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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for May 14

Read the complete transcript to Friday's show

Guests: Guy Womack, Dana Priest, Adel Al-Jubeir

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  The United States Army has filed criminal charges including adultery against Specialist Charles Graner.  We‘ll talk to his attorney. 

Plus, remembering Nick Berg, the American murdered by Islamic terrorists in Iraq. 

And how the prison abuse scandal is weighing on the battle for the White House. 

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews. 

General Mark Kimmitt have announced charges have been filed against another soldier in connection with the abuse of Abu Ghraib prison.  Specialist Charles Graner has been charged with conspiracy to maltreat detainees, dereliction of duty, cruelty and maltreatment of detainees, indecent acts, adultery and obstruction of justice. 

Meantime, Specialist Jeremy Sivits, who has offered to plea bargain, says Graner put a sandbag over a prisoner‘s head and, quote, “punched the detainee with a closed fit so hard in the temple that the detainee was knocked unconscious.” 

Earlier I spoke with Guy Womack, Graner‘s attorney, and I asked him for a response. 


GUY WOMACK, CHARLES GRANER‘S ATTORNEY:  The only thing I‘ve seen that suggests that is the statement by Sivits. 

Keep in mind that Sivits has a motive to lie now.  He‘s working for the government, so to speak.  If you read both of his statements under oath to CID agents taken on different days, he denies any culpability at all. 

He said he was only present when photographs were made and didn‘t do anything wrong.  But apparently now he‘s planning to plead guilty to something in a court martial. 

Also keep in mind that in his statements, he said that there was no involvement by military intelligence.  Yet last Friday, the “Washington Post” submitted—or aired a photograph showing military intelligence and a civilian contractor directing and setting up an interrogation. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you saying that Jeremy Sivits has been bought off by the Army?  By giving a complete blank slate, he‘s done nothing wrong, in exchange for saying that none of these orders came down, none of the behavior of the men in Abu Ghraib had anything to do with orders they had been given or the patterns of interrogation or anything to do with official conduct?

Has he been bought?

WOMACK:  He has.  These statements are so self-serving.  And also keep in mind that, you know, it‘s a shame that if his statements were true that he did nothing, a soldier fighting for this justice system has so little faith in it that he‘s not going to go to trial.  He‘s going to plead guilty when, according to his statements, he‘s innocent?

MATTHEWS:  Well, you think that—Is it your thought as an experienced trial lawyer with regard to military justice, is it your sense that the military in this case is practicing a strategy of getting all the defendants to turn, to basically say they weren‘t given any orders from above, the chain of command is sound, it was just their own personal misconduct, if anything, for lighter sentences?

Are they going to try to get your client to turn?

WOMACK:  I‘m sure they would offer something like that.  It will not happen.  Specialist Graner demands a trial.  He‘s not guilty of a crime. 

Now, one of the charges is that he committed adultery with Private England.  I‘m sure that that would not be part of a lawful order.  If she were married and if he knew that, then he should not have had sex with her.  I don‘t know anything about that charge.

But I know that he is divorced and I thought she was divorced.  So that one charge would not be subject to the defense of obedience to orders. 

MATTHEWS:  What about this other interesting charge that‘s floating around that they may have had—somebody may have had sexual relations with the prisoners watching?

WOMACK:  You asked me that the other day, and I‘ve heard other people mention it.  I have not seen that videotape.  If there is such a videotape, they will have to show it to me and have to disclose it to me.  I don‘t know that there is such a tape...

MATTHEWS:  Well, since the “New York Post”—sir, the “New York Post” reported that this morning, that a member of the United States Congress has attested to the fact that when he viewed the new pictures of the abuses in the Iraqi jail, he said that Lynndie England appeared in a video having sex in front of prisoners with other U.S. soldiers. 

And the question is, are we going to get that?  Is that going to turn out to be the truth?

WOMACK:  You know, I don‘t know.  But apparently they are saying that she is a promiscuous young lady.  I haven‘t heard them say that she was having sex with my client.  And that‘s really all that I care about, is my client. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s get to the facts here with regard to the military justice and the question of whether what your client did had anything to do with the orders he was given. 

First of all, what were the role of the interpreters, the official interpreters?  Were they present during this conduct?  They were shown in these pictures?

WOMACK:  From the investigation that we‘ve done so far, my belief is that a civilian contract employee in the “Washington Post” photograph who is gripping the neck of a naked Iraqi laying on the laying on the floor, wrapped up with two other Iraqis, I believe that is an—an interpreter who is doing that. 

And he‘s under the direction and supervision of four military intelligence officers who are standing just out away from the shot. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, spell it out.  What does that tell you?

WOMACK:  Well, it tells me that the military intelligence command working with their civilians and their other government agents were softening up these prisoners.  They were interrogating these prisoners, getting information that we all agree is terribly important.  And they were keeping—or trying to keep out of camera shot themselves. 

They did not know that an M.P. on the second deck was taking a picture of that group as they were setting up that shot. 

MATTHEWS:  So it‘s your contention that the kind of conduct which has caused such a ruckus around the world was in fact conduct that was overseen by military intelligence officials, was overseen by official interpreters and therefore was consistent with the manner of interrogation and intimidation and humiliation of those detainees that the United States government wanted done. 

WOMACK:  Absolutely.  And we know from the report done—I mean, the investigation done in October by the International Committee of the Red Cross that it was rampant.  It was not merely at Abu Ghraib.  It was at other facilities across Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  Now, you‘ve said that Specialist Jeremy Sivits is in fact a liar, that he‘s lying to protect his skin.  That‘s your contention, right?

WOMACK:  Yes.  We know he‘s lying about the involvement of military intelligence.  And of course, he has these self-serving statements about what a wonderful chain of command he has and what sweet people they are. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about a technical point here.  One of Jeremy

·         Specialist Sivits‘ claims, statements is in this preliminary bargaining that‘s going on, is that in fact your client speaks Arabic, because he says your client, Mr. Graner, told some Iraqi detainee to take off his clothes or he had his clothes taken off and to do these kinds of things they were told to do. 

Does your client speak Arabic?

WOMACK:  Well, he‘s certainly not fluent in it, but I believe that all U.S. servicemen have received some training and some basic phrases in Arabic, particularly military policemen, who may have occasion to stop an Arabic individual. 

So it may be that my client speaks at least some rudimentary phrases. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, then in fact, it‘s possible that Jeremy Sivits is telling some truth here.  I mean, it‘s the fact that he‘s describing something that might well have occurred.  Your client, Mr. Graner, Specialist Graner telling one of the Iraqis to take off his clothes. 

WOMACK:  Yes, and I think that probably did happen, as far as him directing people to remove their clothing, because we know that was done.  It‘s in the photographs.  They were staged nude in these photographs.  And I believe that the interpreters and the M.P.‘s could at least say disrobe. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, I opened up this comment, this conversation with you, Mr. Womack, listing all the charges that are being made benefits your against your client today.  It‘s quite a list.

Are they throwing the book at your client?  Are they just—what do you call it in court when you just stack up all the charges you can possibly think of?

WOMACK:  Yes, it appears that.  And...

MATTHEWS:  How many years is he facing if you add up all these charges?

WOMACK:  I haven‘t added them yet, but I‘m saying right now it will be somewhere around 12 years of confinement.


MATTHEWS:  We‘re coming right back with more from Guy Womack on the charges facing his client as part of the investigation of Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, more with Guy Womack, the attorney for Specialist Charles Graner, one of the soldiers facing court-martial in the Iraq prison abuse scandal.  HARDBALL, back in a minute.



MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Guy Womack.  He‘s attorney for Specialist Charles Graner, one of the soldiers facing court martial next week in the prison abuse scandal. 

Guy, I want you to go through something here.  First of all, let me show you something.  According to the “Washington Post” today, Specialist Sivits says that your client, quote, “picked up an object and struck the man‘s wounds with a half baseball swing” and the detainee begged Graner, your client, to stop, saying, “Mr., Mr., stop, please.”

And then Graner said, in a baby type voice, he said, “Ah, does that hurt?”

What‘s that say to you?  Do you have any familiarity with that exchange?

WOMACK:  I‘ve seen that in the charge sheet.  That is part of charge assaults and maltreatment charges.  And I‘m unaware of it.  We‘re going to test that in court.  I will say the physical...

MATTHEWS:  Did you test it with your client?  Has your client denied those—that conversation under duress with a prisoner?

WOMACK:  I‘ve not asked him about that.  I‘m waiting to get all the discovery from the government to see exactly what we are facing, and then I can discuss all of that in detail with him.  That‘s going to be weeks from now. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you about now, as you‘re sizing up the case you‘re going to present in his defense.

When we watch those pictures, and we‘re watching them now, the kinds of pictures we‘ve been seeing in this country for a week and a half, and you‘ve seen them all, narrate those pictures of misconduct, apparent misconduct, misuse of the prisoners, abuse of the prisoners, all this sexual humiliation, the whole shebang.

Narrate what we‘re seeing from your perspective as a defense attorney of Specialist Graner. 

WOMACK:  Well, the photographs that you‘re seeing from that first batch, the photographs you have now, by and large these are all staged photographs.  You can tell they‘re staged. 

They were clearly intended to reach a certain audience.  We believe it would be other Iraqi prisoners who may be subject to interrogation, perhaps to intimidate them into making a statement.  Perhaps to blackmail those persons depicted in the statement.  But—or in the interrogation and in the photograph. 

MATTHEWS:  In other words, this is carrying out a mission by—the military intelligence folks‘ mission being carried out by the M.P.‘s, including your client?

WOMACK:  Yes.  Major General Miller himself...

MATTHEWS:  How do you know there was ever a mission to take pictures of Iraqi detainees in these humiliating circumstances?  How do you know there was ever orders—such an order given, to take pictures for that purpose, to use them as blackmail or as intimidation of the other prisoners?

WOMACK:  We know that from General Taguba‘s report and from the statements made by other M.P.‘s who were present, and I believe will find that other intelligence officers have probably complained of this. 

But we know it from all the information that we‘ve seen so far.  General Karpinski herself said that she knew now that her M.P.‘s were ordered to participate in these photographs. 

MATTHEWS:  And these photographs, you contend, at least this is the basis for your preliminary plans for the trial, that you contend that these pictures we‘re all watching for the last couple weeks, that these pictures are in fact official conduct?

Or are you contending that this matches the official conduct?  In other words, something done late at night, mimicking or for whatever fun reason hot-dogging, imitating the kinds of orders that your troops were getting there?

WOMACK:  Yes.  And it was clearly intended to...

MATTHEWS:  Well, which is it?  Is it...

WOMACK:  To manipulate psychologically these prisoners.

MATTHEWS:  Are we watching—Guy, are we watching the conduct of official business, or are we watching some sort of midnight parody of that by the soldiers themselves, including your client, Mr. Graner?

WOMACK:  From everything available to me, I believe that we‘re watching depictions that were done at midnight and they were officially sanctioned and directed. 

MATTHEWS:  In other words, those enlisted men, including Specialist Graner, your client, were under orders when these pictures were being taken?  They were doing what they were told to do at that time?

WOMACK:  Yes.  And it was either direct orders to do it such as in the photograph in the “Washington Post,” where it was being clearly directed by military intelligence. 

Or it may have been things that were done implicitly, such as where they tell M.P.‘s to make sure that a prisoner has a bad night, meaning to deprive him of sleep. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, how did we get the idea when we all first saw these pictures a week and a half ago or so, and we all got the sense these are a bunch of people who were having some fun, that these were souvenirs they were sending home to show off to their friends?  How did we get that idea?  These pictures...

WOMACK:  Well, that‘s the way it was being depicted by the government initially. 

Now, after the Senate hearings, the Congress‘ hearings and the reports being done, we know that it was more sinister.  We know that people above these M.P.‘s in the chain of command were ordering them to do this.  They were encouraging them to do these things. 

And this was not a number of rogue M.P.‘s.  And indeed it was going on at other facilities all over Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  How good a lawyer are you in these kind of cases, though, Mr. Womack.  What‘s your win-loss record in these military justice cases?

WOMACK:  I have never had an innocent client convicted at any court-martial.  And I don‘t intend for this to be the first one. 

MATTHEWS:  And you‘re contending that Specialist Graner is—Charles Graner is in fact one of those innocent clients that you‘ve had the opportunity to represent?

WOMACK:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much for coming on.  We hope to have you back again. 


Guy Womack, who‘s attorney for Charles Graner, who‘s being charged today with a long list of charges regarding the abuse of—the apparent abuse or the charged abuse of military detainees. 

Up next, more on who may be to blame for the Iraqi prisoner abuse canal with Colonel Ken Howard. 

And later, we‘ll take a look at what‘s happening to President Bush‘s job approval ratings.

And later, the situation over there in Iraq.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

The sworn statement of Specialist Jeremy Sivits says that the abuse of Iraqi prisoners was confined to the half dozen military police who now face charges. 

Specialist Sivits told investigators, quote, “Our command would have slammed us.  They believe in doing the right thing.  If they saw what was going on, there would be hell to pay.”

Colonel Ken Howard is an MSNBC military analyst. 

Colonel Howard, let me ask you about this—this defense.  If this is true, in this plea bargain, and it was only the half dozen Guys involved in this thing, then why were there military intelligence people present in some of these pictures?  Why were there official interpreters—at least one official interpreter present?

COL. KEN HOWARD, U.S. ARMY (RET.):  Chris, that‘s exactly the right question.  When I hear that statement by the specialist, I can only assume that he was trying for a little bit of what we call information operations into the plea bargain there. 

Because when I see that, and when I see all these signs of the confusion of the cast of characters they had present at the interrogation, it says one thing to me. 

It says that there was a confusion and that is exactly the reaction that we‘ve gotten here in Washington this week in the testimony.  Because it points to the fact that when you have that kind of confusion in the chain of command, everything else goes wrong. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the attorney for Charles Graner, who was just on, said that what we‘re seeing in those pictures, most of them at least, are basically operations. 

These prisoners were supposed to be humiliated, to be intimidated, to be sexually humiliated and the bundling up of them naked on the ground there. 

In fact, there‘s a picture in the “Washington Post” today, you know, that shows some of the military intelligence people watching that. 

So how can anybody, especially Specialist Sivits, who seems to be out here all alone, claim that the misconduct had nothing to do with the sort of general pattern of things at that facility?

HOWARD:  Of course, it‘s a lot like an aircraft accident investigation.  The last thing you look for is why the wing fell off, because you begin to look at the other things that contributed to it because they‘re always there. 

In this particular case, you have to ask things like, gee, what was the chain of command?  What were the mission orders those people were given?  Who was responsible for what?

And so the idea that well, just these six or seven isolated people were involved, I just don‘t buy that, because it is evidence to, if nothing else, that a much larger problem and a much larger situation. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, I‘m much more familiar with political behavior, Colonel, and in politics, if you accuse a politician of something it‘s, say, undainty.  It‘s something he‘s embarrassed at having done or said, he says that‘s absolutely false; that‘s not accurate, which means you didn‘t have the accusation plus perfect, 100 percent accurate. 

In other words, “I wasn‘t told on that night at 2 a.m. in the morning to do that particular thing.”

So they say there were no orders given to do that, and in fact there‘s a general pattern that was being followed and this was just maybe a slightly or a grossly—a gross case of abuse of that order.  But in fact it reflects the order itself. 

HOWARD:  Well, Chris, I think we have both have been in the position of going back to the congressional record and saying, “Hey, here‘s what he should have said.” 


HOWARD:  What has happened here, and this is the thing I keep coming back to.  The reason why there was pressure on the prison system over there was that they were not getting very good intelligence. 

And we now understand the reasons for that, because if all you‘re doing is simply trying to apply the grossest methods of prisoner abuse to try and extort information, frankly, the subject is going to tell you anything that he thinks is going to make you stop. 


HOWARD:  And the thing that really bothers me here is the fact that it‘s always a very careful balance that you have to strike between what you have to do to get the information and to what you have to do to safeguard the rights of the prisoner. 

The best thing I can tell you is that if you watch “NYPD Blue,” Sipowicz on Wednesday night‘s comes about as close as anything...


HOWARD:  ... I‘ve ever seen in the civilian world to what really goes on.  Because you have got to do this in a way that does one thing, and that is to get the subject to cooperate with you. 

If all you‘re doing is beating them up and playing all kinds of grab ass there on the floor of the prison, forget it.  You‘re just not going to get anywhere. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I was told that one reason some of these cases you try to keep the detainee away from an attorney is to make them feel or, in some cases women, mostly men, to feel completely isolated and basically betrayed by their own people, left there to suffer alone.

And that once you get them isolated in that fashion and humiliated in this case, they are willing to betray their own cause. 

HOWARD:  Well, you know, look, isolation is one of the very, very key psychological tools that you absolutely want to have access to. 

But note the fact that what was going on here when you get all these people together, for heaven knows what on the floor of that prison, I literally have no idea what it was they were trying to accomplish. 

Because all you‘re doing is you‘re getting these guys together and in some weird way, you‘re enforcing the fact that they think that they are all in this against you. 


HOWARD:  And the thing that really amazes me is the fact that what has come out of this thing so far is that some of the soldiers talked about how effective these treatments have been in breaking the prisoners down.  I don‘t think so. 

MATTHEWS:  In other words, stacking them or bundling them together like a stack of hot dogs in a—one of those things you buy with hot dogs, stacking these guys together naked would not be a way to get them to break from each other.  It would enforce their bond.  Is that what you‘re saying?

HOWARD:  Absolutely.  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  What about this charge that these were basically part of the process.  The pictures we‘ve seen were not souvenirs being sent home to some family or friends or whatever as hot-dogging, but in fact these pictures we‘ve been looking at were, in fact, part of the process of breaking prisoners? 

Have you ever heard of using picture-taking to use as black mail or intimidation to other prisoners, saying we‘re going to do this to you or we‘re going to send these letters back to your brother-in-law and embarrass you?

HOWARD:  I‘ve heard of all kinds of psychological techniques being used and I just would tell you the fact that there is absolutely no guarantee that when you‘re in an interrogation situation that the guy you‘re up against is not going to play all kind of dirty tricks on you. 

But this thing, I mean, what we‘re seeing from the prison, I can imagine no potential use of these things in ways other than to calculated to inflame the subjects against us, that I stress to you is simply not what the objective is. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, clearly, that‘s going to inflame the Arab world against us. 

Let me ask you about these M.I. people, the military intelligence people, the contractors, the CIA.  We were told a couple of days ago, early this week, that they were in fact operating in the prison in a kind of odd way.  They weren‘t wearing their insignia.  They weren‘t being identified individually. 

Is there is a plausible deniability pattern here where you might use people to give their orders that are over the top, or outside the boundary, even on the chalk line, and you don‘t want to have those people clearly identified by the M.P.‘s?

HOWARD:  Yes, except for the fact that I really think that begins to break down pretty quickly, because everybody is aware that all of these people are working for us.  I mean, there‘s no plausible deniability. 

I told the story in my book, but we used to work with German local national investigators when we were doing cases in the Army back in the 1970‘s.  There was one kid that absolutely would not break.  We told him he was going to be interrogated by a German, and he simply came in and said, “You have the right to confess,” and the kid broke. 


HOWARD:  That‘s OK.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you much, Colonel Ken Howard.  Thanks for joining us.

Up next, remembering Nicholas Berg, the young American murdered by Islamic terrorists in Iraq.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  This half-hour on HARDBALL, remembering Nicholas Berg, the American murdered by Islamic terrorists in Iraq; plus, how the Iraqi prison abuse scandal is affecting the battle for the White House.  Howard Fineman and Dana Priest will be here for that.

But, first, the latest headlines right now.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Nicholas Berg, the young American beheaded by Muslim extremists in Iraq, was laid to rest today in suburban Philly. 

Here‘s HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster.


DAVID SHUSTER, NBC ELECTION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  In West Chester, Pennsylvania, it was a day of private memorial for Nick Berg and a burial filled with agony for his family and friends. 

BRUCE HAUSER, NEIGHBOR:  I walked in the back door.  They were all standing in the kitchen and the father just grabbed me and hugged me when I walked in the door. 

SHUSTER:  Berg was remembered as an outgoing and caring soul.  In school, he was a tuba and saxophone player who loved science and graduated with honors. 

MICHAEL DIBARTOLOMEO, FORMER HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL:  Nick, I knew personally during his whole tenure here at Henderson High School.  I will tell you that you will not find a nicer young man than Nick Berg. 

SHUSTER:  Berg attended Cornell and then volunteered in Uganda, the first of many trips overseas.  Four years ago, he took classes in Oklahoma, where his e-mail password was stolen by 9/11 operative Zacarias Moussaoui.  The Justice Department says it was pure coincidence.  Moussaoui was taking flying lessons and stole the e-mail accounts of several Oklahoma students.

In recent years, Berg‘s longtime interests in electronics blossomed.  And the amateur comedian set up his own firm building and repairing communication towers.  Last December, he sought business in Israel.  Then Berg went to Jordan and then on to Iraq where he hoped to land reconstruction projects while helping the Iraqi people. 


NICHOLAS BERG, HOSTAGE:  My name is Nicholas Berg.  My father‘s name is Michael.  My mother‘s name is Suzanne.


SHUSTER:  By the time Berg was kidnapped, he had already been detained by Iraqi police for 13 days, but was released after his parents filed a lawsuit and he passed an FBI security check. 

On April 9, Berg decided to leave Iraq.  But he was traveling alone.  And on that day, nine other Americans, including former hostage Thomas Hamill, were kidnapped or killed.  In the hands of Muslim extremists, analysts say Berg did not have a chance.  He was Jewish and had Israel stamped in his passport. 

There are still questions about Berg‘s travels in Iraq and whether the U.S. government could have helped him.  But what matters most in his hometown is not what he was doing or how he died, but rather, that he is gone and that Nick Berg‘s family and friends have lost what everyone remembers as a great guy. 


MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster. 

Joining me is now Adel Al-Jubeir, the foreign policy adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.

Thank you very much for joining us, Adel.

What do you make of this thing, this whole Nick Berg thing, why they singled out this guy?  Do you think it was because he was Jewish that they did this? 

ADEL AL-JUBEIR, ADVISER TO SAUDI CROWN PRINCE ABDULLAH:  That could be, but the important thing to remember is that it was pure evil.  It was a gruesome murder.

To tape it and to put it on the Internet is outrageous.  It shows us what kind of evil we are up against and it shows us that they have no compassion for human life and that they have no respect for decency or humanity or anything. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe that al Qaeda is exploiting the scandal over the abuse of prisoners in the U.S. prison over there in Iraq to build their following?  In other words, they show that they are the avengers, they are the ones who wreak revenge on America for our humiliation of their people? 

AL-JUBEIR:  Unfortunately, I believe that is the case.

But we have to keep in mind that the actions of a small number of people, regardless of how perverted or sick it is, that does not reflect on the U.S. military or the American people in general.  Just like in our case in Saudi Arabia when we had 15 of the 19 on the airplanes, they don‘t represent 16 million Saudis, but they were used by critics of Saudi Arabia to try to project things on to Saudi Arabia that were not true. 

We have to be careful that the same thing does not happen with regards to the U.S.

MATTHEWS:  I know you respect a government which is very allied with the United States in terms of fighting terrorism, Adel.  But let me ask you about this very tricky question.

For two weeks now people in the West—and you have lived in both parts of world—have been trying to understand what these prison techniques were all about.  Is there something about the Islamic world, the Islamic background, that would be particularly sensitive—I don‘t know who wouldn‘t be—maybe that‘s it, the answer to the question—to being bundled together naked with other guys?  Is there something that that‘s—as a cross-cultural expert, is there something in that that would work? 

AL-JUBEIR:  I don‘t think so. 

I think any time you torture people or abuse them, it gets you nowhere.  We have found in our interrogation of detainees that if you deal with them rationally, if you deal with them with humanity, if you try to engage them intellectually, you are more likely to reprogram them or deprogram them and turn them into people who cooperate with you. 

But to strip people naked, to do these horrible acts to them, I don‘t believe it gets you anywhere.  And I don‘t believe that—I believe that the people who did this were just perverted. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I remember Mubarak, President Mubarak, of Egypt several weeks back saying going to war with Iraq would create more recruitment for Iraq.  What about these pictures.  Are they more—is this a recruitment poster on video to arouse young Islamic men to join up in the cause of fighting the West? 

AL-JUBEIR:  I believe so, unfortunately.  Al Qaeda is an organization that‘s evil, that‘s criminal.


MATTHEWS:  But they are smart, aren‘t they?

AL-JUBEIR:  Absolutely.  And they‘re looking for a way to justify their cause.

Remember, bin Laden first declared war on the American presence in Saudi Arabia.  When the U.S. pulled out of Saudi Arabia, he declared war on the U.S. because of its support for Israel.  And now—then he declared war on America because America was fighting in Iraq.  Now he‘s going to use this to declare war on America for whatever reason. 

I think, in six months, he may declare ward on America in order to save the whales. 


AL-JUBEIR:  He‘s looking for something to justify his evil.

MATTHEWS:  What we call that is—you know, that phrase is America is living off the land, using whatever you‘ve got to your advantage.

Let me ask you about this execution by beheading.  I know, in your country, you use it for certain crimes.  Is this something in the East we miss?  Because we don‘t use it anymore.  France was notorious for it with the guillotine, the guillotine I guess it‘s pronounced in French.  What is this about beheading?  Just tell me the history of it and why it‘s used so often. 

AL-JUBEIR:  Well, it‘s like you said.  There are different forms of execution, the guillotine, beheading, electrocution.  The end result is to punish somebody for a crime they committed. 

In this case, they took a person who was innocent and they slaughtered

him in a cruel way and they displayed it to the whole world.  I don‘t think

·         other than the graphics of it, I don‘t believe that the crime would have been any different if they had shot him.

MATTHEWS:  Well, it does capture the imagination, to be blunt about it.

AL-JUBEIR:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this, about the way they do it as a video.  It‘s almost like the worst kind of street theater, the worst.  They have a guy sit there.  He is obviously shaking with fear and knowing what is coming.  He can figure that out. 

AL-JUBEIR:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And they use his shaking and his worries, they put him in an orange suit I guess to ape the uniforms put on—that the Iraqi prisoners are put in by us.  And they sit in there in that kind of a horrible way where you are totally identifying with the prisoner. 

Tell me about that.  What is—is this a terrorist technique that you have gotten familiar with over there? 

AL-JUBEIR:  I believe this is the first time that I recall where somebody used such gruesome methods to kill someone.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Danny Pearl. 


MATTHEWS:  The killing of Danny Pearl was another case.

AL-JUBEIR:  Yes, those are the two cases.

I believe that this issue, and especially the way they displayed it on the videotape, is going to backfire, because I don‘t believe that any human being, regardless of their faith or nationality, will accept such favor.  We all think of it as criminal.  We all think of it as brutal.  We all think of it as gruesome.  And this will be a setback for the terrorists. 

MATTHEWS:  Is this playing throughout the Arab world, including in your country of Saudi Arabia, these pictures of this gruesome execution? 

AL-JUBEIR:  Yes, people have seen it.  Our newspapers are trying to be responsible and trying to minimize the exposure of if because you don‘t want to anger people, but yes, people are shocked by this, to take a man and to decapitate him and to take pictures of it and to make fun of it is just—is unacceptable in any faith. 

And Saudi Arabia is a country which is very religious and our faith does not condone the killing of the innocent. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you expect more of this? 

AL-JUBEIR:  I hope not, but unfortunately, we are dealing with a cruel and evil enemy.  We‘re dealing with an enemy who is on the run.  We‘re dealing with an enemy who is increasingly desperate.  We‘re dealing with an enemy that is losing its command-and-control structure.  And in situations like this, we probably should expect more violence. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, Adel Al-Jubeir, for coming in this Friday.

AL-JUBEIR:  You‘re welcome. 

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, how the prisoner abuse scandal is affecting President Bush and the battle for the White House.  Everything matters in politics.  “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman is coming here.  And “The Washington Post”‘s Dana Priest, she‘s also going to join us.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, can the Bush administration weather the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal?

“Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman and “The Washington Post”‘s Dana Priest when HARDBALL returns.



DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Recent misconduct of the few does not diminish the honor and decency that our service men and women have shown in Iraq.  They have seen hard duty, long deployments and fierce fighting.  They have endured the loss of friends and comrades.  And they are unwavering in their mission. 


MATTHEWS:  “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman is an NBC News political analyst and Dana Priest is with “The Washington Post.” 

Howard, that‘s more of a contention by the vice president than an established fact, right?

HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, I think so, Chris, because I think the American people are looking very closely at how the administration handles this situation. 

The polls show that people don‘t blame George Bush or Donald Rumsfeld for the existence of the abuses.  But they are looking very carefully to see if they are properly investigated and dealt with. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Dana Priest, is the question still open as to whether this is an order that came down and was maybe got more abuse at the bottom, but in fact it represents the behavior of our entire incarceration process over there?


In fact, what you saw after all the testimony and all the we‘ll get to the bottom of this, you saw a flood of reports from other places outside of Abu Ghraib, from the International Committee of the Red Cross, a leaked report to “The Wall Street Journal” which talked about abuses in other prisons and also in Afghanistan, and you saw interviews around the world, really, with prisoners who were freed who were saying, I was abused. 

And so the painted picture at the end of the week is that while we don‘t have the answers to what happened in Abu Ghraib with this particular set of prisoners, the door has been cracked open wide and there is a flood of allegations that is just pouring through on the larger question of how were prisoners treated by the U.S. military and the CIA in several different places. 

MATTHEWS:  In a political sense, Howard, it seems to me, watching that testimony yesterday and that very rough grilling by the senators of Paul Wolfowitz, who has always gotten a good deal of respect before as an intellectual college professor, a man of very high rank.  But to have Hillary Clinton, for example, tearing into him yesterday, are they starting to suggest that the bad apples are not all at the bottom of the barrel, the senators? 

FINEMAN:  I think so. 

I think that Wolfowitz  testimony was important for another reason, Chris, because I think whatever suspension of disbelief there was about the Iraqi policy is over with now in Washington.  It‘s a lot of cold-eyed realism now about how minimize the damage, about how we get out and so forth. 

And, as I said, even Republican strategists I talk to say that it‘s important for the president and for Donald Rumsfeld to show that they are handling the situation fearlessly and without favor.  But, as Dana points out, if it turns out that this was a systematic policy throughout the American global war prisoner system, then their desire to be candid is going to come up against their own policy, and that could be very dangerous. 

MATTHEWS:  Along those lines, Dana, the old question from “A Few Good Men” was, can we take the truth?  Can we stand the truth?  What happens in open court if they don‘t get all these people to turn and some of them do contest the cases and they do bring in middle-level and higher-ranking officials and put them under oath and say, did you ever tell anybody to bundle people together naked?  Did you ever try to use sexual humiliation as a detention or interrogation technique?

Aren‘t they exposed at that point that it wasn‘t a few bad apples, but it was in fact endemic? 

PRIEST:  Well, we had a smoking gun this week and that was, at an open hearing, the Defense Department handed out their rules of interrogation for Iraq.  And what we saw there were things like sleep deprivation, stressful positions, reversing people‘s sleep order.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but what about what we‘re talking about, Dana?  We‘re talking about sexual humiliation, of people putting someone on dog collars. 

PRIEST:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  People being dragged around naked.


MATTHEWS:  People being tied together, male and male and male, that kind of thing.  Is there anything in the books yet we found that specifies that kind of interrogation or preinterrogation technique? 

PRIEST:  No.  No, there is not. 

But the question is, how do you interpret it right down to the field level if they‘re being pushed to be more extreme?  If you look at some of the photos that come out and people have started to analyze what we now have right before our eyes, you we‘ll see more than seven soldiers in one case standing around looking very nonchalant.  This was not something that seemed to be surprising to them, that they would have a hurdle of naked men lying on the floor.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s jack it up a bit.  Does your picture today in “The Washington Post” which shows military intelligence officials present in the picture while these sort of goings-on were going on, does that establish the fact that this was an official procedure? 

PRIEST:  It was official.  The question is, at what level? 

And General Taguba who did the investigation says that he doesn‘t think it went behind the brigade command level, the lieutenant colonel level.  Now, there are others who say well, no, he got instructions from somewhere.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

PRIEST:  And that would be at the general level, at General Miller‘s level, and Sanchez, who was at least aware of the problems at Abu Ghraib, because there had been problems elsewhere, that he may have had some sort of sense, not that he would be asking them directly to do this sort of thing. 

But as Senator Warner said in one of hearings, he said, I understand that they were told to take pictures to give to their families, the families of the prisoners.  So do you think that the M.P.s thought that kind of thing up?  No.  Somebody else did at a higher level. 

MATTHEWS:  Howard, has this story got legs as we go to trial and some of these guys aren‘t turned?  They have got Sivits who has turned and is apparently going to be on the side of the higher-ups.  If these other guys don‘t join the higher-ups and they do face charges and they do bring witnesses in, has this got a story for the summer? 

FINEMAN:  I think so. 

I think it has got a lot of legs, Chris.  And I think even Republican strategists outside of the immediate Bush-Cheney circle are saying so.  There are girding for this to last all summer.  And there is no way out or sideways for the president or Secretary Rumsfeld.  I think both of them decided that it was in their interests and perhaps in the country‘s interests for Rumsfeld to stay in his job.

And Rumsfeld has to try to fix it and he has got to try to do a good job of it.  There‘s no other choice.  But, as I say, the truths could be inconvenient as the weeks and months go on. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, they always have him to throw from the boat once the thing gets to its fever point, right?

FINEMAN:  Right.  Quite possibly, quite possibly.


MATTHEWS:  Anyway, coming up, what does the president‘s latest job approval mean for his reelection campaign?  It‘s getting tricky because it‘s getting low.

More with Howard Fineman and Dana Priest.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman and Dana Priest of “The Washington Post.” 

Let‘s take a look at these news numbers here.  The latest “USA Today”/Gallup poll shows President Bush‘s job approval down to 46 percent.  His disapproval number is now greater than 50 percent. 

Howard, the prospectus on the president? 

FINEMAN:  Well, a couple weeks ago, George Bush was the conventional wisdom‘s favorite to win going away.  Now he‘s being left for dead in the latest polls.  So you got to be careful.

But I do think this is a serious situation for the president, because the Bush-Cheney campaign is obsessed with that overall job approval number.  When it dips below 50 percent, that‘s a red light for any incumbent president.  And if those stay below 50 percent, he‘s in deep trouble.

The interesting point is that so far John Kerry hasn‘t directly benefited.  But that‘s because people will wait until the very last minute, stick with the incumbent and keep looking at him until the very end.  And then in October they‘re going to consider John Kerry and Kerry has to be—hope that he‘s ready to take that scrutiny at that point. 

MATTHEWS:  Dana, what‘s the president‘s fire wall?  How far down can those numbers go if you calculate the base of this president‘s support?

PRIEST:  Well, the Gallup poll director says that not since World War II has a president been reelected whose approval rating has slipped beyond 50 percent.  And we know that the losers, Jimmy Carter and Bush‘s father, got down to the mid-40s.  So he‘s not quite down there yet, but he‘s approaching it.

And worst of all for them is that Iraq is not looking like it‘s going to get any better soon.  In fact, our reporting here from Tom Ricks showed that a lot of the commanders in the field and others at the CPA that is headed by Bremer think that this situation could be turning the corner for the worse.  So Iraq is not going to help him out any time soon. 

MATTHEWS:  Howard, there has been sort of a quiet religion in this city that that is going to be a close close.  Do you think that that‘s any more likely than say a 10-point spread for either guy?

FINEMAN:  It could be either way, Chris. 

As you know, presidents usually either win big or lose badly.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FINEMAN:  But the spin out of the Bush-Cheney operation right now is that this is going to be an unusual year, close all the way.  They have never dared say that Bush is going to win this thing going away. 

And I agree with Dana about whether there is optimism or lack thereof about Iraq.  I know the Bush-Cheney people were looking so forward to June 30 and to the handover, as if this was going to be some kind of sunny upland in which they were going to go.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FINEMAN:  But what you hear now is that nothing is going to be peaceful.  And there‘s no sunny upland after June 30.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re using Churchill‘s language.  I love you again, Howard Fineman.  Thank you very much, Howard Fineman and Dana Priest.

Fifty years ago, the historic Supreme Court decision, Brown vs. Board of Education, was supposed to put an end to segregation to public schools.  But in one rural Virginia county, it set into motion a series of actions that had a detrimental effect on the education of thousands of black and some white children.  That‘s when the leaders in Prince Edward County decided they would rather shut down all their schools than mix white and black students. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The year was ‘59 when the schools were closed in Prince Edward County.  And I was 8 years old, about 8 years old at the time.

LESTER HOLT, NBC ANCHOR:  The county had been planning this last stand against integration for years.  A private, all-white school system was already in place.  That fall, the white students had schools to go to.  The black students did not. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When they padlocked the schools in Prince Edward, that meant that no child had access to public education.  The white population built a private school for white kids.  The blacks didn‘t have any private schools, didn‘t have any public funding, so they didn‘t go to school. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I lived close enough to their school where I could hear them when they had ball games or if they shot fireworks off in a celebration.  So that was a bad feeling. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I remember not liking seeing children ride by on the bus and looking at me.  I remember not liking that, you know?  And it‘s painful, because I didn‘t do anything to make me not be able to get on that bus, you know, and ride.  That‘s the painful part of it. 

HOLT:  With no end in sight to the shutdown, many families leave the county. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It was unbelievable.  People were leaving.  Families were trying to get to places where their children could continue to go to school.  It was as if my hometown overnight became almost like a ghost town.


MATTHEWS:  Those children were locked out of public schools for five years.  This Sunday at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, you can learn more about this chapter of our history, as Lester Holt Presents “The Battle For America‘s Schools: How the Children Won and Lost.”

And join us again Monday night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. 

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


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