Washington (CNN) – As the American public and the global community await the completion of the Obama administration’s extensive review of U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan, Mikhail Gorbachev, the former president of the Soviet Union, said Sunday that, instead of sending more troops, Obama should begin to the lay the groundwork to withdraw from Afghanistan.
“I think that what’s needed is not additional forces,” the former Soviet leader said through a translator, “this is something that we discussed, too, years ago but we decided not to do it. And I think our experience deserves attention.”
Instead of more troops, Gorbachev said the Soviets decided to emphasize domestic development in Afghanistan and promoting national reconciliation between the various clans in the country. In deciding how to proceed in Afghanistan, Gorbachev said the Soviet Union also consulted with other countries including the United States, Iran, Pakistan, and India.
Soviet troops occupied Afghanistan in 1979. They withdrew a decade later after facing stiff resistance from Afghan fighters, who were backed by the United States and Pakistan. The conflict killed 13,000 Soviet soldiers and more than a million Afghan civilians.
But the former world leader added that Afghanistan’s history as a staging ground for international terrorism could not be ignored.
The dramatic late Saturday House vote in favor of sweeping health care changes was a major topic of the Sunday conversation, with the debate breaking down this way:
*Democrats saw the victory, as narrow as it was, as a major step forward and a momentum boost they say dramatically increases the odds of getting legislation to President Obama this year.
*Republicans took the 220-215 margin – and the 39 Democrats who voted “No” – as proof of jitters in the Democratic ranks, and proof that they will end up on the winning side of politics of health care.
Other major Sunday attention grabbers:
*Gen. George Casey, the Army Chief of Staff, chose his words carefully when discussing the tragic massacre at Fort Hood. But he was emphatic in his appeal that Muslims serving in the Army and other military services should not face suspicion or discrimination because of the actions of Fort Hood gunman Maj. Nadal Malik Hasan.
*Mikhail Gorbachev joined us for “The Last Word” to discuss the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and we took the opportunity to ask his view of President Obama as a world leader, and his advice as Mr. Obama ponders sending more troops to Afghanistan.
Straight now to the Sound of Sunday, beginning with health care:
The House passed its health care bill late Saturday night by a 220-215 vote, with 39 Democrats in opposition and one Republican supporting it. Senate approval is considered less certain due to opposition by all Republicans and some moderate Democrats.
Obama called the support by many House members "courageous" in the face of what he called "the heated and often misleading rhetoric around this legislation."
Asked about the public health insurance option contained in the House health care reform bill passed late Saturday night, and about the different variations of the public option that could still be included in the final version of the Senate bill, Virginia's governor-elect said he was not keen on having his state involved in government-provided health insurance.
"[T]he public option does not seem to be something that is going to help us in Virginia," McDonnell said Sunday on CNN's State of the Union.
"However they structure it," McDonell also told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King, "if it gives flexibility to states, I think that's a good thing." He added that he was "very concerned about turning this signifcant section of the American economy over to the federal government."
McDonnell also stood by his campaign promise not to raise taxes in his state.
"I think that's the worst thing you do in a recession is to raise taxes on - on the citizens. We're going to have hundreds of billions of dollars in new taxes at the federal level with this health care bill. When the tax cuts [passed under former Pres. George W. Bush] expire in 2011, it's going to be a crushing increase in new taxes."
"People want a better bang for their buck out of their government," McDonnell also told King, "and [they] don't want to have a tax increase every time we have an economic downturn."
Updated: 1:28 p.m.
(CNN) - Sen. Joseph Lieberman said Sunday he intends to launch a Senate committee hearing on whether the Fort Hood shootings were a terrorist act and if the Army should have taken pre-emptive steps due to reported signs of Islamic extremism by the suspected gunman.
"I'm intending to begin a congressional investigation of my Homeland Security Committee into what were the motives of (Maj. Nidal Malik) Hasan in carrying out this mass murder," the Connecticut independent, who belongs to the Democratic caucus, said on "FOX News Sunday."
If Hasan was showing signs of being an Islamic extremist, the Army should have acted on that earlier and "he should have been gone," said Lieberman, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Saying it was too early to know Hasan's exact motive, Lieberman declared that if reports of the alleged gunman's possible Islamic extremism are true, then "the murder of these 13 people was a terrorist act."
"We don't know enough to say now," Lieberman said, noting what he called "strong warning signs" that Hasan had become an Islamic extremist.
Cao's "yes" vote ended up being unnecessary for House Democrats in the 220-215 tally, but as the only GOP member to support the bill, he gave House Speaker Nancy Pelosi license to tout bipartisan support for the controversial measure.
"I felt last night's decision was the proper decision for my district even though it was not the popular decision for my party," Cao, a first-term representative from Louisiana's traditionally Democratic 2nd District, told CNN.
"A lot of my constituents are uninsured, a lot of them are poor," Cao said. "It was the right decision for the people of my district."
The first Vietnamese-American to serve in the House, Cao defeated nine-term Democratic incumbent William Jefferson in last year's election. Jefferson was under indictment on money laundering and bribery charges at the time, and has since been convicted.
Cao, a devout Catholic, said Sunday that an amendment to strengthen anti-abortion language in the House bill cleared the way for his support.
Maj. Nadal Malik Hasan, a U.S.-born citizen of Palestinian descent, is the sole suspect in the shootings.
Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union, Casey told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King “there’s an ongoing investigation and I can’t speak to the particulars of the investigation or to any motivation of Maj. Hasan.”
Echoing recent comments by President Obama and Texas’ Republican senators, Casey cautioned against speculating about the causes behind the shootings.
“We have to be careful,” Casey told King, “because we can’t jump to conclusions now based on little snippets of information that have come out.”
Casey said he was “concerned that this increased speculation could cause a backlash against some of our Muslim soldiers” and added that he had asked leaders in his service to be on the lookout for signs of a backlash.
“As great a tragedy as this was, it would be a shame if our diversity became a casualty as well,” the Army Chief of Staff also said Sunday.
Casey was quick to add that he does not think there is currently discrimination against the roughly 3,000 Muslims who serve in the Army as active duty soldiers or in the reserves.
Updated: 11:41 a.m.