Msnbc Live at 6 p.m. ET, Monday May 2nd, 2011
Read the transcript from the Monday 6 p.m. hour
Guests: Roger Cressey, Philip Mudd, Barry McCaffrey, Evan Kohlmann, Steve
Clemons, Robert Greenwald
CENK UYGUR, HOST: Good evening. I‘m Cenk Uygur, live from Los Angeles.
Well, we‘ve had an interesting couple of days, haven‘t we?
Today we‘re learning a lot more about the amazing details about how the secret U.S. force hunted down and killed Osama bin Laden. It‘s an operation that apparently was months in the making and unfolded yesterday in an unbelievable 40 minutes of action.
Well, we‘re going to talk a lot more about that and give you some clarity on those details.
Joining me now, NBC terrorism analyst Roger Cressey. Also with me, Philip Mudd. He‘s the former deputy director for the CIA. He was also the FBI‘s first-ever deputy director for national security, and then senior intelligence adviser.
All right. Philip, let me start with you.
First, on the intelligence issue, where did we get this intelligence, and how did it lead to this dramatic raid?
PHILIP MUDD, FMR. DEPUTY DIRECTOR, CIA: This is very difficult intelligence to collect. You‘re talking about somebody who doesn‘t communicate and who rarely has contacts with his subordinates.
So, as the president said, the information was collected beginning last summer. You have somebody, presumably, who was a courier between the main al Qaeda organization and its leadership. And over time, you have to take bits of pieces of sand.
How does he communicate? How often? What does the compound look like? How can you verify who‘s there? What kind of threat would you face if you enter that compound.?
Put these bits of sand together, and eventually, over eight months, determine whether it‘s useful to take a stab at the compound. Remarkable intelligence success.
UYGUR: All right. And where do we think we got that intelligence? Is there any updates on how we might have acquired it? Was it from Gitmo or otherwise?
MUDD: I‘ve heard comments about Gitmo. It‘s hard to understand how somebody in Gitmo like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was captured eight years ago, would have current information. But this kind of thing, it sounds interesting in the media, it looks like a headline, it looks like a big story. What it really is behind the scenes is, one individual, two individuals, technical information, combined with things like satellite imagery, photographs from space.
Slowly but surely, in contrast to the kind of headlines you see in “The Washington Post” and “The New York Times,” it‘s bits and pieces from different individuals, maybe from satellite photographs that show a security footprint on the ground. Bits and piece that slowly lead you to say maybe what one individual said eight months ago is true, and it‘s sufficient for the president to say we‘re going to go.
UYGUR: All right. You know, that is really interesting, because I hear a lot of talk about Gitmo, and I love what you just said, because it makes perfect sense, that we couldn‘t have possibly gotten it from some guy we‘ve been keeping there for six years, or however long it‘s been, for some of those detainees.
Now, let me bring in Roger Cressey here.
Roger, let‘s talk about this idea about either killing or capturing Osama. What does it mean that it was not really a capture operation, that it was an operation to kill Osama? I mean, do you say, hey, if you‘ve got him, kill him anyway? I‘m not quite sure I know what that means.
ROGER CRESSEY, NBC TERROR ANALYST: Well, Cenk, I think some of the reporting on this has been actually off. The president‘s counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, said today pretty explicitly that there was a capture option here.
The force that went in did have pretty explicit instructions, that, capture if possible. And if that was not on the table, then to neutralize the subject. So, you‘re trusting your Special Forces to make the right choice on the ground in a very hostile and hot environment. And that clearly what was they had to do, and they performed brilliantly.
UYGUR: Roger, let me ask you about this Special Force that came in from JSOC. We‘re going to talk a little bit about it later on in the program as well. We have got somebody who was part of that operation—not in the operation to get bin Laden in this case, but that was part of JSOC before.
Tell us—the audience a little bit about what that is. And do we have a better capability now to be able to swoop in with helicopters that we didn‘t have before, for example, when you worked in the Clinton administration?
CRESSEY: No, and it‘s tough to compare the two. Joint Special Operations Command is the ultimate point, tip of the sword, some of our most experienced and highly-trained fighters. But what‘s important to, Cenk, to understand is what Phil said, which is you put together a mosaic of information to paint an intelligence picture, and then when you have as high degree as possible of confidence in the accuracy of that information, you then task the military operators to come up with a con (ph) plan, an operational plan for going in there.
That‘s what the president did. He tasked JSOC to say, all right, give me a plan for how you would do this. And then that‘s one part.
The second part of it is, we‘ve had years of experience now in operating in the Afghan theater and then in the adjacent Pakistan theater. The degree of comfort we now have in that region is the highest it‘s ever been. That really helps as well.
And then the third thing is you have a group of military leaders now with so much on-the-ground experience, the civilian leadership and the national command authority trust them explicitly when it comes to planning and executing this type of operation.
All that said, Cenk, there was an enormous risk associated with it, and the fact of the matter is they pulled it off, and pulled it off brilliantly.
UYGUR: I want to talk about that risk a little bit more. We‘re going to bring in General Barry McCaffrey now, who‘s of course an analyst here.
But before we do, General, actually, I want you to listen to a clip from John Brennan, talking about how courageous this was. Let‘s watch it first.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BRENNAN, WHITE HOUSE ADVISER ON HOMELAND SECURITY: We thought that the best way to ensure that his body was given appropriate—an appropriate Islamic burial was to take those actions that would allow us to do that burial at sea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: All right. That was actually the burial at sea video clip.
But let me ask you about that as well.
General McCaffrey, you know, realistically here, they didn‘t want there to be a grave, right, where people could come and it could be a shrine of some sort. That was certainly part of the decision to do the burial at sea, right?
GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY (RET.), NBC NEWS MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, I think so. We‘ve had a tremendous continuing problem with Saddam Hussein‘s burial site up in Tikrit acting as really a focal point for continued Sunni terrorism.
So I think the thought was, dispose of it, cover yourself by saying we did it in accordance with Islamic rules, but get rid of the body, where it can‘t remain a continuing problem. It was a smart move, one of many smart moves on this operation.
UYGUR: All right. Now, let me go back to the Brennan video on the courageous operation. Let‘s watch that real quick.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRENNAN: There was nothing that confirmed that bin Laden was at the compound, and therefore when President Obama was faced with the opportunity to act upon this, the president had to evaluate the strength of the information, and then made what I believe was one of the most gutsiest calls of any president in recent memory.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: So, General McCaffrey, let‘s talk about that decision to go in with that JSOC team instead of bombing from the air. Do you think that was the correct way to go? And tell us the upsides and downsides of that decision.
MCCAFFREY: Well, I think it was extremely courageous on the part of the president. There‘s a ton of things that can go wrong.
You can end up with a busted operation, with your Special Ops people killed or missing, with downed aircraft. The easier way, of course, is to just back off and hit it with a 2,000-pound GPS-guided bomb from 40,000 feet with deniability, but then we wouldn‘t know ever, possibly, whether we had killed him, and there would have been a huge risk of collateral damage, so-called, of killing innocent civilians.
So, again, I think it was a remarkable decision, it was beautifully executed by some extremely courageous people, which, as Roger Cressey notes, some of these guys have done 200 or 300 raid operations. So they are incredibly professional at what they do.
UYGUR: Right. And I read a report about when they were given the mission, that they erupted this cheers because they were so excited to do it, which is great. It‘s great to hear that we‘ve got guys like that who are willing to go into any situation to go get the bad guys.
Now, Philip, let‘s talk about Pakistan a little bit. I want to bring you back in.
Apparently, we did not tell Pakistan, although there were some initial reports that their secret intelligence was working with us. Now that does not seem that likely.
What, if anything, did we tell Pakistan? And if we didn‘t tell them anything, was that the right decision?
MUDD: I think it was the right decision. Look, I think there‘s been a lot of commentary on this today. Frankly, a lot of it misguided.
We have a Pakistani military and security service in government that‘s under a lot of pressure from its own people, from its parliament. They‘ve been engaged in a civil war now for nine years. That is, a war against their own people in the tribal areas next to Afghanistan.
They have lost a lot of people in that war, but at the same time, they have a lot of sympathizers at lower levels in the security service or the military. So, on the one hand, to criticize Pakistan for leaking, it‘s been happening since day one. We ought to accept it.
On the other hand, they‘ve been a good partner. They‘ve lost a lot of people in this campaign. And we‘re going to continue to depend on them in coming months and years.
So it‘s not surprising to me that we didn‘t tell them because we were afraid of a leak. At the same time, we ought not to be sitting here saying we have a terrible partner we can‘t cooperate with. This is a sovereign country, and it‘s a country we‘re going to need to chase Zawahiri, the second in command, and others. So we ought to sit back and say, look, we‘re in this for the long haul, let‘s relax and let‘s keep going.
UYGUR: Roger, the decision to go in with a small force, do you think that was driven more by the need for certainty that we absolutely got bin Laden? Was it driven more by keeping civilian causalities down because there were apparently many children and women? And is that, you know, a very important thing to consider going forward, that perhaps, hey, you know what, we should use these kinds of forces more if we want to limit those kinds of casualties?
CRESSEY: Cenk, all those considerations factored in. But we can‘t take two and two and cup up with 2,000 on this.
JSOC did a very impressive mission, highly-focused, highly targeted, really good actionable intelligence. You then can‘t draw the conclusion, well, we need to be dropping SEAL Team 6 and other Special Forces into Pakistan on a regular basis because it has to be intelligence-driven.
We operate until a policy of actionable intelligence. When we see targets of opportunity, we can corroborate that it is what we think it is. We then go after it.
We‘ve been successful from the air with Predator, and now we‘ve been successful with a boots-on-the-ground mission. But each scenario, each situation is different. So we‘ve always got to be careful with that.
And one other point here. And I think Phil is absolutely right. Pakistan is a sovereign country. They have their own national security interests.
Sometimes those interests are going to diverge from ours. That‘s what countries do.
Our job is to find common areas of understanding, and we work together. We need to understand that. And I think this administration and even the last administration understood that.
There‘s a fundamental schizophrenia in some parts of Pakistan‘s national security apparatus. We accept it and we work with it to achieve the objectives that we want. What we don‘t do is turn our back on that whole country and do something stupid like sanctions, because we‘ll end up screwing ourselves in the process.
UYGUR: Right. There‘s no question that it‘s a delicate balance. And there is no black-and-white answer that Pakistan is good or Pakistan is bad, though you can draw some conclusions by where the compound was. That does not play well for the Pakistani government since it was so close to their military schools, et cetera.
But General McCaffrey, I want to talk about another nation as well, Afghanistan. What does this mean for our mission, whatever that might be, in Afghanistan?
MCCAFFREY: Well, one thing to add to the earlier commentary, the importance of Pakistan is hard to overstate, not just because they‘re a giant country with nuclear weapons, but in addition, were it not for our ability to take our logistics through the port of Karachi on a 1,000-mile run up through the Khyber Pass, or into the southern approach, into Kandahar, we could not for 90 days continue to support 150,000 NATO troops 800 miles from the sea. So, Pakistan is absolutely primary to our ability to continue this struggle.
I think looking forward in Afghanistan, there may well be an impact on al Qaeda‘s ability to recruit and retain. I‘m not sure. I don‘t believe it‘s going to have a significant role on what‘s going on inside Afghanistan to the extent that this is a tribal war of the Pashtuns against the rest of them, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Tajiks et cetera.
So, I think the war will continue, but that doesn‘t detract from this as a major shot in the arm to the U.S. armed forces. Forty-eight thousand killed and wounded fighting the war on terror. This is a good day for the U.S. armed forces.
UYGUR: All right. We will talk more about whether we should continue in Afghanistan a little later in the program.
And in a minute, we‘re going to talk more about the Pakistani relationship and the fact of where the compound was, was, I think, devastating, at least in terms of what some of the Pakistanis knew. We‘ll get into more details on that.
But for now, Roger Cressey, Philip Mudd and General Barry McCaffrey, we really appreciate your time tonight.
CRESSEY: Thank you.
MUDD: Thank you.
MCCAFFREY: Good to be with you.
UYGUR: All right.
Now, with bin Laden dead, is the war on terror over? And the questions about Pakistan are mounting, as I told you. What did Pakistan know and when did they know it? NBC‘s Richard Engel on all of that, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRENNAN: -- last night, because we felt as though we were comfortable enough to go out to the American people and out to the world to say we got him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president‘s reaction at any time?
BRENNAN: “We got him.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: That was President Obama‘s top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, summing it up in three simple words: “We got him.”
But top U.S. officials have been making it clear all day long that the threat of al Qaeda and other terror groups is far from over. There are also big questions today about the role of Pakistan‘s government in all of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRENNAN: I think it‘s inconceivable that bin Laden did not have a support system in the country that allowed him to remain there for an extended period of time. I am not going to speculate about what type of support he might have had on an official basis inside of Pakistan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: So, what did Pakistan know and when did they know it? Those are important questions.
Well, Richard Engel is NBC‘s chief foreign correspondent. He‘s in Benghazi, Libya, and he‘s going to help answer some of those questions.
Richard, it seems so unlikely, apparently, to us and John Brennan that you could have Osama bin Laden‘s compound within 4,000 feet of a top Pakistani military school and they wouldn‘t know it.
What does your experience in Pakistan inform you about that concept?
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: First of all, it was just amazing to hear him say, “We got him.” It brought me back to Iraq. That was the same phrase U.S. officials used in Baghdad when they got Saddam Hussein. I can‘t imagine that parallel is a coincidence.
Going back to Pakistan, the Pakistani government controls the situation on the ground very tightly. It knows who comes and goes and who lives where, particularly in military communities.
This is a community like West Point. This is the top military training facility where bin Laden was living, right next to it. And you can imagine if a wanted terrorist were living in the United States, and suddenly he were discovered living in West Point, next to a bunch of retired generals, I think the U.S. would be very sheepish in trying to explain how that happened.
UYGUR: You know, there was a story that I think I heard from you about when you lived in Pakistan, the government checking in on you. I think that might inform the audience about how things work there.
Can you tell us about that?
ENGEL: Sure. I rented a house in Pakistan. And when you rent a house, you have to go to the state officials.
You register it, you write down every bit of personal details. They photocopy your passport. They will send an official to the house to check up on you.
So it is not an anonymous process like finding a single room occupancy on Craigslist where you just show up and leave. It is a very detailed file that you have to fill out in order to live in Pakistan, particularly in elite military communities like this one.
UYGUR: Well, then, I have a definite conclusion—they definitely knew. Of course, the question, Richard, is who knew? Could it be possible that maybe some parts of the military knew but the civilian leadership didn‘t know?
ENGEL: We were told that no senior ranking military officers knew. Now, I don‘t know what “senior” means exactly, if that means colonels and above, generals and above. It does sound that lower-level military officers did know who was living inside of that compound, but we‘re told not the top levels of the Pakistani intelligence agency or the military.
UYGUR: Who is telling us that? Richard, who is telling us that?
ENGEL: That‘s coming from U.S. officials.
UYGUR: U.S. officials? OK. But they have to also protect relationships with Pakistan, which you saw Brennan trying to do as well.
So, that leads to the next question. What is the state of our relationship with Pakistan?
ENGEL: Well, government to government right now, it‘s probably strained, but they are trying to keep it on good terms. I spoke with a senior counterterrorism official in the United States, and he said this is the time to build a relationship with Pakistan. We want that relationship to get better and better because, OK, Osama bin Laden is gone, but number 2, 3, 4, 5 and down the line are still alive. And you want to keep the momentum going right now, after you‘ve decapitated (INAUDIBLE).
The American people, I am sure that they will be growing increasingly frustrated as this news come out, particularly if they‘re from military families, families who had maybe injured soldiers or killed (INAUDIBLE) sheltering this individual, Osama bin Laden. Why did my son or daughter have to go out and fight for all of these years when Pakistan knew exactly where he was?
On the Pakistan side, there will be a feeling that the United States went in with helicopters, violated their sovereignty, took people from the ground, and paid no respect to their national dignity.
UYGUR: Yes, boo-hoo. That‘s my opinion.
So, Richard, the last question for you is, on the state of al Qaeda as it stands now throughout the world, does this shift power to al Qaeda in Yemen, al Qaeda in Somalia, as more of the central hubs for al Qaeda now?
ENGEL: I don‘t think it will flow from the top down to the roots. Al Qaeda was already very broken up. And each cell, or franchise, as they‘re generally called, is pretty much self-sufficient.
The one in the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, operates autonomously, it raises its own funds. It raises its own recruits. But this will seriously deal a blow to the recruiting drive.
Osama bin Laden‘s existence, his mystique, had been something of a—well, a point of prestige for al Qaeda around the world. So when the most important figure in the organization is killed by the Americans, ,and al Qaeda can‘t do anything to do stop it, I think that will certainly deter some young people from going to their computers and deciding that this is what they want to do with their lives, and looking for one of these groups.
UYGUR: Well, at least they know the consequences going forward, and so that is a little bit of a difference than it was just a couple of days ago.
NBC‘s chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel.
Thank you so much for joining us tonight.
ENGEL: My pleasure.
UYGUR: Ahead, inside bin Laden‘s hideout. Where exactly was he living, and what surrounded the complex? The amazing details of what was in his new hometown.
UYGUR: For years we‘ve been hearing that Osama bin Laden has been hiding in some far-distant cave near the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan, far from the reach of the outside world. Well, it turns out that was completely false. He was actually living in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a popular tourist destination known for its mountain views and great colleges. It kind of sounds like Boulder, Colorado.
But mixed right in between coffee shops, hospitals, gas stations, and even a Web design company, laid bin Laden‘s fortified compound. The compound was roughly eight times larger than any other home in the area and had no telephone or Internet connections. Those might have been some clues. It was heavily protected with actually a 10-foot-high external guard wall and a 12-to-18-foot-high internal guard wall, and even an outside area where they could burn trash so they could keep it as low profile as possible.
But the most unbelievable thing about bin Laden‘s hideout is its location. The most wanted man in the world was living in a million-dollar compound only about a mile and a half away from the Abbottabad Golf Club—must be nice—a mile away from the local Shell gas station—no word on whether he was complaining about gas prices; that would have been ironic—
3,000 feel from a Web design company. And most amazingly, bin Laden was only 4,000 feet away from Pakistan‘s military academy. That‘s basically similar to our West Point, as Richard Engel pointed out in the last segment.
Also nearby was a red onion, a squash court, and just about anything else that an international terrorist could ever want. All the town was missing was a Chili‘s and a “Thank Allah it‘s Friday.”
I don‘t know if I‘m more mad that Pakistan seemed to know where he was and didn‘t tell us, or that he lived in such comfort for so long. It‘s infuriating that we hadn‘t caught him for all those years, nearly 10 years now, but at least we had the comfort of knowing he was miserable in a cave somewhere.
Oh, well. I guess not.
Well, at least we do know now that he won‘t have those comforts where he is today, which I hear is a lot less hospitable.
All right. Now, with bin Laden dead, what is the future of al Qaeda?
And are we safer?
Two of the top terror experts in the country join us next.
And a major leader thinks that President Obama is heading for “robust reduction” of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. When will that happen? We‘re going to talk to Robert Greenwald on the future of the war in Afghanistan. That‘s also next.
UYGUR: The death of Osama Bin Laden showed us an example of what could be the future of fighting terrorism. The last prominent Al-Qaeda member to be killed by U.S. forces was wiped out in a similar way. Remember, in September of 2009, Special Forces killed Saleh Ali Nabhan, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Somalia, in a raid similar to the one that took out Bin Laden yesterday. In that mission, U.S. helicopters flew deep into insurgent territory in Somalia, attacked an Al-Qaeda convoy, killed the target and got out with no U.S. casualties. So, what do these under the radar strikes teach us? It could be that all-out wars such as the ones in Iraq and Afghanistan are not the best way to go after terrorists groups.
Now, in some respects, those large words did have some success. Osama Bin Laden did flee Afghanistan after the U.S. went in and CIA apparently got intelligence from captured detainees. But on the other hand, the last two significant blows to Al-Qaeda leadership came from precise strikes by small groups of highly trained Special Forces. So, what does that teach us about the war on terror and where it‘s going next?
Well, for more on that, let‘s bring in Evan Kohlmann, NBC News terrorism analyst and Steve Clemons, senior fellow for the New America Foundation. Great to have both of you here.
UYGUR: Let me start with you, Evan. These smaller strikes, God, they seem like such better ways to go than gigantic wars to the naked eye. That‘s certainly what it appears like in our recent experience. Am I missing something or is that right?
EVAN KOHLMANN, NBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, we have to be careful. First of all, you know, regardless of what you think about the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, I think you have to be realistic that the only way you put pressure on Al-Qaeda and you get them to confine themselves in a small area is by occupying the other part of that area. If we weren‘t in Afghanistan right now, Bin Laden and his entourage probably would be in Afghanistan somewhere, maybe in a cave, maybe in a mansion, but they would have other places to flee to. We eliminated the number of possible sanctuaries that they could take.
The other thing is that, you know, this operation was tremendous successful, it‘s a great victory, but these kinds of operations carry with them very serious intended risks. Let‘s not forget that one of the helicopters in this operation actually crashed. Had it crashed with U.S. soldiers on board, had there been casualties, we would have been looking at another situation like what happened in 1980 when the U.S. tried rescuing hostages in Iran with U.S. Special Forces. And that was a complete debacle. So, I think that the safest way right now is really with missile strikes, but even then, you really do need to have a presence on the ground to gather intelligence, to figure out where these people are, or else you‘re just firing missiles blindly, and that doesn‘t really work.
UYGUR: Well, and let me challenges you on a couple of parts of where you just said there. First of all, with the helicopters, we have risks of casualties, no doubt about that. But with giant wars we have far more casualties. And saying, well, what you first point out, Afghanistan, yes, you‘re right, we eliminated that as a possible sanctuary and that‘s one of the upsize, but the flip side to that is, if he was in Afghanistan, why couldn‘t we do what we did in Pakistan? We swoop down, get him, et cetera. I mean, under that logic, shouldn‘t we have invaded Pakistan and occupied the whole thing, so you can stay there.
KOHLMANN: Well, I hate to say it, but given what we know now about the way that they saw Bin Laden‘s capture, that seems sounding increasingly like a reasonable prospect. But look, we before 9/11, the White House to discuss options using Special Force to go into Afghanistan to capture or kill Bin Laden. Each time those options were waved off because of the fact that they were either too difficult, too risky, or that possibility of success was so low that, you know, even if we hadn‘t lost a significant amount of personnel, it would have been an embarrassment to the United States military and it would have just served to have warn Bin Laden that we knew about his couriers, that we knew about where he was moving and how he was moving.
I mean, let‘s not forget that. We gave up a large piece of Intel right before 9/11, when we let Bin Laden know that we were listening to his satellite telephone. We only get these options once in a while, and we have to take the measures we can. But I really do think that you have to eliminate the sanctuaries that are out there for Al-Qaeda. When you leave an entire country open underneath Taliban control where Al-Qaeda has free rein, it‘s very difficult to track an individual down. When they‘re in a country that is supposed to be hostile to them, where they‘re on the run, where they‘re fleeing authorities, where they can‘t show their faces, that‘s where you really get a better chance of picking up the Intel that would lead to a successful Special Forces raid like what happened here.
UYGUR: Well, Steve, let me bring you in here, because I‘m honestly skeptical about that. Because I keep going back to that Somalia example. Because we have two choices there, we could do the old model which is we invade Somalia and hope to take those guys at some later date in a spider hole or we‘ll do a surgical strike like we didn‘t get the hell out. God, the new model seems so much better, what am I missing?
STEVE CLEMONS, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Well, I think—I have tremendous respect for Evan, but I just disagree with him about the nature of safe havens. The kind of safe havens that Al-Qaeda enjoyed in Afghanistan before we invaded, and I supported that invasion actually after 9/11. I thought it was just cause. I thought that strikes against the United States justified that, but we took out bases. And since then we‘ve developed a technology and the capacity to play a definitive role over the horizon. The navy, the air force who increasingly cooing this offshore balancing, that doesn‘t quite need this very large, clunky big-scale military footprint, which engenders and stirs up its own opposition.
One of the really ugly troops of Afghanistan is our force presents grew, our enemy grew, and our enemy used to be rather small, fragmented, disjointed, factionalized, but now the Taliban had become a brand name like the Mujahedeen. And there numbers have increased rapidly as they‘ve seen more and more American and allied forces in Afghanistan. So, you know, he‘s not a very popular guy in progressive circles, but Don Rumsfeld was the one who began experimenting thinking about much more nimble, high-flex, less manpower kind of operations. And I think to some degree Joe Biden has been on that side. So, you‘re on the side of Biden and Rumsfeld versus some of the others that like large, large footprint operations.
UYGUR: And thanks a lot, Steve, I really appreciate that.
OK. Now, here‘s the thing, I want to go to you for the last question, Evan because I want to talk about the future. Look, as far as the past, I‘m with Steve. I was in favor of going into Afghanistan in the first place, but it‘s now a much different war, nearly ten years later. And I‘m not sure at this point that it‘s helping. But let‘s talk about what we do in the future. So, when you go to an example, like Yemen, a very powerful Al-Qaeda force within Yemen, what do we do there? Do we invade Yemen, I mean, I don‘t know, maybe they take away their sanctuaries, maybe it makes sense. If, you know, it was a situation, in Yemen was where they launched attacks against some of our planes recently. So, you know, it‘s a very important matter or do we go with the surgical strikes?
KOHLMANN: Well, there‘s no real easy answers. The answer is that there‘s a cost/benefit analysis to both those options. If you try to invade Yemen, there‘s absolutely no doubt, you‘ll going to turn a lot of people in that country against the United States. It‘s a chaotic country. It may be more chaotic than Afghanistan, so, I don‘t think that‘s a great option. But if you look at what we‘re doing right now, we‘re basically doing that, we‘re swatting at flies. We‘re firing missiles, we‘re launching Special Forces raids. And we don‘t seem to be making very much progress, frankly. And if you look at Al-Qaeda and Yemen, Al-Qaeda—honestly, I think you would have to recognize that they‘re doing just as well now if not maybe better than they were six or 12 months ago.
So, in that case, Special Forces raids and missiles raids don‘t care to be solving a problem. I think it‘s a more new on station, I think this gets back to something that the Saudis of all people have actually been coming up with, which is the idea that that in addition to the military and policing roles that we‘re playing, there‘s also a social element, there‘s a social problem here. There‘s a reason why people in Yemen are trying to join Al-Qaeda. And it‘s not just because of the fact that they have an inherent loathing for the United States. I think we have to try to figure out what some of those other reasons are.
KOHLMANN: Is it possible that some of those folks are just frustrated that they‘ve been living under an autocracy for the last I don‘t know, 20, 30 years? I‘d say that this is fair gas, and I think we have to consider those options, as well as the military policing and occupying options that we have.
UYGUR: And good points all around, and I hear you on Yemen, how it‘s gotten worse, so sometimes a surgical strikes, especially with they‘re down with predators or drones are not ideal either, so it‘s a tough situation and everybody knows that. Evan Kohlmann and Steve Clemons, we really appreciate your expertise tonight.
KOHLMANN: Thank you.
UYGUR: Thank you.
All right. Now, speaking of future of the war on terror, today, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin said he thinks that the death of Bin Laden reinforces the president‘s intention to move toward quote, “a robust reduction of U.S. troops from Afghanistan this summer.” It‘s about time we‘ve gotten out of the long conflict that has resulted in the death of more than 1,500 American troops, add that to the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, and you see that this supposed hunt for Bin Laden and those countries has cost us more than 6,000 American lives, not to mention that so far the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have cost us $1.5 trillion.
Joining me now is Robert Greenwald, director of the Brave New Films, and producer of documentaries “Rethink Afghanistan” and “Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers.” Robert, well, I know your opinion on this. We got some different opinions here a little earlier about what‘s the more effective way to go, but I want to focus again on the future. So, what do we do in Afghanistan going forward now that we‘ve gotten Bin Laden?
ROBERT GREENWALD, BRAVE NEW FILMS: We do the sensible and saying rational thing. We get the troops out as quickly as possible. It‘s a military occupation, which is creating enemies, which is creating people who hate the fact that their country is being taken over, and we work for the security of the United States which does not mean this occupation. There are lots that we could do, Cenk. And, you know it, these enormous resources, enormous values that this country has. We are doing none of that every time we occupy another country and wind up being the enemy.
UYGUR: You know, Robert, some might say, hey, look, we were telling Afghanistan all along, hey, we‘re going to rebuild. It‘s the pottery barn rule—if you break it, you own it. And now, after getting Bin Laden we say, hey, see you, wouldn‘t want to be you. Doesn‘t that say, hey, we were not really serious about your country, we just had the objective of getting Bin Laden and that‘s what we‘re leaving?
GREENWALD: Well, we‘re not rebuilding Afghanistan. I mean, I was there. When you get off the plane and you look around and you see on every block millions and millions of dollars being spent on military solutions, you see people starving, you see people without jobs and without education, it‘s outrageous to contend that we are there rebuilding them. We‘re not. We‘re destroying. And that‘s the great pain and that‘s what‘s so profoundly wrong about this analysis. Let‘s think about it. You come in and you occupy another country, how do you expect them to then think you‘re friends? And then think you‘re there to help the country? And the single biggest reason for the increase in the Taliban is our occupation, they‘re a nationalist organization, and they thrive on having an enemy who comes in and takes over.
UYGUR: Right. You know, I do want to mention one other point before we leave. And I think, not a lot of other people are going to talk about it today. My God, I know you do a movie about it. My God, how much did we waste in Iraq? When you see that we got Bin Laden in Pakistan, I don‘t know if there‘s anybody in the country who can tell us what in the world Iraq had to do with getting Al-Qaeda and Bin Laden?
GREENWALD: Well, it didn‘t have anything to do with it. And, you know, in Afghanistan, there are more contractors than there are military. And the amount of money that the “New York Times” had a brilliant article about it recently. The hundreds of millions and ultimately billions, billions of our tax dollars that are going to private contractors and going to corruption is off the scales, and here we are worrying about, you know, having paying firemen and policemen and teachers. It‘s just profoundly is wrong, and it‘s against the values, and against everything that we believe in.
UYGUR: All right. Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films, clear as always. Thank you for joining us tonight, Robert.
GREENWALD: All right. Now, next, inside the elite group of secret warriors who took out Bin Laden. You got to be serious. This is an amazing story.
UYGUR: We are just getting this news in. NBC News reporting that President Obama is going to go to New York City on this Thursday to ground zero to mark the capture and killing of Bin Laden. Of course, we captured and immediately killed him. And the freedom tower there is also getting built and looks pretty good so far. So, a lot of things coming together at the right time there. That speech should be very interesting. Obviously, we‘ll cover it here. We‘ll be right back.
UYGUR: Now, we want to take a closer look at the elite forces in charge of carrying out the raids like the one that killed Osama Bin Laden. Wars with the Joint Special Operations Command carry out secret strike operations with surgical precision as they did in this case. They are professionals who do their jobs with virtually no fanfare. Well, except for when they take out Osama Bin Laden. Then, they get a lot of fanfare for very good reason.
Now, for a better look at how they operate, I want to bring in Lieutenant Commander Eric Greitens, a Navy SEAL officer who commanded a Joint Special Operations task unit, and has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He‘s also the author of “The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, The Making of a Navy SEAL.” Great to have you here.
ERIC GREITENS, NAVY SEAL OFFICER: Pleasure to be on.
UYGUR: All right. First, a lot of people might not be familiar with this unit. Just tell us what is it and where does it fit within the government?
GREITENS: So, you‘re talking about an organization that is the elite of the elite. They conducted this operation, the men who are these navy SEALs who were part of this strike were actually people who have been training for years. They‘ve went through belts, the basic under water demolition sealed training, they have years of deployments underneath their belts. They‘ve gone through the hardest military training in the world in order to prepare for operations like this one.
UYGUR: And is it a collection of intelligence, folks and military folks? How do they put them together? Who is in charge?
GREITENS: So, one of the things that they do is that they try to bring together operators and intelligence professionals, so that you have a seem less operations, so that the operators can go out capturing kill targets, bring intelligence off of those targets, bring them back to the intelligence professionals who then turn around a very next night and creating new targets that for the operators to hit. And it‘s by doing that, that the CEOs, other Special Operations Forces have been able to put its tremendous pressure on the Al-Qaeda network.
UYGUR: So, tell us more about that. Because, you know, obviously, we see it in cases like this which is huge. But what do they do day to day in other scenarios, how they do create that pressure you‘re talking about?
GREITENS: You know, this was obviously a tremendous success for the SEAL teams, for every member of the United States military, but the thing that‘s important to remember is that successes like this only come about because for the last nine and a half years, we have had service members who worked day in and day out in order to develop this intelligence and hit targets, and every single day, you have men and women of the United States military who are out hitting targets, hitting Al-Qaeda targets, grabbing intelligence, turning that around quickly, and then trying to hit further targets. They work with human intelligence, signals intelligence, electronic intelligence, all of that in order to keep that constant pressure on the Al-Qaeda network.
UYGUR: Well, in this case, we know that they practice in a different area with a compound like this, but you know, ABC News also obtained video of what it looks like inside. I want to show you then, and then just have us walk through a little bit as how that training, I‘m amazed that they set something up. Did they rebuild the whole thing, somewhere else? And how did that training inform their mission when they went inside what we‘re looking at here?
GREITENS: Anytime you have the opportunity to practice an operation, it makes you better, it makes you stronger. And sometimes, when we‘re practicing operations, we‘ll build the best possible mock compounds that we can. I wouldn‘t be surprised if the organization that did this operation practiced dozens of times, went through multiple contingencies, multiple scenarios, the principals, though, are always the same, speed, surprise, and violence of action focused on your specific target.
UYGUR: So, are we in a see with this success a lot more of these missions going forward? Do you think they‘re buddy gets increase, et cetera?
GREITENS: Well, one of the most important things that we have to do is maintain this investment in this elite rip of boyars (ph), and in the special operations community. I think that one of the things we have to recognize is that operations like this are taking place all the time. We just don‘t always hear about them.
UYGUR: All right. Eric Greitens, great expertise, thank you for your time tonight. I really appreciate it.
GREITENS: My pleasure.
UYGUR: All right. Now, there were celebrations across America after
Bin Laden news was announced. We‘ll show you an interesting collection of
those videos, and I‘ll tell you why I‘m celebrating, USA, USA. A
UYGUR: As the news broke late last night that Osama Bin Laden had been killed, celebrations began breaking out all across the country. Chants of “USA” and people singing the Star-Spangled Banner could be heard well into the early hours of the morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The president has just announced that we have caught and compromised to an end Osama Bin Laden.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It was a good feeling that a lot of people lost their lives because of this guy. And I‘m happy they got him.
(CHANTING) “USA, USA, USA, USA.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UGYUR: And there were dozens of reports of other celebrations across the country as well. On huge news days like this, people always remember where they were when they heard the news. Well, for me, it was a little anticlimactic. Because I heard about it four hours after everyone else. And I‘m in the news business. Why? I was on a plane. I woke up, and got online, I couldn‘t believe no one woke me up to tell this. So, I woke up the guy next to me and said, hey, we got Bin Laden. I wanted the pilot to make an announcement. When we were by luggage pickup, when we landed, I want people to start chanting, USA, USA, they didn‘t.
But people ranging from elders at the Vatican to Mike Huckabee have said what a lot of us were feeling. You shouldn‘t celebrate anyone‘s death. But in this case, I don‘t know, look, you have to understand it‘s personal for a lot of us. One of my best friends lived in the third tallest building in the area. He saw the second plane go into the second tower, obviously scared for his life. I had another one of my friends who got covered in all that dust because he was in the area. Everyone has the stories. So, I hated the message that we sent in Iraq that we‘re going to attack you whether you hit us our not. But I think we can be strong and smart and I love the message that we sent yesterday. If you come for us, some day in the middle of the night when you least expect it, we will come for you, and then we‘ll chant “USA, USA.” just so you know.
Thank you for watching. That‘s our show tonight. “HARDBALL” starts right now.
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