BAGHDAD – Today I sat down for a frank and candid interview with Iraq's interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi (search) at his office in Baghdad's Green Zone. Our conversation ranged from U.S. troop withdrawal to the sacrifices made by young American men and women to pave the way for the coming elections.
After returning to our base at Camp Victory (search) from the Green Zone, I learned of the deadly rocket attack that killed two Americans — one a naval officer, the other a civilian contractor — while wounding at least four others at the U.S. Embassy.
A few hours earlier, I had walked to the American Embassy on my way to another interview with Lt. Gen. David Petraeus (search). Timing is everything. The attack is a grim reminder of the desperation and determination of the insurgents to prevent this country's first democratic elections and the tough task that lies ahead for our troops to ensure that they happen.
Right now my crew and I are heading toward one of the forward operating bases, where we will observe the election process up close at one of the fixed polling stations in a mixed neighborhood in western Baghdad. In recent days, violence has been severe in this area.
My tour of Iraq this week has shown me that despite the increase in violence, most Iraqis are determined to take part in these historic elections. We will have two special broadcasts tonight from this hotspot at our regular time, 10 p.m. EST, and again at 1 a.m. EST.
News From the Domestic Front
In the Michael Jackson (search) case a jury is about to be empanelled. This comes fresh on the heels of a damaging and destructive leak from the supposedly secret grand jury. These allegations, in my opinion, unfairly taint the jury pool and make it difficult for Jackson to have a fair trial.
In a world exclusive two weeks ago, I spoke to the King of Pop. Jackson is gagged and cannot speak about the allegations, the accusers or the leaks in specific terms, but he was allowed by the judge in the case to read a prepared statement.
In light of recent events concerning the case I thought I would show you the statement to give you a glimpse of a special "At Large with Geraldo Rivera," which will air next week. Here is what Michael said:
"Yes, in the last two weeks, a large amount of ugly, malicious information has been released into the media about me. Apparently, this information was leaked through transcripts in a grand jury proceeding where neither my lawyers nor I ever appeared. The information is disgusting and false.
"Years ago, I allowed a family to visit and spend time at Neverland. Neverland is my home. I allowed this family into my home because they told me their son was ill with cancer and needed my help.
"Through the years, I have helped thousands of children who were ill or in distress.
"These events have caused a nightmare for my family, my children and me. I never intend to place myself in so vulnerable a position again.
"I love my community and I have great faith in our justice system. Please keep an open mind and let me have my day in court. I deserve a fair trial like every other American citizen. I will be acquitted and vindicated when the truth is told."
I asked Michael if there was anything else he wanted to add. At first he said no, but later added, "I would just like for the public to keep my family and myself in their prayers. That would be very nice."
There will be a lot more from Michael Jackson in our exclusive interview next week.