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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Analysis of Donald Rumsfeld's Congressional Testimony
Aired May 7, 2004 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you god.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld under fire by 2 congressional committees. Asked if he'd resign over the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal. Here to assess his testimony, Senator John Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee that grilled the secretary today. Martha Frederick, her husband is one of the soldiers accused of abusing those Iraqi prisoners.
Then, Senator Jon Kyl, chairman of the Terrorism Subcommittee. Senator Tom Harkin, who has called for Rumsfeld to resign or be fired. Michael Weisskopf "TIME" correspondent who was wounded covering the war in Iraq. Congressman Charles Rangel who wants Rumsfeld out too. And Congressman Chris Shays, chairman of the National Security Subcommittee. And they're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
KING: What a day. We begin this evening with senator John Warner. He chaired the whole thing today. Chairman of the armed services committee. He was, of course, very involved in selecting all those questions and the Senators asking them. He's a member of the Select Intelligence Committee as well. Former secretary of the Navy and U.S. military veteran, Republican of Virginia.
What a day. How do you assess the performance of the secretary of defense?
JOHN WARNER, (D-VA) CHAIRMAN ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: First, if I may say to my colleagues on the committee, and 24 Senators out of the 25 were present at that hearing, I think we comported ourselves individually and collectively as best I've ever seen it in the Senate to get all the facts out no matter where that fact trail went to, no matter how embarrassing. And we're striving in our committee to make a record, such that we can study it and work with the executive branch, Department of Defense. We never want to have this happen again ever, ever.
KING: Now, the assessment of Secretary Rumsfeld's testimony. How did he fair?
WARNER: I'd give him good marks. He answered tough questions. He stated what he knew and what he didn't know. Now, bear in mind, this man has to deal every day, all day and all night, with decisions all over the world. He has better than 300,000, 400,000 men and women all over the world stationed in harm's way. And here, a small cell of perhaps at the moment 25 individuals, maybe more, have perpetrated crimes which, in my opinion, and I've been associated and learning from the military for close to 60 years, we've never seen anything like this before in a breakdown of discipline. And frankly, seeing men and women who wear the uniform of the United States just abandoning plain old common sense and what they were taught at home, and committed these crimes.
KING: Do you, and even I think the secretary said that things might get worse. There will be more pictures, worse pictures. Are you expecting worse?
WARNER: Yes, he was very frank and forthcoming about that. There are several disks which, as you know, could have up to, who knows how many other pictures on it. There's some evidence that there might even be a video.
So unfortunately, not only for America, for the rest of the world, more of this is going to flow out. But I hope, and I pray it does not reflect adversely on 99.9 percent of the men and women of the armed forces of the United States and indeed, our coalition partners and certainly in Afghanistan and Iraq, because they, with their families at home, are doing a magnificent job in the cause of freedom.
KING: Many of your colleagues are asking the secretary to resign.
KING: What do you think?
WARNER: Well, let's you and I have been observers, and indeed participants on this scene in the nation's Capitol for many years. If you bear with me, I go back with Rumsfeld to when I was secretary of the Navy. I served under three consecutive secretaries of defense during the war in Vietnam, and he was in the White House.
I then have served in my 25 years on the Armed Services Committee with the other secretaries who followed him. And I've always rated him as a very conscientious, hardworking and a cooperative secretary with our committee. And when the president said the other day, I want him to remain, then I respect our president, and his wishes, and he's got to make the decision, the final decision, and I'm going to support the president's decision for the time being to keep Rumsfeld in there. And I assure you, as I know Don Rumsfeld, he and I will go on and work just as we have worked in these years before.
KING: As a key member of the Congress, though, are you angered, disturbed? What are you, concerning the fact that you got the news so late?
WARNER: Well, in this job that I'm privileged to serve in, particularly as chairman of this powerful and venerable Armed Services Committee, I try to remain calm. I try not to let my emotions or anger dictate any of my decisions.
But Larry, deep in my heart, as I said, I started as a young sailor in the United States Navy, and tail end of World War II, just as a young trainee, served with the Marines in Korea. I've been with the men and women of the armed forces close to 60 years. I've never seen anything as bad as this.
KING: Should you have known about it before you knew about it?
WARNER: Yes, Larry, very definitely. And the secretary stated that. He, of course, showed they'd made some effort to inform the committees. But Larry, in all of the years I've been in this job, many of secretary of defense or deputy or the common end, Marine Corps, chief of staff, Army, they call me all hours of the night and say Senator, we've got a problem and you better know about it.
This situation should have been spotted. The ramifications on our foreign policy, the ramifications on the forthcoming transfer of sovereignty in Iraq, all of these situations are impacted by this situation. And frankly, I think the chain of command, although they were diligently following the code of military conduct, the codes of justice, as they should, someone should have said, wait a minute, we'll continue to provide the legal route, but we better move this up to the decision-makers and move it up fast.
KING: Senator Graham said that there's more to come, and tapes and the like. And he said the American public needs to understand, we're talking about rape and murder here, not just humiliating experience. Does he know something we don't know?
WARNER: I've seen some of the same reports that he has seen. But Larry, the way I follow this situation, I want those people brought in to our hearing room. I want to put them up. I want to raise their hand, and then let that evidence come out under those circumstances, because if that's true, it is extremely damaging.
KING: Are you going to subpoena?
WARNER: I'll use the subpoena power without any hesitation. There is no limitation on the manner in which my ranking member, Karl Levin, and I will conduct these hearings to make certain that a record is put together. And that record, hopefully, will convince the Congress and indeed the department of defense that we must take the steps to never, never let this happen again.
KING: What is -- couple of other things. What is going to be the effect diplomatically?
WARNER: I asked that question of Secretary Rumsfeld, and I think that he gave his answer as best he could: none of us fully know. But he also used a sentence that I liked. And he said, the world's going to have a chance to see Democracy in action here in the United States, and that is how we, when we're faced with a problem, we look it square in the eye, we get the facts out, and we, as quickly as possible, under the applicable laws and regulations, bring those accountable to justice, and get it behind us. And I commend him for that particular statement.
KING: In your wildest imagination, can you figure out why they did what they did?
WARNER: I can't. You know what troubles me, Larry, and you and I have dealt with people and been with them, and we enjoy people, both of us. How can young men and women, coming from homes here in America, with the churches and the schools and the educational patterns that we have, and then be thrust into a situation and probably allow themselves to get involved in acts which are really atrocities?
Now, obviously, there has to be someone above them that was given them some instructions. I don't think they could have created all of these various scenarios out of their own imagination.
KING: And you're going to subpoena anyone involved.
WARNER: You bet, Larry. It's going to get rough, if necessary. But today's hearing was straightforward. I commend the military. They have taken as quickly as possible all of the proper steps now to remedy this situation.
I was particularly impressed with the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. Not often do military men feel that they must get up and render an apology, and this group did it today, as have the various senior officers in central command.
KING: Thank you, Senator. Always good seeing you. Next time under better circumstances.
KING: Senator John Warner chairman of the Armed Services Committee. He chaired that extraordinary session this morning. Back with more of tonight's edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Needless to say, if I felt I could not be effective, I'd resign in a minute. I would not resign simply because people try to make a political issue out of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Joining us now, before our panels assemble, in Virginia is the wife of Staff Sergeant Ivan "Chip" Frederick. This is Martha Frederick. Chip is one of the guards linked to the alleged abuse. Her husband faces possible court martial for dereliction of duty, cruelty and maltreatment and conspiracy. By the way, one young lady of the United States military charged the female soldier who was holding that leash around a naked Iraqi prisoner, charged with various offenses today, First Class Lynndie England, who by the way is pregnant. Martha, how did you hear that your husband was somehow involved in this?
MARTHA FREDERICK, WIFE OF STAFF SGT. IVAN "CHIP" FREDERICK: I caught it through the media, Larry.
KING: So you saw his name appear on the screen?
FREDERICK: Well, I had talked to him previously. He told me that there were things that were going on, but that he couldn't discuss them over the telephone or by e-mail. I heard -- and then later on, he did tell me that he was under an investigation, but actually, told for the first time and heard for the first time the true extent of it over the television, on "60 Minutes II."
KING: Where is he now, Martha?
FREDERICK: He is still in Iraq somewhere.
KING: Have you talked to him since all this broke?
FREDERICK: Yes, sir, I have. I've talked to him on several occasions, and pretty much our conversations are to keep his head up, you know, stay focused, tell the truth, and that the truth was going to be a thing to set him free.
KING: Did he tell you at all what happened and why he -- if he did participate in these things?
FREDERICK: No, sir. We never could discuss it, he said, over the telephone or by e-mail, so I never did ask him. Our conversations were ones that were positive ones about, you know, just staying focused, being proud, doing a lot of praying, and just having faith that things would work out, the way that they're supposed to, and the truth will come out.
KING: But he had told you that there were problems there, right, that things were chaotic before all this broke?
FREDERICK: Oh, yes, sir.
KING: You knew something was wrong?
FREDERICK: Yes, yes, he did. Yes, he did.
KING: Did he...
FREDERICK: He -- excuse me, go ahead.
KING: Go ahead -- did he complain? Did he say, "this is terrible," did he describe any -- before it broke?
FREDERICK: Yes. I mean, he told me -- well, there were things starting out when he first got into Kuwait and he started having problems, as far as equipment and not knowing, I guess, guys were kind of just going in different places, in different directions. There were some situations, you know, that -- where they didn't have the vests, and I found out later that I was not the only family member of a soldier out there who had to purchase a vest for my husband. And then when he got over there at Bugarat (ph), that's when he told me that things were totally chaotic there. He made, you know, a comment and he said, the president said that this war is over, and then he said that it wasn't. And he told me that he had a lot of concern about things that were going on there.
KING: He also said that there are many other things taking place, much worse than what I'm accused of.
FREDERICK: Yes, sir, he sent that to me in an e-mail. I do not know the extent of that. I have no clue. This is something that we have -- we, you know, have made an agreement that it would not be discussed via telephone or e-mail, sir.
KING: OK. Now, he is a corrections officer, right, in private life?
FREDERICK: Yes, he is.
KING: OK. Are you shocked at this? If this were true, would you be shocked if he were involved?
FREDERICK: Would I be shocked? Sir, with this war that's been going on, there are a lot of things that I have been shocked by. I mean, you know, to see villages just go up in explosion by the mortars and stuff, and seeing soldiers hang from bridges that are burning. There are a lot of things in this war that shock me, but I know that after seeing the "60 Minutes II" presentation that was aired, that if he did anything wrong, he did it in what he thought that was, you know, securing our national security, saving our soldiers out there.
KING: Is he saying then that whatever he may have done, he was told to do?
FREDERICK: I did get his journal, and in reading his journal, he had questioned a lot of things that were going on. He had talked to many different people on different occasions. One of -- we would talk to one person, and when that person wouldn't give him the solution or give him the paperwork, he would go to another person that was above him in command. And still, he told me, he did tell me by telephone and by e-mail that even until the day that he left, those things were not in place at that prison. And when I talk about those things, I'm talking about these operating procedures, guidelines. He said they did post two things on the wall.
KING: Do you think he's a scapegoat?
FREDERICK: Yes, sir. I mean, if you can picture for me having a puppet and putting that puppet on center stage, and then when they're done with him, cutting the string and everybody else stands behind the curtain. It's left my husband out there, you know, and some of these other soldiers out there, and making it seem that all this was of their doing, all this was of their -- these acts that were created were things that they thought up on their own, when actually, you know, learning through the media that these were acts that had been performed earlier in situations when there was interrogations involved.
KING: Martha, thank you very much. Good luck, and there's still a lot we've got to learn. Martha Frederick, the wife of Staff Sergeant Ivan "Chip" Frederick, still in Iraq.
When we come back, Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, who has called for the secretary of defense to resign, and the senior correspondent of "Time" magazine, Michael Weisskopf, who lost his right hand in action in Iraq. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The abhorrent pictures on our TV screens have stained our honor. They do not reflect the nature of the men and women we have sent overseas. We've sent decent, compassionate, honorable, sacrificing citizens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. Joining us now in Phoenix, Senator Jon Kyl, chairman of the judiciary subcommittee on terrorism, technology and homeland security, Republican of Arizona. In Manchester, Iowa, Senator Tom Harkin who has called for the resignation of the defense secretary, he's a veteran of the U.S. Navy, served five years in the 60s and in Washington, and in Washington, Michael Weisskopf, senior correspondent of "TIME" magazine. It was his hand that was blown off in Iraq in December of 2003 when a grenade was lobbed into the humvee in which he was riding. Senator Kyl, what did you make of Rumsfeld and the committee hearing today?
SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: I agree with Senator Warner that the senators comported themselves well for the most part and I was very impressed with Secretary Rumsfeld. He was dignified, he was contrite. He demonstrated the kind of strong leader that he is by taking responsibility for what had occurred, but also making it plain that this was the action of a very small group of people that does not represent what America stands for, and that he understood he had the responsibility to see to it that the reports would be accomplished, would be finished, and the new commission that he's appointing would conclude its work and we would find out what else we need to do to ensure this never happens again.
KING: Senator Harkin, why do you think he should resign?
SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA: Well, for a couple of reasons. First, for the morale of our troops. I think if all we're going to do is go after a few of the lower ranking people that were there, and not go after the ones up the chain of command, I think it's going to send the wrong signal to our troops out there that the higher up you go, the easier it is to get off. Secondly, I also think that if you read General Taguba's (ph) report by the way, in it he recommends reprimands for a number of people from Brigadier General Karpinski down to sergeants. And in every case, he recommends punishment for the failure to ensure that the soldiers under his or her command knew and understood the provisions of the Geneva Convention as it applied to detainees. Well, what about Secretary Rumsfeld? In January of 2002, Secretary Rumsfeld, when questioned about the Geneva Convention, said it didn't apply to the detainees in Afghanistan. Well, that filters down. You know, Secretary Rumsfeld basically kind of pooh- poohed the Geneva Convention. Said it didn't apply.
KING: He did say it did apply in Iraq, didn't he?
HARKIN: I don't know if he ever said it applied. In the past, he never made the distinction. He may have today but in January of 2002, he said the Geneva Convention didn't apply. It seems to me that this is such a bad situation that the only good thing, the only honorable I think for the secretary of defense would be to do to voluntarily step down. I don't think we're going to send the right signals to the world if he stays in there.
KING: Michael Weisskopf, what's your whole read on the story?
MICHAEL WEISSKOPF, SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "TIME": The secretary went to the debutante's ball today and had to look good and by most standards, he performed very well. He was contrite. He was not as dismissive. He was respectful. This was not vintage Rummy before Congress. This was a man who realized that his own career and his own standing in the administration depended a great deal on how well he performed.
KING: Now, Senator Kyl says that he should take -- he took responsibility. What does he do with the taking of the responsibility and what's the repercussion of taking responsibility, Michael?
WEISSKOPF: Well, being contrite, to begin with, apologizing, sending a message all the way down the ranks that if he had to apologize, that others down the ranks will have to tighten up their standards. That certainly would be the signal, and in that sense also he takes a little bit of the flack away from the president.
KING: Senator Kyl, they say that worse stuff is coming. Is it folly to believe this is an isolated incident?
KYL: I think both things could be true. Apparently what they've concluded in the investigation is that there were other acts, and that there could be criminal charges brought of more serious conduct than even we're aware of right now, and that is working its way through the military process, as it should. With respect to what that may mean for the future, it's clear that these reports are going to determine whether or not there's something systemic, something that's fundamentally wrong with the whole system that's creating this problem. We don't know yet, but I would seriously doubt it. I think that probably those who have commented on this are correct when they say that it is an aberration. There may be a few more people responsible. We're certainly going to become aware of the other things that occurred but I would find it hard to believe that it's not an aberration. I know we all hope that it is.
KING: Senator Harkin, can you fathom what it is that would cause people to do things like this?
HARKIN: War does terrible things to people, and if there's not good command and control and responsibility up and down the line, sometimes the worst instincts of human nature can take over. You know, Larry, you're talking to someone who 34 years ago this year uncovered the tiger cages on Kansang Island (ph). I remember when I took those pictures and how the government threatened me with prosecution, threatened me I'd never work in Congress again, said I was cavorting with the enemy because I made the pictures available for the world to see and it was done with the full knowledge and support of the U.S. government. You can imagine the impact this week the pictures had on me. I thought we'd learned our lesson in Vietnam.
KING: Michael, are we at the tip of the iceberg? Is this story getting bigger?
WEISSKOPF: There have been many people disappearing in our system, and many deaths, and there is a group of people known as ghost detainees. These are guys who were Iraqis who have been kept off the books and we don't know what became of them. Interestingly, I've been to Abu Ghraib, and when I arrived there soon Saddam's fall, there were Iraqis roaming the place looking for members of their family who had disappeared within Saddam's Ghulag and they brought shovels, digging, looking for shallow graves.
KING: Let me get a break and come back with Senators Kyl and Harkin and Michael Weisskopf on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUMSFELD: In recent days, there has been a good deal of discussion about who bears responsibility for the terrible activities that took place at Abu Ghraib. These events occurred on my watch. As secretary of defense, I am accountable for them, and I take full responsibility.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: What agencies and what -- or private contractors were in charge of the interrogations? Did they have authority over the guards? And what were the instructions to the guards? This goes to the heart of this matter.
RUMSFELD: It does, indeed. As I understand it, there were two contractor organizations. They supplied interrogators, and linguists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Let's include a call for Senators Kyl and Harkin and Michael Weisskopf of "TIME "magazine. Minneapolis, hello.
CALLER: Yes, sir. When this came out, did they remove all the cameras from the guards to suppress more information from coming out? And shouldn't they be handing out video cameras to the troops along with their guns and tell them to turn in their tapes at the end of their watch?
KING: Senator Kyl?
KYL: Well, of course, I don't know the answer to that question. It has been surprising to me, two things. No. 1, that somebody would have taken pictures of it. And secondly, if the soldiers involved would have willingly had their picture taken.
They had to have been acting very stupidly at the time, at best, to allow incriminating evidence that would later be used against them. So obviously, things were not right.
But I do think it's very unfortunate that before the criminal proceedings have even run their course with respect to all of these people, and the reports could be sent all the way up the channels, that the photographs were leaked and given to the media. That obviously has undercut our war effort tremendously.
KING: Rockingham, North Carolina, hello.
CALLER: I enjoy your program and do we know of any other nationalities or allies that's involved in this scandal?
KING: What who what?
CALLER: Do we know of any other countries involved in this scandal, this allies with the United States?
KING: Senator Harkin, do we?
HARKIN: Not that I'm aware of. I don't know of any.
KING: Michael Weisskopf, are we aware that other countries than American are involved?
WEISSKOPF: The British were accused of some abuse of detainees. But the pictures that were produced are questionable. Their uniforms are different, and other things in the picture suggested it was doctored.
KING: Michael, if there are other pictures and other tapes, as Senator Graham said today, are they going to come out? Is that the course of things?
WEISSKOPF: Inevitably, and the secretary said as much. This is hot merchandise now. There is a big journalistic market, so to speak, although we don't pay for these things. But this is a hot issue, and certainly they'll be coming out.
KING: Are you working... KYL: Larry?
KING: Now, hold it Senator Kyl -- you are?
KING: Now, was that Senator Harkin or Senator Kyl?
KYL: That was Senator Harkin.
HARKIN: Again, why would the troops permit their pictures to be taken under these circumstances? Well, I think that's a clear indication they thought what they were doing had approval of those higher up, that they were doing what they were told to do. That's why I think these pictures clearly indicate that these soldiers just didn't get up in the morning and decide to do these things.
KING: But Senator Kyl...
WEISSKOPF: So why are they...
KING: Go ahead.
WEISSKOPF: It's also been said that these pictures may have been used in the interrogation themselves. In other words, that it showed a level of robustness in terms of the interrogation. And that those who were, as expected, to produce information might do so if they were shown these photos.
KING: But why, Senator Kyl, are they laughing?
KYL: Larry, I don't know, and we're speculating a lot here. I just urge everyone to wait until the information comes out through the reports that are going to be issued about this.
Remember, that we're still in the middle of criminal proceedings. And one of the reasons that the brass, as they've been described, couldn't say more about this, is because, under the criminal -- the military code of justice, it's inappropriate for anybody in the upper parts of the command to comment in such a way that might jeopardize the case.
And so I think we need to be kind of careful about speculation when we really don't know the facts. There will be plenty of time to comment on them after they are completed and then released to the public and to us.
KING: Senator Harkin, what's the effect diplomatically?
HARKIN: I think just awful. I think we're in one of the worst situations diplomatically that we've ever been in, in terms of having any kind of moral high ground around the world. And that's why, again -- look, I have no animus (ph) towards Secretary Rumsfeld. He's done some pretty darned good things as Secretary of Defense.
But this situation is so bad and so deep that I don't think we're going to send the right signals unless Secretary Rumsfeld does the proper thing, removes himself from the situation, allow a new Secretary of Defense to come in, and really conduct a thorough investigation to get to the bottom of it. I believe that's the only thing that's going to really get us over this.
KING: Sure, go ahead Senator.
KYL: Larry, one quick comment. You asked me my opinion on this. I did want to say we got to be careful about the message we send. The secretary expressed contriteness. He's apologized. He said he's sorry and he's going to do some things to set it right. I think we have to be careful about the message we send if we begin to divide the leadership of this country in ways that lead our enemies to believe that they can defeat us because we're weak, we're no longer unified, that our top guy had to resign or got fired.
This is pretty dangerous stuff. And calling for his resignation before he had testified I thought was kind of going, you know, too far. So it seems to me we ought to be careful here and understand that what we say will have consequences abroad just as this horrible incident has had.
KING: Michael, does...
HARKIN: My only response -- hello?
KING: Go ahead, Tom.
HARKIN: My only response to that is, look, what about the sergeants, the people that are in these pictures? What if they say they're sorry and they're contrite? Is that the end of it? No, they're going to be reprimanded and punished as well.
But then again, as I pointed out it starts at the top, and Secretary Rumsfeld in January of 2002, basically gave a green light by saying the Geneva Convention does not apply to detainees.
KING: But today he said he meant it only in Afghanistan and not to Iraq. He did say that today.
HARKIN: But Larry, that was never made clear.
KING: Michael, does somebody big have to go?
WEISSKOPF: Certainly in the chain of command, and we've already seen a brigadier general, this Janice Karpinsy, head of the regiment go. She's been removed from her position. Whether it spills into the political theater is really a question about how much worse this gets. And how much the president needs to cut his losses. This is a tough one for the president, because in Rummy he's got the architect of 2 wars. And this is a president who is running on the strength of those wars and his campaign against terrorism. Rummy was right in the center of that.
At the same time, the Secretary of Defense could be doing the president a big favor if he gets out of the way. It just deepens on how hot it gets.
KING: I thank you all very much. Michael Weisskopf will remain with us. Senator Jon Kyl and Senator Tom Harkin.
When we come back we'll meet 2 members of the House of Representatives, Congressman Chris Shays of Connecticut, Congressman Charles Rangel of New York. And Michael Weisskopf will remain. Take some more phone calls too. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUMSFELD: To those Iraqis who were mistreated by members of the U.S. Armed Forces, I offer my deepest apology. It was inconsistent with the values of our nation. It was inconsistent with the teachings of the military to the men and women of the armed forces. And it was certainly fundamentally unAmerican.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Joining us now in New York, Congressman Chris Shays, chairman of the Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations, a member of the Select Committee on Homeland Security, recently returned from his fifth trip to Iraq. He is a Republican of Connecticut. And Congressman Charlie Rangel, ranking member, Ways and Means, has called for the impeachment of Rumsfeld or his firing or whatever. He's a veteran of the United States Army and a Democrat of New York. And remaining with us is Michael Weisskopf, senior correspondent, "Time" magazine, who is in Washington.
All right, Chris Shays, we saw you just a couple of days ago, before this broke. What do you make of this?
REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: It's a huge issue. It's very depressing, you know. Having the wife of the soldier, I thought, brought a little humanity to this issue. We put men and women in battle, ask them to risk their lives. We've lost over 700 troops, men and women, fighting to free Iraq. So that's the context I bring here.
And I'll tell you where -- I think what we should be talking about is, why hasn't Congress done proper legislative oversight? I just really believe that we have failed in Congress to do what we should have done. We should have been visiting the prisons, not this year but last year. We should have been given the opportunity of some of our soldiers to pull us aside and say, you know, things are pretty rough. I'm a cook and I'm not trained to guard a prison. Some bad things are going on.
What would have happened is someone would have pulled one of us aside and told us everything that was happening, and we could have put an end to it real quick.
KING: Charlie, should you have been part of that group and should you have gone?
REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: Well, it's easy to say that we should apologize, but Rummy, as he's so affectionately known, had information of these atrocities. He had reports from the Red Cross. He said he hadn't completed reading it, and yet people say that he's been contrite. That's not enough. We're talking about murders. We're talking about torture. We're talking about people being shot down in yards. We're talking about people being sodomized, and he said it happened on his watch, and he's responsible.
Well, Senator Harkin is right. If he didn't tell the Congress and he didn't tell the president, then he has brought shame on the military and shame on the American people. It shouldn't have been that way. It was a cover-up, and he should resign.
KING: But Congressman Rangel, he said that he gets 18,000 investigations a year.
RANGEL: There is no way in the world for these type of atrocities to be something that is just being poo-pooed as an investigation. There is no question that, had he known this, he should have told the president and told the Congress, and we should not have found out about this as a result of some good investigative reporting. You can't include this and just say an investigation. He had a major general's report on his desk. The International Red Cross report on his desk.
KING: Michael, can you figure out why he didn't tell people about it, the president, the press, the Congress?
WEISSKOPF: The president was at least apprised of the allegations in January. No one had seen the extent of it. The photographic evidence was, of course, as Rummy said today, most dramatic, and put a strong point on it.
But back even last fall, Jerry Bremer, our administrator in Iraq, began putting pressure on various points of the administration, including at the White House, with the president's national security officers, to begin to thin out the prisons, that there are many people there who are kept in bad conditions and without charges, and they had to be sent home.
So there was an emphasis placed on our prison community there earlier, and certainly as Congressman Rangel said, there was Red Cross evidence of problems. And it wasn't until March, when these pictures became clear to the world, that Rummy had heard it for the first time.
KING: Congressman Shays, do you feel poorly informed?
SHAYS: I feel that Congress didn't do its job. And we...
KING: But I mean, wasn't that job to be performed for you?
SHAYS: No, Larry. I want to make that this point very clear. The military didn't make it easy for us to go to Iraq. But you know what, Congress should have been there. Whether you voted for using force in Iraq or whether you voted not to. Members of Congress had a responsibility to do legislative oversight in Iraq, and we allowed ourselves to be conforming to their trips. We should have gone into places the military didn't want us to go into.
KING: What responsibility does -- since the military works for you, don't they have a responsibility to report to you?
SHAYS: They have a responsibility to report to us, but we basically allowed them to show us what they wanted us to see, and when people like me went into Iraq, you get criticized for going in. All I'm trying to say not to Charlie that we need to apologize, we just simply need to do our job, and we didn't do our job.
KING: Congressman Rangel, how do you respond?
RANGEL: You know, Christopher Shays is a great man. But for him to imply that what they needed in Iraq was 435 members of the House and 100 senators to oversight, I've never heard.
But you asked the question earlier, and that is, why do these young people do things like that? The reason that they do it is because we have demonized those Iraqis. Rumsfeld, not Rummy, but Rumsfeld, who's one of the major architects of this war, has demonized Saddam Hussein, demonized the Iraqi people, and these youngsters have been allowed to believe that the people that they're shooting and killing was responsible for 9/11.
SHAYS: I got to jump in.
RANGEL: No evidence at all.
SHAYS: I got to jump in. We're not demeaning Saddam Hussein. We're just telling the truth about him, and sometimes the truth hurts. He's...
RANGEL: Sure, we know he's a demon because we were allied with him.
SHAYS: Charlie, let me finish. Charlie, let me finish. He used chemicals against the Iranians, he used chemicals against his own people.
I saw killing fields when I was there, where people were being pulled out of the ground and families clutching onto bones and clothes. I spoke to Shias who had lost brothers and sisters and uncles because of this man. I mean, you don't have to demonize him. You just tell what he is. RANGEL: I'm not arguing with you, Christopher. We're treating him better than the people that we are doing the same thing at the same place that we are accusing Saddam Hussein is doing. These people are supposed to be innocent. It's these people that are being demonized and being told by somebody in the chain of command to do these things, because we have to keep the war over there, and not in the United States.
KING: I've asked the congressman and the senators, I haven't asked Michael. Michael, why do you think people did this?
WEISSKOPF: Lack of discretion, being placed in a very difficult situation. I was -- I spent weeks with a platoon in Baghdad, realized the enormous pressure they're under, the indefinite sentence of being over there without knowing when they go back home. They break, and in the process, it's easy to misread orders. It's easy to go too far. There is often no sense of law and order.
KING: We'll take a break and come back. We'll get another call. We'll be right back and then we'll have more comments and a lot to cover. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: Those who murdered and burned and humiliated four Americans in Fallujah a while ago never received an apology from anybody. So it's part of -- wrongs occurred here by the people in those pictures and perhaps by people up the chain of command, but Americans are different. That's why we're outraged by this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In your opinion, and I know it's ultimately a decision for the president to make, but in your opinion, even though you weren't personally involved in the underlying acts here, would it serve to demonstrate how seriously we take this situation and therefore, help to undo some of the damage to our reputation if you were to step down?
RUMSFELD: That's possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Orlando, Florida, hello.
CALLER: Hello. Rumsfeld and General Myers both testified they were aware that photos connected to allegations of abuse did exist back in January, yet they admitted they did not see those photos until yesterday. My question is, why didn't Rumsfeld or General Myers demand to see those photos? Shouldn't they have concerned or even curious about what was in those incriminating photos? KING: Congressman Shays?
REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: There's no good answer. Of course, they should have been. And they should have looked at the pictures. They should have read the report as soon as it came out. They should have reported to Congress, all of those things should have happened.
KING: And what are the repercussions for them not happening?
SHAYS: Well, it raises really extraordinary questions about their judgment. My concern with Rumsfeld has been that he's asked to do too much. He's asked to reorganize the Department of Defense, fight the war on terror in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and then he wanted to be in charge of the peace and that should have been part of the State Department's responsibility.
KING: Congressman Rangel, you agree?
REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: It just seemed to me that if the secretary of defense had knowledge of these atrocities are being committed and kept this information from the president, from the Congress, he should be more than contrite. If we are outraged, as the president said that we are, heads should roll, and I am telling you as an enlisted man that has been in combat, that these people would not have done what they had did if they did not believe that it was not going to be sanctioned by their superiors, and so if you're going to be responsible and it happens on your watch, you pay for it. You just don't say, I'm sorry.
KING: And aren't people, Michael, of the nature of things who might be accused and they're going to be subpoenaed according to Senator Warner, going to bring others down? They're not going to take the fall if someone ordered them to do something, right?
WEISSKOPF: Well, we've already begun to see that process work its way, Larry, in terms just of correspondence from people, like Fredericks (ph), who sent his letters to his father and he's made those public. Clearly, that's going to be the defense.
KING: And so therefore, the story has to get bigger, doesn't it?
WEISSKOPF: Yes, and it won't only be made bigger that way. There will be more photos, more videos, more allegations, other detainees will step forward, and let's remember, this is all that's being done against the context of the June 30 transfer of power back to the Iraqis. At a time when this president needs full support from the Iraqi society, but also from the international community. He wants bigger role for the United Nations. This is a hard time to be asking for help.
KING: Thank you all very much. We'll be calling on all of you again and soon. In New York, Congressman Chris Shays, chairman of the government reform subcommittee on national security, Congressman Charles Rangel, ranking member of the ways and means committee and in Washington, Michael Weisskopf, senior correspondent for "TIME" magazine.
I'll come back in a couple of minutes and tell you about tomorrow night and Monday night, a very special guest. Don't go away.
KING: Tomorrow night, we'll repeat our interview with Raquel Welch. We're preempted tomorrow night for a special with Dr. Gupta. This should be quite interesting. Monday night, we're live with Tim Russert of NBC's "Meet the Press." Right now, it's time to turn it over to "NEWSNIGHT." Aaron Brown's last night at the old studio.
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