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Trump Lays Out His Afghanistan Strategy; U.S.-South Korea Military Drills Continue Amid Tension; Search Ongoing for Ten Missing U.S. Sailors; Confederate Controversy; Solar Eclipse. Aired 12-1a ET
Aired August 22, 2017 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[00:00:12] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.
Ahead this hour:
New policy, but no real new detail -- the U.S. President laid out his strategy for the war in Afghanistan vowing to fight to win.
Plus U.S. and South Korean military drills continue as planned. The question now is how will North Korea react?
And what to do about America's confederate monuments? The right way and wrong way for dealing with the country's tortuous past.
Hello. Welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm John Vause.
NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.
U.S. President Donald Trump is unveiling his strategy for Afghanistan but notably providing few details. The President began his nationally televised address Monday night by urging Americans to come together to rise above racial and ethnic division -- a clear reference to last week's violence in Charlottesville, Virginia and his much criticized response.
He then laid out his goals for Afghanistan, explaining why he's not following his instincts to pull U.S. troops out. Mr. Trump said U.S. forces will fight to win, obliterate ISIS and prevent a Taliban takeover as well as stopping mass terror attacks against Americans before they happen.
But he cautioned, revealing troop numbers and the timing of military operations only plays into the enemy's hands.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities. Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary time tables will guide our strategy from now on.
America's enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out. I will not say when we are going to attack but attack we will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: There was at least one clear message from the speech. The United States is no longer in the business of nation building.
Senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh has covered the war in Afghanistan extensively. He joins us now -- Nick.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're not into nation-building. We're into killing terrorists was basically the message in short. And I think it means an extension of the current mission we're seeing.
I mean yes, we do know that the U.S. has been invested materially for at least a decade in terms of trying to rebuild Afghanistan, but that mission has shrunk back considerably in the past years focusing more on counterterrorism.
Donald Trump did also say that a key tenet of U.S. policy, training up and assisting the Afghan security forces would continue. So it wasn't really clear in the speech exactly what's going to change on the ground inside Afghanistan. That was part of Donald Trump's point, saying that he's -- he said in the past previous administrations telegraphed troop numbers and timetable too much giving the enemy an advantage.
We didn't hear tonight the key things -- how many more troops and when, and what their jobs be. It's likely we'll probably see more on the ground to assist in helping the Afghanistan security forces improve taking on the Taliban.
But I didn't really hear anything tonight that made me think we're going to see a sudden lurch forwards in massively boosting troop numbers on the ground. This seemed to be a rhetorical commitment, a way of reminding the American people about how vital Donald Trump has concluded the war in Afghanistan is to U.S. national security, a recasting of the national debate to some degree but sparse, frankly, on exactly what we're going to see in the months ahead, changing inside Afghanistan -- John.
VAUSE: And just in terms of context here, the gains made by the Taliban in recent years had been significant and from what you've seen and what you've been reporting, it doesn't look as if it's slowing down anytime soon.
WALSH: It's getting worse, frankly. Even the U.S. government's own numbers seem to suggest that slowly and slowly, the government control less territory. Now, it depends whether you're looking at space, terrain, or population centers. The numbers vary. But they look worse every year. No one really disputes that.
And so yes, we're dealing with a real crux moment. Everyone says every summer where the fighting picks up in Afghanistan for the past decade is the most important summer but this one specifically, because people were waiting for this new Trump policy. They've been waiting for months frankly. I was recently in Helmand with the U.S. Marines and some there say, you know, we've been waiting for this for quite some time to provide some sense of new direction.
Down there, they are facing a very difficult time -- a mere 300 of them trying to hold back very fast Taliban gains. They were successful, but to some peril to their own frankly. In the short period we were there, they endured about three rocket attacks, one of which injured quite a number of Afghan soldiers.
[00:05:02] So it's a very messy fight. They do occasionally see periodic wins when the U.S. can apply their fire power and apply their military prowess or give the kind of training and guidance the Afghans need. But those gains are often swiftly reversed.
So there needs to be some sort of broader way they get towards the off ramp the U.S. has long sought here. It didn't really seem thought today that Donald Trump had found that off ramp. More that he wanted to explain to people again, why the U.S. was in Afghanistan, and remind people they weren't about to pull out entirely soon, but also not really explain exactly what's going to change in the months ahead -- John.
VAUSE: Ok. Nick -- thank you. Senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh who's covered the war in Afghanistan for many years. Nick -- thanks for the insight.
A lot to talk about with this story.
So joining me now, CNN's military analyst retired Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona; and here in Los Angeles retired Major General Mark MacCarley; and Lisa Daftari editor-in-chief of the "Foreign Desk".
General -- you're the ranking officer, we'll start with you.
Putting aside the lack of detail, the fact there was no sort of announcement of a benchmark for success. How do you see this announcement from President Trump? The general criticism or observation, if you look, it seems to be a continuation of previous policies.
MAJ. GEN. MARK MACCARLEY (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Let me say there. There were a couple of things that were commendable about that speech.
And the first one is that the President bought into the war in Afghanistan because previously during the campaign, he completely divorced himself from what he considered the war of his predecessors and would have nothing to do with it. And now tonight, he accepted responsibility for a war that has seemingly no end.
And the second thing, of course, is that he showed appropriate and well-deserved respect and homage for the service members of our Armed Forces who have fought and died in Afghanistan.
When you analyze the speech for specifics, and that gets to the first five or six minutes in which he discussed the terrorist threat, the consequences of creating a vacuum in Afghanistan, if we completely extricate ourselves from that country.
The one thing that he did say which is really kind of the basis for a lot of conversation is that this effort on his part is not time-based. He's not going to do what previous administrations, certainly the last administration did.
I personally was in Iraq at the end of 201l when the President -- President Obama said we are getting out of Iraq, our combat soldiers moved out, combat personnel. And I recall saying to my boss at the time we were standing on the border between Iraq and Kuwait, and I said we're going to back.
So in this instance, we're not going to be time-based. We are going to be condition-based. And I think we have a great opportunity to discuss just what that means if it means anything.
VAUSE: I just want to go to Lisa for this because, you know, General MacCarley raises the point that, you know, the President has now bought into the war. He was obviously against it, but it also now seems that, you know, this President delivering a message that this commitment to Afghanistan is now open-ended.
LISA DAFTARI, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "FOREIGN DESK": Well, it's open-ended but now we have more of and end-goal not being nation-building, but being there for our own national security. And I think that while the micro wasn't there, the macro pretty much overshadowed that and allowed for us to see a President who's fully committed.
I think the word that really encapsulates this entire speech was to say commitment because we had two presidents prior to this President who were involved in Afghanistan, but were not committed to winning the war in Afghanistan. And I think that that was the take-home message there.
He was extremely presidential in delivering something that was very nuanced meaning, he said I was against this. My instinct -- and we all know his instinct and what he wants to do and how he behaves is very song.
And he has people around him who he says I will bend to what they're telling me. And when you sit at the Oval Office, it's very different from when I was campaigning.
And I will tell you that the realities on the ground, and will tell you as somebody who's been on the ground, that the realities on the ground paint a very different picture than what we know.
This is not just -- you know, my favorite part of the whole thing, and I want to skip just right straight to that is that slap on the wrist that he delivered to Pakistan --
DAFTARI: -- because we've been paying this allowance without having the chores done basically. We've been paying a spoiled child an open- ended amount of money for no leverage. So I think that he touched upon a lot of important parts and most importantly, he showed that the American interest comes first in the sense that we need to use our leverage. If India is benefitting financially, they will have to help us with Afghanistan and Pakistan.
If we are involved we're going to win. If we're sending families out there, we have to know what the consequences are and it has to be worth it to those families who are sending their loved ones out there to fight.
VAUSE: And bringing Colonel Francona -- listening to the speech, Colonel, you know, what was your big takeaway? You agree that this is a commitment now that we're seeing from the President, even though there are not a lot of details here?
 LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes. I don't think we were expecting many details. We didn't even get a troop number. I was expecting at least that.
And I think he's going to keep all these numbers and the strategies close to his chest. As he said in the past, we should not telegraph our intentions.
That said, I do appreciate, you know, all of the things that both Lisa and the General have mentioned. But I was a little struck by -- it seems that we're going to continue the same policy of train, advise, and assist.
And I think, you know, we've seen that that really doesn't work that well, you know. And Nick just went over how much the Taliban have revised. Every summer we see additional gains on the part of the Taliban and we don't seem to be changing our tactic. We're just going to do more of the same.
If we just throw more soldiers in there and do more of the same, I don't see how that changes the situation on the ground. I think we need to address the core thing. If he says we're going to crush the Taliban and defeat al Qaeda, we're probably going to have to do that ourselves initially and then build a cadre of Afghan forces that can defend their own territory.
But God, we've been doing this for 16 years. We've been trying to build an Iraqi army for over ten and we haven't done it. So I'm hoping this is not more of the same and we're going to see the infusion of some American Special Forces to go out there and go after these guys in earnest.
VAUSE: Well, in the past, both President Bush and President Obama, they've gone before that nation. They've been in front of the television cameras and they've made this announcement that there will be more troops heading to Afghanistan. And this is how they dealt with it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As we learned in Iraq, the best way to restore the confidence of the people is to restore basic security. And that requires more troops. I'm announcing today additional American troop deployments to Afghanistan.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As commander in chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: General, has a U.S. President ever announced an increase in the deployment to an ongoing war zone in this kind of situation without actually spelling out the specific numbers to the American people, even though it's been widely reported that there's an expectation of 4,000 extra troops.
MACCARLEY: Well, if I went through my inventory of historical event I really can't answer that going back hundreds of years.
VAUSE: But it's not common though, is it?
MACCARLEY: But I did want to comment based upon what the snippets of tape that you just showed us because as I've counted this is about the fourth or fifth instance in which a President and his senior -- both his senior advisers, military and civilian, have assessed Afghanistan.
If you could give me a moment, right after Tommy Franks -- General Franks successfully orchestrated the eviction of the Taliban in 2001. We had the horrific event, 9/11 and we were able successfully -- that's an interesting combat operation in and of itself in which we basically allied with tribal chieftains and, of course, used very effective, soft, Special Operations forces to go in.
Right after that, after we announced sort of a great -- we didn't call it a victory, but certainly it was a period of time in which we felt that we were successful. Give us about three more years and all of a sudden, those of us in the service and you began to see the situation deteriorate.
MACCARLEY: And Taliban, we had thought, completely evicted in Pakistan, gone forever. No, they were coming right back in force.
So then we saw this snippet with President Bush and all of a sudden recognizing that he had sort of lost the bubble. He had spent too much time with Iraq, and Afghanistan was deteriorating before his very eyes. So he infused more personnel. Now he announced the numbers we're putting in.
Then we jump forward, and we have President Obama, the first year of his administration and he's faced -- this is the subject of the big book by (inaudible) -- he's faced with this dilemma of what am I going to do about this war of choice?
We must stay the course in Afghanistan. We must do something about turning the tables. So he infused not just 30,000 -- when you do the entirety of numbers, 50,000 American soldiers within the time frame of four or five months.
And he did set a deadline. His view was we have to put pressure otherwise this will be a never ending conflict. And then lo and behold, we're back all of a sudden. It's a sort of deja vu, if you want to use that term. We're back once again, doing the reassessment, trying to figure out what strategy works and if numbers mean anything at all in Afghanistan.
And we can talk about the dynamics of personnel within the country and whether you have a requisite required number of personnel to do counterinsurgency operations which are now debunked or do you have small number of individuals who can get into this advice and assist role which is apparently what we're going to do to fill that vacuum.
VAUSE: We just don't know what those details are.
[00:15:04] MACCARLEY: We just don't know those details.
DAFTARI: I just --
VAUSE: I just want to -- hold that -- because we did raise the issue of Pakistan because Pakistan is looming as sort of a major part of this strategy, if you like, this renewed pressure on Pakistan.
This is what President Trump said about that part of the strategy. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We can no longer be silent about Pakistan's safe havens for terrorist organizations -- the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.
Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: And Lisa, this is to the General's point that you know, there has been surges in the past, but the Taliban fighters come back.
VAUSE: A lot of them had sanctuary in Pakistan. But previous administrations have tried to close down these sanctuaries in the past and have failed.
DAFTARI: Right. Right. And I think that that's the million-dollar question here. It's that we've been at this for 16 years. So how are we going to switch this around to finally be victorious? Victory was one of his buzz words over and over again.
And I think that that's where we need to change the conversation as well. Number of troop for example, is not -- we have an evolved enemy and we need to evolve our strategy to meet that enemy.
So when Donald Trump says that we will do whatever it takes, diplomatically, militarily and economically, that's a three-pronged approach. It's not just a military approach.
And we have to perhaps put more of our assets towards fighting them on the Web than we do on the battleground -- that's an evolved approach. That's something we haven't been doing for 16 years.
So I think that that's something that Donald Trump is bringing to the table and allowing us to say, we're going to take a new approach and I'm coming at this like a CEO. I'm not going to let Pakistan or India or anyone take advantage of us.
And one of the other very clear messages that he had was that Afghanistan has to take the biggest burden in all of this. People of Afghanistan need to choose their future and they're going to shape their government.
VAUSE: And to Colonel Francona, the issue of Pakistan is one which obviously previous administrations have dealt with. How is this administration going to deal with putting more pressure from a diplomatic and economic point of view when the State Department is so short-staffed.
And you know, there is still this leverage of, you know, military aid to the Pakistanis but there's still a reluctance in Pakistan to actually carry out and rid these areas of these sanctuary zones?
FRANCONA: Well, I think it's going to be a real problem. I don't see how that gets solved any time soon unless we're really willing to put strong diplomatic and economic, even sanctions on the Pakistanis. I just don't see that happening. We still need the Pakistanis to conduct the operations there so we have to deal with them.
I don't think that this train, advise, and assist, though, with the Afghans is going to work of itself. As I said before, the difference of the surges in the past was we inputted American combat forces not trainers. And I think when we see the 4,000 that go in there -- if that number is correct, it will be easier (ph) to see are they going to be Special Operations Forces or are they going to be regular trainers and advise and assist.
So I think that makes a big difference in how this comes out because developing nationalism among the Afghans is a real problem. Most of the Afghans don't consider themselves to be Afghans. They consider themselves to be something else -- a tribe or a region. So it' a real problem on how we generate that feeling for the Pakistanis.
And of course the President has said, we need to see results and if we don't see results, we're going to reassess what we're doing.
VAUSE: And General, just -- I think we're almost out of time here, but if you increase the number of U.S., troops in Afghanistan, does that then increase the United States' reliance on Pakistan because you need those supply lines to keep those troops equipped? MACCARLEY: My gosh - you just targeted me because that was one of my responsibilities over there -- certainly maintain the supply lines from Karachi which is Pakistan, through what we call the Torkham Gate, through the Shaman gate --
MACCARLEY: -- those were the access points for almost every single item of equipment, food, everything that we needed.
VAUSE: And they shut it down before.
MACCARLEY: We shut it down before.
And you know, just a quick comment as we sort run out of time --
MACCARLEY: -- we're really talking about and using a phrase that goes back 170 years or so. I think Admiral Kirby used it as well. It's called the Great Game. And this game has bee going a long time.
So we could span a considerable amount of time talking about the intricate relationships between Pakistan and India. I'm somewhat concerned about some of the remarks that were made. India is certainly a strategic player, so is Pakistan.
A disciplined and more vigorous approach to Pakistan might have some short-term benefits. It certainly makes us feel good. But there are some significant consequences to putting that type of pressure on Pakistan.
And as you sort of addressed, as you looked at me -- the moment that you do this it's almost, at least my experience there for the years I was there, it was almost instantaneous.
[00:20:00] Those gates will shut down. We have a logistics nightmare. We can't support our personnel. We have to figure out some way of doing it. So we need that cooperation, whether superficial or otherwise. So it's very complex.
And then of course, you can never forget as was discussed earlier, this forever combat or challenge between Pakistan and India. And the moment you put those two together, you've got fireworks.
VAUSE: No one said it's easy which is why it's been going on for 16 years.
General, Lisa and Colonel Francona -- thank you all. Appreciate it.
And with that, we will take a short break.
When we come back, keep calm and carry on. That's the message the U.S. and South Korea want to send as military drills get under way, despite threats from Pyongyang. Also, ten sailors still missing after an American warship collided
with an oil tanker near Singapore. We have new details about what may have gone wrong on board the USS John McCain, coming up.
VAUSE: Well, after weeks of tension on the Korean Peninsula, the U.S. and South Korea have a simple but powerful message for Pyongyang. It's business as usual when it comes to military exercises.
Planned U.S. and South Korean drills are now into their second day. That's despite North Korea warning these exercises could lead to, quote, "uncontrollable phase of nuclear war" if they went ahead at all.
Paula Hancocks is in Seoul with us. She joins us now live.
So Paula -- there nothing actually new about these joint exercise they started back in 1970s. But the context is new because of the increased threats coming from both the North Koreans and the United States.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right -- John.
We heard from Mattis -- James Mattis, Secretary of Defense, yesterday. He said there's nothing new. They're defensive. North Korea knows these drills are defensive no matter what they say for public consumption. And they've been going on for decades.
But as you say, we're starting from a different level at this point. Tensions are higher on the Korean Peninsula than they have been for some time.
We know that these drills will go ahead as planned. The U.S. says that they're not going to make any changes to them. They say that they need them more than ever now. So they will continue with the drills.
But we're hearing many things from North Korea. The KCNA state-run media, the newspapers -- there are a myriad of articles condemning what the U.S. is doing, calling the U.S. warmongers; one of the recent ones from today saying that there will be a ruthless retaliation and punishment for these drills.
But again, this is to be expected. This is the kind of rhetoric we do expect at this time of year when these drills continue. Because they always infuriate North Korea, whether tensions are high or not -- John.
VAUSE: And Paula -- just to be clear. These military drills, they're not the live-fire ones. These are computer-based scenarios. Those live-fire drills were held earlier this year.
HANCOCKS: That's right. Those were back in the spring. And they are dramatic images of thousands of troops landing on a beach in South Korea, or as you say, the massive live-fire drill that North Korea sees as very provocative and a dress rehearsal for an invasion.
[00:25:12] These ones are computer simulation. We heard from the Defense Secretary that they are likely to be -- or you will see soldiers hunched over a computer rather than thousands landing on a beach.
Now whether or not that makes a difference to North Korea, whether that is less provocative we'll just have to wait and see. Certainly last year, shortly after these Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills North Korea did carry out its nuclear test on September 9th.
Now we don't know if that was in direct response to the drills itself or quite frankly because North Korea was ready to carry out another nuclear test.
But certainly what we're seeing this time around is to be expected, this anger. We have a U.S. congressional delegation in Seoul at the moment as well, trying to placate some concerns within South Korea that there could be a pre-emptive strike by the U.S., saying that military option is not an option in Korea -- John.
VAUSE: Ok. Paula Hancocks, live there in Seoul with the very latest. We appreciate it -- Paula who will stay on the beat.
And now the U.S. Navy is ordering a top to bottom review of operations after a fourth mishap involving an American warship in the Pacific this year. The USS John S. McCain, a guided missile destroyer collided with an oil tanker east of Singapore early Monday. Ten U.S. sailors are missing -- that search continues.
A Navy official says the destroyer had a steering malfunction. And military experts say the Navy's training is now being called into question and a shake-up in leadership may be next.
Manisha Tank joins us now live from Singapore. And Manisha -- what more do we know about this potential steering malfunction on board the McCain?
MANISHA TANK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is an investigation under way and there is an investigation under way by many authorities. The Singaporean Marine Ports Authority -- they have their own probe going into this but of course the U.S. Navy. And we heard these announcements from James Mattis, the Secretary of Defense some hours ago, that this was going to be underway.
And it was pressed by journalists on whether this was going to be a broad review of operations within the Seventh Fleet. He agreed that yes, it would mean that.
We're going to have access to a press conference later here in Singapore. It's going to be in our evening and that would be held at the Changi Naval Base. The Changi Naval Base is where both the USS America, which has come in to help with these search and rescue efforts but also in assessing the damage on the USS John S. McCain. Both of those ships are docked there. So this does of course, raise many questions about the status of the Seventh Fleet here. And given what we were just talking about, with the tensions around North Korea, these are ships that carry the Aegis missile defense system.
And so this is often touted as being one of this -- you know, a very -- the line of defense, as it were should there be any aggression from North Korea or any action in some sort of scenario there. So of course, these are questions that need to be asked and need to be addressed quickly.
But John -- of course, there are ten sailors missing and really this is at the core of all the activity that's happening here off the coast of Singapore at the moment. Both of these ships before they collided were coming from the South China Sea into really busy shipping waters.
We're right on the Singapore coast and behind me it's just ships lined up as far as you can see. This is a really busy place. But in these conditions and rough water that search and rescue continues -- John.
VAUSE: Manisha -- thank you. Manisha Tank with the very latest there from Singapore.
We will take a short break.
When we come back we'll have more on the debate in the United States -- a fierce and emotional debate over confederate monuments. We will look at the lessons from eastern Europe.
Also across the U.S., eyes were glued to the sky for a total solar eclipse. Did this widely anticipated event deliver on that one big promise? We will take a look in a moment.
VAUSE (voice-over): Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause. We'll check the headlines now.
VAUSE: President Trump's address comes on the heels of what many consider to be a defining moment of his presidency.
A new "The Washington Post" ABC poll shows twice as many Americans disapprove of the president's response to the deadly Charlottesville protest than those who approve.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Anger flared at the first Charlottesville city council meeting since the white supremacist rallies. Residents were furious over the police response. Someone filled a banner reading, "Blood on your hands." A number of people were removed and the meeting was suspended briefly.
As the debate over Confederate monuments intensifies, the University of Texas at Austin moved quickly to remove the last four Confederate statues on its campus in the dead of night on Monday.
Joining us now from San Francisco, Markos Kounalakis. He's a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University.
Markos, good to have you with us. It seems there's been this enthusiasm for tearing down statues and monuments the likes we haven't seen since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
What could the United States learn from the experience of Eastern Europe?
MARKOS KOUNALAKIS, STANFORD UNIVERSITY: Well, John, I think what's really interesting is that the Soviet Union and of course other nations that were under the influence of the Soviet Union, those behind the Eastern bloc behind the Iron Curtain really figured out how to remove and then relocate and ultimately recontextualize that history that they lived, that really bloody history.
And I think what the United States can learn is not to erase that history but rather to find a new way to contextualize it.
VAUSE: Last week at that very contentious news conference President Trump (INAUDIBLE) slippery slope argument these Confederate monuments, statues were removed, then where does it all end?
This is part of what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So this week, it's Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down.
I wonder, is it George Washington next week?
And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?
You know, you all -- you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?
TRUMP: Are we going to take down -- are we going to take down statues to George Washington?
How about Thomas Jefferson?
What do you think of Thomas Jefferson?
You like him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do love --
TRUMP: OK, good.
Are we going to take down the statue?
Because he was a major slave owner.
Now, are we going to take down his statue?
So you know what, it's fine. You're changing history. You're changing culture.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: And to your point, this is not actually about changing history; it's about putting it in context, which is many countries in Eastern Europe have done successfully and maybe a concept which the president hasn't really grasped yet.
KOUNALAKIS: That's right. I mean, making sure that you don't make a false equivalence between some things that are historical and those which are very clear. But the ideas, in fact, yes; let's put these monuments into a context so that we really do not only deal with the history but try to understand in a deeper sense, rather than using the symbolism of the past to reignite passions or to re-invigorate those arguments that have long been solved, either by war or by other means; revolution at times.
VAUSE: The president mentioned the Confederate general Stonewall Jackson and his great-great-great grandchildren published a blistering letter last week, calling all these Confederate statutes overt symbols of racism.
They also wrote this, "While we are not ashamed of our great-great- grandfather, we are ashamed to benefit from white supremacy while our black family and friends suffer.
"We are ashamed of the monument."
When the defendant -- the descendents of the Confederate leaders call for the monuments to come down, isn't it then case closed in many ways?
KOUNALAKIS: I think so. I think certainly that those were relatives of the -- of the -- of the historical figures of the past have some right to their legacy and to have some say about their past.
But I don't think they have the total say because that history belongs to all of us.
And so how do we then in a respectful, intelligent, patient and in dispassionate way, take a look at these monuments again, maybe put them into a museum, which I think is a much better place for them to be rather than in public spaces in front of courthouses and other -- and other public spaces where they can be incendiary or even rallying points. Let's find a place where we can put them, understand them and put them
in their proper historical context.
VAUSE: Clearly for a lot of Americans, these monuments cause a lot of pain and a lot of outrage. Last week protesters in North Carolina pulled down a Confederate soldiers monument. It really reminded me of the Iraqis pulling down the statue of Saddam Hussein after the U.S.- led invasion.
The protesters in North Carolina kicked and spat on that statue. If the goal here is to divide -- or to unite, rather, a divided country to understand history and from what has happened in Eastern Europe, it would seem this is the wrong way to go about removing a statue.
KOUNALAKIS: That's right. And certainly the passions immediately after a revolution or a war are very high. And so you can understand how people would feel that way about those symbols of oppression, those symbols of murder in many cases, in most cases, actually, where these leaders were destroying societies and killing families.
So I understand in the heat of the moment how to deal -- that those passions may come out. But I think we've had enough time between now and the Civil War to in fact manage our history and to be able to deal with this in a -- in a much more dispassionate way.
I guess the question now is will that happen in this country?
And that still is an open question.
Markos, thank you so much. It was good to speak with you.
VAUSE: We will take a short break. When we come back, millions watched the total solar eclipse in the United States. Some of those didn't pay attention to the rules. Guess who? That story just ahead.
VAUSE: Millions across the United States witnessed the total solar eclipse and there are some incredible images, like the woman from Columbia, South Carolina, wiping away tears as the moon gradually blocked the sun. The crowd around her cheering as darkness falls.
This incredible image taken from a commercial airliner flying over the state of Oregon.
And then this time-lapse shot on the ground in Oregon by a man who traveled from Arizona with his teenage son. They'd been planning this trip for six months.
Millions were over the moon as they saw it eclipse the sun. CNN's Jeanne Moos has some of the oddest moments, including fainting goats and winning (ph).
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Silly glasses, who cares?
Everyone from Superman to President Trump donned them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's incredibly dark. It's very eerie. It's a spooky, spooky experience.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I may be speechless.
MOOS: I see a shadow coverage the Earth.
MOOS (voice-over): It was the blanket news coverage of the eclipse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Totality, now arriving.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So happy I could cry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a little breathless.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was our two minutes of ecstasy.
MOOS (voice-over): Coverage ranged from the couple that found ecstasy getting married during the eclipse --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And two arts aligned today.
MOOS (voice-over): To "The Washington Post" live streaming the eclipse's effect on fainting goats.
When scared, they sometimes do this.
During the eclipse...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They almost just didn't move.
MOOS (voice-over): Bonnie Tyler sang her signature song on an eclipse cruise.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Can you stare into a total eclipse of the heart without glasses?
BONNIE TYLER, SINGER: Look into my heart. I wear it on my sleeve.
MOOS (voice-over): People sure were scared into wearing those glasses.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not supposed to stare right at the sun unless you hate your eyes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's concentrated energy that can not only burn your glasses, it can also burn your eye.
MOOS (voice-over): When it was over, "The Guardian" pranked readers with a "How to Tell If You've Damaged Your Eyes" article that was intentionally blurry.
Outside the path of totality the 71 percent eclipse in New York City was underwhelming.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's cooler to watch the people watching it.
MOOS (voice-over): -- especially people using oddbob (ph) boxes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you still see it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
Does it work better if it's organic?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it does.
MOOS (voice-over): And though the president's glasses worked, that didn't stop him from glancing up without them, landing him on the cover of the New York "Daily News."
This newborn was named Eclipse. Others were dressed in eclipse outfits. And NASA released a photo of the International Space Station silhouetted against the sun which was, of course, then Photoshopped from Chris Christie to E.T.
During the last solar eclipse over North America in 1979, a network anchor spoke of the next one --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's 38 years from now. May the shadow of the moon fall a world of peace.
MOOS (voice-over): There was no peace, even from cars this time around.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) the car alarm? Apparently the car is excited about the eclipse (INAUDIBLE).
MOOS (voice-over): Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
VAUSE: There's one in every crowd.
Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause. Please join us on Twitter @CNNNewsroomLA. We have highlights and clips from the show. Stay tuned now for "WORLD SPORT" and then I will be back at the top of the hour with a lot more news from all around the world. You're watching CNN. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)