Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Are Saudis Aiding Iraqi Insurgents?; Deep Freeze
Aired February 14, 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: Thanks very much, Lou. Happening now, President Bush backtracks on blaming Iran's leaders for sending weapons to Iraq, so who's to blame for the killing of American troops? Are the Saudis now stepping in with their own aid to insurgents?
Deep freeze, much of the nation buried under ice and snow, hundreds of thousands of people without power and heat and the endless flight that never actually got off the ground. You're going to want to see this.
Also, torture and "24" -- why some human rights activists see a link between a TV drama and the treatment of U.S. detainees.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
First tonight, President Bush speaking for himself about Iran, Iraq and whether his administration has its facts straight; at his news conference today, Mr. Bush was grilled about conflicting claims regarding Iran's role in arming Iraqi Shiites. His bottom line, he says he knows Iran is behind the weapons, but he doesn't know if top officials in Tehran actually gave the orders. Did Mr. Bush put fresh questions about his credibility to rest?
Let's turn to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, tonight we learned about -- more about how an intelligence briefing that was supposed to set the record straight ended up forcing President Bush to straighten things out.
MCINTYRE (voice-over): After weeks of promising to get it right, the U.S. military got it wrong. An anonymous civilian intelligence officer in Baghdad made the explosive charge Sunday that high-tech armored piercing bombs, so-called EFPs, were being smuggled into Iraq by Iran's Quds force, under the direct orders from the highest level of the Iranian government. It took the commander in chief to set the record straight.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We know they're provided by the Quds force. We know the Quds force is part of the Iranian government. I don't think we know who picked up the phone and said the Quds force, go do this, but we know it's a vital part of the Iranian government? What matters is, is that we're responding. MCINTYRE: The fact is the U.S. military does believe the Quds force is acting on orders from Iran's supreme leader. But that's a strong suspicion. Not something the U.S. can prove, especially to a skeptical international audience.
MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, SPOKESMAN, MULTINATIONAL FORCE, IRAQ: I think people want to hype this up. What we're saying is that within Iran weapons munitions are being manufactured that are ending up in Iraq.
MCINTYRE: The U.S. military now says that anonymous official went beyond the intended scope of a briefing that was only supposed to show the extent of Iranian weapons in Iraq. Not conclude who sent them there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A military analyst was making an inference as to where the Cheney command existed for the Quds force.
MCINTYRE: But that briefer's inference was never approved or endorsed at the highest level of the Pentagon, which still refuses to point an accusing finger at Iran's leaders.
GEN. PETER PACE, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: That does not translate to that the Iranian government, per se, for sure is directly involved in doing this.
MCINTYRE: So Wolf, here's the back story. It turns out there was a serious disconnect between the U.S. military in Baghdad and top officials in Washington. The military thought it was presenting a routine briefing on the threat from Iranian-made weapons against U.S. troops, while officials here in Washington were touting it as the definitive case against Iran and that's what turned out to be essentially a public relations debacle -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jamie, thanks -- Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon.
Iraq's neighbors are upping the ante in a high stakes effort to shape the future of the region, but are they fighting a war by proxy? And joining us now, our correspondent in Baghdad, Michael Ware -- Michael, we've heard a lot about Iranian influence in Iraq, but what about the Saudis?
What are they up to? There have been reports the Saudis are shipping truckloads of cash into the al-Anbar province to funnel some of that money to the Sunnis. What is going on?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, himself pointed out essentially everyone in this region has a stake in the game that is called the war in Iraq. And that includes Saudi Arabia. Now, Saudi Arabia, like most of the Sunni Arab states which just so happen to be America's allies, warned before the invasion and in the immediate aftermath and at every possibly opportunity since about the rise of Iranian-backed expansion. Now, we've come to see that come to pass. So what we're now seeing is the Saudi government in a difficult position. It needs to protect its interests without portraying the American alliance. We're seeing it fund Sunni tribes. Because don't forget, there's a massive land border that Saudi Arabia shares.
And these tribal allegiances cross that border which to them mean nothing. Don't forget also there's a lot of Gulf oil money not coming from the governments, but from rich donors that is going through al Qaeda. Much of the money that went to Osama bin Laden now goes to al Qaeda in Iraq.
These donors want to see their money at work. And they believe they see that in the jihad here in Iraq. Saudi Arabia hosts the Baath Party essentially. It launders and filters their money through its financial system, so there's all sorts of money pouring in here, not just Iranians.
BLITZER: Is some of that money, the end result of it being the death of American troops?
WARE: Well, by and large, that's the point of it, Wolf. I mean some of the money that's being outlaid, and of course I stress, as far as we are aware, none of it is official. This is not governments acting overtly. This is all private and behind the scenes. But some of it is strategic.
It's to shore up friendly shakes. It's to secure power bases. It's to maintain alliances. But then again, a lot of it is to arm the fight. Now that fight used to be solely against the American forces and to a lesser degree the Brits, but now it also includes funding the civil war. And I've got to tell you, nationalists, Baathists, jihadi, al Qaeda, it's hard for me to find a Sunni insurgent group that is short of cash. Certainly, none of them are short of weapons -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Michael Ware reporting for us from Baghdad.
Meanwhile, Iran's Revolutionary Guards became targets today. A car packed with explosives blew up near a bus carrying members of the elite force. State media say 11 people were killed, 31 were wounded. The attack took place in a lawless area near the Pakistani border. A militant group tied to al Qaeda reportedly claimed responsibility. Government officials blame insurgents and drug traffickers.
Closer to home, new developments tonight in the closely watched trial of former top White House aide, Lewis "Scooter" Libby -- they include critical rulings on potentially key evidence from a judge who had clearly lost his patience.
Let's turn to CNN's Brian Todd. He's joining us now with the latest -- an important day today, Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It sure was, Wolf, and just after the defense rested its case today, "Scooter" Libby's lead attorney, Ted Wells, stood before Judge Reggie Walton and assured him he never meant to mislead the judge. That the result of some push-back from the judge earlier related to the defense team's decision not to put Libby on the stand.
TODD (voice-over): An angry Judge Reggie Walton warns "Scooter" Libby's attorneys not to play games, says he always expected Libby to testify and now that he isn't, the judge won't allow the defense to introduce some evidence it wanted, documents that might have shown how distracted Libby was with national security matters in the summer of 2003. It might have bolstered Libby's claim that he didn't remember what he told reporters about administration critic Joe Wilson and his wife's job at the CIA.
JEFFREY JACOBOVITZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: That decision really will impact upon whether "Scooter" Libby gets a jury instruction to the jury on faulty memory and what the jury considers.
TODD: Something the jury won't be able to consider any testimony from Libby's former boss who the defense elected not to call to the stand. Dick Cheney could have told the jury about Libby's huge workload that summer, all the crises he dealt with, but there was also considerable risks.
JACOBOVITZ: The evidence has showed is how essentially panic- stricken the White House was over this editorial by Joseph Wilson and if in fact Cheney was focused on it, then Libby was focused on it. And if Libby was focused on it, then Libby's faulty memory might not have been that faulty.
TODD: Bolstering the strategy of not calling Libby to the stand, the jurors already heard from him, hours of audio tape from Libby's grand jury testimony. And his attorney, Ted Wells, has made this crucial strategy call before. Wells defended former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy on charges of accepting illegal gifts. Wells didn't put Espy on the stand here. Espy was found not guilty on 30 counts.
TODD: But Ted Wells got another challenge in this case today. He had wanted to call the prosecution's star witness, NBC's Tim Russert, back to the stand or play TV clips of Russert to punch holes in one obscure part of Russert's testimony, but the judge ruled it was really who obscure and Wells never got another crack at Tim Russert -- Wolf.
BLITZER: They'll do their summations starting next week. Brian, thank you for that -- Brian is all over this trial.
Jack Cafferty is off today. He and "The Cafferty File" will be back tomorrow.
Coming up tonight right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Republicans in revolt -- who is breaking with the president over Iraq right now? As the House debates a troop build-up, we'll meet the newest GOP rebel. Also ahead, who would win a battle of the New York Titans? That would be Hillary Clinton versus Rudy Giuliani. We're tracking momentum in the race for the White House.
And listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're in the fourth year of being on the border of Iran and the border of Saudi Arabia with 130, 140,000 troops. What are they going to do? Sit there and play Tiddledy Winks? I don't think so. So we need to withdraw our ground forces then.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Former senator and Vietnam War veteran Max Cleland unleashes his anger about the war in Iraq. You're going to want to see this interview.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: He disappeared in October. Abducted on the streets of Baghdad, now an Iraqi American soldier, a sergeant in the United States Army has shown up in a hostage video.
CNN's Arwa Damon is in Baghdad -- Arwa.
ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the video was posted on an Internet Web site, the first images that we've seen of Sergeant Ahmed Altaie since his kidnapping some four months ago.
DAMON (voice-over): For months the family of U.S. Army Sergeant Ahmed Altaie prayed for this. A sign the American soldier kidnapped in Baghdad might still be alive.
ENTIFADH QANBAR, AHMED ALTAIE'S UNCLE: Well, I've been obsessed all morning, repeating the video a zillion times trying to read his lips. I was not very successful.
DAMON: The Ahad Al-Beit (ph) brigade, a little-known Shia group claimed responsibility for kidnapping Altaie four months ago. The group posted this video on a Web site for supporters of the Mehdi militia, loyal to radical Shia cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr. The group and Altaie's family have been talking.
QANBAR: This is a very professional group. Their first e-mails were in English and were in perfect English. And they know what they're doing. They haven't promised anything they didn't do. And they haven't done anything they didn't promise.
DAMON: Altaie is an Iraqi American working as a military translator. He was last seen in Baghdad's heavily fortified green zone on October 23. He left the secured zone to visit his family, including his Iraqi wife in Karrada, a central Baghdad neighborhood, but after he arrived three vehicles with gunmen pulled up, cuffed and kidnapped him.
A fruitless city-wide search began -- a hunt that at one point threatened to cause a major rift between the Iraqi government and U.S. forces. U.S. soldiers took up positions at checkpoints around Sadr City and conducted raids into the area, a Mehdi militia stronghold, sparking such outrage that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki stepped in and ordered the checkpoints removed.
DAMON: The tape offers some comfort to Altaie's family, but little relief. There is no date on it, nor is there any indication of where Altaie is and no word as to what happens next -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. We'll watch this story, a sad story -- Arwa, thank you for that.
Meanwhile tonight, more Republicans here in Washington in revolt against the president's Iraq strategy -- almost a dozen GOP House members now are backing a non-binding resolution opposing a new influx of American troops into Iraq.
Our congressional correspondent Dana Bash has been talking with one of those Republicans and she's joining us now from Capitol Hill -- Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, there certainly are certainly a lot of House Republicans swimming in unchartered waters here opposing the president. I did speak with one GOP congressman who has broken ranks before with the president on social issues, things like stem cell research and abortion rights, but not like this, not on a matter of war.
BASH (voice-over): Minnesota Republican Jim Ramstad voted to authorize invading Iraq and has staunchly supported the president's war strategy until now.
REP. JIM RAMSTAD (R), MINNESOTA: It's time now for a surge in diplomacy, not a surge in troops to mend a broken country.
BASH (on camera): How hard was it to get up on the House floor and make a speech that made clear you're going to vote against your president?
RAMSTAD: It's difficult, but this is a vote of conscience and a vote that I believe reflects the vast majority of the people I represent here in Washington.
A surge was already tried in Baghdad last fall and it failed. It's not fun to stand up and oppose your president, our president, especially in a time of war. But I believe that this surge policy is so fundamentally flawed.
BASH (voice-over): The Republican who proudly displays a picture with the president says the White House hasn't really tried to change his mind.
RAMSTAD: I've only been contacted by one staff member, and I told, explained my position and that was the only contact that I had with the White House.
BASH: But some GOP constituents are furious.
RAMSTAD: I had one caller who was not happy with my position. And as I told the gentleman, who threatened me at the polls next time, in terms of losing the election. I said, you know, losing election would be a small price to pay for keeping my integrity.
BASH: Now Ramstad is a 16-year House veteran who won comfortably in November, but his district like many others, is increasingly against the war. And one Democrat I spoke to who works on the campaign said that they're going to very much target Jim Ramstad in 2008 -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And I take it, Dana, there's a threat on the Senate side tonight coming in from two angry Republicans opposed to the president's strategy.
BASH: That's right. There's a lot of frustration in the Senate about the fact that the House is debating, but the Senate is simply deadlocked. Two Republican senators, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Olympia Snowe of Maine just sent a letter to the Senate leader saying if you don't come up with some kind of plan that allows us in the Senate to vote, we're going to try to stop the Senate from going into a week-long recess.
That's expected at the end of this week. Basically, what they're going to try to do is force the Senate to vote on going to recess, which would essentially put senators on record saying look, we will go, even though we haven't done this. Now the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, his spokesman, Jim Manley, just issued a statement saying that he appreciates the desire by these Republicans senators to move forward.
But he also said that they should have thought of this before they blocked the Senate vote early last week. But they do -- Senator Reid is making clear, eventually, maybe in a couple of weeks, who knows, that they will have some kind of vote in the Senate.
BLITZER: It always takes the Senate a lot more time to get things done than the House of Representatives -- Dana, thanks for that. Up ahead tonight here in THE SITUATION ROOM, is made for TV torture making an impression on American soldiers in Iraq? There are some disturbing new questions about the hit TV drama "24".
And frozen and grounded for hours, upon hours. A nightmare and the tarmac for dozens of airline passengers caught in a fierce winter storm. We'll update you on what is going on. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: A winter wallop making life difficult across the Midwest the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast. You can see some of the worst of it right behind me from those traffic cameras across the region. We're monitoring all of this.
In Detroit, it's not just the snow and the ice that's posing a threat. The temperatures are dangerously cold with wind chills as low as minus 10 degrees. But residents in upstate New York have it even worse, blizzard conditions and up to two feet of snow are making travel almost impossible. Air and train travel are on hold in many areas and schools and universities are closed in Syracuse, Albany and Rochester.
And check out Chicago blanketed by snow. It's mostly stopped falling and crews are working to clear the roads, some littered with abandoned cars. And there's so much snow in Cleveland it caused the roof of this gas station to collapse. Three customers were underneath when it happened. One person was injured.
And here's a live look at Colonie, New York, just outside of Albany. It had 16 inches of snow from this storm and could get another eight inches before it's all over.
Coming up later, the weather's impact and a harrowing flight that actually never got off the ground. Our Alina Cho is in New York with that story. You're going to want to see it.
Carol Costello also in New York, she's monitoring a lot of stories coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Carol, what's crossing the wires?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Well here it is Wolf. A Saudi Arabian terror group tied to al Qaeda is urging Muslim militants to attack world oil facilities. The goal is to stop the flow of oil to the United States. In an Islamic Web site posting the group says that cutting or curtailing oil supplies to the U.S. would help in what it calls the American-occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Signing for control of a dead body -- today opposing lawyers fought for control of Anna Nicole Smith's remains. Three people are seeking the body, Smith's longtime companion, Howard K. Stern, her mother and photographer Larry Birkhead. Stern wants to bury the body in the Bahamas next to her son. The mother wants to bury the remains in Smith's home state of Texas. And Birkhead, well he wants to prove he's the father of Smith's 5-month-old daughter. At least for now the judge has ruled the body will stay where it is at a medical examiner's office in Florida.
As if Hurricane Katrina ravaged Mississippi hasn't already suffered enough, now the largest insurer of homeowners in the state says it will not sell any new commercial and homeowner policies there. State Farm says that will start this Friday. The company says it's been bombarded with a wave of lawsuits after Hurricane Katrina and say Mississippi's legal and political environment makes it almost impossible to provide insurance there. State Farm says this does not affect existing policies, but the company is reviewing how many of those policies will be renewed.
That's a look at the headlines right now, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Carol will be back shortly with a good story that she's been working on.
And just ahead here, a fierce critic of President Bush offers a piece of his mind on just what the Iraqi troop increase will really mean.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will have a surge, all right, a surge in more planes, bringing more casualties into Walter Reed and Bethesda in the dark of night, more arms and legs lost and more bodies coming home with a draped flag over their coffin. That's not the direction we should be going in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Former Democratic Senator Max Cleland on Iraq, Iran and the Bush White House -- you'll want to see this interview.
Also, don't laugh. The comedian Al Franken is very serious. He's got an important message he wants you to hear. And we're going to tell you what that is.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now -- President Bush says he knows that parts of the Iranian government are supplying deadly weapons inside Iraq. But the president says he does not know if Iran's leaders are directly behind it. The president made those comments at his first news conference this year.
Some are calling it the Valentine's Day massacre, 13,000 Chrysler employees in the U.S. and Canada will lose their jobs over the next three years. Chrysler made the announcement today as part of a restructuring plan. The United Autoworkers calls the news devastating.
And he's a comedian, but Al Franken wants you to know it's no joke. He wants to be the next United States senator from Minnesota. The comedian and liberal radio talk show host announced his intention on his Web site today. He'll run on the Democratic ticket.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
A furious debate in the House of Representatives today on a resolution opposing the president's plan to send more troops to Iraq, but Mr. Bush warns his critics that a hasty pullout would push Iraq toward disaster.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you think the violence is bad now, imagine what it would look like if we don't help them secure the city, the capital city of Baghdad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Joining us now former Democratic Senator Max Cleland. He was severely wounded in another war. That would be the war in Vietnam. He's a strong critic of the president's strategy in Iraq. Senator, thanks very much for coming in.
MAX CLELAND, (D) FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Thank you.
Well, the Iraq war, as anybody who has listened to your program in the last 30 minutes, is a disaster already. It is a run-away freight train with the president leaning forward on the throttle, wanting to accelerate the pace of train into greater disaster.
The Congress has to stand up and say they're got to live up to their Congressionally mandated role of deciding whether we make war or not and deciding whether we fund the military or not.
Now, the first battle here will be on a resolution, a nonbinding resolution basically saying, "Mr. President, you're going in the wrong direction. We're not going to go there."
But ultimately, the real nut-cutting is coming months from now in terms of budget hearings. When we really find out...
BLITZER: Let me interrupt for a second, senator, it could come as early as next month when some of those appropriations bills come up for and additional $100 billion for U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
CLELAND: Right. And the country is clear. The country wants an exit strategy now. And they are correct. The Iraq Study Group is correct. We need diplomacy now in that region, not a military build- up, not an escalation.
BLITZER: Let me press you on what the president says. The president says as bad as the situation is right now -- and he says he's not happy with the situation. He's warning that if the U.S. were to do what you're recommending, simply pull out, it would be a much worse disaster in Baghdad.
CLELAND: I think this is the nut of the argument here. I mean, the troops there are really a finger in the eye to the Iranian people, particularly, those who don't like us. And most of them don't like us. Matter of fact the president of that country in Iraq wants 50,000 American troops out. You're not going to see that country settle down at all unless the military presence of the United States is extracted from them.
Plus, you're not going to have less conflict unless you get us out of there. We are the finger in the eye there. We are the problem. And we took out Saddam Hussein and created in many ways this power vacuum that now Iran and now Saudi Arabia is feeling like they have to fill in, to be part of.
So our troops should not be caught up in this. And we're losing our kids every day for an increasingly meaningless war.
BLITZER: I want you to listen to what John Boehner, he's the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, the minority leader, he got very emotional when he poke about what he sees happening in Iraq if the U.S. were simply to pull out. I want you to listen to Boehner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R) MINORITY LEADER: We all know what happened on September 11, 2001 when 3,000 Americans died for no other reason than they were Americans. Do we really believe that if we pack up now, if we abandon Iraq and leave the country in chaos that our enemies are just going to lay down their arms and leave us alone?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He says those forces would be on their way here to the United States. The U.S. would have to fight them on American soil, as opposed to in Iraq.
CLELAND: Bullfeathers! Who came after us September 11, 2001? It was al Qaeda. We're not fighting really, particularly al Qaeda in Iraq, we're fighting Iraqis. That's the problem. We're fighting the native people...
BLITZER: But there is an al Qaeda element at war with the U.S. in Iraq?
CLELAND: Yes, but it's also basically morphing into 60 different nations and beginning to take over Afghanistan again behind the forces of the Taliban. We're in the wrong place at the wrong time doing the wrong thing. And this is a disaster already. We're in chaos there now. That's not where we should have the American forces. We should withdraw land forces there. And the Congress will do the right thing in the next few days in a bipartisan way say to the president, "Mr. Bush, we're not going to buy the strategy."
There is no strategy anymore. There is no military purpose or objective for additional forces in Iraq. It's just more of a surge of more deaths and more wounded. I can get pretty emotional when I go to over to Walter Reed and see those kids missing arms and legs and part of their head, too.
BLITZER: It's a very emotional subject all around. But I just want to be precise. What do you want Democratic Congressmen, Democratic senators, members of the House to do, Democratic members when the appropriations process comes up, the money to fund this war, what exactly are you calling for?
CLELAND: This is beyond Democrats and Republicans. This is about saving American lives that are hyperextended now on no mission and for no purpose, going into the fourth year of this war that has become a disaster.
The deal is, you not only stop the surge, the escalation, but you begin to withdraw the forces and you dedicate the American military forces to a strategic withdrawal and you provide the money for that.
BLITZER: And that's it?
CLELAND: And that's it.
BLITZER: What about the notion of the president saying right now that there's intelligence, there's hard information that the Iranians are providing sophisticated munitions that can pierce the most sophisticated armor, and has a;ready killed 170 troops in Iraq, wounded hundreds of others. Doesn't know if the top leadership in Iran has supported it, but says there's no doubt that the Iranian Qods Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is sending the stuff in?
CLELAND: We have created a power vacuum that is sucking the Iranians in, the Saudis in, maybe in a covert way. But no doubt, this power vacuum is sucking these countries in. We're in the fourth year of being on the border of Iran and the border of Saudi Arabia with 130,000, 140,000 troops. What are they going to do, sit there and play tiddlywinks? I don't think so.
So, we need to withdraw our ground forces there. That does not mean we abandon Iraq. We work through NATO, we work through NATO, we work through our allies, we exercise the diplomacy that the Iraq Study Group called for. And we do it in a bipartisan way. But you cannot go ahead and go down this road of further disaster into chaos and kill more Americans. That's what I'm concerned with.
BLITZER: All right. Listen to this additional clip of what the president said at his news conference earlier today. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think so at all. I think you can be against my decision and support the troops. Absolutely.
But the proof will be whether or not you provide them the money necessary to do the mission.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: All right. He's directly responding to the notion that there could be a debate on a symbolic resolution, but when it comes to money, if you don't vote for the money, you're abandoning the troops.
CLELAND: That is not true. The best way to support the troops is bring them home out of this chaos, this hell that has been created, this cauldron, this mish-mash out there that this president was not prepared to handle and didn't put the adequate forces in to begin with. and he not build a coalition to support us when we got in trouble there. So we have one alternative. And that's to withdraw our ground forces. That's the right thing to do. And more and more members of Congress are coming to that point of view.
BLITZER: What happens if they don't do that, whether the Democratic leadership or the Congress as a whole refuses to cut the funds?
CLELAND: We will have a surge, all right. A surge in more planes bringing more casualties into Walter Reed and Bethesda in the dark of night, more arms and legs lost, and more bodies coming home with a draped flag over their coffin.
That is not the direction we should be going in.
BLITZER: So you're really putting a lot of pressure on the leadership, the Democratic majority in the House and the Senate?
CLELAND: I'm saying that the United States Congress, Democrats and Republicans need to live up to their Constitutional responsibility, live up to the Constitution that they swore faith and allegiance to and live up to the two basic tenets regarding war. One, it's not the president that is the decider on war. It's the Congress. No. 2, it's the Congress that decides whether to fund war or not and how much and when. So it's time for the Congress to put up or shut up. And we're going to find out what's going on here in this war very shortly.
BLITZER: A critical moment, Senator Max Cleland, the former senator from Georgia.
As usual, thanks for coming in.
CLELAND: Thank you.
BLITZER: And still ahead tonight here in the SITUATION ROOM is life imitating art? On TV an anti-terror agent tortures terrorists to save the nation. But might that be giving real-life agents any ideas? We're going to look at the possible influence of "24".
And stranded inside what one passenger called a sound-proof coffin. Passengers stuck on a JetBlue flight in New York today -- get this -- for over eight hours on the tarmac. We're going to tell you what happened inside and what JetBlue is now doing about it.
Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: It's a hit American TV series seen around the world and critics say it may be encouraging U.S. troops and others to engage in torture.
Let's turn to CNN's Carol Costello. She's in New York with this story -- Carol.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's hard to wrap your mind and this one, a TV show influencing professional soldiers. But there are some who say it is and it's dangerous. An advisory to our viewers, although "24" is a fictional TV show, the images we're including in the report, well, some of them may disturb you.
COSTELLO (voice-over): Torture as a tool. It's used often and effectively in the Fox TV counterterrorism drama "24".
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 436.
COSTELLO: That's "24's" good guy torturing his own brother. Jack Bauer, the tough, sensitive undercover operative justifies his options to save America from Islamic extremist who have just detonated a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles.
That the fictional hero would torture is disturbing to Human Rights First. It worries American soldiers want to be like Jack.
(on camera): How do you suppose a soldier in Iraq would want to be like Jack Bauer?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, Jack Bauer is very seductive. He's the hero. He's always right. He always wins. He saves the day in the end.
COSTELLO: And while that sounds far-fetched, Ken Robinson, a national security analyst who served in special operations units including the CIA, says "24" is becoming a problem.
KEN ROBINSON, TERRORISM ANALYST: The United States military is concerned about it because they've started receiving evidence that soldiers in the field have been impacted by it downrange in Iraq, utilizing techniques which they've seen on "24" and then taking them into an environment into the interrogation booth.
COSTELLO: Fox declined to talk with us, but one of "24's" co- executors producers in a pod cast interview with "TVWeek.com" did respond.
DAVID FURY, FOX "24": One would think that their training would be far more extensive in the real world and that they understand that this is a heightened reality.
COSTELLO: And from Kiefer Sutherland, the actor who portrays Jack Bauer. KIEFER SUTHERLAND, ACTOR: There hasn't been a torture sequence that my character has been involved with that there isn't some kind of a negative repercussion whether it's emotional...
COSTELLO: Still, Danzig's (ph) and a general from West Point went to meet with "24's" writers to get the show to depict torture in a more realistic way, to show the audience such tactics often don't work, are against the Geneva Convention and, hence, have consequences. Danzig is hopeful a change is in the works.
COSTELLO: Now, Wolf, we did hear from the Department of Defense. In fact, it sent this statement, it says,
"Our policy is to treat detainees humanely. Our men and women who handle detainee operations are professionals and they understand the difference between a TV show and reality."
BLITZER: All right. Carol, thanks very much.
And by the way, Fox tells us that "24" is seen literally around the world from Australia to Japan, Latin America and throughout almost all of Europe. In fact, some 200 countries and territories in all, including some that have been very critical of U.S. policies on interrogation and the issue of torture.
Still ahead tonight, what's Rudy Giuliani doing right? We'll take a closer look at the Republican's sudden surge in the presidential polls. He's doing very well.
And it is time to quit smoking? Jeanne Moos wonders if Senator Barack Obama can kick the habit.
Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: It's a travel nightmare that stretched on for hours and hours and hours and the plane never even left the ground.
CNN's Alina Cho is in New York with this story -- Alina.
ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was supposed to be a trip to paradise. Passengers on JetBlue flight 751 boarding this morning at New York's Kennedy Airport and expecting to be in Cancun right now. But instead, they endured an eight-hour ordeal trapped on a plane that never left the ground.
CHO (voice-over): The wintry weather gripping much of the east meant the plane had to be de-iced. Passengers say they were told there were ten planes in line ahead of them. And so the wait began. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It went from well, ladies and gentlemen, we're tenth in line for de-icing to we can't take off because of weather conditions to we're trying to get you back to the gate. At least on four or five occasions it was please buckle your seat belts, we're going to take you back to the gate. And it never happened.
CHO: Hours went by with no food, raising medical concerns for some passengers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm in on diabetic condition, the gentleman in front of me is diabetic -- who was in front of is diabetic. And you know, one of the flight attendants is a nurse. And she was doing her best. She was offering like tuna of her own.
CHO: And power problems meant there were no ventilation at times. And the bathrooms...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They were OK in the beginning. It was getting a little nasty at the end.
CHO: JetBlue says the problem is there were no gates available to bring the passengers back to the terminals. Eventually, buses were brought in. The airline says all the passengers on flight 751 are being offered full refunds, a free round trip ticket and an apology.
CHO: JetBlue just issued a statement calling the decision not to bring the plane back earlier unacceptable. The airline says weather is ultimately to blame, but as it failed to meet its customers' expectations and sincerely apologizes -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. To put it mildly, a lot of irate passengers. Thank you, Alina, for that.
It's early in the race for the White House, but as of right now, things are going exceedingly well for Rudy Giuliani. He's finishing up a successful California swing and he's sitting down with our own Larry King. Our political analyst Bill Schneider picks up the story -- Bill.
BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, some candidates seem to be getting what the first President Bush once called the big mo in the 2008 race. Mo-mentum.
RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Yeah, I'm running.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Rudy Giuliani is not just getting in; he's also taking off. Last month, the "USA Today"/Gallup poll had Giuliani and John McCain running neck and neck among Republicans nationwide. Now Giuliani has moved to a sizable lead over McCain.
What's driving it? GIULIANI: I think it's on the basis of leadership. I think that -- I think they will on the basis of, ultimately, we need someone we think can handle this country at a time of war.
SCHNEIDER: Giuliani is 9/11. That's what gave him the image of strong, decisive leadership, the same image President Bush used to have. McCain is becoming more identified with a different Bush image -- Iraq.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The commander of the multinational forces Iraq now, General David Petraeus, and all United States personnel under his command should receive from Congress the full support necessary to carry out the United States' mission in Iraq.
SCHNEIDER: McCain and Giuliani both support the president on Iraq. It's a matter of which image the Republicans want to present to voters next year. The Bush of 9/11 got reelected in 2004. The Bush of Iraq got defeated in 2006.
Some social conservatives are determined to block Giuliani.
TONY PERKINS, PRESIDENT, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: I think Giuliani is unacceptable from the outset.
SCHNEIDER: Giuliani will never be a favorite of social conservatives, but he's trying to make himself not unacceptable to them.
GIULIANI: I am pro-choice. But I -- but I -- I'm also, as you know, always have been, against abortion, hate abortion, don't like it.
SCHNEIDER: In the end, Giuliani is relying on the halo effect of 9/11, that voters will set aside litmus tests for leadership.
GIULIANI: You can never find a candidate you agree with 100 percent of the time. I don't agree with myself 100 percent of the time.
GIULIANI: So, how are you going to find a candidate you agree with...
LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Do you think they will vote for you?
GIULIANI: I think they will. I think they will. And I think they will on the basis of leadership.
SCHNEIDER: Now, among Democrats, Hillary Clinton seems to have the big mo. Her lead over Barack Obama has widened, from 11 points last month to 19 points this month. Now, what happens if you ask all voters to choose between Clinton and Giuliani? It's pretty much a tie, Wolf.
BLITZER: I saw those numbers, 50 to 48 percent, a 3.5 point margin of error. Virtual tie right there, Giuliani slightly ahead in that Gallup-"USA Today" poll. Bill, thanks very much.
And by the way, this important programming note for you. You can hear Larry King's entire interview with Rudy Giuliani tonight. That's all coming your way on "LARRY KING LIVE." That begins at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.
Let's find out what's coming up right at the top of the hour on "PAULA ZAHN NOW." Soledad O'Brien filling in for Paula tonight -- Soledad.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Wolf, good evening to you. "Out in the Open" tonight, you heard from Bill the poll numbers. We'll talk about the surprising resistance among some Democratic black leaders to Senator Barack Obama's campaign for president. Two black congressmen tell me why they're supporting Hillary Clinton instead.
Also, is there a little bit of that astronaut Lisa Nowak in all of us? We've got some serious Valentine's Day science to share with you. See what happens in your brain when you get jealous or worse, get dumped. It's all "Out in the Open" coming up at the top of the hour, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Soledad, we'll be watching. That's coming up in a few minutes.
Still ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, running for president is stressful enough. But Senator Barack Obama thinks he can handle another big challenge right at the same time. CNN's Jeanne Moos has the story when we come back.
BLITZER: Now to presidential hopeful Barack Obama's efforts to try to quit smoking. Here CNN's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For regular folks, it's easy to quit trying to quit smoking.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I quit like three times.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five, six times.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the double digits, five to 10.
MOOS: But when you're running for president and you say you're going to quit smoking in front of millions of people on "60 Minutes..."
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: It's like a recovering -- it's like an alcoholic, right?
STEVE KROFT, CBS: He's going to have a lot of people watching.
MICHELLE OBAMA, SENATOR BARACK OBAMA'S WIFE: Absolutely. Please, America, watch. Keep an eye on him, and call me.
MOOS: It's enough to make you reach for a cigarette. And then to have Imus questioning your resolve with columnist Frank Rich.
DON IMUS, "IMUS IN THE MORNING": Do you think he's actually quit smoking?
FRANK RICH, NEW YORK TIMES: You know, I asked him, and he said I'm surrounded by Nicorette wrappers even as we speak.
MOOS: On Fox News, one commentator went so far as to call it...
JOHN GIBSON, HOST, "BIG STORY": Obama's dirty little secret.
MOOS: "New York Times" columnist Maureen Dowd thinks it makes Obama "intriguingly imperfect. His ears stick out, he smokes."
And on YouTube, one supporter offers to help Obama smoke.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you give me every other cigarette you intend to smoke and let me smoke with you, we can cut down together, and we can move on to bigger and better things, like the presidency.
MOOS: Another YouTuber contributed a cartoon cigarette, sad over the breakup.
Will the unblinking gaze of the national media make it harder or easier for Obama to kick the habit? We asked smokers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably easier. You need as much pressure as you can to stop smoking. You need to be chased down by wild animals.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Definitely try and hide it more.
MOOS: So you think if like all the press were, like, focusing on you, you might quit?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Definitely. Because you couldn't go into the cupboard and have a quick fag, could you?
MOOS: A quick what?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fag.
MOOS: Oh, yes. I forgot you're British.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We call them fags.
MOOS: The last president to look jaunty smoking cigarettes was FDR, though Ronald Reagan once advertised Chesterfields. The political gossip Web site Wonkette asked readers to send in photos of Obama smoking. And one they posted, they admit, was probably a Photoshop fake.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't smoke cigarettes.
MOOS: What do you smoke?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Marijuana. I openly -- I admit it.
MOOS: Hey, so did Obama. Admitted smoking pot as a teen. His YouTube supporter advised him not to quit smoking cigarettes completely.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The press can call you a quitter.
MOOS: As for calling his wife...
(on camera): She's saying, call me up if you see him smoking.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yeah, I would.
MOOS: You'd turn him in?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I would.
MOOS (voice-over): And you can't tell voters, butt out.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: Good luck with that, Senator Obama.
Let's go to Soledad O'Brien. She's in New York, sitting in for Paula. Soledad.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com