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THE SITUATION ROOM
Crisis in Iraq; New Details in Death of Robin Williams; Obama Calls Teen's Death "Heartbreaking"; After War's Trauma, Coping With Pain
Aired August 12, 2014 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news: a growing U.S. commitment.
CNN learns the Obama administration getting ready to send more than 100 military advisers to Iraq to help tens of thousands of refugees fleeing the ISIS onslaught.
Deadly trek. Thousands of those refugees have fled on foot, making a grueling and in some cases deadly trek to safety.
Shocking details. Police reveal new information about how the comedian Robin Williams took his own life, leaving fans around the world heartbroken.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following two major breaking stories this hour. Police revealing new details of the death of Robin Williams. The suicide that is shocking his fans around the world. Stand by, and we will update you.
We're also following breaking news in Iraq. Sources telling CNN more than a hundred U.N. military advisers are being sent to Iraq to help deal with the humanitarian crisis in the northern part of the country. We are covering all of the breaking news this hour with our correspondents, our guests, CNN's global resources.
Let's begin with our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
Barbara, what's the latest you're hearing over there?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we expect a formal announcement from the Pentagon at any moment. More than a hundred U.S. military advisers, additional military advisers being sent to Northern Iraq right now, one of their main jobs will be to see if there is any way to rescue those stranded Iraqis.
STARR (voice-over): The first challenge for any possible rescue operation, figuring out how many people are trapped on Sinjar Mountain. The Pentagon's top operations officer says nobody really knows.
LT. GEN. WILLIAM MAYVILLE, OPERATIONS DIRECTOR, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I have seen reports of numbers in the thousands and I have seen reports in the numbers of tens of thousands.
STARR: The U.S. is continuing airdrops of food and water and airstrikes against is positions around the mountain, trying to push militants back, a vital military step if a rescue operation is to be launched.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're working with international partners to develop options to bring them to safety.
STARR: Several defense officials tell CNN if there is any rescue mission, it could be chaos like this. There will have to be ground troops from some country on the mountain to keep an evacuation orderly and secure.
U.S. officials tell CNN there are two basic options, a massive airlift, potentially landing helicopters and cargo planes for weeks to move everyone out, or a ground operation, using hundreds of vehicles to transport people to safety. That's already begun on a small scale. A humanitarian corridor opened by Iraqis has helped thousands of Yazidis escape.
They have been driven to the border with Syria, now left with nothing, still looking to get back to their homes. But either option will require stepped-up U.S. airstrikes to keep is away. For now, the U.S. says, no American boots on the ground.
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: There will be no reintroduction of American combat forces into Iraq.
STARR: Kurdish forces already fighting ISIS may have to step in.
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: They speak the language. They're better able to coordinate. They're better able to cooperate. They're better able to take control.
STARR: And if there is a rescue mission, clearly this will draw U.S. forces deeper back into Iraq -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The only problem, Barbara, those Peshmerga forces don't have the armor, they don't have the equipment to fight ISIS. They have Abrams battle tanks, armored personnel carriers. The Peshmerga, they may be great fighters, very courageous, but they basically have some weapons, some ammunition. They can't compete in that area.
STARR: Wolf, if it happens, this will all depend on military tactics. One of the things that people here are predicting is you will see stepped-up airstrikes. It will be up to U.S. warplanes to continue to pound those ISIS targets, get them back off the mountain, get them away from any humanitarian corridor, so these people can be safely transported out of there. But make no mistake, it is going to be dangerous for everybody, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, the U.S. is going to have to step up military supplies, military equipment, major military equipment to the Kurdish forces.
Quickly on the hundred additional, hundred-plus additional military advisers now heading to Northern Iraq, that will bring the number closer and closer to 1,000 active duty U.S. military personnel in Iraq right now. Isn't that right?
STARR: That is correct, Wolf. We have gotten a better readout from our sources. This will take the number of active-duty personnel in Iraq, U.S. military personnel to well over 900. Now they do everything from working on foreign military sales, still selling weapons to the current Iraqi military, working on security at Baghdad Airport, protecting the embassy, working both in Irbil in Northern Iraq and in Baghdad on trying to assess, and evaluate and help the Iraqi military.
But now what we are seeing tonight, Wolf, two new missions, possible rescue mission, possible assistance to the Peshmerga fighters up there.
BLITZER: They are all active-duty military personnel. They will be wearing uniforms. They will be wearing their boots. They will be on the ground. There will be boots on the ground, although they are now saying these will not be combat troops. So that is the difference. They're saying they're not combat forces. Is that right?
STARR: Wolf, these people, under the war powers notifications the president has made to Congress, these people will not be engaging in offensive combat operations. If they were to come under attack, they have every right to defend themselves. But they are not going out there on combat operations either by themselves or with Iraqi or Peshmerga forces. That right now is not happening -- Wolf.
BLITZER: U.S. fighter jets though they are engaged in combat. Clearly they are actively engaged in combat. All right, we are going to continue this, this hour. Barbara Starr, at the Pentagon, thanks very much.
Let's get some more now on those Yazidi refugees fleeing for their lives from these ISIS terrorists.
Our senior international correspondent, Ivan Watson, is joining us from Northern Iraq right now, where this humanitarian crisis is unfolding,
Ivan, what are you seeing now? Because you have shown our viewers in the United States and around the world some very powerful and dramatic images.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're having a few audio problems.
But, yes, we saw the stream of humanity pouring across the border from Syria into Iraqi Kurdistan, across the Peskabor (ph) River on a bridge. Now, why where they coming from Syria, these masses of exhausted, desperate, frightened civilians? Because there is an informal humanitarian corridor that has come together to help the people.
Many of them those religious minority members the Yazidis come from the Iraqi town of Sinjar and the surrounding areas, that Sinjar Mountain that many have fled to. They are escaping by crossing the border into Syria, a Kurdish-controlled part of Syria, controlled by a group called the Kurdistan Workers Party, who are then helping transport them up the border to the Peskabor (ph) River, where they then trudge across the bridge here into Iraqi Kurdistan.
And the people told horrifying stories of their Arab neighbors joining the largely foreign force of ISIS militants to attack and threaten their Kurdish Yazidi neighbors. They describe stories of their children dying on the marathon journey through the desert, taking 10, 15 hours on foot to reach safety, and then coming here where these people are once again sleeping out under the stars on roadsides with no tents to speak of. Some of them sleeping on scraps of cardboard tonight after spending more than a week out in the open -- Wolf.
BLITZER: This looks like such a desperate situation. These folks -- and you have spoken to them and we saw you on that helicopter, rescuing some folks with the Iraqi military, some Peshmerga Kurdish fighters. What is their mood right now? Do they feel they have any hope?
WATSON: The refrain that I have heard from these Yazidis who are streaming north via Syria is they are just looking to the U.S., to Europe for help.
And it's a refrain I heard from some of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians, another religious minority that have been fleeing on mass since this crisis began. They too would say the same thing. We just need a safe refuge somewhere in the west. They have already given up hope on Iraq, I think largely because they have seen and heard that neighbors from their communities have turned on them, have joined ISIS and taken up arms against them and they feel they cannot go back home to those communities ever again . It is truly ethnic and sectarian cleansing.
BLITZER: Ivan, tell us quickly about that Iraqi military helicopter that crashed, if you will, trying to bring some aid to trapped Yazidis on Mount Sinjar earlier today. We know the pilot was killed. What do we know about this incident?
WATSON: This is one of the Iraqi air force helicopters that have been flying daily missions, dangerous missions over the past several days delivering aid to Mount Sinjar to the perhaps tens of thousands of mostly Yazidis trapped there and then coming back in the chaotic scenes we witnessed yesterday on a similar flight, coming back, carrying more passengers than the helicopters are equipped to carry, bringing them back to safety in these truly chaotic scenes.
In this case, one of these flights, one of these choppers went down on Mount Sinjar. The Iraqi air force pilot, he was killed. A number of the other people on that helicopter were injured, including Alissa Rubin, a "New York Times" journalist. There was a photographer, a friend of mine, who was on board as well and has published a photo in "TIME" magazine, Moises Saman. I'm told that he is OK, but in a hospital.
And it just underscores how dangerous those missions are, what burdens the helicopters, these aging Russian helicopters are taking when they are overloaded with refugees, bringing them off of that mountain, and also how much the Iraqis and Kurds need help for this dangerous even delicate operation.
BLITZER: Very dangerous. We heard from "The New York Times" Alissa Rubin, the experienced war correspondent, had her wrist broken, a concussion. She's now been airlifted out. She's in the hospital together with several of the other people who were on that helicopter.
Ivan Watson doing amazing work for all of us. Thank you so much for your reporting.
Complicating all of this, a major power struggle in Baghdad where a new prime minister has been designated, but the incumbent, Nouri al- Maliki, is vowing to cling to power and that is raising serious fears of a possible military coup.
Let's discuss with the former Iraqi Ambassador to the United States Samir Sumaidaie, who is joining us.
Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for joining us.
Will he go quietly away, Nouri al-Maliki, or will he resist?
SAMIR SUMAIDAIE, FORMER IRAQI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: That's the key question.
It is, at this moment, unknown. I listened to his press conference. I listened to his speech today again, saying that he is going to launch a complaint with the judiciary. This doesn't sound good. It doesn't augur well at all.
He, by now, should understand that the entire country is against him, his own allies, members of his own party. I mean, the prime minister- designate, Mr. Abadi, is from his own party. He was his deputy. He turned against him. He should understand. But the reason he doesn't--
BLITZER: Nouri al-Maliki.
SUMAIDAIE: Nouri al-Maliki doesn't want to go.
It seems to me that he is surrounded by a clique of cronies. They are deeply implicated in all kind of corruption, crimes possibly. And they are scared. They are like cornered animals and they don't know where to go.
BLITZER: Well, here's the question. Does Nouri al-Maliki have military backers, elements in the Iraqi military who will fight to protect him and cause in effect a civil war?
SUMAIDAIE: Well, Wolf, from the first term, from 2006, he started working on consolidating his grip over the security forces.
The Ministry of Interior, he started implanting people in it, the military, the army, and the intelligence. And then the special forces, especially, he made that as an operational force loyal to him. He put all the leadership of these forces, made it very close.
BLITZER: What I hear you saying, Mr. Ambassador--
SUMAIDAIE: And just to complete the picture--
BLITZER: Yes, go ahead.
SUMAIDAIE: -- he interpreted this role of commander in chief of the security forces in a very unique way for Iraq.
He considered himself operationally responsible for the movements of units. This interpretation is unique to him.
BLITZER: So what I hear you saying, correct me if I'm wrong, and I have heard this from others as well, that Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, with his cronies, as you call them, have supposedly millions, if not tens of millions, hundreds of millions of dollars from the Iraqi people.
And they are afraid that if he is no longer prime minister, he could be arrested, he could be sent to jail and that money could be taken from him.
SUMAIDAIE: I think they are terrified.
If you go and look at the record of his performance during the last two years, he has driven the country into the ground. Look, he interpreted politics as winner takes all. Now, the corollary of that is if you are a winner in politics, you have a license to loot. And they have been looting the country blind.
Now, at the end, this has to stop. We hope that new prime minister will do a U-turn on this and will start using politics for the reconstruction and mending of Iraq.
BLITZER: Do you know this Haider al-Abadi, the new prime minister?
SUMAIDAIE: I do. I do.
BLITZER: You think he is a decent guy?
SUMAIDAIE: Well, we give him the benefit of the doubt. He's the best hope that we have right at the moment. That's all we
have. But what is clear, Wolf, is what policy works and what policy doesn't. What doesn't work is creating enemies, is splitting the country into sectarian factions. What works is bringing the country together. That's what we hope the new prime minister will do.
BLITZER: He may not walk away quietly because of the money that he and his cronies have stolen.
SUMAIDAIE: I think, Wolf, what al-Maliki will do in the next few days will be key and also what Iran will do in terms of signaling that they will be dead against his renewal. That would be key.
BLITZER: Because Iran has a huge amount of influence in Baghdad right now.
SUMAIDAIE: And I think not all Iranian leaders, but at least some very key leaders in Iran have concluded that Maliki is more of a liability than an asset.
BLITZER: Samir Sumaidaie, Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for coming in.
SUMAIDAIE: Thank you.
BLITZER: Still ahead, we will have much more on this story coming up.
But, also, police reveal new details of the death of Robin Williams, as a grief-stricken nation mourns his loss.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, sources telling CNN, the Obama administration now getting ready to send another 100-plus additional military advisers to Iraq to help deal with the tens of thousands of refugees fleeing ISIS militant forces.
Brian Todd is working the story for us. He has a closer look now at the mysterious leader of ISIS.
What are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we have been speaking with U.S. intelligence officials about the very information they have about Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. A senior intelligence official tells me al-Baghdadi and his circle are now trying to show they are more worthy heirs to Osama bin Laden than any other jihadist leaders.
And when al-Baghdadi emerged from the shadows recently, he seemed intent on showing that.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD (voice-over): Clad in a black turban, with the humble bearing of the most respected imam, he appeared in an ornate mosque in Mosul. But this was no man of peace.
ABU BAKR AL-BAGHDADI, ISIS LEADER (through translator): You should take up jihad to please God and fight in his name.
TODD: This video from early July purportedly showed Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi, the mysterious leader of ISIS, declaring a new caliphate, an Islamic state in Iraq. Al-Baghdadi's grandiosity was striking.
WILLIAM MCCANTS, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Everybody about the outfit is meant to evoke the early Islamic empire and the rulers that governed it. He didn't just come out to say hello to his followers. He came out to say, I am the new leader of the entire Muslim world.
TODD: This from a man who had kept such a low profile, he was known as the invisible sheik.
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: There are rumors that this is a guy who used to cover his face even when meeting with some of his own people, someone who took extraordinary precautions when it came to his own security.
TODD: Al-Baghdadi was thought of as a little more than a local thug when he was captured by U.S. forces in Fallujah about a decade ago. When the Americans released him from Camp Bucca in Iraq, he turned to the camp commander with a chilling message.
KENNETH KING, FORMER U.S. COMMANDER: He looked over us to. As he left, he said, see you guys in New York.
TODD: Now analysts say Al-Baghdadi leads a group run almost like a corporation with spreadsheets on assassinations and operatives' missions. U.S. officials tell us it is unlikely al-Baghdadi has hands-on command of units on the battlefield. He leads with inspiration and strategy, they say. What about a paradox between a figure who presents himself as holy and gentle, but leads a group behind these images of executions and crucifixions?
(on camera): Is that his signature, what he wants?
CRUICKSHANK: Every indication we have is this campaign of terror by ISIS has sign-off from the very top of the organization, has sign-off from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. This is a figure much more puritanical, much more extreme than even the leadership of al Qaeda, even people like bin Laden himself.
TODD: Analysts say the U.S. airstrikes against ISIS have likely elevated al-Baghdadi's stature among jihadists around the world. The fact that the so-called crusaders are attacking them, they believe, will only get other terrorists to rally around him -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Where is he now, al-Baghdadi? TODD: A senior U.S. intelligence official tells me it is hard to know right now exactly where he is. The porous border between Syria and Iraq is making it difficult to nail down his whereabouts right now, but he is almost certainly moving around. He is in bunkers. He is very wary now of his security, especially in light of what is going on.
BLITZER: He is the target. I'm sure the U.S. would love a drone to fly over where he is.
TODD: They are trying to kill him.
BLITZER: And launch a Hellfire missile and kill him. I'm sure that's clearly on the agenda if they can find him.
BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much.
Let's dig a little bit deeper with CNN counterterrorism analyst Philip Mudd, a former CIA counterterrorist official, and he's joining us from Memphis. Also, our national security analyst, the former CIA operative Robert Baer, he is joining us from Irvine, California.
Philip Mudd, first to you. What kind of military effort, when all is said and done, could really destroy ISIS in Iraq right now? I think they control about a third of the country.
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think the military effort has to be a lot more sustained than we have seen obviously over just a few days. And I think the breath of targets has to expand.
You're talking about weeks or months of engagement, because you think of it, Wolf. Right now, all we are doing is trying to hold off the front lines of ISIS while we get civilians out of Sinjar and while we help protect the Kurds when they get their feet under them.
But what we are dealing with long-term is multi-years where they have embedded not only in Iraq, and Syria, and to dislodge them, to uproot them, after years of their capability to embed in towns I think will take a much more extensive effort than we have seen so far.
BLITZER: Because you know, Bob Baer, right now, they say that the president, vice president, secretary of state, the mission is to help those refugees, the minorities, whether the Yazidis, or the Christians, and they are struggling, and they're facing potentially genocide. Also to protect the Americans, diplomatic personnel in Irbil, the military personnel who are there on the ground.
It is not necessarily, at least they're not saying the U.S. objective is to destroy ISIS in all of Iraq.
BOB BAER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No. We simply don't have the forces on the ground to do that. Nor do we
have the air assets to get them. You know, a plane flying at 900 miles an hour over a desert like that against a guerrilla force isn't that effective. We can hold them off, but it's ultimately the Kurds well-armed with American arms and ammunition will hold them off.
But the United States without actual troops there, I doubt it's going to work. ISIS is actually expanding as we speak. They're continuing to attack across Iraq unpredictably. There's even rumors that they are trying to move into Tripoli, Lebanon. This is big group, it's well-funded, well-organized and they have got fighters that know what they're doing.
BLITZER: But you know, Bob Baer, the Peshmerga, they are not that well-armed. They may be courageous fighters but they don't have the ability to deal with the armored personnel carriers, the Abrams battle tanks, all of the sophisticated military equipment that the ISIS militants stole from the Iraqi military, all basically U.S. hardware.
BAER: Wolf, you're absolutely right.
When ISIS attacked them last week around Sinjar, they came with armored Humvees, 14.5 anti-aircraft guns and the Kurds had six magazines of ammunition, as the Kurds tell me. There was no choice but run.
But keep in mind that Maliki has been starving the Kurds for the last couple years, both of oil revenue, weapons and ammunition. The central government wouldn't give them anything. It is a catchup game right now. But once you give the Kurds and once you arm them, I have a lot of faith. I spent a couple years with them, watched them overrun three Iraqi divisions. They are good fighters, but they need to be armed.
BLITZER: They certainly do. They need to be armed. They need that kind of sophisticated hardware. So far the administration has been reluctant to provide it. They are providing ammunition right now. But I don't see any major push to airlift major equipment into the Kurds right now.
One of the reasons I think over the years, the Turks have been very nervous about seeing those Peshmerga forces too strong.
But let me go back to Philip Mudd.
How worried are you that Nouri al-Maliki will use whatever military power he has to resist leaving quietly Baghdad?
MUDD: That's a serious concern. I think there are two problems you're dealing with in parallel.
The first, obviously, is the immediate threat of ISIS up north. But if you look at what al-Maliki has done, the fat lady sang and he hasn't figured it out yet. The Sunnis obviously aren't with him. The Kurds aren't with him. Most of the Shia in parliament aren't with him. We have had the most senior Shia cleric is Iraq say he's not with him. The Iranians aren't with him.
But what we have seen, despite the fact he is the head of Iraq by election, he is turning out to be an autocrat. What we have seen with other autocrats, Mubarak, Gadhafi, et cetera, is they go out feet first. I'm worried he is going to say, I don't want to leave, and someone will say, we are going to start shooting him to get out.
BLITZER: A lot of people are worried there will be a bloodbath in Iraq right now. Let's see if that happens or if there can be some peaceful transition.
Bob Baer, Philip Mudd, guys, thanks very much.
More of the breaking news coming up. President Obama now speaking out about the police shooting of a black teenager who witnesses say was unarmed. We have new details just released from the medical examiner.
Plus, there's new information about the death of Robin Williams. Police are revealing details about his suicide. His fans around the world are mourning.
BLITZER: How worried are you that Nouri al-Maliki will use whatever power he has to resist leaving quietly Baghdad?
MUDD: First, obviously, is the immediate threat of is up north. But if you look at what al-Maliki has done, the fat lady sang and he hasn't figured it out yet.
The Sunnis obviously aren't with him. The Kurds aren't with him. Most of the Shia in parliament aren't with him. We've had the most senior Shia cleric in Iraq say he's not with him. The Iranians aren't with him.
But what we've seen, and despite the fact that he's the head of Iraq by election, he's turning out to be an autocrat. What we've seen with other autocrats -- Mubarak, Khadafy, et cetera -- is they go out feet first. And I'm worried that he's going to say, "I don't won't want to leave," and someone is going to say, "We're going to start shooting to get out."
BLITZER: Yes, a lot of people are worried it's going to be a bloodbath in Baghdad right now. Let's see if that happens or there can be some peaceful transition.
Bob Baer, Philip Mudd. Guys, thanks very much.
More of the breaking news coming up. President Obama now speaking out about the police shooting after black teenager who witnesses say was unarmed. We have new details just released from the medical examiner.
Plus, there's new information about the death of Robin Williams. Police are revealing details about his suicide. His fans around the world are mourning.
BLITZER: You're looking at live pictures of the Hollywood Walk of Fame where fans are leaving flowers in memory of Robin Williams.
Today authorities confirmed the actor and comedian committed suicide. But while this afternoon's news conference at times went into some very, very gruesome detail, it left some important questions still very much unanswered.
Let's go live to CNN's Ted Rowlands, who's joining us from San Raphael, California, with the very latest.
What are we learning, Ted?
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the question we don't know, Wolf, is why? Why did Robin Williams take his own life?
What we do know because of a preliminary report from the coroner, an autopsy was conducted this morning at 8 a.m. Pacific Time. We know that Robin Williams did take his own life, dying of asphyxiation by hanging.
He was last seen by his wife, Susan, at 10:30 in the evening. She went to bed in one area, thinking that he was going to be going to bed a little later. She woke up the next morning and left the house at 10:30 a.m., thinking that Robin Williams was still asleep.
It wasn't until his personal assistant, who was having trouble getting a hold of him, got into the room where he was. She's the one that found him. She's the one that called 911.
We don't know if there was a suicide note. Investigators do not want to answer that question at this point. They say they are still investigating. They're waiting also on toxicology reports. They expect those to take two to five weeks.
The bottom line is, though, no other evidence of any other conclusion than -- than Robin Williams took his own life by hanging himself.
BLITZER: What a terrible, terrible situation. What a terrible story this is.
All right. Thanks very much, Ted Rowlands.
Robin Williams was very open about his battles with alcohol, drugs and depression. As we're about to see, he mentioned it in a number of his routines and interviews over the years.
ROBIN WILLIAMS, COMEDIAN/ACTOR: Look at this thing. Look, Flipper. Right now, what are you doing? Oh, my God. Right now there's a sound man, going, "What are you doing?" Relax, relax, relax. You're a nice man. You won't hurt me.
JOHNNY CARSON, FORMER TALK SHOW HOST: No, no. WILLIAMS: Do I perform sometimes in a manic cell? Yes. You like me!
You really like me! Am I manic all the time? No. Do I get sad? Oh, yes. Does it hit me hard? Oh, yes.
DIANE SAWYER, JOURNALIST: Is there a sadness about these past two years, then?
WILLIAMS: Yes, there's a sadness. And then you have to go, but there's also -- there's also hope. Sadness, it's almost like, yes, you wish they hadn't happened, but they did. And the purpose is to make you different.
And alcohol is especially dangerous for people like myself, alcoholics. Or I can say ethanol challenged. Whatever you want to call it. You get drunk, you go out to Indian food, you wake up in Bombay with a camel licking your (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Tada! You are an alcoholic.
Rehab is just the beginning, having been through it.
LARRY KING, FORMER CNN HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": You went through it?
KING: For what were you addicted?
WILLIAMS: I had a little problem with alcohol. It wouldn't be a problem if everybody had it. But it was the idea -- I was an alcoholic -- I was a drunk.
KING: You were a drunk?
WILLIAMS: That's nice of you to say that.
SAWYER: To talk about it as caused by something. But--
WILLIAMS: It's not caused by anything; it's just there. It's latent. It waits. It lays in wait, and for the time when you think, I'm fine now. I'm OK. And then, beep. Then the next thing you know, it's not OK. Things are not going so well.
Always good for me to come to Vegas after rehab. I love that.
BILLY CRYSTAL, COMEDIAN: It's a good time for you.
WILLIAMS: Good time for me. It's like going to Colombia, you know. Where are you going for detox? Colombia. Just go take it easy in a 24-hour alcohol town. Get out of rehab, and you know, like getting out of Jenny Craig and let's go work at the Haagen-Dazs factory.
KING: Now, do you think you've beaten it?
WILLIAMS: Oh Larry, it's always there. Have you beaten it? Yes, I kicked it. I'm fine. No, the idea is that you always have a little bit of fear. Like you have to just keep at it. You know, it's a day by day. (END VIDEOTAPE)
BLITZER: Robin Williams in his own words.
At a news conference today, a coroner's office official said Robin Williams had been seeking help for depression.
Let's discuss all of this with the psychologist, Jeff Gardere.
Jeff, thanks very much for joining us. It sort of stand out to be, in July of this year, just a month ago, he was at a rehab facility in Minnesota, obviously trying to get some treatment. But all of a sudden, he goes ahead and hangs himself. Explain how this -- how this happens.
JEFF GARDERE, PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, there are many different reasons why this could have happened. I'm sure we will find out more later. Especially as we get results of the toxicology report.
It could be, quite frankly, that this was a person who was just plain tired. Sick and tired of being ill; of having an addiction; of being sick, physically. He had some physical issues that he was experiencing.
But we can also look at perhaps side effects of anti-depressants. It was not compliant. So there are all sorts of issues going on.
But this was someone, Wolf, who was profoundly sad, profoundly depressed, and even though he was very resilient, and had that manic energy and was so funny, that was a mask for what he was hiding.
BLITZER: Because you would think, Jeff, that someone who brought so much joy to the world, everyone who watched him, whether a serious role, in a movie, or stand-up comic, he really gave so many millions of millions of people pleasure. You would think that would make him not so depressed, if you will.
GARDERE: Well, certainly, we gave him a lot of love. But that also enabled him, too. When we saw Billy Crystal, and Whoopi Goldberg sitting with him and he was talking about his addiction, all three of them laughed. And they laugh because it was a joke, and they felt it was something
they had to do; and they felt perhaps he was on top of it and he was beating it.
But in fact, it was something that he was struggling with every day. And when we give him that adulation then it just allows him to mask a lot of that depression that he's experiencing.
BLITZER: So he was masking that pain with humor. Is that what you're saying?
GARDERE: That's what I'm saying. And also trying to work out a lot of his demons, as many comedians do. That is their catharsis. That is their coping mechanism, using humor. But we found out a lot of these comedians still, like with the laugh
factory, they are offered additional psychological care, because they convince themselves that, if they can step on stage and deliver the routine, do the movie, do the television show, then they're OK. They're on top of it.
But as Robin said in his own words, he's not on top of it. It's something that you have to do every single day. You have to stay on top of that addiction and your depression.
BLITZER: In 2009, about five years ago, he had open heart surgery. I'm told -- and you know a lot more about this than I do -- that people who have open heart surgery, they can go through some major depression in the aftermath, as well.
GARDERE: That's right. Because now they are really slowed down. Things change for them tremendously. They're facing their own mortality. So there is a period of very deep depression. Most of them make it through, but some see this as a call or signal that they're not the person that they once were. And imagine Robin Williams with all of that manic energy to come to the realization that he is a mere mortal.
BLITZER: Yes, when I saw him perform here in Washington, a few years ago, he spent a couple hours doing stand-up at George Washington University. Behind him he had bottles of water. He was drinking the water. He was sweating. He was giving us everything he had. It was such a powerful -- he made us all laugh. We were laughing so hard. But you could see this guy was driven to make us all enjoy what he was doing.
GARDERE: And who knows, because he -- because perhaps he couldn't keep up that energy level any longer. Through the heart surgery. Through the depression, which was very deep that he was experiencing. That may have been what pushed him over the edge to do something as horrible as this.
BLITZER: All right. So very quickly, Jeff. The most important lesson viewers here in the United States and around the world watching us right now should draw from this, this shocking tragedy is?
GARDERE: That a lot of people are saying that perhaps, you know, he did this and he was selfish in doing this. He wasn't selfish. He was in the throes of the depression. And people have to understand, depression is a mental illness. It's a brain illness. Having a substance abuse problem change is your brain. This person was extremely ill, and he made a decision in the middle of an illness.
BLITZER: Jeff Gardere, thanks very much. Important information for our viewers watching right now. This depression, it's a major, major illness, and you have to treat it. You can't just ignore it, despite some of the problems that are out there. Jeff Gardere, thanks, very, very much. The stigma of depression.
Tonight, by the way, at 11:30 Eastern here on CNN, you can watch or DVR a special edition of CNN Spotlight, "Remembering Robin." And as we go to break, Robin Williams' poignant graduation speech from
the 1996 movie "Jack."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: In the end, none of us have very long on this earth. Life is fleeting. And if you're ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky. And the stars strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness turning night into day, make a wish. Think of me. Make your life spectacular. I know I did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: There's breaking news, President Obama now calling for calm following several nights of angry, sometimes violent disturbances in a St. Louis suburb. The trouble started when police shot and killed an unarmed teenager. The president calling the 18-year-old's death heartbreaking.
Our justice correspondent Pamela Brown is here in THE SITUATION ROOM taking a closer look. What are you finding out?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Tempers continue to flare in Ferguson, Missouri, even though police were supposed to name the officer who shot and killed Michael Brown.
Today, they decided not to citing safety concerns. This as new video is making the rounds on social media, showing onlookers behind police tape where Michael Brown bodies lies uncovered.
We want to warn you these images are very disturbing.
BROWN (voice-over): Disturbing video posted on social media showing Michael Brown's body on the street, lying there unattended for some time before being covered, as outrage over the death set off another night of protests. The police chief announced Tuesday the department is now delaying releasing the name of the officer who shot 18-year-old Michael Brown.
CHIEF TOM JACKSON, FERGUSON, MISSOURI POLICE: The value of releasing the name is far outweighed by the risk of harm to the officer and his family.
BROWN: The announcement fueling even more tension between police and fired-up resident. Now, the medical examiner's office is telling CNN, Brown was shot multiple times. At least one eye witness says that the unidentified officer shot and killed Brown while he was surrendering.
DORIAN JOHNSON, WITNESSED KILLING OF MICHAEL BROWN: He shot again. And once my friend felt that shot, he turned around and put his hands in the air and he started to get down but the officer still approached with his weapon drawn and he fired several more shots. BROWN: Police tell a different story, saying Brown physically
assaulted the officer and tried to take his gun.
CHIEF JON BELMAR, ST. LOUIS COUNTY POLICE: It is our understanding in this point in the investigation that within the police car, there was a struggle over the officer's weapon. There was at least one shot fired within the car.
BROWN: What exactly did happen is at the center of separate local and federal investigations. The FBI is working in tandem with other federal civil rights investigators to figure out whether the officers violated this federal law that states it's a crime for a law enforcement official to willfully deprive a person of his or her protected rights. The first major step in the investigation, getting to witnesses as fast as possible.
MARK O'MARA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: They want to get to those witnesses before witnesses hear other stories, and tend to then coalesce the stories that they might tell.
BROWN: A source telling CNN federal officials are coordinating interviews with witnesses for official statements.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Why are you wearing a shirt?
MICHAEL BROWN, VICTIM'S FATHER: Because my son don't have justice.
BROWN: Brown's grieving parents say all they want is a fair and the thorough investigation for their son killed just two days before college.
LESLEY MCSPADDEN, VICTIM'S MOTHER: Never did we think we'd be planning a funeral.
BROWN: The Department of Justice has sent in a group of so-called peacekeepers to reduce tensions. Don't expect results from the investigation any time soon. It's a lengthy and painstaking process.
BLITZER: I'm sure it is.
All right. Thank you very much for that. Pamela Brown reporting.
Up next, veterans finding hope and healing after the trauma of war. Soledad O'Brien is standing by to join us live. We'll discuss her powerful new special when we come back.
BLITZER: Tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, CNN presents, "The War Comes Home", a Soledad O'Brien report, exploring paths of hope for military veterans struggling with depression and post-traumatic stress. They share some very candid and powerful stories.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I pulled out my Glock 19 out of my locker, sat down at my desk, made sure it was loaded, stuck it in my mouth, was going to pull the trigger. The next thing that crossed through my mind was my kids, my two sons. At that point, I say, I don't want some other -- raising my kids. I put my gun down and I called the V.A. suicide hot line, and that's where I can tell you, a 40-minute wait on hold with a Glock pistol sitting on my desk. It's funny, isn't it? Glock pistol sitting on my desk and I'm on hold?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Soledad is joining us from New York.
Soledad, tell us a little bit about this documentary. How systemic are some of these problems out there for the military vets coming home.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, FORMER CNN ANCHOR: I think the problems are huge. And, certainly, Wolf, you know the statistics, right? Twenty-two veterans every day will take their own lives. Some of those veterans are not necessarily those who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the problem is massive.
And I think many people would say, it's also undercounted. That gentleman who was talking is Bobby Farmer. Ten tours of duty. He went through Disabled Warrior program in its early version, cohort number 10, he was talking to some of the soldiers.
The theory is if you can bring those guys or women in some cases together to talk for 5 1/2 days, to have equine therapy, to have other kinds of therapy, to talk about their problems, to have transcendental mediation classes, to have classes in how the brain works, you might be able to take many of those guys in that particular cohort who are suicidal and show them that there actually is another path.
We follow two soldier, two veterans who spend those 5 1/2 days and their lives are literally transformed.
BLITZER: You know, but, Soledad, these are supposed to be tough guys, they're coming home from a war. The stigma of a mental health problem is enormous, and they have to cope with this.
O'BRIEN: You know what I think Bobby Farmer and guys like Bobby Farmer are the role models for if I can tell my story, if I can create a brotherhood for veterans who come home so they're not isolated, so they don't necessarily feel a stigma, so they're not talking to civilians but other veterans who fully understand what they're going through, that in fact that can be a very first kind of important step in saving their lives.
That class -- you know, Disabled Warrior itself cost about $1,600 per person. That's very inexpensive. The question is, of course, can you -- can you scale it and can you move fast just basic fund-raising to get more soldiers to good through the program.
BLITZER: We really have to do a lot more, don't we, Soledad? O'BRIEN: Oh, yes. You know, I mean, really, it's just a shame, isn't
BLITZER: And these men and women who come back from war, they deserve only the best. Soledad, we're going to watch your special tonight, "The War Comes Home", 9:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN.
This is a very important documentary. I think all of our viewers should watch it tonight or DVR it if they can.
Thanks very much, Soledad, for doing this important work.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Remember, you can always follow me on Twitter. Go ahead and tweet @WolfBlitzer. Tweet the show @CNNSitRoom. That's it.
The news continues next on CNN.