Guest: Lisa Girman, Tim Canjar, David Debatto, Joe Stork
ANNOUNCER: DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.
DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST: Growing outrage. The images making headlines around the world, and they just may be the tip of the iceberg.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The actions of the soldiers in those photographs are totally unacceptable and un-American.
NORVILLE: Could these disturbing photos reveal a pattern of U.S. military misconduct? Tonight, the exclusive personal accounts of two American soldiers who were accused of abusing prisoners in Iraq.
SGT. LISA GIRMAN, DISCHARGED FROM ARMY FOR POW ABUSE: The Army wanted us to be quiet.
NORVILLE: A glimpse behind Iraq‘s prison walls with a former military intelligence officer. Who‘s in charge on the ground? And just how large a role are civilian contractors playing in the war?
The fallout. What will this story do to morale of American troops?
And how is the United States being viewed by the rest of the world?
Plus defending the accused. Staff Sergeant Ivan Frederick is facing seven years in Leavenworth for allegedly abusing Iraqi prisoners. Tonight was wife makes a plea on his behalf.
ANNOUNCER: From Studio 3-K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.
NORVILLE: And good evening.
The scandal surrounding American soldiers abusing prisoners in Iraq is getting even bigger, and now it stretches from Iraq to Afghanistan.
Today the Army said that 25 prisoners have died while being held by American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying that two of them were murdered in Iraq by Americans.
One of the soldiers was convicted of murder.
Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee today met behind closed doors with Pentagon officials, and afterward the chairman of that committee, Senator John Warner, said there were some isolated incidents in Afghanistan.
Similar abuses may have taken place at other locations in Iraq, as well.
The Army says that there are now 20 investigations into prisoner deaths and assaults underway in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
And tomorrow the Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a closed door hearing to find out what role the intelligence community might have had in the prisoner abuse.
Many of the photos show Iraqi prisoners with hoods over their heads and today American officials said hoods would not be used any more.
Members of the Armed Services Committee are also calling on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to explain what is going on in an open hearing.
Today Secretary Rumsfeld said that he was deeply disturbed by what he has seen, and he said that the Pentagon would take all steps necessary to bring those responsible to justice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUMSFELD: The actions of the soldiers in those photographs are totally unacceptable and un-American. Any who engaged in such action let down their comrades who serve honorably each day, and they let down their country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: The abuse at Abu Ghraib prison is not the first time that Army personnel have gotten into trouble for mistreating Iraqi prisoners.
Back in December, three military police were discharged from the U.S. Army for abusing Iraqi prisoners at the Camp Buca (ph) detention center in southern Iraq.
Those soldiers were due to face court-martial charges in January for kicking and beating prisoners but instead they settled for a non-judicial hearing in which their conduct was judged by a commander, not by a jury. That commander found that, indeed, all three had mistreated Iraqi prisoners of war.
Camp Buca (ph) is under the same chain of command as the Abu Ghraib prison.
Tonight for the first time, two of those individuals are going to be telling their story. And they will respond to an accusation made on this program last night, that the abuse of prisoners was a pattern and that it could well have begun with the story of these three soldiers long before any of these disturbing photos have been released.
Joining me in this exclusive interview are two of those soldiers, Staff Sergeant Lisa Girman, who was discharged from the Army last December. She is appealing her case. And Specialist Tim Canjar, who was also discharged. He, too, is seeking to clear his name.
Thanks so much for being with us.
When you look at the allegations and these horrific photos that have come from Iraq, does it bring back memories of the stress that is attendant to working with EPWs, enemies—enemy prisoners of war?
GIRMAN: No, I don‘t think it brings back the stress of working with EPWs. It brings back the memories of the chain of command.
SPC. TIM CANJAR, DISCHARGED FROM ARMY FOR POW ABUSE: And incompetence.
GIRMAN: The incompetence of the chain of command. The absence of them. The...
CANJAR: Lack of guidance.
GIRMAN: You know, they should have more foresight to be involved with the operations and/or to have seeked (sic) more knowledge of how to actually operate an EPW camp if they didn‘t know how.
NORVILLE: I know you were watching last night when we had Brigadier General Karpinski on the program.
And it‘s her assertion that at the time the alleged photos were taken, or the alleged abuses occurred that the prison, Abu Ghraib, was being run by a chain that ultimately led to military intelligence, was away from the M.P.‘s. Does that set with you?
GIRMAN: No, it doesn‘t. When we were in Camp Buca (ph), which is nowhere near Baghdad, Abu Ghraib prison, but when we were in Camp Buca (ph), structure starts at the top.
And if you have clear, direct objectives sent down through your chain of command to the very bottom soldier, and it‘s explained through A to Z clearly what your mission and job is, there should be no at the top “I did not know.”
NORVILLE: And you‘re saying that‘s the case not only at Abu Ghraib prison but also at Camp Buca (ph), where you all were involved?
GIRMAN: Yes, ma‘am. I was a master sergeant at the time, and I was also the NCOIC, which is the noncommissioned officer in charge.
And there had been times where he had people who claimed to be military intelligence coming in, scarves around their face, sunglasses on so we couldn‘t identify or see them. Tapes over their names, bum rushing into our camp saying that they want a prisoner and would take that prisoner and they‘re going to go do an interview.
NORVILLE: And you would do what? You would release that prisoner to them?
GIRMAN: Absolutely not, because my soldiers, people like Sergeant Canjar, and other soldiers at the gate at the time knew better. And they said, “Absolutely not.” And then they notified me, we confronted them and we said, “No it‘s not working, it‘s not happening. Did you go through the chain? Did you ask for permission?”
A man flashed his rank. It was a captain. He said, “Listen, sergeant, I‘m a captain.”
I said, “I don‘t care. It‘s not the way it‘s done.”
With that, they left. They bypassed the command center. They bypassed everybody and just disappeared. To this day I have no idea who they are. But because my guys knew the rules, because they knew it would be wrong.
NORVILLE: How much training, Sergeant Canjar, did you all get in knowing what the dos and the don‘ts were of working with enemy prisoners of war?
CANJAR: I pretty much did it on the spot. I learned from her. If I had a question and didn‘t think something was right, I went through my chain of command. I went to her. And if it had to go higher, she took it higher.
NORVILLE: But going into it there was...
CANJAR: Going into it, I did a year of deployment prior stateside. I was garrison, though. I had nothing to do with EPWs, no training.
NORVILLE: So this was all new to you when you got in there?
CANJAR: Extremely, yes.
NORVILLE: I want to review for the viewers the charges specifically related to both of you.
Tim Canjar, you were charged with making a false statement to the Army‘s criminal investigators and to have held a detainee‘s legs apart while others kicked him in the groin and, quote, “violently twisting his previously injured arm and causing him to scream in pain.”
These were the charges that you were brought up on. These were the charges you were dismissed on. You say that didn‘t happen?
CANJAR: Yes. They‘re extremely—they‘re false. And I feel that in the next year or so, my appeal will go through and everything will be—
I‘ll be reinstated.
NORVILLE: And the charges against you, Sergeant Girman, are that you were discharged from the Army on December 29 on charges of mistreating a prisoner in an Iraqi camp, of knocking him to the ground and repeatedly kicking him in the groin, abdomen and head.
Did that happen?
GIRMAN: Absolutely not. They made these charges, false allegations against myself and a few other soldiers because we spoke up against the chain of command.
The chain of command wanted to shut us up, and they found a way by making false, alleged charges, allegations against us. And after eight months of having us under a gag order, not talking to anybody, not talking to each other, as a matter of fact we went to the media about these charges, because the Army wanted to keep it quiet.
Finally, our attorneys got involved and said, “Listen, something‘s got to give.” And the charges were all dismissed because they could not substantiate the allegations that are against us.
We never sought after any—they never sought any criminal charges after that. We were released on non-judicial punishment, per se.
NORVILLE: There are those who believe that the current problems that we‘re reading about in the paper are not the first time. And I want to play a sound byte from the uncle of one of those who has been implicated in the current scandal with Abu Ghraib prison, William Lawson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Army knew about this problem back in July of 19 -- of 2003, when they discharged some of the reservists in Pennsylvania.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Clearly, he was referring to the two of you and a third individual who was part of a similar incident.
A lot of people are concerned about just how well trained—you said you learned from your commanding officer...
CANJAR: Right on the spot.
NORVILLE: ... that you had no specific training going in, you learned on the spot.
You‘re saying that in your instance if an alleged military intelligence guy came in and wanted someone, you stood up to him, you say, and didn‘t release the prisoner to him.
But it could have just as easily done, you allege, that the prisoner would have been released.
There‘s a real question about the organization of America‘s military in a variety of venues in Iraq. Can you say that it‘s well organized?
GIRMAN: I could say that with anything, in a big organization as the military, something that big, you‘re going to be bound to come across some people who are not prepared for their job, as the 800th Brigade was not prepared. As the chain of command for the 320 was not prepared.
As a matter of fact, I wasn‘t in the 320.
NORVILLE: And some would say as members of your unit were not prepared if, when a scuffle broke out, as prisoners of war were being transferred from one point to another, it‘s alleged that kicking, holding, arm twisting was done to bring them back under control.
GIRMAN: I wouldn‘t say not prepared, but no guidance. I have asked from day one from our chain of command rules of engagement and rules of interacting with the EPWs, so that soldiers who never did this before would know what to do and how to do it properly by military standards.
And that chain of command came back to me and said, “Sergeant Girman, if you‘re going to cry, take your rifle, go back to your cot and go to sleep.”
NORVILLE: They never gave you information?
GIRMAN: No, ma‘am.
NORVILLE: Were you ever given a copy of the Geneva Convention with respect to the treatment of prisoners of war?
GIRMAN: No, ma‘am.
NORVILLE: Does it stand that a soldier who has not been given a copy of the Geneva Convention would know that it is improper to kick an inmate, to know that it is improper to photograph an inmate in a humiliating pose. To know that it‘s improper to simulate torture of an inmate?
Do you need a Geneva War Convention to know that?
GIRMAN: I don‘t know. When a commanding officer tells you to take a hill, you don‘t ask why. You take that hill. When a commanding officer says “Defend your country,” you don‘t ask why, you defend your country.
Maybe they didn‘t have time to ask why. Maybe they didn‘t have time to say, “This is wrong.” I don‘t know. I wasn‘t there.
NORVILLE: But you think it was entirely plausible that some of the atrocities that have happened not only when they were photographed but at other times, as well?
GIRMAN: I believe that these people who were over there acted—acting as military police officers and who are military police officers never got direct direction from the chain of command as what they‘re supposed to do.
NORVILLE: But what about the law of war briefing that all of you get before you‘re deployed?
CANJAR: I didn‘t have it.
GIRMAN: I never got that, ma‘am.
NORVILLE: You‘ve never heard of it?
GIRMAN: No, ma‘am. I‘ve heard of it but we never—we never received it.
NORVILLE: You never received it?
GIRMAN: No, ma‘am.
NORVILLE: You never received the law of war briefing? You never received the Geneva Convention? And yet you were...
CANJAR: The Geneva Convention definitely not. I did not ever receive a booklet, nothing.
NORVILLE: And yet your primary responsibility with your unit was maintaining order with enemy prisoners of war at Camp Buca (ph)?
GIRMAN: Yes, ma‘am.
CANJAR: The only thing I got from the Geneva Convention is a few rules—a few guidelines, like from her. Like she told me the one time no pictures. We stressed that, because we...
NORVILLE: You learned on the fly?
NORVILLE: All right. Tim Canjar, Lisa Girman, thank you very much for being with us.
GIRMAN: Thank you, ma‘am.
NORVILLE: We should note that we contacted the Army to get a response to Sergeant Girman and Specialist Canjar‘s charges that Army personnel weren‘t receiving adequate training prior to deployment.
The Army said that soldiers do receive training prior to any deployment. And that if they‘re prison guards, they receive specialized training.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Coming up, torture and humiliation, allegedly at the hands of coalition forces.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said you‘re going in for democracy. This is anything but democracy.
ANNOUNCER: Tonight, reaction from the Arab world.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These pictures will build up hate.
ANNOUNCER: But next, 150,000 American troops risk their lives on the front line each day, but now their valor and dedication are being overshadowed by these troubling images. What will this do to their morale?
DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT is coming right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUMSFELD: Have no doubt that we will take these charges and allegations most seriously. We‘re taking and will continue to take whatever steps are necessary to hold accountable those who may have violated the code of military conduct and betrayed the trust placed in them by the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, speaking today about the alleged abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers.
The disturbing photos of Iraqi prisoners, stripped naked, humiliated by American soldiers, has sparked outrage around the world. No fewer than 20 investigations are now underway, and a lot of questions are being asked, including do soldiers understand? And are they being taught the rules of engagement?
Another: why are hired military contractors interrogating some of the Iraqi prisoners? And are those contractors being held to the same standards as the military?
And then there‘s the bigger picture. How is all of this affecting more moral among the rest of the solders still involved in fierce fighting in Iraq? It‘s got to be hard on young men and women who have to continue fighting the fight.
Let‘s begin with the question of morale. Joining me now is David Debatto. He‘s is a former U.S. Army counterintelligence agent who serves in Iraq, the tactical human intelligence team. He had to track down and captured high-level Iraqi fugitives and then interrogated hundreds of Iraqi prisoners.
While in Iraq he was injured in a Humvee accident and sent to a military hospital back state side, in the fall, about the same time that those other abuses are alleged to have occurred. He has since had a military discharge.
Mr. Debatto, as you know today, there was a closed-door meeting of the Armed Services Committee that‘s been looking into prisoner abuse. And when he came out, Senator Carl Levin made this statement. I‘m going to play it and then let you react to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: The actions of these individuals have jeopardized members of the armed services and the conduct of their mission and have jeopardized the security of this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Are servicemen and women in Iraq currently in jeopardy because of the inflammatory nature of the pictures we‘ve seen?
DEBATTO: Unfortunately, I believe that they are. There‘s going to be a backlash because of this. I just hope it‘s not too serious.
NORVILLE: And what do you think is the morale is on these people? This is—we know there‘s a handful of individuals who have been officially implicated. One hopes that it doesn‘t extend far beyond that, but certainly the vast majority of men and women serving over there have nothing to do with this kind of stuff.
DEBATTO: Absolutely. As heinous as this appears to be, it does include a very, very small percentage of the troops that are over in Iraq. And I believe that the morale is going to stay very high.
NORVILLE: You think so? Who do the soldiers then hold responsible for the kinds of things we have been seeing played on the TV channels here and newspapers around the world?
DEBATTO: Two different parties. I believe that they do hold the soldiers that are involved to a degree, you know, to blame. But I do get a sense that they‘re holding the leadership very much accountable.
NORVILLE: You‘ve got to wonder what‘s going on with the leadership. I mean, going back and sort of looking at how the Army and the military has been looking at all of this situation.
Last August, September, there was a visit by General Miller. He came. He looked at the prison system. He actually recommended that military police guards act as enablers.
Since then there was a report in November that said, no, M.P.‘s shouldn‘t play any role at all.
General Taguba‘s report came out in late February, early March. And now Miller is back in Iraq in charge of running the U.S. prisons in Iraq.
It seems a bit strange that the man who recommended M.P.‘s do what they‘re now being criticized for having done be in charge of prison system in Iraq.
DEBATTO: Well, I have to admit, Deborah, that it took me by surprise when I heard just recently that Secretary Rumsfeld and General Myers had not read that 53-page report which is available to almost anyone on the Internet. And they seem to be two of the only people that haven‘t read it yet.
There‘s—In my opinion, there‘s definitely a leadership problem from top to bottom in Iraq with this.
NORVILLE: And how is it going to be addressed? I mean, there‘s a new person in there, running the Iraqi prisons. General Karpinski was brought out. And there‘s a new man in.
But there‘s still a lot of questions about the role of different individuals, specifically the role of contract workers in there. A lot of us were surprised to hear that they were running security for people like Paul Bremer.
Others were even more surprised to hear they are a part of military convoys, driving trucks, as Thomas Hamill was.
And now we‘re hearing they‘re conducting interrogations of American prisoners of war? This is astonishing.
DEBATTO: Well, this is a relatively new phenomenon. We are contracting, meaning the U.S. Army is contracting some of the most sensitive positions to civilian contractors, including, as you said, interrogators and even my old job, which is counterintelligence.
This—This is a relatively new thing, and I‘m not so sure if this is going to sit very well.
NORVILLE: Well, it certainly isn‘t sitting very well with some members of Congress. Let‘s listen to what Senator Ted Kennedy had to say about it earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: It seems that this whole incident isn‘t just limited to one particular prison but has a broader application.
And I think it‘s imperative that there be the complete investigation not only of that prison and not only of the American servicemen but also the private contractors. And why we have these private contractors in the first place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Mr. Debatto, what can a private contractor do that an American military interrogator trained in the art of intelligence can‘t?
DEBATTO: Well, so far, the only thing I can see that he can‘t do is report to the same chain of command. Other than that, they are drawing upon the same pool of people who do the job while in uniform.
These are, for the most part, to my understanding, ex-military and primarily ex-Army interrogators and counterintelligence agents. It just didn‘t doesn‘t have the same chain of command, and the responsibilities are different and, at this point, very, very gray and vague.
NORVILLE: Gray and vague in temples of whom they report to or gray and vague in terms of responsibility if they step out of line, as at least two of these contractors are alleged to have done?
DEBATTO: All of the above. I think that the chain of command in terms of these civilian contractors, from everything I‘ve heard and read, is very unclear to the soldiers that are there.
That are—Sometimes it seems like they‘re taking orders from them, even as far up as the general last night that you had on the program.
There‘s a complete breakdown, in my opinion, of leadership over there, Deborah. Nobody seems to know who‘s in charge.
NORVILLE: It‘s kind of like that old “who‘s on first” radio comedy, except there‘s nothing funny about any of this.
NORVILLE: Also with us tonight is Joe Stork. Joe is the Washington director of the Middle East division of Human Rights Watch. And certainly, this is a human rights catastrophe. The question is just on what order.
Sir, do you believe that international law has been broken, based on the photographs and the stories that you‘ve heard so far?
JOE STORK, MIDDLE EAST DIVISION, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Well, there‘s no question that international law has been broken, namely the laws of war, the Geneva Conventions.
And torture—you don‘t have to read the Geneva Conventions. You have don‘t have to have instructions, it seems to me, to know that the kinds of things we‘ve seen depicted in those photos and in those films are clearly over the line. Over the line.
They represent ill treatment. They represent degradation, purposeful degradation. They represent torture. They represent war crimes.
NORVILLE: How does this compare with other countries that your organization keeps an eye on, in terms of the level of abuse, the level of human humiliation?
STORK: Well, I think, you know, there are very few countries in the world, and certainly even fewer in the Middle East, where we‘re not talking about serious human rights abuses of one sort or other.
Tortures, unfortunately, is all too common in the countries of—in many of the countries of the Middle East.
But I think what‘s really problematic about this is you have President Bush even in the last day or two so, talking about how the United States went in, among other things, to open up the torture chambers of Abu Ghraib and to free the people there. And then we have this kind of behavior.
I think the important thing is that we‘re looking at a problem that not only goes beyond Abu Ghraib prison; it goes beyond Iraq.
We‘re talking about a problem that has to do with the interrogation techniques and secret detention facilities in places like Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world, where, again, we‘ve seen the same kinds of patterns of abuse. Not exactly the same abuses, necessarily, but where the behavior moves across the line into illegal activity.
NORVILLE: And not necessarily at the hands of Americans, too, we have to point out.
STORK: No. What I‘m talking about here is, of course, not just at the hands of Americans. But I‘m speaking now specifically of what‘s going on in American run detention centers.
NORVILLE: Indeed. Because just today the Pentagon indicated that they have reports, and this is a part of General Taguba‘s report as well, that there were some similar instances that took place in some of the Afghan interrogations that went on.
Dave Debatto, can you enlighten all of us a little bit? What is the acceptable procedure for interrogating an enemy detainee? What is allowed to be done?
DEBATTO: Well, there‘s a number of psychological tools that you can and should use. But for example they should not be struck. This whole idea of photographing them is, as the other gentleman said, it‘s actually a war crime.
Any kind of torture, the sexual things that were done. All the things that we‘ve seen are not done.
You can yell at them. You can—you can even threaten them in some ways. You can do what you need to do without overtly injuring them or in some way degrading them or parading them around.
There‘s a number of very, very successful things that can and are done by skilled interrogators without stooping to the types of thing that we‘re seeing.
NORVILLE: And—And do you have confidence that the techniques are changing? I mean General Miller said, quote, “There are techniques that increase anxiety. There is aggressive conversation.”
But you don‘t threaten, contrary to what you just said, you don‘t have physical contact. And they just said today they‘ll no longer use hoods but rather use blindfolds when appropriate for interrogations.
Is that enough to fix the system?
DEBATTO: I sincerely hope so. Again, there are techniques that do work. Not in all cases. Interrogation is not 100 percent foolproof. But we‘ve been doing this for a very long time.
And let me just make one point. We cannot be held to the standards of what the Iraqis do or what the Arabs do. We‘re the United States. We stand for something. We have to do what is right and not say, “Well, this has been done to us.” That just doesn‘t wash.
NORVILLE: It doesn‘t wash, indeed. Dave Debatto, Joe Stork, thank you very much, both of you, for your insights.
When we come back, if you think the American military is outraged by all of these abuse photos, imagine the reaction of the Arab and Muslim world. Yet another set back to anti-American sentiment? We‘ll find out next.
CHRISTY MUSUMECI, ANCHOR: Hello, I‘m Christy Musumeci. Thirty-two past the hour. Here are the headlines.
The White House says President Bush will do two 10-minute interviews with Arab television. It‘s an apparent effort to damage control in the Arab world in the wake of the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal.
And a local news chopper crashed while on the job tonight. New York‘s WNBC-TV Chopper 4 crashed on roof of a building in Brooklyn while covering a story. The pilot is reportedly in critical condition, but officials say the reporter and the co-pilot on board were not seriously injured, and no one on the ground was hurt. No word yet on the cause of this crash.
The Pentagon plans to maintain the current level of 135,000 troops in Iraq through 2005. To do that, Pentagon officials say 37,000 reserve and National Guard troops will be called to active duty this year. Ten thousand active duty soldiers and Marines are also getting orders to ship out to Iraq in the next few months.
Those are the latest headlines. Back to DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, Abu Dhabi)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking in Arabic)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, Al Jazeera)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Janis Karpinski (speaking in Arabic)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, Al Arabiya)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking in Arabic)
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
NORVILLE: That‘s a look at some of the Arab-language television stations covering the abuse of Iraqi prisoners. Those photos of American soldiers humiliating Iraqis is inflaming an already intense anti-American feeling in parts of the Arab world.
Some Arabic newspapers are bashing the United States. Headlines such as “Scandal” and this one, “Occupation Gangs Tyrannizing Iraqi Prisoners.” Newspapers are showing the photographs, which are particularly inflammatory in Arab countries, where Islamic law and culture strongly condemn nudity and homosexuality.
The Al Jazeera television channel is using this case to talk about America‘s image in the Arab world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AL Jazeera)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Abu Ghraib prison was a symbol of the republic of fear headed by the former regime. And surprisingly enough, this time the same prison has become a symbol of torture techniques used by the forces that came lifting the banners of democracy, freedom, and respect for human rights.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: And the damage control has begun. Today U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice appeared on Al Jazeera to ask for trust. She said America has a democratic system that holds people accountable for their actions. Her remarks were dubbed into Arabic. She also appeared on other regional television stations.
Joining me now to discuss Arab reaction to all of this is Hisham Melhem. He is the Washington bureau chief of the Lebanese daily news paper “As-Safir.” He also hosts a program on the Al-Arabia television network.
Good evening, sir. Thanks for being with us.
HISHAM MELHEM, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “AS-SAFIR”: Thank you, Deborah.
NORVILLE: Gauge for us the level of anger that you‘re hearing about in the Arab world where you report.
MELHEM: There is a massive, universal sense of outrage and anger throughout the Arab and Muslim world, and I would say also throughout Europe and other parts of the world. I think although many people were not surprised, because we have heard in the Arab world and in Europe about these reports of abuse before. And in fact, the general in charge of the prison was asked by Al Arabia a year ago about these abuses, and she categorically denied them.
I think people believe that what we see so far is the tip of the iceberg, and when the whole picture is known, there be probably be even more outrage.
People are not seeing the irony that you just heard from the satellites in the Arab world, that Abu Ghraib, which was the most notorious prison under Saddam, which was a symbol of death and repression, now is being used by the supposed liberators to incur the kind of similar abuse, not necessarily exactly abuse, but...
So there is a sense of outrage and revulsion, and I think this is going to have a lasting damage to America‘s credibility and reputation in the Arab world.
NORVILLE: Is it, is it correctable? Is it rectifiable? Are there things that, from where you sit, could be done from the American point of view that would somehow make up for this terrible outrage that‘s being experienced?
MELHEM: It may be too late to save the American project in Iraq, whatever that project is now, not only because of what happened at Abu Ghraib, but because of the way the war has been prosecuted.
I was a bit surprised and chagrined because of the American reaction. I thought the president should have been more forceful. I thought there should have been a quick apology from Bremer or from the president himself, or even today from Secretary Rumsfeld.
I would have expected someone like John Abizaid, who is of Lebanese descent, who knows Arabic, to appear on Iraqi television and to talk to the Iraqis directly in Arabic and tell him, I‘m responsible here, there will be accountability, and it will be transparent. There will be Iraqi judges and other observers watching the procedures.
You have to do something radical to allay the concerns of the people. Otherwise, you are losing hearts and minds in the Middle East. And you can spend millions of dollars to finance...
NORVILLE: Schools and dams and water projects and every other thing.
MELHEM: Or even to a public diplomacy and finance big satellite televisions that you and I as taxpayers are paying for. But only one event like this at Abu Ghraib, and everything is demolished.
NORVILLE: It would seem that the administration, by some accounts, has been a little bit slow on the uptake.
NORVILLE: Secretary of State—Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld today said he still hasn‘t had a chance to read all the supporting documentation of this report, although the report was finalized last March.
General Abizaid, it—absolutely, is an Arabic speaker. And it would seem a natural part of damage control to have him on the air if he were to go on in the next couple of days. Is it too late for even a statement in Arabic?
MELHEM: Words are not going to be enough. There has to be some action that people will see and feel on the ground, whether in Abu Ghraib, whether in other facilities. But words alone, and you‘ve seen today the attempt at damage control, Condoleezza Rice spoke with Al Arabia and Al Jazeera and LBC, and others. This is maybe a little too late to change the tide, if you will.
NORVILLE: We‘re already seeing some of the fallout. The U.S.-appointed Iraqi human rights minister today resigned his post.
MELHEM: Resigned, exactly.
NORVILLE: What other specific steps do you anticipate are going to come as a result of this?
MELHEM: I think those Iraqis who may have been willing to cooperate with the United States during the critical transition period may have second thoughts. Maybe the neighbors will also be reluctant to train the Iraqi police. Maybe even some people in the United Nations will be very reluctant to join the American efforts or to help the United States extricate itself from the Iraqi mess. I mean...
NORVILLE: Is it not possible, then, for the United Nations to come in in a more independent role rather than a supportive role to the United States? Is it maybe imperative that they do that now, with the United States has been so tarnished as a result of these stories?
MELHEM: The name of the game there in Iraq today is legitimacy. You have to give the new transitional structure, call it a temporary government or whatever, a cloak of legitimacy. And the only one that can provide that is the United Nations. And we all know that to the United Nations is imperfect, and many Iraqis still have some doubts about the ability of the United Nations because of their records in the 1990s.
But that‘s the only option. You cannot do it alone, the United States cannot act as the sole empire in Iraq today, especially after the way they prosecuted the war, and also in the context of what happened in April in terms of the unprecedented violence.
And I think really, beyond that, Deborah, I think there is maybe a philosophical approach here. A problem with the way the United States is conducting the war on terror, the absolute messianic language that the president is using, us versus them, black and white, good versus evil.
And also the attitude towards many Arabs and Muslims, that is, these people are guilty until proven innocent. And that‘s a serious approach.
NORVILLE: It‘s a serious issue. And I hope you‘ll come back on the program and talk more with us about this. Hisham Melhem, thank you so much for being with us.
MELHEM: Thank you, appreciate it.
ANNOUNCER: Up next, in defense of the accused, Staff Sergeant Ivan Frederick had a spotless military record until he was accused of mistreating Iraqi prisoners. Now he could be headed for prison. We‘ll hear from Sergeant Frederick‘s wife.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTHA FREDERICK, WIFE OF ACCUSED SOLDIER: It‘s almost like being a pawn in a chess game.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: And the attorney for another accused soldier, when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns.
NORVILLE: We‘re taking an hour-long look tonight at the alleged abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
One of the six soldiers facing court-martial is Army Reserve Staff Sergeant Ivan Chip Frederick, seen in these photos. The charges against him include maltreatment for allegedly participating in and setting up photos of detainees, assault, and cruelty toward prisoners. Another soldier who is accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib is Specialist Charles Graner (ph), shown here in this picture.
I‘m joined now by Martha Frederick, the wife of Staff Sergeant Chip Frederick and by Guy Womack, who is the attorney for Specialist Graner.
And I thank you both for being here.
Ms. Frederick, I‘ll start with you first. What has your husband been able to tell you about these photos and his participation in them?
MARTHA FREDERICK, WIFE OF ACCUSED SOLDIER: He has not told me anything as far as the photos. The first time that I saw the photos was on “60 Minutes II,” but as I heard that he wasn‘t in any of the photos, so I haven‘t seen any in which he was in any of them.
NORVILLE: But he‘s looking at seven years in Leavenworth if he‘s convicted in this court-martial proceeding against him. Clearly the Army thinks that he had a very serious role to play in all of this. It must be a very frightening time.
FREDERICK: Oh, yes, it is. I mean, just, you know, it‘s for our whole family. It‘s very frightening. This not only changes his life but changes the life of myself, my two daughters, his family, and all of our relatives.
NORVILLE: Mr. Womack, let‘s talk about your client, Specialist Granger—Graner. We‘ve seen the video, the still photos, rather, of him with the group of prisoners in front of him. How can you explain his participation in that kind of an act?
GUY WOMACK, ATTORNEY FOR ACCUSED SOLDIER: I think you can tell that the picture, all the photographs, are staged. These were created to manipulate psychologically those individuals to be interrogated by intelligence officers there at the prison. These are not pictures made by these young soldiers to send Mom and Pop back home. These were staged, they were created and designed by the intelligence community there at the prison. The soldiers were merely following orders.
NORVILLE: But clearly, taking photos of prisoners of war is a violation of the Geneva Convention.
WOMACK: No. It‘s a violation if you‘re disseminating it publicly. To my knowledge, none of these soldiers disseminated the pictures. That was done by CBS and later by other outlets of the media.
NORVILLE: And you‘re saying your man was just following orders, as we have heard earlier in the program by some other people?
WOMACK: From all I can tell, all of the soldiers that have been talked about were following orders, yes.
NORVILLE: Wasn‘t one of the outcomes of the Nuremberg trials back in the ‘40s that it was perfectly appropriate and indeed encouraged that soldiers refuse to follow orders when it was clearly in violation of the standards of war?
WOMACK: Yes. Yes, and more recent cases, like My Lai, have said the same thing. Keep in mind that the key there is whether the soldier would reasonably know that this was a clearly illegal order. Based on the climate present at Abu Ghraib, and the way the soldiers were being directed by intelligence officers, they would not have known, and could not have known, reasonably, that these were illegal orders, if they were illegal orders.
NORVILLE: In civilian life, defense is—ignorance is no defense under the law. Is that also a suitable defense in military world?
WOMACK: Not ignorance per se. And we‘re not arguing ignorance.
We‘re saying that (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
NORVILLE: But you just said they had no way of knowing that this was an inappropriate act.
WOMACK: We don‘t want soldiers in war to debate philosophical issues. We don‘t want them to pull out the laws of war and try to look at them. If they‘re in an environment where they have seen officers and superiors conducting themselves in a certain way, and that climate continues for a period of months, like it did here, and then they are ordered to do something consistent with that environment, how would they know reasonably that that was illegal?
NORVILLE: We‘re going to take a break right there. When we come back, we‘re going to talk more with Martha Frederick and Guy Womack about just how far up the chain of command all of this might lead.
NORVILLE: Continuing now with Martha Frederick, whose husband, Staff Sergeant Chip Frederick, is among those charged with abusing Iraqi prisoners. Guy Womack represents attorney—Specialist Charles Graner, another soldier who‘s been accused.
Ms. Frederick, your husband sent you an e-mail a couple of weeks ago. I‘d like to read it, and then get your comment. He said, “I‘m staying as positive as possible, but just thinking that the Army wants to take my life from me and my family really hurts me. There are so many other things that are taking place that are much worse than what I‘m accused of.” What do you think he means when he says there are worse things going on?
FREDERICK: He didn‘t elaborate on that, just as he never did elaborate on the situation that we‘re dealing with now, knowing that, I guess, the telephones and e-mails are nonsecure, and this is maybe a matter of national security. He‘s just looking in the best interest of his fellow soldiers and of his family.
NORVILLE: I can appreciate it‘s difficult to communicate very, very specifically. Do you feel like he‘s being scapegoated?
FREDERICK: Yes, it is. Yes, I do, yes, I do. I looked at the broadcast today with Mr. Rumsfeld talking, and he said that there is a lesson to be learned, and the lesson seems like it‘s fallen—you know, the outcome has fallen all on my husband.
When I look at some of the other charges and whatever, all the other things that are going on, it seems like my husband is take—being focused on. And he was only taking the orders of somebody that he looked at as having knowledge of this as what we‘re supposed to do.
NORVILLE: And Guy Womack, how far up do you think the food chain within the military should charges be brought with respect to this? You say your client was just following orders.
WOMACK: Well, certainly whoever issued the orders would be the starting point, and then you‘d go up as far as you could logically follow and find criminal responsibility, as opposed to control or administrative responsibility.
NORVILLE: All right. I know this case will continue. I hope we can invite both of you to the program to talk more about it as it does. Thank you so much.
WOMACK: Thank you.
FREDERICK: Thank you.
NORVILLE: We should know that NBC News has the full Army report of the alleged prisoner abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. If you‘d like to check it out, you can see the transcript. Just go to norville.msnbc.com.
When we come back, we‘ll share some of your thoughts on the prison abuse scandal.
NORVILLE: A lot of you have e-mailed me with comments about my interview last night with Brigadier General Janis Karpinski. She was in charge of the Abu Ghraib prison when the abuse of Iraqi prisoners took place. And though she says she was not aware of the abuse while it was happening, she says she does take some of the responsibility, because it was under her command.
Denise Sheehy writes in saying, “I‘ve heard soldiers complaining that they had orders and had not been trained on the Geneva Convention rules. Come on! It doesn‘t take a rocket scientist to know the difference between right and wrong. And if they had a problem with what they were doing, why were they smiling?”
Mark Falcone from New Jersey writes, “If only our soldiers who were captured were treated as well. Instead, we find them hanging from bridges or buried in the desert.”
Send us your ideas and comments to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can check out that Web site. Some of your e-mails are posted up there. Again the address, norville.msnbc.com.
And that‘s our program for tonight. Thanks a lot for watching. Tomorrow night, we‘re going lighten things up a lot. We‘ll take a look at the end of the road for “Friends.” After 10 years, Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Ross, Chandler, and Joey are splitting up.
And with me will be some of the friends of “Friends.” I‘ll be joined by some of the more quirky, notorious, and wacky characters that came through the show as guest stars during its successful run.
And since previous shows finales like “Cheers” and “M*A*S*H” have brought in sometimes over 100 million viewers, we‘ll find out why some programs have such staying power and what it takes for a finale to be a real success.
That‘s all coming up when you join us tomorrow night.
Coming up next, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.” Why are some veterans bringing out new attacks against (UNINTELLIGIBLE) John Kerry? Joe Scarborough is next. He‘ll tell you.
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