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'Deborah Norville Tonight' for May 11

Read the complete transcript to Tuesday's show

Guests: Torin Nelson, Tom Jarriel, Ralph Graves, William Stewart, Sydney Schanberg, Edward Wakin



DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST:  Retaliation?  An American businessman working in Iraq brutally murdered on tape, the killing said to be revenge for the prisoner abuse scandal. 

Behind the walls of Abu Ghraib.  This man was a professional interrogator for the U.S. military until he says things got out of hand.  Now he‘s in fear for his life as he prepares to testify about the shocking abuses inside Abu Ghraib prison. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It was an extremely evident sign of being overstretched to the limit. 

NORVILLE:  Tonight, in a prime-time exclusive, we‘ll reveal what he saw and heard behind these walls. 

Plus, the power of pictures.  Striking photos that captured history in the making, and changed the way a nation thought about war, from the attack on Pearl Harbor to the horror of Vietnam. 

Tonight, people who have entered behind enemy lines to bring home the images of war, with their thoughts on how one picture can change everything. 

ANNOUNCER:  From Studio 3-K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.


NORVILLE:  And good evening.  Every war has a photo, an image that many consider a defining moment.  Tonight, the images of war, past and present. 

But first, the latest disturbing images.  One that is unbelievably horrific.  It is the videotaped beheading of an American civilian. 

We are not going to show it to you.  We‘re only going to show you some of the moments leading up to this man‘s murder. 

The video comes from an Islamic militant web site.  It shows 26-year-old Nick Berg of West Chester, Pennsylvania, being beheaded. 

Five men wearing headscarves and masks stand over Berg and after reading a statement they put a knife to his head, his neck and cut off his head.  Berg‘s body was later found on a highway overpass in Baghdad on Saturday. 

The Islamic web site says the execution was carried out by an al Qaeda affiliated group as revenge of abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers.  The web site also claims that a lieutenant of Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was the one who actually killed Nick Berg. 

Mr. Berg‘s mother says that her son was in Iraq as an independent businessman, there to help build communications antennas. 

Based on this latest video, it is probably not hyperbole to say that no American on the ground in Iraq is safe. 

With us this evening on the telephone from an undisclosed location is an American contractor who says he left Iraq partly because he was afraid for his life from attacks by Iraqi guerrillas. 

Torin Nelson was a civilian interrogator at Iraq‘s Abu Ghraib prison when the prison abuses that we‘ve seen so much of lately were taking place.  He is listed as a key witness in Major General Antonio Taguba‘s report on the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib.  He is not a suspect or is he accused of any wrongdoing. 

He joins us this evening in his first prime-time exclusive interview. 

Mr. Nelson, thanks so much for being with us. 


NORVILLE:  Let me ask but this horrific videotape which surfaced on the Internet today.  I guess it underscores your belief that any American who has any presence whatsoever in Iraq is unsafe. 

NELSON:  Well, over the last few months, of course, we‘ve seen the situation deteriorating in general. 

But of course with the latest events that have developed over the last couple of weeks, I think that it‘s pretty fair to say that Americans not only in Iraq but around the Arab world, possibly even around the world are being especially targeted. 

Those that are off on their own, usually considered soft targets, should really reconsider any type of actions that they might be taking as far as their own safety is concerned. 

NORVILLE:  There was a message that that accompanied the videotape on the web site that said, quote, “You will get shroud after shroud and coffin after coffin slaughtered in this manner as retribution for some of the photos we‘ve seen from Abu Ghraib prison.”

What can you tell us about what went on at the prison when you were there?  I don‘t want to ask you about specific individuals lest there be any damage done to the investigation, but in general terms, what were you aware of that was going on along the lines of what we‘ve seen the photographs this week of?

NELSON:  Well, to go along with Major General Taguba‘s report, the specific incidents where he mentions the soldiers that are involved, this is like looking at the symptoms of a disease, in my opinion, when you‘re looking at the overall investigations that are currently going underway at the prison. 

You‘ve got to take into account the overall conditions that we were working in, that we were living in, that the detainees were housed in and that the military command that was overseeing the operations there was allowing to slip through their fingers, in my opinion. 

The situation there was, from the day that I got there in late November, abysmal in my opinion, and I tried to give it some time to—to improve, to give the command some leeway in the fact that we were building something up from basically ground zero, because it had been so overwhelmingly destroyed by the Iraqi prisoners that had left that location. 

NORVILLE:  When you say the conditions were abysmal, do you mean that the physical plant, the destruction within the prison or the number of prisoners that were in the facility, the number of individuals you had there to stand guard?  What specifically do you mean by abysmal?

NELSON:  Well, that‘s a good question.  Almost everything you said, including some other factors were abysmal.  The ratio of detainees to actual U.S. military personnel at that location was one of the weakest that I had actually seen in detention operations over the last few years. 

NORVILLE:  And we should note that you have experience because you have also done interrogation work in Kosovo.  You have also done interrogation work for the military, both as a National Guardsman and as a private contractor at the Guantanamo Bay facility as well. 

NELSON:  Well, in Bosnia instead of Kosovo.


NELSON:  But yes, also at GTMO, I was working there from the early days on. 

NORVILLE:  And when you came into the situation at Abu Ghraib in November, what did it appear to you was the situation as far as the chain of command, who was in control, because that‘s a big question, Mark (ph), right now. 

General Karpinski says that that facility by that point in time had been taken from her command.  Who was in charge there?

NELSON:  That‘s actually a really tough answer—question to answer right now.  It seems just because of the fact that it was an ad hoc facility that really wasn‘t intended to be there in the first place. 

There was a number of units from various command elements, and so there was a number of command structures there.  And no one really seemed to be aware of who actually was running the facility overall until a later time when the local site commander was appointed and things looked like they might possibly improve.

But unfortunately, in my opinion they didn‘t improve quickly enough.  I don‘t think that there was enough support from Baghdad.  But there was a great deal of confusion from the beginning of the—of my service there as to who was actually in charge of that facility. 

NORVILLE:  It‘s one of the things that, as you know, the Senate Armed Services Committee is trying to get into.  Earlier today Major General Taguba, who wrote this scathing 53-page report based on his investigation, was in front of the committee, and he was asked specifically about who was giving orders there. 

I want to play a little bit of his testimony today. 


MAJ. GEN. ANTONIO TAGUBA, U.S. ARMY:  We did not find any evidence of a policy or a direct order given to these soldiers to conduct what they did.  I believe that they did it on their own volition.  I believe that they collaborated with several M.I. interrogators at the lower level, based on the conveyance of that information from interviews and statements. 

We didn‘t find any order whatsoever, sir, written or otherwise that directed them to do what they did. 


NORVILLE:  Mr. Nelson, I‘m not surprised they didn‘t find an order.  I can‘t imagine anybody would put on paper or actually articulate go and soften them up the way that we‘ve seen in these photos. 

How is it possible, though, that a low level person would have taken it upon themselves to pull out dog leashes, to take photographs. 

These things didn‘t just happen out of thin air.  Someone must have planned it, or is that just a completely erroneous assumption on a part of a great number of people?

NELSON:  Well, there are a lot of factors that seem to be lending themselves towards the hypothesis that a lot of people have been coming up with. 

Like I said earlier, while the investigations are currently underway, I‘m not going to elaborate specifically on knowledge that I have concerning other people. 

But I can let you know that with regards to my operations, when I was working as an interrogator in that location, I was a civilian in that location.  The authority that I possessed as an interrogator was pretty great when it comes to interacting with the guards. 

Normally when I conduct operations, I like to use the guards in the sense that I like to glean information about my source, my detainees‘ activities when I‘m not specifically looking at them or interacting with them myself. 

NORVILLE:  And what kind of things will you ask them to tell you about their activities when you‘re not around?

NELSON:  Generally, I‘ll start it out with, how‘s my guy behaving?  Is he giving you any problems, are there any things specifically he‘s asking for?  These sort of things.  You know, mostly mundane, non-pertinent type of questioning, just to kind of get a general mood or assessment. 

One thing I did notice, though, was that when I would drop off a detainee back with the guards, it was up to me to kind of tell them how I wanted the fellow to be treated. 

If I had a particularly cooperative and responsive detainee with me, I had no problem in saying, “Hey, treat this guy gently” or “Treat him well.  Give him some extra consideration.” 

I was looking at it more just in case they are not—not so much that they‘re treating all the other detainees poorly, but that treat him a little bit better than the others because I want to kind of reward him for some of the cooperation that he has been giving me in the booth. 

NORVILLE:  By the same token, without naming names, did you ever hear of instances in which other interrogators, other military intelligence or even other military police said, “This guy is not cooperating.  Give him the works”?  Or something along those lines?

NELSON:  Well, I‘m not going to—again, that‘s getting a little too close to the specifics that are being investigated right now, so I really can‘t elaborate on that, although I can say that the circumstances were such that I believe if someone wanted to do something like that, I think the guards really probably would have complied. 

NORVILLE:  One question is about how someone like you, as a civilian interrogator, came to work if the Abu Ghraib prison in the first place. 

You worked for CACI, a Virginia-based firm that Central Command tells us has about 27 people in various capacities working as interrogators in Iraq.  What were your jobs and whom did you report to?

NELSON:  Well, specifically, my—my work prior to working with CACI.  And CACI is the only contracting company that I‘ve worked with as—as a private contractor in interrogation.  Prior to that, all my experience was military, working as an interrogator solely throughout my 11 years wearing a uniform. 

My—my—the way that CACI approached me, actually, my hiring process, a friend had given them information about how to contact me.  They had phoned me up, talked to me a little bit about my background for about five minutes, then had a lengthier conversation about all the benefits that I would be able to get in that actual position overseas.

And once I agreed, they e-mailed or faxed me some document.  And then after a few days, I received an e-ticket and reported down to Fort Bliss, Texas, to begin in-processing. 

NORVILLE:  And is that kind of how it works, if you basically agree to the benefits and that the salary sounds good, you can get hired on as an interrogator?

NELSON:  As long as you meet the basic minimum requirements that they state, I guess, in their—in their list of needs for hiring interrogators.  Now I know that I—I exceeded those, but I‘m not sure about anybody else that was—that was hired by the company. 

NORVILLE:  And finally before we let you go, Mr. Nelson, General Myers earlier in his testimony called this the action of a few rogue M.P.‘s and military intelligence.  Do you think it‘s isolated individuals or do you think this is something systemic that‘s been going on at the prison?

NELSON:  Well, back to what I was originally commenting on with General Taguba‘s report is that instead of looking at the actions of just a few individuals, we need to look at the overall conditions that were set to allow, even if it was just only a few individuals acting on their own or whether under orders—to allow something like that to even occur.

And I think that there is a fundamental flaw, fundamental problem that is facing military intelligence, especially with regards to human intelligence operations nowadays. 

And I believe that if the Department of Defense and Congress does not take a closer look at this, these problems could very well continue on into the future. 

NORVILLE:  And we may be seeing evidence of them tonight with this terrible Internet video. 

Torin Nelson, thank you very much for being with us tonight.  We hope you‘re safe wherever you are. 

NELSON:  Thank you, Deborah. 

ANNOUNCER:  Coming up, snap shots of history, images that defined an era and sometimes a nation, when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns. 


NORVILLE:  There are striking images from every war that help shape and sometimes alter public opinion. 

Today‘s disturbing videotape showing the beheading in Iraq of American businessman Nick Berg is already causing a huge reaction back home. 

The pictures of prisoners being abused in Iraq have dramatically changed the image of the war. 

At one time it was jubilant Iraqis pulling down the statue of Saddam Hussein, but that‘s been replaced by horrific images of abuse and degradation. 

Throughout history, moments of war have been captured that deeply affected millions of people, from the American flag being raised on Iwo Jima, to a little girl fleeing to safety in Vietnam. 

Moments in history that, because of these photos, live on for generations.  There are, of course, countless others and we‘ll be getting into those in a moment, too. 

Joining us to talk about the power of pictures and the images of war are Tom Jarriel, former correspondent for ABC News; Edward Wakin, he‘s the author of “How TV Changed America‘s Mind”; William Stewart, who was a former war correspondent for “TIME” magazine; Ralph Graves, the former managing editor for “Life” magazine; and Sydney Schanberg, a former war correspondent for “The New York Times.”  He is the author of “The Killing Fields,” now a columnist for the “Village Voice.” 

And gentlemen, I thank you all so much for being with us. 

I‘m going to throw the first question now to everybody.  This videotape that‘s come out and the connection being claimed to the pictures of Iraqi prisoners being abused, is it a legitimate connection and do you think that—that it plays?  Tom Jarriel?

TOM JARRIEL, FORMER ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Deborah, I don‘t know about the legitimacy of it.  But these acts are never taken without these people very carefully calculating the impact. 

The impact, one, they want is terror on everyone.  The impact, two, they want is to curry favor within the Islam world.  And impact three is to cause problems for the United States. 

I think they‘ve achieved the impact within the Arab world after these terrible pictures.  It shows them as being some type of leaders, taking some type of cause back to the Satan Americans. 

I think that as far as America is concerned, if we go for the bait, get excited, demand more retribution, we‘ll fall deeper into the gutter with them. 

NORVILLE:  Ralph Graves, how carefully should news editors play this story as it unfolds with this videotape and the connection to the prisoner abuse?

RALPH GRAVES, FORMER MANAGING EDITOR, “LIFE” MAGAZINE:  There are very few stories that I can remember holding back on showing pictures.  I think if you‘re telling news in pictures, you have to show the pictures.  You can‘t suppress them. 

There are few pictures we used to suppress because they were—not because they weren‘t good news, but because they were harmful to a single individual, a parent or a loved one.  But I think you have to play the pictures. 

NORVILLE:  And William Stewart, you‘ve been out there as a correspondent for “TIME” magazine.  When you‘re on the ground and something like this is going on, how much more is the concern ratcheted up because of this videotape and this connection that‘s been made?

WILLIAM STEWART, FORMER WAR CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I think it‘s ratcheted up quite a bit.  I mean, an picture carries an emotional truth to it that words alone can‘t carry, and it resonates far beyond the written article. 

NORVILLE:  And Syd Schanberg, you certainly have experience having down the killing fields story, which just grabbed the world.  Talk about how this story is impacting now. 

SYDNEY SCHANBERG, FORMER WAR CORRESPONDENT:  Well, since it‘s just happened, I don‘t think we really can tell this soon how it‘s going to impact.

But picking up on what Tom said, I think might have as well as the—a—the desired effect on the Islamic population, it might have a reverse effect in the Western world.

It might even mute Western outrage and disappointment in the pictures

·         to the pictures about Americans abusing prisoners in American military prisons, because here these people are doing something even more ghastly than those pictures.  So in the non-Islamic world, it may have, in some ways, have a different effect. 

NORVILLE:  Ed Wakin, do you buy that?

EDWARD WAKIN, AUTHOR, “HOW TV CHANGED AMERICA‘S MIND”:  I think in general he‘s on the—on target, but what this story has is legs. 

Usually with crisis communications, you say let the bad news get out and make it yesterday‘s news as soon as possible.  In this case, we‘re looking for the next chapter, which has already come on.

So the undermining of the moral high ground is continuing, and it‘s going to shock both the Americans in terms of their support, and our allies. 

NORVILLE:  You know, it‘s funny, John McCain was on this program last night, and he was saying that he believes that the Congress should just get the pictures out there, the Defense Department should release every one of these images, horrific though they may be, videotapes that apparently exist, as well, of the prison abuse and get it out there, take your lumps so that, as Mr. Wakin says, it doesn‘t continue this drip, drip, drip of water towards you. 

GRAVES:  Absolutely right.  Do it now. 

SCHANBERG:  Yes.  It‘s the best advice, in any scandal, whether it‘s a corporate one or a government one or military one, put it all out there. 

There will be pain, very severe pain caused.  You‘ll be wounded by it, because you should be wounded by it.  It‘s a bad thing that your people were doing, but it will be over more quickly if you do the damage control now. 

NORVILLE:  But what about the notion that it—it pushes the story to the next level, in this case, ratcheting up the anger at Americans because the level of abuse will be so great, there will be so many items out there that more people become at risk, Ralph?

GRAVES:  But the anger is already out there.  More pictures will not add incrementally, hugely to that anger. 

The Muslim world is really, really angry at America and many others are, too.  But the Muslim world, we‘re not going to make them any more angry with more pictures if we do it right now, if we don‘t just dribble them out one at a time. 

SCHANBERG:  And then the rest of the world, I think that—that putting all the information in front of us is going to have—going to show people that, as bad as this is, in a democracy the information isn‘t held back. 

Which is really contrary to this administration‘s attitude towards information.  It‘s been the most secretive administration in American history.

So if I were—if I were an adviser to the president or a friend to the president, I would say dump all this stuff right out in front of the public, but their instinct all along has been to not do that.  Do the opposite. 

NORVILLE:  Well, and their instinct might be borne out by the poll figures when you look at the Gallup poll that was taken on April 21, 46 percent were against its war. 

But after “60 Minutes II” aired the pictures on the 28th, a poll taken on May 11 just a couple of days ago showed that 54 percent were against the war.  So clearly...

SCHANBERG:  I resist the notion that polls bear any truth except for the second, the millisecond in which they were taken. 

NORVILLE:  Tom Jarriel?

JARRIEL:  Well, I certainly agree with Ed that this story has legs like no story I can recall in a very long time, perhaps going back to the years I spent covering Watergate. 

The legs go all the way from that remote, horrible prison up the ranks through Congress into the Pentagon and all the way to the White House. 

The problem is, we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg.  First, it‘s a couple of enlisted men doing something perhaps frivolous.  Next it moves on to a higher level.  Today the general was testifying there may be officers involved in the decision-making. 

General—Senator McCain was exactly on the money when he said that we have to find out where this goes, who authorized is and how far it went.

And it reminds me of Sam Erwin in the Watergate days of saying, “All we‘re trying to find out is what did the president know and when did he know it?”  Now that‘s a quantum leap, but believe me, those possibilities are in the cards. 

NORVILLE:  We‘re going to take a break right now.  When we come back, just how much of a defining moment will the Abu Ghraib prison incident be in the presidency of George W. Bush, and does it overshadow the acts of September 11?

We‘ll be back in a moment with our panel. 



NORVILLE:  Talking tonight about how images through history have changed public perception during wartime, iconic photos that have actually been seen as turning points in our nation‘s history. 

We turn again to Tom Jarriel, Ed Wakin, William Stewart, Ralph Graves, Syd Schanberg, who are with us for the hour. 

I just want to throw this question out.  Earlier in President Bush‘s administration, 9/11 was the defining moment, the Twin Towers coming down, the Pentagon burning, and President Bush comforting the country during this great time of tragedy.  Has the Abu Ghraib Prison supplanted that as a hallmark of the Bush presidency? 

Let me start. 

Tom, you were speaking about that, so we‘ll skip past you.

And, Ed Wakin, we‘ll go to you next. 

WAKIN:  Well, it is—it‘s an iconic photo and it will be used to characterize this event much to the disadvantage of the United States, because it‘s saying we‘re abandoning the high ground, or we have, which is not true. 

But the image plays very heavily in the Middle East, particularly the idea of a woman holding a man on a leash.  The degradation of the male is a powerful symbol.  In many ways, it reflects the way Americans and certainly foreigners will see this episode.  It went too far.  And that simple picture, that man with the woman on a leash, is a powerful image that just won‘t go away. 

NORVILLE:  Bill Stewart? 

STEWART:  We, I don‘t think it will supplant the pictures of September the 11th, no.  But I do think it will have a disastrous effect. 

I think it already has had a disastrous effect on the war effort, particularly not just the picture of the man on the leash, the man who was about to be electrocuted with a hood over his head, looking as if he were about to be crucified.  That is unforgivable, and we already are in such deep trouble in a failed policy in the Middle East that those pictures will only make it I think quite a bit worse. 

NORVILLE:  Ralph Graves? 

GRAVES:  I don‘t think the pictures of the prison itself are comparable as a defining moment at all for Bush‘s presidency.  I do think the fact that we were led into the Iraq war under false pretenses and the fact that once mission accomplished had been announced, we had trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble, and now the atrocity of the pictures.

It‘s the whole Iraq pictures that I think may turn out to be the defining moment. 

NORVILLE:  Layer on top of layer on top of layer? 

GRAVES:  Yes, not just the prison alone. 


SCHANBERG:  I think that I agree with Ralph. 

I think that when a war is built so persistently on deceptions, lies, false premises, we haven‘t found weapons of mass destruction, there was no direct link between Saddam‘s government and al Qaeda, and all these other things that have gone wrong, all those other things weren‘t visual.  And this is at the end of a long string of disclosures that the foundation for this war was false. 

NORVILLE:  So you think it just casts the spotlight on this


SCHANBERG:  I think it‘s the chickens coming home to roost.

I think suddenly the Bush administration is faced with photographs that are powerful, that, as I say are the—one of the straws, pardon the cliche, are a kind of a straw that broke the camel‘s back.  People are seeing that this is a failed policy, and our soldiers are now at much greater risk. 

NORVILLE:  If that is true, that these pictures have signalled a turning point in this particular conflict, it‘s not the first time in American history. 

I want to just go through some of the iconic images that we‘ve found frankly going through the archives today, starting with video from the Tet Offensive.  When Tet happened in 1968, it really brought home into America‘s living rooms the fact that the war was going in the direction that it was, and then this iconic picture, Eddie Adams‘ photo of the young man being assassinated.

Tom, let‘s just talk about some of the images, Tom Jarriel. 

JARRIEL:  Well, they certainly are devastating.  The images from the prison are equally so, in my opinion. 

Certainly a picture is so much stronger than the spoken word of a correspondent or the written word of a newspaper person.  Those pictures can turn public opinion and public opinion is what makes the whole show move both for and against the United States.  And certainly these pictures, there‘s no way around any political upside to them anywhere. 

NORVILLE:  Ralph Graves, you were the managing editor of “LIFE” magazine during Vietnam.  And I know you all had the difficult decisions of deciding which pictures to put in the publication. 

The picture of the little girl running nude down the lane after a napalm attack, which was at the time believed to have been an American attack—it turned out it was actually South Vietnamese.

GRAVES:  Yes. 

NORVILLE:  What was the thought process going into that? 

GRAVES:  It‘s so simple.  That is a frightening, moving picture of a poor little girl who is the victim of war.  It is the easiest picture in the world to publish. 

The same thing about the Eddie Adams shot of the man being shot in the head by the—he‘s actually a police—Vietnamese policeman.  Those pictures are easy to publish because they are so obviously truth and they are moving truth and they have an effect. 

NORVILLE:  And how did it change the war, Syd Schanberg?  How did it change opinion? 

SCHANBERG:  I just think it just speeded up the credibility gap and it speeded up the erosion of support back home. 

I would like to bring up one other thing.  And that is one of the reasons that we are so shocked as a culture by pictures like this is that we are usually anesthetized to the fact that war is bestial.  We are not shown all of the horrors.  We are—for example, there‘s been torture probably since the beginning of man.  Every war that we know, take the—there was torture in South Vietnamese prisons of Viet Cong prisoners who were overseen and trained by Americans. 

There‘s always been torture on both sides.  And yet these pictures have a much greater power because we‘ve been led to believe, in particular by this administration, who is much given to secrecy, that war is a cakewalk, that it can be sanitized, that nothing really bad—some men will die and we honor them and so forth and so on.

But there‘s nothing, nothing—war is savage, and it always has been.  And we are living in a fantasy world.  And I believe these pictures destroy that fantasy. 

GRAVES:  I would like to add one thing to Syd‘s thought.

When we don‘t show pictures of flag-draped coffins because we think it would be bad for morale and bad for the presidency, that is not honoring our soldiers. 

NORVILLE:  William Stewart, when we look at some of the other pictures

·         I want to just pick up now with My Lai, which was interesting in that My Lai was something that was reported simply because there was one soldier, Ron Ridenhour, who had heard about what happened, started writing letters to Congress and eventually dropped a dime, not unlike what‘s happened with the Abu Ghraib. 

There was one soldier who felt that this was something that shouldn‘t be going on and spilled the beans, as it were.  Is history repeating itself in certain ways? 

STEWART:  Well, I don‘t think history ever exactly repeats itself, but there are some very strong parallels. 

I was in Saigon at the time of My Lai.  And I was in the State

Department at the time.  And I was the aide to Ambassador William

Colby, who was the head of pacification.  And I remember, when My Lai happened, we were all sick, because what we thought of is, oh God, if that happened, what else has happened?

And I went across the hall to see the ambassador out in the military headquarters in Saigon and said to him, what do you think now, sir?  And he got out of his chair and said, we‘ve got to get out of this country, Bill.  This is the end of American empire, and I‘m glad to see it go.  We were never any good at it.  And, frankly, we still aren‘t. 

NORVILLE:  I‘m going to leave it at that note.  We‘ll take a break. 

More with our guests in just a moment.


NORVILLE:  Some pictures are so powerful, they‘ve changed American policy.  Up next, you‘ll see some of the pictures that changed the course of history—after this.


NORVILLE:  We‘ve been looking at images from history that truly have changed public perception. 

Once again, we‘re joined by Tom Jarriel, Ed Wakin, William Stewart, Ralph Graves, Syd Schanberg. 

Syd, this next picture goes directly to your own experience.  Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge, the killing fields, this was a horrific image of skulls that the world was confronted with many years after the killings happened, but it wasn‘t until the photographic image that it really took hold. 

SCHANBERG:  I don‘t think we understood what took place until photographic images and then a movie kind of validated the Cambodian experience. 

It just—we had no cultural connection to Cambodia.  There was no national security issue.  Literally, if you want to be frank about it, we care less about people of colored skins, and we get less excited about their suffering.  And so it took a long time for the idea to actually get around the world, using pictures like that, that there had been a holocaust in Cambodia. 

NORVILLE:  And certainly, when the images come home to roost, Tom Jarriel, we didn‘t have television back then, but we had newsreels at the movie theaters.  When World War II happened and the Japanese planes came crashing into Pearl Harbor, there was no question that this country was under attack and there was no question about how Americans felt about it either.

These pictures truly galvanized the country and in an unbendable way. 

JARRIEL:  Certainly, the ferocity of the American people when they are at war because their homeland is tested, our way of life is threatened, is unbelievable.  I mean, the things that were done in the Pacific, especially Europe, too, of course, but when you read now the book on flyboys and see the reports of General LeMay taking the bombers in and incinerating 300,000 Japanese in their homes and the American public accepting that as the price we had to pay to protect our home, you realize that the United States, when it is incensed, when it is determined to fight, is a totally different country from the country we have today.

We do not have that mood today.  The country, we get our death reports in the newspapers.  We see bodies coming in and we still are at arms length.  We are not fully committed as a nation to the belief that terrorism is a true threat to our way of life and our country.  We see it as a pick-and-choose type of thing, where someone may get killed somewhere, but it is not the same as those dreadful days of World War II. 

NORVILLE:  Ed Wakin, doesn‘t television create that distance and allow us to view the horror from arm‘s length? 

WAKIN:  It does, but you must remember that what makes the great photos are the decisive moments that are captured.  This photo of the prisoner on a leash in Iraq has a distinctive quality.  It‘s staged, which is unusual in the history of impact-making photos. 


NORVILLE:  And yet Iwo Jima was a staged photo.  The staged photo can work both ways.  When you look at the flag being raised over Iwo Jima, that one was also staged.

WAKIN:  There is an argument over that.  I don‘t know whether the case has been proved that it was staged. 

GRAVES:  It‘s the second Iwo Jima flag-raising.  There was a first flag-raising.  And when this picture came to light, the editor at that time would not run it because he thought it was staged, but it was a second flag-raising. 

WAKIN:  I think it‘s worth putting historical perspective on photos that are impact-making, that they appear as a decisive moment. 

This Iraqi prison one was a staged photo that contained so much material that it‘s iconic.  And, remember, in that context in which it appeared, controversy, concern about having the moral high ground and being undermined, all of this makes it unique.  And also technology is available to everyone now, whereas, in the past, you needed a cameraman.  Now everyone is a cameraman. 

NORVILLE:  Absolutely, as we proved in the prison. 

Bill Stewart, when you think of iconic pictures over time, which one stands out in your own mind as having been particularly long lasting? 

STEWART:  Well, I think the one, Deborah, the picture you showed earlier about the little girl running down the street naked, I think the picture of General Loan shooting the Vietnamese prisoner had a powerful effect.  I think some of the Holocaust pictures, of course, had a devastating effect.  And we are still (AUDIO GAP) with that because I think the effects of that still affect our Middle East policy. 

NORVILLE:  Indeed. 

STEWART:  And these pictures now from Abu Ghraib, whether they were staged or not, they have now taken on, I agree, an iconic status, that in fact we have lost the moral high ground in Iraq.  And probably for the rest of the world, we never had it anyway. 

NORVILLE:  When we come back, we‘re going to take a look at some more of these pictures, pictures that you weren‘t supposed to see, besides the ones from the prison. 

Back with our panel after this.


NORVILLE:  We have been looking at images from history that have changed public perception, but what about some of the pictures you weren‘t supposed to see? 

Once again, we turn to Tom Jarriel, Ed Wakin, William Stewart, Ralph Graves, and Sydney Schanberg.

And the picture, up until this last week or so that the administration didn‘t want anybody to see were those pictures of coffins coming back from Iraq of America‘s war dead, beautifully lined up, obviously carefully tended by the soldiers.

And, Tom Jarriel, the administration said this wasn‘t something Americans should see. 

JARRIEL:  I could not agree less.  This was an effort by the Pentagon to do what they have so often done, try to control the media, try to not let Americans see the toll in terms of graphic pictures that the war is taking so that they don‘t lose public support for the war.  I am totally convinced that was not for the men who have died and their families.  It was entirely to control public opinion from going against the war. 

NORVILLE:  And William Stewart, does it blow up in the administration‘s face when a picture does get released and people see what they weren‘t meant to? 

STEWART:  Well, I agree with Tom Jarriel about this.  I think this is a matter of control.  I think it‘s wrong. 

I compare this, for example, to the way the British treat their returning war dead.  They are given a ceremonial return, treated with great dignity, honor, and respect.  I would have thought this would have worked for the administration, rather than against it. 

NORVILLE:  And, Ralph Graves, you had a similar situation.  When you were with “LIFE,” magazine, you published a week‘s worth of war dead, 249? 

GRAVES:  Two hundred and forty-two, yes, we did. 

NORVILLE:  Two hundred and forty-two individuals. 

GRAVES:  We did it as—we wanted people to realize that these were not just numbers.  That‘s what the Pentagon released every week, was the number of American dead. 

We wanted people to see, these are real men and they are very young and they are dead.  And it was the most—highest impact story that we ran in Vietnam.

NORVILLE:  And the family reaction? 

GRAVES:  They loved it.  In many—we got the pictures from the families.  In many cases, it was the only picture that the family had, but they gave it to us to let us use it.  And they just said, please send it back. 

NORVILLE:  Syd Schanberg, the world is different now.  Cameras are everywhere.  They are smaller.  They‘re digital.  Pictures can be transmitted instantaneously.  What do you predict as far as the future images?  Will there be more shocking images than we could possibly have imagined five years ago? 

SCHANBERG:  I don‘t think it‘s a bad thing if there are.  I mean, I think that, yes, we are an instantaneous information culture.

But the way to deal with that is to let the stuff flow and not to react to everything, and maybe we will finally know how to sift through some of this information.  But I think we should see everything, because the problem here is, as Bill Stewart pointed out, you lose the moral high ground when you use secrecy as a primary weapon to keep information from people. 

If you sell war on false premises—and this is what this administration did.  Every time they got caught, they said, OK, we‘ll move on.  We‘ll find another rationale for the war.  Now we‘re going to say we‘re going to liberate them and save them from torture.  So each time you do that, you raise the ante, and these pictures blow that fantasy away. 

NORVILLE:  And, Ed Wakin, I‘ll let the final word be to you.  The power of the picture, we will see more of these, and what should the reaction of the viewer and the consumer be as these photos come across the transom? 

WAKIN:  We should and will see more of these.  And the lesson for everyone to learn is, there‘s no such thing as alternative to full disclosure. 

You have to show the pictures because they will come out anyhow, because, see, with technology and proliferation of the media everywhere, we are getting news as it happens.  There‘s no holding back.  There‘s no concealing.  We are in the age of full disclosure. 

NORVILLE:  Indeed, we are. 

And the great news about all of this is the viewer, the consumer can make their own judgments, because nowadays there‘s so many different places to get the information and the pictures from.

Thanks so much.  Tom Jarriel, it‘s great to see you back on TV.  We appreciate you being with us tonight.  Ed Wakin, thanks so much for insights.  William Stewart, it‘s great to have you on the program.  Ralph Graves, thanks to you.  And, Syd Schanberg, it‘s nice to have you in the studio with us as well. 

We‘ll take a break.  We‘ll be right back.


ANNOUNCER:  Are you a fan of DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT?  Then let us know.  And if you‘ll be in the Los Angeles area this Saturday and Sunday, May 15 and 16, MSNBC wants to interview you on camera about your favorite moment from the show.  Tell us your story at now.

NORVILLE:  And we are coming to your town soon. 

That‘s our program for tonight.  I‘m Deborah Norville.  Thanks so much for being with us. 

Tomorrow night, more on the abuse at Abu Ghraib Prison.  When does interrogation become torture and did the United States military cross the line? 

That‘s our program for tonight.

But coming up next, why did Rush Limbaugh compare the Iraqi prisoner abuse to fraternity hazing?  Joe Scarborough gets into that on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, coming up next. 

We will see you tomorrow. 


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