Return to Transcripts main page

Lou Dobbs Tonight

New Orleans Mayor to Forcibly Evacuate Residents; USS Iwo Jima Provides Medical Help to Survivors; Health Officials Say Floodwaters Dangerous; Houston Works to Get Evacuees Home, Money; Volunteers Collect Supplies for Hurricane Survivors; Report Critical of U.N. Leader; Navy Pilots Reprimanded for Saving Lives Now Commended

Aired September 07, 2005 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody. Tonight New Orleans Police are preparing to forcibly remove people who refuse to leave their devastated city. The U.S. military, however, declares it wants no part of these forced evacuations of New Orleans residents.
All of those National Guard troops work for the chief of the National Guard, Lieutenant General Steven Blum. He's our guest here tonight.

And engineers face a huge task to pump out the flood waters and to repair levees in New Orleans. Sixty percent of the city remains under water. The man in charge of the massive and complex task of rebuilding those levees and reconstructing the infrastructure of New Orleans is Lieutenant General Carl Strock. He is the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He'll join me here tonight.

And while government agencies at the state, federal and local levels are facing blistering criticism over their slow response to this disaster, private citizens all over this country say, "can do." They're organizing their own relief efforts for the residents of New Orleans. We'll have that special report.

Tonight as many as 15,000 people remain in New Orleans. Many of them are stranded. But many remain there by choice. And some say they will resist any effort to remove them. But that's exactly what's likely to happen.

The mayor of New Orleans is threatening to use force to remove anyone who refuses to leave. And the mayor says it's simply unsafe to stay in that city because of the polluted flood waters. Health official say at least three people have already died because of contaminated water, those three deaths part of an escalating overall death toll that could eventually be as high as 10,000.

Another major concern in New Orleans tonight, the rising number of fires. There have been nearly 60 fires since the hurricane hit last week. New Orleans firefighters are being re-enforced by thousands of additional rescue workers and troops. The number of troops now in the disaster zone is 63,000.

We begin our coverage tonight with Drew Griffin in New Orleans. Drew? DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: Lou, this day began just like it ended last night with the mayor announcing he wants all these people that you say -- possibly 15,000 -- to get out. They are creating a problem.

They don't know how all these fires are starting, but some of them may be starting by people trying to live in these houses with no power. They're lighting candles. They're cooking, et cetera.

So they're going house to house trying to right now gently coerce these people to leave. But eventually, the mayor says, they're going to have to force them to leave.

It's gotten a little bit political with the governor. Not sure if she wants her National Guardsmen to actually force people out. Those things have to be worked out, but things are getting to the breaking point. They need to get these stragglers, as they call them, out of New Orleans so they can clean it up, turn the electricity grid back on, make sure there's no fire danger and then allow people back in.

While that was going on, Lou, we saw a bit of a transition today. Quite frankly something I'm used to seeing one or two days after a hurricane, and that is people, troops, soldiers coming in here, not to walk around the streets with their guns but to actually start cleaning up.

We ran into a Texas National Guard unit, a purification unit. They're going to tackle the water supply in New Orleans. Everywhere on the streets, we saw various contractors trying to clean up debris. And even downtown some of the business owners are now finally, believe it or not, nine days later, starting to board up windows that were broken by looters so many days ago.

So there are signs of life. There are signs of progress. But over this whole thing, Lou, over this whole entire operation is the fear of what is still down in the lower Ninth District. And that, we just don't know yet.

DOBBS: Those fears, of course, contaminated flood waters. The number of people are now rising to 15,000 that the mayor's office suspects remain in the city. Have we seen any shift in the effort toward both asking those people to move, and to move ahead, on the part of at least the local police, to forcibly remove those people?

GRIFFIN: Well, what -- what we have seen personally happen, Lou, is they're stopping the handing the water to them. They stopped the enabling of them.

You know, what we've seen for many days as troops go by and they have a spare bottle of water, they'll give the stragglers some water. They'll give them some rations. That has stopped.

And we have talked to a few people who have been living here in the dry side of New Orleans, who think they're ready to go. Now they realize they are totally out of food. They must leave. And they don't have the blessing of anybody in this city to stay. So they're thinking about leaving.

But there are some diehards. And quite frankly, there are some stubborn and perhaps a little troubled people who will have to be forced to leave. How to delicately handle that -- these people that have been through so much -- is going to be an interesting situation, both politically and physically for the people who have to go in there and do it.

DOBBS: Tough, tough situation that some days seems to get even tougher. Drew Griffin, thank you very much, reporting from New Orleans.

New Orleans city officials say the threat of their flooded, ruined city being consumed by fires is worsening by the hour. In New Orleans today new fires did break out. Fire crews from all around the United States, including this one from New York City, are helping battle these serious fires in punishing 90 degree heat. But low water pressure makes firefighting difficult and the fires all but impossible to contain.

Officials say residents still in their homes using candles are in many cases accidentally starting some of these fires. Fires are also being sparked by ruptured gas lines.

The U.S. military command center for the massive search and rescue operation in New Orleans is the Navy assault ship Iwo Jima, docked in New Orleans. The Army commander, Lieutenant General Russell Honore, has set up his headquarters on that ship.

Jeff Koinange has our report.


JEFF KOINANGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Early morning on the flight deck of the USS Iwo Jima. Nearly as long as three football fields, the Iwo Jima has docked at New Orleans on a mission far different from what it's used to.

Squadron Commander Gerard Hall was born and raised in New Orleans. He still finds it difficult to come to terms with what's happened to his city.

CMDR. GERARD HALL, USS IWO JIMA: I'm at a loss for words. Just looking out over the city, I'm constantly at a loss for words. All I can do is say, you know, my God, how -- what happened to all of these people? Where are all of the houses that used to be here? It's just devastating. It's unbelievable.

KOINANGE: The Iwo Jima has a dual mission. It's a warship, but below deck it's a hospital. Richard Callas is the captain.

The ship hasn't been in port 48 hours, and already the doctors are at work. Here, inspecting Darrel Terrence's swollen feet. He says he's diabetic and thought he was going to die when Hurricane Katrina turned his city upside-down.

DARREL TERRENCE, SURVIVOR: I feel badly, you know. I lost everything I had, you know. That's life.

KOINANGE: Doctors here say they are more than ready to play an important role in helping the people of New Orleans recover.

LT. COL. JEFFREY WEINBRENNER, USS IWO JIMA: We have a unit here of 80 people, so we have about 10 physicians, probably a surgical team of about six physicians, and you know, 10 primary care doctors.

KOINANGE: Back on the flight deck, Captain Callas has no illusions of what he's up against.

CAPT. RICHARD CALLAS, COMMANDING OFFICER, USS IWO JIMA: This is the most significant, the most horrific disaster to strike the United States, I think, in the country's history.

We're doing this here for America. This is our -- this is our own. These are our grandmothers and aunts and uncles and fathers and sisters and cousins and close friends. We're doing it for ourselves.

KOINANGE: Doing it for themselves, and insisting their mission won't be accomplished until everyone who needs help is rescued.


KOINANGE: Now, Lou, the thing to note here is that right now it's search and rescue. Pretty soon that will turn to search and recovery as more and more bodies are being seen on the country, turning up in swamps and homes and all over the city.


DOBBS: Unfortunately, those -- that prospective death toll expected to reach as high as 10,000.

Jeff, thank you very much, and thank you for your excellent work. Jeff Koinange from New Orleans.

One of the biggest concerns now for rescue workers is the increasingly toxic floodwaters in New Orleans and surrounding areas. At least three people have already died because of contaminated water. The Environmental Protection Agency is warning about high levels of E. Coli, coliform bacteria and lead.

Kitty Pilgrim has our report.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a foul- smelling toxic soup.

J.T. ALPAUGH, POOL PHOTOGRAPHER: We're experiencing something we haven't experienced over the past nine to 10 days, and that is the smell of rotting water. And it is permeating the air. It's very thick today -- just a lot of really bad smells up here from this rotting water.

PILGRIM: The CDC today saying in no way should anyone go near the water because of risk of sickness. Some people have died.

But the open question is how much of the toxic waste is permanent environmental damage.

Oil is literally coating much of the area. An oil spill in Chalmette, Louisiana, released 85,000 barrels of oil into a residential area. The EPA daily statement says it is continuing to assess oil spills and chemical releases in New Orleans and the area by helicopter. But that doesn't include the thousands of tiny spills -- oil and gas leaking from abandoned cars, trucks and boats and bubbling natural gas leaks.

ERIC OLSON, NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNSEL: This is a serious disaster of the first order for the environment because all the petroleum chemicals and what are called heavy metals, toxic metals like lead and cadmium that undoubtedly are in this area, these can poison the soils, they can poison the water supplies for a long time.

PILGRIM: Building damage produces its own poisons. The EPA issued a public caution when entering damaged buildings -- leaking household chemical containers, when mixed, can be toxic.

Asbestos in storm-damaged buildings is also potentially getting into the environment. Mold and mildew caused by flood water can cause respiratory ailments.

Then there is the raw sewage. The EPA says more than 100 waste water facilities are affected in Louisiana, nearly that number in Mississippi.

The EPA took samples of water in New Orleans to be analyzed and said more than 1,200 drinking water facilities have been affected by the hurricane.


PILGRIM: The initial EPA samplings of water found the bacteria from the sewage 10 -- levels 10 times higher than acceptable safety levels.

Skin contact with the water is also dangerous. So federal health officials say rescue workers also need to wear protective clothing before they can even walk in this water safely, Lou.

DOBBS: It is extraordinary, the extent of the damage and what appears to be the long-lasting nature of that damage. Thank you very much, Kitty Pilgrim.

More on the disaster ahead here. Hundreds of thousands of evacuees and refugees need urgent help to pay for basic necessities. What federal, state and local governments are doing to help those people, next.

And Americans all over the country are helping their fellow citizens recover from this Hurricane Katrina. We'll have a special report for you on one group of volunteers. Nearly 50,000 National Guard troops are now in the disaster zone helping the relief operations. The general responsible for coordinating this massive deployment is my guest here tonight.

And the U.N. Volcker report, long awaited, on the corrupt oil- for-food program is now out. You won't believe that Mr. Volcker found corruption, mismanagement and deception. We'll tell you who, despite all of that, says that the report proves he is absolutely blameless.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: In Houston tonight, federal officials are hoping to have all refugees out of the Astrodome by the end of next week. Hundreds are being moved out of the Astrodome each and every day into more permanent shelter. Soon they will receive added financial help from the government in the form of debit cards.

Betty Nguyen is live with a report in Houston tonight. Betty?

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Lou, we heard from FEMA today that some 20,000 debit cards are being made available to families here at the Reliant Park, which includes the Astrodome behind me.

These debit cards are worth about $2,000, and they will be distributed to families -- not individuals, but to families.

Now, we heard that those would be distributed today. Many people lined up to try to get those debit cards, but they were not available. We're learning from FEMA that they should be available soon.

Of course, it does have to happen very soon because, as you mentioned, people are finding homes. We learned today that some 8,100 people are in these shelters, evacuees still staying in the shelters. But that is a far cry from what we heard just last night, that some 27,000 evacuees were in these shelters. So obviously, people are going out and finding homes here in the Houston area, which is good news because today we're also learning that folks were signing their children up for school here in the Houston Independent School District. They want to make sure that their children are enrolled in school before they head out to their new home.

And one last thing, Lou, I think is very important to note. As many of these evacuees came to Houston there are also tales of violence that follow them, whether from the Superdome or the Convention Center in New Orleans.

What we have learned from the Houston police chief today that, as of the first of September, crime here in Houston has actually been down, some 3.3 percent. And that includes the time when these evacuees were transported to Houston.


DOBBS: Well, that's great news. It's also great news -- it's wonderful news the way Houston has responded to the disaster in New Orleans and has opened up its facilities to bring all of those children there into the school system.

This is going to take great effort and some considerable patience on the part of everyone in Houston. They're to be commended.

Betty, thank you very much. Betty Nguyen, reporting from Houston.

The Gulf Coast disaster has inspired a grassroots relief effort in this country, in communities all across the country, in fact. Thousands of Americans are volunteering their time, their belongings and their money in order to help those people in need.

Casey Wian has the story.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Both sides of this Los Angeles industrial park block are lined with tons of supplies for Hurricane Katrina victims.

PRISCILLA VALLDEJULI, VOLUNTEER: Toiletries, water, baby goods clothing, shoes, toys, books, tapes, kitchenware, everything, everything. I mean, everyone there will need some of this. They have nothing.

WIAN: Priscilla Valldejuli's brother and fiance are among those who lost everything but the clothes on their back in New Orleans. She and dozens of others came here to donate supplies and stayed to work.

Cesar Franco is supposed to be at his bank job, but he called his boss and says he's taking the week off to volunteer.

CESAR FRANCO, VOLUNTEER: The devastation, the victims, the children, the elderly, the homeless, the less fortunate. I mean, if I can donate my time, that's all I have. Why not?

WIAN: Relief efforts don't get much more grassroots than this one, called Puppies, Babies and Mommies, Too.

Marketing consultant Sidney Ray started it all last Thursday.

SIDNEY RAY, RELIEF EFFORT ORGANIZER: You can't, like, just watch these images and sit here and think, I'll just give money to that cause and hope it goes away. I had to do something.

WIAN: So she recruited volunteers and donations through the Internet and local TV news. The result? More than a dozen California collection points, at least one 18-wheeled trailer plus two dozen SUVs and light trucks full of supplies destined for the New Orleans area so far. There, the United Way will distribute the items.

Young brothers Keith and Kyle Burns donated their own toys and clothes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the rain knocked all the houses down. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know.

WIAN: The effort is duplicated by hundreds of thousands of private citizens and businesses, from collecting cash at a high school football game in New York...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Help your fellow Americans, please.

WIAN: ... to food donated to fire stations, schools and churches nationwide, now arriving in the Gulf Coast.

Back in Los Angeles, Sidney Ray already needs a dozen more 18- wheelers to deliver all the supplies her volunteers have collected.


WIAN: Ray plans to continue this operation for at least six months, and she's in the process of taking her relief effort nationwide.


DOBBS: Well, good for her, Casey. And good for everyone in this country helping out, helping all of the people in New Orleans. A great story. Thank you very much, Casey Wian.

Coming up next here, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is blasted in a new report on the oil-for-food program scandal. We'll have details on this scathing report here next.

And then, pumping the toxic water that has flooded New Orleans. I'll be talking with a man who is leading the effort to rebuild and reconstruct that city, Lieutenant General Carl Strock, the head of the U.S. Corps of Engineers.

That story, those interviews, coming up right up. Stay with us.


DOBBS: U.S. troops in Iraq have rescued an American who's been held hostage for 10 months. The military said troops rescued Roy Hallums from an isolated farmhouse 15 miles south of Baghdad. Officials say Hallums is in good condition.

Meanwhile, in southern Iraq, four American security contractors were killed today in a bomb attack in the city of Basra. The four contractors were traveling in a U.S. diplomatic convoy.

Later a bomb attack in the center of Basra killed 16 Iraqis; 21 other Iraqis were wounded in that attack.

A scathing report tonight on the huge and escalating scandal over the U.N. oil-for-food program. Investigators blasted U.N. Secretary- General Kofi Annan for his poor management. The report declared the U.N. requires thorough reform and it needs that reform urgently.

Richard Roth reports.


RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Designed as a humanitarian program, oil-for-food will now be remembered as the biggest financial scandal in United Nations history.

In a highly unusual scene, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the U.N. Security Council sat and listened as oil-for-food chief investigator Paul Volcker issued a devastating attack on them for failing to manage the program.

PAUL VOLCKER, CHAIRMAN, U.N. INDEPENDENT INQUIRY: The result is no one seemed clearly in command. Delays in or evasion of decision making was chronic.

ROTH: The secretary-general and his deputy were blamed for poor oversight.

A large question still hanging over the year-long investigation was whether Annan was influenced by his son Kojo to steer a major oil- for-food contract to a Swiss inspection company he worked for. After looking at e-mails and phone records, the judgment was still no wrongdoing by the U.N. chief.

VOLCKER: While we have found no corruption by the secretary- general, his behavior has not been exonerated by any stretch of the imagination.

KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: The report is critical of me personally, and I accept the criticism.

ROTH: Annan called the findings deeply embarrassing for the entire U.N. but dismissed any talk of stepping down before his term ends next year.

ANNAN: I don't anticipate anyone to resign. We are carrying on with our work.

ROTH: Annan can't fire his son, who is not a U.N. employee, but the report said Kojo traded on his father's name, gaining inside information for his company's U.N. contract bid and importing a car without customs fees into his native Ghana.

RICHARD GOLDSTONE, U.N. INDEPENDENT INQUIRY: I think very simply stated he's bad news.

ROTH: The report also says Kofi Annan's predecessor, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, was the target of Iraqi government bribes of possibly millions of dollars. But there's no evidence that the former secretary-general was aware of that or got any money.


ROTH: In a statement tonight, Kojo Annan denies calling the U.N. procurement office and says his buying of the Mercedes car, using his father's name, getting a discount and importing it into Ghana was a youthful indiscretion which he can be forgiven for.

And Paul Volcker wants it clear, Lou, that most of the shenanigans happened with smuggling through Jordan and Syria outside of the oil-for-food program. But still a horrible day for the United Nations and the people who work for it and the Security Council and the secretary-general.

DOBBS: And the secretary-general accepting the criticism, as he put it, his organization called corrupt, his organization called mismanaged, a bureaucratic disaster and structurally flawed to its fundamentals. On what basis would there not be a call for his resignation?

ROTH: So far, no country has come out with it, but in baseball they say you can't fire the whole team, 25 players, but you can fire the manager. And I think Annan's record, from the bombing of the U.N. building and sending the staff in and criticisms there, and a whole range of personnel decisions leaves him very open for some to legitimately say he should still not be at the helm.

But remember, I asked him this a few weeks ago, will you resign? He said, hell no.

DOBBS: Well, perhaps resignation would not be the proper course then. Richard Roth, thank you.

The Pentagon today declared that two Navy helicopter pilots who diverted from their mission and took it upon themselves to rescue more than 100 stranded civilians have not been reprimanded.

This morning a published report said those pilots were disciplined for straying from a supply mission and instead helping those civilians. But later, the Navy insisted the pilots were, in fact, commended.

Jamie McIntyre has the report from the Pentagon.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On Tuesday of last week, when the flooding hit its peak around New Orleans, two Navy pilots from this helicopter unit based in Pensacola, Florida, diverted on the way home from delivering critical water and supplies to help rescue more than a dozen people trapped on roofs of houses and apartments.

But even though the motto on the pilot's shoulder patch is "So Others May Live," they were chastised, not cheered, upon their return to Pensacola. A Navy spokesman said - quote -- "The air operations chief felt it was necessary to remind them they had a logistics mission that they needed to complete so others could do their parts of the operation."

When Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld saw an account from the "New York Times" in his morning clips headlined "Navy pilots who rescued victims are reprimanded," he immediately ordered his top military aide to get to the bottom of it.

A senior defense official told CNN, "He was troubled by the impression that someone would be punished for saving lives. He asked for a much clearer understanding of what he knew could not possibly be accurate."

The Navy insists the pilots were never reprimanded nor removed from flying duties. In fact, they went on to rescue more than 100 people that day.

Still, the incident illustrates a key question about the military response. To what degree did the military stick to a plan that was inadequate, and how quick was it to improvise creative solutions such as airdrops of supplies from helicopters?

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: No war plan survives the first contact with the enemy. Operational leaders must always be ready to adjust.

MCINTYRE: By late Monday night, flooding in New Orleans was widespread, as reported by CNN and other television networks. But Pentagon officials say their review will focus on what they see as a critical window of about 30 hours that begins Tuesday night, a day after the levee broke. That's when the Pentagon says the real extent of the massive flooding was clear and when officials concede there may have been a chance to better adapt the plan to the magnitude of the disaster.

LT. GEN. JOSEPH INGE, DEPUTY U.S. NORTHERN COMMANDER: I think it was pretty adaptive, Jamie, but I won't go further than that, because there will be great reliving of this instance in the months ahead and time will tell.

MCINTYRE (on camera): As for the two Navy pilots who got a talking to from their commander for taking matters into their own hands, well, they're being described now as heroes. A Navy official says that, given the number one priority is saving lives, their actions are to be commended.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.


DOBBS: The U.S. National Guard now has 45,000 personnel in the Gulf Coast tonight. They're performing critical work of all sorts of types in helping the region bounce back from this overwhelming disaster.

And Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld this week said there are some 300,000 additional National Guard troops that could be called in if they were needed in the weeks ahead.

Lieutenant General Steven Blum, the chief of the National Guard, joins me tonight from the Pentagon on the National Guard's ongoing disaster role. General, good to have you here. I know you've got your hands full, as do all of your troops and everyone working in this effort. What role will the National Guard have in the mandatory evacuation that's being ordered now for citizens remaining in New Orleans?

LT. GEN. STEVEN BLUM, CHIEF, NATIONAL GUARD BUREAU: The Guard will have any lawful role that the governors in charge of their states direct them to perform. The governors are the commanders-in-chief of the National Guard at all times when they're employed under the authority of the governor and that's what's on going right now.

Currently we have 45,000 National Guardsmen from every single state in this country, two territories, the commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, responding to this natural disaster that hit a region of our country that now has national attention. So as I've said before to you, Lou, when you call out the Guard you truly do call out America.

DOBBS: Absolutely. And those Guardsmen and women are doing a remarkable work already down there.

What is your plan right now? The secretary of Defense saying 300,000 Guardsmen are available. How many do you expect will be needed based on what you -- on your current assessment of this disaster?

BLUM: Honestly, we do not know how many will ultimately need. So far we're surging to a force of about 50,000 over the next 36 hours. And then we will continually reassess our contribution.

One thing we won't do is hold back anything that is needed by the governors to make sure that we ensure that we save lives and sustain lives and save property and restore order and hope to those people that were so stricken by this natural disaster of biblical proportions.

DOBBS: That expression, biblical proportions. The first time we heard that expression, it sounded, if you will, an exaggeration, it now seems on the perhaps even an understatement as we look at all of the victims, the people that have been displaced from their homes and their businesses, and at all the work that remains to be done.

General, what do you see as your most difficult task among the many difficult tasks that you and your people have to perform here?

BLUM: It's the race against time. In order to save lives, we still have rescues and search and rescue operations ongoing. And every hour we're still finding hundreds of people and saving literally thousands of lives a day. And we cannot stop that until the last living person is found that needs our assistance to sustain their life.

So we have to do that. We have to maintain order. We have to distribute food, water and other medical supplies. We have to provide transportation and security. Actually, what we have to do is provide support to all of the emergency support functions that are provided by the lead federal agency, in this case it's FEMA. The National Guard is not the military law of the land. The governors are still governing, the mayors are still governing. And we are there to support their legal constituted authority. And our main function is to save lives and to sustain the lives that we do find and save.

DOBBS: General, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco has yet to decide on whether to call upon the National Guard to help in those mandatory evacuations from New Orleans. Is there -- if she makes that decision, there is no hesitancy on your part in following through?

BLUM: No, because the National Guard, because they are under the control of the governor and called out by the governor, they have police authorities if the governor wants to extend those police authorities to those National Guardsmen. And we have flowed in now 7,000 military police from all over the nation, National Guard Military Police who are certified law enforcement officers. So if the law needs to be enforced, the National Guard could be used in that role.

But I will tell you, that will be to support the already established and existing civilian law enforcement. We will not replace them. We won't supplant them. We will only expand their capability and assist them in executing the law if it is, in fact, ordered. It yet remains to be seen if she will order that or not.

DOBBS: General Steven Blum, we thank you for being here tonight. We thank you for your work and all of your...

BLUM: Lou, excuse me. The last time I was here you asked me about recruiting. I want to report to you that contrary to your predictions of doom, we're up from the last time I appeared by 1.5 percent. And we're on our way to recovery. We're only about 4.5 percent off our goal now.

So the Guard is in good hands. There's plenty of us -- 300 more available -- 300,000 more available if the secretary of Defense needs us for the overseas war fight or at home. Your National Guard is alive and awake. You don't have to worry at night. We're awake.

DOBBS: General, I never did worry. And just to keep the record straight, that wasn't my prediction. That was the prediction of others. I'm glad that it is, as you put it, thumbs up in terms of recruiting and all of your other work.

BLUM: Well, tell others to call 800-GO-GUARD and send me young men and women. We could use them. Thanks.

DOBBS: We thank you very much for your work and all of the work of those young men and women who make up the Guard.

BLUM: Thank you.

DOBBS: We'd like to know your thoughts tonight on that issue of mandatory evacuations. Do you believe people still in the city of New Orleans should be allowed to stay even if it is dangerous to their health? Yes or No. Cast your vote at We'll have the results for you later in the broadcast.. You've heard on this broadcast, by the way, several people, including Reverend Jesse Jackson and others admonish us not to use the term refugee when describing the New Orleans citizens who have had to flee their homes. Jackson and others including President Bush have said or implied that term is racially insensitive.

In my opinion, straightforwardly, Rev Jackson and President Bush are not entirely correct. The Miriam Webster Dictionary defines refugee as one who flees. The nation's foremost news organizations, including the Associated Press, the "New York Times" and this broadcast uses the term refugee when and where appropriate.

The president, Jackson and others apparently think that news organizations created the term refugee just to describe victims of Hurricane Katrina. Hardly. Even a cursory review of reporting of such disaster of Hurricane Andrew, the 1993 Midwestern floods and wildfires through the West have all prompted the use of the term refugee by news organizations. I'm proud to tell you that this network has resisted others telling them how to use words -- rejecting, in fact, the United Nations suggestion that we use, instead of refugee, the expression internally displaced persons. I love that one.

We'll continue here to use the term on this broadcast where we think it is most descriptive. And unfortunately we realize that there are those who will try to establish their own bona fides as politically correct and even racially sensitive in their view by conjuring up more nonsense about language when they should be focusing on reality and the concerns and care that all Americans have for our fellow citizens who need our help in New Orleans.

Coming up next, the man responsible for the enormous task of rebuilding the city, the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He's our guest.

And the skyrocketing cost of heating your home. Home energy bills could rise more than 70 percent this winter because of this hurricane disaster. We'll have that report, and some good news for you on gasoline prices.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: Tonight, 60 percent of the city of New Orleans remains under water, but that's an improvement. And it could take weeks, possibly months to completely drain the city. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tonight says only 23 of the city's 148 drainage pumps are now working. Another critically important task for the corps is the repair of New Orleans' broken levees.

Joining me now from Washington, D.C. is the man in charge. He's the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Lieutenant General Carl Strock.

General, good to see you. We know you've got just a massive task in front of you and all of your people. How long, first turning to the flood waters themselves, how long do you estimate it will take to pump all of that flood water out of the city?

LT. GEN. CARL STROCK, COMMANDER, U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: Well, sir, it depends on where you're talking about. There are actually 13 levees, about 300 miles of actual line levee. We have one levee down in St. Bernard's Parish along the river. We think that might take as much as 80 days to pump down. The main area of New Orleans, the Orleans Parish area around the Central Business District, we're looking at about 24 days on the outside to get that done. And then there are estimates in between those.

DOBBS: When you first became aware of this disaster, could you imagine that it would be this large a scale disaster? Despite everything that you had studied, all that you had prepared for, everything you knew about this incredible complex of levees and pumps?

STROCK: Well, you know, I tell you, confronted with the reality of this, it's very difficult to imagine something like this occurring. But we did understand that there was a potential for this catastrophic disaster to occur in New Orleans. And unfortunately it has occurred.

DOBBS: The politics are such that everyone now is looking back to the 2001 budget, looking at the '96 budget in which the Corps of Engineers did not receive the funding that it sought -- received, in fact, only a fraction of it. What role did that failure to provide for construction of levees, the re-enforcement of levees play in this disaster? How important was it in terms of the flooding of this great city?

STROCK: Sir, I can't say that for sure. We'll certainly need to look into that. But I can tell you that it's my personal and professional judgment that the levee breaks we've been looking at 17th Street and London Avenue likely would have occurred regardless of the level of funding, because they were really at the final configuration for this project. No amount of money would have gone to improve those levees beyond what they are now. They were at their final design configuration.

There are many aspects to this project. There are actually three projects. One up along Lake Pontchartrain, that's the one where the breaks occurred. There's a project called Southeast Louisiana, which is about the drainage of the interior of the New Orleans. And then there's New Orleans West Bank. So those three projects were all moving ahead. And we spent about $300 million since 2002 in the New Orleans area providing flood control and drainage improvements.

DOBBS: General, I have to suspect that people are listening to you say that no amount of money would have changed the outcome here. Does that mean that no amount of money would protect New Orleans when it's rebuilt?

STROCK: No. What I meant by that is that the system we have in place that was designed to protect the city to the current level of protection was such that it afforded about a Category 3 level of protection from a Category 3 hurricane.

What I meant there was that the portion of the project where the breaches occurred was at the final design. And we basically completed that portion of the project. So, had we been able to finish this project in a more rigorous way, it would not have affected those particular areas where those breaches occurred at 17th Street and the London Avenue area.

DOBBS: And General, your assessment tonight as to the progress made and what we can expect in the days, weeks and months ahead as you begin to rebuild the levees, restore pumps and rebuild the infrastructure?

STROCK: Sir, I'm very confident that we have the direction and momentum going on this one. It is going to take a long time. The longer it goes, the more inefficient the pumps operate because they're pulling against a higher head as we say in hydraulics. So it's going to be a long process.

But I tell you, I think the people down in the Mississippi Valley division of the New Orleans and Memphis districts are working this, have their arms around this one. And really, I'm focused on other things right now. Support them with everything I can. We've got to get navigation restored, we've got to get debris moved, we've got to get temporary housing going.

So, at this level I think Bob Creer (ph) down there and Rich Wagenaar in New Orleans understand what they need to do. And we're looking to there aspects of recovery here.

We're trying to create to set the conditions for the recovery of not just New Orleans, but the entire coast, the southwest parishes and the coast of Gulf Coast of Mississippi. That's what I'm really focused on now, the big and long-term recovery.

DOBBS: Big, long-term recovery, a massive undertaking. And we're just beginning to get a sense of it. Thank you for helping us move in that direction.

General Carl Strock, thank you.

STROCK: Thank you, Lou.

DOBBS: Still ahead here tonight, Capitol Hill erupts in recriminations in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. I'll be talking with our senior political analyst about those implications and his analysis.

And an entire industry in this country threatened by foreign competition has been devastated by Hurricane Katrina. We'll have that special report.

And to find out how you can help the victims of Hurricane Katrina, among other things you can call the American Red Cross at 1- 800-HELP-NOW. And for a full list of charities to whom you can donate your services, goods, clothing and money, please go to And stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DOBBS: Funeral services were held today in Washington D.C. for Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist. At the private service, President Bush, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor both praised Rehnquist for his integrity, his intelligence. The chief justice was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The investigation into who inside state, federal and local government is to blame for the Hurricane Katrina response has become increasingly intensely partisan this week. But a new poll suggests the majority of Americans are not yet ready to point the blame solely at President Bush, by any stretch of the imagination.

CNN's senior political analyst Bill Schneider has the analysis. Bill, just who's being blamed?

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's a good question. And the answer may surprise a lot of people, because the answer is nobody. People don't think anyone should be held responsible for the problems in New Orleans after the hurricane.

You can see that the top of the list there is local officials just 25 percent, federal officials 18, Bush 13, but the largest number, 38 percent say no one really should be blamed for this.

You know, Lou, there are two separate questions, who's to blame -- which seems to preoccupy everyone in Washington. But the more important question to the public is what went wrong. That's what they'd like Congress to investigate.

DOBBS: You know, when you said no one is responsible, according to that survey, our new survey, it looks to me like a lot of people are just trying to decide whether they would most blame the president, or state, or local officials. And certainly the case can be made for all three of them.

SCHNEIDER: A case can be made for all of them and that will be sorted out as they get more information. But their immediate inclination is not to seek recriminations. They're not ready to blame anyone. This isn't like 9/11.

DOBBS: This isn't like 9/11, but unlike 9/11 it seems to me that the nation is in certainly a stronger mood toward demanding accountability for failures, wherever they occur, whether it be at the federal, state or local level.

Do you think I'm wrong in that?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I'm not sure the American people would agree with you. Because we asked them, do you think any top official in charge of federal emergency management should be fired? There's been a torrent of criticism of FEMA and other agencies. And the answer by better than two to one is -- you see it here -- no.

They don't think any top federal officials should be fired. This is simply substantiating the point that the public is not in a mood for recriminations right now, except for one thing, gas prices. Nearly, Nearly 80 percent ...

DOBBS: They don't know who to fire there, Bill.

SCHNEIDER: Well they think that oil companies are gouging people and that they are charging unfair prices.

DOBBS: Oh, no. But the oil companies tell us they're not.

SCHNEIDER: Well of course, they say they're not.

DOBBS: Well you don't believe them, Bill?

SCHNEIDER: The people don't believe them. That's all I can tell you.

DOBBS: The people are usually 100 percent right. Bill Schneider, thank you very much.


DOBBS: Well those gasoline prices may be falling slightly, but most of us are still paying more than $3 for a gallon of gasoline. And now Americans all over the country are about to be hit by the soaring cost of natural gas used to heat homes and generate electricity as well.

Bill Tucker has the story.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The pain at the pump will be nothing compared to the pain coming in the mailbox. It will cost a lot more to have a warm home this winter.

GUY CARUSO, ENERGY INFORMATION ADMINISTRATION: Based on the present trends, natural gas prices this winter are expected to be significantly higher than last winter.

TUCKER: The government warning consumers that they may have to pay up to 71 percent more than last winter. It's a big price blow to a lot of people. More than half of the homes in this country are heated with natural gas. The second most popular heat source is electricity. Those consumers can expect to pay about 17 percent more, because, increasingly, natural gas is used to generate their electricity -- a point that was made very clear in a Senate Energy and National Resources Committee hearing Tuesday.

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER, (R) TENNESSEE: For example, what percent of new power plants in America have been built with natural gas during the 1990s, roughly?

CARUSO: I know from the latter part of the '90s until right now, it's been the upper 90, 98 percent or so.

ALEXANDER: Almost all. And what effect has that had on the price of natural gas? CARUSO: It's certainly been a major contributor to the upward pressure on price.

TUCKER: Upward pressure is the understated way of saying that in the last three years the price of natural gas has risen nearly five- fold to the highest prices in the world.

MARK STULTZ, NATURAL GAS SUPPLY ASSOC.: The fundamental reason prices are where they are is because we have increasing demand for natural gas because of its clean-burning characteristics. But we are not able to get to all of the areas where we can recover it most economically.

TUCKER: Expect the industry to argue that it be allowed to expand in those areas such as in the eastern Gulf of Mexico or off the southern coast of California.


TUCKER (on camera): Now natural gas is sometimes referred to as the forgotten commodity and for years it was so cheap, Lou, in fact it was easily forgotten but not this winter.

DOBBS: Hardly, at 500 percent increase, my gosh. Bill Tucker, thank you.

Still ahead, a struggling industry in this country completely devastated by Hurricane Katrina. We'll have that special report for you, and a great deal more.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: Hurricane Katrina has had a devastating impact on people all along the Gulf Coast and their homes and businesses. One industry already struggling in the face of foreign competition hit especially hard by the storm.

Ted Rowlands has the report.


JOE JOE ROSS, MISSISSIPPI SHRIMPER: It looks like this is going to knock it out.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): As they sit on their shrimp boat unable to take it to sea, Joe Joe and Geneva Ross say they are worried that Hurricane Katrina may have destroyed what has been a way of life for their family for generations.

J. ROSS: I made the first trip on a shrimp boat with my father when I was 3 years old.

GENEVA ROSS, MISSISSIPPI SHRIMPER: A lot of people that I know don't have the opportunity to go back. They've lost everything. They've lost their houses. They've lost their boats.

ROWLANDS: Many boats that did survive are trapped by storm debris along rivers where they were brought for protection. More devastating, though, is the fact that every processing plant along the coast is out of commission -- meaning, even if they could get to sea, shrimpers would have nowhere to take their catch.

BRIAN GOLLOTT, GOLLOTT'S BRAND SEAFOOD: People in this country are helpless. We'll get through it.

ROWLANDS: An emotional Brian Gollott says his family plans to rebuild their processing plant and warehouse, which were both completely wiped out by the hurricane. But he's worried that shrimpers won't be able to wait it out.

GOLLOTT: I'm hoping they can hold on. I know it's -- it's really bad. It's really dire. But just got to have hope.

ROWLANDS: Before Katrina, times were already tough for shrimpers here. Foreign imports had depressed the market price of shrimp so low that many shrimpers were operating at a loss. Some shrimpers have already decided to try something else. Ivan Rose plans to get into construction. Joe Joe isn't sure what he'll do.

J. J. ROSS: I'm 61 looking at going on 62. I got a lot of decisions to make of what I want to do. I don't want to leave it. I love it. It's the way of life. It's the best way of life I have ever seen in my life.

ROWLANDS: Ted Rowlands, CNN, Mississippi.


DOBBS: We'll be back in just a moment with a preview of what's ahead tomorrow. Stay with us.


DOBBS: The results of our poll tonight. Sixty-one percent of you say that people still in the city of New Orleans should not be allowed to stay.

As of tonight Judith Miller, the Pulitzer Prize-winning "New York Times" reporter, has been in prison for 63 days, nine weeks, for protecting her confidential sources in the White House CIA leak case.

Thanks for being with us tonight. Please join us here tomorrow. Senator John Kyl says Hurricane Katrina has raised serious questions about whether this country is unprepared for a potential terrorist attack. He will be our guest.

And former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik on the responsibilities of local government in disasters. Please be with us. For all of us here, good night from New York.