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Interview With Paul Bremer; Interview With Ahmad Chalabi; Interview With Kenneth Starr

Aired June 29, 2003 - 12:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 7:00 p.m. in Jerusalem and 8:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for LATE EDITION.
We'll get to our interview with the chief U.S. administration in Iraq, Ambassador Paul Bremer, in just a few minutes, but first, let's check in with CNN reporters covering the hour's top stories around the world.

And we begin in the Middle East, where tentative peace efforts may -- repeat, may -- be getting off the ground. Hamas and the Islamic Jihad are reported to have agreed to a three-month cease-fire in their attacks against Israelis. And Israeli troops are preparing to pull out of Gaza.

CNN's Matthew Chance is in Gaza. He's joining us now live with details -- Matthew.


And word of that cease-fire from Hamas and Islamic Jihad coming to us just a few hours ago. They're saying this cease-fire, this truce, comes into immediate effect, but it does have conditions attached, namely an end to Israel's policy of assassination of militant leaders. Hamas and Islamic Jihad, in a joint statement, say they also want a halt to Israeli military incursions into Palestinian territory, and for it to stop demolishing the homes of Palestinian families of militants that it uses as a deterrent to those militants.

This statement also said it wanted an end to the confinement which has basically been imposed on the Palestinian president, Yasser Arafat, in his compound in the West Bank town of Ramallah, as well as the releases of Palestinian prisoners that are being held in Israeli jails.

Well, Israel has basically, at this stage, rejected this truce, saying it wants to see action on the ground to actually dismantle the militant groups.

At the same time, though, as you mentioned, it does come at a time of real progress being made between Palestinian and Israeli officials to try and configure a plan that would hand back Palestinian Authority security forces responsibility for the security in certain areas of Gaza and the West Bank town of Bethlehem. So it could still yet be a significant development. Much depends on what happens on the ground in the hours and in the days ahead, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Matthew Chance, thanks very much.

Later on LATE EDITION, we'll be speaking with the Israeli finance minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Palestinian information minister, Yasser Abed Rabbo, to get the latest on where things stand in the Middle East.

But let's turn now to Iraq, where U.S. forces are engaged in a major new operation designed to stop the attacks. This, as two more U.S. troops were wounded and an Iraqi civilian was killed in an attack on a U.S. military convoy earlier today.

Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, is in Baghdad. He's joining us now live with details -- Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that convoy that was attacked earlier today was traveling from Baghdad to the city's airport. That airport, of course, the base for U.S. troops here. The road used every day by many, many U.S. troops. Indeed, in the recent weeks, troops have been targeted on that road before.

What happened this morning, according to U.S. military officials here, is that an explosive device went off as the convoy was traveling along the road.

They say it's not clear if the device was in the road or whether it was thrown at the vehicle. But two U.S. soldiers were injured in that attack, and one Iraqi civilian was killed. They say it wasn't clear, from what they said, how the Iraqi civilian was killed.

Now, at the same, an operation was launched early today in the area north of Baghdad, Operation Sidewinder. This, an effort to track down Iraqis believed to have been, perhaps, behind some of the recent attacks, Iraqis who are loyalists to Saddam Hussein.

The area targeted for Operation Sidewinder is an area associated with resistance, with followers around Saddam Hussein. So far, we understand 60 Iraqis have been detained in this mission so far, a number of documents seized, a number of weapons also seized -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic Robertson in Baghdad. We'll be checking back with you, as well. Thanks, Nic, very much.

The task of trying to bring stability to post-war Iraq is being complicated by escalating deadly attacks against U.S. and British forces. In addition to the assaults, there appears to be a growing frustration among Iraqi citizens about the U.S. occupation.

Earlier this week, I spoke with the chief U.S. administrator in Iraq, Ambassador Paul Bremer, about the current state of post-war Iraq.


BLITZER: Ambassador Bremer, thanks for joining us.

Let's get right to the key question at hand. Was the U.S. prepared for what seems to be an incredibly chaotic situation unfolding on the ground inside Iraq?

PAUL BREMER, IRAQ'S CIVIL ADMINISTRATOR: I think we were. And I don't think it's incredibly chaotic, Wolf.

What we're seeing here is a number of incidents; it happens that we've had a very tragic one down in the British sector yesterday. But we've had a fairly constant level of attacks against coalition forces since the war ended.

This was to be expected. We're dealing with it. I don't think it poses a fundamental threat to our overall objectives, which are to bring about a free and independent Iraq with a democratically elected government. And I think that's what we will do here.

BLITZER: But as you know, there's a lot of -- a lot of Americans are concerned, at least one soldier, Marine seems to be getting killed on a daily basis since the president declared an end of major operations on May 1st. How much longer is this kind of sniping going to continue?

BREMER: It's hard to know the size of the opposition we face. It is true that we are losing men and women regularly. You have to remember that two-thirds of those are from accidents; they're not from hostile action. It doesn't make it any easier.

We are faced with a group, small groups of Baathists, members of the ex-regime, Fedayeen Saddam, maybe some Republican Guards, who seem to be operating in small groups and attacking our forces. We are acting forcefully in response.

And I think as we gradually impose our will on these people, I think we'll find that the security in these isolated areas -- in most of the country, after all, this is not a problem -- but in these isolated areas, we are gradually imposing our will. And then I think we'll see things calm down.

BLITZER: You've heard the suggestions from Ahmad Chalabi, the former Iraqi opposition leader, says Saddam Hussein personally is not only alive and well, but he's coordinating, he's orchestrating these attacks against coalition forces. Is Chalabi right?

BREMER: We don't have any evidence yet that shows that these attacks are being centrally directed. You can't yet exclude it. But so far, it looks like they are operations that are undertaken independently by people who sympathize with Saddam, no question, but we don't yet see any sign of central command and control. We are obviously looking very closely for that to see if it comes about.

BLITZER: Is it your sense, Mr. Ambassador, that with Saddam Hussein still out there, presumably alive someplace inside Iraq, many Iraqis simply don't have confidence in the U.S. and the coalition, and as a result, they're holding back in going forward and cooperating with you?

BREMER: I don't think it's a question of them not having confidence in us. I think there is certainly a degree of intimidation by these ex-Baathists, these ex-regime people who are certainly going around. We see intelligence reports that indicate that. They go around in the bazaars and in the villages and say, "We are coming back, and you should not cooperate. Saddam is still alive. And when we come back, we will remember the people who cooperated with the coalition."

But there is some good news here. Our police are now reporting -- we have 8,000 policemen now operating in Baghdad, Iraqi policemen. And they're reporting, over the last two weeks, an increasing number of phone calls from citizens calling in and saying, "By the way, there's some Baathists in the, you know, two houses down from me" or "We saw some Baathists go into that building."

Until a few weeks ago, we weren't getting those kinds of phones calls. That suggests to me that, in fact, at least here in Baghdad, people are beginning to be more confident that we are here, we're going to succeed. And they're more willing to step out and support us.

BLITZER: Is it fair to say, Mr. Ambassador, the war is still going on?

BREMER: Well, we certainly have pockets of violence and military violence that is going on. There are areas of the country, particularly in the triangle roughly from Ar Ramadi, out west of Baghdad, up to Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's home town, and then southeast to Baqubah.

There is certainly a remnant of the regime there that is actively engaged in military operations. I would not say it's a war. There's no doubt about the outcome. We, after all, have 150,000 American troops here and another 20,000 coalition troops. So, there's no strategic threat to us here.

BLITZER: What happened, exactly, on the Syrian border the other day? Syrian forces got injured. There was a firefight involving U.S., coalition troops and Syria.

BREMER: Well, what was involved here -- and I don't want to go into many of the details, but what was involved here was not -- it was not an effort against Syrians. We had an indication that a group of Iraqis were trying to cross the border illegally, and we intervened to stop that. And that's basically all I can say about it at the moment.

BLITZER: Why is it so hard to find Saddam Hussein?

BREMER: Well, it's a big place, it's a big country. He had 30 years to build himself safe houses, palaces, tunnels, we don't know what. And we must assume that, as was the case when he was still here and ruling, he moves around a lot. He probably doesn't spend the same -- you know, sleep twice in the same bed in a row. And he presumably has some people around him who are protecting him.

We'll get him, Wolf. I'm assuming he's still alive, and we will get our hands on him, dead or alive.

BLITZER: Do you believe, Mr. Ambassador, he's with his two sons, Uday and Qusay? Or the three top leaders of Iraq have effectively split up and gone in separate directions?

BREMER: Well, I really don't think we know. We see intelligence and information that leads us to both conclusions -- they're together, they split up, they're all alive, they're all dead, some of them are alive, some of them are dead.

I think we just have to keep following the facts. We'll get all three of these guys, or we'll find out what happened to them.

BLITZER: Why is it also becoming so hard to find the weapons of mass destruction?

BREMER: You know, the secretary of defense addressed this pretty comprehensively yesterday, and he made a couple of points.

One, there's absolutely no question what the intelligence showed before the war, indeed showed all during the '90s, a conclusion reached by not just this administration but by President Clinton, by both houses of Congress and both parties in 1998, that Saddam was pursuing weapons of mass destruction. It was the conclusion of two separate U.N. inspections groups -- the group that inspected through 1995, the group that went back last year under Hans Blix. It was the conclusion of 15 members of the Security Council. There's no question that he had weapons of mass destruction.

We now have a team of about 1,300 men and women here whose job it is to look after those intelligence reports and see what they can find. And, as Secretary Rumsfeld said, I'm confident, as he is, that we will find evidence of the programs or the weapons themselves, as we exploit the information we have.

BLITZER: You were a big supporter of the war going into the war. Do you feel that some of the intelligence was exaggerated in order to justify the war? That's the allegation, as you well know, that's being leveled by some here in Washington.

BREMER: I really don't think that's the case, Wolf. I think the evidence was very clear, the intelligence beforehand was very clear.

I think the pleasant surprise out of the intelligence was that the Iraqi army did not fight as hard as we thought it would, and that we ran a really very successful war. We overran this army in three weeks, with fewer casualties on our side and on the other side, very few civilian casualties, and almost no collateral damage. It really was quite an extraordinary military operation.

BLITZER: Go back to the beginning, and Lieutenant General Jay Garner was supposed to be the point man for the civil administration in Iraq. He was effectively removed; you came in. How did that come about?

BREMER: Well, it was always foreseen, back in January, when the initial planning was getting under way for the event, if there would be a war, what would we do afterwards.

It was always foreseen that we would have somebody with Jay's unique skills at operations and having, himself, served in Iraq after the last war, it was always foreseen that he would come in, he would get the operation up and running, and he would then be superseded by a civilian with a different background, more of a political background. So there really was no particular surprise in my coming out here.

Jay did a superb job under absolutely extraordinary conditions. You see me now sitting in a place where there's light and water. His people worked in this place for three weeks by candlelight with no air conditioning, no water. And they did a terrific job of getting basic services back up, stood up. And all of America owes Jay a debt of real gratitude.

BLITZER: Did you know, Mr. Ambassador, what you were getting yourself into when you left the United States for Iraq?

BREMER: Well, I knew it was going to be a tough job. I knew it would be fascinating. I knew it would be exciting. And it's turned out to be all of those things. It is a great opportunity to serve not just America, obviously, but, more fundamentally, to served Iraqi people and to be sure that in the wake of this wonderful liberation they also get to enjoy some economic benefits. And that's where our focus is now.

BLITZER: A lot of members of Congress are pressing for answers on two questions: How long will U.S. troops have to remain in Iraq? And how much is it going to cost? Do you have answers to either of those questions?

BREMER: Well, of course, you can't answer the question about what it costs until you answer how long we'll be here. We will be here, as the president has said, until the job is done. And the job is done, very clearly, when we have been able to bring about democratic elections that put a representative Iraqi government in a fully sovereign position here.

That's going to require first that the Iraqis write a new constitution. Nobody here believes that we should have elections or even organize society on the basis of Saddam Hussein's 1970 constitution. So, how long we stay really depends on how quickly the Iraqi people write a constitution.

The day they have those elections and they've got a sovereign government, the job of the coalition will be over. And as the president said, we will stay until that day and not a day longer.

BLITZER: Five years is the estimate of Senator Joe Biden, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee who was just in Baghdad. Is he about right? BREMER: I really don't want to get into the guessing game about how many months or years it's going to take, Wolf. My job is basically to work myself out of a job. And obviously, since I've got a wife and kids back home, I'd like to do that as soon as I can.

But realistically it's going to take some time, some months to get this constitution written. We obviously want to get the economy on its feet here. And there's a lot to do, and I'm just going to stay plugging away until it's done.

BLITZER: You work out of one of the old presidential palaces of Saddam Hussein. Take us inside. What's it like to be in there?

BREMER: Well, it's one of these obscene buildings that Saddam -- it seems to be something the totalitarians do, whether they're Mussolini or Hitler or Stalin. They love to build this enormous edifices.

It's a very inefficient building. The room I'm sitting in has a ceiling that's probably 30 feet high. So they've lost a whole nother floor they could have put in. The room itself is enormous. All of the offices are big. We have no air conditioning, so it is quite hot. The temperature today was hovering around 114 outside. It's not a very efficient building.

And it's really sort of obscene, if you want to know, Wolf, because while his people were starving, literally in many cases starving, while he was killing tens of thousands of people, Saddam and his cronies were taking money, stealing it really, from the Iraqi people and putting it into places like this. It is really very uncomfortable.

BLITZER: I assume you're not sleeping in one of his beds.


BREMER: No, there were no beds in this -- this was actually not a presidential palace. This was a palace that the army used, and it was used as an office space. I have been sleeping in one of the rooms here on a cot. There are no big beds around, I'm afraid.

BLITZER: Mr. Ambassador, the other day we did a poll on our Web page, asking our viewers if they thought democracy would take hold in Iraq. Overwhelmingly, our viewers responded -- it's not a scientific poll -- but they said, no, 80 percent to 20 percent approximately.

Can you envisage a day when there will be a democratic Iraqi government in place? And if you can, when will that day occur?

BREMER: Oh, yes, I think one of the most extraordinary things about this country is that it has some real advantages. It's got, of course, oil. But it's got water, it's got fertile land. And it has an extraordinarily able people, very talented, skillful people. I've met hundreds of them now, I guess thousands.

And they quite clearly are yearning for democracy. We've seen, after the liberation, an exuberant explosion of the sort of signs of democracy. There's something like 120 new papers in the last six weeks. We have, as you no doubt have been reporting, demonstrations.

Whenever anybody wants to shout about things they can go out and demonstrate, something they never could do before. So the democratic instinct, the instinct for freedom, is here.

And it's not going to be easy. It's something they're not familiar with. They've never enjoyed democracy before. But we know that countries, indeed, can adopt the mantle of democracy if we get good leadership, and we're trying to do that, and if we give them security, and we're doing that, and if we can give them basic services so that they can get on with their lives. And that's basically what we're going to do.

BLITZER: One final question, Mr. Ambassador, before I let you go. The fear of an Islamic government emerging in Iraq, the Shiite majority, for example, taking over -- already reports, disturbing reports that they're preventing women from going to universities in the south in Basra, that they're forcing women to wear veils.

How concerned should the American public be that there could be an Iran-like regime emerging inside Iraq?

BREMER: Well, I'm not an expert on the country, but I've talked to an awful lot of Shias since I've been here, and I tell you, I think the vast majority of the Shia here deeply resent the interference that Iran is now undertaking in Iraqi affairs.

The Iranians are very active. They are interfering. We have told them to stop, not just because it's against our interests, but because it's against the interests of the Iraqi people.

Most Shia here are from what is called the quietest tradition of Shia, which takes the view that clerics should not be involved in government, so they take a view that's quite different than what we see in Iran.

And I'm confident that the vast majority of Iraqis -- Shias, Sunnis, Kurds, Christians, Turkomen -- resent Iranian interference in their affairs.

BLITZER: Mr. Ambassador, good luck to you. Thanks for spending some time with us.

BREMER: Nice to be with you this afternoon.


BLITZER: Ambassador Paul Bremer speaking with me from Baghdad earlier in the week.

Up next, attacks take on a deadly toll as U.S. and British troops face mounting opposition inside Iraq. Is Saddam Hussein orchestrating a guerrilla war? We'll ask the former Iraqi opposition leader, Ahmad Chalabi. Then, nuclear parts uncovered in Iraq. Could they be the missing link in the search for weapons of mass destruction? Senators Chuck Hagel and Joe Biden weigh in own that and more. The post-Iraq war situation.

And later, tentative steps toward peace in the Middle East, but will a planned truce between Israelis and Palestinians hold? We'll talk with the Israeli finance minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Palestinian information minister, Yasser Abed Rabbo.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.



DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: It's also no question but that there are leftover remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime that are doing things that are against the coalition.


BLITZER: The U.S. defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, offering his opinion about who's behind the attacks against U.S. and British forces inside Iraq.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Coming up, we'll be speaking with senators Joe Biden and Chuck Hagel. But joining us now from Baghdad, the former Iraqi opposition leader, Ahmad Chalabi, of the Iraqi National Congress.

Mr. Chalabi, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Let's get right to one of the key issues at hand, namely this: You've suggested Saddam Hussein is not only alive and well but he's orchestrating, he is ordering these attacks against coalition forces. What evidence do you have of that?

AHMAD CHALABI, IRAQI NATIONAL CONGRESS: Well, the attacks continue. U.S. forces found leaflets offering bounty and increasing the bounty. You have information about activities of Baathists all around the country -- meetings, coordinations and money moving around. We are hearing this continually.

BLITZER: Is Saddam Hussein personally involved in coordinating these strikes?

CHALABI: I don't think so. He is giving orders, and he doesn't appear very often. He issues these orders.

And he had a plan, you see. Saddam, I said, did not have a serious military plan against the U.S., but he had a post-defeat plan, and that is being implemented right now.

BLITZER: Including the sabotaging of oil pipelines, electricity, water -- this is part of a Saddam plan that we heard about, but you believe it's now being implemented?

CHALABI: Yes, there is such a plan, and there is some evidence that it was formulated in writing before the war started, for after the war. And I think that Saddam had this plan done, and it's being implemented by the remnants of his regime.

BLITZER: Ambassador Paul Bremer suggested to me that Saddam Hussein may be sleeping in a different bed every night someplace in Iraq. Do you have any idea where he might be?

CHALABI: Well, Saddam is definitely not visible. He is taking very heavy precautions about his whereabouts.

I said I do not know exactly specifically where he is, but we know that he is moving around in an arc of over 150 miles from east of the Tigris in Diala (ph) toward Tikrit and then down toward the Euphrates Valley. That's a long and big area.

But we cannot say specifically where he is. We, for example, gathered on the 14th of June that some serious and important Baathist was in Tikrit, and we notified U.S. forces. And they went to that place in Tikrit, and they have caught Abed Hamoud (ph) there, who was Saddam's secretary. He should be able to tell them a great deal about Saddam's movement.

BLITZER: Do you believe he is talking?

CHALABI: I don't know. We have no access to him. And I really don't know what he's saying to them. But it's clear that I think he told them that Saddam is still alive, and they believe him, because they revised their estimates.

BLITZER: Do you after confidence in the way the U.S. and the British are handling this post-war situation inside Iraq right now?

CHALABI: The U.S. and the coalition should tap into the enormous energy that exists in Iraq against Saddam, the Baath Party, and for the independence of Iraq. And I think that the more they tap into this energy and involve Iraqis in this campaign to capture Saddam and rout out the Baathists and preserve the independence of Iraq, the better it is for them.

BLITZER: The Wall Street Journal had an editorial on Thursday, you may have seen it. Let me quote briefly from it. Among other things it said was this: "Disarming the Free Iraqi Forces after the war was a terrible mistake, another example of the State Department and CIA vendetta against Ahmad Chalabi."

Do you believe there's a vendetta against you by the State Department and the CIA?

CHALABI: I think disbanding the Free Iraqi Forces was a mistake. And I cannot speak about the vendetta by the CIA and the State Department against me. I think I'm not that important for them to have such a vendetta.

BLITZER: But are you being received...

CHALABI: They are big organizations.

BLITZER: Is Ambassador Paul Bremer, the chief U.S. administrator, other high -anking U.S. civilian and military leaders inside Iraq right now, how are they treating you personally?

CHALABI: I have excellent relations with Ambassador Bremer. I met with him the second day after I came back to Baghdad. We will continue meetings, and we'll have meetings with his aids. I have no complaints about the way he is treating me at all. I think he is an intelligent man and he is going to get it right. We must get it right.

We are allies in this. And we have defeated Saddam's military forces. Now together, we must complete the liberation of Iraq and the establishment of peace and security in the country.

BLITZER: Once the U.S. hands over authority to an Iraqi government, do you want to be on top of that Iraqi government?

CHALABI: I have said I'm not a candidate for any political position in Iraq. I am more interested in shoring up civil-society institutions that are the real basis of democracy. It is not about me. It is about Iraq. It's about the Iraqi people. It's about stability in the country. And above all, it's about democracy in the country and keeping the country together.

BLITZER: How seriously are you concerned, if you are at all, about Iranian meddling inside Iraq, especially among the Shia?

CHALABI: The Shia of Iraq are the main Arabs. The Shia of Iraq are proud Iraqis who will defend the independence, unity and territorial integrity of Iraq. And I think Iran understands this very well.

There have been some reports about some activity recently. However, I do not think that these will persist. I am very encouraged by the statements of Ayatollah Hakim (ph) in the past few days, calling for nonviolence in handling relations with the coalition.

I believe that the Shia in Iraq are going to take a position that will put Iraq above everything else. And I believe that the Islamic movements among the Shia, along with other movements which are secular and liberal democratic, along with the Shia, will all take a strong position for the independence of Iraq and the independence of the political decisions of the leadership.

BLITZER: As you know, Mr. Chalabi, this week we saw for the first time since the end of the major combat Mohammed Sa'eed al- Sahhaf, the former Iraqi information minister, appear on Arabic television.

What do you know about his capture, if there was a capture, his release? Why is he allowed to walk free right now? CHALABI: Indeed, we are very surprised that he was permitted to appear on this TV after the ridiculous things he said about the U.S. and the coalition and after his role in the oppression of the Iraqi people. We are surprised that he appeared. I believe that he and many of the other senior Baathists should be in custody.

The U.S. saw fit not to capture him. Many times he requested to be captured for his own protection. But the U.S. saw fit that they did not capture him. There was a joke made, they said they're looking for Chemical Ali but not Comical Sa'eed.

BLITZER: And did they give you an explanation why they didn't arrest him?

CHALABI: They said that he's not that important. But you see, if he appears on Arab TV looking comfortable and easy, then many of the more egregious Baathists will take heart from this. And they will take this as a sign that the U.S. is not serious in pursuing de- Baathification.

I am surprised at how he was permitted to appear. It's a flagrant insult to the Iraqi people.

BLITZER: Ahmad Chalabi, thanks for spending some time with us. I appreciate it very much. We'll get back to you, obviously, down the road.

Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi National Congress leader, the former opposition leader, speaking with us live from Baghdad.

Still ahead, growing concerns that Iraq could become a quagmire for the United States. We'll get firsthand assessment from two leading United States senators. They're just back from Iraq: Republican Chuck Hagel and Democrat Joe Biden. They'll also be taking your questions, so start calling us right now.

And later, a time of delicate diplomacy in the Middle East. Are Israelis and Palestinians finally beginning to get on the road toward peace? We'll get perspective from Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo.

And a reminder, you can weigh in on our LATE EDITION Web question of the week: Are the new discoveries in Iraq conclusive proof that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction? Vote now at our Web address, We'll tell you the results later in this program.

LATE EDITION will be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. I'm joined now by two key members of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee. They're just back from a personal visit to Iraq. In Wilmington, Delaware, is Senator Joe Biden, the committee's top Democrat; in Omaha, Nebraska, Republic Senator Chuck Hagel. Senators, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Senator Biden, let me begin with you. Is it as chaotic inside Iraq as it would appear to be, based on so many of the reports we're getting?

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: It's not quite as chaotic. There are parts of Iraq, for example, the north is in pretty good shape; the south is in better shape. It's that triangle around Baghdad that's, I think, in bad shape.

And there are certain things that are just obvious. One, we started late. Two, the administration proceeded on three faulty assumptions about what they were going to find. And three, we need more help there now. There's a need to show progress quickly. And I think it involves a need to internationalize this and to get police on the ground and more forces in there from the international community.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to get to pursue that. But, Senator Hagel, there was an editorial picking up on that in USA Today earlier in the week, on Thursday, that said this: "Clearly, military planners failed to anticipate the need to quickly replace soldiers with experienced U.S. civilians who could establish security, form a rudimentary system of justice and provide basic jobs."

Was there a failure?

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: Well, I don't believe that the administration planned very well at all for a post-Saddam Iraq. But we are where we are. We must now move forward.

The fact is that Ambassador Bremer and his team -- and they are all first-class, first-rate people -- have an awesome task in front of them. It is going to require, just as Joe Biden said and Chairman Lugar observed as well, an internationalization of this, bringing help in as quickly as we can. We need to bring some legitimacy to the American effort here. That's more United Nations involvement and more Arab involvement. But this is an awesome task. We've never ever tried to do anything quite like this. And you, of course, in your interview with Ambassador Bremer, covered a lot of what has to be done. We must not fail here. We cannot fail. We have too much at stake here: the Middle East peace process, Afghanistan, Iraq -- all, in fact, are very much connected and very much in the long-term interests of the United States.

BLITZER: When you say, Senator Hagel, that we need to bring legitimacy to this process, are you suggesting that the U.S. operation, the coalition operation now, is not legitimate?

HAGEL: No, it is what is perceived by the Iraqis, by the Middle East, by Muslims around the world as to whether our intentions are legitimate. That means our purpose, which we Americans in the West, I think most of us understand what it is, that is, to develop a nation of democratic institutions and free markets, allow the Iraqis to govern themselves. But what we must understand is that that intention and purpose isn't translated the same across Iraq. Therefore, to bring other people, other nations, the United Nations, into this and the other Arab world representatives into this -- not only to help us, but to legitimize the effort -- is very, very critical here.

Because what we are dealing with there, as dangerous as it is -- and it will get more dangerous, and we are in for a long-term commitment here. We cannot do this without the people of Iraq helping us, without them being part of the process to get us and get them where we all believe they want to be eventually.

BLITZER: Senator Biden, since May 1st, when the president was aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln declaring major combat operations in Iraq over -- I'll put it up on the screen -- the casualties involving U.S. troops: 63 Americans killed, roughly one a day, 23 in hostile fire, 40 in other incidents -- noncombat, as it is called -- six British soldiers killed last week.

Why would other forces, NATO troops or international forces, want to get themselves involved in what is clearly a dangerous situation?

BIDEN: Well, Wolf, I believe they'd want to get involved because, as the French foreign minister said to me last year, this is our front yard. Meaning, that if we don't get it right in Iraq, it is going to have significant repercussions for all of Europe and all of the Middle East. They don't want to get involved in it in the sense of looking forward to it, but they are prepared to get involved.

And it seems to me we have to get above this ideological, sort of, notion that we're not going to let anybody else come in there and help us. I know there's effort to get the Indians and the Bangladeshis in, and that's important. But we really have to get NATO into this and get them invested in this.

And, you know, what Chuck said, I mean, Chuck and I agree on this almost down the line. What he said about legitimacy -- one of the ways to demonstrate that we're not there as an occupying power is if every uniform they see is not an American uniform. Imagine if there were 30,000 to 60,000 French, German, NATO forces in there with their patches on their sleeves.

If there is more of a visible presence of de Mello, who is the U.N. representative, then that makes it clear that we're not the only game in town.

We'd still be in control. We have to be in control till we get this thing get set up. But there's a urgent need here to convince the Iraqi people that we are in it for their interests, not just our own interests, and that's one of the many ways we can do it.

But we ought to also be talking, I think, to the Iraqi people. The idea that we're only up on the air four hours a day on television when I was in Iraq, and our staff is still back in Iraq speaking with them today from Baghdad, indicate that the Iraqis view that sort of as Saddam television. We should be having Iraqi speakers and Iraqi nationals on the air talking about what's actually going on, how Saddam or the remnants of his regime is sabotaging their ability to get water, their ability to get energy, their ability to get electricity.

There's not quite the same sense of urgency, I think, is required.

BLITZER: The fact is, though, Senator Hagel, the Bush administration seems reluctant to let the U.N. have some sort of significant formal presence, militarily, peacekeeping force. NATO is perhaps another matter.

Do you have any reason to believe, Senator Hagel, your fellow Republicans in the White House, over at the Pentagon, are ready for the kind of internationalization of this presence that you're advocating?

HAGEL: Well, I think the forces of reality are going to eventually set in, if they haven't already, to make those who have been reluctant to bring the U.N. in, NATO in and others, a reality. In fact, that's going to happen. That must happen.

And the more dangerous this becomes, the more casualties we take, the more difficulties we have in rebuilding Iraq, the more sabotage we see, then I think this reality is going to be the jarring gong that, in fact, is going to open this up to the French, the Germans and others.

We don't have a lot of time here. Time is not on our side. Every day that ticks by, we're losing ground. And, yes, it is immense. Yes, it is complicated, the task. All the more reason we need help. We can't continue to stretch our troops, our forces as we are stretching.

But the fact is, this is a big, complicated dynamic that we're dealing with. It is larger than just a force structure and a military and even an intelligence operation.

And I'm also -- on that point, Wolf, I was a little amused at the comment, the quote you read from the Wall Street Journal about Chalabi, about the State Department and the CIA freezing Chalabi out. Somebody should remind the Wall Street Journal that the State Department and the CIA is not in charge in Iraq. The Defense Department is in charge in Iraq, so if there's any freezing out of anybody, they better go talk to Secretary Rumsfeld.

BLITZER: Well, what about that, Senator Biden? Chalabi, you sense the frustration in his comments. Should he be frozen out? Is he the guy who could help the United States bring some sort of stability to Iraq?

BIDEN: He can be of some help, but it's got to come from within. And one of the things that I did see -- by the way, I agree with Chuck. We have a first-rate team there. Bremer is good. We have two ambassadors there, and a Secretary Slocombe over there from the Defense Department. These guys know what they need. They have to establish order immediately. They've been telling us -- we went out to the police academy. These are people, our guys, with incredible experience from Kosovo, from Bosnia, from Afghanistan. They've learned. They say, we need 5,800 European trained police officers now on the ground securing order while we train up an Iraqi police force. We need more Iraq -- we need more forces total on the ground.

For example, the guys we left behind in Baghdad, they're in a particular neighborhood. They said they haven't seen -- and this is not a criticism of our military, which is spread so thin -- they haven't seen any presence of the military in the neighborhood in which they're staying. The point is, we need more now.

BLITZER: Senator Biden, unfortunately we are all out of time. But a quick question just to get you on the record. Earlier today you suggested you're leaving open the possibility of running for president, maybe making an announcement later on in the fall. Tell us precisely where your head is at on this issue right now.

BIDEN: Same where it was back in the fall and in the spring. And that is, I'll make a decision in the fall, this fall, whether I'm running or not running.

BLITZER: And you want to give us a hint? Are you inclined to run or inclined not to run?

BIDEN: I'll make the decision then.

BLITZER: All right.

BIDEN: Thank you.

BLITZER: You don't want to give us a hint, which is your right.

Senator Biden, thanks very much for joining us. Senator Hagel, good to have both of you back safe and sound from Iraq.

HAGEL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks for joining us.

BIDEN: Thanks for having us.

HAGEL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

And coming up, President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, is in the Middle East, part of the president's effort to try to jump-start the peace process. What are the next steps for both sides? We'll talk with the Israeli finance minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Palestinian information minister, Yasser Abed Rabbo.


BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We'll get to my interview with the Israeli finance minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in just a moment, but first, let's check in on some top stories unfolding right now.

President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, is meeting with Palestinian and Israeli officials in the Middle East, trying to get the peace process back on track.

The president, for his part, is monitoring all of these developments from his ranch in Crawford, Texas. Our White House correspondent, Dana Bash, is there as well. She's joining us now live.

How are they dealing, Dana -- how are they reacting to word of this cease-fire?

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we haven't gotten any specific reaction yet from the White House on the announcement that the cease-fire actually has happened. But we did, of course, hear from the president earlier in the week, when there was talk that it was going to be announced. And he was very skeptical, to say the least, of the fact that the cease-fire -- not only that it was going to happen, but that it could have lasting impact.

What he said, instead, that he wants to see from the region and from the Palestinians is a total dismantlement of groups like Hamas. He was very clear that what needs to happen isn't just for the violence to simply end for however long that happens, but he believes that the road map calls for, and what is necessary, if for those groups like Hamas to not have arms at their disposal at all. He said that it is important that they don't have the ability to blow up the process in the future.

But as you mentioned, his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, is in the region today. She is helping the president make good on his promise that he made on June 4th in Aqaba that he would dispatch his senior advisers to the region to keep the U.S. engaged in the process.

She met earlier today with the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, and some of his top deputies. Yesterday, she met with the Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas. So, she is there to prod, to cajole, to listen, to be there as somebody who they know has the president's ear and really speaks for the president to keep the process moving -- Wolf.

BLITZER: CNN's Dana Bash in Crawford, Texas. Dana, thanks very much.

BLITZER: With us now to talk about Israel's next steps on the road map toward peace is that country's former prime minister, the current finance minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Minister Netanyahu, good to have you back on LATE EDITION. Thanks for joining us.

Let's get to the issue of a cease-fire. Is that happening?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI FINANCE MINISTER: Well, Wolf, we'll soon see. But, unfortunately, I can report to you we have a very large number of terrorist alerts. Those alerts have not been influenced at all by the talk of the cease- fire.

And in any case, I think that President Bush was right on the mark when he said that what we need here is not a tactical interlude while the Hamas and the other terrorists strengthen themselves for the next round, but what is really required is the total dismantling of these terror groups.

I think that's important not only for Israel but for a proper and legitimate Palestinian Authority. You need one armed force that stops terrorism, and the only way can you get that is by dismantling these terror groups.

BLITZER: Minister Netanyahu, what do you mean exactly by terror alerts that are happening right now?

NETANYAHU: Well, we have information, we have intelligence that terrorist attacks are being prepared to being launched against us.

Now, we don't -- we can't say right now if there's any let-up in this, because we don't see it yet, but we hope that there will be, obviously, a reduction, indeed an end, to these things.

The only way you can really achieve that is by having the Palestinians do what President Bush has demanded them to do, and that is to take apart these terrorist organizations which launch the terrorists.

BLITZER: Despite these terror alerts, is Israel going to go ahead with its unilateral withdrawal of its military forces, at least from parts of Gaza?

NETANYAHU: Yes, I believe so because we want to at least carry out our part. But obviously, we have other means to protect ourselves, and we will employ them.

BLITZER: When you talk about a withdrawal from Gaza, what precisely -- how much of Gaza will you be handing over to Palestinian Authority security forces so they can take charge of security?

NETANYAHU: Well, first of all, we're in a very small part of that district anyway. But the precise delineation of territory is something I'll leave to our security chiefs.

BLITZER: As you know, there are more than a million Palestinians who live in Gaza. There are roughly about 7,000 Israelis who live in Gaza. Many Israelis say, "Pull them out because they're a drain on the IDF," the Israel defense forces. "It's time for them to leave and let Gaza be ruled by the Palestinian Authority."

What do you say about that?

NETANYAHU: Well, by that logic, you could say pull out Israel from the Middle East. We're surrounded by over 100 million Arabs, and why bother?

I think if we are to have real peace, then Israelis and Palestinians will have to live side by side. And the idea that anywhere that you have Palestinians, there can't be any Jews, it has to be Jew-free, is a racist idea. We don't say that we have to cleanse out Arabs from Israel. They are citizen of Israel, they enjoy equal rights.

And we cannot see why it is that peace requires that any Palestinian area would be cleansed, a kind of ethnic cleansing and have no Jews. I don't accept it. When it comes from this direction or the other direction, it's unacceptable.

BLITZER: So the 7,000 Israelis who live in Gaza, should they be under the Palestinian Authority control, assuming there's a Palestinian state? Or do you want them to remain under Israeli control?

NETANYAHU: Well, obviously, I want them to stay under Israeli control. But we're not there yet. We're not a position of a final settlement. I myself believe that it's possible to realize a settlement of peace if we have a peace partner on the other side.

Now how would we know if we have a peace partner? You really need two criteria and only two criteria that will tell if you have somebody to negotiate with. The first is that he wants peace, that is that he doesn't seek to annihilate you. And for that, I think there is absolute unanimity in Israel that we want the Palestinian partner to renounce the demand to flood Israel with millions of Palestinians, the so-called right of return.

I think that you'll not get a single Israeli who will say that they agree to hand over territory or make concessions to somebody who's out to destroy the Jewish state, which is effectively what this means. So we'd like to see them abolish that demand.

And the second thing is, of course, to abolish terror. If you have both the abolishing of the goal of our destruction and the abolishing of the method of our destruction, then we can negotiate answers to all the questions that you're asking. And I think that's what Israelis would like to see today, beginning with the dismantling of the terror organizations.

BLITZER: In addition to pulling out from Gaza militarily, the next step supposedly calls for Israel to withdraw militarily from Bethlehem, the area around Bethlehem outside of Jerusalem. Is that in the works?

NETANYAHU: That's being discussed now, yes, or will be discussed this week.

BLITZER: And what about the whole issue of targeted killings? The Palestinians say those must stop during these three months of the truce, the cease-fire that they're about to accept.

NETANYAHU: These are not random actions on our part. They're meant to, and they do, intercept people who are actually en route or are planning to bomb our buses, our children, innocent civilians.

So you're not going after innocent people, you're going after terrorist murders. And on occasion, regrettably, as happens to you in Iraq, to the United States and elsewhere, occasionally innocent people regrettably die in the process.

But what we are targeting on the whole -- and most of the time this is what happens -- is that we actually are able to intercept and get rid of the killers themselves. And I think that's obviously within our purview. That is self-defense in its most elementary form.

BLITZER: So the targeted killings, or the assassinations, if you will, of so-called ticking bombs, that will continue? NETANYAHU: Well, preferably, we won't have to do this because the Palestinians will indeed enforce the end of terror. That is, they will go after these killers. The Palestinian Authority promised to do that. The president has demanded that they do that. So, if they carry out their part, obviously we won't need to do it.

NETANYAHU: But suppose you knew, in the United States, that somebody is coming at you with the intent to blow up buildings or bomb your cafes or restaurants or buses, of course you take action if the other side that promised to take action against these killers wouldn't fulfill his part.

We hope that it won't be necessary. If it's necessary, we'll do what we need to defend our country.

BLITZER: Do you have confidence, Minister Netanyahu, in Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian prime minister?

NETANYAHU: You know, I'd like to have all the confidence, I'd like to see a real change. And I think here, it's more a question of political will, because Mr. Abbas and the Palestinian Authority have many more armed men than Hamas and all the terrorist groups put together. He's got tens of thousands of them. He has been given other means, as well.

And I think it's more a question of the availability of political will to do something that everyone will admit is not easy to do but, I think, is indispensable for peace. If you want to have peace, you can't have terror. It's one or the other, but not both. And I hope that the Palestinians choose peace, which means they'd have to fight terror.

BLITZER: As you know, Israel is building this fence, or what is clearly a wall, to try to prevent terrorists from infiltrating inside Israel, going down roughly along the old pre-'67 line between Israel and the West Bank, although it's not completely along there. Some of the Jewish settlements are of course included on the Israeli side.

But, in effect, is this wall creating the new boundaries of the state of Israel?

NETANYAHU: No, and that's clearly not our intention. When we had peace agreements, we moved a lot more than fences, as you know. But we don't have a peace agreement as yet, we have terror.

And the interesting thing, the interesting statistic that astounds people is this: We've had about 250 suicide bombers, altogether claiming close to 1,000 Israeli lives. Now, how many of those suicide bombers have come from Gaza, where the Hamas headquarters is, where most of its activists are? And the answer is, zero. Not one Palestinian suicide bomber came from Gaza. 250 came from Judaea-Samaria, from the West Bank. Why is that? Well, because Gaza is surrounded by a fence, and Judaea-Samaria, the West Bank, does not have a fence. So a terrorist suicide bomber can get up in the morning in any one of these Palestinian towns and just walk over, literally walk over, across a field sometimes, to an Israeli town, board a bus or stand in a public square in the middle of the town, and blow themself up.

And this has to end. I think that there's unanimity inside Israel, there is very strong unanimity in our cabinet that, in addition to the offensive measures that have to be taken against the terrorist groups, the terrorist organizations, preferably by the Palestinian Authority itself, there have to be defensive means in which we can protect ourselves against these incoming killers. And I think the combination of the two will stop terror.

And here's the main point, I think: We all hope, or we believe, that a political process might stop terror. But it could also be the other way around, that stopping terror might help the political process. Because, if indeed the terror alerts are true, and we have more of these savage killings, you know that we will take action...

BLITZER: All right.

NETANYAHU: ... you know that this will disrupt the peace process.

I think that the combination of a defensive barrier and action on the part of the Palestinian Authority, or by us if necessary, against the terrorists is what will stop the terror and enable peace to take place.

BLITZER: Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, thanks for joining us from Jerusalem. Always good to have you back here on LATE EDITION.

NETANYAHU: Thank you.

BLITZER: Up next, a Palestinian perspective. We'll talk with the Palestinian information minister, Yasser Abed Rabbo, about where the peace process stands right now.

And later, we'll get perspective from the former U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger and the former U.S. National Security Adviser Samuel Berger about the Middle East road map, the war on terror, Iraq and more. And are the new discoveries in Iraq conclusive proof that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction? You can go to our Web page, That's where you can vote on this Web question.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

We're getting some late-breaking developments in Gaza right now. CNN's Jerrold Kessel is standing by for that.

Jerrold, tell us what's going on.

JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, dusk has fallen here. But at dusk, the beginnings, the first signs of real, tangible movement and implementation of this peace initiative, the so-called road map for peace.

Because what we're seeing here, right on the Israel-Gaza border, just about half a mile, less than half a mile behind me, is one of the gates leading into the Gaza strip. Israel has built this fence all around Gaza. Troops have been coming out, moving around.

And it is clear that this is the start of the Israeli redeployment out of the northern part of Gaza. And here we are seeing some of the tanks, bulldozers, armored bulldozers moving, coming out of the area. This is the -- clearly part of this redeployment in terms of the agreement that has been concluded between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

It may take several hours until the Israeli troops have redeployed in northern Gaza, out of northern Gaza. That will enable the Palestinian security to come in and to take over control for the area to make sure there are no further militant attacks against the Israelis.

Now, just about an hour or so ago, at this very spot here, overlooking this nice panoramic view you do have in the daytime, overlooking the Gaza strip, there were Israeli -- quite, really, a unique scene, something we haven't seen for over two years: Israeli senior officers and Palestinian officers meeting together. They exchange words, Hebrew and Arabic, looked over the map, made sure they would work together in tandem over the next 24 hours to get the changeover. Israel withdrawing from parts of Gaza, handing it over to the Palestinian Authority -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jerrold Kessel with that breaking news right there. Jerrold Kessel in Gaza, thanks very much.

And let's go to Ramallah now on the West Bank. That's where the Palestinian information minister, Yasser Abed Rabbo, is joining us live.


BLITZER: It sounds very encouraging, these initial, tentative steps, Israel beginning bulldozing some of its checkpoints, beginning to pull out of Gaza. What's your take right now on this proposed truce, this cease-fire, and the Israeli withdrawal?

RABBO: Well, in fact, the Palestinian organization declared a few hours ago it holds a cease-fire. And we are expecting that the Israeli government, on its side, will declare the end of all violence against Palestinians, as it is stated in the old map that Israel should take such a step.

And we think that this might lead, of course, to further, more positive development in the direction of withdrawal of Israel from other parts of the West Bank, these parts that were occupied by the Israeli forces over one year ago.

BLITZER: Minister Rabbo, you heard Benjamin Netanyahu, the finance minister, say that if the Palestinian Authority can get the job done, clamp down on the terrorist organizations, then there won't be need any need for Israel to engage in what they call the targeted killings, the assassinations.

Can the Palestinian Authority take charge, take responsibility for security in the areas from which the Israelis will be withdrawing?

RABBO: Well, the Palestinian government had declared that we are committed to the road map. We didn't hear from Mr. Netanyahu or from any other Israeli official, including Mr. Sharon, that they are committed as well to the road map.

The road map says that we will control the security in the Palestinian areas while Israel have to stop all assassinations, all extrajudicial killing, all forms of atrocities against the Palestinian people, including the demolition of houses, the confiscation of land and other measures that they have taken in the past two years, and resulted in the killing of over 3,000 Palestinians and injuring over 60,000. And there are over now 12,000 Palestinians in the Israeli presence.

The Palestinian prisoners should be released, as well, in order to create a different atmosphere that will enable us to also to win the support of our public opinion.

And, in this case, we can both proceed toward political negotiations in order to end Israeli occupation and establish a Palestinian independent state.

Now, the main obstacle in front of all this is the policy of settlement. The Israelis are confiscating daily more land. And in this way, they are provoking our people and they are undermining the implementation of the road map and President Bush vision for creating a Palestinian viable contiguous state.

And for that reason, we had informed Dr. Rice yesterday about the dangers behind the building of this so-called separation wall.

BLITZER: All right.

RABBO: This wall is annexing huge parts of the West Bank. And this wall is also intended to expand the settlement and not to create better security conditions for both sides.

BLITZER: Minister Rabbo, let me interrupt and get to one of the key issues. First of all, clarify this for us. We know Hamas and Islamic Jihad have announced this truce, this cease-fire. But the Al- Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which is affiliated with the Fatah movement, apparently has not yet signed on board.

Is that a serious problem or just a technical delay?

Minister Rabbo, can you hear me?

Unfortunately we're having some technical problems.

Minister Rabbo, can you hear me?

RABBO: Yes, I can hear you. We're talking about Iraq now?

BLITZER: All right, if you can -- no, no, no. I was going to ask you about the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. They apparently have not endorsed the cease-fire, as Hamas and Islamic Jihad have. And I wanted to know if that was a technical problem? Or is there a substantive problem there?

RABBO: No, no, there is no substantive problem. Within one hour, I believe, all factions will declare the same thing as Hamas and Jihad. That is the cessation of all violence, expecting that the Israeli government will declare also the same, that there will be an Israeli cessation of violence in all its forms against all Palestinians wherever they are.

This is what we are expecting, and it's not a substantive problem at all.

BLITZER: Listen to what President Bush said earlier in the week about Hamas. He said it was not just enough for there to be a cease- fire or a truce. Listen to the president.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's one thing to make a verbal agreement. But in order for there to be peace in the Middle East, we must see organizations such as Hamas dismantled. And then we'll have peace -- then we'll have a chance for peace.


BLITZER: Is the Palestinian Authority, the services, the security services ready to dismantle Hamas and the other militant groups? RABBO: Well, we have informed the Americans and the Israelis what is included in the road map, we will implement it to the last letter. The road map says that there should be one law. There should be one legal weapon, which is the Palestinian Authority weapon. And there should be security control over the Palestinian areas in Gaza and in the West Bank. This, we will do completely.

But on the other side, we want the Israelis also to meet their commitments and obligations, mainly the cessation of all violent activities against our people and also the freezing of settlement activities. Because without this, they are undermining all the attempts to move forward.

The continuation of the settlement activities, the confiscation of land, the erection of this separation wall which is built on the Palestinian land in order to annex huge parts of our land -- and it's not only built in the direction of Israel, between the West Bank and the Israel, but in the other side also, on the eastern direction between the West Bank and Jordan, in order to annex more Palestinian land. Where is security here?

And that's why we believe there should be parallel implementation of the road map. We will do what is in the road map. And that's why there is American monitoring and American observation for the implementation.

And we need that Israel should do exactly what is in the road map. And that's why we asked Dr. Rice yesterday that there should be an American intervention and American influence should be used to stop the building of this wall, because this wall is aiming at cantonization of our land, of the West Bank, and segmenting our areas into five separate cantons surrounded by Israel and controlled by Israel.

BLITZER: Minister Rabbo, unfortunately, Minister Rabbo, we're all out of time. Our satellite is about to go down. I want to thank you so much, though, for joining us.

RABBO: Thank you.

BLITZER: Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, the Palestinian Authority information minister, joining us live from Ramallah.

Coming up, a conversation with the former U.S. secretary of state, Lawrence Eagleburger, and the former U.S. national security adviser, Samuel Berger, about the war on terror, the Middle East road map, much more. They'll also be taking your phone calls. Call us right now.

Then, nuclear components uncovered. Is it proof positive that Iraq was ready to strike? We'll get analysis form two former U.N. weapons inspectors.

And there's still time for you to vote on our LATE EDITION Web question of the week: Are the new discoveries in Iraq conclusive proof that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction? Go to our Web address, We'll have the results coming up.

LATE EDITION will be right back.



BUSH: The enemies of freedom are not idle, and neither are we.


BLITZER: President Bush talking about the war on terror.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

With us now to help assess where the United States stands in that war, as well as other issues, are two former U.S. presidential advisers: In Charlottesville, Virginia, the former secretary of state, Lawrence Eagleburger. He served in the first Bush administration. And here in Washington, the former Clinton national security adviser, Samuel Berger.

Gentlemen, good to have both of you on LATE EDITION.

And, Secretary Eagleburger, I'll begin with you. You know the Middle East situation quite well. This talk of a truce, a cease-fire for three months, an Israeli pullback, is this going to work?



... you could start with any other question. All I can tell you, Wolf, is that it's the most hopeful thing I've seen in some time. If, in fact, the Palestinians have really got themselves in order this time and can get their terrorist faction, if you will, under some control, I think we have the makings, at least, of some real progress here.

You can't guarantee anything at this stage, Wolf, but it looks better, from my perspective at least, than anything I've seen in a long time. And the Israelis are behaving better than I had expected, as well.

BLITZER: All right. Samuel Berger, your successor at the National Security Council, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, she's there right now trying to put this deal together.

The fact that the president sent her there, what does that say? Are you as upbeat, relatively speaking, as Lawrence Eagleburger?

SAMUEL BERGER, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, I think it's important that the president sent Dr. Rice, because it reflects the fact of his own personal commitment. In the past, when Secretary Powell has gone, often he has been undercut while he's there.

BLITZER: Undercut by who?

BERGER: Undercut back here in Washington.

BLITZER: By opponents of his?

BERGER: Well, by the White House and others. And so, in the region, the real question is, is President Bush personally committed to this process? And by sending Dr. Rice, that's a manifestation of this.

I think this is a hopeful moment but one, I think, that will be tested, Wolf, over the next days and weeks.

BLITZER: Well, on that point, Secretary Eagleburger, when I was in Jerusalem in the West Bank about a week or 10 days or so ago, a lot of the Palestinian Authority officials and Israeli government officials were saying they were more concerned about the Dr. Condoleezza Rice visit to the area than Secretary Powell. They seemed to be more nervous about her coming and didn't take him as apparently all that seriously.

What does that say to you?

EAGLEBURGER: Well, I'm afraid, I think, that Wolf may have it right here that in terms of her being there now does indicate a presidential commitment that may not have been quite so clear when the secretary of state was there. I hate to say that. But I think that may be a part of the picture right now.

And I have believed for some time, by the way, that, in fact, what we have here is a program which I didn't expect at first, I must tell you, but I think what we've seen in the last month or two does indicate that the president has, in fact, progressed on this issue and that we see a presidential involvement here that I find very hopeful.

So I think what we're seeing now is a presidential commitment that is fairly important.

BLITZER: One thing, Samuel Berger, that this administration seems to be attempting to do right now that the critics of your administration, the Clinton administration, at the end said you failed on was to bring other elements to the Arab world -- the Saudis, the Egyptians, the Jordanians, the Moroccans -- into the process early on and not surprise them, as you were accused of doing at the end of your administration at Camp David. Get them to support the peace process aggressively, actively.

BERGER: Well, your history is wrong. But, you know, remember the Sharm el-Sheikh summit -- Wolf, I think you were there -- in '96 and the constant effort to bring the Arab leaders into the process.

But the fundamental point you make is right, which is that there needs to be a serious commitment on the part of the Saudis, the Egyptians, the Jordanians and other moderate Arab governments in the region for this to work. I think what is different after 2 1/2 years of intifadah is the element of apprehension and concern on their part about what will happen in this region and to their own governments if we see this opportunity fail and we have another spiral downward of violence.

And so I think you've seen, even this week, a level of involvement by the Egyptians and the Saudis and King Abdullah of Jordan in putting together a cease-fire, which is far greater than what we've seen in the past.

BLITZER: Which is a useful step.

Let's move on and talk about Iraq. Secretary Eagleburger, the accusation that the U.S. won the war rather quickly but may be on the verge of losing the peace, how concerned are you about what you're seeing happening on the streets of Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq?

EAGLEBURGER: Well, we're not about to lose the peace, but I must say, we have to be concerned.

First of all, I think it's now becoming, at least to me, quite clear that this program of killing American soldiers and so forth, I think there's been some planning on that before the war even began, or certainly after it began. I think there must be caches of arms, and there must be people that have been out there planning for this for some time.

And frankly, I must tell you, I think we have to get tougher. I think we have been too careful not to deal in a tough enough way which might kill some civilians and so forth, and I understand all of that, but I think we have to be tougher.

And frankly, I think we have to -- going out with these G.I.'s of ours in what I would call "penny packets," where they can be attacked, you know, when they're out getting their hair cut or whatever, I think we have to be a little bit more careful about that for a while.

Since I'm not there, I don't want to be too critical. But I have to tell you, I think we have to be tougher. I think we have to be nasty if we have to be. And if the observers don't like the fact that we're beginning to look like occupiers for a while, I think that's too bad, we have to get tough.

We're not going to lose this thing. But I do think we have to be tougher than we are now being.

BLITZER: All right. I want Sandy Berger to respond to that, but let's take a quick caller from Florida first.

Go ahead, Florida.

CALLER: Yes, I would like to know, how is it possible that this administration can go to war with no rebuilding plan, no exit strategy, while we're still in Bosnia?

BLITZER: All right. Sandy Berger, let me let you respond to that and also the issue of getting tougher in the short term.

BERGER: Well, I think it is clear that our war plan was far better conceived than our post-war plan. I don't think there's any question about that.

Now the question is, what do we do about it? Certainly I believe we have to be tough and unrelenting on those who are engaging in sabotage and insurgency against American forces there. I think we also have to do that, however, in a way in which we don't poison our relationship with the Iraqi people.

And I think that it's time to look at three things, Wolf, after 2 1/2 months now of this increasing insurgency: Number one, do we have adequate troops there? Number two, do we have adequate allies there? We're now 150,000 of 170,000. This is very much an American operation. And have we adequately brought Iraqis into a process by which they believe they have some voice in shaping their future?

BLITZER: Those are fair questions.

Secretary Eagleburger, you may have heard on this program Senators Biden and Hagel suggest earlier it's time to internationalize that presence, in the words of Senator Hagel, to give it more legitimacy, perhaps bring NATO troops involved, to give the U.N. a role, a direct role, to try to bring the peace to Iraq.

Are you comfortable with letting the U.N. or NATO take over?

EAGLEBURGER: I certainly am not. Not yet. And as far as the U.N. is concerned, you're going to go a long way before you're going to persuade me to that. I think we have to be very careful about that. NATO maybe.

But I go back to Bush -- to the statements that were made just a minute ago. I almost called him "Mr. Bush." I know he would have killed me for that.


But number one, the number of troops there, I think it is clear we don't have enough troops there. I'm not sure we now can even get to that, but I think it is clear we should have had more troops there.

I think it is also very clear, we did the military campaign brilliantly. We probably went faster than we thought we were going to, and I think that's part of the cause for some of the problems now.

But I think it is also clear we haven't done enough, in terms of getting the electricity back, the hospitals fixed in time and so forth. And that is too bad. And we should have done more about that. I think it is clear we didn't do that well enough.

But I think we have got to do most of it ourselves at the moment. I'm not anxious to get a lot of international organizations in there until we have straightened it out ourselves as best we can.

BLITZER: All right. Let me bring back Sandy Berger on that point.

What do you think about NATO coming in, for example, or the U.N.?

BERGER: Well, I don't think the U.N. is capable of handling the security aspects of this. They certainly perhaps can handle some of the civilian aspects of it.

But what I worry about, Wolf, is, I believe this is an enterprise that's going to take a good deal of time. And I'm not sure the American people are prepared to have 150,000 out of 170,000 troops American, where we're taking the casualties, where we're the only address for Iraqi resentment.

I think we can invite in NATO. We can bring in Arab countries to help in this peacekeeping, peace-establishment role.

Just to give you an example, Wolf, two facts. If you take Kosovo, the last major peacekeeping enterprise, first of all, if you extrapolate for population, we would have 500,000 troops in Iraq. We had no casualties in Kosovo, because we had overwhelming force in enforcing that peace. Second of all, even today there are 34 countries engaged under NATO command in Kosovo, and we're less than 10 percent of the force.

BLITZER: So you're saying the United States needs to send a lot more troops there?

BERGER: I think we need more, a larger presence there, and the Powell doctrine, in a sense, applies to maintaining the peace...

BLITZER: Overwhelming force.

BERGER: ... not the U.N., but in order for us to be able to sustain this with the American people, I think we're going to have to internationalize.

BLITZER: All right, unfortunately, we have to leave it right there. Samuel Berger, Lawrence Eagleburger, always good to have both of you on LATE EDITION.

Thanks for joining us today.

EAGLEBURGER: My pleasure.

BLITZER: Thank you.

And coming up, the search for illegal weapons in Iraq. Are newly discovered nuclear parts the key to finding more? We'll get insight from two former U.N. weapons inspectors.

Also, an historic Supreme Court ruling on race. The former independent prosecutor, Ken Starr, and the Harvard professor, Charles Ogletree, they'll join me to discuss the University of Michigan decision on affirmative action and the other major Supreme Court decision on gay rights. And the results are in on our LATE EDITION Web question of the week: Are the new discoveries in Iraq conclusive proof that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction? We'll tell you how you voted when LATE EDITION continues.


BLITZER: Our LATE EDITION Web question of the week: Are the new discoveries in Iraq conclusive proof that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction?

Here's how you've been voting. Look at this. Fifteen percent of you say yes, but 85 percent of you say no.

Remember, this is not a scientific poll.

We'll be right back.



BLITZER: It's time to say goodbye now to our international viewers. Thanks very much for watching.

Coming up for our North American audience: Nuclear materials unearthed in Iraq. We'll talk with two former U.N. weapons inspectors about what that discovery means.

And the Supreme Court weighs in on matters of race and sex. We'll discuss the decisions with the former independent counsel, Ken Starr, and the Harvard law professor, Charles Ogletree.

All that, plus your phone calls. LATE EDITION will be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

We'll get to our panel of weapons experts in just a moment. First, let's check this story, still unfolding. A deadly collapse at a Chicago apartment building. At least 12 people were killed; 44 others were injured.

For the latest, let's go to our Chicago bureau chief, Jeff Flock. He's on the scene for us.

Jeff, tell us about this.

JEFF FLOCK, CNN CHICAGO BUREAU CHIEF: Wolf, we're moving heavily into the investigation portion of this now.

Let's take a look at the building behind me. Just a moment ago, we had investigators on both the second and third floors. You can see a door is still open. In fact, if we are able to zoom in through the third-floor window, perhaps you see the vestiges of this party, which ended so tragically last night, those red cups.

We are told there were three kegs on the -- kegs of beer, that is, on the outside decks when they collapsed. Also, perhaps as many as 50 or 60 people on the top, very top deck and the second-floor deck as well. Other people beneath. All pancaking down.

Now beginning to get some of the first real eyewitness accounts. We talked to one woman just a short time ago, Wolf, who said she was on that third deck when everything gave way. She said there was absolutely no warning.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just collapsed. It was just like -- completely gave out from under us.

FLOCK: Do you know how many people were on the deck?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems like a lot to me. I mean, deck -- both decks were completely packed, that it was difficult to walk through. I guess that probably wasn't the best idea, but...


FLOCK: No, indeed not the best idea. Although there are now -- there is now an investigation into whether it was more than just too many people on the decks, but whether there was some sort of structural problem.

Wolf, if you look real quickly over my shoulder, perhaps you see what they call the sill plates that help to hold up these decks, these porches that they call them here in Chicago. Those clearly came free away from the building. If you move in very tightly, you see the holes where the anchors went in to hold those sill plates. They clearly came away.

Was this deck built to code? Was there a building permit? Those questions still to be asked, perhaps answered, in the next hour. We are told that Chicago police, as well as the city's emergency management director, as well as the city's commissioner of buildings, will be out here on this scene within the hour to answer questions.

That's the latest from here, Wolf. Back to you.

BLITZER: All right. Very briefly, Jeff, I've been to Chicago many times. I've seen those older apartment buildings with those kinds of balconies, those wooden decks, all over the city. I assume they're going to start looking at all these other buildings to see if these older structures can handle it.

FLOCK: Well, you know, Wolf, there have been problems. You're absolutely right. They're everywhere. There have been problems in the past where an old deck has given way. This, though, appears to be, based on looking at the wood and people that we talked to, a fairly new structure. And the question is, was this rebuilt to code? Because as you say, they're all over the place, and if there was some sort of problem with this one, perhaps there could be problems with others.

BLITZER: CNN's Chicago bureau chief Jeff Flock staying on top of this story for us, and we'll be staying on top of it throughout the day here on CNN. I know Jeff will and his entire team.

Thanks very much, Jeff.

Let's go to Iraq now. It's been nearly three months since the fall of Baghdad, and still no definitive proof of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. This week, though, an Iraqi scientist did come forward. He told CNN about objects he'd buried in his backyard a dozen years ago that were once used for developing nuclear weapons fuel.

Joining us now to discuss the weapons hunt are two special guests: Robert Gallucci is a former U.N. weapons inspector. He is now the dean of the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service here in Washington, D.C. Terence Taylor was a chief U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq during the mid-1990s. He's now director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the U.S. branch here in Washington.

Gentlemen, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Let me begin with you, Ambassador Gallucci. What do you make of the discovery of this nuclear material that had been buried in the backyard of this Mahdi Obeidi, a former Iraqi nuclear scientist? He was told hide it just in case they need to bring it back.

ROBERT GALLUCCI, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: I start by saying it's important. Whether it's a smoking gun and how significant, I think we can talk about that in political terms and in technical terms.

These are components for a centrifuge. Presumably, they're important components. They do not make a bomb themselves. You need the rest of the components to make a full centrifuge. Then you'd need 1,000 or 2,000 centrifuges. And you need the material to run through it. And when you got finished after a year or two, you'd have enough material for a bomb or so.

So there's a long way to go from these components to a bomb. But it is significant, I think, that they were hidden. They were hidden with apparently designs, technical specifications, all of which would make it easier for the Iraqis to regenerate a nuclear weapons development program.

BLITZER: This was a clear violation of the cease-fire terms after the first Gulf War. They were supposed to come clean on this kind of stuff, instead they hid it. TERENCE TAYLOR, FORMER CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Absolutely. And it clearly indicates the lengths that they're prepared to go to in hiding these kinds of things in private homes.

Of course, during the time of the recent inspections in 2003, there were documents to do with the nuclear program also found in a private home.

So it shows how difficult it is for inspectors to find all these things. But it's yet another thing to add to the mountain of evidence that Iraq had continued to hide these programs.

BLITZER: David Kay, the former U.N. weapons inspector, now working for the U.S. government, he said this in response to this latest development on this nuclear material. Listen to this.


DAVID KAY, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: My suspicions are that we'll find in the chemical and biological areas, in fact, I think there may be some surprises coming rather quickly in that area.


BLITZER: He's working with the CIA now, Ambassador Gallucci, suggesting that there's about to be some more important discoveries. Do you have any indication of that?

GALLUCCI: I don't have any indication, and he probably has something specific.

But I think from the beginning of the search after the war was over, I suspect a lot of us were thinking the same things. If everyone believed that Saddam was truly gone, then the scientists who were associated with these programs would eventually come forward, maybe even some in the security apparatus that were specifically tasked with hiding this stuff would come forward and tell us where it was.

I don't think anybody believes that the Iraqis have been innocent. Nobody believes that story.

So I think having this guy come forward at this time with real material to a centrifuge suggests that if others feel safe, they may do the same. I suspect David is working on more than that deduction, but I think that's not a bad one.

BLITZER: The New York Times, in an editorial, suggested this in terms of this latest discovery of this material hidden in the backyard: "Iraq's nuclear program was apparently in deep hibernation. The new discovery then falls far short of validating the Bush administration's pre-invasion claims that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program."

Is the New York Times right? TAYLOR: Well, I think perhaps I wouldn't agree with that analysis. I think this is just one component of a deeply hidden program. The nuclear program, I believe, for Saddam Hussein was his crown jewels. And he was taking every possible measure he could to hide that program.

And so I think it's vitally important. I think there will be other things to be found yet. And as we're beginning to get the mid- and lower-level people coming forward, I think we're going to find more out about this program.

GALLUCCI: The suggestion that the administration had been arguing that the nuclear program had been regenerated, I think, is probably misplaced. I don't know which administration...

BLITZER: Was that a stretch, is that what you're saying?

GALLUCCI: I think it's a stretch, because certainly the British were very, very clear in their paper about the status of the nuclear program, that the ability of the Iraqis to redesign a weapon -- they had the design capability, they were way ahead.

But nobody was saying that they were aware of any fissile material program of fissile material present in Iraq. And the British were quite clear, and I think the Americans concurred, that only if the Iraqis could get fissile material, which they would then place within an implosion system, would they be able to regenerate.

BLITZER: But the fact that they were hiding this old centrifuge material, getting it ready for the day they might decide to go forward, that would have given them a leg up once they did want to reconstitute their nuclear program?

GALLUCCI: Certainly, that's why I say it's important. And in a sense, I think it is a smoking gun. It's not a smoking gun of a weapons program, but of an intent to regenerate. If you found something comparable in the other weapons areas, I think you would feel very good about having uncovered what you went after, even though you didn't (UNINTELLIGIBLE) stocks.

BLITZER: Why are the Iraqi scientists, whether biological, chemical, nuclear, still apparently so reluctant to cooperate with the U.S.?

TAYLOR: Well, I think the security situation is not in a condition whereby particularly mid- and lower-level people will come forward. We need to be -- I think they need to be confident that Saddam Hussein and the entourage of the leadership are completely gone.

BLITZER: They're not confident of that?

TAYLOR: I don't think they are confident of that. And you've got to remember that the people that looked after these weapons programs, in particular the usable weapons, the completed weapons, were the inner core of the leadership, people from the Special Security Organization. So they are the hardcore. So they're going to be the last people I think to come forward.

BLITZER: So they're still worried about their own security, this reign of terror that existed, so they're still a little petrified, you can understand that?

GALLUCCI: Yes, I heard Jerry Bremer this morning talking about the need to either capture or kill Saddam Hussein in order to stabilize the security situation. And I think it's the same for these weapons scientists. If they are going to face a regenerated Iraqi regime, then they're going to be quite reluctant to come forward.

BLITZER: Rolf Ekeus, one of the former inspectors, has a piece in The Washington Post today, I don't know if you saw it, but I'll put a little bit of it up on the screen. Let me read from it.

"This combination of researchers, engineers, know-how, precursors, batch production techniques and testing is what constituted Iraq's chemical threat, it's chemical weapons. The rather bizarre political focus on the search for rusting drums and pieces of munitions containing low-quality chemicals has tended to distort the important question of WMD in Iraq and exposed the American and British administrations to unjustified criticism."

Is that fair?

TAYLOR: I think that's a very fair comment, because if one looks into the character of not only the chemical program, which is referred to in that extract you read there, but also the biological weapons program, they had what you could call a mobilization production capability.

In other words, they didn't have all the chemicals and biologicals ready to put in the weapons, but when they thought they might need them, they would have had this resurgent production which they had put into dual-use facilities, normal civilian use, but could be turned over to producing warfare agents.

BLITZER: That's his definition of weapons of mass destruction.

GALLUCCI: I actually would not agree. I think technically Rolf's quite correct about what we need to worry about, but politically he's not. The administration, the secretary of state did not go before the U.N. and make that as the case of what we were worried about.

The suggestion, the implication, the declaration was that these weapons were available. Not only were there stockpiles of material, but they were weaponized, there were munitions, we would confront them or other states would confront them, they'd be used.

So I think Rolf's technically correct, but I think politically the argument still is out there that the administration said there was a threat which was not as manifest as we've been able to prove.

BLITZER: On Tuesday, Dr. Hans Blix, the current chief inspector, is retiring. I want you to listen to what he said earlier this week. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HANS BLIX, CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: It is somewhat puzzling, I think, that you can have 100-percent certainty about the weapons of mass destruction's existence and zero certainty about where they are.


BLITZER: What do you think about that sort of parting shot at the U.S.?

TAYLOR: Well, I don't think you can have 100-percent knowledge of where things are. Intelligence information is rarely a certainty in many situations.

And the inspection process, as we've seen it with the U.N. Special Commission and the more recent, their successor generation, I think except with enormous amounts of time and months and years and so on could, I think, rarely come to definitive conclusions on the existence of weapons of mass destruction programs in Iraq.

GALLUCCI: I understand the frustration of Hans Blix, but we have, I think, a 100-percent certainty that there is a centrifuge program in North Korea right now, and we don't know where it is.

And I think through the inspection periods, for a lot of good intelligence reasons and the way we collect intelligence, we know something in the country, has been transferred, and we can put together what it means and the significance of it, but we might not know where it is.

It's very frustrating for inspectors to confront that kind of certainty on the one hand, but not get the help you need to find it on the other.

BLITZER: And it's frustrating for intelligence analysts from different branches of the U.S. government to be looking at exactly the same information, for example, those trucks that supposedly were mobile bio weapons labs, and to come up with very different conclusions.

GALLUCCI: Exactly. I mean, I think those are legitimate disagreements that occur, even though there are political incentives out there to come to one end or another.

BLITZER: Terence Taylor, I'll give you the last word.

TAYLOR: On those mobile labs, well, I think they need to be looked at very carefully by process engineers. I've seen the photographs, I've looked at the detail, but at a distance I can't come to a conclusion.

But, to me, there's a mountain of evidence that Iraq had these programs. Now the regime which controlled these systems is now gone. I think that's the good news. BLITZER: Since both of you worked in government, you both know that intelligence is more an art than a science.

Thanks to both of you for joining us very much, Ambassador Gallucci...

GALLUCCI: Thank you.

BLITZER: ... Terence Taylor, thanks very much.

Still ahead, a week of historic legal rulings here in Washington. The Supreme Court strikes down a Texas anti-sodomy law. Will it lead to more courtroom battles over gay rights?

And giving legal muscle to affirmative action. We'll discuss the impact from the campus to the corporations with the former independent counsel, Ken Starr, and the Harvard University law professor, Charles Ogletree.

LATE EDITION will be right back.



JOHN LAWRENCE: ... and not only that this ruling lets us get on with our lives, but that it opens the door for gay people all across the country to be treated equally.


BLITZER: John Lawrence, one of the plaintiffs in the Texas sodomy case, after the Supreme Court ruled in his favor.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

In addition to the landmark Texas decision, the court also gave new legal protection to affirmative action.

Joining us now to talk about the implications of these two historic decisions are two special guests: Here in Washington, the former independent counsel, the former U.S. solicitor general, Ken Starr. And in Boston, the Harvard law professor, Charles Ogletree.

Gentlemen, welcome to LATE EDITION.



BLITZER: And, Ken Starr, let me read to you from what Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion on the sodomy -- the gay-rights ruling, 6-3 ruling. "The petitioners" -- the two homosexual men -- "are entitled to respect for their private lives. The state cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime." Historic ruling for homosexuals, for gays and lesbians.

Would you have supported, would you have gone along with the majority had you been on the Supreme Court?

STARR: I would have been troubled by the logic of the opinion. Justice Thomas put it very well, that this is a law that he would not support were he in the legislature, but it raises the serious question of the judicial role in the interpretation of the Constitution.

And the logic and the potential of this opinion is really quite sweeping. As observers are noting, it raises some serious questions about the limitation of marriage to the traditional marriage form and the like. So I find it troubling.

BLITZER: So you would have ruled against it?

STARR: Well, you never know how you'd rule, but I find the opinion as it's drafted kind of troubling.

BLITZER: Justice Antonin Scalia, Professor Ogletree, wrote in his minority opinion, he wrote, "State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality and obscenity are called into question by today's decision."

Is Justice Scalia right?

OGLETREE: No, he's wrong. And that's an alarmist attitude by Justice Scalia that ignores what the court said.

This is a decision that really reflects what the Supreme Court says on the inscription over the court: "Equal justice under the law." And people should be treated equally.

And I think Justice Kennedy's opinion is not only powerful, but Justice O'Connor, who had a more narrow concurring opinion, all believe that Bowers v. Hardwick, the '86 decision, was wrong, and the Supreme Court had the courage to finally correct a decision that had been wrong since it was decided, in 1986.

BLITZER: You disagree, though, with Professor Ogletree?

STARR: Well, I do, because of the methodology. That is, how do we put a limiting principle on the interpretation of liberty? Does it mean anything and everything? So what about same-sex marriage and the like? Is that a constitutional right, as opposed to an issue that should be discussed, debated in the legislative process, and then the policy made by legislative bodies? I think that's the fundamental divide here.

BLITZER: One of the polls that we had in the aftermath of this decision, Professor Ogletree, about civil unions for homosexuals, look at how evenly divided, according to this Gallup poll, the American public is: 49 percent in favor, 49 percent opposed.

Do you agree that this Supreme Court decision opens the door for at least civil unions, if not formal marriages, between homosexuals?

OGLETREE: It certainly should start the debate and the discussion at legislatures around the country, because that opinion poll would have been very different, Wolf, 20 years ago or even 10 years ago. And people are beginning to understand that people who are gay or lesbian are still human beings who have basic fundamental rights, they shouldn't be treated differently, and the law should treat them the same.

And those who are unhappy with this decision are talking about the sky falling, about what about marriages, what about all these other issues? That's not before the court. That wasn't this case. Those issues will have to be debated at legislative levels and other things.

So it was a sound decision. I'm not surprised that Scalia and Thomas were so virulent in their dissent. But Justice Kennedy, as a conservative, Justice Kennedy is someone whose views are well known to the world and certainly as a member of this court, and he certainly made clear what he thought was the right thing to do after Bowers. And if it's good enough for Justice Kennedy, it has to be good enough, I think, for the Supreme Court and our Constitution.

BLITZER: Ken Starr, go ahead.

STARR: Well, I was just going to say that Justice Kennedy is obviously a very respected member of the court.

And I think that those who are expressing, and I share those concerns, about the logic of the opinion, are really saying if, in fact, there is this very sweeping -- it's this quite sweeping opinion, autonomy interests, then there are a lot of laws on the books that are going to be open to question that have long been thought to be quite OK within the constitutional power of the legislature.

BLITZER: Well, homosexuals would argue, of course, it's about time.

Now, let me show you these poll numbers that we've -- the Gallup poll has been asking questions going back to '77.

Should homosexual relations between consenting adults be legal? Look at this. In 1977, 43 percent said yes. In '86, it went down to 33 percent, but then it's been steadily increasing. Now it's 60 percent.

The question for you, Ken Starr, were the justices of the Supreme Court in this 6-3 ruling merely reflecting a changing attitude going back to the '80s, as far as homosexuality in America?

STARR: Well, I think they were reflecting it. I don't think they were merely reflecting it, because I do think they found the constitutional principle, the right of privacy, which is very controversial in terms of its applications, and that united these six justices. But I certainly think that as the old saying goes, the great tide of human events does not pass judges by. And this opinion, I think, was reflecting cultural shifts in the country.

BLITZER: You agree with that, Professor?

OGLETREE: I disagree with it completely, in the sense that just this term, and Ken knows this, that the Supreme Court also, in the case of death penalty, decided that mental retardation, now that the states had evolving standards, you couldn't execute a person who was mentally retarded. That was something that was rejected decades ago.

This court is mindful of modern standards. It's mindful of a changing set of values, and it's also not setting culture standards. What it's really saying is that the Constitution has to reflect what it really means, and it can't be a fixed-in-time instrument that doesn't understand the many remarkable changes. And this is a conservative court. This is not the Warren court. This is not Brennan. This is not Marshall. This is Kennedy. This is O'Connor. These are justices who are very much felicitous to the Supreme Court, felicitous of the Constitution. So you can't say this is a liberal decision. These are people who I think are upholding the Constitution and applying it evenly and fairly.

BLITZER: All right. Let's move on and talk about the other historic decision this week before the Supreme Court on affirmative action. The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, allowing the University of Michigan Law School to continue racial preferences, affirmative action, if you will, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor being the swing vote.

Let me read from her majority opinion: "In order to cultivate a set of leaders with legitimacy in the eyes of the citizenry, it is necessary that the path to leadership be visibly open to talented and qualified individuals of every race and ethnicity."

What did you make of that decision, Ken Starr?

STARR: Well, I think all people of good will want all institutions of society to be open to all individuals and to be open fairly and equitably.

But the court, as we saw, is very deeply ambivalent about affirmative action, just as the country as a whole is.

Very briefly, at the same time that the court upheld the use of race as a factor in admissions, it made very clear that the undergraduate school had gone too far, and it struck that down.

And secondly, it also made it clear that affirmative action is to be for a limited life. It's not a permanent state of affairs. Justice O'Connor pointing to, expect this to be over in 25 years.

BLITZER: Professor Ogletree, the court did reject the points system the undergraduates had at the University of Michigan, saying that was too mechanical and didn't fit in.

Did you agree with that decision on the undergraduate level? I know you agreed with the majority on the law school part of this case.

OGLETREE: I didn't agree with it. But I know this, I know Michigan with Mary Sue Coleman (ph), the president, is dedicated to going and fixing that system, which is wonderful.

But Justice O'Connor's opinion says more than what you quoted, Wolf. It says something else. It says it's a different America now.

And the New York Times has a wonderful picture today of the Michigan law school in 1964, basically all white and all male. If you look at universities, whether private or public, across America 40 years ago, they were virtually all white and all male.

But because of affirmative action, people like Ken Chenault (ph) went to Harvard Law School and is now the president of American Express, Frank Raines (ph), the head of Fannie Mae. At Stanford, my alma mater, you have May Jameson (ph), an astronaut. You have Eleanor Choy (ph), an astronaut.

So these opening up the doors, creating opportunities are exactly what O'Connor is talking about.

And this is something else, it affirms Bakke. Only Justice Powell believed in the Harvard plan and the principle of diversity in 1978. Now we have five justices very solidly committed.

But this is a very temporal decision, because my view is that with one change in the court, with one single change in the court, that this major victory of June 23rd can be lost.

BLITZER: Well, I want Ken Starr to weigh in. But doesn't this society have an interest in making sure there is diversity on the college campus and taking steps, including racial preferences, if you will, to make sure that the law schools, the medical schools, the business schools aren't simply white students?

STARR: I think society has every interest and should, at a moral level, at a philosophical level, be sure that it reaches out and identifies individuals who are qualified and who can be assisted in the process.

But the idea of drawing lines on the basis of race is, I think, quite troubling. And the court finds it very troubling. Justice Powell himself said, you know, a very simple issue of justice is raised when we in fact draw lines on the grounds of race. I think we all want a color-blind society.

BLITZER: All right. I want to read to you from the dissenting opinion that Justice Thomas wrote, Professor Ogletree, on this issue of affirmative action.

"The majority of blacks are admitted to the law school because of discrimination. And because of this policy, all are tarred as undeserving. When blacks take positions in the highest places of government, industry or academia, it is an open question today whether their skin color played a part in their advancement." Those are biting, strong words from Justice Clarence Thomas, Professor Ogletree.

OGLETREE: Well, Justice Thomas, like I, is a beneficiary of affirmative action. That's why he went to Yale Law School, and that's why I went to Harvard Law School.

I don't wear a stigma. My point was to get into an institution, do the best that I could and make a difference. And that's what all of us have done. And that's where criticism undermines the enormous significance of making America a situation where everyone has an opportunity.

What's happened since Brown, Wolf, is remarkable. The majority of those schools that Thurgood Marshall tried to integrate in 1954 are more segregated in 2003 than they were 50 years ago.

While we're making a few steps forward with places like Harvard and Yale and Michigan, we're making enormous steps backwards with public education, resegregating, with the 10-percent plans assuring segregation, and with dropouts, 50-percent rates in high schools.

We have a lot of work to do, as Justice Ginsberg said in her opinion. I am writing a book called "All Deliberate Speed" that's coming out next April, and I'm talking about the fact that Brown had a promise of equal justice. That's what Thurgood Marshall wanted. That's what Dr. King wanted. We don't have that yet.

And as Justice Blackman said in Bakke, in order to get beyond racism, we have to deal with race. There is no other way.

BLITZER: Unfortunately, we have to leave it there. We could continue for a lot longer. But I want to thank both of our special guests for joining us, Ken Starr, Charles Ogletree. These debates, I'm sure, will continue.

OGLETREE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

And up next, Bruce Morton's essay.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What the United States needs to do is create some sort of viable Iraqi society. But nation building is very hard.


BLITZER: The delicate balance between mission and quagmire.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Welcome to our Final Round. Joining me: Donna Brazile, the Democratic strategist; Peter Beinart of the New Republic; Jonah Goldberg of the National Review Online; and Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard.

In Iraq, U.S. forces have launched Operation Sidewinder in an effort to crush armed resistance to the U.S. occupation. With concern growing about deadly ambushes against U.S. military personnel, Republican Senator John McCain today said it's time for some straight talk from the White House about the human cost of, and the timetable for, the U.S. occupation.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I just don't think they are sharing with the Congress and the American people, in an open manner, all the challenges that we face. So we read about casualties.


BLITZER: All right. Stephen, is Senator McCain right?

STEPHEN HAYES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes, I think to a certain extent he is. I mean, some of this stuff is unknowable. I mean, you can't set out a timetable for an occupation when you've never done something on this scale before.

At the same time, it is important to be candid with the American people about how long this is going to take. People should know this is going to take a long time.

And I think it's also important to tell the Iraqis, to give the Iraqis a timetable, both for the occupation and for some sort of an Iraqi government.

BLITZER: I'm surprised by the outspoken nature of the criticism from Senator McCain, who was a strong supporter, or Senator Hagel on this program earlier today. Pretty tough tune, this criticism that the administration wasn't ready for this post-war environment.

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Yes, I think there are a lot of people on the right, myself included, who think that McCain's largely right, and I rarely think McCain is largely right.

The administration seems to be going about this as if this is an administration endeavor rather than a major, large, national endeavor, which is what it really is.

And the American people do need to know more, and we do -- I mean, if we are going to do this right, and we have to do it right, and we have to do it over the long haul, then we have to get more people involved, more allies, and really do this thing, you know, all the way.

BLITZER: Is it time to bring NATO and the U.N. in? DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It's time to bring in the U.N., it's time to bring in NATO. And it's also time to ask Germany and France and others, and I know Jonah will like this, to help us foot the bill.

And they have expertise in post-war conflict in terms of police forces and helping us to keep the peace. And I think it's time for us to, you know, whatever we have to do, you know, just back it up and just go get those guys to help us.

BLITZER: Why not declare victory and let the U.N. take charge?

PETER BEINART, NEW REPUBLIC: Well, because I think that we have a real investment here, and we have an obligation to the Iraqi people.

But I do agree with Donna that, you know, we need other countries, and not only because we want to relieve some of our troops eventually and because we need more troops overall, but there was also a kind of arrogance here that we could reinvent the wheel.

You know, the U.N. has its problems. NATO isn't perfect either. But they had a lot more experience in peacekeeping than the U.S. did. In some of these issues that are going on, we could have learned from their expertise. Instead, we shunted them aside.

BLITZER: Jonah is especially anxious to get Canada involved in this process.


GOLDBERG: Their three ships in their navy will be incredibly helpful.

No, but I think one of the reasons it's important to get allies in there is, because the more allies and the more other people you get in there, the more invested they become in not letting this fail. If it's only America's failure, it's in a lot of people's interests to let us fail.

HAYES: That's true. But at the same time, bringing the U.N. -- I saw your interview earlier with Senators Biden and Hagel -- bringing the U.N. to reinspire confidence among Iraqis is absolutely the wrong way to go.


HAYES: Iraqis are more skeptical about the U.N. after the past 13 years than they are about Americans.

BLITZER: All right, let's move on from the Persian Gulf to the Middle East, where the Palestinian militant group Hamas, Fatah, the Islamic Jihad have today declared a conditional three-month cease-fire against Israeli civilians. The announcement comes as Israeli forces are preparing to withdraw from Gaza.

You're looking at live pictures of Gaza, where Israeli troops beginning the bulldozing, beginning the process of getting out at least parts of Gaza.

Peter, how significant is all of this?

BEINART: Not that significant, I'm afraid. I mean, this is not a crackdown on Hamas. It's a cease-fire with Hamas. And Israel keeps on saying this doesn't matter until there's a crackdown.

Well, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank right now has three cars, according to the New York Times today. So the question is, you can't expect a crackdown unless you're willing to rebuild the Palestinian security services. And many of the people in Israel who are demanding a crackdown also oppose rebuilding those security services.

So, it seems to me, unless you're really willing to get behind Abbas and this new government in the Palestinian areas, we don't have a chance.

BLITZER: Donna, are you upbeat at all that this is moving in the right direction?

BRAZILE: Well, I'm hopeful, and we all should be hopeful. Condoleezza Rice is over there right now, and I think the administration willingness to send her over there and to get her to try to get these sides to continue to make incremental steps is the right decision. This is where the rubber hits the road.

BLITZER: What do you think?

GOLDBERG: Well, look, you can only have one peace process at a time, and this is the one we have. And I think it's absolutely true to say that a lack of shooting does not constitute peace, it just constitutes a lack of shooting. But that's also big progress.

And if the thinking is is that Abu Mazen, Mahmoud Abbas, whichever one we're calling him today, if he can actually show the Palestinians and the Israelis that he can deliver on some of these things, you might get a virtuous cycle of having him become more popular and more powerful.

BLITZER: Stephen, wrap this up for us.

HAYES: Well, it was a conditional cease-fire, and I think you have to look carefully at the conditions, like releasing all Palestinians from prisons. I mean, there are certainly snags that have been set up to derail this.

BLITZER: And even as they announced the cease-fire, you heard Benjamin Netanyahu on this program earlier say that they're getting all sorts of terror alerts, meaning that there are potential terror strikes even in the works as they declare a cease-fire.

We'll see what's happening. These are live pictures that our viewers are seeing from that area in Gaza, Israeli forces beginning the process of pulling back. We'll see what happens.

We have much more coming up. Our Final Round will be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back.

There weren't any announced retirements, as many Supreme Court watchers expected, but before going on summer recess, the court did hand down two landmark rulings. It struck down a Texas anti-sodomy law in a victory for gay rights activists, and it upheld the University of Michigan's Law School's affirmative action program in a huge win for affirmative action supporters.

Jonah, did the court effectively vote against President Bush on these two issues?

GOLDBERG: I don't think so at all. In fact, I think, much to my disappointment and the disappointment of a lot of conservatives, the Bush administration was delighted certainly by the affirmative action ruling and maybe even by the sodomy case.

BLITZER: Even though their solicitor general, Ted Olson, argued against both of these rulings?

GOLDBERG: Yes, but now it's a punt. Now Bush doesn't have to argue about these things. He doesn't have to defend a supposedly divisive Supreme Court ruling. Karl Rove, I'm sure, is delighted, but conservatives are furious.

And you know, they're very different cases, very different issues. But at least on the affirmative action case, what we've basically seen -- oh, in both cases really, what we've seen is the transformation of the Supreme Court from being the top legal court to basically being a commission that decides how we want to have a nice society and doesn't care about legal reasoning.

BLITZER: What about that, Donna?

BRAZILE: Well, first of all, I think the court did the right thing this week. They struck the right balance. And it was a great victory for civil rights and tolerance and equal rights. But President Bush opposed these decisions, at least on paper, and I think now...

BLITZER: He didn't weigh in -- the Justice Department, on the sodomy issue, they didn't file a brief.

BRAZILE: They didn't file a brief, but we all know where the Republicans stand on these issues.

And I think this week was a victory for those who champion civil rights. And for those who continue to oppose it, well, President Bush will find himself on the wrong side.

BLITZER: What about that, Peter?

BEINART: I think all you need to know about what happened on the sodomy case is that in response to the sodomy case, in the Castro, the gay neighborhood of San Francisco, a number of gay and lesbian American military veterans took down the gay and lesbian flag that has been flying over that neighborhood and sung the "Star Spangled Banner" and hoisted the American flag.

How any conservative could say that this was not only a great day for American liberalism, but a great day for American conservatism because it creates patriotism amongst people who have been denied their rights in this country, I can't understand.

GOLDBERG: Oh, come on, Peter. Look, the Supreme Court -- you can be -- I've long always been against the sodomy laws. I think they're a silly position. Clarence Thomas said that they were a silly law. But you can agree that someone...

BEINART: But he didn't want -- he didn't want to overturn them.

GOLDBERG: But you can agree that some things can be bad. You were against the Supreme Court decision on cross burning. You agree that something can be bad and still be constitutional.

BEINART: Yes, that's right...

GOLDBERG: I think it's really disingenuous of you to take that position.

BEINART: ... but you -- no, no, you can't -- when you deny -- when you stigmatize people as fundamentally second-class citizens in this country, that can not be congruent with the Constitution. There is no question about it.

BLITZER: Stephen, go ahead, weigh in.

HAYES: Well, I mean, I guess my point, going back to the original question about whether the court is voting for or against President Bush, is that, especially on the affirmative action case, they seem to have sort of split the baby, which is precisely what President Bush did. He gave a very strong opening statement against affirmative action, and then his briefs didn't challenge the diversity rationale directly.

So, in a sense, the Bush administration may be reaping what it sowed here.

BLITZER: All right. Well, unfortunately, we have to leave it right there, but a good discussion by all.

Coming up, Bruce Morton's essay on U.S. troops in Iraq. There's a fine line between mission and quagmire.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back. Time now for Bruce Morton's essay on the U.S. occupation of Iraq. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MORTON (voice-over): Already you see the odd column, the occasional headline, "Is Iraq turning into another Vietnam?" The answer is, "No, but."

No, because Vietnam was a very long war between armies on both sides, with heavy casualties, some 58,000 Americans, maybe 3 million Vietnamese. The war against Iraq wasn't anything like that. It was over in days. Indiana Senator Richard Lugar noted the other day, the arms race is over, the United States won.

"No, but" because the United States is in Iraq, as it was in Vietnam, it's their country. And while the formal war is over, the fighting isn't. What the U.S. and Britain face now in Iraq is guerrilla tactics, terror tactics, an ambush here, a grenade thrown there, much like what the Israelis face in their continuing fight with the Palestinians. Like that struggle, resistance in Iraq may go on for a long time.

The solution? Back during Vietnam, the best advice came from a Republican senator from Vermont, George Aiken. His formula? Declare victory and leave. It would have saved a lot of lives.

But the United States can't do that in Iraq. By invading, it overthrew a brutal dictator. If it just walks away now, he or his Baath Party may come back. Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds, might all start fighting one another. So that's out.

What the United States needs to do is create some sort of viable Iraqi society. But nation-building is very hard.

War-making seems to be an American skill. Look at Afghanistan, as well as Iraq. But nation-building, that hasn't got very far in either place.

Paul Bremer, the American in charge of remaking Iraq, noted that it took Saddam Hussein 30 years to mess the place up this badly, which is true. But Americans surely hope the U.S. won't need 30 more to fix it, and most Iraqis certainly hope the same thing.

The Washington Post ran a story this past week quoting U.S. military people as saying this was something they'd never trained for, never expected to have to do. But civilians trained in this work don't seem to be around either, and the U.S. troops, as time goes by, will almost certainly seem less like rescuers and more like occupiers.

The United Nations? Probably not this president's first choice.

Years ago, David Halberstam wrote a book about about Vietnam called "The Making of a Quagmire." No, Iraq is not Vietnam, but you can make a quagmire even in the desert.

I'm Bruce Morton.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: Thanks very much, Bruce.

And that's our LATE EDITION for this Sunday, June 29th.

Coming up next, In the Money explores whether political fund- raisers are becoming, in effect, the new primaries.

That's followed at 4:00 p.m. Eastern by CNN Live Sunday, a look at the day's news from around the world.

And at 5:00 p.m. Eastern, on Next at CNN, environmentalists grade President Bush.

Please be sure to join us next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

I'm here twice a day, Monday through Friday, at both noon and 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

Until then, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.


Interview With Kenneth Starr>

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