updated 3/20/2007 1:02:42 PM ET 2007-03-20T17:02:42

Guests: Pam Hess, Michael Weisskopf, Tom Andrews


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Now that conflict has come, the only way to limit its duration is to apply decisive force.  And I assure you, this will not be a campaign of half-measures, and we will accept no outcome but victory.  My fellow citizens, the dangers to our country and the world will be overcome.

Major combat operations in Iraq have ended.  In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.

Four years after this war began, the fight is difficult, but it can be won.  It will be won if we have the courage and resolve to see it through.


TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC HOST:  Four years into America‘s war in Iraq, the president today addressed the nation, his rhetoric largely in tact.  The situation on the ground, though, has changed dramatically.

Americans awaken this morning to news of eight more Iraqis killed by an explosion at a Shiite mosque during Monday prayers and 12 more dead in Kirkuk from a series of bombs.  For the next hour, we will examine where America is in Iraq and in the world four years after the war began, where we‘re headed, and, in a series of first-person accounts, where we have been.

We begin today with a report on the situation in Iraq at this moment.  We are joined by a man who has covered this conflict since the very beginning, NBC‘s Tom Aspell at Camp Victory in Iraq.

Tom, welcome.  How are Iraqis marking this anniversary of the war today? 

TOM ASPELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, they‘re not taking any special celebrations, any special way of marking the day, Tucker.  It‘s been a day like any other day, really.  You mentioned explosions in Kirkuk.  Well, there were four bombs, two of them car bombs, two of them roadside explosions, all going off more or less at the same time in the middle of the day, killing 12 Iraqis there and wounding more than 20. 

And, as you said, an explosion in a mosque down here in Baghdad.  Now, somebody left explosives inside that Shia mosque in a plastic bag.  And right after prayers finished, as the worshippers were exiting the mosques, those explosives blew up and at least four people killed, Iraqi police saying it could be as many as eight in that explosion there. 

Up and down the country, scores more Iraqis dead in a series of drive-by shootings, plain, old-fashioned murders, and bomb blasts from around Baghdad, right up into the north.  So, really, nothing special in Iraq today to mark the four-year anniversary.  Just violence as usual, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  The president said today on television here in the United States that the situation in and around Baghdad is improving with the addition of new American troops.  Is that obvious to you? 

ASPELL:  Well, there‘s certainly been a decline in the number of sectarian killings.  You know, since last February when this really got into the swing of Shia against Sunni and tit-for-tat revenge killings, on some days, Baghdad would see as many as 100 bodies every morning around the city, many of them bound, shot in the head execution-style.  Those numbers have certainly gone down.

On some days now, fewer than 20, sometimes only 10 bodies.  The killings are still going on, but at a reduced number.

But at the same time, out in the provinces outside of Baghdad, the attacks insurgents are mounting against, not only American troops, but Iraqi police, Iraqi army soldiers, increasing and becoming more deadly.  Just over the weekend, the bodies of nine Iraqi policemen, all of them beheaded, were discovered in Anbar province.  That‘s to the west of Baghdad.

So the campaign, really, in the provinces still as strong as ever, not only against the Americans, but against Iraqi security forces. 

CARLSON:  What about for you, Tom?  Is the security situation for reporters on the ground in Iraq more or less dire than it has been over the last couple of years? 

ASPELL:  I think it‘s probably about the same.  You know, the biggest fear for most people here is that of kidnapping.  A lot of it done—Shia picking up Sunnis, Sunnis picking up Shia, killing them as part of revenge, but also a lot of criminal activity, kidnapping for ransom, which is still going on here. 

We don‘t see so much about it now, because part of the new security plan for Baghdad includes a lot more patrols, both by Americans and Iraqis, and a lot more checkpoints.  But that doesn‘t mean that the kidnappers have disappeared.  They are still out there.  We are getting frequent security warnings about that, and we take precautions when we do move around—


CARLSON:  Are American troops more visible in the city, in the capital city of Baghdad? 

ASPELL:  They certainly are.  As the numbers increase—and I think there are probably two brigades here, with more on the way, the full 21,000 plus the (INAUDIBLE) troops, probably won‘t be seen until maybe early June, until the summer.  That‘s when the numbers will really be visible. 

But we do see more patrols.  And we‘ve certainly noticed a lot more Iraqi forces on the streets, as well, as I said, on those checkpoints, but also patrolling almost 24 hours a day now, as a lot more of those troops are brought into the capital to stand and fight alongside the Americans.  And the level of violence, as you said earlier, certainly has gone down, and there is an increased presence, both of Americans and Iraqi forces, on the streets. 

CARLSON:  NBC‘s Tom Aspell in Iraq.  Thanks a lot, Tom. 

The Bush administration spent much of this morning on television selling the importance of America‘s involvement in the war in Iraq and the progress we have made there.  The other significant talking point this morning:  patience.  Here‘s some of what President Bush and secretary of state said this morning. 


BUSH:  Prime Minister Maliki and General Petraeus emphasize that the Baghdad security plan is still in its early stages, and success will take months, not days or weeks. 

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE:  Nothing of value is ever won without sacrifice.  And it‘s going take some time for the situation and violence to change.  I would ask the American people, though, to be patient.  We‘ve invested a lot.  It‘s the worth the sacrifice.  And ultimately, I believe that we and the Iraqis together will prevail. 


CARLSON:  For more of the administration‘s response to the four-year anniversary of the war in Iraq, we are joined now by NBC News‘ chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell. 

Andrea, thanks for joining us.


CARLSON:  The president said this morning, in essence, things that he has said many times before.  Is there—and you‘re covering the White House—any sense that the White House has lost faith in its own rhetoric on Iraq? 

MITCHELL:  No, I don‘t think so.  In covering the State Department, the White House and other administration officials, they are calling for patience.  They think they‘ve got a new strategy with General Petraeus.  They think they have a new strategy, frankly, with Bob Gates, as you know. 

And they really want people to hang in there.  They certainly have been able to hold the Senate Republicans together, as you saw that vote last week, 48-50, when, in fact, war opponents needed 60 votes in the Senate to try to stop the war, doing anything symbolic or even binding.  They don‘t have the votes, the Democrats. 

So right now, they‘ve been able to hold it together.  And what is significant, if you drill down in the polling, as unpopular as the war is, as unpopular as the president seems to be, down to 35 percent in his best numbers, at least among Republicans, he and the war still have a lot of support. 

CARLSON:  Have you heard any talk of Plan B?  Is internally there any conversation of an out-date, you know, by which point we get out of Iraq if the surge doesn‘t work? 

MITCHELL:  Well, I think that the election calendar is going dictate that, Tucker.  You know politics as well as anyone.  And as the Republicans who are up for reelection in the Senate and other Republicans around the country begin to look at the election calendar and at the way the war is progressing, that‘s when you‘re going to see a big change.

CARLSON:  The Democrats are still trying to devise their strategy for how to handle the votes on war funding which are coming up. 


CARLSON:  Does the White House expect to win that?  Does it think there are going to be any sort of caveats attached to that funding?

MITCHELL:  Well, there may be some caveats, but I think the White House is fairly confident, after seeing what happened in the Senate, that they can pretty much be sure that they can win that vote, for now.  The House Appropriations Committee was one of the worst venues, if you will, for the administration on war funding.

But once it gets to the full House, I think they also are going to have a very hard, the antiwar Democrats, in trying to keep the binding nature of that.  And then, once it gets to the Senate, they really don‘t have a shot at it. 

CARLSON:  Do you think there is—back to something quickly you said a second ago—do you think the White House feels pressure from candidates of its own party to tie up Iraq by November of ‘08? 

MITCHELL:  Not yet, because if you look at the candidate who are—the existing, the declared, at least, Republican candidates, you‘ve got Giuliani.  You‘ve got Mitt Romney, certainly John McCain.  You don‘t have an antiwar Republican in there. 

Chuck Hagel, you know, took a bye on that, took a pass for now, and he would be the only antiwar Republican.  Fred Thompson certainly is not going come out strongly against the war, if he does get into this race.  Newt Gingrich, as well.

So you don‘t have strong voices right now among the presidential contenders in the Republican Party.  Whether that changes remains to be seen. 

The person with the most credibility on this, of course, is John McCain.  And the war is, I think potentially, a real problem for him in the general election, not yet within the Republican Party.  Republican problems for John McCain are from other vantage points, from those who feel he has not been loyal enough to the administration in the past. 

CARLSON:  And they do—they certainly feel that way.  Andrea Mitchell, thanks a lot.  I appreciate it.

MITCHELL:  You bet.  My pleasure.

CARLSON:  Coming up.  Poll after poll shows growing antiwar sentiment in the country, but the ferocity of the public protests so far have not matched the passion of that sentiment.  We‘ll look at demonstration across the country on this anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, and we‘ll talk to a leading organizer of those protests.

Plus, President Bush addressed the nation with his now familiar refrains today.  The war is difficult, Saddam‘s removal made the world safer, and we must and we can prevail.  Is anyone listening?  Does it change anything in either case?  We‘re back in a minute.


CARLSON:  With war comes protest inevitably, four years‘ worth in the case of the Iraq war.  As that conflict enters its fifth year, demonstrators march from California to New York City to the nation‘s capital, right here in Washington.  They were out in force today. 

Joining me now is someone who has spent her fair share time of protesting this war, the co-founder of Code Pink, Women for Peace, Medea Benjamin. 

Medea, thanks for coming on. 


CARLSON:  You all have been, I mean, almost by definition, hounding people lately, but you‘ve been going after Democrats, it seems to me, maybe more aggressively even than Republicans.  Why?

BENJAMIN:  Because we think maybe we can change their minds.  We think we helped to get them in power.  We voted them in with a mandate for peace, and now we expect that mandate to be fulfilled. 

CARLSON:  Well, you believe them?  You took them at their word?

BENJAMIN:  Call me naive, Tucker, but I think when people campaign and say, “I‘m going to end this war if you elect me,” then we elect them, and then we expect them to end the war.  We don‘t expect to sit back and say they‘re going to do it, and that‘s why we‘re still on their case and still pushing them to do what they said they were going to do. 

CARLSON:  The people from Code Pink are now camped out outside (INAUDIBLE) outside Nancy Pelosi‘s house in San Francisco.  I‘m not a big Nancy Pelosi defender, but that strikes me as unfair.  I mean, her family didn‘t do anything wrong.  It‘s not their fault.  Why bother her at home? 

BENJAMIN:  Well, we have bothered her in her office from the day after she got elected.  In fact, we‘ve been trying to have a meeting with her from the day after she got elected.  We‘ve been going to her office every single week and saying, “Please, can we have a meeting with our speaker?  We helped to get her elected.  We were excited about her coming in.  We thought it would bring some change.  And we want to see what that‘s going to be.”

We‘ve never been able to get that meeting.  We‘ve been going to her office in Washington, D.C., and we can‘t get the meeting.

And it‘s not just about the meeting, Tucker.  It‘s about the policies. 

And we don‘t see the kind of change that we want to see.

CARLSON:  Look, I totally understand why you‘re mad at Nancy Pelosi.  And good for you.  But isn‘t there a private sphere that ought to be respected?  You shouldn‘t trespass into people‘s personal lives and harass their families.

BENJAMIN:  Well, we‘re not.  We‘re on public property. 

CARLSON:  OK, but you‘re outside her house. 

BENJAMIN:  And we do it very graciously.  We have musicians coming with nice violin music.  And we have candles and lights.  And we offer some wine and cheese.  We want a dialogue, and we‘re asking nicely.  We don‘t go pounding on her door.  We sit quietly...

CARLSON:  I would be mad if you were outside my house. 

BENJAMIN:  Well, where do you live?  Maybe we‘ll come there.

CARLSON:  I‘m not going to tell you.  You‘re not welcome to have a wine and cheese party on my front lawn, no offense. 

Here‘s what I‘m bothered by, when it comes to Code Pink.  I have been opposed to this war for some time.  And so, in some general way, I agree with some of what you say.

But there seems to be almost a parity you create between the American occupation force and the insurgency.  This is from your Web site from February of ‘05.  Quote, “Over 30 years, Saddam Hussein murdered 300,000 people.  In one and a half years, the U.S. has murdered 100,000.”

There‘s no comparison between the killings that took place under Saddam and those that are taking place at the hands of the U.S. military.

BENJAMIN:  One‘s better, one‘s worse?  We don‘t want any of those killings.  We were against Saddam Hussein, and we‘re against the U.S.  occupation.

CARLSON:  You think when a United States Marine shoots somebody in a fire fight that is a murder? 

BENJAMIN:  I think we‘ve occupied somebody else‘s country and, as a result of that occupation, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died.  And I know a lot of people in Iraq who say they look back at the old days, and they had electricity, and they had water, and they had supplies in their hospitals, even under sanctions.  And they could go out of their homes.  And if they weren‘t challenging Saddam, they weren‘t going to be killed in the streets.  So they‘re miserable.

CARLSON:  OK.  But you need to, it seems to me, if you‘re going to be a credible opponent of the war, you need to acknowledge that, while the war is bad and counterproductive and probably hurts America and its authority abroad, it isn‘t—on a micro level, it‘s war being fought, in my cases, really bad people.  There are bad people in Iraq, people who are bad to other Iraqis and bad to us, and whose deaths we probably shouldn‘t mourn.  You will not acknowledge there are bad people in Iraq?  Or are they all victims of U.S. imperialism and therefore good?

BENJAMIN:  No.  I would acknowledge there‘s bad people in all places, and there‘s people who rose up because they don‘t like being occupied, and I feel that it‘s up to the Iraqis to bring their society back together.  We‘re not going to heal these difference that we‘ve helped exacerbate.  What we have to do is pull back, let the Iraqis start their reconciliation process, encourage the U.N., the Arab League and others to get involved, but we‘re not helping the situation.  We‘re hurting the situation.

CARLSON:  Now, Code Pink specifically—there are a lot of antiwar

groups.  But Code Pink I think of as the most flamboyant.  You are always

jumping up in congressional hearings, and unfurling banners, and getting

arrested and stuff.  One of your founders is a self-described witch, called

Starhawk.  And I‘m wondering—not attacking any witches here or anything

but I‘m wondering if you don‘t discredit or make seem less serious the antiwar movement by dressing in pink and doing all the street theater? 

BENJAMIN:  Well, first of all, a lot of people dress in pink.  There‘s even men who dress in pink.  In fact, I see a little bit of pink in that blue shirt there...

CARLSON:  I‘m not anti-pink, I‘m just saying.

BENJAMIN:  ... so dressing in pink is very nice.  And we do all kinds of things, Tucker.  We do very serious things.  We go to Iraq, we go to Iran, we investigate the situation, we learn a lot, we become experts in the field.  We organize; we vigil; we call; we do the traditional kinds of things.

And it hasn‘t worked, so we try some more creative kind of protests.  I don‘t think it makes the movement any less serious.  I think it shows the passion that we bring to this.  We are absolutely determined to end this war and, I should say, stop the next one, which it looks like would be in Iran.  

CARLSON:  I still think you ought to lay off of Nancy Pelosi‘s house. 

But other than that, go get her.

BENJAMIN:  Thank you.

CARLSON:  Thanks very much, Medea Benjamin.

Coming up, the Democratic Party took control of Congress on the strength of its opposition to President Bush‘s Iraq policy.  Well, months after the election and months into their rule on Capitol Hill, what have Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats done to alter that policy?  Not a lot.  Will they?  Can they?  Most important, should they?

Plus, a look back at the historic days of shock and awe.  Stay tuned for the amazing footage from four years ago today, as the bombs fell and victory seemed assured.  It seems like a long time ago.  We‘ll be right back.



REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), HOUSE MINORITY WHIP:  I certainly did not vote for failure, and I want success and seek success.  But the administration‘s policies have not garnered success.  We have increased troops on three different occasions.  Unfortunately, lamentably, it did not bring the stability and security that it was planned to bring. 


CARLSON:  November 7, 2006, appeared to be a turning point in the war in Iraq.  The Democratic Party won control of the Congress in an election that was, in part, a referendum on that war.  And yet, remarkably, since that election, not only are we still deep in a war with no obvious end, we have increased our troop commitment to Iraq.  Has Congress failed to rein in the president or did voters misunderstand the limits of congressional power?  And what do we do next?

Joining me now is the national director for Win Without War and former Democratic congressman from Maine, Tom Andrews.

Tom, thanks for coming on.

TOM ANDREWS, WIN WITHOUT WAR:  Thank you, Tucker.  Nice to be here.

CARLSON:  A macro-question.


CARLSON:  How disappointed are you in the last election?  You presumably voted—you‘re a Democrat.  You voted for Democrats.  A lot of people did, with the expectation that the war would be ended or at least slowed down, and it has, in fact, accelerated. 

ANDREWS:  It‘s frustrating, Tucker, for all of us.  Obviously, the stakes are very high in this war.  Americans are dying every single day.  Every day of delay from the Congress is yet one more day of death, you know, for Americans, so there‘s a lot of frustration.

On the other hand, you know, this is a congressional process.  The margin is very, very narrow between Democrats and Republicans.  The Democratic caucus is extremely diverse, as you know, and there‘s just a lot of negotiation that has to go on in order to achieve anything. 

CARLSON:  Hold on.  I mean, let‘s—of course, and I now—you know, you‘re a former member of Congress.  You know intimately how complicated the process is.  But, I mean, let‘s stand back a little bit. 

Thirty-five percent is the Democratic—is the president‘s approval rating.  The Democrats control the Congress, both houses.  Yes, it‘s a thin majority in both cases, but it‘s still a majority.  They can‘t do anything?  And the president just gets up and says, “Oh, we‘re sending more troops,” and they stand back, and they‘re impotent? 

ANDREWS:  Well, no, no, not quite.

CARLSON:  What‘s the point of voting for them? 

ANDREWS:  Not quite.  Let‘s step back a second.  First of all, the Appropriations Committee last week, as we know, voted, for the first time ever, they voted out a piece of legislation, an appropriations bill on the supplemental, that sets a date certain for U.S. troops to be out.  Now, that‘s the first time that has ever happened, number one.

Number two, we‘re going to get a real debate about what it will mean for U.S. troops to be systematically deployed from Iraq.  That we haven‘t seen ever before.

This week, this Thursday or Friday, there‘s going be a vote on the floor of the House as to whether or not there should be that date certain for troops to start—so, look, Tucker, that‘s progress. 

And, you know, when you have a diverse coalition like the Democratic caucus, and you have the margins as close as they are, trying to get everybody under that tent is a Herculean task. 

CARLSON:  I‘m sure it‘s difficult.

ANDREWS:  But the fact that we have these votes coming up, you know, that‘s not impotence.  I mean, it‘s not as far as I‘d like to see them go, absolutely, but it‘s not impotence. 

CARLSON:  Doesn‘t sound like Viagra, either.  Hillary Clinton—OK, look, whoever is the nominee is going to the leader of your party, right, and we‘ll know less than a year from now.  Hillary Clinton is the frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, who says we‘re going to get the troops out of Iraq, announces to “The New York Times” last week that, in fact, she has no intention of getting the troops out of Iraq.  She plans to leave large numbers of troops in Iraq.  Why?  To protect the oil in Iraq and to protect the region and our interests and the interests of Israel, et cetera.

I‘m speechless.  I mean, I actually don‘t even disagree with her.  But you ought to be apoplectic.

ANDREWS:  Well, this is a problem.  In fact, even the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, they‘ve done a lot of very good things, you know, having diplomacy, for example, establishing an international Iraq study group and support, that‘s all good.

But they have, as one of their provisions, after the combat troops are taken out—they‘re recommending next spring—they say we should allow, in some cases, tens of thousands, perhaps, of training troops to be not only in Iraq, but embedded within Iraqi units. 

So you‘re in an Iraqi unit.  You‘re a kid, you know, 19-, 20-year-old American kid.  You don‘t who is the enemy, who is an ally.  You have all of these militias, vicious militias, embedded in the government‘s police and army.  That‘s the last place I want to see these kids. 

CARLSON:  I agree.

ANDREWS:  So we‘ve got to clarify this.  Look, the leadership said there are going to be several steps in this process.  The first step, obviously, was—and we talked about this—it was very unsatisfying—it was the non-binding resolution.  Second step is the supplemental appropriation this week.  Right after this, in a few weeks, there‘s going to be the authorization bill for defense and then the appropriation for that.  We‘re looking at several bites of the apple, ready to take as many bites as we can get.

CARLSON:  I know.  It‘s just pretty shocking for Hillary Clinton to say that.  It‘s like, after all, she‘s not all that against the war.

Tom Andrews, thank you very much.

ANDREWS:  Thank you, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Coming up, four years ago, the Bush administration promised shock and awe, and so it was.  After the break, a riveting look back at the first hours of the war in Iraq. 

Plus, six weeks after shock and awe, we got mission accomplished.  While America hopes for the delivery of a stable and secure Iraq, where has President Bush‘s policy left our country relative to the rest of the world?  Dennis Kucinich, live from London, in just a moment.



CARLSON:  After months of build-up, with the vast majority of Americans supporting him, President Bush ordered the U.S. military to invade Iraq, remove Saddam Hussein, and, he hoped, establish a free and democratic country in the Middle East.  Here now is a look back to that very first day, the shock and awe, the unprecedented air and ground assault on Baghdad.  Reporting that day was Peter Arnett, who spoke with NBC‘s Tom Brokaw during the very moments the war began.


PETER ARNETT, REPORTER:  Violent explosions—more, more, the sky lit up now.  (INAUDIBLE) blowing apart the prized presidential compound of Saddam Hussein.  Many of those administrative buildings going up in smoke and fire, Tom.  Again, another, another, just disintegrating, bigger than the Gulf War, Tom, the first Gulf War, much bigger these explosions.  This is shock and awe, Tom, for the population of Baghdad, shock and awe. 

Right in front of us, at least 10 major buildings destroyed, Tom, in the course of about two minutes.  An amazing sight!  Just like out of an action movie, but this is real.  This is real.  This is shock and awe, Tom. 

The rest of the palace is being taken out, Tom, to the south of us.  Other buildings, at least 30, 40 cruise missiles have come in at this point.  One building after another going down, Tom.  They‘re taking out whole buildings with these cruise missiles, whole buildings. 

Saddam Hussein has constructed the west bank of the city in the past 20 years of its government.  It‘s disappearing before our very eyes.  The main presidential compound, the prize of Saddam Hussein, is gone. 


CARLSON:  That was then.  For the view four years later, we are now joined by the defense correspondent for United Press International, Pamela Hess, who just returned a week and a half ago from a month in Iraq. 

Pam, thanks for coming on.


CARLSON:  Every time you talk to people in the U.S., they seem so pessimistic about Iraq.  Why is it that every time we hear from military, U.S. military commanders on the ground there, they seem so optimistic?

HESS:  It‘s hard to generalize, of course, about something like the military, which isn‘t quite as monolithic as people would think, but that was one of the questions that I had when I went over the month, which is, why are you guys seemingly so confident about this? 

And the answer is complicated.  Militaries tend to be optimistic organizations.  It‘s just much easier to lead people into combat if you believe that you can win.  But I think the main difference is that they regard this war from the bottom up, and we at home tend to look at it from the top down. 

We see sort of the daily coverage, but they see the mechanics of the day-to-day things that they‘re doing.  The way that they judge how the war is going—and I want to be clear that none of them are saying, “It‘s going great,” but they‘re just more confident than Americans that it‘s going better in general. 

But the way that they judge is through these tiny, little inches of things that are hard to really measure.  They‘re hard for us to measure back here.  We can measure the number of people killed, the number of people wounded, the number of car bombs.  But what they‘re looking at is, is a market functioning in a town?  Are people volunteering to join the police force?  Are tips coming in?  Are people telling us when IEDs are being found?

What they‘re fighting for is a psychological battlefield, and we tend to look at things as a geographic battlefield.  And so there‘s a mismatch between that. 

But more than confidence, what I saw out there is real determination.  They want to win.  And the reasons are just as multiple.  All over the place, I found—let me say that the war is very individual for these people.  They don‘t see the war as one big thing.  They see it as their little piece of the war. 

So if you‘re in Haditha or you‘re in Al-Khayyam or you‘re in Barwana, that‘s what you see, and that‘s the war that they‘re intent on winning, because they know the people that they‘re fighting with, alongside of, and the people that they‘re fighting to protect.  So more than confidence, I see determination and a willingness to see this through.  It doesn‘t necessarily translate to say what the United States should do or have to do, but that‘s where they come down on it.

CARLSON:  Right.  You say that the people they are fighting to protect, that implies that the average U.S. soldier, to the extent you can generalize, sees himself as fighting on the morally right side, fighting evil. 

HESS:  Yes.  And, you know, again, that‘s a really hard thing I think for us to grasp back here.  But, again, if you look at the tiny little battlefield that each of these people are fighting on—I talked to a medic who responded to the scene of a 12-year-old kid that was shot in the face four times.  I talked to another medic who was patching up a U.S.  soldier who‘d had the back of his head blown off. 

People who are responding to the scene when a family is kidnapped or when decapitated bodies are found, these kinds of things tend to crystallize in them a determination not to let people who would do that win.  So that was something that I saw that really struck me there. 

They have a very personal experience of this place.  And, you know, and it‘s not all heroics.  I mean, combat has a very profound impact on people, and it changes them. 

And if you don‘t mind, I‘d like to read a quote.  I was at a memorial service for a lance corporal in the Marine Corps who was killed by an IED.  He was the 10th in his battalion to be killed.  And his best friend got up and spoke at this memorial service.  And he was telling the guys in the company what they could expect when they go home.

He said, “If you haven‘t noticed how different we are from everyone else yet, you will when you‘re on your way from Marsh Air Force Base (ph), and you look out the bus window, and you see the world passing you by, being completely oblivious to us and our way of life and what we did and the hell we came from.” 

They have a totally different experience of this war than we do back at home, and it‘s sort of heart-wrenching to be out there among them and to see what they are dealing with everyday. 

CARLSON:  Well, since you do spend your life around members of the military, maybe you can answer this question.  I don‘t know the answer.  What motivates people to join the Army, join the Marine Corps, with, in my cases, at least in the Marine Corps case, with almost certain knowledge they‘re going to Iraq, this very unpopular war?  The conventional answer is they do it for the money, but I suspect it‘s more complicated than that.  Is it?

HESS:  Yes, I think that sort of denigrates people.  Certainly the economics are huge, though.  You have extremely high reenlistment rates in the combat zone.  And most people sort of say, “Well, that‘s because they‘re so committed to the mission,” and that‘s part of it.  Mostly what they‘re committed to is each other, and they don‘t want to be seem bailing out on their buddies.

But they also get huge bonuses if they sign up when they‘re overseas, so some of them are getting $40,000 reenlistment bonuses, and that‘s a hard thing to say no to.  So if you‘re going to reenlist, you do it overseas, you get more money.  So economics is a factor in this. 

But there‘s a great camaraderie that comes from being in the military, a sense of mission.  I talked to a lot of people who were in the military, got out, and got back in, because they just didn‘t like how their civilian life was shaping up.  They didn‘t feel like they were a part of a team.

There is a sense of patriotism among these people, and there is a sense that I want to do something that‘s hard and that‘s worthwhile doing.  And, I mean, if you look at the regard with which the American public holds the military, it‘s quite high.  It‘s consistently the highest or one of the top highest ranked institutions in the country, and there are people that want to be a part of it. 

Once they get over there, you know, we tend to talk about, “Oh, they‘re fighting for America.  They‘re fighting for our freedoms.”  And there is all of that out there.  But really, they‘re fighting for each other, and they‘re fighting for the people that they‘re getting to know in these towns where they‘re working.  Their commitment is to all coming home in tact.  That‘s what they‘re fighting for.

CARLSON:  Pamela Hess, UPI at the Pentagon, thanks a lot, Pam, I appreciate that. 

HESS:  Sure.

CARLSON:  Coming up, it appeared to be a moment of triumph, as U.S.  forces joined jubilant Iraqis in the toppling of Saddam‘s statue in Baghdad.  In a minute, reflections on that moment from a reporter injured in the cycle of violence that has terrorized Iraq ever since. 

Plus, Colin Powell tried to sell the world on the merits of the U.S.  invasion.  Few of our allies bought the pitch back then.  How do they feel now?  And how much should Americans care about how they feel now?  Dennis Kucinich joins us from London in just a minute.


CARLSON:  The casualty statistics from Iraq are staggering.  More than 3,000 Americans killed, tens of thousands more badly injured, literally uncountable numbers of Iraqis killed or maimed by war.  Violence sometimes lost in the overwhelming statistics is this fact:  Every single story of soldiers and citizens killed represents the immeasurable cost.  We‘re glad to be joined now by a man wounded in Iraq, not a soldier but reporter.  He is senior correspondent for “Time” magazine, Michael Weisskopf.

Michael Weisskopf, thanks a lot for joining us.

MICHAEL WEISSKOPF, “TIME” MAGAZINE:  Good to be here, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  You were injured in a Humvee, tossing... 

WEISSKOPF:  Yes, I was.

CARLSON:  ... a grenade out.  Lost your hand, and you wrote a book about it.  Are you ever bitter about the Iraq war, since the cost to you was profound? 

WEISSKOPF:  I would rather it not have happened, but it‘s pretty hard to be bitter about or angry against an idea.  And, after all, whoever through that grenade in had an idea behind him.  So, you know, I‘ve heard actually that the guy who through the grenade in was later found and arrested. 

CARLSON:  Really?

WEISSKOPF:  Yes, yes.

CARLSON:  What happened to him? 

WEISSKOPF:  On my book tour a couple of months ago, I ran into the colonel who headed the battalion I was in.  And he told me that the guy was arrested and he was presumably thrown in maybe Abu Ghraib or wherever they held, detained people in those days.  And I don‘t know what became of him eventually.  And I don‘t know who he was or what his age was.

CARLSON:  Wow.  I mean, are you motivated to track him down and write about it?  Would you be interested in...

WEISSKOPF:  I thought about it.  But how do you find somebody in a system like that?  It would be an enormously difficult process, but it would be an interesting idea. 

CARLSON:  Have you views on the war changed because of your experiences in it? 

WEISSKOPF:  My views of the war changed primarily because of my time at Walter Reed, where I recovered and spent time in late ‘03 and most of ‘04, both as an inpatient and as an outpatient.  And I was in Iraq right after the invasion, after Saddam was ousted.

And I saw the tremendous jubilation on the faces of Iraqi youth who were able to enjoy freedom for the first time.  They were able to congregate and to protest or to just raise hell if they wanted to.  And it was quite a moment to be there, as an American.

And I was then at Walter Reed, on kind of the flipside of it, months later, as our soldiers were recovering from the ravages of the insurgency.  And I‘ll never forgot being inside of a occupational therapy ward, and a young man was wheeled in, one of our soldiers—he was a specialist, 25 years old, from Pittsburg—who had lost both eyes in the war and both hands. 

And I thought, “What a cruel fate.  Not only was he blinded, but he couldn‘t—he didn‘t even have hands to carry a cane or to read Braille.”  And I thought at that point really that a moment of happiness and jubilation for Iraqi youth wasn‘t worth a lifetime of darkness for this 25-year-old American soldier. 

And it was strictly an emotional reaction, aside from the geopolitical kind of historical versions of this war.  It was really just from the standpoint of a casualty. 

CARLSON:  Yes, I think you‘re right on target.  Actually, I think you can extrapolate from that.  I think you can make some important policy decisions, actually, based on that. 

You‘ve been at the center of two of the biggest stories of the decade. 

You were at Walter Reed.  What was your treatment like?

WEISSKOPF:  Exemplary.

CARLSON:  Did you notice...

WEISSKOPF:  It was terrific.  And I was a patient there, and I was released to my home.  And I remained an outpatient there, but I came on a daily basis, so I didn‘t live in the community.  But I can tell you that, in the outpatients I knew there over the years, all I heard were, really, grumbles about paperwork and bureaucracy, not about Building 18.  I had never been to Building 18.  Of course, it was an outrage and should have been corrected.  And my understanding is it will be corrected very quickly. 

And if attention is brought here to the plight of soldiers wounded in this war, that‘s great.  I applaud that.  They deserve the best.  They don‘t deserve to wait in line for anything.

CARLSON:  How much do you think the coverage has shrunk because of the risk in Iraq?

WEISSKOPF:  Enormously.  When I was in Iraq, after the invasion, we got to live and to visit on a regular basis with Iraqis.  And we don‘t know quite what hell this is in their lives at this point.  And after all, this was a war that was—it was really done in their name, to help Iraqis, as well as, of course, Americans in terms of security.  But, ultimately, the idea of ridding the place of this odious dictator was to improve the life of the average Iraqi.  And we really don‘t know.  It is much too dangerous for any journalist to stick his head out for very long.

CARLSON:  Depressing.  Michael Weisskopf, “Time” magazine, thanks very much.

WEISSKOPF:  Pleasure.

CARLSON:  I appreciate it.

Coming up, Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich has always been against the war in Iraq, but now it‘s at a different level.  He is now using the “I” word, impeachment.  Will his colleagues follow his lead?  We‘ll ask him, live from London, when we come back.



REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO:  We need to re-evaluate the direction of this administration by looking at its conduct of office, by determining whether it has faithfully followed the laws of our nation.  Its actions towards Iran already constitute a case to ask the question about impeachment.  So I‘m asking you:  What do you think?  Do you think it‘s time? 


CARLSON:  Ohio Congressman and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, we are joined now by Michael Weisskopf from “Time” magazine.  Technical difficulties prevent us from joining Mr. Kucinich.

Michael Weisskopf, is there any realistic possibility that a move for impeachment will gain any steam in the House? 

WEISSKOPF:  Of course, possibility is a big word, but it‘s pretty unlikely.  I think most of the energies of this congressman‘s own party are bound up in investigating the kind of causes of this war and some of the economic abuses of it.  So I would gather that Congress has been burdened once on the question of impeachment...

CARLSON:  That‘s for sure.

WEISSKOPF:  ... and it‘s unlikely that they‘ll go down that path. 


CARLSON:  Didn‘t help a lot for the Republicans in the end. 

WEISSKOPF:  No, it didn‘t.

CARLSON:  With respect to Walter Reed, you were, as I understand it, the first and so far only journalist injured in combat to be treated at Walter Reed.  Were you shocked when you read the “Post” series explaining the travesty of poor treatment there? 

WEISSKOPF:  I was shocked, in fact.  And it really wasn‘t a travesty of treatment; it was a travesty of lifestyle after treatment, in this kind of outpatient realm, which many wounded soldiers found themselves after they were deemed healthy enough to leave the hospital bed. 

And, yes, it was pretty shocking, particularly this Building 18, where there were large numbers of American soldiers kept over time.  However, in proportion to the very great things Walter Reed does, it really—Building 18 measures kind of small. 

It was a tremendous shock effect and needed to be corrected, but there was a great deal more that was done on a daily basis for patients and outpatients there that probably was missed in both the telling of the story and kind of the reaction to it.

CARLSON:  Boy, it must be crushing, then, for the physicians and the people who run Walter Reed—and if they‘re doing as good a job as you say, they must be proud of what they do—to have the name Walter Reed become synonymous with shoddy treatment in the public mind.

WEISSKOPF:  Oh, it certainly is.  And they‘re great professionals, Tucker.  And interestingly, the reason for that big backlog in patients, in part, was good medicine, and that is that, instead of releasing these guys after their hospitalization ended to the V.A. system, which everyone knows has its own huge problems, many of these guys were kept later in order to provide them the latest in prosthesis care and training, the latest in therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injuries.  And, yes, they built up over time, and, no, they were not well provided for. 

But it really was a system that kind of developed on its own and truly was not well projected for and well taken care of, but not one that was of evil intent.

CARLSON:  I read where you said that there have been very few advances in prostheses really for decades until this war, and Walter Reed has led the way.  How much better are they now? 

WEISSKOPF:  Well, it‘s certainly true for upper-arm prostheses, like with the one I have.  And, really, the changes and the advantages in this type of prosthesis are fairly minor.

In the legs, however, with computer-driven knees, they are much better.  They are much more able, for leg amputations, much more able to get through a different kind of terrain and different speeds than they were in the past.  And Walter Reed has really been on the cutting edge.  It‘s driven it; it‘s built up a tremendous number of case histories, just by the number of patients treated. 

CARLSON:  How many patients have they treated?  I mean, can you give us some sense of the scope of soldiers who have lost limbs in Iraq? 

WEISSKOPF:  About a month ago, I wrote a story about the 500th American soldier to lose a limb in Iraq.  And many of them have lost more than one limb, particularly now with the increase in the power of these roadside bombs.  They are really taking off tremendous parts of the body.

Sometimes it‘s not unusual now to see somebody who lost two limbs in a place like Walter Reed.  In my day, three years ago, it was more ordinary to see somebody who lost one leg or one arm. 

CARLSON:  And back to the event the grenade in which you were wounded, that attack, how long did it take from when you were wounded until you received medical care? 

WEISSKOPF:  Oh, 10 minutes, until the time I received medical care in a battalion clinic, and less than that by the time a medic had jumped into my Humvee.  And that‘s one of the untold stories about this war, is just how fast that care really takes place. 

And part of it is because of the concentration of American troops.  During Vietnam, they were spread all over the jungle.  And a guy who was injured miles away from a medic often had to wait an hour.  But because in this war, we‘re talking about a pretty small zone, they‘re usually close by medics.

CARLSON:  Amazing.  Mike Weisskopf, thank you very much.

WEISSKOPF:  You‘re welcome. 

CARLSON:  That does it for us.  Thanks for watching.  Up next, HARDBALL with Chris Matthews.  I‘ll be back in about 45 minutes with a live update from an antiwar protest here in Washington.  See you then.



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