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Panel Discusses Abu Ghraib Prisoner Abuse, Beheading of Nick Berg

Aired May 14, 2004 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, as explosive new details continue to emerge in the prisoner abuse scandal, Shoshana Johnson and Ronald Young, American soldiers held prisoner by Iraq last year, what do they make of the abuse story? How did their treatment compare?

Plus the war hero who helped expose all of this in the first place, Colonel David Hackworth. And later the lawyers for Lynndie England, the woman who has become the face of this scandal, some day the latest soldier scheduled for court martial is the father of her love child. Also just hours after a private memorial for Nicholas Berg, the American beheaded by terrorists, two of his friends who were there today, David Skalish, who e-mailed with Nick when he was in Iraq and Bruce Hauser, the close friend of the Berg family. It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: Also joining us tonight, two distinguished members of the United States Senate. In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Senator Richard Shelby, subcommittee on defense and former vice chair select on intelligence, he saw the Iraqi abuse photos Wednesday and in Orlando, Florida, Senator Bill Nelson, the former astronaut, Democrat of Florida, he's on the Senate armed services committee. Also saw those abuse photos.

Let's go round the panel. We'll start with Shoshana. What did you make of this story when you heard it?

SHOSHANA JOHNSON, P.O.W. IN IRAQ FOR 3 WEEKS IN 2003: I was quite upset by the whole thing. As U.S. soldiers, we know better basically. We're held to a higher standard than most militaries around the world. There's a lot of talk that they were following orders, but when it comes down to it, you, as an individual, have to make the decision whether to follow that illegal order or do the right thing.

KING: Are you saying unequivocally that if you were one of the guards and if someone higher up ordered you to do what you saw you would not have done it?

JOHNSON: Would not have done it.

KING: Who do you appeal to, the higher command? JOHNSON: Definitely. You report it to the higher -- there's I.G., the Investigator General you can report it to. I mean, as a soldier, a lower enlisted soldier, there have been orders that were given that I had not followed because they were illegal orders.

KING: Ron Young, you were a former military helicopter pilot with the 1st Cavalry, taken prisoner by Iraq. What did you make of the story?

RONALD YOUNG, P.O.W. IN IRAQ FOR 3 WEEKS IN 2003: I was pretty disgusted when I heard it, especially seeing that we were P.O.W.s also and that we had to rely on the treatment of someone else. Now it's basically coming back to haunt us in such a way as our soldiers weren't treating the Iraqis right. Like Shoshana said, we are held to a higher standard and also we go through 13 weeks of basic training. These guys went through the same thing, and they actually go through these classes that train them how to deal with command pressure, how to deal with command -- orders that are coming down the chain, and what is an unlawful order and a moral and just order.

KING: Are you saying, Ron, that you agree with Shoshana, if you were ordered to do what you've seen done you would have refused?

YOUNG: Absolutely. You have an obligation to refuse. I mean, there's no other way to take this. Anything and basically you go through the classes and they teach you and the summary of it is, anything that has to do with sexual misconduct that comes down in the chain-driven order is definitely wrong. So they should have taken this to J.A.G. or around the chain of command and started writing letters and let someone know what was going on.

KING: Colonel David Hackworth who broke the story, the most decorated Vietnam war veteran, also a veteran of the Korean war, one of the great American heroes. His newest book, by the way, is "Steal My Soldiers' Hearts." His website played a role in breaking the abuse story. Where did you get it from, sources in the Pentagon?

DAVID HACKWORTH, U.S. ARMY (RET.), HELPED EXPOSE ABUSE STORY: Actually, the vice president of S.F.T.T., Roger Charles, S.F.T.. is Soldiers For The Truth, we put out a weekly magazine online called "Defense Watch." It's made up of mainly volunteer writers and so on, and Roger Charles, our vice president, was working this story for CBS, and we put a help wanted ad, anybody from these units to contact us, and bingo, one sergeant named Lawson (ph) did, and it went right to Roger, he took it right to CBS and had their enormous ability to really get on this story, sending people to Kuwait and Iraq and so on, and thus it came out to the American public.

KING: Colonel, what do you think? Do you agree with Shoshana and Ron, that if given that kind of order, you don't do it?

HACKWORTH: Absolutely. They are dead on target, and both of those fine warriors were regular soldiers. What we're dealing here with is reserve soldiers, and that might be the root of the problem. They get 38 days' training a year. I've talked to people who trained this unit after they were activated and they were trained for routine, military police duty. They should have known better, but if their command environment and that's what I'm getting, Larry, from the very top, from the general officer level, the command environment really leaned on these people and said this was the way to do it. It happened this way in Afghanistan, at Gitmo, and you're helping the cause by doing it. Somebody should have blown the whistle. The chain of command fell apart. It should not have happened.

KING: Senator Shelby, are you going to make (UNINTELLIGIBLE) this unanimous? What do you make of this? And you saw things yesterday that the public has not seen yet. We'll discuss that in a while as to why they don't see it but what's your treatment?

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: Well, I believe that you shouldn't follow something that would be an unlawful order, something you're trained not to do, that you know is not the American standard, that's sexual abuse, at the worst, torture, things like that, that it's an insult to the over 100,000 troops that we have in Iraq right now, and also thousands that have served. This is not the American armed services. It's not what we stand for, and the sooner we investigate it, get to the culprits, who is responsible, however high up it might lead, we'll be better off.

KING: What did you think, Senator Nelson, when you saw it yesterday?

SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: Well, the most revealing photograph, to me, was the one that is printed today in the "Wall Street Journal." It shows a bunch of the guards with a clump of prisoners naked and shackled to each other, lying on the floor. There are eight or nine guards in that picture, and it presents a picture of business as usual. that being the case, then I suspect that there was an order or if there was not an order, there was a wink and a nod somewhere up the chain of command, and that's what I want to see this investigation, where it leads, and then hold accountable those persons that are responsible.

KING: We as a nation have always accused others of barbarism, Shoshana. How were you treated?

JOHNSON: I was treated with humanity quite frankly.

KING: No one stripped you, no one treated you inhumane?

JOHNSON: During my initial capture there was some physical abuse as far as a beating.

KING: You were beaten?

JOHNSON: Yes, we all were during the initial capture. I think a lot of that was just anger, you know. Many people don't realize that although 11 of my comrades were killed in the ambush, we inflicted quite a bit of damage on the other side. So if they saw their brother -- I mean, at first when you're getting beaten, you don't think of that. You're sitting in the cell realizing the man that beat you probably just lost his brother, his father, you don't know, but after that first day, I was treated very respectfully. KING: Ron Young, how were you treated? You were in for three -- how long, three weeks?

YOUNG: Yes, sir. We were all in the same amount of time, minus a day. Me and Dave (ph) were actually captured the night of the same day that Shoshana and them were captured. At first, like Shoshana said, I was beaten, I was tied up. I was drug (ph) through the streets. Of course, we had mobs and everything that were coming out of their houses, and they were, you know, just having their way with us, pretty much. We were taken to the military unit, and they also wanted to gather information from us. Of course, we're pilots. They found the aircraft, and we had a lot of information we could have given them, so they had to develop means to extract that from me and Dave.

So actually, some of ours was a little bit different for the few first days than it was for some of the other captives, because they would leave us naked in the cells and things with the mosquitoes biting us with absolutely nothing and they'd take us in and do various things in the interrogation that I'm not really going to talk about because they're being investigated as far as war crimes.

KING: Was it as bad as what you saw?

YOUNG: As far as as bad as what I saw with the Iraqi prison scandal?

KING: Yes.

YOUNG: Well, it wasn't -- it was different. I have to say some of it was really close to the same. As far as the sexualness (ph) of it, they weren't doing perverse things with us and I was extremely glad of that, believe me.

KING: Let me get a break and come back with more with our panel. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The conduct of a few inside the Iraqi prisons was disgraceful and does not represent the true character of the American military or the American people. I have had the honor of traveling to bases around the country. I have seen a lot of our troops. I have seen their great decency and their unselfish courage. And I assure you, that the hands of -- that the cause of freedom and our nation's security is in really good hands.



KING: Colonel Hackworth, you've been through hell and two wars. How do you explain this to yourself? How do you explain anyone issuing such a command?

HACKWORTH: I think that they have mixed up what war is about with an agenda to gain information, that we're fighting not the uniformed soldiers as we fought the Nazis and Japanese and North Koreans and so on, but a group of terrorists that could be treated differently.

Shoshana was absolutely right, that on the battlefield, at that point of contact, when you first take a prisoner, that's the most dangerous time in the prisoner's life, because he is exposed to all those raw emotions of the soldiers who have captured him. They have just seen their best friend killed, a guy with a leg blown off, somebody else taking a belly wound. And they're angry and they want revenge.

But once you get back and get him back to company and battalion, that's when the system takes place. And I have seen atrocities in every war that I've been in. I was ordered in the Korean War by my company commander to kill four Chinese prisoners that I took. I refused that order. That was the last I heard of it.

What it all boils down to, Larry, is a simple thing, and it's leadership. Good leadership, you don't have this kind of situation. This is the result of bad leadership, from the top generals right down to those corporals and sergeants and captains who didn't do their duty.

KING: Senator Shelby, how do you know it isn't wider spread?

SHELBY: We don't, Larry. That's a good question. We don't know how deeply this goes, and we need to find out. And that's what these investigations are about. I hope it's just a few people, but I fear that it's deeper than that. We'll only know after a thorough investigation.

KING: Senator Nelson, should the public see what you saw yesterday?

NELSON: Larry, it's going to get out anyway. There are several of these compact disks out there in circulation, so it's going to leak out. My attitude is, go on and get it out. Let's get over with it. Let's let this investigation proceed, and let's bring these people to justice. And by the way, I agree with Richard Shelby. We've got 25 to 35 investigations going on right now, and we'll see what's going to turn up.

KING: By the way, Senator Shelby, do you think they should be shown to the public?

SHELBY: I agree with Senator Nelson, that they're going to get out. You know, we saw 400 or 500 frames at least the other day, and there are copies everywhere.

They're awful pictures. You know, I don't know anybody that would want to see them, either the way we treated our prisoners or the way our soldiers behaved, or a combination of both. But sooner or later, they're despicable pictures, they're deplorable, but we need to set the standards high. We should never, I believe, Larry, cede the moral authority to anyone. The American way is to work the high ground.

KING: Ron, one could only guess -- I would guess that the worst thing in the world next to being killed or what happened to poor Mr. Berg, and we'll talk about that, is to be held prisoner, right?

YOUNG: Absolutely.

KING: You have no control, no freedom.

YOUNG: Nothing.

KING: Three weeks must seem like an eternity.

YOUNG: Absolutely.

KING: Do you lose hope?

YOUNG: You don't have to lose hope. I mean, me, I have a faith in God, and that's really what brought me through in my tough time. And honestly, I put it in his hands, what was going to happen to me was what was going to happen. But by the end, by the time Baghdad falls and you're being driven out in the back of an ambulance in a couple of really bad gunfights, and things, cars are blowing up around us, and things like that. And I mean, they're just driving us through town, from town to town, and we're just being bombed. You start to wonder, are these guys just trying to get us killed or are they really trying to protect us and save our lives and just keep us from American hands?

KING: And what were you going through, Shoshana?

JOHNSON: Pretty much the same thing. We were all transferred together. We were blindfolded. They were nice enough not to tie my hands, because I had trouble walking because of my legs.

KING: You were shot in the leg?

JOHNSON: Both legs. But what it comes down to, the saddest thing about it is, I was treated better by the enemy than my fellow soldiers did to our enemy, and that...

KING: So you were treated better than the pictures of what you've seen?

JOHNSON: Yes, definitely. I mean, they performed a surgery on my leg, you know, and it basically saved my leg, if not my life.

KING: Well, then, do you think this is isolated?

JOHNSON: I'm hoping.

KING: I mean, you know a lot of people in (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the people you serve with, do you think they would have done this?

JOHNSON: No, no. I served with some outstanding people, and, I really can't get over the fact that these soldiers did this. And the first thing out of their mouth is, "Well, I was ordered to."

Well, you're an individual. You're a grown man and woman. You still have to make the decision of whether you're going to follow that order yourself, and you have to take responsibility for it.

KING: Hackworth says they're poorly trained, they had only 38 days, whereas you were fully trained.

JOHNSON: Well, training doesn't, you know, change who you are.

KING: Right from wrong, yeah.

JOHNSON: You know, you know right from wrong. You know good and well that standing in front of a naked man and putting a leash on him is wrong. You know, that's wrong. You know. If you're not woman enough to say no then, be woman enough now to take responsibility for your actions.

KING: We'll be back with more in a minute on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The people who engaged in abuses will be brought to justice. The world will see how a free system, a democratic system functions and operates, transparently, with no coverups, with the world seeing the fact that we're not perfect, and goodness knows, we're not perfect. But don't let anyone tell you that America is what's wrong with this world, because it's not true.



KING: We're back with our panel. We're going to include some phone calls, too. Sacramento, California, hello.

CALLER: Good evening. I served in the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam, where racism and human rights abuses were widespread. My question is this -- with television cameras showing us GIs pulling Iraqis out of their homes in the middle of the night, throwing them face down in the dirt in front of their families, binding them and taking them off with bags on their heads to secret locations, we should have known that if this was being done with the cameras on, that much worse was happening when the cameras were off. And where were our politicians and reporters raising questions long ago?

KING: Senator Shelby?

SHELBY: Well, I hope that the politicians and reporters are going to report the truth and they're going to try to set the standards, but as far as the military is concerned, I agree with the colonel. A lot of it is training. A lot of it is command. The quality of what you're doing and the environment that you work in. The military, I believe, overwhelmingly is -- goes by high standards. We're very proud of them. These are a few, and they're staining us. They're staining the good soldiers, men and women and their families, and we need to root that out right now.

KING: Senator Nelson, are a lot of people at fault?

NELSON: Yes, Larry, but remember, this is the worst of all possible environments, urban warfare. You don't know where that mortar has come from, or you've got a lead on trying to find that guy that planted that explosive device that blew up the convoy. And so when you go into an urban neighborhood like that, sometimes you got to use the rough tactics to be successful. And those soldiers are doing a great job. What happened in that prison is not reflective of 99.9 percent of all of our soldiers.

KING: Were you frightened when you were fighting, Shoshana, when you were in that fight, in that war?

JOHNSON: Definitely I was frightened. You know, I have a good friend, Corporal Bacon (ph), who was in the unit, and she said it plainly, "the bullet doesn't have a name." It's not...

KING: Your sister is in service, right?

JOHNSON: Yes, she is.

KING: Your father was in the service.


KING: You're a family of service.

JOHNSON: Yes. As a matter of fact, two of my cousins were deployed after I was rescued and brought home.

KING: You are on -- what do you receive now? Do you receive injured pension kind of thing?

JOHNSON: They have medically retired me, so I get an allotment every month from the Army.

KING: Tampa, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Larry. My question for the panel is, what responsibility does the United States and coalition forces have in protecting private citizens, and do they seek the protection from the government, or is it a case of enter at your own risk and have another case such as Nicholas Berg?

KING: Hack?

HACKWORTH: There's a code of conduct by the soldiers, and this is the thing that's been violated. And the leadership issue that the senators both mentioned is the other aspect of this. Had the leadership on the ground, from corporal to general, done their jobs, and also the leadership in the U.S. Congress -- dozens of letters were sent to senators and congressmen and women pleading from soldiers in the field and their families, explaining last September, October, November, all the way until March, that these atrocities were occurring, and they were ignored. Most of the letters, Larry, to people like even Hillary Clinton, were not responded to. They went into that circular file box, file 13.

KING: And why, Senator Nelson? What happened?

NELSON: I think some of those letters automatically, it's a senatorial courtesy that you send it to the senator from which state that letter comes from. If those letters came to me from Florida, they were going to be answered.

KING: And you, too, Senator Shelby, if they were from Alabama?

SHELBY: I think if they were revealing -- letters revealing horrendous acts, similar to what I saw, I would contact the secretary of defense personally, the inspector-general, and the president, because I think these are situations where we know we shouldn't buck a letter, we shouldn't pass the buck. Things are too important. Standards have been violated.

KING: Ron, what kind of an effect does it have on the other fighting men and women over there, when they know these stories of abuse?

YOUNG: It has a tremendous effect. Actually, I spoke with some of my guys from the 1st Cav. As you know, my unit's back overseas. A lot of the guys I served with overseas previously are back over there now, and they, I mean, they just detest it and they are really angry and upset. They feel like pretty much this has undermined everything that they've been doing, the hard work and the sweat and the tears and loss of life of our comrades in arms, and also trying to build relationships with the Iraqis. All of this has been undermined and kind of sent back to the stone age.

KING: By the way, before we go to break, and in the next segment we're going to talk briefly with the two of the attorneys for Ms. England, one of those accused, but we need to mention that the wonderful Shoshana Johnson has started a great project called Operation Stuffed With Hugs. It's a project you're involved with, and tomorrow kids can visit a build-a-bear workshop, create teddy bears that will then be given to the children of the United States military personnel. The store expects to deliver 30,000 of the bears, right?

JOHNSON: Actually, 40,000; 40,000 bears will go out, and tomorrow is Armed Forces Day, so that ties in perfectly.

KING: I salute you for that.

JOHNSON: Oh, thank you.

KING: We'll be right back, and we'll talk to two of the attorneys for Lynndie England. Our panel, of course, remains. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The recent misconduct of a few does not diminish the honor and the decency that our servicemen and women have shown in Iraq.


CHENEY: They have seen hard duty, long deployments and fierce fighting. They've endured the loss of friends and comrades, and they are unwavering in their mission. They are proving every day that when we send them to defend this nation and our interests, we are sending the very best of the United States of America.




PFC. LYNNDIE ENGLAND, U.S. ARMY: We all agree that we don't feel like we were doing things that we weren't supposed to because we were told to do them. We think everything was justified because we were instructed to do this and to do that.


KING: That was Pfc. Lynndie England in an interview earlier this week. Let's reintroduce our panel. In New York, Colonel David Hackworth, Vietnam, Korean war veteran. In Los Angeles, Shoshana Johnson, captured by Iraqis sholdiers in late March. She and her fellow P.O.W.s rescued three weeks later.

In Washington, Ron Young, former military helicopter pilot with the 1st Calvary also taken prisoner and held for three weeks. In Tuscaloosa, Senator Richard Shelby, Republican of Alabama. In Orlando, Florida, Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida.

Joining us now in Denver are Giorgio Ra'shadd, Pfc. Lynndie England's attorney and with him is her other attorney, Rosemary Zapor. Now Lynndie is accused -- in one photo we see her smiling with her thumbs up with her boyfriend as they stand near a pile of naked bodies, and another one, she's holding a leash tied around a prisoner. Every one of our panelists has said -- we'll start with you, Rosemary -- that she should have disobeyed that order. How do you respond?

ROSEMARY ZAPOR, ATTORNEY FOR PFC. LYNNDIE ENGLAND: It's easy to say in afterthought that you should have disobeyed an order. What we do know is that Private England was very uncomfortable with what she was doing but she was informed that doing these kinds of things would help prevent another 9/11 or obtain information which could help prevent further harm to our troops. So you have a balancing situation here with a young girl who is not sophisticated, who has basically 30 days of training in how to handle a situation such as this, and who is a clerk. She wasn't even in the prison cell normally handling the prisoners.

KING: You want to say something, Shoshana? JOHNSON: No offense, ma'am, but that's no excuse. You're a soldier first. I was just a cook, but I think I handled myself very well underneath the pressure. When it comes down to it, it's whether she was ordered to or not. She needs to take responsibility. She did it.

YOUNG: And also, could I jump in there, too. She had more than 30 days of training. She went through basic training. That's 13 weeks. And she was trained to the letter that every other soldier goes through. She has to know right from wrong and she has to know morally what she should be doing in a situation like that. I mean, it is very well driven into your head by the end of 13 weeks that any type of sexual activity that is command driven is wrong.

YOUNG: Wrong. Correct.

KING: Giorgio, how do you respond to the reverse, that she should have just said, just say no.

GIORGIO RA'SHADD, ATTORNEY FOR PFC. LYNNDIE ENGLAND: Well, I'll answer it in this way. As you know, I served in the 731st MP Company in the Guam army national guard. We did nothing with but EPW. I recall an incident where my commander, Mark Charpers (ph), best MP I ever met, was faced with a situation where a national guard commander who was over us while we were deployed asked Mark to do something that Mark did not feel comfortable with.

At the time, unfortunately, Mark was the first lieutenant and they thought they had an advantage over him, but what I recall from what I learned from that experience with Mark was Mark said no, and he refused. Now, Mark was relieved, but he refused, and when -- we became friends many years and still are. But I learned from Mark personally, that I had to have an inner strength, and he's a senator now in Guam, but I learned to have that inner strength, but here's the thing. Everyone's not Mark. Everyone's not Giorgio, and I will say that, when you are faced with a decapitation of your chain of command, the military chain of command, when it's hijacked by civilian intelligence agents, when the only persons that you can go to and complain about the order are the people who have injected themselves in the command and gave the order, what is the value, even if you did, of going back to that person and saying, I question this order. so there are a lot of dynamics...

JOHNSON: So what you're saying -- I'm sorry.

KING: Shoshana, go ahead.

JOHNSON: I'm sorry, sir, you're saying right now she's not supposed to take any responsibility for what she's done?

HACKWORTH: Can I jump in here?

KING: Go ahead.

HACKWORTH: My thought on this, and I'm hearing both sides of the argument. It is very simple, that I saw a photo today that showed an atrocity going on, beating up on prisoners. There were two MPs involved in it, but there were five people identified as military intelligence officers standing around the group, supervising the atrocity, and I'm told by military intelligence officers both in Iraq and here in the United States that have returned from Iraq that this was a systematic approved program, approved and written by alleged, now, a Major General Barbara Fast (ph) the intelligence officer out in Iraq. I think we got to look at the broader picture, that what this is about, and I've seen this happen so many times in the last 58 years that I've been on this beat as a soldier, or a reporter, they're always trying to find fry the little fish and this time it's not going to wash.

KING: Boy, do you think, Rosemary, that's true, that the little guy is going to pay, your client's going to pay and higher ups are not?

ZAPOR: You know, so far, the majority of the publicity and the Pentagon publicity machine has focused on our client, because we believe she is the youngest, the smallest, and the least able to fight back, and we certainly have not seen any responsibility coming from the CIA or the civilian contractors who have been identified as being in that cell block at that time. We've also heard from General Taguba, who said that these pictures were posed and we've also heard from General Karpinski, who said that even she was not allowed access to that portion of the prison. So you know, if we have this breakdown in command, and these people are being told it is in the best interest of their country, I have no respect of Ms. Johnson, but ma'am, you weren't there. You've been...

JOHNSON: That's right, ma'am. No offense, ma'am, but you're not -- you've never been in the military.

ZAPOR: You've been in it's a different situation.


ZAPOR: Let me tell you, do not have the same background. You do not have the same life experience to this young girl has, which is almost nothing, and I'm glad that we have people like you in our military, but you know, it's a problem when we have such a breakdown in the command structure that these people are being told that what they're doing is in defense of their country, and I doubt that there are very many people out there in the military or as civilians, who if they were told what they were doing was preventing another 9/11 by gathering intelligence from suspected terrorists in Iraq would not willingly participate in that kind of activity.

KING: Including sexual activity?

ZAPOR: You know, I don't know about any sexual activity, and these pictures certainly do not show my client engaged in my sexual activity.

KING: I want to clear something up so we get it straight. Giorgio, there was a story you could lose your Colorado law license for mingling client funds? I want to clear it up, is that going to happen?

RA'SHADD: No. And the other portion of the story, and Rose gave me a heads up on this, was that an AP writer checked into my academic background, called the school, and determined that I had not graduated from the University of State of New York at Albany. What he didn't find out was, University of the State of New York at Albany is a serviceman opportunity college and five years ago they changed the name to Regents College. So I knew they were going to come after me and here's the thing, Larry. I knew they would come after me but that will not shake my resolve in defending my client. So if that's the way they want to play, fine, but I have a job to do. Rose has a job to do, and so we're going to do it.

KING: Senator Nelson, do you think that this girl is going to be a scapegoat?

NELSON: I certainly hope not, Larry. I agree with the colonel. I think this is going up the chain of command, and the only question I have is how high it is. The question is, and what is the real policy question to us, is there an atmosphere that is set that allows illegal, immoral, unethical behavior that then tarnishes all of the just overwhelming numbers of troops that are doing humanitarian missions, that are protecting, trying to instill law and order in Iraq, and doing things that are good for the people of Iraq.

KING: Thank you, Giorgio and Rosemary. We'll be calling on you again. We're going to go to break and when we come back, we're going to meet a friend -- two friends of the late Nicholas Berg, talk about that and a controversy developing there with the press conference today by the attorney general. Our panel remains. Don't go away.


JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I want to express my deepest condolences first to the Berg family. This barbaric murder of Nicholas Berg illustrates the kind of evil that we face in the war against terror, and the United States will pursue his killers and we'll bring them to justice.




MICHAEL BERG, NICHOLAS BERG'S FATHER: The al Qaeda that killed my son didn't know what they were doing. They killed their best friend. Nick was there to build Iraq, not to tear it down, he was there to help people, not to hurt anyone. My son quit the Boy Scouts of America because they wanted to take us to Dover Air Force base, ironically, and teach him to fire a handgun and he wouldn't do it.


KING: That was of course Nicholas Berg's father, the late Nicholas Berg. Joining us now in Philadelphia, David Skalish, a friend and colleague of Nick Berg who e-mailed with Nick while he was in Iraq, and in West Chester, Pennsylvania, Bruce Hauser, another repeat appearance by Bruce, Nicholas Berg's very close family friend.

David, what was the memorial service like today?

DAVID SKALISH, BERG'S FRIEND: Larry, thanks for having me. It was one of the most moving experiences I've had in my adult life. There is no doubt in my mind that, you know, everyone in that room was totally moved by the lessons we learned from his friends, his classmates, and his wonderful family.

KING: And Bruce, how is that family holding up?

BRUCE HAUSER, BERG FAMILY FRIEND: I believe the family is moving forward step by step. As we heard just a few moments ago, the memorial service today was another way of healing, to bring them a step closer to -- not really bringing closure to this, but helping them advance to the next level. As we heard -- we've heard some great stories from Nick's friend, we heard some great stories from family, and I was moved. There were periods of time during the memorial where tears were shed, and a few minutes later, laughter. It would go back to tears, and it was a great service.

KING: David, what do you make of this apparent dispute between the family which says that Nick was held by Americans and not allowed to be released and the answer today by the attorney general, according to him, he was held by the Iraqis and the FBI offered to get him out of the country quickly. I know that there's e-mails back and forth, and we have one here in which he says, "Anyhow, the story ends in a rather anti-climatic fashion. The police collected me, take me off to the lieutenant, who was more worried about my safety than about me being an Iranian spy, so I'm invited to spend the night." He's referring then to the Iraqi police. What do you make of this conflict?

SKALISH: Well, if I know Nick, he was very careful with his money, and if he in fact were offered safe passage by the government, he would have taken it. I mean, let's face it, his travel was eating up his funds. And that's one thing that stands in my mind that, even though I don't have a real proof of that, I just know Nick, that he watches his pennies. He has to. I mean, like I said, this was a grand investment going over there, trying to turn these inspections of these towers into contracts that would yield a business for his tower company.

KING: Bruce, what do you make about the government disputing that?

HAUSER: I concur. I've known Nick Berg for close to 24 years. The Nick I've known from a child up until his adult age, Nick would never put his life ahead of the love for his family. I truly believe that if Nick was offered safe passage -- you heard Nick Berg when he was standing before -- sitting, actually, before his captors. He gave his name, and he also named every one of his family members. Nick Berg loved his family, and there is no way he would have turned down an opportunity to come back home to his family. SKALISH: Amen to that.

KING: David, what do you make of some people -- I think one radio station played a tape of Nick's execution on the air, which I can't believe, a San Diego high school showed it. Do you fear that this is now going to -- this terrible, poor taste is going to spread?

SKALISH: I hope not, Larry. My hopes are that any producers of shows in the future would practice restraint. I would hope that any Internet users would practice restraint. I mean, nothing good's going to come out of seeing this. We already have the rage of knowing what happened, and that's enough. It really, really is. I mean, to see this, nothing good will come of it. It will cause you major discomfort. It certainly did to me. I had no warning that I was going to be hearing this, and well, I was disturbed.

KING: Bruce, when is the funeral?

HAUSER: Actually, Larry, the funeral was this morning.

KING: Oh, the memorial service was the funeral?

HAUSER: No, the funeral was held this morning. The memorial service was held about 3:30 this afternoon.

KING: Oh, I see. Has burial taken place already?

HAUSER: I believe so.

KING: And the father -- I spoke to the father yesterday, and he says they plan to away for a while. Is that your understanding?

HAUSER: Yes, that's my understanding, and I encourage that. This family needs to get away and just be able to sit down among themselves, and in some kind of way comfort each other. They're never going to forget this. When they come back home, the neighborhood's going to be with them. I'm going to visit that home as often as I can, just to offer as much support to the family, and encourage them to always remember the Nick they've known and loved, and just to hang on and hold on.

KING: You're a great friend, Bruce, and you too, David.

Thank you very much.

SKALISH: Thank you.

HAUSER: Thank you, Larry.

KING: We'll take a break, and we'll get the panel to discuss their thoughts on this incredible execution right after this.


BERG: My son was never in any trouble. My son never had a fight in his life, to my knowledge. My son didn't drink alcohol, didn't take drugs, ever. He didn't gamble. He didn't have any bad habits. His only addiction was high places. He liked to climb high places, and I think a little bit of that danger was part of it as well. He only wanted to help people.



KING: Colonel Hackworth, what's your read on the Nicholas Berg story and the dispute?

HACKWORTH: Well, I think it underlines the fact that we are fighting a barbaric enemy. We must understand our enemy. What happened in Afghanistan early in the piece during Operation: Anaconda a U.S. warrior was captured and badly treated and badly mutilated, and then shot. When you look at what happened at the World Trade Center, these were not fighters operating battle positions, but were civilians having their first cup of coffee. What we've really got to learn from this is to understand our enemy and focus our military attention on the destruction of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden.

KING: Shoshana, you said that one of your fears in an Iraqi prison was beheading, right?

JOHNSON: Yes, because in Afghanistan we had many heard stories of how they beheaded women actually in the soccer stadium. It was definitely one of the things that went through my mind.

KING: Do you think his being Jewish had to do anything with it?

JOHNSON: Maybe. I remember during that first video, where they asked me my name, I shade Shana, instead of Shoshana knowing it was a Jewish name. And I remember them asking David Williams if he was Jewish, because he had the first name David.

KING: Ron Young, what do you make of this incredible story?

YOUNG: The same thing. They actually went around to each of our cells and asked us if we were Catholics or Jewish, Catholics because of the crusades and Jews, for the same reason they've been fighting for a long time. And I honestly think that had a lot to do with him being chosen as being executed like Matt Maupin. There's a lot of folks that they're holding right now, why choose him and the fact he's Jewish. Of course, my heart goes out for the family. From what I've read he was a truly special guy. The world's lost a great ally.

KING: Senator Shelby what do you make of the dispute, the government saying one thing and the family saying the other?

SHELBY: Well, I don't know the facts, Larry, and we would have to sort all of that out. And I can tell you the Nicholas Berg killing was one of the most brutal things I've ever seen. It was uncalled for. But I think it shows, again, what kind of people we're fighting here in the terrorists and those that support the terrorists.

They reached a low common denominator and we're going to be in it a long time. As the colonel said, we better know our enemy and we better realize as President Bush told us over and over, this is going to go on for a long, long time, and we must, must prevail.

KING: Senator Nelson, your view of the Berg story?

NELSON: Never be surprised when you're dealing with a terrorist that you're surprised. And never be surprised at what lengths that they will use to terrorize people.

Look what they did to the beheading of Daniel Pearl. The colonel was referring to that Navy S.E.A.L., and the atrocities that they committed upon him in Afghanistan.

So we've got a whole new kind of enemy that we're dealing with, and Richard Shelby is right, it's going to be for a long time in the future.

KING: Colonel Hackworth, do you think they self-justify that that that's a form -- what could they think to do something that barbaric?

HACKWORTH: We're dealing with a bunch of crazies. When they're all wound to up like they are, the only thing they understand is a bullet between the eyes. And when you meet them on the battlefield, have you to destroy them. And that's what we have to do.

What I worry about is our military forces are spread around the world, in many cases in missions that don't mean a damned thing and we're not focusing and concentrating and providing mass to the enemy that we should take down, and that's this al Qaeda network. And this is exactly what Richard Clarke said in his book and has been saying on the tube. And somebody should listen to it, especially those folks in Congress.

KING: Thank you very much. Colonel David Hackworth, Shoshana Johnson, thank you for coming. Ron Young, we salute you as well. Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama and Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, we thank them all and we thank our earlier guests as well.

And I'll be back in a couple of minutes and tell you about a great weekend of programming. Don't go away.


KING: Tomorrow night we'll repeat our interview with Tim Russert. And on Sunday night a repeat of our interview with Maria Shriver. Tim Russert and the first lady of California over the weekend.

But right now, as we go to the weekend, who better to herald us into the weekend than Aaron Brown. The host of "NEWSNIGHT," but more than that, a giant of anchoring. When you look up anchor in the dictionary, I looked it up today, saw your picture.

AARON BROWN, HOST, NEWSNIGHT: Thank goodness. I wondered where that picture went. Thank you, Larry. Have a good weekend. We'll talk to you Monday from Topeka, Kansas.


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