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THE SITUATION ROOM
Gadhafi Not Pulling Back; Backing Libyan Rebels in War; Boehner: War Not Clearly Defined; 'We Will Apply A Range of Pressure'; Interview With Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat; U.S. Military Equipment Decontaminated in Japan; Potential Shutdown of Toyota Factories
Aired March 23, 2011 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Brooke, thanks very much.
Happening now, coalition forces have just launched a new round of strikes against Libya on this, the fifth day of Operation Odyssey Dawn. But the Libyan dictator, Moammar Gadhafi, is showing no signs of retreat -- at least not yet.
Jerusalem's first serious bombing in years -- just ahead, the latest on the rush hour blast that left one person dead and dozens injured. The city's mayor is standing by to join us live.
And new radiation fears in Tokyo. Residents now stocking up on bottles of water after the Japanese government warns that tap water is no longer safe for infants to drink.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
In a span of 24 hours, the U.S. military says the coalition has launched more than 50 strikes in its mission to protect Libyan civilians. But there's no indication the battle is close to being over.
Just a short while ago, the secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, warned Gadhafi that the quickest way to end it is for him to leave.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: It will be up to Gadhafi and his insiders to determine what their next steps are. But we would certainly encourage that they would make the right decision and not only institute a real comprehensive cease-fire, but withdraw from the cities and the military actions and prepare for a transition that does not include Colonel Gadhafi.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The secretary of State making it clear, Gadhafi must go. That is the U.S. policy.
Let's go to -- straight to Benghazi right now.
Reza Sayah standing by -- Reza, there are serious reports of major clashes underway in Ajdabiya, in Misurata.
What do we know about the fighting at this moment?
REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you just heard Secretary of State Hillary Clinton encouraging Moammar Gadhafi. But Colonel Gadhafi is not backing down.
A couple of major developments today in Libya that shows that this conflict is far from over. And the stage is set for what could be -- what could be a lengthy and complicated conflict.
Let's start with Ajdabiya, a strategically critical city for both sides, widely viewed as the front line. The opposition forces had it a couple of weeks ago then Gadhafi forces took it over.
When the momentum shifted back to the opposition forces and they came toward Ajdabiya a few days ago, they tried to take it over. But they had been repelled. But today, they made some significant headway toward Ajdabiya, coming within a few miles of this key city in heavy fighting. Nine people killed, six people injured, according to a hospital official.
Let's move to Misrata, another key city in Western Libya, east of Tripoli. That's where, witnesses say, the Gadhafi regime placed snipers on rooftops and they're attacking innocent civilians, attacking a local hospital. A hospital official telling CNN that the situation is dire and at least two people have been killed.
So, Wolf, it -- it's situations and developments like this that I think could possibly fuel the criticism that's already coming against this operation and questions whether, indeed, it will fulfill its stated intention of ending the loss of civilian lives -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The threat to the civilians, the rebels, specifically.
You're in Tripoli -- excuse me, in Benghazi, the headquarters of the rebel opposition. It's the second largest city in Libya, a city of about 800,000 people.
What are you seeing in Benghazi?
SAYAH: Well, for the past 24 hours, it has been peaceful, other than some celebratory gunfire. And that's because all the Gadhafi forces and the antiaircraft missiles that were here have already been taken out. So you don't see a lot of activity from -- from Allied forces.
A remarkable scene earlier today. The column of tanks and armor -- the Gadhafi forces that, just a few days ago, were making their way up here, are now a bunch of wrecked military vehicles. And they have been turned into a virtual outdoor museum. You have thousands of local residents going out there with their families and their kids, showing this wreckage to their families. These people were convinced that if it weren't for the Allied forces' intervene, if it weren't for Operation Odyssey Dawn, they would have been slaughtered -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Reza Sayah.
He was in Islamabad only a few days ago. I saw him in Cairo last week. Now he's in Benghazi.
Reza, be careful over there. We'll stay in close touch with you.
The surge in military action against Gadhafi is raising new questions about just how much interaction is taking place right now between the coalition and rebel forces.
Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
She's got more on this part of the story.
And it's not a simple story to understand. It gets complicated.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: It does, indeed, Wolf. What is clear is that on some level, the interaction with the opposition forces is growing.
The question may be how far will that interaction go?
STARR: (voice-over): The U.S. insists the cruise missiles and air strikes are only to protect civilians from the onslaught of Gadhafi's forces. But in an interview with CNN, President Obama did not close the door to military support for the rebels.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We were discussing with the coalition what steps can be taken.
STARR: On the ground, there may already be much more going on behind-the-scenes. The opposition forces' chief of staff told CNN his troops haven't received weapons, but are in contact with the coalition.
GEN. ABDUL FATAH YOUNIS, OPPOSITION FORCES CHIEF OF STAFF (through translator): Of course, we are coordinating 24 hours, whether it's the French, Italians or Americans, in this mission, the leaders in this mission. For every air strike or mission, we assure that there are no civilians present at the time. We agreed on this condition.
STARR: U.S. military officials say if there is communication on the strikes, it's not official.
GEN. CARTER HAM, COMMANDER, U.S. AFRICA COMMAND: So while we have reports from -- from people who are reported to be in the opposition, there is official communication or formal communication with those in this so-called opposition that are opposing the regime's ground forces.
STARR: The U.S. and coalition forces are only striking Gadhafi forces on the ground if they are threatening or appear to be threatening civilians. Military officials say if ordered by the president, they will do more. The flexibility may already exist.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: From the point of the United Nations resolution, it's very unambiguous. It says "any means necessary" can be used to protect Libyan civilians.
STARR: But the coalition's hands might be tied when it comes to protecting rebels equipped already with armored vehicles and heavy weapons.
HAM: I would argue, are no longer covered under that protect civilian clause.
STARR: Now, President Obama, to some extent, appears to be relying on the hope that the Libyan people will become disenchanted with Gadhafi, telling CNN in that interview it may be that it's not a matter of military might, the president said, but instead an idea that has come to the Libyan people that it's time for a change -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And the -- and once again, this whole notion of the U.S., the Pentagon, arming rebels, what are officials where you are saying?
STARR: Well, officially, they are saying that that is not happening and there's no indication that the White House or President Obama has ordered that. That would have to, of course, be something that would come directly from the White House. In fact, what they are saying is somewhat of -- of the opposite. If the rebels are armed with tanks and heavy -- heavy weapons, to some extent, they are going to have to look after themselves.
But let's be very clear. This is, as we've seen over the last few days, a very fast changing battlefield. Everybody is maneuvering for position, literally and politically. And we will see, over the coming days, how all of this sorts out -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. We'll stay in very close touch with you.
Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon.
Let's go to Capitol Hill right now, where only Muslims ago, the House speaker released a letter he sent to President Obama. John Boehner now demanding answers from the president about the U.S. role in this Libya mission.
Our White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar, was first with this story.
She's joining us now with details -- all right, what does the speaker really want, Brianna?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He is raising a lot of questions, Wolf, and iterating concerns, for sure.
He starts off by saying that he and a number of members of Congress have been troubled that U.S. military resources were committed to a war without clearly defining really what the mission is for U.S. troops.
This is a two page letter. And as I said, question after question. Speaker Boehner says to President Obama: MAJ. ) "You MAJ. ) have stated that Gadhafi has to go." He goes on to say that the U.N. resolution that the U.S. helped develop doesn't say that regime change is a part of this, in fact, makes clear that it is not.
And it says, quote: MAJ. ) "In light of this contradiction, is it acceptable outcome for Gadhafi to remain in power after the military effort concludes in Libya? If not, how will he be removed from power? Why would the U.S. commit American resources to enforcing a U.N. resolution that is inconsistent with our stated policy goals and national interests?"
A number of questions here, Wolf, more than a dozen that I counted, including if the coalition dissolves, will the U.S. disengage?
If Gadhafi remains in power, how long will the no fly zone go on?
How will the U.S. be involved there?
And, most importantly, at a time when spending cuts are being debated here on Capitol Hill, what will the cost estimate be?
And, as you know, Wolf, House Speaker Boehner, he says here that he respects the president's role as commander-in-chief, but certainly raising all of these questions really goes to the heart of the decisions that President Obama has made as commander-in-chief -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And all of these questions -- I've got the letter right here -- these are legitimate questions that the president should answer. I assume he'll by happy to answer them.
We're going to be speaking with his deputy national security adviser later here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll pose some of these questions and see if Denis McDonough has some of the answers.
There was a briefing last Friday in the White House Situation Room. The president did invite Congressional leaders in, to either come in physically or join by -- by phone, to let them know what was going on. So that there was a little bit of a briefing in advance of the operation beginning.
KEILAR: There was a briefing. One of the things and -- and, really, out of -- a part of the criticism that we hear from Speaker Boehner in this letter, Wolf, is that he says it is regrettable that no opportunity was afforded to consult with Congressional leaders, as was the custom of your predecessors before your decision as commander- in-chief to deploy into combat the men and women of our armed forces.
Now, he makes a distinction here, Wolf, because, yes, Congressional leaders, Democrats and Republicans were briefed on Friday, he says, "before your decision was made." So he's really kind of saying that, yes, we were briefed after the fact.
But I have to tell you that a number of very prominent Democrats, Democratic senators, they came out today in a conference call and they said this administration has kept us well informed. So trying to counter some of this criticism that is coming from Republicans.
But there is criticism coming from the left, as well, some liberals who say they're just uncomfortable with this level of engagement when there are wars in Iraq and Afghanistan going on and even liberal Democrats who might be OK, Wolf, with the engagement, but they say they wish Congress had been consulted for authorization.
There is some bipartisan tension here between Capitol Hill and -- and the administration.
BLITZER: Yes. The president has got his work cut out for him right now, now that he's back in the United States from this visit to Chile and Brazil and El Salvador, I'm sure
he'll start focusing in on this, repairing that relationship, if he can, with Congress.
Thanks very much, Brianna.
President Obama, just moments ago, returned to the United States. And, as I said, he's facing some serious questions about the crisis in Libya.
Is it time for him to address the nation from the Oval Office or go before a joint session of Congress?
Plus, a deadly rush hour bombing in Jerusalem, the first in years. Just ahead in THE SITUATION ROOM, I'll speak with the mayor of Jerusalem. He's joining me for a live interview.
And Hollywood loses an icon. So does Washington. We're remembering the legendary actress, Elizabeth Taylor.
Lots of news happening today, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The military action against Moammar Gadhafi is on Jack Cafferty's mind.
He has "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is refreshingly open and honest, it seems, said, quote: "We haven't done something like this, kind of on the fly before," unquote.
He was talking about the coalition attacks on Gadhafi's forces in Libya, why the United States was still in control, why tensions are rising among members of the coalition, why there's no plan for any group or nation to take the lead.
The Allies in all of this, you see, are not getting along so well. In fact, there are reports today that the coalition is coming apart at the seams.
France yesterday suggested a committee be formed outside of NATO to oversee the military operations. It would be a political steering committee and would include members of the Arab League.
See, if the war is run by committee, then nobody has to take responsibility if things go to hell and everybody can take credit if they go well. The French were early backers of the no fly zone -- in fact, were the first nation to launch air strikes against Libya on Saturday.
The Italians have accused the French of not originally backing a NATO-run operation in order to be in a better position for those oil contracts if and when a new government is ever established in Libya.
And it's not just the French that are causing problems. Russia's defense minister weighed in yesterday, calling for a cease-fire in Libya. Germany today pulled its naval ships out of NATO operations in the Mediterranean over a disagreement about the Libyan campaign's direction.
It's not pretty.
Foreign ministers from Western coalition partners will meet in London on Tuesday, along with members of the Arab League and the African Union and they'll all see what, if anything, can be done at that time.
Here's the question -- France wants a committee to run the war in Libya. Is that a good idea?
Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jack.
We'll get back to you shortly.
President Obama has returned now to the United States from his trip to Latin America. He is facing serious questions about the war in Libya.
Let's talk about this with our senior political analysts, David Gergen and Gloria Borger.
They're joining us now.
First of all, let's talk about the speaker's letter, that was just sent to the president.
Among other things, he writes this, Speaker Boehner: MAJ. ) "Because of the conflicting messages from the administration and our coalition partners, there is a lack of clarity over the objectives of this mission, what our national security interests are and how it fits into our overarching policy for the Middle East. The American people deserve answers to these questions and all of these concerns point to a fundamental question -- what is your benchmark for success in Libya?" -- David, I think it's fair to say the speaker has a good point. He wants to know what the U.S. strategy, what the U.S. policy is. And he thinks Democrats and Republicans in Congress deserve answers.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Smart letter.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
GERGEN: He has a very good point. And I think it's a point, you know, we've been talking about here now for 24 or 48 hours here on CNN. And the president is almost back. And I just -- I have to believe, Wolf, that within a matter of two or three days, perhaps after the weekend, but maybe before, he's going to do exactly what the speaker wants, and that is address the country. Whether he will be as specific as we like is a big question.
BLITZER: He's got to invite at least the Congressional leadership into the White House, but -- but probably address the nation from the Oval Office, or go before a joint session of Congress -- Gloria.
BORGER: I think -- I think he does. And what was really interesting about -- about the speaker's letter -- and I agree with you that I think it asked very legitimate, very pertinent questions, was the speaker kind of pointed out, you know, you seem to have time to consult with the Arab League. You had time to consult with the United Nations. But you didn't have time to consult with the Congress.
Now, I know the administration and some Congressional Democrats would disagree with that. But, clearly, the point Speaker Boehner is making is, you know, you were so busy forming a coalition and getting everybody else's opinions that you really didn't solicit ours.
And so, you know, start from there and then you understand why the president has to address the Congress or meet with the Congress, at the very, very least -- Wolf.
David, Listen to what the president told our CNN Espanol, Juan Carlos Lopez, when he asked him yesterday about what the mission is -- de -- describe what you're trying to do against Gadhafi.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM CNN EN ESPANOL)
OBAMA: You are absolutely right that, you know, Gadhafi may try to hunker down and wait it out even in the face of a no-fly zone, even though his forces have been degraded. But keep in mind that we don't just have military tools at our disposal, in terms of accomplishing Gadhafi's leaving. You know, we put in place strong international sanctions. We've frozen his assets. We will continue to apply a whole range of pressure on him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, realistically, David, freezing his assets and imposing sanctions on Libya, on Gadhafi, is that going to convince Gadhafi to step aside?
GERGEN: Realistically, you have to hope it will. But there's no -- I don't think there are any guarantees in that situation, Wolf --
BLITZER: Well you know --
GERGEN: This guy (INAUDIBLE) --
BLITZER: -- Gadhafi. He's been around for 42 years --
GERGEN: Well, yes. I don't --
BLITZER: I don't think he's going to get scared by sanctions or -- or he's going to -- he's not going to get scared by freezing his assets.
GERGEN: Well, you know, we've had a situation where, with -- with one leader, Mubarak, who left under a lot of pressure. But we've had other situations, like Saddam Hussein, you know, if we -- we had a no-fly zone in place there for a decade.
GERGEN: We had a situation like Noriega. We had to go in and get him. And it took days to chase him down in Panama. You'll remember that.
You know, so I think -- I think Gadhafi is much more in the Saddam Hussein and Noriega mold then he is like Mubarak.
BLITZER: Yes, and I agree --
BORGER: Well --
BLITZER: -- Gloria, that raises the question, is the U.S. going to have to go in and get Gadhafi the way the U.S. got Saddam Hussein or got Noriega?
BORGER: Or -- yes, that's one question. The other question is to what extent are we willing to arm the rebels?
to what extent are we willing to fund the rebels?
You know, it's one thing to fund the rebels for a humanitarian mission. But when you're changing missions and you're talking about regime change, getting rid of Gadhafi, which is the U.S. goal, that's something else. And to get back to Speaker Boehner's letter, he asks very specifically, if U.S. policy is to remove Gadhafi, he asks, quote: MAJ. ) "Do you have an engagement strategy for the opposition forces?" MAJ. ).
BLITZER: That's a good question. And we'll see --
BORGER: It is.
BLITZER: -- we'll see what the answer is. And we'll --
BLITZER: We'll try to ask some questions of Denis McDonough, the president's deputy national security adviser. He'll be joining us live here in THE SITUATION ROOM today. So we'll -- we'll press him on some of these questions.
Guys, thanks very much.
BLITZER: A deadly crackdown on protesters in Syria. Just ahead, new details from witnesses on the streets.
And more troubling radiation tests results triggering a run on bottled water in Japan. We're going there.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now, including some developments -- some deadly unrest in Syria -- what's going on?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf.
Witnesses say Syrian security forces opened fire on anti- government protesters today, killing 15 of them. Syrian state TV denies that and says armed groups attacked security forces and killed several medical workers. Today, President Bashar al-Assad fired the governor of the province where protests have been taking place for several days now.
A man accused of trying to bomb a Martin Luther King, Jr. parade in Spokane, Washington is being arraigned today in federal court. Kevin William Harpham is charged with attempting to use a weapons of mass destruction and possessing an unregistered explosive device. The bomb was discovered along the parade route on MLK Day and was disabled. The organization that monitors hate groups says Harpham visited white supremacist Web sites.
And it's been exactly a year since President Obama signed landmark health care reform into law. And since then, Americans' views on the legislation haven't changed. A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey shows 37 percent of Americans support it, while 59 percent oppose it. That's basically unchanged from last March, when 39 percent supported the law and 59 percent opposed it. So not a whole lot, Wolf, has changed within the last year.
BLITZER: Yes. But let's not forget, to be precise, when they say 59 percent oppose it, some oppose it because they think it's too conservative, that it didn't go for the public option, if you will. Some oppose it because they think it goes way too far in creating, quote, "socialist medicine."
So it's not just opposition from the right or the left, there's opposition from both sides.
SYLVESTER: That's right. That's a very good point to make -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. I want to be precise on that. I do think if the poll broke it down, if you oppose it because it didn't go far enough in creating a public option, if you will, or from the other perspective.
Thanks very much for that.
Jerusalem right now on heightened alert after a deadly terrorist attack. The city's mayor is standing by to join us live here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And Moammar Gadhafi's forces hammered by coalition air strikes.
Are they still capable of doing significant damage?
The answer coming up.
BLITZER: President Obama strongly condemning Jerusalem's first serious bombing in several years. The blast which occurred during the evening rush hour near two buses killed one woman, injured more than 50 people.
The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, says his country will act aggressively to maintain security. The Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, calls the incident disgraceful and a terrorist act. His words.
Joining us now from Jerusalem is the mayor the mayor of that city, Nir Barkat.
Mr. Mayor thanks very much for coming in. And our condolences to the families of all those who suffered. One family member -- one person died, but many others were injured.
Do you know, Mayor, who was responsible for this bombing?
MAYOR NIR BARKAT, JERUSALEM: Well, thank you, Wolf, for the condolences.
Not yet, but 99 percent of the cases, Israel and Jerusalem forces know how to isolate the attackers, the terrorists, find them. We will go aggressively as law provides against them and their roots. And on the other hand, we have to extremely fast go back to normal life. It's the best way to deal with terror.
BLITZER: No one claimed responsibility for this act of terror yet, is that correct?
BARKAT: True. However, there are a number of terrorist organizations that applauded this. It's like people believe in death.
Our values, my values, yours, it's promoting life. And you see more and more of the terrorist organizations seeking terror, seeking death to scare -- it's a global effort these days. And we -- the normal people of the world have to stand up for it and promote life, isolate the problem, and make sure that we move on with life as fast as possible.
BLITZER: This was not a suicide bomber who did this. This seemed to be a relatively sophisticated operation.
Does it have the hallmarks of other similar terror attacks against targets in Israel?
BARKAT: Well, it's an isolated event. And as such, this is the way we should view it.
It's still being interrogated. And naturally, the security forces will not come out with any intermediate result before we catch the people that did this. We're having a marathon on Friday here in Jerusalem, the first international marathon with 10,000 runners, over a thousand people from abroad.
Jerusalem seeks life. Jerusalem seeks beauty. We'll do our best effort to have the people that have come here from all over the world enjoy the city of Jerusalem, enjoy the values of Jerusalem. And this is the way I believe we will stay and make Jerusalem stay on path.
BLITZER: Normally at the central bus station in Jerusalem they would have a lot of close-circuit cameras, video. Do you know if they have video of this area near this bus that was bombed today that might give an indication of who planted this bomb, apparently in a telephone booth?
BARKAT: Well, for the benefit of the interrogation, I believe the less we talk about it, the better. I'm sure that the security forces, which are one of the best in the world -- we're experienced and we all realize that terror is a global problem. And if there's any place as safe as any other city in the world, that would be Jerusalem and Israel, that knows how to deal with the situation.
Look at the countries around us. Look at the countries throughout the world. I believe we know how to deal with the situation and give the people of Jerusalem and the people that come and visit us the best security one can provide.
BLITZER: The Palestinian Authority president -- prime minister, I should say, he condemned this as an act of terror. Is there good cooperation between the Israeli security authorities and the Palestinian Authority -- security authorities -- right now in this investigation?
BARKAT: Well, to a certain degree, but the biggest challenge that we have is education. Go to the schools.
Schools in the Palestinian Authority are not promoting life to the way I believe we should if we want the people to live peacefully with each other. So the challenge is not only what the police forces are doing, one with the other, but it's also how we teach other children.
Do we teach them to be martyrs or do we teach them to promote life? That is the biggest challenge we have in the Middle East, working in an environment that does not always teach and train and educate the next generation for real long-lasting peace. This is one of the biggest challenges we have.
BLITZER: Nir Barkat is the mayor of Jerusalem.
Mr. Mayor, thanks very much for joining us. We'll check back with you, I'm sure.
Our correspondent Nic Robertson is just back from a government- led tour in Tripoli. Just ahead, why he couldn't see the so-called collateral damage he was told he would find.
And new radiation fears in Tokyo. What's now prompting residents to stock up on bottled water?
And the Black Eyed Peas dedicating its latest video to the people of Japan. The band was in Tokyo a week before the deadly earthquake and tsunami hit, and now members are asking their fans to help.
BLITZER: A disturbing sight at that damaged nuclear plant in Japan. Black smoke spotted today rising from reactor number 3. Officials say radiation was released, but it's unclear if that release was linked to the smoke.
Meantime, concerns over radiation exposure are escalating after Tokyo officials announced radioactive material in tap water there has exceeded the amount that's safe for infants. U.S. officials aren't taking any chances when it comes to potential radiation contamination of military equipment.
CNN's Martin Savidge saw the cleanup operations on board the USS Ronald Reagan.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right now every piece of hardware, every aircraft, and every piece of machinery used to move that aircraft is on the front of the USS Ronald Reagan, as is -- well, you can see a lot of the crew hands. And you're wondering, maybe, why are they all sitting around? Well, we'll show you. Look what's going on back here -- water. Lots and lots of water just being sprayed all over the deck right now in what is probably the biggest cleanup effort you're ever likely to see at sea.
Now, earlier today, as part of this effort, up at the bow, it got even more incredible to watch as the crews went to work with the foam, with the brushes. There was music going. The idea here though is all about safety.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we're doing right now is just, like, decontaminating the ship.
SAVIDGE: Why all this remarkable effort? Well, you may remember back on the 13th, this aircraft carrier and some of its helicopters passed through the radioactive plume from that damaged nuclear plant, the Fukushima Daiichi plan. As a result of that, there was some limited exposure to the crew and some of the aircraft, and possibly the ship.
So this is all designed to clean it, scrub it down, use brushes, use foam, clear every possible surface, then check it with some machines such as Geiger counters while keeping the crew in protective suits. It's extreme measures, but it's always designed to keep the crew safe and to keep the ship operational.
BLITZER: Marty Savidge reporting for us.
And this just in. Toyota plants here in the United States might be impacted by the Japan disaster.
Let's get details from CNN's Mary Snow. She's in New York.
What are you learning, Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Toyota is telling its plants in North America to be prepared for what a spokesman calls a possible scheduled shutdown because of part shortages in Japan. The spokesman from Toyota says workers at 13 plants in the U.S., Canada and Mexico were given the news today. And the spokesman also saying that the company wants workers to be aware that there will be an impact to North American operations, but it's unclear the kind of impact just yet, how quickly it will come and how long it will last.
Now, Toyota says it continues to get some parts from some of its Toyota factories in Japan and some outside suppliers, but not as many. And, you know, there was impact last week, Wolf, when Toyota announced that it was cutting back on overtime as a precaution to conserve parts from suppliers -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I suppose this is only just beginning, this shortage.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Mary, for that.
In northern Japan, the death toll keeps climbing, including an elementary school where we found a heartbreaking story of children lost, parents frustrated, and a community in tears. Stand by for that.
In Libya, we're taking you to the front lines as rebel forces move farther west.
BLITZER: There was some tracer fire -- not much, just a little bit -- just a little while ago over Tripoli. You can see a little of it -- there it is -- just a little bit going on. We're not exactly sure what's happening.
But I did speak before this latest run of tracer fire with our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson. Listen to this report.
BLITZER: And joining us now, Nic Robertson, our correspondent in Tripoli, which is still controlled by Gadhafi's troops.
Nic, what happened today? They took you out on another tour?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And it didn't work out, Wolf. This was a trip that they said was going to see a civilian house where civilians had been wounded in a coalition strike.
They said the civilians were in the hospital, but they did tell us that this was a house that was next to a military facility and a military installation. And they told us that we should be able to see everything, and if we wanted to see the family in hospital, we would be able to do that as well.
Well, we drove around for about a half an hour, and they couldn't find this house at all. We were in a neighborhood in the south of the city. We could see the area where the military installation was, but we weren't allowed to film that installation, of course, because we were with government officials.
But after all this time -- and the local citizens there weren't given the government officials any help at all -- they couldn't find this house and brought us back to the hotel an hour later. So, despite telling us there was collateral damage where civilians had been injured, and a house was damaged in that collateral incident, they couldn't find it and couldn't show it to us, Wolf. So we can't say that it didn't happen, but after all these days, when the government has talked about civilian casualties, they still are not able to show us tangible evidence that there had been such injuries here -- Wolf.
BLITZER: You know, normally in the last few days, several days since the air strikes started, the U.S., the French, the British, they drop a bomb or a Tomahawk missile. The Libyans would respond with tracer fire, anti-aircraft fire. But correct me if I am wrong -- most recently, we haven't seen that Libyan response, have we?
ROBERTSON: We haven't. That's interesting.
It was overnight last night we saw the transition. The bombing runs that we heard last night were about 5:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. local time, just before dawn. And what was different, we thought we heard the sound of aircraft flying over right around the time we heard the heavy detonations, and then short bursts of anti-aircraft gunfire.
Now, had the Libyan air defenses decided, because they are now being targeted by aircraft and not missiles, that they're going to continue to spray gun fire into the air because they believe that the planes could circle back and attack them, or have they been given some other reason not to fire their anti-aircraft guns, it's not clear. But it does mark a noticeable change.
Coalition commander saying the no-fly zone is now in force, they've got control of the air space. We hear their aircraft in the skies, and the Libyans now not firing their anti-aircraft guns as much. It's a noticeable transition -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. I call it the sound of silence. The fact that they're not doing it, that suggests that maybe they don't have that capability anymore, they've decided it's not worth it. Whatever. We'll find out.
Nic, thanks very much.
BLITZER: And just to update you, just a little while ago there was a little bit of that tracer fire that once again reappeared, but certainly nothing as significant as it was on day one, two, three and four of this operation, this coalition operation in Libya.
We're monitoring this very carefully. We'll see what the capabilities of the Libyan military still are up to. Retired General and the former NATO supreme allied commander, Wesley Clark, he'll be joining us live in the next hour to discuss this.
Also, the deputy White House national security adviser Denis McDonough, he's joining us live as well.
France wants a committee to run the war in Libya. Is that a good idea? Jack and your e-mail re coming up.
And serious questions from the House Speaker, John Boehner, to President Obama about the Libyan attacks. We're asking them to one of the president's top advisers.
BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour: France wants a committee to run the war in Libya. Is that a good idea?
Bryan in Colorado says, "Yes, I think it's a good idea. Handing command over to allied forces shows solidarity. Let the allies figure this one out for a change for themselves. Hopefully, they'll decide to drop a missile on Gadhafi himself so this thing will come to a swift end."
Hal writes, "A committee? You've got to be kidding. A camel is a horse designed by a committee."
"This won't come out as good. We've done our part. We ought to tell the coalition you have 48 hours to take over, and then we're gone whether you have something in place or not."
Norm writes, "This is the first conflict in recent memory where no one has a plan, everybody is passing the buck, nobody knows the players, and nobody knows the end game. All we know for certain is we've wasted a vast number of expensive cruise missiles. Where is the plan?"
P.M. writes, "Jack, how many people have to die before the coalition gets rid of the problem in Libya, whether accidentally or on purpose? Gadhafi must go, hopefully sooner rather than later."
Madge (ph) in Vancouver, British Columbia, "It's a great idea if you want to see the Odyssey Dawn crew out-daffy Gadhafi. I can see it all now. Inspector Clouseau draws up the battle plans, Mr. Bean leads Larry, Moe and Curly in the charge. And the wacky Libyan dictator dies laughing."
Martin in West Virginia, "Wow. I worked with an American subsidiary of a French company for 15 years. This is so typical not just of the French, but of the Europeans in general. This is a bad, bad, bad idea. Define the objective, put an American in charge, and get 'er done."
Dave in Phoenix writes, "As long as we have got to move out and let others have control with little or no involvement ourselves, it sounds good to me. Committee away."
If you want to read more on this idea, you'll find it on my blog, CNN.com/CaffertyFile -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you, Jack. Appreciate it.
Libya's air defense systems destroyed, apparently. But what about the rest of Gadhafi's military?
A close look at the dictator's arsenal, that's coming up. And Hollywood isn't the only town mourning the death of the legendary actress and activist Elizabeth Taylor. Her Washington connection, coming up.
BLITZER: The nuclear crisis in Japan is raising serious questions and concerns about the safety of nuclear power right here in the United States.
CNN Senior Correspondent Allan Chernoff got an exclusive inside look at one plant and discovered earthquakes aren't the only potential threat to the reactors.
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Heading into the nuclear core --
JOE POLLACK, VP OF OPERATIONS, INDIAN POINT ENERGY CENTER: The reactor head is in the back.
CHERNOFF: -- we get an exclusive look inside a reactor that the governor of New York fears is one of the biggest potential dangers to the country's most populous city. Seismologists concluded the Indian Point nuclear power plant sits near the intersection of two fault lines.
Plant's managers say it's built to withstand a magnitude 6.0 earthquake.
(on camera): You believe that this structure can withstand as much of a punch as mother nature is going to deliver?
POLLACK: We believe this structure is designed to withstand as much as a punch is expected to t happen in this area, that's correct.
CHERNOFF: What about unexpected?
POLLACK: Well, unexpected, you know, we believe it's greater than 6.0 it could handle. We believe we could handle a 7.0 earthquake.
CHERNOFF (voice-over): You think you could handle a 7.0 earthquake?
POLLACK: Yes, I do.
CHERNOFF (voice-over): Far more likely, they say, is the risk of a severe hurricane. The plant's lowest critical equipment along the Hudson River is 15 feet above sea level.
(on camera): The floodwaters are rising, what do you do here? You shutdown?
POLLACK: We shut the units down, we would be sandbagging, obviously, everything we could sandbag.
CHERNOFF (voice-over): Among the biggest potential dangers, a sustained power outage.
In Japan at the Daiichi plant, the backup generators failed.
(on camera): Here at Indian Point, they have got backup generators and then, this is a backup to the backups.
(voice-over): Officials said one of the plants lost power just three weeks ago and the backup generators kicked right in.
Entering the pool area that houses the spent fuel rods, we see how essential emergency power is. Water needs to be pumped continuously to keep these spent nuclear fuel rods cool and covered.
A longstanding concern at Indian Point, a leak in reactor number two that happens when technicians replace fuel rods, as they're doing now in the plant's other reactor.
POLLACK: We haven't found the exact location of the leak to do the repair to stop it. And as I said, we're working with a couple of firms right now. There's a technique being used in Germany that we're trying to see if it would work here, and we're going through that evaluation right now.
CHERNOFF: Officials at Indian Point say that leak is not a cause for concern and does not pose a safety hazard.
Allan Chernoff, CNN, Buchanan, New York.
BLITZER: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.