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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Iraq Endgame?; Why D.C. Can't Read; Confession Confusion

Aired March 20, 2007 - 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 good evening, everybody. Thank you so much for being with us tonight.
Out in the open: The fear of losing a loved one in Iraq has some soldiers' families going to desperate lengths.

And would you believe a terrorist confession if it was made in secret and maybe even under torture?

And why is it that one out of every three people in Washington, D.C., is illiterate?

Well, tonight, with the Iraq war now going into its fifth year, we're bringing the search for an endgame out in the open.

Here is a range of possibilities: U.S. troops leave as Iraq sinks into chaos. Our forces stay for 10 years or more as an occupation force. Or we accomplish the mission, defeat the insurgents, and leave behind a peaceful and prosperous Iraq.

Today's news doesn't provide any answers. The Pentagon says two more U.S. soldiers have been killed. And there are reports that about 40 Iraqis also lost their lives.

After four years of that kind of unrelenting violence, editorials and commentaries across the Middle East today are asking, when will we see the new peaceful Iraq? How will it all end?

To help explore that question tonight, from London, our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, Michael Ware in Baghdad. And Wolf Blitzer joins us from THE SITUATION ROOM in Washington.

Michael, I'm going start with you tonight.

Four years from now, how many U.S. troops do you think will be on duty?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that depends what America is prepared to pay as the price for peace in this region. If America is willing to cut the deals that it's going to have to cut with Iran, with Syria, with the Baathists, with the insurgents, then you could have only a nominal or token presence here, if any troops at off.

Essentially, America would have to surrender its complete mission, give up on this failed hope of a shining model democracy, and surrender power to, by and large, its enemies. Then there won't be American troops here. If, however, America does not want that, wants more than that, then you're going to have to keep troops here. And, arguably, you would have to keep a heck of a lot more than you have got here now.

ZAHN: What kind of numbers are you talking about, Michael?

WARE: Well, I mean, the generals were telling the civilian commanders of this war before the invasion that it would be hundreds of thousands.

But the American war machine is straining as it is. You do not have those resources in men or machinery anymore. So, to really occupy this country, America would have to introduce a draft. And that isn't going to happen either. So, basically, you're going to be left with doing the halfway option that you have been fighting this war from the beginning, and it's going to continue to fester, in one form or another, until America relents on some front.

BLITZER: Christiane, where do you think Iraq stands four years from now?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I think the beauty and the significance of your question is that, frankly, nobody knows. You can make some educated guesses, and you can speculate.

The truth of the matter is, and the facts are, that even the U.S. generals there have told us over the last several years that it will take at least a dozen years to tame an insurgency. That's just from the textbooks on insurgencies in the past. So, that does take a lot -- a long time.

What we have seen over the last year, for instance, also, is, we don't really know -- and it's vacillating -- which is the more dominant now? Is it the festering civil war? Is it the insurgency? Is it back again to the civil war and back again to the insurgency? That has been seesawing over this last year. So, we don't know how that is going to shape up.

And, also, who would have thought, when we were all in Iraq four years ago, with the fall of Saddam Hussein, after we had seen the quick military victory, that the United States and its allies would still be in an ongoing war now into its fifth year, that their -- none of the so-called milestones for success would have actually cemented that success yet, that there would be so many deaths, both on the American forces' side and, of course, on the side of the Iraqi civilians?

So, already, in the last five -- or four years, we have had unpredictable reality there. So, it's unclear about what's going to happen in the future.

ZAHN: Wolf, we spent many, many hours on the air together as this war unfolded. I don't think anybody ever predicted that Iraq would be where it is tonight. But, given these numbers that I'm going to put up on the screen with Iraqi attitudes towards U.S. troops on their soil -- 78 percent of them strongly oppose the presence of coalition forces in Iraq; 51 percent of Iraqis view violence against U.S. forces as acceptable -- then, how do you put any dent in this insurgency movement?

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": It's going to be very, very hard. You have got a huge problem in Iraq, not only with the ethnic tensions between the Sunni and the Shia specifically, to the Kurds to a certain degree as well, but you have got a situation unfolding now where there's -- there's a lack of strong, decisive political leadership.

Of that political leadership, you have a close alliance, if you will, with Iran that's emerging right now. Maybe 10 percent of the population of Iraq has already fled or already been displaced over the past four years, about two million refugees or so. It's -- it's moving in the wrong direction. The American public is going to get fed up, as you know, Paula, unless things start moving in the right direction, they see fewer Americans killed, and they see some progress on the political front.

And, right now, clearly, that is not happening.

ZAHN: Michael Ware, you were saying how it's not clear what kind of deals the United States would be willing to cut with Iran, perhaps with Syria.

But, in the meantime, a lot of people are speculating that what you might eventually see is a country divided into three major sectarian groups.

WARE: Yes.

Well, I mean, in effect, that's what's emerging. If that is actually formalized, if America partitions this country, then you can kiss goodbye to the rest of the region. Turkey will be forced to act militarily. Iran will certainly be pressing its advantage militarily. And you will see America's Arab allies, from Saudi Arabia, to Jordan, to Egypt, opening the floodgates of financial and military support to the Sunnis in that minor partitioned part of the country.

(CROSSTALK)

WARE: And you will see al Qaeda reclaim the territory it lost after Afghanistan.

ZAHN: Christiane, time for one final quick thought.

AMANPOUR: Well, clearly, for the United States, it's a huge issue as well. And its challenge, as well, over the next several years is to somehow mobilize to regain what used to be a position of admiration and influence in that part of the world.

I think the big cost of the Iraq war has been this massive blow to the prestige and the influence and the effect of this of U.S. foreign policy in this part of the world.

ZAHN: You all had very interesting perspectives.

Thank you, Christiane Amanpour, Michael Ware, Wolf Blitzer. Appreciate your input.

Now, as the war goes into year five, at least 3,223 members of the U.S. military have died in Iraq. And, tonight, we are bringing out in the open the extreme, even desperate lengths some Iraq war widows have gone to create families and keep alive the memory of their husbands.

Wait until you see this story from Keith Oppenheim on one soldier's son born years after his father died in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Eight-month-old Benton Smith is like hundreds of children around the country. He lost a parent, his dad, to the war in Iraq. But, unlike other children, Benton was born long after his father died.

KATHLEEN "K.C." CARROLL-SMITH, IRAQ WAR WIDOW: I wish his father could have been here and seen his son. And, pretty much everyday, I wonder what Brian would have thought of his wonderful little baby.

OPPENHEIM: Brian is Brian Smith, the father Benton will never meet. That's because Benton was born two years after his father's death. His mom, Kathleen -- her friends call her K.C. -- explained how, due to modern science and the casualties of war, Brian was gone before his son was even conceived.

CARROLL-SMITH: He was my best friend in the world and -- and the love of my life.

OPPENHEIM: The love story began in 1992, when Brian and K.C. met in Austin, Texas. They married. Brian became a lawyer. But, at the age of 2829, he grew restless. In 2002, he joined the army and became a tank commander in Iraq.

On July 2, 2004, Lieutenant Brian Smith stepped out of his tank at a checkpoint and was killed by a sniper.

CARROLL-SMITH: When he died, it was really devastating. I thought my world had ended when he died.

OPPENHEIM: Before Brian left for Iraq, K.C. and Brian had been trying to have children. Brian donated his sperm so K.C. could keep trying to get pregnant while he was away. They never even considered he might not come back home. Brian did sign a document that stated, in the event of his death, K.C. could decide how to use his sperm sample.

And K.C. decided to have Brian's baby.

(on camera): So, he never said to you that it would be OK for you to get pregnant with his sperm if he passed away?

CARROLL-SMITH: No. But it wasn't -- he didn't say I couldn't or could. It was just never discussed.

OPPENHEIM: It's -- it's -- this question strikes you as strange?

CARROLL-SMITH: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

OPPENHEIM: Explain. Why?

CARROLL-SMITH: Well, because we wanted children. And this is the child -- one of the child -- potential children we would have had. So, what is wrong with having the baby I would have had, even though he's not here?

OPPENHEIM (voice-over): At first, Brian's mother, Linda, was opposed.

(on camera): But did she feel that his permission was missing in some way?

CARROLL-SMITH: I believe so. I think that she felt maybe I was taking liberties.

OPPENHEIM: What did you say to your mother-in-law when she objected?

CARROLL-SMITH: "Linda, you know, this is my life, and I really want to have Brian's child."

OPPENHEIM (voice-over): K.C. convinced her in-laws this was the right thing to do. On the third try for in vitro fertilization, she got pregnant, 15 months after her husband had died.

With all the joy, it has been a challenge for K.C. to watch her loving child grow in the absence of his father.

(on camera): Do you feel the loss of Brian when you feel the warmth of Benton?

CARROLL-SMITH: Yes, that his dad won't see this, won't see the miracle that he helped produce.

OPPENHEIM (voice-over): But, no doubt, this little miracle is a happy boy.

CARROLL-SMITH (singing): A, B, C, D, E, F, G...

OPPENHEIM: And K.C. says Brian is present every day in the stories that Benton hears about the man who gave him life, only after he lost his own.

CARROLL-SMITH (singing): Next time, won't you sing with me?

OPPENHEIM: Keith Oppenheim, CNN, Austin, Texas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: There is another thing to add: The Veterans Administration says there are at least two other children like Benton Smith, not just born, but conceived with sperm samples after their fathers died -- an amazing story.

A shocking secret about our nation's capital out in the open tonight -- next, why is one out of every three people in Washington, D.C., functionally illiterate? How about 20 percent of us across the nation?

And, a little bit later on, can we really believe a guy who claims he's behind dozens of the world's worst terror plots? What if he was tortured?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Out in the open tonight: the color of murder in the United States -- in a little bit, the shocking number of black Americans who are killing each other.

And we are bringing a shocking fact out in the open tonight. We were just stunned when we heard this: One-third of the people who live in Washington, D.C., the nation's capital, are functionally illiterate. That means they can't read and write English well enough to figure out bus schedules, or even look at maps, or even fill out job applications. It is a national embarrassment.

And it goes, unfortunately, well beyond the city of Washington.

Lisa Sylvester has more on the frightening price millions of Americans pay for failing to make the grade.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They are adults back in school again in Washington, D.C.

Shirley Ashley is 58 years old.

SHIRLEY ASHLEY, STUDENT: I could only read, like, small words, you know, like cat, bat, sat, you know? I wasn't a very good speller. And now I can read a whole paragraph.

SYLVESTER: In the United States, one out of every five adults is functionally illiterate, a total of 40 million, according to the National Coalition for Literacy. That means they cannot fill out a job application or understand the directions on a prescription drug bottle.

In the nation's capital, the numbers are even more disturbing. One out of every three adults falls into this category.

RITA DANIELS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LITERACY VOLUNTEERS: They come to us because they need help with filling out applications. They need help doing homework with their children and just maneuvering through day-to-day life.

SYLVESTER: Forty million falling through the cracks, that has enormous implications for the U.S. labor market. American workers are now forced to compete globally.

PETER WAITE, NATIONAL COALITION FOR LITERACY: Compared to many of our colleagues in Europe, particularly Scandinavian countries, for example, we are considerably below the literacy rates of those countries.

SYLVESTER: Illiteracy is high in the black and Hispanic communities. Two-thirds of those lacking basic language skills were born in the United States, and English is their native language. More than half of the functionally illiterate actually graduated from high school, even though they could not read the words on their diplomas.

WAITE: Students who do fall behind have an enormous ability to be able to fake and sneak their way through those cracks.

SYLVESTER: Many keep that secret in adulthood. Co-workers, friends, even spouses are not aware, making illiteracy one of America's hidden national problems.

(on camera): Those 40 million people have the lowest level of reading proficiency. But millions more are just getting by.

According to the National Institute for Literacy, only half of the U.S. adult population has reached what's called a level-three proficiency. That's what many state organization consider to be the minimum standard to be successful in today's labor market.

Lisa Sylvester, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Tonight to bring in tonight's "Out in the Open" panel: Amy Holmes, Republican political strategist, Air America radio host Rachel Maddow, and CNN contributor Roland Martin.

Welcome back.

How ashamed should we all be when we hear these numbers; one in three people living in Washington, D.C., are functionally illiterate?

AMY HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I can tell you, as a resident of Washington, D.C., a longtime resident, it is a disaster. And it starts with the elementary school system.

In the fourth grade, only 10 percent of fourth-graders in Washington, D.C., are proficient at reading. Only 6 percent can do math at the fourth-grade level.

ZAHN: That's disgusting. HOLMES: We're talking about 94 percent of students can't do math -- a multiplication table. So, it's no wonder, then, as you go on through -- through the years, that you do have these high rates of illiteracy. It's a complete, utter disaster. This our nation's capital. Our education system should be a model, not -- not at the bottom of the heap.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: What is to blame for this?

RACHEL MADDOW, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, it's one in three in Washington, D.C. It's one in five nationally. That blew me away, in looking at this story.

I mean, I feel like there are -- there are some really fundamental things we're not attending to as a nation. And if the literacy rates are the first thing that we pay attention to, good. But we have got a lot of really fundamental stuff that we let go. As a rich country, we're not investing in education. We're not investing in our own infrastructure. We're not investing in our health care system. All the things that we need to take care of ourselves as a nation and be competitive in the world, we're really letting slide the basics.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: And I think, Paula, the issue is, you get back to basics.

I think, when it comes to education, we have tried to be very cute, and we have tried to focus on many of the high-brow things. But it's very simple. Reading, writing, arithmetic, everything that we were told when we were kids, that -- that -- what was stressed, and so the...

ZAHN: So -- so, you're not -- are you saying it's not as much a function of the funding and the fact that we have wandered off the basic mission?

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: No, the issue is not the funding.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Washington, D.C. spends...

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: ... has the highest spending...

MARTIN: Absolutely.

HOLMES: ... per capita per pupil, over $13,000.

But what Washington, D.C., did do, because of its sort of unusual organization there, is that the federal government, in 2004, passed a voucher program, $7,500 per student, putting the power back in the hands of family, because parental involvement in education is the number-one indicator of academic success. And now that program is hugely popular.

Its -- we're, you know, just now doing the studies to find out if it's successful. But parents are clamoring for this type of help.

MADDOW: What voucher programs do, though, is that they give local communities an opportunity, a great opportunity, to completely give up on their public education.

They say, you don't like your public education? Don't get involved. Opt out. Do something private. Relieve the government and relieve our communities of the responsibility to educate every kid.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: In the case of Washington specifically, the money -- there were -- specifically, in Washington, D.C., money went to the public school system, so that none of that money would be drained with the voucher system.

MARTIN: I think, first and foremost, when it comes to even vouchers, we have to be honest about something. You can have a charter school that's still a part of the education system and still use vouchers.

It's different if you are saying go from public to private. I think what we have to do when it comes to education is, we have to, first of all, stop social promotion, stop passing people.

I mean, Dexter Manley was a perfect example, went to Houston Yates High School, where I graduated from. He was a little bit earlier than me. And he was passed through.

There are a lot of people who actually went through that. Many of the people who are probably a part of this study in Washington, D.C., probably went through the school system where they simply get -- kept passing them along, and they were not able to...

HOLMES: Until they drop out in high school.

MARTIN: Right. And they graduated or they got a GED. It happens.

And, so, we have to get that serious, and stop ignoring the stats of third- and fourth-grade reading skills, because it's going to get worse if you don't fix it then.

ZAHN: And the one thing we can't ignore is the shame of this problem.

We, as reporters, have all interviewed people who have been illiterate. I will never forget talking to a 30-year-old woman who simply couldn't even put a phone number -- couldn't put a phone number on a piece of paper... MARTIN: Yes.

ZAHN: ... because she couldn't write out the numbers. Talk about the very devastating personal toll this takes on people who have tried to help themselves, and, through no fault of their own, haven't moved ahead.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: I have an uncle who was the same way, who didn't read until his late 40s, until one of my other aunts was teaching him how to read.

And, so, to go through life where you are doing manual labor, where you are operating in a manufacturing sort of job, it's different when, all of sudden, those jobs are gone. Now what do you do? You can't simply rely on your hands. Now you have to be able to process information. And that is where it reaches critical mass.

ZAHN: It's all so sad. We need to do so much more...

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: It is. And we see that it plays out generationally as well.

ZAHN: Unfortunately.

Stay with me. We have got a lot more to talk about.

Will you guys hang around?

MADDOW: Absolutely.

ZAHN: Oh, good.

MARTIN: We will think about it.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: Oh, don't think about it.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: You're coming back.

The claims of one of the most notorious terrorists in the world out in the open tonight, but can we believe him? And would his confession be credible if torture was involved?

And, a little bit later on: the color of murder in America. Why don't blacks values black life, and why aren't more black leaders talking about the numbers of black men killed every day?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ZAHN: Out in the open next: startling confessions to some of the worst terrorist acts of our era. But there are also some serious doubts about their validity.

Here's the problem. The confessions are being made before secret military tribunals. And a lot of people are wondering if they're believable, or if they were the result of torture, or simply made up.

Here's a look at some of the crimes the Pentagon says terrorists have admitted.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): Khalid Sheikh Mohammed says he was responsible, in his words, from A to Z, for the terror attacks 9/11.

He also takes responsibility for the 1993 truck bombing of the World Trade Center, the beheading of kidnapped journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002, that same year's bombings that killed some 200 people in Bali, Indonesia, and shoe bomber Richard Reid's 2001 attempt to blow up a transatlantic airliner.

In all, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed claims to have been part of 31 terror plots, including many that were never even carried out, like assassinating Pope John Paul II, President Bill Clinton, and former President Jimmy Carter, plus plots to bomb Chicago's Sears Tower, New York's Empire State Building, and the Library Tower in Los Angeles, and the Panama Canal.

The source for all of this is the Pentagon's transcript of what it says is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's confession before a secret military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

According to the Pentagon, another accused terrorist, Waleed Bin Attash, also told a Guantanamo Bay tribunal that he was part of successful plots to bomb two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 and the suicide bombing of the USS Cole in 2000.

But can we believe these confessions? Some people say no, pointing to details they say don't match known facts. Others question whether Mohammed is exaggerating when he claims to have been a key player in so many plots.

But, to some, the bigger concern is Mohammed's accusation that his initial confessions were obtained through torture. The CIA denies using torture. And the Pentagon isn't describing how either man was interrogated.

But, according to the transcript, Mohammed told the tribunal he had been tortured, though there are no authoritative accounts of his treatment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Back to our "Out in the Open" panel right now, Amy Holmes, Republican Party political strategist, CNN contributor Roland Martin, and Air America radio host Rachel Maddow.

Let's get straight to some of these confessions Mohammed made, particularly about his role in the murder of Daniel Pearl. He said: "I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew, Daniel Pearl."

This is even hard to read out loud.

"There are pictures of me on the Internet holding his head."

But Pearl's own parents have expressed doubts about his so-called confession, saying, "It is impossible to know at this point whether Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's boast about killing our son has any bearing in truth."

Clearly, they have reason to be skeptical. Shouldn't we?

MADDOW: The Pakistani government certainly is skeptical. They have got somebody else on death row for having done that.

The litany of things that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed confessed to almost gets comical, when you start getting to the number of things that he said he was involving in working at. He maybe -- he maybe was Superman, but, I mean, even before we got this confession, his -- the people who had been interrogating him had said, he is prone to self- aggrandizement.

I wish that we had a system for bringing these suspects to justice where we can trust what they're saying. Instead, what we have got is the kangaroo court system that is set up at Guantanamo, allegations of torture that seem quite credible, given what we know about waterboarding and other things in this administration. And we can't believe a word he said. It's a shame. And we will never be able to recover from it.

ZAHN: Do you have reason to believe torture was involved in getting, extracting any of this information about him -- from him, whether true or not?

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW: What we do know is that CIA did say that he did undergo waterboarding, and that he lasted longer than any of the top 12 al Qaeda suspects that had been waterboarded, two-and-a-half minutes.

ZAHN: We should explain what waterboarding is.

HOLMES: Right, which is to give the detainee the sensation of being drowned. And, so, a piece of cellophane is put over their mouth and water is put over the face to give that frightening, you know, sensation. It was very controversial. It is no longer used as an interrogation technique.

But when you ask the question, is he mastermind, master liar, I think we know that he's both, that we do have information from electronic records, other al Qaeda operatives, that he was very much a mastermind of the 9/11 plan.

Is he also a liar? Yes. He has a lot of reason to be a liar, because he started confessing very early, giving our authorities information that led to, as Peter Bergen, your own CNN expert said, led to al Qaeda being on the ropes by 2003.

So his interest in claiming torture and claiming responsibility for all of this is to enlarge himself within the al Qaeda organization.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW: And we can't believe a word he said and there's nothing about the system that leads us to any credible information. And the military justice system is an absolute failure for us.

MARTIN: And, Paula, this fundamental issue when you have torture. If I wanted to bring this back to the states, in Chicago there was Burge incident where Lieutenant Commander Jon Burge was over a particular unit, area 2 (ph) in Chicago where allegations that he tortured up to 200 individuals. These folks were sent to jail. They were prosecuted, some served 18 to 20 years.

The problem is we want to believe our military, we want to believe our justice system, but when you do have someone who has been tortured or there have been allegations, it casts doubt. The facts that we're sitting here having a conversation is part of the problem.

Now he admitted to 31 different plots. Let's say, OK, he was involved with 20 of them, but the fact of the matter is, people are questioning it, and when you begin to question, that is what casts doubt. That's why as Americans we want to be above board, be above torture so we can believe when we're getting information from our own government.

ZAHN: Yes. But can you trust the way our government is handling the interrogations at Guantanamo now?

HOLMES: I trust they're trying to do the best job they can do get good information. Because remember, at the end of the day...

ZAHN: You weren't in favor of waterboarding though, right?

HOLMES: No. But at the end of the day, what they're trying to do is get to the bottom of the al Qaeda terrorist plots. He confessed methods, ways to do this that are ongoing, 12 different -- a dozen terrorist plots at one time. What we do know is that it was successful, that we were able to apprehend other al Qaeda operatives. And that we were able to get this organization...

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW: We don't know who we got. We don't know if it was successful. We don't know about the success. And the question of the ends and means is important. Lindsey Graham and Carl Levin went to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's hearing, after they went to it, they said, we want an investigation of what he said happened to him.

One of the things he said happened to him was not only torture, he says his 7-year-old son and his 9-year-old sons were abducted and mistreated as a means of the United States government getting to him.

HOLMES: And I agree we should get...

MADDOW: Wait, wait. If we're picking up...

HOLMES: ... to the bottom of this. But the very point that our own military...

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW: ... is it OK, because we're going al Qaeda?

HOLMES: Our own military is saying that we can't believe everything he has to say, which means, that they are not trying to trump up confession charges.

MADDOW: You can't say that it doesn't matter what we're doing because we're trying to get al Qaeda. It matters what we do. We're America, that's more important than al Qaeda.

ZAHN: And we have got to move on. Thank you. A lot more work to do here tonight. Stay tuned, we are bringing the color of murder in America "Out in the Open." Coming up next, the staggering amount of black-on-black violence across the country. You're not going to believe the numbers. You may be wondering why we don't hear more black leaders talk about this problem. Our panel will sound off.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: They call it black-on-black crime. And tonight we're bringing "Out in the Open" some deadly facts about the color of murder in the U.S. Homicide rates surging in America's big cities, but nine out of 10 black murder victims are killed by other blacks. So why is there such a strange lack of outrage about it within the black community itself?

Dan Lothian looks for answer in the mean streets called The Hub in Boston.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Tony Winbush and Percy Harrison (ph) know what street violence in Boston's inner city looks like, they've dished it out and they have taken it.

(on camera): But you got stabbed.

PERCY HARRISON, FORMER STABBING VICTIM: Yes, three times.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): Caught in the dangerous and sometimes deadly cycle of black-on-black crime in which assault, rape and murder are frighteningly common. TONY WINBUSH, FORMER GANG MEMBER: As far as selling coke, selling dope, smoking weed, carrying pistols, shooting at folks, getting shot at, I mean...

LOTHIAN (on camera): That was your life?

WINBUSH: Yes.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): Winbush, who says he still carries a small knife for protection has only been out of prison for three months, locked up for firearms possession and assault and battery.

(on camera): Why are you fighting each other? Why are you attacking each other?

WINBUSH: I don't think it's like a cut and dried answer. Black, poverty, I mean outside influences, drugs, being people, growing up being young man, alpha dog.

LOTHIAN: Is there a lack of respect for life on the streets?

HARRISON: I think it's getting littler (ph) and littler (ph).

LOTHIAN (voice-over): It's that loss of respect for each other that Leonard Lee (ph) understands. The nephew he helped raise, 21- year-old Warren Hairston (ph), was murdered in Boston around two months ago, shot in the head. Lee and police suspect Hairston's killer was a black man.

LEONARD LEE, UNCLE OF HOMICIDE VICTIM: He's missing, then he's dead. You get tired to of going to funerals and seeing the same thing and people crying, and they are like, well, what is the answer?

LOTHIAN: According to the FBI, roughly half of all murder victims in this country are black and 93 percent of them were killed by other blacks.

(on camera): So many questions and so much outrage. Some say black leaders who are often quick to condemn crimes and injustice when whites are involved are mostly silent when blacks attack each other.

REV. SHAUN HARRISON, YOUTH IN CRISIS MINISTRY: I don't think a lot of our leaders are really paying close attention to the violence.

LOTHIAN: Reverend Shaun Harrison has been pounding these tough streets for years, reaching out, mentoring young black men who seem to think that violence is the only option.

HARRISON: I think it's more the attention on the war in Iraq, and we forget that there is a war in The Hub.

ORLANDO PATTERSON, HARVARD UNIVERSITY SOCIOLOGY PROFESSOR: I think the problem the leadership has is that its concern about stereotyping the black community.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): But the Reverend Al Sharpton, who says he has devoted his life to protecting black communities, isn't about to take that criticism sitting down.

REV. AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: I think the community leaders to do a lot that they don't ever get credit for. Media likes racial confrontation, don't want to deal with what deal with, black- on-black crime.

LOTHIAN: Because, he argues, that subject doesn't get big ratings.

SHARPTON: And that's unfortunate because below the radar we have a lot of people suffering, many times at the hands of people that look just like them.

LOTHIAN: So what's the solution?

LEONARD: Every time a person dies we have to make some noise. I mean, to the national leaders, to the local leaders, to the politicians.

LOTHIAN: But attracting attention is only one piece of the puzzle, the real issue, stemming the violence, better education and more jobs may help, but for Winbush and Harrison, who say their street life is in the rearview mirror, attitude also counts and they are now reaching out to other young men.

HARRISON: You can change, if not, then you're going suffer the same when I did it.

WINBUSH: When we decide, us, as a people, that we don't want to be locked up no more, we don't want to be shooting at each other, we don't want to be stabbing, we don't want to be or angry or whatever, (expletive deleted) will change. But until then, it's going to stay the same.

LOTHIAN: A troubling scenario that will only claim more lives in America's black communities.

Dan Lothian, CNN, Boston.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And when we come back, we'll put the problem of black Americans killing black Americans to our "Out in the Open" panel. Keep your e-mails coming, we'll take them a little bit later on.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: "Out in the Open" tonight, the shocking amount of black- on-black violent crime in the U.S. It is something we rarely hear about. Back to our "Out in the Open" panel now. Amy Holmes, Republican political strategist. CNN contributor Roland Martin. And Air America radio host Rachel Maddow.

As a black man when you hear that 93 percent of black murder victims are killed by other blacks, do you think that blacks are their own worst victims? MARTIN: Yes. and they are doing the work of the Klan. That's exactly what's going on here. And let me deal with this -- with Reverend Sharpton's comment for a second. So let me take the CNN contributor hat off for a moment. I've been the editor of three black newspapers, the editor of a black Web site, commentator for a black cable network, and I've also been the editor of a black magazine.

And I have not covered a single rally where 50,000 African- Americans were protesting on black-on-black crime. See, when you talk about protesting against police brutality, that's an easy one, that's an institutional system there where you have white officers, black victim, let's protest.

African-Americans must stand up and be accountable and on my radio show on WVON, every time somebody black gets killed, we talk about it and I say when is enough enough? They are doing the work of the Klan. And they might as well own up to it. This is worse than what happened with lynching.

ZAHN: Why are you upset with what Sharpton had to say?

MARTIN: Well, because you're shifting the blame. Again, I want to see...

ZAHN: And that is when he placed the focus on police brutality.

MARTIN: Yes. Now he is correct that there are community leaders out there on a small scale who are doing what they're doing. But again, I want to know where are they in terms of calling for those marches, calling for mass mobilization to cut the crime in black neighborhoods.

Stop saying, well, the media doesn't cover it, no, most of them don't do it. If you have 50,000 black folks marching against black- on-black crime, trust me, the media will be there.

ZAHN: Well, why aren't they? Is it the embarrassment, the humiliation?

HOLMES: I think it's a number of factors. And first, I want to tell you, it's so good to hear you talking about this "Out in the Open." And I think there has been a conspiracy of silence around it. There's fear obviously of sort of airing the dirty laundry, Remember when Bill Cosby, you know, gave a very candid speech and he was jumped all over by black leaders saying that you shouldn't be telling white America what's going on in our communities.

But we can't solve the problem if we don't identify it in the first place. And that is what Roland is talking about here. I think it also plays on this sense of white guilt, that white reporters and journalists are much more comfortable reporting on what they consider civil rights cases than what's going on in the inner city with black- on-black crime.

MADDOW: But how did Al Sharpton become the bad guy in this story? Al Sharpton is not saying I'm in favor of black-on-black violence, or I don't see a problem with it, what he's being taken to task for is organizing against stuff that isn't that, too. I mean, this doesn't make me any less mad about Sean Bell being shot in New York City. I mean, this not a situation where it is a zero sum of outrage, that we all have to get some out of.

MARTIN: Rachel, it is called, what is equal. And ask somebody who has worked in the black press for more years than I have worked in mainstream, it offends me when African-Americans will get angry at police brutality and not equally as angry at black-on-black crime. Trust me, there is no difference, somebody is dead.

And so I'm not -- the criticism is not in terms of Sharpton protesting police brutality. What I'm saying is what is the value of a black life? Is the value of a black life greater when a cop takes it or is the value of a black life greater when somebody else, African-American, takes it?

They have to stand up and say, enough is enough. And so you have to have the anger but not just that, say, how are we going to deal with it? Are we going to go into the communities and say, hey, you don't want a snitch, turn him in, turn your cousin, turn Pookie, turn Junebug in who kills somebody else because they deserve their butts to be in jail as opposed to simply just passing it by and letting it go on.

ZAHN: Why are so many black men killing each other?

HOLMES: Well, we know that there is high crime rates in urban communities and then that crime is focused on the people who live there. So if you had high crime rates in a white community, it would be white-on-white crime. I think what we are talking about is moving towards solutions. And one of the solutions that was decried over and over by the black community was the Bush administration's attempt at faith-based outreach.

And we know from studies, James Q. Wilson at UCLA showed that a community faith-based outreach starting from the first families moving up is another way to tackle this.

MADDOW: Making churches part of the government is not getting at the problem here.

MARTIN: And not only that, in the black community, we have got lots of churches, but what we have is weak leadership. That's where it all begins. You have got to challenge people at the heart. So what I want to see National Action Network, Rainbow/PUSH, National Urban League, where are our black relief funds when it comes to turning people in, in terms of putting up rewards.

Don't just have corporate America do it, say, hey, a thousand bucks, turn this person in because we want to stop the crime. That is where it has to start.

HOLMES: Why would you be giving more power to these national organizations...

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: ... who are ignoring the problem?

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: I want them to stop the crime and if that is a we to do it, then go ahead and start it. Stop talking about it, and say, raise the money, let's stop it. But enough with all of this stuff criticizing them, let's get it done.

ZAHN: All right. Roland Martin, Rachael Maddow, Amy Holmes, thank you all.

Coming up at the top of the hour on "LARRY KING LIVE," Larry's guest is Heather Mills. You might have seen her last night. I hope not though, because that would have been during our hour.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nobody saw it.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: She danced with the stars last night. She looked elegant, didn't she?

And coming up next, one of our people you should know, the leader who is fighting for the rights of a group of illegal immigrants that might surprise you, the Irish.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(STOCK MARKET REPORT)

ZAHN: Tonight's "People You Should Know" segment focuses on a controversy that seized the nation's attention last year even though Congress failed to resolve it. It is immigration reform. Of course, everybody still is talking about it. Tonight a new immigration bill may be introduced in the Senate some time this week. But while most of the attention is centered on the border with Mexico, you're about to meet one man who is battling for the rights of a group of illegals you may not even know exist.

Mary Snow has more in tonight's "People You Should Know."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Stories of immigration reform often focus on borders and fences and debates about citizenship for our neighbors from the south. But this immigrant story is different. Meet Niall O'Dowd, he's leading the effort to legalize the country's estimated 50,000 illegal Irish immigrants. As chairman of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, O'Dowd says current policies make it difficult for the Irish to enter America legally.

NIALL O'DOWD, IRISH LOBBY FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM: Irish basically do not qualify under most of the existing categories so we have a situation where last year for instance of the 1.2 million green cards, the Irish only got about 2,000.

SNOW: As a result, O'Dowd says these immigrants are living as undocumented citizens. This means no driver's license, no Social Security card and no chance to return to Ireland when tragedy strikes.

O'DOWD: Someone's brother was killed in a car accident and the young woman could not go home to the funeral, so we had a wake without the body basically in the Bronx. That's a very common story.

SNOW: So why do the Irish still come to America?

O'DOWD: It's more than a country, it's an idea, it's the notion of the great personal freedom. I think if native born Americans knew how tremendous the opportunity looks to people who come here, they would have a very different view of immigration.

SNOW: O'Dowd says even though fair-skinned Irish immigrants don't face the racism that others may face, the fight for the American dream is the same.

O'DOWD: This isn't just a Hispanic problem or an Asian problem, it's every country.

SNOW: Mary Snow, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And we're moving up on the top of the hour, that means "LARRY KING LIVE" will be joining us. And he is going to give us a little preview now.

First of all, you had me really worried, Larry. You went in for some serious surgery last week, and then I panicked because you were back at work two days later. What happened to you?

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Well, I had a carotid artery blockage. And the carotid artery, there are two of them, one here and one here in the neck. They go to the brain. They do a carotid artery test every year I take a physical. At the end of the physical, they tell you -- I usually do all right, and then this I had 70 percent blockage on the right side and that's a pre-stroke condition, and they worry about that.

So they said, let's get it out, so on Friday I went in. You go under and the vascular surgeon opens up the neck, goes into the artery, takes out the blockage and you suddenly have clearing, you look better because your blood is clearly through to your brain so you actually feel better, although I had no symptoms.

But it's something everyone should have. Every one over 50, I talked to my doctor today. Every male over 50, every female over 55 should have the carotid artery test, it would prevent thousands of strokes.

ZAHN: You are one lucky man.

KING: Lucky, that's what the doctor said, you are lucky.

ZAHN: All right, well, we look forward to seeing you at the top of the hour.

KING: Thank you, we have got Heather Mills.

ZAHN: I know. She did beautifully last night, didn't she?

KING: She sure did and she's the first "Dancing with the Stars" contestant with an artificial leg and this is her first interview since that debut. One judge called her an inspiration, the other compared her to Rambo. We'll find out what she made of it. Heather -- and by the way, she's going to dance too.

ZAHN: With you now that you're all healthy, got the color back in your skin?

KING: No, I can't, I'm not ready to dance. She'll dance with a partner.

ZAHN: Ah, she may sweep you off your feet after all, Larry.

KING: I'll watch.

ZAHN: Continued great recovery. You look fantastic.

KING: Thanks, Paula.

ZAHN: And welcome back. And we are going to be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And that wraps it up for all of us here tonight. "Out in the Open" tomorrow night, what do you give a friend or an acquaintance who has just had an abortion? The controversy over abortion e-cards. Yes, e-mail greeting cards expressing sympathy, and in some cases support. We're going to hear from the woman behind the abortion e- cards, someone who actually had an abortion herself. That and a whole lot more coming at you tomorrow night. Until then, have a great night, hope you're back with us again tomorrow night.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com

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