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Obama Speaks on ISIS and Ukraine at NATO Meeting in Wales; Anti-ISIS Propaganda; NYC Clinic Probe

Aired September 5, 2014 - 12:30   ET


DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: I think what's going to remain in question, Wolf, is whether the strategy is one that will work. It sounds good on paper, but when you come to the reality of it, this happy talk about we'll have another awakening, so to speak, it's worth remembering that awakening worked not only because the Sunni tribes jumped in, but because we had a surge of American troops in, and we had a hammer on the ground, and we had General Petraeus there to work with those tribes and people around him.

We don't have anything like that on the ground. We're relying upon Iraqi troops who, in the past, have failed us. We've been trying to train these people for a dozen years.

So, it's not clear about whether the opposition in Syria is going to be, you know, the Syrian -- the Free Syrian people are going to be strong enough to take on ISIS. So there are a lot of questions about whether this will work or not.

But you have to say that the president of the United States now is in. He hasn't given the rallying cry. This was not a rallying cry. There was no certain trumpet here today, but he's got to come back to the United States and talk about that.

But I think we should assume this is going to be a long and difficult and, you know, complicated kind of strategy to carry out.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE SITUATION ROOM": It will be very complicated. He suggested it could take a while. This is not going to be resolved in a matter of days, weeks, probably not months. This is a long-term struggle for the U.S. and its partners.

Doug Brinkley, as you know, the United States, the American public right now, pretty war-weary after a dozen years in Afghanistan and Iraq, he's got a lot of work to do right now to convince the American public that getting so deeply involved once again in Iraq, maybe in Syria, elsewhere in the region, is worth it.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, HISTORIAN, RICE UNIVERSITY: Well, he does have a lot of work, but all roads lead to Brussels. This NATO summit's been extremely successful.

If you're looking at Ukraine, which is the headline of the story today, you're watching Putin backing down, he's blinking. Now, whether that cease-fire holds, whether it's just a smoke screen, and Putin is going to go back to destabilizing Ukraine, we'll have to see. But this president now saying NATO is viable. I think our strategy against ISIS is now a NATO strategy. And when I say NATO, it will develop into a coalition of the willing, which you mentioned earlier. Meaning, you'll have to get some of the Arab nations working with us.

This president does not want to go it alone and invade Syria or do a bombing mission there, so he's now starting to do the important work of alliance building, and from that aspect, this has been a successful couple of days at the NATO summit.

BLITZER: Let me bring in Nile Gardiner of The Heritage Foundation here in Washington. Did -- I'll ask you what I asked David Brinkley. Did the president say what you wanted to hear?

NILE GARDINER, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: I found actually the press conference a little bit underwhelming. This wasn't the voice of, you know, President Reagan rallying the free world to confront a great evil, a great menace to the world today.

And contrasting this press conference with David Cameron's press conference in London last week, which I thought was far more effective in terms of identifying the exact nature of the threat that we are facing.

And we are at war with ISIS. We're at war with Islamist terrorists across the world. I didn't get that complete sense that we are fighting this global war.

BLITZER: He described ISIS in very brutal terms, how they want to enslave, murder. I mean, he went on and on and on in describing this terror organization. Very blunt, in a brutal way.

GARDINER: Certainly stronger rhetoric than we've seen previously from the White House, and that's a good thing.

However, I don't think the president really outlined a big-picture, coherent strategy.

Also, in terms of the international coalition, he used the term political coalition. This should be a military coalition of allies who are going to fight alongside the United States.

There's still a huge amount of questions with regard to the strategy here, which hasn't yet been clearly outlined.

BLITZER: The president said the U.S. wants to act with urgency but the U.S. wants to do it right. All right, Nile, thanks very much. Doug Brinkley, David Gergen, thanks to all of you. Thanks to all of our viewers for watching our special coverage.

I'll be back at the top of the hour. Much more coming up. For our viewers around the world, "INTERNATIONAL DESK" with Jim Clancy starts after a quick break. If you're watching in the United States, in North America, Ashleigh Banfield and "LEGAL VIEW" picks up our coverage, right after this.


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, I'm Ashleigh Banfield. Welcome to LEGAL VIEW.

And we being with the breaking news. You just heard from President Obama. The leader of Somalia's al-Shabaab terror group is dead, U.S. officials confirming Ahmed Godane, the cofounder of the Somali militant group was killed in a surprise U.S. military raid four days ago, President Obama promising ISIS or ISIL leaders will face the same fate in Iraq.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL the same way we've gone after al-Qaeda, the same way we've gone after the al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia where we released today the fact that we have killed the leader of al-Shabaab in Somalia and have consistently worked to degrade their operations.


BANFIELD: The al-Shabaab group is the largest group in Africa linked to al-Qaeda. It claimed responsibility for the deadly attack at a mall in Kenya in September of 2013, and its suicide bombers have killed Somali officials, aid workers and many others. This leader's death comes after years of work by intelligence, military, and law enforcement experts.

And joining me now is Sam Raskoff, a law professor at New York University and a former director of intelligence analysis for the NYPD.

So, he's gone, Ahmed Godane. So, now, is bin Laden. So, now, is Anwar al-Awlaki -- all leaders of significant groups.

Should this be a strong message to ISIS? And should al-Baghdadi be as concerned as I think American officials would like him to be?

SAMUEL RASCOFF, NYU CENTER ON LAW AND SECURITY: Certainly, al-Baghdadi is well aware that he's a massive American target at this point. But we have to remember, as important as decapitating these groups is, knocking off their leadership, decapitation is not a strategy. It's just an element of a strategy.

BANFIELD: And in terms of a decapitation, no one knows where al- Baghdadi is. He is so reclusive. He's much like bin Laden in the sense that sometimes you'll see an image on video, but it's outdated, and he doesn't give regular updates or messages.

This has got to be a brutal task for America or this new coalition to try to track down his whereabouts if they want him to suffer the same fate.

RASCOFF: Certainly. Just as tracking down Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's former lieutenant and now the head of al-Qaeda in Fatah. It's a massive intelligence obligation at this point to do their level best to find out where they are.

But the success we've had at decapitating the leaders we have done attests to the ability of our intelligence agencies to get the job done.

BANFIELD: A good reminder al-Zawahiri is still alive and still pumping out videos, I think just one just last week as well.

Professor Rascoff, thank you for that. Do appreciate it.

The United States has been conducting air strikes against the ISIS group in Iraq, and now there's another tool in that fight.

Ahead, a look at America's propaganda videos. Yes, counterpropaganda. How good a weapon is it? How good is America at using it? That's next.


BANFIELD: If you can judge a terror group by its enemies, ISIS just hit the big leagues today, as the U.S., Britain, France, Australia, Canada, Germany, Turkey, Italy, Poland, and Denmark have all come together to forge what's being called a core coalition, not to contain ISIS but, in the president's words, to degrade and ultimately defeat it.

The allies met on the sidelines of what may have been the most consequential NATO summit in decades. But this isn't a NATO effort, per se. And it won't involve allies ground troops, at least not combat troops. It will involve continued U.S. air strikes in Iraq and potentially Syria. Plus, tangible support for pro-western fighters in both of those countries.

And the jihadi propaganda machine that you've been hearing about so much, the Obama administration has an answer for that too. It's a web campaign called "Think Again, Turn Away." It features some pretty grisly videos showing what ISIS is all about. I'm going to play a little bit of it for you. But you should know this, it is not for children. And many adults will find it upsetting too. Afterward, we will have a discussion about it, but we will not show these images again.


ON SCREEN TEXT: Where you can learn useful new skills for the Ummah!

Blowing up mosques.

Crucifying and executing Muslims.

Plundering public resources.

Suicide bombings inside mosques!

Travel is inexpensive because you won't need a return ticket!

Think again, turn away. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: There are plenty of even more graphic shots that we aren't showing from those videos. More graphic even than many posts from ISIS itself. There are people being shot execution style, men being thrown from a cliff, and human heads lined up on a ledge. Again, these are ISIS images simply repackaged by the United States State Department to strip away the group's claims of righteousness.

From Washington, I'm joined now by Michael Waller, senior analyst at online geopolitical think tank Wikistrat.

Professor Waller, thanks so much for being with us today. Does the United States government have an uphill battle trying to beat ISIS at its own game, because we certainly haven't been known for a lightning speed reactionary force when it comes to counter propaganda?

J. MICHAEL WALLER, SENIOR ANALYST, WIKISTRAT: Right. It has a very far uphill battle because we don't have an institution within the government that's set up to work with us like we did when U.S. Information Agency was abolished 15 years ago. But more than that, we don't have a leadership of either party in the doctrine. This summit today was the perfect opportunity for the president to come right out and kick ISIS' ideological base out from under it by simply saying that he would also take action against the state sponsors of ISIS, and he did not do so.

BANFIELD: What's so frustrating is, if you look at the numbers, and I'm just going to look back to 2007, there were numbers being thrown around like the United States spends about $250,000 a year on its messaging campaigns. And if you compare that to the mere thousands that it costs for so many of these jihadi videos just to be posted up on YouTube or any other kind of social messaging site, we're pretty embarrassing in terms of the reach because it's so much less than ISIS is getting.

WALLER: It's really pathetic the way it's being done. And not long ago we only had six people in the State Department working on this. And we're looking -- we're losing site of the bigger picture. The best counter propaganda would come from those countries, the governments like Qatar, that are sponsoring ISIS itself and funding the ideological indoctrination of these terrorist extremists, ISIS and non-ISIS. And for us to say, look, we have a defense relationship with you and your kingdom, it's going to really go sour if you continue to do this, and make it in there interest to reverse their own propaganda machines, and they'd be speaking to their very own audiences with their own culture and their own language. We wouldn't need - we wouldn't need an apparatus for it.

BANFIELD: When I looked at the slogan that is being used, sort of -- the header on this counterpropaganda campaign from the State Department, "think again, turn away," it is reminiscent of "just say no" in the Reagan years. And that sort of was pilloried and mocked, you know, incessantly. I'm just wondering about the relevance and the pointed effectiveness, the sarcastic needs that maybe aren't being met. Are we as clever at the messaging? WALLER: It's not a very clever message. If you put yourself in the

mind of a frustrated -- someone in their late teens, early 20s of a deeply Islamic belief or deeply alienated from western society or secular society or even the reigning Muslim dominated society is where they come from, and you have a message like -- that came out of the summit today, that's the best recruiting system for these terrorists that you could ever conceive, to have the president of the United States and all of NATO effectively declare war on an organization itself. If I was part of that frustrated demographic, I'd think it was cool. I'd want to join.

BANFIELD: Well, and here's the other thing. A lot of critics have said that when ISIS, or its related organizations that it's splintered from, puts out these kinds of violence, they're inviting a blowback that's even bigger than need be and that any of the collateral damage just benefits them because they now have more material to work with.

WALLER: They have more material to work with. And it also, our lack of a presence that we've maintained in those regions is encouraging the local tribes, who have survived for centuries by making tactical alliances with whoever won't kill them, that it's encouraging these tribes to go back and join ISIS, in this case, as it had al Qaeda before, simply because we're not there to provide them the protection that they were anticipating.

BANFIELD: Michael Waller, it's great to talk to you. I hope this isn't our last conversation. Thank you.

WALLER: Nice to be with you, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Turning now to one of our other big stories of the day, the death of a legend, comedian Joan Rivers. The tributes are pouring in for this trail-blazing comedian. And the clinic where she suffered cardiac respiratory arrest is now under investigation. Got the legal view on that battle, next.



JOAN RIVERS, COMEDIAN: These are all my jokes. These are jokes over the last 30 years. These are just -- every time I write a joke, I try to remember to get it on a card. Why should a woman cook, so her husband can say, my wife makes a delicious cake to some hooker? And you wonder why I'm still working at this age.


BANFIELD: Still trying to get it straight in our heads that Joan Rivers is no longer with us. And Fashion Week, too. It's Fashion Week in New York City. How is the world is everyone at Fashion Week going to get through this week without Joan Rivers cracking on skinny model and bizzaro (ph) world designer creations?

We want to talk from there about something else in New York, though, the place that was treating Joan Rivers when she suffered a heart attack last week. It's called Yorkville Endoscopy and the state medical examiner's office says it's definitely going to investigate this clinic. Joey Jackson is here. Heather Hansen is here.

I know that you guys have probably had lots of cases that have been somewhat similar.




HANSEN: I mean this is the majority of what I do. I defend doctors and clinics in these situations.

BANFIELD: So what are they going to look for?

HANSEN: Well, this is a different thing. This is the New York State Department of Health is investigating and they're going to look to see whether or not the clinic has followed the policies and procedures that the state has set up for these types of ambulatory centers. Whether they had proper procedures in place if there was a problem, if they could react to them in time, in a timely manner, if they had given proper consent and explained to Joan and her family what it was that they could provide for her versus what she could get at a hospital. And go through all of that. Which they did.


HANSEN: I mean this center just opened in 2013.


HANSEN: So they went through all of this relatively recently.

JACKSON: Yes. And -

BANFIELD: I should remind our viewers that the medical examiner's looking into the cause and manner. Clearly this is so new that that's going to take some time.



BANFIELD: But when they have those answers, here's my thought. If you're a defense attorney, if they even need one at this point --

JACKSON: Right, we don't know.

BANFIELD: You may seize on the notion that the patient was 81 years old.

JACKSON: Eighty-one years young, I should say, all right.

BANFIELD: Really? JACKSON: And before getting to the serious nature of this, I should tell both of you, where did I meet Joan Rivers? Twenty yards from here right here at CNN. Yes, it was about a year ago. And she was just so gracious and wonderful. And I was not the butt of any of her jokes, I have to say, but she was a -

BANFIELD: Lucky you.

JACKSON: Yes, she was very good.

But, ultimately, look, it doesn't matter the age. If you're at an outpatient clinic, certainly you have the right to expect, particularly if it's a procedure that's routine, that you're going to leave there in good order and in good health. And even more basic to Heather's point, they'll certainly see that all the licenses and they had the requisite insurance and if she was being provided with any type of anesthesia -

HANSEN: Right.

JACKSON: Where people who were providing it, were they in a position who should be doing it. And we don't know. Maybe everything was followed perfectly.

BANFIELD: We just don't know.

JACKSON: Maybe it was not. And that just goes to show, right, Ashleigh, Heather, when you go under the knife, you never can tell what exactly can happen.

BANFIELD: There are risks.

JACKSON: Yes. Sure.

HANSEN: But, Ashleigh, to go to your point, though, normally when you have an 81-year-old patient, the damages are just not that great. But here, Joan had - she was still -

JACKSON: Huge damages.

HANSEN: Huge damages.


HANSEN: She was still giving stand-up. She had, I think, pilots in the work. And so there is possibility there, if there were a civil case, for much bigger damages than you see with an 81-year-old. At this point, they're not there. All this is, is an investigation.

BANFIELD: It's just to look.


HANSEN: Just to see and make sure that this place is protecting their patients. JACKSON: Right. But if they do get to that point, certainly there are

damages, and huge damages here. And she was performing, what was it, Ashleigh, the night before, right? She's in a performance. So she's certainly fleet (ph) of foot. She's in good mind, good spirits, good health. What happened? Inquiring minds certainly want to know.

BANFIELD: Yes. And, by the way, we should mention as well, hard looking at that graphic because it just doesn't feel like she's gone.



BANFIELD: I mean we're all still -- Kathy Griffin last night with Anderson, you know -


BANFIELD: So profound and always funny. And, by the way -

HANSEN: Did not seem 81.

BANFIELD: We do have an update though that I want to tell our viewers about, about Joan's funeral. Her family has decided that the service scheduled for Sunday in New York City, believe it or not, is going to be a private affair. Earlier today they were unsure about how much of the public would be allowed inside that temple on Sunday. And the family is also requesting that fans make donations to some of Joan Rivers' favorite charities instead of sending flowers to the funeral. This is so fascinating because, I mean, guys, even she made these cracks about wanting her funeral to have a wind machine so her hair in her casket would make her look like Beyonce.


HANSEN: Right.

JACKSON: Now that was classic, Ashleigh. That was completely classic.

BANFIELD: Classic Joan.

HANSEN: It really was. But I think that they - you know, there's so many people who want to pay homage to her that perhaps the place just wouldn't accommodate it. And --

JACKSON: And I'm sure they'll do other things in terms of memorials so that people who really want to respect and pay their respects and homage and just say good-bye will have an opportunity to do that for sure.

HANSEN: Right.

JACKSON: And a trail-blazer, right? If you look to basically her life and -

HANSEN: Oh, for women. JACKSON: Yes.

HANSEN: I mean for women comedians, it's just unbelievable what she did.

BANFIELD: I dare say, I had to admit in my meeting this morning that I used to watch her on Carson.

JACKSON: Did you get away with saying what she said though?

BANFIELD: No, I was -- you know, I had the pacifier in, you know, when I was watching.

JACKSON: Wouldn't happen.

BANFIELD: I'm glad we're laughing about Joan Rivers -

JACKSON: Only one.

BANFIELD: Because, you know what, I want people to remember -

JACKSON: Can we talk? Can we talk?

BANFIELD: If we can talk.

HANSEN: That's right.

BANFIELD: IF we could just talk like this.


BANFIELD: Guys, thank you.

HANSEN: Thank you.

JACKSON: Thank you, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Heather, Joey, have a great weekend.

JACKSON: You too.

BANFIELD: And thank you, everyone, for watching. It's been great to have you with us. Stay tuned now. My friend Wolf starts right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, the NATO Summit concludes in Wales with fighting words from President Obama. He says now is the time to dismantle, degrade and destroy ISIS. Right now reports that