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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview With Senators Biden, Hagel; Interview With John Snow; Interview With Richard Gephardt

Aired November 9, 2003 - 12:00   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's noon in Washington, 11:00 a.m. here in Chicago, 8:00 p.m. in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 9:30 p.m. in Kabul, Afghanistan. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for LATE EDITION.
We'll talk with two leading members of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the war on terror, the mission in Iraq and more in just a few minutes. First, though, let's go to Washington for a quick check of the hour's top stories.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: More now on that car bombing in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. At least 13 people are dead, possibly as many as 200 others wounded. The blast occurred last night in an influential, affluent residential neighborhood near Riyadh's diplomatic quarter.

For the latest on what's going on on the ground in Saudi Arabia we're joined on the phone by Caroline Faraj from CNNArabic.com. She's monitoring all of these developments for us in Dubai.

Caroline, what do we know specifically, what happened?

CAROLINE FARAJ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what happened, according to the interior ministry senior officials, they confirmed to us that currently the terrorists -- they entered the camp with a Jeep car, and this Jeep car was basically stolen from the police in Saudi Arabia, so the security guards of this camp just opened the door for them.

They answered that, and after that immediately they exchanged some shooting between them and as well as some other terrorists who were outside the camp. There was some shooting as well, and then followed immediately by the explosion. The car was piled and filled with explosives, and immediately just like the fire started in the camp and the whole place was -- you know, the blast was extremely massive.

Wolf?

BLITZER: There was a lot of anticipation that this could happen as early as this weekend, Caroline, as you well know. The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, for example, and the diplomatic missions in Jeddah, elsewhere, they were shut down. How much preparation, how much advance warning did the Saudis have? And the bottom line question is, why couldn't they prevent this car from entering this compound?

FARAJ: Apparently, when we talked to some officials, as well as informed sources in Riyadh, they all concerned that it was a shock for them to have such attack in a camp that's basically 200 villas -- all of it, only four basically was used by non-Arabs, but the rest are all Arabs, and this was such a shock for them all. They were not expecting such a thing to happen at all.

That's why it seems that the alerts and the threats were taken into consideration only where the Westerners were basically staying, and all the camps were taking into consideration the security measures were extremely tightened. Though they claim that this camp was also -- the security was taken into consideration. However, the car easily entered, and there was no records at all for the car that was stolen until it entered and after the explosions.

Wolf?

BLITZER: CNNArabic.com's Caroline Faraj reporting for us.

Caroline, thanks very much. We'll be checking back with you.

We'll be keeping a close eye on what's happening in Saudi Arabia, all the late-breaking developments. Stay with CNN, of course, for that.

Meanwhile, amid the daily and deadly attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, mounting concerns and mounting questions about the overall mission there.

Still, the Bush administration won a key victory this past week with U.S. Congress' approval of some $87 billion to deal with the situations, both in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Joining us now, two key members of the United States Senate. In Delaware, Senator Joe Biden. He's the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. And in Nebraska, Republican Chuck Hagel. He's also a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as well as the Senate Select Intelligence Committee.

Senators, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Senator Biden, let me begin with you on this development in Saudi Arabia, this bomb blast, this car bombing. From what you can tell, what is going on?

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: What's going on is what's been going on for the last five years. Everybody forgets that al Qaeda's original target was the Saudi royal family and the Saudi kingdom.

And your reporter from Qatar pointed out that they didn't expect this to be used against, basically, Arabs and Saudi civilians. The truth of the matter is, maybe this will wake up the Saudi regime one more click and then stop the indirect support of al Qaeda, stop building those madrassas and get serious about it, understand this is about international terror against nation-states, not just about the United States.

BLITZER: There was a similar car bombing incident in Riyadh, earlier this year in May, Senator Hagel. I thought that was supposed to be the wakeup call for the Saudis.

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: Well, once again, Wolf, this reflects on the scope and depth of terrorism around the world. There's no question that the Saudis and our other friends in the Middle East are going to have to do more to deal with this, not just in the short-term focus, but as to what Senator Biden is referring to, in the madrassas and the other extensions here that create radicalism and fundamentalism.

I think because of what's been going on, especially the last six months, with the Saudis, we are seeing far more cooperation with the Saudi government in intelligence gathering, intelligence sharing and cooperation, many areas.

But I think it also reflects on one other thing here, Wolf, is this is a global challenge, a global threat -- terrorism. And if we are to win -- and we will win, we must win -- it's going to take this seamless network of cooperation of intelligence sharing and gathering and humanitarian and force structure, diplomatic efforts, all working together to deal with this, and this is just another example of that.

BIDEN: Hey, Wolf, could I say one other thing?

BLITZER: Yes.

BIDEN: The earlier car bombing, the Saudis convinced themselves that was about us. They convinced themselves that was about the West.

They still haven't convinced themselves, become aware of the fact that they are the target as well. And they have been trying, through policy, for years to essentially buy off the radicals, keep them out of their country, building those madrassas in other places, supporting indirectly these guys.

And now, I think, this is a different kind of call. They're stunned. This is not an American target, not a Western target. This was a Saudi target.

BLITZER: You know the players in Saudi Arabia. Senator Biden, Prince Bandar, for example, the Saudi ambassador in Washington, he's been around for a long time in the United States.

Are the Saudis part of the problem or part of the solution with this war against al Qaeda?

BIDEN: Well, up to now, they've been part of the problem. And I don't mean to suggest that they have been intentionally going out to support the al Qaeda, do something bad against us. But the have been engaged in the sleepwalking.

They have refused to acknowledge that, originally, al Qaeda, and bin Laden specifically -- he started his whole quest, it was about Saudi Arabia. It wasn't about us until after Gulf I.

And so, I think that they continue to sort of -- an old expression, Wolf -- whistle by the graveyard. They thought if they build 7,000 more madrassas that spew hate and Wahhabism in other parts of the world, that satisfies the radicals and so on.

But this is coming home to roost. And I think Prince Bandar is a very sophisticated guy, and other Saudi leaders are going to figure that out pretty soon and realize this requires an all-out war on their part against the radical, extreme elements of Wahhabism.

BLITZER: Senator Hagel, amid all of this, this past week, we heard President Bush unveil a new initiative, perhaps a revived initiative, to promote democracy throughout the Middle East, the Arab world, the Islamic world, referring specifically, at least in part of his speech, to Saudi Arabia.

I want you to listen to one excerpt, Senator Hagel, from what the president said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe, because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That sounds a little bit like a criticism of previous administrations, not only the Clinton administration but his father's administration, as well.

But as far as Saudi Arabia is concerned, Senator Hagel, this is a country where women can't vote, they can't even get driver's licenses. Is there any prospect that the Saudis are going to move towards any form of democracy, real democracy?

HAGEL: Wolf, as you note, and I think you've noted before, but over the last couple of weeks, the Saudis have announced that there would be local elections taking place. Now, that, in itself, is not what is going to be required to deal with this.

But I think what's happening here is, yes, we can blame 60 years of neglect, and we can put the responsibility on past administrations. But the fact is, we are now in a place where we must deal with it.

And it doesn't do much good to reflect back on what we didn't do. The fact is, we need to address this on the basis of what we are now going to do.

And that's going to take a remarkable set of leadership skills from all of us, including the president and our allies, to deal with it. Saudi Arabia has been at the heart of this for many, many years. Yes, we've not paid attention to it, but now we've got to move forward and connect words with actions.

And one of the first places we start is the Middle East peace process, and until the Arab world starts to see more activity, more focus in that area, then I think we're going to continue to have these kinds of problems.

BLITZER: Senator Biden, the president also made democracy in Iraq a key part of this new initiative he unveiled. But even as he was speaking, the body count, the death count, casualties in Iraq were continuing. Let me put the latest numbers up on the screen for our viewers in the United States and around the world.

Three hundred ninety seven U.S. troops have been killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom, both before and after May 1st, when the president declared an end of major combat operations.

You think the United States doesn't have enough troops on the ground to get the job done. The question is this: How many more troops does the U.S. need, and should NATO take over?

BIDEN: One, the war is not over, Wolf. The war is not over. And I don't know how the Pentagon proposal out of Rumsfeld and company is going to win that war by prematurely turning over the obligation of winning that war to a ragtag bunch of Iraqis who haven't been trained yet, and they're capable. I'm not talking about -- this group is not trained nearly enough to win this war.

Secondly, it should be, must be a NATO operation.

And, thirdly, people who tell me, Joe, you know, why would NATO come in? There's been no genuine negotiation with our European friends and the great powers about getting them in. They've made it real clear, they want more say in the outcome. They want the military commanders reporting to the NAC, to the European leaders, not just to Washington, and they want a high commissioner under the U.N., like in Bosnia, reporting to the Security Council. We have been unwilling to even countenance that.

That's necessary now, Wolf. I believe the rest of the world, the great powers, understand what's at stake for them. That's why I think it's now possible, if we're willing, to literally call a summit and get down to seriously agreeing to the prospect of multiple responsibility of whoever is in charge on the ground, civilian and military, to not just us, but to NATO and to the Security Council.

BLITZER: So basically, when you say the NAC, the North Atlantic Council...

BIDEN: I'm sorry, yes, I apologize.

BLITZER: ... that's part of -- that's the political arm of NATO.

BIDEN: Yes, it is.

BLITZER: You want NATO to take over and for the U.S. to step back formally as the overall...

BIDEN: Yes.

BLITZER: For example, Paul Bremer should retire as the chief U.S. administrator.

BIDEN: Well, Paul Bremer -- on your program of two months ago, Wolf, I suggested Paul Bremer, to use the term of art, could be double-hatted. That is, he could be the high commissioner reporting to the Security Council, including us.

Look, we keep asking these fellows to get in the deal in a thing that looks like it's failing, and the fact of the matter is, they've said from the beginning, they want to have some say in the outcome here.

And our whole effort here -- Chuck and I and Lugar and others have been talking about it -- we have to change the complexion of this force structure, so we don't become an Algeria figure like the French did, liberate and then occupy. We don't want to be the occupiers.

And so, we're not giving up any command of U.S. forces to blue helmets. It would be a NATO operation, an American general, and we would not be giving up control, in terms of the civilian side. We would be sharing that responsibility with the rest of the Security Council. That's what it's going to take to get them in.

BLITZER: Senator Hagel, this past week, the Pentagon announcing a new rotation of troops for the U.S. forces in Iraq; 128,000 troops have been notified that they should get ready to go over perhaps for a year. That includes 43,000 members of the National Guard and Reserve.

But in the overall -- over the next several months, the administration would like to bring down the overall number, the current number from 130,000 right now down to a little bit more than 100,000.

In the new Newsweek poll that's out this weekend, 54 percent of the American public want to reduce the number of U.S. troops, as the administration is attempting to do. But you just heard Senator Biden, Senator McCain, others say the U.S., in the short term, is going to need more troops, rather than fewer troops.

Where do you stand, Senator Hagel, on this?

HAGEL: Well, Wolf, as Joe Biden knows, I've been one of the first, a long time ago, to call for more troops.

But let's face the fact here. We are not going to win in Iraq with just more troops. This is not going to be decided by just a military victory, if we ever get that. If we lose the people in Iraq, we lose. So yes, the military force structure is an absolutely critical component. But so are other things like probably putting in place a provisional government like we have in Afghanistan, rather than this silly centralized kind of committee, kind of making decisions whenever they show up, called the Governing Council.

Let's get real with some of this. Yes, we are going to need more force structure. We started something here. The United States invaded Iraq. We're going to have to finish this. We're going to have to get more help in there. I was calling for this before we ever got into Iraq, that this was going to take a long time. It was complicated, dangerous. The resources that were going to have to be committed. And the sustaining consensus that the American public was going to have to have to support our staying there and finishing the job.

All these things coming together have to happen. And I think John McCain, Joe Biden, others have been exactly right the last two weeks when they've said you surely can't go out and give a great, illuminating, inspirational speech about democracy in the Middle East and then two hours later announce a force structure downturn, that you're going to pull more troops out next year.

Now, come on now. There is a gap in credibility here. The guys who were trying to intimidate us out -- the Baathists and the terrorists and other sources in there -- that's what they want to hear. That's what they want to do, to intimidate us so that we'll make that announcement, so we say to the Iraqi people, "Well, we're kind of in, but we're really not in, and we're coming home on a schedule here that is going to fit our accommodations and our needs."

This has to be thought through a lot clearer. But I think, fundamentally, you must put a Karzi kind of provisional government in place there, because the military of Iraq, the military police, the allies, are all anchored through government. And then write the constitution.

You know, we've got a lot of problems in Afghanistan, but we've made progress there, and we're continuing to make progress.

BLITZER: All right. Unfortunately, Senators, we're going to have to leave it right there.

BIDEN: I agree with him.

BLITZER: Senator Hagel, Senator Biden, two very thoughtful members of the Foreign Relations Committee. Always good to have you on LATE EDITION.

BIDEN: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

HAGEL: Thank you.

BLITZER: And just ahead, encouraging indicators about the U.S. economy. Is it a permanent rebound or just a temporary blip? We'll have a conversation with the treasury secretary of the United States, John Snow.

And setting the record straight: Jessica Lynch reveals new disturbing details about her capture in Iraq.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Our LATE EDITION Web question of the week is this: Does the United States have enough troops in Iraq? You can go to our Web site at cnn.com/lateedition. You can vote right there. We'll tell you the results later in this program.

And eight of the nine Democratic U.S. presidential contenders "rocked the vote" with young Americans this past week. But why did one of the major candidates not attend? We'll ask him. We'll have an exclusive interview with Congressman Richard Gephardt.

LATE EDITION will be back in 90 seconds. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

This past week, there were new government figures that showed unemployment dropping in the United States, while payroll numbers going up. But how significant are these positive economic indicators?

Earlier today, I spoke with the U.S. treasury secretary, John Snow, about the possibility of an economic recovery.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, thanks very much for coming back to LATE EDITION. Always good to have you on the program.

Let's get right to the issue of the U.S. economy. Has it definitively made a U-turn? Is it on the way back?

JOHN SNOW, TREASURY SECRETARY: Well, I think it's clearly beginning to show signs of a strong recovery, and a recovery that's accelerating. I don't want to declare victory, by any means. There's still a lot of work to be done. But the signs we saw coming off the third quarter, including the job numbers, were very encouraging.

BLITZER: Are you suggesting, Mr. Secretary, that things could once again go south, could go bad once again?

SNOW: No, I don't think that's very likely. I think there's -- that would be a very low probability. But that 7-percent growth rate we saw in the third quarter is unusually high, and we'll probably see a lower but still good growth rate in the fourth quarter and, I expect, for all of '04.

BLITZER: What kind of growth rate are you expecting for this fourth and final quarter of the year?

SNOW: Well, I don't make -- I'm not in the business of making forecasts, but the private-sector forecasts that I've seen are around 4 percent for the fourth quarter and around 4 percent for next year. Those look like reasonable forecasts to me.

BLITZER: And will the trend we've seen the last two months, with the job creation, modest in September, much more significant in October, will that continue for November and December?

SNOW: I would expect to see job pickup continue, especially into '04, but I would -- I'd be disappointed if we didn't see continuing good job numbers for the rest of the year and throughout '04.

BLITZER: Let me give our viewers some perspective on jobs created, jobs lost in recent presidencies. I'll put these up on the screen.

During the Jimmy Carter administration, more than 10 million jobs were created. During Ronald Reagan's eight years, 16 million jobs. George H.W. Bush, the first President Bush, 2.5 million, 2.6 million jobs. 22 million, almost 23 million jobs created during the eight years of Bill Clinton's administration.

Since President Bush, George W. Bush, took office, the U.S. economy has lost now about 2.3 million jobs. That's a significant loss.

SNOW: It's important to put it in context, Wolf. It starts with the fact that the president inherited an economy in a sharp decline. He really inherited a recession. And just as we were beginning to get out of that '01 recession, we had the terrible events of September 11th, and we had the corporate scandals, and we had the meltdown of the NASDAQ and the huge stock-market declines that took $2 trillion out of the economy. And we had the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq and the rebuilding of the homeland security.

This economy has been through extraordinary shocks, and yet we've continued to move forward. And now we're in a good recovery.

When I talk to the finance ministers of the rest of the world, they shake their heads in wonderment that the American economy could have had these shocks and still continue to show such good results.

Not results anywhere near what we'd like to see, and we aren't going to rest until everybody who's looking for a job can find one.

BLITZER: The American public's clearly divided on how the president is doing, as far as the economy is concerned. In our most recent CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll, 47 percent approve of the way the president's handling the economy, 50 percent disapprove.

Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve chairman, he says his big concern is still these large deficits, about $400 billion, that you're projecting for this year. That could go up, though, to $500 billion next year. That's a potential drain on the U.S. economy. SNOW: Well, those deficits are clearly unwelcome. We're not one bit happy about them. The president is committed to reducing those deficits significantly, cutting them in half actually, over the course of the next five years.

Two ways to do that. One is growth, and happily, we're beginning to see some growth return to the American economy, because as the American economy grows, so too does the federal Treasury.

But growth alone isn't enough. We also have to be very watchful of spending. And the president has directed that spending be kept under tight controls as well.

BLITZER: Deficits growing in part because of the large expenditures, the large amount of spending for Iraq, $87 billion the president signed only this past week for Iraq and Afghanistan, most of it going for U.S. troops, but $20 billion for the reconstruction of Iraq.

In a Newsweek poll that's out this weekend, 60 percent of the American public think the Bush administration is spending too much for Iraq.

Are you getting any indications from wealthy countries around the world that they're ready to jump in more robustly? Because France and Germany and Russia, as you well know, they don't want to participate at all in this financial expenditure.

SNOW: Well, I'm just back from, with Secretary Powell, from the Madrid conference. And those results showed that the world community is coming together to support the Iraqi people and give them a chance to put the horror of Saddam Hussein behind them and rebuild their country as a land of peace and prosperity.

So I'm encouraged, rather than discouraged, by the world community's response here.

BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, unfortunately we have to leave it right there. John Snow, the treasury secretary of the United States, thanks very much for joining us.

SNOW: Thank you, Wolf. Good to be with you.

BLITZER: And just ahead, we'll go to Kelli Arena in Washington for a quick check of the hour's top stories.

Then: U.S. troops under fire in Iraq. Are reinforcements the best option? We'll get insight from three military experts.

And this: the Jessica Lynch story. The former U.S. Army private tells a Time magazine journalist the shocking details about her ordeal behind enemy lines in Iraq.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: About 130,000 U.S. troops are currently in Iraq, and although they're the targets of apparently increasingly sophisticated attacks, there are no immediate plans to bolster the American force there. In fact, a plan is on the table right now to reduce the number of U.S. troops.

For some perspective, we turn to three guests who've served on the front lines. In Washington, the former supreme allied commander of NATO, retired U.S. Army General George Joulwan. Also in Washington, retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Dan Christman. He was a lead commander in the 1991 Gulf War. And in Oak Brook, Illinois, retired U.S. Army Brigadier General David Grange. He's also a CNN military analyst.

Gentlemen, good to have all of you back on LATE EDITION.

General Joulwan, let me begin with you. You heard Senator Biden, among others, say, you know what, it's a good time for the U.S. to hand over military responsibility in Iraq to NATO.

You used to be the NATO commander. Is that a good idea?

GEN. GEORGE JOULWAN (RET.), U.S. ARMY: I believe a variant of that is very good. I think multinationalizing this effort is important, and I think we can do so without diminishing our efforts there.

I would look at what we're doing in Kabul, Wolf, in Afghanistan. NATO is responsible for the international security force in Kabul, Afghanistan, today, working with the Central Command. I would refine it a little bit and say, let's see if NATO can maybe take Baghdad as a responsibility and let Americans go out to the borders.

You need to create a secure environment. We haven't done that yet, and I think NATO can play a role militarily, diplomatically, politically and economically in this fight.

BLITZER: The only problem, General Joulwan, is that in Afghanistan there's a consensus; all the NATO allies agree on what needs to be done. In Iraq, there's no consensus, and you have NATO allies like Germany, for example, and France, among others, who disagree with U.S. policy. How do you work around that?

JOULWAN: Well, I think the key is to start the dialogue, and a good place to start is in the North Atlantic Council.

Remember, in Bosnia, we didn't have unanimity. In fact, one of the toughest voices in Bosnia was the United States for not committing forces there. But in NATO we worked it out, and we got consensus. We committed 60,000 troops from 36 nations; five Muslim nations were included.

So I think the United States, as leaders of the alliance, can really, I think, exert that leadership and create what is required here, consensus to be able to bring about the solution that we desire in Iraq, as well as in Afghanistan.

BLITZER: What about that, General Christman? Do you agree with General Joulwan?

LT. GEN. DAN CHRISTMAN (RET.), U.S. ARMY: I do, Wolf, but I think we need to be prudent and careful in terms of expectations here.

First of all, going to NATO really is beneficial, I think, to remove this remaining veneer of U.S. occupation. It provides some legitimacy to our role there.

On the other hand, George and I just got back from Europe last week, and the political realities on the Continent being what they are, I think we need to be prudent in our expectations. We're not likely to see, even under a NATO authorization, great numbers of additional NATO troops on the grounds. That's the reality here.

We have enormous roles here played, amongst others, by the Spanish and the Dutch, and of course the Czechs and the two multinational divisions, Polish and the U.K.

But beyond that, Wolf, I think we need to be realistic about the way ahead. That's going to be U.S. troops, by and large, and also increasingly trained Iraqi elements.

JOULWAN: Wolf, can I add one more thing?

BLITZER: Go ahead.

JOULWAN: Under the U.S. initiative out of the Prague summit of last year was the development of a NATO response force. That is well under way. This was a NATO force that would be able to work with the United States at the high end of the spectrum.

The current supreme allied commander is developing that force now, with the approval of all the nations, and the lead nation, the most contributing nation, is France.

So I think we've got an excellent opportunity here to really try to take some of these initiatives. You've got to give them some voice in what's happening, a seat at the table. But I truly think, for 50 years we've had this alliance work with us, and I think we can make it work in Iraq.

BLITZER: General Grange, there's no indication the Bush administration is ready to move, at least not now, on that kind of initiative in letting NATO formally take charge. But if there were to be that kind of shift, practically speaking, on the ground what would be the impact on U.S. forces patrolling Tikrit or Fallujah, the Sunni Triangle?

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, you know, I believe that making this a NATO operation would help the U.S. forces on the ground, as long as there was a U.S. commander, at least at the start of it. In other words, if NATO took over to begin the lead, definitely a better choice than U.N. And I say that because the NATO is a structured organization, and it wouldn't be a pickup team, which most U.N. operations are, at least until they get, you know, a bit down the road.

But it would relieve some of the pressure, I think, on the U.S. troops and is probably a good choice.

BLITZER: Democratic presidential candidate, retired General Wesley Clark, General Grange, has suggested that NATO take over the military responsibility, that the U.N. takes over the political responsibility. On this issue, you disagree with General Clark.

GRANGE: Well, here's the problem. You have to be very careful when you have a distinct separation with the military and the -- let's say (ph), combat patrol, security -- and nation building, because there's interaction both functions, and you don't want to violate unity of effort, unity of command. It's a principle that must be followed for success. And so you'd have to be very careful with that on how that's broken apart.

BLITZER: All right, Generals, we're going to take a quick break right now. We have a lot more to discuss.

When we come back, we'll also be taking your phone calls for all three of these retired U.S. generals.

We're also going to be standing by to speak later on LATE EDITION with one of the Democratic presidential candidates, Richard Gephardt. We'll have an exclusive interview with him.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It is estimated that the number of American troops on patrol in Iraq at any given time is under 30,000. This is an insufficient number of troops to even play defense, much less take the fight to our enemy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Senator John McCain, speaking earlier this week, insisting the U.S. does not have enough forces on the ground in Iraq.

General Joulwan, is Senator McCain right?

JOULWAN: I think you need more troops. I think you got to stabilize the situation. But the commanders on the ground need to call that.

But from what I see in trying to seal the borders, in trying to do what's required in Baghdad, we are very much overcommitted.

But the commanders on the ground need to stand up and be counted, and they're the ones that need to say what they need to do for their troop-to-task analysis.

BLITZER: General Christman, there's some suggestion, some fear that the commanders on the ground, whether General Abizaid, the central commander, or General Rick Sanchez, Ricardo Sanchez, the commander in Iraq, that they don't want to make recommendations that they know their political leadership don't want to hear. Is that a legitimate concern?

CHRISTMAN: I don't think so. I think George and I and Dave know all the commanders there, especially Rick Sanchez and John Abizaid. They're calling it the way they see it.

The key here, it seems to me, Wolf, is not to do it bigger, but to do it smarter. The reality is we cannot support, for the long term, the elements that we have in theater right now. There have been many analyses over the last six months that have said, over time we lose this army because of repeated rotations back to theater.

Already elements of the 82nd Airborne Division, for example, are going back to Iraq, having deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq one time. This is what the Pentagon is concerned about. We need to do it smarter.

And so this new rotation of different units of brigade-sized elements, of the army's new striker brigades, wheeled vehicles, of new M-14-style sniper weapons -- this is what should be done going forward, smarter not bigger.

BLITZER: General Grange, three U.S. Army helicopters have been shot down, apparently, over the past couple of weeks. A lot of Americans concerned about the vulnerability of these slow-flying helicopters, especially when they're at low altitudes. What can you do about this?

GRANGE: Well, you know, helicopters are dangerous. They're dangerous to move on. They are targets. There's not much firepower on them or with them, quite often. They're more survivable at night.

What'll happen is the military will change their tactics, their procedures. They'll be more unpredictable in the flight patterns, where they take off, land, the routes to and from different points.

But the point is, they are always going to be vulnerable to enemy fire, especially ground fire, in this case.

And the thing about it is, this is not a turning point, losing a few helicopters. It's terrible, yes. But I recall losing this many helicopters in training in the United States or in Europe. And so, really they have not lost many helicopters, considering what they're doing.

BLITZER: I want you to listen, General Joulwan, to what General Peter Pace, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress earlier this week when someone asked about comparisons between a quagmire that used to happen that was, of course, historically accurate in Vietnam, but, some fear, could be unfolding in Iraq right now. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GENERAL PETER PACE, VICE CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: There is no regular army in Iraq that we're fighting against. There is no Vietcong in Iraq we're fighting against. We do have some former regime loyalists. We do have some terrorists, homegrown and imported.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Are you at all concerned, General Joulwan, that Iraq could turn out to be another Vietnam?

JOULWAN: Not another Vietnam, no. But I think we have -- we're in a fight, Wolf, and we got to understand we're in a fight. It's a different sort of fight than what we've been used to, but we're in a fight. And we've got to understand this is guerrillas, these are some irregulars. They appear to me to have some command and control. And we have to deal with that. And we have to change the way we're doing business, I think.

But I am not ready to say this is another Vietnam. I just hope we have the intestinal fortitude to stick this one out and make the adjustments and the reassessment, that I'd look at what the Rumsfeld memo leak was, was to do this reassessment. That's what we need to do, and we need to constantly do that and really make sure that happens, this reassessment happens on the ground.

BLITZER: General Joulwan, as usual, thanks very much for joining us. Same to General Christman and General Grange. Three outstanding United States generals always welcome here on LATE EDITION.

JOULWAN: Thanks, Wolf.

CHRISTMAN: Thanks, Wolf.

GRANGE: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Up next, Jessica Lynch's dramatic story. Chilling new details about what happened to her in Iraq. We'll talk with a journalist who interviewed the former POW.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JESSICA LYNCH: I'd like to say thank you to everyone who hoped and prayed for my safe return.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Former U.S. Army Private Jessica Lynch making her first public comments this past summer after returning to the United States from Iraq.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Lynch was taken prisoner after she and several other members of the U.S. Army's 507th Maintenance Company were ambushed in March. Her dramatic rescue captured worldwide attention. Now she's telling her story in a new book, some of the details very graphic, very disturbing.

Jessica Lynch is also this week's Time magazine cover story. She spoke at length with Rick Stengel, he's the assistant managing editor, and Rick is joining us now live from New York.

Rick, thanks very much for joining us.

RICK STENGEL, TIME MAGAZINE: Welcome.

BLITZER: Briefly, give us the gist, the new developments, what you learned in speaking to Jessica Lynch.

STENGEL: Well, I guess what you learn is that she's this very frail, small young woman who went through this absolutely terrible ordeal. And what you also learn is all the things that we thought were true originally, that she had fought fiercely, as The Washington Post had said, and that she had, you know, helped and killed many of her enemies, I mean, all of those things turned out to be false. I mean, she had her head between her knees and was praying to God when her Humvee was hit by a missile.

BLITZER: She says she was no hero, she doesn't deserve any credit. Is this just false modesty, though?

STENGEL: I don't think it is false modesty. I think she genuinely feels, look, I was terrified, I had a right to be terrified, there were plenty of others there who really fought bravely, including the men who rescued her. And I don't think it's false modesty at all.

BLITZER: Did you find out what happened, why this 507th Maintenance Company, why they were ambushed and fell into this trap? Was there any single cause?

STENGEL: Well, you know, the military has a report, I think it's confidential, but you can find it online, and it's an incredible comedy of errors. I mean, the mistakes that the 507 made, and their commander took one wrong turn after another, and ended up, you know, going into Nasiriyah, and he didn't even realize that he was in the city where the enemy was.

I mean, it's a real tragedy, how this happened. They should never have been there, and it's appalling that they were there.

BLITZER: There were shocking indications this week in the book that Rick Bragg has written, the former New York Times reporter, the book about Jessica Lynch. There was an allegation that she actually had been raped. The book entitled, "I Am a Soldier Too: The Jessica Lynch Story." What did you learn about that?

STENGEL: Well, from the time that she blacked out, which was about 7:00 a.m., until the time that she was taken to Nasiriyah Hospital, which we estimate about 10:00 a.m., something happened to her. We don't know what happened to her. The medical report said that she was sexually assaulted. She was unconscious the whole time.

The book is very, very delicate about doing this. The family is obviously upset and isn't that keen about broadcasting the whole thing.

But that seems to be what happened. We talked to her doctor at Walter Reed, who said that her injuries are commensurate with something like that and not what would have happened in a Humvee.

BLITZER: How is she doing right now?

STENGEL: Well, she's doing terrifically well. I mean, she's an incredibly brave young woman. I mean, we went with her to a physical therapy thing, and, you know, she was just wearing a T-shirt and shorts, and you see where her legs were brutalized, and where she had the bolts that were in her knees, and she's walking with one crutch now. She takes about 40 steps on her own.

I mean, she's incredibly brave. I mean, her courage is really being demonstrated now, and she has an incredible amount of fortitude, and, you know, she's really to be admired.

BLITZER: There are some African-American leaders and others who are saying there's a double standard under way, Jessica Lynch given all this attention, Shoshanna Johnson, a young black soldier who was in the same company, taken POW, basically ignored.

Is there a double standard here in the United States?

STENGEL: Well, you know, it's a fair question, I suppose, to ask. I mean, Shoshanna's situation was different. I mean, she was captured with a bunch of other people. She wasn't as badly wounded as Jessica.

I know her own concern is about how much money she gets back from the military, in terms of pension, that it ought to be commensurate with what Jessica had.

But, you know, I mean, Jessica was on her own, she is, you know, a pretty, young, blond-haired girl. I mean, we tend to focus on these things that are symbolic. You know, as Joseph Stalin said, the death of many, many men is a matter of statistics, the death of one man is a matter of pathos.

BLITZER: Rick Stengel of Time magazine, our (UNINTELLIGIBLE) thanks very much for joining us here on LATE EDITION.

STENGEL: Thanks, Wolf. BLITZER: Coming up, the 2004 showdown, President Bush making his push for a second term. Can any of the nine Democratic candidates beat him? We'll get the outlook from the chairmen of both the Republican and the Democratic parties, among other things.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

In just a few minutes, we'll have an exclusive interview with the Democratic congressman and presidential candidate Dick Gephardt. First, though, let's go to Washington for a check of the hour's top stories.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Returning now to our top story, that car bomb attack in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. At least 11 people are dead; 100 others are injured. The attack occurred last night in a residential neighborhood near Riyadh's diplomatic quarter. The Saudi government directly blaming al Qaeda.

For the very latest on where things stand right now in Saudi Arabia, we're joined on the phone by Caroline Faraj of CNNArabic.com.

Caroline, give us the reaction of the Saudi government. How specific do they say their intelligence is, their information is that al Qaeda is responsible for this car bombing?

FARAJ: Well, Wolf, they're claiming that al Qaeda is responsible because they're saying that they used the same tools and strategy that was used in the Riyadh bombs in May 12th.

Wolf?

BLITZER: And, Caroline, the whole Saudi government -- there was a similar bombing in May, as you point out, but that seemed to be going after Western residents in Riyadh. This one seemed to be going after strictly Arab residents, whether Lebanese or Egyptian or others living in Riyadh.

Senator Biden, on this program a little while ago, suggesting that could be a significant difference. Is it?

FARAJ: It is a significant difference, Wolf. And according to the officials in Saudi Arabia, they are shocked that this happened. And they're saying that al Qaeda that are always claiming that they're against the Westerners and they're targeting Western targets. But this time, they are killing during Ramadan, which is supposedly a very spiritual month. Muslims are killing their brothers, the Muslims, as well as the Arabs. So there's a lot of flags actually raised.

However, some politicians I've talked to yesterday and today, they were basically saying, we cannot find out exactly why, however we can say our own analysis, that it might be might be that these terrorists, they're totally against the way that these compounds and camps are basically running. Like, they're saying that people are socializing, women and men, they're having swimming pools, people are eating, and they're living their own normal life, which is not accepted to some fundamentalists.

So basically, they're trying to force, according to the politicians that I talked to, they were saying they're trying to force their own way by force.

Wolf?

BLITZER: CNNArabic.com's Caroline Faraj monitoring this situation. We'll be checking back with you, Caroline. Thanks very much for that report.

Turning now to the start of the 2004 political campaign season that's getting right under way here in the United States. Just two months from now, a little bit more than two months from now, the first official contest in the race for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination will take place -- the Iowa caucuses.

Polls showing right now the Missouri congressman, Richard Gephardt, leading the field of candidates in Iowa. Congressman Gephardt is joining us now live from St. Louis.

Congressman, thanks for joining us. Always good to have you on LATE EDITION.

BLITZER: And I want to get to all the politics of the Democratic presidential race in just a moment, but I want your reaction to what's happening in Saudi Arabia right now.

Do you believe Saudi Arabia, the current government, represents a friend of the United States or a foe of the United States, when it comes to the war against terror?

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think the problem, Wolf, is that our administration, our president, is not confronting this Saudi administration, the Saudi royal family, and getting them to change their ways.

This is a royal family that's in real trouble. Al Qaeda came, really, from Saudi Arabia. Osama bin Laden comes from Saudi Arabia. We are on a path here that will lead to continuing terrorism, unless we can get the Saudi royal family to start doing the right things, instead of the wrong things.

In addition...

BLITZER: Let me press you...

GEPHARDT: ... we need a long-term energy policy in this country, and this president isn't even talking to us about it.

BLITZER: Well, I was -- that suggests the next follow-up question. If you were president of the United States and you wanted to change Saudi policy, what specifically would you do?

GEPHARDT: I'd first have a long-term energy policy in this country that would get us to be independent of Middle Eastern oil in 10 years. I have a program, a bold program I call Apollo 21, that is designed to do that.

If the terrorists take over Saudi Arabia, we're going to be in real trouble in about five minutes. So this president -- when I am president, I will lead us in that direction. This president doesn't seem capable of doing it.

Secondly, I would lead a world coalition to confront the Saudi royal family to get them to change their ways. There is evidence that they're funding terrorist organizations. They're funding terrorist schools in places like Pakistan. This has got to stop.

They're now being affected by these bombs going off in their own country, and they don't seem capable of dealing with it.

BLITZER: You supported the Bush administration in going to war to remove Saddam Hussein from power. You supported the $87 billion, the funding for Iraq and Afghanistan that the president got through this past week.

Would you change policy right now in any significant way? For example, you've heard several of your colleagues suggest NATO should take over military responsibility in Iraq from the U.S. military directly.

GEPHARDT: I wouldn't change the policy. I think the policy that we've got is good in terms of what we tried to do. I voted for what I thought was right. I will always vote for what I think is right.

This president didn't convince me. I went to the CIA. I got my information from them, and I got my information from former officials of the Clinton administration.

So I don't think that I was misled by this president, because I didn't just listen to him. I would never do that.

But the mistake that's being made here is that he's not gotten us the help that we need from other countries. He should have gotten the NATO forces in there to provide security with us a long time ago. He should turn the civil reconstruction of Iraq over to the United Nations.

It is incomprehensible to me that he has not done this. This is a failure of leadership of this president. And if he hasn't gotten it done, when I get there, I will get it done.

BLITZER: All right. Let's move on to presidential politics. A new poll just out today in the Des Moines Register in Iowa, the Iowa caucus, the first significant contest. Look at this. It puts you significantly ahead. Twenty-seven percent for you, 20 percent for Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor, 15 percent for John Kerry, the Massachusetts senator, and everybody else way behind. It seems to suggest that you're going to win the Iowa caucuses, although there're still a couple of months to go. If you don't win in Iowa -- and you did win in 1988, the first time you ran for president -- does it mean you're basically out of there?

GEPHARDT: I'm going to win the Iowa caucuses. That's where I'd start this. I think that I'm going to win for two simple reasons. I've got the biggest, boldest ideas in contrast with George Bush. I'm the only candidate in this race who is really providing contrast with George Bush.

I have a health-care plan to get everybody covered with health care in this country. My Apollo 21 energy program is the only plan out there to get us to be independent of Middle Eastern oil. I've got an international minimum-wage proposal to get us on a more level playing field with other countries in trade, and a lot of the other ideas.

If we're going to beat George Bush, we've got to have a candidate who can provide real contrast. Howard Dean, on the other hand, agrees with George Bush on Medicare cuts. He agreed with the Republicans back in 1995, when we were fighting for our lives and the Republicans were shutting the government down. I just disagree with him on Medicare.

And finally, we don't agree on trade. I've been the leader in fighting for fair trade. Howard Dean was for the NAFTA agreement. He was for the China agreement. That's no way to change our trade policy.

I'm the one that can provide a real contrast with George Bush.

BLITZER: He's running right behind you in Iowa, according to this Des Moines Register poll, but he's way, way ahead of you in New Hampshire, which comes up nine days after Iowa.

Let's take a look at the latest poll numbers that we're getting. Howard Dean, look at this, at 38 percent; John Kerry, 24 percent; everyone else, including you, way, way behind.

Why are you doing so poorly in New Hampshire?

GEPHARDT: Well, I'm going to get a solid, top-tier finish in New Hampshire. He's on home ground there, and he's obviously got good poll numbers, but I'm going to get a good finish there.

I can do well in all the states that come on February 3rd and February 7th and all the states that come thereafter. It comes out to the Midwest, the far west.

But again, I'm going to win this nomination because I'm the only one that has big, bold ideas that really contrast with George Bush. I'm the only one that really has fought for fair trade. I'm the only one that has ideas of holding onto Medicare and saving Medicare and Social Security from the constant, unending attacks from this president and the Republican Party. BLITZER: Why...

GEPHARDT: Democrats...

BLITZER: Congressman, excuse me for interrupting, but on this whole issue of trade, you of course opposed NAFTA, he supported NAFTA. But now we're seeing some major unions in the United States endorse Howard Dean at your expense. Only in the past few days, the Service Employees International Union has formally endorsed him. AFSCME expected to do so in the next few days.

These are huge unions that have significant numbers of members in Iowa and New Hampshire, elsewhere around the country. Why do you believe they bolted against you and endorsed Howard Dean?

GEPHARDT: Well, Wolf, I never expected to get all the unions, but I've pretty much got all the unions. I've got 21 international unions for me, if the numbers are right. Howard may have three. John Kerry may have one or two. That's a pretty good lead. I'm proud of that.

And the reason I have that support from all those unions is because I've fought with them and their members for working families for 25 years, and those people know it, and they are for me.

When I go out in the country, I don't just have union leaders for me, I have rank-and-file members there greeting me, working with me, campaigning with me.

We're going to win this campaign because I've fought for working families on trade, on health care, on union issues, on working-family issues like pensions and Medicare. They know who's been there with them, and they know who they want to be the next president of the United States. I'm going to win this race.

BLITZER: Do you feel betrayed by these two unions that are now endorsing Howard Dean?

GEPHARDT: Not at all. I never expected to get every union. That's impossible. But I'm going to have the vast majority of unions. And I've had them on my side for the last six months. And there is going to be more unions coming out for me in the days ahead.

I'm very proud -- my dad was a Teamster and a milk-truck driver, it was the best job he ever had. He always told me, we have a middle class in this country because of working families, the middle class and labor unions. That's the fight I've carried on for 25 years. I am proud of that fight, and I will always fight for people like my parents.

BLITZER: Howard Dean this weekend announced he's going to forego the matching funds, the campaign contributions that the federal government would provide, in order to compete more effectively, he says, with President Bush, who is foregoing those matching funds. Howard Dean has clearly raised the most of all of the nine Democratic presidential candidates. Is this smart, from his perspective?

GEPHARDT: Well, it's unfortunate, but everybody's got to make their own decision.

I believe in the campaign reform that I fought for. Incidentally, we wouldn't have campaign reform if I hadn't fought with John McCain to get it in the House and get it in the Senate.

But I've got plenty of money to win this race. I'm going to win this race.

And again, money is not the factor you've got to look at. You've got to look at who's got the bold, big ideas that contrast with George Bush. I'm the only one who has that. I have fought for Medicare, I've fought for trade, I've fought for health care, and that's what's going to decide this race.

BLITZER: Congressman...

GEPHARDT: If money was the only factor, we would have had a President Phil Gramm and a President John Conley. It isn't the only factor.

BLITZER: So you can flatly rule out the possibility that you would forego those matching funds if you got the nomination?

GEPHARDT: No, I'm going to take the matching funds, I'm going to stick with the system, I'm going to say now what I said before.

Howard, you know, said before that he was going to stay with the system. Now, when he found out he can make a few more bucks maybe by foregoing the matching funds, he changed his position.

You've got to be consistent. You've got to stay with what you believe in and what you think is right. That's what I'm always going to do.

BLITZER: Howard Dean, among other things, caused a stir this past week, or the past several days, by saying these words to the Des Moines Register on November 1st. He said, "I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks."

After a lot of uproar, a lot of criticism, including at that Rock the Vote debate that was here on CNN earlier this week, he eventually came out and said he made a mistake. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEAN: And I regret the pain that I may have caused, either to African-American or Southern white voters in the beginning of this discussion. But we need to have this discussion in an honest, open way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is the issue resolved?

GEPHARDT: Well, Wolf, he was just, to me, really answering a question when he made that statement about the pickup trucks and the Confederate flag, to kind of explain away his position on the Brady Bill and on the assault-weapon ban.

And I just -- I don't agree with him on this issue. I fought in the House to get the Brady Bill passed, to get the assault-weapon ban passed. I'm proud of that fight. It was the right thing to do.

We may have lost the majority in the House in part because of that vote. But we had member after member who stood up for what they thought was right. And I think that's what we ought to do...

BLITZER: Was it a...

GEPHARDT: I don't think we ought to be changing positions or parsing our positions on guns in order to try to attract people that aren't going to be for us anyway.

And as far as the Confederate flag, this is a divisive symbol in our country. And to use it as symbolism to try to get to certain voters just doesn't make sense to me. It isn't the right thing to do.

We need to appeal to people's patriotism, we need to appeal to people's -- with ideas, bold ideas to make this country a better place. That's what I'm going to do.

I can win, I think, unlike Howard, in states like West Virginia, Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio. Those are the states where we've got to beat George Bush, and I'm going to beat George Bush in those states because I stand up for the middle class, for working families, for labor union members, for the things that they really need.

BLITZER: One footnote, because we only have a few seconds left. Was it a mistake for you to skip the debate in Boston this past week?

Congressman, can you hear me?

I have a feeling we may have lost our connection with Congressman Gephardt. We'll have to leave it like that. We were almost out of time.

Can you hear me, Congressman?

He obviously can't hear me. We'll apologize to Congressman Gephardt, and we'll move on.

Thank you very much, Congressman Richard Gephardt, for joining us.

Up next: an Afghan leader assassinated. Was he taken out because he knew about Osama bin Laden's September 11th plot? We'll get insight from Afghanistan's foreign minister.

And there's still time for you to weigh in on our Web question of the week: Does the United States have enough troops in Iraq? You can cast you vote at cnn.com/lateedition. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: And coming up on LATE EDITION, shifting into campaign mode. Is a second term in the cards for President Bush? The chairmen of the Republican and Democratic parties in the United States, they'll square off here live.

LATE EDITION is back in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Afghanistan faces continuing economic and security challenges. It will face those challenges as a free and stable democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush outlining his vision of Afghanistan's future.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

A new mystery amidst all of this concerning 9/11. Two days before the terrorist attacks, a prominent opposition leader in Afghanistan, Ahmed Shah Massoud, was assassinated. Al Qaeda is now claiming responsibility for Massoud's death.

And get this. There are new suspicions that Massoud may have been killed because he learned about the 9/11 plot and tried to warn the United States.

Joining us now from Washington to help shed some light on all of this is Afghanistan's foreign minister, Dr. Abdullah.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION. Thank you very much.

Let me read to you from this declassified intelligence report that was made available to CNN: "Through Northern Alliance intelligence efforts, Massoud gained limited knowledge regarding the intentions of Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden to perform a terrorist act against the U.S. on a scale larger than the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania."

Dr. Abdullah, you were a close aide to Mr. Massoud. Did he know something was afoot?

DR. ABDULLAH, FOREIGN MINISTER, AFGHANISTAN: I wouldn't say any specific fact about 9/11 was known to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Ahmed Shah Massoud.

But I would say that he was very much clear about the intention of al Qaeda about hitting U.S. interests in the world or perhaps in the United States. This, he made a very warning -- a clear warning during his visit to Europe to the United States, that this is the intention of al Qaedam, al Qaeda is a common enemy, and they will hit interests of the United States.

But nothing specific about 9/11 that I would be aware of it.

BLITZER: And you were are were often at his side. Were you there with him at the time when he was assassinated?

ABDULLAH: No, I was outside Afghanistan. I was outside Afghanistan, and I was traveling to Afghanistan on the same date, 9th of September, when I learned about his assassination.

BLITZER: There's no doubt he was assassinated, he was killed by al Qaeda. But what you're saying is, it was not necessarily because he knew the 9/11 plot was in the works?

ABDULLAH: The links between his assassination and 9/11 could be seen from another angle as well. He was seen as the enemy of al Qaeda, who would stop al Qaeda from making advances in the rest of Afghanistan.

Because, clearly, al Qaeda wanted to clear Afghanistan before September 11th to get rid of resistance in Afghanistan and to move toward Central Asian republics to make it a much wider and bigger threat against the United States and also a challenge to deal with. That was the intention of al Qaeda.

And those terrorists, those two terrorists, could have carried out this assassination attempt some 20 days ago. Because later, Ahmed Shah Massoud didn't have time to give the interview earlier.

So, this is how it happened in close proximity of September 11th.

BLITZER: Dr. Abdullah, as you well know, a couple of months ago, when you spoke with me, you said that you do not believe Osama bin Laden was still in Afghanistan. You suggested he was hiding out somewhere in Pakistan. Is that your latest assumption?

ABDULLAH: It is still my assumption. And later on, it was also quoted some high-level Pakistani authorities in the same line, that the likelihood of Osama's presence in Pakistan somewhere.

BLITZER: And you believe he's in Karachi, a heavily populated city, or in one of the remote tribal areas?

ABDULLAH: It could be anywhere. And as you're all aware, some of the al Qaeda leaders have been arrested in cities like Karachi or Lahore. So not necessarily in those tribal areas.

BLITZER: Do you believe the U.S. and its partners, including Afghanistan, are any closer today to finding Osama bin Laden than they were a couple of years ago?

ABDULLAH: A couple of years ago, Osama was ruling in Afghanistan and he was ruling his networks, global networks, in a way that he was able to carry out plans like September 11th. Today, that's not the situation. And a lot has been achieved in the fight against al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden as its leader.

But if you're asking me, are we at the end of the road, I would say, no, we are just in the middle. A lot more needs to be done in that sense.

BLITZER: The Economist wrote, among other things, in its most recent issue it wrote this: "The American Congress this week allocated $18.6 billion for rebuilding Iraq but only $1.2 billion for Afghanistan, even though Afghanistan has more people, more pressing needs and fewer resources of its own."

Is the United States government neglecting Afghanistan because of Iraq?

ABDULLAH: The fact that the supplemental bill was passed by Congress and Senate was a good news to the people of Afghanistan. And also there is no doubt that the needs for Afghanistan, the needs for reconstruction of Afghanistan and the stabilization of Afghanistan are much more imminent at this stage.

Hopefully, the international community, United States, as the lead coalition member, will lead efforts in accelerating the success in Afghanistan, the achievements in Afghanistan. And the events in Afghanistan is proof -- is a clear proof that with some more efforts, it could turn into a much more visible success to all of us.

BLITZER: Dr. Abdullah, welcome back to the United States. Always good to have you on LATE EDITION. Thank you very much for joining us.

ABDULLAH: Thank you.

BLITZER: And coming up next, we'll get a quick check of the hour's top stories, including the deadly terrorist attack near the diplomatic quarters in Saudi Arabia. Was al Qaeda behind this bombing?

And then, nine Democrats battling for their party's presidential nomination, but will the White House stay in Republican hands? The chairmen of the Republican and Democratic parties in the United States, they'll join us live for a debate.

All that coming up, right after a check of the headlines.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: If current polls are any indication, next year's presidential race here in the United States may be a lot like the 2000 contest, very hard fought and very close. Democrats are hoping to retake the White House. Republicans are counting on keeping the presidency, as well as the control of both houses of the United States Congress. Joining us now from Washington to talk about how the 2004 race is shaping up, two special guests: the Democratic National Committee chairman, Terry McAuliffe, and the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ed Gillespie.

Gentlemen, thanks very much for joining us.

And, Terry McAuliffe, I'll begin with you. Bad news for the Democrats this past week. The governors races in Kentucky, as well as Mississippi, went to Republicans. This on the heels of the California race, a Republican, Arnold Schwarzenegger, winning there.

What's happening to the Democrats and the governor races?

TERRY MCAULIFFE, DNC CHAIRMAN: Well, first, I remind you in both those states combined, George Bush carried those states by over 30 points.

But on Tuesday night in states that I have to be really concerned with to get to my 270 electoral votes, in the state of Pennsylvania, we swept the state. John Street won re-election by 18 points. We won in Allegheny County. Dan Onorato won. For the first time ever, we now have a Democratic county executive in Allegheny County. Max Baer won statewide with the Supreme Court. So it was a sweep for us in Pennsylvania.

In New Jersey, which was critical for us, we won the state Senate in New Jersey for the first time since 1991. We have both the House and the Senate in New Jersey.

And in New York, we defeated Michael Bloomberg's initiative to go to nonpartisan elections.

So states the Democrats have to win -- Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, we won the other night. And I'll remind you...

BLITZER: Terry McAuliffe, you need California to get to 270.

MCAULIFFE: No question. And I hope my good friend Ed Gillespie and Karl Rove and others spend a lot of money in California. I saw a poll the other day. About a 42 percent re-elect for George Bush in California. We're going to win those 55 electoral votes.

But I'll also remind you, the other night that the Democratic Party, that we won 18 of the 14 statewide elections in Mississippi. In Kentucky we won the attorney general, we won the auditor.

I'm excited about where we are. My job is to win the White House. That's what the DNC does. We need 270 electoral votes, and if you look at those states, we're well on our way.

BLITZER: All right, Ed Gillespie, why don't you respond to that?

ED GILLESPIE, RNC CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Wolf. Look, the fact is we won in Mississippi and Kentucky. For the first time in Kentucky, a Republican elected governor in 36 years. In Mississippi, Haley Barbour is the second Republican governor to be elected in that state in 130 years.

Terry mentions New Jersey, and they won the state Senate there. They did because of gerrymandering. The fact is that on Tuesday, more voters in New Jersey voted for a Republican candidate than for a Democratic candidate, but they've been carved into seats where they couldn't win.

And as for the mayor of Philadelphia, look, he did win by 18 points, but there's an 80 percent voter registration advantage in Philadelphia for the Democrat.

The fact is, what we're seeing across the country is that candidates who run on issues, who run on ideas, who propose a positive agenda for the voters, those are the Republicans, as we saw with Governor-elect Schwarzenegger in California, Governor-elect Barbour in Mississippi, Governor-elect Fletcher in Kentucky -- that's what the voters wanted to hear.

And they rejected the Democratic negativity. The fact is, Republicans were out there attacking problems, Democrats were out there attacking Republicans, and voters rejected that approach to politics.

BLITZER: Terry McAuliffe, David Broder writing in The Washington Post today. You saw his column. Among other things, he said this: "The collapse of the Democratic Party in the South is a huge barrier to its recapture of the White House."

And listen to what Democratic Congressman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi said this past week. I'm going to read it and put it up on the screen.

"Terry McAuliffe is out there on his own agenda, which does not involve the South. It does not involve African-Americans to the extent that they need to be. There are some real organizational problems at the Democratic National Committee that need to be corrected if, in fact, this party is to ever regain a majority status in Washington."

Those are pretty tough words from Congressman Thompson.

MCAULIFFE: Well, first of all, I don't know what he's talking about. But, you know, the DNC doesn't run the governors elections. Our job is to win the White House. I'm very confident where we are today in the Southern states.

We did win the governorship, I remind you, last year, in Oklahoma. We got a great new Democratic governor in Tennessee. I was in Florida this week. We're doing great in Florida. I just landed. I was in West Virginia last night. Twelve hundred great Democrats at a JJ dinner in West Virginia.

You know, everybody can say Democrats are writing off the South. I can tell you, the DNC, the institution that I'm in charge of, we have put more resources in the Southern states than in the history of our party. So, many people don't know what they're talking about when they say it, but I know we have to win three, four, five Southern states in order to win the White House.

We will win Florida. We actually won it last time; we just didn't get the prize, if we had all the votes counted. But we need to win Florida. We'll be competitive there. West Virginia, as I say, Arkansas, Tennessee, with a new, great governor.

And so, there are a lot of states in the Southern states. But we're doing very well, and George Bush's re-elect number, today in the state of Florida, is 45 percent.

BLITZER: If you take a look, Ed Gillespie, at this latest Newsweek poll that's just out this weekend, the new issue of Newsweek, would you like to see George W. Bush reelected to another term? Maybe Terry McAuliffe has a point: 44 percent say yes; 50 percent say no. That doesn't necessarily bode well for the president.

GILLESPIE: Wolf, this is keeping with the historic pattern. And the fact is, in the third year of the presidency, all the way back to Richard Nixon, incumbent presidents have trailed at this point in the presidency.

The fact is that, at this point in his presidency, Bill Clinton was behind Bob Dole. He went on to significant wins. At this point in his presidency, Ronald Reagan was behind Walter Mondale.

So we always anticipated this. I'd rather have the slump in the third year than the fourth year.

But the fact is, if you look at what's going on on the ground, these electoral wins that we saw in Kentucky, Mississippi and -- look, no Democrat has ever been elected to the White House without carrying a single state in the South. And it's looking increasingly difficult for Democrats to do that.

Democrats generally do better with younger voters. They're falling away and very strongly in support of President Bush. And in fact, if you look at the data now, 32 percent -- only 32 percent, actually 31 percent in the last poll -- identify themselves as Democrats. That is the lowest percentage ever in the history of public opinion polling. The lowest percentage since Franklin Roosevelt forged the New Deal coalition.

And what we're seeing here is that as the Democratic Party gets smaller, it gets more liberal and more angry. And as it gets more liberal and more angry, it gets smaller. And more and more people are identifying themselves as Republicans, to the point where we have eclipsed the historic disadvantage that we have in polling data to be dead even with the Democrats today.

BLITZER: Gentlemen, we're only getting started. We have a lot more to talk about, but we have to take a quick commercial break. Much more coming up with our two guests, including your phone calls for Ed Gillespie and Terry McAuliffe, the chairmen of the Republican and Democratic parties.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

We're taking a look ahead to next year's U.S. presidential race with the Democratic Party chairman, Terry McAuliffe, the Republican Party chairman, Ed Gillespie.

Iraq could be a huge problem for the president next year in his bid to win re-election. The Newsweek poll asking the American public if the Bush administration is spending too much money in Iraq. Look at this. 60 percent said that too much money was being spent on Iraq, perhaps at the cost of money being spent here in the United States.

There are Republicans also coming out now, Ed Gillespie, and criticizing the president, including Senator John McCain. Senator Hagel was on this program a little while ago.

How worried are you?

GILLESPIE: I'm not worried, Wolf. The fact is that the president is pursuing the right policy in Iraq. We have to win the war against terror. We have to win in Iraq.

And there's a lot of good things that are going on that we're not hearing much about, but there's a lot of progress being made. Most importantly, we are better off as a country, and the Middle East is better off as a region, without Saddam Hussein in power there.

And the fact is, if you look at the choice between what the Democrats are putting forward on the presidential side in their party versus the president's policies, the president's policies are right. We have to maintain the policy of preemptive self-defense. We have to be able to say we are going to no longer wait for gathering threats to become real dangers and become real tragedies, certain tragedies, we're going to act in our self-interest. And we've done that here in Iraq, and we have to maintain our presence there.

Those who voted against funding for the troops made a mistake, and their policy is wrong, and we can't return to a weak and indecisive national security policy.

BLITZER: I'm going to let Terry McAuliffe respond to that.

But respond also, Terry, in this context. The Newsweek poll showing the president's job-approval rating now at 52 percent. Forty percent disapprove of the way the president's handling the job. Some context, that approval rating is higher than what Bill Clinton's number was three years into his presidency and what Ronald Reagan's number was three years into his presidency.

MCAULIFFE: Well, let me first say, as it relates to the issue of Iraq, I think there is concern all over this country about the spending of $87 billion in Iraq. We need schools and firehouses and roads built here in the United States of America. We've got to make sure we're doing what we need here.

And what concerns Americans today is, a lot of this $87 billion is being wasted. Millions of dollars for a zip code, tens of millions of dollars to build waterfields in the desert, when we see our schools crumbling over here.

So there are a lot of legitimate concerns, and there is concern when the issue comes up, did the president politicize and embellish the intelligence data to justify us going into Iraq at the time period that we went in, why we didn't build a bigger international coalition, why we don't have more Arab troops with our U.S. troops over there.

And then, when the president struts around on an aircraft carrier wearing a flight suit saying, "Mission accomplished," and then tries to blame the Navy personnel on the ship for putting that sign up, and then it comes out that it was the White House that put it up, it gives people a lot of pause and concern about this president...

BLITZER: All right.

MCAULIFFE: ... and the truthfulness coming out of this White House, a lot of issues as it relates to Iraq. We need to make sure that our troops are protected on the ground. But a lot of questions about how and when we went in.

BLITZER: Ed, go ahead.

GILLESPIE: Yes. Well, let me just correct a couple of things, it's hard to correct everything Terry says, so let me pick a couple of things.

The fact is, the president never said, "Mission accomplished." The banner said "Mission accomplished" because in fact the aircraft carrier had accomplished its mission. It had been at sea longer than any nuclear aircraft carrier in the history of the U.S. Navy. The men and women on that aircraft carrier were proud of that fact, and they were proud that they had accomplished their mission.

I think, at the end of the day, we're all going to be proud of the mission that's accomplished in Iraq, and in fact we're proud that they did remove Saddam Hussein in such an expeditious fashion.

In terms of misleading intelligence, look, that's just factually inaccurate to say that the president politicized intelligence. In fact, what we're seeing today -- and as you've talked about earlier on this program -- is the politicization of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is very unfortunate, to have the staff and the leaders of that committee talking about how they can use the Senate Intelligence Committee for political purposes.

I think the American people would much rather the Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee focus on winning the war against Iraq. Let Terry here focus on winning the next election. And they should get out of the political business... BLITZER: All right.

GILLESPIE: ... and get back into the intelligence business.

MCAULIFFE: Well, first of all, I want to correct: what the president was saying when he strutted around on that aircraft carrier wearing a flight suit -- which, I remind you, he didn't wear when he should have worn one, when he was supposedly in the Alabama National Guard -- but clearly what came out of that was, he was saying that our job had been completed, major combat operations were over.

Well, let me tell you, major combat operations are not over in Iraq today. And when he said, "Bring it on" to people overseas, to fight our people, it was just plain wrong.

And these are legitimate questions that people have.

And then when they out a CIA operative, when someone in the White House gives the name of an individual, a woman, to put her life in jeopardy, put her contacts' lives in jeopardy and ruin what is a great asset of the United States of America, a specialist in weapons of mass destruction, it gives people pause about the conduct of this president's conduct of foreign affairs.

BLITZER: Ed Gillespie, go ahead.

GILLESPIE: Well, look, again, the president did not say that the war was over. He said that major combat operations had ended. They had. We had captured Baghdad, and that was the end of major combat operations.

If you look at his speech, he was clear. This was going to be a long and difficult process in the aftermath of winning Baghdad.

In terms of -- I'm not sure where to begin with some of the other things Terry said. But in terms of, again, the Intelligence Committee and the way that process had been politicized, it's clear by the memo.

Lastly, he doesn't know any better than anyone else knows when he makes this charge that someone in the White House revealed the name of a CIA operative. That is not the case. In fact, what Bob Novak said in his article was, an administration official. He never said a White House official. That investigation is going on now by the Justice Department. Terry doesn't know if that's the case or not.

MCAULIFFE: When Chris Matthews says that Karl Rove called him and told him that this woman was fair game...

GILLESPIE: Chris Matthews didn't say that. Chris Matthews didn't say that.

MCAULIFFE: I mean, what is she fair game on?

BLITZER: All right. Hold on. Gentlemen, hold on.

MCAULIFFE: Obviously, this woman's life is in danger, and obviously her career is over. Someone should be held responsible. Everyone likes to walk away and say, "I'm not responsible for it."

GILLESPIE: Someone will be held responsible, but Terry's factually inaccurate when he...

MCAULIFFE: And they ought to find out who it is. And the press reported it was people inside the White House. We've got to get to the bottom of it. And we can't rely on John Ashcroft to do it.

BLITZER: Gentlemen, unfortunately, we have to leave it right there. A good, solid debate. This debate is only going to begin right now, because a year from now, the elections actually will take place.

Terry McAuliffe and Ed Gillespie, thanks for joining us here on LATE EDITION.

MCAULIFFE: Thank you.

GILLESPIE: Thank you.

BLITZER: And when we come back, the results of our Web question of the week. The Web question results will be coming in: Does the United States have enough troops in Iraq right now? We'll tell you how you voted, our viewers.

Plus, Bruce Morton's last word.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In Iowa, in New Hampshire, you have to talk to people. TV cameras will watch, too, so that folks in other states know what you said.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Small states with big political stakes. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here you see the results of our Web question of the week, does the United States have enough troops in Iraq? Twenty percent of you say yes; 49 percent say no; 31 percent say too many troops in Iraq. Remember, this is not a scientific poll.

Time now for Bruce Morton's last word on why Iowa and New Hampshire represent what's good about American politics.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MORTON (voice-over): "The New York Times" has criticized the two early presidential states, Iowa and New Hampshire, as states with quaint views, which should stop going first, in favor of, perhaps a series of regional primaries.

The present system, the Times says, is too quick. They're right about that. But the problem isn't Iowa and New Hampshire. It's all the other states crude crowding in right behind them.

And as Washington Post columnist David Broder was quick to point out, the voters aren't particularly quaint. Iowa has fewer and fewer family farms, more and more agri-business and good schools. New Hampshire's recent growth comes from dot-com types who moved north from Massachusetts because New Hampshire taxes are lower.

I will admit to a fondness for New Hampshire's lobsters and even what's called the Iowa chop, a pork chop roughly the size of a sofa, a common feature on Iowa menus.

But they're not the point either. Iowa and New Hampshire do something very important in presidential politics. You could do it in other, smaller states with few television markets, but these two are used to it. Their voters read up, pay attention.

What Iowa and New Hampshire do is force presidential candidates to practice retail politics, not just run their TV spot or blurt out the 20-second sound bite the consultant made them memorize. They have to stand or sit in people's kitchens, in high school classrooms, and answer real questions from real voters. You can't stonewall. You have to speak up, and that's very important.

Most of the rest of the process is packaging. Put a pretty ribbon on the candidate, put him on TV, not much contact with voting Americans.

In Iowa, in New Hampshire, you have to talk to people. TV cameras will watch, too, so that folks in other states know what you said. But real answers to real questions from real people. That doesn't happen much after the first two states.

There are problems. African-Americans are underrepresented in both Iowa and New Hampshire. CNN's director of polling is leery of the way Iowa counts.

It doesn't have to be those two, but it ought to happen somewhere. Otherwise, all we'll see will be what the consultants packaged for us, after focus groups and polls and all that.

You need a place somewhere where the candidate in shirtsleeves has to live, if only briefly, in the real America. It matters.

I'm Bruce Morton.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Bruce.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: And that's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, November 9th.

Coming up next, People in the News. That's followed at 3:00 p.m. Eastern by In the Money. And at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, CNN Live Sunday.

Please be sure to join us next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

I'll be here Monday through Friday, twice a day at noon and 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

Until then, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Chicago.

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