Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Bush Goes to Iraq; Bush Biography Nears Release; Ring of Steel; "House to House;" Popcorn Additive Linked to Lung Damage; Dancing Inmates Redux

Aired September 3, 2007 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I feel really bad for him and his family. I feel bad for Idaho.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And for them to take him out of there and treat him like that, that's a shame.

ACOSTA: It took a while. But we did find one person who thinks justice has been served.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, he pled guilty to a lesser deal to get it over with and he knows what the law is and how the law operates.

ACOSTA: But he was just passing through.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

(on camera): It's not too difficult to conduct an informal poll of the citizens of Midvale. The town phone directory fits on I a single sheet of paper. The general consensus is Senator Larry Craig got railroaded -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jim.

Thanks very much.

To our viewers, you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, President Bush makes a surprise visit to the front lines in Iraq and raises the possibility of a homecoming for at least some U.S. troops.

Giving the Caribbean just a taste of its power, Hurricane Felix takes a breather as it takes aim at Central America.

But will it be back it a category five monster when it makes landfall?

A lot of people watching.

And the actress Angelina Jolie is an activist, a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations. But her father, the actor John Voight, may take a different view when it comes to the war in Iraq.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

President Bush is heading to a summit in Australia at this hour. But he's on his way from Iraq, where he had jaws dropping with a surprise visit to an area that's been a hotbed of the insurgency, the Al Anbar Province, at least until recently. The president got a rousing reception from the troops and suggested some troops could be coming home. He said the timing would be tied to what he called "a position of strength and success."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Those decisions will be based on a calm assessment by our military commanders on the conditions on the ground, not a nervous reaction by Washington politicians to pulse results in the media.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's get some more now from CNN's Carol Costello.

She is watching all of this.

It was a top secret trip, obviously, for security reasons and it was quite complicated -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was quite complicated. And it was all about security.

The president pulled a fast one on the press, leading us to believe he'd be in Hawaii and then on to Australia.

But he was whisked from the White House and ended up in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

COSTELLO (voice-over): President Bush arrived in Anbar, west of Baghdad, on Air Force One, his usual 747, not a military plane, landing as you would, at a commercial airport.

Often, planes flying into Baghdad use a tight corkscrew approach to land, something that our Anderson Cooper experienced as he touched down in Iraq last year.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: (INAUDIBLE). By the way, they (INAUDIBLE).

COSTELLO: The plane turned sharply, spiraling downward in a tight circle, to avoid taking fire, something certainly not unheard of.

Just a few days ago, a military transport flying out of Baghdad with four lawmakers on board came under hostile fire.

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R-AL), VICE CHAIRMAN, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I looked out the window and I saw a rocket going by the window. And I knew we were being fired upon, but I didn't know by what. Then I saw another one. I didn't actually see the third one. Then I -- the pilots, the crew, did such an outstanding job, I thought. They started rolling the plane. They fired off flares.

COSTELLO: The senator was lucky.

In January of 2005, insurgents shot down a British cargo plane taking off from Baghdad airport, killing 10.

But General Douglas Lute, America's war czar, says it was safe to land in Anbar in a nonmilitary fashion because American military secures at a 10-and-a-half mile perimeter around the airport and it's staffed by 10,000 troops.

Still, secrecy is of the utmost importance. Few knew of the president's plan. Not even Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki knew the president was coming.

MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I've been involved in these things before and word tends it seep out at the last minute. But you don't want the wrong people to get the information so they have planning time.

COSTELLO: The American press didn't know, either. They were told the president was scheduled to leave Washington this morning, at 11:00 a.m. for Sydney, Australia via Hawaii.

But instead, the Secret Service sneaked President Bush out of the White House at 7:15 p.m. Sunday. His motorcade to Andrews Air Force Base looked nothing like this. Instead, the president was accompanied by one unmarked security vehicle.

At 7:42, Air Force One was towed out to the tarmac with the window shades down, presumably to prevent anyone from seeing who was on board. The plane took off when it was dark, 8:05 p.m. loaded with fuel, in order to make the 12 hour right in to Anbar direct.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

COSTELLO: Now, the interesting thing, the plane took off under the cover of darkness here but it landed in broad daylight in Al Anbar, perhaps highlighting how well secured this part of Iraq has become -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Carol.

Thanks very much.

Carol Costello reporting.

President Bush made the unexpected visit to an area that's been one of the bloodiest battlegrounds in Iraq.

What kind of message is he trying to send?

Joining us now, our correspondent in Baghdad, Michael Ware -- Michael, the president simply shows up in the Al Anbar Province, makes the point that a couple of years ago this would have been unthinkable. And I guess by implication it means things are getting better, at least where he is, at the Al Assad military base.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf.

It was absolutely no surprise that of all the things that President Bush decided to highlight during his very secretive lightning tour here to Iraq was Al Anbar Province. It's been a regular war drum of success that he's been beating repeatedly in successive speeches.

I mean forget the surge. The surge, militarily, has achieved the things that it has and it's fallen short where it has. And the political -- and political developments that were supposed to follow through from it certainly haven't happened. They've fallen in a disastrous heap.

So the one bright shining light that the president has to show success is Al Anbar Province.

So gee whiz, where did he go?

What, of course, the president didn't talk about is the real nature of this success, that, essentially, when he says tribes, he's meaning Sunni insurgents. He's talking about, as the president said, those who fought alongside Al Qaeda against us and are now fighting alongside us against Al Qaeda.

Now, perhaps it's not without poignancy that in Al Assad Air Base today with President Bush was the Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, someone who, until recently, was deeply opposed to this tribal program, fearing that this was America building Sunni militias to rival the Shia militias of Maliki's own government.

So -- and to sit down with some these tribal sheikhs, with Prime Minister Al-Maliki, I don't think that was without meaning. I think that essentially told Maliki -- get on board with this program or get off, you're about to be steamrolled.

Now we've just come back from Anbar Province. We've been with these tribal forces. We were with the Islamic Army, Brigades of 1920 Revolution, former al Qaeda. They don't hide the fact that they're there against Maliki. They're against his government. They're still against the occupation.

And it was patently clear that the U.S. was indeed supporting them, giving them weapons by putting them straight into police uniforms, teaching them American tactics and putting them back out on the street.

So, really, they are doing exactly what the government fears -- building anti-government forces -- Wolf.

BLITZER: In a nutshell, what would happen if the U.S. decided to start pulling its Marines and soldiers out of the Al Anbar Province over the next few months? How would that unfold?

WARE: Well, we'd see, within the province itself, a consolidation of the tribal and Baathist nationalist insurgent power. What would be interesting would be to see whether the government would attempt to make inroads to curve that consolidation, because once they leave Al Anbar, once the U.S. forces leave Iraq, I can assure you Al Anbar will be one of the key battlegrounds in this civil strife that everyone is convinced will follow and U.S. intelligence agencies constantly warn against in terms of reducing the troops. That will be the price.

So Al Anbar post-American presence in Iraq itself, post-American occupation, will be something possibly very akin to Lebanon in the 1990s. And Al Anbar will be bloody soil once more -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Not a very pretty picture, indeed.

Michael Ware, thanks very much.

WARE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: America's closest ally in Iraq today marked a major milestone in its draw down from a combat role. The last 500 British troops in Basra withdrew today, handing the southern city over to Iraqi forces. At least 5,500 troops concentrated around a nearby air base. They had been deployed in four provinces, but the new prime minister, Gordon Brown, says they'll now play what he calls an over watch role, ready, he says, to re-intervene if necessary.

Basra is Iraq's second largest city. It's Iraq's main port. It's also a critical gateway for U.S. troops and supplies entering Iraq from Kuwait.

Jack Cafferty has the day off. He'll be back tomorrow.

Up ahead, a powerful hurricane -- one of the most intense Atlantic storms ever. It's taking aim right now. We have the latest Hurricane Center report. That's coming up.

He's a Hollywood star in his own right.

But is that the only thing John Voight and his daughter, Angelina Jolie, have in common?

The veteran actor sounds off in support of the war in Iraq.

And North Korea agrees to disable its nuclear program by the end of this year.

Is that enough to get it off the U.S. government's terrorism list?

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's almost as if Hurricane Felix is taking a little bit, a tiny bit of a breather. The category five monster has dipped to a category four. But that still means an extremely powerful storm. And it's now heading toward Central America.

Let's turn to our severe weather expert, our meteorologist, Chad Myers, aft the CNN Hurricane Center -- all right, Chad, what's the latest forecast?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: The latest is that it's not going to get back to a category five before it hits. Now, it's still going to be a very, very strong category four. And this is going to hit a fairly remote area of Honduras and Nicaragua -- the populated areas a little bit farther back here.

So the longer it spends over the relatively unpopulated areas of Honduras, the more it's going to get torn up. This is a very mountainous country, too, maybe even Tegucigalpa. You could see some significant flooding well inland as the storm approaches.

Now what have the winds done?

The winds have done nothing but go down one day. We were 165. Now we're 135, and I think that's probably generous.

I looked at some of these airplane flights, because hurricane hunters are going through there right now. I think you're probably about maybe 125. So maybe we're down to a category three. But it is still forecast to regenerate a little bit. It still has some more time over water.

It should make landfall here along the coast of Nicaragua about 8:00 tomorrow morning. And it's still going to be a dangerous storm, a flood maker, a wind maker, and even a -- probably a mudslide maker, as it gets in here, into Honduras, into Belize and Guatemala; also into Mexico City.

One other thing I'm a little bit concerned with, as the storm continues to move on by and across Honduras, it gets down to south of Belize City. I think Belize City is in pretty good shape. But it does move over Mexico City in a couple of days. Now that could cause some flooding there. A very mountainous area around Mexico City and millions and millions and millions of people are in the way there.

There are the winds right there now, Wolf -- 135, gusting to 160. A little bit down, so that's good.

BLITZER: And that's still an extremely, extremely dangerous major hurricane.

MYERS: Yes. Absolutely.

BLITZER: Chad, thanks very much.

MYERS: You're welcome. BLITZER: Felix resembles another major storm that developed very quickly only a few years ago. Back in October of 2005, Wilma exploded within hours from a tropical storm to a category five hurricane. With a tightly packed eye, it became the most intense storm on record for the Atlantic Basin.

Wilma weakened slightly as it hit Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, then curved back out at sea to hit Florida three days later as a category three storm.

Wilma occurred toward the end of the hurricane season. This year, we still haven't even reached the peak. That occurs on September 10th.

North Korea marks a date on the calendar for ending its nuclear program.

But is that enough to get it off the U.S. government's terror list?

Our State Department correspondent, Zain Verjee, is here.

She's watching this story for us.

This sounds like a potential milestone, but is it?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf that's the key question, really.

The U.S., this time around, gets a win on its diplomatic scoreboard.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

VERJEE (voice-over): It's a first -- in face-to-face talks with the U.S., North Korea sets a deadline to get rid of its nuclear program.

CHRISTOPHER HILL, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: The DPRK will provide a full declaration of all of their nuclear programs and will disable their nuclear programs by the end of this year.

VERJEE: But the devil, as they say, is in the details. One giant question mark -- the U.S. says North Korea has a whole other secret nuclear program using uranium to build bombs, which it needs to scrap.

But North Korea denies it even exists.

HILL: We need to pick up the pace.

VERJEE: This weekend's promise follows the shutdown of its main nuclear reactor in July, which was producing plutonium, the raw material for its nuclear bombs.

This is North Korea's next step as part of the February deal, where it agreed to end its nuclear program in exchange for aid and better relations with the U.S. North Korea also wants to be taken off a list of states the U.S. says sponsors terrorism. North Korea expects it to happen soon.

But a senior State Department official says this is not imminent. The U.S. wants North Korea to follow Libya's path. Muammar Gaddafi gave up his nukes, got off of the U.S. terrorism list and is enjoying a range of economic and diplomatic rewards. Yes, Muammar Gaddafi as a role model.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

VERJEE: Secretary Rice is expected to go to Beijing this year to meet with her counterparts in the region and sit with them across the table from the North Koreans -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain, where are the North Korean nuclear sites?

VERJEE: Well, the key one -- the one that we've heard all about -- is the one that's been shut down by the North Koreans. That's known as the Yongbyon nuclear reactor.

But, you know, Wolf, there are a lot of suspicions by organizations like GlobalSecurity.org that the tentacles in North Korea have really spread throughout the country.

Just take a look at this map. You have as an estimated 22 nuclear facilities in 18 locations in North Korea. Experts say that they range, really, from uranium mines to refineries to research facilities.

BLITZER: What do the North Koreas really want here?

VERJEE: Well, a lot of experts that we talk to basically say North Korea's bottom line is to survive. Kim Jong Il wants to make sure that he remains in power.

One of the ways that he can do that, they argue, is to normalize relations with the U.S., make sure that what happened to Saddam Hussein doesn't happen to him.

He also is looking for a lot of fuel aide for his country, so that's a key aspect.

BLITZER: There have been other hoped for moments in the past that unfortunately didn't materialize.

VERJEE: Yes.

BLITZER: Let's hope this one does, Zain.

Thanks very much.

VERJEE: Thanks.

BLITZER: And still ahead, the Bush presidency from the inside out -- we're going to get a sneak preview of a brand new book that's coming out tomorrow.

And later, beware the buttery taste -- why there's a health warning about microwave popcorn.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

COSTELLO: A couple of things, Wolf.

A 10-year-old girl is in serious condition after her rescue from a Northwestern Arizona mine shaft. Casie Hicks and her 13-year-old sister, who died in this accident, plunged down a 125-foot shaft on Saturday. They were riding an all terrain vehicle on a family outing when they went missing. Searchers did not find the hole until they located the tracks from the ATV. The shaft was unmarked.

In Southern Israel today, parents and children scramble to get inside of a school as rockets fall around them.

Israel Defense Forces say Palestinian militants fired a half dozen of them from Gaza. One rocket hit a courtyard outside of a crowded nursery. None of the 15 children inside were hurt. Parents have pulled their children from the school, though.

There is a new Beefeater on duty at the tower of London, and she is a woman. Forty-two-year-old Moira Cameron is the first woman ever to wear the traditional blue and red uniform. She served 22 years in the British Army, the minimum required to even be considered for the post. Beefeaters are originally called yeoman warders, originally assigned in the 15th century to guard high profile prisoners.

And on this Labor Day, what country do you suppose has the most productive workers the entire world?

Well, a new United Nations' report says it is the United States. The report says U.S. workers produce almost $64,000 in wealth per person on average. Number two, Ireland, generates about $56,000 per person. The big reason we're number one -- Americans work more hours and get more done.

Back to you -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We knew that all along, didn't we, Carol?

COSTELLO: Yes, we did.

BLITZER: thank you very much.

Good news on this Labor Day. Up next, God's shoulder to cry on -- a new book tells about President Bush's private tears and what he wants to do after his presidency.

And inmates dance to the warden's tunes.

Does this unusual program hold the key to ending prison violence?

We'll take a closer look.

The dancing inmates -- they're coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Largest expansion since it opened 93 years ago. The multi-billion dollar widening project is expected to double the canal's capacity. Expected to lower consumer prices in the United States by allowing wider vessels to get through with more cargo.

And an Iranian-American scholar detains for three months in a Tehran prison is a free woman. Paula left Iran today. She was accused of trying to build a soft evolution against Iran. A charge she denied.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, work has begun on the Panama Canal's largest expansion since it opened 93 years ago. The multi-billion dollar widening project is expected to double the Canal's capacity. It's expected to lower consumer prices in the United States by allowing wider vessels to get through with more cargo.

And an Iranian-American scholar detained for three months in a Tehran prison is a free woman. Haleh Esfandiari left Iran today. She was accused of trying to build a soft revolution against Iran -- a charge she denies.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A new book about President Bush is schedule to hit bookstore shelves tomorrow. It's entitled "Dead Certain" and it takes a fascinating inside look at the Bush presidency.

Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow.

She got a little sneak preview for us.

I take it there are some surprises in this new book -- Mary. MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There are, Wolf.

And we were able to obtain a copy of the book today. Now, this book gives us a glimpse into some of the president's very private moments and it details what happened behind closed doors when making some key decisions.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

BUSH: I believe you're looking at the next vice president of the United States.

SNOW (voice-over): But one key player in then Governor Bush's inner circle didn't agree.

In "Dead Certain" author Robert Draper writes that in 2000, political adviser Karl Rove did not think Dick Cheney would be a good running mate, but that the president didn't care.

Draper paraphrases Rove: "selecting daddy's top foreign policy guy ran counter to message. It was worse than a safe pick -- it was needy."

And in a 2005 argument, Rove was shouted down for resisting Bush pick Harriet Miers for Supreme Court.

The book also claims Chief Justice John Roberts was the person who pushed for Miers' nomination. But today the Supreme Court called that account not true.

Beyond the dissent, the book details personal moments -- President Bush admitting he sheds tears in private. Draper quoting the president as saying: "I've got God's shoulder to cry on and I cry a lot. I do a lot of crying in this job. I'll bet I've shed more tears than you can count as president."

"Self-pity," he says, "can come with the job," but that his wife Laura reminds him that he chose to do this -- rare and candid insight, which one historian suggests carries a motive.

ROBERT DALLEK, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: With his approval rating so low, this may, in part, explain why he agreed to do this interview -- or these interviews -- and allow this journalist to produce this book so quickly.

SNOW: After the White House, President Bush wants to build what he calls a fantastic freedom institute in Dallas.

But first, Draper says Mr. Bush told him he needs to "replenish the old coffers," knowing he can make what he calls " ridiculous money" on the lecture circuit, saying: "I don't know what my dad gets, but it's more than $50,000, $75,000. Clinton is making a lot of money."

And on Bill Clinton, the president talks about running into his predecessor at the United Nations in September of 2006. Reflecting on that, Bush tells Draper: "Six years from now, you're not going to see me hanging out in the lobby of the U.N."

(END VIDEO TAPE)

SNOW: Now Draper says for this book, he interviewed the president six times and he also interviewed many members of his administration, including Vice President Dick Cheney and senior adviser Karl Rove.

The White House says it has no comment on the book and CNN could not reach recently departed adviser Rove for a comment -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The book also details some extraordinary disagreement over the then defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

SNOW: Yes, it tells about a meeting in April of 2006 when the president invited some of his closest advisers to a dinner. And apparently there was -- asked for a show of hands about Donald Rumsfeld and the show of hands was 7-4 in favor of dismissing him. One of four who decided not to do that was of course President Bush and Donald Rumsfeld stayed on through the fall through November of 2006.

BLITZER: And then he was fired the next day after the election results were in. All right, Mary, thanks very much. A lot of people are wondering what would have happened on Election Day if he were fired earlier? We will learn a mot are about this new book "Dead Certain" from the author himself. Robert Draper will be a guest tomorrow right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We told you earlier how President Bush flew into Iraq under extraordinary secrecy and security. Well there's nothing security about his next destination, the economic summit Australia but there are plenty of precautions.

CNN's John Vause is in Sydney.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Australia has never seen security like this, a week-long lockdown in its biggest city. Many parts of Sydney are now off-limits including the famous opera house, surrounded by nine-feet high, three-mile ring of concrete and steel. Jet skis and speedboats patrol the harbor. On land, more than 5,000 police and troops are being deployed supported by military helicopters. Fighter jets will enforce a 45 mile no-fly zone all to protect the 21 world leaders attending the apex forum but far from welcomed by many who live here and face major disruption.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's crazy. It's just like I have never seen anything like it. I think it's really over the top.

VAUSE: Jim Perpentia (ph), a local teacher, found out just how tight security is.

JOHN PERPENTIA (ph): I think you should treat people with respect.

VAUSE: Quickly surrounded by police after photographing the security fence. PERPENTIA (ph): I think they should get some manners and they said, they threatened me. They said we could take your camera if we want to.

VAUSE: The Australian government says, deal with it.

JOHN HOWARD, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: There will be some inconvenience. The only way you'll avoid any inconvenience in not have any of these events and that's saying to the world it's too hard for Australia. Damn that.

VAUSE: But memories here are still fresh of a February visit by the U.S. vice president. His motorcade caused traffic gridlock crossing the harbor bridge, all so Mr. Cheney could enjoy a beer with Prime Minister John Howard. The fear is apex could be 20 times worse, especially because of widespread, possibly, violent protests. Police will be ready with a new water canon, purpose-built jails on wheels and temporary new powers to search and detain. Another cause for complaint, the cost of security, around $150 million U.S. dollars. But it's not all bad news for city residents. They've been given a public holiday this Friday.

John Vause, CNN, Sydney.

BLITZER: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is spending her Labor Day campaigning in Iowa. Tomorrow though, her appearance on the "Ellen Degeneres Show" goes to air. The senator from New York thought the talk show host could use some help with her political aspirations.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I heard the other day that you're thinking for running for president.

ELLEN DEGENERES: Well there's a lot of people running and I thought I should throw my name around so.

CLINTON: Well, I figured that I needed to bring you a campaign survival kit.

DEGENERES: Oh, wow, that's sweet of you.

CLINTON: Since I'm going to be competing with you.

DEGENERES: I know.

CLINTON: You know, I think there's a lot in here that I could you know maybe help you avoid some of the mistakes I've made.

DEGENERES: Oh good, all right.

CLINTON: Let's start with this, which is running for president for dummies.

DEGENERES: Oh!

CLINTON: I read it. It's very helpful. DEGENERES: I'm on the cover. Wow. And I'm on the cover.

BLITZER: Very funny. As for Senator Clinton, she has had one of her campaign secret weapons with her this holiday weekend. That would be her husband, the former president, Bill Clinton, on the campaign trail with Senator Clinton.

Fighting house to house, the gritty war memoir about what it is really like for the troops in Iraq. It's just been released. Standing by live, the author, the man who lived this battle, "House To House."

Also, they're on opposite sides of the political spectrum. We've heard a lot about the liberal politics of Angelina Jolie. And now you're about to hear from her famous father, the actor, John Voight.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: With his visit today to Iraq's al-Anbar province along one of the hotbeds of the insurgency, President Bush tried to send a message of success in Iraq. But any success has come at a very, very high price for U.S. troops who are there as an army staff sergeant, David Bellavia fought the insurgents at close range in Fallujah. His new book is entitled "House To House, an Epic Memoir of War."

Dave, thanks very much for coming in.

DAVID BELLAVIA, AUTHOR: Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: I want to talk about the book in a moment but you spent a lot of time this Fallujah, in the al-Anbar province. When you look from afar now, what's going on there, you're reading about it. I'm sure you're hearing about it from some of your buddies in the army. What do you think? Is this new strategy going to work?

BELLAVIA: Well, I'm not going to - I'm not naive enough to think that Fallujah's going to be put in a bid for the summer Olympics anytime soon. I think some people get a little carried away with what we see as security comparing it to the United States. But if you look at Anbar and if you look at where al-Anbar province was in 2004 during the battle of Fallujah, the last time I was in Anbar was in the summer of 2006, and I couldn't fly any aviation during the day and today the president of the United States took a 747 with his big presidential logo and landed it during the day in the middle of Al Asad air base. And if that doesn't speak for how far al-Anbar province has come, I really don't know what else I can say.

BLITZER: It clearly does speak at the enormous capabilities of the U.S. military, the marines and the soldiers who have been operating there. But fundamentally, do you think the Shiites and the Sunnis, who hate each other and have been at war with each other for a long time, they're really going to get together and form a cohesive national government that's going to really take charge and lead to a prosperous Iraq? BELLAVIA: You know I really hope to God they do because we've spilled buckets and buckets of American blood. And my whole point of view is that the brothers and sisters that I lost from the First Infantry Division, you know Iraq has to mean something. Fallujah has to mean something and at this point when we're so close and we're seeing success in place like the Diyala province in the east, al-Anbar in the west, at this point when we're starting to see the pendulum turn that blood has got to stand for something, sir. And now is the time where we've just got to push the thing across the finish line.

BLITZER: The book "House To House" has been incredibly powerful imagery, details. You write about your first-person account, what you went through and many times it was hell in the battle for Fallujah and elsewhere. Let me read a paragraph. "I lunge at him, putting all my weight behind the blade. We're chin to chin now. And his sour breath it s hot on my face. His eyes swim with hate and terror. They're wide and dark and rimmed with blood. I keep my weight on the knife and push down around the wound in staccato waves, like Satan's version of CPR."

You were engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the enemy.

BELLAVIA: Absolutely. We prepare ourselves for combat, sir, physically. I don't think anyone can ever be prepared for the mental, the emotional, and in my case, the spiritual combat that you have when you're that close with the enemy. That's a situation in 2004. There's no way on earth I ever would have imagined that that could possibly happen with our laser-guided bombs, our night version, our thermals. It just goes to show you that a man who's fighting for his life, no matter what side of the fight he's on, he's going to give everything he's got. And as painful as that was to experience, it was equally as taxing to write it and to even hear it now today.

BLITZER: And it's painful to read but important to read, very powerful words.

You also write in the book about your encounters with our own intrepid correspondent Michael Ware. You came upon him at various points. He's been there for now on and off, mostly on for more than four years. Tell our viewers a little bit about your exchanges, what you saw from Michael Ware?

BELLAVIA: You know I have to tell you that as far as the gold standard of combat journalism goes today, there is no one more qualified to give his opinion. I am -- I'm awed by the bravery of Michael Ware. You have an outstanding correspondent. I won't work as his agent here, but I will tell you that I am blown away. He has almost lost his life more times than I can count.

I entered that room that I write about in "House To House," I add a couple of my army buddies who were my brothers in arms but there was one guy behind me and that was Michael Ware and he trusted me enough to enter this home with these six insurgents and I will never forget that.

BLITZER: You write this, let me read it to our viewers who know Michael Ware very well. "Ware is an authority on the enemy. He knows more about them than our own intelligence officers. I have on every word and try to remember everything he tells us. It is the best, most comprehensive discussion I've heard about the enemy since arriving in Iraq."

We can only echo those words based on his extraordinary reporting for us but leave us with a final thought, David, what you hope the reader of "House To House" will emerge with after he or she reads this book.

BELLAVIA: You know, so many of the American population right now is, if they don't have a vested interest in this fight, they really don't know how to feel about it. They don't know if this is the same combat of Iwo Jima, if this is the same sort of military struggle that we had in Korean Vietnam. And my story is so unfortunately so similar to all these other soldiers and marines' stories. What our men and women are doing every inch of success in Iraq has been bought and paid for by the blood of the real patriots and heroes and this book I hope when people read it not only can take a moment but to give that extra hug to that local hero that who comes home on their block leave and also remembers all the many thousands that we've lost.

BLITZER: Let's thank you, David Bellavia for writing this book "House to House, an Epic Memoir of War." Thanks to your service to the United States.

BELLAVIA: Thank you, sir. Appreciate it.

BLITZER: Father and daughter. You already know Angelina Jolie's liberal views. Now you're about to hear from her conservative father, Jon Voight.

And is this is way to keep down the amount of violence behind bars? The latest on those dancing prisoners.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: He's a legendary actor who's also the farther of one the most famous woman in the world but lately he's emerged as one a conservative minority in the Hollywood majority.

CNN's Ted Rowlands is joining us from Los Angeles with more. Explain what's going on, Ted.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Jon Voight and Angelina Jolie haven't been the closest in terms of father/daughter relationship-wise. And recently, Voight has been making the rounds. He's promoting his new movie "September Dawn" and during a recent radio broadcast, the subject switched to the war in Iraq.

JON VOIGHT, ACTOR: The left extreme believes that we Americans are responsible actually for bullying other nations. Needless to say it's the reverse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

VOIGHT: We've kept all nations free from so many arms against them.

ROWLANDS: Angelina Jolie's father wasn't acting when he ramped about liberals on the "John Zigler Show" on Los Angeles radio station KFI. Jon Voight started out hyping his new film "September Dawn" but then things changed.

VOIGHT: The extreme left has certainly been programmed to believe that we can be passive to our enemies and that's the way to survive the onslaught of this extreme group of Islamic insurgents, right?

ROWLANDS: Besides all that calling Hollywood liberals brainwashed, Voight did what very few celebrities are doing right now, support the Iraq war.

VOIGHT: We're in a war there that must be won. And is it winnable? Yes, it is winnable. And we have to stay with it.

ROWLANDS: What's ironic is that the 68-year-old actor who made his mark in "Midnight Cowboy," "Deliverance," and later "Ali" is boldly backing the U.S. occupation of Iraq. At the same time, his A- list daughter is rubbing elbows with refugees in Iraq and Syria as a goodwill ambassador.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot has been written about your strained relationship with your daughter Angelina Jolie. As fate would have it, she was in Iraq today. What do you make of that?

VOIGHT: I'm a little bit trepidacious about it. But let's see what happened.

ROWLANDS: Voight is certainly not the first actor to chime in on the war but one expert on celebrity impact says how much people pay attention to celebrities who take political stances depends on how bright their star shines in Hollywood.

PROF. S. MARK YOUNG, UNIV. OF SOUTHERN CALIF. -ANNENBERG: Unless you are, I think at the top of the A-list of Hollywood, and you have credibility, I think most people are going to dismiss those remarks. They won't have a long-lasting effect.

ROWLANDS: Of course there are a lot of conservative folks out here in Hollywood but not a lot of people talking outwardly about the Iraq war and supporting it, Jon Voight alone almost and that we tried to talk to him. We asked for an on-camera interview to really get more from him and he respectfully declined and Angelina Jolie's folks declined an interview request as well.

BLITZER: We would love to have them both here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll extend our own invitations. Ted, thanks very much for that report.

A word of warning about of all things popcorn. A substance used to give microwave popcorn that buttery taste is apparently proving to be a health hazard. Let's go back to Carol Costello. She's watching this story.

Carol, how worried should we be?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well you know Wolf, I really wish I could tell you. The EPA has conducted a study on the buttery smell of microwave popcorn but it doesn't address how it might affect your lungs even though it's proved dangerous in the factory.

Americans love their microwave popcorn especially the butter- flavored kind but there are questions tonight the fumes from that butter flavor could be dangerous after you pop your corn in the microwave. That butter flavor comes from the ingredient diacetyl and it has severely damaged the lung of those who work in popcorn plants.

JACKIE NOWELL, UNITED FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS: They can't breathe. I mean these are the 25-year-old man who can't walk up the stairs. It's asthma-like. It's debilitating. It does not get better with removal from the hazard.

COSTELLO: Hundreds of current and former popcorn plant workers from at least seven states have sued flavoring companies for damage to their lungs when they breathed in the fumes from diacetyl. More than 100 have settled out of court. Plant worker, Eric Peoples, was awarded $18 million in damages in 2004 for his lung damage. So why's is it still being news plants and in products consumers eat?

An unreleased EPA draft study that's been under way for years, sought to identify and quantify chemical emissions generated in the process of popping and opening a bag of microwave popcorn. But the study does not address how those chemical emissions affect your lungs.

At least one Indianapolis-based company isn't waiting for the EPA to release its final report. Pop Weaver is the first major microwave popcorn producer to remove diacetyl from its product, saying, "The flavoring has been cited as a possible source of injury to certain employees of food companies who may have inhaled large dosages of diacetyl. Since consumers are increasingly concerned about this issue, we have removed diacetyl from our flavoring." In the meantime, ConAgra Foods which makes Orville Redenbacher, and Act II microwave popcorn, says it's seen the EPA draft but won't comment on it until the final report is issued. However, it adds, "To eliminate even the perception of any concern and to provide the safest possible environment for workers who handle large quantities of diacetyl, we expect eliminate the use of added diacetyl in our products in the near future." They won't say exactly when. Connecticut state representative Rosa Delarro is asking for more tests and even asked the EPA to ban the chemical until there is definite proof it is safe for popcorn lovers.

Wolf.

BLITZER: Not a good time to buy stock in that diacetyl. Thanks very much, Carol, for that report. Up ahead, this video is from inside one of the highest security prisons in the Philippines. The warden says there hasn't been a single act of violence in this facility in more than a year and he's crediting an unusual new program, the dancing prisoners, dance therapy in the Philippines.

You'll see it right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We showed you this video several weeks ago after it turned up on You Tube. An unusual program at a prison in the Philippines. Now we're taking a closer look at it. The prison boss says that the out-of-the-ordinary program may hold the key to beating violence in prisons.

Here's CNN's Hugh Riminton.

HUGH RIMINTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In CEDU Detention and Rehabilitation center, every able-bodied inmate must dance. Just in case you get the wrong idea, these prisoners are in here because they're the toughest criminals in all the central Philippines. 70 percent of them are rated high-risk inmates and that means most of them are rapists or murders.

Many, however, could be innocent, still waiting for their cases to come to trial. The prison overseer rejects claims he's abusing the prisoner's rights by forcing them to dance so many hours a day.

BYRON GARCIA, CEDU PRISON OVERSEER: We have dancing but still it does not effect how they feel about themselves. They're still men. Although they dance.

RIMINTON: When Garcia took over three years ago, gangs and corrupt guards ruled this jail. Garcia sat most of the guards and ordered the prisoners, first to march and then to dance. He says there's been not a single act of violence in more than a year. Now, not guards but fellow prisoners guide the rehearsals led by an accused mass murderer. Wenjiell Resane tells me the dancing has taught him love. Back in the cell, she shares with 11 other transsexual prisoners, who has waited three years for trial on drug's charges, is enjoying her taste of stardom.

WENJIELL RESANE, INMATE (through translator): It never leaves my mind that I'm a prisoner but I'm very happy and proud of what I've done.

RIMINTON: Her co-star, a one-time professional dancer agrees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (through translator): The atmosphere has changed. We're being treated as humans. Before my son was ashamed of me. But now he tells all this schoolmates his dad is a dancer on You Tube.

RIMINTON: It's rehabilitation one step at a time.

Hugh Riminton, CNN, CEDU, the Philippines.

BLITZER: We want to show you some of the more compelling video now to come our way in Franklin, Indiana. A lofty marriage proposal, the would be bride jumped on the ground with a banner popping the question. She said yes.

In Borger, Texas, a small plan crashes into a residential car port. Debris spreading the length of the driveway, the father and son on board are badly hurt but expected to survive.

And from Buffalo, New York, competitive wing-eating. 105 pound Sonya Thomas beat a dozen beefy rivals.

That's it for us.

We're in THE SITUATION ROOM in one hour, 7:00 p.m. eastern. Let's go to "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT."

That starts right now.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com