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Shiite Militiamen Overwhelm Local Police In Iraqi City Of Amara; Priest Alleged To Have Abused Foley Speaks Out; Senator Barack Obama For President?; Unconfirmed Reports That Kim Jong Il Has Apologized to China For Nuke Test

Aired October 20, 2006 - 15:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: It is after 10:00 p.m. in a southern Iraq city, where Shiite militiamen, hundreds of them, swarm the city of Amara, overwhelming local police, and roaming freely, until, reportedly, Iraqi troops retook control.
CNN's Arwa Damon is watching developments from Baghdad -- Arwa.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, hello. That's right.

According to a spokesperson for the Iraqi military, that city is now relatively under control. Iraqi security forces flooded it. They sent in an extra at least 500 troops to try to bring it under control, after fighting raged there for two days.

Now, the fighting broke out between the Mahdi militia. That is the militia loyal to radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the Iraqi police in that area. According to a police official, the reason behind the fighting, behind this increase in violence, actually happened on Wednesday. An attack, a bomb exploded, killing the chief intelligence officer for that province.

Following that, members of his tribe entered one of the offices of Muqtada al-Sadr and detained the brother of one of the senior military commanders of Mahdi militia. This caused the Mahdi militia to storm into downtown Amara and launch an attack against two police stations there.

The fighting lasted through Friday for two days, at which point the Iraqi police could no longer hold their ground, no longer repel the attack. They fled. The Mahdi militia took over those positions. However, the Iraqi government did then send in additional forces.

And we are hearing that, right now, the situation is under control. But this highlights a number of problems facing the Iraqi government, first and foremost, the issue of disarming the militia. The Iraqi government has, so far, been looking for a political process to disarm the militias, refusing to take active military action.

And it also raises a very important question of who really controls the streets in Iraq -- Don.

LEMON: What about timing in all of this? This is Ramadan. Is that fishy, or was that planned?

DAMON: Well, it's hard to tell, Don, really the reasons behind this.

In fact, looking at it, it really seems to be a tit for tat, and the Mahdi militia trying to assert itself in that area. Now, that being said, we do also have to point out that Muqtada al-Sadr himself placed a phone call from Najaf to his offices in Amara, calling for calm, ordering calm.

Following that, he also dispatched a team from Kufa, down into that area, so that they can assess the situation themselves. On the surface, it appears that Muqtada al-Sadr is trying to rein in his militia. But, again, it has come under question as to how much control Sadr himself has over these militias. And, of course, it does also raise the issue of how much control the Iraqi government has over these militias.

Whether or not it could be tied into the fact that it is coming to the end of Ramadan, that is unclear at this point. It does seem, though, that it was perhaps a rogue militia element that was operating in that area -- Don.

LEMON: Arwa Damon, in Baghdad, thank you so much for your report.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Coalition forces are standing by, in case they are needed, in Amara. But they haven't been invited in yet. The two top U.S. Army generals overseeing the war are meeting right now with the commander in chief.

Details from the Pentagon -- our senior correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, has them all for us.

Hey, Jamie.


You're right. The top U.S. commander for the Persian Gulf region, including Iraq, General John Abizaid, has arrived at the White House for meetings with the president. Today, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said he talked earlier with both General Abizaid and General Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, by secure videoconference.

But, then, we're told, General Abizaid was summoned to Washington and came for a face-to-face meeting with President Bush, and will also meet over the weekend with Secretary Rumsfeld to discuss the way ahead, as Rumsfeld put it, in Iraq.

Rumsfeld sought to downplay the significant of the meetings, insisting that it was -- quote -- "nothing unusual." But it comes as there have been a number of examples now, including the situation in Amara, the situation the last couple of days in Ramadi, and earlier in Balad, all cases where Iraqi security forces were unable to keep the peace, in the face of activity by militia.

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld today, at this Pentagon briefing, parried any questions about whether or not the U.S. was contemplating a major change of course in Iraq, saying he preferred to give that advice directly to the president. But he went on to say that nobody on the national security team has put their brain at rest. They are continuing to assess the situation, as, again, the level of violence is higher than it has been in quite some time -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right, Jamie, thanks so much.

Well, before the U.S.-led invasion, radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was, at best, a phantom figure outside Iraq. Now he and his powerful militia represent one of the most dangerous problems facing the Iraqi government and U.S. forces.

Here's the facts.


UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In his early 30s, Muqtada al-Sadr is an expert at blending Shiite radicalism with Iraqi nationalism.

Most of his millions of supporters are young and poor, and are captivated by his fiery anti-Americanism. Many live in Baghdad's Sadr City, a slum of at least two million, which used to be called Saddam City. The area was renamed for Sadr's father after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

The father was a prominent Shiite cleric in Iraq before he was assassinated in 1989, reportedly by agents of Saddam Hussein. Sadr assumed control of his father's network of schools and charities, using them to expand his support among the poor.

One of the biggest obstacles now facing the Iraqi government is Sadr's powerful Mahdi army. Mahdi fighters have fought numerous battles with U.S. and Iraqi forces. The most serious were uprisings in Najaf and Karbala in 2004.

Observers say Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been reluctant to move against Sadr because he controls 30-some seats in parliament and because he depends on Sadr for support against rival Shiite politicians.

Another vexing problem is Sadr's connection to Iran. The Bush administration accuses Iran of supplying arms to Iraqi insurgents and militias, including Sadr's. A report by the Council on Foreign Relations says that, in a recent visit to Tehran, Sadr even pledged to fight alongside Iranians if attacked by the United States.


LEMON: Wars, elections, elections and war -- what happens on the battlefield can and does effect what happens in the voting booth, and vice versa. Iraq, therefore, is a major worry for Republicans in general, and the White House in particular, 18 days before Election Day.

CNN's Brian Todd reports. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president, famously quoted as saying he won't leave Iraq, even if the only ones still with him are his wife and dog, is he getting closer to that tiny constituency?

Listen to key members of his own party.

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R-NE), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: We are going to have to find a new strategy. The American people are not going to continue to support, sustain a policy that puts American troops in the middle of a civil war.

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R-VA), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: In two or three months, if this thing hasn't come to fruition, and if this level of violence is not under control and this government able to function, I think it's the responsibility of our government, internally, to determine, is there a change of course that we should take?

TODD: Even Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, a loyal Republican from the president's own state, says it's time to think about partitioning Iraq into three parts, Shiite in the south and east, Sunni to the west, and Kurdish to the north.

And, in the latest CNN poll, a third of Republicans say they oppose the war, the highest percentage since the conflict began.

Analysts say many Republicans who had taken a wait-and-see approach are at the end of that rope now, with the violence spiking. They say the Iraq war is, by far, the number one issue in this midterm election. And GOP candidates are feeling the backlash on the campaign trail.

Even the insurgents are playing to this equation.

MAJOR GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL, U.S. ARMY SPOKESMAN, COALITION FORCES IN IRAQ: We also realize that there is a midterm election that's taking place in the United States, and that the extremist elements understand the power of the media.

TODD: Does it all mean a full-scale party revolt against the president's course in Iraq?

STUART ROTHENBERG, "THE ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": I would say not yet a mass defection, growing doubts, growing concerns. After the election, if the Republicans take the hit that many of us think they will, then, I think we will start to see those massive defections.

TODD (on camera): That period after the midterm elections is also when the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel led by former Secretary of State James Baker, is due to present its report on what needs to be done in Iraq. If Baker's team recommends a completely new course, analysts say, the GOP defections could accelerate.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


LEMON: Well, he's just a first-term senator, but people are really talking. You know who I'm talking about, right?

PHILLIPS: We have been talking about him...

LEMON: Oh, yeah.

PHILLIPS: ... for a couple of years now.


LEMON: Barack Obama, will he run for president? And will the civil rights community -- that's a big question -- will they support him, if he does run? We will look for answers -- coming up in the CNN NEWSROOM.

PHILLIPS: Mark Foley claims that a priest abused him when he was a teen. Now the priests responds -- a report from the Mediterranean island that the priest now calls home from the NEWSROOM.


PHILLIPS: Gozo, ever hear of it before yesterday? The tiny island near Malta lies almost smack in the middle of the Mediterranean ocean. Now, thanks to Mark Foley and his scandal, Gozo is smack in the middle of a media frenzy.

CNN's Alessio Vinci is there, with more on the priest who allegedly abused Foley back in the 1960s.


ALESSIO VINCI, CNN ROME BUREAU CHIEF: First, we started with the residence of Father Anthony Mercieca. And, this morning, we spent several hours out there.

We briefly met his lawyer, who basically told us, in no uncertain terms, that he was not going to speak to the media, the press, anymore. And, then, also a housekeeper who came in and out of the house several times also refused to talk to us.

So, we are having, really, a hard time trying to speak to Father Anthony himself, now that he has given that long interview yesterday to the U.S. -- "The Sarasota Herald-Tribune."

That said, we spoke to many people in the areas surrounding his house, and we're getting two sets of reactions. On the one side, we're -- we are hearing from people who are basically surprised and know very little about him. After all, he only moved back to this island only two years after, after he retired from the priesthood in Miami. And, so, they -- they pretty much don't know very much about him. On the other side, we're hearing people -- from people that he actually has an active -- I mean, he has an activity here. He's holding several masses throughout the week. And one shopkeeper, who actually refused to give us her name, because she said that she could get in trouble just to speak to the media about a case sensitive like this, she said that her son, her 11-year-old son, knows the priest very well, and she was shocked to hear that the priest not only is involved in a sex abuse scandal, but he's also admitted to what has been described as inappropriate behavior.

So, on the one side, we have people here who are, if you want, shocked. And, on the other side, very few people who know him. They seem to know his brother, who is actually a priest on this island, as well.


LEMON: All right, Obama in '08, that is the big question. Some are calling for the freshman Democratic senator from Illinois to run for president. Even the big O., Oprah, supports him. Right now, Barack Obama is the nation's only African-American senator. But analysts say his appeal crosses race and party lines.

Obama talked about all of it with CNN's Larry King last night.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: The idea that there are a set of common values and common ideals that we all believe in as Americans, whether we're Republican or Democrat or Independents, and that if we focus on what we have in common, rather than what divides us, that we can actually make progress, in -- in commonsense, practical terms on some of the challenges that we face in the country, and I think that tone is one that the country seems to be hungry for right now.


LEMON: And Barack Obama is pushing his new book, "The Audacity of Hope." He insists he hasn't decided whether he will run for president. But, certainly, a bunch of people are asking him.

And, you know, that buzz, that Obama buzz is just kind of everywhere. And, last night, it was hot and heavy right here in Atlanta, at a big birthday bash, the 85th birthday party for civil rights legend Joseph Lowery. And I just happened to be there -- not very often that you get this many heavy hitters, especially civil rights leaders.

You had Joseph Lowery. You had Harry Belafonte. You had Dick Gregory, Maxine Waters. You name it, they were there last night for this party. And all of them were talking about Barack Obama.

And I asked some of them about that, especially Harry Belafonte and Dick Gregory, about that last night.


REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I mean, I think he is the rock star of politics. When I saw how they received him in Ghana, and now Oprah sang, "He's got to be president." He's on the front cover of magazines. I mean, he's going to be a person to be reckoned with.

LEMON: Would you support him?

WATERS: Oh, that is all depends. I mean, it is much too early to talk about who you are going to support for president, much too early.

LEMON: He's on the cover of "TIME" magazine, and everybody is talking about...


WATERS: I know. But, you know, for us politicians, we see things that others don't see. We analyze in ways that others don't analyze. And we don't tell people real early what we're doing.

REVEREND JOSEPH LOWERY, CO-FOUNDER, SOUTHERN CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE: Don't know him very well. I'm impressed with his intelligence. I haven't seen him grab any tough issues yet, but I think he has a bright future.

LEMON: Do you think he's ready?

LOWERY: For what?

LEMON: To be the president.

LOWERY: Well, he's more ready than George W. Bush was.


LEMON: Well, you know Joseph Lowery.

He is...


PHILLIPS: He's straight and to the point, that reverend.

LEMON: He doesn't mince words.

And, I mean, and these folks were really raw. We got them. And, you know, we talked to them about it. They said it on camera.

But what was very surprising to me -- and I know you asked me this earlier -- what struck you most about it, right?

I thought that they would just go, absolutely, you know? The guy has got a spotless, flawless record. We have heard nothing but good. But they say, you know what? We want to see him sink his teeth into a big issue, and really grab at it. He's only been a senator for a couple years. And he needs to prove himself, is basically what they said.

PHILLIPS: And you and I have been talking about Barack Obama, Jesse Jackson, can -- are they -- is Jesse Jackson sort of the -- he was the initial black leader...

LEMON: Right.

PHILLIPS: ... that really stood out, and fought for the black community, to get into politics...

LEMON: Right.

PHILLIPS: ... and all different human rights, I mean, civil rights, and all of that.

And the question is, is Barack Obama sort of the new Jesse Jackson, the new -- is...

LEMON: Right. Right.

PHILLIPS: Is Jesse going to kind of go by the wayside, and Barack Obama is the...


PHILLIPS: ... now the leader for the black community?

LEMON: One thing I do have to say, that's why I appreciate you, because we can have these conversations.


LEMON: And we really do. And...

PHILLIPS: It's true.

LEMON: ... and that there's...

PHILLIPS: You and I have been talking about this for a while.

LEMON: Right. And there is no judgment.

But that's true. And people say, the people there said, that's an unfair question, to compare those two people, because they're different. Jesse Jackson came from a different era. And Barack Obama is of a different era. And Jesse Jackson is proven. Barack Obama is not.

But that does raise a question. Even "Ebony" magazine is raising the question here, asking, does Jesse Jackson still matter? He turned 65, I think, this week. And they are celebrating his birthday in Chicago next week.

Does he still matter? Very interesting question. And I asked him that last night.


LEMON: Does Jesse Jackson still matter? Is that a legitimate question to ask? Does he?

HARRY BELAFONTE, ACTOR/ACTIVIST: I think it's a silly question to ask.


BELAFONTE: Nobody always matters to the same degree.

DICK GREGORY, ACTIVIST: Let your mother get shot by the police, and let Jesse come to town, and see what happens.

BELAFONTE: Jesse Jackson has...

GREGORY: See if Jesse won't...

BELAFONTE: ... made a huge contribution.


BELAFONTE: And the history that he has been through means a lot to everybody who has been touched by him.


PHILLIPS: Boy, Dick Gregory laying it out there.


PHILLIPS: A little strong language.

LEMON: You know, I do have to say, it's a little inflammatory. And I asked -- when I asked him and other leaders on that, I said, what do you mean?

And here is, honestly, what they said. They said, Barack Obama is not intimidating, non-threatening, not in the sense that Jesse Jackson might be threatening, because he's like: Here's the truth. Here's what I -- here's what I believe. And he -- there is no holds barred.

So, they're saying that, you know, that's what they meant by that, that it's non-threatening. And, honestly, white people aren't threatened by Barack Obama, as they might be by Jesse Jackson.

PHILLIPS: Well, you know, it's -- well, and that's interesting. And you and I have talked about this before, about Jesse Jackson, some people say he always pulls the race card.


PHILLIPS: It's always... LEMON: Right.

PHILLIPS: ... oh, man. It's the white person beating up...

LEMON: That's true. That's true.

PHILLIPS: ... on the black folks.

And you haven't heard that from Barack Obama. You hear a different approach.


LEMON: Barack Obama is much more calculated, and has been, and has been criticized for seeming to be on both sides of an issue, maybe a little bit too diplomatic.

As -- even as we read -- both of us read the same "The New York Times" editorial this weekend.


LEMON: Sometimes, he's a little bit too much diplomatic.

And that's exactly what those leaders are saying. Sometimes, you need that Jesse Jackson sort of thing. You get into the issue. Here's what I believe.

PHILLIPS: Ruffle the feathers.

LEMON: And ruffle the feathers, because that's going to get things done.

PHILLIPS: Great stuff, Don.

LEMON: All right.


LEMON: Thanks.

Well, this program note: Jesse Jackson will be a guest tonight on CNN.


PHILLIPS: Speaking of Jesse...

LEMON: Speaking of him, he will be on "LARRY KING LIVE" tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, and, again, his birthday next weekend in Chicago, 65 years old.

PHILLIPS: Well, just about every Wisconsin politician will tell you that he or she loves the Green Bay Packers. I worked there. I lived there. I have got the cheesehead to prove it.


LEMON: But one of this year's candidates may have taken that a little too far. That story is ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.



PHILLIPS: Well, Jay-Z is known as a hip-hop trendsetter.


LEMON: Yes, but now he will be drawing a big paycheck from one of the world's biggest companies.

Susan Lisovicz is at the New York Stock Exchange.

We were talking about this a little bit before. There was some controversy with Cristal and a lot of the rappers, right? Is that the reason for some of this?


LEMON: No. Not it?


LISOVICZ: I think it's just an...


LISOVICZ: I think it's just an excellent opportunity.


LISOVICZ: He is -- Jay-Z is -- among many things, he is a very sharp businessman.

Anheuser-Busch has hired Jay-Z as its new co-brand director for Budweiser Select.


LISOVICZ: He is hoping the move will influence young people to buy Bud Select over other beers -- Anheuser-Busch also launching an online entertainment site called Bud TV. We told you about that some time ago. That is aimed at 20-somethings.

As part of the deal, Jay-Z is starring in a new Bud Select ad campaign. You're looking at it right now. And it just happens to feature his new single, "Show Me What You Got," as part of his album, which will be released next month. The company also says that he will help in development sessions and offer his insights. But Jay-Z already has a lot on his plate. He oversees his clothing company, Rocawear, not to mention being part owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball team, and front man for Def Jam Recordings.

He also is one of the owners of a popular club here in Manhattan, 40/40.




LISOVICZ: Yes. He doesn't have much downtime, this guy.

LEMON: So, basically, my last question, you're like: No, nothing. You're absolutely wrong.


LISOVICZ: No, you were right on the -- you were right on the controversy.


LISOVICZ: But we don't see any connection, Don.

LEMON: No connection, OK.



So, the beer may be flat, that whole thing, but the market is, too.

The beer may not be flat, let's hope, but the market is flat today, right?


And you know what? It's come back quite a bit, Don. And Anheuser-Busch shares, by the way, ticker symbol BUD, as in Bud, well, they're down. They're down about 1.33 right now.

Stocks have rebounded from earlier lows, and are now pretty much unchanged -- the Dow taking a hit from a 13 percent drop in shares of Caterpillar -- earnings at the heavy equipment-maker missing the Street's estimates -- Cat also saying it sees the U.S. economy slowing down next year, and that it will hurt sales.

On the plus side, shares of Google jumping 7 percent, following a strong earnings report -- the price of crude oil dropping to its lower level of the year, crude now approaching $57 a barrel.

Just take a look very quickly, the Dow at 12049. We could see a higher close -- a record close, I should say.

And that's the latest from the Street. We will see you in a half-an-hour -- back to you guys.

PHILLIPS: Thanks, Susan.

Straight to the NEWSROOM -- Thomas Roberts working details on a development story out of Miami -- Thomas.

THOMAS ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Kyra, this is one we have been watching now for a few minutes.

And let's give everybody a peek, these pictures coming to us from WSVN. That's our affiliate in the skies there over Biscayne Bay, as we watch this pleasure craft boat just on fire, engulfed completely from the front to the back.

We were watching before a mom -- we think a mom and her two kids, a woman and two young boys, rescued sitting comfortably on a boat. They were hugging each other off to the side. This is a -- off of Oleta State Park, again, in Biscayne Bay.

We were getting words before -- or information before that they were going to actually tow the boat out, take it into deep water to burn. You can see the woman on the right-hand side of the screen there. That is the woman we believe was rescued from this boat earlier.

Obviously, you know, it's a nice Friday afternoon down there in Miami, maybe out for just a -- an afternoon on the water. And this happened. We're not sure exactly what took place there to bring this on. But, as you can see, they're trying to push the boat up to the rocks, letting it take on its just own course here, and letting it burn out.

But, again, everybody is fine. The woman and the two young boys that were on board are on another craft, totally safe.

We will watch this, though, try and figure out exactly what happened, Kyra, bring you the new details right here out of the newsroom.

PHILLIPS: All right, we will follow it. Thomas, thanks.

ROBERTS: Sure thing.

PHILLIPS: More from the CNN NEWSROOM, right after a quick break.


VALERIE MORRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As an antique dealer for 30 years, Martha Rollins worked at revitalizing used items, making them new and beautiful. Today, her work is similar. Only now, she's helping restore people who were previously incarcerated.

MARTHA FRANCK ROLLINS, FOUNDER, BOAZ & RUTH: We believe that the prisons and jails are filled with gifted people, and we're helping to release these gifts back to society. MORRIS: Rollins founded Boaz & Ruth in Richmond, Virginia. It's a nonprofit offering jobs, career training and life lessons, like anger management and public speaking.

Trainees work at one of Boaz & Ruth's six businesses. They are all located in an area desperate for an economic boost.

ROLLINS: It had been empty blocks, dealers on the corner selling drugs, high, high crime. And by locating the businesses here, where no sane retailer would ever go, we are bringing hope back to a neighborhood, and people are getting meaningful jobs and paying taxes and becoming productive citizens.

So, it's making a difference. And the most rewarding part of my job is living in the miracle of transformation of people, and realizing that I'm transformed daily, too.

MORRIS: Valerie Morris, CNN.



LEMON: Is it all over in Amara? Reports from that city in southern Iraq say the unofficial army of a radical Shiite cleric overran local police and took control, but Iraqi and British forces now say the Mahdi army is gone and the order is restored. We certainly hope that's so.

Some insight now from our military analyst, retired Major General Don Shepperd. He joins us now today from New York.

General Shepperd, this is called the government -- they're saying that the government may be more fraud than the U.S. government thought here. Is that so?

MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD (RET.), MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it's hard to say, Don. But, clearly, this type of action cannot take place. The way things were supposed to work is we were supposed to make the police strong enough. When they couldn't handle it they call in the Iraqi forces, the Iraqi army/military. When they couldn't handle it, they ask the U.S. for support.

What happened was the Mahdi army of Muqtada al-Sadr, one of the many militias in Iraq, basically took over an entire city. You cannot let that happen or you're going to have chaos everywhere.

LEMON: But Amara was supposed to sort of be an example for how this new government was going to work. What happened there? Obviously, the example didn't work.

SHEPPERD: Yes, it's a little bit of a mystery. Now, clearly, what's going on, everybody is saying this. There is no military solution to this problem across the country. If you take on all these militias frontally and try to disarm them, you're going to have real mess and a lot of violence for a long time. You have to have a political solution. The prime minister is working on that. He's working on a reconciliation plan. Whether it comes across in a timely fashion, whether it comes across at all is the key to peace in Iraq, not shooting by U.S. military forces.

LEMON: Several generals have used some deserving words. Some of them have said that it's frustrating there. This morning when all of this was going on, we got the new pictures in, Brigadier General David Grange said that he compared this to the civil war -- not a civil war, but the civil war -- saying that they're going to have to be ruthless like Grant. Let's take a listen to something else that he had to say this morning about this.


VOICE OF BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Right now, we cannot let the militia get away with taking over a city. Right now, it's a test and if they let this go, it will definitely be -- definitely be -- not maybe -- a turning point for the results of what will happen in Iraq.


LEMON: Do you agree?

SHEPPERD: I do agree, but there is another complexity on top of this. At the same time that this is going on -- and you cannot allow them to take over a city. You cannot allow any militia take over a city. Twenty-three militias are operating in Baghdad. If you go frontally against the Madhi army of Muqtada al-Sadr, he provides a lot of the support for the coalition necessary for the parliamentary form of government with the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

He has to maintain Muqtada al-Sadr's support right now. And if you topple that government, if you topple the al-Maliki government, what do you have to take its place? So it's this fine balancing act between military action and shooting, taking out what's in front of you, and bringing along the political process which everybody agrees is the long-term answer.

LEMON: And we heard ruthless like Grant. And it's also the militants there have to understand that this is a ruthless pursuit. What is the strategy so far or the next strategy, at least, that will get us beyond this point?

SHEPPERD: Yes, I asked that in a conference call today with Major General Caldwell, the Multinational Forces spokesman in Baghdad. And basically what he said was you -- we are engaged with the militia by taking out high-profile people that are seen as operating outside the law. This is given to us by intelligence, by police investigation, et cetera. We're going against them, taking out two or three leaders a week, detaining 10 or 15 guys.

But everybody wants to say how can we snap our fingers and change our tactics and change our strategy? The strategy is sound: train the Iraqis to take over that country, and change your tactics as necessary to adapt but gradually hand that country back to them.

There's no other strategy that works and no other tactic that is going to produce instant results. You're going to see progress and you're going to see violence for a long time in parallel in Iraq, as long as we stay there.

LEMON: General Shepperd, we have to run, not much time, but what do you make of this meeting General Abizaid, Donald Rumsfeld, General Casey that's supposed to happen this weekend?

SHEPPERD: I think the president is scratching his head, saying, guys, give me something that will work. What do you we need to do to change? Same question you've been asking. And there's no magic. It's going to be a tough fight for a long time. You may see some changes coming after the first of the year when the Iraqi strategy -- Iraqi studies group issues a report. That may make some changes.

LEMON: General Don Shepperd from New York, thanks for joining us in the NEWSROOM.

SHEPPERD: Pleasure.

PHILLIPS: Real regrets or mere rhetoric? That's the unanswered question amid unconfirmed reports that North Korea's Kim Jong Il has apologized to China for his recent nuke test, and sworn off another one. The test prompted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to rush off to Southeast Asia.

CNN's Zain Verjee is the only network reporter traveling with her. Zain brings us the latest from Beijing.


ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice giving a little more information about a senior level delegation from China that went over to North Korea and met with Kim Jong Il. The message they carried, she said, essentially was come back to the six-party talks.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: I think the message was not unlike the one that the Chinese have been delivering publicly, that Resolution 1718 must be observed and China will observe it.

The Chinese, obviously, wanted to send a message to the north that they had engaged in very serious behavior, that China did not support. They also want very much to try and get a return to the diplomatic path and to the six-party talks.

VERJEE: I asked her also whether China was seriously considering cutting off fuel aid, cutting off food aid to North Korea, cutting off financing. She really wasn't too specific in answering that. She said those were under consideration, but the Chinese had an obligation to live up to the expectations of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718.

I asked her too if North Korea tests again, what more can the United States do? What more can the international community do than is already being done? She said there are ways in which deeper trade restrictions could be enforced but that would only lead to deeper isolation of North Korea.

I asked her finally whether the crisis could be resolved ever with Kim Jong Il in power. She said yes and the only forum is the six-party talks. I asked her, too, would she be willing to go to Pyongyang and talk personally to Kim Jong Il at that senior level and she said no.

Zain Verjee, CNN, Beijing.


LEMON: A scandal involving a Congressman expands to include a priest.

PHILLIPS: And a bitter divorce goes very public. What should Sir Paul and his soon-to-be ex, do? We'll put them all through the spin cycle coming up.


PHILLIPS: Well, a congressman scandal, a really ugly celebrity divorce and a comedian's mom claiming discrimination. All situations spinning out of control this week for the players involved, and here to put them through the spin cycle, media strategist Robbie Vorhaus.

I say we start with Mark Foley, what do you say?

ROBBIE VORHAUS, MEDIA STRATEGIST: I say my head's spinning for all the spin, Kyra. Let's go.

PHILLIPS: And just when you think it's sort of beginning to settle, then, boom, something else pops out. Let's talk about the spin, the counterspin, the ultimate spin.

VORHAUS: Good, OK. Well, Foley, I mean, there are three components to this story. There's the Foley spin. His political career is toast. The only thing that he can hope is that he comes back. I mean, he's gone from a major monster to a minor player in this. I mean, he says, OK, I did it, I'm sorry, I'm in rehab, I'm an alcoholic, I was abused, and they find the priest.

Now the next step is the Catholic Church, what are they going to do? And they've gotten their act together finally and they said, OK, we understand that this is happening, we apologize, we're offering therapy to Foley. He said yes, I'm going to take it.

Now let's go to the House. The House said is -- this is not a cover-up. The question is, is it an oversight? So they're saying this is happening so close to the election, is this a plant? And the question remains is if Foley has been doing this since 2003 or 2004, why didn't they do anything then?

So it's -- there's a lot of spinning and it seems as though Foley and the Catholic Church have their act together and now the Republicans just need to figure it out.

PHILLIPS: So what your advice be?

VORHAUS: Tell the truth. Truth is the ultimate spin. And let's just see whether or not it was an oversight or whether or not it really was a cover-up.

PHILLIPS: All right, let's move over to Sir Paul and Lady Heather. Oh, boy, everybody is talking about this.

VORHAUS: Do you know that I would rather believe that Santa Claus had done something like this than Paul McCartney. I mean, if you look at the lyrics to "Yesterday," they are as prophetic today and as important today as they were when he wrote them how many years ago?

PHILLIPS: And she's claiming he's a pot smoker, a heavy drinker, he's self-centered, he's vindictive, subjects her to cruelty. That's not how you want to see one of the most famous Beatles.

VORHAUS: Well, first of all, let's put it into perspective. If it's true that he is worth $1.6 billion, and let's say that, in fact, she's asking for half of that. That's $800 million. So let's say that after all of this is done and everyone gets their piece of that, she says, OK, I have $300 million, that's my goal, for three years of marriage. That's great work if you could get it.

So I think at the end of the day -- no, really, I think at the end of the day what's going to happen is you're going to say these were my attorneys who put me up to this, I really did like the guy, it didn't work and I'm really sorry. Here is my $300 million and have a good day.

PHILLIPS: So your advice is settle, get the hell out of there?

VORHAUS: Just get out of here. Come on, guys.

PHILLIPS: Chris Rock's mother Rose says she was racially discriminated at a Cracker Barrel in South Carolina. This caused an interesting conversation in our morning meeting. What's your take on this? The spin, the counterspin, further -- the ultimate spin?

VORHAUS: Well, first of all, I think that they better have a better story than she didn't get served within a half an hour. She'd like to come out to the Hamptons where I live in New York, on the eastern end of Long Island, and she'd be waiting longer with a lot worse attitude and no one would offer her a free meal.

But the problem is that Cracker Barrel has had a history of racial discrimination. There's been some bias against gay employees. So I think that what they need to do is get out from behind their spokespeople, come out from the pat answers, we're not going to take it, we don't allow it. Let's get some real leadership, let's meet with Al Sharpton, let's come up with a real plan and be a poster child for, you know, equality.

PHILLIPS: Why do you think that we're not hearing from Chris Rock? Don't you think that's sort of interesting, he's not there side-by-side with his mom and Al Sharpton?

VORHAUS: I think you'll hear from Chris Rock. Remember, Kyra, what they're doing is threatening a lawsuit. They haven't filed a lawsuit. So I think Chris is staying out of it and when it's finally done, maybe they can get him to be a spokesperson for Cracker Barrel.

PHILLIPS: Hey! Look at that. All right, I think Don has a little something to throw in here. Don?

VORHAUS: Hey, Don.

LEMON: I just think it's funny. Nice work if you can get it and, then, obviously, you know, life imitates art. Chris Rock will probably use this in one of his routines, don't you think?

VORHAUS: Oh, I think that all of this is fodder for comics. I mean, come on, let's look at it. You've got a congressman who is a predator, who is involved with the Catholic Church and the Republicans are saying it's too close to election. Paul McCartney, who is loved. I mean, it's just -- I wish that I had better lines!

LEMON: I should say art imitates life, but I think you're right. I think you're dead on.

VORHAUS: Thank you.

PHILLIPS: Robbie Vorhaus, it's always fun.

VORHAUS: Hey, we have a lot of fun spinning, don't we?

PHILLIPS Yes, we do. My head's spinning right now. Thanks, Robbie.

LEMON: And it is Friday. It is Friday.


LEMON: You have a great weekend.

Attention, Seattle shoppers: parents go ape when a guy in a gorilla suit grabs -- this camera, over here -- grabs a little boy. Details just ahead in the NEWSROOM.


LEMON: Obama buzz was hot and heavy last night at an 85th birthday bash with civil rights legend Joseph Lowery. I happened to be there. Let's take a look at some of the video from last night. Lots of heavy-hitters for the civil rights movement, lots of heavy- hitters in the African-American community.

We had people who were very outspoken because they were civil rights pioneers. You know, they took it upon themselves to say, hey, here is what we have to say about, number one, civil rights, but mostly about Barack Obama, since he has been the talk of the town. Here is what they had to say. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BELAFONTE: I think Barack Obama is intelligent, compassionate and I think empowered internally to be able to stand fall with the rank of the presidents.

LEMON: Mr. Gregory ...

BELAFONTE: The question is, is American ready for him?

TOM JOYNER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I'd vote for him. I'd campaign for him. Yes.

WATERS: I think he's doing all the right things. He certainly knows how to raise money. He is making all the rounds. He is helping his colleagues.

LEMON: He's only been a senator two years though.

WATERS: That's right. That's true. I mean, and experience counts and I think he's going to make a decision at some point about where his career is going to go and when it's going to go.

LEMON: Would you support him?

WATERS: Oh, that is all depends. I mean, it is much too early to talk about who you're going to support for president.


LEMON: And you know what? A lot of folks are talking about this and stirring up conversations even in the editing room, even in the newsroom here. Kyra, people were saying why does race have to factor into an election? And I asked Harry Belafonte that when he said is America ready. And I said -- my next question on that tape was what do you mean by that?

And he goes, America is a racist country. That was his response. And he goes -- he thinks that Obama will bring things out in people that we don't necessarily like to talk about as a society.

PHILLIPS: I think we're moving toward we have to start talking about this stuff.


PHILLIPS: I mean, if you just look at even things that are coming out on Capitol Hill and issues that are coming forward, whether it's diversity issues, or sexual orientation, we're definitely moving in that direction.

LEMON: Yes, you've got to talk about this. And one of the people who did talk about it, who did talk about, especially racial issues, is Jesse Jackson, you know, and, of course, the talk now, some magazines, "Ebony Magazine" asking is Jesse Jackson still relevant, does he still matter? His 65th birthday is coming up. That's the cover story right there. So we asked him about that last night. Surprisingly, here is what they had to say.


LOWERY: Yes, he's still a champion of the poor. He's still out witnessing, preaching the word. Grace be with him.

LEMON: That's all you have to say?

LOWERY: Yes. That's enough. All you need is grace. Amazing grace. It saved a wretch like me. It can save Jesse. It can save all of us!


LEMON: That's right. That's why we love ...

PHILLIPS: He always brings it back to a hymn or a verse.

LEMON: Yes, he's good, though. But some people were saying earlier -- you hard Harry Belafonte say, you know what? That's a silly question to and for people to compare, as a lot of people have been doing, Jesse Jackson to Barack Obama, saying one is old guard, one is new guard, they say it's ridiculous.

PHILLIPS: Wow, but there is a different movement that's happening.

LEMON: There's a different movement. As everything -- they said everything evolves, including the civil rights movement. They're saying it wasn't necessarily just protest, just things about race, that there was actually education and negotiating going out but the protests worked back then. They may not necessarily work now.

PHILLIPS: We're going to be watching them both.

LEMON: All right. Well, this program note. Jesse Jackson will be a guest tonight on CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE." Catch that at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Time now to check in with Wolf Blitzer.

PHILLIPS: Stand by in "THE SIT ROOM." Hey, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, guys. Thanks very much.

Coming up at the top of the hour, an urgent meeting at the White House on Iraq. President Bush meets with a top general to sort out the mess on the ground.

Plus shifting focus. The GOP uses the fear factor to turn out the vote.

Also, a CNN exclusive, the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice under pressure over a nuclear North Korea. Zain Verjee sits down with her in Beijing. We have the interview.

And Hillary Clinton in a race that could be a run-up to the White House, potentially. We'll take you live to New York for tonight's debate. All that coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Back to you guys.

LEMON: All right, Wolf, thank you.

PHILLIPS: Thanks, Wolf.

"Closing Bell" and a wrap of the action on Wall Street straight ahead.


PHILLIPS: Well, it may have worked for Harry Hamlin in the first season of "L.A. Law," but ...

LEMON: I remember that. I remember that! But the gorilla suit act didn't go over too well with a couple of Seattle parents when a gorilla grabbed their child and ran off.


ANTHONY SANTIAGO, BOY'S FATHER: I didn't realize what happened until I heard my son screaming in terror. That's the minute that I knew that it was him.

APRIL SANTIAGO, BOY'S MOTHER: We had to stop the guy. I mean, it was up to us. We were right there. He was right next to us. You know, they had pictures of the guy in the costume, out of the costume. Security saw the guy take the mask off. There was no denying he was who he was. And they physically had them in his hands and they let him go.


PHILLIPS: Now, mind you, this happened back in August so you can't chock it up as a Halloween prank. The cops let the grabber go anyway. Now, the parents are considering gorilla suit of their own -- a lawsuit. They don't like anyone who monkeys around with their kid.

LEMON: I don't think that -- as a parent, that would not be funny.

PHILLIPS: No, it's not. And they still haven't been able to figure out if it was the real deal or not. I mean, it looks like this individual really tried to take off with their kid.

LEMON: Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh.