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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Islamist Terror Ties?; Debtor Nation

Aired November 9, 2009 - 19:00   ET

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


LOU DOBBS, HOST: Wolf, thank you.

New information tonight that the Fort Hood massacre was an act of Islamist terrorism, the government now admits it had suspicions about Major Nidal Malik Hasan's terrorist ties months before those mass killings.

Also, health care hitting a wall, Senate Democrats at odds with their colleagues in the House, Republicans say the plan has no chance of passage. Was all the health care celebration just more than premature?

And Democrats saying their $1 trillion health care overhaul, at a minimum is good for taxpayers and will actually save the federal government money. Could that possibly be true? What is the real cost of this deal?

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT; news, debate and analysis for Monday, November 9th. Live from New York, Mr. Independent Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody. Stunning new reports tonight of what the government knew about the suspected Fort Hood shooter before his massacre. The FBI reportedly became aware of Major Nidal Malik Hasan months ago during a terrorism investigation unrelated to Major Hasan. They uncovered comments that he posted on the Internet in which he praised suicide bombers. Intelligence agencies knew that Major Hasan was trying to contact people associated with al Qaeda, including a radical former imam of a Virginia mosque, Anwar al Awlaki. Brian Todd has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Al Awlaki was the subject of several federal investigations dating back to the late 1990's but was never charged. Al Awlaki is mentioned in the 9/11 commission report as having developed a close relationship with two 9/11 hijackers while al Awlaki was at the Virginia mosque in 2001 and earlier in San Diego. The 9/11 commission says it is not clear if al Awlaki knew the two were terrorists but security experts describe him as a radical Islamic fundamentalist.

FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: This is a guy well known in terrorist circles and very supportive of terrorists in the past.

TODD: A blog believed to be written by al Awlaki, who is now thought to be in Yemen, praises Nidal Hasan as a hero, a man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an Army that is fighting against his own people. Al Awlaki's former mosque denounces those remarks. In an interview with CNN's special investigations unit, the current imam denied any possible connections between al Awlaki, the hijackers and Nidal Hasan.

SHEIKH SHAKER ELSAYED, IMAM, DAR AL HIJRAH ISLAMIC CENTER: To the say he was here when they were here, as if they converged to on a place, which is not the case. We know better now.

TODD: But there is an indication that Hasan had some connection with the Virginia mosque when al Awlaki was there. A May 2001 obituary for Hasan's mother in the "Roanoke Times" newspaper said her funeral would be held at that mosque. It is not clear who presided over the funeral. Al Awlaki left the United States in 2002. The current imam knew Nidal Hasan and says he is shocked about the Fort Hood shootings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The quiet, very peaceful person coming in and out of the mosque, I couldn't believe he could have done this.

TODD (on camera): Sheikh Elsayed (ph) later said that while accepting the fact that Nidal Hasan practiced the same faith, the mosque offers no justifications for the actions at Fort Hood.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: And we should point out the imam at that mosque was quick to absolutely denounce Major Hasan and his horrific acts of terrorism.

In addition to the possible connection to the radical imam, there are numerous other reports of radical behavior by Hasan, soldiers who witnessed the massacre reported that Hasan shouted Allah akbar, Arabic for "god is great" right before he began shooting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PVT. JOSEPH FOSTER, U.S. ARMY: I was sitting in about the second row back when -- when the assailant stood up and screamed -- yelled Allah akbar in Arabic and he opened fire.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: There are also reports that on the morning of those shootings, Major Hasan was handing out copies of the Koran to his neighbors. A convenience store surveillance video from the same day shows Major Hasan wearing a long robe that is common in Pakistan and Afghanistan, an unusual traditional outfit for Major Hasan and a possible sign of his frame of mind that day.

Six months before those attacks, federal law enforcement officials became aware of Internet postings in which he praised suicide bombers and bombings. Those postings were reportedly made by Major Nidal Malik Hasan. There have also been reports that Major Hasan became increasingly upset about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and made a number of anti-American comments. A doctor who studied with Major Hasan actually complained to administrators about Hasan's anti-American rants.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were in a master's degree program together and he was very outspoken opponent of the war on terror and he even equated the American war on terror with a war on Islam.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: Dr. Finnell also quoting Hasan as saying he was Muslim first and American second.

In spite of those reports, some are still reluctant to characterize Hasan's attack as terrorism. President Obama's remarks following the Fort Hood massacre described the shootings as an act of violence. Terrorism, he did not say. Many in the military and the national media are also refusing to call the attacks terrorism, perhaps bound by political correctness or some other world view. Brooke Baldwin has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thursday, Fort Hood, Texas, 13 dead, 42 wounded, the accused shooter, Major Malik Nidal Hasan. As the world watched in horror, the president reacted almost immediately, calling the rampage on a U.S. military post tragic and...

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A horrific outburst of violence.

BALDWIN: But in the days since the shootings, new details are emerging, pointing to warning signs of Hasan's intent to kill. The Defense Department remains hesitant to call the attack terrorism. General George Casey speaking Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

GEN. GEORGE CASEY, ARMY OF CHIEF STAFF: I don't want to say that we missed it. I think we are starting to see anecdotes like this come out and we're encouraging all of our soldiers and leaders that have information about the suspect to give that information to the criminal investigative division and to the FBI.

BALDWIN: And another example today, Lieutenant General Robert Cone never mentioned the word terrorism.

LT. GEN. ROBERT CONE, COMMANDER, FORT HOOD: Hasan was a soldier and we have other soldiers that, you know that might have some of the same stress.

BALDWIN: But was it stress or something more sinister? According to the U.S. Department of Defense, terrorism is defined as the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear, intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious or ideological. While Army investigators and the FBI are trying to determine Hasan's motive...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't quite understand the reticence.

BALDWIN: An analyst from conservative think tank Heritage Foundation says labeling the act as terrorism now is just a legal argument and suggests that the real question is why didn't the Army pick up on Hasan's warning signals earlier and prevent the tragedy in the first place?

JAMES CARAFANO, PH.D., THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: The Army chief of staff, in a sense, you know, trying to do Pontius Pilate and say oh well, we have to go where the facts take us. Look, the Army, these kids that were killed and shot, they were our responsibility, they're working for the federal government.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN: It's important to point out the Army, the FBI are both investigating but Senator Joe Lieberman says he now plans to launch a Senate committee hearing into whether or not these shootings were, in fact, a terrorist act and if the Army should have taken preemptive steps in response to warning signs of Islamic extremism on behalf of this alleged shooter, Hasan -- Lou.

DOBBS: It is extraordinary to hear General George Casey, the Army chief of staff, go to great lengths to suggest that -- he doesn't want to believe they missed something. This is with 13 people lying murdered, 29 others wounded. My god, I mean, what would it take to find that the Army missed something here?

BALDWIN: We are not hearing the word terrorism yet.

DOBBS: Well, in some quarters, that may not be the word they are hearing but it is a word that's for some reason seems to reverberate in the conscious mind, anyway. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

President Obama is meeting at this hour with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House. Not much is expected to result from the meeting. The president's efforts to broker a Mideast agreement have stalled. Israelis and Palestinians still far from sitting down to talk and Netanyahu today calling for an immediate resumption of talks with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu said there should be no preconditions for those talks. Palestinians, however, say they will not meet for those talks until Israel freezes its settlement activity. Israel has agreed to restrain but not halt building or expanding settlements.

Up next here, much more on the Fort Hood massacre and the terrorist connection.

Also, health care stopped cold in the Senate days after the House voted for it in the deep, dark of night, the public option making it impossible for many Democrats to support the legislation. And a trillion dollars or so, how much will the health care plan actually cost? No one knows, but we will run an estimate or two for you. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: While health care legislation that barely passed the House over the weekend in the dark of night will have a tough if not impossible time surviving the Senate. By the way, one Republican and 39 Democrats making all of the difference, one Republican voting for the legislation, 39 Democrats against it. All of the Senate Republicans and some of the Democrats have now come out in opposition to the legislation. And Dana Bash has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hours after House Democrats narrowly passed health care, presidential pressure for the next thorny step.

OBAMA: Now it falls on the United States Senate to take the baton and bring this effort to the finish line on behalf of the American people.

BASH: And an unabashedly clear White House deadline.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president wants to sign health care before the end of the year.

BASH: That deadline demand is risky, since the earliest Senate Democrats would start debate is the week before Thanksgiving, and it could continue through mid December. House and Senate Democrats would then only have two to three weeks to iron out big differences to pass both chambers again by year's end.

And huge issues still divide Democrats. First, the public option, it passed the House but Senate Democrats still don't have 60 votes needed to pass it. Next, taxes, House Democrats pay for much of their health care overhaul by taxing the wealthiest Americans, a nonstarter in the Senate, which instead taxes high-cost insurance plans. Then there's the wrenching issue of abortion.

REP. MARCY KAPTUR (D), OHIO: No federal funds authorized under this act may be used to pay for any abortion.

BASH: To secure the votes of anti-abortion Democrats, House Democratic leaders passed a health care bill that prohibits abortion coverage in a government-run plan and in private plans that accept anyone using government subsidies to buy insurance coverage. In the Senate, anti-abortion Democrat Ben Nelson tells CNN, he would vote against health care without those restrictions.

SENATOR BEN NELSON (D), NEBRASKA: That there's public money going to fund abortions, I can't -- I can't support it, period. No matter what else is in it.

BASH: But abortion rights Democrats, including many of the 17 Senate women, may object.

PENNY LEE, FORMER SENATE DEMOCRATIC AIDE: Some of them just to rubber stamp it and say, oh, because the House dictated it, we are going to accept it I think is going to be tough for some of them to swallow that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: And that is, in fact, the case. I spoke with a couple of female senators, including Barbara Boxer, who told me that she believes that the House bill is radical and unfair to women. She says she will meet with a group of women senators tomorrow to try to figure out a way to push this through the Senate, which would ease the restrictions on abortion. Lou, look, this almost derailed the House bill and it is threatening to do the same in the Senate.

DOBBS: And the way it got through, the health care legislation got through the House, winning by two votes, we should point out was because they inserted language, as you just reported, prohibiting funding for abortion either in the public option or in private plans. Now we learn from senior members of the Democratic leadership that they are fully expecting to strip that -- that language out of any final legislation. I mean this is deceitful, it is dishonest, and at best it is, well, highly cynical on the part of the Democratic leadership is it not?

BASH: Well, look, I mean they did what they thought they had to do over frankly their own objections in the Democratic leadership to pass it but certainly there a lot of people in the House, House Democrats who are very much in favor of abortion rights who held sort of their nose and voted for this the first time around.

Already, 40 of those Democrats, Lou, 40 of them have signed a letter to the House speaker saying we are not doing this again. If the same prohibitions on abortion come back to the House, we are not sending it to the president's desk. So that might be true, but if that is the case, then you're still going to have the issue of anti- abortion Democrats being very strong and saying we are not going to vote for it without those restrictions.

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: And with leadership saying things that dishonest and that duplicitous and saying in effect that the end justifies the means why would anyone in the United States Senate think they have got cover to do the same thing?

BASH: Well, in the Senate is -- it is a big question mark. I don't -- I don't know that they are going to have cover on either -- either side to pass these restrictions in the Senate because, look, I mean the reality is that you do have somebody like Senator Ben Nelson saying that he can't vote for this with -- without these restrictions, but frankly there actually are unlike in the House there are some Republicans who are more in favor of abortion rights who might give Democrats an out on this.

DOBBS: OK. It will be fascinating to watch. Lindsey Graham, Senator Graham saying it is dead on arrival. What do you think?

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: ... that view?

BASH: I think he is right and I think that Democrats from the White House to Capitol Hill have known that from the beginning that the House bill is never going to pass the Senate and the House bill is -- I think...

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: ... a way forward and now it is history.

DOBBS: Let me ask you the trillion dollar question. Then why the big rush in the House?

BASH: Did you hear the president over the weekend? He wants this on his desk by the end of the year. You got to start somewhere and that somewhere is the House.

DOBBS: I think -- I think that might be the answer. It may make sense according to the algorithms there in Washington, D.C. Thanks a lot, as always, Dana...

BASH: Yes, they have their own algorithms here -- that is for sure.

DOBBS: I wish they would try out some of the rest of the country's -- anyway thanks a lot, Dana, as always for your great job of reporting.

BASH: Thank you.

DOBBS: The federal government has already spent more than $1.5 trillion trying to stimulate the economy. Add to that at least a trillion more for health care, some say that is a minimum. Supporters of the health care legislation insist now that not only will it cost just a little over a trillion it will save the government money. But there are big questions tonight about whether the American people can afford any of this spending, let alone all of it. Lisa Sylvester has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The House health care bill will cost $1 trillion over 10 years. Democrats say the bill pays for itself, offset by taxes on the rich and built-in health care cost savings. According to the Congressional Budget Office it will reduce the deficit by $109 billion.

OBAMA: It is a bill that is fully paid for and will actually reduce our long-term federal deficit.

SYLVESTER: But Republicans and fiscal conservative groups like the Americans for Tax Reform say the House bill uses budget gimmicks to meet the goal of deficit-neutral and that the bigger costs would kick in after the first 10 years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the Democrats are trying to do is try to extend health insurance coverage to somewhere between 20 to 30 million Americans that currently don't have it. That's not free. You can't wring enough savings out of the existing system in order to do that.

SYLVESTER: The U.S. government debt continues to climb, the annual budget deficit now at $1.4 trillion. Congress has bailed out Wall Street, the auto companies and has passed a $787 billion stimulus program. Now, opponents express concern about the long-term cost of health care overhaul. But Obama's budget director, Peter Orszag says quote, "the fiscal gap is precisely why we must enact well-designed and fiscally responsible health reform now." The Concord Coalition, a conservative group that tracks government spending says there is one big problem with the health care proposals.

ROBERT BIXBY, CONCORD COALITION: It obviously expands coverage. That's an important thing, but I think it really does not keep costs under control, even though it's supposedly deficit-neutral. But remember, deficit neutrality is not a sufficient goal in this regard because we are already on an unsustainable track. So, it's kind of like keeping your head above water while you're going over the falls.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: And the debate over health care reform comes at a time when many Americans are worried about government spending and borrowing during a recessionary period. The federal debt limit now is $12 trillion. And last week, the Treasury Department said Congress needs to raise the ceiling by December to keep the government operating -- Lou.

DOBBS: And raise it to what 13 trillion?

SYLVESTER: That is exactly right, to raise it to 13 trillion and there's talk they may have to do it again next year. By the way, they have already raised it eight times.

DOBBS: Yes, but you know it's -- these are only coming in increments of trillions of dollars. Thanks very much, Lisa. Lisa Sylvester.

Up next, the massacre at Fort Hood, tonight new indications the Army missed warning signs from the gunman, a panel of leading military, diplomatic and medical analysts join me here.

And it could be the end of California's golden age. In fact, an overwhelming majority of Californians say, oh man, those good old days are in their rearview mirrors. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Californians are living now with a soaring unemployment rate, rising taxes and a government that is, well, incompetent, dysfunctional and can't pay its bills. For many, California has turned from the state of golden opportunities to one of immense disappointment -- Casey Wian with our report from Los Angeles.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a wonder 37 million people still call California home, because nearly 80 percent of them believe conditions in the golden state are quote "pretty seriously off on the wrong track." That's according to a new "Los Angeles Times"/USC poll that found the nation's most populous state also is likely its most pessimistic.

DAN SCHNUR, USC UNRUH INSTITUTE OF POLITICS: Californians tend to think that our state is going to do even better than the rest of the country, but now we have sort of flipped that on its head. And while voters are seeing at least some signs of optimism in terms of the national economic outlook, a majority of the residents of this state don't think that California is going to recover along with the rest of the nation.

WIAN: Massive budget deficits, a 12 percent unemployment rate, rising taxes and cuts to education, health care and other programs are not unique to California, yet 54 percent of the state's voters said California's problems are part of a long-term decline that's not going to turn around even as the national economy gets better.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, I mean California and the budget is completely drained because, I mean, the politicians that people elected are completely irresponsible.

WIAN: About two-thirds of those polled disapproved of the performances of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state legislature. Six years ago, voters grew so angry, they threw out Governor Gray Davis, but now only 13 percent of voters say they are angry at the governor and just 21 percent at the state legislature. The poll found the most predominant emotion among California voters is disappointment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That same gloomy, dark, cloudy feeling, where you know, you go outside and there is this -- this sort of sad serenity everywhere. You see, you know stores closing. You constantly see people getting laid off.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we can see a little bit of change in leadership, although I'd like to have faith in everyone.

WIAN: Perhaps the most optimistic of the poll's findings, 45 percent of voters still believe their next governor will be able to bring real change to California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: The poll also asked voters what they thought was the biggest cause of California's problems -- the chief culprit, too much government spending and too much influence by special interest groups -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well, a couple of those people you talked with, they did everything but say "hey, dude", I mean what is that? You talk about a sad serenity. Those people look like -- I mean I can't characterize them, but my god, man, what's going on out there? People aren't angry? They are not upset? Are they just simply hopeless? Are they resigned?

WIAN: I think resigned is the right word. I wouldn't go so far as to say people are hopeless, but you know, Californians threw out their governor six years ago because they were angry and they have seen what's happened since then. The state is in worse financial shape than it was six years ago when they threw out Gray Davis, so they really don't have much of an alternative that's facing them other than it's going to be a long, slow recovery and some people -- folks are not even sure that there's going to be one in California -- Lou.

DOBBS: And of course, you have got medical marijuana and the prospect of marijuana -- it's going to be on the public initiative this year, right? So people might...

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: ... be able to tax marijuana and solve all of their problems, isn't that the theory?

WIAN: Well, that's the theory by some, it's not a lot (ph) yet, they're still counting and raising signatures. We don't know if it's going to be on the ballot yet but it's probably got a pretty good shot -- Lou.

DOBBS: Yes, it would be in line with recent trends I think is the expression. Thanks very much, Casey. Casey Wian.

Well to hear my thoughts about what is going on in California, join me on the radio Monday through Friday for "The Lou Dobbs Show" 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. each afternoon on WOR 710. Go to loudobbs.com to get the local listings in your area and to subscribe to our daily Podcast. Also on loudobbs.com go to the "Lou Dobbs Store" where we are pleased to tell you every single product is made in America. How about that?

Well up next here, much more on health care and its chances for survival if it has any in the Senate. Democrats deeply divided, Republicans adamantly, absolutely adamantly opposed.

And a U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, when will we have one? Is it time to bring our troops home? I will be talking with an interesting panel of military, diplomatic and medical experts here. Join me next for that.

And a college soccer player, well she's banned indefinitely for being unnecessarily rough. We will have much more on that shocking video here next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Welcome back. The shooting rampage at Ft. Hood, the army missed troubling warning signs from the gunman, Major Nidal Malik Hasan. Most officials and journalists still reluctant to call what happened that day terrorism.

Joining me now, CNN military contributor, Retired Army Lieutenant General Russel Honore, former first Calvary deputy commander stationed at Ft. Hood some two years. General, good to have you with us. Matthew Hoh, a civilian Foreign Service officer working for the state department in Afghanistan who resigned his post at the state department in protest of U.S. policy in Afghanistan. I should also point out he served two tours of duty in Afghanistan as a captain in the United States Marine Corps. And Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, chairman of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center. Dr. Lieberman consults with the defense department on psychiatric issues in the U.S. military. Doctor, good to have you back with us.

Let's start with the issue of General Honore, General George Casey, the army chief of staff this weekend said that he is not prepared to say the army missed anything. It seems with 13 bodies and 29 people wounded on that post that somebody missed something pretty grievously. What is your reaction?

LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE (RET.), CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think that will be obvious once the investigation is completed. Uniformed officers in the chain of command, General Casey is one of them, are restrained from making too many comments about what they think husband until the investigation is over with because as in the case of General Cone, he is the general court martial convening authority and General Casey is one of his bosses. So do you expect the uniformed service to say much at this time, Lou?

DOBBS: I understand that, as we were going to the you shall u of guilt or innocence, but General, we are talking about the fact the United States army, the system missed telltale signs that this man had allegiances beyond those to the constitution of the United States and the uniform he was wearing.

HONORE: I don't disagree with the opinion that many people will draw from that. It's kind of obvious that something was going on there. It was obvious that we missed it and the army is pressed hard in the last few days to make sure that they close the ranks on these types of issues in the army.

DOBBS: And Dr. Lieberman, as the general says, is this what it appears to be, a closing of ranks when there should be an issue of accountability front and center in the command structure?

DR. JEFFREY LIEBERMAN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: Possibly. Or I think it's people just being cautious and careful until all the information is in to be absolutely sure, but it certainly seems like there were some signs that pointed to some behavioral disaffection, at the very least that were apparent and possibly would have risen to some kind of ideological concerns.

DOBBS: Ideological concerns, as you and I have discussed at the time of the event. This is the stress and General Honore was a participant in that conversation. The stress that our troops are under is already more than most of us would want any one of those -- any one of our troops to have to bear, three and four tours in Afghanistan or Iraq. Is there not some safeguard for those who are providing mental health care, to our troops particularly, coming back? We have all sorts of people referring to them as anecdotes or straightforward statements of fact from those folks, to protect them from some -- I mean this is the worst kind, to me, of terrorism, because it comes from somebody who was there to care for them.

LIEBERMAN: I think this incident is tragic, but it is also replete with irony, because it is the individuals, medical professionals in this case, a psychiatrist who is supposed to minister to the physical and emotional needs of people that was the perpetrator of the crime can. And if you can't rely on these people to be able to provide the support, then who are you able to rely on?

DOBBS: Let me ask you, Matthew, as you -- as you were witnessing this and following literally by days your resignation from the foreign service because of your objection to what is happening in Afghanistan and your lack of confidence in the command structure, my god, now we are having a conversation about what is politically correct to say about what has transpired in front of everyone's eyes at Ft. Hood, that great wound that has just opened up in the hearts of the American people here, it is straightforwardly terrorism, ever the motivation it is heinous act t is clear that the United States army missed something. At the same time, we have a conversation going on at the highest level in the civilian leadership and the U.S. general staff as to what will be the strategy in Afghanistan and a discussion about what is reality there. I mean, could Kafka have created a more -- anything more absurd than this situation?

MATTHEW HOH, FORMER STATE DEPT. CONTRACTOR: No it's -- first off, I want to say my condolences to everyone down at Ft. Hood.

DOBBS: Absolutely.

HOH: Just like General Honore and you gentlemen as well, you might know people down there like I do. It's -- I think what this can't become, as terrible and as tragic as it was and whatever his motivations was, whether it was a terrorist attack, which I don't agree with or just the actions of a sick and deranged individual, shouldn't take away from the larger debate on Afghanistan of what should be our priorities for our national security and how we should go about achieving those priorities. This should not take away from that debate and it really shouldn't, I feel, infiltrate into that debate at all.

DOBBS: And that's one of the reasons we are this conversation tonight, because dr. Lieberman and I were talking last week, there is such a thing as a sickness in a society. When we become immobilized by our own inability to deal directly with what is a commonly perceived truth and reality, we are in trouble as a nation. And General Honore, as I listen to George Casey, let me tell you straightforward, I found it astounding and I understand the military constraints but it seemed like a general who had not succeeded, frankly, in Iraq was holding forth about an event that had taken place at Ft. Hood where our soldiers were being deployed to Afghanistan, of which we now don't have a strategy. And this seemed to me, to be compounding absurdity and concern. How do you react to it? HONORE: Well, I can -- in a way, understand you're looking at this through a different lens, Lou. General Casey's job for our army is to represent our army and to get those troops prepared to deploy when the president of the United States and the congress of the United States says they need to go. He's a strategic leader. He is focused on getting those troops ready and taking care of their families and resourcing them when they get back to get are ready to deploy them again. The army don't make decisions on where and when we are going to deploy. That is done by the president and the congress of the United States and he is executing orders and he is being a good soldier and he has been a good leader and a good soldier for our army.

DOBBS: And Dr. Lieberman, we have -- most of the people in this country right now oppose anymore troops to Afghanistan. We have a great division in this country about what is happening. There is uncertainty about strategy because no strategy exists right now it hasn't been formulate. We are told by the civilian leadership that we won't know what it is for weeks. And yet we have got men and women, particularly most especially, in the marine corps and in the United States army that -- from all branches in Afghanistan being shot and killed, being blown up with IEDs, while there is a discussion about a strategy in some abstraction in Washington, D.C. this seems, how would I put it, a difficult thing for any one individual. I will speak for this individual, difficult for me to comprehend. And it seems to open wounds in this country that goes back to the dives Vietnam.

LIEBERMAN: Well, military strategy and international policy is not really my area of expertise, but if we are committing people to a policy that is really not working or is not well thought out and if tragedies like this are occurring and we are not recognizing this and identifying the tell tale sort of indicators of it, then we're engaging in a farm of collective denial, at best, or perhaps a collective self-delusion.

DOBBS: And neither would be healthy for this society?

LIEBERMAN: No.

DOBBS: Mathew as you reflect on what I have a done to express yourself on the issue of Afghanistan, you have served with distinction as an officer in the marine corps, you are watching what is unfolding here now. What is your reaction as you were watching this act at Ft. Hood, as you were watching what's happening in this -- in the uppermost civilian leadership in Washington, D.C., after more than eight years of involvement in Afghanistan, the United States military doesn't have an answer right now?

HOH: You know, actually, my chief concern is that we say things like the U.S. military doesn't have an answer and our system of government, it is not the military's role to make policy it is the civilian role to make policy that's one of the things I'm most -- I'm frustrated with is this continual going back to what General McChrystal wants. General McChrystal's assessment was for one particular goal. I actually am happy that there's a debate going on about this I'm very pleased that our discussions go on about this, because this is not something we should continue to march lockstep into and do what we did the last eight years in Afghanistan, just double it. We have a tendency to I guess, super-size things in America. And just because it didn't work last time, try to do it better or harder it is not going to work in this case it is a civil war we are involved in.

DOBBS: What would you prefer we do?

LIEBERMAN: My -- my opinion is this. We need to understand that we are fighting a people who are fighting us only because we are occupying them and we are taking part in a civil war. We need to focus on the real enemy, which is al Qaeda. And al Qaeda does not exist in a forum that ties itself to a geographical or political boundary or state. And so we need to attack al Qaeda as it exists and not as we want them to exist as people who are in Afghanistan.

DOBBS: Should we withdraw our troops?

LIEBERMAN: I believe is so.

DOBBS: Matthew, thank you very much. General we thank you very much for being with us. Doctor, thank you. You gave us a lot to think about. We thank you all.

HONORE: Thank you.

DOBBS: Up next, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has a testy exchange with a reporter.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: But I just answered this question three times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Deadline is the end of the year 2009?

GIBBS: Please send the transcripts to chuck.todd.

DOBBS: We'll tell you which network the White House is fighting with now and what favors Mr. Gibbs did a White House correspondent.

The health care bill narrowly passed the House. Narrow? By two votes. What are his chances of survival in the Senate, if any?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Joining me now, Ed Rollins, Republican strategist, former white house political director, CNN contributor, Miguel Perez, syndicated columnist, professor at Lehman College, CNN contributor, Mark Halperin, editor at large, senior political analyst, "Time" magazine, Robert Zimmerman, CNN contributor, Democratic strategist.

Let me start with you, Robert. Two-vote margin in the dark of night in the House of Representatives, generally, our Dana Bash reporting it is dead on arrival in the senate. What's the point?

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: This point is simply this. First of all, it would have been significantly more votes. It could have been 10 to 15 more vote it is they need and I think a tribute to Speaker Pelosi's leadership and ability to know just what they needed without putting any of her at-risk freshmen members of congress in jeopardy.

DOBBS: So you're saying they just covered those 39 Democrats what, they were doing?

ZIMMERMAN: I think they gave -- No the legislative process, as far as being dead on arrival that is nonsense. Certainly parts of the bill are not going to prevail through, be accepted by the senate, prevail in conference. It's a legislative process.

DOBBS: The president gets a bill for signature.

ZIMMERMAN: I have been staying for months.

DOBBS: What did you about the August 1st deadline?

ZIMMERMAN: I didn't comment on the August 1st deadline.

DOBBS: Miguel, what are your thoughts?

MIGUEL PEREZ, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Harry Reid seems to be willing to wait until next year, already, because again, they are going to prolong this thing until the Democrats feel like they have the vote. They may wait forever because, in fact, the house version of the bill obviously is not satisfactory in many, many ways to the senate, so, we will see.

DOBBS: You just heard Matthew Hoh, foreign policy professional and before that, a United States Marine Corps captain, served two tours in Afghanistan, who resigned in protest of what the civilian leadership is not doing in Afghanistan. How -- how important is this decision to Barack Obama and is there any possible -- possibility that he will take into account Captain Hoh's resignation and begin withdrawing troops rather than adding them?

PEREZ: I hope that it is taken into account. I'm one who has been predicting that Obama is going to surprise us all and say really if he pulls in some troops, it will be only temporary and a way to pull out because obviously, the reason why the administration is taking this long, Lou, is because they are looking for a way out of the war.

DOBBS: Do you agree?

MARK HALPERIN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, TIME: No, I don't. There are reports swirling around us that, in fact, he is going to give General McChrystal a lot of what he was looking for. Look this is a campaign promise of Barack Obama, that this is an important war and it is -- in this -- going through this process, many more voices at the table arguing that more troops need to go in, that -- disregarding history and other countries' problems in Afghanistan is necessary.

DOBBS: Malik Hasan -- Nidal Malik Hasan, the major charged with those awful murders and shootings at Ft. Hood, there is now a cry going up because people are refusing to talk about even the possible that it was a terrorist act, even as information is being revealed that shows connections, even though they be tangential, to al Qaeda and to radical elements of the Islamic religion. Your thoughts?

HALPERIN: There are two imperative that is congress and president must lead on. One, not only to have a thorough investigation but one as transparent as possible so the American people don't jump to conclusions or have suspicions. The other is a this does not lead to prejudice or ill treatment, not just of Muslims in the military but the country at large. That is a balancing act but imperative they both be done.

DOBBS: Imperative they both be done. We heard General George Casey yesterday here on CNN, actually saying that he doesn't want to acknowledge that they missed anything in the army and that's with 13 soldiers lying dead and 29 others lying wounded as a result. This is an act of terrorism what ever else it is. Why is there such an aversion and why should the American people be judged to be incapable of a discrete judgment as to what is radical Islamist terror and what is the Muslim religion? Isn't that a bit condescending, even on the part of the national media?

HALPERIN: There is a complication here there is a crime committed allegedly by an American citizen so part of the constraint is based on that. Not clear what jurisdiction will prevail here. I think, again it has got to be as transparent as possible because we don't want people jumping to conclusions and never want the government to be in a position where it is either lying or appears to be like.

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The issue that I make with it obviously we don't know all the facts, other than the fact this man murdered great Americans, but the refusal of the intelligent community to basically cooperate with the congress and give them the information, I think is absurd. And that occurred in the last -- last day.

DOBBS: We are going to talk more about that as we continue. Why is there a divide between our intelligence agencies, our military and what are the responsibilities of the national media and when did it take up behavioral science as a cause? We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: No decision looms larger both in terms of attention and import to the country than Afghanistan. What will the president decide, Robert?

ZIMMERMAN: I agree with the speculation out there that he's going to commit a certain number of troops between 20,000 and 34,000. The bigger point, however, is this. He has to outline a clear agenda and time frame for how the troops will be used and their goals and objectives. My great concern is we're not going to accomplish the mission against al Qaeda with just troop deployment.

ROLLINS: The critical thing, I think this is the most important decision he makes. He has to protect the men and women who are there who are basically taking tremendous casualties today. I don't disagree with the long-term. He can't do this half-assed. If you're not going to stay there, let's get the heck out.

DOBBS: Mark?

HALPERIN: It would be great if he could do this with bipartisan support. There are a lot of Republicans who favor --

DOBBS: Did you say bipartisan support?

HALPERIN: Yes. There are a lot of Republicans who favor the kind of robust introduction of troops that appears. It would be great if this could be a truly bipartisan decision and reinforcement because that's been the country --

ZIMMERMAN: Mark, not a chance. The Republicans will still find ways to criticize him.

ROLLINS: I think the problem will be on your side, Robert. I agree.

ZIMMERMAN: It will never be enough for the Republican Party.

HALPERIN: You don't know that.

ZIMMERMAN: The bigger problem is it can truly hurt his domestic agenda.

DOBBS: We're seeing bipartisanship at work here at this table. Political correctness, what's going on here, Miguel?

PEREZ: In the case of Ft. Hood, where I have a cousin whose husband was in Iraq. She was paranoid the other day when this whole thing happened. In the case of Ft. Hood, we have to stop this political correctness. We have to ask our fellow Islamic Americans, Muslim Americans to step up and to recognize our division in this country, between church and state. In this case, mosque and state. We have to step up and say, look, we have -- they have to condemn this in no uncertain terms right now.

DOBBS: I think we should point out, too, for the first time in my memory in eight years we have seen quickly C.A.R.E. step up on the day of the shootings, the largest representative of the Islamic faith step up and condemn the shootings instantly. The imam and false church where Major Hasan was connected eight years ago. Immediately, he condemned both the shooter and the act itself.

PEREZ: We need more of that, Lou.

DOBBS: I agree. 100 percent. Thank you gentlemen. We appreciate it.

At the top of the hour, "Campbell Brown." Campbell?

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey there Lou. Tonight we are also looking at the growing investigation into the Ft. Hood massacre. New information about the alleged gunman, just now coming in. Was he trying to reach out to al Qaeda? We'll have the latest details for you tonight.

Also, Wall Street walking away with nearly $30 billion in bonuses. Why is this happening? And is there anything we can do about it?

Plus, as the gulf coast braces for another major storm we'll revisit a little boy whose life was turned upside down by hurricane Katrina four years later, he is still struggling to get by. We'll have his story at the top of the hour.

DOBBS: Thanks very much. And this note, CNN and Oprah, teaming up for a special Oprah book club event. The book is called "Say You're One Of Them." And you can join the event on the new CNN.com. That's tonight at 9:00 eastern, 8:00 central. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: And a reminder to join me on the radio Monday through Friday, 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. each afternoon on WOR 710 radio in New York and please go to loudobbs.com to get the local listings in your area. Check out our free daily podcast and check out the store for everything independent American. Follow me as well on twitter.com.

Thanks for being with us tonight. Join us here tomorrow. From all of us, good night from New York.

Next, "Campbell Brown."