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Gun Sales Spike In Wake Of Massacre; U.S. Concerns Over Syria's Chemical Weapons; Romney Attacks President Obama on Foreign Policy

Aired July 24, 2012 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And you're in the SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, a huge spike in gun sales. Ahead, a look at thousands of new background checks conducted in the days since the deadly Colorado movie theater massacre.

Also, horrifying cases of abuse in an Afghan hospital funded by millions and millions of dollars, U.S. taxpayer dollars to be sure. Now, the Congress hears firsthand accounts of the allegations that senior military officials tried to stop an investigation.

And a rare event here in Washington, D.C. For the first time in two decades, the global AIDS conference comes to the United States. Our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta is there. I'll speak with him this hour.

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



BLITZER: We begin in Aurora, Colorado where 15 of the 58 wounded in Friday's deadly massacre remain hospitalized, five of them in critical condition. Police are tight lipped about the investigation into the accused shooter, James Holmes. But we're learning alarming new details about the scene inside his once booby trapped apartment.

One official now telling CNN the wiring looked like spaghetti, the kind of setup you'd see on the frontlines in Iraq or Afghanistan. CNN's Jim Spellman is in Aurora, Colorado. He's at an improvised memorial where the focus isn't on the suspect but on the victims.

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we've heard so much about the suspect. In this case, I want to show you a little bit about what's happening here in the community. This is a makeshift memorial right across the street from the theater. It started with this single sign in the back, "gone not forgotten." Since then, it's been growing.

Everyday there's flowers, stuffed animals, many of these candles here burn 24 hours a day. Come here at night the memorial is completely lit up. Even on the sidewalk, Wolf, take a look at this, chalk. People are leaving their messages, and it stretches all the way down. I think this sign is particularly interesting. "Real heroes wear badges, not capes." A nod to the first responders that showed up here in a matter of minutes. And take a look up here, Wolf, at the top of this hill, a cross for every one of the victims here. People have been coming by here constantly here, night and day, to drop off signs, flowers, candles, personalized messages.

There have been prayer circles here, and people come just to pay their respects and be sure that the focus remains on the victims and the spirit of this community and not on that suspect -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Spellman in Aurora, Colorado thank you.

That deadly massacre in Colorado appears to be having a huge impact on gun sales in the United States. CNN's crime and justice correspondent, Joe Johns, is here in the SITUATION ROOM working this part of the story. So, what have we seen since last Friday?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, these are the first publicly released numbers that we know of suggesting a trend in people trying to purchase guns legally in the state of Colorado after the theater shooting in Aurora early Friday morning. If the numbers are correct, there was a big spike in business and gun stores over the weekend.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation has a unit that does background checks to determine whether perspective gun buyers have criminal records or some other red flag that would disqualify them from getting firearms. Last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, they report there was a 43 percent spike in the number of approvals for firearms compared with the average for those days in the month of July.

We're talking about 2,887 approvals compared with the average of just over 2,000 for the month. Remember, a background check doesn't necessarily mean a gun was sold, but it's certainly a good indicator. And we've checked in with a few gun stores in Colorado. And whether they're seeing this spike probably depends on what store you ask.

For example, the Rocky Mountain Guns and Ammo in Parker, Colorado says it is seeing a spike, and not just in sales but also in foot traffic in general. For example, classes to learn how to shoot a firearm have sold out for the next two and a half months.

BLITZER: How unusual is this? Have we ever seen something as dramatic like this?

JOHNS: We actually have, Wolf. There have been some examples of spikes in gun sales after mass shootings, most notably, in Virginia after that horrific shooting at Virginia Tech years ago, but if you're wondering whether there has been a spike nationally, that information will not be released by the federal government until after the end of July.

BLITZER: And the theory is that in the aftermath of an incident like this, a lot of gun owners, they want to buy additional ammunition, get more guns. In case there's tighter gun control, they won't be able to get it down the road. That's the fear. They want to load up, if you will, right now?

JOHNS: Absolutely. That, at least, is one of the theories in play here that people want to make sure they have their firearms in case you see tougher, stiffer regulations coming down the pike later.

BLITZER: Joe Johns, thanks for that report. Appreciate it very much.

Let's go to Syria right now where the death toll is climbing with at least 80 people believe dead just today. Military forces have reportedly mopped up entire neighborhoods in Damascus, this as the new government threatens using chemical warfare. Those threats are heightening concerns around the world.

CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is joining us now with new information on these chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria. Barbara, we've heard a Syrian officials say the weapons are meant to be used in the event, and I'm quoting this official now, the external aggression. There are reports, though, that the weapons are being moved around the country. What have you learned?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, U.S. officials are indicating to us that their best assessment at the moment, and there's no solid information. They're assessment is that, initially, Syria's been moving some of these weapons around because of the increasing violence. They want to move them to more secure positions, but as you just said, small comfort because of the threats of possibly using them.

The U.S. has sent messages to Syria using the Russians at the highest level saying don't even think about it. And they are hoping the Syrians get the message, but it is the Israelis on the sidelines that are moving closer to being concerned and possibly taking action. I want you to listen again to Israeli president, Shimon Peres, and his interview with our CNN reporter, Elise Labott, a couple of days ago about all of this.


PRES. SHIMON PERES, ISRAEL: You don't have the right to use them and (INAUDIBLE) you fight against it. You stop them. And Syrians must be aware that what they do is against international law and endangering here all lives so shall not remain indifferent and tell them to do what you want.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How far are you prepared to go?

PERES: Until it will stop being a danger.


STARR: U.S. officials telling us they are getting that very clear message from the Israelis. If Israel feels it is threatened by Syria's chemical weapons, Israel will take action against them. That's the message the U.S. is hearing. It's very unsettling. U.S. officials say they are now talking to allies, talking at the highest levels of the Obama administration almost around the clock, Wolf, about the situation in Syria.

BLITZER: It is very hard, though, to attack a chemical stockpile, if you will, these nerve agents, sarin gas, poison gas. What is the U.S. doing? What kind of strategy would it take to destroy these stockpiles? That's easier said than done.

STARR: Much easier said than done. Just look at the map, Wolf. These sites in Syria are widely dispersed heavily protected by all accounts by Syria's very formidable air defense system. The radars and missiles that Syria has that could shoot down planes coming into its air space to attack these sites, that goes for whether it's U.S. war planes, unlikely.

Israeli war planes, perhaps, more likely. So, all countries are facing the same dilemma about trying to get into Syrian air space to deal with this in a military fashion if, if it came to that. Very interestingly, some U.S. officials are saying that the Israelis will have a way to get in if they have to.

Possibly, we can assume it's Israeli, you know, special operations teams or Israeli commandos. But, look, there's nearly three dozen sites across Syria. It's a very tough proposition.

BLITZER: Certainly is. Very dangerous as well. Barbara, thank you.

By the way, we're going to have a lot more on Syria in our brand new 6:00 p.m. eastern hour, including a special report from our own Ivan Watson. He is now inside Syria, one of the few reporters who has managed to get inside Syria. We'll have Ivan in the SITUATION ROOM. That's coming up in our 6:00 p.m. eastern hour.

Other news we're following, patients wounded and starving, surgeries with no painkillers. Ahead, the U.S. Congress hears about horrifying cases of abuse at an Afghan hospital funded with millions and millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars.

Plus, our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta sits down with the only person known in the world to have been healed -- healed of the virus that causes AIDS. Sanjay standing by to join us. He's here in Washington.

And after a few days of quiet on the campaign trail, Mitt Romney on this day, he comes out swinging.


MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president has diminished American leadership. And we're reaping the consequences.



BLITZER: Jack Cafferty's here with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Wolf, with these mandatory federal spending cuts looming on the horizon, some Republicans are now saying we ought to cut 10 percent of the federal work force instead of cutting the defense budget. Writing in Politico, Congressman Tom Price of Georgia and Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler of Missouri warn that the planned defense cuts would have devastating consequences, their words.

They say it would mean layoffs for more than 200,000 members of the military in effect downsizing our military to the lowest levels in decades. They say we could be risking our national security if we can't keep up militarily with the rest of the world. The House Armed Services Committee chairman describes the defense cuts coming their way as being "past cutting the fat, past cutting the muscle, now we're cutting into the bone," he said.

Price and Hartzler argue for a House Republican plan that would postpone these defense cuts for one year. They would do this by trimming the federal work force by 10 percent through attrition. In other words, for every three federal workers who leave their jobs, federal departments could only hire one worker to replace them.

No secret the federal work force has long been criticized as bloated and inefficient and could probably stand a haircut. Meanwhile, these upcoming spending cuts all go back to that so-called Super Committee's inability to agree on a deficit reduction plan. Its failure meant $1.2 trillion in across the board cuts over the next decade, about $120 billion a year, and about half of those are going to effect the defense budget.

Meanwhile, these cuts don't even begin to put a dent in government spending. We are still running annual deficits of more than a trillion dollars, these cuts about $120 billion a year over ten years.

Here's the question. Should we cut 10 percent of federal workers instead of cutting defense? Go to and post a comment on my blog or go to our post on the SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page. $11 trillion economy every year, and we're wringing our hands over $120 billion in cuts.


CAFFERTY: Amazing.

BLITZER: Good point, Jack. Thank you. Thanks very much.

Meanwhile, protesters are tying hundreds of red ribbons to the gates over at the White House, a symbol of their rally cry, more funding and increased treatments for AIDS patients. They're rallying at the International Aids Conference that's going on right now here in Washington, D.C.

And today's focus has been on the cure. Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is here in Washington. He's covering this conference for us. Sanjay, first of all, you spoke to Tim Brown today. He's the only man in the world who went from being HIV positive to being cured. Is that right? DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Wolf. And, you know, it's interesting because, you know, scientists are often reluctant, as you know, to use that word. But that's the word they're using when describing Tim Brown. His story is an interesting one. He had HIV. He developed AIDS. And then, he developed leukemia on top of al that, Wolf.

Imagine, as part of his treatment for leukemia, he got a bone marrow transplant. And researchers believe that bone marrow transplant, besides treating his leukemia, also taught cells in his body to become resistant to the HIV virus. I spoke to him earlier today, Wolf. He's here as part of this conference to talk about the secure agenda. Here's how he put it to me.


GUPTA: Does that mean you have no symptoms? You have no virus? How do you describe it?

TIMOTHY BROWN, "BERLIN PATIENT": I quit taking my HIV medication on the day I got my first transplant. Unfortunately, the leukemia came back, and so, I had to get a second transplant about a year later. And after the first transplant, I did very well. I gained muscle weight and went back to work, and everything was great.

But the leukemia came back. My HIV was gone after like three months after the first round. Totally eradicated from my body.

GUPTA: Completely gone.

BROWN: Yes. Completely gone.


GUPTA: Now, Wolf, as you might imagine, doing a bone marrow transplant isn't feasible in all patients who have HIV, but this idea that they could learn something from Tim Brown. I mean, he has been studied extensively as you might imagine. Is there something that his body did that could be, you know, the genesis of a new therapy? That's a big focus of the discussion here at this conference, Wolf.

BLITZER: You've been at the conference all day, Sanjay. It is a global conference. So, what are some of the other new things you're seeing on the horizon as far as HIV/AIDS are concerned?

GUPTA: There's a couple of big ones, Wolf, and you know, one is a big milestone. If you look back sort of over the last 30 years, there really hasn't been a medication for prevention, a lot of medications to treat. There's medication known as Travata here. You can't always see this bottle, but Travata is a medication that's been out for some time as a treatment for HIV.

Just this past week, they approved it as a medication to prevent HIV/AIDS as well, reduces the risk of infection by over 46 percent, they say. Also, Wolf, I want to show you something quick. I think this is very important. One of the big things about HIV/AIDS is that people are simply fearful of getting tested. There's a lot of stigma, as you know, around this disease.

This is an at-home HIV test. It comes out in October of this year. It just got FDA approved. Really quickly, Wolf, because again, this is important. This is a mouth swab. You simply swab the top of your mouth, the bottom of your mouth. You put this into here and after about 20 minutes, it will tell you if you have presence of the HIV virus in your blood.

It's about 92 percent accurate, Wolf. They think it's going to cost somewhere between $20 and $40. So, this is a big deal. I mean, these are big deals in the world of AIDS. Simply getting people tested and then possibly treated obviously very important, Wolf.

BLITZER: It could save their lives, obviously. Very, very important, indeed. Quickly, let me turn the corner, Sanjay, while I have you. We heard an amazing story out in Colorado. A 22-year-old woman whose family says she was struck in the head with a bullet in that movie theater, but because of a brain birth defect, she actually survived with no brain damage.

You're a neurosurgeon. How in the world could this happen? Does it sound realistic it you?

GUPTA: It is realistic. It's unusual. And it's one of these things where some patients, Wolf, actually -- I think what they're describing is a natural fluid-filled space in the brain. You have brain matter obviously, but there are fluid-filled spaces. Sometimes, Wolf, I think there are some images here I can show you.

I don't know if you're looking at them now, but you see a normal brain on one side, and then what's known as a cavum septum on the other side. You don't need to remember that name, but basically, it's a large fluid-filled space that almost directly in the center of the brain. There's another image here, something even more common, although, these are both rare, but more common, something known as arachnoid cyst.

And what you see, there's normal brain, and again, a big cyst in the brain. It's just filled with fluid. So, you imagine, Wolf, if someone was injured, got a bullet injury to the brain and actually landed in one of those fluid-filled spaces.

Just take a look quickly over here, Wolf, the bullet from my understanding and reading the same accounts as you did was sort of in the center of the brain, go down sort of the middle of the brain and land in one of those fluid-filled spaces without causing much damage to the brain. So, a rare but a happily rare sort of thing.

You know, this is a thing that possibly could save somebody's life. Less than 10 percent of people who are shot in the head survive their injuries. So, you know, obviously, a very important thing for her.

BLITZER: Her name is Petra Anderson (ph). We have a picture of her. There she is, Sanjay. I know you haven't obviously treated this woman, but what if what her family says is true, what would be her prognosis?

GUPTA: Well, you know, in those fluid-filled areas of the brain, Wolf, there's no sort of functioning brain. So, you're not damaging any of the functioning brain. It is possible that besides the wounds that she obviously suffered as the result of the injury, she may not have any long-term brain damage. They'll have to obviously wait and see.

It usually takes several days if not weeks to determine that for sure, but it could be, you know, a pretty extraordinary thing. I talk to a few of my colleagues who are also trauma neurosurgeons. And I'd seen something similar to this back when I was a resident. It's a rare thing. but, again, it's possible that she has a full recovery.

BLITZER: I hope she does. That's an amazing, amazing story. Sanjay's over at the AIDS conference here in Washington. By the way, in my next hour, my interview with Bill Gates. He's there. He's giving away a lot of money to help deal with this crisis around the world. My special interview with Bill Gates. I was there yesterday.

We sat down and spoke. That's coming up in our new 6:00 p.m. eastern hour. Sanjay, thanks so much for what you're doing.

GUPTA: Thank you, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: Mitt Romney seeing a surge in popularity on Twitter, but some say there's no way he gained over 140,000 followers in just two days. We're assessing.

And a crumbling wall of mud complicates a rescue mission. Up next, you're going to see how crews saved the driver stuck in the rushing water. Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Iraq is reeling after the deadliest day in the country this year. Lisa Sylvester's monitoring this and some other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. So, what happened?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, 103 people are dead and more than 260 wounded in a wave of attacks that range from shootings and assassinations to car bombings and roadside explosions. No one has taken responsibility for Monday's violence, but officials at the interior ministry say the attacks bear the hallmark of al Qaeda in Iraq.

And a catholic cleric in Philadelphia will spend up to six years in prison for covering up sex abuse claims against a priest. That falls just short of the maximum sentence for Monsignor William Lynn who is the first U.S. church leader to be convicted of child endangerment for failing to stop abuse. At today's sentencing, the judge reportedly said Lynn enabled, quote, "monsters in clerical garb."

And something strange is going on with Mitt Romney's Twitter account. It looks like he added more than 140,000 followers in just two days according to Twitter counter. Just take a look at that jump. Now, it's huge considering that the Republican presidential candidate typically gains about 3,000 or 4,000 followers a day.

His campaign says it's not manipulating the numbers, and it has reached out to Twitter for answers.

And a dramatic rescue in flood-drenched China. Two cars and a wedding caravan plunged 30 feet into a raging river when a bridge collapsed leaving one driver stuck in his crushed car. In spite of the mud slides and rain, rescuers made it down with ropes, broke the sunroof, and they lifted the driver out.

You see the pictures there. Fortunately, with no life- threatening injuries. What dramatic pictures. Lucky, lucky, lucky that they did not have any fatalities.

BLITZER: It's a wedding --

SYLVESTER: It was a wedding caravan. So, you have, you know, these cars, these vehicles going across this bridge, bridge gives way, and you saw the results there. The two cars plunged in. They were able to pull them to safety. Amazing when you see those pictures.


SYLVESTER: I mean, you know, we often say this dramatic pictures, but those truly are.

BLITZER: Yes. For surely (ph) they got saved.


BLITZER: Thank you, Lisa. Thanks very much.

A $150 million U.S. taxpayer money going to fund a hospital in Afghanistan where doctors demanded bribes, performed surgeries without painkillers. You're going to hear what whistleblowers are now saying.

And Mitt Romney gives a bruising speech slamming the president on foreign policy, but will it stick? Stay with us. A major debate on that subject coming up right here in the SITUATION ROOM.



MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sadly, the president has diminished American leadership. We're reaping the consequences. The world is dangerous, destructive, chaotic, and the two men running to be your commander and chief must offer their answers to the challenges we face.


BLITZER: Tough words from Mitt Romney slamming President Obama on defense and foreign policy, this on the eve of an international trip that will take him to Britain, Israel and Poland. He was speaking at a Veterans convention in Reno, Nevada; just one day after President Obama spoke before the same group.

Let's talk about what's going on, just how far apart are President Obama and Mitt Romney on defense and foreign policy issues.

Joining us now Dan Senor, he is foreign policy adviser for the Romney campaign and former Democratic Robert Wexler from Florida. He is now president of S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East. He is a supporter, obviously, of Obama.

Let me play you a clip. When it comes to Israel, Mitt Romney was very tough on the president. I'll play the clip and then Robert Wexler, I want you to respond. But just listen to this.


ROMNEY: I'm going to be leaving Reno this evening on a trip abroad. It will take me to England, Poland and Israel. And since I wouldn't venture into another country to question American foreign policy, I'll tell you right here before I leave what I think of this administration's shabby treatment of one of our finest friends.

President Obama is fond of lecturing Israel's leaders. He's -- he was even caught by a microphone deriding them. He's undermined their position, which was tough enough as it was. And even at the United Nations to the enthusiastic applause of Israel's enemies, he spoke as if our closest ally in the Middle East was the problem.

The people of Israel deserve better than what they received from the leader of the free world. And the chorus of accusations and threats and insults at the United Nations should never again include the voice of the president of the United States.


BLITZER: All right. Robert Wexler, like Dan Senor, you're a very strong supporter of Israel. You want to respond briefly to what the president -- what Romney just said about the president?

ROBERT WEXLER, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Sure. Governor Romney is flat wrong. The military strategic intelligence information between the United States and Israel has never been stronger than under President Obama's leadership. Whether we're talking about missile defense, whether we are talking about defense in the United Nations, President Obama made the most pro-Israel speech in the United Nations that any president has ever made this past fall.

I hope when governor Romney visits Israel, he'll go to the town of Sderot, which is right on the border of Gaza and ask the citizens of -- the residents of Sderot how they feel about American assistance to Israel to develop the finest technology that is protecting Israeli citizens all across southern Israel from the threat from Hamas and Islamic Jihad and others.

Whether it is standing up for Israel at the United Nations, whether it's standing up for Israel's right of self-defense regarding the flotilla, whether it's opposing the Goldstone report or keeping us out of anti-Semitic conferences, this president, 100 percent, has stood with Israel in the defense of American interest.

BLITZER: You want to quibble with that, Dan?

DAN SENOR, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: Sure. First of all, Governor Romney has been to Sderot. He was there last January. In fact this is going to be his fourth trip to Israel. He's declared that his first trip as president will be to Israel. So, he doesn't need any education on what's going on in Israel.

What I think what Robert and I would agree on is that there is good military cooperation between the IDF and the Pentagon today. The problem is, is the diplomatic isolation that Israel is subjected to in the world, which undermines its security, has been largely driven by this administration quite explicitly. I mean, in July of 2009 President Obama as was reported in "the Washington Post" just a couple weeks ago, President Obama told a group of Jewish leaders in the White House that he intended to pursue daylight between Israel and the United States. The U.S. and Israel had been too close in the previous years.

Later on in 2010 his secretary of defense said that Israel had isolated itself in the Arab world. That Israel was responsible for its isolation. And as you played that quote, Wolf, earlier of Governor Romney citing what President Obama said behind closed doors to the French president trashing the prime minister of Israel. What happens is the president makes these statements and they get echoed by Israel's adversaries around the world further isolating Israel. Strategic cooperation is important except when it's compromised by the diplomatic isolation the president has subjected Israel too.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Robert Wexler.

WEXLER: A year ago the secretary of defense of Israel, Ehud Barak, Israel's most decorated soldier, talked about a political tsunami that would potentially overwhelm the state of Israel and he was referring to the Palestinian declaration -- unilateral declaration of statehood at the United Nations.

Who defeated that? President Obama essentially single handedly stopped the Palestinians from obtaining unilateral statehood declaration at the United Nations because of his extraordinarily pro- Israel speech, because of his ability to develop and use our alliances with our European allies and others to stand up for Americans and America's interest which in this case was Israel's interest.

BLITZER: I want you to respond -- hold on, Dan.

SENOR: I got to respond right to that.

BLITZER: You will respond. I want you to respond to that, but in the context of this other statement that Mitt Romney made today at this veterans of foreign wars convention in Reno, when it came to Iran, which as both of you guys well know is Israel's major concern right now a nuclear Iran, listen to Romney.


ROMNEY: Now, there's no greater danger in the world today than the prospect of Ayatollahs in Iran possessing nuclear capacity, yet for all the talks and conferences, all the extensions and assurances, can anyone say we're really further from this danger now than we were four years ago?

If I become commander and chief, I will use every means necessary to protect ourselves and the region and to prevent the worst from happening while there's still time.


BLITZER: All right. Dan, you've studied this issue well, so has Robert Wexler.

Here's the question specifically, what would a Romney presidency do differently as far as Iran and its nuclear program than the Obama presidency is doing right now?

SENOR: Sure. First of all, as he said today, he would demand that any deal with Iran involve zero enrichment. Not three plus percent plus enrichment, not 20 percent enrichment in which Uranium, zero percent.

Secondly, he would make it clear that there are serious consequences for Iran not engaging in a full cessation of full uranium enrichment. Right now, the United States government under President Obama had gone out of the way to protect what it fears most is military action against Iran, whether U.S. military actions, Israeli action. And in fact, the threat in the eyes of the Iranians of military force is an alternative to them seizing the enrichment uranium program is not credible.

Thirdly, Governor Romney as president would lock arms with the Israeli leaders and make it clear to the Iranians that the brazen threats in cases like we've seen over the last couple weeks, attacks, is something we view as an attack on us. We would lock arms with the Israelis in very symbolic ways not instead of trying to have it both ways, which is this public distancing of Israel, which you've seen from this administration repeatedly over the last few years.

BLITZER: All right. Go ahead and respond, Robert.

WEXLER: President Obama has made it abundantly clear that Iran will not become a nuclear weapon power under his watch. No ifs, no ands, no butts.

Today as we speak there are over 1,000 of our finest troops stationed in Kuwait. There are two battleship groups, maybe a third on the way. Also British and French forces are poised to be a part of any operation that would be required.

President Obama has ushered in the most serious comprehensive set of sanctions against Iran that any nation has faced in the history of the world. The truth is the answer to your question, Wolf, in terms of what would a president Romney do differently than a President Obama with respect to Iran, nothing. Because the fact of the matter is President Obama is doing everything humanly possible to stop the Iranian nuclear weapon quest.

SENOR: I'm sorry. I just got to respond to that.

Look, Congressman Wexler, the sanctions you are taking credit for and the administration is taking credit for, the administration fought every step of the way, congressional leaders from both parties. Look at Senator Menendez, Democrat from New Jersey, brought in administration officials up to Capitol Hill, raked them over the coals for stonewalling the sanctions for Iran central bank.

So, it's wonderful the sanctions are in place today. Its three years to do too late. Why didn't President Obama pursue these in his first year? He didn't pursue them when congressional leaders tried to pursue them, his administration fought them. And here we are today with important sanctions in place but really late in the process.

BLITZER: Unfortunately we're out of time. But I will give you ten seconds. Robert, go ahead.

WEXLER: President Obama kept on President Bush's treasury officials to keep the sanctions program not only alive but expanded with much more bold action.

SENOR: Then why are Democrats criticizing the administration saying --

BLITZER: All right. Hold on, guys.

SENOR: Why are congressional Democrats criticizing the administration's slow pace on this? If what you're saying is true --

WEXLER: With all due respect, Dan, congressional --


BLITZER: Hold on. Hold on. This was a good debate until we start talking over each other. Very quickly I'll give Wexler the final word. Go ahead.

WEXLER: If this is a contest between President Bush and President Obama on Iran, President Obama wins hands down, the strictest versus very little action, unfortunately.

SENOR: He's running against Governor Romney.

WEXLER: Well, yes, but he was handed this set of cards. You asked why didn't he do it four years ago? He started from day one. And where we are now --

SENOR: He resisted it.

BLITZER: All right.

WEXLER: Is there an oil embargo by the European Union now on Iran?

SENOR: In the summer of 2012. Why didn't we pursue this three year ago?

WEXLER: Has India reduced its taking of Iranian oil? Do we have admiralty sanctions crippling the Iranian economy? Has their currency been devalued almost 50 percent? The facts are the facts, Dan.

SENOR: Yes, but here's another fact that you would agree with, Iran is closer to having a nuclear bomb today than at any time in recent memory. So it's true --

BLITZER: All right. We got to leave it.

SENOR: The economy's in bad shape, but they're closer to a bomb.

BLITZER: Here's the deal. We're going to continue this conversation, gentlemen, but unfortunately not today. I want both of you to come back. There will be plenty of opportunities to discuss this and other serious issues including Syria, Afghanistan. The national security issues are not going away and we will obviously focus on them here in the SITUATION ROOM.

Dan Senor and Robert Wexler, a good discussion, good debate. Thanks to both of you for coming in.

WEXLER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: A father stained with the blood of the son he just lost. In our new 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour our own Ivan Watson is now inside Syria where outgunned and underequipped rebels are vowing to fight on. We're going there live.


BLITZER: The United States military discovered horrifying abuse in an Afghan hospital funded with millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars.

Now, members of Congress here in Washington are hearing directly from the witnesses about this huge scandal. We want to warn you about some of the pictures you might be seeing. They will be disturbing.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, has this report.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): U.S. taxpayers spent more than $150 million in just 18 months here at the Kabul national military hospital training Afghans to look after their wounded. Here is what that money bought.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE: If there are children watching, please have them turn away or ask to leave the room.

STARR: Wounded, starving Afghan patients.

CHAFFETZ: They're exceptionally graphic.

STARR: Testifying before Congress retired and still serving U.S. officers who say American generals knew but didn't want the bad news to get out.

Congressman Chaffetz quoted from testimony.

CHAFFETZ: Colonel Fassl described the conditions as quote, "outwits like," end quote. Oftentimes Afghan doctors and nurses would demand bribes in exchange for care. Those who could not afford to do so died in their hospital beds.

STARR: Surgeries with no painkillers and more.

COLONEL MARK FASSL, U.S. ARMY: The open vats of blood draining out of soldiers' wounds, the feces on the floor.

STARR: And for those tens of millions of dollars spent.

CHAFFETZ: Medical supplies and equipment were hoarded, stored improperly and misused.

STARR: Retired Colonel Schuyler Geller told us weeks ago, his staff saw unending corruption. He is now testified publicly.

COLONEL SCHUYLER GELLER, MD, RETIRED U.S. AIR FORCE: We supply 100 percent of the fuel and food to the Afghan army including the (INAUDIBLE) hospital where it was routinely pilfered enriching the criminal networks.

STARR: The men alleged their boss, Lieutenant General William Caldwell, delayed an investigation worried it would look bad politically.

FASSL: His first response to me was how could we do this or make this request with elections coming. And then he made the really, again, shocking comment that he calls me, Bill.

CHAFFETZ: But what does that mean?

FASSL: Well, I took it as that he was referring to the president of the United States.

CHAFFETZ: And then he had a personal relationship.

FASSL: I don't know, chairman, if he had a personal relationship. But the political pressure there was such that he made those statements.


STARR: You see Colonel Fassl there in a U.S. army uniform. This is a colonel in the army saying that a three-star general used the president's name to get out of having an immediate investigation of the situation at this hospital.

General Caldwell has not publicly commented on this through his spokesman he is saying he believes the through his spokesman, he says he believes the allegations are false -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's a real scandal that's brewing, thanks very much, Barbara, for that.

And by the way, coming up at our brand new 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour, right at the top of the hour, we have details of what police found inside the accused killer, James Holmes' apartment in Colorado. We're going there live.


BLITZER: Jack's back with the Cafferty file -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Question this hour, should we cut 10 percent of the federal work force instead of cutting defense? Those mandatory budget cuts are looming on the horizon end of the year. And some people in Washington don't want to fool with that, they want it postpone the cuts, get the money somewhere else.

T writes, "We should cut defense, leave federal workers in place, work on eliminating duplication of regulation effort and paperwork in government. Too much time, effort, and money being wasted on feathering already well feathered nets related to the military industrial complex.

Doug in Massachusetts, "We ought to layoff all federal workers that aren't doing anything, that would be about 90 percent of them. The military could get by on half the money they get. The money saved by all of this could then be used to pay down the debt, and hire people and companies to improve infrastructure."

Jack writes. "That would be a beginning. Make it 25 for good measure."

Tom in New York says how about do both. We are far and away the leading military power in the world, no one comes close. So, trimming fat of the bloated military budget seems like a very good idea and the government has gotten bigger in recent years. So, downsizing through attrition is also a good idea.

Jen in Seattle writes. Most definitely, we could survive without 10 percent of the federal government.

And Mikey writes. It's a dumb question. Federal workers are people, too. Why should we make more unemployed? Why can't we stop making more guns and fighter jets?

If you want to read more about this, go to the blog, or through our post on the SITUATION ROOM facebook page -- Wolf. BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

Underequipped, outnumbered, CNN's Ivan Watson, he will join us live inside Syria where rebels are vowing to fight on. That's coming up in our brand new 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour.


BLITZER: Rupert Murdoch's journalists were charged in Britain's phone hacking scandal. That list includes some very high profile people.

Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. What happened, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Andy Coleson, a former aide to British Prime Minister David Cameron, has been charged with illegal eavesdropping, and so is Rebekah Brooks, former chief executive of News International and one of Rupert Murdoch's protege. Both were editors at now de-funk news of the world tabloid, which is suspected of hacking some of the world's biggest celebrities including Brad Pitt, Paul McCartney, and Jude Law.

And in the end, everything seems to come down to money. And a pair of high profile Moody's shifted the outlook on Germany's AAA credit rating to negative because of concerns the Germans will have to take part in more Eurozone bailouts. Moody's also notified Penn State, its credit rating may get downgraded due to fallout from the Sandusky sex scandal.

And trouble in a country that's been one of Africa's success stories. Ghana's president, John Atta Mills died unexpectedly at the age of 68. Under his leadership, Ghana has been regarded by the U.S. as a flourishing democracy with double digit economic growth, and it is the world's number two cocoa grower -- Wolf.