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THE SITUATION ROOM

Virgina Tech Shooting; Standoff in Houston; Reid Says Iraq War `Lost'

Aired April 20, 2007 - 1900   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, breaking news, a standoff ends in bloodshed at NASA's Johnson Space Center. A gunman kills a hostage and kills himself. At this hour details are still emerging in Houston.

Also tonight, the Virginia Tech gunman's family finally speaks out. Do they have any answers or words to ease the anguish?

And new political crossfire over the Senate majority leader's claim the war in Iraq is lost. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Thomas Friedman tells us if he thinks Iraq is a lost cause.

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

But up first tonight the breaking news out of Houston, an armed standoff at Johnson Space Center ending in bloodshed, the chilling close to the week in which we saw America's worst shooting rampage ever.

CNN's Kathleen Koch is joining us with the latest on this still unfolding drama -- Kathleen.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, an apparent murder- suicide tonight at the NASA facility in Houston. Houston police say that two people are dead, a gunman and an apparent hostage. Another hostage, a woman whose arms and feet had been taped has been freed and is being investigated -- examined right now by paramedics.

Now police say that this all started just before 2:00 p.m. Central Time when they got a call about shots fired at Building 44. That's the northern most building on the NASA complex. Officers and the SWAT team arrived, surrounded the building. NASA employees had already been hustled out to safety.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAPT. DWAYNE READY, HOUSTON POLICE: Yes, let me explain that. The report to us was that there were two shots, and that's what caused us to respond to this scene, and we're believing that one of the hostages, the male who is deceased, was shot during that particular moment because from that point forward we only have the other shot that was heard by our SWAT team members, and we believe that to be the suspect shooting himself.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KOCH: Police say the hostage was shot in the chest, the gunman once in the head. Their bodies right now are still on the second floor of the building where the shootings occurred while police await the arrival of the homicide investigators and the FBI. Police say there was in their opinion right now only one weapon involved a snub- nosed revolver with a two-inch barrel.

Police say they could not yet identify the gunman, the hostages or what the relationship, if any, between the three might be. Police also couldn't say whether or not the two hostages were NASA employees or contractors for the space agency, and police from the outset did try their best to establish communication with the shooter. They say they were unsuccessful, and they also said that they found no note at the scene, so, Wolf, right now the motive for this apparent murder- suicide remains a mystery.

BLITZER: We'll watch this story. It underscores how jittery the nation is right now after that Virginia Tec massacre earlier in the week. Tonight for the first time we're hearing from the family of the Virginia Tec gunman Seung-Hui Cho who killed 32 students and instructors this week in the single deadliest shooting rampage in modern American history.

CNN's Zain Verjee is joining us now with details. What's the family, Zain, finally saying?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: The family is saying that they are living a nightmare, Wolf. His sister, Sun-Kyung Cho says in a statement, we are heartbroken. We are so deeply sorry for the devastation my brother has caused. No words can express our sadness that 32 innocent people lost their lives this week in such a terrible senseless tragedy.

Now she named each of the victims in her statement and then went on to say "we pray for their families and loved ones who are experiencing so much excruciating grief and we pray for those who were injured and for those whose lives are changed forever because of what they witnessed and experienced. Each of these people had so much love, talent and gifts to offer, and their lives were cut short by a horrible and senseless act."

Now about her family, Wolf, she says "we feel humbled by this darkness. We feel hopeless, helpless and lost. This is someone that I grew up with and loved, and now I feel like I didn't know this person." She says her family has always been close, peaceful and loving. She goes on to say in the statement "my brother was quiet and reserved yet struggled to fit in. We could never have envisioned that he was capable of so much violence. He has made the world weep and we are living a nightmare."

Sun-Kyung also says "we grieve alongside the families, the Virginia Tech community, our state of Virginia and the rest of the nation and the world. Our family is so very sorry for my brother's unspeakable actions. It's a terrible tragedy for all of us." She then added that the anger and disbelief of what her brother did is justified. She acknowledged that everyone, including her family, had a lot of unanswered questions.

She also said that her family is going to cooperate fully with the authorities and do whatever they can to help everyone understand how this could have happened. Wolf, as you can imagine, the family devastated and distraught, and can you see that reflected by the statements and the words that she sent.

BLITZER: It comes through in every sentence in that letter -- Zain, thank you for that. Meanwhile on the campus of Virginia Tech, more steps towards trying to reach closure in the mourning process and in the investigation.

Our Brian Todd is in Blacksburg, Virginia. What's the latest from there, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, chilling new details about the deadly barrage unleashed by the gunman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): A law enforcement official familiar with the investigation now tells CNN the campus shooter may have unleashed as many as 225 bullets in Monday's rampage. The estimate is based on the number of bullets and the 17 empty ammunition magazines found at Norris Hall at Virginia Tech. One doctor told CNN every victim he treated had been hit at least three times, but authorities are still searching for a motive. Were the first victims at West Ambler Johnston Hall specifically targeted, or were their deaths simply random?

CHIEF WENDELL FLINCHUM, VIRGINIA TECH POLICE: We still are examining and investigating to determine whether there is any link to Cho, to the victims in A.J. or not. We've not made any conclusions and that's still under investigation.

TODD: Investigators are focusing on whether one of the first victims, Emily Hilscher, ever had contact with Cho Seung-Hui. CNN has obtained a search warrant affidavit in which authorities seek permission to access her computer. Campus police say the computer would be one way the suspect could have communicated with the victim. It is highly likely that information would still be on the computer.

The police have also confiscated Hilscher's cell phone. A panel has been named to study all aspects of the shootings, including how Cho's psychological problems were handled. Also, did authorities do everything they could to protect students in the two hours between the first shooting and the second rampage?

KELLY MCCANN, KROLL SECURITY GROUP: You're trying to close down a 2,600-acre porous security environment, and to what end? In other words, there wasn't a physical description. No one knew what to look for.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: In the meantime, the medical examiner's office confirms to CNN they have released all of the bodies of the dead, including Cho, to their families. They declined to say whether Cho's family has actually collected his remains -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You've been on the campus, Brian, all week. What's it like today? Pretty much deserted?

TODD: Not quite deserted. There's a baseball game that's just about started at this hour, Wolf, between Virginia Tech and the University of Miami. That's the first sporting event to take place since the shootings, and there's a pretty resounding show of support for the faculty and leadership at this university. A Web site has been created to get online signatures of support for the president, Charles Steger, and the police chief, Wendell Flinchum. So far they have over 10,000 signatures, over 5,000 of those claim to be students.

BLITZER: Brian Todd doing some excellent coverage for us all week at the Virginia Tech campus -- Brian, thanks.

Coming up, the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid causing an uproar by saying the war in Iraq is lost. We'll get a reality check from Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I certainly think that we're on our very, very, very, very last legs, you know. We certainly haven't won, that's for sure, and I see no sign right now that we're winning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So is there a solution? Also, the Bush administration takes Reid to task for his remarks. We'll have the latest on this escalating war of words.

Plus, an exclusive interview with a Virginia Tech student who survived in a classroom where 10 people died.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Some of his Republican peers are blasting his judgment and the White House is questioning the courage of his conviction, but the leader of the Senate is not backing down. Today Harry Reid signaling he's standing by his assessment that the war is lost.

Joining us now our congressional correspondent Andrea Koppel. What is the Senate leader, Andrea, actually saying?

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's really a new twist on what's been the Democrat's mantra for months now. That the war can't be won militarily but only politically and not just once but twice on the very same day the Democratic leader went father than he had ever gone before.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED SENATOR: ... Iraq the war is lost.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOPPEL: Now it's a message that Harry Reid delivered in person to Mr. Bush on Wednesday when he was at the White House, and according to a Democratic aide it really touched a nerve, Wolf. Apparently the president's back stiffened when Harry Reid said that.

BLITZER: I want to replay that sound bite because we missed the top of it. We missed the bottom of it. This is what he said earlier in the week, is that right, or is this what he said today?

KOPPEL: It's what he said earlier in the week.

BLITZER: All right. Because earlier in the week he said this. Let's replay that sound bite.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: As long as we follow the president's path in Iraq the war is lost.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. How are Republicans, Andrea, reacting to this?

KOPPEL: Not surprisingly, Wolf. They have reacted very strongly. They are going to be devoting the GOP's Saturday radio address to criticizing Reid and pretty much from the beginning they have gone on the attack.

BLITZER: Andrea Koppel with the latest from Capitol Hill -- thank you.

In Iraq, meanwhile, as terrorists move so do U.S. and Iraqi forces. Right now troops are on the move in one dangerous area trying to take their fight right where some of Iraq's most feared and hated insurgents operate.

Joining us now our correspondent in Baghdad Michael Ware. Michael, you've just been embedded with U.S. military forces, what, for nine days. Give us your impressions. What's going on?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, where I went is to the province called Diyala. Now this is just north of the capital Baghdad. There I saw the face of the new front line against al Qaeda, or indeed it's the old front line made new again. What we've witness happen over the past six to nine months is a migration of the al Qaeda fight, its operational focus from al Anbar province to the west of the country where it's coming under pressure as U.S. forces have unleashed the Baathist insurgents, the nationalists who don't share the al Qaeda agenda and the tribes against al Qaeda. Then we've seen in the last eight or nine weeks the surge, the influx of American troops targeting the capital. That's caused a further displacement of al Qaeda to Diyala province, and so now what we're witnessing is America confronting them there to the north of the capital. It's the new cutting edge against al Qaeda.

BLITZER: So how are they doing? Is there progress being made in Diyala?

WARE: There is in Diyala province, Wolf, an extraordinarily aggressive fight currently underway. We have a brigade of American troops, approximately 5,000 men and women there in that province. Now they have only been there five months, but already they have lost 44 people. Now previous brigades there have lost 19 or 20 odd. That's a sign of what is going on.

That's how much this new brigade is taking the fight to al Qaeda. They are looking for al Qaeda safe havens. They are looking for areas where U.S. forces have not had a permanent presence before and they are going in there and they are staying there. This is yet another stage in the evolution that we are currently observing in U.S. strategy, that we first saw emerge in the northern town of Talafa (ph).

We then saw reapplied in the western city of Ramadi. Now we're seeing it again through Baghdad and ultimately in Diyala where American troops just don't go in and fight and clear and withdraw but they leave a small presence behind, and this is where it's happening right on the edge in Diyala province.

BLITZER: And we've been showing our viewers, Michael, some of the extraordinary video that you and your team shot during these nine days of this embed in the Diyala province. Michael Ware, our reporter joining us. Thanks, Michael.

WARE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And still ahead tonight right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, my interview with "The New York Times" Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Thomas Friedman. Find out what he says needs to be done to try to turn things around in the war in Iraq.

And take a look at this amazing video. We're going to tell you what happened. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Our Fredericka Whitfield is joining us now with a closer look at some other stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM -- hi, Fred.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, Wolf, lots has been going on today.

On Wall Street another record for the Dow Jones Industrial Average now zeroing in on the 13,000 mark. A series of positive earnings reports helped it gain more than 150 points today closing at 12,961. The NASDAQ and the S&P were also higher.

U.S. is getting back into the business of building bombs for Israel. An agency of the Pentagon reported to Congress today that Israel has requested up to 3,500 MK-84 general purpose bombs and also it's seeking spares and repair parts as well as technical assistance. The $65 million deal is the first officially disclosed sale of U.S. military equipment to Israel since its conflict with Lebanon last year.

And extraordinary images into CNN today. Watch this. Right there, a speeding truck slamming into a Boone County, West Virginia gas station. It just misses another vehicle. As you saw the man who was pumping gas as it knocked down a pump which burst into flames there and then it barrels into a convenience store just missing three people inside that store. The clerk is nearly hit by a falling beam. It was all caught on security cameras this week. Employees say the driver fell asleep at the wheel.

And they are living on the edge in Daniel's Harbour, Newfoundland. People in that small Canadian town fear their houses may plunge into the sea next. This follows a landslide, which sent several buildings sliding into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Homes on this cliff are unstable, and residents are packing their possessions now saying they don't want to lose all that they have, try to salvage what they can before the inevitable happens -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Oh, my God. Those are horrific, horrific pictures.

WHITFIELD: Isn't that incredible.

BLITZER: Terrible. Thank you. Thanks for that, Fred.

Just ahead, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Thomas Friedman of the tangled web of enemies and allies in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are everyone's protector and everyone's target. We're the Shiite's protector and we're their target. We're the Sunnis' protector and we're their target. That's an untenable situation to be in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: But does Tom Friedman think the war in Iraq has been lost? His fascinating insights -- that's coming up.

And a survivor's story. How did some make it out of the Virginia Tech massacre alive?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: As this painful week draws to a close presidential candidates are getting back to the campaign trail after taking a time- out to mark the Virginia Tech massacre. Our Mary Snow has been keeping tabs on the field in the wake of the shooting -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, here at Rutgers Senator Hillary Clinton praised the women's basketball team at the center of the Don Imus controversy, but in her speech and at other events this week presidential candidates have dialed back on politics.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): As the news of the mass killings at Virginia Tech spread across the nation, the campaign trail went dark. Most of the candidates cancelled their campaign events for Monday night and Tuesday.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't believe this is the right time speaking for myself for politics.

SNOW: Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards did turn a Monday afternoon campaign stop into an event of healing for those killed at Virginia Tech.

(MUSIC)

SNOW: And nearly all of the candidates either put out statements or spoke from the heart.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can only imagine what it must be like for parents right now who probably still can't get in touch with their kids from all over the country, and we pray for them.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Presidential candidates had no choice but to hit the pause button on their campaigns. It would have been unseemly to do otherwise.

SNOW: Campaigning resumed Wednesday, but it wasn't politics as usual. Gun control which hasn't been an issue out on the trail suddenly became a topic of discussion.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I do not believe that we should tamper with the Second Amendment of the United States and the Constitution of the United States of America.

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: I think we should...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think George Washington stood for automatic weapons?

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAIN: I think -- I think that...

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAIN: I think that George Washington stood for the right of people to bear arms which is the -- which is their constitutional right.

SNOW: And the massacre at Virginia Tech wasn't far from the candidates' minds.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We must determine how do we make our schools safer. How do we do a better job of detecting the wrong signs and the warning signs earlier?

SNOW: Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton paused from a speech at Rutgers University to remember the victims of Virginia Tech.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And when this moment of silence ends I hope each of us will think about how we can in our own way be a messenger for change and for a better world for us all.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Walking back on the campaign trail is being done delicately. This weekend candidates find themselves with full schedules connecting with voters and, of course, raising cash -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow at Rutgers. Thanks, Mary, for that.

And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, a deadly end to that armed hostage standoff at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Police now confirming the gunman and one hostage are dead. Another hostage was found unharmed.

Also, the family of Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho breaking their silence tonight, releasing a statement saying they are heartbroken and deeply sorry for the devastation he caused. They say they are praying daily for the victims and add that they feel, quote, "hopeless, helpless and lost".

And in New Jersey -- the New Jersey governor, Jon Corzine, off a ventilator tonight and breathing on his own eight days after being critically injured in a high-speed accident.

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

We'll get to my interview with Thomas Friedman in just a couple of minutes, but first the Virginia Tech tragedy. Until now we've heard very little from the Virginia Tech students who were wounded during last Monday's shooting rampage, but tonight an incredibly brave young woman is coming forward to describe her incredible ordeal.

CNN's Paula Zahn spoke with her just a short while ago and Paula is joining us now in THE SITUATION ROOM. This is a good story, a positive story. At least you heard from a survivor, Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And one very lucky woman because she was actually wounded twice. Her name is Emily Haas. She happened to be in her French class in Norris Hall when the shooting started on Monday. She describes how she and her fellow students thought construction was going on outside but then they soon realized that what they were hearing was the sounds of killing.

Fortunately, the bullets only grazed the back of her head when she was hit, but unlike some of the students in her class, her classmates did hear the gunman coming and Emily tells us now that she owes her life to a very heroic teacher.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: So Emily, take us back to the moment that your teacher started jamming desks up against the door of your classroom and she told you and your fellow students to go to the back of the class and hide under desks.

EMILY HAAS, SHOOTING SURVIVOR: We heard the gunshots and she put the door -- she put the desks in front of the door and she said call 911, get to the back of the room, get under the desks. Everybody, as far as I know, tried to move as far back as they could. I was back up at the back against the wall, on the side, and just waiting and hoping that he wouldn't come in.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: He did come in and he cut down as many as 10 students and a teacher, reloading she remembers, at least twice. We'll have more of this exclusive interview coming up at 8:00 Eastern. She provides chilling details that we've never heard before and some stunning accounts of bravery.

BLITZER: We're going to watch that whole interview coming up at the top of the hour. Paula, thanks you for that.

There's a debate underway right now whether the war in Iraq has been loss. Thomas Friedman of the "New York Times" has done extensive reporting and writing about the war and has been to Iraq on several occasions.

The Pulitzer Prize winning journalist also is turning his focus to energy and environmentalism. He's hosting a new special on the Discovery Channel called "Green, the New Red, White and Blue." That airs this weekend, and there's now a new edition emerging of his best selling book "The World is Flat."

That's coming out later this summer.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And joining us now is Thomas Friedman. Tom, thanks very much for coming in.

THOMAS FRIEDMAN, "NEW YORK TIMES": Good to be here, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let me get your quick reaction to Harry Reid. He said this on Thursday, the Senate majority leader. "The war in Iraq is lost and the surge is accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday."

Do you agree with him?

FRIEDMAN: Well, to me, Wolf, there's one metric to measure the surge by, and that is whether it's producing a political solution that will allow us to remove our troops.

BLITZER: Is it?

FRIEDMAN: Right now I don't see that negotiation happening let alone a conclusion that you say, wow, the parties are really coming together. They are taking advantage of this, you know, little breathing spell to come together for a solution, and that's really what I'm waiting for. To me the metric of the surge is not whether violence is down 10 percent, 20 percent or 30 percent. It is are the parties coming together?

BLITZER: Because there's no military solution, is that what you're saying?

FRIEDMAN: Exactly.

BLITZER: But there has to be a political solution. For there to be a political solution, what needs to be done?

FRIEDMAN: Well, clearly, you know, you need to see whether the parties, first of all, have the will.

BLITZER: When you say the parties, you mean the Iraqis, the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds?

FRIEDMAN: Yes. Whether they have the will to really come together. When I first heard the surge idea my reaction is it reminds me of a couple they get married, marriage doesn't quite take and they say, you know what, let's have a baby, somehow that if you put more pressure on this that somehow this will come together and I feel this about the surge, that unless the underlying thing is there, the willingness of the three parties to cut a deal to share power, revenue and space together, there's no possible solution.

BLITZER: So when Harry Reid says the war is lost, you're not there yet?

FRIEDMAN: Yet.

BLITZER: You haven't come to that conclusion?

FRIEDMAN: I certainly think that we're on a very, very, very, very last legs, you know. We certainly haven't won, that's for sure, and I see no sign right now that we're winning, because the question I'm looking for is that political deal coming together, and I don't see it.

BLITZER: What is the Bush administration in its final two years in office, what do they need to do immediately to try to bring that political settlement around? FRIEDMAN: The thing that's always baffled me really for a long time now is the fact that there has been no high-level effort, urgent to bring the parties together as we did in Dayton around Bosnia.

BLITZER: Zalmay Khalilad tried when he was the U.S. ambassador?

FRIEDMAN: He did try. And in fairness to the administration, one of the problems is the parties aren't so clearly defined, you know. There aren't clear leaders in the Sunnis and clear leaders among the Shia. That's one of the problems.

The other thing that's really disturbing me right now, Wolf, and certainly explains why people like Harry Reid would say the war is lost is this. We have 140,000 troops in Iraq.

BLITZER: About to go up to 160,000.

FRIEDMAN: Every day though, Wolf, another bombing, another three bombings, another four bombings. You know what it seems to me, we have no intelligence. This has been going on now for years, yet we don't seem to be able to get to the root of it at all. What does that say? It says no one or not enough people are really cooperating with us.

BLITZER: What would it take for me to wake up one morning and see a headline in a Thomas Friedman column on the op-ed page of the "New York Times" and the headline is "The War is Lost"?

FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, I that I that we're going to come to a conclusion very soon. General Petraeus tell us by the end of the summer that he's promised we're going to see whether the surge is working or not, and certainly I'm ready to wait for him. I personally think we should be setting a deadline right now. So I was never a big supporter of the surge to begin with, so I think that one of the problems that we have now, Wolf, is that the parties themselves, nobody -- we are everyone's protector and everyone's target.

We're the Shiites' protector and we're their target, we're the Sunnis' protector and we're their target. That's an untenable situation to be in. The reason I savor a deadline is that everyone has choices right now except us, and we've got to create a situation where basically if they want to continue with this violence or continue being pigheaded around their negotiations, they are going to have to pay retail for their positions, not wholesale. While we're there holding up the floor, basically keeping a lid on things, everyone pays wholesale.

BLITZER: Here's what President Bush said Thursday, speaking about the hypothetical consequences of failure for the U.S. in Iraq. Listen to this.

FRIEDMAN: Mm-hmm.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: If the United States were to leave a chaotic Iraq, not only would the vacuum of our failure there to help this young government enable extremists to move more freely and embolden them, but I also believe it would -- it could cause the Middle East to enter into a nuclear arms race.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Not only that dire scenario, but others have suggested, including John McCain, that it could cause genocide, as bad as the situation in Iraq is right now, it could get a whole lot worse.

FRIEDMAN: My two reactions to that, Wolf. First of all, if it was that important, and I agree it was important, then why did you send just enough troops to lose? If it was that important, you know, the president summons us to D-Day and originally, you know, sends just enough troops to lose, so let's ask, first of all, why we're in this situation, but now let's put this aside. OK, what happens if we do leave? No one really knows, Wolf. One can make an argument, you know, that all heck is going to break loose in that part of the world, that's certainly one scenario.

Another scenario says there will be a period of fighting. The parties will eventually reach an equilibrium and we may even have a better chance for a deal. I'm not here to tell you I know which it will be. All I'm telling you is the president doesn't know either.

BLITZER: You're not very optimistic right now.

FRIEDMAN: No, I'm not.

BLITZER: I remember the come um you wrote after the war. You described yourself as a worried optimist. You supported the war going into the war, you thought it was a just war. Later you called yourself a worried optimist. How would you describe yourself right now?

FRIEDMAN: Oh, I'm certainly just worried right now, Wolf, just worried.

BLITZER: The optimism is gone away?

FRIEDMAN: Yeah.

BLITZER: I want to move on to some other subjects, but let me play this other clip from what President Bush said this week about some consequences, including the al Qaeda issue in Iraq. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Two of the biggest issues we face for the security of this country today and tomorrow is al Qaeda and Iran. And yet their influence is being played out in Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. The al Qaeda issue in Iraq and the Iran issue in Iraq. Maybe al Qaeda wasn't a major player in Iraq before the war, but the argument that it is right now.

FRIEDMAN: Well, there's no question al Qaeda is there. They are having an impact. The question though, Wolf, is to what degree are we a part of the problem, and to what degree would our leaving be part of the solution?

We are clearly, our presence there, clearly attracts certain forces to Iraq. There's no question about it. Now are we 30 percent of that? Are we 70 percent? In other words, if we leave, to what extent does the violence go down? To what extent do we create a context where Iraqi Sunnis would want to take these people on?

I just don't know, but neither does the president so he's casting this all in one way, as if it's about winning. There's no more winning to be done there. OK. All that's left is to protect American interests and to be able to get out in a way that leaves some chance, some chance, Wolf, that we'll get some kind of equilibrium in place there, that won't destabilize the whole region. I think that's all that's left.

BLITZER: You write a column on foreign affairs in the "New York Times." Which candidate, Democrat or Republican, do you think has the mobility credibility when it comes about talking about what to do in Iraq?

FRIEDMAN: You know, I really would have a hard time rating any of they will, frankly, not up or down. We're not allowed to endorse candidates as columnists.

BLITZER: Don't endorse any.

But does Hillary Clinton, a Joe Biden, a John McCain, who really understands the issues there and comes to the table with a lot of knowledge?

FRIEDMAN: If you're asking like right today, Wolf, the person I think who has been where I've been from the very beginning, seeing the potential, you know, that this could have for a positive outcome but really, really cautious and worried all the time, that if we weren't doing it right is Joe Biden. I think Joe Biden has been on top of this from the very beginning. He was on top of the opportunity. He was on top of what stakes we need or what we needed to do to get some chance of realizing that opportunity and he's been on top of saying this isn't working so if there's anybody I felt in sync with since the very beginning I would say it's Joe Biden.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And we're going to have much more of my interview, in fact the whole interview with Tom Friedman. It will air this Sunday LATE EDITION, Sunday 11:00 a.m. Eastern.

Still ahead tonight on THE SITUATION ROOM, after the Virginia Tech massacre, a complex problem for schools and universities. How do you protect a campus from harm while protecting a problem student's privacy? And romance, work and controversy, why World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz's dealing with his girlfriends may cost him his job. There is new information coming out tonight. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The massacre at Virginia Tech is a complicated issue for schools across the country, protecting a problem student's privacy while protecting the rest of the community from potential threats. Let's get some more from CNN's special correspondent Frank Sesno.

Frank?

FRANK SESNO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wolf, colleges and universities will be under even more pressure now to intervene when it comes to mental health issues, but it's often the law that gets in the way.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SESNO (voice-over): It looks idyllic. We know sometimes it's not, and what universities can do, what this can say and to whom is oddly proscribed.

STEPHEN JOEL TRACHTENBERG, PRES., GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: We can't even send parents their children's grades unless the -- unless the parents give us -- unless the children give us permission.

SESNO: Stephen Trachtenberg is president of the George Washington University where I teach. After the Virginia Tech massacre he wrote about the dilemmas these universities face. He knows last year a student sued G.W. after he was suspended, the university said it was for concerns about his mental health.

TRACHTENBERG: We thought we were doing the right thing. His parents and his lawyers did not.

SESNO: The case was settled. So was a $27 million lawsuit against MIT filed by the student of a family who died after writing several suicide notes. The family said the university should have done more to prevent her death.

Federal privacy and anti-discrimination laws protect the rights of individuals, but they make it much harder for universities to communicate with parents about health issues or put students on involuntary leave.

TRACHTENBERG: We have two issues. One is protecting the individual that that particular youngster and the other is protecting the rest of the community.

SESNO: The laws collide with the reality of time and place.

(on camera): Students come to campuses like this one literally from all over the world. They bring their potential, of course, but also their problems. (voice-over): Some of them can be serious.

RON HONBERG, NATIONAL ALLIANCE ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Typically the age of onset for these disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder are in the late teens, early 20s.

SESNO: Ron Honberg's group found in a recent survey most universities are not prepared for this type of problems and a generation of stress that even top students notice.

ELLEN WEXLER, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY STUDENT: I think that the idea of achieving things younger and quicker is just -- it's just the world we're living in today.

SESNO: Schools encourage counseling and more students are seeking it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESNO (on camera): After Virginia Tech colleges and universities across the country are reviewing policies, procedures and the law. Experts say there needs to be more peer awareness, more trained staff and better communication among students, administrators, parents and professionals. Wolf?

BLITZER: Frank, thank you. Frank Sesno reporting. Still ahead in tonight in THE SITUATION ROOM, a lightning rod takes another hit for mixing business and romance. We're going to examine new pressure on Paul Wolfowitz to step down as the World Bank president and the attorney general said it over and over and over again, and he's not the only one. Jeanne Moos takes a memorable look at these words, "I don't recall."

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: He's under fire for mixing romance with work. That would be the World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz. His dealings with his girlfriend may end up costing him his job. CNN's Zain Verjee is joining us now. Zain, where do things stand right now?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wolf, as you say, his job is on the line, but Paul Wolfowitz is hanging on.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE (voice-over): More allegations of corruption against World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz. The former number two at the Pentagon is now accused of personally recommending his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, for a Defense Department contract in Iraq against bank rules.

A Pentagon inspector general inquiry says Wolfowitz did nothing wrong, but the World Bank board is investigating. It's only adding to the firestorm. Wolfowitz has already been accused of helping promote his girlfriend in giving her a plum salary. World Bank staffers, even one of his own top deputies, want him out saying the scandal is a distraction and scars the bank's reputation.

ALISON CAVE, WORLD BANK STAFF ASSOCIATION: We have to be an example. We can't go and preach one thing and do another and so this is how we handle this crisis, I think is going to affect our credibility in the years to come.

VERJEE: The crisis has exploded into an all-out indictment on Wolfowitz's leadership. Insiders say he froze out qualified staffers and used his own inexperienced advisors to make critical decisions. Wolfowitz is promising to change his management style, but the architect of the Iraq War seems to have lost the trust of his staff.

KENNETH ROGOFF, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: We've had the incident over his girlfriend come to light earlier. Had he been more transparent and had he not been in such a weak position he might have weathered it, but when you put it all together, I don't think he really can survive this.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE (on camera): Wolfowitz says he has no plans to step down. In a statement Wolfowitz says he will welcome any decision that's ultimately made by the board. Wolf?

BLITZER: Zain, who supports Wolfowitz.

VERJEE: Well, the White House is supporting him. The president has said he has full confidence in Wolfowitz and Wolfowitz for his part seems to have the support from many African countries on the board and that essentially provides a big counterbalance to the big European push to get him out, Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Zain, thank you. President Bush and Senate majority leader Harry Reid accusing each other of being unwilling to properly fund the American military, but politics aside, the state of the military is a very serious question. With that, experts pointing to the inadequate training and poor equipment. CNN's Tom Foreman is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. You've been looking into this. How serious is this problem?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, simply enough it's quite serious, Wolf. Earlier this week General Barry McCaffrey said ground forces were in disastrous shape and far too many new recruits don't meet military standards and earlier we speak with two men concerned about the state of the military. Former Brigadier General James "Spider" Marks and former assistance secretary of defense Lawrence Korb, we asked them whether the military was ready for the current level of deployment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENE KORB, FORMER ASSISTANT DEFENSE SECRETARY: The shorter answer is no. They are not ready. Look, we're taking people right out of basic training who missed the unit training out at Fort Irwin, sending them over with a 10-day course. That's not what you do.

Army doctrine says you should have two years at home for every year deployed. They are luck if they get one year. They don't have the right equipment here because it's over there and is being burned out.

BRIG. GEN. JAMES MARKS (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Are you fielding the right force to go into combat today? The short answer is, yes. Are you giving them the right capabilities and training? The short answer is yes and do you have enough of them? The answer is no, emphatically.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Subject that raises concerns, obviously, and yes, even tempers, Wolf.

BLITZER: Some administration officials are arguing that the lack of a funding bill is for the military's already hurt troop readiness?

FOREMAN: Well, it depends on who you ask, Wolf. If the Pentagon says that there's enough money to go until June, Army says it has ordered prudent measures to deal with that to stop spending on items like non-essential repair parts and unnecessary travel, but the military is using up its supplies at a fast rate and the bill will come due eventually.

BLITZER: Tom Foreman, thanks very much, and an important note to our viewers. You can see THIS WEEK AT WAR right here on CNN Saturday at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, Sunday at 1:00 p.m. Eastern right after LATE EDITION.

And just ahead, keeping track of those three little words, "I don't recall. Jeanne Moos has a word for all these sticky moments. You'll want to see this. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Tonight more Republicans seem eager to show Alberto Gonzales the door. The third ranking Republican in the House, Congressman Adam Putnam now say the attorney general should step down and Senator Jeff Sessions is urging Gonzales to think about resigning, all this coming after the attorney general's widely criticized Senate testimony.

CNN's Jeanne Moos looks at three words Gonzales said over and over and over again.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a long day for a guy with a short memory.

ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Sir, I don't recall.

Senator, I don't recall. I do not recall.

I don't recall remembering ...

MOOS: To help Alberto Gonzales recall what he doesn't remember was this guy keeping score, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, he and a handful of protesters made themselves hard to forget during breaks in the hearing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fire Gonzales now.

MOOS: Yelling sarcastic comments about the attorney general's legal positions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you recall habeas corpus?

MOOS: Also keeping tabs on Gonzales' memory was "The Daily Show."

GONZALES: I can only testify as to what I show. I don't recall. I don't recall. I firmly believe that nothing improper occurred.

JON STEWART, COMEDY CENTRAL: But he assures you what he doesn't remember was handled properly.

MOOS: Now Gonzales didn't invent I don't recall. It's a time dishonored tradition.

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I have to say I don't recall that at all.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I just don't recall that.

GONZALES: I recall making the decision. Sir, I don't recall when the decision was made.

MOOS (on camera): Ha, ha, go ahead and laugh, but I personally made plenty of decisions that I recall making but I don't recall when I made them, not that I recall any examples.

See, right there, two, I don't recalls. Though, that's nowhere near Gonzales' total for the day-long hearing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sevnety-four times. I don't recall, how did you get through law school?

MOOS: How did she get into the senate with that getup? Free speech -

(MUSIC)

MOOS: As for the guy keeping score he was sure a hit on the liberal blogs. The man with the digits is making me swoon. That guy is totally hot and he can count past 50. Yep, Adam Kokesh got all the way to 74 I can't recalls. ADAM KOKESH, IRAQ VETERANS AGAINST THE WAR: It was actually a lot more than that. If you include the "I don't knows" and "I am not aware of" it would have been probably close to 400.

MOOS: Just to refresh your memory.

GONZALES: Senator, I don't recall.

I don't recall.

I had forgotten.

MOOS: Maybe it would have been less work to count these.

GONZALES: I do recall.

MOOS: At least the sign is ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Unforgettable.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: I'll be back Sunday for LATE EDITION, the last word in Sunday talk. Among my guests, the attorney general of Virginia, Bob McDonnell. LATE EDITION, that airs Sunday morning for two hours beginning at 11:00 a.m. Eastern.

Until then, thanks for watching. Let's go to Paula in New York. Paula?

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