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President Bush's Renewed Effort to Sell War Strategy; Deep Trouble for Bush's Immigration Reform Proposals; Privacy Concerns for Tax Information and the IRS; What is the Rightful Place of Religion in Politics?

Aired March 22, 2006 - 18:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Wednesday, March 22.
Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody.

Tonight, President Bush telling Iraqis to form a new government as soon as possible as violence in Iraq is escalating and the war drags the president's poll numbers even lower.

We're live at the White House.

Critics say President Bush's strategy in Iraq three years ago set the conditions for today's violent insurgency. My guests tonight are the authors of "Cobra II," the most complete, detailed, inciteful and critical study so far of U.S. strategy in the conduct of this war.

And you won't believe this, but the federal government could soon allow marketing companies and other groups to buy your private federal tax information.

We'll have that special report for you.

And I'll be asking one the country's most prominent Catholics whether the Catholic Church should stay out of the national debate on our illegal immigration crisis.

All of that and more coming up here tonight.

We begin with President Bush's warning today that Iraq must urgently form a new government. The president declared it's time to get a government in place. The president's statement indicates rising frustration in the White House about the slow pace of Iraqi politics after last December's elections in Iraq. The president's comments also reflect concerns in some quarters that President Bush may not be able to convince voters that he has a strategy for victory.

Dana Bash reports from the White House on the president's renewed effort to sell his war strategy to an increasingly skeptical American public.

Barbara Starr reports from the Pentagon on the rising criticism of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's role in this war. We turn first to Dana Bash at the White House -- Dana.


Well, it is, of course, the violence in Iraq that gives Americans the most anxiety, but experience tells this White House that when there is movement, something positive on the political front, that has helped, at least temporarily, to boost public opinion in the United States. So, today, the president made clear that he is talking to his commanders in Iraq and the ambassador there to try to push Iraqis to form a government. He said it has now been three months since the Iraqi elections.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The people have spoken. And now it's time for our government to get stood up.

There's time for the elected representative or those who represent the voters and the political parties to come together and form a unity government. And that's what people want. Otherwise, they wouldn't have gone to the polls, would they have?


BASH: Now, for most part, Mr. Bush repeated themes we've heard over the last several days, but the town hall format which you see there had no podium, no real prepared remarks, and allowed the president to make his points in perhaps a more folksy, more casual way than he usually does in talking about Iraq. And that was absolutely no accident.

This White House, the name of the game here is to try to convince the American public that the president, if nothing else, gets that they have major and mounting concerns about Iraq. That's why this was a Q&A format that Mr. Bush had, but he didn't wait for the questions before saying several times that he understands the concerns and the anxiety of the American people -- Lou.

DOBBS: And that in and of itself is a major change in the president's approach and this administration's approach in discussing the conduct of this war.

BASH: That's right. Before even being asked about those issues, before being even asked about, for example, whether or not the United States can win in Iraq, that's something that Mr. Bush was asked in the White House briefing room just yesterday. He didn't wait for that question. It's a good thing, because he didn't get it.

But he made clear from the beginning in his opening remarks that he understands that is the main question from the American people right now, can the United States win? And he insisted that the United States can.

DOBBS: Dana Bash from the White House.

Thank you, Dana.

BASH: Thank you.

DOBBS: President Bush is strongly defending his defense secretary from demands that he resign. President Bush says Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is doing "a fine job." But some critics insist Rumsfeld should step down because of the way he has handled or mishandled the war in Iraq.

Barbara Starr reports from the Pentagon.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld often is angry these days, making it clear he thinks the media is sometimes misrepresenting his views, not telling the whole story about Iraq.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: And if every time I answer every single question I've got to box the compass, we're never going to get anywhere.

STARR: It's tough days for Rumsfeld. "New York Times" columnist Maureen Dowd writing Wednesday that in White House circles, "Rumsfeld is treated as an eccentric old uncle who is ignored."

Rumsfeld aides suggest the White House staff is behind some of the anti-Rumsfeld rhetoric, trying to protect the president from declining public support for the war. Shifting the blame game away from the president, according to one analyst, may be the major reason the White House might think about replacing Rumsfeld.

BUSH: You're doing a fine job on behalf of the American people. Thank you.

MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: It's a little bit less obvious why you would do it now unless your goal is just to recognize that President Bush's popularity is falling at home and respond based on that trend.

STARR: The latest calls for Rumsfeld to resign gained steam with a signed op-ed in "The New York Times" Sunday from an unusual quarter. Retired Army Major General Paul Eaton wrote, Rumsfeld has "... shown himself incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically. Mr. Rumsfeld must step down."

Behind the scenes, a senior Rumsfeld staffer said Eaton simply was bitter because his work training Iraqi security forces didn't go well.

President Bush again defending Rumsfeld at his press conference Tuesday.

BUSH: No, I don't believe he should resign.

STARR: Last year, Rumsfeld revealed that at the height of the prison abuse scandal, he twice offered his resignation to President Bush. It was declined.


STARR: And Lou, the 73-year-old secretary is as driven as ever. But the question now is, will the White House see him as a political liability to the president -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you very much. Barbara Starr from the Pentagon.

Insurgents in Iraq have kill two more of our soldiers. The soldiers were killed in Ramadi, west of Baghdad -- 2,319 of our troops have been killed in Iraq now. More than 1,000 -- rather 17,269 others have been wounded, 7,961 of our troops have been wounded so seriously that they cannot return to duty.

And one day after insurgents stormed an Iraqi police station north of Baghdad, insurgents today attacked another police facility south of the capital. This time the insurgents' attack failed. Iraqi police commandos captured 50 of the insurgents after a two-hour gun battle.

In our poll tonight, the question is, do you believe, as members of the Bush administration claim, that the media is to blame for the rising public opposition to the war in Iraq? Please cast your vote at We'll have the results here, of course, as we always do later in the broadcast.

The United Nations tonight remains paralyzed over how to respond to Iran's nuclear defiance. Communist China and Russia are blocking both U.S. and European efforts to take firm action against Iran.

Meanwhile, Iran is pressing forward with its nuclear program as fast as possible.

Kitty pilgrim reports.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The Security Council is called to order.

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Talk, talk, talk. But no action in the Security Council on Iran. The IAEA voted in early February to refer the matter to the U.N. body, but then member countries asked for discussion to be put off until March.

Now, after more than two weeks of bickering over language in a non-binding statement, deadlock and delay. The Chinese have suggested another four to six weeks. The Russians a June deadline.

NILE GARDINER, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: I think we're likely to see continuing opposition by the Russians and the Chinese to any significant resolution with real teeth to it. We are likely, I think, to see an extremely frustrating process taking place at the Security Council for the U.S. and U.K.

PILGRIM: The United States today was trying to be patient with the U.N.

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: Multilateral diplomacy sometimes takes a little bit of time. But we're also trying to push the process along. We think that that's -- we think it's important. We think it's important that the Security Council send that strong, clear message, and that's what we're working towards.

PILGRIM: The French ambassador late yesterday was deeply worried.

JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIERE, FRENCH AMB. TO U.N.: It seems to me that we need -- we still need some -- some time. A few days, I suppose. A few days. But we don't have much time.

PILGRIM: Sanctions are not even under discussion at this point. All the Security Council is discussing is a mild, non-binding statement to protest Tehran's actions. But even that language is too strong for the Russians and the Chinese.

The worry is Iran has been making progress on its nuclear program during all this time and is on the verge of assembling enough centrifuges to be able to enrich uranium.


PILGRIM: Now, there's a sharp divide in the Security Council. It looks like an impasse.

The U.S., with British and French support, want a two-week deadline calling for Iran to give up its nuclear weapon program and a clear outline of punishments if they do not. But the Russians and the Chinese, Lou, do not look like they are signing on to that.

DOBBS: And, point of fact, it looks like they're blocking those efforts.

PILGRIM: Quite clearly.

DOBBS: And the United Nations, as is its custom, doing nothing.

Kitty Pilgrim, thank you very much.

Iran's nuclear defiance is likely to be a major issue for President Bush and President Hu of China when they meet in Washington next month. The White House says the communist Chinese president will visit President Bush on April 20, seven months after their last meeting.

Apart from Iran, the two presidents are likely to discuss the war on terror, or radical Islamists, North Korea's nuclear program, and the exploding U.S. trade deficit with China, among other things.

Still ahead here, President Bush's guest worker plan for illegal aliens could go down to defeat in the Senate. We'll have a special report for you on the growing Senate backlash against White House immigration reforms. And Senate Majority -- Minority Leader Harry Reid's crash course on border security. We'll have a special report for you on the senator's education on immigration reform and border security today.

And new evidence that every piece of personal information that you have in your possession or about you is now fair game and up for sale. Even the IRS is now set to compromise your security, but, of course, for a price.

That story and a great deal more still ahead.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: Tonight, President Bush's immigration reform proposals are apparently in deep trouble on Capitol Hill. Senate Republicans are now seriously divided over the president's plan which would grant virtual amnesty to illegal alien workers.

We have two reports tonight as the United States Senate prepares to consider the most sweeping immigration reforms in two decades. In Washington, Bill Schneider on the growing rift within the Republican Party. And from the border with Mexico in California, Casey Wian reporting on Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's last-minute fact- finding trip to the borer.

We turn first to Bill Schneider in Washington -- Lou.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Lou, when the Senate returns to work next week, Topic A on the agenda will be immigration reform, something many senators would just assume not talk about.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Immigration reform sounds easy. President Bush has a plan, his party controls Congress, they pass the plan. Maybe not.

BUSH: Immigration is very a difficult issue for a lot of members, as you know.

SCHNEIDER: Republicans are keenly aware of public sentiment on immigration, which is running nearly 60 percent against President Bush's guest worker plan. Could be another populist uprising, just like the Dubai ports deal. Members of Congress face enormous pressure from workers, Hispanics, citizen activists, business, farmer, labor, civil rights and religious groups.

ANNA BURGER, CHANGE TO WIN COALITION: The Sensenbrenner bill adopted by the House is an evil bill. It criminalizes children, all of us, those who are immigrants and those who help immigrants.

SCHNEIDER: That House bill calls for tougher enforcement. REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: And in the House, we have passed now an immigration bill that includes 700 miles of border fence.

SCHNEIDER: But some Republicans, including the president, say enforcement is not enough.

BUSH: The idea of having a program that causes people to get stuffed in the back of 18-wheelers to risk their lives to sneak into America to do work that some people won't do is just not American.

SCHNEIDER: He's proposing a guest worker program, with no promise of citizenship. But there's a bipartisan proposal that does.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: But you have to work for six years, you get a green card, you pay a $2,000 fine, you have to know English and have to have a background check in case of criminal behavior.

SCHNEIDER: Just don't call it amnesty.

MCCAIN: That's very tough medicine. And anybody that calls that amnesty does not read the same dictionary that I do.


SCHNEIDER: So, the Republican position on immigration reform is all over the place. And the president says he's spending his political capital someplace else. The only thing the Republican majority seems to agree on is tougher enforcement, and that may be the only thing Congress can pass -- Lou.

DOBBS: As you say, they may agree on that, but it's unclear as to whether or not enforcement at the -- of our border security is even possible in the United States Senate. Is that correct?

SCHNEIDER: That is going to be very difficult. The House bill, a lot of senators don't like it. They say it's too tough. They want to water it down, they want to add other provisions. So it could be they end up passing nothing.

DOBBS: Passing nothing, except passing along -- let me ask you, Bill. You've covered not only this Congress, this president, but many before them. There seems to be something of an outdated notion in Washington these days that the old language of deception and obfuscation will still work on critical national issues.

Neither party seems to be awakening to the fact that the people of this country are a lot smarter than they're being given credit for.

SCHNEIDER: Well, there's a dirty little secret about Washington which is that nothing gets done unless there is an overwhelming sense of public urgency. Traditionally, an overwhelming public sense of urgency, which we maybe reaching on immigration, does get things through. We'll see. DOBBS: You used an expression I just have to bring to your attention and explore just a bit. You talked about a populist uprising. Populist, as in the people.


DOBBS: In other words, the idea that the people that we have sent to Washington, our elected representatives, would actually be representing the interests of most working men and women in this country and their families. That would be your definition of populist uprising?

SCHNEIDER: Populist uprising would be the people against the establishment. The opposite of populist is elitist, which means it's not left versus right. It's populist versus the establishment.

DOBBS: You know which column to put me under.


DOBBS: Thank you very much, Bill Schneider.

Just days before this immigration debate, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid traveled to the U.S. border with Mexico for a last-minute crash course on immigration and border security.

Casey Wian reports now on the education of Senator Harry Reid from San Ysidro, California.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The Las Vegas Strip may seem like a strange place to begin a full day of briefings on border security and immigration reform, but Nevada is home to Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid. It has a higher percentage of illegal alien residents than every state but Arizona and California, and the casino business is desperate for cheap labor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had an employee at all levels of our company coming from countries throughout Europe, Asia, Canada that we should be cautious not to punish those individuals who are in our country in a legal manner.

WIAN: Reid met with casino executives, union leaders and workers to discuss the value of immigration to the local and national economy, but apparently not the cost of illegal immigration.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: It's also a fact that our immigration system is broken, that our laws are out of step with what our national security objectives should be, our economic needs should be, and what our American values should be. We need to do something about that.

WIAN: Then it was off to the Mexican border in the company of Sheriff Bill Young of the Las Vegas Police Department for a tour of the area, including the San Ysidro port of entry, the busiest land port of crossing in the world. Also on the agenda, a visit to the massive drug and illegal alien smuggling tunnel recently discovered nearby.

Reid criticizes fellow lawmakers who favor securing the nation's borders before implementing a guest worker program, and he's vowed to try to block those efforts.

REID: The security of our nation is more than just having a lot more Border Patrol agents. It means doing it the right way, the smart way. And it means having a path to take care of these 11 million people so that they can earn a change of status.

WIAN: Reid has not taken a position in favor of any of the border security or immigration reform bills now before Congress. He says Democrats want "comprehensive immigration reform that includes a fair, workable and efficient immigration system, as well as tough enforcement of immigration laws."

What they're likely to get is a fight with lawmakers who want to secure the border first.


WIAN: Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist wants to move a border security bill to the Senate floor next week. Democratic leader Reid say that's too soon. More debate is needed. And he vowed today to use every delaying tactic available to make sure it doesn't happen -- Lou.

DOBBS: Casey, thank you very much.

Casey Wian, reporting from the border of San Ysidro, California.

Still ahead here, I'll be talking with Father Richard John Neuhaus, who says the Catholic bishops are the single-largest pro- illegal immigration group in this country.

And when the State Department wants secure lines of communication, it turns to communist China. Our government more dependent than ever on foreign technology and perhaps more vulnerable than ever.

How Washington planners ignored battlefield commanders and allowed the Iraq insurgency to take root and to prosper. I'm joined by the authors of the important book "Cobra II," criticism of the U.S. strategy and the conduct of the war.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: Tonight, national security experts are wondering what the United States was thinking when it allowed a communist Chinese company to buy IBM's PC business. There are new fears tonight that that deal will seriously harm this nation's security and allow communist China to increase its spying operations in this country. Christine Romans reports.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Sixteen thousand State Department computers around the world will be supplied by a company partially owned by the communist government of China. A press release touts the deal as part of a State Department upgrade that "ensures unclassified and unclassified systems remain state the art for both overseas posts and domestic offices."

China's Lenovo bought the right to be a U.S. government contractor when it bought IBM's PC business last year. And this new contract is resurrecting security concerns.

MICHAEL WESSEL, U.S.-CHINA ECON. & SEC. REV. COMM.: Sixteen thousand computers that are going to be deployed at the State Department all across the world, will give them access if they build in backdoors or other espionage tools to find out some of our deepest secrets regarding intelligence matters, regarding negotiations that are going on, and would be a treasure trove of information they could use against us.

ROMANS: The State Departments says 1,000 computers will have removable hard drives for classified information in embassies overseas. And a State Department spokesman downplayed security concerns, saying the computers were purchased under a standard procurement procedure.

MCCORMACK: It was done in full compliance with the requirements that were -- that were laid out.

ROMANS: By the book or not, there's no doubt the Chinese government brilliantly manipulates American security lapses. More than three years ago, the FBI director said China has at least 3,000 front companies in the U.S. to conduct espionage and said China would become our greatest intelligence threat in the next decade.

The Pentagon's Defense Science Board is studying the consequences of foreign influence on Department of Defense software. And last fall, the national counterintelligence executive told Congress, "Globalization has mixed foreign and U.S. companies in ways that have made it difficult to protect the technologies these firms develop or acquire."


ROMANS: During the 1980s and '90s, Chinese agents single- mindedly pursued U.S. nuclear technology through a mosaic of spies, front companies and outright theft. Today, the national security experts say the prize now is computer technology and information -- Lou.

DOBBS: And we should point out that those are computer experts and analysts outside the government. The government is all but silent on this issue with rare exceptions. Christine, thank you very much.

Christine Romans.

Turning now to some of your thoughts.

Frederick in Ohio said, "Dear Lou, I'm a legal immigrant to the United States. Last year the INS put me on the watch list. They said I was selected by an automated system because I'm considered a high- risk individual. I've never broken the law. I do not even have a parking ticket. Maybe I should have come through the Mexican border."

Donald in New York, " This administration, instead of having the buck stop at Mr. Bush's desk, has now passed the buck to the media. So I guess it's all your fault, Lou."

And Sam in Connecticut, "Lou, it appears we now know the Bush strategy for Iraq: keep the troops there until at least 2009, then let the next administration clean up his mess."

Elaine in Indiana, "One of your guests referred to NAFTA, CAFTA and 'HAFTA.' An appropriate addition to the mantra would be 'SHAFTA,' the shafters being big business, the shaftees being middle class America."

We'll have many of your thoughts coming up here later in the broadcast.

Next, as American troops raced to Baghdad three years ago, Washington ignored warnings of an incipient insurgency. We'll have the inside story of how the invasion and occupation of Iraq unfolded from the authors of this year's most important book on the beginning of this war and its conduct, "Cobra II."

And your tax return for sale. That's what the IRS has in mind, or at least some people at the IRS. It's latest attack on our privacy brought to you by the best government money can buy.

And the founder of the Institute for Religion and Public Life will join me. We'll be talking about the Catholic Church and its entrance into the illegal immigration debate.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: President Bush today strongly defended his conduct of the war in Iraq, a war that has now entered its fourth year. The war started on March 19th, 2003. A massive air missile strike on Baghdad, troops crossing the line of departure.

But the military campaign that removed Saddam Hussein from power also set the conditions in place for the insurgency that continues and seems to strengthen today.

That is the view of the authors of an important new book, "Cobra II" The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq." This book is the most complete, detailed and critical study of the war so far. The authors are Michael Gordon, chief military correspondent of the "New York Times," and General Bernard Trainor, retired lieutenant general of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Gentlemen, good to have you with us.


DOBBS: Let me begin with you, General. We're now in the fourth year of this war, 2,319 of our troops have been killed. The president is defending the conduct of this war. Is there, in your judgment, a way in which we could have avoided these casualties, more than 17,000 of our troops wounded?

TRAINOR: The whole plan and the execution of the plan was plagued by erroneous assumptions, bad judgments, and an overall policy that was in a sense counterproductive which led to an insurgency and we see the results of that today.

Yes, I think a lot of this could have been avoided, if the reality was not warped by the administration. They saw the situation in Iraq through their own eyes. They were inflexible in modifying the plan as the situation unfolded, which showed that the premises upon which the operation was to be conducted had to be changed and they didn't change it.

DOBBS: Michael Gordon, as the general points out, the secretary of defense who has talked and urged flexibility upon the Pentagon, the military, you point out was anything but flexible in certainly the initial stages of this war.

MICHAEL GORDON, CO-AUTHOR, "COBRA II": Yes, one of the great ironies, Lou, is that Secretary Rumsfeld, who has trumpeted the need to be flexible and adaptable, really didn't live up to his own program. And in the first few weeks of the war and really first few days of the war, it became evident that the U.S. forces were fighting a different sort of foe than the Pentagon had envisioned.

They weren't fighting Republican Guard troops or even regular army troops. They were fighting a paramilitary foe, and the forces in the field understood this, and there were some prescient intelligence officers who said, well, you know, we might be fighting this enemy after Baghdad falls. But back at the Pentagon and back at the Central Command, they didn't make any adjustment, and instead of sending more force, they began to curtail the reinforcements.

DOBBS: You highlight, as I recall, a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps, an intelligence officer, who made exactly that judgment. What was his name?

GORDON: His name, Lou, was Joe Apadhaka (ph) and he was an intelligent officer with Task Force Tarawa. They fought a very fierce battle Nasarya. He had had some experience at the CIA. He knew a bit about counterinsurgencies, and he said this is a force that we are bypassing as we go to Baghdad, We're going to have to deal with them later.

DOBBS: Tell me he was promoted to general and has been given great credit for his prescience.

GORDON: Well, he's now retired and in the private sectors.

DOBBS: I was afraid that you might tell me that, Michael.

General Trainor, the idea that we could -- I say we, I should -- have the immense, pleasant, joyous surprise that our troops could move so quickly to Baghdad but meanwhile, as you point out, leaving the Saddam Fedayeen, the paramilitary in place and as you and Michael point out, putting together the foundation, part of the foundation, an important part of the foundation for this insurgency.

How was it that the general staff could not comprehend the danger of that even as the Fedayeen were, as you point out, surprising the generals by the ferocity and the strength of their attacks?

TRAINOR: Lou, there were a number, a combination of things, Lou. The intelligence was erroneous. They recognized that the Saddam Fedayeen existed but they discounted them. General Franks, the central commander, referred to them nothing more than a speed bump on the way to Baghdad.

The focus of attention in the military's sense was the Republican Guard, which hardly fought at all, and in the political sense was Baghdad. Once you take Baghdad and had eliminated the Republican Guard, everything is going to be fine. So they discounted the paramilitaries.

Now, there was a window of opportunity right at the end of the war, after Saddam fell, where we were in the position to establish stability and security within the region and we failed to do it primarily because we didn't have enough people on the ground. We had enough soldiers to win the war, but we didn't have enough people on the ground, soldiers and marines, to take care of the stability and security requirements in the area.

And that window of opportunity closed very, very quickly with the disbanding the Iraqi army, the prohibition of local elections, and the rise of the insurgency, a lot of which was core based within the Fedayeen that had fought us all the way up to Baghdad.

DOBBS: Your account, Michael, you and General Trainor -- it is critical. General Tommy Franks -- it is, I think to General McKiernan's credit that he stood up, as you point out, for General Wallace.

But at same time, you also point out General McKiernan did not protest the failure, the decision, by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, in point in fact, but it was a failure to send in the first -- the Army's 1st Calvary. That would have been about 16,000 more men, as you point out, that would have been at a critical point. How are we to judge that decision, Michael? You first, if you would. GORDON: Well, there was a very important decision which really wasn't noted at the time. And Secretary Rumsfeld began to press General Franks to off ramp, in the Pentagon lingo, but cancel the deployment the 1st Calvary Division, which was to be the last remaining division to be deployed under their plan.

General Franks eventually acquiesced on it. I talked to him on the record about it. General McKiernan was a senior U.S. military officer in Baghdad at the time. He was unhappy about this decision.

So it's certainly not the case that the generals in the field got all of the forces they wanted as the White House keeps saying. But on the other hand, you know, when you're a general and your superiors make these decisions, you just salute and you try to carry on.

DOBBS: General Trainor, who's saluted, carried on with distinction. General, let me ask you this, your assessment of the current strategy of the conduct of this war, and your hopefulness about a strategy for victory on the part of this Pentagon and this administration?

TRAINOR: Well, I think we're somewhat irrelevant as the military force. We're almost like a cop on the beat in the middle of a domestic disturbance, probably the worst situation you can find yourself in. The key, of course, is to keep the army together and not have it split apart as confessional militias.

The key also is the clerics to make sure that they support some sort of a reconciliation government out there. And so far that seems to be holding. I think that they took a look in the future when they saw what happened at Samarra with the blowing up of the mosque, and they saw the violence and the slaughter and that was a look into the future that they didn't like.

And I think they want to avoid civil war. We're not at civil war right now. Hopefully, will not come but United States forces really, they can just play some sort of a support role to support the Iraqi authorities in maintaining stability and security.

But the real key then is political solution by the Iraqis to peel the Iraqi problem, where Khalilzad, our ambassador, is going to play a very major role.

DOBBS: As you say, it would be a purely Iraqi problem, General, were it not for 2,319 American lives lost and the wounding of more than 17,000 others. Let me ask you very quickly what I intended to ask perhaps more directly. Are you confident that the U.S. strategy in Iraq will be victorious in the sense that our troops will be coming home, security will be provided, and Iraq will emerge as a democracy?

TRAINOR: Lou, that would take the Oracle of Delphi and I'm not the Oracle of Delphi. I think there will be a reduction of troops probably within six months to a year. They'll draw down and they'll draw down in proportion to the ability of the Iraqis, both politically and militarily, to deal with the situation. Am I sanguine? Yes, I think I am sanguine. I'm not -- I guess I'm just the sort of person that sees the glass as half full rather than half empty.

DOBBS: Well, General Trainor, we thank you for both being here, your service and your optimism. Michael Gordon, you and the General have written a terrific book, insightful and helpful to all of us in understanding what is a complex and difficult, difficult war. Thank you.

TRAINOR: Thank you, Lou.

GORDON: Thank you.

DOBBS: The book is "Cobra II" and it is terrific.

Still ahead, the IRS knows more about you than just about anyone else, and if it has its way, that information could be sold to the highest bidder. It is another example of the best government money can buy. It is another example of the war on the middle class.

And tonight I'll be talking with a prominent Catholic priest who says the church has gone far too far in the debate over illegal immigration. Stay with us.


DOBBS: General Motors today announced it will offer early retirement buyouts for 113,000 of its employees. Management calls it, quote, "accelerated attrition," end quote.

And it is only the latest sign of the dramatic decline of the American automobile industry and the continued assault on working men and women in this country. General Motors reporting a $10.6 billion loss in 2005. The company continues to lose market share. Hourly employees will be eligible for lump sum payments of up to as much as $140,000 depending on years of service.

Bankrupt auto parts supplier Delphi also offer a buyout to 13,000 employees who can receive up to $35,000. General Motors hoping that these buyouts will help it meet its goal of cutting 30,000 jobs by 2008. Ford also planning to eliminate 30,000 jobs, Daimler Chrysler has a goal of 40,000 jobs.

General Motors negotiated the terms of the buyout with the United Auto Workers Union. Employees will have up to 52 days to accept or reject the offers.

Consumers personal information is a billion-dollar business for data brokers and marketers in this country. Now the Internal Revenue Service believes the information in your tax return should be for sale, to them. And for the first time, it wants to allow accountants and tax preparation companies such as H&R Block to sell your personal information. Lisa Sylvester reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Your tax returns are in many ways a map of your entire life. How much you make, your medical cost, charitable donations. It's all there. An Internal Revenue Service proposal would allow tax preparers to sell that information to marketing companies and data brokers.

BETH GIVENS, PRIVACY RIGHTS CLEARINGHOUSE: I think this is a shockingly bad idea, to allow tax preparers to sell these very sensitive documents. The information contained tells a lot about us, about our families.

SYLVESTER: The IRS ironically claims that its doing this to improve consumer protections. The agency argues that it would require consent before tax returns could be sent overseas for processing or disclosed to third parties.

In a statement, the IRS commissioner said, "The heart of this proposed regulation is about the right of taxpayers to control their tax return information." But many consumers could unwittingly sign away their privacy.

PETER SWIRE, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: The permission here is fake permission. The accountant sets all the little tabs out there and little red tabs and says sign here in all these places. And then you sign the consent and your record is now being sold to a database company.

SYLVESTER: It's hard to see why consumers would want to have their information sold.

BETH MCCONNELL, PENN. PIRG: I think it's incredibly significant, not only given the epidemic of identity theft that affects more than 9 million Americans every single year, but also just the barrage of marketing and advertising that consumers are already having a hard time controlling.

SYLVESTER: Consumer groups say for individuals, there's nothing to gain by having their records sold and everything to lose.


SYLVESTER: H&R Block did not return our calls for comment on this story. And there's a real sense that the IRS was trying to fly this one in under the radar. It called the change not a significant regulatory action, although most taxpayers would probably beg to differ, Lou.

DOBBS: Well, it is under the heading of, you can't make this stuff up. The Internal Revenue Service saying that we would be sharing our personal tax information to protect the privacy of our tax information. It's Orwellian. It's breathtaking and we thank you, Lisa Sylvester.

A reminder now to vote in our poll. Do you believe as members of the Bush administration claim, that the media is to blame for the rising public opposition to the war in Iraq? Cast your vote at, please. We'll have the results for you coming up here shortly.

Also ahead, another look at your thoughts and then God and politics. The Catholic Church and its controversial stance on illegal immigration and federal legislation. I'll be joined by one of the church's influential priest, who says illegal immigrants are needed here to fill those jobs that Americans just won't do. You're heard that language before. We'll be talking about whether that is truly the case and whether the Catholic Church should be so heavily invested in this issue. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Coming up at the top of the hour here on CNN, "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer. Wolf?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou. Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton, raising some eyebrows by bringing religion into the fight over immigration. I'll talk with the Senate minority leader Harry Reid about our porous borders. He's on the front lines of this debate, right now he's in southern California along the border with Mexico.

Also, outrage over a man in Afghanistan who converted from Islam to Christianity. Could he now be put to death for changing his religion in Afghanistan?

And street wars. It's not a video game, it's a real game players act now the public. The objective? Eliminate your opponent before you're eliminate. We'll show you what's going on. All of that coming up, Lou.

DOBBS: Wolf, we're looking forward to it. I know you're looking forward to continuing what we hope is a very happy birthday. Happy birthday, partner.

BLITZER: Hey, thanks very much, Lou.

DOBBS: All the best.

BLITZER: Thank you. As Wolf just mentioned, Senator Hillary Clinton tonight, voicing her opposition to tough border security legislation that's now under debate on Capitol Hill.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles, the leader of the largest Catholic diocese in this country, says worshipers should break the law, if necessary, to help illegal aliens in this tough -- if this tough border legislation is passed.

Joining me now to talk about God and politics, the Catholic Church and illegal immigration is Father Richard Neuhaus. He's founder the Institute for Religion and Public Life, and Father, it's good to have you here.

FATHER RICHARD NEUHAUS, INST. FOR RELIGION & PUBLIC LIFE: Good to be with you, Lou. DOBBS: The idea that the Catholic Church would, through in the person of the Bishop's Conference and Cardinal Mahoney, inject itself so vigorously and really call for basically civil disobedience is remarkable.

NEUHAUS: Well, the New York Times editorial page lauded him for his courage for introducing important moral considerations into this public policy issue.

DOBBS: What are the moral considerations if one names a specific piece of legislation, as the cardinal did. And calls for, first the rejection of the legislation, specifically, and calls for disobedience?

NEUHAUS: Yes. I think the language of civil disobedience was unfortunate. But you have to make a clear distinction between pastoral care on the one hand, which is the substantive issue that the cardinal was pushing, and on which he's right. The church cannot become a instrument of the law enforcement of the criminal justice system.

DOBBS: Should government become an instrument of the church?

NEUHAUS: No, no. The pastoral care is one thing, public policy is another thing. Now on pastoral care, the church's religious freedom is inviolable.

That means you serve everybody and you don't ask whether they're legal or illegal or whatever else the problems may be, you respond to the problems that are presented to you, because you simply are the church. Public policy, you're right. You get into a dicey area. But it's not simply limited to the Catholic Church and certainly not to this immigration policy.

DOBBS: No it's not.

NEUHAUS: It's whenever religious leaders use their authority in a way that seems to be suggesting that those who disagree with a particular position are somehow out of sync with the teachings of church. Then you begin to get problems, unless your really dealing with something like abortion, euthanasia, where you do have solid teaching of the church. But on immigration policy, obviously people of equal intelligence and goodwill can very strongly disagree, and do.

DOBBS: Vigorously. That's where we are right now in this time.

NEUHAUS: Of course.

DOBBS: But also we're talking about an issue that is broader even than illegal immigration. That is, the relationship between religion and government, God and politics. And frankly we're at a time, I will tell you, Father, I'm a very nervous American.

I believe in a separation of church and state. Millions of other Americans do, and The Constitution that seems to get in the way of a lot of people in this country insists upon it. And it is a two-way relationship. And it becomes very difficult to see how we can defend that separation if we permit an intrusion on the part the church into public policy.

Because we're watching -- not only Catholics, I want to be clear. We have evangelicals who are apparently influencing this administration strongly, reaching to the hearts, minds, and souls of some of our Congressional people as well.

NEUHAUS: But Lou, the separation of Church and state never meant, and cannot mean and never will mean the separation of religion from politics. Religion is basically those deepest commanding truths, those moral principles. It's not all that religion is, but it is certainly that, which you bring to bear in making political judgments and arguments. So the alternative is, and this is the argument of --

DOBBS: I have no problem.

NEUHAUS: The alternative is the naked public square. The alternative is a political process in which you say to certain people, because their deepest convictions are religiously grounded, you say oh you cannot bring your deep moral convictions into the debate.

DOBBS: I would want anyone to bring who they are into the debate.

NEUHAUS: Exactly.

DOBBS: Whether it be their religion, their spiritual beliefs.

NEUHAUS: Their political philosophy. Their, whatever, sure.

DOBBS: But when we take a personal system of religious beliefs and it becomes the foundation of public policy, it seems to me, when we're excited about whether a James Dobson likes a Supreme Court candidate or doesn't, whether the Catholic Church wants to bring 20 million additional adherents into its American church, while tolerating poverty in Mexico and Central America, then maybe we should all be discussing how the Catholic Church is conducting itself in social and governmental and political issues.

NEUHAUS: Let's not discuss it in terms of church state separation. Whether it be Jim Dobson or whether it be Cardinal Mahoney. The discussion is not --

DOBBS: I'll defer to you.

NEUHAUS: The discussion is not about church state separation. The discussion is an honest disagreement in which religious leaders, as much as everybody else, as citizens, participate in the deliberation and decision-making process in the public square. So the fact is, that you disagree.

DOBBS: No, I don't disagree. I'm out of time. I do disagree as well, but I'm more out of time than disagreeing. I hope you will come back soon and we'll continue the discussion.

NEUHAUS: Always a pleasure.

DOBBS: Appreciate it. Father Richard Neuhaus, thank you.

Still ahead here, the results of our poll tonight. We'll take another look at your thoughts. Please stay with us.


DOBBS: The results of our poll. Again, overwhelming, 92 percent of you do not believe the media is to blame for the rising public opposition to the war in Iraq as members of the administration claim. We'll see whether or not that is persuasive to the Bush administration.

Taking a look now at your you're thoughts, again.

Scott in California. "It's driving me nuts. Yesterday, in his press conference, Mr. Bush referred to jobs that Americans won't do. Is there any way we can correct that? Jobs that American companies aren't willing to pay a decent wage to Americans to do, perhaps. Jobs that employers are only willing to pay slave wages for. Geez, I wish I was in with the White House publicity department. They always come up with a spiffy phrase that quickly rolls off the tongue to describe a policy or situation in order to support their position. Apparently that's one job Americans can still do."

John in Louisiana. "I've been watching President Bush in West Virginia speaking to military families. It was so obvious that most of the questions asked were planted or planned."

And Laureen in California. "To the people who have been criticizing you lately, they should remember what Harry Truman said. "I don't give 'em Hell, I just tell the truth and they think it's Hell." We sure try, and we appreciate the thought.

Send us your thoughts, please, at Each you whose e-mail is read on this broadcast receives a copy my book "Exporting America."

We thank you for being with us tonight. Please join us here tomorrow. For all of us here, thanks for watching. Good night from New York.

"THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer starts right now.


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