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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Syria's Meddling: Interfering in Iraq War; Battle Over Iraq; Top al Qaeda Operative Killed

Aired May 3, 2007 - 18:00   ET

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


LOU DOBBS, HOST: Tonight, a major shift in American policy towards Syria. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today meeting with the Syrian foreign minister. We'll have that special report for you tonight.
Also, new developments in the political showdown over the conduct in the war in Iraq. Senator Robert Byrd, Senator Hillary Clinton introducing legislation to de-authorize the war.

We'll be live on Capitol Hill with those reports. Senator Jim Webb joins us.

And rising outrage over the selection of artist from communist China to sculpt the Washington monument for Martin Luther King in Chinese, not American granite.

We'll have that story.

And I'll be joined by one of the country's most provocative, colorful authors, Christopher Hitchens. Never afraid to challenge conventional wisdom and orthodoxy. His new book is "God is Not Great".

I think you will find his views illuminating and provocative.

We'll also have an update on the bizarre case first reported here of a judge who's upset with his cleaners for losing his trousers, and the court system playing right along with that.

We'll have that, all the day's news, much more straight ahead here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Thursday, May 3rd.

Live from New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening everybody.

The United States today held its first top-level meeting with Syria in years. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice demanded Syria end its support of the insurgency in Iraq, but tonight it's unclear that Syria will accommodate.

Meanwhile, two leading Democratic senators have launched a new effort to end the war in Iraq. Senator Robert Byrd, Senator Hillary Clinton, they're trying to nullify the legislation that authorized President Bush to go to war.

Barbara Starr tonight reports from the Pentagon on whether Syria will end its practice of sending foreign terrorists into Iraq.

Dana Bash reports on the new developments in the political showdown over the conduct of this war.

And Hugh Riminton reports from Baghdad on what the military now says is a significant success in the battle against al Qaeda.

We turn first to Barbara Starr at the Pentagon -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, while the United States and Syria were having that crucial meeting in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, the U.S. military in Baghdad was sounding an optimistic note about Syria, but not everyone agrees.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice over): After years of complaining that Syria is supporting foreign fighters inside Iraq, suddenly the U.S. military says Damascus is being more helpful.

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, SPOKESMAN, MULTINATIONAL FORCE, IRAQ: There has been, in fact, a reduction in the amount of foreign fighter flow making their way into Iraq here, as we have observed over the last month.

STARR: It's been estimated Syria has let more than 80 fighters a month cross its border into Iraq. So, is Syria now a voice for peace? There's still plenty of skepticism.

MARK KIMMITT, DEP. ASST. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: In terms of who is providing equipment and providing the foreign fighters, I think it's been fairly clear that we remain concerned about Syria's involvement.

STARR: If Syria's support for the insurgents is, in fact, declining, experts say it's not because President Bashar al-Assad is trying to be nice.

ANDREW EXUM, WASHINGTON INST. NEAR EAST POLICY: And they see us as weak. They see us as needing their help.

So, I think from a Syrian perspective, they are not necessarily offering a fig leaf to us. I actually think they're very -- I think they're very confident right now.

STARR: Syria's motivation may be to build better relations with moderate Iraqi Sunnis, but many say the Bush administration's motivation for diplomacy is much deeper, that it's really to drive a wedge between Syria and Iran.

EXUM: Certainly one of the theories that's been bandied about is, what if you could break Syria off from this Hezbollah-Syria-Iran access? (END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Lou, a lot of experts say don't count on Syria and Iran breaking ranks any time soon, that Syria down the road is going to need Iranian oil for its economy a lot more than they're going to need the United States -- Lou.

DOBBS: One learns not to be overly optimistic of immediate results in anything to do with Iraq, but Barbara, this is a significant step, and comes just within a matter of weeks, really, since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was criticized for going to Damascus.

STARR: Well, you know, Lou, what a lot of experts say is they're trying to look at what Syria's motivation is, if they are being, you know, better areas in that area. And the question is, does Syria actually think it's dealing from a position of strength? And do they think that the United States is weak and that's why they are doing this?

DOBBS: Right.

STARR: Tough question.

DOBBS: It seems almost mind-boggling that anyone would care about the motivation of nation states trying to deal with this issue of, whether weak or strong, the United States certainly requires some support.

Thank you very much.

Barbara Starr from the Pentagon.

Members of Congress are sharply divided, of course, on the conduct of the war in Iraq. But they are seemingly all furious that Iraqi lawmakers are now considering taking a two-month-long vacation this summer. The Iraqi lawmakers go on vacation without completing work on a series of political reforms regarded as essential to the survival of the nation. Meanwhile, our troops are fighting and dying in Iraq to give Iraqis an opportunity to achieve that political resolution.

3,355 of our troops have been killed since the beginning of this war.

The political showdown on Capitol Hill over how to pay for the war remains unresolved, of course. White House aides today meeting with top Democrats. They're discussing a new war funding bill that would not include a timetable for withdrawal. Meanwhile, two leading Democrats, Senator Robert Byrd and Senator Hillary Clinton, launched a new effort today trying to end the war.

Dana Bash reports from Capitol hill.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the first bargaining session. The president's chief of staff and the Senate's top Republican meeting with the Senate majority leader in his office.

Afterward, Harry Reid called the meeting constructive and comfortable, telling reporters: "The ball was in the president's court. He voted it and they had to come forward with some proposals and they did, and we're going try to work through them."

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We owe it to the American people to find our common ground.

BASH: While the Senate's top leaders directly negotiate a new war funding bill with the White House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi delegated that task to her appropriations chairman, David Obey.

Some Republicans found that odd.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: That was her decision, to -- to appoint Mr. Obey as her point person. I'm not quite sure I understand how well this will work.

BASH: Pelosi's decision to keep some distance from White House talks perhaps a telling illustration of her precarious position. Democrats have privately acknowledged they will have to drop a timeline for troop withdrawal to get the president's signature. They also know that will mean angering anti-war voters and defections by Democrats.

Minnesota's Keith Ellison may be one of them.

REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: For me it would be tremendously difficult. I don't know -- I don't think I can do it.

BASH: Ellison was elected in November on a wave of anti-war sentiment.

ELLISON: We must have a withdrawal date. And I'm going to be arguing that point.

BASH: Democrats running for president are under intense pressure to vote against any Iraq bill that doesn't bring troops home, and are looking for other ways to show their opposition.

Hillary Clinton, getting hammered for voting to authorize war in 2002, announced she's backing a bill to revoke that authority.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is time to sunset the authorization for the war in Iraq. If the president will not bring himself to accept reality, it is time for Congress to bring reality to him.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, Hillary Clinton is joining forces in this with Senator Robert Byrd, who opposed invading Iraq from the start. Now, revoking the president's authority for war is not a new idea, but by Democrats pushing this right now gives them a new opportunity to voice opposition to the war, Lou, even as their leaders are negotiating a compromise with the White House to fund the president's ability to keep this war going.

DOBBS: It's relatively, I think, clear to just about everyone in this country where the Democratic leadership of both the House and the Senate stand, and, indeed, the Democratic Party on this war.

What is the effect of so-called de-authorization of the war? Would not the president be able simply to reject that as well?

BASH: In terms of the authority for war, that is not necessarily something that the president can reject, as a matter of fact. But the big question is how, in fact, if it comes down to it, Congress would be able to reauthorize this.

What these Democrats are saying is that what the president -- the authority that the president got in 2002 is null and void. That Congress authorized invading to topple Saddam Hussein, to get rid of weapons of mass destruction. None of that is -- pertains to reality anymore.

So what they're saying is, if in fact this war is going to continue, then Congress needs to try to redirect the policy by making it clear what exactly the U.S. mission is in Iraq -- Lou.

DOBBS: It appears for both this president, directing an unpopular war, and one that is unsuccessful to this point, and the Democrats trying to end it, and to bring it to -- under some constraint, it looks like both the president and Congress are in difficult political situations at best.

BASH: No question about it. They both are -- that's -- that is actually probably putting it mildly.

DOBBS: And I don't often do that, do I, Dana?

BASH: No, you don't.

DOBBS: Dana, thank you very much.

BASH: Thank you.

DOBBS: Dana Bash from Capitol Hill.

Tonight the White House blasted Senator Byrd and Senator Clinton. The White House said, "The Senate is trying another way to put a surrender date on the calendar."

As the political battle over the conduct of the war continues on Capitol Hill, the military in Baghdad reports a major success against al Qaeda. The military saying it's confirmed the death of al Qaeda's propaganda chief in Iraq. Troops say the terrorist is among nearly 500 al Qaeda operatives killed or captured over the past month.

Hugh Riminton has the report from Baghdad -- Hugh. HUGH RIMINTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, all of Iraq has been abuzz with speculation and reports that a senior al Qaeda figure in the past week has been killed. American authorities have now confirmed a major death.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RIMINTON (voice over): Pictures aired on Iraqi state television show the body of what U.S. authorities say is Muharib Abdul-Latif al- Jubouri, the man said to be intimately involved in the kidnapping last year of American journalist Jill Carroll. The U.S. says al-Jubouri was killed in a nighttime firefight just north of Baghdad on the 1st of May, along with four other al Qaeda operatives.

(on camera): The Iraqi authorities say there's even more to this story than that. They claim al-Jubouri is also a mysterious figure known by the alias Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. Nothing less than the head of the al Qaeda-backed political apparatus that styles itself the Islamic State of Iraq.

(voice over): But an al Qaeda Web site has denied that al- Baghdadi has been killed. The U.S. is skeptical, too.

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, SPOKESMAN, MULTINATIONAL FORCE, IRAQ: There's a lot of discussion about a person called al-Baghdadi, but we actually have no knowledge who that might be.

RIMINTON: American authorities also remain dubious about continued Iraqi claims that tribal militias have killed al Qaeda's top terrorist in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RIMINTON: That would seem to show that the two main scalps being claimed this last week, the operational terrorist leader here in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, and al-Baghdadi, are still alive right now -- Lou.

DOBBS: Hugh Riminton from Baghdad.

Joining me now, General David Grange, one of the country's most distinguished former military leaders.

Let me ask you, first of all, General, the idea that the military in Iraq is now giving credit to Syria for slowing, if not all together ending, the flow of foreign fighters from Syria.

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, we have to stop the influence of both Syria and Iran. And whether it was because of Secretary Rice's trip or not, I don't know. But I sure as heck would tell Syria, stay the hell out of Iraq or you'll suffer the consequences, because enough is enough. And I hope that was the case.

DOBBS: The case being as well that the United States military continues to report the involvement of Iran in both sending its agents and fighters across their border with Iraq into Iraq to support the insurgency. Why has there been no, at least discernible, or at least overt U.S. military response?

GRANGE: There's been a lot of military response within Iraq. And I think that's appropriate right now. But I do think talks need to take place at some level to draw a hard line in the sand to let them know that we mean business about interference and the consequences, if that's not -- that does not take place.

DOBBS: The discussion now in Washington, as you well know, the conduct of the war, and as to whether or not a timetable or a date certain for the withdrawal of our troops, whether staged or otherwise. Are you in any way encouraged by the progress of the discussion and perhaps change in direction of this war?

GRANGE: I think progress has been made. I am very, obviously, happy, like many should be, about that.

See, it's hard to measure this kind of progress, because as success happens, certain enemies -- in this case, al Qaeda and a few other insurgent groups -- press back harder. They go after civilians because they can. And that's the response we're getting.

DOBBS: Right.

GRANGE: But it's hard to measure these intangible accomplishments. But they're happening.

DOBBS: Unfortunately, the consequences are not intangible. And April rating as the sixth deadliest month for our troops in Iraq.

General David Grange, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Still ahead, the first public debate by Republican presidential candidates coming up tonight. We'll have a live report for you from Simi Valley, California.

Also, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama now under the protection of the U.S. Secret Service.

And author Christopher Hitchens, no stranger to controversy, no friend to orthodoxy. His latest book, "God is Not Great". He will be joining us.

And we will continue in just one moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Senator Barack Obama today placed under the protection of the U.S. Secret Service. The Department of Homeland Security saying the candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination requested the Secret Service protection.

And another issue is dogging Senator Obama today. The man who created Senator Obama's page on MySpace claims the senator's campaign staff "bullied him" into turning the Web page over to them. He told MTV today, "They just took it for me."

Joe Anthony created that page supporting the senator two years ago. The page collecting more than 160,000 so-called friends. Candidates increasingly relying upon Web pages like MySpace to gain supporters, and particularly in Obama's case, to raise millions of dollars.

Ten Republican candidates seeking their party's presidential nomination tonight meet for their first debate. And in the poll of polls, Rudolph Giuliani is still the leading GOP candidate, although he's shown a decline over the past month. Mitt Romney making the biggest gain, two whole points.

Candy Crowley is in Simi Valley, California. She's covering that debate for us and has our report.

Candy, what can we expect tonight?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think you can expect either explicitly or implicitly the name of Ronald Reagan to hang heavy over this debate. As you know, he is still the icon of the Republican Party. He is the conservative's conservative. So, everyone will be trying in one way or another to be trying to grab that mantle of Ronald Reagan.

You know, once again, as we had in the Democratic debate, you're going to try to see the frontrunners not make any big mistakes, you're going to see the bottom tier try to kind of punch through. Ten people on a stage for 90 minutes is not a very long time for any of them. So they all know that when they do get the microphone, they're going to have to make an immediate impact.

It seems that probably the greatest pressure right now would be on John McCain. This is a man who, as you know, Lou, has been seen as the frontrunner. Everyone thought he would be the frontrunner. And what's happened, of course, is that he placed third in the money sweepstakes in the first quarter.

He is lagging behind Rudy Giuliani by 12 points. A lot of people saying he just doesn't seem to have that spark that he had in 2000. And what he needs to show tonight, even by the admission of some of his aides, is some passion.

So, it should be an interesting debate as well, Lou, because, as you know, on issues like immigration and on social issues, there are some difference of opinion between these candidates. So, there is, in fact, some room for a little bit of debate -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well, a little bit of debate over the course of 90 minutes would be refreshing.

McCain has solidified his numbers a bit from what had been a decline. Who do you look upon here as a prospective -- prospective, at least, emerging tonight with something of a surprise? Give us your best shot. CROWLEY: Oh, boy. I know that there -- having talked to a lot of -- some of the candidates have been roaming around here. And there are -- there are those, particularly Tommy Thompson, one of those we talked about, who wants to get his Iraq plan out there. Most of these candidates do agree on Iraq. Thompson has a different kind of plan, that American participation in the Iraq war, should be put to the vote by the Iraqi parliament. A lot of people who have specific things they want to get out there.

DOBBS: Tommy Thompson it is. Then you're on the record.

CROWLEY: Okay.

DOBBS: Candy, thank you very much. Candy Crowley from Simi Valley.

Time now to take a look at some of your thoughts. Gloria in Ohio said "I will march alongside you next May 1, 2008. I am hoping that by then, we would have some kind of control over the invasion of illegal aliens."

By the way, just to explain that, I said May 1st is law day in the United States where it maybe Socialist Workers day in countries around the world. Here is law day. I said if the country would celebrate it, I would be amongst the first to jump in to that march next year. "Your program last night" she went on to say in Pennsylvania, "your persistence and tenacity are truly heroic. Please don't tire. I believe that without your leadership, the politicians and corporations would have their way easily."

Pat in California said, "Lou, you rocked at your town meeting in Pennsylvania. You really bring the truth home. Keep it up. I feel like you are the only one telling it like it is."

I would like to end there. But, David in Wisconsin said, "Mr. Dobbs, your attempt to make a hero of Mayor Barletta in Hazleton is truly disturbing. We should rallying around ways to integrate new immigrants into our American democracy, not demonizing them and characterizing them as less than human."

To my knowledge, no one did that.

We'll have more of your thoughts here later in the broadcast. Up next, once again, products from communist China sold at Wal-Mart now recalling as a health threat. This time, the recall affects a product that almost every baby in the country uses.

New evidence tonight, that communist China is intentionally lying about the contents of the food we are importing from China. We'll have that SPECIAL REPORT. We'll tell you what your government, your government, has been doing about protecting your health. It's a short story. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: More alarming news in the widening pet food recall. A brand of dog biscuits has been added to the list of pet food products contaminated with a toxic chemical from communist China.

Sunshine Mills is now recalling those biscuits because they were made with wheat gluten, contaminated with melamine. Sunshine Mills, the fourth pet food manufacturer in the country to recall their products. The FDA says now communist China may have been intentionally disguising the contents of the food it exports.

The products most likely to be mislabeled are foods containing toxic chemicals, including melamine. As Kitty Pilgrim now reports communist China's practice of mislabeling products is more than just a little dangerous for consumers in this country.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Don't bother looking at labels, no food products have to list where it comes from. The FDA web site will tell you just how many products from China are rejected each month, routinely more than any other country. While most countries have only a handful of rejected shipments per month. China rejections often run in the triple digits. Last month, 215 Chinese products were rejected.

REP. JOHN DUNCAN, (R) TENNESSEE: The Chinese are really ripping us off, adding all of these adulterated products and dangerous items and products and chemicals so they can make more money.

PILGRIM: Some small food producers in China have gone after easy profits by adding cheaper ingredients to undercut their competitors. The FDA web site often reads such reasons as unsafe additives for reason of rejecting a shipment.

REP. TOM DAVIS, (R) VIRGINIA: Even when you write rules, whether its over intellectual property or whether food safety provisions or whatever, you have to watch these people very, very carefully. They tend to circumvent and will do anything they can get away with.

PILGRIM: In 2000, Chinese producers were cheating on trade laws, shipping their honey through Thailand to avoid anti-dumping penalties. U.S. authorities testing honey for anti-dumping enforcement, found Chinese honey had the antibiotic Clorophenical (ph), which can cause cancer. That mirrors the recent case of melamine.

WILLIAM HUBBARD, FMR. FDA OFFICIAL: I would hope this time this is a wakeup call. This could have been human food. And people could have died from this.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM (on camera): Just a glance of the FDA web site shows, of the small percentage of products that were tested, China had a startling high rejection rate. That begs the question, when faced with such high food and safety rejection rates from China, didn't officials see the warning signs well before the melamine contamination, Lou?

DOBBS: Let's put this in perspective, the head of the FDA's Food Inspection Food Safety, saying what about all this?

PILGRIM: He said the system is not broken.

DOBBS: And how many of those imports did they reject, products from China?

PILGRIM: Two-hundred fifteen in the last month.

DOBBS: So, in other words, someone in that department is a complete and utter idiot. Thank you very much. Kitty Pilgrim. This is inexcusable. And, Mr. President, if you happen to be listening, put in a call to Henry Waxman who is taking a look at this, in Congress, the Congressman could really give you instruction. And I hope someone can tell you what you should be doing to protect the public safety in this country.

Speaking of products. Vinyl baby bibs manufactured in China sold at Wal-Mart, being voluntarily recalled. Bibs examined by the Center for Environmental Health in Oakland California, which found lead levels more than 16 times greater than the legal limit for the lead in paint. By the way that's 16 times the U.S. limit in paint. That does not necessarily apply to China or Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart in agreement with the attorney general of New York removed those bibs from store shelves in those states. Wal-mart tonight tells us that they have removed the bibs from its stores nationwide. Coming up, anger, outrage after a Chinese artist is selected to build a monument to Martin Luther King in our nation's capital. Oh, yes, and it will be created with Chinese granite.

Also, new details of what happened when police in Los Angles broke up what had been a peaceful pro amnesty rally, Tuesday. It turns out there were some people there not demonstrating for amnesty but rather anarchy.

And you won't want to miss Christopher Hitchens. He's written a new book taking on a subject that people would quake even in considering. God. The title? God is not great. We'll be right back, stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Los Angeles officials are now investigating the conduct of police officers who clashed with some members of crowds at Tuesday's pro-amnesty rally held in that city. Police officers fired rubber bullets, about 240 rounds, we're told -- that according to the police chief -- and they swung batons trying to disperse the crowd, or at least parts of that crowd, at McArthur Park. No arrests, however, were made. Officers on the scene said they were pelted with stones and other debris. Rally organizers called the police actions "brutal." Several people were injured, but none seriously. And again, claims by both -- some of the organizers and the police that anarchists were involved, with no connection whatsoever to the pro- amnesty rally.

Perhaps no American had a more profound impact on America and the latter half of the past century than Dr. Martin Luther King. Tonight, there is some considerable outrage over a monument being built to honor his memory. It is the first monument specifically honoring an African-American. But the statue is not being created by an American. It's not even being carved from American stone. Bill Tucker has more on the controversy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Martin Luther King was a man who rose from the red clay of Georgia to profoundly shape his country. His legacy is now being honored on the Washington National Mall with a monument. The memorial, known as the Stone of Hope, will be the first honoring an African-American and it will be carved by a Chinese sculptor using Chinese stone in communist China.

GILBERT YOUNG, WWW.KINGISOURS.COM: We have a moral right and obligation to create this memorial from a black perspective, so the world can see our artistry and what Dr. King really fought for.

TUCKER: So far, the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation has raised $78 million of the needed $100 million to complete the project. $10 million of those are taxpayer funds.

The foundation's board, which is 90 percent African-American, declined our request for an interview, but did give us this statement. Quote: "Those who built America's Mall drew on the talents of the world. Dr. King would be pleased that the memorial project is holding truth to his words -- that we are judging people not by the color of their skin but the content of their character."

Yes, but...

BARBARA ANDREWS, NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM: While pleased about the larger world situation in which a Chinese artist could in fact sculpt Martin Luther King, I think he would be disappointed to know that an African-American artist and/or an American was not chosen.

REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: It's time I see another event honoring Dr. King by those who did not know him or walk with him. They get further and further away from the authentic or from the original. We must fight for the authenticity of the Martin Luther King that lived, that we knew.

TUCKER: Construction is scheduled to begin late this year.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCKER: And of course, the irony is cruel and inescapable -- the contract for the stone and the statue of the man who birthed and led the civil rights movement here in America, Lou, goes, of course, to one of the world's most oppressive regimes.

DOBBS: The cost of granite in the United States versus the cost of granite in China?

TUCKER: Not an issue. In fact, I spoke with a stone supplier today, a carver up in New England, who said they would have done any stone -- mason in the country would have done it at mere cost, because they wanted to have that contract.

DOBBS: And what did Jesse Jackson mean, the authenticity of Martin Luther King? Does he believe it should have been an African- American artist?

TUCKER: Yes. Yes, he believes it should have been an African- American artist here in America, who has a connection to the legacy of Dr. King.

DOBBS: Thank you very much. Bill Tucker, appreciate it.

The last monument to be built on the Mall was the World War II memorial. That memorial, which opened to the public in 2094, built using 100,000 cubic feet of granite. The primary contract supplier for the memorial: New England Stone. It placed a bid, by the way, we're told, to build the Martin Luther King memorial, but never received a response from the Martin Luther King memorial people.

The company says, quote -- "Given that there are over 50 active granite quarries domestically offering a full palette of colors, it boggles one's mind to think the selection committee couldn't find an American stone to represent one of the greatest Americans of the 20th century."

We found there is, in fact, plenty of granite produced in this country. In 2005, the United States produced 416 metric tons of the stone, valued at more than $100 million. And by the way, this building we're broadcasting from tonight, the Time Warner Center, home to our studios here, built with granite from New England Stone. Not exactly a small project either.

Americans -- well, they've got plenty to say about plans to honor one of America's greatest civil rights icons with a memorial made in communist China. The groundbreaking for the monument is set for December 2008. We'll continue to bring you all of the latest developments.

Let's listen to what some of those folks had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It should be done by an American artist with American stone in America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Martin Luther King is American, so it should be here, not in China.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What he did helped the entire world, so it doesn't matter where it comes from.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Martin Luther King was here. He wasn't in China. It should be built here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm all in favor of the statue of Martin Luther King, but I think it ought to be made by an American artist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Martin Luther King did things here in America, but it's affected everyone worldwide. So if it's done in China, I don't think that's a problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It should be done by an American artist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Importing something all the way from China for what it is an American monument just doesn't make any sense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: You know, I've just got an idea for everybody to consider here. Why not have the Chinese government build their own monument to Martin Luther King in Beijing, in advance of the Olympics? It would be a great statement. It would honor the internationalism that the Martin Luther King people talked about, their committee. And let's find an African-American, an American artist, and use a little of that stone here. Everybody would be happy. We'll see.

That brings us to the subject of our poll. Do you believe the memorial to the icon of this country's civil rights movement should be crafted by an American artist and created of American stone? We would love to hear what you think about this. Send your votes to us at loudobbs.com. Yes or no? We'll have the results upcoming.

Next, the outspoken senator from Virginia. Senator Jim Webb will join us with his views on the president's veto of the war funding bill and the prospects of compromise. And I'll be joined as well by author Christopher Hitchens. His new book, "God is not Great." We'll be right back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: Senator Jim Webb joins me now. Senator Webb says the United States won the war in Iraq four years ago. Senator Webb says the question now, is when to end the occupation. Senator Webb, highly decorated from Vietnam. Serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, also a former Navy secretary. His son also serving with the United States Marine Corps in Iraq. Senator Webb, good to have you with us.

SEN. JAMES WEBB (D), VIRGINIA: Good to be here. Good idea on the statue of Martin Luther King in Beijing, by the way.

DOBBS: Thank you very much. Senator Webb, now that the president vetoed legislation sent up from the Democratically led Congress. Congress now talking about de-authorization. Both the president and the Congressional leadership talking about compromise, where are we headed here?

WEBB: I think we've heard very strongly from the people in this country, in poll after poll, that they want to see something different in Iraq. And we need -- we have an obligation to try to do something different. And I think the connection between this appropriations measure and what you saw today with Senator Clinton and Senator Bird is some effort to get the message through to the administration that they have to do something different on the military side. They started off on the political justification for this war, saying that it was Saddam Hussein and WMD. Then we were going to remake the Democratic institutions all across that region. And we've reached the point where yesterday the president was simply talking about al-Qaeda who wasn't even in Iraq operationally when we started. We need to have the kind of focus on the military side where we can reduce our foot print and increase the diplomatic efforts as people had wanted.

DOBBS: Senator, let me throw something out to you, and forgive me, it seems to me, the charges of the Democrats in Congress wanting to micromanage war is less on point. And it seems the Democrats in the Senate and the Congress are trying to manage the president. Which would you say is a reasonably apartment apt description?

WEBB: I have to agree with you on that. There are things in this supplemental that I didn't particularly like but we have to come to some sort of an agreement where we can stand up to an administration that has not listened to the American people. It's been single mined in the way it used the military. One of my great concerns, and there is a provision in the appropriations bill that reflected it, is what we're doing to the Army and the Marine Corps people on the ground over there. By continuing to deploy them, over and over again without the proper amount of time back here in the states. We're going to the well on the military side. They haven't geared up strongly enough on the diplomatic side. That's the only way we're getting out of this.

DOBBS: Getting out of this looks like it's going to be not quite as certain as some of the date would suggest. At least it seems to me. But is there, in your mind, a reasonable concern on the parts of everyone about what will transpire in Iraq should the United States withdrawal it's combat forces by March of next year?

WEBB: If we were to withdrawal precipitously, there is a concern. That is really was not a hard and fast provision in the legislation. The hard and fast provision was we would begin to do something within four months after the enactment. In other words, we would start turning this around. There was a goal in there, I don't think that's a realistic goal, personally. And I've said over and over again, the way to do this is get the right sort of diplomatic framework in place so that we can move our troops out. The one way of hope here, has been, I think Secretary Rice has returned to the realist fold here. Her beginning was over on that side and what's going on in Egypt right now is the way we need to start approaching that.

DOBBS: Senator Jim Webb, we thank you for being here.

WEBB: Nice to be with you.

DOBBS: Tonight on CNN, a special two-hour edition of Larry King, a look at 50 years of his broadcasting career. Larry celebrating a great moment with all of us.

Joining me from Los Angeles, none other than Larry King. First of all, congratulations. We're looking forward to this.

May I start by just asking you -- I was thinking back over some of the more recent broadcasts. Some people might not consider it recent, but when you moderated, if you will. Ross Perot and Al Gore, without a question an inflection point in a national dialogue, at that time. What would you rate that as part of your career?

LARRY KING, HOST: Way up there. In the top five. They are going to show excerpts tonight on the "CNN Presents 50 Years of Pop Culture." That changed NAFTA and NAFTA was losing and it had no chance of passing and it was Al Gore's idea to debate Ross Perot. That was the first time, the only time in history a sitting vice president debated an ordinary citizen.

It was an eclectic night. Perot came with just a friend. Gore came with the entire White House and Gore really cleaned his clock. I like Ross Perot a lot. But Gore was at the top of the game that night. I think Perot took him for granted. In fact, President Clinton called me the next day, to say that I owe you big time and of course it passed in the Senate.

DOBBS: Give us a sense what you're going to do tonight.

KING: I'm not doing it. This is the credit of the CNN presents people.

DOBBS: Tell us what you've done with it.

KING: They're going to start with 1957, when I began my career. It's going to be co-moderated by Ryan Seacrest and our own Anderson Cooper. They'll take you through interviews with me through those 50 years, what was happening in the nation and around the world, around all the interviews they did in that time with seven presidents and the like. It was also released in cooperation with the video called "The Greatest Moments of Larry King Live" and it's produced by CNN and Warner Video and that encompasses over 300 interviews. So this is a big, big night for me. A great honor to have been involved with CNN presents. I think the audience is going to really like it.

DOBBS: Congratulations by the way. Great show for a great fellow.

WEBB: Great show last night, by the way, Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you. Appreciate it.

Larry King.

Last Friday we brought you the story of a judge in Washington, D.C. suing a dry cleaners for more than $65 million. We thought any judge in his or right mind would throw that case out. Turns out the case is set to go to trial on June 11th, in fact. The plaintiff in the case, Judge Roy Pearson (ph) says he's entitled to $65 million under the District's consumer protection law. And guess what. We have some courts who don't have the judge or judgment to throw that nonsense out of court. Coming up next, a new development in the Don Imus controversy and it could cost someone a lot of money. We'll have the story, and an outspoken and provocative author, did I mention also brilliant. Christopher Hitchens joins us to talk about his new book, "God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything." Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Look out, here comes Don Imus. He's hired one of the country's top trial lawyers to sue his former employer over wrongful breach of contract. Martin Garbus will represent Don Imus against CBS Radio for canceling his radio show after he made those racial, sexual comments against the Rutgers University women's team, basketball team.

Imus apologized for those remarks. Imus had $40 million remaining on his multi-year contract that began in 2006. That contract included a clause, reportedly, that CBS wanted him to be, quote, "irreverent and controversial." Sounds like he lived up to his part of the deal.

CBS Radio defended its actions, saying they terminated Imus for cause. It should be an interesting contest.

Up at the top of the hour, "THE SITUATION ROOM" and Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, SITUATION ROOM: Thanks, Lou. There are new details emerging right now, a developing story we're following tonight. A deadly attempted hijacking by Cuban soldiers. Their destination, the United States of America.

Also, the film director Oliver Stone takes on President Bush and the war in Iraq. He'll join us to talk about his alliance with a leading antiwar group.

And Britain's Queen Elizabeth in Virginia tonight on her first state visit to the United States in more than a decade. We'll have her message to America. Our Richard Quest on the scene for us. All that coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM -- Lou.

DOBBS: And Richard Quest too. All right, Wolf, thank you very much.

Today is National Prayer Day, a day when people are asked to think about setting aside time to reflect to seek God's forgiveness. In fact, my guest tonight has a quite different approach. In fact, he has a different take on almost every issue that compels orthodoxy.

His new book is entitled "God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything." The author, none other than Christopher Hitchens. Good to have you with us.

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, AUTHOR: Very nice to be here.

DOBBS: No one could take on a larger subject, a more controversial subject, and I can imagine our viewers right now -- I'm going to be very honest, watching us are saying, what is Dobbs doing talking to Hitchens? Why is Hitchens thinking about taking on God?

HITCHENS: Well, you're right, there is no bigger subject. That doesn't elevate me, of course. But...

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS: It's an inescapable one. Religion ends and philosophy begins, just as alchemy ends and chemistry begins, and astrology ends and astronomy begins.

I think you would be surprised in turn, actually, to find out how many people don't believe and are annoyed by religious bullying and theocratic bullying and intimidation, not only in this country, but around the world, everywhere from Iraq, to Afghanistan, to Somalia, to the settlers on the West Bank, to the people who want to teach nonsense to our children in schools.

The evidence is when Americans are spoken to seriously about this, that they are not completely credulous. They don't take everything on faith.

DOBBS: And not taking things on faith -- it's stunning, as we look at the number of issues, which you point out in the book and which you write brilliantly about, whether we're looking at the Middle East, whether you're looking within this country, what is, it seems to me, a resurgence of religion and empowerment for religious leaders to drive politics and certainly to attempt to drive policy.

HITCHENS: Worse than that. I mean, we're looking at a theocratic dictatorship in Iran, for example, that, A, believes that the 12th imam -- their version of the messiah -- is about to come back and redeem the whole world; and B, thinks as an insurance, they should have a nuclear weapon. It's as if the inquisition had a thermonuclear capacity. It's a very serious thing. No one can be neutral about it.

The settlers in Israel hope to create chaos and Armageddon and bring on their own messiah. There are people in America who think that would be a great idea, we could use taxpayers' money to help them. There are people in Denmark -- Denmark, tiny democratic Scandinavian country -- who are afraid to publish a cartoon. There wasn't a single American paper that was brave enough to print the cartoons in solidarity with them.

DOBBS: Christopher Hitchens writes in his book and points out, it came back to me with some embarrassment, I have to tell you. Media, national media in this country, talking about the Danish cartoon controversy, in which all sorts of threats are being made, and the national media in this country are afraid to put forward those cartoons for fear of offending someone.

HITCHENS: In a completely pictorial culture. I actually was on this network, where they were -- debating with a Muslim spokesman. And CNN put the page from the Danish press up, they pixelated the cartoon so you couldn't see them. I said, look, you've done that out of fear, haven't you? And the lady interviewer said yes. And I said to the Muslim spokesman, is that the relationship you want with the media? To get yourself on this show by trying to frighten people? Because if so, this idea that faith is better than no faith needs to be revised. And a little magazine I write for, "Skeptic" magazine, did print the cartoons, and one of the main book chains ripped out magazine from the magazine racks of all the book stores in the country.

DOBBS: It is a disturbing time, in many respects, whether one looks at the warnings of Orwell, or whether one looks at just the present squarely in the face. The efforts from so many quarters to constrain thought, independence, individuality, originality.

HITCHENS: And we have so much a better tradition. For example, the founding fathers wrote into our Constitution the First Amendment, based on Mr. Jefferson's statute from Virginia, separating the church and the state. It's the only Constitution in the world that has ever done that. We have Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Thomas Payne, we have Spinoza, we have Albert Einstein. We have a wonderful tradition of philosophy and science and the beauty of reason to set against these prophets and these ranters, and we still have the assumption that to say someone is a person of faith, i.e., they'll believe anything without evidence, is a good thing.

DOBBS: I want to put up, if we may, for our viewers to look, just in case, anyone who knows the work of Christopher Hitchens knows he doesn't play at the margin intellectually. And he, when he goes after the subject of God, he's direct and comprehensive.

But let's put up the Jesus, a virgin birth, and Christopher Hitchens in the book "God is not Great" puts it in historical context.

These are the figures, gods, deities, and revered figures who have virgin births in one form or another throughout history. You say that what's new about Jesus?

HITCHENS: Can they see the list?

DOBBS: They can. It's right here. I'm sorry.

HITCHENS: Well, then, while they're looking at that, I mean, I think I mentioned that Buddha was born through a slit in his mother's side. That's something to me that is creepy, as someone who quite likes his mother and is very grateful for her efforts, in a religion that so hates the idea of the female birth canal, seems to think of it as something filthy. Rather, as people go for genital mutilation, not just little girls, but also little boys. As if -- well, they say God's plan is perfect, he designed us wonderfully, except now we just want to hack away at your genitals to improve the picture. What exactly is this? Why are we so differential to it?

DOBBS: You refer to the birth canal, in those instances some have a preference for a one-way street, I believe, as you put it.

HITCHENS: Well, yes, I do say that. I know this is a family show, so I...

DOBBS: It is indeed. And it's a family world. The idea that you also call for a new enlightenment is also critically important as you conclude the book.

Christopher Hitchens, I just got to tell you, buy the book. This is a brilliant book, a brilliant read. "God is not Great."

Christopher Hitchens asked me to put his lapel pin on. Christopher Hitchens is now, congratulations and with gratitude, thank you for being an American citizen. And I'll be glad to put this lapel pin on.

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: And let me move over here very quickly.

HITCHENS: I've wanted to say this for a long time -- if I'm looking in the right camera -- my fellow Americans.

DOBBS: I love it.

HITCHENS: I did it on Jefferson's birthday, which is also mine. I'm his biographer, at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. And in the name of the First Amendment to the Constitution and the wall of separation. Mr. Jefferson, build up that wall.

DOBBS: Mr. Hitchens, we thank you very much. Congratulations.

HITCHENS: Thank you very much.

DOBBS: Thank you.

Coming up next, we'll have the results of our poll. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Ninety-one percent of you say the memorial to the icon of America's civil rights movement should be crafted by an American artist of American stone.

We thank you for being with us tonight. Thanks for watching. Good night from New York. THE SITUATION ROOM begins now with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.

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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