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Lou Dobbs Tonight
United States Announces Major Change in U.S. Strategy in Iraq; A Look At Government Seizure of Canadian Prescription Drugs; New Deployment of National Guard Troops Mexico Border Failing to Improve Border Security; White House Stands Charged with Violating Constitution
Aired July 25, 2006 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, U.S. strategy in Iraq appears to be at a breaking point. More American troops are being sent to Baghdad. Iraqi troops and police are not able to stop rising sectarian violence in Baghdad.
We'll have complete coverage for you this evening.
Also, Israel escalating its air and ground offensives against Hezbollah. Israeli troops taking control of a key town in southern Lebanon. Israeli aircraft bombing Beirut for the first time in two days.
We'll be live with our reports in Beirut and along the Israeli- Lebanese border.
Also tonight, the Bush White House and the American Bar Association on a collision course. The American Bar Association accusing the president of violating the U.S. Constitution. The chairman of the ABA task force making that charge joins me here tonight.
ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Tuesday, July 25th.
Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.
DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.
The United States announcing a major change in U.S. strategy in Iraq. President Bush said that more U.S. and Iraqi troops will be deployed to Baghdad to stop rising sectarian violence. That announcement raises serious questions about U.S. plans to withdraw large numbers of our troops from Iraq. The White House and the Pentagon have repeatedly asserted that our troops can withdraw from Iraq as Iraqi police and Iraqi troops take over security missions.
Ed Henry tonight reports from the White House on the president's announcement at a news conference with the Iraqi prime minister.
Jamie McIntyre reports from the Pentagon on what appears to be a failure of U.S. strategy to contain the rising violence in Iraq.
And Arwa Damon reports from Baghdad on the rising sectarian violence and the threat of an all-out civil war.
We turn first to Ed Henry -- Ed.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Lou, President Bush knows his legacy will rise or fall based on what happens in Iraq, so he eagerly proclaimed that today it was remarkable, historic for him to be standing in the White House beside an Iraqi leader who had been chosen in a free and fair election. But that bit of history quickly overshadowed by the reality of the situation on the ground in Iraq.
The president, along with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, announcing that the U.S. commander on the ground in Iraq, General George Casey, is sending more American troops into Baghdad to try to get control of the situation. It was just one month ago, of course, that CNN reported that General Casey was considering pulling out two combat brigades out of Iraq, up to 10,000 U.S. troops this fall, with the possibility of even deeper U.S. troop cuts in 2007 if, and only if, the situation on the ground improved.
But obviously, based on this U.N. report, saying up to 100 Iraqis a day being killed, and the president's own assessment today that the violence in Baghdad is still terrible, there was clearly a change in plans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This plan will involve embedding more U.S. military police with Iraqi police units to make them more effective. The prime minister advised me that to support this plan, he and General Casey have agreed to deploy additional American troops and Iraqi security personnel in Baghdad in the coming weeks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now, the president has stressed he's not sending more U.S. troops to Iraq overall, they're just being redeployed within Iraq. But that's certainly not good enough for Democrats criticizing this plan already.
Also, Democrats on Capitol Hill jumping on the fact that Prime Minister Maliki passed up an opportunity to clarify his position on the crisis in Lebanon. Maliki has refused to condemn Hezbollah and has also put the blame on the situation on what he calls Israel's aggression.
That's, of course, completely at odds with President Bush's position on the situation. Some Democrats demanding that an invitation for Prime Minister Maliki to address a joint meeting of Congress tomorrow be withdrawn until he clears this up. But at this point, it appears Republicans on the Hill are not backing down and that speech will move ahead tomorrow -- Lou.
DOBBS: Ed, thank you.
Ed Henry from the White House. The new security plan for Baghdad demonstrates to many that U.S. strategy to contain sectarian violence simply is not working. The military deployed 50,000 Iraqi troops to Baghdad six weeks ago. But the violence has worsened.
Jamie McIntyre reports from the Pentagon.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Increasingly, U.S. commanders believe the future of Iraq has come down to the battle for Baghdad, which is why they argue violence is up dramatically in recent weeks.
MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, MULTINATIONAL FORCE, IRAQ: Clearly, the death squad elements, the terrorist elements feel that Baghdad is a must win for them. Whoever wins the Baghdad area, whoever is able to bring peace and security to that area, is going to set the conditions to stabilize this country.
MCINTYRE: The idea that, as goes Baghdad so goes Iraq, has prompted the top U.S. commander and Iraq's new prime minister to raise the stakes. Instead of bringing American troops out of Iraq, as commanders had hoped to do this summer, they are instead shifting more forces into Baghdad, reinforcing the capital with both U.S. and Iraqi troops from other parts of Iraq.
BUSH: Obviously, the violence in Baghdad is still terrible. And therefore, there needs to be more -- more troops.
MCINTYRE: The plan calls for an infusion of more than 5,000 additional troops, mostly Iraqi forces, but including upwards of 1,000 American soldiers. Add that to the 9,000 U.S. troops and 43,000 Iraqi police and soldiers already in Baghdad, and it brings the total to roughly 57,000 troops in the capital.
Pentagon sources say the numbers have not been finalized, but after meeting with Iraq's prime minister at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dropped a hint.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: There are more Iraqi troops that will be going into Baghdad than U.S., but both will be going in, in fairly good numbers. More than hundreds.
MCINTYRE: And along with the reinforcement comes a refinement in tactics. U.S. soldiers will teach the Iraqis how to clear sections of Baghdad while American MPs will train Iraqi police to hold them.
MCINTYRE: And Lou, the change in tactics is a tacit admission that the U.S. exit strategy for now isn't working. As Iraqi troops stood up, U.S. troops are supposed to stand down. But even with 275,000 Iraqis trained and equipped, the U.S. rotation plan for American forces has them being replaced one for one, which means for the coming year, the U.S. troop levels will likely remain right around roughly 127,000, where they are now -- Lou.
DOBBS: Well, that is bad news, Jamie, obviously.
There has been a change in the language at the Pentagon. We're hearing instead of talk of insurgents, different expressions about those people that we're fighting.
What is behind that?
MCINTYRE: Well, you know, instead of calling this a civil war between Sunni and Shia militias, which is what a lot of people believe is actually happening there, the military keeps referring to "death squads." They're going after death squads instead of militia, basically implying that it's a fairly small group of assassins who are going around causing trouble.
It's their way of, I think, controlling the perception that this is not spinning out of control into a civil war, but something that's more manageable. And I guess it's debate that's just going to go on. But the reality is that part of the problem they have here is that some of the people who are being killed by these death squads, some of those so-called death squad members, are within the Iraqi security forces, and they've got to root them out as well.
DOBBS: Again, an example of trying to control language in an effort to try to control perception.
Jamie, we thank you for your terrific efforts to keep it absolutely straight.
Jamie McIntyre, from the Pentagon.
Insurgents today killed one of our troops north of Baghdad. 2,567 of our troops have now been killed in Iraq. Insurgents on average are killing two of our troops in Iraq each and every day.
In January this year, 62 of our troops were killed. Six months later now, the number killed almost the same, 61.
The number of Iraqi civilian casualties much higher. The total killed in January estimated at 1,778. That according to the United Nations. The number of Iraqi civilians killed in June, nearly twice as high, 3,149.
That's why we report to you about what we call worsening sectarian violence. One hundred Iraqi civilians are being killed in Iraq every day.
A new wave of violence in Iraq today. Insurgents and terrorists killing at least 25 Iraqi civilians across the country. Many of those killings in Baghdad.
Arwa Damon has the story from Baghdad -- Arwa. ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's visit to the United States comes after a week of violence. Attacks in public places alone claimed the lives of at least 150 Iraqis. Most of the violence is centered in the capital, Baghdad.
The U.S. military saying that they believe that Baghdad will be the fighting ground between insurgents, armed militias, death squads, the Iraqi government, Iraqi security forces and, of course, U.S. forces. This is despite a Baghdad security plan that has been in place for quite some time, put there by the Iraqi government, by al- Maliki himself, in an effort to restore security to the capital.
If you speak with Iraqis on the street, they say that the security plan has done little more than cause traffic jams at checkpoints. They say that the lack of trust between the Iraqi security forces and Iraqi civilians, the fact that they believe that perhaps Iraqi security forces need more training, more support from the United States, could be one of the reasons -- or one of the few reasons why security has not improved in the capital.
As a result, the U.S. military will be deploying more troops to Baghdad. This coming from U.S. President George Bush. Both U.S. and Iraqi security force presence in the capital will be increased -- Lou.
DOBBS: Arwa Damon from Baghdad.
Turning now to the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, American troops today carried out their first humanitarian relief mission in Lebanon. Two heavily armed Air Force helicopters delivering a ton of medical supplies into the city of Beirut. Those supplies to help care for as many as 10,000 people over the next three months.
Meanwhile, the United States said the last scheduled rescue ship for American citizens leaves Beirut tomorrow. That's the last ship. The State Department said diplomats are still working on their plans to evacuate Americans who are unable to leave other parts of Lebanon and to get to Beirut.
In today's fighting, Israeli aircraft bombed Beirut for the first time in two days. The aircraft attacked Hezbollah-controlled suburbs in southern Beirut. That area has been a frequent target of Israeli aircraft over the past two weeks.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah today fired nearly 100 rockets at northern Israel. One Israeli died of a heart attack after a rocket landed near his home in Haifa. An Israeli teenager was killed in a rocket attack on a village near the border.
Iran's president today said the conflict could spread throughout the entire Middle East like a hurricane. The Iranian president is a strong supporter of Hezbollah. Previously, he declared that Israel must be wiped off the face of the map.
We'll have much more in the war between Hezbollah and Israel later in the this broadcast. We'll be taking you live to the Israeli- Lebanese border and to Beirut as well for reports on what is another day of fighting.
Also ahead, a special report on this country's failed border security priorities. Washington cracking down on cheap prescription drugs coming into this country from Canada and ignoring a worsening illegal immigration crisis from Mexico.
We'll be live in Los Angeles tonight as our nation's heat wave emergency is intensifying. Dozens of Americans are dead, millions are without power. New blackouts are feared.
And the American Bar Association says President Bush is violating the U.S. Constitution. Senator Arlen Specter wants to give Congress the power to sue the president. The chairman of the ABA task force that came to the conclusion on the president and the illegal nature of his so-called signing statements is our guest here next.
Stay with us.
DOBBS: The U.S. government tonight refusing still to secure our border with Mexico to stop illegal immigration. Our federal government, however, is having great success in stopping cheap prescription drugs from entering this country to benefit usually our poorer and more elderly citizens from Canada.
Lisa Sylvester tonight reports on the U.S. government seizure of Canadian prescription drugs that has left tens of thousands of people in the country without their prescription medications.
And Casey Wian reports on our southern border, where a new deployment of National Guard troops is simply failing to improve border security.
We begin with Lisa Sylvester.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, senior citizens who order prescription medicine from Canada without warning have found their supplies cut off. And it's their own government that is keeping them from getting access.
SYLVESTER (voice over): A 90-day supply of the osteoporosis medicine Fosamax costs $210 in the United States. In Canada it's half that.
Lee Tompkins lives on a fixed income and has no choice but to order Fosamax and his blood pressure medication from Canada. But his life-saving medicine suddenly stopped coming.
LEE TOMPKINS, BROUGHT RX DRUGS FROM CANADA: We could have died. You know, it could have been a very life-threatening thing. And two months with no drugs that we take daily, that's really a sin and it sounds like a crime to me. SYLVESTER: The reason he's been cut off? Last November, Customs and Border Protection began vigorously enforcing a law that bans U.S. citizens from buying prescription drugs outside of the United States. Federal officials have since confiscated more than 40,000 shipments.
Customs says it's only enforcing existing law. But critics say the agency is jeopardizing the lives of U.S. citizens while ignoring other issues like illegal drug and human smuggling on the southern border.
SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: The problem is that the United States government is going after the wrong thing. They shouldn't be going after the drugs that we know that are safe, because the Canadian Health Agency has approved it, and it's only for personal use of Americans for a limited supply.
SYLVESTER: In a statement, Customs and Border Protection said, "CBP has found that approximately 10 percent of imported prescription drugs are counterfeit -- containing the wrong or no active ingredients."
Some seniors say where they buy should be their choice. They believe the federal government is protecting the interests of the drug companies.
SYLVESTER: And this month, the Senate approved an amendment to the Homeland Security appropriations bill that would essentially stop the seizure of prescription medicine by Customs. And the House approved a similar measure in May. But that bill is still headed to conference committee and that language could very well be taken out of the final version -- Lou.
DOBBS: Lisa, I have to wonder whether the fact that there are about two pharmaceutical lobbyists to each elected official in Washington has anything to do with this crackdown on Canadian drugs being exported to the United States. One can't help but wonder.
SYLVESTER: It's very well known that pharma and the other pharmaceutical associations in this town essentially has a lot of sway here on Capitol Hill -- Lou.
DOBBS: And it is becoming an interesting story, absolutely revelatory, what laws that this government is enforcing and which laws it is choosing to ignore. It's remarkable.
Lisa, thank you very much for that report.
Lisa Sylvester from Washington.
That brings to us the subject of our poll tonight. Why do you believe the government is clamping down on prescription drug imports from Canada? Dedication to law enforcement? Pressure from the drug lobby? Or concern about the health of U.S. customers?
Cast your vote at LouDobbs.com. We'll have the results later in the broadcast.
Tonight there are an estimated 4,500 National Guard troops now stationed along the U.S. border with Mexico in support of our Border Patrol. The National Guard troops are supposed to be helping the Border Patrol agents secure our southern border. But there is new evidence every day that our borders remain wide open.
Casey Wian reports.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The National Guard says by next week it will meet the president's goal of deploying 6,000 troops to the southern border.
COL. KEVIN ELLSWORTH, JOINT TASK FORCE VISTA: The soldiers who are honored to be a part of this, helping secure our nation's borders.
WIAN: The Border Patrol says guard troops are already having a huge impact, manning remote cameras.
SPEC. YVETTE GONZALEZ, CALIF. NATIONAL GUARD: Being the eyes and ears of the Border Patrol and just assist and report any activities.
WIAN: Also, they're maintaining vehicles, repairing roads, fences and other border infrastructure.
DAVID AGUILAR, BORDER PATROL CHIEF: Operation Jump Start has been a tremendous, has been a real, and has been very positive for the United States Border Patrol.
WIAN: Aguilar admits 6,000 National Guard troops are not the equivalent of 6,000 Border Patrol agents. As this video shot after the arrival of the National Guard demonstrates, Border Patrol agents still only catch one in four illegal aliens in many places.
Since President Bush announced Operation Jump Start, Aguilar says apprehensions have dropped even faster than they normally do during the summer. He says that proves fewer illegal aliens are trying to cross and that the National Guard is helping. But at the same time, narcotic seizures are up 20 percent, which the chief also says is evidence the Border Patrol is doing a better job.
Residents of eastern San Diego County might disagree. Investigators believe this wildfire started at an illegal alien camp site. It has now burned more than 15,000 acres and threatens 1,500 homes. It's clear evidence that huge sections of the nation's southern border remain virtually unguarded, and illegal aliens continue to cross it every day.
WIAN: What's really needed are more Border Patrol agents. About 600 have been added so far this year, 650 more are in training at the Border Patrol Academy. And even that won't be enough -- Lou. DOBBS: And thousands more scheduled to be brought on through recent legislation passed by Congress and signed by the president. But as you say, they're being added at a painfully slow rate.
Casey, the idea that these brave statements, David Aguilar, the head of the Border Patrol, for example, saying these National Guard are really having an impact, these National Guard troops are there for what period of time and what kind of rotation?
WIAN: There's going to be 6,000 of them in place during the first year of Operation Jump Start, then 3,000 of them, half that number, will be in place during the second year. During that time, the Border Patrol expects to be adding more agents.
They expect ultimately to have 6,000 Border Patrol agents on the ground, assuming Congress funds that, by the end of 2008. As you know, Lou, a lot of border security experts say what we really need is, like, a doubling of the size of the Border Patrol, which is something on the order of 10,000 agents, to really have a significant impact on border security.
DOBBS: And it is interesting, even though it is demonstrated success where fences have been put up, the opposition to putting a fence up to secure that border.
WIAN: The opposition to putting the fence up to secure the border and the idea that we should check with the government of Mexico before doing so. It's crazy -- Lou.
DOBBS: Thank you very much, Casey Wian. Appreciate it, from Los Angeles.
Still ahead here, Israeli forces remain on the march. They're hitting suspected Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon. We'll be bringing you a live report from Beirut as well. And we'll be live on the Israeli-Lebanese border, where Israelis are claiming they've taken control of a strategic Hezbollah stronghold.
Also tonight, Washington finally reviewing a corporate takeover that puts both our national security and our democracy at risk. How about that? A special report coming up.
And the American Bar Association accuses President Bush of ignoring Congress and violating the U.S. Constitution. The chairman of the ABA task force is our guest here next.
Stay with us.
DOBBS: After months of this broadcast's reporting on a firm, an e-voting machine maker, Smartmatic, a company controlled by Venezuelan business interests, the sale was completed last year, we've been reporting, as I said, on it for months, the U.S. agency the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States is supposed to investigate these kinds of deals that put the security of our nation at risk, let alone our democracy at risk. Tonight, we can report to you that CFIUS is taking notice and conducting an investigation.
Kitty Pilgrim has the report.
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Sequoia Voting Machine Company likes to point out its long history as an American company. It provides voting machines in hundreds of jurisdictions across the country. But in 2005, Sequoia was sold so Smartmatic, a company controlled by Venezuelan businessmen. Even though the U.S. voting machine company was sold outright, the U.S. government did not review the sale, even though voting machines are critical to national security.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney wrote a letter to Treasury last May demanding an investigation.
REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D), NEW YORK: They have started a preliminary investigation. They are looking into the ownership. They call it a pre-CFIUS review. It is very unusual for Treasury to go back and look at a company that has already been sold, but they are doing it in this case.
PILGRIM: The worry is, if a foreign-owned company had control of election equipment in the United States, it could be vulnerable to manipulation. In fact, many security experts say the way all voting machines are currently engineered, they may be vulnerable to hacking.
DAN WALLACH, RICE UNIVERSITY: The federal guidelines don't say enough about security, which means that voting systems aren't engineered to be as secure as they need to be.
PILGRIM: While the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States says its review process is secret and can't comment if there's an investigation into Smartmatic, the Treasury Department does admit interest in the deal and is in contact with the company and is taking it very seriously.
PILGRIM: Now, a lawyer for Smartmatic confirmed today they have provided the relevant information to the Treasury Department. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney also says she's proposing a bill this week that would tighten up the CFIUS review process -- Lou.
DOBBS: As you know, I think the CFIUS committee and everybody on it are basically dithering idiots, because they do absolutely nothing to protect the interests of this country. If they could assert themselves here, no one would be more shocked nor pleased than me.
But I think we have to give just extraordinary credit to Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. She focused on this issue, she brought it to the attention of the public, and our hats are off to her. She's just doing a wonderful job here.
PILGRIM: She's been very vigilant. And until this came to light publicly, there was really no -- absolutely no acknowledgment that there was a problem with this.
DOBBS: It is nice to see our elected officials, when it does rarely happen, doing their job. And again, our compliments and commendation to Congresswoman Maloney.
Venezuela's leader, Hugo Chavez, has formed what he calls a strategic partnership with President Lukashenko of Belarus, Europe's last dictator, some say. Chavez and Lukashenko signed an agreement to increase military ties. Both leaders say the United States is trying to overthrow their governments.
Chavez then traveled to Russia, where he will sign, we're told, a series of contracts to buy the latest Russian fighter aircraft and helicopters, about $1 billion worth.
Taking a look now at some of your thoughts.
Vicki in Vermont wrote in to say, "Since when has a country fighting amongst themselves not been a civil war?"
That in regard to our question about whether you regard Iraq to be in a civil war.
Scott in Missouri, "Hi, Lou. Our federal government has hit a new level of hypocrisy. We are sending arms to Israel and humanitarian aid to Lebanon."
Nick in Pennsylvania, "Kofi Annan to solve the Hezbollah aggression the same way he solved Uganda, Kosovo, Sudan and famine relief in Africa?"
Linda in Arkansas, "The sheriff of Maricopa County is certainly playing in the big leagues. Glad there's someone with an American attitude of can do."
And Sheriff Arpaio certainly fits the bill.
Leonard in Colorado, "Lou, you don't suppose Sheriff Joe Arpaio could sneak Mr. Bush in with his illegal friends and send him home to his real constituents?"
And Linda in Texas, "Lou, my question for Mr. Arpaio is this: How many employers who hire those illegal aliens does he have in his jail? That's when the Mexican border will be secured, when the jobs for them disappear."
Send us your thoughts at LouDobbs.com. We have more of your thoughts coming up here later.
Tonight Israel says it now controls two Hezbollah strongholds in southern Lebanon. The Israeli defense forces engage in intense house- to-house combat tonight. Israel agreeing to U.S. requests that facilitate delivery of humanitarian aid to the Lebanese. We'll be going live to the Israeli/Lebanese border for the latest on this conflict. And is President Bush violating the U.S. Constitution? I'll be talking with a distinguished former federal prosecutor about the American Bar Association's charges of unconstitutional presidential conduct.
Also, intense heat sweeping the nation. Nationwide it is costing lives and dollars. We'll have that special report, stay with us.
DOBBS: The Israeli/Hezbollah conflict is entering its third week. Israeli aircraft today attacking Beirut for the first time in two days. Israeli troops have also seized control over the Hezbollah- controlled stronghold in southern Lebanon.
They also reportedly killed a senior Hezbollah commander in that town. At the same time, Hezbollah today fired almost 100 rockets at northern Israel, 41 Israelis and 400 Lebanese have been killed in the conflict so far.
John Roberts reports from the Israeli-Lebanese border on the heavy fighting between Israeli troops and Hezbollah terrorists within southern Lebanon and Nic Robertson reports from Beirut on the new Israeli air attacks on the Lebanese capital. We turn first to John Roberts. John?
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SR. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Lou. We're back with an artillery battery that's been seeing a lot of action. For the last hour they've been firing nonstop on Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon, trying to keep them pinned down, trying to soften up those Hezbollah outposts and pockets of resistance so that the Israeli forces can move forward once again.
This afternoon, General Gal Hirsch told me that in the last few hours, the Israeli Defense Forces had taken complete control of the town of Bint Jbeil, which is the town that they have been fighting for the last 48 hours, and some say is the southern stronghold of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.
They also say that they killed a senior Hezbollah military commander, Abu Jafr, who say they say most people don't know much about him. The Israeli Defense Forces say he was the commander of Hezbollah's central section in southern Lebanon. Now just because they have control of Bint Jbeil doesn't mean that they've been able to stop those Katyusha rockets from being fired into northern Israel.
You mentioned almost 100 of them. The exact number from the IDF, 96 today. A number of those fell on Haifa as we were driving by Kiryat Shmona today, we saw three of them come in. They start brushfires along the hillsides. Thankfully not many of them hit the town itself. And they send in these little aircraft, which are modified crop dusters which carry -- trying to keep the entire hillside from becoming aflame.
And also not just the threat from Katyushas that remains, but even along the border, we're up visiting some Israeli troops today as they were coming back and forth across the border, refueling, getting some rest and then going back in. About 20 yards away from us, I saw a little rustle in a tree, and then a puff of dirt and branches that flew up on to the roadway, and an Israeli soldier who was literally jumping back from something that had just landed directly at his feet. It turned out, Lou, that that was a dud mortar round. So you can imagine what would have happened to that poor fellow had it actually been a serviceable round.
DOBBS: A fortunate man indeed. And obviously, the fire is continuing this evening there at your position along the border. John Roberts, thank you very much. John Roberts from the Israeli/Lebanese border.
Israel today stepped up its air offensive against Lebanon. Israeli air craft attacking Beirut for the first time since this weekend. Israeli war planes also bombing suspected Hezbollah positions in the southern city of Tyre. Nic Robertson now reports from the Lebanese capital of Beirut. Nic?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Lou, those huge explosions coming late in the afternoon and again in the southern suburbs Hezbollah stronghold, it doesn't seem to have diminished the Hezbollah leadership's ability to speak out on the television here on Al-Manar, the Hezbollah-affiliated television channel here.
There has just been a half hour speech by Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah in that he's issued a new threat to Israel. He says the war has now entered a new phase where they will strike beyond Haifa. This was a threat that he'd issued just over a week ago saying that was possible. Now he says the war is in a new phase.
He also says that at a time of Hezbollah's choosing, they will go to another phase beyond that and strike beyond Haifa. In Lebanon, that is taken to mean that the threat now issued means that Hezbollah may intend to target Tel Aviv. He also told the people of Lebanon to stand firm, that what was happening was part of a U.S./Israeli plan not to be divided by psychological tactics and saying as well that there was no way that Hezbollah would accept humiliating terms, as he called them, for a cease-fire.
I've also seen this evening a U.N.-monitoring post close to the border with Israel being struck by an Israeli airstrike. In that post were four U.N. observers, an Austrian, a Canadian, rather, a Frenchman, a Canadian, a Finn and a Chinese U.N. observer. Two of them are now confirmed dead, two of them still missing. That strike on a U.N. observer post, the U.N. says by an Israeli air strike, Lou?
DOBBS: Nic, American troops today delivering medical supplies into Beirut. What can you tell us about that?
ROBERTSON: The first shipment, Lou, this is part of the beginning of a $30 million aid donation. It came in the form of medical kits. Two kits that are capable, each kit capable of supplying 10,000 people for about three months. Now, those have been put into a warehouse here, handed off to the Red Cross, put in the warehouse, and they will be shipped down to the south of Lebanon as soon as the humanitarian corridor as soon as the Israeli government gives the green light for humanitarian organizations here to transship by road those medical supplies to the south.
Also today the last day announced by the U.S. embassy here, if you are an American and you want to leave Lebanon, tomorrow the last ship sails, Wednesday the last ship sails, to contact the embassy and get aboard that.
They do say however that if you're an American in the south of Lebanon and some other place and you haven't been able to get out to get to one of the ships to take you out of Lebanon, don't worry, stay in place, there are plans that will be made to get you out in the future -- Lou.
DOBBS: Nic, thank you very much -- Nic Robertson, doing his usual excellent regular job reporting tonight from Beirut.
In this country tonight, record heat nationwide that are costing lives and it is causing significant disruption to this nation's power grid. For days now, it has compromised power utilities in St. Louis, New York City and California. Peter Viles has the report from Los Angeles. Peter?
PETER VILES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Lou, tonight California is again importing power from out-of-state to avoid rolling blackouts. But utilities at the local level cannot handle this surge in power. Their equipment is old and in many cases, it's outdated. As a result, 1.5 million customers have lost power at some point during this heat wave.
VILES (voice-over): Overloaded underground cables in New York, a nursing home without air conditioning in California. The heat wave blamed for dozens of deaths is exposing weak spots in America's aging power system. And the anger is building.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's 50 percent complete sheer anger where you just want to kill somebody, and the other 50 percent is just complete depression.
VILES: In California, 80-year-old equipment is failing more than 1.5 million people have been without power in the past week.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's more than an inconvenience. It's a health issue. It really is a health issue. When you have a young baby who can't sleep and can't eat and sweating profusely. I mean, it's dangerous.
VILES: California officials are all but begging the public to conserve energy. It has been 105 or hotter 10 days in a row in Fresno, 29 deaths in the state are blamed on the heat. JOE DESMOND, CALIFORNIA RESOURCES AGENCY: We are seeing temperature records being broke than have stood for 50 and in some cases 100 years.
VILES: All of the west is baking. It's hit 97 in normally temperate Seattle, 108 in The Dalles, Oregon, 113 in Stockton, California, 114 in Phoenix. In New York City, where temperatures peaked at an even 100, ConEdison still not completely fix a nine-day- old blackout. More than 1,000 without power there.
And in sweltering St. Louis, 158,000 homes still do not have electricity after six days of near triple-digit temperatures.
VILES: California of course has avoided rolling blackouts only by importing 15-to-20 percent of the energy it needs from out of state and at a great cost to the taxpayers by essentially subsidizing big businesses, telling big businesses they'll get discounts in the future if they cut down on their electricity use today -- Lou.
DOBBS: It is hard to believe you were describing the world's only superpower, but indeed you are.
Peter Viles from Los Angeles, thank you.
VILES: You're welcome.
DOBBS: A look at e-mails, including your thoughts about the conflict in the Middle East and Iraq.
Still ahead tonight, the White House is suggesting the American Bar Association can't read the fine print. I'll be talking with someone who can. He's among those charging that Mr. Bush is violating the U.S. Constitution.
What is America's mood as captured by talk radio? Three of the country's most popular radio hosts join me to discuss hostilities in Iraq and the conflict in the Middle East and more. Stay with us.
DOBBS: Tonight, the White House stands charged with violating the Constitution. The issue is whether President Bush is empowered to disobey congressional statutes by attaching signing statements to legislation that he puts into law.
An American Bar Association task force said the president has attached signing statements, as they're called, over 800 times. That's 200 more times than issued by all of the previous presidents in the Republic. But White House spokesman Tony Snow says those signing statement never says, quote, "We're not going to enact the law," end quote.
Neal Sonnett is the ABA task force chairman. Neal is a distinguished former federal prosecutor establishing a reputation as one of the nation's most highly regarded lawyers. We thank you for being with us. Neal, joining us tonight from Miami.
NEAL SONNETT, ABA TASK FORCE CHMN.: Pleasure to be with you.
DOBBS: This is -- first of all, the idea that the ABA, which is a nonpartisan organization, would accuse the president of violating the Constitution is receiving very little attention in this country, isn't it?
SONNETT: Well, I'm starting to see more attention being given to this. We're not interested in attacking this president. We're interested in the principle. We have a very important principle at stake here. We have a government and a democracy that's been founded on separation of power and checks and balances.
And the Supreme Court has told us that whenever there is a move to arrogate power from one branch to another, that that destroys liberty. Liberty is essential to protect this country. So we have a system here in which the use of these signing statements really tears at the very fabric of our democracy. And the American Bar Association has got to do something about that.
DOBBS: Neal, I would hope -- you know, I can recall vividly a statement by John Roberts in his confirmation hearings in which he said that he thought the greatest threat to rule of law in the country was, effectively, activist judges, and what you're really saying is we have got an activist president.
And I'm not talking about a personal attack. I don't care whether it's Bush, Clinton or a Republican or a Democrat, but the president of the United States takes an oath to uphold the Constitution, to preserve and defend it. How in the world can we get to this sorry state?
SONNETT: Well, I think there's been a move to try to increase the power of the executive, but it's a move that has had very bad results. The task force that the American Bar Association assembled, which has Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, noted scholars on this issue, it was unanimous in its decision making that the practice of these signing statements that challenge laws that assert the president's authority not to enforce a law is contrary to the rule of law and contrary to separation of powers.
And we've made some positive recommendations both to the Congress and to the president on what to do and how to solve these problems.
DOBBS: You've also said that the continued practice poses the potential of a constitutional crisis in this country.
SONNETT: I think it does. I hope we can avoid that. But we cannot underestimate the seriousness of this problem. This is a profound problem. It deals with the very basic preservation of liberty and the very fabric of our Constitution. A president, under the Constitution, has two choices when a bill comes to his desk from the Congress: He can sign it -- and if he does, he is duty bound to enact it and to enforce it -- or he can veto it. But you can't sign a bill with your fingers crossed behind your back and after signing the bill say, I'm going to treat this as advisory or as my commander in chief powers give me authority to do, I'm not going to enforce certain provisions of it. That just cannot happen in a constitutional democracy. And it must not happen under any president in this country.
DOBBS: Neal Sonnett, we thank you very much, and we look forward to the next developments. We know Senator Arlen Specter is considering a lawsuit. Your recommendation, your findings, probably would bolster that, and I know that you would prefer a solution arrived at between Congress and the president of the United States.
SONNETT: But we've also recommended that Congress draft legislation to provide a means for judicial review.
DOBBS: Legislation that one hopes the president would not avoid through a signing statement. Neal Sonnett, thank you for being here.
SONNETT: Nice to be with you.
DOBBS: In Jerusalem, our Wolf Blitzer of "THE SITUATION ROOM" coming up here at the top of the hour. Wolf, what's leading the way tonight?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou. We're following several breaking news developments here in the Middle East. The United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan calling the deaths of several United Nations observers in Southern Lebanon, quote, "an apparently deliberate targeting by the Israelis." A serious allegation being made by Kofi Annan. We're going to have the first Israeli governmental reaction to Annan's very tough statement. We're live in Beirut and Jerusalem with the latest.
Plus, CNN's John Roberts is on the frontlines along the Lebanese border with the Israeli military. Israel Defense Forces say they've now killed a senior Hezbollah commander.
All of this as a new message being delivered just within the past moments from Hezbollah's leader. He's claiming that they're about to start launching rockets farther south in Israel, south of Haifa. All of this coming up, Lou, right at the top of the hour.
DOBBS: Looking forward to it. Thank you very much, Wolf. Wolf Blitzer tonight, reporting from Jerusalem.
A reminder now to vote in our poll. The question, why do you believe the U.S. government is clamping down on prescription drug imports from Canada? Dedication to law enforcement, pressure from the pharmaceutical industry and its lobby, or concern about the health of American consumers? Cast your vote at LouDobbs.com. We'll have the results here coming right up.
Still ahead here, we'll have more of your thoughts. Also, more of our troops may soon be in the line of fire in Baghdad. Three of the country's most popular radio talk show hosts join me. We'll be talking about the Middle East conflict, the Iraqi civil war and much more. Stay with us.
DOBBS: Three of the best radio talk show hosts in the country joining me now. Lionel, W...
LIONEL, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: OR.
DOBBS: OR. And I'm sitting here going to Mark Riley, and this makes it really easy for me. Air America Radio. Good to have you with us. James Mtume from KISS FM. Good to have you guys.
Lionel, let's start. This is -- the Middle East conflict, how are your listeners reacting?
LIONEL: Confused. This labyrinthine mess, we can use all kinds of words, morass. My favorite is you say what do you think about the Middle East, and who are the terrorists, who are the bad guys? I'll tell you, because talk radio has become so simplistic, and because of the bumper sticker conservative talk shows out there, listeners...
DOBBS: You mean, despite the contribution of the three guys here.
LIONEL: Well, they're not in that league. They're beyond that. But people are looking for who is the good guy, who is the bad guy, who is the terrorist, who's not? And what happens is when you look at Hezbollah, and you ask, are they terrorists? The Lebanese don't think so. They think Israel is the terrorist. And then they're confused because flag-burning amendments were so easy. This is complicated.
DOBBS: Well, Mark, can you help out those poor confused folks out? Hezbollah, they do -- they have got a couple of different arms, but they do have a terrorist organization as well.
MARK RILEY, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Let me tell you something. There's enough blame here on both sides to go around, but there is one set of heroes that people ought to be aware of, and that's the Marines that went and got our people out of Lebanon and the Marines that are delivering that humanitarian aid. I think we can all agree on the fact that those are the heroes here.
Otherwise you're talking about Hezbollah, they've got a lot to answer for. Kids are dying here on both sides of this equation. And the lack of a quick cease-fire means more of them are going to die. We've got U.N. observers dying. Someone has to answer for that. And there are no good guys there.
DOBBS: I think that the Israelis probably would say somebody is answering for that right now.
In terms of giving the Marines credit, I'm all for that. But we should point out that the folks who took in those two helicopters of medical aid today were Air Force Special Operations.
RILEY: OK, absolutely. DOBBS: All U.S. military, all great folks.
RILEY: Yes, absolutely.
DOBBS: James, your reaction?
JAMES MTUME, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, first of all, I totally agree with the co-panelists today, but I think there's a deeper thing you have to look at. And what we have to look at, first of all, you know, terrorists in this world is really like beauty. It's in the eye of the beholder. Hezbollah is way more than a terrorist organization. They've supplied a lot of services for the people. Let's not forget, Hezbollah was born out of the 1982 invasion by the Israelis.
DOBBS: And what was the 1982 invasion born out of? Here's the problem with this, and I appreciate what you're saying, James. But let me just throw this out for your consideration. For 58 years, we've seen bloodshed, violence in the Middle East.
We have this government, and each president that has been in charge throughout that period has not been able to come up with an answer. The Israelis and the Palestinians, Hezbollah, Hamas, other terrorist organizations have not been able to come to...
RILEY: But there's always something that has to be dealt with here. And that is every time an incident takes place, someone tries to assess blame for it. This happened because the Israelis did this, this happened because Hezbollah did that. And it goes back 58 years.
DOBBS: I think that's a great point.
LIONEL: We have a problem, I think, with the nomenclature here. This country was formed by, I'm sorry, a terrorist by the name of George Washington. The Boston Tea Party, one could argue, was a terrorist organization, or a plot. What happens is that when...
DOBBS: No, no, you said -- wait a minute. You're talking about something quite different. And they did not harm a single British civilian.
LIONEL: No, I understand terrorism, granted, could hurt individuals, or it can be an uprising that's unlawful. But I want to say one thing, which is very important. I want to congratulate the president, because he pledged to be a uniter, not a divider. And he has. He's united the entire Arab region and divided us. This is a mess that is beyond his (inaudible).
DOBBS: Lionel, I've got to say, I don't see Iraq, Sunnis and Shia, being particularly united. I see a civil war there. Do you...
RILEY: No, there is definitely a civil war there. And see, again, this is part of what you reap when you invade a country without a plan. Because you've got Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, who is one of his biggest backers? Muqtada al-Sadr, the same guy that is in charge of the Mehdi army that is fomenting so much of the violence right in Baghdad that we're sending U.S. troops to stop.
DOBBS: And who is responsible for the death of a lot of American troops.
MTUME: We can go around in 20 circles on this. The bottom line is...
DOBBS: Why not? Everybody else has.
MTUME: Right, well, at least our circle is a lot more intelligent in terms of the conversation.
The bottom line is everybody wants to talk around the 800-pound gorilla that is sitting right in the middle of the room. Nothing will be resolved until the issue of the Palestinians is resolved. And that's why each president and the presidents after -- the difference with this president, and I agree with you totally, not only has he united other forces, he's chosen to operate under what I call a Sesame Street foreign policy. It's like you're not going to talk to anyone, you don't even want to talk to the Israelis. You're never going to talk to the Syrians...
DOBBS: Lionel gets the last word.
LIONEL: Remember, we're saying now that we cannot deal with the terrorists. George Bush 41 dealt with Hafez al-Assad, who was a bad you know what, to quote Shaft. And yet, he was behind us in the Gulf War, and we have this idea right now that somehow, Assad, Iran, we can't talk to them. Well, what do we have a diplomatic arm for? Who are we going to speak to, to finally resolve all this?
RILEY: We better start talking to somebody, or this is never going to end.
MTUME: And we need to stop following this neocon...
DOBBS: Oh, I would agree with that...
LIONEL: ... the signing statements, the most important issue today.
DOBBS: But I would suggest one other thing. This government should start doing less talking and a heck of a lot more in the way of deeds that make sense for the national interest.
RILEY: Too much like work.
(CROSSTALK) DOBBS: Hard work I think is (inaudible).
MTUME: It's too much like intelligence.
DOBBS: I thank you very much, James. Thank you, Lionel. Thank you very much.
LIONEL: Lou, thank you.
DOBBS: Up next, the results of our poll tonight and more of your thoughts. Stay with us.
DOBBS: The results of our poll tonight, conclusive. Ninety-nine percent of you say the government is clamping down on drug imports from Canada because of pressure from the drug lobby.
We're out of time here. We've got time just for one final thought from Joanne in Florida: "Lou, the full title of Senator Dorgan's book should be 'Take This Job and Ship it Straight to Communist China Through Dubai-Run American Ports.'"
That's a pretty interesting way to put it. Send us your thoughts at LouDobbs.com. And by the way, each of you whose email is read here on this broadcast receives a copy of Senator Byron Dorgan's important new book, "Take This Job and Ship It." A terrific read. We recommend it.
Thanks for being with us tonight. Good night from New York. "THE SITUATION ROOM" starts right now with Wolf Blitzer. Wolf reporting tonight from Jerusalem -- Wolf.
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