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'Deborah Norville Tonight' for May 24

Read the complete transcript to Monday's show

Guests: Janis Karpinski, Donna Bramblett, Ann Hampton, Judd Bramblett



DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST:  Damage control.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  America‘s task in Iraq is not only to defeat an enemy.  It is to give strength to a friend.

NORVILLE:  President Bush lays out his plan for bringing stability back to Iraq.  But is it enough to regain the confidence of skeptical Americans?

BUSH:  History is moving, and it will tend toward hope or tend toward tragedy. 

NORVILLE:  Tonight, exclusive.  The former commander at Abu Ghraib prison, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, weighs in on the president‘s war plan and her suspension today from duty.


And that‘s why the term scapegoat I think has been tossed around.

NORVILLE:  As the images of prisoner mistreatment and torture continue the U.S. military and the White House.

BUSH:  We will demolish the Abu Ghraib Prison as a fitting symbol of Iraq‘s new beginning.

NORVILLE:  Plus, reaction to the president‘s speech from two families who have sacrificed their loved ones to the war in Iraq, including the mother of Captain Kimberly Hampton, the first female pilot killed in Iraq.  What does she think about the war that took her daughter‘s life?  Her thoughts may surprise you.


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

And good evening. 

We‘ll get reaction to President Bush‘s speech on Iraq in just a couple of minutes.

But first, there‘s more fallout tonight from the prison abuse scandal at Iraq‘s Abu Ghraib prison.  NBC News has learned that the former commander of military prisons in Iraq, including Abu Ghraib, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, has been suspended from her military reserve command. 

In January, she was relieved of command at Abu Ghraib.  She had been in charge of the 800th Military Police Brigade.  And the seven M.P.s charged with criminal conduct were under her command. 

Tonight, the president promised that the Abu Ghraib prison will be demolished, in consultation with the new Iraqi government.

General Karpinski also faces the possibility of criminal charges.

And she‘s with me tonight for this exclusive interview. 

Good evening.  Nice to see you again. 

KARPINSKI:  Nice to see you, too. 

NORVILLE:  Have you received official word of your suspension? 

KARPINSKI:  I have received notification from several sources, but I have nothing in writing.  They are reliable sources, and including some of the offices that manage general officer records.  And I‘ve been told, but I still don‘t know the details of the suspension. 

NORVILLE:  And on what grounds have you been suspended? 

KARPINSKI:  I don‘t know.  I don‘t know what the grounds are.  I know that I‘ve been suspended.  When I see it in writing, there will be an explanation for it.

And what that means is, I‘m suspended from my position as the commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade and they assign me to another position until whatever the reason is, whatever the basis is, is cleared. 

NORVILLE:  An Army Reserve spokesman says that you have been relieved of your command and you‘re also being transferred from active duty to Army Reserve status, which means what, you turn back into a private citizen? 

KARPINSKI:  I do, effective today.  But that would have happened anyway, because, when you deploy, you transition to active component status, and then when you return, through the demobilization process, then you‘re authorized to take the amount of days of leave that you‘re authorized, and you remain on an active duty status in a leave status. 

NORVILLE:  You‘ve been on leave for a little more than the past month. 


NORVILLE:  Why was this suspension announced today?  Do you see a connection with the president‘s speech with the situation in Iraq? 

KARPINSKI:  No, I didn‘t really make that connection.

But I did think that it was a bit unusual that on the first day of my return to reserve status, I get this notification, not even directly, that I‘ve been suspended. 

NORVILLE:  You have said in the past—you‘ve been on this program and you‘ve used the word scapegoat.  We heard it just then in the introduction.  Do you think you‘re being held responsible for the actions of others over whom you had no control? 


And actions like this renew my thought process of being a scapegoat and using the 800th M.P. Brigade as the organization responsible for this. 

NORVILLE:  You were not the only high-profile military person to have a job status change today.  NBC News has learned that General Ricardo Sanchez has also been informed that he will not be continuing in Iraq, that he‘ll be relieved of his command on July the 1st, when the handover takes place. 

Do you see a connection between his actions with respect to the investigation and the command structure in Iraq and this decision being made? 

KARPINSKI:  Well, the only comment that I could make about it is that that transition was scheduled for the end of June, the handover on the 1st of July, effectively, and he most likely would have rotated back to his 5th Corps at that time anyway. 

NORVILLE:  But he was a candidate to remain in Iraq. 

KARPINSKI:  Yes, he was. 

NORVILLE:  So that is clearly an avenue that is no longer open to him. 

Let me talk a little bit about what the consequences of this suspension is.  The Army spokesperson today whom we spoke to said that this does not close any doors to any future action, including criminal action against you.  Are you concerned about the possibility of this kind of prosecution against you? 

KARPINSKI:  Well, as I‘ve said from the very beginning, I‘ve been telling the truth all along.  And I also know what the orders were that were changing the responsibility for Abu Ghraib over to another commander. 

NORVILLE:  And that happened when? 

KARPINSKI:  And that happened in November. 

Prior to November, the Military Intelligence Brigade was actually running the cell block 1A and one 1B exclusively.  It didn‘t deny me access, but there was very little reason for me to continue to go into those cell blocks.

NORVILLE:  But you were nominally and structurally in charge of the entire prison, all 16, including Abu Ghraib, including the hard area.  That‘s 1A and 1B.

KARPINSKI:  Absolutely, yes.  That‘s correct.

NORVILLE:  How often did you go there during this time in question, specifically in October, when it‘s believed these abuses we‘ve seen documented took place? 

KARPINSKI:  Well, as I said, I still visited Abu Ghraib probably more often than I visited my other facilities.  But, again, I had the whole country of Iraq with facilities spread north to south, east to west, and many of those missions were at least as important as the mission at Abu Ghraib. 

There were no other interrogation operations taking place except at Abu Ghraib.  And the focus continued to increase on Abu Ghraib for an interrogation center. 

NORVILLE:  You were aware in October when the International Committee of the Red Cross came to Abu Ghraib and conducted its own inspection and investigation. 

KARPINSKI:  Correct. 

NORVILLE:  And you became aware of the findings of that investigation or the fact that there was a report when? 

KARPINSKI:  The very last week of November was the first time that I was even aware that a report had been sent forward from that. 

NORVILLE:  And you were aware that the report specified abuse of detainees within the Abu Ghraib prison? 

KARPINSKI:  There was some suggestion that some reports that the ICRC received during that visit could be connected to potential detainee abuse.  That‘s correct. 

NORVILLE:  If the IRC, International Committee of the Red Cross, reported that abuse happened during a time when the facility was clearly and indisputably under your control, why wouldn‘t you have gone and investigated?  That‘s the part of the story that has never made sense to me.

If you found out after the fact that something had gone on during your command, isn‘t it incumbent upon you to go and investigate and ask questions? 


You‘re almost removing this report from the context and from the situation when I first saw the report.  Certainly, when I saw the report, it was clear to me that the other people that were in this impromptu meeting had seen the report because they were already working on the words for the response to that report. 

NORVILLE:  And this would have been much later, in January? 

KARPINSKI:  This was in November. 

NORVILLE:  In November, when the report came out. 

KARPINSKI:  Yes.  Right.  And, well, I think the report came out earlier.

NORVILLE:  But when you guys got a chance to see it. 

KARPINSKI:  When I had a chance to see it, it was the first time I was seeing it.  But I got the impression that everybody else that was there at this impromptu meeting had already had access to the report and they were already working on a response for my review. 

That was the CJTF-7 legal section.  I made the comment that I hadn‘t even seen the report and I asked the M.I. brigade commander, are the reports going to you now because you‘re in charge of Abu Ghraib?  And before he could even answer, the SJA, the JAG officer, the lawyer, said, I have a copy right here, ma‘am, and I‘ll show it to you.

And I took a look at it and I said, what is this about the detainee being naked in the cell?  And they were very quick to respond, you know, how that detainees will tell you anything and the ICRC shouldn‘t have been in there anyway.  That was a detainee who was undergoing isolation, quickly talked about...

NORVILLE:  So they had a cover? 

KARPINSKI:  Well, they had a response, a very quick response. 

NORVILLE:  Were you comfortable with the response, the response itself and the speed with which it was delivered to you? 

KARPINSKI:  I—I don‘t know that I was uncomfortable with it, but I thought that it was unusual that there were these particular comments by the ICRC in there that we had never really had in a report prior to that. 

NORVILLE:  Why did you not then take it higher up the flagpole and bring it to someone else‘s attention?  If you were uncertain about the way this report was worded and the way it was being handled and dealt with, why didn‘t you call someone‘s attention to it? 

KARPINSKI:  Well, the conversation was plausible.  They said—and this is true.

NORVILLE:  And isn‘t there also sort of a sense that you don‘t want to rock the boat, you know, everybody has their territory, stick within your very finely carved-out outlines of command? 

KARPINSKI:  No, not necessarily.  You do stay within your lane, but there‘s absolutely conversation between commanders on everything.

And I don‘t think anybody in the theater of Iraq was hands—off, you know, kind of turning a blind eye if they really had firsthand information. 

NORVILLE:  As you know, this weekend, “The Washington Post” reported that there are some who believe that the responsibility for the abuse went much higher, that General Sanchez was not only aware, but was in fact present during some of the detainee abuse.  Now, military officials have strongly denied that. 

Do you have any information that General Sanchez, prior to this information coming in report form in January, when the real investigation began, that he was aware of it before that? 

KARPINSKI:  I really have no information about his awareness.  I know that he visited Abu Ghraib under the M.I. Brigade command leadership.  His intelligence officer was out there often.  But whether he was out there to witness any of this, I really have absolutely no...

NORVILLE:  Would it not have been something that you, as the person in charge of the prison, when the top commanding officer in Iraq would make a visit, wouldn‘t that be called to your attention?  You would be aware that he was there, wouldn‘t you? 


If it were my battalion, M.P. Battalion he was coming to visit, then the protocol is that his office would call and make me aware, make my aide, make my office aware that they were—he was going to pay a visit out there. 

NORVILLE:  But if he was paying a visit to the military intelligence branch, even though M.P.s may have nominally taking prisoners from point A to point B, would you not still have been advised of that visit or would you have been kept in the dark about that? 

KARPINSKI:  Not necessarily kept in the dark, but the protocol is that he‘s going to visit the M.I. Brigade, so there‘s no reason for you to be out there. 

NORVILLE:  Based on what you‘ve heard, based on the reports that have been in the public, do you believe that there was a concerted effort to keep you as the commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade, uninformed about these activities? 

KARPINSKI:  Yes, I do. 

And the basis for that is that we had a long history, not only in Iraq, but in prior deployments, of compliance and behaving the right way.  And M.P.s are well versed and well aware of what the requirements are.  And if anybody had suggested to me that these things were going to take place in any of my facilities, I would have objected and I know that they know that. 

NORVILLE:  Want to play an audio recording for you.  This is something that came from a hearing in April with one of the prisoners who—one of the soldiers who is now accused of the prison abuse.  And this is the attorney who represents that prisoner.  And he‘s speaking about the possibility that a higher up, a Captain Reese, might testify under oath in exchange for immunity about what he witnessed at the prison.  Here‘s a listen.


CAPT. JOHN MCCABE, U.S. ARMY:  Are you saying that Captain Reese is going to testify that General Sanchez was there and saw this going on? 

CAPT. ROBERT SHUCK, SGT. CHIP FREDERICK‘S LAWYER:  That‘s what he told me.  I am an officer of the court, and I would not lie.  I got two children at home.  I‘m not going to risk my career. 


NORVILLE:  CNN ANCHOR:  Now, this is the attorney talking, not the person who would be under oath, but does that raise more questions about the involvement perhaps of General Sanchez? 

KARPINSKI:  It certainly raises questions in my mind, for me personally, because it would tell me that in January, when I first was admonished and held responsible for this, there may have been existing information already that I clearly was not. 

NORVILLE:  We‘re going to take a short break.  Back more with Brigadier General Janis Karpinski. 

Now, just a moment ago, you heard that audiotape from the hearing in Iraq.  That was shared with us by “The Washington Post.”  They have got more information on the Abu Ghraib situation on their Web site and, of course, in tomorrow‘s “Washington Post.”  You can go to their Web site.  It‘s

We‘ll be back with more in just a moment.



BUSH:  America will fund the construction of a modern maximum security prison.  When that prison is completed, detainees at Abu Ghraib will be relocated.  Then, with the approval of the Iraqi government, we will demolish the Abu Ghraib prison as a fitting symbol of Iraq‘s new beginning. 



NORVILLE:  President Bush addressing the nation tonight on the situation in Iraq and specifically speaking about the notorious Abu Ghraib prison. 

I‘m back now with the former commander of military prisons in Iraq, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, who just today was suspended and placed off active duty. 

General Karpinski, about a week ago, we had the former commander of the 372nd with us, Military Police, a unit which has been directly linked in these things.  This is a gentleman who was in command over 10 years ago, Jim Villa.  He very clearly took exception with your admonition that it wasn‘t possible for you to get into the prison.  He said that he would visit his units in the middle of the night, surprise them with a cup of coffee, just to make sure people were on their toes. 

Why didn‘t you do that?  You knew that this was a high-risk, high-intensity assignment for your men and women.  Why weren‘t you there more often? 

KARPINSKI:  Well, I was there often, and I was there particularly often from July until September, because the prison was the largest one, maximum security.

But, as I‘ve said many times, I had 16 facilities spread all over the country of Iraq.  And all of those prisons and all of those soldiers needed to see me as well, and the detainees needed to see me and to know that I was there and that we were concerned about the road ahead.  I did work with the coalition provisional...

NORVILLE:  Did you go to Abu Ghraib in October? 

KARPINSKI:  I did go to Abu Ghraib in October. 

NORVILLE:  Did you ever go in the middle of the night?  Because what we‘re hearing is, a lot of this happened in the dead of night. 

KARPINSKI:  Well, I could not go in the middle of the night.  There were restrictions on travel in the middle of the night.  I was not on site at Abu Ghraib.

And I‘m sure the previous commander, as the company commander for this

deployment, was there on site at Abu Ghraib.  It was very easy for them to

get up and check on their soldiers.  And they did.  I‘d like to know if the

M.I. people went over and checked on the people in cell block 1A and 1B.  I guess that‘s a question that hasn‘t been asked, asked or answered. 

NORVILLE:  As you know, new photographs have come out yet again over the weekend and videotape as well, stuff of the prisoners, really ghastly, where inmates appear to be covered in feces, where inmates have been asked to get on their hands and knees and act like they‘re animals.  We‘re even hearing that some of soldiers, American soldiers, rode on their backs in a most humiliating situation for these people. 

There seems to be some debate, I gather, as this goes forward whether this is torture or something else.  What word do you use to describe it? 

KARPINSKI:  Well I think that it‘s a—it‘s terrible behavior.  And it is a ...

NORVILLE:  It‘s not torture? 

KARPINSKI:  I don‘t think that it‘s torture in the true sense of the word of torture. 

NORVILLE:  Is it torture under the definition of the Geneva Conventions? 

KARPINSKI:  It is because it‘s humiliating and it‘s using methods that are particularly offensive to the culture.  And, again, my objection would be very strong because I‘m very familiar with the culture throughout the Middle East. 

And I—I know that these particular acts would be offensive. 

NORVILLE:  Are these the acts of people who are sadists by nature, people who have become sadistic because of the stress of the assignment?  We know that most of the members of the 372nd thought they would have been coming back home, and their tour of duty was extended.  How do you explain the kind of behavior? 

KARPINSKI:  Well, I think it‘s difficult to explain because we don‘t know all of the details. 

Originally, I know that there was a lot of question about did it start out as simple actions and they were encouraged somehow?  And now, as the news unfolds, I think that there‘s far more details.  I‘m not a psychiatrist.  I‘m not a doctor.  I do know that the M.P.s didn‘t deploy with all of the pieces of equipment that you see in a lot of those photographs, collars, chains, those kinds of things.  Those things had to have been provided to them by somebody. 

I don‘t know if it was somebody who was directing these kind of activities or not. 

NORVILLE:  You may not be a psychologist or a doctor, but you are an executive trainer in your civilian life.  And, as such, I guess you consider yourself a fairly good judge of individuals and people. 


NORVILLE:  Couldn‘t you see this change on the part of people who were under your command? 

KARPINSKI:  Well, you make it appear that I saw these people every day.  I did not.  I didn‘t even see the battalion commander every day.  I did not.  It was impossible to do such a thing.

But I would say to you that people that were much closer to the situation, the battalion commander, the company commander, the NCOs there, they were shocked by the photographs they saw.  That doesn‘t mean that they were derelict in any way.  That means that these individuals were either instructed by design or by plan to keep this information extremely quiet. 

NORVILLE:  Well, for obvious reasons.  You look at the photographs.  The question is, should there not have been somewhere in the hierarchy an effort to break the code of silence, because clearly there was one at play there?

KARPINSKI:  But if you know that you need to break the code of silence, certainly.  But, as I said, to any of us on the M.P. side of the house, there was never an indication.  Even soldiers that served in the same company with them, slept in the same barracks with them, used the same dining facilities, were unaware of this.  That tells you how closely the information was being concealed. 

NORVILLE:  I want to talk about President Bush‘s address tonight.  Were you surprised that he did not go into more detail and more commentary about these horrific photos and what the entire world has been talking about? 

KARPINSKI:  My impression of the speech was that it was a positive one.  They wanted to show the road ahead.

And I‘d like to believe that we can get beyond this, certainly not forget it, certainly not cover it up, certainly not conceal it.  But this is something that we need to get beyond so we can continue to forge this road ahead for the future of Iraq. 

NORVILLE:  I guess the question is what path that road is going to be going down.  As you know, General Anthony Zinni has just released his memoirs and he was on “60 Minutes” the other night talking about it.

I want to play an excerpt from that interview and get your reaction to it, General Zinni. 


RETIRED GEN. ANTHONY ZINNI, FORMER CENTCOM COMMANDER:  There has been poor operational planning and execution on the ground.  And to think that we‘re going to—quote—“stay the course,” this course is headed over Niagara Falls.  I think it‘s time to change course a little bit or at least hold somebody responsible for putting you on this course, because it‘s been a failure. 


NORVILLE:  Do you think America is on the right course in Iraq? 

KARPINSKI:  I think that it‘s important that we be there.  I think that the coalition forces, primarily the U.S. forces, are doing wonderful things all over Iraq, because I saw countless examples of it everywhere.

And, like I said, I had the whole country to look at.  Maybe there‘s been a couple of hiccups.  Maybe there‘s been a couple of turns in the road.  Maybe we need to go back and renegotiate or renavigate those roads. 

NORVILLE:  You would call Abu Ghraib a hiccup? 

KARPINSKI:  No, I would not.  I would call that an obstacle, a very large one, not a hiccup certainly, but—and I wouldn‘t call Fallujah a hiccup either.  I use that expression only to say that we need to relook at some of those particular activities and actions and get ahead of them. 

NORVILLE:  The president was looking forward, and he was talking about the five-point plan for going forward, particularly after the handover.  What do you believe the appropriate role for American troops should be? 

And are there enough people in place at the moment to do the job? 

KARPINSKI:  Well, I‘m telling you again, I‘m not the president of the United States and I‘m probably not going to be for a day, even, where I could make those kind of decisions, but—and I can‘t comment on the troop strength overall.

But I can tell you that we were always critically short military police personnel.  And that was one of the things that they need to correct very quickly, if they haven‘t already, because we didn‘t have a replacement system.  If we lost somebody for a medical reason or whatever it was, we didn‘t get a replacement in.  We didn‘t have backfills.  So some of the troop strength numbers were dropping considerably. 

I know that they need the right training to do those kind of missions that they‘re doing.  And particularly if they‘re going to continue to be the subject matter experts to teach the new Iraqi corrections officers, they certainly need to have experts in there to do that. 

NORVILLE:  You have been suspended from your position as brigadier general, as general of the 800th Military Police Brigade.  There is still the possibility of charges, including criminal charges, against you.  How frightened are you at that possibility? 

KARPINSKI:  Well, I think the prospect certainly for me—and I‘ll talk for my own perspective—of facing criminal charges is extremely frightening, a concern, because I don‘t have any basis for the suspension, I don‘t know why it was executed today.  I don‘t know the reason for it.

And, unfortunately, have they waited this amount of time to develop something, to conjure up something, to find more basis to go back to the original thought that perhaps we were all being used as scapegoats?  I don‘t know.  And all of those questions are very important. 

NORVILLE:  Well, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, thank you very much for being with us.  I hope you‘ll be back to visit again. 

KARPINSKI:  Thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

NORVILLE:  When we come back, Retired General Barry McCaffrey reacts to the president‘s speech tonight on Iraq and the prison scandal there. 

And then, later on, what do families of American service men and women think about the president‘s plan for the handover? 

Stay with us.



NORVILLE:  We‘ve been taking a look tonight at President Bush‘s speech on handing over power in Iraq and the latest in the ongoing Iraqi prisoner scandal. 

Before we get to the president‘s speech, though, we turn now to retired U.S. Army general and NBC News military analyst, General Barry McCaffrey. 

General McCaffrey, good to see you and thanks so much for being with us. 

I‘m curious to your reaction to what General Karpinski just had to say, that she had too many prisons to cover and there was simply no way she could physically keep tabs on each prison and the people who worked there. 

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, U.S. ARMY (RET.):  Well, you know, first of all, she‘s not accused in any manner, as far as I know of, knowing about or condoning criminal behavior. 

That was so far seven of her soldiers and possibly some other intel and contractor personnel. 

In addition, I would agree, she—you know, her unit was called up way too late.  Secretary Rumsfeld sat on these deployment orders for months.  They weren‘t adequately trained.  They were deployed, ill organized, and thrown into a very confusing situation under attack. 

So all that says I‘m sympathetic. 

Now, look, at the end of the day, though, this report by Major General Taguba, a very solid guy, said no leadership, no training, no oversight.  She was in charge.  This wasn‘t a fast-paced combat environment.  What was going on?

The company commander, the battalion commander in particular and she‘d bear responsibility. 

NORVILLE:  So you would say suspension is appropriate?

MCCAFFREY:  Oh, at least, yes.  I think she did—she failed completely in a very responsible position.  The morale of this unit fell apart.  They were, you know, ill organized. 

She sent—apparently sent the battalion commander out, he was have a nervous problem, to Kuwait, had another battalion commander temporarily commanding his unit. 

The company commander was apparently involved in some misdeeds.  You know, it‘s such a mess, it‘s almost impossible to believe it was going on. 

And you know, she bears direct command responsibility.  How dare she say that she wasn‘t allowed to see her soldiers in some part of an installation she was in charge of?  It‘s just astonishing. 

NORVILLE:  And what should the action be?  If you were still wearing the uniform and had all the stars on your shoulders and had had the power to recommend punitive action, what would you think, militarily speaking, is the appropriate response?

MCCAFFREY:  Well, first of all, I think we need an investigation.  We need to sort this thing out.  We don‘t have the facts. 

The seven soldiers that were involved in direct violation of international law and the uniform code of military justice have already been charged.  That‘s appropriate. 

Again, you know, I think at the end of the day, the chain of command was confusing.  It melted down; it didn‘t do its job.  Probably nothing is called for except getting her out of a command position where she can‘t do this again, along with every other commander below her in the chain of command. 

NORVILLE:  Well, certainly one commander higher up in the chain of command and not the same chain of command as she is General Ricardo Sanchez. 

It was announced today, or NBC News is reporting, that Sanchez will be brought back and relieved of his command there of the coalition in Iraq come July 1.  They say there is no connection to the situation that‘s been going on and the confusion in Iraq.  Do you buy that?

MCCAFFREY:  Well, I think it‘s been planned for a long time.  The rumor around the Pentagon was he‘s up for his fourth star to command Latin America.  You know, he‘s a native American Spanish speaker.  So that may well have been in the works for a long time. 

His replacement has been tentatively identified and—so I think that was underway.  On the other hand, it may well be a good time to get him out of there, to get new leadership on the ground, to show a new face as we transition to the so-called sovereign Iraqi state. 

NORVILLE:  Rumored to replace him is George Casey, who‘s currently the vice chief of staff of the Army. 

I want to get your reaction to what President Bush had to talk about tonight. 

It struck me that he had very little to say about the prison abuse scandal, which is certainly something that people around the world have had plenty to say.  I want to play the one remark the president did make and then get your reaction. 


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Under the dictator, prisons like Abu Ghraib were symbols of death and torture.  That same prison became a symbol of disgraceful conduct by a few American troops, who dishonored our country and disregarded our values. 


NORVILLE:  What do you think about what the president had to say?

MCCAFFREY:  There‘s not much to say.  It needs to be thoroughly investigated, needs to be transparent to the International Red Cross and the international media.  We need to tell the Iraqi people we‘re going to correct the situation. 

I think—one of the challenges though, Deborah, will be to investigate the extent to which Secretary Rumsfeld, Mr. Steve Cambone and this Major General Miller, to what extent that they apply non-legal measures under an international law from Afghanistan to Guantanamo to Iraq. 

I think at the end of the day, that‘s going to be the condition that may have started a lot of this misbehavior going. 

NORVILLE:  Talk to me a little bit about this—I won‘t say tug of war, but they‘re certainly—they‘re looking to—kind of one eyed at each other, the military people within the Pentagon and the civilian people within the Pentagon.  I gather there is a growing distrust between the two groups. 

MCCAFFREY:  Well, it‘s hard to make a generalization of that sort of thing.  I think one of the things you‘re hearing in the president‘s speech at the Army War College was a general sense of respect and indeed affection on the part of many people in the armed forces for the president.  So I don‘t think that extends to him. 

I do believe there‘s been an atmosphere out of Secretary Rumsfeld, and people like Mr. Doug Feith and Cambone, of arrogance and misjudgments against the direct warnings of experienced military officers, like General Rick Shinseki, that they ignored and they plunged ahead and they‘ve gotten us in terrible trouble.  And I think there‘s dismay. 

These beautiful kids that were—you know, 6,000 killed, wounded and injured in the last year, so—and there‘s no prospect in the short run that this is going to get better.  August and September and October are going to be really tough in Iraq. 

NORVILLE:  Well, and they‘re also talking, it was—what was released today, United States is talking about hanging on to the military prisoners that they have after the handover to Iraq takes place. 

I mean, it‘s almost like they‘re going back to some of the stuff where they‘re making the rules up as they go along. 

MCCAFFREY:  Well, I think you‘re right.  I think a lot is getting made up as we go along.  The flip-flops on Fallujah and on, you know, the July 1 turnover.  We‘re going to kill or capture Sadr or isolate him. 

There‘s been a great deal of policy confusion.  The whole notion that we might leave Iraq, in theory, on 2 July if asked to by a government that we don‘t yet know who it is, appointed by what, a U.N. special envoy?  Some of this stuff is not well thought out, clearly. 

NORVILLE:  Well, and President Bush tonight gave us every indication to think it‘s going to get worse before it gets better.  Listen to what he had to say on this. 


BUSH:  Completing the five steps to Iraqi elected self-government will not be easy.  There‘s likely to be more violence before the transfer of sovereignty, and after the transfer of sovereignty.  The terrorists and Saddam loyalists would rather see many Iraqis die than have any live in freedom. 


NORVILLE:  He wouldn‘t be saying that if he didn‘t have reason to believe it‘s going to get pretty bad in the next few weeks.  What do you think, General?

MCCAFFREY:  Well, I think he‘s appropriately trying to set expectations low.  August is going to be a tough month.  The new transitional government will come in. 

What is the status of the forces governing our military and our contractors? Is there an Iraqi national Army and police?  The answer is no. 

How can we get NATO directly engaged in this operation?  It‘s unlikely, certainly, in the short run.

And finally, we have $20 billion reconstruction money.  Dollars are bullets in this war, and how can we expend those funds if there‘s no security? 

So we are in a bit of a mess.  It‘s an important operation for us as Americans.  This isn‘t the president‘s war, Deborah.  This is our war. 

NORVILLE:  Absolutely. 

MCCAFFREY:  And we‘re going to have to sort it out.  Yes.

NORVILLE:  Well, you ask a lot of questions and unfortunately we didn‘t get as many answers tonight, maybe, as some people listening to the president would have hoped. 

General Barry McCaffrey, as always, it‘s good to have you on the program.  Thanks so much.

MCCAFFREY:  Good to be with you, Deborah. 


ANNOUNCER:  Up next, the families left behind by men and women at war. 

Some face financial hardship, others pay the ultimate sacrifice. 

BUSH:  Our coalition has faced changing conditions of war.  And that has required perseverance, sacrifice, and an ability to adapt. 

ANNOUNCER:  Reaction from the home front from DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns. 



BUSH:  My fellow Americans, we will not fail.  We will persevere and defeat this enemy.  And hold this hard one ground for the realm of liberty.  May God bless our country. 


NORVILLE:  President Bush speaking tonight about his plan to turn over power to Iraq come June 30.

Since the war began, 801 U.S. service men and women have died, and more than 4,500 have been wounded.  What do family members of soldiers want to hear from the commander in chief?  And tonight, did he deliver it?

Joining me now are Donna Bramblett.  She‘s the wife of Staff Sergeant James Bramblett.  He‘s with the National Guard unit.  He was called up for deployment in Iraq in March of 2003. 

She joins us along with her son, Judd.

And with us on the telephone from Fayetteville, North Carolina, is Ann Hampton.  She is the mother of Army Captain Kimberly Hampton, who was killed January 2 when her Black Hawk helicopter was shot down.  She became the first American female pilot ever to be shot down in combat. 

I thank you all for being with me. 

Ms. Bramblett, I‘m going to start with you, first.  What did you want the president to say tonight?  What were you sitting there hoping you‘d hear from him?

DONNA BRAMBLETT, MILITARY WIFE:  Well, of course the ultimate would be that our soldiers were going to come home.  But of course I know that that‘s not possible, nor do I think it should be. 

We‘re there; let‘s get the job done.  I don‘t want this to turn into another Vietnam.  And I don‘t want the soldiers to back out now and everyone that has lost their lives just to be in vein. 

NORVILLE:  The president said...

BRAMBLETT:  I, however, was...

NORVILLE:  Go ahead. 

BRAMBLETT:  I was hoping that he would say more.  I did want him to talk about the safety of the soldiers.  I think that the number of our soldiers that have gotten killed has been way too high. 

NORVILLE:  The president did say that right now they are a little more than 130-some odd thousand there and that if we need more troops, we will do what we have to to take sure the troops are there. 

That doesn‘t make it sound like your husband, who‘s already been there for more than a year, would be coming home any time soon?

BRAMBLETT:  Well, that‘s the million-dollar question.  My husband has been there a year.  He is in Kuwait awaiting a flight back home, which the families have been told it will be sometime during the first week of June. 

NORVILLE:  Well, that is good news for you.  You must be sitting on pins and needles. 

BRAMBLETT:  Oh, I am.  It‘s like Christmas at my house all over again. 

NORVILLE:  Well, unfortunately, that was not the case for the family of Kimberly Hampton.  She was killed the very beginning of this year, and her mom is on the phone with us. 

Ms. Hampton, did you hear what you wanted to from President Bush tonight?

ANN HAMPTON, MOTHER OF KIMBERLY HAMPTON:  Yes, I did, Deborah.  I wanted to hear him say that he was committed, that we would stay the course, that he would send additional troops if necessary. 

And that‘s—that‘s what he said.  And he has a plan, obviously all the details aren‘t known.  They aren‘t known to us.  They shouldn‘t be. 

But you know, he—he has a plan in place that hopefully Iraq will be a free country.  That‘s why we‘re there, to liberate the Iraqi people and to help them establish a democracy and, you know, I think he has a plan to do that. 

NORVILLE:  He also seemed to be speaking to families just like yours, when he specifically mentioned the sacrifices that so many have made.  Let‘s give a listen. 


BUSH:  The mission of our forces in Iraq is demanding and dangerous.  Our troops are showing exceptional skill and courage.  I thank them for their sacrifices and their duty.


NORVILLE:  When you hear words like that, Ms. Hampton, does it take the pain of losing your daughter a few months ago away to any degree?

HAMPTON:  It doesn‘t take the pain away, but it does help that he, as well as the rest of the country, recognize the ultimate sacrifices that have been made. 

NORVILLE:  And as we said, 801 soldiers, servicemen, airmen, so on, have been killed in Iraq.  We‘re going to take a short break. 

When we come back, we‘re going to have more with Donna Bramblett, her son Judd.  We‘re going to get Judd in here.  And Ann Hampton, when we come back.


NORVILLE:  Back now, talking about the president‘s speech with family members who truly have invested in the future of Iraq. 

Donna Bramblett‘s husband, Staff Sergeant, is with the National Guard. 

He‘s an engineer currently in Iraq.  She‘s there with her son Judd. 

And on the phone from Fayetteville, North Carolina, is Ann Hampton, whose daughter was shot down over Iraq on January 2. 

Judd, I couldn‘t help but notice that swanky looking T-shirt.  I gathered that‘s something you‘ll be wearing when your dad comes home in a couple of weeks?

JUDD BRAMBLETT, BROTHER:  That‘s correct. 

NORVILLE:  How excited will you be to have your father back?

J. BRAMBLETT:  Very.  That‘s all I want.

NORVILLE:  What‘s one question you want to ask him about what it‘s been like over there in Iraq?

J. BRAMBLETT:  I just want to know how everyone is dealing with it.  I know there‘s a lot of bombs going off over there, and I—I just want everyone to be safe. 

NORVILLE:  Everybody wants that and the situation seems to just get increasingly violent.  There was another car bomb today that went off in the heart of Baghdad. 

I want to ask you all about the plan for the future in Iraq.  You heard the president during his speech.  He outlined the five points of what he wants to do for the people of Iraq.  You know, help rebuild the infrastructure, get it set up so that national elections can take place and so on. 

Six in 10 Americans say they don‘t think the president has a clear plan for Iraq.  What do you think the president‘s plan is for getting Americans back home?  Ms. Hampton, I‘ll let you take that one first?

HAMPTON:  Obviously, the Americans cannot come back home until he and the people that he‘s working with try to go through this handover—I mean, his goal for Iraq is freedom , independence and prosperity, as he said, and a democracy. 

And until those things happen, neither he nor anyone else can or should bring the Americans home. 

NORVILLE:  How long do you think that will take, Ms. Hampton?

HAMPTON:  I wish I had a crystal ball.  I don‘t know.  I don‘t think anyone knows, but I think we‘re there and we should stay the course until we‘ve completed why we went. 

Otherwise, the people who have died, died in vain. 

NORVILLE:  Well, I know that‘s—that‘s something that no one wants to think about for anyone who has lost their lives in Iraq.  Ms. Bramblett, when do you think mission accomplished will truly have been accomplished in Iraq?

BRAMBLETT:  I don‘t know that it truly ever will be.  I hope so.  I really feel for the Iraqi children, and I‘m very happy that they will grow up in a different world than their parents and their grandparents did. 

But I believe that it‘s going to take a much longer time than the American people are willing to wait. 

NORVILLE:  Yes, it could be.  It could be a long time.  Many people are making that projection. 

Donna Bramblett, thank you very much for being here.  I know, Ms.  Bramblett, you want to hug your husband instead of that little stuffed camel you‘ve got right there. 

And Ann we look forward to you being able to do that.  And Ann Hampton, again, we thank you so much for being with us.  We appreciate your time tonight, as well. 

HAMPTON:  Thank you.

NORVILLE:  If you‘d like some more information about the president‘s plans for Iraq, we‘ve got a link for you.  It‘s got the names, also, of the Americans who have paid the ultimate price in battle.  Come to our web page.  It‘s Norville.MSNBC.  You‘ll find it right there.

We‘ll be right back. 


NORVILLE:  Send your comments to us at  We‘re got some of your e-mails posted on our web page.  That‘s also, which is the same place you can sign up for our newsletter. 

That‘s our program for this evening.  Thanks so much for watching.

Tomorrow night, an exclusive story.  The story of one woman who lived in a polygamous community against her will, and finally after 40 years, she escaped. 

She went into hiding and has just recently been reunited with her daughters.  For the very first time, she will talk publicly about her experiences. 

That‘s tomorrow night.  At 11 eastern.  You can revisit the president‘s speech in its entirety here on  Good night. 


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