Guests: Derrick Kitts, Larry Johnson, Mario Giardiello, Jack Burkman, Katty Kay, Marc Garlasco, Peter King, David Hackworth
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: Tonight‘s top headline, more fallout from the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal. The real deal? We‘re going to deal with these thugs. So the terrorists and tyrants in the Middle East can save their protests.
Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, where no passport is required and only common sense allowed.
New allegations surface of more Iraqi prisoners mistreated by their American and British captors. Is the abuse widespread or is this just an isolated incident? And where was the outrage when Saddam Hussein was running his torture chambers?
Plus, on the day of remembrance for the friends and family of fallen soldier Pat Tillman, a political cartoonist throws a cheap shot and bashes the American war hero.
Plus, five empty suitcases are discovered in New York City. Some believe it‘s a dry run for terrorists practicing for the summer.
ANNOUNCER: From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all. Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, the world reacts to the Iraqi prison scandal.
It‘s time for tonight‘s “Real Deal.”
You know the American soldiers who abused Iraqi prisoners brought shame on themselves, on their families, their fellow soldiers and their countrymen. It may take years to undo the damage of these thuggish acts. These soldiers have to be tried. And, if they‘re found guilty, they need to be punished to the full extent of the law.
When you consider how their actions undermine the heroism of those who fought and died for the noble cause of liberating Iraq, suddenly a life sentence doesn‘t seem so severe. But Arab leaders who run the most tyrannical dictatorships in the world can save their protests. I really don‘t give a damn what an Islam fascist or a royal dictator has to say about the state of human rights in Iraq.
And Kofi Annan can likewise keep quiet. Here‘s a bungling bureaucrat who stood by while one million people were slaughtered in Rwanda, two million in Sudan, and whose closest advisers oversaw the systematic looting of $10 billion that was aimed at feeding starving Iraqi children.
And, oh, yes, the French and Russians can also keep their complaints to themselves since they, too, profited from Saddam‘s murderous regime. Again, we need to nail these abusive U.S. soldiers to the wall. But we also need to remember which critics stood by silently while Saddam Hussein killed over a million Arab people during the bloodiest reign in the history of the Middle East. And that‘s tonight‘s “Real Deal.”
Now, this Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal is turning into an international incident, and in some people‘s minds, it‘s a national disgrace for the United States.
I spoke with Colonel David Hackworth. He is, of course, author of “Steel My Soldiers‘ Hearts.” And his Web site, SFTT.org, has been covering this abuse story for months now. I asked him how this kind of thing can happen in the military.
RETIRED COL. DAVID HACKWORTH, U.S. ARMY: It is a result of a whole bunch of things, Joe.
It‘s bad training, bad leadership, bad discipline. U.S. soldiers have fought a whole bunch of wars and a lot of battles, and they don‘t act this way. They only turn into a barbaric mob, not unlike Saddam Hussein‘s people, when they don‘t have adult supervision, when they don‘t have somebody that can make sure they‘re doing the right thing. And this is a breakdown in leadership, from the secretary of defense down to the generals in the field, down to the captains and colonels. And I hope that the whole blame of this thing is not going to be laid on a couple sergeants and corporals and that‘s ending it, because this should not have happened.
It‘s a problem with the system.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, you know, yesterday, the chairman of the joint chiefs, Richard Myers, gave conflicting statements. First, he said that the abuse was—quote—“just a handful of soldiers.” But then he couldn‘t confirm it was an isolated incident, saying—quote—“We don‘t know that yet.”
You‘ve been following this for a long time. Can you tell us whether you believe it‘s an isolated incident or whether we‘re going to see a lot more of these pictures in the coming months?
HACKWORTH: I think there will be more. And the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a good Air Force fighter jock, General Myers, but he‘s the same guy that went out to Iraq and said, maybe I didn‘t talk to the right people. Maybe they were not letting the soldiers talk to me.
And this is the breakdown I‘m talking about. A good commander knows what‘s going on in his organization.
SCARBOROUGH: I want to ask you, Colonel, do you believe the damage is irreparable or do you believe we can turn the corner and rebuild our reputation in Iraq?
HACKWORTH: It‘s a huge strategic loss to the whole world. We went to Iraq to stop this kind of thing. We end up in the very same prison where Saddam Hussein reigned and tortured and all the rest doing the same thing. And all of those people who have died, 755 as of today, and about 22,000 wounded or damaged because of non-battle wounds, this has all been in vain.
This is a great strategic loss comparable to Wounded Knee or to My Lai during the Vietnam shame.
SCARBOROUGH: And, of course, an Arab newspaper is reacting to the news. Well, all of them are.
But this is what one said: “The liberators are worse than the dictators. This is the straw that broke the camel‘s back for America.” I won‘t even tell you what I think of that quote. But, unfortunately, it‘s a lie, but I‘d like to use harsher language, but I‘d better not. But at the same time, we already had a horrible reputation in a country that we were trying to liberate, in a country that we were trying to free from the tyrannical reign of Saddam Hussein.
And now we just feed into their worst suspicions, don‘t we?
And war is an ugly thing. And those of us who have seen it do our very best to prevent it from happening. We know these kind of things will happen. People will go to their most base instincts. So what you need to do is have discipline, have good leadership, have hands-on leadership, and they won‘t happen. There‘s a little book that the Army guys all follow called the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the little red book.
And if you follow that book, it says very clearly, you do not follow an order that‘s not lawful. Every soldier knows that. So the minute a sergeant, a captain wants to do something as shameful as this, an atrocity, you can just pull out the little red book and says, I‘m not following an unlawful order.
SCARBOROUGH: These appear to be the darkest days for American troops in Iraq. Tell us, what do you believe the next step should be, as it appears the White House and our military commanders are starting, maybe, to fall into the fog of war, as we‘re hearing reports one day of how we‘re going to go into Fallujah and storm it, and the next day you have one of Saddam Hussein‘s generals who said he was proud to serve under Saddam Hussein taking over operations in that area?
HACKWORTH: From what I can see of what‘s going down from afar in Iraq, but measuring it against all this military experience that I‘ve had, I just see crises management, people who simply do not know what in the hell is going on.
This operation of invading Iraq will go down in our country‘s history as the worst military miscalculation. Joe, there is no military solution to it. And I remember not but a year ago, as you do, we talked about it back then, how everybody was saying, oh, we just got a little swamp here. We just have to clear the swamp and drain it and it will be just fine. It will be rice and flowers.
Guess what, we‘re in a hell of a mess, and the only answer out of this thing is to make sure that we quickly train an Iraqi security force and get our people out of that fire, pull them back until the Iraqis can take over. We‘re in kind of a catch-22 bad situation. There is no easy answer.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Colonel David Hackworth, as always, we greatly appreciate you being with us.
SCARBOROUGH: And, right now, let‘s bring in our panel. We have Congressman Peter King from New York. He‘s a Republican. Also, Marc Garlasco. He‘s a senior military analyst for Human Rights Watch.
Let‘s begin with you, Congressman Peter King.
What are you and other congressmen going to do? What are you able to do to make sure that this type of abuse that we‘ve been seeing over the past three, four days never happens again in the United States military?
REP. PETER KING ®, NEW YORK: Well, first of all, it shouldn‘t have happened in the first place. Unfortunately these things do happen, but it‘s disgraceful. It‘s absolutely inexcusable. And the president has made it clear he wants it investigated fully. And anyone at all involved to any extent has to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. There‘s no doubt about it.
It‘s just—it‘s a terrible course of conduct. It‘s terrible for those who had this punishment inflicted on them. And it also does tremendous damage to the United States. But we have to keep this somewhat in perspective, also, though. Colonel Hackworth compared this to My Lai. Well, it was over 300 people, innocent men and women and children were killed in My Lai. No one as far as we know, except maybe perhaps one person, has been killed. Even one is horrible.
But let‘s keep it in perspective. With 150,000 troops there, we‘re talking about a small number. Having said that, it has to be rooted out and stopped. As far as the Congress, we‘re going to certainly insist that the Defense Department tell us exactly what they‘re doing to root this out. I‘m sure the Armed Services Committee, Joe, that you were a member of, they‘re going to be certainly looking into it to find out what‘s been done. If we don‘t feel we‘re getting any answers, we‘ll have to up the ante.
But I‘m confident the president has made it clear to the Defense Department he wants this thing examined from the top to bottom and everyone involved in it rooted out, no matter how high the rank goes.
SCARBOROUGH: You make a point, Congressman, that there have been no deaths, reported deaths from this thuggish behavior, whereas, again, Saddam Hussein killed over a million Arabs. But, still, it doesn‘t excuse us. We‘re not held to Saddam Hussein‘s standards. We‘re held to American standards.
I want to ask you, though, you talked about damage to our reputation. How much damage do you think this has caused America, not only in Iraq, in the Middle East, but across the world?
KING: Well, it‘s definitely hurt us.
Now, part of it is hypocritical, in all that‘s gone on and all that is going to come out is not equivalent to what went on in 10 minutes when Saddam Hussein was the leader. And the Arab nations are quiet about that, and Al-Jazeera was quiet about it. But, as you said, we‘re held to a different standard. We come in there as the liberators. We have to assume and know that our enemies are going to make the most of any sword that we give them. We have given them a sword here and they‘re going to use it against us.
SCARBOROUGH: You‘re exactly right.
KING: And we‘re doing now is really the best thing. We are admitting it. We are acknowledging it. We‘re rooting it out. We‘re not covering it up.
SCARBOROUGH: It is self-inflicted.
Now, according to a confidential Army report on the alleged torture, excerpts of which can be read at our home page at Joe.MSNBC.com, there were -- quote—“sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses,” including pouring cold water on naked detainees, beating detainees with broom handles, threatening male, sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broomstick.”
Marc Garlasco, would you support the death penalty or life in prison if these charges proved to be true?
MARC GARLASCO, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Well, absolutely not. At Human Rights Watch, we don‘t support the death penalty in any case.
SCARBOROUGH: What about life in prison?
GARLASCO: I don‘t think that this rises to life in prison. But certainly prison sentences seem to be warranted. I don‘t want to pass judgment on anyone, though, until they‘ve already been tried.
SCARBOROUGH: Right. OK.
And so what type of message does America need to send to the rest of the world by, again, not only holding these people responsible, but holding the military brass above them responsible? What should America do now that they have been humiliated in front of the world because of these thuggish acts?
GARLASCO: Well, you know, Joe, you‘re absolutely right.
And we have something called the Geneva Conventions, that it‘s imperative that we in the United States—that the United States military follows and shows the rest of the world. These are apparent war crimes. And that‘s very serious. Grave breeches of the Geneva Convention are war crimes. And they have to be investigated and there has to be some sanction.
Now, one of the other comments that you were making was talking about what is the effect on the U.S. overseas and our image. And I would posit to that you it‘s not really Iraq here that is important, but it‘s the next war, because the Geneva Conventions are important when the United States goes into the next war and how will our soldiers be treated when they are captured by an opponent.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, you‘re exactly right, Marc. And I‘ll tell you what. The thing that bothers me is that one of these soldiers at—that committed these alleged crimes, said, well, we weren‘t trained on the Geneva Convention. Obviously, that‘s a problem. But, also, what about just doing what‘s right and what‘s wrong? I tell you, it‘s sickening.
We‘re going to talk about this some more coming up.
Hundreds of photos showing British troops abusing Iraqi captives are also making headlines. But one former commander of the British army says they may be a fake. We‘re going to be talking about that next.
Plus, they‘re supposed to be humorous and original, but this cartoon wasn‘t very funny. Instead, it took a shot at one of our fallen soldiers.
And you‘re not going to believe how your government is wasting your tax dollars. I‘ll bring you one of the biggest pork-barrel scams of the year coming up.
SCARBOROUGH: We‘ve got a lot more on the Iraqi abuse story, including how the scandal is rocking the United Kingdom.
So stick around. That‘s next.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, allegations of troop misconduct are also rocking the United Kingdom today, as reports of widespread abuse of Iraqi prisoners is covering the front pages of some of London‘s newspapers.
With me now is Katty Kay. She‘s a correspondent for the BBC.
Thanks so much for being with us tonight, Katty.
Tell us about the soldier abuse story and how it‘s playing out right now in the United Kingdom.
KATTY KAY, BBC REPORTER: Well, it does seem, Joe, to be a little different from the abuse story that‘s going on here, because there have been questions about whether these photographs are real or fake, and that‘s what‘s being investigated at the moment by the British military.
The photographs appear to show a man with a hood over his head being abused by a soldier. But a former commander of the regiment in question, the Queen‘s Lancashire Regiment, has said that there are definitely inconsistencies in the photographs, according to the uniforms. The uniforms don‘t appear to be quite right. The soldier in the photograph is wearing a floppy hat, and apparently that regiment would be wearing a beret or helmet.
And the truck itself, this former commander says, has never actually been deployed in Iraq. So at the moment, what the military is trying to do, the British army is trying to do is investigate whether these photographs are real or fakes. And a lot of people have a lot of questions about it.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, Katty, right now, obviously—and we‘ve talked about this before—that right now the American people are obviously disgusted by what they‘re seeing their troops doing.
What kind of impact is this going to have on Great Britain? Obviously, Tony Blair, the most loyal ally to the president and America has had throughout this war, but he‘s had to sort of drag a lot of his own loyal followers along with him. Do you think that the scandal in America and maybe this one that may be developing in Britain may actually turn even more against this war and put Tony Blair in an untenable position?
KAY: Well, public opinion in Britain has always been opposed to the war in Iraq. And so, if these photographs prove to be true, and, of course, we don‘t know that yet, then that could push public opinion further against I think the efforts in Iraq.
But it does something else, Joe. It makes it very difficult for the British soldiers who are still serving in Iraq, as do the American photographs, it makes it even harder for them to do their job. And I think the political context of these photographs and what‘s so worrying about the reaction that they‘ve caused in the Middle East is that it does make it much harder for the soldiers on the ground to do their job. It makes it harder and more dangerous for coalition soldiers, for Americans and for Brits in general in the region.
It makes their job harder. It makes it harder for them to travel around it. It puts them in a dangerous position.
SCARBOROUGH: Congressman Peter King, I want to read for you what an editor of one Arab newspaper said, reacting to the news—quote—“The liberators are worse than the dictators. This is the straw that broke the camel‘s back for America.”
Obviously, you know, you and I disagree with that, but at the same time, you talk to anybody from Europe, you talk to anybody from the Middle East, you talk to anybody from other parts of the world, they will tell you America is very unpopular across the globe. This has just made our mission worse and more difficult, hasn‘t it?
KING: Well, certainly has.
And, listen, that charge is totally hypocritical. First of all, 99.9 percent of the hundreds of thousands of troops who have served in Iraq have done a great job. I‘ve known many men and women from the 800 M.P. Brigade. They do a great job. These are outstanding people.
There was a small group. And they have to be punished and rooted out, but there is a tremendous hypocrisy in the Middle East and around the world. But, again, we knew that going in. We can‘t afford to make these mistake. And the abuses are terrible, by American standards. If it‘s true of the British, certainly by their standard. And the fact is, we have to root it out.
But I think what we can show here is, unlike the governments in the Middle East, we‘re going to have a president of United States saying this is wrong, it‘s disgraceful, he wants it investigated and those guilty prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The military is going to have to carry out those orders. So that does separate us from the other countries in the Middle East and many other countries around the world who would cover this up and would certainly not get to the root of it the way I know President Bush is going to demand that we do.
SCARBOROUGH: And, Marc, what‘s the best way that President Bush can do that, to have America regain respect from many in the international human rights community?
GARLASCO: Well, you know, it‘s really unfortunate that this came out as part of a secret report from months ago that‘s only now been revealed by the media. How much better would it have been if this had been something that the U.S. military came out with openly and stated, look, we have a problem here and we‘re going to fix it. And this is what it is.
I think it‘s time now for the U.S. to step up to the plate and say, OK, we admit to our problem. We‘re going to deal with it like adults and we‘re to move on.
SCARBOROUGH: Katty, what about you? What do you think most Britons and Europeans are thinking America‘s next step should be as they respond to this horrible crisis?
KAY: Well, you know, there have to be questions about the pace of the investigation. I was speaking to a senior Pentagon official just over the weekend and said, General, what would you have thought if six months somebody had told that you that this scandal was going to erupt? And he said, well, we‘ve known about it for months.
Now, that‘s very worrying. And I it‘s exactly right. If the military had come out and preempted this, if they could have come out ahead of CBS News and said, look, this has happened and we are investigating, then I think there would have been more credibility to the investigation. The worrying thing is that it‘s taken so long for this to come out and for this investigation to drag on.
SCARBOROUGH: As, Katty, as David Hackworth said earlier, he‘s been talking about this on his Web site for months now. Certainly that‘s not going to help the Pentagon in this public relations debacle, is it?
And the one area of the world where America really needs to do a good P.R. job at the moment is in Iraq. This is a country where there are conspiracy theories. I suspect that even if the British photographs prove to be false, you will have conspiracy theories on the ground in Iraq saying we don‘t buy that. Remember, when Uday and Qusay were caught, there were lots of conspiracy theories around about how they hadn‘t been killed.
Now, you‘re going to have the same sort of conspiracy theories saying, yes, these photographs are real, even if they do prove to be fake. You really have to try and do a better job of winning over the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people for the long-term stability of the country, for America‘s long-term stability in the region, and in the short term for the job of the soldiers on the ground. This does make it a lot harder for them.
SCARBOROUGH: You‘re exactly right, Katty Kay. Thanks so much. And, Congressman Peter King and Marc Garlasco, we also appropriate you being with us tonight.
And still ahead, on the very day of his memorial service, a cartoonist assassinates the character of an American war hero. We‘re going to tackle all the journalists who have been smearing Pat Tillman right after the break.
And later, five empty suitcases turn up in a high-profile New York City location. Is this a dry run for terrorists looking to unleash maximum carnage in the Big Apple and around America?
We‘ll debate that in a minute.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, it was an emotional farewell for war hero Pat Tillman. Thousands of friends and family members gathered to remember him. We‘re going to have a live report from the memorial site in San Jose coming up.
But, first, let‘s get the latest headlines from the MSNBC News Desk.
ANNOUNCER: From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all. Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
SCARBOROUGH: You know what? The presidential race is going to get exciting now with John Kerry—I just heard that news about John Kerry launching his ad campaign, introducing himself to Americans. Things can get very interesting.
Well, friends and family members of ex-NFL player and Army Ranger Pat Tillman held a memorial service in his hometown.
Jennifer London is in San Jose, California, for the service. And she‘s with us now—Jennifer.
JENNIFER LONDON, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, good evening, Joe.
For more than two hours, friends, family members, the community of San Jose coming together to remember one of their own, fallen soldier Pat Tillman killed in the line of duty last month in Afghanistan. Pat was 27 years old.
Pat grew up here in San Jose before heading off to college in Arizona. And while today‘s public ceremony was about remembering and honoring Pat Tillman, it was also about putting a face on the many, many others who have paid the ultimate price in the war on terror. Yes, Pat walked away from a multimillion dollar contract with the NFL when he was playing with the Arizona cardinals. And, yes, Pat willingly put himself on the front lines, fighting in Afghanistan, alongside his brother Kevin.
The speakers here today remembering not only a football star, but also a soldier. We heard from California‘s first lady, Maria Shriver. She was here speaking on behalf of the governor, her husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger. She read a letter from the governor which read, in part:
“Pat‘s life was the real American dream. And he sacrificed it for us.”
We also heard from Arizona Senator John McCain, who said Pat would want everyone to take time and remember the other families who have lost a loved one. We also heard today from Chief Petty Officer Stephen White, who served with Pat Tillman. Stephen White says Pat just really wanted to make a difference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF PETTY OFFICER STEPHEN WHITE, SERVED WITH PAT TILLMAN: 1976 to 2004, that one little dash in there represents a lifetime. How do we spend our dash?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LONDON: In all, 20 people spoke or sang. The ceremony long, emotional. We are told that they set up 1,000 chairs, many, many more standing during the ceremony. Joe, we are told that there will be another memorial for Pat Tillman this coming Saturday, May 8, at the Arizona Sun Devils Stadium.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Jennifer London in San Jose, California, thank you so much.
Now, unfortunately, some voices in the media and politics and in academia are actually attacking Pat Tillman in death. GOP strategist and attorney Jack Burkman says the swipes at Tillman are disgusting. But Mario Giardiello, a columnist for PoliticalUSA.com, doesn‘t think Tillman‘s death is off-limits for a cartoonist.
Let me start with you, Jack Burkman. I want to show you this cartoon. This syndicated cartoonist, Ted Rall, smeared Tillman today with this cartoon, calling Tillman an idiot and a sap for getting suckered by the shooting incident and for killing innocent civilians and killing Arabs. And now, because it was syndicated, this cartoon was actually automatically linked to our Web site today.
We removed it immediately when we found out it was there, because, quite frankly, it just didn‘t meet MSNBC.com‘s standards of fairness and taste.
But, Jack, I want to talk to you about the taste of this. On the day this guy is being remembered at a memorial service, a cartoonist smears him basically as a killer of innocent Arabs. What‘s your response?
JACK BURKMAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I‘ll tell you, in all the time I‘ve done this, I don‘t think I‘ve ever seen anything as sickening. And I‘ve seen a lot of years of Clintons and everything else.
Look, First Amendment, they can do what they will, but join me tonight in this. Let us launch a national boycott of “The Village Voice.” and beyond that, let us launch a national boycott of any commercial interest that would put its money behind this. Yes, this is the United States of America and they can print what they want. They can advocate Nazism if they want, but we will stop them.
And any advertiser and any money and any commercial interest and anyone who was behind this, join with me now, Joe, and let‘s use this program as a forum to stop this and shut this down. What this is, this is America‘s left at its worst. I‘m not saying it‘s representative of the whole left. But it‘s the American left at its worst that wants to demoralize us and bring us down.
They won‘t even let this country grieve. They won‘t even let this country grieve. This Pat Tillman is probably the greatest hero in the last 10 years of American history. This guy‘s story is so incredible, every time you read it, you want to fall off your chair. The cynicism in you won‘t even let you believe it. But it‘s true. They won‘t even let this country grieve. They will not allow—“The Village Voice” and what it represents will not allow this nation one day to celebrate this...
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Mario Giardiello, do you agree that this cartoon should have never run?
MARIO GIARDIELLO, POLITICALUSA.COM: No, I don‘t agree with that at all.
This cartoon isn‘t so much about Pat Tillman. We can‘t take anything away from this great American hero. But it‘s really satirizing all of us who believed for even for a moment that this was a just war. But as the truths are coming out more and more, we‘re finding out that all these lies have been perpetrated by the Bush administration.
SCARBOROUGH: Mario, hold on. Mario, I want to just—let‘s take this one at a time.
You talked about—at the very beginning, you said that it didn‘t attack Pat Tillman. But actually, when they said, Pat, do you want to read the writing? He said, “Can I kill Arabs?” That‘s not attacking Pat Tillman?
GIARDIELLO: You know what, that‘s not the best part about it. I don‘t really...
SCARBOROUGH: Is that a good part of it?
GIARDIELLO: I think that‘s distasteful. But the point about—there are many good parts about this. There‘s a lot of truth in this cartoon.
But I think the point is that these are all the freedoms that Pat Tillman was fighting for and ultimately died for. This is not something that should be censored out.
BURKMAN: But is it appropriate to use a hero as a vehicle for satire?
BURKMAN: Yes, there are many freedoms that Pat Tillman fought and died for. He fought for the freedom to advocate Nazism. He fought for the freedom to advocate socialism. He fought for the freedom to advocate communism or burn the flag or do anything else you want. But we shouldn‘t do those things. And those things are wrong. It‘s a moral issue.
SCARBOROUGH: Mario, I want to ask you about this, though, Mario, because a poster on one Democratic Web site, indymedia.org, wrote about being fed up with Tillman and said this—quote—“We can put away all the ‘Peace Is Patriotic‘ and ‘We Support The Troop‘ banners away and get back to calling them baby killers around here.”
You think that‘s also protected by the First Amendment. Obviously, it is. But don‘t people have a responsibility to show a little bit—you‘re smiling. Don‘t you think people have a responsibility to show a little bit of restraint?
GIARDIELLO: I think we have a responsibility to freedom of speech and also to get the information out here.
The Bush administration, these GOP strategists have done everything to try to mask what‘s really going on there.
SCARBOROUGH: Then attack George Bush. Then attack
SCARBOROUGH: Hold on, Jack.
GIARDIELLO: ... a big NFL football star, we‘re hearing everything about him.
GIARDIELLO: He‘s a hero. There are many heroes dying and we don‘t hear anything about them.
SCARBOROUGH: Mario, he‘s a hero. And if you got a problem with George Bush, then go after George Bush in a cartoon.
GIARDIELLO: I certainly do.
SCARBOROUGH: But don‘t call Pat Tillman somebody that wanted to go out of his way to kill innocent Arabs.
GIARDIELLO: This is at the bottom of everything that the Patriot Act and everything the Bush administration is trying to do to us.
SCARBOROUGH: Killing innocent Arabs?
BURKMAN: Joe, the worst part of this
BURKMAN: This cartoon not only satirizes him. It makes fun of him. I could not imagine—if you said something more repulsive, I could not do it.
And I will say this. “The Village Voice” is not some small, obscure publication. Where are the two New York senators? Where‘s the governor of New York? Where are all these voices on the left and where are major prominent New York voices, should be coming out tonight, we denounce this publication?
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Jack Burkman, unfortunately, we‘re out of time. I have a feeling we‘re going to be talking about this for some time.
Mario, we want to ask you to come back also. We greatly appreciate your being here tonight.
Still ahead, five empty, suspicious suitcases are found throughout New York City. Were they left by terrorists trying to test the response time of authorities? Our terror experts weigh in next.
Plus, $2 billion for bridges that lead to nowhere. This couldn‘t be a joke, could it? Well, we‘re talking about Congress. And, after all, they are on a steady diet of pork. There‘s better than exposing it when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY comes back.
SCARBOROUGH: Tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge: Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Fletcher became the first person to reach the North Pole on this day of what year? Was it, A, 1911, B, 1933, or, C, 1952? The answer coming up.
SCARBOROUGH: Tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge: Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Fletcher became the first person to reach the North Pole on this day of what ear? Was it, A, 1911, B, 1933, or, C, 1952? The answer coming up.
You know, five empty suitcases were found abandoned around different parts of New York City in April. And “The New York Post” is reporting that city officials fear they were left there by terrorists who were conducting a dry run for a Madrid-type attack on American commuter rails. Meanwhile, the State Department is saying that there was fewer acts of international terrorism last year than there‘s been in 34 years.
But are we really safer because al Qaeda is on the run or is it just a matter of time before another devastating attack hits American soil?
With me now is FBI former counterterror agent Christopher Whitcomb.
We also have former CIA operation and terrorism expert Larry Johnson.
SCARBOROUGH: Let me begin with Christopher Whitcomb. Americans seem to be on edge, yet you look at some of these numbers and it seems that we‘re safer today from terrorism than we‘ve been in maybe three decades. Help us out.
CHRISTOPHER WHITCOMB, NBC ANALYST: Joe, look, no attack since 9/11, more than 2 ½ years. I think we have to look at what goes on behind the scenes and know that the U.S. government has made enormous strides on terrorism.
I‘ve said for quite some time that al Qaeda isn‘t what people make it out to be. We‘ve crippled their command-and-control center. We‘ve broken down their recruiting. We‘ve interrupted their ability to send money to finance operations. The FBI and the intelligence community fear rogue elements, people that would stand up because they support al Qaeda‘s goals. But I think the organization really has had the legs cut out from under it.
And it‘s not the danger that it once was.
SCARBOROUGH: According to the State Department, as I said earlier, acts of international terror actually dropped in the last three years. There were 190 acts last year, just a few more than in 2002 and significantly more, 346, in 2001. Last year‘s numbers are actually the lowest since 1969.
Larry Johnson, explain these numbers to us.
LARRY JOHNSON, COUNTERTERRORISM EXPERT: Well, the countermeasures are working. And I have no disagreement with what Chris has said.
But there are some interesting trends once you get below the broad
numbers. No. 1, 98 percent of the fatalities last year occurred in eight
countries, and all of those were linked to Islamic extremists. That‘s
point No. 1, and the same frankly for the number of people injured. So
although the total number of people killed and injured by terrorism in 2002
· or 2003 -- was less than 2002, the reality is, almost all of the injuries and deaths are being caused by the Islamic extremists.
The second important point to recognize is that, in the previous years, Columbia accounted for as much as 40 percent to 50 percent of the numbers, the actual incidents. Columbia last year only accounted for 12. So what we really saw was a significant increase in the number of attacks by Islamic extremists, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: I want to ask both of you also about this “New York Post” story that we saw earlier, talking about how five empty suitcases were left around different parts of New York City.
I‘ll start with you, Christopher. Do you believe this may be a preseason warmup for possibly the Republican National Convention this summer?
WHITCOMB: Look, I don‘t know of any preseason warmup that a terrorist group that has ever undertaken, that I‘m aware of, anyway.
Terrorists understand it‘s very difficult to do anything on American soil because of the stuff Larry and I have just talked about. And it‘s I think very unrealistic to believe that if they did have a chance to do something that they would broadcast that. I think it‘s much more likely that somebody did this as a sick joke. And I don‘t want to speculate on this, but we have even seen media organizations try to test systems in the past. This obviously was picked up very early and someone simply walked away from it. I don‘t see this as a dry run for any terrorist group.
SCARBOROUGH: Larry, you agree with that?
JOHNSON: Yes, I don‘t disagree at all.
In fact, probably what we saw was, after the Madrid bombings, the New York Transit Authority and Port Authority folks started going, hey, let‘s start paying attention and they started seizing suitcases that may have been carted off before by homeless people. So, look, good countermeasures and good defense go a long way. That‘s one of the reasons we‘ve seen the drop in these incidents, because we finally started paying attention to it.
On the other hand, the Islamic extremists have awakened in a way that they have not over the last 10 years. They‘re trying to do a lot. The good news is, through international cooperation and really aggressive law enforcement, Joe, this is—law enforcement‘s gotten a knock on this, but, at the end of the day, the most progress we‘re going to make in this war on terrorism is going to be through effective law enforcement, not through military action.
SCARBOROUGH: And what‘s interesting is, these people, these terrorist thugs are starting to try to hit soft targets. Obviously, they hit in Syria. And now Jordan authorities are saying they recently foiled an al Qaeda poison gas attack in their country that they say could have killed 80,000 people.
Jordan‘s king called it—quote—“a major, major operation that would have decapitated his government.” The Australian foreign minister said—quote—“Anyone who doubts the terrorists‘ desire to obtain and use these weapons only needs to look at the Jordan example.”
Gentlemen, are we at a stage now—forget about weapons of mass destruction. Are we at a stage now where al Qaeda operatives can use basic chemicals and put together an attack in let‘s say the middle of New York City that could kill 80,000 to 100,000 Americans?
WHITCOMB: Joe, if you‘re coming to me, I‘m going to say right out front, no. The answer is no.
SCARBOROUGH: Why is that?
WHITCOMB: These things look terrible on paper. They look terrible in academic terms. When you get right down to it, we‘ve seen time and time again that they don‘t work. Aum Shinrikyo in Tokyo with sarin gas spent millions of dollars, years trying to perfect something that ended up killing, I think, six people. It was a tragedy in that regard, but it didn‘t kill 80,000.
We talk about these things in academic terms. And they seem horrible when you look at them. In practical application, it‘s something very different. I don‘t think that the plan that they exposed in Jordan was going to kill 80,000 people. Certain, it‘s toxic. Certainly, it could be a problem, but not to the extent that people are making out to be.
SCARBOROUGH: Larry Johnson?
JOHNSON: Amen to brother Whitcomb.
SCARBOROUGH: You guys are singing from the same hymn book.
WHITCOMB: Well, we did this, Joe. We did this for a living. And I think that‘s the difference.
JOHNSON: See, look, I‘ve been involved with scripting the exercises at the U.S. military special forces that have the mission for combating terrorism do. I know what is required to get this off, what is required to cause the casualties.
There is no doubt, Joe, that these people, that al Qaeda would like to cause millions of casualties, if they could. They want to, but want to isn‘t enough. You‘ve got to have more than desire. And that‘s where government, with aggressive law enforcement, military and intelligence agencies, working together, can prevent, thwart, stop these guys, kill them or capture them, put them in jail, but at the end of the day, make people safer.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, you know, gentlemen, thanks a lot.
And I will tell you what, I‘m glad you‘re both reading off the same hymn book, because I‘ll tell you what. We‘ve had a lot of bad news, but you all are actually telling us something that our government and intelligence agencies seem to be doing right. And that‘s great news. Thanks for being with us tonight. We greatly appreciate it.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, and, coming up, you‘re not going to believe what the government is wasting your money on. Pork spending is back on Capitol Hill and we‘re going to expose them for it next.
SCARBOROUGH: Be the envy of the neighborhood. Join our SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY newsletter team or e-mail me with one of your concerns. You can log on to Joe.MSNBC.com. That‘s Joe.MSNBC.com.
We‘ll be right back.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, the porkers on Capitol Hill are at it again, practicing pork barrel spending at a record pace. The latest defense, a transportation bill that is filled with shameful examples of government waste. And the cost to you is $318 billion.
Now, here to tell you all about it is a good friend of mine from Capitol Hill days who is a member of the House of Representatives in Oregon. He is Representative Derrick Kitts.
And, Derrick, thanks for being with us tonight.
I want you to tell our taxpaying viewers what the biggest turkey in this transportation bill is.
DERRICK KITTS ®, OREGON STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Joe, I‘ve got to tell you, I don‘t know if it‘s a laughing matter or not.
But we‘ve got two bridges in Alaska at a cost to the American taxpayer of $2.2 billion. Now, let me tell you about these bridges that will service more bears than they do humans. You‘ve got one bridge from one city in Alaska that‘s going to a port, Joe. This bridge is not just a little bridge. This bridge is taller than the Brooklyn Bridge, almost as long as the Golden Gate bridge. And it costs the taxpayers about $200 million.
But it doesn‘t stop there. It gets better for the great state of Alaska. Their second bridge, the monster that it is, Joe, two miles long, brand new bridge, it doesn‘t service 50 people, Joe. It services one. And it costs the taxpayers $2 billion. So I don‘t know about turkey, Joe, but somebody is definitely feathering their political nest at the cost of the American taxpayers.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, you know that my guess is, being from Alaska, it just may be the chairman of the Transportation Committee.
KITTS: You hit it on the head.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, exactly.
Now, is it true that Don Young from Alaska actually zeroed projects of members who fought his pork-barrel bill?
Joe, I got to tell you, it gets worse than that. My sources on Capitol Hill in leadership have told me not only did he threaten to zero out other members‘ projects, but he took the funds to Alaska. How else is he going to pay for these two bridges for $2.2 billion? Listen, Joe, I come from a state of Oregon, and it‘s not a unique state. I mean, Alabama is out there. We‘re running deficits out here in the state legislatures.
Alabama is $1 billion. Oregon is $1 billion. And this guy wants two bridges for $2.2 billion? I‘ve got to tell you, the people of Oregon, the people of Alabama, the people of this country should be absolutely outraged that they‘re spending that precious commodity of the taxpayers‘ dollars in such a shameful, disgraceful fashion.
SCARBOROUGH: It‘s unbelievable. And, Derrick Kitts, what bothers me the most—I know you‘re a Republican. I‘m a Republican. What bothers me the most is, it‘s Republicans that are running the House. It‘s Republicans that are running the Senate. It‘s a Republican in the White House that‘s signing these bills.
And I‘ll tell you what. It shows what George Wallace said. There‘s not a dime‘s worth of difference between Republicans and Democrats. When it comes to spending, that seems to be the case, doesn‘t it?
KITTS: Yes. You know, Joe, it‘s sick. And I‘d encourage the president to veto this bill. He‘s got to stand up for the American taxpayer at some point and say enough is enough. We can‘t afford any more. We need more jobs, not more taxes.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, thanks a lot, state Representative Derrick Kitts. We appreciate you being with us tonight and talking about this week‘s “Capitol Offense.”
And if you have examples of your “Capital Offense,” you can send it to Joe@MSNBC.com.
Now, tomorrow night on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, why soldiers who fought alongside John Kerry in Vietnam are holding a news conference tomorrow to declare that the presidential candidate is unfit to be commander in chief. That‘s tomorrow night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern here at MSNBC. And it‘s going to be interesting, because, I‘ll tell you what, a lot of others out there that fought with him said he‘s a hero and he‘s the guy they want in the Oval Office.
That‘s tomorrow night on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
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