Mitchell Reports | March 19, 2013
>>> on the tepth anniversary of the u.s. war in iraq , a deadly outbreak of car bombs and suicide attacks in baghdad . 56 people were killed and more than 200 people were injured in the attacks, reminding americans of the ongoing instability in iraq . joining me now, retired colonel jack jacobs , a medal of honor recipient and msnbc military analyst and veteran photo journalist , michael kaber, who covered iraq for "the new york times." his book "photojournalism on war." will be released next month and the " washington post 's" rajiv sondravakiran was a correspondent in the baghdad for the first two years of the war. he's the author of "the imperial life and the emerald city in little america ." gentlemen, we appreciate you joining us. rajiv, i want to go to you first, the cost of the war to the united states was enormous, 4400 u.s. deaths, 33,000 wounded, $730 billion spent. the cost goes up into the trilliones if you look at other estimates. you had an interesting column of the outlook section of the " washington post " this past sunday talking about myths of the war. one you said specifically that the surge in fact did not work. that it worked militarily in terms of stopping the sectarian violence to a degree. but in its wake, it left a very divided iraq . there's a shiite iraq , a sunni iraq . a kurd iraq . and one in which a lot of sunnis are fearful that al maliki and the shiite government, that he's oversees, has really stocked a security force with a lot of shiites that could put down sunnis at any time. sort of talk to our audience about that.
>> the country is a tinder box today, luke. on the outside it looks relatively stable. notwithstanding the violence we see today. but the fundamental political compromise that was supposed to occur from the surge never happened. the surge was always supposed to be a two-step process. the first was to improve security for the iraqi people , to tamp down the civil war . to beat back the insurgency. that did happen. in part thanks to some of the brave and courageous work of our men and women in uniform. but that improvement in security was then supposed to lead to political compromise. to these disparity groups. now you have the majority shiite government that believes in democracy, majority rule , but not so much in minority rights , now you have the once-ruling sunnis who feel completely disenfranchised, a real potential for some of them to turn back to the insurgency and violence and you have the ethnic kurds up in the north who constitute a quarter of the population, luke and tensions between them and baghdad continue to escalate and we may be on the brink of another civil war there.
>> michael, we got some of the photographs to include in your book and they're absolutely unbelievable. they're riveting, they have a deep impact . on anyone who looks at them. and just i wanted to get your take on seeing the war firsthand and seeing these graphic images that we're showing on the screen right now. there is one of a commercial airline, casket going in underneath. and just average americans kind of looking at the lens. and that to me was -- it stuck out because it sort of was this idea that the common you know people of the united states were a little bit above all of this you know, hurt and anguish that was happening. because so many in this country did not know anyone who was serving abroad or did not have to make a real sacrifice, there was no war tax . there was no rationing. this was sort of a war fought by a distinct minority population within the united states . and even a few rural states. talk about that in terms of what you saw in the photography and what not?
>> well, that photo thaw pointed out, that's todd highsler's photo and it's the casket of lieutenant jim cathay and he's being met at the airport by his wife who i believe was about six months pregnant. and you know, it's the type of photo that was hard to take. the type of photo that you know, a lot of, i don't think there was any concerted effort at censorship. but it was very hard to get images like that in the press. it was against the regulations to photograph caskets and frequently wounded americans were without their permission. and i think funerals at arlington cemetery were put off-limits so there were a lot of things as photographers we were trying to get out of the war. we did the best we could, but a lot of these pictures didn't make it into the newspapers.
>> jack jacobs , i want to play a clip from the msnbc documentary "hubris" which is going do play on friday, from general anthony zinne and get your take on it after.
>> at that time i was looking at, there were the proponents for going into iraq . basically those that i saw as the proponents were the chicken hawks . were those that were very hawkish about using military force . really wanted to do this. saw this as a simple extension of policy and politics. and i didn't see anybody in there that i remember from the battlefields in vietnam or elsewhere.
>> is one of the legacies of this war an entire generation scarred by an idea to actually go to combat based on a political ideology ? that perhaps we might not see that again for a few generations because of such, the impact that it had?
>> i heard the same thing at the end of vietnam . that the people currently in charge of the establishment now, who grew to adulthood by the time we got out of vietnam said exactly the same thing. we're not doing this again. we won't do -- we won't get involved in any kind of which the objective is not sure. that we have insufficient resources. one in which we increment allies our assets. in less than a generation we did it again. we can say it all we want but at the end of the day we have to have much better memories than we have had. and people, you can't be sanguine about the use of the military instrument of power. we frequently use the military instrument of power as the default instrument. why? well, military people are pretty good at doing what they have to do. and second, we're not very good at using the other instruments of policy like the economic instrument, like diplomacy we're lousy at it. and we can't integrate those things into a coherent use of american power. the result is that we usually wait too longitude anything and by the time we decide to do anything at all, it is the military we rely on to get things done. we have to stop doing that.
>> real quick will to you. if there's one image from this war that you would want to be remembered, what would that be? describe it to us.
>> that would be chris's image. there is a young girl . she is splattered with blood and her parents were accidentally killed at a check point. her young brother was wounded. he came to the u.s. for treatment. when he went home, the iraqi insurgents sent a message and killed the young brother. so the war, it had a terrible cost on the iraqis, on the american servicemen. and it was a tough war for this country.
>> indeed. an underreported story, the. a civilian death that's will affect iraqis for decades. gentlemen, thank you all so much for joining us. we appreciate it. don't miss hubris, selling the iraq war friday night.