updated 5/25/2004 10:05:21 AM ET 2004-05-25T14:05:21

Guests: Don North, Joseph Agris, Claudia Kennedy, Dee Dee Myers, John Ensign, Dennis Kucinich

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight‘s top headline:  President Bush outlines his plan to turn over control to the Iraqis.  The “Real Deal”: 

Bringing democracy to the Mideast won‘t be easy, but we don‘t have a choice. 

Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, where no passport is required and only common sense is allowed. 

President Bush defends his plan for Iraq.  And we‘ve got reaction to the president‘s prime-time address from all sides, from the Hill, Senator John Ensign and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, and military analyst General Wayne Downing and Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy.  Plus, we‘re going to get political reaction from former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan and former Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers. 

And later, the documentary the rest of the media doesn‘t want you to see, real stories of innocent men mutilated by Saddam‘s torture.  We‘re going to be talking to a filmmaker who told their stories and a doctor who helped these men feel whole again, and why they are going to the White House tomorrow. 

ANNOUNCER:  From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, the president speaks to America and the world. 

It‘s time for tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

Tomorrow, expect to hear more bad news about Iraq in your local newspaper, trying to convince you and your family that our troops in Iraq are fighting a hopeless cause.  But tonight, President Bush explained in detail why our troops are fighting and giving their lives in a war halfway around the world. 

Here‘s some of what the president had to say. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Failure of freedom would only mark the beginning of peril and violence.  But, my fellow Americans, we will not fail.  We will persevere. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, the president reminded naysayers that this is a battle for the future of Iraq and the Middle East and that our enemies would rather watch the Iraqi people die than have any live in freedom. 

Failure in this battle would lead to a region run by Taliban-like tyrants, who would continue to export terror in places like New York, Washington, Madrid, and a field in Western Pennsylvania.  After 9/11, the president found his voice.  He spoke for a grieving nation and he gained the respect of the world.  But over the past few months, George W. Bush has been less than persuasive in his public statements about Iraq and the stakes of this war on terror. 

Tonight, he turned an important corner and he took his argument straight to the American people.  He needs to continue pressing this cause daily because this isn‘t a P.R. battle about winning the White House for the next four years.  It‘s about securing the peace against terrorists for the next 40 years.  The president can‘t afford to falter in taking his case to the civilized world.  And tonight, he rose to the challenge. 

And that‘s tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

With me now, we‘ve got Democratic presidential candidate Congressman Dennis Kucinich and Senator John Ensign from Nevada.  He‘s a member of the Armed Services Committee. 

John Ensign, now, you‘re on the Armed Services Committee.  How did the president do? 

SEN. JOHN ENSIGN ®, NEVADA:  Well, I think he did really superbly tonight, Joe. 

It reminded me a lot of when Ronald Reagan would take his arguments directly to the American people.  The president has been slipping in the polls.  And the only way that we can lose the battle in Iraq is if we lose the public relations war back here on our home soil.  And so it was important that the president rally the American people to the cause, because he understands what needs to be done.  He‘s had a plan in place for many months now.  There has been many people out there, like John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, saying, where is the plan?  There is no plan. 

We‘ve had access to the plan.  I‘ve known almost everything that he said tonight.  Members of Congress have had access to it.  We‘ve been briefed on the plan.  And he laid it out in a very clear way exactly what needs to be done.  And I was also glad to see that he said how difficult it will be to accomplish the task. 

What he laid out is an incredibly complex and difficult situation, but we must not fail.  I think you said it best.  Really, the future of the Middle East and the future of our American security is at stake if we fail. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, of course, as you said, the president isn‘t promising an easy road in Iraq.  This is what he had to say earlier tonight. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  Helping construct a stable democracy after decades of dictatorship is a massive undertaking.  Yet, we have a great advantage.  Whenever people are given a choice in the matter, they prefer lives of freedom to lives of fear. 

Our enemies in Iraq are good at filling hospitals, but they don‘t build any.  They can incite man to murder and suicide, but they cannot inspire men to live and hope and add to the progress of their country. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Dennis Kucinich, giving the Iraqi people the choice between freedom and terrorism seems like an easy choice to us.  Do you think the Iraqi people are capable of handling democracy? 

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, I think that President Bush really didn‘t announce any new policies tonight, Joe. 

What we‘re looking at is very sad.  It‘s just a continuation of the same failed policies which took us into Iraq based on untruths and misrepresentations.  My good friend Senator Ensign said that we have to win a public relations war.  Well, no, we shouldn‘t be looking at this as a public relations war.  This whole episode in Iraq represents a disgrace to America.  We went in and attacked a nation that did not attack us. 

It‘s a losing proposition.  We need to bring our troops home. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m sorry, Dennis.  Germany didn‘t attack us in World War II, did they? 

KUCINICH:  No, to equate this with Germany really is historically fallacious, because what we‘re looking at here is a nation that we attacked that did not attack us. 

Saddam Hussein, as you know, had nothing to do with 9/11, with al Qaeda‘s role in 9/11, with the anthrax attack on the country, did not have the intention or the capability of attacking the United States, did not have weapons of mass destruction.  It was wrong to go and it‘s wrong to stay in.  And so what the president needed to do was to say how our troops were going to come home.  And he didn‘t do that.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Dennis, you brought up an awful lot of things that we could debate about for the next three hours.  But we disagree on almost everything you said there, but let me ask you this.  Do you disagree with the president when he says now that the front lines in the war on terror are in Iraq? 

KUCINICH:  Well, maybe our presence has helped to give al Qaeda a beachhead in Iraq they didn‘t have before.  That might be true. 

However, it‘s not our job to be the policemen of the world.  And when we commit war against another nation in the name of fighting terrorism, especially a nation that did not attack us, we‘ve put ourselves in a position that‘s untenable. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So do we give up that beachhead to al Qaeda now?  You said they may have developed a beachhead in Iraq.  Do we give up the beachhead to al Qaeda? 

(CROSSTALK)

KUCINICH:  No.  What we do, Joe, is this.  We have a plan that includes an exit strategy. 

My plan, which I‘ve had on my Web site at Kucinich.us now for four months, involves getting the U.N. involved, but giving up control of the oil, the contracts, stopping the privatization of Iraq, letting the U.N.  help develop a constitution, and hold elections in Iraq, paying for what we destroyed, paying reparations to the families of innocent civilian noncombatants who lost their lives, and helping to fund a U.N. peacekeeping mission. 

That plan will inevitably be what we are going to have to do as a way of rotating U.N. peacekeepers in and bringing our troops home.  I think the American people want—by and large, want our troops to come home and I think the president should start recognizing that. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on, John.  Yes, jump in, but I want you to respond also to a “New York Times”/CBS poll.  The president‘s job approval is slipping over the past two weeks.  It‘s dropped 3 percentage points to 41 percent, with 52 percent disapproving. 

Now, John, this looks similar to the numbers we started seeing in 1994 that elected people like you and me to the Congress when America turned against Bill Clinton.  Are you getting worried? 

ENSIGN:  Well, I don‘t think that you should govern by polls.  Certainly, you should always be concerned, you know, whether your job approval rating, if you want to continue in that job. 

But it‘s more important to do the right policies.  I think in the end, the right policies get you reelected.  And that‘s really all you should be worried about is if you‘re doing the right thing.  Some of the things that my good friend Dennis Kucinich said about us pulling out of there, we should have never been there in the first place, doesn‘t recognize that we‘re in a global war on terrorism, that there are terrorists throughout the world, and including in Iraq, that want literally—that see us as the great Satan. 

They want to come against us.  And they are not going to stop.  And that‘s why it‘s critical that we win, not only that we win the war in Iraq, but we win the peace in Iraq and reestablish that as a free, democratically elected government right there in the Middle East. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Congressman Dennis Kucinich and Senator John Ensign, great to see both of you again.  Thanks for being here.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Now let‘s bring in our panel.  We‘ve got Peggy Noonan.  She‘s former Reagan speechwriter and MSNBC political expert.  And we also have Dee Dee Myers, former press secretary for President Clinton. 

Peggy Noonan, you‘re the presidential speechwriter.  Tell us, how did he do? 

PEGGY NOONAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think it was a good speech.  I think it successfully bought more time at a dramatic moment, when Mr. Bush is under great pressure and the whole Iraq initiative is under I think great pressure. 

I think it was somewhat steadying.  It announced a plan.  Now, it‘s not the first time he‘s talked of this plan, but it gave over 40 minutes of serious plan for, in effect, what the exit strategy is, what the strategy is, what the intentions are in Iraq.  So I thought it was a pretty good speech in that it addressed American anxieties about Iraq that I think have been out there in a big way since Abu Ghraib. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Dee Dee Myers, some have excused the United States of being imperialists.  The president disagrees.  I want to play you a clip of what he said. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  I sent American troops to Iraq to make its people free, not to make them American.  Iraqis will write their own history and find their own way.  As they do, Iraqis can be certain a free Iraq will always have a friend in the United States of America. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  So you think the president may have started down the path of convincing Iraqis this isn‘t about oil, this isn‘t about us being an imperialist nation; instead, it‘s about exporting democracy to Iraq and then coming home? 

DEE DEE MYERS, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  Well, Joe, I think he said many of the right words.  I actually agree with Peggy.  It wasn‘t bad as a start, but there was nothing new in it. 

I think everything the president said tonight, the American people and the Iraqi people have heard before.  I think it‘s still useful in some measure to put it all together, as he did tonight.  But I think that‘s there is growing concern not just in Iraq and not just in Europe, but in the United States, that there is kind of a messianic quality to the president‘s mission.  And I‘m not sure he did much to persuade the Iraqi people about that aspect of his own policies tonight.

Even people like Senator Pat Roberts, the very conservative senator from Kansas, has said, this has got to change.  And I think the president needs to be sensitive to that.  I also think, Joe, that he would have done himself a lot of good if he had said, we‘ve made some mistakes or in some language acknowledge that things have not been going well.  He said there has been more violence, but he didn‘t acknowledge that there was anything that his administration could have done better.

And I think that was a big mistake and a missed opportunity. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Peggy Noonan, did Ronald Reagan ever go to the American people and say, you know what, I screwed up, I made mistakes, I‘m sorry? 

NOONAN:  Oh, absolutely. 

But I think it‘s true of Mr. Bush that he does not feel that he made a mistake in going into Iraq and he feels that we can put this forward.  I‘ll tell you, I don‘t think this speech tonight seemed messianic, if I‘m saying that word correctly, like he thinks he‘s some great messiah bringing freedom to—I don‘t think it made that impression at all.  I think it was, for George Bush, a rather—an almost startlingly practical speech. 

It was interesting to me, for instance, Joe, that he did not talk a lot about democracy.  Somebody told me, I‘m not sure, that the word democracy was only in the speech once.  He was not being romantic about all of the possibilities.  He was being rather factual about the way to get stability, through local elections, etcetera, through all of these.  I didn‘t know we had 350,000 Iraqi troops and police and government officials on the ground there. 

Through that, through the effort towards getting peace with the United States being there and not making its footprint smaller, he seemed to be saying in practical terms:  We can do this.  This will work.  It won‘t come free.  It won‘t come easy, as we all know and all of us have known, but it‘s doable.  And I think the idea that it‘s doable was the great thing he had to communicate tonight.  And I think he did a pretty good job. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, Peggy Noonan and Dee Dee Myers, stick around, because there‘s going to be much more straight ahead.

Plus, we‘ve got the military reaction with Retired General Wayne Downing and Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy. 

Then, a group of Iraqi men had their bodies ravaged by Saddam‘s torture chambers.  Then they saw their fortunes change when a group of American surgeons volunteered their services to fix their injuries. 

We‘ll give you that story straight ahead. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Coming up straight ahead, more on the president speaking to America and the world on the Iraq war. 

We‘ll be right back in a second. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, welcome back to our show. 

Now, for months, the media has attacked the president for failing to communicate a clear message on Iraq.  And yet news of the president‘s major policy speech on that subject was met with almost complete indifference by the most powerful newspapers in America. 

First, let‘s take a look at today‘s “USA Today,” the most read paper in America.  Of course, there is no story on the front page.  There‘s obviously a great profile on Teresa Heinz, no story on the front page on the speech.  There‘s a small tease right here.  You can probably hardly see it.  But they talk about the president‘s P.R. plan for selling his Iraq policy. 

Next, let‘s take a look at “The Washington Post.”  Absolutely nothing on the front page of “The Washington Post” today.  But yesterday, they did have a story on Iraq that began this way: “President Bush will launch an ambitious campaign tomorrow night to shift attention away from recent setbacks that have eroded domestic and international support for his U.S.  policy in Iraq.”

And, finally, let‘s take a look at the newspaper I read every morning, for better or for worse, “The New York Times.”  And tonight‘s speech received scant attention.  Let‘s see if I can—there is a small subhead right here on the front page, but it‘s a subheading to a major story about a power struggle among three factions inside Iraq, so not a whole lot in “The New York Times” either.  This was the same paper who has run 30 negative editorials and only two positive ones on Iraq this year and blasted the president for repeatedly not providing a clear blueprint on Iraq‘s future. 

And tonight, the four major networks ignored the president and instead broadcast a reality TV show, a beauty pageant, a sitcom and a rerun of the movie “A Beautiful Mind.”

But tonight, John Nash was the only character suffering from schizophrenia.  You could also find traces oft disease in newsrooms across some of America‘s most elite media outlets, who said they wanted the president to speak on Iraq.  And when he did, they turned their backs and ignored him. 

Now we‘re back with our panel, Peggy Noonan and Dee Dee Myers. 

Peggy, I want to talk about the endless negative press that this president has received over the past six months.  And I‘m wondering, when a president gets behind this collection of just one bad story after another, is there really anything he can do? 

NOONAN:  That‘s a great question.  And it has been, as you well know and as you described tonight, one bad story after another. 

I think it is a concerted effort by media members to not like this war and to put this war in the worst possible light.  And I think it‘s—well, I haven‘t seen anything like it since Vietnam.  I have a feeling a real resistance, a real resentment is growing among the American people over this.  You cannot get a story of any progress in Iraq on the front page of a newspaper.  You can only get Abu Ghraib and horrible stories about Americans abusing detainees over there, that sort of thing. 

It sure seems, just to a regular person looking at the newspapers each day, pretty darn slanted.  It seems to me the Bush White House has to be asking what White Houses sooner or later always ask, but this one because of what‘s happening in particular:  Do you want to be frank?  Do you want to have the president come out and talk to the media about what they are doing?  Do you want him to go to the American people and say, I know and you know what‘s going on here; we know who is opposing this war more than anybody else in the world, heck, more than the French? 

There has got to be a great temptation for Bush to come out and be frank.  But, of course, he‘s not going to and it would probably be unwise.  Why?  He‘s already got one war on his hand.  He doesn‘t want another domestic war.  He doesn‘t want to send out his version of Spiro Agnew to talk about the nattering nabobs of negativism.  But do they still live?  You bet they do and they are still charge of newsrooms around America. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Dee Dee Myers, you know, the president that you worked for, and you were there when the president, President Clinton, received so much negative attention in ‘93 and ‘94 especially, even more than during the impeachment process, but that seemed like it was almost personal.  It was more personal than policy driven. 

Don‘t you sense that there is a real collective effort by a lot of the media to ignore the successes of our troops on the ground in Iraq?  How many Americans can talk about what‘s happened in Fallujah or in Karbala or in Najaf and all of these places where there has been tremendous success over the past month? 

MYERS:  Well, Joe, I don‘t think you want to lead with Fallujah when you talk about success. 

Of course, as a former White House press secretary, I understand what it‘s like to be on the receiving end of negative criticism.  It‘s not fun.  It feels unfair.  But the problem for President Bush is that every day there is a torrent of new bad news coming out of Iraq.  And it‘s not just the enemies of President Bush who are talking about these things.  He had, you know, Marine General Anthony Zinni on “60 Minutes” last night saying this policy is sending America over Niagara Falls. 

This isn‘t some left-wing critic of the president‘s.  It‘s in every quarter.  It‘s the Republicans in Congress.  It‘s the former and current senior members of the United States military.  And it‘s John Kerry.  It‘s not coming from just one place.  It‘s coming from across the board.  And I understand what that feels like.  You feel like you‘re getting the stuffing knocked out of you.

But the problem is, the policy is failing.  And the president did nothing tonight to announce new details of that policy. 

(CROSSTALK)

NOONAN:  Joe, this is a real ongoing story. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You say there is a torrent of negative...

MYERS:  There is. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Peggy, there is.  There are negative stories coming out of Iraq every day.

NOONAN:  Sure.

SCARBOROUGH:  Which actually proves my point, because I see from troops that are serving over there every day, e-mailing me, e-mailing others. 

NOONAN:  I know.  I know. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Unbelievable stories of success over there that “The New York Times” will never print on the front page about what they are doing over there.  Why? 

(CROSSTALK)

NOONAN:  ... real success and progress.

Look, war is ugly.  It‘s a mess.  There is something bad happening in a war every day, no matter what war, no matter what time.  You can always lead with it.  But you ought to be more balanced.  And if there are certain things happening, like we control the entire south and it‘s working there, that‘s good news.  If the north is peaceful, that‘s good news.  Let‘s talk about it. 

But there is another issue here, I think.  Look, a lot of us are divided on the war.  We‘ll continue to be divided on the war.  History is going to decide who was right, who was wrong, who did the right thing.  But right now, we‘re there; 138,000 American troops are there.  We can‘t—as Tony Zinni said in the interview I think you‘re referring to, as former General Tony Zinni said, or retired general, he said, we can‘t just get out of this.  We can‘t just leave.  We‘re going to have to stay there.  We‘re going to have to help.  We‘re going to have make sure this works. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know what?  If you all will hold on, we‘ve got to go to a break.  We‘ll be right back with more with Peggy Noonan, Dee Dee Myers.

Much more is straight ahead on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY when we return. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  America is divided on the war on Iraq, but the president went to speak to them without going through a media filter.  Well, the media filter is here now and we‘re talking about the president‘s speech.  We‘ll have much more straight ahead.

But first, let‘s get the latest headlines from the MSNBC News Desk. 

(NEWS BREAK)

ANNOUNCER:  From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

SCARBOROUGH:  I don‘t get this.  I hear this news about the FBI nailing that Oregon lawyer, saying they found his fingerprint on material at the Madrid train bombings.  And then they say, whoops, we messed up.  How do you mess up on that grand of a scale and go to the world and finger a guy, saying that his fingerprints were on the deadliest bombing, domestic bombing, in European recent history?  It‘s just unbelievable.  Incompetence.  I‘ll tell you what, that‘s how you do it. 

Anyway, let‘s go back to our panel right now, now that I‘ve...

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Dee Dee Myers, tell me, tell me, I want you to play Republican strategist.  The president‘s poll numbers are falling.  You say his policy is failing on Iraq.  If you‘ve got his ear, what do you tell him to do to turn it around, because it‘s looking bad? 

MYERS:  It is looking bad, because the policy is flawed.  And I certainly wouldn‘t tell him to just say the same things louder in order to fix it. 

Look, I think I understand something about the sacrifices that military families make.  My dad did two tours in combat in Vietnam.  I understand—I don‘t understand exactly what those guys are going through on the ground.  I don‘t think we should cut and run.  But the worst thing we can do is stick to a policy that‘s failing.  We need to reevaluate and move in a new direction.  And if this president won‘t do it, we‘ll get a new president who will. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Dee Dee Myers, how does the president move—I‘m sorry.

Peggy Noonan, how does the president move forward from here? 

NOONAN:  Well, I think what he‘s going to do is keep on keeping on. 

I‘ve got to tell you, Joe, I was thinking tonight as I watched his speech.  I think something ought to be said about Bush‘s character.  He has taken a historic pounding from the media, from the bed guys in Iraq, from history.  It‘s been a tough time for him.  And he came forward tonight.  And as he gave his speech, I will tell you, even with the marks from his fall off a bike yesterday, I have got to tell you who I thought of. 

Remember the movie “Raging Bull”?  Remember the scene where Jake La Motta is getting the stuffing beaten out of him by Sugar Ray Robinson?  He‘s covered with blood and at the end at this losing fight, Jake La Motta says to Sugar Ray:  You didn‘t get me down, Ray.  I‘m still standing, Ray. 

And that is who Bush made me think of.  He‘s still standing. 

(CROSSTALK)

MYERS:  Gosh, I hope that is not the best we can do. 

(CROSSTALK)

NOONAN:  He‘s a little bloodied, but unbowed. 

MYERS:  We‘re bleeding, but we‘re—but still moving in the wrong direction. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I will tell you what.  I might disagree with you, but thanks for being with me.  I will tell you what.  I think a lot of people would be surprised with central casting putting Robert De Niro as George W.  Bush.

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  But, anyway, thanks for being with us.  We greatly appreciate it. 

NOONAN:  Thank you, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, the question is, how is the military going to react to President Bush‘s remarks? 

To answer that question, I‘m joined now by retired General Wayne Downing, who is also an MSNBC analyst.  And we also have retired Lieutenant Generally Claudia Kennedy. 

Now, let me start with you, General Downing.

The president talked about the recent calming of tensions in Fallujah.  Let me—let‘s go to a map really quickly just to put some perspective on this.  Of course, if you look at Fallujah, obviously, it was a hotbed of terror in the Sunni Triangle.  You had obviously insurgents coming and going into Fallujah and creating just a traumatic situation there.

But this is what the president had to say about Fallujah earlier tonight.  Take a listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  In the city of Fallujah, there has been considerable violence by Saddam loyalists and foreign fighters, including the murder of four American contractors.  American soldiers and Marines could have used overwhelming force.  Our commanders, however, consulted with Iraq‘s Governing Council and local officials. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Wayne Downing, you know what?  A month ago, I criticized the White House, I criticized everybody for what they did in Fallujah for not going in there and leveling it.  And yet a month later, it looks like they made the right call, doesn‘t it? 

RET. GEN. WAYNE DOWNING, NBC MILITARY ANALYST:  Yes, Joe, it really does. 

And, if you remember, I think I was on one of the shows then, and I tried to defend what they were doing.  I really do think that it was smart.  But, you know, going to your original statement, you know, how does this all play with the military, I think you saw those War College students, which are the best and brightest of our young lieutenant colonels of all the different services, not just the Army. 

They gave the president a great, great ovation.  You saw him afterwards shaking all the hands.  I think you‘re going to see that same kind of reaction throughout the armed forces, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, isn‘t it the case, General—and, again, obviously, there are Democrats in the military.  There are Democratic veterans.  My grandfather, who was at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, despised Republicans, except for his grandson. 

And yet, when I get e-mails from these military men and women overseas, as I do every day, when I talk to people back in my old congressional district, all the military families embrace this president that I speak to.  Is that what you find?  And, again, this isn‘t a cheerleader session.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m just talking about there seems to be such a disconnect between what people read in the media.  And I‘m just trying to tell the people the truth about what I hear when I talk to military men and women, for the most part.

DOWNING:  Yes. 

No, Joe, I wouldn‘t say that the military is necessarily Republican, but they are certainly conservative.  And certainly there are a lot of wonderful things going on over there.  I do think the media does try to cover it.  But also, some of the hottest stories happen to be those that are very sensational, people getting killed, things getting blown up.  And those unfortunately have a negative cast to them. 

And it‘s kind of hard for the media not to cover that kind of stuff. 

But there is a lot of good things going on that we never hear about. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy, I want to—let‘s talk about what‘s happening now in the Shiite area. 

Obviously, the president talked a little bit about that also.  And let‘s put up a map very quickly.  Obviously, there were—as you know, obviously, coming in from Iran, there have been some insurgents coming in there.  But it appears that al-Sadr, who just a month ago people were predicting was going to create civil war in the southern part of Iraq, the Shiite area, has actually been subdued for now at least by his own people.  Does it look like the military is making progress in the southern part of Iraq? 

RETIRED LT. GEN. CLAUDIA KENNEDY, U.S. ARMY:  Well, you know, the southern part of Iraq and the northern part of Iraq have been under U.S.  control because of our air zones that we drew lines 10 years ago.  So this is not a new thing for the U.S. to have military control of the northern and the southern no-fly zones. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Right. 

KENNEDY:  Now, on the ground, that is a new thing in the last year.  And I have never disputed the competence and the courage of our U.S.  military.  But I do have great reservations about the leadership that is being provided by the political establishment today. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s talk a little bit about what‘s happened in Abu Ghraib prison, because the president promised that Abu Ghraib prison would be demolished as a symbol of renewal in Iraq.  The former commander of that prison has been suspended, but she says the Army hasn‘t notified her.  She also says she‘s not going to take the blame. 

Earlier, this is what she said on “DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.” 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT”)

BRIG. GEN. JANIS KARPINSKI, COMMANDER, 800TH MILITARY POLICE BRIGADE:

KARPINSKI:  I have received notification from several sources, but I have nothing in writing.  They are reliable sources, and including some of the offices that manage general officer records.  And I‘ve been told, but I still don‘t know the details of the suspension. 

DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST:  And on what grounds have you been suspended? 

KARPINSKI:  I don‘t know.  I don‘t know what the grounds are. 

NORVILLE:  Do you think you‘re being held responsible for the actions of others over whom you had no control? 

KARPINSKI:  I do.  And actions like this renew my thought process of being a scapegoat. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me ask both of you very briefly, do you think this general is being made a scapegoat, General Kennedy? 

KENNEDY:  I read the 53-page report on NPR.org when it was first being discussed.

And if you read that report, I think it‘s completely appropriate that she‘s no longer in command.  It‘s not just what you‘re able to control, but it‘s also that you ought to have been able to.  The commander is simply responsible.  Now, there is plenty of responsibility and accountability I would like to see with the president and with the deputy—the Department of Defense, the secretary. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Right. 

KENNEDY:  They both need to step up to the plate themselves.  And I just don‘t see that much accountability being discussed at the top levels. 

SCARBOROUGH:  General Downing, not only talking about the top levels, but also with this general, if you‘re in charge of the prison, if that‘s in your command and things go wrong, you‘re the one that gets busted, aren‘t you? 

DOWNING:  Absolutely, Joe.  The one thing that you learn in all of your preparation to become an officer, reinforced every day when you‘re an officer, that you are responsible, you and you alone, for everything your command does and fails to do.  That‘s it, exclamation point.  There is nothing else that you can say. 

Now, sure, there are always intervening circumstances which weigh into this.  But, Joe, you know, when you‘re responsible, you‘ve got to get out and see what your command does.  When they are doing things that are high-risk, like taking care of prisoners, prisoners who are high-value for interrogations, you‘ve got to be there, seeing what‘s going on.  And there is just absolutely no excuse for the kind of things that the American people have seen out of Abu Ghraib prison. 

And I will personally go over there and drill some of the holes to put the C-4 in to blow that thing down. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

DOWNING:  I think we need to get rid of it and start over. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I agree with you.

General Wayne Downing and also General Kennedy, thank you so much for being with us tonight.

And I want to thank you all, just on this occasion, talking about the military, thank you all for your service to this country over the past several decades.  We greatly appreciate it. 

And up next, a man who documented the horrors of Saddam‘s torture chambers and an American doctor who helped heal those scars, that‘s coming up.  So stick around. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Welcome back to the how. 

One of my next guests is a documentary filmmaker from Virginia who chronicled the plight of eight Iraqi men, former prisoners of Saddam Hussein who all had their hands cut off for the crime of dealing in foreign currency.  The filmmaker arranged for the men to come to America and receive state-of-the-art bionic prosthetic hands. 

With me now is the filmmaker, Don North, and Dr. Joseph Agris, a leading reconstructive surgeon who attached the bionic hands. 

Let me begin with you, Don North.  I understand you‘re going to the White House tomorrow.  What are you going to do there? 

DON NORTH, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: That‘s right, Joe. 

We‘ve just come from a meeting with our seven Iraqi friends and told them for the first time that they would be meeting tomorrow morning in the Oval Office with President Bush.  They were pretty excited guys.

SCARBOROUGH:  Tell me about your film.  Why did you decide to go and chronicle the torture that took place under Saddam Hussein? 

NORTH:  An Iraqi journalist showed me a 20-minute video shot by Saddam‘s Secret Service showing these gentlemen with their healthy right hands being cut off.  It reminded me of something out of Dr. Mengele.  And I was shocked by it and tracked these men down.  And they agreed to trust me with their story and I began to document it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, Don, when you heard comparisons recently between what happened in Abu Ghraib and what happened under Saddam Hussein, Ted Kennedy comparing the United States troops to Saddam Hussein‘s torturers, seeing all this documentary evidence, we can‘t show what‘s in your film on TV tonight, did you buy into those comparisons? 

NORTH:  No, of course not.  There is no comparison whatsoever. 

In 35 years of Saddam Hussein, there were more than 30,000 Iraqis executed at Abu Ghraib.  In the last two years alone, there were 2,000 hanged in Abu Ghraib.  No comparison. 

SCARBOROUGH:  We‘ve seen this past week Michael Moore, who has been swept away in the Cannes Film Festival, a hero of the French.  I understand, though, that you‘re having trouble finding people to distribute your film to get the news out there of what really happened in Iraq under Saddam Hussein.  Still having problems? 

NORTH:  Unfortunately I am.  Maybe I‘m just a lousy marketer and not very persistent at selling documentaries.  I would rather be out making them.  In a way, I‘m glad that a documentary filmmaker has won a Palme d‘Or in France.  Maybe it will give independent documentary makers a little more cache.  Here‘s hoping. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, if you go way to the left of where you are right now. 

Now, I want to bring many right now the doctor that agreed to help you out. 

Doctor, tell me, why did you decide to get involved in this project? 

DR. JOSEPH AGRIS, RECONSTRUCTIVE SURGEON:  It was the right thing to do. 

I have done humanitarian missions all around the world, from China, Russia, Vietnam.  And most of my work was with children.  However, when Don North called me and said, we have these gentlemen who had this amputation done at Abu Ghraib prison under the conditions of a prison, and he had brought them together and he wanted to offer them something nice, and I said, then let‘s do it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  When you examined them, what did you find? 

AGRIS:  We found that it was a very crude amputation, that the nerves were left untreated, that the bone wasn‘t treated properly, and it had to be reoperated on before a bionic, myoelectric arm could be made for them. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Doctor, thank you so much. 

Tell me, Mr. North, what‘s the chances of Americans seeing your movie any time soon? 

NORTH:  I think there has been a great interest in it in the last couple of weeks.  And we have a showing at the National Press Club tomorrow in both Arabic and in English with the seven Iraqis taking part in a panel discussion.

So I think the interest is growing.  And I‘m optimistic that we‘ll find a broadcast outlet that will put it on the air. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, thank you so much, Don North and Dr. Joe Agris.  We greatly appreciate the work that you‘ve done for all of America.  Thanks a lot. 

Now, don‘t go away, because, next, we have the heartwarming story of a soldier who lost his legs fighting in Iraq and of his hometown which banded together to build him a new home. 

That story is coming up straight ahead. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, tomorrow night in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, we‘re going to be talking about the media missing the big story in Iraq.  You‘re not going to want to miss that, tomorrow night on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

But stick around.  We‘ve got more tonight. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  With so much bad news being reported in the press, I was inspired to hear the story of Sergeant Dustin Tuller, recently injured in Iraq, and the town in my home state of Florida that came together to support their hometown hero. 

NBC‘s Kerry Sanders is in Milton, Florida, with that story. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KERRY SANDERS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  A homecoming for 28-year-old Staff Sergeant Dustin Tuller, but not just any hero‘s welcome.  Shot four times in Iraq, field medics and later doctors would say, he was going to die. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Staff sergeant Dustin Tuller, welcome home. 

SANDERS:  Dustin proved them all wrong. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think he is a hero. 

SANDERS:  A reluctant hero, a father of four, who finally came home this past weekend.  Sergeant Dustin Tuller lost both of his legs in battle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I got it.

SANDERS:  But not his sense of humor. 

STAFF SERGEANT DUSTIN TULLER, U.S. ARMY:  Shoestring is untied. 

That‘s why.

SANDERS:  Five months in rehab.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Good job.

SANDERS:  Fitted with computer-assisted titanium legs, Dustin is learning to walk again.  How could his hometown ever show their appreciation for his sacrifice? 

(on camera):  An old-fashioned parade, yellow ribbons.  It‘s a Norman Rockwell picture of a heroes homecoming, but this North Florida community wanted to do more than just say thank you. 

(voice-over):  One hundred twenty volunteers donated materials, building Dustin a new home, fully accessible.  In just 2 ½ weeks, the house is already taking shape, one community saying to one soldier, we care. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  A fellow has gotten himself hurt trying to defend what our nation is about.  And if we can‘t do somebody about it, something is wrong. 

SANDERS:  The man who got this started ironically owns a company in a Florida city called Baghdad. 

BLACKIE BLACK, CONTRACTOR:  I just felt like maybe this was one way that I could give back to my country. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  How are you all today? 

SANDERS:  Neighbors helping neighbors to get a job done. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Family room fireplace goes here.

SANDERS:  This weekend, for the first time, Dustin toured what will be his new home.

(on camera):  Did you ever believe any community could do this? 

TULLER:  Well, if I was to think about it, yes, any community can do it.  But will any community do it is the question in mind. 

SANDERS:  (voice-over):  Sergeant Dustin Tuller says, with the love of his family and the help of the community, he‘s focusing on what he‘s gained, not what he lost. 

TULLER:  Who is doing that? 

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS:  Kerry Sanders, NBC News, Milton, Florida. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  Boy, I will tell you what, that makes me so proud of Dustin, but it also makes me proud of Milton, Florida, which is where my dad actually graduated from high school.  And it‘s right by Pensacola.  I‘ll tell you what, what a community. 

As we continue to fight the war on terror, a lot of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY residents may be left to wonder who is in charge of our troops and what‘s the chain of command.  Everybody is pointing fingers at everybody else right now.  Well, this is a breakdown.  Our military is run by the Department of Defense.  It a civilian Cabinet-level organization, and, of course, it‘s headquartered at the Pentagon. 

And the command structure of the Defense Department was recently outlined in Congress in 1986.  And it runs, at the top, from the president of the United States, and he‘s the commander in chief of all military forces.  So Harry Truman wasn‘t kidding when he said, the buck stops here.  After the president, next in command is the secretary of defense, followed by nine military commanders around the world. 

They command the forces in their specific geographic regions.  For example, the United States Central Command is refused by General John Abizaid.  He‘s in charge of all the military actions from the eastern edge of Africa to Central Asia.  And that includes, of course, Iraq.  And like the other eight commanders around the world, his nomination came from the president and had to be confirmed by the Senate, which ensures citizen oversight of the uniformed services. 

And you know what?  When I was in Congress, I would always salute the generals, the admirals.  I would always be so deeply moved by all that our military men and women have done for us through the years.  But, in the end, we always have to remember that it‘s the civilians who are in charge of the military.   And who is in charge of the civilians in charge of the military?  You.  And you decide it again this November who is going to be running the military over the next eight years. 

Hey, thanks for being with us tonight in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  We‘ll see you tomorrow at 10:00. 

END   

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