Guests: Richard Engel , Mike Blum
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening. And thanks for staying us with us for the next hour.
I am the person you are seeing on your TV machine right now because I am the person who is on camera mostly on this show. But the truth is that there is a whole world of people who work on this show to produce it and make it possible. And if that world of great people were, say, a pyramid-shaped casino in Las Vegas, the shining beacon of light that can be seen from space, the thing at the top, the pinnacle of our accomplishments as a staff in 2010, including everything we did for every second of air time we produced in this entire year, the single best thing we did this entire year was this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And now a quick check of our viewer mail bag. Viewer Wyatt writes, “Dear Rachel, you don‘t ever seem to use the highlighter that‘s always visible on your desk during the show. Is it just a prop?”
A highlighter is not a prop. I keep the highlighter here because if you put two highlighters together it makes a lightsaber.
It‘s not a prop. It‘s my lightsaber.
Thanks for writing, Wyatt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We did nothing else this year that was as good as the lightsaber. The lightsaber thing was perfect in every way. Hazaa to our excellent web produced—our excellent web producer, Will Femia (ph). Will is one of a dozen or so producers who do excellent work on this show.
And the job of a producer at its core is to help me, help us, help the show clarify our understanding of specific news stories. We are aiming at a clarity that could not have been achieved without the TV segment our producers produced. If this show could be known for anything, I think I would have us be known for that, for clearing stuff up.
And I think we may, in fact, becoming known for that some days because of research like this, by our producer Mike Yarvitz, research that went into this segment on the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
MADDOW: Today in Alaska, crude oil production was all but stopped on the North Slope. Oil companies operating there were told to cut their production by more than 80 percent after thousands of barrels of crude oil spilled from the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline. The 800-mile Trans-Alaska oil line, at least for right now, is shut down. That spill in Alaska is happening, of course, in the shadow of a much larger spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
And, actually, you know what? If it‘s OK with you guys in the control room, I think we should probably just have me stop doing this now and let the gravitas white guy anchor do this part. Let‘s do that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TV NEWS ANCHOR: In Alaska, the pipeline has been repaired. Oil is expected to flow again today. But that crack that developed Sunday allowed 1,500 barrels of crude oil to escape, 700 barrels recovered.
And in the Gulf of Mexico, oil workers are trying to handle a much larger oil spill. A burning offshore oil well is dumping 30,000 barrels of crude each day into the Gulf.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, yes, that was from 1979, June 13th, 1979. That NBC News anchor reporting on a pipeline spill in Alaska on the same day that an oil well was leaking out of control and burning in the Gulf of Mexico.
Thirty-one years ago, in June 1979, an oil well called the Ixtoc blew out in the Gulf of Mexico. It started spewing thousands of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf every day. And it‘s not just the disaster itself that should sound familiar to you, it‘s also the techniques that they were using at the time to try to contain the spill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TV NEWS ANCHOR: Airplanes are to be used to drop chemicals on the oil, but there is a shortage of aviation fuel down there. And the workers are also putting up a mile-long boom. They‘re putting it into place, trying to contain the oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Chemical dispersants being spread across the Gulf by plane, mile long booms being set up to contain the oil slick on the surface.
If you close your eyes and you just listen to these news reports from 1979, you would be forgiven from thinking—for thinking that you had flipped on the news today.
The Ixtoc rig erupted in the middle of the night in 1979 in June, as it was drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico. The drilling was being done by a company called Sedco. Sedco later became known as Transocean—the operator of the rig that blew up this year in the Gulf of Mexico.
The reason the Ixtoc explosion turned into a massive uncontrolled leak 30 years ago is because the well‘s blowout preventer malfunctioned. Does it sound familiar? The blowout preventer failed to stop the Ixtoc leak and what followed was an environmental disaster the likes of which the country had never seen before.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIE MONROE, NBC NEWS (voice-over): Floating barriers are still stretched across the waterway near South Padre Island to keep approaching oil from spoiling this popular sports fishing area, which is also vital to shrimp fishing and endangered wildlife. Oil skimming vessels are also being put into service to catch any patches of oil which may get through.
About five miles offshore, another team of private oil containment workers is prepared to intercept drifting oil before it gets to land. The Coast Guard has already said it will be impossible to get it all, and they‘re particularly concerned about oil moving under water.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Plumes of oil moving under water. Oil containment teams, skimming vessels—again, these are not badly colorized reports from the B.P. oil disaster in the Gulf right now. This is reporting from deja vu land, from essentially the same disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, but in 1979.
The only thing missing back then was worries that the loop current would carry the oil out of the Gulf of Mexico all the way to the coast of Florida—oh, wait.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TV NEWS ANCHOR: There is now a distinct possibility that oil spilling from that runaway Mexican well could spread as far as the Gulf Coast of Florida—that from an official of the EPA.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The Ixtoc disaster in 1979 in the Gulf of Mexico went on for weeks. Then weeks turned into months. The reason it went on for so long is because even though oil companies were allowed to drill offshore like that, it turns out they didn‘t know how to stop a leak when disaster struck. Nothing they tried worked.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TV NEWS ANCHOR: In the Gulf of Mexico, rain and heavy seas are hampering efforts to cap a Mexican oil well. It has been spilling since June 3rd, the worst spill in history. Workers are trying to put a giant cone over the well. Despite inclement weather, they may try again today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Trying to put a giant cone over the well. In 2010, this giant cone strategy is what we were sort of euphemistically calling the “top hat.” I wonder if they had a euphemistic name for it back in 1979.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mexican officials are calling it “Operation Sombrero.” Workers have been trying since the weekend to put a 300-ton steel cone over the mouth of the runaway well. Officials say, once in place, the cone will collect up to 90 percent of the crude oil, which has been gushing from the well for more than 3 ½ months, from 10,000 to 30,000 barrels a day, have floated from the Bay of Campeche and the Gulf of Mexico.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: As with B.P.‘s top hat, the Ixtoc spill‘s “Operation Sombrero” ultimately failed to stop the leak. But they had other ideas back then that were sure to solve the problem. Ideas like shooting metal spheres into the well to cut the flow of oil. You have might call that today a “junk shot.”
They also tried pumping cement and salt water into the leaking well to try to jam it up. You might call that a “top kill” maneuver.
Neither of those things worked.
For months and months and months and months and months, the Ixtoc well continued to leak uncontrollably until—
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Two relief wells are still being drilled to relieve pressure on the blown-out well so it eventually can be capped.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Relief wells. Nine agonizingly long months after the Ixtoc well exploded, a pair of relief wells finally allowed the engineers to cap the leaking well. That was 31 years ago. I am 37 years old, and this happened when I was 6. Those hair cuts are back in fashion.
And the stuff that did not work back then is the same stuff that hasn‘t worked now. Same busted blowout preventer, same ineffective booms, same underwater plumes, same toxic dispersants, same failed containment domes, same junk shot, same top kill—it‘s all the same technology.
The Ixtoc well, which couldn‘t be plugged for nine months, was in roughly 200 feet of water.
Now, in 2010, we‘re using the same exact techniques to try to plug a well that is leaking in 5,000 feet of water.
The oil companies keep talking about how technologically advanced they are. But what they‘ve gotten technologically advanced at is drilling deeper. They haven‘t gotten any more advanced on how to deal with the risks attached to that. They haven‘t made any technological advances in the last 30 year when it comes to stopping a leak like this when it happens. All they‘ve gotten better at is making the risks worse, by putting these leaks further out of our reach.
Oh, hey, congratulations, now the thing you can‘t stop is a full mile under water. That‘s all they‘ve gotten better at. That, and making themselves the most profitable industry the universe has ever seen, and I am not exaggerating.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MONROE: Officials say the oil could reach all the way to Florida, as it continues to threaten the U.S. coast for months.
Willie Monroe, NBC News, South Padre Island, Texas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Being able to connect dots like that on the TV machine, whether by digging up the right archives or talking to the right people or going to the right places, that makes me happier than anything else about this best of all jobs in the world.
We‘ll have more ahead. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: Given the chance to go to both Afghanistan and Iraq in 2010, we tried to make our coverage as specific and granular as we could, and we tried to get as far off the beaten media track as we could, as well. Some of the results—coming up. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: On April 20th, Earth Day, as it happens, the Deepwater oil rig known as the Deepwater Horizon owned by B.P. and operated by the Transocean Oil Company, it exploded. There was one picture of the disaster that night. But it wasn‘t immediately clear what hell that explosion would wreak on the Gulf of Mexico and its American shoreline.
In the weeks that followed, we learned the rig sank, the well blew out, and millions of gallons of oil gushed unabated into the Gulf. It was a nightmare story that fixated the country for weeks and then for months. And in the midst of it, we traveled to the Louisiana shoreline to contribute what we could to understanding what happened and to why it was so impossible to fix it for so long.
MADDOW: We‘re in the Caminada Bay. This is Barataria Pass out there which leads to the Gulf of Mexico. And this gives you a sense of sort of how subtle some of this impact seems, even when you‘re right out in it.
If can you see right now, there‘s almost a distinction in the way the texture of the water looks. This is sort of normal water, what you‘d expect it to look, sort of slightly choppy conditions like this. But you see how it‘s got a totally different texture right there where it‘s a little ripply on the water? It‘s got—it almost looks like there‘s a skin on the water, a real thin skin, this means there‘s oil here.
You get this real thin sheen on the top of the water, but then you get these glops. The captain who we‘re with here says that when it gets warm, it spreads out real thin. Overnight, it tends to clump up more. Sometimes out here in the morning, this is more of what you‘ll see than out here after the full day of heat on it.
What‘s that slogan? What‘s their logo, “Beyond Petroleum”? You almost see when you first see it in the water like this, you think it‘s a piece of trash, you know, or some sort of litter out here. Maybe even some sort of dead sea life. Then you notice it‘s got a gas station sheen around it.
That‘s the consistency of the stuff that‘s floating out here in blobs. You can see there‘s some vegetation here that it‘s glopped on to. That‘s what it‘s like.
You know, you see it on camera and you think, you want to touch it and sort of see what it‘s like. Once you see it in person and smell it, the desire to touch it goes away. See, that doesn‘t come off.
“Beyond Petroleum,” my ass.
If you know absolutely nothing about how to use boom to protect shoreline from oil, from anything encroaching that you want to keep off that shoreline, if you know absolutely nothing about, it you probably still know enough to know that this isn‘t supposed to be what it looks like.
What we‘re seeing right here—we‘re in Caminada Bay, which is just sort of in the backwaters off Grand Isle, Louisiana. What you can see here is the absorbent boom piled up on this little barrier island, on this little land here.
And you see these bamboo poles they‘re sticking up and this big line out here? The bamboo poles all behind me stretched all out here. The bamboo poles—those are supposed to be the anchor holding that absorbent boom in place. It‘s not working all that well.
We‘re here with Dr. Mike Blum from Tulane. He‘s professor of coastal marsh ecology.
Mike, thanks for coming out here with us.
MIKE BLUM, TULANE UNIVERSITY: You‘re welcome. Happy to be here.
MADDOW: Is this—this isn‘t right, right?
BLUM: No, it‘s not doing its job as deployed and as designed. You would hope it would be anchored in place. And even under inclement weather conditions, and we‘re not actually having all that bad weather today.
MADDOW: All right. So, we‘re at the mouth of Barataria Bay.
MADDOW: And, obviously, there‘s a lot of oil. You have the same sort of globs that we saw out in the sea on the way—out in the bay on the way over here, this is what they look like on land. This is my favorite pen. Not anymore.
What I want to know is once oil does make landfall like this, what happens? Does oil move in marshland in a way that we don‘t really understand?
BLUM: Well, what we understand now is when oil gets deposited by wave action like we‘re seeing right now, it accumulates. It goes right to the soil, and it coats the soil. So you don‘t get gas exchange, you get basically an anoxic layer where nothing can breath.
MADDOW: Anoxic, meaning no—blocking oxygen.
BLUM: No oxygen.
MADDOW: So, this obviously is not very substantial, small island that we‘re on, with oil coating it, becomes less substantial, more subject to erosion. This island is in danger of going away because this oil is on it.
BLUM: Exactly. So, with the oil coating the surfaces of the soil and plants, if it is sufficient enough like it is right now, you can see it kills plants right where it comes into contact, and by just suffocating the plants. You lose the anchor the plants provide and you get rapid erosion of the islands. These are the islands that endangered species or imperiled species like the brown pelican use as roosts and recreates.
MADDOW: The brown pelican is the state bird of Louisiana. So, I‘m guessing if you polled the brown pelicans this year about that, they might choose by this point to secede.
Stay with us. Me in places suffused with oil in a totally different way. Coming up next.
MADDOW: There are more blessings than I can count about my job, but let‘s start with an obvious one. I get to travel all over the world and see things I‘m interested in and ask questions I want to ask about them of people I want to ask questions of. And a lot of the time, I get to do that with NBC‘s Richard Engel.
In 2010, Richard gave me the best tour a person could possibly get of some of the most interesting places in the world. It‘s generally, though, not the kind of tour you would pay for.
MADDOW: So, we‘re in the neighborhood now called (INAUDIBLE).
Talking about the distribution of wealth in Kabul and the effect of—
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: There is no distribution of wealth. There is where it is distributed. This is where it ends up. All of the money from contracts and association with the government and association with the U.S. military has ended up here.
ENGEL: Because this was originally, you can see there‘s no real pavement or anything like that—this was originally just empty land.
ENGEL: And when the Americans came in with the northern alliance—the northern alliance, which was the allies against the Taliban, took this land and then gave it away to all their cronies.
MADDOW: Oh, OK. So, they created—
ENGEL: They created—
MADDOW: -- a new war wealth neighborhood out of nothing.
MADDOW: And so, we still got open sewers and we still got no pavement, but we have rococo—
MADDOW: -- nouveau riche castles.
ENGEL: That lease for $10,000 to $25,000 a month, because it‘s a safe area.
But here‘s the irony: Most of the government officials—and these are almost all owned by government officials—don‘t live in them. They rent them out to foreign companies, contractors, and they live in Dubai or have their families in Islamabad. So, they are purely investment properties.
MADDOW: America, it‘s your tax dollars at work. This is the war economy as translated to landlocked central Asia.
We dump a tub of money here thinking we‘re paying for our military
effort. Everything that goes along with our military effort ends up
flooding or in this case, directing like a squirt gun instead of flooding -
ENGEL: The streets become rivers of mud.
MADDOW: But the money doesn‘t go to the country and trickle down to create the economy. It just goes to the elite and to the power brokers who can keep it for themselves.
ENGEL: A warlord system. There is a lot of money in war—contracting, supplying, shipping. And if you‘ve been in power, you keep those contracts for yourself and you build neighborhoods like this.
MADDOW: This corner is like the microcosm of the war—this and this.
ENGEL: And these kids.
MADDOW: And us, too, because we‘re here as Americans covering this because of the American initiative here that created the economy that made this all possible.
A neighborhood like this, has it changed much since seven years ago?
If you were here in 2002, would this neighborhood look like this?
ENGEL: Well, 2002 under Saddam, we couldn‘t have done this, walked around, gone anywhere we want, filmed, talked to people—forget about it. I mean, we did film a little bit under Saddam.
ENGEL: But there was minders with us. There was always people all over us. So, 2002 (INAUDIBLE).
MADDOW: But would it have looked like this? Would there have been this kind of market?
ENGEL: Well, yes, it would have looked pretty much the same. Maybe a little more variety of items, more fruits. Saddam didn‘t have great relations with all of his neighbors, so there wasn‘t a lot of trade going on. But it would have looked pretty much the same.
ENGEL: Things would have been a lot cheaper, by the way.
MADDOW: Oh, really?
ENGEL: Baghdad has become very expensive. You go to, you know, people‘s—a house in this neighborhood might rent for, you know, a decent two-bedroom might rent for $600 a month.
ENGEL: Because it‘s the neighborhood.
ENGEL: Under Saddam, it would have been very, very cheap. You know, we‘re talking a few dollars -- $50, $60. So, life has gotten much, much more expensive.
MADDOW: Much, much more expensive. And what‘s the comparison of—
ENGEL: And the services don‘t work.
MADDOW: Services, that‘s what I was going to say.
ENGEL: Doesn‘t work.
ENGEL: And it doesn‘t work.
MADDOW: You know, water.
ENGEL: Nothing—well, water is tied to electricity.
ENGEL: So, you got to be able to pump the water around.
Everyone‘s stealing the power from each other. There‘s generators. And it‘s not just that there‘s—the power is little. It is—it doesn‘t work. So when the power comes in your house, Zohair (ph) -- my friend Zohair. He lives in one of the best neighborhoods in town.
ENGEL: And he pays a lot for his house. You have a friend here.
MADDOW: Oh, very good.
ENGEL: His house almost burned down a few days ago.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
ENGEL: Because he only has—it was coming in about two, three hours a day, but it wasn‘t coming in consistently.
MADDOW: So, you don‘t get a block of two or three hours.
ENGEL: You get a blast of 15 minutes that blew out everything in his house and blew out—and set fire to the walls. And he lives in the best neighborhood in Baghdad.
MADDOW: But under Saddam, there was 24 hours‘ power.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
ENGEL: He said there was 24-hour power but sometimes it was rationed so you‘d have two hours on, two hours off.
MADDOW: What‘s going to happen, Zohair, for you with American media and so much American contractors and military and everybody leaving? What‘s going to happen --
ENGEL: Not the American troops. All of us, you mean?
ENGEL: We‘re still here. We still have an office here.
MADDOW: Yes. But so much of the American interest and presence, everything.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
ENGEL: It‘s difficult. He said he‘s worked with me, Richard, for about eight years. We did a lot of really hard stories in Iraq. We went to some really difficult to enter places. He‘s, like so, now people think of me as American, not as Iraq.
MADDOW: Is that dangerous?
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
ENGEL: Of course. So if the Americans pull back, yes, it‘s dangerous for me.
MADDOW: What are his plans?
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
ENGEL: He said he‘s going to stay with me. He said, Richard, me, wants him to stay in Iraq so he‘ll stay.
MADDOW: One happy family.
MADDOW: We‘ll get a show, MSNBC. We‘ll talk him into it.
ENGEL: Let‘s do it. Let‘s do it. He could make it happen.
MADDOW: Yes. That‘s true. You come to New York. You make miracles there.
MADDOW: The Richard and Zohair show, that is actually something I would pay to see in New York or anywhere. Please stay with us. We got more ahead.
MADDOW: There are places in the world that you would never find if someone did not take you to them. There are still other places in the world that you might find but you would never appreciate unless you were there with somebody who really knew what they meant. Fortunately, I work with NBC‘s Richard Engel.
(on camera): We are here on chicken street as you can - or approaching the chicken street district.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly.
MADDOW: Chicken - suited up again. Everybody always says this is where the tourists come. And Richard helpfully pointed it out on the way over here that, yes, this is where the tourists come. Today, you are the tourist.
ENGEL: This is it. Yes, exactly.
MADDOW: I don‘t see other tourists.
ENGEL: I don‘t think we‘ll see anyone else. You are the tourist today.
MADDOW: I‘ve never had the opportunity to buy a carpet with guns on it before and I‘m not sure if I will ever have it again, I mean, unless I hang out with you.
ENGEL: All right.
MADDOW: They come up all the time. Afghanistan life talk, tank. Made in Afghanistan. Very good. This is $20 as well? My mom is going to be really excited. This is, I‘m sure, exactly what she wanted.
ENGEL: I think she‘s going to be a little disappointed.
ENGEL: We just saw the stones and you buy a $20 carpet with a gun on it. You do what you want, but I think she‘s not going to be overwhelmingly impressed.
MADDOW: I have a - I have very (UNINTELLIGIBLE) taste. You‘re like, “Don‘t you want to buy the store sapphire?” Or “Don‘t you want to buy the emerald?” No, I‘m sort of into the gun carpet.
ENGEL: Welcome to Kabul. Look, I came to Kabul and I got a gun carpet.
MADDOW: I think finally got the carpet. Also, this will fit in my carry on. It‘s perfect. This might go on the set, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW set. Thank you, sir. Thank you very much. Good luck. Thank you.
ENGEL: Have a nice day.
MADDOW: You don‘t have a gun carpet?
ENGEL: I don‘t have a gun carpet. You know what? $25, I‘ll give you for the gun carpet right now.
MADDOW: I‘m asking you like five questions about it and you‘re still ready to leave. You still even grasp the fact that I would want to buy it.
ENGEL: I was shocked. I‘m shocked. I‘ve never seen anyone buy one of those.
This is where Baghdad was toppled. This was the end of the Saddam regime, both symbolically, because of that picture which we captured from the Palestine.
That is the Palestine over there and we were standing on a balcony on that hotel catching those shots when the U.S. Marines came in and then helped Iraqis to tear down that statue.
MADDOW: And this is one of the things that‘s become part myth, part legend, part truth about how that statue came down. I remember that morning I was working in local radio in Western Massachusetts. And I‘m driving into work before dawn.
And the guys were on the even earlier morning show before me are talking about how anybody who was against the war now has to confess that the war was a great idea because the jubilant Iraqi people have pulled down the statue of Saddam in the middle of Baghdad. And clearly, they were celebrating. That‘s the way it was initially reported. What really happened?
ENGEL: Well, when you go up higher, you could see the square. It‘s not a big square. There were a few hundred people in the square.
ENGEL: So it wasn‘t that it was a mass demonstration of millions of people coming out and celebrating.
The Americans helped them pull it down. There was that one very awkward moment where (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Americans putting the American flag on it.
MADDOW: That‘s right. I remember that.
ENGEL: And then, they -
MADDOW: Over the face of the statue, yes.
ENGEL: An American flag - it had been tied to 9/11, a flag that had
been in New York. And then, they quickly erected this statue, which is -
MADDOW: Which is -
ENGEL: Not great. And that was the damage from previous bombing from previous - from subsequent bombings. Should we go inside?
I‘ll show you the exact place we had our cameras where all of this -
MADDOW: From which we can see that shot?
ENGEL: Where we can that shot and where you can see where all of shot and where you can see where all of this transpired.
What‘s odd and the people who were in that square at the time - I was listening to them cheer. They weren‘t cheering the end of America, the end of Saddam. This is freedom, freedom. They were yelling (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Sadr.
ENGEL: They were cheering for Sadr. They were cheering for Muqtada al-Sadr.
MADDOW: Muqtada al-Sadr?
ENGEL: Exactly. So they were cheering for a -
MADDOW: They‘re giving Shiite sectarian chants.
ENGEL: As the statute is being pulled out. That‘s what they were yelling in the place.
MADDOW: Yes. See, that wouldn‘t have made local radio either.
ENGEL: I was reporting on it at that time. And I said, look, this is just the beginning of something huge. They were not cheering for America and democracy. They were cheering for a Shiite cleric.
MADDOW: But in America - I mean, we were so - as Americans, we were so eager to have reflected back to us the supposed glory of the war.
I mean, the fact that it was a flag tied to 9/11 was perfect given what the American people wanted to hear at that point. It bore no relation to reality. And just as - just as there was no connection.
ENGEL: It was literally put on the statue. There was a 9/11 flag strapped across his face to make that connection.
MADDOW: It was such a perfect metaphor for what was actually happening here, that the fall of Saddam here meant something so much different than what it meant in America and what we wanted it to mean in America.
We just invented and put it on there as if it was real. And we can keep being consistently surprised that things don‘t work out the way they (UNINTELLIGIBLE) worked out in our myth.
ENGEL: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Sadr. That‘s what they were yelling. So they were happy that Saddam was gone.
ENGEL: But for completely different reasons.
MADDOW: They were happy because there are Shiites who were getting rid of the Sunni leader.
ENGEL: And this was empowered and the Shiite leader Sadr was killed by Saddam. So that was revenge.
MADDOW: Sometimes nothing makes it clearer than seeing where it happened and talking with somebody who was there when it did happen.
My interviews with Richard Holbrooke and with Vice President Joe Biden ahead.
MADDOW: On the issue of Iraq, having come back from there, I felt like - if I forget all the history and I just think in very, very broad strokes about the fact that we have had 7 ½ years of American presence in Iraq, $1 trillion dollars, all of those lives lost, all of the - everything that was spent there in every sense.
To be leaving there with there being no electricity in Baghdad and the suffering that that causes the Iraqi people, the effect that that has on the prospects of stability and peace and civil society taking hold in Iraq after all those years, electricity seems to be not just one of a list of things. It seems like the thing that we could most to do for the Iraqi people if we could do anything.
Why hasn‘t that been the U.S. priority, to leave them with at least that to remember us by?
BIDEN: By the way we will. By the time we leave, we will. Number one. Two, I‘ve been there 13 - I don‘t know, 14, 15 times. There is a great deal more electricity there was than when the war first started, and when there was before.
MADDOW: In Baghdad.
BIDEN: Well -
MADDOW: In Baghdad, Saddam gave back a lot of power to the rest of the country.
BIDEN: Yes - no, no. No. But nationwide. Nationwide. This is going to just get better and better and better, but it‘s a long process. And we‘re going to - look. When we leave Iraq next year, we are not - we are leaving militarily. But we are significantly ramping up our civilian presence.
I mean, significantly. And we are working - I conduct a meeting once a month with the - our folks in Iraq as well as with our every Cabinet member. I have the secretary of commerce, the secretary of education, the secretary of treasury, the secretary of agriculture.
We‘re all there working now with the Iraqis. Providing for the ability to help them build their institutions so they can function, including how to make the electric grid function. So that is a process. We‘re not walking away from that.
MADDOW: It‘s going to take a long time.
BIDEN: It is taking - absolutely. Nothing easy about it. But we‘re bringing those kids home, including my son.
MADDOW: Vice President Joe Biden offering maybe a more optimistic view of what remains of Iraq and the Iraq war in 2010. Very few people understand and influence America‘s war policy more than Mr. Biden. Perhaps fewer still knew or influenced U.S. diplomacy more than late Richard Holbrooke, who I had the privilege to interview this year on the subject of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
(on camera) I think the question strategically has been, well, what can we do in year 10 that we couldn‘t do in years one through nine? And having gone there, I feel like the nuance or the sort of deeper part of that question that I still have now is about how we counteract the negative effect of the time we have spent there.
It‘s not just that we were doing a bad job with, say, training the Afghan army before and now, we‘re doing a better job. Once you‘re doing it in year 10, you‘re actually doing some harm because you are trying to create an Afghan government in an atmosphere in which you - they‘re used to 10 years of American presence.
They‘re used to 10 years of international presence. And frankly, every month that goes by and we dump another $5 billion into the Afghan economy and all of its corruption and ineffectiveness, seems like we do a lot of harm just by staying, that maybe the clock has just run out.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE, SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR AFGHANISTAN AND
PAKISTAN: Well, I don‘t think so. I think the Afghan people - first of all, just a pedantic point, it‘s really not 10 years. It‘s really like a little more than eight. And secondly, a lot of that time was in a wholly different atmosphere.
The resurgence of the Taliban really began about five years ago and it was completely neglected by Washington. And that‘s why we find ourselves in that position. But to go to your core point, I don‘t see evidence that people are turning away from the international presence.
The polling data does not support that either. The feelings of desire that the international coalition, the U.S. remain, remain quite high but the people want several things which they‘re very clear on. They want a system of government that is just and so corruption becomes a huge issue and we focused on that.
And President Karzai has agreed and he has upgraded the office against corruption in the government. They want to feel this is not a war without end just like Americans; hence, the enormously important addition of the reintegration and reconciliation programs.
They want to feel that they will get their lives back and that means emphasizing agriculture. It‘s an agricultural country that used to export agri products until the Soviet invasion of 1978.
And we need to help restore agriculture. We made agriculture the top non-security priority in this administration. In the previous administration, they were spending more money destroying poppy crops than agriculture.
You saw that yourself when you were down in the south. Now, we‘re not going after the poor poppy farmers anymore. We‘re going after the big drug lords and interdictions. So we had to make all these changes. The people see these changes. But we also have to produce the most critical issue which is security. And security is the key.
I was really struck in prepping to talk to you today, reading a lot of your briefing transcripts and your interview transcripts with other people.
And upon - you are - you are combative with your questioners often. You‘ve not been very combative with me, which I‘m taking with a grain of suspicion.
HOLBROOKE: Well, you know, I‘m not confusing you with Chris Matthews.
MADDOW: No one ever does. I wonder if you are combative with questioners often, both in briefings and in interviews, because you feel like the media is often getting the story of the war in Afghanistan wrong. Do you feel like the media is blowing it? Do you feel like the American people understand really what‘s going on?
HOLBROOKE: I think the journalists on the ground in Afghanistan are really good, really good - among the best ever. And I get the - I don‘t have - I don‘t always agree with everything they wrote. They have their job to do.
But I‘m not going to take issue with somebody like Carlotta Gall or Dexter Filkins or Pamela Constable. They are brave people. They‘re out with the troops, and I read what they write with great interest.
I think people - I think journalists in Washington have a different affect, and you are neither. You‘re neither in Afghanistan. And I‘ve never combated with the journalists in Afghanistan nor was I competitive with the journalists in other areas I was involved.
But Washington journalists are not journalists in the sense that you‘d think of. They have narratives and they are addicted to their narratives. But these aren‘t - these aren‘t real interviews. You and I are having a conversation here which I hope illuminates the situation.
Am I combative by nature? Well, I‘ve read that, but it‘s really
in my view, it‘s inherent in the job. This is a job that involves combat. We have American men and women putting their lives at risk every day, giving their lives, being wounded, and we, who are working on this issue, owe it to them to do the best we can.
And time is precious here. I don‘t want to see it slip away. But what I‘ve just said to you is my own deep conviction but it‘s also something President Obama has said in a slightly different context both publicly and privately and I not only agree with him, but I think that we all have to remember what this is about.
We‘ve sent young men and women out to one of the most difficult places in the world, as you showed so wonderfully last week, to risk their lives. And those of us sitting in Washington have to do everything we can to get them the support they need and to make the strategy work.
MADDOW: Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, thank you for this much of your time. It‘s a real honor, sir. Thanks a lot.
HOLBROOKE: My honor.
KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (on camera): If there is a hall of fame for poop, this man is in it. Professor Jim Meade. It is a pleasure to be here.
JIM MEADE, PROFESSOR, EAT TENNESSEE STATE UNIVERSITY: It‘s wonderful, but don‘t call me professor, just call me Jim. I-you know, studying this material, it‘s best just to call me Jim.
JONES: Keeps you down to earth.
MEADE: It keeps me down to earth, yes.
JONES: So in total, how many pieces do you have in all?
MEADE: How much dung do we have?
MEADE: Between 800, 900 - actually, 900 to 1,000 specimens from every continent almost.
JONES: That is a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) load.
MEADE: It is a lot.
JONES: Why is poop important?
MEADE: Well, I mean the dung is important if you have certain questions. So if you want to know what an animal ate, maybe why it died, you need to look at the dung because this is what was tossed out of the animal. OK?
MEADE: So if you want to identify the dung and know what animals were there, then you need to reference it to something. Compare this to that. You say, oh, I have such and such dung.
JONES: Pick out a few of these and discuss these with me.
MEADE: Here, this is - JONES: Wow!
MEADE: This is African elephant, loxodonta, and you can see it doesn‘t chew things very well. It‘s a very poor chewer. It just stuffs in 600 pounds, pumps out 500 pounds, and that‘s what it is. This would be a rhino.
MEADE: And rhino -
JONES: Little smaller than the elephant.
MEADE: Yes. This is long and stringy, and this is grass mainly. This rhino, it‘s a browser. So it‘s clipping things off. So everything looks like broken up match sticks. Well, that‘s diagnostic. It‘s a different shape, too, even though it comes screaming out the other end. It‘s a little bit different shape.
JONES: So the rhino will actual chew the food perhaps more-
MEADE: Like mom said, 13 times and then gulp it down. Elephant? Not doing that.
JONES: The other thing, the rhino flosses. When you get a new sample, what do you do?
MEADE: Pick it up and smell it.
MEADE: OK, and why that? Well.
JONES: Yes, why that?
MEADE: Well, this sounds strange too but if it is older than about 5,000 years, it takes on a different smell. Sort of like a wine. Think of it as wine.
JONES: Now I am thinking of it that way. Yes.
MEADE: Why don‘t we go down and they‘re actually digging down there.
Let me show you what it looks like up close.
JONES: Tapir poop?
MEADE: We hope to find tapir poop. We got to find it.
JONES: Let‘s go. Come on. What cool thing is going on over here?
MEADE: What they‘re doing is hunting for the bones of all the different types of critters here and that‘s really important, reconstructing the community. What I want to see is poop.
MEADE: Right. Do we have potential tapir poop? And that, of course, would make me very happy.
JONES: So here‘s a question, if I were to find tapir poop -
JONES: Would that be an appropriate Christmas gift?
MEADE: That would be fantastic. You can‘t ask for anything better than that.
MADDOW: That was our landmark exclusive report as filed about the intrepid Kent Jones, his report about poop. Oh, gross. Yes, right, because you don‘t find the idea of the poop museum to funny because poop is not funny. Please.
Kent finds a lot of what ends up being funny on this show. But occasionally, what‘s really funny on the show comes from people we really truly do not know.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So this here is a picture of Rachel Maddow, mad cow. I‘m sorry. You don‘t have to know a lot about her to know that she‘s a lesbian. She looks manly. She‘s got the broad shoulders. She‘s got the thick neck like Bull Connor.
She‘s got short hair. She‘s got her arms crossed across her almost nonexistent breasts. But here‘s the thing. Go in a little bit closer, and this is what I saw. What‘s that thing on her neck? Go in a little bit closer. It looks kind of suspicious to me.
So I went and I looked for some other pictures of Rachel Maddow, and sure enough - take a look at this. Again, manly, short hair, smiling, although she‘s crying on the inside. And zoom in a little bit and a little bit closer. What does that look like to you?
Those are the bites of a vampire. MSNBC, this socialist, Nazi Bolshevik channel hired a lesbian vampire and put her on where little kids could see her. We are letting a lesbian vampire comment on America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Now, that I have been exposed, I can‘t say for certain I will see you on Monday. But I hope you have a good weekend anyway. Now, can someone please turn off those hideous lights?
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