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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT
Look at Israel's Military Buildup Along Israeli-Lebanese Border; Hassan Nasrallah Says Southern Lebanon Will Be Graveyard for Israeli Troops; Diplomats at United Nations Trying to Agree on Resolution to End Conflict; Iraqi Opposition to War is Rising; Book Says Americans Still Don't Know Whole Truth About Initial Response on 9/11; Vali Nasr Interview; Border Patrol Agents in Trouble for Shooting Drug Smuggler
Aired August 9, 2006 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, insurgents have killed three more of our troops in Iraq and at least 16 Iraqis. A new poll in this country shows almost two-thirds of Americans opposing the war in Iraq.
Three of the top political analysts in the country join us to assess whether Senator Lieberman's defeat in Connecticut is the beginning of an antiwar mandate for the Democratic Party and its candidates.
Also tonight, the war between Israel and Hezbollah is expanding. Israeli tanks are on the move tonight after the Israeli security cabinet approved a huge escalation of the Israeli ground offensive.
We'll be live with reports from Israel and Lebanon.
And the federal government appears to be very proud that it has given immunity to a drug smuggler while destroying the lives of two federal agents. What in the world is going on?
We'll be live with that special report from El Paso, Texas, and we'll have the answers.
ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Wednesday, August 9th.
Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.
DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.
Israeli reinforcements tonight are pouring into southern Lebanon. Earlier today, the Israeli security cabinet approved a plan to push as far north as the Litani River, about 15 miles north of the Israeli- Lebanese border.
Israel tonight said Hezbollah terrorists killed 15 Israeli soldiers in southern Lebanon. And an Israeli television station is reporting tonight that Iranian revolutionary guards have been found among the bodies of Hezbollah terrorists killed by Israeli Defense Forces.
Israeli artillery tonight is blasting suspected Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon. The huge bombardment could be the prelude for a new Israeli offensive. Israeli officials say the war could last at least another 30 days.
John Roberts tonight reports from the Israeli-Lebanese border on Israel's huge military buildup along the border, and certainly within southern Lebanon.
Jim Clancy reports from Beirut on Hezbollah's defiance as Israel intensifies its airstrikes against targets in Lebanon.
And Richard Roth reports tonight from the United Nations on the increasingly urgent efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict.
We turn first to John Roberts -- John.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SR. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good evening to you, Wolf (sic).
We have a front-row seat for the latest front in this war between Israel and Hezbollah. We are in the northernmost part of Israel looking into Lebanon, and along the ridge lines and through the valleys behind me we have been watching at least 24 hours of intensive fire, artillery shells raining in, tank fire being fired at positions that are believed to be Hezbollah strongholds. And Israeli troops and armor on the ground pushing deeper into southern Lebanon.
From this northernmost point of the Israeli territory, the Litani River is only -- well, let's say it's fewer than five miles away from where we are without giving exact distances. So, for them to drive to the Litani River from here is a very -- well, it's not an easy walk, but it's a much more easy walk then it would be coming in from the central and the southern regions.
As you mentioned, a very, very deadly day today, the deadliest day for the Israeli military. Fifteen soldiers killed in fighting in the central sector around the towns of Bint Jbeil and Aita al-Shaab, which has been the scene of such intense fighting for almost two weeks now.
Up here in the northern sector, this is being called by Israeli officials a "pinpoint attack." This is not the major offensive that the cabinet approved today. They're still holding off on that for a little while to let the diplomatic track try to take hold.
But Lou, I can tell you, from my vantage point, if this is a pinpoint attack, they're using knitting needles.
DOBBS: Thank you very much.
Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, today said his fighters will turn southern Lebanon into what he called a graveyard for Israeli troops. Nasrallah said Israeli air and ground attacks have failed to weaken Hezbollah's capacity to launch rocket attacks against Israel. Jim Clancy reporting now from the Lebanese capital of Beirut -- Jim.
JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Israelis took on Hassan Nasrallah directly with leaflets this day, but it didn't seem to deter the leader. As the fighting continues along the Lebanese border, the sense here is that anything could happen.
Now, Hezbollah's tactics in this fight are already announced. They're not going to try to hold on to territory, it's all going to be hit and run.
Speaking of defiance, Hassan Nasrallah, on his own television station tonight, had these words for Israel...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HASSAN NASRALLAH, HEZBOLLAH LEADER (through translator): We will liberate our dear southern land. We will transfer it as a graveyard to the Zionists. All those will fight you at the front lines will fight you with bravery and wait for you at every village, at every hill or valley, at any stage. And thousands of Mujahadeen are waiting for you, are really determined. They're brave.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CLANCY: It was classic Nasrallah, calm, cool and collected. Still, Nasrallah is coming in from -- for increasing criticism from some in the Christian, the Sunni, and the Druze communities. None of those communities think that he anticipated this Israeli response, but they do know that they are paying a price for it, Lou.
People are watching and waiting very closely tonight. A hundred thousand people across south Lebanon are stranded there. What happens next could mean a life or death situation for them.
Back to you.
DOBBS: Jim, thank you very much.
Jim Clancy reporting tonight from Beirut.
Diplomats at the United Nations tonight urgently trying to agree on a resolution to end this conflict. There have been serious differences, substantial differences between the United States and France on any draft resolution, and Arab Nations say the U.S.-French proposal is biased in favor of Israel.
Richard Roth reports from the United Nations -- Richard.
RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Lou, there was scrambling behind closes doors and in the streets of Manhattan. High stakes, of course. The quest for a resolution still out there.
The United States ambassador, the British ambassador, separate meetings with that special envoy group from the Arab League, but still no deal tonight. And it certainly doesn't look like there will be any type of vote tomorrow.
Ambassador John Bolton before a meeting tonight with the permanent five countries of the Security Council.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOLTON, U.S. AMB. TO U.N.: OK. So negotiations continue, and I met this morning with the Amr Moussa, the secretary-general...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROTH: No. No.
Kevin, it's not the right -- all right. So that's Ambassador Bolton speaking earlier.
On his way into talks tonight with the five permanent members, where they were going to go over the latest draft, John Bolton said they're continuing to talk, they've met with the representatives of the Arab League, they hope to come to some sort of agreement. But he's not ready to predict anything.
The big stumbling block, Lou, remains, what time, when, where in southern Lebanon would any international force or an expanded U.N. force, or government troops from Lebanon, where will they be and when will Israel pull out? That's still the stumbling block on the wording. The only thing the French and U.S. agreed on today, Lou, was that the coffee at the French mission where they've been talking a lot is bad.
DOBBS: Well, that is an unfortunate area of agreement, particularly with people dying in Lebanon and Israel.
Richard, the French are withdrawing their demand for an international security force and acceding to the insistence certainly by the Arab League representatives that Israel withdraw. Where do we stand on the relationship between France and the United States in moving ahead with any kind of diplomatic effort to a cease-fire?
ROTH: Several descriptions, but you hear intense negotiations. A State Department spokesman said, "We're certainly getting along, but we still need an agreement." And the United States is not willing to change its position trusting Hezbollah while allowing the Lebanese government to say it can patrol the south and keep attacks from happening against Israel.
There's no breakoff in talks, they're going to continue negotiating. Now Britain, Russia and China are once again back in, and they'll offer suggestions on a way out of the wording deadlock.
DOBBS: Thank you very much.
Richard Roth from the United Nations.
Coming up here next, more of our troops have been killed today in Iraq. Opposition to the war in Iraq is rising. We'll have a special report on the Democratic Party's shifting attitudes to this war after Senator Joe Lieberman's defeat in Connecticut. And we'll have the latest for you on an opinion poll showing almost two-thirds of all Americans are opposed to that war.
Also tonight, what could be one of the most outrageous miscarriages of justice in this country. The federal government appearing to be very proud that it's given immunity to a drug smuggler while destroying the lives of two of its federal agents.
We'll have that special report.
And Israeli troops tonight preparing to launch a large offensive against Hezbollah, the largest of this conflict so far.
We'll have the very latest on a rapidly expanding and deadly conflict in southern Lebanon.
Stay with us.
DOBBS: Insurgents today killed three more of our troops in Iraq. At least 16 Iraqis were also killed today. The soldiers were killed in Al Anbar Province, west of Baghdad.
2,595 of our troops have been killed in Iraq. An average of two of our troops on average are being killed each and every day in Iraq.
The rising number of American casualties is fueling antiwar sentiment in this country. A new poll shows 60 percent of voters now oppose the war. And antiwar candidate Ned Lamont defeated Senator Joe Lieberman in Connecticut yesterday.
Barbara Starr reports tonight from the Pentagon on the escalating violence in Iraq.
Bill Schneider reports on the effect of Ned Lamont's primary victory on the Democratic Party.
We turn first to Barbara Starr -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, despite the latest security crackdown in Baghdad, clearly many Americans simply feel the news from Iraq is not getting any better.
STARR (voice-over): Another bomb attack at a central Baghdad marketplace. There is no indication that the sectarian violence is anything other than on the rise and becoming more brutal.
MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, SPOKESMAN, MULTINATIONAL FORCE, IRAQ: Disturbingly, anti-Iraqi forces, death squads, and others continue to use mosques not as a place of worship, but to store arms and to spread terror. STARR: Thirty-five hundred additional U.S. troops are headed to Baghdad, joining Iraqi units on new security patrols throughout the city. Some Iraqis have objected to the high-profile operations, but U.S. and Iraqi commanders believe it is the best hope for averting what many fear.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most Iraqis if you ask them will tell you that a civil war is already under way, and my policy is that if the local people say so, then it is very likely true.
STARR: It is a war that now 60 percent of Americans oppose, an all-time high, according to a poll be CNN and Opinion Research Corporation. Sixty-one percent say some U.S. troops should be withdrawn by the end of the year. Of those, 26 percent said they favor the withdrawal of all troops.
Even as U.S. and Iraqi commanders mark the transfer of power in northern Iraq from the 101st Airborne Division to the Iraqi army, the top U.S. commander was making clear any plans to bring U.S. troops home are now on hold.
GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, COMMANDER, CENTRAL COMMAND: I'm very much against set timetables, because as we've seen just in the last six to eight weeks, conditions on the ground here change. And this is a war, and that's what happens, action, reaction, counteraction.
STARR: Lou, U.S. commanders are now placing their hopes on -- the hope that these new security measures in Baghdad will work. But if they do not, if they do not control the violence, there's simply no indication what is plan B -- Lou.
DOBBS: Barbara, thank you very much.
Barbara Starr from the Pentagon tonight.
Top Democrats today declared their support for antiwar candidate Ned Lamont, who defeated Senator Joe Lieberman in Connecticut's primary election yesterday. Leading Democrats said the primary result "bodes well for Democratic victories in November," and what they call their efforts to take this country in a new direction.
Bill Schneider reports.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Here's what Joe Lieberman says about what happened to him in Connecticut.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: It was clear to me all along that this -- that if I had an opponent who had money, as this one did, they could make this or would try to make it into a referendum on George Bush and the Iraq war, both of which are intensely unpopular among Democrats. SCHNEIDER: Ninety percent of Democrats nationwide disapprove of President Bush. Eighty-six percent of Democrats oppose the war in Iraq. But antiwar sentiment is not limited to Democrats. Sixty percent of all Americans say they oppose the war, the highest level yet of antiwar sentiment.
The candidate who beat Lieberman in the Democratic primary says his campaign has a larger message.
NED LAMONT (D), SENATE CANDIDATE: I think we won because the people of Connecticut want to bring real change to Washington, D.C.
SCHNEIDER: Americans do seem to want change. Most voters say they are anti-incumbent, meaning inclined to vote for challengers rather than reelect people already in office. Translation: throw the bums out. Exactly the way they felt back in 1994 when they threw the Democratic bums out.
Lamont wants Democrats to be tougher, to stand up to President Bush and aggressively challenge him.
Lieberman calls that divisive.
LIEBERMAN: Lamont really represents polarization and partisanship, which is the last thing that we need more of in Washington.
SCHNEIDER: Lamont's response? Blame Bush, not me for dividing the country.
LAMONT: Take the war in Iraq. I think that's way outside of the bipartisan tradition of this country.
SCHNEIDER: Republicans are seizing on the Lamont victory to paint Democrats as the party of weakness.
KEN MEHLMAN, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: As the party that once stood for strength, now too often stands for retreat and defeat.
SCHNEIDER: Lamont's response?
LAMONT: As your senator, I'm going to make sure we have the strongest army on the face of this earth, but I also know that America is strongest when we work in concert with our allies, when we stay true to our values, and we deal with the rest of the world with respect.
SCHNEIDER: In other words, changing course could make the country stronger.
SCHNEIDER: The Connecticut primary may set the themes for '06. Lamont's message to Democrats: embrace change. The Republicans' response: beware of change, stay the course -- Lou. DOBBS: And it's interesting that we saw yesterday in the primary elections, Bill -- and I'm not sure what it portends, so I'll ask you -- we saw three incumbents, two Democrats and one Republican, lose.
SCHNEIDER: That's right. A Republican in Michigan, Cynthia McKinney, all different, all for very different reasons. All had some personal unpopularity, but the one candidate who does send the national message is Lieberman, because that's the one race where really voters regarded it as a referendum on President Bush, not just Lieberman.
DOBBS: And in coming as it does just -- just about two years after 2004, in which 99 percent of all incumbents won reelection, to see three go down in one election yesterday is remarkable, don't you think?
SCHNEIDER: It is. It's very rare for incumbents to be defeated in their own parties, and three of them were defeated yesterday. That's rare, indeed, and a bad portent for incumbents this year.
DOBBS: Thank you very much.
Ned Lamont's win last night, by the way, did something really interesting. It could -- could have a great influence on the United States Senate and Congress.
According to opensecrets.com, 77 members of the House tonight are millionaires. Four members of the House worth more than $15 million, in fact.
Now, if Ned Lamont gets elected, you'll be excited to know that the Senate won't lose any positions on its millionaire status. Forty- one members of the Senate, almost half of the Senate, are millionaires.
Two Senate members are worth at least $200 million a piece. So the affluence of our elected representatives will be in no way likely diminished.
Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney of Georgia another big loser in yesterday's primaries, losing to attorney Hank Johnson.
There are only 42 African-American members of Congress right now. Fewer than 10 percent of Congress. African-Americans make up just about 13 percent of the country's population.
In our poll tonight, do you intend to vote against incumbents in the November elections irrespective of their party affiliation?
Please cast your vote at LouDobbs.com. We'll have the results here later in the broadcast.
Diebold, of electronic voting fame, is assuring Americans tonight that there is no truth to charges that its electronic voting machines can be hacked merely by using a screwdriver and a portable memory drive. On "The Huffington Post" blog, contributing columnist Marty Kaplan posts a video demonstration of how to hack into a Diebold machine. Kaplan says it is possible to override the votes on the machine by simply unscrewing the machine, flipping a switch, plugging in an external flash drive with rigged votes.
Kaplan says there is no verified paper trail on this Diebold machine, so no one would ever find out. Diebold claims it's impossible to hack on to a machine as quickly, and it says a hacker would have to install new software and other features to rig votes, saying voting records on the machines are kept on "security memory cards." Secure, of course, as long as the cards are not lost or tampered with.
Judge for yourself. Go to "The Huffington Post" and watch Marty Kaplan show you what can be done with electronic voting.
Tonight, a new account of the government's response to September 11th points to a picture of ineptitude, confusion, and perhaps deception. A top Democrat, a Republican suggests Americans still don't know the full truth about that day.
We'll have that special report.
Also tonight, two Texas border patrol agents are facing 20 years in prison, but the drug smuggler they pursued given immunity by federal prosecutors. What in the world is going on in this country?
We'll have that special report for you tonight. We'll have the answers.
And tonight, Israel reporting 15 of its soldiers killed today. We'll be live in Beirut. I'll be talking with a Middle Eastern analyst who says Iran is the key to peace in the region.
Stay with us.
DOBBS: Tonight, we're one month away from the fifth anniversary of September 11th. A shocking new book by the 9/11 Commission co- chairmen, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, says Americans still don't know the whole truth about their government's initial response to those terrorist attacks that day.
Christine Romans has the report.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two hours of chaos and confusion on September 11th, and months of government ineptitude at incorrect testimony. A new book by 9/11 commission co- chairmen Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton outlines repeated misstatements by the Pentagon and Federal Aviation Administration.
They write, "Fog of war could explain why some people were confused on the day of 9/11. But it could not explain why all of the after-action reports, accident investigations and public testimony by FAA and NORAD officials advanced an account of 9/11 that was untrue."
Untrue, the military's original timeline of United Flight 93. The military said FAA notified NORAD of a hijacked plane at 9:16 a.m., 47 minutes before the plane crashed in Pennsylvania. In fact, the military found out three minutes after the plane crashed. And equally untrue, the government's timeline for American Flight 77 and details about fighter jets scrambled to intercept it.
The book also alleges government officials weren't forthcoming with the investigation and it took interviews and subpoenas to shake loose valuable information.
A Pentagon audit declassified last year found "DOD did not accurately report to the 9/11 Commission on the response to the September 11th, 2001 hijackings." Pentagon investigators blamed "insufficient forensic capabilities" and worse. Admits, "DOD might not be able to sufficiently capture and report on actions taken in response to a future significant air event."
Still, so far government investigators stopped short of calling all these inaccuracies lies.
ROMANS: Investigations are under way by the inspectors general of the Pentagon and the Department of Transportation to find out just why the FAA and NORAD didn't tell the truth.
Now, Kean and Hamilton say all the inaccuracies have fueled conspiracy theorists, they've stymied the investigation, and Lou, damaged the credibility of this government.
DOBBS: Well, this government doesn't deserve much credibility, does it? In point of fact, if all of the after-action reports are untrue, for whatever reason, that's a lie, because they were asserted as the truth by people who knew better or should have.
ROMANS: And really troubling, the Department of Defense's own inspector general report that was declassified showed that if the same thing happened again, you'd have the same chaos and the same misreporting or lies afterward.
DOBBS: Incompetence and ineptitude on the part of this government on September 11th and in the weeks and months leading up to it are established. The fact that the government would permit deception after a deception, whether honestly, if you can call it that, honestly intended or not. But the fact that they were continue and perpetuate the lie, suggests that we need a full investigation of what is going on and what is demonstrably an incompetent and at worst deceitful federal government.
Christine Romans, thank you very much. Incredible.
Tonight, the FBI has found three of those Egyptian college-age students who were reported missing in this country on their student visas. One of the students arrested in Minneapolis, two others turned themselves in. Eight other of the Egyptian citizens are still missing.
The men entered the country two weeks ago but didn't arrive at their stated destination, Montana State University. The FBI tonight says it has no indication the men pose a terrorist threat nor any indication as to where they are.
Taking a look now at your thoughts.
Michael in Pennsylvania, "Lou, President Bush landed in a jet on an aircraft carrier when the war in Iraq was 'Mission Accomplished.' Should he ride a donkey now that the border security is 'Mission Accomplished'? Oops, my mistake. That's the Democrat's symbol."
And Jean in North Dakota, "Lou, Lou, Lou, you misunderstood the president. He said up to 6,000 troops. That could be two troops, three troops, four along our border."
And La in California, "Lou, I have heard it said there's a fox behind every bush. Are today's comments by the president just another example of President Fox controlling the border from behind the scenes?"
And Mark in Maine, "Lou, you alarmist and fear monger, you. How dare you tell the American people the truth and fill us in on the facts. Don't you think we're much better off with the lies and cheap rhetoric we're getting from Washington? You know what? Neither do I. Please keep up the great work."
Send us your thoughts at LouDobbs.com. We'll have much more of your thinking here later in the broadcast.
Next, we're going live to Jim Clancy in Beirut for the latest in Beirut, where the Israeli military has intensified its bombing campaign.
And tonight I'll be talking with the author of the new book "The Shia Revival." He says the rising power of Hezbollah and other Shiite groups in the Mideast an epic event in Muslim and world history.
And two U.S. border patrol agents are facing the prospect of 20 years in prison. All because they tried to protect our border, apprehend a drug smuggler, and preserve the security of the United States. The federal government is prosecuting the agents rather than the drug smugglers.
Stay with us for that incredible and outrageous development next.
DOBBS: The Israeli army tonight has undertaken an aggressive new ground assault in southern Lebanon. The new Israeli offensive comes on the same day as the Israeli cabinet approved a wider Israeli ground war against Hezbollah. Jim Clancy tonight live in Beirut where there have been new Israeli missile attacks tonight. Jim.
CLANCY: Well, the U.N. is supposed to take a cease-fire vote tomorrow, but you wouldn't know it looking across Lebanon tonight. Israeli artillery roaring at Khiam, although we understand that the, from the Israelis, that this is not the new offensive that they have said that they're going to undertake, a wider offensive to move their forces up to the Litani River in advance of an expected U.N. protection force for that area, security force. At the same time Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, going on television, threatening to turn southern Lebanon into a graveyard.
Nasrallah's popularity soaring even as Israeli troop casualties also rise. This the single largest number of casualties in any one day, 15 Israeli soldiers were killed. Nasrallah's reputation under fire from the Israeli side. They dropped leaflets saying none of this was necessary, Nasrallah could have negotiated a prisoner exchange without $2.5 billion in damage to the infrastructure, but his popularity is only growing, Lou, because of civilian casualties. We were at a funeral today where the people there were galvanized by the fight in southern Lebanon and supportive of Hezbollah. Back to you.
DOBBS: Jim, thank you. Jim, reports tonight from Israel that Iranian soldiers have been found in southern Lebanon in some of those strikes by the Israeli Defense Forces. Can you shed any light on that for us tonight?
CLANCY: Well, I can't give you any independent confirmation of that. We simply don't know, but I can tell you this. Iranian Revolutionary Guards have been in the Bekaa Valley training Hezbollah since its very early days, 1982 onwards. The Iranians put troops in their training camps in there for Hezbollah.
They have been the guiding force for this group from the very beginning. We were here in the early 1980s, if you remember, Lou, and that area was almost a no-go zone because of the presence of those Revolutionary Guards at a time when U.S. citizens were being kidnapped by the pro-Iranian group. Back to you.
DOBBS: Jim, indeed I do remember. Jim Clancy, be safe, thank you. Jim Clancy reporting from Beirut.
As we reported an Israeli television station tonight is reporting dead Iranians have been found among the bodies of Hezbollah terrorists killed by Israeli troops in Lebanon, a further indication of Iran's drive for regional influence and the rise of Shia Muslims in the region.
My next guest says that the modern rise of the Shia is an epic event in Muslim history. He says it offers an opportunity to help in the bloodshed in both Iraq and the Middle East, and Vali Nasr is the author of the new book "The Shia Revival: How Conflicts Within Islam Will Shape The Future." And he joins us now. Good to have you here.
VALI NASR, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Thank you.
DOBBS: The idea that anything to do with the Shia right now, particularly the Hezbollah is personified as the principal actor in the Middle East, in terms of terrorism, Iran in its sponsorship as well as activities, seems counterintuitive.
NASR: Yes, it does, but in reality they have very successfully, through this war, taken over the Arab/Israeli issue. They've hijacked the Palestinian cause. They've sidelined the traditional Arab governments who have spoken for this cause, and they are essentially holding the cards in terms of stability in that region.
DOBBS: You look upon that as a positive?
NASR: No, I don't think it's a positive. I think it's a radical shift that throws U.S. policy into a tizzy. In other words, we have to sit back and rethink because the way in which we operated in that region through Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan to bring stability to the Arab/Israeli conflict is not possible anymore.
DOBBS: And do you believe that within this shifting power structure, that is to Iran, to the Shia, and going beyond the traditional states of the Arab League, the 22 states and focussing primarily on Iran that there's a way toward resolving conflict?
NASR: Well, Iran is the principal force behind Hezbollah, which is now engaged in the most ferocious fight in the region. Iran is also a very big player in Iraq. In other words, Iran holds a lot of the cards in places that conflict is raging and where the United States cares about, and, therefore, it does not help us to talk to the Arab League, and the Arab League is not a factor here.
DOBBS: The Arab league is not a factor for another reason, as you know, and that's that they have been absolutely an inert body, offering no assistance and duplicity on the part of many of the Arab states in terms of both Iraq and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict over the years. Iran, as a principal actor, how should U.S. policy adjust both in terms of Iraq, the Arab/Israeli conflict, and the global war on terror?
NASR: Well, and also there's another issue, which is the nuclear issue, which is looming toward the end of the month at the United Nations. But all of it suggests that Iran is acting as a regional power and is trying to actually convince the United States to take it seriously and to acknowledge that it holds a lot of the cards in the region. We have tried to deal with Iran through a carrot and stick policy, indirectly. We do not have a diplomatic link with Iran.
DOBBS: Right, but what should the United States do?
NASR: Well, I think there are, Iran has certain interests in Iraq and has certain interests in Lebanon that it is trying to protect, and there's also the issue of the negotiations over the nuclear deal. I think at some point the United States has to have a diplomatic relationship with Iran.
DOBBS: One to one talks?
NASR: One to one or multilateral, but actually have a channel where we can --
DOBBS: To what end?
NASR: Well, first of all, to create certain rules of the game in the region. In other words, the Iranians, for instance, have an interest in Lebanon clearly. To have a cease-fire that's going to last is not going to work unless ...
DOBBS: What's their interest in Iran?
NASR: In Iraq you mean?
DOBBS: Actually, I mean in Lebanon. Short of Hezbollah.
NASR: Well, Hezbollah is a very big deal for them. They are through Hezbollah, they are creating popularity for themselves in the Arab streets. They're also sending a signal to Washington that they matter.
DOBBS: Should Israel then take direct, put direct focus on Tehran as the active state here in sponsorship of the terrorism, rather than Damascus, and react accordingly?
NASR: Well, Israel already has. It's pointing the finger at Iran constantly as being the main force behind Hezbollah.
DOBBS: But I'm asking, professor, should Israel strike Iran?
NASR: Well, that option has always been on the table, but the question is Israel already has its hands full in Lebanon, and it has not been able to give a knockout blow to Hezbollah, and if you're not going to have a very clear workable military option on Iran, you have to think how else are you going to deal with Iran? You can't leave it alone, so you have to have a plan B. If it's not military, then it has to be some other way you're going to try to tame it.
DOBBS: Are you hopeful that such a thing could come to pass?
NASR: Not right now, not until there's some kind of a cessation of hostilities with Lebanon.
DOBBS: Thank you very much. Good to have you here.
NASR: Thank you.
DOBBS: We appreciate it.
Tonight two border patrol agents face 20-year prison sentences. They were prosecuted after pursuing a Mexican citizen illegally in the United States who tried to smuggle hundreds of pounds of drugs into this country. The drug smuggler has been given immunity. He violated the law by trying to smuggle more drugs, and guess who's in jail?
We'll have that special report on outrageous justice on the part of our federal government in Texas, and Senator Joe Lieberman's defeat rocking the country's political establishment. Three of the best political analysts in the country join us to asses the reverberations and the likely results. Stay with us.
DOBBS: Support is flooding in from all across the country tonight for two border patrol agents in Texas who could be sentenced to 20 years in prison for shooting a Mexican drug smuggler. Amazingly, federal prosecutors allowed the smuggler to walk free -- they gave him immunity -- in return for testimony against those agents. That drug smuggler subsequently smuggled more drugs.
Casey Wian reports from El Paso, Texas.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Border Patrol agent Ignacio Ramos shows us the Texas road where he first encountered a suspected Mexican drug smuggler last year.
IGNACIO RAMOS, BORDER PATROL AGENT: As soon as they passed me here, I just did a U-turn and followed them into town.
WIAN: Ramos and other agents followed his van which had earlier had tripped a hidden sensor near the border through the tiny town of Fabens, and then back toward the border.
RAMOS: To us, after many years of voting this area, when there's a vehicle away from a sensor and people running back south from that sensor, it usually means -- to us, that usually means that's a narcotics load.
WIAN: Ramos continued to pursue the suspected drug smuggler down this road, past fields, and to a canal just a few yards from Mexico.
RAMOS: He decided that he wasn't going to make it and he dumped the van right here, but the front of his van went right over the edge of the canal right there.
WIAN: The suspected smuggler fled into the canal, but another Border Patrol agent, Jose Compean was waiting for him on the other side. A scuffle ensued. The suspect fled, despite agents' orders to stop.
RAMOS: He made a move on Agent Compean to get around him. He got around agent Compean. It was at that time that I jumped into the canal to go help Agent Compean.
WIAN: Agent Ramos heard shots fired while he was in the canal.
RAMOS: I had to run up this area here, get over the levee, and when I got over on the other side, Agent Compean was on the ground. The suspect was running away from Agent Compean.
WIAN: Ramos said the suspect turned and made a motion as if to fire a gun at him.
RAMOS: I had my weapon in my hand, I picked up and fired. WIAN: The suspect disappeared into the Rio Grande and reemerged on the Mexican side. Ramos said he appeared uninjured. It sounds like a simple story of a drug smuggler who got away, but 18 months later, Agents Ramos and Compean are facing 20 years to life in prison convicted on a variety of charges, including assault with a firearm, civil rights violations, and obstruction of justice for not reporting their weapons had been fired.
T.J. BONNER, NATL. BORDER PATROL COUNCIL: This is really the most outrageous miscarriage of justice that I'm aware of in my entire 28-year career as a Border Patrol agent. I've never seen anything so -- I can't even think of the word. This is like diving into a trash can. The deeper you dig, the more it stinks.
WIAN: That's because the smuggler whose van contained nearly 800 pounds of marijuana was shot in the buttocks by the Border Patrol agents. The assistant U.S. attorney in El Paso gave the smuggler immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony against the agents. And the smuggler was encouraged to cooperate by the relatives of another Border Patrol agent in Arizona.
RAMOS: I was doing the job the public entrusted me to do. They entrusted me to stop a drug smuggler and I did.
WIAN: Joe Loya is the Agent Ramos' father-in-law. He and other family members have wiped out their savings trying to help with Ramos' defense.
JOE LOYA, FATHER-IN-LAW: I was preparing for retirement next year. Now, I guess I'll just have to work forever but, you know, our faith and our prayers is what keeps us going, and we're not giving up on this.
WIAN: Sources say the smuggler has since been arrested for carrying an even bigger load of drugs into the United States. The U.S. attorney prosecuting the agents would not comment on the case.
Ramos says he was offered several plea bargains and every time he refused, prosecutors added more charges to his case. Ramos is expected to be sentenced later this month and will immediately file an appeal. Despite the ordeal he says he would return to his job as a Border Patrol agent.
RAMOS: It may sound crazy, but yes, I'd still do it. It's what I am. It's what I do. It's what I love.
WIAN: U.S. Customs and Border Protection just released a statement to us, saying it takes "all allegations of impropriety seriously. Mr. Ramos and Mr. Compean were investigated by an independent office and afforded due process." The statement goes on to say, "CBP respects the decision made by the court as well as the rights of the agents to appeal that decision."
What's particularly striking to me, Lou, in that statement is that the agents' actions were not criticized by superiors in Washington -- Lou.
DOBBS: And to each one of those so-called violations -- and we should pin down who the prosecutor is here and where it originated with the U.S. attorney's office and why, because there are huge questions.
Firing a weapon is one issue. That's an administrative breach. Pursuing -- and we should go to this case as well. Pursuing a fleeing suspect is -- these agents are actually restricted by their own administrative guidelines, correct?
WIAN: That's correct. That's one of these things that really frustrated Border Patrol agents. There is a policy that they're not allowed to pursue suspects above the speed limit, but the agents say that that policy is routinely ignored. They have to ignore it or else they would never catch anyone.
It's winked at by their superiors, reports, they say, are doctored. They say that if shots had not been fired in this case there would have been no mention in the reports that there was a pursuit, that it would have just been that they followed the suspect. So there are a lot of questions still to be answered in this case, and that's why T.J. Bonner at the Border Patrol Union is calling for an independent investigation of the entire matter, Lou.
DOBBS: Independent investigation in this case should mean an investigation of the inspector -- the inspector general's office as well, the Office of the Inspector General as it's framed.
There should be an investigation of the U.S. Attorney's Office who would even suggest that the rights of an illegal alien, drug smuggler, caught with the goods has rights superior to those of the agents that we depend on to enforce the law.
And admittedly, not many of our laws are enforced when it comes to border security and immigration, but my God -- and the U.S. Attorney's Office wouldn't even talk to us, Casey?
WIAN: We made several attempts to contact the office. They responded saying they would -- they referred us to the original press release, when these officers or these agents were first charged, but they would not agree to be interviewed by us, Lou.
DOBBS: Well, I have to say that the U.S. Attorney's Office, the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted this has a lot of explaining to do, and we're going to be relentless in giving them the opportunity to do so on this broadcast.
Casey, I know you're going to be there covering this story for sometime, and we appreciate your report here tonight on what is by all appearances just an outrage and a miscarriage of justice perpetrated for whatever reason by the Justice Department, the U.S. Attorney's Office in El Paso, Texas, and we will get to the bottom of it with or without the help of the federal government.
Casey, thank you very much. Casey Wian, reporting tonight from El Paso, Texas.
Agents Ramos and Compean will be sentenced on August 22nd. And this broadcast will be following their story each and every day and every step of the way and we will be reporting to you on what in the world this government of ours is thinking.
Turning now to Iraq, insurgents today killed three more of our troops there. Israel says Hezbollah terrorists killed 15 Israeli soldiers in southern Lebanon today. We'll be talking about this conflict in the Middle East and the primary elections, and what they portend for our upcoming midterm elections with three of the very best political analysts in the country. Stay with us.
DOBBS: Joining me now Michael Goodwin, "New York Daily News," James Taranto, "Wall Street Journal," and Robert Zimmerman, top Democratic strategist. Let's start with you, it's your party, and they had quite a party in Connecticut. What does it portend?
ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It portends very good signs for the Democrats in the midterm elections, and maybe it was a sad party for Lieberman, but for Democrats to have almost a 50 percent primary turnout in the middle of August, it really is, as the "Times" reported, a moderate uprising, an uprising of moderates. Because what you're seeing now is not a victory for the left or not a victory for the right, you're seeing truly a mobilization of Democrats with anger and purpose and that's what counts.
DOBBS: Are you going to bring music in behind this?
ZIMMERMAN: I'll spare no expense.
JAMES TARANTO, "WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, I mean, you saw Lamont up on the stage with Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and Maxine Waters. Are these what you call moderates?
ZIMMERMAN: Is that relevant to the victory? This was not about Al Sharpton, with all due respect, and to Jesse Jackson, or about Bill Clinton, who endorsed Joe Lieberman. This election was about demand by Democrats to change the status quo, and what's also worth noting is 28,000 new Democrats enrolled to participate in this primary.
MICHAEL GOODWIN, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": I think the issue about it for me, there really are two things. First is Joe Lieberman was the closest to a centrist as you could have. He voted with Democrats 90 percent, with Republicans 10. I think we need more people like Joe Lieberman, not fewer.
And secondly the war on terror, which is a real issue for this country, I'm not sure that the Democrats are now going to say let's just sit this one out. But and that's fine, nobody likes Iraq, but what about the war on terror? What about Israel? What about the Mideast? Are we just going to pull out of there? That's what the Democratic party is getting ready to do. ZIMMERMAN: The centrist position in America today is opposition to the Bush administration's strategy in Iraq. It has been a dismally criminally executed --
DOBBS: James, go ahead.
TARANTO: I interview Ned Lamont a few months ago. He does not have a strategy for Iraq. He said, you know, we're going to pull our troops out, redeploy them to the periphery. This is something he got from your man John Murtha. I said what do you mean the periphery. Do you mean the border areas of Iraq? Do you mean surrounding countries? He said I don't think it really makes much difference. I mean, you know, I like Ned Lamont. He has a refreshing candor, but I don't think --
ZIMMERMAN: Chuck Hagel has a similar position. I don't think you can hide behind these cliches of cut and run and create these false choices that got us in this mess in the first place.
GOODWIN: I don't think these are cliches. I think there's a real issue here. What are we going to do about Muslim extremists throughout the Middle East and around the world. And if the answer is simply, when it gets tough we're going to withdraw because we can't find our way out of it, then I think we have now a system where ...
DOBBS: There's another issue here. I think we've got to be candid about it. We have generals sitting in the Pentagon running this and a civilian leadership who are asking the American people for patience instead of telling them how they're going to win a war. I don't think any American should tolerate that, especially when we have these brave young men and women in harm's way. Every day, on average, two of our troops die each day in Iraq. A hundred Iraqis.
ZIMMERMAN: But Lou, in defense of our generals.
DOBBS: I don't even want to hear the defense of the generals.
ZIMMERMAN: I'll give it.
ZIMMERMAN: Because they have told this administration they were not providing them with the number of troops ...
DOBBS: No, one general did that, and that's right. He did so before.
ZIMMERMAN: And also the administration ...
DOBBS: Come on, you're being a partisan now. That's ridiculous. The fact of the matter is, Robert, these generals are sitting there asking for patience, talking about other issues that they don't know a darned thing about instead of moving toward victory and achieving objectives and accomplishing a strategy which is unnamed in Iraq.
ZIMMERMAN: Because ultimately we have to, that's the Democratic point.
TARANTO: I agree with you. I think the administration should do better, and I wish we had an opposition party that was encouraging it to do better instead of just saying we need to get out of there.
DOBBS: Let's go quickly to one of your favorite people, James, Tony Snow had this to say today when asked about the war on terror.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Now, when the United States walked away, in the opinion of Osama bin Laden in 1991, bin Laden drew from that the conclusion that Americans were weak and wouldn't stay the course and that led to September 11.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: Did Tony Snow just blame the president's father for September 11?
GOODWIN: I hope not, but I think there really is an issue there about American resolve and Osama bin Laden has cited Somalia and clearly there's a belief among Muslim extremists.
DOBBS: But Tony Snow --
GOODWIN: He got his date wrong.
TARANTO: I think he was talking about the first Gulf War, and I think, this is a bipartisan problem. We had Carter in Iran in '79 not stand up when they took our hostages. We had Reagan pull out of Lebanon in 1983 after Hezbollah blew up 230 of our servicemen. We had Reagan make deals with the Iranians for the hostages. We didn't go to Baghdad and we pulled out of Somalia. This has been a bipartisan problem, this lack of resolve.
DOBBS: You can call it a bipartisan problem, it sounds like a litany of incompetence to me.
ZIMMERMAN: But the bottom line is I don't question the American people's resolve. It's not though about the administration's tactic of trying to talk tough. You have to think smart. And they have fought this war incompetently, criminally, negligently.
DOBBS: And you get the last word.
GOODWIN: I would not disagree with that at all. I think the performance in Iraq has been abysmal, but that doesn't mean we should get out and turn over the Mideast to the Muslim extremists.
DOBBS: There's something besides stay the course and cut and run.
GOODWIN: It's called victory.
DOBBS: It would be nice to hear a lot of discussion and reality around. Thank you Michael, James, thank you very much, Robert, even you, thank you.
Coming up next here we'll have more of your e-mails, including a viewer that's very concerned about the direction this country is headed. We have more than one viewer who would fit that category, but we're just reading this one e-mail on that subject. Stay with us.
DOBBS: Results of tonight's poll, 83 percent of say you intend to vote against incumbents in November elections, irrespective of the candidate's party affiliation. Now that's a fascinating result and I have to believe there are some chills going up and down the spines of a few hacks at the Republican National Committee and the Democratic national committee. Thank you for voting.
More of your thoughts now. And we're going to focus on one thought, because it is eloquent. T, in Tennessee wrote in to say, "Lou, your show is about to start, so I just want to preemptively say, "I agree!" What the hell is up with our government, man? Our borders, of course, continue to go unprotected while God only knows how much money is being wasted chasing never ending goals of far less importance. I mean is it just me or does it seem like America gets up in arms about some issue and Bush makes his speeches and Congress agrees to do this and that, then as soon as another issue comes up, things get dropped. And what's with the picking and choosing what laws to enforce? Or the whole making decisions in court based on what laws could become later, versus the laws that are currently in place (in favor of pushing amnesty for illegal aliens at that). I'm just fed up man. This is coming from someone who proudly deployed to the Middle East twice since 9/11. I'm not some anti-American guy. I love my country, but boy is it getting harder and harder to do that."
Just so you still do. Send us your thoughts at LouDobbs.com. We thank you for being with us and we want to extend an invitation to the prosecuting attorney in the case against those two border patrol agents, Deborah Canoff (ph), any time. We'd love to have you. For all of us here, good night from New York. "THE SITUATION ROOM" begins now with Wolf Blitzer from Jerusalem, Wolf.
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