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Lou Dobbs Tonight
Action on Afghanistan; Where's Osama bin Laden?; Senate Showdown: Majority Leader Sets Iraq Vote
Aired February 15, 2007 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU DOBBS, HOST: U.S. policymakers hope to create a new reasonable partnership with communist China. The reality, however, is anything but that. A growing offensive, militarily restrictive trade policies and human rights violations continue in China's present and its future.
We'll have that report.
And can the National Guard actually defend our border with Mexico? The current rules of engagement demand retreat rather than defense. And border states are increasingly angry with the federal government's inability to secure our border.
We'll have that story.
And it's an airline passenger's worst nightmare, stuck on the tarmac for hours and hours. And there is nothing you can do?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They've had our life for 12 hours, and they knew exactly what they were doing when they did it. It's despicable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Thursday, February 15th.
Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.
DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.
President Bush today announced he's sending additional troops to Afghanistan to beat back the Taliban. And he wants almost $12 billion more to bolster the Afghan government.
And the Senate decides to try again after failing to bring a debate forth on Iraq. The Senate leadership has scheduled a rare Saturday session before a holiday recess to force senators to discuss this critical issue.
Suzanne Malveaux tonight reports on the president's call for more troops to Afghanistan, just weeks after he announced troop increases for Iraq.
Barbara Starr reports tonight on the one thing missing from the president's remarks on Afghanistan -- Osama bin Laden.
And Dana Bash reports on Senate Democrats now demanding their Iraq resolution be brought to a debate and vote.
We begin with Suzanne Malveaux at the White House -- Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, this is often referred to as the forgotten war, but we got a big reminder today. As you know, of course, this was a war, the war in Afghanistan, an overwhelming majority of Americans supported following September 11th. And it is also a place the president has held up as a model of democracy in the Middle East.
But today the White House says it's going to take a lot more blood and treasure.
MALVEAUX (voice over): So you think the situation in Iraq is bad?
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Across Afghanistan last year, the number of roadside bombs almost doubled, direct fire attacks on international forces almost tripled, and suicide bombings grew nearly fivefold
MALVEAUX: The U.S. invaded this country more than five years ago to find and crush those responsible for the September 11th attacks. This place was supposed to be the president's shining model of democracy. But it appears in the battle over Afghanistan, the U.S. and its NATO allies are losing ground, now requiring more American dollars and troops.
BUSH: I've ordered an increase in U.S. forces in Afghanistan. We've extended the stay of 3,200 troops now in the country for four months. And we'll deploy a replacement force that will sustain this increase for the foreseeable future.
MALVEAUX: That brings the total number of U.S. troops to about 27,000. That's in addition to more than 20,000 troops from other coalition and NATO countries which now lead the peacekeeping mission.
The president's call for a troop surge in Afghanistan, in addition to the one in Iraq, has Mr. Bush's critics fuming. The chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Lantos, suggested the president send the thousands of Americans going to Baghdad to Afghanistan instead.
Mr. Bush is also asking Congress for nearly $12 billion more dollars over the next two years for the U.S. mission here. In part, to help create alternative jobs for Afghans who are involved in the huge drug trade.
WILLIAM WOOD, NOMINEE, AMB. TO AFGHANISTAN: An estimated one- third of the Afghan economy is based on the heroin trade. That chair (ph) is declining steadily as legitimate economic activity grows faster.
MALVEAUX: With the coming of spring, it's expected things will get a lot worse with Taliban and al Qaeda fighters re-emerging and intensifying their attacks. So Mr. Bush is putting pressure on NATO members to give more support.
There has been tremendous progress over the last five years in health care, education and women's rights. He is also trying to get the leaders of Afghanistan and its neighboring Pakistan to work together on border security, which he painted as a lawless refuge for terrorists.
BUSH: The Taliban and al Qaeda fighters do hide in remote areas of Pakistan. This is wild country. This is wilder than the Wild West. And the folks hide and recruit and launch attacks.
MALVEAUX: Lou, it really is quite startling to hear the president's characterization of that area. And of course it leads to the question, whether or not it is far from certain that he's going to convince NATO members that its worth it to contribute more resource and troops -- Lou.
DOBBS: Suzanne, thank you very much.
The president's remarks today on Afghanistan covered the need for more troops. The need to push back the Taliban and al Qaeda. And of course the need to support the Afghan government. But there was a significant omission by the name of Osama.
Barbara Starr reports.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): President Bush talking tough about the war in Afghanistan.
BUSH: Taliban and al Qaeda are preparing to launch new attacks. Our strategy is not to be on the defense but to go on the offense.
STARR: But president never mentioned the man who has eluded him for more than five years, Osama bin Laden. The reality is, the hunt for bin Laden is not a popular topic these days for one reason.
LT. GEN. KARL EIKENBERRY, FMR. COMMANDER, U.S. FORCES, AFGHANISTAN: The intelligence is gone cold on Osama bin Laden.
STARR: Analysts aren't surprised.
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: There's really no point of mentioning him if you -- it's very unlikely you're going to find him anytime soon. Why bring him up?
STARR: The rhetoric was hot after the days of the 9/11 attacks.
BUSH: I want justice. And there's an old poster out West, as I recall, that said, "Wanted, dead or alive."
STARR: U.S. officials say bin Laden is just too good at remaining out of sight.
At his confirmation hearings, the new secretary of defense questioned the al Qaeda leader's importance.
ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: His ability to directly organize and plan the kind of attacks against us that hurt us so badly in September of 2001 is very limited now.
STARR: But experts say bin Laden hasn't receded into history.
BERGEN: When bin Laden calls for attacks on Saudi oil facilities, al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia eventually will do that. When bin Laden calls for attacks on members of the coalition in Iraq, that's one of the reasons we had al Qaeda affiliates attacking in London and in Madrid.
STARR: Secretary Gates still says little about the hunt itself.
GATES: I guess I'd put it this way, if I were Osama bin Laden, I'd keep looking over my shoulder.
STARR: The president isn't the only one not talking about Osama bin Laden. None of the presidential candidates have exactly made capturing bin Laden one of their top campaign pledges -- Lou.
DOBBS: Barbara, thank you very much.
Barbara Starr from the Pentagon.
Details are still coming in tonight on the fate of al Qaeda's leader in Iraq. A spokesman for Iraq's Interior Ministry says that Abu Ayyub al-Masri was wounded in a clash with Iraqi police north of Baghdad. The spokesman didn't say if al-Masri is in custody, nor did they say whether he's still on the run or whether he's badly wounded.
But he did say that a top aide to the al Qaeda leader was killed in that firefight. So far, the U.S. military has confirmed nothing. The U.S. military reported al-Masri dead last October. Officials had to retract that report when it turned out to be not true.
Insurgents in Iraq have killed another of our troops. The Marine was killed during combat operations in Al Anbar Province.
Forty-eight of our troops have been killed so far this month, 3,130 of our troops have been killed since the beginning of the war. 23,530 wounded, 10,449 of them so seriously, they couldn't return to duty within three days. Senate Democrats today said they will try again to move forward on the issue of war in Iraq. Majority Leader Harry Reid says he's scheduled a rare Saturday session for a vote on whether to consider a resolution opposing the president's decision to send reinforcements to Iraq.
Dana Bash reports.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It started with Republican complaints that the Senate should not go home for a week-long recess without voting on the president's Iraq plan.
SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R), MAINE: We object to recessing without the Senate having any agreement, any understanding, any debate, any votes on this most profound question. It does no honor to the Senate or to this country.
BASH: Maine's Olympia Snowe, one of several Republicans who oppose the president's decision to send more troops to Iraq, pushing for a vote now, even though she helped block it last week, part of a protest to force votes on other Republican resolutions.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: And she's coming late to the party. Last week, when senators had the opportunity to hold an important debate about Iraq, she and others chose to prevent that debate.
BASH: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called am emergency behind closed doors meeting of Democrats and decided this.
REID: Now, we know that time is of the essence. That's why the Senate will have another Iraq vote on Saturday.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Now we're calling their bluff. We're staying here. Now vote yes or no.
BASH: Instead of debating resolutions that helped tie the Senate in knots last week because they included divisive issues like funding for U.S. troops, the Senate will now follow the House's lead.
REID: And whether or not United States senators support this surge, that's it, very clear, direct.
BASH: Despite the plea from some Republicans to break the deadlock, their leaders will, once again, encourage senators to vote no, because Democrats still won't allow a Republican resolution promising to continue funding U.S. troops in Iraq.
SEN. TRENT LOTT (R), MISSISSIPPI: I'm really confused about why this has become such, you know, a position of rigid resistance by Senator Reid to allow a vote which would have overwhelming support for funds for our troops.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BASH: Republicans John Warner and Olympia Snowe tell CNN this time they'll break with their party and vote with the Democrats even though they both helped block an Iraq vote last week.
Still, Lou, it seems unlikely the Democrats are going to have the 60 votes they need to pass their resolution opposing more troops in Iraq.
DOBBS: Why is Senator Snowe changing her position? Why is Senator Reid not permitting the vote on funding?
BASH: One at a time. On Senator Snowe, what she argues, what Senator Warner argues, is that they're not necessarily changing their position. That what they did before was go along with their party in the hopes and really with the understanding, they said, that their leaders would take that and then move on and come to an understanding, break the deadlock, have a negotiation.
That didn't happen. They say basically they've given up patience. That's why they say they're doing this now.
On the issue of Democrats, that's a question that Democrats really don't necessarily specifically answer, except today to say that Republicans will have a chance to have their votes. And that is going to be on the next set of issues that the Senate takes up. And that's basically going to be debating on 9/11 -- it's called the 9/11 bill. Republicans will have an opportunity to offer their amendments then.
DOBBS: And in Washington, that would suffice for an answer or two?
DOBBS: Thank you very much, Dana.
BASH: Thank you.
DOBBS: Dana Bash from Washington.
Up next, can National Guard troops defend our border if they can't defend themselves? States tired of waiting for the federal government to act are taking actions on their own.
We'll have that report.
And the deal to put U.S. port operations of Dubai Ports World back in American hands in jeopardy tonight.
We'll have that report.
And free trade with China supposed to help the communist nation change its ways. But China has changed the ways of others.
We'll have that special report.
Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
DOBBS: Tonight, thousands of our National Guard troops deployed along our border with Mexico are in harm's way. They are not permitted to return fire even when confronted by a growing tide of violent drug smugglers and illegal aliens entering the country across our broken borders. Only in Washington could such a nonsensical policy be put in effect.
That may be about to change.
Casey Wian reports.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): On the Arizona border last month, a group of Tennessee National Guard troops was forced to retreat by six to eight heavily-armed suspected drug or alien smugglers. The guardsmen were just following orders not to confront illegal border crossers and instead to retreat and call the Border Patrol. Now some Tennessee lawmakers want their guard troops pulled off the border if they're only going to be used in a support role.
TIM BURCHETT (R), TENNESSEE STATE SENATE: If we're going to send unarmed troops down to the border, we might as well send the peace corps or the Girl Scouts down there. I mean, these people are combat veterans. They fought in Desert Storm and Desert Shield, and some of them are decorated. And I'm just afraid someone's going to end up getting killed trying to enforce a failed policy from Washington and the president.
WIAN: This time the suspects escaped to Mexico and the Tennessee guard troops were recommended for an award.
Arizona lawmakers are proposing a different response. They want Governor Janet Napolitano to send more Arizona guard troops to the border under state authority so they can apprehend illegal aliens and use their weapons when necessary.
WARDE NICHOLS (R), ARIZONA STATE HOUSE: There has to be a paradigm shift to allow the National Guard to take the handcuffs off and engage. And I think if we allow them to do that, then the money would be -- that is being spent out of Washington would be spent more wisely and we would actually see some drastic reductions in what's coming across the border.
WIAN: Napolitano has not responded to the proposal, but she did defend the presence of National Guard troops on the border during a trip to Mexico last week. She met with Mexican president Felipe Calderon, who has sent armed federal troops to confront drug cartels on Mexico's side of the border.
WIAN: Another reminder of the danger facing unarmed guard troops comes from a confidential Homeland Security Department border intelligence alert. It describes an incident this month where a small group of National Guardsmen were in a restaurant parking lot in Fabens, Texas.
Three men, two wearing ski masks, pulled their pickup in front of the guard troops and pointed a gun at the guardsmen. The guardsmen again apparently had no choice but to flee -- Lou.
DOBBS: This is -- well, it's a matter of record, this administration's absurd policies in terms of border security, the sham that is our Department of Homeland Security. But they are putting lives of our servicemen, Border Patrol, Customs -- it's just -- it is a national disgrace what is happening at our border.
WIAN: It absolutely is, and a lot of state lawmakers are growing tired of it -- Lou.
DOBBS: And all of this is political gamesmanship initiated by this president, his White House, his administration, and carried out as a matter of policy, irrespective of the consequences to the people who live on this border, to 300 million American citizens.
At some point, some voice of reason has to prevail here. Some national conscience has to be asserted.
Casey Wian, thank you very much.
DOBBS: A former Border Patrol agent was sentenced to a five-year federal prison term today for allowing hundreds of illegal aliens to cross from Mexico into this country. The agent worked on the southern California border with Mexico for 16 years. He pleaded guilty to bribery and smuggling charges over a two-year period. The agent received $1,500 per illegal alien.
There are new developments tonight in the Dubai Ports World deal to sell its assets in America to an American company. The deal seemed about to collapse, but senators from New York and New Jersey have stepped in to ensure the sale does move forward.
Bill Tucker has the report.
BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Senators Schumer and Menendez delivered a simple, blunt message.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: We have asked the port authority to back off immediately. The port authority must give up its unprecedented demands and let the sale to an American company go through and let it go through now.
TUCKER: They want the Port of Authority of New York/New Jersey to back off from what was being called a transfer payment of some $84 million to the port authority. The port authority would not confirm or comment on any figure but said it was negotiating for a payment in return for investments made in the Port of Newark container terminal.
Senator Menendez styled it differently.
SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: For the Port of New York and New Jersey not ultimately to understand that, as it's trying to grab onto money, that it's doing it at the risk of making sure that the port is as secure as it can be, is beyond the imagination.
TUCKER: Both senators said the entire sale of DP World's U.S. assets is being threatened by the port of authority's demands. In response to the senators' concerns, the port authority issued this statement: "We take the senators' points seriously, and we look forward to a resolution. We hope the senators will urge the companies to return to the bargaining table rather than negotiating through press and politics."
A spokesman for the port authority went on to say that the owner's primary concern is, and has been, the fact that a financial company and a non-terminal operator, AIG Global, is buying the ports, and it wants to be sure the property is not being bought to then be sold again for a profit.
TUCKER: Now, the terminals will continue to be operated by their current operator, P&O. And Lou, we'd be remiss in our reporting if we didn't note that P&O is in fact owned by Dubai Ports World.
DOBBS: So let's -- let's put this thing straightforwardly. Are you saying that even with this sale, it'll still be operated by Dubai Ports World?
DOBBS: Then this is a sham all the way around.
TUCKER: No comment from me on that, but the fact is, P&O was bought by Dubai Ports World. They were the original terminal operators.
TUCKER: Dubai Ports World, when they sell this company to AIG...
DOBBS: Owned by Dubai Ports World.
TUCKER: Owned by Dubai Ports World. So P&O will continue to operate those ports.
DOBBS: So, the headline here is, there's no change in the operation of those ports, particularly in New York.
TUCKER: Operationally, there's not.
DOBBS: Well, this will raise a lot of questions for our next discussion with Tony Snow at the White House, this administration. And at this point, I would hope this Congress has the guts to question what in the world the United States government is doing. Because we are being led on a path to perdition when we tolerate this kind of behavior and conduct by our own government.
Bill Tucker, thank you very much.
Still ahead here tonight, we'll have a special report on how we're trading away our jobs so we can help communist China become an economic superpower. And perhaps a military threat.
Entire sections of the country are still digging out of what has been record snowfall. But wait, more wicked weather on its way.
And imagine being held hostage for 10 hours inside an aircraft sitting on an airport tarmac in the United States. It happened yesterday. We'll tell you about passenger rights. And when, when will passengers get fed up?
Stay with us.
DOBBS: Engaging communist China on trade has always been presented by this administration to the American people as a way to build a democracy and forge closer ties with China. But the cost of those failed foreign policy objectives has been huge trade deficits, the loss of millions of American jobs.
Christine Romans reports.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): On Capitol Hill, a litany of complaints about U.S. trade policy with China.
JOHN D. BASSETT, VAUGHAN-BASSETT FURNITURE: Here's the problem that I have. How am I going to look my workers in the eye and tell them they no longer have a job and it's a result of illegal trade?
ROMANS: He's an outraged furniture maker who says White House trade policy with China has failed. So he's appealing to Congress for a level playing field.
The House Ways and Means Committee heard complains of pirated DVDs, school textbooks, prescription drugs, a pegged currency, steel subsidies. Overall, a system rigged against U.S. manufacturers and their workers.
FRANK VARGO, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MANUFACTURERS: We have too large a trade deficit. We have too large a trade deficit with China. And we should not put up with WTO inconsistent practices like these subsidies.
ROMANS: In fact, since China entered the World Trade Organization five years ago, its exports only accelerated. Last year's trade deficit topped $232 billion. Author James Mann calls it "The China Fantasy," the idea this our trade policies are changing China and that will lead to political liberalization.
JAMES MANN, AUTHOR, "THE CHINA FANTASY": That would be nice if it were true.
ROMANS: While the American people are sold the idea that trade will change communist China, it's not the American people who benefit.
MANN: It benefits most, above all, the elites. It benefits the American companies that want to either trade with China or to invest in China.
ROMANS: Meanwhile, China uses those American trade dollars to forge alliances around the world with regimes at odds with U.S. goals.
ROMANS: That's another knock in the theory that American trade policies are somehow ushering political change in China.
Now, James Mann says, if anything, a growing and comfortable middle class in China may actually support the communist leadership because they want to defend the status quo -- Lou.
DOBBS: Absolutely. Some of the thinking in this country over the last decade on the issue of China has been so amazingly superficial and wrongheaded. And with all of the feedback that facts can offer, totally ignored.
James Mann, the author of "The China Fantasy," will be joining us here in just a moment. We'll have much more on this, on this troubled relationship.
Thank you very much.
Time now for your thoughts.
Elizabeth in Michigan, "Regarding your story on Bank of America issuing bank accounts and credit cards to illegal aliens, it's a perfect idea. B of A can send their customer list to immigration. Immigration can round them up. And the deportee can charge the bus ticket to his credit card."
Ed and Arlene in Maryland said, "Lou, let's not be naive. The war on drugs will never e won as long as this administration continues to leave the borders unprotected, puts our law enforcement agents in prison for doing their jobs, and gives immunity to drug dealers."
Patricia in Georgia said, "I'm a senior citizen and everywhere I look I see people without conscience, without principle, without morals, without backbone, without direction, without dignity. How long can a country stand without people of character?" Send us your thoughts to loudobbs.com. More of your thoughts upcoming here.
And each of you whose e-mail is read receives a copy of my book, "War on the Middle Class."
Up next, new information reveals the Pentagon missed the mark on Iraqi troop levels. Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre and senior military analyst General David Grange join me. And we'll have the latest on intelligence quirks and misses.
And did you know that you lose rights as soon as you step on a plane? Some passengers finding out the hard way. We'll be telling you what the solution just might be.
And the winter storm that has caused all those trouble, it's over. But more bad weather on the way. We'll tell you what's coming your way next.
Stay with us.
DOBBS: The monster winter storm may be moving offshore now, but it's being blamed for at least 15 deaths in 10 states. The Pennsylvania National Guard has been deployed, braving the cold winter elements to help hundreds of truck drivers stuck on Interstate 78 and a few cars along with them. Some were stranded by road conditions. Others out of gas. In some cases fuel lines froze.
The storm, leaving frigid conditions in its wake, high winds, making those temperatures feel even colder.
Hundreds of air travelers feel as though they were held hostage in horrific conditions yesterday. Stranded for hours on JetBlue aircraft at New York's Kennedy International Airport. It left a lot of them calling for a passenger's bill of rights. Lisa Sylvester has the story. Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, this was an utter disaster. Passengers were bound for Cancun, Mexico, and instead they found themselves virtual prisoners on a JetBlue plane at New York's Kennedy Airport. They could not go anywhere. They did not have any food. Except for pretzels. There was no air conditioning and the water ran out.
They sat there for more than 10 hours on Valentine's Day. JetBlue sent the planes out on the runway hoping the weather would letup. Meanwhile incoming flights filled up the gates and then they had nowhere to park the plane stuck on the tarmac and some of the plane's wheels actually froze to the ground. One passenger said with the windows iced over, the plane felt like a sound-proofed coffin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN FARRELL, STRANDED PASSENGER: They left us out there all this time. Only because of greed. Because they made a decision to let that flight leave from Florida and to keep all these people on the tarmac and not cancel those flights this morning.
And it was purely greed. They knew what they were doing.
They didn't turn the in flight movies on. They wanted five dollars for the in flight movies. It was ridiculous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVESTER: JetBlue in a statement said it sincerely apologizes to all customers impacted by the weather. And will be issuing a full refund and a free roundtrip flight to customers delayed on board in excess of three hours.
But for many, that's not good enough. There is a proposal in Congress to give passengers a bill of rights. Planes would not be able to sit on the tarmac for more than three hours. And passengers would have to be notified of cancellations and delays within 10 minutes.
Now the only rights passengers involve in airline overselling and bumping passengers, and rights pertaining to lost baggage. But, Lou, when it comes to being stranded on a plane for hours, the passengers have no rights. Lou?
DOBBS: Are you telling me that anyone stuck on a plane for three, four, five hours has no right to get off of that?
SYLVESTER: They are at the mercy of the airline and this is the big problem. In many cases, they are on cramped planes, they can't go to the bathroom necessarily. The bathrooms get filled up and they run out of water. It's really pitiful, Lou.
DOBBS: It is beyond pitiful. What else is pitiful is that the American people would tolerate that kind of behavior toward them by anyone. I mean that's -- that's an absurdity that any American would actually tolerate being treated like that.
The idea that JetBlue, in this case, would do that. What do they say?
SYLVESTER: JetBlue has essentially said we apologize. We're looking into our procedures. The Department of Transportation is also investigating this. They released a statement saying we're extremely concerned about reports of passengers stranded on planes and they are reviewing this report.
DOBBS: They're concerned, they're concerned? These people, obviously moved those planes away from those gates so that the other aircraft could roll up. There's no mystery in this. I mean my gosh.
How likely are we to see a passenger bill of rights? I mean, there was a time that you could count on one another in this country to do a decent and honorable thing. That is, if you were holding people in an aircraft for that length of time, you would certainly let them go. It just doesn't make any sense at all.
SYLVESTER: I think, Lou, it's very likely that Representative Mike Thompson, he's planning on introducing legislation in the coming weeks. Because this is not the first time this has happened. Very similar situation with American Airlines happened back in December. Lou?
DOBBS: And this is -- and these are just the ones we know of. Thank you very much, Lisa. Lisa Sylvester from Washington.
That brings us to the subject of our poll. The question we thought might be appropriate tonight, Do you believe you should have the right to exit a plane if it hasn't taken off within two hours of the scheduled departure? Yes or no. Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll have those results here later.
Newly-declassified Pentagon briefing slides from months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003 showed that our top military commanders then had an overly optimistic view of how this war and its aftermath would unfold.
The once secret slides reveal some of the many faulty assumptions that led President Bush and his generals to order U.S. troops into battle. CNN senior Pentagon Jamie McIntyre has our report.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In his public appearances just prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, U.S. Central Commander General Tommy Franks gave every indication he was planning for the worst.
GEN. TOMMY FRANKS, FORMER CENTRAL COMMANDER: I think one doesn't know the duration that we may -- that we may face. I may have an opinion, secretary may have an opinion, but it is in fact unknowable.
MCINTYRE: But newly declassified briefing slides from seven months before the war obtained by the National Security Archive reveal that General Franks presented a best-case scenario to his civilian bosses.
THOMAS BLANTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE: In part the optimism came from not knowing diddly-squat about actual situation in Iraq. The ethnic tensions, the dividing lines, the tattered infrastructure, the devastation that Saddam's dictatorship had actually wreaked.
MCINTYRE: Among the rosy and ultimately flawed assumptions, that Iraqi units would be co-opted. Stay in their garrisons and not fight. That the State Department would help form a credible provisional government even before the invasion. And that the Iraqi regime had weapons of mass destruction. One slide projected that within four years the number of U.S. troops in Iraq would dwindle to just 5,000.
BLANTON: What resonates about these PowerPoint slides is these are what President Bush saw as he was making the go decision. These are the PowerPoint war plans that convinced the White House and the secretary of defense, we've got a winnable plan here.
MCINTYRE: Blanton calls that delusional, considering today there are more than 141,000 U.S. troops still tied down if Iraq with more than 10,000 reinforcements on the way.
MCINTYRE (on camera): Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and all his top generals were careful never to make too many overly positive statements in public. But what these slides show, Lou, is that privately, they were not in fact planning for the worst and hoping are it is best. They were planning for the best and completely failed to anticipate the worst. Lou?
DOBBS: Jamie, thank you very much. I appreciate it, Jamie McIntyre from the Pentagon.
Joining us now with some insight into these developments is our military analyst, General David Grange. General Grange, you just heard Jamie McIntyre's report. How in the world could the military be so off in its planning?
BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think it was optimistic. There's no doubt about that. I think that was the intelligence they had at the time when they made those assumptions.
And many war plans are in fact made on assumptions. But as we know also that phase four, the consolidation phase, was a weak part of the plan.
And as you know, after April 9th of the year Saddam was toppled, we lost momentum. And we lost probably about two years because of decisions made about the Iraqi army and the infrastructure. And that caused what's happening right now today.
DOBBS: Another assumption is on the part I think of nearly every American that our troops will be the best equipped, the best supported in the world. We still can't get them armored. We can't get them body armor. We are still failing to give them the support they deserve. We've still not come up to solutions to IEDs, which is claiming so many lives and wounding so many of our warriors.
We're in the fifth year. What in the world are we doing? What is our general staff doing and what is the responsibility of the generals in leading these men and women to do something about this?
GRANGE: Well, in all fairness I don't think it's just the general staff. And I do believe that also on the other side of that, the generals should sound off. If they don't feel that their troopers are going into harm's way, prepared and equipped the way they should be to do a fight.
This is -- the problem is the nation's truly not at war. So the resources are not applied as they should to this war as say the war in World War II. So there are shortage, always shortages in war but there are shortages that shouldn't have to be accepted because, again the nation's not at war and it's not totally resourced.
DOBBS: Let's turn very quickly to Afghanistan. The president today had this to say about increasing forces in Afghanistan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: I've ordered an increase in U.S. forces in Afghanistan. We've extended the stay of 3,200 troops now in the country for four months. And we'll deploy a replacement force that will sustain this increase for the foreseeable future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: General, is that enough to stop the enemy in Afghanistan? Why don't we have enough troops there to begin with?
GRANGE: Well, I think this is a good move. It should have happened earlier, just like the decision on Iraq. And I think they will stop the Taliban. I think that the commanders there have a good feel on how that fight's going to unfold this spring, this summer.
The problem in Afghanistan is that we have NATO countries that have soldiers deployed to Afghanistan that are not allowed to fight. You know, almost reminds me of the National Guard on our own border that's not allowed to fight. How can you go to war and not be allowed to fight the enemy in certain areas? I mean, it's crazy.
And so these countries have got to step up to you plate if they want to be part of the solution.
DOBBS: The policy obviously frustrates this administration in Afghanistan. And pleases and delights it in the case of our own National Guard on our own borders. General David Grange, thank you.
Next here, I'll be talking with china expert, James Mann, he's written an important new book about why our leaders are looking the other way and completely askew when it comes to repression in that communist nation.
And at least one congressman wants to know why the United States is helpless to do anything about those tunnels that drug smugglers and human smugglers have been digging under our southern border with Mexico. Congressman Tom Davis joins us here. Stay with us.
DOBBS: A senior House Republican is demanding answers from the Department of Homeland Security on the progress. Their progress in shutting down seven tunnels used by smugglers to move drugs and illegal aliens into this country from Mexico. Congressman Tom Davis, a member of the Homeland Security Committee, and ranking member of the oversight and reform committee joins us tonight from Capitol Hill. Congressman, good to have you with us.
REP. TOM DAVIS, (R) VA: Thank you, Lou.
DOBBS: Why aren't you getting answers about these seven tunnels from Homeland Security?
DAVIS: Well, I've had about five answers actually. They're telling different people different things. And you've got to believe this just isn't the priority it ought to be when they don't know the answer to something this simple and this important.
DOBBS: What do want them to do?
DAVIS: I think they need to fill the tunnels immediately. These tunnels have electricity inside of them. In one of them at least you could have driven a car or truck in it. They were used to smuggle illegal drugs and contraband and weapons and who knows what else into this country. And capping them doesn't stop them from just blowing it up and moving through again. You have to fill them.
DOBBS: Congressman, we want to show our viewers exactly what we're talking about as you look there. Fifty-two known tunnels found since 1990, Customs and Border Protection now oversees that protection as yet to fill seven of them. The seven largest, as it turns out.
If you look at that map, Nogales, Arizona, two of them there. Calexico, California, three there. Two in Otay Mesa, California. And the grande tunnel last year. It's about a half mile long. And nearby, another one that's been unfilled for 13 years.
I mean at what point do you people in Congress representing the American people have said it over and over again, because we are in a global war on terror, we do want to stop illegal immigration, we do want to have secure borders and ports.
When do you say to the Homeland Security Department, quit delay, quit lying, quit it and now start defending the nation?
DAVIS: Lou, we've said it. Their budget is growing faster than any other part of government. Twelve percent last year. They have the money. They've got to make it a priority.
And this isn't just about protecting the borders from illegal immigrants. A lot of contraband. A lot of bad stuff is coming through these tunnels. That's why the drug dealers invest so much money in digging them.
DOBBS: Aside of the issue of illegal immigration, there is the minor item of terrorist threat.
DOBBS: There is the minor item of, some -- the estimates of high as $125 billion a year in illegal drugs that are destroying the lives of Americans.
DAVIS: That's right.
DOBBS: So why does everybody sit there on Capitol Hill twiddling their thumbs instead of demanding action? Why tolerate a president who considers this leadership? DAVIS: Well, we also have a very split Congress on this. As you know. We've got ...
DOBBS: Well, good Lord, when the Republicans were in charge, congressman, you couldn't do anything.
DAVIS: We were split then. You can't get anything through the Senate. We passed a pretty tough bill in the House, I think you know that.
DAVIS: And it got dies out there. Because you need 60 votes in the Senate. And I'll tell you, it's getting worse and worse. They continue to dig tunnels if we don't fill them and start arresting people.
DOBBS: Congressman Tom Davis, we thank you for being here. Good luck.
DAVIS: Thank you.
DOBBS: Hope you get some answers.
DAVIS: Thank you.
DOBBS: Up next, China expert, James Mann joins me. He's written an important new book about why U.S. leaders -- well, they're in some state of denial when it comes to communist China. We'll be telling you all about it. Stay with us.
DOBBS: News tonight for those of you trying to figure out the various taxes on your telephone bill.
Right now on your tax forms for 2006, you can apply for refunds for the past three years of excise taxes paid on long distance telephone calls. That refund applies to all cell phone taxes as well. It could add up.
The three percent long-distance tax was struck down by several federal courts. It's been in existence, by the way, since 1898. The reason it was created was to help fund the Spanish-American war.
Now you may still find an excise tax on your phone but it's a different one and it applies to your local service. Even the Treasury Department is calling on Congress to repeal that tax.
Coming up at the top of the hour THE SITUATION ROOM WITH WOLF BLITZER. Wolf?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Thanks very much, Lou. Senator Joe Biden firing back at claims that the Democrats are simply gunning for a cutoff of Iraq War funding. My interview with the White House contender. This hour. Plus, the landmark deal to end North Korea's nuclear program. Will it stick? I will ask the U.S. diplomat help broker the deal. The assistant secretary of state Chris Hill.
And are the leaders in the Iranian government directly arming Shiite militias in Iraq? We're watching an apparent disconnect that unfolding here in Washington over that question. All of that coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Back to you, Lou.
DOBBS: It's hard to keep track of all of the disconnects in your town there, Wolf, thank you.
James Mann, one of the country's leading authorities, he has written a new book, "The China Fantasy," and in it, how our leaders explain away Chinese repression. He's an author and residence at Johns Hopkins University and joins us here now. Good to have you with us, Jim.
JAMES MANN, AUTHOR, "THE CHINA FANTASY": Good to be with you.
DOBBS: The fantasy, what is the fantasy?
MANN: The fantasy is that trade with China and investment in China are going to lead to any kind of fundamental change in its political system. It's not.
DOBBS: That's counter to what all of the so-called free traders, the U.S. chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the Council of Foreign Relation, American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, all of these bodies say that's the future. How can you stand against that assault of philosophy?
MANN: I stand with the evidence. Which is that ...
DOBBS: Hoping, praying that the evidence still counts modern America, right?
MANN: It's really an assumption that hasn't been borne out and shows no sign of being borne out. This belief that as President Bush I think said, trade with China and time is on our side. Well, I'm not sure that that's true.
DOBBS: You call it a soothing strategy. I'd like to put up, if we may, what Jim Mann says. He calls this soothing strategy, quote, "a collection of ideas, phrases, rationalizations and doctrines that have emerged. All of which serve to deflect attention from the persistence of China's one party state and its repression of China political dissent."
We are supposed to make China more like us, I think. Yet we can go through -- There is Starbucks, what you call the Starbucks fallacy. There is Google. All of the technology companies that have basically sold their souls to do business there.
MANN: We love -- It's a kind of vanity. We think that if a country has McDonald's and Starbucks in it it's become like us. It's not a new fantasy. Go way back over 50 or 60 years, there was an American senator who said we're going to make Shanghai just like Kansas City. It never quite turns out that way.
DOBBS: It never turns out that way. And do you find it interesting that we are probably -- we may be the only broadcast on television in television news that refers to China as communist China. I've had people ask me, why do you call China call communist?
MANN: Well, it's still got a Leninist political system. Its economy changed a lot.
DOBBS: It's a communist government.
MANN: In economic terms it's changed a little bit. In political terms it has not. It's got ...
DOBBS: Why does mainstream media in this country refuse to acknowledge that? And why do they take it as almost an insult to China. You shouldn't say that, to tell them that -- to say to describe them for what they are. A communist nation.
MANN: It's a very good question. It makes people nervous to acknowledge this is a one-party state. It is.
DOBBS: You fundamentally point out that economics will not determine the political system of China. Anymore than economics determine the political system, the creation of the United States.
DOBBS: That it is politics, the political system that will determine the future of these countries. What are your -- what is your forecast? What is your outlook for the relationship between the United States and communist China?
MANN: I think that the political system, there may be small scale changes. There are small scale changes now. But it's going to remain an authoritarian political system for decades.
DOBBS: Will we continue to follow these idiotic policies?
MANN: Probably, yes.
DOBBS: I was afraid you would say that, Jim Mann. Thank you very much. James Mann, thank you for being here. Thank you for this important new book, "The China Fantasy." Thank you, Jim.
Still ahead, the results of our poll. More of your thoughts. Stay with us.
DOBBS: After JetBlue held some of its passengers on aircraft for hours yesterday, we asked the question, should you have the right to exit an aircraft if it hasn't taken off within two hours of the scheduled departure? Ninety-eight percent of you said yes. Time now for more of your thoughts. Frank in Virginia. "Lou, when referring to neighbors in America's crisis with illegal drugs, I guess you can put Johnny Sutton and a few others in Washington near the top of the list."
And Peter in Canada. "I know this will never make it on air, but regarding the Border Patrol case, has anyone checked to see if the judge and/or prosecutor has a bank account in Mexico?"
I can't imagine you don't continuing wouldn't make the air.
And Ken in Michigan. "Lou, I can't believe that the Democratic Party isn't supporting the two Border Patrol agents. Don't they realize they are alienating many working-class Democrats. They had better wake up before the 2008 election."
I would suggest to you both parties better do some waking up.
And George in Tennessee. "We could win the war on drugs if we only had the will, but with our border wide open, we can't stop the supply."
And Liam in Alaska, "I just wanted to thank you for being the first respected news anchor to actually talk about the futile and baseless war on drugs. Please continue to talk about this topic. Americans don't seem to realize the scope of it."
We love hearing from you. Send us your thoughts at loudobbs.com.
Thanks for being with us tonight. Please join us here tomorrow. For all of us, thanks for watching and good night from New York. THE SITUATION ROOM begins right now with Wolf Blitzer. Wolf?
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