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Syria Under Pressure to Withdraw from Lebanon; U.S. Troops Fire on Rescued Hostage's Car; Bush Makes Pitch for Social Security Reform

Aired March 4, 2005 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, HOST: Tonight, free trade sellout: how a new trade agreement with Central America could destroy a whole industry in this country. We'll have a special report from a state that could lose thousands upon thousands of jobs. I'll be talking with a state official who's fighting to stop that trade agreement before it's too late for thousands of those workers.
"America the Vulnerable": the federal government will not adequately staff our border patrol, claiming unmanned aircraft can do the job. But as we will report tonight, it turns out that doesn't work either. My guest tonight, a congressman who says our southern border is simply under siege and wide open to radical Islamist terrorists.

And selling out national security. A company partly owned by the Indian government is buying a critical part of the world's undersea cable network. Some warn the deal could help India's military control the world's communications grid and jeopardizes U.S. national security.

ANNOUNCER: This is Lou Dobbs for news debate and opinion, tonight.

DOBBS: Good evening.

President Bush today declared that nothing less than a complete Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon will be acceptable. President Bush said the United States will accept no half measures. The president's uncompromising declaration comes one day before Syria's president is expected to announce a partial withdrawal from Lebanon.

Brian Todd has the report.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The language could hardly be more direct.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Syria, Syrian troops, Syria's intelligence services must get out of Lebanon now.

TODD: The pressure on Syria's leader could hardly be greater. Even Arab states are piling on President Bashar Assad. Saudi officials say their Crown Prince Abdullah told Mr. Assad if he doesn't begin withdrawal from Lebanon as quickly as possible, Syrian relations with Riyadh will suffer. The new Palestinian foreign minister joins in.

NASSER AL-KIDWA, PALESTINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Obviously, now people understand that, at some point, somehow, there should be a Syrian withdrawal, and it seems that it's inevitable.

TODD: Assad himself told "TIME" magazine this week Syria should begin withdrawing its 15,000 troops from Lebanon soon. But how soon? A top official in Damascus, as well as Syria's ambassadors to Washington and the U.N. did not return our calls for comment.

Assad is expected to deliver a speech Saturday to Syria's parliament. A former top Lebanese official tells CNN he expects Assad to announce a partial withdrawal and a redeployment of some Syrian troops in Lebanon toward the border.

Analysts agree Assad may try to stall.

HISHAM MELHAM, CORRESPONDENT, "AN-NAHAR": He's going to backtrack a little. He would say, "Look, even logistically it will be extremely difficult for us to complete the withdrawal within a few months or, you know, within six months. Give me some time."

TODD: But how will that play, now that Russia, a historic Syrian ally, has joined the chorus and even the U.S. and France agree?

BUSH: When the United States and France and others say withdrawal, we mean complete withdrawal, no halfhearted measures.

TODD: Assad seems to have been caught off guard by the pace of events, sparked by last month's assassination in Beirut of a former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri, the most powerful figure to contest Syria's occupation.

Thousands of Lebanese took to the streets, many blaming Damascus for the attack. Syria denied involvement. But the pressure now comes from much higher levels, and Mr. Assad's political survival may hinge on his response.


TODD: The pressure also comes internally. Members of the Lebanese political opposition and some analysts say elements of the Syrian military and intelligence services have interests in Lebanon and are squeezing Mr. Assad to keep a Syrian presence there -- Lou.

DOBBS: Brian, thank you. Brian Todd from Washington.

In Iraq, a rescue mission for a kidnapped Italian journalist today ended in tragedy. American troops opened fire on the journalist's car, as it approached a checkpoint in Baghdad.

She was freed by Italian security agents earlier. The journalist was wounded in the incident. One of her rescuers was killed.

Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has the report -- Barbara. BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, Giuliana Sgrena of the Italian daily "Il Manifesto" had been a hostage for over a month in Iraq. She was released earlier today.

And as the car carrying her was making its way, apparently, to Baghdad airport tonight, it came until fire from U.S. forces. The 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq has now put out a statement saying it was its U.S. soldiers that fired on this car traveling at high speed.

The statement from the 3rd I.D. says that the U.S. military used several procedures to try and stop the car, including attempting to warn the driver by hand and arm signals, flashing white lights, firing warning shots in front of the car. And when it still did not stop, they fired into the engine block.

And it was of course as a result of that one man, the Italian security agent, was killed. Another man in the car wounded, and the journalist also wounded and taken to a hospital.

Lou, the incident is now under investigation by the U.S. military. Several items, of course, will be very closely looked at. The procedures used by the forces, the 3rd I.D., their training, how long were they in Iraq? Did they really understand fully how to operate a checkpoint?

Was there coordination? Did the Italian government communicate with the United States that this car might be passing through this area at that point? And was that a standard checkpoint? Or was it perhaps something that had been set up very hastily, something the Italians in the car did not recognize possibly as a U.S. military checkpoint?

All of it very unclear tonight, all of it, Lou, still under investigation.

DOBBS: And certainly an absolute tragedy. Barbara, thank you. Barbara Starr reporting from the Pentagon.

President Bush today sent most of his time focusing on his plans for so-called Social Security reform. President Bush intensified his effort to convince skeptical voters that our Social Security system is broken in speeches in both New Jersey and Indiana.

Dana Bash reports from Notre Dame, Indiana.


DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president with the business degrees knows, if your product's not selling, you better change your pitch.

BUSH: Social Security has provided a safety net for many retires. That's an important safety net, but the safety net has got a hole in it.

BASH: "Safety net" is lingo borrowed from Democrats, the retooled rhetoric aimed at emphasizing he's committed to preserving Social Security benefits, not just pushing private accounts for younger workers.

ANDREW KOHUT, PEW RESEARCH CENTER: The president is going to have to radically change the message and convince the American public that the way they've come to think about these accounts is not quite right.

BASH: Before this New Jersey trip, the president already visited nine states looking for public support for his plan, yet the more Americans hear, several polls show, the less they like his ideas, especially so-called personal accounts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, you are not welcome with your program on privatizing Social Security.

BASH: The reason, Bush aides complain, highly organized and well-funded opposition campaigns like these in New Jersey. Among the targets here, Republican Congressman Mike Ferguson, at the president's event, but not ready to endorse personal accounts.

REP. MIKE FERGUSON (R), NEW JERSEY: There is no one plan out there right now that we're -- you know, we're either supporting or opposing.

BASH: The Democratic National Committee bought its first round of ads to put the squeeze on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Call Congressman Ferguson and tell him to oppose President Bush's risky scheme...

BUSH: I don't care what the ads say. I don't care what the scare tactics say. You're going to get your check just like the government said.

BASH: But Democrats insist the Bush plan is doomed. Forty-two senators, enough to sustain a filibuster, signed this letter, saying unless the president drops private accounts, "it will be impossible to establish the kind of cooperative, bipartisan process we need."

In New Jersey, and later in Indiana, the president still pitched personal accounts hard, calling them the best investment for younger workers.


BASH: While the president spent the day promising that he would not let workers 55 and older cut their benefits, he wouldn't let that happen to them at all, he was careful to tell a younger worker here that he wasn't making him the same promise -- Lou.

DOBBS: Dana, thank you very much.

And as Dana Bash just reported, Senate Democrats, an important part of the initiative, taken up by the Democrats trying to upstage the president, to blunt his message at the very least. Joe Johns has that report.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Reform Social Security now.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On a street, a few Republicans dressed up as ostrich outfits taunted people as they headed to this event on Social Security, suggesting Democrats are sticking their heads in the sand by refusing to accept private retirement accounts.

NICHOLAS VERTUCCI, NEW YORK YOUNG REPUBLICANS: For young Americans like myself who want to have the opportunity to set money aside to get a better return, all's we're asking for is that option.

JOHNS: Inside the hall at Pace University, top Senate Democrats were kicking off a two-day, four-city tour, beginning just blocks from the financial capital on Wall Street, ending in the casino capital of Las Vegas, trying to portray the president's proposal as a gamble.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and her colleagues used the word "risk" half a dozen times in the first half hour.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I don't think we can ignore what this risky plan would do in terms of adding to our nation's debt.

JOHNS: But at this carefully scripted event, Democrats were taking very little risk of their own, taking no questions from the audience. The real people who got to speak were invited guests sitting on the stage.

VICKIE OWENS, RETIRED HEALTH CARE AIDE: If I would depend on the stock market now, I would be in big trouble.

JOHNS: It was basically a rally, with New York Senator Charles Schumer even leading a chant.

SCHUMER: Fix it, don't nix it.

JOHNS: And a warm welcome back for former presidential candidate John Kerry, who participated in a debate here during the primaries.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Social Security is not in crisis. It's not bankrupt.

JOHNS: Almost no evidence of dissenting views. Democrats said it was OK because the president was across the river in New Jersey making his best case.

(on camera): Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said his and he colleagues are willing to bargain on Social Security, but only after the president takes private accounts off the table.

Joe Johns, CNN, New York.


DOBBS: Up next here, "America the Vulnerable," our special report. The federal government refuses to hire enough Border Patrol agents to provide border security, instead saying technology can do the job. What is the Bush administration thinking? That's next.


DOBBS: The Bush administration and the Department of Homeland Security refuse to adequately staff our Border Patrol, but they do plan to drastically increase the use of technology to help secure our borders. Over the next two years, the budget calls for more than $60 million to be invested in the unmanned aerial vehicles. The problem, however, is that some Border Patrol officials say the new technology simply does not work.

Kitty Pilgrim reports.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Customs and Border Protection used unmanned aerial vehicles or drones along the Arizona border in a six-month test that ended this past January. UAVs have been used successfully for military purposes, but in recent congressional testimony, some question their track record for domestic border patrol.

T.J. BONNER, NATIONAL BORDER PATROL COUNCIL: You can get the fancy stuff like the unmanned aerial vehicles, and those can track people as they go north of the border, although they crash 100 times more often than a piloted aircraft.

PILGRIM: Customs and Border Protection says two kinds of UAVs were operated and tested during the six-point period. Tests with two Israeli Hermes 450 UAVs cost $4 million, and tests with the Northrop Grumman Hunter model cost $2.5 million. Northrop Grumman said today neither of its UAVs crashed during the tests.

A Congressional Research Service report last year found UAVs crashed more than manned helicopters. But government officials say that is because they are relatively new and the track record will improve with field experience.

Early data suggests UAVs were effective in 780 apprehensions of illegal aliens and one massive marijuana drug bust. But with the new head of Homeland Security taking over, evaluations will go on for several months.

RUSSELL PEARCE (R), ARIZONA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: The unmanned vehicles are critical, again, in the overall strategy. There are places that hard to get to. They know there are valleys and, if you want, routes coming across that border that are very, very rugged, that are main thoroughfares for illegal activity.

PILGRIM: The UAVs have solid advantages. They can stay up in the air for 20 hours and can cruise at 91 miles an hour. They can also monitor dense terrain.


PILGRIM: Now, the 2005 budget allocated $10 million for UAVs, but government officials say they are now taking a few months to assess the program. Most agree cameras and sensors are additional eyes and ears along the desolate stretches of unmanned border. But the question remains whether these drones will be permanently added to that surveillance arsenal -- Lou.

DOBBS: And the Homeland Security Department wants to put these forward as replacements, substitutes, if you will, for Border Patrol agents. And all the Border Patrol agents themselves are saying it's a helpful tool, but hardly a substitute.

PILGRIM: Absolutely. You need humans. These can track, but they can't catch people.

DOBBS: And they had last year three million people to catch that were not caught. Kitty Pilgrim, thank you.

That brings us to the subject of our poll tonight: Do you believe there can be homeland security without control of our borders? Cast your vote at We'll have the results for you coming up later here in the broadcast.

People living in the state with the most illegal aliens are strongly opposed to giving them drivers' licenses. A new poll finds 62 percent of Californians oppose giving drivers' licenses to illegal aliens. Only 35 percent support it. California is home to an estimated three million illegal aliens, more than any other state in the country.

We'll have much more on the escalating immigration crisis in this country later in the broadcast. One Texas congressman says or southern border is under siege by illegal aliens and vulnerable to terrorists. Congressman Solomon Ortiz of Texas is our guest.

Tonight, one orange tabby took quite a ride in the state of Idaho. The cat's name is Cuddy Bug (ph) or Cuddle Bug, or C.B., for short. He rode on the back -- the luggage rack of his owner's car while she drove for 10 miles on Interstate 15 in Idaho. Eventually another driver flagged her down and rescued the cat from the roof of her car. Cuddle Bug's owner, Tory Hutchinson (ph), said the cat must have jumped on the car's roof when she wasn't looking.

Coming up next, the high cost of so-called free trade. How Americans at one critical industry say CAFTA will kill their jobs and their industry. That story's next.


DOBBS: Tonight, the escalating concerns about the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Some of the most vocal critics of the so-called free trade agreement are American sugar beet growers and farmers. They say CAFTA could cost thousands of Americans their jobs. Lisa Sylvester has the report from Felton, Minnesota.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): David Kragnes family has raised sugar beets on this land for four generations. But now the family business is in trouble because of CAFTA. He blames U.S. trade negotiators for selling out the industry.

DAVID KRAGNES, SUGAR BEET FARMER: We should make jerseys for our trade negotiators so they could look down once in a while and see which team they're on.

SYLVESTER: Kragnes is part of American Crystal Sugar, a farmer- owned co-op that turns sugar beets into sugar. The industry estimates as many as 20,000 jobs could be lost if CAFTA is passed. U.S. farmers and producers would be hit with a near 10-percent increase in sugar imports, 100,000 tons in the first year alone. The flood of imports will likely push down the price and make it harder for U.S. workers to compete.

MIKE NERGUSON, AMERICAN CRYSTAL SUGAR: It's, you know, kind of uncertain times. It's kind of scary. You don't know if you want to jump ship when you can or wait and fall to the bottom.

SYLVESTER (on camera): Sugar growers are worries that CAFTA will open the door to new trade agreements, like the Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement. Then they won't be just competing against Central America, but the entire western hemisphere.

(voice-over): It won't by a fair fight. Other countries don't have the same environmental and labor standards.

TONY ST. MICHEL, AMERICAN CRYSTAL SUGAR: They can inundate us with sugar and we -- you know, we can't compete with people who are making 60 cents a day or 90 cents an hour, or whatever. You know, you put us on a level playing field, we can compete with anybody. But we have to have a level playing field.

SYLVESTER: The sugar beets are a livelihood for as many as 30,000 people in the Red River Valley, a livelihood that many say is being traded away.

Lisa Sylvester, CNN, Felton, Minnesota.


DOBBS: And the Red River Valley sugar beet farms, of course, spread into North Dakota. Still ahead here tonight, I'll be talking with the agriculture commissioner in that state who says CAFTA could destroy the sugar industry, not just in the Red River Valley, but nationwide.

Turning now to a threat to our national security, a threat that has gone all but unnoticed. American-made undersea pipelines carrying critical information around the world are now being sold to foreign companies for pennies on the dollar. The latest buyer is cause for particular concern. It is partly owned by the Indian government.

Christine Romans has the report.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The last crucial piece of telecom infrastructure is about to be transferred out of American hands. The crown jewel of the telecom boom, a state-of- the-art cable system on the ocean floor capable of carrying 90 percent of the pacific telecom traffic. For $130 million, India's VSNL is snapping up Tyco's undersea system.

A white paper by U.S. telecom firm Crest Communications calls this deal "a serious blow to the national security and commercial interests of the United States." VSNL is an Indian company, 26 percent owned by the Indian government and by Tata, an Indian conglomerate with "close tying to Indian military and defense efforts."

BRIAN ROUSSELL, CREST COMMUNICATIONS: There is no major network that's owned by a U.S. entity going forward. They're all controlled by foreign enties. To us that's a significant problem for the United States government and what their objectives are from a commerce, from a security and military perspective.

ROMANS: Like missile defense. Crest Communications owns important undersea branching units off Alaska for military data. It would be worthless if this deal goes through.

VSNL has said it won out fair and square in a public auction of the undersea cable system. VSNL also says there's no restriction on its ability to provide bandwidth to anyone. But security experts urge a full national security review of this deal.

FRANK GAFFNEY, CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY: I think we have to look with the greatest of trepidation at the implications of fire sales of the pipelines through which vital commercial and military and intelligence data inevitably will flow.


ROMANS: Now, this deal was announced back in November. And it's by no means done yet. A spokesman at the FCC says it expects an official files sometime next week. And then the FCC has to review it.

Also, this white paper that we showed you is circulating to the members of the Committee on Foreign Investments. That is a national security review that could be done to take a look at what's in the best interest of the United States. And it could decide -- that body has the power to decide whether there should be a formal investigation and to scuttle this deal.

DOBBS: And our viewers should know that as you're asking some people for answers and seeking out further research from people, that you're bringing to them for the first time an awareness of this issue. It is remarkable that this country can get this far handing out bandwidth that has largely been built entirely by U.S. capital and U.S. corporations that have fallen obviously on hard times, without any military review, without a look from national security interests in this country. It's remarkable.

ROMANS: And if this happens, the center of the global telecom grid, Lou, will be somewhere between Mumbai and Singapore.

DOBBS: Extraordinary. Christine Romans, thank you.

Next, one congressman who says the holes in our border security have left our nation absolutely vulnerable to terrorists.


DOBBS: In just a moment I'll be joined by one congressman who says failures in our immigration policy in this country pose a clear and present danger to the United States.

Now here are some of the other important stories we're following tonight.

U.S. marshals have seized prescription drugs from a GlaxoSmithKline plant in Puerto Rico. The FDA ordered the seizure of the drugs Paxil and Avandamet. The FDA says the manufacturing plant does not meet FDA standards for safety and quality.

In Chicago, the FBI has offered a $50,000 reward for information in the murders of a federal judge's mother and husband. Authorities there are still searching for two what they describe as persons of interest in this case. They were both seen near the judge's home on the day of the murders.

And a dramatic cliff rescue tonight in Malibu, California. A man drover over an embankment and fell 200 feet down a canyon. Firemen, using a stretcher attached to a rope, brought the man to safety. There's no word tonight on the extent of his injuries or his condition.

My next guest plans to introduce legislation to fix what he calls a broken immigration system. Congressman Solomon Ortiz of Texas testified this week during a House hearing on border security saying our southern border is under siege. Congressman Ortiz is co-chair of the House Border Caucus.

And when I talked to him, I asked about the Bush administration's decision to put forward only a tenth of what it had called for in the way of border patrol forces and funding.


REP. SOLOMON ORTIZ, (D) TEXAS: I am very dismayed, very discouraged, because we were led to believe that they were going to fund the recommendations given out by the 9/11 commission. And it did not happen. Now, they came up with 210 border patrol people, that doesn't even cover attrition rates in one border patrol sector, which is an accounting (ph) sector. DOBBS: And you before your committee pointed out Admiral Loy's concerns about border security, specifically the threat of terrorism, al Qaeda linking up with various rogue elements in Central and South America. How concerned are you?

ORTIZ: Very, very concerned, because we know what the Mara Salvatruca can do.


ORTIZ: That's correct. And what they have done in the past.

Now, these gangs will probably do anything for the right amount of money. And when you leave a wide gap of unprotected border, because when 15, 20, clusters of immigrants come in, those border patrolmen stationed at the border, they have to move to process these individuals coming in and that leaves the border wide open. And you know what? We don't know who's coming in.

DOBBS: We don't know who's coming in. And this is becoming an extraordinary political battle in this country at the same time a crisis rages on our very borders. 20 million illegal aliens are in this nation, 3 million crossed the borders last year. We are moving to a breaking point here, are we not?

ORTIZ: We are, we are. And until we do something and until we send a signal, Lou, to those countries that if you come over, we're going to detain you, we're going to process you, and we're going to deport you. You know, it's not so much a Mexican immigration problem, because the Mexicans are sent back home. It's sometimes you wonder whether it is a budget process. They don't have money to send back the other illegal aliens representing 132 countries. This is where the problem lies.

DOBBS: It is certainly an extraordinarily irrational situation in which the government is not enforcing immigration laws. The Homeland Security Department is not controlling our borders. And I will tell you, Congressman our audience, our viewers are outraged at what is happening and demand for something to be done. What is it going to take, in your opinion. Must every one of our viewers, must everyone in this country write their Congressmen and senators and say let's do something about securing this nations and ports? What's required?

ORTIZ: Well, I have a bill that I have introduced that will do just that. But again I agree with you, getting the Congress to do something to approve this bill is something else.

Let me give you another example, Lou. There is an area between Alaska and British Columbia that has not one single border patrol agent. Not one. I hate to be the one to come back later on and say I told you so. I hope it doesn't take another Twin Towers to realize we have serious problems.

Because like I said, we know that there's information out there that the Mara Salvatruca, the M-13 is trying to set up meetings and sometimes we get information that they have met with al Qaeda. But, you know, they're smart and they know how to play the game. They know exactly when the border is open and they're coming across.

Now, we do know we have sleeper cells in the United States. My God, what is if going to take so that we can respond? Another disaster? We can't wait for that to happen, Lou.

DOBBS: Congressman Ortiz, we thank you for being here.

ORTIZ: Thank you, sir.

DOBBS: Federal immigration officials refused to pick up 15 illegal aliens stopped on a Pennsylvania highway. The reason? The immigration official said it was simply too snowy outside. The illegal aliens were originally stopped by Pennsylvania police who say they are not allowed to hold illegal aliens unless they commit a crime in front of them. We assume they mean a crime other than entering this country illegally. All 15 were, you guessed it, released.

Taking a look now at some of your thoughts on these issues. Joanne in Zebulon, North Carolina, "I have only one question. Why can't the open borders people who are on your program understand the difference between immigration and illegal immigration?"

Charles in Stansfield, British Columbia, "I'm a Canadian. Many of us Canadians would love to be living and working in the United States, however, unlike people in America's southern border, your northern border neighbors tend to respect your immigration laws and apply for a green card before we take up American residence."

We'll continue in just one moment.


DOBBS: My next guest says the Central American Free Trade Agreement will destroy our nation's sugar industry. Roger Johnson is agricultural commissioner for the state of North Dakota, one of our nation's largest sugar beet producers joining us from Bismarck, North Dakota. Commissioner, good to have you with us.

The Central American Free Trade Agreement threatens, according to most critics, many, many industries. Why in particular the sugar beet industry not only in your state but indeed throughout the country?

ROGER JOHNSON, N. DAKOTA AGRICULTURE COMMISSION: Well, the sugar industry is a very import-sensitive industry, obviously. We have in the United States it's about $8.5 billion kind of industry, or 8.5 million ton industry. We produce about three-quarter million of those tons here in North Dakota. And the Red River Valley is the largest sugar beet-growing area in the country.

About half of that total production of sugar in this country comes from sugar beets, and the other half from cane sugar.

There are a lot of jobs associated with it. In this region, it's about 30,000 jobs that are associated with the sugar industry just in the state of North Dakota. It's over 13,000 of those jobs. And the estimates that we have seen suggest that CAFTA initially is going to allow about 100,000 additional tons to come in. But if it sets a precedent for other free trade agreements, which is what we really expect it to do, it will in fact destroy the industry, if that's the case.

We've seen economic studies that show...

DOBBS: The assistant U.S. trade representative Christopher Padilla said point-blank that farmers should be -- and growers should excited about CAFTA, because it's going to open up markets to their products. That isn't -- why isn't that accepted by you and others?

JOHNSON: That certainly is not going to be the case with sugar. Sugar is the industry that is threatened most, I think, in North Dakota by CAFTA. But even for the grains, you know, wheat for example, which is the largest crop that we grow in terms of acreage in North Dakota. We've already got 100 percent access. There are no duties against wheat going into the CAFTA countries. And in terms of the other grains, we're 94 percent of them go in right now duty-free.

So in terms of access to creating new markets, it's not going to be that. It will result in imports of sugar coming into this country, and that's going to be a problem for this industry.

DOBBS: Certainly, as you well know, sugar is one of the most heavily protected industries in this country, it is also one of the most heavily subsidized in this country. I guess, you know, I can imagine the millions of manufacturing workers in this country who have lost their jobs, because of these so-called free trade agreements, whether one is talking about NAFTA or any other number of free trade agreements, saying why should we care about the sugar beet growers, the sugar industry? They're subsidized.

We have had all sorts of pain. The technology industry, we have lost jobs for programming, every aspect of outsourcing, why should we worry about you guys? We've been told for years that this pain is short-term. In five, ten years, somebody will work it out. Why isn't that satisfactory?

JOHNSON: You know, Lou, if you take sugar out of the Red River Valley, there will be an enormous economic impact. and it will be negative. Now, I need to correct something. Sugar in terms of this country, there's a program for it, but it is not subsidized. There are quotas to allow certain amounts to come in, and production is limited to those who have contracts and who have purchased...

DOBBS: You would agree with me it's....

JOHNSON: Shares of sugar beet stocks so they can grow it. So it's basically supply management coming in.

DOBBS: You're right, it's protected, I think we can say that. Is that a fair statement?

JOHNSON: It is protected. DOBBS: I'm not suggesting, by the way, that I agree with that, commissioner. I'm just asking you really simply at this point, what are you going to do about it?

JOHNSON: Well, what we're going to do about it, the sugar industry has been very straightforward. And they have said, hey, the world has lots of different policies about sugar, and so what the sugar industry has said, listen, talk about this at the WTO...

DOBBS: Commissioner, I'm sorry, we...

JOHNSON: Don't do it on a regional agreement by region agreement basis by, a country at a time and pick away at a industry, or by the time we get to the WTO, there won't be an industry left to be talking about.

DOBBS: We appreciate you being here, Roger Johnson. We appreciate it a good deal, and good luck.

JOHNSON: My pleasure.

DOBBS: A reminder to vote in our poll tonight. "Do you believe there can be homeland security without control of our borders? yes or no?" Cast your vote at We'll have the results a little later in the broadcast.

Right now, "Heroes," our weekly tribute to the men and women that serve this country. Tonight the story of Staff Sgt. Joshua Johnston whose quick thinking in Iraq saved his unit from an insurgent attack, but that act of bravery left Johnston with a wound so severe, he cannot lift his 16-month-old son. Casey Wian has the story.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Like any good soldier, Staff Sgt. Joshua Johnston has a routine, first he whips up breakfast for his family.

STAFF SGT. JOSHUA JOHNSTON, U.S. ARMY: I wanted to be a chef. I figure, I can't do nothing else really, so I might as well wake up in the morning and cook.

WIAN: Then his wife, Ini (ph), tends to the reason he can't do much. Still fresh wounds on both legs, and a 12-inch gash through his absent men that the doctors left open to heal from the inside out.

Just over a month ago, Johnston was on a mission in downtown Ramadi. He spotted a peeker, an insurgent who peeked around a corner before shooting an RPG.

JOHNSTON: I yelled, I got a peeker. And all of a sudden, that same corner, a guy turned around with a black mask, set his weapon down to be fired. And I opened fire on him, about four or five rounds. I don't know if I hit him.

WIAN: But quickly, Johnston knew he was hit. JOHNSTON: I remember it threw me back into the seat. I remember pain, I remember warm, really warm. I looked down, I kind of saw smoke come up. And then I went into shock. I saw white sparks, it looked like sparks are sparking in my face. I was really tired, and I thought then that I was dead, I was going to die.

DARREL JOHNSTON, FATHER: Oh, my god, I was just like, no, no, no, not Josh.

WIAN: Johnston was rushed to Walter Reed via Germany in just four days where his wife and son who hadn't seen him in six months were waiting.

J. JOHNSTON: Before I left, he wasn't walking. And when I was in the hospital, to see him walk in, it meant a lot.

WIAN Today he's recovering at the Las Vegas home of John Paul DeJoria where his parents are caretakers. Johnston faces at least a years of rehabilitation and an uncertain future in the Army. He saved the chunk of shrapnel that nearly took his life.

J. JOHNSTON: I survived. You know, I lived through it, so it means a lot.

WIAN: It also means he's again considering a career as a chef. Casey Wian, CNN, Las Vegas, Nevada.


DOBBS: We wish Sergeant Johnston the very best, of course, and all his comrades.

More than 3,000 other heroes today returned home from the USS Abraham Lincoln. The aircraft carrier arrived in Washington State after a 5 month overseas deployment. The tour included a humanitarian mission, aiding tsunami victims in South Asia.

Three of this country's best journalists will join me next. We'll talking about the president's ultimatum to Syria, the battle over so-called Social Security reform, what's going on with the dollar and just how strong is this economy? Can we handle these deficits? Stay with us and find out.


DOBBS: Joining me now, three of journalism's best. In Washington Karen Tumulty, "Time" magazine, Roger Simon of "U.S. News & World Report" here in New York, Mark Morrison of "Businessweek." Good to have you all here.

Karen, let me begin with you. Social Security, the president is on a campaign, out of step, at least according to the polls, with what most Americans are thinking.

KAREN TUMULTY, TIME: Well, absolutely. The president if he has succeed at all, it is alerting people to the fact that Social Security does, in fact, have a long-term solvency problem. But he does not seem to be making any headway at all in convincing people that he's got the answer to it. Because of course the centerpiece of his program does not do anything to affect the solvency of Social Security.

And so what we have seen in almost every poll that has come out this week is that the public's trust of George Bush to handle this issue, the most popular social program in history is declining rapidly.

So the White House is now embarking on a very aggressive campaign, a last ditch to try to sell this thing, 60 appearances in 60 days by the administration. They have asked their allies in the business community to start spending that advertising money with abandon. But at this point, this ship is sinking fast.

DOBBS: Roger, there's an old axiom in business as you may or may not know. And that is, if you want to kill a bad product, advertise it. Is that in prospect here?

ROGER SIMON, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": I think so. To use an oilman's term, George Bush is spending his political capital on a dry hole. He has been pushing this thing for a while now, and there's simply no constituency for it, no sizable one, except for the White House itself, a think tank or two and paid consultants. Who wants the privatization of Social Security? Really nobody.

And I think quite soon, the White House will come up with an exit strategy, meaning what minimum result can we get that will allow the president to save face. Can we even pass a privatization program that allows people to invest, let's say, just 1 percent of their Social Security.

DOBBS: I have what seems to me to be a reasonable question. You tell me if it is or not, Mark. If people want to save 1 percent of your money, do it, why do you need the Social Security or government to do it?

MARK MORRISON, BUSSINESSWEEK: You don't. You can do that. But a lot of people aren't doing it. And the fact of the matter is, you and I and our colleagues have been putting a lot of money into Social Security for a lot of years. It wouldn't be so bad if we had a couple hundred thousand dollar nest egg there that would in effect be in a lockbox.

I think there's something to be said for these. And I think as the same oilman might have said, don't misunderestimate the campaign here. It's just getting started. It's a complicated issue. It's very easy for the opponents to scare people about Social Security. But if they get the details of the plan right, I think they're going to get some traction with it. It may end up, at worse in the administration's view, turning into add-ons that still accomplish something like what the president wants.

DOBBS: Once again you and I are just seeing eye to eye. Karen, let me ask you this. The Democrats coming out with all sorts of initiatives today trying to blunt the president's message. To what degree are they succeeding? What seems to be a reasonable strategy?

TUMULTY: Well, at this point they're succeeding pretty well, because we have not seen any slippage on the part of the Democrats. There is not a single Democratic senator right now saying he or she will support the president's idea for private accounts.

The only debate right now that's going on within the Democratic Party that I've been able to discern is the question of whether there's any responsibility at all on the part of the Democrats right now to put out their own plan for addressing Social Security's long- term solvency. But right now, they figure the president's team is killing itself and they're not going to get in the way.

DOBBS: I was just thinking back, Roger to 1983, the Greenspan commission, Ronald Reagan put together a bipartisan group. This president put together, if you will, a bit of a fig leaf commission that really did not produce this as their centerpiece. Why not a bipartisan -- they've got the partisan part -- a bipartisan approach to this?

SIMON: Because bipartisanship is far out of fashion on Capital Hill in Washington and government in general. It's a real shame. And it produces clashes like this one, which as you point out, don't need to be partisan clashes.

I think the people of the United States would really love to see some genuine bipartisanship. And people working for the good of the country instead of the good of two parties. They're not seeing it.

DOBBS: Well, the idea that this Social Security reform is going to be attached to both the Democrats and the Republicans here, give me a way to get out of it. Why don't we simply move on, drop it? Why do we have to tinker with this? It's worked pretty well for 7 decades in point of fact.

MORRISON: That in effect could happen. As Roger said earlier, that -- if they don't get the movement they need with support for private accounts, they back off -- they come out with something they can declare victory and go on. And maybe they'll get to an important issue like immigration, which really is a crisis now, as you were talking about earlier.

Social Security is a crisis in the making some time way out there, it's not today's crisis.

DOBBS: Karen, talking about declaring victory, far too early to do it in the Middle East. But it's pretty clear, is it not, that President Bush's policies in the Middle East right now are beginning to pay dividends, at least at the margin at this early stage.

TUMULTY: I think more than at the margin. If you had suggested, you know, even 6 weeks ago, if you would have suggested the day after the president's Inaugural Address that we would have seen such measurable strides for Democracy moving across the Middle East, I don't think even the president's most ardent supporters would have predicted that it would have come this quickly and this dramatically. DOBBS: Roger, your thoughts?

SIMON: I think that if on George Bush's watch, whether he's responsible or not, there's a genuine peace, let's say between the Palestinians and Israel, that that will be a huge legacy, a huge boost for George Bush. And it's going to make all his policies look as if he was on the right path. And it's going to make a lot of difficulty for the Democrats in the future. I know some prominent Democrats who want peace in the Middle East, but are very worried that George Bush is going to get credit for it.

DOBBS: Roger Simon, as always, Karen Tumulty, Mark Morrison, thank you all, and have a great weekend.

Still ahead the results of our poll tonight, a preview of what's ahead Monday to the degree that we know.


DOBBS: Strong job creation number pushing the Dow Jones today to an almost four-year high.

Results of our poll tonight, 98 percent of you say there can not be homeland security without control of our borders.

We thank you for being with us tonight. Please join us here Monday. Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer joins us. He'll be talking about his new book, "Taking Heat" about his years in the White House.

And Monday, another state taking action, trying to make certain illegal aliens in this country aren't enjoying the rights of citizenship without responsibility.

And a new series of special reports begin here on our immigration crisis this Monday, from the escalating violence along our southern border to federally funded college educations for illegal aliens. We hope you'll be with us. We hope you have a very pleasant weekend.

Good night from New York. ANDERSON COOPER 360 is next.


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