updated 12/9/2005 6:40:23 AM ET 2005-12-09T11:40:23

Guest: John Cena, Shawn Michaels, Trish Stratus

RITA COSBY, HOST:  And hello, everybody.  I‘m Rita Cosby reporting LIVE AND DIRECT from Afghanistan, where, as you can see, the American spirit is alive and well, right here in Bagram Air Base.  We got a quiet crowd this morning, right?
And the crowd is only going to get a little bit louder because in just a matter of hours—we got a couple hundred troops out here this morning, but we‘re going to have about 7,000 watching probably the match of their lives.  The WWE, World Wrestling Entertainment, came over with me on a major trip here to Afghanistan, risking a lot of things to come and say thank you to all these troops.
We‘re going to bring out some of the WWE superstars.  Come on out, guys!  And everybody, this is just the beginning, just the beginning.  Let me bring in two of the best.  Let me bring in Shawn Michaels and WWE champion John Cena.  First of all, what do you want to say to these brave men and women out here?
JOHN CENA, WWE SUPERSTAR:  A simple thank you, thank you for everything that they do.  The past two days here have been an unbelievable eye-opener.  Not only have we been basically to the front lines, but we‘ve met some wonderful people.  I just want to say thank you, guys.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
COSBY:  What do you want to say to these guys?

SHAWN MICHAELS, WWE SUPERSTAR:  Well, what I want to say is thank you, but we found out that you guys wouldn‘t come see us, so we hopped on a big old bird, came over here to show you guys the best thing that America has to offer, other than you, which is the U.S. military and the WWE.  That‘s right!
COSBY:  Now, you guys, both of you, as you pointed out, John, you both stayed on an overnight trip.  You went to some pretty risky areas, in fact, Khost, which is an area that came under attack before.  What was that like, being there overnight?  Were you concerned, being there in the dark?
CENA:  Absolutely not.  I felt safe as could be.  We were—we were -
we were accompanied by the finest guys.  I want to shout out my boys in Rocket City, the big gun crew.  I want to shout out the Bulldogs here on the base of the A-10 crew.  We were also with the Red Devils.  They gave me this hat.

We were over there in some thick stuff, but I couldn‘t have felt safer, man.  We had the finest security that money could buy, you know what I‘m saying?  These guys are holding it down!  So it was good, it was very good to be over there.
COSBY:  Now, what were your impressions, being over there?  Is this what you expected Afghanistan to be?
MICHAELS:  Well, I‘ll tell you, you know, I mean, yes, you know what?  Everybody was so—I mean, they kept asking us, you know, Nobody ever comes here, aren‘t you guys a little bit—you know, aren‘t you scared?  And thought to ourselves—this is what John and I were talking about.  We got the best money can buy, baby.  I mean, America, your tax dollars are being well spent because...
(INTERRUPTED FOR COVERAGE OF BREAKING NEWS)
COSBY:  And why are these guys smiling?  Well, take a look over here. 
This is why they‘re smiling.
(APPLAUSE)
Trish Stratus, one of the WWE divas.  But she‘s not just any diva. 
This woman is, what, the six-time champion. 
TRISH STRATUS, WWE DIVA:  Yes, six-time women‘s champion. 
COSBY:  First of all, I can tell you—these guys, they were smiling a little bit.  You come out, it‘s like the world‘s on fire now. 
STRATUS:  Oh.  Thanks, guys. 
(LAUGHTER)
(APPLAUSE)
Wow, this is, I can wake up to this every morning.  This is awesome. 
COSBY:  How‘s it going to be to perform and wrestle in front of these guys in a few hours? 
STRATUS:  You know what?  It‘s going to be incredible, not only the set-up.  But we‘ve got a live environment.  I mean, everyone‘s around.  Everyone‘s super-excited. 
But I mean, anytime we perform, especially for these guys who are so appreciative just that we‘re here, forgetting we‘re performing.  I mean, they just want to hang out with us and meet us.  And so that‘s going to be great.  I‘m so excited.
COSBY:  You and I went into a couple of the remote areas.  What is it like, you know, for you when you have seen the faces of these young men and women?  What did you say to them?  What did they say to you? 
STRATUS:  You know, it‘s interesting, because I always get, you know, “We‘re so thankful.  We thank you so much for coming over here.”  And I just had to kind and stop and ask a couple of the soldiers, like, why are you so thankful that we‘re here? 
And a lot we‘re just like, you know, they get caught up in their every day, you know, monotony of what they do.  And it‘s kind of a like a break-up in their day, first of all. 
And I think I‘ve heard this, you know, sometimes they feel forgotten out here.  You know, like, the Afghanistan war is forgotten sometimes.  And I think they just—they feel that us taking the time out of our schedules to come over here and tell them we support you and we appreciate you, just to say that makes them go, “You know what?  We are making a difference.  And we are making an impact.  And it is worth being out here doing what we‘re doing.” 
So it‘s cool to—you know, it‘s really rewarding on our end and theirs, as well. 
COSBY:  And I know that they‘re excited to see you.  And it‘s a big interesting change when you look at the women in Afghanistan.  I‘m going to ask you about just your reaction.  You said that you‘ve talked, actually, to a couple of the women. 
But I want to show—just everybody, give everybody a little sense of history of sort of where we have come, in terms of women here in this country.  Take a look. 
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
COSBY (voice-over):  The Taliban ruled these streets for five brutal years, responsible for countless atrocities, including the massacre of hundreds of Afghans targeted for their ethnicity or religious beliefs. 
But perhaps the Taliban‘s greatest offense was their treatment of Afghan women.  Women forced to hide behind burqas for fear of being beaten.  Young girls banned from school, and women forbidden from going to work. 
GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, U.S. ARMY (RET.):  During the Taliban, it was better to be a donkey than a woman in that regime. 
COSBY:  Now, four years later, great strides have been made.  In a major milestone, women had a much stronger showing during this year‘s parliamentary elections than originally expected, taking 68 out of the 249 seats. 
SIMA SAMAR, HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION CHAIRWOMAN:  They have to hear and listen to their voice.  Because it‘s quite a big number.  They can change a lot of things in the parliament. 
COSBY:  And everyday life has improved, too, especially in the capital of Kabul.  Many women here have shed their burqas for long skirts.  And, out of the five million Afghan children now enrolled in schools, 40 percent are girls, a record high.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (INAUDIBLE) at the Taliban, I was at home.  I don‘t doing anything.  I didn‘t complete my education.  But when this government is beginning, I can go to my work and go to the university. 
COSBY:  But there‘s been little progress in the more rural areas.  Before the Taliban, women in these regions were already treated as second-class citizens. 
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (THROUGH TRANSLATOR):  We have to survive like this.  What else can we do?  I can‘t get a job.  I have no education, no qualifications.  And who‘s going to look after my five kids and my parents? 
(END VIDEOTAPE)
COSBY:  Amazing how far they have come, in some way, women here in Afghanistan.  But on the other hand, still some very rural areas. 
What is your reaction when you‘ve see the women out and about? 
STRATUS:  Well, I mean, you know, I‘ve talked to a lot of the female soldiers here.  And, first of all, it‘s so amazing to see them out here.  You know, as a female in a male-dominated industry like wrestling, it‘s cool, because there‘s only a handful of us in the industry.  And we‘re doing it, you know what I mean?  We‘re making it.  We‘re strong women.
And same thing here.  There‘s a handful of women here who—obviously
in a male-dominated area.  And it‘s just—you know, they‘re totally ass-kicking babes, which is so great, you know? 

So I talked to them, a few of them, about what they‘re doing and the women‘s schools their building.  And just, you know, they said that they opened up this school.  And even the mothers are coming with their kids, because they want their education and they crave that, to just be on equal ground and to have that opportunity.  So it‘s tremendous.  And it‘s really good to talk to everyone and find out what‘s going on, and really understand it.
COSBY:  Well, I know everybody is psyched to see you here.  One of the soldiers asked for hugs.  So I‘m going to let you go, so you can do that, OK?
Where is—I think we need to do this.  Here we go. 
(APPLAUSE)
And when we come back, the sights and sounds of our trip here in Afghanistan.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COSBY:  And as you‘re looking at some of the folks who are leading the charge here on the base and also in the wrestling ring in a few hours, we want to show you just some of the sights and sounds of our amazing last 48 hours here in Bagram.  Take a look. 
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
(MUSIC PLAYING)
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP:  Happy holidays from Fox Company 23 (ph).  Hoo-ah!
(END VIDEOTAPE)
COSBY:  What an amazing time that we have had here.  And, boy, has it been one of the most amazing stories that I personally have been able to cover.  It‘s been a pleasure to be with all of you guys. 
We have the big general here on the base.  I understand you have a message for all your troops, General. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, good morning, Rita.  I just want to—on behalf of all the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines here serving in Afghanistan, I just want to say thanks to you, and to the WWE, Mr. McMahon.  We really appreciate everybody coming here and spending some time with us. 
COSBY:  Someone you want to say hi to, too, this holiday season? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘d love to say hi to my wife, Stacey (ph), and my kids, and my mom and dad, and the rest of the family.  Thanks.
COSBY:  And they‘re very proud of you, as we are.  By the way, this guy—by the way, we came in the wee hours of the night—wee hours of the morning, actually.  You were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.  It was nice to see you. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, thanks.
COSBY:  And you also met us to tell us your name and your rank and what you want to say. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Chief Master Sergeant Frederick Richter (ph).  And I just wanted to say hello to my wife, my daughter, Brianna (ph), and my wonderful son, Keenan (ph).  I love you guys, and I miss you very much. 
COSBY:  And your office is in the big tower back over there?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, my office is in the control tower, so you‘re welcome to come visit me later on if you‘d like. 
COSBY:  We‘ll try to get a tour. 
Gene Snitsky, too, one of the great wrestlers, what do you want to say to the folks at home? 
GENE SNITSKY, WWE SUPERSTAR:  I just want to say hello to mom and dad and my brother, Derrick (ph), back in Nesquehoning, PA.  And I love you, Deanne (ph).  And we‘ll be home before you know it. 
COSBY:  Carlito, a final message for the troops? 
CARLITO, WWE SUPERSTAR:  Final message?  You know, thank you for everything, and keep on supporting the WWE and especially Carlito.
(LAUGHTER) 
COSBY:  Chris, real quick? 
CHRIS MASTERS, WWE SUPERSTAR:  I just want to thank them once again for having us.  The pleasure has been all ours. 
COSBY:  Yes, and it‘s been all of ours to have this time with you guys. 
Before we leave, I want to introduce two amazing guys right here, Staff Sergeant Rick Scavetta and Corporal John Chriswell, both with public affairs here.  You guys—we have worked, as everyone can hear from my voice and, probably, the way we look, we‘ve gotten about two hours of sleep every night.  And both of you guys have been tireless and so helpful to us.  And I want to say thank you, and make sure everybody at home knows how terrific and how appreciative all of us at MSNBC are to both of you and to so much of these troops.  Love you guys. 
Is there someone at home you want to say hi to?
SGT. RICK SCAVETTA, COMMAND JOINT TASK FORCE 76:  I‘d like to say hi to my daughter, Leah (ph), who is wondering what papa is doing on TV, my wife, Annya (ph), and everyone back in Connecticut.  I love you guys, and I‘ll see you soon.
COSBY:  Corporal?
CPL. JOHN CHRISWELL, COMMAND JOINT TASK FORCE 76:  I‘d like to say hi to all my family back in Anchorage, Alaska.  I‘ll be home soon.  Love you guys.  Happy holidays. 
COSBY:  Thank you guys so much. 
Let me end with a couple of troops from over here.  Give me your name and your rank?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m Sergeant Nunez (ph) from Nuela Senora (ph), from Mexico.  I‘m over here serving the U.S.  I‘m a U.S. citizen, so... 
COSBY:  Who do you want to say hi to at home? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I want to say hi to my family at home, and my sister in Phoenix, my mom in Nogales, and all my cousins and everybody across the border, if they can see this. 
COSBY:  And who do you want to say hi to back home? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, I‘m Sergeant Whittaker.  I‘m from Ft.
Lauderdale, Florida.  I want to say hi to everybody, moms, dad, and my sisters. 
COSBY:  Who do you want to say hi to, honey? 
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  My name is Specialist Melissa Bilk (ph).  I want to say hello to my family at home back in North Carolina. 
COSBY:  What part?  
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Jacksonville, North Carolina. 
COSBY:  All right.  What‘s your name and rank again?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Specialist Melissa Bilk (ph). 
COSBY:  All right, great.
Name and rank?  And who do you want to say hi to? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, I‘m Specialist Paulus (ph).  I want to say hello to my mom, Dorothy Tate (ph), her husband, Barry Tate (ph), and my sisters and my brother.  I‘ll be home soon. 
COSBY:  How are you holding up? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m doing great.  I‘m doing great, Rita. 
COSBY:  All right.  And it‘s so great to see you guys. 
Who do you want to say hi to at home? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hey, I‘m Staff Sergeant Armstrong (ph).  I want to say hi to my wife in Greensboro, North Carolina.  I love you baby.  See you later. 
COSBY:  How long have you been here? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘ve been here since March. 
COSBY:  When are you going back? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t know. 
(LAUGHTER)
COSBY:  Get back safe and sound. 
Who do you want to say hi to back at home? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I want to say hi to my wife, Julie (ph), my kid, Cory, Destiny.  I love you all.  We‘ll be home soon. 
COSBY:  And who do you want to say hi to, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  My wife, Pamela, my daughter, Kelsie (ph).  Hi. 
I‘ll be home soon. 
COSBY:  Name and rank, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  AMEAR FOX (ph), United States Navy. 
COSBY:  Where are you based? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Whidbey Island, Washington. 
COSBY:  All right.
Sir, real final, what do you want to say to the folks watching at home? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘d like to say thanks for everything.  Hi, mom and dad, back in Sevierville, Tennessee, Cathy (ph) and kids, back in Virgeburg (ph), Germany.  I love you all.  See you all soon.
COSBY:  All right, everybody.  Thank you from Bagram, Afghanistan.  We love you. 
Joe Scarborough stars right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
END   

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