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THE SITUATION ROOM
You Against Poverty: Th One Vote '08 Campaign; Teen Sex Ruling; Arming Sunni Militias to Fight al Qaeda
Aired June 11, 2007 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAFFERTY: There's good he can do to make up for that."
Jim in Allentown, P.A.: "He could cease being the good soldier and become a good citizen by sharing his honest impressions of the lead-up to the war and its ultimate mishandling. Many respect and listen to Powell. Had he been forthright earlier, perhaps the 2004 election would have turned out differently."
And finally, Paul writes from Maryland: "Colin Powell could best serve his country by traveling around United States cleaning the tombstones of the men and women who have died in Iraq as a result of his U.N. Speech. He probably ought to have a few assistants, as well -- Bush, Cheney, etc." -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you, Jack.
And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, a shocking about-face in Iraq. After long saying it wanted to disarm all the feared militias, the U.S. Now saying it would give weapons to some of those militia fighters who once fought against Americans.
Might weapons be provided by the U.S. Be used once again to kill U.S. Troops?
Target Iran -- Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman says Iranians are killing Americans in Iraq, and he says one way to stop that may be for the U.S. To actually strike Iran.
And who has confidence in the attorney general of the United States?
This hour, President Bush is flying home from Europe just as the Senate considers a possible vote of no confidence in Alberto Gonzales, something that hasn't happened for more than 100 years.
I'm Wolf Blitzer and you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Right now President Bush is traveling back to the White House after his European tour. As he flies home, his attorney general's reputation right now clearly on the line. This hour, the Senate considering whether or not to slap Alberto Gonzales with a vote of no confidence. It's just one of the many harsh realities the president must return to after some crowds in Europe were very enthusiastic for him. They clamored to catch a glimpse and to shake his hand in Bulgaria and Albania.
Our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, is traveling with the president -- Suzanne?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: hello, Wolf.
Well, President Bush's standing on the world's stage was tested on issues as diverse as missile defense and climate change. But now he faces a whole new set of challenges coming home.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
MALVEAUX (voice-over): President Bush ended his European trip watching a goose step and feeling the love. Rock star treatment in Albania and Bulgaria, countries that embrace him on the street and support him in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But back at home, he faces a real struggle for political clout. When asked directly whether he had any left, he dodged the question. He did acknowledge he was engaged in a new political dance -- fighting the Democratically controlled Congress and a growing number of defiant Republicans.
GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's two steps forward and one step back.
MALVEAUX: The step back was over his plan to overhaul immigration. Thursday night, the bill collapsed after Congress failed to get it to the Senate floor. Mr. Bush, who will meet with key Republicans over the issue Tuesday, was defiant.
BUSH: And I believe we can get it done. I'll see you at the bill signing.
MALVEAUX: Another step back for Mr. Bush is the Senate's maneuver to bring a no confidence vote before Congress targeting his attorney general, Alberto Gonzales.
Mr. Bush stressed whatever the outcome, the resolution is non- binding and Gonzales is safe.
BUSH: They can try to have their votes of no confidence, but it's not going to determine -- make the determination who serves in my -- in my government.
MALVEAUX: But they did determine the fate of the president's chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Peter Pace, who is being replaced. His renomination requires approval by the Democratically controlled Senate. The president realized he wasn't going to win that political fight.
BUSH: People view this as an opportunity to make statements. And upon the recommendation of Secretary of Defense Gates, I agreed to send up another nominee.
(END VIDEO TAPE) MALVEAUX: President Bush's time to use what political capital he has left is quickly passing. In his 18 months left in office, he will face serious challenges to his agenda both at home and abroad -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux, traveling with the president.
Thank you, Suzanne.
As U.S. Troops push to pacify Baghdad and neighboring bastions of violence, are they being left to fend for themselves?
CNN's Hala Gorani accompanied a top U.S. General today on a mission southeast of the capital -- Hala.
HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we went out on a tour of a patrol base in the so-called Triangle of Death today with Major General Rick Lynch. He's the commanding general of the 3rd Infantry Division. This is all part of the new U.S. Military strategy to increase the number of boots on the ground and also spread them out thinner, in smaller outposts so, on the one hand they can be within the local community; on the other, they can count on Iraqi security force help in order to try to pacify some very dangerous and very volatile parts of Iraq.
The only problem, according to Major General Lynch, is that in the patrol base we visited today, 25 kilometers southeast of Baghdad, there are no Iraqi security forces yet. And, very crucially, there is no police force.
Now, what this means for troops on the ground is that they are simply more exposed. In other words, they are not in bigger bases going out on the occasional patrol, they are in smaller units going out on patrol within the local community.
This means that the death toll for U.S. Military troops in this part of the country is not likely, according to many experts, go down over the next crucial two months as this surge -- as it's called by the U.S. Military officials -- strategy goes into place -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Hala Gorani embedded with U.S. Forces outside of Baghdad.
Hala, thanks very much.
The U.S. Army, by the way, has fallen short of its monthly recruiting goal for the first time in more than six months. Seeking 5,500 recruits for the of month of May, the Army got only about 5,100 but remains ahead of projections for the entire year.
In response to a drop off in 2005 blamed on the war in Iraq, the Army lowered standards and offered new incentives and has since seen recruiting generally rebound.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York for The Cafferty File -- Jack. JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Meaningless, Wolf, is the word President Bush uses to describe the Senate's no confidence vote on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, which is expected to happen later this hour. President Bush told reporters in Bulgaria today -- we're quoting now -- "They can have their votes of no confidence, but it's not going to make the determination about who serves in my government."
There he goes again.
Bush says it's his government.
And in keeping with the arrogance that has become the trademark of the Bush administration, Mr. Bush also said "I'll make the determination as to whether he, Gonzales, is effective."
Democrats insist it's only right for the Senators to go on the record, since five Republicans have called Gonzales to be fired and others have said that they have, in fact, lost confidence in him. But it doesn't seem likely the resolution will pass, despite the fact that the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee -- that would be Arlen Specter -- says that he will vote for the no confidence resolution.
For the most part, the Republicans, even those who haven't been happy with Gonzales, have called this a political trick meant to embarrass the president. In fact, many in the Republican Party are looking at today's vote as proof that the Democrats are not leading on issues that are important to Americans and instead are spending their time playing political games.
Here's the question -- President Bush called the Senate's no confidence vote on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales meaningless.
E-mail your thoughts on that to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, thanks for that.
Still ahead, he says Iranians are killing U.S. Troops, so the Connecticut senator, Joe Lieberman, urging consideration of another option -- namely, a military strike against Iran. Also, he served his country with distinction. Now one Iraq War veteran is battling the government. He's pleading for Congress to help change a restriction he says keeps many families apart.
And there has been a stunning new development in a case involving a 21-year-old man who had been convicted for having consensual sex as a teenager. We're going to tell you what happened today.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: In Iraq, the United States has now embarked upon a stunning reversal of course. Having long insisted that all of Iraq's militias must disarm, the U.S. Military has now done a 180 and now is actually giving guns, ammunition and money to some of those militia groups that have fuelled the insurgency, killed lots of Americans and Iraqis in the process.
Here with the story, let's go to CNN's Brian Todd.
This has been quite a turnabout -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A dramatic turn, Wolf, one that many believe is risky, one that has angered the Iraqi government, especially given the rhetoric from American political leaders in the past.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
TODD (voice-over): For years, U.S. Leaders made a clear demarcation. In Iraq, they said, only U.S. Forces and their allies in the Iraqi Army and police should have weapons. As for everyone else...
BUSH: There's no place in a free and democratic Iraq for armed groups operating outside the law.
TODD: But as CNN reported, U.S. Commanders are now reaching out to Sunni groups -- some who fought against Americans in the past -- because those factions have turned against Al Qaeda. The commanders say in some cases they'll give those groups weapons. One reporter warns of multilayered dangers.
JOHN BURNS, "NEW YORK TIMES": One problem -- will they be used against the Americans?
Number two, will they use those weapons against the Shiite led and dominated Iraqi forces?
Number three, will they use them in the border Sunni fights to topple the new Shiite government of Iraq?
TODD: U.S. Commanders admit identifying those Sunnis whose might turn against them, even finding out who has fought against them in the past, will be difficult. But they're determined to try.
MAJ. GEN. RICK LYNCH, U.S. ARMY: If I got specific information that that individual has American blood on his hands, direct ties to attacks on our forces, the negotiation is going to go like this -- you're under arrest, come with me.
TODD: Other commanders talk of how they'll use those Sunni fighters they deem trustworthy.
GENERAL BENJAMIN MIXON, U.S. ARMY: Arming them, forming them into scouts, if you will. And that's the primary role that we want to use them in. They know the territory and they know the enemy.
TODD: A strategy that U.S. Officials say has drastically reduced attacks on Americans in Anbar Province, previously one of Iraq's most deadly regions.
Experts say for this to work in Baghdad and the notorious Diyala Province nearby, U.S. Forces will have to closely watch those they arm and track the weapons.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once those weapons systems get out into the streets, if they're not controlled in some way, they will just simply dissipate and kind of work their way into other hands.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: Another former combat commanders says it's unlikely U.S. Forces will give these Sunni groups their best weapons. He says they've those lessons from arming Afghan rebels against the Soviets in the 1980s -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What about the political fallout, Brian, specifically in Baghdad, to this decision not only to shut an eye, if you will, to the arms these militias have -- the Sunni militias specifically -- but more dramatically actually giving them more arms?
TODD: The fallout is considerable, Wolf.
I spoke with a senior member of the Iraqi parliament, a Shia who is close to Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki. He says that this is a very dangerous move by the Americans, one that he called "a recipe for the next sectarian civil war."
This parliament member claims the government was not consulted on this move. But it's important to note that the American military officials have said they would do that. There may have been disconnect there.
BLITZER: Brian Todd watching this story, a very important, significant story.
We're going to stay on top of this.
Brian, thanks very much.
The Bush administration, meanwhile, continuing to accuse Iran of fomenting that violence in Iraq, or at least part of it. It's, so far, steered clear, though, of directly threatening military action against Iran. But at least one U.S. Senator now says a strike on Iran may be the right option.
Let's turn to Kathleen Koch.
She is joining us -- Kathleen, tell us who this senator is that's making this statement.
KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the senator is Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. And we heard some really surprisingly harsh words from him this weekend. You know, he's a former presidential candidate, Wolf, and it certainly sounds as if he's run out of patience with Iran.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
KOCH (voice-over): Tough talk from the Independent senator from Connecticut.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: I think we have got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq. And, to me, that would include a strike into, over the border, into Iran.
KOCH: Lieberman's proposed target -- bases where Iranians are believed to be training forces to enter Iraq and kill U.S. Troops.
President Bush has warned more obliquely of consequences if Iran continues meddling in Iraq.
BUSH: When we find the networks that are enabling these weapons to end up in Iraq, we will deal with them.
KOCH: But the State Department insist the military option isn't, for now, high on the president's list.
SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: No president of the United States will ever take any option off the table. You don't want him to.
That said, our focus is on a way to identify a diplomatic pathway.
KOCH: Lieberman says he's not advocating a massive U.S. Ground invasion of Iran; instead a strategic use of air power. But one expert warns the remarks are ill-timed, what with the U.S. And Iran only last month having their first high level meeting in nearly 30 years. The talks focused specifically on Iraq.
TRITA PARSI, NATIONAL IRANIAN AMERICAN COUNCIL: If there's anything we should have learned from the mistakes in Iraq is that we need to give the political processes a fair chance of succeeding. Because once we go all out militarily, it's quite difficult to be able to take a step back.
KOCH: Lieberman's comments come less than a week after Republican presidential candidates debated using a military strike to take out Iran's nuclear program.
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would authorize the use of tactical nuclear weapons if there was no other way to preempt those particular centrifuges.
RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it could be done with conventional weapons.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
KOCH: Now, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is more focused on diplomacy for now. There could also be limits, though, to the administration's patience with Iran. Immediately after those historic talks last month, Iran announced it wanted more meetings with the United States. But Friday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the administration has not yet determined when or even if that makes sense -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Kathleen Koch, thanks very much for that report.
Kathleen Koch watching that story for us.
Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, there are new developments regarding the case of that man infected with that rare tuberculosis. It involves the man who let Andrew Speaker back into the United States from Canada.
And the battle over immigration. President Bush now predicting a deal can still pass Congress and that he'll sign the legislation into law. I'll speak about that and a lot more with former Republican senator -- Senate majority leader Bill Frist and former Democratic Senate majority leader, Tom Daschle. They'll both be here together. We're going to talk about that and what they're teaming up on -- why they're telling all of the presidential candidates they must do something specific.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: A combat veteran from the war in Iraq is waging a new battle today. His opponent -- the United States government and its hard line stance towards Cuba.
Let's get the story from our State Department correspondent, Zain Verjee -- Zain, what's going on?
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, imagine if a person isn't able to go to their own mother's funeral or even visit their children for years. One Cuban-American soldier is trying to change that.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
SGT. CARLOS LAZO, CUBAN-AMERICAN:
LAZO (SINGING): Guajira, Guantanamera.
VERJEE (voice-over): It's a long way from a Cuban prison cell to serenading a United States congresswoman in Washington. Carlos Lazo wants the U.S. Government to change its tune on laws that prevent Cubans in America from going home to visit their families.
LAZO (SINGING): Guantanamera...
(SPEAKING) Imagine if you are not able to talk to your kids, to see your family, to go to the funeral of your mother.
VERJEE: Lazo has been through this. He was thrown in a Cuban jail for a year for trying to escape but finally succeed in 1992, floating on a raft. Lazo, a U.S. Military combat medic in Iraq, won a bronze star for bravery in Fallujah in 2004. But when he came back home he found himself battling his own government.
LAZO: I tried to visit my children in Cuba. And due to the new restrictions that the administration put in place, I couldn't go.
VERJEE: The travel restrictions are a part of an economic embargo the U.S. Government enforces upon Cuba to pressure the communist regime, hoping it will lead to democratic change.
Lazo says he made a strong case and was eventually allowed to bring his two sons from Cuba to his home in Seattle. He says most haven't been so lucky. Lazo is marching down long Washington corridors, trying to get the rules changed for all Cubans, who now can only visit their families once every three years.
REP. JO ANN EMERSON (R), MISSOURI: To have a policy that's based on politics is not right.
VERJEE: He's having some success. Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson, a Republican from Missouri, is on his side.
EMERSON: It's real hard to argue you shouldn't be able to go see your family.
VERJEE: Lazo met more than 150 members of Congress, but hasn't won over everyone. There's still fierce opposition from the Bush administration and parts of the Cuban-American community. Lazo won't let Congress tune out.
LAZO (SINGING): Guantanamera...
(END VIDEO TAPE)
VERJEE: And, Wolf, Lazo says U.S. Policy towards Cuba hasn't really worked for the last 50 years. He says it's not brought about democratic change in Cuba and all it does is really hurt ordinary Cubans -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Zain Verjee reporting for us from the State Department.
Let's check in with Carol once again.
She's monitoring stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Carol, what do you have?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, more fallout today from the case of tuberculosis patient Andrew Speaker. The border agent who allowed Speaker to enter the country from Canada has taken early retirement. That's according to a homeland security official. The agent was widely criticized for ignoring a warning that appeared on his computer screen to detain Speaker and contact health authorities about him.
Massive disruption in southern China -- China's official news services widespread flooding has forced more than a half a million people from their homes. More than 60 people have died and nearly 50,000 homes have been completely destroyed.
On Wall Street today, stocks opened the week just about the same as they finished the last one. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was essentially unchanged. And just for the record, the Dow finished the day with a gain of less than a point.
The Nasdaq lost about a little more than a point.
That's a look at the headlines right now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Not much of a change today.
BLITZER: But there will be a bigger change tomorrow, one way or another.
Carol, thanks very much.
Coming up, an emotional moment in Georgia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We win!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, he's out?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Read -- read us -- read us what it says.
Can you read it to us?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Just ahead, you're going hear the news yourself.
So here's the question -- why is Genarlow Wilson still behind bars?
Also, the Senate primed to take up a no confidence vote on the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales.
Is the president paying attention?
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, our presidential debates in New Hampshire appear to have been a boon to Hillary Clinton. Our new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll has Senator Clinton padding her lead among likely primary voters to 14 points over Senator Barack Obama. By wide margins, respondents called Clinton the strongest leader among the Democrats and the one most like to beat a Republican nominee.
Tomorrow, we've got numbers on the Republican candidates.
Britain's next prime minister is visiting Iraq. Gordon Brown met today with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad. Brown succeeds Tony Blair, who steps down at the end of the month.
And a federal appeals court blocks the Bush administration from invoking the war on terror to detain United States residents without filing charges. The court ruled in favor of a Qatari national and legal immigrant, Ali al-Marri, who has been held four years in a us Navy brig as an alleged al Qaeda sleeper agent.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
His boss is standing by him but some people are -- who confirmed him for his job now want him to quit. We're going to get more now on our top story. The embattled attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, may be slapped with a vote of no confidence. Right now the Senate is about to vote on whether or not to actually take a vote of no confidence.
Let's go back to our Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.
She's monitoring this story for us.
What's the latest -- Dana?
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest, Wolf, is that we're waiting for that vote to start. It's actually a procedural motion or a test vote on this resolution, the Democratic resolution, which simply says that the Senate has no confidence in the attorney general.
Now, as I said, it's a procedural motion. But it's really going to be the only vote we're going to see, because we do expect it to fail.
Now, Democrats insist that this is necessary because the president, in the words of Senator Chuck Schumer from New York, who was just on the Senate floor, he said that it's necessary because the president has clung stubbornly to the attorney general, even in the wake of the fired federal prosecutors' controversy and a host of other things that have really hurt the attorney general's credibility here on Capitol Hill, and, they say, across the country. Now, it is no secret that many Republicans -- in fact, about half a dozen Senate Republicans have said point blank they think the attorney general to resign. Many, many other Republicans simply are very worried about his ability to his job at the Justice Department. But that is probably not going to be reflected in this vote, because many Republicans are looking at this, saying that this political theater by the Democrats, and they'll probably coalesce around their party on this particular vote.
BLITZER: Dana Bash watching it.
As soon as that roll call starts, Dana, we'll check back with you.
And as we continue to watch the vote, we're turning now to a pressing problem that affects literally millions of people around the world -- poverty.
My next guests are involved in a new and important anti-poverty campaign co-founded by Bono of U2, funded in part by Bill and Melinda Gates and their foundation.
Here to talk about that and some other pressing issues at home, two men who both once served as Senate majority leaders -- former Democratic senator Tom Daschle, former Republican senator Bill Frist. They combined to work on this new initiative.
Senators, thanks very much for coming in.
I want to pick your brain on little political issues before we get to that.
Senator Frist, you first.
This vote of no-confidence, if it does come up for Alberto Gonzales, it's been a hundred years since the Senate has done something like this.
What do you think?
BILL FRIST, FMR. SENATOR: Well, Wolf, it is a procedural vote. It is a message vote.
I think that they probably will vote today. I expect it to fail. I don't know what the votes will be.
The American people say, well, OK, let's move on. We need to address the really significant problems that are out there facing us every day -- health care costs, energy costs and the like. But I think the vote will occur and it will fail, and then it's time to move on.
BLITZER: What do you think?
TOM DASCHLE, FMR. SENATOR: Well, Wolf, I think that there is a real lack of confidence. There is no confidence. Even Republicans have been calling for his resignation.
This is a mess and it really has to be fixed. The Democrats have tried a lot of other things, a lot of efforts to try to pressure the administration. They have no choice now to make a strong statement. And that's what you will see today.
BLITZER: The president today said, "I'll see you at the signing ceremony." He was referring to the comprehensive immigration reform legislation that may be debated again in the Senate. But he's very confident he can still get that package through.
You think he can?
FRIST: Wolf, I think that he can. And I think that he really should. It is a pressing issue. It's an issue that has do with the rule of the law. We're a nation of laws, we're a nation immigrants, and right now it is very confusing.
BLITZER: So if you were in the Senate you would support him?
FRIST: I would try to bring it back. And I think that Harry Reid likely will bring it back.
Yes, I would support the president on a comprehensive plan to a problem that we know that is all out there. And I think the Congress can work together to bring it back. I certainly hope that they do.
They may have to modify it. I think they should allow amendments, and I think Harry Reid will allow amendments. And if he does that, I think we can get a good piece of legislation across.
BLITZER: You agree?
DASCHLE: I agree. I think we are just about there. There has to be a lot more effort on the part of the Republicans to come together on what is their most important list of amendments. Once that is done, I think they could revisit the issue and I think Senator Reid might do that.
BLITZER: All right. Let's talk a little bit about One Vote '08. This is a new initiative that has brought the two of you together.
Tell our viewers what you are doing and why you are doing this.
FRIST: Wolf, One Vote'08 is an initiative kicked off just today. It will last 18 months. And it is an unprecedented approach, whereby using high tech and using the American people, we will engage millions of people surrounding poverty, extreme poverty, and using medicine and...
BLITZER: And you're going to lobby all of these 18, maybe 19, maybe 20 presidential candidates to get committed.
FRIST: I hope. BLITZER: Let me put up on the screen the five areas that you want action taken, including these: fighting HIV-AIDS; tuberculosis and malaria; improving child and maternal health; increasing access to basic education, particularly for girls; providing access to clean water and sanitation; and reduce by half the number of people worldwide who suffer from hunger.
Enormous challenges, Senator Daschle. But tell our viewers how you hope this can get done.
DASCHLE: Well, I think it can get done in large measure because the American people are beginning to realize, Wolf, that this isn't just a humanitarian issue. It isn't just a question of compassion.
Our own national interest is at stake here. Our own national security. To the degree we can stabilize economically some of the developing parts of the world, to the degree we can address the tremendous problems we have economically and politically as a result, the -- is the degree to which we ourselves are going to be a lot more secure. That's in part what this is about.
BLITZER: Bono, when he created this a few years back, he wanted one percent of the U.S. budget to go towards these initiatives. Billions and billions of dollars.
What do you think? Is that a good idea?
FRIST: Well, you know, since the initiative started, the United States committed $15 billion under President Bush's leadership, support by the Congress. We've actually spent $18 billion addressing global HIV-AIDS.
The two million people around the world, 1.5 million of those are supported by the American taxpayer. Why? Because as Tom Daschle just said, it is a moral issue, it makes sense to help people.
Number two, it's a security issue. Right now we know that poverty breeds desperation, loss of hope. When you have desperation and loss of hope, you have instability. When you have instability, the terrorists come in and begin their training. And that's the link. That nexus today is one that we will take to the American people.
BLITZER: A lot of Americans say, you know what, there are a lot of other rich countries out there who should be funding these worthwhile projects. How does the U.S. compare, a wealthy country, with other wealthy countries in terms of percentages of our wealth going to these kinds of initiatives?
DASCHLE: Percentage-wise we are, at least on this issue, ahead of just about every country. In fact, ahead of every country in the world. We can give Tony Blair and Britain a good deal of credit for what they're doing, but we have moved a lot farther than most other countries.
We can set the leadership. And we really have to do a lot to address the image problems we have in the world today. So, we need to be out front like that, Wolf. And I believe that given the tremendous investment we can make in low-cost ways to address both poverty and health, we can go a long way with that investment each and every year.
BLITZER: You're a medical doctor. I know you've spent a lot of time in Africa. Talk a little bit -- one of the programs that you want to get involved with, provide access to clean water and sanitation. That sounds simple, but it's an enormous problem and it's an enormous killer.
FRIST: Yes, it is, Wolf. And our presidential candidates, nobody is really talking very much about that.
And so our goal is to get them to talk about it, put their agenda on the table. But simple things.
Number one, 1.2 billion people around the world don't have access to clean water.
Number two, lack of clean water is the number one killer of kids under the age of 5. About 8,000 die every day, every day because of lack of access to clean water.
And three, half of all the hospital beds in the world are occupied right this very second by water-borne diseases.
Very simply, if we had a national policy and a global policy to provide clean water, very cheap, very inexpensive, we could radically reduce the morbidity and the mortality for kids and adults around the world.
BLITZER: Sometimes it's as easy as just putting a pill or something in some water and making it healthy to drink or wash.
What are you going to do, Senator Daschle, to get your fellow Democrats, those who want to be president of the United States, on board?
DASCHLE: Well, this is going to be a nationwide effort, Wolf. We already have a presence in many of the primary states.
We got a report from many of the states just this morning, growing numbers of people that are going to demand that they know the candidates' position, that they -- that the candidates themselves address this issue. Not just with platitudes and not just with some 30-second sound bite, but with real ideas, with ways to address this issue, and a commitment that if they are the next president of the United States, they are going to commit the resources and the time and attention to solving this problem.
BLITZER: Tom Daschle, Bill Frist, joining forces to do some good deeds.
Thanks very much for coming in.
DASCHLE: Thank you, Wolf.
FRIST: Thank you, Wolf. Good to be with you.
BLITZER: And up ahead, a stunning policy reversal in Iraq. Is the U.S. actually arming its former enemies? We're going to take a closer look at that.
We are also getting some amazing live pictures from more than 200 miles above Earth. Will get an astronaut's eye view of this out of this world repair job that's going on.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Right now in Georgia, one man's family and supporters are very happy. Today they received word that something they long waited for actually came.
It involves now a 21-year-old man who was sentenced to prison for a sexual encounter while he was a teenager.
Let's listen to the reaction when they got that word earlier today. The man's attorney, his family, and our own Rick Sanchez was there as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
B.J. BERNSTEIN, ATTORNEY: We win!
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. He's out?
Read us what it says. Can you read it to us?
BERNSTEIN: Habeas Corpus is granted.
SANCHEZ: The sentence is void. That means he's cleared. That means he's cleared.
SANCHEZ: B.J., explain to us what this means, if you could.
BERNSTEIN: The order -- the order. He's released. He's released.
SANCHEZ: So the judge is saying that he agrees on habeas corpus grounds that he should be released?
BERNSTEIN: He's released. He's released.
SANCHEZ: Because essentially he's being held, what, unconstitutionally?
SANCHEZ: This is the order -- this is the order...
BERNSTEIN: Make a copy.
SANCHEZ: This is the order from Judge Thomas Wilson.
BERNSTEIN: Judge Thomas Wilson.
SANCHEZ: How do you feel as his mother? How long -- how long has this been for you?
JUANESSA BENNETT, GENARLOW WILSON'S MOTHER: In January it was three years.
BERNSTEIN: Get copies.
BENNETT: Like three and a half years.
SANCHEZ: There must be just incredible relief for you right now. Do you feel -- explain to us in the best words that you can why you feel what this judge has done is the right thing for your son.
BENNETT: Because it is the right thing.
BENNETT: Because he didn't deserve to have the sexual predator status on top of him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Let's bring in Rick Sanchez.
Rick, he was 17 at the time. The girl was 15. They had consensual sex. Then all of a sudden they sentenced him to jail for 10 years.
Tell our viewers what happened.
SANCHEZ: Well, there is an antiquated sodomy law in the books in Georgia that essentially says, if you are 15 years old and you have oral sex with anybody, even if it's another teenager, that person that you had sex with has to be punished harshly, as an aggravated sexual batterer in this case, which is what happened.
Since then, Wolf, you have to understand that everybody the state of Georgia, including the legislators, decided that really is an antiquated law. If two teenagers have teen sex, it may be stupid, it may be immoral, it may be a lot of things, but 10 years in prison, that's an awful long time. And especially if he has to carry the brand for the rest of his life, you know, of being a molester, which is essentially what happened.
So he decided he was going to fight this all the way through. And it's been through the courts, it's been through the state legislature. They don't want to seem to make an exception for him until today, when this superior court judge, Thomas Wilson, decided that it was, in his words, an injustice. And that's where he made that ruling.
But things have changed a little bit since then, Wolf. We now understand that the state says that they are going to appeal the judge's decision. So it might be in the courts for some time and Genarlow might still have to wait.
BLITZER: All right, Rick. Thanks very much.
Rick's going to be back with us in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour. We're going to have more on this stunning development.
Thank you, Rick Sanchez.
Up ahead, a dramatic new tactic in Iraq, arming Sunni militias to fight al Qaeda. Will it work or blow up in the face of U.S. troops?
We're going to take a closer look with the former defense secretary, William Cohen.
Also, Colin Powell has been giving advice to some presidential candidates. What's his angle? In our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour we will take a closer look at that.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We told you about the stunning reversal of policy in Iraq in which the U.S. military is now arming some of its former enemies, Sunni militia groups which once fought against U.S. troops and killed some of them in the process.
Will they once again turn against Americans, or will they use those weapons now in a civil war, or will they go and just kill al Qaeda?
Joing us now, our world affairs analyst, the former defense secretary, William Cohen. He's chairman and CEO of The Cohen Group here in Washington.
Originally, we were told the U.S. strategy, the U.S. position, was that all the militias had to be disarmed. The only ones who could have arms would be the Iraqi army or the Iraqi police force. Now the U.S. seems to be turning a blind eye to the Kurdish militias, the Shiite militias, and actually arming some of the Sunni militias right now.
What's going on?
WILLIAM COHEN, FMR. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Necessity. Right now, this particular policy is obviously fraught with danger. These arms could end up in the hands of individuals who mean harm for the U.S. forces, not to mention the Shia, in which they would then launch these attacks. So, it's fraught with danger, but there is a great deal of danger anyway facing the U.S. forces.
This seems to be borne out of necessity. And so there are several things that have to take place.
Number one, those commanders have to be very sure of who they are dealing with. As sure as they possibly can be.
Secondly, they need to inform the Maliki government, on the one hand, you can't have the U.S. forces which are seen as occupying forces then giving weapons to those who are seen as being against the majority Shia at this point. So getting the consent of the government would be important.
We also have to assume that not all people who were fighting against the United States are "terrorists". Some may be nationalists who deeply oppose or hate the fact that the United States is an occupying power, but an occupying force that hasn't given them security. Secondly, they may be acting in retaliation against the United States having killed...
BLITZER: So there may be a benefit to this. But you know -- you heard Brian Todd report earlier the government of Nuri al-Maliki, they hate this, because they are convinced these weapons, these U.S. weapons that are going to the Sunni groups, especially in the Al Anbar province, and maybe in the Diyala province, that eventually they're going to be used against Shiites, Iraqi Shiites, who are, after all the, the majority.
COHEN: That's a real risk. And that's why you have -- before you implement a policy like this, you have to at least inform, if not the consent of the Maliki government at this point.
When I was in Saudi Arabia, I talked to a number of the leadership there, and they indicated to me that there were a number of Sunni tribal leaders that they felt that the Bush administration and our forces, the coalition forces, could work with in order to bring about some form of political reconciliation, but also to go after the true enemy, which is al Qaeda.
BLITZER: Whatever happened to the notion -- and it may be quaint, it may be unrealistic -- of trying to actually disarm, whether the Kurdish militia, the Peshmerga, or the Shiite militia, you know, whether the Badr organization, or any of the other groups, or the Sunni groups? Whatever happened to the notion that only the Iraqi army and the police force should have weapons?
COHEN: The effort to disarm has simply fallen to the wayside. The Maliki government obviously was not interested either out of not being willing or not being able.
The United States forces are insufficient to achieve that particular goal. So I think that we simply have been behind the eight ball for some time now by virtue of not having that much larger force that should have gone in the first instance.
So, right now, they are playing -- they're calling audibles here, and seeing whether or not they can do something to separate al Qaeda out from people who may be fighting -- have fought us because they object to our occupation.
BLITZER: This is fraught with a lot of danger. Let's hope it works and saves some lives. But there are plenty of pitfalls out there.
COHEN: Lots of pitfalls out there.
BLITZER: Secretary Cohen, thanks very much for that.
Up next, President Bush calls the Senate's proposed no-confidence vote on the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, meaningless. Is it?
Jack Cafferty just ahead with your e-mail.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, the question this hour -- President Bush is calling the Senate's no-confidence vote on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales meaningless. Is it?
Here's some of what you wrote us this afternoon.
D. in South Carolina, "The vote is not meaningless. I'll be using it as both a voting guide and a donation guide. A vote that doesn't show 'no confidence' is a vote to not be reelected."
Kirk in Minnesota, "For once Bush is right. The no-confidence vote is kind of like the non-binding resolutions the Democrats seem to just keep passing. Absolutely meaningless and just consumes time and money needed for more important matters. Democrats, get your act together, or you'll lose my vote next fall."
Stephen in Pennsylvania, "'Meaningless.' What a great word for this administration."
Nina, "The vote of no confidence is needed because it doesn't seem like Gonzales will be stepping down on his own or asking to spend more time with his family. I don't like conspiracy theories, but perhaps Gonzales is still in office because of all the favors he did for Bush."
Bob in Pittsburgh, "Yes, we didn't vote for an increase in partisan politics. After the Senate tackles the big issues: the deficit, Social Security reform, Medicare reform, then Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid can have their political votes. Until then, stop with the meaningless BS and do your jobs."
Burt in Arizona, "It's a start. Congress would be better served by holding hearings on why the laws passed in 1986 on immigration reform are not being enforced by the Justice Department."
And David in Southampton, New York, "Jack, what could be more meaningless than a vote of confidence from George W. Bush?"
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to CNN.com/caffertyfile, where we post more of them online, along with video clips of "The Cafferty File" if you're looking for something to frighten the children -- Wolf.
BLITZER: They may actually learn something.
Jack, what do you think -- the president predicted boldly today, "I'll see you at the signing ceremony." He says he's coming back to town, he gets back in the next hour or so, and he's going to fight for his immigration reform package and make that the law of the land.
CAFFERTY: I don't know. I don't tend to be a betting man, but if I was going to make a bet, I think I'd bet against him.
I think there's too much opposition in the country against this thing. Too many people view it as amnesty and a repeat of the kind of thing we did in 1986. And until there's some evidence that the government is attempting to enforce some kinds of rules and regulations about border security and illegal citizenship, I don't think the congressmen and senators are going to get any -- any relief from the constituents.
So I think Bush probably isn't going to get this done.
BLITZER: I'll see you back here in an hour in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Jack, thanks very much.
That's it for us. We're on the air from 4:00 to 6:00, 7:00 to 8:00.
In the meantime, let's go to "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT".
Kitty Pilgrim sitting in for Lou tonight.
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