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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Bush V. Dems: Bitter Standoff Over Iraq; Is the Surge Working?

Aired April 02, 2007 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, HOST: The showdown between the White House and Democrats in Congress intensifying tonight. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says if President Bush vetoes a pullout timetable for our troops in Iraq, he'll push another bill that would cut off most war funding.
The hostage crisis between our biggest ally, Britain, and Iran may be nearing an end. Iran now says it wants a diplomatic solution to what has been an 11-day standoff.

And the speaker of the House is in the Middle East, and her plan to visit Syria and to talk with President Assad is drawing strong criticism from the White House.

We'll have those stories, all the day's news, and much more straight ahead here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Monday, April 2nd.

Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, says if President Bush vetoes the current war spending will, he will press for a new bill to cut off most funding of this war.

And the White House is stepping up its criticism of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Speaker Pelosi is in the Middle East. She plans to meet with the Syrian president.

Ed Henry tonight reports on the battle lines being drawn between the Democrats and the White House over the president's conduct of the war in Iraq.

Barbara Starr reports on troop deployments to Iraq. Thousands of our troops will be leaving home earlier than expected in order to maintain troop levels in Baghdad.

And Brent Sadler tonight reports from Beirut on Nancy Pelosi's message in the Middle East.

We first turn to Ed Henry at the White House -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Lou, the president himself stayed out of the fray. He was behind closed doors having a secure video conference with the Iraqi prime minister. But he sent out two of his top surrogates and they fired away at the latest Democratic plan.


HENRY (voice over): Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is ratcheting up pressure on the president, backing a new bill to cut off most war funding by next March, sparking a double-barreled assault from the White House.

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's time the self-appointed strategists on Capitol Hill understood a very simple concept -- you cannot win a war if you tell the enemy when you're going to quit.

DANA PERINO, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's just these shifting sands when it comes to the Democrats and their decisions. It's almost shifting so fast, it's like a sandstorm.

HENRY: Reid's spokesman, Jim Manley fired back, "The only thing that has shifted is the public's opposition to the war in Iraq. As more and more Americans demand to see the troops get out of what is clearly a civil war, this administration stubbornly continues to stick its head in the sand.


HENRY: Both sides were already fighting over a war funding bill the president has promised to veto because of a provision calling for U.S. troops to start leaving Iraq within 120 days. Reid has now also signed on to a bill sponsored by anti-war Democrat Russ Feingold that would only allow war spending in three areas: fighting al Qaeda, training Iraqis, and securing the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

While neither bill has much chance to become law, Democrats say it's about forcing Mr. Bush to change policy.

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: That signal is that, Mr. President, no president can successfully wage a war when the American people are not supporting you.

HENRY: But the White House shows no signs of budging.

CHENEY: It's nothing less than an attempt to force the president's hand. They're going to find out they've misread George W. Bush.


HENRY: And more signs tonight that the president is further digging in. There's been a late schedule to the president's schedule for tomorrow morning -- 10:10 a.m. Eastern Time he'll be in the Rose Garden delivering a statement on this Iraq war funding issue. It's clear that the White House would not be putting him out there unless they felt they could get some political mileage out of this -- Lou. DOBBS: Ed, thank you very much.

Ed Henry from the White House.

As Congress and President Bush engage in a war of words over the conduct of the war in Iraq, 11 more of our troops have been killed in the fighting there. 3,257 of our troops have been killed since the war began. 24,314 of our troops wounded, 10,841 of them seriously.

The Pentagon today said some of our troops scheduled for Iraq will have less time at home than originally planned. With the Army stretched to its limit, the Pentagon is now keeping troops in Iraq longer and giving troops less time at home.

Barbara Starr reports from the Pentagon -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, even with all the political developments on Capitol Hill, the reality, of course, is the war goes on.

The Pentagon today announcing another 9,000 troops will rotate into Iraq over the next several weeks and months. All of this is a regularly scheduled troop rotation so other troops can come home. But make no mistake, some of these units are facing very tough duty because they are going to go back to Iraq after spending less than a year at home with their families, resting and recuperating.

Policy has always been to try and give these troops at least a year at home. Let's go through some of it.

One thousand troops from the 4th Infantry Division in Texas perhaps facing the toughest duty. They will go back into combat 81 days short of being home for a year. So the math is, they're going to be home just for about nine months and then they're going to turn around and go back to Iraq.

Thirty-five hundred troops from the 10th Mountain Division in New York, they will go back 47 days, just over a month short of being home for a year.

And a brigade combat team, about 3,500 troops from Fort Bragg, Texas, the 82nd Airborne Division, they're going to be extended three months essentially on their tour in Iraq. They will now -- they were going to go for about nine months. Now they are going to have to spend that full year at least on the ground.

But Lou, what it all adds up to is the Army is stretched thin, stretched to the breaking point. Trying to make the troop levels stick at least into 2008 -- Lou.

DOBBS: Barbara, thank you very much.

Barbara Starr from the Pentagon.

The surge in U.S. troops may be having an impact on the violence in certain parts of Baghdad. In some areas, sectarian violence is demonstrably down.

Michael Ware has the report from Baghdad -- Lou.


MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, with two of the five additional combat brigades that President Bush has ordered to Iraq as part of this surge for the Baghdad security plan, there is already signs of a dampening or lowering in the levels of particular types of violence in the capital. Specifically, we're talking about sectarian murders by death squads. Though the death squads are still out there, nonetheless, a Republican congressional delegation led by presidential candidate Senator John McCain came to Baghdad to tell what they claim is the untold story of the success.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I believe that we have a new strategy that is making progress. And it's not to say that things are well everywhere in Iraq, far from it. We have a long way to go.

And I'm not saying that mission is accomplished or last throes or a few dead-enders. But what we don't read about every day and what is new since the surge began is a lot of the good news.

WARE: Well, a lot of that good news has been rolling out in the media for Senator McCain and the other congressmen to tell their story. From a marketplace in a part of Baghdad where they say security has improved since the surge, the congressmen had to be flown the few short kilometers from the Green Zone to that marketplace in Black Hawk helicopters, accompanied by Apache attack helicopters with more than 100 troops on the ground also providing security.

Meanwhile, in the border town of Tal Afar, which was much praised by President Bush in a U.S.-led operation to reclaim the town from al Qaeda, a devastating suicide bombing that killed more than 100 people this week was quickly responded to when local police went on a killing rampage against a rival sect that saw the police execute as many as 70 people -- Lou.


DOBBS: Michael, thank you.

Michael Ware.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in Beirut tonight. Pelosi plans to meet with Syrian President Assad in Syria later this week. That meeting is drawing strong criticism from the White House. The speaker says she has no illusions but does have great hope for those talks, which have been recommended by the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group.

Brent Sadler reports from Beirut.


BRENT SADLER, CNN BEIRUT BUREAU CHIEF (voice over): Two high- profile visits to Lebanon. United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi paying her respects at the tomb of assassinated former prime minister Rafik Hariri. And German Chancellor Angela Merkel treading a similar path. Half the Mideast's quartet represented here, Europe and the United States, focused on renewed international efforts to kick-start regional peace, including Pelosi's controversial plans to visit Syria.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: We think it's a good idea to establish the facts, to hopefully build some confidence between us. We have no illusions but we have great hope.

SADLER: But the White House calls her Syrian stopover a bad decision because the U.S. administration considers Syria a supporter of terrorism, citing Syrian behavior over its border with Iraq that helps insurgents and Syria's support for what the U.S. and Israel call terror groups like Hezbollah.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is in their interest to return to a position where they can be part of the positive forces in this region and not be in a tight alliance with Ahmadinejad's Iran.

SADLER: A Syrian-Iranian alliance that many in Lebanon blame for paralyzing their city's center with opposition tents on the doorstep of western-backed prime minister Fouad Siniora creating dangerous political deadlock here over plans to set up an international court to try murder suspects in the Hariri assassination two years ago.

(on camera): Many Lebanese, including Hariri's own family, suspect Syria may have had a hand in that killing which ignited political upheaval in Lebanon, dividing the country into two camps...

(voice over): ... leaders who strongly support Syria, and those who oppose what the regime is doing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The regime knows exactly what he needs to do in Lebanon, what they need to do in Palestine, what they need to do in Iraq. And I think instead, the regime is doing the totally opposite.

SADLER: Syria's top leadership plans to welcome Pelosi's delegation, which includes the first Muslim U.S. congressman, with open arms. But they recognize that hopes for a Syrian change of behavior on Pelosi's road to Damascus is no easy ride.

Brent Sadler, CNN, Beirut.


DOBBS: The speaker, for her part, says the White House is singling her out for criticism over this trip to Syria. Last week, three Republican congressmen also visited Syria and they also met with President Assad.

Speaker Pelosi said, "I didn't hear the White House speaking out about that." Pelosi's office said she's following the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which recommended the United States launch a diplomatic initiative with Syria.

The United States tonight is asking Iran to provide information about an American citizen who may be missing there. The unidentified man is believed to be in Iran on private business. The State Department says that it has been monitoring that situation for several weeks.

There appears to be a slight shift tonight, as well, in the position over the 15 British sailors and marines held captive in Iran. Iranian television says all British captives have confessed to illegally entering Iran's waters, and a British official says they will talk with Iran on how to avoid future confrontations in the Persian Gulf.

Up next, Newt Gingrich under fire for his comments on bilingual education in this country.

We'll have the latest.

And an engineer working for a defense contractor is accused of passing secret military technology to communist China.

We'll have a report.

And we'll also be reporting on the loss of quality jobs and predatory mortgage practices. They're all taking a toll on this country's middle class.

Stay with us for that and a great deal more, straight ahead.


DOBBS: We report here night after night, year after year, about quality jobs disappearing in this country and Americans working harder and harder for stagnant wages at best.

Kitty Pilgrim reports now on another alarming trend, workers penalized for their experience.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton wrote a scathing letter to the CEO of Circuit City after the company fired 3,400 workers and then offered to hire them back at a lower salary. "These actions will severely harm and disrupt the lives of these employees, many of whom relied on their jobs at Circuit City as their lone source of income and their exclusive means of supporting themselves, their spouses, and children."

The American middle class worker faces a brutal new environment. Older top wage earners are fired and younger workers make less. Economists say the young generation is being paid less.

LAWRENCE MISHEL, ECONOMIC POLICY INST.: Why shouldn't the American people expect more every -- every generation? We are more and more productive. And you would think that every working family would be able to see the younger people move in the jobs that pay substantially more than what the parents were able to earn, given the fact they usually have much more education and more skills.

PILGRIM: Working harder for less is a provable fact. Since 1995, productivity is up 33 percent. But real wages have been falling since 2000.

KEN GOLDSTEIN, THE CONFERENCE BOARD: We've found out that workers are -- they're dissatisfied with how hard they have to work. They're dissatisfied about their job conditions over and above how much they're being paid.

PILGRIM: Economists say that 15 million retail workers are especially vulnerable. That's 13 percent of the workforce.

With the flood of cheap goods for sale, retailers can't raise prices. So they have to trim labor costs to make a profit.

And Circuit City isn't alone. Months ago, Wal-Mart instituted salary caps for their workers.


PILGRIM: Now, workers are feeling beaten. The Conference Board's annual employee survey hit the lowest level in 20 years, and two-thirds of workers are dissatisfied with the workload and the potential for advancement -- Lou.

DOBBS: All of those, for example, Chinese goods in the case of Wal-Mart, as we watch then very few manufacturing jobs in those -- for those products in this country and then retail the last refuge to see this happening, I mean, it's horrible.

PILGRIM: It certainly is. It's a ripple effect, and we're starting to see the last phase of this ripple, the people actually sell the goods. And then, of course, the last phase is people can't afford to buy them anymore.

DOBBS: Well, let's hope people wake up before we get to the so- called last phase. I think more and more Americans are waking up and have had a belly full of this nonsense.

Kitty, thank you very much.

Kitty Pilgrim.

Subprime mortgage lender New Century Financial today filed for bankruptcy. The lender, which specialized in loans to people with poor credit, was overwhelmed by customer defaults. This is the latest development in the subprime mortgage lending crisis. The real losers, of course, millions of middle class Americans.

Bill Tucker has one family's story.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Home mortgage defaults have reached record levels for the past three years. And they are on course to top 1.5 million this year -- another record.

JOHN TAYLOR, COMMUNITY REINVESTMENT COALITION: People all around the country are going to be leaving the keys on the table. They're learning that the system is not as fair and not as open and as honest that they -- as they perceived it to be when they walked in the office and asked this person for a loan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On that, half and half.

TUCKER: The Rosatos (ph) are one such family. Their loan began with a monthly payment of $2,800 at a rate of 6.75 percent. After two years, their monthly payment soared to $3,500 a month, and their rate jumped to almost 10 percent. The Rosatos (ph) claim they were approved for one loan but handed another at closing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We should have went to the mob for a loan. That's the bottom line. I think the mob would have gave is a better loan.

MIKE CALHOUN, CENTER FOR RESPONSIBLE LENDING: A lot of the problems so far have been in the subprime market. But that's an increasingly significant part of the mortgage market now. Almost 25 percent of all new home loans are subprime home loans.

TUCKER: A soon-to-be published report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University found that today's mortgage market is highly complex, offering products that are not explained and that many consumers don't understand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The mortgage market is desperate for a rewrite of the nation's settlement laws and a strong uniform lending standard to trap predators and bring them to justice.

TUCKER: Subprime loan lenders are already paying the price. Twenty-five have been forced into bankruptcy just within the last year.


TUCKER: As for homeowners looking to refinance and those looking to buy, the credit standards are tightening. And as overdue as that might be, it is expected to contribute to the overall slowing in the real estate market, Lou, both in prices and the number of homes built, according to the latest report from the Anderson report just released by UCLA.

DOBBS: The Anderson Business School at UCLA.

The idea that there are, frankly, idiots in both political parties saying that we should see, you know, greater freedom in the marketplace, where in the world is the comptroller of the currency? Where is the Federal Reserve? Where are the regulators and the self- policing associations to permit this kind of nonsense to go on?

TUCKER: That is the specific recommendation out of Harvard, that they need to sit down and realize this is not the mortgage market that it was 10 years ago, where the products were relatively simple. They are very complex instruments now, and people are getting exploited.

DOBBS: And one thing that is not complex is that a lot of people are really just getting screwed.

TUCKER: Right.

DOBBS: And that is the responsibility of government, if any Libertarians would like to take issue with that, or Republicans or Democrats, fine. It's unconscionable that this would be going on.

Thank you, Bill.

Bill Tucker.

Coming up here next, it's been called the biggest espionage case in a generation. An engineer, an American engineer, is on trial, accused of giving up U.S. military and technology secrets to the communist Chinese. We'll have a special report.

An amnesty agenda. Rallying support for amnesty for millions of illegal aliens during Holy Week. The Catholic Church once again pedaling immigration amnesty policy.

We'll have that special report.

And Newt Gingrich, well, he says bilingual education is junk. He equates bilingual education with the language of living in a ghetto.

We'll tell you about the firestorm that has created, and a great deal more.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: The communist Chinese government is narrowing its technology deficit by stealing American secrets any way that it can. An American engineer who worked for a defense contractor is now on trial. He's accused of stealing critical U.S. Navy technology for the Chinese government.

And as Christine Romans now reports, counterintelligence officials are calling this the most significant Chinese spying case in two decades.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Chi Mak is accused of stealing critical technology that allows submarines to run silently. His brother and sister-in-law were arrested two years ago at Los Angeles International Airport. They were bound for China with that military technology encrypted on CDs.

An engineer for this defense contractor, Chi Mak is accused of being a secret agent for the Chinese government. At his home, the FBI says it found a wish list from the Chinese government for American military technology.

MICHAEL PILLSBURY, PENTAGON CONSULTANT: Whoever was tasking him, it's really quite fascinating. They're looking ahead, five, 10, 15, 20 years for systems that the U.S. government doesn't have yet, but is working on and thinking about.

ROMANS: Chi Mak has pleaded not guilty. According to court documents, the FBI says he admitted to passing technology to the Chinese since 1983, including technology for the AEGIS radar system.

China is widely believed now to have its own version.

National counterintelligence executive Joel Brenner (ph) calls this case symptomatic of "an intensifying and troublesome pattern.". "The Chinese are leveraging the American R&D budget -- your tax dollars and mine -- in support of their own war-fighting capability."

Brenner (ph) and others say China's spying undermines the Navy in the Taiwan Strait and puts American lives at risk.

JOHN PIKE, GLOBALSECURITY.ORG: They obviously continue to be interested in trying to figure out how they can make their submarines quieter so that, for instance, if we got into a shooting war with him them on the Taiwan Straits, they would be able to use their submarines to sink our aircraft carriers before our aircraft carriers could intervene.

ROMANS: China's foreign ministry spokesman has called the accusations "utterly groundless with ulterior motives."


ROMANS: Chi Mak's lawyer says the engineer was not stealing secrets, he was simply sharing information in his field. He will argue this information was not secret and available at engineering conferences.

This trial will determine whether this engineer was a player in the vast Chinese espionage apparatus. According to counterintelligence officials and experts, Lou, there are some 140 agencies working very hard to spy on this country. China, they say, is at the top of the list.

DOBBS: A hundred and forty agencies?

ROMANS: That's right.

DOBBS: Three thousand front companies we know of, Chinese front companies, trying to steal American industrial secrets, in addition to the effort to steal U.S. technology.

Now, what I find particularly galling about this is that the president of the United States and neither the House speaker nor the leader of the Senate, is addressing this issue publicly. And everyone knows it's going on. We're reporting it on this broadcast.

It's incredible.

ROMANS: This case is raising some eyebrows, indeed, in Washington. And among the defense arena, they say this will be very important to what happens this week and next week in this case -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well, I would say. And it would be very important to find out what this government is going to do about this continued just onslaught against U.S. technology, secret technology and military technology.

Thank you very much.

Christine Romans.

Coming up here, 10 days in Iraq. Middle East expert Fouad Ajami is just back from the region. He joins me next.

And the Catholic Church meddling in policy and politics, pushing the illegal alien amnesty agenda as far as it can with a lot of friends in Washington.

And Newt Gingrich, he's under fire for describing bilingual education as the language of the ghetto.

We'll have the latest on that controversy, a great deal more. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: New Mexico's Governor Bill Richardson today signed into law a medical marijuana bill that makes New Mexico the 12th state to legalize the medical use of marijuana. This new law allows qualified patients to use medical marijuana for relief of their symptoms.

Governor Richardson has been a strong supporter of medical marijuana. He is the first presidential candidate to sign such a bill into law.

Two more Republicans are seeking their party's nomination for president. That brings the total of candidates for the GOP nomination to 10. Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado today announced his bid for the White House. The congressman says his primary focus will be illegal immigration and that his opponents are too weak on the issue.

Former Wisconsin governor and secretary of health and human services, Tommy Thompson, announced his candidacy yesterday. Thompson says he will be the reliable conservative in the race.

Another Thompson not yet in this race is doing very well in the polls in very short order, Fred Thompson, former two-term U.S. senator and actor on "Law & Order" for three seasons.

The first quarter campaign fundraising totals are starting to come in. And the race for the White House is already proving to be the most expensive in this nation's history.

Senator Hillary Clinton raised $28 million, nearly three times as much as the previous record holder, Al Gore.

On the Republican side, a surprise. First place from the former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney. Former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani, he raised $15 million, and Democratic candidate John Edwards raised 14 million.

John McCain's campaign said it was hoping for better results, raising $12.5 million. Senator Barack Obama's campaign has not yet reported its first quarter results.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is under fire again, this time for describing bilingual education as the language of the ghetto. Gingrich made those comments while speaking before the National Federation of Republican Women.

The former House speaker told the crowd English is the language of prosperity, while bilingual education teaches the language of living in the ghetto.

Gingrich went on to say English should be the official language of the United States, a position he's long held and supported. Gingrich also said the government should stop printing election ballots in multiple languages.

We should note that Gingrich is considering a run for the 2000 (sic) GOP presidential nomination.

The Catholic Church is intensifying its political push for illegal alien amnesty. As Casey Wian now reports, the church is even invoking the name of Cesar Chavez, the famous labor leader, who was actually adamantly opposed to illegal immigration.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Catholic bishops in California led a rally Saturday to promote amnesty for illegal aliens and to denounce recent raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In Dallas on Palm Sunday, another rally, seeking legalization for the estimated 12 to 20 million illegal aliens already in this country.

KEVIN APPLEBY, U.S. CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS: These are local initiatives, by and large. It's not to say the church nationally isn't doing its own campaign and encouraging local dioceses and bishops to be active. But a lot of these rallies you see are things that are reacting to local initiatives or to enforcement raids that are occurring all across the country. And they're in some ways a bit spontaneous.

WIAN: Still, Catholic Church leaders are aggressively promoting their amnesty agenda. They've met with Ted Kennedy, the Senate's leading amnesty advocate.

CARDINAL ROGER MAHONY, ARCHDIOCESE OF LOS ANGELES: All of us owe Senator Kennedy a great debt of gratitude for his vision. WIAN: Vowed to fast during Lent in support of illegal aliens and dedicated a mass to Cesar Chavez. The church and many amnesty advocates ignore the fact that the late United Farm Workers Union leader was a fierce opponent of illegal immigration. Chavez recognized that cheap illegal alien labor drove down wages and hurt working conditions for legal workers.

Yet, Los Angeles cardinal Roger Mahony urged worshipers to keep Chavez' spirit alive and pray for so-called comprehensive immigration reform.

The Conference of Catholic Bishops says a poll will be released soon, showing that a little more than half of church members support comprehensive immigration reform.


WIAN: Of course, that means nearly half are opposed to amnesty. The bishops say they recognize their members are divided, and they say they're trying to educate church members on the issue -- Lou.

DOBBS: I think it might be interesting to see which half needs the education.

The idea that there is anything spontaneous about the Catholic Church, the Council of Bishops, on the issue of amnesty for illegal aliens. I mean, I thought, for crying out loud, that Christians were supposed to be honest.

WIAN: Well, they say that these are, in fact -- they say there is a national effort going on, and they are campaigning for what they call comprehensive immigration reform.

But they say these specific rallies that we showed you video of are actually spontaneous expressions of support for the immigrant community, because there have been raids, with ICE doing its job and arresting illegal aliens in many communities around the country, Lou.

DOBBS: I suppose that I am lacking in faith when it comes to that assertion. Thank you very much, Casey.

Now tonight's poll. The question: do you believe that the secretary of homeland security should be fired for his department's failure to secure our nation's ports and borders? Yes or no. It's only been, by the way, 5 1/2 years since September 11. Cast your vote at We'll have the results here later in the broadcast.

Up next the mayor of Costa Mesa, California, will be here to discuss the growing number of illegal aliens in his county's jail and the strain it's putting on his city.

And one of the world's top authorities on the Middle East, Fouad Ajami, joins me. He's just returned from Baghdad. Are things improving, or is it simply propaganda? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DOBBS: The Supreme Court today refused to hear the latest appeal filed by detainees held at Guantanamo. The 6-3 ruling denied appeals from two groups of prisoners, all of them non-citizens, about how they will face justice.

At issue, the rights of detainees to go to court to contest the rules that classify them as war criminals, a clear victory for the Bush administration.

Republican presidential (sic) Senator John McCain and other GOP lawmakers are in Iraq this week. Senator McCain insisting security has improved in parts of Baghdad. He also says there are areas of Baghdad where Americans can walk around freely.

My next guest has just returned from Baghdad: Fouad Ajami, professor of Middle East studies at Johns Hopkins University, one of the country's leading experts on the Middle East; also, the author of the book "The Foreigner's Gift: The Americans, the Arabs and Iraqis in Iraq".

Fouad, good to have you with us.

FOUAD AJAMI, AUTHOR, "THE FOREIGNER'S GIFT": Thank you very much for having me.

DOBBS: Welcome back. John McCain has set off a furor saying that things are terrific...

AJAMI: Right.

DOBBS: ... as he's delivered into a secured market by two Black Hawk helicopters, supported by attack helicopters, sitting with an armored vest -- standing with an armored vest, declaring such, surrounded by American troops to protect him. What did you find?

AJAMI: Well, maybe I'm guilty of the same thing. I have a reasonable measure of optimism about what I saw in Baghdad. There is an admonition by our commander, our top commander in Iraq.

DOBBS: David Petraeus.

AJAMI: David Petraeus, a good friend and honorable man. He's told his commanders, his colonels, his officers, watch for adjectives. Don't say anything about Iraq. Give us time. We have time.

This is really -- this the final gift, the final obligation, if you will, the final run. And by August, by this summer, General Petraeus has really made the pledge to himself and to the president and to our country that he will tell us whether the security plan has worked or not.

DOBBS: And the definition of working or not working with troops and we are now -- another 9,000 troops are now being moved forward to maintain troop levels, moving -- many of them, some 5,000 of them, being moved ahead with less time to return to domestic duty before being sent back. Other troops being held. How do we define success?

AJAMI: Well, this is the last turn of the wheel. As again to, quote Petraeus one more time, he said you can't commute to the fight. The old strategy rested on this kind of forward operating basis that we put our soldiers in these big castles and they went out into the battle zone.

And the new emphasis now is, again, you can't commute to the fight. You have to be with the Iraqis and you have to give the Iraqis the final chance.

By the way, Prime Minister Maliki, this government that we have invested our effort in, is really coming around. I mean, I've seen Maliki, I've known Maliki. I've spent quite a bit of time with him.

DOBBS: Let's talk about, Fouad -- the fact is that last month, American troops, we suffered horrendous casualties.

AJAMI: Sure.

DOBBS: Even in some cases, some suggesting we were suffering more casualties than the Iraqi forces themselves.

AJAMI: Right.

DOBBS: Fouad, you are an expert. Do you -- at what point does this country say that our general staff has been so incompetent over the course of four years, THAT they can no longer be regarded as the stewards of these fine young men and women, that we need to get them back in the country to learn what a general does. That this president, the arrogance of asking the American people to be patient one more time, at what point do we say this is madness?

AJAMI: Well, I think we're getting there. And I appreciate your passion. I understand this. I share a good deal of it. And at the risk of using the personal pronoun, if you will -- one should have a ban on the personal pronoun. I have a nephew in Iraq and the American military. So I understand this passion.

I think our country has invested in this effort. Our honor is engaged. Our interests are engaged. At some point, you're exactly right. We will get to the point of we tell the Iraqis this is your country. You save it. And you rescue it. You claim it. If the Sunnis...

DOBBS: My God, we've been there for four years.

AJAMI: We have settled down.

DOBBS: Is this a bulletin that has arrived at the Pentagon?

AJAMI: Right.

DOBBS: Is this a bulletin that has arrived at the White House? That we need to honor the sacrifices that have been made, the hundreds of billions of dollars that have been spent, and al-Maliki should wake up and suddenly realize, this is real? You talked about a gift.

AJAMI: Right. Well, we've given them this gift of liberty. I mean, we've given them...

DOBBS: Indeed we have.

AJAMI: I went to a Shiite shrine to visit on one evening and, you know, someone was showing me the teakwood, the Burmese teakwood on the door of the shrine. And he said, "Look, this -- you know, this wood resists rain and sun and shine." And a man said, "The sun didn't shine here for 35 years." There is something noble there, but it has been very costly for us, in blood and in treasure.

DOBBS: What was done, the gift that was given...

AJAMI: Absolutely.

DOBBS: ... has been corroded by incompetent leadership of the general staff, by a confused conduct and articulation of a strategy on the part of this administration.

At what point should the American people, with utter fidelity to our national interests and our national values, say enough?

AJAMI: Well, I think we're getting there. I think we're getting there. I honestly think this is the final round, if you will. And that's what, when General Petraeus says look, sometime by the summer we'll be able to tell our country, look, we've done the best we can in this very difficult place called Iraq.

If these people cannot -- if they don't want a country, if they don't want a national compact between the Sunnis and the Shiites and the Kurds, we can't really force it on them.

But we can't -- I mean, I think -- I appreciate your passion about this. But I honestly think we are now coming to the moment of reckoning. The moment of reckoning is about four or five months or so.

DOBBS: A movement reckoning, the inflection point. What is the result of a policy? Because this Congress appears to be, whether it will be thwarted by veto on the part of this president, whether it will be unsuccessful in changing direction, what is the course of the American policy?

AJAMI: One thing we know that the course of American policy...

DOBBS: What will be the consequences?

AJAMI: The course of American policy cannot be set by 535 secretaries of state. That's the combined total of the House and the Senate.

As in the memorable words of "The L.A. Times", which is quite a liberal paper, that said do we really need General Pelosi? We cannot have members of Congress make foreign policy. We have -- we have an incredible burden in the lands of the Islamic world. It's true. Our -- much of our effort in the world is invested in this burning land of the Islamic world.

And we are invested in this Islamic world. We're invested in its fires, and we're invested in its furies. It's a very, very costly burden. And we remain there. And our burden in Iraq is part of this broader burden in the Arab world.

DOBBS: If we cannot shift that burden, in the case of Iraq, to the government led by, in this case, al-Maliki, then we have failed without question. Would you agree?

AJAMI: Yes, well, I think -- I think at some point, I -- you know, someone asked me for my ultimate summation of the war. I said, you know, occasionally, we will come to a point where we might say, look, this was a noble war. The question is it a noble success or a noble failure?

We might -- we might come to the point where we say, look, our best intentions didn't work. I honestly want and hope and believe and maybe was somewhat encouraged on this trip to see that I think the Iraqis are getting to the point where they understand this is their country and they must redeem it.

DOBBS: They must redeem it.

AJAMI: Yes, absolutely.

DOBBS: How optimistic are you tonight that that will happen by summer?

AJAMI: Well, to be honest with you, I was quite pessimistic before I went. This has always been the case for me, Lou. Every time I go to Iraq, when I'm in Baghdad and after I leave Baghdad, I'm slightly more optimistic.

You know, I dubbed it the tale of two cities. There is despair in Washington, and there is more determination in Baghdad.

DOBBS: I love the -- the elegance of your language when you talk been despair and optimism, but there is also the empirical world, as we look out upon cause and effect and the conduct of U.S. policy and the very real lives, American lives have been lost, as well as Iraqi lives.

AJAMI: Absolutely.

DOBBS: Twenty-four thousand of our young men and women wounded.


DOBBS: This is becoming a very pragmatic decision for the United States.

AJAMI: Absolutely. Absolutely. It's -- the stakes are high, and it's about our position in the Islamic world. And it's about the decision we made in 2003. A decision that was made with popular consent and with congressional intent.

DOBBS: Based on absolutely false, false intelligence.

AJAMI: Fair enough. But I think our country sanctioned this war. Then we had buyer's remorse.

DOBBS: Well, as buyers who are defrauded often do.

Thank you very much. As always, it is a great pleasure to have you with us, Professor Fouad Ajami.

AJAMI: Thank you.

DOBBS: We thank you. Come back soon, please.

AJAMI: Thank you very much. Thank you for having me.

DOBBS: A reminder now to vote in our poll. Do you believe that the secretary of homeland security should be fired for failure to secure this nation's ports and borders? Yes or no? Please cast your vote at We'll have the results coming up here in just a few moments.

Up next, the pet food recall is expanding. The poisonous ingredient, imported from China, having an even greater and more devastating effect. We'll have the latest for you on that.

And the mayor of Costa Mesa, California, joins us tonight. We'll be discussing a new program that allows police officers to check the immigration -- immigration status of criminals who are in this country illegally. Imagine that. And it's working. Imagine that, as well. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Nestle Purina is joining the list of companies recalling that contaminated pet food. The food contains a tainted ingredient that originated in China. Wheat gluten, it is a pet food additive found in the pet food. The gluten was contaminated with melamine while it was being processed in China.

Melamine is most commonly used to make fertilizers and plastic utensils.

Now, amongst the hundreds of pets that have been sickened, the national reports show that only 14 pets died because of the contaminated food. It is not clear how accurate the numbers are being -- that have been reported.

Turning now to the illegal immigration crisis in this country, in a new program, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, is working with two California jails, trying to determine the number of illegal aliens being detained.

Since December the number of illegal aliens in jail in Orange County and Costa Mesa has tripled.

Joining me now is Allan Mansoor. He's the mayor of Costa Mesa, California.

Good to have you with us, Mr. Mayor.


DOBBS: These numbers are really quite extraordinary: 180 illegal aliens put on detainer by ICE since December. Then in January, 441 total bookings. The numbers just keep moving up in what is not really that large a community. What in the world has been your reaction to these numbers?

MAYOR ALLAN MANSOOR, COSTA MESA, CALIFORNIA: Very happy with the success. It's been very successful in reducing and preventing crime. This is simply about being accountable to the rule of law.

DOBBS: Being -- and you had -- you faced a lot of the opposition as you began this program. Is that opposition waning or intensifying?

MANSOOR: There's always going to be people that are opposed, as there are.

DOBBS: Sure.

MANSOOR: But if we look the other way on upholding our immigration laws when someone is here illegally and commits a crime, then we're not being compassionate to the victims of crime, nor are we being accountable to those who have come here legally, as my parents did. This is simply about protecting the public safety.

DOBBS: And protecting the public safety, the Orange County Mexican consul, Luis Miguel Ortiz Haro told "The L.A. Times" he handled twice as many deported immigrants' cases in February as compared to the same month last year.

He also said this of the policy, if we could show everyone at home what he said: "It is not addressing the root causes of this immigration, and it is separating families."

What's your reaction to that statement?

MANSOOR: Well, certainly, there's a lot that other countries can be doing to improve their situation. You know, we have to look at the effects that this is having on the citizens of our community, the victims of crime. And if we truly want to be compassionate, we need to show compassion to the victims of crime here.

DOBBS: And working with the Mexican consulate, the number of Mexican consulates, it's almost 50 of them across the country. What is the relationship with the consulate there now?

MANSOOR: Well, you know, our focus is on the people that are being arrested through the normal course of an officer's duties in Costa Mesa. DOBBS: Right.

MANSOOR: And the ICE agent is simply in our jail and is screening them. And they are flagged for deportation if they are determined to be here illegally. It is up to them if they want to contact the Mexican consulate.

DOBBS: And with the Mexican consulate complaining about this, is it your sense that this was a policy that is going to stand? Is ICE pleased with the results? Are you sufficiently pleased? Is the sheriff sufficiently pleased, the local police sufficiently satisfied with these results to proceed with the program?

MANSOOR: I'm very happy with the results. I don't want to speak for ICE. I'm sure that they are happy, though. And it shows that it's being effective. How can they argue against upholding our laws and being accountable to the American public?

DOBBS: Well, Mr. Mayor, as you know, there are a lot of folks arguing with exactly that.

Allan Mansoor, we thank you very much for being with us here. Mayor of Costa Mesa, California.

MANSOOR: Thank you.

DOBBS: Coming up next, the results of our poll. We'll have more of your thoughts about this country's government and corporate elites' war on our middle class. Stay with us.


DOBBS: The results of our poll tonight: 98 percent of you say the secretary of homeland security should be fired for failure to secure this nation's ports and borders.

Time now to look at some of your thoughts.

Clarence in California said, "Let's hope the board at Circuit City takes note of the savings in terminating more than 3,000 of its employees by hiring new people at a lower salary. By applying the same rationale to their executive staff, think of how much money they could save."

David in Texas: "Not only does the Bush administration fail to recognize the struggles of working Americans they do not care. They are only worried about their corporate cronies and their bottom lines."

Jim in Ontario, Canada, wrote in to say, "Perhaps U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton would be willing to put himself on the front lines of the border and see how he reacts when a ruthless drug smuggler appears to be aiming at him!"

And Melody in Connecticut: "We have a terrible adolescent drug problem in America, but instead of stopping the drug dealers, our U.S. attorney is rewarding them!"

Doris in Alabama: "Johnny Sutton made me think that when it comes to our southern border, Mexico is running the White House and Department of Homeland Security."

We love hearing from you. Please send us your thoughts to, and we will always try to get as many of those on the air as possible.

We thank you for being with us. And please join us tomorrow, when among our guests will be Congressman Charlie Rangel, the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Also the author of the new book, "I Haven't Had a Bad Day Since", on his rise from the streets of Harlem to the halls of power in the U.S. Congress. Please be with us.

For all of us here, thank you for watching. Good night from New York. "THE SITUATION ROOM" begins now, with Suzanne Malveaux filling in for Wolf Blitzer -- Suzanne.