updated 7/31/2006 12:17:32 PM ET 2006-07-31T16:17:32

Guests: Evan Kohlmann, Brad Blakeman, Benjamin Netanyahu, Nouhad Mahmoud

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER:  Another deadly exchange between Israeli and Hezbollah forces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It was a very tough day.

ANNOUNCER:  And now al Qaeda jumps into the fray, calling on Muslims everywhere to unite against Israel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Lebanese are all united, and that‘s what makes the sense of Lebanon now.

ANNOUNCER:  Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate on both sides of the border.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE:  We are of course concerned about the deaths of innocent civilians.

ANNOUNCER:  Yet, the solution to this bloody conflict remains nowhere in sight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There‘s no point in sending an international peacekeeping force on a suicide mission.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER:  Now, from Cyprus, here‘s  Tucker Carlson.

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:   Welcome to the show.  We‘re joining you tonight from the Port of Limassol, Cyprus, off the coast of Lebanon. 

Here‘s the death toll on this, the 16th day of conflict in the Middle East. 

At least 445 Lebanese believed dead at this hour.  Most of them civilians. 

In Israel, more than 50 Israelis are confirmed dead. 

Lebanon, by the way, puts the number of dead in that country over 600. 

We‘re not able to confirm that. 

Meanwhile, Israel‘s inner cabinet decided today to continue the limited incursion into Lebanon.  This is ruling out for now a full-scale invasion or siege of Beirut a la 1982. 

Al Qaeda‘s deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, warned today that his group will not stand by and watch Israel bombard Lebanon and the Palestinians.  In a video, he called on Muslims to rise up and wage attacks from their respective countries. 

Well, Hezbollah fired dozens of rockets into northern Israel to day, injuring four people.  More than 1,400 rockets have hit Israel since the conflict began.  That includes 150 of them just yesterday. 

In the Gaza Strip, Hamas dismisses comment from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that a solution could be imminent in the case of captured Israeli soldiers. 

NBC‘s Peter Alexander joins us tonight live from Haifa, Israel. 

Peter, what‘s the latest from there? 

PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Tucker, good evening to you. 

It is roughly 11:00 here in Haifa, and even at this late hour, in the distance as you were speaking we just heard a loud boom.  It‘s unclear whether it was Israeli warplanes firing a missile across the border at Lebanon, or perhaps artillery being fired across the border as well. 

Suffice it to say, over the course of this day around northern Israel, Tucker, there have been 110 new rocket strikes.  That information just coming from the Israeli army within the last few minutes.  They update the numbers to say that 10 Israelis were hurt in those attacks.  None killed.  And it‘s unclear how many were seriously wounded. 

Only a small percentage of those rockets have been hitting cities or towns.  However, one of our producers experienced watching one explode only about 200 yards away, two football fields away from where he was today. 

As for Ehud Olmert, the prime minister of Israel, his security cabinet, as you said, did meet today.  While 95 percent of Israelis support this current offensive, the decision has been made that rather than expanding the ground offensive, they will continue to use their superiority from the skies, attacking Hezbollah sites from the air in the days to come. 

And finally, one other headline today, Tucker, is in Gaza, where information came out of Rome Italy, actually, where the Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, had initially made it sound as though a solution was imminent that would initiate the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit.  He was the Israeli soldier kidnapped last month by Hamas, taken into Gaza. 

Israel has said that they will not swap prisoners to get his release.  But they demand he be released soon.  Tonight, Hamas and a spokesperson from that group has said there is no reason to believe he will be let out any time soon.  So that stalemate continues—Tucker.

CARLSON:  Peter, I‘m amazed by your reporting that more than 100 rockets have fallen in Israel today, Hezbollah rockets.  This after a profound and very extensive operation in southern Lebanon designed to stop those very rockets from coming over the border. 

Is there any explanation tonight from the Israeli government why they haven‘t been able to stop these Katyusha rockets? 

ALEXANDER:  It‘s a good question.  They have been continuing this airstrike, Tucker, specifically in Tyre, where Richard Engel has spent some time and where we‘ll hear from him shortly. 

The gist is, that‘s about 30 miles that separate the two cities, Haifa and Tyre.  And they believe that they were getting to the heart of that, but clearly it has not been the case. 

I want to tell you a little bit about our experience earlier today.  We want to Ramban Medical Center.  And if you listen closely as we arrive there, we heard this sound. 

(SIRENS)

Those are the warning sirens that you hear throughout the day.  In this city we heard five today. 

We were warned that Ramban is a popular target not because it is a hospital, the biggest hospital in northern Israel, but more specifically, because it sits between a naval base and between the port of Haifa, two popular targets for Hezbollah fighters as they fire their Katyusha rockets.  When we went inside, however, we met with one of the soldiers who was wounded yesterday.  We had a rare opportunity to speak to him. 

He was a 19-year-old.  Evi Atar Cohen (ph) was his name.  And he explained to us what happened when he came face to face with a Hezbollah fighter. 

His words were—I‘ll quote him directly—he said, “We were both in shock when we saw each other.  Nobody shot nobody,” he said.  “I had never seen Hezbollah.  Never seen an enemy any time.  This was the first time, and I didn‘t really know what to do.”

It‘s amazing that after this conflict which has existed for so many decades with generations of Israelis and Hezbollah fighters fighting one another that for this young 19-year-old this was the first time he came face to face with the enemy.  And as you see, both—we believe the Hezbollah fighter was hurt.  He claims that he was.  But we know for certain that Evi Atar Cohen (ph) was hurt. 

Shrapnel hit him in the shoulder.  He doesn‘t have any feeling in his right hand.  One of 18 soldiers brought to Ramban Medical Center today—yesterday alone. 

CARLSON:  Thanks, Peter. 

NBC‘s Peter Alexander in Haifa, Israel. 

Meanwhile, some of the toughest, most intense fighting in this region in a long time has been taking place in the southern Lebanese city of Tyre.  And that‘s where we find NBC‘s Beirut bureau chief, Richard Engel, who joins us now on camera. 

Richard, what‘s going on in Tyre today? 

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS BEIRUT BUREAU CHIEF:  The situation here, I must say, was somewhat quieter than yesterday.  We just heard an Israeli shell fall as I was waiting to be introduced to this program.  So they are continuing, particularly around the hillsides. 

I think you should understand the geography.  It‘s important to know Tyre is a coastal city, but it‘s surrounded by villages on hilltops.  So, except for yesterday, where there was a major Israeli airstrike, two missile right in the center of Tyre, most of the activity has been around the edges, from these high points that Hezbollah has been using to launch Katyusha rockets into Israel. 

There has been some more shelling in these villages, but not to the same—not to the same intensity that we‘ve seen over the last several days.  Most of the activity we saw today were refugees, carloads and carloads of refugees arriving in the city from border villages right near the Israel-Lebanon border.  And they are just arriving in a steady stream every day.  Some people in the trunks of cars, all of them carrying white flags. 

The mayor—we spoke to the mayor of Tyre today, and he said that normally about 275,000 people live here and in the surrounding villages.  He, according to his estimation, about 200,000 of them have left—Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Well, Richard, I‘m glad you brought that up.  I‘ve been wanting to ask you this question.  The Israeli justice minister today said this—this is a verbatim quote—“All those now in south Lebanon are terrorists who are in some way related to Hezbollah.”

You‘re there.  I don‘t want to put new an awkward situation, but is it your sense that that‘s true?

ENGEL:  He‘s wrong.  He‘s wrong.

CARLSON:  Are the people who remain Hezbollah...

ENGEL:  He‘s wrong. 

CARLSON:  OK.

ENGEL:  He‘s wrong.  I can tell you he‘s wrong 100 percent. 

I was just today in Tadin (ph) a hospital.  It‘s about 10 miles from the Israeli border.  A lot of people can‘t leave. 

We met—there were about 300 people in this village.  It‘s in a village that normally has about 5,000 people.  That is the average population. 

Only 300 remain.  They are women, children, some men.  These are the people who can‘t afford to leave because taxis and private vehicles, there are very few of them on the roads.  And the ones that are making these—this very dangerous journey from Tadin (ph) or any of these border villages along the Israel-Lebanon border out to safer places—this would even be  considered a safer place, or to Beirut—are charging something like $1,000. 

So these villagers are certainly not Hezbollah.  We saw infants.  There was a 6-day-old infant.  Her mother had walked for four hours on the same day she gave birth to this—it was a baby boy.  And just a few hours after she gave birth she walked for four hours to be at this hospital. 

Now she‘s there.  There is very little food.  There is almost no water. 

They were living on bread and canned meat. 

So, to assume that everyone left in the south is Hezbollah is incorrect. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  We met people today at the American Embassy in Beirut who are American citizens who had just come from Tyre.  So, yes, I sensed that was the case. 

Tell me, how far do you believe IDF forces are in the state of Lebanon? 

How far north have they come?  Are they anywhere near where you are? 

ENGEL:  No.  Not right now.  Well, it depends how long is a piece of string.  But, no, they‘re not imminently advancing on this city. 

Most of the activity is still focused on the—in the Maroun al-Ras and the Bint Jbeil area.  We‘ve been told that Israeli special forces units are deep into south Lebanon.  So, it would not be surprising at all if some were operating in this city.

And yesterday there was an Israeli airstrike on that apartment block in the downtown area, and that was targeting the house of the Hezbollah commander in south Lebanon.  That would be the kind of target that would—you would need information about, specific intelligence.  He wasn‘t in the building at the time.  But that would be the—so one would have to assume that there are some special forces operating deep into the country, but the front lines, so to speak, with Israeli boots on the ground, has not advanced very far from the border.

CARLSON:  Thanks a lot, Richard.

NBC‘s Richard Engel in Tyre, Lebanon, tonight.

Coming up, when we come back, al Qaeda releases a new tape calling for a renewed offensive against the West.  Is it real, or is it merely an attention-getting device?

And Americans polled say they believe President Bush has earned the hatred of the world.  A depressing, dispiriting new poll.  We‘ve got details on it.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Zawahiri‘s attitude about life is that there shouldn‘t be free societies.  And he believes that people ought to use terrorist tactics, the killing of innocent people, to achieve his objective.  And so I‘m not surprised he feels like he needs to lend his voice to terrorist activities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  That was President Bush earlier today responding to a videotape released by al Qaeda‘s deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who warned that his group will not stand idly by as Israel bombs Lebanon.  He called on his followers to rise up and attack the West, as he has many times before. 

Is this time any different?  That‘s the question for NBC News terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann, who joins us from New York. 

Evan, is this any different? 

EVAN KOHLMANN, NBC NEWS TERRORISM ANALYST:  Well, I think some people have misinterpreted this as Zawahiri saying, Hezbollah, let‘s get together in an alliance against Israel.  I don‘t think that‘s what Zawahiri is saying. 

CARLSON:  Right.

KOHLMANN:  I think Zawahiri here is saying, look, the same way that al Qaeda used an opportunity in Iraq in 2003, and as an opportunity to confront the West by inserting cells of operatives to directly confront us, they want to do the same thing with Israel right now.  And the idea is to put cells in Gaza and in Lebanon, not with Hezbollah, but independently. 

And I think Zawahiri also is trying to encourage those within al Qaeda to move a little bit away from the Zarqawi extreme.  That being murdering Shiites by—you know, by scores for no reason other than because they‘re Shiites, and trying to move back towards focusing the energy on the United States and its allies and leaving the Shiite-Sunni issue until later on. 

As Zawahiri says in this video, the issue right now is Palestine.  Palestine.  Palestine.  It‘s—really, it‘s propaganda issue.  It‘s a populist issue. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

KOHLMANN:  It‘s pure populist dogma. 

CARLSON:  But, I mean, on the other hand, doesn‘t the war between Israel and Hezbollah put al Qaeda in kind of a spot?  Hezbollah is the only Islamic group that can even sort of plausibly claim to have beaten Israel anywhere in Lebanon.  And all of a sudden, they have all this popular support in the region. 

Does al Qaeda feel like it needs to prove itself by doing something dramatic to win back the affections of lunatics around the world? 

KOHLMANN:  It‘s not just support.  It‘s more attention. 

I think you‘re seeing a lot of television attention being paid not just to particularly Hezbollah, but Hezbollah leaders, like Hassan Nasrallah, who are becoming voices for resistance against the Israelis.  And I think that is the last thing that al Qaeda wants. 

Al Qaeda has units already in Lebanon.  It has for many months.  Back in December they launched a rocket attack against Israel.  And that rocket attack caused a lot of problems. 

Hezbollah got very angry.  Hezbollah doesn‘t have a problem with attacking Israel.  But if attacks are going against Israel, it wants to be responsible for them, not al Qaeda. 

CARLSON:  Right.

KOHLMANN:  And as a result, Zarqawi himself attacked Hezbollah, saying, you‘re providing a wall between us and the Israelis. 

So, yes, I think Zawahiri wants a pieces action.  Not as part and parcel of Hezbollah, but independently, separately as a competing influence in Lebanon. 

CARLSON:  So these two groups also have religious differences, Hezbollah being a Shiite group, al Qaeda being a pretty aggressive Sunni Muslim group.  Is there anything the United States can do to exacerbate tensions between them so they can eat each other and then spare the world a lot of heartache? 

KOHLMANN:  Well, it‘s troublesome, because unfortunately, these two groups, as much as they hate each other, they also hate the West.  But, that being said, I think the Shiites that are within Hezbollah tend to be a lot more pragmatic and a lot more future-sighted than those in al Qaeda. 

CARLSON:  Yes.

KOHLMANN:  And I think we can reach some kind of accommodation with Hezbollah one way or the other.  It doesn‘t have to be an issue of friendship.  But at least we can find a way of Hezbollah not directly attacking us. 

I think Hezbollah may have learned its lesson here.  I think they bit off more than they could chew.  And I don‘t think they‘re looking for some kind of apocalyptic battle that Zawahiri is talking about.  So I don‘t see an alliance between them.

CARLSON:  Well, that‘s exactly what—that‘s exactly—look, let me put it this way.  We met with Hezbollah yesterday, an American television crew.  Obviously American.  They didn‘t murder us. 

Do you think we could meet with al Qaeda?  I don‘t think so.  We wouldn‘t get anywhere. 

KOHLMANN:  No, it‘s two very—two very separate groups. 

CARLSON:  So, right, it‘s this completely different idea than al Qaeda. 

Is the United States making a mistake by not recognizing that Hezbollah actually has something to lose?  They have political power in Lebanon, for instance, and maybe we should suck it up and negotiate with them.  As horrifying as that sounds, maybe it‘s in our interest to do that. 

I don‘t know, is it? 

KOHLMANN:  Well, negotiating is a strong word.  But at least talking with them...

CARLSON:  Talk.

KOHLMANN:  ... sounds like a wise idea.  The same thing with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. 

These organizations are not our friends.  In fact, by many definitions they‘re our adversaries. 

CARLSON:  Of course.

KOHLMANN:  But, then again, they also share adversaries us with, the same way that during the Cold War we shared Russia as an adversary with the Chinese. 

I the 1970‘s, Richard Nixon took a very brave move and he negotiated with the Chinese, even though they, too, were our adversaries.  That relationship worked very well, and potentially you could see the same thing again between the United States and between Shiites or—I mean, this is exactly what al Qaeda fears most. 

This is what Zarqawi used to talk about.  He used to say the end comes when Iran and the United States ally against us.  That‘s what they‘re afraid of. 

CARLSON:  That‘s right. 

KOHLMANN:  So, you know, maybe it is something to consider. 

CARLSON:  Anything to defeat al Qaeda, that would be my position. 

Evan Kohlmann, thanks a lot for coming on.  I appreciate it. 

KOHLMANN:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  Coming up, men in tights on “The Today Show.”  Let‘s say just for the sake of argument you missed “The Today Show” and haven‘t seen the men in tights on “The Today Show.”  You‘ll definitely want to stay tuned for our “Beat the Press” segment coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back. 

As we‘ve been in the Middle East covering the conflict here, Willie Geist has been back at MSNBC headquarters covering the coverage of the conflict here in the Middle East.  It‘s a meta job, and he joins us now to tell us what he‘s found.

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC PRODUCER:  Tucker, good job out there.

First up today on “Beat the Press,” that salt-and-pepper-haired devil Geraldo Rivera.  He was on “The O‘Reilly Factor” last night unleashing his wrath on Rusty Yates.  He‘s the ex-husband of Andrea Yates, that Texas mother who admitted to drowning her five children but who was also found not guilty by reason of insanity yesterday. 

As you‘ll see, Geraldo wants a piece of Rusty. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GERALDO RIVERA, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  That husband of hers, I want to kick him in the ass.  He‘s a jerk.  I mean this is Rusty Yates. 

He goes there and he‘s celebrating now that his wife has received justice.  He‘s got five dead babies.  Where was he?  Where was this criminally negligent SOB when his wife was going nuts with those babies?  How could he still have babies with her if she‘s going crazy and he sees it? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  Boy, Geraldo is worked up about this one. 

Now, Rusty Yates, he might be a bad guy, but, Geraldo, before you go on national television saying you want to kick people‘s butts, just remember we‘ve seen you fight. 

November 3, 1988, caught in the crossfire between some skinheads, and he didn‘t really handle himself particularly well, as you can see there by the blood streaming from his nose.  So, I would just submit, Rusty Yates may and probably does deserve to be roughed up.  I‘m just not sure Geraldo is the man for the job.  Sorry. 

Next up, CNN, which seems to be giving undue attention to the apocalypse theory.  For some reason, they keep doing segments questioning whether what is happening in the Middle East is a sign that world is coming to an end. 

It looks like anchor Kyra Phillips is getting a little nervous.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR:  So, Joel, are we living in the last days?  I mean, let‘s talk about the specific signs to watch.  You‘ve written about them.  What does the bible say?  And are we there?

Joel, do I need to start taking care of unfinishenbd business and telling people that I love them and I‘m sorry for all the evil things I‘ve done? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  My gosh.  Actually, I‘d like to know some of the evil things Kyra Phillips has done.  That‘s just me. 

I don‘t know if there is a morale problem over at CNN or what, but they certainly seem to have doomsday on the brain over there. 

Paula Zahn, three days ago, on Monday, had a whole segment with a banner that said “End of The World?”  I know we‘re in the middle of a very serious war, I recognize that.  But lighten up a little bit, guys. 

Finally, we‘re having a little fun with one of our own, “The Today Show.”  This morning, the gang interviewed three contestants from one of the newest reality shows called, “Who Wants to be a Superhero?” 

It was all fine and dandy until Campbell Brown asked the $64,000 question. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAMPBELL BROWN, NBC NEWS ANCHOR:  Major Victory, can I ask you a question? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sure.

BROWN:  and please do not take this the wrong way. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s about my spandex, isn‘t it? 

BROWN:  Well, what‘s in your pants? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  These are my cards (ph). 

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There are a couple of things going on there.  I‘ve got cards (ph).

BROWN:  I said, “Don‘t take this the wrong way.”  And you...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  Campbell Brown is a reporter.  She asks the tough questions:

“What‘s in your pants?”  It‘s a fair question, actually. 

This show—the greater concern, though, is this reality show, which, by the way, is on Sci-Fi Channel, which is in the NBC universal family.  So I think it‘s terrific. 

But I‘m not sure we should give adults who wear superhero costumes a platform.  I think we should contain them to their annual conventions where they live and let‘s not give them more exposure than they deserve.

Anyway, that is just my opinion. 

How you would like to help us “Beat the Press?”  Give us a call and tell us what you‘ve seen. 

The number, 1-877-BTP-5876.  That‘s 1-877-287-5876.

Now let‘s throw it back to Tucker in Cyprus. 

CARLSON:  The great, the versatile Willie Geist. 

Thanks, Willie.

Coming up, one of the great losers in this war so far appears to be—drum roll please—President George W. Bush.  The new polls are in and we‘ve got them. 

We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Coming up, the new poll numbers are in.  Americans don‘t trust George Bush‘s hand on the foreign policy tiller, it turns out. 

Plus, former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu joins us to tell us how long this war will last.  All that and more.  But first, here are your headlines. 

(STOCK MARKET UPDATE)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  Extensive new polling gives us a pretty clear and pretty interesting picture of how Americans feel about American foreign policy.  They‘re pretty supportive of the president when it comes to this conflict between Israel and Lebanon.  But they‘re more distrustful than ever about foreign entanglements in general.

In other words, this country is becoming increasingly more isolationist.  Why is that?  Well, here to help us sort it out, former advisor to President Bush, Brad Blakeman.  He joins us tonight from New York. 

Brad, welcome.  Does it surprise you that at a time of really utopianism from this administration, talk about a brand new Middle East and, you know, democracies sprouting up like wildflowers, that Americans are really turning toward, by looks of this poll, the Pat Buchanan position, leave the rest of the world alone?  Does that surprise you? 

BRAD BLAKEMAN, FORMER ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT BUSH:  It really doesn‘t surprise me on the part of some Americans because, let‘s face it, we‘re in a news cycle 24/7.  Some of the pictures that we‘re seeing on our television screens are very upsetting to us as Americans. 

But the big picture is our leadership.  We have to trust to do the right thing.  President Bush, I‘ll tell you from working for him, he doesn‘t go out to the South Lawn and put his finger up in the air and determine which way the political winds are blowing to make a decision.  And leadership requires making tough decisions even though, at the time, some may see those decisions to be unpopular.  But the leadership of this president is one I think that history will treat kindly. 

CARLSON:  Well, let‘s get specific about this week.  You heard the secretary of state, and I believe even the president himself, use the phrase “a new Middle East” this week.  It‘s a phrase I can tell you has scared the hell out of everyone in the Middle East. 

But beyond the reaction from the rest of the world, it strikes me as almost an insane thing to say.  There is almost nothing new about what‘s happening now.  You have Israel and the enemies at war yet once again.  What is new about the situation in the Middle East today?  What‘s the president talking about?

BLAKEMAN:  Well, what‘s new is Israel has an opportunity here out of tragedy.  And that is to force Hezbollah back, to establish now a international peacekeeping force to have a buffer between southern Lebanon and northern Israel. 

And for the first time, let‘s get the U.N. to enforce its own Security Council resolutions; 1559 should have been enforced.  It wasn‘t enforced.  And Israel now has the opportunity to create a buffer zone so that there will be peace on the border.  So it will be a new Middle East if, in fact, these resolutions are honored as written and not honored in its breach. 

CARLSON:  So the old resolutions—but I thought they had to do with burgeoning democracies and giving voice to the will of the people and allowing ordinary Middle Easterners to decide for themselves the form of government they want to live under, including even, say,  Hezbollah.  Why is it that we‘re endorsing a war against a democracy that we support?  How is that?  I mean, it doesn‘t make sense to me. 

BLAKEMAN:  Because a democracy was co-opted by terrorists.  Lebanon sold out its own people for terrorists and terrorism and allowed them to, in fact, rule the south of their country.  That‘s outrageous.  And what we have now is we have the opportunity...

CARLSON:  Wait, wait, wait.  Brad, Brad, Brad.  Look, let me just say I agree with that Hezbollah, it is a terrorist group.  And I‘m not defending Hezbollah.  I hate them.  They hate us.  However, the government of Lebanon, the current government, the democratic government of Lebanon today said, “Wait a second.  We support Hezbollah.” 

So how is it that if the democratic government of Lebanon says something that we don‘t agree with, all of a sudden we just ignore it because we don‘t agree with it?  That doesn‘t show a lot faith in democracy, does it? 

BLAKEMAN:  Look, it‘s not democracy as we would like to see it, obviously.  It‘s not the democracy that we have here in America.  But as President Bush said, there are some things that go on in other parts of the world that, you know, we have to stomach because Democracy is a formation.  It‘s not a switch that you turn on. 

And there are going to be painful times, but the good news is that if Israel can reduce the presence of Hezbollah in the south and marginalize them and take their weapons away and enforce the Security Council resolutions, at least Lebanon has a chance.  Right now, under the current system, they don‘t have the chance and the future that they could have. 

CARLSON:  A future that they could have.  I think—here‘s what the American people are saying, I believe, in this poll.  They‘re saying, “We wish the rest of the world well.  We are not, however, willing to sacrifice a single American life to bring democracy or some other theory thought up in Washington to the developing world.  What we want is what‘s good for America.” 

Here‘s my question you to, Brad.  When is the Bush administration going to use a single question—is it good for us? -- as the basis for all of its foreign policy?  That‘s not basis of its foreign policy now.  It should be, and when‘s it going to be?

BLAKEMAN:  No, Tucker.  George Bush thinks in his own mind, obviously, he represents the people of the United States first and foremost.  His policy is what‘s good for America.  And nine times out of 10, what‘s good for America is good for the peace-loving nations of the world. 

And President Bush‘s decisions are based first and foremost on what is good for America.  And what good is for America is a peaceful Middle East, a more peaceful Middle East.  There‘s not going to be peace as we would like to see it our life times.  Let‘s be frank about it.  This is a generational thing. 

CARLSON:  That‘s for certain. 

BLAKEMAN:  Right?  But we‘ve got to give every increment of peace a chance.  But the way it exists now, the way it exists two weeks ago or three weeks ago, wasn‘t any way near the kind of path to peace that would be acceptable by any normal peace-loving person. 

CARLSON:  All right.  Sounds like the old Middle East to me.  But we‘re out of time, sadly.  Brad Blakeman from New York.  Thanks a lot for joining us. 

BLAKEMAN:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  Well, joining us now to explain who the Lebanese themselves blame for the current crisis is Lebanon special envoy to the United Nations, Nouhad Mahmoud. 

Mr. Ambassador, thank you for joining us. 

AMB. NOUHAD MAHMOUD, LEBANESE SPECIAL ENVOY TO THE U.N.:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  Does your government blame the obvious culprit in this?  Without Hezbollah you wouldn‘t have a war.  Are you mad at Hezbollah?  You should be. 

MAHMOUD:  Well, that seems an old story 15 days ago.  Since then, we have suffered much more from the effect of that action which triggered all these things.  And as you maybe have seen in Lebanon itself, our situation is destruction, death, and people displaced. 

So I don‘t know if it is worth all this.  Two soldiers (inaudible).  Deal with it as in the past, in a swap or whatever.  They did it many times before.  But destroying the whole country in this way, the country is displaced.  I don‘t see the wisdom in this. 

CARLSON:  Well, we just returned from your country.  And I can vouch for what you‘re saying.  Your country is being destroyed.  We saw it firsthand.  It seemed to me that the bombing campaign has made Hezbollah more popular in Lebanon, which is a bad thing, as far as I‘m concerned.  Do you think that‘s true?  Has Hezbollah become more popular in the past two weeks in Lebanon? 

MAHMOUD:  Sure, sure.  And with the continuation of the violence and of the bombing and the destruction, people will rally around them because they see them that they are the ones that are standing for them.  And now with the Israeli incursion inside Lebanon, again, the freedom fighters are fighting some occupation army, foreign occupation army.  And this is are bad policies which we were always complaining from in the Middle East. 

CARLSON:  Look, nobody—I don‘t think the Israelis want to have a war with Lebanon.  It doesn‘t help Israel.  I don‘t think anybody in the world wants to see this war right now, except possibly Hezbollah.  Is it worth it to you?  Why not just kick out all the foreign elements in your country, all the Iran and Syria sponsored elements of Hezbollah, disarm Hezbollah, make it a normal political party, and problem solved.  Why not do that? 

MAHMOUD:  We‘re going to do that on the political way.  And many (inaudible).  But I think by war, it will take much longer time.  Hezbollah armament was on the agenda of a national dialogue, and we‘re dealing with it.  Give us some time, and we‘ll do it.  Because after all, with all this military escalation, we‘ll have to go back to dialogue and to policy. 

CARLSON:  Do you believe you can prevent Syria or Iran from sending arms into Lebanon for Hezbollah?  Can you seal your borders and prevent them from arming that party? 

MAHMOUD:  That‘s why we call for end of violence and for cease-fire because we don‘t want new elements to enter in the scene.  That won‘t be—that will be only more complication for very complex situation already. 

CARLSON:  How many citizens would you say have left—Lebanese citizens have left your country in the past 16 days?  Do you have any idea? 

MAHMOUD:  We know that about a third of the population, maybe more than a million, they left their houses.  Some of them are still in Lebanon, but a different part of Lebanon.  And some in neighboring countries.  And that‘s—if you compare it to the United States, that means about 100 million, relatively speaking.  Yes. 

CARLSON:  Is aid getting into the country?  There‘s been a lot of debate about whether or not international aid organizations have been really given the freedom to come into Lebanon.  Are you satisfied that the aid that your country needs is getting to it? 

MAHMOUD:  Well, we are satisfied with the response.  But on the ground, the movement of the humanitarian convoys are not so easy and are limited and are threatened.  Many trucks, medical trucks, for instance, they were still again hit by Israeli bombardment, only yesterday, Tucker, again.  And very far from the border.

CARLSON:  And finally, Mr. Ambassador, did you get a sense—when the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, visited Beirut, did you get a sense how long this will go on, this conflict, this bombing campaign, bombing of Lebanon?  Did she say how long she believes this will continue? 

MAHMOUD:  As long as they are giving war a chance, it will continue. 

But we prefer the other way. 

CARLSON:  But, I mean, you must have some sense.  I mean, you know, these are decisions that are thought out, and presumably you have some warning.  Did she say you to, has the U.S. government said at any point, “We believe this will continue for a week, two weeks, a month”?  Has anybody said anything like that to your government? 

MAHMOUD:  Well, in the rhetoric, they are saying as long as it takes.  But, in fact, it could take very, very long.  Much more than anticipated, it seems. 

CARLSON:  All right.  Mr. Ambassador, thanks for joining us.  We appreciate it. 

MAHMOUD:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  Coming up, we will ask pretty much the same question to a former prime minister of Israel.  Benjamin Netanyahu joins us in just a moment.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  The conflict between Israel and Hezbollah has become progressively more intense over the past 16 days.  But has it achieved its objectives from the West‘s point of view, anyway?  Joining us to help answer that question, former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

Mr. Prime Minister, thanks for joining us.  Is it disconcerting to you that after all this time of bombing southern Lebanon, Hezbollah is more popular in Lebanon and still able to throw 100 or so rockets a day over the border into Israel?  It sounds—seems like it‘s not working very well. 

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF ISREAL:  It‘s ain‘t over until it‘s over.  And it‘s not over. 

CARLSON:  Is Hezbollah stronger than you thought at the outset?  I mean, what does this mean about Hezbollah that they‘re still capable of throwing these rockets over? 

NETANYAHU:  Well, it means that Israel has been using a fraction of a fraction of its force.  And the reason we‘ve been doing that is precisely because Hezbollah has placed itself in civilian areas, and we don‘t want to have Lebanese civilians killed.  Unfortunately, a few hundred have been, as have been a few dozen Israelis because of their deliberate targeting of civilians. 

But obviously, we have to proceed more carefully because we don‘t want to just obliterate Lebanon, in contrary to the pictures that you have.  If Israel really wanted to use all its power, then just the air power would have done enormous damage.  But we‘re trying not to. 

In fact, it looks like we have no option but to use our ground forces

to clean them up.  And I think the goal that the government set to disarm

Hezbollah, which was the U.N. goal, the U.N. resolution after Israel left -

these people have no reason whatsoever to attack us once we vacated every square inch of Lebanon. 

The fact that they kidnapped and murdered our soldiers without provocation, fire rockets into our cities without provocation, this means that we have no choice but to disarm them.  And it looks like we‘re going to do it.  The government, apparently, will have to apply more forces, presumably ground forces, to achieve this goal. 

CARLSON:  I mean, they picked the fight.  There‘s no question about

that.  And the U.S., I think, supports you for that reason.  On the other

hand, you keep making the point, I believe correctly, that they‘re supplied

by Iran and Syria. 

This war is hurting a lot of people, including a lot of Christians, a lot of Christians in Lebanon who are not involved at all.  Why don‘t you take your forces after the people who deserve it most, Iran and Syria?  Why not go right to the source now? 

NETANYAHU:  Iran is not merely targeting us.  It is targeting you. 

And we are merely a forward position for you.  It‘s not I that say so.  It‘s they that say so.  In fact, this is what their grand Shiite design says, that they have to deal with all the infidels, the front position being Israel, but only the front position. 

And so I think there ought to be a division of labor, here.  Israel will deal with the Iranian proxies of Hezbollah and Hamas.  And the U.S.  can apply formidable pressure on Iran and on its way station regime, Syria, to keep them out the conflict. 

Let‘s first of all make sure that Israel has the time and space it needs to finish the job with Hezbollah, and I‘m sure, by the way, that that can be achieved.  And in my opinion, will be achieved.  At the same time, I think it‘s important to apply massive pressure on these two regimes who, by the way, are susceptible to these pressures. 

If it is true, and I think it is, that Iran activated both Hamas and Hezbollah around the G8 conference in order to deflect international pressure from its nuclear program, it tells you how susceptible they are to this pressure. 

That pressure should applied by the international community, led by the United States, and Israel should dispatch with Hezbollah.  It‘s perfectly possible to do both.

CARLSON:  I‘m on board with almost all of that.  Let me read you a quote, though, from a member of your government that I think helps account for why people aren‘t always on Israel‘s side.  It‘s quotes like.  This is from your justice minister today.  “All those now in south Lebanon are terrorists who are in some way related to Hezbollah.”

That‘s totally untrue, as anybody who‘s been in the country can tell you.  Innocent people are being killed.  When Israel makes statements like that, it gives people the impression Israel doesn‘t care, A, about civilian casualties and, B, is engaging in collective punishment, something that civilized people reject.  Why did he say something like that? 

NETANYAHU:  I don‘t know, and I don‘t think that reflects Israel‘s position, neither the governments nor the opposition.  I represent the opposition, and I think the people are united, in fact, in trying to see a sovereign, democratic, and free Lebanon.  Did you ever see the movie “Alien,” Tucker?  Did you see this movie, “Alien”?

CARLSON:  Yes.  Yes, I did. 

NETANYAHU:  You remember there is an alien body, this fearsome predator body that resides in the host and then lurches out from the host and attacks you, in this case, us?  That‘s Hezbollah.  And it not only attacks us outside the body, it also kills the body, kills the body of the host. 

That‘s exactly what Hezbollah is.  It‘s an alien body, an alien ideology supported by two alien regimes, Iran and Syria.  And that host has to go.  It has to go.  You‘re quite right that we have to deal with them. 

CARLSON:  But wait, excuse—but with all due respect, it‘s also a domestic political party in Lebanon.  I don‘t think it ought to be, but I‘m not in control, the people are, because it‘s a democracy now.  Because we‘re for democracy.  Isn‘t this making this bombing campaign making Hezbollah more popular with the people of Lebanon, and isn‘t that a really bad thing? 

NETANYAHU:  That‘s like saying the American Nazi party is part of the American political process.  This is a criminal gang.

CARLSON:  No, no.  Wait, no.  Look.  I‘m not defending Hezbollah.  But it‘s not like saying that.  They are.  They have 14 members of parliament?  I mean, I don‘t know.  I think it‘s wrong, but it‘s true. 

NETANYAHU:  For what? 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  If we‘re going to accept democracy, if we‘re going to accept that people get to elect their own leaders, I mean... 

NETANYAHU:  Whoa, whoa, whoa.  You‘re an American.  You know a lot that democracy is not merely majority rule.  It‘s respect for human rights, for individual rights, for pluralism.  Hezbollah doesn‘t have that. 

Hezbollah is using the elections to create a criminal force to rocket people.  These are war crime.  What they‘re doing, they‘re war crime.  They‘re terrorists, the worst terrorists in the world, and the fact that they got elected means nothing.

CARLSON:  I agree. 

NETANYAHU:  In order to have democracy, you not only have to get elected, you also have to respect the rights of others who get elected, the rights of your neighbors, and so on to live.  That doesn‘t apply to Hezbollah.  Hezbollah is an alien ideology.

Lebanon, I have to tell you, was the most liberal, the most forward-looking of all the Arab countries.  It was the Switzerland of the Middle East until the likes of Hezbollah took over.  And they‘re really destroyed Lebanon. 

So I think for the future of Lebanon, for the future of the Lebanese people, for the future of my people who are now two million of us are in shelters, hundreds of thousands have been dislocated.

You don‘t hear a lot about that, but we have a refugee problem inside this country.  For the sake of our common peoples and the peace we want to see between us, Hezbollah has got to be disarmed.  It‘s got to go.  If no one will do it on the international scene, then Israel will have to do it.  And we will do it. 

CARLSON:  Benjamin Netanyahu, thanks a lot for joining us.  We appreciate it. 

NETANYAHU:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  Last week, we told you how difficult it was to get into Lebanon.  Tonight, we‘ll tell you how we got out.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  Earlier this week, we told about how we got into Beirut, and we complained about the U.S. government and its unwillingness to help us.  We were forced to rely on the French government, something that‘s made us all cringe a little bit inside as Americans. 

Today, we‘re happy to report it was the U.S. government that got us out of Lebanon, and they did a great job.  The embassy staff was wonderful.  There‘s really nothing like standing on the back porch, basically, of the U.S. embassy in Beirut.  The sea stallion helicopter lands, doesn‘t even power down.  People rush on, including us, buckle in, pull up. 

The three door gunners pointed their machine guns out the back to keep us safe, and we cruise off into the sunset and the safety of Cyprus.  We want to thank the United States Air Force and everyone who helped us today.  We are proud to be Americans.  Thanks.

We will you see you here tomorrow for our last day in the Middle East. 

Tune in.  We‘ll tell you what happened.  See you then.

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

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