tv Blindsided How ISIS Shook the World CNN May 11, 2015 9:00pm-10:01pm PDT
>> they wanted to show me that they are a state, and that this state is working. it's not a perfect state, it's not like the united states. but it's a state. >> how isis shook the world starts now. the questions haunt us. each time we witness some terrible new savagery. >> the images that are emerging are horrifying. >> each time we meet the face of evil. >> i will continue to strike the next of your people. >> we ask how, why. how could a band of butchers come out of nowhere. take over vast lands, slaughter innocents and threaten the world. >> we'll chop off the heads of the americans, the french,
whoever you may bring. >> and perhaps the most important question, how could we not have known. >> the answer is, we did. this is the story of what we knew about isis and when we knew it. it is a story that has not been told before, not in its entirety. told by the people who have made the journey into the mind and heart of isis. >> we begin with an extraordinary chance to look into the islamic state. not a single reporter has dared to venture there. since the gruesome beheadings of journalists began last year. imagine seeing this. >> i'm john cantlie, the british citizen abandoned by my own government. >> and this. >> these could be my last hours in this world. >> and then heading straight into the heart of darkness.
but that is precisely what this man did. >> during the months i was preparing the trip, every night i felt a knife on my foot. i felt it physically. >> todenhofer is a german journalist. last year he crossed the border into isis territory. >> i think you must know your enemy if you want to defeat him. >> he went to mosul, an iraqi city about the size of philadelphia. population around 1.5 million. it's the biggest prize isis has captured. this extraordinary video gives us a rare look into everyday life under isis.
it brings to mind the writer -- the banality of evil. isis has its own license plates and traffic cops who give parking tickets. and there are friendly shopkeepers. >> completely brainwashed. i've never in my life met people like this. >> this, of course is the mosul isis officials wanted todenhofer to see. they gave him written permission to come to the city, and he believes they let him leave alive to make a point. >> they wanted to show me that they are a state, and that this state is working. it's not a perfect state, it's not like the united states. but it's a state. >> and it's getting bigger. todenhofer saw new recruits pouring in every day.
>> in this recruitment center, we had every day more than 50 new fighters. they can lose fighters, they don't care. the amazing thing is that they are completely enthusiastic. they think it's the time of their life. they think that they are part of a historical event. changing the whole middle east. >> among them were americans. >> i met many americans. i met many germans and french people and english people, but many americans. guys from new jersey. >> there were also american weapons. soldiers carry them like a badge of honor, even the children. >> how old are you? >> these child soldiers, 12 and 13 years old, now go to what isis call schools.
>> they start a new school system, which i found is completely wrong, completely crazy. but it's a system. >> isis officials trotted out a few prisoners for todenhofer to talk to. this man is one of a group of kurdish soldiers. >> when did they capture you? >> he told todenhofer he was afraid. >> shortly after, isis put kurdish prisoners in cages, dressed in orange jumpsuits they were paraded through the streets and isis made a propaganda video out of it. it's hard to believe, but according to todenhofer, there are people in mosul who say they are better off under the islamic state. almost all are sunni and they
have suffered at the hands of iraq's shiite government. >> first of all, instead of anarchy, they now have law and order. and people don't like isis, but they like their security. so they take taxes. they take care of the poor. >> bizarrely, isis even reaches out to the disabled. this is a recruitment video for deaf jihadis who wish to join isis. >> his isis minders kept him away from only one group. he was not permitted to speak to or even go near a single woman. >> and you think that you would win the war? >> perhaps the most astonishing thing he heard from both isis soldiers and leaders is this. >> they want to provoke the united states to bring ground troops to the country.
it's a clear target. they want the americans to bring their boots on the ground. they want to fight the americans. that's their dream, the ultimate fight against americans. that's what they want. that's what they hope. >> they do want to fight the americans on their own terms. in this regard, isis has a different dream than al qaeda. osama bin laden wanted to perpetrate large scale terror attacks against the west. isis may do this, but to further its aim of building a state, a califate. still, you cannot understand isis without going back to al qaeda and its signature moment. it's most spectacular attack. september 11th, 2001. 19 al qaeda operatives hijack four planes, knock down two
skyscrapers, crash into the pentagon and kill almost 3,000 people. >> the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon. >> at that moment, with the american people terrorized, the american government searched for a fitting response to this attack. at that moment, the seeds of isis were planted. it would take years, and untold numbers of dead before isis would supplant al qaeda, but you can draw a line from the horrifying events of 9/11 and the american response to the creation of the islamic state. that line begins 18 months after september 11th, the united states invades iraq. >> my fellow citizens, at this hour, american and coalition
forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm iraq, to free its people, and to defend the world from grave danger. >> when the u.s. invaded, it >> when the u.s. invaded, it >> when the u.s. invaded, it >> when the u.s. invaded, it hadn't really thought about the day after. it was very much focused on overthrowing saddam. and what happened in the initial weeks was a total power vacuum. >> as the american occupation quickly devolved into chaos one man seized the moment. that man is abu al zarqawi. the godfather of isis. in 2004, he swore allegiance to
osama bin laden and became the leader of al qaeda in iraq. >> the u.s. has described him as one of the world's most dangerous terrorists. >> his ultimate goal was to create an islamic state. and events in iraq were going to give him the chance to realize his dream. >> the old military needed to be formally disbanded. >> saddam's military was out on the street. and then american soldiers captured saddam himself. sunnis were out of favor and out of jobs but they had guns and organizational prowess. zarqawi began recruiting them. >> he was a major celebrity in 2004, he became a rock star. >> some of the worst violence americans saw on their tv screens during the iraq war came courtesy of zarqawi. >> he was like a terrorist psychopath. >> sunni insurgents inspired by
al qaeda's leader in iraq blew up a holy shiite shrine. >> the murders of innocent civilians, indiscriminate bombings, even beheadings, the focus not just on foreigners but on shiites. other muslims, seen as heretics, tactics that today sound hauntingly familiar. >> with a $25 million price on his head, there's no one the u.s. wants to capture or kill more than zarqawi. >> the cia had been tracking his every move. in june of 2006 u.s. forces killed him with two 500 pound bombs. >> tonight, the most wanted terrorist in iraq has been captured. >> zarqawi's death is a severe blow to al qaeda. >> but as it turned out, the movement zarqawi began would survive that blow.
when we come back, the rise of the leader of isis. >> he wasn't considered from everything that we know now, a high level detainee. >> inside an american prison. get ahead of the curve with t-mobile. and get your hands on the new samsung galaxy s6 edge all for just zero down, now nothing is holding you back. get it today. at t-mobile.
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isis came to life in this desolate landscape, the windswept desert of southern iraq. this is an american prison. during the iraq war, the most dangerous jihadis were locked up here, up to 20,000 of the country's angriest men. some americans who worked at camp bucca, called it simply camp hell. it wasn't just crowded, it was violent. in 2005, riots broke out. detainees took over whole sections of the prison can't. american forces massed outside the fences firing into the crowds. at least four prisoners were killed. >> now, this is camp bucca.
>> major general doug stone was brought in to fix camp bucca. even he was wary of the inmates. here he is giving nic robertson a tour in 2008. >> we have about 2000 identified al qaeda here in the theater. they are hard to break. >> you have shields up here to protect us. everyone down here is crowded around looking at us now. >> right, but this is not a place that you want to hang around. we don't want to stand here that much longer. they will organize around us. >> there were beatings, unexplained prisoner deaths and several dangerous jihadis escaped. into this area, one day in 2004, a new man arrived. we know him now as abu baghdadi, the leader of isis.
and yes, he was in american custody during the iraq war. he's shown his face publicly only once. last year when he gave a sermon to his followers. but back when the u.s. had him under lock and key, he was seen as believe it or not, a man who could be trusted. >> the americans seem to see him as someone who could keep the prison quiet. there are 24 camps within the sunni side of camp bucca, he was allowed open access to all of them. >> he wasn't considered from everything we know now, a high level detainee, and he was allowed to lead prayers, he was allowed to give religious lessons. >> the future leader of isis was giving other inmates lessons on islam.
those inmates were jihadists or former bathists, henchmen of saddam, or simply common criminals. >> it most assuredly was a jihadist university. unquestionably. >> put them all together in the baking heat of southern iraq, with baghdadi, a man who dreamed of a new kind of terror, it was a recipe for isis. >> they were meeting, they were playing soccer together, they were strategizing together. >> one thing is clear, al baghdadi went through a transformation at camp bucca. >> he was an average person. he was just a sunni foot soldier when he was arrested by the americans. >> but by the time al baghdadi left, he was someone else. >> all we know is that baghdadi became an entirely different creature, in terms of radicalization, in terms of
militarization, in terms of building a huge network of militants in the prison. >> at camp bucca, al baghdadi networked with hundreds of jihadis, at least some of whom would later join isis, the day would come when he would need military expertise. enter saddam hussein's army. dismissed by the americans, many now at camp bucca. men with exactly the skill set al baghdadi could later make use of, and then he was set free. the future leader of isis was recommended for unconditional release by a military review board in december 2004. they did not consider him a threat. whether it turns out al baghdadi is the mastermind of isis or a figure head, the fact remains the united states has put a $10
online. thousands of videos are strewn across the internet. much of it, of course, is sickeningly violent, unbearable to watch. the violent beheadings, the fiery murders, but all of it may add up to the single biggest reason for the success of isis. like so much of what the group does, this is a terror tactic we have not seen before. and it is frighteningly effective. >> 20 years ago, you could never find the three people in minnesota who would be attracted to the isis ideology, today you can, and they can find you. >> isis has used facebook, twitter, google and the world wide web as its command and control system. >> the violence in isis propaganda is enhanced by artful editing, special effects and powerful music. ♪
some videos really are like small films, done with real skill, ironically, it is the barbarism that makes these clips go viral. no one has ever seen anything like it, most of us look at this and this and wonder how it could possibly attract recruits. but for some young men raised on violent video games and shoot 'em up movies, it's a powerful lure. >> actions speak louder than words. it's savagery, we look at it as a horrible evil. of course it's evil. but this is part of its strategy to convince young men and women on the fringe while eluded, who have no purpose in life, who suffer from torn identities come to us. >> all brothers and sisters come to jihad and feel the honor we are feeling.
feel the happiness that we are feeling. >> they want killing machines, that's why you see them doing these videos and making kids watch these videos and making kids commit crimes and kill. they are trying to establish a new generation of killers. >> it's the gang mentality. >> the gang idea is important because isis uses it to manipulate kids. a lot of the propaganda mixes the violence with scenes of camaraderie, friendship, the people in isis videos seem to be saying, we did not belong where we were, but now we have found a home. a powerful message to the millions of unemployed disconnected young muslims across the middle east. and even in countries like france and germany. >> i mean, by islam in syria, i originally come from canada. >> i'm thinking like i'm still dreaming, i'm feeling like i'm still dreaming, feeling like i'm in the dream world, you have to be here to understand what i'm saying.
>> and, of course, isis also manipulates us, television news. they put their videos online, we put them on television and in a bizarre twist, isis turns around and makes clever use of what it sees on tv. this video is called victory in kobani. it glorifies the isis capture of that syrian city, while mocking president obama and other western leaders. >> there's no military solution to isil. i have a military only solution. >> the angry rhetoric of cable news fits right into their script. >> we've proven that we cannot defeat these people. we are solely competent in terms of conducting a foreign policy, in terms of conducting military operation. >> cnn makes an occasional appearance.
>> enter that city of kobani. >> fox news is a favorite of isis, they demand boots on the ground, playing into the dreams of a grand battle with america. >> the united states will look absolutely foolish for doing some strikes that had no effect on the outcome, and isis is going to come out more empowered than ever. isis will be the big winner and the united states will be the big loser. >> all of it is frighteningly effective. creating a 21st century machine designed perfectly for the young and built to recruit followers from across the world. >> they were raised on twitter, they were raised on youtube, they were raised on facebook. isis is cnn to somebody's home tv. these guys are very
sophisticated. they're a whole different generation. >> in just a moment, isis and the white house, the story of what we knew about the terror group and when we knew it. >> we failed to understand the enemy that we faced. why do we do it? why do we spend every waking moment, thinking about people? why are we so committed to keeping you connected? why combine performance with a conscience? why innovate for a future without accidents? why do any of it? why do all of it? because if it matters to you, it's everything to us. the xc60 crossover. from volvo. lease the well equiped volvo xc60 today. visit your local volvo showroom for details. strong can heal from miles away.
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it is a moment americans will never forget. u.s. contractors brutally murdered. their bodies burned and hung from a bridge. >> four u.s. civilians butchered, dragged through the street. >> this was fallujah, iraq. the year was 2004. the atrocity aroused deep american anger and brought promises of retribution. >> we will hunt down the criminals, we will kill them or capture them. and we will pacify fallujah. >> and u.s. forces fought two long and bloody battles to retake the city. nearly 70 americans lost their lives liberating fallujah, and hundreds more were left seriously wounded.
ten years later, fallujah falls back into the hands of an enemy. but this time it's isis. just a few days after fallujah fell, the president talked about the threat from the terror group in an interview with the new yorker magazine. he said the analogy we use around here sometimes. and i think is accurate, is if a jv team puts on lakers uniforms, that doesn't make them kobe bryant. >> i was disappointed. i was disappointed that he said that. i don't think he was well served. >> the need for intelligence surveillance. >> michael flynn had a front row seat to the rise of isis. he led the defense intelligence agency until late last year. >> we failed to understand the enemy that we faced. >> flynn says intelligence officials had warned the
administration that isis was growing more dangerous before the president made his infamous jv comment. but the president has said the intelligence on isis was inadequate. here he is on "60 minutes." >> how did they end up where they are in control of so much territory. was that a complete surprise to you? >> well, i think our head of the intelligence community jim clapper has acknowledged that they underestimated what had been taking place in syria. >> you were dia at the time? >> yeah. do you think it was an intelligence failure? >> no, i don't. i really look at that and -- it's easy to -- i mean, i will take one for the team, you know, the president has to decide who he's going to listen to and what information he's going to use and i think that he was poorly advised to say that. >> the president makes no
apologies for being measured and deliberate about committing u.s. military resources. >> benjamin rhodes is a close aide to president obama. >> do you think we should have been alerted to the threat that isis posed earlier? >> you know, it's always easy to look back and say, you could have been alerted to a specific threat at a specific time, but the question is then, what action would that have triggered? part of what the president has brought, his approach to national security is some degree of restraint in saying that we're not going to chase every rabbit down every hole in the middle east. >> the white house did underestimate isis. and republicans seized on the issue, excoriating the president, growing increasingly strident. >> our strategy will fail yet again. this president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home.
>> even former top officials in the obama administration had tough words. >> it's more than an intelligence failure, it's a policy failure as well. >> of course the solution offered by most critics is the one thing isis wants the most. american boots on the ground. >> we frankly don't believe it's a matter of policy, the insertion of significant ground troops is the right way to go. what we've learned from iraq and other experiences, there's more legitimacy on the ground if it's people fighting for their own country and their own feature. >> but the biggest intelligence failure, the biggest policy failure, the biggest underestimation was not of the strength of the islamic state but of the weakness of the iraqi state. in the middle of 2014, when isis started taking town after town in iraq, the iraqi army essentially laid down its arms and ran away.
remember, this was an army that the united states had spent more than $25 billion building up, an army more than 200,000 strong. that's more than six times the size of isis and maybe more. and it was all rendered useless against the isis assault. why? well, much of it can be pinned on one man. >> if you ask me, what's the most important factor in iraq, driver behind the resurgence of isis? i would say nouri al maliki. >> the iraqi prime minister whom the bush administration had helped put into power in 2006. >> i appreciate your commitment to representing the people of iraq. >> back then, maliki's appointment was tauted by the administration as a triumphant
moment for the newly democratic iraq. >> i appreciate you recognize the fact that the future of the country is in your hands. >> to ensure the success of democracy, al maliki needed to heal the schism in iraq, but he never did. when asked to fight against isis, the sunni soldiers in the iraqi army simply said, no. >> for many sunnis, they looked at the iranian backed regime, baghdad, they looked at isis, and some of them made the disastrous calculation that isis was the lesser of two evils. >> the last american soldier left the country in 2011, after the u.s. could not reach agreement with maliki to maintain a military presence.
>> the question that we asked today, when people look back at that decision, what would we have done with 10,000 u.s. troops, would they have enforced security? and frankly would we have wanted them to be fighting in places like mosul and fallujah against isil? >> republicans have criticized president obama for not leaving troops in iraq. some have said if american forces had stayed, there would be no isis. but emma sky believes that was never in the cards. iraq's prime minister maliki, had a new set of patrons, his fellow shiites in tehran, and they made him an offer he couldn't refuse. >> that was part of iran's deal with him, we'll give you a third term, but the conditions are, no american soldiers. that was what tehran had demanded. there was no way it would have gone through the parliament. >> one thing is clear, it was only iraq's army that could have stopped isis, instead the iraqi soldiers threw down their
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the 1990s were a crucial time for jihad. bin laden was there. it's where islamic terrorism as we know it today was born, foreign fighters were constantly flowing in. but now incredibly, foreign fighters are flowing in even faster to iraq and syria, an estimated 20,000 of them in total. what drives these people there what makes them leave home to go far away and fight for an idea,
a fantasy. you're about to find out. in the days that followed 9/11, just about everyone in the world seemed to be standing with the united states, even yasser arafat. >> i am offering my help to the americans, president bush. >> but not this man. >> i'm very, very sorry to your viewers for saying this. but i lacked any empathy with the victims. >> he didn't start his life as a radical, he grew up here in essex, england. the beneficiary of a middle class upbringing. the son of hard working pakistani parents.
but he didn't quite feel at home in britain. and yet had no other place to call home. no community to call his own. he read for us what he wrote in his diary after seeing the towers fall. >> don't you think we've been crying too, like you are now for years? do you think we felt no pain as you raped and plundered our lands and bombed our cities. what lands, what cities you ask? your arrogance is only compounded by your ignorance. you chose your side and we have chosen ours. ♪ >> he had become convinced that the world of islam was under constant and brutal attack from the west. muslims had to fight back. his chosen army was a radical group, the day before 9/11, he had landed in egypt to recruit for the group, which in some ways was a forerunner to isis.
>> it's the first islam organization responsible for popularizing the notion of resurrecting the so-called islamic state, this califate is what he's been dreaming of since 1953. >> the trigger for him was a muslim slaughter he saw every night on tv. every morning in the papers, the genocide in bosnia. >> it had a profound impact on me. up until that point, i didn't consider myself particularly muslim. but almost in a form of defiance, we became so much more muslim overnight. >> and it made him a perfect prospect for a local recruiter. >> he said look at palestine, look at kashmir, look at chechnya, wherever you look, muslims are being killed. there's a global war going on against islams and muslims. i wholeheartedly felt that at 15, 16 years old, i subscribed to it, and dedicated the rest of my life -- in fact i was prepared to die for it.
>> in the months after 9/11, he was arrested. in an egyptian jail, with what he calls the cream of the crop of jihadists, he was thrilled at first about all he could learn from them, but then he had a jailhouse revelation. >> living so close with them for four years in prison. i came to the conclusion that if these guys, any of them ever got to power, if they ever declared this so-called califate, it would be hell on earth, it would be a living nightmare. >> something had clicked, where once he felt no sympathy for the victims of 9/11, the 7/7 attacks in london he says, made him feel revulsion. now his journey might take him from prison to parliament, he's running for a seat in the british elections in may.
he's currently the chairman of a think tank he co founded to study extremism and challenge it. >> people that join isil, they genuinely think about bringing about an end of day scenario, they genuinely believe that they are working on behalf of god. >> imagine his story sheds light on one crucial aspect of this picture. but what about the others? why are hundreds, thousands of people streaming from four corners of the world to fight for isis? why do young men -- and they are almost all young men -- lust for jihad? thomas friedman has a simple explanation. >> none of them have ever held jobs, power, or a girl's hand. and when you put large numbers of young males together and you offer them a wife, you offer them a salary, and you offer them the ability to lord it over
you've heard so much and seen so much about isis, that it's easy to get anxious, it's trying to scare you and confuse you. just recently the group took credit for a planned attack in garland, texas. but so far, it appears that two perpetrators were simply inspired by isis not actually a part of it. let me offer a few tentative thoughts about the group. isis is clearly about religion, about its version of radical islam. but it is also about power. there's increasing evidence that the military backbone of isis is made up not by a group of islamic zealots, but rather high ranking officers from saddam hussein's army, bathists, who at least austensibly are secular isis has thrived because of a local cause, the group has
gained territory, cash and recruits, primarily because of the rage and rebellion of the sunnis of iraq and syria. that sunni cause is going to endure for some time. the united states has been successful in its tactical battles against isis, it's pushed the group back from many of its gains in iraq, but the sunnis of the region will remain in rebellion, the sunni dominated areas will remain in turmoil, and isis will be able to capitalize on this chaos. now, in the long run, isis might find its greatest foes lie within its so called califate. the few reports that are emerging from areas controlled by isis, suggests that people do not like living under a brutal theo kratic dictatorship. they live in fear, and even those who choose it as an alternative to shiite rule are growing disenchanted. isis is like other islamic groups such as the taliban. they have allure in the
abstract. but once they are actually governing in their barbarrous manner -- the allure fades. and with it, ever increasing oppression. no one has ever voted isis into power anywhere. they slaughter their way into victory. is isis a threat to the west? the group's leaders declare it is every day. but their ambitions appear to be mostly centered on their arab enemies, on building a califate on iraq and syria. they understand, of course, that to be terror group number one, they must battle the country that is the world's number one power, america. they seek that confrontation, and hope that the united states would come to the middle east and fight them on their terms. on their terrain. now, to be clear, they are opportunists, and they ask and hope that their followers would act in america. but their main focus is not to come here, they want americans to go there.
no matter how one rates the level of the threat isis poses, the group has changed the nature of terror. the leaders of isis have recognized that above all, they are a messaging machine. which in turn becomes a recruitment machine. their gruesome videos would seem a repulsive turnoff, and are to most people, but they work on the web. the shock and awe they produce makes them go viral. and thus are seen by tens of millions. that ensures that these videos attract those utterly alienated young men, a few thousand among the world's 1.6 billion muslims who seek revenge, glory and gore, and as long as those young muslim men scattered across the globe, are attracted to isis and stream to its cause, the group presents the world with a danger that is impossible to fully
assess. and a danger that grows by the month. mystery and confusion surrounds isis after reports the terror group's leader may have been seriously injured in an attack. plus, a famous journalist accuses of white house of covering up details of bin laden's death. and the nfl has suspended super bowl winning quarterback tom brady. >> hello, and welcome. >> it is great to have you with us. this is cnn newsroom. welcome everyone. we begin with reports from the guardian newspaper and t