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State of the Union

Interview with NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman; Interview with Congressman Rogers; Interview with General Martin Dempsey

Aired July 07, 2013 - 09:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Candy Crowley and this is State of the Union. We are following two unfolding stories today. First, the dramatic crash of Asiana flight 214 at the San Francisco International Airport. Investigators arrived just a few short hours ago and are starting to piece together why the Boeing 777 crashed. The flight data recorders have been recovered. They are on their way back to Washington, D.C. for analysis.

And half a world away, that growing turmoil in Egypt, a country long considered a key to Middle East stability and now a country divided after the military ouster of its democratic government Islamic government. We are expecting more demonstrations and clashes today between supporters of former President Morsy and those who support a more secular government.

First to our top story, the crash of Asiana flight 214 at San Francisco International Airport. 307 passengers and crew aboard that flight which started in Shanghai, connected in Seoul and came to San Francisco. The airline confirmed two teenage girls from China are dead. 182 people were taken to area hospitals with injuries ranging from critical to minor. Remarkably the rest, 123 passengers and crew, were unharmed.

Eyewitnesses say the plane was coming in dangerously low and clipped a sea wall at the end of the runway, shearing off its tale and then skidding to a stop and catching on fire.


BENJAMIN LEVY, FLIGHT 214 CRASH VICTIM: It sounded like we were about to land. The nose of the plane as you know, it goes up a little bit. And then we full throttles, start hitting, hitting hard. And then we felt like we were going up again, so that's why I said we felt like we were going to -- he was going to pull one of those almost miss landing and go back up. And it didn't happen, we just crashed back.

So, as I say, if we flipped, none of us would be here to talk about it.


CROWLEY: An official investigation of what happened will take months, if not years. We want to go first to CNN's Miguel Marquez. He's at San Francisco International Airport. Miguel, what do we now know pending information from the investigation of the flight recorder and other things, which is now on the way back to D.C., what do we know that can be considered facts that will contribute to our understanding?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, a couple of important data points. passengers on that plane say that they heard those engines rev up just before it hit that embankment. The CEO of Asiana Airlines says that there was no engine problems that he knows of, there was no callout to the passengers to brace or any emergency.

We also know that SFO is under construction and the instrument landing system, or the ILS as they call it, was out of service for this particular runway.

Now the Boeing 777 has a redundant system that can be used in this case. There's also the visual flight rules were in effect. And so they also have the old-school red light, white light landing system that pilots can actually look off into the distance and see whether or not they're too high or too low.

Clearly that the glide path into SFO was wrong and that will be where a lot of this centers on -- Candy.

CROWLEY: And certainly we're getting a lot more sort of eyewitness information from the survivors and rescue crews. What have we learned since last we spoke?

MARQUEZ: Yeah, the two that were killed were found on the runway, we understand. Some of the survivors were found in the water, amazingly enough. And when that plane crashed, some of the force of that pushed seats together, trapped individuals in their seats. The flight crew asked emergency responder as they arrived at the plane for their knives so they could cut passengers free and get everybody out. Absolutely stunning.

CROWLEY: Amazing stories that we're only now just learning. Thanks so much. CNN's Miguel Marquez who is at the International Airport.

We will get to the NTSB chairman in just a moment, but I want to bring in our CNN senior international correspondent Richard Quest.

Richard, I know you've been looking at the flight tracking data and you've learned more about the speed and the altitude of the plane just before the crash, which all of the passengers what do you know?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, if we look at the profile of the descent that Miguel was just talking about there, what we are now learning, Candy, is we know how, we don't know why. This plane was descending a mile or two out when it should have been much shallower, it was still descending at 1,000 -- 900 to 1,000 feet per minute. Way, way more steeply than one would have expected.

The speed was bleeding off extremely fast. It's down at 125, it goes down as low as 109 at one particular point -- knots. So we know that this was too steep. We know it was too slow. And if you look at the data, like at the last minute, you do actually see the power going back on again as he tries to take the plane back up again.

But we don't know why.

We know, for instance, that the San Francisco airport on the evening, the instrument landing system was inoperable for runway 28 left. But we know that the navigation lights, the so-called poppy lights, were working on the left of the runway. So there was plenty of reason for him to know he was either too low or too high. And that's going to be where the focus of this investigation will be.

Why was this dependent profile so unorthodox? Was there a reason that we don't know about, which obviously the investigation will get to grips with. That's going to be what it's all about.

This is too steep, it was too slow.

CROWLEY: OK, Richard Quest, thank you so much for that new information.

We are looking, I want to tell our viewers, that live pictures of what is left of that plane. And this now, I want to bring in the chairman of the NTSB. She's in San Francisco now, Deborah Hersman. Thank you so much for joining us.

I know that you will look at everything. But I also know that when investigators get on the scene, some things catch their attention. What has caught your attention?

HERSMAN: Well, you know, when we went out there last night and took a look at the aircraft, I will tell you, you can see the devastation from the outside of the aircraft -- the burn through, the damage to the external fuselage. But what you can't see is the damage internally and that is really striking. And so I think when we look at this accident, we're very thankful that we didn't have more fatalities and serious injuries and we had so many survivors. It's really very, very good news as far as a survivable accidents, which many accidents are.

CROWLEY: And was it miraculous or was it the result of something that so many did survive?

HERSMAN: You know, I would say much of this is the result of the hard work of the aviation community taking accidents, taking lessons learned and plowing them back in, whether it's the design of aircraft or training of crew members and even passengers. And we can't stress this enough, many accidents are survivable. It's about knowing where those exits are and listening to the flight crew in an emergency situation, very important.

CROWLEY: And let me ask you, I hope you heard our Richard Quest who reported that the flight data that he has seen shows a plane that it coming in too steep, the angle of it, and too slowly for that runway. What does that tell you?

HERSMAN: Well, you know, we're going to have to corroborate a lot of information -- the radar data, the ATC information, and the flight data recorder parameters and also interview the pilots, which we hoped to do in the coming days. It's really important to put all of the pieces of the puzzle together, to not just understand what happened, but understand why it happened so we can prevent accidents like this from occurring in the future.

CROWLEY: Sure. I can understand that it would be less important that the pilot may have been come in at too steep a angle and that too slow of a pace And you need to know why that is so?


And you know what, stabilized approaches have long been a concern, safety concern for the aviation community. We see a lot of runway crashes, either landing short or landing long, runway overruns, runway excursions. A very significant threat in the aviation environment. We want to understand what was going on with this crew and this air plane so we can learn from it.

CROWLEY: On this plane and on many planes, are there not redundant systems that would have flashed -- if everything were working well that would have flashed and said too steep, too slow? Wouldn't there have been -- would that have been in place?

HERSMAN: Well, you know, there are a lot of systems that help support the pilots as they come into airports especially busy commercial airports like this one at San Francisco. There has already been a discussion about that glide scope being out of service. But there are a number of other tools available to the pilots, some less sophisticated like the lights, the precision approach lights that they were talking about that show you if you are too high or too low coming in, but also some things that are more technologically advanced, things on the airplane that can give you GPS information.

CROWLEY: So something -- if the plane were working correctly would have told him that the path was too steep and too slow, if indeed that's the case?

HERSMAN: Well, I know a lot of this is not necessarily about the plane telling them, it's also about the pilot's recognition of the circumstances and what's going on. And so for them to be able to assess what's happening and make the right inputs to make sure they're in a safe situation, that's what we expect from pilots. We want to understand what happened in this situation.

CROWLEY: Will you be talking to the pilots today?

HERSMAN: We hope to interview the pilots in the coming days. Of course after an event like this, our first concern is for people's health and well-being. We have talked to law enforcement officials who spoke to the pilots last night. And we hope to interview them soon.

CROWLEY: OK. NTSB chairman, we thank you so much Deborah Hersman. Hope to be back to you throughout the week.

We will continue to follow the story throughout this morning. But when we return, protests in Egypt have left 30 dead and injured another 1,400 since Wednesday turmoil. CNN's Christiane Amanpour and Fareed Zakaria join me next.


CROWLEY: Welcome back to State of the Union.

On the right side of your screen, you are looking at live pictures of the Asiana flight that crashed yesterday at San Francisco International. We are continuing to watch this story for you for any new developments in it as we go throughout the day and indeed throughout next week.

Right now, though, we want to turn to Egypt where throughout the day, we are expecting more demonstrations. Supporters of deposed Muslim Brotherhood president Morsi want him back in power. Those opposed to him plan to show up to, quote, "finalize their great victory."

President Obama spoke again Saturday with his national security council. The White House issuing a statement that said the United States is not aligned with and does not support any particular Egyptian political party or group. The United States categorically rejects the false claims propagated by some in Egypt that we are working with specific political parties or movements to dictate how Egypt's transition should proceed.

To sort out all the dynamics of this. I am joined by Fareed Zakaria whose program follows this one, and Christiane Amanpour, CNN's chief international correspondent.

Thank you both for being here.

Christiane, first to you, there's this big question, should the U.S. cut off aid because our law says if there's a coup of a democratically elected leader you have to cut all aid? Or should the U.S. continue to give aid, particularly to the Egyptian military, as a way to leverage what's going on now?

Some have suggested maybe that's a way to get Morsi sort of out of custody, that the U.S. could use it as leverage. What do you think?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, first of all, you know the U.S. is not calling it a coup yet. And you've spoken to General Dempsey and others and they're twisting themselves into knot not to call it a coup for precisely the same reason that you are saying.

Look, the United States has a huge amount of leverage now, billions of dollars worth of leverage, with the people who are in power. Let's not mistake who is in power it is the Egyptian military, which receives billions of dollars from the U.S. So what is the agenda here. The agenda is to get back to some kind of civilian democratic rule ASAP. Because this was Egypt's first ever free and fairly democratically elected president who has been toppled by the military.

So, what the U.S. has to do is make sure that very, very quickly democracy is restored in all its fashions: new elections, presidential parliamentary, new constitution and get it back on track. Because otherwise it's going to look extremely bad, not just for the U.S. but for the region.

Where does democracy lead if in two seconds you can just overthrow it if you don't like it?

CROWLEY: Well, exactly.

Fareed, let me ask you, we have Mohamed ElBaradei who certainly earlier was seen as kind of the leader of the liberals and the young folks and the secularists. And there was this big thing that he was going to become the interim prime minister and then suddenly he didn't. What happened?

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: We don't know yet. But Sandy, it's a classic example. There's a group of people that were opposed to Morsi and they ranged from secularists and moderates and liberals to other Islamic parties, even far right Islamic parties if you will. Well, once they got rid of Morsi, it turned out they didn't agree on anything else. And so when it came time to appoint the new prime minister, they looked at Mohamed ElBaradei and the Islamists, the political Islamists said wait a minute, this guy is a liberal, he's a moderate. And those tensions within this coalition that was opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood are reflecting themselves and representing themselves.

This is the part of the problem with this kind of a coup, which is you think it's going to be surgical and soft and pro-democratic and yet they're jailing political opposition, they're shutting down the media, they're shutting down television stations.

So Christiane is right, the only way I think the United States can proceed is to say, look, you've got two months and you've got to do three things. You've got to stop jailing the political opposition and stop cracking down on the media, you've got to hold new elections, presidential and parliamentary, and you've got to start a new construction writing process that is truly inclusive, otherwise this is a military coup.

CROWLEY: I want to read you something that struck me from a Tom Friedman column in New York Times on Thursday. In part, he wrote, "the Obama administration was largely a spectator to all of this," meaning the Morsi one year administration. "The Muslim Brotherhood kept Washington at bay by buying it off with the same old currency that Mubarak used -- arrest the worst jihadi terrorists on America's most wanted list and don't hassle Israel and the American will let you do whatever you want to your own people." Do you think looking at the U.S.-Egyptian relationship that the U.S. was too hands off as it watched the Morsi government back away from what folks thought they were promised, which was an inclusive government and democracy?

ZAKARIA: I don't think so, Candy. I think that at the event day this year -- maybe Christiane and I disagree a little bit -- I don't think we have as much leverage as people make it out.

Look, we were trying to prevent this coup. The ambassador, the U.S. ambassador publicly spoke out against the idea of a coup and military did it anyway, despite all the aid that they get from us.

The reality is this, this was a democratically elected government. How could the United States not have worked with the democratically elected government? Remember, it wasn't just elected once. The Muslim Brotherhood, its Freedom and Justice Party, won the presidential elections, they won the parliamentary elections, and they put forward a constitution that was ratified by I think 64 percent of the Egyptian people.

So, three times they were affirmed in the polls.

The argument that the United States should have been actively undermining a government that had three mandates from the people strikes me as bizarre. They did criticize it when it overreached, but, you know, let's not exaggerate what the United States can do.

Egyptians have fantasizes that America controls everything. I don't think Americans need to have those fantasizes.

CROWLEY: Christiane, the last word is yours, so go ahead and disagree with him if you want.

AMANPOUR: Well, no. I it's not about agreeing or disagreeing, I think we really need to figure out which way is going to be the most constructive way forward. The U.S., this administration, has been criticized for way too hands off approach to the entire Middle East, whether it's Syria, whether it's the Middle East peace process, whether it's the Arab spring.

And obviously, you know, since Camp David there is structured aid to the Egyptian military.

But clearly there wasn't enough involvement with the political process. And so it's true that when Morsi was over authoritarian, over autocratic, you know, a lot more pressure could have been put on and perhaps should have been put on to make sure he was being democratic.

But I think, you know, right now, what you have is a really Orwellian situation. Basically the conservative Muslim Brotherhood Islamist Party has been turfed out. Will it go underground again? Will it be excluded from the political party? Are we going to see again a future where it's the military and whoever else against the Muslim Brotherhood? What you have in its place is the second most powerful bloc in Egypt is the Nour Party, the salafists, the hardliners, Wahabis. We don't appreciate their politics or their religion and they are calling the shots today.

What you want is a more secular, more liberal, more moderate civilian democracy. Can the opposition do that? Can it get itself together and have some kind of unity, make some kind of party that actually is able to perform? That's going to be the huge challenge going forward.

And then the other thing I think is really important and maybe you can figure this out with all your interviews stateside, what did the Obama administration know and when did it know it? Mohamed Morsi's party was in touch with Susan Rice. The liberals, Mohamed ElBaradei was in touch with John Kerry before this.

It's really interesting to know what they knew and when did they know it before this happened, Candy.

CROWLEY: I shall do my best.

Christiane Amanpour, host of Amanpour and also CNN's chief international correspondent, and Fareed Zakaria, who has Fareed Zakaria GPS at the top of the hour. Thank you both.

When we return, the man with no country gets some options which could put him in America's backyard. House intelligence committee Mike Rogers joins us next to discuss NSA leaker Edward Snowden and the upheaval in Egypt.


CROWLEY: So that is San Francisco airport brought to you by KGO out there. We are continuing to monitor the developments. This is now an investigation. And of course about the healing of the passengers who did survive and most of them did, two dead in that crash. The rest, some of them in the hospital, some of them walked away. Amazing.

We are getting new information about that flight data recorder from the San Francisco crash. Rene Marsh is here with the latest -- Rene.


Well, earlier this morning we told you that those flight recorders were on the way here to Washington, D.C. Now we have confirmed that they are now at the National Transportation Safety Board's lab here in Washington, D.C. We're told they're in good shape. So they will begin the process of analyzing the information on these flight recorders.

We should get a preliminary readout on the information on these recorders. That could happen this afternoon. Lots of critical information that could piece together, paint the picture of what happened in those final moments before that crash landing -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Rene, I know you are hanging out for us and following every step of this investigation. We will be back with you, thanks.

I'm joined now by Congressman Mike Rogers. He is chairman of the House intelligence committee.

Mr. Chairman, thank you for joining us. I do want to talk to you about Edward Snowden and his options, but first I want to pick up on things that I talked about earlier with Christiane Amanpour and Fareed Zakaria.

And one of the things both of them said was this is a really good time for the U.S. to exert some of its influence. And by influence, I think sometimes we think the money that we give them. Do you think that the U.S. should stop playing games and call a coup a coup? Or do you think the U.S. should continue giving aid to the Egyptian military and Egypt in general?

ROGERS: Well, I think the irony of us not following the law after the Egyptian crisis would be too much to handle. I do believe the law is very clear on this. So, what I think what the president needs to do -- and I do think the Egyptian military is the one stable factor there. They were great and did not overreact during the Mubarak overthrow. And in this particular case, I think they were reacting to the calls of the secularists and more liberal factions and moderate factions in Egypt. So, they should, I think, continue to be rewarded for that type of activity. And it is the one cultural structure stabilizing force in Egypt right now.

However, I think the president needs to come to congress. I would not try to circumvent the law by calling this something that it is not. Clearly, the Muslim Brotherhood was using the instruments of democracy to try to islamasize -- and some would call it there equantisize (ph), which means the Brotherhood going through all of the agencies of the government and try and take over.

So, again, a lot going on. I think we should do this the legal way. I think congress should -- excuse me, the president should come back to congress and then we can go through...

CROWLEY: And ask for an exception to the law? So you...

ROGERS: I would.

CROWLEY: You think we should still give money to Egypt?

Right, so you think we should give money to Egypt, but now think that's against the law?

ROGERS: I think the law is very clear on this. And I think we ought to be honest with ourselves.

And I don't think that skirting the law here is the right thing to do. The president should come to congress and make the case. I think there's a great case to be made here, Candy, that we should continue to support the military, the one stabilizing force in Egypt that I think can temper down the political feuding that you're seeing going on now. And then help a process that will allow for more multiple factions of parties and beliefs to participate.

ROGERS: The last time, I think got us the Muslim Brotherhood, was as I said, has used democracy to undo freedoms in Egypt. That's why we are where we are today. Well, I think that there's a better way to do this. If you have a longer period and allow these parties to get established, an interim government, a march toward true democracy, I think we can play that role. But again I think the president needs to come to Congress to make the case, because I do believe the law is very clear on this.

CROWLEY: What's the danger here? Because already we are seeing some action by al Qaeda operatives or what are thought to be al Qaeda operatives along the border which had been quite for awhile. It's not immediately clear that it's connected to what's going on in Egypt. But what are you most worried about when you look at the totality of what you know as chairman of the Intelligence Committee?

ROGERS: Well you know the Sinai has been giving us all trouble. The Egyptian -- Al-Sisi as a matter of fact has been very good, the defense minister, about allowing the operations in the Sinai to try to curb jihadist's activity there which is destabilizing the region certainly to Israel. One concern is that their focus is away from that and that would allow the Sinai to continue to be destabilize and allow al Qaeda and others to continue causing trouble there.


ROGERS: The second part of this is during the Morsy government we've had a tremendous amount of Egyptians show up in excuse me Syria for the fight there. And so one of the things that was concerning is, they're going to get trained, they're going to have combat tested people who are going to want to eventually come back to Egypt. And that would prove to be a very destabilizing effort as well. So you've got multiple layers of security threat here the military has going to have to deal with. And I argue the United States needs to step up today and play a more leadership role in at least lining up what a Democracy really looks like and not allowing the Muslim brotherhood to take away freedoms in the name of democracy.

CROWLEY: Let me turn you to Edward Snowden. He has been in the Moscow airport now for two weeks, he is a man without passport, without travel documents. Now Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua they have all stepped up and said, hey, he can come here. What do you make of those offers?

ROGERS: Well, these are governments that are obviously are antagonistic to the United States. They have continued to make inflammatory statements. Venezuela under Chavez led this charge. He was using his influence in places like Ecuador and Bolivia and other places to try to get an anti-American sentiment in both Central and South America. So you see more of this. So I think the Chinese got everything they needed they need out of Snowden. The Russians have now gotten everything they need out of Snowden. And the next I think -- chapter in this book is somewhere in the Latin America one of these countries who is antagonistic to the United States, who is an adversary to the United States, using this as a public relations tool...


ROGERS: ... to continue to fan the flames of anti-Americanism.

CROWLEY: Is it serious, though, do you think? Since he has no paper --

ROGERS: I do think it's serious.

CROWLEY: You think they truly will take him and perhaps give him papers or the passport he needs to get there?

ROGERS: I absolutely do.


ROGERS: I'm sure they're working on this. And this is why we should be -- take Putin for a grain of salt in this particular case. If he were serious, he would send Mr. Snowden back to the United States. He's not doing that. He's allowing this other game to play out I really think to try to help poke the U.S. in the eye and -- so here you go. I mean he is on this government's who oppress their people tour trying to -- he has done Russia now he'll probably do Venezuela and maybe Ecuador. But I do think the United States needs to take actions on this. We shouldn't just allow this to happen and shrug it off. This is serious business. Those Latin American companies enjoy certain trade benefits with the United States. We ought to look all of that to send a very clear message that we won't put up with this kind of behavior.

CROWLEY: Congressman Rogers, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, thanks for joining us.

When we come back, the late latest of what happened in those last seconds of flight 214.


CROWLEY: Once again, that is a live picture of the crash site and what is left of that plane that crashed yesterday at San Francisco International Airport , that from KGO. Of the 307 passengers and crew aboard Asiana Flight 214, 305 survived that crash. One hundred eighty-two people were brought to 11 Bay area hospitals, some with severe injuries. But another 123 walked away from the wreckage uninjured. We want to go to Sara Sidner who is at San Francisco General Hospital. Sara, the local hospitals took on a lot of unexpected patients yesterday. What kind of injuries have they treated? Were they ready for this?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Definitely they were ready for this. And they did call an extra staff here at San Francisco General. This is the only level I trauma center that services about a million people. The closest one to the airport.

About 50 plus patients were brought here. 26 children, 27 adults. The injuries sort of ranging from spinal cord injuries, internal injuries to bruises and contusions. And those people obviously let go. Six people we know have been released from this hospital but there are six patients still in critical condition here, including one child, Candy.

CROWLEY: And we learned of course of the tragic death of two teenage girls that were on board. Have we learned anything about other survivors that were in there where they came from? Any details about them?

SIDNER: Yes. We can tell you a little bit about the two girls, both 16 year olds, both students, both from China. The San Francisco fire chief said they found those two girls, two bodies on the runway actually. So of course the investigation going on there. But we also know that there were quite a number of students and teachers on the flight that were from China who were heading to a basically a summer school. And so a lot of parents are very worried. But we know that they have survived. Only two people have been killed, certainly those families very upset and our prayers are with them today, Candy.

CROWLEY: Absolutely, 16-year-olds, very young. Sara Sidner, thank you so much. We're going to continue to follow the story throughout the morning. But when we return, my exclusive interview with the nations top military man, Joint Chiefs chairman, General Martin Dempsey.


CROWLEY: That is what is left of flight 214, which came in for a crash landing yesterday at San Francisco international airport. That courtesy of KGO. The flight data recorders have now arrived at the NTSB lab in Washington, D.C. A spokesman for the NTSB has just told CNN that the flight recorders look to be externally in good shape. Investigators have already started downloading material.

Moving on and heading into the Fourth of July holiday this week, I had the chance to talk with the nation's top military man, Joint Chiefs chairman, Gen. Martin Dempsey. I began our wide dash ranging conversation talking about something he wanted to talk about, how this country will view its newest generation of warriors.


GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: The American people have been extraordinary in their appreciation for what the military has done over the past decade. But after every conflict, there's a period of time when the nation kind of decides what it will think of the veterans of that conflict. It happened after World War II, the greatest generation. I think you would agree after Vietnam there was -- the military was held in far less esteem. After desert storm, 96- hour conflict. We were embraced as conquering heroes of the sort. And I think now is the time for us to begin thinking and discussing what is it that we - what imagines that we want to have of this generation's men and women who serve. So I think about it a lot.

CROWLEY: Do you worry at all about what that imaginary will be in a decade or so?

DEMPSEY: Well for one thing, if I do have a worry, you keep trying to talk me into worrying.

CROWLEY: I'm sorry. I don't --

DEMPSEY: There's plenty to worry about. But it's that this generation of veterans may be seen as somehow victims. You know, because there is a great many things that have manifested themselves, post traumatic stress syndrome, rising rates of suicide, rising divorce rates, all of which we have to address. Sexual assault. All of which we have to address. Some of which are related to the experiences and tenures of conflict. And some of which are we just find ourselves in one of those cycles of history when we've become a little bit less disciplined, I think, than we need to be. So I don't want to have this generation's young men and women, the warriors, seen as victims somehow. This conflict has been a source of strength as well for many, many veterans. And I would like the American people to give veterans the opportunity, not as a handout, but rather to recognize what they might bring to the workplace, what they might bring to their communities. So I want it to be a positive image. But there's moments when it feels as though it's slipping to a negative image.

CROWLEY: You do have - I can't remember like for a couple of years now we've been reporting that same sentence (ph), there were more suicides among veterans than there were deaths in war last year. So how do you find the balance? Because there is help needed.

DEMPSEY: Well, there's -- any number of things we're doing. We do outreach. We look for public, private partnerships. There is any number of organizations helping us. We're working closer than we've ever worked with the veteran's administration so that transition from active service to the roles of the veteran's administration is done much more seamlessly than it is today. It's some combination of that I think.

CROWLEY: But you worry about the imagery because you think that it makes people think these are damaged goods here.

DEMPSEY: Well either damaged goods or someone who needs a handout. They don't need a handout they need a hand shake. And they need - they don't need to be given something. All they need to be given is an opportunity. And then we'll all see how powerful they are.

CROWLEY: When you look at what's going on on the streets of Egypt and has been for the past several days, what is the U.S.'s stake in that?

DEMPSEY: Well at one level our stake is we probably have 60,000 or so dual-American Egyptian citizens in Egypt and we have several hundred official American citizens serving in Egypt. But more broadly - look, Egypt is a great country. It's a cornerstone of the Middle East. It has got an incredible history and culture. And the world needs Egypt to be stable.

CROWLEY: But they don't want their government in anymore.

DEMPSEY: Well, you know, again that's for them to decide. And I really mean that sincerely. And incidentally, I mean, as a student of that part of the world and someone who lived there for most of the last 10 years, not in Egypt but in the region, what we're seeing is that democracy takes a while to stick.

CROWLEY: I wanted to ask you about Syria, because there's been talk about what a no-fly zone that we had in Libya.

DEMPSEY: Well first I'd like to start with what we are doing and not what we're not doing because we tend to focus on what we're not doing. We're contributing hundreds of millions of dollars in nonlethal and humanitarian assistance. We're working a great deal with our partners in the region. And I would highlight for you, Candy, that when we talk about Syria, I try not to focus in and view that issue through a soda straw.

This is an issue that extends from Beirut, to Damascus, to Baghdad. And in fact over the last six months, the levels of violence in both Lebanon and Baghdad have been alarmingly high. So there's a regional issue here. It is related, not exclusively, but related to a competition at best and a conflict at worse between the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam, and it's been hijacked at some level on both sides by extremists, al Qaeda on one side and Lebanese Hezbollah and others on the other side. So this is not a simple matter of, you know, stopping the fight by the introduction of any particular U.S. capability. And the other point I'd make is this is about a 10-year issue, and if we fail to think about it as a 10-year regional issue, we could make some mistakes.

CROWLEY: What does that mean? You think that Bashar Al Assad will be in power for 10 years?

DEMPSEY: No. No, no, I'm not making any predictions of how long he'll be there or not there. I'm suggesting to you that the underlying causes of the conflict, as I've just described them to you, will persist for 10 years.

CROWLEY: So, would you rule out more? I know that now we are, the president has said, yes, well, aides have said, yes, we'll help with military assistance. Would you rule out no-fly zones? Would you rule out setting up sort of a refugee -- a refuge place in the north for rebels?

DEMPSEY: You know, my role is neither to rule in nor rule out.

CROWLEY: But to do.

DEMPSEY: Yes, but to do, to provide options. I do three things. I provide options, I articulate the risk in achieving them, and I articulate the opportunity cost. That is to say, if you want us to do something in Syria, here is -- the issues that may get less fulfilled in the Gulf or in the Pacific or elsewhere around the world. It seems to me that we need to understand what the peace will look like before we start the war.


CROWLEY: When we come back, General Dempsey on talks with the Taliban and sexual assaults in the U.S. military. Plus, the latest on the crash of Asiana flight 214.



CROWLEY: We are watching all the developments about the crash of flight 214. You are seeing now live pictures at the airport. Those flight data recorders that were on board have arrived in D.C., and authorities are downloading the data now. We will have more on that crash later.

But first, we want to return to my sit-down with Joint Chiefs chairman Dempsey. I asked him whether he thought Afghanistan, if this should happen, could take care of itself without a U.S. or NATO troop presence.


DEMPSEY: I have to tell you that I've thought about that a lot. I mean, we're working and have about another year and a half to fundamentally get the Afghan security forces where we think they need to be in order to maintain a stable security platform inside of Afghanistan, and I think we'll achieve that, meaning I think that we will get the Afghan security forces to a point where they will be able to provide security generally across the country, but there will be pockets of resistance. The problem is, I can't speak with much optimism at this point about the other factors of governance, be they economic or be they political. They have to keep pace. And we'll know, because as you know, there's elections scheduled for early '14.

CROWLEY: I want to ask you, just personally, a little over 3,200 U.S. military personnel have been killed in Afghanistan. We know that the U.S. has spoken in some way, shape or form to Taliban officials, trying to sort of bring them into the process. We know that Karzai probably will, has, or is about to do the same. On a personal basis, knowing that these are the folks responsible for killing 3,200 of your folks, is that hard for you?

DEMPSEY: It is always difficult to think about the losses that we've suffered and the idea that at some point we would find reconciliation with the Taliban. But I'm mindful of the fact that all wars end with some level of political reconciliation. That's just the way they eventually end. I had my counterpart last week here for a visit from Vietnam, and I had him to my quarters for dinner. And outside, we flew their flag next to our flag. And I was almost unnerved by it, because I came in the military into West Point during the Vietnam War preparing to go fight in Vietnam. And you know, here we are now some years later, and they are seeking to become much closer partners with us. I think the Taliban, first of all, I think there's several flavors of Taliban. I think there are some who are reconcilable and undoubtedly some that are not. And so long as we can have enough precision in the way we reach out to them, then I won't have the kind of concerns you're talking about, about whether the sacrifices would somehow be undermined.

CROWLEY: I want to ask you, up on the hill, as you know, there are a lot of people who believe that the reporting and the whole issue of a sexual assault within the unit should be taken out of the chain of command and that the person who has been assaulted should be able to take it to a military prosecutor somewhere else. I know the military opposes that, but it is to me the equivalent of going to your boss at a company when the vice president has assaulted you, and knowing where that alliance is. Can you see your way clear to why people would want to do that?

DEMPSEY: Yes. First, let me assure you, we're not in opposition to anything. That's not my role. It's not the role of the chiefs to oppose. It's rather our role to recommend.

CROWLEY: Do you know how difficult that is for somebody to report it?

DEMPSEY: I do, but I know how unique we are. And again, by the way, if this all passes in Congress, you know what our response will be to salute and execute. But you asked me for my recommendation. And we've solved a lot of problems over the years that people thought were unsolvable. Early in my career, race. Middle of the career, drugs. And we didn't do it with the exclusion of the commander. We did it by making the commander take responsibility. And I still believe that's the right way to do this. But it's a recommendation, and I understand that well-meaning people have a different opinion about that.


CROWLEY: You can see more of my interview with General Martin Dempsey, including a tour of his office, his take on Edward Snowden as well as how he plans to implement same-sex couple benefits into the military. You can go to our web site for all of that at

Of course, we're continuing to follow that plane crash at the San Francisco International Airport. Those are live pictures. Here are the latest developments. The flight data recorders have arrived at the NTSB lab in D.C. And investigators have started downloading the material. NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman told me earlier this hour they will be reviewing data and interviewing the pilots in the coming days. The death toll in the crash stands at 2 with 182 injured. We will continue to follow the story and bring you live news conferences as they happen.

Thank you for watching STATE OF THE UNION. Right now, it is time for Fareed Zakaria, GPS.