Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

Moammar Gadhafi Vows Fight to the Death; Pirates Kill Four Americans

Aired February 22, 2011 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Will do, Jack, thank you.


Happening now: His grip on power may be weakening, but there's fresh defiance from Libya's Moammar Gadhafi. He is threatening opponents with death and vowing a fight to the finish as a martyr, his word, in his own country. CNN's Ben Wedeman takes us inside Libya to a part of the country already controlled by the opponents of Moammar Gadhafi's regime.

An around-the-world tour ends in death for four Americans killed by pirates aboard their hijacked yacht, with U.S. forces right on the scene.

Breaking news, political headline and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

As the death toll mounts and witnesses tell of growing brutality, the Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi is growing more defiant. In a rambling speech today, Gadhafi vowed to hang on, saying he would execute those who rise up against him and pledging to die a martyr, his word, a martyr on Libyan soil.

That's his answer to international outcries against the crackdown.

Listen to the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: This bloodshed is completely unacceptable. It is the responsibility of the government of Libya to respect the universal rights of their own people, including their right to free expression and assembly.


BLITZER: CNN's Ivan Watson is monitoring all the latest developments from nearby in Cairo. He's joining us now live.

Ivan, what's the latest?

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, pretty important news here, report of another major defection from the government of Moammar al-Gadhafi. Now his interior minister, Abdul-Fattah Younis al-Obaidi, saying that he's going to side with the people now, and criticizing Moammar Gadhafi, saying that either Gadhafi will go by being killed or will have to commit suicide. There's no other way out.

And that's the second minister, cabinet minister now we are hearing who has broken with Moammar Gadhafi, in addition to many ambassadors and diplomats who have done so publicly resigning from their posts.

And this coming on a day when Gadhafi himself has repeatedly spoken to the Libyan people. Take a look at this report.


WATSON (voice-over): Libya's flamboyant strongman back on stage, waving a copy of Libya's penal code in a long and defiant speech laced with bursts of what many would consider his trademark megalomania.

MOAMMAR GADHAFI, LIBYAN LEADER (through translator): I am the leader, Moammar Gadhafi, defender of millions. I call upon millions from the Sahara to the Sahara. And we will march in order to purify Libya inch by inch, house by house, home by home, village by village to purify the country.

WATSON: Libya's weeklong revolt threatens to bring an end to Gadhafi's 41-year hold on power. Earlier on Tuesday, the leader made this brief, bizarre appearance to dismiss reports that he had fled the country.

GADHAFI (through translator): I am in Tripoli, not in Venezuela. Don't believe those dogs in the media.

WATSON: Gadhafi offered almost no concessions to the protesters, even though, in only a matter of days, the opposition has seized control of Libya's second largest city and set government buildings in the capital on fire. Gadhafi cursed his rebellious countrymen, calling them junkies and agents of the U.S. and al Qaeda.

GADHAFI (through translator): Whoever assists foreign governments will be punished by execution, along with any other person who works for their benefit on any form and by any means in relation to defending the country.

WATSON: Gadhafi's security forces have made good on these threats, repeatedly opening fire on protesters. Human Rights Watch estimates the death toll now stands in the hundreds.

The man who calls himself the leader of Libya's 1969 revolution spoke outside his former residence. Bombed by U.S. warplanes in 1986, it stands as a shrine to what Gadhafi calls his anti-imperialist politics.

But on Monday, two of Gadhafi's air force pilots defected to Malta. They say they refused ordered to open fire on protesters. Libya's self-styled revolutionary now stands accused of ordering airstrikes against his own people.

Italian dictator Benito Mussolini used the same tactics against Libyan rebels 70 years ago.


WATSON: And, Wolf, that death toll, again, very difficult to get exact figures, but by many estimates in the hundreds and probably continuing to rise. We have got more reports as the sun set of fresh gunfire in the streets of Tripoli on Tuesday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Ivan, when you say the interior minister has now defected away from Gadhafi, the interior minister in Libya, he is in charge of security services, the police, for example. So, he's had a powerful position over these years.

WATSON: That's right. And it's interesting. We had been hearing from some eyewitnesses on the ground in the rebel-held, the opposition-held city of Benghazi in the east that the interior minister had been seen there on Sunday and Monday.

And we do know that part of what helped lead to the fall of that city was the defection of some military forces. Wolf, the impression I'm getting from the structure of the security forces in Libya is that it's not an entirely centralized system, that there are different units that belong to different nodes of power.

For instance, some locals telling me that two of Gadhafi's sons have their own groups that are loyal to them that have their own uniforms even. So it could be possible that he leads one out of a patchwork of different armed forces, different armed units inside Libya.

BLITZER: All right, Ivan, thanks very, very much. We will check back with Ivan. Standing by to speak with Ben Wedeman as well. He is in Libya right now.

But let's get some more analysis on what is going on from our CNN national security contributor, Fran Townsend. She's also a member of the CIA's External Advisory Committee. Last May, Fran visited high- ranking Libyan officials at the invitation of the Libyan government.

Fran, you heard Gadhafi's rambling 70-plus minute speech today. What went through your mind when you heard the bluster coming out of his mouth?

FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Wolf, we have seen from his prior speeches at the U.N. these tirades tend to be -- sound both desperate and delusional.

This was no exception, although the threats to execute and in terms of punishing the protesters was blood-chilling. I don't think there should be any doubt in anyone's mind that he meant what he said about executing those who oppose him.

I also think the other thing that he was true to his word is that he intends to be martyred there. He made references to the graves of his father and his grandfather. He made references to blood in the soil of Libya. I don't have any doubt that the only way Moammar Gadhafi plans to leave power in Libya is by death.

BLITZER: There could be some sort of war crimes tribunal against him. If you have an interior minister now defecting, he could be a powerful witness if fact someone wants to charge Moammar Gadhafi, like Slobodan Milosevic, for example, with high crimes, with war crimes, if you will, crimes against humanity.

TOWNSEND: That's right, Wolf.

And the other thing is, what effect will this have on the rank and file of the police, as you mentioned in your conversation with Ivan? Will they defect? Will they leave the police force with the interior minister or will they stay behind?

The other -- there are two people who are critical players here in terms of the leadership of Libya that we haven't talked about. There is , Musa Kusa, who's the former head of their intelligence services, is now their foreign minister. We haven't heard from him.

And Senussi -- Senussi was also -- later became the head of intelligence. Both are very close to Gadhafi. Both know him very well. Both have been interlocutors with the United States when they turned over the weapons program. And so it will be interesting. We don't know what private conversations are going on. But those two players will be absolutely critical in terms of this disintegration, if you will, of the government surrounding Moammar Gadhafi right now.

BLITZER: I'm very worried about the Americans, not and the diplomats, but private American citizens, oil company executives who are stuck in Libya right now.

What can the U.S. government do to get these people out of there?

TOWNSEND: One, I think the government, the U.S. government has been frustrated. There's such chaos at the airport in Tripoli. I think they're having difficulty getting citizens out.

But they should certainly -- I was surprised when Secretary Clinton made her statements this afternoon. We ought to be very clear that we're going to hold -- if any American civilian or diplomat is harmed, we're go to hold the Libyans accountable, the Libyan security services and the leadership there.

They have an obligation under treaties to protect those people and to at least provide them safe passage out of the country and permit that airport to operate. And so I'm not sure we can fault the U.S. government here. I think they're working in very, very difficult circumstances.

But you're right to be worried about folks on the ground there.

BLITZER: Very worried about not just the Americans. I'm worried everyone in Libya right now, because when Gadhafi says he's going to go ahead and execute those who oppose him, he's got the wherewithal, the military capability, certainly, to kill a lot of people. And that's very, very disturbing.

Libya's Moammar Gadhafi is using all of his means at his disposal to hang onto power. But parts of the country may have already slipped from his grasp, the eastern part specifically.

Listen to Libya's U.N. ambassador.


ABDURRAHMAN MOHAMED SHALGHAM, LIBYAN AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: All the western -- eastern part of Libya is under control of the people now. But Tripoli and some cities in the western part is still under the control of the regime. And I am saying, that we have to support the Libyan people.


BLITZER: Eyewitnesses in the eastern city of Benghazi tell CNN that Libya's interior minister, we just heard Ivan say he has fled the government. He was seen taking actual part in the revolt.

We're talking about Abdul-Fattah Younis al-Obaidi. And he's now apparently the former interior minister. You just heard Ivan report that. The longtime Gadhafi ally reportedly announced his resignation, called on his army to join in the revolt.

Let's go over to CNN's Tom Foreman. He's taking a closer look at how this crisis is actually playing out in Libya.

A lot of folks don't appreciate the fact that Libya is a huge country with, what, 1,000-miles shore along the Mediterranean there.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And we look at it on the map and we say there's a country.

But right now as we know from the politics there right now and even beforehand, there are a lot of different factions at work here that make up this place called Libya. When we talk about the eastern part of the country, Benghazi and over here, we're talking about this area, of course, Wolf.

So if you're talking about which part is under the control of the protesters, that appears to be over here. Tripoli is a different matter. I want to take a look at this for a minute. This is where at Moammar Gadhafi says he is, over in this area.

One of the things that you have to pay attention to -- we talked to some people over at and some other folks today -- is the tribal nature of the country. This is where Gadhafi is right now. This is the tribe he was originally from, the Qadhadfa tribe, which was his own and it's relatively small compared to other ones there.

It became powerful, and he became powerful not because of his tribe, but because of their ability to negotiate deals in cooperation between a lot of other tribes. That's how he's been in power all this time, and yet that may be the very thing that is taking him down now.

Notably, take a look at these tribes here. This is the Tuareg tribe, which is largely a Saharan tribe, the Hasawna tribe. And over here, the Warfalla tribe. This is important. All of those have said they think he should go. This is the largest one.

It has provided many of his security forces over the years. And they're saying Gadhafi should leave. Just as importantly, if you move over to this area of the country, I want to show you this. These are some of the oil reserves in the country spread out like this. If you take those away and you look at this tribe over here, the Zuwayya tribe has controlled a fair number of those.

And as you mentioned earlier, Wolf, they're saying they will cut off exports, which would effectively strangle the country economically if they did that. So, what's happening, Wolf, is as Gadhafi tries to make this work, these various tribes have sort of allied against him, the very ones that he's manipulated all these years into making his allies and keeping them in power.

BLITZER: Yes. And as we said, this whole area around Benghazi seems to be under the control of the rebels against Gadhafi. But he still has a stronghold there in the capital of Tripoli. And there's obviously a lot of firepower at his disposal.

FOREMAN: Absolutely.

And one of the other things that makes this tricky is the sheer number of these. You know this, Wolf, from being over in that part of the world so much. There are dozens and dozens, not merely of the major tribes, but of all the subgroups of the tribes.

The reason he's been successful, back in the mid-'90s, he tired -- or even actually as far as back as the '70s, he tried to cut up the tribal areas in effect so that the tribes couldn't stand so firmly together. In the process of doing that, what he set up was an elaborate system of political patronage where he rewards people.

So even now as mentioned a minute ago, Wolf, with Ivan, even now, as you talk about splits within the security forces or within the army, you've got to know that Gadhafi's people are looking for other people in those organizations and effectively saying to them, wouldn't you like to be in charge? Wouldn't you like to run the oil fields? And if you will stand by me now, you will be the one in charge. That's how he's been in power all these years. The question is now, can he turn enough of those tricks to stay in power or finally will he will hoisted on his own petard? -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Eight days into this revolution in Libya. We will see what happens over the next few days. Thanks, Tom.

Fears about Libya's instability are rattling Wall Street, the Dow plunging 178 points in the final hour of trading today, for its biggest one-day drop of the year. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq also had their biggest drops since August. Oil prices, meanwhile, they are soaring.

Jack Cafferty is coming up next.



BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Talk to you for a second along the way, sir?



BLITZER: The Joint Chiefs chairman, Admiral Mike Mullen, did eventually speak to our own Barbara Starr, but why the Libya crisis is raising tensions at a Middle East arms fair. Stand by for that.

And just before the U.S. Navy moves in, pirates kill four Americans on a hijacked yacht. We're trying to piece together the final moments of what happened.

And dozens dead, a city in ruins, the horror of New Zealand's earthquake.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A giant rock has just fallen on the (INAUDIBLE) building. And you can see it's crushed the building there and the cars. It's terrifying.



BLITZER: Get back to Libya and Ben Wedeman shortly. But let's talk about state budget. The deficits, they're huge. They're getting even bigger.

Jack Cafferty is here. He's got "The Cafferty File."

Jack, what's going on?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The showdown in Wisconsin over Governor Scott Walker's proposal to restrict the collective bargaining rights of public sector unions as a way of dealing with the state's budget deficit has put President Obama in a bit of a tough spot.

He doesn't want to appear that he's turned his back on public sector unions. After all, their support helped him win the White House in 2008.

But at the same time, his federal government is staring at deficits the likes of which we've never seen before, and there is no sign that he or Congress are about to do anything meaningful to address those. Last week, the president told a Milwaukee television station -- quote -- "Everybody's got to make some adjustments to new fiscal realities" -- unquote. Then later, he added the proposed cuts in Wisconsin seem -- quote -- "more like an assault on unions" -- unquote.

And that second part got under some Republicans' collars.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said the comment was inappropriate, said the president should focus on what's happening in Washington, not Wisconsin.

And Wisconsin's unions likely won't be the last to be targeted for cuts. A new government report finds that combined federal, state and local government debt now exceeds the size of our entire economy.

Ohio and Florida have new Republican governors. They, too, are trying to make deep cuts in order to balance their budgets, and many other states are facing tough decisions as well.

So, here's the question: Should President Obama stay out of Wisconsin's budget battles?

Go to Post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: Will do, Jack. Thank you.

A round-the-world tour, boating tour, I should say, has ended in bloodshed. Four Americans on a hijacked yacht were killed by pirates today, even as a powerful U.S. Navy force stood poised for action.

Our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence has been trying to piece together the details.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): U.S. military might was right there, hundreds of miles southeast of Oman, four Navy warships, drones overhead, special operations forces ready to move. For three days they had been trailing the pirated yacht Quest, trying to negotiate the release of the four American hostages.

An officer who has commanded other anti-piracy mission says pirates can be young, poor, and difficult to talk to.

CAPT. CHRIS BOLT, U.S. NAVY: They don't negotiate. They say show us the money. You don't have the money, then there's no negotiation. And there's a little bit of a language barrier as well. So it's extremely difficult.

LAWRENCE: Two pirates spent the night on board the USS Sterett, but the pirates and their prize kept moving.

VICE ADMIRAL MARK FOX, U.S. NAVY: It was clear that the pirates wanted to get the yacht to Somalia. WATSON: Without warning, Tuesday morning, a rocket-propelled grenade fired toward the Sterett 600 yards away. Immediately, the sound of gunfire from inside the cabin. Small boats carrying U.S. naval reaction forces raced out, boarding without firing a shot. But U.S. sailors discovered the four American hostages shot.

FOX: When our team got on board the yacht, there were hostages who were still alive. And we applied and gave first aid immediately to them, but they were fatally injured.

LAWRENCE: Mysteriously, two pirates were already dead. Moments later, U.S. forces killed two more pirates below, shooting one, knifing another, 15 pirates in custody.

FOX: There were explicit warnings to mariners about the regions, the dangers and the pirate activity in this area.


LAWRENCE: This was the deadliest pirate attack on Americans in modern history.

And it really brings a fresh warning that pirates are now roaming up to 1,500 miles offshore. To put that in some perspective, that's an area as large as the United States east of the Mississippi.

Now, I'm standing in front of the USS Dubuque, which just got back from anti-piracy missions in that area. Its crew while on that tour had to storm a similar boat, had to rescue a crew.

But, Wolf, just to again put things in perspective, the Dubuque would be one of maybe 34 international ships at any one time patrolling that entire area. Really gives you an idea of just how difficult this task is.

BLITZER: It is mysterious, though, that when the U.S. military personnel boarded that yacht, two of the pirates were already dead, and as you say, under mysterious circumstances.

What's the speculation? Who killed them?

LAWRENCE: It could be anything, Wolf. We don't know exactly what was going on, on that boat during that time, although if you look at the age of the hostages, their condition, you would have to say that there had to be some internal disputes among the pirates that may have caused the death of those two pirates.

BLITZER: Chris Lawrence watching this mysterious story for us -- thanks, Chris. We will check back with you.

Libya's uprising began in the country's oil-rich east. Ben Wedeman has now made his way into eastern Libya. He tells us why its people say it's time for Moammar Gadhafi to simply go.



BLITZER: Inside Libya's revolt -- CNN's Ben Wedeman takes us to a part of the country where Moammar Gadhafi has already lost his grip on power.


BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story, the revolution unfolding in Libya right now.

The revolt against the strongman Moammar Gadhafi began in eastern Libya.

CNN's senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, reports from the city of Tobruk now controlled by opponents of the regime.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the democracy of Gadhafi. This is the real democracy.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): But Gadhafi no longer controls the eastern city of Tobruk.

The old Libyan flag from the days of the monarchy now flies over the main square. Here, they chant the same slogan heard in Tunis and Cairo. The people want to topple the regime. And they don't want to stop there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm talking seriously. I will kill you. Leave us alone. Go away. Don't come back.

WEDEMAN: Tobruk was one of the first cities to rebel against Gadhafi's 42-year rule, ripping down the symbols of one of the Arab world's most oppressive regimes.

(on camera) This is what remains of Tobruk's main police station, a hated symbol of the Gadhafi regime. On the 17th of February, protesters came out into the streets. They were fired upon by the security services. But eventually, the people here were able to overpower the police. And they came and ransacked this place and then came and burnt cars belonging to the intelligence services.

(voice-over) Adrees (ph) says he was brought to this room, the torture chamber in the police station, four times. The police, he recalls, used electric shocks and beatings to extract confessions. Much of Libya's oil is exported from the east. Local leader Abdullah Sharif (ph) warns the people here have a weapon against the regime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unless this massacre is stopped immediately, we're going to stop the oil.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We burn it. We burn it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We burn it or we just stop exporting it.

WEDEMAN: Gadhafi isn't giving up without a fight. But then again, neither are the people.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Tobruk, Libya.


BLITZER: The Obama administration has said repeatedly that the violence by Libya's regime of Moammar Gadhafi is unacceptable. But can it do anything about the bloodshed?

Our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, has been working this story for us.

What are the options out there for the United States to do something about what potentially could be a slaughter of thousands of people?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, Wolf, it's clear that the administration's main objective right now is to get American citizens out of there. There's a real security situation going on. And that's probably why so far they're stopping short of calling for Gadhafi to step down. They've got to be concerned about American citizens.

But once that's done and Americans are out of there, there's clearly some things that can be done. However, nothing should be done, I'm told, unilaterally. They want the Arab League, the U.N. and the European Union to do things in concert. And they can do things. And you know this, Wolf, as well as anybody. They can talk about no- fly zones, for example. Right?

BLITZER: No-fly zones, because right now the Libyan military, they're using their helicopter gun ships. They're using their war planes to go in and simply bomb protesters who are out on the street. If you oppose the no-fly zone, you simply say, "You know what? Anything that goes up in the sky is going to be shot down." But that -- that requires a lot of work.

The U.S. did it with a coalition...

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: ... over Iraq when Saddam Hussein was in power. But it wouldn't be easy to put that kind of coalition together right now.

BORGER: But what about something like targeted sanctions, for example? Is that more doable? Or telling oil companies they ought to leave.

BLITZER: Well, the oil companies will leave if they see it's dangerous to their personnel. They'll get out of there.


BLITZER: They don't want to leave now. It's a huge oil exporting country. My own sense right now is that the United Nations Security Council -- you hear Richard Roth report they issued a statement. It wasn't a resolution. It had no teeth. They just issued a statement today, a statement on behalf of the U.N. Security Council. But they're going to have to start getting tougher. Otherwise a lot of people could start dying.

BORGER: Well, and right now, of course, Wolf, we don't have President Obama as the face of this crisis. Right now we have Hillary Clinton is the one who's out there speaking. Let's take a listen to what she said.


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: The message today is very clear and unambiguous from the entire international community. There is -- there is no ambivalence. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that the violence must stop and that the government of Libya has a responsibility to respect the universal rights of all of its citizens and to support the exercise of those rights.


BORGER: So it's very clear, Wolf, that this is calibrated. And that she is now out there and that the key to this is to isolate. Right? At what point, though, do you think you get the president out there finally making a statement?

BLITZER: Well, I think a lot of the protesters in Libya, just as in Egypt before, they want to hear that the president of the United States is on their side. They certainly got that in Egypt almost every day, the president.

BORGER: Eventually.

BLITZER: They got that from the president. Every day he would be going out there in the foyer over at the White House making a statement, very -- not taking questions or anything, but just making a statement. And they heard the president speaking out about what was going on in Egypt. As you point out, they haven't heard the president speaking out about what's going on in Libya right now. But I suspect that's going to change.

BORGER: Well...

BLITZER: I think we're going to be hearing more from President Obama, especially as these reports of atrocities and mass murder continue to come out of Tripoli and elsewhere in Libya. It's going to be impossible for the president to remain silent.

BORGER: Right, and I think first things first, though, is getting American citizens out of there. And then I suspect you'll hear him be a little bit more volatile.

BLITZER: There are a lot of American citizens there right now. That is priority No. 1. But, you know, as important as it is to get American citizens out, it's really important to stop the slaughter of individual Libyans right now. We're simply protesting peacefully. But they're being -- they're being killed. So you've got to stop that, too. And you don't want a president of the United States on his watch to look backwards some day and say, "You know, I could have done something to stop that mass murder. But it didn't happen." And that's something that people are watching very carefully right now.

BORGER: But as you know, you can't do it unilaterally, right?

BLITZER: They've got to put together a coalition. All right. Gloria, thank you.

It's down to the wire for Rahm Emanuel right now. He's hoping for victory in Chicago's mayoral race. And will voters give him enough of a vote right now so he doesn't have to have a runoff? Stand by. We're going to Chicago.


RAHM EMANUEL, CHICAGO MAYORAL CANDIDATE: You guys hear from my five-point economic plan?



BLITZER: As turmoil spreads through North Africa and the Middle East, weapons makers and defense officials from all over the world are now gathered at a massive arms bazaar in Abu Dhabi. America's top U.S. -- America's top military officer, I should say, is there, as well.

So is our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff has come here to the largest weapons exhibition in the Middle East to talk to leaders about how they see this time of great change and great unrest.


STARR (voice-over): Admiral Michael Mullen arrived at the International Defense Exhibition in the United Arab Emirates in no mood to talk to reporters.

(on camera) Can I talk to you for a second along the way, sir?


STARR: Mullen marched across the exhibition to meet this man, Sheikh Mohammad bin-Zayid Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, deputy commander of the armed forces. The crown prince, one of the most powerful leaders here, sat the American admiral down in the convention center lunchroom.

Mullen has been talking and listening to Middle East military leaders who are full of anxiety about the unrest rocking this region. After the meeting he agreed to talk. His toughest words reserved for the attacks by Moammar Gadhafi's forces on civilians in Libya. MULLEN: That kind of -- the military firing on its own people, killing its own people, is absolutely, you know, unacceptable.

STARR: Mullen said it will be up to the international community to decide if it wants to get involved.

MULLEN: It needs to be resolved peacefully. That obviously is not the case. And that the resolution of that in a peaceful means as rapidly as possible is critical.

STARR: The admiral said the uprising in normally peaceful Bahrain has rattled leaders across the Persian Gulf. He's listening and carrying a message.

MULLEN: This is a time of enormous change, and it needs to be resolved peacefully without violence, without loss of life. And leaders have to step forward in that regard.

STARR: Former defense secretary William Cohen, who now consults with some companies here in the UAE, warns if the crisis continues to spread, it will affect more than just the Middle East.

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Very destabilizing. The price of oil starts to -- to really skyrocket. And it could destabilize not only the region but other countries, as well.

STARR (on camera): What's so interesting is Admiral Mullen's schedule, which usually is set in stone remains very uncertain. His aides tell us, because of the situation throughout this region, they are not sure what countries he may be visiting next before he returns to Washington -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara. Thanks very much. Barbara is in Abu Dhabi. We'll have more on Gadhafi, the Libyan strong man. That's coming up.

Also, it's down to the wire for Rahm Emanuel. It's election night in Chicago. Jessica Yellin is there. She spoke with Emanuel earlier in the day.


EMANUEL: Anything in the news you guys want to talk about?



BLITZER: Chicago voters are at the polls today. And for the first time in decades, they're not voting for a man named Daley. Our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is in Chicago with the details -- Jessica.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf, I spoke to Rahm Emanuel today. And he is being cautious. He's running against five other candidates, and he won't even say if he's optimistic about the results. Today he's just working to get out the vote.


YELLIN (voice-over): On election day, Rahm Emanuel started early, greeting voters, talking to reporters.

EMANUEL: I've laid out before the election a detailed plan to put our fiscal house in order while also providing free tax dollars.

YELLIN: And stopping for a half-pastrami, half-corned beef sandwich on friendly turf.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he's a pretty tough guy. And I think some things need to be changed in the city of Chicago. And I think he's probably the one who can do it.

YELLIN: As President Obama's chief of staff, Emanuel earned a national reputation as a fierce strategist with a foul mouth.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Rahm when he was a kid had lost part of his finger in an accident. And it was his middle finger, so it rendered him mute for a while.

YELLIN: Chicago's next mayor will need backbone, facing a roughly $600 million budget deficit and a massive shortfall in the city's pensions. Emanuel says those pensions need reform, but unlike some Republican governors, he won't fight the unions.

EMANUEL: In Chicago we're going to chart a different course. We're not going to chart a course that Wisconsin set.

YELLIN (on camera): Because?

EMANUEL: Well, because I'm going to work it out with them. They're partners. This is Chicago. We're going to do it different than Wisconsin. Wisconsin, as the governor said, it's my way or the highway.

YELLIN: Opponents in this race include former senator Carol Moseley-Braun and former school board head, Gary Chico. Their attacks have gotten personal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What Rahm has turned out to be is a pathological evader of the truth. We have no answers, and the citizens are about to go to the polls in a few short days.

YELLIN: Still, polls show Emanuel leading the pack. Throughout the race he's been uncharacteristically calm and on message. He hasn't even been seen cursing.

(on camera) When is the last time you cursed?

EMANUEL: When is the last time? When they told me I had to do the CNN interview.


YELLIN: Well, you can see the old Rahm is still in there, Wolf. Now, for any one candidate to win tonight, they have to get more than 50 percent of the vote. If nobody reaches that hurdle, the top two vote-getters will face a runoff on April 5 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We'll see what happens. If he gets 50 percent plus one vote, he's the next mayor of Chicago.

All right, Jessica. Thank you.

The White House and Wisconsin's budget showdown. Should President Obama stay out of the fight, the state fight? We're going to find out. What you're telling our own Jack Cafferty.

And from the towering female bodyguards to speeches so long a translator -- get this -- once fainted. The Libyan strongman, Moammar Gadhafi's, bizarre behavior. We're going in depth.


BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is: "Should President Obama stay out of Wisconsin's budget battle?"

Sylvia writes from San Diego, "Yes, yes and yes. He ought to be focused on the national debt and creating jobs. From what I've heard thus far the governor of Wisconsin is quite capable and doesn't need any outside interference."

John writes, "Yes, he should. He has his own budget issues to contend with, and he ought to allow a state, any state to work at cleaning up its own house as it sees fit under its laws. It gives the impression he can't handle his affairs, so he's trying to divert attention."

Paul writes, "President Obama ought to watch what's happening closely, feel free to express his opinion, but not trying to influence the outcome in any way. I'm sure he's smart enough to realize that what's happening in Wisconsin, Ohio, and other states are Petri dishes used to judge voters' appetites for serious budget cutting. The results could become a harbinger on the federal level."

Marcy writes from Florida, "No. He ought to invite them to the White House and have a beer with them."

Gerry in Ash Fork, Arizona: "President Obama should keep his mouth shut. The states have sovereign rights to deal with these issues. We know where Obama is coming from, as rabble rousing and labor unions are his forte. Go back a few decades to corporations C Train and Kaiser Steel and see what a thorough job the unions did in destroying them." And Peg in New York writes this: "Hard to say, Jack. On one hand somebody needs to be the voice of reason in Wisconsin. On the other hand, the voters made their choice at the polls. Whether they understood it at the time or not, they voted in and empowered a Tea Party candidate. In my opinion now, let his actions speak for themselves. Maybe the nonvoters will wake up."

If you want to read more on this subject, and this is a subject that's probably not going to go away any time soon. It's starting up in Ohio now. You'll find it on my blog:

BLITZER: All right, Jack. Thank you. See you tomorrow.

Lunching with David Axelrod. The former senior White House adviser opening up about life in the Obama administration and Rahm Emanuel's run for Chicago mayor. That's coming up at the top of the hour on "JOHN KING USA."

Plus, in the middle of a revolution he's vowing to crush, Libya's Moammar Gadhafi is exhibiting some very bizarre behavior.


BLITZER: Here's a look at some "Hot Shots."

In Cambodia, look at this. Two children try to eat ice cream popsicles before they melt.

In Berlin, the chancellor, Angela Merkel, waves to circus dancers.

In Sri Lanka, men ride in a truck overloaded with bananas and in Germany, look at this. A one-day-old rhinoceros stands next to its mother.

"Hot Shots." You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Even in the midst of an uprising, Libya's strongman, Moammar Gadhafi, is certainly no stranger to strange behavior.

CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a look at this "Most Unusual" dictator.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You could kiss him, but you couldn't kiss him good-bye. Not yet. Moammar Gadhafi gave one of his trademark fist-pumping, finger-pointing speeches adjusting his hat, tossing around his robes. He spoke for an hour and 15 minutes and blamed much of the rioting on youths.

MOAMMAR GADHAFI, LIBYAN PRESIDENT (through translator): They offer them those hallucination (ph) pills.

MOOS: Unless you think you're hallucinating, he kept repeating the hallucinogenic part.

GADHAFI (through translator): ... with them from the pills they are taking.

MOOS: As he rambled on, waiters came along, not once but twice, bringing refreshments. He finished with a final fist pump.

GADHAFI: Forward. Revolution.

MOOS: And a supporter rushed forward to bestow a kiss on the Libyan leader. It was a speech as long as his odd appearance Monday was short.

GADHAFI (through translator): Don't believe those dogs in the media.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looking like...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... Mary Poppins with the umbrella.

MOOS: Gadhafi is a magnet for ridicule.


MOOS: For his look, for his traveling tent, for the female bodyguards who always accompany him. Steven Colbert imagined them protecting Gadhafi from protestors.

STEVEN COLBERT, HOST, COMEDY CENTRAL'S "COLBERT REPORT": Choreographed waves of six-foot-tall Libyan Amazons, spin-kicking protestors in the jaw. It will be like a Janet Jackson video.

MOOS: After his 2009 speech at the U.N., when he ripped up the charter and tossed it, Conan O'Brien did a little translation revisitation.


GRAPHIC: For example, this Chinese restaurant menu says free eggroll with order. But when my food arrived, there was no eggroll.

MOOS (on camera): We can't even agree how to spell the guy's name. Does it begin with a "G"? Does it begin with a "K"? Or a "Q"? Does it end with a "Y" or an "I"? The three cable news networks each spelled it differently. It's a vintage "Saturday Night Live" joke.

NORM MCDONALD, FORMER CAST MEMBER, NBC'S "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": No two people spell it alike. Send us your spelling. And remember, it can't be the same as any of these spellings.

MOOS (voice-over): Many call him a madman.

BARBARA WALTERS, ABC NEWS: We read that you are mad.

MOOS: Weird, yes, says Barbara Walters. But...

WALTERS: Did I think he was crazy? No.

MOOS (on camera): The oddest moment of Gadhafi's latest speech came before it even began when the cameras caught Libya's leader primping.

(voice-over) That's the real Gadhafi, pondering, "Shall I button my collar or leave it undone?" as his country comes undone.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Let's not forget, though, he is one -- one dangerous man, and a lot of Libyans endangered right now.

That's it for me. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.