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Pentagon Briefing; Human Rights Activists Kidnapped; Bush to Give Speech on Iraqi Troop Levels

Aired November 29, 2005 - 13:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: That was President Bush talking about border issues and the war in Iraq ahead of his big speech planned for the 9 a.m. Eastern hour. We'll bring that to you live tomorrow.
From CNN's world headquarters in Atlanta, I'm Kyra Phillips, and here's the stories we're working on for you right now.

Who are these hostages? Al Jazeera airs a video, four people held at gunpoint by a terror group. We're investigating.

Two American soldiers killed in Iraq. It's yet another roadside bomb. We're still debating when troops should come home. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld live in just minutes. CNN's LIVE FROM starts right now.

Christian peacemakers by name. Kidnap victims by virtue of serving in Iraq. Within the past hour, al Jazeera aired a video clip of four western human rights activists who were captured on Saturday, by a group calling itself the Swords of Righteousness Brigade. There are other kidnappings, too, after a lull of several months.

CNN's Aneesh Raman keeping track of all the latest mayhem from his post in Baghdad.

Aneesh, there was a downturn of kidnappings of westerners. What's happening right now with regards to this upswing?

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a number people now in the custody of insurgents, Kyra. We saw a good number of kidnappings, especially of westerners, in 2004, the early part of this year. A number of western organizations left. Those who remained tightened security, and we saw a drop in those who were kidnapped.

But now, again, as you say, video airing in the past hour on the Arabic language news channel Al Jazeera showing four kidnapped aid workers, all of them sitting with militants pulling guns to their head. Some of them show I.D. cards that are incredibly difficult to make out.

These are four aid workers that were kidnapped in the capital on Sunday. They're part of a group called Christian Peacemakers. They were here, that group, since October 2002. They're here to document human rights abuses.

Now, also today, the chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, announced that a German woman and her driver have been kidnapped. They were missing since Friday. She doesn't have any claim of responsibility yet. But she's presuming, given the situation, that's what's taken place.

The German government, as well as the American government, the British government and the Canadian government, the three nationalities that make up those four aid workers, are all now trying to rescue those who are under insurgent control.

Meantime, as you mentioned at the top, two more U.S. soldiers killed by virtue of roadside bombs. They were members of Task Force Baghdad, killed north of the capital. It brings, Kyra, to 2,011 the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq.

PHILLIPS: Parliamentary elections just two weeks away. Do you think these kidnappings could be connected to this? And have you seen an increase in security?

RAMAN: Well, security likely will, as it did before the October referendum, build up. The number of U.S. troops is well over the baseline. That has sustained since mid-October and will do so through the elections.

But we saw today, north of the capital in Mosul, two members of a Christian political group who were putting up posters gunned down, assassinated, for their involvement in the political process. But all involved are keen to see on December 15 something similar to what we saw on October 15, when the referendum went off without huge attacks -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Aneesh Raman, live from Baghdad, thanks, Aneesh.

With word of another missing American in Iraq, we wanted to take a look at how many other U.S. citizens are still being held or are unaccounted for in that country.


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): There are six Americans currently missing in Iraq.

American contractor Jeffrey Ake was kidnapped earlier this year in Baghdad. He later appeared on a videotape holding his passport.

Two other U.S. citizens taken last year also appeared on tape. You may recall truck driver Timothy Bell. He's been unaccounted for since his convoy came under attack near Baghdad in April of 2004.

Army Reservist Keith Matthew Maupin was also kidnapped in early 2004. The U.S. has not confirmed a videotape allegedly showing his execution.

All told, at least 15 Americans have gone missing in Iraq. Six of those are still unaccounted for. But five of the 15 either escaped or were released, including Roy Hallums. He was rescued in September after being held for nearly a year.


PHILLIPS: The beginning of the end of the fight for Iraq, of the brutal insurgency, of Iraqi troops' dependence on their American allies, yes, yes, and yes, as Iraq's national security adviser in a Reuters interview a day before President Bush is expected to spell out his criteria for bringing troops home.

Daily attacks and a new wave of kidnappings aside, Mowaffaq al- Rubaie says, and we quote, "We have tipped the balance now to our favor and the momentum is only going to get better."

Roughly 155,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq at the moment, though some 20,000 are expected to leave after next month's elections for a permanent Iraqi government. The Pentagon hopes to have at the most 100,000 G.I.'s in Iraq by the end of 2006.

The current Iraqi leadership is on the same page, as al-Rubaie told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Sunday.


MOWAFFAQ AL-RUBAIE, IRAQI NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I can tell you probably in the region of 30,000 American troops will pull out from Iraq by -- by the first part of next year and another 30 by the end of next year. And we will probably be down to two-digit number by the beginning of next year.

WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, "THE SITUATION ROOM": So by 2007, you're saying under 100,000, is that what you're saying?

AL-RUBAIE: Exactly.


PHILLIPS: Iraqi forces now number 212,000, divided into 130 battalions, 45 of which are said to be taking the lead in their sectors. Thirty-three are said to be totally self-sufficient.

President Bush was back in Texas today, again trying to boost support for immigration reform. And again telling reporters why U.S. troops cannot leave Iraq as soon as many in both countries would like.


BUSH: It would be a terrible mistake to -- it sends a bad message to our troops and it sends a bad message to our enemy and it sends a bad message to the Iraqis. So my decision will be based upon the capacity of the -- the willingness of our commanders to say the Iraqis are taking more of the fight and, therefore, the conditions are such that we can reduce our troop presence.


PHILLIPS: Expect to hear that point again in a Pentagon news conference just moments from now. Live pictures here.

In the meantime, a preview of the president's speech tomorrow from CNN's White House correspondent Dana Bash.


DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush is prepared to flesh out his thinking a bit on bringing some U.S. troops home from Iraq. Senior administration officials tell CNN Mr. Bush will do so in a series of speeches, beginning Wednesday at the naval academy, where according to one official, he will offer more detail into, quote, "what will guide his decision making on troop levels."

It is an effort, after weeks on the offensive, to reassert control over the bruising Iraq political debate that even has close Bush allies increasingly worried.

BUSH: As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.

TOM RATH, NEW HAMPSHIRE GOP: We need to know what that means and we need to be reassuring that we are not agreeing to some open ended commitment.

BASH: For months, Mr. Bush has made clear withdrawal of American forces depends on the ability of the Iraqis to battle the insurgency.

At Annapolis, aides say Mr. Bush is expected to avoid U.S. troop numbers or explicit timetables for withdrawing U.S. forces but focus on what he will insist is progress Iraqis are making in training to secure their own country.

The White House hopes that, and the December 15 Iraqi elections of a permanent government, will usher in more stability. The secretary of state already signaled to CNN some troop reductions are coming.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: I suspect that the American forces are not going to be nee need in the numbers that are there for all that much longer because the Iraqis are continuing to make progress.

BASH: Veteran Republican activate Tom Rath says in his home state of New Hampshire and around the country what people want to hear from the president is a plan.

RATH: There is concern about knowing how we get to an end game, how do we get to the final point? And there's a need, I think you hear people say, "Tell us how we're going to get out of this."

BASH: But given past problems training Iraqis, one influential Republican voice urges caution.

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R-IN), FOREIGN RELATIONS CHAIRMAN: There could be a very, very unpleasant interim if we are not very careful in terms of the training we're giving.

BASH (on camera): There appears to be consensus that the next six months will be crucial in determining whether Iraqis can stabilize their own country. But White House aides insist the president will still outright reject a call for a specific timetable to withdraw U.S. troops, like many Democrats are demanding.

Dana Bash, CNN, the White House.


PHILLIPS: And we expect to hear more about Iraq and maybe Afghanistan when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Peter Pace address reporters today live. You see here those live pictures. We're going to bring you that Pentagon briefing as soon as it starts.

Also ahead, President Bush puts illegal immigration on the front burner. We're going to have the latest on the border debate coming up on LIVE FROM.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): With a watchful eye over what pop culture craves, Steve Jobs' innovations are transforming the way we interact with our mobile entertainment. He's a visionary, who's now a candidate for "TIME" magazine's person of the year.

ADI IGNATIUS, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "TIME": Jobs is very, very, very involved in everything that happens at Apple. He is on top of that company, and he is on top of his design teams, and he is demanding results and creativity. And he's found a way to get it from his teams.

Steve Jobs and Apple continue to come up with innovations that just change the way we live, change the way we play. The nano, the iPod, video, these are innovations that are fascinating technologically and also gorgeous in terms of design.

JAN SIMPSON, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, "TIME": Video iPod is going to change the way we watch television. We now will get things when we want it, where we want it. This year, he's been really right on the sweet spot of technological change.



PHILLIPS: More than three weeks away from the official start of winter, but things are already getting crazy out there. For the latest, let's go straight to CNN Weather Center and our severe weather expert, Chad Myers.

And Chad, I want to forewarn you, we're waiting for the Pentagon briefing.


PHILLIPS: So if that starts, I'm not going to be rude, I'm just going to tell you up front now we might have to steer away from you for a few minutes.


PHILLIPS: All right, Chad, thank you so much.

MYERS: You're welcome.

PHILLIPS: President Bush stepped up his campaign for tighter controls on illegal immigration today with a visit to the U.S./Mexican border, accompanied by border control agents -- patrol agents, rather. The president took a ride along the Rio Grande Rive in El Paso, Texas.

The tour came just one day after the president outlined proposals to hire more agents and build more jail cells as part of a crackdown on illegal immigration. The president repeated that theme today.


BUSH: What we've done is we have boosted the amount of money available to our -- to enforce this border. We've added agents. We've added (AUDIO GAP)



PHILLIPS: ... getting ready for an election. Three parties united last night to topple the government of Prime Minister Paul Martin. (AUDIO GAP)

Martin will still govern until voters go to the polls on January 23. He's already launched (AUDIO GAP) campaign, and the outcome of the ballot (AUDIO GAP).

We're waiting for the live briefing at the Pentagon. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, along with the chairman of the joint chiefs Peter Pace (AUDIO GAP) Afghanistan, among other (AUDIO GAP) hopefully more possible pullout. A quick break (AUDIO GAP)


PHILLIPS: Straight to the Pentagon briefing. Let's listen in.



The commander of the Iraqi Army's 4th Division told reporters that even as a general in Saddam Hussein's army, he had dared not look at the palaces when he drove by through the city. He feared he might be arrested.

Last week, he said, quote, "Thanks be to god. The ordinary people can now come and see the palaces for themselves," unquote.

On Wednesday, President Bush will outline in some detail the coalition strategy to help the Iraqi people increasingly take control of their country. It is their country to lead and increasingly they are doing so.

To date, U.S. forces have turned over control of some 29 military bases to the Iraqis. An Iraqi police battalion assumed control of the airport road last April and the number of attacks has declined sharply.

Baghdad's well-known Haifa Street has been largely peaceful under the control of an Iraqi army battalion. The Shiite areas of Najaf, Karbala and Sadr City, the scene of a number of battles last year, are largely peaceful. And in Tal Afar, 5,000 Iraqi troops took a key role in liberating and securing what had been a base of operations for extremists' networks and for terrorists' networks.

Consider the progress of the Iraqi security forces over the past year. In August 2004, five Iraqi army battalions were effectively in the fight. Today, the number's 95.

In July 2004, there were no ready operational Iraqi army divisions or brigade headquarters. Today, at least seven operational divisions and 31 operational brigade headquarters.

In July of 2004, there were no ready special police commando, public order or mechanized police battalions under the ministry of interior. Today there are 28 such battalions conducting operations.

And last year there were about 96,000 fully trained and equipped Iraqi security forces. And today there are over 212,000 trained and equipped security forces.

RUMSFELD: The important thing to remember, however, is that numbers alone are only part of the story. Equally important are the notable increases in the experience that the Iraqi forces have gained over the past few years. And experience makes a big difference.

Their experience has enabled them to take over security responsibilities in several areas of Iraq, including 87 square miles of Baghdad, one entire province, 450 square miles of territory in other provinces.

In short, those who have denigrated the Iraqi security forces have been wrong.

Challenges remain, let there be no doubt; among them, further developing their logistics in administrative capacity at the brigade, division and ministry levels to fully sustain Iraqi units through the range of combat operation.

And Iraqis are struggling to overcome the legacy of the Saddam- era military, which punished initiative and centralized virtually all decision-making.

Let's be clear. U.S. forces are in Iraq to help the Iraqis fight the terrorists there so we don't have to fight them here in the United States.

Indeed, amid all the questions being asked about this situation in Iraq today, consider these:

Would America and the world be better off, would the American people be safer, if the United States were to abandon the effort in Iraq prematurely, allowing the terrorists to prevail?

Or will the American people do better if we continue to work with the Iraqi people so that they are able to gain the experience and capabilities that they need to fight and defeat terrorists in their country?

The answer's clear: Quitting is not an exit strategy. It would be a formula for putting the American people at still greater risk. It would be an invitation for more terrorist violence.

Indeed, the more the enemies make it sound as though the United States is going to quit, the more encouraged they will be and the more successful they will be in recruiting and in raising money and in trying to wait us out. Rather than thinking in terms of an exit strategy, we should be focused on our strategy for victory. That is the president's strategy: To succeed in passing responsibility to the Iraqi people and in helping them to further develop the capabilities needed to assume that responsibility.

RUMSFELD: The strategy is working. And we should stick to it. And those who do will be proud of the accomplishment that we will see.

General Pace?


One trend that is really extremely encouraging is the number of tips that are being provided to Iraqi armed forces and coalition forces by Iraqi citizens. Last March, for example, there were just below 500 tips during that month. This past month, there were some 4,700 tips by Iraqi citizens to Iraqi and coalition forces. That's an enormous increase.

And it has benefited us in many way. One example was yesterday, as a result of a tip from a normal Iraqi citizen, Iraqi forces along with U.S. uncovered an IED factory; some 4,000 pounds of explosives;some 11 to 12 500-pound bombs; many other ingredients for making both vehicle-borne and stand-alone explosive devices.

These kinds of tips from the Iraqi populace indicate to me that they understand that the future is with their own armed forces. And with the help, the coalition will help them do that.

Your questions, please?

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, are you concerned over -- and, in fact, is the United States looking into growing reports of uniformed death squads in Iraq perhaps assassinating and torturing hundreds of Sunnis? And if that's true, what would that say about stability in Iraq?

RUMSFELD: I'm not going to comment on hypothetical questions. I've not seen reports that hundreds are being killed by roving death squads at all.

We know for a fact that it's a violent country. We know for a fact that there have been various militias. We know that there have been some militias that have been Iran-oriented. We also know there have been some militias in the north that have been very helpful.

RUMSFELD: The peshmerga have been very constructive in what they've done. But I'm not going to get into speculation like that.

QUESTION: Well, sir, that's not a hypothetical, I don't believe. The Sunnis themselves are charging that hundreds have been assassinated, people shot in the head, found in alleys.

RUMSFELD: What you're talking about are unverified -- to my knowledge, at least -- unverified comments. I just don't have any data from the field that I could comment on in a specific way.

Do you, General?

PACE: I do not, sir, although I do know that the Iraqi government has said that they were going to investigate those kinds of allegations.

RUMSFELD: And they should. That's a good thing.

Look, it's a sovereign country. The Iraqi government exists.

There's also a political campaign taking place, and we ought to be aware of that, that there are going to be a lot of charges and countercharges and allegations. And they may very well be timed, as they are in every country in the world that has a free political system, they may be timed in a way to seek advantage.

We also will find in some cases that there will be investigations and that they will prove to have been valid. I just don't know. I can only talk about what I know.

That's life.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, several days ago in an interview on Fox you said that you expect that after the December 15 election that the insurgency will lose some of its strength. And I'm wondering if you could elaborate on that point and why you think that that particular political landmark will be different than previous ones in terms how it affects the insurgency.

RUMSFELD: Well, I think that there are a lot of things going on in that country. Some are worrisome. Obviously, there's still continued violence, as Charlie points out. We know that Iran and Syria continue to be unhelpful. We know that we're still taking casualties, as are coalition countries and the Iraqi security forces. On the other hand, when the Iraqi people have their own constitution, that they wrote, that they voted for, and then they elect people under that constitution, it becomes increasingly clear that anyone going around killing the Iraqi people are fighting against a legitimate government; they are against a legitimate constitution; they will be against people who have been legitimately elected under the Iraqi constitution.

Any contention that there's some sort of an occupation taking place or that coalition forces are there at anything other than the invitation of the government and the United Nations becomes a weaker argument.

RUMSFELD: And it seems to me there are a number of things happening that are good. I mentioned politicking going on. You know, that's not the norm in that country. Repression by a vicious dictator was the norm and shooting people was the norm.

Here, we've got politicking. They're tugging, they're pulling, they're arguing, they're debating, they're making charges and countercharges.

That's a good thing. That's a sign of progress in my view.

We also have a very effective political team under Zal Khalilzad and the embassy there. And they're doing a good job, working with the Iraqi people. And I think the outreach to the Sunni population has been a good thing and an effective thing and will be reflected in the election.

General Casey and his folks are putting a lot of pressure on the terrorists and on the enemies of the government. We frequently call them insurgents. I'm a little reluctant to, for some reason.

They don't have broad support in that country -- as I think Senator Lieberman said -- there may be 10,000 or any multiple of that that you want, against 27 million, 28 million people.

They're against a legitimate government. And that's important.

There are also growing divisions among the enemies of the government. The Iraqi security forces, I mentioned, are making solid progress. And that's a big deal. The country has a free media. It's a relief valve. There are 100-plus papers. There are 72 radio stations. There's 44 television stations. And they're debating things and talking and arguing and discussing.

And Syria's regime is weakened because of the U.N. investigation into the Hariri assassination.

And so there are a lot of things that are positive. I look at it -- I can't predict the future any better than anybody else. But I look at it and I say to myself, "Not bad."

After this election on December 15th, they'll seat a government December 31st. Will it be perfect out there? No.

But will we end up seeing this tipping process that we've hoped for where the people who have supported the enemies of the government begin to say, "Well, maybe it's really going to happen, maybe I shouldn't support them, maybe I ought to go into the middle and watch a little"? People in the middle will tip over and say: Well, why stay in the middle? It looks like it's going to happen. We're going to have an Iraqi government. For four years they'll be in there.

RUMSFELD: Think of it: We've gone through four Iraqi governments in 2.5 years. The Governing Council and the transitional government, the interim government, the next government, that's a lot of turbulence and turmoil. We have a chance to get them in place and provide leadership in their country. It's their country. They're going to have to grab a hold of it and run it.

QUESTION: Do you expect this will be the tipping point then...

RUMSFELD: I don't know. I don't know. Am I hopeful? Yes. Do I think there are more positive things taking place than negative things? You bet I do.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, in its lead editorial this morning, the New York Times takes issue with you and the Bush administration for the way the United States is waging this war.

RUMSFELD: They've done that almost every day since it started. We're not going to hang our hats on that, a New York Times editorial. My goodness. I'm stunned.

QUESTION: Well, only because we both are familiar with the newspaper. But in its final paragraph or so, it takes particular issue with the use of white phosphorus in urban areas. Based on what we've learned so far, have you banned use of "Willie Pete," or are you considering banning it, or will it continue to be used?

RUMSFELD: General Pace?

PACE: White phosphorus is a legitimate tool of the military. It is used for two primary purposes. One is to mark a location for strike by an aircraft, for example. The other is to be used -- because it does create white smoke -- to be used as a screening agent so that you can move your forces without being seen by the enemy.

It is not a chemical weapon. It is an incendiary. And it is well within the law of war to use those weapons as they're being used, for marking and for screening.

QUESTION: You and I have both seen the results of "Willie Pete" in Vietnam. And when it's on the skin, it doesn't stop burning until it goes all the way through or runs out of oxygen. It's a pretty tough weapon. You want to use it in urban areas such as Fallujah?

PACE: No armed force in the world goes to greater effort than your armed force to protect civilians and to be very precise in the way we apply our power. A bullet goes through skin even faster than white phosphorus does.

So I would rather have the proper instrument applied at the proper time, as precisely as possible, to get the job done, in a way that kills as many of the bad guys as possible and does as little collateral damage as possible.

PACE: That is just the nature of warfare.

RUMSFELD: Let's see if there's a New York Times editorial quoting General Pace tomorrow -- unlikely.

I forgot one thing. Another thing that's happening, is, if you think of the Arab League meeting and the neighboring Sunni countries -- let's face it. They've not been as helpful as they could be. They've been standing back. And now they're starting to lean forward.

It's increasingly clear to them that they're a bit worried about Iran, as well they should be. They're a bit worried about excessive Iranian influence in Iraq, which they should be.

And they're starting to lean forward and to be more helpful, to encourage Sunnis to participate in the election and to want to have a successful Iraq, because I think they see it coming.

You know, some of them have a minimum (inaudible) high regard for democracy, so that's a bit of a problem. But, on the other hand, the trend line is correct, is good, is positive. And I add that to that list. I think...

QUESTION: Sir, taking on his question a bit -- and I can give you actual examples from coalition forces who talked to me when I was over there about excesses of the Interior Ministry, the Ministry of Defense; and that is in dealing with prisoners or in arresting people and how they're treated after they're arrested -- what are the obligations and what are the rights of U.S. military over there in dealing with that?

Obviously, Iraq is a sovereign country now, but the United States is responsible for training and expects to turn over the security mission to them.

So, what is the U.S. obligation in addressing that, preventing that, and what can we do? And what are we doing?

RUMSFELD: That's a fair question. I'll start and, Pete, you may want to finish. But we are working very hard to train and equip the Iraqi security forces. So is NATO. So are some neighboring countries.

There are a lot of people involved in this, dozens of countries trying to help train these Iraqi forces. Any instance of inhumane behavior is obviously worrisome and harmful to them when that occurs. Iraq knows, of certain knowledge, that they need the support of the international community. And a good way to lose it is to make a practice of something that is inconsistent with the values of the international community.

RUMSFELD: And I think they know that.

Now, you know, I can't go any farther in talking about it. Obviously, the United States does not have a responsibility when a sovereign country engages in something that they disapprove of. However, we do have a responsibility to say so and to make sure that the training is proper and to work with the sovereign officials so that they understand the damage that can be done to them in the event some of these allegations prove to be true.

QUESTION: And, General Pace, what guidance do you have for your military commanders over there as to what to do if -- like when General Horst found this Interior Ministry jail?

PACE: It is absolutely responsibility of every U.S. service member if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene, to stop it. As an example of how to do it if you don't see it happening, but you're told about it, is exactly what happened a couple of weeks ago. There was a report from an Iraqi to a U.S. commander that there was a possibility of inhumane treatment in a particular facility. That U.S. commander got together with his Iraqi counterparts. They went together to the facility, found what they found, reported it to the Iraqi government, and the Iraqi government has taken ownership of that problem and is investigating it.

So they did exactly what they should have done.

RUMSFELD: I don't think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it, it's to report it.

PACE: If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it.

QUESTION: Let me follow up. To what extent do you think these allegations of abuses by the Iraqi security forces, particularly some of the complaints and allegations from Sunni Iraqis that the largely Shia security forces are engaged in abuses, to what extent do you think that's an indicator that the Iraqi military, Iraqi security forces are not yet ready to assume control of the country?

RUMSFELD: Oh, I don't think it is. I mean, you're going to have allegations back and forth.

We were deeply concerned that there could be conflict among the various elements in that country after the end of major combat operations, and there hasn't been, and that's a good thing.

RUMSFELD: First of all, what we're doing is we're prejudging these remarks and allegations and reports. And I just can't do that. And what's going to happen is the Iraqi government is going to be formed after the December 15th election -- two weeks, whatever -- and it will be seated by the 31st of December...

QUESTION: So your sense is that these abuses are not a widespread problem that threaten the...

RUMSFELD: My sense is I don't know. And it's obviously something that one has to be attentive to. It's obviously something that General Casey and his troops are attentive to and have to be concerned about.

I am not going to be judging it from 4,000 miles away -- how many miles away?


QUESTION: General Pace, there have been some critics who have said that you don't have enough troops to do this clear, hold-and- build strategy, especially along the border of between Iraq and Syria. Do you...

RUMSFELD: Can I just stop right there? Please, let me just stop right there.

Anyone who takes those three words and thinks it means the United States should clear and the United States should hold and the United States should build doesn't understand the situation.

It is the Iraqis' country. They've got 28 million people there. They are clearing. They are holding. They are building. They're going to be the ones doing the reconstruction in that country...

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary...

RUMSFELD: ... and we do not have -- with 160,000 troops there, the idea that we could do that is so far from reality. No one has any intention that we do that.

QUESTION: Senator McCain has suggested you don't have enough U.S. troops and Iraqi forces that are qualified to be able to hold those areas, clear them and build them.

Can you address that and can you talk about perhaps some specifics in recent weeks where that may have been happening?

PACE: I think what you see most recently are the examples of the operations that have been taking place in the Euphrates Valley between Baghdad and the Syrian border. You're seeing the combination of U.S., coalition and Iraqi forces working side by side, many times with the Iraqi armed forces in the lead, taking cities from the -- I have to use the word "insurgent" because I can't think of a better word right now -- taking...

RUMSFELD: Enemies of the legitimate Iraqi government. How's that?


PACE: What the secretary said.


And then working along with the town's leadership in those cities to in fact have Iraqi police, Iraqi armed forces, staying behind, holding that territory for their government and then the Iraqi government coming in an building up the infrastructure -- so very much along that model over the next coming months is what I believe we'll continue to see.

RUMSFELD: One of the biggest problems we have is...

PHILLIPS: We'll continue to follow the Pentagon briefing there with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld side by side with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Peter Pace.

Meanwhile, while they're talking about news there in Iraq, we're getting word here from Jerusalem now that elder statesman Shimon Peres says he's that leaving the Labor Party. This, coming in. We've now confirmed. You know, he's been part of the Labor Party for 60 years. Now he's decided to join forces with Ariel Sharon.

Peres, who's 82 years old, he's a Nobel Peace Prize winner, recently lost control of the Labor Party to the union, as you know, if you've been following, of course, the politics overseas. And so now he's decided to become an ally with Prime Minister Sharon, the only other leading member of Israel's old guard still in politics.

So once again, Shimon Peres deciding to quit the Labor Party and join forces now with Ariel Sharon and his new party. We'll stay on top of that, work more information out of the Middle East.

Meanwhile, we're talking right after the break about a snack for many of us, or a sandwich also. But for thousands of Americans, they're pure poison. We'll talk about a dangerous food allergy and what you need to know to protect yourself, next on LIVE FROM.


PHILLIPS: An inmate apparently making a break for it here in Atlanta. Tony Harris in the news room with more on what's going on -- Tony.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Another escape, Kyra, to tell you about. Atlanta police right now are looking for a suspect, a prisoner, an escapee, who managed, Kyra, to jump out of a van as he was being transported. Now, apparently not a violent criminal -- narcotics, drug possession, those kinds of charges. And he was also being charged and held for possession of a weapon.

But once again, we're told he's not a violent offender. But those are the charges that he was arrested for. And apparently what he did is he managed -- we don't know how at this point -- to get out of the van in which he was being transported in. And now, as you can see from these aerial pictures, there was a pretty extensive search going on now right here in Atlanta for this prisoner.

We will continue to take -- to look at these pictures for a moment and take a look at some of the activity, continue to gather some information. You'll recall, Kyra, it was just -- oh just a couple weeks ago, November 10th, that another prisoner escaped out of a van.

So similar situation right now, aerial pictures being provided for us by our affiliate here in Atlanta, WSB, as police here in Atlanta continue to search for a prisoner, an escapee, who managed to get out of a van as he was being transported. We'll continue to gather some more information and get right back to you, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Well, back on the 10th, Tony, it didn't take long...

HARRIS: That's right.

PHILLIPS: ... for authorities to track him down. He ended up being at his friend's house or his mother's house or something like that, right?

HARRIS: That's right.

PHILLIPS: So they usually run to the only place that they know, and that's family or friends.

HARRIS: And that was part of the situation, as you recall, in the case in Yakima, Washington, as well. The first two who were -- that's right, the first two who were captured actually ended up in a crawl space in the attic of one of the escapee's sisters. So you're right. They usually go somewhere where they have a relative, someone they know.

PHILLIPS: All right, we'll keep checking in with you. Thanks so much.

We were talking about that peanut butter sandwich. It's a lunch box standard for a lot of people. But a growing number of American children, it can trigger a dangerous, even deadly reaction.

CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen now with more an allergy that can be so severe the merest trace can be fatal.


ELIZABETH COHEN (voice-over): Could it really have been the kiss of death? A 15-year-old Canadian girl died after kissing her boyfriend, who'd eaten peanut butter.

The girl had a severe peanut allergy, and for her and others like her, even 1/1,000th of a peanut can spell disaster. That's the case for Michelle Risinger. She's been severely allergic to nuts for as long as she can remember. She and a boyfriend also found out about the severity of her allergy the hard way.

RISINGER: He started kissing me, and my lips started tingling. And immediately I was like, "we have to stop and I need to go take Benadryl."


COHEN: And she's not alone. More than one percent of Americans are allergic to peanuts and tree nuts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had all these hives all over my back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where I couldn't breathe and then I started wheezing. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Within 20 minutes, I was completely unconscious on the front porch.

COHEN: All these reactions, from peanuts and nuts, trace amounts they didn't realize were in the foods they were eating. Dr. Robert Wood is an expert on peanut allergy, and has had a lifelong allergy to peanuts himself.

DR. ROBERT WOOD, JOHNS HOPKINS CHILDREN'S CENTER: I have certain rules that I abide by, and one of those rules is I don't eat any baked goods.

COHEN: The one exception he thought he could safely make? Accepting a homemade gift from a colleague, an expert on food allergies like himself, who assured him it was safe.

WOOD: It turned out that they had made peanut butter Christmas cookies and non-peanut butter Christmas cookies and they had used the same spatula, maybe even the same cookie sheet without cleaning it in between.

COHEN: Wood found himself in the middle of a massive allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, which includes hives, swelling, and difficulty breathing. It took five shots of epinephrine to stop the reaction. That's why those with serious food allergies need to carry EpiPens, adrenaline in a tube. Without it, these reactions could lead to a sudden drop in blood pressure, or worse.

WOOD: I've lost three patients due to anaphylaxis. One was a baked good, one was Chinese food, one was a candy. None of them had epinephrine available.

COHEN: All these foods had peanuts or peanut oil hidden inside. And these reactions are not as rare as you might think.

Eleven million Americans have food allergies. Accounting for tens of thousands of emergency room visits, and 150 to 200 deaths a year.

But perhaps the most startling trend, according to Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, the number of American children allergic to peanuts doubled in five years.

As for Michelle Risinger, she gives all of her dates a choice. It's either peanuts, or her.

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, reporting.



PHILLIPS: Well, enforcing the law or improving business? It's the dilemma facing the president and the Republican party. Candy Crowley sorts out the border battle, just ahead in the second hour of LIVE FROM. (STOCK MARKET UPDATE)