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SMERCONISH

ISIS Propaganda Continues; Huckabee, Running Again; FBI's Comey's Remarks Drew Criticism; Did Kayla Know How Dangerous Syria Was?; NBC Says Investigation is Nowhere Near Done; World's Bloodiest War Could End Today

Aired February 14, 2015 - 18:00   ET

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


MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: Welcome to the program. I'm Michael Smerconish.

ISIS forces making stunning advances in Iraq seizing large chunks of territory now hundreds of U.S. Marines are in harm's way, just a few miles away from the town of Al Baghdadi which is now held by ISIS. The propaganda machine continues, the terror group releasing a chilling new video purportedly showing them parading captured Kurdish Peshmerga fighters through the streets of Iraq in cages.

Our own reporter Phil Black was in ISIS territory, the most dangerous place in the world for a reporter. He is on the move now and filed this dispatch moments ago from Dohuk.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The concern now is that if ISIS maintains this foothold in Al Baghdadi it has a position from which it can launch further attacks against the air base.

This in a province where ISIS is still expanding its control. It maintains some control of 70 percent of Anbar province, that control is still growing. The Pentagon concedes that it's likely that this Al Assad facility will come under further attacks in the future.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SMERCONISH: We have someone who has been on that military base, Al Assad, many times, CNN analyst retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. General Hertling, at the top of the list for everyone's questions, how vulnerable are our troops at that base?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN ANALYST: I don't believe they are vulnerable at all, Michael. They have got great defensive measures in the base. As you said it is a sprawling complex, it's a huge air base. And the attack yesterday was against one of the gates, you could almost liken it to JFK Airport. And you say if we're going to attack one gate after you even get through the gate if you do, you've got kilometers to go before you reach the living area. So I'm not sure we have as much danger as what is being concerned right now.

SMERCONISH: General, the fact that mismatched ISIS troops would even endeavor to attack such a sprawling base, it says something about their will to fight and for me as a lay person, a civilian, it reminds me of a very famous movie scene. I want to show you a clip from Godfather 2. Roll it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFED MALE: I saw an interesting thing happen today. A rebel was being arrested by the military police. And a lot of them taken alive, they exploded a grenade hidden in his jacket and killed himself and he took a captain of the command with him. Right, Johnny?

UNIDENTIFED MALE: Rebels, they are lunatics.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: Maybe so. But it occurred to me the soldiers are paid to fight. Rebels aren't.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: What does that tell you?

UNIDENTIFED MALE: They can win.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SMERCONISH: General Hertling, Michael Corleon notes the soldiers are paid to fight the rebels aren't. (INAUDIBLE) wants to know, what's the meaning, they could win. Any relevance?

HERTLING: Well, first of all, Michael, I love that movie and thank you for playing it. Secondly it's one that we play often in the military. It has to do with the will to fight. You know, what is the thing that gives soldiers the desire to take up arms and perhaps die for their country.

What we're talking about now is not a group of Cuban Castro supporters going against Batistat in the 50s, which was a corrupt government and a huge disparity between the rich and the poor there. But what we're talking about is fanaticism, that not only are they fighting for a cause but they're fighting to kill other people, as many other people as possible.

The attack yesterday, yes, was typically a tactical approach that we've seen terrorists use in the past where they were attempting to breach a gate, using people wearing suicide vests and then push some additional soldiers through. But I think what's interesting is as Admiral Kirby said yesterday, the Iraqi soldiers fought back. They are beginning to have a better trust in their government and a better trust in their leaders, something they lost over several years between 2011 and 2014. Michael.

SMERCONISH: Right. And that's the intangible because that fanaticism that you reference gives ISIS and gives Al Qaeda splinter groups great patience. So the real intangible here is when the United States is finally gone, what will be the will to fight of the Iraqis who are left behind? You're saying that there are positive signs in that regard.

HERTLING: I think there are. You know, you go back to an old dead German theorist by the name of Karl Kloswitz (ph) and he says you need three things to be successful in any kind of conflict. A very good army, the will of the people to support it and a solid government. Over the last several years Iraq has not had three of the three. They are beginning to raise up each one of those in different approaches, but I think that is what is needed in any territory where insurgents and terrorists are attempting to take over. We see that throughout the Arab world right now where there is poor government and bad armies.

SMERCONISH: One more question with regard to the attack on Al Assad. Does this make their argument a stronger argument for a ground battle, maybe we should be opening up those gates and turning loose the U.S. Marines who are there instead of relying only on air power.

HERTLING: Well, I don't think so, Michael. I spent three years of my life in Iraq and what is interesting is the Iraqis have to want it more than we do. For the several years I fought there and others fought there we always found ourselves in the lead of wanting and desiring reform more than the Iraqis watching us do it. It's now time for them to step up and that's the important thing, that if you're going to fight for your country you need to fight for your country, not let other people do it for you.

SMERCONISH: Final question, General Hertling, this week the president sought war authorization from the Congress to combat ISIS. Some say he was too restrictive in his request, some say too expansive in his request. What did you make of it?

HERTLING: Well, I made of it that the president is tossing it to Congress because he is doing something right now and he's being sniped from both sides. So, as that sniping is going on over things like a silly phrases like mission creep or boots on the ground, he's allowed Congress, which makes the laws, to decide what the law should be in this case. And what they will support and at the same time he's taken executive action.

So I believe it was a very smart move to word the document to give as much flexibility as it did to the forces while he's allowing Congress to make the decisions on what they will support. It goes back to that close which thing you have to have a strong government in support of war whenever you go to war.

SMERCONISH: General Hertling, thank you as always for your analysis.

HERTLING: Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: We have much more to come with terrific guests. After a short break, it sure looks like Mike Huckabee is running for president again. He has spoken in a very unplugged fashion lately. I'll speak to him next.