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The Situation Room

Civil War in Iraq?; Richards Apologizes

Aired November 27, 2006 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Three big states could throw a wrench into the 2008 presidential calendar. There are new reports that political leaders California, Florida and Michigan are gaining momentum in their efforts to move their primaries earlier, shortly after the kickoff primary in New Hampshire. The "Boston Globe" reporting that Democratic Party leaders are particularly alarmed as they work to protect New Hampshire's first in the nation status, while taking steps to hold earlier contests in South Carolina and Nevada.
And remember, for the latest political news at any time, check out our Political Ticker,

And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you today's top stories.

Happening now, there's an all out sectarian slaughter raging in Iraq. The death toll soaring for Sunnis and Shia alike.

But it is a civil war with U.S. troops caught right in the middle?

Can comedian Michael Richards find redemption after his racial rant?

A round of apologies, including an emotional radio appearance with the Reverend Jesse Jackson. We caught it all on camera.

And scientists find more traces of radiation after the fatal poisoning of a former Russian spy.

The British government calling for calm, but are others at risk right now?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


As President Bush prepares for top level talks aimed at finding answers to the Iraq crisis, death squads stalk the streets of Iraqi cities, leaving bodies behind, often bound and bearing signs of torture. Day in, day out, the killing continues for Sunnis and Shia alike. No place is safe, as both sides prepare for an all out struggle.

But is it actually a civil war already?

let's begin our coverage in Baghdad with CNN's Arwa Damon -- Arwa.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the U.S. and Iraqi governments continue to insist that Iraq is not in a civil war. But many Iraqis look at the bloodshed around them and say that the civil war here actually started a long time ago.


DAMON (voice-over): In the religiously charged atmosphere of Baquba, blind-folded and handcuffed bodies contorted in death arrive at the morgue. The local government said the dead were found scattered through the city; most Shia, some Sunni.

As bodies in this ethnically mixed city piled up for the second day, this man rages at anyone who will listen.

"The government is responsible for this!" he shouts. "The criminals who are running the g."

After Thursday's attack in Sadr City that killed at least 200 Shia, the government imposed a three day curfew in Baghdad, keeping the body count relatively low. But there was no curfew in Baquba and the slaughter went on.

"Why? Why?" this woman shouts.

The Sadr City bombing, the single deadliest sectarian attack of the war, enraged Shia militias and sent the sectarian bloodletting to a whole new level. As one man told us: "Out here, it's now each man for himself."

Sunni Web sites urged their so-called brothers to carry weapons and share details about attacks in their neighborhoods. Residents and insurgents trade tips on defense against Shia militias.

"Prepare your weapons and ammunition," it says. "With the first bullet you shoot, your fear will go away. Plant bombs and tactically position snipers at entrances to your neighborhoods. Fighters should not waste their bullets. Think about your family and remember that they, the militias, burnt children with gasoline."

Fact or fiction, the Internet traffic is fueling fear, hatred and encouraging violence. And this video, posted on an extremist Jihadi Web site, shows a new level of brutality. The Mujahedeen Army from Adamiyah, a Sunni neighborhood, prepared to behead this man, whom they claim is with the Shia Mahdi Militia. The killing, moments later, takes place as people record images.


DAMON: And throughout Iraq, the agony of loss. The failures of the government now painfully obvious as the country comes even closer to full-scale civil war. (VIDEO CLIP FROM KILLING)


DAMON: Trying to curb the violence topping high level agendas this week from Iran to Jordan to Iraq. But few here have any hope that their leaders will come up with a solution -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a piece.

Thanks very much, Arwa, for that.

What a horrible, horrible story.

And amid the slaughter, a debate over semantics -- to what degree this conflict fits the definition of a civil war.

Let's turn to CNN's Carol Costello.

She's watching this story for us -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, you know, Wolf, Kofi Annan, the U.N. Secretary-General, told us today Iraq is almost in a civil war. Others say come on, already. If what's happening in Iraq doesn't constitute a civil war, what does?


COSTELLO (voice-over): The violence in Baghdad has been seemingly non-stop, some of the worst between Sunni and Shia. It is neighbor killing neighbor. The violence is being played out in a number of ways, with Sunnis lobbing mortars into Shia neighborhoods and Shias retaliating.

There are death squads targeting both Shias and Sunnis.

We asked our man on the ground what it looked like from his perspective.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anyone who still remains in doubt about whether this is civil war or not is suffering from the luxury of distance.

COSTELLO: Still, the definition of civil war is tricky, in part because it has all kinds of political implications.

The Bush administration says Iraq is not in a civil war, in part because most of the violence is centered in Baghdad.

But some scholars disagree.

PROF. DAVID LAITIN, STANFORD UNIVERSITY: By the standards of the research community that studies civil wars systematically, it is.

COSTELLO: Academics define a civil war as two factions within the same culture fighting for political control and a death toll of at least 1,000.

For Dr. Brzezinski, national security adviser under President Jimmy Carter, there also is no doubt.

SEN. JACK REED (D-RI), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: I've been saying for years that Iraq has been a low level civil war and I think it is a civil war. You have different groups vying for political power, which is one very good definition of a civil war.

COSTELLO: But the battle over the civil war definition is causing debate within news departments across the country. NBC came out today stating it would now call what's happening in Iraq a civil war, despite White House denials.

"Today" host Matt Lauer announced NBC's decision in a matter of fact tone.

MATT LAUER, "TODAY": After careful consideration, NBC News has decided a change in terminology is warranted, that the situation in Iraq, with armed, militarized factions fighting for their own political agendas, can now be characterized as civil war.

COSTELLO: Others are still calling it part of a larger conflict in Iraq between different factions, fueled by outside players like al Qaeda and Iran. But there's no question -- all are fighting for control of Iraq's fledgling government.


COSTELLO: And you might have noticed in my story it was not Dr. Brzezinski who said that Iraq was in a civil war, it was Senator Jack Reed. We apologize for that mistake.

As for what CNN is calling the war in Iraq, we are not going to label it as anything. Our proper role is to see what experts, academics, think tankers, diplomats choose to call it before weighing in prematurely.

So, Wolf, we leave it to our very savvy viewers to decide for themselves.

BLITZER: And they are very savvy, indeed.

Thanks, Carol, for that.

A bipartisan commission is crashing to come up with a plan for the United States to successfully end the war in Iraq, but there don't appear to be many good options right now.

Let's turn to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre.

He's watching this story -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a lot of the people here in Washington and around the country, in fact, around the world, are looking to this commission to come up with a plan to end Iraq's slide into chaos.

But I've got to tell you, here at the Pentagon, expectations are fairly low.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): For the Iraq Study Group, coming up with a winning strategy is a chicken or egg proposition -- which comes first? Is more stability needed to allow for fewer U.S. troops or would fewer U.S. troops force Iraq to create more stability?

GEORGE MITCHELL, FORMER MIDDLE EAST NEGOTIATOR: Every course of action has a high degree of risk and is not guaranteed to succeed. But I think that there has to be a process that will force the Iraqis to make the difficult decisions they've so far refrained from making.

MCINTYRE: A draft proposal now being debated by the Iraq Study Group purportedly frames the argument around the wisdom of a phased withdrawal, as well as engaging Iran and Syria in direct talks.

The problem is U.S. commanders, including top commander, General John Abizaid, have already rejected the idea of either adding a lot more American troops or any precipitous pullout. So any radical shift in strategy risks running roughshod over the best advice of the U.S. military.

LT. GEN. DANIEL CHRISTMAN, U.S. ARMY (RET.): I think we're setting up an incredible clash between the senior uniformed military and our civilian community.

MCINTYRE: To avoid that, many observers believe the Study Group will advocate a gradual pullout not linked to any firm timetable, along with increased training for Iraqi forces. That option is also favored by America's closest ally, Great Britain, which is anxiously eying the door.

DES BROWNE, BRITISH DEFENSE SECRETARY: I can tell you that by the end of next year, I expect numbers of British forces in Iraq to be significantly lower by a matter of thousands. The planning for this has been going on for some months.

MCINTYRE: Like the U.S. Britain says future troop reductions would be conditions permitting.


MCINTYRE: Now, the Iraq Study Group -- five Democrats, five Republicans -- are meeting this week in Washington. Their meetings are shrouded in secrecy. But whatever they come up with, Wolf, they are expected to present to Congress before it goes home for the holiday recess, some time early in December -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jamie, for that.

Jamie is at the Pentagon. President Bush, meanwhile, on his personal search for an Iraq solution. He's now in Estonia, ahead of a NATO summit in Latvia. After that, a face-to-face meeting with Iraq's prime minister, Nouri Al-Maliki, in Jordan.

Are talks with Iraq's more hostile neighbors on the agenda?

Let's turn to our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux.

She's traveling with the president in Estonia -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, President Bush arrived in Tallinn, Estonia. This is really his first stop in, of course, that high stakes diplomatic offensive. Next, he heads to Riga, Latvia for the NATO summit.

But as you know, all eyes are on those critically important talks between President Bush and the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri Al-Maliki, on Thursday when they meet in Amman, Jordan.

Now, already, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, aboard Air Force One, gave somewhat of a preview of that meeting. He said first the two leaders would discuss whether or not it was appropriate for the United States to reach out and to talk to its nemesis, Iran, regarding Iraq. Hadley saying that he believed Maliki, the preference would be for the Iraqis to reach out to Iran and Syria, that they would take the lead.

Secondly, Hadley called this level of violence in a new phase, but denied that it constituted a civil war. And, third, he said that they would not be discussing U.S. troop levels, but rather how to increase Iraqi troops and how to do that as quickly as possible.

Wolf, as you know, the credibility and legacy of these two leaders is certainly at stake. But Bush administration officials are setting the bar very low for these discussions, in case the violence, and, of course, the situation in Iraq, gets worse before it gets better -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let me just get the time line straight, Suzanne.

Tonight, he's in Estonia. Tomorrow he goes to the NATO summit in Latvia.

And then Wednesday he flies to Jordan for meetings with King Abdullah of Jordan and Nouri Al-Maliki, what, Wednesday or Thursday?

MALVEAUX: Wednesday is when he arrives in Amman, Jordan. And then he will have dinner with King Abdullah of Jordan. And then it's Thursday when he actually holds those talks with Maliki.

BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux.

We'll be watching every step...

MALVEAUX: Then he returns to Washington. BLITZER: Well, we'll get him when he gets back here, as well.

Thanks, Suzanne.

She'll be traveling with the president all of this week.

Jack Cafferty won't be traveling with the president all of this week, but he's here in THE SITUATION ROOM all of this week -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That shouldn't surprise you, that I haven't been invited to traveling with the president.

Outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld may be out of the spotlight these days, but he's still in the hot seat. Former U.S. Army Brigadier General Janis Karpinski told a Spanish newspaper over the weekend she saw a memo signed by Rumsfeld allowing civilian contractors to use harsh interrogation techniques on detainees at Abu Ghraib Prison.

According to the article, she also said Rumsfeld authorized Army personnel to take in inmates at that prison without registering them.

Both those actions violate the Geneva Conventions.

Karpinski, who ran Abu Ghraib until the scandal broke wide open with those famous pictures we saw, was eventually demoted from her post in 2004. She says she was made a scapegoat.

Karpinski was later removed from active duty on unrelated charges. And since then, she has openly criticized tactics used by Rumsfeld and company.

Last week, she said she'd be willing to testify against Rumsfeld in a war crimes investigation that could result from a lawsuit that was filed by civil rights groups in Germany.

So here's the question this hour -- will Karpinski's claims about Donald Rumsfeld fall on deaf ears in Washington, D.C.?

E-mail your thoughts to or go to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you for that.

Up ahead, comedian Michael Richards trying to make amends for his racially charged rant. CNN caught up with Richards. We're going to play you that interview.

Also, the mystery deepens over the fatal radiation poisoning of a former Russian spy in London. We'll have the latest.

Plus, Venezuela's president ramping up his anti-U.S. rhetoric ahead of his country's elections.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: The spy is dead, but the mystery surrounding him is growing by the hour. So are concerns about people who may have been exposed to the rare radioactive poison that killed him.

CNN's Paula Newton is in London with the latest -- Paula.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, authorities here admit this is one of the most challenging investigations they have ever had to deal with. And add to that a public alert by anyone who was at a restaurant or a hotel where Alexander Litvinenko was on November 1st.

There are three people that are now undergoing further tests for radiation poisoning.


NEWTON (voice-over): His doctors called it chemical torture and in the hours before his death, former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko bore the scars of it, his organs failing, his body surrendering. But not his mind. Until the last, he fingered the Kremlin, a charge echoed by his father.

"This regime is a mortal danger to the world. He fought this regime, he understood it and this regime got him."

What actually got him, investigators say, is a rare radioactive element called Polonium 210. And now, trying to figure out when and how he was poisoned is turning into a sensational who done it.

His friends say the Polonium should be like a fingerprint for police. It implicates Russian intelligence executing the government's orders.

ALEX GOLDFARB, FRIEND OF VICTIM: We know that the Russian regime has evolved into a kind of authoritarian dictatorship by now, with no checks and balances.

NEWTON: Russian President Vladimir Putin denies any and all involvement.

PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I hope that British authorities would not contribute to the instigation of political scandals. It has nothing to do with reality.

NEWTON: It's now up to Scotland Yard to sort all of this out. Investigators are combing through Litvinenko's North London home, the sushi restaurant where he had lunch on November 1st and the hotel where earlier that same day he met with two Russian men. All the sites are now contaminated with radiation and authorities are asking people who may have been affected to come forward.

The British government says of the 500 people who have so far been identified, three are being checked for possible radiation poisoning. It seems Britons now need some reassuring. JOHN REID, BRITISH HOME SECRETARY: The police are continuing with an extensive examination of CC-TV footage to trace possible witnesses, to examine Mr. Litvinenko's movements at relevant times, including when he first became ill.

NEWTON: But police remain challenged by this bizarre murder that now threatens to strain relations between Britain and Russia.

(on camera): As a former secret agent, Litvinenko made plenty of enemies. He was one of Putin's harshest critics in the last few years. But in truth, there were many people with the means and the motive to silence him -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Paula, thank you for that.

The CIA, by the way, is looking for a few good spies. Their latest recruiting technique an online quiz aimed at luring younger, newer agents.

Are you a daring thrill seeker or an impressive mastermind?

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, with some answers -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is a tongue-in-cheek personality test from the CIA where you're going to be answering questions on what kind of superpower you would most like or what mode of transportation you prefer. And based on whether you say flying or submarines or whatever you answer, it will give you a result.

No, being labeled a curious adventurer isn't going to affect your chances either way of employment at the CIA. CIA Spokesman Tom Crispell says this is just an entertaining way to drive people to the recruiting Web site and to dispel a few myths about what it's like to work for the CIA.

Apparently, according to the site, it's not all tuxedos and car chases.

In November of 2004, President Bush ordered an increase in the ranks of CIA operators and analysts of 50 percent, a process that Crispell said was well underway.

The efforts have evolved through print ads, as well as radio and television ads. This is the CIA's bug ad that ran on the Discovery Channel in an effort to boost recruitment in the science and technology divisions of the CIA.

Crispell says applications have been up every single year since 2001 and September 11th. Right now, they're reaching a record of 135,000 in 2006 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thanks very much.

Abbi Tatton on the CIA.

Coming up, there's a growing consensus among a lot of observers that Iraq has already fallen into an all out civil war. We'll talk about that and more with our world affairs analyst, the former defense secretary, William Cohen.

Plus, a New York City man killed hours before his wedding in a hail of police gunfire. Now the mayor, Michael Bloomberg, calling the case unacceptable and inexplicable.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Venezuela's presidential election is less than a week away, and that has the incumbent, Hugo Chavez, stepping up his anti- U.S. rhetoric, with fresh attacks on his favorite target. That would be President Bush.

CNN's Brian Todd joining us from the newsroom with more -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the foundation of the Chavez reelection campaign is his opposition to Washington on just about everything. And as he told a giant crowd at a campaign rally, a vote for him is a vote against George W. Bush.


PRES. HUGO CHAVEZ, VENEZUELA (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): On December 3rd, we're going to defeat the most powerful empire on Earth by knockout."

TODD (voice-over): Hugo Chavez firing up hundreds of thousands of people who filled the streets of the Venezuelan capital for a reelection rally. He used the opportunity to bash his favorite target -- President Bush, noting that leaders who have supported Bush in the past paid a price, citing former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Asnar. He lost an election days after bomb attacks by Islamic extremists in Madrid killed nearly 200 people.

CHAVEZ (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): And another one that has turned into space dust is Asnar. Asnar and Bush have turned into space dust.

TODD: Chavez is widely favored to win a third term when Venezuelans head to the polls this Sunday. A new A.P./Ipsos poll shows him far ahead of opposition candidate Manuel Rosales, 59 percent to 27 percent. Those numbers indicating that Chavez's fiery anti- American rhetoric sits well with many Venezuelans.

The same poll shows 63 percent of those asked have a negative view of President Bush, while 55 percent have negative views of the U.S. in general.

But there's more than Bush bashing fueling his popularity. Chavez is a hero among many of his country's poor, who see him as responding to their needs. And there's also broad support from Venezuela's burgeoning bureaucracy. It's doubled in size under Chavez, with some two million workers now in a country of just 26 million people. Critics charge that civil servants are facing pressure to back Chavez.

But whatever the source of his support, Chavez remains almost certain to win another six year term.

CHAVEZ (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): No one can take victory from us. We are going to win on the 3rd of December without any doubt.


TODD: And Mr. Chavez says he will dedicate his victory to his close ally, Cuba's Fidel Castro, the 50th anniversary of Castro's return to that island and the beginning of Castro's revolution -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks for that.

And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time.

Happening right now, the president of Iraq meets the president of Iran. Iraq's Jalal Talabani, Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met in Tehran to discuss Iraq's future. Iran's state run-media saying Talabani talked about the need for Iran's help in squashing the violence in Iraq.

Israel offering to release Palestinian prisoners if Palestinian militants free an Israeli soldier kidnapped five months ago. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert making the offer today. It comes as Israel trying to restart peace talks with the Palestinians.

And is it a crime -- in Missouri, a fire at a group home for the elderly and mentally ill that killed 10 people is being treated as one. That according to Missouri's governor, who says officials want to know if someone intentionally set the fire.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Right now in New York, friends and family who were supposed to be celebrating one man's wedding are now mourning his death. There's fresh fallout from over the 23-year-old who was shot and killed literally hours before he was to marry the mother of his children.

Mary Snow standing by in New York with the latest details -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as anger builds over this weekend's police shooting, the mayor of New York reached out to black community leaders, vowing a full and fair investigation.


SNOW (voice-over): They emerged united for a press conference. But behind closed doors, an insider described the atmosphere among community leaders as "electric" and heated at times.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly met with clergy members and elected officials to deal with the outrage over Saturday's police shooting. Five officers fired 50 shots, killing groom-to-be Sean Bell and injuring his two friends. The men were later found to be unarmed.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), NEW YORK: It sounds to me like excessive force was used, but that's up to the district attorney to find out.

SNOW: While the details are still under investigation, police say the men struck an undercover officer while on foot and hit a police van twice.

But another question being raised in this case is whether race played a factor. The police shooting evoked memories of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed African immigrant killed by police in 1999. The cops who shot him 41 times were white and they were all acquitted.

REP. CHARLES RANGEL, (D) NEW YORK: This is very, very unusual and reminds me of a tragedy that took place with Mr. Diallo, and we can't have that.

SNOW: Compared to the 1999 shooting, one difference is the racial makeup of the officers. Two are white, two are black and one is Hispanic. Former New York City Mayor David Dinkins says another big difference is the fact that Bloomberg is meeting directly with black community leaders who felt shut out in 1999.

DAVID DINKINS, (D) FORMER N.Y. MAYOR: The difference between then and now is just day and night.

SNOW: Rudy Giuliani was mayor at the time of Diallo's death. Dinkins was highly critical of him and was among black leaders who took to the streets.

DINKINS: We were outraged, and so in order to focus further attention on it, I and Congressman Charles Rangel and others, Al Sharpton, we were all arrested at One Police Plaza.

SNOW: Then as now, Reverend Al Sharpton is at the forefront calling for justice. He agrees dealing with city officials has changed. But...

REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: It is better tone, but will it lead to results? We're not just looking to talk, we're looking for action.


SNOW: The shooting is now being investigated by the Queens district attorney who is meeting with family members of the victims and leaders as we speak. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right Mary, thanks very much, Mary Snow reporting. And there's a disturbing story coming in from Atlanta. Let's turn to CNN's Carol Costello for that. What are we learning? CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, we were telling you about that 92-year-old woman shot to death by police in Atlanta. Well, now police there are asking the FBI to conduct an independent investigation of that drug raid shooting. The police chief Richard Pennington has announced the narcotics unit is being placed on paid leave during the probe. Of course we'll continue to follow this story and bring you the latest details as we get them. But from what we understand, police have said that 92-year-old woman pulled a gun and that's why they opened fire. But again, now the FBI is going to get involved, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll stay on top of this story as well Carol, thanks for that. Coming up, our interview with the Comedian Michael Richards on an apology PR blitz. Are African-American leaders receptive to his regrets over his racial tirade? We'll hear what he has to say. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Now there's some new developments concerning the actor known as Kramer in the "Seinfeld" sitcom in his recent racist rant. Michael Richards is saying he's sorry once again. He appeared on the Reverend Jesse Jackson's nationally syndicated radio program yesterday and Richards says he's not a racist. CNN's entertainment correspondent Brooke Anderson caught up with the actor right after his appearance on that program.



MICHAEL RICHARDS, ACTOR: Personal work, deep personal work.

ANDERSON: As in therapy, psychology?

RICHARDS: Yes, to get to the depths of my anger, the issues of anger.

ANDERSON: Have you seen someone or are you going to see --

RICHARDS: Yes, I'm seeing someone now.

ANDERSON: Ok. After the incident, 24 hours later you were allowed back on stage because --

RICHARDS: I was asked to come back to get back on the horse and I was -- was an attempt to recover my sense of showmanship in the course of my work and that's why I went back Saturday night. I was asked to come back Saturday night by the club owner and that was a creative matter, an artistic matter to see if I could keep moving as an artist.

ANDERSON: And the club owner said you had told him you were going to apologize that night, but you didn't. RICHARDS: No, no, I did not. That's -- that's -- that hurts me. That hurts me. I was told to come back and work and get back on the horse, so to speak. And that hurts me.

REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW PUSH COALITION: I think what was meaningful today, I reached out to -- I reached out to Mel Watt, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and to Dr. Wade and to Louise Evers (ph) and her son and NAACP leaders to try to assess what happened and the ramifications of what happened.

Clearly, this was a meltdown, and it was painful and traumatic. And a greater message for children, far beyond the scene. And one thing that comes out of this is challenging all artists and media to stop broadcasting the word (EXPLETIVE DELETED), because it's hate language and it's divisive and painful to people.

And then he agreed to deal with his own internal stuff he has to work through.

We have some other artists like Paul Mooney, who's worked with Michael to talk with him, because they are peers.

Now the bigger issue for us, frankly, is this is the rock that hit the water. The concentric circles are why -- we had Arsenio Hall on nighttime comedy 15 years ago; now, zero. We had "Bill Cosby Show" number one 20 years ago; now zero. We had Max Roberts on ABC News "World News Tonight." Zero.

Now we have more cables and with the exception of Robin Roberts at ABC and Soledad, all day, all night, all whites. So this means he is a symbol, but this is not an aberration. We want to deal with -- we intend to meet -- meet some artists in the use of this pejorative word. But more than that, we intend to meet with these major media outlets on their opening up again, becoming more multi-cultural, multi-racial and more diverse, and their writers and producers and art form (ph).

ANDERSON: Do you see yourself as a symbol of this bigger issue now?

RICHARDS: Perhaps a voice that got it in motion.

ANDERSON: How do you think this went this morning?

RICHARDS: Very well. The African-American community has -- I mean, the leadership has opened up the healing. And for that, I'm grateful.


BLITZER: Today the Reverend Jesse Jackson attended a separate news conference on the matter. He's calling on the entire entertainment industry to stop using the racial slur Michael Richards used and the owner of the Laugh Factory is already listening. That's the forum where Richard used the racial slur. At a news conference within the past hour, the owner says he's banning comedians from using that word on stage. We'll stay on top of the story. Still to come, defining the Iraq conflict. Is it a civil war? And whatever it is, can Iran, yes, Iran, make a difference? I will ask a key member of our CNN Security Council, the former defense secretary, William Cohen. And the sounds of cancer. Can you beat the disease by listening for it? Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back. President Bush's attention this week is focused on possible solutions to the violence in Iraq which may now be, according to some, a full-fledged civil war. Could one of the president's other foes, namely Iran help provide an answer. Joining us now our World Affairs Analyst and former defense secretary William Cohen, he's chairman and CEO of The Cohen Group here in Washington. This image is startling. The Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warmly embracing the visiting president of Iraq, Jalal Talabani. What do you make of this? Can Iraq, I guess that's the bottom line, play a useful role in stopping this warfare?

WILLIAM COHEN, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, first it will be somewhat hypocritical on the part of the United States if in fact The Baker Study Group, the Iraq Study Group, is going to recommend that the United States talk to Iran and Syria, it would be rather hypocritical for us to say that the elected officials, the purple finger recipients of the vote of the Iraqi people could not meet with Iran. The difficulty with the meeting, as far as I'm concerned, is it looks as if it's part of the protectionist racket. In other words, Iran and Syria, especially Iran, have been helping to fuel this insurgency, have been funding some of the militias and now they say, well you know, basically we'll burn your house down unless you pay us to protect you. That's the equivalent to what they're talking about now. We will continue to fuel this insurgency unless we become part of the solution. So it's -- from a perception point of view, it looks as if they are in the driver's seat and certainly the Iraqi government is not.

BLITZER: Is this why the United States went to war in Iraq, to remove Saddam Hussein to elevate Iran and to make Iran a regional player?

COHEN: Well, I think it's important for the United States to talk to Iran but the question is on whose terms. We have the other issue namely their continuation of the pursuit of nuclear weapons. As I have said before, I think what we have to do is to get the key members of the international community as such, the five permanent members of the Security Council to come down hard on Iran. And then that would give at least the United States some leverage. At this point our leverage seems to be help us out because we have -- the only leverage we have is we are going to leave and you'll have a burning fuse on your doorstep so therefore come in and help save us from that. That's not a great position for us to be in.

BLITZER: James Baker, who runs this Iraq Study Group, together with former Democratic Congressman Lee Hamilton, five Democrats, five Republicans, part of it. But I remember when I covered James Baker when he was secretary of state during the first Bush presidency. He loved these international conferences, the Madrid Conference on the Middle East, the big conference before the U.S. went to war to liberate Kuwait. I suspect, correct me if you disagree, he's going to come up with a proposal for a big international conference and we see the advance work going on right now. Cheney goes to Saudi Arabia, the president is going to Jordan. They are talking to Hosni Mubarak. What do you sense of this?

COHEN: I think it's going to be a political recommendation. After all, the various members of that group are basically political veterans who have to make political -- have had political judgments and made them in the past. So it's going to be a regional approach, saying that's part of the key element. I think they will talk in terms of benchmarks, not in terms of timetables. And I think that they will probably give cover or hold the Democratic Party for a limited time. But I think the longer this goes on without some reduction in American forces, structure, then the Democrats will then be accused of being part of the problem, not part of the solution. So it's going to be a difficult negotiation as such but I think it's going to say let's have a regional approach, let's include the Middle East peace process, let's get the Israelis talking to Palestinians. Let's talk to the Iranians and the Syrians and then let's talk in terms of benchmarks and what Maliki has to do to get control over the internal division in this society. Otherwise, we are going to accelerate that departure out.

BLITZER: The key question here. Where will that international conference take place, Geneva, Switzerland? But we'll see. People are already speculating on that front. Thanks very much for coming in.

Let's check in with Lou Dobbs to see what's coming up right at the top of the hour. Lou?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf thank you very much. Coming up at 6:00 p.m. here on CNN, more of our troops have been killed in Iraq. The violence there is escalating to its worst level of this war. We'll have reports from both the Pentagon and of course Baghdad. Three of the country's most distinguished former military leaders join us to assess future U.S. policy in Iraq. Also tonight, not only does the United States have a staggering record trade deficit with China, it now turns out that the Bush administration is facing strong criticism for helping train Chinese police. That's right, a democracy helping a totalitarian state train its police. We'll have that special report. And the rise of leftist leaders across Latin America, what is the U.S. policy in this hemisphere? Is there a U.S. policy, we'll find out. And two of the country's foremost experts are joining us to discuss the Litvinenko assassination and future U.S. policy toward Putin's new Russia. Please join us for all of that at the top of the hour here on CNN. Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: What do you think, Lou, you're always outspoken, on this debate on whether or not this is already a civil war in Iraq right now. It's significant because the American public didn't bargain for U.S. troops getting involved in a civil war.

DOBBS: Wolf, I try to be outspoken on those issues which I carefully analyzed and know a great deal. The fact is I have not analyzed whether it is important to call this a civil war or sectarian violence. All I know is that 3,000 of our troops have been killed, 20,000 more have been wounded, half of them very seriously. So seriously they could not return to action and I still don't know what the U.S. policy and strategy is in Iraq for victory. I think against that, the semantics are frankly irrelevant, Wolf.

BLITZER: Lou, thanks very much. Lou coming up in a few minutes right at the top of the hour. Still ahead here, in THE SITUATION ROOM, a former top military official reportedly makes a scurrilous allegation against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Jack Cafferty wants to know if her claims will fall on deaf ears here in Washington. Jack will be back with your thoughts. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack Cafferty in New York. Jack?

CAFFERTY: Wolf the question is will former Brigadier General Janet Karpinski's claims that outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld okayed prison abuses in a memo fall on deaf ears in Washington? Rick in Toronto writes, "The state of coverup on this issue is probably institutional in scope. Who, involved in government, doesn't stand to lose if the senior members of the administration are proven to have approved of torture? So of course the coverup must be maintained and Karpinski will be discredited by the authorities." Jim in Kensington, Maryland writes, "They will fall on deaf ears where this administration is concerned. Perhaps they will be heard though when impeachment proceedings begin." Carol writes, "Can you say sour grapes anyone? If Karpinski didn't get demoted she wouldn't be offering to testify against Rumsfeld in Germany. If you ask me, Rumsfeld wasn't tough enough."

Leah writes from New York, "Inside the Beltway, absolutely. Outside, absolutely not. The American people has finally wised up." Gerald writes from Las Vegas, "I'm betting on the deaf ears outcome. To try Rumsfeld as a war criminal leads to the obvious conclusion that the president and vice president are also guilty." And James writes, "If you find any other type of ear in Washington, let me know." If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to where you can read more of these little gems online. Wolf?

BLITZER: Jack, see you back here in an hour in THE SITUATION ROOM. Up next, the future of fighting cancer. We'll have that report. Miles O'Brien with that. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Medical science is quickly changing the way we fight cancer with many more promising treatments in store and some sooner than you may think. CNN's Miles O'Brien has our "Welcome to the Future" report. Miles?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, when it comes to fighting cancer, detection is crucial. This year alone, almost 1.4 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer. But with better detection methods on the way, the chances of survival are getting better all the time. Dr. John Viatore of the University of Missouri, Columbia, says by listening to the noise some cancer cells make we may be able to catch and treat it sooner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have found melanoma cells using this laser-induced ultrasound. Melanoma usually contains melanin which is the color that the laser needs to be absorbed and create these ultrasonic waves.

O'BRIEN: But Viatore says by adding color to the colorless cancer cells, this technique may also be effective at detecting other cancers.

VIATORE: This technology has a potential to impact oncology and cancer care across the board.

O'BRIEN: Today in order for an MRI or a cat scan to detect cancer, a patient must already have about a million cancer cells in their body. But Viatore says this technology could be used to detect as few as ten cancer cells in the body. And one day it could even identify a single cancer cell.

VIATORE: It takes away the waiting game. I want to know right now am I still clear?


O'BRIEN: Dr. Viatore says the immediacy of the test results would dramatically improve patient care. After blood is drawn, patients would know in just 30 minutes the nature and extent of their disease. Viatore expects it to be available within two to five years. Wolf?

BLITZER: Miles, thanks for that. Here is a look at some of the hot shots coming in from our friends over at the "Associated Press", pictures likely to be in your hometown newspapers tomorrow. Let's go to Baghdad first. Mourners take part in the funeral procession for those killed in a mortar attack yesterday. In central London, police walked past the boarded up and guarded sushi bar where former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko had lunch before getting sick and later dying from what's believed to be radiation poisoning.

In northeastern Iran, two villagers wrestle, that's part of a traditional wedding party. And here in Washington, look at this, Jerry Merrick, one of the lollipop gilled munchkins from the Wizard of Oz movie stands next to entertainment memorabilia over at the Smithsonian. Some of today's hot shots, pictures often worth a thousand words. We're here in THE SITUATION ROOM, weekday afternoons from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. eastern, back in one hour at 7:00 p.m. eastern. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington, let's check in with Lou, he's standing by in New York. Lou?