Guest: Barry McCaffrey, Frank Gaffney
ANNOUNCER: DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.
DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST: The secretary on the offensive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The facts are appalling. And so is the symbolism.
NORVILLE: Calls are getting louder. Should Donald Rumsfeld be fired?
One U.S. general on why the defense secretary needs to go.
The fallout continues. New disturbing images of Iraqi prisoners are raising more questions about the extent of American military abuse.
Plus, she was a hometown hero until disturbing images of G.I. Lindy England remain public. Now she appears new photos. Tonight a former Army comrade defends her friend who‘s now the focus of worldwide outrage.
And reaction to President Bush as he reaches out to the Arab world, denouncing the atrocities at Abu Ghraib. But is it too little too late?
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Those mistakes will be investigated and people will be brought to justice.
ANNOUNCER: From Studio 3-K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.
NORVILLE: And good evening.
Those new photos of Iraqi prisoners stripped naked and sexually humiliated by American soldiers are just as repulsive as those ones we saw the other day.
The photos, like the first group released last week, were taken at Iraq‘s notorious Abu Ghraib prison. One of them shows an Iraqi prisoner naked, lying on the floor, as a female American soldier holds him on the leash.
Another picture shows three naked prisoners bound together on the ground with soldiers just standing around them.
And then there‘s another, of a naked man handcuffed to a bunk bed with a pair of women‘s underwear covering his face.
These new pictures come on the heels of President Bush‘s appearance on Arab television yesterday, where he tried to calm the mounting crisis. He stopped short of apologizing in those interview, but he did apologize today, he said, to Jordan‘s King Abdullah.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I told him I was sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners and the humiliation suffered by their families.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Tomorrow, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is scheduled to testify about the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Democrats on Capitol Hill are already calling for his resignation.
Yesterday, President Bush met with Mr. Rumsfeld to give him what the White House described as a mild rebuke. And today, the president publicly backed Secretary Rumsfeld.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Secretary Rumsfeld is a really good secretary of defense. Secretary Rumsfeld has served our nation well. Secretary Rumsfeld has been the secretary during two wars. And he is an important part of my cabinet, and he‘ll stay in my cabinet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Joining me now to discuss the photos and the possibility of Secretary Rumsfeld having another job is NBC military analyst and retired Army General Barry McCaffrey.
Good evening, General.
GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Hi, Deborah.
NORVILLE: In your opinion is Secretary Rumsfeld, as the president said, quote, “a really good secretary of defense.”
MCCAFFREY: Well, of course, you know, at the end of the day, he works for the commander in chief, and he‘s appointed by the advise and consent of the Senate. So as long as he retains the confidence of those two bodies, then he‘ll stay in office.
But in my view, there have been some serious misjudgments, one of which is his inability when presented with a horrific situation of reservists in Iraq, which was investigated fully by the Army, why we didn‘t at that point make it public and invite in the International Red Cross and others to monitor it.
This was a fundamental misjudgment. It‘s going to cause us huge problems in the coming years.
NORVILLE: I wonder if one of the reasons it wasn‘t brought to the attention of those people is because, perhaps, Secretary Rumsfeld hadn‘t fully been briefed on the details himself.
Let‘s listen to what he said earlier this week about that question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The report, as I understand it, is a stack of—a report coupled with a whole series of annexes. And so when I‘m asked a question as to whether I‘ve read the entire report, I answer honestly that I have not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: General McCaffrey, that stunned a lot of people. This report was finalized the beginning part of March. He had not read it as of the time that that question was asked earlier this week. That‘s astonishing, given the serious nature of the offenses that have occurred.
MCCAFFREY: Well, you know, also I would suggest—look, this is a report by a couple of young military policemen who were ashamed of what was going on. It was then jumped on by Lieutenant General Rick Sanchez, our joint commander in Iraq, who had a two-star general, Taguba, look into it.
He wrote a 53-page scathing investigation of the situation on the ground. That‘s the time at which they started to correct the situation. At that point, Secretary Rumsfeld, in my judgment, should have invited in the Red Cross, invited in the media, informed the Congress and taken direct action.
NORVILLE: And yet the Red Cross is saying that they in their visits made recommendations and they never felt that they were being effectively addressed by the commands at the Abu Ghraib prison.
And earlier tonight, NBC News reported that the CIA has confirmed that its officers made efforts to hide prisoners when the Red Cross and other human rights workers and other groups came into that prison.
MCCAFFREY: Yes. This report by Major General Taguba clearly documents there was a meltdown in the chain of command.
The 800th M.P. brigade, 3,400 soldiers, the majority of which are completely innocent of wrongdoing.
But at the point of fact in this case, there was obviously an improper supervision, Brigadier General Karpinski, who was in command of these 16 camps, failed to exercise oversight. And in fact, we had violent criminal behavior by U.S. military policemen.
That should have been then opened to the Red Cross and opened to the media after we had taken corrective action, which I think we now have.
NORVILLE: You think at this point in time, the changes that have been made, the announcement that those who were simply being held for observation, for questioning and don‘t seem to have any direct implication in any of the problems that the Americans are trying to deal with, should be released, that the prisoner count should go down, that the ways of interrogation will be changed.
Do you think that‘s enough to fix the problems there?
MCCAFFREY: Probably, but it certainly deserves oversight by the Congress, the media, by the International Red Cross, but outside bodies, Department of Justice, probably needs to provide oversight at Guantanamo and other places.
And at some point, we need to write down very definitive guidelines on how the armed forces works with the CIA. In my view, there should be an absolute firewall between any implication that the armed forces do anything but safeguard prisoners, just as we would safeguard American prisoners.
NORVILLE: What can Donald Rumsfeld say when he goes up to the Hill tomorrow that‘s going to change the minds of those, and the list is growing, your name is among them, but there are others on Capitol Hill, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who are calling for the resignation of Secretary Rumsfeld?
What can he say to tell them “I am the man for the job. I should stay in my position. The chain of command comes to me, and I‘ve taken the corrective actions that need to be taken”?
MCCAFFREY: Well, you know, I think Congress has a responsibility under the Constitution to raise and support an Army and Navy. I think they need to ask him, why are we—why didn‘t we put on the table the actual budget to run global operations of the U.S. armed forces?
We need $60 billion more, starting on 1 October, to keep this war on terrorism going. I think it‘s important. Iraq and Afghanistan were the right thing to do. He needs to be explicit and open with the Congress.
I think secondly, we need to explain why we‘ve called up 200,000 reservists but many of them, Deborah, are artillery National Guard units or engineer units who have been told, “Now you‘re military police. We‘ll train you for six to nine weeks and then deploy you into combat theatre.”
These soldiers are not trained to carry out these responsibilities in some cases. And the bottom line is the active military is too small to support the ongoing foreign and national security policy.
He needs to answer those questions, as well. Larger issues.
NORVILLE: Once again, the problems in Iraq are coming down to a lack of resources, not enough men and women available to do the job.
Let me ask you a question, General, from the point of view of the soldiers who are involved in this.
What we‘re hearing from their family members, from their attorneys who have been able to speak publicly is that they were just doing their job; they were just following orders.
The question obviously is, if the order is to do something that is so morally repugnant that you just cannot do it, can you not refuse that order? Can‘t they?
MCCAFFREY: Absolutely. Look, Deborah...
NORVILLE: So that doesn‘t wash?
MCCAFFREY: These are not Army—These are not Army values. They went through basic Army training. They knew full well this was criminal and illegal behavior.
There may well be, I might add, some in the chain of command, officers or noncommissioned officers, who had oversight responsibilities and may well have known of these things. They should also be held criminally responsible.
But nobody can defend this behavior. It‘s clearly a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
NORVILLE: It is also probably a violation of international law and the Geneva Convention, specifically.
And some of the statements that Secretary Rumsfeld has made, sort of the selective application of the Geneva Conventions, it doesn‘t apply to the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and some of those involved with the Taliban and the Osama bin Laden situation in Afghanistan. It may apply with some of the individuals in the Iraqi prisoners—in prisons, but not all of them.
It makes people wonder why we‘ve got sort of a cafeteria-style of justice in America. This was a country that was supposed to stand for justice, no matter what. And there‘s a lot of planet Earth who‘s wondering what happened? It‘s not being exercised.
MCCAFFREY: Well, I think we need to think through this very carefully. You‘re quite right. We‘re probably holding around 3,000 people, you know, Bagram Air Field, Diego Garcia, Guantanamo, 16 camps throughout Iraq.
In every case we need to comply with sensible aggressive regulations, but in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.
And so, if we need to do a hearing to classify people we‘ve detained as noncombatants as terrorists, then we‘ve got to do the hearing.
But I don‘t know why we can‘t, by and large, comply with fair open justice, except for a tiny number of agents that perhaps we‘ve abducted out of the system.
But by and large, allow access to visitors, open mail privileges. They ought to be, you know, treated as if they have some notion of a hearing on what their status will be.
NORVILLE: Another concern, General, is just how widespread or how narrow this particular treatment that we‘ve all been shocked to see documented in these photographs might be.
While it‘s been said that these were photographs that were used as part of an interrogation process, I‘d like to show the audience a picture. I call it the hallway shot, where it clearly appears to me that this is just a random occurrence. Three naked men bound together, a couple of guys looking at them. But the other people going about their business down the hall.
That seems to indicate that this kind of treatment of Iraqi prisoners was not unusual.
MCCAFFREY: Well, certainly the investigation by General Taguba talked about blatant and wanton acts of cruelty and illegal behavior.
I would still tell you, Deborah, I‘ve never heard of anything like this since My Lai. This is an aberration. This is not what our Army does. This is not what sergeants tolerate. These were unsupervised people playing out criminal acts. This is the face of evil.
We saw the same thing in German Gestapo agents and the Stalinist Russians. We‘re capable of the same thing, but our laws and our oversight prevents it. This broke down.
NORVILLE: And is it your opinion, sir, that Donald Rumsfeld should resign from his office to atone for the breakdown?
MCCAFFREY: Well, you know, it‘s not my place to call for his resignation as a private citizen.
I would tell you that I think his misjudgments over the past several years, beginning with going into Iraq with inadequate combat power, without military police brigades and cavalry regiments and without a thought-out plan on how to deal with the consequences of tactical victory, has brought us to a dangerous place.
And I think we do need to rethink our policy. It was the right thing to do to go into Iraq. I‘m proud of the president‘s leadership, but this team needs to be rethought.
NORVILLE: All right. General McCaffrey, I thank you for your time.
MCCAFFREY: Good to be with you, Deborah.
NORVILLE: When we come back, we‘re going to check out the other side, why Donald Rumsfeld should stay. That‘s coming up.
ANNOUNCER: Coming up, once a hometown hero, now she‘s being vilified around the world as a symbol of a war criminal. Tonight, a look at the real Private Lindy England and how she ended up in the middle of an international incident.
DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT is coming right back.
NORVILLE: We continue now our look at the abuse of Iraqi prisoners.
Democrats on Capitol Hill are calling for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Mr. Rumsfeld has been engaged in a cover-up from the start on this issue and continues to be so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: I‘m joined now by Frank Gaffney. He‘s a former assistant secretary of defense during the Reagan administration. He is now president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for the “Washington Times.”
Good evening, sir. Nice to have you with us.
FRANK GAFFNEY, CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY: Thank you, Deborah. Nice to be with you.
NORVILLE: What do you think of the calls for Secretary Rumsfeld‘s resignation?
GAFFNEY: I think they‘re a formula for disaster, frankly. I think Don Rumsfeld is arguably the single most effective, courageous, visionary, principled and successful member of the president‘s cabinet.
And what would be the unmistakable effect of compelling his resignation for activities that he had about as much to do with as you or I did, would be to signal to our adversaries precisely the disarray they hope is taking place here and that will underline our resolve and staying power in Iraq.
I think it‘s exactly the wrong thing to do. And the fact that a bunch of Democrats are saying it I think principally reflects the fact that they‘d really like to call for president‘s resignation, but they know they can‘t do that and may not be able to accomplish it in a couple of months from now in the elections.
NORVILLE: Well, certainly I guess there‘s always the political bent on this. How do you think this is going to impact the politics come November?
GAFFNEY: Well, I‘m reasonably sure we will be on to other things by November.
Look, the investigations that have been under way, that have been publicly announced from the very beginning, will have presumably run their course. We will have a far better understanding of the breadth and the dimensions and the levels of responsibility for this sickening behavior.
And I want to be clear. I‘m not defending this behavior. I just think we have to keep it in perspective, because not only is it completely inconsistent, as even General McCaffrey was saying, completely inconsistent with everything we stand for as a country. And most especially as our military stands for.
But it is nothing, literally nothing compared to what is the day-to-day lot in life of the vast majority of people in the Arab world who are now so exorcised about this misconduct by a few Americans.
I don‘t think it‘s an accident that we‘re seeing them in this frenzy. They‘re being fed this steady diet of anti-Americanism. And I think it distorts the reality.
And it certainly does not behoove us to appease it, most especially doing something as counterproductive as sacking Don Rumsfeld.
NORVILLE: But having said that, I know that‘s not to be taken as an endorsement of the way this has been handled by the military. How should Donald Rumsfeld have handled this?
Because the concern has been he seemed a little bit detached from what‘s clearly a serious international incident that has far ranging repercussions beyond the specific soldiers involved with the abuse and the specific individuals who were the victims.
GAFFNEY: I hope we‘ll have a chance to talk about the legal issues here. Because I think some things that you and General McCaffrey talked about before the break are—need correction.
But let me just say on this point, I think Don Rumsfeld knew perhaps less than he should have and less than we would all have liked to have him know until these pictures came out.
And these pictures catapulted what was otherwise part of the routine process of a military investigation and criminal procedures under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which has, as a central principle, Deborah, that commanders, most especially people at very high levels, must not interfere with the proceedings.
And remember, there have been a few other things on the secretary of defense‘s plate in March and April. Most especially April when, as I‘m sure you‘re aware, things have been going badly in Iraq and it has been, I think, a full-time job to attend to other action items that are more pressing than this.
When the pictures came out, it became a very high priority to be sure.
NORVILLE: And the Pentagon has pointed that out. I mean, April was a horrible month, with the fighting in Fallujah and more bodies coming home that month than any other month during the war.
But there was also the delay factor. And there‘s also the concern that this became a hot button issue for the Defense Department when the publicity became attendant to it.
Yes, the investigations were going on, but as CBS News has indicated, they were prepared to go with their report. They were specifically asked by the Defense Department to wait two weeks.
During that two weeks, no one at the upper levels of DOD took it upon themselves to make sure that the defense secretary was brought into the loop and fully aware of what was going on.
That‘s an extraordinary lapse, given that they knew what the content of the pictures were as early as last January.
GAFFNEY: Yes. I assume that they know what the content of the photographs was, and I can‘t explain why that lapse took place. But again, I‘m not sure that‘s the fault of the secretary of defense.
But whoever‘s responsibility it was, it reinforces the point that I‘m trying to make here, which is I think that Secretary Rumsfeld has actually set the right tone for this war, has tried to prosecute it as effectively as we can with minimum adverse impact on the Iraqi people as possible.
And clearly, he is as sick as I am, and as I‘m sure everyone else is, that what appear to be a relatively small number of American servicemen and women engaged in behavior that was completely contrary to that trust.
NORVILLE: What can he say when he appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee tomorrow that will, in essence, be his own version of the buck stops here, if that‘s what needs to be said in the minds of many?
GAFFNEY: Look, he doesn‘t need any coaching from me on what to say. He‘s a brilliant spokesman and will articulate, I‘m sure, his views better than anything I could offer up.
The thing that I hope he will reinforce is the message that this is not consistent with what we stand for or what we seek.
It is not a product, as the earlier conversation suggested, of some disregard for the rule of law. It is not evidence of a systemic problem, I believe. It is certainly not compatible with what we as Americans stand for and what we‘re doing for the Iraqi people every single day.
It is an unfortunate episode. It is one that we regret, but the more we indulge in this sort of sense that everything is coming apart at the seams over this misconduct, the more we reinforce the sentiment of our enemies that we are losing the resolve to help bring about the liberation and consolidate freedom in Iraq in a way that is clearly in the interest not only of the Iraqi people but ourselves.
NORVILLE: I want to play a quote from Senator Joseph Biden, who‘s on the Foreign Relations Committee, from earlier today when he addressed this. Let‘s give a listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: No single act I can think of, other than maybe the bombing of the holiest shrines in Najaf loaded with pilgrims, could have been worse for America‘s image than what has happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: That‘s a pretty extraordinary statement. He went on to say that—he almost, he sort of hesitated as he said this, you almost wish they would have been shot rather than posed in these humiliating ways. It would have been easier to deal with.
What should America do to deal with this terrible image that has, as you pointed out, fostered anti-American sentiment to an even higher pitch than it was prior to this?
GAFFNEY: Look, I disagree most of the time with Senator Biden, and I certainly disagree with this. I think there are a great many things that could be worse.
But it certainly would be infinitely worse for us right now if we were dealing with photographs of American servicemen and women executing in cold blood or even torturing in some barbaric way these prisoners.
NORVILLE: Some would say these pictures were pretty barbaric.
GAFFNEY: Well, some would say that. And I would suggest to you that they‘re indefensible. I‘m not suggesting that this is a behavior that I condone. I‘m simply saying to you I think it is different than brutally murdering people.
And for Senator Biden to say it would be better if they were murdered is just crazy.
But here‘s the message, Deborah. In the event, the most important thing we can say to the American people about this is get a grip. Let‘s keep this in perspective.
The most important thing we can say to the Arab world is this is not what we stand for. We‘re trying to help bring about a society that does not do this to its own people, and we certainly don‘t want to do this.
And by the way, we would like to help other parts of the Arab world get out from under the kind of torture that is their day-to-day life, both in prisons and out on the streets in many cases.
NORVILLE: I‘ve got to say, Mr. Gaffney, I don‘t think this is a get a grip thing. I think these are people looking at pictures and saying that‘s not what I believe the stars and stripes stand for.
GAFFNEY: I agree with that. I certainly agree with that.
What I‘m just saying is let‘s not overdo it by saying that we have lost our way as a country; we are immoral as a country; we‘re guilty of some horrible misconduct as a country. That‘s not true.
Our enemies would like that to be true. It is not true, and I think we owe it to the American people and to the world to make it clear that that‘s not true, Deborah.
NORVILLE: Well, I think you‘re right about that. It‘s a minority, not the majority.
NORVILLE: Frank Gaffney, thanks for being with us tonight.
GAFFNEY: Thank you.
NORVILLE: And be sure to tune in to MSNBC tomorrow morning. We‘ve got live coverage as Secretary Rumsfeld and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Richard Myers, go before the Senate Armed Services Committee. It‘s expected that hearing will begin at 11:45 a.m. Eastern.
Coming up, the woman in many of these pictures was hailed as a military hero in her hometown. But what about now? One of her friends joins me next.
NORVILLE: Several photos of naked Iraqi prisoners shows one particular American female soldier.
In one of these new photos, Private 1st Class Lynndie England is seen holding an Iraqi prisoner by a leash. In the pictures from the other day, she‘s seen smoking a cigarette and pointing to the prisoner‘s genitals. And in another, she‘s seen posing next to a naked prisoner. Private England is from the 372nd Military Police Company. That‘s a reserve unit which operates out of Cumberland, Maryland.
And ever since the Army‘s investigation into abuses at the prison, she‘s been reassigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. However, no charges have been filed against her. Trained to be an Army administrator, Private England was supposed to be processing and fingerprinting prisoners. So what is she doing in those photos?
Joining me now from her first prime-time interview is Kerry Shoemaker-Davis, who served with Private England in Maryland before Private England was deployed over the Iraq.
And good evening. Thanks for being with us.
KERRY SHOEMAKER-DAVIS, SERVED WITH PRIVATE ENGLAND: I‘m doing well, Kerry. How well did you know Lynndie England?
SHOEMAKER-DAVIS: We served together at 372nd for approximately 2 ½ years. And, at the time, she did not have a car, so I drove her to drill every month. And I was also assigned as her sponsor when she first came to the unit. So we got to know each other pretty well.
NORVILLE: Which meant you were sort of the person who showed her the ropes, how everything works within the unit?
NORVILLE: And when she was shipped out to Iraq, what did she tell you her responsibilities were going to be when she got over there?
SHOEMAKER-DAVIS: She‘s strictly admin, or she was supposed to be.
NORVILLE: And why would she have been in the cellblock part of the prison in Baghdad?
SHOEMAKER-DAVIS: Well, I can‘t tell you exactly, but I heard that she was hanging out with the rest of the guys.
NORVILLE: And she has
SHOEMAKER-DAVIS: There really wasn‘t anything else for her to do.
NORVILLE: Once the prisoners had been processed, she just went and hung out with the other guys in there?
SHOEMAKER-DAVIS: Yes. That‘s what I heard.
NORVILLE: And I understood that she had become romantically involved with one of them, one of the men with whom she‘s photographed. Do you know anything about that Specialist Graner?
SHOEMAKER-DAVIS: I don‘t know him personally, but I do know that, yes, they are having a relationship.
NORVILLE: And “The Baltimore Sun” reports that the military says that she‘s pregnant. Do you know that to be the case?
SHOEMAKER-DAVIS: I can‘t confirm or deny that.
NORVILLE: When you‘ve seen those pictures of Lynndie England, a woman I guess you would describe as your friend—you knew her well—you guys shared rides for a very long period of time—do you remember your first thought when you saw her in those photographs?
SHOEMAKER-DAVIS: I was really upset, shocked. I picked up the phone and called my mother. And then I called my mother-in-law. I was pretty upset, to say the least, because that‘s not the Lynndie that I know.
NORVILLE: When‘s the last time you spoke to Lynndie England?
SHOEMAKER-DAVIS: Right before I was discharged out of the reserves.
NORVILLE: And that would have been when?
SHOEMAKER-DAVIS: Oh, the last time we had a really in-depth conversation would have been maybe about 2 ½ years ago.
NORVILLE: Oh, well, that was years ago.
SHOEMAKER-DAVIS: When I was still pregnant with my son, yes. But I did talk to her before she left for Iraq.
NORVILLE: Have you spoken to her family about this incident and her involvement in these photographs?
SHOEMAKER-DAVIS: No, and I won‘t.
NORVILLE: Why not?
SHOEMAKER-DAVIS: They have enough people banging down their doors.
NORVILLE: How does this make you feel as a former member of the 372nd to see your old mates involved in the kind of activity that‘s been so clearly documented in these pictures?
SHOEMAKER-DAVIS: Well, that‘s not the whole unit. That‘s just a few people. And unfortunately it‘s going to have a negative impact on the unit, but hopefully with time people will realize that not everyone would have been involved in something like that.
NORVILLE: And it‘s still early in the process, but at some point, charges may be leveled against more people. Punishments will be handed out. What are you as a former soldier think is the appropriate punishment for what other soldiers have done?
SHOEMAKER-DAVIS: I guess it would depend on the severity of the
offense. From what I‘ve seen, everyone will receive a reprimand. It just
· it‘s how severe.
NORVILLE: Does that sound like enough of a punishment to you, a reprimand?
SHOEMAKER-DAVIS: Well, I think the people higher up in the chain of command that aren‘t answering for themselves, they need to investigate it a little bit deeper. The person that‘s on the bottom end of the totem pole is the one that‘s going to get squashed, and unfortunately it‘s Frederick, England and the rest of them.
NORVILLE: All right, Kerry Shoemaker-Davis, thank you very much for being with us. We appreciate your time tonight.
SHOEMAKER-DAVIS: Oh, you‘re welcome.
ANNOUNCER: Up next, a presidential apology to the Arab world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It‘s a stain on our country‘s honor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: But is it enough to mend the fallout from Abu Ghraib?
World reaction when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns.
NORVILLE: Outrage from the Arab and Muslim world when they saw the first pictures of that Iraqi prison abuse. Is the U.S. damage control working?
NORVILLE: Yesterday, President Bush took the unprecedented step of appearing on Arab television to try to diffuse the tensions caused by those photos of Iraqi prisoners being humiliated by American soldiers. But he stop short of apologizing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The people of the Middle East must be assured that we will investigate fully, that we will find out the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Well today, Mr. Bush did apologize, saying that he was sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners and by their families.
Joining me now to talk about reaction from the Arab world is Youssef Ibrahim, a political columnist with “The Gulf News,” based in Dubai, and “The Daily Star,” based in Beirut. He‘s also the manager director of the Strategic Energy Investment Group. Also joining us tonight from Washington is Robin Wright. She is with “The Washington Post.”
And good evening to you both.
Let me start with you, Mr. Ibrahim, first. How is the apology that came today going to play in the Arab world? Is it enough, soon enough?
YOUSSEF IBRAHIM, COLUMNIST, “GULF NEWS”: I think it‘s too late too little. I think it‘s too late too little all the way along.
First of all, let us start with blaming the American media. CBS had those photos and sat on them for two weeks. It negotiated with the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff, Chairman Myers, for two weeks about those photo. I don‘t think the CBS of Walter Cronkite would have done anything of that. Secondly, when the CBS report came out, the rest of the American media did not pick up on it for a few days. And finally, neither the president, nor Donald Rumsfeld said anything until the Arab media got hold of the pictures and the world out there caught fire. So there is blame—enough blame to distribute all around.
NORVILLE: And, Robin, is there anything at this point that the American officials can say that‘s going to mitigate what Mr. Ibrahim just said: You have waited an awful long time to deal with any of this?
ROBIN WRIGHT, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Well, I suspect the administration—in fact, I know the administration plans to take other steps in the days and maybe in the weeks ahead to try to show its good intent.
But I think Youssef is right in saying that the pictures that were released are a reflection, or a microcosm, even, of the way the Arab world believes the United States looks at it. “The Washington Post” today ran another picture of a female soldier holding a naked Iraqi detainee on a leash on the floor. And there‘s a sense that, among many in the Middle East, that this is the way the United States and a lot of Americans feel about Arabs.
NORVILLE: And when you look at that photo—and now I would like to just look at some of the headlines that come from some of the Arab newspapers today.
Quote: “The Democracy of the American Empire of Evil and Prostitution. Mass Rapes By U.S. Occupation Soldiers of Iraqi Women Under the Threat of arms.” Another paper: “Condemnations By the United States and Britain Are Not Enough.” Another: “The Bastards, How Long Are Going to Stay Silent?”
Do you believe we‘re at a crossing point in U.S.-Arab relations, Yousef?
IBRAHIM: We are at the crossing point. Whatever happens, they will never be the same again.
This is a new dawn, a new era. These pictures will burn in Arab memories for at least a generation. They will never go away. I think we already have lost much of our support in the Gulf. You can see the Saudis are moving away from us. That is why we are courting a thug like Moammar Gadhafi in order to get oil now.
But what is really important here is, what is being done is not enough. These, by any definition you care to apply to them, are war crimes. And it‘s not enough to pick on six uneducated, unsophisticated military personnel of the lowest rank. It‘s not enough. You have got to go up the chain of command.
“The Economist” is coming out with a big cover that says, “Rumsfeld, Resign.” I think—I don‘t like to mince words. Rumsfeld, one day, I don‘t know when, I don‘t know where, will be charged as a war criminal. These are war crimes. And we don‘t know what‘s happening in Guantanamo. We don‘t know if it is 3,000, the general mentioned on your show, who are held without access to lawyers. We don‘t know what‘s happening to these people.
NORVILLE: These are awfully harsh statements. Is there anything that can be done to this point to erase take away from that sentiment? At this point, is the horse so out of the barn that there is nothing the American military can do, the American administration can do to restore faith that indeed this is a country that pays by the rules, that prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and other detention facilities are being humanely treated?
IBRAHIM: Deborah, this is not happening in a vacuum. This is happening under three years of Bush administration by a coalition of neoconservative and evangelical Christians.
And these people have taken action after action that can only be interpreted as anti-Arab, anti-Muslim.
NORVILLE: Robin, briefly, before we go into the break, can you think of anything in your conversations with administration officials that would be big enough to have the significance that‘s clearly needed against this backdrop?
WRIGHT: Well, I think some very important steps could have an impact in the Arab world, I think the destruction of this prison, the release of vast numbers, thousands of the prisoners who have been not been charged with any crime, the resignation of senior U.S. military or Pentagon officials. But it‘s going to take some really bold steps to make any damage.
NORVILLE: When we come back, we‘re going to talk more about what those bold steps might be and if indeed there‘s a possibility they can be taken. More with our guests in just a moment.
But, first, before we go to the break, this is how Jordan‘s King Abdullah reacted to the pictures while visiting with President Bush at the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING ABDULLAH II, JORDAN: The reaction in Jordan, as well as the reaction here in the United States, was the same. I think we‘re all horrified by the images. But as has been clearly explained here in Washington, an immediate investigation has been asked for to bring the people who perpetrated these heinous crimes to justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Back now with Youssef Ibrahim, the political columnist with “The Gulf News,” based in Dubai, and “The Daily Star” in Beirut, and Robin Wright with “The Washington Post.” She‘s in their newsroom now.
Robin, you were talking about the big act, the big move that has to be made, one of them being perhaps blowing up the prison and releasing all the prisoners there at Abu Ghraib. Are any of those kinds of actions likely to happen?
WRIGHT: The administration, frankly, is still kind of scurrying to figure out what kind of steps they need to take.
The problem, however, is not just the Abu Ghraib treatment or mistreatment of prisoners. It‘s also the fact that the United States has, frankly, lost the moral high ground here. President Bush justified the intervention in Iraq on the grounds of finding weapons of mass destruction. The United States has not found them. And it now looks like we probably won‘t.
Then the administration shifted gears and said, we went into Iraq to help create a democracy that would serve as a model for not only the 22 nations of the Muslim world, but the 50-plus nations of the Islamic bloc, where the last group of dictators are still in power. And now this seems to undermine that goal. We look like hypocrites, that we‘re trying to create a government, but we‘re using very un-democratic and human rights violations to get there.
And so undoing the damage will require far more than simply dealing with what led to these series of photographs.
NORVILLE: On the other hand, I guess those who are wishing that the United States would leave sooner rather than later could seize upon this as one way of helping to use pressure to get the United States out, because they no longer, as you say, can claim the moral high ground in trying to lead Iraq into a new and more democratic life.
WRIGHT: Well, that will be one of the challenges for this administration. And this is trying to achieve their goals under growing pressure to get troops out of Iraq. And that, I think, is likely to play out over the next six months, particularly, and may force the administration to rethink its timeline.
NORVILLE: One of the statements that President Bush made was to the television network Al-Hurra. I would like to play that and then get both of your reaction to what the president had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: What took place in that prison does not represent the America that I know. The America that I know is a compassionate country that believes in freedom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: When I heard that sound bite, my mind kind of filled in,, but, unfortunately, Mr. President, this is something that didn‘t happen in America. It happened elsewhere.
IBRAHIM: First, speaking on Al-Hurra is completely useless. It‘s an official propaganda to—of the American government.
Secondly, coming from this particular president, who, we have to say it frankly, is the most widely hated president in the Arab and Muslim world, these words are ineffective. And finally, the only way this is going to be fixed, Deborah, to be perfectly honest, is when George Bush is out of office.
NORVILLE: Robin, is, from your perspective, the sentiment as strong as what Youssef has just articulated?
WRIGHT: Well, I think the interesting thing is that the resentment, the backlash, is not just in the Arab world. It‘s also in Europe and in some cases very, very strong among some of our most important strategic allies. And that‘s why the repercussions are so serious.
NORVILLE: As journalists, we often like to be able to tell the bosses what to do. Robin, if you were advising the president on what steps to take, what would be the two most important things you think he ought to be doing?
WRIGHT: Well, I‘m a journalist and so I don‘t think I should step into that area. I defer to Youssef.
IBRAHIM: I used to be a journalist. Well, I used to be a journalist.
Robin and I worked together many times. I was with “The New York Times.”
As a private American citizen, I say, shame on you, George. And I say, you must fire Rumsfeld. That‘s the least he can do. Eventually, these people, some day, as I said, will be tried as war criminals, the way Kissinger was held accountable for Chile. Do you remember that? There was a legal pursuit of Henry Kissinger over the Allende episode.
NORVILLE: But this is something on which many Americans disagree. And I think the idea of war crimes for President Bush is going to be a very, very tough...
IBRAHIM: I‘m not saying today, Deborah. I‘m saying one of these days.
NORVILLE: Well, I think people would argue that one with you, but we‘ll let that be the final word.
NORVILLE: But thank you very much, both of you, for being with us.
Youssef Ibrahim, Robin Wright, good to see you both.
WRIGHT: Thank you.
NORVILLE: When we come back, a look ahead to a very special hour coming up tomorrow with Lionel Richie.
NORVILLE: Feel free to e-mail us at NORVILLE@MSNBC.com. And some of your e-mails are being posted on Web page at NORVILLE.MSNBC.com. And while you‘re there, you can sign up for our newsletter.
That‘s our program for tonight. I‘m Deborah Norville. Thanks so much for being with us.
Tomorrow night, Lionel Richie. Lionel Richie joins me for the entire hour. He‘ll talk about his new C.D., his close friend Michael Jackson, his daughter‘s experience, Nicole, in reality TV and how she overcame a drug problem. Plus, he‘ll answer the question, might there be a Commodores reunion? Lionel Richie for the hour tomorrow night.
And coming up next, on this National Day of Prayer, Joe Scarborough asks if it‘s becoming political—prayer, that is. SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY is next.
Thanks for watching.
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