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THE SITUATION ROOM

Bob Woodward Accuses Bush Administration of Dishonesty About Violence in Iraq

Aired September 28, 2006 - 19:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Lou. And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you tonight's top stories.
Happening now, Bob Woodward's new bombshell, the veteran journalist accuses the Bush administration of being dishonest about the violence in Iraq. It's 7:00 p.m. here in Washington. We're examining his reporting and possible political fallout.

Grim realities on the ground, it's 3:00 a.m. Friday in Iraq. We'll see the battle against Islamic militants through the eyes of U.S. Marines. Our Michael Ware will take us into the killing zone.

And diplomatic drama, a real-life president is in the news by a comedian's (INAUDIBLE) of his country. Is that triggering an international incident or even more laughs?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Tonight, powerful new allegations by the journalist Bob Woodward accusing the White House of being in a quote, "state of denial about Iraq." Woodward is revealing new details from his book on the war, the insurgency, and whether the Bush administration is being honest with the American people.

Our Mary Snow is standing by with more -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: well, Wolf, the early word in the publishing circles is that this latest book from the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist has the potential to be election altering.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): "State of Denial: Bush at War, Part Three" is claimed to reveal damaging secrets from inside the White House about the war in Iraq. One of those secrets Bob Woodward tells CBS' "60 Minutes" is that the administration isn't telling the full story about the amount of violence. In an interview to air Sunday, CBS quotes Woodward of saying, it's getting to the point now where there are eight, 900 attacks a week. That's more than 100 a day. That's four an hour attacking our forces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A Bob Woodward book is always a bombshell event and the fact that the book is even called "State of Denial" suggests that perhaps he's going to be more critical of the Bush administration and his handling of the Iraq war than he has been in the past.

SNOW: Critics have accused Woodward of being too soft on the Bush administration in his last two books, while this new one is under lock and key until it hits the bookstores on Monday, the details he's purportedly revealed to CBS indicate it could be highly critical of the White House.

He tells "60 Minutes" there is intelligence being kept under wraps that the insurgency will get worse in 2007. And he reveals that Henry Kissinger, the secretary of state under Richard Nixon during the Vietnam War, meets often with the president and vice president as an adviser. Kissinger's advice, he reports, has been victory is the only meaningful strategy. Kissinger was traveling and could not be reached for comment. But in an interview with "Late Edition" in March, he made a similar argument.

HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I do not think that setting a deadline is a youthful strategy because then everything is working in the expectation of a fixed deadline in which the insurgents can simply wait us out.

SNOW: A senior administration official downplayed the book, telling CNN quote, "It doesn't appear to be anything new. The president has been very frank with the country about the challenges we face in the war on terror, how ruthless, violent and determined our enemy is." Some predict Woodward's claims might be felt in the November elections.

HOWARD KURTZ, WASHINGTON POST: When Iraq is such an overriding issue, in these House and Senate campaigns, undoubtedly it's going to have an impact and is going to provide ammunition probably for Democratic candidates running against Republicans to try to hang that war and its missteps around the neck of the Bush White House.

SNOW: But Woodward told CBS that President Bush is so certain about staying in Iraq, that he told key Republicans quote, "I will not withdraw, even if war and Barney are the only ones supporting me."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: And expect a major media campaign to begin this weekend with the "Washington Post" and "Newsweek" publishing excerpts of the book -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary, the whole nature of this media campaign, it starts technically with "60 Minutes" Sunday night, but there will be excerpts in the "Washington Post" and "Newsweek" magazine and CBS is already beginning, if you will, to promote its "60 Minutes" program.

SNOW: That's right, Wolf. And tonight, we did hear from Woodward himself. And CBS is making public some of these excerpts. So just how convinced is Woodward about these claims? You'll have to listen for yourself. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The truth is that the assessment by the intelligence experts is that next year -- now next year's 2007 -- is going to get worse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: And Wolf, one other point that Woodward makes is that Henry Kissinger in his words is almost treated like a member of the family at the White House -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Mary, thank you very much. Meanwhile, there's a new audiotape out believed to be from the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq. He's warning his group is launching a major military campaign and he's urging other Muslims in Iraq to join. CNN so far is unable to independently verify the speaker's identity.

Though, for more on that tape, and the new allegations by Bob Woodward, we go to the Iraqi capital. And joining us now from Baghdad our correspondent Michael Ware. Michael, there's a suggestion, word beginning to circulate now in this new Bob Woodward book that perhaps in 2007, the insurgency, the sectarian violence, the bloodshed in Iraq is going to be even worse than it's been in 2006 and 2005. Looking down the road, based on everything you've been seeing and hearing, you've been embedded with the U.S. troops, you're speaking to various forces out there, does it look like the situation next year is going to be worse or better?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's in absolutely no one's interest within the insurgency or the militias, which currently hold sway with the governments or among these lethal sectarian death squads to let up. There's simply no incentive for them to do so. In fact, it is the extremes, about the Sunni and Shia communities that are not only dominating the insurgency, but also increasingly dominating the political agenda, whom are benefiting from all this violence, which there is simply not enough U.S. forces or Iraqi forces for what they're worth to contain it.

So there's no reason for this to decrease. In fact, there's ever reason to suggest it should increase, and we have every sign that these insurgents and militias have this well within their capabilities -- Wolf.

BLITZER: But what about the suggestion that the Iraqi military, the Iraqi police forces, that they are becoming increasingly more successful, or more better prepared, better trained to deal with this, and as a result, the burden on the international forces, especially the U.S. forces, will be reduced?

WARE: Well I mean that's the crux of the whole plan, isn't it, train them up until they can withstand the al Qaeda onslaught, even though we don't have enough troops now to withstand the al Qaeda onslaught and then leave them to it. Well that's paper thin. That is a deck of cards.

And offline, most American commanders will concede the drastic limitations of the Iraqi forces that they work with. And this is not even touching on the fact that key elements, large sections of these Iraqi security forces are in the sway of the Iranian-backed militias. The surrogates, as U.S. military intelligence calls them otherwise chunks are heavily penetrated by the insurgency. So really this is a mirage in so many ways -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We heard a new audiotape from the new al Qaeda leader in Iraq. After Abu Musab al Zarqawi was killed, by U.S. forces, it was going to get better. But now this guy shows up, and making all sorts of threats out there. What's your take on what we heard from Abu al-Masri?

WARE: Well, I think this message is a declaration. I mean this is the first chapter of (INAUDIBLE) manifesto. He's establishing a new platform for al Qaeda in Iraq. Zarqawi and his, you know, assassinated religious right-hand man, Abu Nas al Shami (ph), both carved out a certain path. Where with Zarqawi's death, the question was, would that path be followed?

But the replacement for Zarqawi being an Egyptian, a veteran of the Afghan al Qaeda camps, and coming from the Egyptian strain of jihad, which is increasingly growing greater influence inside al Qaeda itself, it's signaled to return to classic al Qaeda. And this platform suggests that here he is starting to spell it out. And most menacingly he vows that he now unleashes a new military campaign against the infidels in Iraq -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a story. Michael thanks very much for joining us.

And our new CNN poll shows 65 percent of Americans now believe Iraq is in civil war. That's up from 56 percent back in April.

Let's go to CNN Zain Verjee. She's joining now us with some other important news coming out of Iraq -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, a little more now on what you were discussing with Michael Ware, a man claiming to be al Qaeda in Iraq's new leader, Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, is urging nuclear scientists and explosives experts to join the group's holy war in a chilling audiotape posted on Islamic Web site.

He's also calling on followers to kidnap Westerners to be traded for a Muslim cleric held in the U.S. and he said more than 4,000 foreign militants have been killed in Iraq since 2003.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says it's impossible to be certain if the Iraq war has created more terrorists. During a trip to Eastern Europe, Rumsfeld offered his first extensive comments on that national intelligence estimate on the global terror threat. He says sometimes those reports are just flat wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Are more terrorists being created in the world? We don't know. The world doesn't know. There are not good metrics to determine how many people are being trained in a radical madrassas school in some country that's being funded by an extremist, teaching young people to go out and kill people. We just -- there's no metric that you can gather all of that information, and pull it together and know what's being produced. We do have a pretty good idea on the number being captured and killed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERJEE: And "CNN PRESENTS," a new documentary on the defense secretary's leadership and a startling miscalculation. "Rumsfeld: Man of War" airs on Saturday and Sunday night at 8:00 Eastern here on CNN.

Another grim take on the bloodshed in Iraq, a report prepared for the United Nations says al Qaeda continues to play a central role in encouraging and carrying out sectarian violence. And it also says Iraq's become al Qaeda's training ground for new recruits. The report seems to support a national intelligence estimate finding -- partially national intelligence estimate finding -- excuse me, partially declassified by President Bush this week -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Zain thanks very much. Let's bring in Jack Cafferty in New York. This story in Iraq, it's going -- looks like it's going at least from bad to worse.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, that may be, but President Bush is absolutely certain that the United States is on the right track in Iraq. That's according to this new book by Bob Woodward. In fact, Bush is so sure that he supposedly told a group of Republicans gathered at the White House quote, "I will not withdraw even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me", unquote.

Apparently it doesn't matter that almost two-thirds of Americans oppose the war in Iraq. That only a quarter of this country thinks we're winning the war in Iraq. And that most Americans think the situation in Iraq has degenerated into a civil war, 65 percent, as long as Barney supports him.

So here's the question -- how would you react if President Bush said about Iraq, I will not withdraw even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me? E-mail your thoughts to CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile. And Barney, by the way, is that little black dog that he packs around, not that purple dinosaur on PBS.

BLITZER: He's the first dog, as they say.

CAFFERTY: Well, I guess he is, as a manner of speaking, yes.

BLITZER: All right. Jack, thank you. Jack will be back shortly.

And coming up, Pakistan's president the day after his U.S. P.R. (INAUDIBLE) blasted in London. Accusations his intelligence service is actually helping al Qaeda.

Plus, on the front lines, the war through the eyes of U.S. Marines facing a fierce battle on the streets of Ramadi. And politically incorrect, a comedy about Kazakhstan starts a media war on the eve of an important White House visit. We're going to tell you what's going on.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Just moments ago a critical victory for President Bush in the war on terror. The U.S. Senate gave what amounts to final approval of a bill setting rules for the interrogation and the trial of terror suspects. It's expected to head to Mr. Bush's desk for his signature in the next few days, after he personally lobbied lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Also visible on the Hill today, new sniping over which party can better protect Americans from terrorists.

Here's our congressional correspondent, Andrea Koppel.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush arrived on Capitol Hill on the verge of scoring a big victory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning, Mr. President.

KOPPEL: He didn't answer, but the president's smile spoke volumes. Only hours earlier, House Republicans handed him a top election year priority, passing a bill to interrogate and try suspected terrorists. Now the president was here to rally Senate Republicans to do the same.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our most important responsibility is to protect the American people from further attack. And we cannot be able to tell the American people we're doing our full job unless we have the tools necessary to do so.

KOPPEL: With Congress set to adjourn this week ahead of November midterms, Republicans are racing to pass key anti-terror legislation, calling Democrats who don't support them soft on terrorism.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: You can't say that you're serious about taking on the terrorists if you stand up here every day and vote no.

KOPPEL: Following Wednesday's vote to set up military tribunals, House Speaker Dennis Hastert accused Democrats who voted against the bill of coddling terrorists writing, "In fact, Democrat Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and 159 of her Democrat colleagues voted today in favor of more rights for terrorists." Hastert was asked today if he stands by his statement.

REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Oh, yes, absolutely. I mean what we're trying to do is put terrorists behind bars and make sure that they don't get out, and kill people in this country.

KOPPEL: Pelosi fired back.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: I think the speaker is a desperate man. For him to say that, what would you think that anyone in our country wants to coddle terrorists?

KOPPEL (on camera): The name-calling and partisan sniping is only expected to get worse and even more intense, the closer we get to the November Senate election. But for the next day or so, at least until Congress adjourns, the two parties will be focused on passing or blocking legislation in order to best position themselves for that campaign.

Andrea Koppel, CNN, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Fresh from a high-profile visit to Washington, the Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf, arrived in London today amid allegations his intelligence service is indirectly supporting terrorism.

CNN's Brian Todd joining us now with this part of the story -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, those allegations surfaced in a leaked document that was prepared for the British Defense Ministry. The story President Musharraf immediately on the defensive.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): At every stop, Pervez Musharraf confronts growing pressure about his role in the war on terror. In London, a research document prepared for the British Ministry of Defense and leaked to the BBC says Pakistan's security service, the ISI, has indirectly supported terrorism by backing religious parties. The Ministry of Defense distances itself from that document. Musharraf responds.

PRES. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PAKISTAN: Now these (INAUDIBLE) against ISI or by vested interests and whoever -- and by those who doesn't understand ground realities. I don't accept them at all and I reject them fully.

TODD: But Musharraf purportedly admits to NBC News former Pakistani intelligence officials may be working with the Taliban. Musharraf promises to keep a tight watch on those officials. Analysts say it's significant if Musharraf admitted that connection. On the relationship between Pakistani intelligence and the Taliban...

MUSHARRAF: The Taliban could not have grown without the support of the ISI. They became an Afghan national group primarily because of the arms and training provided by the ISI.

TODD: And new information on Musharraf's recent deal with tribal elders near the Afghan border in the dangerous Waziristan region. Those leaders, some sympathetic to the Taliban, agree to stop fighting Pakistani troops there. In return, the elders would stop cross border attacks against U.S. forces and their allies in Afghanistan.

But a U.S. military official in Afghanistan tells CNN attacks against U.S. forces in that area have gone up since the deal was reached. It says American soldiers have reported in some cases they've increased three-fold. CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen just returned from a U.S. firebase in that area.

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: There were already rocket attacks on the base, but up to 40 rockets landing on the base that we were at since this peace agreement has been signed.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: A short time ago, I spoke with Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S. who denies that these attacks are coming from inside Pakistan. He says neither the Taliban nor al Qaeda are operating in that Waziristan region. And he also said he denies reports that the Pakistani military has pulled back from there. The ambassador says Pakistani troops are patrolling the border -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting, thank you, Brian.

And still to come tonight here in THE SITUATION ROOM, more on those very serious allegations by the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Bob Woodward, saying the Bush administration is withholding the truth about how bad the situation in Iraq really is. We'll look at the possible political fallout.

Plus, will the real Kazakhstan please stand up. Jeanne Moos with the battle over Borat.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: If you watch much television you've probably been seeing all sorts of campaign ads, but chances are you haven't seen anything quite like this. Let's bring in CNN's Tom Foreman -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. In Maryland, not just dirty politics, but dirty dogs.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(SOUNDS)

FOREMAN (voice-over): They are running hard in Maryland, and as politicians often do, going straight to the dogs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, me, again, Michael Steele.

FOREMAN: And one ad has stirred things up like a (INAUDIBLE).

(SOUNDS)

FOREMAN: This one in which Republican Senate candidate Michael Steele warns voters that his opponent will try to knock him down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Negative ads from the Washington crowd. Grainy pictures and spooky music saying Steele hates puppies and worse. For the record, I love puppies.

FOREMAN: How many times does Steele mention puppies? Twice. How many times does he say he's a Republican? Zero. And that's a likely plus in this state dominated by Democrats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Michael Steele, and this is my message.

FOREMAN: So national Democratic leaders didn't want Steele to have the last word, or the last puppy. They jumped into the fray on behalf of Steele's rival, Congressman Ben Cardin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's nice that Michael Steele likes puppies, but he's running for the United States Senate, and it's important to know where he stands on the issues.

FOREMAN: The new Democratic ad dismisses Steele's puppy love, portraying him as an Iraq war supporting abortion opponent who's too cozy with the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael Steele, he likes puppies. But he loves George Bush.

FOREMAN: Steele bit back, quickly returning to the airwaves with his puppy pal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You knew they were coming, nasty ads from the Washington crowd. We don't think much of that.

FOREMAN: This time Steele specifically names his opponent, accusing Congressman Cardin of voting against cheaper medicine and of taking special interest money for 20 years. Voters may not remember the charges and counter charges, but the dogfight is already one to remember.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: You know, Wolf, I'm going to stick with this story because you love politics and you love dogs. I was at your house for poker night last week, remember, I snapped this picture.

(LAUGHTER)

FOREMAN: Look, there you are. That bulldog down there, he picked your pocket.

BLITZER: Those are good players, those guys.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Thank you very much for that.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: You've got way too much free time.

Just ahead, dramatic accusations, Bob Woodward says the Bush administration is hiding the real amount of violence in the Iraq war.

Also ahead, some call it the killing zone. American Marines go head-to-head against suicidal jihadists in Iraq. Our Michael Ware has a gripping inside account. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Happening now, stunning claims about the Iraq war. In his new book, Bob Woodward suggests the Bush administration is in a quote, "state of denial" and Woodward says the administration is flat out hiding the actual amount of attacks and hiding the prediction for how bad the war will really be.

Also, the answer is no. The president of Iran says his country will not stop its nuclear activities. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he was asked to stop uranium enrichment for just one day, but that Iran will not.

And a major victory for President Bush. The Senate has just passed a bill concerning the trying and treatment of terror detainees. That bill will go to the president in the coming days. The House passed it earlier.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

Reporter Bob Woodward's new charge of White House dishonesty about Iraq is like throwing a match on an already explosive political issue. Today President Bush delivered a new tongue lashing to Democratic critics of his Iraq policy while on the campaign trail in Alabama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Five years after 9/11, the worst attack on American homeland or history, the Democrats offer nothing but criticism and obstruction and endless second-guessing. The party of FDR and the party of Harry Truman has become the party of cut and run.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Republicans are trying to overcome opposition to the Iraq war in the run up to the congressional elections. But the latest headlines are getting in their way. Here's our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In his new book, author Bob Woodward charges that the situation in Iraq is getting worse and the Bush administration is keeping it secret. That, on top of findings from an intelligence report that the war in Iraq is hurting the war on terrorism. The American public is already disillusioned over Iraq. More and more Americans believe the war in Iraq is going badly for the United States, 53 percent in January, 61 percent now. The new revelations could make things worse for Republicans for several reasons. The stories are putting the White House on the defensive.

BUSH: Isn't that interesting? Somebody's taken it upon themselves to leak classified information for political purposes.

SCHNEIDER: Democrats are raising questions about whether the White House is being honest with the American people.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D) MINORITY LEADER: It's long overdue for President Bush to speak truth to the American people.

SCHNEIDER: For weeks, Republicans have been trying to bring the campaign around terrorism. The White House is hoping people will see the stories in that context.

BUSH: Everybody can draw their own conclusions about what the report says.

SCHNEIDER: Republicans are doing that.

SEN. BILL FRIST (R) MAJORITY LEADER: Going back to the intelligence assessment, it said first of all, we have no choice but to be victorious, because if not, this will spread and continue to spread.

SCHNEIDER: These stories shift the focus of the campaign back to Iraq. That doesn't help Republicans. Among the nearly half of voters who say Iraq is an extremely important issue, Democrats have a better than 2-1 lead. The implication is, if Iraq is the central issue in this campaign, it's not likely to be good for Republicans. Bill Schneider, CNN, Boston.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Fierce fighting the likes of which are rarely experienced. An inside look, the likes of which rarely seen. In Iraq, one of the deadliest places, is called the killing zone by U.S. Marines who engage in mortal combat against suicidal jihadis bent on killing as many Americans as they can. Our Michael Ware was embedded with one U.S. Marine unit and brings us this gripping account.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: Those people will die for each other. So very much, it happens over here.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And happen it did. This is Ramadi, the worst of the Iraq front line. This day in May, Marines closing around a fallen comrade, shielding him from fire. It begins as a patrol. Two teams watching al Qaeda-held streets, an insurgent sniper hunting one of them. Until they all push 150 meters high, the U.S. Marine outpost. And they're hit, caught in a killing zone, fire from two directions. Somehow, only Lance Corporal Phillip Tusy (ph) was hit.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: It gets pretty crazy. A lot of times you just sit around, nothing's going on, and all of a sudden, two seconds later, you're in a big firefight, just fighting, trying to stay alive.

WARE: This was the third battalion 8th Marine regiment's war. Six hundred plus men ordered to go head-to-head with al Qaedas suicidal jihadis in downtown Ramadi. (INAUDIBLE) general admits he does not have enough troops to win into what the commanders call a meat grinder.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: Definitely that -- I lost one good friend. And -- but I've talked to his wife. I've talked to his family and they're coping well. So I know I can cope well. If they can, I can.

WARE: These marines fought day in, day out, repelling al Qaeda assaults from their outposts --

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: A bigger part of me says I think I'll be fine. I've got a lot of support back home. People have told me, we expect you to be different, things like that. But I think I'll be fine. I think a lot of these guys will be fine. It's just a lot of people think it will change you here.

WARE: Dangled like bait in the streets, luring out al Qaeda, loading a detainee into vehicles. A few blocks down, the men draw ambush in another street. The fight leads to a rooftop. In seven months, this battalion suffered 17 killed in action, more than many brigades of 5,000 in Iraq lose in a year.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: We're going to leave the blood and the lives of several Marines, the memory of their lives here. We won't forget them. But all of us will leave something here.

WARE: Their presence made a dent in al Qaeda.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: How dangerous the condition is, we've stopped a lot of attacks. We stopped them cold in their tracks. Never really took any great pride in, you know, how many people we've stopped. I have no idea.

WARE: But listening to them, from the kids in the gun pits to those who lead them, you hear in their own words how the price for this war is being paid.

You get nervous when you come over. But once you're here...

WARE: You're nervous, aren't you?

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: Of course you're nervous. You're coming into a combat zone.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: It's a hell of a thing to come to grips with. But, yeah, we -- that's where we are. You know? That's the meaning of who we are as Marines is be prepared to do that if necessary. And in my perspective, in my mind, there was no greater calling.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: I think it's still so not reality for me. Even though I'm here, I see everything that goes on. I've seen things that you don't -- because you're here, your mind state isn't. It isn't what's going on here. It's day by day.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: When I think of my men, when I first brought them out here, before they came out here, you know, you could see the young faces, you know, naive to the world. You know, just grasping for an understanding exactly of what they're about to get themselves into.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: I don't think you could come to a place like this and not forget it. You'd want to forget it, but you're not going to. It's just not going to happen.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: The blood that we've shed here, we'll certainly never, you know, forget the pain, suffering all the emotions of the bleeding and the crying, sweat, tears, all that. It's never going to leave us. And we'll never leave it, because that's the legacy of our fallen comrades.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: We'll do what has to be done. We'll do it, whatever it takes, we'll keep doing it.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: It's not easy.

WARE: Michael Ware, CNN, Ramadi.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: What a courageous journalist Michael Ware is. We wish him only the best and those Marines as well.

Still ahead tonight, a very serious matter. For one comedian, Al Franken speaking out publicly about the possibility he's going to run for the United States Senate, United States Senate and why he feels Iraq could be the key issue.

Also, Jack Cafferty, he'll have more on Iraq as well. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: His old job used to be on "Saturday Night Live." Could his next job be in the United States Senate? Just a short while ago, I spoke with Al Franken, a comedian not joking about his political future.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Why would a serious comedian, a writer, very successful, why would you want to give that all up and become a United States senator?

AL FRANKEN, AUTHOR, "THE TRUTH WITH JOKES": Well, because I think maybe I can do more in the Senate than I can elsewhere. And I actually think that our country is going to pot. That's what I think.

BLITZER: And so you're going to -- when will you actually start getting, you know, the political wheels going?

FRANKEN: Well, I have. I have. And as I said, I don't want to get to whenever I would have to decide not have done what I needed to have done. But I won't decide probably until the beginning to middle to next year.

BLITZER: The Republicans are going to have their presidential convention in Minneapolis in 2008.

FRANKEN: I'm glad they are. It's a beautiful spot. I wish the Democrats were having it. They seem to be following me around because I was living in New York in 2004.

BLITZER: That's where they had the convention last time. We all seem to remember that. Here is what you write in your book, "The Truth With Jokes." The Bush administration does not care what you or I think should happen in Iraq. Six to eight people make the decisions and they don't listen to anybody else. And the Republican Congress has let them get away with it. Every day they have a chance to do their job and they don't do it. We have to throw these guys out. Do you think that that is doable this time around, that the Democrats, your party, will become the majority in the House and the Senate?

FRANKEN: I'm not sure it will be House and Senate. I think we need one House in order to do some oversight. You know, when you look at the reconstruction in Iraq, I mean, this is one piece of it. By the way, the piece on Rumsfeld is fascinating because he wouldn't acknowledge there was an insurgency for a couple of years as you know. Remember, he said it was just a few dead enders. You remember that, right?

BLITZER: Of course.

FRANKEN: OK. Now, he's talking about this insurgency is going to last forever. Well, two years into the war, he didn't acknowledge that it existed at all. Now, the reconstruction, it was corrupt. We have a new book now about the green zone, life inside the emerald city, which says that they only pick Republicans to do the reconstruction.

BLITZER: We have the author of this in the SITUATION ROOM the other day.

FRANKEN: They have -- there's $8.8 billion unaccounted for in the coalition provisional authority.

BLITZER: So in other words, if you were a United States senator you would be involved, deeply involved in that? FRANKEN: Absolutely. I mean that is the job of the Congress. Norm Coleman has the number one oversight responsibility in the Senate. He's chairman of the permanent subcommittee on investigations. The forerunner of that committee was the Truman committee that investigated war contracting all throughout World War II with a Democratic president, Democratic Senate, Democratic House. They found billions of dollars today and billions of dollars, saved a lot of lives. The money that was wasted in Iraq and stolen in Iraq is killing our young men and women.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Al Franken, the comedian joining me earlier. He is seriously thinking of running for the U.S. Senate from his home state of Minnesota.

Up ahead, President Bush is quoted as saying he will not withdraw from Iraq, even if the first lady and the presidential dog Barney are the only ones supporting the war. Jack Cafferty, with your reaction, that's coming up.

And a British comedian who many people think is very, very funny except the people who are the butt of his jokes. Jeanne Moos on the story. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack in New York. He's got the Cafferty file. Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: According to a new book by Bob Woodward, President Bush is very sure the U.S. is on the right track in Iraq, so sure that he supposedly told a bunch of Republicans at the White House, quote, I will not withdraw even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me, unquote. The question is, how would you react if that's what the president said? John in St. Louis, Missouri, writes, Fidel Castro said he would not quit the fight even if he was the last revolutionary alive left to fight. These two lunatics ought to go bowling together. Isn't Bush supposed to represent the interests of the people?

Sam in Omaha, Nebraska, with his intemperate speech, stubbornness and inability to distinguish between reality and his fanciful wishes, Bush has set himself up as the ideal candidate for a resolution of impeachment on grounds of gross incompetence. Somehow we have to come up with a way to neutralize his continuing irrationality.

Russ in California, President Bush is basically stating his resolve in standing behind his word to maintain the fight against terrorism in Iraq and not abandon the Iraqi people, I would say in the face of the Democratic party and the liberal media.

Pat writes, I'd ask President Bush if he think it's right that thousands of young men are dying for his war that he so blindly is pursuing. Jim in Massachusetts, Jack, it just goes to show you how much he really cares about America. Michael in Virginia writes, I would say that it's time to get whoever creates these questions to stop watching the Flintstones. Mike, I create these questions. And it ain't that Barney. Tom in Ramsey, New Jersey, is Barney's last name Rumsfeld? And Tom in Vancouver, Washington, I would lose respect for Barney. If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to cnn.com/caffertyfile and read more of these online.

BLITZER: See you tomorrow, Jack. Thank you very much.

Let's find out what's coming up right at the top of the hour. That means Paula is standing by and she is here in Washington, a new situation. Welcome to Washington.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nice to be here with you. I can't top that list. I didn't bring any e-mails for you.

BLITZER: You have an excellent show coming up.

ZAHN: We've got an interesting one. Thanks, Wolf. We're going to take an in-depth look at some of the complaints that Washington and the country are stuck with a do-nothing Congress some say, the least effective in many, many years. And then in an exclusive interview, I'll ask Senator John Kerry if he's running for president again in 2008.

And we'll be visiting a mosque to check out one congressman's claim that 85 percent of the mosques in this country are run by Islamic fundamentalists. You can imagine what he's being hit with right now and we'll talk to him about the controversy.

BLITZER: Good to have you here in Washington.

ZAHN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Look forward to the interview with Senator Kerry as well.

ZAHN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Paula coming up in a few moments right at the top of the hour.

A Mars rover has just reached the rim of a crater 200 feet deep and a half a mile wide. NASA scientists say the crater contains a gold mine of information. Let's bring in our Internet reporter Jacki Schechner. Jacki?

JACKI SCHECHNER, INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, what you're watching is animation of the Victoria crater which is the largest and the deepest crater on Mars that's ever been explored. Right now, there's a Mars rover called Opportunity that is on the edge of this crater, and it's sending pictures back to NASA scientists. You can see them for yourself on nasa.gov. Scientists are going to study the rock walls of this crater to learn more about the former existence of water on the red planet. This is what Opportunity looks like. It's one of two rovers. The other one's name is Spirit. They've been on Mars since January of 2004. They were only supposed to last three months. They've actually last 10 times that long and they are still going strong although they are moving very slowly. If I can get this animation going, you can see it there. They've actually moved, Opportunity has, 5.7 miles in two and a half years, doing very important work but doing it very slowly. Wolf?

BLITZER: Thank you, Jacki, for that.

Still ahead, the British comedian some say is giving a bad name to Kazakhstan. CNN's Jeanne Moos is on the story and you're in the SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the hot shots coming in from the Associated Press. Baghdad, Iraqi, an Iraqi girl carries her older sister's shoes after a car bomb exploded outside a restaurant.

Outside Rome, Pope Benedict shakes hands with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waves to a crowd during a public appearance.

And in Lima, Peru, a hippopotamus plays with a newborn. Some of today's hot shots, pictures often worth a thousand words.

He's bigoted, backward and boorish, a terrible representation of his country, that's not even really his country. CNN's Jeanne Moos explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Imagine if this was the face of your country. No wonder officials from Kazakhstan can't bear what's coming soon. What's also coming soon is a meeting Friday between the president of Kazakhstan and President Bush.

BORAT, 20th CENTURY FOX: Hi, I'm new in town.

MOOS: Assume the presidential get together will have a bit more dignity than Borat's new film.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he's a delightful man and it wouldn't take very much time for him to really become Americanized.

MOOS: Borat is also known as Ali G. He's really a British comedian by the name of Sacha Baron Cohen. But he never seems to go out of character. For instance, standing in front of the real Kazakhstan embassy Thursday, threatening war on Uzbekistan.

SACHA BARON COHEN, COMEDIAN: If there is one more item of Uzbek propaganda claiming that we do not drink fermented horse urine --

MOOS: Borat is taking advantage of the Kazakh president's visit to Washington to promote Borat the film. With a hoard of press in tow, he walked over to the White House -- COHEN: I'm giving an invitation to Premier George Walker Bush.

MOOS: ...to see his movie at a nearby theater Friday night. The shtick is anti-gay, anti-Jewish, anti-women.

COHEN: Women have a smaller brain than women.

MOOS: Kazakhstan officials worry what he'll leave is the impression that Kazakhs are really just like him.

VOICE OF ROMAN VASSILENKO, KAZAKHSTAN EMBASSY SPOKESMAN: What he represents, though is not Kazakhstan. It's kind of Borakistan. (INAUDIBLE) country of one person where he pleases his fantasies.

MOOS: The government has begun an American ad campaign with a quasi-looking commercial. Borat is wandering all over America, his film. The government of Kazakhstan also took out a four-page ad in "The New York Times" extolling the country. But all that fine print can't compete with shenanigans like dropping an invitation at the White House gate. The party to be held --

COHEN: At the (INAUDIBLE)

MOOS: Talk about a hoot. This is a guy who dares to show his face and everything else in a neon lime green swimsuit.

COHEN: Very nice. How much?

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: He's also known as Ali G, Sacha Baron Cohen. He's a very, very funny guy, happens to be in Washington right now. Looking forward to that movie. We're here in the SITUATION ROOM weekday afternoons 4:00 and 5:00 p.m. Eastern, back for another hour at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Until tomorrow, thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

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