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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for May 12

Read the complete transcript to Wednesday's show

Guests: James Inhofe, Dianne Feinstein, Jim Lehrer, David Ignatius, Guy Womack

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Member of Congress get a look at explosive new photos of U.S. soldiers degrading Iraqi prisoners.  But will the administration allow the American Republican to see them?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think at this time, it would not be wise to publish. 


MATTHEWS:  We‘ll talk to Senators James Inhofe and Dianne Feinstein.

And President Bush refutes idea that terrorists beheaded American citizen Nick Berg as a grisly act of revenge for Iraqi prisoner abuse. 


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  There is no justification for the brutal execution of Nicholas Berg.  No justification whatsoever. 


MATTHEWS:  Plus, serious questions remain over the chain of command in Iraq.  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews. 

Major contradictions are emerging in the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal.  While some political figures are claiming it was a case of a few bad apples, military officials now admit that the decision to place the detainees under the influence of military intelligence was a command decision to get more information out of the prisoners. 

The face of the prisoner abuse scandal, Army Private Lynndie England, said this. 


PRIVATE LYNNDIE ENGLAND, U.S. ARMY:  I was instructed by persons in a higher rank to stand there, hold this leash, look at the camera.


MATTHEWS:  Today members of Congress viewed nearly 2,000 images of Iraqi prisoners being abused and described the photos as appalling. 

Senator Bill Nelson of Florida said, “In one particular still photo among troops that are in a hallway, where you‘ve seen the clump of people tied together on the floor, we counted seven or eight troops.  Now you can‘t tell me all of this is going on with seven or eight Army privates?  Where did that failure of the command and control occur?”

Republican Senator James Inhofe is a member of the Armed Services Committee. 

Thank you, Senator, for joining us. 

Your sense about these meetings, about these pictures, the new ones you‘ve seen today.  How would you describe them?

SEN. JAMES INHOFE ®, OKLAHOMA:  Very similar to what we‘ve already seen.  They‘re not really different. 

MATTHEWS:  Do they—Do they suggest anything more harrowing in terms of the way treatment is—prisoners are being treated?

INHOFE:  I don‘t really think so, Chris.  I mean, it‘s bad and I really believe the six or seven, actually seven or eight of the guards are really the ones that are responsible. 

In fact, I‘ve had occasion to talk to everyone involved.  Of course, we‘ve had our hearings.  And I think we got some people that have a behavioral problem.  And that‘s being taken care of. 

But I have to say this, too.  Those individuals were prosecuted long before any of these pictures showed up. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  Let me ask you about Senator Nelson‘s comment we just read to you, where he said he can‘t imagine seven or eight people making up this stuff.  That the kinds of pictures he‘s seen look like they were part of a sort of an operation that was something that was in the works officially. 

INHOFE:  It shows that two people can see the same thing and come to different conclusions.  Because I saw the same people over and over again, the same guards, same personalities, and I think it, as I say, they‘re being prosecuted. 

The main thing I want to do is make sure that people know that these seven or eight individuals are not representative at all of the 140,000 troops.  And I‘ve been over there many, many times.  And these guys are committed.  I don‘t want them to share in the blemish that comes with the guards. 

MATTHEWS:  When Geoffrey Miller, General Geoffrey Miller came over there from GTMO, from Guantanamo, with the mission of trying to get more intel out of these prisoners and basically put the M.P.‘s, many of them reservists, these people we‘re looking at in these pictures, under the influence of the military intelligence. 

The purpose then was to squeeze these prisoners harder, wasn‘t it? 

INHOFE:  Yes.  The purpose is.  Yes.  To soften them up, to get information.  Look...

MATTHEWS:  Well, what‘s in and what‘s out as far as we see in these pictures?  Is it OK to have a guy stripped naked?  Is that OK?

INHOFE:  I don‘t think there‘s a problem with that. 

MATTHEWS:  Is there a problem with letting unleashed dogs, leashed dogs...

INHOFE:  I‘m not going to get into each individual thing.  Because I think that some things were done that were not consistent with the Geneva Convention.  And I think the guards allowed that to happen, and I don‘t think that... 

MATTEHWS:  Stacking people up like firewood.  Do you believe it‘s OK to stack people up naked like firewood like they did in these pictures?

INHOFE:  I‘m not going to—I‘m not real sure.  I‘m not real sure.  I do believe they have to be softened up.  We have to get information. 

Let‘s don‘t lose sight of the fact, we have people like Zarqawi out there.   These people, the prisoners you‘re talking about, those are not the run of run-of-the-mill prisoners.  Those are prisoners that are in Cellblock 1a, 1b.  That means they‘re terrorists; they‘re murderers; they‘re insurgents.  They are people that have information.  There are people that have murdered Americans.  And I just don‘t have the sympathy for them that a lot of people do. 

MATTHEWS:  Is this just part of war?

INHOFE:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  If you go to a country and you have to occupy for a good or bad reason, you have insurgencies against you, you have to fight and how do you fight an insurgency?  You have to do this tough interrogation. 

INHOFE:  You‘ve got to do tough interrogation.  You‘ve got to get information.  And American lives are dependent upon the quality of that information. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a strong position.  Let‘s hear from Senator Dianne Feinstein.  She joins us right now. 

Senator Inhofe has been with Senator Feinstein.  He‘s made the point that as part of a war against terrorism or insurgency, if you will, in that country of Iraq, you‘ve got to get tough and get the information out of the prisoners or you‘re going to lose. 

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA:  Well, the fact of the matter is that they‘ve released about 31,000 people who were innocent.  So you have to know that you have someone that has some information. 

I don‘t think that we should depart from the Geneva Conventions.  Because I think America‘s mission in the world really is one that carries with it a moral imperative.  And if we are going to sink to the level of barbarians because they are, then how is the world better off because we enter into any of these actions?

And so I—I—you know, poor Nick Berg.  If you look at an innocent civilian, you see the barbarism that‘s part of the Iraqi fanatical movement.  And that—that‘s a huge shock to anybody‘s system in this day and age. 

But, on the other hand, we don‘t expect our intelligence people, military or CIA, or our M.P.‘s, to enter into these kind of acts with smiles on their face, to degrade, to humiliate. 

I don‘t really agree with Jim Inhofe on this at all.  And the day that the United States sinks down to be like fanatic Muslims is the day, I think, our cause is really lost. 

INHOFE:  Well, I just don‘t agree with that at all.  These people are the hardened, bad people.  And we have to get information.  Lives of Americans depend on that. 

And I‘d like to say also, because they keep saying that all these people have been turned loose.  It‘s true.  Seventy to 90 percent of the people were not guilty of anything.  They‘re turned loose immediately.  The only ones we want to keep are the ones who might have intelligence that will help us save American lives.  And I don‘t apologize for that. 

And by the way, I agree with Dianne Feinstein in terms of the Geneva Convention.  We‘re supposed to comply with that.  Those are supposed to be the rules.  And we had some guards who didn‘t. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s come back.  We‘re going to hear from Senator Feinstein about what she thought about the pictures, the new pictures that we‘ve all seen today up on Capitol Hill. 

And later, the attorney for one of the soldiers accused in the Iraqi prison abuse scandal says his client was just following orders. 

Plus, PBS host Jim Lehrer, he‘s also joining us.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, more with senators James Inhofe and Dianne Feinstein on the outrage over the Iraq prison abuse scandal.  Later, PBS host Jim Lehrer.  HARDBALL, back in a minute.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back.  We‘re back with Senator Dianne Feinstein of California and Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma. 

Senator Feinstein, I‘d like to hear your view, as best as you can describe it, your reaction to the new set of pictures you saw today from the prison over there. 

FEINSTEIN:  Well, my reaction was disgust.  There‘s no other way to put it.  I think the actions by these people, military people, really disadvantaged all the valiant military we have all over the world who are doing fine jobs.  And...

MATTHEWS:  Where do you stand?  Senator Inhofe said—I want you to respond to what Senator Inhofe said earlier.  He said he felt there‘s still a few bad apples, still the people in the picture.  The same people he said showed up in all the new pictures today that were in the pictures before. 

He says it‘s just a problem with a few people that has to be dealt with at that problem.  Is that—And then Senator Nelson came out and said today that there‘s no way to read these pictures without seeing people basically carrying out operations they‘ve been instructed to. 

FEINSTEIN:  Well, I think this:  this apparently, this degrading terrible humiliating treatment went on in more than one place. 

And I think that what‘s clear to me is that there was not a strong chain of command.  And the Geneva Convention was winked at.  And that somebody gave the order that prisoners had to be softened up and someone came one this idea of doing it this way.  Now, who that was, I have no way of knowing.  But, you know, we have some problems in other places, as well. 

The important thing, and I think something we should know, we were just able to obtain the ICRC, the International Red Cross report, which I believe was finished in February and sent in to the military. 

And it would seem to me that very strong action should have been taken at that time based on that report.  And that‘s something that we have to look into, because the report documents some of the behavior. 

I spent the afternoon reading General Taguba‘s full report, plus what are called the annexes of that report.  And I think he‘s really to be commended.  He did a tremendous job of investigation. 

So all the dots are there.  He connected them.  And I think the next thing is for the powers that be, in the military, in the CIA, to take a good look at this and take the necessary action, clean it up, prevent it from ever happening again, provide the supervision, the command structure, that‘s necessary to do that. 

MATTHEWS:  Senator—Senator Inhofe, should the public see what you saw today?  These new pictures?

INHOFE:  No.  I don‘t think so.  In fact, let‘s keep in mind the pictures should not have been taken.  That is contrary to the Geneva Convention.  I do agree with Dianne in that—in that respect.  And I also agree...

MATTHEWS:  But you believe those pictures were taken as mainly souvenirs.  They weren‘t part of a mission to blackmail the prisoners with embarrassing pictures? 

INHOFE:  I don‘t think they were, but they shouldn‘t have been done. 

And I think those—The guards knew that they shouldn‘t have...

MATTHEWS:  So you don‘t believe this was part of a strategy?

INHOFE:  That‘s contrary to our code, and it‘s contrary to the Geneva Convention. 

MATTHEWS:  To take pictures of people and embarrass them? 

INHOFE:  Of prisoners, period.  The only pictures you can take is for administration purposes so you can identify them once they‘re there in custody. 

MATTHEWS:  Senator Feinstein, did you find the pictures were any difference in the graphic or horror or whatever to what you saw before?

FEINSTEIN:  Well, there were some that were, yes.  But it‘s all disgusting.  And it‘s demeaning.  It‘s demeaning not only to the individuals these acts are practiced upon but to the military who practiced them.  And I think everybody is thoroughly...

MATTHEWS:  Would you like to see them distributed?

FEINSTEIN:  No.  I agree with Senator Inhofe.  I don‘t see any constructive purpose. 

I think it was important that the Senate and the House members see them.  We represent the people.  We‘ve got a pretty good idea of what people accept and don‘t accept.  These are not acceptable practices.  I think that‘s pretty clear.  And everybody knows it. 

Now the question is, how soon is it going to be rectified and prevented from ever happening again?

MATTHEWS:  Senator, do you think the military intelligence should have had such a strong influence over the M.P.‘s, the reservists who were taking care of these prisoners with the idea, a pretty clear idea of squeezing these prisoners harder for intel?  Do you think that was a good thing to do?

FEINSTEIN:  Do I think that?  No.  I do not think that.  I think that you had kind of a divided system and, in my—my own personal analysis, and review of this, I don‘t quite know after reading interrogatories and annexes and all of the paper exactly who was in charge of these critical units.  The 50 to 70-man personal cellblock, 1a, 1b where much of this interrogation, so called went on. 

And I think we‘ve got—there were some names there.  There were some change made.  We‘ll have to let that shake out and see. 

MATTHEWS:  Senator Inhofe, the president said today there‘s no connection between the decapitation of Nicholas Berg, the American civilian over there, and what happened in all those pictures. 

INHOFE:  Well, I agree with that.  Let‘s remember, Dan Pearl was decapitated in the same manner and was traced back to Zarqawi.  And I believe that‘s the case. 

MATTHEWS:  What about them claiming that this was in retaliation for the pictures?

INHOFE:  Well, they can claim that. 

MATTHEWS:  What other motive would they have?  Just general mayhem? 

Or just...

INHOFE:  Well, they‘ve been doing this all along.  These horrific acts of violence, they‘ve been—and that‘s the whole point that I‘m trying to get across. 

Is we‘re dealing with people in these—in this particular cellblock that are like that.  We don‘t know until we get the successful interrogation, what they have done is similar to this.  But I agree with the president on that. 

MATTHEWS:  Senator Feinstein, do you think this may have started one of those terrible cycles where it gets out of hand and they‘re going to keep doing this kind of thing because of those pictures, the ones already release?

FEINSTEIN:  Well, I certainly hope not.  But you know, that‘s what these fanatics do.  And they kill innocent people any way they can.  They‘re brutal.  They practice mayhem. 

I mean, just think.  Both with Dan Pearl and with Nick Berg, the way that was set up was for propaganda value, to show what they can do in a way that is perhaps the most debased of all ways. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the true terror.  Thank you very much, senators James Inhofe and Dianne Feinstein. 

Up next, Jim Lehrer on the coverage of the prison abuse scandal. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Jim Lehrer is the executive editor and the anchor of the “News Hour with Jim Lehrer” on PBS.  He‘s the author of three plays and 14 novels.  His latest novel is titled “Flying Crows.” 

Before I begin to talk about your novel, which is fabulous, let me talk to you about—I‘m going to ask you some questions about this situation.  You were a Marine. 


MATTHEWS:  Talk about your sense of esprit de corps, your sense of honor, and what we did with these captives. 

LEHRER:  Well, I‘ll tell you, based on my Marine experience, it is hard for me to fathom young enlisted folks doing something like this on their own as a lark or even conceiving doing something like this. 

I don‘t know how far up it goes.  But my suspicion is, based on my experience, and based on no knowledge other than what everybody else knows, is that somebody upstairs—I don‘t how many floors upstairs—suggested that they do this. 

I can‘t conceive of a young Marine, a private, a corporal, even a buck sergeant, doing something like this with photographs being taken?


LEHRER:  I mean, it just doesn‘t add up. 

MATTHEWS:  So the fear factor would enter in. 

LEHRER:  Fear factor, well...

MATTHEWS:  Just getting caught. 

LEHRER:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  Why would you want to create evidence?

LEHRER:  Absolutely.  So the assumption would be that if they saw the pictures, nobody would mind because that‘s what we were supposed to do. 

Now that is supposition on my part, but it really sticks with me.  Every time I see these pictures and I‘m reading all these stories like everybody else. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you sense from watching them, that it looks more like they were on an operation rather than a high jinx?

LEHRER:  That‘s what—that‘s what I think.  Based on just having looked at the pictures.  And having read—and that‘s essentially what the official line is.  Only they just stop it further up.  And I don‘t know about that, how far up it got. 

MATTHEWS:  This strikes me, there was a great movie about the world war, the “‘Breaker‘ Morant.”  Remember that? 

LEHRER:  Yes.  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  The low level guy, this Edward Woodward, this wonderful character...

LEHRER:  Great movie.

MATTHEWS:  ... gets blamed for killing prisoners when in fact it was the order of the day, and he couldn‘t prove it because the higher officers wouldn‘t back him up.

LEHRER:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  So he gets executed.  He and Bryan Brown get executed. 

Shot by a firing squad. 

Does it strike you this might be what‘s going on here?

LEHRER:  It‘s possible, Chris.  I have no idea.  What I‘m giving you is just a personal impression based on no evidence.  And we‘ll find—all find out probably together. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the—about the nature of the war.  And I was talking before with you on air, because you‘re such a great journalist.  I wanted an ethical judgment here, one of those Columbia J.  School answers. 

Here it comes. 

During course of the war, there was a lot of snap-to coverage.  We‘re at war.  We have to root to the country to some extent.  You‘re not supposed to be too aggressively critical of a country at combat, especially when it‘s your own. 

And yet it seems something missing from this debate was a  critical analysis of where it was taking us.  That if you occupy a country for good or bad reason, you face resistance because of nationalism.  It‘s always out there in every country, especially ours. 

You then face an underground.  Then you have to fight an underground with the tactics that sometimes get ugly.  You‘ve got to interrogate, for instance.  You‘ve got to crack the underground. 

Do you think journalism, by the objective standards we have in this country, in the early part of the 21st Century, should have included that kind of analysis?

LEHRER:  I do.  The word occupation, keep in mind, Chris, was never mentioned in the run-up to the war.  It was liberation.  This was a war of liberation, not a war of occupation. 

So as a consequence, those of us in journalism never even looked at the issue of occupation. 

MATTHEWS:  Because?

LEHRER:  Because it just didn‘t occur to us.  We weren‘t smart enough to do it.  I agree.  I think it was a dereliction of our—in retrospective. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the press bought the cakewalk?

LEHRER:  Well, I think everybody bought the cakewalk.  We were—we were all there together. 

And there was tremendous questions asked about weapons of mass destruction.  I know we did on our program all kinds of “Hey, wait a minute.  Are we sure they‘re really there?” 

We questioned all the premises for going in, I think, in a very responsible way.  Now there‘s some people even disagreed with that.  But I think the journalism going in on that part of it and whether or not the world is with us, all those big questions were asked. 

But I agree.  I hadn‘t thought of it until you asked it, that... 

MATTHEWS:  Do you know who else hadn‘t think of it?  Secretary Rumsfeld.   Because we asked them the other week.  He interviewed him over there.  And he was very kind to give us a half-hour over there at the Pentagon. 

And he said did you get it right?  Well, I never thought there‘d be an occupation with all these negative aspects.  Even the word occupation surprised him.  So he bought the ideological conception it was simply a question of getting rid of Saddam and we‘d have a country happy to see us. 

LEHRER:  The—But you touched on something else when you asked the question. 

Let‘s say a group of journalists had gotten onto that.  It would have been difficult to have had debates about that going in, when the president and the government of the—it‘s not talking about occupation.  They‘re talking about—It would have been—It would have taken some—you‘d have had to have gone against the grain. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  You‘d also have come off as kind of a pointy-head trying to figure out some obscure issue here.

LEHRER:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  Not good guys and bad guys.

LEHRER:  Negative.  Negativism. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about your brilliant lifestyle.  I don‘t know how you do it, Jim, because you are very active socially. 

We bump into each other, my wife and you, you guys, and I just have to say, you write like a full time novelist.  And you‘ve done it again.  How do you get up at 4 in the morning and deny yourself a cup of coffee for three hours until you‘ve written 500 words or what?  How do you do this?  You‘ve done another great novel.

LEHRER:  Chris, I am—I am blessed by having been in daily journalism for 40 years.  This means writing is a natural act to me.  I think with my fingers. 

And I get up very—I do get up—not quite at 4, but I do get up early.  And I go to my office a couple of hours before anybody else did.  And I work every day.  The only way I can write these books...

MATTHEWS:  You‘re over there in Shillington (ph), Virginia.

LEHRER:  That‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  With all your collection.  What are they, trains and everything?

LEHRER:  Buses.  Buses. 


LEHRER:  and stuff like that. 

MATTHEWS:  What a peculiar preoccupation.  Anyway...

LEHRER:  Peculiar?  What do you mean peculiar?

MATTHEWS:  It‘s different.

LEHRER:  You don‘t know anybody else who collects them?

MATTHEWS:  No.  Seems you‘ve got the corner on that market.  Let me ask you about the plot. 


MATTHEWS:  Now this, it‘s a multi-grade plot, multigenerational plot. 

What‘s the heart?  What‘s the heart of this thing?

LEHRER:  The heart of it is this: Union Station, a great building in Kansas City, Missouri.  They‘re about to restore it.  It‘s been allowed to deteriorate.  And they send the Kansas City cops in there before they start the work to see if there are any dead bodies, any live animals, and all of that.

And they come across a little old man, all feeble, long white hair in a storeroom.  And they say, “What are you doing in here?”

He said, “Well, I live here.” 

“You live here?”


“How long have you lived here?”

“Sixty-three years.” 

The novel is about this man.  It turns out he is an escapee, more or less, from a mental institution.  He had a very good friend, both of whom had witnessed different massacres.  One there at the Union Station.  Another during the end, at the end of the Civil War.  At least they claimed they did. 

And it‘s all about friendship and relationships and stuff like that. 

MATTHEWS:  And your love of transportation systems. 

LEHRER:  Somebody asked me other day.  I said I don‘t know what it is, this bus thing.  Because I grew up in the bus...

MATTHEWS:  An escape. 

LEHRER:  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  Deliverance.  Literal deliverance. 

LEHRER:  That bus, that train...

MATTHEWS:  Who doesn‘t like getting on that train, knowing it‘s going to be a long ride?

LEHRER:  And also, if you grew up on a small town and you saw those trains come through, going to Chicago, going to Los Angeles, you wanted to get on them.  Same thing with a bus. 

MATTHEWS:  A book about—A book about the American heartland throughout the 20th Century, the whole story.  Another great turnout by Jim Lehrer, “Flying Crows.”  There it is.  That‘s the picture.  At your bookstore.

Up next, accused soldier Charles Graner‘s attorney will be here with his side of the story in the prison abuse scandal.  And he‘s got a hot one.  He‘s blaming the higher-ups.  That‘s the story from their end.

Anyway, later the “Washington Post‘s” David Ignatius and the world‘s reaction—the world‘s reaction to the war in Iraq.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  This half-hour on HARDBALL, the attorney for one of the soldiers at the center of the prison abuse scandal says his client was just following orders.  We‘ll get his story.  Plus, “Washington Post” columnist David Ignatius.

But, first, the latest headline right now. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL, as we try to figure this thing out.

Specialist Charles Graner is one of the soldiers accused in the prison abuse scandal in Baghdad. 

We‘re joined right now by Guy Womack, who is his lawyer.

Mr. Womack, thanks for joining us. 

We just had a guest on the program, Jim Lehrer of PBS, who said, as a former Marine, he found it odd that anyone would think that these privates or lower ranking officials, officers over there, enlisted people over there in Baghdad would have thought of something like this on their own.  What is your client‘s position?  What is your position in terms of who gave the orders and where did this come from? 

GUY WOMACK, ATTORNEY FOR SPECIALIST CHARLES GRANER:  Well, as a retired Marine, I agree with Jim Lehrer. 

I have talked with Specialist Graner many times, actually by e-mail.  He feels they‘re being made into scapegoats.  He the other M.P.s were following orders. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, scapegoats are people who don‘t do it.  Are you saying that your client didn‘t do what he is pictured doing? 

WOMACK:  He did what he is pictured doing at orders that he believed to be lawful.  They were given to him by members of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade who effectively were running Abu Ghraib prison. 

And these orders were given with the full knowledge or the agreement and the acquiescence of the military police command that was supposed to be in command of Abu Ghraib. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of General Karpinski‘s, Janis Karpinski‘s, argument or statement today, as of today, that there were no direct orders to do what these—is this what we call spinning in Washington, where nobody said on this date at this time to do this particular thing?  They were in fact following the kind of operation that they had been instructed to follow? 

WOMACK:  That‘s correct.  And put it in context.  Between 31 August and 9 September of 2003, during that 10-day period, Major General Geoffrey Miller, U.S. Army, the commander of the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, was in Iraq at Abu Ghraib.  And he was instructing the military intelligence command and M.P. officers on the techniques that he used, very aggressive techniques, that he authorized to be used in Guantanamo Bay.


MATTHEWS:  Why were we squeezing the detainees so hard at that particular time?  Why did Geoffrey Miller come over, take over the command over the operation, get the M.I.s working hard on the M.P.s to try to get this out of the prisoners?  What were they after?   

WOMACK:  I think the information they were trying to get was absolutely critical to the war on terrorism.  And it was mission essential.  And they were trying to get results.

And apparently, General Miller had had success. 

MATTHEWS:  Was it the time IEDs, the improvised explosive devices, that were killing our troops along roadways or was it the grander policy motive of trying to find the WMDs? 

WOMACK:  I think it is both. 

MATTHEWS:  And you know this for a fact based upon conversations with your client?  Or how else do you know this? 

WOMACK:  My client was not present when General Miller was talking. 

He knows it by the implementation...


MATTHEWS:  How do you know the whole motive behind the getting tough with the prisoners, putting the M.I.s in charge of the M.P.s? 

WOMACK:  Well, from the statements made by Karpinski and also by General Miller, and as the report reflects from General Taguba, that is what happened. 

Abu Ghraib ceased to be a detention center and became a point of interrogations in the fall of 2003, right after General Miller left. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you know if our troops over there, the people who are the M.P.s, the reservists, like Mr. Graner, do you think—Specialist Graner—do you think, or do you know—that‘s a better question for a lawyer—do you know if they were ever given the Geneva Convention rules? 

WOMACK:  They would have been given some classes on it in boot camp, I think.  But they weren‘t given any training in handling foreign prisoners or laws of war once they got to Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  But they were instructed in how to interrogate, right, or how to prepare prisoners for interrogation? 

WOMACK:  Well, they were not instructed on interrogation.  M.P.s don‘t do that.  Intelligence officers do that. 

MATTHEWS:  No, no, instruct them on how to—quote—“condition”—unquote.  What‘s that about?

WOMACK:  Yes.  Absolutely. 

In fact, if you look at the photograph that was in “The Washington Post” last Friday, there‘s a civilian contract intelligence type physically manhandling a pile of three Iraqi males who are nude.  And in the background of the picture are two military intelligence officers directing it.  And in the far background, you can see the legs of two very senior military intelligence staff NCOs, who are directing the entire setup. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me talk about this thing may have gone over the top?  Did your client ever have sexual relations in the presence any of these prisoners? 

WOMACK:  I don‘t know about that. 

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t?

WOMACK:  I wouldn‘t think so.  I‘ve never heard that. 

MATTHEWS:  There‘s no—there‘s no—his relationship with Lynndie England was never exposed in any kind of visual way, that relationship, to the other—to the detainees? 

WOMACK:  I don‘t know that he has a relationship with her.  I certainly don‘t know if it was public. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, didn‘t he impregnate her? 

WOMACK:  I don‘t know that.  I‘ve not asked him about his personal love life. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, no, it wasn‘t personal.  It was involved with a superior officer, official, in that prison.  And the question is, did it have anything to do with intimidating these prisoners?  Because there‘s talk all over about these further pictures we‘re going to see having sexual relations and involved and things like that.  I just want to know for sure from you that your client was not involved in those scenes. 

WOMACK:  I haven‘t seen the pictures.  I‘ve not discussed them.  I‘ve not seen such pictures.  I don‘t even know of them. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that would be a violation of their responsibilities if they were to do something like that? 

WOMACK:  If they were making pictures...

MATTHEWS:  Making love in front of the prisoners, would that a violation of their responsibilities as enlisted people in the United States military? 

WOMACK:  It would certainly be bizarre. 

MATTHEWS:  Would it be illegal? 

WOMACK:  I don‘t know. 

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t know? 

WOMACK:  I don‘t think it would necessarily be illegal to do that, but, certainly, it might be considered an indecent act. 


MATTHEWS:  Would it be an abuse of their authority over the prisoners? 

WOMACK:  That‘s a funny question.  I...


MATTHEWS:  Well, help me out.  Just imagine it with somebody else besides your client and some other person, and they were having sexual relations in front of the prisoners, the detainees.  Would you think that a violation of their responsibilities? 

WOMACK:  I think displaying that publicly would be a violation of your responsibilities in front of anyone, not just a prisoner. 

MATTHEWS:  No, no, I‘m not talking about indecency.  I‘m talking a the violation of their responsibility as military and therefore subject to military justice, that kind of conduct. 

WOMACK:  Yes, I think that could be a problem unless they were ordered to do it.  And I can‘t imagine such an order being given. 

MATTHEWS:  No, I can‘t either.

We‘ll come back.  More with Guy Womack when we come back.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, is the abuse of Iraqi prisoners a systemic problem?  More with the attorney for one of the soldiers accused when HARDBALL returns.


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Guy Womack, who is attorney for Specialist Charles Graner. 

Is your client, Specialist Graner, worried about this horror yesterday in Iraq, this person, Nicholas Berg being beheaded as part of apparently a claim to retaliation for these pictures we‘ve seen from prison? 

WOMACK:  Yes, he is. 

This morning, he e-mailed me and told me that his 1st sergeant had come in, had called together all of the soldiers from the M.P. unit that are under suspicion. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

WOMACK:  And they were informed that the unit is not sure they can safeguard them right now.  And they‘re trying to get permission...

MATTHEWS:  Well, what is the situation?  Are they within—are they in the Green Zone? 

WOMACK:  I‘m not sure what zone they‘re in and I wouldn‘t want to say. 

But I know that they were with their unit in a particular area.  They‘re not armed.  And so I‘ve asked that the command authorize them to carry weapons where they can defend themselves mutually and as part of their unit.  But right now, they‘re unarmed.

MATTHEWS:  And have you gotten a yes or no on that yet? 

WOMACK:  We don‘t have an answer yet.


MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about order and your view. 

I mean, you are a young guy, but do you remember whole thing about Nuremberg and World War II and I was only obeying orders?  And where do you stand on that?  If your clients says, I was only obeying orders, how does that free him from legal responsibility? 

WOMACK:  Obedience to orders is only a defense if you thought it was a lawful—and if you reasonably thought it was a lawful order. 


WOMACK:  Here, based on the environment as it was being done and the fact that these soldiers had asked for clarification of the orders, had complained about the orders, and were told by the M.P. and intelligence community that they were to follow those orders, they reasonably thought these were lawful orders. 

MATTHEWS:  Has he said that to you? 

WOMACK:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Specialist Graner.  He thought he was obeying orders.  He thought that was the mission. 

WOMACK:  Yes, it was mission of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade.  And he was under them.


MATTHEWS:  How did he describe that mission to you, if you could tell me?  Did he say it was to condition the prisoners, get them sort of broken, as we would say in a movie? 

WOMACK:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  We broke that prisoner.  We got him to talk. 

WOMACK:  Yes.  Yes. 

Secretary Rumsfeld said this morning in “The Houston Chronicle,” he was quoted as saying that stripping prisoners, depriving them of sleep, changing their diet, all of these are accepted practices within interrogations. 


MATTHEWS:  But not having dogs—not having dangerous looking dogs snarling at you.  He said they had to be muzzled dogs.  That‘s a nuanced, I know.  But they‘re not admitting having dogs, naked guys with dogs coming up at them, looked like killer dogs, probably saying sick him the whole time, that‘s never been described as part of the operation, has it? 

WOMACK:  I‘ve seen that in my own experience in American prisons as a federal prosecutor, that is a standard practice. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask but this guy Sivits?  Is he turning? 

WOMACK:  I think he probably is.

MATTHEWS:  Are they going to give him a plea?  He‘s going to turn and bring state‘s evidence or military evidence against the other accused? 

WOMACK:  Well, he might be a witness against the higher-ups in the chain of command.  I don‘t think there‘s anything he can say against my client.  I think he can say things about the military intelligence command and the M.P. chain of command that was letting this go on and ordering it to go on. 

MATTHEWS:  But you don‘t think he is being used as part of a cover-up or anything like that?


MATTHEWS:  You don‘t think Sivits is being told to blame the other guys, say bad apples, so the top guys get off?  He is not going to be used that way?

WOMACK:  If he‘s going to try that, he‘s going to have to face us in court under oath and I‘ll test him on that. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Great.

Let me ask but your client.  Has he got a kind of clean record you‘d like to see in a client?  I understand he‘s been accused of abuse by his former wife and by inmates of the prison he used to be a guard at back in Pennsylvania.

WOMACK:  Yes. 

To my knowledge, he does have—he does have a clean record.  It is nothing unusual for prisoners to complain.  I don‘t know of any substantiation of that.  As far as his wife saying he abused her in some way, as you know, Chris, the Brady Act, a federal anti-gun law, gun control law, would prohibit him from being in the Army or a prison guard if he had ever been convicted of a felony assault or even a misdemeanor assault involving domestic violence.  If he had slapped his wife...


MATTHEWS:  When you said as you know, you know I wouldn‘t know something like that, but now I do.  But thank you for that.

Let me ask but this whole question.  When you talk to your client, is he surprised he is being charged or made a suspect here? 

WOMACK:  Yes, he is. 


MATTHEWS:  Tell me how he words it, that the whole world has turned upside down or the military has let him down?  Or what is his way of phrasing the condition he is now legally? 

WOMACK:  He loves the U.S. Army as an institution.  And he is proud to be in it. 

But he really felt that, in his Article 32 investigation, a number of witnesses that the defense had requested would come in and testify.  They would clear him.  Instead, the command ruled that those persons were unavailable because of their military duties.  None of them were produced at his Article 32.  And, ultimately, he realized that he may be charged with a crime.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

WOMACK:  And the following weekend, he hired me. 

MATTHEWS:  Can he bring in those people?  He couldn‘t bring them in for the preliminary hearing.  Can he bring them in for the court-martial? 

WOMACK:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  Can he demand that his higher-ups come in and say—and he says, on this Tuesday, you told us—you explained to us how we had to do this to condition the prisoners?  He‘s going to be able to do that in court? 

WOMACK:  Absolutely.  Yes.  We‘ll compel—right now, we know the witness list.  We‘ll probably include Lieutenant General Sanchez, Major General Miller.

MATTHEWS:  He‘s the top man in Iraq. 

WOMACK:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe that they‘re going to try to—the Army is going to try to withhold those people, so that you can‘t win their case? 

WOMACK:  They‘ll have to dismiss the charges to do that. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about press coverage of that trial.  As a defense attorney, would you like to see this televised for the world, these trials or not? 

WOMACK:  If the investigation is being televised to the world, which I don‘t like, certainly, the trial should be.  The trial should be open to everyone.  There is no reason to close that trial to the press. 

MATTHEWS:  Can you petition that as a defense attorney, a civilian defense attorney? 

WOMACK:  I will.  I will. 

The only reason it would be closed correctly would be if we were dealing with classified information.  Right now, I don‘t think we‘ll be dealing with anything that‘s classified. 

MATTHEWS:  The arraignment is, what, next week? 

WOMACK:  Yes, Thursday of next week. 

MATTHEWS:  And when do you expect trial? 

WOMACK:  I think probably in July.  There‘s a lot of discovery that has not been done yet.  And we have to have quite a bit of that before we can go to trial. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this.  Are you confident you‘ll get a fair trial for your client? 

WOMACK:  I am.  I am confident. 

MATTHEWS:  Very upbeat.  Thank you.  That was good news for everybody. 

Thank you very much, Guy Womack, attorney for Specialist Graner. 

WOMACK:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Up next, “Washington Post” columnist David Ignatius—and he‘s a smart one—joins us from London. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Joining us with his firsthand accounts of the war in Iraq is David Ignatius, an associate editor and a syndicated columnist with “The Washington Post.” His column appears in more than 50 papers around the world.

David, thanks for joining us.

What has been the reaction over in Iraq—you were just there—on the street to these pictures? 

DAVID IGNATIUS, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Chris, I got back Thursday.  I think the pictures were really just beginning to hit.

So the reaction I got was incomplete.  The funny thing was, not a single Iraqi mentioned these pictures to me.  I can only assume that they were embarrassed, ashamed.  In a funny way, the result that the people who humiliated these prisoners wanted was felt by the whole country.  They felt humiliated.  When the subject came up, people got angry.  Some people denied.  They thought that the pictures might not be true. 

But I think, as this spreads in the Arab world, the anger is growing.  I had lunch today here in London with a prominent Arab who was just furious.  And he said he was receiving on his computer e-mail photographs that were depicting new horrors.  And I have no idea whether these are false pictures, true pictures, but I think at this point people in the Arab world will believe almost anything you say about what the United States was doing in these prisons. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you a journalist question.  It seems to me anybody who has studied European colonization of that part of the world, the Mideast, would recognize that, once you occupy, you have to put up with a nationalistic resistance, whether its Algiers or anywhere.  And in putting up with those resistances, you‘ve got to crack them.

That means you‘ve got to get people, detain them, interrogate them, break them.  Did anybody who put this war together think about that being a natural course we would have to follow, right where we got to right now? 


IGNATIUS:  I think that the people knew that there would be, you know, some die-hard resistance, but I don‘t think they imagined that it would be anything like the opposition to U.S. occupation that we are, in fact, seeing. 


MATTHEWS:  Didn‘t you see it?  Didn‘t you see it?  Didn‘t you see it coming? 

IGNATIUS:  Chris, I have to—well, I did write that no one should go into Iraq thinking that Iraqis would be delighted to be occupied.  They are a very proud people.  I‘ve been going there since 1980. 

And these are people who hated Saddam Hussein.  They were happy to see us come and knock him off as a leader, but they love their country.  They don‘t want to be occupied.  So nobody should have been surprised by that.  When the war started, what I saw with my own eyes were people who were just so happy that this nightmare was ending. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

IGNATIUS:  The Americans, British and other coalition forces were coming to save them.  And those people are really angry now. 

And I don‘t think it had to be that way.  I think it‘s really important to understand that, if we had done some things better, the story might have turned out differently. 

MATTHEWS:  You said in your article, a recent column, “For Iraqis and most Arabs, the United States has truly passed into the camp of the enemy.”  When did that happen?  Did it happen 20 years ago, 30 years ago, three weeks ago? 


I think it happened some time during this occupation.  It happened in particular after the release of these photographs.  Iraqis really did welcome their liberation from Saddam.  And I think they were grateful to the United States for doing this.  I think most Arabs wanted Saddam gone.  And they were, again, happy that the United States took this on. 

Iraqis believe two things fervently at the same time.  One is, they hate the occupation.  The other is, they are really afraid of what will happen when the U.S. leaves.  They don‘t want to go back to chaos.  They don‘t want to go back to torture chambers.  You can talk all you want about Abu Ghraib, but Saddam‘s regime used to drop children out of helicopters to make their parents talk, drop them from thousands of feet in the air.  It‘s just a different category of stuff.  And every Iraqi knows that. 


MATTHEWS:  They do know the difference? 

IGNATIUS:  I think that they‘re appalled.

I think that—we would have to psychoanalyze the whole country.  I don‘t know.  I think that they are appalled, as they should be, by the kind of humiliation that they see in these pictures.  It really makes them angry.  But they know that they lived under a regime that literally governed the country by torture.  That‘s how Saddam ruled.  They know what it was.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the confluence now of the Iraqis, the Baathists, the remnants, the resistance, the former Saddam Hussein crowd, and Zarqawi representing the al Qaeda there.  Is that something new or is that something old, that alliance?

IGNATIUS:  I think that the anti-U.S. elements have come together.  We have succeeded in the impossible.  We have brought Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites who often hate each other into alliance against the U.S. occupation.  Maybe we should pat ourselves on the back for that. 

The thing that I saw in this last trip that I really have to underline, because I have seen this with my own eyes is that, as you drive through southern Iraq, which is supposedly a hotbed of anger and revolt, in every village, little kids are still running out and waving. 


IGNATIUS:  They are waving and saying, thank you, and holding up their hands in a V sign. 

I was with the British army, which has done, I have to say, a better job of working with the civilian occupation in Iraq than the U.S. armies.  They are just better at it.  But even in I suspect in parts the U.S. is occupying, you still have people who are glad that we are there to protect them.  They are angry that we humiliated their men in prison, but they want to be protected.  They are afraid of what will happen when we go. 

MATTHEWS:  Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan in their magazine, “The Weekly Standard,” came out this week with kind of—I think a pretty interesting proposal.  They said, why don‘t we speed up the elections over there?  Instead of waiting until January of next year, why don‘t we have the elections in September?  That way—I am sure this would help the president politically, but it would also make the case, we are there to liberate, not to hold. 

IGNATIUS:  I think that may be a good idea.  There are all kinds of arguments that is technically it‘s very difficult to do that in a way that it would be deserved to be called elections. 

I think the important thing is as much the rule of law and, you know, the reliability of law and justice in Iraq, as elections.  Elections are really a bankrupt currency in the Arab world.  Every Arab country has what it calls election.  And they‘re baloney.  Arabs are very cynical about elections.  What is beginning to happen in Iraq is that people, as one person said to me, a British senior officer of the coalition said, Iraqis are looking into the abyss that will exist post June 30 and they are frightened. 

And they are trying to do something to avoid the disaster that they fear is ahead.  And that is a good opportunity for us to begin to work with them. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think we are going to see more beheadings? 

IGNATIUS:  I think we‘re going to see more retaliation.  Whether there are more beheadings, I don‘t know. 

The problem is that these photographs give credence to every Arab‘s worst nightmare about the United States, that we fundamentally seek to humiliate them, shame them, that we treat them with contempt that, that we score their manhood.  This is a very proud culture.  And these photographs, you couldn‘t invent a more inflammatory set of images than these.  And I think these are going to last. 

I think Arabs will feel that same anger for a long time.  This isn‘t going to go away quickly, whether the Congress, whether Senator Inhofe and Feinstein decide to let these new photographs out or not, it‘s not going to go away. 

MATTHEWS:  Talk about a disproportionate response.

Anyway, thank you very much, David Ignatius with “The Washington Post.” 

Join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for HARDBALL.  I‘ll be joined by the attorney for Lynndie England this time, one of the reservists at the center of the prison abuse scandal.  Plus, Mark Bowden, the author of “Black Hawk Down,” he‘s coming here to HARDBALL, too—big night tomorrow night.

Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.


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