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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview with Norman Mineta

Aired January 16, 2002 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "BLACK HAWK DOWN")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: We got a Black Hawk down. We got a Black Hawk down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, "Black Hawk Down," a gripping movie, about the bloody battle of Mogadishu, but the horror and heroism on screen can't match the real story.

Survivors will share their experiences under fire. We'll meet retired Army Colonel Danny McKnight, who led what some called the lost ground convoy. Retired Army Colonel Tom Matthews, air mission commander with Task Force Ranger in Mogadishu. He was a military consultant for "Black Hawk Dawn."

Sargent First Class Matt Eversman, he led Chalk Four in Mogadishu, his first true combat mission. In Ft. Benning, Georgia, Sergeants Reese Teakell, and George Siegler. Like everybody else involved they lost a lot of buddies in October of '93.

We'll also get perspective from CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour who's in Mogadishu right now; and in Tel Aviv, Bob Semen, correspondent for CBS News, "60 Minutes 2."

But topping our show, in his first interview, since laying out the guidelines for screening all airline luggage for explosives, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We welcome you to another edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We begin with secretary Norman Mineta, the secretary of transportation in Washington. Friday, as you may know, is the deadline for airlines to begin screening all luggage.

Are they all ready, Mr. Secretary?

NORMAN MINETA, SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: Larry, in our conversations with the airlines, they indicate that they're ready to implement the law and they've already been testing many of the procedures the last couple of weeks and they're very comfortable with the ability -- their ability to meet the requirements of the law.

KING: Which, in your opinion Mr. Secretary, is the most difficult aspect to accomplish?

MINETA: Well, there are many facets of this law that we have in terms of deadlines. Our commitment is to make sure that we meet all of the deadlines. But in terms of security, we're very comfortable in terms of the multilayered approach that we're going to be taking to stand up this new transportation security administration with over 40,000 employees, and have that in place as the law says, by November 19, 2002.

KING: So there's not any one aspect of it that troubles you the most about accomplishing?

MINETA: No. I think that what we've done is put together "go- teams" on hundreds -- 100 ideas or soft points of what we're going to have to do. And these go-teams are trying to assess where those soft spots are and what's our response to make sure that we're able to meet all of the deadlines.

And I meet with the group regularly and I'm comfortable that all of the major timelines that we have are going to be met.

KING: This starts Friday. What might passengers expect in the area of delays?

MINETA: Well, I think first of all, the requirement that all bags be inspected is going to be one in which we have a transition from an old system to a system that the airlines will put in place on Friday. And there may be some delays and some inconveniences, but again, I think as the airlines have explained to us, they're ready to make sure that this is a seamless change and that they will be able to accomplish the mission.

Now, also, even to the extent that there may be some inconveniences that the passengers might experience, I think in this day and age, safety and security are so important, I believe that the passengers are willing to exercise a certain degree of patience. And I think in today's world, patience is a new form of patriotism.

KING: One of the new aspects done frequently in Europe, not done here, is the matching-bag concept. If you're on the plane and -- if you're not on the plane and the bag is on the plane, the bag comes off. The president of the Air Travelers Association, David Stimple, told "The Wall Street Journal" that this is based on the assumption that you don't have a lot of suicide bombers. It is a lot of window dressing a lot of trouble without any big increase in security. How would you respond?

MINETA: Well, first of all, bag-match is not the silver bullet all by itself. As I indicated earlier, security is a multilayered approach. And the law itself that Congress passed gave us a blueprint in terms of mandates of how we should screen baggage.

One of them that they call for is bag-match. Second one is in terms of explosive detection machines, the EDS. And then the whole use of canine, the dogs that are bomb-sniffing, manual searches of the bags as well as electronic or explosive trace detection devices. And so there are a number of ways that we're going to be covering the ability to screen all the bags.

KING: So it's an all encompassing thing. Do you have enough machines on the searching department?

MINETA: No, right now we don't have the sufficient machines, but the law says that all bags will have to be put through an explosive detection system by the 19th of November 2002. So to that extent, we have people like MacKenzie & Company to help us determine how we make sure that we get the machines in place by the 19th of November 2002 to meet that requirement of the law.

KING: Last November, Mr. Secretary, at an aviation meeting hosted by "Aviation Week," you were a little pessimistic. You said there weren't enough people, there weren't enough bomb-sniffing dogs. Has that changed? MINETA: Well, I made that statement about a week after the president had signed the legislative action act into law. And just thinking about trying to inspect 3 million bags every day, to me, was a herculean task.

But as we've gone through and analyzed how to meet this requirement as mandated in the law, then I am much more comfortable with the go-teams that we have that have analyzed this problem and the reaction of the airlines and what they're going to be doing. I have since become much more comfortable and am confident that we will meet this requirement in the law. KING: How are we doing with regard to developing the new training program for security screeners and guidelines for training flight crews?

MINETA: Well, in terms of the screeners, we set out back in November -- or rather in December -- the requirements in terms of the screening or the screeners and the training requirements. And this is getting some 28,000 plus new screener work force in place by again, November 19th, 2002.

And so we are now in the process of recruiting, and then we will be doing the hiring, the testing, the training, background investigation and although we have not started that piece yet, just to give you an example, in terms of federal air marshals, we put the job requirement on the Web site.

And as I recall, we have had now something like 4 million hits on that Web site. We've had over 150,000 applications that were downloaded. And I believe we've had something close to 100,000 applications actually submitted. So, if that's the response as it relates to federal air marshals, we feel confident that we will have a large labor pool to draw from for these 28,000 plus screeners, that we will have to have in place. KING: As always, Mr. Secretary, thank you. We'll be calling upon you again in the months ahead as we fight this battle.

MINETA: Good to be with you, Larry.

KING: Secretary of transportation, Norman Mineta.

When we come back, "Black Hawk Down." Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "BLACK HAWK DOWN")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Going down. Going down.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: 61 going down. He's hit.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: 61 is going down.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Going down.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Hold on!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "BLACK HAWK DOWN")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You all right? You OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I can hear bells ringing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on! Come on! Go!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The date was October 3, 1993; 19 aircraft, 12 vehicles, about 160 U.S. military men set off on a mission to capture two top lieutenants of renegade Somali warlord Mohamed Farah Aidid in Mogadishu.

Unfortunately, local militia men downed two Black Hawk helicopters and trapped the foot soldiers. Bloody street fighting erupted, went on for 15 hours. The bloodiest fire fight since the forces fought in Vietnam; 18 soldiers died, 70 wounded, hundreds of Somalis killed. Army chopper pilot Michael Durant was captured and freed after 11 days. You may -- most of -- let me show you this quick scene of Michael Durant in captivity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL DURANT, U.S. ARMY: CW3 Mike Durant, U.S. Army. I'm a Black Hawk pilot, Black Hawk pilot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Co-pilot or pilot?

DURANT: Pilot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: U.S. forces withdrew from Somalia in March of '94. We welcome to LARRY KING LIVE people involved in that battle, people who covered it and all in connection with "Black Hawk Down", one of the most extraordinary war movies ever made. In Atlanta is Colonel Danny McKnight. He led the ground convoy during the Mogadishu invasion. He's portrayed in the movie by Tom Sizemore. By the way, Tom, Danny has not seen the movie as yet. Colonel Tom Matthews was the air mission commander with task force Rangers in Mogadishu, was running air operations. He was military consultant for the film.

In Carlisle, Pennsylvania -- he's in London -- in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Sergeant First Class Matt Eversmann. He lead Chalk 4 on the Mogadishu mission, now Operations Sergeant at the U.S. Army War College. And he is portrayed in the movie by Josh Hartnett. You remember Josh from "Pearl Harbor".

In Mogadishu right now is Christiane Amanpour, CNN's international chief correspondent. She arrived in Somalia a few days after the Black Hawk Down mission. And in Tel Aviv, Israel is Bob Simon, CBS News correspondent for "60 Minutes II", contributor for the regular "60 Minutes". He covered Somalia in '93 but left before the Black Hawk Down mission.

Let's start first with our troops. Colonel McKnight, what do you remember most about going into that?

RET. COL. DANNY MCKNIGHT, LED CONVOY IN MOGADISHU: In referring to the date itself, on October 3, a Sunday afternoon, probably one of the prettiest days you can imagine over there. And it was a normal mission that we knew what we had to do, how we had to do it. And we were comfortable to go in there and do the mission and accomplish what we needed to, Larry.

KING: Colonel Matthews, was it supposed to be, if not easy, certainly not horrendous?

RET. COL. THOMAS MATTHEWS, RAN AIR OPS OVER MOGADISHU: Well, Larry, you don't ever presuppose any mission as easy. I mean, these were combat operations that were being conducted and they're serious and they're potentially deadly. And on that day, it was a hell of a fight.

KING: And you were military consultant for the movie, and the movie is all about that fight. In fact, the movie is the fight. How real to life is it?

MATTHEWS: Larry, I think it's as real as you can make it. Ridley Scott, Jerry Bruckheimer, with the base plate of Mark Bowden's book, have captured the true essence of a dirty street fight in your face, and it really enlightens, I think, anybody who sees it.

KING: Sergeant Eversmann, you led Chalk Four in that mission. What is Chalk Four?

SGT. FIRST CLASS MATT EVERSMANN, LED CHALK TEAM IN MOGADISHU: Larry, Chalk Four is a term used to describe an element of soldiers on board one particular aircraft. For the Ranger blocking force, we had four aircrafts filled with soldiers who would set up a perimeter around the objective. And on October 3, I happened to be in charge of one of them.

KING: Christiane, when you arrived in Somalia a few days after this incident, what was the talk?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Larry, just to put it in context, there had been a lot of journalists in Somalia covering the intervention by America and other forces to end the famine there. And that had gone on really well and the famine was ended.

But then in the summer of '93, there were attacks against some journalists as the tide started to change and turn against the United States. Several journalists were killed and, therefore, there were very few, if only a couple here, when Black Hawk went down in Mogadishu. We obviously scrambled and got there just about the day or two afterwards and we covered the aftermath. We covered the captivity and the eventual release of Michael Durant and we covered the ensuing essentially debacle for U.S. foreign policy.

For me, that day, October 3, 1993, and for many of my colleagues I'm sure, is as if it was yesterday, not only because of the drama of what happened on the ground here but also because of what it meant for us in terms of our coverage of other wars and other instances of U.S. involvement in the rest of the world for the rest of that decade. And if I might say, from my perspective, it put U.S. foreign policy into a deep freeze because the top U.S. military brass were very, very taken aback and wary after what happened.

You know, we covered Haiti. We covered Bosnia. We covered Rwanda. And there are many analysts who say that initial hesitations in all of those areas led to dire consequences for the people on the ground there. And in my view, we still haven't captured -- the U.S. still hasn't captured the two outstanding warlords because of this shadow of Mogadishu and of October 1993. And I believe that that changed on September 11.

KING: Bob Simon -- we'll get back on that -- Bob Simon, you left before this occurred. Did the event surprise you?

BOB SIMON, CBS NEWS: No, because we left because it was getting so nasty there. When we first came into Somalia with the first American troops, it was to feed the hungry children. And we were -- all Americans were greeted with open arms. And then somehow, for a variety of reasons, mainly because of the way the United Nations got involved, the mission shifted.

And all of a sudden we were chasing this warlord. And Madeleine Albright was making speeches in the U.N. about democracy, getting democracy in Somalia, which is sort of like getting a heat wave in Siberia. So we were taking sides with some of the clans against one of the clans and we became combatants. And I was there when the Rangers were already there and they were fighting against the Aidid clan. And we would be watching helicopter gunships firing at Aidid strongholds at night, and then in the morning going out and going and assessing the damage and covering those stories. And gradually the crowd started getting so hostile against any Americans including us, including American journalists, that one day we almost got into so much trouble that David Green (ph), my camera man, and I decided we're out of here, and we left. And just very shortly thereafter, four journalists were killed. And as Christiane said, there were very, very few journalists the day it happened.

KING: We'll take a break and come back with our full panel and more on this extraordinary day, this extraordinary 15 hours, in a place in the world that's still draws great concern.

As we go to break, we had the honor of interviewing Michael Durant when he came back to the States. We did the first interview with him in the hospital in Kentucky. Here's a portion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NOVEMBER 1993)

Here you are, taken by what might be termed fanatics or you don't know what they are. How do you deal with that?

MICHAEL DURANT, U.S. ARMY: I was terrified. There's no doubt about it. I was sure they were going to kill me. When they came on the site, it was a crazed mob. They were yelling and screaming and throwing stuff out of the way and, again, I had no ammunition left. And I just placed that weapon across my chest and put my hands on it and looked up at the sky and...

KING: And?

DURANT: It was out of my hands at that point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "BLACK HAWK DOWN")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go! Let's go! No fear!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh yes, right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rangers securing perimeter, four corners.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're shooting at us. They're shooting at us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, shoot back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Colonel McKnight, one of the questions asked by a lot of people -- and there are a lot of questions -- usually operations of this type begin at night, don't they? Do you know why they went in during the day?

MCKNIGHT: Yes, that's been asked previously, Larry. And the idea is that you have a target which we had that target that afternoon and it was a couple of key people, as you pointed out earlier, and numerous others, a total of around 20, 21. And you would love to have that opportunity to go at that target at night because we truly had the advantage and we know that as we've proven many times before from Desert Storm and things of that nature.

But, at the same time, when you have a target that is one you really want to go after and get the people, you have to go at it when you can. The opportunity was the afternoon and we felt confident that we could get in and get out and we almost did. But that was the reason we went at that time of day.

KING: In essence, Colonel Matthews, what went wrong?

MATTHEWS: Well, Larry, I would tell you that I take exception to the word wrong because it implies a number of things. Let me characterize it this way. A reminder, these were combat operations, these are real bullets. There's probably a million people in that city. It's a war torn country and a city. And there were probably weapons in every house there, if nothing more than to protect your family.

We went to downtown Mogadishu that day. It was personality focused. Those personalities were there. We got those two personalities and in the middle of that firefight, two helicopters were hit in very critical places and they went down, and that's the nature of combat.

KING: So, in other words, it's not wrong, it just -- that happens in war?

MATTHEWS: It certainly does, Larry. And if you recall, this is 1993. Desert Storm was our last previous combat operation. I think there was a sense that somehow war was antiseptic, that surgically you could stand off and do this and you would like to do that anytime you can.

But this was an urban combat environment. This is a street fight. This is block to block, door to door. If I can see you and you can see me and you hit me with your bullet first, you win. That's the nature of that kind of fight, very different than what we had in the previous encounter.

KING: Sergeant Eversmann, how would you -- how frightened were you?

EVERSMANN: Larry, I think everybody probably went through the whole spectrum of emotions that day, certainly being under fire that intense, is pretty frightening. You know, the hallmark of our Ranger training kind of lets our instinctive actions take over. Yes, it certainly was frightening, but, you know, everybody was pulling their weight and everybody reacted accordingly.

KING: The important thing, Colonel, is that every man gets taken back, right? Is that part of the mission, that you don't leave without someone? MCKNIGHT: Larry, there's no doubt about it. That was one of the things that we always believed in because we believed that we had to take care of each other and look out for each other. And whether that person out there was injured, whether that person was dead or whether that person was healthy and alive, you want everybody to go back. You want everybody back where you started from. And that was definitely one of our mindsets from the beginning on every mission.

KING: And the movie brilliantly depicts that. Colonel Matthews, were you surprised at the way it went?

MATTHEWS: The mission or the movie, Larry?

KING: The mission.

MATTHEWS: I was certainly as much impressed by the severity of the situation as anybody else that day. We had done six previous missions. And to get back to the question about why day, on the six previous missions, three were at night and three were in day. These people are where they are. They are very fleet of foot. They assemble and then disperse. On that day, it happened to be in the daytime. So it is dangerous in the day more than it is at night.

That day in that downtown section, it was also very, very dangerous. And we were surprised when the aircraft got hit, but not totally surprised. We rehearsed contingencies and anybody logically evaluating this mission could understand that you may lose an aircraft. And when that happened, there was effectively a change of mission. The prisoners were minutes from being whisked away. That eventually was conducted and then everybody else went and refocused on a down crash site and effectively had a change of mission and everybody moved there and acted accordingly and tremendously professional and heroic actions.

KING: Colonel McKnight, we're going to show you being portrayed here by Tom Sizemore in a scene we'll call three miles to target -- watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "BLACK HAWK DOWN")

TOM SIZEMORE, ACTOR: It's three miles to the target area. We're never off the main roads. At the K-port (ph) traffic circle, we turn north and east on National and we wait until extraction of prisoners is complete here. Then we roll open force on Halwatta (ph). We load the prisoners and then the assault and blocking forces bring them back. Over and out, OK?

Now, there will be some shooting. The fire market is the wild west. But be careful what you shoot at because people do live there. Hooah.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Colonel McKnight, I'm told you haven't seen the movie yet, but just from that clip, how realistic? MCKNIGHT: The idea was realistic, yes, Larry, but we didn't -- I didn't have to have a separate briefing like that per se. I would only meet with -- Sergeant Eversmann referred to them earlier -- the Chalk leaders for the vehicles. We had the same idea with vehicles as he referred to with the aircraft. And I would meet with the leaders of the vehicles, tell them what we were going to do, and from that point on, everybody knew what their job was without question.

KING: Christiane, is Somalia something to worry about now?

AMANPOUR: Well, it's always a legitimate question to ask whether or not this place is still what it was before and whether or not U.S. could conduct operations right now. Of course, right now we're here because of the focus on al Qaeda and a potential safe haven for bin Laden or others. We've found no such evidence.

But I think many Americans and perhaps your panel also would be surprised to hear what people are saying on the streets right now. We remember October and those months before, when it was just anti- American slogans and certainly anti-American actions being taken. Today people are telling us that they want American soldiers, American personnel back because they want help, that they are not anti- American, that they want help reconstructing and trying to push this country across that rubicon from war into reconciliation.

So at least on the surface, from what we've been told over the last several days, we're hearing a great deal of desire to approach the Americans again.

And perhaps your panel of military experts might be surprised to know that, obviously, every time journalists come here, they go to the site of that one helicopter that was preserved here where it went down. And in the previous times that I have been here, you can always see the wreckage. You can see the tail rotors, you can see the fuselage. Today you can barely see a thing. Last time i was here was in '96. Today the entire hull, just about, has been covered by a giant cactus bush.

And i felt that it was perhaps a metaphor for how people here were telling us what they felt, that they want to move on, that they want to put this behind them, that they hope that the United States will forgive what happened here, that they say it was an incident that was born of a time of confusion and chaos, and that they want to open a new chapter in relations. It seems a long shot, but it's extraordinary to hear that coming from the mouths of people here in Mogadishu.

KING: More from our panel on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE after this.

(VIDEO CLIP, "BLACK HAWK DOWN")

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(VIDEO CLIP, "BLACK HAWK DOWN") KING: Those scenes are of the movie being made. The movie is "Black Hawk Down," based on the best-selling book, an incredible war film.

Bob Simon in Tel Aviv, do you agree with -- or are you surprised at anything Christiane had to tell you about Somalia now?

SIMON: No, not really. In fact, it mirrors Beirut in so many ways, with such a similar situation. We went in as peacekeepers. We got involved with one of the clans against the other clans. We suffered -- Marines got killed at the Marine barracks in Beirut, and we pulled out immediately. And very shortly after we left, the Lebanese were begging for us to come back again, which we're doing very shortly -- which we're doing very slowly now.

The incredible thing is that, as the colonel was suggesting, by any traditional definition, this mission on October the 3rd was a victory. We got the two guys we were after. Eighteen Americans were killed, a disaster. A thousand Somalis were killed, is the closest estimate I've heard.

Mission accomplished? Their casualties far outweighed ours, but it just goes to show that traditional definitions don't count for anything anymore. It was perceived as a disaster. That one picture, the picture of a dead American being paraded through the streets of Mogadishu, said it all. We were brought into Somalia by pictures, the pictures of starving children. We went out of Somalia because of a picture. The secretary of defense, Les Aspin, lost his job because of that battle.

And we sat by and watched a genocide in Rwanda without lifting a finger because we were still gunshy because of Somalia. We didn't get into Bosnia for a couple years after we should have because we were still gunshy about Somalia.

This one battle is going to go down as an incredibly historic battle. It influenced everything else that happened for the rest of the decade.

KING: And in that battle, Sergeant Eversmann, here's a scene in which you're involved, as played by Josh Hartnett (ph). Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "BLACK HAWK DOWN")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Sergeant Eversmann, you really like the skinnies?

JOSH HARTNETT: It's not that I like them or I don't like them. I respect them.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: See, what you guys fail to realize is the sergeant here's a bit of an idealist. He believes in this mission down to his very bones, don't you, Sergeant?

HARTNETT: Look, these people -- they have no jobs, no food, no education, no future. I just figure that, you know, i mean, we have two things that we can do. We can either help or we can sit back and watch the country destroy itself on CNN, right?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I don't know about you guys, but i was trained to fight. Were you trained to fight, Sergeant?

HARTNETT: Well, I think i was trained to make a difference.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Josh Hartnett playing you there. Sergeant, how realistic?

EVERSMANN: Well, Larry, I'll tell you this. This movie, as everybody who's read the book and seen the movie knows -- it's not a documentary, and it's not a biography, either. That particular scene with Josh Hartnett playing Sergeant Eversmann is obviously one interpretation of me. I think anyone that knows me personally and knows me well might see that there's quite a bit of difference between that fictional Sergeant Eversmann and my personal belief.

KING: What's it like to see yourself played on the screen?

EVERSMANN: Larry, it's the most absurd sensation i can ever describe. It really is. And I don't mean to be glib about it, but to sit in a theater and hear actors or these characters in movies calling you by name -- it's just -- there's nothing you can -- there's not an adjective to describe that feeling of ridiculousness, i suppose.

KING: Well said!

EVERSMANN: But I have to say, also, though, Larry, it's certainly flattering for me to have been chosen. Although in fairness, I'll tell you, there are probably 100 other men that were on the ground that day that did far more than i ever did that really should have been cast as the model for the lead character.

KING: Christiane, we thank you very much for joining us. We know you got to go. It's been a long day for you, and it's up early again.

When we come back, we're going to meet two other men who were involved in that action and then close with our panel returning, except for Christiane.

Christiane, stay well. We'll be talking to you again soon.

You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OCTOBER, 1993)

UNIDENTIFIED SOMALI: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) How long does it take, this operation?

UNIDENTIFIED U.S. SOLDIER: I'm a soldier. I have to do what I'm told.

UNIDENTIFIED SOMALI: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED U.S. SOLDIER: Innocent people being killed is not good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(VIDEO CLIP, "BLACK HAWK DOWN")

KING: Joining us now from Ft. Benning, Georgia, two other men who fought in that battle. Sergeant Reese Teakell, U.S. Army Ranger with the 75th Ranger regiment, was an assault gunner. And Sergeant George Siegler a Ranger, as well, with the same regiment, served as grenader gunner. He was 19 at the time of the ``Black Hawk Down" mission.

Sergeant Teakell, how did you find the movie, realistic or not?

SGT. REESE TEAKELL, WAS IN BATTLE OF MOGADISHU: Larry, I found the movie real realistic. The actors did a good job at representing Rangers, especially as displayed from the training that they got here at Ft. Benning. The intensity of the firefight was pretty realistic, and i found myself remembering that day pretty vividly.

KING: What was your role that day, Sergeant Siegler?

SGT. GEORGE SIEGLER, WAS IN BATTLE OF MOGADISHU: Well, I had fast-roped out of the helicopter right around the objective building, and i remained in a security position around the objective, then I had moved to crash site one that day and didn't exit the field until the next day.

KING: And your role, Sergeant Teakell, was what?

TEAKELL: I was an assistant gunner. And during October 3rd, i started as a -- one of the drivers for the assault Humvees.

KING: How did you deal, Sergeant Siegler, with -- 18 men died in this -- losing buddies?

SIEGLER: It took a very long while to deal with it. You just kind of learn to overcome your fears, i guess, because it created a lot of fear. No one wants to die. No one wants to see their buddies die. But you just learn to deal with the fear. It took a while, but i learned to deal with it and was ready to go. Still ready to go.

KING: Sergeant Teakell, a lot of people might say why did you stay in the Army after this?

TEAKELL: I'm still in the Army, Larry.

KING: I know. Why did you stay?

TEAKELL: I stayed in the Army because i realized during that day and because of the leaders that were around me that i could use the experiences of that day to shape other men to be better and to become Rangers.

KING: Sergeant Siegler, why did you stay?

SIEGLER: Pretty much for the same reason. I joined the military to fight for not only my country but for my family. And just every time I came up for re-enlistment, I thought about my family, my friends, the buddies to my left and my right, and i had to re-enlist.

KING: Sergeant Teakell, was that day a success to you or disaster?

TEAKELL: The people that I'm, around they loved what they were doing. They had an op (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to execute what they'd been training -- on. And again, they loved doing it. So i believe that day for every Ranger, it was a success. However, the guys that died, it's a loss that we can't recover from, that we just hope to move on and learn from it and become better for it.

KING: Sergeant Siegler, we've asked this of the others. Were you surprised by what happened?

SIEGLER: Of course I was. That was my first combat experience. And Murphy's law, if you haven't heard of it, creeps up on you, and it crept up on us that day, and it just -- it did. It surprised me.

KING: Things go bad, they're going to go bad.

SIEGLER: Yes.

KING: Were you scared, Sergeant Teakell?

TEAKELL: I guess everybody's scared, to some degree. But day two of -- day two in country, after the mortar rounds had been going off all night, an old warrant officer approached me and a friend of mine and said, ``Hey, look. Don't worry about it. Don't worry about things you can't do anything about. You're going to be upset and scared for the first 10 minutes of a firefight. And after that, you'll just do what you've been trained to do. You have nothing else to do."

KING: Amazing. Sergeant Siegler, you've been to Afghanistan, huh?

SIEGLER: Yes, sir.

KING: Can you tell us...

SIEGLER: I participated in Operation Enduring Freedom. However, I'm not really permitted to speak about that right now.

KING: Thank you both very much. Your compatriots in this country salute you both. Sergeants Teakell and Siegler -- you can see them played in the movie ``Black Hawk Down."

We'll be back with our panel when we come back.

(VIDEO CLIP, "BLACK HAWK DOWN")

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(VIDEO CLIP, "BLACK HAWK DOWN")

KING: Colonel McKnight, what do you make of the aftermath of all of this? How well was it covered? What are your thoughts, now that it's over?

MCKNIGHT: I think the coverage has been fair, has been relatively accurate. There are some things that I, you know, would like to see brought out that maybe some day further down the road can be brought out more so. And this really just sort of talking about the soldiers themselves, just like the ones you had the privilege of talking to tonight, with Sergeant Eversmann, Sergeant Teakell and Sergeant Siegler. And I'm glad that all of them are still in the service because the Army is a better place for soldiers just like that.

But the thing that took place that day is something that will be remembered. But the most important thing about it, Larry, is the soldiers that were in the streets that day fighting, whether they were the Rangers, whether they were from Delta, whether they were from the Task Force Aviation, the Tom Matthews people, it's the finest group of people I've ever had the opportunity to serve with.

KING: With something like that, Colonel Matthews -- you're up there, you're running air operations from a chopper -- does time go slow or fast?

MATTHEWS: It depends, Larry. Obviously, during the insertion and the subsequent probably 40 to 60 minutes, it was total -- mayhem, tremendous amount of activity going on simultaneously, with folks getting wounded and aircraft getting shot down. We had all our losses in that very short period of time.

Once the perimeter was established around the first crash site, we only had one soldier expire, probably one hour later. And for the next 15 or so hours, that perimeter was secure. And it was nighttime. We own the night, and if anything moved, it was dealt with. And so the guys were pretty secure. And that's kind of how it went. So that period of time was kind of slow. Nerve-wracking from the standpoint of the guys, I'm sure, because they just wanted to get out of there, and the ground convoy took a little bit of time to get out there.

KING: Did you like being a military consultant for the movie?

MATTHEWS: Well, Larry, it was a great experience. I've got a data point of one. The movie, I think, is very good. It was an anomaly, obviously. I happened to have just retired. The timing was perfect. And for the honor and the memory of the soldiers, some great representatives you have there at the Ranger Regimen at Ft. Benning tonight, from the pilots from the 160th and for the other special operations soldiers, I decided to go ahead and do that. And I hope that, as those guys see it, they understand that.

And the only other comment I'd like to make is that every soldier that was involved with that needs to feel proud about their efforts. They did what they were trained to do. They did a phenomenal job. Other things happened because of political decisions. Soldiers don't make those choices. They just follow orders.

KING: Sergeant Eversmann, is this -- are these events you think about a lot?

EVERSMANN: Certainly, Larry. I think that every soldier that was involved in that battle on October 3rd and 4th carries a bit of that with him every day. We remember our mates on our left and our right. We remember our fallen comrades. We remember everything about it. We grieve for the soldiers we lost. But we'll hold them up like heroes every single day that we're still living and breathing and honoring their memory.

KING: Bob Simon, through a long and distinguished career, you've covered a lot of military. How do you explain the kind of thinking that produces the men we've talked to tonight?

SIMON: You know, when you reduce October 3rd to its essentials, it was a battle that didn't go according to plan. Any one of the officers and enlisted men there tonight will tell you that very few battles go according to plan.

I was thinking of another American war movie from a long time ago, "The Longest Day," about the landing at Normandy. And it showed, even though it didn't pretend to be realistic like this one, how many disasters there were on that day. Paratroops were dropped in the wrong place, landing craft that didn't go anywhere near the shore. And the difference was that there was a great American leader then, and there was a great American consensus as to what we were doing in Normandy, what we were doing in the Second World War.

By the time October 3rd happened, there were no American journalists in Somalia. America had pretty much forgotten about Somalia, and the day after October 3rd people woke up, Congress woke up and said, ``What the hell is going on? How did we lose 18 guys in a war that nobody really cares about?"

And that was the disaster. It was a war that went awry because the political agenda changed. We were under a U.N. command. And i trust that's something that's never going to happen again, American soldiers under a foreign command, their lives depending, at the end of the day, on Malaysian drivers who had never been anywhere near a shot fired in anger. That's one of the lessons.

Another lesson is the day after the war, Clinton pulls the plug. OK. Well, there was certainly every reason to do that, since it was a war that nobody believed was worth fighting anymore. But that certainly left the impression all around the world that all you have to do is make the United States bleed a little bit, and they'll be out of there in a day. And I think we're still feeling the consequences of that today.

KING: Colonel McKnight, would you agree with what Bob Simon just said? MCKNIGHT: I would agree with a great deal of what he said, Larry, without question, that there was a feeling that we knew what we had to do, we knew why we were there very specifically, but to have to be pulled out shortly after the action on the 3rd and 4th, as Bob just referred to, it made us wonder a little bit, too, as to what was really going on because we were there for a reason, and we thought we should stay there until we completed that mission.

KING: Colonel Matthews, you agree?

MATTHEWS: I agree absolutely, Larry. Once you commit military force, there are consequences for that committal. You can do things diplomatically, politically, economically, but when you elect to employ United States military, there are consequences that can have casualties, and people need to understand that.

KING: Sergeant Eversmann, Josh Hartnett's a pretty good actor. You ought to be proud he played you.

EVERSMANN: Thank you very much, Larry. Josh did a good job.

KING: And thank you all very much for a heroic effort and for a very interesting night.

The movie ``Black Hawk Down," based on the best-selling book, will be wide everywhere.

By the way, we'll be telling you about upcoming guests in a little while, but Monday night we have an exclusive with Patty Hearst. She's back in the news today, and we'll talk about it with her on Monday. Tell you about the other guests in a couple of minutes.

Don't go away.

(VIDEO CLIP, "BLACK HAWK DOWN")

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: By the way, the movie, "Black Hawk Down" opens this weekend. CNN Presents "Black Hawk Down." A lot of interest in that. It will coincide with that opening by airing that feature Saturday at 2:00 PM Eastern and Sunday at 11:00 AM, 4:00 PM, 7:00 PM and 11:00 PM Eastern, CNN Presents "Black Hawk Down," maybe the most talked-about war movie ever made.

Tomorrow tonight, we'll have Barbara Walters and her new co-host, John Miller, on ABC's "20/20." And Friday night, Russell Crowe and Ron Howard.

Right now, he's right here in Los Angeles. He's right over there. NEWSNIGHT is next. He met the critics, and he won! Aaron Brown.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


 
 
 
 


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