Guests: Seymour Hersh, Lindsey Graham, Donald Hansen, Wayne Downing, Larry Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: A top-secret military report completed in February found sadistic and criminal abuses by American soldiers at a prison in Iraqi.
Tonight, Seymour Hersh, the reporter who broke the story.
Plus, does the abuse put American troops at greater risk, as they fight the war in Iraq?
And lawmakers on Capitol Hill demand answers from the Pentagon and question whether the abuse is more widespread.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews.
People are shocked that Americans are capable of this kind of behavior. The official military report states that abuse by military police included videotaping and photographing naked detainees, forcibly arranging detainees in various sexually explicit positions for photographing and forcing groups of male detainees to masturbate while being photographed and videotaped.
Iraq‘s U.S.-appointed human rights minister has resigned in protest over the humiliating sexual abuse of Iraqi detainees by American soldiers. And Iraq‘s interior minister is demanding that Iraqi officials have a role in running the prisons.
And now U.S. Army officials say 25 prisoners in all have died in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, and two of them in Iraq were murdered by Americans.
How widespread is abuse of detainees at the hands of the U.S. military?
Seymour Hersh is the guy that broke the story of the military investigation for “The New Yorker” magazine.
Sy, thank you very much for joining us tonight. What have you learned since you filed this report for “The New Yorker”?
SEYMOUR HERSH, “THE NEW YORKER”: I‘ve been working pretty hard on this story, and I can just tell you that the report itself is, as you said in your intro, Chris, is dynamite.
It suggests that we have a systematic problem inside the military, that it‘s not just a question of a few kids doing one or two acts that were photographed. It suggests that this is widespread, been going on certainly since last fall, and actually, no real steps were taken to correct it until naturally the—everything hit the press with a big thud the other day.
MATTHEWS: Is this like the Rodney King thing, where it only matters because there are pictures?
HERSH: Yes, I...
MATTHEWS: I hate to be cynical, but if you didn‘t have the pictures
floating around, these gross-out pictures, would the public even have any -
· would this make page one?
HERSH: It‘s a little more complicated than that. I think if there weren‘t the photographs, I don‘t think the military—I think Janis Karpinski, the general that‘s been all over television, sort of like me, talking about this, I think that—I think she‘d still be on the job. And a couple of kids would be very unhappy that they tried to report things and it didn‘t happen.
I can tell you that since I‘ve done that—that story that I did, it got public over the weekend, I‘ve been in contact with people that did try to report abuses and got nowhere inside the system.
So the system wasn‘t—the military system in Iraq, inside those camps, inside that structure, didn‘t want to hear what was going on from the kids that knew the most.
And I think what changed everything was the photographs, once the government, the Army and the White House or—and the Pentagon knew that the photographs like this were going around—and Chris, the difference between your generation and the new one is, you know, in our day, we‘d take these pictures, put them in a little package and throw them behind the socks in the drawer and look at them once a year maybe when we came home from the war.
These kids, CD‘s spread all over, the Army investigators were going around to other people in the various military police units that are involved. There‘s two—one major unit, the 372nd Military Police Company. And they were going around trying to seize computer files. So...
MATTHEWS: For what purpose? To prosecute or to cover up?
HERSH: Well, the question is simply to get them so they couldn‘t be spread around.
HERSH: I think the—I mean obviously. And it was only after the photographs surfaced and only after the extent to which—there‘s an awful lot of photographs. We‘ve seen only about eight or nine.
MATTHEWS: What are the other ones about? Do you have a smell of what the other ones look like? Are they worse or are they less disgusting than these or what?
HERSH: How do you—how do you quantify things like that? I‘ve seen
other photographs that we had, “The New Yorker” had possession of before
the first story, and that we didn‘t—that were not run that are probably
· look, I mean, how do you qualify worse when you‘re talking about young girls and young American girls taunting Iraqi men nude and you know, giving the thumbs up sign and—you know—here‘s the point, Chris.
These kids from West Virginia and Virginia, in this military police company, they didn‘t understand that the best way to break the morale and break the back of a potential interviewee, somebody you want to interrogate is to completely humiliate and shame him.
And the one way to humiliate an Iraqi man more than any other Arab, a follower of the Islamic faith, is to have them be seen naked by other men and have them participate in homosexual activity, even if posed. Because that‘s also a no-no in the Islamic faith. And then to have young people photographing it, including women.
You‘d completely break the back, the morale, the spirit of anybody.
MATTHEWS: I guess I don‘t understand that. It seems to me that would make me more ticked off at my captors. It wouldn‘t make me more easy to break.
Wouldn‘t it make a person really angry at these guys humiliating them? And why would they then want to go in and spill the beans on their comrades who are fighting as part of a resistance force? Why—I don‘t get the connection.
HERSH: Well, because—let me tell you the connection. It‘s very simple.
The connection is that in our society, we‘re driven by guilt, the western society, and in the Arab world, it‘s shame. Shame is a very dominant thing. And once a man is shamed, I don‘t know if you quite—what happens to the woman in the Arab world when they‘re shamed.
They‘re cast out. They‘re stoned. They‘re killed. Shame is a very powerful, powerful force and the fact that you don‘t understand it, of course, is perfectly rational, because a lot of us don‘t understand the extent to which it is. It‘s a whole different culture.
MATTHEWS: OK. Is it your sense...
HERSH: Somebody in that prison—I want to finish the thought. Go ahead.
The thought is that somebody in the prison system understood about shame and communicated to these kids what to do. They had no idea that the best way to break the spirit of a man is to do what they did. That had to be externally—externally applied.
MATTHEWS: So in court, without prejudicing the case, if they say they were encouraged to do this by the M.I., the military police—not the military police, the military intelligence groups that were conducting the interrogations, then they‘re doing what they were told.
HERSH: Well, you know, that‘s not a defense for doing something stupid and heinous. That‘s not.
But I will tell you that the Taguba report, the report you mentioned, that 53-page secret report, very explicitly, in fact, one of his last paragraphs in the report said “I believe that the military intelligence people, the CIA people also that were working in the prison camp and the private contractors that were also doing interrogations and translation,” he said, “I believe they were directly and indirectly responsible for everything that happened inside that prison.”
It‘s a very powerful sentence.
MATTHEWS: So you don‘t buy the bad apples defense? A few bad apples?
HERSH: It‘s the first thing I would do if I were running the Army.
I‘d say there‘s a couple bad apples. That‘s what we heard from General Kimmitt and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. It‘s just a few bad guys, and we‘ll clean it up after I reed the report, said the general, basically, on TV this weekend.
MATTHEWS: What do you think of that defense?
HERSH: The bad apple defense?
HERSH: It‘s, you know, it‘s not going to hold up, Chris. What we‘re going to discover as Taguba basically almost says literally, but that‘s the whole gist of his report, systemic throughout the system.
There were—This woman, this woman ran three large jails and a dozen other small detention centers, systemic. So what we‘re seeing at Abu Ghraib, those horrible pictures, whether or not we have photographs from other prisons, but you have to assume the same sort of basic principles applied: break down people, humiliate them, disrobe them, et cetera.
MATTHEWS: Well, Janis Karpinski, the general in charge of that prison, as well as a lot of much broader command, denies any knowledge of this. What do you make of that?
HERSH: Well, you know, in a funny way, whoever heard of a general saying, you know—she‘s supposed to—that‘s not a very good defense for a general. It‘s a much better one for a 20-year-old enlisted kid for West Virginia, but for a general officer to say that.
On the other hand, it is also true that she was not in charge of the interrogation part of that prison. That was run by intelligence people, CIA people, and private contractors. And that‘s where the real problem is in the whole system.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s come back and talk more. But NBC News has obtained a copy of the secret Army report of alleged prisoner abuses in that Baghdad prison.
For the full transcript of the report, go to—here it is on your web site: HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.
We‘re coming back with more with Seymour Hersh, who wrote the big story that broke this case and later, Senator Lindsey Graham of the Armed Services Committee, the only senator serving in the reserves right now. And he‘s been an expert as a defense and a prosecuting attorney in the Army in these kinds of cases. He‘s going to talk about the impact the American abuses of Iraqi prisoners will have in the field. Serious business.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTHA FREDERICK, WIFE OF ACCUSED SOLDIER: When you‘re looking at people who are military intelligence, my husband doesn‘t know what the rules of military intelligence is. He‘s never been trained on the rules of interrogation. He‘s never been trained on dealing with POW‘s or detainees in that type of environment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That‘s Martha Frederick, wife of Sergeant Chip Frederick, who‘s accused of abusing Iraqis in the Baghdad prison.
We‘re back more with Seymour Hersh, who broke the story wide open.
You know, it‘s a very nice lady we had on last night, the wife of one of the accused, one of the people involved in this, in the military police, a reservist.
I think I counted four or five defenses she offered, and I‘m on her side in terms of being a spouse of somebody. But she said basically her husband is not guilty of what somebody said he was doing.
No. 2, she said that the intelligence forces were telling the people
who were taking care of the prisoners, the M.P.‘s, how to treat them and to
use them—this kind of effort to sort of break them by scaring them and
by humiliating them.
She also said they had bad training and she said they were desensitized.
So you‘ve got four defenses, they didn‘t do it; the intelligence people made them do it—I‘m only following orders; third, they had bad training; and fourth, they were desensitized; they were brutalized by their own experience in combat.
Do you think those defenses mean anything?
HERSH: No, because the fact of the matter is obviously, you know, as we see they did it. They were doing it. They were abusing prisoners.
I think there is mitigating issues. There‘s certainly no reason that
· these people should be punished for what they did. I think Janis Karpinski should be punished for not failing to—for failing to supervise.
MATTHEWS: The general.
HERSH: The general. But, having said that, in the case of the kids, you know when you send young people off to war. We‘re talking about some of these people are 20, 21, Frederick is much older, but the others are very, very young people. The Army is in loco parentis. There‘s no question about it. They‘re your mother and father.
And they have an obligation to protect you from yourself, almost, from some of your instincts. War is tough and the blood does get up, particularly when people die that you know.
But here‘s the issue in this prison. The people they were molesting were not prisoners in the sense that they were convicts or convicted of bad crimes or they were Army people that we defeated in a real combat. There was no combat in the war.
They were civilian detainees. And the Taguba report, the report that we were talking about, this Major General Antonio Taguba‘s report, which, by the way, has really irritated the top level of the brass. They‘re very angry at him, so I hear, for the report, because really, he stepped on a lot of toes. He did a brilliant job.
In any case, his report said one of the problems in the prison system is that they had no idea who was good and who was bad. Most of the people they had were civilians picked up in routine random checkpoints, and they had no way of differentiating and finding out whether they were al Qaeda or insurgents. They had women in—they had a separate section for women and juveniles. They just didn‘t have any idea.
So they were breaking down people who didn‘t necessarily have information. And one of the things that happens when you do—by the way, I think what they did to these people, the humiliation of an Arab is by every definition, coercion and torture. When you torture people, they do tell you what they think you want to know.
So you go to these people, you get more names of people that they give you, of bad people who aren‘t bad. You collect more people. You tell the various combat units to go to this house and that house.
HERSH: You process more people. It‘s one big sort of never-ending circle.
MATTHEWS: You say we get bad intel from bad interrogation, is what you‘re saying?
HERSH: You know, until this administration came into being, until this war on terror began in Afghanistan. And Taguba makes the point that whatever started here, started—there were problems in Afghanistan and by last fall, General Sanchez, Ricardo Sanchez, Lieutenant general of—in charge of the forces, the land forces in Iraq, he knew there were problems.
There were—Before Sanchez got ordered to get into this early this year, two previous investigations had been done by two-star generals. And clearly there were problems. And the high command knew about it.
And for the government, for the Army to be saying and the Pentagon to be saying, “We‘re on it now. We‘ve assigned another general and everything is OK...”
MATTHEWS: Have you gotten any retaliation for filing this story from the Army or anybody in it?
HERSH: You know, we‘re not—I‘m sure people are unhappy at me, but we‘re not in that kind of—you know, I go back to Neli (ph). And guys understand, we‘re professionals in this business. We do what we have to do, Chris. I didn‘t invent this; I don‘t want this to happen.
MATTHEWS: But you broke it. You‘re a hell of a reporter.
HERSH: You do what you have to do.
MATTHEWS: A hell of a reporter. Seymour Hersh, historic figure, thank you for this story.
Up next, Senator Lindsey Graham. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Army officials were on Capitol Hill today briefing members of the Senate Armed Services Committee over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners.
At that briefing was Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, who is the only member of the Senate in the Reserves.
Senator Graham, you‘re also a former prosecutor in the Army, four years of that and two years as a defense attorney in the Air Force and you‘re also a reserve in that unit.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: Yes. I‘m a reserve military judge now.
MATTHEWS: OK. We couldn‘t have a better guest. So I want to have your opinion.
GRAHAM: Well, No. 1, having some experience in the military justice system, I‘m very confident that, over time, the people who are responsible will be held accountable.
But there‘s a political dynamic to this apart from the law.
There are a lot of people who may not legally be responsible but from a command point of view should be responsible and that‘s the issue. How far up the chain do you go? Because the damage done from this incident to our efforts in the Mideast is—no one knows, but it‘s steep. It‘s tough.
MATTHEWS: It‘s half the role...
GRAHAM: It‘s tough, yes. I‘m saying as a United States senator, somebody who is still in the reserves, who loves the military, that people need to be fired and some people need to be court-martialed. And I‘ll leave it up to the professionals to determine who.
But members of the Senate and the House are upset, they found out about it from the television. This was reported January 14. It is unacceptable the way this has been handled.
MATTHEWS: What about Karpinski, General Janis Karpinski? She had—this was under her command. She had 30,000 troops under her command, including this unit, this prison?
GRAHAM: There‘s a rule in the Navy that a ship commander has absolute liability. I‘m not so sure that‘s the standard here. But if you command a naval vessel and something bad happens on your watch, you‘re responsible.
I‘m not so sure that‘s the right standard, but people will look at her role because the people under her command got so out of bounds it makes you wonder what kind of discipline was in place.
MATTHEWS: Who handles interrogation in the U.S. Army?
GRAHAM: Well, in this case, you have some contractors involved apparently, but normally it‘s the military investigative branch. It would be the OSI, Office of Special Investigation in the Air Force, Criminal Investigation Division in the Army, and the Navy CSI.
They‘re basically sort of mini-FBI‘s within the military services. And you have the military intelligence services who are non-criminal in nature and interrogate people for military information. But when you‘re put together a legal case, each branch of the service has an investigative unit.
MATTHEWS: But within this crime itself, who was telling those people running that prison, those reservists M.P.‘s how to treat the prisoners?
GRAHAM: Well, No. 1, there is no—what happened, no one needs to tell you not to do that. So this idea, “I wasn‘t trained well” is not going to cut it with me.
What was orchestrated was beyond the pale, was just—just unacceptable as a human being. And the military justice code has provisions for mistreatment of prisoners.
And whether or not a commander is responsible for lack of discipline is probably separate from whether or not they should be prosecuted.
I don‘t want to lose that. We don‘t want to just focus on those people who technically violated the law. We want to focus on those people who created the culture for this to happen.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about the culture. If the M.I., military intelligence, sent the word to these M.P.‘s, “We want the prisoners softened up. That means scared of being killed. That means humiliated.”
And this sexual humiliation was done apparently as a recreation, according to the pictures. That‘s all we have is pictures.
GRAHAM: Well, that shows you the discipline. People would not recreationally abuse someone if they thought their commanders were watching them and heads would roll.
GRAHAM: So the idea that this was a professionally run organization, the pictures defy that. So No. 1, you‘ve got a command problem.
No. 2, you‘ve got a criminal problem. What was shown in these photos, I think, violate the uniform code of military justice.
Now, was the military intelligence organizations complicit? If they tried to construct an environment that‘s illegal, then they‘re conspirators in the crime.
MATTHEWS: You get a lot of mail down south. You represent South Carolina, which is an incredible cradle of military recruitment and tradition going back many generations.
What is the buzz in your office down there in the south? What are people saying, calling into you and writing in to you and e-mailing you?
GRAHAM: You‘ve got a small group of Americans who could care less about this.
MATTHEWS: Because they‘re just tough.
GRAHAM: They want retribution, but what I say to that group...
MATTHEWS: You mean they want to kick ass? They don‘t care what happens with these guys?
GRAHAM: But if it‘s your son or daughter in the hand of an enemy.
We bill ourselves as the good guys. I believe we are the good guys. But this behavior is far from being a good guy. And the test of a character of a nation, of a legal system, is can it correct problems, because problems are going to happen when you have human beings.
MATTHEWS: Are you worried about our guys that get captured now?
GRAHAM: I‘m worried about the environment we‘re creating for our soldiers serving in the Mideast in terms of being able to do their job and relate to the public at large.
MATTHEWS: Hearts and minds.
GRAHAM: Hearts and minds. I‘m worried about people who are being captured. And that‘s what I tell the small group of Americans who want to ignore this, that you‘re setting a standard you would not want to happen to your family or anybody representing your country.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the war itself. How many people in your constituency hold to the belief, correct or not, based upon fact or not, that this war against the Iraqis is in fact payback for 9/11?
GRAHAM: I think most people in my state understand Saddam Hussein was part of the problem, glad he‘s gone, believe that we‘re safer as a people. Upset...
MATTHEWS: Part of the World Trade Center problem, I mean—and the Pentagon. Do they believe he did that?
GRAHAM: No, I don‘t think so. I haven‘t had anybody come up and tell me the reason we went to go to Saddam Hussein was because he was a conspirator in 9/11.
I think most people see it differently. Most people see that Saddam Hussein had 12 years to right the ship. He defied international law, and he‘s a bad guy and they‘re glad he‘s gone.
MATTHEWS: So those are the facts. But we keep reading in public opinion polls that people see the two as connected. That‘s why I asked you.
GRAHAM: I just think he‘s the type of person that would want that to happen, and they just found him guilty whether he was guilty or not.
MATTHEWS: Are you confident this case is going to get closed and justice will be done to these people?
GRAHAM: I can say this publicly on your show and any other show. I am confident that the military justice system will take this seriously. And the Congress is going to be watching the Pentagon to make sure they take it serious.
I can tell you the president is furious over this.
MATTHEWS: OK, last word. Thank you very much. Lindsey Graham, who knows his stuff.
Up next, a look at the possible penalties the accused soldiers could be facing with a former judge advocate general.
And later, basketball legend, one of my favorites, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, on the first African-American unit to face combat in WW2.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: I like that new opening. Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The Pentagon is reeling after reports of abuse by American guards at Iraqi prisons. General George Casey says, the Army‘s vice chief of staff, says he‘s committed to finding out who should be held accountable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. GEORGE W. CASEY JR., VICE CHIEF OF STAFF, U.S. ARMY: It is a complete breakdown in discipline. We are fully committed to getting to the bottom of this and holding accountable those who we find guilty through the judicial process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: To the left of General Casey that was John Warner, the senator from Virginia. A real military guy, I can tell you. As former secretary of the Navy, he‘s going to get very hot on this trail.
Joining us how now to tell us what the judicial process is going to be, retired Brigadier General Donald Hansen. He‘s a former judge advocate general for operations in military law. He was—as government counsel, he knew all about the My Lai Massacre case. He was trying to win the appellate level against William Calley—Lieutenant Calley, My Lai.
That case—does that relate to this case, or was that just a more severe case?
BRIG. GEN. DONALD HANSEN (RET.). FMR. JUDGE ADVOCATE GENERAL: No, I think it was a more severe case. The Calley case, just like this, is an exception. That‘s not the way America fights its wars, and we do have exceptional circumstances.
MATTHEWS: That was a case of a massacre of a lot of Vietnamese people, civilians.
HANSEN: Yes, 109, I think.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s talk about this case, where guys were pictured.
I mean, there‘s a hell of a lot of evidence down in the public light here. I don‘t even know how you get a fair trial, because we‘ve all seen the pictures humiliating prisoners sexually, making them look like they‘re having homosexual acts, or having them, making them stand up with theirs arms wired like they‘re going to be executed if they fall off this little stand, all these sort of signs.
What level of injury do you see here. If you had to say what they‘re guilty of under the law, what would it be?
HANSEN: Well, I suspect there are a number of charges that might be preferred. There might be indecent acts, assault, sexual kinds of activities, dereliction of duty, mistreatment of prisoners. All of these would be potential charges.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s work our way up from the bottom to the top.
We have seven, apparently, enlisted guys, MPs working as reservists over there in that prison. Those are the ones pictured in those pictures in some cases. We have the officers, who apparently have already been reprimanded, and then we have the higher-ups. So let‘s start with the most basic cases. Can these guys use as their defense in court—in a court martial that they were told to do this by the military intelligence?
HANSEN: No, I don‘t think so. That was pretty well set by the Calley case. That was Calley‘s defense, I was following orders when I massacred these people.
MATTHEWS: What happens if it‘s true, though? What happens if they really did complain? Like we had Mrs. Frederick on, her husband, Chip Frederick, according to here account, and his account to her in letters, he did complain about what was going on to no effect.
HANSEN: An illegal order is not a defense. It‘s just that simple.
And individuals who disobey illegal orders are doing so at their own peril.
It‘s a fact of the profession of arms...
MATTHEWS: You just have to take that responsibility. You have to take the heat that comes with saying no when a guy tells you to do something wrong?
HANSEN: Exactly right. Exactly right.
MATTHEWS: And that comes from your training?
HANSEN: It surely does. And every one of these people should have had that kind of training.
MATTHEWS: And in the real life of the Army, when you‘re in enemy territory, basically, you‘re over there and you‘re in the face of the enemy, and you are expected as a trooper to take up as part of your oath the responsibility to say to the officer, I don‘t care who you are, I‘m not taking that order, that‘s wrong.
HANSEN: That‘s exactly right.
MATTHEWS: What happens to that guy when he does stand up?
MATTHEWS: Besides being ignored.
HANSEN: That‘s the first one, I suspect.
MATTHEWS: I mean, these guys might have been afraid. Do you think they were afraid?
HANSEN: No, I don‘t think so. In the My Lai case, there was a helicopter pilot who landed at the site while executions were going on. And he recognized the illegality of what was going on. He ordered his door gunner to fire on any American soldiers that continued the massacre.
HANSEN: So there was an individual who knew what was right. He knew that that was an illegal order, the massacre could not be justified under the law of war. And he took appropriate action.
MATTHEWS: Was he risking Calley or one of those other guys would start shooting at him?
HANSEN: I think he may have risked that, possibly.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, it‘s courageous...
HANSEN: It would have been a terrible thing.
MATTHEWS: We expect courage within the unit from guys, not just against the enemy when they take the oath.
HANSEN: Well, that‘s exactly right. Exactly right.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you have about the kind of penalties that might face these soldiers.
HANSEN: Well, those who are facing court martial, depending upon how many charges there are and whether the military judge might hold some of them multiplicious, that is only one....
MATTHEWS: Do you think the Army, faced with all this heat from us, talking about it right now, et cetera, et cetera, and all over the newspapers, do you think they may go back and review the case of those reprimands and do further damage to these guys‘ careers?
HANSEN: I don‘t think so. I think that‘s...
MATTHEWS: OK. What about the higher-ups? Is that within the realm of military justice or just political behavior? We have to get rid of—you know, people have said you have to make decisions to get rid of some of these people, the higher-ups, because it‘s the only way to convince the enemy and the world you‘re serious about justice.
HANSEN: Well, that‘s certainly true. And...
MATTHEWS: Is that a matter of military justice, or is done through the courts? Or is it just done administratively?
HANSEN: No, it will be done by commanders. Commanders at the highest level will start looking down, do I still have confidence in you as a commander. If I do, you‘ll stay in place. If there‘s indications that you either participated, condoned, ordered or looked the other way, I no longer have confidence in you as one of my commanders and I relieve you from command. And if I find you participated or were dereliction in some way, then I‘ll also put a formal letter of reprimand in your file.
MATTHEWS: As a pro, and a guy who spent a lot of time in the military, do you believe this is a bad apples case, or is this a systemic problem?
HANSEN: No, I think this is a bad apples case.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, General Donald Hansen, who has had a lot of experience.
Up next, retired General Wayne Downing and former CIA officer Larry Johnson on the new risk now facing Americans in the field in Iraq from the enemy now that the abuses by American guards in Baghdad, at a Baghdad prison, have come to light. What about our prisoners (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Larry Johnson is a former CIA officer, and General Wayne Downing commanded a joint Special Operations task force during the first Gulf War. He‘s now an MSNBC military analyst.
Let me go first to General Downing. The question is, what‘s your personal reaction—as a career guy in the military at the highest rank, what‘s your reaction to this kind of performance by Americans?
GEN. WAYNE DOWNING (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Chris, I‘m absolutely appalled. And it‘s totally unacceptable. I think it signifies a break down in the chain of command from the top to the bottom. And I think the thing that really worries me is this gives a great psychological boost to Osama bin Laden in this global war on terrorism.
MATTHEWS: Yes, we‘ll probably be hearing from him...
DOWNING: We‘re off the moral high ground with this incident.
MATTHEWS: ... we‘ll probably be hearing from him on the radio pretty soon. But let me ask you about the defenses thrown at me yesterday by a wife of one of the accused. It didn‘t happen, he didn‘t do it, the military intelligence made him do it, he had bad training, he was desensitized, these guys were desensitized by the war experience. Which of those defenses holds up?
DOWNING: Well, Chris, actually none of them do. But those last three points that you made I think clearly underline the fact that the chain of command did not prepare these soldiers to do this task.
You know, when you‘re doing any kind of work, some tasks are more dangerous and more risky than others. When you have prisoners and you have interrogations, immediately, Chris, if you‘re a commander, a red flag goes up. This is something I‘ve got to watch carefully, or I‘ve got to take a trusted subordinate commander that I know, put him or her in charge of this thing, and check them very, very carefully. To my knowledge, we don‘t do any of this.
MATTHEWS: Is there supposed to be a wall between the MPs regarding these people, including the reservists who are in the MP, the military police, basically as the prison guards, and the intelligence officers who have a mission to get everything they can out of these people?
DOWNING: Well, there certainly shouldn‘t be a wall, Chris. They have to cooperate with each other. But, you know, they constantly have tensions between the interrogators and those who were in charge of the prisoners, you know, about how they‘re going to be handled, when they‘re going to eat, when they‘re going to go to interrogations, and things like this.
So there‘s tension there, but they have to cooperate. They have to work together. Which is another reason, Chris, why the commanders have to be involved.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Larry, about interrogation. Is—what is within the bounds? I mean, we had Dershowitz on a couple of months ago selling the idea that in extreme circumstances involving a major terrorist attack about to happen, you can basically do anything you want to the guy, kill him if you have to. What are the rules?
LARRY JOHNSON, FMR. CIA OFFICER: The fundamental rule is no torture. If you‘re going to abide by the human rights conventions, which (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and frankly...
MATTHEWS: No torture meaning—we have seen so many times you keep the guy up all night, you wear him down psychologically...
JOHNSON: That‘s not torture.
MATTHEWS: ... prevent him from dreaming at night. Apparently that‘s one way to get a person not to be able to control their emotions.
JOHNSON: Torture is when you‘re deliberating inflicting physical pain on someone in order to coerce a statement.
MATTHEWS: Can we use chemicals?
JOHNSON: No, shouldn‘t use chemicals.
MATTHEWS: We don‘t use sodium pentathol?
JOHNSON: No. It‘s just proven not to really be that effective. Look, I went through an interrogation training with CIA where we were actually the victims. And I think what was done to us is worth doing to other people.
We were forced to stand in one place for two or three days, we were deprived of sleep. We were...
MATTHEWS: Were you stripped?
JOHNSON: Initially stripped, but not humiliated in front of other people. We were given enough food to keep us alive, but we weren‘t allowed to order from room service, we weren‘t said, hey, would you like the doubles or the king-size bed.
JOHNSON: But in the process of that, people did break down and testify or respond to the interrogation. But going out and humiliating these people, stacking them up in pyramids, using physical force on them, that crosses the line because, at the end of the day, people are going to tell you whatever they think you want to hear to get you to stop. And that‘s not helpful.
MATTHEWS: In other words, was sexual humiliation part of their drill?
MATTHEWS: Was fear? It wouldn‘t work in a drill situation, because you know they weren‘t going to kill you. But is scaring a guy to think he‘s going to be killed if he doesn‘t cooperate, is that within the rules like these guys were apparently doing?
JOHNSON: No. That‘s not in the rules. You shouldn‘t do that because, look, at the end of the day, no matter what someone tells you, you still have to go out and corroborate that.
MATTHEWS: Then how did that happen in Vietnam? General, what about these pictures we‘ve seen in Vietnam where guys—I‘m not going to call them guys like they‘re my buddies or anything, but VC, suspected VC, North Vietnamese, where the water torture in the mouth, the hose in the mouth, and all that, didn‘t that all go on?
DOWNING: Sure it went on. It went on, on both sides. But I really agree with what Larry is telling you there, Chris.
When you use these kinds of techniques, the guy is going to respond in order to make this pain go away. Listen, when you‘re a prisoner—and I‘ve never been a prisoner, but like Larry, I‘ve had training—when you‘re a prisoner, evening in a training situation, you‘re scared to death. I mean, that‘s just the nature of it.
MATTHEWS: Why are you scared?
DOWNING: Because someone has control of you. And you have control of absolutely nothing.
Things, cues are greatly magnified. I mean, you know, your psychological perception completely changes when you‘re a prisoner. So it‘s very easy for an interrogator to use this fear, this disorientation to trip you up in your stories and to elicit information from you. You don‘t have to be beating on people to get that.
MATTHEWS: Right. How do you get the sadists out of this business?
JOHNSON: It‘s leadership hand monitoring. Look, for General Myers to go on Sunday television and pretend—and say, I haven‘t read the report, I‘m unfamiliar with it, that‘s part of the problem. This goes top down.
If I‘m President Bush, I relieve tomorrow General Myers, General Abizaid, General Sanchez.
MATTHEWS: You‘d go all the way up on that?
JOHNSON: All the way up, because unless you go all the way up, we‘re setting ourselves up for a failure with Saddam Hussein. Because when we want to put Saddam Hussein on trial, we want to hold him accountable for all the things that people below him did. Yet, at this point, we‘re going to say, well, blame it on the lower guys but the upper guys get a walk.
MATTHEWS: Two questions. “I was only obeying orders,” the Nuremberg defense, General, will that work here?
DOWNING: No. It absolutely will not.
MATTHEWS: Why not? What about these low-level reservists who are scared to death of MI, of military intelligence?
DOWNING: Chris, listen, they have no reason to be afraid. But every soldier is briefed extensively on the laws of land warfare. They know what the Geneva Convention says. They know they‘re not supposed to do this.
Morally, they know it even without that training. That will not work, “I was only following orders.”
MATTHEWS: Do you agree with that?
MATTHEWS: OK. The second question, which is a very military, in-the-field question, General, you‘re commanding troops, you have to face the enemy every day, where they‘re sneaking around with bombs or they‘re confronting them with guns or mortars or whatever else. Does this encourage people to fight to the death knowing they face this kind of treatment inside if they surrender?
DOWNING: Sure. Sure it does. But I mean—whether or not that will happen or not, Chris, I don‘t know.
MATTHEWS: Well, my question is, how much—will it ratchet up the danger of the guys in the street because they know if they say, surrender, buddy, the guy‘s thinking, I‘m not going to get humiliated like that. I don‘t know. I‘m just asking.
DOWNING: Well, most of these guys we‘re fighting right now are fanatical, and many of them do fight to the death. Certainly, I think the guys that are going to be scared to death is somebody that gets swept up in one of these population and resources control operations. I think they would be very, very frightened and probably do anything to avoid apprehension.
Chris, the other thing you haven‘t talked about is the impact on our prisoners. How are our prisoners, both civilian and military, going to be treated with this kind of thing.
MATTHEWS: Quid pro quo.
DOWNING: I don‘t like that. I don‘t like at that at all.
MATTHEWS: Do we have prisoners right now being held on the other side?
JOHNSON: We have one U.S. soldier who—a reservist who is in custody. And the general is absolutely right. We‘ve put those people at risk with this—by even appearing to tolerate this.
MATTHEWS: Is this going to be a rallying cry in the street over there, in the streets of the Sunni Triangle, especially, that Americans are a bunch of pervs and...
JOHNSON: I think it‘s going to be used that way. It‘s definite propaganda that they will try to exploit against us. It‘s not a positive.
MATTHEWS: We‘re giving them the sword, aren‘t we?
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, General Wayne...
MATTHEWS: One last point. Go ahead.
DOWNING: Chris, listen, not just in Iraq, but in the entire world.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, General Wayne Downing and Larry Johnson.
Coming up, former NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will be here to discuss his new book on the forgotten African-American heroes of World War II.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a six-time NBA most valuable player and is the author of five book. His latest is titled “Brothers in Arms: The Epic Story of the 761st Tank Battalion, World War II‘s Forgotten Heroes.”
Kareem, thanks for joining us tonight.
KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR, AUTHOR, BROTHERS IN ARMS: My pleasure.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about the war, World War II, and an interesting part. Tell me why you‘ve written about the 761st.
ABDUL-JABBAR: Well, I found out late in my life that someone I had known my whole life, who had been a police officer with my father, was in this battalion. And I viewed a documentary on what they did. And I was astounded.
And I came to find out that this individual, Leonard Smith, we knew him at Smitty (ph) -- Smitty‘s (ph) tank was the first tank (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Incredible story. I had no idea about it. And, again, I‘ve known this man my whole life.
MATTHEWS: Tell me about the African-American role in combat in World War II. I thought it was very limited. You‘re changing my mind on that.
ABDUL-JABBAR: It was very limited. There are very few units that got to fight. The (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Airmen, this unit, maybe there was a Marine unit, and some sailors. But it was very difficult for blacks to get into fighting positions because the Army hierarchy was full of southerners who did not want to see blacks in combat roles.
MATTHEWS: What was the record of the 761st in combat?
ABDUL-JABBAR: They fought 183 straight days. They fought in the SAR Campaign, the Battle of the Bulge. They were one of the first units into Germany. They liberated two or three of the detention camps that were involved in the whole process.
MATTHEWS: So they should have been showed in the movie “Patton,” which I‘ve seen.
MATTHEWS: I mean, Richard Nixon saw it 100 times. I may have seen it 50 times. But they were part of that whole battle, the Battle of Bastone, going into the Bulge, that race against the southern part of Europe, all the way to Germany.
ABDUL-JABBAR: Right. Tilit (ph) was a key city in the Battle of the Bulge because it controlled the roads to Antwerp. And the Germans wanted to get to Antwerp and push the allies back across the channel. And the 761st and the 26th Infantry—I‘m sorry, 87th Infantry, took Tilit (ph) and would not let the Germans get back in there. And they had to retreat after that was over.
MATTHEWS: Tell me about the story at home. I want to talk about
Jackie Robinson in a minute, because he was in the unit. Everybody wants
to know about him. But officers in the 761st, American military officers,
their role in the South, the way they were treated in the South in America
· let‘s put it this way—during the war and the way we treated German prisoners?
ABDUL-JABBAR: Oh, it was appalling. The German prisoners were allowed to use the PX on any base because they were white. And black soldiers were not allowed to use the PX. They had to use separate facilities and everything because of the Jim Crow laws.
And there are even instances where black soldiers had to carry luggage and baggage for German prisoners of war.
Lena Horn was performing at Tuskegee, and they brought in German prisoners and would not let the Tuskegeee airmen in to see her performance. And she refused to perform until they rectified that.
MATTHEWS: Unbelievable. So they are going to have a black singer sing to white Germans, and they wouldn‘t let the American blacks see the show.
ABDUL-JABBAR: Right. And, you know, jazz music was very popular in Europe during World War II.
MATTHEWS: It was?
ABDUL-JABBAR: Oh, yes. Just because of the 20s and 30s. Paris was a center for jazz.
MATTHEWS: So they all knew Lena Horn?
ABDUL-JABBAR: They knew who she was, yes.
MATTHEWS: God. It‘s like Marlena Dietrich was popular on both sides.
MATTHEWS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Tell me about Jackie Robinson, because he was an amazing guy. You know, Branch Rickie brought him in, and he played for the Dodgers, and he broke the color barrier.
ABDUL-JABBAR: Jackie Robinson was in the 9th Cavalry. And he got an opportunity to come over into the 761st Tank Battalion as a morale officer. And he jumped at that opportunity.
He had tried to make the baseball team at Fort Riley, Kansas, and Pete Reezer (ph), who was in the Hall of Fame, he was on the team at that time. And he mentioned, “I saw a colored lieutenant came up to the field one day and wanted to be on the team, and we had to tell him to go away.” And that individual was Jackie Robinson.
MATTHEWS: Nobody lifted a finger?
ABDUL-JABBAR: Nobody lifted a finger.
MATTHEWS: But in a weird way, he gets picked up because he had a fight over—he wanted to sit where he wanted to sit on the bus, and he had to sit in the back. And there was this big incident.
ABDUL-JABBAR: There‘s a big incident. He was talking to the wife of one of the guys in the unit, and she was very fair skinned. The bus driver thought she was white. He told Jackie to get in the back of the bus and stop talking to that white woman. And Jackie wasn‘t taking that, and a beef ensued. And he ended up...
MATTHEWS: He came out on top because the truth won out.
MATTHEWS: So there must have been some rough justice in the South even in those days with that regard.
ABDUL-JABBAR: Well, you know, the first lawyer that he had to defend him thought that he should just plead guilty. Jack fired him and got a guy that understood what was going on and said, hey, I‘ll fight it with you.
MATTHEWS: Couldn‘t there be serendipity here? I was thinking that one good bit of this—what turned out to be good was because of the publicity over that and because he had been a big star at UCLA as a football player, did this help bring him to the attention of the Kansas City Monarchs? How did they recruit him? Because that was the route he took to get to the Dodgers.
ABDUL-JABBAR: Well, the Kansas City Monarchs was a Negro league team.
ABDUL-JABBAR: And so the major leagues were still segregated, and that‘s where he had to play if he was going to play professional baseball.
MATTHEWS: And he made it there?
ABDUL-JABBAR: He made it there, and Branch Rickie saw, you know, how good he was and said, come on up and play in Montreal and we‘ll...
MATTHEWS: OK. World War II buffs, History Channel buffs, here‘s your chance. “Brothers in Arms.” a story of World War II that everybody should see, written by one of the great—maybe the greatest basketball players of all time. Thank you, Kareem.
Join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. Our guests include Maria Shriver, first lady of California.
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