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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Walter Reed Scandal; Battle for Baghdad: Sweep Through Sadr City; Broken Borders: All Talk on Gang Violence?

Aired March 05, 2007 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, HOST: Tonight, gang violence is out of control in this country, but elected officials refusing to acknowledge that that violence is being driven by our illegal immigration and border security crisis.
We'll have that special report for you tonight.

Also, communist China announcing the biggest increase in its military spending in five years. So why in the world does the Bush administration continue a policy that to many appears to be nothing less than appeasement?

We'll have that story.

And troubling new evidence tonight about the huge scale of underage drinking in this country. Many people failing to recognize alcohol is a dangerous drug.

We'll have that special report and much more, all the day's news, straight ahead here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Monday, March 5th.

Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

Scathing congressional testimony today about the appalling conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The wife of one of our wounded soldiers said the Army's medical system is nothing less than a nightmare. Two Iraq war veterans testified that the Army's leadership repeatedly ignored the terrible conditions at Walter Reed.

Meanwhile, insurgents in Iraq have killed another seven of our troops. Hundreds of our soldiers tonight are moving deeper into a section of Baghdad that has been controlled by insurgents for the past two years.

Jamie McIntyre reports from the Pentagon on today's heartbreaking testimony about Walter Reed.

General David Grange joins us to assess the failure of leadership in the Army's medical service and what can be done.

And Jennifer Eccleston reports from Baghdad tonight on the new offensive by our troops in the Iraqi capital.

We turn first to Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, members of Congress went directly to Walter Reed today to hear the stories firsthand, and they got an earful.


STAFF SGT. JOHN DANIEL SHANNON, U.S. ARMY: I want to leave this place. I've seen so many soldiers get so frustrated with the process that they will sign anything presented to them just so they can get on with their lives.

ANNETTE MCLEOD, WIFE OF WOUNDED SOLDIER: My life was ripped apart the day my husband was injured. But then having to live through the mess that we lived through at Walter Reed has been worse than anything I've ever sacrificed in my life.

MCINTYRE (voice over): There was plenty of scorn for the now notorious outpatient barracks known as building 18.

SPEC. JEREMY DUNCAN, WALTER REED OUTPATIENT: The conditions in the room, in my mind, were just -- it was unforgivable for anybody to live -- it wasn't fit for anybody to live in a room like that.

MCINTYRE: Under fire for much of the day was the Army surgeon general who used to be in charge of Walter Reed back in 2004 and who complained about "Washington Post" articles suggesting he may be partly to blame.

LT. GEN. KEVIN KILEY, U.S. ARMY SURGEON GENERAL: There was a follow-on article later that was focused on me that I had some concerns about and did say in a private conversation to the secretary that I thought it was yellow journalism.

MCINTYRE: So when Army secretary Francis Harvey decided to put Kiley in temporary charge of Walter Reed, sources say Defense Secretary Robert Gates decided to request Harvey's resignation. As for the commander Harvey fired, two-star general George Weightman, he drew praise for his six months at the helm from some families, who instead pointed an accusing finger at his predecessor, Major General Kenneth Farmer (ph), who retired last August.

MCLEOD: He knew of the situation. He knew of some of the conditions. And each time I went to him, they told me that he did not have time. He knew the situation. There was nothing he could do to help me.

MCINTYRE: Some members of Congress suggested Weightman is being made a scapegoat, but he offered no excuses and apologized directly to the patients and their families.

MAJ. GEN. GEORGE WEIGHTMAN, FMR. COMMANDER, WALTER REED: I'd just like to apologize for not meeting their expectations, not only in the care provided, but also in having so many bureaucratic processes that just took your fortitude to be an advocate for your husband that you shouldn't have to do. I promise we will do better.


MCINTYRE: Asked point blank why the Congress should believe that anything is really going to change, Army chief of staff General Peter Schoomaker, whose younger brother Eric is now in charge of Walter Reed, said simply, "It's going to change because we're going to change it" -- Lou.

DOBBS: The accountability that seems to be now actionable on the part of the U.S. military in the case of Walter Reed, it is appearing, if I may say so from this early and distant perspective, that Secretary Gates is the real deal.

What's the reaction in the Pentagon?

MCINTYRE: Well, he's clearly demonstrated that, A, he's the civilian in control, and B, he's not going to take any excuses. He wants results. He's very upset by the situation and the way he found out about it, and you could see with the way he dealt with Secretary Harvey after he felt Harvey didn't get it, that that sent a cheer message that he expects people to not only understand the problem, but to work quickly to fix it.

DOBBS: Thank you very much. And I think we should also acknowledge "The Washington Post," their excellent reporting leading to the breaking of this story and the public knowledge now of what are simply unacceptable conditions at one of this country's and perhaps other military hospitals.

Thank you very much, Jamie McIntyre.

Vice President Dick Cheney today declared there will be no excuses about the problems at Walter Reed. Action only.

The vice president made those remarks to a Veterans of Foreign Wars conference. After that speech, the vice president went to the hospital, not Walter Reed, for treatment for a blood clot in his left leg. The vice president, who has a history of heart problems, was given blood thinning medication and he later returned to the White House and returned to work.

More now on the astonishing failure of leadership at Walter Reed and the Army's medical system, or at least part of it. I'm joined by General David Grange, a Vietnam veteran, one of the country's most distinguished military leaders.

General Grange, good to have you here.


DOBBS: As you look at what we've been reporting here and others have been reporting about Walter Reed, how do you react?

GRANGE: Well, first off, I think the biggest problem is a communications failure. A lot of times bad news is not reported. People try to make do with inadequate resources. And I can assure you, most hospitals, health care, it is inadequate.

The V.A. system is inadequately funded. I think they're doing a great job with the resources they have, but it's underfunded.

You have to sound off when you're a commander. You have to get the resources you need and be very verbal about it.

DOBBS: I have not been to Walter Reed. I have been to Brooke Medical Center in San Antonio. Outstanding people, just as I'm sure there are outstanding people at Walter Reed and throughout the country caring for our wounded warriors.

That hospital struck me as absolutely first class. Their leadership said to me point blank, money is not an issue for the care of these wounded warriors.

How in the world could something like this happen at Walter Reed, one of this country's great historical military hospitals?

GRANGE: Well, it is a leadership failure, there's no doubt about it.

I -- you know, I've been wounded a couple of times in military hospitals. I received excellent care. By the way, it wasn't when I was a general. It was when I was a young lieutenant.

I've had a son born at Walter Reed. I've been to Walter Reed for other medical care. I got pretty good treatment. But I'm just saying that this whole system is underfunded, and it's not just the military side.

It is a nation's responsibility. There's over 25 million veterans. It's not just Afghanistan and Iraq. It's the rest of the country. And a lot of people need to do something about it.

DOBBS: And do something about -- it appears that Secretary Gates means that that is precisely what will happen.

Let me ask you this. This failure of leadership in our medical care system for our wounded warriors, the failure of this military to provide adequate equipment for our troops in the field in combat, what is this saying about the leadership of our military, both civilian and in the general staff?

GRANGE: Well, there's good leaders out there. You know, we don't want to brand everybody having a leadership failure.

DOBBS: Right.

GRANGE: I know Pete Schoomaker is going to do a lot to get this particular situation under control before he leaves. But, you know, the thing is, it's really -- again, you know, you look what Calvin Coolidge said, the president, that a nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten. And that's what we're leading to if we're not careful.

DOBBS: Is it your sense that Secretary Gates -- as I was discussing with Jamie McIntyre, out Pentagon correspondent, it appears at this early point and somewhat distant perspective that I have, that he appears to be the real deal. Do you think we're about to witness a new era of accountability for our general staff and our civilian leadership?

GRANGE: Lou, I think so. I mean, it's great to shake things up and peel back the layers and find out what the problems are. You know, there's a lot of GIs out there that expect to be treated properly, and everybody needs to be behind this thing and fund it and take care of these Americans that we sent abroad in harm's way.

DOBBS: That should be the least of their expectations.

General Grange, thank you very much for being here.

In Iraq, eight more of our troops have been killed over the past four days, seven killed in combat, one in a non-combat incident. Ten of our troops have been killed in Iraq so far this month.

3,174 of our troops killed since the beginning of the war. 23,785 of our troops wounded, 10,535 of them so seriously they could not return to duty within three days.

Our troops tonight are stepping up a new offensive in the battle for Baghdad. More than a thousand American and Iraqi soldiers sweeping through the Sadr City section of the Iraqi capital. Sadr City is, of course, controlled by the anti-American cleric Muqtada al- Sadr.

As Jennifer Eccleston now reports, our troops have met no resistance so far.


JENNIFER ECCLESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): U.S. and Iraqi forces police and army, conduct door-to-door operations, a major sweep in the Shia bastion. It is the first large-scale American presence in Sadr City in more than two years, a move to secure this eastern Baghdad neighborhood, a stronghold of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mehdi army.

(on camera): These Sadr City streets used to be protected and policed by the Mehdi army, but now its patrols like these, Iraqi and American, who hope to take its place.

(voice over): Al-Sadr and Mehdi commanders are thought to have fled the area. Their foot soldiers keeping a low profile, avoiding a confrontation with U.S. troops for now.

LT. COL. AVANULUS SMILEY, U.S. ARMY: There's militia groups that are here, and people say, well, maybe they're just laying low. Of course they are. And I think that's a good thing. And that enables us to stabilize the area. ECCLESTON: The seeming new calm, the Americans say, is mostly due to this man, the operations Iraqi commander, General Ali Ibrahim Dabboun. "We will arrest any terrorism group, anyone that supports terrorism. There will be no exceptions," says General Dabboun.

As the Americans set about creating a stable presence in Sadr City, alongside the Iraqi police and army, they say they must share that optimism.

Jennifer Eccleston, CNN, Baghdad.


DOBBS: As our troops swept through Sadr City, a suicide bomber killed 28 Iraqis and a book market in Baghdad. Fifty-six people were wounded in the attack, the deadliest in the Iraqi capital in a week. Separately, insurgents today also killed nine pilgrims traveling to the city of Karbala.

Coming right up here, gang violence out of control in this country. Elected officials outraged, but those same elected officials refusing to acknowledge the principal causes of the violence, our wide open borders.

We'll have that special report.

Also, the battle to stop binge drinking among America's youth. We'll tell you which states have the worst problem with underage drinking and why.

Communist China's military spending is soaring. Its military building up to unprecedented levels. Incredibly, the Bush administration insists China is not challenging American interests in Asia.

We'll have that special report in "Red Storm Rising."

That and a great deal more straight ahead right after this.


DOBBS: There are efforts under way to end gang violence in many of our communities in this country, especially those where cross- border violence by criminal illegal alien gangs is now running rampant. At the same time, a rising number of states are tired of waiting for the federal government to deal with the issue, and they're passing their own illegal immigration rules.

Casey Wian reports on the anti-gang conference held in Los Angeles, ironically a city where police are barred from asking a criminal gang member citizenship status.

Bill Tucker reports on states that actually passed tough anti- illegal immigration legislation, much tougher than lawmakers in Washington are even talking about.

We begin with Casey Wian in Los Angeles -- Casey.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, politicians and law enforcement officials are promising to crack down on gangs in cities like Los Angeles. But they're refusing to acknowledge the role illegal immigration plays in the spread of gang violence.


WIAN (voice over): The mayor of Los Angeles...

MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA (D), LOS ANGELES: This is the epicenter of gangs in the United States.

WIAN: ... California's governor...

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: There's 720 gangs, and that is a problem that is existing now all over the state of California.

WIAN: ... the U.S. attorney general...

ALBERTO GONZALES, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: These are individuals who have run into a spell of tough luck.

WIAN: ... police chiefs and sheriffs, a priest, a presidential candidate. They're all talking about how to stop gang violence.

The Los Angeles region alone has 120,000 gang members. Gang crime here jumped 14 percent last year.

CHIEF WILLIAM BRATTON, LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPT.: Well, we had an uptick last year. And I think we will clearly see this year that the gang issues are going to once again begin to recede in the City of Angels.

WIAN: Leaders say they're addressing the root causes, lack of education and jobs, through work programs like this T-shirt business that employs former gang members. Officially, about a third of L.A. high school students fail to graduate, though many educators believe the true dropout rate is closer to 50 percent. Youth unemployment has climbed above 20 percent.

GONZALES: I have an obligation to ensure that the laws are enforced and that people are prosecuted. But I'm equally concerned with making sure that we're taking steps as a government, both at the federal, state, local level, to provide educational programs, to provide job opportunities, to prevent these kids from joining gangs in the first place.

WIAN: Gangs now control several L.A. communities and increasingly operate across international borders. But most political leaders downplay the link between failed border security and gang violence and they continue to support sanctuary policies that prevent local police from arresting illegal alien gang members for immigration offenses. VILLARAIGOSA: We need to ensure that the victims of crime, that witnesses to crime come forward. And so, we don't want them to believe that we're going to report them to ICE.

WIAN: Attorney General Gonzales says he believes it's important to fight gangs in a way that respects human dignity.


WIAN: Political leaders are clearly struggling to find a solution to the gang violence problem. Governor Schwarzenegger says he plans to hold a meeting with police chiefs from throughout the state to come up with a battle plan -- Lou.

DOBBS: Just correct me if I'm wrong. The attorney general of the United States referred to the gang members as having hit "a spell of tough luck"?

WIAN: He sure did. He said later in that press conference that they did make bad decisions, but his first reference to the gang members are these are folks who have gone through some bad luck.

DOBBS: There is no question of that, but how would he characterize the victims of all of this gang violence that is now becoming a critical problem? I mean, the law enforcement officers, officials that I've talked with have said that gang violence is the principal reason that we have seen a rise in violent crime, especially murder in this country.

WIAN: Absolutely. And the FBI has stated clearly that (INAUDIBLE), the MS-13 gang that operates almost with impunity across borders, is the new American mafia, Lou. Clearly, law enforcement recognizes the problem of the lack of border surety. Politicians don't want to admit it.

DOBBS: They don't want to admit it, and to hear the U.S. attorney general speaking -- and I think, by the way, correctly that certainly poverty and a lack of education are certainly drivers contributing to the -- to membership in gangs rising, there's nothing, not a single thing that a U.S. attorney general can do. His job is to be the chief law enforcement officer of the land.

WIAN: And that job would be a lot easier if the borders were secure. When ICE, federal government deports illegal aliens, illegal alien gang members, they're often able to come right back into the United States and expand the gang activity -- Lou.

DOBBS: It's a remarkable period. It is a tragic period to see so many of this nation's youth being caught up in this gang violence, and the lack of human dignity certainly being rendered an increasing number of victims across the country in violent crime.

Thank you very much, Casey Wian, from Los Angeles.

WIAN: Thanks. DOBBS: Congressman Dave Reichert, a member of the Homeland Security Committee, a former sheriff himself, is trying to crack down on these gangs. Surprisingly, he's facing stiff opposition in Washington. He will be joining us on this broadcast here later.

Tonight's poll, the principal question: Do you believe illegal immigration, failed border security and those city sanctuary laws are contributing to the rise in gang violence in this country? Yes or no?

Please cast your vote at We'll have the results upcoming.

Individual states are taking action on their own, passing regulations to deal with illegal immigration. They're fed up with the federal government's just simple refusal to deal with the crisis. And as Bill Tucker now reports, the legislation being enacted by some states is far tougher than anything even being discussed in Washington, D.C.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): While Washington talks amnesty, the talk at the state level concerning immigration is a lot tougher. And the states aren't just talking. In Oklahoma there is a bill officially known as the Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act of 2007.

SCOTT INMAN (D), OKLAHOMA STATE HOUSE: We've got roughly 700,000 folks in this state without any health insurance at all. These are legal citizens, 150,000 of those people are children. And yet, we're spending approximately $200 million in aid to illegal immigrants.

TUCKER: The Oklahoma bill now in the legislature would deny social benefits to illegal aliens, crack down on employers who hire them, make it against the law to knowingly harbor or hide illegal aliens, and tightens up laws on identification. It's similar to legislation under consideration in Texas, Arizona, and in Rhode Island. Colorado and Georgia have already passed legislation.

CHIP ROGERS (R), GEORGIA STATE SENATE: It seems as if Washington, D.C., has decided they want to become in a way out of touch with this reality, but what we see at the ballot boxes, when you become out of touch with something the people want, you get sent home. And I've often said, I don't care if it's Democrat or Republican, if you're not willing to stand up and defend our borders, you don't need to be in elected office.

TUCKER: While Georgia is considering cracking down on false identification, at the federal level they've delayed implementation of the Real ID Act for more than a year. The disconnect at the federal level some say is easily explained.

STEVE CAMAROTA, CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: The fundamental divide in America is mostly between not so much left, right, but between interest groups, the business community, ethnic advocacy groups, that sort of thing on one side, and the American people and public opinion on the other.

TUCKER: The result is convoluted policy.


TUCKER: The public wants enforcement. Interest groups want amnesty. And the further that lawmakers get from the people, Lou, well, surprise, surprise, the more beholden they become to the interest groups.

DOBBS: And American citizens -- U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales talking about human dignity. It's dignity he's denying American citizens with the policies that his department is following and Secretary Chertoff is following with his. And they both report to the same fellow, an administration that seems absolutely enthusiastic about serving their corporate masters and driving this amnesty agenda.

Thank you very much, Bill Tucker.

Coming up here next, communist China sharply accelerating its challenge to American interests in Asia. We'll have that special report. "Red Storm Rising."

Also, the battle to win justice for two Border Patrol agents sent to prison on the basis of testimony given by a drug dealer given immunity by the Justice Departments. Four Democratic congressmen have joined now the fight for that pardon. Two of those congressmen, Bart Gordon and Lincoln Davis, join us tonight.

And Senator Hillary Clinton sounds more like a preacher some say than a senator as she courts the black vote.

We'll have that story and a great deal more next.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: Communist China is modernizing its military at the fastest pace in years. It is the latest stage in what has been an aggressive military buildup that we've been reporting on this broadcast now for more than two years.

But as Kitty Pilgrim reports tonight, most of the Bush administration seems to be doing everything possible to ignore communist China's challenge to U.S. interests in Asia.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): At the party conference in Beijing, a shocking announcement. Military spending will increase by nearly 18 percent this year, a spending spree of $45 billion. The mildest of responses from U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte in Beijing yesterday.

JOHN NEGROPONTE, DEP. SECRETARY OF STATE: There have been previous discussions between Pentagon officials and Chinese military authorities, but we would like to see those intensified so that we can have a better grasp of what -- what exactly the Chinese have in mind.

PILGRIM: Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on ABC's "This Week" urged people to ignore the build buildup.

HENRY PAULSON, TREASURY SECRETARY: I don't believe we need to make China an enemy. This relationship is an important relationship, and the economic relationship is an important part of the overall relationship.

PILGRIM: But China has indulged in a series of provocative military acts.

JOHN TKACIK, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: The Chinese have been rattling our cage when they first started to test out their anti-satellite laser systems against U.S. satellites, and then sent out their submarines to emerge quite unexpectedly in the middle of a U.S. carrier battle group near Okinawa in October.

PILGRIM: Tkacik says China will have 39 new modern advance submarines in the next three years, including 12 kilo submarines with stealth technology that are virtually silent. They're modernizing the largest standing army in the world, 2.3 million troops. With 450 aircraft, China has the largest fourth generation fighter force in Asia and has ordered 50 more advanced aircraft from Russia. To say nothing of the thousand short-range missiles aimed at Taiwan.

The most shocking progress has been in space technology. The Chinese now can destroy a military satellite and are working on cyber warfare systems to knock out an enemy's computer networks.


PILGRIM: That military budget the Chinese admit to. But the real spending, according to the analysts, is probably double or triple what they say it is. Now, as vice president Cheney says, it's not consistent with China's stated goal of a peaceful rise, but it seems many administration officials are only listening to what the Chinese say and they're keeping their eyes firmly shut to military realities -- Lou.

DOBBS: Secretary Paulson, a peculiar statement to ignore the reality.

PILGRIM: Yes. Do not consider China as an enemy. He seems to have trade as his top priority and does not seem to be looking at the military side of the picture at all.

DOBBS: His interests seem to be somehow less than transparent be just as he is seeking -- John Negroponte is seeking transparency. It's sort of an interesting comment to come from the head of the director of the national intelligence, but whatever.

It's their idea of an administration and a foreign policy. We'll just have to, unfortunately, see how that works out. Kitty Pilgrim, thank you.

There's rising opposition in Washington, D.C., to a new proposed free trade agreement between the United States and Malaysia because of an energy deal Malaysia has with Iran.

Democratic Congressman Tom Lantos, who chairs the House Foreign Relations Committee, says the Malaysia-Iran deal is a security risk for the United States. Malaysia has a $16 billion deal to develop energy and infrastructure in Iran. Malaysia says it will not bow to American pressure to back out of that agreement.

Time now for some of your thoughts. Mike in Kentucky saying, "Our government needs to be less concerned with the civil war in Iraq and start worrying about the one they are creating right here in our own country."

And Will in Maryland said, "Manufacturing jobs to China. Computer jobs to India. Administrative support to the Caribbean. American youth to Iraq. Mexicans resettling the U.S. infrastructure being sold off to foreigners. Borders non-existent. Debt ballooning. Do we need a referendum on whether we still want a country?"

And Cage in Georgia said, "Seems to me our Congress and White House work from everyone from Halliburton to China and Exxon to Mexico. Why don't we cut taxes and let them get their fat cat paychecks from the people they benefit."

Send us your thoughts at We'll have more of your thoughts here later. Each of you whose mail is read on the broadcast receives a copy of my book, "War on the Middle Class."

Senator Hillary Clinton, seemingly caught up in the mood as she addressed church goers in the same Selma, Alabama, church that civil rights marches began 52 years ago. Speaking with the tone of a church preacher, Senator Clinton quoted the words of Reverend James Cleveland.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I don't feel no ways tired. I come too far from where I started from. Nobody told me that the road would be easy. I don't believe he brought me this far to leave me.


DOBBS: Clinton campaigning in Alabama, appearing at one point with her husband, the first joint appearance since the senator began -- since the senator started her campaign.

Also campaigning in Selma, Senator Barack Obama. The senator said, quote, "If it hadn't been for Selma, I wouldn't be here," adding, "This is the site of my conception. When people ask me whether I've been to Selma before, I tell them I'm coming home." The Cherokee Nation voting to revoke tribal citizenship of almost 3,000 descendants of black people the tribe once owned as slaves. Over 100 years ago, a commission set up by Congress divided tribal lands, giving some to blood Cherokees and some to free black slaves, regardless of whether they had Indian blood.

Some opponents of the vote contend that the efforts to remove freed slaves from the tribe were motivated by racism. Tribal officials said the vote was a matter of self-determination.

The president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has resigned after 19 months on the job. Bruce Gordon said he resigned over differences with the board over the direction of the NAACP.

Julian Bond, who chairs the board, told 'The New York Times" they want to be a social justice organization, that Gordon wanted it to be more of a social service organization.

Up next, you got to love America. Political correctness, it seems at times to rage out of control. You won't believe how far. We'll tell you.

Also, an epidemic of underage drinking across this nation. Millions of our young people addicted to alcohol and binge drinking. We'll have that special report.

And more congressmen join the battle to win justice for border agents Ramos and Compean. Two of those congressmen, Democrats Mark Gordon and Lincoln Davis, join me next.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: A shocking story out of Watauga, Texas. Two teenagers tonight face charges of giving two small children marijuana. This disturbing video shows one of the teens putting a marijuana cigarette in a 2-year-old boy's mouth. The boy's 5-year-old brother is also seen smoking.

Police say it appears this is not the first time that those children were given pot. One of the men charged is the uncle of the two boys. The boys are tonight in the custody of child protective services.

That brings us to "The War Within", our special report on this country's battle against drug and alcohol abuse and addiction.

There are an estimated 11 million underage drinkers in the United States. Research shows the earlier kids begin drinking, the greater the chance of costly and devastating addictions.

Christine Romans tonight takes a look at a new report that details trends in substance abuse, state by state.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For America's teens 12 to 17 years old, alcohol is the drug of choice. More than 17 percent of teens use alcohol; 13.8 percent use tobacco; just over 10 percent use illegal drugs.

A new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration notes significant improvement in illicit drug and tobacco use among teens, yet, quote, "a continued pattern of underage drinking and binge drinking indicates that many people do not understand that alcohol can also be a dangerous drug."

DAVID JERNIGAN, CENTER FOR ALCOHOL MARKETING & YOUTH: Considering how much has been done at the local and state level and by parents and by schools, we would expect the rates to be much lower than they are now.

ROMANS: The drinking age in this country is 21. Yet, nearly 40 percent of 12 to 20-year-olds in Wisconsin drink, the highest in the nation, almost double that of Utah teens where 21 percent drink.

Thirty percent of North Dakota teens reported consuming five or more drinks at one sitting, binge drinking, in the past month.

At the low end of the spectrum is Tennessee at 14 percent.

And where 12 to 20-year-olds are drinking, they're most likely to be drinking heavily. Heavy drinking and binge drinking in states like Iowa, Massachusetts, Montana it, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

But the picture is complex. Some of the states with the highest underage alcohol use have low illicit drug rates and where marijuana use is declining, prescription drugs may be making up the difference.

DAVID ROSENBLOOM, JOIN TOGETHER: The reality is that there's a lot of substitution. When kids are experimenting, they go for what's easily available and the cheapest.

ROMANS: It's one reason why he says states with low beer taxes like Wisconsin often have higher rates of underage drinking.


ROMANS: The surgeon general's office calls underage drinking a public health and safety threat and says it remains at persistently high levels. Tomorrow the surgeon general will issue a call to action move for teachers, communities, parents, saying that the time is right now to reduce underage drinking.

DOBBS: And law enforcement agents, agencies, clearly aware that many bars and nightclubs are providing liquor to underage drinkers. It's a tough issue with everything that law enforcement is confronting in this country. But this is certainly among the most important issues to deal with.

ROMANS: Don't forget parents providing underage alcohol to drinkers in their own homes.

DOBBS: That's one of the stories, as we've discussed on this broadcast. I find it unbelievable the idea that a parent would think he or she can be considered cool and compassionate by providing a party for underage drinkers.

Thank you very much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

DOBBS: Christine Romans.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is opposed to random drug testing in our schools, saying the tests can be inaccurate and can lead to a loss of a child's trust.

The academy recommends more research into the safety and efficiency of drug testing before the programs are implemented. More treatment measures should be available, they say, to ensure students are rehabilitated, not just punished.

And the academy also suggests parents who are concerned their children are abusing drugs consult with their doctors, rather than rely on school-based screening. Some possibility here that economics and social policy, as well as drug policy are at issue.

Coming up next, political correctness run amok? Not in this country. No booing at school sporting events? No, you wouldn't want that. No spanking your own children? No, we wouldn't want that. Discipline? We might want that. We'll have those details.

And support for a congressional pardon for two former Border Patrol agents is growing. We'll be talking with the first Democrats to sign onto the legislation seeking justice for those two men.

And gang violence continues to run unchecked, especially cross border violence. We'll be talking to the sponsor of the Gang Elimination Act. Stay with us for all of that and a great deal more.


DOBBS: Congressman Duncan Hunter is sponsor of the legislation calling for a pardon for imprisoned former Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean. It continues to gain support. To date, 86 Republicans have signed on and now four Democrats, as well.

Joining me now two of those Democrats cosponsoring the legislation, Congressman Bart Gordon, Congressman Lincoln Davis. Gentlemen, good to have you here.


DOBBS: The obvious question, and I'll ask this of both of you, is why did you decide now?

GORDON: Well, I think it's important thing to do. I'm afraid that officers Ramos and Compean are going to get a raw deal. And that that's the message that's going to be going to really be something that's going to demoralize the rest of our border agents as well as at a time when we're trying to down the amount of border agents, it's going to be hard to recruit agents. So I think it's time to get the facts on the table.

REP. LINCOLN DAVIS (D), TENNESSEE: I think it also sends a message to the other Border Patrols that you do have support in Congress. I think it also sends a message to this White House that who actually appointed those different individuals, the attorney general, the -- Sutton from Texas who did the prosecuting, as well as the judge that, you know, Mr. President, let's look into this thing. And we're going to ask that that happen.

So I hope what it does is let him understand -- let the White House understand that the Justice Department, that this is about partisanship till we get this situation straightened out.

DOBBS: You've gone through the facts of this case as they continue to unfold. On this broadcast, we have reported diligently and, certainly, accurately that this -- this prosecution by the U.S. attorneys in the western district of Texas, it cannot be explained based on the facts that are before us. Do you feel the same way?

DAVIS: It's quite difficult for me to look and read the newspapers and find there was over 700 pounds of marijuana in a van. This person from Mexico, who's here illegally leaves the van and starts running away. I'm not sure exactly all the particulars of it.

But it just seems strange to me that we would prosecute two Border Patrols and send them to jail for ten, 12 years when they're actually defending this country. And also, here sits a van load of marijuana that we put on our streets.

DOBBS: I don't mean to interrupt. The picture that we put up is the picture of the person who was given immunity to testify against these agents. One of the questions...

GORDON: That's the other thing, Lou. We need to know about that immunity. We need to know about the facts that haven't come out. And that's the reason we need some kind of vehicle to get the full information on the table. And that's a real concern of mine.

DOBBS: Well, it appears that the Bush White House, the Bush Justice Department and the Bush-appointed U.S. attorney and his designees in the western district sought this prosecution, which the Border Patrol counsel, the Border Patrol union, everyone that we've talked to in law enforcement and actually the judicial system, says should have been handled administratively.

They decided to prosecute, and they're saying now that this case began with the Mexican consulate. A drug dealer with seven -- a $1 million worth of drugs who was not subsequently indicted for a second drug deal, according to various reports.

Why aren't the Democrats all over this? If not for justice, for partisan reasons. I mean, I can't understand this unless there's something else going on here.

GORDON: Well, first of all, you've got to keep in mind that we were never notified. I was never notified that there was even a bill.

DAVIS: Neither was I.

GORDON: No one asked me to be on the bill. I got the information from your show and from constituents at home. And so I approached Hunter and said I want to be a part of it. And so I think that's a part of the problem. There hasn't been an effort to reach out.

DAVIS: And I think what the bill should say, as well, we should call the president to at least intervene. He's the only person in this nation that can actually give a pardon or clemency to these two individuals.

There's been no movement there. So it's my hope what this will legislation will do is at least wake up the White House, wake up this administration and the Justice Department that there are folks out here who are concerned about what's going on. Let's see justice prevail for two individuals who I think are falsely accused.

DOBBS: Gentlemen, we thank you very much for being here. We are delighted that you're signing on, as I've made it clear as I possibly could. I think this is an absolute travesty, an outrage.

And I believe this administration, this president, this attorney general, and the U.S. attorney in Texas, Johnny Sutton, homeland security itself also has a great deal to explain and I believe a great deal to apologize to these two men and to the American people.

DAVIS: And I think even the judge who was appointed and confirmed in 2003 by this White House. And all those have some, in my opinion, have some explaining to do.

DOBBS: Congressmen, we thank you very much. Congressman Gordon, we thank you. Congressman Davis, we appreciate it.

Coming up at the top of the hour, "THE SITUATION ROOM", Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.


New horror stories emerging fresh outrage on Capitol Hill, across the country as Congress holds hearings on the deplorable conditions revealed at the Army's top hospital. I'll talk about it with the secretary of veterans affairs, Jim Nicholson.

Also, the latest on Vice President Dick Cheney's condition after he was taken to the hospital today with a potentially very dangerous medical condition.

And when campaigning in the south, are some candidates putting some additional soul into their speeches? CNN's Jeanne Moos shows us the accents that seem to come and go. All that, Lou, coming up right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM".

DOBBS: Looking forward to it, Wolf. Thank you very much.

A reminder now to vote in our poll. The question tonight, do you believe illegal immigration, failed border security and sanctuary laws are contribute to the rise in gang violence in this country? Yes or no? Please cast your vote at Those results will be coming up here in just a few minutes.

Tonight, more attempts to legislate political correctness. School officials in the state of Washington facing a serious backlash over a ban on booing at high school sporting events.

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association says that ban is part of existing guidelines for behavior at games. The guidelines also prohibit profanity and negative cheers.

In California, a state legislature there -- legislator has backed down from an earlier proposal that would have made it illegal for parents to spank their own children. The legislation has been the subject of some considerable national attention and ridicule.

Last week, assemblywoman Sally Lieber abandoned her bill because of, quote, "lack of support."

And a Florida state legislator wants the term "illegal alien" banned from Florida state documents. State Senator Fredricka Wilson says the term is offensive and that an alien is actually someone from outer space. Wilson has clearly failed to read federal government publications and documents that as a matter of course use the term "illegal alien."

Still ahead, the number of gang members is on the rise in this country, with as many as gang members as there are troops in the Army and Marine Corps.

Up next, we'll be talking with the congressman who says he has a plan to fight gangs and deadly gang violence that's on the rise in this country. Those stories, that interview, and more still ahead. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Congressman Dave Reichert of Washington state joins me now. Enter today, Congressman Reichert reintroduced the Gang Elimination Act. That legislation to eliminate the top three international drug gangs posing the biggest threat to this country.

Congressman Reichert, thanks for being with us here tonight. We're watching violence explode. As you know, the principal conference, the major conference held over the weekend on gang violence.

What will your legislation do that hasn't been done to this point? REP. DAVE REICHERT (R), WASHINGTON: Well -- well, you know, I was the sheriff in Seattle for before I became a member of Congress and was in law enforcement 33 years.

So I always get a little nervous when people expect the federal government to come in and solve this problem. You know, we're from the federal government. We're here to help.

DOBBS: But the rest of the federal government is doing so well, congressman.

REICHERT: Yes. Well, that's one opinion.

DOBBS: It really isn't mine. I'm just kidding.

REICHERT: I think that the federal government has a role to play in gang elimination, and this act really is a beginning, in my opinion. Again, coming from the background of law enforcement and from -- from the patrol car to the sheriff and now in Congress, able to make laws.

This bill, first of all, I think it's very important for to us be able to recognize what are the top three gangs. We know we have lots of gangs in the United States. There are 800,000 members. That combines our Army and Navy nearly.

And so we need to first identify those three major gangs, and then we need to...

DOBBS: Those three gangs are?

REICHERT: Well, that's the -- that's the goal of this legislation. That puts the burden on our attorney general to come up with a strategic plan, come up with criteria to identify so we can go across this nation, identify those gangs.

One of those might be -- and this is one that's familiar to everyone that they've heard in the last few months. That's MS 13. There's a gang called Serranos. There's the Skinheads.

There's -- you know, when I was a cop in the early '70s, the problem was motorcycle gangs. And they've actually come back again, and they're now another problem here in our country.

DOBBS: Let me ask you this, Congressman. You're a sheriff, a veteran law enforcement officer.


DOBBS: Don't you think it's kind of a crying shame you've got to pass legislation to tell the U.S. attorney general to do his doggone job.

REICHERT: Well, I think that it's -- it is Congress's job to oversee the federal government. That's why we have three branches of government. And our job is to do that. And I come with some experience to do that.

If I don't think there's a plan in place, I think, you know, I work with other members of Congress and we make sure that that happens.

DOBBS: Well, the fact is, I've talked with a number of people, including a sheriff of a very populous county, about two million people just under that who said that the extraordinary rise in violence in his county came about because of gang violence. It's a story that's repeated over and over across this country.

The U.S. attorney general today when Alberta Gonzalez said talking about gang members, they're folks who have run into a spell of bad luck.


DOBBS: Do you think that -- and he talked about jobs. By the way, I agree about jobs. I agree that education is helpful. But don't you find it kind of disgusting that a U.S. attorney general, the chief law enforcement officer in the land, is talking sociology instead of how to do his job, which is enforce the law?

REICHERT: Well, I think what's important here is for us to know that there are members of Congress who are focused on making sure that the attorney general and other members of the federal government that have a role in identifying gangs. And this gang is called -- this bill is called the Gang Elimination Act. And that's what we intend to do.

And what we have to do is help local law enforcement do that job. We've not been able to do it locally. It's very time consuming. It's very -- it takes a lot of resources and a lot of money.

So initially, this -- all this bill does is direct the attorney general to identify those three gangs, come up with a system where we can communicate across the nation.

DOBBS: You're going to be able to get the -- we're going to have to run. But do you think you're going to be able to get that thing through?

REICHERT: Absolutely.

DOBBS: All right.

REICHERT: A sheriff never gives up.

DOBBS: And it's good to have a sheriff in town, especially that town.

REICHERT: That's right, thank you.

DOBBS: Congressman Reichert, thank you very much.

Still ahead, the results of tonight's poll, more of your thoughts. Please stay with us.


DOBBS: Ninety-eight percent of you voted that illegal immigration, failed border security and sanctuary laws are contributing to the rise in gang violence in this country?"

And time now for just one last e-mail. John in West Virginia wrote in to say, "Lou, when the North American Union, among Canada, the United States, and Mexico goes into effect, will our flag be red, white, blue and green with a maple leaf in the center? No stars would be needed since the Bush administration will have sold or given all the states to private companies to manage for profit by that time."

Thanks for being with us tonight. Please join us here tomorrow. For all of us, thanks for watching. Good night from New York.

"THE SITUATION ROOM" begins now with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lou.