The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 05/02/11
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. Thank you very much for that.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
This is the Pakistani version of West Point. It is in a really attractive part of Pakistan. It‘s a nice part of the country. It‘s about the same elevation that Denver is at. It‘s about 4,000 feet above sea level.
And it was there last weekend that the man who was really sort of in charge in Pakistan, not the president or the prime minister, but the guy who‘s really in charge, the head of the army, it was there last weekend that the head of the army in Pakistan, the guy who‘s really in charge, he gave a speech to Pakistani army recruits. And he‘s an important enough guy that the speech was carried live on state television.
In that speech, the head of the Pakistani army said this. He said, quote, “The terrorists‘ backbone has been broken.” In other words, he declared victory over terrorism in Pakistan.
Pakistan‘s version of West Point is located in a town you might have heard of now called Abbottabad. And when the head of Pakistan‘s army spoke there last weekend when he declared victory over terrorism, in all likelihood, he was standing about one mile from Osama bin Laden‘s bedroom elsewhere Abbottabad.
In announcing Osama bin Laden‘s death last night, President Obama was clear and emphatic that Pakistan was not notified in advance about the strike that killed Osama bin Laden. Nor did personnel from any other country, including Pakistan, take part in that operation.
Nevertheless, elements of Pakistan‘s intelligence service insisted today that bin Laden was killed in a joint U.S.-Pakistani operation. For years, the Pakistan intelligence service had said publicly that Osama bin Laden was dead. Now that he actually is dead, they want credit for killing him.
After nearly 10 years of hunting for Osama bin Laden, he was finally found and finally killed in a city just outside the capital city of Pakistan. He was not in the mountainous border region of Afghanistan. He was not in the lawless semi-autonomous tribal areas. He was not in a cave. He was in a big, nice house in, in a city where Pakistani military officers go to retire—a hop, skip and a jump away from Pakistani‘s version of West Point.
This probably should not surprise us as much as it did, because so many of the other big al Qaeda fish caught over the last decade have been caught in the same way that Osama bin Laden was. Not just in Pakistan, but specifically in Pakistani cities.
On the one-year anniversary of 9/11, this man, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, was taken into custody. Where was he caught? Not in a cave.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who helped plan the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, was taken prisoner in a dramatic Karachi shootout on the one year anniversary of the attacks last September 11th.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Ramzi bin al-Shibh caught in Karachi—Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan. That tends to be the kind of place these guys get caught.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: After searching hundreds of mountain caves, the U.S. military failed to capture any of Osama bin Laden‘s top commanders. Instead, it took good U.S. intelligence and a Pakistani police to land the biggest catch yet. He‘s Abu Zubaydah, a 31-year-old Palestinian, number three in the al Qaeda terrorist network. Backed up by the CIA and FBI, Pakistani police captured Zubaydah in Faisalabad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Faisalabad, Pakistan‘s third largest city.
A year after Abu Zubaydah was captured in Pakistan‘s third largest city, it happened again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: In the hunt for Osama bin Laden, tonight, another big arrest—another one of his lieutenants. Once again, it‘s in Pakistan, and once again it‘s in a big, urban center. This time in the city of Lahore, 200 miles southeast of the capital Islamabad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Lahore, not in a cave somewhere. Not in the autonomous tribal regions, but in Lahore, in Pakistan‘s second largest city.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TV ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.
A major victory tonight on the war on terror. The suspected mastermind of the 9/11 attacks against the United States, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was arrested in Pakistan.
REPORTER: He was arrested before dawn in Pakistan, in Rawalpindi, near Islamabad, by Pakistani and American agents.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Rawalpindi, otherwise known as Pakistan‘s fourth largest city.
Most of the terrorists who are in custody who had anything to do with 9/11, who you ever heard of because there‘s a big enough deal for you to have heard of them have been arrested in big cities in Pakistan, often in nice houses in big cities in Pakistan. If you Google Rawalpindi, what comes up in English is a million mentions of it as a garrison city. They always use that phrase, a garrison city. The other place in Pakistan you find constantly described as a garrison city if it‘s described at all is—
Abbottabad, where Osama bin Laden was just found.
A garrison city basically just means that sit a military city. It is a city intensely populated with both military personnel, retired military personnel and military facilities—in a country where the military and the intelligence service are the most powerful forces around, where they run everything, where they‘re way more in control than the nominal government is—where Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Osama bin Laden were found where were those people live, where the nation‘s elite live, where the nation‘s military officers live. These garrison cities.
Both of these guys caught in nice, big houses in garrison cities from which that country‘s elite military and intelligence personnel have been telling the United States that terrorism, oh, that‘s over. That bin Laden, he was nowhere in sight, that there was no use looking for bin Laden anymore, particularly in Pakistan because bin Laden was probably already dead.
As recently as two weeks ago, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, while he was in Pakistan, he directly accused Pakistan‘s intelligence service of supporting the main militant group that is fighting U.S. troops in eastern Afghanistan.
On a trip to Pakistan in 2009, Hillary Clinton bluntly accused the Pakistani government of knowing where Osama bin Laden was, telling reporters then, quote, “I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where he is and couldn‘t get him if they really wanted to.”
Just last week, a federal indictment about the Mumbai attack—a federal indictment was filed in Chicago. It reportedly names a serving Pakistani intelligence officer as one of the people who planned the devastating Mumbai terrorist attack.
Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan. It has been Pakistan from the beginning. It‘s still Pakistan.
How long is it going to keep being Pakistan?
Today, on the occasion of Osama bin Laden‘s death, “The New York Times” ran a big 5,000-word obituary of bin Laden. It describes bin Laden bragging about his American-made weapons and his trainers who supported him and his mujahedeen fighters in Afghanistan against the Soviets in the 1980s.
What bin Laden did not brag about was that even though he and his fighters got that American training and they got those American weapons, they never got them directly from Americans. The U.S. is being careful, of course, to avoid getting drawn into a hot war in Afghanistan with the Soviets, so even though we gave that training and those weapons to bin Laden in Afghanistan in the 80‘s, we never really got it to them—got it to him all that directly. Instead we used a middle man.
Who do you think we used as a middle man? We used the Pakistani intelligence service as the middle man when we wanted to arm bin Laden.
The whole post-9/11 idea of waging a war on terrorism was to go after terrorists themselves, right? But also go after their sponsors. You go after the countries that sponsor terrorist groups and fund them.
Iraq never did that. That was a red herring. That was a distraction from fighting terrorism.
But Afghanistan in its own way was a hard case, too, because Osama bin Laden supported the Taliban in Afghanistan. It was bin Laden supporting them. He propped them up. He funded them out of his considerable fortune for years. And, yes, they did provide him protection in return.
But the real sponsor that built Osama bin Laden into the terrorist godfather he became, the thing other than his own skills and his own money that built his power and provided him a haven from retribution—that was Pakistan. That was our great ally, Pakistan.
Last weekend, the head of Pakistan‘s army proclaimed, don‘t worry, he had broken the back of terrorism while he stood one mile away from Osama bin Laden‘s bedroom—our great ally.
Joining us now live from Benghazi in Libya is NBC News chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel.
Richard, thanks very much for joining us. I appreciate it.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: It‘s my pleasure, of course. It‘s a very windy evening. So, you‘ll excuse the wind.
But it is an incredible development that has been happening. And I think you‘re right. It has always been about Pakistan, and yet, U.S. troops went and fought in Iraq. And that, in the end of the day, had nothing to do with bringing Osama bin Laden to justice.
MADDOW: Richard, what do you think happens next with Pakistan in people are describing Pakistan as having explaining to do as being embarrassed, as having finally been called out for the lies they have perhaps knowingly been telling all of these years about Osama bin Laden. We can‘t look into a crystal ball about what happens next. But based on your understanding of the players here, what do you think happens next between us and that country?
ENGEL: Well, I think in the short-term the U.S. military wants to maintain as civil relations as possible with Pakistan. Of course, Osama bin Laden is now dead. But his number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is not—three, four, five.
And the United States sees an incredible amount of information in that compound where Osama bin Laden was living, including hard drives, computers, and now, they want to exploit all that information. So, assuming that many of these individuals are still in Pakistan for the next several months at least, I think you‘re going to want to see the U.S. trying to tread very lightly on that relationship.
Whether they will be able to stop what I expect will be very a very
public uproar from the American people against Pakistan will be a different
will be a different situation.
MADDOW: Richard, what do you think the significance is of the geography of where bin Laden was found in this garrison city, Abbottabad, not far outside Pakistan‘s capital? What does that tell you about—I mean, not just potential Pakistani complicity here, but also, what does that tell you about al Qaeda?
ENGEL: Well, I think it reveals a great deal. The fact that they didn‘t tell Pakistan that this operation was coming also speaks volumes about their own confidence in the ally Pakistan—an ally that has received about $18 billion from the United States over the last decade as well.
And as you said, it‘s a garrison town. Imagine in if the tables were turned the other way and there was an international terrorist wanted for the deaths of 3,000 citizens from, let‘s say, another country, it doesn‘t have to be named. That terrorist was living in West Point, in the town of West Point, in the biggest house in the town a few miles down from the chow hall. And suddenly, that terrorist was discovered. How would the United States say, we really didn‘t know where he was living in a giant compound just down the street from the chow hall in West Point?
MADDOW: Richard, you and I have talked before about post-9/11 al Qaeda being sort of a franchise operation—something that doesn‘t need central control in order to continue to be deadly. But, does it hurt al Qaeda‘s—even al Qaeda‘s franchise power, their capacity to inspire terrorism to have bin Laden dead and dead in this way?
ENGEL: Yes, it does. If you‘re a franchise, and they‘ve suddenly killed your symbol, it hurts the value of the brand. If the symbol of the franchise is Osama bin Laden, it has always been Osama bin Laden, then the franchise itself is less valuable. Why do people buy franchises like, you know, big hamburger chains or ice cream stores—it‘s because there is a brand name.
And that brand of al Qaeda has shown that it is not invincible. That Osama bin Laden can‘t just live with impunity, popping up like a jack in the box every once in a while and poking fun at the United States and seeming to have this endless stream of good luck. Now, that luck has run out and I think that will certainly have an impact.
These franchises will go on. But they might not be as attractive or as flourishing as they were over the last several years.
MADDOW: Richard, there‘s been a lot of discussion today about the U.S. decision to bury bin Laden at sea, the U.S. saying that that is something that is allowed in Islamic tradition. Some Islamic religious figures disputing that characterization.
Some important is the treatment of his body, do you think? Obviously, the idea is to try not to make him a martyr against a lot of pressure from his side to make him one.
ENGEL: Yes. I mean, to be perfectly, perfectly frank, it‘s not common at all to bury people at sea. I‘ve lived in this region for 15 years. I can‘t think of a single incident. I don‘t know anyone whose parents have been buried at sea.
It just—maybe it‘s Islamically permissible if they were shipping Muslims who died on a ship 500 years ago and they didn‘t want to keep the body on the ship. Sure, I can see how that would be acceptable under Islamic law. It‘s certainly not a common practice.
It‘s very important because you don‘t want to create a more of a martyr of Osama bin Laden. You don‘t want to enhance his image that much further.
I think the U.S. probably did this. They dropped him off at sea because—I can‘t imagine too many countries would want to take the body and they didn‘t want to create a shrine. They didn‘t want a place where people could go and have a hero worship or even effectively a type of sainthood.
But it is very bizarre. I mean, that is one of the most bizarre aspects of all of this, that they take the body after they do all the identification, and then they wrap it up and slide it off into the ocean. That seems—it‘s one of the weirdest parts of this entire story, frankly.
MADDOW: Speaking of weird, just seeing—thinking about the fact that we‘re talking about what happened to bin Laden‘s body dropped off the side of the USS Carl Vinson, you‘re standing on a balcony in Benghazi with the wind making your hair look ridiculous.
ENGEL: A windy balcony.
MADDOW: Yes, a windy balcony. You‘re covering this unimaginable civil war of the Libyan people.
ENGEL: Yes. Just wait until I see yours.
MADDOW: I know.
These Libyan people rising up against Gadhafi of all people. Mubarak is gone. Ben Ali is gone in Tunisia. There‘s an uprising underway in Yemen. There‘s an uprising of sort underway in Syria. Bin Laden is dead.
Can you—can you believe how much the Muslim world has changed in the past six months?
ENGEL: It has been an incredibly tumultuous period, almost as transformative—as it is windy here. But what‘s been amazing is the news coverage today, for example, was about even. It wasn‘t wall-to-wall coverage about Osama bin Laden. It was in the beginning in the first day, in the early hours. But as the day grew on, people started talking on Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya and the local satellite channels, these are the main Arabic language channels about Osama bin Laden, and then they got right back to what are the new core issues here—the revolution in Egypt, the revolution in Tunisia, the uprising in Syria, the war here in Libya. People think that is what is going to change this region and truly transform it.
There was almost a sense that bin Laden was the man of the past decade. And a lot of people in the Middle East want to put him behind them. Bin Laden was an embarrassment to the Middle East. Nobody likes to be profiled. No one likes to be considered a terrorist simply because they grow their beard or because they go and pray in a mosque.
And I think there was a great sense of relief, a feeling of good riddance that this disgrace was finally—was finally dead, no longer associated with the region. And people wanted to focus on what really will matter for the future of this region going forward for the next 10 years, and that is these uprisings.
MADDOW: Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent, braving the wind and a lot else in Benghazi in Libya tonight. Richard, thank you so much for staying up in the middle of the night to talk with us.
ENGEL: Of course.
MADDOW: All right. More ahead, including some very, very good photo journalism by the White House. And some very, very, very bad photo journalism by me. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The White House late this afternoon released this photo. Check it out. The caption on the photo is this, “President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with members of the national security team receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1st, 2011.” So, this was taken yesterday. We don‘t know exactly what is going on at this exact moment.
The one pixilated piece of paper on the table was a classified document that they blurred out for security reasons.
So, again, we don‘t know what‘s happening at this exact moment. But yesterday is when the operation do go get bin Laden happened. We are told that from the Situation Room they were able to watch live real-time video with audio of the operation. None of us, of course, can speculate as to what was going on at that exact moment that the photo was taken.
But look at Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Look at the look on her face.
Look at Defense Secretary Bob Gates. Look at his face.
Look at Admiral Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Have you ever seen him look like that.
And, now, look at this, look at President Obama. Look at that look on his face.
This is the day they got bin Laden. This is the Situation Room. And that is probably as much as any of us need to know about what exactly the president of the United States was thinking while it happened.
It is very good of the White House so from released this photo. I think it‘s just incredible. We have posted at MaddowBlog.MSNBC.com right now if you want to check it out.
We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: In August of 1996, Osama bin Laden declared war on the United States. Literally issued something he called a declaration of war against the Americans. By that point, U.S. authorities considered bin Laden responsible for a hotel bomb in Yemen in 1992, that was apparently targeting U.S. troops, but it killed two tourists instead.
Authorities in Saudi Arabia considered bin Laden responsible by then for another bombing in 1995, targeting a U.S. military training facility in Saudi Arabia. That bomb killed seven people.
So, 1996 comes bin Laden‘s declaration of war. Two years later, in 1998, he issues another anti-American declaration—this one saying that all Muslims anywhere in the world have it as a duty to attack Americans.
Later that year, on August 7th, 1998, bin Laden bombs went off at the U.S. embassies at Kenya and Tanzania, wounding thousands of people and killing more than 200.
Then, two years after that, the bombing of the USS Cole killed 17 American sailors.
By the time the September 11th attacks happened, Osama bin Laden had a big resume of terror attacks attributed to him—in addition of years and years and years of financing terrorism and terrorist networks. That was all before September 11th.
But what about after September 11th? Since September 11th, the story of terrorism targeting the United States itself has mostly thankfully been the story of thwarted attacks starting with the would-be shoe bomber, Richard Reid. That was just about three months after 9/11.
There was also Najibullah Zazi, the would-be New York City‘s subway bomber.
There was also the would-be underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
And the would-be Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad.
Also, the would-be Dallas bomber, Khalid Ali Aldawsari, who among other targets, allegedly wanted to bomb former President Bush‘s Texas home.
Then there was the mass casualty shooting at Fort Hood, in Texas, in 2009, carried out by Major Nidal Hasan.
There was also the campaign of terror known as the D.C. sniper attacks, John Allen Muhammad, along with teenager Lee Malvo, killed 10 people in the D.C. area in 2002.
The bloodiest large-scale terrorist attacks since 9/11 have actually been abroad. In 2002, a series of coordinated bombings in Bali killed more than 200 people.
In 2004, 194 people killed in coordinated bombings of trains in Madrid.
In 2004,Chechen terrorists took over a school in Beslan, Russia. By the end of that, they had killed 384 people, including 186 children.
In 2005, more than 50 people killed in coordinated bombings of London‘s public transit system.
In 2008, 164 people killed in coordinated attacks in Mumbai, India.
But what about bin Laden? What about bin Laden specifically? What about him?
Of the major post-9/11 attacks and planned attacks that we know of, only one of them has publicly and officially been attributed to planning by Osama bin Laden himself. Only one of them has been said by U.S. officials to have been even conceivably based on instructions from bin Laden. That was the attempted plot last year from Mumbai-style attacks in Europe, coordinated attacks in England, France and Germany. That‘s the one thwarted post-9/11 incident that officials have even asserted, as far as we can tell, as directly linked to bin Laden—which is good news.
And bad news. I mean, al Qaeda central under bin Laden getting only to the planning stages of one major terrorist attack after 9/11 and not being able to pull it off? That is a good news story. The bad news, of course, is that all of those terrorist attacks and attempted terrorist attacks that I listed in the rest of this segment—some of them were al Qaeda-sponsored, some of them weren‘t. Some of them were al Qaeda-inspired and some of them weren‘t.
But they all happened without Osama bin Laden‘s direct involvement. So, how much will wiping him off the map make a difference in diminishing the terrorist threat both here and in other countries? This is a hard question, but one whose answer, it turns out, may be quite different now than it would have been had the killing of Osama bin Laden happened just a few months ago. I will explain the temporal importance after that—when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ENGEL (voice-over): It may be a mark about how hated he was. Within hours of the announcement of the Osama bin Laden‘s death, international congratulations poured in.
Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, who rules where bin Laden launched the 9/11 attacks, said, “Al Qaeda has murdered and harmed our people for many years. I hope terrorism will meet its fate with the killing of bin Laden.”
Yemen, bin Laden‘s ancestral homeland welcomed the American covert action and encouraged more of them. A Yemeni official said, “We hope that targeted measures will be taken to end terrorism throughout the world.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: NBC‘s Richard Engel reporting on how the news of Osama bin Laden‘s demise resonated around the Muslim world tonight.
Joining us now is Ayman Mohyeldin. He‘s Middle East correspondent for Al Jazeera English.
Ayman, thanks very much for your time tonight. I really appreciate it.
AYMAN MOHYELDIN, AL JAZEERA: My pleasure.
MADDOW: What do you think that—what do you think that Americans should try to understand about how the bin Laden news is resonating around the world particularly, in the Middle East, as opposed to how it may be resonating here?
MOHYELDIN: Well, I think there‘s two very important factors that Americans really should look out. One is the symbolism of Osama bin Laden, how important this type of operation was in striking really a blow to the symbolic nature of al Qaeda and that ideology.
And more importantly, it‘s important to keep in mind that the Islamic world, as it sometimes referred to here, is not a monolithic entity. What affects Muslims in Indonesia is not necessarily as that which affects Muslims in Nigeria or Turkey. And sometimes, what tends to happen is an oversimplification to say that this ideology is widespread, is endemic and it‘s certainly one that endures a great deal of support.
Keep in mind that Muslims for many years, and particularly those in the Arab world who have suffered a lot of violent extremism of Osama bin Laden have denounced him and have rejected him. And more recently we have seen that denunciation throughout the Arab revolutions have been taking place.
MADDOW: In terms of his symbolic nature as you were describing—how much of his symbolic importance and of al Qaeda‘s symbolic importance was rooted in the sense that he couldn‘t be caught? And for 10 years since 9/11, he had been able to evade what amounted to the largest manhunt in international history. Was that a—his sort perceived invincibility, was that part of his symbolic performance?
MOHYELDIN: Well, there‘s no doubt that the ability and we‘ll certainly learn more about this in the coming months and perhaps years, how he was able to remain out of the reach of the United States and other allies is going to—or is going to become clear in the coming months or years.
But I think what‘s more important here, certainly, in terms of understanding his symbolic significance is that he‘s an individual who represented an ideology which although advocated and used very inappropriate means to justify his actions, unfortunately, there are those who supported and tried to actually expand that ideology. But nonetheless, it was one that not everyone in the Islamic world or in the Arab world accepted.
The symbolism of taking out Osama bin Laden is really the message that is being delivered to the next person that‘s coming in line not necessarily to his supporters—but al Qaeda, in the sense, that if there is indeed as somebody who now emerges as an operational and symbolic figure head for this organization, he can rest assured that he would also be a target of the United States and others. And that in itself is a very, very strong ideological blow to the organization.
MADDOW: Do you—to that end, I hear what you‘re saying about the sort of—if not deterrence effect, at least the idea that the perceived certainty of punishment that you will have things catch up with you may change people‘s calculation about this. May change their sense of whether or not what they‘re doing is heroic. And because of that, there is this looming question about Pakistan here. About the fact that Osama bin Laden was found not in some lawless, ungoverned area, but relatively close to Pakistan‘s capital city, in a place that‘s full of former military officials and quite near Pakistan‘s military academy.
Is Pakistan in a tough spot in terms of seeming potentially complicit in the hiding of Osama bin Laden, but not having facilitated this action in a way that they have other arrests?
MOHYELDIN: Well, there‘s no doubt that Pakistan finds itself in an almost lose-lose situation. If on one hand we‘re going to take Pakistani officials words for value, that they knew about the operation or that they had the intelligence or certainly cooperated with the United States, then there‘s no doubt that that has put them in the same boat with the United States in becoming a target for perhaps future al Qaeda attacks. So, that is one problem from the Pakistani perspective.
The other problem is if they did not know about this operation, if they did not know about the intelligence that led to this operation, then it undermines Pakistan‘s sovereignty and undermines the sovereignty of this current Pakistani government in that it allowed a Western country to completely violate its air space, carry out this military operation. So, the Pakistani government finds itself in a difficult position in either scenario or in either narrative it decides to adopt.
Now, one thing also to keep in mind, not to pay too much attention to where Osama bin Laden was and how close he was to Islamabad, because, certainly, we‘ll learn more about the intelligence. But keep in mind that throughout the course of history, identifying people has been very difficult. In the United States tracking down the Unabomber took several years and he was here in the United States with the FBI and other intelligence agencies pursuing him.
So, it‘s not necessarily indicative that Pakistan knew where Osama bin Laden was and did not do enough to bring him to justice. We‘re going to learn more about that. Just a point to keep in mind.
MADDOW: Although I would say with the Unabomber, because he was found in like the back end of nowhere in Montana, it raised fewer questions than if he‘d been found like in a nice house in Nyack. Do you know what I mean?
MOHYELDIN: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Now, there‘s going to be a lot of tough questions to be answered by Pakistani officials—but, certainly, one not to jump to conclusions in terms of what role they may have played or may not have played.
MADDOW: Absolutely. It‘s a point well-taken.
Ayman Mohyeldin, Middle East correspondent for Al Jazeera English, it‘s always really nice to have you here, Ayman. Thank you very much.
MOHYELDIN: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. More ahead: including some bad, but really heartwarming singing.
And why I should never be the one responsible for holding the camera.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Ten years ago, before 9/11, the U.S. defense budget was half the size that it is now.
Ten years ago, before 9/11, there was no Department of Homeland Security. Had someone suggested that there ought to be one, you probably would have teased them for using a weird word like homeland.
Ten years ago before 9/11, you walked through a metal detector to get through an airplane, sure, but this was the kind of thing you‘d only do maybe on a third date. Sometimes on your flight, even the pilots would keep the cockpit door open and you could see them work and you could see the world fly by through their windshield if you peered down the aisle.
Before 9/11, the U.S. had troops based in Saudi Arabia. Before 9/11, the U.S. legal history of torture was of our government prosecuting people for that. Wartime was no excuse.
Before 9/11, the National Security Agency having access to everybody‘s emails and phone calls and texts and bank records and everything would have been a scandal.
Before 9/11, we did not have a new militarized intelligence bureaucracy that “The Washington Post” described as an additional 1,271 government organizations, 1,931 private companies and an estimated 854,000 people holding top secret security clearances.
Before 9/11, no one in politics and private life talked about Article III Courts. Courted called for under the Constitution because those were just what courts were. We didn‘t have anything but Article III courts. Why would we?
Before 9/11, we didn‘t drop bombs using flying robots.
Before 9/11, we had not lost 3,000 people in Lower Manhattan and at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Before 9/11, we did not have 2.2 million Americans who are Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and we did not have the national promise to do right by them as a country in respecting their service.
Before 9/11, we had not lost more than 6,000 of those veterans in our post-9/11 wars before U.S. forces finally founder and killed Osama bin Laden.
If you were a kid when 9/11 happened, it may be hard to imagine our country without all of these things in place.
If you were an adult when 9/11 happened, you probably never could have believed this is how we would have chosen to spend the decade after.
Joining us now is a man who was a first responder on 9/11, who deployed to Iraq eight years ago yesterday, and who founded Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America when we came home, Paul Rieckhoff.
Thanks for being here.
PAUL RIECKHOFF, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA: My pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: Am I right? Eight years ago yesterday?
RIECKHOFF: About that. About that. I‘m blurry after the last couple of days.
MADDOW: Well, I was with you on Saturday night until 6:00 in the morning.
RIECKHOFF: That‘s why I‘m blurry. Yes.
MADDOW: I didn‘t think that I‘d be up until 3:00 in the morning the next night with this news. Did you go down to Ground Zero?
MADDOW: What was it like?
RIECKHOFF: It was sobering. I was down there, you know, almost 10 years ago. And I never thought I‘d go back down there again to see people celebrating and cheering. They were chanting “USA, USA,” right across from where people did it 10 years prior when Bush had the bull horn.
RIECKHOFF: So, it was really sobering. It was something I‘ll never forget. And I think it was really moving because there were so many cops, firemen and veterans down there. And there was a real sense of community within that community. And it was really an unforgettable moment.
MADDOW: Is it discordant at all to have both—it‘s celebratory and as you say, sobering. Do you have a tension about the celebratory sense of it?
RIECKHOFF: Yes, definitely. I mean, you know, we‘re really grounded in the reality of how much of our lives as a community of veterans has been dedicated to this moment. I mean, for the last 10 years, our brothers and sisters have been looking for this guy, have been hunting this guy—even when a lot of Americans forgot about it and moved on to other things.
And our community‘s paid a tremendous cost. So, we think about the friends we lost. We think about the families and we think about the folks who‘ve been wounded. But we‘re proud. We‘re especially proud of the SEALs and all the operators involved in this operation who are absolutely incredible. And now, the world is going to find out why we have such respect and admiration for them.
MADDOW: You know, you talked a lot—your book did a lot about this,
too. You‘ve talked about a divide, maybe an inevitable divide between
those who have made sacrifices either on 9/11 or since and because of 9/11
the divide between those folks and the rest of the country that has not had those sacrifices.
Is there an opportunity at a milestone, this big, as this particular milestone, to try to close that divide, to get people beyond the slogans and ribbons to honoring service and sacrifice in a bigger way?
RIECKHOFF: Yes, definitely. And I hope so. I think that people need to remember how they feel now. Remember how they felt last night. Remember that unity. Remember that sense of pride and carry it over.
Memorial Day is coming up in a couple of weeks. And we need folks to remember that day and keep this energy and keep this momentum and keep this unity because it‘s unlike anything I‘ve ever seen. And the only time I‘ve ever, in my life, seen unity like this was after 9/11, and that was for something very different. So, I think we have an opportunity to harness that and to really support these folks and support our military and become stronger as a country.
MADDOW: I wonder what you think about—we‘re sort of seeing—a lot of talk about JSOC in the news now, right?
MADDOW: About Joint Special Operations Command, which has been around since 1980. It is not a new thing. But it is newly empowered and obviously, newly high profiled for a secret branch of the military. Also, there seems to be a total integration at least operationally between CIA, paramilitary forces and JSOC.
And so, we have a fifth branch of the military now where we don‘t know who those people are and that we don‘t find out about the missions unless they end up with a high profile an outcome as we just had. How does that affect our ability to appreciate the sacrifices that are being made if we‘re not allowed to know about some of that?
RIECKHOFF: It completely insulates us from this sacrifice and their professionalism. I mean, we‘ll probably never know the names of the folks who are on that operation.
Delta, that group, the SEALs—I mean, these folks are almost superhuman. I‘ve seen them operate. I‘ve seen them train. And it‘s like nothing else I‘ve ever seen. Their tactical proficiency, their dedication, their entire life built for that moment where they might have that shot at bin Laden is like nothing else I‘ve ever seen.
I mean, you can‘t compare it. Olympic athletes, professional athletes
nothing like the prowess and professionalism of what you see in these elite groups. And we‘ll probably never know the names of the operators involved.
MADDOW: Do you worry about accountability, about appropriate political engagement with what we‘re doing militarily to have essentially a big secret branch in the military? Do you worry about the other side of that?
RIECKHOFF: I do, of course. And that‘s why we need folks to understand what they are. We don‘t need to know their names. We need to know what they do and what their capabilities are.
And also understand, this is the evolution of the modern battlefield. I mean, this is what is more effective going forward. You‘re not going to have tank battles in Eastern Europe. You‘re going to have small unit operations, and that‘s probably going to dominate what military engagement is like for the rest of our lifetime, or at least the near future.
So, we need to understand it. And we need to keep a link (ph) to it. And we need America to understand and appreciate how special these folks are and how much we ask of them.
MADDOW: Paul Rieckhoff, founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and somebody who if you get a call from hotel security—“hotel security” at 6:00 in the morning, telling you to come down to the lobby and deal with the disturbance that your guests are calling. If you‘re anywhere near Paul Rieckhoff, you should think twice about that answering that call and getting dressed and going downstairs all worried with bribe money in your pocket. I‘m just saying.
RIECKHOFF: Another mission accomplished.
MADDOW: Thanks, man, sort of.
RIECKHOFF: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. After yesterday‘s blockbuster event, President Obama‘s harshest critics on national security have some recalibrating to do, which means you should probably watch Ed Schultz tonight. He is up next and he is fired up.
Also, after receiving the news about bin Laden last night, a joyous crowd smooshed itself into the White House gates. Part after that smoosh was me and my camera with what was maybe a frosty fingerprint on the lens. For that I too blame Paul Rieckhoff. That‘s next.
MADDOW: After the president‘s speech about the killing of Osama bin Laden last night, I was in D.C. So, I grabbed my flip cam and I went over to the White House to see the response in the streets.
We do not have all that many spontaneous rush out into the streets hug strangers emotional group catharsis events in our great, big, socially awkward country and when we do have them, they are most frequently about sports, or sometimes about politics.
But last night, at the White House, at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, at West Point, at college campuses, at Times Square, at Ground Zero, we had one of those nights. It was not about sports. It was not about politics.
And lacking an American template for how to mark this kind of national occasion we fell back on singing—on spontaneous, heartfelt, off key singing of the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: That last shaky grainy amateur video with the really bad audio? Professional photojournalists, your jobs are safe. I‘ll be right back with more.
MADDOW: In 1998, less than two weeks after the bombing of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, which killed more than 200 people and wounded thousands in a single day, President Bill Clinton announced that he was going after Osama bin Laden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Today, I ordered our armed forces to strike at terrorist-related facilities in Afghanistan and Sudan because of the imminent threat that they presented to our national security. Our target was terror. Our mission was clear: to strike at the network of radical groups affiliated with and funded by Osama bin Laden, perhaps the preeminent organizer and financier of international terrorism in the world today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Clinton commending American warships to fire cruise missiles at suspected al Qaeda sites in Afghanistan and Sudan, firing from a distance and not getting the man they were aiming at.
In 2001, President George W. Bush got word of the second plan hitting the World Trade Center towers in New York while he was reading a book to school kids in Florida. President Bush went to New York while it was still very much smoking. He announced he would get the person responsible for the attacks and then he kept on saying it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I want justice. And there‘s an old poster out west as I recall that said, “wanted: dead or alive.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Four weeks after 9/11, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, first taking out the Taliban government that had sheltered bin Laden and that he had propped up, and then pinning al Qaeda and some thought bin Laden, himself, in the mountainous caves of Tora Bora. But bin Laden was said to have escaped, that time across the border into Pakistan.
And then we started the war in Iraq. So, now, we have 9/11, nearly 3,000 lives, and we‘ve had two wars in which we‘ve now lost more than 6,000 American lives.
What we did not have all this time was Osama bin Laden. And so, they started to play him down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
BUSH: You know, again, I don‘t know where he is. I repeat what I said, I truly am not that concerned about him.
FRAN TOWNSEND, FORMER BUSH HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISOR: Six years since the tragedy of September the 11th, we haven‘t seen another attack. This is a man on the run, in a cave, who is virtually impotent other than his ability to get these messages out. It‘s propaganda.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: I guess if you can‘t catch him just make it seem like you‘re not really trying to anyway. Never mind how much you used to say you were hell-bent on it or the occasional video message from his proverbial cave or his Pakistani mansion.
Three years ago, as a presidential candidate, then-Senator Barack Obama made a point of saying repeatedly that he did take Osama bin Laden seriously. He thought it was important to kill him. And he would get it done. He would pursue Osama bin Laden as a top tier priority—even if it meant crossing international borders, even if it meant rattling our shaky alliance with Pakistan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then, I think that we have to act, and we will take them out. We will kill bin Laden. We will crush al Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national security priority.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Biggest. We will kill bin Laden. We will kill bin Laden.
And then, finally, after all these years, the news late on a Sunday night. They killed Osama bin Laden. They took custody of his body.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: At my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried it out with extreme courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You could be forgiven—you would be forgiven the night they killed bin Laden for putting down your homework or your TV remote or whatever and running to the White House and, say, climbing a tree and singing the national anthem with a thousand strangers. You‘ve waited a long time for this.
Some of the people I was out there with at the White House with last night have waited half their lives.
I don‘t know what it means at this point in history that American forces have killed Osama bin Laden. I don‘t know what it means necessarily for foreign policy or military policy or even domestic politics. I do know that America promised a decade ago to bring Osama bin Laden to justice. And in these pictures, you can see some of how Americans feel now about our country keeping that promise.
Three presidents said they‘d bring him to justice. Finally, one of them did.
It‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” now. Good night.
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