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Rumsfeld Testifies on Capitol Hill; Russia Takes Lead in Race for North Pole

Aired August 1, 2007 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, Donald Rumsfeld is back. The former defense secretary under fire on Capitol Hill, defending himself against allegations of a cover-up against Afghanistan.

Russia takes the lead in the race to seize the North Pole or what lies beneath. Oil and other riches are at stake.

Will the U.S. be left behind?

And who is running Cuba right now?

Raul Castro took over from his ailing brother. But every time he speaks of reform, Fidel Castro seems to reign him back in.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Almost nine months after Donald Rumsfeld was forced out of office, the former defense secretary today testified before a Congressional committee. That panel wants to know what the Bush administration knew about the death of the former football star, Pat Tillman, who was shot by fellow troops while serving in Afghanistan.

Let's go live to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

He got quite a grilling today, Rumsfeld.

Those of us, at least we were watching it, seemed -- there seemed to be some pretty tough questions there.

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, nothing has really changed, Wolf.

Rumsfeld was back and he is the same Don Rumsfeld, certain about what he knows and what he doesn't know.


STARR (voice-over): It was vintage Donald Rumsfeld back on Capitol Hill for the first time since resigning as defense secretary, knowing some accuse him and others of covering up the friendly fire death of Corporal Pat Tillman, the NFL football star turned Army Ranger.

DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I would not engage in a cover-up. I know that no one in the White House suggested such a thing to me. I know that the gentlemen sitting next to me are men of enormous integrity and would not participate in something like that.

STARR: Tillman was shot during a confusing firefight in Afghanistan in April, 2004. Almost immediately, his fellow soldiers knew it was friendly fire.

A classified memo was circulated within days warning top commanders. But family members were not told for weeks.

Rumsfeld said he could not remember exactly when he learned Tillman was a victim of friendly fire.

RUMSFELD: I don't remember. I don't recall when I was told. I don't recall who told me. I have a vague recollection.

STARR: One presidential candidate challenged the secretary, who is known for never backing down.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because you actually covered up the Tillman case for a while. You covered up the Jessica Lynch case. You covered up Abu Ghraib.

RUMSFELD: So you have nothing to case that on. You have not a scrap of evidence or a piece of paper or a witness that would attest to that.


STARR: But, you know, Wolf, at the end of this hearing, many committee members were still unsatisfied, wanting to know who is going to be held responsible for the very sad news here that was not conveyed to the Tillman family in a timely manner -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Are we going to be seeing more of the defense secretary now that he's broken his silence, nine months after he was forced out as defense secretary?

Basically he became invisible. But now he shows up at this hearing.

What are you getting?

Are you hearing any suggestions that he's going to become another visible fixture, if you will?

STARR: Well, I don't know. He may be putting his toe in the water there, coming back out into public life a little bit. I have to tell you, he's certainly been seen in downtown D.C. having lunch with colleagues and friends. There are rumors that he might be writing a book about his experience as defense secretary.

But he has not appeared in such an official capacity. I have to also tell you many committee members complimented him for taking the move to show up in public to talk about this very difficult issue -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It was a difficult issue, indeed.

Thank you very much.

Certainly, if Donald Rumsfeld would like to continue being available publicly, we'll invite him here in THE SITUATION ROOM for questions, as well.

While we heard from Rumsfeld today, we did not hear from Philip Kensinger, the retired three star general who led Army Special Forces at the time of Pat Tillman's death. Just yesterday, he was censored for "a failure of leadership" -- that's a quote -- and was found "guilty of deception."

Committee Chairman Henry Waxman says Kensinger was invited to testify, refused to appear. He was subpoenaed, but could not be located.

Kensinger's attorney says he was away and had declined the invitation.

Kensinger has filed papers with the military objecting to the punishment, saying he told investigators everything he could remember.

In Iraq today, slaughter in the streets and what may be a crippling blow to the country's already shaky government.

CNN's Dan Rivers is in Baghdad -- Dan?

DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a truly terrible beginning to the month of August here in Baghdad, both militarily and politically. There were at least four separate car bombings which left dozens dead and wounded. And politically, the Iraqi government has been dealt a fresh crisis, with some of those key Sunni allies deserting them.


RIVERS (voice-over): The fuel that could make this country rich was used as a weapon to kill its people in Baghdad. A tanker full of gasoline turned into a devastating truck bomb. It ripped apart a gas station in the Western area of Mansour. Dozens of people were lining up to fill their cars.

Firefighters braved searing heat to extinguish the flames. Ambulance crews ferried 60 wounded people to hospital. Fifty bodies were pulled from the smoldering wreckage.

Earlier, in Karada, in central Baghdad, there was another car bomb near a popular ice cream shop. Pools of blood soaking into the street, where 15 people have died and 20 were injured.

There were also two smaller car bombs and a roadside bomb in other areas of the city, a grisly start to the month of August.

And politically, it was also grim news. Iraq's fragile government, led by Nuri al-Maliki, was plunged into fresh crisis. The largest Sunni bloc in his coalition, the Accord Front, will resign, effectively ending the charade that Maliki's Shiite party leads a unity government.


RIVERS: The government has been dealt a crippling blow with the loss of its Sunni coalition partners. It will further paralyze an already beleaguered administration that seems unable or unwilling to stop the devastating violence that is destroying this country -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dan, thank you.

Dan Rivers reporting from Baghdad.

Let's go back to Jack for The Cafferty File in New York.

What a way to start the month of August -- four car bombings -- suicide bombings -- in four different parts of this city. I don't know if it's coincidental or if someone seems to be trying to send a message to the capital, which was priority number one in this U.S. military operation. They said -- Bush said from the beginning, you've got to control security in the capital. If you can't control Baghdad, forget about the rest of the country.

CAFFERTY: And within the last couple of weeks, we've gotten some inklings from some of our military people over there that the surge was beginning to have an effect. And, in fact, the number of American combat casualties during the month of July was the lowest it's been, I think, so far this year.

We're going to talk more about this and the Iraqi government in the 7:00 hour of this tidy little broadcast we're doing here.

In the meantime, Nancy Pelosi should be ashamed of herself. That report we just had on Iraq, despite a Democratic majority in the House being elected with marching orders to end this war, Democratic leaders are refusing to allow any votes on getting out of Iraq until at least later this fall.


They don't want the Republicans to have a chance to split from President Bush on the issue.

That's pathetic.

They're hoping that Republicans will have to face angry voters frustrated with the war while they're in their home districts on recess during the month of August. So instead of holding votes on measures like John Murtha's, that calls for a withdrawal from Iraq to begin within 60 days, the House will vote on things like the president's conduct of the global war on terror or forcing the administration to stop using GITMO to hold enemy combatants or giving U.S. troops more time at home between combat deployments.

Republicans say the Democrats are more interested in taking political advantage of the public's unease with the war than in actually doing something to end it, and they might be right.

Not all Democrats think it's such a wise strategy either. Congressman Neil Abercrombie says: "I'd hate to be in a situation where the Democratic Party was trying to explain that it wants to score political points rather than end the war."

So here's the question -- are House Democratic leaders guilty of playing politics with the war in Iraq?

E-mail us at or go to

That kind of stuff gets pretty near the bottom of the political barrel, even in a barrel full of unsavory stuff the size of the one in Washington, D.C. -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's a big barrel we've got down here, Jack.


BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Up ahead, the global race for oil is on and it promises it could be a cold war. Russia cuts through Arctic ice to get to previously unreachable supplies.

Could Moscow claim it for its own?

And the federal government is playing fast and loose with farm subsidy money. Where it goes, who's getting rich. Let me give you a clue -- some billionaires. You're going to be surprised by what you're about to see.

And inmates detained at Guantanamo Bay on the brink of release. Our Brian Todd is watching this story. There are some serious new complications unfolding. You're going to want to see what he's picked up.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice right now is in Jerusalem, where she and her Israeli counterpart are vowing to push quickly for a political settlement on the West Bank.

Earlier, the secretary was in Saudi Arabia.

Our State Department correspondent, Zain Verjee, is joining us now -- Zain, did Secretary Rice get any tangible achievements from the Saudis? ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, even good friends don't always see eye to eye.


VERJEE (voice-over): All smiles for the camera, but beneath them, few results.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: We are allies. We have been so for decades. It doesn't mean that there won't be disagreements about policy, tactics, from time to time.

VERJEE: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice came to the Kingdom dangling a multi-billion dollar arms deal, hoping for more support on Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But all she left with were denials and vague promises.

The Saudi foreign minister says he is astounded by charges from U.S. officials his country is undermining the Iraqi government and even backing the Sunni insurgency.

PRINCE SAUD AL-FAISAL, SAUDI FOREIGN MINISTER (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): The Kingdom is keen on -- on achieving peace in Iraq and maintaining its unity and stability.

VERJEE: Secretary Rice also wants the Saudis to sit face-to-face with Israel at a Mideast peace conference in the fall, even though it doesn't recognize the Jewish state.

Saudi Arabia's response -- maybe, only if talks are serious and not superficial.

AL-FAISAL: It's very good, not very closely and very hard (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Saudi Arabia is not our friend.

VERJEE: Angry U.S. lawmakers charge Saudi Arabia is not serious about fighting terrorism or helping the U.S. in Iraq and doesn't really deserve a sweet arms deal.

One furious Democrat says, it's less about U.S. interests and more about personal business relationships.

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: There's one thing that Cheney, Bush and the Shah -- and Saudi Arabia has in common. It's three things -- oil, oil and more oil.


VERJEE: One thing, Wolf, the U.S. did get, Saudi Arabia announced that it's going to explore opening up an embassy in Baghdad.

And that's something the U.S. has been pushing for -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The dinner they had at the palace, there were some unusual elements there. Tell our viewers what happened.

VERJEE: Well, they were having dinner at the palace and all of the guests were seated opposite this big wall. And that wall was actually a floor to ceiling aquarium. There were a couple of sharks in there, as well as some other fish.

One visitor, Wolf, said it felt like they were in a James Bond movie.

BLITZER: Zain Verjee reporting for us from the State Department.

Zain, thanks very much.

During her tenure as the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice has spent more than 50 days traveling to 65 countries. This is her twelfth trip to Israel alone. With the extension of refueling stopovers, she's been to the Jewish state more than any other country. Rice has made nine trips to the United Kingdom, eight to Germany and seven trips to Russia.

Competition is now heating up at the top of the world. Among the coldest places on Earth, the North Pole is undergoing something of a thaw, making it easier than ever to reach potentially oil-rich resources. And the race for oil is on.

Let's go to Mary Snow.

She's watching this story for us -- so, Mary, who is in the game?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, several countries are in this game. The United States certainly has a keen interest. But Russia is the newest player on the scene, as one of its research ships today reached the North Pole.


SNOW (voice-over): Some in Russia have likened it to putting a flag on the moon. But this time, the unclaimed territory lies beneath the ice caps of the North Pole. The ultimate prize in this race -- oil.

ROSE GOTTEMOELLER, MOSCOW CARNEGIE CENTER: Certainly, the Russian media has been playing this as a new space race. And it kind of harkens back to the old Soviet days, to tell you the truth.

SNOW: That's because Russian media reports scientists in two submarines plan to dive more than 13,000 feet and release a capsule containing a Russian flag. If Russia can make a legal claim that it extends all the way to the North Pole, it could then make a larger stake down the road to potential oil and gas resources.

Experts say at this point, just how much oil there is, is only a guess.

BOB EBEL, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: That guess is based on what I've read in the media -- 10 billion tons, which would be 70 billion barrels, which is an awful lot of oil.

SNOW: Experts say a race is beginning between countries like Norway and Canada and Russia over the territory that is regulated by an international agency, and the race is being prompted by global warming.

GOTTEMOELLER: The feeling is that the global ice cap is going to melt sometime in the next 50, 70, 100 years. And in that case, these countries want to be positioned to be able to exploit the economic resources in the area.


SNOW: So where does the United States stand in all of this?

It has not signed a treaty that sets up guidelines for negotiating maritime boundaries and sets rules on things like resources. The administration does support ratifying the treaty and a move is expected in the U.S. Senate to try to do that, to include the U.S. -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow watching this story for us.

Mary, thanks.

Oil, by the way, is not the only reason for profiteers to have their eyes on the Arctic. The region is thawing and that's producing new treasures, at least for some. And among them, potential new commercial fishing for pollack, salmon, halibut and crab; access to the natural gas piped from the Barents Sea and imported from Norway, which could reduce energy dependence on the Middle East.

And take a look at this. There are some lucrative new travel and shipping routes, including the elusive Northwest Passage -- the sea route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

A tropical storm is stirring in the Pacific. It's called Erick and right now it's between Hawaii and California. We're keeping track.

Also, it's Castro versus Castro. Apparently, Fidel handed over power to his brother Raul a year ago.

But who's really running Cuba?



BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Carol, what do you have now?


A Senate committee is taking the first legislative step towards federal regulation of cigarettes. Its members voted 13-8 to require the Food and Drug Administration to restrict tobacco ads, remove hazardous ingredients and regulate warning labels. The Senate measure has broad bipartisan support, with more than 50 co-sponsors. A similar bill passed the Senate in 2004, though it was later blocked in the House.

NASA says it's unsure if a leaky valve found in the cabin of the Space Shuttle Endeavor will delay next week's launch. Mission managers are meeting to decide their next move. The leak is in a pressure relief valve behind the toilet. Endeavor is scheduled to blast off for the International Space Station Tuesday night.

Tropical storm Erick is taking shape in the middle of nowhere in the Pacific. The National Hurricane Center says Erick is between Hawaii and California, thousands of miles from land.

In the Atlantic, what's left of tropical storm Chantal is expected to skirt Newfoundland today. Chantal became the third named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season yesterday, but it broke up over cold water. That's good news.

Back to you -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Carol.

Thanks, Carol, very much.

Just ahead, tough talk and a promise to leave no stone unturned, not even in friendly territory. Presidential candidate Barack Obama lays out his plan to fight terrorism and to bring down Al Qaeda.

And farm subsidies as windfalls -- they're make something rich people even richer. Even billionaires are getting some taxpayer dollars. We'll tell you what's going on in the farms out there.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, a Taliban spokesman says 21 South Korean hostages remain unharmed, even though another deadline has come and gone. He did say two women are very sick and could die. Their Taliban captors have already killed two hostages.

Iraqi police say U.S. and Iraqi forces are in the midst of a major military operation in the city of Sumara. A curfew is in place until further notice. Police say troops are hunting for insurgents and weapons, and have detained several people.

And families of the victims of September 11th attacks are taking action to keep the annual commemoration at ground zero. The city wants to move it to a nearby plaza. It says the site, where construction is underway, is not safe for a large annual gathering.

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

What happens to terror suspects freed from the U.S. base at Guantanamo?

Do they go on to build new lives or do they simply go back to their old ways?

Let's turn to CNN's Brian Todd.

He's getting new information on what it going on with those who have been released -- Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, information on the fate of former detainees is often murky. In many cases, it's not clear what's happened to them.

But we're also told that some have made their way back onto the battlefield.


TODD (voice-over): A startling claim by the Pentagon -- at least 34 former detainees have taken part in anti-coalition militant activities since being transferred out of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

An example?

Abdulla Massoud, described as a militant leader linked to the Taliban and al Qaeda. U.S. officials say he recently blew himself up as Pakistani police closed in on him near the border with Afghanistan. The Pentagon official who gave us the information on Massoud and the other ex-detainees would not go on camera, but referred us to an analyst who they had briefed.

LT. COL. ROBERT MAGINNIS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): It would appear that those that they've identified are very militant. They do want to continue the war on terror. They are serious jihadists, which have the intent of killing as many Americans and Westerners as they possibly can.

TODD: But in an e-mail to CNN, the Pentagon official said the Defense Department does not generally track detainees after they've left Guantanamo.

When we asked for proof of militant activities, the official said he could not give specifics, did not want to compromise sources and methods, but said the information came from intelligence sources and other reports.

CNN analyst Peter Bergen says there is a problem with former detainees returning to the battlefield, but he has this perspective.

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Of all the people who have been released so far, something like 7 percent have returned to the battlefield. Now, is it -- were they radicalized inside Guantanamo?

If I was held in Guantanamo, I might, you know, have a pretty unfavorable view of the United States.


TODD: A Pentagon official counters that most of those let go were radicalized to begin with, including one who was identified as a deputy Taliban defense minister before he was sent to Guantanamo.

So why did they let all these men go?

Pentagon officials say while at Guantanamo, these detainees constantly lied to them about who they were -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, thank you.

Brian Todd reporting for us.

He says he'd wind down the war in Iraq and ship U.S. forces to Afghanistan. That would be the Democratic presidential candidate, Barack Obama.

He warned today that even Pakistan is not off limits in the hunt to Al Qaeda. Senator Obama offered his counter-terrorism strategy.

And here to talk about it and more is Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation and our own terrorism analyst, Peter Bergen.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

He said, Obama, that if he were president of the United States, he would make hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. assistance available to Pakistan, but only on condition.

Listen to what he said.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: Pakistan must make substantial progress in closing down the training camps, evicting foreign fighters and preventing the Taliban from using Pakistan as a staging area for attacks in Afghanistan.


BLITZER: All right. What do you think about that condition he laid down?

LISA CURTIS, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Well, i think it's completely appropriate that he spent so much time talking about Pakistan. Pakistan is a key country on the war on terrorism. However, when it comes to the idea of conditioning aid to Pakistan which, of course, the Congress did approve legislation last week, conditioning military systems, I think there are some downsides to this.

BLITZER: What are they?

CURTIS: Well, the U.S. cut assistance to Pakistan in 1990 because of its nuclear program. And this was seen as a betrayal by the Pakistanis after the help that they had provided in Afghanistan against the Soviets. And so this would basically make them see the U.S. as an unreliable long-term partner.

BLITZER: And you served at the U.S. embassy in Islamabad. So you remember those days when the relationships between the United States and Pakistan was very, very tense, pre-9/11?

CURTIS: Absolutely. Not a day went by when I didn't hear, how could the U.S. turn its back on Pakistan after all we did to help in Afghanistan?

BLITZER: Peter, what do you think?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I mean, one thing, as Lisa points out, the conditionality of this aid is already -- you know, Congress has already passed something on this. And some of the things that Senator Obama said, actually the administration is already doing.

For instance, he said that we should give more aid to the tribal areas in Pakistan. Well, in fact, Richard Boucher, the assistant secretary at the State Department who is responsible for Pakistan has said that the administration wants to put in $750 million.

So some of it -- I mean, I thought it was a good speech...

BLITZER: I mean, the thrust of his speech, and the thrust of the criticism, though, is that the government of President Pervez Musharraf is not doing everything it can to find Taliban, al Qaeda elements inside Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan.

BERGEN: Which is what -- the administration has been saying pretty much the same thing. Six months ago they bought into Pervez Musharraf's idea that these peace agreements in the tribal regions were working. Now we know that they haven't bought into that they haven't bought into that.

They believe these peace agreements aren't working. Clearly they aren't working, attacks in Afghanistan have gone up. Al Qaeda is regrouping. Some of this is blowing back on Pakistan itself, where suicide attacks have picked up remarkably since the beginning of the year.

So I think everybody is agreeing that Pakistan is a big problem. What happened, it's very politicized, because we are talking about the -- you know, the administration says the central front is the war on terrorism is in Iraq. And the sort of Democrat camp says, well, it's actually in Pakistan.

Unfortunately, they're two central fronts in the war on terrorism. They're in -- on the Pakistan border and in Iraq at the same time simultaneously. BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about the hypothetical. When I interviewed President Bush last year, I asked him if you had good intelligence, that you knew where in Pakistan Osama bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri were, would you authorize U.S. forces to go into Pakistan, violate Pakistani sovereignty, and capture or kill Osama bin Laden or other top-ranking al Qaeda members, he said, absolutely.

Hillary Clinton says the same thing. Today Barack Obama says the same thing. What would happen in Pakistan to President Musharraf if the U.S. were to overtly go inside their sovereign soil, their territory and undertake this kind of military mission?

CURTIS: I think this is an absolute last resort. Look, the U.S. and Pakistan are cooperating. We've already had two attacks on suspected hideouts of al-Zawahiri. One in January 2006. One in October 2006. So clearly, the U.S. and Pakistan are already cooperating.

And this idea of unilateral U.S. strikes in Pakistan, without Pakistani permission, is -- really could create more problems than it resolves. And it really has to be a policy of absolute last resort.

BLITZER: Here's the nightmare scenario, that maybe as imperfect as President Musharraf is right now, it could be so much worse if Islamists took control of the government of the regime in Islamabad and had their finger on Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. And that potentially is a real possibility.

BERGEN: I'm skeptical about that, Wolf. When there have been elections, the Islamist parties, the most they have ever got is 12 percent. Usually, and they're polling now at around 5 percent. So, yes, there's a lot of jihadist activity in Pakistan. But there is not enough -- the jihadis can't take over the government. It's just not plausible. A lot of things would have would have to change.

BLITZER: Because I'm old enough to remember that argument was made when there was so much criticism of the shah of Iran before the Islamists took over, the ayatollah took over Tehran. The shah was by no means perfect, but he was certainly better than what followed.

CURTIS: Well, I think the situation is much different than Iran. A lot of people are comparing the situation. But in Iran, they had a leader who people -- a charismatic religious leader that people gathered around. You had an oil economy, a roller coaster economy. Pakistan has got a much more stable economy. No central religious figure that people are surrounding.

Also, the Pakistan military, it's professional, unified institution. It will be able to...

BLITZER: What would happen if the U.S. simply said, you know what, we don't have actionable intelligence but we're going to go in right now and not wait for Osama bin Laden and his guys to undertake another 9/11 or worse type of operation, and just send in special operations forces, sophisticated equipment, with or without the approval of the Pakistani government? BERGEN: Well, we're already doing some of that. There are already Special Forces in that region. There is also CIA. I mean, very small numbers. So we are doing some of that already. If it was a much larger force?

BLITZER: A massive force.

BERGEN: A massive force, you know, it's going to -- you know, Pakistan is country -- it's going to be the fifth-largest country in the world. It has got a -- this is not Afghanistan. There are some sort of strategic problems that you have got to think about.

However, I mean, if there's a major attack in London next year that can be traced back to the tribal areas or if there's a major attack in the United States, or even -- it doesn't even have to be that big, we wouldn't even think twice about this.

BLITZER: But the whole goal, Lisa, is to do this before there's a major attack in London or here in the United States. Afterwards, then there's a lot of dead people out there.

CURTIS: Well, that's right. But there are other options. And one is getting the Pakistan military to go back on the offensive in these areas.

BLITZER: Are they doing that yet?

CURTIS: They have sent troops up. We've seen some engagement with militants. So they seem to be beginning on this strategy. And I think we should encourage that.

BLITZER: And I think the Pakistanis themselves have acknowledged that their strategy that they tried to work with the tribal leaders, that has been a failure.

BERGEN: Appeasement turned out to be a failure. But they also tried the military option, as you may remember, between 2002 and 2005, and it was basically a defeat for the military. So it's sort of like the Iraq problem. It's very, very difficult. There are just least bad options to deal with this problem.

BLITZER: Peter Bergen and Lisa Curtis, a good discussion. Thanks very much. The stakes obviously enormous on this issue.

The guessing game keeps going when it comes to Cuba. Is Fidel Castro gone for good? Is he coming back to power soon? We're going to go to Havana. That's coming up next.

Also, subsidies to wealthy farmers, subsidies to dead farmers. Some people want the practice to stop. Others say it's a matter of national security. We're going to take a closer look. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Who's in charge of Cuba? Is it Castro or is it Castro, or both? They're keeping Cubans and the U.S. government guessing right now. CNN's Morgan Neill is our man in Havana -- Morgan.

MORGAN NEILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the man making the speeches in Cuba these days is Raul Castro, not Fidel. But the man they know as commander-in-chief is still making his voice heard.


NEILL (voice-over): It has been a year since Fidel Castro officially handed leadership of Cuba over to his brother Raul. But the question of just who is running the country is as unclear as ever.

In Wednesday's papers, Fidel Castro writes that he's being harassed by questions about when he'll return to power. But he gives no hint as to when or even if that could happen.

In the last year, writes the elder Castro, his brother Raul has consulted with him on every important decision during his recovery. Cuba's leaders constantly emphasize the government's unity. But at least one difference has emerged, on the possibility of future talks with the U.S.

This was Raul Castro last week. "If the new U.S. authorities were to finally put their arrogance aside and decide to talk in a civilized way," he says, "it would be a welcomed change."

And then in Wednesday's papers, Fidel Castro writes: "No one should entertain the slightest illusion that the empire, which carries the seeds of its own destruction, will negotiate with Cuba."

In the streets of Havana, nobody seems entirely sure who's in charge. "I read in the papers that it's Raul," says Orlando, "but when he has a problem, he gets help from Fidel."

Asked if Fidel will return to power, this man says, "he is in power, he never left power." But when asked who is running the government, he responds...


NEILL: This retiree says she doesn't think Fidel is in any shape to run things. But she adds, "nobody knows anything here."


NEILL: Now why is it so important just who is calling the shots? Well, to give you just one reason, some analysts believe that Raul Castro would like to make some significant reforms, but that his brother is reining him in -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Morgan Neill in Havana for us. Morgan, thanks very much.

Let's check in with Lou Dobbs to see what's coming up right at the top of the hour. Lou, what are you working on?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Wolf, thank you. We are reporting tonight on new efforts to stop communist China from manipulation of its currency. And that effort might put even more Americans out of work. We'll have a special report.

Many lawmakers saying the Bush administration is putting U.S. relations with communist China ahead of the interests of our middle class Americans. We'll have that report.

Concerns about dangerous foods imports from communist China are soaring. Incredibly, our government appears ready to allow a large increase in Chinese food exports to this country.

And the government of Mexico has found an astonishing new reason to oppose the construction installation of a fence along our border. Not surprisingly, Mexico refusing to acknowledge its own responsibility for our illegal immigration crisis. We'll have that story.

And among my guests here tonight, Phil Kent, the author of a provocative new book, "Foundations of Betrayal: How the Liberal Super- rich Are (sic) Undermining (sic) America," please join us for all of that coming up at the top of the hour. We'll have all of the day's news and more. Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Lou, thanks very much. Lou, you're going to want to see this next report, it that could make your blood boil a little bit because it involves our taxpayer dollars.

Farmers receive billions of dollars in government subsidies to bolster their vital but risky livelihoods. Many of them couldn't make it otherwise. But as CNN's Dan Simon discovers, there are other recipients who don't even come close to fitting that common definition of farmer.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Al Montna, rice farming is good business right now.

AL MONTNA, FARMER: There's great rewards in growing crops, and especially crops like rice.

SIMON: So you'd think the third generation family farmer wouldn't get government handouts, right? Wrong.

Over three years, from 2003 to 2005, he and his children received more than $900,000 in federal subsidies. Montna says that kind of money provides a vital safety net for farmers.

MONTNA: Agriculture is an investment in our national security and in the well-being of this country.

SIMON: That argument has been used for decades to justify the billions spent every year on subsidies for crops like rice, corn and wheat. But to critics...

DAN SUMNER, PROFESSOR, U.C. DAVIS: I think it's hard to see a legitimate reason why we're still subsidizing these industries.

SIMON: Professor Dan Sumner says the government's policy, a product of the Great Depression, deserves an F.

SUMNER: As taxpayers, we're spending a bunch of money to hand to individuals who are relatively wealthy people.

SIMON: Some very wealthy. Keeping them honest, we looked to see who else has been getting your tax dollars. Basketball star Scottie Pippen got $289,000 for his farm in Arkansas. David Letterman, $8,000 for farming on his Montana ranch.

The list from an environmental watchdog reads like a who's who: billionaire David Rockefeller; Ted Turner, the founder of this network; even members of Congress got in on the game.

There are also wealthy people you've never heard of, like 88- year-old widow Constance Bowles, whose family has a cotton farm in California.

(on camera): Ms. Bowles lives here, in one of San Francisco's most prestigious neighborhood, called Presidio Heights. Anyone who lives here hardly needs government subsidies to get by.

Yet from 2003 to 2005, her family farm business received more than $1.2 million through government subsidies.

(voice-over): Ms. Bowles told CNN: "We could do without it."

How could this happen? It's simple. Farmers apply for subsidies based on their acreage. The largest farms get the most of your tax dollars.

JIM LYONS, OXFAM: Ten percent of the producers get 75 percent of the benefits from subsidies. So there's no doubt that wealthy farmers continue to profit at a considerably higher rate than other farmers.

SIMON: It's not just rich people getting payments. It turns out dead people are, too. The Government Accountability Office says between 1999 and 2005, more than a billion dollars went to the deceased. Some payments went on for a decade.

David Harrison III died five years ago. His estate got $140,000 of your tax dollars, even as it gave tens of millions to the University of Virginia. The UVA football field is named for Harrison.

KEN COOK, ENVIRONMENTAL WORKING GROUP: We really ought to make sure that when someone is getting farm subsidy checks, they deserve it.

SIMON: Rice grower Al Montna thinks most of the money goes to honest and hardworking farmers. He also points out the government outlay is just a drop in the bucket compared to other programs.

MONTNA: When you look at defense and you look at all the other issues, I mean it doesn't even make a line. SIMON: And as long as the government continues to write the checks, he'll gladly accept.

Dan Simon, CNN, Yuba City, California.


BLITZER: And still ahead, Jack Cafferty wants to know are House Democratic leaders guilty of playing politics with the war in Iraq.

She loved to fly but she was left behind on day two of that helicopter -- the two helicopters that collided in Arizona. She was not on that helicopter. But her owner was killed. Who will take care of Molly the dog right now? CNN's Jeanne Moos is on this story. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He has got the "Cafferty File." There it is, it says "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: I saw that. Very impressive. Thank you, Wolf. Here's an update on our question this hour about Democratic House leadership not planning to allow any votes on getting out of Iraq until the fall so as to prevent Republicans from being able to distance themselves from the president and the war. That report initially came out on Associated Press.

And now, the Democratic leaders have changed their mind. They say they're going to hold a floor vote tomorrow on a measure that will require the president to present a plan for redeployment from Iraq within 60 days. Can you spell "transparent"?

The question is this, are Democratic leaders in the House guilty of playing politics with the war?

Dean in California writes: "You hit the nail squarely on the head. The Democrats in Congress represent a party that appears to be void of direction on any issues other than simply getting elected. They most assuredly are using the war for political gain only. They have no idea how to deal with Iraq, Afghanistan or terrorism. They represent the extreme example of the "me" generation."

D.J. writes from Jamaica Estates in New York: "First they sent a bill for getting our troops home, to be vetoed by the president, that was to prove to us that they were doing what we voted for. Then they sent a bill giving carte blanche to the president and loaded it up with pork for themselves, to be signed by the president, which is not what they were elected to do. Do they think we're stupid? On second thought, don't answer that. We are stupid for letting them get away with it."

Carol in Georgia writes: "Everything about this war has become political. Democrats have tried to stop the war, Bush has stonewalled at every turn, and the GOP Congress has prevented them from getting the necessary votes. Why not do what little they can to make changes?"

Gary writes: "Of course the Democrats are playing politics with the war. Until we set term limits, only one term for all public offices, politicians will be definition have only one priority, getting reelected. The entire system is rotten to the core."

Richard in Louisiana: "Nancy Pelosi will go down as the first woman speaker, but she will also go down as the least effective. Pelosi is a big, big disappointment to every day Democrats in this country."

And Phil in Colorado Springs writes: "When Democrats play politics with the war, and they are, they are playing politics with our G.I.'s lives. Speaker Pelosi should forget about Republicans, forget about politics, forget about votes and remember our troops. End the war now. Oh, and put impeachment back on the table."

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

BLITZER: You know, I've just got a lot of e-mail from our viewers reminding me, Jack, what you are, an equal opportunity critic. They can be Democrats, they can be Republicans. When you see the politicians screwing up, you're not shy about going after them. You're willing to go after Nancy Pelosi, just as much as you'd be willing to go after Dick Cheney, I daresay.

CAFFERTY: Yes, the only person who is exempt is you, Wolf. I really like you.

BLITZER: Thank you very much. But when you see me going wrong, you can criticize. And you have. That's all right.

CAFFERTY: You never go wrong.

BLITZER: I want Jack Cafferty to be Jack Cafferty. Thanks very much.

She flew the skies with her best friend, a news chopper pilot killed in a tragic crash. Jeanne Moos will have the "Moost Unusual" story of Molly the flying dog. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Here's some compelling video we found that might make us sit up and take note. Check it out in Cebu, Philippines. Jailhouse rock, literally. This is how inmates at a prison take morning exercise. The choreography is an experiment in prisoner reform. Officials say after six months it has proven successful. Listen a little bit to some of this.


BLITZER: These are prisoners. All right. In Idaho, let's move on, a battered deer badly in need of saving. He became trapped in a parking lot after being clipped by a car. Fish and game officers will repair his broken antler and return him to the wild.

And in Little Rock, Arkansas, a hero's welcome, 27 members of the 449th Service Aviation Battalion returned to flags, hugs, and tears after a year-long deployment in Iraq. Welcome home.

BLITZER: There's a little white dog in Phoenix, Arizona, who's still alive because she was left behind. Molly often flew with her helicopter pilot owner. CNN's Jeanne Moos has the story of this "Moost Unusual" four-legged survivor.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She may be called the flying dog.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ready to go flying, Molly? Ready to go flying?

MOOS: But she tended to fly with her eyes closed.

CRAIG SMITH, DIED IN HELICOPTER CRASH: A lot of times she likes to lay in the backseat and sleep. That's pretty routine deal, but she occasionally sits up in my lap.

MOOS: Molly was not in her owner's lap when two news choppers collided while covering a car chase in Phoenix.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do have two helicopters down.

MOOS: Because the chopper left in a hurry to cover breaking news, Molly was left back at the hangar waiting for KNXV pilot Craig Smith to return.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Molly is here, we know that she is going to be taken care of. And we know of a good family friend who is going to be coming and picking her up very shortly here, but she'll be taken care of. So all the viewers at home can know that.

MOOS: And viewers cared. The west highland terrier had become a morning TV fixture aboard ABC 15's chopper. Molly's name is sprinkled throughout the station's "post your condolences" Web page. Alongside the names of the pilot and cameraman who died, comments like: "Please take care of Molly, too. I'm sure she knows something is not right."

She and pilot Craig Smith were described as inseparable.

SMITH: She's my companion and buddy.

MOOS: Craig used to call her his cantankerous westie.

VLADAE ROYTAPEL, DOG TRAINER: Molly was a little terrorist.

MOOS: That's Vladae, the Russian dog wizard, Craig hired him to train Molly. ROYTAPEL: You say Molly come. Come on baby. Molly comes.

MOOS: He got her used to being strapped in the chopper, suited up.

(on camera): She wore headphones?

ROYTAPEL: Yes, she did.

MOOS (voice-over): The Russian dog wizard told Craig to use a special treat when Molly flew.

ROYTAPEL: I offered to use American cheese or Polish or Russian kielbasa with garlic. He had it with him every time when he flew with her in helicopter.

MOOS: Vladae offered to adopt Molly, but Craig's wife says the terrier will be living with Craig's mom. ABC 15 once did a profile with Molly, imagining her doggie dreaming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The wind at her fur.

MOOS: Molly the flying dog is now grounded, moping around without Craig, but OK.

ROYTAPEL: Wonderful couple which we will never see in the sky anymore.

MOOS: Man's best copilot.

SMITH: We have a good time together, don't we, Moll? Yes.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: And let's go to Lou in New York -- Lou.

DOBBS: Wolf, thank you very much.