Return to Transcripts main page
Twin Tornadoes Leaves Debris in Their Wake; Terrorist Group Threatens Baghdad; Interview with Paul Wolfowitz; U.S. Beat Ghana 2-1 in World Cup Opener
Aired June 17, 2014 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MARK "STORM" FARNIK, STORM CHASER: And then I went back and the other gentleman grabbed Samantha, and I grabbed Cameron, who was probably a good 180-some pounds, a big kid, threw him on back, and I carried him out of rubble, safely, to where he could be placed in the vehicle and not have to walk across glass, nails, all the usual tornadic debris.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, look, that was a good thing you did because we love to see the pictures. They help us understand the devastation and how these things happen, and it's amazing you caught it on tape. But to help the people involved, that's what it's all about. So thank you for doing that, Storm.
Also, safe to say you guys have never seen anything like this before in terms of this chute tornado coming down and making a twin terror right?
FARNIK: Let me just explain first that as journalists, you know, we have a responsibility to the public to convey the story, but we also have a responsibility at times where we have to put down our cameras and we have to step up as human beings and help the people that are affected by these natural disasters. I put my cameras down because I was needed more as a first responder and as a human being that I was as a photojournalist.
And as soon as I made sure that that family was OK and emergency personnel were in the area and helping the other victims, it was at that time that I felt comfortable picking my equipment back up and doing my other job. But people have to come first, and that's something that sometimes we can forget as journalists, but it's tantamount that we remember that and that in these intense situations that we put our cameras down and that we help when we're needed.
Now, in terms of the atmosphere --
CUOMO: Storm, let me tell you --
FARNIK: The phenomenon that occurred here --
CUOMO: It's great to hear that and saw it in the pictures about what the tornadoes are. That part of the story becomes pretty obvious. But understanding what happened with the people on the ground, that matters. Thank you for making it a prior. It's great to see you and Brandon are safe, and we look forward to what you find there on the ground. Let us know how people are doing and what they need, OK?
FARNIK: OK, we will. We can certainly do that.
CUOMO: All right, fellas, take care. Be safe.
So you have the tornado, twin tornado that hit that town. We're going to be hearing more and more about what they are going to need to do to recover. That's just one story this morning. We'll also go live to Baghdad. We have Anderson Cooper there, so let's get right to everything right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep moving fast.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The rare double tornado, just part of the destructive force in northeast Nebraska.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whole blocks of houses are destroyed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are merging. They are going to merge!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As the fighting rages on in Iraq --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mass massacres, you have to stop that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We cannot allow the world's worst terrorist group to get a base of support in a failed nation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The fifth fastest goal in world cup history.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Determination, the fight, the mentality, those things carried us through.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and welcome back to NEW DAY. Iraq is descending into chaos as the world waits for President Obama to decide how to handle the threat from ISIS, what to do from the American side. The president met last night with national security officials to consider his options. For now hundreds of American troops are heading to Baghdad to help protect American interests with more personnel and resources awaiting orders on standby, and still with the promise from President Obama no combat troops will be put on the ground.
We have Anderson Cooper is live on the ground in Baghdad with much more. Anderson, Nic Robertson earlier was talking about how is continues to gain ground. They are kind of isolating and consolidating their forces. What are you hearing that they are doing on the ground? What's the very latest?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, "AC 360": Without a doubt, a city where tension is high and so is certainty. There are checkpoints throughout this city. A lot of very wary security personnel unsure what's happening some even 50 miles or so outside of town. I mean, the big news yesterday was that the city of Tal Afar, a city of some 200,000 people fell to ISIS forces. They are said to be still be fighting there on the outskirts. But, again, it raises real questions about the capabilities of the Iraqi military in terms of actually addressing this threat. That's why you've seen tens of thousands of volunteers, young men, old men heeding the call of religious leaders here to join the fight, to take up arms. But, again, their capabilities are in question of exactly how they will be used to try to supplement Iraqi military forces.
And again, it's not really a question of numbers. The Iraqi -- the Iraqi security personnel, Iraqi military, some 250,000 troops that outnumbers, you know, ISIS and other forces, you know, 50, 100 to one. But it's really a question of morale and fighting capabilities on the ground. And right now we've seen a number of setbacks for Iraqi forces. They are fighting back. We've seen videos released by the Iraqi military of airstrikes, helicopter air strikes as well as battles on the ground. But actual information about a lot of these fights is very hard to confirm independently. But it's certainly a day of high tension here.
BOLDUAN: It seems like a city once again filled with rumors and fear. Obviously the big talk from the U.S. side is U.S. personnel, assets moving into the region, moving into Baghdad. Have you seen any evidence of all of that happening?
COOPER: Well, I mean, it's very careful to point out as you have been that this is not a combat role for the United States.
COOPER: There's some 275 U.S. military personnel, some in the region, some on the ground at the U.S. embassy. The U.S. embassy is a huge sprawling complex, really a city within a city here in Baghdad, thousands of employees, from 5,000 employees there, so 275 military forces capable of combat if it comes to that to protect the embassy to try to evacuate U.S. personnel if it comes to that. As you know, some U.S. personnel are leaving Baghdad, going to areas south of Iraq, also in Kurdish areas and also going into Jordan. But while these those marines and other U.S. forces are coming in, they are lessening the number of U.S. personnel at embassy. That's the first time they have done that since the initial invasion back in 2003.
BOLDUAN: Anderson, what are you hearing from the ground? Do the folks here talk and say that the U.S. needs to come in, that U.S. airstrikes are necessary in order to fight ISIS, because it's -- as you're pointing out, the Iraqi -- the Iraqi army, their capability at least right now is in question. Do they see -- are they calling for the United States to help?
COOPER: Look, it really depends who you talk to. There's certainly a lot of pride here. There's certainly a belief among a lot of people. You know, you talk to these volunteers and you see these volunteers showing up in huge numbers really without in many cases without military training. They say they are willing to fight and willing to die and to fight ISIS. And they say they are capable of taking care, there's a great sense and groundswell of pride that they can do something. Others that you talk to will say that they are afraid, that they want to see some sort of greater involvement from the United States, whether it's airstrikes or drone strikes. You don't hear a lot of people talking about certainly boots on the ground, and that's certainly not something that the United States seems to be considering in any kind of large numbers.
But, you know, the concern here in the call by religious leaders to take up arms, to defend the country, is that this basically becomes a sectarian bloodbath, the divide that has existed here for a long time between Sunni groups and Shia only gets wider, and that's something that the government here really needs to try to address. That's something that the United States, Britain, basically all outside powers are saying. Whether or not the government here is actually willing to do that, to reach out to the Sunni groups now aligning themselves with is, even though they may not agree with the tactics or even like this force, they don't feel they have many alternatives. They don't feel that -- that the central government here in Baghdad has really been meeting their needs in any real way over the last several years.
BOLDUAN: Anderson, thank you so much. Anderson Cooper on the ground in Baghdad. He'll continue reporting there. You can see much more of Anderson's reporting on "AC360" tonight 8:00 p.m. eastern. Anderson, thank you so much. Chris?
CUOMO: All right, as Anderson is pointing out, the situation in Iraq isn't just about the military. It will take more than that to solve it. It's also about the political, as he was saying. It's worth talking about how we got here in the first place, because when we talk about the political trouble, I'm not talking about Iraq but in the United States with our government. There's too much blaming going on already, and it's going to frustrate what happens next.
Our next guest has been called the architect of the Iraq invasion originally. He's now here to help us clear up confusion that's going on down in Washington about how we got here, why the situation is what it is and what happens when we go forward.
He is former Deputy Secretary of Defense Mr. Paul Wolfowitz. He's now a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
Sir, very good to have you with us. As I was just saying there, we're doing it again. They are pointing fingers, the left and the right. Whose fault is this? The Republicans are spending a lot of time blaming the current administration for this situation. Most notably, Speaker Boehner says President Obama is taking a nap as Mosul falls because he pulled us out of there and it's a mistake.
Now, isn't it fair, Mr. Wolfowitz, that if the president were taking a nap, it would be on the SOFA, the Status of Arms Agreement? That's the acronym for it, the SOFA, that the Bush administration put in place there of taking troops out?
PAUL WOLFOWITZ, FMR. DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I thought you were saying we should talk about - Chris, by the way, I'm not the architect of the war. If I were the architect, it would have been handled very differently.
But you say we should be talking about what needs to be done and you're going back into this discussion about who is blaming whom. Look, we are in a very urgent emergency situation. To portray it as some obscure thing between Shia and Sunnis, that Americans couldn't tell you which is which, is misleading. The real problem is this is al Qaeda and al Qaeda-affiliated groups. Some of them are worse than al Qaeda. They have already made it clear their intent to attack the U.S. and Europe. They have been recruiting fighters to do that in the U.S. and Europe, and we have got to beat them.
CUOMO: But Mr. Wolfowitz --
WOLFOWITZ: And we've got to look for allies everywhere.
CUOMO: You're right, but you have to start with allies in your own government, and it is irresponsible to allow the fingerpointing to go on, because it's frustrating dealing with the urgency. You can't have the Republicans, who were part of the decision to put us there, who were part of the decision --
WOLFOWITZ: What you need is leadership --
CUOMO: Just give me one second. Because leadership is about accountability.
WOLFOWITZ: You do have quite a few seconds, actually. But go ahead.
CUOMO: Because you're not answering the question. Speaker Boehner can't say this administration is the cause of the current problems in Iraq, is that a fair statement?
WOLFOWITZ: Chris, every time one of these things happens if it's the Republicans in power, the Democrats blame. If it's Democrats in power, the Republicans blame.
What we really need now from the president is a clear statement of American interests, of American action, and rallying people to move forward and then these blamers on either side will be irrelevant. That's what is needed right now. What, are you and I are going to sit here and tell Speaker Boehner to shut up?
WOLFOWITZ: You can say whether it's useful or not useful, but what is most needed is for the President of the United States to take a strong position. And, unfortunately, he hasn't done that.
CUOMO: But it's hard for him to be strong. It's hard for him to be strong when he's getting attacked by his own. How can the United States present a tough (ph) face --
WOLFOWITZ: Chris, it's hard for him to be strong -- listen, you know, when Jimmy Carter encountered the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, he said, you know, "I got it wrong." When George Bush realized his strategy in Iraq was failing, he said, "I got it wrong." The president has got to stop saying al Qaeda is on the road to defeat. He's got to say, "Things are worse than I thought. Here is what we're going to do." The blame game would stop immediately.
CUOMO: Where is the contrition, you know, if you want to use that word. Where is the Bush administration saying we got it wrong? There's a bunch of defenders coming out saying, "We had to go in, Saddam Hussein was horrible, we did the right thing. This administration screwed it up."
I think that's not only misleading, but it's counterproductive because you can't put forward a unified front.
WOLFOWITZ: You could put forward a unified front if you had a unified position, and that is what we need. And that position has got to demonstrate, number one, to everyone in the region that we are serious.
When the first President Bush had the first invasion of Kuwait, and he had been trying to cozy along the Iraqis, he didn't realize what was going to happen - but he took a kind of position that everyone in the region knew he was serious. That's No. 1 is what's need.
No. 2, there are many people in that part of the world, including many Sunnis, who do not want to see these S.O.B.s win, and we should be working with all of them. Unfortunately, Maliki is a big part of the problem, but we can't solve the Maliki problem right now. We need to work with the Kurds. The Kurds have real fighters. They really need support. We have not supported them well in the last year or two. We need to work with the moderate Sunni rebels in Syria who, as far as I can tell, are the only people actually fighting ISIS and they have no American support and they've been pleading for it for three years.
Any of those things, or those three things taken together, would be a demonstration of seriousness that I believe would begin to transform the situation. We are still a superpower. This is a mob with guns that has scared the heck out of people and, not surprisingly, you wouldn't want to stick around and fight them when you know anyone they capture is going to be decapitated. That's their technique, but it's not the way you win a war. The United States has capability tone able the Iraqi army to get back on its feet and we should be using it.
CUOMO: Right, but the reason -
WOLFOWITZ: Not American troops but American intelligence, American air support.
CUOMO: And that seems to be in the offing by the administration, all of that is on the table. They are trying to come up with a plan, but they're also trying to defend themselves from these political attacks.
And I'm trying to get you to provide wisdom on, since you understand how we got here. I don't know why you're reluctant to do that and why you want to ignore it. The reason we can't help the Iraqi army is because you disbanded it. The reason you have all these Sunnis available to fight with ISIS and to be discontented is because you kicked them out of the army.
WOLFOWITZ: Chris, let's just start with what you just said something that's completely wrong.
WOLFOWITZ: The Iraqi army was Saddam's army, was a useless army. It was infiltrated by the very people who are running the insurgency. We took much too long, in my view, if you want a mistake - we took much too long to build an Iraqi army that was capable of counterinsurgency operations. But we built it. That was one of Petraeus' major achievements in Iraq.
And at that time, Maliki was ready to take on Iranian stooge, Muqtada al Sadr, with some American help. That's the army that is now falling apart. It wasn't really ready to stand on its own feet, that's true, but it was capable of doing significant successful operations with Americans at its pack.
CUOMO: So you don't think that Paul Bremer disassembling the army and allowing all -- and displacing all these Sunnis who have become, since then, people with great U.S. military training who are now fighting with our enemy -- you don't think that was a mistake?
WOLFOWITZ: First of all, these were not people with U.S. military training. These were people with Saddam's military training.
CUOMO: And ours as well, when we trained them to fight against Iran. That was U.S. military help in the region.
WOLFOWITZ: We did not train them to fight against Iran. They fought on their own. Look, we can keep going over the history. I think the way that decision was implemented was a big mistake, but that Iraqi army was an instrument of terror for two-thirds of the Iraqi population. It was infiltrated by the very same people who are running the insurgency. We didn't create the insurgency. Saddam's Muhab Arab created the insurgency, and the one time in Fallujah when we tried to bring back one brigade of that old Army it immediately went over to the enemy. We should have handled it differently, yes we should have handled it differently, but the most important mistake in that respect was if you disband the army you better build a new one fast and it took us five years, that was too long.
CUOMO: Do you think if you can redo one thing, other than not going in there in the first place, that taking the American standing army out, doing the s.o.f.a. with Maliki when the Bush administration did that, was that a mistake? Should you have used the leverage harder so there were more people on the ground there now?
WOLFOWITZ: Look, I think we should have found a way to keep an American presence in Iraq. I think some of that responsibility -- you're trying to lay it all off on Bush in that first --
CUOMO: He made the agreement.
WOLFOWITZ: It could -- it was not final. It could have been renegotiated.
CUOMO: Still an agreement.
WOLFOWITZ: You seem insistent on this blame game.
CUOMO: Because it's being played. Mr. Wolfowitz, I would like to do nothing more than ignore the past and deal with the present because of it's urgency. Many of us will wind up over there covering it --
WOLFOWITZ: If you --
CUOMO: What I am saying is -- I just wanted your wisdom and your perspective. I am sorry to cut you off. I wanted your wisdom and perspective to correct the record. That's why I am pressing you on it, not because I want to point fingers.
WOLFOWITZ: If you want my wisdom and perspective such as it is, I think we could have kept substantial, not a huge, American presence, not a combat presence, but the kind of support that would have kept Maliki better under control, that would have given the Iraqi army better ability to function. I don't think it was set up well for Obama when he came in, but I don't think he operated off of that base very effectively.
Look, Dwight Eisenhower became president in 1953 having campaigned to end the war in Korea, which he did immediately. He did not remove American troops from Korea. If he had done so, Korea wasn't ready to stand on its own feet for another 10 or 20 years and even then not very well. But today it's a miracle story.
Look, I think this situation can be recovered. The best way to end the so-called blame game is for the president to pull the chestnuts out of the fire here and say go blame all you like, I have succeeded. What people say in the end about this is not going to be about what happened five years ago or ten years ago or 20 years ago. It's going to be about how this situation comes out, and it is an emergency for the United States. It is al Qaeda. It's not just Sunni and Shia, and we need to do everything we can within reason and that puts some limits on what we can do.
CUOMO: Hopefully your words are heed and the parties down there come together to move forward instead of just pointing fingers. Thank you for the perspective. Sorry to cut you off. It's more about the satellite connection than it is my intentions, but thank you for joining us, Mr. Wolfowitz. Appreciate it.
WOLFOWITZ: You're very welcome.
BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, the United States is on fire after that thrilling win over Ghana in their opening World Cup match. How far can team USA go? We're going to talk to a player who has been to the World Cup to get his take.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: I could watch that over and over. That was the incredible game winning goal scored by team USA's John Brooks. Helped the team defeat Ghana 2-1 in their World Cup opener. Another memorable, and I would argue historic, moment was the goal by Clint Dempsey made in the first 30 second of the game. Question, can the U.S. keep it's World Cup ambitions alive?
Joining us this morning for a very special edition of the Bleacher Report is Cobi Jones, a man who knows a little bit about World Cup soccer. Remember the U.S. nationals soccer team. What is it, three World Cups you have?
COBI JONES, SOCCER ANALYST: That's correct.
PEREIRA: And still such a young man celebrating a birthday yesterday.
JONES: Got a great gift yesterday.
CUOMO: the most tapped U.S. soccer player ever, correct?
JONES: Yes indeed.
PEREIRA: So in all of that, have you ever seen anything quite like this? The 30 seconds in, 29 seconds to be exact?
JONES: That was absolutely incredible. Clint Dempsey stepped up and right off the bat it threw everyone for a big shock, threw the Ghanian players for a shock, for sure. I think everybody on the U.S. -- That's not how they expected the U.S. to come out in the match.
PEREIRA: How important is that, the early on to set a tone?
JONES: It's huge. Within any sport, to go out there and get on the goal early, it totally changed the dynamic of the game because it really allowed the U.S. to play a lot more free. Going into this game they wanted to get at least a point, and then to be up a goal and it gives them that little bit of breathing room.
CUOMO: And then the knock on them was, can the U.S. have the firepower to deal with the big teams in the death group, or whatever it is called and to score in history-making fashion, right?