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'The Rachel Maddow Show'for Friday, April 24, 2009

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guest: Douglas Macgregor, Lawrence Wilkerson, Ana Marie Cox, Kent Jones

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  And thank you at home for staying with us.

Colin Powell‘s former chief of staff, Lawrence Wilkerson, will be joining us in just a moment.  Ana Marie Cox will also be here this hour.  Colonel Douglas McGregor will be here.

We also got planned some very awkward singing of the news this hour. 

That‘s coming up much later on.

But we start with two major new developments concerning the Bush administration‘s torture program.  As reported tonight by “The Washington Post,” in July 2002, the Pentagon‘s top lawyer, William Haynes, was informed by the military‘s best authorities on the subject, in writing, that the enhanced interrogation program that was being developed in Washington was in fact a torture program and that torture was not an effective tool to gather reliable intelligence.

The Joint Personnel Recovery Agency which oversees the SERE program, the how-to-survive-torture program, from which the torture techniques were reverse-engineered, they sent a memo to William Haynes, general counsel at the Department of Defense, which bluntly called those enhanced interrogation techniques “torture.”  The memo warned that history refuted any assumption that an interrogator could get reliable or accurate information by using torture.

For reasons yet to be determined, these warnings were ignored, and the program was signed, sealed and implemented anyway.  A serious bombshell in a story ever more crowded with bombshells this week.

The second major development concerns the National Archives and Vice President Cheney.  The National Archives has just released details of documents requested by the former vice president which appear to show the grounds on which Mr. Cheney intends to defend himself from investigation or even prosecution for torture.  Mr. Cheney was, of course, known throughout his tenure as vice president, for his secrecy, for his reluctance to speak to the media, for his proud disdain for public opinion, and for his resistance to disclosure of government information to the public.

It was thus a leap very far out of character when this week he announced on FOX News Channel that he was seeking the disclosure of classified information about prisoner interrogations.


RICHARD CHENEY, FMR. U.S. VICE PRESIDENT:  And there are reports that show specifically what we gained as a result of this activity.  They have not been declassified.

I formally asked that they be declassified now.  I‘ve announced this up until now, I haven‘t talked about it, but I know specifically of reports that I read, that I saw that lay out what we learned through the interrogation process and what the consequences were for the country.


MADDOW:  Reporter Greg Sargent today obtained from the National Archives the actual request filed by Dick Cheney for those documents.  The documents, you see the request, the actual request here, the documents he is requesting are still classified.

But here‘s what Cheney‘s request tells us.  Cheney is trying to get two documents, one is from July 2004, and one of them is from the following June.  They‘re both CIA reports.  And both, he helpfully notes, can be found in a file from his immediate office that is labeled “detainees.”

Imagine being at a meeting with Dick Cheney about something, and you notice on his desk he‘s been flipping through his “detainees” file.

The first document that Dick Cheney is asking for is from July 13th, 2004.  Now, we don‘t know for sure what it is.  It‘s redacted, right?  It‘s still classified.

But here‘s a big, fat hint as to what that document is—in the torture memos that were just released, why, here‘s a citation.  For something that from that exact same date: July 13th, 2004.  It‘s a memo called “Khalid Sheikh Mohammed: Preeminent source on al Qaeda.”  Now, we don‘t know if that is the exact same document that Cheney‘s requesting.  Maybe he‘s requesting some other CIA document produced on exactly that date about exactly that subject.

I would bet a poke in the gut that that is what Cheney is requesting from the National Archives.  Cheney said this week that what he wants declassified are reports that show what we gained as a result of these now-we-know torturous interrogations.  But now, we also know that he‘s not asking for evidence, for documentation that was produced at the time that people were being tortured.  What he‘s asked for are reports produced after the fact.

Actually, if you look at a calendar, what he‘s asking for is something that was produced right after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke and shocked the nation and the world.  And right after the inspector general of the CIA produced a report on CIA interrogations that has been described by people who have seen it as sickening.  What he‘s asking for is documentation produced by the CIA at the time it was trying to cover its proverbial butt—please excuse the phrase.

What seems evident from this new development is that Cheney‘s—this request from Cheney, Cheney‘s apparent request for the “Khalid Sheikh Mohammed told us a lot” memo, what seems apparent is that Vice President Cheney will try to defend himself using the same defense that was used in the torture memos—the same defense that was rescinded even by the Bush administration, the same defense that has everyone trying to figure out if the lawyers who constructed that defense are going to get convicted or just disbarred.

Vice President Cheney is setting up as his defense the argument that it‘s not torture if it worked.  Using the legal concept that behavior must shock the conscience to be illegal under U.S. law, the former vice president appears to be basing his defense, like the ill-fated OLC lawyers did, on us not being shocked by torture because torture worked so well, because it‘s so efficient.

Joining us now is retired Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson.  He was chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005.

Colonel Wilkerson, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON, RET., U.S. ARMY:  Thanks for having me.

MADDOW:  Vice President Cheney has emerged as the Bush administration‘s chief defender thus far on the issue of torture as all of these recent documents have broken.  He is now seeking to declassify evidence that he says will show how well it works in getting people to talk.  Does that seem like a cogent defense to you?  Does that make sense to you that he‘d be arguing that?

WILKERSON:  It does not.  It seems illegal logical.  Vice president Cheney is a man who frightened easily.

All have you to do is go back to his five deferments during the Vietnam conflict, his behavior of post-9/11, undisclosed locations and so forth, and the imminent and politics of fear that pervaded the first Bush administration and a lot of the second Bush administration, almost the equal of what Joseph McCarthy have managed to achieve during the latter part of the Truman administration and the early part of the Eisenhower administration.  He‘s a man who lives on fear, and he‘s a fearful man.

And I think this, as you hinted, is his effort, because he‘s fearful right now, of what might happen to him and some of his subordinates, he‘s trying to lay out some sort of defense.  But the defense doesn‘t hold water, in my view.

MADDOW:  There‘s also this late-breaking news, after close of business today, it‘s from “The Washington Post,” that the SERE school experts—the people who ran the how-to survive-torture training course for our troops, this course that was reverse-engineered to come up with these techniques—they told the Pentagon in writing in 2002 that what was being devised in Washington was a torture policy, and that it wouldn‘t produce reliable and accurate information.  That memo seems to have been ignored.

What‘s your reaction to that?

WILKERSON:  I don‘t doubt that.  Professional opinion from the CIA, from contractors who interrogated, from the military‘s interrogator, from the interrogators from the FBI interrogators, everyone with whom I‘ve spoken who had at least 10 years of experience or more, is of that same opinion.  And I can‘t imagine that a professional organization in the Pentagon wouldn‘t give the same advice.  And I think that‘s pretty good advice.

Interrogators will tell you that on occasion—on occasion, you may get reliable information.  But the general trend is you don‘t get reliable information—as you pointed out, you get someone trying to stop the pain.  And you also compromise your ability to come back to that individual subsequently and get reliable information.  So, you‘ve just ruined him as a subject for potential future intelligence.

MADDOW:  If all the people who know these things, as experts through long experience would hold that view of it, and as far as I‘ve heard, my experience asking those people that question and reading up on it, comports absolutely with what you‘re saying—where did the impetus come from to devise a program based on the SERE school torture techniques?

WILKERSON:  I think that‘s an excellent question.  And I‘m not a psychoanalyst, but the politics of fears and the fearfulness of the vice president and others seem to me to be rather astonishing.  Let‘s face it for just a moment.  Sri Lanka, Israel, the United Kingdom, other countries have lived through terrorism that proportionately was worse than what we lived through.

So, as you look back on it, the overreaction to these people of what happened on 9/11, as horrible as it was, is astonishing.

MADDOW:  One of the things that is emerging as we learn more, as more information comes out, not only documentation but people feeling that they are free to talk about what happened during the Bush administration, because of what‘s been declassified, one of the things that‘s emerging is this squelching of dissent.

Philip Zelikow from the State Department was on this show this week, and he said that he wrote a rebuttal to the torture memos.  The White House then, not only disregarded the memo but went and found every copy of it that had been distributed and made sure they were destroyed.  We‘ve also now got this news about this Pentagon memo which didn‘t surface.  It was written in 2002, and didn‘t surface until today, 2009.

This squelching of dissent—why does that seem to have been the M.O.?  And did you experience that inside the Bush administration?

WILKERSON:  I did experience that.  And I‘ll point out another example to you you maybe aware of.  Alberto Mora of the very courageous Navy JAG went to Haynes, the General Counsel Haynes, and pointed out to him that in accumulation—even the techniques and procedures Rumsfeld had approved in his December memo, in accumulation and overtime constituted torture.

And he was assured by Haynes that that would be taken to the secretary and amendments to procedures would be made.  And he went away happy that he‘d had some positive influence and yet it wasn‘t a change.  They simply buried Alberto Mora‘s objections and went on with things just as they had before.

This is—this was an administration that not only didn‘t tolerate dissent, it worked ways in the system and the decision-making system that dissent could be shoveled aside so that their single opinion could be carried out in terms much execution.  It‘s—for an academic like me who studies national security decision-making since World War II, it‘s a unique situation.  It has no parallel in our history.

MADDOW:  And if we know something now about the political consequences of that, it seems like what‘s changed is that it may also have legal consequences.  If the defense is going to be from officials that this program was set up, sure, but they were relying on the best legal advice that they had, they had no way of knowing that it was illegal, and yet it turns out that there‘s a ton of evidence that they were told it was illegal and they just ignored that evidence—it would seem to me that it‘s going to be difficult to mount a legal defense in case there are prosecutions here.

Do you think that there ought to be prosecutions?

WILKERSON:  I‘m of mixed opinion there.  I do think that there are six or seven, maybe even eight lawyers, David Addington, John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Alberto Gonzales—you can name them—who ought to be disbarred and they ought to be disbarred permanently.  As far as going after leaders like Richard Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and everything—I just don‘t think there‘s the political will, and if there is, I don‘t think there‘s political skill to do it.

I think that‘s very sad commentary for me to make about my democratic republic, but I do think that‘s the case.  And so, I just—I wonder if there‘s enough energy in the Oval Office to handle a financial and economic crisis, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and all the other challenges that we confront right now, and do this.  I have deep concerns about that.

MADDOW:  I‘m with you on political skill.  The question about whether or not it can be handled well.  It seems like the political will may follow the public will, and if the polling data recently is anything to go by, the public is sort of all about seeking investigations at least, if not prosecutions in this case.

WILKERSON:  And that‘s what our country is all about.


WILKERSON:  If that‘s the case, then let‘s do it.

MADDOW:  Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, it is always great to have you on the show.  Thank you, sir.

WILKERSON:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Coming up: Republican Party chairman, Michael Steele, said his first big electoral priority after taking over at the RNC was a special election for a congressional seat in New York State—a seat that the Republicans lost today, with their Michael Steele.  Ana Marie Cox will join us to discuss in just a moment.

But first, One More Thins, Judge Jay Bybee of the Ninth Circuit U.S.  Court of Appeals is having a bad week or two.  The Obama administration releasing his torture memo from 2002, has led to members of Congress saying he should be impeached.  Members of the Senate are saying he should resign.

And members of the general public saying, “That guy?  The go ahead and put bugs in the confinement box guy?  The waterboarding doesn‘t hurt guy?  He‘s a judge?  On a court one rung below the Supreme Court—that guy?”

Well, Judge Bybee is getting some support from an unexpected source now, Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid, whose spokesman is trying to put the brakes on the anti-Bybee effort, saying, quote, “Judge Bybee has a good professional reputation in Nevada.  While the memos that have been released are disturbing, he doesn‘t think we should be making a rush to judgment.”

Because surely, there‘s some totally reasonable explanation for the “go ahead and put bugs in the box” thing?  There‘s an explanation for the “waterboarding doesn‘t hurt” declaration that will make us feel better about Judge Bybee‘s understanding of the law?  I know you guys are both from Nevada, but, come on.


MADDOW:  It‘s official.  After more than 11 weeks in limbo, Tammy Duckworth is the new assistant secretary at the Department of Veterans Affairs.  She was sworn in at a small private ceremony late this afternoon.  She‘ll start work on Monday.

Tammy Duckworth is an Iraq war veteran whose helicopter was shot down there.  She‘s a double amputee.  She gained national recognition for her work as the director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.

But apparently, that was not enough to impress North Carolina Senator Richard Burr.  Remember him?  The guy who told his wife to make a one family bank run on their local ATM when the banking crisis got bad last fall?  And the guy who was blocking Tammy Duckworth‘s confirmation for reasons that Senator Burr still has not disclosed.

Well, Senator Burr must have had a change of heart, because when the Senate confirmed Major Duckworth this week, it was by a unanimous vote.  I‘m still mystified as to what happened before, Senator Burr, but congratulations to the new assistant secretary and congratulations to all the veterans groups who supported Ms. Duckworth‘s nomination.


MADDOW:  Happily, for the two-party system, the Republican Party is likely to survive its current heartbreaking period of staggering lameness.  But when they are viable again, Republicans will have seriously cheated political death.

Consider the fresh evidence.  HHS Secretary-designate Kathleen Sebelius‘ confirmation in the Senate is being blocked now.  Having refused to allow a vote on it, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell argued that lawmakers needed more time to consider her, quote, “fairly contentious selection.”

The governor of Kansas is a contentious selection?  Well, yes, say the Republicans, because there is a doctor in Kansas who performs abortions who made campaign donations to Sebelius.  No.  Yes.  No.  Doctors can give campaign donations?

Support for abortion rights also being cited by Republicans as the reason for them objecting to Dawn Johnsen, the nominee to head up the Office of Legal Counsel, a job that has abso-freaking-lutely nothing to do with abortion—unless of course someone decides to set up a clinic inside the White House.

And then there‘s the calls for homeland security secretary and conservative Democrat, Janet Napolitano, to resign from her post.  House Republicans, like Michele Bachman and John Carter, are so excited about the release of a Homeland Security Department study of right-wing extremist groups that they have decided to ignore the fact that the study was launched during the Bush administration and the fact that the department also released a study of left-wing extremist groups.  But none of that matters.  What matters is that Napolitano must resign.

The most amazing thing about the “Napolitano must resign” kerfuffle is that it is not just fringe figures, like Michele Bachmann, who are wound up about this.  It‘s now coming from the official Republican Party, which released a Web ad this week going after President Obama on the same subject.

And, of course, to top it all, this is the week that RNC members from 16 states have demanded a vote of the full Republican National Committee next month on their resolution to rename the Democratic Party the “Democrat Socialist Party”—because you know the old saying, “If you can‘t beat them, come up with a way to call them rats and socialists.”

Joining us now is national correspondent for Air America and contributor to the “Daily Beast,” Ana Marie Cox.

Ana Marie, thanks for coming on the show tonight.


MADDOW:  So, last night on this show, we had Ed Rendell, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell here.  And he admonished me that there was no use in me distinguishing between the Republican Party and the radical fringe of the right-wing base anymore—because he says the Republican Party is itself becoming a radical fringe group.  I have to ask your assessment of that.

COX:  Well, they are outliers.  I can say that.  And the most active members of the party now, they are seeming to trend that way.  I think that‘s what happens when you‘re out of power.

I also think they did this to themselves.  They hounded out the moderate members of their party.  As you know, there are almost—there are no moderate Republicans representing the east coast, where it‘s used to be a very proud tradition on the east coast.  And I think that you‘re just seeing the result of eight years of convincing themselves that these very extreme policies were why they were winning—when I think, in reality, obviously, I think you and I can look at the voting data and can tell, like there are sort of complicated issues at stake about why they kept winning elections.

And now that they‘ve lost, they‘re still convinced that that is their righteous anger, and then that is the way to get back into power.  I think they‘re wrong.

MADDOW:  I think they‘re wrong.  Ed Rendell thinks they‘re wrong.


MADDOW:  I asked him about Pat Toomey representing this Republican primary challenge to Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania.  Also, we learned this week that the founder of the Minuteman has announced a Republican primary challenge against John McCain in Arizona.  I‘m not saying that I‘m on the Specter-McCain bandwagon, but those guys seem more .


MADDOW:  . surprising, I know.  But those guys seem a little more general electiony than the founder of the Minuteman and Pat “Freaking” Toomey, don‘t they?

COX:  You think?  Yes, I think maybe so.  Also, I say this to anyone who brings up an Arlen Specter primary challenge.  That man beat cancer, OK?



COX:  I think he can beat a primary challenger.

MADDOW:  Even if it is Pat Toomey.

COX:  I do.

MADDOW:  Yes, tough.

COX:  Even if it‘s Pat Toomey.  And McCain, you know, is there—his challenge, McCain‘s primary challenge is from a guy that‘s challenging McCain‘s immigration stance.  Do you think that there‘s anyone in Arizona that doesn‘t know McCain‘s immigration stance?

MADDOW:  Fair enough.

COX:  I‘m serious.  Is there a single person?  No.


COX:  He‘s going to be fine.

MADDOW:  On the .

COX:  And if they‘re losing, also—one more thing, if Arlen Specter and John McCain are what counts as moderate in the GOP .


COX:  . that‘s a little frightening.  I mean, I like both of them. 

I do.

MADDOW:  And they are.  But that tells you a lot about how much their center moved and their response to that .

COX:  Exactly.

MADDOW:  . is that, “Oh, we better move the center even further to the right.  That‘s how we‘ll succeed.”

COX:  Yes.  Exactly.  I also want to say, I think it‘s really interesting that the road blocks they‘re throwing up to the nominees, do you remember—there was something very similar that went on under Bush and they got really mad about it.  And I think what you‘re seeing now also is a combination of rage, wanting to dive to the right, and also, it‘s being easier to say no than to offer an alternative.  And when you have a nominee come up, you don‘t have to offer an alternative.  In a way like this is, this is like the perfect way for them to exercise their screaming and shouting of no.

MADDOW:  Let me ask you about abortion surfacing on both the Sebelius case and the Johnsen case.  It sort of seems like it‘s been a long time since abortion politics were really central organizing principle of the National Republican Party.  Is that back now?

COX:  I don‘t know if it‘s back.  I think it‘s really strange.  Also, I actually think that in our culture, we‘ve actually made some progress in having the discussion about a woman‘s right to choose be a rational discussion, be something that we can have people at the very highest levels of the Republican Party start to say that, maybe, we can have, you know, that you know—Condi Rice was pro-choice, you know?  I mean, we were making some progress I think on that.

I think for it to become a rallying cry again, just again shows a sort of fear, a lack of willingness to engage, and especially when it comes to Dawn Johnsen—as you pointed out, there is nothing about her job that has to do with abortion rights—nothing, nothing at all.  And to have them throw that up, I think, just shows paucity of lack—paucity and lack, those—of things to really challenge her on.

MADDOW:  One last quick question, Michael Steele sort of staked his RNC chairmanship, at least in the small way, on the outcome of this special race in New York to fill Senator Kirsten Gillibrand‘s old congressional seat.  And today, the Republican candidate there conceded that he lost.  Do you actually think this has any implications for Mr. Steele?

COX:  Well, I think you know that I‘m a huge Michael Steele fan.


COX:  So, I hope that he‘s not going anywhere—because if nothing else, he is really fun to write about.  And I think, honestly, the Republican Party has, in a way, bigger problems than Michael Steele.  I can‘t believe I‘m saying that.  He‘s the chairman of the national party.

But when you look at the dialogue they‘re having on Capitol Hill, which is what people at home see everyday, they don‘t really see a lot of Michael Steele, what they see are their elected representatives, you know, kicking and screaming and dragging their feet against a president that‘s really trying to make tremendous changes at a time of tremendous crisis.  I think that Michael Steele—I hope that they—well, you know, as someone who‘s kind of liberal, I hope that, yes, target Michael Steele.  Go for that—because he‘s the least of your worries.


MADDOW:  Yes, very good.  So that will obviously be the thing they fix.  Air America‘s national correspondent and “Daily Beast” contributor, Ana Marie Cox—have a great weekend.  Thanks for joining us.

COX:  You too, Rachel.

MADDOW:  So, what happened to the folks who were up to their eyebrows in the torture memo mess at the CIA?  A couple of them actually ended up with really great jobs in a place you would really not expect them to be employed today.  I will tell you where they ended up when we return.


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Coming up, Rod Blagojevich is trying his best to supplant Sarah Palin as world‘s best cable news material provider.  And today, he might have taken the top spot.  But for important world events, we would have done the entire show tonight on Blagojevich.  Trust me. 

But first, time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.  There are a few names that surface again and again in the torture documents that are now coming out.  One of them is John Rizzo.  He‘s the man at the CIA to whom the infamous Jay Bybee memo was written - the “bugs are good with me, waterboarding doesn‘t hurt” memo. 

Rizzo was the one asking for legal approval to use those techniques on behalf of the CIA.  Another name that pops up is Jonathan Fredman.  According to Sen. Levin‘s Senate Armed Services Committee report, Mr.  Fredman, a CIA lawyer, traveled to Guantanamo to discuss interrogation techniques there. 

And he told officials at Guantanamo, quote, “The language of the torture statutes is written vaguely.  It‘s basically subject to perception.  If the detainee dies, you‘re doing it wrong.” 

Fredman has actually denied saying that.  But you want to know what those two guys have in common, Rizzo and Fredman?  They both still work at the CIA.  Today Rizzo is still acting CIA general counsel which means he‘s the senior most authority at the CIA on what‘s legal and what‘s not. 

Eek.  And the Office of the Director of National Intelligence confirmed to “The Washington Independent‘s” Spencer Ackerman this week that Mr. Fredman is still gainfully employed there.  Mr.  Fredman seems poised to make a defense of his role in the torture program now that all these documents have arisen with his name on them.  We will await that defense eagerly, particularly since we are still paying his salary. 

The Obama administration is set to make a very important announcement about a group of 17 Chinese men who are currently being held at Guantanamo.  These men were picked up in Pakistan in 2001.  Since being detained at Guantanamo, the government has decided that they are not actually enemy combatants. 

After much legal back-and-forth about why they‘re still prisoners then, the White House is reportedly set to announce that it‘s prepared to release as many as seven of them.  Of course, if the president going to make good on his promise to close down Guantanamo, he‘s going to have to figure out what to do with the 250 or so people who are being held there. 

Some will go on trial.  Others will need to be released.  And it‘s going to make it a lot easier to convince other countries to accept our released prisoners from Guantanamo, if we accept some as well.  Those seven Chinese Muslims who are set to be released from Guantanamo are set, reportedly, to be released into the United States. 

Here‘s the thing you need to know immediately about this case.  What

you call these guys is -

PRETTY(ph), INTERN  Uighur. 

MADDOW:  You got that?  These men are

PRETTY(ph):  Uighur. 

MADDOW:  Uighur, even though it‘s spelled U-I-G-H-U-R.  Even though it‘s

spelled like that, it is still -

PRETTY(ph):  Uighur. 

MADDOW:  Uighur.  U-I-G-H-U-R.  Pronounced wee-goor.  You are now equipped to impress all your friends at cocktail parties this weekend.  Thank you to Pretty(ph) our intimidatingly overqualified intern and tonight‘s pronouncer, voice of God. 

Finally, NASA had a budget last year of almost $18 billion.  As you know, NASA built rockets and satellites and rovers.  They do really cool science-y important space stuff involving physics and aeronautics and chemistry. 

And it turns out, art.  NASA has artists in residence.  I had no idea.  Yes.  It‘s a paid gig.  Previous NASA artists include Laurie Anderson, the performance artist and classical violinist.  She had a gig from 2002 to 2004.  Her piece de resistance, a film debuted at the World Expo in 2005. 

Two recent NASA artists in residence, Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt have created a new film while they have been there.  Check it out.  It‘s called “Magnetic Movie.”  Look at this.  It was shot at NASA‘s space sciences lab at the University of California at Berkley.  Those crazy, colorful hair ball things that you see - those are magnetic fields that scientists create to recreate the sun‘s energy. 

So cool.  So crackly.  Yes.  NASA is not the only federal agency to employ artists in residence.  So does the Federal Reserve Board, the Army, the Air Force, the State Department and the Interior Department. 

I, for one, propose an intergovernmental agency artists-in-residence group show.  The EPA band could play at the opening. 


MADDOW:  This time last night, I was talking about yesterday‘s bloody, bloody day in Iraq - 88 people killed in suicide blasts.  It was the deadliest attack in Iraq this year. 

Today, at least 60 more people were killed in two suicide bombings at Baghdad‘s most important Shiite shrine.  Meanwhile, while we‘re on the subject of life during war time, we need to provide follow up on Pakistan. 

Today, there are mixed reports on whether the Taliban militants who had seized Buner, an area 60 miles from Pakistan‘s capital city, were leaving that region or staying put. 

The “New York Times” reports that the Talibans still remain in control of the area.  And the Associated Press taped these Taliban guys today, looking like they weren‘t going anywhere anytime soon. 

Take a look also at this map.  This was created by the “Long War Journal” last week.  The areas in red are the areas in the northwest region of Pakistan that are considered to be controlled by the Taliban.  The areas in orange are contested between the Taliban and the government.  The yellow spots have some Taliban influence, and the green - those are the areas controlled by the government. 

Scary, right?  You want to know what‘s really scary?  Even since this map was created last week, these green and yellow areas could already be changing color toward more Taliban-y colors.  The mixed reports on Buner today were in part due to a Taliban spokesperson saying that the militants were pulling out of the region. 

And yes, there is a Taliban spokesperson.  He is the Ken Sunshine of Pakistan but has a reputation as being about as well-informed as Baghdad Bob was.  Today, he blamed the Taliban‘s anger on, quote, “western white women who take up arms and come from 20,000 miles away to fight against us here.” 

Considering that the circumference of the earth is only about 25,000 miles and the distance from Ft. Riley, Kansas, to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, even if you round up, is less than 8,000 miles, I‘m guessing that he thinks we take a very zigzag-y journey to get to Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

At home, in Washington, Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S.  forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, the cent-com commander, testified before Congress today and was pressed on the deteriorating situation in the region. 



The Taliban in particular will literally create conditions in which there is a high prospect of civilian casualties, disregarding the risk that they‘re putting the civilian population of a local area too by their actions. 


MADDOW:  In the midst of life during wartime and what is happening in American politics right now, it‘s starting to seem like the consensus about what to do in these multiple crisis zones is eroding right now. 

Joining us now is retired U.S. Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor.  He‘s a decorated combat veteran who was an active duty officer and Pentagon adviser until 2004.  Col. Macgregor, it‘s really nice of you to make time to come on the show tonight.  Thanks for joining us. 


Thanks for having me. 

MADDOW:  Do you share my assessment that the consensus around what to do in Afghanistan right now is eroding, that there‘s starting to be a more spirited debate about America‘s role in that country? 

MACGREGOR:  Well, I hope so.  It‘s very hard to tell, because, quite frankly, this place is remote from the United States.  And strategically, in Afghanistan itself, we don‘t have much really at stake.  It‘s not terribly relevant.  We act as though it is.  It really isn‘t. 

The principle concern for the United States and for its allies today remains the nuclear arsenal inside Pakistan.  We want to ensure that that is continually under guard and under the control of the Pakistani military.  And thus far, that has been the case.

If that should change for some reason, that becomes an international calamity, not just for us - for Russia, for India, for Iran and for the entire region, because we don‘t want those weapons to fall into the wrong hands. 

The question is, how do we prevent that?  And I think that‘s the question that needs to be answered.  Not how many more troops do we send to Afghanistan to suppress this or that Muslim element or tribal organization that we don‘t like. 

MADDOW:  As the Taliban has expanded, not only its area of influence, but seemingly its ambitions in Pakistan, challenging the Pakistani military, maybe even the Pakistani intelligence service after having enjoyed a mutual supportive relationship with those organizations for so long. 

Is it possible though that if the U.S. did leave Afghanistan that essentially the area of influence that they sought to control would rush back into including both Afghanistan and Pakistan? 

MACGREGOR:  Well, I think the first thing we have to understand is that the history in this region suggests that European forces - foreign forces of any kind, but especially European forces - once they leave, things have a habit of reverting to what they were before.  They revert to the regional mean. 

To be perfectly blunt, we‘re seeing that begin already in Iraq, and we will see it happen when we leave Iraq.  We‘re going to see it happen in Afghanistan and in Pakistan. 

Regardless of what we do, you‘re not going to fundamentally change the cultures of these regions that contain hundreds of millions of Muslims, and the Muslims don‘t want you there.  The issue is if we withdraw or if we reduce our presence, what‘s that impact likely to be in terms of our own strategic interests? 

I think we would be better served by reducing our profile.  We‘ve got a very corrupt government that is widely regarded as a puppet sitting in Kabul.  This is so reminiscent of the corrupt and ineffective government in Saigon.  The notion that should be defended by us, I think, is ridiculous. 

And then, the idea that anything we do, tinkering on the margins, is going to fundamentally change things inside Pakistan is, I think, equally delusional.  But if you do pour large numbers of general purpose forces into Afghanistan on the ground as we did in Iraq, you will create a reason to mobilize millions and millions of Muslims against you. 

And a Pakistani army, contrary to popular belief, isn‘t terribly interested in fighting fellow Muslims.  The one unifying force inside Pakistan is the possibility of war with Hindu India.  That‘s not going to change.  And they‘re not going to fight fellow Muslims that they may need on their side in a future fight with India.  That‘s the thinking that dominates inside Pakistan. 

MADDOW:  Col. Macgregor, we‘re just about out of time.  But I have to ask you a few things that there is something overt that the U.S. should be doing to protect the nukes of Pakistan right now. 

MACGREGOR:  Not overt.  No, I think that we have to be very careful that we don‘t precipitate the very thing we don‘t want to happen.  I mean, if you‘re too heavy-handed, you end up making matters much worse much more quickly. 

Remember, Afghanistan and this tribal area that you depicted - this is a place of deserts, mountains, clans, tribes.  The people are exactly as you describe - extremely backward.  And then you‘ve got this government in Islamabad whose principal challenge is to govern - just to hold the place together, and that‘s being true for decades.  This is not a new development. 

I think we need to back off.  We need to stand back, try not to tinker, and then to keep our eyes on the ball which is that nuclear arsenal.  And then, we need to talk to the people that surround Pakistan.  And we have to have some sort of plan, if things go badly with this arsenal, to do something in concert with others before that gets out of hand.  Hopefully, it won‘t get that far. 

MADDOW:  Retired U.S. Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor, thank you for taking time tonight.  It‘s good to you‘re your insight.

MACGREGOR:  Hey, thanks a lot.

MADDOW:  Lest we forget, it‘s Friday night.  As you can tell, we‘re talking about Pakistan so it must be Friday.  Yes.  Sorry. 

We have a very Friday-y feature coming up next, actually.  It‘s the TV news as music video.  It sort of makes no sense at all until you see it, and then it becomes all you want to watch ever.  Let us praise the interwebs. 


MADDOW:  As the Republican Party searches for meaning in the political minority, it appears RNC Chairman Michael Steele has a little bit of egg on his face this evening.  Steele canceled a scheduled appearance with the Jewish group, Religious Action Center, earlier this week. 

The spokesman from the group told “Politico‘s” Ben Smith the reason they were given was, quote, “an urgent family commitment.”  Then an RNC spokesman made a minor correction saying, quote, “The conflict was due to a family matter, but no emergency.” 

It turns out the family matter in question was going to the New York premiere about the new documentary about Mike Tyson.  Yes, Michael Steele‘s sister used to be married to him.  Oh, Michael Steele, I hope you keep this job.  I hope, I hope, I hope, I hope. 


MADDOW:  RACHEL MADDOW SHOW audience, I would like to introduce you to someone.  I would like to introduce you to the Gregory brothers - Michael, Andrew, and Evan and Evan‘s wife Sarah.  They are musicians in Brooklyn, New York.  And they are on this show right now because they have contributed something very important to American culture. 

They have made TV news danceable using a cool thing called “auto-tune” which alters people‘s voices.  This industrious Brooklyn quartet has remixed real news programs given anchor people hooky melodies, added a big back beat and essentially turned news into news-icals.  Here‘s a sample. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. Gingrich, what do you think of Obama wanting to cut down on nuclear weapons.  In the key of C and go.  

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:  I just think this is very dangerous fantasy foreign policy and it can get you can into enormous trouble.  


MADDOW:  You‘ve probably heard this auto-tune kind of vocal sound before. 

Artists like Cher and the rapper T-Pain have used this effect. 


It‘s a familiar sound, right?  Well, this afternoon, we were very inspired and decided to give it a try ourselves.  Because we here at the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW have so much extra time on our hands.  We remixed sounds of a segment we did on this show last night.  Check it out . 


(on camera):  For the first time in five, five, five years, the percentage of Americans who think the country‘s on the right track is higher, higher, higher than those who think it‘s on the wrong track. 


To give you the full effect of these artists, I would like to please present you to the Gregory Brothers production of, quote, “Auto-Tune, The News Number Two: Pirates, Drugs, Gay Marriage.”  Enjoy. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Perhaps the Constitution envisions certain one-size-

fits-all situations -


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I hear a fog horn.  Boring.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The legislature override a gubernatorial veto.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Boring.  I‘m not feeling any romance between us right now.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘ve got to do it like this. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Embarrassing.  Sorry, I‘ve got to take this.  


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Love you, too, grandma.


MADDOW:  The Gregory Brothers‘ next project will be teaming up with political satirists from “Barely Political” to recap President Obama‘s first 100 days.  We are very much looking forward to that so much so we might do any more work until it comes out.  You can find links to their Web site at “” today. 

All right.  Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” more on former Vice President Dick Cheney‘s request for torture memos and getting inside the process of how President Obama decided to release them. 

Coming up next on this show, a special flying Blagojevich cocktail moment. 


MADDOW:  Tonight‘s cocktail moment is an air mail, delicious.  Although a judge barred Rod Blagojevich from going to Costa Rica to appear on that reality show, he did go to Los Angeles for a press conference.  Here with the details about Blago‘s ongoing career moves our Blagojevich bureau chief, Kent Jones.  Kent, what happened today? 

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST:  Well, Rachel, though it‘s not clear whether or not he‘ll be involved with the new NBC reality series “I‘m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here,” Blago was the star attraction at a press event for the show today. 

Check out the contestants - former “American Idol” disaster Sanjaya, a supermodel Janice Dickinson, actor Stephen Baldwin, wrestler Torrie Wilson and former hoopster John Salley.  But the press mainly wanted to talk to Blago and as usual, he did not disappoint.  


ROD BLAGOJEVICH, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ILLINOIS:  I wish I can go now because I‘ve prepared myself mentally for what I thought I‘d have a chance to be able to do.  And I‘ve sold myself on the idea this was sort of a way for me to be a modern day Teddy Roosevelt by - he went to South America and charted a river that hadn‘t been charted.  In my little way, I could be somebody and be like Teddy Roosevelt and be in the jungle while having the advantage of being with interesting celebrities, while he didn‘t. 


JONES:  Oh, you‘ve got to love him.  Teddy Roosevelt never went to the jungle with Sanjaya.  


JONES:  Not once.

MADDOW:  That did not happen.  

JONES:  That would be great.  Now, yesterday, Blagojevich got trussed up to shoot a promo for the show.  He may not be allowed to go to Costa Rica, but thanks to the green screen, he can go anywhere.  Or how about something like this? 

MADDOW:  Oh, very nice. 

JONES:  Fly, fly -

MADDOW:  Thank you, Kent.  

JONES:  Or how about -

MADDOW:  One more?  

JONES:  One more.

MADDOW:  Oh, very good.  “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.



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