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THE SITUATION ROOM

Gadhafi Bombs Rebel-Held Town; Petraeus Apologizes; Christian Politician Killed in Pakistan

Aired March 2, 2011 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, Libyan rebels regroup after new air attacks by forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi. CNN was there when the bombs dropped. This hour, there's growing pressure on the United States, the Obama administration to take military action and impose a no-fly zone.

Plus, two U.S. military airmen killed in a shooting at Germany's busiest airport. President Obama says he's outraged that he's vowing to spare no effort to find out how it happened.

And a fringe group that protests military funerals here in the United States gets its day in the U.S. Supreme Court and wins. Standby for more on the ruling. It's a painful test of free speech versus the right to privacy.

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

A powerful bomb blast caught on video by CNN seems to blowholes into Moammar Gadhafi's insistence that he's not bombing the Libyan people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER (voice-over): The bomb barely missed our own CNN crew.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER (on-camera): It certainly left a huge crater in the rebel town of Al-Brega. The residents say opposition forces have retaken control after the eastern oil town was bombed two more times. We're told pro-Gadhafi forces unleashed another series of air attacks on the outskirts of Ajdabiya. Our crew is safely back in Benghazi right now.

And joining us now from Benghazi, Ben Wedeman, our man on the scene. Ben, a day after the Pentagon said they didn't have any evidence that Libyan forces under Gadhafi were using air power. You saw plenty of Gadhafi air power today near Benghazi. What happened?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. What we saw was we were on the road leading to Brega where there was a battle all day long between opposition forces and the Libyan army. We watched as overhead a Libyan jet first dropped a bomb outside Brega and then came back and flew just low overhead and dropped a bomb right next to the road where we were. We were with a group of opposition fighters and soldiers who had gone over to the opposition.

They were preparing to launch a counter offensive into the town of Brega. That bomb dropped right beside the road. Later in the day, we were with another group of fighters along with residents of Brega, who were celebrating their victory, their ability to push the Libyan forces out of that town, and again, one of those Libyan jets flew right overhead, dropped a bomb just on the edge of the crowd.

Fortunately, there were some cars there that blocked the impact, blocked the shrapnel. There were people injured in that incident, but we just really just jumped into our car and ran away because we were afraid yet another bomb would be dropped on the area. So, it's all there. I mean, the video proved that the Libyan force is in action, dropping bombs on Libyan.

BLITZER: I wonder if that's going to change the attitude over at the Pentagon. They've been very lukewarm at best as far as using U.S. military power to enforce some sort of no-fly zone. You're one of the few reporters who is actually in Tunisia during the revolution there and Egypt during the revolution there and now in Libya, Ben.

We saw the Tunisian and the Egyptian militaries refusing to kill fellow Tunisians and Egyptians, but we're seeing a very different situation with the Libyan military under Gadhafi right now. They're ready to kill fellow Libyans. Is that a fair statement?

WEDEMAN: It's a fair statement, but let's keep in mind that a lot of Libyan forces have, in fact, defected to the opposition, and we see them every time, you know, there's a collection of armed militia men and opposition fighters. There's almost always soldiers and even high ranking officers among them, but, certainly, it's completely different from either Tunisia or Egypt, where it was really a struggle between protesters and the regime.

Here, what we're seeing is really not a revolution. It seems to be a war between the opponents of Moammar Gadhafi and the forces loyal to him. It's really changing into something completely different from what we saw in either Tunisia or in Egypt -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Ben, be careful over there. Ben Wedeman is in Benghazi for us. Thanks very much.

Meanwhile, new air attacks by Gadhafi are only increasing the pressure on the Obama administration to take military action. Here in Washington today, new calls for and warnings against imposing a no-fly zone over Libya. Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence. He's been studying this for us. What are you learning?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, some really blunt talk from the Defense Secretary and really a message to those pushing for a no-fly zone. Robert Gates saying if you want it, it's going to mean the U.S. military attacking Libya.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE (voice-over): The opposition seized this oil-rich area, and on Wednesday, Libyan jets bombed it, dropping three bombs near anti-Gadhafi fighters. It's why some U.S. senators are clambering for a no-fly zone.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D) ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: I believe that the global community cannot be on the sidelines while airplanes are allowed to bomb and strafe.

LAWRENCE: But Pentagon officials say if you want to stop Libya's jets from bombing, the U.S. has to bomb Libya.

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Let's just call a spade a spade. A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya. To destroy the air defenses.

LAWRENCE: Libya is believed to have hundreds of anti-aircraft guns and portable surface to air missiles. They're old, probably not in great shape, but they work.

LT. GEN. DAVID DEPTULA, U.S. AIR FORCE (ret.): You can take those out up front. You can wait, which is not a very good option.

LAWRENCE: Retired Gen. David Deptula commanded the no-fly mission over Iraq. He says the U.S. and its allies have to decide why they'd impose a no-fly zone over Libya on humanitarian grounds or to help the opposition overthrow Gadhafi?

DEPTULA: So, what are the rules of engagement involved with applying that force?

LAWRENCE: When it comes to taking out air defenses?

DEPTULA: Right. Do you wait for Gadhafi's aircraft to take off, or do they have to commit a Hostile Act? How do you define the Hostile Act? Is it against a member of the no-fly zone operation or against people on the ground?

LAWRENCE: The USS Kearsarge and at least three navy destroyers are now in the Mediterranean Sea. The aircraft carrier "Enterprise" is waiting on the other side of the Suez Canal. But to enforce a no- fly zone, Pentagon officials say they'd need more planes than you'd find on any one carrier.

ADM. MIKE MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: It's an extraordinarily complex operation to set up.

LAWRENCE: And command. When Gen. Deptula ran the no-fly mission in Iraq, he had 1,600 people and 50 jets.

DEPTULA: We nominally spent about six hours of coverage on random days over random times in Northern Iraq. So, we weren't trying to maintain a 24-hour no-fly zone.

(END VIDEOTAPE) LAWRENCE (on-camera): Operations says if commanders needed more jets, he could speed up the deployment of another aircraft carrier, get the USS George H.W. Bush out to the bed faster, but, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, quote, "we are a long way from making that decision on imposing a no-fly zone, Wolf.

BLITZER: Standby. We've got lots to discuss. Don't go too far away. I want to talk a little bit about a very surprising refusal, at least, in my opinion today, by the president of the United States to talk about the crisis in Libya. He actually showed up in the White House briefing room to comment on the deadly shooting of two U.S. airmen in Germany. We're going to have much more on that story in just a few moments.

As the president was finishing his remarks, reporters asked him to talk about Libya just a little bit. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will have a chance to take some questions tomorrow. President Calderon from Mexico will be here, and so, I'll give you, guys, a chance to ask a couple of questions on some of these other pressing topics. All right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, is here. Chris is still here. Gloria, I was pretty surprised that he's there, the reporters. He could have made some sort of statement, Gadhafi must go. We're going to do this. We're going to protect civilians. He didn't want to say anything.

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it's clear he didn't want to say anything because he had an opportunity, but when you have your Secretary of Defense out there saying we don't want to do this. He's been very upfront about this (ph) said we don't want to do it alone. We need NATO with us. We need the U.N. with us. We don't want to fan the flames in the Middle East, of anti-American sentiment.

We've got true commitments in Afghanistan. This is risky. You're the president. Maybe, you're having a little bit of disagreement internally about what the next step should be because nobody is really sure. It is a leadership moment. He's getting a lot of heat, particularly, from conservatives. People like John McCain saying he needs to come out and lead. This is a moment for him.

BLITZER: It wouldn't be the first time. I've covered the Pentagon. I've covered the White House. Certainly, it wouldn't be the first time, Chris, where the Pentagon is the reluctant warrior. The civilians are much more anxious to get involved militarily.

LAWRENCE: Yes. Wolf, I mean, it's easier for senators to bang the drum here at home, but it's really Secretary of State Clinton who's got to carry that water, who's got to sit down with these leaders face-to-face. It's Secretary Gates who's got to put the troops out there, put them at risk. So, yes, you're seeing a lot more hesitant attitude.

BLITZER: Are you hearing there's a big debate going on within the Obama administration over what to do?

LAWRENCE: I'm not privy to what they're talking about at the White House, but I can tell you at the Pentagon, they are very, very careful in laying out the risks and the costs of trying to impose a no-fly zone.

BLITZER: I suspect, Gloria, that there is a serious debate going on, and that's one reason why the president didn't want to talk at all today when he was there with the news media.

BORGER: And in the end, you know, this could be up to Gadhafi, because if we continue to see scenes like we saw with Ben Wedeman today, and the Americans decide in the end, they have to do something, whether it's in concert with NATO, whether it's in concert with the Arab League in some way, they may be forced to make a decision that, honestly, they don't seem to want to make right now. They seem to be playing for time, Wolf.

BLITZER: Here's what was very worrying, surprising to me, even shocking. Yesterday, both Gates and Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs, they say they have no evidence that Gadhafi is using air power to go after his enemies, the rebels, the opposition. Today, Gadhafi -- we know we saw it on tape. He launched air strikes against targets in Benghazi.

You saw Ben Wedeman get out with his life and our own CNN crew. Is that possible? There were so many eyewitness reports over these past two weeks that the Libyan air force helicopter gunships were firing at people on the ground, and Gates and Mullen say they don't know anything about that?

LAWRENCE: Wolf, eyewitness accounts, but they're not U.S. military assets. The U.S. military doesn't have its --

BLITZER: Does the U.S. have military assets that can see that?

LAWRENCE: Right now, they don't. Right now, they're depending on a lot of the same reports that we're getting. They're seeing the reports from our reporters on the ground, but what they're seeing is, yes, we know the bombings have taken place. What they don't know for a certain fact is that the bombings have directly targeted people, or if they've targeted, say, arm of man or scores of arms.

BLITZER: Mullen and Gates looked sort of ridiculous yesterday when they said that, that we have no evidence that they're doing it after all these reports from eyewitnesses saying we're getting bombed.

BORGER: I agree. And I think the question is, do the Libyans fighting the regime want intervention? And if so, what kind of intervention, right? I mean, do we know what the people on the ground want? BLITZER: Are people of the Pentagon open to sending arms to the opposition?

BORGER: Right.

LAWRENCE: I sense a lot of hesitation, in that regard.

BLITZER: No-fly zone. No sending arms.

LAWRENCE: Because of the history that the U.S. has gone in to where we've sent arms and then the aims of those who we gave those arms to have evolved or changed over time.

BORGER: But this is an administration that has said no more (INAUDIBLE) right?

LAWRENCE: Yes.

BORGER: We've said we don't want to standby and want something like that happen again. So, you can only imagine what's going on internally. I think they're playing for time right now because it's such a fluid situation that if they can get an international coalition together, because Gadhafi does what we saw on our tape today more and more, then, I think, that's the way they would rather --

LAWRENCE: But arms are a little more likely in that. They're less -- they don't have the U.S. label on them in the same way usually that a no-fly zone would.

BLITZER: On another matter, Petraeus apologizes to the people in Afghanistan for the U.S. killing about nine Afghani civilians.

LAWRENCE: That's right, Wolf. A really serious apology from General Petraeus today. This was an incident that happened Tuesday in Eastern Afghanistan. U.S. and NATO helicopter fired on civilians, killed nine of them. We know that some of those victims were children. Basically, you wonder how could this happen? Insurgents fired rockets at a base that the U.S. and Afghans used.

The helicopters came in to retaliate, and there was a mistake made between the people who identified where the insurgents were, and the actual helicopter crew that carried out the attack. They hit the wrong place, Wolf. Nine people dead, including some children.

BLITZER: Very sad story. All right. Guy, thanks very, very much.

We're staying on top of the Libya story. Over 1,000 refugees from Libya board a boat and head home, but that's barely making a dent in the exploding crisis. We're meeting some of the desperate people. They are still stuck at the border. Standby.

And a suspect is in custody right now in the deadly shooting of two U.S. troops in Germany. We have new information. The latest on the attack, possible motives. Much more on Libya coming up, as well.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is thinking about the U.S. role in Libya. He's here with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: United States said today it's weighing a possible military role to help the Libyans revolt against Moammar Gadhafi. The Obama administration repeatedly asked Gadhafi to step down from power, demanded accountability for the violence and bloodshed he continues to visit on his own people. Those requests are going nowhere. The White House has also said that all options in dealing with the crisis in Libya are on the table, and one of those options may be exile.

Visiting Geneva on Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hinted that the United States might be open to a deal in which the Libyan leader would voluntarily agree to exile in a third-party country. Yesterday, in a television interview, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice urged Gadhafi to end the violence and his reign of terror and consider exile. Rice said she's worried the situation in Libya could partly turn into a humanitarian catastrophe. Uh, it already is.

President Obama has not yet spoken publicly about Libya this week, but a spokesman said Monday, the president is holding firm on his stance that Gadhafi needs to step down immediately. Well, it's not happening, is it? And that exile was one way to maybe make that happen. Meanwhile, Gadhafi remains in Libya. The violence continues. The unrest grows. Hundreds of thousands of refugees heading for the borders, and the stakes get higher for everyone every day.

Here's the question. Should the United States offer exile to Gadhafi? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: Good question, Jack. I'm anxious to hear what our viewers think. Thanks very much.

President Obama is promising that anyone and everyone behind a deadly attack on American troops in Germany will be brought to justice. Two U.S. air force airmen were killed in the shooting at the Frankfurt Airport today. One suspect is now in custody.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I'm saddened and I'm outraged by this attack that took the lives of two Americans and wounded two others. I think the American people are united in expressing our gratitude for the service of those who were lost. Michelle and I have their family and their friends in our thoughts and prayers, and we are praying for a speedy recovery for those who were injured.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's go to Frankfurt right now. CNN's Fred Pleitgen is standing by live. What is the latest on the investigation, Fred?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Yes. This is exactly where the shooting happened. As you can see behind me, the bus has since been moved. The German authorities have cleaned up a lot of the things that were here before. Now, what they're saying is that, apparently, this is the work of one lone gunman, a 21-year-old man of Kosovo foreign (ph) descent who's been living here in Frankfurt for quite a while.

They say all the indications are is that the bus was parked right here where I am, that he went up to the crowd of U.S. soldiers who were in front of the bus, and then at some point, started opening fire outside the bus and then entered the bus and opened fire some more, as we said, killing two people, wounding two other U.S. service members. At least one of them is still in critical condition.

Now, apparently, Wolf, what happened afterwards is that he actually fled into the terminal, which is just a couple of feet right this way, and there he was then apprehended by the German police and also by one of the U.S. service members who is standing by the bus who chased after him and helped catch him inside the terminal building -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Do we know if this man from Kosovo, the suspect, had a political agenda? Did he say anything? Does he have a history of hating the United States, anything like that?

PLEITGEN: Well, those things are certainly being looked into. So far, the German authorities are saying they are not willing to say whether or not there was any sort of political motive, whether this was, as they would say, an act of terrorism. However, they do say that it's pretty much impossible that someone would have come here to the Frankfurt Airport carrying a weapon if he was not planning to do something very, very bad.

And also, we have heard from some media publications that, apparently, he might have been chanting Islamist slogans before a shooting at the soldiers. That, so far, has not been confirmed. So far, what we're getting, Wolf, from the German authorities, that they are saying they're not ruling anything out, but they also say they don't want to jump to conclusions at this point in time, Wolf.

BLITZER: When you say Islamist slogans, was he shouting in Arabic or anything like that? Is that what you're suggesting?

PLEITGEN: Yes, that's what people are saying. That's what we're hearing from other media outlets both here in Germany as well in U.S. outlets. And apparently, he was chanting Allahu Akbar in Arabic, of course, saying God is great, then, apparently, also chanting in Arabic some Islamist slogans as he was being wrestled to the ground right inside this terminal building here.

However, again, all of that, so far, is not being confirmed by the German police. They say they are still investigating his motives. And also whether or not there might have been other people involved or whether or not he might had been radicalized in some other way, shape, or form -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Fred, when you get more, let us know. High interest in this sad story here in the United States.

Thousands of civilians living in limbo along Libya's border right now. They're in tent cities. They're desperate to evacuate, but they're unable to get out. We're going to the border live when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Going back to Libya in just a few moments, but there's other important stories that Lisa Sylvester is monitoring here in the SITUATION ROOM. A tragedy in Pakistan happening today. Tell our viewers.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, the Taliban are claiming responsibility for the assassination of a Christian politician in Pakistan. Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan's federal minister of foreign affairs was gunned down outside his home in Islamabad this morning. Bhatti who was the only Christian in the country's cabinet was a vocal critic of Pakistan's religious blasphemy law which allows the death penalty for anyone who insults Islam, the Koran, or the prophet Mohammed.

And then major health scare for Serena Williams. A spokesman for the tennis star confirms she underwent emergency treatment for hematoma on Monday. That's after doctors treated her for a blood clot in her lung last week. The clot was discovered when Williams returned to Los Angeles after seeing doctors in New York about ongoing issues with her foot.

And climate changes impacting the planet now more than ever. According to a panel of scientists, they say this winter's heavy snowfalls and other extreme storms could be linked to increase moisture in the air. That extra moisture is likely to bring heavy flooding and an early spring in the northern hemisphere this year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SYLVESTER: And take a listen, a standing ovation for Apple Steve Jobs today as he took the stage to unveil the second generation iPad. Jobs returned for medical leave to make the big announcement of the iPad 2. It's faster, lighter, and it comes in two colors, black or white. It also features a front and rear facing camera, and it goes on sale, date, March 11th. Starting price, $499. So, not $500, but $499, Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm happy Steve Jobs is there. He looks thin and frail. He's been recovering. He's been on medical leave, but at least, he sounded pretty good when he made the announcement.

SYLVESTER: And yes, it was a big thing just the fact that he showed up, Wolf.

BLITZER: We wish him a speedy, speedy recovery. Thanks very much. They are tired. They are filthy. They're packed like sardines into refugee camps down near the Libyan border. It's a warehouse, literally. Moammar Gadhafi is threatening a bath of blood, his words. His latest and longest rant yet. We're going to tell you why experts are warning don't count Gadhafi out, at least not yet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CHANTING)

BLITZER: All right. This is new video we're just getting in from Ajabiya (ph). That's a town that Libyan troops loyal to Gadhafi attacked today. You can see the opposition forces. They responded. They've got some anti-aircraft fire, old anti-aircraft equipment there. Some rifles. They're not necessarily in great shape. But they're holding onto Ajabiwa (ph), just as they're holding onto other towns, including Brega and, of course, Benghazi, the second largest city in Libya.

But the Libyan forces loyal to Gadhafi, they're warning, they're going ahead potentially with a full-scale military assault on some of these targets that the opposition to Gadhafi have been holding. We've got new information coming in. We'll share that with you. Stand by for that.

Meanwhile, fresh warnings today that the refugee crisis in Libya is exploding into a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe. United Nations officials say it's simple math. As many as 15,000 people are fleeing Libya every day, but only about 3,000 are leaving the refugee camps every 24 hours.

CNN's Ivan Watson is near the Libyan/Tunisian border. He's joining us now live with the latest. What are you seeing today, Ivan?

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we saw today an Egyptian navy vessel that was taking about 1,200 exhausted and very relieved Egyptian refugees, but one United Nations official telling me that that is just a drop in the bucket.

The French government has stepped forward. The French foreign ministry saying it's going to send planes and ships to the area to try to move out less than -- about 5,000 (AUDIO GAP). We've seen the U.N. step up, putting up thousands of tents for a makeshift camp near the border for some 18,000 people.

But still, the refugees continue to stream across the border, Wolf.

And a big question. You saw that gunfire just now, anti-aircraft fire. As Libya seems to be heading towards what can soon be described as a civil war, we're not going to just be seeing foreigners fleeing Libya. We may start seeing Libyans themselves coming across borders to escape this fighting.

BLITZER: Because mostly so far Egyptians and other foreign nationals, they've been trying to escape. But what you're saying is Libyans themselves, to save their lives, to save the lives of their families, they may be escaping.

Are you seeing in nearby Tunisia, right on the border, a greater United Nations international humanitarian relief operation in place? Do they have the wherewithal to get the job done? Because we know the Tunisians don't.

WATSON: No. The United Nations has just started coming in in the last 48 hours. They've started bringing in tents, thousands of them. We saw a tent city spring up a few miles for the border with Libya literally overnight. And that is where the bulk of the new arrivals are being housed right now before they get moved on.

Again, the U.N. calling for help to build an air and sea bridge, calling on foreign governments to step up to help move some of these people back to their countries of origin. And U.N. officials also telling me that they are very impressed by the levels to which Tunisian society has stepped forward to try to greet this flood of humanity.

Ordinary Tunisians coming out trying to feed these strangers that are coming across the border to escape the fighting. But they just don't have the wherewithal to deal with, according to one U.N. -- one U.N. estimate, more than 85,000 people that have come across this border in just a matter of a week and a half.

And again, that scenario about the possibility of Libyans starting to flee across the border. That's just if you start looking ahead. If this fighting does get worse, what we've seen in many conflicts like this around the world, in Africa, is eventually the citizens of that country itself start moving around, trying to escape the fighting. And people are starting to prepare contingency plans here.

BLITZER: As they should. I've been told by international relief organizations they're very worried right now about disease. Because these people are leaving, and they're being packed in like sardines, if you will. I assume some of the doctors you've been speaking to are checking for disease breaking out, lack of water, sanitation, stuff like that.

WATSON: Yes. And one perhaps interesting thing that one of the migration officials said at this camp that sprung up was maybe one benefit of the demographics that have come across the border: by and large, these are migrant workers, laborers who go to Libya to try to eke out a living. And you really have an amazing array of different nationalities there. I saw Ghanaians. I saw Vietnamese, Nigerians, Egyptians, as well, Bangladeshis, people from all over the world, hordes of them who work in Libya, partly as a result of the oil proceeds that they have, the oil money they have on massive construction projects. So they're all coming across the border.

Perhaps because everybody there, for the most part is male, they're able to deal with some of the sanitation and sewage issues perhaps a little bit easier than if they had large numbers of children or women streaming across the border. Fortunately, we're not seeing that just yet. BLITZER: All right, Ivan. Thanks very much.

Ivan is in Djerba (ph) across the border between Libya and Tunisia. We'll check back with him.

Several thousand Libyans rallied in Tripoli late today in support of Gadhafi. It happened hours after the Libyan leader delivered yet another long rambling speech on state television. Among other things, he warned that thousands and thousands of people will be killed if the U.S. or NATO intervenes in his country.

Brian Todd is here. He's looking at the story for us.

It looks like he's not going to go down without a huge fight and potentially thousands of more people killed.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. He is looking stronger than a lot of people thought he might by this stage. Moammar Gadhafi has a track record as a survivor. Experts say he's got the capability to drag this out for a long time, and that his tactical decisions don't reflect the man who's out of touch with reality, despite the bluster of his public appearances.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): As far as he's concerned, he's not going anywhere.

MUAMMAR GADHAFI, LIBYAN LEADER (through translator): Libyans' unity will be fought until death. Those who are meddling, causing anarchy, should be stopped in their tracks.

TODD: If you ask Moammar Gadhafi, reports of rebel advances and opposition strongholds are overblown. He's been called delusional by his internal enemies and by U.S. officials. Analysts say Gadhafi has been weakened by this uprising, but don't count him out yet.

SHASHANK JOSHI, ROYAL UNITED SERVICES INSTITUTE: I think we seriously underestimated the loyalty of those core security elements around him, and we were perhaps misled by the early defections, not fully taking into account that those defections were anticipated by Gadhafi and consisted of some of the weakest of his forces.

TODD: Shashank Joshi says Gadhafi knew beforehand that military units in eastern Libya were not as loyal to him as others and that he planned for the day those units may defect to opposing forces, as many of them have now. He says Gadhafi purposely deprived those units in the east of the best training and equipment. He gave that to other forces, like the vaunted 32nd Brigade, commanded by his son, Khamis.

JOSHI: Now, that brigade for years has been receiving the most sophisticated equipment out of any in the army. Communications equipment, weaponry. It retains the finest tanks, and it retains the best skilled and best trained personnel.

TODD: It's also backed, analysts say, by mercenaries. Joshi and other analysts say, despite rebel gains, they've not yet shown they have a unified command structure or an ability to mount a serious march on Gadhafi's stronghold, the capitol of Tripoli. If they do, Gadhafi can make a bold last stand.

(on camera) If Gadhafi does get cornered in Tripoli, analysts say he still may have some measure of command and control because of a fortified bunker known as Bab al-Azizia (ph), which has strategic and symbolic importance for him. I asked Noureddine Jebnoun of Georgetown University about that fortification.

(on camera) What can you tell us about the bunker at Bab al- Azizia (ph)?

PROF. NOUREDDINE JEBNOUN, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: It's of the Libyan armed forces used by Gadhafi, and where he was bombed by the U.S. Air Force in 1986. With the tunnel system or the communications system, the most sophisticated one, it's almost five miles square.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Jebnoun says Gadhafi cold hold out there maybe two months in that bunker. He and other analysts say, despite Gadhafi's strengths, there's still a good chance that he won't survive this uprising in the long run, that it's likely he won't emerge strong enough to have a hold over the entire country, like he had before, Wolf. Maybe he holds onto Tripoli and some key areas in the west.

BLITZER: This looks like this civil war that's developing could drag on. All right, Brian, thanks very much. We're worried about the people in Libya right now. Much more on that story coming up.

Also, no matter how much you cringe when you see protests at military funerals, the United States Supreme Court now says those protests are allowed.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The Supreme Court is hearing arguments in a case that pits a former football star against a former attorney general. Jeanne Meserve has more.

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JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After the 9/11 attacks, law enforcement was scrambling to find and thwart any other terror plots. Abdullah al-Kidd, a U.S. citizen and former University of Idaho athlete, was arrested at Washington's Dulles Airport in 2003 as he was about to fly to Saudi Arabia. He was imprisoned for 16 days as a material witness in the investigation of another man. Al-Kidd says he was shackled, stripped, denied sleep, but he was never called to testify and was never charged. And his lawyers say the material witness statute was misused.

LEE GELERNT, ATTORNEY FOR AL-KIDD: The Fourth Amendment to this -- to our Constitution requires that there be probable cause of a violation of the law. It has always required that. And the court has said that for more than two centuries. The government cannot use this statute as and end run around the Fourth Amendment.

MESERVE: Al-Kidd is suing John Ashcroft, the U.S. attorney general at the time of his arrest, but government lawyers argue, as an official, Ashcroft should be immune from prosecution.

RICHARD SAMP, WASHINGTON LEGAL FOUNDATION: We think it is wholly unwarranted to ask senior members of the administration to face long and arduous lawsuits in which their personal assets are at risk.

MESERVE: In arguments Wednesday, the Supreme Court's conservative and liberal justices appeared split. Chief Justice John Roberts speculated that officials would flinch at doing their jobs if they didn't have some immunity from prosecution. "If I'm the officer in that situation, I say, 'Well, I'm just not going to run the risk of, you know, having to sell the house'."

But Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked if there wasn't a reason to make officials flinch. Otherwise, she speculated, "prosecutors can, out of spite, out of whatever motive they have, just lock people up."

(on camera) Al-Kidd eventually not only made the trip to Saudi Arabia; he lives there teaching English. His case is considered an important test of how the government can use the material witness law to detain people with possible connections to terrorists.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule by early summer -- Wolf.

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BLITZER: All right, Jeanne. Thank you.

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling involving controversial anti-gay protests at U.S. military funerals. We have details. That's next.

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BLITZER: The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of anti-gay church groups, specifically one church group, a tiny one, to protest at military funerals. Kate Bolduan has more.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): You're going straight to hell on your crazy train.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): You're going straight to hell on your crazy train.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): You're going straight to hell on your crazy train.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Members of the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church carry signs that read, "Thank God for dead soldiers" and "America is doomed."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): God hates America. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): God hates America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): God hates America.

BOLDUAN: They have made a business out of protesting at military funerals across the country. They believe soldiers are dying because God is punishing the country for, quote, "the sin of homosexuality."

In an overwhelming 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday Westboro Church, led by Pastor Fred Phelps, has the right to continue spreading their angry message. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, quote, "Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and as it did here, inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker."

The pain the chief justice refers to is that of Albert Snyder. The Phelps family picketed outside the funeral of Snyder's son, Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, killed in Iraq.

ALBERT SNYDER, FATHER OF FALLEN U.S. SOLDIER: We found out today that we can no longer bury our dead in this country with dignity. What is this country becoming?

BOLDUAN: Snyder sued for intentional infliction of emotional distress. But the high court disagreed, saying the protest on public property outside the funeral was not overly intrusive and, however reprehensible, the speech was protected by the First Amendment.

Because, Robert said, "The issues they highlight, the political and moral conduct of the United States and its citizens, the fate of our nation, homosexuality in the military, and scandals involving the Catholic clergy, are matters of public import."

MARGIE PHELPS, ATTORNEY FOR WESTBORO BAPTIST CHURCH: Having your feelings hurt over words is not enough to shut up the speech.

BOLDUAN: The lone dissenting opinion, Justice Samuel Alito, saying, quote, "In order to have a society in which public issues can be openly and vigorously debated, it is not necessary to allow the brutalization of innocent victims like Albert Snyder."

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BOLDUAN: And in the end military families across the country will undoubtedly be extremely upset about this ruling.

And going forward the broader legal issue may not be entirely over. Separate state laws setting up so-called floating buffers to keep this church away from other funerals are still working their way through lower courts.

As for the Westboro Church, they told me today this ruling means they will only redouble their efforts after this ruling. And I just remembered, actually, Wolf, and this is an interesting note: tomorrow is actually the fifth anniversary of the day Matthew Snyder died in Iraq.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is coming up next.

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BLITZER: Right back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour: "Should the United States offer exile to Moammar Gadhafi?"

Witmer writes, "Gadhafi ought to not be given exile status in any western country. To do so sends a message to the Middle Eastern countries that the west takes the side of the oppressors. Gadhafi should face his own people, who will justly deal with him and give him his due."

Bob writes, "They ought to arrest and try this punk for the Lockerbie bombings. He also ought to be tried for committing crimes against Libyans and his role in arming the IRA."

D.K. in San Jose: "Why are we once again acting like the holier- than-thou police of the world? Shouldn't we let Libya and the rest of the world solve their own problems? I realize oil and gas prices are at stake here, but why would we be willing to accept a deal for Gadhafi? Why is he any of our business?"

Leslie write, "No, let his people that he claims love him, have him."

Bizz in Pennsylvania writes, "The answer to your question is no, absolutely not. We all know what happened when the shah of Iran ended up in the United States for medical treatment and the reaction from Iran. When the protestors get their hands on Gadhafi, the only place he'll be is in the ground."

Lou writes, "Yes, sure. He can ask Charlie Sheen if he's got an extra bedroom. Our thinking is wide in scope and takes in all the crazies and makes them think they're smart. I'm glad you thought about Gadhafi coming to our land. He wouldn't even have to come through Ellis Island. He's nuts enough to just slide right in. Sheen would have a super roommate."

And Joe in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, says, "For his $30 billion, I'll let him stay at my house."

If you want to read more on this, go to the blog: CNN.com/CaffertyFile.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you. See you back here tomorrow.

One is a dictator; the other is an actor. Jeanne Moos is next.

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BLITZER: Rambling speeches that are hard to understand. CNN's Jeanne Moos reports.

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JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It had to happen: Moammar Gadhafi and Charlie Sheen seen simultaneously live on morning television. Gadhafi using words that stumped even the translator.

MUAMMAR GADHAFI, LIBYAN LEADER (through translator): A colloquial term used by the -- Gadhafi which I did not understand.

MOOS: But some of Sheen's quotes are a little hard to fathom. There's even something called "Live the Sheen Dream" that generates some of his pithier quotes when you click on his head.

London's "Guardian" newspaper put a quiz on their Web site called "Whose Line Is It Anyway?"

(on camera) Gadhafi or Sheen? "Your face will melt off, and your children will weep over your exploded body."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that's Gadhafi.

MOOS: It's Charlie Sheen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Charlie Sheen again.

CHARLIE SHEEN, ACTOR: Your face will melt off, and your children will weep over your body. Too much.

MOOS (voice-over): Not too much. He was only joking about the effects of the drug he's on.

SHEEN: I am on a drug. It's called Charlie Sheen.

MOOS: Meanwhile, Gadhafi is always blaming hallucinogenic pills for the actions of protesters.

(on camera) "I have defeated this earthworm with my words. Imagine what I would have done with my fire-breathing fists."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gadhafi. I don't know.

MOOS: Sheen.

"I am like the queen of England."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gadhafi?

MOOS: Yes.

(voice-over) Both men surround themselves with women. Gadhafi has his female bodyguards. Sheen has...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The goddesses now live with Charlie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your two girlfriends, the goddesses.

SHEEN: Yes.

MOOS (on camera): But you sure can't say Sheen and Gadhafi dress alike.

(voice-over) Well, Gadhafi and his falling-off-the-shoulder robes, requiring constant rearrangement, while Sheen turns up in a New York City T-shirt made famous by John Lennon. Let it be.

(on camera) But they did make some surprisingly similar gestures.

(voice-over) Gadhafi to his chanting followers. Sheen to his kids.

SHEEN: You're right here.

MOOS (on camera): Seriously, though, sorry, Charlie. We know the comparisons between you and Gadhafi are ridiculous.

(voice-over) But we in the press just can't resist. At least Sheen has some defenders.

DONALD TRUMP, REAL ESTATE MOGUL: He's crazy. I've seen worse.

PIERS MORGAN, HOST, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": I believe fundamentally in a man's right to party if he wants to.

MOOS: Gadhafi and Sheen may be seen saying, "Call me, bro," just not to each other.

Jeanne Moos, CNN...

(on camera) "These resentments, they are the rocket fuel that lives in the tip of my saber.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Saber, that's Gadhafi.

MOOS: That's Sheen.

(voice-over) ... New York.

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

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.