Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Tillman's Brother Accuses U.S. Military of Lying; Deadly Attack in Iraq
Aired April 24, 2007 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, new outrage in the friendly fire death of a former football star. Pat Tillman's brother accusing the U.S. military of lying about what happened in Afghanistan and a fellow soldier says he was ordered to keep quiet.
One of the deadliest attacks yet on U.S. forces in Iraq. And moments of compassion during the crackdown in Baghdad. We're on patrol with U.S. troops.
And they're not really in the race, at least not yet. But they've got pollsters and promoters and bankrolls.
Are their shadow campaigns up and running?
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Did the Bush administration make up stories to find heroes in Afghanistan and Iraq?
That's the charge on Capitol Hill today, where the government is accused of manipulating the facts in the death of football star Pat Tillman.
Let's turn to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie, these are very serious accusations that are being leveled.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, facts are open to interpretation. But in the case of Pat Tillman, the interpretation of those facts is not a very flattering one.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
MCINTYRE (voice-over): The Congressional hearing featured a video replay of the big lie -- the phony account of Pat Tillman's heroism given at his memorial service.
SENIOR CHIEF STEPHEN WHITE, U.S. NAVY: Pat sacrificed himself so his brothers could live.
I'm the guy that told America how he died, basically, at that memorial, and it was incorrect.
MCINTYRE: That Navy SEAL says he relied on Tillman's largely fictitious Silver Star citation, which said Tillman died engaging the enemy instead of from friendly fire. No one admits writing the inflated account, but one Ranger, who was with Tillman when he was killed, says his firsthand account was changed and he was ordered to keep quiet, not even to tell Tillman's brother Kevin, a fellow Ranger, the truth.
SPEC. BRYAN O'NEAL, U.S. ARMY: I wanted right off the bat to let the family know what had happened, especially Kevin, because I had worked with him in the platoon. And I knew that him and the family both needed -- or all needed to know what had happened. And I was quite appalled that when we were -- when I was actually able to speak with Kevin, I was ordered not to tell him what happened, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You were ordered not to tell him?
O'NEAL: Roger that, sir.
MCINTYRE: Kevin Tillman, who served with Pat in Afghanistan, believes the worst -- that it was deliberate deception, with a crass P.R. motive.
KEVIN TILLMAN, PAT TILLMAN'S BROTHER: And we believe the strategy had the intended effect. It shifted the focus from the grotesque torture at Abu Ghraib and a downward spiral of an illegal act of aggression to a great American who died a hero's death.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
MCINTYRE: And, Wolf, at the end of the day, Henry Waxman's oversight committee was no closer to answering the key question -- who started the lie and why?
BLITZER: Why is it so hard, Jamie, to figure out who was responsible for the Tillman tragedy?
MCINTYRE: Well, you know, the big lie was in this Silver Star citation and apparently it was written by several different people. All of them have disavowed the inaccurate part. No one can seem to figure out exactly who came up with the idea of concocting the story that turned out not to be true.
BLITZER: All right, what a -- what a tragedy, Jamie.
There's mourning at Fort Bragg, North Carolina today. That's the home of the 82nd Airborne. That's after today's suicide attack on a U.S. base in Iraq's Diyala Province that killed nine paratroopers and wounded 20 more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MAJ. TOM EARNHARDT, U.S. ARMY: When we lose nine heroes, nine -- nine brothers, we all have to turn it, you know, turn within and look, you know, look within ourselves. And it's -- it's a -- the best way I can describe it is a gut check.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The attack, which actually happened yesterday, was one of the deadliest so far against U.S. troops in Iraq.
CNN's Arwa Damon is in Baghdad with the latest -- Arwa.
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the U.S. military is now saying that it believes that it was two 30-ton trucks packed with explosives that slammed into that small outpost in Diyala, just north of Baghdad.
Now, the Islamic State of Iraq has claimed responsibility for the attack. It is an umbrella group that al Qaeda in Iraq leads and encompasses a number of other Sunni extremist groups, as well as elements of the Sunni insurgency and has managed, in the last six months, to establish a firm stronghold in the Province of Diyala, very much making Diyala the new front line in the battle between al Qaeda in Iraq and U.S. forces.
Now, U.S. forces, over the last few months, have been aggressively conducting combat operations throughout the entire province. But the challenge that is being posed by this ever morphing insurgency is taking its toll on troops there.
The brigade that is operating there has been in country for six months and has already lost more than twice as many troops as the brigade that was there before lost in their entire year of deployment.
Now, west of Diyala, in another area, Al-Anbar Province, where al Qaeda is also operating in great strength, a suicide truck bomb targeted Iraqi security forces just outside of Ramadi, exploding in a residential area, causing a number of civilian casualties as well as casualties among the Iraqi security forces.
The insurgency here, Al Qaeda In Iraq, proving that it can still pose a challenge to U.S. forces. And U.S. forces constantly striving, trying to stay one step ahead of the insurgency -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Arwa Damon reporting for us.
A lot more on this story coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But let's move to a domestic political story that's unfolding right now. It involves the White House and Karl Rove and a new investigation.
Let's turn to our White House correspondent, Ed Henry -- Ed, explain what's going on.
How serious is this? ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's serious enough that the chief investigator has told me that his office has now called the White House chief of staff, Josh Bolten, to tell him about this and urge cooperation with this investigation. Otherwise, the investigator is pointing out, he has the power to issue subpoenas.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you.
QUESTION: Mr. President, what about the special counsel investigation?
HENRY (voice-over): The president ignored CNN's question about a new probe exploring allegations that Karl Rove and other top White House aides may have violated The Hatch Act, by using federal resources for political purposes.
What's different about this probe is that it's run not by a Democrat, but by a Bush political appointee, Scott Bloch, head of an obscure federal agency known as the Office of Special Counsel.
Bloch voted for George W. Bush in the last two elections, but says he will not let that affect him.
(on camera): Is it fair to say you'll let the chips fall where they may?
SCOTT BLOCH, OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL: Yes, I will. And the evidence, we will follow it where it leads. We'll do a thorough job. We will not leave any stone unturned. We will be fair. We will be impartial. And we'll be thorough.
HENRY: The investigation centers on allegations that Rove and other Bush officials used Power Point presentations to encourage government employees to find ways to support Republican political candidates. And Bloch is also poking into the matter of one of the fired U.S. attorneys, David Iglesias, and whether he was fired because he did not pursue investigations against Democrats; as well as White House officials' use of Republican Party e-mails, some of which are missing.
While Bloch does not have the power to either prosecute or formally admonish presidentially appointed officials like Rove for wrongdoing, at the end of his probe he can write a letter to the president, urging the commander-in-chief to take disciplinary action that includes firing a top aide.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
HENRY: But Bloch is also under investigation himself for allegedly retaliating against employees who did not follow his internal policies. He insists that he's innocent -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Here's a question a lot of critics are already asking as word filters out of this investigation.
Can a Bush appointee credibly investigate the Bush White House?
HENRY: It's a good question. Obviously, whenever a Democrat like Henry Waxman investigates this White House, the Republicans say oh, wait, he's a Democrat, he's partisan, he's just out to get the president.
In this case, you now have liberal groups saying look, he -- this guy cannot credibly investigate the president.
The bottom line is, I can tell you, this morning, this White House was caught off guard by this story in the "Los Angeles Times," saying that this investigation had been opened. And I can tell you, allies of this White House have been telling me, and basically privately criticizing this official for moving ahead with this investigation. They were not happy about it. They did not order this investigation. They're very upset about it and it's another political headache they don't need right now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you for that.
Ed Henry reporting.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York for The Cafferty File -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Senator Hillary Clinton says she's going to fight like the escaped slave Harriet Tubman.
Following a microphone glitch at and a New York fundraiser last night, Clinton said it reminded her of Tubman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: She made it to freedom after having been a slave and she got to New York and she could have just been so happy to stay at home and just breathe in a big sigh of relief. But she kept going back down South to bring other freed slaves to freedom. And she used to say no matter what happens, keep going. So we're going to keep going until we take back the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAFFERTY: The woman is amazing.
Remember last month she was talking at that church down in Selma, Alabama, where the civil rights movement began?
At that -- on that occasion, she quoted the Reverend James Cleveland.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CLINTON: I don't feel no ways tired. I come too far from where I started from. Nobody told me that the road would be easy. I don't believe he brought me this far to leave me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAFFERTY: It's just painful to listen to.
It's no secret black support is essential for any Democratic presidential candidate. But will Clinton comparing herself to black heroes, or trying to sound like them, ultimately help her get that support, or will it be recognized for exactly what it is, which is pandering?
Here's the question -- should Senator Hillary Clinton be comparing herself to escaped slave Harriet Tubman?
E-mail email@example.com or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile, you all -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you for that.
Up ahead, shadow campaigns threatening to turn '08 vote upside down. We're going to show you who's almost in the race for the White House.
Also, can time and the troop increase turn around the war in Iraq?
I'll ask Republican Congressman Mike Pence. He was recently in Iraq. He's back with a firsthand assessment and has some very strong views.
Also, Congressman Dennis Kucinich has some very strong views, as well. He's holding a news conference on Capitol Hill regarding the vice president and impeachment. Kucinich will be joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Members of Congress are glancing at their watches, they're tapping their feet. They're trying to set a deadline for an Iraq pullout, but the military brass trying to buy some time.
Let's turn to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr -- Barbara, can the U.S. commander in Iraq make his case to these concerned members of Congress, mostly Democrats?
BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, that is the key question. General David Petraeus, headed to Capitol Hill tomorrow.
But will Congress listen to him?
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
STARR (voice-over): When General David Petraeus goes to Capitol Hill Wednesday, he may have a tough sell convincing lawmakers there is progress in Iraq and more time is needed for the troop surge to work.
Petraeus says it will be late summer before he knows if the surge is working. Commanders want enough reductions in violence for Iraqis to feel safe, disarming of militias and more political reconciliation.
But with a rising number of suicide car bomb attacks, no one can yet precisely define what success will look like on the streets of Iraq.
Everyone is staking out a position. Congress is moving toward passing legislation that could begin bringing troops home as early as July.
BUSH: Despite the fact that General Petraeus has not yet received all of the force -- the reinforcements he needs. It makes no sense to tell the enemy when you start to plan withdrawing.
STARR: But listen to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Our commitment to Iraq is long-term. It is not a commitment to have our young men and women patrolling Iraq's streets open-endedly.
MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.): We are absolutely sending a mixed message and the wrong message to the insurgency in Iraq by our actions in the United States.
STARR: Some worry the insurgents see the U.S. political debate as a sign of weakness.
ANDREW EXUM, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: The insurgents are always going to be operating on a longer timetable than you are. So you never want to let the insurgent groups know when you're thinking of pulling out.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
STARR: But, Wolf, right now, there may be just one bottom line -- the month of April has -- is now turning out to be, so far, the deadliest month of the year for U.S. troops in Iraq -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you, Barbara, for that.
So, will more time help the U.S. military? Can the war in Iraq still be won?
Joining us now is Indiana Republican Congressman Mike Pence.
He's a recent visitor to Iraq.
Congressman, thanks for coming in.
REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: You issued a statement saying today: "This war is not lost."
That's less than robust. You're not saying the U.S. is winning, are you?
PENCE: Well, it -- look, this has been a very tough time in Iraq. As we saw last month, when we were on the ground and in the weeks since then, as the surge has moved into the streets of Baghdad, in particular in Ramadi, the enemy is fighting back. We've seen these horrific bombings.
But it doesn't change the fact, Wolf, that there is modest progress on the ground. I think General Petraeus will tell Congress in the next 24 hours what -- what we heard in Baghdad, and that is that that sectarian violence is down, that U.S. and Iraqi forces are forward deployed now at -- at dozens of joint security stations throughout Baghdad and throughout Ramadi and there's real evidence that...
PENCE: ... Sunnis are stepping forward in the Al-Anbar Province to support the government and support U.S. forces.
BLITZER: Here's what looks like is happening.
Correct me if I'm wrong, Congressman.
The U.S. sends in Marines, beefed up forces into the Al-Anbar Province to deal with an al Qaeda threat there, with the insurgency there. They simply move to the Diyala Province and in the Diyala Province, we saw that horrific attack against the 82nd Airborne yesterday...
BLITZER: ... killing at least those soldiers yesterday, wounding a lot more.
A lot of people are wondering why doesn't the Iraqi Army, which has hundreds of thousands, supposedly, troops, the Iraqi police, why can't they take the lead and get the job done?
It's their country, after all. It's not our country.
PENCE: I think that's a very fair question. And, frankly, Wolf, one of the concerns we heard from General Odierno in Ramadi and from General Petraeus in Baghdad was as we move the surge into those two major cities and as we seek to implement the president's plan to quell violence, particularly in Baghdad and in the Al-Anbar Province, that you would see the insurgent and al Qaeda elements move into the outlying areas.
That's why ultimately this is about a political solution. And the president, as you heard again on your air, the president has a goal here, a strategy here, that would -- that would make Baghdad safe enough for the political process and a long-term political settlement to -- to be achieved.
But, look, there's no question that this -- these recent bombings have been disappointing. Baghdad is not safe, but because of the deployment of U.S. and Iraqi forces throughout the capital, Baghdad is safer.
BLITZER: I want you to have a chance to clarify. You got a lot of criticism, as you know, Congressman, for the comments you made when you were there on April 1st.
I'm going to play a little clip of what you said.
Explain to our viewers what you meant and if you want to revise that comment.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PENCE: I candidly was not prepared for -- to find a marketplace where thousands and thousands of Iraqis were moving about in regular everyday life, like a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, Congressman, you know you've been criticized for suggesting that that marketplace that you and Senator McCain and others walked around was sort of like walking around a country fair in Indiana.
PENCE: Yes, a very poor choice of words. And, you know, what I was describing there was -- what I was attempting, however imperfectly to describe, rather, Wolf, was that this was two or three city blocks, open air, hundreds of tents, thousands of people milling around through hundreds of merchants.
We flew over several marketplaces that General Petraeus, U.S. and Iraqi forces had hardened and protected and you began to see people coming back.
But no question about it, the comparison to Indiana was confusing for many people and I regret that it -- that that confusion and some controversy took attention away from the real evidence of progress that we found on the ground in Baghdad.
Once again, sectarian violence is down. U.S. and Iraqi forces are deployed throughout the city of Baghdad and with the Sunnis stepping forward in what's called the Iraqi Awakening Movement, I think there's real evidence that if we can keep Congress out of micro managing this war and setting artificial timelines, I think we have a real opportunity for the president's plan and for freedom to win in Iraq. BLITZER: Even as we're speaking, Congressman, your Democratic colleague, Dennis Kucinich, is announcing he's going to introduce articles of impeachment against the vice president, Dick Cheney.
Listen to this little clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because I believe the vice president's conduct of office has been destructive to the founding purposes of our nation. Today, I have indicated House Resolution 333, Articles of Impeachment relating to Vice President Richard B. Cheney.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We're going to be speaking with Congressman Kucinich later this hour.
But what do you say to him?
PENCE: Well, look, whether it be timetables for withdrawal from Iraq that are beyond the purview of the constitution's role of the Congress in a time of war or whether it be Congressman Kucinich's effort, I think you're going to see this Democrat majority use every legislative means at their disposal to attack this presidency and attack a policy overseas.
I -- I know Congressman Kucinich well. He is an ardent and consistent opponent of the effort in Iraq. But this isn't the appropriate way to have a national debate over our policy in the war on terror.
BLITZER: Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana, thanks for coming in.
PENCE: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And coming up, we'll speak to the Democratic presidential candidate, Dennis Kucinich. He's calling for the impeachment of the vice president. Kucinich will be joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Also, some call it a symbol of witchcraft.
So why is it now allowed in U.S. military cemeteries?
Stick around. We'll explain. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Our Carol Costello is monitoring some other stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What do you have -- Carol.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, some developing news, Wolf.
We just have word from Indiana's governor the prison riot in New Castle is over. The prison has been secured. The mayor had called it a full scale riot, violence breaking out at a medium security prison I New Castle, Indiana. Fires could be seen burning in a courtyard as police in riot gear massed outside the prison fence.
A spokeswoman telling us the disturbance involved one cell house and that two prison staff members have been injured. But again, word from the governor of Indiana, this riot is over.
Worldwide empathy for the Virginia Tech massacre. Buckingham Palace's Queen Elizabeth will pay tribute to the victims when she visits Virginia next month to mark the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown Settlement.
And check out this banner at Baghdad Technology University. It denounces the Virginia Tech killings and offered condolences to the victims' families. It also calls for campuses around the world to be protected from violence. Iraqi universities have been a favorite target of insurgents.
That's a look at the headlines right now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Carol, thank you.
And coming up, the horror of war and an emotional moment of compassion. We're going to show you one woman's plight now. It captures the essence of Iraq's turmoil.
Plus, will they or won't they -- meet the almost candidates who could change the entire landscape in the race for the White House.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, an expected spring offensive by insurgents in Afghanistan now in doubt. A top U.S. military commander saying despite an increase in small attacks, the anticipated offensive doesn't appear to be materializing, at least not yet.
Also, Russians lining up by the hundreds to pray respect to the late President Boris Yeltsin. His body now lying in state in a Moscow cathedral.
And the vice president, Dick Cheney, getting a check-up on the blood clot in his left leg. A spokeswoman saying results of an ultrasound are reassuring, showing blood thinning drugs are working and the clot is resolving.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
U.S. troops are putting their own lives on the line, trying to suppress the sectarian slaughter in Baghdad. And in the midst of the crackdown, CNN's Hugh Riminton found a moment of compassion on patrol with the troops -- Hugh.
HUGH RIMINTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there are really two wars going on in Iraq. One is the war between the insurgents and the coalition forces and the Iraqi Army.
Now, the other war is Sunni against Shia, the two major strands of Islam.
General David Petraeus, the head of U.S. forces here in Iraq, says he believes sectarian killings, at least in the capital, are starting now to turn around, to decline.
But it is that battle, Muslim on Muslim, that may well outlast the American presence here.
RIMINTON (voice over): This is no man's land. Once a comfortable middle class sector of Baghdad, it is now a wasteland. And living here is pure murder.
A patrol of the U.S. Fifth Calvary comes looking for weapons.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're looking for evidence, evidence of shooting positions. It's common for them to hide weapons, things like that in abandoned places like this, because that way, it's not tied to their house.
RIMINTON: Weapons to be used against U.S. forces and also against Iraqis.
(on camera): This is effectively now a sectarian frontline between the Shia areas that are just to the north, up through there, and are encroaching now down on to the Sunni heartland of west Baghdad. It is here that so much of the current killing and effective sectarian ethnic cleansing has been taking place.
(voice over): It is a place with myriad dangers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going over there now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
RIMINTON: A mortar round lands nearby. But it is on a quiet street that this patrol comes across something so bizarre they have to stop. It is a young woman, guarded by her brother.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unconscious? She doesn't look good at all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She looks unconscious.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Breathing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She looks like she's starved to death. RIMINTON: But the woman is not quite dead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, I'm going to get on the radio with this. And doc, you go ahead and take a look at her.
RIMINTON: Her brother says her name is Sonia (ph). She has cancer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She needs an ambulance like now.
RIMINTON: She is 23.
His colleagues take up guard against snipers as medic Giovanni Alvarez (ph) goes to work. Slowly, the compassion of the Americans draws neighbors and the young woman's family into the street.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The driver of this cab (INAUDIBLE) to this -- to the hospital.
RIMINTON (on camera): They're too frightened to take this girl to the hospital?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
RIMINTON (voice over): While the fight goes on to save Sonia's (ph) life, the troops search the house next door. They find rocket- propelled grenades. The irony not lost.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a little of both. You know? You bring a little girl shot from a stray round one minute, and the next minute, you know, you're fighting the people that shot her. It's crazy, but a little bit at a time.
RIMINTON: While the arms are removed, Sonia (ph) starts to respond. It is not a happy awakening.
"I'm dying," she says. "I'm dying."
Some men are found with a car willing to take her to hospital. But her family starts to insist they don't want her to go.
(on camera): It's just another example of the sectarian divides in this city. The ambulance at the Shia hospital nearby is simply too scared to come into this Sunni neighborhood to pick up this young woman. At the same time, the people here are too terrified to deliver this Sunni woman to a Shia hospital. They are afraid she could be kidnapped there.
(voice over): Sonia (ph) waits alone while her family argues. Finally, over their objections, she pleads to be taken to hospital, whatever the dangers. And so she goes to a future every bit as uncertain as her country's.
RIMINTON: Now, Wolf, I would love to be able to tell you what happened to that young woman, Sonia (ph), what happened to her at the hospital, what treatment she might have got, but in this town, at this time, that's the sort of information that is impossible to follow up -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Hugh Riminton, doing some excellent reporting for us.
Hugh, thank you.
When we get more information, by the way, we will let you know what happened to that young woman.
Walk through a military cemetery, and you'll see tombstones with crosses, stars of David, Muslim crescents, and others. Now a new symbol has been approved, but not without some controversy.
Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd once again.
What's with the new symbol, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's called a Wiccan pentacle. And starting this week, veterans of that faith will have the option of having this controversial symbol associated with witchcraft placed on their headstones.
TODD (voice over): Sergeant Patrick Stewart died in combat a year and a half ago in Afghanistan. But on the Wall of Heroes at Fernley, the veterans cemetery in Nevada, his memorial marker has been some time in coming. His widow told CNN last year she was holding out until she could get a plaque with a symbol of his religion, a forbidden Wiccan pentacle.
ROBERTA STEWART, WIDOW: I must have it on his memorial plaque before I can lay him to rest so that he can move on, and that our family can even begin to start to grieve.
TODD: Now she can after a lawsuit. The Veterans Administration has just announced that the pentacle will be added to its list of 38 other approved emblems of belief that can be engraved on government- provided markers.
REV. BARRY LYNN, AMERICANS UNITED: If you serve your country, at least you deserve to be able to be recognized with the symbol that you choose in a memorial in a veteran's cemetery.
TODD: The VFW, Veterans of Foreign Wars, said it has no objection. But not everyone is comfortable with witches in the military.
In 1999, George Bush, then the governor of Texas, said he disagreed with the Pentagon's decision to allow witchcraft to be practiced on military bases. But one of the plaintiffs tell us, people have nothing to fear.
SELENA FOX, SR. MINISTER, WICCAN CIRCLE SANCTUARY: Witchcraft is not Satanism, it is not harming others, it's not power over others. It's not hocus pocus.
TODD: The Veterans Administration has agreed to pay the Wiccans more than $200,000 to cover costs of the lawsuit, and the Wiccans believe they can get pentacles inscribed on headstones in time for Memorial Day next month -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you, Brian, for that.
Let's get some more on this story. Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, is following it.
What other religious emblems does the V.A. approve for the use on these headstones, Abbi?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, well, there are 38 others. They're listed online at the Veterans Affairs Web site. Some of these emblems are familiar, and then others less so.
The emblem for ECKANKAR, for example, a religious organization with headquarters in Minnesota. Indeed, represented are religions of call kinds, along with an emblem for atheism. The Wiccan pentacle has already been added to this online list -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Thank you, Abbi, for that.
Up ahead, Congressman Dennis Kucinich says it's time for the vice president, Dick Cheney, to go. He's launching articles of impeachment. Congressman Kucinich will join us live here in THE SITUATION ROOM to explain why he's doing this.
Also, should Senator Hillary Clinton be comparing herself to escaped slave Harriet Tubman? Jack Cafferty has your e-mail in "The Cafferty File".
BLITZER: A rare and dramatic move by Democratic presidential candidate, Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich. Only moments ago, he announced he is introducing articles of impeachment against the vice president, Dick Cheney.
Dennis Kucinich is joining us from Capitol Hill right now.
Congressman, thanks for coming in.
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Lots of questions. Why the vice president, if you're so concerned about the war, as opposed to the commander in chief? That would be the president. KUCINICH: Well, the vice president had a singular responsibility in whipping up public sentiment to lay the groundwork for a war against Iraq on false pretenses, and the articles of impeachment cover that. And there's another practical reason, Wolf, and that is that if someone was to aim at impeaching the president, then Mr. Cheney would become the president. I don't think that this country could tolerate two consecutive impeachments.
So I think that the evidence is there to focus on the vice president. That's the appropriate place to begin. And that's what I've done today in filing House Resolution 333.
BLITZER: A lot of your critics already suggesting it's a political stunt, given the fact that the speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has ruled out impeachment. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, says that's not on his agenda.
Do you think you have enough votes to really get this out of a committee?
KUCINICH: I think that people in Congress are about to find out that all over the United States, citizens have been asking questions, what kind of a government do we have? And why isn't someone stepping forward to challenge the conduct of this vice president?
And so -- people are asking me today, is anyone standing behind me? And I think there are millions of Americans who believe that it was time to raise this issue.
And the reason I did it now, Wolf, is because the vice president is beating the same drums of war against Iran that he beat against Iraq under false pretenses, and he's doing it all over again, against Iran. The same false pretenses. And I say that it's time to stand up to that.
Our country couldn't afford this last war, we sure can't afford to go into another one. And somebody has to challenge the conduct of this vice president. And that's what I've done today.
BLITZER: Well, high crimes and misdemeanors. That's a high threshold. Specifically, explain to our viewers what your articles -- you have three articles of impeachment -- what they are alleging.
KUCINICH: Well, the first article, and I quote, says that he "... fabricated a threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to justify the use of the United States armed forces against the nation of Iraq." And the second article points to the fact that he "... fabricated a connection between the government of Iraq and al Qaeda and used that to justify war." And the third article says that he's "... openly threatening aggressive war against Iran," which is a violation of Article 6 of our Constitution and a violation of Article 2 Section 4 of the U.N. charter.
That's basically a synopsis of the articles.
BLITZER: Do you have any members of the House of Representatives who are with you on this? Do you have any cosponsors? Anyone come up to you and say, "Congressman Kucinich, I'm with you"?
KUCINICH: I expect there will be cosponsors. Keep in mind, Wolf, that I've just sent these articles around to members of Congress just now.
This is unlike any other resolution. Members are going to have to take the time to digest it. I mean, they are included in a book that is this thick.
And so it's going to take people a chance to go over them and make a decision whether or not they feel this action is warranted. And I'm not promoting this, I'm simply -- it was up to me to introduce the resolution. Members of Congress will have to search their own conscience, take counsel with their constituents, and make the decision independently.
BLITZER: Because even a war critic as fierce as John Murtha, Democrat of Pennsylvania, I spoke with him yesterday here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I asked him about your -- then expected plan to release these articles of impeachment. He himself said he didn't think it was a good idea to do any kind of thing like that right now.
KUCINICH: You know what? I respect John Murtha. He's a good friend of mine. He's a great patriot.
These articles are filed in response to the question of, who are we as a nation that we can let high public officials violate the law with impunity, take us into war that are based on lies? Who are we? Who is going to stand up to this?
And these articles of impeachment are a response really to questions that are being asked all over the United States. And so, that's my stand today, House Resolution 333.
People should know that someone can take a stand. And, you know, I think that the American people will be heard from now and members of Congress will be guided accordingly.
BLITZER: What about the argument, Congressman, that this is during a time of war, and that's not a time to -- to go after impeaching a sitting vice president?
KUCINICH: Well, we have to keep in mind that the United States was still involved in conflict during the Nixon years. I think that we have to consider that it's important for us to be able to protect our constitutional form of government.
And we're at war, Wolf, because lies were told by top public officials. In this case, Mr. Cheney. That's why we're at war.
And the next question is, how do we stop from getting into another war? It could become much worse than it is.
BLITZER: Did you discuss this with the speaker, Nancy Pelosi...
KUCINICH: No. BLITZER: ... with the majority leader, Steny Hoyer? Any of the leadership, the Democratic leadership in the House?
KUCINICH: No, I have very carefully sought to avoid any attempt at making this look like a partisan move. It is not.
These articles are filed far beyond any questions of partisanship. This is about being an American. This is about loyalty to our country and to our nation's highest principles.
BLITZER: We've got to leave it there, Congressman.
Dennis Kucinich announcing that he's filed articles of impeachment against the vice president of the United States.
Thanks for coming in.
KUCINICH: Thank you very much, Wolf.
BLITZER: Lou Dobbs getting ready for his program that begins right at the top of the hour. And Lou's going to tell us what he's working on -- Lou.
LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Thank you, Wolf.
Tonight we are reporting on one of the deadliest days for our troops in the war in Iraq. Nine of our soldiers killed in a single attack. New questions about the safety of our troops.
We'll have a special report for you from Baghdad.
Also, White House adviser Karl Rove now faces a sweeping investigation into his political activities on behalf of President Bush. Did Karl Rove abuse his power? Has Rove politicized the entire federal government?
We'll have a live report for you from the White House.
And this country's food safety system is simply broken. The Bush administration doesn't seem to care. In point of fact, the Bush administration has sharply cut the budget and staff for food safety inspections.
We'll have that report. All of that, the rest of the day's news, and much more at the top of the hour.
Please join us.
Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: All right. Thank you, Lou. We'll be watching.
Still ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, they're not quite in, but they're still not entirely out. We're going to show you who is running shadow campaigns in the race for the White House. And coming up in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern Hour, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, cleaning up the language of hip-hop. Will a call for a ban on some words have any impact?
Stick around. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: There's already a long roster of White House hopefuls jockeying for position in the '08 presidential campaign. But there's also a handful of almost candidates, as they're being called, that could turn this race upside down.
CNN's Carol Costello is joining us now.
This amounts, according to some analysts, as almost like shadow campaigns, Carol.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, you know, Wolf, that's a good way to describe them. Campaigns that are not quite campaigns, but you know there's something there.
AL GORE, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't really have plans to run for office again.
COSTELLO (voice over): He said it over...
GORE: I do not have plans...
COSTELLO: ... and over again.
GORE: I'm not planning...
COSTELLO: But Al Gore hasn't absolutely ruled out running for president next year. And now we learned that supporters of Gore's past campaigns are meeting next month to talk about his future. The second such gathering this year.
The former vice president is having no problem staying in the spotlight, from his Academy Awards moment, to his global warming testimony in Congress. Next month Gore is out with a new book, and he's been promoting a series of summer rock concerts around the world with a global warming theme.
So could the man that won the popular vote in 2000 run again?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's got the name identification and enough money to run a credible campaign at the 11th hour.
COSTELLO: On the GOP side, there appears to be an appetite for new faces. Nearly two-thirds of Republicans questioned in a recent CBS poll say they want new choices.
Could Fred Thompson fill the void? FRED THOMPSON (R), FMR. U.S. SENATOR: Obviously, I feel like I may have some leadership ability that might be useful to my country. And if I determine that that's the case, then I may follow up on it.
COSTELLO: The former senator and current star of TV's "Law & Order" sure looks like a candidate, from meeting with congressional supporters in Washington, to speaking at Republican Party dinners from coast to coast. And he's gone from zero into the teens in national polls.
And then there's Newt Gingrich. He's looking for new solutions to big problems like energy, immigration and health care.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER: If the best way to help launch the solutions is to run, I will.
COSTELLO: And he's just hired a pollster. But his aides tell CNN the hiring is not related to a potential presidential bid. The former House speaker says he will make a decision on running come September.
COSTELLO: We'll see.
And waiting in the wings, billionaire Michael Bloomberg. Would the two-term mayor of New York spend millions of his own money to make an independent bid for president? We're watching his own shadow campaign.
Back to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: We're watching them all, together with you, Carol. Thanks very much.
Up next, Jack Cafferty is wondering whether Hillary Clinton should be comparing herself to escaped slave Harriet Tubman.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Britain's Virgin Atlantic Airlines, Boeing and General Electric are now teaming up in an effort to try to turn the skies green. The companies are planning to power a 747 for the first time with biofuel instead of jet fuel. That demonstration being planned for next year.
Virgin is also saying its cut its planes emissions by 50 percent on the ground by towing them to the runway at some airports. The company also says its trains are also environmentally friendly, with emissions 76 percent lower than cars, 78 percent less than planes.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York.
Sir Richard Branson's got big ideas to get the skies green, if he has his way.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: He's a bit of a visionary. He also has been kind of on the cutting edge of his own view of the world, Richard Branson has.
The question this hour -- we got some great e-mail -- Should Senator Hillary Clinton be comparing herself to escaped slave Harriet Tubman?
First letter, "Hey, Jack, I'm still shuddering from hearing Senator Clinton's fake drawl. As an African-American, I'd be a billionaire if I got $10 for every white person who tried to fake a black accent, whatever that is, whenever they talk to me."
Eve in Louisiana, "Jack, I'm a black woman. I'm not offended by Hillary's reference to Harriet Tubman at all. I enjoyed her version of James Cleveland as well. We get her. What she said was true and inspiring."
David in Shreveport, Louisiana, "Maybe she's trying to prove she's blacker than Barack Obama."
Jim in Memphis, Tennessee, "Cafferty, I just changed by mind about you a little bit. Pandering is exactly what she's doing. I admire you for bringing it up. Thanks."
Alan in New York writes, "I can't think of anything more ludicrous than a wealthy white politicians comparing here political struggle to the struggles of a woman who risked her life in order to free slaves. Hillary, you're no Harriet Tubman."
Peter in Franktown, Colorado, "If George Bush can compare himself to Abraham Lincoln, then Hillary can compare himself to Harriet Tubman."
Tom in Pittsburgh, "Hillary would compare herself to Jesus if she thought she'd get some votes from it. She is an empty pantsuit."
Sandy writes, "I'd rather see Hillary 'pander' her way than listen to a good-for-nothing Republican shill like you. Just thought you'd like to know."
Thank you, Sandy.
J.T. in Phoenix, "You're exactly right, Jack, for once. Hillary is shameless. She'll do anything for a vote. I hope black voters spit her out like the tasteless panderer that she is."
And finally, Joan in Houston, "Too bad Hillary can't seem to figure out who she is during her travels. One day she's an educated white woman from the Midwest. The next time I see her, she's a poor black woman from the Deep South, all heralded by Bill and Chelsea laughing in the background as if to say, this is acceptable. My mother's an idiot, but hey, she's running for the White House."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to cnn.com/caffertyfile. We put some more of them online. We got a ton of great letters, along with video clips of "The Cafferty File" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Our viewers like to go that "Cafferty File," and they are going.
CAFFERTY: You know -- you know what came through in these letters? As the analysts have suggested, Hillary is a divisive kind of person. You either like her or you don't. And we got a ton of mail on both sides of that ideological spectrum.
BLITZER: All right, Jack. See you back here in an hour.
Let's wrap up this hour with some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends over at the AP.
In Spain, workers light fires to protest the closure of a car parts factory.
In Turkey, soldiers remember the forces of the Australian and New Zealand armies who fought a battle against Turkish forces in World War I.
In Ecuador, a police officer throws a stone at students protesting a court's reinstatement of 51 congressmen who were dismissed last month.
And in South Africa, a south China tiger peers through its cage as it's transported to a nature preserve in an effort to save the rare creature from extinction.
Some of this hour's "Hot Shots," pictures often worth a thousand words.
Remember, we're in THE SITUATION ROOM weekdays, 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll be back for another hour in one hour at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
In the meantime, let's go to Lou Dobbs. He's in New York.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com