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Interview with Father of Marine Killed in Afghanistan; Clinton Returns to Iowa, Trailing Sanders; U.S. Awaits Pope Francis' Arrival; New Concerns over Russian Military Buildup in Syria. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired September 22, 2015 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: So can you just fill me in on some of the conversations, what you're willing to share, that you had with your son and what he told you about this abuse.

GREG BUCKLEY: The abuse goes on, but we are told that they are told to look the other way. It was disturbing to my son, who was only 20 when he went o over there, and it's that they are not allowed to speak out, not allowed to make moves on it. There was a time there was nine boys that came in. Then later on that night, the boys disappeared and nobody could find them. A couple Marines were told to go look for the boys. When they walked into the place, they opened up the door and they were underneath the covers with these young boys, 8, 9, 12 years old. They were told by their superior to back out of the room and leave the boys in there. Now that's disturbing when you hear a Marine turn around and tell you a story about this and the boys were crying. They didn't want to be in there with these old men and they were told to stay. They had the Marines back out of there and walk away and just look the other way and not talk about it.

BALDWIN: How many times did your son mention this to you on the phone?

BUCKLEY: He mentioned a lot of things to me. The worst was that they were going to murder him over there. And I said, I don't understand. He said they are going to kill me on my base, I feel it.

BALDWIN: The "they" being the Afghans?

BUCKLEY: The Afghans.

BALDWIN: Why did he say that?

BUCKLEY: They were just bad. He said, Dad, I don't understand this, why we're here, what we're doing. These people, we're trying to help them. He got into an altercation one night with one of the superior officers that he kept on repeating in my son's ear while he was on duty at night that they didn't want him there. "We don't want you here. We don't want you here."

BALDWIN: He knew he was there for a purpose. He, according to you, told you multiple times about some of the sexual abuse, the screams he would hear. Your advice to him as a father was tell your superiors, right? BUCKLEY: Right. He said, we did, but there's nothing they can do

about it. So it's frustrating for him. Especially, the culture we raise our children in, you don't do things like that. He wanted to do something, but he's a lance corporal and his hands are tied. That's what he said. He said, "I feel like my hands are tied and I can't do anything about this."

BALDWIN: So the person who was convicted of killing your son, how old was he?

BUCKLEY: They said he was around 16 or 17. He was an older T. boy. When they become 16 or 17, they release them.

BALDWIN: T. boy, that's --

BUCKLEY: Sex slaves.

BALDWIN: Sex slave, culturally in Afghanistan. So you're saying that the man who killed your son, a Marine, was one of those who was abused. Are you connecting the dots that you believe, because of this abuse, your son lost his life?

BUCKLEY: Definitely. He was about 17, so he was about to be released from being a sex slave. And when they're released, they usually have them do an act of violence. I guess this was the act that he wanted to do. So Sarwar Jan (ph), who we understand gave him the A.K.-47 and told him to go into the gym where my son was unarmed working out with two other guys and opened fire on them and shot my son five times.

BALDWIN: What has the military said to you all?

MIKE BOWE, ATTORNEY FOR BUCKLEY FAMILY: Nothing. The military has stonewalled the Buckleys from the beginning of this for three years. And they first went to the Congressman, Peter King, to get answers and they couldn't, which they're entitled to do. Peter King reached out to one the Marine who both tried to save Greg and then get them answers, and maybe Jason Brezzler (ph), who had previously thrown Sarwar Jan (ph) off a different base and they wrote up a dossier to commanders to make sure he was never put in that position again.

Obviously, those commanders ignored that, and put him on and two weeks before the murder, Brezzler (ph) sent an e-mail was sent warning them again. They did nothing about that. Then the murders occurred. When Congressman King reached out to the Major Brezzler (ph), he did the right thing and spoke to Congressman King to give him information the Marine Corp wouldn't to help the Buckley family. And hen as soon as the Marine Corps found out about that, they instituted proceedings to discharge him from the Marine Corps, much like the Special Forces soldiers. Clear retaliation.

BALDWIN: Let me get this in. The White House responded. Of course, it was the big "New York Times" write up -- I want to give them credit where credit it due -- in this massive writing yesterday morning in the paper. The White House responded. Here's what they said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Let me say the United States is deeply concerned about the safety and welfare of Afghan boys who may be exploited by members of the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces. This form of sexual exploitation violates Afghan law and Afghanistan's international obligations.


BALDWIN: So let me take that a step further. The Pentagon has since denied that this is a policy. Last hour in a press briefing saying there's no policy in place.

My question is, if the U.S. were to intervene with this sort of behavior, this assault -- let's call it what it is -- what about other behaviors around the world that the U.S. would disagree with?

BUCKLEY: I'm really not going to comment on anything else but what I'm focused on. Sometimes people get sidetracked here.

[14:35:05] BOWE: I mean, from our perspective, it's not just anywhere in the world. These are people who we are partnering with. They are under our auspices. They are spending billions of dollars, and most importantly we're putting our young men in danger to help them. And one of the conditions of that help should be that if you're going to have a police chief or an Army soldier who we're going to work with and we're going to protect that they are not going to engage in conduct that is abhorrent to us. So this has nothing to do about other cultures or anything. We were there. They were there under our auspices. And we shouldn't force any service member to have to be in a situation where they are witnessing that and they feel complicit with that. It's not what our men should be exposed to. It's dangerous enough there. And it's dishonorable. And for them to say, "We don't have a policy and it's against Afghan law," well, there was no law there. He was the police chief. He was there because we were there. If we weren't there, he wouldn't be there. So the policy -- was there a policy that said it's OK? No. But there certainly wasn't a policy that said if you see this, do something about it. And no policy about when you see this we're going to make sure that the Afghans don't put a person like that in place.

BALDWIN: I just want to end this hearing, again, from a father's words.

It was an incredibly emotional interview we had a couple years ago. Looking at you, in your eyes now, how many years has it been?

BUCKLEY: Three years.

BALDWIN: Three years. And it's still very emotional for you.


BALDWIN: Tell me why.

BUCKLEY: I want my son. My son was taken from me because they made bad decisions. Those boys shouldn't have been allowed inside that base. And Sarwar Jan (ph) shouldn't have been allowed back in the base. But our government turned around and made this decision and they have their rules of engagement tht are set up that favor the Afghans and they don't favor the Marines or the soldiers. It's just heart wrenching that they wouldn't take care of my son. My son went over there to protect the United States. The United States didn't take care of my son. They just let him go. They used him as a pawn in a chess game. And I say it all the time. You lose a few pawns, they don't really care. But they destroyed me and my family.

I'm supposed to be OK with it. I'm not. That's why I'm speaking out. People say you shouldn't speak out, but, listen, let the truth be told. This is a terrible, terrible thing that happened to my son and it keeps on happening. And it's a terrible thing that these young Afghan boys have to go through. Being 8 years old and being raped by an animal, that's terrible. And we have to turn around and accept it and just look the other way? My son was hurt. He was like, dad, these kids are so cute and I have to sit here and watch this happen. He couldn't do anything. And he's afraid that if he does something, he's going to get a dishonorable discharge. So he has to turn around and walk away from it. It's frustrating. It's very frustrating to me.

And I do feel bad for these young little boys over there. I'm not a hateful man. I hate what they did to me. But I don't hate the boy. He's been abused since he was a little kid. So, of course, he's going to hate Americans because we're not stopping it from happening. So you think about it that way.

BALDWIN: Greg Buckley, thank you so much. I'm so sorry. I appreciate you coming on and sharing your truth. It's important to get your story and your son's story out there once again.

And, Mike, I appreciate it.

Quick break. We'll be right back.


[14:43:04] BALDWIN: Looking at politics here on this Tuesday. As far as Democrats are concerned, you have Hillary Clinton. She's in Iowa where, in four months, voters will head to the caucuses in the first test for those candidates.

I have Brianna Keilar live in Des Moines with Hillary Clinton.

And looking at the latest number numbers, in that state, for the first time, with Bernie Sanders, what's she doing to try to punch through that?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's really about organization and to look at what Hillary Clinton has had on the ground game. It's really surpassed what Bernie Sanders has done from day one. More volunteer, more campaign workers. She continues to outpace Bernie Sanders in that regard. She needs to because there's certainly an enthusiasm gap in Iowa. He's been able to book larger venues and bring more people in, but her campaign is confident that her organization is going to translate better to bringing out caucus goers on caucus night in February.

Today she will be here looking at a couple hundred people as some audience members are coming in and she will be talking about changing she wants to make to Obamacare, tackling the really why prescription drug prices. She will be talking about capping out of pocket expenses on prescription drugs. Bernie Sanders nipping at her heels. He put out a proposal not too different from hers, but one of his proposals includes importing some drugs from foreign countries.

So this is an issue that I think Democrats really have to combat in Iowa because they are hitting Hillary Clinton on some of the fact that the biggest insurers were granted rate increases that could affect policyholders in Iowa. If all politics are local, this is something that's potentially going to play big here.

[14:45:08] BALDWIN: Play big there. Also I'm sure it will be pervasive come the presidential debate in Vegas in a couple weeks.

Brianna Keilar, we'll see you there. Thank you so much.

Coming up next, all eyes on the pope scheduled to touch down shortly. His first steps on American soil. Live pictures. The red carpet has been rolled out. The stairs are waiting. Security getting organized. Standby, we'll take it live for you here on CNN.


[14:50:02] BALDWIN: New concerns over Russia's military build up in Syria. New satellite images that appear to show 12 new Russian aircraft at an air base inside of Syria. So to date, more numbers for you. An official says Russia has more than 25 fighter and attack aircraft, 15 helicopters, nine tanks, three surface-air missile systems and 500 personnel on the ground in Syria. Plus, officials tell CNN Russia has started flying what appear to be surveillance drones over the country.

So Fareed Zakaria is joining me, of "Fareed Zakaria, GPS."

Good to see you, sir.

Russia's presence is ramping up in Syria. The fear being this would then put given the U.S. strategy in Syria the U.S. directly pitted against Russia.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA, GPS: Not so much because the U.S. is mostly trying to strike ISIS. And Russia is trying to support Assad.


It actually doesn't put them quite in direct conflict.

BALDWIN: But could it?

ZAKARIA: It could, theoretically, but most of U.S. efforts are devoted to attacking ISIS, which is not in the area that they are e devoted to bolstering Assad. This could happen. There's a tendency in Washington among some politicians to view Putin as this incredibly evil genius.


BALDWIN: There's no truth to that, Fareed Zakaria?

ZAKARIA: Look, maybe one part of it is true. He's evil, he's not a genius.


The Russians are trying to deal with a problem of radical Islam that they face. They fought for 15 years. A lot of it was radical Islamists coming across the border into Russia from places like that. What they are trying to do is to deal with that. There are two places in the world they have bases, Vietnam and Syria. They are trying to shore up their one military ally in the Middle East. It's not clear to me that they will succeed. The idea that Russia is trying to throw more support in with Assad doesn't mean that Russia is getting more powerful. The problem means Assad is getting weaker.

BALDWIN: What's the motivation of Vladimir Putin, who is maybe not so genius and more evil? What is he up to? Is he trying to shrink the nuance of the U.S. in the Middle East?

ZAKARIA: Mostly they are trying to stem the tide of radical Islam that is coming north toward them.

BALDWIN: They are?

ZAKARIA: They view Assad as the front line defense. From their point of view, Assad is a secular Socialist ally of the Russians and he's been an ally for 30, 40 years. He's the last ally they have in the Middle East. They used to have Iraq, Libya, Egypt. So they are trying to in some ways shore up their one position there, deal with the fact that Assad is weak and getting weaker. I don't think it's some kind of game they are playing against the United States as much as a defensive maneuver and it shows that Assad is getting weaker, not stronger.

BALDWIN: What about this. Senator Marco Rubio, who would also like to be the president of the country, he writes for "National Review Online," quote, "In the absence of American leadership, Syria has become a playground for maligned, anti-American forces such as ISIS, al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Iranian Quds Force -- and now Russia. We must work with the opposition and step up training of rebels to not fight not only ISIS but also Assad."

No one wants another war, but at what point is the U.S. ignoring Assad no longer an option.

ZAKARIA: Look, there's a complicated issue here. ISIS is clearly the main foe. So the question is, can you say we're against ISIS and we're also the main adversary of ISIS is Assad. Marco Rubio is saying we should support the moderate opposition. It's a great idea except we haven't been able to find one. We have been searching and trying.


ZAKARIA: The Turks tried to find the moderate opposition. They couldn't stand one up. The United States has tried. The Pentagon announced they finally vetted 55 fighters. Then they sort of disappeared.

Look, the problem is this is a high-stakes game that has radicalized all elements of both the regime and the opposition. We're trying to find some democrats we can support. They are very hard to find. If you could find -- if Rubio -- in one of his others statements said we need and find them. If you have to from 6,000 miles away search and find some local force you can stand up and support, it probably means they are not the strongest force on the field.

BALDWIN: Fareed Zakaria, thank you --

ZAKARIA: Thank you.

[14:54:53] BALDWIN: --for your perspective and everything you know about this region.

You want to watch Fareed, Sunday mornings at 10:00 a.m. eastern on CNN.

Thank you.

Coming up in mere minutes, Pope Francis sets foot on U.S. soil for the first time in his life. We'll bring you that moment live as many students in the D.C. area are obviously thrilled for his impending arrival. He will be greeted by President Obama. What should Americans expect from a pope who has at times been unpredictable? We'll explore all of this as our special breaking coverage continues, after this.


[14:59:45] BALDWIN: I'm Brooke Baldwin. This is CNN. I want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world.

You're watching CNN's special breaking news coverage of a moment that will make history. In mere minutes, the plane carrying Pope Francis is scheduled to touch down in Washington, D.C. And President Obama, the first lady and vice president will all be on hand at Joint Base Andrews outside of Washington to greet him.