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CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer

Interview With Erik Prince; Interview With Shaukat Aziz

Aired October 14, 2007 - 11:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's 11:00 a.m. in Washington, 8:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, and 6:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you are watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "Late Edition."
President Bush's Iraq war policy is under blistering new criticism, this time from the former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. Retired Army Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez says the White House, the Congress and the State Department all share the blame for what he's calling a nightmare with no end in sight.

Joining us now from Greenville, South Carolina, to give his take on this and more is the leading member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.

Senator, welcome back to "Late Edition."

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Good morning, Wolf. Good morning.

BLITZER: Let me play a little clip of what General Sanchez said on Friday, and I want your reaction. Listen to this.


LT. GEN. RICARDO SANCHEZ (RET.), FMR. U.S. COMMANDER IN IRAQ: Continued manipulations and adjustments to our military strategy will not achieve victory. The best we can do with this flawed approach is stave off defeat.

There has been a glaring, unfortunate display of incompetent strategic leadership within our national leaders. As the Japanese proverb says, "Action without vision is a nightmare." There is no question that America is living a nightmare with no end in sight.


BLITZER: Now, he speaks with some authority. He was the commander right after the collapse of the Saddam Hussein regime. What do you say?

GRAHAM: I'm astounded, really. I was in Baghdad several times when he was in charge. I was there the day the U.N. facility was bombed, killing the U.N. diplomat. And I asked him every time, "Do we have enough people here?"

Senator McCain was an early critic of the strategy of not having enough troops on the ground. And every time we talked to General Sanchez, we got pushback, we have enough troops, guard and reserves aren't being strained.

I appreciate his service, but Abu Ghraib got out of control under his watch, the war in general got out of control under his watch. And it's not time to blame people, but his criticism is a bit astounding to me given his role in the war itself.

BLITZER: And the criticism doesn't just stop there. Let me play yet another clip from what he had to say. Listen to this.


SANCHEZ: After more than four years of fighting, America continues its desperate struggle in Iraq without any concerted effort to devise a strategy that will achieve victory in that war-torn country or in the greater conflict against extremism.

From a catastrophically flawed, unrealistically optimistic war plan to the administration's latest surge strategy, this administration has failed to employ and synchronize its political, economic and military power.


BLITZER: You just came back from Iraq, Senator Graham. You were on active duty as a reserve lawyer in the U.S. military and you've been a big defender of this so-called surge strategy, saying the signs are positive, that it seems to be working right now, it just needs more time. He says it's not working. I wonder if you want to respond to that.

GRAHAM: I would like to by putting it in context that I was also one of the biggest critics of the old strategy that General Sanchez and others implemented. I cannot tell you how many times I directly asked General Sanchez, "Do we have enough troops to do the job here?"

Abu Ghraib happened on his watch. There were 600 people in the prison in August. By October there were 6,000. We obviously did not have enough people on the ground for years in Iraq. The security situation deteriorated.

Finally, we are getting it right. The surge has been successful beyond my expectations. Local reconciliation, politically, is ongoing in Iraq. Now you've got Shia groups turning against the Mahdi Army as the Sunnis did in Anbar.

But the big problem is in Baghdad. And security is better, but we have not had political breakthroughs in Baghdad. We have at the local level and I hope it will reach Baghdad soon. It is much better after the surge than it was before.

BLITZER: Well, let me just pinpoint to you, Senator Graham, are you suggesting that this criticism that we're now hearing from General Sanchez is what? Payback time because he was denied a fourth star as a result of the investigation of Abu Ghraib? GRAHAM: I don't want to put any motives on what he's saying. I just want to put in context of what he's saying. He was on the ground for well over a year there, and I know Senator McCain and myself point-blank asked him and Bremer, "Do you have enough people over here?"

Because every time we would go back, Wolf, it would be worse than the time before. And I do understand what happened at Abu Ghraib. We didn't have enough people there to handle the situation. They were poorly trained. They got overwhelmed by circumstance. And we certainly didn't have situational awareness on his watch.

The surge is a direct result of having to make up for mistakes early on. As far as I'm concerned, he was part of that mistake by being a commander who did not express now -- then what he's saying now. And I know he was asked because I asked him.

It's not time to look backward, it's a time to look forward. And what I'm looking for is a political breakthrough in Baghdad to coincide with the security provided by the surge. And I hope the Maliki government will step up to the plate and do something meaningful by the end of the year. And if they don't, I'm going to have a very different view about their capability of reconciling the country.

BLITZER: Because you told Time magazine the other day -- I'm going to read the quote and I want you to elaborate on what you said. You said, "If they don't pull it together in the next 90 days, I don't think they are ever going to do it. If they don't deliver in 90 days, I will openly say the chances for political reconciliation are remote."

All right. So what does that mean? They've got three months to get the job done?

GRAHAM: Well, what it means is that the surge has provided a level of security that I have never seen before in years. And they now have a security environment to reconcile the country. Local reconciliation that began in Anbar is spreading through Diyala and other provinces.

So, yes, now the conditions are ripe for the Maliki government to have a breakthrough on oil revenue sharing, on de-Baathification and provincial elections, things that they say are important. And if they don't do it by the end of the year, it will be incumbent upon us, as a nation, to devise a new political strategy to find a way forward or create a stable Iraq.

I'm hopeful they can. President Talabani told me last week in Washington he thought they would have a reconciliation package by the end of the year. If they don't, then to me, the Maliki government would be a failed government, not just dysfunctional. We'd have to look at a new political strategy to bring about reconciliation. I hope they'll get their act together.

BLITZER: Well, is it -- what would that mean, a new strategy? Because I met with President Talabani. He was here on this program last Sunday as well. And he's very, very positive. He's very confident.

But what happens if they fail to divide up the oil, if they fail to get those elections, they don't disband all the various militias by the end of the year? Then what does the United States do?

GRAHAM: Well, there are people who are succeeding. There are people on the ground in Iraq who are reconciling their differences at the local level, look for new horses to ride. It is clear to me that the security brought about by the surge is bringing people out of the shadows saying no to the extremists. They said no in large numbers to Al Qaida in Anbar, and now the Shia groups are saying no to the Shia extremists.

So I am hopeful that some of these people at the local level will have a stronger voice. And I'm hopeful that Talabani, Maliki, and Hashemi and all the major players can have a breakthrough.

I'm asking them to do things they say are important for their country. The conditions are right now and, quite honestly, if they can't do it by the end of the year, I have real doubts that this group will ever do it so we need a new political strategy to find a group that can.

BLITZER: There is now new tension, as you know, Senator Graham, along the border between Iraq and Turkey, specifically the Kurdish part of Iraq and the Turkish government. The Turks are also very upset about a resolution that just passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee that condemns Turkey for the genocide of Armenians during World War I.

The Turkish prime minister saying on Thursday, Abdullah Gul, "Unfortunately, some politicians in the United States have once more dismissed calls for common sense and made an attempt to sacrifice big issues for minor domestic political games."

The tension with a NATO ally like Turkey is palpable. Turkey has recalled its ambassador from Washington. I don't remember the last time a NATO ally has recalled its ambassador from Washington. What's going on?

GRAHAM: Well, I think the comment you read is pretty accurate. There is a push within the Congress by Armenian groups to have a genocide resolution passed.

I'm not worried about World War I and the problems with World War I. I'm worried about what I think is World War III, a war against extremists. And Iraq is the central battle front, and Turkey has been a very good ally.

We've had problems with Turkey, but the problem that Turkey has with the northern part of Iraq, if you think it's bad now, let the country fail. Let Iraq fall apart and have a Kurdish separatist movement in the north, allow a Kurdish independent state in the north. You really will have problems between Turkey and the Kurds in the north.

That's why I think Senator Biden's idea is ill-founded about partitioning the country, having ethnic and religious apartheid in Iraq, because there will be regional consequences.

So I wish Congress would abandon this effort to deal with problems between Turkey and Armenia and focus on trying to save Iraq from the becoming a failed state, and not creating tensions between Turkey and the northern part of Iraq by arguing that the country should be partitioned. I think that's a very bad idea.

BLITZER: Finally, Senator Graham, a front-page story in The New York Times today detailing what it says was an Israeli air strike against an emerging Syrian nuclear facility with the assistance of North Korea. The article says, among other things, "Israel's air attack on Syria last month was directed against the site that Israeli and American intelligence analysts judge was a partly constructed nuclear reactor, apparently modeled on one North Korea has used to create its stockpile of nuclear weapons fuel."

What do you make of that Israeli strike? What's going on there?

GRAHAM: I don't know all the details, but I can imagine if I were the Israeli prime minister and I thought the Syrian government was acquiring a nuclear capability and I could hit it militarily, I would. So it's just a reality. Do we want Syria and Iran to become nuclear powers? If we do, it will be chaos in the region for years to come, and the whole region will go nuclear.

So I understand the Israeli concerns, given the statements and actions by the Syrian government. I don't know the details. But to my colleagues on Capitol Hill, do we really want to sit on the sidelines and let Iran go nuclear? To the Russians, to President Putin, are you looking really closely at the evidence about the Iranian nuclear desires?

We live in a very perilous time. It is now time for the international community to act responsibly against rogue states like Syria and Iran. Rather than give them a pass and putting all the burden on Israel, we need to come together as a world to push back against dictatorships and theocracies in the region that are trying to destabilize their neighbors.

That's why I hope we could come together stronger in Congress to push back against Iran, contain them by a stable Iraq, and I do understand why the Israelis would be concerned about a nuclear program in Syria. I am.

BLITZER: Senator Lindsey Graham, thanks very much for coming in.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

BLITZER: And up next, we'll get a different point of view on the U.S. policy toward Iraq, Iran. The former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, he's standing by live. Plus, Pakistan's prime minister discusses the war on terror and the political pressure facing his president, Pervez Musharraf. We'll go live to Islamabad later this hour.

You're watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.


BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Coming up in our next hour, we're going to interview the Blackwater founder, Erik Prince. We'll speak with him live as he defends his company's private security contractors in Iraq. That's coming up here on "Late Edition."

But joining us now with his views on the war in Iraq and beyond is the former national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski. He served during the Jimmy Carter administration. Dr. Brzezinski, welcome back.


BLITZER: Ricardo Sanchez is being blisteringly tough on the current U.S. strategy, what has happened in the war in Iraq. He was the former U.S. military commander in Iraq. But he's also saying the United States simply can't withdraw. Listen to what else he says.


SANCHEZ: Precipitous withdrawal will unquestionably lead to chaos in my opinion that would endanger the stability of the greater Middle East. If this occurs, it would have significant adverse effects on the international community. Coalition and American force presence will be required at some level for the foreseeable future.


BLITZER: You agree with him on that?

BRZEZINSKI: Well, in part. I don't know of anyone who advocates, quote, unquote, "a precipitous withdrawal." But I think we have to give more substance what to what was already urged much earlier by Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton, which is a serious attempt at a political resolution which would enable us to leave and which would create a framework of cooperation in the region designed to subsume -- to absorb any potential escalation of violence within Iraq.

BLITZER: But isn't the administration doing that?

BRZEZINSKI: No, it is not.

BLITZER: They're not trying to find some political settlement?

BRZEZINSKI: We haven't even made any effort to talk to the Iraqi leaders. All of them, not just the ones in the green zone, as to when we are to consider leaving, which would be the date for termination of U.S. presence.

Instead, we're talking about a prolonged presence. There have been comments from some people in the White House that the example for that is Korea, where we have been for 50 years. We're building a monumental fortress in the middle of Baghdad for our American embassy. There is a lot of other military facilities.

In effect what we are doing is conveying the intention to maintain an essentially colonial presence in a region full of embittered memories of colonialism.

BLITZER: Because the argument is that after World War II, the United States had a presence in Germany, after the Korean war in Korea, and the U.S. still has a significant military presence in Germany and Korea to this very day. And that's not seen as a colonial presence in either of those countries.

BRZEZINSKI: That's right. Because in neither case was the war a colonial war. In both cases, Japanese and Germans recognized they had been fundamentally wrong and they wanted to be part of the sort of American-led global community. In the case of Korea, the Koreans felt they were invaded from outside, including by the Chinese. So they welcomed the American presence.

In Iraq, the war is essentially a colonial war in the post- colonial era, and that's the heart and essence of the difficulties we encounter.

BLITZER: Because they argue, and top Iraqi official say this was a war that liberated Iraq from the ruthless Saddam Hussein, and isn't a colonial war.

BRZEZINSKI: A lot of Iraqis were glad to get rid of Hussein, but they're not pleased to be occupied by the United States and mentored by the United States and told by the United States how they have to shape up. The senator a few minutes ago said that if they don't do what we want by Christmas, we're going to replace the leaders.

What is this? This is a colony. The point is, Iraq will never be stabilized in that fashion until we talk to all of the Iraqi leaders, and not just the ones in the green zone, about setting jointly -- and I emphasize the word "jointly" -- a date for a departure.

And on that basis, credibly saying to the region, we are seriously considering leaving. Let's now discuss how to stabilize the region. Instead, we are developing this obsessive, delusional narrative about this being part of World War III or even World War IV of the U.S. fighting against jihad and Islam at large. This is going to continue isolating us in the world and will plunge us into an escalating war, which is the real danger that we face.

BLITZER: The argument, counterargument, is that if the U.S. were to withdraw, then this would be a great victory for Iran, Iraq's neighbor, which would fill that vacuum very quickly. General Petraeus, David Petraeus, the current U.S. military commander in Iraq, says Iran is already playing a very negative role in Iraq and could only get worse. Listen to this clip.


U.S. GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS: Let's be very clear. There is no debate that the individuals who we have detained are Quds Force members. We have confirmation from a variety of different intelligence sources and methods. So that's very, very clear. The Quds Force controls the policy for Iraq.


BLITZER: The Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. He says they are deeply involved in undermining the U.S. strategy in Iraq and in effect, assisting those who are killing Americans.

BRZEZINSKI: Well, look. We're in the same time saying to Iranians, regime change. We are supporting Iranian refugee or exile movements that are trying to destabilize Iran. We are protecting an Iranian Mujahadin force in northeast Iraq which occasionally engages in strikes into Iran. In those circumstances, are you really surprised at what the Iranians are doing?

Beyond that, there is a larger problem, namely, Iran is there. Iran's going to be there. We cannot have exclusive influence in Iraq and simply try to keep Iran somehow or other isolated or even undermined. That is not a solution for stability in the region.

And the point is that no one in the world really supports our policy in Iraq. Some countries are willing to go along deferentially but are not really engaged in supporting us. The British are basically withdrawing from Iraq. And what we need to do is to talk seriously to the Iraqis as to when we will leave, at what point they take over, and on that basis we can try to arrange some regional accommodation. But we're not trying to do that.

BLITZER: I want you to listen to the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice. She and other top administration officials, including the defense secretary, Robert Gates, and the president, are deeply concerned about this resolution in the House of Representatives on genocide, accusing Turkey of committing genocide against the Armenians during World War I.

Turkey, a NATO ally, is very upset about this. Listen to Secretary Rice.


SECRETARY OF STATE CONDOLEEZZA RICE: The passage of this resolution at this time would indeed be very problematic for everything that we are trying to do in the Middle East because we are very dependent on a good Turkish strategic ally to help with our efforts.


BLITZER: On this issue, where do you stand? BRZEZINSKI: Well, basically first of all, I believe that the attrition in our relations with Turkey -- and incidentally, also with Russia -- is a consequence of us being bogged down in Iraq. And being bogged down means we have less leverage, and problems have begun to get out of hand. And that is happening in the case of relations with Turkey.

As far as a resolution is concerned, I never realized that the House of Representatives was some sort of an academy of learning that passes judgment on historical events. History's full of terrible crimes, and there is no doubt that many Armenians were massacred in World War I. But whether the House of Representatives should be passing resolutions whether that should be classified as genocide or a huge massacre is I don't think any of its business. It has nothing to do with passing laws, how to run the United States. That's where the constitution created the House of Representatives for.

BLITZER: So you say the House of Representatives should not get involved...

BRZEZINSKI: Well, if it gets into that, what about a lot of other massacres? The '19 (ph) massacres, for example, between the Chinese and Japanese in which the Japanese killed a lot of Chinese civilians? The various things pertaining to the gulag in the Soviet Union. We accept the Holocaust as a case of genocide because it's part of history, but we don't pass resolutions on these things saying what is and what is not genocide.

BLITZER: What do you make of this Israeli air strike last month on this Syrian facility that The New York Times today is describing as some sort of emerging nuclear facility that was being built with the assistance of North Korea?

BRZEZINSKI: You know, leaving aside the military aspects, which, judging from what one reads, particularly from U.S./Israeli intelligence sources as reported in the mass media, one gets the sense this was not a major nuclear establishment capable of generating some sort of weapons threat to Israel in the near future.

So, I rather suspect this was a demonstration act by the Israelis, particularly because the government is weak and very much beleaguered, to show that the Israelis are still determined, especially after the debacle that they had in Lebanon, perhaps directed as a signal to Iran but not as something comparable even to the attacks on -- years ago on the reactor in Iraq, which was far more advanced and far more potentially weapons capable.

BLITZER: Dr. Brzezinski, thanks for coming in.

And just ahead, the former president of Mexico, Vicente Fox. He thinks bigotry is playing a role in the U.S. immigration debate. You're going to hear what he has to say right after the break.


BLITZER: The former president of Mexico, Vicente Fox, has a unique perspective on the United States as a neighbor. Now that he's out of office, he's speaking his mind and raising some eyebrows over the issue of immigration. I spoke with Vicente Fox this week in "The Situation Room."


BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about a comment you made the other day, on Monday. It's generating some controversy, and I want you to explain what you meant. You said this: "The xenophobics, the racists, those who feel they are a superior race, they are deciding the future of this nation," referring to the United States. What did you mean by that?

VICENTE FOX, FORMER PRESIDENT OF MEXICO: As long as, Wolf, we don't get a framework, a reform on immigration, there seems to be disorder, illegality, and under this empty space of institutions not meeting the challenge and building this framework. What I perceive here is fear in this nation today. And fear is not a good adviser. And I don't think fear should guide the decision on...

BLITZER: So what you're saying -- excuse me for interrupting. As long as there's no comprehensive immigration reform, you see xenophobics and racists, what, as taking over. But who are you talking about? Who are you referring to?

FOX: Well, xenophobics like Minutemen in Arizona. Violent, aggressive and just against immigration and against Mexico.


BLITZER: You really think they are going to take over, they're going to be in charge of the United States?

FOX: No. No, no, no. But they are in a way guiding the process, because institutions are not meeting the challenge. As we say in bull fighting, you have to take the bull by the horns. This is a 100-year issue, immigration. And it can be an asset, a very strong asset to a nation, and it can be a win-win situation between Mexico and United States.


BLITZER: Vicente Fox speaking with me earlier in the week in "The Situation Room."

Up next here on "Late Edition," political uncertainty in Pakistan. Is it freezing the country's efforts in the war on terror and the hunt for Osama bin Laden? We'll have a live conversation with the Pakistani prime minister, Shaukat Aziz. He's in Islamabad.

"Late Edition" will be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. This week, Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, won a new five-year term, but almost all the opposition parties boycotted the election, and the country's Supreme Court must now decide whether Musharraf can remain president while also maintaining his role as Pakistan's top military man.

This is all unfolding amid heavy fighting between Pakistan's military and Islamic militants, including Taliban and Al Qaida forces along the border with Afghanistan.

Joining us now from Islamabad is Pakistan's prime minister, Shaukat Aziz.

Prime Minister, welcome back to "Late Edition." And let me start with a quote from The Economist magazine reacting to the elections that just occurred in Pakistan. "This election," it says, "was legally dubious. Opposition parties resigned from the parliament, rather than endorsed this travesty. Even Benazir Bhutto's party, although its members stayed put, abstained from the vote."

What happened? Why should people believe this election was legitimate?

SHAUKAT AZIZ, PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER: Well, the election was very legitimate and in line with the constitution, was held by an independent election commission. The opposition did not participate. One party, the Pakistan People's Party, abstained.

But I think, Wolf, the key point here is that President Musharraf secured 57 percent of the vote, and whether the opposition had participated or not, we had a comfortable majority in the electoral college which is all the parliaments in Pakistan.

As such, President Musharraf had a convincing victory and the negative vote in any election can be either people not showing up, or people voting against the candidate.

In this case, they did not participate in the election, but the result would have been the same. And now the courts are just finalizing the legal issues which surround the election and we hope that this issue will be put to bed in the next few days.

BLITZER: Will the president, President Musharraf, agree to give up his uniform and step down as the chief of the Pakistani military and just be president, the civilian leader of Iraq, and give up those dual hats?

AZIZ: Absolutely. He has actually -- his lawyer has stated in court that he will do so, and once he is elected officially as president, he will doff his uniform. He will have a single office which will be the civilian president of Pakistan.

In fact, the new army chief to be designated has already been announced. He is now the vice chief. And in the announcement we have said that as soon as the president starts his new term, this gentleman will be the new chief of army staff. BLITZER: What if the supreme court comes up with their decision that the election was illegal, was not justified because he was both president and army chief? What happens then?

AZIZ: Well, Wolf, I cannot comment or speak for the supreme court. But I can speak for our lawyers who are representing us. And they are very confident that our case is strong and this will go in the favor of the president.

BLITZER: Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister, is scheduled in the coming days to come back to Pakistan under a new arrangement that's been worked out between her and your government, including the president, President Pervez Musharraf. She was interviewed by me on September 27th, and she made this comment. I'm going to play it for you and I want your reaction. Listen to what she said.


BENAZIR BHUTTO, FMR. PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER: I don't think he's been very effective. I think that the longer -- many people think the military is the solution. I don't. I think the situation has become anarchic and will continue to be anarchic as long as it is a military-dominated regime in Pakistan.


BLITZER: She was saying that your government has become ineffective in fighting Al Qaida and the Taliban along the border with Afghanistan. And I'd love you to respond.

AZIZ: Well, our government has done a lot for fighting and containing extremism and terrorism. This is because we believe that this is no solution to any problem. And the fact that we are engaging these elements much more aggressively than ever before leads to more clashes than we had seen in the past. So to say that we've been ineffective, frankly, is incorrect, because what we have been is been able to contain this issue. And as you know, the root cause of trouble in the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan is the people who come in from Afghanistan and use Pakistan as a safe haven. They also get local sympathy and support.

And this is all driven by the Taliban and their associates because of presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan. So the faster Afghanistan can handle its own security, the faster we all help them build an army and so that they can protect themselves, the safer that area will be.

But Pakistan's role to fight terrorism and extremism, which we do in our own national interest, has been recognized by everybody, including governments across the world.

BLITZER: All right.

AZIZ: And we hope that this effort which we have undertaken, and our armed forces have undertaken, is yielding results and will yield even more results in every government. BLITZER: Now, Benazir Bhutto, I take it, will be allowed to stay in Pakistan and get into politics once again. I understand that's part of the arrangement which is different than Nawaz Sharif, another former Pakistani prime minister who tried to come back but was immediately kicked out. I interviewed Nawaz Sharif on September 2nd. I'm going to play an excerpt from that interview for you, Prime Minister.


NAWAZ SHARIF, FMR. PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER: He doesn't believe in ethics, morality. And that's what we have seen in the last eight years of Mr. Musharraf's rule. He believes in might is right. He believes in the law of jungle. He has no respect for the parliament, no respect for the constitution, and he is the man who's also guilty of abrogating the constitution of Pakistan.


BLITZER: He's speaking about President Musharraf. Now why will the former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, be allowed to stay in and get back into politics but Nawaz Sharif is barred from even coming back into Pakistan, let alone getting involved in politics?

AZIZ: Well, Wolf, very briefly, the two cases are very different. In Mr. Nawaz Sharif's case, he was sentenced by courts here for offenses he had committed. And then through a plea bargaining mechanism he left the country and said that he would not come back for 10 years. And the Saudi government was sort of the interlocutor and the intermediary and guaranteed the whole deal.

In Miss Bhutto's case, she had several cases of corruption against her. And now, under certain laws we have passed, we have given immunity to all, not just her -- everybody who was involved in such corruption cases during that period.

However, I may say that the people of Pakistan have gone to the supreme court against this law, and now the supreme court is looking at whether this law in fact meets the requirements of the constitution. The people have had a strong reaction to removal of corruption cases against Miss Bhutto.

BLITZER: Let me read to you from a recent article, Wednesday's New York Times.

AZIZ: But she's free to come -- she is free to come and, you know, the laws of the land will apply to her, like any other citizen of Pakistan.

BLITZER: All right. Let me read to you about what's happening along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Here's from The New York Times the other day: "Three days of fierce fighting have convulsed Pakistan's tribal areas and exposed what tribal elders, politicians and local officials concede is the government's lingering paralysis in dealing with the threat from Al Qaida and Taliban militants spilling out of the region. The upheaval underscores complaints by a range of officials that the government has been so absorbed in securing the re-election of General Pervez Musharraf as president that it allowed the security threat to go unchecked."

Is that true?

AZIZ: That is absolutely untrue. The security paraphernalia, the security apparatus of Pakistan has nothing to do with the re- election of the president. The re-election of the president was through the parliaments across the country, the four provinces and the national assembly and the senate, and they have nothing to do with the security situation up north.

I think this is -- The New York Times is an excellent paper, but I think they got carried away on this one. The fact is we have 100,000 troops along the border. We are trying to secure it. We are using all our expertise and machinery.

And as you know, our troops are very effective and well-known for their expertise all over the world. We are the largest supplier of troops to the U.N., just as a matter of interest, and we have not taken our eye off the ball. In fact, the intensity of engagement by the opposing parties has increased because we are taking them on. And we are not looking the other way. And why are we doing this? We are doing this because we think terrorism is no solution to any problem, and we believe that these elements have to be engaged and taken care of.

BLITZER: Are you any closer to capturing or killing Osama bin Laden?

AZIZ: We have no clue where this gentleman is. I think if the world knew where he is, we would go after him.

BLITZER: Here's what White House Homeland Security Council in a report said the other day: "Al Qaida has protected its top leadership, replenished operational lieutenants and regenerated a safe haven in Pakistan's federally administered tribal areas, core capabilities that would help facilitate another attack on the U.S. homeland."

That's a pretty alarming statement directly involving Pakistan and fear of more terrorism against the U.S. homeland. I wonder if you want to respond to that.

AZIZ: Yes. Pakistan's policy on this issue is very clear. Pakistan will never allow any people from outside Pakistan to take safe haven here, and then have our territory used to endanger the security of any other country. And we will not tolerate this, and we will not allow anybody to do so.

That is why we are engaging with elements who do cross over. And we are also encouraging the other side, which means the Afghan side, to build more posts and have more troops on their side of the border. Because what we see is a very heavy concentration of troops on our side, but then once they cross over, they are relatively less sort of -- they're not intercepted as frequently as they should be. So we are hoping that the Afghan army will be built very fast and the other troops there will make sure that the other side of the border is equally protected.

BLITZER: Shaukat Aziz is the prime minister of Pakistan. Prime Minister, thanks very much for joining us on "Late Edition."

AZIZ: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And coming up next, the former President Jimmy Carter says the Bush administration isn't coming clean on the issue of torture. You're going to want to see my interview with the former president. "Late Edition" will be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." Former President Jimmy Carter is speaking out in a new book, "Beyond the White House: Waging Peace, Fighting Disease and Building Hope." I spoke with the former president this week, and I asked him about the charges that the United States is engaging in torture of terror suspects.


JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our country for the first time in my lifetime has abandoned the basic principles of human rights.

We've said that the Geneva Convention does not apply to those people in Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo. And we've said that we can torture prisoners, deprive them of an accusation of the crimes to which they are accused.

BLITZER: President Bush said as recently as this week the United States does not torture detainees.

CARTER: That's not an accurate statement, if you use the international norms of torture, as has always been honored, certainly in the last 60 years, since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was promulgated.

But you can make your own definition of human rights and say, we don't violate them. And we can -- you can make your own definition of torture and say we don't violate it. But obviously...

BLITZER: But, by your definition, you believe the United States, under this administration, has used torture?

CARTER: I don't think it. I know it, certainly.

BLITZER: So, is the president lying?

CARTER: The president is self-defining what we have done and authorized in the torture of prisoners, yes.

BLITZER: But that raises a really important question. Those who are engaged in torture, who commit torture...


BLITZER: ... potentially, that could be a violation of international law or other laws.

CARTER: I think so.

BLITZER: Has there been a violation of the law from your perspective?

CARTER: If you use the international treaties to which we are committed...

BLITZER: Like the Geneva Conventions...

CARTER: ... like the Geneva Conventions, and also...

BLITZER: Because early in the -- they said the Geneva Conventions don't apply to these detainees who were not wearing uniforms. They were not part of any formal army. They were picked up on the battlefield and brought to Guantanamo Bay.

CARTER: My impression is that the United States Supreme Court has said that's a false premise. And I presume that the administration complies with the rulings of the Supreme Court.

And the international community obviously still adheres to and professes to commit themselves to the honoring of the Geneva Convention, and also the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the United States helped draft and promoted and has endorsed up until six-and-a-half years ago unanimously among all the (inaudible).

BLITZER: So, should someone be held accountable?

CARTER: Well, I think we -- the best way to hold people accountable in this country is through the election process.

BLITZER: That's the best way to get -- in other words, from your perspective, to get rid of the incumbent administration and move on? But you don't want to see any formal charges or a trial?

CARTER: No, I don't think so. I think that would be inappropriate. That has been done in some cases, as you know, but I don't think it's appropriate at all.

BLITZER: I want you to weigh in on this issue that's coming up this week in Washington, a resolution in the House of Representatives that would condemn Turkey for the genocide against Armenians 100 years ago.

Turkey denies that it engaged in genocide and there is deep concern. Condoleezza Rice today, the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, they said if this resolution passes, it could dramatically undermine U.S./Turkish relations, Turkey being a key NATO ally, a close friend of the United States in the war on terror. CARTER: Well, we had the same issue arise 25 or 30 years ago when I was president, when President Ford was president, when President Nixon was president, probably all the way back to Harry Truman's time.

And there is a delicate balance there, Wolf. I think the world generally recognizes that many of the Armenians were killed because they were Armenians by leaders of Turkey at that time. But to resurrect that issue and brand now Turkey and the Turkish people as perpetrators of genocide, I think, exacerbates a wound that may very well hurt the relationship with Turkey which is very valuable.

BLITZER: So you would urge your friends in Congress not to vote for this resolution?

CARTER: I think if I was in Congress I would not vote for it.

BLITZER: Speaking of genocide, the issue has come up in Darfur in Sudan. The U.S. government, the president of the United States, Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary Colin Powell, they have accused Sudan of engaging in genocide against these people. You don't believe this is genocide.

CARTER: No, I don't, not by the official definition of genocide. The United Nations has not said it's genocide. In fact, this morning when I got up I talked to the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court and they don't think it is genocide.

But it's a matter of semantics because obviously what's happened to the refugees, the black Africans in Darfur, is very serious. I would say it is a crime against humanity.

But genocide is when a powerful group specifically says, "We're going to eradicate from the face of the earth an entire ethnic group or an entire religious group," and that's what's happened when Hitler attacked the Jews, which was genocide. It happened when the Tutsis were attacked in Rwanda. That was certainly genocide because 500,000, 600,000 people were killed in a few days.

But not there. A lot of the violence -- almost all the violence now in Darfur is really between Janjaweed fighting against other Janjaweed or between the rebel groups against the government fighting each other.

BLITZER: All right. I want you to listen to what Dr. Susan Rice, a former assistant secretary of state for African affairs, and John Prendergast, who's an authority on Darfur -- I posed the question to them last Sunday when I pointed out to them that Jimmy Carter doesn't believe this is genocide. Here's their response.


SUSAN RICE, FMR. ASST. SECRETARY OF STATE: The weight of opinion in this country is firmly against him. The weight of opinion suggests that what is going on in Sudan is genocide, it has been genocide for now over four years. JOHN PRENDERGAST, CO-CHAIR, ENOUGH: Jimmy Carter's wrong that his understanding or his interpretation of the Genocide Convention and the legal text he said he consulted does not square with the evidence on the ground that I have seen for the last four-and-a-half years with my own eyes.


BLITZER: All right. You want to amend or revise or say anything in response?

CARTER: Of course not. They're wrong. When Susan Rice was in charge of our policy towards Sudan, for eight years...

BLITZER: During the Bill Clinton administration.

CARTER: Yes. For eight years, they were able to block all efforts to bring peace to Sudan because she has a very deep commitment to that proposition of overthrowing the government in Khartoum.

When George W. Bush came into office, he heroically and successfully orchestrated a peace agreement through John Danforth, the former senator from Missouri. And it was successful. And that's why we went to Sudan recently, is to make sure that the terms of this very successful comprehensive peace agreement are carried out.

BLITZER: Well, let me just correct -- let me just clarify.

CARTER: Yes, sure.

BLITZER: Are you suggesting that the policies of Dr. Rice and the Clinton administration contributed to the disaster that has occurred in Darfur?

CARTER: I can't say that. But they contributed to the lack of any sort of peace effort in Sudan during the eight years because I was on the other side of the question trying to bring a peace agreement to the people in Sudan. And we now have a fragile peace in Sudan between the north and the south.


BLITZER: And coming up in our next hour, we'll have more of my interview with former President Jimmy Carter.

Also, the Blackwater chief, Erik Prince, he's here live. He'll respond to allegations that his company's private security contractors in Iraq are too aggressive. "Late Edition" continues right after this.


BLITZER: This is "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.

On the hot seat.


ERIK PRINCE, CEO, BLACKWATER USA: I believe we acted appropriately at all times.


BLITZER: Blackwater founder Erik Prince talks about his security firm's controversial actions in Iraq.


SANCHEZ: There is no question that America is living a nightmare with no end in sight.


BLITZER: An assessment of the former top U.S. military commander's blistering new criticism of the Iraq war policy from two top U.S. retired generals.


CARTER: I think it would be a horrible mistake to attack Iran militarily.


BLITZER: A special interview with former President Jimmy Carter.

Al Gore's Nobel Prize win fuels speculation about another White House run, while the Republicans duke it out in another debate.

Insight on the week's big stories from three of the best political team on television. This second hour of "Late Edition" begins right now.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN in Washington, this is "Late Edition" with Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: Welcome back to the second hour of "Late Edition."

As U.S. military forces carry out the war plan in Iraq, private U.S. security firms are taking the lead in protecting thousands of American diplomats and other Americans in the war zone. One of those companies is Blackwater. Right now, though, it's under investigation for its actions during an incident last month that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead. The company's founder, Erik Prince, testified before Congress on October 2nd. He's joining us here on "Late Edition" right now.

Erik Prince, thanks very much for coming in.

PRINCE: Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: All right. What exactly happened? You've spoken, I assume, to your contractors who were involved in that incident. Seventeen Iraqi civilians by almost all accounts dead, 27 wounded, including women and children. What happened?

PRINCE: It was very much a normal, run-of-the-day mission. I can't speak to the exact specifics of it, but they were -- we had a team out protecting a U.S. diplomat doing some kind of reconstruction meeting, and one of the teams -- there was a large car bomb that blew up outside their venue, which the team made a decision to move that person back to the green zone, back to an area of more safety. One of the other teams went to clear a traffic circle to allow their quick egress.

You have to understand, bad things in Iraq generally don't happen by themselves. There's generally complex attacks that occur.

BLITZER: So there was a car bombing, and as these guys were moving around trying to protect this American diplomat, they say they heard fire against them, and then they opened up fire, in the process killing these Iraqi civilians. Is that right?

PRINCE: As far as we know. I've seen some of the incident reports. There is a full-on FBI investigation ongoing, and I'll withhold any specific judgments until they issue their report.

BLITZER: Because a lot of these evidence, at least in a lot of these press accounts of what officials are saying, points that there was no fire against the Blackwater security guards. Lieutenant Colonel Mike Tarsa, U.S. Army, was quoted in the Washington Post as saying: "It appeared to me they were fleeing the scene when they were engaged. It had every indication of an excessive shooting. I did not see anything that indicated they were fired upon." And he and his unit got to the scene at the square about 20 or 25 minutes after the incident.

PRINCE: Well, all I can say is in the incident reports I've seen, at least three of our armored vehicles were hit by small arms fire, incoming, and one of them damaged, which actually delayed their departure from the traffic circle while they tried to rig a tow. So there was definitely incoming small arms fire from insurgents.

BLITZER: The suggestion, though, is that -- there are other press accounts that they have looked at the various weaponry, the various ammunition that was found on the scene, and they didn't see any evidence that there was any incoming fire against your guys.

PRINCE: It was a very big traffic circle. I think they would need almost a battalion to secure that entire area, to do a thorough crime scene type investigation. So the jury is still out. We'll see what the FBI report comes up with, but I'm confident that the kind of people we have out there are proven military professionals. They have typically eight years or more experience. It's essentially all sergeants type people that are doing that job.

BLITZER: Former U.S. Army or Marine Corps...

PRINCE: Former U.S. military...

BLITZER: ... special operations forces. PRINCE: ... they served honorably, or law enforcement personnel that served in SWAT teams. They go through extensive training, government-dictated. The recruiting, the vetting, the resume standards, psychological evaluations, criminal background checks, security clearances, hundreds of hours of training. Then they get there. They do similar work to what they were doing before in the U.S. military. In this case, it's -- they are there to be a defensive screen to protect diplomats doing these kind of reconstruction missions.

BLITZER: Here is from the New York Times yesterday. Three witnesses, Kurds, on a rooftop overlooking the scene, said they had observed no gunfire that could have provoked the shooting by Blackwater guards. American soldiers who arrived minutes later found shell casings from guns used normally by American contractors, as well as by the American military. But as I said earlier, they say they found no evidence of any casings or shells by weapons used normally by insurgents.

PRINCE: There's -- I mean, our vehicles were hit by small arms fire. One of them was damaged. I guarantee our guys weren't shooting at each over. So something damaged those armored vehicles. And again, the FBI is doing an investigation, and I hope -- I hope it's complete soon.

BLITZER: And the individuals, the contractors from Blackwater who were involved in this incident, I take it they are all still in Iraq? Are they cooperating? Are they talking to the FBI as part of this investigation?

PRINCE: They are fully cooperating with the FBI, as are we as a company. We support accountability. I mean, again, we send professionals over there to do a job we do, dictated by the U.S. government, by the State Department who hires us. We recruit, vet, equip, train and deploy them, and then we turn them over to the operational control to the U.S. government. We don't, you know, it's not -- they dictate the missions, they dictate the vehicles, they provide the weapons, they tell us where to go and what to do. The men...


BLITZER: How many private security contractors does Blackwater have in Iraq right now protecting U.S. officials?

PRINCE: Approximately 1,000.

BLITZER: Approximately 1,000. All right.

This is what the Iraqi government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, said on October 7th. He said, "This is a deliberate crime against civilians. It should be tried in court, and the victims should be compensated." In fact, there has been a lawsuit filed against Blackwater, and among other things alleging Blackwater created and fostered a culture of lawlessness amongst its employees, encouraging them to act in the company's financial interest at the expense of innocent human life.

You want to comment on this lawsuit and what the Iraqi spokesman said?

PRINCE: Well, sure. First to the lawsuit. The lawyers, the trial lawyers that filed this lawsuit are the same guys that defended the World Trade Center bombings in 1993, the blind sheikh, and defended a bunch of killers of FBI agents and other cops. So this is very much a politically motivated lawsuit, for media attention.

As to the statement, you know, there was no deliberate -- murder deliberate violence by our guys. They have done 16,500 personal security detail type missions just like this one on September 16th, 16,500 since 2005. Less than 1 percent resulted in any discharge of a firearm by our people.

We have very clear dictates for any incident report. Any time a weapon is fired, it has to be reported. There is an immediate after- action investigation follow-up by the regional security office, by the State Department who we work for.

So in Baghdad, the most dangerous city in the world, to say that it was a callous, rampant, evil action, you know, when the guys get it right 99 out of 100 times and don't have to use any force or any violence at all, I think they are doing very well.

BLITZER: But as you know, everybody, every organization is capable of making mistakes, and human beings are human beings. Is it possible that in this particular incident, someone screwed up?

PRINCE: Certainly it's possible. But, again, we were directed and we do -- we put proven professionals that have good judgment, that exhibited great judgment in their military and law enforcement careers, put them out there, again, with very clear rules of engagement. Every morning before they go outside the wire, they get a mission brief, what they're doing, who they are protecting, where they're going. Intel, who to be on the lookout for. And the last thing, they go over again and again, every day before they go out, is the rules of engagement, that use of force continuum, when they are allowed to use force.

BLITZER: As you know, the Iraqi government hates this notion that these private American security contractors are not subject to Iraqi law. The president of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, told me as much last week. They would love to have these private American companies, your company and others, be part of the Iraqi legal system.

Right now, whose laws are you subject to?

PRINCE: Well, in the ideal sense, we would be subject to the Iraqi law, but that would mean -- that would indicate that there was a functioning Iraqi court system where Westerners could actually get a fair trial. That's not the case right now, so we believe we are accountable under MEJA, the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, and under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It was extended in 2004 to include anyone working as a contractor on behalf of the DOD contingency operation.

BLITZER: The State Department is saying they are now going to send monitors out to oversee what your guys are doing, have video cameras put into the humvees, the other armored vehicles that you go out to take diplomats around. Is that a good idea?

PRINCE: Absolutely. We actually asked for that a year and a half ago, in writing, to the State Department. You know, we are tired of having it be our guy's word against someone else in an incident. Let it be a third party. Let the video camera record, or let it be a State Department staff DS agent, diplomatic security agent, out there riding in the cars.

We put professionals out there. They just want to do the job. They are not trying to make any trouble. They just want to come home alive and get their protectees home alive as well.

BLITZER: At that hearing, where you testified before the House Oversight Committee, Congressman Elijah Cummings made a very sharp charge against Blackwater. I want you to listen.



REP. ELIJAH E. CUMMINGS, D-MD.: Blackwater appears to have fostered a culture of shoot first and sometimes kill, and then ask the questions. Blackwater has been involved in at least 195 escalation of force incidents since 2005, an average of 1.4 shooting incidents per week. We must ask, we must seriously reassess whether these practices are undermining our ability to accomplish our mission in Iraq.


BLITZER: You want to respond to the congressman?

PRINCE: Sure. Put that in the context of more than 16,000 PSD- type mission, personal security details, where they are leaving the protected area, going and doing an escort of a government official trying to stitch the fabric of Iraqi society back together -- you know, our guys don't get to choose what venues they have to go to. They have to go to the same venues again and again. Again, directed by the State Department. It's impossible to run -- there's only so many variables of how you are going to get to that route, which means you end up running a gauntlet. Sometimes the bad guys choose to attack.

Let me just give you an example of what a week was for the guys working in Baghdad before the September 16th incident. On the Monday before, had a helicopter shot down, a medium lift, shot down by an RPG. A very skilled pilot...

BLITZER: One of your helicopters.

PRINCE: One of our helicopters. Very skilled pilot of ours landed a helicopter, auto-rotated it. Four of our guys were injured, but they -- at least all of them walked away.

Two days later, complex roadside bomb attack. A big IED went out. It was an Iranian IED, explosive formed penetrated, the kind that goes through mostly any armored vehicle, hidden in watermelons by the side of the road, followed by massive small arms fire. Two guys had to be medevaced. Two days later, another small arms ambush on the road...

BLITZER: There is no doubt that dangers are obviously...

PRINCE: It's dangerous. And again...

BLITZER: ... very, very prevalent in Iraq.

Let me talk a little bit about the company, your company, Blackwater. And these numbers with staggering.

Back in 2001, Blackwater's federal contracts with the U.S. government, about $736,000. It's gone up every year since. Last year, 2006, half a billion dollars, $593 million. You've had a total of over $1 billion in federal contracts since 2001. It's an enormous, an enormous success story, but what's fuelling this outsourcing, if you will, of what should be military or law enforcement services outside of the government?

PRINCE: I started the business after I came out of the Seal teams, stationed on the East Coast...

BLITZER: The Navy Seal teams.

PRINCE: Right, U.S. Navy Seal, and built a private training facility for special operations units, for SWAT teams, those kind of people. We built a mock high school after the Columbine problem, to teach SWAT teams how to go in and solve those very complex problems.

Our first big buying customer was the U.S. Navy, came to us after the Cole. So it was not 9/11 that was the turning point for the business; it was actually the bombing of the Cole, October of 2000, actually seven years ago, right about now. Significant...


BLITZER: So you're saying the environment created $1 billion worth of contracts for you.

PRINCE: And we...

BLITZER: Is this healthy, though, for the U.S. government to be outsourcing these kinds of services?

PRINCE: I think we have the finest military in the world, the U.S. does. Very great conventional forces, great special operations forces. But they can't be all things to all people all the time. And so as you go from a conventional operation, what they did to Saddam in 2003, now to a major contingency operation trying to rebuild the country, it creates a lot of gaps. BLITZER: Because you've said...

PRINCE: And we are a gap filler. And we are temporary, and there's no ongoing legacy cost for the U.S. government. They don't have to have pensions and a lot of other costs that they are going to be paying for years to come for a force that's going to be stood up very quickly.

BLITZER: What you have said in the past, and it's been controversial is, you want to do for the U.S. military what FedEx has done for the post office.

PRINCE: Well, my dad was a successful entrepreneur in Michigan, doing automotive parts for the automotive industry. And we saw -- he saw very much the effect that the Japanese competition had on the U.S. automotive industry. I think what FedEx, being a competitor to the Postal Service, is great because it shows people what things can be done, for how quickly, how efficiently it can be done.

U.S. government has -- U.S. military has a huge job to do in changing from a conventional force and adapting to a very -- a global counterinsurgency. Having some private sector support, not to take it over, but just in some core -- some pocket areas where they have gaps, so we can help them do it, cheaper, better, faster, we hope.

BLITZER: But are you saying you can do it better than the U.S. military?

PRINCE: No. I am saying, for certain things, we can stand up the capability very quickly, and have no legacy costs going forward.

BLITZER: Erik Prince is the founder and CEO of Blackwater. Thanks for coming in.

PRINCE: Thank you, sir.

BLITZER: Up next, the former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq is out blasting the Bush administration's war plan. We're going to get reaction from two top retired U.S. generals.

Then, a warning from Jimmy Carter about beating the war drums against Iran. Part two of my conversation with the former president. You're watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.


BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez was the top U.S. military commander of U.S. forces in Iraq after the 2003 invasion. But now he's speaking out. He's blasting the Bush administration's war strategy. Why now, and what impact will his criticism have?

Joining us now our guests. In Madison, Wisconsin, retired U.S. Army Brigadier General and CNN military analyst David Grange. And in Phoenix, retired U.S. Air Force major general and CNN military analyst Don Shepperd. General Shepperd and General Grange, thanks to both of you for joining us.

I want to get to what General Sanchez is saying in a moment, but I want, first of all, General Shepperd, your reaction to what we just heard from Erik Prince, the founder and CEO of Blackwater, on this incident that resulted in the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians, wounding of a lot more. What's going on with the outsourcing of these private security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, for that matter, as opposed to letting the U.S. military get the job done?

MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD (RET), U.S. AIR FORCE: Pretty simple, Wolf. This is not new. This has been going on for a long period of time. With the cuts in our military forces, we simply do not have the forces to do everything that the military is required or wants to do. And so, you end up with people like Blackwater providing security.

This is a terrible incident. It needs to be investigated. If you find egregious conduct or illegal conduct, you cancel contracts, you prosecute. If you find mistakes, you try to fix them. But this way of depending on contractors, we have almost as many contractors, I believe, in Iraq, as we have military troops, Wolf.

BLITZER: I think we have more. I think there are about 160,000, 168,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, General Grange; there's about 180,000 private contractors serving in Iraq, everything from serving meals to protecting U.S. diplomats.

Is this a good idea, General Grange, for the U.S. military to be outsourcing these kinds of missions?

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET), U.S. ARMY: Well, the -- one, you have to do it. Obviously, just like Don said, there is no other -- with the size of the military, there is no other choice.

But you know, one problem with this -- and it's the same thing in the Balkans -- if these contractors decide they don't want to be a part of the operation and they leave, then you can't do the mission.

If you pulled all the security part, the 25, 30,000 security contractors out, the mission cannot go on. The people that are setting up and running the support for Iraq, the operation in Iraq, that would end immediately. So this is a necessity, regardless of whether they support it or not.

BLITZER: Let's move on to the controversial comments from Ricardo Sanchez, the retired U.S. military commander in Iraq. I'll play a little excerpt, General Shepperd, and we'll get your reaction. Listen to this.


SANCHEZ: Continued manipulations and adjustments for a military strategy will not achieve victory. The best we can do with this flawed approach is stave off defeat. There has been a glaring unfortunate display of incompetent strategic leadership within our national leaders. As a Japanese proverb says, action without vision is a nightmare. There is no question that America is living a nightmare with no end in sight.


BLITZER: All right, General Shepperd, what do you think?

SHEPPERD: Well, I think that he's basically saying the words all of us know, which is we went in without a good strategic plan. We did not realize what we were stepping into. We still don't have a strategic plan. We're trying to work our way out. And it's not going to end in anything that would look like a victory that we are used to.

Wolf, this is a very good man, laying it out as he sees it. This is not a guy whining about not getting promoted or trying to throw blame on others. He spreads blame around, and I really respect him for what he's saying and what he's doing.

BLITZER: General Grange, here's another excerpt of what General Sanchez is saying. Listen to this.


SANCHEZ: After more than four years of fighting, America continues its desperate struggle in Iraq without any con sorted effort to devise a strategy that will achieve victory in war-torn country or in the greater conflict against extremism. From a catastrophically flawed, unrealistically optimistic war plan to the administration's latest surge strategy, this administration has failed to employ and synchronize its political, economic and military power.


BLITZER: All right. You agree with him there, General Grange?

GRANGE: I think he's a little bit late on this. First of all, I think we lost two years of a flawed strategy during the time he was there.

Now, granted, he took orders from both civilian leadership and military leadership, but the counter-insurgency work that was done at that time was great in taking down enemy leaders, capturing people, killing insurgents, but very poor grassroots, counter-insurgency doctrine of winning the hearts and the minds of the people, working in a negotiation some of the social anthropology-type techniques that are being used in the strategy today. Plus, going along with an undermanned force early on, which caused most of the problems that we have today.

BLITZER: General Shepperd, in the first hour of "Late Edition," I interviewed Senator Lindsay Graham. He's a major supporter of the president's new strategy in Iraq, the buildup of the troops.

And he was stunned, he said, by General Sanchez's comments because in all the times he and Senator McCain and others went to Iraq early on during the first year or two of this war, he kept asking, do you have everything you need? Do you have enough troops? Is the strategy OK? And he kept getting positive answers from General Sanchez. How do you explain what Sanchez was saying then as opposed to what he's saying now?

SHEPPERD: Yeah, that's probably a valid criticism from Lindsay Graham's standpoint, Wolf. I was over as a part of a group that met with General Sanchez in 2003. You've got to remember when he was there: 2003, right after combat ceased, until July 2004. The insurgency had not developed yet.

But as Dave Grange said, a lot of things that should have been done, working with the tribes out there so the insurgency did not develop, so they didn't start holding hands with Al Qaida, were simply not done. Disbanding the Iraqi army, which was basically the decision I believe that Paul Bremer concurred in with -- by Secretary Rumsfeld.

Those things, basically Sanchez should have been speaking up against, and he certainly he did not say that to us when we were over there in our meetings with him.

BLITZER: And General Grange, General Sanchez now is saying it's not just the military -- or the Bush administration was at fault, but he's also blaming the Congress for not doing its job of oversight. Listen to this clip.


SANCHEZ: While the politicians espouse a rhetoric designed to the political power, our soldiers die. The administration, Congress and the entire interagency, especially the State Department, must shoulder the responsibility for this catastrophic failure.


BLITZER: Tough words from this general. He's speaking out very, very candidly. What do you think, General Grange?

GRANGE: I'd sum it up this way, Wolf. This war has been done on the cheap from the very beginning. Underfunded in resources, resources of equipment that should have been used -- produced much earlier.

For instance, the equipment needed for the transition to the Iraqi police and military forces, was not funded and provided the way it should have been. And not enough troops to do a proper counter- insurgency doctrine.

So I think yes, the whole country, all the leadership in the country is at fault for not putting the nation at war to accomplish this mission. It was done on the cheap.

BLITZER: General Grange, thanks very much for coming in. General Shepperd, thanks to you as well. Our CNN military analysts assessing these tough comments from General Sanchez. And coming up, former President Jimmy Carter has a tough assessment of his own on U.S. foreign policy. You're going to want to hear what else he has to say. Part two of our interview when "Late Edition" continues.


BLITZER: Part two of my interview with former President Jimmy Carter, that's coming up. But first, let's take a look at where some of the U.S. presidential candidates will be spending some time over the next few days.

On the campaign trail, Mike Huckabee is in New Hampshire today for a meet-and-greet with voters. John Edwards is also in the Granite State for a town hall meeting. Fred Thompson heads to New York City Monday for a Republican Party fall bash.

Barack Obama travels to Madison, Wisconsin, Monday to attend a fund-raiser. Mitt Romney will be in the Big Apple Tuesday for a breakfast fund-raiser. And Bill Richardson is in his home state of New Mexico Monday for a Women for Richardson event. On the campaign trail with some of the presidential candidates here in the U.S.

Coming up next, Jimmy Carter gives us a blunt opinion of how the Bush administration is handling the foreign policy of the United States. You're going to want to see part two of our interview right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

During our conversation earlier this week, the former president, Jimmy Carter, discussed U.S. policy in some of the world's hotspots. I also asked him whether he thinks Iran is developing a nuclear bomb.


CARTER: I don't know. I think if they are -- some people surmise that they are -- they're several years in the future. And I think we can best deter that by diplomatic relations with them and consultations with them and stop threatening that we are going to attack them so they won't think that they have to respond with all kinds of devices.

BLITZER: You know, you have been criticized for your handling of Iran when the Shah was in power, you know, in the late...

CARTER: I have heard about that.

BLITZER: ... '70s. Looking back all of these years, knowing what has happened, what, if anything, would you have done differently?

CARTER: I would have had one more helicopter in our rescue mission, which would have brought all of the hostages out safe and free. And so I had to wait from April, around until five minutes after I was no longer president when all of the hostages did come home safe and free.

BLITZER: Because the argument is, as bad as the Shah was on human rights and other issues, he was an ally of the U.S. and probably better than the current regime and that the U.S. should have stuck with him.

CARTER: Well, we couldn't stick with him. He was not overthrown by anything the United States did. He was overthrown by his own people. And as I said earlier, after they did overthrow the Shah, we took care of the Shah as best we could and we also continued our conversations with -- our diplomatic relations with the new regime.

BLITZER: The Senate passed a resolution the other day sponsored -- co-sponsored by Senator Lieberman and Senator Kyl saying this: "It is the sense of the Senate that the United States should designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization."

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner, she voted for that resolution that passed 76 to 22. Was that a good vote on her part?

CARTER: She has the complete freedom to vote the way she chooses. Had I been in the Senate, I would not have voted for it because an earlier version of that, which I read, said that this also involved direct military action against Iran.

So in effect, that vote was giving the administration the imprimatur of Congress to go to war against Iran, the same thing that she voted for earlier...

BLITZER: Because some of her critics said...

CARTER: ... to go into Iraq.

BLITZER: ... that she would indirectly give authorization to the president if he wanted to go to war against Iran by this kind of vote -- her critics, some Democrats and Republicans.

CARTER: But I'm not criticizing her. I'm just telling you the way I would have voted had I been there, because I think that a vote for that resolution about Iran opens up the possibility of the administration saying in the future we have got authority from the Congress -- from the Senate to go to war.

BLITZER: The Israelis bombed some sort of facility in Syria, as you know, in September. And there's now suggestions, including in The New York Times, that there is a dispute between the vice president, Dick Cheney, the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, on what it entails and whether the U.S. should have authorized or gone along with this in The Times today.

It says this: "It has long been known that North Korean scientists have aided Damascus in developing sophisticated ballistic missile technology. And there appears to be little debate that North Koreans frequently visited a site in the Syrian desert that Israeli jets attacked September 6th. Where officials disagree is whether the accumulated evidence points to a Syrian nuclear program that poses a significant threat to the Middle East."

What do you make of what -- you are an expert on the Middle East. What do you make of this attack, the U.S. response, what should the U.S. response have been, and this dispute, apparently, that has developed between Secretary Rice and Vice President Cheney?

CARTER: Well, almost without knowing the subject, if somebody asked me, do you agree with Condoleezza Rice or the vice president, I would just say automatically I agree with Condoleezza Rice not even knowing what the subject is.

But in this case, I don't really know. I don't any access to any sort of intelligence briefing or the facts. My guess is, though, that the site did not involve nuclear capabilities, but it might very well have involved long-term -- long-range missiles, because the North Koreans, even though it is a destitute financial country, is superb in technology development with the limited capabilities they have.

I'm thoroughly familiar with that. And so my guess is that they were helping Syria develop some kind of missile technology.

BLITZER: And do you have a problem with the Israelis using F-16s or other U.S.-made hardware in this kind of a strike?

CARTER: Well, that is a judgment for the Israelis to make. And I understand not only has the United States and Israel stayed mute, but also Syria has remained mute about it. So I don't know enough about the subject to comment, Wolf.

BLITZER: In the new afterword to your other bestseller, "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid," you write this. You write: "America must not be seen in the pocket of either side. We cannot be peacemakers if American government leaders are seen as knee-jerk supporters of every action or policy of whatever Israeli government happens to be in power at the moment. That is the essential fact that must be faced."

CARTER: That is certainly true.

BLITZER: You caused a big stir in the last book, as you well know. Any second thoughts?

CARTER: No, not at all. And I think that finally, after seven years of no effort to bring peace to the Middle East, the administration has now taken a very bold step and I hope a very successful step next month by convening talks in the United States between Israel and the Palestinians for the first time with any substance involved.

This will be a very good step in the right direction, which I pray will be successful. But we can't just say we adopt all of the policies of the Israeli government, now the Palestinians can come in if they want to as a second-class citizen and hope to be successful.

BLITZER: Let's talk about another quote from your new book, "Beyond the White House," page 74: "One of our nation's most ill- advised and counterproductive policies is the prohibition against Americans visiting Cuba and the punitive embargo against our 11 million neighbors who live under the communist regime of Fidel Castro."

Now you met with Fidel Castro. He is obviously very sick right now. What do you want, just a complete lifting of all of those restrictions?

CARTER: Yes, certainly. That is what I did within six weeks after I became president. I lifted all restraints on travel to Cuba and started to establish diplomatic relations with Cuba. In fact, we established entry sections, as you know, one in Havana, one in Washington, that are still there after all of these administrations, they see the value of it. I think what we do with our embargo and punishment of the Cuban people is to turn them against us and it makes Castro into an unjustifiably claimed hero because he blames all of his problems, most of which he causes himself, on the United States over to the north, because we are punishing the Cuban people.

So I think the best thing to do is to open up all travel and commerce and communications between the United States and Cuba. Let the Cuban people see what freedom and democracy is.


BLITZER: Jimmy Carter speaking with me earlier in the week.

Up next, Al Gore -- he's being pushed to run for president again. Is the Nobel Peace Prize enough to beat Hillary Clinton's lead? Our political panel's standing by live. We'll take on the big issues of the week in politics. All that when we come back.


BLITZER: A lot of political news this week, so let's get right to it with three of the best political team in television. Outside the presidential ranch in Crawford, Texas, our White House correspondent, Ed Henry. And here in Washington, our congressional correspondent, Jessica Yellin, and our correspondent Joe Johns who keeps politicians and everyone else honest for Anderson Cooper 360.

Joe, let me start with you. Al Gore wins the Nobel Peace Prize. Immediately speculation, will he throw his hat in the presidential ring. No sign of that. What do you think?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's really pretty late when you think about it. And there are practical concerns. Money is a practical concern. You've got to raise a lot of money to do something like this. There's also the issue of organization. Something he'd have to throw together. There's also the fact that the Democratic field seems -- the voters seem very content with them. So unless something extraordinary happens to one of those front-runners, it's really pretty unlikely he would jump in. He said he wouldn't.

BLITZER: James Carville told me the other day if someone were to stumble among the Democratic front-runners, he wouldn't rule that out. Ed Henry, I want to you to listen to this exchange I had with Donna Brazile, who was Al Gore's campaign manager back in 2004. She's a Democratic strategist, a CNN analyst. Listen to this little exchange we had on Friday.


DONNA BRAZILE, CNN ANALYST: If Al Gore decided to run, he could win the nomination. Look, Al...

BLITZER: Wait, wait a minute. Do you think he could beat Hillary Clinton?

BRAZILE: I think he could beat Hillary Clinton. Look, the reason why I think he could beat Hillary Clinton is he came in first last time. The Democratic base would be very excited. He has broad, grassroots support, the net roots. Organized labor would rally behind Al Gore. But Al Gore has not indicated that he intends to run.


BLITZER: Well, what do you think? Do you think he could beat Hillary Clinton if he threw his hat in the ring, Ed, at this late date?

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think anything is possible, obviously, and he could, but I talked to another close confidant of Al Gore beyond Donna Brazile, who said while Al Gore still yearns to be president deep down, he's looking at this field, and he is personally thinking that Hillary Clinton has all but locked it up, is very formidable, and Al Gore does not want to take her on.

It would bring up so much baggage, Gore versus Clinton, and he just doesn't want to go down that road, and it's highly unlikely he'll do it. It's possible that he could beat her. But it's too dicey at this point. He's got the Nobel Peace Prize under his belt now, and this confidant said it's highly unlikely he'll get in.

BLITZER: And Jessica, you know, when people look at the numbers, they see Hillary Clinton is way ahead of the competition. Look at this. In the Gallup poll of October 4th through 7th, Hillary Clinton's at 47 percent, Barrack Obama at 26, John Edwards 11 everybody else in low single digits.

And if you go to New Hampshire, the first primary, the Marist poll that has just come out, Hillary Clinton's at 41 percent in New Hampshire, Obama 20 percent, Edwards 11 percent. You're on the Hill all the time. And you speak to Democrats, liberal Democrats, conservative Democrats. Is there a sense that this is locked up by Hillary Clinton already?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's obviously what they think the Washington punditry thinks, and that's what the country is saying nationally. But no, because the folks that I talk to still think that it matters, state by state. We have to wait and see what happens in Iowa and New Hampshire.

BLITZER: In Iowa, Obama and Edwards are relatively competitive if you look at the latest polls, Joe, with Hillary Clinton. He did get tougher this week, Barack Obama. I interviewed him this week. Its only, what, three months until the first voting occurs. And he suggested he's got a new strategy now. Listen to what he told me.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, D-ILL.: I think that now is the time where we're going to be laying out a very clear contrast between myself and Senator Clinton. Not just on the pass. Not just on Iraq. But moving forward.


BLITZER: He's got to do something to get those numbers up.

JOHNS: Yeah, and a lot of people say that he's really done Hillary Rodham Clinton a favor over the last several months by not dragging her to the left. A lot of people say you've got to drag her to the left in order to make your own candidacy viable.

So, he has a lot of things to think about there. And Senator Clinton still looks like she's running real well. A lot of his supporters have said you need to jump out there. And they've even suggested all along that this is part of a bigger strategy, to now start pushing.

BLITZER: Yeah, he got a major -- excuse me, she got a major endorsement, Hillary Clinton, from John Lewis, the Republican -- excuse me, the Democratic Congressman, the civil rights leader for a long time. John Lewis endorsing Hillary Clinton on Friday, saying, "I've looked at all the candidates, and I believe that Hillary Clinton is the best prepared to lead this country at a time when we are in desperate need of strong leadership. She will restore a greater sense of community in America and reclaim our standing in the world."

Jessica, I think this is a big disappointment for Barack Obama. Here, a major African-American civil rights leader endorsing Hillary Clinton.

YELLIN: Absolutely. A disappointment for Obama, and furthers the storyline that Hillary Clinton is the inevitable nominee. And also a very smart move by the Clinton campaign to put out this endorsement at this time, just after Obama has started hitting her on Iran. They changed the topic immediately. It shows just how organized that campaign is.

BLITZER: If you watched the Republican debate this week, as I did, Ed Henry, you saw a lot of those Republican candidates, especially the front-runners, not going after each other as much as they were going after Hillary Clinton. Listen to this little clip.


RUDOLPH GIULIANI, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hillary is filled with endless ways to spend.



MITT ROMNEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm (ph) not going to spend more money. Hillary Clinton's plan costs $110 billion.


BLITZER: I assume that's a smart strategy on their part, Ed.

HENRY: Well, certainly for Rudy Giuliani in particular because, as you know, he has base problems where he's not seeing eye to eye with conservatives on key issues to them like abortion, other social issues. So the more he can try to make this about the general election, make himself the inevitable front-runner and inevitable nominee and say, look, I can win in some states where Republicans don't normally win, maybe in New York, maybe in Pennsylvania or Ohio, which went Republican last time but is looking like it might go Democrat.

For Mitt Romney, the equation's a little more difficult. He still needs to prove to conservatives that while he's flip-flopped on some of those key social issues, that he's with them. And so, I'm not sure he can be looking ahead to the general quite as much as Rudy is trying to do. Mitt Romney's got to focus a bit more on trying to convince conservatives he's their guy.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by because we're going to talk a lot more about what's happening in politics this week. John McCain today taking off the gloves and going directly after Mitt Romney. Wait until you hear what McCain said today. A lot more of our political panel right after this.


BLITZER: We're back with three of the best political team on television. CNN's Ed Henry, he's joining us from Crawford, Texas. And Jessica Yellin and Joe Johns, they're here in Washington.

Jessica, look at these numbers on the Republican presidential race among registered Republicans. This Gallup poll nationwide has Giuliani at 32 percent, Fred Thompson at 20, McCain at 16, Romney at 9, everybody else lower in single digits.

But if you go to New Hampshire, look at this -- the first primary state, a Marist poll that's just out -- Romney is at 26 percent. Giuliani at 20 percent, McCain is 17 percent, 10 percent for Thompson. That's pretty competitive, especially when you look at that 5 percent plus or minus margin of error.

Earlier today, John McCain took off the gloves -- at least yesterday and today, but especially today, and he's going directly after Mitt Romney. Listen to this.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: My record has been straightforward. He ran in Massachusetts as a very liberal Republican. He said he didn't support President Reagan, said he didn't want to go back to the Bush-Reagan years, voted for a Democrat for president, supported a Democrat candidate here in New Hampshire, had liberal positions on literally every issue.


BLITZER: All right. Now, that's pretty unusual for John McCain to be going that forcefully against a fellow Republican. What do you make of this?

YELLIN: Well, he's finding his footing again after stumbling badly months ago, so badly that people were saying his campaign is dead. He's now suddenly realized that his message is connecting and he is trying to hit hard. He doesn't have very much time, but his place to win is New Hampshire so he has to take on the front-runner in New Hampshire it he's going to get this nomination and he's doing his best.

BLITZER: Because by almost all accounts, he's not going to do well, McCain, in Iowa. New Hampshire and South Carolina are critical for him. And he's got nothing to lose right now. He might as well do it.

JOHNS: He's absolutely got nothing to lose. And the other thing is, if you look at Romney, perhaps his biggest vulnerabilities are that so-called evolution he made from varying positions, gun control, abortion, and so on. So that question of who's the real, bona fide conservative and who's been the conservative all along has the potential to dog Romney and it could inure to the benefit of a guy like McCain.

BLITZER: The former senator, the actor, Fred Thompson, Ed Henry, made his debut this past week. How did he do?

HENRY: Well, certainly he had an early stumble in one of the first answers where he seemed to have a brain freeze for a few seconds on the economy, but then regained his footing and showed himself to be a little jocular, joking, folksy, which is what he's trying to show.

But when it comes to substance, it's clear that this being his first debate, he still has a lot of work to do. And I think obviously his campaign was trying to spin it as a win in the sense that he didn't have any major foul up or anything like that. And that's certainly true that certainly there was no major gap.

But the bottom line is he is entering this so much later than the others. The others have done so many debates that Thompson is really in a short window here, really got to get -- he really has to get his A game going, if you will, Wolf. BLITZER: Joe, you've watched Fred Thompson on the Hill when he was a senator. You've covered the Hill for a long time. What do you think?

JOHNS: Well, it's interesting. He's really come a long way because when you watch him on Capitol Hill, years ago it was really that sort of aw shucks, politician that everybody liked because of his personality and the fact that he was an actor, so on.

But in this debate, clearly Fred Thompson, for Fred Thompson, had come a pretty long way. He was pretty sharp, seemed like he was very well-prepared, very well-briefed and very unlike that person who jumped into the race and had all those early tumbles. As he said, as Ed said, he still has a long way to go, but he's made some significant progress.

BLITZER: And a lot of people pointed out, Jessica, he made no major blunders during that two-hour debate. And that in and of itself was important.

YELLIN: Well, you'd hope that the standard would be more than no major blunders. I mean, we have to remember that the excitement about Fred Thompson is that he would be the answer for the people who were disaffected with the Republican field, that he would catch fire. And he has not caught fire. There is still a chance for him to pull this out, but this is not what people were hoping he would do.

BLITZER: Ed, you're covering president down in Crawford, Texas as you often have. What's on his agenda this week? What's he going to be doing?

HENRY: Well, he's going to be watching very closely that vote that the Democrats are going to have in the House of Representatives to try to override his veto on the Children's Health Insurance Program. He had vetoed it because he says the expansion of $35 billion is too much.

All signs suggest the Democrats in the House do not have enough votes to override this president's veto, so then they have to sort of go back to the negotiating table.

The best guess right now is that while the president's veto will hold the day for now, he's going to eventually have to come up from his figure of expanding this by $5 billion, get closer to the Democrats and that $35 billion expansion. That's a big issue on the domestic front that he's going to have to confront.

BLITZER: And we'll cover it every step of the way. Ed Henry, Jessica Yellin, Joe Johns, three of the best political team on television. Thanks to all of you for coming in.

If you'd like a recap of today's program, you can get highlights on our new and improved "Late Edition" podcast. Simply go to

And coming up at the top of the hour, "This Week at War" with host Tom Foreman.


BLITZER: Let's take a look and see what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines in the United States. Time magazine asked this question: "Does the Supreme Court Still Matter?"

Newsweek's headline is "Married to Iraq: What's the War's Few Marriages Tell Us About Culture Conflict and the Road Ahead?"

And U.S. News and World Report tells readers "How You Can Profit from the Global Boom."

And that's your "Late Edition" for this Sunday, October 14th. Please be sure to join us again next Sunday and every Sunday at 11:00 a.m. Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

We're also in "The Situation Room" Monday through Friday 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern, another hour at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Until then, thanks for watching. "This Week at War" with Tom Foreman starts right now.