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THE SITUATION ROOM
Alleged Shooter was a High Ranking Soldier and Psychiatrist; Independents Flock to GOP; Limbaugh, Others Could Spark a GOP War; McChrystal Said Culpable in Tillman Death Cover-Up; CDC Urges Pregnant Women to Get H1N1 Vaccine; USS New York Arrives in New York City
Aired November 7, 2009 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: American soldiers killed by one of their own in one of the worst mass shootings ever on a U.S. Military base. This hour, insights into the alleged gunman at Fort Hood, Texas, and how this bloody rampage played out.
Plus a top health official's desperate plea for pregnant women to get swine flu shots. We'll get a reality check on the risks and why so many people who need the vaccine still can't get it. And an author accuses the top u.s. Military commander in Afghanistan of a crime against the military. We'll discuss General Stanley McChrystal's role in the controversy over Pat Tillman's death. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in the situation room.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My immediate thoughts and prayers are with the wounded and with the families of the fallen. And with those who live and serve at Fort Hood. These are men and women who have made the selfless and courageous decision to risk and at times give their lives to protect the rest of us on a daily basis. It's difficult enough when we lose these brave Americans in battles overseas. It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an army base on American soil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Obama's first reaction to the shooting rampage at the biggest u.s. Military base in the world. More than a dozen people killed. More than 30 injured when a gunman opened fire at Fort Hood, Texas, on Thursday. The alleged shooter was captured and identified as u.s. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan. He is seen here in a surveillance video at a convenience store on the morning of the shootings. Hasan is a psychiatrist and worked at a hospital on the base at Fort Hood. Joining us now is a reporter who has covered the Fort Hood extensively. He works for the San Antonio express news. Thanks very much for coming in.
SIG CHRISTENSON, SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS NEWS: Thank you Wolf.
BLITZER: Give us a little flavor of what's going on at Fort Hood right now as we speak.
CHRISTENSON: Well, obviously, there is an awful lot of live trucks out here, there are lots of reporters. This morning the reporters were moving in press gaggles from one person who was at the scene or at the hospital to another. And there were a number of good interviews that came out of that and it gave us a good idea of what the scene at Darnall was like yesterday. It was a mass casualty ...
BLITZER: Darnall is the medical hospital on the base where Major Hasan worked.
CHRISTENSON: That's correct. And what came out of this after having been in Iraq six times since the invasion and spending a lot of time in hospitals and seeing mass casualty events which are called mass cals. One of the things that jumped out at me was that this was like a mass cal in Baghdad at IBN Sina which was Saddam hospital and is now an army hospital, a combat support hospital. And the thing I think that freaked everyone out was that it was happening on Fort Hood which is a peaceful place. People don't carry weapons here. And yet it was a war zone just like Baghdad.
BLITZER: Tell us about the victims. Those soldiers, who were killed and injured, were they on their way to Iraq and Afghanistan or were they coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan? Because Fort Hood is an area where the troops rotate in and out.
CHRISTENSON: Well, I don't know, Wolf. But, I do know, I spent a lot of time at that facility and at the other facilities here that are designed to help soldiers overcome their combat stress. And I can tell you that, that particular building is full of soldiers who are either preparing to deploy or coming back. And they go through long lines. They cue up and they wait to see doctors for this and doctors for that. They have to check folks' and link the medical forms. And they must say, that was a very soft target. You wonder if the shooter did not choose that place in part because it was a place for so many people in it. And so many people without weapons.
BLITZER: I understand, Sig, you had a chance to speak with Major Hasan's boss. What did you learn about this psychiatrist?
CHRISTENSON: The psychiatrist, her name is Colonel Kimberly while the doctor who was his boss, is Colonel Kimberly Kesling. She is the chief of the medical staff at Darnall and that has about 700 to 800 people working in it.
BLITZER: What did she say about Major Hasan?
CHRISTENSON: Well, she said that Major Hasan was a good officer, his military bearing was good. Apparently, he was good with his patients. There were no problems. There were no red flags. That's the gist of what came out of that interview.
BLITZER: The interview with his immediate supervisor at the hospital, although you've read, all of us have seen these reports that there were some warning signs out there over the past few years. Some relatives apparently saying he felt he had been taunted because he is a Muslim. You've heard about all that.
CHRISTENSON: I have, but also, I have been told by people I know that on his form, when it asks his religious preference, he said none. And so I don't know what that means. You know, there is a lot of speculation you can indulge in here. One thing I do know is that he was probably seeing an awful lot of people with post-traumatic stress, and perhaps he internalized their issues and perhaps that made him angry. We don't really know much about the why part of this tragedy. But I think that I would probably focus on that a little bit because he did not deploy. He was not deploying -- he had never deployed before. And so you can't say that it was his multiple deployments that have played a role on this.
BLITZER: He was getting ready to deploy for the first time, because he had been here in Washington at Walter Reed at the army medical center in the District of Columbia. And we're told, by the way, that at several of the local mosques, the Imams were familiar with him because they said he often came every morning for early morning prayers so it is a mystery why he would list as his religious preference, none, when he obviously appeared to be a very observant Muslim. The stress and you've done a lot of reporting on this, Sig. The stress can obviously be a factor coming back from the war zone but it can be a factor going into a war zone as well. Which was his case?
CHRISTENSON: Yes, I can tell you something here. I spend a lot of time in Baghdad over the last two years talking with soldiers from this post. First Cav and Fourth ID about the stress that their under and I was on the place called Rashid in the summer of 2008 and the fourth infantry division troops there told me about problems they had with their families. Alcoholism, one soldier told me that when he was preparing to deploy for a second tour Al Taji and he had been there three times. And that was a very, very difficult place through much of the first three years of the war. He said that they were lined up in the liquor store, called a class six here.
And that the wait you was 45 minutes. That is telling. And he talked about how he would drink himself into oblivion. He drank two cases of beer. He drank whiskey. And then he got on the plane and went. There is a great deal of stress and it especially comes after you have done things like this man did. He went out and recovered vehicles that had been blown up by ID's and frequently the bodies were still in them. So what we're talking about here is things that are horrific for any human being to see and you just don't know how you'll going to react. Now, how this man reacted to the stories that he was hearing, that's anyone's guess. But you can bet that it had some impact on him.
BLITZER: So the base, that Fort Hood. You've spent a lot of time there over the years. I think it's better to say, life at Fort Hood will going to take a long time to get back to where it was before this incident. I assume you agree.
CHRISTENSON: Yes. Well, it's never going to be the same. You know, Killeen was the scene of the Luby's massacre where 23 people were killed.
BLITZER: Killeen is a city outside of Fort Hood.
CHRISTENSON: That's correct. This post is a place where there are a lot of combat veterans. When first combat comes back, there will be a lot of soldiers over there who have three and four tours under their belts. Maybe by you now some of them will have fight. How are they going to be acting? How many of them will have traumatic brain injury that wasn't diagnosed? How many of them will have post-traumatic stress? And how will they act out? How will they perform their jobs?
The thing that army and the commanders here will have to think about is -- how can we stop this from happening again? Especially when you're on a post where everybody is unarmed except the MP's. That is a great amenability (ph) when somebody has a gun and nobody else is around, then someone, one man with even one handgun can do tremendous damage.
BLITZER: Yes, as we've seen, it will going to have a long term effect. Sig Christenson with San Antonio Express news. Sig, thanks very much for joining us.
CHRISTENSON: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And we're going to have much more on the shootings later tonight. The Cnn prime time investigation inside the shooting, that's tonight, 8:00 p.m. Eastern only here on cnn.
Post election questions for the White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod and Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele. Has President Obama lost some magic? Will Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin or other conservatives spark a republican civil war with moderates? And if you or anyone you know is pregnant and unsure about the swine flu vaccine, wait until you hear a passionate appeal from the cdc director.
And what happened after Pat Tillman died? The author of a new book on Pat Tillman is here. He says it's time for the u.s. Army and I'm quoting now, "to just come clean."
BLITZER: The white house is struggling off republican gubernatorial victories in Virginia and New Jersey as local politics. But the settling dust from the first major election of the Obama presidency begs the question. How will the outcome impact his ambitious agenda? And joining us now from the North Lawn of the white house, the President's Senior Adviser, David Axelrod. David, thanks very much for coming in.
DAVID AXELROD, PRESIDENT'S SENIOR ADVISER: Thanks Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about going forward now. Issue number one, health care reform. I'll play a little clip of what the president has said in recent weeks about this priority.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Now is the time to deliver on health care. Now is the time to pass health care. We are not going to wait another year.
We are going to pass health care reform. Not ten years from now, not five years from now. We are going to pass it this year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. To paraphrase a sportscaster out there, not so fast, my friend. Harry Reid, the Senate Majority leader says maybe not this year. It might have to be pushed into next year. That would be a severe blow to the president, wouldn't it?
AXELROD: Well, let's see what happens, Wolf. We're still confident that we're going to get this done. And I know Senator Reid is working hard to get it done. I think the speaker is working hard to get it done and you will going to see things move. And we'll see where it all ends up, but we are confident we can get this done.
BLITZER: Is it okay if you move the agenda to next year as opposed to next year?
AXELROD: We want to get it done this year. That is our goal. And we'll going to continue to work at it.
BLITZER: What's the problem?
Why is Harry Reid all of the sudden saying he might not be able to get it done this year?
AXELROD: Well, I mean, part of the problem is that they're waiting on scores from the congressional budget office.
BLITZER: Those are estimates of how much this will cost.
AXELROD: Exactly. And they've been backed up because they were working on the house bill. And so that's delayed the entire process and then when you add in holidays and so on, there are only certain numbers of days in the year. But we're still hopeful that we can move this process along. I believe the will is there to get this done. I talked to members all the time. And what I hear from all of them is we have to get this done. This is an important opportunity and it is one the American people want us to finish. And they're determined to finish it. There are some issues that they have to work through but I don't think those issues are insuperable barriers. I think people have a real will to get this done.
BLITZER: A lot of people are suggesting that some of the moderate democrats, some those blue dog democrats, the conservative democrats, could have a chilling effect from what happened in the elections in New Jersey and in Virginia. The republican candidates overwhelmingly carried the independent votes in Virginia. Sixty six percent went to the republican, 33 percent to the democrat in New Jersey, according to our exit polls, 60 percent went to Christie of the independence, 30 percent went to Governor Corzine, the incumbent democrat. How worried are you now that some of those moderate conservative democrats will be going to get cold feet and say to themselves, we have to get out of here.
AXELROD: See, I think those folks are smarter, Wolf. And perhaps you do and they'll going to look at the congressional race that took place yesterday in upstate, New York, which was really the only national race of consequence yesterday. We picked up a seat that was a democratic seat in California and a special. But here's a seat that we won that was in republican hands for 140 years. You had a democrat who campaigned vigorously on the president's platform.
Vice President Biden was there the day before the election defeating a conservative candidate who had run a moderate republican off the ballot and was supported by Governor Palin, Governor Pawlenty, and the entire Republican Party Leadership and they lost a seat they've had for 140 years. That's the race that I think most members of congress will going to look at with interest. And that's the race they should because the message was, if you embraced the president's agenda and stand up for the things that he's fighting for to get this economy growing again for health care, for energy, for education reform, then you will do well and you'll energize voters and you'll get the kind of turnout you need to win your race.
BLITZER: Let me wrap up with Afghanistan because you've said the president is going to make up his mind within a matter of weeks. Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist, wrote this the other today. "We simply do not have the Afghan partners, the NATO allies, the domestic support, the financial resources or the national interests to justify an enlarged and prolonged nation-building effort in Afghanistan." Here's the question. Is the president rethinking his entire strategy right you now? And in the end, might come around to Friedman's conclusion?
AXELROD: Well, I don't think anybody has ever embraced the notion of nation building, Wolf. The goal the president set forth from the beginning was how do we disrupt, dismantle and destroy al Qaeda? Because that's where the threat is to the American people. He will be going to pursue this strategy and the requisite tactics to support that strategy that will lead us to that goal. And that's been his motivation from the beginning. It continues to be. He is working through you the options and he'll make a decision.
BLITZER: But the notion has starting to withdraw troops, let alone forget about increasing the number of troops but starting to withdraw, that's off the table. Is that right?
AXELROD: Well, I think it is clear that there is a threat in the region that we have to address. The president is not going to walk away from confronting that threat. The question is how best to do it. And that's what he is working through right now.
BLITZER: And within how many weeks are we talking about?
AXELROD: Well, I don't want to put a number on it, Wolf but, you know, he is going to make a decision within a few weeks. And he is going to make it when he is satisfied that we've arrived at the right answer. Understand that we're just now completing the arrival of the troops that he ordered in March. Any troops that would be ordered in after, you know, during this period won't arrive until the spring and summer of next year. So he has the time to make the right decision he is going.
BLITZER: David Axelrod, thanks very much for coming in.
AXELROD: OK. Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: Will Sarah Palin try to run moderates out of her party? Could she and other conservatives spark a republican civil war? I'll ask the gop Party Chairman Michael Steele. And the author of the new book on former nfl Star Pat Tillman is here. He says it is time for the army to come clean about how Tillman died in Afghanistan. He even goes so far as to accuse General Stanley McChrystal of being involved in deception.
BLITZER: We'll give you details into this week's election results here in the United States. What they might be in for both parties end for you? You just heard from the White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod. Now the other side. Gloria Borger and I interviewed Michael Steele, he is the Chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for coming in.
MICHAEL STEELE, CHAIRMAN OF THE REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Hey, Wolf, good to see you. Hey, Gloria.
BLITZER: Gloria is going to stick around, join me in the questioning as well, Mr. Chairman. So, let's get right to the first question. And Gloria raises a good appropriate question, which is this. There was a clear cut choice between the conservative candidate in upstate New York and the democrat. A very liberal democrat. The liberal democrat won. What is that say to you?
STEELE: Well, I think what it says is that you're looking at a special election that had a flawed selection process, quite frankly. That was a process in which a handful of county chairmen, along with the state party leadership, selected or preselected this candidate, Skozzafava to run. Not a reflection of the base, not a reflection certainly of the republican and independents in that district. And they came a point where that primary got played out. And that's what we've seen over the last few weeks. It is not the way I would have run it. And of course, my concern as addressed to the party at that time was, this would be problematic, and we tried, you know, my job is -- I have to support the nominee chosen by the party. But the reality over this, it was a process that was flawed from the beginning. It was doomed to create a problem. And it put conservatives rightly back on their heels. Because it was not necessarily reflective of the views, her views were not necessarily reflective of the views of the majority of the people in that district.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYSTS: Mr. Steele, you actually have any control over this?
STEELE: No. Go ahead. BORGER: Well, you don't have any control over this so does this mean we're sort of in for watching a civil war between the sorts of purists in your party versus the big tenters, if you will?
STEELE: No, not really. I don't think it is that extreme Gloria and I can understand how someone can get to that, you look at district 23. By itself or even if you want to find some other races where there is a potential for that to happen. I don't think it's going to be that extreme, because I think the win on last night really mattered to a lot of people. We saw s conservative principles being articulated by two candidates running statewide in particularly in New Jersey. Very tough areas. That translated very well for the voters. Unfortunately for me as the national chairman, I don't get to pick my winners and losers, I don't' get to pick my nominees.
I have to live by the decisions of the party. And my goal now is to double back with the state party. The county parties involved in that district, because we'll going to have replay this next year, as you know. This was just a place holder. You know, the nominee of the candidate who won last night is going to have to run again. And I think we'll take that seat next November. I'm not worried about that. I just want a clean selection process so that the nominee is reflective of the people who live in that district.
BLITZER: Are you worried, Mr. Chairman that Sarah Palin, for example, or Rush Limbaugh or others in the conservative movement are going to go into some of these contests and go after the more moderate republicans who might actually have a better chance of winning a general election?
STEELE: Well, I hope not in the context of which you're raising the question, Wolf. I would just put up what would Reagan do? Reagan saw the party as an opportunity to take our conservative values and translate them across the political spectrum to invite independents and Reagan, what were eventually known as Reagan democrats. To be a part of the most expansive opportunities that this nation has seen in a long time. So I'm hoping, and that's not in their nature. I don't think that's the case. I think certainly they will have their opinions. And that's fine. My responsibility though think, you know, certainly that they will have their opinions and that's fine. My responsibility though as the National Chairman is two fold. Raise the necessary funds to win elections and then go out and win those elections. So we're going to be working very hard to put good candidates in place.
BLITZER: Mr. Chairman, thanks very much. Congratulations on those big wins in New Jersey and Virginia.
STEELE: Thank you.
BLITZER: I see a big smile on your face and you deserve to have that smile.
STEELE: It has taken ten months to get to this big smile.
BLITZER: Well, maybe, let me tell you, better to win than to lose. All right. Thank you.
All right. The death of Pat Tillman. We talk to the author of the new best seller who says "America's top commander in Afghanistan lied about the death of the former football pro."
Plus, from the wreckage of 9/11, a new American warship.
BLITZER: Former professional football player Pat Tillman was perhaps America's most well-known combat soldier before he was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004. His death set off a storm of controversy over alleged cover-ups and is now the subject of a new book.
And joining us now, the best-selling author, Jon Krakauer. He's -- his new book is entitled "Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman." Jon, thanks very much for coming in.
JON KRAKAUER, AUTHOR, "WHERE MEN WIN GLORY": I'm happy to be here.
BLITZER: I want to play a little clip from the testimony that General Stanley McChrystal gave during his confirmation hearings to become the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, about his role in deciding that Pat Tillman should be granted the Silver Star. Listen to how he defended himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, U.S. ARMY: I arrived back into Afghanistan from a meeting in Qatar with General Abizaid on about the 23rd, and I was informed at that point that they suspected that friendly fire might have been the cause of death and they had initiated what we call a 15-6, or an investigation of that.
At the same time, we looked at his potential award for valor. And any lost soldier, they immediately look and determine whether an award was appropriate. In the case of Corporal Tillman, a Silver Star was recommended. I sat down with the people who recommended it, but that was higher than some had been given, and we went over a white board and we looked at the geometry of the battlefield and I queried the people to satisfy myself that, in fact, that his actions warranted that, even though there was a potential that the actual circumstance of death had been friendly fire.
So I was comfortable recommending, once I believed that the people in the fight were convinced it warranted a Silver Star, and I was, too, with forwarding that. I also sent a message informing my chain of command that we believed it was fratricide, and we did that when we were told there were going to be fairly high-profile memorial services.
Now, what happens, in retrospect, is -- and I would do this differently if I had the chance again. In retrospect, they look contradictory because we sent a Silver Star that was not well written, and although I went through the process, I will tell you now I didn't review the citation well enough to capture, or I didn't catch that if you read it, you could imply that it was not friendly fire.
So I say that in the two things which I believe were entirely well intentioned on my part, and in my view, everyone forward that I saw was trying to do the right thing, it still produced confusion at a tragic time. And I'm very sorry for that because I understand that the outcome produced a perception that I don't believe was at all involved, at least in the forces that were forward.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: And you believe that Corporal Tillman earned the Silver Star by his actions before he died.
MCCHRYSTAL: Sir, I absolutely do. I did then. I do now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, Jon Krakauer, what, if anything, is wrong with his explanation?
KRAKAUER: It's perjured. It's not believable. It's preposterous. He is saying that after spending a number of days on the ground in eastern Afghanistan with the commander, Tillman's commander of the 2nd Ranger battalion, that he signed his name to this fraudulent document recommending a Silver Star. This document that he signed his name to, he was the author of record. He reviewed carefully, made -- not only did it make no mention of friendly fire in reference to Tillman's death, it used a phrase, "He faced devastating enemy fire."
At the time, McChrystal knew this was not true. McChrystal at the time was absolutely certain Tillman had been killed by friendly fire, yet he submitted this document to the secretary of the Army. He implies in this testimony that, Oh, at the same time, we sent this e- mail, you know, warning people that, well, he was killed by friendly fire. He sent that e-mail 24 hours later. And he didn't send it to the secretary of the Army, the person who ultimately approved the Silver Star.
He sent it -- it was intended for President Bush's speech writers, warning them that if the information of fratricide leaked out -- not when, but if it leaked out, they had to be careful what they wrote for the president because if he quoted from this bogus Silver Star document, he would embarrass himself by appearing as a liar.
Now, that's a very different thing than that testimony suggests. There's simply no way to get around the fact that McChrystal knowingly submitted this fraudulent document to the secretary of the Army. He never called the secretary of the Army back and said, Oh, I forgot, you know, I unintentionally -- you need to know this was friendly fire. Maybe we should put the Silver Star on hold until we sort this out.
BLITZER: So you're saying...
KRAKAUER: He didn't do that, so... BLITZER: You're saying, Jon -- let me just interrupt. You're saying that General McChrystal deliberately lied in signing that document.
KRAKAUER: Absolutely. There's no other way to interpret that. You don't have to take my word for it. There was a very thorough investigation by the inspector general of the Defense Department, and they found that McChrystal's -- the same explanation he gave to the Senate -- was not credible. They criticized him. They determined that he should be held accountable for the fraudulent Silver Star. They determined that the Army should take action against him. And they would have accepted -- a crony of McChrystal's, a four-star general named William Wallace (ph), simply overruled the inspector general of the Pentagon and let McChrystal completely off the hook.
BLITZER: So what does all this say...
KRAKAUER: Now, that's...
BLITZER: ... to you, Jon, about what General McChrystal is doing now? He's the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. He's recommended the president deploy another 40,000 troops to Afghanistan. What does this say to you about the commander of the U.S. troops there?
KRAKAUER: I don't -- I think he has a serious blemish on his record. Look, what he did is a serious offense...
BLITZER: Should he be...
KRAKAUER: ... according to the military.
BLITZER: ... the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan?
KRAKAUER: No, he should not. He should -- if a lesser officer did what McChrystal did, he would be court-martialed, according to Article 107 of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, submitting a false official statement. It's a very serious offense for which you -- if you're found guilty, you can be dishonorably discharged and you can be locked up for five years.
Someone who is guilty of that kind of offense, and I believe McChrystal is, should not be commander of the forces. It sends a terrible message. I mean, Afghanistan is fighting corruption. The nation is being asked to sign off on this long-term commitment that's very problematic and very risky for the nation, and here's a guy who five years ago lied to the Senate. He lied to Army investigators, and he submitted this fraudulent document. That's not something -- you know, if you just -- if you just walk away from that and ignore it, that's a terrible thing.
BLITZER: Besides claiming General Stanley McChrystal lied after Pat Tillman's death, Jon Krakauer makes other serious allegations. You'll hear those. You'll also get the response that we're getting from the Pentagon. And the author offers personal thoughts on Pat Tillman. And rarely do you see a government official become so passionate. The director of the CDC is here, the Centers for Disease Control, regarding the swine flu vaccine. He has a special plea to a group which he says is dying of swine flu at an alarming rate.
BLITZER: More now of my interview with best-selling author Jon Krakauer. His new book looks at the controversy surrounding the friendly fire death of Pat Tillman, who left the NFL to serve his country.
Should the U.S. stay in Afghanistan? You spent a lot time there over these past few years, researching this book. Should the U.S. accept that recommendation, irrespective of who the U.S. commander is, and double down, in effect, on Afghanistan, or start withdrawing?
KRAKAUER: I personally think that adding more troops would do more harm than good. There's a whole range of options between withdrawing completely and keeping things the same. And that I would leave up to people who are -- who know more than I do. But I think adding 40,000 troops -- and that's not enough to do any good in the long run. I mean, that's just a drop in the bucket. If you want to bring this -- sort of bring the Taliban under control, create these sort of bubbles of security, you're going to need, you know, hundreds of thousands of troops, not 40,000.
I was embedded with the Afghan national army for three months. And if you -- you know, there's good talk about, We got to beef up the Afghan army. But right now, the U.S. forces say there's 90,000 Afghan troops in the army. Well, at any given moment, probably half of them are AWOL. They're good soldiers. They're willing to fight. But they're not ready to take over defense of the country.
There's something -- you know, there's no good choice. I think almost everyone who knows anything about Afghanistan, including General McChrystal, would agree there's no good choice there. They're all risky. They're all fraught with great peril for the Afghans, for us. So I don't pretend to know what we should do.
But I think that General McChrystal for five years has been getting by. I mean, I'm not the first person to bring this up. The Tillman family's been bringing this up ever since Pat died, and they've just been brushed off. They've gotten- they've been stonewalled at the highest reaches. It's time for someone finally to hold General McChrystal accountable.
BLITZER: Let me leave this interview with a thought on Pat Tillman, who gave up an amazing career in the NFL, making millions of dollars, to volunteer for the U.S. Army after 9/11. Give our viewers a sense of who Pat Tillman was.
KRAKAUER: He was a remarkable, very complicated American who wanted more than anything else in his life to do the right thing always. He set very high standards for himself. After 9/11, he felt like, You know, this -- going to Afghanistan, fighting al Qaeda is the right thing to do. And if it's the right thing to do, I should be there. Just because I'm a famous pro football player is no reason I should be excused from my duty as a citizen.
So he enlisted. He was not happy when the Bush administration invaded Iraq. He didn't bargain on that, but he went it Iraq. He -- in his journals, he said, you know, Even though I think this war is illegal as hell, I will fight as hard as anyone ever has because that's what I signed up to do, and I knew that there was this risk when I signed up.
He had a chance to get out of the Army after he served in Iraq, according to his agent. You know, his agent talked to the Seattle Seahawks and other teams who wanted him to play football again and said, We can get you out of the Army, Pat. You know, all you got to do is just write this letter. It can be done. And he declined. He said, No, I'm not going to break my commitment. I signed up for three years. I'm going to serve my three years, and then I'll play football again.
And it was shortly after that, just a couple months late, that he went to Afghanistan, in April of 2004. And on April 22nd, he died in this terrible accident. You know, the friendly fire was a terrible accident. There were some screw-ups involved. But the real tragedy happened afterwards, and it happened about this cover-up from top to bottom in the Army, up and down the chain of command.
And to this day, the Army claims unbelievably that it was just a series of innocent mistakes, that there was no intent to deceive. That's what McChrystal says, There was -- I never saw any intent to deceive. That, on the face of it, is just unbelievable. So it's time for, finally, you know, the Army to just come clean. And McChrystal is at the very center of that deception. And for everyone to say, Well, gosh, you know, he's this very effective commander -- he's considered the most effective in the Army, and I don't dispute that. But someone who has this blemish on his record should not be our commander in Afghanistan.
BLITZER: Jon Krakauer's book is entitled "Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman." Jon, thanks very much for coming in.
KRAKAUER: You're welcome.
BLITZER: We asked the Pentagon for reaction to Jon Krakauer's claims and got this statement from the Pentagon press secretary, Geoff Morrell. "General McChrystal acknowledges that in the aftermath of this confusing and emotionally-charged incident, he did not review the award citation carefully enough before forwarding it up the chain of command. But to this day, he steadfastly believes Corporal Tillman's actions before his death warrant the honor." That statement from the Pentagon press secretary, Geoff Morrell.
Swine flu and a blunt warning from the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, CDC DIRECTOR: What you have to recognize is that there's a risk to not being vaccinated. Not being vaccinated puts you and your pregnancy at risk.
BLITZER: So when will the government finally have enough vaccine for everyone who needs it?
Plus: It was a target of terror. Now steel from the World Trade Center takes a new form, defending America.
BLITZER: Americans are still lining up to receive the swine flu vaccine and often forced to go home without it. Many are wondering why there aren't more doses available.
And joining us now, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Thomas Frieden, who's been testifying on the Hill. Thanks very much for coming in.
DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, CDC DIRECTOR: Thank you.
BLITZER: Last spring, we all knew that the swine flu, the H1N1, was coming, so you had a lot of time to prepare for this. Here's the question. What happened? Because we were expecting by October, things would be in place.
FRIEDEN: Basically, three problems. First, the flu started late. It was April, May. Usually, flu starts in September, October, November. So we got a late start on making vaccine. Second, it came back early. Usually, flu season doesn't peak until December, January, February. Here we are already September, October, November with lots and lots of flu. So you had less time to start, sooner time that you needed it. And the vaccine strain was growing slowly. So it couldn't grow fast enough. We're stuck with technologies that are tried and true and we're confident in their safety, but they're too slow.
BLITZER: So how far behind are we right now?
FRIEDEN: We're far behind. We have now...
BLITZER: Because you were hoping, like, a million doses would have been available by now, right?
FRIEDEN: We have now...
BLITZER: Like, 100 million, I mean.
FRIEDEN: We have now 32 million doses out. It's a lot more than nothing, but a lot less than what we'd like it to be. BLITZER: What would you like it -- what would you have preferred right now, 100 million, 120 million?
FRIEDEN: There's no magic number. We want there to be enough vaccine so anyone who wants to be vaccinated can be vaccinated, especially people in the priority groups.
BLITZER: And to when will that number -- when will you have enough to make sure that anyone who wants the vaccine, should get the vaccine, will have it?
FRIEDEN: At this point, we're just going week by week and working with states and localities to make sure that whatever vaccine comes off the production line gets into doctors' offices, hospitals, clinics, schools, where it can be given as rapidly as possible.
BLITZER: So you're reluctant to give us a prediction when things will be fine.
FRIEDEN: We're taking it week to week now. We said last Friday we hope to have at least 10 million by the end of this week, and we think we'll meet that. This Friday, we'll see how much we expect in the coming weeks.
BLITZER: Just clarify that one little nugget because there's been a lot of concern about the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, that they're going to get the vaccine before people here in the United States who really need it. What is the situation on that?
FRIEDEN: It's really a Department of Defense issue, but I believe that not to be the case. What we have done is, at the federal government level, provided for the uniformed armed services, provided an allocation of vaccine just for the people serving in the military. And what happens with detainees and others is a different issue.
BLITZER: Is this H1N1, this crisis right now -- and it is formally called a pandemic -- worse than you thought it would be, about what you thought it would be, or not as bad?
KRAKAUER: Influenza is the least predictable of all infectious diseases. We've had good news and bad news. Two pieces of good news. First, it's not more severe than seasonal Influenza. So we were afraid that not only would it spread widely, but it would be very deadly. It's a serious illness. It's a moderate illness for many people who get it. But it's not that increased deadliness that we were worried about. And the second piece of good news we got was that only a single dose of vaccine is needed. We thought two would be...
BLITZER: Even for little kids?
FRIEDEN: Except for kids under 10. Everyone else is protected, well protected by just a single dose.
BLITZER: Now, there's a lot -- there are a lot of women out there who are pregnant, and they're in the high risk category -- they need to get this vaccine -- who are worried about the effect it could have on their baby. I want you to look into the camera and tell them that they have nothing to worry about, if that's what you believe.
FRIEDEN: I understand the concern of anyone who's pregnant not to have any medication or shot or other thing that would increase their risk of having a problem or their baby having a problem.
What you have to recognize is that there's a risk to not being vaccinated. Not being vaccinated puts you and your pregnancy at risk. We've seen rates of hospitalization and death among pregnant women much higher than the general population.
So in everything, there's a balance between risk and benefit. Not getting vaccinated also has a significant risk. And this vaccine is made in the same way the vaccine -- the flu vaccine is made every year, same factories, same companies, same safeguards, same mechanisms, and it has an excellent safety record.
BLITZER: The seasonal flu -- that kills how many people in the United States every year? I've heard a number of 30,000. I don't know if that's accurate.
FRIEDEN: We estimate that about 36,000 people are killed by seasonal flu every year. The big difference is that 90 percent of people killed by seasonal flu are over the age of 65. With H1N1, 90 percent of the deaths have been in people under the age of 65.
BLITZER: Is it possible that 36,000 people will die in the United States from the H1N1 this year?
FRIEDEN: Only time will tell how many people become ill. Right now, the impact looks to be larger than most flu seasons on younger people and less than most flu seasons on older people. But the rest of the season -- flu season lasts until May. We have a long time yet.
BLITZER: Is there enough regular seasonal flu vaccine available for the American public?
FRIEDEN: There have been nearly 90 million doses sent out, and the seasonal flu vaccine is strictly between the manufacturers and the market. Nearly 90 million doses sent out, another 25 million on the way, but unprecedented demand. So we are seeing shortages of seasonal flu vaccine because there's so much awareness and concern about influenza.
BLITZER: Now, I received the seasonal flu vaccine, as I do every year. But at some point down the road, when it's available and all the priority people have received their H1N1 vaccine, do I still need to get the H1N1, do you believe?
FRIEDEN: We hope that there will be enough for everyone who wants to get vaccinated to get vaccinated. And we don't know what the rest of the flu season will hold. So even if H1N1 begins to wane throughout the country, we don't know that it won't come back come flu season, which traditionally peaks in December, January, February.
BLITZER: So the answer is yes, if it's available.
BLITZER: You'll get it, too.
BLITZER: Have you received it already?
BLITZER: Even though you're among the first responders there.
FRIEDEN: Well, we're looking at health care workers who are working at hospitals, emergency departments full-time as being the highest risk for health care workers.
BLITZER: Well, we're counting on you, Dr. Frieden. Thanks very much for helping us better appreciate what's going on.
FRIEDEN: Thank you very much.
BLITZER: A floating memorial, a naval ship built with steel recovered from Ground Zero, returns to New York both as a monument to the lost and a promise of protection against a new attack.
BLITZER: A piece of Ground Zero came home this week, over seven tons of steel from the wreckage of the World Trade Center built into the bow of a new Navy assault ship. Firefighters, bagpipers and many of those who lost loved ones on 9/11 were there to welcome a floating memorial, the USS New York.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... the steel in the bow. We're very mindful that we're representing the families of victims of 9/11 and the victims -- the people who died that day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What better way for our young men and women that are going to be on the USS New York to feel that spirit of our country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With having the World Trade Center steel built into the bow of the ship, that's something that we have as part of us and we feel each and every day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From this point forward, the USS New York is going to be taking the fight to the enemy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: An emotional moment indeed.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. Join us weekdays in THE SITUATION ROOM from 4:00 to 7:00 PM and every Saturday at 6:00 PM Eastern right here on, and at this time every weekend on CNN International. The news continues next on CNN.