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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Interview With Condoleezza Rice; Interview With John Batiste
Aired June 4, 2006 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: This is Late Edition, the last word in Sunday talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: They need to make a choice. And the international community needs to know whether negotiation is a real option or not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A nuclear standoff with Iran. Will that country agree to halt its nuclear activity? And if not, how will the world respond? We'll ask Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to detail the next steps through the delicate negotiations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If in fact the laws were broken, there will be punishment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Alleged atrocities by U.S. forces in Iraq. Were Iraqi civilians deliberately killed? We'll get reaction from two key senators, Republican George Allen of Virginia and Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan, on this issue and more. Plus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We also know that in conflicts, things that shouldn't happen do happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Our military panel weighs in on the latest in the investigations, the danger of a nuclear Iran and the war in Afghanistan. We'll get insight from four retired U.S. generals: John Batiste, Donald Shepperd, James "Spider" Marks and David Grange.
Canadian terror suspects in custody. We'll get details of the counter-terrorism sweep and the targets from the Canadian ambassador to the United States, Michael Wilson. "Late Edition's" lineup begins right now.
It's 11 a.m. in Washington, 8 a.m. in Los Angeles, 6:30 p.m. in Tehran and 7 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "Late Edition." We'll get to my interview with the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, in just a moment. First, though, let's go to Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN Center in Atlanta for a quick check of what's in the news right now. Fred?
BLITZER: There was a dramatic shift in U.S. policy this week toward Iran. After 27 years of refusing direct talks, the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, announced a readiness to join its European allies in a direct dialogue with Iran if that country suspends its uranium enrichment program and resumes full cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Just a short while ago, I spoke with the secretary of state about the nuclear standoff with Iran and lots more.
BLITZER: Madam Secretary, welcome back to "Late Edition." Thanks for joining us.
RICE: Thanks. A pleasure to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: I want to get to Iran in a moment, but first the U.S./Canadian relationship, the arrests of 17 Canadians, Canadian citizens, Canadian residents. What does this say about the threat potentially to the United States from terrorists perhaps coming in from Canada?
RICE: Well, first of all, it says Canadians have had a very great success in their counter-terrorism efforts. We have excellent counter-terrorism cooperation with Canada, and we're very glad to see this operation being a success. We don't know of any indication that there is a U.S. part to this, but by all means, we have the best possible cooperation.
We're going to share information and if this shows that the Canadians are on the job. That's what it really shows.
BLITZER: Is there anything you need Canada to do right now to strengthen the border security with the United States that it's not doing?
RICE: Well, we have had a very good relationship with Canada in terms of border security. Mike Chertoff has taken the lead in that. We've improved border security immensely through technology and also through cooperation. So we are very comfortable with the counter- terrorism cooperation with Canada and the border security cooperation.
BLITZER: Let's talk about Iran, a dramatic development this week. You announced it earlier this week at the State Department, a readiness potentially to resume after 27 years, direct talks with Iran under certain conditions. This is the response from the Ayatollah Khamenei, the spiritual leader of Iran today. "If you, the United States, make a wrong move regarding Iran, definitely the energy flow in this region will be seriously endangered. We are committed to our national interests, and whoever threatens it will experience the sharpness of this nation's anger." What do you make of this reaction?
RICE: Well, first of all, we're not going to react to every statement that comes out of Iran. We have set in train a diplomatic process. That diplomatic process needs to work now with Iran being given the proposal that the six parties put together in Vienna, with Iran recognizing that it now has a path ahead that would allow an end to this impasse, but also that the international community is committed to a second path should that first path not work.
The oil card, well, let's just remember that Iran is some 80 percent dependent on oil in its budget and so not really able to live without, with a disruption as well. Let's just allow the diplomacy to work. I don't think this is the time to react to every statement that Iran makes.
BLITZER: So you're not worried about Iran imposing an oil embargo against the United States.
RICE: We're just not going to concern ourselves with such. Let the diplomatic path that has been put before Iran unfold. I might just note, Wolf, that this is a path that really is logical given the president's decision more than a year ago to fully support and back the European three negotiations with Iran, with some steps that the United States took, for instance, removing our objections to a WTO application for Iran.
The next step of offering to join the talks should Iran suspend its enrichment programs, the condition that the IAEA board of governors, that's a logical step in a policy that's really been set for more than a year.
BLITZER: The European three being Germany, France and Great Britain. How much time -- you've said they have a matter of weeks to respond to this offer from the U.S., the Europeans, the Russians and the Chinese. You said they have a matter of weeks. Are we talking a handful, five weeks, 10 weeks, what kind of number you want to put before the weeks?
RICE: Wolf, I think you know I don't believe in setting timelines and deadlines. The only point here is that this can't be endless. The Iranian program is progressing, and the international community needs to know if there is a negotiating option that really has life in it.
It's why it's important for Iran to receive the proposal, to receive it without having to read it in the newspaper. That makes perfectly good sense, which is why the parties agreed that we weren't going to talk about what's on either path. We're going to present this to the Iranians and see what they say. But it can't go on. It can't go on forever.
BLITZER: Less than two months, I assume.
RICE: Well, let this process go forward, but the Iranian program moves on, and the international community needs to know whether this is going to work or not.
BLITZER: They say they may publicize this offer from the world's powers. Would it be better for them to publicize it or for you to publicize it?
RICE: Well, I hope that, given that the powers, the world powers of the six parties, have given them the opportunity to see this without having it public, that this would be a serious now diplomatic process in which not everything is in the newspapers. But at some point, obviously it's going to be known that these two paths are there and probably what's on the two paths.
BLITZER: Here's what the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said on Friday. "Their opposition to our program is not because of their concern over the spread of nuclear weapons. They are worried that Iran would become a model for other independent countries, especially Islamic countries, for access to advanced technology." You want to respond to that?
RICE: Well, if what Iran is looking for is civil nuclear technology, a peaceful program with civil nuclear technology, no one is trying to deny them that. In fact, I know they've said from time to time that they have a right to civil nuclear, to a civil nuclear program.
We accept that. I said that in the statement that I made. The question is, can they have a civil nuclear program that does not have the proliferation risk associated with having fuel-cycle technologies on, certain fuel-cycle technologies on Iranian territory?
That's the issue, given Iran's history with the IAEA and its record of non-compliance. And so the offer that Iran would look at is one in which they could have civil nuclear power. No one is trying to deny them that.
BLITZER: Why is it OK for Pakistan for example, to have a nuclear bomb, but not Iran?
RICE: Well, obviously no one wants to see the spread of nuclear weapons anywhere. But Iran's role in the Middle East, Iran's history with the IAEA, we stand for preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to any state. That's why the United States works so hard through the non-proliferation regime to prevent that from happening.
BLITZER: Your British counterpart, the British foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, in announcing this agreement the other day in Vienna, also said this. Let me read it to you.
She said, "If Iran decides not to engage in negotiation, further steps would have to be taken in the Security Council.
Can you elaborate what kind of steps you're talking about? RICE: I think that Margaret Beckett said it very well. She talked about two paths. She talked about a path that was a real opportunity for Iran and she talked about a path in the Security Council should Iran be unwilling to take up that way out of this impasse.
We have agreed, as the six parties, that we're not going to talk about what is on either of those paths. It is only fair that this now be a serious proposal to the Iranians that they can see without reading about it in the newspaper. And I'm going to honor that commitment to our partners.
BLITZER: The Israeli prime minister was here the other day. I interviewed him, Ehud Olmert. And he said that the Iranians are a lot closer to building a bomb than a lot of people might suspect. I want you to hear what he said to me on "Late Edition."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EHUD OLMERT, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: This technological threshold is nearer than we anticipated before. This is because they are already engaged very seriously in enrichment. It can be measured by months rather than years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Do you agree with him?
RICE: Well, clearly, the Iranian program is progressing. And the reason that the president decided that we need to give the diplomacy a new life and a shot in the arm and see whether or not there is indeed a negotiating path that is available, is that we are concerned about the forward progress of the Iranian nuclear program.
Look, it isn't an issue of trying to define within a few months, or even years, exactly how long Iran has to this path. It is that the international community needs to mobilize to stop the forward progress of this nuclear program.
It needs to mobilize so that the IAEA has full and complete access to ask and get answered all of the questions that are there on behalf of the international community. And that's what we are determined to do.
BLITZER: But is it your assessment and the Israeli assessment basically the same, or is there a divergence?
RICE: I'm not going to get into intelligence assessments here. We do -- we are in conversation with the Israelis and with other states that have assessments of what is going on in the Iranian nuclear program.
And of course, we have the assessments of the IAEA, which are, in many ways, the most reliable assessments, since the IAEA is on the ground in Iran. Everybody is concerned about the progress of the Iranian program. No one believes that this is something that we can allow to continue. Everyone is concerned that the Iranians have begun enrichment activities and indeed feeding the feed stocks, the UF6, into the centrifuges.
So those are common concerns in the international community, and it is what is driving an effort to accelerate the diplomacy.
BLITZER: I want to talk about Iraq, but one final question on Iran before I do so.
Some have suggested that this break, this readiness to begin talks, direct talks with Iran, predicated on a suspension of their uranium enrichment, but one thing that's missing is a suspension of their support for terrorism.
You say that Iran is a terror nation right now. Why not also demand that they suspend supporting terrorists as a condition for U.S. talks?
RICE: Well, we've made very clear our concerns about terrorism. And we do, in effect, say to the Iranians, stop engaging in terrorist activity.
And Wolf, this isn't some kind of grand bargain where we are talking about normalization of relations of the kind that we have achieved with Libya after Libya gave up its weapons of mass destruction and ended its support for terrorism.
We're talking about trying to get at a specific problem here, which is the Iranian nuclear problem. We're talking about doing that in the context of multilateral talks with partners whom we've been supporting for more than a year in their negotiations.
And so this is a rather limited program of engagement. Obviously, if we can solve this, then perhaps other paths are open. But no one is going to lose sight of our concerns about Iranian behavior worldwide.
BLITZER: And just ahead, we'll ask the secretary of State about Iraq, including the alleged misconduct by U.S. Marines at Haditha.
Then, war and ethics. Two key U.S. senators discuss the allegations of U.S. military atrocities and what it means for the mission in Iraq.
Plus, insight from an expert panel of retired U.S. generals on Iraq, Afghanistan and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's tenure.
"Late Edition" continues right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." Just a little while ago, I spoke with the secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. Here's part two of my interview.
BLITZER: Madam Secretary, let's talk about Iraq right now, a serious issue, the Haditha alleged massacre by U.S. Marines.
The Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said something on Thursday that was very disturbing to a lot of U.S. officials. He said, "They crush them with their vehicles and kill them just on suspicion..."
He went on to say, "This is completely unacceptable," referring to the behavior of U.S. troops in Iraq.
This from someone who is seen as a close ally and friend of the United States.
RICE: Well, first of all this was in the context of a much longer statement. And I wouldn't want to take those comments out of context.
Everyone is worried about what happens when forces have to engage a civilian population in a counterterrorism fight. And American soldiers go to great lengths to try and protect innocent civilian life when they are engaged in counterterrorism operations.
I know Prime Minister Maliki. I know that he believes that the coalition forces are necessary, that they are there to protect Iraqis, that he understands and has thanked me personally and thanked Secretary Rumsfeld personally for the sacrifices that American soldiers are making on behalf of Iraqis.
When Iraqi forces are able to do more of this on their own -- and they are getting more capable -- then American forces will be able to step back from some of these counterterrorism operations.
But I think that Prime Minister Maliki is someone who fully understands the role of the coalition forces and appreciates it.
BLITZER: Did you ask the U.S. ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, to get clarification from the prime minister when these remarks were publicized?
RICE: Well, of course, the remarks are, as I said, in a larger context, and Prime Minister Maliki has been very clear of his support for coalition forces, of his recognition of the sacrifice that they are making. So as I said, he's personally said that to us.
We are concerned, too, about any allegations that there has been misconduct of any kind. And as the president said, these are serious matters and troubling matters.
But there are a couple of things we are going to do. We are going to be certain that there is a thorough investigation of any of these incidents. We are going to protect the rights of the accused so that there is due process. And then there will be action taken given the outcome.
But I think it's also important for everyone to remember how much American men and women in uniform are sacrificing. I've been with families who've lost loved ones in Iraq. I've been with soldiers who have paid with limbs or with grave injuries for what they're doing in Iraq.
American soldiers are serving with honor. They're serving with dignity. They are protecting Iraqis, and they are giving Iraq a chance for democracy, and we need to remember that as well.
BLITZER: I interviewed the new Iraqi ambassador here in Washington, Samir Sumaidaie, earlier in the week, and he was very blunt -- his family is from Haditha -- in saying this may not necessarily be an isolated incident. Listen to what he said candidly here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAMIR AL-SUMAIDAIE, IRAQI AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: I believe he was killed intentionally. I believe that he was killed unnecessarily. And unfortunately, the investigations that took place after that sort of took a different course and concluded that there was no unlawful killing.
I would like further investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The ambassador was referring to his cousin, who was killed in Haditha in a separate incident, not this incident that is now widely publicized. Pretty blunt talk from the Iraqi diplomat, top diplomat in the United States.
RICE: Well, of course everyone wants incidents of this kind investigated. And they will be investigated. That's what democracies do when there are allegations of misconduct. And when those investigations are finished, I'm sure that there will be appropriate punishment if people are indeed found guilty.
But the key here is to allow the investigation to go forward. It is being handled at the highest levels, and it will be a serious and thorough investigation.
BLITZER: I want to move on to Afghanistan right now, because there's also some blunt talk from the president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, about U.S. military behavior in Afghanistan. On Thursday, he said this -- and he's a close friend and ally, as you know, of the United States -- "The coalition opened fire, and we strongly condemn that. I have to say, all the time we tell them to be careful because we have one joint aim, which is the struggle against terrorism."
What's going on in Afghanistan?
RICE: Well, in Afghanistan, we are fighting the continued presence of Taliban and of al Qaeda terrorists, though the Taliban at this particular point is the force that is most engaged in the south. But President Karzai is right. Of course, people are told to be careful, but it is a matter of war, a war zone, in which our soldiers are trying, as he said, jointly to root out terrorists.
Afghanistan is a country that is making tremendous strides towards stability. It still has, particularly in the south, determined enemies, who are -- who are killing civilians wantonly, who are killing innocent people, because that is what they do. And we are working with the Afghans. We're working with Afghan forces. And by the way, NATO forces. When they've moved into the south, it's perhaps not surprising that there has been what I'll call some testing by the Taliban against those new forces, and I think they are learning a lesson that those are going to be very tough forces, because they are taking huge casualties in the face of the resistance of their efforts by coalition forces.
BLITZER: As we're speaking right now, the new Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, is meeting with the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, presumably talking about Olmert's plan for a unilateral Israeli disengagement, as they call it, from the West Bank, if peace talks can't get off the ground. Does the U.S. support Olmert's proposal?
RICE: The president was very clear when Prime Minister Olmert were here. They spoke to this. That these are bold ideas, and the president listened, and looks forward to hearing more. But they both agreed too that a negotiated solution to this conflict would be by far the very best solution. And Prime Minister Olmert committed to giving that negotiated track an opportunity to succeed.
And so we're going to continue to be very closely working with the Israelis, and with other allies in the region, to try and establish a Palestinian partner who can work this through negotiation.
I think it's also important to say that the president has been very clear, that final status is really something that has to be mutually acceptable. And so there is much agreement here with the Israelis, and we're prepared to move ahead and try to get a two-state solution, try to get back on the road map to a two-state solution.
BLITZER: We're almost out of time. A quick follow-up, though, before I let you go. Jordan, a key country in that part of the world, which occupied the West Bank between 1949 and 1967, do you see Jordan playing a role in the West Bank again, perhaps as a bridge between the Israelis and the Palestinians?
RICE: Well, I wouldn't want to speculate on what the West Bank will look like once we've gone through the process of trying to make progress towards this two-state solution. We are in very close contact with Jordan, and the United States, of course, has said to the Jordanians that we want to make sure that their interests and their security concerns are also met by whatever path we take to a two-state solution.
BLITZER: Want to thank you for coming in. I also want to thank you yesterday, Madam Secretary, for participating in the Race for the Cure to come up with a cure for breast cancer. This is an issue that hits close to home. Your mother had breast cancer. We have some video we'll show our viewers. What was it like, though, participating in this?
RICE: It's such an inspirational event. Nancy Brinker is a good friend, the head -- the -- Susan G. Komen was her sister. It's really inspiring to see all of these cancer survivors in their pink. I talked to women who said, I'm a one-year survivor; one woman who said I'm a 24-year survivor.
I think the point now is that yes, racing for the cure is extremely important. So are better treatment options for women. There weren't very many treatment options when my mother had breast cancer in 1970. And also, that I would just encourage women to get screened. There are a lot of screening options, and the earlier you catch this disease, if you're unfortunate enough to have it, the better off you are. And so, I was honored to be a part of the event yesterday.
BLITZER: I'll second that. Thank you very much.
RICE: Thank you.
BLITZER: And coming up -- is Iran facing its last chance to settle a nuclear dispute with the United States and its European allies? We'll discuss that and more with two key U.S. senators -- Republican George Allen and Democrat Carl Levin.
But up next, a quick check of what's in the news right now, including new warnings from Iran about oil shipments in the Persian Gulf. Stay with "Late Edition."
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. And joining us here in Washington is the ranking Democrat on the Senate armed services committee, Carl Levin of Michigan, and a key member of the Senate foreign relations committee, George Allen of Virginia. Senators, always good to have both of you here on "Late Edition."
SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA: Good to be with you always, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you very much, Senator. Let's talk first of all about Canada. A border with Michigan, obviously a subject close to home. Are you concerned that this terror incident, the arrest of these 17 suspects yesterday in Ontario, potentially raises questions about border security between the United States and Canada?
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: These questions were raised long before these arrests. We've had great efforts made to improve our border security. We have tried to persuade the Department of Homeland Security, we've got a longer border with Canada than we do with Mexico. We have thousands of trucks that come in every day, many of them -- most of them not inspected. And particularly, by the way, garbage trucks from Ontario which cannot be inspected represent a real significant security threat. And we've acted by trying to get more funds to increase the border patrol and to increase the number of inspectors along the northern border, not just the southern border.
BLITZER: But do you have confidence in the Canadian government's dealing with counter-terrorism?
LEVIN: Yes. A great deal of confidence in what they're doing. But that doesn't mean that there's not an ongoing threat, and that's why we worry very much about a huge amount of commerce coming across a bridge and a tunnel in Detroit, a bridge in Port Huron. It's the major source of entry of commerce to the United States.
BLITZER: What about you, Senator Allen? Are you concerned about the U.S.-Canadian border, border security? A lot of focus on U.S.- Mexico border security in the south. What about in the north?
ALLEN: We have to be concerned about both borders. Of course we know in the southern border the main issue is people entering the country illegally by the hundreds of thousands, and we do need to secure our borders on the south. We also need to secure our borders in a different sense in the north. As Senator Levin mentioned, in the Detroit area there's so many trucks coming across.
I'm not talking about the garbage trucks. But parts, automotive parts, produce, and so forth. And actually, I was briefed when I was up for the Super Bowl, with folks worrying about the tunnels and the various bridges, and even there's a barge that goes across the river for certain shipments that you wouldn't want to go through a tunnel because blowing up in a tunnel would cause too much harm, obviously.
So I think a lot of progress has been made. They're using certain technologies. You have secure shippers so that if something is shipped from somewhere in Ontario into the Detroit or Michigan area, it is more secure. Now, do we need to do a better job? Obviously. We need to adopt new technologies, new innovative approaches, so that we don't in any way impinge that good commerce we have between the United States and Canada.
BLITZER: There was an uproar this week, Senator Levin, in New York City and Washington, D.C. by word that the department of homeland security, the Bush administration was actually reducing counterterrorism funding for New York and Washington, increasing it for other parts of the country. But your state and Senator Allen's state, Michigan and Virginia, also had a reduction, from $64 million in Michigan last year to $46 million this year, and Virginia from $38 million to $16, almost $17 million in Virginia.
Here's how the secretary of homeland security, Michael Chertoff, explained what he's doing. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I think it was always understood, as with any capital investment program, once people got to a reasonable level of security, we would start to look at communities which were also at risk but have a much lower baseline of security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. What do you think of that explanation?
LEVIN: Not much. The ongoing threats are real. The money ought to go where the greatest threats are, the greatest symbols are, the greatest threats to commerce are. We have a huge problem in terms of our border security. For instance, in Michigan. And one of the big problems is the failure to have interoperable equipment along that border. And so I just think he's plain wrong, and it's an unsatisfactory explanation.
BLITZER: What about you? What about Virginia?
ALLEN: I think there needs to be more dissecting of what the rationale is for this reduction. It's Virginia's one thing, and then there's another part of Virginia, which is part of the metropolitan D.C. area, which also was reduced. Clearly, the D.C. area, northern Virginia, was hit on 9/11 at the Pentagon. New York City is another place that is a target.
There are certain areas that are targeted, and the funding should go to those areas that are more likely to be a target. And so whatever their rationalization or reasoning is needs to be discerned. That statement there and others I have read have yet to convince me.
One thing on interoperability, Senator Levin's exactly right. One of the first things I saw as a need in this whole D.C. area, the capital region, was the ability of first responders to communicate with one another. When the Pentagon was hit, there were firefighters, rescue personnel rushing into the Pentagon.
They were from Arlington, from Fairfax, from Maryland, from D.C., and they were not able to communicate. So I was able to lead and get tens of millions of dollars for what is called CapWIN, the Capital Wireless Integrated Network, so that they all can communicate. And that is vitally important throughout this country.
And in fact, this is an example of what can be used in times of hurricanes and natural disasters as well.
BLITZER: Let's move on to Iraq, Haditha, specifically.
You're the ranking Democrat, Senator Levin, on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Have you been briefed by the United States military on what may or may not have happened at Haditha, the allegation that U.S. Marines massacred some 24 Iraqi civilians? LEVIN: Yes. We were briefed a couple weeks ago. From all appearances, there is a massacre here of 24 civilians, and not accidentally. This looks like, from all appearances, a real massacre.
There's finally an investigation that's taking place, but there's also the real possibility of a cover-up here because it was not until the Time Magazine article that came out many months later that the Marines and the military began an investigation which should have been begun long before.
As a matter of fact, there was an investigation team that went in the same day, that must have seen these bodies with bullet holes, babies, women, older people with bullets to the head, that should have been caught by an investigating team the same day.
The press release which came out the next day was clearly false. And also, then, there were a lot of payments that were made to the survivors of these families.
Those payments are not made if these are insurgents that were attacking us. They're only paid when innocent people were killed. Those payments were made about a month afterward. And yet no investigation until a Time Magazine article that was printed many, many, many months later.
So there's something really amiss here. It's serious. But the Marines and the military are engaged, finally, in a investigation. We ought to look at that investigation be completed before we decide what to do, except that Senator Warner, our chairman, has committed to hearings as soon as these investigations are finished.
BLITZER: Here's how the Washington Post, in an editorial, put it on Wednesday, "A separate military investigation is reportedly under way on attempts to cover up the Haditha shootings. Senator John W. Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has spoken of holding hearings. We can only hope that the Pentagon brass and Mr. Warner perform better than they have in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal."
Your colleague from Virginia, John Warner. This could be hugely embarrassing and very counterproductive to the overall U.S. mission, not only in Iraq but throughout the Middle East.
ALLEN: It may. And all Americans -- like all Americans, we're shocked by these allegations. It's just horrendous. It's contrary to our values and it's contrary to the standards of our armed services.
It is being investigated. The truth will come out as to whether it happened, how it happened, why it happened. And if it did happen, anyone who is responsible is going to be punished for it because that is -- those are our standards and our values.
But it should in no way tarnish the brave, courageous work of men and women in Iraq, in Afghanistan, who are protecting our freedom and also trying to stand up for a free and just society in those countries. The fact of the matter is, and I just came back from Iraq, is, throughout Iraq, whether you're in the North, whether you're in Baghdad, wherever you are, whatever your sect, people appreciate our troops and our coalition forces.
Americans, Brits, Italians, Poles, Australians, Salvadorans, Koreans, all are trying to stand up a free and just society in Iraq. The radical Islamists are beheading men and women, trying to thwart that progress.
BLITZER: Senator, you want to just make a quick point? I want to take a quick break, but go ahead and make a quick point.
LEVIN: I'd like to just comment on the events going on in Iraq. We could do that, if you prefer, after the break.
BLITZER: Let's take a break. We'll pick up on Iraq, much more, coming up with our senators.
We'll also talk about consideration that begins tomorrow in the United States Senate on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in the United States. Is this the best time for the Senate to be taking up this issue?
"Late Edition" will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." we're talking with two key members of the United States Senate, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, and Republican George Allen, a key member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and possible Republican presidential candidate. But that's just a possibility.
For now, Senator Levin, we were talking about Iraq. The current situation right now, what's happening with the Haditha investigation, sort of, very critical comments from the Iraqi prime minister Nouri Al Maliki, coming forward, saying that this may not necessarily be an aberration, could be part of a pattern. What do you make of this?
LEVIN: Well, he also has another responsibility and so do we. And that is to get a government, a full government in place in Iraq.
The ongoing Iraqi government is a hollow government because they have not appointed the two key posts, interior minister and defense minister. And without those two posts being picked and agreed upon by the assembly, you're going to continue to have a huge amount of violence.
This is what our military leaders say. But the president, our president, has a responsibility, I believe, to make it clear, to say publicly to the Iraqis, our continued presence in Iraq depends upon you, the Iraqis, doing what you are obligated by your constitution to do, which is to fill those key posts so that you have a chance of defeating the insurgency and avoiding civil war. That's something our president needs to tell the Iraqis and he has not told them that.
BLITZER: The defense minister in Iraq controls the army. The interior minister controls the police. They were supposed to fill these two key positions. There was speculation, even today, that has not happened.
ALLEN: Well, it's going to be very important for this government that was duly elected by the Iraqi people, a government, by the way, that reflects the diversity of Iraq, whether they're Kurds, whether they're Sunnis, whether they're Shiites.
In fact, the speaker of their national assembly is a Sunni who was once opposed to the United States, incarcerated by the United States, who, last week, told our delegation that he thought the United States was very important in staying in Iraq.
Now, sure, they do have to fill these very important cabinet posts because administration of justice needs to be trusted by the people in any country.
But recognize that the Iraqis are grateful to the United States for overthrowing a repressive regime. They are grateful for our troops, for our coalition forces.
They do have a government elected by the people of Iraq. The question now is whether the United States ought to tuck tail and run. Should we -- this fledgling democracy, should we help them or not?
I think we should continue to help them. Now, Ambassador Khalilzad is working with them, trying to make sure they have people appointed of competence, not worrying about...
BLITZER: I want to move on, but go ahead, quickly respond.
LEVIN: They don't have a national government in place because the two key posts, which are the only hope of avoiding civil war and defeating an insurgency, the people who control the police and who control the army, are not in place. There's no agreement on them.
This is a hollow government. And the president, when he prematurely announced that this was a great step and a government was announced, a few weeks ago, was making the same mistake that he made on the aircraft carrier, which was to say, mission accomplished.
It has not been accomplished politically, the way it was not accomplished militarily, until those two posts are filled.
BLITZER: Let me move on because we don't have a lot...
ALLEN: It is tangible progress. It took them a very long time to agree on who the prime minister would be because they need a two- thirds vote in that country. If we required a two-thirds vote in our country for president, we'd probably still be arguing over the 2000 election. Let's recognize how difficult that is. BLITZER: Let me move on. I want to get to a key issue that's coming up tomorrow in the Senate, a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage. The Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, is bringing it up. The president yesterday spoke in his radio address supporting such an amendment. He's going to have an event at the White House tomorrow supporting such an amendment. How will you vote, Senator Levin, when this issue comes up for a vote?
I think it ought to be left to the states, the way it has been historically. We've adopted a law by an overwhelming majority during the Clinton administration which says that no state has to recognize a marriage from another state if it would not be recognized in its own state, and we ought to leave it to the states. And I will vote not to amend our Constitution to do what the states can and should do.
How will you vote, Senator Allen?
ALLEN: I'm going to vote for the protection of the institution of marriage, which is, I think, the most important institution in our society. It's from families that you learn right from wrong and certain principles of living.
I do want to protect the will of the people in the states. Nebraska last year passed a referendum making that part of their constitution, that marriage is between one man and one woman. A federal judge struck that out. What will happen is some states, say Massachusetts or another, will allow two people of the same gender to be married. They will move to another state. Full faith and credit will be accorded to that act of another state. So this amendment will I think reflect the will of the people and protect them from activist judges.
BLITZER: Very quickly, everybody says it has no chance of getting a two-thirds majority in the Senate to move forward in the process, that this is simply an effort to galvanize the Republican base, the conservatives on a key hot-button issue. Why is the Republican leadership bringing this up now if it has no chance of success?
ALLEN: Because it is a key issue. In Virginia this fall will be an amendment proposed to the Virginia constitution recognizing marriage as between a man and a woman. This is important throughout the country. The fact that we'll have a majority vote but not a two- thirds vote doesn't mean that you don't try.
And you know what? You need accountability in Washington, and those who are for it or against it, they'll be held accountable, and it will take many years. Heck, it took seven years to get statute of religious freedom through the Virginia legislature when Thomas Jefferson...
BLITZER: Very quickly.
LEVIN: I'm all for accountability. It's long overdue on a lot of issues in Washington, including the issues that we are not adequately debating which we need to, including Iraq. BLITZER: We've got to leave it there, Senator Allen, Senator Levin. Always good to have you on "Late Edition."
ALLEN: Our pleasure.
BLITZER: Thanks very much. And still to come, our panel of retired U.S. military generals. And don't forget our web question of the week: Do you believe Iran will now suspend its uranium enrichment program? Go to cnn.com/lateedition to cast your vote. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: For our North American viewers, CNN reporters will be "On the Story." That comes up right after "Late Edition," 1 p.m. Eastern and 10 a.m. Pacific, a little bit more than an hour from now. And there's much more ahead on "Late Edition," including insight on the troubles facing U.S. troops in Iraq.
We'll talk with one man who led the U.S. Army's 1st Infantry Division there and has called for the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to step aside, retired U.S. Army Major General John Batiste. Plus, we'll get perspective from our own panel of top U.S. generals.
Plus, terror arrests in Canada. We'll talk with that country's ambassador to the United States, Michael Wilson, about what's been learned and potential lingering threats. "Late Edition" continues right at the top of the hour.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We'll speak live with retired U.S. Army Major General John Batiste in just a moment.
First, though, let's go to CNN's Fredricka Whitfield in the CNN Center in Atlanta for a quick check of what's in the news right now. Fred?
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Fred.
Now to Iraq, where an extremely violent weekend of bombings, shootings and abductions have left at least two dozen people dead.
Our John Vause is in Baghdad. He's joining us live from the Iraqi capital with more. First of all, John, what about the failure?
There was supposed to be an announcement on a new defense minister, a new interior minister who would be in charge of the police. Still no word yet.
Is there any indication this still might this still happen any time soon?
JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No indication at all, Wolf, if there can be a compromise reached between the Shiites and the Sunnis in this national unity government.
The parliament was meant to meet today to try and work out just who would fill these two very crucial positions. All we had was an announcement from the deputy speaker of the parliament saying that this parliamentary session had been delayed until further notice.
Obviously, the new prime minister here is having trouble finding a compromise candidate. And right now, this country needs someone to run the army, to run the police, especially after this weekend, a very violent weekend.
Here in Baghdad alone, Iraqi police, this weekend, found 20 bodies. All of them had been shot, all of them showing signs of torture. Also here in Baghdad, in Sadr City, four telecommunication workers were shot dead, apparently, in a drive-by shooting.
To the north, near the city of Baqubah, 20 people were shot and killed. They were mostly students on their way to class, when gunmen ordered them out of their vehicles.
Now, according to one report, they were separated into two different groups, Shiite and Sunnis. The Shiites were shot dead. The Sunnis, four of them, were released unharmed.
There was also a gun battle outside a mosque, down near Basra. Iraqi police claimed they were chasing insurgents who were inside. As they moved in, nine people were killed. They made six arrests and found a car packed full of explosives.
The Sunni leaders, though, give a different account as to what happened. They've accused the Iraqi police of shooting dead seven guards at the mosque and arresting nine others. And they say those nine others were then later found dead.
So it's been a very violent weekend. There was also another suicide bombing in Basra on Saturday. That left more than 30 people dead, all of this while this government still struggles to find the right people to run these two very crucial departments, Wolf.
BLITZER: John Vause on the scene for us in Baghdad. Thank you.
And as if the insurgency and the sectarian violence weren't big enough hurdles for the U.S. military mission in Iraq, American forces now are facing allegations of serious misconduct against Iraqi civilians, investigations under way in the deaths of some 24 unarmed civilians in Haditha last November, as well as the killing of a civilian in Hamandiya in April and in Samarra this past week.
Joining us now from Rochester, New York, to talk about the potential impact of all of this for U.S. forces in Iraq, is retired U.S. Army Major General John Batiste.
He served as the commander of one of the Army's most historic units, the 1st Infantry Division, also known as the Big Red One, in Iraq, from 2004 until last year.
He's also one of several U.S. generals, all retired, to call on the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, to resign.
General, welcome to "Late Edition." Thanks for joining us.
What is your bottom line assessment?
If these serious allegations against U.S. Marines committing this alleged atrocity in Haditha are accurate, who is to blame?
MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Wolf, I'm not sure, and I think we need to rely upon our great military justice system to figure this out.
There will be an investigation. It's ongoing. And the facts will speak for themselves and there will be an accountability.
I, however, see a direct link between Haditha, the national embarrassment of Abu Ghraib, going on four years now of uncontrollable chaos in Iraq, with the bad judgment, poor decisions of our secretary of Defense back in late 2003 and 2004.
I question his competency. And I speak for the American people. We deserve accountability.
BLITZER: Well, what specifically did he do wrong, in your opinion, that could have resulted in this kind of alleged atrocity at Haditha or what we all know happened at Abu Ghraib?
BATISTE: Wolf, we went to war with his plan, his plan alone. He all but ignored the U.S. Central Command's hard work to develop a strategy that would have worked in Iraq, that would have accounted for the hard work to build the peace and stop the insurgency.
We should have deployed with up to 380,000 coalition troops, in addition to the Iraqi security forces, to establish security in that country, to secure the boarders with Iran and Syria, to intimidate the insurgent.
We went in under-resourced, overcommitted. And the strain on the force is unbelievable.
BLITZER: What about General Tommy Franks?
He was the commander of the U.S. military's Central Command. And he says this was his plan.
BATISTE: There needs to be accountability up and down the chain. The secretary of defense is the leader of the secretary of defense, and he alone is responsible for what happens or what fails to happen.
He does not understand counterinsurgency operation. He doesn't understand what it takes. He doesn't understand the human dimension of warfare.
His view of transformation will not work in this kind of an operation, where you have to break the cycle of violence. You can't do it with precision munitions from 30,000 feet. There has to be a reasonable mix between boots on the ground and high tech.
BLITZER: But when he says, or when the president says they were responding to what the commanders had in mind, like General Tommy Franks or someone who was his deputy at the time, General John Abizaid, are they lying?
BATISTE: I think they're being disingenuous.
Again, we went to war with the secretary of defense's plan. He never anticipated the insurgency.
Do you remember when Lieutenant General Wallace, commander of the U.S. 5th Corps, attacking north to Baghdad, identified the insurgency and said so on the U.S. press?
The secretary of defense went ballistic and all but fired one of our best war-fighting corps commanders.
BLITZER: Well, let me press you on this point because you make some very, very strong allegations.
Explain specifically how Rumsfeld could be held accountable for Haditha or Abu Ghraib.
BATISTE: Because we went to war with insufficient troops on the ground and capability to get control of that country from day one.
We allowed the insurgent, from an infancy, to take root and then grow to where it is today. What should have been a deliberate victory is now a protracted challenge.
I've got another question, too, Wolf. As I read the 1986 Goldwater/Nichols Act, it looks to me like the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the principal adviser to the president.
My question is this: In the past five years, how many times has the chairman, all three of them, at different times, been in the room with the president alone, the two of them together, with nobody else, and the chairman giving the president his unvarnished opinion on what's happening.
BLITZER: Well, you're suggesting that these chairmen of the joint chiefs, General Richard Myers, retired now, the current General Peter Pace, what you're suggesting, that they have been intimidated by the defense secretary and that they're not giving the president their honest opinions?
BATISTE: I'm suggesting that the president has not been well advised and that the secretary of defense has on the one hand dismissed honest dissent and on the other hand has prevented the system to work as it should described by law.
BLITZER: Because I don't know how many times, if any, the chairman of the joint chiefs has met with the president without the defense secretary being present. But do you have inside information on that? BATISTE: I think it's all about accountability, Wolf. We need to get to the bottom of this. If we're to move forward on this war on terrorism, we need a secretary of defense whose instinct and judgment we all trust. I for one right now don't.
BLITZER: You commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq for about a year. Didn't you raise any of your concerns when you were in active duty?
BATISTE: Of course, we did, inside of our system. We've been through this for the last seven weeks. Lots of debate. Lots of discussion back and forth, but I take you back to what started this whole thing. We went in with the wrong war plan, under-resourced, the wrong numbers of troops on the ground, the wrong capability.
We never anticipated the insurgency, which was an absolute certainty. All you have to read is a modicum of history. Go back and see what the Brits experienced in the last century. Take a look at the complexity of Iraq, the tribal, ethnic and religious complexity that has always defined that country.
It's hard to take down a regime, but the work to build the peace, the work that follows, pales in comparison. It's hard. It takes the human dimension. It takes boots on the ground. You have to break the cycle of violence.
You have to give the people of Iraq alternatives to the insurgency. You got to give them a reason, and we never did that. It's not too late. But we need the political will of this country, we need the resources and we need the right leaders. I ask the congressional oversight committees to start asking the right questions.
BLITZER: Is the U.S. mission in Iraq winnable? The military mission, and if it is, what needs to be done right now?
BATISTE: Absolutely it's winnable. As I said, if we have the political will and we put the right resources. Remember, we've spent over $6 billion in Iraq per month since this started. We have 20,000 dead and wounded Americans. It's time for accountability. That's step one. We must establish accountability and then get the right secretary of defense in the position with his inner circle that can lead this country forward in a tough war against terrorism, which you and I both know we must win. Victory hangs in the balance, Wolf.
BLITZER: General John Batiste. Thank you, General, for joining us here on "Late Edition." And coming up, do U.S. troops need a refresher course on the rules of war? We'll get insight from a panel of top generals.
Plus, tracking terror. Canada's ambassador to the United States, Michael Wilson, talks about yesterday's dramatic arrests and the foiled plot in his country. And later, in case you missed it, highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows in the United States.
BLITZER: There's still time for you to weigh in own our web question of the week: Do you believe Iran will now suspend its uranium enrichment program? Cast your vote. Go to cnn.com/lattedition. The results at the end of the program. Straight ahead, is the U.S. military sending the wrong message in Iraq? We'll get perspective from a roundtable of top retired U.S. generals. You're watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAJ. WILLIAM CALDWELL, U.S. ARMY: The coalition does not and it will not tolerate any unethical or criminal behavior.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: U.S. Army Major William Caldwell responding to allegations of misconduct against Iraqi civilians. Welcome back to "Late Edition." For special insight, we turn now to three CNN military analysts. Joining us here in Washington, retired U.S. Air Force Major General Don Shepperd and retired U.S. Army Brigadier General James "Spider" Marks. And joining us in Madison, Wisconsin, retired U.S. Army Brigadier General David Grange.
Generals, welcome back to "Late Edition." General Shepperd, I'll begin with you. You heard some very powerful accusations, strong words from retired U.S. Major General John Batiste. Your reaction to what you heard, specifically, his condemnation of the behavior of the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld?
MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD, (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yeah, John Batiste is a good guy and a good soldier by reputation. I don't think he could be more wrong. The statements he made are opinions, not fact. They are his opinions and the opinions of a very angry man that has come out over a long period of time here. Basically, his opinions lead to the fact if we simply had 350,000 or 380,000 soldiers, everything would be better.
I think that's very questionable. Would have taken a lot more time to get them there through a single port. And the fact you have 350,000 doesn't mean the insurgency goes away. It may mean it just spreads longer in many places and becomes more costly. So I question his assumptions. I question his opinions.
BLITZER: Because his assumptions are based on what we used to call the Powell doctrine of overwhelming military force. When Powell was chairman of the joint chiefs during the first Gulf War, the U.S. deployed half a million troops to liberate a small country like Kuwait. Why not that same kind of logic to liberate a much bigger country like Iraq?
SHEPPERD: Because in my opinion, the same thing would have happened. In other words, it would have taken four more months to get that number of troops in there through a single ports. And then the call, the rush to Baghdad would have been to get them out because of the cost of the war. And the fact remains that the American public is simply not going to put up with us keeping 350,000 troops for years and years and years, which is what it would take to quell this insurgency.
In my opinion, we're following the right strategy, which is get the Iraqi security forces up to speed and let them fight the war as we slowly withdraw, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let me bring in General Marks. What do you think?
BRIG. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I need to agree with Don that those are very, very strong statements by John Batiste. But, Don, I got to tell you, you know, everybody's entitled to their own opinions, not their own facts. And you made the statement that it would have taken four more months to build up the forces in Kuwait.
I was there, and I've got to tell you, we were rolling pretty quickly. So my point is, John Batiste makes some very valid points. But what we're talking about right now is, what is the state of the U.S. military and the coalition forces in Iraq? Now, the secretary of defense is the man in charge, and he is ultimately responsible for the course of our engagement there.
BLITZER: But the question is, was he derelict in his responsibility to defense secretary by not deploying enough troops to get the job done?
MARKS: I would not say he was derelict. This was based on guidance. This was based -- on not just guidance, this was based on input by his lieutenants, his senior generals, his charges that came to him and said this is what we need to do.
Of course there was dissension, and as John indicated, John Batiste indicated, guys like me on the ground indicated some disagreements with some of the policies but you salute and you move forward. So the secretary of defense made decisions based on the input that came from his immediate subordinates.
BLITZER: And let me just remind our viewers, you were there on the scene, one of the top U.S. military intelligence officers directly involved in the deployment. Let me bring in General Grange. I'd love to get your response, General Grange, to what we heard from General Batiste and what we've heard from our other CNN military analysts.
BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Well, John made some pretty tough statements, obviously, and I don't agree that the secretary should resign. I do think there needs to be a little bit of changes, some changes in how the relationships and communications is handled between senior military officers, senior civilian leadership in the military and junior ranks that are in the field.
I think there is a little bit of a breakdown in communication and understanding. You would not need 350,000 troops all the way up for three years. But it would have been nice to have that many upfront early on, which I believe would have stopped some of the problems that we have there right now. The problem is in our senior ranks I do think we have a bit of a misunderstanding on how to conduct counterinsurgency operations.
I think that we're not very good at that. And this is, I think, an example. And it wasn't just Secretary Rumsfeld's decision. I mean, ultimately, he's responsible, but he had a lot of guidance, like Spider said, from senior military commanders who also did not want that many people there. But you could have flowed in people once the war started right on the heels of the ones already in the country and built up a capable force.
BLITZER: General Marks, you were there during the initial invasion of Iraq. General Batiste referred to criticism coming from General Wallace. At the time, he was rebuked by the secretary of defense. Remind our viewers what General Wallace's job was, what he said and why he was criticized.
MARKS: General Scott Wallace was the commander of the 5th Corps, which was the Army unit that had all the ground units as we were moving toward Baghdad. And around the first week of combat as General Wallace had forces engaged from the border with Kuwait all the way up into probably Najaf, about two-thirds of the way up to Baghdad.
And General Wallace's assessment was the enemy we're fighting in these cities and towns was not the enemy that we war-gamed against. Now, his assessment was there were conventional forces that we were going up against, and there were also some insurgency forces we knew about, that we anticipated we would engage with, but we did not anticipate the volume, the size, the ferocity which these guys would fight us. And so that was his assessment, and he was rebuked for it.
BLITZER: And I remember that very vividly. General Shepperd, let's talk about Haditha. How this potentially -- we don't know if it happened. It's under investigation. The allegations very serious that U.S. Marines snapped, if you will, and massacred 24 Iraqi civilians, men, women and children.
I want you to listen to what Corporal James Crossan, U.S. Marines, one of the 12 Marines in a four-vehicle convoy that was attacked, one of their comrades was killed, what he said this week. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CORPORAL JAMES CROSSAN, U.S. MARINES: I don't know what happened but they might have got scared or they were just really pissed off and did it. But like just the person -- just depends on the person. After seeing so much death and destruction, pretty soon you just become numb and really don't think about it anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Do you relate? You served in Vietnam. You were in the Air Force, so you're not necessarily a ground commander or anything, but you appreciate what this young Marine is saying? SHEPPERD: I do. All three of us that you're talking to now have been in some hard combat out there. I spent a lot of time with the Army. This type of thing can happen exactly what this man said, but we train for it from the time a person comes in the Army or the Marine Corps.
We train on values. We train on discipline. We train on faith in your leaders out there, and this is the type of thing we're all designed to prevent, which is not to let this happen in the heat of battle. You cannot let revenge and anger drive your military actions. We still don't know what happened, as you said, but, indeed, it can and does happen in combat.
BLITZER: General Grange, we're now learning that the U.S. military commanders are forcing all 130, 135,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, another 15,000 or so other foreign coalition forces to go through remedial ethics training, if you will, to make sure they understand the rules of engagement, the rules of war. Is this serious?
GRANGE: Well, it's serious. What you have to be careful of, and I think Spider may remember back when you were a lieutenant, you're all herded into a classroom, you're given a one-hour class on some type of issue that you react to because there's an incident, check the block that that particular company, that platoon got the training, and you go on about business.
These kind of issues are something that are tied to values that you must live every day and they must be reinforced by junior sergeants and junior officers. And when the junior officers or sergeants cannot control and take care of people and instill discipline when emotions run high like this in a combat situation, when a guy next to you, let's say, has his feet blown off or gets hit by a sniper from a house full of civilians, you have to maintain control and discipline and go on with your business. When that breaks down, then you have a problem like this if that's what happened. I don't know yet, but you live it every day.
BLITZER: Here's what Newsweek magazine writes this week, and I want General Marks to respond to this: "In training, they spend endless hours learning how to fire their weapons and kill the enemy. They do not spend much time learning how to be tolerant and neighborly with foreign people who speak a different language and practice a different religion." Is that true?
MARKS: It's not true. There is incredible amount of time being spent on all soldiers, Marines, all service members get a sense of the culture and the environment that they're going to be a part of, and it's part of the mission set. Everybody has missions that you have to conduct.
The conditions within which you conduct those missions will vary. This, war that we're about right now in Iraq requires certain very specific training. So there is great immersion into what to expect, what will excite, what will incite, what will garner support and response from the indigenous folks. BLITZER: Here's some of the concern I heard about this remedial training in ethics and morality and the laws of war from some retired military officers who say, you know what, this is a dangerous insurgency. You're in the middle of potentially life and death, split-second decisions, and if you hesitate, you die or you become maimed. Is there a concern that this kind of emphasis now on ethics and morality could cost the lives of U.S. military personnel in Iraq who hesitate?
MARKS: The training on ethics won't cause the loss of lives. What will happen is, there is the real potential that the military will become a little bit hesitant and react a little more slowly because they're a little more cautious about what it is they're doing.
So the balance is, have we now created a military on the ground that has to act aggressively with focus, with purpose and be able, as David described, to act within a construct of discipline, disciplined leadership that's imposed at the young level, at the young sergeant and corporal level? Will they be able to execute their missions or will they hesitate, and through hesitation cost the lives of some of their brother soldiers?
BLITZER: General Grange, I want to bring you in, and then I'm going to bring General Shepperd back. The Washington Post in an editorial wrote this on Wednesday: "Though we don't yet know the details of the Marine investigation, there is no way to mitigate or excuse such despicable acts if they occurred, and hardly any way to alleviate the tremendous damage that will be done to U.S. honor in Iraq and around the world."
Specifically, the new Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, he spoke very candidly and condemned what he saw as a pattern of U.S. military behavior in Iraq. What kind of impact is that going to have on the U.S. military forces there?
GRANGE: Well, it's going to have a lot of impact. Whether guilty or innocent, it will have a lot of impact because the local media will disinformation -- there will be disinformation that will come out from these acquisitions, and it'll cause problems for the soldiers regardless. And so, yes, there's going to be some bad fallout from this, just like in the prison scandal.
BLITZER: I want General Shepperd to respond to Congressman John Murtha, Democrat of Pennsylvania, who has been outspoken on the war in Iraq. He said this the other day. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE JOHN MURTHA, (D-PA): I think it's a fair analogy except for the numbers. There was about 124, I think, in the My Lai incident, and there was 24 here. But it's the same thing. Overstress, these troops going out every day. IEDs go off. Some of them have seen 30 IEDs go off without (inaudible) they're killed or one of their friends is killed. So the pressure is tremendous.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: You served in Vietnam. You remember the My Lai incident, the massacre of Vietnamese civilians that had a tremendous impact on the American public.
Is this Haditha incident, if in fact it bears out that it did occur -- is that likely to undermine the U.S. public support for this war in Iraq, as My Lai did during Vietnam?
SHEPPERD: Well, I think that any time you have an incident like this that is borne out, it affects the image of the military with the public in the international community and the military image of themselves, that guys in combat fight for each other; they don't fight for the flag; they don't fight for the country. They're in there trying to survive on a day-to-day basis.
So equating this with My Lai, as Congressman Murtha did, I think, well ahead, without knowing the facts, is probably counterproductive. And I think that what America and the world has seen with beheadings on TV and this type of fact, are a balancing fact, not that they excuse any misconduct by anybody anywhere, but I don't see that My Lai and Haditha are in any way equivalent, Wolf.
BLITZER: General Sheppard, General Marks, General Grange, we've got to have to leave it right there, an excellent discussion.
Three CNN military analysts, the best in the business, thanks to all of you for coming in.
And coming up, I'll speak live with the Canadian ambassador to the United States, Michael Wilson. He's here to talk about the weekend arrests of 17 terror suspects in Ontario and the plot to launch an attack, potentially even more damaging than the Oklahoma City bombing.
But up next, a quick check of what's in the news right now, including this weekend's spate of attacks in Iraq. Stay with "Late Edition."
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
In our security watch, 17 terror suspects under arrest in Canada right now. Police say the group posed a real and serious threat.
Joining us now to discuss the latest is the Canadian ambassador to the United States, Michael Wilson.
Mr. Ambassador, welcome to "Late Edition." Welcome to Washington.
MICHAEL WILSON, CANADA'S AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: Thank you very much, Wolf.
BLITZER: Here's what the assistant commander of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said yesterday about this terror arrest. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE MCDONNELL, ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE: This group posed a real and serious threat. It had the capacity and intent to carry out these acts.
Our investigation and arrests prevented the assembly of any bombs and the attacks from being carried out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Mr. Ambassador, how close was this group, allegedly, to actually carrying out a bombing?
WILSON: I can't answer that question specifically. But clearly, from the comments that were made by the police, this was close. They said they felt they should move in quickly because they were getting close to be able to do some very real damage, as the police officer just said.
BLITZER: The indications being that they were getting close to actually assembling a bomb, using this fertilizer that they had collected?
WILSON: They had ordered and had accepted delivery of the ammonium nitrate. And this is the same thing that was used in Oklahoma City. So it's something that can cause some very serious damage. The amounts were well in excess of what was used in Oklahoma City.
BLITZER: There is a suggestion that there is a U.S. connection, in that two suspects, terror suspects arrested recently in the United States in the state of Georgia may have had some link to these 17. What can you tell our viewers about this connection?
WILSON: I can't tell you. I just -- I don't know, and this obviously is a criminal investigation that is going to continue, but what I can say in a general sense is that there is a lot of very good cooperation between the civilian and the other intelligence authorities in Canada with the United States, and that is something that has been ongoing since before 9/11, but certainly picked up significantly after that.
BLITZER: Did the U.S. play a role in helping Canada find these suspects?
WILSON: My understanding is that it was primarily based on good police work, good investigation, good intelligence work in Canada. The system that we have in place in Canada is working. But through this, there would have been good cooperation, good sharing of information. So there well could well have been what you have just suggested.
BLITZER: Could you tell us what you've learned, the Canadian government, the Canadian law enforcement authorities about the alleged motivation of these 17 suspects? WILSON: I think it's still too early to be able to comment on that. We haven't had obviously the direct dialogue. The authorities haven't had the direct dialogue with the people who have been arrested. But they certainly learned through the intelligence, the observations that they've done for the better part of two years now in following these people, and understanding what their motivation is and what they could be capable of doing.
BLITZER: We've heard from Canadian authorities say they were inspired by al Qaeda. Do you have any evidence that suggests that there was a direct relationship between al Qaeda and these 17?
WILSON: My understanding of it is that the Internet played a very important part of it. Whether there was a direct inspiration or an indirect inspiration, the Internet was, according to the police, was a very important part of their activities.
BLITZER: Explain that. They were reading al Qaeda-related Web sites, and they just became inspired or angry and decided that they were going to take whatever action they were planning on doing?
WILSON: I don't know enough about it to know exactly what they did watch, but they were certainly inspired. That was the word that I've heard used. But exactly what they were watching, how they were using the Internet, I just don't have that information.
BLITZER: There have been a lot of reports over the past 24 hours suggesting that the targets were various buildings, government buildings, economic infrastructure in Canada in the Toronto area, perhaps in Ottawa. What do you know and what can you share with our viewers about the potential targets for this group?
WILSON: There still -- this is media speculation at this point. The police haven't been -- gone public on that. What has been said, which would be of interest to your audience, is that there are no targets in the United States, either buildings or people.
BLITZER: I want to read what the FBI said in a statement on Saturday here in Washington. "While it does appear that there were contacts between certain suspects in Canada and two individuals recently charged in the United States, there is no current outstanding threat to any targets on U.S. soil emanating from this case." And that's the point you're making. You can reaffirm that.
WILSON: That's right. Yes.
BLITZER: Let's talk about the broader issue right now, about border security between the United States and Canada. Lots of focus on the U.S./Mexican border, but I want you to listen to what Republican Congressman Peter King, Republican of New York, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said here on CNN yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PETER KING (R-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: Americans should be very concerned, because Canada is our northern neighbor, and there's a large al Qaeda presence in Canada. I think it's a disproportionate number of al Qaeda in Canada because of their very liberal immigration laws, because of how political asylum is granted so easily, and also the previous government, quite frankly, in Canada I don't think was tough enough, as far as going after terrorism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Those are very serious charges coming from a prominent member of the U.S. Congress. Your response?
WILSON: I disagree with what the chairman has said. I think that our immigration laws as they are implemented are very close in the outcomes as the United States immigration laws. We take very seriously these issues of terrorism, as demonstrated by this very successful exercise that was completed on Friday night, Saturday morning.
One of the things that I want to do as the ambassador is to bring people, and the first people who will be down here will be coming this middle of this month, to come down and talk in a very specific way, to respond specifically to the allegations that Congressman King has said. We disagree with him, but the only way that we address this is by facts, head on, from the people who are responsible for those parts of our policy.
BLITZER: Mr. Ambassador, we've got to leave it right there, but thanks very much for coming in to "Late Edition."
WILSON: Thank you very much, Wolf.
BLITZER: And good luck here in Washington.
WILSON: Thank you.
BLITZER: "In Case You Missed It," let's check some of the other highlights from the Sunday morning talk shows in the United States. That's coming up right after this.
BLITZER (voice-over): Lance Armstrong, what's his story? The Tour de France champion was cleared this week of doping allegations following an independent Dutch investigation. Last year, a French newspaper claimed Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs before his first Tour de France victory in 1999, but the investigation concluded that the accusations were irresponsible, and suggested possible violations by the world anti-doping agency.
Armstrong, who has always denied using banned substances, rose to prominence with his inspiring personal story of winning the prestigious cycling race in 1999 after battling cancer. He retired last year with a record seven straight Tour de France victories.
The Dixie Chicks, what's their story? Their latest album, "Taking the Long Way," debuted at number one this week on both the Billboard chart and Amazon.com. The group is also in the midst of a media blitz that includes a recent "Time" magazine cover story and an appearance on "Larry King Live." It's quite a comeback for the Chicks, who experienced an angry backlash from some country music fans after lead singer Natalie Maines criticized President Bush during a London concert on the eve of the Iraq war. The response included radio station boycotts, CD burnings and death threats.
The Dixie Chicks addressed the controversy on their new album, saying they have no regrets about their anti-war stance.
BLITZER: And now, in case you missed it, let's check some of the highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States.
On Fox News Sunday, a leading Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Lindsey Graham, discussed the impact of alleged U.S. military misconduct in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC) ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: America loses the moral high ground when our troops violate rule-of-law principles, when our troops act inappropriately.
The way we regain the moral high ground is make sure those involved in Abu Ghraib and this incident, if true, are punished to show the world that we're different.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: On NBC's "Meet the Press," the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joe Biden, blamed Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for the Haditha incident and other alleged misconduct against civilians in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE) FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: He should be gone. He shouldn't be in his office tomorrow morning. There is a system of accountability.
The system of accountability is -- it used to be a gentlemanly thing, as they say, when you make serious mistakes, you step forward and you acknowledge them and you walk away.
Presidents can't and shouldn't do that. Secretaries of defense can and should.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And on ABC's "This Week," the former vice president, Al Gore, talked about the Bush administration's position on global warming.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: I don't exclude the possibility that both President Bush and Vice President Cheney will be forced to change their minds about global warming during these next two years.
Reality has a way of intruding on illusion. And they've tried to create their own reality where global warming is concerned and on a few other things, as well.
And over time, that tends to collide with the real world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Highlights from some of the other Sunday morning talk shows here on "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
Up next, the results of our Web question of the week, "Do you believe Iran will now suspend its uranium enrichment program?"
And a reminder, coming up at the top of the hour for our North American viewers, CNN reporters are "On the Story," including our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre on what he saw and heard about the investigation into the alleged military misconduct in Iraq. All that coming up "On the Story," right after "Late Edition." Stay with us.
BLITZER: Our "Late Edition" Web question asked this, "Do you believe Iran will now suspend its uranium enrichment program?"
Check out the results. Only 4 percent of you said yes; 96 percent of you said no. Remember, though, this is not a scientific poll.
Let's take a closer look on what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines here in the United States.
Time has a special report on Haditha.
Newsweek also explores "The Haditha Question."
And U.S. News & World Report looks at seven reasons not to retire.
Let's check out some of your e-mail.
Cliff from Front Royal, Virginia, writes this, "I would never condone atrocities by U.S. troops during a war. Nonetheless war is hell and such incidents will and have occurred during all wars we have fought. The combat in Iraq is like none other. We need to understand the complexities of the war being fought in Iraq in order to put such incidents like Hamandiya in proper perspective." Roger, a Vietnam veteran from Portland, Oregon, writes this, "There was only one thing, one event, missing to make the Iraq war exactly like Vietnam and that was a massacre like My Lai. Now everything fits."
We always welcome your comments. Our e-mail address is lateedition@CNN.com.
And that is your "Late Edition" for this Sunday, June 4. Please be sure to join us next Sunday and every Sunday at 11:00 a.m. Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.
I'm in "The Situation Room" Monday through Friday. See you tomorrow. Thanks for joining us.
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