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THE SITUATION ROOM

Did McChrystal Lie About Pat Tillman's Death?; Michelle Obama Speaks About Helping Military Families

Aired November 11, 2009 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BLITZER: A fresh poll suggests slightly more people may vote for a Republican in next year's mid-term elections than vote for a Democrat. The breakdown in the new Gallup Poll of registered voters -- 48 percent would vote Republican, 44 percent would vote Democratic, within the poll's sampling error, of course, but that's a switch from other recent polls, which showed Democrats as the preferred party choice. For all the latest political news any time, check out CNNPolitics.com.

And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, a very serious allegation against America's top commander in Afghanistan. I'll talk to the author of a new book who says General Stanley McChrystal lied about the death of football star turned soldier Pat Tillman.

And an illiterate janitor now being called a hero in the wake of a deadly suicide attack. He's credited with saving countless lives, but he leaves behind a grief-stricken family so poor, they had to borrow money for his coffin.

And the first lady, Michelle Obama, she's speaking out on this Veterans Day about the cause that she's taken to her heart -- helping military families.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Disturbing statements and alarming contacts -- there's growing concern that warning signs of the rampage at Fort Hood may have been missed and questions about why the military was not told about communications between the suspect, Major Nidal Hasan, and a radical Muslim cleric. We're digging deeper on this story this hour.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is at the Fort Hood post, where this Veterans Day is extra poignant.

But we begin with CNN's Elaine Quijano over at the Pentagon -- Elaine, what's the latest on this investigation into the massacre?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as investigators continue examining what led up to the Fort Hood shootings, right now there are a number of questions that continue to swirl about whether red flags were missed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) QUIJANO: (voice-over): In the aftermath of the Fort Hood shooting, lawmakers, including Senator John McCain, are asking, did government officials fail to raise red flags about Major Nidal Malik Hasan?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: But I think one thing is pretty obvious. And that is that there were signs that this individual had some very disturbing behavior patterns, which should have alert -- been alerted to the proper authorities and action should have been taken.

QUIJANO: Top officials say U.S. terrorism investigators monitored up to 20 communications between Hasan and a radical imam, Anwar Al-Awlaki, overseas. A Joint Terrorism Task Force that had Defense Department representation ultimately decided those contacts were consistent with research Hasan was conducting in his position as a psychiatrist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

A federal law enforcement official tells CNN the decision not to pursue further investigation was made by one of the Defense officials.

Still, those communications should have triggered a further look by the military, says CNN national security contributor, Fran Townsend.

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Even if the FBI made the correct decision in the Joint Terrorism Task Force not to pursue it as a criminal matter, the next question becomes, what did the military do?

QUIJANO: But a senior Defense official says the military never knew about the Hasan contacts, telling CNN that under the ground rules for the Joint Terrorism Task Force, no member of the Task Force may unilaterally go back to their agency and share the information gathered by the Task Force.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

QUIJANO: But, Wolf, a former counterterrorism official tells CNN the information should have been shared with the military unless there was a specific FBI instruction not to -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Elaine Quijano, for that.

Let's get to Fort Hood right now, where the shock of the attack is making this Veterans Day unlike any other.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is on the scene for us.

So what was it like -- Ed?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, a day like today is another remind that despite the generations of Americans that have gone off to war and a reminder today that soldiers just have to keep marching on.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(VIDEO CLIP OF SOLDIERS MARCHING)

LAVANDERA: (voice-over): On this day...

(VIDEO CLIP OF SOLDIERS MARCHING)

LAVANDERA: -- it was the youngest soldiers from Fort Hood at the center of attention. In Killeen's Veterans Day Parade, generations of warriors filed behind these young soldiers, like Specialist Daniel Schlehuber, only 22 years old, already an Iraq War veteran and headed back for another tour next year.

SPEC. DANIEL SCHLEHUBER, U.S. ARMY: When they have stuff like this, you know, you just -- it kind of brings up the morale in the soldiers, showing that we have all this support.

LAVANDERA: Some say the crowd for today's parade was three times as big as last year's. The memory of the 13 people gunned down last week at Fort Hood made this day more poignant for Sergeant David Kuzmar.

SGT. DAVID KUZMAR, U.S. ARMY: I think a lot of this still -- it hasn't completely set in yet. And further, I think a lot of people are still just kind of in shock, you know, that -- that it happened.

LAVANDERA: Symbols of support have emerged all across Killeen, Texas for those killed. But on the eve of this Veterans Day, there was a reminder that while this Army family has lost many soldiers in the fight, there are tearful homecomings like this one to celebrate. Jill Brown didn't get a chance to enjoy the homecoming celebration for her nephew. He was killed in Iraq five years ago. A bracelet on her arm honors Specialist Tracy Laramar (ph).

SHERYL BROWN, KILLEEN RESIDENT: It's always important for us to give back to the soldiers. That's the only way that our soldier lives, is by us giving back.

LAVANDERA: She never misses Killeen's Veteran's Day parade. And after what Fort Hood has endured this week, she hopes the tributes never end.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

LAVANDERA: Wolf, and it was special to see that today -- that small unit of soldiers, young soldiers here at Fort Hood doing the work of today, being honored by so many people along that parade route. As they went along the route, people cheered the loudest when they walked by -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And even in the midst of this tragedy, a lot of those troops, they're getting ready to head off to war right now, aren't they -- Ed?

LAVANDERA: Oh, there's no -- there's no question. Actually, it's been -- that's been one of the fascinating things to see here, is that so many troops that are here -- soldiers that are here at Fort Hood come here because they are on the verge of being deployed. And that work doesn't stop. We've talked to many people from many different units who are just weeks away from being deployed into Afghanistan and Iraq and none of that work has slowed down.

BLITZER: And we wish them only -- only the best, especially on this Veterans Day.

Ed, thanks very much.

Meanwhile, we're hearing for the first time from that police officer who brought the rampage to an end. Sergeant Kimberly Munley was shot three times in an exchange of fire with the accused gunman.

Listen to what she told Oprah Winfrey about what happened when she arrived on the scene.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW," COURTESY HARPO PRODUCTIONS)

SGT. KIMBERLY MUNLEY, FORT HOOD POLICE: Yes. The entire incident was -- was very confused and chaotic. There was many people outside pointing into the direction that this individual was -- was apparently located. And as soon as I got out of my vehicle and ran up the hill was -- is when things started getting pretty bad and we started encountering fire.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Sergeant Munley is still hospitalized. Her doctors say she's in good condition. And we wish her a speedy recovery, as well.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now for The Cafferty File.

She's a real hero -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Remember a day or so after this thing happened that -- that one of our reporters interviewed some people who knew her. And they all said the same thing -- we knew in a heartbeat who it was that was going to take the shooter down. If she was anywhere in the area, she would have gone -- you know, waded into it right up to her armpits and -- and gotten the job done. Apparently one tough, courageous woman. And it looks like -- cross your fingers -- she's going to make it and be OK. But everybody said they weren't surprised that that's -- that's exactly what she would have done.

This is an idea that is long past due. And that being said, will probably never ever, ever happen.

A group of Republican Senators is proposing a Constitutional amendment to set -- ready -- Congressional term limits -- 12 years for the Senate and six for the House.

Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina says real change will never happen in Washington until there's an end to the era of permanent politicians. DeMint says lawmakers have been reelected about 90 percent of the time over the last 20 years because the system favors the incumbents.

We all know the drill. Some spend decades in Washington. They get into bed with the special interest groups that feed their campaign coffers and then forget all about the people that they're supposed to be representing.

And we've heard this before. Republicans who gained control of the House in 1994, they promised to pass Congressional term limits. But once they won the election and got into power, they somehow forgot to deliver on that promise.

The Supreme Court later ruled term limits un-Constitutional, which is why this bunch of Senators is trying to change the Constitution. And that's a tall order. It takes two-thirds of the House and Senate to approve the proposed amendment and then three fourths of the legislatures in all 50 states have to vote in favor, as well.

As for the power hungry politicians, well, they say they don't want to mess with the Constitution and that Americans should be able to vote for whoever they want.

But I would make you a bet. I'd be willing to bet if this idea was put to a vote of the people, it would win going away.

Anyway, here's the question. What are the chances Congress will ever pass a Constitutional amendment imposing term limits?

Here's a hint -- you and I won't live long enough to see it.

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and that's where you'll find my blog, even though I think it's a hell of an idea -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I know. You -- and what about our kids?

Will they live long enough to see it?

CAFFERTY: I don't think so. No.

BLITZER: That will be your question next week.

CAFFERTY: Yes, right.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Jack Cafferty will be back.

The death of Pat Tillman in Afghanistan was shocking and so are the allegations against the general who's now America's top commander there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON KRAKAUER, AUTHOR, "WHERE MEN WIN GLORY": If a lesser officer did what McChrystal did, he would be court-martialed, according to Article 107 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, submitting a false official statement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That's -- that's John Krakauer. And he says it's time to come clean about the death of Pat Tillman. We're going to talk about his controversial new book.

Also, our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, rides along with U.S. forces down a road known as IED Alley, riddled with roadside bombs -- why the soldiers believe Disney songs may be keeping them safe.

Plus, the illiterate janitor who saved countless lives, his heroic act and the grief-stricken family he leaves behind.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: President Obama spent parts of this Veterans Day in the White House Situation Room huddling with his national security advisers as he tries to decide whether to send thousands more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. Among the many factors being weighed, the soaring rate of roadside bomb attacks -- up 350 percent since 2007. That's one statistic that weighs heavily on U.S. troops.

CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, is in Afghanistan and saw this firsthand -- Chris?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT:

Well, Wolf, we wanted to take you behind-the-scenes to put you into that metal box where it's cramped and dusty and show you what happens in between those IED blasts.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE: (voice-over): We cram ourselves into the back of a Humvee and roll out on Highway 1.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE LANGUAGE). Whoa.

LAWRENCE: They call this road IED Alley.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): I can show you the world.

LAWRENCE: And, yes, there's a story behind this silly song.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Shining, shimmering, splendid.

Remember what happened when you didn't sing it the last time?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

LAWRENCE: There's also an argument over who's the hottest Disney character. STAFF SGT. ANDREW JENNINGS, U.S. ARMY: That's an ongoing debate. I -- there's a lot of votes for Jazzman apparently, but I'm an Ariel man myself.

LAWRENCE: For the heck of it, I throw in a vote for Pocahontas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh my god.

LAWRENCE: Soldiers know militants like to hide bombs in the irrigation canals, so the convoy stops a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, let's go.

LAWRENCE: We're only in this Humvee because two weeks ago, a bomb exploded and damaged an MRAP. It happened right on this road, but some of the soldiers still get sick of the slow pace.

JENNINGS: I could get out and try and search every culvert and take five days to get anywhere and possibly get blown up myself outside of my truck or maybe just go across it and get blown up in the truck.

LAWRENCE: Out of Kandahar, we roll into a pretty remote desert -- dust everywhere. And the ride just keeps getting rougher.

JENNINGS: We try not to follow roads in these narrow places like we're going right now, which is, you know, where they want to put them.

LAWRENCE: The conversation is all over the place. One minute bombs, the next breakfast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) more thought to our -- you talk about eating healthy.

LAWRENCE: But as we finally get near the camp, there's one thing I still can't figure.

JENNINGS: The whole "Aladdin" song sing that we sing every time...

LAWRENCE: Yes?

JENNINGS: We started that last deployment and didn't hit one IED in 15 months, but we stopped singing it this time and already hit one, so we're bringing it back.

LAWRENCE: Reason enough to keep singing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Shining shimmering splendor.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

LAWRENCE: And -- and whatever it's doing, that song is working because they have not been hit again. But on the roads that these soldiers travel, that IED could be two feet down the road, two miles. It could happen in two weeks or two months. Sometimes humor is the only way to deal with that kind of pressure -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And these guys are really under pressure.

Chris Lawrence, thank you.

Be careful over there.

Appreciate your work.

It's now been more than eight years and a month since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan. So far, 912 Americans have lost their lives in that war. Compare that with the U.S. role in Vietnam. That war lasted eight years and eight months from the time Congress authorized a full scale intervention until the last U.S. troops left. During that time, more than 58,000 American troops died.

The U.S. role in the Korean War lasted less than half that time -- three years, one month. But the American death toll still soared to more than 36,000.

By contrast, the war in Iraq is now six years, eight months old with 4,365 American deaths so far.

In Pakistan, an unlikely hero has emerged from a recent suicide attack. Survivors say his actions saved countless lives.

CNN's Ivan Watson has this extraordinary story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A grieving mother and a widow on a sad and silent march. Seventy-year-old Kurshaid Siddique makes this walk every day, clutching a photo of her son. Pervaiz Mahsi was killed on October 20th when a suicide bomber attacked the university cafeteria where he worked.

Pervaiz was a janitor. He barely earned enough money to feed his family. Now some people are calling him a hero.

SUMAYA AHSAN, STUDENT: Now, he's like a legend to us, because he saved our lives and our friends' lives.

WATSON: Twenty-year-old Sumaya Ahsan and her classmates are also in mourning. The suicide bomber killed three of their friends in the women's cafeteria of Islamabad's International Islamic University. But if it wasn't for the janitor named Pervaiz, they say many more of their classmates could have been killed.

AFSHEEN ZAFAR, STUDENT: If he wouldn't have stopped that suicide attacker, there could have been a great, great destruction.

WATSON: On October 20th, a suicide bomber disguised in women's clothes shot and wounded the guard on duty and then approached this cafeteria, which was packed full of hundreds of female students.

(on camera): The cafe where this deadly attack took place is back open. This is the doorway where, by some accounts, Pervaiz Mahsi helped stop the suicide bomber from coming in and doing more damage. The bomber instead detonated right outside the doorway. And you can see the telltale pock marks here in the stone floor of the ball bearings which were sprayed out by the bomber's explosive vest.

(voice-over): The explosion instantly killed Pervaiz.

Who knows how many young women would have died if the bomber had gotten into this room?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello.

WATSON: Pervaiz's family lives here, in a house crowded with three other families.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the daughter, yes?

Hello.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Diah Pervaiz.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Diah. Diah Pervaiz. Hello, Diah.

WATSON: The family, eight people, lives in this single room, sleeping on three beds.

(on camera): And you all are -- you're Christians?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

WATSON (voice-over): They are members of Pakistan's Christian minority -- one of the poorest communities in Pakistan. They had to borrow money for Pervaiz's coffin and now they're behind on the rent. From time to time, Pervaiz's 3-year-old daughter Diah turns to her mother and repeats one word "papa."

(VIDEO CLIP)

WATSON: Pervaiz' mother is inconsolable.

(on camera): From what we've heard, your son really helped save a lot of people and he's a hero.

(voice-over): "But my hero is dead now," she says.

The illiterate Christian man who saved the lives of so many Muslim girls is buried here, just a few feet from a muddy road in a garbage strewn grave. The government of Pakistan is calling him a national hero.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Islamabad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: He is a national hero, indeed.

Ivan, thank you.

Two Secret Service vehicles involved in a deadly accident. Stand by. We're getting new details coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

Plus, the secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, the subject of an angry protests.

What's going on?

We'll tell you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Fredericka Whitfield is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Fred, what's going on?

WHITFIELD: All right, a look at our top stories right now.

Well, the U.S. Park Service is now investigating reports of the U.S. Secret Service in armored vehicles. Two vehicles apparently hitting a pedestrian on the Suitland Parkway just outside of Washington, D.C. The Secret Service had just made their way back from Washington State, where they were on tour with the vice president while out there. However, there were no officials actually in the armored vehicles. But confirmation that we are receiving is that one pedestrian was hit by these two armored vehicles. Only the drivers were inside and still under investigation now by the U.S. Park Service.

OK. And we now know that it's hard to tell, but take a look right now, pictures of Rio de Janeiro. I know it's very dark, but that's kind of the point. Last night, 60 million people across Brazil were suddenly plunged into darkness. The lights are back on now throughout most of the country. The blackout was caused by a problem at the massive Itaipu Hydroelectric Dam. But officials say there is no evidence of sabotage. That's the good news. Police say there was no increase in crime, either.

And talk about extreme tactics -- the inhabitants of a town near Mexico City tried to set the town hall on fire to force out four men being held by the police. Townspeople say the four men had tried to kidnap a local businessman. Riot police were dispatched to break up the crowds -- estimated at hundreds of people -- and got the four suspected kidnappers out unharmed under a hail of rocks and stones. And, of course, you see all that fire, too. A pretty dangerous and messy situation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very amazing.

All right. Thanks very much, Fred, for that.

Coming up, President Obama had another major meeting in the White House Situation Room today on the situation in Afghanistan and how many more troops to deploy to Afghanistan. The U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, participated in that meeting via teleconference.

But one author has now written a book saying General McChrystal is unfit to serve. My interview with Jon Krakauer, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Former NFL football star Pat Tillman was perhaps America's best known combat soldier until he was killed in Afghanistan by friendly fire back in 2004. His death set off a firestorm of controversy over alleged cover-ups. And now it's the subject of a major new book.

And joining us now, the best-selling author, Jon Krakauer.

He's -- his new book is entitled "Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman."

Jon, thanks very much for coming in.

KRAKAUER: I'm happy to be here.

BLITZER: I want to play you a little clip from the testimony that General Stanley McChrystal gave during his confirmation hearings to become the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan about his role in deciding that Pat Tillman should be granted the -- the Silver Star.

Listen to how he defended himself.

GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, COMMANDER, U.S. FORCES AFGHANISTAN: I arrived back into Afghanistan from a meeting in Khadr with General Abizaid on the 23rd and I was informed at that point that they suspected friendly fire might have been the cause of death and they had initiated what we call a 15-6 or an investigation of that. At the same time we looked at his potential award for valor, and any lost soldier they immediately look and determine whether an award was appropriate. In the case of Corporal Tillman, a Silver Star was recommended. I sat down with the people who recommended it, but that was higher than some had been given and we went over the white board and looked at the geometry of the battlefield and I queried the people to satisfy myself that his actions warranted that even though there was potential that the actual circumstance of death had been friendly fire, so I was comfortable recommending once I believed that the people in the fight were convinced it warranted a Silver Star and I was, too, with affording that.

I also sent a message informing my chain of command that we believed it was fratricide and we did that when we were told there would be highly profile memorial services. Now what happens in retrospect is, and would I do this differently if I had the chance again, in retrospect they look contradictory because we sent a -- a Silver Star that was not well written and although I went through the process I will tell you now I didn't review the citation well enough to capture or I didn't catch that if you read it you could imply that it was not friendly fire so I say that in the two things which I believe were entirely well-intentioned on my part and in my view everyone that I saw was trying to do the right thing. It still produced confusion at a tragic time, and I'm very sorry for that because I -- I understand that the outcome produced a perception that I don't believe was at all involved, at least in the forces that forward.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: And you believe Corporal Tillman earned the Silver Star in his actions before he died?

MCCHRYSTAL: I absolutely do. I did then, I do now.

BLITZER: All right. Jon Krakauer, what, if anything, is wrong with his explanation?

JON KRAKAUER, AUTHOR, "WHERE MEN WIN GLORY": It's perjured. It's not believable. It's preposterous. He is saying that after spending a number of days on the ground in eastern Afghanistan with the commander, Tillman's commander of the second regiment battalion, that he signed his name to this fraudulent document recommending a silver star. This document that he signed his name to, he was the author of record. He reviewed carefully made not -- not only did it make any mention of friendly fire in reference to Tillman's death, it used a phrase he faced devastating enemy fire. At the time McChrystal knew this was not true. McChrystal at the time was absolutely certain Tillman was killed by friendly fire and yet he submitted this letter to the sent of the army and he implies at the same time we sent this e-mail warning people that he was killed by friendly fire. He sent that e-mail 24 hours later and he didn't send it to the secretary of the army, the person who ultimately approved the Silver Star. He sent it -- it was intended for president Bush's speech writers warning them that if the information of fratricide, not if, but when, to be careful what they wrote for the president because if he quoted from the bogus silver star document he would embarrass himself as appearing as a liar and that's a very different thing that the testimony suggests. There's simply no way to get around the fact that McChrystal knowingly submitted this fraudulent document to the secretary of the army. He never called the secretary of the army back and said oh, I forgot, you know, unintentionally used friendly fire, maybe we should put the Silver Star on hold until we sort that out.

BLITZER: Let me interrupt. You're saying General McChrystal deliberately lied in signing that document?

KRAKAUER: Absolutely. There's no other way to interpret that. You don't even have to take my word for it. There was a very thorough investigation by the inspector general of the defense department, and they found that McChrystal's -- the same explanation he gave to the senate was not credible. They criticized him. They determined that he should be held accountable for the fraudulent Silver Star. They determined that the army should take action against him, and they would have except that a crony of McChrystal, a four star general named William Wallace simply overruled the inspector general of the pentagon and let McChrystal completely off the hook.

BLITZER: What does all this say to you, Jon, about what General McChrystal is doing now? He's the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. He's recommend the president deploy another 40,000 troops to Afghanistan. What does this say to you about the commander of the U.S. troops there?

KRAKAUER: I don't -- I think he has a serious blemish on his. Look, what he did is a series --

BLITZER: Should he be the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan?

KRAKAUER: No, he should not. If a lesser officer did what McChrystal did, he would be court-martialed according to article 107 of the uniform code of military justice submitting a false official statement. It's a very serious offense for which you're found guilty you could be dishonorably discharged and you can be locked up for five years. Someone who is guilty that have offense, and I believe McChrystal is, should not be commander of the forces. It sends a terrible message. Afghanistan is fighting corruption. The nation is being asked to sign off on this long-term commitment and it's very problematic and very risky for the nation, and here's a guy who five years ago lied to the senate. He lied to army investigators and he submitted this fraudulent document. That's not something -- you know, if you just walk away from that and ignore, it that's a terrible thing.

BLITZER: The whole notion of what he did, and you believe he shouldn't be the commander right now, should the U.S. stay in Afghanistan? You spent a lot of time there over these past few years researching this book. Should the U.S. accept that recommendation irrespective of who the U.S. commander is and double down in effect in Afghanistan or start withdrawing?

KRAKAUER: I personally think that adding more troops would do more harm than good. There's a whole range of options between withdrawing completely and keeping things the same, and -- and that -- that I would leave up to people who are -- who know more than I do, but I think adding 40,000 troops, and that's not enough to do any good in the long run. I mean, that's just a drop in the bucket. If you want to bring this sort of -- bring the Taliban under control or create these sort of bubbles of security, you're going to need, you know, hundreds of thousands of troops, not 40,000.

I was embedded with the Afghan national army for three months, and -- and, you know, there's good talk about we've got to beef up the Afghan army, but right now the U.S. forces say there's 90,000 Afghan troops in the army. Well, at any given moment probably half of them are AWOL. They are good soldiers, willing to fight, but they are not -- they are not ready to take over defense of the country. There's something -- there's no good choice. I think almost everyone who knows anything about Afghanistan, including General McChrystal, knows there's no good choice, they are all risky and fraught with great peril for the Afghans, for us, so I don't pretend to know what we should do, but I think that General McChrystal for five years has been getting by. I mean, I'm not the first person to bring this up. The Tillman family has been bringing this up ever since Pat died, and they have just been brushed off. They have gotten and been stonewalled at the highest reaches. It's time for someone to finally hold General McChrystal accountable. BLITZER: Let me leave this interview with a thought on Pat Tillman who gave up an amazing career in the NFL making millions of dollars to volunteer for the U.S. army after 9/11. Give our viewers a sense of who Pat Tillman was.

KRAKAUER: He was a remarkable, very complicated American who wanted more than anything else in his life to do the right thing always. He set very high standards for himself. After 9/11 he felt like, you know, this -- going to Afghanistan, fighting al Qaeda is the right thing to do, and if it's the right thing to do, I should be there. Just because I'm a famous pro football player is no reason I should be excused from my duties as a citizen so he enlisted. He was not happy when the Bush administration invaded Iraq. He didn't bargain on that, but he went to Iraq. In his journals, he said even though I think this war is illegal as hell I will fight as hard as I can because that's what I signed up to do and I knew that there was this risk when I signed up.

He had a chance to get out of army after he served in Iraq, according to his agent. His agent talked to the Seattle Seahawks and other teams who wanted him to play football again and said we can get you out of the army, Pat. All you've got to do is write this letter and it can be done. He said I'm not going to break my commitment. I signed up for three years. I'll serve my three years and then I'll play football again and shortly after that a couple months later that he went to Afghanistan in April of 2004 and on April 22nd he died in this terrible accident. The friendly fire was a terrible accident.

There were some screw-ups involved but the real tragedy happened afterwards and it happened with the cover-up in the army up and down the chain of command and to this day the army claims it was just a series of innocent mistakes, that there was no intent to deceive. That's what McChrystal said. I never saw any intent to deceive. That on the face of it is just unbelievable.

So it's time for finally, you know, the army to just come clean and McChrystal is at the very center that have deception, and for everyone to say, well, gosh, you know, he's a very effective commander. He's considered the most effective in the army. I don't dispute that, but someone who has this blemish on his record should not be our commander in Afghanistan.

BLITZER: Jon Krakauer's book is entitled "Where Men Win Glory, The Odyssey of Pat Tillman." Jon, thanks very much for coming in.

KRAKAUER: You're welcome.

BLITZER: We asked the pentagon for a reaction to Jon Krakauer's claims and got this statement from the press secretary Geoff Morrell. He says, "General McChrystal acknowledges that in the aftermath of this confusing and emotionally charged incident he did not review the award citation carefully enough before forwarding it up the chain of command, but to this day he steadfastly believes Corporal Tillman's actions before his death warrant the honor." That statement from the pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell. First responders recounting the horror of a case that's unlike anything they have ever seen. A Florida teen doused with alcohol and set on fire.

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BLITZER: It's the kind of call no fire fighter wants to get, the kind that stays in your mind and wakes you up at night, but Miami fire fighter and paramedic Bobby Goss got just that kind of a call, the most terrible of his four-year career. A young boy had been set on fire and terribly burned. CNN's John Zarrella has the story.

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DR. NICHOLAS NAMIAS, JACKSON MEMORIAL HOSPITAL: And their pain measurement scales that the nurses use.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The burns, his doctor says, are worse than anything Hollywood can imagine.

NAMIAS: You see horrible things people make up and some of them, they look fake. The real things that we see in burn centers and trauma centers, Hollywood hasn't even thought of those things yet and I hope they ever do.

ZARRELLA: A month after being doused with rubbing alcohol and set on fire, 15-year-old Michael Brewer remains in critical condition. Likely in intensive care for months. Two-thirds of his skin burned off. But there are hopeful signs. Brewer is off the ventilator which was breathing for him.

NAMIAS: Right now with him getting a tiny bit better every day.

ZARRELLA: As Brewer fights to stay alive, the case against five teenagers believed involved in the attack is taking shape. Three of them, Matthew Bent, Jesus Menendez and Denver Jarvis have been charged with adults with attempted murder in the second degree and in bond court the judge called the allegations horrific.

JUDGE JOHN HURLEY, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA: For the safety of our community and the children of the community this court orders you be held with no bond until further court order.

ZARRELLA: Two others have been charged as juveniles with aggravated battery. Sherry Jarvis is the mother of two of the accused.

SHERRY JARVIS, MOTHER OF DEFENDANT: This is a horrible incident that never should have occurred and we pray for Mikey's recovery every day.

ZARRELLA: The attack allegedly started over an argument about a bicycle and video game. According to police, Brewer didn't pay one of the suspects 40 bucks for the video games so the group stole his father's bicycle. When Brewer reported the stolen bike to police, police say the boys doused him with alcohol and set him on fire. Police say Brewer ran about 100 yards and jumped into a pool to put out the flames.

BOBBY GOSS: We saw the bushes on fire, we saw a t-shirt with a fire extinguisher next to it and we could hear the patient screaming at the pool.

ZARRELLA: Bobby Goss was the first fire fighter on the scene and when he got there Brewer was sitting on a chair next to the pool.

GOSS: He was very awake and coherent. Any time we needed to ask a question he could calm himself down to answer the questions.

ZARRELLA: In his four years as a fire fighter Goss says he's never seen anything like this. A court-appointed psychologist who interviewed two of the suspects in the case says the boys are in shock.

MICHAEL BRANNON, FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST: I can describe both of them being fearful and afraid and tearful at various times during the interview especially when talking about the specific incident that led to the injuries of the victim.

ZARRELLA: Six teenagers, none older than 16, all of their lives changed forever, one fighting for his and the other five facing the possibility of years behind bars all because of a bicycle and a video game.

John Zarrella, CNN, Deerfield Beach, Florida.

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BLITZER: Michelle Obama honoring America's veterans. We'll hear from the first lady in her own words.

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BLITZER: On this Veterans Day the first lady and Jill Biden, the vice president's wife, attended a ceremony over at George Washington University here in Washington to honor those who have served. Mrs. Obama spoke movingly of the men and women she met at Ft. Hood, Texas.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: I'm in awe of the people that I meet who have been wounded and some very seriously who will tell you that all they think about is not their injuries, but the folks they left behind. And all they want to do is be back in their unit serving this country again. And I'm in awe of the spouses that I meet. Trying to juggle getting the baseball games and ballet recitals. Doing it all. Parents stepping in to care for the children when a uniformed mom or dad is away. People who find the strength to carry on after those they love most have made the ultimate sacrifice. And we witnessed their courage and grace in the aftermath of that unspeakable tragedy at Ft. Hood.

BLITZER: All right. Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now for the Cafferty File. Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She's pretty amazing. Her husband should see if he can figure out a way to borrow a little bit of her passion from time to time. The question this hour is what are the chances congress would ever pass a constitutional amendment imposing term limits? There are some Republican senators, Jim DeMint is one of them, who are backing this idea of a constitutional amendment.

Chris in Philadelphia, "No, but they should, politicians like to say they're servants of the people. The only people they serve are the ones who donate money. They think they're above the law and only work to get re-elected. We the voters need the take it upon ourselves to get rid of these bums."

Chris in Maryland, "Hi Jack. As we say in my family, the chances of passing term limits are slim and none and slim just left town and that's as it should be. Citizens today have the chance to impose term limits on their representatives by voting them out of office. They don't. Why because everybody likes their senators or congressmen, it's those other goof balls that are screwing up the country. It's not an influence thing. It's a familiarity thing. The devil you know and all that."

Apparently we're having trouble getting the letters on the screen so we have got this picture of the capitol for you.

Tim in New York says, "Do you think it matters whether they ever would or not? In New York, the people imposed term limits. The mayor simply repealed the law when it suited his interests. I would be surprised if they didn't try to make these positions hereditary."

John writes, "Chances are nil and that would be right. If I'm happy with my congress critter, why can't I keep him or her? Having been a successful representative shouldn't disqualify you from running again. If we want a better congress it hinges on campaign contribution reform not on term limits."

Ronald in Florida, "I'm a 71-year-old guy who still plays tennis and bowls but I got as much chance to play running back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as we Americans have to see congress impose limits on themselves."

And Brian writes, "Of course they will Jack, right after they vote against giving themselves a pay raise."

If you didn't see your email here and you didn't at least during the first of this, go to my blog, CNN.com/Caffertyfile. Some little glitches in the system here today, Wolf. Get to work on that.

BLITZER: Live TV Jack, three hours of live TV. Thank you.

On this Veterans Day, the nation remembers the dangers of the troops' time in uniform.

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BLITZER: For all the brutality of war, there's always stories that break the mold, moments when enemies recognize their common humanity. One of those moments saved the life of World War II pilot Jack Tueller on the beaches of Normandy. His story and his music, they were captured by CNN's veterans in focus series correspondents including our photo journalist, John Torago.

JACK TUELLER: I have a 70-year-old trumpet that's been with me on all my combat missions all through World War II, I never went any place without it. Here we are, Marjorie Rogers, she and I have been married now for 68 years. We finally got this P-47. It was a dream to fly that's why I named it after my first daughter Roseanne. I would love that propeller like I loved that little girl. I took it in a little campus bag tied to my parachute. I figure if I ever got shot down it would go with me. Covering the beaches, we saw two million men, 100,000 ships. And we witnessed the invasion from the inside seat and I remember feeling pride and sadness as they saw the bodies, 4,000 killed in two hours on d-day. Two weeks after d-day we were the first fighter squadron on a strip that was there. Seeing civilians massacred, they were held up on top of the tanks. That's why I had to play trumpet last time. I took my trumpet out of my bag and there was one German sniper. I thought how can I stop him from firing? So I played that German's love song "Lili Marleen." And I waved that trumpet over the hills in Normandy and he didn't fire. We said captain, there's a German prisoner down on the shore, and he keeps playing who played that trumpet last night? It was a 19-year-old German and crying he said, I couldn't fire. He stuck out his hand and I shook the hand of my enemy. He was no longer my enemy because music had soothed the savage beast. My ambition as the last action on my part as a veteran is to hit high C and fall right dead (ph).

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