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THE SITUATION ROOM

President Bush Gets Ready to Announce New Iraq Strategy; Former Joint Chiefs Chairman Wants to Revisit 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

Aired January 2, 2007 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Lou, thanks very much, and congratulations to you and to your entire family.
And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you tonight's top stories.

Happening now, Iraq battle plans and outrage -- President Bush nearing an announcement of his retooled war strategy, but as of now, something is missing. We have new information on that tonight and on the outrage over Saddam Hussein's execution.

Also this hour, a striking about-face on gays in the military -- a former joint chiefs' chairman now saying it's time to rethink the "don't ask/don't tell" policy. Could that be a solution to the U.S. military's recruitment problem?

And the Oprah Winfrey Academy opens its doors in Africa and CNN is there to watch the TV superstar make good on a $40 million promise to girls in need.

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

Right now President Bush is preparing to take first steps towards revealing his next moves in Iraq. We have some new information tonight on the timeframe and a big decision that apparently still has not yet been officially made.

Let's begin with our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you may recall on Thursday, President Bush said a number of things have to happen before he announces change and tactics regarding his Iraq policy, consultations with Congress, consultation with Iraqi officials. We have learned that the president is taking some steps in the next couple of days moving towards that direction.

A cabinet meeting tomorrow here at the White House and then also in the evening, a reception for House and Senate Democrat/Republican leadership and their spouses to talk about the year as well as some deliberations in Iraq. We've been told it's more of a social occasion, but Wolf very interesting. A senior administration official said that members of Congress will get a courtesy call, a heads-up about the president's Iraq plan within a couple of days before it is announced to the American public.

So we may get a good sense of what is going on, what is percolating, within days. Secondly, Bush administration officials say that look, constant consultations happen with Iraqi officials, but they expect that the president will reach out to Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki to talk about the Iraq plan before he makes this again public to the American people.

That, Wolf, has not yet happened. And finally, sources are saying do not expect an announcement this week, an address necessarily, but perhaps do expect it early next week. But again, sources are cautioning us here. They are saying the president has not yet signed off on anything -- one source saying that the president, however, is driving toward a conclusion -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll be watching him every step of the way, together with you, Suzanne. Thank you very much.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, there's execution outrage, as it's being called -- days after Saddam Hussein was put to death, many of the supporters now taking to the streets in anger.

CNN's Arwa Damon is in Baghdad with more -- Arwa.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as the celebrations after Saddam's death wind down, the demonstrations and support of Iraq's former leader are gaining momentum.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAMON (voice-over): At the modest grave site of Iraq's once terrifying leader, tears flow freely. Grief which turned into outrage with the all too familiar chants of, "With our blood and our soul we will sacrifice for you, Saddam."

In front of the glistening golden dome of the al-Askari Mosque in Samarra, one of the holiest Shia shrines, the image of Saddam Hussein displayed by angry Sunni demonstrators. Crowds here carry a mock coffin and photos of their former leader, parading through the courtyard of the shrine still showing scars of a bombing in February, an attack by Sunni extremists that catapulted sectarian violence to a new level.

In the days after Saddam's death, outrage is only increasing as more details as to what really happened in that execution chamber come to light.

The day of the execution, Iraq's national security adviser who was present as Saddam tumbled to his death told CNN ...

MOWAFFAK AL-RUBAIE, IRAQ'S NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: There was absolutely no humiliation for Saddam Hussein when he was alive and after he was executed.

DAMON: But then this cell phone video appeared on the Internet, uncensored images fully portraying the chilling scene of the gallows. Showing Saddam being taunted in his final moments with cries of "Muqtada, Muqtada, Muqtada," a reference to Muqtada al Sadr, the radical Shia cleric whose Mehdi militia is believed to be behind much of the sectarian violence.

The images confirming Sunni fears that the execution of Saddam by Iraq's Shia-led government was a sectarian affair. A U.S. warning to Iraq's government that it avoid giving the perception of a rush to judgment fell on deaf ears. With an aide to Iraq's prime minister saying that Nouri al Maliki was determined to put Saddam to death before the end of the year.

The government has said it will launch an investigation as to how the cell phone was snuck into the gallows, and footage was shot, obviously, in plain view of the authorities who were present.

Munqith Faroon, perplexed and disturbed by what happened, was one of the 14 people present in that room.

MUNQITH FAROON, CHIEF PROSECUTOR (through translator): We were searched one by one before going into the room. They had a box to place phones in. How these phones were snuck in, I don't know.

DAMON: A mistake the government is already paying for.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DAMON: With Shia chants defining Saddam Hussein's final moments, turning his execution into an act of sheer revenge, it risks driving even moderate Sunnis further away from the Shia-led government, which they already had little faith in. Rather than uniting Iraqis, it's further dividing them -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Arwa, thank you very much -- Arwa Damon reporting for us from Baghdad.

The images of Saddam's execution have been especially shocking in those countries that have banned the death penalty, and that includes Italy. The country's prime minister now saying he'll campaign at the United Nations for a global ban on capital punishment. Italy has just taken a seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Tonight Gerald R. Ford's casket is inside his presidential museum in Michigan before his burial tomorrow. The 38th commander in chief got a final official sendoff here in the nation's Capitol earlier today. And it's been a very emotional day of tributes and stirring images. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SOUNDS)

(MUSIC)

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The very sight of Chief Justice Berger administering the oath of office to our 38th president instant restored the honor of the Oval Office and helped America begin to turn the page on one of our saddest chapters. As Americans, we generally assume notions of the indispensable man, yet during those traumatic times, few, if any of our public leaders could have stepped into the breach and rekindled our national faith, as did President Gerald R. Ford.

HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Historians will debate for a long time over which president contributed most to victory in the Cold War. Few will dispute that the Cold War could not have been won had not Gerald Ford emerged at a tragic period to restore equilibrium to America.

(MUSIC)

TOM BROKAW, JOURNALIST: Gerald Ford brought to the political arena no demons, no hidden agenda, no hit list or acts of vengeance. He knew who he was, and he didn't require consultants or gurus to change him.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On the day he became president, he told the nation, I am indebted to no man, and only to one woman, my dear wife. By then, Betty Ford had a pretty good idea of what marriage to Gerald Ford involved. After all, their wedding had taken place less than three weeks before his first election to the United States Congress. And his idea of a honeymoon was driving to Ann Arbor with his bride so they could attend a brunch before the Michigan/Northwestern game the next day. And that was the beginning of a great marriage.

(MUSIC)

BROKAW: The greatest rewards of Gerry Ford's time were reserved for his fellow Americans and the nation he loved. Farewell, Mr. President. Thank you, Citizen Ford.

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let me second our colleague Tom Brokaw on that. Let's go to New York and Jack Cafferty. He has "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The United States has now passed the grim milestone of more than 3,000 troops killed in Iraq, more than 20,000 seriously wounded. But how many of us really notice this stuff on a daily basis? President Bush has gone out of his way to avoid calling attention to the casualties of war.

He hasn't attended a single military funeral. The media are prohibited from photographing coffins carrying our soldiers and Marines home from the battlefield. And the president has not called on the nation to make any sort of meaningful sacrifice in the name of the war in Iraq. On the contrary, his advice is for Americans to keep shopping. He's also said that this period in Iraq will look like, quote, "a comma in the history books."

Unlike past wars, which were viewed more as a shared national sacrifice, the war in Iraq is largely seen as a burden that is being carried by a very small number of Americans. A recent poll shows only 11 percent of Americans have had a close friend or family member or co-worker wounded or killed in Iraq. Another 43 percent have a friend or family member who has served.

Only a little more than half of Americans know someone who has gone to Iraq to serve our country. So here's the question. What impact does the war in Iraq really have on most Americans? E-mail your thoughts to CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: At a cost of about $2 billion a week, it has an affect on all of us taxpayers, Jack, as I think you and our viewers certainly appreciate. Thanks, Jack, very much, even if we don't necessarily have a friend or someone who is serving, it has an impact on all of us.

Coming up, is the president of Iran using Saddam Hussein's execution to drum up anti-American sentiment? Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accusing the United States of wanting to use the hanging as a way to divide Iraqis.

Also, Oprah Winfrey's $40-million dream come true. Find out how she's transforming the lives of hundreds of girls.

And secret report exposed -- a sneak peek at Rudy Giuliani's plan to try to win the White House. Find out why he fears his ex-wife could come back to haunt him.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A key leader in the region, whom everyone seems to be watching these days, is reacting on Saddam Hussein's hanging. CNN's Brian Todd is joining us with details -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, growing signs tonight that the handling of Saddam's execution is becoming a regional problem. Today at two locations near the border, Iraq's powerful and some say dangerous neighbor spoke out about the event.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): In the boiling aftermath of the death of his country's bitter enemy, Iran's president jumps right into the fray. Before crowds in southern Iran, a region near the Iraq border and populated heavily by Arabs, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also directs his words toward Arabs next door in Iraq with his take on America's role in Saddam Hussein's execution.

PRES. MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRAN (through translator): They even want to use Saddam's execution as a tool to create dissension. The world should know that sooner or later the occupiers under pressure from the Iraqi nation will leave that country. TODD: CNN and other news organizations reported that U.S. officials actually tried to delay Saddam's execution and prevent dissension. But analysts say Ahmadinejad and Iran's religious leaders are using this event to send a broader message about America.

AFSHIN MOLAVI, AUTHOR, "THE SOUL OF IRAN": It's not just Ahmadinejad that is trying to portray the United States as a cut-and- run power. The Islamic political establishment, through its speeches, through its diplomacy is also trying to portray the United States as a cut and run power.

TODD: But one analyst believes that beyond telling Iraqis that Iran will be there for them when the divisive, scheming Americans leave, there's a more ominous message in Ahmadinejad's words.

TRITA PARSI, NAT'L IRANIAN-AMERICAN COUNCIL: What he's telling to the Sunnis is if you take out the anger on the Shiites, remember, the Shiites are here permanently, the Americans are not. So when the Americans are not there to protect you, then obviously you'll be finding yourself in a much more difficult position.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Now another analyst says the Iranian president would not dare incite the Iraqi Sunnis any further with such a warning, but Ahmadinejad is trying to counter Saudi Arabia's growing influence on the Sunnis in Iraq at a time when the messy handling of Saddam's death puts tensions between Sunnis and Shias there at a boiling point -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And a lot of people think it's about to get even worse -- Brian, thank you very much for that.

The New Year brought another U.S. fatality in Iraq, a soldier killed by a roadside bomb southwest of Baghdad yesterday. That brings the total number of Americans killed in Iraq to 3,003. Of the many deadly days for U.S. forces there, one clearly stands out as the deadliest, and it included an ambush of U.S. Marines.

CNN's Tom Foreman is here with the story of one of these young men killed in that attack -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it would be a wonderful thing if we could tell the story of all the many, many young people who have died over in this war. But in fact we can't tell that many, so what we did is we said we would focus on one group of soldiers, Marines, in fact, who were based right here at this dam on the Euphrates River just above the town of Haditha.

This is in a Sunni stronghold. And what we wanted to look was look at what these Marines went through to see what we could learn about the experience of being there on this terrible, terrible day two years ago. People in question were Jesse Strong, Chris Weaver, Jonathan Bowling and a late arrival to their group, a young man named Karl Linn.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN (voice-over): When a slightly built quiet young man named Karl Linn transfers to the platoon, Weaver writes in his journal again, I asked to have him in my fire team because I wanted some young lackey that would follow my orders without any complaining. But Linn is good at much more than grunt work. It is quickly apparent he knows more about one thing than anyone else.

STAFF SGT. BUTCH DREANY, U.S. MARINE CORPS: Weapons, he became just infatuated with just weapons in general, especially foreign weapons, which became an asset being in Iraq because Karl already knew how to break down most weapons that we found. You know I would look at it and just go, hey, Linn, here you go.

FOREMAN: It was a pretty valuable guy to have.

DREANY: Oh, absolutely.

(MUSIC)

FOREMAN: Linn comes from near Richmond and was studying engineering at Virginia Commonwealth when he was activated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was always writing in the margins or doodling somehow.

FOREMAN: His father, Dick, has notebooks filled with his son's drawings and inventions.

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Random collection of things here -- I haven't sorted through all the papers and all the -- all the good stuff.

FOREMAN: Karl had helped his school establish a robotics team, and he was fascinated with the idea of joining the rough-and-ready Marines, unusual for a young man from a Buddhist home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the idea appealed to him, you know the -- if you're going to do something, then do the toughest thing. Maybe it was for his -- you know his own self-esteem or self-discipline. I know he wanted to pay society back for what he'd been given. He felt an obligation to help serve the country.

STAFF SGT. MIKE SPRANO, U.S. MARINE CORPS: He volunteered for everything, and within a week or two, you couldn't even tell that he was new.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: This is what these families want to focus on, the good lives that these four young men lived, but we also tell the story in the show about what happened south of here when they were ambushed along the Euphrates River that night. And as it is with every young person who serves over there, how their experience there reached across the ocean from Iraq all the way to the United States and touched communities all over the Virginias, all up into Vermont and friends across this nation. That's what this is really about; making the point that of all the young people who have served there the simple truth is they've done what we've asked them with honor and courage, and that deserves remembrance.

BLITZER: Well said. Thank you very much, Tom, for that. And this important note to our viewers, you can see Tom Foreman's complete report "Ambush at the River of Secrets" tonight on a special edition of "ANDERSON COOPER 360". That airs at 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific right here on CNN. This is a powerful one-hour documentary. You're going to want to see this.

Up ahead tonight right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, is it time to rethink the ban on gays and lesbians openly serving in the United States military? Now a top former U.S. military commander says yes. We're going to show you why and who that person is.

Plus, love them or hate them, they've changed the way we all live. CNN's Jeanne Moos on the gadget of the decade.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: On Capitol Hill, Democrats are now less than two days away from taking charge of both Houses of Congress, and the American people will certainly be watching them closely to see if these Democrats can deliver on their promises. We have some brand new CNN poll numbers tonight on the public's expectations of this new Congress.

Bill Schneider, our senior political analyst, standing by with more on that -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, it's been 12 years since the last time control of Congress changed. Are people as optimistic now as they were then?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): 1994, Republicans take over Congress for the first time in 40 years. People thought the new Republican Congress would be good for the country by 50 to 26 percent.

(MUSIC)

SCHNEIDER: 2006, Democrats regain control of Congress after 12 years. Sixty-one percent say Democratic control of the Congress will be good for the country and 32 percent bad. Both elections were negative judgments about the president -- Bill Clinton's approval rating at the time of the 1994 election, 46 percent.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I accept my share of the responsibility and the result of the elections.

SCHNEIDER: George W. Bush's approval rating at the time of the 2006 election, 35 percent.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No question, Iraq was on people's minds.

SCHNEIDER: Men feel about the same now about the Democrats coming to power as they did in 1994 about the Republicans, fairly optimistic. The big shift is among women. Sixty-four percent of women say Democratic control of Congress will be good for the country. Nancy Pelosi will be the first woman Speaker of the House. Fewer than half of women felt optimistic about Newt Gingrich and the Republicans in 1994.

(APPLAUSE)

SCHNEIDER: Remember how excited Republicans were to take over Congress in 1994?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: If this is not a mandate to move in a particular direction, I would like someone to explain to me what a mandate would look like.

SCHNEIDER: Then 81 percent of Republicans thought a Republican Congress would be good for the country. Well guess what? Democrats are even more excited now. Ninety-one percent of Democrats believe a Democratic Congress will be good for the country. But in 1994, fewer than half of Democrats thought the Republican Congress would be bad for the country. Now, nearly three-quarters of Republicans believe a Democratic Congress will be bad for the country.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Pelosi takes over in a more divided country than Newt Gingrich did in 1994 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider thanks for those new numbers that we're just getting.

And just ahead, he was once the nation's top military officer, and now he's weighing in on one of the more controversial Pentagon policies. That would be on gays serving openly in the U.S. military. You're going to be surprised perhaps at what he's now saying.

Plus, details of Oprah Winfrey's giant gift and why she says it's a dream come true.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in the SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time.

Happening now, a source tells CNN President Bush is driving toward a conclusion on what to do next in Iraq. Also, administration officials say the president will consult with members of the Congress and the Iraqi government in the next few days. Those are among the steps the president pledged to take before announcing a new Iraq policy. That announcement could come early next week.

Also, Oprah Winfrey's gift: it's a $40 million act of good will to underprivileged girls in South Africa. We're going to tell you what it's all about.

And it's the only state in the nation that allows same-sex marriage, but could that change? As protesters gathered outside the State House, lawmakers in Massachusetts today approved a measure that could allow residents to vote on the issue in 2008.

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

There are growing calls to lift a controversial ban on openly gay men and women serving in the United States military. And now a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John Shalikashvili, is among those who says it's time to revisit the so-called "Don't ask, don't tell" policy.

CNN's Kathleen Koch has the story from the Pentagon -- Kathleen.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the personal change of heart on this issue came about gradually, but the general says the policy change is inevitable.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KOCH (voice-over): It was a dramatic about-face. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs in Staff when the U.S. military in 1993 adopted the "don't ask, don't tell" policy now advocating it be dropped. In a "New York Times" editorial, General John Shalikashvili says, quote, "I know believe that if gay men and lesbians served openly in the United States military, they would not undermine the efficacy of the armed forces."

DAVID HALL, FORMER AIR FORCE STAFF SERGEANT: I kind of felt, why didn't he -- you know, why didn't he say this earlier.

KOCH: David Hall served five years in the Air Force before he was discharged under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. He's one of twelve veterans suing the Defense Department to be reinstated.

HALL: For them to, you know, disenroll me for something so stupid, it just didn't make sense. So I wanted the opportunity to voice my opinion and say, "You know what? This is not right. This is not the way that our country should be treating Americans."

KOCH: More than 11,000 service members have been discharged since the policy was put in place. Critics argue these are valuable personnel the over-stressed military can no longer afford to lose.

C. DIXON OSBURN, SERVICE MEMBERS' LEGAL DEFENSE NET: They're just barely meeting their recruiting goals right now, and yet they're kicking qualified people just because they're gay.

KOCH: Still, supporters of the policy warn changing it will lower morale and hurt unit cohesion. ANDREA LAFFERTY, TRADITIONAL VALUES COALITION: I think there will be a morale issue. We've got young men and young women overseas. We've got, you know, young men in foxholes. And it creates a very difficult, uncomfortable situation. Frankly, foxholes shouldn't be a place for dating.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOCH (on camera): The Pentagon has consistently refused to comment on "don't ask, don't tell" since it was put into law by Congress. But some acknowledge that an editorial from such a well- respected military leader could be just what it takes to start a new debate on ending an old and, some say, flawed policy -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kathleen reporting from the Pentagon.

Thank you very much.

So what does another former Pentagon leader think about this issue? Joining us, the former Defense Secretary William Cohen. He's our world affairs analyst. He's also the chairman and CEO of the Cohen Group here in Washington.

You know General John Shalikashvili, a very formidable military man, a hero in many respects. What do you make of his article today suggesting it's time to do away with this "don't ask, don't tell" policy?

WILLIAM COHEN, WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I thought it was a very thoughtful piece that he wrote. But I think we have to also take into account the full article. It was almost as if St. Augustine declaring, to God, "Dear God, give me chastity, but not just yet."

And in the Shalikashvili piece, he said it's time to start rethinking this policy. And I think it's important he also said, "Don't put this at the top of the agenda just yet. Make sure we do something about our Iraq policy first."

We've got gays in the military we've had from time immemorial. They're over there now. They're fighting and they're dying on behalf of the country. So it's not the issue of whether they're gay or not. To quote the question about conduct, does it undermine good order and discipline?

BLITZER: But what do you think? Does it?

Because you studied this when you were defense secretary for a long time.

COHEN: What I'm saying is I think that Chairman Shalikashvili has put it right, that this is something that is going to change, is going to evolve. It's time to start thinking about it and starting to discuss it. But do not make this at the top of the agenda until we get the Iraq strategy underway.

I think it would be important that military people raise the issue rather than political leaders because this well become another, quote, "wedge issue".

And I can see it taking place now. If any one of the political candidates -- presidential candidates were to make this, as Bill Clinton did, one of his top issues, right away it becomes a political issue and it undermines and it divides the country at a time when we need to have some kind of cohesion about where are we over there right now because we've got so many fighting and dying.

So I think it's going to come about. I think it's important that we have hearings at some point. I think that Chairmen Levin and others will ask for hearings, listen to testimony. But I think it's really important that the initiative come from within the military because the military is the one that has questioned whether or not it would be divisive in terms of really undermining good order and discipline. That has to be key.

BLITZER: Correct me if I'm wrong, but when you were defense secretary during the second part of the Clinton administration, you thought about making a change, you canvassed opinion. What did you hear from within the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marine Corps?

COHEN: I think what we're hearing from within the military is what we're hearing from within society, that we're becoming a much more open, tolerant society for diverse opinions and orientation. And so I think it is evolving. Much as we have seen, mother is the necessity of all invention. It's a necessity here that's also requiring us to say, "Let's take a look at our policy of discrimination."

And frankly, any time you draw a distinction, you are discriminating. And the question is, is there a reasonable basis? Here, the issue is, is it reasonable under these circumstances? Will this undermine good order and discipline?

I think the policy is changing from within because it's reflecting changes within society itself.

BLITZER: General Shalikashvili in the article in the "New York Times" made the point that other major military forces do allow openly gay men and women to serve, including the army of Britain and Israel, and they don't have a problem. And as a result, he doesn't think the United States military would have a problem when all is said and done.

What do you think?

COHEN: And I think that will be taken into account. That's the kind of discussion and debate we ought to have. And Shalikashvili points out -- I keep calling him Shali (ph) because he was such a close friend. As he points out, this must be handled with great sensitivity because this still is a politically charged issue. So we ought to have some discussion, some hearings.

But don't put it at the top of the agenda just yet. Let's get Iraq straight first, if we can, because there are too many people who are fighting and dying on our behalf over there. And the country really is not fully engaged in that. We've got a few people doing it. We need to have more Americans. We ought to have people saying -- have a president, for example, or presidential candidate saying, "It's time to serve," call up for service, as well as other activity, "Go serve."

BLITZER: One final question on this sensitive issue. You say, "Wait until there's an Iraq strategy in place."

That could be a long time given what's happening in Iraq right now.

COHEN: It can't afford to be a long time. We've had four years of this war to date and things have not been improving. The president can't afford to wait much longer before he puts forth a plan that can, in fact, attract both Republicans and Democrats to support it. Without that, we're going to see more divisiveness, we're going to see the country polarized, we're going to see more presidential candidates making it an issue and, yet, not solving the problem. So he can't afford to wait much longer. I would say time is becoming overdue right now.

BLITZER: Mr Secretary, as usual, thanks for coming in.

COHEN: Pleasure to be here.

BLITZER: And still ahead tonight right here in the SITUATION ROOM, he's not even announced his White House intentions, but his cards are clearly on the table, face up. Who got hold of Rudy Giuliani's game plan?

And later, the school that Oprah Winfrey built, a 440 million act of kindness for some of South Africa's best and brightest girls.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's turn now to the road to the White House and an early misstep for Republican Rudy Giuliani. His political playbook for 2008 wound up in a reporter's hands and details of it were published in a newspaper. Now the former New York City mayor's camp is fuming. Let's turn to CNN's Mary Snow. She's in New York with the story. Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Giuliani camp calls it a dirty trick. A leaked document reveals how Rudy Giuliani plans to launch a presidential bid and what his campaign is worried about.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): It is a Rudy Giuliani for president campaign strategy meant to stay behind the scenes. But the 140-page document outlining everything from budgets to political baggage made it into the hands of "New York Daily News" reporter Ben Smith.

BEN SMITH, "THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": The most striking thing was the sort of explicit worries about some of these issues in his campaign. Mentioning his ex-wife Donna Hanover, his current wife, his business, social issues was last among the worries.

SNOW: Republican strategists say it's not surprising these concerns would be listed. Giuliani supports abortion and gay rights, which clash with Republican Party ideals. While he was mayor, his divorce from his second wife Donna Hanover turned ugly, with an alleged affair making tabloid headlines. And his former aide and police commissioner Bernard Kerik has become a source of embarrassment. Kerik for one withdrew his name as a choice to head the Department of Homeland Security over the hiring of a nanny with questionable immigration and tax status.

Some strategists say writing out political baggage does come as a surprise.

JONATHAN GRELLA, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It would seem that these are not the kind of things that you would want to put down on paper. That is an -- that is an old political maxim, not to -- not to ever put to paper on -- on situations like this.

SNOW: Giuliani's camp calls it dirty tricks, claiming the document was taken in the fall while Giuliani was on the 2006 campaign trail, stumping for Republicans. A spokeswoman claims the document was in a staffer's luggage, which was not returned during a plane transfer. She claims the document was removed and photocopied.

Giuliani's communications director said as for the document itself, quote, "This is simply someone's ideas which were committed to paper over three months ago."

SMITH: I got it from a source who was sympathetic to one of Giuliani's opponents. And the source said it had been left behind during his kind of pre-election campaign swing.

SNOW: Smith declined to show us the entire document, saying he was keeping it in a safe place.

But one page he provided shows the Giuliani camp aims to raise at least $100 million in 2007 alone. Smith says the strategy shows Giuliani is planning to run, but says there are also concerns expressed among staff that he may also drop out.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Giuliani has not yet announced whether he will seek the Republican nomination for president. He has formed an exploratory committee while he considers it. Wolf?

BLITZER: Mary Snow in New York, thanks very much.

This footnote, want to make a correction for what we did yesterday right here in THE SITUATION ROOM during this hour. We had a very bad typographical error. We were doing a piece on the hunt for Osama bin Laden. When promoting the story, an online, on-screen graphic that is questioning where Osama bin Laden might be hiding, it showed, instead, "Where's Obama?" briefly on the screen instead of "Where's Osama?" We certainly deeply regret the error. Today I called Senator Obama's office and formally apologized for that.

Just ahead, 105 bright South African girls, $40 million and a very powerful benefactor. Oprah Winfrey puts her money where her heart is.

And later, the smaller it gets, the more it does, the amazing shrinking cell phone. Jeanne Moos revisits the days when they called it the brick.

Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Tonight, Oprah Winfrey's very generous gift. It's a multi-million dollar act of goodwill to underprivileged girls in South Africa. CNN Africa correspondent Jeff Koinange has these details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: Hi, everybody. These are my girls.

JEFF KOINANGE, CNN AFRICA CORRESPONDENT: A dream come true for 152 very lucky girls and also for one very famous talk show host. Oprah Winfrey cut the ribbon and helped raise the flag of her very own leadership academy for girls just outside Johannesburg.

And she brought with her a host of Hollywood's finest in both the movie and music industries, from Mariah Carey to Tina Turner, from Chris Rock to Chris Tucker and from Spike Lee to Sidney Poitier.

Originally Oprah committed $10 million, but as her vision grew, so did her contribution, to $40 million. And there's no school like it here. A library with a fireplace, a dining room with marble tabletops. An audio/video center, a gym, a wellness center, dormitories and tennis courts.

And just 15 girls to a classroom. That, in a country in which more than a third of the children don't get a chance even to go to high school. And those who do often go to schools with few books, facilities or even bathrooms.

Winfrey aimed to help the poorest here. Only children from homes that earned less than $800 a month are eligible. Winfrey has worked to improve education in the U.S. She says she decided to build in South Africa because she found children here hungrier to learn.

"I became so frustrated with visiting inner-city schools," she said, "that I just stopped going. The sense that you need to learn just isn't there. If you ask the kids what they want or need, they will say an iPod or some sneakers. In South Africa, they don't ask for money or toys. They ask for uniforms so they can go to school."

Oprah promised former President Nelson Mandela that she would build the academy six years ago after she visited some of South Africa's poorest schools.

NELSON MANDELA, FMR. PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA: This is unprecedented in South Africa. And we should thank her for providing these young girls with not only specialized education, but life skills that will ensure that they become the best.

KOINANGE: In this once racially divided country, it's not surprising that most of the students are black. But Oprah insists her school is open to everyone as long as they qualify.

OPRAH WINFREY, HOST, "OPRAH": This school is open to all girls who are disadvantaged, all girls, all races, who are disadvantaged.

KOINANGE: And from the girls themselves:

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel excited and happy and...

WINFREY: A little nervous?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A bit nervous.

WINFREY: A bit nervous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel happy, and I feel like crying, but crying of happiness. And I'm a bit nervous, but not that much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: More than a dream come true. I don't know. It's like a fairy tale.

KOINANGE: Jeff Koinange, CNN, Henley-On-Klip, South Africa.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: From South Africa, let's go to New York and Jack Cafferty with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour is, "What impact does the war on Iraq really have on most of us on a daily basis?"

Linda in Santa Cruz, California: "The cost of the war in Iraq on most of us is invisible. It's in the things we haven't been about to pay for at home, like health care, gasoline, education grants. As long as we don't have these things, don't see them, we don't connect them to the money that's going to Iraq. Most of us are pretty disgusted that hospitals get built in Iraq while our friends and family can't buy health insurance."

Jay writes: "Jack, spin, no matter how elaborately crafted, cannot replace moral rectitude. From the beginning, the U.S. has not had the power of the moral high ground on our side. Many of us realized this and decried the situation at the beginning, only to be ignored. Without a moral imperative, wars are just self-serving. This one has been seen as self-serving by the world and by the American people." Erica writes: "As for me, a 30 year-old mother of three, my ex- husband is being deployed in two weeks. I feel for my children, as they have no idea at five and seven what this impact truly means to them. They cannot even grasp the concept of where their father is going or that, unfortunately, he may never come back. I talk to them. I try to explain to them, and all they can say, 'Is daddy won't be here for my birthday.'"

John in Santa Barbara, California: "Since the military is an all- volunteer force, most Americans can turn off the television and stop reading the news and then forget the war entirely if they choose to do so. If a draft had been in place before we sent the troops in, the president would have never have had the support he received."

And finally, Mary in Houston: "I'm an English professor at a large urban university. It's frightening how many times I come to class and one of my previously plain-dressed students is wearing his fatigues. The next class, he or she has been shipped out. What is it like during war time? I'm afraid to watch the news or to look at the mural of fallen soldiers displayed at my local YMCA. What if I see one of my former students?"

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to CNN.com/caffertyfile where we've posted some more of them alone -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jack. See you tomorrow here in the SITUATION ROOM.

Let's check in, see what's coming up at the top of the hour on "PAULA ZAHN NOW". Soledad O'Brien sitting in for Paula tonight -- Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf. Good evening to you.

At the top of the hour, we shine a light on America's hidden secrets, bringing intolerance out in the open. Tonight, the hero's welcome for some men accused of first-degree murder. They're New Orleans police officers, both black and white. The men they shot, though, were black.

Also, Asian eyes: are they attractive or could they be a handicap for Asian women? Plus surgery and social intolerance, all at the top of the hour on "PAULA ZAHN NOW" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Soledad, very much.

And coming up next: caught on cell. CNN's Jeanne Moos on the gadget of the decade.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's supposed to make your life easier, but used one way, it could certainly make your life a nightmare. We're talking about a gadget that just a few years ago few people had, but that now virtually no one can live without.

Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If "Time Magazine" can nominate you as Person of the Year, then we can nominate the cell phone as Gadget of the Decade. It was probably a cell phone camera that let us walk up the stairs to the gallows, let us listen to the taunts of Saddam Hussein's hanging.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING IN ARABIC)

MOOS: It was a cell phone that recorded the "n-word" rant.

MICHAEL RICHARDS, ACTOR: It's inappropriate for you to interrupt my (CENSORED), you cheap (CENSORED).

MOOS: It was a cell phone that captured Mel Gibson partying before his rant.

(on camera): True, most of what most of us shoot with our cell phones is less than momentous.

(voice-over): A dip in the tub, a friend scaling fish, but the cell is celebrated with cell phone film festivals and cell phones dancing to their own vibrations on the web. And as they got smaller and smaller, size became...

WILL FERRELL, ACTOR: Hold on.

MOOS: A "Saturday Night Live" joke, which makes us all the more nostalgic for these old dinosaurs from Wall Street...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Astonishing, pal.

MOOS: ... to "Lethal Weapon"...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Terrific.

MOOS: They now look like lethal weapons. The Motorola researcher credited with making the first cell phone call in 1973 looks as if it took all his strength just to lift it. But there's something comforting about these old clunkers, especially when you notice them in documentaries like the "War Room"...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've had it your way...

MOOS: ... or see them in films. Julia Roberts' phone must have taken up every inch of her tiny purse.

JULIA ROBERTS, ACTRESS: George, I didn't tell you my dress is lavender.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is your wake up call, pal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we did. We won.

MOOS: They don't call them bricks for nothing. And on websites like retrobrick, you can buy second-hand or pre-loved cell phones for a hundred bucks or so. A new boxed set will set you back about three hundred.

Some, like the brains behind phonebashing.com seem to hate all cell phones.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kill mobile phones! Kill mobile phones!

MOOS: They apparently dressed up as cell phones, grabbed other people's cells and trashed them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Run! Keep running!

MOOS: The New Year is a time for nostalgia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm too old for this (CENSORED).

MOOS: So are these.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: That's it for us. Thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer.

Up next, "PAULA ZAHN NOW". Soledad O'Brien sitting in for Paula tonight.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com

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