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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview With Rudy Giuilani; Interview With Charles Rangel, David Dreier

Aired December 28, 2003 - 12:00   ET

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

JOHN KING, GUEST HOST: It's noon in Washington, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 5:00 p.m. in London and 8:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this special year-in- review "LATE EDITION."
I'm John King. Wolf is away.

We'll bring you Wolf's interview with the former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani in just a few minutes. But first, let's go to Fredricka Whitfield at CNN headquarters in Atlanta for a check of the hour's top stories.

(NEWSBREAK)

KING: We begin with new developments in the mad cow disease case here in the United States. CNN's Elaine Quijano is following the story and joins us here in Washington.

Elaine?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, John.

Well, just a short time ago, USDA officials said that they are adding four states to the recall. They are doing so, they say, after learning that some of the meat from a cow infected with mad cow disease was sent to Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana and the U.S. territory of Guam.

Now, earlier, officials had said that most of that meat had gone to Washington state and Oregon, with some also sent to California and Nevada.

Now, Dr. Ken Peterson with the USDA emphasized that the recalled meat was essentially of, quote, "zero risk to consumers." He says the brain, spinal cord and lower intestine, the parts that carry the infection, were removed before the cow was processed.

Now, it was just yesterday that USDA officials said their preliminary information indicated that the infected cow was imported from Alberta, Canada, in 2001. But they are still working to confirm that with DNA testing. Meantime, that investigation is continuing.

John?

KING: Elaine Quijano, thank you, tracking that developing story on mad cow. Thank you very much.

Now to Iran. The country is struggling to recover from a devastating earthquake that may have killed at many at 20,000 people. CNN's Matthew Chance is following the recovery efforts and the aid efforts, and he joins us now live by videophone from Bam, Iran.

Matthew?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, thank you very much.

And the people of Bam are facing a third freezing night outside on the streets here with very limited shelter and food supplies that have been distributed to them by the various aid agencies on the ground.

We've been getting a better picture of the kind of level of destruction and the human cost of this catastrophe, as well, from the Iranian interior minister. Speaking earlier, he confirmed that 15,000 people have already been found and buried in mass graves. He says he expects the final casualty toll to rise to a huge 20,000.

The international rescue teams that have been here on the ground for the past 36 hours or so have been hard at work. But there are still large areas where it's up to ordinary Iranians, friends and neighbors, using their bare hands, their shovels or whatever machinery they can, to try and search for survivors.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHANCE (voice-over): It's less a search for survivors than a grim removal of the dead. And in the ruins of the town of Bam, there are so many.

In this house alone, seven members of the same family died. Their crushed remains are pulled out one by one. It is an agonizing scene.

Some, like Massoud (ph), have lost everything. He told me he came back to find his family, his neighbors, even some of his friends all dead. "We had such a good life," he says.

Across this entire region, survivors are delirious with grief.

With each hour that passes, more bodies are pulled from beneath this rubble. Men, women and children crushed by this devastating earthquake. The aid agencies here say they are doing what they can to help the locals recover the dead and the injured. But the Iranian government itself admits this crisis is too big for it to cope alone.

International emergency teams have responded to the call for assistance. With sniffer dogs and high-tech sensor equipment, they are looking for any survivors in this chaos. But there is a growing sense it may be a hopeless search.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The nature of the construction of these particular buildings doesn't lend itself to natural voids upon collapse. So what we are finding is that there is a mass of rubble that is coming down in blocks, therefore not creating the voids where people are likely to survive in them.

CHANCE: You've been here for a couple of days now, how many survivors have you found?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sadly, we have found no live casualties. We found many dead, but unfortunately no live casualties.

CHANCE: With more teams arriving, including several expected from the U.S., this is an international show of solidarity. But what will be the final human cost of this catastrophe for Iran is still to be reckoned.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHANCE: Well, much of the attention now, John, is shifting to what will become of the many tens of thousands of survivors who weren't killed in that terrible earthquake. The aid agencies are out in force giving them food a blankets. But still, in this freezing weather, there will be many difficult days ahead for them.

Back to you.

KING: Matthew Chance joining us from Bam. Thank you, Matthew.

And as 2003 draws to a close, the United States finds itself on high alert, bracing for the possibility of more terrorist attacks despite victories in the war with Iraq and the capture of Saddam Hussein.

During this past week, Wolf Blitzer spoke with the man who led New Yorkers, and in many ways all Americans, in the initial hours after the September 11th attacks, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Mr. Mayor, thanks for joining us on "LATE EDITION" on our end-of-year review, special program.

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: It's great to have you back as usual.

GIULIANI: Great to be here.

BLITZER: Some would argue that we're sort of ending 2003 almost the way we began it, on a high level of terror alert, despite the war in Iraq. What's your sense?

GIULIANI: Well, there is no question we are on a high level of alert, but we're safer today than we were last year at this time. We have removed Saddam Hussein from a position where he can help terrorism. And we've done a lot of work in strengthening our efforts against al Qaeda.

So the things are safer, but we're not, you know, we're not perfectly safe yet.

BLITZER: How frustrated are you by this, you know, raising and lowering the terror threat level from yellow to orange, back and forth? I can't tell you how many people, average friends of mine, just say, you know, "We can't take this kind of stuff seriously. They're just jerking us around."

GIULIANI: Well, you know, I guess I was in the middle of it so that I have a sense of why it's being done. It's really an alert to law enforcement. It's basically saying to law enforcement all over the country, "Be more careful. Do more, do more security checks, check your intelligence files." That's really where the active work can be done. For regular citizens, you've got to go about your life.

BLITZER: I take it most of the so-called chatter or threats focus in on New York and Washington and a few other high-profile targets. Do you think that they need to raise the level for the entire country, people in Kansas and Nebraska and all sorts of places where the threat level may be nonexistent?

GIULIANI: Without knowing the actual specific information, which I was in government I did know, I don't now, I'd have to say that they must be concerned that the attack could happen any number of places.

I remember there were times after September 11 where my concern was even more for the rest of the country than it was for New York. So, and actually this is a response to the information they have.

BLITZER: Your city, New York City, has been in a higher state of alert routinely, at this orange level, going back to 9/11. Is that right?

GIULIANI: New York has been on the highest state of alert since -- virtually since September 11. It's never really stopped. That doesn't mean that at certain times, there won't be extra security. Like for New Year's Eve, there will considerably additional security. But there always has been. We started that way back in 1994.

BLITZER: How do you avoid letting people get complacent?

GIULIANI: You keep talking to them. I mean, you keep trying to explain it to them, trying to understand -- get to them that we are in a different era than we were in before.

So some people are going to get complacent, but you hope that that doesn't happen to the law enforcement people, the public safety people.

BLITZER: The big story this year, the war in Iraq, the removal of Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party, a huge, huge story. Everyone seems to agree that the military operation was brilliantly planned, but the post-war operation not necessarily so brilliantly planned.

How critical are you of the administration for perhaps failing to anticipate what would happen after the military victory? GIULIANI: I actually think that the military victory was so brilliant that it raised the levels of expectation to almost unrealistic levels.

I mean, no one ever expected that we would win that war as quickly. They thought there was going to be a large battle what would go on forever to protect Baghdad.

And in a way, that made the second phase more difficult. I mean, if that battle had taken place, had gone on for a month, month and a half, a lot of the people that have been doing the sniping would have been killed during that battle.

But instead they went home. Some of them took their arms with them. And now they're acting, they're reacting or acting, whichever you want to say.

So I'm not very critical at all. I think this is just what you have to expect. And it's much faster than anything we'd have any right to expect. The occupation of Japan and the occupation of Germany took four, five years, but we're only into a few months here.

BLITZER: One of the Democratic presidential candidates, Howard Dean, says that the capture of Saddam Hussein does not make the American people any safer at all, that there are still enormous threats out there.

(LAUGHTER)

You're chuckling, why?

GIULIANI: Because that has to be a political comment.

I mean, the capture of Saddam was -- whether you were a Republican or Democrat, running for president or you're not, makes the world safer, makes America safer. He was one of the world's more dangerous people, not just because of his support of terrorism, but for the billions of dollars that he was sitting on top of.

So I attribute that to being a purely political statement. You take out a man like that, who's got the capacity to help terrorists and has been doing it, well, then the world becomes that much safer.

Does it become perfectly safe? You haven't ended terrorism. No one's claiming that. But not to say that that was a significant step, I think is playing politics.

BLITZER: What do you think of him, Howard Dean?

GIULIANI: I don't know him. I think that statement is one that I can understand. You know, he's running for office, he's saying anything he can say. But then if you try to put it in the context of a substantive comment on intelligence or in fighting terrorism, well, it doesn't work.

BLITZER: If you had your way, what would you do with Saddam Hussein right now?

GIULIANI: I think they're doing the right thing. I think he has to be put on trial, he has to be put on trial in Iraq, and what he did has to come out. That's going to give further justification to what we did and why we did it and how important it was, when people find out how horribly he treated the people of Iraq and the kind of risk that he was for assisting terrorists all throughout the world.

BLITZER: On the other hand, if the U.S. were to capture Osama bin Laden alive, you'd want him to be tried right here in the United States.

GIULIANI: I don't know where I'd want him to be tried. I'd want him to be tried, and I'd want him ultimately to be executed, but -- which I guess would disqualify me as one of the judges...

(LAUGHTER)

You'd know the result of the trial before it starts. You can't be one of the judges, but...

BLITZER: Right.

GIULIANI: ... Osama bin laden is also, for me, and I admit this, including in the book that I wrote, a very personal thing. I mean, I see him as the person who murdered all of my citizens, so many of my firefighters and my police officers, and put us -- and injured -- you know, people forget how many people went to the hospital that day. I mean, it was like 4,000 or 5, 000 people, many of whom I knew, many of whom I saw being carried off to the hospital.

So there's a whole personal thing with regard to Osama bin Laden that's probably different than anything else.

BLITZER: At the same time, though, as many people who were injured by 9/11, I remember those days very vividly, all those empty hospital beds that you were getting ready for a lot of people to come over from the World Trade Center who never showed up.

GIULIANI: It was the second day. That was an absolutely horrific piece of information that I received. It came -- my wife actually gave it to me from St. Vincent's Hospital, and they were overcrowded with people the day before. We had moved a lot of people out, getting ready the next day for another 1,000 to come in, 2,000, and at about 11 o'clock in the afternoon she notified me that nobody was being brought into the hospital. And it was ominous. I knew exactly what that meant.

BLITZER: Is there ever a day that goes by that you don't think about 9/11?

GIULIANI: No. There's never a day that goes by when I don't think about it, some days a lot, some days less. But it either comes into my mind, my emotions, my feelings, or something will happen that will remind me of it. And I've kind of come to terms with the fact that's the way it's going to be for the rest of my life. BLITZER: Is there ever a time you say to yourself -- this is probably natural -- you know, "I was the mayor of New York, is there anything I could have done before 9/11 that could have prevented those two planes from going into the World Trade Center"? Do you ever look back and say to yourself, you know, I should have done this, or should have done that, and questioned any things that you may or may not have done?

GIULIANI: Emotionally, I say to myself, I wish I could have stopped it, I wish it didn't happen. I try to close my eyes and sometimes see the towers still there. But I really can't think of anything that I could have done as the mayor of New York City that would have stopped it.

Nor do I think that there is much reasonable that anybody else could have done. America had never been attacked like that before. Whether there were warnings of it or not, they were buried within mounds and mounds and mounds of intelligence material.

So, for me, it's more a matter of looking forward, that we prevent it happening in the future.

BLITZER: Looking forward, what do you think of this new design for the World Trade Center?

GIULIANI: I don't like it. I think the designs that have been proposed do not adequately describe the horror of what happened there or the tremendous heroism of the people that saved other people.

So I think they should come up with another design, one that puts the memorial more at the core of this rather than just replacing office buildings.

BLITZER: Is there any indication they might be willing to do that, because it looks like they're moving pretty quickly away from the station?

GIULIANI: They are, but there are a lot of people that are calling for slowing it down, stopping and going back to the drawing boards. And I hope that that's the decision that's made.

Twenty-five, 30, 40 years from now, people are going to go there. This is going to be the site, God willing, of the worst attack in the history of this country, one of the bravest responses. And we don't want them to think we just covered it over with office space because we were worried about the finances.

I mean, the answer here is a beautiful, grand memorial like the Vietnam memorial, like Gettysburg, so the people can relive this. And the thing that we have to learn from it is to be vigilant about terrorism in the future.

BLITZER: Let's wrap up this year with a little look at politics, one of your favorite subjects.

What do you think of those nine Democratic candidates? How do you rate the field out there?

GIULIANI: I don't rate the field. I'm a Republican, and I'm a very close friend of the president, and I'm committed to reelecting him. So I think I'm probably not a good source of who's doing better or who isn't.

I mean, I'm surprised that some of them aren't doing better, like Senator Kerry, who have more experience, but, you know, I'm not a Democrat, so I don't know why they're making the choices they're making.

BLITZER: You'll fight whoever they nominate, is that right?

GIULIANI: Yes, I made my mind up a long time ago that President Bush should be reelected. Probably made it up the day he got sworn in as president. But since September 11, 2001, I have this very, very strong bond with him.

I believe that, no matter what, he's going to be a great president for the way he's led us through the worst attack in our history, and I think we need him, and we need Vice President Cheney.

BLITZER: Let's talk about one Democrat not running for president, the junior senator from New York state. How's she doing?

GIULIANI: I wouldn't put her in the same category as what I just mentioned, but -- very, very different philosophy. I mean, I look at the world very differently than she does. A lot of her votes would have been very different. So it's very hard for me to rate that, you know. As a Republican, I would prefer to see someone who has a different philosophy there.

BLITZER: You almost, as all of us remember, you almost ran against her, you started to run against her. Then, unfortunately, you came down with the prostate cancer. But do you ever say to yourself, I wish I could have finished that campaign and beat her?

GIULIANI: There were times in the past when I would say I wish I could have done it and I could have finished it. I don't know if I would have beaten her or not. I don't know what -- no one knows what the results of that election would have been. But then after September 11th happened, those thoughts passed out of my mind.

BLITZER: How are you feeling now, with the prostate cancer? I ask in the context of Colin Powell who, as you well know, just had surgery for prostate cancer. Apparently, he's doing quite well.

GIULIANI: Yes, God bless him. I mean, Colin Powell has done a tremendous job for our country, and we hope that he has a full and complete recovery.

But I'm doing very well. I get tested on a regular basis. I'm cancer-free.

And the trick is for men your age, my age or even younger, starting at about 40 or 45, get a PSA test every single year, and you'll be able to catch it at an early stage. And the chance of cure is, like, in the 90 percent, 95 percent.

BLITZER: It's good advice for all of our male viewers.

GIULIANI: Get PSA tests.

BLITZER: Yes, I just got one of those tests as well.

GIULIANI: Every year.

BLITZER: Thanks for highlighting that.

A quick question about your political future. You went out, you campaigned for Arnold Schwarzenegger. He's the governor of California. Politics in the future of Rudy Giuliani?

GIULIANI: Sure. I campaigned for Arnold because he called me up and he said to me, I want you to come and campaign for me, and I was afraid to say no.

(LAUGHTER)

I mean, who says no to Arnold Schwarzenegger?

BLITZER: Yes, you could have been terminated.

GIULIANI: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

I think that's a very exciting thing for California. It's a new kind of leadership. For us Republicans, it's wonderful to have a Republican, you know, running California and one that I consider to be a moderate, broad-based Republican. It draws more people into our party.

BLITZER: He's like a Rudy Giuliani. He's a Rudy Giuliani Republican.

GIULIANI: I don't know if I would say that, but I would say that he's the kind of Republican that shares very much the kind of outlook that I have, or Governor Pataki, or -- there are a whole group of Republicans like that now.

BLITZER: So what about you? When are we going to see you back in the political mix?

GIULIANI: I still am. I mean, I go out and support candidates. I spend a good deal of my time helping the Republican Party. I'm going to work very hard on the convention next year, which is going to be right here in New York City. The first Republican convention ever, in history, in the city of New York...

BLITZER: And they got...

GIULIANI: ... which is a bold move.

BLITZER: And they got rid of that boat that Tom DeLay wanted to have so that...

GIULIANI: They'll all be in the hotels. No, everybody will in a hotel. So that -- one thing for sure...

BLITZER: It'll be good for business in New York...

GIULIANI: ... we're going to make a lot of money on the Republican convention.

BLITZER: All right, Rudy Giuliani, thanks for joining us at the end of this year.

GIULIANI: And you did a great job this year, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

GIULIANI: You did an absolutely terrific job covering the war.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Mr. Mayor.

GIULIANI: And I've watched it a lot, and it's a very brave and courageous thing you did.

BLITZER: Mr. Mayor, thanks very much.

GIULIANI: Happy New Year.

BLITZER: Have a Happy New Year. We'll talk again the new year.

GIULIANI: Happy New Year to you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Coming up, the year ahead in politics. Two veteran members of Congress square off on President Bush. Is he unbeatable in 2004? And who of the nine Democrats is leading the party's race to win back the White House?

Plus, the story of the year: We'll get perspective on the impact of Saddam Hussein's capture from former U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen and former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.

"LATE EDITION" continues after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: "LATE EDITION"'s Web question of the week: Do you feel safer as we enter the year 2004? Go to cnn.com/lateedition to cast your vote. We'll tell you the results later in the program.

But up next, Republican Congressman David Dreier and Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel face off on President Bush and the 2004 race for the White House.

"LATE EDITION" will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: At this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: President Bush announcing the start of the war with Iraq back in March.

Although the president declared the end of major combat over in May, the continuing deaths of U.S. troops and concerns about the U.S. economy caused his job-approval rating to drop during the summer and into the fall. But this month's capture of Saddam Hussein, coupled with improving economic news here in the United States, appears to be bolstering the president's prospects for reelection in 2004.

To talk about the year ahead in politics, and take a look back perhaps a bit, two veteran members of Congress who never hold back here on "LATE EDITION": In Los Angeles, California Republican Congressman David Dreier, he serves on the House Homeland Security Committee. And in New York, Congressman Charles Rangel, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee.

KING: Congressmen, thank you both for joining us. Nice to have you back.

REP. DAVID DREIER (R), CALIFORNIA: Happy New Year, both.

And we are sorry Wolf isn't there, I will tell you.

KING: Wolf is relaxing.

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: Happy New Year.

KING: Relaxing in sunny Florida, we hope watching the program. We'll find that out later.

DREIER: He better be.

KING: Let's start with the urgent issue at hand today. This country this past week went up from yellow, an elevated risk of terrorist attack, to orange. The government saying that this country faces a high risk of terrorist attack.

Before we get into some questions, I want you gentlemen to listen to how Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge described the reasons for going to this elevated risk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM RIDGE, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: The information we have indicates that extremists abroad are anticipating near-term attacks that they believe will either rival or exceed the attacks that occurred in New York, in the Pentagon and the fields of Pennsylvania nearly three years ago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Congressman Dreier, you are on the Homeland Security Committee. Airports in your state have been named as possible targets.

What is the administration telling you about the specificity of the intelligence that it has?

DREIER: Well, obviously, this war on terror is one that began really on September 11th, at least here in the United States of America. And it's one which everyone has acknowledged is going on and on and on.

We've had great, great successes so far. And obviously, the fact that we today have not had an attack on the United States since September 11th and are keeping the struggles off of our soil is a benefit.

The capture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other indications of -- and of course, the capture of Saddam Hussein, are all part of the war on terror.

As far as the specific reports of what has taken place, we obviously know there had been an increase in chatter that the United States would be a target. Charlie is in New York, you are in Washington, John, and I am in Los Angeles, the three cities that have been mentioned as potential targets. And so obviously, law enforcement is on this orange alert.

And I think that, you know, people are continuing, as Secretary Ridge said, to live their lives and do it, but obviously be careful.

KING: Well, Congressman Rangel, you colleague mentioned that you are in New York, obviously the site of the September 11th attacks, one of the sights, a city where security has been increased.

Are you satisfied? Is the administration giving specific enough information, in your view, to the mayor, to the police departments?

RANGEL: Well, obviously, the Keating report said that this attack should never have happened and could have been avoided. The city of New York responded in a heroic way, but we've never been off of the orange alert. And the problem is whether we should feel any safer.

I think that this capture of Saddam Hussein has been hyped up to such an extent that we want to feel safer. But if you think about it, the president has said that Saddam Hussein was not directly involved with 9/11, not directly involved with al Qaeda; and that these weapons of mass destruction that allegedly was a threat to the United States doesn't even seem to exist. And so if you make a bogeyman and capture the bogeyman, of course you should feel a little more safe. But the facts don't support it.

DREIER: But, Charlie, you know very well, Charlie, that this is all part and parcel in the war on terror. And obviously, Saddam Hussein was out of power. I mean, he was down in that hole when he was found.

But clearly, his capture does play a role in bringing about a greater opportunity for us to diminish the kinds of threats that we face in what is obviously still a very, very dangerous world, with the...

RANGEL: I just have one question...

DREIER: ... assassination attempts against General Musharraf...

RANGEL: ... one question to ask, one question to ask you, David. If the intelligence and the president said that Saddam Hussein was not responsible for 9/11, you and I know that the Congress never would have given the president the power to unilaterally attack Iraq.

KING: Gentlemen, gentlemen...

RANGEL: Most Americans...

KING: ... let me jump in for a minute, gentlemen.

RANGEL: Most Americans believe that there was a connection between it.

So you have captured the guy. He's in a hole. He's not organizing any attacks on our troops. And so I feel good that an international monster is captured, but that's no reason for us to feel...

DREIER: Charlie, you've asked me a question, and I'll answer your question by going back to 1998, when we saw both houses of Congress overwhelmingly pass a resolution calling for, basically, the removal of Saddam Hussein because of his violation of those U.N. accords.

What we need to also realize is that, as we look at the challenges that are out there, we do, have always said, that Saddam Hussein was not involved in the command and control of what happened on September 11th.

RANGEL: OK, that's my point.

DREIER: But you know and I know that there are conflicting reports on information that has come about the ties of Saddam Hussein to international terrorism and, in fact, the training of Muhammad Atta, which possibly took place in Baghdad.

So I think that to be dismissive of Saddam Hussein's mission here, he shared the goal of Osama bin Laden... KING: Gentlemen, gentleman, time out, time out. Let me jump in quickly here.

Congressman Rangel, as we continue this conversation -- and no surprise, you two want to spice it up -- I want to read back to you, Congressman Rangel, something you said recently on Gabe Pressman's show, up in New York City, talking about the war in Iraq and, as you're talking about here, politics.

You said, quote, "If that's what it takes to win elections, knocking off bad guys and putting our young men and women in harm's way, I got a list of bad guys for this administration."

You believe, sir, that the president went to war in Iraq because he thought he would get political gain? You believe that was his only reason?

RANGEL: No, but there's no question in my mind that President Bush and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz and Vice President Cheney had made up their mind before 9/11 to attack Iraq, and that 9/11 was an excuse to do what they already decided to do.

And there is no question that my information is supported by all of the facts that the Intelligence Committee has given to the House and the Senate.

DREIER: You know, Charlie, you can speculate all that you want on that, Charlie, but I think it's very important for us to realize that, as we look at where we're going, we have been able to successfully deal with Saddam Hussein.

On a television program just last week, you and I had an exchange when you said we should look also at Moammar Gadhafi. And we've obviously seen that the success at capturing Saddam Hussein has played a role in dealing with that situation there. The six-party talks are taking place as we deal with Kim Jong Il in North Korea.

We don't have a monolithic policy. We don't have a monolithic way in which we deal with every situation. But I believe we're having great success. And I think the capture of Saddam Hussein is part and parcel of that success.

RANGEL: Well, I think the capture of Saddam Hussein is great...

KING: OK, gentlemen, gentlemen, we need to take a break. We need -- time out. We need to take a quick break. Save your energy. Having a little fun. We'll come back to this discussion in just a minute.

Congressmen Dreier and Rangel will take your phone calls when "LATE EDITION" returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." We're talking with two of the most insightful and lively members of Congress about how politics played out in 2003 and taking a peek ahead to 2004.

Republican Congressman David Dreier of California joins us from Los Angeles, Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel of New York in New York.

Gentlemen, we were talking before the break about the war in Iraq and the political debate over the war in Iraq. That debate, of course, will carry on into the presidential campaign next year.

The man who is currently the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, the former governor of Vermont, Howard Dean, has been steadfast in his opposition to the war, criticizing not only President Bush but his rivals for the Democratic nomination.

And listen here, where he insists the capture of Saddam Hussein did nothing to make Americans any safer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD DEAN, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am going to continue to tell the truth, because America's position and the world leadership is at stake. And most of all, because the safety and security of American citizens are at stake.

And the truth is that Americans are no safer today from these serious threats than they were the day before Saddam Hussein was captured.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Congressman Rangel, I know Governor Dean is not your candidate, but are you comfortable with a Democratic nominee who would travel this country saying the capture of Saddam Hussein did nothing to make Americans safer?

RANGEL: I think we Democrats have a lot of educating to do for the American people, because we have to knock down this whole idea that every time the president of the United States puts on a combat flight uniform, that we're at war.

Knocking off Iraq, to me, really isn't one of the greatest military victories this country has had. And I say again and again...

KING: OK, let me...

RANGEL: ... if Saddam Hussein was not responsible for the attack, and he was not a threat to the United States, how in the heck can capturing him make us feel any safer?

DREIER: John, may I...

KING: David, go ahead, please, sir.

DREIER: ... make one thing clear?

Howard Dean is not my candidate either. I just want the record to show that.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Let's put that on the record.

DREIER: Yes, but let me say that, obviously, as we look at this campaign, and just to listen to Charlie right now, I have never seen such a pattern of negativism emphasized by Democrats or any campaign.

I was very proud to work with Bill Clinton when he was president on trade issues, on growing the economy, on balancing the budget, on reforming the welfare system. And yet we have Democratic candidates who haven't even picked up the newspaper, apparently, to see that the economy is improving, jobs are being created. They need to talk to their neighbors and listen to "LATE EDITION" to find out that things are improving.

KING: Let's...

DREIER: And that's come about, in large part, Charlie, you know, because of the tax bill that you and I have debated. And I'm proud of the capital-gains reduction that we got in there that's benefiting the investor class...

KING: Let's end the discussion on that point.

(CROSSTALK)

DREIER: ... $3 trillion dollars in growth in the economy.

RANGEL: OK.

KING: OK. Hold on one second.

RANGEL: Yes, but there are 9 million people without jobs, and we've lost 3 million jobs in the last two years. Two million of those people have been out of work for six months, and the Republican- controlled Congress would not even extend the unemployment benefits.

So, it may be happy days for you out there in Happyland, California, but a lot of Americans are really catching hell.

KING: Let me jump in quickly, gentlemen. Gentlemen, let me frame this...

DREIER: I agree with you, Charlie, but I will tell you that 6 percent unemployment used to be full employment in this country, and we're below that today.

RANGEL: You tell it to the people who have lost their jobs...

DREIER: I agree, and we're not going to be satisfied -- Charlie, we're not going to be satisfied until every American does, in fact, have a job who wants a job, as the president said.

RANGEL: Doesn't sound that way. You sound like a Democrat now. KING: I may lose mine. My job is to moderate this program. I may lose mine the way this is going right now.

(LAUGHTER)

I want to close on this point, quickly. Looking at the polling right now, this president heads into the new year with a 63 percent approval rating, better than Bill Clinton, better than Ronald Reagan, better than Richard Nixon going into their successful reelection campaigns.

In a sentence or two, Charlie Rangel, is this president unbeatable?

RANGEL: Of course not. And I do believe that once Wesley Clark gets the nomination of the Democratic Party, you're going to see a different George Bush. He'll be dealing with a warrior that knows how to avoid wars, as well as how to win one.

DREIER: If that's the case, he's a guy who said, I'll give the right of first refusal to the Europeans in dealing with international conflicts. That would be a terrible, terrible policy for the United States.

RANGEL: Well, we...

DREIER: What we found is, this year we've seen the election of three new Republican governors, in Kentucky, in Mississippi, and obviously the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger here in California. He called yesterday. He's on the front line working hard. He's concerned about the flood victims, when he called me yesterday, with the mudslides out here.

We have a great chance to carry California for President Bush. Good policy is good politics. Medicare reform has provided prescription drugs to senior citizens...

RANGEL: Oh my God, what an imagination.

DREIER: ... you've got the economy growing now. We're dealing effectively with the international crisis.

And this president has been very strong, and I'm convinced that he has a great opportunity. But it's going to be a tough election, and it's going to take a lot of hard work for us.

Happy New Year to both of you.

KING: We need to close on that point.

RANGEL: Happy New Year.

KING: David Dreier in Los Angeles, Charlie Rangel in New York, thank you both, gentlemen. I suspect you'll be back to do this again.

RANGEL: Happy New Year. KING: Happy New Year to you both.

And just ahead, a vow by President Bush that the United States would go it alone in Iraq, if necessary: Did it hurt America's relationship with the rest of the world? We'll get perspective from former U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen and former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.

And later, Michael Jackson, Martha Stewart and Kobe Bryant. We'll go in the courtroom for the year's big legal cases.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

In 2003, the president made Iraq the central front in the war on terror. But that shift strained some long-time international alliances.

Joining us to talk about the impact, former U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen. He's now the CEO of the Cohen Group. And former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Gentlemen, welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

I want to get to Iraq, but I want to begin with a story developing today. The United States and other nations around the world, but specifically the role of the United States in sending humanitarian assistance into Iran. The administration says this is because of the humanitarian crisis, the earthquake.

But do you see an opening here? Obviously issues with Iran about the war on terrorism, about al Qaeda, about its nuclear program. Do you believe this is a possible opening?

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I think there is an opening to deal with Iran. There has been a good deal of new developments taking place in Iran. We have a younger generation coming up since the fall of the shah. The younger generation, I think, wants to be a part of this new world that we've entered. And I think it's a unique opportunity to take advantage of that by showing that the United States is committed to helping people in need of assistance.

And so, to the extent that there are any political consequences or dimensions to it, so much the better. But I think the humanitarian delivery is the most important, and I think that can help build a better relationship.

KING: Do you agree with that? And if so, what should the administration do to try to build good will in the wake of this?

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I basically agree. In fact, I think we need to look at the problems of the Persian Gulf and the Middle East as a series of conflated issues.

There is, of course, the immediate problem in Iraq, the bloodletting, the danger we may get stuck. There's the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And it's very hard to get out of Iraq with that unresolved. And on top of it, there is the issue of Iran. It is has considerable influence in the region. It affects conditions in Iraq.

And what is now happening, I think, creates an opportunity for a diplomatic initiative. I believe that an American-Iranian dialogue is long overdue. And the fact that we're stepping in quickly to give them aid, which they really deserve purely from a human point of view, I think creates an opportunity also for a forward-looking, generous political gesture, namely the initiation of a political dialogue with Iran.

KING: Let's -- go ahead.

COHEN: Can I add just one point? Several years ago, when relations with China were not exactly as solid as they should be and are today, I was in Beijing following a major earthquake that took place about two hours north of Beijing.

At that time, as secretary of defense, I was able to offer to bring humanitarian assistance to the Chinese people. It was a gesture that was well received by then-President Jiang Zemin. And I think it led to building those kinds of bridges that Dr. Brzezinski has just mentioned.

KING: Let's move to some of the other issues in the region, and let's begin with Iraq.

One of the most memorable moments of this past year, May 1st, the president of the United States, in a flight suit, landing on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln.

Since then, of course, we have seen, including today, more violence in Iraq. A bombing today in Baghdad, another bombing today in Fallujah, more U.S. soldiers dying.

I want to bring our viewers -- this is the Operation Iraqi Freedom war casualties: 476 U.S. troops killed -- 139 before May 1st; 337 from May 1st to the present.

In hindsight, was that a mistake, to go on the deck of that carrier, stand under a banner that said "Mission accomplished"? Did the president then deflate, if you will, the American people and their steel for more casualties?

COHEN: Well, you know, I really don't think it's productive to try to go back to say was it a mistake or a positive statement. What the president said was the major military mission was completed at that time. I don't be think he ever indicated that the war itself was going to be over.

But that's a debatable point. What I would really want to focus on is say, how do we go, how do we get from here to where we have to be, and to try to take the politics out of it.

The one thing that I committed myself to in almost 31 years of public service was, let's stop talking politics when it comes to national security.

And whether the president putting on a flight suit or landing on the deck made a mistake or not, that's really not the issue. The issue now is, we're in a war, a long-term war. And how do we join forces -- Republicans and Democrats and independents -- to help secure the goal that we need to secure?

And beyond that, I think it's really counterproductive to our troops, to their morale, to the notion that somehow it was unnecessary that their sacrifices weren't for a proper purpose. And I'd like to see how we go forward, rather than look back, talk about mistakes.

BRZEZINSKI: But there's a deeper aspect to this, which I think deserves comment. And leaving aside the politics of it, I think the president's statement reflects a fundamental problem in our approach to Iraq.

That approach was based on the premise that once the military phase is over, the political part would be easy.

And that was a basic, basic misjudgment. And I think it's related to a misconception of what we were confronting. Leave aside now the issue that we weren't accurate on the weapons of mass destruction. We assumed that we invaded, we would be greeted as liberators, and the whole thing would be over.

Now we are facing the risk, with Saddam gone, finally and fortunately, that the resistance to us will be less based on any hankering back for the Saddam regime, but more and more based on resentment of our occupation. And that could become increasingly dangerous to us.

And in that sense, the president's statement is symptomatic of a fundamental strategic misconception that has guided our policy and which needs to be corrected on the political level, dealing with the Iraqis, dealing with our friends, dealing with the neighborhood.

KING: Let's continue this conversation in just a minute. But first, we're going to take a quick break.

"LATE EDITION" will be back in just a minute. Much more to discuss with William Cohen and Zbigniew Brzezinski. We'll also be taking your phone calls.

Plus "shock and awe": Did the U.S. military rewrite the rules of combat in 2003? We'll get assessments from three military experts.

"LATE EDITION" will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Don't forget to weigh in on "LATE EDITION's" Web question of the week: Do you feel safer as we enter the year 2004? Go to cnn.com/lateedition to register your vote.

And there is much more ahead on "LATE EDITION": the diplomatic and military fallout from the war in Iraq, plus the big legal cases of 2003.

"LATE EDITION" continues at the top of the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: This is "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Good riddance. The world is better off without you, Mr. Saddam Hussein.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The capture of Saddam Hussein: Does it spell victory for President Bush's foreign policy, or is the damage on the world stage already done? President Bush's foreign-policy report card from former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen.

Continued conflict in Iraq, unfinished business in Afghanistan. Will 2004 bring a new target in the war on terror? Retired U.S. Generals Dan Christman, Don Shepperd and David Grange assess the military plan.

Famous faces in the courtroom.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KOBE BRYANT: Sometimes it doesn't seem like there's light at the end of the tunnel, you know?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: What will 2004 hold for Kobe, Michael and Martha? We'll ask former O.J. Simpson prosecutor Chris Darden and criminal defense attorney Robert Shapiro.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN in Washington, this is "LATE EDITION," with Wolf Blitzer.

KING: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

We'll continue our discussion about how U.S. foreign policy changed the world in 2003 in just a moment. But first, let's go to CNN headquarters in Atlanta for a check of this hour's top stories.

(NEWSBREAK)

KING: Now to what's been a violent weekend in Iraq. A pair of attacks today killed two Iraqi children and two U.S. soldiers. CNN's Karl Penhaul is in Baghdad with the details. Karl?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Evening, John.

Certainly the first of those blasts this morning in a downtown business district of Baghdad was horrendous. Military officials have told us that it was a string of artillery shells triggered together, and when a U.S. military patrol passed that area, the device was detonated.

Now, one U.S. soldier was killed in the blast outright, and two Iraqi children who were in and around the area were killed also in that blast. We don't have their ages, but certainly very young Iraqi children. Five U.S. soldiers were also injured in that blast, and eight members of the Iraqi civil defense corps.

U.S. generals have called this attack an indiscriminant and careless attack by former regime elements to try and create a media splash.

Certainly did that, and in some video filmed by an amateur videomaker, certainly we see some horrendous scenes there -- vehicles on fire and a great deal of confusion in this downtown area.

Later on in the day, John, near the western town of Fallujah, another of these roadside bombs went off, again detonated against a passing U.S. military patrol. And that killed one U.S. soldier.

So as you say, two U.S. soldiers dead today.

I've not been long back, just a few hours back, from the city of Karbala, as well, John. Yesterday, as you'll remember, there were a string of devastating car bombs there. Talking to the Polish commander who heads multinational forces there, he's updated me on the death toll from that. A total of seven multinational soldiers were killed -- five Bulgarians and two Thais. Thirty-seven others were wounded. Twelve civilians in total were killed, and today we saw the funerals of those people in Karbala.

John?

KING: Karl Penhaul in Baghdad. Thank you, Karl.

And we're continuing our discussion now here in Washington with the former U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen and former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Gentlemen, let's pick up on that point, and you were discussing this before we went to break earlier. Based on what you see now -- the security situation and the very slow political process, the ethnic rivalries, religious rivalries, personality rivalries -- are you worried that this administration's timetable to hand over sovereignty in six months may prove too optimistic?

COHEN: I think that we have to be very careful that we do not try to hand over diplomatic or political sovereignty before we have in place the kind of institutions that will allow them to be able to continue to survive. The notion that it might be tied to any kind of a political timetable, I think, would be very disadvantageous to the United States.

So it may come too quickly. It seems to me that there is a rush now to hand the political reins over with the understanding that the military is still going to there be. But I think we have to be very careful how this is done and how it's seen as being done.

So we want to proceed as quickly as we can, as responsibly as we can. But the notion that somehow we are just going to turn over political responsibility to a group of people who have yet to adopt a constitution or any kind of means of governance for the future could end in a very big disaster for them and for us.

KING: Want to move on to the broader war on terrorism. We have seen twice in the past two weeks attempts on the life of the president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, who has been a key U.S. ally. What is your sense of what is behind those attacks?

And what would happen? There are U.S. troops in Pakistan, U.S. troops obviously in neighboring Afghanistan. If President Musharraf is assassinated, would the United States have to pull those troops out quickly? What would happen?

BRZEZINSKI: If he was assassinated, I assume some other Pakistani military leader would take over. But that new leader would certainly draw some lessons from what had happened to his predecessor.

I think we're facing rising anti-American resentment in a significant portion of the world, and particularly in the area roughly from the Suez Canal to the eastern frontiers of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

And I think we have to be extremely deliberate but also intense in our efforts to promote greater stability, dampening those conflicts that are contributing the most intense anti-American sentiments and, to the extent possible, transferring these conflicts from a confrontation with America into something much more manageable on an international basis, with the United States not being so directly and heavily involved.

I, for example, have a somewhat different view of what is happening in Iraq. A few months ago, in addition to us being so visible there, we had the U.N. which was quite visible there. Today the U.N. is gone, has been driven out. Our role, in fact, is more visible now than a few months ago.

If this continues, I fear the struggle in Iraq will increasingly assume the form of a national liberation struggle against the United States. And that becomes joined, more generally, with similar violence in Afghanistan, perhaps, as you phrased the issue, in Pakistan. We could have a region-wide conflagration on our hands.

This is why the sooner we create some degree of distance between ourselves and what is happening, by stimulating an independent -- more independent regime in Afghanistan, a more independent regime in Iraq, giving even nominal authority to the Iraqis, the better. Because the more deeply they become engaged, the more difficult it will be to resolve the problem and eventually to extricate ourselves.

KING: Mr. Brzezinski mentions U.S. credibility and anti-American sentiment. One of the longstanding causes of anti-American feeling is the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

The president began this year saying he was going to get more involved. He believed he had made some progress of getting the two parties to implement the road map, then that collapsed.

Now he has on several occasions said the building of this perimeter wall, security fence, by the Israelis is a problem.

Does the president need to be more forceful to prove his credibility, that he truly will push for an independent Palestine?

COHEN: I think the president has to reengage himself and his administration in the Middle East peace process. I think he laid out a road map, and that was a very positive sign. But I think, since that time, the attention has been diverted in this war in Iraq. And I think that we've got to reenergize that.

KING: You say you don't like to mix politics and national security. Were the president to reengage himself now in any way that was seen as being critical of the Israeli government, that would be -- whether you thought it was the right policy or not, that would be a political problem for this president.

COHEN: I think the president has to reengage himself in way to say he's laid out a road map. You've had initiative taken by private individuals, both on the Palestinian and the Israeli side, to say that they have, not a road map, but a blueprint. And that blueprint is complementary to, not a substitution for, the road map.

But it seems to me that we've got to reengage this in a very positive way. It's been said in the past that the road to peace in the Middle East lies through Baghdad. That was a proposition I never accepted.

But assuming that to be the case, it seems to me the converse is also true, that the road to success in Baghdad now runs through Jerusalem. The two have become inextricably linked.

And it seems to me, if we're going to have success in Baghdad, we also have to have success in the Middle East peace process. And the president has to be as vitally engaged there as he is in Baghdad.

KING: One of the common threads of this past year, which I suspect will carry over into the new year, is the quality of the intelligence that the United States government has and that other governments have.

I want to go back to the president's State of the Union address, almost one year ago, in which he delivered a statement that was pretty quickly thereafter discredited. Let's listen briefly to the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Turned out not to be true.

Now, on the flip side, we have learned in the wake of a very positive development, Libya coming to the table, saying it will eliminate its programs of weapons of mass destruction, that, when the CIA and the British went in, that Libya was farther along in developing a nuclear program than the United States believed.

Is there a fundamental problem with the quality of U.S. and other Western allied intelligence, and what can be done about it?

BRZEZINSKI: Oh, I think there is a fundamental problem.

But let me just add one word to what Bill said, because what he said was absolutely central. If we don't deal with the wider problems in the Middle East, including the Israeli-Palestinian issue, we're going to be stuck in an extremely explosive, indeed exploding, Middle East.

And what he said is absolutely right: The road map, reinforced by the Geneva Accords, is now the way to go, and the United States has to push.

On the intelligence, what the president said raises an interesting issue, which hasn't been followed by the news media sufficiently. The documents on which that statement of the president was based were fabrications. We got them from the British. We asked the British, where did you get these documents? They told us they got them from the Italians. Now, did the Italians fabricate them? And if so, for what purpose? Or did someone else give them to the Italians?

I think we have to pursue that, because the fact of the matter is, our intelligence not only has been poor, but we have been manipulated in the intelligence area by sources which give us intelligence, in order to influence us.

And we need a considerable improvement in our ability to acquire political intelligence. We are good technologically, scientifically. We're very weak in political intelligence, which means human intelligence. And there is a crying need for fundamental reform in that area.

KING: I want to close -- we're running short on time -- I want to close with this one thought. On this program at the end of 2001, at the end of 2002, and now at the end of 2003, you could ask the question, where is Osama bin Laden? Will we be asking this question at the end of 2004? COHEN: We may very well be asking that question. It's very difficult to find any one individual, particularly in an area as large and as mountainous as Afghanistan and the border of Pakistan. So, that's altogether possible.

But that should not be the central issue for us, in terms of how we continue this war effort. To the extent that we were to capture him, so much the better. But al Qaeda and those who are followers of bin Laden are much wider than that single individual.

So we have a long war to face in the future. And whether we find him or not should not be the central issue. How do we wage that war effectively, as Dr. Brzezinski was just talking about?

KING: A long war to face, as Secretary Cohen says. Do you believe this president of the United States has laid that out to the American people? And do you worry about the campaign to come and the effect that it has?

BRZEZINSKI: I don't want to make a political statement. This is not a political discussion.

I am worried, in the sense that I don't think the American people have been given a comprehensive, serious picture. Everything has been reduced to a few slogans: terrorism, evil, if you're not with us, you're against us, and so forth.

The issue is far more complicated, much more wide-ranging, much more long-term. And we need some serious national discussion about it.

KING: Well, I hope to continue this discussion on this program at a later date. We thank you both, Zbigniew Brzezinski, William Cohen. Happy New Year to you both, and thank you very much for joining us today.

And just ahead, shock and awe, a historic march into Baghdad, a government toppled. We'll revisit an unprecedented military campaign and assess the decision to allow reporters on the front lines of battle, with three U.S. generals.

And later, celebrity justice: famous faces in the courtroom in 2003. We'll get legal insight from Christopher Darden and Robert Shapiro.

"LATE EDITION" continues after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GENERAL TOMMY FRANKS, CENTCOM COMMANDER: This will be a campaign unlike any other in history -- a campaign characterized by shock, by surprise, by flexibility, by the employment of precise munitions on a scale never before seen and by the application of overwhelming force.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The commander of the Central Command, General Tommy Franks, that back in March, previewing the U.S. military's strategy, just before the start of war in Iraq.

Joining us now to look back on an extraordinary campaign are three guests, distinguished guests: here in Washington, Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Dan Christman. In Tucson, Arizona, Retired U.S. Air Force Major General Don Shepperd. And in Madison, Wisconsin, Retired U.S. Army Brigadier General David Grange.

Generals, welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

Let's begin with the situation we are seeing on the ground in Iraq today. Saddam Hussein captured a bit ago, a lull in the attacks, but now suddenly more violence again.

General Christman, let me start with you. Anything to be learned from that, from a military planning standpoint?

LT. GEN. DAN CHRISTMAN (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Well, I think, first of all, the important thing going forward is intelligence -- it always has been -- actionable intelligence on the part of the small unit commander that can take the information gleaned from contacts with Iraqis and move on that.

I think Saddam's capture brings us closer to getting the kinds of information we need. But ultimately, John, it's in the hands of the small unit commander -- the sergeants and lieutenants and captains -- to make this thing work going forward.

KING: Well, General Grange, follow on that point, if you will. The U.S. military claimed, in documents that it found with Saddam Hussein, that it was making progress against the insurgents. So, some progress made in the initial days. It appears, with these attacks in recent days, that the insurgents have adjusted as well.

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Well, in all combat, all counterinsurgency operations, there's valleys, there's peaks in operations. And I think that some of the information that they did find added to the coalition's efforts. But then again, the enemy may take a little bit of a foothold.

And this thing is not a straight line going up or down. It's irregular. And it's going to be changes throughout the campaign.

KING: And General Shepperd, as you watch this play out in the final days of the year, if you were writing a report, "The lesson of 2003 for the United States military was," how would you finish that thought, sir?

MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD (RET.), U.S. AIR FORCE: Yes, remember that war is easier than running a country. The difficult aftermaths of a war are unpredictable.

And the other thing is, John, that we've got to stay the course to make this successful, or everything we've done has been in vain, and also the future security of the United States will be at risk, unless we bring this to some type of acceptable conclusion.

KING: Let's fall on that point and begin with you, General Christman.

This president ran for office saying he did not support nation- building, per se. But U.S. troops in Iraq are now nation-building or security forces, if you will. Some on the attack, but some also providing -- does the U.S. military, if this is the mission of the future, need to be redrawn?

CHRISTMAN: John, I used to work for a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff named John Shalikashvili. Had he a great line. His comment was, 'We cannot hang a sign on the Pentagon that says, 'I'm sorry, we only do the big ones.' We do what the American people ask us to do."

And in this particular instance, the American military has been asked to secure a very fragile peace, both in Afghanistan and in Iraq. If that's the mission given to us, we can do that. But it has to be placed in a much bigger, overall political context.

KING: General Grange, the mission is Iraq, but it is also Afghanistan, it is troops on the Korean peninsula, and it is increasingly National Guard and Reservists fulfilling these missions -- peacekeeping in the Sinai, key operations inside Iraq and in Afghanistan. And yet we're on code orange threat level back here at home.

Is it time for the political leadership of this country to stand up and say we need a bigger force?

GRANGE: I believe so. I think you need a bigger force. And it's not that the force today cannot do the mission, but what you're talking about is an armed forces that has sustainability, particularly the Army.

The Army is quite busy. I remember when I retired a little over three years ago, we were as busy as I've ever been in 30 years. And they have more to do now.

And so to use and mix the National Guard, the reserves and the active force all around the world is fine. You have to be able to do the missions the country asks you to do. But you have to have some depth and give you some flexibility, so you can take care of equipment, take care of families and stay for the long haul.

KING: And, General Shepperd, if transitions and adjustments are made, based on the lessons here, and the force is bigger in the future, should it also be modified to have some sort of a larger military policing force or some sort of a peacekeeping force? Separate combat forces from peacekeeping forces?

SHEPPERD: Well, I don't know about the separation of combat forces from peacekeeping. But clearly we need more things such as military police, intelligence, engineers -- that type of thing -- light infantry forces, as opposed to the heavy armored forces that we've been configured.

Before we add to the burden of the American public a larger military, we need to reconfigure our military and see how long this war on terrorism is really going to last.

Right now we are clearly stretched thin with everything going on. Once we get past Iraq, it may be that we go back to a lower level of operations tempo around the world and we can do it with what we've got.

But clearly, before we add to the bill, we must reconfigure the military. And Secretary Rumsfeld has said this repeatedly, and I think he's right, John.

KING: As we discuss this issue of perhaps growing the force, what is your view -- what has happened to the capabilities of the military with so much being spent on live operations in Iraq, in Afghanistan and elsewhere?

This administration came to office saying it would transform the military, new emphasis on technology. But the money is being spent on troops on there ground right now.

Any concern that the future is being put on hold, if you will, the things that need to be bought and paid for and planned and designed?

CHRISTMAN: A little bit, John.

But I'd like to go back what Dave Grange said. Dave, I think, is right. Our army needs to get bigger right now. We need to rebalance the way General Shepperd has said, it's true, balance between the Guard and Reserve, put more in the active component of those kinds of units, like MPs and civil affairs that are used all the time.

But the Army has got to get bigger by 20,000 to 40,000, six to eight brigades. It's clear that we are going to be stretched for years to come. The way ahead is light infantry and brigades and the larger army.

KING: Then why is it -- and I'll start with you, General Christman, and I want to hear from all three of you on this. If it so evident to you that we need a bigger force, why is it that the defense secretary continues to say I am waiting for another study or I am waiting for more recommendations? If it is clear, and it takes so long to recruit and to train and deploy, why hasn't the political leadership said do it?

CHRISTMAN: Well, I think General Shepperd has given part of the answer to that, John. And that is, there is a huge issue of rebalancing this force from a Cold War paradigm to operating in this low-intensity, counterinsurgency environment.

And that means, for example, taking less from artillery, as we are doing right now, and putting it into MPs, combat engineers, civil affairs and psychological operations personnel. That takes time.

And Secretary Rumsfeld has said let's take a look at this thing before we add the burden to the taxpayer. My only disagreement is I think we've seen now clear evidence that just given the stretch of this army, it's time to move, make a decision to get it bigger.

KING: Any disagreements? Should we move on? Do you agree with that, General Grange?

GRANGE: Oh, I do. You can't keep kicking a can down the road. It takes time to get this new 20,000, 40,000 troopers ready to go -- recruit, train, organize and deploy. So you have to get going some time.

And even if when we reorganize and you look at the specialities that need to be done, you're still going to end up short. If half the Army is deployed right now and you take the old time formula five years ago -- a third getting ready, a third deployed and a third regrouping -- you already know basically that you're short on people.

The big impediment is money. It costs a lot of money to field a trooper.

KING: General Shepperd, I want to move on to another issue. We have seen -- I was discussing with the diplomats, you might call them, a few moments ago two attempts on the life of President Musharraf in the past two weeks. Obviously the hunt for Osama bin Laden has to involve the cooperation and the support of Pakistan.

There are U.S. forces, special operations forces and other forces and advisers in Pakistan. The government doesn't like to talk about it, but they are there. What would happen, and what would your recommendation to the secretary of defense or the president be, if the Musharraf government fell? Would it be to pull those troops?

SHEPPERD: Well, clearly we would like the troops to stay doing what we're doing, which is looking for Osama bin Laden and the other al Qaeda members in southeastern Afghanistan and the adjacent areas of Pakistan. So what he would have to do, basically, is wait and see what developed in a new government over there.

President Musharraf has been a terrific ally. And the involvement of Pakistan has been very important and will continue to be very important on this war on terrorism. And so, we should do everything possible to stay very close to what's happening there and not pull our troops immediately if something like that should happen, John.

KING: Want to stop here for now. We're going to take a quick break, but we'll continue our discussion with our military panel. We'll also be taking your phone calls when "LATE EDITION" returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK) KING: We're continuing our discussion with our military panel: here in Washington, General Dan Christman; in Madison, Wisconsin, General David Grange; and in Tucson, Arizona, General Don Shepperd.

The three of you agree that one lesson is that the United States military needs a bigger force. I want to ask you about another recurring question of 2003, it's the quality of intelligence.

The president, the vice president, the defense secretary, on down through the political leadership, spoke with quite absolute certainty that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. None have been found.

How much does that concern you? As the military plans, you're so reliant on intelligence. What is the lesson there?

CHRISTMAN: The military obviously relies on intelligence for battlefield success. I think what, frankly, the soldier on the ground is more concerned about, John, is not necessarily the national technical intelligence sources that have been so much in the news of late, but rather the human intelligence sources that they get in- country.

The absence of linguists, for example, in our army is a huge shortcoming. We're trying to rectify that now.

But getting that kind of intelligence from the Iraqis, from the local Afghan population, wherever we deploy, that's the most important thing, it seems to me, the most important shortfall that we have to correct in our intelligence apparatus.

KING: You agree with that, General Grange, or do you worry more about the big picture?

GRANGE: No, I think that's exactly right.

I'd like to put in a little different view, though, and that is, what you have in an urban environment, or even in remote villages is that you still need the combination of different sources of intelligence, but what you really need is police-type intelligence, street sense. In other words, what's happening around the neighborhood, around the block? That's the kind of information you need that is very fleeting and you have to act on it. And that's why they always use the words "actionable intelligence," something have you to respond to immediately, because it's neighborhood-type stuff.

And that's where we're lacking a bit, and it requires linguists, it require savvy of street sense and those type of skills.

KING: I want all of you to hold for just one second. I want to bring in a phone call from Oklahoma, as we discuss the needs and the urgency for change within the military. One of our viewers from Oklahoma has a question.

CALLER: Hello?

KING: Hello. Go ahead, please.

CALLER: I'm wondering how do we expect to get more people in the military, when it's such a lengthy process just getting them in?

KING: General Shepperd?

SHEPPERD: Well, the people coming in the military have to be qualified mentally and physically. So it's a tough certification process, if you will you.

But right now, our recruiting seems to be going very well. One of the things that the Guard and reserve forces are facing is, they're not making their recruiting numbers, because there are stop losses in effect keeping people on active duty. And therefore, it's difficult for them to make up the numbers for recruiting. But the retention numbers of the people who have been over there are very high.

So it's a combination of recruiting and retention. And quite frankly, the number of people coming into the military right now looks pretty promising, at least so far with many miles to go, John.

KING: I want to ask each of you, in closing, what might appear to be somewhat of a political question. One of the highlights certainly of this year was the president's surprise visit to Baghdad on Thanksgiving, carrying the turkey, saluting the troops. The president very well received. I visited several military bases with him. He is always very well received.

I'm wondering if there is any credibility question to the idea that these young men and women went to war thinking they were going to war against a country that had weapons of mass destruction. If none are found, does that have a long-term impact on the credibility of the commander in chief?

General Grange, to you first, sir.

GRANGE: I don't think so. Because everyone knows, at least from 1998, that he did have weapons of mass destruction, and he never filed a U.N. mandate by explaining what happened to them. Even if they're destroyed now, and there are none to be found, I believe that the troops of all the armed forces believes in the commander in chief, the president, that, at one time, in fact, this was a threat.

But there's bigger reasons. There's freedom, obtaining freedom for people. It's to change the status quo in this part of the world right now, which has been dangerous to the United States and our allies for quite some time.

So I don't think there's a credibility issue with the U.S. armed forces at all.

KING: General Shepperd, as we thank the troops -- and we should repeatedly this holiday season -- your assessment of how the president has handled that part of being commander in chief?

SHEPPERD: I think he's been right on top of it. The troops believe in the president. But more important, they don't care about the big issues. They care about, as Dan and Dave have said, what's in front of them, what they're doing on patrols.

I was over there three months ago, talked with the troops and the commanders at length. They believe in what they're doing. They think what they're doing's important, and they believe they're making a difference. That's what's important to the troops, not these big things that we see on TV, John.

KING: And do you worry about that in closing, General Christman, so many troops deployed for so long? It has to take a toll on them, physically and emotionally, as well as their families.

CHRISTMAN: Well, it can over the long term. But so far, I think Don Shepperd's right, we've not seen any indication yet on the active side of the recruiting or retention or re-enlistment dipping. Over the long term, it's one of the reasons, of course, why we are encouraging the Army to consider this increase in force size.

But in terms of morale, John, just to go back to your question originally, nothing can supplant a commander in chief coming into your mess hall during Christmas or Thanksgiving.

I spent Thanksgiving and Christmas periods in Vietnam, in Korea, overseas in Germany. To have the commander in chief in your mess hall, in your facility for a day like that just speaks volumes about his commitment to you.

KING: Gentlemen, I want to thank all three of you for joining us today. Dan Christman, David Grange, Don Shepperd, thank all three of you for joining us with your thoughts, and Happy New Year. Healthy New Year.

CHRISTMAN: Thank you, John.

KING: Thank you.

GRANGE: Same to you.

KING: Thank you very much.

And now, Bruce Morton's essay on the American men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in 2003.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As regular viewers may remember, we usually use the last broadcast of the year to honor those who have died during the year -- a poet, an actor and so on.

This year, we wanted to honor the Americans who have died in Iraq. Producer Brad Wright (ph) and editor Shavelle McCarthy (ph) assembled this footage from a number of funerals held this past year at Arlington National Cemetery -- our way of honoring the American dead and showing the pride and the sorrow which lie at the heart of war. (VIDEO CLIPS)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: The year 2003 brought major legal troubles for pop star Michael Jackson, domestic maven Martha Stewart and basketball star Kobe Bryant. Here now to help sort through these high-profile cases and how they might play out in the year ahead, criminal defense attorney Robert Shapiro. He's joining us now from Los Angeles.

Sir, let's begin with the molestation case against Michael Jackson. He is, of course, internationally renowned pop star. This case has drawn attention from around the world.

You were a member of the defense team in the O.J. Simpson case, which, at the time, was considered the celebrity trial of the century, if you will.

In terms of the worldwide attention and audience for the Michael Jackson case, help us put that into context.

ROBERT SHAPIRO, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know, the Michael Jackson case, along with the other two that you've mentioned, John, brings one thing to mind for me. And that is, in all of these high- profile cases, we have something that really threatens our judicial system. And that is, we have guilty when charged, rather than guilty as charged.

And what troubles me in all of these cases is that the presumption of innocence, which is fundamental to our system of justice, has all but dissipated, and it's been replaced by the assumption of guilt.

So, going into the Michael Jackson case, he is faced with several hurdles which he must overcome. First, the 1993 incident that's been heavily reported that resulted in a settlement. There may be numerous reasons why somebody would enter into a civil settlement other than that person being guilty of any type of sexual misconduct.

KING: Well, Robert Shapiro, let me jump in on this point as you discuss this. Because, tonight in this country, Michael Jackson will be seen in a "60 Minutes" interview with Ed Bradley on CBS. He gives an interview in which he says this: "I didn't sleep in bed with the child. Even if I did, it's OK. I slept on the floor. I give the bed to the child."

If were you his defense attorney, A, would you have wanted this interview, to begin with? And would you want your client out there, even though he's denying the specific charge, saying it's OK to be in bed with children?

SHAPIRO: Well, first, I have a hard-and-fast rule, and that is no one speaks that I am representing while the case is pending. And I am very firm with that. Sometimes clients, however, just simply can't help themselves and make statements that sometimes come back to haunt them. So I would not allow anyone to go on an interview, especially a "60 Minutes" interview that can be edited. That's number one.

Number two, the point you raise is going to be a very difficult point. It is clearly inappropriate for any adult male to sleep with a minor, no matter what the circumstances are and no matter where they sleep in the room. And that's going to be a major hurdle for Michael Jackson to overcome.

KING: Help me, sir -- I'm sorry. Go ahead.

SHAPIRO: No, I don't mean to interrupt you, John.

The second hurdle is going to be that there is going to be great sympathy for the alleged victim in this case, who is a cancer victim and is 12 years of age. Michael Jackson is going to have to really convince the jury of his innocence in a case like this.

And based what you have just told me about the interview, based on my own personal encounters with Michael in a legal forum and my partner who just tried a case, a civil case, in which he was successful, Michael Jackson was just a horrible witness.

KING: Let's move on, Robert Shapiro, quickly to the Kobe Bryant case. As a defense attorney, how do you make the difficult decision, the Bryant defense team is pushing for medical records and other records involving the accuser in this case. That can be a difficult line to walk, can it not? Demanding that information which you say is critical to the defense, but you're pushing against some sensitivities.

SHAPIRO: You know, if it's properly explained, John, you're not pushing against sensitivities, for this reason: The prosecution theory is going to be that there were injuries that were caused by Kobe Bryant. It is highly relevant, if this woman was with other people, whether they were involved in sexual activity which was consensual or not, before and after the incident, as to whether or not the injuries occurred then.

It is not going to be an issue as to whether or not this victim has a propensity toward promiscuity. That's not the issue. The issue is whether or not the claims she is making were, in fact, inflicted by Kobe and not one of the other people she was engaged in sex with.

KING: Robert Shapiro...

SHAPIRO: Go ahead, I'm sorry.

KING: I wanted to move on to another issue, being that three weeks from now the Martha Stewart jury will be empaneled. And sometimes before a trial even begins, you do your most critical work, screening through a jury panel.

From a defense standpoint what are you looking for as you try to put together this jury? And who would you think the prosecution would be trying to raise objections to? SHAPIRO: Martha Stewart is a very popular woman, especially with women in this country. So you would be looking for people who relate to Martha Stewart, who shop in the stores where her products are sold, and who are concerned with homemaking and the things that Martha Stewart is an expert in.

The prosecution, on the other side, will be looking for people who are straightforward, generally men who may be much more critical of people who may be involved in being accused of economic crimes.

KING: Criminal defense attorney Robert Shapiro, sir, we appreciate your thoughts today from Los Angeles. Thank you very much.

SHAPIRO: Thank you, John. I appreciate you.

KING: Happy New Year, sir.

SHAPIRO: Thank you, same to you.

KING: And the results are in on our Web question of the week. We'll tell you how you, the viewers, voted when "LATE EDITION" returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Our Web question of the week: Do you feel safer as we enter the year 2004?

Here's the tally: 18 percent of you said yes, 82 percent said no.

Remember, this is not a scientific poll.

Just ahead, remembering some of the people we lost in 2003.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: And now, a look at who we lost in 2003.

(VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's your "LATE EDITION" for Sunday, December 28th. Thanks very much for watching, and have a Happy New Year.

Wolf will be here next Sunday. I'm John King in Washington.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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