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Fallout From Abu Ghraib Abuse Scandal

Aired May 5, 2004 - 22:00   ET


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again everyone.
Rank has its privileges and rank has its responsibilities. I remember that from boot camp where I had neither but was taught it just the same.

Where the Iraqi prisoner case is concerned it seems so far that that old military adage does yet apply. History tell us the country actually thinks better of presidents when they accept responsibility for things that have gone wrong even if they were not directly to blame.

Ronald Reagan took responsibility for the Beirut barracks bombing. If there is to be blame, the president then said, it properly rests here in this office with this president and I accept responsibility for the bad as well as the good. That was Ronald Reagan.

After the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961, President Kennedy said, "I am the responsible officer of the government." He took the blame. His standing rose. Harry Truman was far more plainspoken "the buck stops here." It's how we remember him.

This administration may yet find the right chord on this but to our ear it hasn't yet.

The whip begins in Iraq, where reporters today got a rare look inside the prison where the abuse took place. Ben Wedeman has the headline -- Ben.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, when President Bush appears on Arabic news networks he's playing to a tough audience here in Iraq, an audience already embittered by what they see as a year of false starts and dashed hopes.

BROWN: Ben, thank you. We'll get to you tonight at the top.

On to the Pentagon, CNN's Jamie McIntyre, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld in the hot seat tonight, a lot of Senators angry too, Jamie the headline.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld likes to say that he serves at the pleasure of the president. President Bush is none too pleased and today he called him to the White House or would the woodshed be a better term -- Aaron.

BROWN: Jamie, thank you.

The White House next. Publicly the president gave Secretary Rumsfeld his support but as Jamie indicated privately perhaps something else. The president also gave two interviews to Arab language networks today. Our Senior White House Correspondent John King with the headline.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, in those interviews the president promised the United States would get to the bottom of this and hold those responsible for the abuses accountable but the president did not use the words "I'm sorry" or apologize in any way in those public interviews and, in private, we are told he did tell the defense secretary he's not happy about how all this played out -- Aaron.

BROWN: We're going to talk about that some tonight I suspect, back to you, John, thank you and the rest shortly.

Also coming up tonight we'll show you the president's speech, the reaction to it as it played out in the Arab world, what their reaction to it was.

Plus, the long and painful journey home for soldiers wounded in battle. NEWSNIGHT's Beth Nissen was on the plane with them. This is a very special Segment 7 tonight.

And, as always, morning papers wraps it up, what you can look forward to on your doorstep in the morning if you live in one of the selected cities, all that and more in the hour ahead.

We begin at the prison where the abuse occurred. Today, journalists were allowed inside the notorious complex, no picture taking allowed. The tour came as the American general now in charge did what no other U.S. official has done yet.

He apologized to the Iraqi people but if the Iraqis who were outside the prison today are any measure there are good reasons to believe this first apology didn't get it done.

Here again CNN's Ben Wedeman.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): A spokesman for protesters reads out a list of demands presented to U.S. officials.

"Trials for those who abused Iraqi prisoners, a halt to mistreatment and abuse, free access to prisoners for lawyers and human rights groups."

Hundreds, Sunnis and Shiites, attended the demonstration organized by the Society of Muslim Scholars trying to make their voices heard inside the prison walls.

"Yes they said they will study our demands and they said they will improve the situation" says (unintelligible), who was part of the delegation who met with the Americans "but they're liars."

Inside, journalists get a rare tour but we're not allowed to film or speak to prisoners. They were shown cell block 1-A where the abuse took place, interrogation rooms and new medical facilities. The new commander of Abu Ghraib pledged that abuse would not happen again.

MAJ. GEN. GEOFFREY MILLER, DEP. COMMANDER, DETAINEE OPERATIONS IN IRAQ: Yes, I would like to personally apologize to the people of Iraq for the actions of the small number of leaders and soldiers who violated our policy and may have committed criminal acts.

WEDEMAN: But among the protesters outside, little faith in American promises to right past wrongs. Protesters we spoke with said they were aware of the condemnation of prisoner abuse by Bush administration officials and brushed it aside.

"We don't trust them," says Abu Juwad (ph), a former prisoner. "No Iraqi trusts America or Britain whatever they do."

"Bush should leave us alone" says policeman Mehdi (ph) whose brother is a prisoner. "We don't want his democracy."

WEDEMAN (on camera): All the talk about punishing those involved in this abuse incident, all the talk about investigations into what's gone on at this prison have fallen on deaf ears here.

Ben Wedeman CNN, outside Abu Ghraib Prison, Baghdad.


BROWN: So who in the highest reaches of the chain of command knew what and when did they know it? It is the focus of several investigations that are underway tonight.

Many Senators, Democrats and Republicans, are furious that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld did not tell them about the Army report detailing the prisoner abuse. Mr. Rumsfeld expected to face tough questions when he testifies in public before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Friday.

From the Pentagon tonight, again, CNN's Jamie McIntyre.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): To hear Donald Rumsfeld tell it, the Pentagon has done everything right.

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: It's something that the department is addressing. The system works.

MCINTYRE: In appearances on two morning news shows, Rumsfeld made no apologies for his handling of the scandal and stopped short of issuing a full apology to the Iraqi people.

On ABC, Rumsfeld said only "any American who sees the photographs has to feel apologetic." On NBC, Rumsfeld was only a little more direct. "Anyone who sees the photographs does, in fact, apologize" he said. "That apology is there to any individual who was abused."

Rumsfeld's equally reserved in characterizing how the abuse has damaged the chances for U.S. success in Iraq.

RUMSFELD: It clearly is, you know, unhelpful in a fundamental way.

MCINTYRE: But Rumsfeld can expect to have to provide fuller answers Friday when he appears for a demand performance before a hastily arranged session of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: He's going to be grilled pretty good about what happened, how it happened and how far up the chain it looks like it went.

MCINTYRE: Rumsfeld was blasted in lead editorials in both "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post." "The Times" criticized Rumsfeld for clinging to "euphemisms for what any reasonable person would view as torture." "The Post" accused Rumsfeld of "arrogant disregard for the protections of the Geneva Conventions" which is said was "an invitation to abuses.


MCINTYRE: And while there have been a few suggestions on Capitol Hill that Rumsfeld resign or be fired, aides to Rumsfeld say that even though the White House has expressed some displeasure that he didn't keep President Bush fully in the loop, no one here seems to believe that Rumsfeld is in any real danger of losing his job -- Aaron.

BROWN: Is there any indication that the defense secretary is unhappy with those on his staff and below in the chain of command who perhaps didn't keep him appraised (sic)?

MCINTYRE: Only a hint. Publicly, Rumsfeld has insisted that they follow the letter of procedure and that because this was a criminal investigation there are proper procedures for each person reviewing the reports as they go along but we're told privately he did express to President Bush today during that meeting that perhaps he wasn't told everything he needed to know to fully inform the president. It's hard to say.

BROWN: Thank you, Jamie, Jamie McIntyre. I think apprise, not appraise by the way, my fault. Thank you.

The prisoner story is the lead story in much of the world again today. That much was guaranteed by the two interviews the president gave to Arab language networks, including the network funded by the U.S. Government.

It is a measure of the enormity of the damage done or at least the perception of the damage done that the president felt these interviews had to be done at all and, as you've heard so far, sources are saying the president is unhappy with his defense secretary for not telling him more and telling him sooner but the president only saw the pictures, we are told, when they were broadcast a week ago. Again our Senior White House Correspondent John King.


KING (voice-over): Defense Secretary Rumsfeld at the White House early. Rising war costs one issue, the prisoner abuse scandal the other.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I said find the truth and then tell the Iraqi people and the world the truth. We have nothing to hide.

KING: Interviews with two Arab language news networks were part of the White House damage control effort. The graphic abuse is a major blow to America's already troubled image.

BUSH: It's terrible. I think people in the Middle East who want to dislike America will use this as an excuse to remind people about their dislike.

KING: The president called the abuses abhorrent but did not apologize.

BUSH: There will be a full investigation and justice will be served and we -- we will do to ourselves what we expect of others.

KING: But critics say that urgent tone came only after the abuses became public knowledge. U.S. Central Command issued a brief notice on January 16 that allegations of prisoner abuse were being investigated. The president first addressed the issue more than three months later on April 30 after the initial media account featuring graphic pictures of the abuse.

The administration insists Mr. Bush took the issue seriously from the beginning but the White House cannot say when the president was first told, acknowledges Mr. Bush learned about a classified report on the abuses only from news accounts and concedes the president was not aware graphic pictures existed until media reports.

Those images are now Exhibit A for those who say Mr. Bush invaded Iraq not to liberate but to dominate.

SHIBLEY TELHAMI, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: That is a prevalent feeling that predated this ugly episode but this episode, graphic as it was, humiliating as it was drives it home in a way that is really hard to overcome.

KING: The new plan to keep 135,000 troops in Iraq through 2005 could only add to anti-American sentiment and already is forcing the White House to go back to Congress for another $25 billion in emergency war spending.


KING: And one interesting dynamic here today, in public both the president and others here at the White House expressing confidence in Secretary Rumsfeld but, Aaron as you noted, we are told in that early morning meeting here in the Oval Office this morning Mr. Bush stated quite plainly that he was not happy, not satisfied with the way this investigation has been handled and not satisfied at all with the flow of information from the Pentagon to the White House.

BROWN: I'm not sure this is a fair question but what the heck, I'll ask you anyway. Does the White House -- is the White House distressed by this fixation that everybody seems to have, I expressed it earlier, many, many others have about the need or the desire for a direct apology and the importance of a direct apology?

KING: Is the White House frustrated by that, of course it is. On the one hand, the administration says well National Security Adviser Rice did apologize. The general you just showed in Ben Wedeman's report did apologize. They speak for the United States government and, of course, for the president.

So, on the one hand they say there has been an apology. Others also say the president was never asked directly today, do you apologize or will you say I'm sorry?

But they also know here at the White House that the president himself is feeding this dynamic in the sense that remember the news conference when he was asked what is the mistake of your administration? Name your biggest mistake. He said I can't name one. This is a president who doesn't like to say I'm sorry.

BROWN: John, thank you very much, John King our Senior White House reporter tonight.

Apart from the issues of the prisoners that have so dominated the news this week, there is still real fighting and, of course, real danger on the ground in Iraq.

In the Shiite stronghold of Najaf, senior religious leaders have reportedly urged the young cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to withdraw his militia to the outskirts of the city.

This admits signs, at least some signs, that his popular support seems to be waning but if there's an end in sight there was still heavy fighting today near Najaf. Four American soldiers died.

CNN's Jane Arraf is embedded with the Army's 2nd Cavalry and has filed this report.


JANE ARRAF, CNN BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Only the moon lights these streets as the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment rolls out its tanks. With ambush the militia's favorite strategy, the Army is grateful for the power cuts. The first of two U.S. casualties here on this night is wounded at a checkpoint.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The persons inside the vehicle engaged the soldiers at the checkpoint? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The soldiers returned fire?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct, destroyed the vehicle.

ARRAF: Officers at this mobile command center learn the soldier has been shot in the abdomen but is expected to be OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Unintelligible) over there checking on the casualty.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ambulance is already on the road (unintelligible).

ARRAF: The occupants of the car from which the gunfire came won't be as lucky.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that big fire off to the east the vehicle you engaged? Over.

ARRAF: The Army's main target is Muqtada al-Sadr's local office and a nearby girls' school where they find mortars and 70 mortar rounds. Lieutenant Colonel Bob Burns has called in a C-130 to fire 40mm cannon into Sadr's headquarters. They planned to blow it up with Hellfire missiles if they met resistance. Instead the building is empty.

(on camera): Up until about an hour ago this was Muqtada al- Sadr's headquarters in Diwaniya. Now it's been taken over by U.S. forces in a message that they are taking on the Sadr militia here.

(voice-over): The militia members though have melted away.

MAJ. JOHN STEELE, U.S. ARMY: I did expect a lot more enemy contact based on the intel assistance that we had, the ambushes here in the past. That has not happened. I think the enemy knows if they try to stay and fight us toe-to-toe that they'll lose so the probably went to ground tonight. They'll come back if they want to come and engage us in ambushes.

ARRAF: The soldiers, sent here from Baghdad when they expected to be going home, seem to have a sense of purpose.

SGT. PHILLIPE LEALE, U.S. ARMY: We handled Baghdad. We handled al Kut. We handled Najaf and Diwaniya is just one more step closer to home.

ARRAF: And one more way of closing in on the radical Shia leader whose militia continues to attack and run.

Jane Arraf, CNN, Diwaniya, Iraq. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Still ahead on NEWSNIGHT tonight, can words fix the damage done by the now infamous photographs of the Iraqi prisoner abuse? Can anything make it better? Some advice from a seasoned damage consultant.

Plus, airlifting the war wounded home, NEWSNIGHT'S Beth Nissen makes the difficult journey with them.

A NEWSNIGHT special from New York.


BROWN: The saying goes a picture is worth 1,000 words. One question tonight can any number of words mend the damage done by the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal?

Eric Dezenhall served in the Reagan White House. He's a damage control consultant and knows a thing or two about the healing power of language. We're glad to have him back with us tonight. He's in Washington. Good to see you.


BROWN: We were talking in the break about the power or lack of power of an apology. Why don't we start there because your view is interesting on this?

DEZENHALL: Well, there's an old wives' tale that if you say I'm sorry that the problem goes away and everybody loves that notion but, in 20 years at this I haven't seen it to be true. It is not -- an apology is not your get out of jail free card.

If President Bush had gotten up and apologized and slit his wrists they would have said oh, you know, he's so arrogant. He just apologized and slit his wrists. He should have hit himself with a cat of nine tails as well.

You know this little schoolyard game of getting people to apologize is really not what cures the problem. I think that really what people often want to see is an acknowledgment that there is a problem and some sort of path forward to solving it but this whole idea that the words "I'm sorry" make it go away is absolutely ridiculous.

BROWN: I want you to try and cover a number of things a little quickly if you can for me tonight. Do you think the administration misread this at the get-go?

DEZENHALL: Well, I think that what they didn't realize was the power of optics. This is a visual story. It is the story about pictures and if there were no pictures there would be no serious crisis and I don't know that there was any mishandling per se. I just think that when you have pictures of something like this there is no slick trick to diffuse it. BROWN: How could they not, I'm not sure you can answer this or anyone can, but how could anyone look at those pictures as they did a week ago and not say this is totally, completely, 100 percent radioactive?

DEZENHALL: I think that the reaction was that it is radioactive. The problem is, is when you're dealing with damage control it's not just what you're dealing with in terms of the allegation. It's what you're competing with.

If you had, I mean if you remember the days leading up to 9/11, the two months before, all people could talk about was Gary Condit. If 9/11 had happened in April, nobody would have cared about Gary Condit.

So, before you respond to a crisis you have to look at what it's competing against and the whole idea that they could have just run out that day and done some theatrical act to make it go away is just not the case. There's a reason, Aaron, they call these things crises. They're bad.

BROWN: Yes. One more area. When the president goes on the two Arab networks today who's really the audience?

DEZENHALL: Well, audience number one is the American public. Audience number two is the Arab community. There is nothing President Bush can do to get the Arab community to like him. There is virtually zero chance that people are going to say in Arab countries, you know I heard his speech. He was articulate. I like America now. Not going to happen.

With the American public though there is a long tradition, as you've said, of American leaders taking responsibility. We very much want to see how well our leaders can take their beating.

That's exactly what President Bush did and many Americans are very aware that although it's an outrage what happened in Iraq, there is not a lot of outrage in the Arab community when Americans or their dead bodies are thrown from bridges. And so the president is not president of the world. He's president of the U.S. and the U.S. audience is probably more important here.

BROWN: Finally and quickly, A to F, how would you grade him on damage control?

DEZENHALL: Oh, I think he gets a B-minus. He did the best that he could given the circumstances. I don't think that there were any other options. He did -- the reason why he did what he did today is can you imagine what would have happened if he had not done it? That's the reason period.

BROWN: Eric, we always like to talk to you professionally and we always hope we never need you personally. Thank you, good to see you again.

DEZENHALL: Thank you. You bet. BROWN: Thank you.

A couple of other stories that made news around the country today.

A New Jersey couple accused of starving their four adopted children, a 19-year-old weighed on 45 pounds when he was found, was indicted today by a grand jury on 28 counts of aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of a child. If convicted, Raymond and Vanessa Jackson could face five to ten years on each count.

Better, cooler weather today helped California firefighters get a handle on the wildfires that have burned more than 20,000 acres so far this week. Lost in the flames the historic Dorland Mountain Arts Colony and a grand piano once played by Rachmaninov.

And finally something you won't find up there on e-Bay, a painting of a boy in a blue jacket holding a pipe. It is, of course, a Picasso and it sold tonight for more than $100 million when you throw those pesky commissions in, the most expensive painting ever sold at auction.

Coming up on NEWSNIGHT, more on the fallout from the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal. Will Donald Rumsfeld take the blame? Is he to blame? Senator Joe Biden joins us, a break first.

Around the world this is NEWSNIGHT.


BROWN: As you know by now, the president sat for extensive interviews with two Arab language TV channels today calling what happened at Abu Ghraib Prison abhorrent and promising that those responsible would be brought to justice.

Clearly this was a major event, an effort to reach out to the Arab world and to an American audience as well, so did it work on the Arab side? We'll take a look at the way it was portrayed today on their news.


BROWN (voice-over): President Bush did not agree to an interview on Al-Jazeera, the controversial but most watched Arab news network and Al-Jazeera in turn wasn't showing any clips of the interviews, at least not that we saw but did talk about them, in one reference describing it as an attempt to convince Arabs that Bush rejected the torture of Iraqi prisoners.

On Al-Hurrah, the channel funded by the United States, reaction was cautiously positive. The editor of an Egyptian newspaper said what he called Bush's apology reflected the beginning of respect for the Arab world.

But he pointed at the continuing fighting in Iraq and American support for Israel and said more than an apology was needed to rebuild confidence with the people of the Middle East and end the violence and unrest claiming that most of the violence was caused by the mistaken policies of the United States.

Out of Saudi Arabia, Al Arabiya which did get an interview with the president, there were also post interview conversations with Senator John McCain and American academic commentators, at least providing a full airing of the view from this side of the Atlantic.

Across the Muslim world, Arabs were watching, if not necessarily buying the president's message. In Baghdad, this man says that Americans have no credibility and the speech of the American president, like all other statements, is nothing but words.

This Palestinian in the West Bank town of Ramallah rejected any apology saying these were war crimes and should be punished as such.

And, in an Egyptian cafe, a local tailor was also unconvinced saying that Bush's policies have made everyone hate Americans.


BROWN: How they heard it today.

As we said earlier, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld goes before the Senate on Friday. Senator Joe Biden, a top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been adamant about pressing for accountability. And he said if the blame goes all the way to the secretary's office, the secretary should quit.

We spoke with Senator Biden earlier today.


BROWN: Senator, did the president say today what the president needed to say today?

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: He said part of what he needs to say. I think the president has to say declaratively that not only does this not represent our values, and this is outrageous, but that he will find the persons accountable.

BROWN: Do you think that will in fact happen?

BIDEN: I just don't know.

So far, based on what I've heard today, I don't get the sense that they appreciate the incredible damage done to our national security by what has occurred and the sense of urgency. The fact of the matter is, the symbolism of what occurred in this prison is awesome in terms of the damage in our national interests. And there has to be an equally powerful symbol in response and beyond the substance of what we do.

One of my colleagues suggested on the floor today that maybe we go in and bulldoze the prison. I don't know whether that is possible in terms of how many prisoners are there. But it requires a demonstrable and major demonstration that this is not business as usual. And, look, Aaron, the advice this president has gotten has been uniformly wrong since the statue of Saddam has fallen in the circle.

BROWN: Let's just go back to the prisoner question here for a bit. You talk about the extraordinary damage done to the national interests in all of this. Do you really think that the Arab world is as shocked by this as the Americans are shocked by this?

BIDEN: I think they're not shocked in the sense that they in fact didn't think these things happen. But I think it confirms the views of the most radical elements of the Arab world, in the minds of moderates within the Arab world that we are no different.

My lord, the action that occurred in that prison endangers American forces. And what we have to demonstrate to try to cauterize this wound is that we will not stand for that action on the part of the -- on the part of our military or contractors or those in charge of the prison or those who made the policy or -- no matter how high up the chain it goes.

BROWN: In your heart of hearts, do you believe that the level of responsibility here is no higher than a lieutenant or a staff sergeant?


In my heart of hearts, I believe that the responsibility rests at much higher levels. It is time for a little grace and dignity here. It is time for someone to step forward and take a hit for the team. It is time for us to demonstrate that this is in fact a consequential undertaking and not do what was done this morning when I was on another show, parsing the difference between whether or not the Geneva Convention applies to some prisoners and doesn't technically apply to others, but we're going to apply it to all prisoners.

This is bigger than this. It is much bigger than this. And it is bigger than this in terms of the consequences. I'm not weeping for those prisoners who have been humiliated or maybe more done to them. I think it is terrible that it has been done to them. My concern is the American interests in the region. And it has been done -- look, what short of bombing a holy site in Najaf filled with pilgrims could have more negative consequence for us in that part of the world?

BROWN: I think that says it about as well as anything I've heard so far. Senator, as always, it is good to see you. Thank you for your time.

BIDEN: Thanks a lot.

BROWN: Thank you.

BIDEN: Thanks.


BROWN: Joe Biden, we talked with him late this afternoon.

Still to come on the program tonight, a break from the news in Iraq, sort of. Controversial filmmaker Michael Moore joins us to talk about his new movie and why you might not see it at the theater.

We'll take a break first. This is NEWSNIGHT.


BROWN: Well, here's a headline we could have written last year or the year before or almost any year for quite a while. Filmmaker's Michael Moore's newest film has outraged important people and gotten him into some trouble again.

Here is CNN's Jen Rogers.


JEN ROGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Michael Moore's never hidden his feelings about President Bush.

MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER: He was never elected by a majority of the citizens of this country and I'll keep saying that until he's out of there.

ROGERS: Now in his latest documentary, Fahrenheit 911, he's taking his criticisms to the big screen, or at least trying to. The movie, said to be sharply critical of Bush, and according to the New York Times, links Bush and prominent Saudis, including the family of Osama bin Laden, has become the center of controversy. After Moore announced on his Web site that the Walt Disney company was blocking distribution by its subsidiary, Miramax.

In a statement Miramax said, we're discussing the issue with Disney. We're looking at all of our options and look forward to resolving this amicably. But for Disney's part, their doesn't seem much left to resolve.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just chose not to be involved.

ROGERS: Any chance that Disney will change their mind on their stance?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've made our position very clear on that.

ROGERS: In a written statement the company said, in May 2003 the Walt Disney company communicated to Miramax and Mr. Moore's representatives that Miramax would not be the distributor of his film. Contrary to his assertions Mr Moore has had and continues to have every opportunity to either find another distributor or distribute the film himself.

Regardless of who actually ends up distributing Moore's film, the current controversy is publicity money can't buy.

MATT FELLING, CENTER FOR MEDIA AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS: The big winner in this entire fiasco is Michael Moore and Michael Moore's publicity team. They should send thank you cards to the Disney people.

ROGERS: For now, dueling press releases will have to do.

(on camera): While the release date for Moore's new movie may still be months away, congressional hearings could be held sooner. On Wednesday, Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey called for the Senate Commerce Committee to look into what he has called the pattern of politically based corporate censorship.

Jen Rogers, CNN Financial News, Los Angeles.


BROWN: Michael Moore is with us.

Nice to see you, sir.


BROWN: Another fine mess you've gotten us into, or they've gotten you into.

Don't tell me what you think or what you suspect, but tell me what you know about why Disney is withholding the film.

MOORE: What I know is, is that Michael Eisner went and had a meeting with my agent, Ari Emanuel at Endeavor, and told him at this meeting that there is no way he will allow Miramax to distribute Michael Moore's film, because, in doing so, it will anger Jeb Bush and put Disney at risk in Florida. They were up for millions of dollars of task abatements, tax incentives, whatever.

BROWN: They deny -- they don't deny the meeting, obviously, with the agent. They deny that they said that. No doubt in your mind that was said?

MOORE: No, no doubt at all.


MOORE: Oh, absolutely not.

In fact, I got a phone call immediately after the meeting. I was told this. And we decided, along with Miramax, to do our best to try and convince Disney to do the right thing. And we have spent months trying to do that. We have been very quiet about this.

BROWN: This has gone on pretty much a year, hasn't it?

MOORE: Yes, that's right.

BROWN: Why not a year ago just go find another way to get the movie out there? MOORE: Because a year ago, we were already making the film. We already had a deal. We had a contract with Miramax to distribute the film. And this happened all after we did this deal.

And Miramax felt very confident that Disney, once they saw the film, would distribute it.

BROWN: Let me argue the Disney side for a second.

MOORE: Yes, sure.

BROWN: They're a private company. They have private interests. Do they not have every right in the world, for whatever reasons they so choose, to distribute what they want to distribute and not distribute what they don't?

MOORE: Well, they're a public company.

BROWN: A public -- they are absolutely a public company.

MOORE: Not a private company. And they do. They do have that right.

But, Aaron, we live in a country now where the control of our media is in fewer and fewer hands. We're down to just a few studios now. If the few remaining studios decide that dissenting voices shouldn't be heard, that we don't have to provide all the information to the people, just some of the information, are we better off as a society, as a free, open, democratic society? I don't think so.

BROWN: Listen, I will never argue that. Of course not. I'm one of those who says get it all out there, all of it out there, your films, their films, anybody's films.

MOORE: Right.

BROWN: Figure out a way to get it out there. And when all is said and done, will this get out there, this movie?

MOORE: Well, I hope so.

BROWN: Do you doubt it will get out there?

MOORE: I don't doubt it because I know -- I made this film. I believe in this. This film is so great, it has already has been accepted by the Cannes Film Festival. It's tested through the roof when we've shown it to audiences across the country. This film will be seen because I'll make sure it is seen.

BROWN: I don't understand the business that well. But you to need a major distributor do this? Is this something -- you obviously can't go theater to theater with a DVD and stick it in there.

MOORE: Well, I would do that. I'll stick it in the back of the van and drive it around the country if I have to. I don't think I'm going to have to do that. Ever since the news broke this morning, there has been quite a bit of interest.

BROWN: Funny how that happens.

MOORE: In the film. So I think we're going to be OK. We're in good hands with Miramax. And they've stuck behind us with this.

And it is just -- it is disappointing that Disney doesn't want people to see this. There are no bad things in it. There is no sex and violence. It is just some truth about what is happening to this country and, you know, it is my way of looking at it.

BROWN: It is -- on days when we agree and on days when we don't, it's always nice to see you.

MOORE: Thank you. Which day is this, by the way?

BROWN: This is somewhere in between.


MOORE: But you oppose censorship.

BROWN: At every turn.

MOORE: There we go.


BROWN: Thank you, Michael. Thank you. Good luck.

Ahead on NEWSNIGHT, there are all kinds of battles in a war. The soldiers you're about to meet are fighting to get the wounded back home and alive. Their story after the break.



BROWN: In a week when we've talked a good deal about bad apples in Iraq, it is time to talk of angels. We found these angels on a clunky airplane filled from ceiling to floor with the wounded of the Iraq war. They travel from Iraq to Germany and then on to Washington, the beginnings for many of a very long road back to health.

At every mile they travel, they're watched over and tended to by medics and nurses and doctors who have seen too much to be unchanged by a war that is still just a year old.

NEWSNIGHT's Beth Nissen made the journey with them this week.


BETH NISSEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thirteen hundred hours, Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. On approach, the day's medical evacuation flight from downrange, a C-141 Starlifter bringing in sick and wounded troops from Iraq. CAPT. DAN LEGERE, MEDICAL CREW DIRECTOR: We continuously move patients out of theater. The patients that we see, most of them have trauma of one type or another from their battle injuries.

NISSEN: The war wounded, almost 20 on this flight, are all floated on to buses that will take them to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the big Army hospital nearby. The plane is immediately reconfigured for the next medevac flight to carry another set of sick and wounded troops from Landstuhl to military hospitals in the U.S. for more surgery, treatment, long-term rehab.

SMSGT. RICKY SMITH, PRIMARY LOADMASTER: These kids, they've done their job. And it is our job to make sure they get back to medical attention and get put back together, if you will.

NISSEN: Seventeen hundred hours: 37 patients loaded on to the plane for the long flight to the U.S. Their injuries are typical of those carried on medevac flights, especially in the last five weeks, gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen, legs and arms fractured in mortar blasts, eyes ruptured by shrapnel. Two patients are in critical condition, both with spinal chord injuries. One is on a ventilator.

For the ground and flight crews, seeing so many so badly injured is hard, yet hardens their sense of mission.

LEGERE: A few things that you see will really tug at your heart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just sympathize with them so much. And I just want to make sure that we do everything, everything possible for them.

NISSEN: That isn't easy on board a C-141 cargo plane, an inhospitable flying hospital. The challenges start on takeoff, especially for the critical patients.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most dramatic thing here is when the airplane takes off and the nose pitches up, the head pitches down and kind of destabilizes things for us when that happens.

NISSEN: Changes in altitude, cabin pressure can cause drops in blood pressure. Turbulence can cause spikes in pain.

MAJ. STEVE GRIFFIN, AIRCRAFT COMMANDER: We try to watch out for it. We keep the smoothest flight that we can for our patients. It is their comfort level we're concerned about. And we try to make it as comfortable as what we can for them.

NISSEN: Things are far from comfortable for the medical flight crew. Most crew members are Air Force reservists, Air National Guard. In civilian, they are E.R. nurses, EMTs. At 30,000 feet, their work is the same, but working conditions are radically different. The light is dim. Space is cramped. Stethoscopes are useless in the roar of the C-141's engines.

TECH SGT. TIMOTHY MITZEL, MEDICAL FLIGHT CREW: We all have to wear ear plugs. We can't hear. We can't hear blood pressures. We can't hear lung sounds.

NISSEN: Crew members use monitors, use informal sign language, lean in to listen to patients. For nine hours, they work to control pain, to monitor mortar and bullet wounds.


NISSEN: To dispense comfort.

LEGERE: The kids that we see, they've all got still that great spirit. You don't ever hear any of them complaining or whining or any of the things that you really would expect seeing the disfiguring and the severe injuries that these guys have.


NISSEN: Twenty-two hundred hours: Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, D.C. Patients are off-loaded onto buses bound for Walter Reed Army Medical Center or Bethesda Naval Hospital. It is hard for the flight crew, especially the older ones, to see them go.

GRIFFIN: You don't look at them as some stranger that is on the other side of the world. You look at them as, wow, this could have been my son or my daughter.

NISSEN: There is little time for reflection. Within hours, the medevac missions go again, back to Germany, back downrange, back home with the latest casualties of war.

Beth Nissen, CNN.


BROWN: Since the war began, there have been 3,000 of these flights, 40,000 patients. They haven't lost one yet.

We'll check morning papers after the break.



BROWN: Okeydoke, time to check morning papers from around the country and around the world.

"The International Herald Tribune." I liked a lot of papers today. And I hope you will, too. "The International Herald Tribune," published by "The New York Times" in Paris. "Bush On Arab TV Assails Abuse," pretty straight-ahead headline there. "U.S. Attacks Militia Led By Iraqi Cleric" is their main story, Edward Wong reporting. He's done some very nice work for "The New York Times" in Iraq.

"The Christian Science Monitor." I just love this picture. I'm sure how well you can see it. I have no idea what the story is about. "Why Killers May Get Immunity in Brazil." It is an Indian with this extraordinary headdress on and a bow and arrow, the arrow pointed at the photographer. It is a risky business sometimes.

"The Detroit Free Press." "Bush Gives No Apology on Prison Scandal on Arab TV. He Vows Justice in Abuse Case," pretty straight there. This is the headline I love. "A Womb With a View." There is a new three-dimensional prenatal photography thing. I'm sure there is a better word for it than I just came up with, but it is a very -- yes, sonogram, thank you. It's great when you have someone in your ear in life. You should try that yourselves at home. "A Womb With a View."

"The Washington Times" down here in the corner. OK, all the expected stuff is there. But here is the one I like. I would have put this on the front page. "'Spider-Man 2' Ads On Deck and On Base." Baseball is going to put advertising on the bases. Is nothing sacred? I think we know the answer to that.

"No More Hanging Out With Friends" in the top there of "The Detroit News." "Friends" goes off the air tomorrow. My daughter once said to me when I questioned whether it was appropriate for her to watch, she said, how will I know how to act like an adult?

"The Grant County Independent" -- "Herald Independent" -- Wisconsin's oldest newspaper, it costs a buck. I guess it ought to be a pretty good paper to cost a buck. It's a good story, though. "A Mother's Hope. Crubel" (ph) -- or perhaps Crubel (ph) -- "Wants Soldier Sons Home For Wedding." And I hope they get home.

And down at the bottom. Can you get a shot of this? "Three of a Kind." These are the prom kings and queens in this part of Wisconsin. And they make the front page, and good for them.

"The Chicago Sun-Times" leads, "Abuse Doesn't Reflect the Hearts of the American People." I agree with that. The weather tomorrow in Chicago is "hot and sassy." And we'd take some of that here in the Northeast as well.

We'll wrap up the day in a moment.


BROWN: Tomorrow on NEWSNIGHT, we look at honor killings, no longer confined to Muslim countries, now found here in the states.


BROWN (voice-over): This is an empty house now. But last month, police say it was witness to an especially gruesome crime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It really was a horrific scene.

BROWN: A 22-year-old Turkish woman ran screaming from the home, telling police she and her infant sister just 4 years old had been savagely beat within a hammer and attacked with a knife and that her mother was lying dead on the living room floor. It was, police in Rochester, New York, say, an honor killing, identical to murders that have occurred throughout the Muslim world, where a woman is killed by a man because he believes his honor has somehow been sullied by what happened to the woman, even if she had no control, none, over what took place.

In Rochester, police say, it is the first one of these cases ever in the United States.


BROWN: We'll look at that tomorrow. We hope you'll join us. "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" next for most of you.

Until tomorrow, good night for all of us at NEWSNIGHT.


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