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

Aired June 15, 2014 - 08:00   ET


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Eight o'clock right now on a Sunday morning. Happy Father's Day to all you hard working dads out there. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Five on the West Coast.



BLACKWELL: First up this morning, there are reports of a suicide bombing in Baghdad. Now, there are conflicting numbers on casualties.

PAUL: Reuters and Agence France Press report at least nine people have been killed, nearly two dozen injured. But Baghdad police say one person was killed and only four injured.

BLACKWELL: And, of course, all this happening as Iraq's prime minister is ordering troops to fight off Islamist militants in a flash point town that's just a 45-minute drive from Baghdad. But now, we're learning that the troops there have evacuated their base and the militants are edging closer to Baghdad.

PAUL: OK. Let's get the latest now from CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson.

BLACKWELL: He joins us now live from the capital city.

Nic, what can you tell us about this bombing this morning? Again, we're having these discrepancies on casualties. It's being described as a car bombing and a suicide bomb?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It has. It's still not clear. The strongest indication we have is that it may have been a suicide bombing. The details are unclear. It went off in the central square, Freedom Square, Tahrir Square, at 8:30 in the morning this morning.

Initial reports that we have indicated one person killed, four wounded. Those numbers appear to be climbing. The latest that we have now been able to get in the last few minutes is that nine people were killed, 21 wounded in that blast. Sad to say this is not unusual or atypical for Baghdad. Last week on Saturday alone, there were six car bombs, more than 30 people killed, dozens and dozens more wounded.

But it is an indication of the tensions. This is in the heart of the city, and what we understand, the prime minister had drawn this line in the sand, saying he was going to stop the ISIS advance north of Baghdad, in Samarra, about an hour and a half's drive north of the city.

Well, guess what? We found out the army had ordered a retreat from a base three-quarters of an hour drive north of the city. That means ISIS are getting closer, they overran base, the army had this time evacuated with the weapons.

But for all the strong language we've heard from the prime minister saying that the army has to stand firm or court-martial anyone caught running away, we now understand the army ordered troops there to retreat in the advance of ISIS. The picture emerging is thus. When the prime minister draws a line in Samarra, an important town to the Shias, they can hold it for right now. In towns where there's a large Sunni majority or even a slight Sunni majority, Baqubah, ISIS are taking control. Their aim we understand is set on Baghdad. They want to get to the outskirts here, they want to put pressure on the city. They haven't been stopped yet -- Christi, Victor.

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

PAUL: Now, as we said, the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush, as we were talking about last hour, is in the Persian Gulf, near the coast of Iraq.

BLACKWELL: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the move.

CNN's Athena Jones joins us live from the White House now.

Athena, of course, we're hearing the reports of the bombing in Baghdad. Will the president, the national security team, obviously, will decide this weekend, decision time, on plans to take action in Iraq?

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Victor and Christi. That's what the president has been working with his national security team to do all weekend. They're trying to figure out what to do, come up with a range of options.

You know the president is spending Father's Day weekend out in California, with his wife and his eldest daughter Malia. But he's been getting updates from his national security team, especially from national security adviser Susan Rice. And this team is trying to come up with a range of options to help Iraq push back these insurgent forces.

As you know, these options don't include troops on the ground, but they could include airstrikes. And so, this ship, the Bush, is a ship that they moved into the Persian Gulf because you can launch airstrikes from that ship. But I should mention, the president is under pressure. He said

on Friday any decision, any U.S. action is going to take several days to plan. But he's under some pressure from members of Congress, here at home, especially Republicans, who want to see him act quickly.

We heard from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Saturday saying that the U.S. needs to act swiftly to help the Iraqi government, before all the gains that the U.S. and allied forces made in winning the war in Iraq all those years ago are lost. We've also heard from New York Congressman Peter King who says we should do airstrikes, the U.S. should launch airstrikes in Iraq to help stop this assault, and help give the Iraqi army the chance to consolidate and at least defend Baghdad.

We've also heard from Republican members of Congress like Senator John McCain and the House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon who are questioning the president's national security team and their ability to handle this situation.

So, there's a lot of politics involved here. But that's what's going on this weekend, the president in constant contact with the national security team as they try to come up with what these options are going to be -- Victor, Christi.

PAUL: Athena, does the president have any confidence in Nouri al-Maliki's ability to resolve the conflict?

JONES: Well, that's really a central question here. We heard the president say on Friday that there's not going to be a purely military solution to this crisis. Secretary of State John Kerry echoed those remarks to Iraq's foreign minister when he spoke to him on Saturday.

But they're calling -- they've been calling for years for Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to make political accommodations, to make power sharing agreements, reach some sort of deals with his rivals in Iraq, Sunnis, Kurds, so that Sunnis, Kurds and Shias can have a unity government, to give Iraq the kind of stability that's going to be necessary to resolve this long term.

And so, that's really the central question here, guys.

BLACKWELL: All right. Athena Jones at the White House for us -- thank you.

You know, some military veterans and their families are watching the news from Iraq as it unfolds and asking what was their service for if Iraq may be worse off today than when the U.S. troops left.

Well, earlier on NEW DAY, we spoke to the widow of Doug Zembiec, famously dubbed the Lion of Fallujah.

Well, we asked her thoughts on the current situation and the fighting in Iraq. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BLACKWELL: We know the president this weekend will be making a

decision, or taking about military options. You are a military widow.


BLACKWELL: What would you tell the president about potentially getting back involved, even with airstrikes in Iraq after knowing what your husband went through, what he told you about his dedication to the mission there and what you're seeing today?

ZEMBIEC: I mean, I would be in support, 100 percent, of him going back into Iraq and trying to regain what Doug fought so highly for, the framework of democracy. I mean, that is what he went over there to fight for. I would be in 100 percent support of him doing that, I would tell him that.


PAUL: In all, nearly 4,500 Americans were killed during the Iraq war, 32,000 were wounded.


BLACKWELL: Let's turn to Washington now where it's been a week of wins and upsets with the results of the primary election coming in.

PAUL: Dana Bash and Gloria Borger are sitting in for Candy Crowley on "State of the Union."

Ladies, welcome. I understand you have quite the guests on today's show.


Stick around for "THE STATE OF THE UNION" because for the first time, we're going to have an interview with Eric Cantor who made history this week, not in the way he would have liked.


BASH: Right, because he lost his Republican primary in a huge upset and a landslide. So, we're going to talk to him about why he thinks that happens and what it means to the party.

BORGER: And we're also going to talk to what Eric Cantor could not do.

BASH: The same night.

BORGER: That same night.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham who was up against multiple candidates in a tough Republican primary in South Carolina, conservative state. He beat back the Tea Party. How did he do it? And then, of course, we're going to turn to the big story of the

day which is Iraq. Lindsey Graham, a huge critic of the administration on that issue.

BASH: It's going to be a good show.


Back to you.

BLACKWELL: It will be indeed. Thank you very much, Dana Bash, Gloria Borger. Thank you.

You can catch Dana and Gloria, in for Candy Crowley on "STATE OF THE UNION" at 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

The three teens have vanished from the west bank. The Israeli prime minister is blaming a terror group. Who took them?

PAUL: Plus, Chelsea Manning breaking her silence and accusing the U.S. military of outright lying about the Iraq war


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

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: We're learning new details this morning about the investigation into the disappearance of American soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who you know was held captive by the Taliban for nearly five years. Well, a senior defense official tells CNN, a two-star army general has been tapped to lead the probe. Since his release last night, soldiers have accused Bergdahl of being a deserter.

Earlier this morning, CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr shared new details about the investigation.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): That two-star general will begin working on that fact-finding investigation. It raises the question, is Bergdahl himself about to face those questions in a legal framework? What we are told that is that will happen. Whether it happens this week or in the coming days, nobody is setting the date for it yet. 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 rights and will be offered counsel.


PAUL: Bergdahl is currently being treated at a medical facility in San Antonio.

BLACKWELL: Do you remember the controversy last year involving reports that the Internal Revenue Service targeted the Tea Party and other special interest groups? Well, now the IRS says they haven't been able to recover subpoenaed e-mails from former official Lois Lerner because of a computer crash. Some Republican lawmakers are questioning the credibility of the excuse. They call it excuse. They call it, quote, "convenient."

For their part, the IRS insists it made unprecedented efforts to produce all the documents needed for the investigation.

PAUL: So, the World Cup is, of course, in Brazil --


PAUL: And in full swing.

Tomorrow, of course, the big day for American soccer fans as Team USA is going to take to the field. There are three huge games we need to talk about today. First, Switzerland and Ecuador face off starting in just less than four hours now. That's going to be followed by France and Honduras. Finally, Argentina takes on Bosnia and Herzegovina.

BLACKWELL: And Argentina fans, they will undoubtedly need cheering on their very own world class soccer stand out Lionel Messi.

Well, the American soldier convicted of espionage after leaking 700,000 pages of classified of documents is back, accusing the government of lying about Iraq and limiting media access.


PAUL: Well, this morning, Chelsea Manning, the soldier convicted of espionage after leaking more than 700 pages of classified documents to WikiLeaks, is breaking her silence.

BLACKWELL: In a new op-ed in "The New York Times", Manning accuses the U.S. military of lying to the American public about the Iraq war and limiting media access. Now, she writes about a program that grants reporters access to the military in war zones.

Here is a portion of this op-ed: "The embedded reporter program forces journalists to compete against one another for special access to vital matters of foreign and domestic policy. Too often this creates reporting that flatters senior decision-makers. A result is that the American public's access to the facts is gutted, which leaves them with no way to evaluate the conduct of American officials."

PAUL: Let's bring in senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES", Brian Stelter, in New York.

Good to see you, sir.

What do you make, first of all, of the timing of this?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: The timing is uncanny because she is writing about this situation in Iraq at the same time the intervention is now being talked about once again.

And I apologize, by the way, for slipping up there, saying he when I meant she. Chelsea Manning's gender change, and that has been an important thing for the press to treat carefully. And I've been impressed lately, by the way, in the way it's been treated. People have respected her wishes, call her Chelsea and use the right pronoun there. In the op-ed, she talks at length about how the government essentially is able to grant embeds to journalists if they believe will give favorable coverage and deny embeds to reporters they believe will present unfavorable coverage. And she says that's one way that the government tilts war coverage.

BLACKWELL: You know, what stands out to me here is that, OK. So, you've got Chelsea Manning who is at Fort Leavenworth, 35-year sentence for espionage. How does she get this op-ed out Fort Leavenworth, critical to the military, to "The New York Times"?

BLEACHER: This has happened before. There have been different cases where you're able to hear from people imprisoned. I remember, last year, "The New York Times" published, in a very different situation, of course, an op-ed from a Guantanamo Bay detainee. Now, that one was relayed by phone. It was transcribed from Arabic. This is a very different situation. This may have been a letter that was sent through the mail, or this may have been via phone from the prison. We don't know for sure.

I did notice one "New York Times" editor wrote this was the first column that we've seen from her. Maybe there's more coming. If we have time, I think we should read one more quote from the op-ed. It's about the number of embeds that were in Iraq when she was there.

And this is what she wrote. Through my deployment, I never saw that tally, the number of embeds go above 12. In other words, in all of Iraq, which contained 31 million people and 117,000 U.S. troops, no more than a dozen American journalists were covering military operations. This is important because we need to see all sides in wartime, or whenever we need reporters embedded.

We need to have reporters embedded, and we also need to have reporters independently verify information not embedded with the military. And this op-ed is pointing out how there's been very little coverage from Iraq, a very dangerous place, of course, in which to report.

We saw earlier this week, a freelance Iraqi photographer killed this week in the fighting in northern Iraq. But this op-ed pointed out for years there's been relatively little coverage from the ground there.

PAUL: Good point. All right. Brian Stelter, so good to see you, sir. Thank you for being here.

STELTER: Thank you.

PAUL: Don't forget, to watch him, "RELIABLE SOURCES," 11:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

BLACKWELL: Former President George H.W. Bush is lending his name to the GOP effort to hang on to a Senate seat in Georgia.

PAUL: Specifically, he's asking his fellow Republicans for money. We'll tell you why Bush 41 is dabbling in politics in the Peach State.


BLACKWELL: You see President Bush there with those trademark bright socks. Former President George H.W. Bush, he sent out a fund- raising letter to GOP donors. He's asking them to support whomever wins the Republican nomination for this open U.S. Senate seat in Georgia. That candidate will face Democrat Michelle Nunn.

PAUL: Here's the thing, Nunn was CEO of the Points of Life Foundation which is a charity founded by President Bush. She's using at least one photograph of herself with him in her campaign.

So, Bush's spokesman says the former president did not give approval for the ad and believes Republicans should control the Senate.

BLACKWELL: To mark former President Bush's 90th birthday this month, CNN will air "41 on 41."

PAUL: Based on interviews with 41 people who know him best. Here is a sneak peek.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the great experiences given to our country was when a friendship was formed that went against the norm. That was a friendship between President Clinton and President Bush.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're an odd couple. It's somewhere sweet, the relationship they've developed. I think they work together on behalf of good causes is one of the nicest chapters in the history of American presidents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will be a friend --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one at 10 Downing Street can recall the last time a world leader shook hands with a doorman at the prime minister's home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George Bush just has so much love for people, whether they agreed with his toll picks, his point of view, it didn't matter. He didn't have a mean-spirited bone in his body.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just what I know of the kind of guy he is, if he wasn't your friend, he'd make you his friend, because he really makes people comfortable.


BLACKWELL: Now, to watch the full documentary, "41 on 41," tune in tonight on CNN at 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific.

PAUL: And take a look at how he celebrated his 90th birthday this week.

Sky diving yet again as he did at 80 and 85, probably vowed to do it at 95. I think as a wife and mother, I was so moved by Barbara Bush saying, hey, have at it, go ahead. At some point, don't you just go -- oh!

BLACKWELL: He said after the jump on his 85th birthday -- is this the last one or are you done? He said, no, I've got one more coming up in June of 2014. He held to his word, and it looks like he enjoyed it.

PAUL: Congratulations and happy birthday to him and the whole family who I am sure is celebrating. But we want to say a special thank you to all of you for sharing your morning with us. And happy Father's Day, of course.

BLACKWELL: It's been a pleasure.

"INSIDE POLITICS" starts right now.