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Fmr. Iraq Cmdr.: America Living a Nightmare; Swedish Artist Provokes Muslims

Aired October 13, 2007 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, it's being called a nightmare with no end in site. A former top U.S. military commander in Iraq offering a bleak new assessment of the war.
Also tonight, a mind-boggling new forecast of TV ads (INAUDIBLE) in the 2008 election. We're talking $3 billion. Yes, you heard that right, $3 billion.

And Al Gore calls his Nobel Peace Prize just the beginning. He says he will use it to further the fight against global warming. Will he also use it to launch a run for the White House?

I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Stinging criticism and a grim assessment of the war in Iraq from the U.S. general who was in charge of it for more than a year. Now retired General Ricardo Sanchez says: "America is living a nightmare with no end in sight." That's a direct quote. And he's sharply critical of U.S. strategy with stinging judgment of government officials. Let's bring in our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

These are -- a blunt assessment from General Sanchez. But how surprising is it?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, when I was with General Sanchez back in the beginning of the war, he was brimming with confidence. He was the top commander of U.S. troops in Iraq. He's retired now, his career cut short by the fallout of the Abu Ghraib scandal that happened on his watch. And he has turned now into one of the biggest critics of how the Bush administering has managed the war, calling it a catastrophic failure.

Here's one of the quotes from remarks he made in Washington at a conference of military journalists as reported by Stars and "From a catastrophically flawed, unrealistically optimistic war plan to the administration's latest surge strategy, this administration has failed to employ and synchronize the political, economic and military power."

Now Sanchez told the group of military reporters and editors, MRE, as they are known, that he had reservations about the strategy when he was in Iraq back in 2003 and 2004, but he felt he couldn't resign without jeopardizing his troops. But now he's retired he says the current strategy is too little and doomed to fail again. His words, as you said, quoted by the Stars and Stripes: "There is no question that America is living a nightmare with no end in sight."

You know, Sanchez was in line to promotion to four-star general until he was tarred by the Abu Ghraib scandal, while officially cleared of any wrongdoing, he has fierce critics in Congress, and for a while he sat quietly in a job in Europe, hoping this would blow over, but the controversy essentially made him unconfirmable and then he retired -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And then he is by no means the only top commander. There are a bunch of commanders who have come back from Iraq, retired and are speaking out in very similar words that this war has become a nightmare.

MCINTYRE: Right. And he held his peace until then. Again I think some of his critics are going to say, well, why didn't he say more of this at the time? But he said he feels it's very unhealthy for serving military officers to be openly questioning the strategy. It's their job to try to carry out, try to make it work. But he feels free to talk now.

BLITZER: What a blunt assessment from General Sanchez. Thanks very much, Jamie McIntyre.

Also tonight Al Gore is capping his transformation from losing presidential candidate to commander-in=chief of the international battle against global warming. The former vice president today won the Nobel Peace Prize along with the United Nations Panel on Climate Change. He's promising to donate his half of the $1.5 million prize to a nonprofit group devoted to spreading the message that the planet is in crisis.


AL GORE, NOBEL PEACE PRIZE WINNER: I will be doing everything I can to try to understand how to best use the honor and recognition of this award as a way of speeding up the change in awareness and the change in urgency. It truly is a planetary emergency and we have to respond quickly.


BLITZER: Gore says the Nobel prize is just the beginning, but the beginning of what? Could another run for the White House be works? Here's our senior political analyst Bill Schneider.


GORE: That you all for...

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice over): Al Gore has scored a trifecta: an Oscar, an Emmy, and now the Nobel Peace Prize. The Draft Gore movement is already in high gear. They ran a full-page ad in The New York Times, they're putting videos up on YouTube.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): I spent four lonely days in a brown L.A. haze, and I just want you back by my side

SCHNEIDER: What impact will the Nobel prize have?

ELAINE KAMARCK, FMR. GORE ADVISER: Obviously today's news gives them a shot in the arm, but they still don't have a candidate.

SCHNEIDER: Not yet. Here are three reasons why many Democrats want Gore to run: revenge for what they regard as the stolen 2000 election, Gore's outspoken opposition to the war in Iraq before it began.

GORE: I am deeply concerned that the course of action that we are presently embarking upon with respect to Iraq has the potential to seriously damage our ability to win the war against terrorism.

SCHNEIDER: And the fact that Gore looks eminently electable. He has already been elected, many Democrats believe. Here are three reasons why Gore probably will not run.

KAMARCK: It's getting late. And the filing deadlines are coming. And you can't win delegates if you're not on the ballot.

SCHNEIDER: A Gore candidacy would start a civil war in the Democratic Party.

KAMARCK: Obviously a lot of the same people, myself included, are fans of Hillary and fans of Al Gore, but that would be a very hard choice for a lot of people in the Democratic Party.

SCHNEIDER: After he got news of the Nobel prize, Gore said in a statement: "The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity."

That would change if Gore ran for president. The climate crisis would instantly become a political issue.

(on camera): Was the Nobel Committee trying to stick it to President Bush by giving Gore the peace prize? A reporter asked the chairman of the committee, the chairman's response: "The Nobel Committee has never given a kick in the leg to anyone."

Bill Schneider, CNN, Washington.


BLITZER: And I interviewed Al Gore just the other day. That one-on-one interview, coming up. I'll be asking him who he wants to be president, this time around. You're going to want to see what he has to say about that and other issues involving global warming.

Meantime, another big-name Democrat making some headlines today but for a very different reason. Senator Edward Kennedy underwent surgery today to remove a blockage for an artery in his neck. Let's check in with our congressional correspondent, Jessica Yellin to see how senator Kennedy is doing -- Jessica. JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Senator Kennedy we understand is feeling well now. We're told he has had some ginger ale and ice cream. And he is currently resting at a Boston hospital. The senator underwent an hour-long procedure this morning to remove, as you say, plaque from a blocked artery in his neck.

Doctors say that without this kind of surgery, people who suffer from this condition could potentially get a stroke. But they did this protectively. There were no symptoms that the senator was suffering, that prompted them to take these steps today.

And we understand this all started when the senator went in for a standard MRI. As anybody who works up here on Capitol Hill knows, the senator suffers from a bad back that -- ever since a 1964 plane crash. He gets that back-checked on regularly. When they did this MRI, they found something else.

They found that blocked artery and so they decided to take these precautionary steps. We're told the senator will be at the hospital for another day or two. Then he'll be resting at his home in Massachusetts. And he should be back here next week.

Now, his staff tells us that we should expect him to go on with his schedule as normal. He's very healthy, they insist. But I will tell you that when you see the senator here, you can see that he does suffer from that back problem, very frequently during news conferences, he's sitting in a chair. He has a slow and lumbering walk. So that's something he struggles with.

But his office says he's healthy. He swims. He yachts. And he plans to watch the Red Sox tonight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And I know I speak for you and all of our viewers when we wish him a very speedy recovery. Jessica, thanks very much.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The Big Apple is getting a makeover, well, sort of. New York City has got a brand new slogan. It reads: This is New York City. Clever, don't you think? Especially since this is New York City. I wonder what it cost to come up with that.

Anyway, it's all part of a $30 million ad campaign to attract more tourists to visit here from overseas. Our mayor, Michael Bloomberg, hopes the city will attract 50 million visitors by the year 2015. The slogan, "This is New York City," will be put on billboards and bus stops in international spots in Brazil, Portugal, Italy, also cities here at home, places like Boston, Philadelphia and Miami.

They'll also be played up in television, magazine, newspaper and online ads. Now, I realize it will be difficult to top something as clever as "This is New York City," but let's try. You might even be able to improve on our new slogan. Here's the question: Which U.S. city needs a new slogan and what should it be? E-mail, go to -- Wolf. BLITZER: What about that "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas"? How is that as a slogan for Vegas?

CAFFERTY: That's one of the best ever. And I always like the Big Apple for New York. I don't quite understand "This is New York City." But I -- what do I know? I've only been here since '77.

BLITZER: All right, Jack, stand by. Thanks very much.

A convicted terrorist who killed in the name of Islam, now undergoing a shocking prison conversion. Is the World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef renouncing his faith?

Also, an incredible story right now happening. Why al Qaeda has put a bounty on the head of a Swedish artist. He talked to us about the death threats that have forced him into hiding.

Plus, that interview I conducted with the former vice president, Al Gore. Now, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, stick around, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: The man who bombed the World Trade Center back in 1993 says he has undergone a change of heart and a change of religion in prison. Let's turn to CNN's Brian Todd. He's watching this story for us.

Brian, what else can you tell us about Ramzi Yousef?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, he claims he's a different person after several years behind bars. We spoke to people closely involved with Ramzi Yousef's case who are, at the very least, skeptical.


TODD (voice-over): One of the world's most notorious terrorists turns away from Islam. Ramzi Yousef, convicted for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, claims he's now a devout Christian. That's according to a source close to Yousef, who tells CNN Yousef converted at least two years ago because he became disappointed with Islam after 9/11, believing it had gone astray.

Asked, why Christianity, the source said Yousef read parts of the New Testament while at a maximum security federal prison in Colorado, which houses other well-known terrorists.

One Islamic scholar is skeptical of Yousef's claim of conversion.

AKBAR AHMED, AUTHOR, "ISLAM UNDER SIEGE": It's simply a ploy. It's a strategy, perhaps to reduce his prison sentence, perhaps to get better favors in prison. And this is what a lot of people would say. They'll tend to be cynical.

TODD: Count among those, one of Yousef's prosecutors and even his defense attorney, who both describe him as manipulative. Yousef is a nephew of the 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

In the book, "The Looming Tower," author Lawrence Wright says: "When Yousef was captured in the mid-'90s, brought to New York and flown in a helicopter by the World Trade Center, one agent said: 'You see, it's still standing.' And Yousef replied: 'It wouldn't be if we had more money.'"

Yousef was also convicted in a plot to bring down about a dozen U.S. airliners over the Pacific.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, NYU CENTER ON LAW AND SECURITY: That plot was thwarted very, very luckily when Ramzi Yousef's apartment building caught fire in Manila, the Philippines, and investigators then found all sorts of bomb-making materials.


TODD: On his time in prison, Ramzi Yousef's attorney says that at times he would not want to take recreation outside his cell, because it required a strip search, and he thought it was undignified. Both his attorneys and one of his prosecutors told me Yousef never struck them as being a very devout Muslim when he belonged to that faith -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I know in your reporting, Brian, you picked up some other fascinating details about Ramzi Yousef and his time spent in this federal prison.

TODD: That's right. His attorney told me that Yousef at certain times had contact in the prison with convicted Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, and with the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh. He says when Yousef would take recreation, he would sometimes be allowed recreation at the same time as them and they would talk. And when I asked what they discussed, the attorney said they would talk about TV shows, movies, prison food, but he said, nothing political in nature.

BLITZER: What a trio. Thanks very much for that. OK. Brian Todd reporting.

BLITZER: In one country, some police officers are often viewed as public enemies. If you steal something or commit other crimes, you might be tortured. Now, some people want the world to know about what they claim is a torture epidemic. CNN Middle East correspondent Aneesh Raman has more now from Cairo. Viewers may find some parts of this report disturbing -- Aneesh.

ANEESH RAMAN, MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, once hidden away, police abuse in Egypt is now out in the open.


RAMAN (voice-over): Thirteen-year-old Mohammed Adel Aziz (ph) died just days after this video was shot. The result, his mother says, of violent torture by police, after Mohammed was arrested on suspicion of theft in August. It's the latest video to surface online of alleged police abuse in Egypt. This infamous one posted earlier this year, shows 21-year-old Imad Kabbir (ph), a bus driver arrested after interfering in a dispute between police and another driver, here being sodomized with a stick.

Elijah Zarwan is with Human Rights Watch.

ELIJAH ZARWAN, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: The Egyptian government has said that these were isolated incidents, the work of a few bad apples.

RAMAN (on camera): Do you buy that?

ZARWAN: Well, certainly I think it's fair to say that there has been a -- that there is now a torture epidemic in Egypt and we continue to hear reports of torture every week.

RAMAN (voice-over): The government disputes that, saying incidents of torture in Egypt are on the decline. But amid cramped quarters Wael Abbas is working to prove them wrong. His is one of the most visited blogs in the country. A million hits, he says, per month.

WAEL ABBAS, EGYPTIAN BLOGGER: This is the officer who was (INAUDIBLE) caught in the videos that we have revealed on the blogs.

RAMAN: Wael posts pictures of alleged police torture, video taken from cell phones and has even named the men he believes are responsible. So instrumental are his efforts, Wael recently was recognized by the International Center for Journalists.

ABBAS: Even if something happened to me, I want other people to carry on with what I was doing. I'm not the only guy with a camera. I'm not the only guy who is able to take pictures and take videos of what's going on.

RAMAN: And the videos just keep coming.


RAMAN: Because of that, Egypt's government has come under immense pressure to take action. The critics say, so far, nothing has changed -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Aneesh Raman reporting from Cairo. Aneesh, thank you.

Some experts draw a direct line between Egypt's torture of Islamist prisoners and the 9/11 attacks on America. They are arguing, and they have for years, that the brutality and humiliation experienced in prison has fueled some deep anger, psychological disturbstances, and above all, a thirst for revenge.

One of those prisoners was Ayman al-Zawahiri, now al Qaeda's number two man. Al-Zawahiri has described beatings and tortures in Egyptian prisons, corroborated by others who say the experience turned him into a more violent zealot. He went on to Afghanistan, joined forces with Osama bin Laden. And the two later issued a religious decree calling for the killing of Americans, among others. A cartoon so offensive some are willing to kill the man who drew it.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: You said you would slaughter him like a lamb. Do you mean that?



BLITZER: The artist is now in hiding. He talks to CNN about the bounty al Qaeda has put on his head.

Plus Al Gore wins the Nobel Peace Prize for his warnings about climate change. He's calling it a crisis, an emergency. I talked with him about it when he appeared at the United Nations the other day. That interview and a lot more, coming up, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: In our news around the world tonight, we have an amazing story. Al Qaeda has put a bounty on the head of a Swedish artist over a controversial cartoon of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. Now the artist is in hiding as death threats are pouring in. CNN international security correspondent Paula Newton talked to him -- Paula.

NEWTON: Wolf, this isn't your typical al Qaeda target. This is rural Sweden and the home of artist Lars Vilks, a man who now finds himself on the al Qaeda hit list.


NEWTON (voice-over): Lars Vilks says he wanted to take a stand for artistic freedom. Now, because of that, police are telling him to lie low and check his car for traps and bombs. Why?

Al Qaeda says Vilks is a marked man. They want him executed for sketching this: a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a dog.

(on camera): You set out deliberately to provoke and insult Muslims?

LARS VILKS, ARTIST: I don't think it should be a problem to insult a religion, because it should be possible to insult all religions. And it could be a -- in a democratic way out there, if you insult one, then you should also insult the other ones.

NEWTON (voice-over): This eccentric Swedish artist and sculptor says he's an equal opportunity offender, even depicting Jesus as a pedophile. CNN has chosen not to show details of his religious works. All of this now playing out in a menacing video.


NEWTON (on camera): There you are again.

VILKS: Yes. Yes. It's being shown, yes.

NEWTON (voice-over): Al Qaeda offers Muslims $150,000 to murder Vilks.

VILKS: "If I have the occasion, I should, inshallah, slaughter you."

NEWTON: Those chilling words written by this wife and mother, Amatullah (ph), who follows the most conservative tenets of Islam and lives just an hour-and-a-half away from Vilks.

(on camera): You said you would slaughter him like a lamb. Do you mean that?


NEWTON (voice-over): Amatullah has already been fined for threatening Vilks. Still, she says she won't stop until he's dead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Call me a terrorist. Call me an Islamist. But I have the right to defend my prophet.

NEWTON: Swedish police, who would not comment on security, say they have warned Vilks al Qaeda sympathizers could be hunting him down here.

(on camera): Did you just get a death threat?

VILKS: "I will kill you, you son of a bitch."

NEWTON: Why aren't you afraid? You just received a death threat.

VILKS: You get use to it.

NEWTON (voice-over): Something else he's getting used to, driving every night to a location near a safe house. Then, we went along on his secret route, climbing walls through back gardens.

(on camera): Boy, this is crazy.

VILKS: Yes, this is crazy. But it's -- I think it's very good.

NEWTON (voice-over): This artist, now in hiding, makes no excuses, his drawing, his right, he says.

VILKS: If you don't like it, don't look at it. And if you want to look at it, don't take it too seriously.

NEWTON: Vilks knows such defiance could get him killed. Still, he claims his art is worth dying for.

(on camera): Good night.

VILKS: Good night.

NEWTON: We'll see you.

VILKS: Good night. Good night -night.


NEWTON: Wolf, pretty much daily the death threats continue to come in via e-mail, via text messages, those phone calls. But along with all of those death threats comes a lot of publicity and certainly Vilks made no bones about it, he do this to provoke.

BLITZER: Paula Newton, what a story. We'll stay on top of this story with you for our viewers.

Al Gore, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, my interview with the former vice president. We spoke just the other day, and I asked him who he thinks should be in the White House this time around. The interview, coming up.

Plus, Hollywood wars. Three new films and a disturbing view on Iraq. Will viewers tune in or drop out? Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: My interview with Al Gore coming up in a moment. But, first, the presidential candidates have been scrambling for campaign at a rapid pace and there's powerful new evidence that they are going to need every penny and a lot more. CNN has exclusive access to the forecast of a campaign media analysis group that tracks ad spending. Here's CNN's Tom Foreman -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, do you ever think about how much candidates spend to run TV ads? Well, you can throw out everything you know, because the 2008 election cycle is taking ad spending to a whole new level.


FOREMAN (voice-over): Hold on to your TV, you are about to be bombarded.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is time for Republicans to start acting like Republicans.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: I'm Barack Obama, and I approved this message, because to fix health care, we have to fix Washington.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rudy Giuliani has always been a big fan of George Bush's war in Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They attacked us, and they will again. They won't stop in Iraq.

EVAN TRACEY, TNS MEDIA INTELLIGENCE: We think $3 billion will be spent in the 2008 election. And this is everything from dog catcher to president of the United States, to issue groups.

FOREMAN: $3 billion? That's record-breaking and nearly double the amount spent to clutter the airwaves in the 2004 cycle. A new advertising forecast by the Campaign Media Analysis Group, a CNN consultant, projects $800 million of that total will be spent by candidates, parties, and issues groups in the presidential race.

ROMNEY: I'm Mitt Romney, and I approved this message.

FOREMAN: On the republican side, deep-pocketed presidential candidate Mitt Romney is in class by himself. His ads have run roughly 11,000 times in early primary states. Price tag? More than $8 million.

Democrats gunning for the White House are putting all their TV ad money into Iowa and New Hampshire, introducing themselves to voters.

But candidates, beware. Still, unknown players in the ad wars could be this election's wild card.

TRACEY: What you have right now is a bunch of groups that are forming out there that are going to look to be the swift boat of the 2008 election. They're going to look for an issue that they can exploit through advertising, in some of these battleground states. And I suspect that's going to be a big part of the campaign.

FOREMAN: The candidates really have a tough choice to make, spending all of their money in states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, where the voting's early, means they might not have enough cash to buy airtime in states that vote on February 5th or tsunami Tuesday.

Experts also say once each party picks its nominee, general election ads are generally going to start right away without much of a pause. Meaning viewers and voters won't get much of a break.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Tom Foreman reporting for us.

Just the other day before Al Gore one his Nobel peace prize, he was out promoting the campaign against global warming over at the United Nations. I was in New York when he was there, and I spoke with him about the environment and the presidential race.


BLITZER: And joining us now, the former vice president of the United States, Al Gore.

Mr. Vice President, thanks very much for coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're speaking -- you're at the United Nations. And there's a lot of people looking to the United Nations to do something about global change, about climate change, global warming. Do you really expect the U.N. to do anything concrete right now?

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: Wolf, I do. This was the largest gathering of heads of state in history, to focus on the climate crisis. And the immediate purpose was to give a mandate to the negotiators that will be meeting in early December, in Bali, in Indonesia, to start the negotiating process for a new and tougher treaty to take the place of the Kyoto treaty. And I called upon them today to finish that up two years ahead of what's currently planned now, 2012; instead to get it completely in place by 2010. We face a planetary emergency.

Just three days ago, as you know, the scientists reported that the melting of the north polar ice cap was ten times faster than expected. It's fallen off a cliff, in the words of one of these scientific experts. And it really is an emergency.

BLITZER: Well, what about India and China, two of the world's biggest polluters in the past? They've not cooperated. They've not participated in any of these protocols, basically. Do you have any commitment, any idea whether they're going to change their mind right now?

GORE: Well, the best way to get them to is for the United States to provide leadership. Both were represented at this meeting today. And the head of China took the position at the APEC meeting ten days ago in Australia said he supports the Kyoto treaty. And both China and India have talked about the need for every nation, including their own, to be part of this new treaty. So it will be a negotiating process, but, yes, they have to be a part of it.

BLITZER: So what I hear you saying, Mr. Vice President, correct me if I'm wrong, is the U.S., the Bush administration, is the big stumbling block right now. Is that right?

GORE: Well, that's long been the case. The United States has greatest capacity to provide leadership, and to help organize a global response to this crisis.

But you know we do have new leadership in the Congress. And a little more than a year from now we'll have a new president, perhaps one that is committed to action on the climate crisis.

So, whatever is done in the next remaining year or so of the current president's term needs to be seen in that larger context. But I don't rule out the possibility that President Bush and Vice President Cheney might make some small changes in their positions. I would hope so.

BLITZER: Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, was here at the United Nations this week, speaking in part about global warming. Do you think there's a change of heart on the part of this administration?

GORE: No, I don't think there's a change of heart yet at all. There's a small tweaking of the language. And it sometimes conveys the impression that there's a change. But there's been no change in policy, as yet.

Nevertheless, the rest of the world is moving, and the foundation's being laid here at this meeting today for the negotiations that will begin in December, and I'm very optimistic that we will get a new and tougher global agreement.

But the time is running out. We really need to approach it with a great sense of urgency and alarm. We can still solve it, but we don't have that much time.

BLITZER: You're looking ahead to the next U.S. president. Who among the candidates, democrat and republican, do you think is most committed to where you stand in terms of the need to deal with global warming?

GORE: Well, let's give them more time. The process still has a long way to go.

Several of the candidates on the democratic side have spoken out forcefully on this issue. None has yet presented a truly comprehensive plan. But I'm optimistic that as the debate continues, they will.

On the republican side, I haven't heard much about it. John McCain has in the past had a very responsible position, but competing for the votes in those primaries, I guess, has led him in another direction.

But, I really am optimistic that both political parties will make this one of the core issues. And I'm very optimistic that the next administration will be very different from this one.

BLITZER: I know you're studying all the candidates and their positions on this and other issues. Four years ago you endorsed Howard Dean. What about the prospect of Al Gore endorsing any of the candidates this time around?

GORE: I don't know if I'll make an endorsement or not. I just don't know.

BLITZER: Because the president, you heard him say this week, he thinks Hillary Clinton is going to get the democratic nomination but then lose to the republican next -- a year from now, November. What do you think about that prediction by President Bush?

GORE: Well, I think it's too early to make predictions. At least it's too early for me to make predictions about it.

BLITZER: But you're not ready to jump on the Hillary Clinton bandwagon yet.

GORE: I'm not ready to endorse a candidate or to decide whether I will. But I appreciate your interest in it.


BLITZER: Al Gore speaking with me the other day and congratulations to Al Gore for winning the Nobel peace prize.

CNN is showing its commitment to reporting on climate change. Don't miss "Planet in Perfectly Peril," a CNN investigation to explore the world's environmental issues. Join Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Animal Planet host Jeff Corwin, on October 23rd and October 24th at 9:00 p.m. eastern, only here on CNN.

Big name endorsements on our political ticker this Friday; the Georgia congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis is throwing his support behind Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Lewis' endorsement could help Senator Clinton enhance her already strong backing among African American voters.

Her leading democratic primary rival for the black vote, Senator Barack Obama, is conveying his admiration for Congressman Lewis. His spokesman saying Obama understands Lewis' long relationship with the former president, Bill Clinton, and he notes that Senator Obama has the support of another leading civil rights figure, Jesse Jackson.

One of Rudy Giuliani former republican rivals is endorsing his campaign today. That would be former health secretary and Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson. Thompson says he's backing Giuliani because he can unite the nation and beat Hillary Clinton. Thompson announced his support for Giuliani in the key battleground state of South Carolina. Thompson abandoned his own struggling presidential bid two months ago.

Remember, for the latest political news at any time, you can check out the CNN political ticker. Go to

The war in Iraq, coming to a theater near you; Hollywood rolling out three, repeat three, disturbing new films. Will they sway public opinion or turn off the audience?

Plus, two presidential candidates, one republican, one democrat, now teaming up to end the war. A look at this unlikely alliance.

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


BLITZER: And this just coming in to CNN on our top story right now, the White House reacting to the story we led this hour with, just a little while ago; strong criticism of the war in Iraq by retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez. He was the overall U.S. military commander for the first year or so of the war. He told a group of military reporters just the other day, he said, there is no question that America is living a nightmare with no end in sight.

Our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, is getting some reaction from officials over at the White House. What are they saying to General Sanchez, Suzanne?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we just got a statement from Tennessee spokeswoman Kate Starr, who says, and I'm quoting here. "We appreciate his service to the country. As General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker said, there is more work to be done and progress is being made in Iraq. And that's what we are focused on right now."

Clearly, Wolf, this is a reality challenge to the administration here. We've heard from several individuals, those in the military, but obviously, this one who has a great deal of stature and was very much involved in the initial phase of the war and afterwards to come out with such harsh criticism against the Bush administration. You have the president, who is at a point now, who is trying to prove that this so-called troop surge has been successful, and is looking to pulling back some troops by the end of the year. You also, however, have the larger problem, and that is of national reconciliation.

It was just yesterday that the president had a conversation with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki about where they are in that process. And it's been a very frustrating one, even the Press Secretary, Dana Perino, acknowledging that there's a great deal of frustration with the government, and not with Maliki personally, but with the government and the various factions, the sects, the Sunnis and the Shia, their inability to reconcile and move forward with very significant legislation.

BLITZER: All right, Suzanne, thanks very much.

Reaction from the White House to Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez's tough, very tough, statements about a nightmare unfolding in Iraq right now. We'll stay on top of this story for our viewers.

Hollywood movie makers, by the way, are bracing for a backlash from a new wave of Iraq war films.

Here's CNN's Kareen Wynter.



It's really no secret that many films are coming out related to the war in Iraq, but what may surprise you? Quite a number of them are pointing the finger at U.S. troops and the American government.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think is going to be the first casualty of this entire conflict? Do you know what it's going to be? It's going to be the truth.

WYNTER: The truth according to legendary filmmaker Brian De Palma will likely strike backlash when "Redacted" hits theaters in November.

Fans looking for American patriotism won't find it in this film. U.S. soldiers play the villains who rape and murder an Iraqi girl. It's said to be based on true events.

BRIAN DE PALMA, DIRECTOR, "REDACTED": Show the pictures. If you show the pictures of what is happening to innocent civilians, this war will happen very quickly.

PHIL DONAHUE, DIRECTOR, "BODY OF WAR": See the pain. Don't sanitize the war.

WYNTER: Also bringing the war home is talk show legend Phil Donahue. His new documentary, "Body of War" chronicles the event.

THOMAS YOUNG: All I saw was women and children running away from gunfire before I took a bullet myself.

WYNTER: Thomas Young will never walk again. He blames President Bush.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a massive foreign policy blunder.

WYNTER: Nick Broomfield's "Battle for Haditha" takes aim at Washington as well, recounting the murder of 24 innocent Iraqi civilians by U.S. troops in reaction to a roadside bombing.

NICK BROOMFIELD, DIRECTOR, "BATTLE FOR HADITHA": By showing these kinds of things, the American public will understand the situation in Iraq is completely untenable. It's unwinnable. And nothing good is ever going to come of it.

MICHAEL MEDVED, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: My big problem with these films and that there's balance.

WYNTER: Conservative radio host Michael Medved says these films underscore Hollywood's left-wing agenda by sliming the military.

MEDVED: Portraying them as losers and demented and out of control and rapist and murders is not the way most Americans see the troops.

WYNTR: These directors argue that most Americans have been kept in the dark.

DE PALMA: We are fed up by the war and being lied to by the Bush administration.

WYNTER: Wolf, we reached out to the Pentagon and the White House. Neither has seen the films and therefore, couldn't comment.


BLITZER: Kareen Wynter reporting for us from Los Angeles. Thank you.

Their campaigns say it's the first time it's happened in U.S. history; a presidential campaign event hosted by both a republican and a democrat. Candidates and Senators Sam Brownback and Joe Biden are riding low in most of the polls, but now they've teamed up to push for a new policy in Iraq.

Our Mary Snow is following this story from Des Moines, Iowa.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the candidates came here to Des Moines to talk about a political solution to the war in Iraq. But they say their message has much broader appeal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Peopling are calling you the odd couple. Is that ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are the odd couple, but we like each other.

SNOW: Presidential hopefuls democratic Joe Biden and republican Sam Brownback admit they disagree on a lot, and they say they can understand why their alliance is turning head.

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You may want to check and make sure the sun comes up the next day and see if the world doesn't fall apart.

SNOW: Biden and Brownback, both U.S. senators, are calling for a political solution, not a military one to end the war in Iraq. They say they chose Iowa to tout their plan to make a political point.

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think Americans are sick and tired of this red and blue, the liberal/conservative. The other guy if they disagree, it's not just that they are wrong. They are bad. This was a way to demonstrate that we can pull together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The amendment is agreed to.

SNOW: Biden and Brownback sponsored a resolution calling for a federalized Iraq that won 75 votes in the Senate. They are calling for a decentralized government that would allow Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds to have their own state. The measure has brought attention to both who are long shots for the presidency and their respective parties.

BROWNBACK: We are trying to show hope to the country that we can come together on tough topics, even Iraq. And I think that can show and sow a big sealed of hope for the country of us coming together on tough problems.

SNOW: While Senator Brownback is talking about hope, he's also talking about reality of the race. He says he'll drop out if he places lower than fourth in the Iowa caucus.


BLITZER: All right, Mary, thank you very much. Mary Snow reporting from Iowa. Conflicting and confusing advice for pregnant women. You're going to find out why some British health officials are now saying it's all right to have a drink of a glass of wine. Wine, a day.

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


BLITZER: Usually when a woman learns she's pregnant, she quits drinking alcohol. But now in Britain, at least, health officials are rethinking that advice.

Our medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, has a look at the surprising turnaround.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Should a pregnant woman drink alcohol? The answer to that might depend on which side of the Atlantic you live on.

The last thing you'd think a doctor would say to a pregnant woman is go ahead and drink, it's OK. But British health authorities are considering telling women in their second and third trimester a drink a day is OK. The Brits have gone back and forth about advice on alcohol for pregnant women.

AMY, 8 MONTHS PREGNANT: Having drunk sensibility two or three units a week through my pregnancy and having felt fantastic on it, I would be interesting to know if there is a danger to my baby, what that danger is.

COHEN: The draft of this new policy makes it pretty clear.

DR. DAGHNI RAJASINGAM, ROYAL COLLEGE OF OBSTETRICS: Drinking one or two units of alcohol once or twice a week is really unlikely to harm your baby.

COHEN: No matter what is decreed in Britain, don't expect American authorities to change their advice anytime soon. That advice? Don't drink when you're pregnant.

DR. IFFATH HOSKINS, LUTHERAN MEDICAL CENTER: We know that drinking alcohol in pregnancy is dangerous for the developing fetus.

COHEN: Dr. Iffath Hoskins admits there isn't much science to say either way if a drink a day is OK for pregnant women. Doctors can't do studies on pregnant women and alcohol. It would be unethical. She says the "don't drink at all" advice is really just to be safe and absolutely sure that the fetus isn't harmed.

A draft of the British policy says that women in their first trimester should avoid alcohol if possible and that more than five drinks at one sitting could be particularly harmful during pregnancy. The full recommendation from the British health authorities isn't expected to be out until next year. Wolf.

BLITZER: Elizabeth Cohen reporting, thank you.

Let's go right to Rick Sanchez to see what's coming up at the top of the hour.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is interesting, Wolf. A FOX News anchor is saying he can tell the difference between a white shooter and a black shooter. Maybe he can. We'll let you decide. In fact, we'll report, you decide.

Also more from Irving, Texas. We're going to bring you the very latest on that controversy that we went to follow yesterday.

And then there's a break also, Wolf, we need to tell you about. Something going on with the Jena 6 case and we're going to have the Reverend Sharpton here to talk about that as well. So we've got a lot going on. Should be a good show.

All right. We'll be watching. Thanks, Rick.

We'll take a quick break. Much more of our coverage right after this.


BLITZER: There he is, Jack Cafferty, let's see what's in the Cafferty File.


JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour is, which U.S. city needs a new slogan and what should it be? New York has a new one called this is New York City, which I don't get at all but more on that now.

Andy in Virginia writes, "Washington: Run for office, serve in the government and live in historic Washington, D.C. where the men are men and the congressional pages know it."

Sean in Florida, "Minneapolis: Come check out our bridges and bathrooms."

Ryan in Seattle, "Recently, Seattle changed its slogan to "MetroNatural." Anything, but anything has to be better than "MetroNatural."

David in Utah, "Utah: Better lives for all your wives."

Buster in New York, "As a frustrated Yankees fan, I can't help but be a jerk and rub it in someone else's face. Chicago: The Winless City. Proud home of the 1908 World Champion Cubs."

Steven in New York, "Crawford, Texas: We're sorry."

Edwin in Florida, "Born and raised in New York, 75 years old. I got your New York right here."

Jesse in Oklahoma, "How the hell did I wind up in Wichita?"

Chuck in Macon, Missouri, "Hope, Arkansas: At least the one from Hope wasn't a dope."

George in Florida, "New Orleans: Take a real good look. This could be you."

Darren in Alaska, "Fairbanks, Alaska: Where global warming is a GOOD thing!"

And Jerry in New York, "Washington, D.C.: Where integrity goes to die."

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: Good work, Jack. Have a great weekend. See you back here on Monday. Jack Cafferty with the Cafferty file.

This Sunday on "LATE EDITION," the founder of the private security group in Iraq, Blackwater USA, Sunday 11:00 a.m. eastern, Erik Prince, we'll talk to him.

Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Up next, Rick Sanchez with "OUT IN THE OPEN."