THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
April 3, 2014
Guests: Errol Morris, Rajiv Chandrasekaran
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, MSNBC: Good evening, Joy. Thank you, man. It`s
great to see you there. Great to see you.
JOY BEHAR: Thank you.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next
In 2004, the Academy Award for best documentary went to a film called
"The Fog of War."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT MCNAMARA, "THE FOG OF WAR": Was there a rule that said you
shouldn`t bomb, shouldn`t kill, shouldn`t burn to death 100,000
civilians in a night?
La May (ph) said if we lost the war, we`d all have been prosecuted as
war criminals. And I think he`s right. He, and I`d say I, were
behaving as war criminals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Robert McNamara who served as defense secretary during the
Vietnam war and before that, served in the Air Force during World War
II. In "The Fog of War," Robert McNamara reflects at length on war and
morality and his own complicity as a human being and as a U.S. policy
maker, and the film is both moving and, in a way, cathartic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCNAMARA: We all make mistakes. We know we make mistakes. I don`t
know any military commander who is honest who would say he has not made
a mistake. There`s a wonderful phrase, the fog of war. What the fog of
war means is war is so complex, it`s beyond the ability of the human
mind to comprehend all the variables. Our judgment, our understanding,
are not adequate. And we kill people unnecessarily.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
It`s from "The Fog of War." The man who made that Oscar winning film,
Errol Morris now has a new film out called "The Unknown Known," in which
he subjects Donald Rumsfeld to the same kind of scrutiny as Robert
McNamara from "The Fog of War," but in this film, Donald Rumsfeld has no
similar interests in scrutinizing himself.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Osama gets away and a confusion sets in. People
began to think that Saddam was connected with al Qaeda and with 9/11.
DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Oh, I don`t think so. It
was very clear that the direct planning for 9/11 was done by Osama bin
Laden`s people, al Qaeda, and in Afghanistan. I don`t think the
American people were confused about that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 2003, in a "Washington Post" poll, 69 percent
said they believe it is likely the Iraqi leader was personally involved
in the attacks carried out by al Qaeda.
RUMSFELD: I don`t remember anyone in the Bush administration saying
anything like that. Nor do I recall anyone believing that.
UNIDENTIFED MALE: Mr. Secretary, today in a broadcast interview, Saddam
Hussein said there is only one truth: Iraq has no weapons of mass
destruction whatsoever. And he went on to say, I would like to tell you
directly we have no relationship with al Qaeda.
RUMSEFELD: And Abraham Lincoln was short.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you care to respond directly to what Saddam
Hussein has said today?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How does one respond to that? It`s just a
continuous pattern. This is a case of the local liar coming up again
and people repeating what he said and forgetting to say that he never,
almost never, rarely tells the truth.
MADDOW: Donald Rumsfeld, former defense secretary as seen in the new
Errol Morris film, "The Unknown Known." And you know, it is amazing
that Donald Rumsfeld is denying not only that people believe there was a
connection between Iraq and al Qaeda, but denying that he had any role
in propagating that idea.
I mean, Errol Morris debunks it right there in that minute and a half
long clip. But proof of this is everywhere. Look, this is Donald
Rumsfeld in 2002. Quote, "We do have solid evidence of the presence in
Iraq of al Qaeda members. We have what we consider to be very reliable
reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda going back
This is the transcript of Donald Rumsfeld speaking to the metro Atlanta
Chamber of Commerce, bragging (ph) about how the evidence linking al
Qaeda and Iraq, linking 9/11 and Iraq was, in his words, quote,
But now Donald Rumsfeld totally denies that he ever believed there was a
connection between the two or that had any role in making other people
believe that connection as well.
NBC`s Michael Isikoff just today shared with us a new document that`s
never been publicly released before, showing that when Donald Rumsfeld
was told that the 9/11 hijacker had not actually met with Iraqi
officials like the Bush administration had been publicly claiming he
had, Donald Rumsfeld pushed back on that and asked how it was possible
to know that Mohamed Atta hadn`t met with the Iraqis.
He asked, "Couldn`t Mohamed Atta had been wearing a blond wig or
something when he had the meeting? How could we know he didn`t do it?"
But it is amazing to have Donald Rumsfeld on film, right? It`s one
thing to know that they`re lying. It`s another thing to see them lying
on film right to your face and to see how comfortable a guy like Donald
Rumsfeld is with himself and his total shamelessness.
Here`s one more very short clip from the film. Just watch at the very
end of this one the sort of shock and revelation from Donald Rumsfeld
and how proud of himself he is about this. Watch this. I find this
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about all these so-called torture memos?
RUMSEFELD: Well, there were, what? One or two or three. I don`t know
the number. But there were not all of these so-called memos. They were
mischaracterized as torture memos, and they came not out of the Bush
administration, per se; they came out of the U.S. Department of Justice,
blessed by the attorney general, the senior legal official of the United
States of America having been nominated by a president and confirmed by
the United States Senate overwhelmingly. Little different cast I just
put on it than the one you did. I`ll chalk that one up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was the reaction unfair?
RUMSFELD: I`ve never read them.
ERROL MORRIS, DOCUMENTARY FILM-MAKER: Really?
RUMSFELD: No. I`m not a lawyer. What would I know?
MADDOW: That`s Errol Morris, the filmmaker, shouting, "really?" It`s
the best thing about that other than the revelation from Donald Rumsfeld
that he never bothered to read the supposedly all-important memos that
they said legally justified what everybody knew was torture.
And Donald Rumsfeld, of course, is just amazing as a character. Errol
Morris at one point walks him through how easily Donald Rumsfeld might
very well have ended up being president of the United States had things
not gone slightly differently in his own history, had he been picked as
vice president at one point, which was very possible.
It`s kind of a throw your popcorn in the air and fall down screaming
moment, right? The prospect of Donald Rumsfeld, president of the United
States. I think that`s why this film is being billed in some way as a
But beyond just the character issues here, what`s fascinating to see
about this person who`s so important in our history, this film also
comes out at a really important time in terms of the larger issue of
whether or not we as the American public are going to decide that we
ought to know what is true about our recent and difficult history.
Whether we are going to decide that we ought to know the real truth
about bad things our country has done and our government has done.
Today, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted 11-3 to declassify a
long-awaited report on the subject of those memos that Donald Rumsfeld
so proudly said he had never read, the Senate Intelligence Committee
report on the CIA torturing prisoners after 9/11. It apparently runs
more than 6,000 pages in total.
What they voted on today was to declassify about 500 pages of that
report. It`s a sort of summary of the report`s findings that they will
now send to the president. The White House will then review it for
declassification purposes and then it will come out to the public.
And, you know, this vote is being reported today and leading up to this
vote today, there`s been widespread reporting that there`s some
ambiguity about whether or not we`re ultimately going to get to see it,
whether or not the White House ultimately will decide to declassify this
part of this report and release it publicly.
I have to say, that ambiguity does not seem like it is warranted, if
only because President Obama has been very clear about the fact that he
is going to declassify this report, he is going to let us see it.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The first day I came into
office, I ended the practices that are subject to the investigation by
the Senate Committee and have been very clear that I believe they were
contrary to our values as a country.
Since that time, we have worked with the Senate Committee so that the
report that they are putting forward is well informed, and what I`ve
said is that I am absolutely committed to declassifying that report as
soon as the report is completed.
In fact, I would urge them to go ahead and complete the report, send it
to us. We will declassify those findings so that the American people
can understand what happened in the past and that can help guide us as
we move forward.
MADDOW: The president has been pretty clear about this. And -- and
because of that, this historic vote today in the Senate Intelligence
Committee means that the summary of this big torture report is finally
going to come out.
And when that happens, we are going to have a lot of access to a lot of
information about what our country did that we have never known before.
And, again, it is not expected to be good news. It`s expected to be
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D)-CA: The purpose of this review was to uncover
the facts behind this secret program. And the results, I think, were
The report exposes brutality that stands in stark contrast to our values
as a nation. It chronicles a stain on our history that must never be
allowed to happen again. This is not what Americans do.
The release of this summary in conclusions in the near future shows that
this nation admits its errors, as painful as they may be, and seeks to
learn from them. We are acknowledging those mistakes, and we have a
continuing responsibility to make sure that nothing like this ever
MADDOW: We are on the precipice of something here. The long fight over
releasing this report has been about the very basic question of whether
or not we get to know what happened. Deciding that we just do not want
to know is obviously more comfortable for everyone involved, but it is
just as obviously the cowardly way out. And it is absolutely short-
sighted if we do have a national interest in not repeating the error.
In 2006, when then-president George W. Bush gave this speech for the
first time acknowledging the existence of the CIA having a secret
network of prisons that it set up after 9/11, George W. Bush said
explicitly and repeatedly in that speech, that torture techniques, what
he called alternative sets of procedures used by the CIA to interrogate
people, he said explicitly that those techniques were how they found
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11.
The president of the United States, himself, said explicitly, and
repeatedly, and in great detail that the CIA torturing people worked,
that it got us information we never could have gotten any other way.
People who have seen this report that`s about to be declassified say
that it directly and factually contradicts the president`s claims. If
it`s true, and the report proves it, then either the president will be
proven to be lying about a matter that is, after all, war crimes, or the
CIA will have to explain why it lied to the president in such a way that
made him lie to the country.
This is very, very uncomfortable stuff. The CIA does not want to be
talking about this. You can tell that Dianne Feinstein doesn`t even
really want to be talking about this. You can tell the Obama
administration does not want to be talking about this. I mean, they
were the ones who said they wanted to move forward and not look to the
past. Right? They said they wouldn`t be prosecuting any of these
matters after the Department of Justice looked into it.
Certainly most of all, you can imagine that the administration of George
W. Bush and George W. Bush, himself, they do not want to be talking
On the day the Senate Intelligence Committee voted today to declassify
key sections of this potentially earth-shattering report, President Bush
was previewing his new gallery show of his new paintings that he`s done
of world leaders. He previewed his new show of paintings in a sweet new
interview with his own daughter, which is going to be airing on the
"Today Show" tomorrow morning. That is what the former president wants
to be talking about.
But history has a way of sneaking up on you. History has a way of
shaking you awake just as you are trying to drift off to sleep. History
does not let go.
Joining us now is Errol Morris, Oscar-winning film maker whose new
documentary "The Unknown Known" is in theaters in New York and L.A.
tonight, opening in additional cities tomorrow.
Mr. Morris, thank you very much for being here. Mr. Morris, can you
MORRIS: I can, indeed.
MADDOW: Oh, good. Excellent. I was worried that I was in space and
nobody could hear me scream.
I have to ask you about the contention that I made about your film that
Donald Rumsfeld did not particularly want to feel like he needs to
reckon with his own legacy from the Bush administration.
MORRIS: Of course not. He would like to pretend that everything that
was done during the Bush administration, torture included, was perfectly
MADDOW: What did you learn about him going in that you did not know
before you spoke with him? What surprised you?
MORRIS: What really surprised me more than anything is this lack of
desire to reflect deeply, maybe reflect at all on anything he had done.
Everything was OK. Everything made sense. The policies were all
successful. The war in Iraq was a good thing, not a bad thing.
Who could not be amazed by that? The lack of an apology. The lack of
even the ability to see that these policies might have been wrong, might
have been mistaken.
MADDOW: Do you see parallels between his personal approach to those
issues and his role in them, and the way we have dealt with those issues
as a nation?
MORRIS: Sadly, yes. It is the way to deal with the past, denial.
We`ve swept so much stuff under the rug. None of the officials of the
Bush administration, none of the high officials, have ever been held
accountable for what they`ve done.
After all, didn`t we go to war for fraudulent reasons? Didn`t hundreds
of thousands die? Shouldn`t someone have to explain why they did this?
MADDOW: When you think about the prospect of this torture report coming
out, one of the things that I`ve been struck by in this debate is that
it`s been going on for so long that they`ve had this report in the
Intelligence Committee about torture.
It`s gone on for so many years now that members of that committee have
come and gone, and you`ve had new senators be elected to the Senate, be
appointed to that committee and to have access to that information for
the first time.
And every time somebody sees that information for the first time, they
tell the world that they are shocked by it. Angus King is the most
recent. He says reading that report was shocking to him, even knowing
everything that we all know about that era in our history.
MORRIS: You said a very crucial thing quoting President Obama. These
policies do not accord with our values. Is torture what we want to
project to the rest of the world as something that we endorse, something
that we approve of, something that we practice? I don`t think so.
MADDOW: Errol Morris, documentary filmmaker. The newest release is
called "The Unknown Known." It opens across the country tomorrow. It`s
also going to be available on Demand and i-Tunes.
Mr. Morris, thank you for being with us tonight. It`s a real honor to
have you here.
MORRIS: Thank you very much, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right. Personal space. If your personal space matters to you,
something that is one of your constitutional rights just got way, way
creepier in one critical American state. That story and an encroachment
on your personal space is coming up.
MADDOW: Can I help you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boss`s orders.
MADDOW: Oh, seriously? Oh, this is a thing now. Hold on. This
story`s coming -- oh, man. Creepy guy. Hold on. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: It`s 2014. It`s -- it`s a midterm election year. And
Democrats are worried about that. Because even though Democrats are
been pretty good at winning presidential elections in recent years, that
success has largely hinged on Democrats getting lots and lots and lots
of people to turn out to vote in presidential election years.
It is harder to get people to turn out in non-presidential years, and
that`s a big part of why Republicans did really well in the last midterm
elections in 2010, and it`s why Republicans think they`re going to do
well again this year in 2014.
See, in general -- Democrats need lots of voters to turn out.
Republicans need not lots of voters to turn out. So in states where
Republicans are in control of state government, we have seen a lot of
changes to election laws recently, all changes to make voting harder.
And, of course, that is a contentious issue anywhere when you mess with
people`s voting rights, but it is particularly contentious in states
where everybody votes. The state of Wisconsin, for example, has a
history of everybody voting. They`re always one of the top five states
in the nation for the percentage of people turning out to vote.
Apparently in Wisconsin, though, that`s now a problem. It is at least
something that Republican Governor Scott Walker and Republican-
controlled state legislature thought that they might be able to remedy.
After the Republicans got control of state government in 2011, they cut
early voting statewide from three weeks down to just two weeks. They
also limited voting on the weekends. Those are both very popular ways
of voting, so obviously they`ve got to go.
That same year, Governor Scott Walker signed a new Republican
legislation to require people to show new documentation in order to vote
that people never had to show before in Wisconsin. That law was blocked
in the courts. But the Republicans in Wisconsin are still going for it.
Last week, Scott Walker and the Republican legislature slashed early
voting for a second time, this time cutting early voting after work
hours and eliminating weekend voting altogether. That ought to make a
dent in Wisconsin having a good voter turnout rate.
But now they`re going one better. And this one`s -- this one`s a doozy.
It`s at least very high on the creep factor. Scott Walker just signed
into law another voting regulation yesterday, this time cutting down on
the breathing room you have when you go to register to vote and when you
go to vote.
It`s called Assembly Bill 202 that he signed. It requires polling
places to have an election observer within three to eight feet of you
when you go to register to vote in Wisconsin. A partisan election
observer now has the right to be three feet away from you, 36 inches
away from you, this close when you are filling out your voter
registration information at the polls and then again when you`re
announcing your name and address to the poll worker and you get your
ballot on election day. Three feet away when they record your personal
information, which you now have to show in order to prove your residency
to be able to vote in Wisconsin. Three feet away while you exercising a
constitutionally enshrined right. As close as three feet and no further
away from you than eight feet according to Scott Walker`s new law.
And these guys are not the non-partisan good government poll workers,
right? These are the partisan election observers who are there to
challenge you if in the process of breathing down your neck from a
distance of 36 inches, they see anything that you don`t like about you
voting. Wisconsin used to be known for civic virtue and civic civility.
Now it`s just creepy. Go. Go.
MADDOW: I realize we`re all really uncomfortable, so I want you to know
that there were no (inaudible) harmed in the making of that last
You OK, man?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, I`m all right.
MADDOW: I know you had to play a creep and everything. He`s not
actually a creep.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m OK. Thank you.
MADDOW: Stop everybody on Twitter telling me to hurt him. He`s really
nice. OK. Bye. Thanks. See? He`s fine. He can walk and everything.
I did actually ad lib the stabbing him with a yardstick. So that was
Anyway, lots more ahead, including unexpected news tonight from a state
that has been providing a great public service to the nation and to the
national press. That story ahead, plus much more. Stay with us.
MADDOW: That story ahead, plus much more. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The Iraq war ended in December of 2011. It was expected that
U.S. troops would all leave Iraq by New Year`s Eve, by December 31st,
2011. But they made the transfer early on December 15th. NBC`s Richard
Engel was at the Iraqi/Kuwaiti border when the last troops left,
watching the troops cross over the border and cheer and celebrate that
the 8 1/2-year-long war in Iraq was done.
But the official end of the war was December 15th, 2011. That same
morning, December 15th, 2011, a gunman opened fire at a small courthouse
in a northern Minnesota town right up against the Canadian border. He
shot the local prosecutor multiple times and he wounded two other
people. That was December 15th.
Less than two weeks later on Christmas morning, it was a mass shooting
in downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee. A crowd of young people leaving a
Christmas Eve party after midnight when the gunfire fired into the
crowd. Nine people were shot.
January 10th, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, four teenagers riding in the
same car were ambushed by an armed 30-year-old man. All four of the
teenagers were shot. Three of them were killed.
February 21st, Norcross, Georgia, near Atlanta, a man storms into a spa
own and run by his family. He shoots and kills four of his own
relatives then kills himself.
February 26th, Jackson, Tennessee. A crowded night club. A gunman
fires into the crowd and shoots 21 people. Miraculously, 20 of those
people are wounded and only one person dies.
The next day, February 27th, it`s Chardon, Ohio. A 17-year-old high
school student takes a gun from a relative, brings it to school, opens
fire in the cafeteria. He kills three of his fellow high school
students and sends two more to the hospital.
March 8th, Pittsburgh, a man walks into a psychiatric hospital in
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, carrying two semiautomatic handguns. He kills
one person and wounds seven.
March 30th, Miami, Florida. There`s a funeral under way for a 21-year-
old man who had been shot to death. A gunman pulls up to the funeral
home and fires into the crowd who`s there to mourn him. Twelve people
are shot and injured. Two people are shot and killed.
April 2nd, Oikos University in Oakland, California. A former nursing
student, 43 years old, arms himself and returns to that campus after
he`s been kicked out. He kills seven people and wounds three.
Four days later, a shooting spree starts in Tulsa, Oklahoma, two men
randomly targeting African-Americans who they see on the street. Two
people wounded, three people are killed.
May 29th, Seattle, a man may with a gun walks into a cafe in the
university district in Seattle. He starts shooting. He kills five
people and then he kills himself.
July 8th, a soccer tournament in Wilmington, Delaware. It`s multiple
gunmen this time firing into the soccer tournament. They kill a 16-
year-old player and one other person. July 20th, this is one that even
made the news. It was the midnight premiere of one of the "Batman"
movies. The heavily armed gunman was wearing body armor when he opened
fire. He shot and injured 58 people, 12 others were killed.
Two weeks later, it was the sheik temple shooting in Oak Creek,
Wisconsin. Seven people killed, including the gunman. Three people
Eight days later, three more people were killed including a police
officer and gunman, himself, when that shooter opened fire near Texas
Eleven days after that, it was Empire State Building at rush hour. One
man shot and killed. Nine more people shot and injured before the
gunman, himself, was shot by police.
Seven days after that, a 23-year-old opens fire at a supermarket he
worked at in Old Bridge, New Jersey. He kills two of his co-workers
then shoots himself in the head.
September 27th, Accent Signage in Minneapolis. A 36-year-old man who
had been laid off worked into his former workplace with a gun. He shot
eight his former co-workers. He killed five of them and then he killed
October 21st, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a man with a gun shows up at his
wife`s job. Kills her and two other people and injures four more people
before he kills himself.
November 6th, a man who works at a meat processing plant in Fresno,
California, shoots four people, killing two of them then he kills
December 12th, 22-year-old man takes several loaded magazines of
ammunition and rifle into the Clackamas, Oregon, shopping mall. He
kills two people then he kills himself.
December 14th, two days after that, well, that was Sandy Hook, 26 killed
at the school. Mostly first graders. The shooter`s mother killed at
home in her bed, and then the shooter, himself.
And yes, that was a heavy year. But that was not a totally unusual
year. That is pretty much the American way of mass murder now.
And just taking that year, we don`t look back at that year of shootings
and think, my God, what is it about high school students? Or nursing
students? Or what is it about people with jobs or people who lose their
jobs or people who are bad at their jobs or people who have relatives
who work at spas?
We don`t say, my God, what is it about young men or middle-aged men or
truck drivers or doctor candidates? But you fast forward to the latest
mass shooting in America and there is an urge to rush to judge that the
most important deciding factor in what explains the latest burst of mass
gun violence in our country, this latest multiple murder in our country,
must be the fact that the suspected perpetrator is an Iraq war veteran,
as if veterans are uniquely dangerous, as if knowing that this suspected
shooter served in Iraq explains why this happened.
It is a perversion in the news coverage of the Fort Hood story right now
to focus so exclusively on the fact that the shooter is a vet.
"The Washington Post" and the Kaiser Family Foundation this weekend
published a landmark extensive survey of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
More than 2.6 million Americans have served in those wars. And more
than half of those who served in the wars are now out of the service, no
longer serving on active duty or in the reserves or in the National
Half of Iraq veterans did two or more deployments. Nearly a third of
those who served in that war spent two years or more in country during
their service. That`s more than half a million Americans who serve more
than two years on the ground in Iraq.
But appreciating their needs, appreciating what it will take of us to
make good on the things that we promise them in exchange for their
service, there is a bright line between doing that and painting them
with all one broad brush as needy or somehow incapable or scary. Even
for people who didn`t experience serious injuries directly related to
combat, asking people to serve multiple year-long tours exacts a toll
even on young, strong bodies.
Rajiv Chandrasekaran man writing for "The Washington Post" about this
survey, he profiles a 32-year-old national guardsman who says he`s now
32 years old, going on 60. His job in Iraq was filling the craters left
behind by roadside bombs -- a job that required him to jackhammer
asphalt while wearing 50 pounds of body armor and gear. He returned
home with a fractured vertebra, three fused discs in his back, ringing
in his ears and post traumatic stress.
He has a job, but he`s using a cane to walk and he does need moving
boxes and things on the job. He`s 32 years old.
Or this Texas National Guard sergeant who spent a year as an infantryman
in Iraq on his feet, wearing heavy body armor, rifle, and his
ammunition. The literal weight of that gear after a year has worn out
the cartilage in his knees and his knees have leaking fluid sacks. He`s
26 years old. He says, "I just want my knees to be my knees again. I
don`t want grandpa knees at this point." He`s 26 years old. He just
reenlisted for another six years.
Paying attention to veterans instead of stereotyping them means
appreciating that they really do need access to health care. This week,
we celebrated the fact that the backlog on veterans waiting to hear
there the V.A. about their disability claims has been cut by 44 percent
since last year. And hooray for that. That`s progress.
But the backlog is so giant that even with the 44 percent cut, it still
means more than 300,000 veterans are still in the backlog waiting a
minimum of 125 days to even hear back from the V.A. about their
disability claim, even if what they`re going to hear is no.
More than 300,000, that is still outrageous. That`s for disability
Paying attention to veterans instead of stereotyping them also means
appreciating that the stress and trauma of life at war and combat and
specifically the contrast between that and civilian life, it does have
mental health consequences and in particular it can heighten the risk of
suicide. A majority of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans say they know a
fellow service member who has committed suicide or has tried to.
And that is not a call to write off veterans as too hurt to come back
home. That means something specific, something nonromantic, something
you don`t need to write fiction about. It needs policy.
It means that as a country, we need stronger suicide prevention efforts
for our veterans. That`s something we can do. The only Iraq combat
veteran in the United States Senate, Senator John Walsh of Montana, just
this week introduced a bill to up suicide prevention efforts for
veterans. We need that.
What we don`t need is to use what just happened at Fort Hood, the latest
in a long line of mass shootings in America, what we don`t need is to
use what just happened at Fort Hood as an excuse to stereotype veterans
as broken, or as somehow unknowably monstrous because of their time as
If we think of every other mass shooting in America as somehow
particular to the circumstances of that shooting, but this one is
explained away as, oh, he was an Iraq vet. What you see in the
headlines about this story all over the country today, not only does
that not help us understand what happened here, it is an offense against
every other veteran who right now is getting that stigma shoveled on to
them by a lazy civilian world and a lazy civilian media who find this
dangerous veteran stereotype to be an easier thing to point to than the
fact that America has a mass shooting problem.
We have a bad mass shooting problem. And the only single thing that all
of our American mass shooting perpetrators have in common -- the only
thing common among them is that all of them were perpetrated by men with
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: He was leading a platoon of Navy SEALs when
he stepped on an IED. Dan lost both of his legs in the explosion, but
he never lost that fighting spirit. On the one-year anniversary of his
injury, he ran a mile on his prosthetics. And today, 4 1/2 years after
his injury, Dan is proud to wear another one of our nation`s uniforms
and that is of Team USA. Yes.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our thoughts right now in
many ways are with the families at Fort Hood. You know, these are folks
who make such extraordinary sacrifices for us each and every day for our
freedom. During the course of a decade of war, many of them have been
on multiple tours of duty. To see unspeakable senseless violence happen
in a place where they`re supposed to feel safe -- home base -- is
They`ve done their duty, and they`re an inspiration. They`ve made us
proud. They put on their uniform and then they take care of us. We`ve
got to make sure that when they come home, we take care of them.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: President Obama and the first lady today welcoming the U.S.
Olympians and Paralympian at the White House including Lieutenant Dan
Cnossen. He`s a Navy SEAL and double amputee who the first lady says
she personally found so inspiring.
The president as you heard him say there said America`s veterans take
care of us and when they come home, we need to take care of them. After
members of the military were killed and injured yesterday in the mass
shooting at Fort Hood in Texas, today, of course, those sentiments take
on stronger resonance.
Joining us now, senior correspondent for "The Washington Post", Rajiv
Rajiv, thanks very much for being here. It`s nice to have you here.
RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: It`s good to be back with
MADDOW: So, you`ve done this extensive survey with Kaiser Family
Foundation and "The Washington Post" of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans
and it`s come out in what we didn`t know was going to be an incredibly
important moment in terms of America`s perceptions of veterans.
I wonder -- I want to talk to you about that survey more broadly and
about America`s veterans coming home, but I wonder if the Fort Hood
shooting if you feel like there`s been excessive focus on the fact that
the suspected perpetrator in that case served time in Iraq without us
having any sense of whether that might be relevant to this.
CHANDRASEKARAN: Well, I mean, I think everybody sort of honed in on it
and I think blown it out of proportion, as you rightly point out. You
know, his time in Iraq was four to five months. It was on the tail end
of that conflict, at a time when it wasn`t very violent there.
There`s no clear evidence that the psychiatric conditions that he was
reportedly under treatment for were linked to his time in Iraq or
anything having to do with his military service. There are a lot of
unanswered questions now. It`s quite frankly irresponsible to jump to
conclusions to suggest that his time out on the war zone led him to do
MADDOW: When you look at the survey data that we`ve got now from
veterans, and this is an extensive, it`s a big survey size in the story,
and it`s an extensive look at them. What are we able to document about
how veterans feel in terms of their relationship with the civilian
world? I feel like stereotyping is usually the result of distance.
That people can only stereotype people who they feel like they don`t
know. What are we hearing from veterans about their relationship with
the civilian world coming home from these wars?
CHANDRASEKARAN: Well, the veterans who are coming back are saying,
look, we`re grateful for the fact that the civilian world says they
appreciate our service, that they thank us for what they did. But they
really feel disconnected from the civilian world -- 55 percent of the
veterans that they surveyed said they feel disconnected from civilian
life in America.
And this is not an issue where the responsibility on the soldiers of the
veterans. In many ways, the responsibility is on all of us, the 99
percent who didn`t go out there serving with a uniform on. The civilian
population, given we have an all volunteer military, we`ve had one now
for a generation. It`s a good thing.
But the fighting has been left to a very small cadre of Americans who
signed up to go and do this, often for these repeated tours. And what
it`s meant is that the rest of America has really disconnected itself
from the war. And so, these folks come back and they come back to an
America where people not only can`t relate to what they`ve been through,
but in many cases don`t really seem to care.
MADDOW: Rajiv, one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you about this,
one of the reasons I`m glad this is sort of -- something that you`re
covering so intensively for "The Post", is because you have done a lot
of on the ground reporting in the war zones and you`ve also done
reporting on the policy making side of this, in the sort of Beltway
discussions and policy-making discussions that leads to what happens on
Do you feel like what we`re learning from these veterans, about the toll
of doing, not just single tour, but multiple tours, about the huge
number of veterans that did more than two years on the ground in Iraq,
just the incredible amount of time and repetitive service we ask them to
do, is that -- is there feedback about that to policymakers in
Washington, that maybe that was too much to ask of what is, after all, a
very small force for such big wars?
CHANDRASEKARAN: You know, there hasn`t been enough discussion about it,
because this group of American, this small group willingly went back
again and again and shouldered this enormous burden. They`ve come back
pretty battered, 43 percent say their physical health is worse today
than before they went out there. A third say, or almost a third say
their mental or emotional health is worse.
But less people think that this is some angry, embittered group of
Americans, you know, what so profound for me from this survey and quite
frankly it`s not a surprise to anyone who wears a uniform, but to the
civilian population, I think their eyes popped open at this. You know,
90 percent said they`re proud of what they did. But more importantly,
Rachel, when asked would you do it again, given everything you`ve been
through, all the risk, the separation from family, the stress, 89
percent said they would do it all over again.
This group of people who really believe in what they were doing, putting
aside the broader national policy debates about were these wars and the
way they were conducted in the best interest of America. They felt they
had a job to do. They put their hand up to serve and defend the United
States, and when they were called to do it, they stepped and did it.
MADDOW: What is remarkable, too, is to build on that point, is that not
only are Iraq and Afghanistan veterans saying them do it again and that
they are proud of what they did, but at a higher rate than the general
population, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans say the wars were not worth
fighting. That Iraq veterans are more against the Iraq war than the
general population is and they would still go back and do it again.
Is this a -- for me, I sort of feel like as a civilian, as somebody who
personally didn`t serve, this is something that I need to have faith in,
that I need to believe that this is the way you can understand the
world, but I feel like there isn`t any parallel to this in the civilian
world, where people say it`s not worth doing but I`m willing to stand up
to do it and I would do it again.
CHANDRASEKARAN: I think part of this goes to the fact that when a lot
of civilians go up to a member of the military in uniform, you know, at
an airport, or sporting event, and say "thank you for your service,"
they`re thinking to themselves, boy, this person got a raw deal. They
were sent away from home for a year. They had to go there and engage in
this incredibly dangerous activity.
Well, indeed that was true, and that is true, but far lot of those
folks, this is their calling. They signed up to be members of the
military. They volunteered. Often cases their fathers or grandfathers
served. They see this as a noble calling.
They don`t want pity. They don`t feel like they were pushed into doing
something they didn`t want to do. In some cases, they see it as their
job. And they were simply doing their job well for their nation in
MADDOW: Rajiv Chandrasekaran, senior correspondent from "The Washington
Post" -- thank you for your time tonight. Thanks for your reporting and
thanks for whatever you had to do to talk "The Post" into doing this in
such a big way. That survey data I think is going to be a benchmark for
us as a country for a really long time. It`s really important work.
Thanks a lot.
CHANDRASEKARAN: Well, thanks for devoting so much attention to this
MADDOW: Thanks, Rajiv. Nice to see you.
All right. More ahead. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: If there`s one thing that`s true in the media industry, there`s
no one person more important than the folks who work at your local
newspaper. We rely a lot on the local newspapers for the stories that
we cover on the show. This has become more true lately in the great
state of New Jersey, particularly the record of Bergen County and "Star
Ledger" in Newark have provided irreplaceable reporting throughout what
started as a local traffic column but soon became the most compelling
story in national Republican politics.
The investigation into the George Washington Bridge lane closures and
the Chris Christie administration in New Jersey. We counted on "The
Star Ledger" and its online at NJ.com for the news they break and the
interviews they get, the way they doggedly covered the story, despite
the people they`re covering telling them to buzz off.
It was "The Star Ledger" who first alerted us to the fact that David
Wildstein`s job had no job description. It was NJ.com that was the
first to report that the U.S. attorney in New Jersey had sent federal
grand jury subpoenas to the office of the governor in New Jersey.
"The Star Ledger" has won three Pulitzer Prizes. It`s the largest
newspaper in the state and today, they announced that they are laying
off one out of every four people who works in their newsroom. They`re
eliminating the jobs of 167 people, 40 of whom are reporters, editors,
photographers and other staffers, specifically in the newsroom.
More jobs were also eliminated at NJ.com and some of the smaller
newspapers across the state and this is terrible news for New Jersey and
for those of us who count on the news in new jersey being well reported
to the rest of us.
The moral of the story is not just despair. It`s also to not take your
local newspaper for granted. If you`re not paying for your local paper,
why aren`t you?
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Have a great night.
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