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Conditions On The Ground Will Guide Us On The Afghan War, Says Trump; Defense Secretary Mattis Arrives In Iraq; Police Kill Suspected Driver In Barcelona Attack; North Korea Warns of "Merciless Strike" During U.S./South Korean Military Drills; Debate Over Confederate Statues & Monuments Intensifies; Best Images from the Solar Eclipse. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired August 22, 2017 - 02:00   ET


JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, a new policy, but no new details. The US president lays out his strategy for the war in Afghanistan, vowing to fight to win.

Also, US and South Korean military drill 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 the wrong way to dealing with the country's (INAUDIBLE).

Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm John Vause. We're now into the third hour of NEWSROOM LA.

US President Donald Trump has revealed his strategy for Afghanistan, but notably providing few details. The president began his nationally-televised address Monday night urging Americans to come together to rise above racial and ethnic divisions, a clear reference to last week's violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, as well as his much-criticized response.

He then laid out his goals for Afghanistan, explaining why he's not following his instincts to withdraw US troops immediately. Mr. Trump said US forces will fight to win. They'll obliterate ISIS, prevent a Taliban takeover as well as stop mass terror attacks before they happen.

He also cautioned that reducing troop numbers - revealing troop numbers rather and the timing of military operations play into the enemy's hands.


DONALD J. 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 timetables, 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: The Taliban have issued a statement in response to the president's address. This is what it reads. "It looks like the US still doesn't want to put an end to its longest war. Instead of understanding the facts and reality, he - as in Donald Trump - still shows pride for his power and military forces.

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 and 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 saying.

Yes, we do know that the US 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 US 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 seen in the past, previous administrations, telegraph troop numbers and timetables too much, giving the enemy an advantage.

We didn't hear tonight, the key thing, how many more troops and when and what will their job be. It's likely we will probably see more on the ground to assist in helping the Afghan 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 US national security, recasting the regional debate to some degree, but sparse frankly on exactly what we're going to see in the months ahead changing inside Afghanistan.


VAUSE: And just in terms of context here, the gains made by the Taliban in recent years has 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 US 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, Afghanistan, for the past decade, is the most important summer. But this one specifically because people were waiting for this new Trump policy.

They're waiting for months frankly. I was recently in Helmand with US Marines and some there say we've been waiting for this for quite some time to provide some sense of new direction.

[02:05:00] Down there, they were facing a very difficult fight. 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.

So, it's a very messy fight. They do occasionally see periodic wins when the US 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 US has long sought. Didn't really seem, though, today that Donald Trump had found that off-ramp, more than he wanted to explain to people again why the US 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.


VAUSE: OK. Nick, thank you. Senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh who has covered the war in Afghanistan for many years. Nick, thanks for the insight.

I'd like to talk about this story. So, joining me now CNN's military analyst Retired Lt. 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 are the ranking officer, we'll start with you. Putting aside the lack of detail, in 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 like, it seems to be a continuation of previous policies?

MARK MACCARLEY, RETIRED MAJOR GENERAL: Well, let me say this, 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 through 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 is not going to do what previous administrations, certainly the last ministration did.

I personally was in Iraq at the end of 2011 when President Obama said we are getting out of Iraq, our combat soldiers moved out, combat personnel, and I recall saying to my boss at that time, we were standing on the border between Iraq and Kuwait, and I said we're going to be 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 bring Lisa to this because General MacCarley raises the point the president has now bought into the war. He was, obviously, against it.

But it also now seems that this president is delivering a message that this commitment to Afghanistan's is now open-ended.

LISA DAFTARI, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "THE FOREIGN DESK": Well, it's open- ended, but now we have more of an 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 is 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 strong.

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 I will tell you as somebody who has been on the ground that the realities on the ground paints a very different picture than we what know. This is not just - my favorite part of the whole thing, and I want to skip just right through to that, is that slap on the wrist that he delivered to Pakistan because we've been paying this allowance without having the chores done basically.

We've been paying a spoilt 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 benefiting 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.

[02:10:09] VAUSE: And bringing Colonel Francona. Listening to the speech, Colonel, what was your big takeaway? Do 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?

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 all of the things that both Lisa and the general had mentioned. But I was a little struck by - it seems that we're going to continue the same policy of train, advice and assist.

And I think we've seen that that really doesn't work that well. 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're 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.

Well, in the past, both President Bush and President Obama, they've gone before the nation, they've been in front of the television cameras and they've made this announcement that there would 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 US troops to Afghanistan.


VAUSE: General, has a US president ever announced an increase in a deployment to an ongoing warzone 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 is an expectation of 4,000 extra troops?

MACCARLEY: Well, if I went through my inventory of historical events, I really can't answer that going back tens 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 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 SOF - 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. 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. And we announced the numbers, we put it 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 Woodward - 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 timeframe 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. This is 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 COIN, counterinsurgency operations, which are now debunked, or do you have a small number of individuals who can get into this advice and assist role, which is apparently what we're going do to fill that vacuum.

[02:15:20] VAUSE: We just don't know what those details are?

MACCARLEY: We just don't know those details.

VAUSE: 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. And this is what President Trump said about that part of the strategy. Listen to this.


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.


VAUSE: And, Lisa, this is to the general's point that there been surges in the past, but the Taliban fighters come back. 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. And I think that that's the million-dollar question here, is that we've been at this for 16 years. So, how are we going to switch this around to finally be victorious. The victory was one of his buzzwords over and over again.

And I think that that's where we need to change the conversation as well. Number of troops 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 the 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 that 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 a take a new approach and I'm coming at this legacy. 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 are 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 there is still this leverage of military aid to the Pakistanis, but they are still reluctant in Pakistan to actually carry out and rid these areas of these sanctuary zones?

FRANCONA: I think it's going to be a real problem. I don't see how that gets solved anytime 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, advice 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 4000 that go in there, if that number is correct, it will be interesting 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's a real problem on how we generate that feeling to 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, I think we're out of time here, but if you increase the number of US 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 to maintain the supply lines from Karachi, which is Pakistan, through what we call the Torkham gate, through the Chaman gate.

Those were the access points for almost every single item of equipment, food, everything -

VAUSE: And they've shut down it before.

MACCARLEY: And just a quick comment as we've sort of 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 been going a long time.

So, we could spend 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.

[02:20:06] And as you sort of address, 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 was almost instantaneous. Those gates were shut down and 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.

FRANCONA: No one said it's easy.

VAUSE: Which is why it's been going on for 16 years. General, Lisa and Col. Francona, thank you all. Appreciate it.

Well, there's breaking news just into CNN. The US Defense Secretary James Mattis has touched down in Baghdad, Iraq, part of his Middle Eastern and European tour, to reaffirm US commitment to strategic allies. Mattis is scheduled to meet with Iraqi prime minister in the coming hours.

In Amman, Jordan, Jomana Karadsheh joins us now live for more details on this. So, Jomana, what message will Mattis take to the Iraqi leadership?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, before he arrived in Baghdad, Secretary Mattis was here in Oman, and he did have roundtable meeting with reporters. Along his side was the United States Presidential Envoy to the Global Coalition Against ISIS, Brett McGurk.

And they talked about this visit to Baghdad, saying that they do see a long-term relationship with Iraq, but right now the main focus is the fight against ISIS, to stabilize Iraq, to help the country get back on its feet, to make sure those displaced from the areas where ISIS was are returned to these areas.

And, of course, the visit comes at an important time. We've seen Iraq in the past couple of days, over the weekend, launching a new offensive to recapture one of the last major urban strongholds of ISIS in northern Iraq, the city of Tal Afar.

So, you've got the Iraqis mostly who are the ones on the front lines when it comes to the fight against ISIS in Iraq, but they still need the support from the United States and the international community, something, of course, Secretary Mattis will hear again from Iraqi leaders today.

And we've heard Brett McGurk, John, saying that United States is committed to Iraq's stability.

VAUSE: Part of that question about stability involves the Kurds and the leadership. The Kurds have scheduled this referendum for independence next month. Washington wants to postpone that.

Specifically, what are the concerns here about this referendum and what are the chances that Mattis can get the Kurds to agree?

KARADSHEH: Well, Secretary Mattis, during that roundtable, John, was asked that question. How confident he was that he's going to be able to convince the Kurds to postpone this scheduled referendum on independence? It is supposed to take place on the 25th of September.

And he said he cannot answer this question right now until he has those meetings with the Iraqi and Kurdish leaders during his visit, but we also heard from Brett McGurk saying that it is not just the United States that is opposed to this, that it doesn't think this is a good idea or this is the right time to do this, it is all members of the coalition against ISIS.

US officials are really concerned, John, that this could ignite a conflict at a time when the real focus is on the fight against ISIS. They are concerned that this could distract away from the fight against ISIS.

So, they really feel it is not the right time to be doing this. And what they're trying to do right now is push the Iraqi and Kurdish leaders to sit together. There have been high-level delegations from the Kurdish region who have visited Baghdad to try and reach some sort of an agreement to postpone this referendum, but the Kurds are insisting it will go ahead, John.

VAUSE: They always said the political environment after the fall of Mosul, the liberation of Mosul would be even more difficult than the military offensive, and that appears to be the case.

Jomana, thank you. Jomana Karadsheh there in Amman, Jordan.

Well, an international manhunt for a terror suspect is now over. And when we come back, we'll have a lot more details about the man accused of driving the van, which was used in a deadly terror attack in Barcelona.

Also ahead, as the search continues for earthquake victims in Italy, a moment of joy, a baby boy found alive under the rubble.


[02:26:43] VAUSE: Italian rescuers continued to search for survivors who have been trapped under rubble and debris after an earthquake on a tourist island in Naples.

Incredibly, a baby has been found alive. You can see the little boy here lifted to safety. Rescuers say it is a miracle. At least one person was killed in this 4.0 magnitude quake. Right now, authorities believe less than ten people remain trapped.

The suspected driver of the van used in last week's terror attack in Barcelona has been shot dead by police, bringing to an end a five-day long manhunt.

More details now from Melissa Bell. And a warning, her report contains some graphic images.


MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The last hide-out of 22-year-old Younes Abouyaaqoub, a rural hillside about an hour from Barcelona.

A villager called police Monday afternoon after spotting someone suspicious. Abouyaaqoub was shot dead, wearing an explosives belt that turned out to be fake.

It was the end of an intense manhunt.

CARLES PUIGDEMONT, PRESIDENT OF THE GENERALITAT OF CATALONIA: I'm so sure that Catalonia and Europe and the world is most safe today after the death of Younes Abouyaaqoub than before.

BELL: Five days ago, Abouyaaqoub drove a van into crowds on Barcelona's most popular street - Las Ramblas. He escaped on foot through a market, then hijacked a car, stabbing to death its owner.

As he went on the run, five other members of the cell were preparing to launch an attack in the town of Cambrils, about 100 miles down the coast. All five were shot dead by police. They, too, were wearing fake suicide belts.

Most of the cell were young men of Moroccan origin in their 20s and most came from the quiet town of Ripoll in the foothills of the Pyrenees. They used to meet at this apartment, according to police. But these young men were spending a lot of time a long way from home in a house in the town of Alcanar that was destroyed by a massive explosion last week.

Found in the wreckage, the remains of a preacher, 42-year-old Abdelbaki Es Satty, a man who appears to have influenced many of the attackers.

Spanish police discovered more than 100 gas canisters in the wreckage, as well as components for the powerful explosive, TATP.

There was so much dangerous material in the house that police had to carry out several controlled explosions. They believe the group were preparing dozens of bombs for one or more major attacks in Barcelona, but the bomb maker appears to have made a fatal mistake.

Up and down Las Ramblas, candles glow at night in tribute to the people of seven nationalities, who lost their lives here, and in hope for the recovery of the dozens still in hospital.

But as details emerge about the scale of this plot and the size of this group, there's a frightening realization that the carnage could have been so much worse.

And there are alarming questions too about how this conspiracy and the bomb factory at the heart of it went undiscovered.

Melissa Bell, CNN, Barcelona.


VAUSE: Time for a short break. When we come back, keeping calm and carrying on, the message the US and South Korea want to send as military drills play out despite all of the threats coming from Pyongyang.


[02:31:52] VAUSE,Thanks for staying with us, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause, with the headlines this hour.


VAUSE: After weeks of tensions on the Korean peninsula, the U.S. and South Korea have a simple message for Pyongyang, here's the solution when it comes to military exercises. Planned U.S. and South Korea drills are into their second day. That's despite North Korea warning they could lead to a, quote, "uncontrollable face of a nuclear war," if they went ahead.

Paula Hancocks is in Seoul. She joins us live.

So, Paula, the big question is not so much what the North Koreans are saying but what they're actually planning to do. PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. If they're

planning something at this point, whether there's going to be another missile launch, whether there's going to be another nuclear test. Certainly, this time last year, September 9th, we had the most recent nuclear test, which was just a few weeks after the military drills, the Operation Freedom Guardian. No way of knowing whether or not they were actually connected or whether it was just time for North Korea to carry out another test.

So we're hearing more rhetoric today. We're hearing a number of, or reading a number of articles in the state-run news media saying they were going to give ruthless retaliation and punishment for these military drills which are ongoing.

But we've also heard from the top U.S. military command in the region in the last hour or so. They gave a press conference. And General Vincent Brooks, the head of the U.S. forces in Korea, said that, in our view, we have to exercise until we have reason not to. And that reason has not yet emerged. Also, we heard from Secretary of Defense James Mattis, saying that the North Korea know these drills are defensive, no matter what they say for public consumption. They've had these drills for decades and they know they're very transparent about them to make sure there's no room for miscalculation -- John?

[02:34:39] VAUSE: Paula, thank you. Paula Hancocks, in Seoul, with the latest.

We'll take a short break. When we come back, as the United States continues to grapple with a fierce and emotional debate over statues of Confederate monuments, we'll look at the lessons from Eastern Europe.

Also ahead, millions of star gazers tracking the moon on Monday as it blocked out the sun. We'll look at the total solar eclipse in just a moment.


VAUSE: The political fallout from President Trump's response to the deadly white supremacist rallies in Virginia continues to play out. A new "Washington Post"/ABC poll shows twice as many America disapprove of his response than those who approve.




VAUSE: Anger boiled over at the first Charlottesville city council meeting since the rallies. Residents were furious and holding a banner which read "Blood on your hands." The council did end up voting unanimously to begin the process of removing statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Also agreed to drape the statues in black to mourn the lives lost during the protests. And at the University of Texas in Austin, they quickly moved in the

dark of night to remove the last four Confederate statues on its campus.

Joining us now from San Francisco, Markos Kounalakis, 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 can the United States learn from the experience of Eastern Europe?

MARKOS KOUNALAKIS, VISITING FELLOW, HOOVER INSTITUTE, STANFORD UNIVERSITY: 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 relocate and ultimately re-contextualize that history that they live, that 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 used the slippery slope argument. If these Confederate statues were removed, where does it end. This is part of what he said.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This week, it's Robert E. Lee. I notice that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You really do have to ask yourself where does it stop. Are we going to take down -- are we going to take down statues to George Washington?


TRUMP: How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him?


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?


TRUMP: So you know what? It's fine. You're changing history. You're changing culture.


VAUSE: To your point, this is not actually about changing history. It's about putting it in context, which many countries in Eastern Europe have done successfully, and maybe a concept which the president hasn't grasped yet.

KOUNALAKIS: That's right. I mean, making sure you don't make a false equivalence between some things that are historical and those which are very clear. But the idea is, in fact, yes, let's put these monuments into a context so that we really do not only deal with the history but try and understand it in a deeper sense rather than using the symbolism to reignite passions or to invigorate those arguments that have long been solved either by war or by other means, revolution at times.

[02:40:27] VAUSE: The president mentioned the Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. And his great, great, great grandchildren published a blistering letter last week calling all of these Confederate statues overt symbols of racism. They also wrote, "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're ashamed of the monument."

When the descendants of the Confederate leaders call for the monuments to come down, isn't it case closed in many ways?

KOUNALAKIS: I think so. Certainly, those relatives 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. So how do we then, in a respectful, intelligent, patient, and in a 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 public places, where they can be incendiary, even rallying points. Let's find a place where we can put them, understand them, and put them in the proper historical context.

VAUSE: Clearly, for a lot of Americans, these monuments cause a lot of pain and outrage. Last week, protesters in North Carolina pulled down a Confederate soldier monument. It reminded me of the Iraqis pulling down the statue of Saddam Hussein after the U.S.-led invasion. The protesters in North Carolina then kicked and spat on that statue. If the goal here is to understand define or unite a divided country, to understand history, and from what has happened in Eastern Europe, it would see this is the wrong way to go about removing a statue.

KOUNALAKIS: That's right. 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, where these leaders were destroying societies and killing families. So I understand, in the heat of the moment how to -- those clashes 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 much more dispassionate way.

VAUSE: Yes. 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. KOUNALAKIS: Pleasure.

VAUSE: Well, in case you missed it, there are some incredible images from Monday's total solar eclipse as it crossed the United States. Here are a few. That small dot moving across the sun is actually the international space station photographed by a high-speed camera while the eclipse was in a partial phase.





VAUSE: A woman in Colombia, South Carolina, wiped away tears as the moon gradually blocked the sun. The crowd around her cheering as darkness fell.

And then there is this from a commercial airliner flying over Oregon, one of the states which experienced totality.

Also in Oregon, time-lapse video shot on the ground by a man who travelled from Arizona with his teenage son. A big day for them. They had been planning this trip for six months.

And the U.S. President Donald Trump photographed doing the one thing he shouldn't do, watching an eclipse with the naked eye. There you go.

And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

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