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Inside Syria's Fear and Suffering; Brutal Crackdown by Syrian Regime; "It's Going to Take All of God's Grace," Former CNN Sports Reporter Fights to Live for Family; Rape as a Weapon of War; GOP Candidates Face Off In CNN Debate

Aired June 18, 2011 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Republican presidential hopefuls face off for the first time. Making news, blasting President Obama and offering some surprises. All of it right here on CNN.

Meanwhile, the president tries to counter the GOP attacks by pushing hard in the one area where he may be most vulnerable.

And CNN's Arwa Damon goes where few Western journalists are allowed, inside Syria, to witness the suffering of civilians fleeing the government's deadly crackdown.

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

The GOP race to the White House now plowing full steam ahead. Seven candidates taking the stage this week for the first time together to square off on the issues, only here on CNN. Here is our National Political Correspondent Jessica Yellin.


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NAT'L. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): At the first major debate of the primary season.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say hello to your seven candidates.

YELLIN: There were seven different voices but one common message.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This president has failed. He has failed at a time when the American people counted on him to create jobs and get the economy going.

TIM PAWLENTY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This president is a decline-ist. He views American as one of equals around the world.

YELLIN: No surprise shall the candidates drew a bull's eye on the president's economic stewardship.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR, JOHN KING USA: Has he done one thing? Has he done one right when it comes to the economy in this country?

RON PAUL, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Boy, that's a tough question. No, no, I can't think of anything. YELLIN: What did surprise some, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty passed up an opportunity to confront Mitt Romney on health care, even though just day before he had ridiculed the president's health care plan as Obamnicare.


We took a different approach in Minnesota. We didn't use top-down government mandates and individual requirements from government.

YELLIN: Given a second chance, Pawlenty ducked again?

KING: Why is not Obamnicare, standing here with the governor right there?

PAWLENTY: President Obama is the person who I quoted President Obama in saying he looked to Massachusetts for designing his program.

YELLIN: Representative Michele Bachmann made some news.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I filed, today, my paperwork to seek the office of the presidency of the United States today.

YELLIN: Former Speaker Newt Gingrich avoided his news, never mentioning his massive campaign team defections, focusing instead on the issues.

REP. NEWT GINGRICH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Congress this year, this next week, ought to repeal the Dodd/Frank bill, they ought to repeal the Sarbanes/Oxley bill, they ought to start creating jobs right now.

YELLIN: For former Godfather Pizza CEO Herman Cain, this was somewhat of a national debut.

HERMAN CAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am not a politician. I am a problem solver. This economy is stalled. It is like a train on the track with no engines.

YELLIN: For former Senator Rick Santorum it was an opportunity to underscore his dedication to social conservative issues.

SEN. RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Not only have I been consistently pro-life. I have not just taken the pledge. I have taken the bullets to go out there and fight for this and lead on those issues.

YELLIN: All the candidates pledge to stand against abortion rights. Against same-sex marriage, and to reinstate the ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military. But the main focus of the night.

BACHMANN: We are going to win. Make no mistake about it. I want to announce tonight, President Obama is a one term president.


YELLIN (on camera): This is the spin room, where operatives from each campaign tell us why they think their candidate won. One of the big questions, why was this such a tame debate? Big reason, it is still early days, and none of the candidates wants to be scene as too negative, attacking their fellow Republicans, especially when they are only just introducing themselves to their key voters. Jessica Yellin, CNN, Manchester, New Hampshire.


BLITZER: All right. Let's get some more now on the evolving GOP field. Joining us, the moderator of that first CNN debate, our Chief National Correspondent John King, he is the anchor of "JOHN KING USA".

John, since that night, Tim Pawlenty, the former two term governor of Minnesota, he acknowledges now that he made a big mistake.

KING: He faced a lot of criticism that he was too timid. If you are going to launch an attack on Sunday, why do you blink and back away from it on Monday in the first nationally televised debate? He put out a Tweet as the week closed down, acknowledging his mistake. He also went on FOX New Channel on a program there to say he wished he had been a bit more combative.

The knock after was not only that he didn't keep up the health care argument against Governor Romney. But he appeared to be timid. One question is, are you presidential? Can you debate-one question in this debate was who do Republicans want to debate Barack Obama next September. So Governor Pawlenty facing criticism there, he is trying to recover.

BLITZER: Yes, some people are already saying among the seven, some of them might drop out sooner rather than later. There might be an number eight, a number nine, and number ten. Huntsman, Jon Huntsman, the former governor of Utah, the U.S. ambassador to China. He is set to announce in the coming days. A lot of people are watching to see what Rick Perry, the governor of Texas does.

KING: Huntsman, definitely. The Statue of Liberty will be his backdrop in the week ahead. Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, says, let me finish my legislative session. That's about to happen. He will think about it. He is facing a lot of pressure and if you listen to his words and body language, Wolf, he seems more inclined to think about it. Maybe this is a good idea. As opposed to a couple months ago, he would say, I don't think I want to do this. You get from the body language that he is much more interested.

Much of the Gingrich campaign staff that essentially fired the candidate, Jessica mentioned in her piece, most of them are sitting and waiting now available to Governor Perry. That is a great asset. We know he can raise the money. The question is, can you put the nuts and bolts together? He has a pretty talented, experienced team waiting if he wants to run.

BLITZER: I heard his speech in New York a that Republican gathering this past week. He certainly sounded like a presidential candidate to me.

KING: He has fight. And he has energy and passion and when a lot of people look at the Republican field, they see that in Michele Bachmann. They question whether she can rise to being a nominee. They look at the other candidates. Maybe Mr. Cain has it. But it is the people you look, at the politicians, the governors. They think, Romney, great record. Does he have the passion? Is he the right debater? Pawlenty, the criticism we just talked about, has people looking around a bit. This happens a lot. Early on, people say, ah, about the field. They are looking for something else. But Governor Perry, good fund-raiser, a lot of passion, a lot of conservatives like him.

BLITZER: A significant wild card out there, still, Sarah Palin. A new movie coming out, very positive about her. We don't know what she is going to do.

KING: We don't. So, you have to read the clue. She took this bus tour. She said she was exploring it. She was contemplating it. She was looking at it. She said she loved the trip, which had a lot of people thinking, she is more inclined to run. However, she is still has her job as a FOX News commentator. They have set the standard, at least for the other candidates on their staff, or potential candidates on their staff, if you are actively exploring a run for president, you have to take a leave of absence. It begs the question. Has she privately assured them she is not running? She says we will get an answer. She can wait the longest, perhaps. We might have to wait another month or so, maybe even longer for that.

BLITZER: Is it, at this point, Mitt Romney's to lose?

KING: No, you can't say that this early. But he is certainly the front-runner.

BLITZER: Because the polls show him way ahead.

KING: Normally, Republicans-normally you could say that. Normally, the Republicans have sort of the heir apparent. It was George W. Bush, it was John McCain, it was even Ronald Reagan.

BLITZER: Bob Dole.

KING: Bob Dole. In this race, Romney is the guy who has been around the track. He has the best fundraising operation. He is way ahead in New Hampshire. And he has built a pretty good campaign team everywhere else. So, he has significant advantages. But a lot of Republicans question whether those old next-guy-in-waiting rules apply, after what we saw from the Tea Party, and after you see some of the conservative doubts about Governor Romney.

So, he is, yes, he is ahead. I wouldn't put him up there in John McCain, George W. Bush, Bob Dole status in the Republican tradition. Because a lot of people think this is a party in turmoil, it is a party still trying to find a leader. And maybe, Wolf, maybe the old rules don't apply.

BLITZER: Newt Gingrich, he seems to have self-destructed. Bu you never know with him.

KING: He drives the ideas debate. He is passionate about the policy. Can he raise money after this happened? He was already struggling fundraising. That is one of the reasons so many of his staffer quit. Watch over the next couple of months how much he can raise. Then, you have to look at the calendar. You can stay in the race, but you have to win somewhere. To become the nominee you have to win delegates. Is he going to win Iowa? Nobody sees that happening right now. Is he going to win New Hampshire? Nobody he sees that happening right now. If you don't win Iowa and New Hampshire, you had better do it quickly in a place like South Carolina. No one sees that happening right now. It is early, but every other candidate can draw you, I can win Iowa, come in second, a plausible track. People are having a hard time doing that for the speaker. So, he has a lot to prove. First, raising money, assembling a team, and he has to find a place to win.

BLITZER: He has a lot of work to do.

All right, John, good work on the debate.

KING: Thanks.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Newt Gingrich's campaign, as we say, nearly imploded over the past few days with a mass exodus of his top aides. Some critics say part of the problem is Gingrich's wife, Callista. CNN's Lisa Sylvester has more on that.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Wolf, Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign got off to a rocky start including losing more than a dozen key members of his team. One of the issues that has come up repeatedly is his wife, Callista. Aides say she limits the amount of time he has for campaigning. But Newt Gingrich is hitting back saying, lay off my wife.


SYLVESTER (voice over): Gingrich 2012 is not about the man who would be president but about the would-be first couple. By New Gingrich's side is Callista. She is even featured prominently on his campaign Web site. Callista is his third wife, married 11 years. Gingrich is 22 years her season. They began dating while he was still the married speaker of the House and she worked for the House Agriculture Committee.

He may be now playing up his family man role, but Callista Gingrich has become something of a political liability according to officials close to the Gingrich camp. First, it was his credit line of up to half a million dollars at the upscale Tiffany's jewelry store where they were frequent customers. Gingrich was put on defense.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you feel like working families-

GINGRICH: No, I feel that you are far more fascinated with that than most Americans. None of whom-normal Americans actually ask about jobs. They ask about energy. They ask about all sorts of things that affect their lives.

SYLVESTER: Earlier this month, more than a dozen of Gingrich's advisers and campaign staffers resigned en masse over, quote, "disagreements on how to move forward". Celesta's schedule took priority over Newt's schedule, said one source. Newt Gingrich, on FOX News, pushed back.

GINGRICH: For all my years in public life, I don't mind people attacking me. I am the candidate. I am a big guy. I can take it. But to go after anyone's wife is pretty despicable.

SYLVESTER: Friends of the couple told CNN that Callista was reluctant to schedule campaign events in the morning because she insisted on getting her hair done every day.

We asked Newt Gingrich's communications director Joe Desantis about it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Somebody said that she is obsessed with her hair and she didn't want to have any campaign events in the morning because she had to have time to get her hair done.

JOE DESANTIS, GINGRICH COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I am not going to respond to whatever gossip they are putting forward. All I'm going to say is that Newt and Callista have a very healthy partnership. They make decisions together about their schedule as every other couple does. Ultimately, this campaign will be about the challenges facing American and the solutions Newt is putting forward to those challenges.

SYLVESTER: But there were other issues. Aides, many of whom later quit the campaign, repeatedly asked Gingrich to put off a luxury cruise to the Greek islands with his wife. Given that they were already feeling the heat from the Tiffany story, but he refused.

In Iowa, a key state where it is all about aggressive retail politics, Newt worked the crowds and was a great communicator meeting everyday folks. But his former campaign adviser there resigned because he said he needed more of that from Gingrich to move the political needle, but it was challenging getting Iowa on the schedule.


SYLVESTER: There were also disagreements on Newt Gingrich's role. That he still liked playing the role of the strategist, the educator, the guy talking about the polling numbers. His former communications director said, no matter how good you are as a strategist, you can't be your own strategist when you are the candidate, Wolf?

BLITZER: Lisa, thank you.

The GOP presidential candidates all hitting President Obama hard on issue number one. Just how vulnerable is the president when it comes to the economy.

Plus, billions of dollars airlifted to Iraq goes missing. Ahead, some very disturbing details on what authorities believe happened to all that cash.

A CNN reporter gets inside Syria after months of being denied access. Her first-hand account of what's happening to civilians amidst a very brutal government crackdown. Stay with us. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: As Republican presidential candidates ramped up the heat this week on President Obama, over issue number one, the economy and the jobs, the president traveled to North Carolina hoping to counter the blow. Let's bring in our White House Correspondent Dan Lothian. He is joining us with more.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, two things that you have seen from the president recently. He has been really pushing job creation, traveling across the country, even as the unemployment rate remains high. He is also visiting these key battleground states. You see him in Ohio, you see him in Florida. You see him in Virginia, but also, the state of North Carolina. He is trying to hang on to a place that he won just barely in 2008.


LOTHIAN (voice over): In a bad economy President Obama is trying to show Americans that not everything is broken. So he traveled to Cree Incorporated, in Durham, North Carolina, a company that makes energy efficient LED lighting to tout its job creating green products.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You are putting people back to work in a field that has the potential to create an untold number of new jobs and businesses, and that's clean energy.

LOTHIAN: But it is an uphill battle. Despite promising to turn the economy around the Obama administration is still dealing with high unemployment. Here in North Carolina, the rate is above the national average at 9.7 percent.

OBAMA: I wake up every single morning thinking about how can I make sure that anybody who wants a job is able to get a job?

LOTHIAN: In a "Wall Street Journal" opinion piece, two members of the president's job council, GE's Jeff Immelt and Ken Chenault of American Express wrote, "The inescapable truth is that we have a persistent jobs challenge that demands an aggressive response."

Immelt traveled to North Carolina with the president where the group of private sector leaders proposed a basket of ideas, such as career training and a focus on travel and tourism that they say can help create more than 1 million jobs.

JEFF IMMELT, CEO, GE: Our sense is that the private sector has to drive it but we need to work with government to facilitate it. LOTHIAN: Jobs are critical to the president's re-election hopes in 2012, especially in states like North Carolina, where he won by less than 14,000 votes.

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You look at the direction of the economy, you look at the right track, wrong track, whether or not Americans feel the country is going in the right direction. The president has a really bad record right now.

OBAMA: There are always going to be a bumps on the road.

LOTHIAN: Referring to recent disappointing jobs numbers as a bump in the road, only fueled more criticism. And armed Republican opponents like Mitt Romney who turned that phrase into a campaign web video.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm an American, not a bump in the road.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm an American, not a bump in the road.


LOTHIAN: In 2008 out on the campaign trail, President Obama promised to create millions of green jobs over the next decade. But critics point out that a lot of those jobs are just not adding up. Some of these green companies are really, really struggling. You can expect this is a record that Republicans will be pointing out, out there on the campaign trail, especially the key battleground states, Wolf.

BLITZER: Do why officials, Dan, acknowledge that phrase, "bumps in the road" was a mistake?

LOTHIAN: You know, they have been asked that question. They have not said it was a mistake. It is something you have not heard them repeat again. Certainly, the president did talk about that when he was in Michigan speaking to autoworkers there. But they say, listen, when you look at the economy, you have to look at it in the big picture. There will be times. There will be reports that come out that are negative. But look at the overall trend. They believe that the trend is moving in the right direction.

BLITZER: I know you went with the president to Puerto Rico. You used to live yourself in Puerto Rico.

LOTHIAN: That's right.

BLITZER: You had an opportunity to spend a few hours there, the first time in decades a sitting U.S. president visited Puerto Rico. Was it simply designed to try to win over Hispanic-Latino votes, Puerto Rican votes here in the United States come next year's election?

LOTHIAN: Well, the White House said the reason the president went there was because he made a promise during the campaign that he would return. So, he was delivering on that promise. But listen, make no mistake, the president was also reaching out to those more than 4 million Puerto Ricans who live here on the mainland, but also to the Hispanics in a broader sense. This is a group that voted overwhelmingly for the president in 2008. A lot of them have not been happy because they feel some of their key issues like immigration reform, have not been delivered for them. So it is unclear how they will vote in this upcoming election. So the White House realizes that. And you see them hitting back, working very hard in states like Florida where they have already set up these phone banks, specifically targeting the Hispanic community.

BLITZER: I also noticed, I'm sure you did, that even in Puerto Rico, he only spends a few hours there. He manages to do a major fundraiser while he is there. He seems to be doing that almost every stop wherever he goes. Is that right?

LOTHIAN: That's right. And you know, Puerto Ricans on the island, cannot vote in a general election, but nothing stops them from giving money. So of course, the president did collect some of their cash before returning to Washington.

BLITZER: Dan Lothian, I hope you enjoy a few hours yourself in Puerto Rico.

LOTHIAN: I did. It was very nice.

BLITZER: A lovely place. Thanks very much.

So how did billions of dollars in cash airlifted to Iraq go missing. Just ahead, new concerns about what authorities are finding.

New questions, also about the staying power of Syria's regime amidst escalating political turmoil. Does it have what it takes to hold on?


BLITZER: It may turn out to be one of history's biggest heists. After the invasion of Iraq, the U.S. followed up on its deployment of troops with plane load after plane load of cold, hard cash. The money was meant to help develop a new Iraq, but much of it simply disappeared. Now we are learning more about what happened to it. Our Brian Todd has been digging into this story.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the inspector general in charge of investigating fraud in Iraq says billions of dollars flown into Iraq after the invasion have gone missing. He says it was a Wild West-like atmosphere in those days. And eight years later, U.S. officials believe at least some of the money may have been stolen.


TODD (voice over): The months after "Shock & Awe", the mantra was spend and rebuild. At least that is what U.S. officials hoped. They airlifted billions of dollars in bricks of $100 bills to Iraq to pay for reconstruction. Now, the U.S. inspector general for Iraq reconstruction has some unsettling news about more than $6 billion of that money.

STUART BOWEN, SPECIAL INSPECTOR GENERAL FOR IRAQ RECONSTRUCTION: It has not been properly accounted for. And that is the purpose of our continuing audit.

TODD (On camera): If some of it was stolen, who do you believe stole it?

BOWEN: I don't want to speculate on who the potential criminals might be. This money was delivered to Iraqi control. We have, in the past, had a number of cases reported to us about interim ministers who did steal.

TODD: Who was responsible for safeguarding that money?

BOWEN: During 2003 and 2004, that money was under aegis of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the entity that was created to govern Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime.

TODD (voice over): Stuart Bowen says after that the Pentagon and Iraqi government shared responsibility for safeguarding some of the money. It was the Pentagon that asked him to investigate. Contacted by CNN, a Pentagon spokesman cited that probe but also said the investigation found that all of these funds remained under the control of the government of Iraq at all times.

This is not U.S. taxpayer money. The cash belonged to Iraq in the first place. The inspector general says the money was from the development fund for Iraq, which had taken Iraqi oil money diverted by international sanctions, and stored it at a Federal Reserve facility in the U.S.

(On camera): But Americans may still be on the hook for some of this. Bowen says Iraqi officials have indicated to him, they may go to court to reclaim the lost money. What if they win?

(Voice over): Congressman Henry Waxman chaired several hearings on fraud in Iraq when he was head of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

(On camera): Is Congress on the hook for some of this if the Iraqis successfully reclaim that money?

REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: I hope not, but the truth of the matter is, the U.N. said to the United States, you are now entrusted with this money, you have a fiduciary responsibility for the Iraqi people to use it for their benefits. And now we can't account for $6.7 billion.


TODD: We contacted the Iraqi embassy here in Washington. They didn't respond to comments that Iraqi officials may have stolen some of the money. But a high-ranking Iraqi official said the inspector general's reports have shown the United States failed to put in place accountable and transparent financial controls to safeguard Iraqi funds.", Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, thank you.

A brutal crackdown on civilians by the government in Syria. It is escalating the crisis there. Is it time now for NATO to intervene?

Plus, a former CNN sports reporter, Nick Charles, he has a wrenching battle with cancer. What he is doing to hold on for his family, our own Doctor Sanjay Gupta spent time with Nick. Sanjay will join us.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: For the first time since the unrest in Syria, CNN correspondent managed to get inside that country to report on the fear and the suffering.

The Syrian regime has refused to give international news organizations official permission to enter. CNN's Arwa Damon did manage to get across the border from Turkey.

She spent a few hours at a camp full of people who fled their homes to escape Syria's military brutal crackdown. Arwas filed this report.


ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT(voice-over): Hunched over, this man tries to stay dry. All he has for shelter, a piece of tarp and branches. He is one of hundreds of Syrians living in squalor and fear just a stone's throw from the Turkish border.

(on camera): We are just right now on the very edge of this makeshift camp. You can see these crude tents that people have strung up for shelter. It has just started to rain now. It is just a plastic tarp.

(voice-over): Cramped together, six families, their feet caked in mud, mothers trying to provide their children what comfort they can.

(on camera): It was also raining last night quite heavily. They were saying that they had to spend the entire night on their feet, because the entire floor was just turned into mud.

(voice-over): The women who don't want to be filmed simply asked, is there anything left that we haven't been through? The families here bathe in a muddy stream where they also wash the few clothes they brought with them.

Illnesses are already spreading. My biggest problem is the children, Mohammed Medley, a pharmacist, says, and people with heart disease. I don't have the medicine for that. He emptied his shelves as he fled setting up something of a field hospital. A child he was trying to treat returns.

(on camera): He had given the child pills, but he can't swallow them so now he has to somehow give him an injection. He has been going through everything that he has trying to figure out what is suitable.

(voice-over): The people here are mostly from the town and nearby villages. They fled as the security forces closed in, but not before witnessing brutal destruction.

They set our fields on fire, destroyed our homes this woman laments. The military had started bombing as we left, she says. Her family plans on crossing into Turkey for protection. But others choose to stay here hoping against hope they will receive news of loved ones lost in the chaos.

Some even dreaming of returning home, 26-year-old Musa tried heading back to his village a few days ago. I was on my friend's motorcycle and suddenly, I saw the military advancing through the olive groves. He tells us.

For now, Musa and many others watch and wait fearful that the government forces will hunt them down in this wretched corner of their home land. Arwa Damon, CNN, Syria.


BLITZER: Meanwhile, Syrians continue to flee their homes. They're heading for the border area as the regime steps up its crackdown on the dissent. Let's bring in Professor Fouad Ajami, he's director of Middle East Studies at the Johns Hopkins University, School of Advance International Studies.

Thanks very much for coming in. You wrote a very stinging column in the "Wall Street Journal" this week, entitled, "Syria, Where Massacre is a Family Tradition." Any signs that Bashar Al-Assad is going to ease up on what's going on or is it only going to get worse?

PROFESSOR FOUAD AJAMI, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: I wish our words, I wish our columns, I wish our editorials, I wish our programs would alter things on the ground.

I think one's words I think are weak when you see these children, when you see the poor people of the city are fleeing their own government and fleeing their own soldiers.

Crossing the border into Turkey carrying with them their hopes, their dashed hopes for what they had wanted for their own regime and their own country. It's a terrible story. There is no progress in site and there's no evidence that the Syrian regime is about to change its ways.

BLITZER: Are there any cracks in that regime?

AJAMI: Well, I think the cracks are, you know, they're not quite what we would want. I think the killer units of the regime, the brigades of Bashar's brother, Mahir, the units of the regime that the regime defends of them are still with the regime.

I think they are beginning some attempts in Syria to try to draw the Alawe (ph) community, the community from which Bashar hails to draw them away from Bashar.

For example, this - today, the protests in Syria were named for Alawe (ph) resistance fighter in intend to get the Alowes (ph) to believe there is a life for them after Bashar.

BLITZER: In Libya, we saw several Arab countries go against Gadhafi, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and we saw Kuwait. Do we see any split as far as the Arab world and Bashar Al-Assad right now?

AJAMI: No. I think the Syrian people themselves in placards, in signs, in statements they are lamenting the great shameful Arab silence.

Look, it is the Turks who are helping the Syrians, not the other Arabs. You are absolutely right. In Libya, because the Libyan strongman, Gadhafi, because he belittled the other Arab leaders. They broke with him.

In Syria, the great shameful Arab silence continues.

BLITZER: NATO, the U.S., they are making it clear. Unlike Libya, there is no desire to do anything militarily against Syria right now. That is sort of telling the Syrians, you know what, do what you want.

AJAMI: Exactly. Secretary General of NATO, Rasmussen, announced, publicly announced to the Syrians that we intend no intervention in Syria. Why telegraph it to him? Why help him with this? Why create a moment's doubt that the powers of the world are coming?

I think in every way that the world can telegraph this, I think Bashar Al-Assad has been told that there is no rush to come to the help of the Syrian people.

BLITZER: In Libya, Saif Al-Islam, the son of Gadhafi. He's now suggesting if there were free and fair elections there, Gadhafi would abide by those elections. What do you make of that proposal?

AJAMI: Exactly. We should give them - remember, Wolf, this is Dr. Saif Islam. So we have to give him --

BLITZER: He has a PhD from the London School of Economics.

AJAMI: Exactly. I love this. Now here's how Saif Islam still thinks about the world. I have a quotation which is an elaboration of what you just said.

I have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of Libyans stand with my father and se the rebels as fundamentalist terrorists stirred up from abroad. He calls upon the Libyan people to accept an election at the same time that he insists that they are terrorists stirred up by troublemakers from abroad.

BLITZER: Do you believe that President Obama should comply with the War Powers Act and get formal congressional authorization for what the U.S. and the NATO allies are doing as far as military campaign in Libya is concerned?

AJAMI: I think no such things. I think some members of Congress are really, in my opinion, basically kind of fishing in troubled waters. Look, most presidents have looked at the War Powers resolution and ignored it.

I think what the administration is doing, it is saying this is short of a war. It is kind of on the horns of a dilemma, the Obama administration. It fights this war, but it is not really wholly committed to it.

Then, some members of Congress particularly the Republicans who have suddenly become isolationists, I mean, these are the tradition that believers in national security, they are now second-guessing the administration.

I think the administration should continue to do its best in Libya. I don't think Congress can micro manage this conflict.

BLITZER: Fouad Ajami, as usual, thanks very much.

A dying father, a former CNN colleague determined to make sure he is there for his young daughter even after he is gone.

Plus, rape as a weapon of war. CNN uncovers new evidence of atrocities in Libya.


BLITZER: For those of us here at CNN, the name Nick Charles means a lot, one of the network's first sportscasters. He has been bravely battling stage 4 bladder cancer for nearly two years.

Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta recently spent some time with Nick at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It is a heart- breaking story, but it's also an inspirational story. Sanjay, tell us a little bit about what's going on.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: There is no question, Wolf. You know, first of all, it is hard to do stories like this, especially when we know Nick. Everybody knows Nick so well, the original face of CNN Sports.

Two years ago, Wolf, after being healthy really his whole life, he was having some troubles. He went to the doctor and he was diagnosed with stage four bladder cancer. He was told at that time, again, two years ago that he had about two years to live.

It hits you like you might think it would hit anybody. He started asking questions like the one he asked me, which is what would you do if you suddenly heard that sort of news? How would you change your life?

He has changed his life, Wolf, in ways big and small, big changes, but also, specific ones. For example, he keeps a journal every day, notes to his family that he wants to leave behind, thoughts about his life. He wanted to read some of it for me as well. Take a listen.


NICK CHARLES: I know it is going to take all of God's grace, which is never in short supply, to make me live longer. I want to for you and mommy so we can be a family again in Santa Fe. Sorry. If God takes me home, it will be forever. Meanwhile, I am not going anywhere today. GUPTA (voice-over): It is so tough for Nick to write and it is tough to hear, but Nick knows he at least had the chance to leave something behind.

(on camera): How do you feel when you read those?

CHARLES: They are just so reinforcing to me that I know she is going to read them. I have talked to people and they would long to hear their parent's voice or read something from them.


GUPTA: He is talking about writing that to his 5-year-old daughter, Giovana. Wolf, a little bit of a legacy he wants to leave behind for her. There are other things, Wolf, just quickly. Little lessons, one thing that he really tried to reinforce to me is that, you know, this diagnosis has forced him to live in the present like he has never done before.

But it also hasn't stopped him from dreaming and imagining the future. It may surprise you to know that he and his wife, Cory, decided to build their dream house after he was diagnosed. Their dream house, picking out colors, designing rooms, buying a piano, all the while knowing that, you know, there is a good chance he wouldn't spend much time in this house.

He walked me over to a closet in what would be Giovanna's room and pointed to where her clothes would hang. And he said, look, in that corner one day, her prom dress would be hanging there, something I am never going to get to see.

It was one of the times that his faces really fell to pieces, Wolf as you might imagine. You know, he lost his composure and I lost mine I tell you as well. He is such an inspiring guy. The changes he has made in his life after being smacked in the face with his mortality are really incredible.

BLITZER: How is he doing right now?

GUPTA: Well, you know, he is sick, Wolf. You know, he has lost a lot of weight, maybe 20 pounds. He is anemic, meaning his red blood cell count is not high. He is losing his balance. He is on oxygen.

But he is in the end stages of cancer, but he has still got his spirit. It doesn't take away his insights. It doesn't take away his intelligence. He was still just an incredibly inspiring time just to be with him.

BLITZER: Sanjay, thanks so much for doing this. We, of course, sent all of our love to Nick, Cory, the entire family. Appreciate it very much.

For more on Sanjay's conversation with Nick Charles, tune in tomorrow morning, 7:30 a.m. Eastern for a special, Sanjay Gupta MD, "Nick Charles, Lessons from the Fight."

I think you want to watch it and read Sanjay's blog about Nick as well at

Rumors have been circulating in Libya now for months and now CNN uncovers disturbing evidence of atrocities, rape as a weapon of war.


BLITZER: The report we are about to show you is very disturbing. It is about rape as a weapon in Libya's civil war and evidence of those assaults that rebels say frequently found on captured cell phones.

CNN's Sara Sidner explains, the videos are so awful that even the rebels are trying to erase the evidence. We should tell you that we blurred almost all of the video to make it possible for Sara to file this report.


SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the front lines of Libya's war, rebel fighters say they are finding a lot more than weapons on captured or killed pro-Gadhafi soldiers.

They say they have confiscated cell phones that contain videos showing Gadhafi loyalists torturing and raping Libyan citizens.

(on camera): After weeks of hearing of these rape videos, we for a first time have a copy of one. This was given to us by a source who does not want to be identified for fear of being punished by this very conservative society.

To be clear, we have been unable to verify its authenticity. We don't know where it was taken, when, or by whom. All we can do is watch and listen to it.

(voice-over): In this video provided to CNN from what rebels say was the cell phone of a Gadhafi loyalist, two men in civilian clothes stand over a naked woman who is bent over with her face on the floor. The man standing behind her is sodomizing her with what appears to be a broomstick.

"I can't bear it, I can't bear it," she says. A male voice off camera says, "let's push it farther." "No, no, that's enough," the woman begs. One of the men puts his covered foot on her face.

In this culture, it is considered the ultimate insult. But in this case, it pales in comparison to what the victim is already enduring.

(on camera): We blurred this video because it's extremely difficult to watch. Arabic speakers who have examined the video say the voices in the video are distinctly Libyan with clear Tripoli accent.

There is no date on the video, and the men in the video are not wearing military uniforms. The victim's face is barely seen, so we have not been able to identify her. It has been extremely difficult to get anyone to talk about this video on camera because of the cultural sensitivities here. (voice-over): We asked Abdallah Al-Kabeir, a spokesman for the opposition in Misrata, whether rebels have found many of these kinds of videos. His answer -- yes.

ABDALLAH AL-KABEIR, SPOKESMAN, MISRATA MEDIA COMMITTEE (through translator): We were able to confirm that rape was used as a weapon of war because it was systematic.

SIDNER: The International Criminal Court in The Hague says the allegations are credible. It is investigating. But in a surprising admission to CNN, spokesman Al-Kabeir tells us some of the very evidence of war crimes prosecutors want may have been destroyed.

AL-KABEIR: There was a commander here at the eastern front of Misrata named Muhammad Al Habous. He ordered all the revolution's fighters to give him all the rape videos they found on Gadhafi's soldiers' cell phones. I heard he used to destroy every rape video he got.

SIDNER (on camera): Why in the world would you destroy video evidence of rape that could be used as evidence of war crimes against your enemy against the Gadhafi regime?

AL-KABEIR: Because aside from being a heinous crime, rape is perceived here in our culture as damaging, not only for the girl, but also the whole family.

SIDNER (voice-over): Rape is such a taboo in this culture even some of the victims' families would rather erase potential evidence against the attackers than risk living with the shame. Sara Sidner, CNN, Misrata, Libya.


BLITZER: The Gadhafi regime has not responded to CNN's request for comments, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did release this statement on THE SITUATION. I'll read it to you.

"Gadhafi's security forces and other groups in the region are trying to divide the people by using violence against women and rape as tools of war, and the United States condemns this in the strongest possible terms.

It is an affront to all people who are yearning to live in a society free from violence, with respect for basic human rights. We urge all governments to conduct immediate, transparent investigations into these allegations, and to hold accountable those found responsible." That statement from Hillary Clinton. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: A three-ring resignation? Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There is light at the end of the scandal, lights, cameras, and maybe too much action. Anthony Weiner himself got bumped --

ANTHONY WEINER (D), FORMER CONGRESSMAN: You're pushing me! Give me a break.

MOOS: Bumped as he was chased by the press to his own press conference. Later, a hedge gave the media a payback.

After a moment of stunned silence, the chase resumed, and author in prison stripes added to the circus atmosphere --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is my book called "Flush the Toilet: Why Men Cheat."

MOOS: A book he had trouble giving away.


MOOS: At Weiner's Washington office, his plaque became a tourist attraction.


MOOS: With people using both thumbs and tongues while they posed so that they, too, could be part of a --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tillating like this or disgusting --



MOOS: And if the story wasn't sorted enough, a couple of crass hecklers looking for attention crashed Weiner's press conference.

WEINER: So today I am announcing my resignation from Congress --


WEINER: And most importantly that my wife and I can continue --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people demand to know --

WEINER: To heal --

MOOS: Even the media were enraged, disowning the crashers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's no weiner!

WEINER: Thank you and good afternoon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you maintain your hot physique?

MOOS: Weiner's resignation may finally plug the slow leak of lewd news --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Drip, drip, drip. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Drip, drip, drip.

MOOS: It's a splash of harsh reality for Weiner's staff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The door was locked and the office lights turned out.

MOOS: Only voicemail left on --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for calling the office of Congressman Anthony Weiner. Unfortunately there's no one available to take your call.

MOOS (on camera): Even as the word came down that the end was near, the scandal was still arousing passion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd be interested to see if Alan would say the same thing as John Boehner had sent these or any other --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would, absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really, I'm sceptical. Call me skeptical.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Call me a liar. Call me a liar, Steve.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't like to kick a guy when he's down. We all know --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We didn't put him there.

MOOS: Perhaps the most brutally honest reaction to the Weiner scandal came from none other than Geraldo Rivera, reminiscing about his prime.

GERALDO RIVERA, HOST, "GERALDO AT LARGE: I just remember my days and if there were Twitter accounts, if we could have done that when you were -- you kidding me? I would have blanketed the country with every part of my body.

MOOS (voice-over): At least Weiner's resignation may help purge all those puns -- let's get that word out of our system with the help of Jimmy Kimmell --

JIMMY KIMMELL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMELL LIVE": Which we've taken the liberty of putting to music.

MOOS: And as we leave the Weiners --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think your marriage will survive?

MOOS: Never mind the marriage, will the press survive? Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: That's it for me. Thank you very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. The news continues next on CNN.