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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

What Really Happened at Haditha?

Aired June 2, 2006 - 21:00   ET

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


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, did United States Marines massacre unarmed Iraqi civilians in Haditha? Was there a cover up? Investigations, including a criminal probe are underway in an increasingly unpopular war. How damaging could this get?
With us the new Iraqi ambassador to the United States Samir al- Sumaidaie, he says United States forces intentionally killed his cousin in Haditha months before the alleged massacre.

Martin Terrazas, Jr., his brother a Marine was killed by a roadside bomb in Hadith, did that spark the alleged slaughter?

And, Captain James Kimber, relieved of command of a company within the accused battalion, he says he's a political casualty; all that and more next on LARRY KING LIVE.

In our first segment we'll speak with three of the best journalists in the business. Jamie McIntyre is at the Pentagon, the Senior CNN Pentagon Correspondent.

In Baghdad is Ryan Chilcote.

And, in San Diego, is Tony Perry of the Los Angeles Times, San Diego Bureau Chief, who has done extensive reporting at Camp Pendleton and was also embedded with United States Marines in Iraq on multiple occasions.

Let's start with Jamie McIntyre. Give us this story right to the second. Where do we stand? What is supposed to have happened?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Here's what happened, Larry, as best we know at this point. There was a four vehicle convoy, Humvees, of Marines, 12 Marines. They had just been on a re-supply mission. They were traveling down a road in Haditha.

An IED, a bomb goes off, kills one Marine, badly injures another. The rest of the Marines in the unit go off looking for the roadside bomber. They encounter some men in a taxicab. They end up getting shot the men in the taxicab, disputed about what happened there. They go to several houses and it turns out the people in those houses get shot as well, again circumstances disputed.

The bottom line is 24 people are dead. They file a report essentially saying that these people were killed by the blast from a roadside bomb and a resulting firefight. And that story stands until Time magazine starts asking some real serious questions about it back in February. An investigation starts, which now the evidence suggests that that initial account was not accurate.

KING: Was some money paid to the relatives of these victims, Jamie?

MCINTYRE: Thirty-eight thousand dollars was paid to the families of 15 different victims but that's not an admission of guilt. That's a recognition that there were innocent civilians killed. But innocent civilians can be the unintended victims of warfare. It happens all the time.

That's not necessarily an admission of anything but it is a recognition that 15 of the 24 were civilians. Now there's a question whether all 24, in fact, were innocent civilians.

KING: Let's show a tape now of a young girl who says that she was an eyewitness to the alleged massacre. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): A bomb exploded on the street outside. We heard the sound of the explosion and we heard shouting. We were inside the house when U.S. forces broke through the door.

They killed my father in the kitchen. The American forces entered the house and started shooting with their guns. They killed my mother and my sister Noor (ph). They killed her when they shot her in the head. She was only 15 years old.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Ryan Chilcote in Baghdad, what's been the reaction there to all of this?

RYAN CHILCOTE CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well the reaction has been mixed. This is not getting the same kind of attention on the Iraqi street as Abu Ghraib did. I think that may have something to do with the fact that Iraqis at this point in the war, three years into this war are really desensitized to violence. And I think a lot of Iraqis will tell you that they sort of almost expected what they're hearing may have happened in Haditha -- Larry.

KING: Any anger at America?

CHILCOTE: There is some but again at this point a lot of Iraqis will tell you this sort of just confirms what they feel which is they feel that the U.S. military doesn't care enough about Iraqi lives -- Larry.

KING: Tony Perry in San Diego, does this story, alleged massacre, surprise you? TONY PERRY, LOS ANGELES TIMES: It does and it doesn't, Larry. This is exactly what the Marines were worried about when we crossed over into Iraq, March 19th, '03.

The commanding General James Mattis warned all of the troops to treat civilians, non-combatants, with compassion to engage your brain before you engage your weapon.

Another General John Kelly worried throughout the assault about Marines shooting before thinking, so this is exactly what the Marines have worried about. On the other hand, any reporter who has been with the Marines has seen enormous restraint on any given day, Marines that could fire at an insurgent but won't because there's a woman or a child or an older person nearby. So, it doesn't surprise me. It happens in war. It surprises me from these Marines, very disciplined, well led, who show enormous restraint day to day.

KING: And these Marines all were at Camp Pendleton is that correct?

PERRY: They were all Camp Pendleton. They were from a battalion that was on its third tour. I was with them on their second tour in Haditha. I know how dangerous Haditha is. I think if you compare al- Anbar, Sunni Triangle cities one to the other I think Haditha is as dangerous as Ramadi or Fallujah.

It's small. It's compact. It's lawless. The insurgency has a grip on that city. It's a very dangerous city. And the Marines when they enter it know they're taking their life in their hands.

KING: Jamie, what are they saying inside The Pentagon?

MCINTYRE: Well, there's a lot of concern about this story. They're really concerned about the way it reflects on U.S. troops and that people will tar the U.S. military because of this one incident.

They also want to be seen as being a little more proactive in reacting to it than they did with the Abu Ghraib scandal, which although they investigated that early on they didn't say much about it.

So, that's why you've seen things like the Marine Corps commandant going to Iraq, the commanders in Iraq instituting refresher training on core values, and the Pentagon officials trying to keep us abreast as much as they can of the progress of these investigations and the steps they're taking.

But there's real concern about this and, in fact, some people seem almost heartbroken to think that this is something that the U.S. military could have done.

KING: Ryan, CNN sent a crew to Haditha did they not to try to find out what happened and, if so, what did they find?

CHILCOTE: That's right, Larry. It's too dangerous for us to go so we did find a cameraman who was willing to go there. We got several accounts from that cameraman. He spoke with several adults there, with a mayor, with a lawyer, with a doctor.

They basically described a lot of what Jamie was just talking about, 24 civilians, the doctor telling us about how their bodies were brought to his hospital when the night shift was on at 1:00 a.m. in the morning about 16, 17 hours after this incident is alleged to have occurred.

The doctor telling us that eight of the 24 were women and that several of them were children under the age of six. Some of the most compelling really testimony you have, however, came from some of the children that the cameraman interviewed.

He spoke with three survivors. They described very harrowing scenes basically how they were getting ready to go to school when this bomb went off. It was about 7:30 in the morning. And then they described how these U.S. troops went through their homes and according to their accounts killed almost every one of the relatives.

I will say that there is an interesting moment in there where one of the three survivors we heard from, a 9-year-old girl that we just heard from in your program, as she's telling this story the third time through she says that she was expecting the blast.

And, there was a very interesting, intriguing moment there. Why would she be expecting the blast? Was that just -- was that some kind of premonition? Did she have some kind of prior knowledge? We just don't know. I think it's just an indication that that testimony is coming from children but it's very, very harrowing testimony.

KING: Our journalists will be coming back. We'll take a break. And, when we come back we'll meet the new Iraqi ambassador to the United States and then two prominent members of the House of Representatives. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHILCOTE (voice-over): But there is an intriguing variation in Aman's (ph) account the third time she tells it. She says she was expecting the bomb.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I was planning to go to school. I was about to get out of bed. I knew the bomb would explode so I covered my ears. The bomb exploded. The bomb struck an armored vehicle. I don't know if it was a Humvee or an armored vehicle. When the bomb exploded they came straight to our house.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, Ambassador Samir al- Sumaidaie, the new Iraqi ambassador to the United States. Mr. Ambassador, thank you for joining us. What's the latest that you know about what happened in Haditha?

SAMIR AL-SUMAIDAIE, IRAQI AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: Well, it's investigation which we are waiting for. We have information coming to us from different channels and I have not yet received any report from the investigation.

KING: Are all the information coming to you from these channels are they all disturbing?

AL-SUMAIDAIE: Yes.

KING: Because earlier this week you said that you dismissed the initial claims that there had been any kind of a massacre. You called it incredible. What changed your mind?

AL-SUMAIDAIE: It's not that my mind was changed. It was that I was confronted by actual evidence. You see first the way I heard of this was just somebody talking about it and I thought this might be a malicious rumor or something that has been exaggerated out of scale completely.

We have a lot of people who are in the business of promoting rumors and anti-American propaganda. That exists. So, we have to be careful. Also, the account seemed so unlikely that it did not seem to me credible. Later on when the Time magazine article came out and I also received copies by video of video by e-mail then, of course, I had to look at the situation again.

KING: Have you personally spoken to anyone in the United States government about this?

AL-SUMAIDAIE: No.

KING: Why not?

AL-SUMAIDAIE: Why not? I have just assumed my new responsibility here as an ambassador and this has just sort of blown out as an item which the media is very clearly interested in.

It's not that I'm not interested in it. I am very interested in it but it's one of many issues and, frankly, the best course in these situations is to see the results of the investigation and then express an opinion. I understand that our prime minister has started -- has formed a committee to pursue this and we will want to know what they conclude.

KING: But your prime minister also said that the United States military violence against Iraqi citizens has become a daily phenomenon. Do you agree with him?

AL-SUMAIDAIE: Well there is certainly a considerable amount of violence, some of it warranted and some of it probably not and it is very important for all of us, for the Americans and the Iraqis to have modes of operation which minimize civilian casualties.

Situations like this, acts which are outside the law, are damaging to the project which we have, which is to establish a long term strategic relationship between Iraq and the United States and to establish our own security. KING: Am I correct, didn't you lose a cousin to some sort of American attack?

AL-SUMAIDAIE: Yes, I did, and that was in June of last year.

KING: And was he an innocent bystander?

AL-SUMAIDAIE: I believe he was innocent. I believe he was killed intentionally. It was also in Haditha, only a couple of miles away from the scene of this big November incident.

But, in that case, there was an investigation which was not accepted by General Casey in terms of results. There was another, second criminal investigation. I've recently been informed that the result of the second investigation was that he was killed in self defense, which is not a conclusion that I can personally accept. I have asked formally for the report and I have not yet received it.

KING: Mr. Ambassador, what will happen do you think if the worst comes true about Haditha and there are many people involved and it becomes a major scandal what will that do to American/Iraqi relations?

AL-SUMAIDAIE: It will be very damaging. We do not need this kind of thing. We do not need Abu Ghraib. We do not need Haditha. We do not need any of these incidents. We have a much bigger and more important and vital project to build democracy and a stable government based on the rule of law in Iraq.

These things distract us. These things apart from their inherent evil nature and the victims concerned and their families they damage the standing of the United States. They damage everything that we hold dear.

KING: And what will this do in your opinion? What effect will this have on the insurgents?

AL-SUMAIDAIE: It is a godsend gift to the insurgents and that's why I say any act of this nature is a betrayal of the values of the United States, a betrayal of what the Americans stand for and it's a betrayal of Iraq. It is extremely damaging. And, of course, the propaganda machine of the insurgents and of the terrorists make maximum mileage out of this.

KING: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador.

AL-SUMAIDAIE: Thank you.

KING: We'll be calling on you again, Ambassador Samir al- Sumaidaie, the brand new Iraqi ambassador to the United States.

Joining us now in San Diego is Representative Duncan Hunter, Republican, of California, Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, a Vietnam Veteran.

And, in San Francisco, Representative Ellen Tauscher, Democrat, of California, and a member of the Armed Services Committee. Congressman Hunter, what's your reaction to what the ambassador had to say?

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: The most important thing, Larry, that we can do is to put context around the Haditha incident and the first thing I would say is 922,000 Americans have now served in uniform in Iraq or Afghanistan, so that's almost a million people in uniform.

It will be a terrible thing and I think to some degree this is kind of a crossroads for the media. It will be a terrible thing if Haditha, what one squad did on one day in one town, becomes the face of the American military to the point where when kids come back and get out of the plane at the airport and are met by their buddy he asks them, "Well how many civilians did you kill today?"

Because Americans have won now 45,000 bronze stars on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. They've inoculated thousands of Iraqi children against disease. They've built schools. They've built pipelines. They've hooked up water lines. They've done a great job over there.

And, you know, we were treating those people and honoring them to a very high degree over the last several years as they went up in this very difficult military operation and performed so well and, incidentally, performed in a very cool manner under tremendous fire. Those are the same kids, Larry, and this is a very, very tiny group.

Again, at least the newspaper reports are that there were so- called three trigger pullers. Out of one million people that's a population that is bigger than most American cities to have what one squad did on one day in one town become the face of the American military because of enormous focus I think would be a real tragedy.

KING: Congresswoman Tauscher, what's your read?

REP. ELLEN TAUSCHER (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, Larry, I think it's important for us to refocus and understand that this is meant to be in 2006 a time of radical change for the American fighting forces in Iraq.

We should be getting ready to leave. It is time now for this new fledgling Iraqi government to begin to seize the moment and to begin to defend its own country, stand up its military and work with us to be sure that we can get back to the real fight, the fight that is dangerous to the American people, which is al-Qaeda and the foreign jihadists that are inside of Iraq.

I would hope that we do -- are praiseworthy of your fighting men and women. I've been to Iraq three times. Their gallantry, valiant fighting, we want them home sooner and safer.

So it's important that we continue first and foremost to get this investigation done and really understand what happened. And, instead of just getting to the bottom of it, I hope we finally get to top of things and understand whether there was any problem in the chain of command or a cover-up.

The most important thing we can do, Larry, is have a status of forces agreement with the new Iraqi government to really outline what exactly our troops are meant to be doing in Iraq and make sure that we have a plan to turn over things to the Iraqi military quickly and bring our troops home sooner and safer.

KING: Congressman Hunter and Congresswoman Tauscher will be returning with us.

We're going to take a break and come back and meet Captain James Kimber, United States Marine Corps, a member of a battalion that was accused of involvement in the alleged massacre. He was not there but he's one of the officers who were reassigned, who was reassigned.

And his attorney, another veteran of war is Paul Hackett will be with us as well.

The Congress people will be coming back. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, Captain James Kimber, U.S. Marine Corps. Members of his battalion are accused of involvement in the alleged massacre at Haditha. Kimber is one of three officers reassigned last month for lack of confidence in leadership. Kimber has had an outstanding career and this was his second tour of duty in Iraq. He says he's a political casualty.

Paul Hackett recently ran for Congress.

PAUL HACKETT, ATTORNEY: Thanks for the plug.

KING: Paul Hackett is his attorney and maybe was the first politician to say let's get out of Iraq and he himself a veteran of the Iraq War as well, right?

HACKETT: Thank you, yes.

KING: Why were you sent back Captain Kimber?

CAPTAIN JAMS KIMBER, U.S.M.C.: Well, the first thing I want to address is my involvement in the alleged incident in Haditha, you know, wasn't in the city, none of my Marines were in the city, so I wanted to get that out there first. My relief I believe is tied to what went on in Haditha though it is a separate incident that I'm addressing through the military channels.

KING: So, if you weren't there and your company wasn't involved, why are you sent back?

KIMBER: Well...

HACKETT: I should if I can jump in. He came back with his whole unit. The whole battalion rotated back and when he got back he was relieved in April of this year and it relates -- there was a British Sky News did a piece.

They embedded a crew with him and during that embed there were Marines using a little bit of profanity and Marines roughhousing with one another and then there was a Marine in particular who was a little bit critical of the Iraqi security forces.

And, the reason I jump in and speculate is if I speculate I don't get in trouble but if he speculates while he's still on active duty. But, ultimately speaking out against this war, as we all know, is not popular, certainly when you're in uniform. It's forbidden. And because one of his Marines spoke out we speculate that's why he was relieved because he's had a storied career.

KING: You told he had attained the post every Marine wants right?

HACKETT: Rifle company commander and it was his second tour and his second tour as a company commander in Iraq.

KING: Captain, how do you explain if what happened happened?

KIMBER: Well, I mean you know the commanders are accountable for their men and, you know, that's in a nutshell how I can explain it. I mean...

KING: How did they let it happen?

KIMBER: Well that's the commanding general's decision. That's his prerogative and, you know, that's something I'm addressing, as I said, through my channels as a rebuttal for why I was relieved.

KING: All right, now forget the relief. How do you think -- how did Haditha happen?

KIMBER: Well, first of all, I'm with everybody else about the speculation. Let's just let the investigation run its course. And the reason I say that is because I was a few miles away.

The three cities that the battalion occupied, Haditha, Barwan and (INAUDIBLE), you know, what happens in one influences the other, you know, my Marines nor myself noticed any sort of atmosphere or changes that indicate that something of this magnitude that's described, this kind of atrocity, actually occurred.

And, furthermore, I mean how do you explain the fact that less than a month later, about a month later Iraq has its first national elections and in those three cities that before we got there weren't even safe enough to have elections have an overwhelming outpour of participation?

KING: Are you saying you don't believe it?

HACKETT: Well, I think what we both say is it's clear that civilians were killed. We don't know whether or not that was accidental or whether it was intentional. And really our point is that, number one, aside from the fact that Captain Kimber wasn't there and that he's a war hero, not a war criminal.

Number two, all the rhetoric, the politicians jumping in like Congressman Murtha, you know, yelling it's cold-blooded murder, it makes it next to impossible for us, the American people, and the Iraqi people to find out what happened there on November 9th.

KING: And you want us to leave Iraq.

HACKETT: Well, yes, I'm not here to talk my politics but, yes. I mean my policy...

KING: Do you think Murtha has jumped the gun here?

HACKETT: I think he's jumped the gun here. I mean we agree and I'm glad that he followed up on me and called for the withdrawal of Iraqi or of our troops from Iraq but that's sort of a different story.

I mean my view is the military is being misused in Iraq. Let's use them smartly. Let's treat them fairly. Let's give them an opportunity to find out what happened.

KING: A couple of other things. Captain Kimber, if it happened, what could cause it?

KIMBER: Well...

KING: That's an if.

KIMBER: If it could happen, it would be something probably attributed to just individuals or just the stress of deploying so many times.

KING: Lost it?

KIMBER: Just lost it but, you know, as I said these are veterans. I mean most of these Marines have been to Fallujah. You know, an IED going off that's a commonplace occurrence over there. That wasn't anything that surprises us. I mean, you know, when a Marine dies that's a little unusual, especially for our battalion.

But that would, you know, that could -- to see your friends blown apart is a mind-numbing thing to take care of. But in my experience I've seen Marines just act like the true professionals that they are and, you know, they carry with the mission and do the job.

KING: Are you going to leave the service?

KIMBER: I'll probably leave the service, yes.

KING: Sadly?

KIMBER: Sadly, reluctantly. It was an absolute pleasure to work with the Marines of 31 and India Company. That was the highlight of my career.

KING: What's going to happen? There's no danger of him being corporally punished is there?

HACKETT: Well, they're not going to be happy Monday morning when he walks in. But I think it's a shame, because Captain Kimber is the type of Marine the Marine Corps wants to keep. It's the type of serviceman that we need to keep in the military, doing a great job.

KING: What's he going to do Monday morning?

HACKETT: Well, when he walks into this office, he's probably going to get some -- some tough looks. But that's why. It's important that we separate his name and reassociated with war hero, not war criminal.

KING: And you're both saying keep your minds open on everything?

HACKETT: Look, I mean, yes, absolutely. The Marine Corps and those of us who associate with the Marine Corps, have been in the Marine Corps, I mean, we want to find out what happened. And if there are Marines who crossed the line and didn't conduct themselves to the professional standards that we demand of our Marines, they're going to be punished. And they're going to be punished more severely than civilians would be, quite frankly.

KING: Good luck, Captain.

KIMBER: Thank you, sir.

KING: Nice to meet you.

HACKETT: Good seeing you.

KING: Good seeing you, Paul.

When we come back, we'll talk to Martin Terrazas Jr. His brother, Marine Lance Corporal Miguel Terrazas, who was killed on November 19. Some suspect that that may have been the triggering effect. Michael Ware will rejoin us, our correspondent based in Australia.

As we go to break, we hear from the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on this topic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We know that 99.9 percent of our forces conduct themselves in an exemplary manner, and we also know that in conflicts, things that shouldn't happen do happen.

In this instance, there is an investigation with respect to what took place, and we'll soon know the answers. There's an investigation as to -- with respect to what took place thereafter and we'll soon know the answers. And my impression is that the Marine Corps is handling it well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. Joining us now is Martin Terrazas Jr. in Las Cruces, New Mexico. His brother, Marine Lance Corporal Miguel Terrazas, was killed on November 19 when his military convoy hit a roadside bomb in the city of Haditha. It's alleged -- been alleged that Miguel's comrades in arms murdered innocent Iraqi civilians in the aftermath of that death.

And returning now is Michael Ware. And by the way, Michael, we want to congratulate you, recently joining CNN as our Baghdad-based correspondent part of the CNN team. He was "TIME" magazine's Baghdad bureau chief. "TIME's" loss is our gain, Michael. Great to have you with us.

WARE: Thanks, Larry.

KING: All right, Martin. How did you learn of your brother's death?

MARTIN TERRAZAS JR., BROTHER OF MIGUEL TERRAZAS: I just got home and just by the look in my dad's eye, I knew what was going on.

KING: Now with all you've learned now, that his death occurred on that date, November 19, that it may have triggered all of this, how do you feel?

TERRAZAS: I feel the Marines are trained to act instinctively, you know, the way they did. Of course, you know, it's a death, you know, between Marines like that, of course, it's a motive. But most of it was, you know, instinct. That's the way they're trained to do. And let's not pass judgment and support our troops.

KING: Have you heard, Martin, from any of his brothers in combat?

TERRAZAS: No, sir.

KING: Your father has been quoted as saying he can't even listen to the news anymore because of the allegations of the massacre are so difficult to hear. It is difficult for you to hear about it?

TERRAZAS: Yes, it is. It's very disturbing. It, like, puts a cloud over the whole family, you know, this whole thing that's going on.

KING: Michael, you spend a lot of time in Baghdad and a lot of time in Iraq. Congressman John Murtha, a critic of the war, says Iraq is the kind of war that's impossible to train for. How would you comment on that?

WARE: Well, in many ways, I guess that's true. There's certain things that can be done. But what's lost on the people back home is the grim realities of the nature of the fight there in Iraq, particularly in Al Anbar province, where you have Haditha and Ramadi.

I recently left Marines in Ramadi. They are in blood and guts combat each and every day. The battalion I was with had lost seven men in seven days. And you have to understand, this is a brutal war that's being fought in the midst of a civilian population trying to go about its life. Now, no matter how hard the military tries, it remains a blunt instrument.

So there are Iraqi deaths each and every day as a result of U.S. operations. The Iraqis very much are desensitized to this. So this is much more an American story about a reflection of the values that America holds and what it expects of its troops in these situations.

KING: Martin, your brother was serving his second tour in Iraq. Did he say a lot about it? Did he talk a lot about it with the family?

TERRAZAS: About his -- he talked to me about his first tour in Fallujah. He could tell me, you know, that Iraqi people would hide behind their own people, you know. They don't wear uniforms where they can tell, you know, which is the enemy and which is not.

KING: What kind of guy was he, Martin?

TERRAZAS: He was a motivated, dedicated Marine. That's who he was.

KING: He wanted -- he wanted to be a lifetime Marine?

TERRAZAS: Yes, sir. Ever since we were kids, you know, wanted to be a Marine. It runs in the family.

KING: Thank you, Martin.

Michael Ware will be returning with us with our panel. That was Martin Terrazas Jr., the brother of Marine Lance Corporal Miguel who was killed on November 19, and that may have been the trigger day.

We'll be right back with a major panel discussion. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: I think in fairness to all of those involved, we've got to let the investigations go their full course, and then I assure the American public, as chairman of the armed services committee, I will hold a hearing, put them there under oath and let them swear to God to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Meet our entire panel: Major Don Shepperd, CNN military analyst, pilot during the Vietnam War, flew 247 combat missions. And returning is Congressman Duncan Hunter in San Diego, Representative Ellen Tauscher in San Francisco, Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon, Ryan Chilcote, our CNN correspondent in Baghdad, and Michael Ware, who's just joined us from "TIME" magazine.

First, to the thoughts of General Shepperd. What do you make of this whole Haditha thing?

MAJ. DON SHEPPERD, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I'll tell you, Larry, it's as bad as it gets. Because these people in many people's minds have already been convicted. And it's totally improper. We need to let these investigations take place, one on what actually happened, another on the military processes, the reports, whether or not they were true, before we run any kind of conclusions about either what happened or involvement of the men. This saps at the morale of the troops. It saps at the morale of the American people and makes it much harder to prosecute a very, very difficult war.

KING: Therefore, is Congressman Murtha wrong in being as verbally assertive as he is?

SHEPPERD: Absolutely, in my opinion. In other words, calling for the departure of troops is one thing. That's his political right, his political beliefs. But convicting and making strong statements about these men before the facts come out and before they've had due process in me opinion is absolutely wrong, non-productive.

KING: Congressman Hunter, you mentioned of all the people who have served so well and the millions who have been there. You're not excusing this if it happened, are you?

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, absolutely not, Larry. On the other hand, I think a U.S. Marine fighting for our country in Iraq ought to be given the same presumption of innocence that a common criminal in the United States would be given.

And as soon as the investigation comes out, I announced two weeks ago that we will have oversight investigations or oversight hearings in the House Armed Services Committee to make sure that the process has integrity.

But once again, Larry, this is kind of a crossroads for the American media. We had dozens of incidents like this in World War II, especially after the Germans mowed down a number of our prisoners of war at Malmedy. And we said, OK, we're going to investigate those where a prosecution should take place. And we'll do that, but we're going to keep our eye on Berlin and our eye on Tokyo. We're going to complete the mission, and we kept it in context.

Once again, almost a million American soldiers and Marines have served in uniform. Next time you see one of them walk out of an airport, thank them nor their service to the country. And don't let anybody make convictions before we have due process, have the investigation through and have any ensuing prosecutions undertaken by the military itself.

KING: Congresswoman Tauscher, can we say you're upset by this?

REP. ELLEN TAUSCHER (D), CALIFORNIA: I'm deeply disturbed, and I think every American is deeply disturbed. But at the same time, I don't think we should be blaming the media for bringing this forward.

And I think what's most important is I would hope that my distinguished colleague, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Duncan Hunter, will not only have investigation hearings and oversight hearings but reinstitute the oversight investigations subcomittee that we haven't had for many years. And that they will specifically look into this issue and be prepared to work with the prosecutions as they potentially go forward.

It is very important that we don't rush to judgment here, but at the same time it is very important that we have clarity and we begin to, I think, in the Congress, assume our real role, not just giving blank checks to the Pentagon and rubber stamping what they want but real oversight.

And if this is more than one incident -- now we hear reports today of two or three other incidents -- we have to really understand what's going on and we have to hold the Pentagon accountable.

KING: All right. Let me take a break, and we'll be coming back with more of our panel. We'll finish the show with all of them.

Let's -- Anderson Cooper is off tonight. The host of A -- "ANDERSON COOPER 360" is John Roberts, our good friend, and he is in New York.

What's up at the top of the hour, John?

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening to you, Larry. We're going to pick up on the Haditha story, as well, tonight, and look at its impact at home.

Also a story that, frankly, has just about everybody that we talked to asking what are they thinking about? Plans to cut funding for anti-terrorism programs in New York and Washington, you know, the prime targets in the war on terror. Safe to say that it's not going over well in those two cities. People are calling for Michael Chertoff's resignation. He's the man in charge of the Department of Homeland Security. See where he wants to spend a big chunk of the money instead and why he was sticking to his guns.

That and more coming next on "360" -- Larry.

KING: Thanks, John. That's at the top of the hour, 10 Eastern, 7 Pacific.

And we'll be right back with our panel. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: We're fighting war about America's ideals and democracy's ideas. And something like this happens, they try to cover it up. They knew the day after this happened that it was not as they portrayed it. They knew when they went into the rooms, they killed the people in the taxi. There was no firing at all, and this comes from the highest authority in the Marine Corps. So there's no question in my mind. And I don't know how. That's what we have to find out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Jamie McIntyre, another incident that came through on the news dealing with 11 other deaths. Can you tell us about that?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That was an incident that happened in March and the U.S. military says they launched an investigation immediately afterwards and concluded that U.S. commanders acted properly. They were raiding an area where intelligence said there was an al Qaeda terrorist. They eventually found the terrorist's body, along with bodies of some others. They took hostile fire from the location. They called in an airstrike.

U.S. commanders say that one was done why the book. And the criticism that that was a case where innocent civilians were shot, which was the claim of some of the local Iraqis, they say is simply unfounded.

KING: Ryan Chilcote in Baghdad, we asked you earlier about what the Iraqis are saying. What are the soldiers saying about all this?

CHILCOTE: You know, Larry, I'm spending a lot of time at a combat hospital with -- U.S. military combat hospital with two of my colleagues, Cal Perry and Dominic Swann. We're working on a documentary there.

Obviously, there's the view that -- of disappointment that these -- these troops may have brought dishonor on the U.S. military if, indeed, these allegations prove true.

There's another view, though, too, which is a lot of the soldiers obviously feel that -- that these troops may be judged unfairly, that this is premature. People are jumping prematurely to conclusions.

And also, really, that people don't understand the nature of the conflict here, that this is a very violent war, that these are young soldiers. They've been here for a really long time, and they go through really traumatic experiences. And you definitely see that in the combat hospital almost everyday U.S. troops are brought in to be treated.

In fact, one day I was there when a group of soldiers came in. They'd just been hit by an IED. Two guys had died at the scene. One guy was going to lose his legs. And there was one guy who came in and collapsed just as he came in the hospital. And everybody thought he was dehydrated. It turned out he was just really stressed out about what he'd seen.

And I think that gives us some real insight into the traumatic nature of the fight that these guys are facing. One moment everything's fine, and the next moment two of their buddies are dead and they've got to live with that. This guy had that 1,000-yard stare that you hear about. And it just really explained to me that this is very traumatic, and that can change people, although we don't know that that's necessarily what happened in Haditha.

KING: Michael Ware, I know you've dealt a lot with the insurgency. The ambassador, the Iraqi to the United States says that this incident, whatever it turns out, is going to boost the insurgency morale and recruitment. Do you agree?

WARE: Absolutely. This is grist for the insurgent mill. I mean, they're very good at spreading disinformation but also publicizing their own attacks. So they'll very much be using this and putting this at the centerpiece of a propaganda campaign.

However, for the Iraqi people, it's all that they assume this is going on anyway. I mean, I've been in operations with U.S. troops where civilians are killed in the course of operations. The wrong bomb lands on the wrong house; a man shot is peering out of his front gate.

One of the most difficult things for the troops, though, is with the Marines I was most recently with, they feel that they're fighting this horrendous war in a vacuum. They know that it's increasingly unpopular back home, and they know that the appetite among people for news of their daily grind is very, very low. One of the Marines begged me to tell their story.

Yet, this just shows you this broader strategy, there's simply not enough troops in Iraq now, despite the calls from people to get out early. Why is Haditha still Haditha, and why is Ramadi still a Ramadi? This incident can tell us many things about the war in Iraq.

KING: General Shepperd, you served heroically in Iraq. Is it hard to fight in a war where the people back home are not supporting you?

SHEPPERD: Absolutely. There's no question about that. Vietnam was very, very difficult.

The difference between Vietnam, however, and this war, so far, Larry, and that's why this incident is so very important, is that in Vietnam, the people equated the war with the warriors. They were down on the war; they were down on the warriors. So far in Iraq, the public has separated the war from the warriors. This type of thing can affect that, however.

KING: Do you think these feelings against the war will continue to grow?

SHEPPERD: I think that that's really unpredictable, because it's very clear what we're trying to do is turn this war over to the Iraqi security forces and then slowly slip away and turn the war over to them, so they're doing most of the fighting.

As people see us on the way out, I doubt seriously that you're going to see huge war protests evolved, such as were the case in Vietnam. On the other hand, this type of ugly incident can really inflame the public on all sides, so it's difficult to predict, Larry.

KING: We'll be back with some more moments of this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of the things that happens in a transparent society like ours, is that there's a -- there will be a full and complete investigation. The world will see the full and complete investigation. It also is a reminder to our commanders they must constantly enforce the proud tradition of our military, and that's what they're doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Congressman Hunter, we're running close on time. If the investigation turns badly for the American side of things, what will that do, do you think, to the Iraqi effort?

HUNTER: Well, once again, Larry, we've had -- the Marines have now had 18 court-martials or prosecutions over the last three years where people mistreated Iraqis, either prisoners or civilians. They've had four court-martial convictions. So they have a system of justice.

And if that happens, we'll let the chips fall where they may. If there are criminal prosecutions justified by this and convictions, that will happen. But once again, we have to say, OK, that's one squad, one day in one town out of almost a million Americans who have served in uniform in that theater and in the Afghanistan theater. If we keep it in context, Larry, it shouldn't affect the mission over there, and it shouldn't affect our success.

KING: Ellen Tauscher, if it turns badly, the investigation, what effect on the war?

TAUSCHER: Look, the war is increasingly unpopular. I was with a couple of hundred of my constituents today, and they want our troops home sooner and safer. The paradox is, as the war gets increasingly unpopular, our troops are enormously popular. They are beloved by the American people, and they should be.

If this is something that happened in Haditha or some of these other places, with two, three, five, 10 Marines or soldiers, they will be prosecuted. We can't rush to judgment. But the American people love our troops, as they should.

KING: And where -- Ryan, we only have about 30 seconds. Where do you think it's all going over there? Do you -- is it turning? What's the situation? How bad is it?

CHILCOTE: That's a very difficult question to answer, but I think that it is sort of at the stable point right now. The biggest concern in Iraq, really, is security. It's lacking in a major way. I don't think that, whatever happens in this investigation, I don't think that's going to have any influence on the events here on the ground. Iraqis want security. They haven't had it, and they deserve it. KING: Thank you all very much. Thanks, Michael Ware, and again, we welcome him proudly to the CNN ranks, joining us from "TIME" magazine.

Over the weekend, we'll repeat our interviews with Anderson Cooper, with the Dixie Chicks and with Elizabeth Taylor. Mary Kay Letourneau will be with us Monday night. And next Tuesday and Wednesday, we'll do extraordinary broadcasts from San Quentin Prison.

Speaking of an extraordinary broadcaster, John Roberts will be sitting in for Anderson Cooper tonight to host "AC 360".

John, what's up?

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