Guests: Kaye Young, Jon Anderson, Mark Kirk, Amy Katz, David Boardman, Christopher Hitchens
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: Tonight in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, photos of our war dead and coffins hit the papers and the Internet. Is it freedom of the press or disrespect for the dead?
You‘re about to enter SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. No passport required, no P.C. police allowed.
The Pentagon bans taking pictures of U.S. soldiers‘ coffins. But they‘re turning up in respected newspapers and all over the Internet. We‘re going to take a look at all sides of this raging debate. We‘re going to get you the real deal on the story from all the major players, the Air Force base where they were taken, from the editor who decided to run the picture. We‘re going to be hearing from a friend of the woman who was fired for snapping that picture that sparked the controversy and the mother of a former POW in Iraq.
Then, as the deadline approaches to turn over Iraq to the Iraqis, terrorist strikes are increasingly getting more desperate. The most recent left 20 schoolchildren dead, burned alive in their bus. We‘re going to be talking to “Vanity Fair”‘s Christopher Hitchens about this latest wave of violence and what‘s really behind it.
But, first, pictures showing the coffins of fallen American heroes have created a media firestorm. It‘s time for tonight‘s “Real Deal.”
Now, last week, a civilian employee working for the U.S. military snapped a photo of an American military coffin, in fact, of many. That photo violated a political directive that forbade the taking Of such pictures. The image was then published by “The Seattle Times,” while 350 other photos of flag-draped coffins made their way on the Internet.
Now, family members of those fallen heroes are understandably disturbed that their children‘s coffins have become the focus of a heated political debate and a First Amendment firestorm. And while those photos may offend some, while the Pentagon policy offends other, the bottom line here is that everybody‘s just doing their job.
As a member of Congress and a member of the Armed Services Committee, I understood the importance of protecting families of the fallen, but also protecting troop morale. As a newspaper publisher, I fought every attempt by elected officials, bureaucrats, corporations, and, yes, advertisers to tell me what to print. In fact, if you wanted a story to run in my newspaper, all you had to do was try to stop it through threat or intimidation.
You know, if the Pentagon doesn‘t want photos of these flag-draped coffins released to the press, then they need to do a better job keeping the coffins in a secure location. And if First Amendment advocates want to squeal about how such regulations do violence to free speech, they need to remember they can still get a photo of that coffin at the funeral of a military hero.
We are a nation at war. And, sadly, we‘ve got to all remember that flag-draped coffins are just a part of that story. And that‘s tonight‘s “Real Deal.”
Now, NBC‘s James Hattori has the very latest on this story from Seattle.
JAMES HATTORI, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Joe.
This all started with a photograph taken by a woman working in the Middle East sent to a friend here in Seattle. Tonight, it‘s raised new questions about the appropriateness of showing images of war.
(voice-over): As casualties mount of U.S. troops in Iraq, this haunting image published in Sunday‘s edition of “The Seattle Times,” an image the Pentagon does not want the public to see. The newspaper obtained it from Tami Silicio, an airline cargo worker in Kuwait, where the caskets were being shipped home.
MICHAEL FANCHER, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, “THE SEATTLE TIMES”: And it was a very compelling image of coffins. And it was just such a touching photo that we felt compelled to run it.
HATTORI: Three days later, Silicio‘s employer, Maytag Aircraft, fired her and her co-worker husband.
But that wasn‘t the end of it. Today, hundreds more photos of flag-draped coffins began appearing on an Internet Web site, photos that the Web site‘s creator had legally forced the Air Force to release. The Web site at times was jammed with visitors.
In earlier administrations, presidents were shown paying their respects. But, in 1991, the Pentagon imposed an informal ban on media coverage and in March of last year, clamped down again.
(on camera): “The Seattle Times” printed the photo despite the ban, which the Pentagon says is to prevent undue harm and grief out of respect to the families.
LEONA SILICIO, MOTHER OF TAMI: And it was not a statement against the war. It was just a way to show families the dignity and respect that these boys are given.
HATTORI (voice-over): Tami Silicio‘s former employer issued a statement saying, “Maytag deeply regrets these actions and fully concurs with the Pentagon‘s policy.”
MAX BOOT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: This is a war of images and a war of ideas, and I think the administration and the Pentagon are reluctant to give the other side what they wanted.
HATTORI: “The Seattle Times” says public reaction to the photo has been mostly favorable.
FANCHER: Because they saw this as honoring these soldiers, not in any way trying to intrude on the families‘ grief.
HATTORI: Tonight, the Pentagon insists its policy is what the families want, that it‘s not an attempt to hide the human toll of war.
(on camera): Tonight, Silicio‘s mother says it was wrong of the company to fire her daughter. She says a reprimand would have been enough -- Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Thanks a lot, James.
And, you know, the picture was first published in “The Seattle Times.” So I asked their managing editor, David Boardman, why they published the contraband picture.
DAVID BOARDMAN, MANAGING EDITOR, “THE SEATTLE TIMES”: We thought it was a very compelling and very moving picture. The power of the picture, the greatest power in it, is that it evokes strong emotions from people across the political spectrum.
It‘s one of those pictures that what you take out of it I think is largely a function of what you bring to it. So that we have people who are against the war, yes, they see it as reflecting the human toll of the war. But we also have people all across the spectrum, including people like the woman who took the photo, Tami Silicio, who see this as capturing and reflecting the care and the respect and the honor that is given to these fallen soldiers.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, once your paper had possession of this picture, was there ever any question at all inside the newspaper whether you needed to run it or not?
BOARDMAN: There was very little debate about it. I‘ll say that. We certainly had as the goal to run it.
But we took great care with Ms. Silicio, particularly, to make sure that she understood the potential implications of this, up to and including losing her job, which, of course, she did today.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, you know, when I was—I published a weekly newspaper and there were several times when I was a publisher, people writing for me would call up and say, they had this story or that story and that they were being threatened by advertisers or local officials or state officials if they ran it. And, of course, the second they‘d say that, I‘d say, well, then you‘ve got to run it.
Did the fact that this was a dictate that came down from the Pentagon, from the federal government, put you in a position that once you had your hands on that picture, as a journalist you really had no other choice but to run it?
BOARDMAN: Joe, I would not say that that was our compelling reason.
Our compelling reason was very much journalistic. It was not political.
SCARBOROUGH: Right. But what I‘m saying, though, as a journalist, you have your hands on what you consider to be a compelling picture. And you‘ve got the Pentagon—and let‘s forget for a second that it‘s the Republican Pentagon. It could have been a Pentagon run by a Democratic president.
I‘m just saying the fact that you have a federal government agency saying, we don‘t want you to run this picture, doesn‘t it put you in a very difficult position if you decide to sit on it, if you decide not to show that picture to your readers?
SCARBOROUGH: Because it makes it look like you‘re bowing down to the desires of a government that you‘re supposed to be covering objectively.
BOARDMAN: Yes, there is some truth to that. Of course, if we didn‘t run it, the readers wouldn‘t probably have known that we had it in our possession.
But, yes, we hesitated not for a second in terms of what the Pentagon wanted us to do or didn‘t want us to do. As you understand, that ban is on the taking of photographs. They can‘t tell us whether to publish or not publish a photograph. And we felt that it was so compelling journalistically and so moving journalistically. And it‘s a very important visual image of what‘s happening in this war that the American public simply haven‘t had the right and the opportunity to see yet.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, thank you so much for being with us, David Boardman from “The Seattle Times.”
BOARDMAN: My pleasure.
SCARBOROUGH: We greatly appreciate it.
BOARDMAN: Thank you, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: And Tami Silicio is the Kuwaiti cargo worker who was fired when it was discovered that she took the picture of the coffins that appeared on the cover of “The Seattle Times.” Silicio had given her photo to our next guest, her friend Amy Katz, who turned the photograph over to the newspaper.
We‘re also joined now by Congressman Mark Kirk, representative—
Republican representative from Illinois.
Amy, let me begin with you. Tell me, first of all, how do you know Ms. Silicio and why did she send you these pictures?
AMY KATZ, FRIEND OF TAMI SILICIO: Tami is one of my best friends. We worked together in Kosovo and we were roommates. So we‘ve known each other since 1999.
SCARBOROUGH: OK, so what‘s the background on her deciding to take these pictures and to send them to you?
KATZ: She was experiencing something that moved her and affected her tremendously. And she had been writing to me for support.
And, on April 7, when she saw 22 flag-covered coffins come through her airport, she took a picture and she sent it to me.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, do you know if there was a political motivation behind her taking that picture? Do you know if she supports this war, if she opposes this war, or if she was just doing it because the pictures moved her?
KATZ: It was entirely because the pictures moved her. And she thought that by sharing this with the American public, she would be helping the families who had lost their children.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, this is what Silicio had said about her job in an earlier interview. She said—quote—“It kind of helps me to know what these mothers are going through, and I try to watch over their children as they head home.”
And I want to read you something else that we just found tonight, because tomorrow “The Sydney Morning Herald” in Australia is going to be publishing a story that says this. And I want to get your response to ti.
SCARBOROUGH: “On Wednesday Ms. Silicio engaged an agent, who offered her photograph to newspaper outlets for $1,400 for one-time, nonexclusive use,” which, of course, means that any time a newspaper runs it, they have to pay her and her agent $1,400. Did you know that she had actually tried to sell this, and in fact, is selling this photo?
KATZ: I know that Tami absolutely did not try to sell the photo,
because Tami doesn‘t have the rights to the photo. She gave
SCARBOROUGH: Who has the rights to the photo?
KATZ: She gave the rights to me. And I have the rights. And I contacted an agent because of the overwhelming response. So I needed help dealing with this.
And I‘m responsible—I feel responsible for—largely for what‘s come about. I‘m the one who sent the picture in, and I‘m the one who tried to convince Tami that this was a positive thing to do. So this money that I am collecting is going into a fund that can be used in the future for either charitable purposes or to help pay Tami‘s mortgage, if she takes it. However, she has been saying from the beginning: I refuse to take any money.
And in fact, she has—she has asked me to establish a fund for the military families. You know, given all of this incredible media coverage, she said, well, why don‘t we do something good with this and put it out there that if anybody wants to donate money to the families of the fallen soldiers, that they can do so and it will go into a trust fund? So...
SCARBOROUGH: OK, so let me separate this out, because this is important, what you‘re telling us. It sounds like we have two different funds being established. Are you saying that Ms. Silicio wanted you to set up this fund with the money that you‘re going to be making off of this photograph after you got an agent or is that something completely separate?
KATZ: That‘s—that is something—that‘s something separate.
KATZ: Hold on a second. Hold on a second.
KATZ: I think that to be accusing Tami of doing something—putting this photo out to make money, you do not know Tami.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, I‘m not saying that. All I‘m doing
KATZ: You cannot imagine how ridiculous it is to try to connect Tami with doing something like this.
Tami lost her son to a brain tumor three years ago—or, I‘m sorry, it was longer than that, but that‘s when I found out about it. And when she was working at the airport in Kuwait and she started to see the soldiers‘ dead bodies come through, she thought of her son. And she told me that the worst thing that she could possibly, possibly imagine happening was for a mother to lose her son and the mother not to know what happened to him, to imagine the worst, to imagine he died alone and that he was—that he was uncared for or treated—to use her words exactly, that he was thrown on a truck like a piece of cargo.
She wanted to show how respectful that she was being treated.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Amy, and I just want—I want to assure you, Amy, that I don‘t know Ms. Silicio at all. I know that, as a father, I can imagine the agony that any parent goes through losing their son or their daughter. So I‘m not accusing you.
All I did was, I wanted to—let‘s get the facts straight. We have this Sydney, Australia, newspaper that‘s coming over that‘s going to be showing this tomorrow morning. So I just want to get the facts out.
And when we come back, I‘m going to ask you about the money that you‘re going to be making off this photo to set up this fund for Ms. Silicio. That‘s all we‘re talking about.
And we‘ll get more information, including—we‘re going to have Congressman Mark Kirk talking about this. He‘s actually served over in the Middle East and is going to tell us his response to this breaking story. It‘s fascinating.
We‘ll be right back in minute.
SCARBOROUGH: Photos of coffins of America‘s fallen heroes hit the Internet and the front page of a newspaper, and it sparks a media and political firestorm.
More on that when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.
SCARBOROUGH: We are back with Amy Katz. And, also, we‘re going to be coming up and talking to Congressman Mark Kirk in a minute.
Ms. Katz, let‘s go back to this story. And, again, I want to assure you that I‘m making no accusations whatsoever. In fact, if a paper is going to be running a story tomorrow that‘s false, I‘m really glad you‘re here tonight so you can clear it up. And, again, it‘s “The Sydney Morning Herald” that actually says this quote: “On Wednesday Ms. Silicio engaged an agent, who offered her photograph to newspaper outlets for $1,400 for one-time, nonexclusive use.”
You‘re telling us tonight that that story is false, that Ms. Silicio didn‘t contact an agent to make money off of this photo. You did. Correct?
KATZ: Yes, that would be my agent. And I have no idea about the negotiations.
KATZ: I‘m not doing anything having to do with negotiations. All I‘ve been doing is fielding calls and responding to questions having to do with what happened.
SCARBOROUGH: And I know you‘ve been bombarded by a lot of press calls, and we greatly appreciate you being here tonight. Can you tell me what the agent‘s name is?
KATZ: Winters (ph).
SCARBOROUGH: Winters? And where‘s Winters from?
KATZ: He‘s with Zuma Press.
SCARBOROUGH: Oh, OK, great.
And can you also—can you tell me whether you have talked to Ms. Silicio about this arrangement, saying: “Hey, listen, I know you‘ve lost your job. I know you‘re going to be going through some very difficult times. Let me set up this fund that will help you out for getting this photo across the world”? Did you talk to her about possibly setting that up?
KATZ: I started to say that, and she just said, no, give any money back to them. Just give it back to the news shows. You know, just—I don‘t want the money.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, so, basically, you told her you were going to get an agent. You said you were going to be doing this for her. And she said, well, if you make any money off of this photo, we want you to give it to the families of these fallen heroes. Is that what you‘re saying tonight?
KATZ: I‘m sorry, can you repeat the question?
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, I‘m just saying, so you spoke with Ms. Silicio and she told you—or you told her you were going to get an agent and you were going to get money for these photos. But she said she wanted—I‘m just trying to make sure that I understand what you‘re telling me here tonight.
She said she wanted that money to go to the family—set up a fund to go to the family of these fallen hoarse. Is that what you‘re telling us tonight?
KATZ: Right, except I didn‘t even tell her that I had an agent until like yesterday or the day before.
SCARBOROUGH: And what was her response when you said, hey, I just got an agent?
KATZ: There was no response. We were e-mailing about a whole bunch of different things and that was, you know, one sentence, and there was no response.
SCARBOROUGH: Was she shocked by—is she shocked by the outrage that this has caused, sort of this First Amendment debate, the political debate that‘s going on all over the country now?
KATZ: There is no way any of us could ever imagine this. I mean, all she did—she did what a billion people across the world do every day. She sent a photo to a friend of hers and...
SCARBOROUGH: Go ahead. I‘m sorry.
KATZ: And no one could have ever imagined this.
And when she sent the photo to me, it‘s not like I sat down and tried to think, you know, oh, what should I do with this photo or intellectualize about it. It was this explosion in my heart, and I spontaneously picked up the phone and I called information and I asked for the number of “The Seattle Times.” And everything happened with about five minutes, within about five minutes.
Now, obviously, if you just got this agent yesterday, then “The Seattle Times” ran the photo before you made any contact with an agent.
KATZ: No, no, I didn‘t just get the agent yesterday.
SCARBOROUGH: Oh, OK.
KATZ: I got the agent when this came out in “The Seattle Times.”
SCARBOROUGH: Oh, so did you get agent—and again, this Sydney paper, obviously, is wrong. They said you engaged—or she engaged the agent yesterday. So what you‘re telling us is you got an agent before “The Seattle Times” ran the photo?
KATZ: No, I didn‘t. Actually, it was recommended to me by some people at “The Seattle Times” that I get an agent, because once all the telephone calls started to come in, they said this is going to explode.
KATZ: So, you know, as we were working on this. And I didn‘t want to have anything to do with the money either.
KATZ: So—and that‘s why I have no idea how much anyone is paying for anything. I have no idea how much, you know, what‘s been brought in. That‘s going into a fund. That‘s not what this is about. This is about a picture of 20 or more caskets covered with flags.
SCARBOROUGH: And I‘ll tell you, it is. It is a very moving photo.
And let‘s bring in Congressman Mark Kirk. He‘s a Republican from Illinois, of course.
And, Mark, you‘re a perfect guy to talk to. You have served in Congress. You understand what the Pentagon is trying to do. You have served in the military also. You understand the pain that family members feel when they lose their loved ones. You also understand, though, there is a right for “The Seattle Times” and other newspapers to publish these photos if they get their hands on it, right? How do you balance that all out?
REP. MARK KIRK ®, ILLINOIS: I don‘t think we should let anyone profit off of the photos of our war dead.
Now, we give the right of a mother or a spouse to put a blue star in their window when a loved one is serving overseas. But when that turns into a gold star marking the loss of a loved one, I think we have to give special protection and authority to the family. I don‘t think the government should control these photos. And I don‘t think the press should control these photos.
These photos should be controlled by the families. If they want to grieve in public, they should be allowed to. And if they want to grieve in private, then the military should do everything possible to protect the privacy of that surviving family.
SCARBOROUGH: Mark, this is what I don‘t understand. I mean, you look at the photos that are—we‘re showing right now. Obviously, there‘s been an order since 1991 by the Pentagon that said that you can‘t take photos—and this didn‘t start with George Bush and this war, but there‘s been a policy at Dover Air Force Base saying you can‘t take photos and release them to the press.
And, yet, the Pentagon had this policy where they said you can‘t do it. Then somebody asks for it, and then they release 350 photos. And then after they see that they go up on the Internet and are published, now they‘re saying, well, gee, we‘re going to change our policy again and not allow any more photos to be released. Why the confusion?
If you have a policy since 1991, why are you releasing these photos to the public?
KIRK: I don‘t think the policy has been well applied.
I think what we need to do is look at the interests of all concerned and put the interests of the surviving family first. It is they who gave the last full measure for a loved son or daughter who‘s given their all for the United States. And we should protect their wishes. If they wish to grieve in public, then the hometown newspaper should be allowed to be there. And if they wish to grieve in their privacy, we need to protect them with all the force of the government.
SCARBOROUGH: Are you going to—on the Armed Services Committee and in Congress, are you going to work hard to clear this issue up and make sure that when you have one policy in this country, one policy in the Pentagon, one policy in Congress, to make sure that this confusion is cleared up?
KIRK: That‘s right. I think what we should do is have a policy which clearly puts the families in control of the grief process and to make sure that they come first and their wishes are the ones that are—the ones that we follow.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Congressman and Amy, stick with us. We‘re going to be right back.
But we want to hear your comments about the published pictures of our fallen American heroes. Are you angry the photos ran or do you think they honor America‘s bravest? How are people reacting to it in your hometown? We want you to send us clips from your local paper or comments on how this story makes you feel. And you can do it by e-mailing me at Joe@MSNBC.com. We‘re going to take your letters to heart. That‘s Joe@MSNBC.com.
And coming up next, we‘re going to be talking to the mother of an American POW who was rescued from Iraq. How do the pictures make her feel? Does she think they‘re appropriate? Is this a dishonor to Americans who make the ultimate sacrifice?
That‘s coming up next.
SCARBOROUGH: We‘re going to be taking you live to Dover Air Force Base to get their response to these moving pictures that you‘ve seen in newspapers and also on the Internet. We‘re also going to be talking to Pat Buchanan, the mother of a prisoner of war who‘s come home safely, and, of course, Congressman Kirk and also Amy Katz.
But, first, let‘s get the latest headlines from the MSNBC News Desk.
SCARBOROUGH: We‘re back.
And I want to go back to Amy Katz.
And, Amy, I want to ask you. And I think this is central. I think this is a central question in this whole issue. Did your friend even know that what she was doing was violating a Pentagon directive?
KATZ: Absolutely not. In fact, both her and I were absolutely shocked when we started surfing on the Internet and started to find stories that the government had censored these kinds of photos. We were absolutely shocked.
SCARBOROUGH: And what‘s she doing now?
KATZ: What‘s Tami doing now?
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, what‘s Tami doing now?
KATZ: Well, she was fired yesterday, as you know, and so was her husband, who had absolutely nothing to do with the photos.
And they are sitting in their apartment just in shock and wondering what the future is going to bring. You know, Tami told me—she told me when she was called in to her manager‘s office and her manager said, you know, this went all the way up to the top, all the way up to the top of the military—they were expecting generals. They were even—there was a rumor that Secretary of State Colin Powell was going to come in and deal with this.
And she told me that what they had come up with was that the argument that she had done this for money. And that was the only thing that they could think of to try to discredit her. And that‘s—you know, and that‘s what they‘re trying to do, that and the ridiculous argument that this is hurting the military families, when she did this precisely to help the military families.
That was her cause, to help the military families.
Pat Buchanan, let me bring you in here.
And, you know, you have such a great historical perspective on this, because, obviously, you were in the White House working communications during the Vietnam War, when a lot of coffins were coming home to Dover Air Force Base. Give us your take on it. Is it the press‘ right to publish these pictures? Should the Pentagon try to stop them from being—these pictures from being taken? What do you think?
PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I believe, given the way the exploitation of the casualties in Vietnam by the media, that the Pentagon policy is realistic. They‘re trying to preserve the morale of the troops. I think they‘ve got a right to do so. They‘ve got a right to protect, basically, the privacy of their casualties, their wounded and military bases and mortuaries.
And I think, in Dover, I think they laid down their policy. Now, this lady, for whatever motive, broke that policy. I think she ought to be removed, and I think she was rightly removed. But I will say this. Having seen those photographs on Drudge today, four of them, I do not find them offensive. I don‘t find them disrespectful. I do believe they show the respect with which America‘s war dead are treated.
And I don‘t find them offensive in any way. At the same time, the military has the right to set this policy, and for good reasons. And people who breach it, even for high motives, I think are rightly removed from those jobs.
SCARBOROUGH: Colonel Jack Jacobs, what‘s your take on this growing media firestorm?
RET. COL. JACK JACOBS, NBC MILITARY ANALYST: Well, there are two levels of analysis. The first is whether or not they should have been published.
You know, when the media gets their hands on stuff like that, it‘s fair game. And unless it‘s breaking the law, which it wasn‘t in this particular case, unfortunately, they can publish it. It‘s just—the people who read it and look at the pictures have to make a decision on whether or not it‘s broken the bounds of respectability. That‘s one level of analysis.
The second level of analysis is whether or not it makes any sense for the government to stifle this sort of thing. And I agree with Mr. Buchanan that it does. You can argue whether or not it makes sense over the long term. You can argue whether or not the public will eventually get fed up or dislike the fact that there is a paucity of information coming out.
But, at the end much the day, the Pentagon has the absolute right to decide what information it will release and what it will not. And the thing that I‘m really surprised about is the Freedom of Information Act response that the Air Force had, wherein some several hundred pictures, I think, were released on a Freedom of Information Act request. That happened awfully quickly. And I suspect that somebody‘s going to determine in the chain of command that that was—that those pictures were released in error.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, you know, in fact, I want to go right now—let‘s go to Dover Air Force Base, because right now joining us with an exclusive is Lieutenant Colonel Jon Anderson. He‘s the spokesperson of Dover Air Force Base.
And I don‘t know if you just heard what Colonel Jack Jacobs had to say. But he, like me, very surprised at how quickly those 350 photos were turned around, those photos that were taken at Dover Air Force Base. Somebody asked for the photos. At first, he got a no. He appealed. He quickly got a yes. They were released. They showed up on the Internet. And now we hear that Dover Air Force Base is changing its policy again.
Could you clear this up for us tonight?
LT. COL. JON ANDERSON, DOVER AIR FORCE BASE: Hi, Joe. Of course, like you said, I‘m Lieutenant Colorado Jon Anderson talking here from Dover Air Force Base.
And I want so say, it‘s not a Dover Air Force Base policy. This is a Defense Department policy. And it‘s been in effect, really, since 1991. And I can‘t really talk about the Freedom of Information Act and what led up to the release of the photos because it was not my decision, nor was it a Dover Air Force Base decision. But I can tell you that we‘re happy and we‘re proud to do this vital mission to take care of our families and take care of our fallen here.
And we‘ve been doing this since 1955 here at Dover Air Force Base.
SCARBOROUGH: And, of course, you‘ve been doing that, taking care of America‘s fallen heroes. And you all consider yourselves a custodian, don‘t you, of sorts, that, when these heroes come to Dover Air Force Base, your job is to protect them?
ANDERSON: That‘s right.
SCARBOROUGH: Make sure that they‘re not exploited in any way, and that they return to their families in a way that will sort of ease the burden a bit for their loved ones, correct?
ANDERSON: That‘s right, Joe. That‘s a great way of putting it.
Everything that we do once the remains come here to Dover is, we‘re really concentrating on the families. And we‘re thinking about what is the way that we can show respect to the fallen? How can we help the families in this very, very difficult time? And you should see the precision with which our mortuary workers will handle the remains. It‘s absolutely imperative that we get things absolutely right.
It‘s a zero-defect business—and then the honor that they‘ll show the remains throughout the process when they come off the aircraft into the mortuary and eventually on out to the families. It only takes two to three days before we‘re able to work with the casualty assistance officer who works with the family to determine, where would you like us to send the remains, what funeral home, what church? It‘s up to you. And everything we do is, we‘re thinking about the families.
SCARBOROUGH: Colonel, I obviously know you didn‘t make the decision. Nobody at Dover made the decision on this Freedom of Information request where 350 photos of flag-draped coffins made their way on to the Internet.
But can you give us a historical perspective? Has that happened before since you‘ve been there in your tenure, or since the base commander‘s been there? Have you ever released these type of photos since the 1991 directive was put into effect that disallowed the taking of photos of these coffins at Dover Air Force Base?
ANDERSON: Joe, I‘ve never been—I‘ve been here since 2001, and we‘ve not released photos, because we‘re not the release authority for something like that. That‘s something where I would have to ask the office of the secretary of defense, their public affairs people.
They‘re the ones who have the release authority for that. So that‘s not even something that‘s in my purview. It‘s not in my decision. Really, what I‘ve been concentrating on is telling the story about our great mortuary workers, the hard things that we ask them to do, the tough job we ask them to do, and to get it absolutely right every single time. And I‘m just so proud to be part of that effort. I‘m proud to be associated with the men and women, the Army, the Air Force, the Navy, the Army folks who are over there right now doing such a tough job, the active, the reserve force, and all the great teamwork that we have over there.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Lieutenant Colonel Jon Anderson, thank you so much. And we thank you for being here tonight. But, more importantly, we thank you for honoring our fallen heroes. We appreciate it.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, straight ahead, we‘re going to be talking to the mother of a former Iraqi POW. And you may be surprised at what she has to say about these pictures. Of course, we‘re coming back with Pat Buchanan, Colonel Jack Jacobs, Congressman Kirk, and our entire panel.
That‘s when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns in just a minute.
SCARBOROUGH: And we‘re back.
Pat Buchanan, I want to go to you now. And I‘m going to quote Shakespeare here, who, of course said, all the world‘s a stage and all the men and women are merely players.
If I‘m a player at the Pentagon, I‘m angry that these photos are published. If I‘m a player at a newspaper, I‘m publishing the photos. What would you do if you were publisher Pat Buchanan and you had these photos come across your editor‘s desk, or publisher‘s desk?
BUCHANAN: Well, first, if I were the journalist out there in Kuwait, I would not have taken those pictures knowing the rules. But I would have gone to the colonel and said, this is very moving, sir. If we could take these, it will show the Americans with what dignity our fallen are treated. If he said yes, I would have taken the picture.
Now, if not, I would not have. But going back as publisher, Joe, and I got those photographs, the ones I saw up on Drudge, I would have used them, because I think, quite frankly, I find them tragic. I find them sad. I find them moving. But I don‘t find them invasive in any way or offensive in any way. It reminds me a bit of that picture we saw a couple of days ago of those Marines almost in a huddle, and you didn‘t know the Marine who was fallen. You just saw his legs and they were praying over their fallen buddy.
I thought that was enormously moving. But it‘s an editorial decision.
I would have published that, too.
SCARBOROUGH: Congressman Mark Kirk, do you think there‘s a political aspect to these photos coming out or do you think it‘s just, they‘re being taken and released by people who think that it does honor our war dead?
KIRK: Well, I agree with Colonel Anderson.
The interests of military families should come ahead of the interests of the Pentagon or the press. I believe it‘s their wishes by paying that last full measure that should be honored above anyone else. And I am concerned about anyone selling pictures of our war dead. I don‘t and I‘m not comfortable with exploitation for personal gain.
SCARBOROUGH: I‘d like to bring in Mrs. Kaye Young. Her son was a POW in Iraq. We‘ve had her on our show before.
Ms. Young, I want to ask you. Obviously, as somebody that grieved while your son was a POW, and you had to look at the newspaper every day and you had to see stories, that certainly had to create a lot of pain for you and your family. Give me your reaction. How did you feel as a mother when you saw these photos?
KAYE YOUNG, MOTHER OF FORMER IRAQI POW: You know, I think if that had been my son, I would have felt honor, that they had honored him that way and treated him that way. You know, I can only talk from a personal standpoint. But I don‘t think it would have bothered me. I think it would have made me feel good.
SCARBOROUGH: And why is that?
YOUNG: Just because I think they did it in such an honorable way. To have a flag across the coffin, to honor them in that way, I don‘t think it would cause me any grief.
SCARBOROUGH: Pat Buchanan, you spoke earlier of exploitation of our troops and these coffins coming home during Vietnam. What did you mean by exploitation and why do you think that these photos were not exploitive?
BUCHANAN: Well, in Vietnam, of course, I remember when I wrote the speech on the Cambodian invasion, journalists went in and they took photos of soldiers cutting ears off Viet Cong. And they had photos deliberately almost provoking them to put a lighter on these thatched huts and things like that. “Life” magazine showed 200 pictures one week of the guys who had died that week, each of the small pictures.
And then when we got the casualties down to two a week, they ran two huge photographs. I thought they were using photographs and things like that to undermine the war and the morale of the troops. I understand and appreciate and respect the Pentagon policy. That‘s why. But I do think, Joe, as I say in this case, I think that policy ought to be respected. But once the policy was violated and then you are an editor there and you have a picture, I would not pay for it, but if it showed these men respectfully and it honored them, like your guest you just spoke to indicated, I would run the picture.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, Pat, what I don‘t understand, though, is how this policy has been going back and forth. The Pentagon looks like it‘s sort of in a circular firing squad here, where—you think somebody‘s going to get in trouble in the communications department at the Pentagon?
BUCHANAN: They ought to be in trouble.
Well, look, I agree with Jack Jacobs 100 percent. If you have a
policy, you have one. What is someone doing, once some photographs are
leaked, throwing out 350 photographs on the Internet? I don‘t think anyone
· whoever did that has overruled a policy that comes down, I would gather, from Rumsfeld, if not the White House.
And I don‘t think individuals have a right to do that. And I think Jack Jacobs is probably dead right that somebody‘s head is going to roll or somebody‘s head is going to get slapped.
SCARBOROUGH: I think you‘re right.
Amy Katz, let me go to you.
Does your friend feel that she‘s vindicated because of all these other photos that have gotten out and gotten on to the Internet?
KATZ: First of all, let me please correct Mr. Buchanan. My friend Tami is not a journalist. She‘s not a photographer professionally. She works in cargo.
Secondly, I don‘t know what he‘s talking—I have no idea what you‘re talking about with the 300 photos. My friend put out one photo. And that photo was sent to me, and I sent it to “The Seattle Times.” They had it for a week and a half. And they spent a week and a half researching this, talking to me, talking to Tami.
And Tami would not give permission to run any story or show this photograph unless the story was written to show how respectfully and lovingly and honorably the soldiers who were dying in Iraq were treated.
SCARBOROUGH: All right.
KATZ: So I ask the American public to be the judge and to read the “Seattle Times” article and to compare the pictures that Tami took with the pictures at Dover.
We‘ll be right back in a minute.
SCARBOROUGH: When we come back, we‘re going to tell you how you can weigh in on the coffin controversy. That‘s in a minute.
SCARBOROUGH: Unfortunately, we‘re out of time. But I want to thank you, Amy Katz, Congressman Kirk, Pat Buchanan, Colonel Jon Anderson, Jack Jacobs and Kaye Young. We appreciate you being with us tonight.
And we want to hear your comments about the published pictures of our fallen American heroes. Are you angry the photos ran or do you think they honor “America‘s Bravest”? How are people reacting to it in your hometown? Sends us clips from your local paper or comments on how this story makes you feel. And you can do that at Joe@MSNBC.com. We‘ll take your letters to heart. That‘s Joe@MSNBC.com.
We‘ll see you Sunday night at 10:00.
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