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Baghdad Barrier Divides, Unites; The Arab World's 'Dr. Ruth'; Rosie O'Donnell Announces She's Leaving 'The View'

Aired April 25, 2007 - 17:00   ET


JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Shirley writes from Atlanta: "Giuliani can't even get the support of its firefighters in New York City. When everyone sees exactly what he did and didn't do, his candidacy will be over. If the Republican Party thinks 9/11 and terrorism are the only issues, they're in for a rude awakening."
And Daniel writes: "It's not a question of whether 9/11 politics will help Giuliani or not. They already have -- by getting him into this race" -- Wolf

WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Jack, thanks.

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

Happening now, new claims that Osama bin Laden is planning new attacks. The Taliban says Osama bin Laden is behind a plot against the vice president.

Also, Pat Tillman's family is insulted by one U.S. military commander's apparent accusations about their lack of religious faith.

And she wants Muslims to open up about a taboo topic -- talking about sex without shame, the so-called Dr. Ruth of the Arab world is raising eyebrows with some very racy sex education.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Was Osama bin Laden directly involved in an attempt to kill the vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney?

That stunning claim comes from the top ranks of the Taliban, along with word that bin Laden may actively be planning other attacks.

Let's go straight to CNN's Brian Todd, who is watching this story -- what exactly are we hearing, Brian, from the Taliban?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a very feared and respected Taliban commander says bin Laden's involvement in that February attack went well beyond inspiration.


TODD (voice-over): Did the world's most wanted terrorist have Vice President Cheney in his sights in Afghanistan? A top Taliban commander speaks out about Osama bin Laden's connection to an attack at Bagram Air Base in February.

MULLAH DADULLAH, TALIBAN MILITARY COMMANDER (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): This operation was the result of his blessed planning. He's the one who planned the details of this operation and guided us. And the operation was successful.

TODD: But in his interview with Al Jazeera, the Taliban commander known as Mullah Dadullah offered no proof of bin Laden's role in the suicide bombing, which killed more than 15 people.

Is bin Laden capable of planning an attack like this?

U.S. intelligence officials say he's not involved in much of al Qaeda's current operational planning, and they say it's difficult for him to send messages to others.

But terrorism experts say Dadullah's claim that he's got a regular line of communication with the al Qaeda leader is feasible.

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Not directly personally, but certainly through intermediaries, al Qaeda and the Taliban have increasingly morphed together ideologically and tactically.

TODD: But a U.S. intelligence official questions bin Laden's role in the February attack, saying it was the Taliban, not al Qaeda, that claimed responsibility at the time. U.S. officials and journalists who traveled with Cheney point out the vice president's visit to Bagram was unscheduled, unannounced until he was on the ground, making it difficult for terrorists to plan in advance.

But it was reported that Cheney's departure from Bagram was delayed by a snowstorm. He was on the base for more than 12 hours and stayed overnight -- ample time to mobilize a suicide bomber.


TODD: Other claims by the Taliban commander -- bin Laden is still alive, he says, and is involved in al Qaeda's operations in Iraq as well as Afghanistan -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That a lot of people who suspect that this Taliban commander may simply be making a false claim, just trying to brag.

TODD: That's right, Wolf. But a U.S. intelligence official and a terrorism tell us that there is value in that. And the value is in the perception. This word gets out, it builds bin Laden's mystique, shows that he's still in charge and it actually helps al Qaeda gain recruits.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us.

Thank you, Brian.

There are new details of a horrific crime, but key questions still unanswered.

Officials revealing grim new findings in the Virginia Tech massacre investigation.

Let's go to CNN's Jeanne Meserve.

She's watching this.

What did we learn today -- Jeanne?

JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we learned that the shooting at Norris Hall went on for nine minutes, that more than 170 rounds were fired. We learned that the police response was delayed because the three doors into the building had been chained and locked from the inside.

When police did get in and went upstairs, they heard a last shot, Cho killing himself. He still had ammunition at that point in time.

We're also told that Cho was seen outside Ambler Johnston Hall before the first shootings. However, we're told he was just standing around, that he did not follow his first voice-mail, Emily Hilscher, into the building. They don't know how he got in. And that in Amber Johnston, only two shots were fired. Two people were killed there.

What we still don't know is why Cho did it.


COL. STEVE FLAHERTY, SUPERINTENDENT, VIRGINIA STATE POLICE: We talk about possible motives and theories and whatnot, but we don't have any evidence to support anything at this particular point in time.


MESERVE: Police say they also have not yet drawn any connections between Cho and any of this victims -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Were you surprised, Jeanne, the police still didn't have some answers to some of the basic questions?

MESERVE: We were. This is a very large and sprawling investigation, but when we asked if the Cho family had been talked to, we got the read that no, they hadn't, until the FBI passed a note up the table saying yes, they had talked to the Cho family.

Also, although we were told that Mr. Cho had had classes inside Norris Hall, when we asked for specifics about whether it was this semester and whether he had had any professors whose classrooms were targeted, they seemed unclear on those answers -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jeanne, thanks for that.

Jeanne Meserve on the campus of Virginia Tech. Their son died in war, but they did not immediately learn the true details. As if that were not enough, Pat Tillman's family is further insulted by one military commander's apparent comments linking their outrage to a lack of religious faith.

Our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, is joining us now from the Pentagon -- Jamie, what's this all about?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know the Tillman family has already accused the Army of lying. Now they say that one investigating officer made offensive comments that would be seen as religious intolerance.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): It came as a shock to members of Congress probing the Pat Tillman death that one Army investigator was quoted making remarks that Tillman's family found highly insulting.

MARY TILLMAN, PAT TILLMAN'S MOTHER: He said that we were -- we would never be satisfied because we're not Christians. And we're just a pain in the ass, basically.

He also said that it must make us feel terrible that Pat's worm dirt.

MCINTYRE: The offending comments, suggesting the Tillman family's dissatisfaction with the Army was due, in part, to a lack of ruling faith, was posted on last summer. It quoted Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Kauzlarich, who conducted the second investigation into Tillman's death as saying...

LT. COL. RALPH KAUZLARICH, U.S. ARMY: Well, if you're an atheist and you don't believe in anything, what -- what is there to go to?

Nothing. You're worm dirt. So for their son to die for nothing, it's pretty hard to get your head around that.

REP. HARRY WAXMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Did you examine these comments as part of your investigation?

THOMAS GIMBLE, DEFENSE DEPARTMENT: We did not investigate those comments. I saw the comments in the paper and, frankly, I was shocked by them, too. But we didn't investigate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, I don't know of any regulation prohibiting that, but I find it totally unacceptable.

WAXMAN: Is there anything such as a conduct unbecoming a member of the United States armed services?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is such a charge as conduct unbecoming an officer, yes, sir.

WAXMAN: Yes, well that sounds like it's a pretty unbecoming statement for an officer to have made. MCINTYRE: At Pat Tillman's memorial service in 2004, his younger brother acknowledged Tillman was not a religious man. But the Army would not say if he had ever declared himself an atheist.


MCINTYRE: And, Wolf, Lieutenant Colonel Kauzlarich is a battalion commander now serving in Iraq. We tried to reach him through the Army, but they have not been able to contact him in the war zone.

He does not face any discipline for these comments. He is, however, sharply criticized in the Pentagon inspector general's report for his investigation, the second one, into the Tillman's death, the investigation that was deemed to be inadequate -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre, thanks very much.

Jamie McIntyre is at the Pentagon.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Politicians are wanted people. Nearly everyone wants to get their attention; our money, which they then dole out; and the power that they exercise over virtually every phase of our lives.

So it makes sense, I suppose, that most Americans have issues with who are political leaders are actually listening to.

A new Gallup Poll probably confirms your suspicions. Seventy-six percent of those surveyed think that Washington pays too much attention to big corporations.

No surprise, right?

That's followed in order by Hollywood movie executives, trial lawyers, defense contractors, religious conservatives and gays and lesbians.

We taxpayers are at the other end of the alimentary canal.

Eighty-one percent say lawmakers pay too little attention to military veterans. After that comes small business owners, the poor and senior citizens.

So tell us your gripe. Here's the question -- who gets too much or too little attention from Washington lawmakers?

E-mail us at or go to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack, for that.

Up ahead, critics call it torture. Now a former CIA director says it saved American lives. George Tenet defending some controversial interrogation techniques.

Also, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq pressing lawmakers here in Washington to fund the war without timetables. General David Petraeus on Capitol Hill right now. We're monitoring developments. We're going to go there live.

And Rosie O'Donnell calls it quits on another show.

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


BLITZER: Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani outraging many Democrats by suggesting if one of them is elected president, the country will be at greater risk for another terror attack.

Now, Democrats are firing right back.

Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow.

She's in New York.

How are Democrats responding to Giuliani's charges -- Mary?


Wolf, three presidential contenders so far have already come out with strong criticism of Giuliani. This comes after Giuliani suggested Republicans are better suited to stop a terrorist attack against the U.S.


SNOW (voice-over): Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani is drawing fire for warning of consequences in the war on terror if a Democrat is elected president.

His message?

The country will be safer in Republican hands.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And make no mistake about it -- the Democrats want to put us back on defense.

SNOW: Going on the defense, says Giuliani, means more lives lost and a prolonged war against terrorism. He faults Democrats for trying to set a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq and says if they win the White House...

GIULIANI: We're going to cut back on electronic surveillance. We're going to cut back on interrogation. We're going to cut back, cut back, cut back and we'll be back in our pre-September 11th mentality of being on defense.

SNOW: Three top Democratic presidential contenders fired back with strong words for Giuliani. Senator Barack Obama saying: "Rudy Giuliani today has taken the politics of fear to a new low."

Senator Hillary Clinton said: "It shouldn't be a Democratic fight or a Republican fight."

And former Senator John Edwards saying, "Rudy Giuliani's suggestion that there is some superior Republican way to fight terrorism is both divisive and plain wrong."

Could the backlash hurt Giuliani?

Some political observers say not with the Republican crowd Giuliani addressed in New Hampshire, where he made the comments Tuesday.

STUART ROTHENBERG, "THE ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": I think this is red meat for Republicans. If you're a Republican activist in New Hampshire, you do believe that the Republicans are the safer choice to conduct the war against terror.

SNOW: But how this approach plays out in a general election campaign is open to question, especially since Giuliani's staking his candidacy on security issues, capitalizing on his days as New York mayor during 9/11.


SNOW: And this afternoon on a radio interview, when asked about the criticism, Giuliani stuck by his comments, saying that this is something that he's been saying for a long time -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Rudy Giuliani making some tough charges against the Democrats.

Mary, thanks very much.

Let's go to Carol Costello.

She's monitoring some of the stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Carol, what's going on?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we're just getting something into THE SITUATION ROOM now.

Torture no -- effective yes -- former CIA Director George Tenet is defending enhanced interrogation techniques used since 9/11. In an interview taped for CBS's "60 Minutes," he said this. I'm going to read you a quote from the "60 Minutes" interview because this is the first time we've heard from George Tenet. He says: "Here's what I would say to you, to the Congress, to the American people, to the president of the United States, I know that this program has saved lives. I know we've disrupted plots. I know this program alone is worth more than the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency put together have been able to tell us."

That from George Tenet.

As I said, he says the intelligence has helped foil plots against the United States.

We'll have more for you later.

A casket bearing the body of a fallen Blue Angel arrived this afternoon in Pensacola, Florida. Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Davis died last Saturday when his plane went down during an arobatic performance in Beaufort, South Carolina. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.

Officials in Southern Texas have spent much of the day searching for potential tornado victims. It now appears the final death toll will remain at 10, including a family of five. It all happened from that twister that swiped the Texas-Mexico border near the town of Eagle Pass. At least 80 people were injured.

And a breathtaking race to the 13,000. Today, the Dow Jones Industrials closed at a record high of 13,089. Just think about this -- the Dow has jumped more than 1,000 points in a mere six months. The previous gain of 1,000 took seven-and-a-half years.

Back to you -- Wolf.

BLITZER: People are getting a little bit richer.

But you know what they say, what goes up...

COSTELLO: I know, must come down.

BLITZER: That's what they say. Let's see what happens.

Thanks, Carol, for that.

Coming up, the showdown between Congressional Democrats and President Bush over funding the war. The first vote could be only a few hours away. We'll talk about it with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.

Plus, you don't see this every day. Check it out. We're going to tell you why the president of the United States was dancing today. Look at this. George W. Bush having a little fun. He's no Karl Rove -- or, then again, is he?

We'll take a closer look at what's going on at the White House on this day.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Trailing in some polls and in the last round of fundraising, Senator John McCain hopes to breathe a little bit of life into his presidential campaign. Today he made official what he had already made clear.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Today, I announce my candidacy for president of the United States. I do so grateful for the privilege this country has already given me.


BLITZER: After losing the Republican nomination to George Bush in 2000, McCain and the president have at times embraced each other. But their relationship has also, at times, been chilly.

McCain frequently citizens the handling of the war, something he did once again today.


MCCAIN: We all know the war in Iraq has not gone well. We've made mistakes and we've paid grievously for them. We've changed the strategy that failed us and we've begun to make a little progress.


BLITZER: McCain is also a leading supporter of the president's plan to boost troop levels in the conflict right now.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is just back from a recent trip to Iraq. He supports President Bush's troop increase.

Senator Graham is joining us now from Capitol Hill.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Good to be with you, Wolf.

Thank you.

BLITZER: I'll give you some numbers that we had in our latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll. We asked this question of the American people: "Who are you more likely to side with in the Iraq dispute between President Bush and the Congress?"

Sixty percent said Democrats in Congress, 37 percent said President Bush in this debate over troop funding and timetables.

Why is the administration's stance, which you support, having such a rough time with the American public?

GRAHAM: Well, to be honest with you, I look at Iraq in terms of a global perspective, not a polling moment.

My whole point here is to -- my colleagues in the Senate and people back home in South Carolina is what happens if we lose Iraq? What are the consequences for our country? What happens if Iraq becomes a failed state? Does the war end or does it get larger?

What happens if al Qaeda can legitimately claim victory in Iraq? How does that affect our long-term national security interests?

John McCain is right. We've, for three years now, had the wrong strategy. We never had enough troops to secure the country. We've got a new general with a new strategy. We are showing signs of progress, particularly in Anbar Province.

So what I'm urging my fellow citizens to think about is what happens if we lose Iraq?

BLITZER: But, Senator, it seems the United States, we want to secure Iraq more than the Iraqi politicians want to secure Iraq. They have hundreds of thousands of troops. We've given them a lot of money and a lot of training, four years.

Why can't they step up to the plate and get the job done?

GRAHAM: A good question. The Maliki government is about a year old. The Iraqi people have been liberated from a dictator for four years. They've had four governments in four years. Their constitution is about a year old.

Why did it take us 13 years to write our constitution? Why did we go to war with each other in our own civil war?

All I can tell you is that the biggest mistake the Bush administration has made is to have expectations that were unrealistic.

We've had really unrealistic expectations of what could be accomplished out of the ashes of a dictatorship.

I do expect the Maliki government to make progress on political fronts, including sharing the oil and allowing local elections. But the truth is democracy is hard, especially when you're getting shot at.

It's really difficult to bring people together politically when your families are being murdered. It's very difficult to administer the rule of law when the judges are being assassinated.

We need better security. With better security, we'll have better political reconciliation.

Be patient. Look at our own history.

BLITZER: The campaign of your good friend, Senator John McCain, is having some troubles. A lot of people suggest largely because of his outspoken support of this new strategy in Iraq.

Is that the biggest problem he has right now?

GRAHAM: Now we're Republicans. Republicans want to win. Rudy Giuliani is a -- an American hero frozen in time, the mayor of New York during 9/11, who did a wonderful job. He's been in the mid-30s, John's been in the mid-20s.

At the end of the day, I do believe that the Republican Party is going to choose the most conservative candidate they can find, who's electable in November 2008, who can be commander-in-chief, who can lead our party back to where we need to be when it comes to spending.

At the end of the day, John is the most reliably conservative candidate available who can win a general election, who has the credibility and credentials to be commander-in-chief.

The poll that matters is when you begin to vote in January next year. I wouldn't trade places with anybody in the field.

BLITZER: I know you supported him the last time and you're a strong supporter of him this time.

GRAHAM: And we got beat, too. And we got beat...

BLITZER: He's lucky...


BLITZER: He's lucky to have a good friend like you, though.

All right, let me switch gears briefly. Alberto Gonzales, not only Democrats, but increasingly some Republicans, are expressing their irritation, their concern that he can no longer be effective.

Where do you stand? Should he stay or should he go?

GRAHAM: Well, the truth is can he be effective?

Right now, his credibility with many members of the Senate is very low. I'm willing to work with him to see if we can repair the damage.

The question for the administration is can this attorney general sell the policies of this administration?

It is up to him to repair the damage that's been created by mismanagement of the firing of the eight U.S. attorneys. And I don't believe he did anything with malice in his heart, but I sure do believe he let it get way out of control and the jury is still out, to be honest with you...

BLITZER: How much...

GRAHAM: ... he's got to...

BLITZER: ... time does he have?

GRAHAM: Well, I think he's got a matter of weeks or months, not much longer, simply because the administration has got 18 months left. The question for the president is do you have an attorney general who can deliver the goods, who can sell your agenda?

I'll leave that up to the president. You know. You've seen the problems the attorney general has faced with our committee. And I'm willing to hear him out and give him a chance. BLITZER: Lindsey Graham, Republican senator from South Carolina.

Thanks for coming in.

GRAHAM: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: And coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, growing concern the Iraqi government may actually be on the verge of collapse. We'll get the latest from Baghdad from Pulitzer Prize winning "New York Times" journalist John Burns. He's standing by to join us live.

Plus, a House panel approving a subpoena for Condoleezza Rice.

What do they want to know from the secretary of state?

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


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, a subpoena approved for the secretary of state. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voting to summon Condoleezza Rice to testify about the Bush administration's claims that Iraq was trying to buy uranium in Africa, an assertion President Bush made in his 2003 State of the Union address, an assertion now discredited.

Also, the House Judiciary Committee authorizing immunity for a former Justice Department official as it probes the firing of eight federal prosecutors. Monica Goodling was counsel to the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, and liaison to the White House before stepping down amid the growing scandal. She has previously refused to testify.

And in Russia, a solemn but majestic funeral for the country's first democratically elected president, Boris Yeltsin. Dignitaries from around the world attended, including former Presidents Clinton and Bush, as well as Yeltsin's handpicked successor, Vladimir Putin.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Right now, many Iraqis are effectively telling the government tear down this wall. The Baghdad barrier is actually meant to protect people from harm. But one radical leader is calling it racist and oppressive and he's urging Iraqis to unite against the wall.

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

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the wall that the U.S. military is building in the capital to try to bring down the levels of violence are only generating more controversy, especially the one that is being built around Adhamiya, a Sunni enclave surrounded on all sides by Shia neighborhoods. Part of the reasoning behind building the war there was to try to bring down the level of sectarian silence. However, today we saw thousands of protesters heeding the call of radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to go out and demand that this sectarian wall, as they are calling it, be brought down.

The irony is that Adhamiya, and these Shia neighborhoods that surround it where today's demonstrations took place have had an ongoing mortar and militia war. But this is a fairly smart move on Muqtada al-Sadr's part, taking advantage of one of the government's weak points, these walls, and trying to use these walls to build a bridge that many believe the Iraqi government can no longer build between the people -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Arwa Damon in Baghdad.

Thanks very much.

"The New York Times" Baghdad bureau chief is John Burns. He's won Pulitzer prizes. He's covered this war from the very start. He's joining us now in New York.

John, thanks very much for coming in.

As you know, John, so much of this new U.S. strategy depends on cooperation from the Iraqi government of Nuri al-Maliki. But there's a lot of questions about this government.

What do you think? Can this government, which is pretty weak, survive?

JOHN BURNS, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Difficult to say, Wolf. The president, President Bush, came to Baghdad not quite a year ago, looking for a partner, as he put it. "I'm going to look him in the eye," he said, speaking of Maliki, "and see if I've got a partner."

He's never really had a partner. The government is incoherent. There is really no effective government in any of the departments of state.

Maliki doesn't seem to be able to marshal his government to take any effective action on the issues that the United States believes are essential, concomitant of this military surge. He's got to deal with militias, he's got to deal with amnesty, he's got to deal with the oil law, with terrorism, and so forth.

BLITZER: Well, so far, John -- so far, he hasn't disbanded, disarmed the militias. He hasn't changed, ratified or revised the constitution. Hasn't worked out a plan for oil sharing. So many of the benchmarks that the U.S. and others would like to see them undertake, they are simply not doing it.

BURNS: They're not doing it. It's not clear, though, who, if anybody, could be his successor.

I think if the United States could see somebody that they believe could marshal a majority in the Iraqi parliament, and could move on these issues, bring the Shiites, the Sunnis and the Kurds together, I think they would then move to get Maliki out of that job and put him in there. It is just not clear who that man might be.

There's a lot of sentiment in Iraq for Iyad Allawi, the prime minister, the first of the three Iraqi prime ministers since Iraq resumed sovereignty, but he carries a lot of baggage, too. He has a lot of enemies, and his government was very corrupt.

BLITZER: What is the goal, the strategy right now of these insurgents, or the terrorists, whatever you want to call them. What are they trying to do right now?

BURNS: Well, these are people, as one U.S. military officer put it to me, who will trade space for time. That's to say they -- when the surge began about two months ago, additional U.S. troops coming in to Baghdad, many of them just melt away.

They went out into the provinces, and we've seen increased levels of violence, sharply increased levels of violence, as you know, northeast of Baghdad, in Diyala, and Mosul in the north, and Tal Afar in the northwest, and Diwaniyah in the central south. These are intelligent -- what the American military calls a learning enemy.

Why should they stay in Baghdad and fight there when they can go and cause mayhem elsewhere at higher cost to the U.S. military? That's what they have been doing.

BLITZER: The president said last night to Charlie Rose, he said that by September, General Petraeus thinks he will know whether or not this surge is working.

You think -- what do you think? Look down the road. You spent four years there. You've been there since Saddam Hussein.

In September, is there going to be a significant difference than what's going on right now?

BURNS: Difficult to say. General Petraeus himself has said there are some trends that are encouraging, but nothing on which to predicate real, real progress. It's going to take time.

Only three of the five American brigades that have been assigned to this surge have so far been deployed. So it's an early stage yet, but there are some discouraging signs.

As you know, suicide bombings are up. Sectarian killings, which are down by about 25 percent in Baghdad, appear to be beginning to rise again. So it's a very confused picture at the moment.

But one thing that is true, Wolf, is you put extra American boots on the ground in a particular neighborhood, you do achieve a stabilizing effect. The problem is, are 28,000 enough? Probably not.

BLITZER: But what about the -- what about the Iraqis? They have hundreds of thousands, nominally, of troops. They have police forces. Why can't they go protect themselves?

BURNS: Well, it's, as you know, an army that was rushed into being. Many of their units are as much as 50 percent under strength.

They tend to perform well when they have American troops with them. They have been performing a lot better. They perform a lot less well when they are on their own. And one of their complaints is that they are so poorly equipped relative to the Americans.


BLITZER: But they're a lot better equipped than the insurgents are, or the terrorists.

BURNS: Well, you know, what's the -- what's the insurgent weapon? The insurgent weapon is bombings, which kill large numbers of people, ambushes, beheadings. The insurgents do not need sophisticated weapons to create absolute mayhem.

But there's no doubt that the Iraqi army is improving. It's probably not, in my judgment improving, fast enough. And, of course, there's always the risk that, under strain, it can begin to disintegrate into sectarian factions, particularly if there's a mandated American withdrawal and Iraqis begin to assume that this is going to be settled by violence in an all-out civil war.

BLITZER: John Burns is the Baghdad bureau chief of "The New York Times".

As usual, John, thanks for helping us better understand this complicated, pretty awful situation.

BURNS: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And up ahead, an unusual television show in Egypt that bluntly discusses sex. How did it go over at first in the Islamic world?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a mess. I was receiving, like, one or two patients per week.


DR. HEBA KOTB, EGYPTIAN SEXOLOGIST: Now, thank God -- well, I'm booked, like, for three months.


BLITZER: Coming up, breaking taboos. That's next.

Also, George W. Bush, like you have probably never seen him before. You are not going to want to miss this.

Check it out. Yes, that is the president of the United States today. We'll tell what you's going on at the White House.

Stick around.


BLITZER: It's not quite as racy as the TV show "Sex and the City," but it is raising some eyebrows in a place not usually accustomed to open discussions about marital relations. A TV talk show that pushes the sexual envelope, but not past a point limited by religion.

CNN's Aneesh Raman is in Cairo, Egypt -- Aneesh.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it is a first in the Arab world, a talk show with a surprising focus.


KOTB (through translator): Don't be afraid. Join me to talk about sex without shame.

RAMAN (voice over): She's called the Dr. Ruth of the Arab world, a veiled host who leaves little uncovered.

KOTB: We talk about masturbation. We talk about the e-sex -- you know, the electronic sex that's over the Internet. We've talked about sex and Ramadan.

RAMAN: It took three years for Dr. Heba Kotb, a Cairo sexologist, to get her TV show, "The Big Talk," on the air. Only succeeding because she only talks about sex allowed in the Koran between husband and wife. The advice is always blunt, especially for the men.

KOTB: You have to foreplay her, you have to get frequently with her.

RAMAN: Once an aspiring surgeon, when the 39-year-old Dr. Kotb became a mother she switched gears to sexology, eager in part to tear down taboos. It was no easy choice. When she first opened her clinic five years ago...

KOTB: It was a mess. I was receiving, like, one or two patients per week.

RAMAN (on camera): And now?

KOTB: Now, thanks God -- well, I'm booked, like, for three months.

RAMAN (voice over): Which is surprising, since sex remains a highly sensitive topic in the Arab world. In downtown Cairo, no woman would talk to us about the show, and the few men who would were less than enthusiastic.

"There is no reason to talk about sex on TV," Falshi (ph), a shopkeeper, told me. "Our society doesn't need something like this."

But for Dr. Kotb, there is no regret, and no turning back.

KOTB: She was a mother of my friend, my girlfriend. And when she first knew that I'm working upon this career, it's like five years before, she just looked at me, "Oh, my God, are you teaching people how to sleep with each other?" You know?

RAMAN: And what does you answer?

KOTB: I said, "Yes, I do." And this is the truth, OK?


KOTB: And I'm very proud of doing this.


RAMAN: And Dr. Kotb isn't done yet. She's just signed with a new production company that will give her even wider distribution in the Arab world -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Aneesh Raman in Cairo for us. Fascinating story.

Thank you.



BLITZER: Want to go to the White House and show our viewers something truly extraordinary. You don't see this every day. Watch this.

The president of the United States moving to the beat at an event marking Malaria Awareness Day. Watch this.

I dare you.

Jack Cafferty, did you ever see the president of the United States do those moves before?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: That must be the stuff that just swept Laura right off her feet, don't you think?

BLITZER: Yes, I think so. It actually is a very important cause, Malaria Awareness Day. It's a huge issue, but the president having a good time.

CAFFERTY: Well, even it was wasn't an important cause, it was worth it just to get those pictures of him doing that. You know, he gets some credit for having nerve enough to do that. I'm not sure I would have joined in, especially when you are that obviously over- matched.

BLITZER: If you don't go too long, I'm going to play that video for our viewers again, Jack. But go ahead, do "The Cafferty File".

CAFFERTY: Well, I will when we stop -- I can't compete with that. You have to take that off the screen first.

BLITZER: All right.

CAFFERTY: All right.

The question is: Who gets too much or to little attention from Washington lawmakers?

Nina in Boca Raton, Florida, writes, "The poor, the endangered animals, the environment, disease research. It takes 10 days in Iraq to blow the whole cancer research budget for a year and the rest of us that used to believe in the system pre-Bush takeover."

James in Colorado, "The mentally ill receive too little attention from Washington lawmakers. If we continue to cut services to those people with mental health problems and refuse to understand their lives, then we unfortunately risk many more Virginia Tech shootings."

Jim writes, "Politicians obviously listen least to their conscience; that's what they ought to listen to first."

Bert in Oak View, California," The struggling legal American workers are getting too little attention from lawmakers. I guess they're too busy trying to grant amnesty to the illegal aliens who are stealing their jobs and driving their wages down."

Bob in Bartlett, Illinois, "Joe Average gets the least attention. The non-affiliated average person, struggling through life doing the best he can for himself and his family, worrying about his job, his future, and the future of his kids. That's the guy who's overlooked by our government."

David in Louisiana writes "I think you get too little attention from Washington lawmakers. If they paid more attention to 'The Cafferty File' they might learn something."

And Chuck in Brandon, Florida, "I get no attention from the federal government. I like it that way."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to, where we post more of them, along with video clips of "The Cafferty File".

They ought to post that Bush video on the CNN Web site.

BLITZER: Yes. Let's run a little bit again.

I just want our viewers who missed it the first time -- there he is, the president of the United States. He's having a little fun at an event at the White House marking Malaria Awareness Day.

CAFFERTY: You know, it's true, though, Wolf, what they say. No rhythm. (LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: He's got the -- he's got a little move. Yes, look at that.

Did you see Karl Rove? Did you see Karl Rove dancing at that radio TV...

CAFFERTY: Yes, we saw him at that thing. Bush is better than Rove, I've got to say.

BLITZER: Yes, I definitely think.

CAFFERTY: If this was "American Idol," we've got to keep Bush, we boot Rove immediately.

BLITZER: "Dancing with the Stars," Bush stays, Rove goes.

CAFFERTY: That's it.

BLITZER: Let's see who competes next week.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: Maybe Jack Cafferty.

CAFFERTY: Not a chance.

BLITZER: Not a chance. All right. Thanks very much.

Up next, we're going to find out why "The View" won't be so Rosie anymore.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's go to General David Petraeus on Capitol Hill, the U.S. military commander in Iraq.


GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER IN IRAQ: ... progress to date, the setbacks to date, and then had a number of good exchanges, questions and answers, and so forth.

QUESTION: General, did you give the members any specific number on the violence? And what numbers did you give them?

PETRAEUS: What I did highlight was one of the areas in which there has been progress, and that is in the reduction in sectarian murders in Baghdad, which is about one-third now of what it was in January. That's an important development, because the sectarian murders can be a cancer in a neighborhood. It is something on which our commanders and the Iraqi commanders have focused quite a bit, and it is an area in which, as I say, there has been progress. Having said that, the ability of al Qaeda to conduct horrific, sensational attacks, obviously, has represented a setback, and is in an area on which we are focusing considerable attention, as you might mention.


PETRAEUS: No, that really -- that really trends, is what I was talking about.


PETRAEUS: What I tried to do was to give an accurate depiction of the situation in Iraq, a forthright assessment. It's an assessment that, therefore, includes areas in which there has been progress, as I mentioned. For example, the reduction of sectarian murders in Baghdad, a very important development. And again, remember, we are in very early days in this.

We're only about two months into the surge. We won't have all the forces on the ground until mid-June. And I pointed that out to them, and noted that Ambassador Crocker and I would be doing an early assessment in early September and provide that to our respective bosses at that time. That's something we agreed to when Secretary Gates was out there.

I also pointed out the progress in Anbar province which has been very substantial. As you know, literally over the last two months, Anbar has gone -- or certainly over the last six months -- from being assessed as being lost to a situation that now is quite heartening because of the decision by a number of Sunni-Arab tribes to join the fight against al Qaeda, saying, no more, they've had it, and linking arms with the coalition to take on al Qaeda, and one city after another really cleaning them out, all the way down the Euphrates River Valley from (INAUDIBLE) through Haditha, (INAUDIBLE), Ramadi, and so forth.

Although, as I pointed out to each of the respective bodies, the House and the Senate, there still is considerable work to be done in Anbar province, although all the trends are in the right direction. And, in fact, the two additional Marine battalions that are part of the surge are now operating just for the first couple of weeks in Anbar province, and they will be joined by some additional forces later on, as with the two additional Army brigades as they move into their respective areas in and around Baghdad.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to continue to monitor what General Petraeus is saying. Much more coming up in one hour in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's switch gears, though.

Rosie O'Donnell confirming weeks of rumors, announcing today she is leaving "The View" after a stormy one-year stint.

CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a most unusual look. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In true Rosie fashion, she first took out her gum before making the announcement.

ROSIE O'DONNELL, "THE VIEW": Hey, big news, breaking news. Breaking news. Did you hear it's on CNN as breaking news?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Tony, here's something that's going to probably knock you off your seat.


WHITFIELD: Brace yourself.

O'DONNELL: I've decided that we couldn't come to terms with my deal with ABC, so next year I'm not going to be on "The View". However, I will be coming back and guest-hosting...

MOOS: Guest-hosting? What are those of us who thrive on controversy going to do? No more hung over Danny DeVito in her lap. No more arguments with "The View's" young Republican.

O'DONNELL: And just one second. Radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam.

MOOS: No more ethnic imitations that spark complaints.

O'DONNELL: You can imagine in China it's like, ching-chong.

MOOS: But most significantly...

JOY BEHAR, "THE VIEW": ... who's really sad?


BEHAR: Donald Trump. Donald Trump. He's on a ledge right now saying, how am I going to resuscitate "The Apprentice" now?

MOOS: If Donald is on a ledge, it's to push Rosie off. It was in the holiday season that the feud got hot.

DONALD TRUMP, REAL ESTATE MOGUL: I would like to take some money out of her fat ass pockets.

O'DONNELL: There he is, hair looping, going...

TRUMP: She ought to be careful, because I'll send one of my friends to pick up her girlfriend.

O'DONNELL: Look who's here today, Kelly. I was afraid to leave her home in case somebody with a comb-over came and stole her from me.

MOOS: But don't worry. Rosie's announcement that she's leaving "The View" just reopened the wounds. TRUMP: Rosie's basically a loser. I believe ABC wanted her out and they wanted her out badly and fast. She made statements the other day at the Waldorf-Astoria that were absolutely outrageous, where she grabbed her crotch and said things that were just terrible.

I mean, she's a slob.

MOOS: As for those lined up to see "The View"...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think she spiced up the show.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She said whatever she thought.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think she's opened my eyes up to certain things about the war in Iraq.

MOOS: Even as she announced she was leaving, Rosie was still saying impeach President Bush.

O'DONNELL: I know. But I think '08 is too late. Get him out now.

OK. We're going to take a break.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Over-zealous attitude. I just don't like her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that show's going to be lost without her.

MOOS: And is the show's creator lost?

TRUMP: Barbara is very happy to be rid of Rosie.

BARBARA WALTERS, "THE VIEW": I am sad. OK? I am sad.

TRUMP: She abused Barbara Walters, she made Barbara Walters into a lap dog. She made Barbara Walters look like a jerk.

MOOS: Rosie may be leaving, but she wasn't leaving behind whatever she found on Barbara's lip.

O'DONNELL: And off. Thank you. Look what I got from you.


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Remember, we're here in THE SITUATION ROOM weekday afternoons, 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern, back for another hour at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Until then, thanks very much for joining us.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now.


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