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THE SITUATION ROOM

Libya Victims Return Home; Anti-U.S. Rage Across Middle East

Aired September 14, 2012 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Americans under siege in the Muslim world and including an attack on a base housing U.S. forces.

Honor and grief, the bodies of the four Americans killed in the Libya consulate attack come home. And foreign policy now headlines the presidential campaign.

I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We have some breaking news we're following, disturbing new violence as anti-American protests spread on the Muslim holy day. We begin with the breaking news out of Afghanistan that's just coming in, an attack on a U.S. base there involving U.S. casualties. Our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence is working the story for us. Chris what are you hearing?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, we've just confirmed with sources here at the Pentagon that yes, two U.S. Marines have been killed. Three to four other U.S. service members have been wounded in this attack. It happened when militants stormed the base, the Camp Bastion-Camp Leveneck (ph). It's a joint base with the U.S. and the British, each controlling one side of it. The sources tell us that they had RPGs and small arms, that a lot of equipment was damaged and it was a sustained attack in which a plane or several planes may have also been damaged as well.

Now, a spokesman for ISAF, the force that controls the war in Afghanistan, is telling us now that there were no organized demonstrations outside of the base preceding this attack. And he also tells us that the British Prince Harry, who is stationed at that base, was in no danger and was not close to this attack.

BLITZER: Chris, we're also getting word that there was a breach at a base in Sinai, a multinational observer force where hundreds of U.S. soldiers are based. What are you hearing about that?

LAWRENCE: A slightly different tone from the sources I have been speaking with.

While they describe that attack on Camp Bastion and Camp Leatherneck as sustained and much more powerful than normal, the attack and the storming of this peacekeeping force in the Sinai, they say that did not last very long. Again, there was a breach of the perimeter there as well. There was a tower and some vehicles burned, and some wounded soldiers as well. I'm told those soldiers were from Columbia, and no U.S. troops were injured in that attack.

It is disconcerting though when you consider that that peacekeeping force, in which hundreds of American soldiers and service members are a part of, is really the buffer between Egypt and Israel. And they patrol air, land, and sea to make sure there are no incidents that arise that could threaten the peace treaty between those two nations.

I was told by an official that that force, that peacekeeping force is not set up to be a strike force. They're always concerned about attacks on that base, but they say at this point, the way the Egyptian security forces have responded to reinforce it, there are no plans to add additional personnel there, Wolf.

BLITZER: About 700, 750 American troops based in Sinai between Israel and Egypt, Sinai being part of Egypt. Chris, thanks very much.

Elsewhere, mobs burn buildings, cars, and American flags in Arab capitals and beyond. My sources tell me U.S. officials are very concerned about the escalating violence and rage that at least for now shows no signs of letting up.

U.S. embassies in many capitals are also under siege. Anti- American violence has spread to at least a dozen countries.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us now and he has got the very latest.

Bring us up to speed, Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as of now, we have had at least six U.S. embassies or consulates targeted this week. In Tunisia and Sudan, least five locals were killed outside U.S. Embassy compounds.

Since that film mocking the Prophet Mohammed was widely circulated in the Middle East earlier this week and those U.S. facilities were targeted in Egypt and Libya, we have been bracing for a day like this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): The kind of escalation U.S. officials feared, more American embassies attacked. In the Tunisian capital, the birthplace of the Arab spring, protesters breached the embassy perimeter according to an eyewitness.

A journalist there told us what he had seen at the embassy gate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Violent protesters using sticks and rocks, throwing things at the police using tear gas. They managed to get on the roof of the gate of the embassy at some point. They started (AUDIO GAP) gate of the embassy. There is a heavy, heavy black smoke coming. TODD: Even after the compound was re-secured, black smoke still billowed from the area.

Outside the U.S. Embassy in Yemen, protesters battled with police. The U.S. has sent a FAST team of Marine to Sanaa to improve security. This was the scene in Sudan with protesters smashing windows and setting fires at the American Embassy there. In India, an American consulate was damaged. Combined with Cairo and Benghazi earlier in the week, that's at least sixth U.S. embassies or consulates attacked.

Most protests have been small and localized. U.S. officials said this about security measures.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're working with governments around the region to remind them of their responsibilities to provide security to diplomatic personnel and facilities, and we're ensuring that more resources are put in place to protect our embassies and consulates and our personnel in these parts of the world where unrest is occurring.

TODD: In Cairo, at least, there does seem to be more security in place near the American Embassy. But in addition to protests at the embassies, there were rallies throughout the Muslim world.

In Gaza, an American flag burned. In Lebanon, an American fast food joint targeted, street clashes with police. In Afghanistan, President Obama burned in effigy, and in Pakistan, anti-American fury in the streets.

With the threat of violence against America so widespread in the Muslim world over the past several days, I asked former CIA and FBI counterterrorism official Philip Mudd why U.S. officials would not have beefed up their own security at those compounds even more.

PHILIP MUDD, FORMER COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: Look, I think there's only so much you can do. We're in sovereign territory with a relatively small footprint that is the embassy. You are not going to have Marines on the streets. We don't allow Libyan marines on the streets of the United States. They allow American Marines on the streets of Tripoli.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Mudd says U.S. officials can add a few more Marines to these embassies in situations like this and they have to stay in the compounds.

He says even if an outer layer of an embassy is breached, that does not mean a security breakdown. He says there are hardened safe zones within these embassies, especially in the Middle East, and that's where the Marines will establish a tight perimeter. They can battle it out there, but they will also have to rely on the security services of the host country to come in and really help quell that violence.

BLITZER: Which of these countries have the security services that the U.S. can really count on?

TODD: Well, Philip Mudd said the Tunisias and Egypts would probably be more reliable in these situations. They have the track record and the stability, but he says Libya's at this point likely would not be. Because their security services were decimated by the civil war even before then and certainly after Gadhafi was killed.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much.

Back here in the United States, it was a very, very somber day.

Kate, pick up the story, because it was hard to fight back tears today.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was hard to watch the ceremony that we saw today, why flags are being flown at half-staff in Washington and really throughout the country.

They were the first victims of this wave of anti-American violence killed inside the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Tuesday. Today their bodies arrived in the U.S. in an emotional ceremony attended by President Obama and Hillary Clinton.

CNN White House correspondent Dan Lothian has have details on this.

Dan, as Wolf and I said, a very tough and a very somber day, but bring our viewers up to date.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It was a tough day, and what you heard from U.S. officials is that they were talking about the people behind the names. But one thing they all had in common said the president is they believed in their mission, they knew the risk, and they accepted it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN (voice-over): In the same week that Americans remembered the pain of 9/11, another somber moment -- a transfer of remains ceremony at Joint Base Andrews as the bodies of four Americans killed in Libya came home.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Four Americans, four patriots, they loved this country, and they chose to serve it, and served it well.

They had a mission. And they believed in it. They knew the danger. And they accepted it.

They didn't simply embrace the American ideal, they lived it. They embodied it.

LOTHIAN: "They" are Ambassador Chris Stevens, Tyrone Woods, a former Navy SEAL who handles security for diplomats, along with fellow former Navy SEAL Glen Doherty, and computer expert, Sean Smith. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We have seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with. It is hard for the American people to make sense of that because it is senseless. And it is totally unacceptable.

The people of Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia did not trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN: Now, President Obama and Secretary Clinton said that leaders in the region need to restore security and need to hold those responsible accountable. In addition, the Obama administration vowing they will continue to take steps to protect U.S. personnel around the world -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Dan Lothian at the White House for us tonight -- Dan, thank you so much.

Family members of the fallen men were at that ceremony today, and I can't say enough how much our hearts go out to them.

BLITZER: Yes, they're all heroes and our deepest condolences to their family and friends.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

BLITZER: We're also learning, Kate, more about what happened that night when those four American heroes were murdered.

CNN's Arwa Damon is on the ground right now in Benghazi. She is standing by to join us live from Libya. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: These are live pictures coming in from Tahrir Square in Cairo right now.

Police, they're clashing with protesters. It's still rather intense. You can see the tear gas that has been fired. There have been Molotov cocktail, rubble bullets, and it's an intense, intense situation unfolding on the streets of Cairo. This is only a few hundred yards from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. It's one of the largest U.S. embassies in the world.

Egyptian police have surrounded that embassy to try to provide some protection.

The anti-U.S. violence is spreading across the Muslim world, on this day, outrage over a crude video mocking the Prophet Mohammed sparking rioting not only in Egypt -- you saw it there -- but also that deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Our senior international correspondent, Arwa Damon, is joining us now from Benghazi. She has gotten into a very dangerous situation. Arwa, you got in to see that completely destroyed, burnt-out United States Consulate in Benghazi firsthand. Describe what you saw.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was really quite chilling, Wolf, to be walking through these burnt-out buildings. There was debris all over the place, the walls, the ceilings all charred, ash covering some of the belongings that were scattered behind.

This compound was also looted following the attack because quite frankly there was not much security if any around it at all. Some bits and pieces of paper, notes that seem to have been taken. One of those large sheets of paper that one would use for a briefing had sprawled across it "Libya is so important."

And standing there thinking about and trying to imagine what must have transpired, especially those final moments, it really makes the hair on your arms stand on end. While we were there, we also ran into Libya's president, who was telling us that while, yes, they do have four individuals in custody, yes, they do believe that they are part of some sort of an extremist group, the government at this point in time does not have the capabilities to rein in these extremist armed militias.

BLITZER: I know you have been speaking to a lot of sources, including eyewitnesses. What are they telling you about how the attack actually went down?

DAMON: We spoke to one security guard.

And according to him and a number of other eyewitnesses as well, the compound's basic first line of defense is Libyan security guards, but they don't have weapons, they only have radios. This security guard was standing at his post when he says he heard chanting getting louder and louder, and all of a sudden gunfire, rocket-propelled grenades, grenades, complete, and utter chaos.

He said shortly thereafter the armed attackers stormed inside, masked men, men with big beards. They threatened him at gunpoint, threatening to kill him because he was -- quote -- "protecting the infidels."

One of the men among the attackers did end up coming in and intervening. And the security guard was able to get away. But we're also getting very disturbing details about what happened hours afterwards.

Now, there is a unit of the Libyan revolutionary forces called the February 17th Brigade. They were in fact the only unit that responded from the Libyans when they received information that this attack was taking place. They were the ones that helped evacuate U.S. Embassy personnel to what was supposed to be a safe house.

But that safe house also got attacked in the early hours of the morning, according to one of the battalion's spokespeople. A unit of security personnel numbering seven or eight had arrived at the Benghazi airport at around daybreak.

But they arrived with no vehicles for transportation, no one to protect them, and this unit managed to rally protection around them, move them towards the safe house. As they arrived to the safe house, they came under an intense but brief attack. Many questions now being asked as to whether or not there was some sort of informant, someone who would have told these attackers about the second what was supposed to be a secure location, Wolf.

BLITZER: What is the latest, Arwa, on the arrest and the investigation?

DAMON: What we do know, as I was saying, is that four individuals have been arrested.

We do not know or the government is not disclosing at this point in time which group they're being linked to, other than to say that they were linked to some sort of extremist group. The Libyan government firmly believes that this attack was pre-planned, and that it was intended to create maximum damage, maximum destruction.

The motive behind it, according to the Libyan government, to drive a wedge between the Libyans and the Americans. What is especially disturbing about all of this though is that the Libyan government cannot ensure, cannot guarantee that this is not going to happen again.

Plus, a lot of Libyans that we have been talking to who are not necessarily part of the government, but very close to government officials, are being very critical saying that the government really is not going after these people, is not following these leads strongly enough. Libya's leadership is not coming here really pushing this investigation and bringing these individuals to justice.

BLITZER: Arwa Damon, be careful over there in Benghazi. Thanks very much.

And, Kate, you can see those live pictures coming in from Cairo right now. It looks like it's really escalating.

BOLDUAN: Escalating. We have been watching, see them right there, live pictures coming out of Cairo. We will be watching that developing situation.

And coming up next, what can the U.S. do about the spreading anti-American violence overseas? We're going to talk to Fouad Ajami of the Hoover Institution about that coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: We have some new information coming in about military movements in wake of the Middle East violence.

Let's get street to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, for more details on this.

Barbara, what do you have?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: CNN has learned that a team of Marine Corps anti-terrorism specialists now heading to Khartoum, Sudan.

You see there violence breaking out yet again at the U.S. Embassy in Sudan. Now about 50 U.S. Marines headed to the embassy to reinforce security there. The wall breached today as protesters assaulted that embassy and as well as the German Embassy.

This is the third time this week U.S. Marines are deploying to embassies around the world. Already, they have gone to Libya, they have gone to Yemen, as U.S. embassies there have come under attack. We now have about 150 Marines this week deployed particularly for U.S. Embassy security in these countries -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Wow, third time just this week ratcheting up security at embassies and consulates all over that region. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you so much for the update, Barbara.

STARR: Sure.

BLITZER: We're watching these live pictures coming in from Cairo right now, and it's clearly escalated, the violence.

Let's get some assessment of what's going on.

Fouad Ajami is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Fouad, thanks very much.

First of all, on these live pictures we're seeing in Tahrir Square, this is only a few hundred yards from the United States Embassy, and there doesn't seem to be any end. I assumed it was going to end today. But it is going on. In fact, it seems to be escalating over the past few hours.

FOUAD AJAMI, HOOVER INSTITUTION: You know, Wolf, these things will be endless.

And when you look at what happened in Lebanon in the northern city of Tripoli, when people being to attack a KFC restaurant, when people attack Kentucky Fried Chicken, it tells you there is a malady in the region.

And it tell you there are lots of people that are unemployed, angry at their own government, angry at the world, and the scapegoating of America is a kind of Middle Eastern practice.

BLITZER: I was in Tunis last year, last March, more than a year ago.

And I went to the U.S. Embassy. I was there with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It was so peaceful, and everyone was so friendly. But now look at this. They storm the U.S. Embassy there, and they apparently went into an American school in Tunis. This is where the Arab spring started, Fouad, but it doesn't seem to be still much of a spring. It looks like it's emerging as an Arab winter.

AJAMI: Well, I think it's exactly right, but I also think there was the debris of all these dictatorships that were in place, decades of repression and decades of alienation between these young people and their leaders, and decades of suspicion on the part of the young people that these leaders in place, whether it's Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia or Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, are pawns of the United States, that we made these dictators.

And just allow me one reflection on embassies. I grew up in Beirut, and in a way there was something very, very interesting about these embassies. These embassies are fortresses. They both symbolize freedom. It's the place you go to, to get a visa, to get out of these places.

And they also exude power. They give the sense of power. It is the presence of America in these lands. America is really under the skin of these people. They hate America, they love America, and I think there is -- the temper in the region is one of tremendous, tremendous upheaval.

BOLDUAN: Fouad, on that point, I wanted to get your thoughts. Seeing these protests not only in Tunis, but really in countries all over the region, it may have some people thinking was the Arab spring necessarily a good thing in the end for American interests overseas? What are your thoughts on that and what more should the United States do, do you think, to stop this violence, to quell the violence?

AJAMI: Kate, I remain somewhat optimistic about the Arab spring.

I don't think we should forget. We were just reliving the ordeal and the pain of 9/11. And what was 9/11? It was the gift of the dictators to us. These were young Saudis and Egyptians that came our way. There wasn't really -- the relationship between America and the Arab world was really spoiled to begin with.

I think that hasn't changed. The hope was that the Arab spring would allow young people in the Arab and people responsible for order in the Arab world to take responsibility for their own destiny. And that, they haven't.

BLITZER: I can't tell you, Fouad, over the past couple days how many people have asked me this question. I don't have a good answer, but maybe you do, because you know the region as well as anyone.

They keep asking me, why do these people hate America after all that the U.S. has done to liberate Libya, to help in Tunisia, all the assistance the U.S. has provided Egypt over the years? Why do some of these people hate America so much?

AJAMI: Well, you're absolutely right.

It's a pathology. I have written and thought about anti- Americanism for years. It's really basically a pathology. When you look at what America did for the Libyan people, the liberation of Libya was an American gift, and you look what happened in Benghazi, and you just -- you have the pain, and you can understand why Americans feel there is no gratitude in that region.

Interestingly enough, if you look at the spectacle now in the region, guess who is a happy man watching all of this? Bashar al- Assad in his bunker. He looks and says, aha, there is no way the Americans are going to come to the rescue of the Syrian rebellion, because they will draw the conclusion that this region is ungrateful, that this region is ungovernable, that this region is kind of doomed, if you will, to this kind of instability.

BLITZER: Fouad Ajami, as usual, thanks very much.

BOLDUAN: Fouad, thank you so much.

AJAMI: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up: sharp disagreement over whether the assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was actually a terror attack. And why wasn't security tighter? We will talk about that and much more coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Multiple arrests in Libya. The investigation into the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi moves forward.

BOLDUAN: But here in Washington, there is sharp disagreement over whether or not the U.S. ambassador and three other men were victims of a terror attack. Listen here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have no information to suggest that it was a preplanned attack.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: This was a calculated act of terror on the part of a small group of jihadists.

REP. DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER (D), MARYLAND: In the beginning we feel it was spontaneous, the protests, because it went on for two or three hours which is very relevant. Because if it was something that was planned, then they could have come and attacked right away.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: They were a well-planned and professional terrorist act against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's dig deeper and talk about that with my two guests: General Wesley Clark, the former NATO supreme allied commander in Europe; also Paul Wolfowitz, the former president of the World Bank, former deputy defense secretary, now a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. General, first to you: was it preplanned or was it a very sophisticated, coordinated attack, terror attack that killed these four Americans?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER IN EUROPE: You know, it's hard to say, because I don't have access to the intelligence to prove that it was preplanned, but it seems odd that they had RPGs available and heavy weapons. And by some accounts, there were mortars brought into play. So if it wasn't preplanned, if it was spontaneous, they're pretty darn good.

BLITZER: What do you think, Paul?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: I agree with General Clark. Judging from the way it -- these weren't protestors who came out just to yell and scream. These are people who came with heavy weapons.

And I think you need also, Wolf, to put it in the context of what's been happening in Libya over the last month. And I think it's important for Americans to understand, too, that these are attacks not only on Americans, but they're attacks on the great majority of Libyans who rejected these criminal extremists in a free and fair election back in July. The Salafists barely placed. The Muslim Brotherhood was a distant second. But the Salafists have a lot of guns that were supplied during the fighting against Gadhafi. They've never been brought under control. And last month they went to a mosque -- a mosque, not a church -- a mosque in Tripoli that they happened to think is heretical, and they tore it down with bulldozers while some of the so-called security forces protected them.

So I think there's a lot of that going on in the Libyan case, and I think it's very different than Cairo, for example.

BOLDUAN: And General Clark, even though the administration says they didn't have any actionable intelligence that this was coming, that these attacks were coming, shouldn't the U.S. have done more to secure embassies in that region, though? I mean, they -- it was the anniversary of 9/11. There was a cable that went to the embassy in Cairo 48 hours ahead of time that this video was permeating. Shouldn't there have been more security around the embassies and consulates?

CLARK: It's always easy to say that after something like this happens. Unless you're in there and you see all the information that went back and forth, or you know what the current security status or ongoing security status was, it's pretty hard to make that call in advance.

I don't know. I haven't seen the evidence. I haven't seen the intel going back and forth, so I have difficulty finding fault with them.

I know this about our State Department security people: they're pretty good. They're tough. They're on the ball. The Marines there are first rate. We have private security there, apparently a couple of SEALs. Former SEALs were in on the action there, so this was a tough fight.

And again, I don't know what the intelligence is going to say afterwards, but to protect the consulate against assault with RPGs and automatic weapons, you've to really deploy some force there.

BLITZER: Here's what I don't understand. Paul Wolfowitz here, former U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, there were apparently some warnings out there. This is the 11th anniversary of 9/11. We know that al Qaeda inspires revenge on that specific day. There's going to be a full-scale investigation. Senator Lieberman, Senator Collins, the chairman and the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, they've asked for a full-scale investigation along the lines of the 9/11 Commission, maybe. Let's see if it develops like that.

But was someone -- was this a case of the left hand of the U.S. government maybe not coordinating or consulting with the right hand of the U.S. government?

WOLFOWITZ: Wolf, I'm sorry to say it, but at this point that's sheer speculation. We really have no idea what was going on, and there are responsible institutions, particularly in the Congress who, I'm sure, are going to be...

BLITZER: But let me interrupt, Paul. Let me interrupt, Paul.

WOLFOWITZ: Can I say something, though?

BLITZER: Hold on one second. The fact that it occurred on 9/11, what does that say to you, if anything? Was that a merely coincidence?

WOLFOWITZ: I think that's a very important fact, which is not only did it occur on 9/11, but things like the black flag that was displayed at the embassy in Cairo has all the earmarks of something that was instigated by al Qaeda.

And in fact, in the case of Libya, there were public declarations, I believe, by Ayman Zawahiri that there was going to be revenge for the death of his close associate, who was a Libyan.

So I think there's a lot of reason to think that this was a message from al-Qaeda who may have said, look, you think you've done something great by killing bin Laden. We're still around; we'll really make your lives hell. And I think it's a mistake to suggest this had something to do with an obscure video. That was the pretext they found. They could have found another. They could have manufactured one.

BOLDUAN: Gentlemen, I want to show you a clip of President Obama in an interview with Telemundo. In this interview, he was asked if Egypt -- if the Egyptian -- the new Egyptian regime was an ally of the United States. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think that we would consider them an ally, but we don't consider them an enemy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: General Clark, first to you, what do you make of this? Is Egypt an ally? Was this a misstep by President Obama here?

CLARK: Well, he would -- he meant they were partners. They're not an ally in the sense of a NATO ally. There's no mutual defense treaty. We don't have to go to their assistance. But we consider them legally because they received U.S. military assistance and war assistance, we consider them a non-NATO ally. Legally.

BLITZER: That is a specific status, as Paul Wolfowitz knows, former deputy defense secretary. There are, what, about a dozen or 15 countries that have that status, major non-NATO allies, and Egypt apparently still has that status, even though it's got a new president, Mohamed Morsi. This after Mubarak.

I want you to listen to what Paul Ryan, Paul Ryan, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, said today here in Washington. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE-PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Amid all of these threats and dangers, what we do not see is steady, consistent American leadership. In the days ahead and in the years ahead, American foreign policy needs moral clarity and firmness of purpose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And General Clark, other advisors to the Romney campaign for Mitt Romney, former ambassador -- Ambassador Rich Williamson, he says that the U.S. -- the Obama administration basically, in part, has itself to blame for this for showing weakness in that part of the world. What do you say?

CLARK: I don't see that. The phrase that Congressman Ryan used was the same phrase that General Haig used when I was his speechwriter back in the late '70s. They're phrases that are used on -- in many foreign policy addresses.

The fact is the Obama administration has been tough. They've been consistent. They've struck hard at terrorism, got rid of Osama bin Laden, intensified the drone strikes in Pakistan, and have been really tough with the Pakistani government.

What you're seeing in Egypt and Yemen and elsewhere are efforts by the fundamentalists, the extremists to overthrow or undercut governments who are trying to both democratize, lead their people and work with the west. So they want to make that government look incompetent and weak. They want to embarrass it. And they would love us then to come back and attack that moderate effort -- moderately seeming government and isolate them further.

BLITZER: Paul Wolfowitz, do you want to respond to that? WOLFOWITZ: Yes, I think it's very different. In fact, I think if you look at Libya, for example, where we basically led from behind and we let Qatar, which is basically an Islamist state, to arm and equip the militias, to a very heavy degree that's one of the problems the Libyan people are coping with now. And they would like, I believe, stronger support from the United States.

When the president was asked Egypt, I wish he had said, "They're not behaving like an ally. I would expect the president of Egypt to do something about embassy security. I would expect him to condemn these attacks," which as of that point he had not done.

And most of all, Wolf, I think we should stop apologizing for an obscure movie that I doubt many people, including the protesters, have seen, and say that the United States has made it very clear we are not anti-Muslim. We have put our men and women in harm's way multiple times going back to Somalia and Kurdistan and Kuwait and Bosnia and Kosovo, which General Clark was a hero in. We have done so much to protect innocent Muslims from both Muslim and non-Muslim aggression.

We shouldn't have -- I think, frankly, that if you apologize too much, people will begin to think, well, you must be guilty. I don't think we're guilty, and I don't think that's the approach to take.

BLITZER: Well, I haven't heard a lot of apologies. Unfortunately, we've got to leave it right there. But I have heard the secretary of state make it clear that the U.S. had nothing to do with this anti-Muslim film. I don't think that's an apology. But we can continue this conversation, gentlemen, down the road. Paul Wolfowitz, Wesley Clark, thanks to both of you for coming in.

BOLDUAN: Thank you both.

Still to come, a criminal record and more than a dozen aliases. What we're learning more about the man whose anti-Muslim film is fuelling so much outrage, as you can see.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Mitt Romney and Barack Obama may not agree on much, that's for sure, but listen to what Mitt Romney told Kelly Ripa during a taping today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLY RIPA, CO-HOST, "LIVE WITH KELLY & MICHAEL": Governor, there's so many differences in the political parties, obviously, but what are some things that you and President Obama agree upon?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Well, we agreed upon him taking out Osama bin Laden. I'm sure glad he did that.

And -- and I think we agree on the importance of family. I think he's a fine husband and father, and I think that the role model for our nation of being a good father is a very good thing. I appreciate that. We're concerned about schools and health care, and I think the budget we go about these things in different ways. We have different approaches to those things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: So the biggest pet peeve was asked on the show, as well, what the biggest pet peeve was between Mitt Romney and Ann Romney. Mitt Romney said Ann does not squeeze the toothpaste the way he likes it. She squeezes from the top. He would like her to squeeze it from the bottom.

BLITZER: That's the biggest pet peeve?

BOLDUAN: I think their marriage is pretty solid if that's the peeve.

BLITZER: Yes, they've been married for 45 years.

BOLDUAN: That's why their marriage has lasted so long.

BLITZER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: I would say so.

BLITZER: As violence spreads across the Muslim world, Erin Burnett's joined tonight by a former U.S. ambassador who worked for President Obama, even though he's a Republican. Erin, tell us who you're talking to tonight.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. We're going to be talking to former ambassador to China Jon Huntsman. Also, of course, former governor. And some chilling words, Wolf, that he has to say about American embassies and consulates around the world and their preparedness for what we are seeing tragically unfold now across the broader Muslim world today. We're going to be talking to Ambassador Jon Huntsman.

And also, a profile, of the -- of the -- we've heard a lot about Chris Stevens and his selfless dedication to serving in Libya, the former ambassador. Well, what about the other three men who have died, their families? Two of them were ex-SEALs, who had narrowly escaped death before. One of them was an avid gamer. We have their stories tonight.

Plus, Wolf, breaking news out of Afghanistan with the developing story with the killing of two U.S. Marines. All that at the top of the hour. Back to you.

BLITZER: We'll be watching, Erin. Thanks very much.

Meanwhile, new details and a growing mystery. Who is the man behind that anti-Muslim film that's generating so much hatred against the United States?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Mitt Romney seemed to be covering all the bases. And once today, he and his campaign got tougher in their criticism of President Obama, but Romney also showed a much softer side. CNN's national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, has the story -- Jim.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, aides to Mitt Romney say he watched the bodies of those slain diplomats arrive at Andrews Air Force Base on television here in Ohio before going out to a rally here to pay tribute to them. It was a moment that stood out in a day marked by both tough and light-hearted talk.

(voice-over) At a rally in Ohio, Mitt Romney set aside his attacks on President Obama's foreign policy to remember the U.S. ambassador and three Americans who lost their lives in Libya.

ROMNEY: And I'd ask that you might each place your hand over your heart in recognition of the bloodshed for freedom, by them and by other -- our other sons and daughters who have lost their lives in the cause of America and the cause of liberty. And if we'll take a moment of silence together.

ACOSTA: The moment of silence was only a brief pause in his campaign's sharpened rhetoric. Earlier in the day, running mate Paul Ryan suggested the president was showing a weakness on the world stage that invited the diplomatic attacks.

RYAN: They were extremists who operate by violence and intimidation, and the least equivocation or mixed signal only makes them bolder.

ACOSTA: On CNN, a senior campaign adviser claimed the violence would have been prevented under a President Romney, saying he would have been more engaged in the Arab Spring.

RICHARD WILLIAMSON, ROMNEY FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: So we would be partners in this evolution, not running behind and seen as part of that. I think that changes the dynamic, and so yes, there would be a difference.

ACOSTA: At a New York fund-raiser, Romney slammed the p]president for not planning to meet with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the start of the United Nations General Assembly next week. Romney said, "It sends a message not just to Israel, but throughout the Middle East, and in some respects, it's a confusing message."

The rhetorical jabs came as the president paid tribute to the slain diplomats as their bodies arrived at Andrews Air Force Base.

Despite his campaign's serious posture, Romney and his wife took time to make some light-hearted comments to daytime talk show host Kelly Ripa in a taped interview that's slated to air next week.

Romney weighed in on MTV's reality show "Jersey Shore," saying, "I'm kind of a Snooki fan. Look how tiny she's gotten. She's lost weight. She's energetic. Just her spark-plug personality is kind of fun."

Ann Romney talked about how she once walked in on former president George W. Bush getting a massage in the White House.

And when asked what he wears to bed, the GOP nominee disclosed, "As little as possible."

(on camera) The Romney campaign is signaling their criticism of President Obama on foreign policy is only the beginning, and it comes as several polls show Romney falling behind in key swing states like Ohio. As one Romney adviser told me earlier this week, it's a good thing elections aren't held right after the conventions -- Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Jim Acosta, thanks very, very much.

BOLDUAN: Still ahead, more of the emotional ceremony as the bodies of the men who died in that U.S. consulate attack make their final journey home.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's the most somber -- somber duty befalling a president: receiving the bodies of Americans killed overseas. President Obama carried out the grim task today along with the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, as the remains of the four men killed at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, were repatriated.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COL. WESLEY SMITH, U.S. ARMY CHAPLAIN: We welcome home for the final time Ambassador Chris Stevens, Mr. Sean Smith, Mr. Glen Doherty and Mr. Tyrone Woods.

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We've seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. We've seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with.

It is hard for the American people to make sense of that, because it is senseless. And it is totally unacceptable. The people of Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia did not trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob.

OBAMA: I think of a man in Benghazi with a sign in English, a message he wanted all of us to hear. It said, "Chris Stevens was a friend to all Libyans." Chris Stevens was a friend. That's the message these four patriots sent.

That's the message that each of you sends every day. Civilians, military, to people in every corner of the world. That America is a friend, that we care not just about our own country, not just about our own interests, but about theirs. That, even as voices of suspicion and mistrust seek to divide countries and cultures from one another, the United States of America will never retreat from the world.

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Our deepest, deepest condolences to the families and loved ones, all of them, those four Americans.

BOLDUAN: Just a reminder of the real human cost of it all.

BLITZER: Yes.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

BLITZER: That's it for us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll be back 9 p.m. Eastern later tonight, filling in for Piers Morgan. Till then, thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.