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The Situation Room

End of the Iraq War; Was Gadhafi Executed?; Interview With Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough; Vice President Joe Biden Hints at 2016 Run; Questions About Gadhafi's Death; Herman Cain Adjusts "9-9-9" Tax Plan in Face of Criticism; President Announces End to American Military Involvement in Iraq; New Book Reveals President Reads 10 Letters from Americans Every Night; Another Solyndra in the Making?; Clinton to Pakistan: Get Tough on Terror; Study: Global Warming is Real

Aired October 21, 2011 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now: breaking news. President Obama announces the end of the Iraq war. He says all U.S. troops will be home for the holidays.

Also, growing questions about whether Moammar Gadhafi was executed. Was the death of the Libyan look (AUDIO GAP)

Look who might be weighing a run for the White House in 2016? The vice president, Joe Biden, raising speculation with what he told CNN's Candy Crowley.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

When the U.S. invaded Iraq back in March 2003, few people imagined it was the start of a nightmare that would last almost nine years, cost more than 4,000 American lives, plus hundreds of billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars.

Now the breaking news: The U.S. mission in Iraq, which had been gradually drawing down, will instead come to an abrupt end in just over two months with all American forces out of Iraq by year's end.

President Obama himself announced the end of the Iraq war.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: today I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over.

Over the next two months, our troops in Iraq, tens of thousands of them, will pack up their gear and board convoys for the journey home. The last American soldier will cross the border out of Iraq with their heads held high, proud of their success, and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops. That is how America's military efforts in Iraq will end.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin.

She's standing by over at the White House.

Jessica, the president avoided talking about the negotiations, very intense negotiations over the past several months with the Iraqi government on keeping a residual U.S. military presence in Iraq.

What do we know about this?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as recently as Monday, Defense Secretary Panetta has said that he was hopeful some U.S. troops would stay in Iraq into next year. They would have stayed as advisers and trainers primarily, but this was something that even Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq had expressed interest in himself.

As you know, the disagreement was over granting U.S. troops immunity from Iraqi law, and the U.S. and Iraq just couldn't come to terms on it. The breakdown was there. And so now U.S. troops are coming out.

The president did not mention these discussions in his remarks. Instead, he said that there is full agreement between himself and Prime Minister Maliki and the White House maintains this is exactly what they have wanted all along, zero troops in Iraq into next year.

Now, the president did say in his remarks that there is still the possibility that the U.S. could train some Iraqi troops into the future. The president left it unclear whether and where that could happen -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The president certainly seemed to make part of his dramatic announcement today at least part of a larger narrative. Talk a little bit about that.

YELLIN: That's right.

He made it clear, Wolf, that this is part of winding down the wars, not building them up, a move by this president to begin bringing troops home from both of our conflicts. Listen to the president.


OBAMA: The tide of war is receding. The drawdown in Iraq allowed us to refocus our fight against al Qaeda and the chief major victories against its leadership, including Osama bin Laden.


YELLIN: Now, Wolf, recall that when he was running for president in 2008, he opposed the Iraq war and he also made a point that he would refocus on going after al Qaeda specifically. It would seem that he is underscoring that's exactly what he has done as president -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And, you know, it was not hard at all to see some politics in what the president had to say.

YELLIN: It was striking, wasn't it? The very first sentence when he stepped behind that podium was, to paraphrase, as candidate, that he had promised to withdraw all troops from Iraq and that he has made good on that promise.

It's a theme he repeated throughout his remarks, very political for remarks about a war overseas. Additionally, he made the point that these troops will be -- that his jobs bill has a focus on veterans, reemploying veterans. And he even closed with a message on the economy, so his theme was clear. He has made good on his promise as a candidate and he is still focused on job number one, which is getting Americans back to work -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica Yellin over at the White House where a lot is going on. Jessica, thanks very much.

Let's talk about the politics and the substance of this with our chief political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's certainly going to have a lot on her plate Sunday morning on "STATE OF THE UNION."

You have got a big interview and we will talk about that as well.

Why can't a president simply come out and say, you know what, things are moving in the right direction, it all looks good, yes, we tried to negotiate an agreement, an agreement with the Iraqi government that would have allowed 3,000 or 5,000 U.S. troops to stay there and train Iraqi forces, help in this effort that the U.S. has been involved with for nine years, but, you know what, the Iraqi government said no, so we're just moving on? Why can't they just say that?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Because then it looks like you failed to do something.

It is leadership to say, OK, we're done, we're coming out. It looks like a failure of leadership to say, well, we just couldn't get a deal. So, it's -- politics is about spin. We're in a political year. And we should point out that as late as last Sunday when a report came out that there wasn't going to be a deal and all the troops would come home, they were pushing very back hard in this administration, saying, no, that's not true, the negotiations are still open, so this was clearly something they tried to do and failed to do.

It's just hard to put that out there. You want to put your spin on it. The bottom line is the troops are coming home. It is something he promised. So you accentuate the positive.

BLITZER: Because everyone's happy that all American troops, all the 38,000 who are still in Iraq right now, will be home for Christmas and New Year's. That's obviously great news, but the fear is -- and a lot of administration officials share this fear -- is that Iran will emerge in the long run as the big strategic winner.

CROWLEY: And that's true. And how long is the long run, because we have heard all along, well, Iran was behind this or that particular attack in Iraq. It's right next door. It's not all that hard to get there. From the very beginning, there has been Iranian influence and you're already hearing this criticism from Republicans and from some others who are saying, whoa, we fought awfully hard, we lost a lot of blood and treasure in Iraq, and this puts it all in jeopardy.

The thing is, you don't know. You don't know. We're also leaving a lot of State Department employees and U.S. contractors in that country without a huge contingent of military to protect them. There are a lot of risks to this. But the president can say with great truth, I told you I was going to end this war and I'm ending it.

BLITZER: I know you have got a lot more we're going to discuss. Don't go too far away, a big interview with the vice president, Joe Biden. I want to talk about that, because he made some news with you. Stand by, Candy.

We're following the breaking news this hour, the dramatic announcement from the president of the United States that all U.S. troops would be out of Iraq by the end of this year. Some of the president's Republican critics are blasting this decision.


BLITZER: And joining us now from the White House, Denis McDonough. He's the president's deputy national security adviser.

Denis, thanks very much for coming in.

DENIS MCDONOUGH, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Always good to be with you, Wolf. Thanks for the opportunity.

BLITZER: All right, we just got a statement, a blistering statement from Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate blasting the president's announcement today.

Let me read it to you, because I want you to respond.

"President Obama's astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women.

The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government. The American people deserve to hear the recommendations that were made by our military commanders in Iraq."

All right, Denis, tough words from Mitt Romney. What were the recommendations of American military commanders as far as keeping a U.S. military presence in Iraq after the end of this year?

MCDONOUGH: Yes, Wolf, I won't be able to respond to the statement from Governor Romney on Iraq.

He's been in a lot of different places on this, so we will just continue to do what we do here, which is to carry out the nation's business and keep the country safe. The bottom line is this, Wolf. As we have looked at this now aggressively over the course of the last couple of years, intensively over the last six or eight months, every indication that we have is that the Iraqi security forces are prepared and ready to handle the security threats that they face most pressingly, most readily, so we feel very good about that.

Mostly however, Wolf, I say this. We feel very proud about the terrific work of our troops, our diplomats through the training, the partnering and the operations they have carried out with those Iraqi security forces, making the situation possible that we see today, which is we are now fulfilling the security agreement that President Bush negotiated and signed in 2008 so that we can have all our troops back out and we can get back to a normal relationship with the Iraqis, the kind of relationship we have with sovereign governments, sovereign countries the world over.

And that's exactly what we're going to do.

BLITZER: But over these past several weeks, if not months, haven't you been trying negotiate a new SOFA agreement, a status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that would have allowed 3,000 or maybe 5,000 U.S. troops to remain? Some military commanders wanted 15,000 troops to remain. And those negotiations failed, right?

MCDONOUGH: Boy, Wolf, it's hard to kind of keep up with all the numbers you have got there. They seem to track with the inaccurate press reports we have also been following over the course of the last several months.

BLITZER: So, give us the true numbers.

MCDONOUGH: Here's what we have done, Wolf, is that over the course of these three years, the president has indicated that he will fulfill our responsibility under the security agreement.

There's something very powerful in the United States doing what it says it will do. The president did that with bin Laden. We have done that with AQAP. We have done that in Libya. And we will stay on the offense where we need to. That's point one.

The other question, though, is, Wolf, is we also said that if the Iraqi government, the Iraqi people ask us to consider a more robust security relationship to include additional people on the ground, we would consider that.

But the president, working with Prime Minister Maliki and those of us who have been going back and forth to Iraq over the last several months, and then obviously our ambassador and our commanding general on the ground have come to the conclusion that the best way to ensure the kind of relationship we need going forward is to fulfill the security agreement and then have the kind of normal diplomatic relationship that includes robust security partnership over the course of the years to come with the Iraqis. That doesn't mean we have to permanently base troops in Iraq. It doesn't mean that we have to maintain troops in Iraq. In fact, because of the troops' good works heretofore, we're in a position where we can have the Iraqis take the situation over for themselves.

That's exactly what we're doing here, Wolf. We feel very good about it. And I will tell you, after Libya, after Yemen, after Pakistan, I think the president has demonstrated that we don't need to have a lot of troops based in foreign countries to be able to carry out the kind of security efforts we need to keep this country safe.

BLITZER: How worried are you, Denis, that a year from now, the big winner in that part of the world will be Iran, that Iran will have a strategic relationship with Iraq and with Syria for that matter and the United States will be a major loser in that part of the world?

MCDONOUGH: Wolf, I think people have been betting on the United States being a loser for a long time and everybody loses that bet.

Here's what I think, Wolf, the United States (AUDIO GAP) the Iranians more isolated, weaker, economically weaker, unable even to live up to its basic international commitments on human rights, on nuclear responsibilities and even, we have learned, Wolf, on their requirements to protect diplomats, very basic requirement within the international community.

So in so far as you're asking me today whether I'm afraid about the Iranians, the answer is no. The United States very strong in the region, implementing this agreement today with the Iraqis out of a shared sense of strength, shared strength -- sense of appreciation, as the president and the prime minister communicated today on their (INAUDIBLE) and so we feel very good about it.

And as I look out and try to handicap whether the United States will be ascendant or the Iranians, that's not a hard question to answer, Wolf. And I know you know the answer to that in your heart of hearts as well.

BLITZER: Have you -- and not necessarily you personally, but has the Obama administration asked Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to stop supporting Bashar al-Assad?

MCDONOUGH: Well, we have a very robust negotiation discussion, relations with the Iraqis across the board, be it on our concerns about Syria, be it on our concerns about Iran or any other matters.

The fact of the situation, Wolf, is that the region is looking now at what works. We have seen obviously the failure of Gadhafi in Libya. We have seen the great hope and change that's coming with Tunisia and Egypt and we see that Nouri al-Maliki can be a symbol for the rest of the region. And we can that President Assad is yesterday's news, just barely holding on in Damascus.

So, at the end of the day, we know what's today, and what's past and we know what the future is. And I think you see a multi-ethnic Iraqi, multi-sectarian Iraq government demonstrating exactly what's possible in the region.

BLITZER: We're out of time. But do you understand the concern that a lot of people have when they see what Nouri al-Maliki and his government is doing in Iraq right now, refusing to have this new status of forces agreement with the United States, supporting Iran in terms of Syria and some other issues? You understand the concern, given the huge investment that America has made in Iraq?

MCDONOUGH: Wolf, I understand the concern because we live it here.

We support -- we take the steps necessary to protect this country, to support our troops on the ground in Iraq. But no matter how many times you assert it, Wolf, the idea that somehow we have not gotten a SOFA that we sought is no more true this third time you've asserted it than the first two times you asserted it.

We made an agreement today over the course of the last several weeks, frankly, with the Iraqis on the kind of relationship we want to see going forward. The kind of secure, strengthened partnership among Americans and Iraqis that will serve as a model of the region for years to come.


BLITZER: Denis McDonough, the president's deputy national security adviser speaking with me from the White House.

We'll have much more on the president's dramatic announcement announcing the end of the war in Iraq while U.S. troops will be home by the end of this year.

Other news we're following, as well. Is Joe Biden open to running for president of the United States down the road? Our own Candy Crowley is just back from an interview with the vice president. Stand by. We've got some information you'll want to hear.

Also, Moammar Gadhafi captured alive, but dead only moments later. Was he, in fact, executed? We have new video to share with you.


BLITZER: The political world is certainly preoccupied right now with the 2012 presidential election, but one key player may be quietly looking ahead to the 2016 White House race. We're talking about the vice president, Joe Biden.

Let's bring back our chief political correspondent, Candy Crowley, who had a chance to interview the vice president yesterday up in New Hampshire. What is going on over here? Why are we talking about 2016?

CROWLEY: Well, the short answer is because I asked. And you know Joe Biden so many years on the Hill, where I covered him, you've covered him. This is not a man who doesn't answer the question.


CROWLEY: You can generally get him to -- and the question was pretty simple. You're going to be 69 years old next year. Do you sometimes look at 2016? Here's what he had to say.


CROWLEY: I wonder, when you look around, if you ever thought, Four more years, 2016. Have you totally ruled that out in your head? You tried two times--


CROWLEY: -- to run for president.

BIDEN: I've not -- my one focus now is getting the president reelected. That is the focus. And I'll make up my mind on that later. I'm in one of the -- probably the best shape I've been in my life. I'm doing pretty well. I'm enjoying what I'm doing. And as long as I do, I'm going to continue to do it. We'll find out -- you know, let's get the president reelected.


BLITZER: That was intriguing, his answer there!


CROWLEY: As I reminded him, that's not exactly no. And he said, No, we'll get to that later. I want to get the president reelected. And clearly, he does love his -- this -- he really does -- he looks great. He sounds great. He seems to be enjoying--

BLITZER: He's been on fire these last few days!

CROWLEY: Yes. He has. He has. He's been a -- he's been a good spokesperson for this administration, out there fighting the good fight. And they will need him, as we know. But this is clearly not a man that has totally given up that dream, even though, obviously, if he's 69 next year, we're talking what, 73, 74--

BLITZER: Well, Ronald Reagan was in his 70s, right?

CROWLEY: Well, not when he -- not when first started running. I think he was, like, 69. But in any case, it would be slightly old. But he -- honestly, this is not a man who you would look and say, Oh, no, he'd be too old. He is fit and trim and out there fighting the good fight for the president.

BLITZER: Yes. He may have to challenge -- have a challenger. Hillary Clinton's going to be what, 68 years old in 2016.


CROWLEY: I think she's ruled it out. She sort of definitely has ruled it out. He's definitely not ruled it out.

BLITZER: Yes. Well, you know, people change their minds.

CROWLEY: They do!


BLITZER: And we've seen a lot of politicians change their minds.

CROWLEY: Yes, we have! We have.

BLITZER: Candy, thanks very much. Sunday morning, "STATE OF THE UNION," 9:00 AM Eastern, Candy Crowley's exclusive with the vice president, Joe Biden. We're looking forward to that, Candy. Thank you.

The latest on Moammar Gadhafi's final moments. Was the dictator executed? We're going live to Libya when we come back.


BLITZER: New details are finally coming out about the final moments of the former Libyan dictator, Moammar, Gadhafi, and they're raising serious questions about possible war crimes. Was his death, in fact, a battlefield execution?

CNN senior international correspondent Dan Rivers visited the site of Gadhafi's death.


DAN RIVERS, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is all that remains of Colonel Gadhafi's convoy as he tried to escape from Sirte. We're told that NATO jets were involved, as well as a U.S. Predator drone using Hellfire missiles. And you get a graphic illustration of what that means on the ground here. These cars have been completely melted in some places, and incinerated with -- you can see the remains of bodies inside. In fact, there are bodies scattered all around here.

Somehow, though, Colonel Gadhafi himself escaped from all this and managed to run over in that direction. And it was here that Colonel Gadhafi was found hiding in this now famous drainway under the highway by NTC troops. All of the people that have come to visit here since have daubed (ph) their name, and lots of people having their photo session.

He was led up this embankment onto the highway, and it's what happened to him when he got up here that is now a bit of a mystery.

The video clearly shows him bloodied and being beaten as he was led away from here. He was at one point on the bonnet of a car. But Human Rights Watch is concerned that the car that took him from here did not get involved in any firefight, as far as they've established, which begs the question, how did he end up getting shot in the head? The NTC is claiming that he was hit in the crossfire as they went down this highway. But Human Rights Watch says that they don't think there was any crossfire after he left this point and are suggesting perhaps that he may have been executed.

And you can see there are plenty of evidence around here of other bodies here, some of which Human Rights Watch claim were also executed. They say there are 95 bodies in this area and at least 10 of them have been shot at point-blank range.


BLITZER: Dan Rivers reporting for us from the scene.

We're going to go back to Libya, speak with Dan, our other reporters. We got this dramatic new video we're going to share with you. We'll take a quick break. Much more of the news coming out of Libya when we come back.


BLITZER: We'll get back to Libya in just a few moment. Also the dramatic announcement from the president that the war in Iraq is about to end.

But there's some other important political news we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM, including Herman Cain. He certainly shot to the top of the polls with this 9-9-9 tax plan. It turns out his math might not necessarily add up. The Republican presidential hopeful says he's dropping a nine at least for some Americans. CNN's Joe Johns is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He's working the story. 9-9-9, all of a sudden, maybe not.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It's very interesting, Wolf. Make no mistake, Herman Cain's announcement today is being called just a tweak, but it represents an enormous change in direction in his so-called tax 9-9-9 policy.


JOHNS: One thing to be said about Herman Cain, he makes eating crow look delicious. After fending off furious attacks on the biggest policy idea of his campaign, Cain finally broke down and admitted that his one size fits all idea to throw out the tax code and replace it with income tax, business tax, and sales tax at nine percent was actually not for everybody.

HERMAN CAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you at or below the poverty level, your plan isn't 9-9-9. It's nine-zero-nine. Say, amen, y'all -- nine-zero-nine. In other words, if you are at or below the poverty level based on family size because there's a different number for each one, then you don't pay that middle nine tax on your income.

JOHNS: Cain also proposed creating economic opportunity zones to help depressed areas and made his announcement using a depressed area in Detroit as a backdrop, all in response to the beating his 9-9-9 plan has taken since he started looking like a top tier candidate in the polls, like at the debate on Tuesday.

RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The facts are, reports are out that 84 percent of Americans would pay more taxes under his plan. That's the analysis.

JOHNS: This is one of the guys who did that analysis. Roberton Williams of the non-partisan Tax Policy Center talking to us via Skype, he says Cain's original proposal would have placed a huge tax burdens on poor people, and the latest tweaks make it better but don't solve the problem entirely.

ROBERTON WILLIAMS, URBAN INSTITUTE: He was very explicit a number of times, saying there would be no special provisions for people at the bottom, no special provisions for the poor. Everyone should pay some tax. Yet he changed that. He said that the poor would be except from income tax. They still have to pay the sales tax.

JOHNS: And that's the other highly controversial piece of the plan, because there's no reason why a national sales tax starting at nine percent couldn't be increased.

MICHELE BACHMANN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And anytime the federal government needs revenue, they dial up the rate.


JOHNS: The other thing that makes Cain's announcement so important today is that he also rolled out a sweeping view of how to revitalize urban areas and economic zones. He's questioning whether minimum wage laws keep people from getting jobs, proposing more tenant control of HUD properties, reviewing local permitting properties and zoning laws, just a whole range of things that are going to get him a lot of attention and controversy, Wolf.

BLITZER: Maybe that's what he's looking for. It certainly hasn't hurt him so far. He's going up in the polls.

JOHNS: That's right. And people listen now.

BLITZER: Joe Johns, thanks very much.

Let's talk about what's going on in our strategy session. Joining us, the Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor James Carville and the Republican strategist, former Michele Bachmann campaign adviser, Ed Rollins. Guys, thanks very much for coming in. Ed, let me start with you. What do you think about a tweak, as they say, in the 9-9-9 plan becoming now the nine-zero-nine plan, at least for poorer Americans?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It doesn't matter because it's not going anywhere. I think it go so battered and bruised in the debate the other night, there wasn't one other Republican on stage that supported it, and they certainly won't support it now that it's a zero. I think it was a plan that was more of a gimmick than it was really thought through as an economy policy, and it's not time for gimmicks. We've had too many gimmicks in the past, some from this administration, some from the Congress. We now need a stable overhaul of our tax system and one that makes sense.

BLITZER: How do you explain, James, that he has do so well, not only in the national polls, but you look at some of the most recent polls in Iowa and South Carolina, he seems to be atop.

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: The guy's not changing plans, just area codes. That's one way to look at it. He's goes from 9-9-9 to nine-zero-nine. This happened with Trump. He shot to the top. Then he didn't go. Then the next thing you know Bachmann shot to the top. Then she didn't go. Then Perry shot to the top. He didn't go. Then we got Herman Cain shooting to the top and he's not going to go either. But it shows the level of dissatisfaction you have with the frontrunner Mitt Romney. That's what this entire thing is indicative of.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the major news of the day right now, the president's dramatic announcement. He shows up in the White House briefing room and says the war in Iraq will be over at the end of this year when he brings home all U.S. troops. Is it wise, though, and I'll start with you, Ed, for the president to open remarks by saying I promised when I was running for president during the campaign I'd bring the troops home from Iraq. Was that simply smart, because he's getting a lot of heat for opening up his remarks with those words?

ROLLINS: I always believe a president who lives up to his promises is doing well.

BLITZER: I asked the question because it makes it sound political as opposed to a substantive national security decision.

ROLLINS: He's going to be charged as politics, but at the end of the day, here's the bottom line. All of us Americans, James, me, anybody else, we want our troops home. We're tired of this war. The critical thing here is, is it going to work? We've now basically held their hands and rebuilt their country and we've turned their government over to themselves. If the Iraqis can't swim, we're not going back to save them.

And I think the bottom line here is as long as this decision works and there's no chaos in the six months after our troops are out of there, it's a good decision. If there's chaos and three months after we're out of there, there's a big request for us to come back, then it's controversial.

BLITZER: James, weigh in.

ROLLINS: I for one applaud the decision.


CARVILLE: He kept the campaign promise. I guess there nothing wrong with pointing that out. If it's chaos, we're not going back. We're leaving. I don't know why we're waiting to the end of the year. They're in there with Iran helping Syria. This thing is just a big mess.

And hopefully they turn into some Garden of Eden democracy in the Middle East, but even if that fails, we're not going back to Iraq. Bob Gates we'll never get involved in another land war in the Middle East. And I think -- he's the Republican secretary of defense. I suspect he knows more than me. But we're done. We're out of there.

BLITZER: Because the nightmare scenario, James, as you know, forget about politics right now. The nightmare scenario is that this enormous sacrifice that America made in Iraq in terms of blood and treasure could be for naught if the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki totally aligns itself with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran and Bashar al Assad in Syria.

CARVILLE: Aren't they doing that now? It's my understanding that they're helping Iran help Assad stay in power.

BLITZER: They certainly aligned themselves on the Syrian issue. It's, I mean, people are saying, why did the United States spend almost nine years in Iraq if this is going to be the end result?

ROLLINS: Well, this may be the end result if we stay there another six months or a year. I think the tragedy of this whole thing is it was ill thought through when we first started it. A lot of Americans have paid a heavy price. I think our military has been superb through it all. It's been Republican and Democrat, both administrations have stayed there. We didn't have necessarily good partners. I think at the end of the day if it becomes chaotic and not a good place, Iraqis, it's their fault, not our fault.

BLITZER: Let me change subjects, because this really caught my attention. A new book coming out from a "Washington Post" reporter entitled "Ten Letters." let me read an excerpt from the book, and they we'll discuss.

"A few times during his presidency Obama admitted he had written a personal check or made a phone call on the writer's behalf, believing that it was his only way to ensure a fast result. "It's not something I should advertise, but it has happened." Many other times he had forwarded letters to government agencies or cabinet secretaries after attaching a standard handwritten note that read "Can you please take care of this?"

This reporter referring to 10 letters the president reads every night from individuals who write the White House with their own personal stories, their own personal appeals. What do you make of this, James, this revelation that on occasion he has written a personal check to an individual that seems in great need?

CARVILLE: He's a human being. I mean, he's a terrific father, by anybody's definition. And I think it's nice that he reads these letters and I guess he's overcome with tragedy that's happening to people out here. I'm sure to some extent he wishes he'd do more and it's probably somewhat of a human reaction to do something like that.

In a huge sense, I guess it's not going to make much difference, but at least to the person who gets the letter back, a small check, it might make a little difference and maybe helps them feel better. I'm sure that he's not the most emotive guy in public ever, but I'm sure that he feels this and he understands the pain that people are going through. And it's sort of nice to know that me spends time reading these 10 letters.

BLITZER: It certainly is. What do you think, Ed?

ROLLINS: Ronald Reagan, the president I worked for, he did the same, similar. He read a lot of letters. He sometimes made personal contributions. I think this guy used to be a community organizer. He took care of people. I think it's one of the nicer things I've heard about him, and this is one time I won't take issue with any of his policies. This is a nice gesture.

CARVILLE: I'm glad to know that President Reagan read those letters, too. Like President Bush would write a letter to parents of fallen soldiers. I applaud all of that.

BLITZER: We are showing a picture to the viewers of the president reading some of those letters. He has made that point. He reads 10 letters a day from individuals, and he's moved by what he reads, and you can clearly see that on his face right there. All right, guys, thanks very much.

CARVILLE: Thank you.

BLITZER: Moammar Gadhafi's final moments caught by amateur video. Was the dictator executed? We're examining the brand new tapes. Stay with us.


BLITZER: More now to the growing controversy surrounding the death of Moammar Gadhafi. The video you're about to watch is very graphic and disturbing.

It shows the chaotic moments surrounding Gadhafi's capture by fighters from the new Libyan regime. Once again, this video may not be appropriate for many viewers. Here's CNN's Tim Lister.


TIM LISTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the last chaotic minutes of Moammar Gadhafi's life after he's discovered cowering in a drain in Sirte. Nearly obtained cell phone video captures the sudden euphoria of anti-Gadhafi fighters as they realized who've they've caught.

Film him, film him, explains one fighter. With a head wound streaming blood, Gadhafi seems dazed and frightened, but is clearly conscious. In another video of the scene obtained by CNN, a gun is pointed at Gadhafi's head. Shame on you, you're sinning, you're sinning, Gadhafi says as he moves his right hand.

A fight retorts, you don't know about sin. A crowd gathers, Gadhafi is pushed, shoved and shaken and slapped at least once. The audio on one video suggests a debate among the fighters about what to do with him.

Several times a fighter saying we want him alive then someone tells Gadhafi, these are Misrata people. Fighters from Misrata have played a big part in the assault on Sirte. After his capture, some of the fighters explain how they found Gadhafi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Then we went to the other side and four or five ran out from under the road and surrendered. One of them told us that Gadhafi was inside and wounded. When we entered the home, I saw his bushy head and I jumped on him immediately.

Then all the fighters came and surrounded him. When we captured came, we found this handgun with him and the golden gun in a bag.

LISTER: Still, far from clear what happened to Gadhafi once he was taken from the scene. Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch tells CNN's Dan Rivers it's very unlikely that he died in crossfire as the Transitional National Council first claimed.

PETER BOUCKAERT, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: It's very clear when Moammar Gadhafi was removed from the area here where he was captured, he did not have a gunshot wound to the head. If he died from a gunshot to the head, it happened after he was captured.

LISTER: Later video shows Gadhafi's body in a cold storage unit in Misrata. There appears to be a gunshot wound to his left temple. The commander in charge of guarding his body promises he will be washed, respected and buried in a Muslim cemetery, but as yet, there seems no agreement on where and when. Tim Lister, CNN, Atlanta.


BLITZER: In our next hour, we're going to be speaking with a reporter who went there and saw what was going on where Gadhafi's body is right now. We'll speak with her from Tripoli when we come back. Later here in THE SITUATION ROOM, but that's very, very grizzly video. Much more on this story coming up as well.

Meanwhile, a $500 million government loan to an electric car company. Here's the problem though. Their only factory is in Finland. Why it's drawing comparisons now to the Solyndra scandal. Stand by. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: It might, repeat, might just be another Solyndra in the making. That's what some of the critics are charging. The Obama administration is coming under fire for hundreds of millions of dollars in loans it made to electric car makers.

Lisa Sylvester has been investigating the story for us. So Lisa, what is going on?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is actually a loan program that originally started under the Bush administration, but it really picked up after President Obama took office. One billion dollars in loans has gone to two electric vehicle manufacturers.

But like many start-ups, the companies have been losing money and that's causing some to draw comparisons to another green firm that went bankrupt, Solyndra, which has cost taxpayers half a billion dollars.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): Beautiful, sleek, sexy and energy efficient. The Karma by Fisker Automotive isn't cheap though with a price tag of $95,000. The Obama administration gave Fisker Automotive a $529 million taxpayer funded loan to help the startup company.

Another electric vehicle maker, Tesla, received a similar $465 million loan. The idea is to create jobs. With Tesla revamping an abandoned GM plant in California and Fisker planning to assemble it's new Nina electric vehicle in Delaware employing potentially 2,500 workers.

DAVID SANDALOW, DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY: It's important to the American people. That is a growing global market. Electric vehicles are the future. The only question is how soon.

SYLVESTER: But Fisker is behind production schedule and the company's only factory up in running is not in the U.S., it's in Finland. Although the Obama administration is adamant no federal dollars were used for that overseas plant.

And since Tesla is inception, the company has had steep losses more than $400 million according to its SEC filings.

(on camera): Is it possible that these companies might turn out to be another Solyndra?

SANDY JOHNSON, CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY: We put that question directly to the head of Fisker Automotive and he said no, absolutely not. But the experts that we talked to believe it could indeed be and that the auto industry will certainly have its own version of Solyndra because the Obama administration is investing tens of billions of dollars in these companies.

SYLVESTER (voice-over): The U.S. Department of Energy stands by its advanced technology vehicles manufacturing loan program noting that Tesla has added over 1,000 new jobs in the last three years.

And that Fisker's California headquarters continues to ramp up employment. Still, Republicans worry electric vehicle companies could follow the pattern of Solyndra, the now bankrupt California company.

REPRESENTATIVE CLIFF STEARNS (R), FLORIDA: The taxpayers are funding these enterprises and then of course, we see all these investors in these enterprises that are strong, wealthy supporters of the administration during the last election.


SYLVESTER: Now, Fisker Automotive told CNN that the company is politically neutral and that with the help of the Department of Energy loan, Fisker will be quote, "a profitable, high-tech, American car company." We reached out to Tesla for comment, but we did not hear back from them, Wolf.

BLITZER: Surprising they haven't responded, but why didn't Fisker just open up a plant in the United States as opposed to this plant in Finland?

SYLVESTER: You know, that's one of the questions is because one reason is they say that they didn't have the capability. I mean, what they are specializing in are these high-end cars that cost about $100,000 per vehicle.

And they said that they just didn't have the capability to start here. Their plan is to eventually manufacture some of these vehicles out of Delaware, but that hasn't happened yet. And there are some people who skeptical that might be difficult for them to ramp up there.

BLITZER: Here's why I never understand. These companies have nothing to hide. Why can't they at least issue a statement instead of just avoiding any comment at all?

SYLVESTER: Well, Fisker did give us a statement. Tesla, yes, we're still waiting. We haven't heard back.

BLITZER: They've got a Public Relations Department. They should give us a piece of paper, send us an e-mail, tweet, anything. they haven't done anything.

SYLVESTER: No, we're still waiting.

BLITZER: They will after they heard this thing. Thanks very much.>

It's the sticking point bringing about an abrupt end to the war in Iraq. In our next hour, we're going in depth on the question of immunity and why it's so important to the Pentagon.

Plus, forensics experts are now weighing in on whether Moammar Gadhafi was executed. The latest on the growing controversy. We have a brand new report. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Hillary Clinton is talking to tough to a key U.S. ally. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that. Some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Lisa, what's going on?


Well, in Pakistan, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is urging officials to deny safe havens to terrorists. The U.S. believes terrorists within Pakistan have been launching attacks in Afghanistan.

And the U.S. has also accused Pakistan's top spy agency of helping the terrorists. Clinton met with Pakistan's president and foreign minister. She also held a town hall with members of the public.

And global warming is real at least according to a new independent study. Researchers examined 1.6 billion weather reports from nearly 40,000 weather stations. They found reliable evidence of a rise in average world land temperatures of nearly two degrees Fahrenheit since the 1950s. The study also disputes several claims made by climate skeptics.

Criminal gang membership is up by as much as 40 percent in the United States in the past three years. A new FBI report estimates there are 1.4 million gang members. This includes more than 33,000 gangs. The largest numbers of gang members are in southern California, Arizona and Chicago. Officials point out that this huge spike could be due in part to better reporting by law enforcement.

And Texas prisoners are going to be losing their lunch. In an effort to save money, prisons have cut back to two meals on weekends, just brunch and dinner. The state is trying to save nearly $3 million.

Officials are insisting the nutritional value is the same as what prisoners would get in three meals, but could it say Texas should release low level offenders instead of cutting out lunch so no lunch on the weekends anymore in Texas -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lisa, thank you.