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Pictures of Abuse in Iraq Raise Questions of U.S. Credibility

Aired May 4, 2004 - 16:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.

In the CROSSFIRE: pictures of abuse in Iraq raise questions of U.S. credibility and put the military on the defensive.

DONALD RUMSFELD, U.S. SECY. OF DEF.: The images that we've seen that include U.S. forces are deeply disturbing.

ANNOUNCER: Congress is demanding answers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Congress should have been notified of this situation a long time ago.

ANNOUNCER: What happened in Iraq? And is the U.S. military guilty of crossing the line?

To debate this and more, Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz and human rights activist Bianca Jagger, today on CROSSFIRE.


ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, James Carville and Tucker Carlson.


Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld minced no words today in condemning the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by a few American soldiers. "Totally unacceptable and un-American" is the way he put it. Rumsfeld vows to take all steps necessary to punish those who are responsible.

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST: The real story of the sorry mess created by the Bush administration is coming from the Iraqis themselves. There's more speaking out and for members of Congress who are denouncing the Pentagon for moving to slowly (UNINTELLIGIBLE) right after the best little political briefing in television, a CROSSFIRE POLITICAL ALERT.

Two days after the first pictures of the U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi POWs were broadcasting on television, FOX's "Hannity and Colmes," hosted a guest who provided some interesting insight into what we are seeing. Former army sergeant and former interrogation instructor, Tony Robertson (ph), said that, quote, "Frat hazing is worse than what is happening in these pictures."

I've never seen any kind of fraternity hazing that manages to tick off the entire world, setback America's efforts to stabilize Iraq and quite possibly manages to get more American soldiers killed a result. But apparently Sean Hannity thinks that what we've got going on over here is basically a fraternity party.

But then again, when you think about the planning that Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Wolfowitz put into what's going on over there in Iraq, the toga party in "Animal House" was better planned than this thing was.

CARLSON: I think it's a great point, James, that "Hannity and Colmes" had a bad guest on. That's an important point and I'm glad...


CARLSON: So they had some dumb guy on their show. The point is, this is bad for the United States, what is coming to light in Iraq.

CARVILLE: I agree.

CARLSON: And I don't think there's any evidence that anybody in power in Washington approved of it. Why would they? It's bad for the U.S. government.

CARVILLE: I don't think -- right now we don't have any evidence they did, but they sure have had this report for a long time and didn't do anything and tried to blame it on six people.

CARLSON: I'm sure it was Halliburton.

Well, just about everybody agrees that if there's one thing Americans simply don't get enough of, it's Canadian television. Well, television viewers of America, the long national nightmare is over. A group of investors led by former Vice President Al Gore announced today the purchase of a Canadian cable network which they plan to retool and aim at the United States. Details were few, but this we know: it will be targeted at Americans under 35, it will be produced by Canadians and, in the words of a spokesman, it will be distinguished by, quote, "irreverent and bold programming."

Well, of course, because when you think of Al Gore, irreverent and bold are inevitably the first two words that come to mind. They just go together, like peanut butter and jelly, like well, Canadian and entertainment.

Good luck, Mr. Vice President. We'll be pulling for you.

You know, it's just sad, James. I'm not against Al Gore...


CARVILLE: I thought you were for free trade.

(CROSSTALK) CARLSON: He has no feel for people is the problem and the idea that someone who doesn't understand...


CARVILLE: If a former presidential candidate wants to have a television network -- Bob Dole does Viagra ads. I mean, what the hell. Everybody can do what they want to do.

CARLSON: I'm for it. I'm just saying, this is a guy who has no feel for other human beings, and yet he's...


CARVILLE: Well, if he didn't have a feel, why did he win the election by 500,000 votes?

CARLSON: But who's president now?


CARVILLE: George W. Bush and his buddies may have no idea how to run a country, but they sure know how to run a dirty campaign.

Today a new Republican attack group made its debut on the political scene. They call themselves Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth and they say they represent veterans from Kerry's Navy unit who think he's unfit to be commander-in-chief.

The truth is, "Salon" magazine has found it's not a veterans organization at all. It's a group run by Bush allies in Texas, including one named Merrie Spaeth, a woman who coached Ken Starr -- that was a hell of a job -- for his public appearances back during the Clinton administration. Please, bring her on.

Spaeth is also responsible for helping another fake group, Republicans for Clean Air, when they falsely attacked the environmental record of Senator John McCain back during the 2000 elections.

George W. Bush's friends are better at coming up with fake groups than real solutions. So Americans shouldn't believe everything they hear, especially when it's coming from a fake group like this one, attacking a real hero like Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts.

CARLSON: I think it's a little over the top of you to attack the real veterans in this group, including John O'Neill, who served a year in Vietnam, won two bronze stars in the very same Swift Boat John Kerry served in. He has a right to his political opinions and you can...


CARVILLE: John Kerry served his country too, a hell of a lot more than most anybody else. CARLSON: Well, when the Democratic Party brain trust, such as it is, holds a meeting, what do you think they talk about? Is it health care? Could it be Iraq? Maybe NATO expansion? Perhaps the long-term effects of NAFTA? None of the above. In fact, they talk about Barbra Streisand, how to book her for fund-raising events.

As "The Hill" newspaper reports say, the Democratic senatorial and congressional campaign committees have been engaged in a low-grade feud with the Kerry campaign over who will get to book Ms. Streisand for fund-raisers. Well, it looks like the Kerry campaign has won. Barbara's focus will be on the presidential campaign from now until the election, said her spokesman, with all the gravity of a cardinal reading a papal encyclical.

Well, congratulations, John Kerry. You have won the Barbara Streisand sweepstakes and we hope it helps you in West Virginia. We know it will.

CARVILLE: You know, I don't know what your problem is with Barbara Streisand. I think she's a talented woman with a great voice and a great...


CARVILLE: What about al Qaeda, who endorsed George W. Bush...


CARVILLE: I report, you decide. Al Qaeda endorsed Bush. I reported it, factually. You decide, America.

CARLSON: It's a little embarrassing that when Democrats get together they talk about Barbara Streisand.


CARLSON: Well, has the United States military crossed the line in Iraq? It looks that way. Troubling questions are being raised about the conduct of some American soldiers. We'll address those questions just ahead with Bianca Jagger and Harvard professor and attorney Alan Dershowitz. We'll also suck up a little bit more to Barbara Streisand.

And later, why is Heinz Ketchup in such a political pickle? We'll fill you in after, again, we suck up to Barbara Streisand.

We'll be right back.


CARVILLE: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld today appeared at a loss for words when pressed by reporters to explain why it took so long to brief Congress on the abuse of Iraqis by American soldiers at a Baghdad prison.

Rumsfeld's response, "We told the world in January." The Senate isn't buying that and plans to hold investigative hearings. All of this -- reports emerge that similar abuses have occurred in Iraq at other facilities and in Afghanistan.

In the CROSSFIRE, defense attorney and Harvard law professor and genius, Professor Alan Dershowitz, and human rights advocate Bianca Jagger.

Professor Dershowitz, you have in the past said that we should legalize torture in certain instances. Am I correct about that?

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, HARVARD LAW PROFESSOR: No. What I said was we should never authorize any extraordinary methods of interrogation without getting some advanced authorization, and this proves my point. I predicted this was going to happen a long time ago.

When you say publicly that we'll never use any kind of extraordinary methods and then you suddenly send a message down to the troops on the ground, the police intelligence officers and the military police, look, do what you have to do, just don't tell us. Just give us plausible deniability -- this is inevitably going to happen.

People say you have to have some method of using extraordinary techniques in extreme situations. Well, if you do then you should have to go up to somebody at the very top -- the president, the secretary of defense, the chief justice of the United States -- get a warrant that specifies what you have to do, why you have to do it and what limitations there are, and that will help reduce this kind of ad hoc on the ground doing it and then blaming it on the soldiers when clearly it is the responsibility of the higher ups.

CARVILLE: Well, counselor, you're starting to convince me. Give us an idea of some of the instances where you could obtain a warrant or permission or something like that to do this. Give us a circumstance that you think would be justified.

DERSHOWITZ: If you have a leading general in interrogation and we have information that there is about to be a bomb to explode and kill many American troops and somebody thinks that the only way of doing this and getting the information from him is by using extraordinary methods -- and I'm not supporting those methods. I'm saying if somebody thinks you have to do it, you have to do it openly, directly and from the top.

You can't say what our military now says: do what you have to do, just don't tell us. Give us deniability, but don't take pictures. That was the big problem. The big complaint is that pictures were being taken.

This -- the way we're doing it now encourages this kind of blame the lower ranking officers, let them do it, let them take the flack. We at the top will always have deniability.

CARLSON: Now, Bianca Jagger, last year as the United States prepared to invade Iraq, millions of people around the world, mostly on the left, protested that impending invasion. At that time, the "Boston Globe" interviewed a 19-year-old Iraqi exile named Rania Kashi (ph). And here is what she said to those who protested the invasion, quote:

"Saddam rules Iraq using fear. He regularly imprisons, executes and tortures large numbers of people for no reason whatsoever. The Iraqi people have been protesting for years against the war, the war that Saddam has waged against them. Where have you been?"

And that's an interesting question. My question to you is, where were you, Bianca Jagger, on March 31, when Iraqis were mutilating the bodies of Americans in Fallujah, essentially torturing them to death? I didn't hear any outcry over that. I wonder why.

BIANCA JAGGER, HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Well, let me tell you something. I was in Iraq, months before the war, and I went to meet with government officials to ask them to allow Amnesty International special envoys to be able to check and see if human rights would continue to be violated in Iraq.

I have been a constant human rights and I have been a voice of reason denouncing human rights violations throughout the world for the last 20 years.

I don't see why now in order for you to avoid facing up to what the United States is doing in Iraq and how they're violating the Geneva Convention, you are going back to an e-mail that you received from someone at the time and that was really...

CARLSON: No, I understand. No. That was actually from the "Boston Globe." But if I can just say, I don't think there's any excusing human rights violations, no matter where they take place, including when they are committed by American troops, and I'm not attempting to excuse them.

I'm merely saying that anti-Americanism runs deep on the left and among protesters like yourself, and I'm just wondering if you're spending as much energy or you spend as much energy attacking Saddam, who killed tens of thousands of people, as you are now attacking the low-level soldiers who humiliated the Iraqis at that prison outside of Baghdad.

JAGGER: I have denounced human rights violations all over the world, and I think that what we need to address --

CARLSON: I just don't remember that, I guess.

JAGGER: -- is -- probably you don't, because you weren't there when I came back from Iraq.

But what I would like to address is really the issue of the Geneva Convention. The United States is at the moment -- has lost the reputation that we have as a nation that abides by laws and that abides by the Geneva Convention. What is concerning, what is troublesome, is that since the government of Mr. Bush has come to power, they have sent a message, a clear message, that the Geneva Convention did not apply to the way they manage prisoners, whether we are talking about in Guantanamo Bay, whether we are talking in Afghanistan or we are now talking in Iraq.

What we need to address -- and I think that Senator McCain was very clear today -- there needs to be an investigation. There needs to be a hearing in the Senate and I think that the secretary of defense needs to answer all these questions. We cannot only blame the small soldiers and not look to see if these orders came from above.

CARVILLE: Professor, let me -- you have considerable experience in these kinds of things, and one of the things we've just heard from Tucker, and we hear a lot from supporters of this war, is look, this is just six people that besmirched the entire 150,000 people who are serving honorably over there.

What do you think the chances are that this thing is just confined to six people, or there is something way up higher in the chain of command and a lot more people knew about this? Give us your opinion based on what you've seen, how big you think this thing can be.

DERSHOWITZ: I think it's very big. I think there's zero chance that it involves just these six people.

Sy Hersh in his article in "The New Yorker" today clearly indicates and has documentary evidence that the army believes it goes up. And we have to go up the top of the chain of command and we have to figure out how to resolve this issue about getting information from people when we think we need it and taking responsibility for when we have to engage in extraordinary efforts.

We just cannot allow this don't-ask-don't-tell policy to continue, in which we wink and nod and tell people on the ground do whatever you have to do, just don't tell us. That kind of deniability is inconsistent with a democracy.

But I agree with Tucker on one point, and that is there is an awful lot of hypocrisy coming from the Arab side because the Arabs never condemned Jordan for its torture, never condemned Egypt for its torture, never condemned the Philippines for its torture, and torture there is widespread.

By the way, the United States sometimes makes use of Egyptian and Jordanian and Philippine torture uses in order to clean our hands of the kind of torture that we'd rather not do but we'd like to get the fruits of their interrogations.

CARLSON: Now, Bianca Jagger, I just want to correct one thing.

JAGGER: I would like to say -- I would like to respond to that.

CARLSON: OK. Please respond.

JAGGER: Yes, because he responded to the issue of Arabs, which is true. But I would like to speak on behalf of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. All you need to do is to go to both of their Web sites and you will see the condemnation to human rights violations on all parts of the world. So I'd like to point that and to make that clear.

CARLSON: Is that right, Bianca? Actually, I'm interested that you say that because I want to correct one thing that you said. You said you've denounced human rights violations wherever you've seen them for the last 20 years. I remember, however, in 1990 in Managua, Nicaragua, I was there, you were there, during the election that year. The Sandinista government was still in power and of course it was a human rights nightmare. They killed an imprisoned thousands of their enemies and tortured them.

I saw you give a press briefing that year. You didn't say word one about the human rights abuses committed by the Sandinista government, the anti-American Marxist government. Why is that?

JAGGER: I'm sorry, I have. I have condemned the human rights violations by the Nicaraguan government at the time. And every time that you want to debate an issue that has nothing to do with Nicaragua, you bring that up, Tucker.

I think you should come back today to the issue that we are debating, and it's whether the United States government...


JAGGER: ... whether the United States government is and should stop violations of human rights as well as the violation of the Geneva Convention.

CARVILLE: If I can get Tucker out of the 90's and ask you one quick question here, Professor Dershowitz. You're an observer of Middle East affairs and everything. How much damage has this done to the reputation and interests of the United States, this whole torture thing?

DERSHOWITZ: Well, I think it's done a lot of damage, but I think a lot of the damage is a function of hypocrisy. I think a lot of people in the Arab world are going to wring their hands and scream and cry only because America did it. They would apply a double standard if their own people did it. And that doesn't excuse the United States, but I don't think that many of the Arab countries have a lot of standing to object to this.

So it's going to be emotionally difficult, but intellectually I think that as long as the United States pursues this aggressively and vigorously, we can show the world that although we do these things, we at least prosecute them.


CARVILLE: As usual, you're very persuasive and make very good points. Thank you.

CARLSON: We're going to take a quick commercial break and then when we come back in RAPID FIRE we'll ask our guests if they would support torture if it led to the capture of Osama bin Laden. Interesting mind exercise.

And then Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York weighs in on the Iraqi prisoner controversy with Wolf Blitzer. She'll tell him what she has to say next.


CARVILLE: It's time for RAPID FIRE, where we ask questions even faster than President Bush makes excuses for the mess he's created in Iraq.

Our guests, author and law professor Alan Dershowitz and human rights advocate Bianca Jagger.

CARLSON: Bianca, state-run media in the Arab world, like Al- Jazeera, have put this at the very top of their news coverage, this torture story, yet they almost never mention the torture and murder committed by their own governments. I wonder why that is.

JAGGER: I don't know, but what we should be concerned is by our own standards and by the report that was issued by Major General Antonio Taguba, where he talks about sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses against the detainees. I think that's really what we should be discussing at the moment and for the American people to really know what is going on, and what we need to do in this country and what Congress needs to do to hold responsible the U.S. government.


CARVILLE: Professor Dershowitz, do you think it's fair to hold the United States government to a higher standard then say to thugs from Saudi Arabia?

DERSHOWITZ: I think we Americans have an obligation to hold us to a higher standard, but we should not allow Arab nations to hold us to a different standard than they hold themselves.

The reason we have to address this problem is because we care, not because we should listen to the hypocrisy of the Arab states who apply a double standard.

Just one word about Amnesty International. I love Amnesty International, but it is weakening its credibility around the world by equating what we and what Israel do with what some other Arab countries do. There is no equation.


JAGGER: Amnesty International has never done that.


CARLSON: We're going to have to leave it there. Bianca Jagger, Alan Dershowitz, terrific guests, thanks a lot for joining us.

CARVILLE: Thank you. Thanks to both of you. CARLSON: We appreciate it.

Well, why is the presidential race turning into a public relations nightmare for Heinz Ketchup? We'll have the answer just ahead, if you can stand the anticipation.


CARLSON: Welcome back.

Well, talk about seeing red. The food maker best known for its ketchup, the H.J. Heinz Company, has been swamped with e-mail from irate consumers demanding to know why it is taking sides in the presidential race.

Seems many have reached the conclusion that the company backs John Kerry because of his wife, Teresa Heinz-Kerry, known to headline writers the world over as the ketchup heiress. Mrs. Kerry is a very wealthy woman thanks to her first marriage to the late Senator John Heinz of Pennsylvania, whose great-grandfather founded the company 135 years ago.

The company is going to extremes to make the point that Teresa Heinz has no control over the company, its operations or its ketchup and that Heinz Ketchup isn't supporting any one of the candidates for president, including Dennis Kucinich.

CARVILLE: I like the new bottle, my kids like it. It goes down...

CARLSON: Your kids -- your kids are supporting the Kerry campaign...


CARVILLE: They just like ketchup, they'll buy it from anybody.

From the left, I'm James Carville. Good night.

CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow for yet more CROSSFIRE. Have a great night.


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