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PAULA ZAHN NOW
President Bush Meets With Iraq Study Group; Threat of Terrorism in America Overblown?; President Bush 41 to the Rescue?
Aired November 13, 2006 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And thank you all for joining us.
As we start off the week here, there is important news coming in to us here at CNN all the time. And, every night, we pick the top stories.
Tonight: exit strategy -- from the White House to the streets of Baghdad, the urgent search for a way to bring U.S. troops home without making Iraq and terrorism worse.
Father's Day: Is former President Bush coming to his son's political rescue?
And mad about Borat. It's the most popular movie around, but some people are furious, because they say it makes them look downright foolish. So, whose fault is that? And can they really sue over that? We will get to that in a little bit.
Now, we get straight to our "Top Story" in the war. At the White House today, President Bush spent more than an hour with members of the Iraq Study Group. That's a commission set up last March made up of Republicans and Democrats to come up with new strategies for the war. The chairman is James Baker, who was secretary of state under President Bush's father.
Let's turn to White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux, who brings us up to date on what happened at that meeting today.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, hey, Paula.
Of course, President Bush is under a great deal of pressure to actually prove that he is open to these fresh ideas that he's been talking about. And part of that is meeting with the Iraq Study Group today, more than an hour, in the Roosevelt Room -- as you mentioned, of course, some real heavy hitters that are in charge of that bipartisan commission.
Now, this is widely viewed his Mr. Bush's last chance to find a face-saving way to address the failures in Iraq. The White House and panel members have been quite reluctant to talk about any specifics. But there are some broad suggestions and recommendations that they're debating. One of them is quite controversial. And that is withdrawing U.S. troops in phases to get the Iraqis to step up and take more responsibility. It is a measure that has some political support from both sides of the aisle, but one that the White House is quite lukewarm to.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe it's very important, though, for people making suggestions to recognize that the best military options depend upon the conditions on the ground.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: And another controversial matter, of course, another issue that's being debated, is whether or not the United States should actually engage in discussions with Iran and Syria, to try to get them to exercise their regional influence in Iraq.
So far -- the president was asked about that today. He kind of sidestepped the question, but he also reiterated that there are conditions to speaking with Iran and Syria. So, we will see how that all develops -- Paula.
ZAHN: And, Suzanne, we know there is not a formal resolution to come out of this group just yet.
You talked about some of the broad outline just a -- a moment ago, but, at the end of the day, do we have any idea what a formal resolution might be shaped into?
MALVEAUX: Well, we certainly have a sense of what's being possibly put on the table and what's being outright rejected.
Ideas widely rejected by this group, and certainly by the White House, would be an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops, as well as a partitioning of Iraq along ethnic lines. Some ideas that really have garnered a great deal of support within the group and the White House is holding an international peace conference, pressuring the Iraqi government, essentially, to reconcile those civil differences, and increasing training for Iraqi security forces.
But there's a real -- a realization here, Paula, that, even if the White House comes up with agreements here with this panel, ultimately, the future of Iraq is largely out of the Bush administration's hands, independent on what happens on the ground.
ZAHN: Yes, good -- good point for us all to understand, as you close that out, Suzanne. Thanks so much.
And we would love to have you come back in a little bit, when we talk more about what all this might mean down the road.
President Bush will have recommendations soon from the Iraq Study Group. He will also have a menu of plans from his top generals. Here's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Senior U.S. military commanders are writing their own options for the next steps in Iraq, work they had secretly begun even before the midterm elections.
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: They're scrubbing now possible options that they can recommend to the president.
STARR: The generals have known for weeks they must find a way to bring troops home sooner, rather than later. Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace began closed-door meetings weeks ago with officers recently back from Iraq.
GENERAL PETER PACE, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I think the serious issue on the table is, what are the strategic objectives of the United States in the war on terrorism, and what is going right in the pursuit of those objectives, and what is not going right and should be changed?
STARR: This Friday, Pace and the chiefs will meet in the tank, their highly secure Pentagon conference room, to begin finalizing their plans.
In Baghdad, General John Abizaid told Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki Monday that his government must exert more control. Abizaid will be on Capitol Hill Wednesday, the first senior commander to testify since the election.
The incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee already is pressing for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops as a means of pressuring the Iraqis.
LEVIN: It's not a matter of training 100 percent or 90 percent or 80 percent, or equipping 100 percent or 90 percent or 80 percent of the Iraqi forces. It's a matter of political will in Iraq. That's the key ingredient which has been missing.
STARR: With Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on his way out, Levin thinks the generals will now be more candid.
LEVIN: Not just an understanding of the need to look at some new options, but also a willingness to do what perhaps they were too reluctant to do prior to the election, which is to state those publicly.
STARR (on camera): General Abizaid and General Pace aren't tipping their hand yet about what they plan to tell Congress or what their recommendations will be. But, if they do suddenly get more candid, the question may be, where was that candor in the weeks before the election?
Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon. (END VIDEOTAPE)
ZAHN: So, as we wait for the Iraq Study Group's recommendations, is it already too late to win the war in Iraq? And is the study group just political cover for the president?
Let's put those questions to a "Top Story" panel, Retired Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, Joe Reeder, a former undersecretary of the Army in the Clinton administration, and Peter Spiegel, Pentagon correspondent for "The Los Angeles Times."
Peter, I introduced you last, so I got the first question for you now.
We just heard that, in -- in spite of what the Iraq Study Group might recommend, that the future of Iraq is largely outside of the United States' control; it's going to be up to the Iraqis. Do you agree with that assessment?
PETER SPIEGEL, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT, "THE LOS ANGELES TIMES": Oh, absolutely.
And I think -- I think things from -- everything from the level of U.S. troops to the involvement of the Iranians and the Syrians and the countries in the region are going to be now -- I think we -- we forget how much power and sovereignty we have actually handed over to a new Iraqi government.
They will have a big say into all those policy decisions the U.S. has to make. And we have just seen, two or three weeks ago, the ambassador, U.S. ambassador to Baghdad, Ambassador Khalilzad, said, we're going to set up timelines for the Iraqis to do certain things.
The next day, the prime minister, the duly elected prime minister of Iraq, turned around and said: Hey, wait a second. I don't agree with that.
We have an Iraqi government now that the U.S. is going to have to deal with. And it's not now the case, as it was perhaps three years ago, that the U.S. can dictate policy to the Iraqis. And that realization is -- is -- is gradually becoming -- coming home to...
ZAHN: All right.
SPIEGEL: ... to Washington.
ZAHN: All right.
So, Joe, do you think that this Iraq Study Group was wasting its time, or do you think it will make any material difference to what ultimately goes on in that country?
JOE REEDER, FORMER CLINTON ADMINISTRATION ARMY UNDERSECRETARY: I think they can make a big difference, Paula.
I think that -- I think we can do a lot still. I think we have executed very poorly to this point in time. But you have got 100 certified battalions. And I think we can pull out and turn over.
I think the ideas about going to places like Kuwait, or far away, are ridiculous. But to bivouac in that area and help assist, be, if you will, the 911 for that unit, these Iraqi troops are terrific. They train well, and they're brave. They're courageous. And, for the large part, they have a lot of integrity -- not so with the police force. But I think we can do a lot.
Colonel Wilkerson, do you think the U.S. can win this war?
LAWRENCE WILKERSON, FORMER ADVISER TO SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN POWELL: Well, I don't think that's the right question to ask, Paula.
I don't think, in a conflict of this nature, and certainly not the nature Iraq has devolved to, that winning and losing is the right question to ask. I think the question is...
ZAHN: But -- but there's a tremendous amount of concern, if you remove U.S. troops, if the country will ever be viable.
WILKERSON: Well, viable...
ZAHN: And -- and most Americans would think, if you remove troops, and the country falls apart, that's a failure, or that's not winning.
WILKERSON: Well, viable -- viable, in my estimation, is that it's stable, and that we leave the region reasonably stable, because of what we have done there.
We have disturbed stability in a -- in a major way that's regional -- affecting the entire region. In that sense, I disagree with what Dr. Rice said, for example, about the last 50 years about being failed policy because the objective was stability in the region. You bet it was stability in the region.
And now we have disturbed it majorly, and we need to do something about bringing stability back. And that's victory, if you want to call something victory, bringing stability back to the region.
ZAHN: Well, Peter, is that victory possible?
SPIEGEL: Well, I think, if you were to talk to people in the Pentagon right now, they would still argue victory is possible.
But what you have reflected in your reporting, and Barbara pointed out in her reporting, is, there is divergences within the military about how to achieve that. There's a school of thought, that is largely represented by General Abizaid, that the only way to succeed in Iraq is to hand over, as quickly as possible, responsibility to the Iraqi military, whether they're ready or not, and -- and that's the only way to let them shoulder the burden. There's another group within the Pentagon that says, look, the only way to win this is, proper counterinsurgency strategy says, flood the streets with troops.
And you hear -- you hear Senator McCain already saying this, that we may to need to increase the number of troops in Iraq. And I think what you're hearing in the political discourse is being repeated within the Pentagon. We think we can win, but the tactics to win are -- are in dispute right now. Do we need more troops or do we need a withdrawal, so the Iraqis themselves will be able to take the burden? And that's the debate going on right now.
ZAHN: And, Joe, how troubled are you that there's no consensus on that, when it comes to the political discourse? You have got Democrats with a bunch of different plans, and -- and Republicans that don't view this the same way.
REEDER: Well, we're not going to get consensus on this, Paula.
But the fact of the matter is, one other thing that we have to do, if we do nothing else, is, we have got to arm the Iraqi troops. I talked to a top leader in Iraq, and was told that, when you have a -- a -- an up-armored Humvee, alongside of a Toyota pickup truck, it just -- it just does absolute injustice to morale, to the partnership, to the esprit.
If this is the front line, we got to do a much better job of arming the Iraqi troops.
ZAHN: Gentlemen, we're going to have to leave it there.
Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, Joe Reeder, and Peter Spiegel, thank you all.
REEDER: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: One of the intriguing things about the Iraq Study Group is who's in it. President Bush is reaching out to members of his father's administration. It's making headlines, but does father really know best? We are going to go in-depth on this "Top Story" in politics in just a little bit.
But next: divided Democrats. We have got a behind-the-scenes look at how Iraq and personal rivalries already have Washington's new majority choosing sides.
ZAHN: Another "Top Story" we're following tonight: the war on terror and the terrorists' war on us -- coming up in a little bit, a guest with a very controversial point of view. He says the threat of terrorism here in our country is overblown.
But, first, on to the "Top Story" in politics that we have picked tonight: Democrats in Congress in the middle of a power struggle, even as they get ready to take charge as the majority party and zero in on the war in Iraq.
Let's turn to congressional correspondent Dana Bash. She's been watching the action on Capitol Hill all day. She joins us now.
Always good to have you with us, Dana.
So, some of these Democrats are speaking out more forcefully than they did leading up to the campaign. What did they have to say today?
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, what they're trying to do, the Democrats, is to try to show that they're already going to push for something that they really couldn't get when Republicans were in control here in Congress, and that's to try to force the president to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq.
What the incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, said today is that it is necessary to bring U.S. troops home, because that is the only way to send a signal to the Iraqis that they need to be more self-sufficient.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEVIN: Most Democrats share the view that we should pressure the White House to commence the phased redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq in four to six months -- to begin that phased redeployment, and thereby to make it clear to the Iraqis that our presence is not open- ended and that they must take and make the necessary political compromises to preserve Iraq as a nation.
We cannot save the Iraqis from themselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, that was a resolution that Senator Levin is talking about introducing, but not until the Democrats formally take control of power. And that, of course, is not until January -- Paula.
ZAHN: But what I think everybody really wants to know -- we have heard what they have to say, but, ultimately, whether that has much impact at all, as long as a Republican is still the president.
BASH: That's a great question.
And, you know, the answer is probably not. Not only is a Republican still the president, but just in terms of the way the balance of power works, the president is, of course, the commander in chief. And Congress can affect things like the purse strings. They could, if they wanted to, cut off funding for the troops. But Democrats say that's a political nonstarter, and, also, it's not something that they want to do, because they think it would put the men and women in the armed services in harm's way.
So, the bottom line is, this resolution that we were just talking about, it's symbolic. It's non-binding. And that's really the only thing that they can do, when it comes to trying to pressure the United States and pressure the president, in particular, to bring troops home.
I talked to one Democratic source, who said, look, the bottom line is, we have a lot of wind at our back, in terms of the election, but we don't have a lot of leverage, when it comes to really changing the way the policy is.
ZAHN: Well, I guess if, what the American public was -- wanted -- wanted to see, based on -- on their vote was real change here, is there any expectation that Republicans and Democrats will come together, and come up with a plan that makes sense, that everyone will embrace?
BASH: Well, the rhetoric certainly is different.
You know, you're not hearing -- for example, after what Senator Levin said today, you're not hearing Republicans saying the Democrats want to cut and run.
But you're also not hearing Democrats -- excuse me -- Republicans come out and say that they embrace this idea. What Senator Levin said is that he has one high-profile Republican that's on his plan -- won't say who. He says he's working on others.
But, basically, the bottom line is, what Democrats want to do is have a symbolic victory. Well, the only way they will -- they're going to get that is by having Republicans on board with something that they tried to do well before the election.
So, whether or not they can do that is unclear. You heard from Suzanne Malveaux. The president said at the White House today, this kind of plan just is a nonstarter for him, still.
ZAHN: Well, you certainly have the most interesting perch to watch this all unfold.
ZAHN: Keep us posted, Dana.
BASH: Thanks, Paula.
ZAHN: Dana Bash, thanks.
While the president waits for a Democratic plan of action for Iraq, he's already reaching out to former Cabinet members from his father's administration. Coming up: Is Bush 41 riding to the rescue of Bush 43?
And, then, a controversial claim that Osama bin Laden and his fellow terrorists are too weak to attack America again -- are politicians scaring us for no reason at all? An FBI insider joins us to debate just that.
ZAHN: Another "Top Story" in politics that we have picked tonight to tell: President Bush has turned to some of Washington's most renowned fixers to find a winning strategy in Iraq.
Former Secretary of State James Baker and defense secretary- nominee Robert Gates served in the administration of the president's father. And, while neither the current nor former president like to talk about their private lives or their relationships, the father-son relationship is the cover story on "Newsweek."
And, just a few hours ago, the White House took issue with the headline "Father Knows Best" and the whole idea that the former president is riding to his son's rescue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Rather than trying to get even into characterizing it -- no.
QUESTION: Has he directly or indirectly -- has President Bush 41...
QUESTION: What is "no"? What do you mean "no"?
SNOW: No, this is not a -- this is not bringing in people willy- nilly from his president's administration -- quote -- "to save him."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: So, what is the real story here?
Let's bring in three members of the best political team in TV. We heard from White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux a little bit earlier on. She's back -- also joining us, chief national correspondent John King, and senior political correspondent Candy Crowley.
So, Suzanne, obviously, we just saw the White House very sensitive about this perception that the son is getting bailed out by the father. But, nevertheless, it's -- it's something they're going to have to continue to face.
How worried are they about that perception taking hold?
MALVEAUX: You know, they're very dismissive of it, Paula. But, yes, they're very sensitive about this.
They -- they categorically say this isn't about saving the president. We also heard from White House Counselor Dan Bartlett, saying, look, you had people here before from 41, the vice president, Secretary Rice, as well as Stephen Hadley.
But, you know, I mean, it is quite obvious that there's a nod to the president's father that's taking place here. We had heard in the past President Bush talking about how he likes to model his administration after the Reagan administration, for tackling communism, not his president's -- his father's regime, rather.
We have heard him talk about previous administrations coddling dictators. His hero is Winston Churchill. Obviously, he's trying to form his presidency and his legacy around big, bold ideas. But what you have here is a group of pragmatists who essentially are going to try to put their -- their feelings aside, work with each other, and try to deal with the messiness of Iraq.
ZAHN: So, John, let's talk about, right off the bat, what Brent Scowcroft's contribution might be. And we are going to put up some facts about what he did during the first Bush administration, of course, national security adviser to 43's father.
KING: I have heard no talk about bringing Brent Scowcroft into this administration.
He's certainly someone that the former President Bush talks to. He's someone that Secretary Baker talks to. Bob Gates worked for him on the National Security Council in the Bush White House. He's certainly someone he would talk to.
He wrote that "New Yorker" article that was quite critical of the vice president. This is an administration that remembers those things. So, don't look for Brent Scowcroft to come into this administration in any formal capacity at all. Will the new defense secretary consult him? They're old friends. Of course, he is likely to do that.
One quick point, though -- I want to make this clear. Jim Baker is coming in. And Jim Baker is going to help the president, presumably, with the recommendations of this Iraq Study Group, but that was not the president's idea. He did appoint Jim Baker, but Congress forced this commission, this study, on the president.
And, only when he was forced to have this study, did the president turn to someone he could trust to lead it. So, it's not that the 41st president of the United States is sending in Jim Baker to save the 43rd president of the United States. This President Bush had no choice but to name somebody to lead this panel. So, he picked somebody his family knows and that he trusts.
ZAHN: So, John, quickly, before we move on, how much latitude will Robert Gates have, if confirmed secretary of defense?
KING: Well, the bottom line is, it's the president's policy.
Donald Rumsfeld may not have been for sending more troops into Iraq, but the president approved that decision. The president approved the war plan. The president sided either with Secretary Powell or Secretary Rumsfeld of the vice president all along.
The interesting part is that Mr. Gates was a member of this Iraq Study Group, which is going to recommend some significant changes, and which, we're told by several sources involved, thinks Iraq right now is a mess, in part because of this administration's policies.
So, you have a significant personnel change at the Pentagon. Only the president can change the policy, Paula. And he has said he's against bringing troops home; he's against partitioning Iraq; he's against many of the things that could soon be on the table in front of him -- so, a major personnel shift. We have yet to see any major policy shifts.
ZAHN: All right.
So, Candy, we have heard much today from the administration this is not about stuffing this administration with all of dad's former colleagues. And they're saying: Essentially, what we're doing is picking the best of the best here.
Well, if that's the case, why didn't they come into the administration earlier?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, because the president obviously thought that Don Rumsfeld and the people that he picked were the best ones.
But, again, Colin Powell, Condi Rice, later on, Andy card, all of these people came from George Bush -- the first one, 41 -- came from his administration. And some of them, including James Baker, went back into the Reagan administration.
On a practical basis, when you are looking for seasoned Washington pols that can make things happen, you're going to go back to whoever was there before. And that would be into Bush 41. And that would be, to some extent, into Reagan.
So, the -- the pool of people is former...
CROWLEY: ... people from George Bush and from Ronald Reagan, in much the say way, if there were a Democratic president in four years or eight years, they're going to reach back into the Clinton administration.
CROWLEY: So, yes, they're related. But the fact of the matter is that that's where the pool is.
ZAHN: So, do you think, John King, this whole notion of father knows best is overblown, and that the administration has a right to be sensitive about it?
KING: Find the fingerprints, I guess, would be the question back.
There's no one who knows both men -- and I spoke to several of those people today -- people who know both men and still communicate with both men, who say that this president picks up the phone and says, "Son, you're wrong; son, do this," or conversely, goes out through a Jim Baker or through a Bob Gates, to try to send a message. They say that is not in his nature.
At the same time, they say, when Brent Scowcroft wants to write a critical article, or Jim Baker wants to say something critical, if they come to 41 and say, "Sir, will you be offended if I do this?" he says: "No. Speak your mind."
So, some of his deputies send signals from time to time. But does 41 pick up the phone and say, "Fire Don Rumsfeld?" Everyone who knows both men says that's simply not the way he operates, because he's a father, and respects this man, his son, and because he was a president, and didn't like being meddled with himself.
ZAHN: Trio, thanks so much, fascinating stuff -- Candy Crowley, John King, Suzanne Malveaux.
We're going to move on now to tonight's other "Top Story," this one on the war in terror and a controversial claim that the government is just stoking our fears, even though the terrorists are so weak, they really aren't a threat. Can that really be true? Well, we're going to debate that.
Plus, a little bit later on: the last thing veterans returning from Iraq ever expected to face.
ZAHN: A top story in the fight for Iraq. Why can't former U.S. soldiers find work when they finally come home? Top story in entertainment, some people who are at America's No. 1 movie and hate the way they come off. Did the movie maker make fools of them on purpose and should they be able to sue for that?
And then coming up at the top of the hour on CNN, Larry King goes gavel to gavel with the always provocative Judge Judy.
The top story we have chosen for you tonight on the security watch is a provocative question. Is the government exaggerating the threat of terrorist attacks? That may seem outrageous on a day when officials in Britain told reporters that they think al Qaeda is trying to get nuclear technology for an attack on the West.
But not according to a new book hitting stores tomorrow. The title says it all, "Overblown: How politicians in the terrorism industry inflate national security threats and why we believe them."
The author of "Overblown" is John Mueller, a political science professor at Ohio State University. He joins me here in New York along with the author of "Journey of the Jihadist," Middle East analyst Fawaz Gerges. And assistant FBI director John Miller. Welcome all.
So, professor, a lot of people think what you've written is totally irresponsible. What evidence do you have that al Qaeda poses no serious threat to us here in the United States? What are you basing that on?
JOHN MUELLER, AUTHOR: It's basically based on the idea that they can't really find them here. The FBI had a report last year which is still secret indicating that they've been able to identify no sleeper cell of al Qaeda in this country.
ZAHN: Is it possible they're still hiding? That's what FBI agents tell me.
MUELLER: It's possible, but what I wanted to do is bring out the possibility that they either aren't here or that they're far less effective and meaningful and dedicated and devoted and diabolical than it seems.
Let me just give you one statistic that may help on this. If you look at the number of people who have been killed by al Qaeda types or wanna be's or would-be types since 9/11, the total number of people in the entire world that have been killed out of warzones is something like 1,000.
Now those are tragic deaths and they're innocent people and so forth and it's horrible. But that represents fewer people than die in drowning in bathtubs in the United States over the same period of time. So basically what you've got is a situation -- it is a threat, it is a problem, and it's something we want to deal with, but it's not a monumental threat to the United States as many people argue. It's not an existential threat to the United States.
ZAHN: Let's go to the FBI's John Miller. Do you not see this as, quote, "an existential threat to the United States," as the professor has just charged?
JOHN MILLER, FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Well, I think the professor is vastly oversimplifying it on a bunch of levels. First of all, I think if any of the thousand people who were killed by terrorists over the period he's talking about got a vote in this, they'd consider it a very serious threat.
I also think when you look at the idea that we can be the victims of our own success here. In the past 13, 14 months we've interdicted five attacks that were in the planning stages, targeting U.S. soil. That's a pretty high tempo of activity on the part of the terrorists, and because we've stopped them, I don't think we can be penalized in the discussion by saying because they haven't succeeded they're no longer a danger.
ZAHN: What about that? Are you suggesting they shouldn't have stopped them? But they pose no real threat?
MUELLER: I'm very much in favor of policing, and some of that has been pretty successful, mostly abroad rather than this country it seems to me. But many of the people they pick up seem to be very flakey and very inadequate, trying to take down the Brooklyn Bridge with a blow torch.
I mean if you work on that for awhile, even New Yorkers would notice. So the amount of damage that they're likely to do is going to be very limited. It would be nice if that could be zero, but the possibility is there that something could happen, but it's not likely to be a major threat to the United States. So the idea that the threat is overblown, not that it doesn't exist.
ZAHN: Have we responded to this threat, professor, in the most effective way?
FAWAZ GERGES, SARAH LAWRENCE COLLEGE: Not at all, Paula. In fact to me, the question is not whether al Qaeda is dangerous or not. Of course al Qaeda is dangerous. The question to me, does al Qaeda represent a strategic, existential threat to the greatest power in the world the United States or is it a security nuisance?
I would argue that al Qaeda represents, it's more of a criminal network and it's had the most effective means to fight al Qaeda is by labelling al Qaeda a criminal network.
ZAHN: What are you saying though to the families? The thousands of families that saw 3,000 people murdered in this country.
GERGES: I'm saying that it is horribly dangerous. I'm saying that the United States should hammer away at al Qaeda, I'm saying that the United States should slay the beast. But what the United States has done since 9/11 is to basically declare an all-out war, is to extend the war on terror. By doing that, the United States, in fact our war against the war against terror, has become counterproductive to the fight against al Qaeda because this war, Paula, cannot be won on the battlefield.
This is not a conventional war. This only way to win this war is by working closely with Muslim societies and governments in order to internally encircle al Qaeda. Look what the United States has done in the last three years.
ZAHN: John Miller, how much more vulnerable are Americans tonight because of this war in Iraq?
MILLER: Well, that is not a question for the FBI to answer. And I think...
ZAHN: But certainly you've got to monitor that threat, and we know that al Qaeda has active cells in Iraq. That's something that you guys are aware of.
MILLER: Well, again, our job is not to counterbalance the two or really even to feed into that discussion. I think the theoretical stuff, even the theoretical stuff that on the face of it is ridiculous and I apologize to Professor Mueller for saying that, is stuff that professors have time to kind of hand wring over.
From an operational sense, our job is simply to find out where is the threat, how do we leverage the intelligence to either disrupt it or interdict it and that's what we do. We disrupt it, by other means, by using that intelligence, by using international partners, or we interdict it by arresting it. That's what we do here. That's what MI5 in Great Britain does. And I think that's what we're talking about here. Are we safer because we've stopped these plots before they've unfolded over the last five years? The answer is yes.
ZAHN: Let me just ask John a real quick question based what the professor had to say a little bit earlier. Do you really think al Qaeda is only capable of inflicting minor damage on us in this country?
MILLER: Well, I think if you had asked me that a few months ago, I might have said that al Qaeda is broken down to the extent that home-grown cells that put themselves together, that gather their own money like a Madrid cell, like the 7/21 cells in Great Britain who could kill a couple hundred people at a time -- and if you are one of those victims you don't consider that minor damage -- I might have bought that argument.
But if you look at the latest case coming out of Great Britain where the end result, had it gone off as planned, would have been 3,000 deaths in midair, that puts us right back on the scale of 9/11. The worst thing we can do is overblow this threat and make people afraid because the terrorists win to some degree.
The only thing that we can do that's worst than that is to underplay it and have something happen because we're not paying attention.
ZAHN: All right, but John Mueller states in his book that it is being overblown for a whole bunch of reasons.
MUELLER: Let me just reflect on one thing.
ZAHN: I've only got 10 seconds, I've got to get commercial break.
MUELLER: More people died because of the reaction and overreaction to 9/11 than died in 9/11. For example, a thousand people died from automobile accidents just in the last three months of 2001 because they drove rather than flew.
ZAHN: Got to leave it there, gentlemen. John Mueller, thank you. Professor Fawaz Gerges, and John Miller, who works for FBI Director Mueller. A Mueller, a Miller and a Mueller. This is great. Well, I've been practicing it for hours, John. Thank you, gentlemen, glad to have you with us.
Top story in the war in Iraq isn't happening on the streets of Baghdad, but on main street America when our soldiers come home. Coming up, why so many veterans can't find jobs.
And then a little later on some extras who wish they had never gotten a chance to be in the most popular movie in this country, "Borat". They claim the movie makers intentionally made them look foolish, and get this: some of them are actually suing.
ZAHN: And welcome back.
Our top story in Iraq turns to a very disturbing trend we've noticed. Thousands of men and women, who have sacrificed years of their lives in the military, served in Iraq, are now coming home and having a very tough time finding jobs.
Dan Simon has the story of one veteran who is struggling to reenter the civilian world.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Josh Hopper survived two tours in Iraq. When he left the Army in May, little did he know he was about to throw himself into a different kind of battle, the battle to find a job.
JOSH HOPPER, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: I spent every day, fighting for an opportunity, just trying to at least find an opportunity to even fight for. And then when I find one, I lose the battle every time.
SIMON: Hopper's Army background is in telecommunications, but here in his small hometown in northern California, the 24 year-old says no company will touch him because he's unfamiliar with some of the more modern equipment now in use. He's even tried applying for low skilled jobs, but to no avail.
HOPPER: It's just failure after failure after failure is piling up on me. It's nothing I ever envisioned that would happen.
SIMON: Recruiters tell enlistees that the skills they learn in the military will help them land jobs once they get out, but the numbers seem to tell a different story.
The unemployment rate for young veterans is much greater than for those who never served. In 2005 the unemployment rate among veterans aged 20 to 24 was just over 15 percent, nearly double the rate for non veterans in the same age group.
The most recent statistic suggests the problem may be starting to get better. The Departments of Veterans Affairs and Labor say two factors contribute to the high jobless rate. Some vets take unemployment benefits once they're out rather than seek a job immediately. And the youngest veterans have little experience when it comes to searching for a job.
JIM NICHOLSON, VETERANS AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Employers ought to consider what kind of a young leader are they going to have with their team in their company. They're just ideal candidates for employment, so it befuddles me that more aren't hired by employers around the country.
SIMON: One man says he knows the answer.
LARRY SCOTT, VAWATCHDOG.ORG: It's a dirty little secret. People do not like to talk about it. I am finding actual discrimination out in employers. Employers do not want to hire veterans.
SIMON: Larry Scott is founder of the website vawatchdog.org. He says in some cases, employers are actually frightened to hire veterans, fearing they may have mental illness. Scott, an Army veteran himself, cites this 2006 report from the Insurance Information Institute that warns employers, among other things, to be on the lookout for mental health problems. While the report says the majority of veterans will have no difficulties, it also says, quote, "Hundreds of thousands will carry the psychological wounds of their experience with them for many years after their tour of duty ends."
SCOTT: What happens is you're painting a negative picture to employers. This report and other reports like it are saying look, veterans can cause problems and you should stay away from them.
SIMON: The Insurance Institute disputes that saying, quote, "The idea that this report somehow creates a problem for returning veterans is bogus. What the article does is it spells out the responsibility of the employers to each and every one of these veterans."
As for Josh Hopper, frustrated by constant rejection, he decided to go back to school taking classes at the community college. Before joining the Army, he worked at a grocery store.
HOPPER: If I stayed at my previous job, the one I left, I would have been making $19 an hour now, so I'm not sure how the military helped me out in any way.
SIMON: Even so, Hopper is proud of his military service. But he can't help questioning where it got him.
Dan Simon, CNN, Ukiah, California.
ZAHN: The VA says it is working on this problem, and you can see more on the plight of returning veterans on the "AC 360" special "Coming Home". That's tonight at 11:00 p.m.
Right now we're going to take a quick "Biz Break"
The Dow Industrial gained 23 points and a tech stock rally pushed the Nasdaq 16 points higher. That's the highest it's been since February of 2001. The S & P Index was up three points.
Among the important economic indicators coming out this week, tomorrow's retail sales figures. Except for Wal-Mart, most retailers seem to be holding the line on discounts and waiting to see if shoppers are in a holiday mood.
Gas prices rose about three cents per gallon last week to a national average of $2.23. That's still about six cents lower than gas cost just about a year ago.
Tonight's top story in entertainment involves a number one movie in America. "Borat" has a lot of people laughing, but not some of the people who are actually in it.
Coming up, why they say they are duped and why they're suing.
ZAHN: And welcome back. Our top story in entertainment is the movie "Borat." Brash, tasteless, a spectacularly offensive movie -- just the way it was meant to be. It also happens to be a huge hit, the No. 1 movie in the country, and it's making millions and millions and millions of dollars. But it's also triggered a lawsuit and even international controversy. Here's entertainment correspondent Sibila Vargas.
SACHA BARON COHEN, COMEDIAN: In my country they would go crazy for these two. Not so much...
SIBILA VARGAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The antics of British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen and his anti-Semitic, sexist alter ego Borat have raked in a bundle at the U.S. box office.
BORYS KIT, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: The movie has made almost $70 million in two weeks, which is really great. And it's building on word of mouth.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A woman has a right to choose who she has sex with.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about that?
VARGAS: "The Hollywood Reporter's" Borys Kit says while "Borat" is making millions of fans in movie theaters, he's also made a fair share of enemies, among those both on and off the screen.
KIT: A lot of people are saying that they're feeling manipulated in this film, and it's only now that the movie is a big hit that that's when you see lawsuits flying.
VARGAS: Two fraternity brothers from South Carolina seen heavily drinking in the film and making offensive remarks about women, minorities, and slavery are now suing the movie's production companies. They claim they were provided alcohol by the film's producers, and then signed consent forms while intoxicated. They also say they were told that the movie would only be seen in Europe.
The movie studio behind the film tells CNN the lawsuit has no merit.
While this is the only lawsuit on record thus far, it appears they're not the only ones with concerns.
COHEN: Is it not a problem that the woman have a smaller brain than the man? VARGAS: Linda Stein from the Veteran Feminists of America is furious. In a first person article posted on her Web site, Stein says, quote, "I don't know what motivates Cohen to use his considerable talents to deceive and manipulate. I only know that afterward, I'm left feeling confused and sad."
Lining up behind Stein taking issue with the film are a Maryland car salesman, a rodeo producer, an etiquette instructor, a hotel clerk, a local television station, and even the Rumanian village used to portray Borat's incest-ridden, rape-friendly homeland.
COHEN: She's my sister.
VARGAS: But according to Kit, when you make a film based on practical jokes, some backlash is always expected.
KIT: Part of the brilliance of Sacha Baron Cohen and his comedy is that he's willing to risk himself and put himself so out there that he's in a danger zone, and that's where a lot of the comedy comes from.
VARGAS: And with box office receipts still adding up, it appears that Borat so far is a risk worth taking.
COHEN: Very nice. How much?
VARGAS: Sibila Vargas, CNN, Hollywood.
ZAHN: So do all these objections to "Borat" make any sense at all to you? Let's ask entertainment columnist Michael Musto of "The Village Voice" to see what he has to say.
Do you want these guys to get a life that are filing lawsuits?
MICHAEL MUSTO, THE VILLAGE VOICE: Well, they might have a case because they were duped. But they were duped by the greatest prankster of our time, Sacha Baron Cohen, Ali G, Borat -- whatever his name is.
ZAHN: They signed consent forms, right?
MUSTO: They did. And the frat guys who said that they were drunk -- they're sounding a little bit Mel Gibsony, don't you think? And also, it's OK for them to be racist and whatever, misogynistic in Europe but not in America? They don't have much of a case.
And in the case of the feminist, they fell right into Borat's trap. He was looking for feminists without a sense of humor, and here they are suing.
ZAHN: What about the man who lost his arm and then felt absolutely humiliated because he didn't really know what was extended on his arm was a plastic sex toy. I mean, doesn't he have the right to be pretty upset about the way he was used in this film? He's a simple villager.
MUSTO: I would use my line about Heather Mills, Paul McCartney's ex -- she doesn't have a leg to stand on -- but I would be just as offensive as Borat if I said that, so I'm not going to.
MUSTO: I snuck it in there.
ZAHN: You don't mind trashing Heather now, do you?
MUSTO: No, no, but I think he probably is the most sensitive of all these cases.
If I were any of these people, though, I'd be thrilled to be in the funniest movie of the year. Under any circumstances. Put me in. Mock me, make me look like a fool.
ZAHN: But (inaudible) responsibility? I mean, they knew what they were doing.
MUSTO: They'd been "Punk'd." You never saw "Punk'd," Paula? Or "Candid Camera?" You know, they should just laugh it off and say, well, my life is ruined, but I'm in a movie classic.
ZAHN: How about the charge that this film is absolutely anti- Semitic?
MUSTO: That's absurd. I think Jewish people should line up and rejoice over this film. It shows a man from...
ZAHN: And Sacha Baron Cohen is Jewish...
MUSTO: Well, beyond that. It shows a person from a bad background. It's making fun of the anti-Semitism and the stupid behavior, and you know, treating his sister like someone to pass around. And look, he relieves himself in public. This is not a celebration of this man.
However, he performs a very delicate tight-wire act, where he is sympathetic. So it's kind of making fun of his background, but also showing that his travails in America are uncovering the foibles of all the people that are suing right now.
ZAHN: But once again, you see no real exploitation, particularly the village where in Rumania where this was all shot? These are people who make very little money. They claim they didn't have any idea what they were doing.
MUSTO: That makes for the best kind of movie, and ultimately I have to rejoice that he's made a great movie. I don't care who feels bad about it, who's a little offended. It's a terrific movie. You'll bust a gut laughing, and it mixes outrageous stunts and in-your-face comedy with really gentle wit.
ZAHN: Well, apparently America agrees with you. Because a lot more went out to see this movie than the maker of this movie thought.
MUSTO: And they're not going to see.
ZAHN: No. Michael Musto, thanks so much. Always good to see you.
We're just minutes away from the top of the hour, "LARRY KING LIVE." Larry's guest tonight is Judge Judy, and she's going to take your phone calls. There she is. We'll be right back.
ZAHN: Before we go, tonight's top story in the 2008 presidential race. No, it's not too soon to talk about that. Rudy Giuliani's office confirmed to CNN this afternoon that the former New York City mayor has filed the paperwork to explore a possible run for the Republican presidential nomination. Giuliani says he'll make a final decision sometime next year. U.S. Senator John McCain of Arizona expected to file similar paperwork later this week.
That wraps it up for all of us here. Thanks so much for dropping by tonight. Have a great night. See you tomorrow.
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