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Interview with CBS News Anchor, Dan Rather

Aired September 9, 2003 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Dan Rather, the CBS News anchor just back from Iraq, here with the hour for your phone calls. Dan Rather, the last man to interview Saddam Hussein. He's next on LARRY KING LIVE.
He's hosted this program. He's etched his own place in American broadcast history, and he wears braces pretty good too. Dan Rather is the anchor and managing editor of the "CBS Evening News." There's a new book out by Dan and the reporters of CBS News, there you see its cover, "America at War, the Battle for Iraq: a View From the Frontlines." The book includes a DVD compiled from original footage and news reports in the CBS News archives. You have been to it, what, four times this year you've been to Iraq?


KING; What keeping you going back? You like the hunt, I know.

RATHER: Yes, but beyond that, this is a pivotal time in American history. This is a pivotal place. And, you know, Larry, I'm committed to the idea and the ideal that you can't talk with authority if you stay locked up in a windowless room on the West Side of Manhattan. You have to walk the ground. And this situation in Iraq changed, changed dramatically. And so I took the opportunity to go again to walk the ground, and frankly, I have no apology at all for saying that I'm always honored to spend time with American fighting men and women in the field. And I've spent a good deal of time this particular trip, in the so-called Sunni triangle, Baghdad, Tikrit, Mosul, because that looks to me to be the decisive battleground in this particular phase of the war.

KING: What's the concept of the book?

RATHER: The concept of the book is we wanted to put down for reference, the period of the war that ended in May. And we tried to do what we did with the book we did on 9/11, which was called "What We Saw." This book is "America at War." We wanted people to have not a tome of a book, but a book that they could pull down off a reference shelf at any time, and say to themselves, let me refresh my memory about this, or to the children or grandchildren, as time goes along. And was the form with "What We Saw," "America at War" includes this DVD. So we have this written material, we have correspondents on the front, people like Allen Pizzi (ph), John Roberts, Cynthia Bowers, Byron Pitts, Laura Logan (ph), I can't name them all, but a long list of people. So you have the DVD, which does what television does best, and that is take you there, take you to the frontlines with our embedded reporters, so we don't forget, lest we forget, that while we all brag about and we should be proud of 21 days to Baghdad, who could have thought it could be done in such quick fashion, what it was like and what the price was, and at the same time, the written material, which fills in, if you will, the holes. It's a first draft of history. I think it's one that will stand up. It's not a tome of a book, it's not the definitive history of the Iraq war, but I do think it's a very valuable reference material, particular when the written material is combined with the DVD.

KING: The situation there, is this poor planning? Is the aftermath of this war poor planning?

RATHER: I think the records and the facts on the ground demonstrate that if not poor planning, it was not good planning. You know, Oscar Wilde once wrote in another context, "the truth is rarely pure and never simple." And so it is in this brown desert hell to which we have sent not only our national treasure but our greatest value, most valuable thing to us, our young men and women. It is a very complex and complicated situation.

You say, well, what else is new? But it definitely isn't. It's a big country, roughly the size of California, which has become a cliche, but puts it in perspective, and frankly, the plan for the division level combat, as I will call it, what President Bush has called major combat, was still brilliantly put together and executed so that almost anything after that would suffer by comparison. So there is some of that, but I think it's very clear. I don't consider it my opinion. I think it by any reasonable analysis, there was an underestimation of how long it would take once we got past the toppling of Saddam Hussein. There was an underestimation of what it would cost. There was an underestimation of how many troops it would take.

And, quite honestly, based on the record so far, we, the United States of America, the best plan for winning the division level combat, Saddam Hussein and those who wish him well and who hate us and want to kill us, kill our children and our grandchildren, had a so far have had a better plan for the period from May until now.

That doesn't have to continue. And their plan was, let's go on a mode of Lebanon and Somalia, which is when the Americans are at their maximum strength, let's disappear. Let's just evaporate. When the Americans begin to get strung out, and a little bit tired, let's harass them, and let's commit those kinds of acts that symbolically, such as the blowing up the U.N. buildings, such as attacking the mosques, such an important mosque in southern Iraq, that will begin to drain and strain their will, and then, simultaneously, try to make them die of the depth of a thousand cuts, and we will wear them out.

I know that Saddam Hussein -- this is not speculative -- I know that Saddam Hussein's favorite movie was "Black Hawk Down." He watched it several times a week in the period preceding the American attack, because he was saying to himself, this is not made up, he was saying to himself, that's what we can do here.

And going back to the interview that I did with him, the last interview done with him, if you listen to the interview, he basically laid out what he planned to do. He said, listen, the first blow and the first several blows will be terrible, and we, the Iraqis, this is a paraphrase, will pay a terrible price, but later, as time goes along, we'll begin to come back and prevail.

Now, I don't think that he's going to be successful. I think that we will steel our will, but that's what it's going to take. Everybody in Iraq is convinced, they know we have the fire power. What they're questioning, do we have the willpower and do we have the staying power.

KING: Why do people there stay loyal to a tyrant?

RATHER: They don't stay loyal to a tyrant.

KING: Who's doing all this fighting?

RATHER: Well, there are a few, a very few. To answer your question, who's doing all this fighting? Some of them are loyalists to Saddam Hussein, Baath Party members and others, who now know they have nothing to lose. By harassing and doing what they can, in a way of violence against the Americans.

Others among those doing the fighting are people who are connected with al Qaeda, or al Qaeda-like elements, who are streaming in from Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran. Question, why haven't we put more pressure on the Saudis, the Syrians and the Iranians to stop this? I don't have the answer to that question, but that's the second group of people fighting.

Then there are what I would just call gangsters. There's a lot of just criminality, which always comes into this kind of situation. We have kidnappings, robberies, just plain thuggery. Those are among the elements. And then there are these ancient tribal and religious divisions, so you put all of that together in the cauldron, and that's what it is, it's hard even for our top leadership to sort of quantify and say, well, this group of Saddam loyalists is doing this much.

But that's all part of it. Now, what we need to be concerned about, is one man's opinion, is that the terrorists, these people who are dedicated to everything we believe -- to destroying everything we believe in, us, our children, our grandchildren, want to kill us all, are now seeing maybe Iraq was the battleground for us. So don't take on the Americans in 18 different places. They're on the alert at home. Iraq is the place where they look vulnerable.

KING: We'll be right back with Dan Rather. The book is, "America at War, a Battle for Iraq: A View From the Frontlines," including the DVD. We'll include your phone calls for Dan in little while. It's always great having him with us. Tomorrow night, Walter Cronkite joins us, and also some moments with the attorney general of the United States, John Ashcroft. We'll be right back.


RATHER: Things are tense, as you would imagine, to say the least. Just a few minutes ago, two Iraqi trucks came racing down the road just behind me. The U.S. Army soldiers saw them barrelling toward them. They opened fire. Everybody ducked for cover. Nobody knew what the situation was going to be.

The trucks turned around and sped away. Who was in them, what their intentions might have been, no one knows. But in the dark, of course, the U.S. troops won't take any chances.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Go ahead and pan out.

RATHER (voice-over): Colonel Don Campbell, chief of staff of the 4th I.D. is surveying a battlefield.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the 1st Battalion and 22nd Infantry.

RATHER: From his command and control center, Campbell can see every tank and Humvee in his command on digital maps so accurate, we had to blur them for security to show them to you.

Colonel Campbell is confident that sooner or later, they will capture all the bad guys, including the ace of spades.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's moving every two hours. He's not staying said. He has to. We're on him. I think we're going to get him.


KING: That's from the DVD that accompanies "America at War: The Battle for Iraq," just published by Simon & Schuster.

Our guest is Dan Rather, the anchor and managing editor of the CBS Evening News.

All right. What you were talking about -- is it important that Saddam Hussein be caught?

RATHER: Yes. And every American soldier from Buck Private up to four-star general will tell you. And here's one of the reasons that it's very important to get him dead or alive -- that until Saddam Hussein is gotten, dead or alive, many Iraqis will stay on the fence. We can say, Well, it's irrational for them to think that he will ever return to power. But keep in mind, Larry -- and I remind myself on this last trip to Iraq -- you know, Adolf Hitler had about 11 years to put in place his terrible dictatorship. Saddam Hussein had roughly 30-plus years. And so, we shouldn't be surprised that people in their heart of hearts or in that secret place behind their hearts where they -- what they think, the Iraqis saying, you know, I don't think he can come back. But, who knows?

So, that's the reason that it's important to get him. I don't say that the mission cannot be successful and our goals cannot be achieved if they don't get him dead or alive but it certainly would be a big plus. And make no mistake, when most of the leaders in Iraq, when their feet hit the floor in the morning, the first thing they're thinking about -- how can we get that son of a gun?

KING: The public, obviously, supports the president in this, correct?

RATHER: Absolutely.

KING: So don't you think the resolve is constant and the United States is not going to pull out?

RATHER: Well, that'd be too much for me to say. I do think...

KING: Do you see any indication?

RATHER: I have a great confidence in the American public. I think they do understand that whatever you thought about the war, whether we should be there or not, we've just about shoved in our whole stack in Iraq and I do understand that there are many Americans that never should have gone there. It's a wrong place, wrong time.

But we're there. And this is a -- this is a tough, really brutal, vicious street fight. And, when you're in this kind of street fight, you have to win. And, the definition of win has been laid out by President Bush. You can again argue about whether his definition is the one we should have. But I think the resolve will be there.

But I don't think it will be easy and we're going into an election year, and let's be candid. Election years are very tough on these kinds of situations. But it's these kind of situations where people being asked to sacrifice. But I think the resolve is there. But you can't travel the region and not know that there are many people in the region who believe in the end we won't have the resolve because their frame of reference is Somalia and Lebanon and Vietnam

KING: Last time -- we'll touch some other bases. We talked about it. Another tragic bombing today, suicide bombing in Jerusalem. Is this ever going to end?

RATHER: I fear not in my lifetime or yours, Larry. I pray that it ends. But I fear not. That Yasser Arafat, who seemed to be on the wane, is seen to be a plan in place to sort of, if you will, push him aside or, if you prefer it, push him up, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) prime minister -- is on the come back. And the present Israeli government -- in fact, I think it's fair to say Israel as a whole, is not going to deal with Yasser Arafat.

I wish I could be optimistic. I pray that I'm wrong about it. But in answer to your question, no, I don't see it ending in our lifetime. I hope I'm wrong.

KING: And what's the affect on the region, with this continuous squabble?

RATHER: Well, disastrous. Perhaps catastrophic.

Now we get back to Iraq -- that there is this school of thought that runs strong in the Bush administration that if we can get into place some form of representative government in Iraq and make Iraq a model, if you will, that it will change the center of gravity in the Middle East and may eventually lead to some kind of settlement on the Israeli-Palestinian question. Whether you believe that line of thought or not, you must know that that's now the goal.

But under present circumstances, I just don't see anything short of that and maybe not even including that, that will change it. These hatreds are deep, ancient, lasting. At some point -- at some point -- we're not at that point -- the United States, with the support of others, hopefully the U.N., might come in and say, Look, you can't work it out among yourselves. Here's what we're willing to do. And commit a multinational force led by the United States to try to separate the two sides. But you can't imagine it happening now. We're spread so thin in Iraq and Afghanistan.

KING: The president in the campaign opposed nation building. We'll leave it to themselves. Wanted to stay away. Did 9/11 change him?

RATHER: 9/11 did change that. Now I do think that you have to, out of fairness, say that President Bush made that statement before 9/11.

KING: Oh, yes.

RATHER: And after 9/11, it was not a statement he could stand by, and I, for one, would argue probably shouldn't have stood by.

But we have to understand whether we like it or not, Larry -- I'm a facts guy. You know, my opinion, as Ed Murrow once said, is probably not worth anymore than the guy at the end of the bar. But the facts on the ground shout at you that we have taken on a tremendous undertaking, a tremendous challenge in Iraq. It is going to be long. It is going to remain dangerous. We have to expect that things will get worse there in coming months, not necessarily better. Lose more people, each one of great value to our country and it is going to cost a tremendous amount of money.

You can say, Well, how are we going to afford it? I don't know. But that's where we are (ph). We can't afford to lose it. It's going to be high in cost of lives, our national treasure. And there's no assurance of how it's going to turn out. But we have committed, and since we have committed, it's one we cannot lose.

KING: We're going to take a break. When we come back, we'll talk a little about 9/11, Dan Rather. We're coming up on the eve of that occasion. It's two days away.

And we'll be including your calls in a little while.

The book, by the way, is "America at War: The Battle for Iraq."

Don't go away.


RATHER: What is, in your judgment, the biggest mistake or inaccuracy that the president and general is making about the situation here?

LT. GEN. RICARDO SANCHEZ, COMMANDER, COALITION FORCES: I'll be very candid with you. It's the fact that the press does not focus at all on the successes of our great American soldiers.

RATHER: Give me one example of a success that you think is being underreported?

SANCHEZ: Sir, I could give you a hundred.

RATHER: I imagine.

SANCHEZ: Let me -- let me -- the Najaf bombing that just occurred at the mosque. This was a success in that the Iraqi security forces handled the aftermath of that bombing on their own.




RATHER: This is CBS News continuing live coverage of the apparent terrorist attack today here in New York City and in Washington, D.C. It's important to say it's very beginning. There is much that is not known about what is happening. The second thing is that the word from almost everybody who's trying to deal with this situation, the word of the day is steady. Steady. Yes, there have been some terrible things happening. But until and unless we know the facts, it's very difficult to draw many conclusions.


KING: Did we stay steady?

RATHER: We did. It was one of our finest hours. What I'm concerned about now, you know, we all promised that we would never, never, ever forget. And, as time has gone along, I think in some important ways, we haven't forgotten but the memory faded a bit about what happened that day, and, why we fight. That -- but each year when this time of year rolls around, we begin to remember what happened. And, I know I'm not alone. I think most people of the country begin to ache, really ache, sometime in August and just dread the coming of September 11.

KING: Do you worry about an event on 9/11?

RATHER: I do but less about it than I do some other days of the year because One of the hallmarks of these cowards who are terrorists is they pride themselves on striking when you least expect it. We tend to get our guard up in and around 9/11. So while I don't doubt they'd love to pull something off on that date, I think it's more likely pick something when they think we are once again asleep.

KING: Ashcroft is here tomorrow night.

Do you believe in a time of peril some freedoms have to be given up?

RATHER: I do. But honest people can differ about what freedoms, how many, or how long, under what circumstances. And, we're in the midst of a national debate. We have been for a long while dealing with those questions.

KING: Dividing conservatives and liberals, too. I mean, there are conservatives against the Patriot Act?

RATHER: I guess divided along those lines but less so -- you know, I don't know anyone that describes themselves as conservative who isn't somewhat concerned.

KING: I said it wrong way. Division inside the conservative ranks and division inside the liberal ranks over the Patriot Act.

RATHER: Exactly, exactly. And the attorney general, I'll be interested to hear what he has to says on your program tomorrow night. He's been going around the country trying to build support for the act and the way he interpreted the act and what's he's done as a result of the act. (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: Do you worry about the act?


KING: As a journalist.

RATHER: Sure. More importantly, as a citizen. But I think as, again, as with a lot of people, you know, I'm torn about it. We have to defend ourselves. And this is an extraordinarily dangerous time and situation. And, in World War II, World War I, certainly during the Civil War, we did things we which we thought were necessary at the time and went too far. So, I ask myself, yes, I want these protections, but are we going to far. Are the people in charge too zealous about trying to use the act for some artisan political or their own ideological agenda? All those questions go through my mind but to ask the questions is to suggest I have the answers. I don't.

KING: Lincoln suspending Habeas Corpus during the civil. We interment Japanese-Americans.

RATHER: That's right. But looking back on both those decisions, we have serious questions whether they were absolutely necessary as was thought at the time and whether they were good decisions. I think the same will apply to this. But I don't want to leave any erroneous view. I'm not a lawyer. I'm not an authority on the Patriot Act. Do I have concerns about it, certainly. Do I understand those people with concerns run deeper than mine and more vocal about it, yes and I listen very, very carefully, because that's the price you're supposed to pay as a citizen.

KING: We'll take a break and come back and go to your phone calls for Dan Rather. The just published book is America at War: The Battle for Iraq A view from the front lines. The publisher is Simon and Shuster.

You're watching LARRY KING LIVE and as mentioned, Walter Cronkite and John Ashcroft will be here tomorrow night. We'll be right back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An unbelievable situation here.

RATHER: Well, Harold, if I may, take a deep breath, take a series of deep breaths and let me ask you, have you seen any indication that would tend to confirm these reports which have been growing in intensity that a section of the world trade center has collapsed on to the street below? Do you see any confirmation of that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's true, Dan. That's what we were all running from. We heard the building coming down. That's what we were running from. Literally, people ran out of their shoes trying to get out of the way of this thing.




RATHER: The Pentagon, the heart and soul of the U.S. Defense Department, headquarters of the U.S. Defense Department, has never been attacked before. A portion of it is now in flames.

We go to Bob Schieffer, our chief Washington correspondent -- Bob.

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dan, to give you some sense of just how big that explosion was, I'm about a block north of the White House, some miles from the Pentagon. But as you look over my shoulder and look directly across the Old Executive Office Building, you can see there's still these huge clouds of smoke billowing out of the Pentagon. This was no small explosion. It can be seen literally for miles.


KING: Transfixed to watch this, isn't it?

RATHER: Yes. Frankly, I know some people have a different view, but I think it's good to watch it at least once a year lest we forget.

KING: Let's go to calls for Dan Rather, the anchor and managing editor of "CBS Evening News." Springfield, Illinois, hello.

CALLER: Yes. Thank you for taking my call. I'd like to ask Mr. Rather what he thinks about the access that the media's provided over in Iraq.

RATHER: I don't have any arguments about the access. You know, I'm a journalist and I always want maximum information and maximum access consistent with U.S. national security. But the access now in Iraq for journalists who go there, I think, is good; in fact, very good. During the war, I think the embed program was a tremendous improvement over what I considered to be the mistakes of the Afghanistan campaign. Wasn't perfect. Some things I would change, but I don't have any argument with the access and the information we're getting now.

KING: Baton Rouge, Louisiana for Dan Rather, hello.

CALLER: Hi. I'd like to ask Mr. Rather his thoughts on the North Korea and the missiles and all of that.

RATHER: Well, an argument is made by some people, and I think in many way it's a legitimate argument, that this is continuing to be an underplayed story. To state the obvious, it's an extremely dangerous situation, which tends to be getting more dangerous by the day. The North Koreans say they have nuclear capability, that they are a nuclear power. One has to believe them.

I'm worried about it, particularly spread as thin as we are. If you look at the state of the U.S. military at the present time, it is by any reasonable analysis spread very thin. It's something to worry about. President Bush's approach to it has been to try to negotiate, to try to -- if anything -- dampen down the sense of tension and danger, but as time goes along, it's all dependent on the North Koreans. That may be increasingly difficult to do.

And let's not kid ourselves, that somebody and probably several somebodies in North Korea may be saying to themselves, listen, the United States is spread thin. They're in Afghanistan, they're in Iraq, they've got a lot of obligations. They're beginning to get stretched out. And this would be the time to really put the heat on them. And that's what makes it such a difficult and dangerous situation.

Again, I'd like to be optimistic about it. I hope that I'm wrong. But again, I think the situation continues to worsen in at least the near term foreseeable future.

KING: What do you make of their leadership?

RATHER: Well, among the many things in the world I'm not an expert on, North Korea is one of them. But the people who know North Korea well say that we're dealing with a leader who is not only dictatorial but totalitarian, and that he's deep into megalomania. And we have had experience with such people in the century just finished, and North Korea has a very large army, and land army, and while you could theorize that they could be stopped short of using nuclear weapons against the army, if they made a move on Seoul, North Korea, tomorrow, there's a pretty good chance that they might be able to take Seoul.

KING: Jacksonville, Florida, for Dan Rather. Hello.

CALLER: Hello. One of the problems when we were fighting in Vietnam was our lack of empathy and understanding for the culture of the country. Are Americans again guilty of not fulling understanding and respecting the history and culture of the Iraqi people whose country we are now occupying?

RATHER: I don't think so. I think that we have learned our lesson out of Vietnam. Now, there's a lot we don't know about Iraq. I'm not saying that every American understands the Iraqi people and the culture of the Iraqis, but I don't think we're making that mistake at this time.

I think there's great sensitivity to that, and I do want to say, if you could see these American soldiers up and down the ranks in Iraq, I mean, they really go out of their way to learn about the customs, the culture. They're sensitive to anything -- I don't want to say sensitive to a fault, but I think you'd be very, very proud of them, particularly on this score.

If I may, Larry, I want to tell you about a young American I met. I think he's 21 years old. His nickname is Don't Miss. He's a sniper. Met him in Tikrit, and trust me, Tikrit is a bad neighborhood. It's a mean street, always muddy, if you will. Don't Miss and, you know, to paraphrase it, he doesn't miss, that's the reason they call him Don't Miss. As one of his buddies told me, "we call him that because he don't miss." His English might not have been good, but he knew.

Don't Miss spends his days helping take care of some Iraqi orphans. He comes to the chow hall about 7:30 just as it's beginning to get dark. Has a meal. And then puts on his night goggles and goes into downtown Tikrit as a sniper.

This is a microcosm of what it is with these young soldiers in Iraq. They're caring. They're not experts on the culture and ways, but they're trying awfully hard not to make the mistakes of the Vietnam War.

KING: What do you make of the fact that they're going to be extended a little now, and a full year will be in Iraq, as opposed to just the theater?

RATHER: What do you say? This is very difficult on these reservists and guardsmen and on their families.

You know, the president spoke on Sunday night about sacrifice, saying we are going to have to sacrifice. But the sacrifice is so uneven in many ways now. I say this as a citizen, I have to take my journalist hat off.

The sacrifice is too uneven. I wish the president could find some way to ask something of every American, because I was -- driven home to me today. I mean, you think about these reservist families and the National Guard families. Everything from wrecking their finances to wrecking their family life. And what it does to them psychologically. They think they were promised they were going to come out in October. Then suddenly somebody says, you know what, going to be another six months. And the percentage of the U.S. Army that depends on the National Guard and the reservists is extremely high. When we say we're stretched thin, I recognize this is at odds with what Secretary Rumsfeld and for that matter even the president have said, well, we're not -- we have enough people there, we're not stretched thin.

That's what they have been saying, but in recent days, one, they've changed course, reversed course. Going to the United Nations now to ask for foreign troops to help. Then, the president asked for another $87 billion. That's on top of $70-something billion he had asked for before. More money. And he's extending the National Guard and the reserves. I take it on faith that this is necessary. No doubt it's necessary, but we have to understand what a sacrifice some people are making, while a lot of people in this country make no sacrifice at all.

KING: New Windsor, New York, hello.

CALLER: Hello. Hi, Mr. Rather. Could you please tell me what has happened to the news coverage of our troops in Afghanistan?

RATHER: Well, unfortunately, what's happened to it is virtually disappeared. There's no joy in saying that. And it's a bit of an overstatement, that the coverage has been so concentrated on Iraq that Afghanistan got bumped off the front pages and off of newscasts, and all of us in journalism -- I do not except myself from this criticism -- have a lot to answer for for that.

Now, in recent days, Afghanistan is -- has come back to the fore. For one thing, there has been more combat there. The situation, though, on the Pakistan border, on the so-called territories -- you know, for a long time, the United States' position was we'll let the Pakistanis handle that. And if Osama bin Laden is in that territory, then we'll depend on them to get it. There's been a none too subtle shift in that, in my judgment, and so there's more activity in that region and in other places of Afghanistan. It's coming back but it's valid criticism to say that too much of the coverage of Afghanistan went away as we began to concentrate in journalism on Iraq.

KING: Back with more calls for Dan Rather. The book is "America at War: The Battle for Iraq, A View from the Frontlines." It includes a DVD compiled from original footage and news reports in the CBS News archives.

Don't go away.


RATHER (voice-over): Ramzi Yousef, the bombmaker responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center, bombing had fled to Philippines, where police discovered the bomb factory. Yousef again escaped, but his accomplice was arrested and spilled the chilling plot to Philippine police colonel Rodolfo Mendoza.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then later, he said there was a plan at least to hijack planes and fly them into targets in the United States?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Targets in the United States, CIA Building in Langley, Virginia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then did he mention any other targets to you? He mentioned....

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Later. Later. He told me about the possibility of hitting the Pentagon. He told me also that there is a unidentified nuclear facility.



RATHER: What you are going to see and hear next is disturbing, even infuriating, but perhaps important. It's a look at men who say they have attacked Americans.

(voice-over): These are the eyes of hatred, of men who say they will do anything it takes to kill Americans and drive them out of Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We must launch a jihad against the Americans. We have to drive them out.

RATHER: They call themselves Islamic Free Iraq and brandish their weapons to show their determination. But these men say they are neither Islamic fundamentalists nor Saddam loyalists. They say they hated Saddam as they now hate the U.S.


KING: We're back with Dan Rather. Westchester, New York, hello.

CALLER: Hi. I was in the 1993 bombing. I walked down 96 flights of stairs. Those people that walked down with me were all perished on 9/11. These were the most terrifying moments of my life. You have witnessed many horrifying events. What have been the most terrifying moments either of your lifetime or your career?

RATHER: No question, 9/11. Nothing in my experience, including something like 15 to 19 wars, insurrections and regular events (ph) -- nothing even approaches the tragedy, the outrage of 9/11.

KING: Was broadcasting it hard?

RATHER: Yes. I'm not a victim of anything and so many people had so much tragedy that day. It's almost a sacrelige to talk about it. But was it hard? Yes, it was hard to hold because it hard -- you know, it was your feelings in check. Hard to hold your heart in check.

KING: Cote Saint Luc, Quebec, hello.

CALLER: Good evening, Larry. My question for Dan Rather is this -- what should America be doing every year to commemorate the 9/11 event?

RATHER: What a good question. That's such an individual decision. For myself, you know, I think a day of reflection. meditation, and prayer is what I try to do on that day. And, I could recommend it to anyone who's open to that. I would understand some people would prefer to do something else. But for myself, that's what I try to do and if anybody is open to it, that's what I recommend.

KING: What do you make of what they're planning to go at Ground Zero -- I mean, rebuilding?

RATHER: Well, again, I'm among the zillion of things I'm an expert on, that's not one of them. In my own mind, it's, you know -- the first order of business is to make sure that in support (ph) of what's done there is highly sensitive to the needs and wishes of the families -- the survivors and the families of those who died there. Beyond that, what I've seen of the drawings and the plans so far, they look OK to me. But it's really outside my ability to see what it's going to look like and more importantly feel like in our souls before you walk the ground.

KING: What is a fitting memorial there?

RATHER: I don't know the answer to that. Again, I'd want to listen very carefully to the survivors and the families of the people who died there.

KING: Their input essential?

RATHER: I think they're absolutely essential.

KING: Miami, hello.

CALLER: Good evening, gentlemen.

Mr. Rather, you rendered an award-winning Pulitzer prize interview with Saddam Hussein. I would like to know why can't other anchors, the conservative press, and even our administration follow your lead on target, on task so that viewers can intelligently understand tyrants' views, tyrants like Saddam's views. In other words, as it relates to two sides.

RATHER: Well, I very much appreciate the compliment. I'm not at all sure I'm worthy of that. But I am appreciative of it.

I really don't know how to answer the question. You know, everybody has their role, even among those of us who do journalism, we have different visions of what our role should be. Political leadership is a whole other thing. I just don't know. You know, I'm committed to both the idea and the ideal that it's a good idea if people can see and hear for themselves. I know there are people that say you should never put -- should have put Saddam Hussein on the air or all you did was, you know, give him a forum. And I understand that point of view and I never rule -- try to rule out the possibility that the person is right But I think it was so important, is so important in these circumstances to have individual American citizens see for themselves, hear for themselves, over a period of time, long enough that they make up their mind with what we're dealing and with whom we're dealing.

KING: Was he at all fearful?

RATHER: I'm sure he was. I have no doubt that he was. He worked very hard to make it appear that he was not. But he definitely was.

But, as I said to you before, Larry, the key to understanding Saddam Hussein -- of this I'm absolutely convinced -- he is the ultimate survivor. And he believes if he survives, he wins. And if he's alive, as I believe he is, and others do - -that if he's alive, somewhere he's smiling. Because he's still on this side of the grass. He's still surviving. And in his mind, that's winning.

KING: Cambridge, Ontario, hello.

CALLER: Gentlemen, Mr. Rather, Mr. King, it's a pleasure to be talking with you.

KING: Thank you.

RATHER: Thank you.

CALLER: My question is, with the wonderful continent we all share, is it not time that perhaps -- I would like to know what your thoughts are on whether or not it is time to close our borders, to assess the situation internally with what is going on and in the world, and to protect ourselves even though it may be considered politically or whatever incorrect? That...

KING: What do you think, Dan?

CALLER: ... it's time we took back to ourselves.

RATHER: I don't think it's practical. I don't think it's going to happen. I don't think it's practical. I understand what you're saying and why you think it might be a good idea. But it's not going to happen. It's not practical. But what we can do and what we're in the process of trying to do is be at least a little more careful. But to close off the borders in North America, not going to happen.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Dan rather right after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RATHER: There is at least one place in this country where Americans are really welcomed as liberators. The north, home of the Kurdish minority. For more than a decade before last spring's invasion, U.S. planes protected the region from Saddam Hussein's military. And the Kurds have not forgotten. To the people of Mosul, post war Iraq is a place of possibility and hope.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I come tomorrow morning to see that?

RATHER: U.S. Soldiers like, Major Frank Stewart (ph), have been working closely with the local population. Driving through the city without the fear of attack Americans sometimes face elsewhere in Iraq.



KING: With Dan Rather.

Lake Isabella, California, hello.

CALLER: Hello. My question is, Iraq was an oil rich country. Is it in the foreseeable future some of the money from the oil production could be used for this reconstruction and for part of the money that President Bush has to have?

RATHER: Well, it is an oil rich country. It is at worst second to Saudi Arabia in reserves and may actually have more than Saudi Arabia. To answer your question, yes. Over the medium to long pull, that's possible because Iraq can turn out a lot of money from the oil. But it's going to take longer than we were led to believe when the war started. That's number one. And number two, no, it's not an offset to what President Bush is outlined that we are going to have to spend. Unfortunately. It will not be.

KING: Sacramento, California when hello.

CALLER: Good evening. A "Washington Post" poll says 70 percent of Americans believe Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11.

Why hasn't the press pressed the president to clear this misconception?

RATHER: Well, the press has pressed on this but here's a case where the president is convinced that there is a connection. That's the evidence of that is not been forthcoming but he insists that it's true And Americans tend to believe the president. I would say respectfully that those of us in the press were guilty of a lot of things and we deserve credit on a lot of counts but I think not on this count. The president insists that there is a connection. Americans tend to believe their president. They believe him, it's not for lack of press trying.

KING: Last call. Platteville, Wisconsin, hello.

CALLER: Good evening, Gentleman. As you know, Hitler's film maker Lenny Riefenstahl died today. Mr. Rather, interviewed here several years ago.

What do you remember about the interview and about Lenny Riefenstahl?

KING: We have less than a minute.

RATHER: She didn't want to be tagged as a propaganda. She wanted to be tagged as movie maker who if anything was a victim of Nazism, but she never convinced me of that and I don't think anybody else in the interview.

KING: She was a great film maker, right?

RATHER: She was a great film maker.

KING: That was one of the great propaganda films ever made.

RATHER: In the service of a despicable cause.

KING: Dan, always great.

RATHER: Larry, great to see.

KING: Dan Rather, the anchor, managing editor of "CBS Evening News." The new book by Dan and the reporters of CBS News, is "American at War, The Battle for Iraq, a View From the Front Lines." The book by the way includes a DVD from the original footage and news reports in the CBS News archives.

I'll be back in a couple of minute to tell you about what's ahead. Don't go way.


KING: We remain in New York through Thursday night. We thank Dan Rather for being with us.

Tomorrow night, Walter Cronkite and John Ashcroft.

On Thursday night, John Walsh.

Friday back in Los Angeles with Sharon Stone.


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