again when we meet General Reppert, and he'll be on our panel later.
But when we come back, we'll talk with a frequent guest on this show and a man who's known his way around war, Senator John McCain.
Don't go away.
KING: We're watching the United States troops preparing for action. For those of you on television, this program, by the way, is simulcast through Westwood One Radio as well.
Joining us now is Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, decorated veteran, of course, former Vietnam POW. What, Senator McCain, is optimum time in a situation like this?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: I would think, Larry, that it would be in a matter of two or three weeks. I think we'll see a much shorter bombing campaign than 1991. And if all goes well, that could happen. And -- but that's an awful big if. As you know, the fog of war sometimes causes things to happen that we don't foresee.
KING: It's all -- it's pretty much almost daylight in Baghdad. Is it automatically assumed that this war will start at night?
MCCAIN: I think that's the conventional wisdom. I think it's probably logical. It provides our air assets with a little more protection than they would have during the daytime. And there's also the psychological effect of a night attack. So it's generally believed that it would start at night, yes.
KING: What's it like -- you were a pilot. What's it like to be a pilot at a moment like this in readiness? What's going through the pilot's mind?
MCCAIN: Well, the first time in combat is a mixture of apprehension, fear, excitement, adrenaline and a bit of exhilaration in that you're now doing what you've been training for for a long period of time. And a lot of these pilots, it will be their first time in combat. As you know, it's been some years since the Gulf War.
But there's also a sense that you're doing what your commander in chief has ordered you to do, and what your country expects you to do. And there's a certain amount of pride there.
KING: Do you think the country is prepared for what might happen?
MCCAIN: I think the country is proud of our leadership, proud of the men and women in the military. I think they're going to be proud to liberate a -- millions of people, a nation that has lived under the most brutal and sadistic kind of oppression for a long period of time. And I think we will be proud of the outcome. And we will live in a safer world.
KING: Think protests will stop?
MCCAIN: Well, I hope so. Because, you know, there comes a time for debate and discussion and protests, and then there comes a time when we should rally behind the president and the troops when we go into a conflict. Look, it's not possible to only support the troops and not their mission. I mean, that's just a contradiction. So I hope that, except for isolated incidents, most people now spend their time showing their support and pride in these young men and women who are the very, very best. I mean, they are spectacular people. You've had them on this show. And so we can be proud of them.
And I believe that every action, including additional risk for the lives of American fighting men and women, have been taken in order to avoid unnecessary civilian casualties.
KING: Yesterday on the floor of the Senate, you defended the administration's not giving projections of what this is going to cost. Why?
MCCAIN: Well, I think that they could have given us some parameters. But it is very difficult to know whether this war would last in the most optimal sense in a matter of a few weeks or could drag out for months. I think that it was very difficult.
And it's also difficult to know how much it's going to cost to rebuild Iraq and who will join us. I'm confident that many other nations will. But I don't think it's knowable, except within certain parameters.
KING: Is there a possibility that the army may -- the Iraqi army may toss it up and surrender?
MCCAIN: I think...
KING: I mean, they've got to be thinking about what's coming.
MCCAIN: I think there are very few Iraqi soldiers who are ready to die for Saddam Hussein. There's a Republican Guard who know that they will meet a very serious fate at the hands of their fellow citizens. So I think they'll fight.
But I think you will see -- bad things can happen. He can set the oil wells on fire. He may fire Scud missiles at Israel or at our troops or chemical weapon.I mean bad things will happens. That's why this is the last option. But his ability to resist militarily for an extended period of time is just about nil.
KING: Are you concerned about terror at home? We're under an Orange alert again.
MCCAIN: I think we're always concerned, but I have never been under the impression that al Qaeda and other people who want to harm us have taken a holiday while they were waiting to see whether we attack Iraq or not. I think they're working night and day consistently, so I'm not sure that the threat is significantly higher than it is all the time.
And again, I want to add, I think we've made significant progress in combating the terrorists by the arrests and some of the other actions we've taken. But we still live under that threat. And will for a long time.
KING: What about the threat of Saddam's using chemical weaponry against the troops?
MCCAIN: We have provided our troops with equipment. I think that we've done the best we can to protect them. I think it can be very dangerous. And one of the reasons why we took out a few artillery pieces earlier today, I think, was to help prevent that.
I worry more about an attack on Israel, because they obviously can't provide their citizens with the protective equipment that we can our own people. But I'm also curious, even if Saddam Hussein orders such attacks, I'm wondering if there are people who are willing to carry out those orders.
KING: Bob Simon says Israel is almost unanimously in favor of this. Where they face, according to you, the imminent danger.
MCCAIN: The Israelis know that the longer they live next to Saddam Hussein, the more likely it is that they, like his other neighbors have in the past, might experience an attack from him. I think they would be very, very relieved to see him gone from the neighborhood. And by the way, I think his other neighbors will also.
KING: Senator, it's always good having you with us. We'll be calling you lots, calling on you lots in the nights ahead.
MCCAIN: Thank you, Larry.
KING: Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, member of the Armed Services Committee.
When we come back, Bob Simon will rejoin us from Tel Aviv and Brigadier John Reppert from the United States Army, retired, will be aboard.
As we go to break, another live shot of Baghdad in the early morning hours. Don't go away.
KING: And as we look at a picture of the White House at night, Ari Fleischer, the presidential press spokesman said there's no evidence that Saddam Hussein has left the country. Disarmament will happen at a time of the president's choosing. The president's mood this evening is that the American people are ready to disarm Saddam Hussein and they understand what's at stake. The military is ready. Our cause is just.
Bob Simon rejoins us. He's in Tel Aviv, Israel.
In Boston, is Brigadier General John Reppert, United States Army retired, former director of On-Site Inspection Agency, responsible for carrying out inspection requirements under verification provisions of numerous arms controls treaties.
And along the Kurdish frontline is Brent Sadler. And we'll have some questions for Brent as well.
We'll start with the general. General, does all of this look in readiness to you? Is this a go?
BRIG. GEN JOHN REPPERT, U.S. ARMY RETIRED: I think that we are fully ready. We obviously don't have the advantages of having the fourth division up in Turkey, which would have simplified it somewhat. But we're prepared to go with the plan we have.
KING: Is this at all involved with any treaties being broken?
REPPERT: No. The argument here is violation of the U.N. sanctions that have been put on him and the U.N. provisions are what we're after in Iraq.
KING: All this is because of 1441?
REPPERT: Fourteen forty-one, 787, and other resolutions going all the way back to 1991, when at the end of the Gulf War he agreed to get rid of all weapons of mass destruction and to cooperate with international inspectors and doing so, something he has yet to achieve.
KING: Brent Sadler, what can you tell us about where you are, the Kurdish front line, and what's happening?
BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Larry, you can see the road behind me through the nightscope lens here. That is a main route into Kirkuk, the oil-rich city. Senator McCain, one of your guests a moment ago, talking about the possibility of Saddam Hussein detonating those oil fields. It's along this road that you might see that happening should those orders be carried out by soldiers.
Very spooky around here. Iraqi troops only three miles behind me, within mortar range in this area. Kurdish fighters really and watching waiting. I asked them if they were afraid. The Kurdish fighters here on this front line said, No, we're not afraid. Saddam Hussein is the one who should be afraid.
KING: Are any American soldiers, military people with you there?
SADLER: No, Larry. We've seen no American military personnel on the ground at all. Special forces for sure, out and about in this Kurdish enclave. And I do believe, according to Kurdish sources, that if Turkey gives air space approval for U.S. planes to come in, we'll see a pretty rapid deployment into the Kurdish enclave of the airborne -- 101st Airborne division and more special forces troops. And you can say it's a pretty safe bet we'll see this road behind me in Kirkuk at some stage, after an invasion gets under way, using this route south to get to Kirkuk.
KING: Bob Simon, I know you'll be part of our panel at the bottom of the hour. Do you have a question for General Reppert?
SIMON: Well, Larry, I think the general seems to feel that the military campaign will be relatively smooth, and from every -- from the little I know, I definitely agree with him. I'd be very curious to know what he thinks of the aftermath, how he thinks the Americans will be prepared to occupy Iraq, which seems to be their intention, how long they'll be there and how much, to what extent the Iraqi people will stand for it.
REPPERT: I think you have a couple factors there.
First, there will be a period of occupation. How long that will be is probably between two and five years. Whether it is Americans doing it is still very much up in the air. There are other countries who have assisted in this operation. And there will be far more that will be willing to come in after the fighting is done.
KING: Bob, John McCain fears an attack on Israel. You're there. Do you fear it?
SIMON: No, I don't, in fact.
Once again, there's a very limited area in Iraq from which the Iraqis could fire SCUDs. There is a lot of confidence here that this area has been studied very intensely by the Americans, and probably by the Israelis as well. And there's also the question, whether even if Saddam could do it, whether he would want to.
It seems that, this war, this particular war from Saddam's point of view is not about Israel. The last one was to a great extent. This one is about America, and America's desire to unseat him. And I think any damage he can wreak, or he feels he can wreak, he will try to wreak against the Americans, not against Israel.
KING: Brent Sadler, will you tell me -- are you there for the duration or are you going to be mobile?
SADLER: Well, Larry, here for the duration. Certainly mobile, yes. We've got mobile dishes out here. And the intention is to use roads like this one behind me and also into Mosul with my CNN colleagues, to move with the flow, if you like, when things start rolling, when the invasion gets under way to really head towards Kirkuk, Mosul, if these cities are to fall fairly quickly. And then, of course, on to Baghdad if that's possible.
But this is a very fluid area. No U.S. forces here. No embedding for the journalists from here. We're pretty free to go where we like, which, of course, brings its inherent dangers with that on the ground here -- Larry.
KING: General, how would you compare this to 1991?
REPPERT: Well, it's different in many ways.
First, the goal in 1991 was to liberate Kuwait. Here it is to bring down the regime in Iraq.
In 1991, the troops left Kuwait, knew they would be falling back under Saddam's command and control, and would have to accept the consequence of their actions. In this case, they're far more likely to surrender in the outlying areas, because they know Saddam will be gone in a week, or two weeks, and they won't have to worry about his actions.
KING: Thank you, general. Brigadier General John Reppert in Boston. We'll be calling on him again.
Brent Sadler, we thank him at the Kurdish frontline.
Bob Simon will remain with us and we'll be joined by senators Orrin Hatch Diane Feinstein and Congressman Chris Shays and Congresswoman Jane Harman. And we'll include your phone calls, too.
You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
KING: We're back with an early morning shot of the Baghdad on what is now Thursday morning.
Staying with us from Tel Aviv is Bob Simon of CBS news, "60 Minutes I and II."
Joining us in Washington, Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, member of the Select Committee on Intelligence; Senator Diane Feinstein, Democrat of California, ranking member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security. In Washington as well is Congressman Christopher Shays of Connecticut, chairman of Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security; and Representative Jane Harman, Democrat of California, ranking member of the House permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
We'll be asking questions, of course. Bob Simon will be included and if Bob has some questions for our panel of legislators, he may well chime in as well.
Senator Hatch, how close is this -- when -- you got some thoughts on when this is all going to happen?
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Well, I'm not going to even speculate about that. But I know that the president has given the 48- hour warning, and I suspect that -- that you know, he's going to make the right decision when the time comes.
KING: Senator Feinstein, do you have any thoughts on the beginning of it all?
SEN. DIANE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I think it's immediate. Probably a matter of hours, unless something happens to prevent it.
KING: Congressman Shays?
REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: Well, we're going to do it at our own choosing. And if we keep them up a few hours, just wondering, it probably is to our advantage.
KING: And Congresswoman Harman.
REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: My thoughts are with our young soldiers and their families. I'm sure this is a tough moment for them. But they're ready. They're well equipped, and they're going to win.
KING: Bob Simon, is there any expectation over there in Tel Aviv as to when this might begin?
SIMON: I think people here expect it to begin very soon. I know I do. So much of this whole campaign is political and psychological. Everyone is primed for it now. I would lay odds that it will begin in the next 48 hours. I think there would be an enormous psychological letdown and disappointment if it didn't begin.
I mean, everyone is providing around the clock coverage now. And I think that everyone -- that the administration wouldn't want to waste everyone's time.
KING: Senator Hatch, what's the response if chemical or biological weapons are used against the military?
HATCH: Well, I can tell you we're not going to put up with it. Our young men and women, I think, are well protected, well trained and able to do it. But I think it's time for all of us to lend our prayers and our faith in their behalf because, you know -- let's face it this -- no military action is easy. No military action no matter how superior our forces are, and they are, is going to be without some -- some incidents that are going to be very unhappy incidents.
But I've got to tell you, our young men and women are prepared. They're ready to go. We've got faith in them. And I think the president is -- can rely on them. There no question about it. And all of us can, too.
KING: Senator Feinstein, do you think the public is united behind them?
FEINSTEIN: Oh, I think the public is definitely united behind them.
And I would just like to take a crack at answering your question on what would happen if he did use chemical or biological weapons. I think it would be the worst mistake he could make. And it would be a complete vindication for the American perspective.
So, it's going to be very interesting to see. I hope he doesn't. I agree with those who said that our people are prepared for it should it happen. But it would be the greatest mistake Saddam could make.
KING: Congressman Shays, what -- give me the concept of what you constitute as victory. Victory will mean?
SHAYS: Well, this is a battle. It's a war against terrorism at home and abroad. It's a continuation of what we began in Afghanistan.
But ultimately, it's a war of liberation as well for the Iraqi people who have been in bondage, not just for 12 years, but even before that. And so what I'm hoping is that the Iraqi people will be thrilled to be free, will have the food they need, the medicine they need and will see a better future. That's what my hope is.
KING: Congresswoman Harman, is there a worse case scenario?
HARMAN: Well, sure there is. War is hell. And it's unpredictable how this will go.
But I would say, Larry, that victory will mean displaying for the world the evidence of weapons of mass destruction, and the horrors and torture of a generation of abuse by this dictator and then rebuilding the country with a multi-national coalition, and the emergence of an indigenous, transparent, moderate, democratic regime in Iraq run by the people of Iraq for them. I think that that will be a marvelous victory.
KING: Bob Simon, if you have any questions for any of our legislators, feel free to go ahead. Do you have one now?
SIMON: No, but I have a reflection on what victory means.
SIMON: Getting rid of Saddam Hussein, getting him out of power, anyway will be pretty easy. I mean, this is the New York Yankees against Podunk High. I don't think we'll know whether it's a victory or not for several years. And we'll know if there is a stable, relatively representative government in Iraq, which is an ally of the United States, which is not intent on destroying Israel and which lessens our dependence on Saudi oil. It's going to take a long time before we know whether we've been victorious in any of those senses.
KING: Senator Hatch, do you see a long occupation here?
HATCH: Well, there's no question that as we go into Baghdad, and as we take over, and effectuate, hopefully a regime change, and hopefully bring about a representative government of Iraqis who would govern themselves, it's going to take some time, and we'll have to be there to make sure it goes well.
But I think it's going to be effective for all of the Middle East. Once this is done, I think the whole Middle East is going to benefit from it. But there's no question it's going to be difficult, no question it's going to take time, no question it's going to require some help from us. But still, our goal is to have Iraqis run Iraq, have them benefit from their oil, have them benefit...
KING: Ari Fleischer -- excuse me, Senator Hatch. Excuse me, Senator Hatch.
HATCH: Sure. KING: Ari Fleischer, the presidential press spokesman, is going to speak to reporters, I'm told. Is it now? Oh. Well, then why did I interrupt him?
Senator Feinstein -- they told me to interrupt you, but we're not going to him.
HATCH: Listen, I'm interrupted all the time.
FEINSTEIN: Let me just quickly give you my view.
FEINSTEIN: I think this is the hard part.
First of all, I hope that the military part is quick. I hope that as few people as possible are killed. I hope our targets are accurately hit. I hope there's not collateral damage. And then I hope there can be a period of stability.
This is not going to be easy. This country has never known democracy. It has always known hard rule, despotic rule. And so to change it is going to be extraordinarily difficult. So in my view, a period of stability -- I think there is going to be a need for an American presence there for a while. I think there's going to have to be a major effort to prevent the blood feuding from emerging, which have so typified the history of countr..
KING: I'm going to interrupt you. All right. I'm going to interrupt you. I'm told that air raid sirens are now being heard in Baghdad. Air raid sirens are now being heard in Baghdad right now. You're looking at Baghdad right now.
And I understand that John King, our senior White House correspondent is standing by and we're expecting some sort of announcement from Ari Fleischer. Is John King Ready to go? OK. So he's not -- OK. As soon as we make contact with John King, we'll go to him, and he'll tell us what Ari Fleischer is going to be talking about.
But we're getting reports -- is this the beginning, do you think, Congressman Shays?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Listen....
KING: Congressman Shays? OK, I'm hearing lots of different voices.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right.
SHAYS: One thing I'd love you to know, is this is not an easy decision for any member of Congress or the Senate. And this all kind of takes our breath away. And our prayers are with our soldiers. But we know the rightness of what we're doing.
KING: Do you want to add something, Jane? HARMAN: It's a sober moment. I would also say, though, that other parts of the world are dangerous as we speak. And as we watch this war unfold, and it does sounds like it's starting at any moment, or it may have started -- we have to think about North Korea. We have to think about India -- Pakistan. We have to think about Israel- Palestine. We have to think about Iran. It will be critical. And victory will be measured in part, also, by whether this administration can keep its eye on the other hot spots in the world and have a balanced and successful policy there
KING: Are you getting any clue about these air raid sirens, Bob Simon? And I may have to interrupt you at any moment.
KING: All right. Let's -- hold it, hold it, Bob. I'm going to -- let's go to Aaron Brown in Atlanta and he'll get us up to date -- Aaron.
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