Return to Transcripts main page
PAULA ZAHN NOW
Shame on Display; Celebration Planned for Escaped Iraqi Prisoner
Aired May 3, 2004 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Thanks so much for joining us tonight. I'm Paula Zahn.
Are torture and humiliation ever justified? Tonight, the graphic pictures causing outrage around the world and raising troubling questions here at home.
ZAHN (voice-over): You've seen the pictures. You've heard the allegations. Tonight for the first time former Iraqi prisoners describe what they claim is torture and abuse at the hands of U.S. troops. Who should be punished and how severely? I'll talk with the parents of one of the U.S. soldiers involved.
And tonight, we'll take you inside Thomas Hamill's incredible escape from his Iraqi captors as his hometown celebrates his freedom.
Plus, a souvenir collector finds pieces of Michael Jackson memorabilia that are now pieces of evidence.
ZAHN: Also ahead tonight, I'll be talking with a woman who will be Iraq's ambassador to the United States. And we will also meet the lieutenant the Democrats picked to respond to President Bush's weekend radio address. He has just returned from Iraq and he says the U.S. mission is anything but accomplished.
First, here are some of the headlines need to know now. Thomas Hamill, the American truck driver who escaped from his Iraqi captors on Sunday, is now at a U.S. military hospital in Germany. Officials say he's in very good shape and will be reunited with his wife tomorrow.
Six U.S. troops have been killed today in Iraq. There is also intense fighting around the southern city of Najaf, where U.S. forces are battling militiamen loyal to a renegade cleric.
And football player turned Army Ranger Pat Tillman is being remembered today at a memorial service in his hometown of San Jose, California. You're looking at a live picture there. Tillman, who played for the Arizona Cardinals, was killed in action last month in Afghanistan.
Our focus tonight, though, the disturbing allegations of abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. troops. The still photographs have been circulating for days. Some who claim to be victims have been talking with the Arabic press.
Tonight, we hear from a man who told his story to only one Western correspondent. And that is Ben Wedeman. Here is his report.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "That's me," says Hadir Sabar Ali (ph), prisoner 13077 at Abu Ghraib prison.
Coalition sources confirm to CNN prisoner No. 13077 was one of the seven naked men in these photographs. "They cut off our clothing with knives," he recalls. "We're Muslims. We don't go naked in front of our families. But there we were naked in front of American women and men."
As Hadir explains it, this was punishment for beating a prisoner they suspected of spying on them for the Americans. This ordeal, he says, went on for about four hours. "They were cursing at us," he says. "If you talked, they hit you hard in sensitive places, in the kidney, in the chest, in the throat. Our bodies were full of bruises. They didn't let us out of the cells until all our wounds had healed."
He said he was questioned by U.S. military intelligence after the incident and asked to describe those involved.
"There are other pictures," he says. "American intelligence has them of dogs attacking us." Aves (ph) claims he was also a prison at Abu Ghraib, but not in any of the photographs. He didn't want his face to appear on camera.
"They would put the plastic cuffs on someone and leave him outside for hours in the rain and the cold," he tells me. "They would humiliate them and this was just punishment for simple things."
The family of Whalid Ahmed Headi (ph), a prisoner at Abu Ghraib, has just seen the pictures of alleged abuse of the Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers. Whalid's mother, Buthena (ph), says one of the pictures was particularly disturbing.
"I felt as if this was Jesus crucified," she says. "I thought, that could be my son."
For Iraqi human rights activists, the situation at Abu Ghraib may be just the tip of the iceberg. Says this activist, "There is no oversight on what is going on in the prisons, especially Abu Ghraib, but also in other prisons around the country. In all those prisons, they do what they want."
Coalition officials say they take this matter extremely seriously and are conducting several investigations into the operations of the prison. The Iraqi Governing Council is now demanding that Iraqi judges be present when Americans interrogate prisoners and that Iraqi officials have free access to all American detention centers.
Ben Wedeman, CNN, Baghdad.
ZAHN: As you might imagine, official Washington is very sensitive about these allegations. And investigations are now under way.
Senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre joins us with some of those details.
Good evening, Jamie.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, good evening, Paula.
And the latest of those investigations, No. 5, by the Pentagon's count, began just 10 days ago, just before those pictures were shown on television sparking outrage. According to the Pentagon, that review is looking at the role of military intelligence and the private contractors that work for them and what role they may have played in directing or inspiring this kind of abuse.
According to lawyers for some of the accused and the general who was in charge of the prison, some of the military police were following instructions from military intelligence officers or the civilians that they hired.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIG. GEN. JANIS KARPINSKI, COMMANDER, 800TH MILITARY POLICE BRIGADE: I certainly take the responsibility for some of this, yes, because those soldiers were assigned to a company under my command. Blame, I don't think that the blame rests with me or with the 800th M.P. Brigade. In fact, it is unfair.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCINTYRE: But some in the military say General Karpinski, who was in charge of the prison, does share some of the responsibility, because they say she allocated too much authority to military intelligence brigades that were operating some of the cell blocks there at the prison.
The real problem, according to some of the Pentagon's critics, is that the U.S. with this incident is losing the moral high ground and losing what little support it may still have among average Iraqis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Because it doesn't matter the degree of torture, how many people are killed. It is Iraqis are going to look at this as there is no difference between Saddam Hussein and the Americans. It is the symbolism that we're missing, that it is the symbolism of racism, that we think these people are inferior.
(END VIDEO CLIP) MCINTYRE: And, Paula, sources say that what we have seen in the pictures so far is still only part of the story. Sources say that witnesses testifying in some of these military trials have described instances in which Iraqi prisoners had been forced into humiliating sexual situations, including at times forced oral sex -- Paula.
ZAHN: Jamie McIntyre, thank you for the update. You can see the entire interview with Brigadier General Janis Karpinski tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING."
With the abuse allegations already affecting soldiers' lives, careers and reputations, how are their families coping?
I'm joined now by Ivan Red Frederick and Jo Ann Frederick. Their son, Staff Sergeant Ivan Chip Frederick is among those accused.
Thank you both for joining us tonight.
Jo Ann, what do you believe your son is being accused of at this hour?
JO ANN FREDERICK, MOTHER OF ACCUSED SOLDIER: I'm not really sure about that. I feel like the military has just really hung him out to dry.
We're just devastated. We don't know what to think. We can go by what he told us and other things that we know. And he is not guilty of any actual abuse. The loosening up and the abuse are two different things. And it was two different groups of people.
ZAHN: I'm sorry, you said the loosening up?
FREDERICK: Loosening up, sleep deprivation and interrupting sleep and that type of thing is different from abuse. My son was raised right. He's never abused anybody.
ZAHN: Red, I know you been at some times in daily contact with your son through e-mail. What has he told you about any accusations swirling around him?
IVAN "RED" FREDERICK, FATHER OF ACCUSED SOLDIER: He says he's not guilty of any -- any of the accusations that they've brought against him.
ZAHN: And has he made it any clearer through any of those e- mails specifically what they think they're looking at him for, what he thinks they're looking at him for?
I. FREDERICK: Well, the only thing that he's told me is just, he feels like the Army is trying to destroy his life, that he has served 20 impeccable years in the military since he graduated -- before he graduated from high school, he enlisted in the Guard.
And he was transferred...
(CROSSTALK) I. FREDERICK: Beg your pardon?
ZAHN: Red, one thing I want to ask you about, because some of the reporting surrounding your son is rather confused, apparently you have a diary that your son has shared with you where he has actually said he was asked to do things by superiors. Can you elaborate on that?
J. FREDERICK: Well, he was, but when you get to a certain point, you follow the orders. And you get to a certain point, and then you're uncomfortable with it, then he tried to turn in different incidents he saw.
ZAHN: And can you share with us tonight what he was specifically asked to do according to these e-mails and according to these diary readings that you have?
J. FREDERICK: No, I can't get into that.
ZAHN: And, Red, are you more comfortable talking about that?
I. FREDERICK: I can talk about it and answer your questions the best I can.
ZAHN: So what is at play here? What -- maybe name for us one thing tonight your son claims he was asked to do that he wasn't comfortable doing.
J. FREDERICK: Well, he didn't tell me anything he was specifically asked to do. But he did -- when he was assigned this assignment and he first took over from the other outfit That was there, he told me that he seen things that he didn't like and he went up to his superiors and asked for some guidance, rules and regulations to go by.
And they said there is none. You just go back and do the best you can. And then the more he complained and went to his superiors, it was, you go back and do the job, said, we're running this show and don't you worry about it. And I think that that was a failure on the part of the military.
ZAHN: Let me read to you something that appeared in "The New Yorker" magazine, where your son is specifically accused of one form of abuse. And we're going put it up on the screen the scene that is described in the magazine. He claims your son and other soldiers were throwing Iraqis into a pile and, according to him -- quote -- "I remember Staff Sergeant Frederick hitting one prisoner in the side of his ribcage. The prisoner was no danger to Sergeant Frederick."
Do you believe your son could have done that?
J. FREDERICK: I didn't hear that. That's new to me.
I. FREDERICK: I didn't hear it either. ZAHN: So you don't believe that to be true?
I. FREDERICK: It depends on if he thought his life was in danger and one of those prisoners attacked him, I'm sure he would defend himself the best that he could.
ZAHN: Jo Ann, what was your reaction when you saw these pictures for the first time?
J. FREDERICK: I was just absolutely devastated. They're very, very troubling.
And I am -- I am really worried for my son's well being. And as far as the training that everyone is talking about that he didn't get, the training is -- the Geneva Convention calls for specific training for -- if you're handling POWs. And that's what he didn't get.
So you have nothing to go by. If you're a policeman, and you have an incident happen in front of you, you draw the line. It is not black and white. You make a decision right there what to do. And he knows right from wrong.
ZAHN: And, Red, finally tonight, these allegations surfaced back in the fall. We're not hearing about it until just this weekend, in fact, about a lot of these specifics. What can you tell us about what your son has told you about how he has done since he's been accused of these things and while he's being held for questioning?
J. FREDERICK: He's just -- he's hurt. He doesn't know what to think. He's depressed. He feels like his life is over. I can't describe to you how down he gets when he talks to us.
ZAHN: And, Red, you're particularly concerned about his health now, aren't you?
J. FREDERICK: Yes, we are.
I. FREDERICK: Absolutely.
ZAHN: I think you said in one interview you think he's lost 20 pounds so far as he awaits these specific charges he may face?
J. FREDERICK: Yes. Yes. He has nightmares. He's had his life ruined. And it has all been dumped on him. And as far as I'm concerned, it is a kangaroo court of the worst kind I've ever heard.
ZAHN: Oh, carry on, please.
J. FREDERICK: When the first TV show aired and they put the pictures on -- those horrible pictures on -- and then they smacked a picture of my son and his name right with those pictures, and this gave the whole world the impression that this man did that. And that's not true. He didn't have anything to do with that abuse. ZAHN: Well, Red and Jo Ann Frederick, as Jamie McIntyre just reported from the Pentagon, there are as many as five different investigations going on looking into some of these allegations.
J. FREDERICK: Yes.
ZAHN: Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.
J. FREDERICK: Thank you, Paula.
I. FREDERICK: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: Appreciate it.
Coming up, where does the U.S. military draw the line between pressure, abuse and outright torture of prisoners? We'll ask a veteran military expert.
And what are Iraqis saying about those pictures that have sparked outrage around the world? We'll talk with the woman who will be Iraq's ambassador to the U.S.
And a collection of Michael Jackson memorabilia catches the attention of prosecutors in the case. What's up with the underwear the memorabilia collector bought? We'll show you.
ZAHN: Time now to take a look at the deeper impact of those pictures of Iraqi prisoners apparently mistreated by American troops. Earlier, I spoke with Iraq's ambassador-designate to the U.S., Rend Al-Rahim.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REND AL-RAHIM, IRAQI AMBASSADOR-DESIGNATE TO UNITED STATES: Well, I was shocked. I was appalled. I was dismayed. We didn't think something like this could happen. And we understand that this is something that is isolated. At least we hope this is something that is isolated.
ZAHN: Do you have any reason to believe more of this kind of abuse has happened elsewhere?
RAHIM: No, I haven't. But I know that there is an investigation going on and I know that there has been a great number of stories circulating.
I trust that they are isolated. I cannot imagine that this would be a systematic practice. It is very, very important to send that message to Iraq that the U.S. condemns this and that these people will be punished. I cannot overemphasize the importance of that message getting to the Iraqi people.
ZAHN: Well, our own president of the United States here has condemned what has happened in this prison in quite forceful terms. You don't think the Iraqi people have gotten that message?
RAHIM: I don't know. I can't tell because after all you have to think of the media that they watch, the newspapers that they read. I don't know if that has been published. And if it hasn't, then that message has to get into Iraq.
ZAHN: Do you have faith that the Iraqi newspapers will print these stories showing the widespread condemnation by U.S. officials?
RAHIM: Yes, I think, if word gets to them, if there is a message that is addressed to them, they will carry it indeed, yes.
ZAHN: Let's move on to how this further complicates the whole notion of turning over the country to full sovereignty on June 30. Let's look at statistics for a second.
The latest CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll shows that 71 percent of Iraqis see the coalition force as occupiers, not liberators. So what kind of a setback do you think this prison story represents?
RAHIM: Well, first of all, the prison story is definitely a setback. I don't think we can hide this fact. The Iraqi people -- and I read the CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll very carefully.
I think what is really interesting is the sort of conflicting emotions of Iraqis that are portrayed in that, because, in another question, Iraqis also say that if U.S. troops were to leave Iraq, they would feel much more vulnerable, they would feel that the country is less stable.
There is a conflict in Iraqis because a lot of them know -- most Iraqis know the importance of this presence of coalition troops for Iraq's stability. I don't think Iraqis are blind to this fact. But the word occupation doesn't sit well with Iraqis. And this is why it is so important to keep that June 30 deadline for handing over sovereignty to Iraqis.
That is going to have an important psychological, beneficial psychological effect on the Iraqi people.
ZAHN: Rend Al-Rahim, thanks so much for your time tonight.
RAHIM: My pleasure. Thank you.
ZAHN: And after being held captive for three weeks in Iraq, Thomas Hamill makes a break for freedom. You'll hear about his incredible escape and how his hometown plans to celebrate his return.
ZAHN: President Bush gives a radio talk ever Saturday. It is then followed by a Democratic response, usually made by a high-profile office holder or a candidate. Last Saturday was a real departure from the ordinary. The response was given by 1st Lieutenant Paul Rieckhoff of the Army National Guard, who talked about what he has seen in Iraq. He joins me now.
1ST LIEUTENANT PAUL RIECKHOFF, ARMY NATIONAL GUARD: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: Did you ever think you would spark the kind of controversy you sparked with your remarks? Normally, a Senator Biden or a high- profile, as we said, political figure would make the remarks.
RIECKHOFF: Honestly, no. I realize how unprecedented it is. And I think it is a tremendous opportunity.
I'm not speaking on behalf of the DNC or on behalf of John Kerry or anyone else. I'm speaking as an average soldier who came back and wants to help create a more colorful, more truthful dialogue about how the war is going.
ZAHN: I don't think the criticism I read has been directed towards you. It has been directed toward the Democratic strategy of using someone like you. You say you didn't get used by party?
RIECKHOFF: No, I didn't get used by anyone. They provided me an opportunity to voice my opinion. And if anything I probably used them.
I came home and I was frustrated by the dialogue and I was frustrated by the way the war was being politicized. And I think that...
ZAHN: So you're mad at both sides?
RIECKHOFF: Absolutely. I think George Bush has come out and said some things about the war. And John Kerry has said some things about the war. And I think people like me need to step forward and tell the American people who is really telling the truth and what the real story is.
And that's what I hope to do, provide a voice for that.
ZAHN: You made some pretty strong accusations on Saturday. Among the things you mentioned, you said that you and your troops were unprepared, that you lacked the basics.
RIECKHOFF: That's right.
ZAHN: Like what?
RIECKHOFF: Proper body armor. When we left Fort Stewart, Georgia, we were told that they didn't have enough body armor, not enough ceramic plates, so take the Vietnam era stuff that's on the wall. Good luck, guys.
When we got there, we didn't have adequate water. It's 120 degrees in Baghdad and we're walking around with one bottle of water. It's inadequate. (CROSSTALK)
ZAHN: You say you didn't have enough batteries. You didn't have enough vehicles
RIECKHOFF: I had to actually pay Iraqi people to go out to the market and get AA batteries to provide the power for our night-vision goggles or for our other electronic equipment. We had to make do. We're soldiers. We're going to adapt, improvise and overcome.
But, at the same time, when I come home, I'm going to talk to people about it, because I think the American people have a right to know.
ZAHN: How much did all that add to the vulnerability?
RIECKHOFF: I think it added dramatically to the vulnerability.
ZAHN: Your troops.
RIECKHOFF: Yes, dramatically.
But I wouldn't dramatically. It varies at times. But it is just something we shouldn't have to worry about. If we had laser-guided missiles that can take out a building with no collateral damage, we should be able to get batteries to the same guys in the same place. And I think if those vulnerabilities or if those inadequacies do come about, we have to best honest about those shortcomings, say we made some mistakes and we can learn from them and move forward.
ZAHN: Let's review some of what you said in the "60 Minutes II" piece back in October 2003.
RIECKHOFF: Sure. Sure.
ZAHN: You had been in Iraq. And you had a much different view than you have today.
RIECKHOFF: I don't think so at all. I think it is exactly the same.
ZAHN: Something has changed, though.
RIECKHOFF: The story in the "60 Minutes" piece was about progress that was being made in Iraq. And that progress has happened. And it happened then. And that was the thrust of the story.
And "60 Minutes" tried to get me to elaborate on my political views. And I didn't do that at the time. My focus then was ensuring that my 38 guys got home safely and we accomplished our mission. I came home. Now I'm free to speak. So I'm going to do that. And I'm going to speak honestly about what I experienced. There has been no change of dialogue or rhetoric or direction whatsoever.
RIECKHOFF: I want to also add, there has been tremendous progress made. And I think the Iraqi people are in fact better off than they were a year ago. But my question is, are the American people better off now? And are the American soldiers and their families better off right now? And I'm not convinced they are.
ZAHN: Final thought, just reaction to what Senator John McCain said over the weekend, that he -- quote -- "regretted the politicizing" of the address and that it is important not to involve the military in this kind of forum.
RIECKHOFF: I would ask him what he thinks of Senator Lindsey Graham, who is currently serving in the Air Force Reserve or the four or five members of the House who are currently serving in the National Guard and Reserves. They have utilized their military experience and continue to serve and at the same time voice political opinions.
I try to actually attack policy and talk about how policy has affected us. And I'm trying to remove politics from the equation and talk about the truth and get guys together who can talk intelligently in forums like this to educate the American people about probably the most critical aspect of the November election.
ZAHN: Yes or no answer. If you're called to go back to Iraq, will you go?
RIECKHOFF: Absolutely. And that call could come tomorrow. And if it does, I'll shut my mouth, I'll pick up the rifle and I'll go back on the line.
ZAHN: Lieutenant Paul Rieckhoff, thank you for coming here tonight.
RIECKHOFF: Thank you.
ZAHN: Appreciate your perspective.
We'd like to get an alternative point of view now on Iraq military and politics. Joining me now is defense policy expert Danielle Pletka.
She's vice president for foreign and defense policy studies and at the American Enterprise Institute.
I know you had a chance to listen some of what Paul had to say. Your reaction?
DANIELLE PLETKA, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: I think any soldier does have a right to speak out. The idea that this wasn't being politicized or that he wasn't being used by the DNC is I think a little bit disingenuous with us. He's was being used. And I do question their choice.
ZAHN: Well, let me repeat to you what Paul just said. He said he views it more as his using the forum to express some very firmly believed views.
PLETKA: And I absolutely support his right to do that. And I think that any Guardsman, any soldier, any person, an American who comes back and wants to speak has that right to do so.
But he was provided airtime opposite the president of the United States to speak on behalf of the Democratic National Committee. That's not the same thing.
ZAHN: But why is it any different if he expresses these views vs. a politician?
ZAHN: It is because it's a man in uniform, a man who has come back from serving his country, that that is somehow more inflammatory to you?
PLETKA: Well, let me be clear.
I don't think it is appropriate to criticize him. I think if he wants to speak out, that's his right. As I said, I reserve the criticism for the people who invited him, who chose to use him -- and indeed he was used -- to accepted a message that I question.
ZAHN: Paul's laughing. I don't know if your mike is still open.
RIECKHOFF: No, absolutely.
If the president called me and asked know deliver the presidential radio address, I would have been all too happy to do it. I'll speak to anyone who will listen.
RIECKHOFF: I'll speak to anyone who will listen. And that was the forum I was provided. And if the media continues to provide me with a forum, I hope to bring other soldiers out and continue to increase the dialogue.
RIECKHOFF: It was an opportunity. It was an opportunity. And I took it. We do have some
RIECKHOFF: Excuse me. I wrote...
PLETKA: I'm sorry. I wasn't invited to do a debate with you, and...
ZAHN: All right, but Danielle, let me...
PLETKA: ... I don't want do that.
ZAHN: Let me go back to some very specific charges that Paul made, that when he and his fellow Guardsman got to Iraq, he felt woefully underprepared, that they lacked the basics, the lacked the body armor, they didn't have enough water. And you heard him talking about having to bribe Iraqis to get batteries to make his night-vision goggles work.
PLETKA: It's absolutely disgraceful. Those kinds of things shouldn't happen. But on the other hand, those are complaints that he should rightfully be bringing to his commander, not to the American public, to hope that they're going to rectify it.
I think the debate, if it's going to be about policy, should be about policy and should not be about water supply and body armor, as crucial as those are to our soldiers.
The other issue is that, frankly, John Kerry voted against the money to go to our soldiers to supply the additional materials that are necessary. He voted against the $87 billion. I find it questionable that the DNC would want to use their time to go out and criticize that kind of thing, if, in fact, they're not willing to have their candidate vote to fund it.
ZAHN: All right, Danielle Pletka, we got to leave it there. Thank you for your time tonight. And Paul Rieckhoff, again, thank you for joining us tonight.
RIECKHOFF: Thank you, Paula.
PLETKA: Thank you.
ZAHN: We're going to take you to a California beach coming up that has become an unlikely spot for a weekly ritual of remembrance. And tomorrow, my interview with the woman who lost her job for taking pictures of coffins of the war dead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: In spite of the fact that you two have ended up in the middle of this controversy and both of you have lost your jobs, you really don't have any regrets?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I regret for the wrong I did. I -- you know, I don't do any -- I try not to do anything wrong. I try to do everything with truth and right.
ZAHN: Here are some of the headlines you need to know right now. Two freight trains collided early today near downtown San Antonio, Texas. Three people slightly injured. Officials hope to have the tracks reopened by tomorrow.
Palestinian security sources say at least 20 people were wounded in an Israeli helicopter attack on a refugee camp in southern Gaza. The sources say the wounded included civilians, as well as militants.
We continue with our top story tonight, the allegations of abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers. Among things U.S. soldiers allegedly forced the Iraqi prisoners to do: simulate homosexual acts, form a naked human pyramid, stand on a box blindfolded, attached to wires. So how damaging is this to U.S. credibility? And how could such abuse have happened in place under U.S. military command?
For answers, I'm joined from Washington by retired lieutenant colonel Robert Maginnis. He is now a contractor for the Department of the Army. And in New Orleans is contributor and former Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke. Good to see both of you.
VICTORIA CLARKE, FORMER PENTAGON SPOKESWOMAN: Hi, Paula.
ZAHN: Hello. So Colonel Maginnis, how could this have happened?
ROBERT MAGINNIS, ARMY CONTRACTOR: Well, when you have discipline problems anywhere, you look at the command climate. The command climate are, you know, whether or not leaders are involved. I used to teach leadership for the Army and, you know, working with young leaders, and we always used illustrations as to how that leader can keep this type of problem from emerging and -- this problem and other problems. So first of all, it's a command climate issue.
And secondly, you know, we need to recognize that occasionally, you're going have some bad apples. You know, as you pointed out in this program already, Paula, you know, we have 135,000 outstanding Americans over there doing a great job, and it only took 6, at least, maybe 12, depending upon your count, you know, to really spoil the whole cart here. And this is an incredible black eye for our young soldiers who serve proudly and have done a wonderful job in that theater.
ZAHN: Torie, these acts happened last fall, we are told. We are just finding out about them now, triggered by a report on "60 Minutes." Why the delay in our getting this information?
CLARKE: Well, actually, triggered by another soldier who brought the information forward. And as everybody knows, it was six of them. They've dealt a really serious blow to the military at a particularly difficult time, but they so don't represent the majority of the people in the military. But it was a member of the military who brought it forward because he, like most of them, cares deeply about the principles, about the dedication and compassion of the people in that military. They don't want something like that to happen. They want to make sure it doesn't happen again.
And as serious as this is -- I don't want to underestimate at all how serious this has been, but as serious as it is, I think it will make the military stronger and better going forward because people will take a hard look at the command climates and they will take a look at the leadership and see what role they may have played in letting this happen. So it will be very difficult to get through, but I think the military will, and I think they will actually come out better because of it.
ZAHN: Colonel Maginnis, what is somewhat surprising to some of us who've read just about everything we can get our hands on about this story is that there were multiple witnesses to this alleged abuse. We just finished an interview with the parents of one of the men accused. They're not sure exactly what he is accused of, at this point. And they claim, in some of his e-mail, daily e-mail transactions with them, he explained there were some things that he had witnessed that didn't make him too comfortable. But he apparently, according to them, felt some pressure to follow through to superiors. Does any of this make sense to you?
MAGINNIS: Well, apparently, Paula, there were a number of reports to the immediate chain of command saying, you know, Look -- at least, this is what the Hersh article indicated. And it was an extract, I understand, of the report that somebody slipped him. But you know, there were people that actually said something to the chain of command. And that might explain why, as Torie already alluded to, you know, some of these people have been removed from command. There are a number of investigations ongoing. But you know, if -- in some cases, you're rewarded for not saying anything. And that's where we find a broken-down chain of command and undiscipline takes off.
You know, you're right. You know, we have to stop this stuff, and I have little doubt that with General Sanchez having immediately initiated an investigation -- and there are other investigations ongoing -- that, you know, the culprits will be removed. But we need to step back and look and see, institutionally and systemically, what are the issues that need to be addressed. And I'm sure were going to go after those, as well.
ZAHN: Torie, can you shed some light on some of the stuff that Jamie McIntyre reported early this evening about five separate investigations going on surrounding these allegations and sort of the indication that there is an accusation that military intelligence officials somehow are involved in giving instructions to people below them? Does any of that make sense to you?
CLARKE: Well, I think we'll find out a lot more in the days and weeks to come. What I do know is that the seriousness of this issue has been communicated to everyone in the Pentagon around the world. And everyone from the very top to the very bottom rungs there is working hard to make sure they get to the bottom of it.
But you know, one thing I want -- I know we will learn a lot more and we'll learn about what was going on with the leadership or the lack thereof. But you can't get away from these individuals. You know, if someone gave you an order to do something like that, and those horrible photographs we saw, you know, because you had some training in our military, that is not what you should do, and that is not an order that should be obeyed. So you have to look really hard at those individuals and say they chose to do something which was just so reprehensible.
ZAHN: Point well taken. Victoria Clarke, Colonel Robert Maginnis, thank you...
CLARKE: Thanks, Paula.
ZAHN: ... for your time tonight.
And an amazing story to share with you. Three weeks of captivity in Iraq ends for Thomas Hamill. The soldier who first found him tell their story.
And are they Michael Jackson's souvenirs or are they legal evidence? Police decided they are interested in one collector's memorabilia, even a couple pair of underwear of Michael Jackson's. We'll be talking with that collector coming up.
ZAHN: Now a look at the incredible escape of a Mississippi man who went to Iraq as a truck driver. Thomas Hamill was taken captive at gunpoint three weeks ago, and until yesterday, no one was even sure that he was still alive. But listen now to how members of the U.S. Army patrol describe Hamill's flight to freedom north of Baghdad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was waving his hands and shouting. He fell a couple of times. He walked up to the truck, and you know, I don't know exactly what he said when he got here but -- when he got to my soldiers, but he was obviously very glad to see us. And you know, once we found out, we recognized who he was, we knew we had gotten somebody good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was obviously very relieved once he realized we were Americans. He was yelling, I'm an American. I'm an American. I'm an American POW. At a distance, we -- it was obvious that he was unarmed, so we did not have our weapons trained on him. He had his hands in the air, waving -- waving his shirt around. So he was yelling, I'm an American. As he got closer, we found what he was yelling. And as I say, he -- once he got close up, we immediately recognized him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we picked him up, he was elated. He was happy to see an American patrol. His actions, at that point in time, were to dress his wound. He took the patrol back to the house. The gentlemen here represent the unit that were on the ground at that time. As soon as the house was searched and he identified it, we put him on a medical evacuation, and he was lifted out of the area at that point in time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Hamill's hometown of Macon, Mississippi, is decked out in yellow ribbons, ready to celebrate his safe return. Dorothy Baker- Hines is the mayor of Macon. She joins us tonight.
I know how relieved you are, Mayor, but when you hear this amazing story, wasn't there almost a second miracle here that a man who could very much have looked like an Iraqi farmer wasn't fired upon by American troops?
DOROTHY BAKER-HINES, MAYOR, MACON, MISSISSIPPI: Oh, I tell you, I just -- we're still amazed at how he, you know, got away like he did and was running like he was. And you know, we just thank God, though, that -- we just know that the Lord was with him. And we're just so thankful those soldiers were there. It was -- it was just in the Lord's will. And we're just so excited.
ZAHN: We are now beginning to see some of the conditions he was subjected to during his captivity. I don't know whether you saw the picture of the hut where he lived, a blanket on a stone floor, all of the time surviving with a gunshot wound to his arm. What do you think gave him the strength?
BAKER-HINES: Oh. Well, I tell you, I haven't been able to, No. 1, see anything today because I've been so busy doing interviews. But from what you just told me, I know that with all the prayers that were going up, not only from this place but from all around the United States and the world, I just know that those prayers were being answered, and the Lord gave him the strength. And he was there, and it's just -- it's a miracle. It's just a miracle.
ZAHN: I think a lot of people feel that way tonight. I know he's to be reunited with his wife tomorrow. You've been on the phone with a couple of his family members. What have they told you about how he's doing physically tonight?
BAKER-HINES: Well, when I had talked to family friend this afternoon, he really didn't know a lot, but other than that he was being very well taken care of, you know, to fight the infection that was in his arm, and that -- you know, that he was in stable, good condition and just anxious, I think, more than anything, to see his wife.
ZAHN: Well, I know you, more than anybody else, never gave up hope that we would find him alive. And he simply fled his captors. What a great story to share with everybody tonight. Mayor Hines, thank you, and enjoy the celebrations.
BAKER-HINES: We certainly will. And we want to -- we appreciate the media. You all have done a wonderful job.
ZAHN: Well, I appreciate that. We don't hear that very often, Mayor.
BAKER-HINES: Well (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you all are family, too, now.
ZAHN: All right. That'll keep us going for another week, at least. Mayor Hines, again, thank you. BAKER-HINES: OK. Thank you.
ZAHN: This collector got a lot more interest in his Michael Jackson memorabilia than he ever expected. He'll tell us why police got in on the act.
And there's much more to this memorial than meets the eye. You'll meet the war veterans who actually started it.
ZAHN: We're going to turn now to the latest in the Michael Jackson case. Today we learned investigators seized Jackson memorabilia from a New Jersey collector's warehouse and turned it over to prosecutors in California. The items were taken several weeks ago, and they include underwear and notes apparently written by the pop star. They were part of a collection owned by Henry Vaccaro. He joins us now from Asbury Park, New Jersey.
Good of you to join us, sir. What is it that police were most interested in in your collection?
HENRY VACCARO, JUDGMENT COLLECTOR: Well, first of all, let me just clear it up. I'm not a collector. I was a judgment creditor in a bankruptcy, and we seized the items.
ZAHN: And describe to us what police seemed to really want their hands on.
ZAHN: What exactly were police after in this collection? Did they knew...
VACCARO: Well, they were after -- basically, there was a pair of Michael Jackson white Calvin Klein underpants that were in a wardrobe case. And the wardrobe case contained eight Michael Jackson stage costumes, a bulletproof vest. And when you opened the drawer, there were two tubes of a chemical that said "skin bleaching agent." And in the bottom was a sole (ph) pair of underpants.
ZAHN: Were you aware all this stuff was in there?
VACCARO: Oh, I was aware the costumes were in there. I was not aware of the underwear that was in there until, you know, a reporter from another network spotted them and pulled them out. And she said, I should call the prosecutor. I says, You have to do what you have to do.
ZAHN: Were you surprised...
VACCARO: So the next morning...
ZAHN: ... to see police descend on the warehouse?
VACCARO: I was very surprised. But the next morning, I got a call from Tom Sneddon. And he says, I understand you have something that might be of interest. And I said, Geez, I guess so. He said, Please don't touch it. You'll hear from us within the hour. And within an hour, a Monmouth County prosecutor, a sheriff's officer and a forensic guy showed up at the warehouse.
ZAHN: So as a judgment collector, I'm sure over the years, you probably wondered why police -- why people collect the things they do. Do you know specifically how the Calvin Klein underwear would have gotten in this collection, in the first place?
VACCARO: I have no idea, except that this was a -- was a -- evidently, after they had completed a show, everything was shipped back to this warehouse because the family had planned a restaurant division, much like the Hard Rock, and they were going to display Jackson family memorabilia. So after a show was over, this got shipped back to the warehouse, and somebody never cleaned it out.
ZAHN: Henry, what can you tell us about this undated handwritten note that Jackson allegedly wrote to youngsters visiting him?
VACCARO: Well, there was a couple of weird things. There was a note there, and I never knew what it was or knew what to make of it. In fact, I was going to throw it out. It just said, Dear Rubbers, I'm going to be at Neverland. Be back later. Love, M.J. And I never knew what the word "rubbers" meant until I read in "Vanity Fair" magazine where it mentioned that that's what he sometimes calls little boys.
And there was another note that was written to Dee-Dee Jackson, which was Tito's former wife that mysteriously passed away, and that note mentioned, Dear Dee-Dee, please tell your children about child molesters. It could be anybody in the family. It could be an aunt or an uncle molesting a nephew or a niece. Love M.J. I found that bizarre.
ZAHN: How did you interpret either one of those?
ZAHN: How did you -- after you read the "Vanity Fair" article, how did you interpret either one of those notes?
VACCARO: It wasn't up to me to interpret. It just was bizarre. It was just part of thousand and thousands of items that we had. This warehouse that we're in now is now empty, but it's 6,000 square feet, and it was full to the brim with family memorabilia...
ZAHN: I bet you never thought the life...
VACCARO: ... which has now been sold.
ZAHN: ... of a judgment collector would ever be so interesting. Henry Vaccaro, thank you for...
VACCARO: You're welcome.
ZAHN: ... sharing the activities of the last 48 hours or so with us. Appreciate it.
VACCARO: It has been interesting.
ZAHN: I bet it has.
Coming up: Veterans honor Iraq's war dead on a California beach. The story behind the crosses when we come back.
ZAHN: Tonight, residents of San Jose, California, have been paying tribute to native son Pat Tillman. The pro football player gave up his career and a multi-million-dollar contract to join the Army. He was killed last month during a firefight in Afghanistan. But as San Jose mourns Pat Tillman, residents of another California town have created a moving memorial to honor those killed in Iraq. Here's Miguel Marquez.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It has become a Sunday morning ritual.
STEPHEN SHERILL, CREATOR, ARLINGTON WEST: First and foremost, and above all else, it is to honor and memorialize those who have given their lives in service to our country. It's also a wake-up call.
MARQUEZ: Part memorial, part protest, it is the passion of Stephen Sherill, one cross for every American servicewoman and man killed in Iraq. On this Sunday, there are 747.
SHERILL: It seems to cut through all social strata. Rich, poor, young, old, white, black, brown, Democrat, Republican, it hits everyone equally.
LORRAINE ELEAUT, VISITOR: They're dead. They have mothers. They're people that believe -- they're people that believe in our freedom.
MARQUEZ: Though Sherill, a building contractor, never served in the military, every Sunday since November, he's had help from those who did.
RICHARD NELSON, WORLD WAR II VETERAN: I was in Company G (ph), 36th Armored Regiment of the 3rd Armored Division.
MARQUEZ: In World War II, Richard Nelson fought his way across Europe. He says he saw things no one should see, and planting crosses 60 years later is a little like therapy.
NELSON: You know, you try to stuff all that stuff all these years. It doesn't work. So that's the way it is.
MARQUEZ: Nelson is a member of Veterans for Peace. The group has taken up Sherill's cause as its own. LANE ANDERSON, VIETNAM VETERAN: Even if the war was a mistake, even if the war was wrong, even if wrong things are done in warfare, it's not the fault of the soldiers doing it.
MARQUEZ: Anderson served in Vietnam. He helps place the crosses. Names of the dead attached to each, and donated flowers are placed at their bases. Loved ones of those killed in Iraq sometimes make their way to the beach and leave personal touches behind. They call it Arlington West, a reference to the national cemetery outside Washington, D.C. The only question now? How long will the ritual continue?
ANDERSON: We can't quit, anymore than it seems like our commander-in-chief can quit.
MARQUEZ: So every Sunday, as the sun rises, the crosses go up. There is talk that if the number of dead Americans hits 1,000, no more crosses beyond that will be built. It's a decision they hope never to make.
Miguel Marquez, CNN, Santa Barbara, California.
ZAHN: And that wraps it up for all of us here this evening. Thank so much for being with us tonight. We'll be back same time, same place tomorrow night. "LARRY KING LIVE" is next. Have a great night.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com