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CNN NEWSROOM

Iraq Gas Attack Makes Hundreds Ill; Karl Rove and Harriet Miers May Be Subpoenaed; Grand Jury Indicts Three of Five NYC Police Officers; Teen Blogs for Peace; Damage Assessed from Late Winter Storm in Northeast

Aired March 17, 2007 - 10:00   ET

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


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: From the CNN Center, this is the CNN NEWSROOM. It is Saturday, March 17th, St. Paddy's Day. Good morning, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm T.J. Holmes.

NGUYEN: Without my green.

HOLMES: Without the green, Betty, T.J., no green. We're glad you could be here with us to start this St. Patrick's Day with us.

Got some stuff to tell you though. Following new developments out of Iraq. Fears of chemical warfare as hundreds of Iraqi civilians and several U.S. troops are treated for chlorine gas exposure. We are live in Baghdad.

NGUYEN: And it's not March Madness, it is a march mess this morning across the northeast. A winter storm causing some major travel problems.

HOLMES: Also, and FBI warning to tell you about. Could terrorists be planning an attack on school buses across this country?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, BUSINESS MOGUL: Well, I think Bush is probably the worst president in the history of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: So how do you really think, Donald? It's the buzz this morning. You know when he talks, something's going to happen. Donald Trump sounds off against the president in an interview with our Wolf Blitzer.

HOLMES: But for us, the big story that we've been talking about this morning, but if you're just tuning in with us, we'll get you caught up now. A chemical attack in Iraq. That's our top story. According to the U.S. military, hundreds of Iraqi civilians and a half dozen coalition troops being treated for chlorine exposure following three suicide truck bombings. Two Iraqi police officers also killed in these attacks. CNN anchor Kyra Phillips is live in Baghdad with all the details. Hello again to you, Kyra. KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: It's a fairly new tactic that I'm told we're hearing that suicide bombers detonated three chlorine- filled trucks in the Anbar Province, killing two police officers, sickening about 350 Iraqis and six coalition force members.

I can tell you the bombings were in three different areas. They occurred at a checkpoint north of Ramadi. Those are really tough to tell whether they contain good guys or bad guys. The checkpoints are really -- you're at odds when you're -- excuse the storm behind me. We're getting a pretty heavy rainstorm now, so you might see some activity behind me.

But back to these checkpoints, they are tough to determine whether they are safe or not. Therefore, you see a lot of suicide bombings at these checkpoints. The other was in Amiriya, about 10 miles outside of Fallujah and then in Albu Issa region, that's just south of Fallujah.

Why chlorine? It causes difficulty in breathing, coughing, burning to the skin, burning in the nose, throat and the eyes. It's pretty easy to get your hands on chlorine. It is used in big doses here in Baghdad. It deals with the sewage, it purifies the water and cleans the chicken on the farms. Everybody here, that is one of the main staples in Baghdad, is chicken. Suicide bombers have now used chlorine in these attacks against Iraqis in mostly Sunni-dominated neighborhoods in the Anbar province, a total of five times since January 28th.

HOLMES: Our Kyra Phillips for us with so much going on, even a storm, a brewing back there in the back, literally a weather storm this time. But Kyra, thank you so much for the update.

NGUYEN: Speaking of storms, more white than green this St. Patrick's Day across much of the Northeast. You can forget about all that spring-like weather that we've been having because drivers have been dealing with snow, freezing rain and just treacherous road conditions.

Take a look at this. New Jersey officials so far have logged about 1,300 accidents on the turnpike. At least eight traffic deaths are blamed on the weather, including three people killed in this van when it slid across the median and hit a truck head on. Parts of New Hampshire could see one to two feet of snow before it's all over. Police there also reporting hundreds of accidents. That storm forced several presidential candidates to rearrange their campaign schedules.

And heavy snow on top of sleet caused major problems for road crew in Connecticut. But it's more than just bad roads. Hundreds of cancelled flights left passengers hanging out, just waiting there, waiting to get on a plane that will actually take off.

So let's get you the latest on the weather outside. And for that, we go to the Severe Weather Center and CNN's Bonnie Schneider, who is following it all. Good morning, Bonnie.

(WEATHER REPORT) HOLMES: Well, we turn to that other kind of storm, a political storm over the firings of eight U.S. attorneys. Congress wants to talk to key presidential aides, but the White House says not so fast. At issue here, questions about whether the firings were politically motivated. And caught in the storm, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. CNN's Kathleen Koch at the White House this morning with the latest for us. Good morning, Kathleen.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORREPSONDENT: Good morning, T.J. Several new developments on the story. While the White House had initially said the idea to fire these U.S. attorneys originated from former counsel Harriet Miers, now the White House is saying it simply doesn't know whose idea it was.

Though it does say that top political adviser Karl Rove recalls Harriet Miers coming up with the idea. However, a January 2005 e-mail now shows Rove in the middle of discussions on the topic, inquiring how it was going to be handled. The U.S. attorney matter, if they would all be fired or only some of them.

Now that has very much angered Democrats and angered them not only at Karl Rove, but also at U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. They say it shows that Rove, the White House were much more deeply involved in this matter earlier on than was ever indicated. And they are asking for Gonzales' resignation. Snow says that's not going to happen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Make no mistake about the basics, people serving at the pleasure of the president and that it's entirely proper to do replacements.

QUESTION: Is it the president's intention then to keep Attorney General Gonzales in his current position for the remainder of the Bush administration?

SNOW: You're asking me what's going to happen for the next two years, Cheryl (ph), I'm not going to answer.

QUESTION: How about for the next two weeks?

SNOW: He intends to keep him in the position.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOCH: Now meanwhile, despite a Friday deadline for the White House to get back to Congress on whether or not Rove, Miers, or any other current or former White House officials would testify on Capitol Hill, that deadline has passed. The White House now saying they'll get back to Congress early next week.

The Justice Department giving the same sort of answer to Congress, which is waiting for documents from the Justice Department. Those now won't come until Monday.

An interesting statement was released last night from Kyle Sampson, he is the former chief of staff for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. He resigned earlier this week. He explained that when it comes to being fully transparent to Congress, the Justice Department when it comes to the firings, he says the officials who testified did not purposefully withhold any details of these discussions between the White House and the Justice Department. On the matter he said it was simply the officials didn't focus on it, didn't deem it important because, quote, "the focus preparation efforts was on why the U.S. attorneys had been replaced and not how." T.J.?

HOLMES: All right, our Kathleen Koch from the White House for us this morning. Thank you so much. Of course, Attorney General Gonzales, President Bush, let's add one more name to the mix. How about Donald Trump for you? Well, he joined Wolf Blitzer last night in "THE SITUATION ROOM." And listen now, see if you can figure out how Donald Trump really feels.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Everything in Washington has been a lie. Weapons of mass destruction. It was a total lie. It was a way of attacking Iraq, which he thought was going to be easy and it turned out to be the exact opposite of easy. He reads 60 books a year. He read as book a week. That's -- did you think that's -- do you think the president reads a book a week? I don't think so.

He doesn't watch television. Now, one thing I know is when I'm on television, I watch. Or I try, because you do. Your own ego says, let's watch. Let's see. Whether it's good or bad, you want to watch. He doesn't watch television.

So he's on television being interviewed by you or something else, he doesn't watch. Does anybody really believe that? Now they are doing this whole scandal with the U.S. attorneys. Now they're finding e- mails. And it's proven to be a lie. Everything's a lie. It's all a big lie.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Do you watch yourself on TV all the time, Betty?

NGUYEN: TiVo.

HOLMES: I prefer not to sometimes.

NGUYEN: That's not what you said last hour.

HOLMES: But that's Donald Trump speaking with CNN's Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." And as always, not holding back.

NGUYEN: In fact, your TiVo is full with this show.

OK, well a grand jury indicts three of five New York police officers involved in the shooting death of a groom on his wedding day. That is according to attorneys for the officers. And we won't know those exact charges until Monday. But senior correspondent Allan Chernoff reports now from New York.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: The grand jury that met right here is going to be handing out three indictments against the three police officers who took the most shots at the car of Sean Bell, the man who was to be married later that day.

The indictments to be handed up, Detective Michael Oliver, 31 shots taken. Detective Gescard Isnora, 11 shots and Detective Marc Cooper, four shots. The exact charges are to be revealed on Monday. But the head of the detectives union said this decision will have a chilling effect on the New York City police department.

MICHAEL PALLADINO, DETECTIVES ENDOWMENT ASSN: The message that's being sent now is that even though you're acting in good faith and pursuant to your lawful duties, there is no room, no margin for error.

And they want to indict our officers, and they have done that. And I firmly disagree with it. But let me just say this. The only thing that's been done today is they have been indicted. They have been convicted of nothing. They have simply been indicted.

CHERNOFF: Indeed, one of the attorneys pointed out this is only the very beginning of the legal process. The detectives will plead not guilty, and these cases will most definitely go to court so a jury would have to convict.

So of course, again, the beginning of the entire legal process, the exact charges to be revealed Monday morning, 11:00. District attorney Richard Brown will have the details then.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN: And the city has extra police on standby in anticipation of that grand jury's decision.

Well, it didn't take long, a month after her death, a new motion picture is in the works on the life of Anna Nicole Smith.

HOLMES: Also a judge rules on whether a Washington D.C. madam can sell her phone and business records to pay her legal bills.

On another note in Washington...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VALERIE PLAME WILSON, OUTED CIA OPERATIVE: I found out very early in the morning when my husband came in and dropped the newspaper on the bed and said, "He did it." And I quickly turned and read the article, and I felt like I had been hit in the gut.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: Valerie Plame Wilson in the spotlight on Capitol Hill. The outed CIA operative talks about her public exposure. That's next in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Going public for the first time, an outed CIA operative answers questions about the leak that exposed her identity. As CNN's Brian Todd reports, she's pointing fingers and naming names.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Valerie Plame Wilson blames the White House for blowing her CIA cover.

PLAME WILSON: My name and identity were carelessly and recklessly abused by senior government officials in both the White House and the State Department. All of them understood that I worked for the CIA.

TODD: But did anyone know she was covert or was blowing her cover just the accidental side-effect of a spin war?

REP. TOM DAVIS (R), VIRGINIA: Because there's no evidence here that anyone out there had any idea that it was an undercover agent.

TODD: A special prosecutor did not charge any administration officials for knowingly leaking classified information and the leakers themselves did not testify today.

But two White House security officials did.

REP. HARRY WAXMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Because the president said he was investigating this matter and was going to get to the bottom of it.

You don't -- you're not familiar that any -- you're not aware that any investigation took place?

JAMES KNODELL, WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF SECURITY: Not within my office, sir.

TODD: That does not sit well with Valerie Plame Wilson.

PLAME WILSON: Karl Rove clearly was involved in the leaking of my name and he still carries a security clearance to this day, despite the president's words to the contrary, that he would immediately dismiss anyone who had anything to do with this.

TODD: In an interview with CNN in 2004, Rove denied that he leaked her name. But columnist Robert Novak testified in the Scooter Libby trial that Rove was one of his sources for Plame Wilson's identity.

What's the point of her testimony now?

JIM VANDEHEI, POLITICO.COM: What Democrats want to do is put a human face on what's been a very long and complicated scandal. They want people to know that this wasn't just an abstract case about nothing. It's about somebody whose identity was blown and whose career was essentially ruined.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: We contacted the White House about Plame Wilson's remark that the administration did nothing to discipline Karl Rove for his alleged involvement in leaking her identity. A spokesman there would not comment. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

HOLMES: Oh, the black book and the so-called Washington madam. The federal judge issues a temporary restraining order to stop the sale of Deborah Jean Palfrey's phone and business records. But Palfrey's attorney says she's already turned over copies to an unnamed media outlet. The records contain contact information on 15,000 former clients. She says she sold the records to pay her legal bills.

Well, can't get enough of Anna Nicole Smith? Don't answer that, please. But CNN's got something else to tell you. Learned that a casting call has been issued now. Casting is under way for a bio about the late actress. Shooting begins on this film next month, and the film should be ready by June. That's got to be some kind of a record. The producers say the film will actually focus on the positive aspects of Anna Nicole Smith's life from age 17 to her death.

NGUYEN: Well, preparing to mark the four-year anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, how protesters are planning to leave their mark on the nation's capital this afternoon. Plus...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so, little ones.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: A powerful anti-war message from a teenager. We'll meet the 16-year-old behind peacetakescourage.com. That's just ahead. CNN continues quick break. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRSEIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are opening stages of what will be a broad and concerted campaign.

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES; That's an anti-war video you're looking at there, and it's the latest of many on the Web site peacetakescourage.com. It's run by a girl that's barely old enough to drive. At age 16, Ava Lowey has been blogging against the war since 2005. And the Alabama teenager joins us now this morning in the NEWSROOM from Mobile. Good morning to you, thanks for being here.

AVA LOWERY, ANTI-WAR BLOGGER: Good morning to you too, thanks for having me. HOLMES: All right, well thank you. Well, what was your goal? You've been doing this a while now. What was your goal when you first started this Web site and started blogging? Has that goal been accomplished? Here we are a couple years later.

LOWERY: Well, when I first started the Web site, I was frustrated and felt like I needed a way to voice my opinion about the war. I wanted to do it in a way that I thought was most effective for me. And I never imagined that it would turn into what it has. I've just grown to become more passionate about the cause as time grew on. And my uncles were sent to Iraq, so that motivated me a lot more to get involved with it.

HOLMES: How do those uncles feel about what you're doing? Of course, your message is anti-war, not anti-troops. How do your soldiers feel who are out there - or your uncles who are out there fighting for this cause and in this war and they have someone in their family, a young lady, who is against it?

LOWERY: Both of them support my right to do this. Both of them know that I support the troops and that's why I'm doing this. One of them agrees with me and one of them disagrees with me, but they both respect my right to do it.

HOLMES: OK, and another thing I have to hit on here, a very serious note which that you say you've gotten death threats because of some of the previous posts you've put up there. Did that certainly surprise you? You know there are passionate people on both sides of this issue, but that someone would actually take the time to send a death threat to a 16-year-old child?

LOWERY: It was shocking to me whenever I got death threats. I never expected my site to get any attention at all, let alone to be popular enough to get death threats. But that shows me that what I'm doing obviously is working. It's obviously getting people's attention. So I've succeeded in what I wanted to do.

HOLMES: Do you think your age here lends more credibility to the cause? Because people might look at you and think, well, she's young, so she probably doesn't have political motives. She's just out there doing what she feels, or do you think your age takes away from the credibility because people might think, well, she's just a kid, what does she know?

LOWERY: I think both in a way. When I first started the Web site, I actually never posted my age. Some of the first videos I made, I made them without posting my age, and people, a lot of times when I got the death threats, they thought I was an adult man. So it was amusing to read those e-mails.

HOLMES: A death threat, amusing. Hard to image, but it sounds like you're taking it in strides. Have your opinions about the war evolved over time? You're obviously keeping up when you first started the Web site. But of course you're keeping up with this day in, day out. Have your opinions and thoughts evolved and changed any throughout this whole process? LOWERY: My opinions have gotten more educated. I've learned a lot through the Web site. Whenever I first started the Web site, I did not know a lot about the Iraq war. I just thought it was wrong. Through the Web site, I've done a lot of research for my videos, and by doing that, I've learned a lot about the war, a lot about the political system and a lot about our country in general.

HOLMES: And finally here, speaking of that political system, you will be able to vote the next time around. Is that right, in 2008?

LOWERY: Yes, I will.

HOLMES: All right. Are you keeping up with politics as well as some of these candidates and are you ready to endorse a candidate and will your opinion of them hinge on their view of the Iraq war?

LOWERY: It definitely depends on their view of the Iraq war for me. It depends on other issues too. There's a bunch of different candidates out there right now. There's so many out there. There's the front runners and there's the ones that don't get the attention that they should be getting just because they aren't the big money makers when it comes to political fundraising.

HOLMES: Wow. It sounds like they all need to be after your endorsement right now. Ava Lowery, again, 16-years-old, been keeping up with that blog. It's some great stuff you're doing. It's peacetakescourage.com. Folks, check it out. But Ava, I'm sure we will be talking with you again in the future. Thanks for your time again this morning.

LOWERY: Thank you for having me.

NGUYEN: Very outspoken young lady there.

Well, anti-war protests are planned this weekend across the country, leading up to the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq. They kicked off last night in Washington. Check it out. Demonstrations at Lafayette Park. Some protesters were arrested after demonstrating on the sidewalk in front of the White House. President Bush was not there. He spent the night at Camp David.

HOLMES: Well, next we need to tell you about some revealing e- mails that are putting a key White House aide in a tight spot over those fired federal prosecutors. Who knew what and when did they know it? That is just ahead on this Saturday morning.

NGUYEN: Also, more fire power from above. A combat aviation brigade heading to Iraq earlier than expected, but will it be too little, too late? We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TJ HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Well, a good morning to you again from the CNN center here in Atlanta. I'm TJ Holmes.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: And I'm Betty Nguyen. In this half hour, check out the video here. When cats attack -- ouch! Live on the air. You have got to see the rest of this. It's coming up.

HOLMES: Also, a protester trying to steal the scene on Capitol Hill. Who is that person in pink and why are they getting so much attention? We'll have all that for you.

First, we're talking weather. Just a few days until spring, but winter says, hold on, I'm not done just yet. The blast of snow and ice causing travel troubles in the northeast. The storm is blamed for at least eight traffic deaths including five in New Jersey. Three people died when a van crossed the median and collided head on with a box truck.

Also airlines cancelled hundreds of flights because of the weather. Stranded travelers were forced to cool their heels while they waited for conditions to improve. Delays were reported yesterday in airports in Pennsylvania, Washington, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, just to name a few.

NGUYEN: We had a producer on a plane this morning, a Jetblue plane trying to take off from Newark headed to West Palm, on the tarmac four hours and I think they're about to take off. We were going to do a phone interview with him, but obviously they were about to take off and they said cut those phones out and hopefully they'll be in the air very shortly, but just more problems because of the weather outside.

HOLMES: That's a good thing, they're about to take off hopefully at least. Jetblue's been having some problems.

NGUYEN: Just Friday they cancelled, what, 230 flights. If you might recall, Bonnie, as we've been talking about this back in February around Valentine's Day, they had to cancel thousands of flights. Many people were stuck on the tarmac for hours. That cost Jetblue alone $30 million with all those delays.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's funny. The FAA right now is reporting no delays which may be hard to believe. So I would say call your individual carrier to check if there is a delay at this time. Let's take a look at what's going on because we still have a winter weather threat even right now at this hour of the morning. A couple things happening, first off, the snow advisories are now expired for western mass, but we still have a winter storm warning in effect for Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. That means we could see some more winter weather in terms of snow and sleet. The threat now for flooding still remains for Boston. There's a flood watch and that goes until 2:00 p.m. today, so still looking at some wintry weather there.

As we check out our nor'easter, you see it's just off the coast of Massachusetts, still bringing in plenty of rain, lots of moisture to the region and looking off to the west, it looks nice and dry and nice and clear west of Boston, but that was not the case this morning when folks opened up their door. Check out this i-Report. This is from Westford, Massachusetts. It's a suburb of Boston and this photo was taken by Anne Robertson from her basement door. She opens the door up. The sun's sort of shining there, but look at the impression of the door in the snow. That's how compact the snow is pressing up against the door. And as you can see, that looks like about a foot of snow on the ground there.

We had pretty much varying amounts of snow depending on where you were and where you faced the storm from your neighborhood. Some of the heaviest amounts occurred in the Catskill Mountains, 20 inches of snow there. Worcester, Mass, that's more in western Massachusetts, 12.6 inches of snow and in Boston, eight inches. So New York City only saw about 5 1/2 inches. We still have more snow in the forecast because on the backside of that nor'easter, the winds whip in and they bring about the cold air and the snow. So for extreme northern Vermont into New Hampshire and Maine, you could still see several more inches before it's all said and done. In New York City though, you're going to see some different things happening. The temperatures are still pretty cold, but we're going to see snow flurries press out there tonight as well so something to keep an eye on as we work out way through the forecast period. Back to you.

NGUYEN: All right. Thank you, Bonnie.

Do want to turn you now to just a firestorm over the firings of eight U.S. attorneys and questions about whether Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will survive this fallout. Continued pressure coming from law makers who are calling for Gonzales to resign. They say he should step down if it's revealed that he misled Congress about those firings. And Democratic law makers are pushing for key White House officials to testify before a committee investigating the firings. Meanwhile, a newly revealed e-mail puts the heat on top White House aide Karl Rove in the prosecutor firings controversy. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux has the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The e-mail shows that Karl Rove raised the idea of firing all 93 U.S. attorneys earlier than the White House previously acknowledged. The e-mail released by the Justice Department contains the subject line, question from Karl Rove. The electronic conversation between two White House officials dated January 6, 2005 says, quote, Rove stopped by to ask you how we planned to proceed regarding U.S. attorneys, allow all to stay, request resignations from all and accept only some or selectively replace them.

The message was then forwarded to Justice Department official Kyle Sampson. Sampson, who resigned this week, replied on January 9, 2005 that he and Alberto Gonzales had discussed it a few weeks earlier. Samson outlined several scenarios and ends the note by saying if Karl thinks there would be political will to do it, then so do I. This e-mail exchange came nearly a month before the administration had said the issue was raised. Still, the White House stuck by its claim that it was Harriet Miers, the president's staff secretary at that time, who originally suggested getting rid of all 93 U.S. attorneys. Rove dismissed it as a bad idea. However, the White House has provided no documentation supporting that. Democrats pounced on the newly surfaced e-mail, accusing the White House of not being up front about Rove's role.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D) NEW YORK: The new e-mails show conclusively that Karl Rove was in the middle of this mess from the beginning. It is now imperative that he testify before Congress and give all the details of his involvement.

MALVEAUX: Suzanne Malveaux, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN: Let's take you now on the campaign trail live to New Hampshire where Senator John McCain, presidential hopeful, is talking about the war in Iraq and the strategy which he says we thinks we can succeed.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ...process to move forward so that we can achieve stability and then people have better lives and reject this kind of insurgent activity that has characterized this conflict for way too long. There are a few signs of success. I don't want to overstate that because I think one of the biggest mistakes in this war was the rosy scenarios that came out of this administration for so long. I'm sure you remember last throes, few dead enders, etcetera, in fact, those statements were not true.

But there are a few signs of success. Anbar province, the Sunni triangle, the sheikhs are starting to cooperate with our military against al Qaeda. In Baghdad, there are areas of Baghdad that are calm now. But I also want to tell you that the most difficult aspect of this conflict to counter is the suicide bombers. Ask the Israelis. They'll tell you it's very, very difficult to counter somebody who is willing to take their own life and take others. So probably the last sign of success you'll probably see is in the suicide bombing thing, which is so horrible.

Now, what happens if we leave? We set a date for withdrawal. You set a date for withdrawal, you tell the bad guys, hey, hang on because we're leaving on a certain date. There's no way you can prevail by doing that. I'm happy the United States Senate rejected that just a few days ago. The other thing is if we leave, I am convinced there will be chaos. I am convinced that there will be genocide, and I am convinced that we will be back. And unlike the Vietnam War when we lost the war in Vietnam, we came home. The enemy didn't want to follow us home. These people want to follow us home. Read Zarqawi, read bin Laden, read any of these people. It's us they're after and we're now, whether we were before or not, now part of this titanic struggle that has to do with good and evil with a radical Islamic extremism which wants to destroy everything we stand for and believe in.

I understand that the patience of the American people is run very low in this conflict and understandably so. But I really don't believe that it's appropriate for us to keep on and on and on and on with resolution after resolution. My friend Lindsey Graham yesterday told me that this is the 23rd resolution that the Democrats have proposed as a way to get out of the war. Can't we allow this new strategy to at least be given a chance to succeed? And - (APPLAUSE) thank you.

And I want to point out something of the utmost importance to you. Presidents don't lose wars. Political parties don't lose wars. Nations lose wars. Nations lose wars and when nations lose wars, nations suffer the consequences from it. I beg my Democrat friends to sit down with us and see if there isn't a way that we can have an agreement, rather than this continuous fighting that goes on not only on the floor of the House as a Congress, but also throughout the media, throughout America. So I am guardedly confident, but I also again want to point out to you how much is at stake here for the nation, not just for the political parties and not just for me.

NGUYEN: And you've been listening to Senator John McCain on the campaign trail there in New Hampshire today talking about the war strategy in Iraq. One of the main things that he did say is that he does believe that the U.S. can win and have success in Iraq, but he says if the U.S. pulls out, there will be chaos and genocide. And if the U.S. does leave too soon, he is convinced that the U.S. will have to return to Iraq. So obviously we'll stay on top of all that's being said today on the campaign trail with all the different candidates and bring you the latest throughout the day.

HOLMES: And on that subject of Iraq, want to keep you up to date now on something we've been following this morning, a chemical attack there. Hundreds of people are being treated for possible exposure to chlorine following three suicide truck bombings from in Anbar province. The U.S. military says six coalition service members are among those infected. Now chlorine is widely used as a disinfectant in Iraq and it is easy to obtain in fairly large quantities. Now these kinds of attacks have become more frequent rather since late January which signals maybe a new terror tactic among insurgents.

NGUYEN: Boots on the ground and more help from above. The military moves to put more fire power over Iraq just as soon as possible. CNN's Barbara Starr tells us why.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): CNN has learned that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has signed orders speeding up the deployment of up to 3,000 additional forces, most of them from a combat aviation brigade. Armed with dozens of attack helicopter gun ships and troop transports, the brigade will likely leave the U.S. in May. Their main job, airborne support for the 20 brigades of ground combat forces. There just aren't enough helicopters in Iraq right now to keep the so-called troop surge on the ground going. General David Petraeus, the new commander in Iraq has made it clear he wants to mass as many troops as fast as he can. While some levels of violence are down, there are still many skeptics.

LAWRENCE KORB, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: The Petraeus doctrine is too little, too late. If we were going to do this, we should have done it right from the beginning, listened to General (INAUDIBLE) had enough troops on the ground to get the situation under control after the fall of Saddam Hussein. STARR: And for the first time, the Pentagon has openly acknowledged in a congressionally mandated report that some of the violence in the last quarter of 2006 in Iraq is properly descriptive of a civil war. With signs the troop increase is making a difference, that acknowledgment is winning kudos from at least one long-time Pentagon critic.

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D) PENNSYLVANIA: I just read the report that we get every quarter. We're starting to get realistic reports. Since Secretary Gates came in, we're getting much more realistic reports.

STARR (on-camera): The request for the helicopter unit was made just a few weeks ago. For now, it means a plus-up in overall troop levels in Iraq. Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN: Well, with doom and gloom often making headlines, it is good to be able to bring you something a little bit different. U.S. soldiers and members of the regional Afghan provincial government recently traveled to Afghanistan's (INAUDIBLE) district. They delivered blankets, towels, clothing and school supplies to children. An army major says U.S. forces are working with regional officials to reach out to the people in that area.

HOLMES: How about this for a scary thought for you? Terrorists driving your kids' school bus. Now we've got a warning from the FBI and homeland security that a limited number of foreign nationals who may have ties to terrorist groups have been trying to get jobs as school bus drivers. CNN Justice correspondent Kelli Arena reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This bulletin says that some school districts have reported what they call an unusual increase in the number of foreign nationals that are seeking positions as school bus drivers. FBI investigators have revealed that a number of those applicants had other connections to or sympathized with known terrorist groups. It's not saying these people are terrorists and that's an important distinction. The bulletin does go on to say though that the most troublesome to investigators were these individuals who the FBI reported had expressed an interest in the terrorists' use of explosives.

That's important because historically terrorists prefer to use large vehicles to conduct their attacks. At this point, this is just a concern. The bulletin says there's no information indicating that these individuals are involved in terrorist plots or ever would be. FBI spokesman Richard (INAUDIBLE) insisted that parents and children have nothing to worry about. He says that this bulletin was sent out to educate law enforcement about trends that Federal authorities are seeing so they'll be on the lookout for any suspicious activity. Kelli Arena, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: And, of course, you can stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable information on your safety and security.

NGUYEN: What would St. Paddy say? Here is a law man masquerading as a leprechaun handing out lewd tickets to speeders Not so little green man just ahead on this Saturday morning.

HOLMES: Well, what do you know? Leopards do change their spots.

NGUYEN: Check that out.

HOLMES: Yeah, an amazing look at a whole new species. Looked like snakeskin.

NGUYEN: That is actually beautiful though.

See that protester standing behind Valerie Plame Wilson on Capitol Hill, the person in the pink? Who is that person we're asking and Jeanne Moos gets to the bottom of the story in just a few minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: This is St. Patrick's Day, and some of the celebrations going on around the country, this is one coming to us from a web cam of the St. Patrick's Day parade in Savannah, Georgia. Kind of a typical -- the weather looks kind of nice there actually. But some of your typical stuff there, the convertibles and the VIPs get to ride in the back, got to do the wave. We've all been there.

NGUYEN: (INAUDIBLE) On this St. Patrick's Day, I do have to tell you though that the luck of the Irish not going to help one Florida community. Check it out. The leprechaun is actually an Orange County deputy sheriff and he is carrying a badge and a radar gun. This operation unlucky leprechaun is occurring near Orlando and a poster actually warns drivers to watch your speed or it will cost you your pot of gold. That's no joke. Several drivers in fact decided to test their luck, and as you guessed it, they lost.

Now a fascinating look at an animal that you have probably never, ever seen before. Check this leopard out. Found on the southeast islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Isn't it beautiful? Scientists using genetic tests have determined that this elusive leopard is an entirely new species of the great cat. Originally it was believed that the cat belonged to the same species as the clouded leopard, which is found in the Asian mainland, but now scientists say comparing the two would be like comparing tigers and lions. You wouldn't want to do that. The most obvious difference, well this leopard is darker with smaller cloud-shaped markings, just really remarkable.

I do want to take you to a serious subject now on Capitol Hill.

HOLMES: We're going to talk about this former CIA operative finally talking. There she is, but what's happening there in the background is kind of stealing the show just a bit. That is just ahead.

NGUYEN: Plus, check this out, a reporter on television live with a very unhappy cat. Did you see that? What could go wrong? Everything, in fact and it did. Of course, it's on youtube and it's our video of the day. You're watching CNN Saturday.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: She's a blonde witness in the spotlight, but a blonde protester in pink steals some of that limelight.

HOLMES: And CNN's Jeanne Moos takes you behind the news, in this case behind the news maker for the revealing details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At first all eyes were on the blonde who came to testify. But there was another scene- stealing blonde we couldn't take our eyes off of, whose heart felt nodding kept us from nodding off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we went to visit Walter Reed, every member was appalled at what we learned. Our treatment of the troops didn't match our rhetoric.

MOOS: Whenever the witness moved, the blonde in pink sidled over to stay in the shot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you promise to tell the truth and nothing but the truth?

MOOS: Valerie Plame Wilson raised her hand to take the oath. The other blonde raised her hand to make a peace sign. Later, a shame on you gesture.

VALERIE PLAME WILSON, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: In protecting me and every CIA officer.

MIDGE POTTS, CODE PINK ACTIVIST: My name is Midge Potts, M-i-d-g- e, P-o-t-t-s. I'm from Springfield, Missouri.

MOOS: Midge describes herself as a transgender woman. She's also a Navy veteran from the first Gulf war and is now a member of the antiwar group Code Pink. No matter how hard the camera tries to frame them out, the Code Pink protesters have made an art form out of staying in the picture to displays saying "got impeachment" sign or a T-shirt that says impeach Bush now.

WILSON: As a covert operations officer for the central intelligence agency.

MOOS: Nothing covert about Midge. She once ran up unsuccessfully for Congress as a Republican. She popped up. She sat down. She popped up again. Being a human billboard at a congressional hearing can be exhausting. Earlier this month the Code Pink protester gave peace sign rabbit ears to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.

Those Code Pink folks really know how to positions themselves to get on camera. A spokesman told us they even study videotapes to try to find the perfect spot. Midge resorted to standing on her tip toes. POTTS: I don't think that the importance of the message is diminished by the antics or the clownish things at all because it's grave. Our situation is grave.

MOOS: Sometimes they get ejected. Sometimes they get arrested. More often than not, it's a dance with police. Midge even did a few stretches.

WILSON: I do feel passionately.

MOOS: Midge got passionate when the hearing recessed.

UNKNOWN: Impeach now. Impeach now.

MOOS: Witness the double take Midge got from the star witness. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN: All right, on another subject, here is a rule about animals. If a cat - I know you have cats -- moves like it doesn't want to be held, take the hint and just drop it. That had to hurt.

HOLMES: This was actually live on a story about animal abuse that turned actually turns into a story about reporter abuse and the cat not playing nice. The sharp encounter was posted, of course, where else but on youtube.

We're going to move to some of that funny stuff to more serious matters and talk about those suicide bombers launching deadly attacks in Iraq. The weapon this time chlorine gas. New developments to tell you about after a quick break. Stay here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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