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Obama Sends Warship to Persian Gulf; Manning: U.S. Military Lied about Iraq; Deadly Epidemic Grips California

Aired June 15, 2014 - 07:00   ET




PAUL: Yes, it is.

And stay with us. We've got more coming up.


PAUL: Seven o'clock on this Father's Day. First and foremost, happy Father's Day to all of you dads out there who do your job so well. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Four o'clock on the West Coast. This is NEW DAY SUNDAY.

First thing this morning, the U.S. is beefing up its presence in the Persian Gulf as Iraq vows to strike back against these radical militants who want to set up a new vast Islamist state.

PAUL: Yes, the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush is in the Gulf. Its mission, to protect American lives and interests as fighting spreads across Iraq, of course.

BLACKWELL: Militants have seized cities and towns north of the capital Baghdad but the Iraqi military is insisting it is seizing them back. And a feared advance by the extremists on Baghdad appears to have slowed at least for now.

PAUL: But inside Iraq, thousands of men and even teenagers and boys are joining the fight against the Islamist militants.

BLACKWELL: They say they will do whatever it takes to protect their homeland.

CNN's senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is in Baghdad this morning.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): On their way to fight ISIS, answering the call of their leaders, young and old, religious and tribal, hundreds of volunteers marching for a middle class Baghdad neighborhood, following the first ever call to arms sermon by the country's top Shia cleric.

"We are here to defend our country. We're obeying our religious leaders", this tribal sheikh says. "We're not here for money. We are under attack and we will defend all Iraq."

"We're not here for sectarian reasons," this volunteer says. "We're against the Baathist regime and the mercenaries who came from abroad."

Security this day extremely tight. Car bomb killed two men here a few days ago. Real concern these recruits could be cut down before they ever reach the front lines to help.

(on camera): And there are people desperately waiting for that help. We've been talking by phone with a man who says he's an army officer in hiding in the north of Iraq.

He said his colleagues deserted the base. He was forced to take off his uniform, hide out in a house. He says ISIS has arrived in the town, he's frightened, he's afraid, and he doesn't know what to do.

(voice-over): Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has drawn a line in the sand and ISIS's Baghdad bound part, in Samarra. The 2006 attack here on a religious shrine triggered a year of Sunni/Shia sectarian bloodletting.

NOURI AL-MALIKI, IRAQ'S PRIME MINISTER (through translator): They believed that this was the beginning of the end. But we say this is the beginning of their end, their defeat.

ROBERTSON: On Baghdad's often bombed boulevards, that's a message many here appear ready to make happen.


PAUL: All right, Nic Robertson joining us live from the Iraqi capital.

Nic, thank you so much.

How secure does Baghdad feel right now to you?

ROBERTSON: The city feels as if it's expecting something. It doesn't know what. There's increased security.

Faces are changing at checkpoints, the different types of security forces, if you will, better security forces being put on at checkpoints. But that line in the sand there that Nouri al Maliki, the prime minister was talking about, has already been blown past just as those recruits were on the streets, we've been learning that in the town of Baqubah, south of Samarra, 45 minutes' drive from the capital here, the Iraqi army were told to evacuate the base, take their weapons. Within an hour the is fighters moved in, getting closer to Baghdad.

It's not clear what's happening in the Iraqi military command and control. Perhaps it's not breaking down, but they seem to be losing a certain amount of faith in themselves. ISIS said they'll get to Baghdad. They might have been slow but seem to be on their way -- Christi, Victor.

PAUL: All right. Nic Robertson in Baghdad there for us -- Nic, thank you so much.

As we said here at the top, aircraft carrier, the USS George H.W. Bush, is in the Persian Gulf near the coast of Iraq.

BLACKWELL: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered it moved to that location.

CNN's Athena Jones joins us by phone now.

Athena, are we getting any insight into the decision-making process into what to do next?

ATHENA JONES CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, Victor, this is what the president and his national security team have been discussing all weekend. We know that the president has been spending Father's Day weekend out in California but getting updates on the situation in Iraq from his national security adviser, Susan Rice, and others.

Of course, he's asked his team his national security team to come up with a range of options to help Iraq fight off these swiftly advancing insurgents. Those options don't include sending in ground troops, but they could include air strikes and we know that this ship, the USS George H.W. Bush can be used for airstrikes, and to use its helicopters also to help evacuate Americans if needed and to conduct reconnaissance and surveillance missions.

But the president is also under pressure to make a decision on what to do. Another member of Congress has weighed in on this discussion. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who called on the administration to act swiftly to help the Iraqi government before every gain made by U.S. and allied troops is lost.

The president said he'll be reviewing the range of options his advisers present in the coming days but he said any U.S. action will take several days to plan, and so, he's also stressed this won't be a purely military solution. There has to be a political solution involved, and Secretary of State John Kerry in his call with the Iraq's foreign minister yesterday also stressed that same point, that they've got to have political accommodations, create a unity government to create a lasting solution to this.

PAUL: All righty. Athena Jones, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: This morning, Chelsea Manning, the soldier convicted of espionage after leaking more than 700,000 pages of classified documents to WikiLeaks, is talking now about the situation in Iraq. In a new op-ed for "The New York Times", Manning accuses the U.S. military of limiting media access and lying to the American public during the Iraq war. She writes, "I believe the current limits on press freedom and

excessive government secrecy make it impossible for Americans to grasp fully what is happening in the wars we finance."

And she goes on to write, "The embedded reporter program forces journalists to compete against one another for special access to vital matters of foreign and domestic policy as well. Too often, this creates reporting that flatters senior decision-makers. The result is that the American public access to the facts is gutted which leaves them with no way to evaluate the conduct of American officials."

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins us over the phone from Washington this morning.

Barbara, what does Manning have to gain from writing this and why now?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, you know, I think it's absolutely fascinating. We assume that military authorities where he -- she's incarcerated were aware of this. There's no indication it got smuggled out of prison. Chelsea Manning is, by all accounts, the same rights to opinions teen speak as any other American. Perhaps, perhaps wanting to be a very heartfelt voice and current debate, but as to the facts.

I think there's a lot of validity to, in the early years of Iraq, looking back many feel that the full picture of the problems in Iraq and the full criticisms were not presented. Was that because reporters were embedded and they got too cozy with the military? Perhaps some.

But, you know, I think there's a good case to be made that journalistic life moved on very rapidly from that potential assertion. I mean, you only have to look at our own Arwa Damon, an incredible journalist who, for years, has very assertively, independently reported at great personal risk from Iraq and from hot spots around the world.

Reporters are much more aware of the risks of the imbed program of being perhaps a little too close, but the facts are in both Afghanistan and Iraq, having embedded in both places, if you want to cover U.S. troops on the front line, you have to be with them, and you have to then be with the military.

You can't lose your independent voice. So some validity, but nothing I think that journalists aren't already very well aware of.

BLACKWELL: I think that the process here is interesting as well, and I'm sure we'll have that conversation later about how Manning gets this op-ed from Ft. Leavenworth, where she's being held for 35 years on espionage charges out, which is critical of the government, releasing other information that wasn't public before to "The New York Times" and it's then published.

But let's go to Sergeant Bergdahl. I understand you've learned some new information about an investigation that will be moving forward, about the disappearance specifically in 2009.

STARR: Yes, right, Victor. What we now know is that the army has, indeed, taken the next step. They've appointed a two-star army general to begin that investigatory process to find out how and why Bowe Bergdahl disappeared from his post that night and was subsequently captured by the Taliban, by all accounts having left his post willingly.

So, that two-star general will begin working on that fact-finding investigation. It raises the question, Bergdahl about to face those questions in a legal framework?

What we are told is that will happen. Whether it happens this week or in the coming days, nobody's setting the date for it yet. But now, we have that legal process put into place, and when he does undergo that questioning, we are told he will be advised of his right and will be offered counsel.

BLACKWELL: All right. Correspondent -- Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr with us this morning, Barbara, thank you very much.

There's also as we said this warship on the way to the Persian Gulf this morning. What options are now on the table for President Obama in Iraq?

PAUL: Plus, the hunt is frantic for missing teens in Israel. Soldiers have already detained about 80 Palestinian suspects in the search.


PAUL: As there's chaos in Iraq, the ISIS militants are threat to march on to Baghdad and they're getting closer this morning.

BLACKWELL: You know, the question bothering U.S. lawmakers is this -- should the U.S. have seen this coming? And, of course, what's the next step to put things in the right place?

Let's bring in Douglas Ollivant from the New America Foundation.

Douglas, good to have you with us.


BLACKWELL: First question, do you think the militants who are advancing in the direction of Baghdad will indeed make it to the capital?

OLLIVANT: No, I don't. I suspect that like any offensive, the further you push, the harder it is to keep moving. And they certainly had a good couple days, but I suspect their luck is about to come to an end as they get closer to Baghdad, the resistance will be more authentic. People will fight harder and we're seeing now all these volunteers coming from the south, moving towards Baghdad. So, I think they're going to find simply a lot more people between them and the city. PAUL: Yes, we know that in the north, it was made up mostly of

Sunnis, and so they had it kind of easy because they banded with them, and we know some Sunni tribal leaders, they were fighting alongside them. But this fight, the Sunnis don't necessarily have the same consequence or the same motivation, do they, that the ISIS fighters have?

OLLIVANT: That's absolutely right. I think we need to division there are two problems we're dealing with now, that are deeply interlinked that we still have to distinguish. One is the ISIS problem. And we do have as terrorist group coming out of Syria, that's moving through Iraq.

This is a purely terrorist problem and it needs to be dealt with as such. But deeply interlinked with this, we have this Iraqi political crisis that has been smoldering for some time. You have three groups, none of whom particularly like each other. Lots of people like to put the bulk of the blame on Prime Minister Maliki for establishing a sectarian climate.

There's some truth to that, but it's not like the other two groups have been sending him flowers either. There's plenty of blame to go around in the lack of accommodation that's been going on in Iraq politically for some time now.

BLACKWELL: You know, the big question we said at the top is, should the U.S. have seen this coming? We know that "The New York Times" reports that there was -- I believe it was "The Washington Journal" -- I'm sorry. It reported that there was this meeting back in may where Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was in Saudi Arabia with Arab nation officials, and they talked about ISIS, but there was no plan to fight off this advance.

Do you think that they underestimated ISIS, or this was some negligence in some way?

OLLIVANT: Well, it seems pretty clear this is an intelligence failure on both the Iraqi's part and the United States, that no one seems to have seen this coming. That's not the issue on the table now, of course. But once this thing settles down, it's something we may want to look hard at.

PAUL: OK. So, what do you think is the next step?

OLLIVANT: Well, in the immediate term, really the only option the United States has right now is do you use air power or do you not use air power? And that's the only thing that's going to impact the immediate crisis. In the longer term, we can talk about more training, better intelligence sharing, speeding up the flow of weapons, but none of that is going to help in the next week.

BLACKWELL: In moving forward, we heard the president two days ago call on Maliki to do what's right to reconcile, but to consider his history of simply consolidating and avoiding reconciliation, is he the right person to move forward, even if the immediate term? OLLIVANT: Well, interestingly, I don't think the president did

use Prime Minister Maliki's name. That's the larger point I'm trying to bring out.

It's easy to put the blame on Prime Minister Maliki. But he has been dealing with a low level insurgency for the last three years dealing with a Sunni minority that hasn't fully come to terms with the fact that it is a minority and not going to be in power like it was back in Saddam's days. That's not to say Maliki has handled this situation extremely well, but there's lots of blame to go around and everyone needs to come to the table and look for a way for Iraq to move forward peacefully.

PAUL: All right. Douglas Ollivant, so appreciate your insight today. Thank you for being with us.

OLLIVANT: Thank you so much, Christi.

BLACKWELL: California is gripped by a deadly epidemic. I don't know if you heard about this. But infants and young children are at risk here.

PAUL: We're going to tell you what doctors are advising their patients of all ages to do right now.


BLACKWELL: Ukraine's president has declared today a day of mourning.

PAUL: Hundreds of people have gathered in Independence Square in the capital Kiev, paying tribute to the victims of months of violence in that country. They held a moment of silence, in fact, for 49 people who were aboard a military plane that was shot down yesterday in eastern Ukraine. Ukraine's defense ministry says pro-Russian separatists took down that plane with anti-aircraft machine guns.

BLACKWELL: Israeli soldiers have detained about 80 Palestinian suspects in the search for three missing teenagers, one of whom is an American citizen, according to Israel's Channel 10. They're believed to have been kidnapped from Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that Hamas is responsible for the kidnapping. He's also asking Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to, quote, "do everything to help bring them back in peace."

PAUL: California is being hit so hard by this epidemic of whooping cough, state officials, health officials say more than 3,400 cases have been reported so far this year. That's more than reported in all of last year. And doctors say infants, young children, particularly vulnerable to the highly contagious disease and they're urging everyone, make sure that you're up to date on your vaccines.

Well, Hillary Clinton's book tour -- boy, she's got a lot of fans in New York. BLACKWELL: Yes.

PAUL: Some lined up around the block but, boy, the boost of star power yesterday she got at a Costco in Virginia. Look at that.

BLACKWELL: She certainly brought enough books with her, didn't she?

PAUL: Look at all those books, my goodness.

BLACKWELL: Well, first, you see here, civil rights icon, Congressman John Lewis, representative of the Atlanta area here in Georgia, said he came to support Clinton's appearance.

PAUL: Then this happened. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor says, I just happened to be shopping at Costco, came by to say hi.


BLACKWELL: She looked like she's out on an ordinary Saturday.

PAUL: She does. The justice reportedly promised to read Clinton's book to which Clinton replied, quote, "You better. I loved yours," unquote. Sharing a little book club there.

BLACKWELL: Yes, although I don't really know what she wears. She didn't show up in the robe, of course. So, who knows?

PAUL: There you go. I don't know what's under that robe.

BLACKWELL: Hey, a former President George H.W. Bush just turned 90.

Tonight, CNN is going to air a film about the nation's 41st president. We're going to give you a look peek.

JOHN KING, INSIDE POLITICS: Coming up on "INSIDE POLITICS", we'll sort out the winners and losers from the unexpected revolution in the Republican Party.

Also, Hillary Clinton's book rollout -- well, it's been a little rocky. Can she get her A-game back in time for 2016?

We'll see you in a few minutes on "INSIDE POLITICS."


BLACKWELL: You see the family, they are holding the sign "41 on 41." You're asking, what's that? Well, to mark former President George H.W. Bush's 90th birthday, CNN will air the film "41 on 41" tonight.

PAUL: And it's based on interviews with 41 people who know him best. Here's a preview for you.


constantly seek your father's advice, and my answer is no. I constantly sought my father's love

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What's always struck me whenever I see him is the joy he takes in his family, and how deeply his family loves him, and to have accomplished as much as he has while still investing the kind of attention and care in his family that shows in how they view him, you know, that's a sign of a life well lived.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: Of course, I want to thank my entire family, with a special emphasis on a woman named Barbara.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Every parent lives in mortal fear that when their kids grow up, they won't want to hang around them anymore, and it's sort of like the ultimate validation in life when your adult children still want to hang around with you, and his adult children like hanging around with him.


BLACKWELL: "41 on 41" airs tonight on CNN 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific.

PAUL: We'll see you back here at 8:00.

BLACKWELL: "SANJAY GUPTA, M.D." starts right now.