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New Effort to Defend Iraq War; Dems Blast Rumsfeld; When Will Iraqi Forces Replace U.S. Troops?; President Bush Prepares to Launch New Public Relations Offensive to Defend Conduct of Iraq War; Administration Officials Compare War Against Terrorism to Fascism; Insurgents Killed Nearly 50 In Series of Attacks Across Iraq; Kenneth Tomlinson In Hot Water Again; Mexican Illegal Alien Facing Deportation Remains in Chicago Church; Chavez Travels To Syria

Aired August 30, 2006 - 18:00   ET


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, President Bush prepares to launch a new public relations offensive to defend his conduct of the war in Iraq. The campaign comes as the number of Americans killed rises sharply.
And a leading senator is trying to block your right to know about who wins government contracts and why.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Wednesday, August 30th.

Sitting in for Lou Dobbs, who's on vacation, Kitty Pilgrim.

PILGRIM: Good evening, everybody.

President Bush is beginning a three-week campaign to confront critics of the war in Iraq. The campaign comes as Democrats blast Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.

Ed Henry is traveling with the president in Nashville, Tennessee.

Dana Bash reports from Washington on the Democrat's accusations.

And Jamie McIntyre reports from the Pentagon on the progress of the war in Iraq.

We turn first to Ed Henry -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: ... Republican fund- raiser event. Tomorrow he heads to Salt Lake City to kick off yet another round of speeches about the stakes in the war on terror, culminating in a major address at the United Nations next month. We've heard this before, and this seems to be a tacit acknowledgement by the White House that the sales pitch has not worked.


HENRY (voice-over): With violence in Iraq getting worse, President Bush can hardly tout progress on the ground anymore. So he's rolling out a new and improved P.R. strategy, at least his third crack at a series of speeches on the stakes in the war on terror. GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And they're speeches to make it clear that if we were retreat before the job is done, this nation will become even more in jeopardy. These are important times. And I seriously hope people wouldn't politicize these issues that I'm going to talk about.

HENRY: This time focusing the sales pitch on a broader ideological struggle between the forces of freedom and tyranny all around the globe that administration officials liken to World War II.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Once again, we face similar challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism. Today, another enemy, a different kind of enemy, has made clear its intentions, with attacks in places like New York and Washington, D.C., Bali, London, Madrid, Moscow and so many other places.

HENRY: The new message got a test run Tuesday when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld spoke to the American Legion and took the gloves off, suggesting current White House critic support the type of appeasement that sparked the rise of nazism.

RUMSFELD: A sentiment took root that contended that, if only the growing threats that had begun to merge in Europe and Asia could be accommodated, then the carnage and the destruction of their recent memory of World War I could be avoided. It was a time when a certain amount of cynicism and moral confusion set in among Western democracies.

HENRY: This, as the White House trying to stem the political pressure to withdraw troops from Iraq. An election year call now coming not just from Democrats, but from Republicans like Chris Shays in Connecticut.

White House aides say when the president addresses the American Legion on Thursday, he will acknowledge these are unsettling times. But just like Vice President Cheney did this week, Mr. Bush will also try to put Iraq in a larger context as the fifth anniversary of 9/11 approaches.

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We were not in Iraq on September 11, 2001, and the terrorists hit us anyway. As President Bush has said, the hatred of the radicals existed before Iraq was an issue, and it will exist after Iraq is no longer an excuse.


HENRY: The president insisted last week that he will not question the patriotism of war critics, even though Secretary Rumsfeld seemed to come close to doing just that yesterday. It seems like a two-pronged strategy from the White House. The president comes out, says he doesn't want to politicize the debate, while Rumsfeld and Cheney and others really play some hardball -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thanks, Ed. Ed Henry.

Well, Democrats are furious with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld after he appeared to accuse his critics of appeasement. One leading Democrat said Rumsfeld's comments were "a political rant to hide his incompetence."

Dana Bash reports -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kitty, the Democrats pounced on Secretary Rumsfeld's comments. They see it as a chance to keep one of their election themes front and center, and that is what they call the administration's incompetence. And also, a chance to go after the man they think is the Republican's most flawed messenger when it comes to the Iraq war.

There was a deluge of press releases, conference calls, not only calling Rumsfeld's comments reckless and overly political, but also going after him personally, after his stewardship of national security and the Iraq war specifically.

I spoke with Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean in his office earlier today. Take a listen to what he said.


HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIRMAN: I believe Donald Rumsfeld is essentially an object of ridicule at this point. These ridiculous promises, they were going to pay for the war with the Iraqi oil revenues, that money's coming out of American taxpayers. For three months in Iraq we could have totally fixed Mississippi and Louisiana as a result of what happened in Hurricane Katrina. These -- these folks who are leading this country have priorities that are wrong for America.


BASH: Now, Democrats are also scoffing at Republicans, including Secretary Rumsfeld, using some new terminology to describe the war in Iraq and the war against terrorism, terms like "Islamic fascism." Democratic Senator Harry -- Jack Reed, I should say, of Rhode Island, called this analogy weak today and wrong.

He said, "This is not a nationalistic organization trying to seize control of a particular government, as fascism was." Reed called what America is dealing with now a "religious movement motivated by apocalyptic visions."

And today Howard Dean told us he doesn't care what words Republicans use, he insists what will matter to voters is that he says there are no results behind their words. Tough talk, he said, is no substitute for being tough and smart -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thanks, Dana.

Dana Bash. Well, the top U.S. general in Iraq today said Iraqi forces can take over nearly all security responsibilities in 12 to 18 months. But General George Casey did not say that means that U.S. forces can start large-scale withdrawals.

Jamie McIntyre reports from the Pentagon.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The top U.S. commander in Iraq says Iraqi security forces are basically trained and equipped in assuming a lead role about 75 percent of time. But he says they are not yet ready to be left on their own.

GEN. GEORGE CASEY, COMMANDER, MULTINATIONAL FORCE, IRAQ: I can see over the next 12 to 18 months, I can see the Iraqi security forces progressing to a point where they can take on the security responsibilities for the country with very little coalition support.

MCINTYRE: But even as Iraqi forces stand up, General George Casey did not say U.S. troops could stand down. Even though that is the stated exit strategy. Casey may be a little gun shy after this overly optimistic prediction from last year...

CASEY: I do believe we'll still be able to take some fairly substantial reductions after these elections in the spring and summer of next year.

MCINTYRE: That didn't happen because the violence got worse instead of better. Pressed for a fresh prediction of U.S. troops cuts, Casey was understandably cagey.

CASEY: I'm not sure yet. And we'll adjust that as we go. But a lot of that -- and, in fact, the future coalition presence 12 to 18 months from now is going to be decided by the Iraqi government.

MCINTYRE: Casey notes in a few days Iraqi generals will take over direct control of some Iraqi troops that up until now have all been under his command. The first step to putting all 10 Iraqi divisions under Iraqi command. But he concedes there have been some troubling events recently with what he called a small percentage of Iraqi troops.

This week, some members of the Iraqi 8th Division were killed when they ran out of ammunition in a fierce battle with Shiite militiamen. And 100 members of Iraq's 10th Division refused to go to Baghdad when ordered. And Iraqi troops failed to protect a base near Basra from looters after British troops turned it over to them.


MCINTYRE: Now, if Iraqi troops are, in fact, in control of much of Iraq a year, a year and a half from now, then it's possible that many U.S. troops will come home. But having been burned by even cautiously optimistic statements in the past, General George Casey is being very careful about making any public pronouncements -- Kitty. PILGRIM: Thanks, Jamie.

Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon.

Well, two more of our troops have died in Iraq. A Marine was killed in combat in Al Anbar province and a soldier died from a non- combat-related condition in Ramadi.

2,636 of our troops have been killed in Iraq, 19, 773 troops have been wounded. Ad of those troops, 8,991 were seriously wounded.

Today, insurgents killed nearly 50 people in a series of attacks across Iraq. Half of the Iraqis were killed in a single bomb attack in Baghdad. And that is despite a security crackdown.

Michael Holmes reports from Baghdad.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): U.S. and Iraqi officials had been pleased with the sharp drop in violence this month. That is, until this week. Since Sunday, 200 Iraqis have been killed in a bloody string of attacks around the country, more than 200 wounded.

Surja (ph) sells everything from food to electronics, and Iraqis travel from miles around to visit, making it a popular target for acts like this. For those who were there Wednesday, talk of a reduction in violence this month means little.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The situation won't get better for me. It goes from worse to worse, and the bloodshed will continue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I don't want to blame anyone because the entire situation is not good.

HOLMES: South of Baghdad, in the town of Hilla, an army recruitment center was targeted, a bomb rigged to a bicycle, killing a dozen people, wounding dozens more.

(on camera): Elsewhere around the country, the attacks continued near Baquba, just north of the capital. Six members of one family killed, two wounded, when the family's minibus was hit by a roadside bomb. Others killed and hurt in a second roadside bomb in the same area. Police in Baquba tell us it has been particularly targeted by sectarian violence. People killed even as they flee the area.

(voice-over): All of this as Operation Together Forward continues. U.S. and Iraqi troops sweeping through Baghdad's more violent suburbs, an operation successful in reducing sectarian killings in those areas, but clearly not affecting the ability of insurgents to attack elsewhere.

Michael Holmes, CNN, Baghdad.


PILGRIM: Still to come, outrage tonight after a senator tries to block your right to know about who benefits from government contracts.

Plus, you won't believe what a top government official was doing on the job. And you paid for it.

And an illegal alien has been holed up in a Chicago church for more than two weeks. Why haven't federal agents moved in?

We'll have a special report.


PILGRIM: In Washington, D.C., tonight, shocking new examples of your government at work.

Andrea Koppel reports tonight on the secret senator trying to kill important legislation with a secret hold. The senator has finally come forward tonight.

And Louise Schiavone reports on intense pressure to remove the head of the Voice of America amid charges that this Bush appointee has abused his office once again.

We begin tonight with Andrea Koppel -- Andrea.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kitty, while it wasn't exactly an Agatha Christie murder mystery, that certainly didn't stop this story from spreading like wildfire across the blogs and through otherwise quiet congressional offices this August. The question on everyone's lips, who had put an anonymous or a secret hold on a bill designed to bring more transparency to government spending?


KOPPEL (voice-over): This political whodunit captivated bloggers for days and brought together an unusual alliance on both sides of the aisle. One liberal blogger noted the bill "... seemed to be speeding on its way to full Senate passage when, in the dark of the night, an unknown senator placed a secret hold on the bill."

Another conservative-leaning blogger asked, "Who is the secret holder? We want to know. And we want your help finding out."

Finally, after days of speculation, the mystery was solved. A spokesman for Senator Ted Stevens confirming to CNN it was the seven- term Alaska Republican, explaining that (Senator Stevens) "has a series of concerns and questions about the bill... and he wants a cost benefit analysis to make sure it doesn't create an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy and not meet its purpose."

But Stevens' office disputes bloggers' claims that it was a secret, saying when Stevens placed the hold before the August recess, "He notified Senator Coburn and his staff and identified several questions we had with the bill." The bill, which would require the government to create a Google- like search engine to track all government spending, was introduced by Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn and Illinois Democrat Barack Obama earlier this year. And if it passes, congressional watchdog groups say, it would bring much needed transparency.

ELLEN MILLER, SUNLIGHT FOUNDATION: The key thing about this piece of legislation is the public will be able to know who gets contracts and for how much, and be able to hold lawmakers accountable and hold corporations accountable for the execution of their activities.


KOPPEL: But while the mystery may have been solved, the controversy over the legislation certainly is not. Just a short time ago a spokesman for one of the bill's chief sponsors, Republican Senator Tom Coburn, told CNN, "Senator Stevens sits on the committee where this bill was considered and never raised any objections because he skipped the hearings. His specific concerns were addressed at the hearings he skipped and his office has yet to meet with us to discuss his concerns despite repeated requests" -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Andrea Koppel.

Well, Senator Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is speaking out on this controversy. He will be our guest tomorrow night on this broadcast.

Bush appointee Kenneth Tomlinson is in hot water again in Washington. Now, Tomlinson was forced to step down from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting last year. And tonight there are new calls for his resignation in his new post. Tomlinson is accused, among other things, of running a horse racing venture out of his office.

Louise Schiavone reports.


LOUISE SCHIAVONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Democratic lawmakers are calling for the resignation of Voice of America chief Kenneth Tomlinson. That after a State Department probe found Tomlinson had crossed several ethical lines.

REP. HOWARD BERMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: When taxpayer dollars are spent like that, it's much harder to build public support and political support to appropriate the funds needed to have an effective public diplomacy program.

SCHIAVONE: A State Department investigation determined that "... Tomlinson had requested the hiring of a friend, signed invoices for almost a $250,000 dollars without providing any written reports of the work done by that friend."

The inquiry also determined that "... Tomlinson conducted some of the business of his horse farm out of his VOA office and directed some staff to work on personal matters."

CRAIG HOLMAN, PUBLIC CITIZEN: It is a bad thing to start mixing your business affairs with your public service.

SCHIAVONE: At the State Department...

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: We have seen this game before, where people will release selected parts of reports to try to -- try to color -- color people's -- people's views of a particular issue. I'm not going to play that game.

SCHIAVONE: A Tomlinson spokesman told CNN that in his four years at the government's broadcasting agency, he had, in his words, "no pattern of using government employees or resources for private purposes." He is convinced, "This I.G. investigation was inspired by partisan divisions"

It's not Tomlinson's first ethics controversy. He had to leave the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting under official criticism.


SCHIAVONE: Kitty, Tomlinson will not comment on whether or not the Bush White House, which says it insists upon strict ethical conduct, has been in touch with him. He tells CNN that he is not thinking about resigning, but clearly his pending nomination to a new term faces major difficulties in the Senate -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Louise Schiavone.

Well, still ahead, an illegal alien seeking sanctuary in a church is winning new support from the illegal alien amnesty movement. Massive protests are planned this weekend.

We'll have a special report.

Plus, the wildfire emergency deepens in southern California, east of Los Angeles.

We'll have the latest.

And Iran remains defiant on the eve of a key U.N. deadline. We're live in Tehran as Iran's nuclear showdown with the West intensifies.


PILGRIM: A Mexican illegal alien is facing deportation. So she has remained in a Chicago church.

Now, as we have reported extensively on this broadcast, she and her son took refuge there a full 16 days ago. And during that time, the illegal alien amnesty movement has intensified its fight to allow her to remain in the United States.

Casey Wian reports.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They call her the Rosa Parks of the immigrant rights movement. But Elvira Arellano is no legal immigrant. She's a fugitive deportable illegal alien who has taken refuge in this Chicago church.

She sought the spotlight, she says, to protect her 7-year-old son, a U.S. citizen. Now illegal alien advocacy groups in Los Angeles plan a Labor Day march in support of her cause.

MARIA ROSA IBARRA, UNITED FOOD & COMMERCIAL WORKERS: We demand to stop the deportations of and the separation of families. We're going to fight. We're going to ask other churches to also be sanctuaries.

WIAN: Amnesty advocates claim 600,000 illegal aliens face deportation and separation from their families, but they refuse to acknowledge any responsibility on the part of the illegal aliens who broke the law.

(on camera): Should they be able to come here illegally, have a child, an then be able to stay here indefinitely?

TAINA REYES, HERMANIDAD MEXICANA: I just wanted to point out that there's a demand for labor. There's a demand for the workforce. People come here to work. And their rights should be protected.

WIAN: Meanwhile, Phoenix-based Mothers Against Illegal Aliens traveled to the Chicago church to encourage immigration officials to apprehend Arellano.

MICHELLE DELLACROCE, MOTHERS AGAINST ILLEGAL ALIENS: The rule of law is what we have to go by here. This mother is not above the law. We have American mothers in jail that have children, but they have to pay the price. This lady has violated the law.

WIAN: They also want her child put in foster care, saying his current environment is unhealthy and he should be in school. Authorities rejected the request.

The Adalberto United Methodist Church released a statement saying it has "... provided for the legal, physical and emotional security of Saulito..." Arellano's son, and criticized the protest of Mothers Against Illegal Aliens as an action of hatred.


WIAN: ICE has so far made no move to apprehend Arellano. But its says she willfully violated U.S. immigration laws and now faces the consequences of her actions -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much.

Casey Wian. That brings us to the subject of our poll tonight.

Do you believe that churches should be allowed to offer safe haven to fugitive illegal aliens? Yes or no?

Cast your vote at and we'll bring you the results a little bit later in the broadcast.

Well, now it's our favorite time for some of your thoughts.

Shirley in Iowa writes, "Any politician worth his or her salt would have a two-pronged solution to immigration. First and foremost, secure or borders. Second, fine or imprison company owners who hire illegal aliens. But a politician who is worth his salt? I can't quite wrap my mind around that concept."

Bud in Indiana wrote in about electronic voting. "No paper trail, no accountability, no responsibility, no reason to vote."

And Kent in Virginia writes, "With the election fiascoes in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004, and the advent of electronic voting, perhaps we've fallen to the level of needing an international watchdog to oversee our elections as we have so often done abroad. How very sad for the USA."

E-mail us at We will have more of your thoughts a little bit later in the broadcast.

Coming up, dangerous weather warnings in effect tonight. We'll tell you where as storms churn through the Atlantic and the Pacific.

Also ahead, the latest outrageous anti-American comments from Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez while he's in Syria.

And President Bush prepared to defend his conduct of the Iraq war. Three of the best political commentators in the country will join us.


PILGRIM: Tonight, Tropical Depression Ernesto is dumping heavy rain across Florida. Ernesto was downgraded from a tropical storm to a tropical depression earlier today. It is expected to make its second landfall in the Carolinas tomorrow. Three inches or more of rain has already fallen in parts of Florida and there have been some power outages, but fairly little storm damage.

Now, in the eastern Pacific tonight, Hurricane John is now a powerful Category 4 storm. Maximum sustained winds have hit 135 miles an hour. Mexican tourist resorts on the Pacific are being hit with very heavy rains. Hurricane warnings have been posted for 300 miles of the Mexican coast.

Max Mayfield, the director of the National Hurricane Center, joins me tonight with the very latest on the storms.

Max, where will Ernesto -- the strength be? Where will be the brunt of it?

MAX MAYFIELD, DIR., NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Well, right now, it's not much of a system as far as the wind goes. The center is located right about here, southwest of Melbourne, Florida. It's going to come off near the cape tonight. And then it will head up towards the Carolinas.

We're getting some really heavy rain here in the bands on the western side even. So we're going to have some quite heavy rainfall amounts in some isolated areas. Then it will move up tomorrow into the Carolinas and that's also going to be a big concern.

We're forecasting four to eight inches of rain from coastal South Carolina northward through North Carolina into Virginia. Some others would say there was up there around 12 inches. And in the mountainous areas that's a real concern, because we do have loss of life often up there. Florida, most of it is so flat, that there should not be any cause for loss of life down here.

PILGRIM: The flooding is the worst, do you think?

MAYFIELD: Yes. I definitely do. And there will also be some isolated tornadoes most likely with Ernesto. But as it moves up into the Carolinas, that mid-Atlantic coast region, I really think that the concern will shift primarily to the rainfall.

PILGRIM: All right, so let's shift focus to Hurricane John. Category 4 at this point. What are we looking at, Max?

MAYFIELD: Well, here it is. A very small diameter eye, and it's already west of Acapulco, which is back in this area, headed over here, Cabo San Lucas is at the southern tip of Baja, California. That's going to be a real concern for these folks.

We've talked to the meteorological service in Mexico, actually we've been talking to them a lot here the last couple of days, and they do have a hurricane warning over a large sections of their southwest coast that will likely be extended over to portions of the Baja Peninsula here tonight or tomorrow.

PILGRIM: All right. We know you'll keep your eye on that for us. Thanks very much, Max Mayfield.

MAYFIELD: Thank you.

PILGRIM: Wildfires are burning out of control tonight in Southern California. Firefighters are battling a large blaze in the San Bernardino National Forest. That's about 60 miles east of Los Angeles. This fire has scorched some 2,000 acres. At least two homes have been destroyed.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was in Syria today blasting U.S. policy in the Mideast. Chavez vowed to stand by Syria in its fight against, quote, "U.S. imperial aggression." Chavez, it seems, will not miss any opportunity to blast U.S. policy no matter where he travels. Christine Romans reports.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The man who calls President Bush "Mr. Danger" earning a new nickname himself, "Chavez of Arabia." Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Syria with his counterpart President Bashar al-Assad, inserting himself into Mideast politics.

Chavez even more popular in the Arab world since he recalled his envoy to Israel last month. Side-by-side with Assad, Chavez declared the two countries are united against what he calls "American imperialist aggression." The administration once again refusing to respond to Chavez's taunts.

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: President Chavez, as we have said, is free to -- he's a head of state. He's free to travel and meet with whomever he wants to meet with.

ROMANS: And he's been meeting with a rogue's gallery of America's enemies.

JAMES PHILLIPS, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: He's seeking close relations with four of the six states on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism. That's Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Syria. And that's very strong cause for concern.

ROMANS: More than just needling the Bush administration, Chavez is circling the globe to ink oil deals in exchange for support for a rotating seat on the U.N. Security Council.

PETER DESHAZO, CTR. FOR STRATEGIC & INTL. STUDIES: It would be a problem, but not just for the U.S. It would be a problem for the European countries and for other democracies to have a country that is so close to Iran and that has been so supportive of North Korea to be on the body that may make important decisions regarding these two countries in the future.

ROMANS: The next stop of Chavez's global anti-American tour, Angola.


ROMANS: Chavez also forging ties with China and Russia, two countries analysts say no doubt will tread very carefully, eager to secure economic ties, but not wanting to complicate their own relationships with Washington, Kitty.

PILGRIM: Chavez has taken the opportunity to bash the United States at every turn on this trip. What's the damage assessment of this tour so far?

ROMANS: The analysts say there's an awful lot of bluster with Mr. Chavez and they realize that. But the White House will not be engaged in sort of these taunts. When the bluster becomes dangerous is when this guy is using his country's billions and billions in oil wealth maybe to get involved in some areas that may be detrimental to United States security. That's what a lot of people are watching. For now, a lot of bluster from Mr. Chavez.

PILGRIM: A lot of talk, that's for sure. Thanks very much, Christine Romans.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today called on Europe not to impose sanctions against Iran. This was a clear attempt by Tehran to split Europe from the United States. Washington says Iran must face sanctions if it does not stop enriching uranium by tomorrow.

Aneesh Raman reports from the Iranian capital of Tehran.


RAMAN (voice-over): The deadline is looming but Iran shows no sign it plans to bow to the United Nations demands and stop enriching uranium. In fact, the U.N. watchdog agency says there's evidence the country was continuing enrichment as recently as Tuesday. The U.N. has given Iran until tomorrow to halt the program or possibly face sanctions.

But on the eve of the deadline, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was still refusing to back down. He was quoted by state run media as saying, "Sanctions cannot dissuade the Iranian nation from achieving our lofty goals of progress." In the face of Iran's defiance, the U.S. State Department says it will start talks on sanctions with European allies and Russia as early as next week.

But why defy the West? Iranian officials believe it gives their country more influence in the Muslim world. They're already riding high from what they portray as Hezbollah's victory over Israel, Iran being a primary supporter of Hezbollah.

But Iranians themselves are divided by the prospect of sanctions. Most people feel immense pride in the country's nuclear program, especially among those in blue collar southern Tehran. Here it's all about making your daily wage and showing no weakness to the west.

"We are not afraid of economic sanctions," says Majid (ph), "because this is not the first time they want to impose them. And in the eight years of war we fought the entire world."

But head to northern Tehran, home to the more affluent, more moderate, and confidence gives way to concern. "Ordinary people," says 29-year-old Teshman (ph), "are very worried. In the university, in homes and at workplaces, people are very concerned. I can see that. They are very afraid."

But there is something even worse than sanctions that has people worried. It's the prospect of a military conflict over Iran's nuclear ambitions. Last week, the government launched a massive military exercise, war games, to demonstrate Iran's ability to defend itself, in part against potential attacks on its nuclear sites, something that could drag this country into a broader military conflict. That remains the worst case scenario.


RAMAN: A worst case scenario at its root, Kitty, is that Iran is desperate to be seen as the superpower in the Middle East. Desperate as well for direct engagement by the United States -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Aneesh, what are we expecting from Iran tomorrow? Are they simply waiting to see who blinks first?

RAMAN: Essentially, yes. Iran has made its claim. It says it will pursue its nuclear program even if sanctions are levied. It has laid the seeds of dissent that it hopes will cripple the Security Council from taking action against Iran.

It has called for new talks, new dialogue. That is something being welcomed by Russia and China. So now they're waiting to see, if the U.N. takes action, and then it will be up to the world to wait and see what Iran does. Iran has said before if sanctions are issued, it could kick out inspectors and pursue its nuclear program completely in secret -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Aneesh Raman in Tehran. Thanks, Aneesh.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan will visit Iran on Saturday. That's two days after the U.N. deadline expires. It is not clear what Annan hopes to achieve on the visit.

Well, today Annan visited Israel. He called on the Israeli government to lift its air and sea blockade of Lebanon. Israel refused. It said the blockade can only be lifted when all elements of the cease-fire with Hezbollah are in place.

Coming up, President Bush prepares a new campaign to defend his conduct of the war in Iraq. We'll hear from three of the countries most provocative political commentators.

And democracy at risk. Tonight efforts to create national standards for electronic voting and ensure the integrity of our elections. That report and more, ahead.


PILGRIM: President Bush is about to start a speech at a political fundraiser in Nashville, Tennessee. His speech comes one day before he launches a major new effort to defend his conduct of the war in Iraq. The president is likely to frame the war as part of a broad struggle between freedom and tyranny.

Administration officials say the war against radical Islamist terrorists is like the war against fascism. The president is trying to prevent the war from harming Republican chances in the midterm elections.

So joining me tonight is a syndicated columnist Miguel Perez and Errol Louis of the "New York Daily News" and from Washington D.C., "Washington Times" columnist Diana West. And thanks very much for being with us.

You know, let's talk about this new language. And this is the sort of rollout, three-week push on reframing the war. We had a good bit of movement today on the language and in the last few days. President Bush started using the phrase war against Islamic fascism, to sell it. He used the term earlier this month talking about the terrorism in Britain. And then we had Senator Rick Santorum use it on Monday night, and then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld just yesterday talked about a new type of fascism.

What do you believe this new language signifies? Is it political? Is it important? What's your view?

MIGUEL PEREZ, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It's semantics, but it's also very true. I think it is Islamic fascism. I agree with them. I have no problem with them calling them fascism. We are in a world war. And, you know, these people want to eliminate everybody who doesn't agree with them.

So, you know, they're not just in Iraq, they're all over the world. I think the point that they're trying to make, the Bush administration, is that, look, you know, let's take this out of the focus of only Iraq. We're at war here. And that's why I think it's right to call them fascists.

PILGRIM: And the war on terror was very vague, right?

ERROL LOUIS, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Well, you know, to tell you the truth, calling it Islamic fascism isn't that much more precise. I mean, if you look at any textbook definition of fascism, it is about the nation state sitting on top of the rights of the individual. These folks are engaged in something, as you say, is worldwide. I mean, they're talking about something that's religious in its orientation. They're talking about something that goes well beyond what Mussolini had in mind when he crafted this fascist vision of a powerful state that trumps the rights of the individual.

So it is a little bit fuzzy. It doesn't really past muster in that sense. I mean, if what they're saying is these are really, really bad people and this is like World War II, we all need to get on board and stop questioning our Republican candidates. I think that's really more like what the politics that's being attempted here.

PILGRIM: Diana, let's get you in on this.

DIANA WEST, WASHINGTON TIMES: Yes, well I think that the specificity of the adjective Islamic, it's very helpful. It takes us away from extremists and evil-doers and words that don't tell us anything. Fascism however, I think, connects the whole movement of global jihad to European political trends of the 20th century when in fact what we're facing is a recurrence that has roots in a religion that goes back 13 centuries. So I think we need a little more refining to get to us the concept of jihad rather than staying with European political ideologies. PILGRIM: That's a fair point, although it might resonate with his listeners in that they understand what the concept means.

WEST: Well, I think that listeners -- I think that his listeners are ready for a more sophisticated terminology. I mean, fascism may be an emotional appeal to the wars of our fathers and grandfathers, but I think that we need to really get specific about this for people to get behind it.

PILGRIM: Let me just quote Dennis Ross, who's a Mideast adviser to first President Bush and President Clinton and who certainly knows the turf and he said he would have chosen different words. He would have called it a war on radical Islam.

Now, the words that he used are quite similar to the words that we've been using on this broadcast literally for years from the very beginning. We've been calling it the war on radical Islamist terrorists. And we've rejected the war on terror immediately after it came out on this broadcast.

WEST: Yes, I know.

PILGRIM: Is this exactly what we're talking about? Is this the kind of precision that we need? Miguel?

PEREZ: Yes it is. Terrorism is -- was wrong to begin to say it was a war on terrorism. Terrorism is the method. It's not the ideology. The ideology is Islamic radicalism.

PILGRIM: What about the politicization of this issue, though? They're maybe finally getting it right, and yet it's still a political football, isn't it?

LOUIS: Well, you know, they only need to kick the football around for about 90 days until the election. So they're sort of trying to pull a fast one, I think. Over time, what we've seen and recent polls show that the American public has made a distinction between the war on terror and the war in Iraq.

And it took three or four years for it to really sink in and for their there to be debate and argument, to make a distinction. You know, and to realize that just you have an elected government doesn't mean it's going to be a free and democratic society or free and democratic government. The public has grown somewhat sophisticated. I think they're gambling that there won't be enough time.

WEST: I don't think it's quite right to look at this in terms of 90 days limitations. This is a long-term war. And I don't think trying to refine the language has anything to do with an election so much as it has to do with making sure that we actually make progress in this war.

PILGRIM: Let's quote someone else. Senator Jack Reed had this to say about the issue during a public conference call today and I believe we have a clip of this.


SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: I think it goes to the point of that their first response is you know, come up with a catchy slogan, and then they forget to do the hard work of digging into the facts and coming up with a strategy and resources that will counter the actual threats we face.


PILGRIM: So again, back to your point, Miguel, is all this debate about language, that doesn't change the reality on the ground, does it?

PEREZ: It doesn't at all. And I don't think it's just about language. And I don't think -- I mean, I hope the administration is not just playing a word game here. It has to be a lot more than that.

PILGRIM: But getting the will of the American people behind this effort is very important. We've seen a lot of slippage in the polls on people supporting the war. Isn't it important that the American people rally behind something this serious?

LOUIS: Yes, yes. No, it's critical. And even though I might disagree with the choice of words or the strategy that's being used, that's what you do in a democracy. I mean, you get the people behind you, you make your case, you try and get the support that you need to make this or any other kind of armed adventure overseas successful.

I just don't think it will necessarily work. I mean, over time, I think people will see and then a sort of cynicism sets in with the public, where they say, look, all they're doing is shuffling the deck. The terrorism gamble didn't work. Now they're calling it fascism. Now they're calling people appeasers. They're comparing them to Neville Chamberlain and the historical mistakes that go with that analogy we could spend all night on.

PILGRIM: We have quite a few other topics we're going to get to. We're going to take a quick break and we'll have much more with our guests coming up.

But first, a reminder to vote in tonight's poll. Do you believe that churches should be allowed to offer safe haven to fugitive illegal aliens? That's our question for tonight. Yes or no, cast your vote at We'll bring you the results in just a few minutes.


PILGRIM: Well joining me once again is syndicated columnist Miguel Perez, Errol Louis of the "New York Daily News" and "Washington Times" columnist Diana West.

And let's continue the fun with this secret senator, the senator who put a secret hold on legislation that would create accountability in the allocation process. Doesn't seem like it was quite the thing to pick an issue with is the accountability. What do you make of this new parlor game in Washington of trying to figure out who the secret senator is and all the discussion, Miguel?

PEREZ: I think even bigger than the bill that we're talking about, which is a great bill -- even bigger than the bill is a new discussion should be had on whether a senator should anonymously hold a bill.

PILGRIM: Well, this is a legitimate practice, right?

PEREZ: I know. But its...

PILGRIM: ... It's a provision that is allowed. And yet, it does create some issues when it's a bill on accountability. What do you think?

LOUIS: Well, fortunately we have the safety valve of the hermetically sealed world of the Senate, namely leaks. You know, it wasn't really all that much of a secret. And over time, we very quickly whittled it down, the press corps collectively and the bloggers giving an assist, down to about four senators. And then it turned out that it was Ted Stevens from Alaska, who was sort of miffed that one of the author of this reform legislation was one of those who killed his bridge to nowhere in Alaska. So I think the system worked pretty much the way it was supposed to work. And those who want to get it through their district, should stand up and be proud of it.


WEST: I agree. I agree with that. I think this is just the kind of situation in Washington that drives voters crazy. I mean, this accountability of being held up secretly? I think it is a practice that should be disallowed and the senator certainly can unvote this particular little perk that I think is not helpful.

PILGRIM: All right, well if anything illustrates it, this certainly has done quite effectively, because it's quite a topic of discussion. We have one other topic I'd like to get to. And that's former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage, actually the source of the leak in the Valerie Plame case. What do you make of this? This is yet another episode in that epic.

PEREZ: Well, it sort of weakens the case against the White House, I think. Now people can argue, look, the White House really wasn't after Valerie Plame and her husband because this came -- the original source wasn't Karl Rove after all.


LOUIS: I mean, the big loser in this is Armitage himself because I think people on both sides of the aisle are going to say, how could you have known that you were the source of this and just sat month after month while your colleagues were being investigated and dragged in front of grand juries and indicted and all of this kind of bad stuff coming down and you didn't take a bullet for the team and you didn't clear this up and let the public business move on to something else?

PILGRIM: The Sunday talk shows alone -- go ahead, Diana.

EST: Well, I completely agree with that. This was a situation also, I mean, come on, guys, the media has a lot of eating crow to do because we've seen three long years of conspiracy theories being spun out about a Bush, Rove, Cheney, Scooter Libby conspiracy to blacken the name of an anti-war critic. When it turns out that Armitage himself who is anti-war and coming out of the State Department who had no intention of blackening any anti-war critic is the source of the leak.

And I'm waiting for the media to acknowledge this and come around and do the honorable thing. And I would agree that Armitage does not come out well. And I would also say by extension, Colin Powell also was another one of the people who sat quietly through several years, according to the stories, not fessing up, not helping out his former colleagues in the White House and allowing the presidency to be seriously distracted if not damaged.

PILGRIM: Plenty of blame to go around. Thank you very much for being with us, Errol Louis, Miguel Perez and Diana West.

WEST: Thank you.

PILGRIM: Still ahead, more on your thoughts on the war in Iraq and more, plus the results of tonight's poll. So stay with us.


PILGRIM: Now the results of tonight's poll, 94 percent of you do not believe churches should be allowed to offer safe haven to fugitive illegal aliens.

Well, it is time now for some more of your thoughts.

And Adele in Tennessee wrote us: "It is interesting how the administration picks and chooses its references for the Iraq war. One minute it tells us that we are facing an enemy that is totally different than the ones we faced in the past. Another minute it uses World War II to remind us that we should continue to conduct the war in the manner we are because some in the past thought Hitler should be left alone. Well, wonders will never cease."

And Laura in Florida writes: "I think we've been patient too long already. The mission was to get rid of WMDs. Mission accomplished."

Gregory in New York: "Fast food, same day delivery, instant oatmeal. Americans need to realize that Iraq isn't instant coffee. Leaving now would show the world that we don't have the resolve to finish the job that Saddam started."

And Richard in Virginia: "On the question of being patient with the war in Iraq, I think we must be patient with the conduct of the war, but we should be impatient with George Bush."

Rich wrote in to say: "I have is a plan. We as American people are not being looked after by the people that are in power. So as I see it, we must vote out the incumbents that are in office no matter what party they are in. Maybe if we change them all, they will get the message. Also, the new people that are put in will at least try to do the right thing for fear of not making a second term."

We love hearing from you, so send us your thoughts at And each of you whose e-mail is read here will receive a copy of the "Financial Report of the United States" with a foreword by Congressman Jim Cooper of Tennessee. And a copy of Senator Byron Dorgan's important book, "Take This Job and Ship It."

Thanks for being with us tonight. Please join us tomorrow. Three of this nation's most distinguished experts on Iran will be here to talk about Iran's response to tomorrow's nuclear deadline. And Senator Charles Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee will be with us also. Good night from New York. "THE SITUATION ROOM" starts right now with John King -- John.


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