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Iraq Crisis Gets Political; Hillary Clinton More Popular than Obama; Militants Posts New Execution Video; Team USA Plays against Ghana

Aired June 16, 2014 - 11:30   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: All right. This just in to CNN, some gruesome video. One of the terrorists in Iraq has posted three extraordinary videos, extraordinary and awful, to a Facebook page showing the interrogation of several captured men.

I want to go now to Arwa Damon in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Erbil.

Arwa, this video is graphic.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. And it's very difficult to watch. Now, in it, you see a bearded man with a gun who is walking over to four or five men on the ground on their knees, and he is really ruthless in the way that he's approaching them. He's saying, look, look, they have the Iraqi flag, look, ministry border guards. He walks from one man to another, slapping them on the side of the face, calling them Maliki's dogs.

In other portions of the video, he's trying to get them to repeat after him, to say Islamic state here to stay. One of the men struggled to repeat that. He's either dehydrated or he's not fully aware of what's happening around him. He's incapable of formulating those words. You then see him pushed to the ground.

In another video clip, you see him executed with the bearded man wielding the gun very proud of what he's accomplished, saying, look, I've killed a Shia.

And photographs posted to a Facebook page that we believe is that of the same individual who carried out the execution, he identifies himself as Abu Hamza. He said he's from Tunisia. You see photographs that he posted where all of the men appear to be dead, again boasting to his friends on Facebook about what he has accomplished.

It is really hair-raising when you think about the sheer level of brutality that we're seeing unfolding here right now.

BERMAN: It is hair-raising and particularly disturbing when you think about why it may have been posted. This is clearly some kind of propaganda tool. These people think that they will gain support by showing something this awful.

DAMON: That's right. They do, and in fact, in one of Facebook postings, Abu Hamza is urging people to circulate the video, the photographs of these executions to all of the Shia. A clear effort to try to incite even more sectarian hatred, draw those battle lines in the sand between Sunni and Shia, and we're seeing the battle ground in Iraq that already was suffering from various sectarian tensions becoming one of an even more existential battle between Sunni and Shia.

This most certainly is not the first video of an execution that has surfaced. There were also those horrific photographs showing dozens if not hundreds of men in a shallow grave, accused of being Iraqi Security Forces. Imagining at this stage how this situation is going to be brought under control is something that even the best of analysts is struggling with.

BERMAN: You know, as bad as this situation is, it shows it can get much, much worst.

Our Arwa Damon for us inside Erbil, thank you so much.

Thirty-two minutes after the hour. Other headlines we're watching at this hour. The FAA investigating a different kind of plane incident. It's a joke from an air traffic controller told to a pilot coming in for a landing in Atlanta.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do not have a gate yet so you might want to figure out some place for us to park while we sort it out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Delta 630 go around. I'm kidding. Delta 630 after your landing, I've got no one behind you. Expect to exit right, second high speed. We'll hide you out somewhere down by papa.


BERMAN: Yes. Some joke there. The pilot had already called off the landing and changed course. FAA officials say they doubt any lives were in danger. No word yet how or if the air traffic controller might be punished.

Fairly grim milestone here. It's now more than 100 days since that Malaysian jetliner vanished. Searchers have failed to uncover any wreckage and costs are mounting but Malaysian authorities are promising to keep looking for the plane and the -- 239 people who are on it.

All right. So who is Britain's most popular royal? And it's a burning question. Well, it turns out, it's that guy. Prince William of course. A new poll shows that he beat out his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth and his father Prince Charles. He's way more popular than the country's elected leader, Prime Minister David Cameron. Probably doesn't that he's got a very popular wife and a very cute baby son.

Remember, these are early polls. 2016 is a long time away. We will see how all this plays out when we get to Iowa.

Coming up, Republicans continue to slam the president over the crisis in Iraq. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Stubborn, headed, delusional, detached president but that's the last bad thing I'm going to say.



GRAHAM: This is another 9/11 in the making. The FBI director has warned us in Congress that Syria and Iraq present a direct threat to our homeland. You got foreign fighters from America and Western Europe occupying this battle space. They are operating with impunity.

Get into the game, Mr. President.


BERMAN: "Get in the game." That's Republican Senator Lindsey Graham calling out President Obama for what he calls inaction as the crisis in Iraq intensifies. And Senator Graham is just one of many Republicans criticizing the president on the Iraq issue. It took roughly zero seconds for the escalating crisis to become a huge political talking point for both parties. You have heard Democrats drop the Bush name a lot over the last week.

I'm joined now by two of our best political commentators, Sally Kohn and Margaret Hoover.

I don't want to put words in your mouth here, but, Sally, Democrats seem to be saying, well, the first big mistake was done by Bush in Iraq.

And, Margaret, Republicans seem to be saying well, yes, but the last mistake was from the White House.



BERMAN: Address the issue. So I think you're both wrong. So discuss. No, is there a discussion about to be had about going forward without looking back, Sally?

SALLY KOHN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look. I mean, it's true. There are a lot of Democrats, although incidentally not all, who wouldn't have gotten into this war in the first place. It was -- it was a mess and it's only gotten messier. But the reality is this question of, what could Obama have done to prevent any of this? You know, he couldn't have kept troops in after the withdrawal date that Bush set because al Maliki wouldn't allow us to even if we wanted to. And would that have prevented any of this? No.

What Americans need to know is there's really three wars happening in Iraq. There's the war we fought against Saddam Hussein, rightly or wrongly, we won that one. There's a war against al Qaeda in Iraq, different from al Qaeda elsewhere, and that war was whipped up when we invaded and has ostensibly -- it's not ended. We certainly -- they hate us, but they are not attacking us now because we pulled out, right? Then there's the sort of larger much uglier civil war in Iraq which has gone on way before we went there and will continue to go on.

It's not our war. There's nothing we can do about it. And the only thing we can do is continue to lose more American lives which is what Republicans apparently want to happen.

BERMAN: Margaret, is that what you want to happen?

HOOVER: Wow. Yes. That's extraordinary.


BERMAN: I don't think that's what you want to happen necessarily?

HOOVER: That's extraordinary.

KOHN: You cannot fix this.

HOOVER: That is extraordinary. I mean, the first point, I can't -- I can't sort of rebut every single point you just made in that short sound bite. But the first point is simply to say that it was -- Colin Powell said before you go into this war, he said he warned President Bush, he warned the right. He said, if you break it you buy it. And one of the things I will say the Bush administration failed to do was -- win the peace and to sell the dedication, the perseverance to the American people that we're going to have to stay there until we won the peace.

We didn't do that. As a result, we have what we have now because the president left. President Obama left. And it wasn't simply because al Maliki said we don't want you here. It was that next administration's responsibility to get a SOFA agreement, a status forces agreement in order to keep stability in that country in order to let the political system continue to gain steam and for real pluralism to take root in that country.

We abdicated our responsibility to winning the peace in that country. And now frankly, American national security is at stake because this is not fear-mongering, Sally. If you have basically a region of land the size of Indiana run by the equivalent of al Qaeda, you are asking for another 9/11 in this country.


KOHN: But it's not al Qaeda.

BERMAN: Go ahead.

HOOVER: You are asking for another 9/11.

KOHN: Listen. HOOVER: And I know that people on the left want to say that's fear-

mongering but it is simply the reality. You -- we may have been done with the war in the Middle East but they are not done with us.

KOHN: Well, right. But realistically, Margaret, and I know you agree with this, it's dangerous, too, and I think it's -- it's not only not true, but dangerous to conflate all of these different groups that hate America. Right? This happened two weeks ago when we were talking about Bergdahl and we -- everyone on the right was trying to conflate al Qaeda and the Taliban. Well, they're not the same. That's important to --


BERMAN: OK. Let me make two quick points in here.

KOHN: And they did not bomb and attack us on 9/11 nor are they threatening to on our -- this is a civil war that has gone on long before us.

BERMAN: So you do not see a U.S. interest -- yes or no, is there a U.S. interest in this region of Iraq and this region of Syria where this terrorist group is now operating? Yes or no, is there a U.S. interest there?

KOHN: Look, I think there's two answers to that question, John. One is, Margaret's point about you break it, you own it. Right? Do we have a moral obligation to help fix a situation in a country where we helped break it. Number one. Number two, though, look, there are -- we have an interest in peace and civility and pluralism around the world. There are a lot of places where people don't like America and where we don't like the people who are running those countries. But we don't intervene in every single place.

BERMAN: All right, Margaret?

KOHN: Is there are a direct threat against our interests? No. And are we going to make it better by intervening? No. We make it worse.

BERMAN: And Margaret, I know you disagree with that. So you don't even have to address that. But this I do want you to address. Is there a will in the United States? I do not see a national will for any kind of military involvement?

HOOVER: I think you have a very good point. I think if you ask the American people right now, you did polls, huge sample sizes right now, they would say absolutely not. But you know what? It is the responsibility of leadership to make a case for what is in America's national security interests and to sell that to the American people, and I actually think the American people are -- we're smart, we're interested in our own national security and we'll do what it takes in order to -- I think susceptible to strong arguments and leadership.

BERMAN: But --

HOOVER: And the president has not been interested in making that case.

KOHN: So wait a second. Apart from that, apart from the fact that this president was opposed to the war, as so the American people, even if, even if we conceded that, how could this fix anything? Al Maliki has been a sectarian leader. He has re-upped and reenergized the sectarian strife in this country. And look, I think there's an interesting you made that all of this sort of tumult happening all around the Middle East and the Arab world. The only places where, quote-unquote, Arab spring has succeeded have been places the United States hasn't intervened.

This is a civil war. It existed before we went in.


BERMAN: There's great disagreement here.

KOHN: How could we fix this?

BERMAN: There's great disagreement here which is bad news, but the good news is you guys get to stick around and we get to have more of this disagreement in just a minute.

Coming up, we're going to talk more about this.

Also Hillary Clinton, she is standing by the president on Iraq. She stood next to him on a lot of other issues as well. But a new poll suggests she may want to rethink that a little bit and start getting familiar with the word distance.

Then stun grenades and tear gas. World Cup protests break out across Brazil. We are live at the scene AT THIS HOUR.


BERMAN: So if the election in 2016 were held today, well, it might be pretty good for Hillary Clinton. According to a new CNN/ORC poll, she's in pretty good shape on a whole range of issues, all nine issues in this survey. In fact, if she were running against President Obama, she might do better than him. She ranks higher on him than just about every issue.

Take a look at this. This is foreign affairs, 63 percent of those polls said she'd do a good job. Compare that to the president's rating on foreign affairs that's at 40 percent right now. That's a fairly big gap.

Joining me to talk about this some more, our political commentator Sally Kohn and Margaret Hoover.

Sally, and Margaret has heard me, you know, pontificate about this today. But I am fascinated by what Hillary Clinton is doing in this book which is creating specific areas of distance with the president on specific foreign policy issues. The reason this interests me is it strikes me that the big challenge facing Hillary Clinton going into 2016, if she runs, is how to win the support of the Obama coalition. The Obama coalition that elected him twice with the majority of the vote. Will that show up for her? Will that show up for another Democrat?

KOHN: Well, you know, it's a great question and no one knows maybe because in part that coalition would have showed up for anyone else first of all. Second of all, what makes Hillary Clinton -- what puts her in such a strong position is she doesn't -- she would like those voters, but she's first of all going to get such a large number of independent and even Republican voters, including Republican women that she builds her own new coalition. Right?

But third, look, she can do -- there's a different way than sort of saying oh, she has to sort of distance herself. There's a lot of ways in her book and elsewhere where she's emphasizing her similarities with President Obama.

BERMAN: Well, that's because she's trying to do to me this dance.


KOHN: And she can --

BERMAN: This very delicate dance.

KOHN: And, you know, part of the problem right now when we're all speculating whether she's running or not is it's all very abstract, and we haven't really gotten down to the details of, OK, what about this and what about that, what would you do differently? But voters seemed to generally like the direction that Democratic leadership is taking on.

BERMAN: Is there another coalition, what Sally says, that could elect a Democrat to the White House and that's not the Obama coalition?

HOOVER: I think Hilary will necessarily have her own coalition. I mean, she will have a lot of women, she will have a lot of independent women, and she may very well pick off Republican women, depending on who the Republican candidate is and what the circumstances are.

Look, this is two years away now.


BERMAN: It's never too early.

KOHN: It is?

BERMAN: It is never too early.

HOOVER: I mean, these poll numbers are great but they're also incredibly inflated. I mean, she has very high poll numbers mostly because she hasn't weighted into domestic policy debates at all over the last four years. I mean, she has been secretary of state. She has done -- you know, had a very, in some ways easy way out of the most controversial issues that have plagued President Obama's poll numbers. BERMAN: Polls are never wrong. Just ask Eric Cantor.


BERMAN: Ask Eric Cantor. Exactly.

I want to change the subject. You don't want to talk about 2016, let's talk about 2012 because Mitt Romney has been talking a lot again.


HOOVER: I don't want to talk about him.

BERMAN: You have to talk about Mitt Romney.


BERMAN: He's out there and he's saying stuff about President Obama and about Hillary Clinton. Well, let's listen to this stuff.


MITT ROMNEY, FORMER GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think her clueless comments about the Bergdahl exchange as well as her record as the secretary of state are really going to be the foundation of how her Republican candidate is able to take back the White House.


BERMAN: So you say you don't want to talk about it, why not? I mean, why is Mitt Romney saying this stuff now?

HOOVER: Look, there is no leader of the Republican Party so Mitt Romney is of course the face of the Republican Party, the (INAUDIBLE) that the Republican Party has.

BERMAN: Are you happy about that?

HOOVER: Not particularly thrilled about it, frankly. I mean, it's not -- you know, we didn't do so well last go around when he was at the top of the ticket. So -- but he does make a good point here. And that is that she's not going to be able to run away from her record as secretary of state. She is the face of the Russian reset, which was an abominable policy that has led to a totally failed relationship with Russia. The worst since the Cold War.

The, you know, red line in the sand with Syria. She's distanced herself on President Obama on that. I mean, there are -- we don't have an enhanced foreign policy stature in the world now. I mean we may be more popular with some people who didn't like us under the Bush administration, but I don't know if the United States is more respected. And she was the head of state during the period of this -- what I would call decline.

BERMAN: And you think it chips away -- even Mitt Romney talking about it. It chips away at her credibility under the --

HOOVER: I think it highlights it. And she's going to have to answer to it.


KOHN: Well, I mean, come on, this is Republicans who, you know, let bin Laden walk away. Who didn't know the difference between Sunni and Shia when we started the Iraq war and started that war under false pretenses, who, you know, Americans have trust less and less on foreign policy every single day. And you look at those numbers, 63 percent of Americans like Hillary Clinton on foreign policy. That is not only a big deal number for her, it's a big deal number for any Democrat. Democrats are chipping away at Republicans' traditional strength on foreign policy issues and you can see Republicans very scared about that.

BERMAN: Sally and Margaret, thank you so much for being with me here. I really appreciate it. Been great having you.

HOOVER: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Coming up for us, stun grenades and tear gas. Demonstrations against the World Cup are breaking out across Brazil. We're live on the scene.

Then something just happened to the man who may be the world's best known race car driver after months in a coma. This is stunning. We'll have that right after the break.


BERMAN: In six hours I will be in front of a TV because Team USA begins its long awaited quest to win the World Cup today. And I am so excited so are so many Americans. But there is another story going on in Brazil right now. Police using heavy handed tactics to put down protests. Cops in riot gear use tear gas to break up a protests outside a stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

Our Lara Baldesarra joins us from Brazil.

Lara, let's talk soccer first because this is a huge game. We have dropped two in a row at the World Cup to Ghana and we need this one bad tonight.

LARA BALDESARRA, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. This is the redemption match for the Americans. Just like you said, 2006 they lost to Ghana in the group stage. 2010, the USA was knocked out of the World Cup by Ghana. So there is a lot at stake here. Plus this is a key match for the USA because they are in the group of death. That is the hardest group for teams to progress out of. To win and then progress and then stay live in the World Cup.

So after Ghana it will be Portugal and Germany that the USA has to face and realistically if they have trouble with Ghana, it probably doesn't look good for them with Portugal and Ghana so today is a big thing -- big game for them. Plus it's all about confidence as well. So you beat Ghana, or at least you get a draw, you get one point from the match and you're still alive. It's a crucial game and redemption. Who doesn't love a little bit of that?

BERMAN: I want it. I want the confidence. I need the confidence. A little bit nervous about this.

And, Lara, let's talk a little bit about the situation outside of the stadiums. You're there. You're on the ground. Is this something that's hurting the atmosphere surrounding these games.

BALDESARRA: I'm not finding that so far. Now I haven't been here in the town where the game being played as of yet. So right behind me you see the stadium and the USA match in just over six hours. That's going to be the first match that I will see here.

Right now there's really no action whatever. There's not really any traffic going in and out of it. Now we have been made aware that there is the potential for some sort of protest or demonstration. But nothing is confirmed as of this point. And there's really nothing to be concerned about even the town in and around Natal, going from our hotel to the stadium. Everything is calm. Everything is peaceful. You see the military guards outside of the Americans' hotel which is standard precaution.

All of the teams have it. And you see police everywhere, but so far nothing to report. Everything looks safe. Everyone is just getting ready for the soccer game.

BERMAN: All right. Last World Cup I went to, two games for the U.S. We were one win and one tie.

Lara, we're counting on you tonight. Give me your prediction for the final score.

BALDESARRA: Don't put me on the spot, John. If I have to, I am going to go with a 2-1 Ghana victory and I know it hurts. I don't want to say that. But I will say this. This is going to be a very physical game between the USA and between with Ghana and with physicality it means that cards might be flying. It means that anything can happen. And that could really go in the USA's favor but I'm saying 2-1 Ghana. I'm sorry, I know.

BERMAN: Wow. Lara Baldesarra, I appreciate your honesty. And by that I mean I despise it. Thank you so much for being with us. We might talk to you again or not.

No, seriously, Lara, thank you very much.


BERMAN: Enjoy the game tonight.

Some more news to tell you about right now. An icon of Formula One racing now out of a coma and in a different hospital. Michael Schumacher hit his head a few days after Christmas in a skiing accident. His injuries were so severe that doctors put him on a drug induced coma. Two months ago his manager said he was showing moments of consciousness.

Schumacher has now been moved to a Swiss hospital for the next phase of his recovery. That's some good news.

We have some very, very sad news now for baseball fans. San Diego Padres announcing the death of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn. Mr. Padre himself. Gwynn was an eight-time National League batting champion, five-time Gold Globe winner, an All Star 15 times, one of the greatest hitters of the last 30 years or so. But more importantly regarded as one of nicest guys to play the game. He's been battling cancer the last several years brought on, he claimed, by smokeless tobacco.

Tony Gwynn, just 54 years old. What a loss.

All right, thanks so much for joining us AT THIS HOUR. Luckily for you, Michaela Pereira will be back tomorrow. "LEGAL VIEW" with Brianna Keilar today starts right now.