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Iraq: Exit Strategy or No Way Out?; Interview With Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell; Bush Proposes New Plan in Iraq; Costs in Iraq Mounting; Can al-Maliki Be Trusted?; House Passes Minimum Wage Increase

Aired January 10, 2007 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.
More troops, more money, but growing doubts -- President Bush's new plan for Iraq, the reception it's getting, and the facts on the ground.


ANNOUNCER: From mission accomplished to mistakes were made -- the president gets humble and gets real. The question now: Does he get it right this time?

Plan meets world -- enough troops or too little, too late? And who is the bigger problem, insurgents or a government that simply can't govern?

And paying the price -- a quarter-million dollars every minute. And get this. You will be paying for this war long after the fighting stops.


ANNOUNCER: Across the country and around the world, this is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360, "Iraq: Exit Strategy or No Way Out?"

Reporting tonight from Washington, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: Want to thank our viewers here in America and watching around the world right now on CNN International.

Tonight, for the first time since the war began, President Bush said, unmistakably and without qualification, that things are going poorly in Iraq. He said the situation has gotten worse lately, and, to the extent that mistakes were made, they were his mistakes.

He did that. He also warned that even the best outcome in Iraq would fall short of ideal. And he offered a new plan for turning the situation around.

But giving speeches is one thing, putting it into practice, quite another -- rhetoric vs. reality.

We will look at all the angles tonight on the plan, the politics, and the situation on the ground.

We begin with the speech itself and CNN's Suzanne Malveaux.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A difficult admission for President Bush, who rarely admits he's wrong.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.

Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents.

MALVEAUX: So, he is now sending an additional 20,000 troops to Iraq, staking their lives and his presidency upon Iraq's new and fragile government.

BUSH: Only Iraqis can end the sectarian violence and secure their people. And their government has put forward an aggressive plan to do it.

MALVEAUX: Mr. Bush and his aides went to great pains to frame this an Iraqi plan. And, while he has set no timetable for an exit from Iraq, the president says his and the country's patience has worn thin.

BUSH: I have made it clear to the prime minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people. And it will lose the support of the Iraqi people. Now is the time to act. The prime minister understands this.

MALVEAUX: President Bush last spoke to Iraqi's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, last Thursday on a secure teleconference.

After the nearly two-hour conversation, sources say the president was personally assured that the rules of engagement will change for Iraqi troops, and they will be allowed to take on the militia of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

BUSH: Prime Minister Maliki has pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated.

MALVEAUX: The president acknowledged the work of the Iraq Study Group and that his decision on a new strategy is at odds with many he consulted.

BUSH: Their solution is to scale back America's efforts in Baghdad or announce the phased withdrawal of our combat forces. We carefully considered these proposals. And we concluded that to step back now would force a collapse of the Iraqi government, tear that country apart, and result in mass killings on an unimaginable scale.

Such a scenario would result in our troops being forced to stay in Iraq even longer and confront an enemy that is even more lethal.


COOPER: Suzanne, what is the president's biggest challenge in this -- in this plan?

MALVEAUX: Well, I actually asked the White House. I addressed them on that very question.

I'm just getting response on my BlackBerry. A senior administration was saying that people are only going -- going to be convinced the situation is better when it's better on the ground. He understands that tonight was just a first step. It is not the whole ball game, and explaining, educating, informing the people about the new strategy, what is expected of the Iraqis, clearly, there's a big and a tough sell here, Anderson, for the president.

You can hear the protesters, anti-war protesters, a small, but very vocal group, outside of the White House right now. Tomorrow is when we're going to see this sell -- sales pitch in earnest. President Bush, he is going to be visiting Fort Benning. That is where he is going to be visiting with troops, addressing them.

Also, the secretary of defense, secretary of state, a well as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will all be here at the White House for an on-camera briefing to try to portray a united front -- Anderson.

COOPER: Suzanne, thanks.

In tone and language, the president tonight was sober, even somber. That much is clear. Less clear, though, is how sober and realistic the strategy may be, or even how new it really is.

CNN's John King joins us now with more of that --John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the president tonight presenting his new strategy -- and the White House also trying to sell this strategy, not only what Suzanne described will happen tomorrow, but also with a glitzy slide presentation put together by the president's own National Security Council.

And there are a number of things in here that have the critics saying, we have heard this before, and a number of things that have even administration supporters rolling their eyes.

But, if the president is getting credit for anything tonight, it is what you noted at the top of the program, for being much more candid about past failings.

And, if you look at one of the slides in this presentation, it's quite stunning. It's titled "Key Assumptions." And, in that, the National Security Council, the president's own National Security Council, concedes that it was flat-out wrong about many critical issues in Iraq, from the nature of the insurgency, initially saying it was just the Sunnis, when, of course, it was the Shia, and much more complicated than just the Sunni.

That "Key Assumptions" also goes on to say, the administration had it wrong about the willingness of Iraq's neighbors to help. They have not helped to the degree the administration has wanted, nowhere close to that. And it says the administration was wrong in thinking a dialogue with the insurgents might help reduce the violence. That strategy also has failed.

So, critics say, at least the president is being more realistic about his failings. But some of those critics are also saying, Anderson, that one of the reason it is such a mess now is because the administration had so many things wrong for so long.

COOPER: Well, they're also selling tonight as -- as being a big shift. What are some of the big shifts that they -- that they're talking about?

KING: Well, one of the shifts that is getting some high marks and praise is the idea that you will have a different counterinsurgency strategy. Instead of chasing insurgents around Iraq, you will protect the Iraqi people, and deal with the insurgents when they come into those neighborhoods. That one is generally getting high marks.

But, again, a couple of the other shifts are raising some questions tonight. And one of them is listed under key operational shifts. It says, the administration now promises to -- quote -- "counter Iranian and Syrian action that threatens coalition forces."

Now, many in Congress want to know what that means. Does that mean the president envisions perhaps a wider regional escalation of the war, as he takes on Syrian and Iranian interference?

And I will also tell you, Anderson, that neoconservatives tonight are saying, what took so long? They say the administration has been complaining about Syria and Iran for more than three years. Why did it take so long to put in an official document that the administration is now finally prepared to perhaps do something about it?

COOPER: John King, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

We have been getting a response -- responses all day from both sides of the aisle, Republicans and Democrats. As we said at the top, President Bush is facing more than just ugly facts on the ground in Iraq. He's also dealing with political opposition at home, even within the Republican Party.

Today, Senators Sam Brownback and Norm Coleman said they are against a troop escalation. Now, that makes at least five GOP senators now publicly opposing the president. Reportedly, the number could rise to 10 or more.

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell is not one of the dissenters. He's the Senate minority leader. He joins us now from just across the Hill.

Senator McConnell, doesn't a surge of more than 21,000 troops fly in the face of the message voters sent in this midterm election?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: What I think the voters said was, they were dissatisfied with the lack of progress in Iraq.

So, the question is, what's the way forward? The Democratic critics seem to think that, by leaving Iraq, it will somehow make things better. Senator McCain has pointed out, on repeated occasions, that the principal difference between this situation and Vietnam is, when we left Vietnam, they didn't come here.

It's no accident we haven't been attacked again for the last five years. It's not just good luck. It's because we have been on offense in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. It has protected the homeland for five years.

What we have not seen work out well is the establishment of the new government in Iraq. So, how do you do that? Well, the question is, you have got to clearly quiet the capital city. Putting General Petraeus in charge, clearing and holding the neighborhoods, largely with Iraqi troops, is the -- the only chance, frankly, that most of us believe can -- can work. So, I...


COOPER: But do you really believe it can work? I mean...

MCCONNELL: Oh, absolutely, it can work.

COOPER: Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser, just a couple months ago, in an internal White House memo that was leaked, expressed real concerns about al-Maliki's ability and/or willingness to affect change, in particular against the sectarian militias.

Now it seems like we're gambling the entire strategy on a promise by Maliki to do just that. Do you believe him?

MCCONNELL: Well, look, it's his last chance. The president made it clear. You do it now or we do leave.

And we want to -- want to have one last opportunity here to see if we can secure the capital city. Only with security, with clearing and holding these neighborhoods, does the new government have a chance to function and reach the kind of political compromises that need to be made for the government to work. They can't do that in the midst of all of this violence.

COOPER: As you know, there's a lot of skepticism out there, and people listening tonight kind of shaking their heads.

I mean, the -- the -- the intelligence was wrong getting into this war about the WMD. The president, all along, has been saying that they had enough troops. Now, tonight, he's saying they didn't have enough troops, and the strategy is being turned around.

Why should people believe the president has it right now? MCCONNELL: Well, I mean, obviously, what was being done before had -- had not worked in Iraq. It has worked here at home. We haven't been attacked again for five years. So, clearly, what we have been doing has protected the homeland. That's very important.

It has not succeeded in -- in setting up a government that can function in Iraq. Obviously, you have got to have a secure capital city, or that isn't going to happen. So, the president is doing, it seems to me, the obvious thing. And he's challenged the Maliki government to get it right, to go after violence on either side, either Sunni or Shia, and be a part of clearing and holding the capital city, so they have a chance for a future.

And I think it's the only approach that has any chance at all of working. I intend to support the president enthusiastically.

COOPER: And -- and, tonight, do you see a -- a complete repudiation of Donald Rumsfeld's strategy? Back in April, you were saying you thought he was a spectacular secretary of defense, one of the best in American history.

It seems, tonight, though, the president is completely changing course from the strategy that Rumsfeld himself was the champion of.

MCCONNELL: Well, look, you change strategy when things are not working.

What did work over -- over the last five years, under Don Rumsfeld, is the -- America has not been attacked again. That worked very well.

What has not worked so well is setting up a government in Baghdad that can function. And, so, it required a change of direction. And the president has been doing that, much as Abraham Lincoln, during World War -- during the Civil War, changed generals when he didn't like the outcome. That's what's going on here. We're -- we're trying for an improved result.

Look, we don't want these terrorists back in America. We don't want Iraq to descend into total violence. It's time to try something new. And that is what the president is doing. I think he's courageous in doing it. And I think he's correct in doing it. And I intend to support him.

COOPER: How concerned are you that some of your fellow Republicans are no longer supporting him, Sam Brownback, Norm Coleman come -- coming out today, saying it's not a good idea?

MCCONNELL: Well, we're happy to have Joe Lieberman, Democratic candidate for vice president in 2000, supporting the president. I think there will be people on both sides who may be in unusual places.

The Congress really only has one tool here, Anderson. And that's to cut off the money for the troops. I don't hear any of the Democrats yet saying they want to do that. If they do, there will be a supplemental appropriation coming along in February. If they want to cut off money for the troops, that will be the time to try it.

COOPER: Senator McConnell, we appreciate your time. Thank you, sir.

MCCONNELL: Thank you.

COOPER: Some perspective now on the president's address and the Democratic response from blogger, author Andrew Sullivan from, "TIME" magazine's Joe Klein, and former presidential adviser David Gergen.

Good to see you all.

Let's start off, Andrew, with you -- with you here.

What did you think of the speech?

ANDREW SULLIVAN, ANDREWSULLIVAN.COM: It was a great speech for 2005. I mean, we -- some of us were really begging to get more troops into Iraq at that point. And we failed.

COOPER: But, back in 2005, the president was saying, point- blank: I'm listening to the generals. The generals are saying we have enough troops.

SULLIVAN: Yes. And we were told that for four years, almost.

And now he tells us we need more -- but not just more, just 21,000 more. I don't think that's a serious figure, for most critics of the strategy. Most -- most of us who want to win with more troops, we're talking about 30,000 to 50,000, and a real shift to change the game. This doesn't change the game. It just nudges us deeper into the morass, I fear.

COOPER: David Gergen?

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: I -- I think Andrew Sullivan is exactly on point.

Had this been given a year-and-a-half ago, I think many people would have rallied to the country. But now so much has happened. The president has lost credibility. There's a lot of lost credibility in the Maliki government. And most are going to see this as too little, too late.

On the too little point, General Petraeus has been widely cited tonight after the speech, I think properly so. He's a wonderful general, the best we -- one of the best we have.

But his counterinsurgency strategy, if you really look at it, says, you need about 20 troops for every thousand locals. And, on that basis, 20,000 doesn't come anywhere close to what would actually be needed to -- for a good counterinsurgency strategy.

Actually, as "The Financial Times" pointed out today, under his strategy, you would really need about an additional 250,000 troops. That's how -- that's the gap that exists here. And we have also -- it's so late in the game now, it's difficult to believe that the hatreds can be overcome.

We're -- to go back to one last -- one last point, Anderson, and that is -- you made the point about Maliki. This speech, this strategy is entire premised on Maliki delivering. This is the same prime minister who promised to put troops in Baghdad a few months ago, back in July, and failed to deliver. This is the same prime minister who has prevented us from going into Sadr City. This speech is premised on the basis that the leopard is about to change its spots.

COOPER: And -- and, Joe Klein, this is Maliki, who, as I just was talking with Senator McConnell about, Stephen Hadley wrote this memo, basically saying, the guy is not up to the job.

JOE KLEIN, COLUMNIST, "TIME": Well, first of all, Anderson, let me say that I really, really hope this works. But I have some very, very grave doubts about it, just on the basis of the counterinsurgency strategy doctrine that General Petraeus put out, you know, last year.

For one thing, it really depends on communications with the people in the local communities. And we just don't have nearly enough interpreters to talk to them. And, when you talk about the Iraqi troops who were being moved into Baghdad, one technical detail -- very important -- many of these troops are Kurdish. And they don't speak Arabic either.

The other thing is, the counterinsurgency doctrine absolutely depends on a -- on a robust political component. You need to have a coherent government in place. And the Maliki government, simply, at this point, is just a fig leaf for Shiite militias, especially Muqtada Sadr's.

SULLIVAN: Well, that would be -- that would be my point, that the premise of the president's speech is, there is a national government we're defending from jihadists.

In fact, the Maliki government is really a front for the Shia regime and -- Shia factions -- and Shia death squads. And we saw that in the lynching of Saddam. We saw the curtain open, and we saw what was behind that government. So, we're supporting the Shia, OK?

COOPER: And...

SULLIVAN: That's what we're doing.

COOPER: And are we trying just to -- to buy time?

SULLIVAN: That is the cynic's view , that he's just trying to buy time, until he gets out of office.

COOPER: Or until the Iraqi security -- I mean, the -- the optimists would say, until Iraqi security forces perhaps get better trained and something else happens.

SULLIVAN: Look, I agree with Joe. We should all be praying for a miracle. Let's hope this works, because he's not -- he's not going to not do it. And the Congress is not going to cut off the funding. So, we have got six months to hope that a miracle can happen.

COOPER: And, David, are we basically, as -- to Andrew's point, entering a civil war? I mean, yesterday, we had this 10-hour fight on Haifa Street between multiple insurgent groups and U.S. and Iraqi forces.

The U.S. was bombing Sunni insurgents on Haifa Street. And, yet, just across the river, you have Shia militias, who we're not touching.

GERGEN: Well, that -- that -- that is -- the Haifa Street attack does highlight just how difficult this is, because, not long ago, we were holding that neighborhood out as a showcase, one that we had secured, and one we had -- were -- were holding. And, then, of course, we moved back a little bit, and the -- and -- and the insurgents returned. And that's the real fear.

I think all of us here, Anderson, very much hope this succeeds. But our -- our lament is that it's coming so late in the game. And, in fact, if -- if the stakes are as high as the president says they are -- and they are, indeed -- why aren't we really doing more? Why aren't we really demanding sacrifice here at home to -- to -- to succeed, rather than putting in such a small number, if you're really going to make it?

COOPER: I -- I mean, I think just about everybody hopes it succeeds, because this is not an academic debate. There are American lives and...

GERGEN: Certainly.

COOPER: ... and Iraqi lives at -- at stake, and people dying, and -- and, obviously, will continue to die.

Joe, you talk to a lot of military folks. How much dissension is there about what the president has decided? Because, all along, for years, this White House has been saying, look, we listen to commanders on the ground for this.

From what I'm reading, it seems like they're kind of going alone this time.

KLEIN: Well, you know, the -- in the counterinsurgency wing of the -- the Pentagon, there's a lot of enthusiasm for this.

But, even among those people, the counterinsurgency experts, who are the few, the proud, there's real dissension. A number of them believe that this kind of commitment is going to just totally break the Army.

Two other points -- one is, on Haifa Street, I'm told that this is the first operation of the new regime, that we're having troops patrolling the area 24/7, and we're actually trying to hold it.

But let me make a political point as well. For the last couple of years, I have been kicking the president around for not giving substantive speeches, for just, you know, giving propagandistic speeches. Tonight was a substantive speech. But I think he also needed to make an emotional connection with the American people, to bring them on board. And I didn't sense that that happened.

COOPER: We're going to have to leave it there.

Andrew Sullivan, Joe Klein, David Gergen, gentlemen, thanks.

A plan on paper, of course, is not the same thing as victory on the ground -- coming up, a reality check from two retired generals, with decades of experience between them. Do they think President Bush's new plan for Iraq will work? We will also talk to John Burns of "The New York Times."

Also ahead: some numbers that may make you do a double take -- the cost of the war in Iraq so far, your tax dollars. And they could have bought lots of other things. We will take a look at the numbers.

And we're "Keeping Them Honest" -- what the Democrats got done in Congress today -- the 100-hour countdown ahead on this special edition of 360, "Iraq: Exit Strategy or No Way Out?"



BUSH: Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents, and there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have.

Our military commanders reviewed the new Iraqi plan to ensure that it addressed these mistakes.


COOPER: Well, that was President Bush, a short time ago, admitting mistakes have been made in Iraq, and outlining his plan to send at least 21,000 more U.S. troops into the country. The deployment will include five Army brigades. The first could leave within weeks.

Joining me now with more on the logistics is CNN's Tom Foreman -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Three things, Anderson, to look at here, the logistics of the battlefield.

This is the battlefield that what we're talking about, right in the middle of Iraq. When we look at this general country of Iraq, you have to consider three things that the president talked about that are very important.

One is oil. This is largely where the Shia are. This is largely where the Sunnis are, over here. And this is where the Kurds are -- the Shia, the Sunni, over here, and, up here, the Kurds. Remember where the oil is, because one of the big issues that has to be decided here is how they will share revenues, because the oil is down here with the Shia, and the oil is up here with the Kurds in these areas. There's very little in the Sunni area. That has to be decided.

Number two, the second thing that has to be considered in all of this, is that very question of where you put the troops. One of the places in question is this, Al Anbar Province, out here, roughly. It's about 300 miles across. It's about 300 miles top to bottom. This is roughly the size of Iowa -- of -- excuse me -- Missouri, perhaps, or a little bit smaller than Utah.

If you look at this area, that has to be secured. It hasn't been secured. That's the area where they have been looking very hard at al Qaeda operations.

And, when you move to the third area that we have to look at here, which is Baghdad, when you look properly at Baghdad, there are still some neighborhoods here which are big, big issues. And, if we look at those -- I will turn off the measuring device, and bring this up -- these are the hot neighborhoods that still have to be considered, this, this, and this.

When the president is talking about his concern about the neighborhoods, and securing them, these are the areas he's talking about, more Sunni over here, more Shia over here. And, importantly, this part over here that we were just talking about a moment ago, this is where Muqtada al-Sadr has his basic home.

And, in this area, you have got to see some sort of control exerted. And that will have to happen in a very difficult way, block by block, piece by piece, moving in, and seeing if this area can be controlled. The question is, will 2,000 more troops make a difference here, and out in the west, and on this political issue of dividing the oil revenues?

Three areas to look at, when you consider this battlefield, to see if the president's decision tonight will make a difference Anderson.

COOPER: Tom, thanks.,

Whether the plan itself will work is pretty much a -- a point of debate. Some of Mr. Bush's own military advisers argued against the plan.

Joining me now is retired Lieutenant General Dan Christman, along with retired Brigadier General and CNN military analyst James "Spider" Marks.

Guys, good to see you.

BRIGADIER GENERAL JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Thanks. COOPER: General Christman, Bush admitted that mistakes were made, that enough troops -- not enough were there to help secure and hold Baghdad.

Is 21,000 troops now enough?

LIEUTENANT GENERAL DAN CHRISTMAN (RET.), U.S. ARMY: I don't think it is, Anderson.

The bottom line on this is that we are shooting, for the -- for the U.S., shooting our bolt, as it were, in terms of our committing our strategic reserve for those contingencies elsewhere in the globe.

I'm terribly worried about this. All of us hope, as Joe Klein said, that this will come out the right way, that 20,000 can help. But, in the end, what we have to contend with is a very dangerous region and a very uncertain world.

And, so, what happens while all these 20,000, 21,000 troops, which really constitute the bulk of our strategic reserve, are deployed in Baghdad while a contingency emerges is in southern Somalia, in eastern Afghanistan? That's my big worry.

And, frankly, Anderson, I think it's what the JCS themselves, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had to contend with when they were trying to balance the plus, the pros, against this augmentation with the negatives. And that's a huge negative.

COOPER: You know, General Marks, it's interesting. All along, this administration has said, look, we're listening to -- to our, you know, commanders on the ground, and -- and what they're deciding is what we're going with.

We are getting reports, what we have been reading is that Bush has been pushing back against his top military advisers and commanders in Iraq. According to "The Washington Post," Pentagon insiders are saying members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as -- as Christman just noted, oppose the increase in troops, or at least have serious qualms about it.

And, then, you have Abizaid, last month, saying, more troops is not the answer. Does it surprise you that the president, based on past behavior, is going forward with this approach?

MARKS: Well, Anderson, the fact of the matter is, the commander in chief has made the decision.

And the real issue -- I'm -- I'm going to disagree with Dan just a -- a tiny bit, if I may, in that I think the 20,000 will provide value, but it's how you define the mission sets. And I think the president did a very, very good job of describing that in a certain level of detail.

He talked about clearing and securing. He talked about protecting good guys, in the vernacular. And he talked about killing bad guys. And the U.S. has to help protect the good, and the Iraqis need to get about the business of killing the bad guys.

COOPER: Yes, but that's...


MARKS: But how do you define -- I'm sorry, Anderson.


COOPER: Go ahead.

MARKS: But how you define this surge is what's important. How much time is that going to take?

And my -- my challenge with surge is, that's not a military mission statement. It doesn't have a task and a purpose to it. So, how much time will this additional 20,000 be required? Bear in mind, there are other forces already there. So, this is a plus-up to -- in order to achieve those conditions that the president described.

COOPER: Well, a surge is not a military term, probably more of a political term. Escalation, of course, is the term that a lot of Democrats are using.

General Christman, Bush again laid blame on al Qaeda, saying that it's still active in Iran and has helped make Anbar one of the most violent areas.

What do you see as the biggest threat in Iraq right now? Is it Sunni insurgents? Is it al Qaeda? Or is it these sectarian death squads?

CHRISTMAN: In my judgment, it's the -- it's the latter. It's the sectarian death squad piece.

The -- the insurgency is of -- of clear concern. The president wants to put 4,000 troops -- I think it's roughly two Marine battalions-plus -- to handle that in the west.

But I think just the disposition of forces that he's called for here, five brigades, over 16,000 going in to Baghdad, the Baghdad challenge is a sectarian, Sunni, Shia challenge. And that's the biggest problem right now. That's, in fact, what spawned this whole debate about raising more troops, and -- and sending them there, in the wake of the Golden Mosque Samarra bombing in February. That ignited the sectarian conflict.

It poses, I think, the biggest challenge. This was General Abizaid's testimony six weeks ago. The sectarian death squads are the key element at this point.

COOPER: General Marks, you raised a good point about, you know, it's -- it's -- is the Iraqi government willing to, in your terms, you know, kill bad guys?

I was talking to John Burns from "The New York Times" the other day, who was saying, look, the -- for the Maliki government, their Plan B are these sectarian death squads. They've got a plan for a civil war if it hasn't already begun.

So what makes you think or do you really think al-Maliki is suddenly going to be willing to go after these -- these militias which basically have given him power?

MARKS: Well, frankly, he needs to. I don't have any indicators that would lead me to believe that he's either going to back away from that task or if he's going to step up and he's going to take control and exert his influence to ensure that the militia is neutralized and minimized.

The real issue that concerns me that in the president's presentation tonight. He talked about turning over all the provinces to the Iraqi forces by November of this year.

Let's be honest with each other. Mission No. 1 is Baghdad. Let's not establish the bar so high that we don't reach that. I think what needs to take place is we've got to be able to help the Iraqis establish control within Baghdad. Then let's discuss what those other provinces look like.

Mission one is Baghdad. It has to be done and it has to be done well.

COOPER: General Marks, real quick, we're going to talk to you throughout this program. In a moment, from the new strategy to the bottom line. The price tag for all of this. How many billions of your tax dollars are being spent? If you don't know the number already, I think you're going to be surprised. How much of that has been wasted, as well? We're "Keeping Them Honest".

Plus, we're live in Baghdad with the reaction to President Bush's speech. And the latest on the fierce fighting in the capital within sight of the Green Zone when this special edition of 360 continues.


COOPER: Putting more boots on the ground, as they say, in Iraq means putting more money into the war. Already, hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent. The costs cover everything from bullets to bombers. When it comes to an accounting, however, some things simply do not add up.

Tonight, we're "Keeping Them Honest". Again, CNN's Tom Foreman.


FOREMAN (voice-over): If you study Iraq in purely financial terms and say, "show me the money," it is quite a show. This is how much American taxpayers are paying for the war: more than $350 billion and still climbing, based on government records compiled and computed by a progressive think tank, the National Priorities Project.

Ken Pollack is with the Brookings Institution. KEN POLLACK, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: One of the great tragedies of Iraq is that the administration has mismanaged this war so badly that it has wound up costing the taxpayer far more than it might have, had things been handled otherwise.

FOREMAN: How much money has been spent on Iraq? The Priorities Project estimates it's enough to hire more than six million teachers, enough to build more than 700 new elementary schools in each state.

Eight million police officers could be hired or six million cargo inspectors for ports. Or, we figure, every American driver could get free gasoline for a year.

In the complex world of government budgets, the total estimate can be fairly questioned. But it's a lot more than the White House once suggested.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today I'm sending the Congress a wartime supplemental appropriations request of $74.7 billion to fund needs directly arising from the Iraqi conflict and our global war against terror.

FOREMAN: Government investigators say billions had been lost to fraud, mismanagement or bad bookkeeping, and the spending won't end when the fighting does. American troops and equipment have held up well.

MAJ. GEN. DONALD SHEPPERD, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.): But I can see the cost of the war going up another 50 percent or maybe even doubling because of what we have to do to replace personnel, ammunition and equipment over a long period of time.

FOREMAN (on camera): Plenty of people argue that establishing democracy anywhere is worth whatever it takes. And of course, no one can put a value on all the brave young lives lost or calculate the cost of leaving.

(voice-over) But the price tag of the war so far is impressive. In the time it took you to watch this story, Iraq cost America almost a half million dollars more.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Half a million dollars in just a couple minutes.

Sadly, the costs are measured in more than dollars, of course. As of tonight, 3,018 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq.

Up next, a reality check from the ground. Should the president put so much trust in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki? We'll go live to "New York Times" correspondent John Burns in Baghdad.

And here at home, the clock is running for the Democrats. Their 100-hour agenda gets moving with minimum wage. They keep the promise? We're "Keeping Them Honest" when 360 continues.



BUSH: I made it clear to the prime minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people. And it will lose the support of the Iraqi people. Now is the time to act.


COOPER: Well, that of course, was President Bush just a short time ago.

To succeed in Iraq, President Bush is counting on his prime minister to help get the job done, something many believe Nuri al- Maliki has yet to do. Still, the president says he has faith in him.

Joining me now live from Baghdad, John Burns of "The New York Times".

John, listening to the president's speech, are you surprised by how much faith this president is putting in Prime Minister al-Maliki?

JOHN BURNS, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Exactly, yes. If I tell you, Anderson, that we've been hearing from Maliki's people now for weeks that they did not want more American troops, because they felt that that would constrain them. That is to say the present Iraqi government in the use of the Iraqi army.

I think it gives you a hint as to what the direction of the president -- of the government is.

I think that there are -- there are profound reasons to believe that Mr. Maliki, a Shiite leader, a Shiite religious leader has a different agenda than President Bush does.

And that agenda involves pressing the Shiite sectarian interest rather than the unifying interest. Mr. Bush seems to be taking it to some extent on faith that Mr. Maliki will do now what he has promised and failed to do in for past eight months.

But I don't see anything in the Bush plan that is going to compel or require Mr. Maliki to move away from his position of non- compliance, if you will, from the -- from the past many months.

COOPER: It's interesting you say that, because this White House just today, Dan Bartlett, spokesman for the president, was on all the morning shows, saying that essentially this is an Iraqi plan and the U.S. is just supporting it. You're saying that basically this is not an Iraqi plan. If anything, this is different than what many in the Iraqi government want.

BURNS: I think it's a very uncomfortable hybrid of both plans. Mr. Maliki went to Amman, the Jordanian capital, two months ago to tell Mr. Bush that he wanted control of this war and he wanted American troops out of Baghdad on the periphery.

He's going to get at least nominal control of the war, but he's going to get more American troops. And they're going to be right in the heart of Baghdad, and they're going to be watching very carefully what Mr. Maliki's troops are going to be doing.

It seems to me, as I say, this is a very -- a very uncomfortable marriage of two contending agendas. And it is far from clear to me how this is going to be made to work.

COOPER: Maliki made some statements today, saying essentially that they would go after these militias? Is that to be taken at face value? Can he go after these militias? Can he lessen the power of Muqtada al-Sadr? Can he disarm them?

BURNS: Well, if he did, it would be an about-face. He's been saying that for months. He's not saying anything different in the last few days than he said when he took office in May. But he just didn't do it.

And when you look at the political arithmetic here, it's not hard to see why he doesn't. He depends on Muqtada al-Sadr, the most powerful of the Shiite militia leaders, for his position as prime minister. Thirty votes in parliament to keep him there as prime minister. Very difficult to see how he's going to break with that.

And then you -- behind that you have to know what Shiite politicians have been saying to us, people very closely associated with Mr. Maliki now, for quite a long time. They want the Americans to step aside, and they want history, as they see it, to take its course.

As one Shiite parliamentarian put it to us, the minority have to be allowed to lose, the minority being the Sunnis. The Shiites feel that it's their turn in history and that they have to firmly establish their unchallengeable control.

Not at all what the Americans want. They want a unity government. They want far reaching concessions to Sunnis. Set out in the Bush plan, they want a new oil law. They want a militia law. They want a de-Ba'athification law that's a lot more generous to Sunnis.

All of these things Maliki has promised to act on now for many months, and all of them he's failed to deliver.

COOPER: A lot of promises. John, stick around. We're going to talk to you in just a moment.

The president's last stand. He's laid out his new plan for Iraq. The question is, what happens if it doesn't work? Is there a Plan B? Experts on both sides of the aisle weigh in.

And the House takes a big step forward toward raising minimum wage. Is it enough?

This is a special edition of 360, live from Washington. We'll be back in a moment.


COOPER: Well, we have some breaking news tonight. Senator Hillary Clinton just moments ago has come out with a statement and reaction tonight from the president's speech.

In part her statement reads this, "Based on the president's speech tonight I cannot support his proposed escalation of the war in Iraq. The president's Iraq policy has been marred by incompetence and arrogance, as his administration has refused to recognize the military and political reality on the ground.

The statement goes on to say, "The president simply has not gotten the message sent loudly and clearly by the American people and we desperately need a new course."

We'll talk more about this with Andrew Sullivan and Joe Klein and David Gergen later on in the next hour of 360.

We're also tracking the clock. House Democrats are 12 hours and 28 minutes into their 100-hour legislative blitz. On the agenda today, the minimum wage. And this afternoon, the House voted to increase the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour. That's the first raise in a decade.

The bill now, of course, comes to the Senate. CNN's Joe Johns is on Capitol Hill tonight, "Keeping Them Honest".


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Though the day would be dominated by Iraq, the 100-hour clock restarted at 10:01 a.m. with a bill to raise the minimum wage, a crowd-pleaser for millions of the lowest wage workers.

REP. GEORGE MILLER (D-CA), EDUCATION AND LABOR COMMITTEE: They ended up poor, far below the poverty line of this country. They have been working at a federal poverty wage, not a federal minimum wage.

JOHNS: House Democrats want to raise the wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour over the next two years.

The low-wage workers who would be affected have been slogging away at their jobs at restaurants, especially fast food, low end retail and small businesses for about a decade, since Congress last raised the wage.

But if you thought all the Democrats on the Hill are marching completely in lock step on this one, you'd be wrong. In fact, over on the other side of the capital complex, the brand-new Democratic chairman of the Senate finance committee was saying he's for raising the wage, too, but worried about unintended consequences. GEN. MAX BAUCUS (D-MT), FINANCE CHAIRMAN: Some worry, however, that an increase in the wage will burden small businesses. Small businesses, of course, are a vital source of job creation and economic opportunity.

JOHNS: Senator Max Baucus trotted out a group of witnesses at a hearing who aren't happy at all with what's happening here.

BRUCE OBENOUR, AKWEN LTD., DUBLIN, OHIO: We won't mange our labor costs by shipping our labor -- our jobs overseas. Our option is to run our stores with less labor.

JOHNS: Translation, it's the working poor that will take the hit if Congress raises the wage.

But keeping them honest, if you ask one guy who was a chief economist in the Labor Department in 1999, just a couple years after the minimum wage was raised last time, he'll tell you there will be an effect but that it's likely to be, well, minimal.

HARRY HOLZER, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: It's not going to hurt a lot of people. It's not going to cost a lot of jobs. The average Joe may see the price of a burger at a fast food joint go up, but it won't dramatically affect his life one way or the other.

JOHNS: But whatever differences there are among Democrats over the domestic agenda, pale in the comparison to the differences over what to do about Iraq.

On the one side, there are people who want the Congress to take a clear, strong stand opposing the White House. Others emphasize exercising tougher oversight.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: For the first time in a long time, this Congress is going to break its silence, and we will no longer be a rubber stamp for this administration on Iraq.

JOHNS: But most everyone realizes Democrats are in danger of getting themselves in the same kind of spot that the administration did by taking a position that backfires on them, and that's part of the reason it's so hard for house Democrats to figure out how far to go in opposing the president these first 100 hours.


JOHNS: House Democrats are holding hearings this week and next on Iraq. They say they'll get together and talk about their approach next week.

There is a possibility of a non-binding resolution expressing the sense of the House and Senate about the president's new strategy. On the one hand, this would not force the president's hand. It would be symbolic, but it's also pretty clear a vote against the president's policy could send a powerful message -- Anderson.

COOPER: And we just had that statement from Senator Clinton's office, Senator Clinton saying she will not support this. We'll have more of that in the next hour.

Joe, thanks.

Up next tonight, "The Shot of the Day". You heard of the old stop, drop and roll, but what is this guy doing? Well, you'll have to kind of see it to believe it. We'll explain ahead.

First, Kathleen Kennedy from Headline News joins us from the 360 bulletin -- Kathleen.


New information tonight about the air strikes against al Qaeda targets in southern Somalia. A Pentagon official tells CNN the U.S. sent an AC-130 on a second mission yesterday but it was called off when the gun ship lost track of the targets.

The official also confirmed eight suspected terrorists were killed in that first air strike Sunday night, but there's no word yet on their identities.

To Malibu, California, now where investigators are trying to figure out what caused the fire that tore through several ocean front homes Monday night. They say they are not ruling anything out. The fire destroyed five multi-million dollar homes, including one belonging to actress Suzanne Somers, and damaged six others.

On Wall Street, stocks closed higher today. The Dow rose more than 25 points. The NASDAQ gained 15 and the S&P added nearly three points.

And one day after its dramatic unveiling, Apple's new iPhone is the subject of a lawsuit. Rival Cisco Systems is suing Apple for trademark infringement. Cisco says it, not Apple, owns the iPhone name.

Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Thanks very much, Kathleen.

Time now for our "Shot of the Day". It can either be described as incredible or, I guess, incredibly stupid.

It happened in Genesee County, Michigan. A man gets out of his truck at a gas station. Seconds later, the truck explodes in flames. There you see it on the right side of the scene -- screen.

What does he do? He gets back into the burning truck. There you go. Doesn't seem like a smart thing to do. But when he gets out on the other side, he doesn't appear to be seriously hurt. Clearly was not thinking straight, because he then got back in the truck through the passenger door. There you go.

When the flames shoot up again, he decides to get out, this time for good. The old trial by fire, quite literally. There you go. Well, we'll return to Iraq shortly. More on the president's remarkable address tonight, and whether it can redeem either the mission in Iraq or his place in history.

Plus, who the enemy in Iraq really is. We're going to be more precise who they are. There are a lot of them right now. And later, Democrats who oppose the war. How much power do they have to bring it to an end? What can they really do? All that and more when this special edition of 360 continues from Washington.


COOPER: Sober words from the president, tough talk on Iraq, and tough questions about his plan for turning the mission around.


ANNOUNCER: The president's new plan. More U.S. troops, more money, and a promise from Iraq's prime minister. But will he, can he deliver?

The president in freefall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think this is the last -- the last chance for him.

ANNOUNCER: And if his new plan for Iraq fails?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just doesn't work, we leave Iraq. We put the best face on it we can, and we stand by for the next big event.

ANNOUNCER: But is that how the White House sees it?

Dozens of insurgent groups: Sunni, Shia, al Qaeda. It's hard to keep track. They want different things but share a common enemy. Why they're more dangerous than ever.

And Democrats' dilemma. Stopping the president's plan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As Jefferson put it, this is the way you chain the dog of war, through the power of the purse.

ANNOUNCER: But it's not as easy as it sounds. Soldiers' lives are on the line.

Across the country and around the world, this is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360, "Iraq: Exit Strategy or No Way Out?" Reporting tonight from Washington, here's Anderson Cooper.



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