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New Strategies for Iraq?; Congressman Rangel Calls for Military Draft; President Bush Wraps Up Trip to Asia

Aired November 20, 2006 - 17:59   ET


LOU DOBBS, HOST: The Pentagon calls it a myth, trying to downplay reports of new strategies devised for Iraq. But Pentagon officials admit senior officials are brainstorming on ways to move forward there.
I'll talk tonight with the incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Democrat Ike Skelton. An avid supporter of the military, he's been an outspoken critic of this war.

All of that, and Al Franken joins us as well to talk about humor and politics and whether they can be combined.

A great deal more straight ahead here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Monday, November 20th.

Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

The Pentagon tonight is evaluating possible new strategies in Iraq. But military officials say they're just brainstorming.

President Bush, returning from Asia, weighing the next steps for our troops in Iraq.

Congressman Charlie Rangel, who will head the House Ways and Means Committee, calls for the reinstatement of the military draft and national service. Other Democratic leaders quick to react. No way, they say.

Jamie McIntyre reports tonight on the military's effort to strike down speculation about new strategies for the war in Iraq.

Andrea Koppel reports on Congressman Rangel's proposal that Congress bring back the draft.

And Ed Henry traveling with the president tonight. The commander in chief is weighing the next step for our troops there.

And we begin with Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, the Pentagon says that it's got its best military minds working on the problem of Iraq, even as it tries to lower expectations about what kind of solutions they may come up with.


MCINTYRE (voice over): Pentagon officials say there are a lot of myths that have grown up around its internal review of Iraq's strategy. Perhaps the biggest is that the reappraisal will produce a formal report or make any firm recommendations for the way ahead. Instead, officials say what's been dubbed the "Strategic Dialogue Group" is more of a brainstorming exercise among 16 of the brightest military officers, mostly colonels or equivalent rank, who are fresh from the front lines in Iraq.

They've been meeting regularly with Chairman Peter Pace and the rest of the joint chiefs, providing insights, advice, and an unvarnished reality check, according to Pentagon insiders, so Pace can hone his advice to the president, which he hasn't yet offered.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I haven't made any decisions about troop increases or troop decreases, and won't until I hear from a variety of sources, including our own United States military.

MCINTYRE: Pentagon officials say a second myth is that the Pentagon group has outlined three options described by "The Washington Post" as "Go Big," for sending a lot more troops, "Go Home," for pulling out quickly, or "Go Long," for the current plan of stepped-up training for Iraqi troops, along with perhaps a short boost in U.S. troop levels.

"The Post" report did prompt outgoing House Armed Services Committee chairman Duncan Hunter to label his latest idea with a similar catch phrase...


MCINTYRE: ... calling for Iraqi units in nine relatively peaceful provinces to be moved to the front lines.

HUNTER: In those provinces are 27 Iraqi battalions. Those Iraqi battalions could be sent into the contested areas in Baghdad and should be sent into those contested areas.

Meanwhile, former secretary of state Henry Kissinger told the BBC he's concluded the U.S. cannot win a clear military victory.

HENRY KISSINGER, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: If you mean by clear military victory an Iraqi government that can be established and whose writ runs across the whole country, I don't believe that is possible.


MCINTYRE: Duncan Hunter's "Go Iraqi" proposal is pretty much in line with what General John Abizaid, the top Persian gulf commander, outlined as his preferred strategy last week before Congress, pushing Iraqi forces into the lead before the violence in Iraq spins out of control -- Lou. DOBBS: Jamie, this announcement of this evaluation was announced as the Iraq Study Group's -- that discussion about what they're bringing forth heated up. So what we're hearing now is that there won't be a report, there won't be recommendations, and it's just brainstorming?

What in the world does that mean?

MCINTYRE: Well, what it means is that General Pace has basically asked for who he thinks are the brightest officers to come in, tell him what they really think, and then he's going to be the one that synthesizes that in his head, and he's going to advise President Bush when the Iraq Study Group comes out whether he supports what the Iraq Study Groups says, or whether he thinks his officers have a better idea.

But he wants to have a handle -- a fresh perspective. He wants a complete scrub of everything. And to do that, he's relying not on the generals at the Pentagon, but the commanders that he thinks have the best grasp of what was actually going on in the ground in Iraq.

DOBBS: But not the generals?

MCINTYRE: Not necessarily the generals. Some of the people who are actually on the front line.

DOBBS: And this is the first time he's done this?

MCINTYRE: Well, it's been going on actually for a month or so. It was very quiet at first, but then it became -- it sort of came out in the last couple of weeks and he acknowledged it publicly for the first time a few weeks ago.

DOBBS: All right. Jamie, thank you.

Jamie McIntyre from the Pentagon.

Congressman Charlie Rangel of New York causing a bit of a stir on Capitol Hill. Charlie Rangel restated his call for a national draft, military service and national service. His Democratic colleagues, however, were quick to throw water on that speculation that they would back a plan for a military draft.

Andrea Koppel reports.


ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): One day after Congressman Rangel renewed his push to reinstate the draft...

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: I don't see how anyone can support the war and not support the draft.

KOPPEL: ... the speaker-elect of the House was knocking it down.

(on camera): But could you say if you support -- if you support Chairman Rangel's call for a draft? Is that something...


KOPPEL (voice over): Pelosi's number two, Majority Leader-Elect Steny Hoyer, said bringing Rangel's plan to the House floor wasn't in the cards.

REP. STENY HOYER (D), LEADER-ELECT: The speaker and I have discussed scheduling. It did not include that.

KOPPEL: In fact, other senior Democrats in the House and the Senate, from the incoming Senate majority leader to those with jurisdiction over the U.S. military, said bringing back the draft isn't on their agenda.

In a statement to CNN, Missouri's Ike Skelton, the incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said, "The all- volunteer force is working just fine. Switching to a draft is simply not necessary."

His counterpart in the Senate, Carl Levin, said simply...

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: I don't favor it.

KOPPEL: ... while Congressman Duncan Hunter, the outgoing chairman of the Armed Services Committee said patriotism is already filling the ranks.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: So if you don't need it, why have it?

KOPPEL: Rangel argues an all-volunteer military puts the biggest burden of war on minorities and low-income families. But that premise is knocked down in a 2005 report by the Heritage Foundation, which found 73 percent of recruits in 2004 and 2005 were white and came from primarily middle class areas.

In a speech today, Rangel tried to play down the matter.

RANGEL: I'm not making a career out of the draft...


RANGEL: ... nor do I intend to be solid on the war.


RANGEL: And the war is not an issue of the Ways and Means Committee.


KOPPEL: Now, this is by no means the first time that Charlie Rangel has tried to lobby to bring back the draft. He first raised it at the end of 2002. And then in 2004, it actually made it to the floor of the House and was overwhelmingly defeated by a vote of 402-2. Chairman Rangel actually voted against the measure, blaming Republicans, Lou, saying that they had rushed the issue to the floor without proper consideration -- Lou.

DOBBS: Andrea, thank you very much.

Andrea Koppel.

Although there is no draft, young men between the ages of 18 and 25 in this country must still register for the selective service. Young women do not face any such requirement.

Insurgents this weekend killed two more f our troops in Iraq. A Marine was killed in action in Al Anbar Province. In Baghdad, one of our soldiers was killed when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb.

2,867 of our troops have been killed in this war since it began, 21,678 wounded in action. Of those wounded, 9,877 have been so seriously wounded they cannot return to duty.

It was a bloody weekend for Iraqi civilians. Sixty bodies were discovered in different parts of Baghdad. Nineteen day laborers were killed, 49 others wounded by a suicide bomber. At least four car bombs exploded, killing another 10 Iraqis.

Robert Gates, named to replace Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense, went back to Capitol Hill today. There to seek support from both parties.

Gates met with Democratic senator Carl Levin, the ranking Democrat and soon to be chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He met with other senators last week. Gates is expected to testify before the Armed Services Committee early in December.

Democrats as of now are not opposing his nomination.

President Bush is on his way back to this country from his trip to Asia. At the president's final stop in Indonesia, there were thousands of protesters there to voice opposition to U.S. involvement in Iraq. President Bush said no decisions on troop levels have yet been made.

Ed Henry reports from Bogor, Indonesia.


ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Thousands of protesters in the streets of Bogor, Indonesia, a Muslim country seething about President Bush's invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. During a brief joint press conference with his Indonesian counterpart, Mr. Bush tried to downplay the protests with a quip.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's not the first time, by the way, where people have showed up and expressed their opinions about my policies. HENRY: Perhaps a fitting end to a weeklong swing through Asia that highlighted the unpopularity of the war in Iraq, attending the APEC summit in Vietnam, inviting inevitable comparisons between two unpopular wars. The president's final day in the region began in Vietnam, banging the gong at the stock exchange in Ho Chi Minh City to highlight a former enemy's burgeoning economy.

After criticism he had not been mingling with ordinary people on his trip, the president was bobbing to the beat as children performed traditional Vietnamese dances and songs. But a much more hostile reception was waiting in Indonesia, where there's anger about the war in Iraq.

BUSH: I haven't made any decisions about troop increases or troop decreases, and won't until I hear from a variety of sources, including our own United States military. So I haven't -- no need to comment on something that may not happen. But if it were to happen, I would tell you the upsides and downsides.

HENRY: And when the Indonesian president was asked if he had privately urged the U.S. president to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq, Mr. Bush jumped in.

BUSH: I'll be glad to answer it for him. No, he didn't. But he can answer it for himself.

HENRY (on camera): There was so much concern here about the president's security, that he would not even stay overnight in Indonesia. The White House choosing instead to fly him for 13 hours so he could sleep safe and sound in Hawaii.

Ed Henry, CNN, Bogor, Indonesia.


DOBBS: The president is expected to arrive back in the United States in just a few hours. He will, as Ed Henry reported, spend the night in Hawaii. President Bush will meet with members of the Pacific command there Tuesday before returning to Washington.

Up next here, communist China's navy and the U.S. Navy conducting joint exercises. Critics, however, say the United States isn't getting its share of cooperation.

We'll have that report.

An American company has developed technology to assist communist China in spying on its citizens. We'll have that special report.

And a border state considering a new law that would deny benefits to children born in the United States of illegal alien parents.

All of that, a great deal more straight ahead here.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: Members of the Texas legislature tonight are preparing to take aim at the legal interpretation of the 14th amendment, the amendment that grants automatic citizenship under that interpretation to any child born in the United States -- so-called "anchor babies." And America's most well-known anchor baby has returned to the United States from his trip to Mexico. In Mexico, he was used by open border advocates to persuade Mexican lawmakers to intervene in the United States.

Jonathan Freed reports tonight on the return of Saul Arellano to his mother in Chicago, who remains holed up in a church fighting deportation.

And Casey Wian reports on Republican lawmakers in Texas who are preparing to try to deny social benefits to illegal aliens and to force the Supreme Court to rule on whether citizenship is a birthright of people born in the United States to illegal alien parents.

We begin tonight with Jonathan Freed in Chicago -- Jonathan.

JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, he can be called an "anchor baby," but he hasn't exactly been anchored to any one spot recently. We spoke to Elvira Arellano today to find out about how Saul is doing.

She said that he got back on Saturday night from his trip to Mexico, and she said he's very happy to be home. But also, Lou, she said that his biggest fear while he was gone -- and we heard this in a phone call that he made to his mother when we were there visiting with here last week as well -- he's been concerned day to day that ICE or immigration officials might move in and arrest his mother while he was out of town.

That, of course, has not happened. She's been in this church for three months at this point. And ICE has made it very clear that there are 600,000 immigration fugitives in this country and that she is very low down on the list.

We also asked his mother whether or not she felt that he was being exploited by being moved around the way that he is. And she said firmly, no, that she is his mother and she feels she is doing the right thing as far as his future is concerned.

She says that there are no plans for Saul to be on the road again. She says he's back in school for now -- Lou.

DOBBS: Back in school for now. And she said she wants to remain in this country to be with her son, but dispatches him to speak before the Mexican congress to seek help for her situation?

Any explanation about why little Saul did not ask the Mexican congress to perhaps improve conditions for 50 million impoverished Mexican citizens who then might not be tempted to cross our border illegally? FREED: We talked to his mother about a range of things, including that. And she keeps circling it back and bringing it back to the fact that she doesn't feel that she's breaking the law here, and that she feels she's not being given the opportunities that people in her position should being given. And she insists that Saul is out there as an ambassador for millions of people, families who find themselves is this situation.

That's how she -- that's how she fields that one -- Lou.

DOBBS: All right.

Jonathan Freed, thank you very much.

The Arellano case has brought new attention to the issue of "anchor babies" in this country, the millions of them, as Jonathan Freed just reported, children of illegal aliens who are awarded American citizenship because they were born in this country. There is a rising movement to change that practice.

Casey Wian has the report.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The Texas state legislature is considering a law to deny welfare and other benefits to the American citizen children of illegal aliens.

JOHN COLYANDRO, TEXAS CONSERVATIVE COALITION: The specific goal is to raise the debate about the question of birthright citizenship. Does the fact of a person's birth on the soil of the United States, even if the parents of that individual are illegal immigrants, qualify that person for all the benefits and privileges of citizenship?

WIAN: Sponsors hope it will lead to a Supreme Court review of the 14th Amendment passed in 1868 to ensure citizenship to former slaves. Today it's widely interpreted as a guarantee of citizenship to virtually anyone born in this country.

The 14th Amendment states, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are citizens of the United States." Some border security activists say the words "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" exclude the children of illegal aliens, because they're also citizens of their parents' country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The 14th Amendment does not need to be changed. It needs to be enforced, just like all of the other laws that we have currently that are not being enforced.

WIAN: The Supreme Court has never ruled directly on how the 14th Amendment applies to the U.S.-born children of illegal aliens. But the court has granted even illegal alien children access to public education and health care.

NIELS FRENZEN, USC LAW SCHOOL: Certainly looking at the writing on the wall and the protection that the Supreme Court has felt ought to be provided under the 14th Amendment to undocumented children, it's difficult to see how the Supreme Court would be willing to likewise deny protection to citizen children.

WIAN: So some lawmakers are trying to change the 14th Amendment by granting automatic citizenship only to children with at least one parent who's a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident.


WIAN: Eighty-eight lawmakers co-sponsored a bill in the House last year that would have made that change, but it stalled in committee. The proposed Texas law is another example of local governments trying to crack down on illegal immigration because the federal government has failed to do it -- Lou.

DOBBS: A very tough issue. And we should point out, Casey, that that legislation you just talked about, there's been a lot of discussion in the wake of November 7th that people who are -- who are concerned about illegal immigration running for office were rejected at the polls. It turns out that's not at all the case, just another example of some propagandizing being done by the advocates in this case.

We should point out, of those 88 sponsors of House Resolution 698 that Casey just reported on, 79 of those congressmen were re-elected to their posts. Five did lose their bid for re-election. Four did not seek re-election.

Casey Wian, thank you very much, reporting tonight from Los Angeles.

WIAN: Thank you.

DOBBS: That bring us to the subject of our poll tonight. Do you believe the legal interpretation of the Constitution permitting citizenship to the children of illegal aliens should be challenged? Yes or no?

Cast your vote at We'll have the results here later in the broadcast.

Up next, weeks after being shadowed by a Chinese submarine, the American military is now participating in joint naval exercise with the Chinese, a move that has some critics asking if the Chinese are winning that battle as well.

And after saying it doesn't help the Chinese government spy on its citizens, Cisco Systems appears to be making and marketing products that do just that.

And we'll tell you why the U.S. government is willing to put the lives of air travelers at risk to save a dollar and fire anyone who complains about it.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: A fired air marshal is suing, trying to win his job back. He was fired after telling a reporter in 2003 about what he saw as a risky budget cut by the Federal Air Marshal Service. The federal government says the leak undermined security, but the former air marshal says his goal was to improve safety.

Jeanne Meserve reports.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Federal air marshals are law enforcement officers sworn to protect lives. But Robert MacLean believes upholding that oath cost him his job. In July of 2003, the nation was on edge because of intelligence that al Qaeda might attack airliners using weapons disguised as cameras and cell phones.

GORDON ENGLAND, FORMER DHS DEPUTY SECRETARY: They're going to try and do everything they can to defeat the systems we put in place.

MESERVE: At almost the very same time, the Department of Homeland Security was telling air marshals they would stop flying on nonstop long distance flights to save money.

ROBERT MACLEAN, FIRED FEDERAL AIR MARSHAL: I thought the plan was crazy. And suddenly, it was all of these planes that were -- that were targets were not going to have any protection.

MESERVE: MacLean says he was unsuccessful raising his concerns within his agency, so he leaked to MSNBC. There was an immediate uproar.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Cuts in air marshals should not happen now.

MESERVE: The policy was reversed. The leak was traced to MacLean and he was fired for unauthorized disclosure of sensitive security information which could reveal vulnerabilities and endanger the public.

CLARK KENT ERVIN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: If terrorists know that there is absolutely no air marshal coverage on long-distance flights, then obviously they're more likely to take those long-distance flights and to use those flights to perpetrate terrorist attacks.

MESERVE: Because MacLean is suing to get his job back, the Federal air marshals declined to comment for this story. MacLean supporters argue the firing was an act of retaliation by a embarrassed agency.

JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIV. LAW SCHOOL: This guy hit an artery. He revealed a policy which was incredibly stupid and put passengers at risk.

MESERVE: But did MacLean break the law? The government says the order about cutbacks was sensitive security information or SSI. But MacLean says it wasn't marked as such when he received it via text message on an unencrypted cell phone.

NICK SCHWELLENBACK, PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT: That's not a very secure way of communicating these messages if they are indeed legitimately secret.

MESERVE (on-camera): MacLean's lawsuit may clarify currently fuzzy rules covering the release of SSI and whether people in national security positions have whistleblower protection.

(voice over): MacLean says if he loses, the effect will be chilling.

MACLEAN: Nobody is going to come forward, everybody is going to turn a blind eye and ignore the oath that they took.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington


DOBBS: MacLean is currently unemployed, looking for a job in local law enforcement or the private sector in California.

Time now for some of your thoughts. .

Travis in New York saying, "Lou, just because corporate America is in the driver's seat doesn't mean they own the car. Nobody likes a reckless driver. And I get the feeling that middle and working class Americans are only a few more wrong turns away from demanding the keys back."

Hugh in Alabama said, "Populist or Nationalist? Lou, being a Nationalist should come with good connotations, not bad. It means one who's interested in the good of their nation above all else. That appears to be a foreign concept to our representatives in Washington."

Send us your thoughts at More of your thoughts here later.

Each of you whose e-mail is read on the broadcast receives a copy of my new book, "War on the Middle Class."

Up next, even after the Chinese navy caught spying on our fleet in the Pacific, the U.S. Navy is in joint naval exercises with, you guessed it, the Chinese.

The Pentagon expecting tough new oversight from a student of history and the man in line to be the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee in the new Congress. Congressman Ike Skelton joins us.

And he's good enough and smart enough to be our guest, but the folks in Minnesota will have an opportunity, perhaps, to add the title of "senator" to his name in a couple of years. Al Franken joins us here as well. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Our top stories tonight, the Pentagon tonight evaluating possible new strategies in Iraq. Military officials say, however, they're just brainstorming and they have nothing firm to offer the president of the United States.

Congressman Charlie Rangel, who will head the House Ways and Means Committee, calls for the reinstatement of the military draft and national service. Other Democratic leaders say, no way.

In other important news tonight, three teenage girls were killed and some 30 other students injured, several critically in a school bus accident in Huntsville, Alabama. Witnesses say police were told that a compact car either hit or came near the bus sending it hurdling off a freeway overpass. Police say the bus had no safety belts or air bags -- 43 high school students were tossed around in the bus when it plummeted head-long 30 feet to the ground.

There will soon be a new eye in the sky. The U.S. Air Force plans to launch its unmanned air craft, the Global Hawk from Beale Air Base in northern California tomorrow. The Global Hawk routinely used for air reconnaissance in both Iraq and Afghanistan. This is the first time it will have a domestic mission. The Global Hawk is designed to fly at about 12 miles in the sky with a range as much of 10,000 miles. Tomorrow's planned mission strictly for training purposes. The plane carries no cameras, according to the air force.

Gasoline prices over the holidays won't give travelers much to be thankful for. Nationwide, we're told the average price per gallon of gasoline about a nickel over the past two weeks, $2.23 on average nationwide. The lowest price, $2.05 a gallon in Houston, Texas. The highest, $2.75 in Honolulu.

In a stunning reversal, the O.J. Simpson book and television special, quote, "If I Did It," both canceled. A dozen FOX affiliates said they would not air the T.V. special. Public outrage over the Harper Collins book, which Simpson reportedly tells how we would have killed his ex-wife and friend if he had done it. In making the announcement, Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of NewsCorp, which owns all of those properties, apologized to the family of the victims, calling the whole thing ill-advised.

A friend of a former KGB operative says the agent was poisoned because he had turned on the Russian government. The former Russian security agent is fighting for his life tonight in a hospital in London, where he lives in exile. Before he was struck ill, he was investigating the death of a Russian journalist in Moscow last month, claiming in a book that the Kremlin has a secret unit to kill those considered a danger to the state. The Kremlin is denying any involvement.

The U.S. Navy says Communist China is not a threat to the United States, says more cooperation is necessary. This just weeks after a Chinese attack submarine stocked the USS Kitty Hawk carrier group. Christine Romans has the report.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hand shakes between Chinese and American naval commanders. After joint exercises in the South China Sea, the final leg of maneuvers begun earlier this fall.

LT. CMDR. NATHAN MOYER, U.S. NAVY: They gave our two navies a wonderful opportunity to work together and to solve a problem in truly a joint environment.

ROMANS: The first cooperation since 2001 when 24 American service members were held captive for almost two weeks after their EP3 reconnaissance plane was downed by a Chinese fighter.

JOHN TKACIK, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: What the U.S. is trying to do is to get the Chinese used to the idea of communicating. We're trying to get them started with baby steps on the sea, between ship to ship with semi-4 flags, with signal lights. Perhaps the theory goes, the Chinese will be more amenable to picking up the phone in Beijing when the Pentagon calls with a real emergency.

ROMANS: The exercise is just weeks after a Chinese sub stalked the USS Kitty Hawk.

FRANK GAFFNEY, CTR FOR SECURITY POLICY: To think that the same people that are doing that and who unmistakably were signaling a hostile intent by so doing, are now being treated as though they're really just another bunch of guys on the block.

ROMANS: Gaffney says the Chinese typically use American overtures to glean strategic information about U.S.'s tactics, revealing nothing in return.

But Navy commanders in the Pacific say the Kitty Hawk incident is reason for more cooperation with the Chinese. And in Washington, from the chief of naval operations, quote, "We don't consider the Chinese the enemy, and there are none of us who believe that that Chinese submarine was a threat."


ROMANS: But the admiral admits there are, quote, "issues with understanding how they operate and what they're doing." And those are operational matters, he says he will not talk about that publicly, Lou.

DOBBS: Christine, thank you very much -- Christine Romans.

U.S. companies doing business in China often claim they have no control over how their products are used by the Chinese communists. But there is evidence tonight that one American technology company is marketing surveillance equipment directly to the Chinese police in order to specifically help them spy on Chinese citizens. Kitty Pilgrim reports. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Internet censorship in China, human rights activists are charging Cisco Systems with marketing tracking equipment directly to the Chinese police.

Dissident Harry Wu says these documents, one titled "Mobile Case Solving Solution" shows how Cisco equipment has been marketed to Chinese police for a five-year upgrade project.

HARRY WU, LAOGAI RESEARCH FOUNDATION: They have a program, so called golden-share program that is serving the whole country, including the police car to the station, station to the central government.

PILGRIM: Author Ethan Gutmann says the tracking devices are already in use.

ETHAN GUTMANN, AUTHOR: A policeman in China can stop a citizen on the street, any citizen and reading their ID card or spelling their name into a little handheld device can start reading their e-mail immediately.

PILGRIM: Sophie Richardson of Human Rights Watch recently put out a report critical of U.S. technology companies in China.

SOPHIE RICHARDSON, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: This is really one of the most important questions to be asked of Cisco, is whether Cisco is simply selling a technology that the Chinese government could just go buy off the shelf if it wants to or whether Cisco is actively assisting the Chinese government, fine tune those products to use by the police or other state agencies to monitor people's conversations and behavior.

PILGRIM: On February 15th, Cisco was one of four U.S. companies who went to Capitol Hill to answer questions about technology sales to China.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cisco sells the same equipment to China that we sell worldwide.

PILGRIM: Cisco did not return repeated calls today regarding this brochure. But in a letter of reply last week to this broadcast, Cisco states, "Cisco has not specifically designed or marketed products for any government, or any regional market, to censor Internet content from citizens."


PILGRIM: Now Cisco also replied to us that Cisco cannot determine what sovereign nations regulate and don't regulate in their own countries. At a recent Internet forum, Cisco executives were asked about this equipment. They replied, we are not colluding with any country, Lou?

DOBBS: Kitty, thank you very much -- Kitty Pilgrim. DOBBS: Coming up here next, Democratic Congressman Ike Skelton joins us. He's set to take over the House Armed Services Committee in January. We'll be talking about Iraq and a host of other issues.

And find out whether comedian and activist and wit and talk radio personality Al Franken has any political ambitions. We'll be exploring that in depth next. Stay with us.


DOBBS: The president's just completed trip to Vietnam brought unwanted comparisons to our situation in Iraq with Vietnam, and our latest poll results show a connection between the two. Bill Schneider reports.


BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Has Iraq become another Vietnam? Most Americans say it has. What does that mean? It means people don't think the United States is winning. It means most Americans don't believe the U.S. will win.

How about this question?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Can we still win? Yes, I believe we can.

SCHNEIDER: So do most Americans; 54 percent say the U.S. can win. That was the source of the public's frustration in Vietnam and now in Iraq.

Henry Kissinger should know. He recently gave his assessment of the prospects for a clear military victory.

HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I don't believe it is possible.

SCHNEIDER: Because, he said, the U.S. strategy...

KISSINGER: Failed to achieve the objectives that were defined within a timeframe that our political processes will support.

SCHNEIDER: Are Americans impatient? President Bush thinks so.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We tend to want there to be instant success in the world. And the task in Iraq is going to take a while.

SCHNEIDER: Impatient? The United States was in Vietnam for more than 10 years. The war in Iraq has already gone on longer than U.S. involvement in World War II.

The public wanted to win or get out in Vietnam. If people don't think the U.S. is going to win in Iraq, are they ready to get out? Yes, but not immediately. Thirty-three percent of the public wants to withdraw all U.S. troops. Most Americans are ready to withdraw some troops.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: In terms of withdrawal, I think it is important for us to execute a phased redeployment.

SCHNEIDER: Americans are willing to be patient, as long as the U.S. is getting out.

(on camera): Senator McCain maintains that the U.S. can win if it sends more troops. But only 16 percent of the public is willing to do that.

Bill Schneider, CNN, Los Angeles.


DOBBS: And Democrat Ike Skelton, himself a student of military history, is promising tough oversight of the Pentagon when he becomes chairman of the Armed Services Committee when the new Congress begins in January.

Congressman Skelton joins us now. Good to have you with us, Congressman.

REP. IKE SKELTON (D), MISSOURI: Thanks so much. It's an honor.

DOBBS: You have just seen what Bill Schneider was reporting on these polls. Is it your sense it's a matter of political will, or just simply the realities of Iraq?

SKELTON: War or conflict is always a matter of political will. Those sides that are determined to win usually do.

It's rather interesting here, Lou, that the term victory has changed meaning. Early on, the goal was to have a democracy in Iraq. More recently, the goal posts have been changed and victory seems to be averting a sectarian civil war.

DOBBS: Let me ask you, you will soon be chairing the Armed Services Committee.


DOBBS: Have you -- I'd love for you to share with our audience if you've heard a clear statement of a strategy for victory from any of the generals who have appeared before the committee on which you've served and will soon chair, whether you've heard a clear statement of strategy for victory from this administration, or from, for that matter, the leadership of your own party?

SKELTON: No, I have -- of course I asked General Abizaid the other day, the mission, which of course he's spelled out. But a pure strategy for winning in Iraq I have not seen.

What we need to do, of course, is to train up the Iraqis. It's theirs to win or lose. And for the security forces to be responsive to the Iraqi government. But we're falling short of that right now. DOBBS: I know that, like me, you've talked with some of the young men and women who have returned from Iraq. And Charlie Rangel said something today that strikes me as very profound. He said he does not understand how anyone who if anyone who could support the war in Iraq could not support a broad military draft in this country. I haven't heard a good rebuttal to Congressman Rangel's view on that?

SKELTON: Sure. Well, it's simply this, Lou. The all-volunteer force is working and has worked. The downside, of course, is -- and I recently ran the statistics -- the downside on this, as most of the deaths that have occurred in Iraq are young people that come from small-town America or from the inner city.

Charlie Rangel should be credited with pointing out the fact that people in the military do not represent a broad spectrum of America.

DOBBS: Right. And -- and -- but to the logic of what he says...


DOBBS: ... the idea of shared sacrifice and shared burden in this country, irrespective of socioeconomic classification, it is hard to argue with the idea that people serving in Congress or the Senate or the White House should not have their own children at risk when they make these determinations, their own families, and not rely simply upon volunteers, but that war, as repugnant and tough and necessary as it sometimes is, should be a nationally shared burden. That's hard to resist, isn't it, in terms of its logic?

SKELTON: Of course, it's a good logic. But actually, the all- volunteer force is working. And the fact that it's...

DOBBS: I'm not arguing that the volunteer army isn't working. They're splendid young men and women.

SKELTON: They are.

DOBBS: They're the best we've ever put in the field.

SKELTON: They are.

DOBBS: What I'm asking about is an issue of equity. And equity is what this country is all about, after all.

SKELTON: Well, I might say without going into detail, our family has two sons...

DOBBS: Right.

SKELTON: ... in the military. And there are others in Congress that do.

But actually, it's what works and what works well. And you'd have to change the entire structure of the military.

Now, John Kennedy called for national service for people who would volunteer themselves, not just for the military but for other areas, the Peace Corps and the like. I think that's really what we need, is a call for unselfishness and national service.

DOBBS: And is it your sense that with the more vigorous oversight that you have promised as chairman of that committee...


DOBBS: ... is it your sense that we're going to have a resolution to direction in Iraq?

SKELTON: I certainly hope so. We need it.

You know, here we are. We've gone longer than the second world war, which was a massive attempt, and it's something we need to do and need to bring some conclusion, some sensibility, and actually begin to redeploy our troops from there. That's what the American -- it's too bad we had to have an election to say, hey, we're going to do this.

DOBBS: Yes, but thank God we have elections.


DOBBS: Congressman Ike Skelton, thank you very much for being with us.

SKELTON: Thank you, Lou.

DOBBS: We appreciate it.

A reminder now to vote in our poll. Do you believe the legal interpretation of the Constitution permitting citizenship to the children of illegal aliens should be challenged? Yes or no. Cast your vote at We'll have those results upcoming.

And coming up next, humorous author, PAC founder, liberal talk radio guru, activist, wit, possible candidate for public office -- all of those in one fellow, Al Franken. He joins us to talk some politics tonight. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Joining me now to offer his particular take on the issues of the day, of which there are more than a few, political humorist, wit, best-selling author, radio personality, and modest about it all, Al Franken.

Great to be with you.

AL FRANKEN, MIDWEST VALUES PAC: Thank you for saying all those nice things.

DOBBS: Well, they're all true. And one of the things people don't realize, I think, perhaps, about you is that you're the founder of Midwest Values Political Action Committee. You run a PAC.


DOBBS: And you've actually moved money to Senator-elect Jim Webb, Sherrod Brown -- Senator-elect Sherrod Brown from Ohio, Claire McCaskill from Missouri, Senator -- I mean, Jon Tester in Montana.

FRANKEN: Yes, we don't like to say "moved money" to them.

DOBBS: Excuse me.

FRANKEN: We gave money.

DOBBS: You supported.

FRANKEN: Yes. Moved sounds so DeLay-ish, doesn't it?

DOBBS: Well, I won't give you my overall opinion of campaign financing. But your idea is to support candidates who have obviously won. What qualify do those people share, besides the fact, obviously, that they're Democrats?

FRANKEN: That was it. That was almost good enough. We gave the Democrats who we thought we -- had a chance of winning. I liked all the people that you talked about and I liked the people -- to Webb, we gave what I like -- and proudly, we gave pre-macaca money.

DOBBS: Pre...

FRANKEN: Pre-macaca...

DOBBS: .. broken down as prima -- but go ahead.

FRANKEN: No. There was money pre-macaca. And then he got money post-macaca. But we gave that valuable pre-macaca money.

We gave the people we thought had a chance to win. We wanted to get the majority of the House and the Senate.

DOBBS: Is there any definition, any label you would attach to those people, other than Democrat going in? Are they anti-war? Is there any common stand on principal issues of the day?

FRANKEN: We didn't want to give to jerks, you know, but we liked all of them. You know, and all of them were Democratic and progressives. You know, people say about Webb that he served under a Republican, but he wrote that "Wall Street Journal" piece about inequality in this country. I think he's a great economic progressive.

DOBBS: A progressive. Now...

FRANKEN: Liberal.

DOBBS: The word liberal, I was going to ask you.

FRANKEN: I use liberal all the time.

DOBBS: It's amazing, the aversion, and sort of the fondness, the apparent new fondness for progressive rather than liberal.

FRANKEN: Right. I like to use liberal. We use liberal on the show. I think economic progressive speaks to a specific thing, whereas -- no, I'm a liberal. And I think America -- I think basically Americans are liberal. And the president, I think, saw that after a 60 day tour, a 60 city tour for -- to privatize Social Security.

DOBBS: Right.

FRANKEN: I think he saw that Americans are liberal.

DOBBS: Well, I think -- I would agree with one thing, during that tour, he certainly probably was introduced to the -- I hope -- lasting notion that the American people are a lot smarter than they're given credit for by, in my humble opinion, both political parties.

Charlie Rangel, who I happen to like a lot, is being just roasted in the national media for suggesting national service and a military draft. Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, soon to be running the joint, backing away from it.

And I thought -- I'd just love to hear what you think about his logic. How can you support the war in Iraq if you don't support the draft, in terms of sharing the burden, sharing the sacrifice in this egalitarian society of ours?

FRANKEN: Well, I think what he's saying is that before you go to war, the people are deciding whether to go to war or not should have a dog in the fight, or maybe a son or a daughter. And I think that's what he's saying.

DOBBS: That's precisely what he's saying.

FRANKEN: Yes. We might not be so quick to go to war. Now, I saw Ike Skelton and he was saying that the volunteer Army does work. In a way, it does.

DOBBS: Of course it does.

FRANKEN: Because those guys are in for longer. They're easier to train.

DOBBS: These are some of the best.

FRANKEN: There's all kinds of reasons for that.

DOBBS: Right.

But that doesn't speak to the issue of...

FRANKEN: Mutual sacrifice.

DOBBS: ... of shared burdens and shared sacrifice. Whether we're arguing about taxes, whether we're talking about our commitment to war... FRANKEN: Well, taxes, I mean -- I don't mean -- I'll come back to the subject, which is a difficult one, the draft. But we -- this is the first time in history that we have ever cut taxes in a time of war. And I'm not talking about American history. I'm talking about history, the history of civilization. And that is just ridiculous.

But as far as the draft is concerned, I like Kennedy's idea that you talked about, which is you can either go into the Peace Corps or teach or some kind of thing, or go into the military.

DOBBS: What struck me, Al, is the number of Democratic leaders who immediately went, whoa, this is radioactive. But they didn't -- it felt like they didn't give Charlie a fair hearing, because he was talking about not only the draft, but also national service. And that's compelling to me.

FRANKEN: Why not go into a committee with it and why not hash it out?

DOBBS: Democrats, running for president, very quickly. Let's take a look at a poll and get your read on a few of these candidates.

Kerry, Gore, Edwards, Obama and, at the top, one Hillary Clinton.

FRANKEN: Sure that's Hillary?

DOBBS: That's Hillary Clinton.


DOBBS: Absolutely.

FRANKEN: All right.

DOBBS: We double checked it. Would you rank them that way? Who, amongst those, do you think has the best chance and would be the best candidate? If you want to make a declaration this early.

FRANKEN: I certainly don't want. I like them all. I'd like to see a big field. I'd like to see all those people out on a stage. And I'd like Joe Biden out there and Tom Vilsack. And I'd like Americans to see all these great Democrats.

Obviously Hillary, I think, is well-known. See, I kind of -- there is the possibility -- her husband cannot be elected again. But he can become president again.

So if, like, I ran as president and he was my running mate, and I pledged to resign as soon as I...

DOBBS: Fascinating.

FRANKEN: ... took the oath...

DOBBS: Let's talk about another oath. The Senate...


DOBBS: Minnesota, are you going to run?

FRANKEN: I don't know. Actually, we're deciding, I think, this weekend, the family, my family.

DOBBS: OK, I'll give you the number, and I want you to let me know immediately.

FRANKEN: I think if I tell someone, it might be somebody in Minnesota.

DOBBS: You've got it.

All right. Well, we wish you a lot of luck. Look forward to your decision.

FRANKEN: Thank you.

DOBBS: Whatever you do, stay yourself. Those people...

FRANKEN: No, I'm going to change, Lou. If I run, I'm going to change.

DOBBS: See, there's your new campaign slogan.

FRANKEN: That's right.

Not the same old Al.

DOBBS: Thank you very much.

Still ahead, the results of our poll.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: eighty-nine percent of you say the legal interpretation of the Constitution permitting citizenship to the children of illegal aliens should be challenged.

Thanks for being with us tonight.

For all of us here, thanks for watching.

Good night from New York.

The SITUATION ROOM with Wolf Blitzer starts right now with John King -- John.


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