Return to Transcripts main page


Mission Change in Iraq; First-Responders Pressure President Obama

Aired August 19, 2010 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I have been going through the book, Elizabeth, and really valuable information. I think all of our viewers are going to want to rush out and get this book, because literally lives are at stake, if you don't have the right information as a patient.

Thanks for writing the book.



Happening now: mission change in Iraq. The last U.S. combat troops have left. The size of the U.S. force is dwindling and so is the focus as one of the longest and most expensive wars in American history enters a critical new phase.

Mysterious flights between Iran and Venezuela and growing concern about what two of Washington's staunchest foes might be up to.

And the first responders turning up the heat on President Obama over the 9/11 health bill. They're sick, they are frustrated, they are speaking out.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Fifty-two thousand and dropping. U.S. troops are leaving Iraq by the thousands as end of Operation Iraqi Freedom draws near, giving way to Operation New Dawn. The 4th Stryker Brigade has become the last combat brigade to leave Iraq, seven years and five months after the U.S. invasion.

But in Iraq, there is still no new government five months after the elections and bombings and suicide attacks continue to kill civilians by the dozens.

CNN's Arwa Damon is in Baghdad.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That should be it. Just make sure you got your I.D. cards on hand, too. ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are 24-year- old Sergeant Terry Wetzel's final hours in Iraq, last-minute checks and laughter, relief at having survived and finally going home.

Wetzel is part of the last U.S. brigade to convoy out of Iraq, as America dials back the war to an advise-and-assist mission with 50,000 troops.

After two tours in Iraq, Wetzel says he feels like he's aged a decade.

SERGEANT TERRY WETZEL, U.S. ARMY: The moments I will never forget will be just, you know, first -- one of the first firefights you've ever been. First time to get shot at. It's just -- I mean it's -- it wakes you up. I mean you think that before you come here, that you know, you're an adult, you're a grown man, but this place will change you.

I have seen some friends die. And, you know, been right there and had to carry the bodies. So I mean a lot -- this place will change you.

Four more days.

DAMON: While Wetzel could hardly wait to start heading home, Iraq still has a long way to go towards peace. It remains a nation with an uncertain future, in a political vacuum as parties continue to fail to form a new government after Iraqis risked their lives to vote in the country's March elections.

Day-to-day life in the city is bleak. Power is sporadic at best in the scorching heat. And it remains deadly. A suicide bombing on Tuesday targeting Iraqi recruits killed at least 48. They had been lined up for days, jockeying to be the first in line to join the Iraqi army. They found themselves the target.

This man, one of the would-be recruits, says he has lost hope, that the Iraqi forces should not have left them so exposed, given the history of attacks against similar gatherings.

Among civilians we spoke to, the U.S. departure is bittersweet. Jumah Ahmud (ph) says although he is happy that U.S. troops are withdrawing, he is worried about the recent deterioration in security, and says his nation's forces are not ready yet.

For the U.S. troops now safe in Kuwait, a sense that they accomplished the mission at their level, but mostly relief that they survived the war, a seven-and-a-half-year war where victory has yet to be announced.


BLITZER: And Arwa is joining us now in Baghdad.

Arwa, you have been reporting this story for years from Iraq. What goes through your mind about the timing of this U.S. departure? DAMON: You know, Wolf, I have been talking to a lot of Iraqis about this, and they carry within themselves this sense of anxiety. And I think, from my own experience, I echo that as well, just because Iraq over the years has proven one thing, and that is, is that it is a very unpredictable environment.

And if we look at the backdrop against which the U.S. is withdrawing right now, we don't have this new government that has been seated just yet. And we all know very well that, in Iraq, politics and violence are heavily intertwined.

How these political chips end up falling into place is going to have a direct impact on security. It is going to determine just how much influence Iraq's neighbors are going to have on this country and just how much internal strife there is.

And so, looking forward, these are still very uncertain times, and there is this sense of apprehension amongst people because they really don't really know how everything is going to be playing out in the future, Wolf.

BLITZER: Arwa Damon doing our reporting in Baghdad for us, thank you.

Some oft troops are coming directly back to the United States. Others have moved across the border into Kuwait, where they are packing as fast as they can to get their brigade home.

Our senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, is with some of them over at Camp Virginia in Kuwait.

What is going on there, Ben? Describe it to our viewers.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is 1:00 in the morning here, Wolf, but the work continues.

What these men are doing from the 4th Stryker Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division is that they are taking apart these Stryker vehicles, removing the weaponry, the weapon systems, the communications equipment, and packing it up.

Now, we spoke to one of their officers, and they told me that they planned that this would be -- take about two weeks to completely do the job, but these men are so eager to get home, that, at this point, they are working basically around the clock, and they expect them to get the job done in half that time.

Also, speaking to some of these men here, they say that they do feel that there has been an improvement in Iraq. This particular brigade has done two deployments in Iraq, one back in 2004, and now this one that is ending after 12 months.

And they point out that, in that first deployment, more than 50 of their comrades were killed in action. In this latest deployment, there were some casualties, but no fatalities, zero killed in action. So they do feel that it has been a hard time in Iraq, but they have accomplished something. And now, of course, Wolf, they are very eager to go home -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we will welcome them back home, of course.

Our Ben Wedeman over at Camp Virginia over in Kuwait.

The United Nations says the number of people homeless from Pakistan's catastrophic flooding has now doubled to four million. Amid concern about a tepid international response, the U.S. government says it will give an additional $60 million in aid -- 20 percent of the country right now underwater, an area larger than all of New England, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland combined.

Look at these before-and-after satellite images. You can see the extent of the flooding in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province. According to the Pakistani government and the United Nations, 20 million people are affected, more than the 2004 Asian tsunami, the 2005 Pakistani earthquake, and the January earthquake in Haiti, all of those combined.

In addition, four million people are homeless. Six million people are facing a life-threatening need for food, and 3.5 million children are at risk of serious disease like cholera.

The situation especially dire in one of the country's largest relief camps.

CNN's Sara Sidner was there.


SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They come in droves, survivors of Pakistan's deadly floods. For some, this is their final stop, the largest relief camp outside the city of Karachi.

Three generations of Mohammed Ayoob's family are here. All 35 of them scrambled from their submerged homes in Jacobabad nearly 200 miles away.

MOHAMMED AYOOB, PAKISTAN: I have nothing. You can check my (INAUDIBLE). I have nothing.

SIDNER: What the family does have is a myriad of medical problems, a grandfather partially paralyzed from a stroke. The mother has diabetes. And some of the children have diarrhea from drinking contaminated water.

And then there is 25-year-old Aisha Begom (ph). She can barely walk due to terrible burns she suffered months before the floods.

"I feel a lot of pain and burning and cry throughout the day," she says.

Life here is hard for the 7,000 people in this temporary shelter, but there is more help here than they could find close to home. (on camera): Here in the largest camp outside Karachi, the government is doing everything it can to try and prevent disease. It's providing water daily for people to drink and another truck comes in filled with water that people can wash with.

(voice-over): Authorities have also put powdered bug killer outside the tents to ward off disease-carrying mosquitoes. So many people have shown up desperate for help, the camp is at capacity.

SYED MEHDI SHAH, SINDH REVENUE DEPARTMENT: We're not going to increase the number of people. We are afraid that if the number will be increased, then any epidemic will break through or such type of problems will come.

SIDNER: The U.N. now estimates more than four million people are without any shelter. For those fortunate enough to have it, they are making do and trying to adjust to the new normal.

Sara Sidner, CNN, Karachi, Pakistan.


BLITZER: To find out how you can Impact Your World and help Pakistan's flood victims, visit

Jack Cafferty is next with "The Cafferty File."

Then: new concern about some increasingly close ties between the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, specifically, what some describe as mysterious new flights between their two countries.

Also, surprising poll results force the White House to take action and speak out about the president's faith.

Plus, ailing first-responders stepping up pressure for a 9/11 health care bill. We have details of their message to the president and Congress.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here. He has "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, things are pretty bleak for millions of Americans these days, but President Obama says they will get worse if Republicans take over the reins in the November midterm elections.

That's the message coming from the commander in chief as he hits the campaign trail for Democrats in a midterm season that could turn out to be a real dustup for his party.

The president says the GOP wants to -- quote -- "go back to doing the same things. If we give them the keys back, they will drive this economy back into the ditch" -- unquote. But experts aren't so sure that message will resonate with voters. Blaming President Bush and the Republicans for what happened in 2008 may not work in 2010, when many Americans are still hurting badly today, worried about finding a job, putting food on the table.

Meanwhile, the polls indicate the Democrats have reason to be concerned.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows Republican candidates have a three-point advantage over Democrats in a generic ballot question. That puts them in almost the same exact position they were in August of 1994, months before the GOP took control of the House for the first time in 40 years.

What's more, President Obama's disapproval rating is at 51 percent. That's an all-time high.

The poll also shows Republican voters are feeling an intense amount of anger over the direction the country is headed in, much like they did in 1994.

And when you add all of this to the fact that Republicans have held a significant edge for months when it comes to voter enthusiasm, well, it doesn't seem to bode well for the Democrats and by extension for President Obama.

Here's the question: Will things get worse if the Democrats lose control of Congress in November?

Go to and post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: All right. Jack, thanks very much.

Around the world, there is new cause for U.S. concern about increasingly closer ties between Iran and Venezuela and their leaders, among Washington's sharpest critics.

CNN's Brian Todd has been investigating what some describe as a mysterious airline flight connecting the two countries' capitals -- Brian.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we are told by the airline that this commercial route from Tehran to Caracas will be shut down next month, but there are serious concerns about possible damage already done, threats to U.S. security that this route may have posed.

(voice-over): For the past three years, it has arrived at least twice a month at Simon Bolivar International Airport in Caracas, Venezuela, a suspicious commercial flight from Tehran. It flies between two capitals with hostile relations with America, but which do legitimate business with each other.

U.S. intelligence officials have been keeping a close eye on the flight. A Venezuelan officials tells us it's an above-board commercial flight operated by Conviasa, a Venezuelan state-run airline.

(on camera): But analysts we spoke to are not so sure. They say one security concern is the route. From Tehran, the plane stops in Damascus, Syria. Iran is believed by Western officials to support Hezbollah, which the U.S. considers a terrorist group and is based in Syria.

From there, the flight goes to Caracas, Venezuela, and later, it returns to Tehran.

(voice-over): And it is not clear who is on board.

(on camera): Can regular passengers book a flight on this thing?

PETER BROOKES, SENIOR FELLOW, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: That is my understanding, that they can't, that this is only for special people.

TODD (voice-over): Peter Brookes is a former deputy assistant U.S. defense secretary now with the conservative Heritage Foundation. He has researched the flight and written about it. Brookes and other analysts tell us regular passengers cannot get on the flight or the return leg. Brookes talks about who could be on the flight.

BROOKES: Intelligence agents, probably Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps individuals, Quds Force, even Hezbollah terrorists. So, from an America interest point and perspective, this is of great concern.

TODD: Concern that under the cover of legitimate commercial flight, this might be a shadowy pipeline for America's enemies to move people and weapons to Latin America, where they could easily stage attacks against the U.S.

Asked by CNN about this flight, former CIA Director Michael Hayden said: "The concerns are not just in the abstract. We saw people traveling who made us wonder."

A current U.S. official said there have been people of concern on the flight.

(on camera): So, it leaves Tehran August 26, arrives in Caracas August 27.

(voice-over): I tried to get on a flight.

(on camera): No space available on the 26th. All right. What is the next flight?

(voice-over): A Conviasa agent told me no seats available through late August. Then:

(on camera): So from now until September 16, all flights every week are booked?

(voice-over): Then the agent told me, after September 16, the airline is shutting the route down for business reasons. So it has never been clear if regular passengers can get on.

I asked Brookes about another concern.

(on camera): What happens when the flight gets from Tehran to Caracas and it arrives in Caracas? Is it processed normally? Are people on it processed normally?

BROOKES: My understanding is, it is not. In other words, they don't go through normal customs and immigration at the Caracas airport, that they go to a separate part of the airport, and they're processed there, if they are processed at all.

TODD (voice-over): A passage from the State Department's 2008 terrorism report says passengers on these flights were not subject to immigration and customs controls at the Simon Bolivar International Airport.

(on camera): Contacted by CNN, a Venezuelan official brushed back on all of that. He said everyone on board that flight goes through normal customs and immigration checks, that there are normal businesspeople and civilians regularly on that flight, and that there's never been any evidence that that flight carried Hezbollah militants or any weapons.

Our calls and e-mails to an Iranian official were not returned -- Wolf.


BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much. The mystery continues.

Nine-eleven first-responders have a message for President Obama and for Congress.

Susan Candiotti is standing by with details.


BLITZER: President Obama is backing a bill to provide long-term health care and compensation to 9/11 first-responders whose health was harmed working at Ground Zero. The House failed to pass the measure and the Senate may take it up when it returns from recess.

Our national correspondent, Susan Candiotti, spoke to one first- responder who has a message for the president.

What is going on here, Susan?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, for the man you are about to meet, the president's promise to sign a health care bill for 9/11 responders is way overdue.


CANDIOTTI: John, this is you just a few hours before you were injured on September 17, 2001? JOHN FEAL, FOUNDER, FEALGOOD FOUNDATION: That is correct, Susan.

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): John Feal was a demolition foreman removing 9/11 debris. Then 8,000 pounds of concrete nearly crushed his left foot.

(on camera): How many surgeries have you had on both feet over the years?

FEAL: More than 2,000.

CANDIOTTI: He nearly lost that foot, but the victims advocate has never lost hope for a health bill. It would help those sickened by contaminants and other illnesses related to Ground Zero.

Feal was not happy about President Obama weighing in on the Ground Zero Islamic center controversy, yet not saying much about a health bill for 9/11 responders. So, he wrote a letter to the president.

FEAL: It is disturbing, sir, that you have the time and energy to speak in favor of the mosque, but not on the health crisis caused by the attacks.

I was challenging our president to make the 9/11 responders and our bill a priority, an issue that has been neglected for nine years, for him to be our leader, to be our champion.

CANDIOTTI: Wednesday night, the White House issued a statement. "The president looks forward to signing the 9/11 health bill into law once it passes both houses of Congress to help the first-responders whose health and livelihood were devastated by the events of September 11."

FEAL: He says he would sign the bill if it passed both houses, but he does not say he supports the bill.


CANDIOTTI: Deal wants the president to take a more active role, like he did on the campaign trail. In 2007, then candidate-Obama railed against those who only supported first-responders with words.

OBAMA: We love you for what you did on September 11, but when it is time to get you health care or buy radios or the equipment that you need, those supporters sometimes disappear like a puff of smoke.

CANDIOTTI: Supporters in Congress were fired up when the bill failed to pass a few weeks ago.

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: It is a shame, a shame!

CANDIOTTI: The bill would include unlocking a victims compensation fund and cost at least $7 billion over 10 years, according to its supporters. Feal says he won't give up. FEAL: This anniversary, we are going to vote like Americans and they're going to get it done. I truly believe that, Susan, and if I didn't think that, I would not be doing what I'm doing.


CANDIOTTI: Over 13,000 responders are getting treatment, and about 55,000 are being monitored. Opponents say a $7 billion price tag is yet another strain on the federal budget. Either way, look for another Ground-Zero-related hot potato when Congress reconvenes next month -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Susan, thanks very much.

Almost one in five Americans thinks President Obama is Muslim, very surprising poll results forcing the White House today to take action.

And when will Iran go nuclear? We will get some information from our next guest, David Ignatius of "The Washington Post." He has had some interesting briefings very lately.


BLITZER: Let's get some more now on our top story, the combat mission in Iraq drawing to a close. The last U.S. fighting brigade has left -- 52,000 U.S. forces, though, remain. That should drop to 50,000 by the end of the month, when the operation, the new operation called New Dawn, begins in Iraq.

Let's talk about that and more with David Ignatius of "The Washington Post."

We are not going to know for a year or five years if this whole operation in Iraq succeeded or failed, will we?

DAVID IGNATIUS, COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": We -- as my colleague Tom Ricks wrote, we won't really know the last chapter for many years.

As our combat troops leave, what we do know unfortunately is that there is not an Iraqi government, that we are leaving a country that has had elections, that has had the democratic process that we have fought so hard to give them, but is not able to come up with a prime minister.

I know that is a bitter disappointment to a lot of people who worked in Iraq.

BLITZER: It's been five-plus months now, and I have always been saying the longer this goes on, the more likely some of that ethnic tension between Shia, Sunni and Kurd will come back to haunt everyone.


IGNATIUS: I talked this morning, Wolf, with a friend who is a member of the Iraqi government who said that they are a dead stalemate, that behind the scenes, there is no sign of a breakthrough.

As we pull our combat troops out, our ability to bring some leverage, to push people toward agreement obviously is diminishing. So, it is sad that, as we end our main phase there, we can't look at a government, look at prime minister, and say, that job is completed.

BLITZER: There are some analysts who have been saying for a while now that Iran, Iraq's neighbor, is the big winner in all of this. Are you among them?

IGNATIUS: I think that Iran strategically has benefited. The strong Sunni bulwark against Iran that Saddam Hussein represented has been swept away.

You now have a Shiite-led government in Iraq, and you have essentially a guarantee that Iran will not face a hostile Iraq in the near term. So, in that sense, they are a winner.

I have seen over the last year Iraqis increasingly resenting efforts by Iran to dictate their future. They don't want us to dictate it, but they also don't want Iran to dictate it.

BLITZER: It seems to me, and this is what Iraqis have said to me, not only are the Iranians interfering, but the Saudis are, the Syrians are. A lot of Iraq's neighbors have their hands in this mess over there.

IGNATIUS: Well, the fear is that Iraq is going to become a bigger, even more dangerous version of Lebanon, which was surrounded by hostile neighbors, all trying to fight their wars within Iraq's borders. That would be a nightmare. And I think it's the thing that the U.S. most hopes to avoid by having a strong Iraqi army.

We do have 50,000 troops who will stay, and their main job will be to train that Iraqi army, to get it ready to protect the country, and keep the neighbors out.

BLITZER: This notion that, by the end of next year, those 50,000 troops will be out of Iraq, even though the Iraqi army chief says they need U.S. troops to stay until the year 2020, do you see any likelihood that President Obama will change his mind and not necessarily withdraw all of the remaining U.S. troops by the end of next year?

IGNATIUS: I think, if a new Iraqi government said in a powerful, unified way, "We need more American help, and we, the Iraqi, government ask you Americans to help us in these ways," it is likely we'd respond favorably. Right now, it's hard to imagine that Iraqis don't really know how to use their new sovereignty, you know, that they can't for the moment form a government even.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about Iran, because you were at that famous -- now famous White House briefing, where a senior administration official, namely the president of the United States, surprised all of you; came in and spoke about what's going on in Iran. How close, based on everything you've been hearing, David, is Iran to that -- to that break point when they will have that nuclear capability to deliver a bomb?

IGNATIUS: From what I've been hearing, Wolf, that point is a little further off than we might have thought six months or a year ago, and the reason is that the Iranians are having serious technical problems with their enrichment process. Their cascades are not functioning as they'd hoped. The output is less than they expected.

So we heard at this briefing, not from the president, but from one of his top technical advisers, the view that, because of these technical problems, it will be harder for the Iranians to break out and openly move toward a nuclear weapon or to sneak out to do so surreptitiously.

So I think, for that reason, there's a feeling in the White House that there's a little more time to experiment with diplomacy, a little more time to squeeze with the sanctions. They hope the Israelis are reading the same messages and that everybody is going to make one last effort to see if there's some way, without using military power, to get this done.

BLITZER: More than a year then?

IGNATIUS: Well, what I was hearing at the White House and from others is one-year-plus, but yes, more than a year.

BLITZER: David Ignatius from the "Washington Post," thanks very much.

IGNATIUS: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: President Obama has tried to make it clear he's a Christian, but you may be surprised at how many Americans actually think he's a Muslim. John King, he's here to talk about some new poll numbers. Stand by.

And should there have been a criminal investigation into the death of former NFL star turned soldier Pat Tillman in Afghanistan? A new documentary raising that question.


BLITZER: A persistent misconception about President Obama appears to be alive and well. A new Pew Research Center poll shows almost 1 in 5 Americans still believes he's a Muslim. Among Republicans almost a third believes so.

Let's talk about this with John King. He's the host of "JOHN KING USA." That begins right at the top of the hour. And our chief political correspondent Candy Crowley. She hosts "STATE OF THE NATION" on Sunday mornings at 9 a.m. Eastern.

Why is this? I mean, do we have any explanation why so many Americans believe he's a Muslim? CANDY CROWLEY, HOST, "STATE OF THE NATION": I think there are a couple things. Usually, you have a base that's always going to believe that he's Muslim, and then you have other people that aren't paying that much attention.

So what do we have? We have a president that does not wear his religion on his sleeve. We have not seen him, since the campaign, actually, talk about religion with any -- you know, I think he's been to a couple prayer breakfasts, but not in some high-profile way.

And so someone says to him, do you think that the president is like a Muslim or a Christian, or -- and they say, yes, Muslim, because there's a sort of lot of chatter out there, too, and that's what they pick up on.

JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING USA": And what's striking is that the numbers are getting worse in the sense that, if you look back at what people thought during the presidential campaign and what they think now, there's a higher percentage. Nearly, you know, 2 in 10, you say, 1 in 5 think he's a Muslim. Four in 10 Americans don't know what faith he practices.

Bill Clinton talked about God a lot. George W. Bush talked about God even more. This president, it's a personal choice. It is his right not to wear it on his sleeve. They haven't picked a church in Washington, D.C., by design. They say they enjoy praying at Camp David, up at the chapel there. But he pays a bit of a political price for that very personal decision.

BLITZER: The White House today issued a statement, Candy: "President Obama is a committed Christian, and his faith is an important part of his daily life. He prays every day. He seeks a small circle of Christian pastors to give him spiritual advice and counseling. He even receives a daily devotional that he uses each morning."

You make a statement like that, it's going to fuel this discussion.

CROWLEY: Or it's going to end it. I think they're -- I think they're betting, you know, they can at least put this to bed right now off the poll. They're getting lots and lots of questions about it, and so, you know, one of two things happen: you either fuel it or you end it. And they're hoping it will end it.

KING: And in affects -- does it affect -- here's a question. I don't know the answer. But does it affect what people think of his comments about, say, the mosque and the Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero? I assume it does.

Late in the campaign, in 2008, Wolf, remember they had to spend a lot of money. I remember going into Southern Ohio into Democratic Party headquarters and there was a cardboard cutout of President Obama, and somebody had actually on a piece of paper written the words, like a cartoon, you know, his voice, saying, "I'm a Christian, not a Muslim." And the flyers that they were handing out, this cost a lot of money, the glossy flyer. One of the main talking points was Barack Obama is a committed Christian. They had to spend money to make this point in the 2008 campaign. It is a dynamic -- one of the many elements around who is this president personally, and it matters to many people.

BLITZER: And on the heels of that poll, we had last week, saying about a fourth, 25 or 28 percent of the American public, is not necessarily convinced he was not born in the United States.

CROWLEY: Right. Well, and again, there's just a solid group that, no matter what you say, they're going to believe it. But I think we should point out, they didn't ask, "Do you think that's good or bad?" It was just -- you know, so it could just be people going, "Well, isn't he is a Muslim?"

And I remember constantly through the campaign, people were always saying, well, sort of "not that there's anything wrong with that." What would be so wrong if he were a Muslim.

Now, obviously, you know, it's a problem in some sectors, but whether or not it is with these people who sort of increasingly believe that, we don't know.

BLITZER: You'll have a lot more of this coming up at the top of the hour, John, right?

KING: Absolutely will. Good conversation, including with Franklin Graham is coming in to talk to us.

BLITZER: Looking forward to that. We'll see you Sunday, 9 a.m. on "STATE OF THE UNION."

A new movie poised to fire up new controversy about the death of Pat Tillman in the Afghanistan war.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was about 30 feet to the rear of his position. I was 99 percent sure that friendly fire had killed Pat.


BLITZER: We're going to hear from the director, who says audiences will be shocked by his film.

Plus, details are just emerging of a giant oil plume in the Gulf of Mexico, 22 miles long.


BLITZER: A new documentary film scheduled to be released tomorrow may rekindle the controversy over the death of NFL star turned soldier Pat Tillman. CNN's Brooke Anderson is joining us now with a preview.

Some serious allegations, Brooke, in this new film.

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Very serious allegations that range from a high-level cover-up to scapegoating and even the suggestion that Tillman's death might not have been an accident.


ANDERSON (voice-over): He was known as the military's most famous enlisted man. On the Afghan battlefield, Pat Tillman became the most famous casualty.

TOM BROKAW, FORMER NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Pat Tillman, who gave up a multimillion dollar contract in professional football, has been killed.

ANDERSON: Now a new documentary could reignite the controversy over his death. It's directed by Amir Bar-Lev.

AMIR BAR-LEV, FILMMAKER: Audiences are going to be shocked at how criminally negligent the killing itself was, and also how kind of boldly, and shamelessly government officials lied about the case till the present day.

ANDERSON: A sense of patriotic duty inspired Tillman to leave the NFL and join the Army after the attacks of 9/11. He met his death in April 2004 in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan.

At first, the military told the country and Tillman's family that he was killed by enemy firefighters as he rushed to protect his comrades from an ambush. Those nearest Tillman when he fell seriously doubted that account.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was about 30 feet to the rear of his position. I was 99 percent sure that friendly fire had killed Pat.

ANDERSON: General Stanley McChrystal, later promoted by President Obama to command the war in Afghanistan, approved a Silver Star commendation for Tillman, which stressed his death at enemy hands.

At the same time, he sent a secret memo alerting then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others the incident might well be a case of fratricide and that embarrassment could result if the word got out.

Tillman's mother told CNN's Larry King the memo points to one conclusion.

MARY TILLMAN, PAT'S MOTHER: This was an orchestrated cover-up.

ANDERSON: The film asserts the cover-up didn't end there. It suggests that, once the truth of the fratricide came out, the top brass scapegoated a lower ranking general for the earlier misinformation. And it claims Tillman's shooting was never adequately investigated, leaving his parents to wonder if his killing may have been deliberate.

TILLMAN: We feel that there could have been something else that happened to Pat, but we -- we can't prove it. Every bit of evidence has been destroyed.

ANDERSON: that possible evidence includes Tillman's body armor and uniform, which were burned, and his wartime diary, which disappeared.


ANDERSON: General McChrystal, who was relieved by President Obama in June for unrelated reasons, previously apologized for the misleading wording in Tillman's Silver Star commendation, but he has denied taking part in any cover-up.

Former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld declined comment on the documentary, but he testified before Congress in 2007 that he did not recall receiving McChrystal's memo about Tillman and friendly fire.

And finally, Wolf, the Army provided a statement to CNN which reads in part, "The Army truly regrets the pain and suffering endured by the Tillman family as a result of this tragic friendly-fire accident and the shortfalls in reporting accurate information to them in the days and weeks after Pat's death." It blamed the matter on the failures of a few -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brooke Anderson, thanks very much. What a tragedy. What a sad story indeed.

Kate Bolduan is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What else is going on, Kate?


Well, scientists are reporting that earlier this summer, they detected a huge plume of oil deep in the Gulf of Mexico. Researchers say that in late June the plume was at least 22 miles long, more than a mile wide, and about 650 feet high, and more than 3,000 feet below the surface. The authors of the report by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution say it's unlikely that plume still exists, though.

And former professional baseball star Roger Clemens has been indicted for allegedly lying to Congress. Clemens testified under oath before a House subcommittee in 2008 -- I'm sure you remember it -- saying that he had never used performance-enhancing drugs.

The report by former senator George Mitchell, though, contradicts that testimony. Clemens is now indicted. He is a seven-time winner of the Cy Young Award, which recognizes the best pitcher in the major leagues.

And here's some video that you don't often see. Take a look at this. A car chase spilled onto an active runway at Love Field Airport in Dallas today. CNN affiliate WFAA reports that the driver allegedly stole the pickup truck you see there during the carjacking, then led police on the chase.

He was taken into custody after being rammed by a squad car -- saw it right there. One runway was closed due to the incident.

No idea how that gentleman thought getting away would involve going into the airport, Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, he didn't get away, and that is good. The cops were all over the place.

Let me make a quick turn. First of all, Kate, welcome to THE SITUATION ROOM. You're going to be with us for the next several months. Lisa Sylvester, good news, on maternity leave. And we have a picture. Today she delivered a lovely, beautiful baby girl, Amelia Marie Tadesco (ph). Get this, 7 pounds 9 ounces. Mom and Dad are doing great. Older brother is doing great. Everybody is thrilled.

I got a quote: "We love Amelia already." Obviously, everyone loves Amelia." What an adorable baby. Congratulations...

BOLDUAN: Congratulations.

BLITZER: ... to Lisa and everyone.

BOLDUAN: What a doll. Perfect.

BLITZER: Beautiful doll. All right. Thanks very much.

Kate's going to be with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM, and we welcome Kate. Good news for all.

Will things get worse if the Democrats lose control of Congress in November? Jack Cafferty is coming up next with your e-mail.

Plus this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where do you Snazzy Nap? In the car? On a plane? Snazzy Napper is here.


BLITZER: All right. There's a new blanket on the block, and CNN's Jeanne Moos will take a most unusual look.


BLITZER: A report earlier this hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM had some incorrect information about Hezbollah. Hezbollah is based in Lebanon, not in Syria. It is considered a terrorist organization by the United States government. Supported by Syria, but certainly based in Lebanon. Let's go back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Question this hour is "Will things get worse if the Democrats lose control of the Congress in the midterm elections come November?"

Chaney writes, "I don't think it matters who has control. We have some systemic problems which neither side will engage in an honest debate about. The only person who has any sensible dialogue is President Obama. And you see what happens when he says something sensible: all hell breaks loose. To answer your question, I think it's going to get worse until everyone gets honest, regardless of who has control."

Bob writes, "Dear Jack" -- I like that, "Dear Jack" -- "the fact that the Republicans are angry about the direction of the country should be fair warning to you all. Just look at the shape you're in now, thanks to that course correction you made back in 1994."

Dave writes, "Things will get worse no matter which party is in control. Both parties are ruled by rich people. Both parties will still be ruled by rich people after the election. Democrat and Republican mean the same thing anymore."

David writes, "I found that a congressional majority from one party and a president from the other party to be a very effective check and balance on each other. Clinton and the Republican majority Congress accomplished a lot. They had to work together. There was less talk of personal agendas, more talk of balanced budgets, and the voters actually got the feeling they were being listened to, part of the time."

Jan in North Carolina says, "I believe things will get much worse if Obama is allowed to continue with his agenda. If the Republicans do nothing but block him and his administration at every pass until he's finally voted out of office, I would say, job well done."

And Sooze in Hawaii writes, "If the Democrats lose Congress, we're in real trouble. The party of 'no' will step in, take us back to the dark days of the Bush years. Your pointed-finger kind of reporting isn't helping the Democrats one bit. Are you turning into Glenn Beck? You used to be unbiased. But at times -- I guess times have changed. It's time for you to retire if you can't report fairly."

If you want to read more on this and other nice little bouquets thrown my way, you can go to my blog: Or not.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack. See you tomorrow.


BLITZER: Move over, Snuggie. Jeanne Moos reports on another product trying to put a new twist on the traditional blankets. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


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

In Kashmir, protesters put (ph) slogans at police. In two months about 60 people have died from violent protests in northwest India.

In China, officials inspect a rain that derailed after heavy flooding destroyed a bridge.

At a cathedral in Liverpool, England, an artist displays her exhibit, entitled, "The Temple of a Thousand Bells."

And in Austria, a singer performs a concert while floating on a raft.

"Hot Shots," pictures worth a thousand words.

What do you get when you cross an eye mask with a blanket? Jeanne Moos reports on a most unusual new product, designed to let you take a nap in public.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Are you tired of napping using a cap or a sleeve to block out the light?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The snazzy way to sleep while you travel.

MOOS: Move over Snuggie.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The blanket that has sleeves.

MOOS: The Snazzy Napper is the new blanket on the block.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where do you snazzy nap? In the car? On a plane? Snazzy Napper is here.


MOOS: It's the brain child of Atlanta physician Margaret Wilson after she had to resort to putting a jacket over her head to sleep on a flight to London. She designed the Snazzy Napper.

WILSON: They don't have to look at you with your mouth open while you sleep or...

MOOS: No, now they have to look at you wondering what is that thing on your head, as we discovered when we tested the Snazzy Napper and got giggles on a Central Park bench.

(on camera) You strap it on with Velcro.

(voice-over) There's a hole for your nose with a metal strip.

WILSON: So that it would crimp to your nose.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like privacy in a bag.

MOOS: It comes in two sizes: small and large enough to wrap yourself up in.

(ON CAMERA) We think it's the next Snuggie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks ridiculous.

MOOS (voice-over): Wearing the Snazzy Napper in the New York subway provoked both smiles and the cold shoulder.

(on camera) Would I be able to ask your opinion about this?

(voice-over) My neighbors on the platform didn't know what to make of me. Strange looks sometimes turned into outright stares.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is that? A big bib?

MOOS: Someone tweeted, "If you wear this thing on a plane they'll arrest you for terrorism."

The Napper's creator said she tried to make it look friendly by putting Z's and a sheep logo on it. And there's that non-threatening name.

WILSON (singing): Snazzy, snazzy, Snazzy Napper!

MOOS: Down in the subway, the nappers soon have rappers, serenading you. It's jazzy rather than snazzy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Snazzy Napper. Jazzy Napper.

MOOS: There's even a contest. Win 100 bucks by sending in your funniest photos.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Be sure to tell us time, date and location of the napping.

MOOS (on camera): This, by the way, is a no-no. The packaging explicitly says no smoking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where do you snazzy nap?

MOOS (voice-over): At the office, but only when I'm covering a Snazzy Napper. Or it's covering me.

Jeanne Moos, CNN.


MOOS: New York.


BLITZER: Whatever it is.

Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. "JOHN KING USA" starts right now.